A State of Darkness

by Wing

A State of History - Installment 10 - Arc II

~15 Months Prior~

Nighttime in Las Pegasus was a completely different animal than the witching hours of Whynnyapolis. After five years, my tranquil abode in the northern city had been traded for a rather large home and laboratory in the desert basin of Equestria’s tourist trap. To say the least, the move had not particularly been a pleasant experience. It seemed that swindlers were a bit more common in the bustling destination renowned for gambling, booze, and the cowcolt lifestyle, and several such ruffians had attempted to hold my possessions hostage during my tumultuous relocation.

It was not all bad though. In the months that followed, I had garnered a practical legion of friends who proved to be incredibly supportive in my infantile hours at the University of Las Pegasus. I had also met an absolutely fantastic mare, and while she was often riding the rails fulfilling her duties as a wonderful baker, there was a feeling deep in my gut that this blossoming relationship was truly one for the ages.

I had needed a flower of kindness to really find my roots in the West, but Trigger seemed to slide into the locale with ease. He was born into the realm as a rough and ready-to-tumble stallion, and the manner in which he quickly adjusted to the transition to reality was absurdly striking. Of course, once reflecting upon the style with which he navigated the confines of my formerly obliterated psyche, the prominence of his adaptability lost a bit of its jarring luster.

“Ya staring at me for a reason, Softy?” he quipped from the comfort of my sofa while his amber gaze sought to import information to the blue linen domain. At some point, I had looked up from my ever-expanding lecture notes to lose myself in the tangential chain of thought.

“I was just thinking about the last few months. Those reviews with the princesses about the national armament program were brutal. If I have to give another in the next year, it’ll be way too soon. Discussions with Celestia and Luna are pleasant affairs, but the swarm of morons clamoring for their own destructions is just intolerable.”

“What’d I tell ya, Wing? There are two types of folks in this world: those that seek command and those that earn it. We’ve done the dance enough to know how that crap moves. Most of the inner circle is populated by blind seekers.” He lifted one of the revolvers with a forehoof and examined it with admiration before returning the weapon to his loaded vest. “They look at your designs and see a push-button solution to an age-old problem without grasping the buckin’ Pandora’s Box around the whole thing. I mean, c’mon! Ya only trust me to touch the things despite having a couple colleagues and even a new protégé just chomping at the bit.”

“And I want none of them to suffer the consequences. I trust your magical faculties, and I trust myself. Thankfully, we have rulers with a lot more foresight than the rest. Frankly, there were some in the prelims that really did remind me of him.” My emphasis on the pronoun sent a visible ripple of irritation down Trigger’s black coat. A shadow of history had been evoked, one which we had both spent many hours attempting to eject from the catacombs of our minds.

“Don’t…” His response was cut short as the sounds of shattered glass clouded his crystal-clear concentration. For a moment, I settled into an uneasy serenity – unwilling to acknowledge the noise we had heard. I pressed my hind hooves into the lightly toned hardwood and shifted my focus back to my talking points for tomorrow’s lecture on fundamental forces, but the jargon resting atop my oak desk could not contain the brewing commotion that trickled through the wooden walls.

The probability of a drunkard roaming the streets of Las Pegasus at this hour was unperceivably high to an outsider. Chances were that the stirrings arose from a weary trotter who had just lost control of his bottle. It just looks like a simple street corner house. No pony would have any reason to bust in. The denial played with me while Trigger’s glare affixed to the ceiling that hovered beneath my bedroom. He had already accepted the outcome that I struggled to bury. The noise did not resemble a bottle of Applejack; it resembled that of a blown out windowpane.

Restless rumblings continued to drip through my illuminated, pearly ramparts, but the furor growing outside my abode carried with it the unexpected hints of a cadence. “They’ve cut off the roads,” Trigger stated flatly before he rolled from the couch onto his hooves and promptly adjusted his Coltston. “Definitely a guard unit.” He made his way towards the staircase and glanced at me while a fire stoked his amber irides. “But it doesn’t sound like the townies, so just stall the buckers until I find out what’s up.”

I was about to ask the unicorn what he meant by stall when a knocking came from my front door. The gaudy tone of a stallion pierced my ears with a grating flamboyance that would drive even the calmest pony into a mild fit of rage. “Open up! This is Captain Proud Valiance of the 49th Research Battalion. We have reason to believe an extremely dangerous creature has entered your home. If you do not comply, then we will enter with force!”

Containing the sigh that fled my muzzle would have been a futile task. “I’m coming!” I called, trying to abate the looming frenzy that had infringed upon my solace. The journey to the entryway was a short one, and I drew a deep, relaxing breath before daring to expose my house to the officer that lurked in the night.

Trigger stealthily peeked into my unlit room after the quiet serenade of whimpers had lured him to my chamber. The desert breeze swept past the rugged shards of bloodied glass to caress a young filly as she tried to yank the remaining pieces from her slashed torso. The unicorn possessed a mane and coat that looked strikingly familiar to the stallion’s palette, and her frantic demeanor gradually pulled Trigger ever closer.

There was no doubt in his mind that this intruder was the target. She had attempted to teleport into the building and had gotten herself busted by the enchantments he had levied upon the structure. Although, the result was odd. She should have been returned to the street unharmed, but instead, she had wound up caught in broken glass. Either he had screwed up the casting of the spell, or something else was at play. And that something was likely the reason why all those guards were after a little tyke.

The stallion shook the chain from his mind and refocused on the more pertinent issue. There was a kid bleeding out on my bedroom floor, troops were closing in, and he did not want to startle the foal into a catastrophic fuss. Across the board, the choices were complicated, and all of them came with a dose of risk. Eventually, he allowed a gentle whisper to roll off his tongue. “They’re outside. I’m not going to hurt ya. Just keep quiet.”

