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Stories about ponies are stories about people. Every challenge is an opportunity to change. My Patrons let me keep writing, at: https://www.patreon.com/RealStarscribe


This story is a sequel to Steel Solstice

Sunset Shimmer's plan to escape the Steel Tower failed—but she is still returning home. Instead of a victorious pony, come back to gloat to her previous teacher about the secrets she had uncovered, she is an adviser to one of the most dangerous men alive: Tesla.

But it isn't a simple invasion; Equestria is under attack by demonic forces, and the Steel Tower has been invited to help. But there's another faction of humans in Equestria, one that is still at war, and one who Sunset suspects are plotting terrible things...

She isn't alone. One of her human friends, now trapped as a cybernetic bat pony, is sent on a covert mission of her own. Equestria may depend on them in ways they never could've realized.

Updates Thursdays.

This story is meant as a companion to Harmony Defended, and to take the place of the long-anticipated revision. I decided it would be better to write something new than to overhaul something that was so long in itself. This story will probably spoil various elements of that one, though the reverse will largely not be true. If all of this seems confusing, you should probably start with my first story in this series, My Little Apprentice. As that story was written in Season 4, this one will not necessarily incorporate the canon of future seasons of Friendship is Magic.

The Sunset Campaign was sponsored by Two Bit on my Patreon, who is generously sponsoring me to clean up my tangled web of previous stories. Sparktail and Two Bit did the editing, and Zutcha did the cover.

Chapters (27)
Comments ( 137 )

I very much enjoyed your the original - yay for a sequel!

“I wouldn’t do that. I’m not Princess Luna. I won’t ever be like her.”

So that's the part the official history focused on? Not why she did it? Assuming Evening Star Also Rises is completely canon here of course... still surprised by that connection!

At some point they need to get Sunset, Hayden, and Second Chance in a room together! :rainbowlaugh:

Just me, or Starscribe really likes bat ponies?

Ok just one thing before I start to read this and I know I don't need to do so but the order is steel, apprentice, then campaign? I like to read stories in the right time line when I can (it happens selldem with r.l. books)

If you've never read anything from this series before, then the full order is...

My Little Apprentice
MLA: Apogee
MLA: Perihelion

Can You Hear Me Now
Steel Solstice

Harmony Defended
Sunset Campaign (this story)
Pax Humana

But this story is a direct sequel to Steel Solstice, so that's the only one you must read to understand this one.

Then in theory you don't have to go back and read the MLA books to understand this one. You could go back using the order I provided and check them out, but those characters will be only incidental in this story. Sunset Campaign is a direct sequel to Steel Solstice. Everything else is supplementary.

Makes sense it's mostly name drops and references and not knowing that bugs me so after I wake from my nap(day off so I can nap if I want don't judge me:trollestia:) i'll probly start with apprentice thanks for taking time to respond to my reambles

Richard is a good king.

Wasn't a big fan of the first story. The more ambitious Sunset was and the harder she worked to achieve those ambitions, the more she became trapped and denied. Not that I blame the story for doing that, I guess the bitter ending just left me with a bitter feeling. But with a sequel, Sunset has another chance. I'll be rooting for her.

So, I've been eagerly waiting on the proposed revision to Harmony Defended before reading it, after binge-reading MLA over two days. Does this story's existence mean that that isn't happening, and that I can read HD now?

Seriously? Sunset was able to recognize Discord just for his eyes? When she never met him except as an statue in Canterlot's garden?


A statue which by the way had its eyes closed?

Captain Evening Star? I see what you did there.

I'm liking where this is going. Can't wait to read more.

It's quite possibly the same one.

I'd actually be surprised if it isn't.

Liking how this is turning out! Color me intrigued. :trixieshiftright:

Isn't "Evening Star Also Rises" part of this story line also?

Called it. I guess she's ageless afterall.

A daemon live as long as it's master lives, and since she was created by Luna...

I'm beginning to think starscribe has a thing for formerly human gay bats

I keep getting sponsored to write about them.

