• 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 5: The Ceasefire

The crowd gasped.

“That’s right,” Trixie explained. “Remember, Cloudsdale is fifteen kilometers above the earth’s surface, or nine miles in your antiquated Equestrian units. So if we just crashed it into Cloudsdale, that would only affect Cloudsdale. Other than falling cloud debris and a bit of a temporary mess with the tides, which doesn’t affect the landlocked Second Kingdom, the rest of the planet would be fine.”

“You can’t do that!” exclaimed Twilight.

“Actually, we can. We’re magic, remember?” Trixie chuckled.

“We’ll stop you!” Fluttershy yelled, slamming her hoof onto the cloud below her.

Trixie rolled her eyes. “Oh, how cute. If it’s something that can be stopped, then just try to stop it! Once you try, and after you realize the futility of your efforts, you will then flee your city as it’s reduced to nothing.”

“But all you’re doing is just destroying buildings,” said Rarity. “Everypony will leave before the moon hits.”

“Ah, but you are wrong on both counts,” said Trixie. “Even if you somehow evacuate everypony from Cloudsdale, which for a city of this size would be impossible, you will also lose quite a bit. You’ll lose the Wonderbolts’ training ground, the weather factory for all of Equestria, all the critical military documents in the air base, all the weapons and ammunition in the armory… yes, even if we don’t kill a single pegasus, we still have a strategic victory here.”

Trixie grinned from ear to ear for a few moments before adding, “Unless, of course, you all agree to a ceasefire. In which case, we will leave the moon right where it is.”

“No deal,” said Twilight. “How do we know that the Second Kingdom won’t just break it like you broke the last peace treaty, the one you and Celestia signed where we granted your independence and gave you Canterlot? We’re not making the mistake of trusting you again. This war will end with either Equestria or the Second Kingdom defeated. Preferably, it will end with Canterlot as the proud capital of a unified Equestria once more.”

“I know you have reservations,” said Trixie. “That’s why I asked for a mere ceasefire. It’s a truce, not a treaty. If you agree, which you have until midnight to do, we will pause the moon, you will pause your troops, we will pause ours, and we will keep whatever land we’ve gained under our control, and vice versa. That is, until either side starts shooting again and decides to start this little war back up once more.”

“Still no deal,” said Twilight. “As my military advisors have informed me, your forces are about to lose control of Ponyville. Why would I declare a ceasefire when my side is winning?”

Trixie giggled. “Because if you don’t, the moon crashes into Cloudsdale! You’d sacrifice a city with millions of residents and homes for a town with a few thousand?”

Twilight glanced up at the sky. “I think we can stop the moon.”

Trixie laughed. “I think you can’t. You have until midnight to change your mind. At midnight, the moon will destroy this city. You have been warned.”

Trixie threw down a puff of smoke, then when the smoke cleared, everypony could see that she was back in her hot air balloon flying away.

“Let’s get her!” said Rainbow Dash, rising in the air. She began to dash off towards Trixie, but Applejack grabbed her by the tail.

“Woah now,” said Applejack. “Gettin’ her won’t solve anything. We oughta just stay and figure out a plan.”

“It’s a shame that we don’t have the elements of harmony anymore,” said Rarity. “If we did, we might be able to use them to push back the moon.”

“I doubt it,” said Twilight Sparkle. “The elements don’t work like that.”

“Hey, Pinkie, how come your tail isn’t twitching? The moon’s falling, right? And it’s right over us,” asked Rainbow Dash.

Pinkie raised an eyebrow. “Hey, yeah, I guess the moon is falling, and my tail isn’t twitching! Hmm. Maybe my Pinkie Sense doesn’t work on cataclysmic, slow motion events. Maybe it only works on flower pots and anvils. Who knows?”

“Alright, girls,” said Twilight. “Let’s go get to safety.”

“Pound,” said Rainbow Dash, turning to face him, “come with us.”

Pound followed them as they went back to Twilight’s hot air balloon, as the moon continued its slow descent towards Cloudsdale.

