“The Shape of Things to Come”
“A Rough Start”
"Don't worry Twilight, there's no need to be anxious. You'll do fine," Velvet said, making another minor adjustment to Twilight Sparkle's formal dress. The two unicorns stood outside the doors of Saddle Arabian Council Room. Twilight shook her head slightly as Velvet continued to tinker with the dress.
"Mother, I assure you that I am hardly anxious in the slightest. And if you would permit me to point out that the word ‘fine’ has variable definitions. Therefore, I believe that ‘fine’ is most unacceptable."
Velvet simply smiled gently and chuckled. "Alright then dear, would the term "perfect" be more acceptable?" She asked, her voice gentle. Twilight thought for a moment before nodding slightly.
"I suppose 'perfect' would be a more desirable term, yes." She said, smiling slightly. There was a quiet pause between the two, as Twilight pondered for a moment.
"Um...Mother," Twilight asked, her voice bearing the slightest touch of trepidation. "Might I be able to make a personal query?"
Velvet raised an eyebrow slightly, and nodded, smiling gently. "Of course, honey. I'm your mother. What is it?"
Twilight hesitated for a moment, formulating the right way to word her question. "If I were to complete today's test and successfully purge myself of all emotion, would that influence your perception of our relationship? Because I assure you that it in no way reflects my judgment on you."
Velvet's smile faded ever so slightly, but remained the same gentle loving one from before. "Oh Twilight, you needn't worry. You're my daughter, and you always will be." she then opened her arms and pulled Twilight into a hug. Twilight stiffened at the sudden display of affection and raised an eyebrow slightly in concern.
"Then I am assured that this changes nothing between us and still accept me as your own?" She asked, unsure of how to react.
"Nothing you ever do will make me change how I think of you, Twilight. I'll always be proud of you." Velvet said quietly. At those words, Twilight felt herself relax somewhat and decided that it would be best to attempt to return the hug.
"Pardon me," an unfamiliar voice said. Twilight and Velvet stopped hugging and turned to see a sea green Saddle Arabian standing in the doorway of the Council Room, his face vaguely displeased, having obviously noticed them hugging.
"The council will see you now, Twilight Sparkle," The Saddle Arabian's tone betrayed a hint of displeasure, as his eyes drifted down to see Twilight still holding hands with Velvet. Twilight instantly let go of Velvet's hands and stood a little straighter, ironing out any ruffles in her dress and tipping her head in respect.
"Thank you sir," she replied, her voice quickly returning to its normally stoic tone as she walked towards the door, giving Velvet one last glance. Velvet smiled warmly and waved good bye, offering Twilight a word of encouragement as the door closed behind Twilight, blocking her off.
Twilight swallowed quietly as she turned and followed the other Saddle Arabian down the hall and towards the Council chamber.
Twilight now stood in front of the Saddle Arabian High Council, where a group of seven Saddle Arabians, including her father, sat. In the center chair sat the eldest member, who closely studied the papers in front of him.
“Twilight Sparkle,” he finally spoke, his deep voice echoing slightly off the walls of the chamber. “It seems that you have surpassed the expectations of all of your instructors. You record is in fact, flawless.”
“You’re most welcome honorable High Elder.” Twilight replied simply, her expression remaining calm and placid.
The High Elder nodded. “However, we have found a minor exception to your otherwise spotless record.”
Twilight tensed up. Minor exception? What sort of minor exception? Would it ruin her chances of entering the Academy, causing her to be the subject of even more ridicule and scorn? Taking a breath, she looked up at the Elder, hoping that her face was as calm as before and not revealing any of the fear she felt.
“What might that exception be honorable High Elder?” she asked.
“You seem to have applied for the Celestian Starfleet.” The High Elder stated simply, looking down at Twilight, his face completely neutral.
Twilight felt herself relax. “I see. At the time it seemed logical to cultivate multiple options in case of failure.”
