• Published 20th May 2017
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Brightly Lit - Penalt

The village of Brightly, British Columbia is a small, isolated place where everyone knows everyone, with a strong sense of community. A community that starts to include colourful little ponies.

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Chapter 19: Worlds Collide

Do we fight to hold our heads up high
And beat the drum to what we love?
Risk the fall, oh we have felt it all
Come crashing down from far above

"Worlds Collide" - Arty

John Horgan drove his car carefully through the streets of downtown Victoria. The city was a significant tourist destination and this particular Saturday was no exception. Crowds of tourists and shoppers filled the downtown and occasionally spilled off the sidewalks, forcing him to drive with care. Normally, he would have a driver for this trip, but as it was the weekend and the Legislature building was normally just another tourist attraction there usually was no need for one.

Reaching his destination and pulling into his parking spot, he made his way into the monolithic stone building that was affectionately known as “The Ledge.” A few more minutes at a brisk walk found himself opening a wooden door with a golden plaque that read, “Premier of British Columbia.” Seeing that plaque gave him a familiar thrill as it reminded him once again that this was his office now, for as long as he could hold onto it.

“Hello sir,” Peter said, greeting his boss and rising from the chair he had been sitting in just inside the door.

“Hello, Peter,” the premier said, walking around the desk to take his seat and gesturing his aide to the chair on the other side. “What’s so bad that you had to drag me into work on a Saturday?” It was a fiction both men were familiar with. Each of them knew that as head of the province, Horgan was on call 24/7 for any situation that came up. This one just happened to be nice enough to allow for a drive into town on a weekend.

“Well sir,” Peter began, opening up a briefcase that had several folders and documents in it. “The storm that crossed the coast last night hit a lot of isolated communities hard.”

“This is about that?” Horgan asked. “I think I caught something about that over the radio on the way in. A town on the central coast?”

“Yes sir,” Peter said, nodding in confirmation. “The village of Brightly, near Bella Bella. There is a hydroelectric and flood control dam on Carmanah Lake, which lies near the community. During the storm BC Hydro lost remote contact with the dam, and with the spillway in the ‘open’ position the rainfall from the storm was threatening to flood the town.” Peter passed over a map of the area along with an older satellite photo, showing the lake, the dam and the associated river that flowed past the small town.

“Right, they were able to get the dam closed though,” Horgan said, then snapped his fingers as his memory kicked in. “Wait, the report said that the local fire department got the dam working, not BC Hydro, and I remember the word ‘miraculous’ being used. What happened?”

“When the remote systems failed, BC Hydro called the local fire department to attempt to operate the manual controls, per established procedure. Apparently there was more than a little difficulty reaching the dam through the height of the storm, due to fallen trees and debris,” Peter said, passing over a folder detailing the Brightly VFD’s equipment and people. “Once there, they discovered that the dam was in a shocking state of neglect. The manual controls had rusted solid, and the tower carrying the microwave dish for remote access had collapsed under a blow from a fallen tree.”

“Wait,” Horgan said, frowning. “Isn’t the area around those towers supposed to be cleared of trees precisely so that doesn’t happen?”

“Correct sir,” Peter said. “But apparently this had not been done in some time. Not only that, but the metal of the tower itself had become compromised due to age and simple rust.”

“So how come we aren’t organizing flood relief right now?” Horgan asked, half-seriously.

“Somehow, in the middle of all that wind and rain,” Peter continued, shaking his head a bit in disbelief, “that team of seven men and women not only managed to raise the tower again, but they were also able to somehow reposition the microwave dish itself long enough for BC Hydro to punch a signal through, and use the intact remote systems to close the spillway.”

“Okay, first off, we need to see about getting that team fast-tracked for a Good Citizenship medal,” Horgan said, smiling. “Those folks meet the criteria, that’s for sure, and we can use any boost we can get in the polls. Second, what’s our exposure on this and the implications?”

“We can lay the neglected maintenance squarely at the feet of the previous government,” Peter said. “Plus there are other considerations.”