“Will you sign the ceasefire, Twilight? To save Cloudsdale?” Fluttershy asked.

Twilight paused for a moment, and then answered, “I think I may. Though it will buy Blueblood time to put up more defenses in Ponyville, it might also buy us enough time to figure out how to stop the moon. Midnight is only a few hours away.”

“Ah, Princesses Sparkle and Luna. So glad that you could join us here. Ready to sign that ceasefire?” King Blueblood asked, seated at the head of a long conference table in Canterlot.

“Yes, we are,” answered Princess Luna, who had flown in from Manehattan.

“As you can see, even though it is now three o'clock in the morning, we have stopped the moon’s descent and have not destroyed Cloudsdale in a show of good faith, ever since Twilight arrived,” said Blueblood, pointing out the window towards Cloudsdale.

The moon was only a small distance above Cloudsdale. It was so close that ponies could see every detail of the craters and the crevices without needing a telescope. At the time that the moon had stopped, it had been only two hours away from hitting Cloudsdale.

“We have also ordered our troops to stand down,” Blueblood added.

“And we’ve ordered ours to stand down,” said Twilight Sparkle. “This ceasefire will just make it official.”

“Excellent,” said Blueblood, picking up the quill in his magic and signing the ceasefire agreement. Princesses Luna and Twilight did the same.

“Now, I hope you don’t expect this ceasefire to be forever, Blueblood. We fully intend on recapturing both Ponyville and Canterlot someday, bringing thy kingdom to an end,” said Princess Luna, scowling. “We’ll regain control of the moon and save Cloudsdale.”

“You messed up big time by invading, Blueblood,” said Twilight. “You got everything you wanted in that treaty five years ago. You got Canterlot, a unicorns-only kingdom, a lot of farmland, free trade with us… you had it made, but you went and ruined it with this cowardly attack of yours, because you got greedy and wanted more.”

“We will not rest until all of Equestria is reunited and your evil empire is defeated,” Luna said, gesturing around the room with her hoof. “We tolerated its existence before, letting you have your little fiefdom up on the mountainside in our former capital, having your unicorn-only apartheid state right in the middle of our harmonious, integrated nation. But we shall not tolerate it now that you have shown your true colors. History will forever look upon your invasion as a grave mistake.”

“The Second Kingdom is no more ‘apartheid’ than Cloudsdale itself,” said Blueblood. “This war, and the ceasefire, are to my nation’s benefit, and my citizens’ benefit.”
“You’re only getting this ceasefire because you were losing and had to resort to a cowardly act like threatening to destroy thousands of civilian homes to not lose Ponyville to our army,” said Twilight.

“Maybe that is why I did it. Or, maybe I am counting on this little ceasefire of ours to last longer than you think. Maybe I expect it to turn into an actual treaty which benefits me.”

“You are delusional, and your dreams of grandeur are rivalled only by your sheer stupidity and pig-headedness,” said Princess Luna. “Whatever treaty you sign, it won’t be with us.”

Blueblood smiled, and simply said, “I don’t expect it to be.”

“So, you just need to press the clutch in, and then pull back on this lever here, and you’ve started the machine. Now, to put it in drive...”

Pumpkin Cake sat in the Apple Family barn, which had been converted into a makeshift schoolhouse in the weeks since the Second Kingdom had taken over Ponyville. Lanterns had been hung from the ceiling, so it was no longer pitch dark.

However, Pumpkin was finding it hard to concentrate in farming class. She still could not get the images of her mother dying out of her mind. She couldn’t forget her mother’s screaming. She couldn’t forget Pound’s offer to go to Cloudsdale with him. She wished she had. It had been her only chance of escape, and she missed it.

She looked at the wall, and supposed that she could always just escape by just walking through. She certainly had no reason to stay, the threat of death to her family having been rendered hollow by their actual death, or, in Pound’s case, their inaccessibility to the unicorns.

However, one simple fact prevented Pumpkin from escaping… she could not use her intangibility spell on her own body, only other things. If she could, that would make escape a rather easy prospect. Any bullets fired at her by guards would just whiz right through her. They couldn’t grab her with their magic, since there would be nothing to grab.

