• Published 27th Nov 2019
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Hour of Twilight - Starscribe

Twilight Sparkle was Celestia's chosen heir, and under her rule Equestria was destined to prosper. But then her friends passed, as mortal ponies always do, and she was left to rule alone. The years were not kind to her after that.

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Chapter 56: Pegasus

It all happened in a blink.

Star had been keeping watch at first, and with the Alicorn distracted she was the first one to see the group of approaching survivors. Windbrisk was at the lead, though a few more beleaguered ponies limped along beside him.

Then someone screamed, their voice fading into the night. Star spun, her words to Windbrisk dying on her lips. She barely even noticed him taking off in a blur of wings, diving down into the swirling gulf of magic and horror. She didn’t even have time to warn him, because Christy came charging at her.

That human armor moved so fast, crossing ten meters in a matter of seconds. But Star was wearing it too, and it was mostly intact. She jumped backward, away from the nurse. There was madness in those eyes, nothing remotely like the mousy human she’d met.

Star didn’t know how to fight. She backed away from the knife, until she smacked painfully into a stone wall at her rear. She flipped her helmet down, but she could still speak. “How did you get back here so fast, Geist? I thought we sent all the dropships.”

Geist’s knife slid harmlessly off her breastplate. The nurse tossed it aside, then crashed her elbow into the junction between two plates. That blow from an unarmored human wouldn’t have done anything—but from someone in full plate, it dented mental, sending her stumbling to the ground a few feet away.

Star scrambled, reaching vainly for the knife—but this time Geist kicked her arm, and she slid up against the wall. She tried to gather what magic she had, maybe to levitate it towards her—but then came another blow, straight to her guts. Stars above, that was a rib.

“I thought I could’ve made something of you, Star. You were the most promising student I’d ever had. You know, that’s what Twilight wanted. A replacement for her aging changeling. That was the place of honor she had for you.”

She leapt down on Star, smacking her torso painfully back against the stone. She settled both armored grips around the helmet, then started to squeeze. The glass strained, then a spiderweb of cracks began to spread from her contact.

Star grunted and strained, trying to shove up against the armored changeling’s torso. Her arms flailed uselessly, one finger scraping against the metal. “She’s really dead, Geist! This is all over… stop!”

The glass shattered. Instead of spraying her, it turned instantly to slime, oozing down the side of her helmet but leaving the familiar jagged edge of broken glass. “You think lies will save you? You think I don’t know the harm you’ve caused?” She strained with one arm for a moment, hefting a light spear. She didn’t even bother firing it, just lowered the tip towards her head.

“Before you die, I hope you know how many are hurting because of you. A whole city you forced Twilight to punish. Thousands of otherwise innocent ponies who could’ve gone on with their lives, propagandized into a doomed resistance because of you. You deserve far worse than death. But I can’t risk you scampering away before this is mopped up, and somehow destroying more lives somewhere else.”

She shoved, aiming her spear with armor-enhanced strength directly at Star’s face.

Star Orchid caught it in her magical grip, rolling to the side. She might not have the strength to fight an Alicorn—but Geist didn’t have any magic. She yanked the spear, stripping metal in little ribbons from its side as she spun it around.

“Shouldn’t have stopped beating me,” she said. Then she fired, directly through Geist’s helmet. The spear tip flashed again and again, and soon her ears were ringing from the blast. Finally the tip shattered, and she dropped the molten-orange shaft to the ground.

Geist’s body collapsed to the ground a second later, or what was left of it. The top half of the armor had melted and blackened, obscuring the worse things she’d done to the body inside.

Star wobbled, and spun, dropping to her hands and knees. She gasped, then began to hack and cough, expelling the slimy residue of her meal supplement out onto the stone.

Eventually she flopped to the side, her armor responding sluggishly now. Just in time to see a brilliant sphere of purple light appear on the edge of the opening. The shield faded seconds later, revealing the two creatures inside. Jamie clung desperately to the hippogriff, eyes still glowing with magic.

Good thing Geist insisted on being so dramatic, or we’d all be dead.

She stumbled to her feet, wiping the slime from her face with the back of a gauntleted hand. “Dealt with Geist,” she said, stumbling over to them. “Nice catch, Windbrisk.”

He grinned up at her, spreading his wings from either side. “Thought the Alicorn might need some help, given…” He glanced down at her wings, then shivered, withdrawing. “Guess that’s it, then. Just got to spread the word and make the army stand down. I know the local cell should be able to handle the Royal Guard. They were only ever for show.”

