• Published 26th Sep 2019
  • 510 Views, 30 Comments

CRISIS: A Royal Affair - GanonFLCL



In an alternate Equestria, a young filly, Blackburn, was destined to be Queen of Hope's Point, a beacon of light in the darkness. See her grow alongside the friends and loved ones that made her the ever-watchful, iron-hoofed Queen she was born to be.

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Epilogue: Mystery Mares

Four Years, Six Months Later

Blackburn woke up that morning the same way she did every morning: early. While she couldn’t see the sun from Hope’s Point, she knew what time sunrise was in Utopia and had gotten used to waking up at that time every day for the last four years. She rose from her bed and rubbed the sleep from her eyes, letting out a yawn as she did, and glanced fondly at the nightstand by her bigger-than-big bed, where she always kept her bracelet and the group photograph from Crown Jewel’s recital. She only wore the bracelet in private these days; ponies knew by now that Blackburn didn’t wear jewelry, and since at least two ponies had realized what the bracelet’s significance was, she didn’t want to risk more finding out.

Blackburn didn’t take long to wake fully and begin her morning routine, starting with a cold shower to give her a strong jolt of energy. She always washed with the highest-quality toothpastes, shampoos, and conditioners; the queen needed to look and smell her best, after all.

It had taken time to convince her subjects that she didn’t need any attendants in her washroom. Apparently her father had had a trio of mares tending to him in his baths, which Silver Glow had not only been accepting of, but had apparently suggested in the first place. Supposedly that was how the heads of the Utopian noble houses did things, and she’d thought it appropriate that a king should receive the same treatment. Blackburn, of course, was a very private mare with no need for such frivolous services.

Once Blackburn was cleaned and refreshed, she summoned Gadget to her chambers; since Gadget was on morning duty today, she was just outside the door and so was inside immediately. From there, the duo of mares conferred on any and all developments that happened over the night while Blackburn had been asleep, as well as planning out the queen’s business over the remainder of the day.

The first order of business was breakfast, of course; Crossfire always insisted that Blackburn eat something first thing in the morning so that she’d be energized for the coming day, and Blackburn saw no reason to argue. Virtuoso and Ivory Charm had already arranged to meet Blackburn at the Baroque restaurant, Bella Serata; the couple was particularly fond of the restaurant’s sweet crespelles with chocolate sauce, though Blackburn prefered hers with strawberries and cream. Supposedly they had big news to share; Blackburn was about ninety-nine percent certain what it was going to be, but she avoided speculating too much so as not to ruin their surprise.

After breakfast, Blackburn had a security meeting scheduled with Stellar Storm; supposedly the latter had found a perplexing irregularity in the profile of a recent gate visitor and wanted to go over it before approving or rejecting it. After that, Blackburn had a meeting over lunch with Fleetingmaster Lightning Flash to make final adjustments to their “welcome wagon” for the NPAF, who would be attempting their next attack three days from now according to Gadget’s algorithm.

After lunch, Crossfire would be taking over for Gadget while Blackburn went about her evening rounds in the palace, which typically included hearing possible petitions from citizens and addressing the concerns of any staff who hadn’t arranged an official meeting.

Gadget, incidentally, had requested tonight off days ago so that she could go on a date with her new coltfriend, who she purposefully told Blackburn as little as possible about; Blackburn enjoyed the challenge, and so far had determined that he was an engineer or technician, that Gadget definitely wore the pants in the relationship, and that tonight, Gadget was planning on getting laid. Blackburn wished her luck, of course, much to Gadget’s consternation.

Once Blackburn was satisfied with her schedule for the day, she got dressed in her royal white coat and lucky green-and-gold scarf, which she always wore these days, then she and Gadget left the royal palace for the surface level. They didn’t bother to travel incognito anymore and had no reason to; the ponies of Hope’s Point had, over the last four years, learned not to disturb their queen when she was busy, which she always was, and since Blackburn’s policies had completely removed any chance of potential infiltrators, she wasn’t worried about being attacked personally.