“I think you should try to meet civilians,” Twilight said, trailing behind her. She didn’t walk, just stood in place and appeared beside her again whenever she got too far away. “It would be better if you didn’t blame all of them for the actions of a few.”

Comp-Twi is Creepy Watson?
I don't know how Sunset handels.

These bodies were waterproof, and hers was even treated to function at depth… but she doubted an ability like that would ever be useful.

Alright Chekhov you can put the gun down.

Oh wow, so this is jumping straight ahead to the big war. Should be interesting.

The engineer held her in his vice-like fingers, and his voice came in over private radio. “Do not forget our conversations. While in Richard’s presence, your life hangs in the balance. Don’t think for one second he would spare you. Ask him about the way he punishes the digital smugglers if you don’t believe me.”

Richard is a good king, though, so we all know that this is a lie.

“They told you my name?” the guard asked, raising an eyebrow. He hadn’t taken off his helmet, and watched the activity around the helicopter with unveiled suspicion.


Considering another recent story, I have bad news about the supposed uncorruptable nature of alicorns.

She was no longer worried about Richard taking over Equestria. “I think I changed my mind about him, Twilight. I think he might be a good king.”

Like I said above.

Long-term guess, this story is going to be about the eventual betrayal by Tesla and whatever percentage of the Order that follows him and/or is corrupted.

“Oh.” Jackie glanced over her shoulder, and there was indeed a bright red line now surrounding the camp. Whatever it represented, its official existence had only just been recognized. “That wasn’t there before.”

That's unfair, you can't put up the fence after the robotic horse is out of the yard and then give her a hard time about it.

She spun around, glaring back through the doorway at Tesla. He was wearing one of the damn bracelets right now, she could see the metal on his wrist. He stared down at it as though it were a spider perched on his arm, ready to bite at any moment. No, there was none of the mockery with him. Tesla understood magic in a way that most of the Steel Tower did not. It wasn’t superstition to him. “That’s what I’m trying to do.” She stepped back outside. “Tesla, go on. Tell him to give it to me. Put me on the list.”

Wait, I was wrong before, this is the part that's unfair. Plus, they're going to be hard-pressed to keep Sunset secret from Equestria if Discord is kicking around and offering her life advice on what she really needs.

She found herself the most important-looking figure she could—a knight in white robes and silvery armor, who also happened to be the only person she’d seen so far with any kind of personal effects. A collapsible guitar wasn’t exactly proof that he had a soul, but it was more than she’d seen so far.

It's a start.

“Sir Bradley,” he corrected, adjusting the box under him until it was something like a chair, then strumming a chord on his guitar. It almost sounded in tune. “What can I do for you, strangest citizen I’ve seen today?”

Bradley Brad Oh my god, it's Flash.

Three nodes did not present a lot of variety to the intrepid explorer—the realms were not infinite here. She read the tags in an instant—one was a standard pre-war simulation of Earth, one was a hyperconnected university sim, and one belonged to the most popular fantasy sim, the descendant of that same simulation that had been such a powerful influence that the Steel Tower had a king and medieval-style guild.


She read. The account was obviously written by ponies, and was full of claims Jackie never would’ve believed. The ponies couldn’t tell their own mythology from reality, and the two mixed on almost every page.


Jackie snapped her book closed. “So let me see if I’m understanding this right. Steel Tower tried to send someone to open up diplomatic contact with Equestria—but instead of that, she raised a fucking army, waited for a national crisis, and tried to use it to seize power?” She tossed the book onto the sand. “Sounds fucking unhinged to me. Maybe she’s better off wherever the Equestrians banished her.”


Hey, Motherlode, that's a fun connection.

Can’t wait for Evening star to show up again

Why have foreshadowing when you can have a fore-eclipse?

Yes, it was only daily for a week so it could catch up with the progress it made on patreon before coming to fimfiction.

