• Published 14th Oct 2013
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Alpha Centauri - StLeibowitz



Twilight is kidnapped by a sun and told she used to be one too. Rainbow Dash is fighting phantoms of past lives as she tries to rescue her. Powerful alien beings intend to exploit the chaos to further their own ends...

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Chapter 3: Divine Aid...Hopefully

They were sitting at a fancy wrought-iron table in a shaded clearing in a forest of rose bushes, Rainbow Dash and Cloud Ferry. Across from Dash, the white-coated unicorn noblemare sipped delicately from a porcelain teacup. She was wearing a sun hat that would make Rarity green with envy and a dress that seemed to be made of solidified light. Her eyes were brilliant blue, and her elegantly styled mane was striped with the colors of the rainbow, though paler than Rainbow Dash’s own mane. Dash found it almost repulsive that she had ever once been this mare – but it was accepting that she’d been reincarnated a few times or accepting that she’d gone insane, and that was the last thing she’d ever admit to being. Crazy awesome? Sure, why not. Crazy? Not in a thousand years.

“Why am I wearing this stupid dress?” she mumbled, glancing down at herself. Granted, it would have been acceptable for the Gala or some other formal occasion, more than acceptable even, but wearing it just for a snack with a memory? “And this hat?”

“Because it’s sunny out, dear,” Ferry smirked. “Drink your tea, it’s getting cold. Sugar in it?”

“What do you want?” she asked, trying to ignore the spoonful of sugar that was floating stealthily towards her own untouched cup of tea. “Twilight’s been kidnapped! I need to find a way to save her from that weird space alien! I don’t have time for this!”

“What has the world come to when two mares don’t even have time to sit down for a simple cup of tea?” Ferry shook her head disappointedly. The spoon dumped its load into the cup and drifted off for another scoop. “Honestly, it’s heartbreaking!”

“I can’t believe I was ever you,” Dash grumbled. “You don’t even have wings!”

“I can’t believe I turned into you,” the unicorn snorted. “You barely have a basic grasp of etiquette, if that, and your mane looks like you were run through a thunderstorm. Your feathers are misaligned and your eyes are…what color are those, even? Red? Pink? Magenta?”

“I don’t have time for this!” she snapped. “Why did you want me here?”

“Don’t flatter yourself, dear, if I’d a choice in the matter I’d be taking tea alone.” The spoon dumped another pile of sugar into Dash’s cup. It didn’t even dissolve completely; the peak of the pile stuck out stubbornly like a granular mountaintop from a warm brown sea. “Just say when.”

“Then why am I here?” she demanded.

“I’d assume it’s because you fell asleep,” she answered calmly. “Which, if you’re truly so short on time, you probably shouldn’t have done” – she sipped from her tea again – “but then, who am I to criticize? I’m little more than a mix of a ghostly memory and a figment of your imagination. If I’d any choice at all, dear, I’d be at the races right now.” The spoon dug deeply into the bowl of sugar and stuck there. “But I’m dead, and now my soul is in you. I suppose I’ll just have to make the most of it. Care for some more sugar?”

“You’re crazy,” Dash snorted. “How do I wake up?”

Ferry smirked again. “Perhaps like this?”

The spoon shot at Dash’s face, and the world dissolved.

------

With a start, Rainbow Dash snapped out of her exhausted sleep. She was at the deepest end of a lung furrow carved into a hillside; she could hazily remember coming in for a crash landing at Fluttershy’s cottage before deciding in her impact-addled state that it was a good time to take a nap. The sun was out in full force, shining from its late-morning position and glinting occasionally through the leaves of her friend’s tree-home; shading her eyes with a foreleg, she sat up and glanced around to get her bearings. She heard a door open very close behind her, and looked up to find herself staring into the calculatingly mad features of Discord. She’d come to a halt maybe an inch away from the door.

