• Published 10th Jul 2011
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Antipodes - PK



An epic post-apocolyptic adventure fic surrounding Celestia and Luna's dissapearence.

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Antipodes- Chapter 27

Antipodes

Chapter 27

By PK

Took long enough, eh? Sorry about the wait. Again. So much school. Should be better now. Happy Antipodes 1-year anniversary! Thank you so much for sticking with me for this long. I never expected the story to gain the traction that it has and it's thrilling. Have some bonus art by the fabulous madmax: http://i39.tinypic.com/2wo9bau.png

~~~

Boom!

The explosion shook the ground under Spike's feet, causing him to stumble and as he scrambled over the rubble of a ruined building. All around him, flashes of light from mortars and mines drowned out the harsh light of the sun. The heat was unbearable.

He knew he couldn't pay attention to the war going on around him. It wouldn't let him.

It had sought him out, explained its plight. It said it could help him if he helped it. All he had to do was let it, and he had.

He ripped aside a pair of sun-bleached drapes and leapt through the shattered window frame. The building he was in now had an intact roof, and he couldn't help but take a moment to enjoy the relief from the sun.

The goddesses had fallen almost twenty years ago, and the light and dark sides of the planet had been fighting each other over the narrow strip of comfortable land ever since. The bearers of the Elements of Harmony had tried to intercede, of course, but without Twilight, and with what happened to Rarity…

"Not yet," hissed a voice from inside Spike's head. "We have to hide the fragments first. You can't let one of them find them."

"Here?" Spike whispered. "We have the entire planet to choose from. Why here? Fluttershy is here, you know. Right here in this town. If we can't let her find it, why not hide it on the other side of the planet?"

Spike's head began to pound. It was angry. Spike had to work to stop it from using his voice.

"It has to be where they are. Places they hold dear, or spent a great deal of time. It is the only way they can hidden."

"I don't understand."

"I don't expect you to understand. I expect you to act. Every second you waste here is another Rarity suffers. Go."

Spike shuffled into motion, spurred into action not entirely by his own will. It was just as well, he thought. He did need to get moving. He ran out of the ruined house and down a side alley full of sun-baked storefronts.

"Where?" he asked as yet another blast rattled debris loose from the rooftops. The Lunar Armada was close to taking Fillydelphia by now.

"Too far," it hissed. "You must get closer. She did not spend much time here. Toward the caves."

"Isn't that dang— ah!" Spike's words were cut off by a sudden, splitting pain in his temples.

"Go!" it shouted, its voice louder than any other thoughts.

Several minutes later, Spike saw the pit, surrounded by heavy equipment. Before the fall, the caves had been used as a tourist attraction for Fillydelphia. It was the largest natural cave system in all of Equestria. However, once it became apparent that Fillydelphia wasn't going to habitable for much longer, and that the cataclysmic war wasn't going to end in victory for either side, Fluttershy had begun to spearhead an initiative to move as many ponies as possible into the caves, which scientists had assured her would be sheltered from the heat of the sun.

And there she was, a yellow blur skittering back and forth over a panicked mass of ponies, trying to usher them past the old tour building and into the enormous steel Stable-Tec doors. The ground rumbled softly under Spike's feet, the shock waves carrying from the city out to the caves. Instinctively, Spike glanced back over his shoulder. A silvery-white battleship hung in the air over the city, bright bolts of light arcing down in to the city.

A loud, metallic crunching sound drew Spike's attention back toward the pit that lead to the caves. Fluttershy was on the ground now, making sure the last few ponies— an elderly couple— managed to get past the doors, which had begun to slowly edge forward. When they had gotten inside, Fluttershy paused and turned, looking up from the bottom of the pit.

Suddenly, Spike was stricken with an urge to run down and join her. It had been so long since he'd spoken to any of them, it had been so chaotic. Maybe he should—

"Aaargh!"

A sharp pain shot through Spike's head, as if a nail was being driven into it. The pain brought him back to his senses. Rarity was still out there, trapped by that horrible Rubidium that had started all this. He couldn't turn his back on her.

Fluttershy turned again and ran into the dark mouth of the cave, and a few moments later, the massive steel door slammed shut. The sound of the locks and seals engaging were loud enough to be heard from Spike's location.

"Where do I go now?" he asked.

"The building by the edge of the pit," it said. "That is close enough."

"There?" Spike said incredulously. "That's where they used to give tours of the caves. Shouldn't it be… I dunno, grander?"

"You must."

"Fine."

Spike darted over the yellowed grass and past mechanized drills, over to the neglected tour building. Compared to most of the buildings in the city, it was nearly pristine. Several inches of dust were visible on the countertops through the window, but the windows were intact and there were no holes in the ceiling. In fact, when Spike pulled open the door, he was hit with a blast of cool air. The building still had electricity.

He wanted to stay and cool off, but he knew he didn't have time for that. He had to hide the fragment.

He felt the alien presence in his mind stir, filling him with power. He closed his eyes and concentrated on it. he could feel it swirling and billowing within him, a nearly limitless well of power and energy. Tendrils of green light began to emanate from his body. The air around him crackled, and he thought he could smell the distinct scent of ozone. Then, seeming to ooze out of his chest, a ball of fire like a miniature sun presented itself, swirling furiously and crackling with bolts of green light.

"Woah," came a soft voice from his right.

Spike whipped around to see a pink unicorn standing up from behind the main desk.

"What is that?" she asked, stepping closer.

"No!" the voice shouted. "There must be no witnesses! She could tell one of the others!"

"Shut up," Spike snapped in defiance.

The pink unicorn's smile faltered. "Who are you talking to?"

"There's only one thing you can do now," the voice said. "You have to kill her."

"What?!" Spike shouted. "I can't do that! What did she do?"

"She's seen. She could tell one of the others. She's a liability."

"You don't know that!" Spike shouted. The pink unicorn was clearly unnerved by this point, and she began to inch her way towards the door.

"Now!” the voice shouted, and without his consent, Spike lurched forward and grabbed on to the pony's tail. He was shocked at his own strength- the pony was struggling with all her might to run, but Spike barely felt a tug.

He opened his mouth to protest at this unordered use of his body, but the voice spoke, cutting off his own words of protest.

"Do you think you can rescue your Rarity without causing death? It is impossible. Does Rubidium deserve life? Does anyone who's helped him? Do you know what he's doing to her right now?"

"I know, I know!" Spike said, shaking with anger at the idea. The pink pony stopped trying to run, and sobbed to herself.

"Then you must kill her. If even one thing goes wrong, it all does. We must have no witnesses!"

"I…"

Spike stared at the pink pony and the last decade of constant strife and warfare burned brightly in his mind.

"Now!" it shouted. Spike felt the sound leave his mouth, and his claws flashed across the pony's neck.