*****

Breakfast at Bella Serata was a pleasant affair, much as it always was. The food quality was always excellent, and the atmosphere was always comfortable; there were traditional red-and-white checkered tablecloths, of course, but no candles - those were better suited for dinner. Blackburn, Gadget, Virtuoso, and Ivory had a private table situated at the rear of the restaurant, far from the crowds and prying eyes; every restaurant that Blackburn frequented typically had a separate room, booth, or table somewhere just for her use, and Bella Serata was no exception.

Virtuoso and Ivory Charm’s good news was exactly what Blackburn had figured it would be, but it was still a wonderful surprise to hear it from them:

“I’m pregnant,” Ivory said, a bright, happy smile on her face as she held hooves with Virtuoso over the table. Virtuoso had a proud, happy smile as well.

The couple hadn’t changed much in the past few years. Since Hope’s Point didn’t have the same kind of societal norms and needs as Pandemonium, Ivory had taken charge in establishing an actual fashion scene and so still maintained her supermodel figure; whether she’d do so after having a second foal, only time would tell. Virtuoso’s mane had started graying a little and he’d put on some weight, but he was otherwise still the same imposing unicorn he’d always been.

“Congratulations,” Blackburn said, returning the smile. “Wonderful news. When did you find out?”

“Last night,” Virtuoso said, giving Ivory a coy look. “We’ve been trying for a few weeks now, so Ivory’s been checking nightly for confirmation.” He sighed contentedly and kissed his wife’s neck. “Ah, la mia adorabile moglie. Going to be a mother again.”

“I must zank you again for your advice on a fertility doctor,” Ivory said putting her hoof on Blackburn’s. “Doctor Rosepetal ‘as been wonderful wiz ‘er ‘elp.”

“Glad to hear I could help, then,” Blackburn said, nodding gently. “Crown Jewel is excited, I assume?”

“Oh, like you wouldn’t believe,” Virtuoso said with a chuckle. “She went to school this morning cheering about having una sorellina or un fratellino, though I had to remind her of the latter possibility. I think she’s certain the new foal is going to be a filly.”

“Well you’ll probably be able to find out one way or another in a few months,” Gadget noted. “They’re doing wonders with medical techno-magic these days, y’know? Unless you guys are going for the whole ‘surprise’ thing.”

“Speaking of ‘wonders of techno-magic’,” Blackburn said with a grin, “heard similar congratulations for Lyrica and Sweet Cream. Surprised they didn’t go more traditional route; plenty of eligible ‘donor studs’ in city.”

“I zink zey considered it at first,” Ivory said with a coy grin of her own. “Zey asked me if I knew anypony zat might make a good candidate. I suggested a few, but I zink in zee end zey decided to try zee less ‘traditional’ mezod. I still find it so strange, to make a foal wizout zee...urm, zee ‘fun’ part.”

“I’m sure they have no trouble having their own kind of fun, mia amata,” Virtuoso chuckled. He gave Blackburn a nod. “Grazie, Your Majesty… Blackburn. Thank you for everything. I don’t know if Ivory and I would’ve tried for another foal if it wasn’t for how welcome you’ve made us feel here in Hope’s Point.”

Blackburn smiled. “Of course, Virtuoso. What are friends for?”

*****

Once breakfast was finished, Blackburn and Gadget made straight for Stellar Storm’s office back at the royal palace. The office was small, but covered wall-to-wall with computer screens; a similarly small, ring-shaped desk sat in the center of the room so that Storm could easily see any of the monitors present. Blackburn admired the way Storm worked, and had made a similar setup for herself in her throne room, which these days doubled as her observation chamber.

Stellar Storm had changed quite a lot since she’d taken on the role as Chief Intelligence and Enforcement Officer. Years of living in Hope’s Point with a prestigious position had given her the chance to live a healthier lifestyle, much as many ponies from New Pandemonium did if they hadn’t had the bits to frequently eat well before.

Most importantly, though, she had a prosthetic horn - a silver spike with neon blue rings - implanted to replace her shattered one; while it was originally purely aesthetic, and gave her a fearsome appearance, it was unable to give her the ability to use her magic. However, with help from Gadget and Doctor Heartthrob, the horn had recently been fitted with a modified version of Gadget’s Telekinesis Simulator, allowing Storm to at the very least use unicorn telekinetics to a basic level, as well as some semblance of combat magic.

