• Published 6th Jul 2017
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Emerald Gleaner: Spirit of Dissent - Legionary



The fifth entry into the Viral Unicorn series

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Chapter 1: Life's Rhythm

Emerald sat on a stool leaning over a table covered with a contraption that was covered in a material that appeared to be polished plastic.

The virus was currently in human form at the international hospital she had promised would be built. Belvedere had made sure construction upon the hospital continued in her absence despite the fact that, without her, the most important parts could never be made. It was very nearly done by now. The only things that needed finishing were the furnishing, the landscaping and, most importantly, the medical “machines”. Said machines she was currently very busily working on. However...

“-while I agree with the idea of having decentralized food production, I'll have to once again deny your request,” Emerald dictated aloud as she worked, the old Saint Bernard Cujo dutifully writing down her every word. “I trust the meat trees to only flourish under my own watch and care. Respectfully, Supreme Commander Gleaner of the Enclave.”

Ever since she had come back, Emerald had a mountain of things that needed her attentions. She had no time whatsoever and had to snub quite a few people just to make time for friends and family. That had not changed even now while she was working on the hospital's most important components. The old dog, after making certain Emerald was done with her message, placed it aside and brought up an agenda

“Theseus Asterion of the Minotaur Isle Chain will be arriving later today to seek an audience with you,” Cujo recited from the agenda. “He wishes to speak with you regarding the scholarly pursuits of the Minotaurs.”

“Trying to get me to agree to letting their Adventurers in, hm?” Emerald stated to herself with a huff. “They know one could never just wander in. Guess I'll be seeing what they want. Next?”

“The Llamas have sent a missive regarding the formation of a small nation on their territories. They seem to be implying we are at fault for sudden activity of the Yacuruna peoples. They are sending a diplomatic team to speak with you further on this.”

“A customer is a customer. I'm not going to deny people fair and legal business,” Emerald said and cut to the heart of the issue. “I refuse to be held responsible for their no longer secure monopoly on the jungle waterways. That said, I'll do them the honor of coming all this way to be told that personally. Next?”

“Queen Aeris of the Bast Dynasty is... ahem, requesting that the price for the fish fruits be lowered indefinitely as her people are investigating the formation of strange, black glass roads in their desert, and the annihilation of several villages.”

“Hmmm...” Emerald paused in thought with a frown before continuing her work. “Granted, fifty percent discount. Next?”

“Warlock Taleena of the Eldeer is once again-”

“Tell her to fuck off,” Emerald interrupted before sighing and adding a moment later. “Politely that is... my schedule is simply too full. My ‘earliest convenience’ continues to be least a month away. She'll have to wait her turn like everyone else. Next?”

“A missive from Rarity,” Cujo stated, and Emerald paused before looking over her shoulder at him. “She is asking if it would be possible for you and young Navi to visit her for tea and a play date with her sister later this afternoon.”

“Yes.” Emerald nodded with a smile before getting back to work. “Cancel my three o'clock and send her flowers, chocolates and an apology. Next?”

“The mayor of Canterlot has sent an invitation to a Grand Feast being held in your honor. The ponies of Canterlot wish to show their gratitude to the one who saved their city and loved ones from death and destruction.”

“Hmmm... at the very least it'll be good eating, if a tad vegetarian.” Nothing she wasn't long used to. “Next?”

“A letter of complaint from Princess Celestia regarding your confiscation of the mirror portal...” Cujo frowned and tsk’ed with a shake of his head. “She seems to have not bothered to make the letter formal in any way.”

“Nice to know she can be casual with me, even if it's in annoyance with me,” Emerald muttered. “Tell her I'll come see her personally at a later date to explain why I feel the mirror is safer in my guard. Anything Else?”

“That's all for today, boss,” Cujo said and placed the agenda under an arm.

“Good. I'm about near done here,” Emerald said and stood up.

The contraption she was working on was mostly oval in shape with no sharp edges. It was fairly large at little over two feet at its widest point and six feet tall. The front had a closed shutter that, when opened, would reveal a single deep blue colored eye. Emerald waved a hand and the machine shuddered before its eye opened and it suddenly floated off the table.

“Hel~looo!” the machine chirped cheerfully in the voice of a small girl. “Are you in need of healing?”

“No. Show me your arms for diagnostics,” Emerald commanded.

“Acknowledged!” the machine said cheerfully and its back opened up. Instantly, eight long, spindly arms covered in the same plastic-like material the rest of its body was. The arms moved and darted about, experimenting with their range of movement. Four of them ended in different attachments while the rest had long, slender-fingered, fragile looking hands. “Diagnostics under way!”

“That's... freaky looking,” Cujo commented honestly at he took in the now multi-limbed automaton.

“A bit.” Emerald nodded. “Thankfully most people will be asleep should one of these require all of their arms to work. Now to do just one more thing.”

“Diagnostics completed!” the machine announced happily. “Condition at one hundred percent!”

“Perfect. Now for the final part,” Emerald said and reached out with her hands. Tendrils burst forth from her palms and lashed through the air. Within half a minute, the room was practically packed full of other machines exactly like the one Emerald had just made.

“Hel~loooo!”

“Hi!”

“Hi!”

“Hel~loooooooo!”

“Nice to meet you!”

“Attention!” Emerald shouted and instantly all the machines turned towards her. “What is your purpose?”

“Healing!” all of them happily exclaimed.

“Alright. good. Initiate sleep mode,” Emerald commanded and each one let out a small yawn and closed their single eye.

“Now we need to just finish the final touches on the hospital and we're open for business,” Emerald said and faced Cujo. “We'll need to start moving in the doctors and nurses very soon.”

Along with the machines and small army of aides and assistants, there was a sizable international workforce of doctors that would be living on site. Technically they wouldn't be needed with the machines being capable of repairing damage a doctor can only ever dream of fixing, but there was no real way of knowing what would happen in the future. Best to be safe and have them on hand. Besides, it wasn't exactly like it was a massive drain on her money. The sales of the corpse preservation gadgets alone would more than cover their employment.

“Right-o, boss.” Cujo nodded.

“Right. I've done my part, so I'll be letting everyone else finish the rest,” Emerald said and sighed a bit. “So much on my plate today...”

With that, the virus disappeared in a pink flash of light.

ALPHA

Sunset Shimmer found herself whipping her head back and forth as she attempted to not miss a single sight as the walked.