“Well, well, well…” the draconequus smirked, resembling Cloud Ferry for an instant to Dash’s eyes. His voice had taken on a slight Canterlot accent and was much deeper and more refined than usual. “If it isn’t the esteemed Rainbow Dash! Beds too good for you now, as well?”

“What are you talking about?” she demanded, unconsciously rising to the challenge in his tone. “So I crashed in front of Fluttershy’s house! What’s that have to do with – “

“Seeing as you are apparently too good for your friends now, I deemed it a cogent question,” he interrupted. He pulled an aged wooden pipe from somewhere and idly bit off the bowl, staring pensively off into the forest as he chewed noisily. “Good heavens, do you not even recall the party you missed? All your friends were there, of course…dear Fluttershy was most upset you failed to come…”

“All my…buck,” she realized. “Uh…I can explain?”

“Oh, no need!” Discord smiled, his voice returning to normal. He coiled backwards into the house, chuckling. “I understand completely! After all, who needs such saccharine things as ‘friendship’ or the magic thereof when you’ve got yourself? Honestly, I wouldn’t even care all that much, except you did upset Fluttershy…I hope you didn’t come expecting a birthday favor or some other nonsense unless you’ve got a truly random plan, as I promised your former friend Fluttershy some ice skating lessons in my personal palace in the Everfree later on.”

“Discord, wait!” she shouted, following him into the house. “I’m sorry!”

“Oh, I’m not the one you should be apologizing to!” he replied. His head was mounted on a plaque on the wall to the left of the door; Rainbow Dash jumped away from it in surprise. His body came running out of the kitchen a moment later. “It’s poor, poor Fluttershy, whose tiny kind heart was broken into a million pieces by the betrayal of the one called loyalty,” the mounted head continued somberly.

“Left alone on a cold hilltop, waiting patiently for a friend who’d never come,” the body picked up, hanging its long neck morosely, the flat raw end of it folding as it spoke like some kind of weird mouth. “Tears streaming from her large, bulgy pony eyes as she dejectedly headed home for the night, seeking the comfort of a friend who actually cared…”

“Wait a second.” Dash frowned suspiciously. “You’re making this up, aren’t you? She never came to the party at all, did she?”

“Oh, of course she did!” the plaque scoffed. “As did I!”

“I left first, I admit,” the body said.

“No, that was certainly me,” the plaque corrected snippily. “And Fluttershy left second.”

“With me!”

“No, not with you. We left together, didn’t we?”

“I can’t recall,” the body admitted. “I’ve a poor head for such things. In any case, she was distraught.”

“Broken inside!”

“Weeping openly.”

“You’re just trying to make me feel bad now,” she muttered. She hated to admit that it was working a teensy bit. The head and body both laughed.

“Oh, of course!” the head said, teleporting back onto the body – though facing backwards. “Everything I just told you was the honest truth, though, even if I did add a bit of poetic embellishment.”

“Where is she now?”

“Out in the Everfree Forest picking flowers, I suppose.” With a flash of light, Rainbow Dash found herself back outside in the sunshine, Discord grinning in the doorway with a furry paw resting on the door. “You should probably go apologize to her! Ta-ta, now!” He started to close the door.

“Wait!” she shouted, throwing herself against the wood. Her weight managed to stop it from shutting altogether, though it steadfastly refused to move backwards. “Discord, please! I need help!”

“What was that?” All resistance vanished, and the door swung open instantly and dumped her on the floor at Discord’s feet. His voice was one of mock shock. “Did – did the incomparable Rainbow Dash deign to say ‘please’? To me?

“Yes!” she confirmed, standing up again. “Please, Discord, I really need help. Some kind of weird alien monster came last night and ponynapped Twilight!”

“Did she just ask nicely again?

“Discord, this is serious!”

He sighed. “Fine, fine, I’ll put my ‘serious face’ on.” He tugged his face off and made no effort to replace it. “Now, what’s this tomfoolery about an alien menace? Has my mere presence been enough to start raids by eldritch star-horrors?”