When Blackburn and Gadget entered, Storm rose from her seat and gave a brisk salute. “Your Majesty,” she said, her expression stiff as it usually was.

Blackburn nodded in response. “Stellar Storm. Shall we proceed immediately?”

“Of course, Your Majesty.” She gestured for the seat opposite her, which Blackburn took without a word. Storm then returned to her seat, pulled out her datapad, and immediately went into high gear:

“Two days ago, two of our security agents at the city gate - Cutlass and Barnacle, I believe you know them?” she asked, but she didn’t wait for Blackburn to respond because she already knew the answer. “Cutlass and Barnacle had a visitor arrive requesting entry. So far, so good. The pony in question had not gone through the typical entry procedure, which I’ve since confirmed with Agent Clearview at the New Pandemonium Docks.”

“Did they have a voucher, then?” Blackburn asked.

“The pony in question did not provide one,” Storm replied, shaking her head. “This was already unusual, as ponies almost always do one or the other; this discrepancy was the first red flag that Cutlass informed me of. The next was that the pony refused to bribe Cutlass even when given varied options to speed along a background check; visitors who go through our channels even if they don’t go through the prior procedures are aware that it is customary to pay.”

Blackburn pondered this. “Made an excuse, did not have bits I assume?”

“Correct. She - the pony was a mare - also refused Cutlass’s alternative offer of paying via physical labor; Cutlass claims she mistook his offer to be sexual in nature and was highly offended.”

Blackburn snorted. “Wouldn’t have assigned Cutlass to you if I thought he would act as such, but ironic anyway; his husband would be most upset.”

“Yes, quite. Moving on, Barnacle was able to get a name out of the mare and pulled up her NPRD profile to give to me on Cutlass’s request due to aforementioned red flags,” she said as she pushed a few buttons on her datapad. “They’re waiting for orders from me to move forward on her background check, whether to skip her ahead or put her at the bottom of the list, or otherwise. After looking it over, I thought you’d like to get involved.”

She pushed her datapad across to Blackburn, who took it and examined it. The mare in question had a cyan coat and a beautiful rainbow-colored mane; she wore a bog-standard flight jacket and a pair of cracked goggles. Name: Rainbow Dash. Hometown: Ponyville, Utopia. Blackburn felt an eerie sense of familiarity when she looked at this mare; something about her eyes and the cocksure expression on her face reminded her of her mother. But that was neither here nor there; her hometown was clearly the biggest red flag of them all.

“‘Ponyville’?” Blackburn asked, not expecting an answer but merely confused, no, baffled.

“That’s what her NPRD profile says,” Storm confirmed, shaking her head in disapproval. “Obviously, it’s an out-and-out lie: you and I both know there’s no place down south called ‘Ponyville’, and that it’s an obvious fabrication.”

“And an awful one,” Blackburn said with an amused chuckle. “Uncreative. Perhaps neighboring town to ‘Stallionberg’ or ‘Fillytown’.”

“I was thinking something more direct, like ‘Colt City’,” Storm joked. “I know the northern ponies have generally awful naming schemes for locations, Your Majesty, but this one really took the cake for me. Gave me a good laugh.” She cleared her throat. “At any rate, that’s just the first red flag: she obviously lied about where she was from when applying for her NPRD citizenship.

“The second, of course, is saying that this ‘Ponyville’ is in Utopia, of all places. Utopian ponies haven’t traveled to New Pandemonium in three of four centuries and have no reason to. They’ll come here, sure; our ponies and theirs tend to have like minds and similar values. I doubt anypony down south is stupid or crazy enough to take their altruism straight to the source up north when they can help more from here.”

“Agreed. This ‘Rainbow Dash’ is a puzzle in pony form,” Blackburn said, nodding her head in understanding. “Appreciate bring issue to me. Suggest a thorough background check; may be new NPAF strategy to infiltrate. Poorly performed, certainly, but possible.”

“I’ll get right on that, Your Majesty,” Storm said, bowing her head in approval. “I already took the liberty of checking out the story this ‘Rainbow’ gave to Cutlass and Barnacle.”

