• Published 5th May 2018
  • 1,183 Views, 376 Comments

Seven Days in Sunny June, Book V: The New Frontier - Shinzakura

The conclusion of the Seven Days in Sunny June saga! The world has changed, and those within it must cope with the aftermath of what has happened.

  • ...

August 28: E=MC²

“All rise,” the bailiff announced. “All rise. Department Two of the Superior Court is now in session. The Honorable Judge Docket Brief is now in session.” The judge came in and sat behind his bench. “Please be seated.”

Brief, a genial older man with thinning forest-green hair and squarish glasses, shuffled papers on his benchtop before looking at everyone. “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Now, I will admit, adoptions tend to be a fairly commonplace thing. Easy as pie, procedurally speaking.” He then took off his glasses and gave everyone a helpless stare. “But I have never, before in my judicial career, processed an adoption for a girl that technically does not exist, much less one gaining international attention. ” He looked at Cadance. “Counselor, would you please clear this up for me?”

Cadance couldn’t help but be impish: “Your honor, it all apparently started the day when a magical unicorn came through a portal located at Canterlot High School….” Her further speech was cut off by the sudden laughter from the witness stands.

Brief himself chuckled. “That answer actually seems more plausible than everything I’ve read here,” he said with a smile. “In any case, I have looked over the documentation and as I understand it, the subject of the petition never got a birth certificate due to her circumstances?”

Cadance looked at documentation she had prepared at her table; she obviously knew the truth and ironically had just told him so, but she had to act her part. Besides, as a lawyer, she knew any good lie had to have a grain of truth in it. “Yes, sir. The FBI is currently looking into the case. While I am not privy to details due to conflict of interest, my general understanding is that all the evidence was correct: seventeen years ago a young girl was stolen from her parents and it was undetected because of the unfortunate still birth of her fellow triplet. The surviving unabducted sister was believed to be the only one, and for years this persisted.”

Seated at the petitioners table, Sunset looked at Cadance, then the judge, and couldn’t help but feel a little lost. She knew this was all a tale being spun for her sake, yet it was plausible and believable and she felt bad for deceiving the judge. Yet a lie had to be a legal truth in order for her to exist in this world.

Brief looked at his bailiff. “What is the situation regarding that?”

“I was able to inquire, your honor. There is a warrant out for a Ms. Faustus.”

“That’s good to know. In the meanwhile, we can correct at least one wrong here immediately: I am directing the California Department of Social Services to promptly issue a birth certificate for the subject individual, backdated with all the relevant information copied from her sister. I am additionally directing the State to make relevant corrections to the sister’s birth certificate as well. Additionally, the State must notify the Social Security Administration, so that the relevant SSNs can be issued and/or adjusted, as required.” He looked at Sunset. “Welcome to the world of the legally living, Ms. Shimmer.”

He then looked back to Cadance. “Now, as for the other portion: I understand that the birth mother has recently found out about the existence of her daughter?”

“Your honor, I call Her Imperial Highness, Princess Solaire Beaharnaise Pagerie Trois-Îlets de Martinique d’Celestia of the House of Bonaparte, to the stand.” Solaire walked up.

“Uh….” Brief began, unsure of where to go with that mouthful.

“‘Mrs. D’Celestia’ would suffice, your honor,” Solaire told him. “I was married to an American man and hold American legal resident status.”

“I…see. Well then, Mrs. D’Celestia, if you would be so kind as to explain?”

“I would be delighted to.” Solaire then went on her practiced statement, explaining how she felt upon encountering Sunset, filling in the details from both the old timeline and the new and weaving them smoothly so that it would work. She then explained her shock and joy at Sunset being alive, tempered by the sorrow of losing her once again in a sense.

“I see. Thank you. But I must ask: you do not have a problem with the petition going through?”

“No.” Solaire looked at Night and Velvet and said, “In the past month, I have grown to know them and they are wonderful people. And I would not do that to loving parents, nor to my own child. As difficult as the decision is, fate has already made its move and I would not be the monster that compounded the issue.”

He then looked at Night and Velvet. “And do you feel the same way?”

“Your honor, we love her,” Velvet said, simply and honestly. “Since the day she came into our lives, she has been a special part of it, both the ups and the downs, and I wouldn’t want to change a single thing.”

“I completely agree,” Night said. “I have had a unique time raising several other girls, and Sunset is no less special. She came to us in need and we have grown to love her and take her in as part of our family. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Finally, the judge looked at Sunset. “Ms. Shimmer, do you wish to say anything?”

Sunset looked at the judge, then stood up. “I…I’m not sure of what to say, your honor. I’ve been blessed with so much…friends, family, a life, when I had nothing a few years ago. Maybe if I’d not tried to go it on my own for so long, things could have been easier for me, but that was what I was taught by my guardian…by Ms. Faustus. And…I don’t hate her. I can’t hate her. She made me what I am today.”

A liar, because no one like that exists, Sunset thought bitterly, though she kept that part to herself.

“All I can say is that I’m lucky enough to have what I have now, and I don’t want to lose it – I don’t want to lose them. I love my family, and I want to be with them.”

Brief looked at her and smiled. “Well, now, I don’t think I could say no to an earnest response like that. Let it be known that on this date, the State of California grants the formal petition for Night Light and Twilight Velvet to adopt Sunset Shimmer.” He smiled. “Congratulations to the happy family.”

Sunset’s heart stopped. At long last, the words she’d longed to hear had occurred, and she now truly had a mother and father. She broke down in tears of joy and fiercely hugged both her mother and then her father, then Cadance and turned to barely mouth out a “Thank you!” to the judge, but no sound came, because she was too overcome.

Velvet, however, did it for her. “Thank you, Dock,” she said solemnly, tears running down her cheeks.

Brief himself felt a bit misty-eyed. “For all the good you’ve done with children, you’ve earned this, Vel,” he told her. “While I’m glad you ended up in my court, I doubt even if the judge didn’t know you they’d find you to be a wonderful mother, and your husband an excellent father.”

A massive squee sounded from the witness seats as over a dozen girls rushed forward to hug Sunset, cheering her good fortune and crying along with her, bouncing along in happiness and generally causing disorder in the court.

“Should I call for order, your honor?” the bailiff asked.

Brief leaned against his hand on the bench, watching as thirteen teenage girls involved themselves in a massive huggle ball.

“No, I rather think given everything she’s been through she’s entitled to a little disorder, don’t you think?” Brief said with a smile.

A couple of hours later, the reception was held at Sunset’s home, and to say that the house was swimming in teenagers was an understatement. Friends both close and extended all came to wish Sunset well, and she’d had time to talk to many of her friends. Even Pinkie and Rose, who were still at each other’s throats over Sunset’s affections, called a temporary truce so that Sunset could spend the day with others.

