• Published 7th Mar 2014
  • 22,468 Views, 2,392 Comments

The Conversion Bureau: Setting Things Right - kildeez



When a portal to another world appears outside Canterlot, the ponies' initial reaction is of enthusiasm, hoping to greet these strange aliens with open hooves. Too bad this world was already visited by another Equestria...

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Chapter II: Understanding

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1100 HOURS
FARMLAND OUTSIDE CANTERLOT CASTLE
CANTERLOT, EQUESTRIA
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Ask any soldier in the Royal Guard's garrison at Canterlot for a story, and odds are they'll come up with six right off the bat. From the reemergence of Discord to the changeling invasion, these guards were forced to confront more nightmares, demons, and talking toasters in a single day than most ponies might face in their lives. Whether this was a blessing or a burden to shoulder really depended on who you asked, but personally, Shining Armor always felt lucky to even be a Guard. Where else did somepony get the chance to defend his loved ones from evil, resurrected kings, love-sucking monsters, and love spells running amok (although that last one was more his sister's fault, a fact he was never going to let her live down)? So being named the Captain of every guardspony in Canterlot was just a huge bonus to him. He got to command more ponies, play a more active role in the defense of his nation, and hey, by the end of it all, maybe he'd have a few more stories for his foals when it was time to retire.

Or...even my grandfoals, if Cadence has her way and we start popping them out like no other. A shiver raced down his spine as he trotted along, and immediately the pony walking alongside him took notice.

"Big brother?" She asked, an eyebrow arched. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, uh..." he cracked a grin for her. "Just remembering...uh...something scary that crossed my mind the other day."

"Cadence on you about having foals again?" She asked with a sly half-smile, a wing flexing towards him predatorily.

Another shiver raced up his spine, this time making him shake so hard his armor clinked. "You girls know me way too well," he grumbled.

"Maybe that's because I'm your sister?" She replied with a cute little nuzzle to his chin. "C'mon: we don't want to keep the Princess waiting!"

The Guard Captain nodded and trotted to keep up with the little Alicorn, the pair galloping along the dirt path leading through the farmlands outside Canterlot, kicking up a decent amount of dust. Despite being within Canterlot's shadow, this little rural haven was still underdeveloped, partially out of a few nobles' reluctance to fund a public works project in someplace that didn't have easy access to five-star accommodations, but mostly from the local Earth Ponies' love of the feel of dirt under their hooves. Still, Shining Armor enjoyed the rustic charm of it all: the friendliness and openness of the ponies and the smell of fresh farm air could really appeal to a guy who had to spend most of his time in the frozen tundra of the North. Not that he could ever complain about his job as Prince of the Crystal Empire: he loved his wife dearly, and the work was hard but rewarding, but still, a guy started to miss the feeling of a warm breeze on a cool spring night after a while.

But I wouldn’t trade any of it for all the gold in the world, he thought, a smile cracking his muzzle.

"Shining?"

"Hmm?" He turned to his sister, the reassuring smile reappearing on his face. "What's up, Twi? Did I shiver again?"

"No, you just looked like you were thinking about something really nice," she replied. "Care to share what it was?"

"Oh," his cheeks flushed a deep, crimson red. "It's...nothing. Just nothing." His sister didn't need to know her big brother was such a sentimental sap, reflecting on how lucky he was to have a loving wife, an awesome job, and the best family anypony could wish for. She'd never let him live it down!

"Hmm - well, since I know you so well, let's see if I can guess it," the Princess stared him down, brows furrowing in that cute little way she'd done since childhood. A hoof went to her chin and she started hobbling along without missing a beat in her step. The recently-crowned prince started sweating, and not just from the heat building under his armor. He knew his sister, and he loved her dearly, but still, he sometimes wondered if some of those Alicorn powers might have added to her already-impressive analytical abilities. Did he think she had the ability to read thoughts now? No, that was ridiculous. But darned if she wasn't close.

"Hmm...I think..." she trailed off, and then her eyes lit up and she nodded satisfactorily. He gulped. If she seriously guessed this, he was calling for an exorcist and moving someplace where the scary, mind-reading sister could never find him. Acapulcolt, probably. Oh sweet Celestia if I just thought that then doesn't she know... "I think you were thinking about Cadence just now!"

