• Published 19th Jul 2012
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The Best of All Possible Worlds - McPoodle



The philosopher Voltaire finds himself in the most-frustrating place imaginable: Equestria

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Chapter 39

The Best of All Possible Worlds

Chapter 39


From the ground beside Voltaire came the sound of quiet weeping.

I told you not to look,” the human whispered with a sigh to Blueblood.

He winced as a wave of prickles washed their way across his legs. Voltaire flexed his toes experimentally, before carefully rising to his feet.

“There’s nothing to worry about now,” he told the unicorn. “The goddess will put everything back the way it was.”

I don’t want to remember any of this,” Blueblood moaned, looking out at nothing. “I just want a daughter who thinks that schoolyard bullying is the sum total of pony depravity.”

“I think we can arrange that,” said Voltaire. “Are you going to be alright? I’m going to take a little walk to see what’s what.” He looked around himself, his mind wandering.

“I will never be alright again for the rest of my life,” Blueblood announced morosely.

“Have fun, then,” Voltaire replied as he wandered off, having obviously not heard the unicorn’s reply.

~ ~ ~

Voltaire’s first stop was the prone body of Algarotti, who was clutching his shin.

“Does it hurt?” Voltaire asked, his hands shoved into his pockets.

“Yes.”

“Good.”

The Italian presented his other leg. “Want to make it a matched set?” he asked sarcastically.

“Oh that won’t be necessary,” Voltaire said with a predatory grin. “After all, I have before me the prospect of the rest of your life. A life of cowardice and failure. Just like your life before we met, if I remember correctly, only this time there will be that nagging feeling at the back of your head. A memory that simply cannot be recalled. A conviction...that once upon a time you were Archibishop of Canterlot, and you utterly botched up the opportunity. What was in that bullet, anyway, that made you think it would have done anything to Her?”

“Silver.”

“Silver?” Voltaire asked with a laugh. “As in, a silver bullet? What are you, a peasant? Did you also have it blessed by the local priest and carried through the village square on a velvet pillow?”

Algarotti turned his head away and refused to say any more.

Voltaire glanced around himself, and saw the pistol. He knew at a glance that it could not have held more than one bullet, but just to be safe, he kicked it away, with all of the violence he would have inflicted on his fellow human’s shin if he wasn’t currently making a point about being the better man. The pistol bounced off the outer wall of the cathedral before coming back and caroming off of the side of the thing that once was Blue Belle. It looked like it hurt.

Heee-heee!” the thing predictably chortled.

Voltaire turned away with a shudder.

~ ~ ~

Voltaire’s eyes sought out Genevieve, who was currently standing in front of the human girl from earlier. She was utterly frozen in place, paralysis being her apparent defense mechanism against having to accept the scene she had just witnessed. The tip of an all-too familiar pencil peeked out of a tunic pocket.

The philosopher could have sworn that he had seen that girl somewhere before, but could not place her. Then again, he was never all that fond of children. What good were they, anyway? he thought morosely. They don’t get any of your sophisticated jokes, and they blindly defer to authority. And look what that child donkey disguised as an adult has done to this wonderful world. No, I’ll never trust children, unlike Émilie, who was always going on about them: her grown ones that she had so many regrets over, the neighbor’s, Rossignol’s, the ones she might contemplate having with me before my moods drove her into the arms of one willing to give her what she wanted: a botched pregnancy leading to a botched delivery that led to her...

No, he stopped himself suddenly. Not going to think about it.

“Sixteen,” Genevieve said absently, tapping the girl lightly on the head and then turning her so she couldn’t see Blue Belle.

“Wh...where am I?” the girl asked Genevieve softly. “And who are you?”

Genevieve frowned. “I am Genevieve, Jenny,” she said. “And I think I took away a few too many memories this time.”

~ ~ ~

Voltaire walked up to the colt whose whistle had saved Genevive’s life. “I know you from somewhere,” he mused. “Don’t tell me, I’ll remember it in a minute.”

The colt looked at him incredulously.

“Oh I know! You’re the kid that robbed me that one time!”

The colt’s look turned to utter confusion. “Look, mister, I swear to...” he looked for a second at Genevieve, and then spat at the ground. “I swear to whatever trustworthy deity exists, that I have never seen you in my entire life.”

“Yes, you’re definitely that pickpocket,” Voltaire said, nodding. “And those light hooves must have carried over to this life as well, seeing how you managed to steal yourself some very un-unicorn-looking magic with your disappearing act.”

“That was...” The colt gestured around, but found that Celestia was nowhere to be seen. “The pegasus with the wavy hair. Ask her who she stole that spell from.”

Voltaire leaned forward and stared at the colt intently, causing him to start backing away.

“What are you doing now?” he asked the human.

“Memorizing your features. I’ve got the feeling that Blue Belle is going to want to track you down when everything’s back to normal. She appears to have picked up the habit of collecting interesting ponies.”

“You’re insane!” the pony exclaimed. “And you could have just asked me my name instead: Cut String.”

Voltaire laughed out loud. “You call me insane, and then give me your name so I can track you down? No, it most certainly is every last pony in Equestria that’s insane.”

Cut String rolled his eyes. “Whatever you say,” he said sarcastically. “Can I go now?”

“Well I’m not keeping you,” Voltaire replied, as he turned to walk away. “And Genevieve looks distracted, so now looks like as good a time as any.”

Hmm...” Voltaire heard Cut String mutter to himself as he walked away. “I wonder if I can snag the human’s pencil...

Voltaire froze in place for a moment in shock. Not going to think about it! he finally concluded mentally, and continued his search for Celestia.

~ ~ ~

He finally found her on the other side of the cathedral, throwing up into an open sewer.

