• Published 5th May 2012
  • 5,592 Views, 154 Comments

The Grey Factor - Japko

Mystery and adventure, Now with books!

  • ...



(By Japko)


Dear Diary,

It has been such a long time since my last entry, hasn’t it?

Life is an unpredictable thing. One day I read a book under the blue summer sky, and a few hours later I am thrown into a quest that changes the world around me like it was nothing. Just like that time when we fought Nightmare Moon. After that, I thought nothing crazier could happen, but the reality surprised me not once, and not twice again.

I know I will say yes to the princesses. I can’t let Equestria down, especially since it would also mean the end of those horrible, even if necessary experiments. But that’s going to happen when the time is right. First I have to meet the right stallion anyway, right? This may be a great service for Equestria, but my son will still be my son, and I always wanted to have one anyway. Still, no artificial methods for me, oh no.

When I talked to Madame Pearl back then in Manehattan, I told her: “There might be at least one useful outcome of my visit”. At least that turned out to be true. I have never seen Rarity happier than when she and her uncle finally reconciled and explained what was on their minds for all those years.

Speaking of Professor Jade, the princesses offered him a new job in the security department, due to his amazing hacking abilities, but he respectfully declined. He said that work is work, and a hobby should stay a hobby. Also, he persisted that he didn’t know anyone else who would be interested in that sort of magic.

Well, I think that’s all for now. I would go into more details, but Pinkie is waiting for me at Sugarcube Corner and I don’t want to keep her waiting. Till next time!

Your faithful author,

Twilight Sparkle.

Special thanks to AlicornPriest for pre-reading the story and making it readable, and to my dear friends Quaz and Yeld for moral support.

Comments ( 38 )

Is there a sequel planned?

Maybe in the future I'll write some short sequel. For now, I have other ideas.

Nice ending, and I'm looking forward to your next story.


All expectations out the window, that was brilliant. The world you have built has just the right amount of detail that if you do want to do a sequel it will be just as original as this story. I could easily see a sequel being a novel-length adventure story. Again I have to thank you for creating this fine work of art.


Very good story really enjoyed it, was quite unique compared to many stories on the site.

Ya know, the main question I believe someone should have asked is "why did you spend so much money and time creating clones rather than developing training, armour, weapons and magic for the army?" It's one of those things where I look at something and start weighing costs in my head.

Presuming the clones have to grow at normal pace, that makes them pretty much the same as normal ponies, except that they're created from someone particular's genetic material, which has to be stored, replicated and kept on record and they have to ensure that it doesn't degrade too badly. Of course then there's the whole shebang of the nutrient mixes, aminotic fluids, tanks, etc that would cost, and someone to raise and train the cloned soldiers - a clone is, if anything, more expensive than a standard soldier, and the equipment wouldn't get any cheaper for the asking, nor any better without someone looking at it.

If this has been going on for around 1200 years, you're looking at probably that long to develop things. In that time period humanity went from scattered towns and cities with wells and limited medicine along with iron chain or leather as the primary armour to guns, tanks, missiles and computers. Heck, even going from 200BC to 1,000AD we saw a lot of changes and the rise and fall of a few kingdoms. Roman Legions against the armies of William the Conqueror... I'd imagine things would be a bit of a mishmash melee there, but even so, things changed a lot over the period and the money Cele and Luna put into these 'perfect' clones could have pushed a lot of other things that would probably be more help when trouble finally comes.

This amazing!!! :pinkiegasp:
Please tell me you're gonna do a sequel one day??\

I'm not sure whether you're addressing these words to me as the creator or you mean that Twi or Jade should have asked Celestia these questions. If you're asking me - sure it doesn't make perfect sense in every detail, but It's not like my priority was to make it perfect in every detail. The basic idea was to present guards as clones and to make an adventure story out of it. We don't know how much those things cost. The Equestria shown in the series isn't so... full of ponies, by the way. And males are definitely a minority. But that's eristic.
MLP universe is a fantasy world, and a pretty common thing between fantasy worlds is that they develop in much slower pace than our world (maybe it's because magic is a substitute for technology?). Look at A Song of Ice and Fire, for thousands of years not much has changed there.
As a matter of fact, I had a problem with that. I was angry at Celestia for being so dramatic - a thousand years on the moon! That made it over a thousand years of gap between the origins of my fanwork world and "today".
I preferred this world not to focus on technology. Sure I could make celestia build tanks and orbital cannons but it would spoil the story in the state I wanted to present it. Sometimes it's good to sacrifice some "sense-making" if it means more fun. I learned this from my RPG sessions. Fun is... more fun :rainbowdetermined2:

Who knows... :trixieshiftright:

Okay, regarding the sacrifice asked of Twilight:
Isn't the whole point of the cloning project to create MANY soldiers, especially given there are many of Discord's subjects coming? As such, wouldn't it make more sense to ask for Twilight's eggs, or at least ask her to have a LOT of sons who are likely to serve as soldiers?