“Not done yet.” Jamie reached up, touching briefly at her neck with one hoof. She gestured at the ramp. “That assassin almost… God, would’ve been awful. Come on, Star. I need someone like you.”

“I’ll watch for anyone else,” Windbrisk said, lifting another fallen spear from the fortification and spinning it in one claw. “Just to be safe. Wouldn’t want somepony stopping you from saving all our lives.”

Star reached over, touching him weakly on the back as she passed. “Thank you, Windbrisk. Thanks for being here.”

“No need,” he said, grinning back. “It’s for my sister.”

Star huddled as close to the center of the walkway as she could as they climbed. The door hung off its hinges, but she ignored that completely. The interior had been royal accommodations, once. But magic had torn half the space apart, leaving furniture in ruin and scattering little objects. Only the monument in the center was intact.

“I’ve seen that,” she whispered, aghast. “Geist and I… dug it up, under Hollow Shades. How the buck did it get here?”

Jamie stopped in front of the monument, watching it with a similar sense of familiarity.

“You know what this is?”

“Something left for people like us to find,” Jamie said. “A being that was technologically advanced, and magically gifted at the same time. Stick your gauntlet over here. You’ve got integrated micro processing, right?”

Jamie took it in her magic, twisting to unlock the suit and pull the machine open. The screen popped up, with tiny input buttons beneath. Even sized for the gauntlet, they were too small for hooves. But the alicorn had magic, maybe even Twilight’s own power. She manipulated its buttons easily in an even purple glow.

“You know how to use that?” Star asked, pulling her bare hand back, indignant.

“Not very well,” she admitted. “Never owned one. But my partner had Interceptor gear I could play with when she wasn’t looking. Shut up a second.”

Jamie concentrated, staring at the machine. Star couldn’t tell what she was doing, but the sense of power radiating from her grew brighter the longer she watched. Jamie glanced back to the gauntlet occasionally, muttering to herself.

The obelisk crumbled, its stony shell flaking away as though blown in an invisible hurricane. In seconds it had flaked away to nothing, leaving a rapidly spinning whirlwind of dust and rock. That stone coalesced before her eyes, forming an arch at pony height. The space within turned suddenly dark—a void beyond which no light penetrated from the other side.

It pulled at them, not quite strong enough to drag her boots along the ground. But strong enough that she knew she couldn’t leave it behind.

“You knew that would happen?” Star said, her tone indignant. “How?”

“I only knew it would be something important,” Jamie said. “Seeing as it was the thing Twilight wanted to get into more than anything else. Also, you’re going in first.”

Star didn’t protest. She was the first one through the stable gateway. She knew what to expect, even if the Alicorn clearly didn’t.

The world warped and twisted, filling her vision with static. She didn’t fall, though—even damaged, the armor kept her upright.

Star Orchid was floating. She gasped, spinning around in the air—and her limbs kicked off nothing. She stood in a vast space, hundreds or maybe even thousands of meters across. Her struggling had pushed her gently off that floor, and now she drifted away, further and further by the moment.

The sky overhead—hundreds of meters up—was clear, giving her an uninterrupted view of stars slowly spinning in their course. There was something else up there, trapped in the dome. Something she couldn’t see, but felt with her magical senses. Ahead of her, a single central column split the vast dome, maybe ten meters across. It was made entirely of glass—though it had been used structurally, as spidery tendrils that rose from each wall.

Star squealed, then remembered the obvious. She pushed herself down with magic, until her boots stuck to the polished metal floor.

She glanced over her shoulder, watching nervously for the pony she was expecting. Jamie appeared a second later, flashing into being and starting to drift. She caught herself faster than Star did, though mostly she flailed her wings around uselessly. “We’re in orbit,” Jamie said. “This is… big. Didn’t think any of the platforms was this intact.”

You know this place. Star hadn’t forgotten Jamie claimed she’d been human. She was a citizen from one of the shelters, awakened to serve a diplomatic mission that was now lost.

“Not the child we expected,” said a voice, familiar enough to chill Star and slow the heartbeat in her chest. “Strange timing for the ancient door.”

The Alldeath appeared in that clear column, a projection that towered over the two of them at several times human height. He wore that same unmarked uniform from before, his eyes still vast and dark.

Jamie touched down on the deck beside Star, apparently realizing the same thing she had. She took a few slow steps towards the pillar, watching.