“I’m…I’m so…happy for you!” Rarity said, all waterworks and drama, her mascara smearing. She hugged Sunset warmly, congratulating her dearest friend for something that was long overdue.

“Thank you, Rares,” Sunset said, knowing her friend’s drama mode was well-intentioned even though it was the usual Rarity being Rarity.

“Looks like you hit the big time, huh?” Applejack said, clapping her friend on the shoulder. “Ah knew you deserved this, sugar.”

“Thanks,” Sunset said, blushing.

As for the rest of her friends, they all came by and offered their congratulations as well as more well-wishes and Sunset took it in stride. Yes, she was now an official princess; the press conference Solaire had yesterday confirmed it. No, she didn’t think it mattered much. No, surprisingly she did not want to forget Ms. Faustus; despite Sunset knowing what the woman that had raised her had done was wrong, Sunset couldn’t find it in her heart to hate her.

Kinda hard to hate someone that doesn’t really exist, she added, though she kept that last part to herself.

No, she wasn’t moving to France. Yes, she and her family probably would accept Solaire’s offer to head to Paris for Christmas this year so that Sunset could meet her extended birth family. No, she really didn’t have an opinion on what it was like to be raised American, and then suddenly find out she was both French and American. Yes, when she went she would spy on several chocolatiers for Bon-Bon.

For once, Sunset felt like she did in the old days, when she’d forced the whole of Canterlot High to make her the center of attention. But this time was different. This time, she was the focus because her friends wanted her to be, and it was nothing that she’d done. If anything, the fact that she’d tried for so long not to be the center had caused this.

In the end, it didn’t matter whether people knew the truth of the matter or not, Sunset decided. She had a family that she loved and loved her back. That was a start, and a jumping point that she could happily appreciate. Tomorrow would bring new challenges and adventures, but for now, she could just bask in the life of a normal teenage girl and not worry about the world.

It could sort itself out.

Seated a slight distance away, Compass Rose looked at Shimmer. “So, you leave tomorrow?” Rose asked.

Shimmer nodded. “I really don’t want to, to be honest. This past month…it’s been like a dream, and not just because I finally found my sister. It’s been a learning situation for me, but it’s also been somewhat of an ordeal. And, well, I have my life to get back to, Rose.”

“I’m sorry about that,” Rose told her. “I’m sorry I couldn’t have been there for you when you needed me. I know we were just little kids, but you were my friend, and I didn’t do enough for you.”

Shimmer gave her a smile. “You did as much as you could. We were children, remember? Not as worldly as we are now, or not even as worldly as children that are the same age we were back then are now.”

Rose nodded. “Oh, and I have something for you,” she said, digging into her purse. “I had always meant to give this back to you, but for some reason, I kept forgetting to give it to Sunny. Maybe it was my subconscious mind saying something; not really sure. In any case, I know this belongs to you.”

Rose withdrew a small plush dog and handed it to Shimmer. “You lent this to me on a day I wasn’t feeling so good and now it’s time for it to go home.”

Shimmer took the plushie, holding it close to her, the memories coming back to her. “Thank you,” she said softly, touched by her friend’s gesture.

“And even though you’re returning to France, I want to keep in touch,” Rose insisted. “You were my friend before your sister became my love interest, and I don’t want either to go by the wayside.”

“Rose, Sunny’s straight. I know how you feel about her, but don’t push yourself onto her,” Shimmer cautioned. “Even though she’s remaining here, it doesn’t mean that we’ll be out of each other’s lives, so I’ll know about it if you do – and I consider myself protective of her now, even though she really doesn’t need me to do that. Regardless, I would love to keep in touch.”

“Well,” Rose said with a gleam in her eye, “if I play my cards right, you just might be my future sister-in-law.” Shimmer couldn’t help but giggle at that.

Pinkie found Raspberry sitting by herself by the far edge of the property. Pinkie had wanted to take a walk herself, given that she was going to keep to her self-imposed promise to let her love be today, but given the forlorn look on her friend’s face, she felt she had to intervene.

“Razz? You okay?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Raspberry said softly. “It’s just…okay, seeing Sunset get exactly what she wanted makes me homesick all the more. I know I’m going home; now it’s a matter of when instead of if. It’s just…I don’t know how long I’ve been gone, or what’s going on. The last letter I sent to Equestria this morning hints that there’s some sort of time dilation going on, so while for me it’s only been a couple of weeks here, it might have been months or years away from home, and I don’t know what’s changed.”

“Yeah, Narnia time will do that,” Pinkie said sadly.

“Narnia time?”

“It’s a reference to a novel series that has time dilation as one of the principles of going between this world and the other,” Pinkie explained. “Granted, it’s really just a plot device that allowed the author to be as allegorical as he wanted to be, but nowadays people see it as an early example of metaphysicality in fantasy and science fiction.”

Raspberry looked at her. “You know, sometimes I forget that you’re smarter than your counterpart. I mean, no offense to her; Pinkie’s sweet-natured and one of my dearest friends. But she’s not as complex as you are.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve been told I’m not the average sort of Pinkie,” she said with a wink. “So what’s next for you? We go back to school next week. You planning to join us?”

Raspberry shook her head. “No, I’ll be working downstairs and trying to strengthen the connection so I can go home. It’s probably for the best that I don’t involve myself with human affairs any longer anyway; I’ve just started to get adjusted to this place and I really don’t want to run into something that will make me change my mind again.”

“Well, I’m sure that Sunny will be able to get you home. You’re important to her, and besides, I suspect you’ll be carrying an important message for her.”

“Oh yeah, don’t worry – I haven’t forgotten about that jerk,” Raspberry said, thinking about the crystal currently in secure storage that held an unconscious miniaturized Divine Right. “He’ll be headed straight to Tartarus as soon as I get home.”

“That’s great, but…I’m not talking about that.”

“Oh, the triplets’ petition to restart SIREN as a part of the Equestrian military? Yeah, I—”

Pinkie looked at Raspberry, eyeball to eyeball. “Razz? You know what I mean.”

“I…I’m honestly not sure, Pinkie. Remember: I’m not human. I don’t have a human mindset and so I can’t think exactly like you do.”

“Well you love your adoptive parents, right?”

“They’re the biggest reason I want to go home,” Raspberry admitted. “Even without my friends and my duties, if it wasn’t for them, I would still be alone in this world, Heelee aside. They love me and I love them and I want to see my parents again.”

But I suspect you also love your birth mother, too, right? I know you told me about how your father mistreated you and abused you and what you were forced to do to survive. But in that, I didn’t hear any condemnation for your birth mother. Which means that you must have loved her enough that you don’t like to talk about her, because you’re afraid you’ll conflate your love for her with your hatred for your father, right?”