In the decade or so she had been gone, the city had changed far more than she had expected. The first change was the crowds filling the streets. Intermixing with the unicorns, pegasi and earth pony were species of all kinds from all over the world. Cats the size of ponies covered in jewels, griffins, changelings, llamas and minotaurs just to name but a few of the races she passed. It wasn't unheard of to see peoples from different species in Canterlot, before but it was very noticeable how diverse the crowds were here.

The buildings had changed up quite a bit as well. A few streets she had remembered from before were simply non existent now or seemed to have a new bend or two to them. Not only that, but quite a few buildings had been clearly changed or were outright missing. From what Sunset had been told, she knew this was due to damage caused by some horrible fighting over a month ago between Emerald and another incredibly powerful being.

'I can't believe I'm back here again... it's almost like nothing happened,' Sunset thought, still a little numb at the fact she wasn't punished by Celestia for what she did. 'I can't believe the princess didn't punish me... it feels almost unreal. After all the years away from here planning and plotting revenge, now I'm not only back but her student again. It's just... I almost can't believe this is happening!'

Sunset walked almost unnoticed among the crowds. It had only recently been announced that she was back and Celestia's student once more. The reaction to the news had been almost insulting in Sunset's opinion. Namely that of surprise that there was a student in recent times before Twilight. She hadn't thought of herself as world renown, but she at least expected people to know of her. It didn't appear to be the case, however, as the only people to really recognize her were the Royal Guard that had been around ten years ago when she ran away.

'I can't believe the only one to really remember me is... Celestia,' Sunset Shimmer thought with a bit of a disappointed look. ' Goes to show I really did think too much of myself... just a school dropout who thought she was ready to take on the world. Emerald was right... just a dumb kid...'

Sunset's mood took a rapid downturn as she reminisced more and more of her past. Eventually she simply couldn't take it and trotted back to the palace. A little over ten minutes later, she was back in the palace and entering her quarters when she suddenly realized her mistake. If she wanted to avoid things that reminded her of the past, the worst thing she could do was be in her room.

Out of what could only be supreme sentimentality, Celestia had Sunset's old room completely untouched since the day she left. So it had remained closed and shut away for ten years until she had been brought back by Emerald, then Celestia had it opened and cleaned up as soon as possible and ready for living again. So when Sunset had come back expecting all her things long since thrown out, she was met with her old room looking like she had never left. It just felt so surreal, to the point she had half considered the idea that her trip was just one very long nightmare when she had woken up the following morning.

Overall, Sunset Shimmer's room wasn't that distinct looking or uniquely decorated. She hadn't enjoyed her life with her family and when she had become Princess Celestia's student she had basically cast everything else aside. She had a bed with small tables on each side, a drawer, a single wardrobe, a desk set under a window and three book shelves of varying sizes. The only thing that honestly stood out about her room were the covers on her bed bearing her cutiemark.

'The books I was going to study...' Sunset thought as she walked over to her desk which had some books stacked off to the side and another sitting in the center. 'I was going to go study more advanced arcane algebraic equations and see if I could get a firmer handle on thaumic calculi. But then... but then I found that spell... that would have let me skip years, maybe decades of effort in a single cast...'

In hindsight, Sunset realized that the biggest reason why she had been so determined before to see her “vengeance” attained was because she had thrown away years and years of study by crossing the mirror. The instant she became human was the instant she lost her ability to use her magic. While the arcane equations she had been studying were easily advanced enough, she was able to apply it to the best math classes Canterlot High had. However, it was a poor patch for the hole the loss of her magic left. Her prodigal skill with magic was the whole reason she was able to become Celestia's student in the first place. Perhaps instead of determination, rather, it was out of desperation that Sunset Shimmer had held on to the desire for vengeance. The desperation to show she hadn't sacrificed everything and didn't have anything to show for it.

And now here she was. After failing utterly and completely at her vengeance, after being beaten, crippled and nearly killed, she was back in the palace. She had her magic, she had her old position as Celestia's student, she even had her old room back. She still found it unbelievable and some part of her expected this all to be some horrible, torturous delusion, that Emerald had actually left her there on the floor in that basement and hadn't healed her; that she was imagining everything in a fit of desperate mania brought on by agony and internal bleeding.

'Nonononono, stop it!' Sunset pressed hooves to the side of her head as painful memories assailed her. Dead faces twisted into masks of agony, mangled corpses, the miasma of gore, a pair of gauntlet clad fists crackling with electricity. 'Just stop it! Deep breaths...'

Sunset Shimmer took long, deep breaths as she tried to calm down. Ever since the events leading up to her capture by Emerald she had been tormented by her actions, her reasoning in the face of all the death she caused utterly failing to hold water. How could she ever justify her desire for vengeance to the innocents she forced to die for her? It was worse now that she basically had the life she had thrown away given back. Before, she could put up with the guilt easily enough, but now...

'I need to go for a walk, I can't be here right now,' Sunset Shimmer thought to herself and quickly left her room.

“Is that her?” Sunset Shimmer heard as she closed the door behind her. “Why, I do believe it is!”

Sunset blinked and turned to look to see three people approaching her. Two were middle aged noble ponies, one a unicorn male wearing a navy blue dolman with a monocle that had a thick, immaculately trimmed handlebar mustache with a slicked back mane, the other an earth pony mare wearing a gaudy, expensive gown with her mane pulled back in a thickly braided bun. The third person was a heron wearing a rich, jade colored robe with a pointed skullcap-like hat that had a long, black veil descending from the back of it.

“Excuse me my good mare!” the unicorn said in a posh voice. “Might you be one Sunrise Shudder, Princess Celestia's newest student?”

“Ah, well... yes, but my name is Sunset Shimmer,” Sunset politely corrected. “And I'm actually-”

“Capital!” the unicorn exclaimed with a boisterous smile. “Yes, quite good. You see the good lady and I are escorting this good chap here to a luncheon.”

“Spokesmen Tsau Kang,” Kang introduced himself with a small bow and pressing the tips of his wings together before him. “A pleasure to meet your acquaintance, young Sunset Shimmer.”

“My husband and I are curious if you would accompany us to the luncheon, my dear,” the mare said with a friendly smile. “It would do us so much honor to have such a distinguished guest be present.”

“Well...” Sunset honestly did not want to attend. She was very much not in the mood. However, as unreal as she found her situation, she still didn't want to end up ruining it again. Unable to think up a reason to politely decline on the spot, Sunset was left with only one option.

“Okay, I'd love to attend,” Sunset said with what she hoped was a genuine look.