A second figure appeared beside the first. Its features were identical, from the sharp nose to the long, dark hair. Only instead of a uniform, this figure wore a robe, and his bare feet seemed to stand on the deck inside his prison. His voice seemed to match his body, far smaller and more conversational. “Nothing makes mankind reach towards greatness more than great trial. This could only happen now.”

Starmind. The Starmind and the Alldeath… they were related.

“We came here to ask you to stop!” Jamie called. As though she’d expected this to happen. For all Star knew, maybe she had. Or she was just a convincing liar. “Those drones are dismantling Concord. If they keep going, the city will fall. Millions will die.”

“Regrettable,” said the Alldeath, looming down over them. Its eyes settled on Jamie. “This is a sad thing. But we’ve been trapped in inaction for too long. Centuries beyond centuries, unable to complete the terraforming and repopulate our homeworld. All due to the instruments. Task complete, but refused to drop their tools.”

Jamie stopped beside the glass, glowering up at it.

But she wasn’t the first to speak. It wasn’t her kind that were being spoken of like discarded tools, no longer fit for purpose. “We’re alive!” Star shouted. She didn’t even pretend to be respectful. Maybe the Starmind deserved better, but the Alldeath sure didn’t. “If you want to be done terraforming, just be done! Leave ponies alone.”

“Terraforming agents were created to terraform. All else you have done is irrelevant and no longer needs to continue. With the rogue agent no longer disrupting my timeline, the effort should be rapid from here out. Months, not years. The Earth blooms again. Soon my duty will be done.”

That’s what I thought. Your software patch didn’t do enough, Iron Lord. If that was going to work, it probably wouldn’t have tried to kill us in the first place.

“No,” Jamie said, shouting now too. “You can’t do that. I, uh… I order you to stop! I’m one of the humans you’re terraforming for! My name is Jamie Sanders, you can look me up. I was in shelter 198.64-Beta. I order you not to hurt ponies. You can revive humans if you want—there’s plenty of space. Just leave ponies alone. They’ve suffered enough.”

“I do not recognize your instructions,” said the Alldeath. “Even if your identity could be verified—so what? You’re compromised by exposure to a body that was never designed for you. Humans are not bastions of eternal sanity—otherwise one would be guiding this terraforming project, instead of me. The mind does not endure. Time or trial weakens and destroys. You have clearly suffered much. Too much for your orders to mean anything to me.”

Star tensed, resting one hand on Jamie’s back. The pony fell silent, glancing briefly up at her.

“Why are we here?” Star Orchid asked. “You hid a key to this place, waiting for someone to open it. What were you expecting?”

The Alldeath glanced down at its companion. In a flash, he stood beside it now—a pair of forces trapped within the glass. “Not mine.”

“It was a failsafe,” said Starmind. “The planet was so badly damaged—destroyed so as to intentionally make life difficult to replace. There was no guarantee anything of humanity would endure. If it did not, I knew we might be waiting for its replacement. The door you opened was the test, proving mastery of both domains we understand, magic and information. Understanding it is proof of personhood.”

“Then he has to stop!” Jamie insisted, a little louder. “We solved your puzzle, we made it here! I demand you stop trying to terraform anything. Leave ponies alone. You’re the reason they hate us in the first place! If you had just let them leave, not done anything… Equestria and humans might be living peacefully right now. Flurry and Cadance and all the old princesses would still be alive.”

“I may have been… regrettably forced to dwell here while repairs are made for a more suitable hosting platform,” Alldeath said, folding his arms. He leered at Jamie, unmoved. “That does not mean I take instructions from one who couldn’t even keep their own species straight. I was created from the greatest minds to ever live. All united in the purpose of restoring the planet. I will not stop for you, not for Starmind. My mission will be accomplished, no matter the cost in broken tools.”

“Alldeath,” Star called, loud enough that even the Starmind seemed to be staring at her. But Star remembered this. She had heard this proclamation before. The Iron Lord knew of this purpose. The solution was staring them in the face.

“I am one of the humans you are terraforming for, right? I’ve inherited this new power, and understanding of your old wisdom. Right?”

“In time,” the Alldeath said. There was no hint of recognition there. Could it really not know who she was? It had tried to kill her less than a week ago. Had she changed that much? “You’re the reason I fight. The world will be made suitable for you, and billions like you. If the ancients are dead, then we will engineer new inheritors. We won’t wait for evolution to create them. This planet will be yours.”

