• Published 29th Jul 2015
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Her Knight in Faded Armor - Doccular42



Princess Luna still feels alone, nineteen years after her return to Equestria. When she finds a friend in an online game, everything seems better. But not all is well in Equestria, and a sinister plot threatens everything that Luna holds dear...

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Act I: Prologue

Her Knight in Faded Armor

Act I

Luna stepped slowly down the darkened metal corridor. The scent of gun smoke and spilled oil filled her nostrils, and the din of distant battle beat on her eardrums. The corridor itself was covered in shadow, and Luna could barely make out the doorways to her left and right. Rubble from battles both ancient and recent blocked her way, and the Princess had to watch her step to make sure that she didn’t fall. But Luna ignored all of that. None of it mattered. All that mattered was the distant light at the end of the hallway.

“Okay,” she whispered to the pony following closely behind her, “I’m going to check the scope.” Luna stopped walking forward, and her partner, an earth pony stallion, nodded and stood beside her.

Luna flipped down one of the three scopes attached to the helmet that covered her head. The object slipped into place with a nearly silent whir, and Luna surveyed her destination.

The end of the hallway was brighter than the rest of the corridor. Luna zoomed in closer, and she could make out a Level Twelve control panel on the door as well as the telltale markers of laser traps all around the end of the passage. And, if she was not mistaken, there was also a trap door going downward, and several other doorways that could be filled by any number of fearsome guard creatures.

“Trap?” her companion asked.

“Trap,” she confirmed, her words clipped as she concentrated on the other end of the corridor.

Luna flipped her scope back out of her face and mentally sent a signal to the sniper rifle mounted on her back, above and to the right of her left wing. It hissed slightly as it activated, and the muzzle and scope attached to the rifle extended out past her face, ready for action. She slapped a button on her foreleg, and her chaos shields powered up, her dark purple robes shimmering with a green light as the twisting magic enveloped her. She sent another thought-command, this one to her other shields. A second layer of blue energy activated, covering the chaos magic with a blue field.

“We’re going loud?” the stallion asked.

“Not yet,” she whispered. “You pull, and I’ll cover you. Get whatever enemies that you can to come out of their holes, and then I’ll portal you out.” She turned to face her fellow soldier.

The stallion stood tall, clothed in a dull grey suit of armor that Luna knew could glow a brilliant azure at a single thought-command from the cybernetic warrior. His face was covered by a visor, but she knew the face behind it well. On his back was one of the universal combat kits given to every Splinter soldier, which mounted his weapons and his propulsion pack. Engraved onto the front of his armor was his name, Faded Shield.

“You got it,” Fade said. “But let’s try not to make this a replay of Magnum III, eh?”

Luna laughed quietly. “Hush. You know that was an accident, and I actually know how these portals work now.”

“I’m just sayin’...”

“Ah, just go, okay?”

The stallion laughed softly, and Luna had only a moment to see his armor power on before he shimmered out of view when his cloak activated. She switched to a different visor mode, and her combat HUD appeared.

In the upper left corner of her view, Luna could see statistics for the battle. Most of the rest of her forces were outside, engaging the enemies, or trying to find a way into the complex in which Luna now stood. She and Fade had fought through countless mechs and several mantiborgs to make it this far. She could see the blinking icons representing her allies and the foes they had identified, while in the upper right, her vital signs and weapon info were displayed. Everything was in the green, both shield layers were up, her portals were charged, and her rifle was full up on ammunition.

Perfect.

She could see Fade’s outline speed silently toward the end of the hallway. She smiled. Fade might have his quirks, but he knew how to utilize synergy. His particular blend of speed and stealth made him a very flexible warrior, and that complemented her skills perfectly.

“I’m in position,” he whispered through the com. “Count?”

“Three,” Luna said softly. “Two.” She gritted her teeth and connected herself to a nearby chaos node. “One.” She powered up her spellblade and braced herself. “Go.”