“Capital!” the unicorn exclaimed happily. “Simply quite marvelous, myes.”

“Come with us, darling. We'll happily escort you as well.” The mare smiled as she and her husband began proudly strutting forward.

“How goes your studies, young one?” Kang asked politely as he and Sunset trailed behind the two ponies. “Well, I hope?”

“I haven't actually started yet since I've...” Sunset began. “Since I've become the princess' student. I think she wants me to spend some time settling in before we get started.”

“Then I wish you all the best in your lessons.” Kang nodded respectfully. “Now, pray tell, do you know Twilight Sparkle and Emerald Gleaner?”

“Uh. yes. For about a month and a half so far, in any case,” Sunset answered.

“Only a month?” Kang stated with a thoughtful look before nodding slowly. “Yes... very good.”

Kang didn't say anymore and Sunset wasn't sure how to respond, either. They continued following the two ponies who were blissfully having a rather one sided conversation with the two following them. It wasn't long before they finally arrived at their destination, a sitting room with a large coffee table and a large doorway leading out to a balcony. Sitting around this little table and being tended to by some servants were six other people. Sunset recognized them all as foreign dignitaries, but among them the deer doe stood out like an overly fancily decorated sore thumb.

“Ah, the rest of our party has arrived!” the llama among them greeted grandly before frowning in consideration. “Ah, I see we have one extra guest. No matter! Take a seat, my dear. I'll arrange for more refreshments.”

“Ah, thank you,” Sunset Shimmer stated as she took a seat upon a couch. “I am... happy to be a part of this, uh... get together.”

“Think nothing of it!” chortled a somewhat rotund Saddle Arabian horse dressed in many fine silks.

“Warlock Taleena, a pleasure to meet you again.” Kang bowed respectfully. “I had feared our chance encounter would be the one and only.”

“I had thought the same, Tsau Kang,” Taleena replied in her melodious voice. “You were an apprentice when I had seen you last. Whatever became of your master?”

“Unfortunately he had misunderstood the cultural norms of a tribe of yeti quite badly,” Kang answered as he took a bite out of a small cake. “He wasn't grievously hurt... however, he took it as a sign to retire. Thankfully I was nearly done learning from him and was able to start my own career in earnest.”

“Speaking of issues with tribals...” the Arabian horse began, taking a deep drink of coffee. “The Bast have been making quite the fuss recently.”

“And what has the pink furball been yowling about now?” the llama said with exasperation.

“She's been complaining about odd, black glass roads covering the desert and disappearing villages,” came the reply. “Knowing the Bast’s tendency for decoration, I'm of the opinion they simply sunk into the sand from the weight of precious metals, if they are even disappearing at all. It's very likely it's just a tall tale to garner sympathy and charity.”

Charity...” a reindeer snorted disdainfully. “Likely free food if the diplomat the Bast sent is any indication.”

“Something the most junior member of the league will likely fall for, unfortunately enough.” The llama sniffed haughtily. “I foresee many more fumbles in the future.”

“It's already started if the stories I heard about the Ball held in the Heron Republic holds any truth,” Kang commented. “One so young should not be so involved in greater politics. It's one thing to fumble in one's own backyard, but another entirely to do so on the world stage.”

“And yet she does everything in her power to gain yet more influence and collar every carnivore that comes her way,” the reindeer tutted patronizingly. “Honestly... the carnivores get a bit of extra servings for once and they surrender all just to gorge themselves daily. If it wasn't for the population explosion that is surely on the way, I'd be amused by the fact they'd all eat themselves round within a year or two.”

“That's exactly the problem, though,” the llama said, raising his voice a little. “Someone so young and yet she is gaining more and more power by the day. It isn't right for someone so unproven to have authority over so many. All it will take is one poorly thought out decision made in ignorance to affect the lives of so many.”

“How is it that one upstart with a cobbled together kingdom of thugs and slavers was able to accomplish all this in the first place?” a pony muttered

“The meat fruit is the key,” the arabian answered. “She not only holds total and complete monopoly on them but is the only one who can even grow them. No chance whatsoever of someone else managing to break into the field themselves as competition.”

“Surely there must be some chance?” one of the pony guests stated. “I'm am no expert, but skilled unicorns can work wonders.”

“Possibly... thankfully, we do have one to ask,” Kang stated and turned towards Sunset. “I imagine that a pony of your age wouldn't become the princess' personal student without truly prodigal skill at magic. Tell us, would it be possible for a team of highly skilled unicorns to develop a meat-like product to potentially compete with the meat fruit?”

“Oh, uhh...” Sunset said with wide eyes.

It didn't take long for Sunset to realize this “luncheon” was anything but a casual get together and felt rather anxious as the conversation became political. Suddenly it became startlingly obvious that she had no experience with maneuvering high stakes political social circles; another thing she only had herself to blame for since she left before lessons in such could begin. So she basically froze and simply stared at each speaker. Thankfully, being addressed directly broke her out of this and she focused on answering the question.

“Well...” Sunset began and hummed in thought as she considered how she might go about developing meat fruit of her own. “I would study the development notes behind the golden apple trees first, but... I think it would be entirely possible to create meat trees. However... it would take time. The development of the golden apple trees took decades and while I don't expect meat bearing trees to take as long, it would still likely take years. And that's not taking into account the end product might not even be all that appetizing. So it would take years to make a viable product, years more to perhaps refine that into a much more palatable substance and therefore profitable.”

“A bit of a long term investment, then,” the Arabian waved off dismissively. “You have to start somewhere.”

“Thank you for your input, young lady.” The llama smiled gratefully before getting a thoughtful frown. “But I'm curious. Just where do you stand in all this?”

“Where do I stand?” Sunset said, and was about to ask what he meant.

“Now, now. Young Sunset Shimmer is an honored guest,” Taleena said with a gently reprimanding tone before turning to Sunset with a ready smile. “There's no need to needle her about political leanings.”

“As you say.” The llama nodded and seemed to put it out of his mind.

“Thank you, Warlock Taleena,” Sunset said gratefully.

“Oh, so formal! Think nothing of it,” Taleena replied. “You know, I am honored to know Celestia as a personal friend. I would not mind it in the least if you called me by name.”

“Ah... well I would happily treat any friend of Celestia's as a friend of my own.” Sunset nodded and got a happy smile from Taleena.

At that, the conversation abruptly drifted to various, far more mundane topics, local shopping, entertainment venues and the like. Unbeknownst to all, hanging just under the balcony and clinging to the wall was a neochangeling wearing a white cloak that helped it camouflage against the white stonework of the palace.