The High Elder nodded slightly. “A logical conclusion, but ultimately unnecessary. You are hereby accepted into the High Science Academy. A truly remarkable feat, Twilight, considering your disadvantage. All rise.”
Twilight raised an eyebrow. Disadvantage? What disadvantage? She started to wrack her brain for what could be considered a disadvantage and barely noticed the Elders standing up to honor her.
“If you would so kind as to clarify, honorable High Elder: To what disadvantage are you referring to?” she asked, her eyes narrowing slightly, having begun to have an inkling as what exactly the High Elder meant by “Disadvantage”.
“That would be your Equestrian mother,” The High Elder replied matter-of-factly.
Twilight tensed up, her emotions starting to make themselves evident. She was offended. How could they be so blind? Wasn’t the Council supposed to represent wisdom and knowledge? How could they be so petty as to call Velvet a disadvantage?
“I must apologize honorable Elders, but I must decline your offer.” She finally replied, her voice somewhat terse. The High Elder raised an eyebrow.
“Decline?” he asked, his voice containing a barely noticeable touch of surprise. “No Saddle Arabian has ever declined admission to this academy.” He stated plainly.
Twilight straightened slightly, looking up at the Elders. “Than, as I am half-Equestrian, your record shall remain untarnished.”
She noticed her father looking at her with concern. “Twilight, you have made a commitment to honor the Saddle Arabian way.” he said, his tone worrisome.
Twilight was about to respond when the High Elder spoke again. “Why did you come before us today? Was it to satisfy your petty emotional need to rebel?” his voice contained a sense as if he were talking to a child.
“The only emotion I wish to convey is one of gratitude honorable High Elder,” Twilight replied, her voice now tight. “Thank you, Elders, for your consideration.” She then looked directly at the High Elder, her eyes narrowing again.
“Live long and prosper.” She said, her voice making it sound more like an insult than a blessing. With that, she turned and walked out of the Council Chamber.
Twilight silently closed the door to her room behind her. Without saying a word, she down on her bed, staring at her reflection in the full view mirror across from her.
What have I done? she thought, as she ran the events from earlier that morning through her head. She’d spoken against the Council of Elders, where her own father sat, and most likely brought disgrace to her entire family with her emotional display.
The words of her father echoed through her mind: You have made a commitment to honor the Saddle Arabian way.
But I’m not Saddle Arabian...am I? she thought, wringing her hands. She couldn’t be one. It was illogical. How could someone simultaneously be both Saddle Arabian and Equestrian? How could she honor a society that she wasn’t fully a part of? Was the High Elder right? Was she truly at a disadvantage?
I have failed the test, she thought. I have allowed my emotions to once more achieve victory. She took a shaky breath, noticing that her eyes had begun to water. She instantly wiped away the tears. No, I will not allow myself to once more be defeated. she thought, taking another deep breath. She closed her eyes, attempting to at least try and use her time tested method of meditation as a way to reign in her wild and illogical emotional response.
However, a knock at her door caught her attention, and she found her concentration broken.
“Wh-who is it?” she asked, once more mentally rebuking her emotions at the sound of her shaky voice.
“Twilight, it’s me,” The gentle voice of Velvet said, sounding like a cool pool of water in the middle of a desert. “Please, are you alright?” Velvet asked, sounding especially concerned.
Twilight swallowed. “I assure you Mother, I am fine,” she said, her voice however sounding anything but fine and she shook her head tersely. There was a pregnant pause and Twilight wondered if Velvet had turned and left.
“Twilight, you’ve always been a terrible liar,” Velvet instead replied, her voice carrying a calming tone that Twilight remembered from her childhood. “Please, let me in so I can see what’s wrong.”
Twilight bit her quivering lip and her horn glowed a soft magenta, and the door unlocked, opening to reveal Velvet standing there, a deeply worrisome look on her face. Without saying a word, Velvet calmly entered the room, quietly closing the door behind her and sitting on the bed next to Twilight. Twilight didn’t turn to look, instead focusing on their reflection in the mirror.
