• Published 22nd Sep 2013
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Brother Against Sister - CartsBeforeHorses



Teenage Pound Cake and Pumpkin Cake are fighting on opposite sides of a civil war in Equestria. Now completed.

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Chapter 2: Brainwashed Destiny

Pumpkin Cake floated in the air for what seemed like an eternity as the unicorn soldier levitated her down a street in Ponyville. Her pupils dilated and her heart pounded as she wondered where the soldiers were taking her.

She tried to struggle and break free of the soldier's magic, but he turned to her and warned, “If you even dare to run away, I’ll go back there and kill your whole family!”

Pumpkin Cake didn’t struggle. She floated in the air, feeling woozy and light-headed from fear, the levitation spell not helping. She looked around. Most of the buildings in town were still intact, with only a few having been damaged by explosions or riddled with bullet holes. She breathed a sigh of relief.

At least the town is alright, Pumpkin thought. It was some small comfort.

She looked ahead. The soldier was taking her on the dirt road to the Apple Family’s barn on the outskirts of town. She wondered why, but figured that she would know soon enough.

The soldier opened the barn door, walked in, and set Pumpkin Cake down, finally letting her walk on her own four hooves again.

“Stay here, and don’t move.”

He walked away, leaving the barn. Pumpkin glanced around the barn, her eyes adjusting to the dark. She was not alone. There were two dozen other unicorn fillies and colts, most of whom were in her age group. The oldest ones couldn’t have been more than thirteen. However, it was hard to tell in the dimly lit barn. The only light came from the open door, from cracks between the wooden boards, or from the many bullet holes which now peppered the sides of the barn. A single armed guard stood at the entrance of the barn.

Pumpkin thought of the Apple family. She had often come here on errands to pick up bushels of apples for pies. She hoped they were all still alive.

“So, what’s your name?” Pumpkin turned around. A filly had walked up to her.

“Pumpkin Cake. And you are...”

“Sunrise Spring.”

“Nice to meet you,” said Pumpkin Cake.

“What’s your special talent?” asked Sunrise Spring.

Pumpkin shook her head. “I don’t have one; I’m a blank flank.”

Sunrise Spring raised an eyebrow. “Oh? How old are you, Pumpkin Cake?”

“Nine,” said Pumpkin.

“I’m twelve, and my talent is painting. Nine and you still don’t have your cutie mark? Must be a late bloomer. Not that your special talent matters that much anymore. I’m sure that these unicorns have other plans for us.”

Pumpkin Cake gulped, and tried not to think about the soldiers. She had no idea what they could be planning, for she knew very little about the unicorn-only Second Kingdom.

Another group of about a dozen fillies and colts arrived.

Pumpkin wondered how this was possibly happening. This whole idea of a war in Ponyville was absurd. She thought for a moment that she might be dreaming.

That would be cool, she thought. When I’m in a dream and know I’m dreaming, then I can do whatever I want.

She tried a variety of things, like flying around the room or summoning an ice cream cone with thirty scoops of ice cream on it, but they didn’t work. So it wasn’t a dream. Or maybe it was, but it was incredibly vivid. Her question remained. Why was she here? What would happen to her?

She thought of what the other filly had said. "Not that your special talent matters that much anymore. I’m sure that these unicorns have other plans for us.”

Right now, her biggest question was if she would survive. Only a day ago, her biggest question had been what her special talent would ultimately end up being.

“Okay class, today we're going to learn about cutie marks,” said Ms. Cheerilee. “Now, how many of you in here have your cutie marks?”

All fifteen hooves in the room shot up, with the exception of Pound Cake, Pumpkin Cake, and one other colt.

“Wow, that many of you? Maybe I should start teaching the cutie mark lesson a little earlier!” Ms. Cheerilee chuckled. Nopony else in the room laughed.

Come to think of it, Pumpkin wondered why that lesson was taught in fourth grade. Seemed more like kindergarten level to her.