~~~

Boom!

"What was that?" Tiptoe shouted. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine!" Jigsaw shouted from the next level up. "Well, I'm sure it will grow back, anyway."

"Oh, ha, ha. Very funny," Tiptoe replied.

As soon as Jigsaw had woken up, he had dragged Tiptoe over to the wreck of the airship to assess the damage. They hadn't been able to find Incendia, but a resident of Totemhoof had assured them they had seen her in the center of town, looking for food. Once they got to the airship, Jigsaw had spent roughly a half hour spouting off technical jargon before he realized Tiptoe didn't understand it at all and sent her downstairs to attempt to clear some of the rubble out from the ground floor.

Jigsaw coughed and attempted to wave away the smoke from the blast. He cursed under his breath and pulled the small lever down.

"What is wrong with you?" Jigsaw said to the ship. "What's wrong?"

The ship was in bad shape. They had managed to completely burn out the main batteries when they had fired the weapon, and the crash had caused significant damage to most systems not damaged by the massive power surge caused by the weapon.

Jigsaw knew it wasn't all bad, however. The engines were mercifully undamaged, as were the navigation and targeting systems- not that the latter would do much good without weapons. What interested Jigsaw most was a strange device he had come across while exploring the ship's engineering level. It resembled a huge orb on a stand with several heavy cables hanging from it. When Jigsaw had found it, the cables had been hanging loose. After he had plugged them in, the ship's power draw jumped considerably, nearly overloading the power source, before suddenly dropping back to zero again. He had examined it for almost an hour and had no idea how it worked.

Still, though, his examination of the ship gave him hope that he could at least get it off the ground again. The citizens of Totemhoof, as a token of their gratitude, had been swarming over the exterior of the ship, fixing tears in the fabric and welding holes in the metallic exterior.

Jigsaw touched his horn to a panel, sending a pulse of energy through the system. After a few seconds, he felt a sharp shock in his horn— the energy pulse had been interrupted. He focused his energy on the break and felt the broken wires knit themselves back together. With some apprehension, he flipped the lever again.

A high pitched whine emanated from the panel for a few moments, and then, with a horrible electronic cracking, the power died, leaving Jigsaw in the dark.