Blackburn leaned forward interested and impressed with Storm’s initiative; then again, she always had been, which was why she hired her for this position in the first place. “Oh? What was her story?”

“She claimed that she had others with her, not present at the gate but en route, and that she’d flown ahead to get help for them. Naturally that sent up another red flag, especially since she didn’t provide any information for the rest of her party before she left, presumably to report back to them first.” Storm reached over and tapped her datapad again. “So I took a little look through her profile to see if I could find out who these ‘others’ might be.”

Blackburn eyed the datapad screen as it showed five other profiles, which she could browse at her leisure.

“These five mares were listed as emergency contacts for this ‘Rainbow’, and they all also hail from this ‘Ponyville’, so naturally I’m all sorts of curious. At this point I’m fairly certain either this is some new NPAF tactic to infiltrate the city, or we’ve got ourselves a bunch of ponies that escaped from a lunatic asylum. I already gave them a look, but I thought you’d be interested in seeing for yourself.”

Blackburn clicked on each of the other five mares’ profiles to give them a brief look; they were just basic NPRD profiles, nothing too robust, but she could at least get a feel for these mares based on their photos and clothes.

The first, Twilight Sparkle, was a lavender unicorn with a dark purple mane with a purple-and-pink streak through the middle, wearing what looked like a stage magician’s cape. Her identification photo, different from her NPRD profile photo, made her look like she was drunk. Still, the mare’s eyes had a glimmer of intellect to them, and while her coloration was slightly different, she couldn’t help but be reminded of an old photo of Evening Glitz from some thirty years ago.

The next, Pinkie Pie, was a pink earth pony with a pink mane - her name was appropriate - wearing what could only be described as an entire goodwill donation box worth of clothes, none of which matched whatsoever. Blackburn frowned - the mare certainly looked like a younger Cotton Candy, but her eyes didn’t quite match the latter’s blatant psychopathic mindset; a different kind of crazy, maybe, but not psychopathy. Blackburn wasn’t a psychiatrist so she wasn’t going to take a guess.

The next, Fluttershy, was a dainty little butter-yellow pegasus with a long pink mane wearing a short, no, provocative blouse. Her eyes were kind, but her expression was definitely one of somepony that was scared and shy, at least in the photo. Blackburn was reminded of former Secretary Featherfree, who while she was enthusiastic in her work, was a bit of a wallflower in social interactions.

The next, Rarity, made Blackburn very sad for a moment; the alabaster-white unicorn, with her curly, luxurious purple mane, was just about a dead ringer for her stepmother, Queen Silver Glow. Not just in how she looked, either, but how she carried herself; despite the middle-class quality dress she wore, she carried herself like she belonged in a class well above that.

The last, Applejack, was more of a mystery if only because Blackburn didn’t feel any bizarre sense of déjà vu looking at her. She was an orange earth pony with a blonde mane, wearing a work shirt and a stetson hat that looked completely out of place, since such hats weren’t in style anywhere but the Utopian continent. So at least this “Applejack” was putting in an earnest, honest effort to look like she belonged where she said she did.

Once satisfied with the ponies presented here, Blackburn passed the datapad back to Stellar Storm. “Agree that they’re suspicious, possibly dangerous whether NPAF agents or escaped lunatics. Perform a full background check, have it ready by tonight if you can.”

“I can do that, Your Majesty,” Storm said with a nod. “I’ll put myself on the case, make it my first priority. What are your orders in case they show up before I finish? I’m assume… delay them?”

“Correct, delay them. If they have others with them, perform background checks on them as well, priority one.” She pondered it a moment, then shook her head. “Exception: if they do have others with them, other stipulations for entry do not apply, except for vouchers. Distant possibility: these six have legitimate reason to fabricate information, are being helped south by a friendly contact.”

“Hmm… so you’re thinking this ‘Rainbow’ might’ve just been dumb muscle that got sent ahead because she could fly, and that one of the others, or even one of these other five, has a voucher?”

“As said, distant possibility. Improbable, not impossible.” Blackburn rose from her seat. “Anything else, Stellar Storm?”

Storm shook her head. “That was it, Your Majesty. Thank you for your input on the matter.”

