• Published 10th Jun 2020
  • 764 Views, 31 Comments

Splintershard - TheMajorTechie



Once upon a time, Equestria flourished. That time is now long-gone.

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2|3 ◈ Of Sabotage

It at once became necessary,

To banish such powerful spells.

But the squabble over territory,

Would tear that up as well.


Emily stared at the door. "She sure is taking a while, isn't she, Aero?"

"Yup."

"You think she believes me? Er... believes Starlight. You know I mean."

"Maybe."

It'd be nice to have her phone right around now. Too bad she's a small horse.

The doorknob began to turn. Emily's attention snapped back to the door and the mare who was about to emerge from it. She took a deep breath.

"I have considered the evidence you provided, as well as your supposed 'mission'," Flurry Heart stepped into the room. "You may consider me interested. Please, if you have more to tell of your history, Starlight, then feel free to continue."

Emily gave a nod in return. As if on queue, the usual loss of sensation came and went as Starlight took control.

"Is... is your niece okay, Aero?"

...Oh yeah. That.

"Yes, I'm okay, no need to worry!" Starlight blurted before Aero could answer. She cleared her throat. "Anyway. Permission to speak on casual terms?"

"Permission granted."

"Thanks. So. I guess I'd might as well start with the war. Your mom, Cadance, was the former foalsitter of Princess Twilight Sparkle. It was partly because of this that she wanted to join the Ashen way back when they were just a little resistance group." Starlight blinked, glancing at Aero, then back to Flurry Heart. "Of course, it's anything but 'little' now. Just kinda shows how successful they've been since then. But anyway, I feel like I'm getting a little off-topic.

"So, continuing on. During the war, I traveled back and forth as a double-agent for the Ashen. My position as what was supposed to be a stand-in replacement for Princess Twilight when she stepped down let me stick around in what was more or less Daybreaker's advisor-slash-elite-squadron group thing. I was able to help keep the Ashen mostly out of sight when the beamings and disappearances began, and we'd even roped in Princess Luna by that point."

Flurry Heart leaned in, cocking her head. "What about my mother? Do you know what happened to her?"

Starlight cringed a little. "Ehhhhh, not really, sorry. All I know is that she was discovered to be missing from our ranks not long before I died on the battlefield. I... have to admit, I'd actually forgotten that she had vanished at all for some time."

Man, that still felt weird to hear coming from Starlight. The dying on the battlefield part. Ignore the thoughts, Star, just keep talking.

"O-oh..." Flurry Heart bowed her head. "Thank you for telling me. It brings me great hope that Cadance may still be out there. I will accept the notion that you are, in fact, the reincarnation of Starlight Glimmer."

Starlight sighed, letting a thin smile return to her face. "Thanks, Flurry. To be honest, I'd been going off the assumption that I'd never meet any of my old friends again when I returned to Equestria. By the way, I want to ask you something."

"Yes?"

"Why are you talking like that still? I know I've got my own formal speak, but don't you get tired of using it all the time?"

The alicorn shook her head. "This is how I normally talk, Starlight. If I spoke any other way in the past, then it has surely been lost to time."

"Oh, okay. So, uh, anyway, the real reason why we came here is that we think your research teams here recently received a powerful scroll from Canterlot."

"Where did you hear that?"

"Ehhhh just a hunch, to be honest... heh, guessing by your reaction, I must've hit the nail right on the head."

Flurry Heart narrowed her eyes.

"No, really--" Starlight continued, "--it was more a wild guess than anything else. We originally traveled to Canterlot to find and destroy the scroll, but then it turned out tha--"

"Find and... destroy." The alicorn stepped closer. Her voice dropped to a sharp whisper. "You wish to destroy the only advantage that we and the Ashen have over the Old Guard? Why would you even propose such an idea, Starlight?"

"Okay, first off, I have a good reason. Secondly, do you even know what that scroll does? The thing's a time travel spell written by Starswirl the Bearded that I modified, for Celestia's sake! I know exactly what that scroll can and will do." She paused for breath. "Flurry, you do not know what you're dealing with. Twilight herself told me long ago that the actions made in the past don't simply stay in the past--they snowball, growing bigger and bigger in effect until the present. One wrong move--no, any move--could jeopardize the existence of everything we know and love. It is too dangerou--"

"Yes, I am aware of the inherent dangers of time travel. What you do not understand, however, is that we do not necessarily need to use the scroll that you speak of. So long as we have it under our control and away from the clutches of the Old Guard, we will have the upper hoof in any conflict. It is our insurance policy against future conflict, if you wish to think of it in such a way."

Man. We're really roping mutually-assured-destruction into this world too, huh?

Starlight mentally shushed her counterpart. Now wasn't the time for commentary. "No," she shook her head. "This is absolutely not the way to do it. Imagine what could happen if the Old Guard were to somehow steal the scroll for themselves? Why do you think it was transferred from Canterlot to the Crystal Empire in the first place? It's bad enough that time travel is wildly unpredictable, but just the fact that the scroll even exists still puts the world at risk of destruction. Again, you have to trust me. I... made that mistake myself."