“Says you. One more thing. You’re wired for field nuclear, yeah? RTG in your gut should keep you on your feet for… two decades, give or take. There’s a trade for that, though—you’re running hot. Your body will get less efficient and even shut down for awhile if you get too warm. And if the case gets damaged… ” He shook his head. “Well, this place isn’t a shithole like Earth. The locals want it not irradiated. So try not to kill anyone, okay?”

Certainly not any more irradiated than sections have already been.

Jackie, meet Applejack.

The Steel Tower brought a million something citizens with into Equestria? That's...interesting. I suppose they're easy enough to transfer back if needed, but that's a big investment of personnel.

“Easy,” he said. “Everyone does it, or… I thought everyone did. Augmented copresence is… well, basic stuff. But you’re new to the outside world too, and they don’t teach it much in the Realm. Not really a need. Join me outside, and I’ll show you on the way to your meeting.”

Ooo, neat.

The pain of it didn’t make it to Sunset’s face. She could shut off her muscles there, and keep back the tears, the betrayal. You promised me you’d teach me everything you knew, Celestia. Then when I discovered the truth about Alicorns you wouldn’t share it with me. Said it was too dangerous for anypony in Equestria. But look at her. Celestia had lied. Ultimately, it hadn’t been the entire population Celestia had judged unworthy—it was Sunset Shimmer personally .

Maybe you should have stuck around instead of running away, maybe it would have turned out differently.

“Pretty sure,” Braeburn said. “Never got off somewhere I knew I wouldn’t make any money. And uh…” He lowered his voice. “Not to be impolite, Miss Moire, but you should keep your coat on when you go there. Real, uh… traditionalist town. Bats in particular have a… bad reputation.”

Motherload is a bat town? I wonder if it's the bat town.

Sunset and Brad, I'm still amused about this.

Sunset glanced up once to make sure they had looked away, then sat up quickly. She pulled on her top, relaxing a little as she made room for the shirtless knight. Not bad looking, for a biped. They were all muscular and confident, so she would have to remind herself not to use that to judge. Easier said than done. Bradley had also made himself incredibly helpful, and was genuinely polite and charming too. Don’t you do it, Sunset. Don’t you dare.

This is a bad place and time for shipping, but still.

Sunset shrugged. “You busy? Maybe we could… get some lunch or something? You get time off, right?”

Let's ship it anyway!

That scanner, that ship name...

“Captain Evening Star.” The bat took her hoof. She frowned as they shook, as though she were on the edge of commenting about how strange it felt. But then she let go and shrugged. “Welcome aboard the Nightbreeze .” She stomped one hoof, and in an instant another bat had arrived beside her.


And she's plugged into Truth?

The captain laughed. “Yes, I’m sure we will.” She tapped on the railing again. “It isn’t a request. Don’t make me send the officer of the watch to find you.” She left Jackie on the deck of the Nightbreeze, not sure if she were about to be solicited or arrested. That tongue of yours is going to get you killed one of these days, Jackie.

Maybe right now!

I am 100% joking and 100% serious about this ship.

And next they can bring Twilight out so that Sunset can lose Brad to her.

Evening Star shrugged. “I’m not sure why I wouldn’t. They’re just decoration to most who come through my halls. A few see them as enchanted.” She lifted the pistol out of its holster deliberately, settling it down on the table next to her plate. Not pointing at Jackie, but within easy reach. “I would love to know why a pony is traveling with an accelerator rifle and an RTG implanted into her chest.”

Okay, yeah, it has to be Hayden.

A thousand years seems to have left Hayden with some interesting skills.

So much awesome contained in this story! <3

“You see why I wanted to protect them,” Bree said. “These people are… insane. They think they can pray to their political leaders and have them answer. They think they can’t lose a battle so long as they’re waving the right flag. They don’t even have weapons.

Blame Celestia. She raised her ponies not as self-reliant subjects but as permanent children, keeping them in the dark regarding threats and dangers and preventing them from maturing.