He visibly relaxed, his shoulders slumping. "Close," he smiled. "You got a part of it, at least."

"Oh, Shiny," the mare tsked, shaking her head. "You really need to get your mind out of the gutter. I mean, how can a Princess be seen with somepony when he's thinking about that all the time?"

"What!?" He gasped, instantly straightening up. "I wasn't - that wasn't what I..."

He calmed down and snorted a few times once he saw the mischievous grin on her face. "You really shouldn't tease your older brother like that," he grumbled.

"Oh, but it's so much fun!" She laughed, galloping ahead of him. “Pick up the pace, slowpoke!”

He just smiled and upped his pace a tiny bit, the armor clattering like a set of pots and pans in a tumble dryer. He felt something warm and cozy blossom inside him every time she started acting like a little filly around him: like his little Twily again. Nopony was prouder of her ascension into royalty, of course, but sometimes it was nice to be reminded that the filly he grew up with was still in there.

Still clattering along, he sighed as he turned a corner and found her twirling in circles, wings spread out and face raised to the sky in victory. “YES! The winner, and still champion: Twilight Sparkle!” She gasped, letting her breath out in hot gasps to imitate a crowd’s cheer.

“Aww, you guys were havin’ a race?” Rainbow asked, appearing right next to the young Alicorn. Twilight let out a surprised, Fluttershy-esque squeal and leapt back a few paces.

“Well shoot, y’all should know better than to have any sorta physical contest without invitin’ us.” Applejack added, trotting right on the pegasus’s hooves.

“Ohhhh, and that means I missed the chance to referee again!” Pinkie sighed despondently as she skipped up to the rapidly-growing gathering.

“Aheh,” Twilight said, her cheeks turning bright red beneath the perfectly-tended locks of her mane. “How much of that did you girls see?”

“All of it, dahling,” Rarity said, trotting up to the violet mare and immediately running a hoof through her royal mane. “And I must say; you really should be treating these curls better! Not every mare is so lucky to be born with hair as malleable as yours. Think of somepony less fortunate, somepony stuck with one manestyle her entire life!”

“You’re making it sound like I’m flaunting a purse full of bits in front of somepony who sleeps in a cardboard box,” Twilight grumbled, allowing her friend to fret over the violet curls to her generous little heart’s content.

“She’s just complimenting your mane in her own special way, Twilight,” Fluttershy said in her usual, quiet little voice, completing the group as she brought up the rear. “It is a very nice style, even I can see that.”

Shining Armor just smiled and shook his head at the group’s behavior. Who knew such a varied bunch of mares could wind up being the ultimate paragons of harmony; a group whose bond was so strong that it represented the spirit of friendship itself, powerful enough to defend Equestria from tyrant gods and cleanse an evil as vile as Nightmare Moon. But, such was his life. The Elements of Harmony had to choose new Bearers to save Equestria from Nightmare Moon’s return, and his sister just happened to be one of them. On top of being a unicorn so talented she was chosen to be Celestia’s protégé. And the embodiment of the spirit of magic itself. And slated to become part of the ruling elite, meant to guide Equestria under her wise hoof alongside other immortals such as…

Wow. Throw in all the stuff he had going for him, and he had one crazy, bucking life! What was with his family and attracting so much insanity? Just standing there, he watched Pinkie pull a cupcake out of her mane and divide it amongst the rest of the group without any questions asked whatsoever! And he thought Discord’s rule was nuts!

Thankfully, before he could start getting really in-depth into the craziness that was his existence, a familiar silhouette fell on the ground before him. He smiled. He didn’t need to be a veteran of the Royal Guard to recognize that shape: just about everypony in Equestria knew the Princess's silhouette against her beloved sun. Reacting immediately, he sank to his knees, head bowed in submission, making sure to remain as quiet as a mouse in a pillow factory as he did. Then he waited to see how long it would take every other pony to follow suit. Turned out, the answer was “however long it takes Princess Celestia to land right in the middle of everypony so they could see her right in front of all their faces.”