But since she couldn’t use the spell on herself, if she tried to escape, she risked getting shot or just captured again. After seeing what her mother went through, bleeding to death in pain on the ground after Pound had left, getting shot was something she definitely didn’t wanted to risk. Not that it had been before, though.

“Miss Cake?”

She had tried the spell on herself a few times before, but it had simply never worked. The reason for this escaped her. The spell had worked on animals when she tried it on them, even for fairly large ones like dogs. She had never tried it on another pony, but figured it would work on them, too. Maybe it just wouldn’t work on her, since she was the one casting it to begin with. But that didn’t seem right to her, either. Other spells could work on oneself, like teleportation. There was no reason that she could think of that it would be impossible to use an intangibility spell on herself. And yet she could not.

Miss Cake!

Pumpkin’s head shot up as Trixie frowned at her.

“I asked you a question. What do you do in the event of your tractor stalling?”

“Uh…” she answered, pausing. “Call a mechanic?”

Trixie shook her head. “No, you try starting it up again, then you check the engine, and if neither of those things work, then you call a mechanic. Otherwise you’re just wasting their time on a simple problem that a little troubleshooting could solve. You really must pay attention to my lectures. See me after class, Ms. Cake.”

The bell rang and the students sauntered out the barn door. They were allowed a few minutes of recess, but were not allowed outside of Sweet Apple Acres. Since the Cake family had attempted their rescue of Pumpkin, security had been tightened; one of the unicorn guards had cast a force field over Sweet Apple Acres to both keep the unicorn fillies and colts in, and to keep any of their parents out.

Since it covered so large an area, it was a rather weak force field which could be shattered by a half dozen or so well-placed bucks from a strong pony, or with a few dozen bullets. But, if it were broken, that would serve as an alarm to let the guards know that somepony had tried to break in or out.

Pumpkin Cake walked up to Trixie’s desk. Trixie spoke, “Pumpkin Cake. I am a great and powerful figure in the Second Kingdom. I am the head of the Department of Magical Research. I normally sit at the council meetings of King Blueblood himself. Do you know what an honor it is for me to be teaching you and the others here?”

“I can only guess,” Pumpkin responded.

“Well, that would be like if the mayor of Ponyville took time out of her busy schedule to shine your horseshoes. I’m only going to be here a few weeks, and then I must get back to my magical research projects at the Department. If you miss out on your education while I am here, there is no second chance. This isn’t like Ponyville Elementary where you can repeat a grade, so you’d better listen.”

“Or what? You’ll kill me?” Pumpkin Cake joked.

Trixie grinned. “No, I won’t personally kill you, but you will starve to death. If you had actually been paying attention, you would know that you are responsible for your own food under the Kingdom’s sharecropping system. We provide you the farm equipment and the land. In exchange, whatever you grow, the Kingdom keeps 99% of, and you may keep one percent. You may sell it for profit or eat it yourself. Which, if you grow an average amount, this will be just enough for you to make a comfortable living off of. Eventually, you may even be able to purchase your own land and equipment and turn a considerable profit. But if you grow nothing, you will eat nothing. We give you food now that you are learning, but will not give you food after the first growing season is complete. There is a famine, after all.”

Pumpkin blinked. “Oh.”

“Now, Miss Cake, I know that your surrogate ‘parents’ died trying to foolishly retrieve you from the custody of the Second Kingdom, but that’s no reason to be upset or not pay attention in class!” Trixie accentuated each word by pointing at Pumpkin with a hoof. “Your surrogates were not true parents; they were less evolved forms of life, and you as a unicorn made a step up the evolutionary chain. You should no more mourn for them than you do for the ancient ponyanderthals who came before you.”

“But I knew my parents.”

“You knew them, yes. But not in the same way as another unicorn. You knew them as you might know a pet, like a dog or a cat. They were familiar to you, but they could never love you in the way that a unicorn could. Tell me, could your parents communicate to you directly through thought alone?”