Fade suddenly blinked out of stealth and slammed a hoof onto one of the doors on the side of the hallway. Immediately, it opened up, and a large metallic wolf jumped out at him.

“Ironbark Timberwolves!” Fade shouted as his implants charged. He lashed out, hoof glowing with silver light. The wolf snarled and tried to jump back, but Fade was too fast. His blow caught the wolf on the head, melting the metal on its face and crumpling its snout into a molten heap. The creature howled in pain.

Luna locked onto her foe with her sniper scope and sent a single round down the corridor. Her bullet whizzed past Fade and hit her target with surgical precision. The snarling monster felt to the ground, his command circuits destroyed.

Three more doors opened, and more wolves leapt out of them.

“Portal, now!” Fade yelled. He backpedaled towards Luna as quickly as he could.

Luna released the chaos energy she had pooled and ripped open the fabric of space and time. A green streak appeared in the air beside her, and a matching one burst into existence behind Fade. The streak expanded into another dimension, and Luna could see Fade through the portal beside her. He rushed into the hole in the air and reappeared right next to her.

“Light them up!” Luna shouted. Her portals slammed shut, and her rifle clicked into burst mode.

Fade’s own submachine guns sprang out of his combat kit, and he glowed with blue power as he opened fire with both guns. At the other end of the hallway, the air shimmered, and the creatures leaping at them slowed to a crawl. The creatures wafted lazily toward the floor once the skill became active, for their bodies now obeyed Fade’s applied rules of physics.

Luna knew they had moments before Fade’s distortion field wore off. She chose her targets carefully, and her rifle fired off several bursts in quick succession. When the rounds passed into the field, they slowed, and Luna could see the air around them being corrupted by the chaos with which she had infused her bullets.

“Field down in three… two… one!” Fade shouted in the final, thrilling seconds before his ability would end. Shots furiously leapt from the stallion’s machine guns in those moments, and his armor clung to its evaporating glow.

The silver energy dissipated, and the wolves returned to full speed, but it was too late. The dozens of bullets that had been slowed by the field returned to full speed, and, with that single volley, the wolves all fell. Some were blasted into pure magic by the energy-infused rounds from one of Fade’s guns. Some transformed into flowers and strawberry milkshakes and fell to the floor, transmuted by Luna’s bolts of pure chaos. Others burst into Code and flew toward Fade, who absorbed their energy with a grin.

“Well, that was easy.” Fade cracked his neck and allowed his guns to return to their non-combat mode.

“Far too easy.” Luna kept her own rifle at the ready. “The trap must be bad.”

“Well, you’re the Hacker. You go first!” Fade bowed facetiously.

“Oh, hardy-har,” Luna replied. “The brave warrior gallantly sends his female companion out toward potentially lethal danger in front of him. My hero.

“Hey, hey, hey,” Fade waved his hooves in front of him. “When you put it that way… you should definitely go first.”

Luna laughed. “Fine. But you’re buying the first round when we get back to base.”

“Sounds good to me!” Fade said. “So long as we get out in one piece, huh?”

“Well, that’s the plan, isn’t it?” Luna cautiously approached the door. As she neared it, her HUD flashed out a warning light.

“Yep, traps. Lots of them,” Fade said. “I’ll get to work on disabling them if you can go through to start opening the door.”

“Can do.” Luna took to the air. Her wings flapped softly, assisted by the antigrav module attached to her pack. She glided along the ceiling until she came to a laser emitter. She raised her arm and glanced at her display panel. She sent a command to the internal computer, and, after a moment, a page showing various traps and components appeared. She studied it for a moment. “Looks like a C45 trap, Fade.”

A muted click came from below, and Fade’s voice chimed in her ear. “Aw, crap.”

Luna glanced back down to see Fade standing on a glowing panel on the ground. “You didn’t…” she began.

He chuckled nervously. “Heh, oops.”

A red light popped out of the wall above the door and started flashing. A siren sounded, and huge blast doors started closing over the doorway with the panel as well as behind them.