“Princess!” The mares screamed, instantly bowing, their eyes on the ground, though Twilight did have time to hiss out the corner of her mouth: “Why didn’t you tell me you saw her coming!?”

To which Shining Armor could only reply: “Because it’s funnier this way.”

“My dearest, most loyal subjects: please rise,” Celestia said, that always-constant, never-condescending smile on her face, her eyes (well, the one that was visible beside her mane, at least) lit up with that sparkle of love and caring. Everypony obeyed, immediately looking up to the elder Alicorn expectantly, with the exception of Twilight, who somehow managed to shoot the dirtiest glare she could muster Shining Armor’s way in the split-second it took her to raise her head.

“Princess,” Shining Armor said, hoof rising in salute, his voice reeking all the authority of a military man. “Element Bearers retrieved, Former Captain of the Royal Guard and Crown Prince of the Crystal Empire Shining Armor, reporting for duty, ma’am!”

“You can drop the formalities, Captain,” Celestia replied, waving for him to relax. “As the mare who married you to your wife and attended your little sister’s coronation, I thought we were past that.”

“Sorry, ma’am,” he replied, his shoulders dropping half a micron at her order to relax. “Old habits die hard, ma’am.”

Rolling her eyes and shaking her head with a tiny smile, the Princess of the Sun turned to the smaller Alicorn at her hooves. “And hello again, Twilight Sparkle. You look even more radiant than when last we met.”

“Heh…thank you, Princess,” Twilight replied, her eyes darting away bashfully. “Shall we…uh…get going?”

“But of course, Princess,” Celestia replied with a little wink Twilight’s way, making the younger mare flush an even deeper shade of red.

"Okay," Shining Armor sighed to himself, letting his breath out in a slow, drawn-out wheeze as he trailed behind the other mares. He patted the fetlock on one of his hind hooves, ensuring his dagger was still in place. He wondered what the Princess would say to him smuggling a weapon around at all times. She would probably frown upon it, saying something about entrusting others to uphold the virtues of Peace and Harmony, but that was just because she didn't understand. He was a former Guardstallion, trained to always be ready to retaliate no matter the situation. Part of that training involved drilling into his head that he needed a weapon on him at all times. It was why his wedding tux had a concealed pouch for a throwing dagger sewn on the inside of the left sleeve (not that he’d had the chance to use it: by the time he snapped out of his trance, that wicked Queen was charged up enough on his own love that any physical attack would have been suicide), it was why he'd had the ceremonial sword meant for the crown prince of the Crystal Empire sharpened and rebalanced to serve as an actual weapon, and it was why he now tightened the strap securing the holster to his hind leg before galloping to catch up with the rest of the group.

"Okay," he breathed again as he fell in step behind the mares, listening to them chat amicably for a while before falling into his own thoughts, his eyes glazing over as he reviewed the process for drawing the dagger: Breathe, relax, flick the clasp open with edge of hoof, draw it out with levitation, keeping blade down to prevent self-castration, because that's the last thing you need to do in a combat situation. And imagine Cadence finding out! Good sweet Celestia, 'Shiny! How are you gonna give me babies now!? You need to march back out there and find your balls again so we can...WHAT...

His highly-distracted thought process came to a screeching halt as he walked head-first into something smooth, yet firm and well-toned, bouncing off and landing on his haunches with a loud clamor. Coming to his senses, he blinked a few times until the little birdies flying around in his vision went away, and immediately his face dropped. Rainbow Dash stared back at him, her face visible just over her flank, her eyes wide with surprise.

Quick, say something to keep this from exploding into a marriage-destroying incident! His brain gasped.

"Uhh..." he stammered.

Nice one, retard.

Rainbow just shot him a cocky half-smile. "Dinner and a movie first, bub," she said.

"Wha-wha-wha-what!?" He gasped defensively, kicking up a massive cloud of dust in a frantic attempt to back as far away from her flank as he could. "I'm married!"