“Uh… no?” Pumpkin Cake asked, confused.

Trixie chuckled. “Of course not; it was a rhetorical question. Only a unicorn may initiate telepathic connection. Allow me to demonstrate.”

Trixie got out of her chair and walked around the desk towards Pumpkin Cake. Her horn glowed, and she leaned towards Pumpkin Cake. Pumpkin scooted her chair back.

“What?” Trixie asked. “There’s nothing to be worried about. All this allows for is transfer. I can’t read your mind or anything, if that’s what you fear.”

Trixie’s horn glowed once more, and Pumpkin Cake found her horn responding in kind, involuntarily glowing, which got brighter as Trixie came in closer. Finally, when their horns were a quarter-meter apart, a magical arc raced between them, with an appearance closely matching a lightning bolt.

Suddenly, a flood of images came bursting into Pumpkin’s mind. She saw fields of wheat, giant mechanized tractors, seeders, and harvesters all the size of barns, with herself and the other unicorns at the wheel. She saw a giant stack of bits, and a house of her own. It was a large house with a swimming pool and marble columns. She saw images of unicorn ponies sitting down at their dinner tables, eating corn and wheat which she had grown. They smiled at the delicious food.

Between all of these images, Trixie’s thought-voice entered Pumpkin’s mind. “You are such a bright young pony. I can hear it in the way you talk. Don’t you see what your potential is? Don’t you see what you can do if you put your mind to it, apply yourself, and learn? You don’t want your future to end up like this…”

The images changed. Pumpkin saw herself living in a cardboard box by the side of the road in a grimy area of town. A cup weakly floated in her magic as she begged passers-by for bits. She was coughing and sputtering black liquid everywhere. A blizzard blew furiously outside. But nopony would stop to help her. Eventually, she fell to the ground—

“No!” Pumpkin gasped as she jerked her head back, breaking the telepathic arc between them. Trixie’s horn sputtered out, and she glanced up.

“What’s the matter? Don’t like that future? Then apply yourself!” Trixie scolded, pointing her hoof at Pumpkin Cake.

Pumpkin shook in her seat, her eyes widened as she stared off into the distance in silence.

“You’re dismissed,” said Trixie, walking back towards her seat.

Pumpkin raced out to the yard, where the fillies and colts had gathered for recess. There was no playground equipment, so they simply ran around. Many of them sat around, too forlorn at being ripped from their family to do much physical activity. A few of them, though, played tag or threw balls.

Pumpkin Cake walked around, pacing. Poor, homeless, sick… she didn’t want to end up like that. As much as she didn’t think farming was her destiny, she still thought it was preferable to the future that Trixie showed her.

Pumpkin continued walking until she saw her friend.

“Hey, Sunrise Spring?” Pumpkin asked.

Sunrise Spring glanced over in her direction. “Yeah?”

“Were you taking notes in class?”

“Of course.” Sunrise Spring sighed, kicking her hoof in the dirt. “I don’t want to starve, after all.”

Pumpkin paused for a moment, and then asked, “Uh, think I could copy them?”

“Sure, Pumpkin Cake.”

“Alright, Pound Cake. This is Spitfire. She has agreed to look after you until we can find a permanent home for you.”

Pound Cake walked into General Spitfire’s office at the Wonderbolts Command Center with Rainbow Dash, and they both sat down at the two chairs in front of her desk.

“Ah, you must be the kid that Rainbow Dash told me about. Nice to meet you. My name is General Spitfire, but you can just call me Spitfire. I’m only formal when I’m on duty, otherwise I try to be laid back.”

They shook hooves.

“I don’t expect you to call me ‘mom’ or anything like that. I never really wanted to be a parent, and I don’t expect to ever replace the ones you lost. As I’m sure that Rainbow Dash has told you, this will be temporary until we can find you some true foster parents. But, since I have a spare room in my house, I’m more than happy to take you in until then. You can crash at my place so that you’re not homeless.”

Pound smiled. “Thank you, Spitfire.”