"Well, it's an improvement, I suppose," he grumbled to himself.

~~~

The ground floor of the airship was littered with the broken planks of wood, twisted metal, and circuitry, mostly knocked loose from the walls and crumbling trappings by the crash. Tiptoe flew around the area, throwing pieces of rubble into a cart she lugged behind her. After flinging a twisted metal chair into the cart, it began to get uncomfortable to keep the cart aloft. She landed unsteadily and began to trudge out of the door and dump the garbage. The ground around the airship looked like an alien landscape— the airship had left a wide swath of upturned earth, scarring the mostly uniform landscape of wiry, coarse grass. Fragments of still-glowing crystal made the crash site glisten in the moonlight like a reflection of the night sky.

Tiptoe had unloaded half of the cart when she heard the sound of a falling plank of wood and a muttered oath. When she walked around the pile, she spotted Incendia, attempting to scramble over a small pile of lumber, a pair of saddlebags hanging heavily over her shoulders. When she saw Tiptoe, she froze.

"I got food!" She blurted out. "Food! For us. For the two of you, I mean. Because you've been working so hard, I mean."

Tiptoe was unimpressed. "You've been avoiding me, Incendia. We need to talk about what you said yesterday."

Incendia swallowed. When she next spoke, she sounded stiff and formal.

"I'm sorry. We were in a tense situation and I didn't think. I promise I won't let it interfere with our task, I—"

"Incendia," Tiptoe said, cutting her off, "you don't need to make excuses. It's okay. I mean…" Tiptoe's stomach felt like it was full of lead. "I… I can't reciprocate. I just… Jigsaw is too important for me. I mean I'm flattered, but…"

Incendia was trying her best to stop herself from shaking. She had no idea where this emotion was coming from, but it felt as though a dam had been opened.

"… don't ever think I don't love you."

Incendia’s gaze shot upwards.

"Incendia, you're one of the strongest, most capable ponies I've ever met. You've saved my life before and I can't imagine how we could do this without you. I do love you, Incendia. Don't doubt that."

Incendia took a few moments to collect herself before she spoke again. "You don't know how much that means to me. I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't feel like this, but I just can't help it. I feel like I've betrayed Jigsaw. And you."

"Don't," Tiptoe said, smiling warmly. "Honestly, it feels kind of obvious in retrospect. I've caught you looking more than once."

Incendia blushed so hard that what little grass remained on ground at her feet was incinerated.

"So… you're really not upset?" Incendia asked.

"No. I'm not. Honestly, it's okay," Tiptoe responded, "but this is really something Jigsaw should know about. It wouldn't be fair to him to keep it hidden."

"I'll tell him," Incendia said. "I owe it to him."

"He's in the engine room. Just follow the posted signs."

"I can't read the old language well," Incendia reminded Tiptoe.

"Oh, right," Tiptoe said with a giggle. She drew some symbols in the dirt.

"This is what you need to look out for."

Incendia thanked Tiptoe and made her way into the ship.

The stairs leading up into the second floor of the airship were in disarray. Incendia nearly cut herself several times on jagged bits of metal just trying to maneuver through the stairwell. She had doubts that the ship would ever be in the air again if even the stairs were trying to kill her.

Once she got up into the engine room, however, her doubts were assuaged somewhat. Giant pistons, quiescent now, protruded from the walls like fingers of some giant hand. Huge machinery was crowded around the walls. Incendia couldn't even begin to speculate on their functions.

In the center of the space was a clear vat of dull grey fluid, rotating lazily. Jigsaw was balanced precariously on the narrow rim of the tank, his horn glowing vibrantly. With a loud zap and a strong smell of ozone, a bolt of light shot from his horn and down through the liquid. The liquid began to swirl much more quickly in its tank and radiated with bright blue light.

