• 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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3|2 ◈ A Stowaway

In the guise of the foe,

She enacted her plan.

Deal the nation a deadly blow,

For this was where the future began.


Emily watched the unending landscape of white pass by the window. Her breath left a foggy dew on the frigid glass. If it weren't for the fact that she had hooves now, this would've been the perfect time for some window graffiti. Maybe she should've taken a longer nap instead of staring out the window when there was nothing to see in the first place.

But, that wasn't important. What was important was to make sure that the tracker worked, and that meant taking it back to Canterlot.

The sound of hooves approached her. "Hey. I was just wondering..." Aero pointed a hoof at the tracking amulet. "Since when did you get that little trinket of yours? I didn't see you with it earlier. Didn't really notice it until now, either."

She shrugged. "Flurry Heart gave it to me while you were doing whatever it was you were doing out in the snow."

"Hm. That's nice." Aero turned away. "Well, have fun with that. You said you're staying in Canterlot?"

Emily nodded.

"Alrighty," Aero returned the nod, "me, I'm just gonna head back home and hang up some of those photos I took."

He wandered back to his seat, leaving Emily alone with her foggy window. She lit her horn, lifting the amulet into the air. Nothing detected. Obviously. Maybe when the scrolls were gone, she could have another amulet made specifically to shapeshift her back into her old body or something, instead of just making an illusion. At least that would've given some semblance of normalcy again. Not having fingers sucked.

"Well... as far as shapeshifting goes, it's possible, but that's really not something you should be putting too much thought into at the moment. We still have--"

Yeah, yeah. Emily rolled her eyes. There was still the whole 'destroy the scrolls before the world is doomed' quest to worry about. Big deal. Even with its low accuracy and range, the tracking amulet was still going to make things so much easier in the long-run.

"You're putting quite a lot of faith in something that was developed in only a matter of hours, Emi. Are you sure it's going to work as well as you think it will?"

Only one way to find out. There was a reason they were headed back to Canterlot, after all. Speaking of which...

Emily turned her attention back to the window. There was decidedly less snow outside compared to the view a few minutes ago, and the beginnings of Canterlot's skyline were barely visible on the horizon.

She looked over to Aero. He was already well on his way to falling asleep again.

"So, what are our plans for Canterlot, anyway? You can't seriously expect that the Ashen will let us into whatever building it is that they're hiding the scrolls in."

"'Dunno. I--" Emily caught a glimpse of another passenger's confused face. It was probably best to keep the conversation in her head.

She shrugged. There was no plan. At least, not yet. Wouldn't it make more sense to come up with a plan after finding the location of the scrolls? That way, they'd be able to know what they were dealing with ahead of time.

"...Fair enough, I guess."

Emily looked out the window again. They were practically at the edge of Canterlot proper now. She turned her attention to the tracking amulet again. Flurry Heart said it could store enough mana for two uses before needing a recharge, right?

"I'm not sure if you're just thinking to yourself or if you're legitimately asking me, but yes. I'd recommend being ready to charge the crystal back up any time you're using the tracker."

She nodded, tapping the center crystal. Almost immediately, it lit up on multiple sides. The pulse of light swung to the bottom edge of the crystal as they passed another building.

Emily smirked. "Bingo."

A light thunk reverberated through the carriage. She turned her gaze upward. It sounded almost like they'd just run over something.

"Emi..."

"Hm?"

"Look. At the tracker. We're far outside of its detection radius, but..." Her voice seemed strained. "Tap the crystal again, Emi. You need to see this. I spotted something on your periphery."

She looked down again and tapped the crystal. This time, however, the pulsing edge pointed steadily ahead.

Wait.

Didn't... weren't the buildings holding the scrolls behind them? Why was there...

Her eyes widened. That thump from earlier!

"Seeing how the light's still pointing forward even though we're still moving, yeah. I think we've arrived at the same conclusion."

There was a stowaway onboard.

"Yup. Don't know how they could've jumped onto a moving train without being turned into a stain, but I guess there's a first for everything."

Welp, so much for making things easy.


Emily cut off the stream of mana flowing from her horn and tapped the crystal again.

"Well, I guess here's where we go our own ways." Aero yawned. "I'ma head back to Ponyville now. Don't forget, if you ever need more bits, just ask. I've got plenty to throw arou--"

"Sh--" She cut him off with a hoof to the muzzle. "Lay low and act normal, Aero. I'm following someone."

Aero frowned. "Why me, though? I'm just going back home."

Great acting, Aero. Keep up the good work. Cue another one of Starlight's facehoofs.

"You don't have to call me out every time I do that, y'know. Just keep following."

The light shifted one edge to the right. She tapped the crystal again ahead of time. Wasn't this... Emily looked up from the amulet. Sure enough, with the tracker pointing forward again, she'd be walking right into Aero's train back to Ponyville.

Great. There went any plans to do anything in Canterlot for the next day or two.

"Oh, you're coming too?" Aero brushed past. "Aren't you staying behind to deal with... y'know, stuff?"