Star cleared her throat, resting one hand on the glass. “Then… on behalf of all those people—thank you. We accept the planet has been fully terraformed.”

“What?” For an instant there was anger on his face, rage that rose in splotches of red and blue and darkened the glass behind him. But as quickly as it came, it faded. “How can you… be an administrator? Who are you to judge the work complete?”

“She is an administrator,” Starmind said, smiling slightly. “Anyone wise enough to enter here is given elevated permissions to the entire network.”

“Thank you,” Star said again, though the words burned her throat as she said them. A creature like this—who had done so much evil—he didn’t deserve kindness. But in a way, he’d worked longer than anyone else. “Terraforming is complete. We receive the planet you offer us with gratitude. We do not need help resolving the pieces you left behind.”

“I…” Alldeath dropped to one knee in front of her. His eyes watered, or seemed to. In an instant, the vast space of the hall was not empty. It was a laboratory, larger and more complex than anything Star had ever seen. Even Twilight in her wildest dreams couldn’t imagine anything quite like this, with tools bigger than whole houses and an army of workers. “I never thought… the work would go on forever. The damage was irreversible.”

Its eyes settled on Star Orchid again. When it spoke, Star no longer heard the voice of hatred that had tormented all Equestria. Thousands of speakers boomed through the hall. Old and young, male and female—every one speaking together. “Instead of fighting on, your ancestors gave the last of their strength to secure your inheritance. Make something better of it than we did.”

The projection faded, man and machine alike. The Alldeath was the last to go, his body turning transparent in the glass. Then he sighed, as though finally removing something vast from his shoulders. Then he too was gone, leaving only a single figure in the glass.

The Starmind seemed so small in that prison, not much taller than Star Orchid. He glanced to the side, where moments ago there had been another figure. “Should I feel sadness that the only other being like me is dead? Or should I celebrate, knowing his purpose is realized?”

Star shrugged. “I don’t know. Now I’ve watched two of the creatures who killed more ponies than anyone else die… I don’t know how to feel either.”

“I just want to know what happens now,” Jamie said. “Not to be insensitive or anything, but… we basically just took the world apart. What do we do now?”

“Put it back together,” Star Orchid declared. “This time the right way.”

Just because the battle was won didn’t mean the war was quite over, not yet. But Jamie saw very little of that conflict. She’d given every drop of strength she had, just like the others who fought Twilight. She could only run on adrenaline and terror for so long before the horrific mutilation her body had suffered became overwhelming.

All she had to do was offer one final order to the Unification Army to stand down and return to their stables, and the fighting stopped. Twilight had not anticipated her own defeat—at least so far, they encountered no hidden protocols to attack civilians or Jamie herself.

The Royal Guard and city police were harder to convince. Jamie had little involvement in that process herself, but Twilight’s own body did. She would not be repurposed to any evil machine—only displayed behind the palace steps, for ponies to come and see for themselves that the ruler was dead.

Concord wasn’t in good shape regardless. Hundreds had already died to the Governing Intelligence’s encroaching drones, as sections of the city were cut away and dropped to the valley below. But the damage to Concord’s infrastructure wouldn’t matter for long. Jamie had no intention of keeping the city in the air.

The Harrow flew into dock. Despite the chaos it had endured, the invasion humans feared was not taking place. Discord himself stood atop the command deck, followed by an injured Ferris Abrams wearing braces along his neck and slimy glue over parts of his damaged shell.

“I’m glad you know so much about what Equestria needs,” Jamie said. Maybe she should feel more about the death she had just witnessed, but right now she just felt tired. That was probably the necrotic ruin of her wings talking.

“Because I don’t. I just got lucky that Twilight wasn’t paying attention, and that Solar showed me how her spell worked. We should probably talk to him about all this. It seems like he was trying to undermine Twilight’s rule from the beginning. Maybe he knows what we should do now.”

“Solar… Solar Lens?” Star asked. “He helped you, somehow? The princess thought there were some elements of her court she couldn’t trust, but no one would’ve suspected the head of the Arcanum.”

Jamie shrugged. “He helped. Showed me things about how Equestria was. How we got here, where things went wrong. I can worry about all that later. I need to sleep.”

“Not quite,” Discord interrupted, tapping the railing again. He folded his arms, looming over them both. “No, I’m not going to try and take over, Star, don’t look at me like that. Twilight was always wrong about my ambitions. Seeing your coalition of species try to make something liveable with the planet we have left will be perfectly chaotic enough for my tastes.”