I get the whole 'golden child' trope, but it doesn't match well with your plot and the motives of Celestia... Or at least, if she's rejecting Celestia's plan you don't convey that well. Which is a shame, it's a very creative plot you've come up with otherwise.

It's not a matter of eggs, it's a matter of specific genetic material, that can be given by her potential son, not herself.
The cloning technology has gone way ahead since the beginning of the experiments. They would have a way to create perfect clones out of pure gene provider who would be Twilight's son, not spinning around incomplete clones they've had for hundreds of years.

When or even if Twilight has a son(she could have all daughters), I think he should have some say in what would be done with his DNA.

Really hoping you'll write a sequel to this sometime in the future - it'd be really interesting to see how everything unfolds.
Definitely looking forward to more work from you :pinkiehappy:

And here I was thinking Shining Armor was a clone. He's white, after all. Oh man, this story. SO glad I decided to read it. I hope someday you might throw out a sequel, but I can understand that'd be quite an undertaking, or so my hyper-imaginative brain sees. I really loved this story. And was continually impressed by Twilight's courage to do what she thought needed to be done, even if it meant defying Celestia.

Drat, I KNEW I should have made my OC gray instead of blue... :pinkiehappy:

I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story, good job sir :twilightsmile:

I'm glad I waited until it was complete before reading; otherwise I would've been really upset having to wait for the next installment!
I privately hope for a sequel story about the son.

dang hte comments part is longer than the chapter scrolling wise

Engrossing story - I stayed up too late last night because I had to finish it. Really well plotted, especially in the beginning where you created a gripping plot out of the process of academic research - who knew going to the library could be so much fun! You do a good job of continually creating unanswered questions in the readers' minds to keep them hooked.

I think your characterizations could be improved; mainly, I think Luna/Celestia/Twilight speak less informally than they're depicted here. And Jade sounds more like a grad student than a professor at times; if this weren't a finished work I'd suggest rewriting him as a grad student, or whatever the pony equivalent is, it would fit with his hacker alter ego. The age difference between him and Twilight is only necessary for the Rarity family relations subplot, which is superfluous to the main plot; it could be dispensed with. But all in all, very good work.

Editing again because I can't seem to post a second comment:

Okay, I can live with Jade as an unconventional professor! I think it would be interesting to see what his colleagues think of him. And if you're thinking about a sequel, it would be interesting to see the guards' perspective: what are their lives like? How much do they know about the project? What do they think of it?

Thanks for this remark.
It came to my mind that I didn't make Celestia and Luna characters "formal" enough but on the other hand I was afraid that making them more formal would be overdoing the character (I am often overly-critical about my work so I try to invite some common sense to the process). If you noticed that too, then it's probably true.
But Jade's character is exactly what I wanted him to be. A divorced guy around his 40s (in human standards), bored with everyday life at the university, living his second youth on an adventure. Please don't take it away from him :trollestia:

606060 I have an idea how you could follow up with this story. If you are interested send me a PM

This is a marvelous story. The only problem I had with it was that Twilight is WAY too enamored with Cele to not just go straight to her and ask about it. Well done regardless.

Eh... I don't know how I feel about this one. The first few chapters were very fascinating, like one of those can't-put-it-down type novels. Although, I can't imagine why the story required the plot to be about genetic experiments, when the easiest explanation for the Royal Guards' uniform colors is simply hair dye. The fact that Twilight brings up illusion magic instead of hair dye as the logical alternative to genetic manipulation made me facehoof.

And, while I'm glad you subverted my expectations of "Tyrant Celestia" by chapter five... the story completely fizzles out by this point. It just dies. The resolution is almost no resolution at all, and I'm disappointed that Luna was in on it the whole time.

I wish FiMfiction had a "meh" or "neutral" button instead of just Like or Dislike.

Actually, it's not that the story required this concept. It was the concept that required the story. Genetical engineering was my starting point on which everything else was built.

I'm glad you liked at least those first chapters though.


It's a mix of things, the whole scene of the burned library is a plot point in one of the first episodes (when Scar and the homunculi fight), the bibliophile who happens to own some important book in question made me remember of Sheska and her photographic memory... After that, I couldn't stop associating the big reveal of the clones with to the moment Ed discovers the philosopher's stone main ingredient.

I was almost scared to read chapter 4 and find out Riverdaze went full Tucker and family members would start disappearing randomly. :fluttershyouch:

There is something else, but that's from Brotherhood (and/or the manga) and I don't want to spoil it for you. :raritywink:

EDIT: I'm going to be more specific about the fire, I know the library burning was more like "a thing of the moment" damage in FMA while here was something that was deliberately done years ago, but the way Twi screamed about how close they were to find the truth, only to be stopped by some fire made me feel like she was channeling Ed. After that the scenes kept going and I couldn't unsee the similarities.