“Ponyfeathers!” Luna swore. She ignored the laser emitters and flew toward the door, trying to get there before the blast doors covered the control panel.

When she flew through the lasers, autocannons popped out of the ceiling and opened fire on both of the soldiers.

“I’ll keep them off you!” Fade shouted. He activated his jetpack and flew directly upward, placing himself between Luna and the incoming projectiles, and opened fire with both guns.

Luna arrived at the panel as quickly as she could, but the blast doors were almost shut. She cursed and raised her right hoof. She prepped one of the many gadgets strapped to her arm and punched the door. White and blue lightning arced through the metal, and the blast doors slowed. They didn’t stop, however, and Luna knew she didn’t have much time.

Pulling out a set of tools from her belt, she got to work on the control panel. She heard explosions and grunts behind her.

“Shields are at fifty percent! I’ve got two cannons down, but I think they have repair bots!”

Luna swore once again when she heard the words. “Code them! Rewrite the repair abilities to destabilize the internals!”

“I’ll try. I used most of my stored Code on the Wolves, so...”

“Just do it, and—” Luna’s reply was cut off by a surge of power from the control panel. “The damned trap is fighting back!”

“What the hell is going on?” Fade asked. “I’ve never seen anything like this!”

Luna groaned in frustration. Her tools were shorted out by the energy, and there was nothing she could do to stop the blast doors.

Luna turned back just in time to see a brilliant golden light arc out from Fade toward the turrets. The light enveloped them, and then flashed back out of corporeality. The cannons fired for a second longer, but then started smoking.

“Good job!” Luna shouted.

“How’s the door going?” Fade yelled over the sound of the cannons exploding.

“We’ll see in a second. I’m about to try something… unorthodox.”

The doors were right at the control panel. Even a few seconds longer, and Luna would have no access, and the entire mission would be a bust. Luna closed her eyes and once more reached out for the nearby chaos node.

Power colored purple, green, blue, and a hue that Luna couldn’t quite identify swirled around her front left hoof. The chaos formed a semi-coherent blade, and with an angry cry, she rammed it into the control panel and released her hold on the chaotic magic.

“Gah!” Luna was thrown backward by an explosion of many colors. The panel crackled and shook. Luna landed on the ground next to Fade, and quickly returned to her hooves to see—

The blast doors closing. “Drat. I thought that would work,” Luna grumbled.

“Because stabbing things always works, eh? That’s kinda your MO, Mem,” Fade replied, using his nickname for Luna.

“Oh, shut up.” Luna sighed and sat down. She brushed the dirt and dust off the front of her lightly armored robes. Her shields and chaos barrier came down, and her hoof brushed lightly against her identity nameplate. As the dust and debris fell off her, she could see the name etched into the chestpiece.

Memory Mirror.

“Well, it was a good try. Maybe we can go again tomorrow evening? We were really close this ti—”

“Wait.” Luna stood up suddenly. “Do you see that?”

The blast doors before and behind them shook to spark-inducing energy that pulsed through the metal slabs. “Well, this is different.” Fade reactivated his shields. “I guess we aren’t out of this yet!”

Both ponies slowly trotted up to the shaking barrier. Luna activated one of her visor scopes, and a new display appeared. She could see the technology controlling the door, or, as the case was, not controlling the door.

“Huh. Apparently that blend of chaos magic managed to turn the internal components of the blast door into confetti and bananas.”

“Bananas?” Fade asked. “Seriously?”

“Seriously.” Luna trotted all the way up to the door until she was right against it. She pressed an ear up to it and smiled. “I think we may be able to try some more... primitive structural reconfiguration. Would you like to do the honors?”

Luna could barely make out a lopsided grin on Fade’s face through his nearly transparent visor. “Sure thing, Mem.”

He turned to face away from the door and his cybernetic augmentation activated. With a mighty bellow, Fade bucked backward with both legs.