"Oh?"

The mare hung her head, nodding. "...Before you were born, I'd been dead-set on tearing apart Twilight and her friends, to show..." she groaned, bringing a hoof to her head. "I-it's just so stupid, looking back on it. I'm not sure if Twilight or Cadance ever told you, or if you ever even heard about it before, but... well, I wanted to prove that cutie marks were useless, or something along the lines of that. I'd even founded a settlement in the middle of nowhere, where everypony had the same artificial cutie mark. I guess I just let that power get to my head back then... but still, the point is, I made the mistake of weaponizing time travel with that very same scroll. Please, please don't make that same mistake now."

"I--"

Starlight held her breath.

"--I believe I understand. Though I am still somewhat hesitant to fully trust in your word of you being the reincarnation of Starlight Glimmer, I would rather trust the word of the mare who experienced the spell's effects firsthoof over that of the Ashen leadership that constantly pressures my kingdom. I will look into your biographies sometime, Starlight. Knowledge of your life events may prove to be valuable."

"You really think that? Does that mean you're willing to help out?"

The alicorn nodded. "Though it pains me to destroy one of our few advantages over the Old Guard, I do believe you have presented valid points against its use. I will inform my researchers to halt their efforts."

"And abou--" Starlight's words ground to a halt. She began to teeter on her hooves.

"Not a good time, Star!" Emily grumbled under her breath as Starlight's possession spell fully dissipated. She recomposed herself. Following the conversation instead of spacing out while Starlight spoke was definitely a good move there. "Er... as I was saying, what about the scroll itself?"

"You will assist me in its complete destruction. I detest the thought that you may be an imposter, so I shall be monitoring your every move as you work. I will not hesitate to take action if you act in any way suspicious."

Sheesh. She's a control freak, too?


If there was a single word that she could use to describe the research facility, it would be 'cold'. Not just physically cold, either--this place was giving her the creeps. It seemed like every other second, there was a shadow waiting just around the corner to spring on her. If anything, this place felt more like some secret lair or hideout than a government-sanctioned bunker. Maybe she should've brought Aero along. Put some more body heat in this place.

"First off, that's weird to say. Secondly, this place feels the way it feels 'cause it is one," Starlight droned. "Or at least, was one back when I was still around. Flurry Heart's done some renovating, that's for sure."

They descended another flight of stairs, passing by floors upon floors of dimly-lit rooms.

"Princess, could I ask you something?"

"Yes?" The alicorn didn't bother to stop. "Feel free to ask whatever is on your mind."

"Why are there so many empty levels?"

"We have no use for them at the moment. They primarily serve as storage."

"Oh, okay."

Emily fell silent again, listening to the click-clack of their collective hooves as they continued to descend the spiral staircase. Renovated or not, this place still had a distinctly sinister air to it. Almost as if it was haunted. Maybe it was. She glanced at the steel paneling separating the floor-to-ceiling windows of each level.

"Or maybe you're letting your imagination run a little too wild. Focus, Emi. Once we get this done and over with, you'll be free to head back to your world as soon as you learn the spell."

Right. Destroy the scroll.

They passed a couple more floors before finally reaching the bottom. What was that--twenty-something floors? Not that it was all that important to keep track of, anyway. Flurry Heart was now leading her down a wide hallway. There was some sort of room up ahead, though it was hard to tell through the tiny window in the... doorway? Hatch?

"Our high-security research facility," Flurry Heart gave a slight nod, still facing forward. "Over the past half a day, my guards have reported a slight increase in infiltration attempts on behalf of the Old Guard. As you correctly assumed, the scroll was transferred here from Canterlot to lessen the risk of its theft." She lit her horn, pressing a button off to the side. An airlock hatch rose behind them, made from the same steel paneling as the surrounding walls. A stream of mist sprayed from the ceiling and floor of the decontamination chamber for a couple of seconds before the airlock hatch in front of them lowered.

"Princess?" a nearby stallion looked up from his clipboard. "You're here early. Who's that accompanying you?"

"I have reason to believe she is the reincarnation of Arch-Magus Starlight Glimmer. At the moment, however, it does not seem that Starlight is in control of the body."

The stallion raised a brow. "Starlight or not, you know that bringing outsiders into the facility is dangerous."

"I acknowledge the inherent danger, yes--" Flurry Heart countered, "--and I will accept full responsibility for anything that occurs under my watch. As for our current research efforts, I am shutting down all operations."

"Wait, wha--"

"I know it may come as a shock to many of you, especially given our close, albeit strained ties with the Ashen, but I have been made aware of the potentially catastrophic consequences that may come with the use of Starlight's time travel scroll as a weapon. It must be destroyed, alongside all research into its functionality and properties."