"As if that ever stopped a stallion," she laughed, her wings spreading out as she took to the air, swooping over the crowd of ponies that had stopped her in the first place. Shining blinked a few times and snickered to himself. He loved his wife more than any mare he'd ever know, and would rather slice off his own stallionhood than violate her trust, but if he wasn't married...

A sudden crack of lightning put a stopper in any lecherous thoughts, as if Faust herself were slapping him across the face and telling him to not even think about it. "Okay, almighty Faust, I got it," he mumbled fearfully, taking his place alongside the rest of the crowd admiring the sight: the very reason he had been asked to gather the Elements of Harmony. A strange, multicolored cloud boiled and flashed in front of them, occupying a good half of a cornfield and preventing Hayseed the farmhand from harvesting a good half of his produce (which was of much more concern to him than "whate'er magical nonsense those Canterlot city folk're up to now," as he so eloquently put it). The cloud raged like a thunderhead, little jets of smoke puffing off its surface as if it were just barely containing something inside, struggling to remain the same shape. Every now and again, a lightning bolt lashed out and cracked through the air, thunder booming off in the distance.

Yep. Looked like another story for the grandfoals brewing right here. Half of Canterlot had to be gathered in Hayseed’s field, just to watch this one weird cloud, and if something was weird enough to attract attention from the city that had seen the resurrection of Discord and the changeling invasion, you knew something had to be up. Even now, ponies streamed from the castle proper, stamping the firm dirt paths leading around the field into even more compact surfaces.

“I say,” Rarity muttered breathlessly, eyes transfixed on the spectacle. “I know Twilight briefed us on this, but it’s still something to see up close.”

“Have the royal mages made any progress on just what it is?” Twilight asked, and Shining noticed how she remained staring at the cloud the entire time, so shocked that she’d forgotten the royal courtesy of giving the Princess eye contact while talking to her.

She’ll probably give herself a heart attack worrying about it later, he mused as Celestia nodded sagely. “They have, and it’s why I’ve called you all here. I thought the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony should be witness to a truly historic moment in Equestrian history.”

The ponies, Shining included, all turned to the Princess, their eyes still wide in shock from the sight. She beamed warmly and fanned her wings out, giving her already-impressive appearance a boost into near-intimidating levels of size. “The royal mages have determined that this is a portal to another world, populated with beings of intelligence comparable to our own, and almost certainly possessing a level of civilization we might find familiar!”

The small group of ponies fell silent. A few onlookers who had noticed the Princess walking up (hard not to notice a six-foot tall, white, winged horse in a world of multicolored ponies) started murmuring to each other, mostly inane things like “An entire, alien world!?” or “What if they’re dangerous?”

Pinkie was the first to break the silence, of course. “WOOH!” She gasped, back-flipping into the air with an enthusiastic bounce. “An entire planet!? I’m gonna need to throw the mother of all welcome parties!”

“Oh…my…” Fluttershy whispered, shrinking behind her mane and shivering, her frozen eyes locked on the cloud.

“Well, so long as they’re gonna act all civilized…” Applejack muttered thoughtfully.

“…and they don’t try anything.” Rainbow Dash added with a defiant snort.

“What would creatures on another world consider beautiful?” Rarity mused in a surprising burst of philosophic thought. “Do they even have clothes and fashions?”

For the most part, Shining remained mute, his brow joining his sister’s in furrowing: his in concern and determination, hers in thought. As he checked the dagger on his hind leg for the hundredth time that day, Celestia noticed the look on her student’s face and took the moment of distraction her announcement had caused to lean in closer to the smaller Alicorn. “Twilight?” She asked. “I know that look. What’s on your mind?”

The lavender mare sighed and turned back to the cloud, another bolt of lightning cracking off its surface as she watched. “What if that one pony was right?” She asked quietly, keeping her voice low to avoid attention. “What if they’re dangerous?”

“Oh Twilght,” Celestia smiled and shook her head. “They may very well be. In fact, it’s quite likely they are dangerous.”

Twilight turned to her mentor, eyebrows raised. “That’s not very comforting.”

“I know, but look at it this way: what would you say is the most dangerous creature in the Everfree forest?” Celestia asked, a knowing glint growing her eye, as it did whenever she was about to lead Twilight right into a lesson.