Though now I see that was unintentional, so it's quite obvious all of this was on my head... GOOD TO KNOW! :pinkiecrazy:

Jolly good show!
But i do wonder, where does your avatar come from? what does it mean?:rainbowhuh:

First, it was just a happle
Then I added Nebulous Dreams by Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat and Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven by Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

Very nice! This is what i love about this site i recently unearthed. You can actually communicate with the authors of the stories you love. Forget king, koonz, dekker, or whoever. You, and 80% of the people on this site write as good as them. Now just add ponies and you have my full undivided attention. Keep on keepin on Japko! love the espionage :rainbowkiss:

Okay, incoming criticism:

I had two major issues with story.

Your writing is a bit odd and I guessed early on that English wasn't your first language. From reading the comments, it seems you are native Polish. Your command of English is good, but there are subtle hints throughout that it's not quite natural to you. It's not so much that you make mistakes (I see tons of them from native speakers), but the kind of mistakes you make. Here's a sampling of phrases that aren't quite right:

"putting two cups of coffee on the table for a box of Pinkie’s muffins" -- the "for" doesn't make sense.
"And it turns out it contains some interesting hypothesis" -- I think you want "an", not "some".
"It can be pretty meaningful, while being totally neglected in all school handbooks I encountered…” -- This sentence is grammatical, but I'm struggling to parse out what exactly you're trying to say.
"a shape of a low cylinder and whole overgrown with ivy." -- "whole" doesn't make sense here. Maybe you mean "wholly"?

There's lots of these kinds of mistakes throughout the story. In some cases what you write is technically correct, but phrased very awkwardly.

THe dialogue also suffers, especially in the case of Twilight. She's studious, and well-read, but you take that too far. In this story some of her dialogue is downright robotic. It's unnatural.

The second issue I had was with the central premise. This is a subjective matter, I admit, so it comes down to taste. But, Celestia secretly conducting genetic experiments and growing a clone army? Not my cup of tea. Twilight having special genetic code required to create powerful unicorn warriors? That's a bit... contrived. A conspiracy to hide it all? Uhh, why?

You said an author can sacrifice some "sense-making" if it means more fun. I agree, but in my opinion you sacrificed a bit too much. I'm left thinking about why this is all necessary, when better options are logically available. Celestia could've gone for selective breeding instead, better training programs, research into more powerful magic or technology; lots of things that aren't as morally objectionable as her experiments were even to her.

And if the guards are clones, how has no one figured this out yet?! Did no one realize these ponies have no parents, no background, and they're all identical? I can understand most ponies simply accepting things, but there are always abnormally curious subjects in any population. All this time, no one bothered to ask questions?

Those issues aside, you did get a nice mystery/adventure plot happening, and I can tell a lot of thought and effort went into it; you clearly did not just slap some tropes together. It did keep my interest to the end.

So, did I like it?
No. It's a matter of taste, like I said, but your interpretation of Celestia, the whole conspiracy, you take on pre-Equestrian history; it all rubs me the wrong way. The Fridge Logic of the plot and slightly awkward writing tip the scales into the negative.

You definitely have skill, though, and judging by others' reactions you definitely produced something entertaining, which is what a writer should strive for. I hope you keep writing, and I wish you best of luck in your future authorial efforts.

Yeah, the first chapters had some crude language in them, because I had no proofreader back then. The good news is that AP taught me quite a lot, and hopefully my potential future creations will be better English-wise.

About Twilight dialogue - funny, because there was a comment before that I made Twi speaking too formally.

And to tell the truth... the whole fic started as a joke first! There was a discussion about Derpy Drama on one movie forum, which derailed into some media controversies around the show (including alleged racism etc.), and I started joking about the guards being actually clones. And you know, lightbulb above my head, idea, let's make a story out of it. I'm glad it has ANY sense to it, to be honest :trollestia:


"TK-421, why aren't you at your post..."

so basically twilight agreed to let the princesses have a hair sample, or something of that nature, from her eventual son (which would have happened anyway) sounds like a win-win to me.

Basically yes. Though I think as the original for all the clones, he would have to play some important role anyway.

And for anyone else asking about a sequel. Japko has given me his blessing to work on a sequel. It's called "A Call to Vespers," and it's about Twilight's son, Vesper. Sort of. Read and find out! :pinkiehappy:
But don't think that means you can't try. Go for it! Part of the fun of not being Japko is that our stuff isn't necessarily Japko canon. You can write a story, and I can write a story! And then we'll see whose is better. :trixieshiftright: May the better author win! :rainbowdetermined2:

901543 I would take you up on that but i am in the middle of writing my own thing that is currently 40k+ words and it is being one hell of a pain in the ass but fun all the same to write

I really enjoyed reading your story Japko!

I'm glad to hear it, thank you.
Of course, feel free to check out my other stories.

I kinda like the story, but it doesn't feel like anything actually happens.

Just, Twilight finds a book, then she goes over here, then she goes over here. Then she stages a heist, shenanigans, mystery solved.

I don't feel like we followed her closely enough. What did she go through to get her to that point. Plus, I didn't see Professor What's-his-face do anything that Twilight couldn't do on her own. His role seemed a bit contrived.

Couldn't you at least shoehorn in a romance?

Regardless, it was decent enough. Well written. All that...

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