Weakened by the chaotic entropy spell swirling around within its controls, the unenhanced metal of the door was no match for Fade’s strength. It cracked cleanly in two, and the ponies were able to pry the doors away to reveal the main entrance.

“Okay. So now we just have to get this one open,” Fade chirped gleefully.

“Just don’t step on any more buttons, okay?” Luna smirked beneath her helmet.

“Hey!” Fade exclaimed. “If you hadn’t noticed, the entire floor is made of triggers! Stepping anywhere would have dropped the doors, and if I had flown through, we would have tripped the lasers. Those probably would have closed the doors too! Add that to the whole ambush thing, and I’d say that this was supposed to be a jerk of a trap.”

Luna shrugged. “Still. Don’t step on any more buttons.”

Fade grumbled and kicked the smoking remains of a turret.

Luna tossed her hacking tools over to him. “Mind using Reconstruct?”

Catching the tools out of the air, Fade grumbled a reply. “Fine.”

Fade held the tools in his hoof for a moment. Gold light flashed, and Fade tossed the fully repaired tools back to her.

“Thanks.”

“‘Don’t touch any buttons,’” Fade mimicked.

“I’ll take that as a, ‘You’re welcome,’” Luna said with a giggle.

After a few moments of work on the door, it opened up, revealing a small room with controls on the back wall.

“An elevator?” Luna asked. “Huh.”

“Aw, man. Elevators are bad. Something nasty is definitely gonna be waiting for us at the bottom.”

Luna smirked. “Hey, you don’t know that! There could be a symphony awaiting us at the top of a magical tower!”

“Nope.” Fade shook his head. “This fight is gonna be nasty.”

“Yeah, pretty much,” Luna agreed. “Are you all charged?”

Luna checked her own display. Her chaos energy was at maximum capacity, her shields were prepped, and her ammo was almost completely full. She slapped another magazine into her rifle and checked her emergency blasters, which were thankfully at one hundred percent charge.

“Yeah, I’m good. Reconstruct is on cooldown, but I should only need that if my shields are down and I start taking armor damage.”

“Okay then. Ready to face the darkness at the end of the tunnel?” Luna asked.

“Urgh, this is not going to be pretty.” Fade winced under his helmet.

“All right. Let’s go!” she said, deliberately ignoring Fade’s protest.

Luna and Fade stepped into the elevator and pressed the only button on the panel. Immediately, the two of them shot downward through the elevator shaft.

“Told you.” Fade poked her with his hoof.

Luna swatted him away. “Hush. This is serious business.”

Fade chuckled. “Okay, okay.”

After a few moments, the elevator slowed to a stop. The doors opened up, and the two ponies walked into a darkened room.

Glimmering magical torches were the only sources of light. The room was shaped like a dome with a large table and a single chair in the middle, while tapestries adorned the walls. Luna couldn’t make out any other doorways, which meant they were stuck in here until...

“Oh, it iss sso good to sssee new friendsss…” a voice hissed from the shadows.

The elevator behind them closed, and Luna could hear it shoot back up the shaft.

“Damn.” Fade activated his armor. “Damn.” His machine guns activated, and Luna could sense him drawing upon his Code reserves. “Damn, damn, damn. I freaking called it.”

“Come out and face us!” Luna declared. She raised her hoof, and her chaos blade sprang to life.

“Oh, why would I do that and ruin all of thiss deliciousss fun?” Something in the shadows fell over with a loud crash.

“Fine. Have it your way.” Luna closed her eyes and summoned the fire within her. The power of the long lost Princess Celestia flowed through her, and all the tapestries in the room, as well as the table and chair, burst into brilliant white flames.

“Ssso. The Princessesss ssend championss to face me once more…” The light filled the room and illuminated a being standing with its back turned to Luna and Fade. He stood as tall as a draconequus, though he did not possess such a chaotic form. He was clad in flowing black robes, and he held in his clawed hands an enormous halberd. The being turned to face them, and Luna gasped in shock.