“Now,” Velvet started, putting a reassuring hand on Twilight’s lap. “Will you tell me what’s wrong?”
Twilight took another deep breath. “I have singlehandedly brought shame to the family name,” she stated, her voice thin and eyes watering again despite her best efforts to the contrary. She felt Velvet gently put an arm around her and pull her in for a half-hug.
“Nonsense Twilight. You haven’t brought any shame on us.” She said, putting a hand on Twilight’s cheek so that she could look her in the eye. Twilight looked away and down at the floor, not wanting to let Velvet see the tears in her eyes.
“Twilight….it’s okay, you can be emotional with me.” Velvet said lovingly, brushing a bang of Twilight’s mane out of her face. Twilight sniffed, leaning slightly against Velvet.
“Oh mother...how can you say that. I blatantly went against everything father has wished for me to be.” she said, letting a tear trickle down her cheek. She felt Velvet gently wipe the tear away.
“Nonsense Twilight. You’ve done no such thing.” Velvet consoled. “I actually think you’ve done a good thing today.”
Twilight furrowed her brow. “Good thing? How is it possible that my abject defiance of tradition is a positive outcome?” she asked, shaking her head slightly.
“Well,” Velvet said, now gently stroking Twilight’s mane to calm her. “I always believed that, if you were to accept the High Science Academy, you would be robbing the universe of a brilliant mind.”
“How so?” Twilight asked, now feeling confused. “I was told that a place in the High Science Academy was the greatest thing a Saddle Arabian could strive for?”
Velvet shook her head slightly. “Well, to a normal Saddle Arabian, that might be true. But you’re not a normal Saddle Arabian Twilight. You’re blessed with a unique ability.”
Twilight furrowed her brow again, this time finally looking Velvet in the eye. “Ability? What sort of ability do you speak of?”
Velvet smiled. “You can feel. Although it might seem strange, emotions are nothing to fear Twilight. The Elders don’t see that. They see them as a weakness, something to be shunned and despised. But that’s not true. Emotions are a gift.”
“Gift? How can they be a gift? They cloud my judgement and prevent me from thinking logically.” Twilight said, unable to wrap her mind around the concept of her emotions not being a default. “How can pain and sadness be a good thing?”
Velvet smiled. “Pain and sadness aren’t the only emotions one feels Twilight. You are capable of feeling things like joy and happiness, and kindness. In the Academy, they’ve decided that, it is better to be cold and unemotional and therefore, never allow yourself to appreciate the simple beauty of life. Things like a warm summer day or the sound of water on the window pane when it’s raining. All they would see is that the sun is shining and that the temperature is warm.” she paused, looking towards the mirror.
“I guess what I’m trying to say is, maybe you aren’t meant to be another drone. Maybe you’re meant for something more. Perhaps help and build a bridge between us and others in the universe.” Velvet then sighed. “Because...we’ve lost that connection Twilight. Our culture has become so fixated on logic and reason that we’re incapable of understanding something unless it makes perfect sense. Understand?”
Twilight said nothing, instead simply studying their reflections in the mirror. “But mother...where shall I go? Where do I fit in?”
Velvet shrugged ever so slightly. “You’re a child of two worlds Twilight. You’re blessed with that. I am endlessly grateful for that. The Academy, for all it’s knowledge, will never see that.”
“So you suggest that I follow my secondary option and enlist in Starfleet?” Twilight asked, looking at her mother expectantly. Velvet simply smiled.
“If that is what you’re soul tells you, then yes.” she said, pulling Twilight into a warm hug. Twilight at first tensed up reflexively, still unsure of the exact degree of which to return the favor. However, something in what her mother said made Twilight feel at ease. Her mother was right. She would never truly fit in amongst the Academy members. She knew that they would only use her Equestrian blood as a weapon against her.