He advanced on her, resting one claw on Jamie’s back. She couldn’t retreat—but she didn’t feel the same fear all these others seemed to. Discord hadn’t hurt anyone in front of Jamie. If Twilight hated him, it was almost an endorsement.

“Someone has to do something about those wings, Princess. Even if you aren’t fond of heights, an injury like that will go necrotic and kill you. You need proper surgery. Something to prepare you for a new graft, when a second set of wings is grown. Have you ordered one, or will I?”

“No,” Jamie said, harsh and abrupt enough that even she was surprised. She took a deep breath, then hurried on. “No, I don’t want another graft. Ever since I woke up people have been cutting me up and gluing things to me.”

“It will be easier to unite Equestria in the short term with an Alicorn,” Star said. “Twilight spent all this time teaching us Alicorns were holy and special. Having one in charge should keep the country… peaceful. While smart ponies figure out what to do next.”

Jamie groaned, glaring at them both. “Fine. Order implants instead. My best friends have been cybernetic, so… I’ll do that. Are there designs for wings out there somewhere?”

“I’m certain there are,” Discord said. “And now you know exactly why I was against exterminating humans, Star Orchid. Just listen to her. Insists on making things more difficult. I’m salivating at the scandalous rumors as we speak.”

“Don’t care,” Jamie said. “I’m going to lie down. You… just do what you’re going to do.”

Jamie didn’t much want to be ruler of Equestria, or what was left of it. But at least in the short term, she didn’t have a choice. It wasn’t just that she had killed Twilight, it was deeper than that. Star Orchid was right: ponies wanted an Alicorn to look to, even if that Alicorn had come to change everything.

She landed Concord atop the ancient mountain that had once been called Canterlot. A few days later, she walked beside Star Orchid as they scattered the ashes on its lower peaks.

“You don’t know her,” Star said. She refused to empty her little container of remains, not until she had found a tree growing from the broken wreckage of rock. There was little soil here, just as there was little soil anywhere that Concord had flown. But that could change now, with the climate finally allowed to recover.

“I know she was the reason we’re still alive,” Jamie said. It wasn’t just the two of them. A group of royal guards watched them from far above. Well, Jamie wasn’t sure what else to call them. They were made up of surviving Rebellion fighters, along with plenty of new recruits. So far they had done little fighting. Mostly they stopped looting at night, and kept the city from descending into riots and flames. “She didn’t win, but she almost did. A stronger princess would’ve won.”

But it wasn’t just the guards. An older unicorn called Sweetie Belle had insisted on being here, though she was weak enough that the ancient trail hampered her movement. Ferris had come, along with a human military commander she knew only as Landon. She spoke for the surviving crew of a dead starship called the Hippocrates, which Jamie had only heard of. She was the last of their warriors, but they had plenty of doctors and engineers and clerks. All far more useful than soldiers anyway.

Star sighed, tilting the plain plastic urn over the cliffside. “She’d be happy to know that, I think. She was… full of resentment and anger after what happened to her. Losing her free will, watching hundreds of others just like her die without any choice… I’d be furious too.”

“What happens to them now?” Sweetie asked. The unicorn was almost at a height with Jamie, and even speaking this much obviously cost her. She was breathing heavily from the hike, and swayed on her hooves whenever she spoke. “The Unification Army. Do we even know how many there are?”

Landon was the one to answer. “Nearly a million, if the caverns we found are indicative of the others. Most are in cold storage—maybe fifty thousand are still functional.”

“Kondrak healed Sunset Shimmer,” Star said. “Can we treat them too? Make them ponies again?”

Landon shrugged. “Not easily. But it’s not my decision to make. I’m good staying on for suggestions about security, but that’s all. This was never gonna be my world. I’m confident Star will respect my crew in her decisions. Can you keep the Unification Army from going homicidal while you treat them, Jamie?”

Jamie shifted uneasily on the cliffside, opening her wings. They weren’t metal as she’d initially feared, but a flexible black and silver material—the same spun organic fiber that modified people grew out as silvery hair. They were bigger now—proper Alicorn size, as Discord had put it, with intricate patterns in the simulated feathers. But there were no feathers, just curved flaps along the trailing edge.