His face was shaped much like a dragon’s, but elongated and distorted. His green scales glimmered in the light, and his orange eyes gleamed. But most shocking was the black mass covering the left side of his face. The sticky goo throbbed and pulsed, and it seemed to absorb the light from the fires.

“Are you ssurprised? Your foe, a mere dragon.” The being laughed. “And not even one of your own—” he spat the word “—sspecial dragonss. You all left me here. Abandoned me.” The creature lowered his halberd at Fade, and Luna noticed too late that the end of the weapon was a shotgun.

Fade yelped and blinked out of existence. He reappeared on the other side of Luna as the blast from the shotgun tore into the part of the wall behind where Fade had just been standing.

Was I not worthy of ssaving!?” The dragon screeched. He dropped to all four limbs and skittered toward Luna.

Luna leapt into the air, as did Fade. The two flew to the center of the room, directly above the flaming table.

Did you think that I would perish, while you all ssurvived?” The creature screamed, and shadows took physical form all around the room.

“I’ll handle the mobs!” Fade shouted, flying at the newly appeared foes.

But I lived! I always live!” The dragon leapt at Luna. Long, twisted wings emerged from his robes, and he flew up to meet her.

Luna rolled through the air to the left, barely dodging the first strike of the dragon’s halberd. She glanced down quickly to see where her partner was.

Fade was completely surrounded by enemies, but his movements remained completely confident. His armor was fully activated, his guns were set to autofire, and he lashed out in every direction with cybernetically enhanced limbs. He blocked blows and dematerialized shadows, but more kept coming.

Luna had no more time to look. She turned back to face the dragon once more. He flew toward her, his mouth forming an enraged snarl.

It never killed me! It made me greater, greater than you sshall ever be!” He swung his massive weapon at her, and Luna raised her chaos blade to meet it.

The weapons clashed, and sparks flew through the smoky air. The dragon leaned in close toward Luna and snapped at her with his fangs.

Luna yelped and disengaged. She flew backward and drew her blasters. She fired off several shots at the enemy, which he dodged. He turned his own weapon to bear, and Luna barely moved out of the way of the destructive blast.

Can’t you see? Equestria is ours now! Not yours! Never yours!

“Does he ever shut up?” Fade asked. Luna heard the sound of his rifle fire joining the submachine guns. Shadow after shadow fell, more still rose to take their place.

“I don’t believe so,” Luna replied. She gritted her teeth and flew at her foe. Her chaos blades blazed into existence again, and she slashed at his chest.

The blade missed, and the dragon raised his halberd once more. Luna smirked. She knew exactly what to do this time.

The halberd fired, and Luna’s chaos magic reacted instantly. A portal opened up directly in front of her, and another appeared right behind her foe. The blast from the shotgun traveled through the portal and struck the great monster in his own back. The beast howled in pain, and Luna leapt forward with her blades once more.

I will— Gah!” Luna’s blade cut deeply into him, and his blood sprayed out across her robes.

“Good hit!” Fade cheered.

Luna turned to finish the job, but as she raised her sword, the dragon smiled. “Not thiss time…”

In a flash, he disappeared. The shadows evaporated, and light flooded the room. The fires and torches all went out.

“What the hay?” Fade asked. “Huh? That was the lamest boss battle!”

“It’s not over…” Luna whispered.

A cackling that Luna recognized as belonging to the draconic foe filled the room. “Let’ss ssee how the championss fare in a different kind of fight…”

From the ceiling emerged several large pipes. Luna gasped, and the pipes started pumping in glowing green liquid.

“Corruption!” Fade shouted. He launched into the air, Luna joining him. “We need to stop it!”

Before she could reply, Luna jerked sideways and flew up against the wall. She then hovered there and stopped moving.

“Memory!” Fade yelled. “What are you doing?”

Luna did not respond to him, but instead gazed off at the opposite wall.

“Oh, ponyfeathers.” Fade flew up to the ceiling and recalibrated his generators, directing them to focus his shield over the pipes. He managed to block three of them, but he didn’t have the energy to cover any others. Luna still floated in the air, unmoving.