Of course in the middle of an invasion their reaction is "mommy will keep us safe".

Well it's worked to keep them safe for a VERY long time if you remember. It has been CENTURIES since any last war has broken out. Since the ponies are so innocent, there's not going to be a lot of major crimes, as most don't understand violence. Plus if you have a super powered being that raises the sun, and you've spent generations in a backwards village...it would be easy to give into that.

I mean do you even realize how sturbbornly simple minded even humans in rural areas of America are? I do, I have family there. We PROVED that the Chain Letters that have no sources or wrong ones, are bogus. Yet they continued to send them again, sharing them as if they were 100% Truth. An that is MODERN HUMANS. Imagine if you were a bunch of ponies who had lived peacefully for over 20 generations, without acess to things like The Internet to fact check things.

I want to know how they learned the information theyre using, and whether the one who told t hem was 'cooperative' or not

If your going to be bringing everyone into play, they might as well fulfill a good role or three.

And heres where things currently stand

We need more story now

Woah. The spectacle in this chapter is stunning. But a dual cliffhanger? No faaiirrrrrrr...

Ahh such lovely irony that if Mr Racist had kept his cool another couple minutes he'd have lived, proven wrong but skull intact. Can't say I'm sad to see him go.

On Sunset's side, I was trying to figure out how Chance had gotten herself disguised, I'd completely forgotten about the imprinted changeling! Guess it's time to go back and reread Apprentice!

Damn. This chapter was more intense and hardcore than I would have thought. Great writing though, I can't wait to see what you will do next! <3

Ada needs a robotic hoof to the face.

Sunset and Starlight and Trixie, should be fun.

She spent the next few minutes demonstrating the touchscreen to the pair of fascinated unicorns, though they weren’t the only ones around. Practically half the pony workers had stopped to stare, though most of them didn’t seem to be listening too closely. They wanted to see a human up close, probably.

Dubiously created magical touchscreens by Starlight and Trixie when.

“Oh, she doesn’t,” Trixie cut in. “Starlight Glimmer almost ended the world a few times. She’s very deserving of when ponies hate her.”


“Sure,” Starlight said. “Hey, Trixie, how about lunch? Do, uh… do humans eat lunch?”


And it makes sense as a place to exile a troublesome alien who maybe sorta invaded your whole country. Way up here she won’t be able to do any damage. Keep her away from anything she could break.

It's a traditional location for that sort of thing.

The ponies stared openly at her, pausing as they pushed switch carts around. Jackie was wearing her robes again, but apparently that wasn’t enough to conceal that she was a bat underneath. “A thestral,” one of them said, his voice dismissive. “What in Celestia’s name do you want with Motherlode?”

Well, scratch that theory of mine about Motherload. Probably.

“Well…” Jackie lowered her voice. She wasn’t sure how quiet she would have to be not to be overheard. Maybe it wouldn’t be possible. But she could try. “I’m looking for someone strange… not a pony. Someone pale, two legs, hair just on their head. Taller than anypony you’ve ever met. Ever seen someone like that?”

“You mean like a diamond dog? But they don’t just have fur on their heads…” She frowned, obviously confused. “Why would you think that would be out here. You think they were setting up a friendship school out in the mountains with nothing around?”

Well, it's probably not Frostline.

Silver Spring seems like a good candidate though.

“Is that why you ran? Celestia wouldn’t make you an Alicorn? After talking to her, I always imagined it would be something… bigger. Something more important. A princess’s apprentice abandons her because of… selfishness? No.”

While true, Sunset has a another, very important reason besides personal ambition: Celestia's passivity.

The Sun Princess knew this shit was going to hit hard yet refused to take the necessary steps to get all of Equestria ready for the tribulation... which is a hell of a point considering the current events and how unprepared have proven to be both civilians and the Equestrian military.

Sunset spent the prequel trying to learn human knowledge and build an army to fight for Equestria. Shouldn't she mention that?