Raspberry looked at the other girl before her and was reminded once again why the two Pinkies were so different. While they were at heart the same, her pony friend back home was more innocent and hyper. This one was the latter, but the slings and arrows of human experience had given her a far different way to look at the world. And the analytical mind that Raspberry had usually equated with Twilight was now on full display.

“I…I see that in Sunny, too. She loves and misses her birth mom but doesn’t really know how to reconcile it with the adoptive parents she now has. She’s afraid that even mentioning her will make her lose that connection, even though I’m sure that Mrs. Velvet and Mr. Light told her that isn’t the case. But Sunny, deep down, is emotionally fragile and doesn’t take well to being hurt like that.

“I love her more than anything and I want to make sure that she never feels that pain. Because I have a love-hate relationship with my own mother, and I’m always afraid that will color my interactions with my father and my siblings. It doesn’t – nor would Auntie Cup and Uncle Carrot let that happen – but I can see how Sunny would be afraid of losing the mother she had because of the parents she has now. It’s a silly thought, but…well, we’re only human, after all.”

“I see. But how does that square with Sunny?”

“Because I know she’ll write a letter to her mother, asking to come home. To let her know that despite everything, Sunny still loves her birth mother. And I want to make sure that letter gets there. Because I love Sunny and I want the best for her. Even if we take a long time to end up with each other – and boy is that going to be an interminable wait – I still want what’s best for her.”

Raspberry didn’t take the time to correct Pinkie that Sunset was not the foaled daughter of the princess. “You’re probably right about that letter.”

“I know I am.”

Sunset looked at the delicacy before her: a cake that had been made not by Sugarcube Corner Café, but by Saigon Sweets.

“It’s not anything we normally do,” Bon-Bon told her, “but for you, it was worth it.”

“It looks heavenly,” Octavia said with appreciation.

“Yes, but I’m not planning to do this regularly,” the chocolatier insisted. “I would hate to run into competition with Sugarcube Corner Café, even if indirectly; and besides, we’re confectioners, not a café.”

“Well, I’m sure that Pinkie’s family appreciates that,” Fluttershy insisted.

“I’m sure I appreciate that,” Lyra insisted. “If Bonnie’s family made cakes, too, then I’d never lose any weight!”

It was now late afternoon. All of her extended circle of friends had gone home, and Sunset and Raspberry, accompanied by the rest of the “Majestic Twelve”, Shimmer and the rest of the folks in the know crowded down into the SIREN lair. The reason was, hopefully, to see Raspberry off back to Equestria.

At the moment, the portal flickered with iridescent energies. It looked as though it was calm, but that could be easily deceptive: the dragonfire candle was warping and wavering, going from calm at one moment to raging flame the next.

“Are you sure you want to do this, Razz?” Sunset asked her. “I’m not entirely sure it’s safe.”

“Sunny, I want to go home,” Raspberry told her. “Besides, you know me. I’m made of sterner stuff, okay? If I can survive werewolf bites and having my throat slashed, I’m pretty sure I can last this.”

“You had your throat slashed?” Fluttershy gasped, shocked.

“Werewolf bite?” Rainbow asked, interested.

“And here I thought Ponyland was supposed to be nice and calm,” Aria said with a smirk, her arms folded in a smug posture.

“Well, just because things are more peaceful there than they are here doesn’t mean that it’s a cakewalk by any means,” Raspberry insisted. “We still get our share of weirdness and problems, which is why I’m lucky to have my magic.” She sighed wistfully as she called a yellow magic sphere to her hand. “Although….”

“Let me guess,” Sunset ventured. “You’ve gotten used to the utility of human magic?”

“That obvious?”

“Only to someone with your affliction, Razz.” When Raspberry looked at her oddly, Sunset said, “Look, the magic is going to eventually have to go somewhere: it’s the law of thaumophysics at work. But we can’t allow it to go back to Divine Right somehow, or worse, someone with a similar magical imprint – that would just make them that much stronger. So…the only choice we have will be to bind it to you.”

“Can you do that?” the unicorn asked.

“Yeah, but if I do, you’ll only be able to use it when you’re in your human form. And obviously it won’t heal your leg, nor will it override your Sombraic form. It isn’t doing that now, so it won’t do it afterwards. But it will give you access to that magic in your human form.” Sunset smiled. “Think of it as a secret weapon you’ll have when the chips are down.”

“I can live with that.”

Sunset cast a spell, embedding it into Raspberry’s heart. “While you’re in Equestria, you’ll be able to access your human form with limited time. The magic isn’t yours natively, so you won’t be able to recharge it as fast, but hopefully it will give you the edge you need in case of an emergency.”

“Thanks, Sunny. I appreciate that.”

“Well, I guess we should test the portal,” Sunset suggested. She walked over to the candle, and jotted down a quick note on paper, sending it over. “Hopefully, someone on the other side should be watching for our response.”

A few seconds later, a response came.

Sunset stepped in front of the mirror. “Well, time to test it out. Wish me luck!”

Raspberry looked at Sunset oddly. “What?”

“Razz, you might be strong…but I’m an alicorn. If there’s anypony who should test it, it’s me.”

“Sunny, I….”

“Please don’t!” Twilight rushed over and hugged her sister fiercely. “What if you get stuck and we never see you again?”

Sunset hugged her sister back. “That won’t happen, Twily. I promise it won’t.”

“Are you absolutely sure?” Luna asked. “While I know that you’ve worked everything out from the last time you went, as I recall, you spent a week there and it was only five minutes here.”

“There seems to be some sort of time dilation going on,” Sunset explained. “We need to know how to counter it if you’re going to visit Equestria.”

“What?” all of them said at once.

Sunset nodded. “Someday…you’re going to want to know about where I’m from, and I’ll want that, too. Plus, Ari and Soni will probably want to visit Razz, too.” She then looked at the triplets. “And then there’s that project you three have been cooking up behind my back….”

Adagio looked at her cousin uncomfortably. “So you…know about that, huh?”

“No, but thanks for confirming what I suspected,” Sunset sighed. “That’s for Mom to decide, though.”

“I’m not thrilled with it,” Velvet said, side-eying her three nieces, “because I’m supposed to keep you three safe. But at the same time, if it wasn’t for your grandmother, Sunny, they wouldn’t be here to begin with, so I guess there’s little choice in the matter.”

“Probably not,” Sunset agreed. “Give the documentation to Razz, and she can present it to the Crown on your behalf.” Sunset took a look at the portal, which was starting to turn an angry red. “Razz, put a shield up for when I go through.”