Gah!” Fade shouted. The liquid was filling the room. He teleported himself next to Luna, grabbed her, and carried her up to the top of the room. Despite the flow of the substance being slowed, the room was already half-filled with the vile green slime. “Memory, wake up!”

Luna didn’t move.

Fade fired off his weapons at the pipes, but it had no effect.

Luna stayed immobile.

He tried to use his tech abilities on the pipes, but he couldn’t do anything.

Luna was still.

The liquid level rose and rose, and Fade could do nothing. He screamed as the level rose up and touched his foot. His vision flashed a violent red as the pure corruption filled him, and he lost control of his body and fell into the goo.

Luna fell with him.

Fade had only a moment to see Luna’s limp body be consumed by the green toxin before the destructive power filled his body.

The last thing he saw was the blank expression on her face.

~~~

Luna groaned as she slammed a hoof down on her desk next to her keyboard. Her headset was slightly ajar, and her sitting form was comfortably wrapped up in a blanket. Next to her sat a small table holding several sugary drinks and confections of varying levels of healthiness— mostly on the wrong side, according to the palace nutritionist.

“Come on… Function as designed, you blasted machine!” She shouted at her computer, which, at the moment, was locked up. Her four-monitor setup displayed the last image that had appeared when the computer was actually working.

One screen showed her character standing inside the room in which she had just been fighting. The subtitled text of the words of her dragon foe still floated on the screen. The next screen displayed all of her cooldowns as well as her damage and resistance statistics. It also contained the in-game chat, map, and combat die roll log. The next screen showed her internet phone call with Fade as well as their chat log. The last window was set on the game wiki page that held all the currently known information about the new raid that they were attempting.

Luna groaned and allowed her head to hit the desk. “I must be dead by now,” she muttered.

A static noise sounded in her headphones, and, after a moment, she could make out a voice calling out to her.

“—emory! Memory? Hellooooo? Are you there?” her partner asked loudly in the call. Luna sighed with relief.

“I’m here, Fade.”

“Oh, good. I thought something happened to your connection and that you’d totally crashed or something.” Fade laughed into his microphone.

Luna shook her head, even though Fade couldn’t see her. “Not my connection. My computer completely froze up. I still can’t do anything. What happened? Did we w—”

Just then, her computer returned to its normal operating mode. Her character flashed silver, and the in-game world went grayscale. The ever-so unhelpful text box appeared, cheerfully displaying the words, “You are dead.”

“Oh. Nevermind,” she said.

“Yeah… three hours of work. All for nothing.” Luna heard Fade sigh. “But hey, I just wanted to let you know that we were killed by corruption goop coming from the ceiling. There probably wasn’t anything that either of us could have done, even working together.”

“Corruption goop?” Luna asked. “Ugh. I should have known that they’d throw in a class specific part to the raid!” She shook her head and her mouth twisted into a grimace. “Only an Alchemist could have transmuted that.”

“Or, if we’d had more tech, we could have shielded the pipes in time to track the dragon down,” Fade added. “But yeah, an Alchemist would have helped.”

“Well, the update did make Alchemists more viable in the end-game. I guess this is their way of ‘encouraging’ players to use the flavor of the month.”

“Eww.” Fade snorted. “See, that stinks. Now we can’t just duo the boss like we usually do! We’ll have to grab a third for our runs of that quest.”

Luna levitated one of her drinks to her mouth and took a sip. “Indeed,” she replied after swallowing. “Oh well. No use complaining about it. At least it’s an update, after all.” She clicked on the button on her screen labeled, ‘Return to Base’ Her screen immediately displayed a loading bar and showed a picture of the map of Equus as portrayed by the game.

“Yeah, but this one just feels like a placeholder.” Fade sighed in Luna’s earphones. “The next update is the big one. I mean, Batponies? A fully mechanical race? Whatever that new mage class is? And the ‘Favored by Luna’ perk tree all coming out at the same time? It’ll be sweet!”