Jigsaw nodded as though he was satisfied and hopped down from the lip of the vat. He jammed a hoof on to a green panel at the base of the vat, and a massive pipe lowered haltingly onto the vat and began to suction off the glowing liquid. The liquid spread through the overhanging network of pipes, suddenly turning the ceiling into a glowing spider web of light. While following the flow of the liquid, Jigsaw spotted Incendia, standing entranced in the doorway.

"Incendia!" Jigsaw said, with a smile. "I'd been worried you weren't going to join us today! Did you want to help out up here? Celestia knows I could use the help."

"Sure, but I need to talk to you first," Incendia said.

Jigsaw's smile faded. "I always have time. What's on your mind?"

"Here, I brought food. Think you could take a few minutes off to eat?"

Jigsaw glanced at the pipes overhead. "No leaks. Sure, now's as good a time as any."

Soon, Incendia and Jigsaw had laid out a meal of fresh produce from the farms of Totemhoof.

"So, what was it you wanted to talk about?" Jigsaw said apprehensively.

Incendia sighed deeply. It marveled her how she had handled years of living as a rebel and nothing had made her stomach as uneasy as talking to Jigsaw.

"I… have something to confess. Something that's been bothering me for a while now."

"Oh?"

"I… I'm attracted to Tiptoe."

Jigsaw blinked.

Incendia rushed onwards. "I've always liked mares, ever since I was a little filly. And, well, when Tiptoe showed up, she was just so different than all the other mares I'd seen in Stalliongrad, something just drew me too her. It probably doesn't help that my last relationship was an utter disaster and I'd been having a dry spell for quite a while by the time she showed up, but—"

Incendia's face flushed when she realized what she'd said.

"—feel free to stop me at any second, because I'm feeling like I'm a filly all over again."

Jigsaw stood there for a few moments, his face unreadable except for shock.

Incendia's throat constricted. Just when she thought she might turn and bolt because of nerves, Jigsaw spoke.

"Incendia, I… I don't really know what to say. I'm shocked."

Incendia didn't respond, but the butterflies in her stomach felt like they had been turned to lead.

Jigsaw apparently noticed the change of mood.

"I didn't say I was upset," he said quickly. "Just… surprised. I didn't really expect that. I'm not… offended, or anything."

Jigsaw took a bite of his salad. The situation was so awkward, Jigsaw imagined he could feel the tension as he moved his hoof through the air.

"She is pretty great, though," Jigsaw said. "I can't say I disapprove of your taste."

Incendia laughed. Jigsaw saw the tension leave her body.

"I… I'm sorry, again. I won't let it distract me from what we have to do. I just… it's been hanging over my head for so long now I had to get it out there. It wasn't fair to any of us."

"It took a lot of guts to talk to me like this, Incendia."

"It shouldn't have. I've had to tell the families of resistance members about their deaths. That's what should fill me with nerves, not this. It feels so… immature. I should be better than this."

Steam began to curl up from the corners of Incendia's eyes.

"Incendia…"

Jigsaw scooted closer to her.

"This is nothing to be ashamed of. I've lost ponies before, too. I was married once, remember? I had a mate. I expected to spend the rest of my life with her. We even got a place, together. Right on the outskirts of the inhabited areas. Huge plot of land just given to us. Nobody wanted it because the water system out there had been broken for ages. But when you get the two brightest engineers in one spot, there's not much we couldn't overcome. We were going to have plants growing in our backyard. Maybe even some trees. Something beautiful for our foals to grow up in."

"What happened to it?" asked Incendia.

"After Antimony died, I went back a few times and gathered my things. Mostly moved into my office. That old place… too many memories. Gave it to Antimony's family. Don't think they ever did anything with it."

"I'm so sorry, Jigsaw. But what exactly does this have to do with—"