Spitfire nodded. “No problem! I know the orphanages are all full because of the war, so I understand your lack of options. But, I do have to warn you… if the Second Kingdom decides to break the ceasefire, you’ll have to find someplace else to stay, because I’ll have to be out in the field commanding the troops. So I hope you understand that this is subject to change at a moment’s notice.”

“I know,” Pound said, sighing.

“Good. Alright, I get off of work in about an hour, so you can go wait outside until I can come out and show you where you’ll be staying.”

Pound walked out into the hallway, sitting down on a bench. He twiddled his hooves together, stared up at the ceiling, and attempted to pass the time as best he could.

Whatever he tried to do, his thoughts continued to return to the reality of his life, of his parents dying. Spitfire seemed like a nice enough pony, but like she said: she could never be a true mother to him.

The door to Spitfire’s office opened and she stepped through, locking it behind her.

“Alright, kid. Let me show you to my place where you’ll be staying.”

She led him out the door of the base and out into the city. The day was unusually dim, as a partial solar eclipse diminished the light coming to Equestria. As per his word, Blueblood had not moved the moon from its place in the sky. Instead, it hung ominously over the city, cloaking it in a surreal shade.

“Okay, I live on the other side of town, so we have to fly for a bit before we get there. I do tend to fly a bit fast, so let me know if you need me to slow down,” she said, taking off into the air. Pound joined her.

“It’s no problem; I fly fast myself,” said Pound.

They flew off towards the other side of town, talking as they flew.

“So, kid, tell me a bit about yourself,” said Spitfire.

“Oh, I used to live in Ponyville, and then the Second Kingdom invaded,” said Pound. “So now I have to live here.”

“Well yeah, I knew that. I mean, tell me something about you. Like, what makes you tick?” she asked, chuckling.

“Well, uh, I like flying,” said Pound Cake, doing a flip mid-air to demonstrate.

“That’s cool. I notice that you don’t have your cutie mark yet. Any interests that you have? What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“No clue. Something involving flying, probably,” he said.

“Ever thought of auditioning for the Wonderbolts?” asked Spitfire, momentarily turning her head towards Pound.

“Yeah, I have. That would be cool.”

Spitfire smiled. “We’re the best flyers in Equestria, and the most elite squadron of the Equestrian Air Force. I’m the captain. I’m also a general in the air force.”

“Oh, neat,” said Pound.

“Yep. It’s a lot of responsibility, but also a lot of fun. But, you have several years of school left until you can join. You gotta be at least fifteen to be in the Wonderbolts.”

“I’m only nine, but I turn ten next month.”

“Yeah, well then you have some growing up to do,” said Spitfire. “You also should train hard if you wanna get in, because the Wonderbolts take only the best.”

“Will I get to fight the Second Kingdom?” asked Pound.

“If we’re still at war with them, then yes,” Spitfire laughed. “I don’t know about that, though. I think this war will be over in a hurry. Blueblood and his generals have made some pretty lousy tactical decisions.”

Pound Cake glanced up at the moon. Spitfire saw him glancing, glanced up at the moon herself, then back at Pound.

She smiled. “Oh, that? That’s just a minor inconvenience.”

“But how will you stop it?”

“Well, we’ve been thinking about that,” said Spitfire. “That’s actually what I was working on today. We might just send all of the pegasi up there to try to lift the moon back up. It’ll take a lot, but if we put everypony in the city on the task, along with the princesses, and every one of Equestria’s unicorns pushed back against it with their magic. we should be able to get Cloudsdale out of harm’s way. It’ll happen soon.”

“Soon? Why don’t you do it now?” asked Pound.

“That’s because we have a ceasefire with Blueblood. If we were to try to move the moon, that would break the ceasefire agreement.”

“How much longer will that last?”

“Who knows? Whenever either side decides to break it. Equestria won’t break it until we’re sure that we can save Cloudsdale from the moon. Blueblood probably won’t break it at all, since he’s the one who asked for it in the first place since he was losing Ponyville.”

“Why does he care about Ponyville so much?” asked Pound.