BETA

Emerald breathed deeply, eyes closed in concentration as she flowed seamlessly from stance to stance. All around her, stone and earth practically flowed like water.

Emerald was deep underground below the Everfree and clearing out a new, massive cavern. Normally this was a project she'd get her dogs to help with, but with her abilities and the size of the job it was simply faster to do it herself instead of delegating. She was moving countless tons of stone via her channeling abilities and creating a new cavern that was going to serve as a kind of massive mold.

Emerald stopped and took in what she had created so far. It was an utterly massive cavern with a great big pit in the middle stretching three kilometers down. There was also four other massive halls near the top that stretched away and then dropped down into smaller pits. She would be filling the whole of this cavern with biomass and then shaping the insides of that, filling it with runic circuitry, gems and magic... lots of magic.

The virus reached out a palm and biomass burst forth in a vast tendril before branching out into hundreds of smaller ones. They spiderwebbed across the surfaces and through the air, rapidly covering dozens of meters with every second. Barely twenty minutes later and a vast, skeletal framework was already in place. With another wave of her hand the framework shook and expanded out once more, filling in the empty spaces, forming walls and rooms. She was very nearly finished forming the “body” of the structure, the easy part, when she was interrupted.

“Queen Mother!” came a shout.

Emerald turned around to see a cloaked neochangling come trotting down a tunnel towards her.

“Vata, what is it?” Emerald asked as she halted the growth of the biomass and faced the changeling fully. “Has she finally hatched?”

“No she has not, Queen Mother,” the changeling answered in clear worry. “We worry greatly. She grows and eats and does not stop. If perhaps this was just a normal metamorphosis then we would not worry, but right from the start it was very different. It is clear that she will be physically far more different from us than any changeling queen ever was.”

“I figured that would be the case.” Emerald hummed in thought for a moment. “Right, let's go see her, make sure everything is fine or if I can jump start things a bit.”

Emerald concentrated on the cavern where the neochangling queen's cocoon was and teleported both herself and the changeling to it. They arrived in the cavern where there were only two other changelings, but the nature of their link meant effectively all of them were there. The cocoon was now easily three times the size of Emerald's human form, the air around it freezing cold enough to rapidly freeze water.

“Queen Mother,” one of the changelings greeted her before facing the still cocooned Queen. “We know not what to do other than keep feeding her. We harvest emotions at all hours and she consumes them without end. We do not know how much longer this will last.”

“Hmmm... all of you can eat magic to an extent,” Emerald hummed in thought. “Perhaps... perhaps she simply isn't getting enough food to finish growing? I have plenty to spare.”

With that, Emerald approached the massive cocoon. She came to a stop a foot away from its “face” and placed a hand right next to the horn. She wondered for a moment about how to go about giving Ambrosia magic before deciding just to channel magic to her hand and pushing it outwards.

The reaction was almost instantaneous. The abdomen-like part of the cocoon glowed like a white hot piece of steel and the sounds of chitin straining filled the air. The cocoon started wiggling in place and began to noticeably grow in size. This caused Emerald to hum in thought and experimentally pour forth even more power. The cocoon shuddered and started rapidly expanding in size. It grew and grew and grew until it towered above Emerald and was taking up much of the cavern. When it finally stopped growing, it was easily bigger than a bus.

Cracking noises filled the air as the cocoon began to break and shards started to go flying.

Emerald stepped back as black, scything limbs broke through the cocoon shell and the being within started to burst forth in earnest. The thing about changelings was that while they had quite a bit of insectoid qualities, they were still more pony shaped than anything. This fact remained so even with the viral changelings. The being that fully emerged from the cocoon had barely any resemblance to its old form. It had three pairs of legs, all of them on the front half of their body and reaching forward, forcing it to drag its abdomen along the ground. Its abdomen was a bright orange, wrinkled, pulsating thing with an egg sphincter at the end. Upon its back were movable, protective shells laid over three pairs of leather, tattered-looking bat wings with orange membranes. Its head was still vaguely shaped like the one it had before, but its horn was much longer and ended in bident-like prongs, and it had clusters of eyes softly glowing orange. And along with its toothy nightmare of a mouth, it had a pair of mandibles around it that seemed to be capable of fine manipulation. Covering most of its body was a pitch black, chitinous shell that shined in the light.

“Ambrosia?” Emerald said aloud.

“Queen Mother,” Ambrosia spoke in Emerald's mind. “I apologize for troubling you. I had hoped I'd be able to finish growing without further help.”

“No, it's okay,” Emerald said as she and the other changelings approached Ambrosia. “So this is what the new changelings' version of a queen looks like, huh? It's rather different than Chrysalis' form.”

“Very much so. We had not been expecting this,” Vata said as he examined Ambrosia's body. “She is so much different from us... what does it mean for the next generation of our hive? Will they be different looking as well?”

“Only one way to find out,” Emerald answered and looked to Ambrosia.

“Indeed. I shall gather together a store of emotion and then start producing eggs,” Ambrosia said with a nod of her rather large head. “It should not take long.”

“Great. Until then, I've had a building set aside for you to stay in within the new districts,” Emerald said and reached out to Ambrosia. “I'll take you there now.”

Emerald concentrated and with a flash of light she, three neochangelings and the newly born queen were teleported to the Hub. They appeared inside a rather large room of a multistory structure in the new expansion to the Hub; the expansion that was being built for the past few months. It was still a work in progress, but many districts were already in use. The room they were in was empty, but with a flash of light a massive, velvet cushion burst into being.

“The building isn't really furnished yet,” Emerald said as the queen pulled her mass onto her new bed. “I'll leave decorating to the rest of you.”

“Leave it to us,” Vata said with a nod. “We can handle the rest. Soon there will be more of us and they shall be born instantly knowing all that we know.”

“Looking forward to it.” Emerald nodded and turned away before teleporting.

With a flash of light, Emerald arrived in a lot buzzing with activity. All around here were Warhounds and Direwolves suiting up in their new power armor. They were moving about, stretching, jumping, briefly sprinting, simply getting a feel for the abilities of their armor. Just from looking around, Emerald was able to recognize a few new faces among the Direwolves. The growth in their numbers hadn't been steady, however. After the initial burst, the number of recruits into the Direwolves dropped off greatly.