“Very well.” Blackburn paused, then smiled. “Don’t forget to take a break, Storm. Background checks are priority one, your health is priority zero - takes precedence.”

Storm bowed her head and smiled back. “As you wish, Your Majesty.”

*****

Once the meeting with Storm was concluded, Blackburn and Gadget met for lunch with Fleetmaster Lightning Flash at the latter’s favorite diner; he was particularly fond of their soups and sandwiches, which came in an astoundingly large selection. Blackburn didn’t come to this diner that often - she liked their waffles, but that was about it and it wasn’t breakfast time - but they still had a private booth because of the Fleetmaster.

The meeting itself wasn’t too complicated and was concluded in about one minute, allowing the trio to enjoy their lunch and each other’s company; Lightning Flash proved to be an incredible replacement for Skyrocket and the fleet had expanded tremendously in the past four years. Blackburn had even had his help in constructing her own private airship, the Wyvern, to serve as the fleet’s flagship if there was ever a call for a full-scale war.

Blackburn and Lightning only needed to decide on the details of their “welcome wagon” for the NPAF when they launched a “surprise” attack in three days from now. The conversation went as such:

“Are we planning on doing anything different this time around, Your Majesty?” asked Lightning.

“Hmmm… nothing new to ‘show off’ to the NPAF,” Blackburn mused. “See no reason to change normal procedure.”

Lightning nodded in approval. “No sense in messing with the classics, eh? Right on, then, I’ll put in all the confirmation orders as soon as we’re done eating.”

The “classics”, incidentally, were large, decorated banners spread throughout the city, and an airshow performed by the fleet’s stunt flyers, replete with skywriting, the more vulgar the message, the better; Blackburn gave prizes to the most creative, and Briarthorn made a good showing every time. Same as the first time the NPAF attacked after Blackburn became queen. Blackburn noted that while the city in general greatly enjoyed mocking the NPAF at every opportunity, Lightning Flash and Stellar Storm took particular pleasure in it, having deserted on moral grounds.

Just after lunch, Crossfire met with Blackburn and Gadget en route to the palace to take over for the latter, who was all prepared to head off to get ready for her date. Before Gadget could leave, however, she received an alert on her datapad.

“Aww, c’mon,” Gadget grumbled as she took her datapad out to check on the message. She scanned it briefly, then her eyes widened, and her mouth curled in a little grin.

“What is it?” Blackburn asked.

Gadget gave Blackburn a bright smile. “Somepony at the gate just put in a voucher request. For Briarthorn.”

Blackburn and Crossfire broke into bright smiles as well, and both Crossfire and Gadget swooped in to give Blackburn an ecstatic hug.

They were excited for a very simple reason: of all of the hundred or so contacts they had in New Pandemonium, every single one of them had been given specific instructions on who to use as vouchers - ponies within Hope’s Point that could vouch for their legitimacy and usefulness - usually related to their fields of expertise. These same voucher ponies were given all the information they could possibly need on their contact so as to make the process quick and to integrate them quicker.

But none of them, not a single one, down to the very last pony, was ever told, under any circumstances, to request Briarthorn, not just because none of them knew him but because Briarthorn’s field was unrelated to anything anypony in the northern city would be skilled in. That, and because Briarthorn had become… unique in the past few years, mostly as his Diffusion sickness began taking hold, addling his mind as it had his father, grandmother, and grandfather before him.

There was, of course, one exception to all this, which could only mean one thing:

Lockwood was finally here.

Author's Note:

For further reading, this story continues in CRISIS: Equestria, the original story from which these characters all hail from. This epilogue itself links directly into Chapter Twenty-Six of that story, as readers of the original can likely tell!

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Comments ( 3 )

Wow, this has been quite the journey! Loved all the little nods and easter eggs for CRISIS. Also thanks for fleshing out one of the best OCs in CRISIS.

Great to see another full story in this setting.

This was a great story.

I'm gonna be honest, Blackburn was never one of my favorite characters from CRISIS: Equestria. The know-it-all, authoritative, direct and possibly manipulative character archetype has never jived with me. This story though, this has added a lot more characterization. You've made her much of a complex, thinking and feeling person in my eyes. This was a very enjoyable read.:twilightsmile:

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