“It was this weird giant pony, maybe Celestia’s height, with metal wings,” she told him. “We thought she was a shooting star at first, but she came flying at the hill and almost blew the top off it! She did some kind of weird thing to me – some kind of forced memory montage, I think – then she did the same thing to Twilight and they disappeared!”

“Hm. A forced memory montage; this does indeed sound serious. Have a seat, I’ll be with you in a moment!” With a snap of his fingers, Discord called into existence a hybrid of a chair and a black bear underneath Rainbow Dash. The thing took her along forcibly as it trundled into the house; Discord vanished.

The chair dumped her onto Fluttershy’s couch. Discord reappeared a moment later, wearing a grey no-nonsense business suit and a pair of square-framed glasses – his face was still absent – and hovering in a cross-legged position about three feet off the floor. He pulled out a notepad and spoon and cleared his throat. “Tell me, madame – “

“Please don’t call me that.” She shuddered at the brief image of Cloud Ferry that passed through her head. Discord cocked an eyebrow.

“Very well, Miss Dash. Can you provide any further details about the perpetrator of this crime? Date of birth?” The question came from the mouth of a duplicate of the draconequus’s head that popped out from beneath the cushion she was sitting on. “Mane color? Driver’s license registration code? Airline of choice? Sexual orientation? Approximate height? Preferred ice cream flavor? Immigration forms? Tax returns? Prison record? Societal status? Was she an Australian?”

With each question, another head pushed out from behind something, until Dash was completely surrounded by faceless duplicates of Discord’s bespectacled head. Angrily, she shoved them aside to get a good glare in at the original. “I don’t have time for – “

She felt a tap on the back of her head and whipped around, finding herself staring into Discord’s actual face again. “Could you tell me her name, perhaps? If dear Lulu is any indication, pony madmares seem to enjoy declaring that very loudly.”

“Beta Centauri.”

He teleported back to his original position, the spoon and notepad vanishing in puffs of reddish-green flame. “Did she give a reason why?” he asked. For once, Discord sounded genuinely surprised.

“I think she said something about Twilight being her sister?”

Discord snorted. Then, he chuckled, which developed into a full-throated laugh until he dropped to the floor and began rolling around in hilarity. “Oh, that’s rich, Rainbow Dash! You really had me going there!”

“Hey!” she snapped. “I’m not kidding!”

“Oh, but that makes it even funnier!” he exclaimed, wiping a tear from his eye and regaining control of himself. “There is no way, in Equestria or Tartarus, that little bookish Twilight Sparkle is Alpha Centauri, Queen of Domhan and single-hoofed defeater of not just one, but two Nightmares. It’s hilarious! Beta must be well and truly off her rocker.”

“So?” she demanded. “She still took Twilight! We have to save her!”

“Oh, is it ‘we’ now?” he snorted. “Rainbow Dash, you can be a little thick sometimes, can’t you?”

“Hey! I’m not fat!” she protested, but he spoke over her.

“Please,” he continued. “If anything, I am extraordinarily disinclined to help at all. So long as Twilight’s gone, I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, whether your precious Princesses want me to or not. Can you believe what they’ve been making me do? ‘Solve this international crisis,’ this, ‘fix this magical disturbance,’ that, ‘could you help me lift this ham into the refrigerator,’ the other – and I’ve had to actually do it! I thought there’d be some grand purpose in reforming me, honestly, but no, they just really needed an extra heavy to do some footwork around Canterlot. Now, there’s no Elements of Harmony hanging like a pasta slicer over my sorry neck, and I can finally have some fun; take a day off now and forever, teach Fluttershy how to roller skate, pull a few memorable pranks…”

“You have to help!” she protested. “If you don’t, I’ll…I’ll go to the Princesses!”

“Why didn’t you do that before?” he asked curiously.

“You were closer.”

He rolled his eyes; when they stopped, one had five pupils and the other had two. “I was hoping for snake-eyes,” he muttered. “’I was closer.’ That’s really the best reasoning you could come up with? You’ve wasted your time, Rainbow Dash.”