“Site C,” Horgan said, referring to the massive hydroelectric project in the northeast corner of the province. “Those idiots before us left us stuck with their multi-billion dollar boondoggle, and then made sure there was no way I could cancel it without costing us even more billions.”

“Exactly sir,” Peter said, nodding. “If we can make people think that Site C has been draining away resources and personnel needed to maintain existing infrastructure…” The premier smiled wolfishly as he made the connection.

“Great work, Peter,” Horgan said, and his smile became approving. “Send someone to get the exact details of how bad things are at that dam, and make sure you get access to any maintenance records. Anything else I need to know before the conference call?”

“Just one thing, sir,” Peter said, gesturing toward one of the folders he had given Horgan. “If you would have a look at the details on the personnel for Brightly’s fire department.” Horgan scanned the document indicated and his eyes widened as he found the relevant information.

“Is this accurate?” Horgan asked, incredulous. “Because if it is, we just had a political windfall drop into our laps. We can make points with the progressive voters in Victoria and Vancouver, as well as showing the rural communities that we care about them. That’s got to be good for at least a few approval points in the polls.”

“The information was on their application to the BC Ambulance Service, sir,” Peter said, sliding across a photocopied sheet. “As far as I know the information is accurate.”

“All right then,” Horgan said, coming to a decision. “Once the selection committee approves the medals for those folks, we are going to hold the award ceremony at the Carmanah Dam instead of here in Victoria. In the meantime, I need you to dig into the background of this Jesse, now Jessica Harkins, and make sure there are no surprises.”

“So, Mrs. Pedersen,” Father Addison said, as he wolfed down a bowl of canned pears in syrup, “when do you think we might change back? Sorry about my table manners, I guess bat ponies are something of messy eaters.”

“I’m learning to live with it,” Jean said with a chuckle as she slid over a damp washcloth. “And please, call me Jean.”

“Not planning on taking on a different pony name like the kids?” Arnold asked from behind her, as he chopped up vegetables for the large pot that was simmering away on top of the woodstove.

“Oh, I considered it,” Jean said, leaning back to run a hand down Arnold’s forearm, a gesture that was not lost on Addison’s wife, Natasha. “The kids picked their pony names based on what they could do. Lynn and I haven’t really had a chance to explore what we can do, so we don’t really have anything to go on.”

“Go with something you already have done or are known for,” Arnold said, his hands moving in a blur over the cutting board. “What about ‘Wood Witch’?” Jean groaned and put her face in her hands.

“Goddess, no,” she moaned, before looking back up. “Just for that I get to see what you look like as a pony the next time this happens.” Arnold just snorted and went back to his chopping.

“One thing that I don’t get,” Natasha Adamschek said, as she finished licking her own bowl clean, “is how calm everyone is being about this. I mean, look at us. We’ve been changed, transformed, by some unknown agency or power. Why aren’t we panicking, or angrily demanding answers? Why aren’t we screaming for a doctor?”

“Well, first off the closest thing Brightly has to a doctor is Jessica, our paramedic on the fire department, and she already knows as much as anyone can about this,” Arnold answered, scooping up the massacred vegetables into a bowl and carrying them to the simmering stock pot. “Secondly, what’s a doctor going to do about any of this anyway? First thing we know, they push the panic button and then Brightly is going to be crawling with government people shortly after.”

“And the Hieltsuk have little reason to trust any level of government,” Addison said, turning to his wife. “My people have never given up title or authority over this land. The stance has always been, ‘We are letting you borrow this land, and we expect to receive what we are owed for that use.’ If large numbers of government people come here expecting to throw their weight around, it will be seen as an attempt to return to the bad old days of the potlatch ban, and I guarantee things will not go well for them.”

“That still doesn’t explain us,” Natasha said, waving a leather-like wing for emphasis. “I should be freaked out of my wits right now, and I’m not.”