Cheerilee said, “Anyway, as you may already know, a cutie mark is a mark of your special talent, something that you're really good at. It’s meant to be your destiny in life. When you find your special talent, then a cutie mark will appear on your flank. Pretty simple, right? Mine is three flowers, which represent teaching, because you're all my little blossoms!” Cheerilee smiled as she pointed at the mark. She continued, “Don’t worry, even if you don’t have your cutie mark yet, it’s sure to show up in time. Just be patient, and it will come.”

Pumpkin Cake wondered what her teacher was doing right now. She was probably hiding under a desk, or dead.

The bell rang and the students filed out of the schoolhouse to go home for the day.

“Why don’t we have our cutie marks yet, Pound? What do you think they’ll be?”

“I don’t know, sis. But hey, it’s like Ms. Cheerilee said. It’s gotta show up someday. I’ll bet mine will be a pair of jetwings, since I can fly so fast!” Pound exclaimed, taking off into the air.

A dull boom echoed off in the distance, making the barn rumble ever so slightly and distracting Pumpkin for a moment. Hopefully the barn wouldn’t collapse.

Pumpkin Cake, not willing to take ‘someday’ as an answer like her brother, decided to talk to her parents.

“Well, Pumpkin, it’s like we’ve always told you and Pound. You two can take over the family business when we’re too old to work,” said Mrs. Cake.

“But I don’t like baking,” she replied. “I’ve tried it before, but it’s just so boring. It’s not my special talent, and it's not my destiny.”

“Then you and Pound can sell the business and use the money to go to college,” said Mr. Cake. “Go do something that is your special talent. Be a great doctor or lawyer. And don’t worry. Your mother didn’t get her mark until she was nine, just like you. I didn’t get my cutie mark until I was eleven! I’m sure that by the time you’re eleven, you’ll have your mark. And when that day comes, I’ll just say ‘I told you so.’”

But would that day even come? Would she ever see her parents or Pound again? Would they be shot anyway, even if she didn’t try to escape? What did the Second Kingdom’s soldiers have in store for her?

Pumpkin Cake recalled an earth pony colt named Augusto who was in the sixth grade and had once lived in Canterlot. He had told her about how Canterlot had been during Princess Celestia's reign, before she fell ill and passed away, leaving Twilight and Luna in charge. Back then, the Second Kingdom didn’t exist yet, and Canterlot was still part of Equestria. Pumpkin had been too young to remember, and had only read about it in history books.

Augusto had told Pumpkin of how the sun shimmered off the shining white domes of the buildings, the streets were paved with marble, and he could gaze out over all of Equestria from the mountainside. He joked about how everypony wore top hats in Canterlot, even the ones who weren’t rich, just so they could fit in with the ones who were rich.

But then, when Celestia died, there was a power struggle. Riots and street skirmishes broke out, and soon Prince Blueblood was elected the leader of the self-proclaimed Second Kingdom in Canterlot. Luna and Twilight fled and moved Equestria’s capital to Manehattan. At first, things in the new Canterlot weren't so bad. The economy grew for a while. Augusto’s parents, both factory owners, had made a lot of money after Blueblood got rid of some hated Celestia-era taxes.

But then, three years later, they had to pack up and move to Ponyville. Apparently, Blueblood didn’t like non-unicorns living anywhere on Second Kingdom soil. But now that the Second Kingdom’s soil included Ponyville as well… Pumpkin tried not to think about it. She was not about to start crying around all these other fillies and colts, only one or two of whom were crying themselves.

”You know, Pumpkin dearie, you can always go to see Princess Twilight about your cutie mark,” said Mrs. Cake. “She’s in town visiting from Manehattan, and she’s staying at the library. She might be busy, but I’m sure she could find time to help you while she’s here.”

“Yes,” Mr. Cake added, “Princess Twilight is very smart and magical. She may know of a spell that can help you find your destiny.”

But Twilight wasn’t powerful enough to stop this war, Pumpkin realized. Even Princesses aren’t invulnerable.