Luna chuckled nervously, though with a bit of a smile as she thought of when the developers had asked her for the use of her name, not knowing that she played their game. “Yeah, that’ll be great…”

“You don’t sound so thrilled,” Fade commented. “Something up?”

She sighed. “Fade, sometimes I think you’re too observant for your own good.”

“Yeah, I get that a lot.” The smug voice laughed, but then paused. “Wait, what does that mean?”

Luna giggled. “Oh, nothing.” She stretched back and yawned. “So, what did you think of the raid?”

“Honestly? I don’t know. It was cool at first with the massive battle outside. But the corridor part? It was… weird. The traps were way different than usual, but it was still easy. Too easy. I feel like it’s missing something. Or maybe we were missing something. I dunno. And that boss fight was really wimpy.”

Smirking, Luna replied, “Oh, really? Mr. ‘This is gonna be bad, I’m calling it now’ says that the boss fight was too easy. Interesting.”

“Aww, I thought you forgot about that. But seriously though, did you even take any health damage in the last fight against him? He kinda just monologued and made a few half-hearted attacks.”

Luna thought for a second. “Actually, with all the defense buffs I had on, my dodge chance was so high that I didn’t even take any shield damage.”

“See, there’s something up. That can’t have been the boss fight. There must be a chase scene or something after that fight, and then there’s the boss. There’s no way we’re that overpowered.”

“Oh, I agree. We’ll just have to get back to it and try again.” Luna sipped her drink again. Her screen returned back to the grayscale image, and her character stood right back where she had started. A new text box appeared, and Luna quickly read it. “Oh, horseapples!”

“What’s wrong?”

“I forgot about the whole ‘No respawns out of a new raid within the first day of release’ policy.” Luna groaned. “We have to wait an hour or until the raid is over to respawn back at base.”

“Aww, I forgot too… That means we’re stuck here for a while…”

Luna pursed her lips and adjusted her headphones. “I guess so… or, we could just hop onto some alts and farm for a bit!”

Laughter rang in her ears. “Ah, Memory. You and your farming.”

“Is that a yes I hear?” Luna smirked.

“Actually,” Fade began, “I think I may need to hit the sack. It’s four in the morning, Mem. I’m running the lunch and evening shifts tomorrow at the club.”

Luna’s grin faltered. Fade worked a lot, and she often lost track of the time when the two of them played. “Oh, okay.”

“But I’ll be back tomorrow evening, and maybe we can retry the raid then!” Fade’s voice was more chipper now.

“Sure!” Luna replied. “Have a good night’s sleep!”

“You too, Mem. Say hello to your sister for me!” Fade said.

Once again, Luna felt her smile twitch. Fade knew she had a sister, but he didn’t know who exactly her sister was… “Okay, can do!”

“All righty then. G’night!”

The call ended, and Fade’s chat icon went red as he signed out for the evening. Luna sighed and exited to the main menu.

“Well, I guess it’s just you and me, game…” she said quietly. She browsed through her home page and looked over her characters.

At the very top was her main character, Memory Mirror. Memory was a pegasus Hacker, and beside her name and class were three icons that Luna knew meant she had training as a Chaos Mage and a Spellsword. The third icon showed that she was also a Chosen of Celestia, one of the most difficult perks to earn in-game.

Luna browsed through her list of alternate characters, but she didn’t really feel like playing any of them. Her eyes drifted down to the bottom of the screen, and a glowing button caught her eye. She smiled lopsidedly and clicked on it.

New Character.

The screen transitioned to a dark background, and a text window appeared. “Play intro cinematic?” Luna read aloud. “Eh, why not?” She pressed the yes button. The screen went dark, and Luna cozied up in her blanket.

Equestria was beautiful once.

The sound of a distant drum resonated in her earphones as a mare whispered in a voice filled with longing.

Peaceful.

The screen slowly brightened and the drum hit again.

Safe.

A cello began to play a single haunted note. The slow drumbeat continued.

They say that you could walk outside unshielded.

The screen continued to become brighter, and Luna could just barely make out what looked like the skyline of an enormous city.

They say that foals could play under the sky.