“You got it,” the unicorn replied, while the triplets fetched small arms from the racks, just to be on the safe side.

Taking a deep breath, Sunset wandered through….

…and screamed in pain as the raw magic burned her…

…and then came out the other side, still in her human form, her clothes scorched, and wisps of heat coming off her as the air warped in the process, but otherwise unscathed. She shivered at the sudden cold in the air.

“Sunny?” She felt fur enclose her, and a warm embrace fill her. “How are you feeling?”

“Like I just went sunbathing in Death Valley in the middle of summer,” she said woozily.

“You guys have a place called Death Valley?” Sunset looked up and saw two familiar cyan eyes looking at her with worry.

She then realized who she was speaking to. “It’s just a name, Fluttershy. It’s actually a desert that’s full of life. I suspect it’s called Death Valley because it’s a low desert and everything hibernates until that rare rain or snowstorm. But it does get hotter than the Badlands during the summer.”

“Oh, well, that’s good, I guess.” The timid pegasus shuffled her wings slightly in nervousness; clearly she still wasn’t used to Sunset’s human form, or still had some apprehension due to the myths. “Well, it’s good to see you.”

“Yeah, but why is it so cold? It’s late summer where I’m from and the time dilation can’t be that bad.”

“Actually….” Sunset looked up to see Twilight looking at her. “it was much harder to break than we expected. Apparently, it was built into the Mirror as a failsafe by Star Swirl, though we don’t know the reason. The only way to remove it was to place an equally-strong spell on it so that it didn’t end up like Sombra’s mirror. As a result, there’s going to be a permanent time dilation, but on the bright side, the new spell will return you back to your world only a second after you left.” The alicorn gave a wan smile. “It was…probably one of the most complex spells I’ve ever had to assemble, and Luna helped a lot.”

“How bad are we talking?” Sunset asked, until she noted that Twilight was wearing a scarf. “Winter?”

“It’s the 17th day of Midwinter, 1237 Anno Alicornis,” Twilight told her. “Five months after we last heard from you and eight months since Razz got teleported over. How’s she doing? Everypony’s been worried about her.”

“She’s doing fine. She’s not happy about being stuck in my world, but….” Sunset shrugged, while her mind swam. Eight months. Razz is not going to be happy about that.

“Fluttershy, do you mind giving us some privacy?” Twilight asked her friend. “I need to speak to Sunset alone for a moment.”

“Of course,” the pegasus said sweetly before heading out of the room while Sunset repaired her clothing, then changed into something a bit warmer.

“Sorry about that; I hadn’t thought to have the room heated. Still trying to figure things out about my castle,” Twilight said.

“You have a castle now, huh?” Sunset asked her.

“Well, as I understand it, you have wings now, so we’re even,” the other alicorn said with a grin. She then added, “You know, your mother asked me to let her know as soon as you arrived in Equestria.”

“I figured as much, but…not right now,” Sunset told her. “Not that I don’t want to see her; I have so much to say to her, but we need to get Razz back home and we can’t have this time dilation messing with things. Plus, the raw interdimensional forces were enough to cook me and make me hurt; I’m not sure even she’s going to be able to survive that.”

“Yeah, that is a problem,” Twilight said. “I’m sure we can figure something out, but that’s going to take extra time we don’t have, especially now that you’re here. Time still moves on.”

“Well, maybe if you can do some quick calculations for me, I might be able to fix it.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow.

Sunset just folded her arms, smug as could be.

“You what?” Raspberry blinked. Sunset had been gone for ten minutes and during that tense time, she’d explained that two days had gone past in Equestria, that “Narnia time” (as Pinkie had put it) was stabilizing, but it was still jagging here and there and probably would for at least another day or two until the new quantum tunnel stabilized.

“Yeah. We fixed the portal. Basically it involves carving a whole new wormhole through the interdimensional medium, but given that I’ve got the raw power output, I could do it. I’m exhausted, though. Probably not going to do that again anytime soon since I had to tap into the raw mana field surrounding Equus in order to do that.”

“That’s not scientifically possible!” Raspberry gasped. “You’re not scientifically possible!”

“Where have I heard that before,” Twilight drawled and rolled her eyes, eliciting a giggle from her cousins.

“Actually, I think any alicorn could have done it,” Sunset pointed out. “It’s just that I have the strongest power output and with the help of sompony else who has far better granular control of magic than I do, we got the job done. The point is…you can go home. But you’ll want to change to winter clothing; it’s the equivalent of mid-winter back there.”

“I’ll just feel inadequate right now until I figure out how you did it,” Raspberry sighed. She then looked at her baggage and everything else. She then looked at Heliodor, who was calmly sitting on his perch. “You ready to go?”

He chirped and nodded.

“Well, this is it for a while,” Raspberry began, but was immediately set upon by hugs from Aria and Sonata. “Hey, no need to be so clingy, okay? We’ll see each other again.”

“We’d better,” Aria insisted.

“I’ll cry if you don’t,” Sonata added.

She hugged the two, then looked at the others. “Don’t be strangers, okay? You’re welcome to come to Equestria anytime.”

“Don’t forget us, dear,” Rarity said as she embraced the girl.

“I couldn’t. Trust me, after being tortured with a bra? I can’t forget that,” Raspberry said awkwardly.

“Well, at least you don’t have to wear them where you’re goin’, Ah figure,” Applejack said.

“Lucky her,” Rainbow grumbled, and all the other girls glared at her. “Just sayin’, okay? They chafe.” Flat stares continued and Rainbow blew a fuse. “What, you think I wear sports bras all the time?”

“TMI, Ms. Dash, TMI,” Luna cautioned.

“Says the teacher who doesn’t wear them on occasion!” Rainbow said, pointing at Luna’s current attire.

Luna blushed and Velvet laughed. “She has you there, Lu.”

“Shut up.”

“Well, be that as it may,” Celestia said, “tomorrow is still a long day and I’m sure Raspberry doesn’t want to spend any longer here.”

Raspberry then went over and hugged Luna. “Thank you for offering to take me in.”

Luna hugged her back. “I couldn’t do anything less. You needed someone.”

She then went and said her goodbyes to the remainder of the girls, as well as Night, Cadance, Shining and Spike (who really did not care for the kisses on the cheek, though he said he’d miss her). Doublechecking all her items, as well as the documents and “critical package” she needed to deal with, she then stepped through the portal and went home.

Sunset watched as the portal stopped flickering when Raspberry went through, and then touched a sigil on the statue. The magical circle flared once before vanishing, and the statue became a lifeless hunk of concrete, metal and marble once more.

“And that’s that,” Sunset said, looking at everyone. The melancholy was thick, as they all seemed to realize that a part of their whole adventure was now ending, and life was beginning to shift back to normal.