Pumpkin Cake knocked on the door to the library. She half expected there to be no answer, for Twilight to be out on royal business or something. But the door opened after a few moments, and Spike answered.

“Hello, um…” Spike started, raising an eyebrow.

“Pumpkin Cake. You might not remember me, but I remember you. You’re Spike! Pinkie told us all about you. I’m the Cakes’ daughter.”

She shook hooves with the dragon.

Spike said, “Oh, yeah, I remember you, too! But you were still a toddler the last time I saw you. Nice to meet you.”

“May I speak with the Princess?”

“Well, she’s very busy, but I’ll see if she can make an exception for a friend.” Spike left and returned a few moments later with Twilight Sparkle.

Twilight’s eyes lit up as she gazed down at the young filly. “Pumpkin Cake! My, look how much you’ve grown! Please, come in! Sit down.”

Pumpkin Cake was distracted from her flashback by the door opening once more. Ten more fillies and colts walked in, with the guard at the door giving them the same threat to their families should they try to escape. Some of the ponies in this group were no more than five years old. They cried and bawled hysterically.

“I’m having trouble finding my cutie mark,” said Pumpkin, pointing at her bare flank.

Twilight said, ”Your cutie mark, eh? Well, let’s see, here. Normally, it’s something you’re good at. Are you good at anything?”

Pumpkin Cake shrugged.

“Well, I’m sure you’ll find something,” said Twilight, smiling. “Just try a lot of things that you like, and you’re bound to find one you’re good at. My own talent is magic, which is how I became an alicorn princess. I see that you’re a unicorn, just like I used to be. Perhaps your special talent is magic, like mine?”

Pumpkin shook her head. “I don’t think so. I’m not too good at magic.”

Another, larger group of unicorn fillies and colts came in. There were twenty in this group. Pumpkin wondered if the soldiers planned to fill up the whole barn with captured children.

Twilight asked, “Can you cast any spells?”

“Just three spells. Levitation of little things; I can’t lift a lot. Also, I know horn lighting, and then one other spell.”

“What other spell?”

“I don’t know what it’s called,” said Pumpkin.

“What does it do? I’m curious now; I love magic of all types. Can you show me, please?” asked Twilight, smiling as she leaned forward towards Pumpkin Cake.

Pumpkin Cake nodded, and then stared at the coffee table. Her horn glowed cerulean, and the tabletop glowed cerulean as well. She reached over with her hoof and stuck it straight through the tabletop, as if it was made of air. After a few moments, she removed her hoof, powered down her horn, and the table returned to normal.

“An intangibility spell? Now that’s intriguing!” exclaimed Twilight, her eyes lighting up in interest.

“Yeah, it’s nothing special,” said Pumpkin. “It’s just some trick that I used to leave my crib when I was younger, or that I use to walk through the walls to avoid Pound whenever we play hide and seek.”

“No, you misunderstand me. ‘Intriguing’ means ‘interesting.’ That spell’s actually really neat,” said Twilight.

“So is that my special talent?”

Twilight grinned. “I don’t know. I haven’t heard of too many other ponies who could do that. It sure meets the ‘special’ requirement of special talent; I’ll say that much.”

“Yeah, but what can I do with an intangibability spell, anyway?”

“Intangibility,” Twilight corrected. “As for what you can do with it, um… Be a secret agent? Um…”

She paused, trying to think of more things.

“Be a prospector and use it to look for gold?”

Pumpkin shook her head.

Twilight paused once more, and asked, “Can you use it on other ponies, or use it on yourself?”

“No.”

“Well, that rules out anything in medicine, like doctor or surgeon. Hmm… Sorry, but I have nothing else. The few other ponies whom I’ve ever heard of with that kind of magic were outlaws from centuries ago. They used it to rob banks, burgle homes, and escape from jail after they were caught. You’re a good pony, though; a life of crime or prison probably isn’t in the cards for you.”