"Because just because I'd dealt with that trauma, it didn't make life any easier. Not with Tiptoe. When she got assigned to me, I was drawn to her immediately. It scared me so much, Incendia. I didn't ever want to go through what I'd been through with Antimony again. So I just ignored it. Pushed it down. Drove her hard. She was good at what she did. Useful to have a pegasus with you… hard to reach places, and all.

“I… was kind of relieved, in a way, when we got cut off from the caves. Now, don't get me wrong, my first thoughts were of everyone left behind, but… it felt like a new beginning. The caves hadn't felt like home for a long time. I didn't know what I would find out here, but I thought anything had to be better than what I was leaving behind."

Incendia whinnied softly. "Was it? Better, I mean?"

Jigsaw stared at the phosphorescent pipes, the fluid within them coursing through them like the blood of a giant.

"What do you think?"

"I still don't feel like I belong completely," Incendia said. "especially with the issue with Tiptoe. I feel like at best I'm just tagging along for the ride and at worst getting in your way."

"You aren't, Incendia," Jigsaw said. "Not at all. And you need to stop beating yourself up about things."

"I can't help it," Incendia said. "All my life I've been in charge of ponies and responsible for what happened. I was in control, and now I'm not, and I don't know if I can-"

"Incendia, none of us wanted any of this. We're all in way over our heads. I never thought I'd even get to see the surface. Hell, up until we got out there, I didn't even know there was any surface to be seen. I certainly didn't expect to have the future of the world riding on my shoulders."

"How do you keep from going crazy?" Incendia wondered.

Jigsaw took a while to respond.

"The two of you. Knowing I'm not in it alone. The thought, however remote, that maybe my children will grow up in the sunlight. Real sunlight, not the magical kind. The thought that maybe I'll be able to grow those crops after all. The thought that maybe not everything I used to read in the old books is lost. There has to be more to it than this, right? All the suffering, the ponies just struggling to get by day to day."

"I never had much access to the records of the past," Incendia confessed, "but there were always rumors. They said being near Celestia was like standing in front of the sun itself. Apparently, she glowed so brightly that you couldn’t look directly at her, and she could rain fiery death upon her opponents, and—"

"I think the legends got twisted over the years," Jigsaw said with a smile. "We had the original manuscripts laid down by the founders. One of them actually knew Celestia and Luna personally, apparently."

"What were they really like then?" Incendia asked.

"Really tall, with pegasus wings and unicorn horns."

"That's not a very satisfying answer."

"This isn't a very satisfying salad, either."

Incendia laughed. "I wasn't really focused on gathering great ingredients. I was just trying to kill time with plausible deniability."

"It's fine," Jigsaw said. "I'm glad you made it. And I'm glad you came up for this talk. I don't feel like we've had one… well, ever."

"I'm glad we did too. I'm still trying to wrap my head around everything that's been going on. But… if our last, best hope had to rest on anypony, I'm glad it's with you. You're a great stallion, Jigsaw. I'm proud to know you."

"Likewise, Incendia. I couldn't make it without you."

Incendia stood up. "Before I go, I just wanted to make sure… You're not upset? About me and Tiptoe? Er, I mean, about me?"

Jigsaw laughed. "Not at all. I'm flattered, if anything. Plus, now I know I can come talk to you about mares if I want to. No offense, but when you're the only stallion around two mares, sometimes it can get a little stifling."

Incendia snorted. "Oh, and I'm not a mare anymore?"

Jigsaw's eyes widened. "Oh, no, that's not what I meant, I just meant that , you know, I thought you liked stallions, and I realize now I shouldn't have assumed, I just—"

"Relax, Jigsaw. It was a joke."

"… Oh. You didn't have to let me go on that long."

"Yes I did." Incendia turned to walk away. "And… Jigsaw, I'd like that. Being your confidant."