She grinned suddenly. “If I go to the Princesses, I can tell them how uncooperative you were.”

“So?”

“They might decide you’re not reformed after all,” she explained predatorily. “And when we do get Twilight back, I’ll make sure you’re stuck as a statue again…forever!

He tapped his chin thoughtfully. “You make a compelling case, Rainbow Dash. Perhaps I will help you after all.” She was ready to do a victory lap, but he held up a paw. “Don’t celebrate just yet. See, there is but one way to get Twilight back if Beta is convinced she’s her dear departed sister, and that’s to go over head and appeal directly to Queen Caelum herself.”

“Who’s that?” she asked, confused. “Is she a Changeling?”

“Queen Caelum, the Starmaker, is essentially to the stars what Celestia is to Equestria,” he explained patiently. “Her court is unreachable by normal means.” Dash groaned. He continued speaking. “Fortunately for you, I know a way to get you there. Unfortunately for you, once you’re there you’re on your own.”

“Why?”

“Due to prior…indiscretions, shall we call them, I am exceedingly not welcome in Caelum’s court anymore. My presence would likely get me minorly injured and you reduced to so much stardust,” he admitted reluctantly. “You going alone would be your best bet. If a mortal can get to the court, she will grant them an audience without reservation, so that part should be easy enough. I know a way for you to get there, though it will require you to learn something not related to flight.”

“I have to learn something,” she repeated. “As in – book-learning? School and homework and stuff?” Discord nodded. With a nervous gulp, Rainbow Dash did too. “When do we start?”

“You’re just full of surprises today, aren’t you?” He smirked. “Fly by the newly refurbished Palace of the Royal Pony Sisters around sunset today, and I’ll see what I can do. One tip I can give you in advance: try not to be exceptionally dense then or afterwards. That could probably make Fluttershy very sad.”

“Why?”

“Why – you’d be dead.” The grin he gave her made her almost as uncomfortable as saying please to him had.

------

Twilight’s world was nothing but darkness for what felt like an interminable moment lasting from the beginning of time to a good bit after time ended. It was a bit like being asleep, she thought after her body had recoalesced back into something able to support thought; she couldn’t feel anything during the transference, unlike the normal electric tingle of a teleportation spell, and even more oddly she couldn’t tell how much time had passed during her brief period of nonexistence.

When her conscious mind came back on-line, her second thought after the maudlin musing that had come was more along the lines of, Sweet Celestia I don’t have a body oh stars oh stars oh staaaars fix it!

With a flash of light that looked oddly like sunlight, Twilight’s body popped back into existence next to the much more collected Beta Centauri, about a foot in the air, and she crashed to the ground with a rattling clatter of metal.

“Are you okay?” Beta asked, concerned, as Twilight stumbled to her hooves and dropped into a defensive crouch, eyes darting around warily. They seemed to be in some kind of half-hemispherical alcove; the arched entrance was obstructed by a diaphanous curtain of cloth that had a deceptive, beautiful depth to it – her eyes widened as she realized the distant dots in it were stars. The walls were made of glossy black stone that glittered with flecks of gold and were veined with thin bands of clear quartz, running in every direction like a cobweb. Beta frowned at her lack of response. “Alpha? Is everything alright?”

“I’m not Alpha,” Twilight breathed. Her mind was still trying to process her surroundings, trying to figure out where in Tartarus they even were, but it had enough computational power to spare to let her straighten and loom angrily over Beta. “Get it? I. Am. Not. Her! I’ve never seen you before in my life! I’m not your sister! I don’t know what kind of spell you used, but it was wrong! I am Twilight Sparkle of Equestria! Not Alpha Centauri of – of – of wherever!

“Domhan?” Beta suggested.

I don’t care!” she snapped. She looked around again, trying to calm herself down. “Where am I? Where did you take me?”