Jackie shrugged. “Color me intrigued.” As they got closer, she got a better look of some of the exterior features. A spring from the peak seemed to pass the house, and it had been redirected into a slush-gate that ran to a water-wheel, then back to the original path of the stream. And there was a wind-turbine as well, complete with coils of bright copper wire right on the top that made its purpose obvious.

Ooo, that's promising.

Hey, a Tower distress call. Feels like that makes it exceedingly less likely that Jackie would manage to leave without finding out the full details of what happened to the missing engineer.

“Excuse me.” Jackie stood back up on three limbs—that was apparently shocking enough that Frostline turned away, covering her mouth like she was going to be sick. “That was quite rude, Spring. I assume… I assume you know how to do that because you’re the one maintaining the human that’s hiding around here? I’m here as a friend, dumbass. Maybe don’t attack me.”

No kidding.

Motherload's dislike of bats specifically is notable.

“I think you’ll find that humans and ponies have a great deal in common,” she said, setting her cup down as delicately as she could. Despite lacking the unicorn magic either of them were using, her hand was precise. “I know I was pretty surprised. We both like music, books, theater, fashion… food. When I first met them I thought that I’d wandered into a pony town by mistake. If my eyes lost focus, I could almost see the cutie marks.”

Sunset is terrible at keeping the big secret.

“Great,” Starlight said, not sounding as though she thought that at all. “That’s great. Perfect. Exactly the kind of enforcement mechanism that we can rely on. A distant, unknowable autocrat. With nothing but character testimony. Really reliable.”


“No, that’s exactly what I was thinking of,” Sunset said. “The realm is cool and all, but it’s totally not worth it to go through that. I wouldn’t want anypony else lined up for something they didn’t sign up for.”


“I found you.” She sat back against the wall, breathing a sigh of relief. She almost couldn’t believe it. She’d made it all the way here, without anything catastrophic going wrong. She hadn’t been blown to pieces, hadn’t been banished by the Tower, hadn’t found out her family were being tortured. Something actually went her way for once. “I did it.”

The the catastrophes are almost certainly still to come in the future.

You know, when put like this I'm not sure this is a rescue so much as a cleanup of one of Tesla's previous messes. If so that could have bad implications for Bree if he gets his hands on her.

“If you… if he…” She shook her head. “Look, my message was clear. I didn’t call for rescue. I don’t want to go anywhere, or do anything.” She lowered her voice, her ears flattening. “I… I messed up here, Jackie. Messed up worse than you ever did. I suggest you take what I’m willing to give—what I’ve learned, as much as possible to help the Tower. Because that’s all you’re going to get. I’m not going.”

It's a competition for who has screwed up the most.

“I asked you not to staple it,” Ada said, propping her feet up on the table across from her. There was no one else in with them today—no creepy scientists, or even Tesla behind her to back her up. For better or worse, most of the meetings weren’t important enough for the other national leaders. It was all Sunset and Ada. “And if you can’t get something that simple right, you obviously haven’t done any of it correctly. I don’t know how you expect us to work with you with your incompetence sabotaging the war effort.”

She really is asking for a punch to the face.

Hey, at least the personal connection Sunset made with Starlight should help. That is something I suspect Ada has not done.

AR goggles, that's a great idea.

That did it. Starlight retreated, looking away. “I think I do.” She left, taking the boring reports with her.

That might work for now, but probably not forever if Sunset keeps dropping phrases that imply she's not really human and knows too much about Equestria.

Their Sunset Campaign is easy to explain
To Prove their Pony worth they'll overthrow the Earth
They're Sunny and the Bat

(Sorry. :pinkiesmile: )

Whelp things just went to Hell in a hand basket! T_T

Makes me wonder if that one human with magic is secretly working for the Dragons and such.

Damn. I wonder if that was Luna trying to reach out to Jackie.

Though now I am curious as to what will happen in terms of Jackie trying to kill all those Griffons, not to mention Sunset & Twilight. Still so many interesting plot points left!! <3

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