Night looked at the clock. “Anyone up for dinner? I guess we can have one last barbeque before Shimmy and family head back to France.”

Velvet looked at her husband with loving appreciation. “That sounds like a wonderful idea,” she said, leaning on his shoulder.

Raspberry stepped through the portal, feeling the cold instantly; her winter coat hadn’t grown in, and she was already starting to feel the biting cold.

“Razz?” a voice creaked. “Is that you?” Raspberry turned to look as an aged pegasus in her senior years stepped forward. To Raspberry’s horror, there was still some identifiable color in the mare’s multicolored mane.

“Rainbow?” the unicorn gasped. “Wha…what happened?”

“Sunset was wrong,” the old mare commented. “Her and Twi’s idea…it didn’t work. You’ve been gone a long time.”

How long?” Raspberry said, dread creeping into her voice.

“About six or seven decades.” The look in Rainbow’s eyes was sad. “I’m…I’m so sorry. Your parents….” Rainbow coughed, cutting off the rest of her words.

“No….” Raspberry whispered, disbelieving. “My family. My friends! My life!”

Rainbow looked with pity at her timelost friend and said one single word:


Raspberry’s eyes went wider than dinner plates as the “old” mare fell to the ground collapsing in a fit. A bracelet fell off her hoof, dispelling the aging illusion.

“Did you actually think—” Rainbow’s words trailed off into side-splitting laughter as her ultimate prank worked wonders on Raspberry.

“RAINBOW!” Raspberry snarled, her anger immediately coming to the forefront.

“Hey, you had to admit, it was a good prank, right?” Rainbow asked, suddenly realizing she might have gone a bit too far. The pegasus began to back away from Platinum’s Mirror, step by step. A blast of green fire flickered past Rainbow’s withers, and she immediately bolted, only to be caught in a magenta magic field.

“Sorry about that, Razz,” Twilight said as she entered the room. “I went to use the little filly’s room, and if I had known she was going to do that….”

“Let’s just say she’s lucky I didn’t lose my temper,” Raspberry replied, glaring at the trapped pegasus.

I’m surprised,” Twilight admitted. “Usually your temper would’ve gotten the better of you by now.”

“Yeah, well, let’s just say spending two weeks in the human world has been a unique situation for me,” Raspberry admitted.

“Well, I don’t know what time it is over there, but here it’s just after midnight,” Twilight told her. “I know you’re going to want to go home, but your parents aren’t there right now.”

“They’re not?”

Twilight shook her head. “Your parents are spending the week with your brother in Manehattan,” she explained. “Your sister-in-law gave birth to a colt, so congratulations, you’re an aunt now.”

“I missed most of Black Cherry’s pregnancy, it seems,” Raspberry admitted, “though then again I still really don’t know them all that well yet. I guess I’ll have to wait until Mom and Dad get back then; I have a lot of ground to cover Crown-wise, Twi. The least of which is prisoner handling.”

“Prisoner handling?” Twilight asked.

Raspberry nodded. “We have, believe it or not, a human that’s dangerous enough that he has to go to Tartarus. I know that sounds strange, but he could destabilize our world if he’s not there…and he’s too dangerous for Earth.”

“He could destabilize our world? How?”

“Because he’s responsible for Sunset’s death,” Raspberry explained. “You were the one who told me what one of the vital things necessary for an alicorn to rise was, right? Well, let’s just say that getting her to that point was no fun.”

“Celestia’s going to want to know about this.”

“No, she’s not. Think about it.”

Twilight thought about it, and her eyes grew as wide as Raspberry’s had been earlier. “You’re right – we probably shouldn’t tell her about it.”

Raspberry reached into her sidepack with her magic and pulled out a large crystal. “Here. He’s trapped in this thing.”

Twilight took it and looked at it. “Wow, a containment crystal? I’ve never seen power compression on this level. Sunset?”

“You had to ask?”

Twilight nodded. “I’ll have one of the guards put this in secure storage until we can get to Tartarus to release him. In the meanwhile, if I may recommend, you’ll probably want to get to sleep early so you can readjust to the day/night cycle.”

“Yeah, you have a point.” She then looked at the crystal walls. “So, new digs, I understand?”

“Yeah. It’s a long story, but I’ll tell you about it in the morning while I give you the tour. In fact, let’s get you to your room.”

Raspberry looked at her friend. “My room?”

“Yup! All of my courtiers have permanent rooms here if you ever feel like staying in it. Call it the privileges of being in the Court of Friendship, and besides, it helps liven up an empty castle.”

“Thanks. Mind showing me?”

“No problem.” Twilight grabbed Raspberry’s bag in her magic grasp and the two walked off.

As they walked off, Rainbow called back, “Twi, mind…uh…releasing me?”

“Oh, the spell will wear off in the morning, Rainbow,” Twilight said smoothly. “Think of it…as a prank.”

Rainbow sighed.

“And that’s everything,” Raspberry said the following morning as they sat at the round table, facing all her friends. It had been hugs and nuzzles all around and her friends were overjoyed to see her (Rarity cried up a storm when she saw her) and over breakfast, the whole group talked, with Raspberry going through everything that she’d experienced over the past couple of weeks, including the time change.

“So, in resetting the timeline over in the human reality, her majesty must’ve unintentionally broken the interdimensional links between our world and theirs,” Twilight mused. “At any other time, that would be a fascinating thing to study, but things were touch and go for a while there.”

“Yeah, it’s been a rough time. Between th’ end o’ th’ war against Tirek, an’ winter settin’ in early ‘cause o’ Celestia’s depression at thinkin’ Sunset was dead, it’s been tough for us farmers,” Applejack told her. “Luna’s been payin’ farmers for both lost crops an’ to try to grow whatever we can right now. We Apples are workin’ t’ the tailbone, as are th’ Carrots an’ several other families. Still,” she said with a yawn, “Ah know Ah’m plum tired, an’ Ah wouldn’t doubt any other farmhoof is as well.”

“Yeah, and we’ve been trying to bake lots of extra food for the needy, especially since there’s still so many of them after all the repeated attacks by Tirek fanatics,” Pinkie said. “We’ve actually had the ovens at Sugarcube Corner burn out their heating crystals twice and as a result we couldn’t bake an engagement cake for Twi and Div!”

Twilight facehooved. “Pinkie, for the hundredth time, Div and I are not engaged!”

“The more you deny it, the more it’s obvious,” Rarity commented drily.

“Did I miss something?” Raspberry asked.

“Oh, not much,” Fluttershy commented. “Just that Twi has a coltfriend now and he’s a charmer.”

“For the last time,” Twilight gasped, “Divine Right and I are not dating!”