The screen now showed the beautiful city glowing in the sun. Luna smiled as she looked at the beautifully rendered, three-dimensional image. She could see towers and spires, castles and schools, and even the palace itself. She recognized it as an artist’s interpretation of Canterlot in the far future.

They say that magic wasn’t our enemy, so long ago.

The background behind the city grew brighter and brighter. The music swelled with the drums, growing in intensity. Violins joined the cello, and her screen became completely white. The brilliant light stayed for a moment, and the music suddenly stopped.

But not any more.

The music returned to her earphones with a vengeance. Electronic instruments joined the strings, and the city reappeared on the screen. This time, it was in ruins. The sun was blocked out by a red sky, and the beauty had made way for destruction. The scene changed once more, and the beautiful city of the past returned to Luna’s screen.

For thousands of years, the four Princesses ruled peacefully. Equestria was a shining jewel of culture. The world was at peace. Science and magic advanced the lives of all beings, and Princess Celestia and her ponies led the way.”

The music calmed down, and Luna saw foals playing in the streets of the city. Carts flew in the air with enclosures for the passengers. Ponies laughed as they passed each other on the street.

But, as with all things, it did not last.

The scene cut to a shadow of a pony in a lab coat laughing while a magical orb sparkled in front of them.

A single scientist, driven mad by magic, ripped the fabric of magic itself. She changed its very nature.

The music grew in intensity. Back at the city, the sky became orange, and the ponies on the street gasped.

What had once helped life now threatened to destroy it. Magic lost all of its rules. If a being could think it, it could happen. And magic made it happen.

The ground opened up as an earthquake split the street in two. Some ponies fell into the fissures, and others ran away for their lives. Lightning struck the ground and lit fires in the city.

The Princesses tried to stop it.

Luna grimaced at this part. The screen showed four ponies standing on a tower silhouetted against a red sun. She recognized them immediately, of course. Magic surrounded the four ponies, shooting out of all of them and meeting to form a single ray. The beam of energy lanced out at the sun.

They failed.

The ray sparkled, fizzled, and stopped. Suddenly, it reappeared glowing an impossible shade of crimson. It shot back at the ponies, and the four Princesses fell to the floor of the tower.

But hope was not lost. Magic may have failed them, but they had one final option.

The tower and the Princesses faded. The music rose to a crescendo, and a new image appeared on the screen.

Spaceships. Rows and rows of shining spaceships filled the screen. Ponies ran to and fro, boarding the hulking mechanical behemoths.

If magic could not save them, then science would. The Princesses made a plan. Manipulating the new magic that changed dreams into reality, they made a fleet of ships to take their ponies to the stars.

The ships took off into the red sky. Luna could see the faces of ponies, griffons, minotaurs, and many other beings pushed up against the windows on the sides of the ships.

The Princesses would stay behind. They thought they could fix the world, but they needed time.

As the ships cleared the atmosphere, the music rose to even greater heights. The violins cried out and the bass rumbled. The view turned to see Equus as a violet shield rose to cover the entire planet.

They sent the ships and their precious cargo out into space where the new magic could no longer harm them.

Drifting off into deeper space, the ships slowly faded into the distance and the view turned back to the now-shielded Equus.

For a thousand years, the planet lay silent. The survivors stayed in their ships. They grew food, mined asteroids, had children… and they passed the mantle to their descendants. Generation after generation rose and fell, and the planet waited.

The screen turned black, and the music slowly faded.

It waited… for their Return.

A silver word appeared on the screen, accompanied by a final note from the symphony.

Return.

Luna nodded to herself and smiled. The character creation screen appeared next, and the princess leaned back in her chair. She stretched out and yawned. Turning back to the computer, she pressed several buttons.

“Well, let’s see how Alchemists work now, shall we?”

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