• Published 4th May 2017
  • 249 Views, 2 Comments

To Change the Past - The Engineer Pony

A strange conversation gives Starlight the opportunity to fix her past mistakes.

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To Change the Past

The scroll unraveled before Starlight Glimmer. Before she could catch it in her magic, it hit the floor and unrolled in both directions. One ribbon of parchment unspooled ahead toward the library in front of Starlight, while another bounced between her hooves and disappeared down the hallway behind her.

With an irritated sigh, Starlight snatched up the parchment and began to roll it up again. Her glance idly fell on the words that flashed by as she wound the scroll, and she gave a small start. This was a copy of Star Swirl’s time travel spell, the very one Starlight herself had modified as part of her plot to extract revenge against Twilight. The spell that Starlight had used to nearly destroy the world.

Hurriedly, Starlight finished rolling the scroll and stuffed it back into the pouch it had fallen from. She did not need to see a reminder of that horrid incident. She refused to even think about her journey to the past. It was her greatest regret from a history filled with them, her most selfish moment in a failed life, the worst feeling in the world as she gazed across the desolate landscape she had created—

Starlight shook her head. She dashed into the library, frantically stuffing books and scrolls onto their appropriate shelves as she raced around the room. The sooner she got everything sorted and put away, the sooner she could forget about that infernal time-travel spell. With a bewildering finesse only a master of telekinesis could achieve, Starlight sent dozens of tomes spiraling along paths to different corners of the room. Seconds later, the magical dance ceased, and every parchment and manuscript settled into its proper place.

All but one. One unsorted scroll still bounced tantalizingly in front of the unicorn, as if laughing at her uncertainty over where to put it.

Star Swirl’s spell.

Starlight scanned the shelves around her, searching for some place where she could file it away and finally be rid of its nuisance. So fixated was she on the task that she did not notice the other pony enter the library until the pony spoke.


Absentmindedly, Starlight perused a section dedicated to older spells. “What did you say?” She assumed it was Twilight, coming to check on her progress and critique her organizational choices.


Part of Starlight’s brain registered the fact that it had failed to process what the other pony had said. Okay, so it was not Twilight. In fact, it did no sound like anypony from Equestria. “Hold on. Let me cast a translation spell.” A quick burst of power granted Starlight the ability to understand any language, code, or magical alteration to speech. “Now, what were you saying?”

“No, this is something I need to do myself.” The other pony almost sounded like she was talking to herself. “I need to fix the past.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t really understand.” Starlight stopped skimming various book titles to focus on the strange words of the other pony. “Can I help you?”

“I’m who you will be. Or maybe who you already were.”

Well, that cleared up absolutely nothing. Starlight paused her efforts to be rid of the time-travel spell and turned to look at the strange pony. The pony's gait was definitely peculiar: she walked backward across the library floor, but her gaze was directed straight ahead, as if she were going forward. But that was nothing compared to the strangeness of the pony’s appearance. After all, she looked like an exact replica of Starlight Glimmer.

“What’s going on?” Starlight asked. “Are you a changeling? Or are you…me?”

The other Starlight turned to look at her. Identical eyes pierced her with such sadness and purpose that Starlight took an uncomfortable step back. “I don’t know exactly where I’m going,” the duplicate Starlight said. “I’ve made enough mistakes that I could go almost anywhere and find something to fix. I just know I’ve wasted enough time here already.”

“You’re not making any sense. Where are you going?” Starlight’s mind whirled through different possibilities as she tried to fathom her doppelgänger’s disjointed words. Why was she refusing to give Starlight a straight answer?

“I told you, I used Star Swirl’s spell to go make things right.”

One phrase, at least, made sense that time. Her double had referenced the very thing that had been troubling her. “Are you talking about his time travel spell?” Starlight asked, holding up the scroll for the other pony to see.

“I’m doing this for better reasons,” the replica Starlight said, seemingly ignoring the scroll being waved in front of her. “And I modified Star Swirl’s spell.” There. That was an actual response. “Before, all I could do was travel through time, to appear at a specific moment and change it.”

Even when she made sense, the duplicate managed to confuse Starlight. She had promised herself never again to mess with time travel, and here was another version of her talking about using Star Swirl’s spell to alter the past.

“But Twilight showed me how wrong it was to use time travel in that way,” Starlight said. If nothing else came from this incoherent conversation, she had to object to her doppelgänger’s apparent use of Star Swirl’s spell. “The slightest change to the past can bring about horrible consequences. When Twilight showed me that possible future—that barren wasteland of destruction—I saw how selfish and wrong I had been to abuse time travel just to satisfy my own desire for justice. No, not justice,” Starlight corrected herself. “Revenge.”

“I didn’t expect you to understand yet,” the other Starlight replied regretfully. “But you have. Or will. I’m doing this to save everypony. I no longer interfere with time for only a moment before disappearing. Now I can travel through time continuously, undoing my mistakes as I make them and reshaping the consequences.”