However, if she were to follow the other path, and enlist in the Celestian Starfleet, she would be able to pursue both an advanced academic education and not fear any unjust prejudice from any of her fellow alumni. She felt a smile tug at the edge of her mouth.
“Mother...I have made a decision.” she said, her voice finally level.
“And that is?”
“I have decided to enlist in the Starfleet.” she stated simply, the immense feeling of relief at having reached a logical decision washing over her. Velvet simply smiled, tightening her hug around Twilight. Twilight took notice of this.
“Does this decision please you?” she asked, her eyebrow raising slightly.
“Anytime I see you happy is a time I am pleased.” Velvet said.
At those words, Twilight felt a warmth fill her and she relaxed her body, allowing her mother to gently rock her back and forth. She subconsciously wrapped her own arms around her mother, and the two sat there, wrapped in a loving embrace.
Rainbow let out a satisfied sigh as she downed another drink. She looked around, smiling at the fact that she could be here, in a backdoor bar in the middle of Ponyville without being surrounded by an army of fanboys all wanting to get the autograph of the great and mighty Lightning Dash’s daughter.
She waved towards the bartender, holding up her drink for a top off. The bartender walked up, levitating the bottle with his magic and pouring some more of the bright blue and red drink, which fizzled and popped wildly. She nodded in satisfaction, grabbing the cup and downing it rather quickly.
“Ah yeah, that’s the stuff,” she said, her eyes starting to swivel around the bar, searching for something to entertain herself with. As much as she liked Ponyville, with it’s laid back, decidedly non-Canterlot feel, she couldn’t help but feel a little bored. She needed a thrill, something to make the hair on the back of her neck stand on its end. She was a pegasus, and that meant she needed speed, the wind in her mane.
At least, that what she had hoped she’d get when she enlisted in the Celestian Starfleet.
Instead, she was forced to spend hours sitting in a classroom, listening to some boring professor prattle on and on about how wormholes work or how everything was wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey and spacy-wacy. That was something for a unicorn, or better yet, those stuck up Saddle Arabians. It also didn’t help that, during the few times she actually got to fly, or at least run a simulation, and win, she was sure to find every egghead saying that she was just there because her dad was some kind of hero.
So, here she was, bags packed and ready to take a flight to somewhere off world. Just get away for a bit, see some new places and faces, anything to shake up her boring, empty routine.
She sighed, taking another gulp of her drink, feeling the bubbly liquid pour down her throat, still popping and fizzing wildly.
“There you are Rainbow,” Rainbow groaned involuntarily at the voice, wishing that some fanboy hadn’t managed to find her. She turned to instead see a rather familiar white unicorn stallion, who stood around six foot two, dressed in an impeccably pressed and neatly organized uniform of the Celestian Starfleet.
This is worse, she thought, turning back to the bar. “Yes Commander Armor?” she said, mentally preparing herself to the inevitable chastising she would probably receive. She watched out of the corner of her eye as Commander Armor sat down next to her, being sure to keep his uniform neat.
“Rainbow Dash, what are you doing here?” he said, already sounding disappointed. Rainbow Dash shrugged.
“What’s it look like I’m doing Shining? I’m relaxing and having a drink.” she said, shifting in her chair slightly. Shining Armor meanwhile, simply sighed.
“Rainbow, you know you’re better than this. You’re the top student in your class and all you do is go to bars like this to go drink yourself silly.”
Rainbow scoffed. “Oh don’t worry! I’m already a silly filly,” she paused, awaiting a response from the older pony. Shining simply looked down at her, eyebrow raised. Rainbow bit her lip slightly, looking back down at her now empty glass.
“Rainbow, you know you're better than that,” Shining said simply. “There’s a reason that you’re at the top of your class,” Shining Armor said, uncrossing his arms and putting a hand on her shoulder.