“I think it’s because of the kids,” Arnold said, returning from the simmering pot. “They’ve been enjoying this, exploring their new abilities, and I think we’ve all been doing our best to stay calm for their sake. Plus, I think some of their wonder at all this has rubbed off on us.”

“That explains you, Jean and the Hardings,” Natasha said, humming a bit as her husband rubbed a wing along her back. “But Addison and I don’t have any children.”

“Do you feel like a different person?” Jean asked, to which Natasha shook her head. “There you go then. You still feel like you are ‘you.’ and as long as you keep feeling that way you probably will keep being fine with being a bat pony. Oh, and by the way, you two look incredibly cute.”

“I was going to say the same thing about you and Arnold,” Natasha said, smiling as both of the humans in the room blushed. “Do I need to tell the old biddies in the congregation that they were finally right about you two?”

“Don’t you da-” Jean began to retort, only to be interrupted as the children thumped their way down the stairs.

“Hi Mom!” Rowan said, in the lead of the pack. “Can we go outside?”

“How are you feeling now?,” Jean asked, putting a hand on her daughter’s brow and peering into her eyes. “Any bright spots, pain?”

“A little bit,” the small unicorn admitted, “but I haven’t done any magic stuff and I’m feeling lots better.”

“Sorry sweetie,” Jean said, to Rowan’s intense disappointment. “Any pain or spots at all mean you aren’t fully recovered yet. All it would take is some sunlight shining into your eyes, and you would be right back to square one. Besides, isn’t it still raining?”

“It’s not raining anymore and we’ve been playing board games for hours,” Romy said, backing up her sister. “We’re bored.”

“The rest of you can go out and play, but only the backyard,” Jean said, ignoring Romy’s unintentional pun, before directing her stern look to the two pegasi in the kitchen. “And no getting airborne. At least one hoof on the ground at all times, at least until your parents come back.”

“Yes, Mrs. Pedersen,” Zak and Kya said, in not exactly happy agreement.

“Not you, Billy,” Arnold said, holding up a massive hand. “I’m still not entirely convinced you’re completely okay. You can keep Rowan company.”

“But Dad,” Billy protested instantly, “the Night Horse really did fix me up. I’m fine.”

“About that… ” Father Addison said, before a warning shake of the head from Jean had him changing the subject. “Um, could you see if you could find me some more fruit?”

“Down in the basement, Billy,” Jean said, smoothing her face so the child didn’t notice the expression of relief she’d had that Father Addison had gotten the hint. “I’m fairly sure that after last night you know the way.”

“Yes, Mrs. Pedersen,” Billy said, looking down and scuffing a hoof as the others headed out the door. All except for Rowan, who had noticed the look the batpony priest and her mother had shared.

“Mom… “ Rowan began to say, a questioning note in her voice.

“Rowan, could you go get me the book, please?” Jean asked her daughter, and heir to power. “Make sure you bring it in its box, okay? And no using your magic, you need to keep resting that head of yours.”

“Okay Mom,” Rowan said, turning around and heading to the living room. “Be right back.”

As her daughter left the room Jean turned to a drawer, and pulled out a piece of purple stone on a leather thong. Moving purposefully through her kitchen she then took a mason jar of water that was sitting in the window sill, and placed it in front of the two bat ponies. As the other three adults in the room exchanged curious glances, Jean placed the pointed amethyst crystal near the jar and then from a long pocket of her skirt she drew out a long, striated, milky white rod of some sort of mineral.

“Jean, what are you doing?” Father Addison asked, a hoof reflexively going to the cross around his own neck.

“Trying something,” the woman said. “Please Father, keep your cross out. This, by the way, is my wand. It’s made of pure selenite, and ever since things started happening touching it has been like grabbing onto a live wire. The crystal there is Rowan’s amethyst. She used it when she first triggered the spell that made them into ponies.”

In the meantime, Billy had returned from the basement and silently put a jar of preserves on the counter by his father, trying to be inconspicuous. Rowan also re-entered the room, carrying the box holding the spellbook across her back. She put the book on the table by the jar of water, and looked up expectantly to her mom.