“What?!” Raspberry asked, shocked.

“Is everything okay, Razz?”

Raspberry then explained everything about the Divine Right she’d had to deal with, and what he’d done and what he had planned to do to the human world. When she was done, her friends all looked at her with shock.

“But that’s not the Divine Right we know,” Fluttershy told her. “He’s a gentlestallion and a genuinely nice guy.”

“Ah’ll say,” Applejack agreed. “Even though he’s Captain of the Friendship Guard an’ a prince, he’s been helpin’ out on th’ farm on his days off just ‘cause we’re overworked.”

“Yes, he is quite the gentlestallion,” Rarity agreed. “I, for one, cannot believe what you’re saying, Raspberry, dear. Not that I believe you’re lying, but I just cannot reconcile the charming fellow with this monster you’ve had to deal with.”

“Spike,” Twilight asked her brother, “would you be so kind as to invite Capt. Right to breakfast with us? I think having his input might be a good idea.”

“He has today off, Twi,” Spike reminded her. “He’s probably out at Sweet Apple Acres right now, helping out the others.”

“Yeah, now that Ah reckon, Ah saw him this morning on mah way over,” Applejack added.

“Well, for a stallion, he’s totally cool,” Rainbow told Raspberry. “Plus, he’s got a hot plot!”

“Rainbow!” Rarity scolded.

“Well, he does. I mean, yeah, he’s not as cute as Soarin’, but still.”

“Well, I think he’s handsome,” Fluttershy said, blushing. “But I wouldn’t dream of stealing Twilight’s coltfriend.”

“Why me?” Twilight sighed. After a few minutes, she recovered and said, “Well, in any case, I have a meeting scheduled this afternoon for us with Princess Celestia. She’ll be coming here so you can debrief her.”

“And what about my parents?” Raspberry asked.

“I sent her a note asking her to send a courier to Manehattan as well as a carriage, so they can ferry your parents back as soon as possible,” Twilight added. “I know they’ll want to see you.” She looked at the rest of her court. “As for the rest of us, well, you already know what needs to be done; nothing changes in that regard until Ponyville is back to normal.”

“We’ll do our best, Twi, dontcha worry,” Applejack assured her.

“Good. For now, we have to head to Tartarus.”

“Tartarus?” the others gasped.

“Yes. We have something important to do there,” Raspberry told her.

Divine Right opened his eyes and found himself laying on the ground somewhere. «Où suis-je?» he mumbled.

“Rise and shine!” he heard a taunting voice. He then turned to look and see….

He blinked.

Though he said nothing, his facial expression did it for him: Am I still asleep?

“No, you’re not asleep.” A purple winged unicorn with a mane that looked like the girl that was shooting at him earlier spoke to him – and she also had the same voice, strangely enough. “You’re in Tartarus, Equestria’s maximum security prison.”

“Tartare.” The word was thick on his tongue.

“Your people would call it Hell.” The one was from a second pony, this one with a darker coat but a mane in the same hairstyle as….

«Quelle? Je dois être en train de rêver,» Divine muttered to himself.

A flicker of magic appeared in front of him, which coalesced into a mirror. He gazed into it…

and saw hell.

There, where his face should have been, was the face of a unicorn. White fur, golden eyes and a long, flowing purpure mane. Strangely enough, despite the facial fur, the unicorn also had facial hairs the same color as the mane, indicating stubble….

Divine screamed, and the image screamed along with him.

«Nononononononon…. Qu’est ce qui se passe ici?» he gasped. «Cela doit être un rêve! Ça doit être!»

A second spell was cast. “Sorry, not everypony here speaks Prench,” the winged unicorn told him.

“You speak Prench?” the smaller unicorn asked the larger.

“Learned it when I was a filly, but I assume you don’t.”

“Not at all.”

Meanwhile, Divine was still freaking out. “What is happening to me?” he shouted.

“You,” the second mare told him, “are now in prison, where you will spend forever for your crimes.”

“Forever~!” a voice that vaguely sounded like a chirpy teen echoed in the distance. The two mares looked at each other oddly.

“She couldn’t have, right?” the smaller mare asked.

“I’m not going to bother even trying to figure that out,” the larger one said.

“How dare you do this to me!” Divine snarled at them. “I am a prince!”

“You are nopony,” the winged unicorn said. “And if you value your life, you will remain nopony. After what I heard you did to somepony who means the world to me and to your own world? You’re testing my capacities as Princess of Friendship. If I was any less of a mare, I would….”

“He’s not worth it,” the smaller mare told her. “Sunny even said so.”

“You’re right,” the larger one agreed. “He’s not. We’ll be back, Mr. Divine Right,” she said, emphasizing the lack of use of his title. And you had best hope it’s just the two of us, and only the two of us.”

“I demand you release me this instant and return me to my normal form!” he shouted.

The two mares vanished into thin air, leaving a screaming unicorn in a glowing magic pit, forever to his fate.

The two reappeared outside the exit to Tartarus. Cerebus looked happily at Twilight and barked with his three heads patiently waiting for Twilight to summon dog treats for him, which she immediately administered.

“I’m going to want to talk to him again when I calm down,” Twilight told her.

“I know how you feel,” Raspberry insisted. “But like I said, Princess Celestia can’t afford to know about this. It won’t be healthy for her.”

“I don’t like keeping secrets from my teacher,” Twilight sighed, “but you’re right; we can’t. C’mon, let’s go back home. We still have an hour before your meeting with her.”

Just as they were going to get into the carriage, a second one pulled up, and a well-built stallion hopped out. The two mares did a double-take before calming down.

“Wow, that is freaky,” Raspberry said as she looked at Capt. Divine Right.

“Yeah, gonna have to get used to this,” Twilight admitted.

“Your highness, I heard there was a priority prisoner transfer, and I came as soon as I could,” Divine told her. Seeing the look on the two mares’ faces, he removed his helmet and looked at them with concern. “Is…something the matter?”

Twilight bit back a snarl; this was not the prisoner, and this Divine was both her loyal captain and a friend. “Div…it’s nothing you did. The prisoner we dealt with is just….”

“Let’s just say you’d hate his guts,” Raspberry added. Offering a hoof to bump, she said, “I don’t believe we’ve met. Raspberry Beryl, Archmagus of Equestria.”

He reached out and bumped. “Capt. Divine Right, commander of the Friendship Guard. I understand that you’ve been through an ordeal, Archmagus. Allow me to extend my gratitude for your service and relief that you’re back in Equestria.” He bowed.

“Yeah,” Raspberry said as she looked at the polite, cultured doppelganger of the monster she’d just locked up a few minutes ago, “this is really going to take some getting used to.”

“I’m sorry?” Divine asked.