Pumpkin Cake looked at the dark walls surrounding her, the armed guard at the door, and the sad and despondent faces of the fillies and colts who sat within the barn. It certainly felt like a prison. Despite her having committed no crime, here she was regardless. And despite her power to escape if she wanted, she wouldn’t dare. They would kill her whole family. She was old enough to grasp the irony of the situation, though not quite old enough to know what the word “irony” meant.

”I’m sure that you’ll think of some cool thing to do with that spell,” said Twilight. “But, then again, that spell might not even be your special talent. Your talent could be something else even greater than that. Don’t give up hope! Just be patient and you’ll find your destiny someday. Now, I have to finish up some work before I go back to Manehattan tomorrow. Good luck.”

Twilight smiled and patted Pumpkin Cake on the head, and she headed for the door.

Pumpkin Cake thought about Twilight’s words: “Just be patient and you’ll find your destiny someday.” But how could she be patient with something as important as her destiny: what she would do for the rest of her life? As for finding it “someday,” would there even be a someday for her?

“Attention, unicorn fillies and colts!”

Pumpkin Cake’s thoughts were interrupted by Trixie, who stepped in the room. Trixie cast a light spell, illuminating the darkened barn. Pumpkin could see that there were now about a hundred children in the barn.

“My name is the Great and Powerful Trixie,” she proclaimed, pointing at her chest with her hoof as she stuck her head high into the air. “A few of you may recognize me from when I freed you from your earth pony surrogates.”

“But they’re our parents!” a filly cried out.

Trixie shook her head. “No, they're not. They’re lesser ponies. Though they gave birth to you, they’re not your parents any more than the primordial soup which spawned life itself. They were your surrogates, but not true parents, as only a unicorn could be. King Blueblood is your father, now. Welcome to the unicorn race, our children. We shall treat you far better than your surrogates ever did.”

Nopony seemed impressed. Trixie continued regardless, “Now, not only are you unicorns, but you are very special unicorns.” She paused for a moment.

Pumpkin’s ears perked up. Special?

As if reading Pumpkin’s mind, Trixie smiled and said, “Yes, special indeed. As you know, farming and growing crops is normally the earth ponies’ job. Usually, a unicorn can no more farm than he can fly. But you all can farm, because you have the genetics. Earth pony blood runs through your veins from the surrogates who birthed you. Just as we freed you from your surrogates, allowing you your independence from them, you will repay the favor by growing crops for the Second Kingdom, allowing our independence from earth ponies!”

“But I thought you already got your independence,” said Sunrise Spring, raising her hoof in the air. “That’s what we learned in history class. The Second Kingdom got independence from Equestria to make peace, and there was a treaty. You got what you wanted. Why are you here, then?”

Trixie sighed. She said, “The history you were taught is a lie, young filly. We have an independent nation, but haven’t yet gained our racial self-reliance. The Second Kingdom still needs to trade with Equestria for much of our food, but in its greed, Equestria places high prices and tariffs on food to extort us, since they know that we have no other choice but to buy from them. Our plates are never full, and thousands of unicorns go hungry every night because they can’t afford food. But with you, they can.

“We have already cast spells and invented airplanes to change the weather without the pegasi. Soon, we shall move the sun and moon without the alicorns. With you, we shall feed ourselves without the earth ponies. We are the master race; the only ones who can be truly independent. An earth pony could never move clouds. They can only grow crops, but so can you. You can do all that they can do and so much more. We’ll be truly independent, as only we can be. We shall be self-sustaining, and we shall be sufficient unto the day.”

She stuck her hoof out and gestured towards all the young ponies in the room.

“Whatever that mark on your flank says is your destiny, it’s wrong. It was put there by scheming inferiors to keep you from your true potential. Your true destiny, all one hundred and four of you, is to grow crops and be farmers. With the help of our tractors, combine harvesters, seeders, and other farming machines made by the great unicorn inventors Flim and Flam, you will grow crops for thousands and thousands of other ponies. All of them will rely on you for life’s nourishment itself! This is your duty as unicorns: to serve your race.”