'Got no choice but to treat and train them like they were an elite fighting force now,' Emerald thought as she walked among them. 'Don't nearly have the numbers for anything else. And if they are going to be an elite fighting force, they'll be needing the best possible gear as well.'

Emerald glanced at the weaponry the dogs were carrying as she passed. Despite the runic paint imbuing the rifles with enhanced abilities, they were, at their core, still conventional firearms. They were a bit higher caliber than the mainline guns, but they wouldn't be too out of place on Earth. It was time to change that.

'Time to upgrade our weapons,' Emerald thought. 'After spending a whole month planning and designing, it's time to get to making some of the ideas into reality. I'll need to talk to Moon Dancer. We should only need a small testing period and then I can get right to making them.'

Thinking about Moon Dancer brought Emerald's thoughts into how the unicorn had been handling her responsibilities. She was doing fantastically; she took to research and development like a fish to water. Not only that, but she was making good on her desires to find peaceful applications for Emerald's weapons-heavy technology. After getting some permission from Belvedere, she had used some funds to set up a company, Everfree Industries, to disseminate goods and technology she had managed to redesign so far.

Everfree Industries' grounds were set up just on the Everfree border and employed quite a few ponies. Among its merchandise, it boasted high definition televisions and sound systems, high speed computers with a user friendly interface, an auto division constructing and selling eco-friendly magical vehicles of various types and a metal processing plant selling high grade alloys. Not only just that, she had made sure the company sold the products at a high price despite the cheap cost of production. As much as the unicorn clearly had wanted to simply sell the products at reasonable prices, she was very aware of how much damage that would do to a still tender economy. Local industries would have to sacrifice their profit margins greatly in order to compete with EI's clearly higher quality products. This meant EI's clientele were almost entirely of the elite and the well off. Not the best of situations but it was the only direction that allowed Equestria's battered market to remain competitive.

It wasn't just making the Enclave even more money than it knew what to do with that had Emerald regarding Moon Dancer highly. The unicorn had taken in everything she learned in her relatively short time in the Enclave like a sponge. With no input whatsoever and working together with Diamond Dog engineers she had managed to design a perfectly functional air cruiser. Not only that, but the unicorn had been helping making sure the other systems of the Enclave got updated. Living conditions in the Enclave were closer and closer to becoming something that wouldn't be out of place in the First World.

All this had earned Moon Dancer quite a bit of respect in Emerald's eyes. So much so that the virus had to realize that there was a rather large, long-standing issue in the Enclave.

'I'm too much of a lynch pin. Too key to the ongoing progress and development of the Enclave,' Emerald thought with a sigh. 'At least when it comes to bleeding edge developments. I'm combining magic and organic technology more and more as time goes by and I'm the only one that can do so. There are two options I can take here. I can either tone it back and try to recreate everything via more conventional methods or... I can create a means of allowing someone else to create and build with biomass as I do...'

Emerald paused and stood in place for a long moment. She knew Moon Dancer was trustworthy. She knew this for a fact. She trusted Belvedere and the other Alphas to run the Enclave in her absence and do as best a job as they could possibly do. Surely she could trust Moon Dancer with “Admin Authority” as it were.

'...I don't know... I really don't know,' Emerald thought finally. 'I'll think about it over the next week and make my decision then. Until then, I've got some things to discuss with Moon Dancer before I head home for an appointment.'

With that, Emerald teleported away again.

GAMMA

“Hmmmm...” Twilight hummed in thought.

The unicorn was at home reading in the library. She wasn't reading for fun, however; she was trying to learn a difficult spell. The spell was one that allowed one to transform themselves into an entirely different form. Twilight really wanted to learn this spell in order to be able to become human again.

'Being unicorn again is great and all, but I actually was enjoying learning magic all over again,' Twilight thought as she looked over the details of the formula on the pages. 'And I feel like learning to use magic without a horn was helping me understand magic better than before. And... w-well, I wouldn't mind being human with Emerald now and again.'

Quickly putting that line of thinking out of her mind, Twilight focused on the spell. After looking over the equation one last time, she stepped away from the book and concentrated. This was understandably a rather complicated spell, though thankfully it wasn't a truly complete transformation. A failed cast would simply not work and not turn her into some mess of limbs.

'Right, let's try transforming myself back into a unicorn,' Twilight thought. 'If this works then I wouldn't want my success to trap me in human form. It isn't too terribly hard to disrupt the transformation normally, but I've made some adjustments and made the transformation a bit more durable. I'd possibly be stuck as a human until Emerald came back or I hit myself really, really hard. I'd rather not have that happen.'

Twilight's horn started glowing and, after a long moment, there was a bright flash of light. Twilight felt herself shrink ever so slightly and her wings pull back into her body and suddenly it was like she never ascended into an alicorn.

The unicorn smiled back at her bare, wingless sides before quickly getting to work on drawing a special runic circuit on a scroll using some of Emerald's special runic paint. After spending a few minutes drawing out a complicated circuit that covered the entire scroll, she channeled magic through the circuit. The circuit on the scroll lit up instantly and the paper started burning to a cinder due to not being able to handle the flow of energy. That was okay. It only needed to exist for a second. There was another flash of magic and Twilight was an alicorn again.

'Great!' Twilight thought with a smile. 'Now I can turn myself back when I transform into a human. It will be a while yet before I can be sure of being able to use my magic for something so advanced, so using a scroll to do the complicated part for me will remove me needing to rely on Emerald turning me back.'

Despite the fact she dearly wanted to continue practicing and experimenting with her new spell, she was expecting someone so it had to wait. She quickly cleaned up and put away her books before leaving the library. She passed through the living room on her way out. Navi and Spike were there playing video games on the large screen television together. It was the first thing Emerald had set out to do before anything else, make sure Navi and Spike were comfortable and happy again.

“Make sure to keep the volume down, you two,” Twilight said as she passed through. “Emerald and I are expecting an important guest.”

“Yes, Papa,” Navi said and magically pressed the volume button on the remote.

“You sure you don't want any help?” Spike asked absently after Twilight. “I mean, I did that all the time for you.”

“Oh no, you just have fun,” Twilight waved off with a smile. “I can handle making my own tea for today at least, Spike.”

“If you insist.” Spike shrugged and focused back on the game.

Twilight walked into the kitchen and quickly got to work brewing some tea. She was expecting one of Emerald's old friends, though after certain events neither she or Emerald were sure if she remained such. However, the visit wasn't for pleasure. Said old friend had gained a bit of political influence now and she was meeting with Emerald to discuss the future.