“Er…the Stellar Court,” she answered. “To meet with Queen Caelum? I thought she’d want to know I found – “

“Don’t even say it,” Twilight hissed. She fixed Beta with her stare again. “Take me home.”

“But we have to – “

“I. Don’t. Care.” For the briefest instant, Beta saw Alpha’s pupils narrow to slits; they returned to normal in less than a second, but that brief lapse chilled her to the core. “Take me home right now. I need to make breakfast for Spike – and Celestia! And the Elements! I don’t need to make breakfast for the Elements, but they can’t work without me! Equestria is defenseless!” Anxiously, Twilight almost started pacing, but hesitated; there wasn’t nearly enough space in the alcove for her to pace properly, not with Beta in it. Come to think of it, it was a bit cramped, wasn’t it? A pang of claustrophobia caused her to ruffle her wings uncomfortably, and she froze.

She rustled her wings again, listening to the rasp and rattle of metal on metal as golden feathers brushed against each other.

“What did you do to me?” she demanded. Her voice was deadly quiet.

“Nothing!” Beta protested. “I just shifted us here by making us stardust again – I had no control over what you were going to look like when we got here.”

“T-take me home,” Twilight pleaded. She suddenly was aware of how much taller she was; Beta was actually about two inches shorter than her. Unconsciously, she cringed, trying to make herself shorter. The feeling of claustrophobia intensified. “Take me back to Ponyville!”

“We have to meet with Queen – “

Buck this! she thought. Panic seizing her as she tried and failed to fight down a rising tide of claustrophobia, Twilight shoved past Beta, barely even noticing when their coats stuck to each other and the force of her flight ripped a patch of kelpie fur off the star. Beta’s surprised yelp of pain followed her as she dove through the curtain and skidded into a space larger than anything she’d ever seen before.

The illusion of staring into the night sky was only broken when she shifted her head and the columns resolved themselves, massive pillars five times as thick around as a pony was long and made entirely out of what looked like starfield. They extended upwards infinitely, so near as she could tell, and infinitely into the distance as well, vanishing eventually into a bluish-purple haze above streaked through with faint tints of other colors that she remembered was stardust. Breaking the illusion still further were the other beings that stared at her with surprised eyes, wolves and ponies and llamas and griffons and pegasi and alicorns – as mixed a crowd as any in Manehattan, all little more than glowing outlines surrounding brilliantly burning pinpricks of light. A strange feeling of calm replaced her panic, and for a moment she felt at peace.

Then, of course, the whispers started.

“It’s her!”

“I can’t believe Beta found her…”

“Is it – “

“Alpha Centauri!” somepony whispered. The dam burst open; they came closer, an assembly of awed stars. One in particular shoved its – her? – way to the front, a wolf as tall as Princess Luna with a glowing red pinprick at her heart. She came to a halt in front of her and looked up.

“Alpha?” she asked hopefully. “Is it really you?”

“I-I’m sorry!” Twilight stammered. “I-I-I don’t know who you’re speaking about!”

“Can you remember me?”

Wolfie. “I’m sorry!” she repeated, jerking forwards and pushing past the wolf. Wolfie. Whoever she was. The crowd closed in around her, everyone asking the same questions – “Can you remember me?” Ceti. “Are you Alpha?” Yes. “What’s my name?” Sirius.

She was through. Unsteady, she turned back to the wide-eyed crowd, every one of them with his or her eyes fixed on her. She cleared her throat, her mouth working silently as she tried to figure out what to say. “I-I’m not Alpha Centauri!” she managed eventually. “I’m sorry! I’m not – “

“Yes, she is,” Beta interrupted, stepping out of the alcove. The eyes of the crowd turned to her; she was smiling elatedly. “She is! I did a deep-memory search and everything! One hundred percent match! It’s Alpha!”