“My cutie mark isn’t fake; it appeared when I found my special talent!” a colt objected, frowning.

“Young colt, do you know what brainwashing is?” Trixie asked in a consoling tone, walking over to the colt and smiling down at him.

“No.”

“It’s when you are lied to over and over again, and then you believe it.”

“We’ve been lied to?” the colt asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Yes,” said Trixie, walking back towards the center of the room. She pointed with her hoof towards the direction of Ponyville and said, “Your parents, principals, pastors, police ponies, princesses, and other ponies in positions of power have perniciously perpetrated a pack of pretensions to prevent you from partaking in your potential as providers of plenty!”

Pumpkin was perplexed.

Seeing the children’s confused faces, Trixie continued, “Um, what I mean is that the ponies who claim to love you have actually lied to you to stop you from being the best that you can be. The cutie mark is part of this lie. All of you should really have farming cutie marks. You were brainwashed so much that the cutie mark magic itself was fooled. Thankfully, though, I'm here to correct it for the good of the unicorn race.”

A filly in the back of the barn yelled out, “But my special talent has to be ice skating! I’m good at it!”

“You may be good at it, but is it really your destiny?” Trixie asked, walking over to her. “What’s better, frolicking about in ice skates for other ponies’ fleeting amusement, or growing food to feed other ponies, giveing them life itself? Believe me, I was a performer once, too. I loved the cheers of the crowd. But I had the chance to join the Second Kingdom and make a true difference, and I'm a better pony for it. I used to call myself the Great and Powerful Trixie because that was my stage name. Now, I still call myself Great and Powerful, but for different reasons: because I am helping the unicorn master race realize its true greatness and power.”

“But we still have these marks on our flanks,” said a colt.

“Ah, but now you know that they're wrong. Tell me, children, how many of you believe in Santa Hooves?”

Roughly half of the room raised their hooves. Pumpkin kept hers down.

“Well, I hate to break it to you all, but he isn’t real. Those presents were from your surrogates. Did you honestly think that one pony can visit every house on the planet in one night and deliver millions and millions of presents, all for free? Santa Hooves is impossible,” she laughed.

A few of the very young fillies and colts started crying.

“Now, it’s painful for you to hear that truth… but the pain is necessary. Sooner or later, if I or someone else hadn’t told you, your knowledge of how the world works would have clued you in. You would've realized that Santa Hooves could not be real.

“It's painful to know, but with this pain comes power, as you now know something that you didn’t before. Those of you who already knew that Santa Hooves was fake before I told you: would you take back the pain of the realization in exchange for never being able to know, to be trapped in your ignorance forever?”

No pony in the group raised a hoof.

“So, pain can be worth it if it leads to the truth, then; we agree.”

Most of the ponies in the group nodded. Trixie motioned for one of her guards to come towards her. He carried a long metal stick with an object attached to it at the end. Pumpkin didn’t know what it was.

He held the handle of the stick as Trixie fired a magical ray of pure energy at it. She concentrated the beam for about a minute until the object on the end of the stick was red hot. Pumpkin Cake could now see that it was in the shape of two interlocking gears.

“This is a brand. It's meant to replace your false cutie mark with a true one. The two gears represent the farming machines that will enable each of you to do the work it would normally take hundreds of earth ponies to do. See that saggy old plow over there?”

She pointed towards Big Macintosh’s plow, which was parked against the side of the barn wall.

“You will not be using anything like that. Plows pulled by muscles are very inefficient. You’ll use steam-powered tractors which will let you till a field hundreds of times larger than the strongest earth pony could ever do with that antique. The gears on this branding iron represent what is possible with technology created by the superior intelect and dexterity of the master race. Now, this brand will hurt, but the pain will be temporary. The knowledge of the truth will be forever. Who’s first?”

Nopony volunteered.

“Alright, then, how about you, filly with the blank flank and the orange mane?”

Pumpkin blinked before she realized that Trixie was pointing to her.

“Yes, you.”

Her heart skipped a beat.

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