• Published 30th Jul 2013
  • 707 Views, 31 Comments

Progress - suijin



A tale of some not-really friends trying to work together to save the world. They're not even acquaintences, really. WARNING: Sequel.

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Nightmare

Blood.

There was blood everywhere.

Flam covered his mouth and tried to hold in the vomit rising in the back of his throat. He couldn’t even stand to look at all of the bloodshed and carnage.

Flim just stared at him, his eyes empty and cold. “You did this. This is YOUR fault.”

“No… no… I didn’t do this! I couldn’t have!”

“You made the machine.”

“You helped sell it!”

“But you’re the one that made it faulty. You’re the pony that made it dangerous.” Flam’s ears drooped as his brother’s specter made a very valid argument. “How many other ponies have bought things like this from you? How many other mares do you think died because of what you did?”

“No… I… I never wanted this.”

“It doesn’t matter what you wanted!” Flam flinched as his brother’s voice changed, morphing into a sickening mockery. The stallion’s features melted and coalesced into that of another pony; Flam couldn’t tell who, as he was unwilling to look at its face. “The only thing that matters is what you’ve done, and how many have been and will be hurt because of it!

“All that matters now is that you know what true suffering is.”

-----

As the stallion twitched in his sleep, he remained blissfully unaware of the creature watching his agonizing slumber. After making certain that he was in suitable pain, the black furred creature checked on the other pony. Leaning down, the equine let its wings gently flap over the other stallion’s snout.

“Don’t worry; it’ just a bad dream. Ahahahahahahahaaa…”

-----

“Brother…”

“Flam? Is that you? Where are you?!”

“Help me… Brother.”

Running silently through the thick and dark mist, Flim desperately searched for any sign of his younger brother. He couldn’t see anything through the fog, but he could feel stone beneath his hooves.

“Flam? Can you hear me?” As he ran, he saw a strange figure in the mist. Drawing closer he saw that it was equine shaped. He started running even faster.

But as he approached the pony, he saw that it wasn’t his brother. Instead of a horn, the creature sported wings, and had a pitch-black coat. Turning towards him, it set its crimson gaze on him just as the ground disappeared from beneath his hooves.

As he fell into the abyss, his body turned in midair, until he was looking upward. Flam looked back.

“Why did you let this happen to us?”

-----

This one started twisting in his sleep, and seemed to be trying to scream. Whatever nightmare he was having, it must have been particularly unpleasant for him.

Grinning slightly, the pony overseeing their torture felt a surge of pride. No creature was going to get to the Elements, not unless they were worthy. And judging by how things were going for these two ponies, this group of adventurers would fare no better than the last.

Now, there was just the drake.

-----

The young dragon stretched out his arm muscles as he made his way from the den that he had slept in the previous night. Spotting some of his old friends, he rushed over to them.

They were in the middle of their migration, and were sticking around this particular volcano for a few days. Taking the opportunity to hang out with his gang, he challenged one of them to tail-wrestling.

After beating his opponent quite handily, he soon found himself going up against yet another dragon. This was followed by a third challenger, and then a fourth.

Eventually, he was challenged by a tiny purple and green dragon. A tiny part of his brain questioned how the squirt had followed them on the migration, or why he was challenging a drake ten times his size to tail-wrestling. But a much larger part simply couldn’t form any coherent thoughts, and he got into position like normal.

Most dragons would have predicted that the runt would lose. Even with a mind as numbed as his was he could figure that much out. But he didn’t just lose.

He backed away from the pile of blood and guts that used to be the tiny dragon. All of the other dragons, every single one in the entire migration, was surrounding him, mocking him, taunting him, accusing him.

This couldn’t be real. Stuff like this just didn’t happen. It couldn’t!

“Oh really?”

He spun around to face the speaker. All of the other dragons were gone, as was the volcano he had been standing on. In their place was a black pony, standing in the middle of a cave.

“Who are you? What do you want from me?”

The pony smiled. Upon closer inspection, the drake saw that she was a pegasus mare. But she looked nothing like any pegasus he had ever seen; he found it difficult to look at her straight, as her body seemed to shift and bend under his gaze, and her eyes were blood-red slits, rather than round.

“Who am I? I’m your fears.”

“I’m your doubts.” The dragon turned once more as the voice came from his left, the pony having somehow snuck around him. The cave was gone, now replaced by a forest clearing.