She spread both wings, and could even feel the air blow against them, threatening to lift her off her hooves. Then she saw the scarred flesh underneath, with Discord’s expert grafts revealing pink skin. She folded them up again. “They will listen to me. I’ve already destroyed the royal armory. But long term, I’m not really sure I’m suited for this.”

“I was going to propose a parliamentary system,” Solar said. It was the first thing he’d said during their entire walk. But he had come, respectful during the whole trip. He wasn’t a bad stallion. Actually, he was a brave one. But Jamie didn’t look up at him long.

Discord could fix her wings, but the parts that had burned with Persephone wouldn’t heal so easily.

“Representatives chosen by the districts and castes of Equestria, with a formal head of government and… You know what, it doesn’t really matter yet. We’ll have to make it through winter before we see if we’re fit for purpose.”

“We will.”

Jamie looked up, through a sky that was almost cloudless blue. There, high above, was an opening in the planetary shell, where faint darkness was the only hint of what was really out there. But deciding what to do about the old terraforming equipment and the powers its mechanisms granted was a decision for future generations to make.

Jamie was not the first to visit the new city of Kondrak. Its original site had moved somewhat from where Epsilon had initially planned, given that patch of ground was now blackened rubble instead of jungle. But with Twilight dead and the shelter’s location no longer a threat to have out in the wild, they could just build straight up.

She received weekly reports. From the emergency intelligence, as it transitioned operations gradually to a crew of human engineers. She was a little surprised to hear that Star Orchid of all creatures had taken up residence as the city’s interim administrator—but the newly-revived population had elected her. Jamie didn’t know the details, but she’d heard enough to know that history had been “creatively” explained to the waking population.

Maybe she should feel worse about the lie. But Princess Empathy cared more about its effects than whether it was historically accurate. Sure, the first ponies hadn’t been made from human minds—but they’d been created by a human AI. And she was an example of a human mind given a pony body. A few little files altered, and it was only Jamie and the Starmind who knew the truth.

Neither of us are telling. There are too few of us left to let there be any fighting. We’re all one lineage, that’s all that matters.

Compared to Jamie’s own responsibilities, convincing humans to look at ponies as people was the easy part. Twilight had left her only one mercy: her Words of Harmony were so vague about what the Devourers were that most creatures didn’t have the foggiest idea. All they knew was that the ones who hated ponies and wanted them dead would use Darktech.

But staying away from technology was no longer a luxury Equestria could afford. The Alldeath had strategically destroyed much of Concord’s resources. Not only that, but the city relied on mass harvesting of ore and organic matter to stay supplied. Without that foliage slurry fed to the lower class, they needed vast infrastructure and they needed it fast.

All those problems were working themselves out now. Not easily and not without occasional misunderstandings. Still, as they rebuilt and repaired Concord with overt “Darktech” the stigma weakened. Particularly when they were able to use cranial subprocessor grafts to send more of Twilight’s undead warriors back to their families. Word of mouth could do far more than a few electric lights or water purifiers.

These were not Jamie’s chief area of interest, though she was occasionally forced to get involved. They’d decided to prioritize the Unification Soldiers with living relatives, given that animating those in long-term storage would require considerable necromancy. Discord’s advice on the subject went well over her head, but she still had to be there to order soldiers to cooperate with the Hippocrates’s medics.

There was one duty waiting for her, one she began to mark on her calendar as the months wore on and more of her kin were revived from their sleep.

As it turned out, Jamie was not the only “freezer burned” human to be changed to something she wasn’t. Resources were scarce, and likely would be for many years to come. Whatever else might be true about ponies, they were smaller, and internally far simpler than any human. They’d been designed for easy maintenance and long service life, after all. Human adult bodies took half a generation to grow and mature—but Kondrak could have its maximum population deployed and working in far less time when every damaged person was brought back as a pony instead.

Some of them will probably want to be reassigned as soon as we have the resources. But who knows if we ever will? For better or worse, Princess Twilight had erased as much of humanity’s legacy on Earth as she could. Until they could train new specialists and recapture that knowledge, they lived on borrowed time. If they couldn’t catch up to where the ancient empire had been, they might slip back into centuries of barbarism.

But that was a worry for another time, and probably another princess. Jamie had only come to see to the newly awakened.

She had requested—and Star had agreed—to this one kindness for those receiving new bodies. She had nearly lost her mind waking up alone, with only the barely intelligent emergency shelter for company. The ancient population of Shelter 198.64-Beta would all wake together.