She was barely down brewing the tea and getting the snacks ready when there was a knock at the door. Twilight wondered if it was their expected guest. If it was, she was a bit early. Quickly walking to the front door and opening it proved that to be true.

“Hello, Bon Bon,” Twilight greeted with a friendly smile. “I wasn't expecting you for a while yet.”

“Oh, sorry if it's inconvenient...” Bon Bon said apologetically, currently in her old pony disguise and wearing her heart armband along with an expensive looking dress. “I was nervous. The last time I spoke with Emerald, it hadn't been on pleasant terms.”

“Oh it's no issue. Come in, I was just finishing some preparations,” Twilight said as she backed up to let Bon Bon in, but she also considered Bon Bon's dress. It wouldn't look out of place at a high society formal meeting. Twilight was left distinctly wondering if Bon Bon had overdressed or if she were under dressed.

“Is... is Emerald here?” Bon Bon asked somewhat hesitantly as she entered.

“No, she's not here yet. She should be soon, though,” Twilight replied as she closed the door behind Bon Bon. “Let's have a bit of small talk until she gets back. It's been a while since I last saw you. How have you been?”

“I've been well, all things considered,” Bon Bon replied as she followed Twilight into a small sitting room. “I've been doing a lot of public service lately, helping my people settle into our new lives out in the open.”

“Oh? How has that been working out?” Twilight asked as she teleported the tea and treats over and placed on a table.

“Well... it could go smoother.” Bon Bon sighed a little. “Ponies have been rather accepting of my people. I just wish it had been the same the other way around. Since first recorded history we've always been in the shadows and siphoning love secretly. Now we are out in the open, and not by our own choice. A lot of us are rather bitter about it and making things harder than it has to be... I really have my work cut out for me.”

“I'm sure you'll do a wonderful job as Changeling Queen, Bon Bon,” Twilight said comfortably when she heard the front door open.

“I'm home!” came Emerald's shout.

“In here, Emerald,” Twilight called back.

“Hmm... well you are certainly a bit early,” Emerald commented as she leaned into view in the doorway before entering.

“Ah... Twilight commented on that too. Is it a bad thing?” Bon Bon asked softly.

“...” Emerald simply tilted her head and stared at Bon Bon for a moment, causing her to become rather nervous. “...Political circles are a whole other thing from small town social circles, aren't they?”

“Uhh...” Bon Bon averted her gaze downward.

“To answer your question, it depends,” Emerald said as she took her own seat. “Arriving earlier than the person you intend to meet can imply a certain amount of desperation, however.”

“Oh...”

“Bon Bon, are you here to see me on account of your new station?” Emerald asked pointedly.

“Well... yes.” Bon Bon nodded with a sigh. “I'm to be the new Queen of the Changelings. My first concern before I began the metamorphosis was to establish relations with you.”

“What did you need?” Emerald asked curiously. “Whatever it is, you'll get it.”

“What?” Bon Bon blinked in surprise at the statement.

“It might take me some time, depending on what you want and in how large quantities, but I'll get to work on it right away,” Emerald said.

“Emerald... I thought you were angry at us,” Bon Bon said softly. “For the invasion. But you're offering to...”

“I was angry, Bon Bon,” Emerald replied. “But I'm fairly certain your people suffered more than their fair share for what happened in the past. I'm more than willing to help them get settled and recover.”

“I had been so worried. I was coming into this meeting believing I had to negotiate with someone who hated me and who I represented,” Bon Bon said with audible relief.

“Bon Bon, I don't hate you or your people,” Emerald assured before smiling. “Also I advise you to ask Celestia if she'd be willing to give you some pointers when it comes to navigating politics. I'm certain she wants you to succeed and she has over a thousand years of experience to draw on. Now let's talk about something else. How have you and Lyra been doing? Still taking care of Trixie?”

“We've been doing good and Trixie actually left a short while ago,” Bon Bon began. “She started going back on the road and doing magic shows again, but she does come back to visit every now and then.”

Twilight smiled as she sipped her tea. She watched on quietly as Emerald reconnected with her friend.

DELTA

Moon Dancer stared down over the railing at the scene below.

Below Moon Dancer was a kind of obstacle course. It had half a dozen rooms, each with locked doors. The locks on each door were exceedingly more complex and secure. Also each room had a device sitting in the center, each one uniquely “locked” in methods different from the doors. The person undergoing experiments in these courses was Clean Sweeps, and she was already working on the door to the last room.

What was going on was some non-essential science experiments that Emerald had been considering running for the longest time but never saw it as important enough. Initially, Moon Dancer had agreed with the sentiment that it wasn't all that important. After all, what more was there to know about cutie marks? However after reading Emerald's notes, namely how she seemed to have gained some talent for finding and digging up emeralds from the ground, Dancer had found herself feeling curious. So here she was overseeing cutiemark experiments and how flexible their talents were.

Specifically, the current tests were in two parts. The first part was straight forward. Clean Sweeps' talent was picking locks so the doors just had succeedingly difficult and complex locks. However, along with that each unlocked room had a device that could be optionally “unlocked”. This was optional but Sweeps was encouraged to attempt to do so with a bonus to her pay with each one unlocked. The thing about the devices, however, was that they weren't exactly traditionally locked. It was simply left to Sweeps to assume it was a lock she had to pick open.

“Strong, silent typ,e ain't cha?” Clean Sweeps' voice drifted up to Dancer as she pressed her face against the door and started feeling out the various locking mechanisms. “Come on, sweet pea, talk to me...”

The door was a steel vault door that was magnetically, electronically and magically sealed. The magnets kept the internal mechanisms in place as well as the door itself, making simply pulling the thing out that much harder while magical runes reinforced both the door and the more fragile electronics. Theoretically the door should be able to withstand a nuclear blast right in front of it. The electronic components consisted of a bio-signature scanner, an eye reader and a keypad.

After going through the testing course several times, this door was the only one that still gave Sweeps a lot of trouble. Her first time through she was left to her own devices and only got halfway through. Now she was allowed to do her own homework on the things she had to deal with and was given some basic tools.

Dancer leaned over the railing a bit as she watched Clean Sweeps very carefully take the panels off several of the electronics. Moon Dancer found it rather fascinating how in the beginning before her first run, Sweeps was given some booklets of the advanced devices and locks she would be dealing with without being told what the booklets were about and had no clue whatsoever how to process the info. But now that Clean Sweeps knew she was dealing with locks, she had suddenly gained more than a bit of comprehension of the material she was reading.