“Well…probably a manticore,” Twilight replied with a confident nod.

“Now, if manticores are so dangerous, why don’t they eat ponies regularly? Why aren’t they freely roaming the streets of our cities and villages, just gobbling up anypony that crosses their path?”

“Because they would never get far, and they know it,” Twilight said with another confident nod, as if every assertion needed to be punctuated with a bob of her head. “If local unicorn magic wasn’t enough, just about every town has a trained militia or Royal Guard outpost for dealing with a wild animal incursion. And even unarmed, a pegasus attack from the air or an earth pony’s kick is nothing to sneeze at. The only reason manticores do eat the occasional pony is if that pony is alone or frightened and caught off-guard.”

“So knowing all this, knowing that a manticore is so easily fought off by a pony settlement that only the most isolated of communities ever see attacks, wouldn’t it be easy to say that ponies are far more dangerous than manticores?” Celestia asked innocently, a knowing smile lighting up her face.

Twilight’s confident grin dissolved, returning to an unsure look of shock. “Well…I…uh…”

Celestia arched an eyebrow, and Twilight sighed, resigning herself to the fact that the Princess had beaten her with her own logic. “Yes, Princess. It would be perfectly fair to say that ponies as a whole pose more of a threat than the manticores ever could.”

Celestia smiled brightly and nuzzled her student, glowing as Twilight returned the nuzzle. “Just because something’s dangerous doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be given a chance,” she whispered.

That sentence right there did it for Shining Armor. Despite his Princess’s reassurances, he realized he absolutely needed to be ready for anything to come tearing out of that cloud. A civilian might be able to “give something dangerous a chance,” but as a soldier, it was his duty to be prepared for the possibility that this chance wasn’t deserved. He reached out, a magical hue going to the dagger, intending to levitate it ever-so-subtly to his forehoof and hide it in his fur.

To his surprise, the weapon shook as he drew it from the holster. Grimacing, he focused a bit more magic into it, but the only result was a slightly faster, still shaky draw that ended with the weapon tumbling out of its place and embedding in the dirt. This time he clenched his teeth, focusing all his considerable power in getting that stupid dagger to do what he wanted. Instead, its hilt poked up out of the ground, the blade dragging through the mud before it leaned weakly against his foreleg, as if saying it was too tired and needed a rest.

“What the…” he mumbled.

“Hey, guys? Anypony else having trouble with their magic?” Twilight asked. The former Guardstallion looked up in surprise, watching his sister, the Element of Magic itself, trying to wrench a gate open. Eventually, she snorted in frustration and just bucked the thing open.

“Hmm,” the group watched as Rarity turned to a rock and attempted to make it hover, a simple little trick that even foals could do. They watched the rock as it glowed with her magic, shook a bit, and did absolutely nothing else.

“What in the world…Princess?” Twilight asked, turning to her mentor.

Eyebrows hunched in a rare display of concern, the Princess of Day turned to Rarity’s rock and focused all her incredible might into it. The rock promptly lifted off the ground and performed a few shaky orbits around her, nearly dropping back down several times. Panting with effort, the Princess dropped the thing again, sweat visible on her face from what obviously should have been a simple task.

“What is going on?” Twilight asked.

“I…I don’t know,” Celestia admitted.

An instant look of panic overwhelmed the younger Alicorn, her ears folding back, her jaw dropping, her pupils shrinking to little pinpricks. At that, Celestia let out a little chuckle, the kind you used when the ship was going down in shark-infested waters and you had to tell the captain about your impending doom while a four year old kid stood within earshot. “Bu-but I’m sure it’s nothing to be afraid of. I’m rather certain our magic will return soon, and we’ll greet this other world with…”

No sooner did the Princess speak when the cloud gave them new and unexpected gifts. Four metal canisters sailed out of it, clattering to the ground near the group just as the rest of the unicorns in the line started to notice the same magic drain affecting them as well. Immediately, Shining sprang into action, throwing himself in between the canisters and the seven mares.

“B-big brother?” Twilight asked fearfully. “Wha-what is it?”