“I’m your nightmares.” He already knew that she would somehow be behind him when he turned, but the drake still spun around to look at her. He jumped backwards when he saw her eyes right in front of his.

Once again, the forest had disappeared. They were now indoors, and the dragon struggled through the mud filling his head to figure out what kind of building they were in.

As he looked up, he saw that the pony was now seated behind some kind of podium. To her right were all of the adult dragons from the migration, all with somber looks on their faces.

To her left sat the tiny dragon that had dared to tail-wrestle him.

The mare spoke again, her question now aimed at the adult dragons. “Has the jury reached a decision?”

Their thunderous voices boomed out as one, “Guilty!”

The judge lifted her tiny mallet in her hoof, and struck the podium. Then, everything went black.

-----

The mare hummed a tune to herself as she finished checking on the last of the creatures. As much as she had come to enjoy her work, she was still growing a little bored. Deciding to get a quick snack, she wondered what her unfortunate victims were experiencing right now.

She had never really understood her powers, other than that they allowed her to put other creatures to sleep, and give them terrible nightmares. She had no way of knowing the exact effects, so she could only guess what the two stallions and dragon were going through right now. Were they experiencing loss? Failure? Betrayal?

She mused silently about the mysteries of the universe as she went to her small living area. It was quite minimal on account of her living in a cave in the Everfree Forest, but she had still been pretty comfortable for the many years she had spent there. Grabbing a drink and some cooked squirrel, she wondered aloud why ponies seemed so uncomfortable when it came to eating meat.

-----

Why..? Why did things have to go so wrong? How could he have made something that could actually hurt somepony? He would never have sold anything like that…

Flam looked at the designs he had made. What had he done wrong? What had he missed that could lead to such a dangerous malfunction?

As he stared at the pieces of paper on his worktable, he started focusing on one corner in particular. Something about it seemed… off.

Of course! How could he have missed something so obvious?! Grabbing a pencil in his telekinetic grip, he began to furiously scribble down notes and sketches…

-----

Flim fell…

And fell…

And fell…

Somehow, he wasn't feeling any less terrible about what he had done. His brother was still falling beside him, after all.

He had messed up. He had made an unforgivable mistake. He didn't deserve to lead, his brother should have, instead. He was always so much smarter than Flim, yet he still let him be in charge. Or, at least, as much as either of them was in charge of the other.

And look where he had landed them for it. Yeah, he had definitely screwed up.

At least all of this falling gave him plenty of time to think. Speaking of falling, he wondered, shouldn’t there be a cliff-face somewhere?

As if on cue, a wall of solid rock appeared from within the mist. As it rushed past them, an idea tickled the back of Flim’s mind…

In a sudden moment of inspiration, he used his magic to construct a magical slide-shaped barrier beneath the two brothers.

Impacting the stone wall hard enough to knock a few teeth loose, Flim noted that he was still alive, and held on for dear life. Catching Flam in a telekinetic grip before he could continue falling into the chasm, he deposited his brother on the side of the wall next to him.

“Shall we go up?”

-----

No matter how hard he tried, the dragon couldn’t stop hurting others, and he could never avoid the inevitable trial and sentencing that followed. Over and over again, as if he was always trying to outdo his last mistake. It was never ending, and it made him realize something: it wasn’t real.

None of it could be real. He didn’t know what was going on, and his mind was still too sluggish to work out any of the details, but he knew for a fact that what was happening couldn’t be happening.

So he waited. He made his not-real mistakes, he went before the not-real judge, and he paid for his not-real crimes with not-real sentences.

He waited. Eventually, something would snap. And then, he could get out of this awful nightmare.

-----

“… nightmare.”

… What? What was that? Was one of her prisoners… talking?

No, that was impossible; no creature, not even Sombra himself, could do more than grumble when under her control. The gases that she produced shut down the nervous system almost entirely, so having somecreature retain enough control to speak was… well, it just didn’t happen.

Curious, she walked back into the cave’s entrance and kneeled before the dragon. Thoroughly examining him, she decided that it was better to be safe than sorry, and released more toxic gas from her wings in an attempt to pull him back into his slumber.

She froze when she heard a shuffling sound behind her. Only turning her head a few degrees, she glanced over her shoulder, sighing in relief when she saw that neither of the ponies…

Oh no. She couldn’t see the ponies. She had left them right there! Starting to panic once more, she desperately searched for her prey.