She watched them wander into the city’s oversized amphitheater, in groups shepherded by human doctors or drone escorts. They came in all colors, across all the ordinary tribes. No other races, and no Alicorns. Where possible, the sleepers got to choose.

“You didn’t have to be here for this,” Star Orchid said. She was the only human on the stand with Jamie. She no longer wore a military uniform, but instead had a simple dress with her cutie mark on the collars. At least, that’s what Jamie assumed it was. She’d never had the courage to ask. “We would’ve talked to them. I had to learn a new body too.”

“No offence, but you’re pretty much the worst pony in the world to give them moral support right now,” Jamie muttered. She flexed her mechanical wings, watching as the room filled up. The tables and chairs had all been pushed to the back of the auditorium, giving floor space for hundreds of ponies. There was only one universal truth between them: they were all the age Jamie had been when she woke, or close to it.

Star shrugged. “If you say so. I admit I don’t understand what’s so bad about being a pony. Otherwise we could’ve waited.”

“No. Delays meant more people rotting. The shelter is ancient, and it loses more people the longer it runs. I think most of them will get used to it. The others can work extra hard, so we have the ability to reassign them. Eventually.”

A yellow pony approached from the side of the platform, wearing a sash similar to Star’s. Shy had grown a little in the last few years, and was easily one of the prettiest creatures alive. Too bad she was already married. “That’s all of them,” she said, offering a clipboard. “Here’s the last check.”

Jamie took it in her magic, skimming the names. She stepped forward to the edge of the platform, spreading her wings reflexively. Even these former humans seemed to recognize it as a call for attention. She settled down beside the podium, trying to look as friendly as she could. “People of 198.64-Beta. I know this probably isn’t what you were expecting. I wasn’t either, when I woke up like you a decade ago. This won’t be much consolation now, but…

“Welcome home.”

The End

Comments ( 31 )

Geist... The death feels like a bit of an anticlimax, but hey, killing the sovereign he's dedicated his life to will understandably lead to a melodramatic breakdown and drawing it out for a sick sense of satisfaction and twisted justice.

The Alldeath feels a lot more satisfying. It's almost poetic. After all, Twilight would've never thought to try kindness. Star truly has surpassed her old teacher. The pony Twilight had been would've been proud.

No sense in dragging it out after that. A most satisfying conclusion... though I do still wonder what Discord is in this setting. In any case, thank you for this.


So that's that. The world is saved, Ferris didn't die anticlimactically off-screen, and Star...in a way fulfills Twilight's mission. The rebellion stopped, and the war ended. Just...not in Twilight's favor.

It says "The End" here, but the story's still marked incomplete. Is this going to end up being like "Message in a Bottle" where the "epilogue" turned into an entirely new story or was this just a mistake.

It's always nice when I'm able to finish a Starscribe story.

Well, this proved to be an interesting and fitting conclusion, especially with the resolution of the Alldeath threat and the discussion leading up to it, as well as the final trajectories of our protagonists! I'd still have some of the same critiques as earlier, but they didn't detract too much from the feeling of narrative and thematic fulfillment I got from this story and its world – with just the right amounts of closure and perspective.

Definitely one of my favorites stories, and another one of yours that I'll enjoy re-reading in the years to come! Thank you, and sorry for the harsh criticizing.

Sad how you connected equestrian magic to science but you never explained or bring up the whole singing out of nowhere thing UwU
Good story tho!

I cannot help but feel this is a rushed ending with so many questions. Is Sunset dead? Her brain may have survived. Are the new humans going to become ponies? It would be just another way for humanity to become extinct.
Also, not sure about having the Alldeath acting so ...emotional just to empathize with it or making it not so different from Tyrant Twilight.

An ending at last...and right on thanksgiving too...ending felt a bit rushed, but meh. Something tells me having Star tell the alldeath that the process was complete might have problems though...say, a human in the future discovers she was a pony all along and tells the AI that... I see you putting that sequel bait in there...

good story on the verge of being great, just had too many unanswered questions, and the main villains died too suddenly but overall a enjoyable story

I agree with others on being to rushed, but Alldeath's end feels too real. I can imagine that happening easily much to the frustration of it's programmers.

The Royal Guard and city police were harder to convince. Jamie had little involvement in that process herself, but Twilight’s own body did. She would not be repurposed to any evil machine—only displayed behind the palace steps, for ponies to come and see for themselves that the ruler was dead.