“Don’t worry about it, Div,” Twilight demurred. “Anyway, I thought you were off today?”

“I was, but then Sgt. Bowshock told me that you had a prisoner transfer going on. As much as I wanted to continue helping out on the Apple farm, my duties come first.”

“I appreciate that, but I don’t want you overworking yourself,” Twilight told him.

“Twi, our ponies need us. As a prince and captain of your guard, I have to do everything I can for them,” he reminded her.

Raspberry heard his words and blinked. “Yeah, really going to have to get used to this,” she said to nopony in particular.

Celestia and Luna both arrived right on time for their meeting with Raspberry. They were assembled in the grand meeting hall, so there would be enough room for all of them to discuss issues, but there was only one on the sun alicorn’s mind.

“Is she okay?” Celestia asked, worried.

“She’s okay,” Raspberry assured her, reaching into her saddlepack and handing over an envelope, which Celestia immediately opened.

It was a sight to see Celestia break down in utter tears of joy. “She hasn’t forgotten about me,” she sobbed, tears of joy streaming down her cheeks. “My filly….”

“You should be proud of her,” Luna said, feeling a little misty-eyed herself. “She has grown.”

“Should we take a break to let her compose herself?” Raspberry asked.

“No, I’ll be okay,” Celestia said, wiping her eyes. “I need to know what’s going on.”

“Well, the second thing is this,” she said, holding up a small package. “This is a proposal for Sunset’s own protective guard—”

“Approved,” Luna said, taking it in her magic without even opening it.

“Don’t you want to look at it?” Raspberry asked her.

“Probably later,” Luna replied. “But if we don’t provisionally approve it now, sister’s going to insist we send half the Princess’ Hooves to Earth immediately to begin protecting Sunset. If my niece already has a plan in place and we approve it now, even provisionally, then it becomes active. Please send the provisional approval to Sunset’s guard captain and let them know they can proceed.”

“Trust me, you’ll want to read that,” Raspberry assured them.

“I trust my daughter’s judgement,” Celestia said. “I’ll agree to Luna’s terms.”

“Oh…kay,” Raspberry said in an unsure tone. “In any case, I’ll need to be briefed on what happened while I was gone.”

The rest of the meeting went over what had happened to Equestria and what was still going on to some degree. Raspberry, who had seen the extensive damage and some of the rebuilding done to Ponyville, set her mouth in a tight line of anger. So many ponies had died or had been injured, and dozens more had been put out of home. They were building Manehattan-style apartment complexes in order to help improve things, but between extended attacks by Tirek and other strange forces, it had delayed things well into winter. Things were so bad that there was a concern that Winter Wrap-Up wouldn’t go very smoothly this year, simply because with the fairgrounds holding the refugee camp, there was no temporary location to put the snow build-up this year. Worse, as a side effect of Ponyville now having its own princess, ponies were flocking from other towns and cities to move close to the political center of the region, putting an even harder strain on an already strained town.

“There has already been talk that they want somepony else to be mayor aside from me,” Mayor Mare said in a disgusted tone, “because now that Ponyville is growing, surely I can’t handle the rigors of a larger municipality.”

“Yes, dear, but keep in mind that the uncouth ponies saying that are simply ones that don’t know you as we do,” Rarity assured her. “They’re simply ponies that only want power, and as they are not nobility, the best they can do is stand up in civic government and attempt to grow their base that way. It’s rather disgusting, if you ask me.”

“Desire for power always is, Rarity,” Divine told her.

“You cannot be for real,” Raspberry told him.

“I’m sorry, did I say something wrong?”

“Nothing. Just…nevermind,” the mulberry-coated mare sighed.

“In any case, we’ll still have to run extra patrols,” Divine told those present. “I want our ponies protected.”

“Spoken like a true prince, Divine,” Celestia told him.

He blushed. “Thank you, Auntie,” he replied solemnly.

“That is your…divine right, is it not?” she teased. Raspberry flinched at hearing that, and Divine groaned.

“You’re never going to let me live that down, are you?”

“You were so cute as a colt saying that all the time!” she said with a smile, and he rolled his eyes.

“As much as I’d like to get into nostalgia that I was never here for,” Luna reminded them, “there are still other matters to discuss. Like the food supply. A good amount of it is still coming from Ponyville, but at the pace you’re using magic to continually grow it, I have concerns that you may have to let the land go fallow soon.”

“Yeah. We’re not happy havin’ t’ use magic to speed grow things, since we Apples do things the old-fashioned way, but ponies need food right now. Ah suspect the Carrots are havin’ the same issues as well, though Ah haven’t talked to them ‘bout that yet.”

“I can do so,” Mayor Mare commented. “I have to meet with Golden Harvest this afternoon.”

“Now then,” Celestia asked, “if there’s anything else?” Celestia was about to add something else, when one of her guards came up and whispered something in her ear.

Celestia smiled widely and said, “I would continue with other business, but I do believe that somepony has more urgent business with Archmagus Raspberry than we do.” When everypony looked at her oddly, Celestia just nodded to the guard, who walked over to the door and opened it.

There, standing at the door, looking wide-eyed and in shock, were Cashmere and Ascot. “Razz?” Cashmere said softly, not believing what she was seeing, as if she were deep in one of Luna’s gentle dreams.

“MOM! DAD!” Raspberry leapt out of her seat and rushed over to her parents, embracing them and crying in joy. Cashmere and Ascot wrapped their hooves around their daughter in a tight embrace, and the three ponies broke out in tears of joy as both mares bawled in utter happiness.

For the second time that day, Celestia’s eyes became watery from joy. But this time, she felt no tugs of jealousy. She looked at her sister and said, “They’ve earned this moment.”

“So have you, Celly,” Luna told her. “And your daughter will come home soon.”

“I know she will,” Celestia said, watching the two parents hug and kiss their returned adult foal. “I know she will.”

Dinner that evening was both awkward and embarrassing to Raspberry…and though she wouldn’t admit it aloud, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Here, have some bluegrass and gruyere quiche,” Cashmere said, placing a fourth triangle of the foodstuff on her daughter’s plate.

“Mom, it’s not like I starved over there!” Raspberry insisted.

“Dear, you look thinner than usual. How do I know you were eating healthy over there? It’s a mother’s job to worry, you know,” Cashmere replied.

“It’s a mother’s job to make sure I don’t get fat because you’re stuffing me like a Thanksgiving turkey!” Raspberry retorted.

“What’s a Thanksgiving turkey?”

Raspberry sighed. “It’s a…figure of speech from the human world,” she said, really not wanting to explain the details.