“I have no idea,” he replied, his back arching in a battle-ready stance. He studied the objects, his piercing gaze scanning them for any threats. They were each dark-green, and covered in white lettering that looked familiar but remained indecipherable. Other than that, the only remarkable features on the canisters was a pair of handles sticking off their top, as if they were meant to be clenched in teeth, perhaps?

“I’m…sure it’s nothing to be worried about,” Celestia replied, her voice starting at a nervous quiver, then adopting its usual confidence as she talked. “Perhaps even a gift from the other side! Still, we should have our experts keep them quarantined until…”

She didn’t even get to finish her sentence before the canisters exploded. Light as bright as her sun at midday flashed in their eyes, followed by a bang that put the worst thunderstorms to shame. Shining dropped from his stance, totally stunned. He shook his head a few times and opened his eyes, not realizing he’d shut them. Darkness greeted him. For an instant, his mind flew into panic mode, fear of blindness nearly making him cry out. Then the training kicked in and he took a few breaths, letting each out slowly through his nose. His vision returned in time, as he’d hoped it would, though that didn’t stop him from letting out a sigh of relief when it did.

Something was standing over him. He could only make out a silhouette right then, but he could tell it had to be rather tall, maybe even taller than the Princess (not including the horn). His hearing returned a bit after his vision, and he heard voices from somewhere far off.

”Get bloody goin’! MOVE!”

“None of you little shits move a fuckin’ muscle! None of ya!”

“What’s the ruddin’ time!? We need to be movin’ now!”

“Princess secured!”

Princess! That last one made an icy knot of fear clench in the unicorn’s stomach. Focusing what little of his magic remained, he managed to force the rest of the darkness out of his vision. What he saw made his blood turn to ice in his veins. Celestia was being scooped up by a pair of…things. They stood on two legs like Diamond Dogs, but their arms were much shorter, and they wore strange clothes in patterns that reminded him of the trees back in the Everfree Forest. Their faces were totally alien, covered in more of the strangely-patterned cloth, with blank, pitch-dark eyes that bulged from their heads, right beneath shiny, smooth helmets made from some material he knew he’d never be able to place. They each wore black vests and carried strange, black sticks that they waved around threateningly, pointing them at anypony who so much as looked at them funny. Finally, they each had two patches on their arms. One was a pair of red crosses outlined in white on a sea of blue, red bands reaching out to the corners of the patch. The other was a light-blue patch with a sphere pictured on it, strange continents and shapes stitched into its surface.

He watched in horror as the creatures clamped a ring around Celestia’s horn, and she winced in pain, dropping into unconsciousness with a quiet gasp. A pair of them locked another ring around the Princess’s forelegs while another pair lifted her up onto their shoulders, carrying her back to the cloud. “No!” He gasped, starting towards the group, but the creature standing over him stamped its boot into the back of his head. The blackness returned immediately, his mind reeling as he watched the Princess, his sovereign to whom he had pledged his life, carried off by a pair of strange, alien creatures.

“NONE OF YOU LI’L FECKERS MOVE, Y’HEAR!?” One of the creatures barked. Still hovering on the brink of consciousness, Shining watched some other pony make a charge for the group carrying Celestia off, only for one of the creatures to turn its black stick on him in a single, fluid motion. The stick barked once or twice (it was hard to tell which echoes were real and which were in his head) and the pony instantly dropped, body skidding across the ground like a sack of potatoes dropped from a speeding cart. The crowd screamed in horror.

“Nobody follows! You gits follow, you die!” Another creature screamed as it backed away into the cloud, tactically sweeping the ponies with that terrible weapon.

“Princess…” Shining gasped as he laid there, his mind finally making the final plunge into unconsciousness. However, before unconsciousness claimed him entirely, he heard a few more words in the creatures’ strange, terrible accents; words he hoped were just figments of his own imagination.

”Hey, who the bloody ‘ell’s this?”

“I dunno, but you see the wings and horn? She’s royalty! Bag her like the other one!”

"Funny, I didn't know princesses came in normal pony size."

Author's Note:

Unlike my other stories this one is gonna update somewhat more sporadically. Sorry :)

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