“Because Dad saved everypony?” Rainbow asked sarcastically. “Cause it’s not like that matters anymore,” she said, motioning towards her backpack, which rested at the foot of her chair. Shining Armor looked down at the bag, and shook his head.
“No. Because you have talent. Don’t go and waste it by acting like this.”
“Acting like what?” she asked, giving Shining Armor an unimpressed look.
“Acting like a fool. I know this may surprise you, but you’ve got more to you then just your wings. You’ve got a sharp mind, and instead you waste your time playing pranks and lazing around on clouds and in bars...understand?”
Rainbow said nothing, simply look at her empty glass. “I’m just sick of all this stuff I have to put up with Shining.” she finally said. “Everywhere I go, I always end up being called ‘Lightning’s kid’, and then getting some free pass. I mean, I know I liked it at first, but, I don’t want to be called ‘Lightning’s kid’, I want to be me, Rainbow Dash. When I win a race, I want ponies to think that I won it fair and square, not that the judges wanted to make me feel important.” she sighed.
“Look Rainbow,” Shining Armor said, taking Rainbow’s attention away from her own thoughts. “You don’t have to come back, I’m not coming here as your commander. I’m coming as your friend. I just want to know what happened to the young cadet who said she’d be the best pilot in the fleet? Who would do what no other pilot could do? Are you just going to give up like that? Just going to let all those ponies who stood in your way win and prove them right?”
Rainbow looked at Shining Armor for a moment, saying nothing. He was right. What would her dad think if she just gave up? Probably be really disappointed, she thought.
“You know,” Shining Armor started. “Your dad commanded that starship for less than twenty minutes. He saved a thousand lives. I dare you to do better than that.” he paused, letting his words hang in the air. “And the Rainbow I know won’t just leave a dare unchallenged right?”
Rainbow looked at Shining. He seemed sincere. She looked down at her glass again. He’s right, she thought, ...I can’t let those eggheads win. I’m Rainbow Dash. I’m better than that! she smiled, her confidence slowly returning to her. And I’m awesome.
“You know what Commander,” she said, finally sitting up straight. “You’re on.”
“Alright then here we are,” Shining said, as both him and Rainbow Dash came to a stop outside the spaceport. “Are you sure you don’t want to hitch a ride with me? I have my own personal shuttle.”
Rainbow shook her head, reaching into the trunk of the vehicle and pulled out her backpack. “Nope. Like you said, I don’t leave a dare unchallenged. I’m not about to go back and give those guys back in Canterlot another reason to dislike me. If I come back, I’m coming back on my own.” she gave Shining a slap on the back. “But thanks anyways.”
Shining smiled. “Sure thing. Just remember you owe me now.”
Rainbow laughed. “Yeah I owe ya.” She started towards the shuttlecraft, head held high and chest puffed out. Nopony was going to keep her down today. She was about to step inside the shuttle craft when a lanky pegasus held up a hand.
“Excuse me ma’am, but before you board, I need a name.” he said, whipping out a holopad. Rainbow sighed, letting her shoulders slump.
“Rainbow, Rainbow Dash.” she said, watching as the pony quickly jotted down the information.
“Do you have, or have you had any sort of disease or infection in the past two weeks?” he asked, his face dull. Rainbow grumbled and rolled her eyes.
“No I have not.” she answered, already tapping her hoof impaitentially. She watched as the cadet entered the information into his tablet. He then looked up at her, his eyes still dull as ever.
“You may enter,” he droned, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose, his voice a drone. Rainbow nodded.
“Thanks dude.” she said, stepping aboard the shuttlecraft. The first thing that greeted her however, was the doorway of the shuttlecraft as she banged her forehead into it. She let out a loud shout and rubbed her forehead tenderly, ducking low as she made her way towards a seat, hoping to avoid any other unexpected head injuries.
She spotted what looked like a good spot, as it was an empty window seat, which gave her the opportunity of looking outside during the most likely long flight to Canterlot. She tucked her wings in close to her body as she sat down, wincing slightly as they were squeezed between her and the back of the seat. Buckling herself in, she let out a sigh and set about idly waiting for takeoff.