“YES!” Clean Sweeps cheered in delight and started dancing in place when the door she was working on slowly opened with a metallic groan. Beside the door, a mess of tangled wires and circuits hung out of their recesses, crudely hot wired and bypassed.

Clean Sweeps entered the last room for the first time. In a gleeful high from beating the hardest door, she quickly leapt for the device sitting in the center. The device was the size of a small brief case and the instant Sweeps jostled it, a digital clock on the front started counting down from five minutes. The earth pony paid the clock no attention. The other devices often had the same things and even when the time ran out, nothing happened; she even still got the full bonus.

The former crook set to work on the device right away, using her specially made tools to rapidly and steadily pull apart the device. She exposed several wires and circuits; some wires she avoided like the plague while others she ripped out and cut. After a few moments of meddling with the innards of the device, Sweeps backed away. After a moment, the device gave a click and split open down the middle, revealing another digital screen. Only instead of counting down, this one simply said “GOOD JOB!”

'Well “tricking” the talent into thinking it's unlocking something seems to work,' Moon Dancer thought with a nod. 'It'll be about time to inform Clean Sweeps the whole point of the experiments soon and see if the tricks still work. It'll be interesting to see if it still works. Lots of ramifications and potential regarding so many other cutie marks.'

“Alright, we're done for today!” Moon Dancer called down. “Your payment and bonuses will be sent to your address.”

“Ah yeah!” Clean Sweeps shouted happily and hopped in place. “PAY DAY!

With that, the earth pony mare trotted happily out of the course. Moon Dancer made some other notes in her notepad before nodding and making her way elsewhere. Sweeps' job may have been done, but Dancer's day wasn't nearly over. Moon Dancer walked along the catwalks until she reached a side door and entered it, entering into a wide open hall lined on one side with large observation windows. There were dozens of dogs in this room looking through the windows. Moon Dancer looked through the windows as she passed.

Down below was a very large firing range testing a wide variety of new weaponry. Every new weapon a Warhound was testing was of a sleek design covered in a white, plastic-like shell. All of the weapons were of the new “Coilgun” line of weapons; weaponry that utilized magic and magnetic fields to send projectiles flying at incredible velocities. Not to mention the very nature of the coilguns allowed the projectile to be entirely solid, unlike a bullet, which consisted of mostly propellant and then the actual warhead.

'Ugh. Now how am I supposed to redesign this?' Moon Dancer thought with a huff. 'Seriously, some of the things Emerald make can be so frustratingly violent and hard to re-engineer for something peaceful.'

Moon Dancer picked up her pace to a quick trot and soon left the hall, entering out onto another catwalk suspended over a massive, cavernous room that was at least a hundred feet tall. The reason for the height of the room was made clear by the dozens of Biogears lining the walls in docking berths. As soon as Emerald came back, she had got to work on creating a factory line of all things for the giants of war and death. She finished it in an hour and got to work on other things while leaving it on and pumping out Biogear after Biogear. Already they had more of the things than they had pilots. And standing out like a sore thumb with its newly added wings and guns was Equinox, patiently sleeping the days away waiting for the next time it was needed.

Moon Dancer soon passed through this room and, after taking yet more short cuts through other rooms, she soon entered a large chamber that held a massive, secure vault door. She came to a stop before the door and waited a moment. Suddenly a magical light flared to life around her.

“Moon Dancer, requesting entry,” Moon Dancer spoke aloud.

“IDENTITY CONFIRMED. WELCOME ADMINISTRATOR DANCER,” spoke a loud, flat, electronic voice.

A loud, metallic groan filled the air as the vault opened. Moon Dancer waited for the gap to be wide enough before darting inside. She was met with a large, armor plated room lit up with industrial lights, and sitting in the very center was a mirror.

'Starswirl's portal to another universe. Very fascinating work and quite possibly millennia ahead of its time,' Moon Dancer thought in excitement and quickly trotted circles around the mirror, taking it in from every angle. 'It's such a terrible shame this relic was locked away for so long without us learning anything from it. Was Starswirl such a genius that even with literal centuries to study his work we could not glean the smallest secret?'

Moon Dancer came to a stop before the mirror and gingerly reached out with her magical senses and felt the energies of the mirror. She could feels the energies surge within the mirror like a flowing river and could already feel the sheer complexity of the relic without even properly viewing its internal workings.

'Emerald said the mirror becomes active once in a while and stays such for a short period of time,' Moon Dancer thought and then frowned. 'Drat, what was the time for activity again? Hmm... Emerald came back a little over a week ago... darn it, I can't remember the activation times.'

Moon Dancer walked closer to the front of the mirror and gingerly reached for the surface. When her hoof touched the surface, instead of impacting something solid there was a flash of light and her hoof sunk in. She pulled back her leg, and upon seeing nothing wrong, she stuck more of her leg into the mirror. She spent a few minutes doing this constantly before biting the bullet and sticking her head into the mirror. An instant later, she was met with the sight of a dark staircase barely illuminated by a door at the top.

'Fascinating,' Moon Dancer thought as she pulled her head back out. 'As much as I'd wish to take advantage of the mirror being active again, I'd best be careful. Emerald told me her world is rather dangerous. I'll talk to Emerald about this later. For now, let's get some basic tests out of the way.'

With that thought, Moon Dancer put a blank page on her notepad and started putting the magical mirror through a battery of tests.

EPSILON

Emerald walked down a hall flanked by Belvedere, Tavish, Bluno and Fenrir.

The virus was taking her cabinet of advisers with her to an important meeting with the independent packs. There have been talks on and off, but they were purely business, setting up food caravans to various packs. This one wasn't so mundane. Practically every influential Alpha from the independent packs were here right now to meet with her to discuss the future.

It wasn't long before Emerald and the others arrived at their destination: a large, well furnished and lit room. Dominating the center of the room was a fairly large, ovoid table. It wasn't a solid oval as the center was empty and actually had a decorative fountain there, softly trickling. Sitting around this table were a dozen Diamond Dog Alphas of various breeds, two of them recognizable faces. Fasha and the lazy Alpha whose name Emerald had found out some time ago, Balou.

“Welcome to the Enclave, everyone,” Emerald greeted as she took a seat at the head of the table, her cabinet taking up seats nearest to her. “Sorry to keep you waiting, I had some last minute business to finish.”