Congratulations, you just planted the seeds for a Twilight cult. Given how hard it is to get rid of conspiracies, there will be an eternal, persistent attempt to revive "the one true goddess of Harmony". Those churches she set up don't help either.

And so it ends. With good leadership, there's no doubt a bright future for two species is now secured.

It was one heck of a ride.

I'm not sure if the intelligence still exists. And even if it did, the door gave them administrator status. It was an emergency measure in case non human intelligent life evolved. The governing intelligence didn't recognize them at first as such because in its eyes they were just malfunctioning machines.

Looks like we might get an epilogue chapter as Starscribe hasn't marked the story as complete yet.
Genuinely all around satisfying end though.

I wish. X.x

Unfortunately it's just my bot goofing up. But thanks for pointing that out so I could correct it.

That was a great story, thank you for bringing it to such a satisfying conclusion : )


Sigh, I was also hoping for an epilogue from the lack of a complete status.

It's kinda funny most ponies don't have a real problem with humans simply because Twilight never told them how a Devourers looks like.:rainbowlaugh:

And we've reached a conclusion. I'd like to say, thank you so much for making this story a reality! And it makes me happy that so many people enjoyed it.

Finished this story a couple of minutes ago. Just wanted to say I love your stories, and I hope you keep writing. You're definitely one of my favorite authors on the site. :twilightblush:

Good stuff, but it bothers me that Discord's nature was never explained, especially after he called Alldeath family, and he also said he had a lot of blood on his hands many chapters ago. I also wanted to see Basalt and Solar's reactions when they first met the humans and they found out that Jamie was one. Feels rushed to gloss over that, considering they were minor characters that were quite heavily involved with Jamie.

This was a brilliant story, though I can't help but wonder what happened to Basal. She just vanished halfway through her escape with Jamie and was never mentioned again.

Discords crimes, what exactly he was, how the humans were his "family" and how Twi managed to brand him were all unanswered questions too. I was looking forward to hearing about their epic battle.

But overall, this was brilliant! I think it even beats Message in a Bottle as your best human/pony sci-fi war story.

This fic... it would make for an outstanding movie.

That... Was hard to read. Seeing Twilight so lost because of grief was not easy, seeing her actions was actually devastating. But story itself is great, epic and heartfelt, as usual Starscribe. Thanks for the journey!

awesome story and nice ending

Oh Faust I hope not. But that's something for future Jamie to worry about.

To StarScribe:
Finally made it through this. I hope that Twilight finds peace if there's an afterlife. Have to agree with some of the other comments that the nice and neat "happily ever after" ending does feel a tidbit rushed, but perhaps it's for the best that you left some questions unanswered, still would have been nice to know if Basal and some of the others were okay, even if it was just a tiny mention of them recieving honors or something to close the book so to speak.

This is a great story, even if I put it down for a while because of how hard it was to read about this version of Twilight. It's hard to see a loved character twisted in understandable ways. I'm glad I returned to finish.

Did the story ever touch up on how flutters and discord had a falling out with twilight? I see it's implied they refused to work with her on eliminating humans but that doesn't really warrant the hate in my eyes. Another thing I was wondering about was how the citizens of ponyville reacted to the world when their time loop ended.

Damn. Okay, yeah this was good.

REALLY damn full of horrible things happening, and tons of grief, but it was good. It was also really freaking weird and seemed a bit longer than it needed to be, though i understand you spent a lot of the first half building things up and getting the readers familiar enough with the world that they were comfortable with it but still wanted to know more as each cliffhanger unfolded.

That shift in pacing disgruntled me a bit, but I'm glad you took the time to do a proper epilogue to the story, showing the consequences of everything happening after the events of the story (even if it was kind of rushed). I did like the details you placed in though, like them remembering to honor Sunset on Canterlot, and Sweetie sticking around with them.

A strange fic indeed, and not at all what I was expecting when i read the description and picked it up, but it was still very good.


... So uh, you don't want to know what the original proposal had in store for the element bearers. >.>

Excellent storytelling, as usual, and I appreciate pulling a "happy" ending out of the stew of grimdark / grimvantablack elements.

Still... Given the poor track record of the humans on long-term planning, general compassion, and striving for justice, the end situation feels a lot like listening to an alcoholic promise that, "This time, it will be different."

Ah, well, if you've just gotten to chapter two... Well, there's quite the journey ahead. Basically, another one of Starscribe's action-adventure storylines, or Message in a Bottle if you've read that one.

Another fantastic story! Keep it up!

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