They had to be around here somewhere. Even if they had somehow managed to wake up, they couldn’t have gone too far. All she had to do was find them, then…

She jumped backwards as a red projectile whistled past her head.

“Ah, Flam, you missed!”

“Hey, you try aiming this thing! Why did we make it hoof operated, anyway? We have magic!”

“Weren’t we going to try selling it?”

“… Touché.”

She turned to see the two stallions, standing next to a… something. She honestly had no idea what kind of weird contraption they had managed to make, but she was pretty sure she was standing in front of its business end.

As Flam aimed his next shot, Flim decided that it was time to take a more… creative approach.

“How can she move so fast?”

“How can your aim be that bad?” Jumping and twisting through the air, she avoided every shot sent her way with the grace of a true predator, while wondering why in the name of Discord they had decided to make a cannon that shot apples. Seriously. Apples?

Closing the distance to her prey with ease, she leapt over the cannon’s barrels and tried getting her teeth on the stallion’s throat. He managed to duck just below her, and searched anxiously for some sign of his brother, only to find that he had disappeared.

“End of the line, pony. It’s lunchtime.” The mare bared her unusually prominent fangs as she approached Flam, who found himself backed into a corner.

“Listen, we just want the Elements of Progress; once we’ve grabbed them, we can leave, and never bother you again.”

“What do you think I’m supposed to be, the welcoming committee? No creature can get the Elements unless they prove themselves worthy.”

“Did you not notice the giant white Alicorn sleeping in your doorway? The princesses are back!”

“And that’s all the more reason to keep them out of reach of those that don’t deserve them!” She made another lunge, this one too low for Flam to duck under. Weaving to her right, he braced for the impact of her wing, only to cry out in pain as he felt a chunk of flesh get torn out of his leg.

Retracting the serrated bone on the edge of her wing, the mare walked over to her crippled prey, Flam panicking at the unnatural creature’s approach.

“As I said before: lunchtime.”

-----

“Excuse me, your majesty, but it would seem that you’re sleeping on the job.”

Celestia groaned as her consciousness slowly returned to her. Opening her eyes, she saw a unicorn stallion standing before her. “What do you speak of, peasant? Speak quickly!”

“Well you see, I, as a concerned citizen of your great empire, would just like to point out that you really can’t let somepony get away with putting you into a drug induced sleep like that. Why, I think that that black mare deeper within this cave deserves to get a good thrashing, wouldn’t you agree?”

“What black mare? What are you talking about? Oh, I swear, if she’s the one responsible for this headache, a “thrashing” is going to be the least of her worries!” The Princess of the Sun stormed into the cave, bathing it in light as she entered the deeper chambers.

Spotting the mare that the unicorn had described, she immediately loosed a blast of magical energy.

Blinded by the sudden surge of light, the mare tried to dodge out of the shot’s way, getting grazed as it passed. Staggering and rapidly blinking her eyes, she was barely able to see the next attack sent her way.

Upon getting a good look at her attacker, she decided that the unicorn stallions could wait; there was larger prey to hunt.

-----

“So, let me get this straight: you woke yourselves up from your crazy dreams on your own, woke up Celestia and convinced her to attack the nightmare-pegasus, and then you grabbed me and the Elements and bailed while the two of them were trying to kill each other?”

Flim and Flam shared a glance and shrugged. “More or less.”

The dragon shook his head. “What do you know? I guess I didn’t give you guys enough credit. You’re alright, alright?”

“Thank you, good sir.” Flim spared a glance back towards the cave. “But we should really get going. I don’t want to be nearby to find out which of those two won.”

-----

Celestia screamed in agony as the mare bit into the back of her neck with vicious fangs and, trying to shake the creature off, discovered that it possessed an absurdly strong grip. Panicking, she tried blasting at her assailant with her horn, only managing to scorch her own fur in the process.

Eventually, the creature let go, only to leave some kind of black fog behind her. Celestia felt her consciousness starting to slip, and made a mad dash for the cave’s entrance.

Crazy… mare… struggling to remain awake, the princess decided that now would be a good time to beat a hasty retreat, and flew off on unsteady wings, defeated and humiliated.

After watching the alicorn leave, the black mare searched her home for the Elements, confirming her suspicions that the strange group from earlier had taken them.

“Huh… I guess you were worthy after all."

Author's Note:

In case you didn’t realize it yet, each of the Guardians that Sombra picked is powerful enough to give an alicorn a run for her money.

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