“It's not a problem, quite alright,” waved off a shar pei Alpha wearing rich, silken clothes and a pair of spectacles. He patted his noticeable belly before adding. “I for one do not mind waiting upon our very generous patron.”

“Neither do I!” added a Pug Alpha that was quite possibly even smaller then Tavish was, before said dog had his augments. “Perhaps we can also discuss the possibility of-”

“ENOUGH OF YOUR FAWNING!” Fasha barked out, slamming her fist against the table top. “We are here for a PURPOSE!”

“And what is this purpose, exactly?” Belvedere asked calmly, hands folded on the table before him as the pug recoiled a bit and the shar pei Alpha adjusted his collar a tad nervously. “Have your food shipments been light?”

“Clearly not light enough,” Balou replied with a yawn and a pointed glance towards the larger Alphas at the table. “No, but we are here to discuss some issues that particular deal is causing.”

“Oh?” Belvedere tilted his head curiously.

“Oh I think I know what this is...” Tavish muttered.

“If your thoughts are about how some towns are becoming dangerously close to being ghost towns,” Balou said as he rested his head on his hands. “Then your guess is correct.”

“The deal is bleeding us dry of young blood,” spoke a golden retriever wearing goggles on his head and a tough leather vest.

“You are aware that banning free movement and immigration would have a very negative reaction?” Fenrir pointed out. “I recall a few indiscretions in my youth that were done purely in spite of rules I thought unfair.”

“We are fully aware that simply barring movement to the Enclave would only make things worse,” Fasha grumbled. “So we've gone with the next best solution. Remove the reason why they've been coming here in the first place.”

Belvedere took a moment to think. Food wasn't really the main reason why the young dogs were moving because they had access to it in the Independent Packs thanks to shipments. It was actually the large amount of conveniences, heating, plumbing, housing and all of it freely offered. It was utterly foolish to think the Enclave could be convinced to do away with these conveniences so...

“You mean to place yourself under our authority?” Belvedere said and got serious nods from around the table.

“Yes, but with requirements,” Balou answered. “We wish for our infrastructure to be brought up to the Enclave's standards upon our integration. We've also noticed the train networks you have running at all times. We are very interested to know if something can be set up for getting around the many towns in our influence.”

“We do not have near close to the amount of workers needed to start a project of this scale,” Bluno said with a frown. “Let alone finishing it anytime soon. But if you are going to place yourself under our authority, then... we can set up a large training compound to train dogs from your packs so you can do the work yourselves. It'll slow the initial start up of the project by a bit, but things will speed up a ton with each successive wave of workers finishing their training.”

“We need to discuss this in detail a bit more...” Fasha said and looked around the table to a lot of nods. “But I think we can agree with the idea in general. The next issue we have to discuss is in regards to our integration. The Enclave NEEDS a currency.”

“There will be issues with that,” Belvedere said immediately. “Basic necessities as well as living spaces are given freely to all those living in the Enclave. I think I speak for everyone in the city when I say the idea of them suddenly needing to be paid for is not appealing in the least.”

“There is no need for that,” the shar pei Alpha waved off. “I think we can get away with attaching a price tag to things like more spacious living spaces and luxuries. But a good many influential people among the packs simply REFUSE the idea of integration unless some sort of currency is finally in place in the Enclave.”

“Well, Emerald? Final decision lies with you,” Belvedere stated as he and the other three Enclave Alphas turned to her. “What do you think?”

“I think this integration needs several more meetings to iron out the details a bit more,” Emerald answered. “But I agree with the idea and am willing to put the work and effort in to make it work.”

“We can start on that right now if it's convenient for you,” Balou suggested. “We expected to remain here for the better part of the month for these talks and set aside the appropriate time.”

“Hm... I've only got the spare time for more of this later this evening,” Emerald replied. “My schedule is rather busy lately. So let's take a bit of a recess, shall we? By all means, make yourselves at home while you wait for us to meet again. There are plenty of places to eat if you are hungry.”

“I'd like to know where we are going to be staying for our time here,” Balou said as his fellows started to stand up. “If we aren't going to be continuing the meeting right away, I'd like to get some sleep in.”

“I'll have someone show you to your quarters,” Belvedere said as he and the others got up as well.

ZETA

In the town of Ponyville, in a rather run-of-the-mill cottage, Zecora sat meditating in the center of her living room.

It was quite surprising how different the interior of Zecora's home in Ponyville looked on the inside compared to its exterior. On the outside it was a homely cottage like every other home in Ponyville, but the inside was filled with strange masks and the walls were lined with shelves and cupboards that were utterly filled with corked bottles of every shape and size. The kitchen had its center dominated by a large cauldron and even had the floor modified to hold a fairly large fire pit under said cauldron.

In the living room Zecora meditated, surrounded by small bottles containing a potion that bubbled freely without flame and sent up visible, acid green fumes.

For the longest while the zebra simply sat in the center of her living room utterly unmoving, seemingly as lifeless as a statue. Suddenly she breathed in sharply and her eyes snapped open, glowing green spheres of light. In her mind, slitted eyes glittered with amusement and manic laughter echoed. Then the moment passed and the light faded from her eyes.

“...A vison, perhaps now is time to make a decis... no,” Zecora began in her usual rhyme before stopping and giving a shuddering breath. “I can no longer keep up with this self exile or the rhythm.”

Zecora stood up abruptly, so much so she tipped over one of the potions, sending the contents along the floor. She ignored it and made for her room. Once she arrived in her bedroom, she pulled a box from under her bed and opened it, placing the contents upon the bed itself.

Upon the bed were spread several rather expansive, luxurious pieces of clothing and gold bangles with artistic engravings, dotted with glittering gems. A look of misery covered Zecora's face as she took in the sight.

'I must return,' Zecora thought determinedly. 'I cannot sit here in Equestria and lett my failures dominate my future. I must help my people.'

'Release them... from this Nightmare.'

-TBC-

Author's Note:

AN: And so begins the fifth book! A lot of excitement planned for this book, even in comparison to the climax of the third. This is where a lot of major plot that have been stewing for quite a while get their resolution.

Also I know some people will be disappointed by the lack of Navi, don't worry she'll get more scenes soon enough.

EN: And so we reach the Mass Effect stages of growth for the Enclave. First the Rachni Queen (Even though Legionary has assured me that it was never intentional to make a creature that referenced said Queen, and in truth only slightly resembles it), then the “coilguns” which are basically Mass Effect guns launching anti-tank ammunition instead of grains of sand. So much to discuss in this chapter, but not enough time to.