“Well, I for one am glad my dearest filly is back,” Ascot replied, his face beaming with pride. He turned to Celestia, a grateful look on his face. “We owe it all to you, your highness. Words cannot express how glad I am that you brought my dearest daughter back.” A fit of chirping then sounded out, making Ascot glance down at the spot next to Raspberry where Heliodor – back to his normal form of green and gold – was feasting on some pears. “And we’re glad you’re back as well, Heelee,” he added with a smile.

“You’re welcome, my little pony,” Celestia told him solemnly. “Love her as only a parent could. You never know when they’ll be taken from you.”

“Indeed, I know that,” he told her.

Before she could call it a night and head back to join her parents at the Retreat Inn, there was something else she had to do, something that she felt was vitally important.

Raspberry stood before a grave, one where she dropped flowers off.

“It isn’t fair that I made it and you didn’t,” she said to the grave of Pavane Bayan. “You protected me and gave your life to defend me, and I wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t for you. I owe you a debt I can’t repay…and yet I promised you I would do as you asked me,” she said softly. “I intend to keep that vow, because I owe you.

“Still, I wish things could have been different. You deserve to be standing here, victorious and happy. You deserved your life, to grow old and get married and all that sort of stuff that normal mares do. But you’ll never get that, and I’m sorry.”

Raspberry wiped tears from her eyes, and set down something else: a small plastic Mickey Mouse figurine she’d purchased while at Disneyland. She’d intended to keep it for herself initially, but somehow leaving it here seemed like the right thing to do. “I got this in another world, one I was trapped in for a while. But I was alive to be trapped there, and I wouldn’t have been if it wasn’t for your quick thinking. I’m not blaming you for that. I’m thanking you for that. So I’m leaving this here for you. Maybe others won’t understand what it is—” Especially that MADE IN CHINA part underneath Mickey’s foot, she thought with a private grin, “—but it’s the least I can give you for what you did for me. I wish I could give more. I wish I could give you your life back, Pavane.

“All I can say though is to rest, my dear friend. Rest in the Great Pasture and know that I won’t ever forget what you did for me. You were a great mare, and I hope that someday I can live up to the measure of sacrifice you did.”

No more to say, Raspberry walked back to the carriage, where Twilight and Raspberry’s parents were waiting. “Equestria won’t forget her sacrifice,” Twilight promised her friend. “There are statues and memorials to her now.”

“Twi, I don’t care about those,” Raspberry told her. “What I care about is that the world doesn’t forget that she was a sweet mare who did her duty. Not some cardboard-cutout hero that will just be reduced to myth and legend in a generation or two. She might have been a hero of Equestria, but for what little time I knew her, she was my friend. And to me, that’s more important.”

Twilight grinned. “I can think of no higher honor than that.”

Ascot draped his wing around his daughter’s back. “Come on – let’s go home. The nightmares are over, and you are finally home, my dearest one.”

“Yeah,” Raspberry said softly. “At least I was able to come home. Some never got that chance at all.”

In her office at CSIS headquarters in Ottawa, Golden Rule, the Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, set down the phone. It had been another asschewing at the hands of some minor functionary for the Ministry of Public Safety, providing them cover while the inevitable scandal continued to play out in the news.

She sat back in her chair and rubbed her temples. How stupid was the fucking public to just realize that Canada was just like any other nation and looking out for its own interests? Down south, the Americans did it all the time and nobody gave a fuck!

She groaned. “What about the little girls whose lives you ruined?” Well, Senator, perhaps if you actually gave a fuck about them, you’d realize SIREN gave them a purpose! Without it, they’d be forgotten cogs in the system, little wastes of taxpayer money that would never get adopted because no one gives a shit about them. At least this way they serve Canada’s needs and became valued members of society in the process!

She needed a vacation, but there was no relief in sight. Especially with the news that Agent Changeling had been found murdered. She highly doubted it, however; though he was effective, she never trusted him and given that his family went off the grid two weeks prior to Changeling’s death, he’d clearly faked it and vanished, though hell if she knew where he’d gone.

I just have to get through this, she told herself. All it would take was calling in every favor she had in parliament and maybe with some of the Five Eyes, as well. She might have to lay low for a bit; if the worst came to worst, she might even have to resign her position. But it would be just as easy to maneuver back into the good graces of the Department after a few years, and restart SIREN, maybe under a new name – it wouldn’t have been the first time SIREN changed its name.

All I have to do is just bide my time. She pulled out a cigarette, lit it and took a long drag to relax, calming her nerves. I’ve survived bigger issues than this; this is certainly not going to stop me.

The intercom on the phone went off. “Director?” her secretary spoke into the line. “I have someone here to see you. She got into the building but won’t give me her name.”

“Not surprised; go ahead and send her in.” The lack of identification was a dead giveaway: the CIA clearly wanted answers. Well, that wasn’t too surprising; the bastards at Langley clearly had zero issue running rampant around the world but there was hell to pay if someone else did stupid shit on American soil. Well, despite everything, she needed their support, especially if it meant digging up dirt on some of the more recalcitrant do-gooders in parliament.

A second later, a woman in a suit walked in, someone that Rule hadn’t seen before, but clearly had the posture of someone who radiated unassailable authority. Clearly this was one of the spooks directly from CIA headquarters. Well, CIA or not, this was her office and her fiefdom and she wasn’t about to be bullied in her own spot.

Remaining seated at her desk, Rule gave the woman a smile. “I see the Company has decided to make a personal visit. What can I do for you?”

“I’ll be clear,” the woman said in a curt tone. “SIREN ends now. As do you. After I leave this office, you’re going to call the RCMP and turn yourself over for all the crimes you have committed.”

Rule laughed. “Well, I see Washington clearly sent someone with a sense of humor! Seriously, what can I….” Rule stopped as she saw the woman continued to stand there, arms akimbo and a scowl on her face. “You’re serious?”

“You’re running out of time, Director Rule,” the woman said evenly. “We can either do this nicely, or we can do this my way, but it will be done – and I will not be denied.”

Rule glared at the other woman. “Excuse me? You have the gall to come into my office and tell me what to do? Sorry, but I don’t take orders from Langley. Get the fuck out.”

“I’m not from Langley,” the woman said simply. “To be honest, I don’t even know what that is.”

Rule reached under the desk for her Rosario FM95. She’d had it since the first day in service, and she’d ended more than a few lives with it. She easily withdrew it and pointed at the stranger. “I don’t know who you are, you haven’t given identification, and you’re issuing demands. Give me one reason why I shouldn’t pull the trigger.”

The woman fixed Rule with hard blue eyes as strands of her blood-red hair started to move in an undetectable breeze. “I see we’re going to do this the hard way,” she spoke.

In the end, Golden Rule’s scream could be heard for blocks in every direction.

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!