It seemed entirely appropriate to Voltaire that an open sewer was located right behind the Cathedral of the Sacred Steed.

He waited until the alicorn was as clean as she was going to get before advancing and resting one hand on her withers. “Are you going to be alright?” he asked gently.

“I have to be alright,” she said, without a trace of emotion.

“Look, they’re all kind of waiting for you back there...” Voltaire said nervously, looking back around the side of the building at the city square.

“Yes, yes,” Celestia said, gathering herself. “Just a simple matter of walking a goddess through restructuring reality. Like I said, I’ve done this before.”

“And then what?” Voltaire asked.

Celestia sighed. “And then I have her restore everypony’s memories back to the way they were before. All but my own. There has to be at least one who has learned something from this whole mess.”

Voltaire nodded absently, but then suddenly caught himself. “Wait, why everybody but you? Are you saying that after everything she’s gone through, you’re going to revert Genevieve into becoming the same donkey she was when she fell out of Equestria? You’re going to negate an entire lifetime of experiences?”

“No,” Celestia said wearily, “She’s going to do it, at Her own insistence, with the negation of Her godhood as the last part of the spell. That’s how these things always work out.”

“And the others?”

“You saw the others, Voltaire. Do you think any of them want to remember this world?”

“I’ll remember,” Voltaire said quietly. “In fact I insist on it.”

“You?” the alicorn asked in wonder. “What possible reason would you have to retain your memories of...this?” She swept a hoof to encompass the world around her with that last word.

“So you won’t be alone,” Voltaire replied.

“Oh, Voltaire,” Celestia said sweetly, “you don’t have to do that.”

“Recall the part of my conversation where I said that I would insist on it,” Voltaire said wryly, “and then pretend that I said that now instead of then. I mean, Blue Belle back there is nothing on human depravity—I witnessed worse the last time my personal chef asked for a raise!” The haunted look in his eyes betrayed the veracity of that statement. Voltaire got serious, adding, “You’ve got to have someone to help you through this.”

“Me?” Celestia said with a raised eyebrow. “I believe I mentioned once or twice that I did something like this before, and the majority of the time, it’s me and me alone doing the confronting. Granted, I was channeling you this time.”

This took Voltaire aback. “Wait—me?”

“Yes, you. You have a very distinct way of looking at the world, I’ve observed. Pessimistic about how things will eventually turn out, but nevertheless optimistic from moment to moment. It was your piercing intellect, your merciless summation, that I was calling upon when confronting Genevieve.”

“Well!” Voltaire exclaimed, at a loss for words.

This anomalous state of affairs did not last very long.

“I don’t think that I’m quite that bad!” he finally exclaimed. “You were utterly merciless!”

“She was a god, Voltaire,” Celestia said with the hint of a smile. “If you treat me, a mere princess, as badly as you do, surely a goddess must rate a couple extra measures of scorn!”

“Well...” Voltaire said, pretending to think about it, “...maybe a couple.” He rolled his eyes and sighed. “Must you always resort to humor when facing the worst this world throws at you?”

“Yes,” she said, dead serious. “Always.” And then she chuckled, unable to hold back her amusement at hearing an objection like that from him of all people.

“I’m serious!” Voltaire exclaimed. “I mean....” He gestured wildly around him. “How...how can you possibly bear to go through with all of this?” he asked incredulously.

“Because I must,” Celestia answered simply.

“No, it’s not that easy!” Voltaire insisted. “You and the sewer here are proof of that.”

Celestia glanced at the open hole at her hooves and decided to finally be serious. “That was my response to seeing something horrific happen to one of my advisers,” she said.

“And nothing else?”

“And what else?”

“I don’t know about you,” Voltaire said, “but I saw the utter failure of pony character. Not a one of them stood up to that tyrant before you!”

“You forget the Resistance.”

“The Resistance was a joke! They just stood and watched like the rest of them.”

“Then perhaps you’ll note the significance of that inaction,” said Celestia. “None of them actually stepped forward and defended Her. Commented on Her actions, yes, but there is a world of difference between that and actually lifting a hoof in support of evil.” She fixed the human with an authoritative stare. “So my ponies are weak. So are humans. So am I. Alone, every one of us can be coerced into doing terrible things, or standing by while evil triumphs. But we are a herd, and a herd stands together. We strengthen ourselves as a group, and compensate for each other’s weaknesses. It pains me that it isn’t true on Earth, but on Equestria, what you call ‘tired bromides’ are by and large literally true. Love can conquer all, knowledge is power, and friendship is magic. No matter how often I might be tempted to lose faith in my own kind—or in myself—I am always brought face to face with our essential goodness and capacity to do great things.”

Voltaire took this all in silently, looking guiltily at one shoe as he pawed the ground. He realized that his dark thoughts about children and ponies earlier were simply excuses, ways to distance himself from the horrors he had just witnessed. “Oh, I am a firm believer in the second maxim you quoted,” he said finally, “but I guess I know what you mean about ponies surprising you. Like Hoofdini, or Cut String.”

“And who is Cut String?” Celestia asked.

“The pony you applied that disappearing magic on. The one who saved Genevieve.”

“Is that his name?” Celestia asked with an arched brow. “Hmm...I wonder how I could fit him into the chart? Loyalty? Or possibly Magic?”

Voltaire threw up his hands. “That’s it, I’m done here!” he exclaimed facetiously. “And don’t for a minute think that we’re even over that whole ‘killing’ fiasco! I threw up at least three more times than you.”

“Well somebody didn’t have the presence of mind like I did to skip a meal before facing down a ruler of Equestria!” Celestia replied with a smirk, already on her way back to the square.