“Hmm,” said Spitfire. She paused for a moment. “That’s a question that I’ve been asking myself a lot. I don’t know. Other than its central location in Equestria, the town holds little strategic value. He could afford to lose it and still be in good shape. But then he pulls this whole moon stunt, just as he’s about to lose Ponyville. The moon idea is clever, but that’s something that shows desperation, like a cornered animal. I don’t understand it one bit.”

“Does it have to do with them taking my sister?”

Spitfire turned to him puzzlingly. “Your sister? Who’s she?”

“Pumpkin Cake.”

“Is she a pegasus, too?”

Pound shook his head. “No, she’s a unicorn.”

“How are you related, then?” asked Spitfire.

“Our parents are both earth ponies. That’s why they took her. The soldiers barged into our cellar and saw that she had earth pony parents, so they took her to Sweet Apple Acres: that’s the apple farm near Ponyville.”

Spitfire stopped mid-flight. Pound continued to fly for a few moments, but then turned back around.

“Uh, Spitfire…”

Spitfire’s eyes widened. She was obviously suppressing a grin.

“What is it?”

“Of course!” she shouted out. “Unicorn farm labor! That’s why they need Ponyville. That’s why they were holding all those fillies and colts at the barn! Why didn’t I see it before?”

“Huh?” asked Pound Cake.

Spitfire blushed. “Oh, what am I saying. You just lost your parents, and they kidnapped your sister, and here I am making a big deal about it. I’m sorry. I won’t--”

“No, tell me. I want to know why they took her,” said Pound.

“Alright, I’ll tell you. Follow me.”

Spitfire continued to fly, but this time back towards the base. Pound followed by her side once more.

“You know how the Second Kingdom is just for unicorns, right?” Spitfire asked.

“Right,” answered Pound.

“If you need earth pony magic to farm, and there’s no earth ponies in the Second Kingdom, then who farms for them?”

“Uh, I guess no one,” said Pound.

She shook her head. “Nope! Wrong. Unicorns can grow crops, but only if they have enough earth pony blood. That’s why they took your sister. They need her and others like her to farm for them.”

“But how’s she going to do that?” asked Pound.

“With machines. The unicorns have invented machines to do farm labor, and they used them back during the drought of 2014. When Equestria was still united, they used machines to grow crops in the prairie farmlands north of Canterlot, called the Flatlands.”

“Then why do they need my sister?” asked Pound.

“Because, back during the drought six years ago, there were plenty of earth ponies in what is now the Second Kingdom, so they just ran the machines. Since they were earth ponies, it worked fine for them. But ever since the Second Kingdom broke away from Equestria and declared independence, they kicked out all the earth ponies.”

“So where have they been getting their food until now?” asked Pound.

“Through trade with Equestria, and from the few earth-born unicorns living in the Second Kingdom who were willing to farm for them,” said Spitfire. “They’ve been a huge food importer, though, and haven’t been able to grow enough to feed themselves.”

“But now that there’s a war…” Pound started.

“Then trade’s off the table. Our military planners have been scratching their heads wondering what Blueblood will do when the food runs out. He’s been planning for this, but our intelligence says that they have enough stockpiled to feed the population for maybe another year or two until they start to starve. That’s one of the reasons that we don’t think he’ll pose a threat for too long. You can’t field an army if you can’t feed an army. But if he’s kidnapping unicorn fillies and colts who were born to earth pony parents...”

“Then he’ll have more food,” said Pound.


“Why doesn’t he just move the unicorn fillies and colts out of Ponyville?” asked Pound.

“He hasn’t had the time, and it hasn’t been safe. The war’s only been going on for a few weeks, and Ponyville has been under attack from the air. He might not have wanted to risk moving them.”

They reached the military compound.

Spitfire turned to Pound. “Pound, wait here. I’ve got to call a meeting to tell everypony about this.”

She flew inside and into the office, where she radioed the top military brass for an urgent meeting.

The officers gathered around the table thirty minutes later.

“Officers,” she said, “I believe I’ve found the Second Kingdom’s ultimate weakness.”

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