She shook her head. "No, actually. At least, not anymo--"

"Miss--" a mare suddenly pushed a microphone towards Emily out of nowhere. "--You were one of the few passengers onboard the train back from the Crystal Empire. We have eyewitness reports saying that a researcher was spotted on the roof of Canterlot's Institute of Magic moments before the train passed below. Given the sudden disappearance of that same individual, we have reason to believe he may have jumped from the building. Tell me, did you notice anything odd?"

Greeeaaaaat. Now she was being interviewed, too? How many wrenches was this world going to throw into her plans?

"I... heard a thump?" Emily forced a grin. "I'm really not sure what it was, though. For all I know, it could've just been a rough section of track or something." She backed away from the reporter. "I-I'm sorry that I don't have much to say, but I've got something to do."

She took off towards Aero's train. Crisis averted.

"I'd hardly say that was a crisis, Emi--"

"Shut!" Emily shushed Starlight's voice. She lit her horn again and recharged the crystal. "Gotta make sure this is the direction the thief went in."

Sure enough, a tap of the crystal pulsed that same forward-facing edge.

She boarded the train and took a seat. Another tap of the crystal, plus a quick recharge. Again. This time, the back edge pulsed. Wherever they were, the thief was definitely on the train somewhe--

Oh.

Wow.

Emily rubbed her eyes. Since when was there another passenger besides herself?

"Heyo, ready to go?" Aero poked his head into the carriage. "Oh? New passenger?" He paused for a moment. "Alrighty, hold on a moment. Emily! Would you like any refreshments?"

"Wha--"

"Sh--" Aero leaned into her booth. "Be quiet. I know you tracked that guy onto my train. He the guy the reporters are saying jumped aboard the other train?"

Emily nodded.

"Okay then. Here's my plan. First of all, I think you should say something to answer my question about refreshments, before he gets suspicious."

Another nod. Emily raised her voice, peeking over the back of her seat. "Nah, I'm good. Thanks, though!"

The stallion sitting at the back of the car didn't seem to notice. Good. She turned her attention back to Aero.

"Second of all, the plan itself. Since I'm the conductor, I'll go ahead and interrogate him. To him, it'll probably feel more like I'm trying to squeeze him for a ticket or something. Point is, I can use the excuse that you were already on a trip from Ponyville, so I can say that you've already paid for your ride. Him, on the other hand? He's a first-timer."

"Sounds good."

Aero walked away. Since when was he the one making elaborate plans around here?

"Since you showed up."

Hardy-har-har. Emily rolled her eyes. Very funny, Star.

The train jolted forward, easing out of the station. Aero returned to the carriage, stopping in front of the stowaway.

"Okie-dokey, what's your name, son? Haven't seen your face on this here train 'till today. What brings you 'round?"

"Zap Apple jam. I heard that Sweet Apple Acres is stocking another batch."

"Understandable. So, seeing as you are a new passenger, could you please provide payment and identification?"

The stowaway wasn't responding.

"He--"

"Why should I tell you? I will pay for my ticket, but I will not do anything more."

Welp. That didn't work. Time to try something different.

"Wait, Emi--" Starlight's voice choked. "--what are you talking about? You can't possibly be--"

"Y'know, I sure hope that King Blueblood finds a way to use that scroll he's been talking about!" Emily cupped her hooves around her muzzle. "Surely, he'll know what to do to get rid of those Celestia-forsaken Ashen!"

"...You're kidding me. What do you think he is? Stupid?"

Emily shrugged. It didn't hurt to try. It was just the two of them and Aero in here, anyway.

"I remember that time when I was trying to break in and steal the scroll myself! The team ahead of me discovered that they'd been set-up, but I saw past it! I traveled far and wide searching for Dear Leader's precious time-travel scroll, and lo and behold, I never did! But here I am, on this very train, basking in the silent brilliance of the one who succeeded! Praise be to the unnamed hero!"

"Emi, what the buck was that?"

She grinned, pumping a hoof into the air with a whoop. Middle school theater rocked while it lasted.

She fell silent as the sound of slow hoofsteps approached.

"You're with them? How do you know I have the scroll?"

Oh wow, he fell for it.

"Yup!" Emily smirked. "I've seen the horrors--no, the nightmares--of Ashen rule. I heard that they even routinely serve meat to ponies like you, and ponies like me! Where does it come from? Who is it that dies to fill their bellies?" She eyed Aero in the background. He slipped away into the cab. "Oh, they're simply terrible, I tell you! The sooner that scroll arrives at the hooves of the King, the better!"

The stowaway narrowed his eyes. Emily grimaced.

"I'm... interested in joining the Old Guard?"

"Alright," the stowaway closed his eyes, letting out a defeated sigh. "If you please shut up and give me some peace, I'll let you accompany me. I need a new partner anyway, after what happened in Canterlot." He eyed her for another few seconds before letting out a grunt. He trudged back to his seat.

Holy heck, that worked?!

...

...

Starlight was the first to break the silence.

"So that was hardly what I expected. Maybe you can annoy the Old Guard into surrendering."