~~~

The next day, the ground floor of the airship had been nearly cleaned out. Jigsaw stood on the staircase that lead up to the engine room, Tiptoe and Incendia sitting on the cracked and discolored tiling.

"Is there any reason you got us up for this?" Incendia asked groggily. "In fact, did you even come back to the house last night?"

"He didn't," Tiptoe confirmed. "I'm just as confused as you are."

Jigsaw smiled. "You guys are gonna like this. I think I got the engines working again."

"What?" Incendia exclaimed. "Already?"

Jigsaw nodded. "It took me all night, but I managed to cobble something together. I haven't tested it yet because I wanted you all to be here, but I think I got the engines, shields, climate control, and main computer up and running, which are all we really need to fly this bucket of bolts around. It won't be doing any more light shows like it did a few days ago, but it will get us where we need to go."

"We need to go west, right? Towards the sun?" Tiptoe inquired.

"Right," Jigsaw said. "The shields we have now won't do much in the way of protecting us from attack, but it should at least keep the cool air in and protect us from the solar radiation."

"I'm not sure I trust this thing to keep us safe," Incendia said, glancing around nervously at the remains of the ornate lobby. "What if the shields fail and we're all incinerated? When I first teleported out of Stalliongrad, my teleporter malfunctioned and sent me somewhere way west. If not for my special abilities with heat, I probably would have died. I don't want to relive that again."

"Incendia, would I be presenting this if I didn't think we were absolutely safe? Even if the shields fail, we can seal off whatever section of the ship we're in and the climate control devices should be able to handle it. And, interestingly, I don't think we even had the computer up and running the first time we flew this thing. It might make things significantly easier."

"Okay," Incendia said. "I'm still not sure, but I trust you. When are we going to leave?"

"As soon as possible," Jigsaw said. "We can't let Tantalus get ahead of us."

"I'm kind of sad to leave Totemhoof," Tiptoe said wistfully. "The ponies here have been so kind to us."

"What say you we test the new engines out?" Jigsaw said. "Might take your mind off it."

"I'd like to see that," Incendia chimed in.

Jigsaw led them up the rickety staircase to the engine room. The walls were almost covered in transparent tubing now, and a low hum could he heard as the glowing liquid was pumped through them.

Jigsaw's horn began to glow, and a console on the far side of the room sprang to life. Old world text danced across the screen. Jigsaw's horn sparked, and the screen flashed green.

The room sprang to life. The gentle hum of the pump rose to a deafening bellow. The huge pistons that lined the walls began to fire, adding their booming voices to the cacophony of machinery that now resounded around the room. Flashing lights and alarms blared from many parts of the engine room, but they felt the airship give a distinct jerk and the uncomfortable sensation of being in a very fast elevator.

"It works!" Jigsaw shouted over the noise. "We're floating a few yards off the ground! I'm going to shut the engines down now, they're a bit loud."

Jigsaw's horn sparked again, and the noise slowly died down. The airship lowered itself to the ground.

"Well, all things considered, I think that went pretty well," Jigsaw said. "Now, we need to go gather our things. We have a fragment to get."