"But Princess, the scroll could singlehandedly turn the ti--"

"It will be destroyed," Flurry Heart repeated. "I am not entirely aware of Arch-Magus Starlight's accounts of its use, but I have been told by her supposed reincarnation that it could very well spell certain doom to reality as we know it."

The stallion frowned, bringing a hoof to his chin. "...Yes, that is a plausible line of thought, I suppose. Are you completely sure that this mare you've brought is, in fact, Starlight Glimmer? If so, then wouldn't it be more beneficial to allow her to rewrite the spell with additional safeguards to prevent, as you put it, 'certain doom'?"

Emily stepped forward. "No. The effectiveness of the scroll comes from the lack of those safeguards."

...Hopefully that sounded close enough to how Star would've said it.

"Yeah, it's close enough. I would've said something similar myself."

Good.

The stallion sighed, glancing at his colleagues, then to Flurry and Emily. "Very well then. I will begin purging the data we have collected on the spell's functionality. The scroll itself is currently located in the thaumatical analysis chamber."

"Thank you," Flurry Heart nodded. She stepped off to one side of the laboratory, stopping in front of a small machine. A quick glance at a different pony nearby signaled for them to open the chamber. Without another word, the alicorn returned with the scroll.

"I..." Emily cocked her head, taking the scroll. "Wow. This is it, huh? Y'know, for such an old scroll, this thing's in pretty great condition!"

The stallion frowned at her. Emily cringed, unrolling the scroll in her aura. "...Anyway, we should probably get to destroying this thing. Would you like to do the honors, Flurry?"

"I was told that the scroll was restored and preserved using the Ashen's best methods. Destroying the scroll might not be as easy as it sounds."

The scroll burst into flames, illuminating Emily's deadpan stare. So much for 'best methods' if a simple flame spell did the trick. The look on Flurry Heart's face held similar feelings toward that notion.

"Well, that was surprisingly easy."

"Yes."

Emily glanced at the cinders on the otherwise clean flooring. "So... I'm guessing you'll be making up a story to tell the Ashen leadership now?"

"Yes. You are free to leave if you wish. I shall tell them that their preservation methods are flawed, and the strain of our tests has resulted in the destruction of the scroll."

The stallion raised a hoof. "Now that the scroll is destroyed, does this mean we are dismissed for the day?"

"Yes."

"Good, because I now have a headache."

Man. Everyone in this place seemed stunned by how easy to incinerate that scroll was. Emily backed away from the collection of shocked faces into the decontamination room, letting the airlock shut her off from the awkwardness.


So. The scroll's destroyed, the threat of mutually-assured-destruction has been vanquished, and total war has been prevented for at least a little longer. Emily let out a sigh on her bed. Maybe now she could work on getting home.

"As far as gaining the skills required to open another portal yourself, you still have a long way to go."

Party pooper. Emily glanced at Aero. He'd been asleep since she got back to the hotel. It probably wouldn't hurt to explore a bit while the old stallion got some rest.

"Agreed. It'd be nice to see what else has changed here in the Crystal Empire over the years."

Emily hopped off the bed.


"Glad to see that Spike's still the guest of honor," Starlight mused. "His statue's a bit... uh, worn compared to the last time I saw it, though."

Emily frowned at the cracked statue. Pieces of crystal that'd chipped away over the years littered the pedestal it stood on. Then again, the Crystal Empire under Flurry Heart seemed to be a lot more concerned about security than aesthetics, based on the roaming golems she'd seen from time to time patrolling the streets. One of them, in fact, stood right beside the statue.

"Like a bodyguard."

Maybe. There was a lot to still be learned, that's for sure--portal magic being one of them. It was still odd how badly-maintained the statue was, given how it was so close to the palace looming overhead.

A light whump came from behind. Flurry Heart stepped up beside the girl. "I have news to deliver regarding the destruction of Starlight's scroll," she frowned, holding up a letter. "It isn't the only one."

Something sunk within Emily. "I... what? No, that can't be right..." she lit her horn, taking the letter from the alicorn. "Starlight said that there's only one of them, right?"

"It appears not. At least, not anymore. According to the letter, a new copy of the scroll is to be sent to the Crystal Empire by tomorrow morning."

Emily looked up from the letter. Starlight was being oddly silent about this, given how much she'd blabbered before about the scroll and all.

"Based on that letter," Flurry Heart continued, "I can be implied that a method may have been discovered by the Ashen to circumvent the scroll's copy-protection enchantments. I am aware of some circumvention methods myself from my personal studies in magic, but for a scroll written by Starswirl the Bearded, and further modified by Starlight Glimmer?" she shook her head. "At best, to my knowledge, it is only possible to create copies through direct, careful transcription."

Starlight groaned. "Let's just hope that's what they did. The last thing we need is a load of mass-produced scrolls floating all over Equestria."

Wait. Starlight was the one that modified the spell in the first place, which meant that whatever 'copy protection' was on that thing must've been removed at least once before, right?

Right?

Starlight's voice sounded much weaker this time around. "Yes."

Hoo boy.