Another loud bang followed by a long string of thickly accented expletives caught Rainbow’s attention and she turned to see a tall orange earth pony coming walking down the aisle, bent over awkwardly as she squeezed her way through the hall. Rainbow said nothing as she happened to sit down next to her, still muttering and grumbling as she strapped herself in. She noticed that the orange mare was downing bottle she brought with her that was labeled ‘Sweet Apple Cider’. The mare seemingly took notice of her as well, as she cast her a quick glance.
“Hey I just wanna warn ya, I might lose ma lunch on ya.” She grumbled her voice thick with an Appleloosian accent. Rainbow simply rolled her eyes.
“I’m pretty sure these things are perfect safe.” she replied, shifting in her seat in order to have less pressure put on her wings. The orange mare scoffed.
“Heh, don’t pander me kid. All we need is one itty bitty crack in this here hull and POOF! Our blood ‘ill up and boil away before you even have a chance ta say ‘snakes alive’. Or worse, Celestia might find it funny ta cook up a solar flare and fry us in our seats like fried chicken just fer fun.” She paused taking another gulp of her cider.
“And iffin we survive the trip over, don’t get me started on them wild and crazy germs that live up there.” The mare said, pointing a finger at the ceiling. “Yer all havin’ a good time wit yer friends and all of a sudden somepony starts meltin’ because they got sneezed on by somepony else. Or worse, an alien baby up an’ pops outta their chest cavity like a Jack-in-the-Box, ready go and eat everypony up. An’ don’t get me started on Space Dementia…” she took another swig. “I tell ya, space ain’t nothin’ but disease an’ danger wrapped up in darkness and silence. It’ll suck yer soul outta ya.”
“Well, I’d really hate to burst your bubble cowmare, but Starfleet operates in space. All the time.” Rainbow said, looking at the earth pony with bemusement. The earth pony nodded glumly.
“Iffin’ we Apples were meant ta fly, Celestia’d give us wings.” She muttered. Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow.
“Wait, you’re an Apple? Like Sweet Apple Acres Apples?” she asked, her curiosity piqued. The orange mare nodded.
“Guilty as charged,” she murmured. “Nice ta meet ya, I’m Applejack.” She said, extending a hand. Rainbow took it and gave it a shake.
“So why are you here? I thought most Apples worked for the company.” Rainbow said, looking at Applejack with curiosity, wondering why this mare who so obviously hated space travel had joined Starfleet.
“Trust me, iffin I had any other options, I wouldn’t even be here, I can tell ya that straight off. But, when Mama died somepony managed to screw around wit the will and make sure I was the one who got screwed over. Damn bastard took the whole damn planet durin’ litigations.” Applejack grumbled, “
“The whole planet? Wow that sucks…” Rainbow said. Applejack nodded.
“Yer tellin’ me. Now all I got is mah bones. Figured I’d try and start over here. Go figure…” she took another swig of the cider before pausing and looking at the flask. “Hey, there’s still some cider left. Ya want it?” she offered the bottle to Rainbow, who, shrugging took it in hand.
“Yeah sure, why not. I’ve only ever heard good things about Sweet Apple Cider anyways.” She said. Before she had a chance however, a shadow fell over the two of them and they looked up to see the flight attendant looming over them, eying the flask.
“Hand it over.” He droned, holding out a hand. Rainbow let out a frustrated sigh and handed the flask over. The flight attendant nodded and stuffed the flask in his pocket. “No alcohol on flights.” He chided, before turning and walking away.
Applejack rolled her eyes. “Figures they’d take mah cider. Bet when I get ta Canterlot I’m gonna hafta buy a whole new bottle,” she grumbled, crossing her arms in frustration. Rainbow simply rolled her eyes.
This is going to be a long flight. she thought.