Things were beginning to make a bit more sense to Starlight. “You can reverse time?” she asked. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“You’re wrong.” It was not so much an accusation that the other Starlight made, as it was an assertion. “I’ve made far too many mistakes, but I can make all of them go away. I can get rid of my mistakes with Sunburst. With the town I enslaved. With all of the trouble I’ve caused Twilight and her friends. If I have to spend my entire life going back and fixing my mistakes, then that’s what it takes. Why else would Twilight have taken me on as her student? Why else would she teach me about friendship, if not so I could use her lessons to correct all the things I’ve done wrong? You said you’ve felt the same.”

“I have felt the same,” Starlight agreed reluctantly. It was worrisome that this doppelgänger was articulating so many of the half-formed thoughts and regrets floating around Starlight’s brain. “I’ve wondered what I could have done differently, what I could have avoided if I had known then what I know now. But Twilight’s also taught me about forgiveness, and about moving on from your past. Even if I wanted to, I can’t just make my mistakes go away.”

“But you already have,” said the duplicate. “Take the spell. You know how you can use it to reverse time. Then you can change everything.”

Starlight paused for a moment as she pondered the other Starlight’s words. It was true, she did have an idea of how she could modify Star Swirl’s spell into a time-reversal spell. It was the work of but a few minutes to find the right combination of other spells to add in conjunction to the magic written on the scroll before her, and then she could access the part of herself she hated the most: her past.

But as she recalled the past she wished so desperately to change, Starlight remembered what had caused such regrets in the first place. “No. I saw what happened the last time I meddled with time. I won’t risk it again.”

“But you want to,” the new Starlight said. “You know what this would mean. You could erase your past and start over again. You could be somepony different, somepony who won’t make the same mistakes twice. That’s the beauty of making a second chance for yourself: you already know what happened before, so you can correct it.”

The other Starlight’s voice wavered with the raw sound of conviction. “What would it be like if you could walk through Ponyville without ponies staring at you? How would it feel to not have ponies whispering behind your back, questioning if they can really trust you, or asking why your only friends are misfits? They wonder, you know, why that is. They wonder why you can’t seem to connect to anypony normal. They even whisper that Twilight isn’t actually your friend, that she only took you on as her student out of pity.”

Starlight was at a loss. She did not want to believe this other version of herself, but the things she said, the way they echoed her own fears…

“I can’t believe it,” Starlight said, her tone less certain than she would have liked. “I just can’t.”

The new Starlight gave a triumphant smile. “We are the same. I know that in just a few short minutes, you will agree with me.”

“What? I don’t understand.” Once again, Starlight could not follow her other self’s logic.

“You will agree because you already have.”

That cleared up nothing. “Why would I agree with you?” Starlight posed the question to herself as much as to the new Starlight. She loathed the fact that she almost wanted to accept what her other self was saying.

“Well?” asked the other Starlight, completely ignoring Starlight’s earlier question. “What do you think?”

What did she think, indeed? On the one hoof, she had sworn to herself to never again attempt time travel. The consequences were simply too drastic to make it worth the risk. She could not trust herself to use time travel correctly.

But the new Starlight’s offer pulled at the darkest corners of her heart. What would a fresh start be like? Starlight could scarcely imagine the freedom of living life without feeling the shame of her past grinding her down every day. She loved the thought of being just another anonymous individual, one who did not take on a scandalous persona in the hushed gossip of disapproving ponies. One whose every action was not scrutinized in the harsh light of her past.

This was an opportunity to change things. It would not be the same as before, where one careless act of revenge led to a radically different future. No, this would be a deliberate and continual improvement of the past, where Starlight could fix each mistake as she made it and address each new chain of events as it occurred. She could start over, undoing all of the things she had done wrong and replacing them with better choices. And then, maybe she could forgive herself.

The other Starlight spoke up. “This is what you’ve always wanted: the chance for a fresh start.”

“Yes.” The brief hesitation in Starlight’s voice disappeared as she continued, “You’re right. This is the only way I can fix the past and get rid of all the mistakes I’ve made.” She turned her attention to the scroll with Star Swirl’s spell and thought about the combination of enchantments that could change it into a time-reversal spell. She pulled a couple of books off of a nearby shelf and skimmed through them for ideas.

“Try?” In the back of her mind, Starlight noted that her other self sounded confused. “What are you talking about? You’ve succeeded.”

“Right,” murmured Starlight, intent upon her work of spell creation. “I have to try.”

Starlight was so focused on her project that she barely noticed her duplicate glance rapidly around the room, an ever-decreasing look of excitement upon her face. She hardly heard the exclamation of “It worked!” or the bewildered expression that followed it. Only as she finished her new time-reversal spell did Starlight look up in time to see her other self disappear in a flash of light.

Starlight did not have time to wonder what had happened to the other version of her. With a powerful surge of magic, Starlight set her spell into motion. Brilliant light enveloped her, forcing her to close her eyes against the dazzling radiance of energy.

When at last the magic had faded, Starlight looked around in confusion. The library looked much the same as it had before, though perhaps the blast of power had shifted her position slightly. But a quick glance at a clock on the wall indicated to Starlight that she had indeed performed the spell correctly: the clock’s second hand ticked steadily counterclockwise. Time was running in reverse.

“It worked!” she exclaimed.

Comments ( 2 )

As well written as this is, it feels incomplete.
Like it's the beginning to a much larger story

There were 3 of them at one time?

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