I am not her!” she screeched. In a move that shocked everyone, not least of all herself, she beat her wings hard enough to deafen the crowd with a roar of thunder. She didn’t stop flapping until the assembly was out of sight, lost in the haze far below her, and she started gliding as quickly as she could manage into the forest of pillars. A sense of well-being warred with her desire to flee, blunting her fear, but she kept going, weaving between columns and flapping to keep herself aloft until it felt like her gold feathers had turned to lead, and a platform of stardust coalesced into black stone on a pillar in front of her. Her hooves barely brushed the edge before she simply collapsed against the cool stone and wept.

Time passed. There was no sun to tell her how much time had passed; no shadows moved. She stopped crying eventually and tried not to think about how unlikely it was at this point that she would ever see Ponyville or her friends again – hay, she didn’t even know where she was when she’d arrived, and now she was lost in what appeared to be a room of infinite height and area.

…Alpha!

Angrily, she peeled herself off the ground and jumped off the platform, powering away from the sound of Beta’s voice, regardless of how much more lost she would get. Pillars raced past again as she wove and bobbed through them, demonstrating speed that even Rainbow Dash would be hard-pressed to match, until eventually the pillars ended and she was flying through what seemed to be just a vast empty space choked with stardust to the point that she couldn’t see two feet in front of her. Beta’s voice had long since faded out of her hearing, and she banked into a circling pattern to see if she was still pursuing. After another few minutes, she still couldn’t hear anything – but she’d forgotten which way she’d come from. Frustrated, she picked a direction at random and starting flying.

The tower – there wasn’t a better name for it; a truly massive pillar with a smooth pale lavender surface – faded out of the fog like the stardust was actually congealing to form it as she watched. She flared her wings to avoid hitting it, and began to slowly bank around the outside of it, following its gently curving wall until an opening with a landing ledge presented itself. She took it, wincing at how her wings rattled and the sound echoed down the wide tunnel that lay before her – a much wider tunnel than it had looked from the air. Faced with no reason not to go in and an unidentifiable urge to proceed, she took a hesitant step inside, and found herself at the dead end of a black stone castle hallway, lit by staggered torches at head height along the walls. Now even more uncertain, Twilight started walking down the hallway.

The other end of the hall was ten minutes away by hoof. It opened into a throne room – a gold-trimmed blue carpet led from the door to a plain marble throne on a stepped dais in front of a large round window looking out into the depths of space. The space was lit by a sourceless soft-white luminance that shone off the smooth walls, which seemed to be made of the same stuff as the tower’s exterior – if she was even still in the tower.

Seated on the throne was an alicorn with a grey-blue coat and a mane like the heart of the galaxy. She wore no regalia; she was only about the size of Celestia. Her eyes were closed and her head pointing at the ground slightly to the left of the rug. As soon as Twilight took a step into the room, though, all doubt that this being was a ruler left her mind like it had never been there, as the alicorn opened her solid white eyes and smiled at her. When she spoke, her voice was a multitude, harmonizing with itself in impossible ways and reverberating through Twilight’s body.

Welcome home, Alpha Centauri,” the alicorn said, her smile widening. “It is good to have one of my daughters back where she belongs.

I am not her!” Twilight snapped angrily. The alicorn rose from her throne and started trotting towards her, but she wouldn’t be dissuaded by some star. “I am not Alpha Centauri! Why is everyone calling me that? I’ve never heard of her, or this place, or Beta Centauri, or any of this before tonight! All I want – “ her voice cracked slightly “ – all I want is to go home.

You are her,” the alicorn chuckled, coming to a stop in front of Twilight and matching her furious gaze with suddenly normal eyes. “Of all my children, of all my subjects, out of all my stars, I could recognize you in an instant.

“How? Magical signature?” she suggested acidly. “A ‘deep-memory scan’?”

The alicorn laughed. “No, Twilight Sparkle, through something much more certain than the clumsy methods your sister uses,” she answered wryly. “Out of all my stars, you are the only one who never bows.

Author's Note:

Now the adventure really begins, particularly for Rainbow Dash. Don't forget to thumbs-up if you liked it and haven't yet!

07/10/14 - Edited for spacing betwixt paragraphs as later chapters have.