Trigger pushed the door open slowly and watched as the filly recoiled in fear. She shook as the built stallion revealed his full form to her, but at least she managed to remain silent. He released a soft sigh of relief and tried to make himself appear as small as possible by lowering himself to the smooth floorboards. There was no trace of malice upon her mien, and her lilac cores glimmered like amethysts even amongst the lightless dread that crept in from the bounds of night.

He lay there for a few moments, allowing the trembling foal to gain some assurance that he was good on his word. Externally, he fought to maintain a kind and caring composure, but internally, the stallion was overwhelmed by a rising tide of rage. Few things legitimately bothered Trigger. He was the type of pony that could shrug off most things with a simple quip, but the mere notion of harming a child countered every aspect of his creation.

He exhausted a list of potential explanations while meticulously examining the blank-flank. There was no rhyme or reason to any of the events unfolding around the charger. The little unicorn had very little magical stamina, and Trigger detected no deception in her presence. The fact that she had managed to bypass his spell seemed increasingly incredible, but the lack of danger etched anywhere upon her demeanor won the stallion over. While the swirl of conditionals and consequences was a staggering current, one truth remained firmly cemented in his creed; there was no excuse for bringing harm to a child.

“Buck, I’m starting to think like Wing.” Once again, his whisper broke the fragile silence. “Simple priorities… Ya look a bit beat up, Kiddo. There’s a first-aid kit in the bathroom. How about I take ya down the hall and help patch ya up a bit? Can’t have a fine-looking filly such as yourself bleeding all over, now can I?”

He paused as the painstaking vision of confusion washed over her countenance. Did she not understand what he was saying? She had definitely listened; that much was certain. He watched intently as some semblance of reality constructed itself behind her pupils. Clarity manifested rapidly within those ocular portals, and she responded by suddenly pressing her forehoof gently against the gunslinger’s nose. “Please help me, Trigger,” she spoke with a frantic tenderness one would expect from a scared foal. “Please, don’t let them find me.”

The stallion nodded, preparing to escort her to the washroom, while the waves of questions surfaced from the vault of his subconscious. There were several things that stood out from the backdrop of weirdness that corralled this otherwise boring night, but it had been the obvious question involving his name that sat peculiarly placed upon the unstable precipice of his tongue.

I had opened the entrance of my home to a congregation of armored guards. At the threshold, a unicorn stood who I presumed to be Proud Valiance, and his stance and disposition definitely fit within the uncertainties of my predictions. His deep violet coat – along with the golden plates that adorned his body – toyed with the silvery light of the bright moon. His mane was a shimmering black, aside from the streak of royal blue that ran past the base of his horn to the end of the exotic lock, and sandy gold eyes inspected my movements.

“Good evening,” I answered, having taken a tick to peer around his physique to catch sight of his gilded crest cutie mark. “I would certainly appreciate you all not attempting to bust into my laboratory in the middle of the night. I wasn’t asleep or anything, but I can assure you from the mess of papers on my desk that I did not prepare for company.”

The slightest smidge of disgust pricked the corners of his lips as he began to speak again, and I was positively certain that I had heard an obscenity dribble from one of the subordinate’s lips. Perhaps they had wanted to burst in, magic blazing, in a wave of glory; or perhaps, they just realized the significance of the word laboratory. Whatever misgivings the unicorn tossed about his thoughts, they were temporarily repressed at the behest of his haughty tone.

“As I was saying, I am Captain Proud Valiance of the 49th Research Battalion. We’re in pursuit of an extremely destructive experimental specimen. It is crucial that we search the premises immediately to rule out any infiltration. Please step aside…”

He took a step towards the warm confines of my foyer but was halted as I threw one of my forehooves against the doorframe. The arrogance permeating from the officer’s aura was repulsive, and considering that Trigger had not started dismantling the upper level, the story trickling from Proud’s muzzle did not measure up to my standard candle of honesty. “Captain, I’m afraid I can’t do that. See, you didn’t even let me introduce myself, but if you had, you’d understand that this building is a protected government establishment. Those orders are from Princess Celestia herself, and you’re more than welcome to confirm my academic and military credentials with any member of the local patrol.”

The stallion’s expression shifted to a complicated mix of anger, impatience and angst. His limbs twitched before the bulwarks of my impasse, and his desire to trample me at the porch was undeniable. “You do not understand! We have to locate this beast immediately! There is no time to waste with your foolishness. Now, I will say it again! Step aside…”

My ears perked as Trigger descended the staircase and took up a position several meters behind me. His coat was drenched with water, and his wet, argent mane glistened in the ambient lighting against the stark void that was his fur. Droplets gathered beneath his frame while a wandering hoof could not help but poke the hat that still clung to his crown. “Geeze Wing, I go to take a shower and come back to see a squad at the gates. The buck did ya do this time? They don’t even look like the Las Pegasus guys, so what’s going on?”

“Sir!” Valiance shouted desperately. “Were you up on the second floor? Did you hear or see anything unusual? We have reason to believe a perilous entity teleported into this establishment. It’s imperative that we track it down at once!”

Trigger shook his head and waved his forehoof at the unicorn. “That’s impossible. The building is charmed against teleportation because of the professor’s research. Nothing was upstairs but me, some beds, and a whole mess of wood. However…” He lowered his brow and made a drawn-out movement towards the inception of an evolving plan. “Your lot doesn’t seem to be from around these parts. If there’s a monster to hunt, and ya buckers need an ace in the hole, I wouldn’t mind tagging along for the ride. I am a soldier myself, Captain, and having me in tow might allow ya to move around the city a bit easier – if ya catch my drift.”