“Rowan, up you go to my room. Billy, please stay with her. Father Addison, when I open the box, please tell me if you see or hear anything unusual,” Jean said, shifting her grip on the rod so that it pointed at the box, then notice the two young ponies being reluctant to leave. “Rowan, I mean it. I want some distance between you two and the book when I try this.”

“Okay Mom,” Rowan said, and headed upstairs with Billy trailing in her wake.

“Very well,” Father Addison said, and not knowing what else to do he held out his cross as far as it would go. “I can’t say that I’m not particularly nervous about this, but as I said before, ‘Your home, your rules.’ I assume you are about to attempt some sort of ritual, what is the water for?”

“It’s blessed water,” Jean said, then at Father Addison’s surprised look added, “Think of it as my version of holy water. Arnold, if anything goes massively wrong, grab the jar and dump the contents all over everything.”

“Sure thing Jean,” Arnold said, picking up the jar and looking through its glass side dubiously.

“Okay, here goes,” Jean said, and with one hand she opened the old box that had held the book. The moment the book was visible, the buzzing tension that Jean had come to associate with “magic” became a series of crackling pops in her ears. At the same time the cozy kitchen became lit with lambent fire in three colours.

Jean’s wand, fourteen inches of slightly curved selenite, glowed with rippling white light in her hand. Rowan’s amethyst point shone with a brilliant violet counterpoint as it sat on the table. Joining them, to Father Addison’s astonishment, was a steady golden yellow that came from the cross he held in his hoof. The three lights seemed to blend together in a harmonious whole that was beautiful as it was unexpected, and it seemed to go on forever.

“My God,” Natasha said, in a shocked tone an eternity later that shook everyone from their trance. “Look outside!”

Eighteen hours earlier, five daring youngsters had given their all to help save their town. Each of them had made a supreme effort during the crisis, and while all five had passed the threshold needed to acquire their cutie marks, only two had done so due to the Tantabus’ work having left gaps. In the same way that supercooled water can stay liquid until it is disturbed, so too did the magic in them need just a small disturbance to trigger the change from blank flank to cutie mark inside of Kya, Zak and Rowan. A disturbance like the small surge of magic Jean and the other adults had inadvertently created.

In the backyard Zak and Kya held hooves as they rose together in an angelic chorus of light and sound. The light surrounded them, enveloped them, became them until only their outlines were visible. Lynn and Ernie Harding had been about to knock on Jean’s back door when the sight of their ascending children brought them to an astonished halt, but Jean Pedersen had no eyes for that.

“Rowan!” she yelled, dropping her still glowing wand on the table and running up the stairs to her bedroom. Bursting through the door to her bedroom, she tripped and fell as she hit a spellbound Billy Kye who had been sitting on the floor in her path. She sprawled out, full length on the floor, just in time for Rowan to land in her arms as the light lowered her to the floor and dissipated.

“Hi Mom,” Rowan said, as she opened an eye to look into her mother’s face from a distance of a few inches. “What happened?”

“I’m not—” Jean began, before Billy interrupted them both.

“You got your mark! You got your mark!” Billy shouted, jumping up and down. “I knew you guys had to get yours too.” Jean looked down her daughter’s yellow furred side and there, standing out in bold relief on her hip, was the image of a medieval shield.

“You okay?” Jean asked her daughter, running a hand over her daughter’s head.

“Uh huh,” Rowan said, enjoying being close to her mother too much to bother trying to get up. “My headache’s gone even.”

“It must have been something from the Night Horse,” Billy said, coming in to hug his friend from the side. “It touched all of us didn’t it?”

“I think you just might be right, Billy,” Jean said, getting up and scooping up her daughter to hug her close. “We better get downstairs and get everyone inside. The neighbors might have seen that light.” Jean made her way down the stairs with Billy close behind in time to see Ernie and Lynn with their children in tow, Romy following.

“Hey Jean,” Ernie said, as he shepherded the children into the kitchen. “The Malinski’s saw the light from the kids, but I told them it was just a reflection off a big mirror and the kids yelling together. They seemed to buy that.“

“Those two have looked the other way from a few strange things in my backyard,” Jean said, with a smile. “They like my wild mushroom soup too much to risk not getting any more.” The others laughed at that.

“Jean, what did we just see, and what were you trying to do just now?” Father Addison asked, now that things had calmed down. “Because, to be honest I could make a good case for that being the Holy Spirit coming down and anointing the kids.”

“I was sort of trying to see if what I’ve been feeling is magic, or what,” Jean said, a little embarrassed. “I was hoping that my wand would be the only thing to react. Sorry, I guess that was a little selfish of me.” Everyone in the room assured Jean she wasn’t being selfish in a mixed chorus.

“No more so than my leaping to claim it being the Holy Spirit. Jean, it’s fine,” Father Addison said, waving away Jean’s worries. “Besides, the fact that all three presented symbols of belief reacted tells me that whatever is behind this, its intentions are benevolent. If they weren’t then the power would have sought to divide us. Instead it has brought us together.”

“Dad! We got our ‘Marks of Power’,” Zak said, excitedly showing off his hip to his parents. There, in contrasting white stood the image of a Thunderbird, a lightning bolt clutched in its talons.

“Marks of Power?” Ernie asked, eyebrow rising. “Just how did you figure that that is what they are.”

“They showed up after we did really huge stuff, just took awhile for me and Kya,” Zak said, nudging his sister until she showed off the dragon now adorning her hips.

“Me too,” Rowan said, wriggling a bit until Jean put the little unicorn down so that she could show off her own marking.

“So that makes all five of the Power Ponies now with emblems,” Arnold said, thinking for a moment. “Does anyone else think it’s interesting that whatever these marks are, they relate to things the kids have done?”

“Definitely,” Natasha said. “This… force or power or whatever it is, it isn’t just reshaping people, it’s letting us shape it as well. Why else would the kids marks be things that are close to their interests or significant events? To add to that, Jean, who is a witch, was made into a unicorn which is a well-known symbol of magic.”

“Hey, I hate to break this up,” Ernie said, gesturing toward the clock. “But me, Arnold and the kids have to get going. Darrell wanted us at the fire hall at five for a debrief on last night.”

“He seemed to know a lot about what was going on, didn’t he?” Arnold asked his friend.

“He said he’d seen us the other day when we were running down the back road,” Romy said, piping up.

“We’re all going with you,” Lynn Harding declared, from where she had begun brushing out her daughter’s mane. “All of us. We need to know what’s going on and it looks like Darrell Montcalm might just have some answers.”

Author's Note:

A few notes about politics in this story. As you can tell I'm incorporating real world politics and politicians, mainly because the situations in current BC politics are almost tailor made for a story like this. I will, however, be doing my best to avoid naming actual parties and bringing my own political leanings into this.

The British Columbia Medal of Good Citizenship is a real thing and is giveN to those who, "have served their community with the greatest humility without expectation of reward or recognition." Here is what the medal actually looks like. Note the virtues inscribed on the back.

Things continue to build for our growing crew of ponies and friends. New pieces and ploys have stepped onto the board. Only time can tell what the consequences will be.

As per usual, an unusual amount of thanks to my most beloved editors: Sandstorm94 and Coyotethetrickster. Some folks polish tin foil balls, these two polish my... less than shiny stuff.

Come over and say hi to me and the folks on Damaged's Discord server if you like. Just be ready to link your Fimfiction account and please be aware 18+ only as the chat can and often does venture into adult subjects and language.

Support me if you can on Patreon for as little as a dollar a month. Patreon is probably one of the best things ever for keeping Word Weavers like me in coffee and working keyboards. Some months you folks really do make the difference.

A big shout out to the ongoing support through Patreon by:

Canary in the Coal Mine,

and my newest Patron,
Machara, whose Patreon reward will be coming to them in the new month.

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