• Published 3rd Apr 2023
  • 1,967 Views, 164 Comments

A Change in Darkness - David Silver

Bat ponies were a convenient hiding place. Few knew of their true nature, if they even really existed, so he could pretend to be one and get few hard questions. A pity one princess knew more than most, and would not be casually brushed aside.

  • ...

4 - Bombing Run

Against the inky blackness of the night sky, Skyline soared majestically. "I didn't see this coming."

"Didn't see what coming?" His drill sergeant was nearby, wearing his armor and the sound of his bat wings could be heard as they flapped in the air. "You're joining a military unit. There may be some military actions involved."

"Right, sure..." Skyline banked to the left, eyes turned downwards as he scanned the landscape beneath him. "But dropping bombs?"

"If the princesses request it, we must comply. To comply, we must already be prepared." He pointed down at the dim little cart almost hidden in the gloom. "There."

Skyline approached closer, reaching his arm back to grasp the large parcel and holding it close to his stomach as he uttered, "I see it, sir." He worked the numbers without anyone seeing his work, getting an understanding of the speed he was going, the force of the wind, and the heaviness of the metal capsule he was holding on to. He was determined to get it exactly right. "Prepared."

His instructor banked away, leaving him to make his attack without a single word. Judgement could come after the results were in hoof.

Skyline flattened his feathery wings to make the final approach in a silent rush. He released the package and drew back, pivoting to fly upwards instead of towards the ground. A dull thump reached his ears, but he wasn't facing that way. He just flew away until some distance was put between him and his target before he dared to peek at what had happened. With a sharp tickle, he kicked his legs. It was like something had pinched him on either side of his rump at the same time. His scans didn't reveal any bugs, or changes with his legs or rump, so he shrugged it off.

"Not bad." His instructor had returned silently. "Good aim. That cutie mark of yours isn't just for show. Does it always glow when you aim? That could be a liability."

"Glow?" Skyline coiled on himself for a peek. There was his cutie mark, a compass and screwdriver combination. "It doesn't glow..."

"It did that time." Skyline was met with a harsh expression of disapproval from the commander. "Get that figured out. You don't need to give away your position just as you're attacking. That's the worst time. I thought changelings didn't even have a cutie mark unless they felt like it anyway."

Skyline responded in a weak agreement, seeming to be quite confused as he hovered slowly in the air. "I swear, Sir... Look."
He erupted in flames, aiming to become a random mare he'd seen in the city. He became her entirely, except one little thing.

The instructor directed their attention to Skyline's rump, where the cutie mark symbolizing their special talents remained unaltered. "Did you plan to change that?"

The stubborn mark clearly frustrated skyline, he had tried transforming into a pegasus, a griffon, and even his usual changeling form, but all attempts had been unsuccessful. With every step, the cutie mark was still visible, not making a sound but still taunting him. "Go away!" Skyline shouted at the mark on his body, but it wasn't paying him any mind.

"Easy there, cadet." His instructor came in a few inches. "I didn't expect to have to go over this, but there comes a special time in any pony's life when--"

"--I'm not a pony," hissed out Skyline, wings fidgeting atop him. "I shouldn't just... this." He waved desperately at his mark. "This isn't natural, for... a changeling, you know?"

"It isn't natural--" The commander rolled a hoof in the air. "--for a changeling to join the royal guard, but here we are! Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but you've asked us to accept you as you are. It seems, to me, that something has agreed to your demands." He pointed at the mark directly. "You may be a changeling, but you have a cutie mark. Those don't come out in the wash, cadet, so either take it as a blessing, or curse it for the rest of your days. I haven't seen anypony really figure out a third option."

Skyline hissed through his clenched teeth, flying silently a moment save for the flaps of his wings. "Right... Right. Sorry, Sir... Shall we... proceed?"

He lightly tapped Skyline on the tip of his nose. "Bold! I like it, but you're a mess, cadet. Trying to pretend you haven't been affected by this is a good way to foul things up more than they already are. Come with me." With a graceful spiral, he descended to the ground, landing in perfect form and quickly turning his gaze to where Skyline arrived shortly afterwards. "You make any friends?"

Skyline's ears pinned back. "Um. A few?" He inclined his head faintly. "Why... sir?"

"Because, I know for certain, if you tell them about this, they will want to celebrate." He snorted softly. "And that will get more done than trying to press on tonight. You're dismissed. Inform your friends, and trust their care plan to get you back on your hooves. Report to me when that is complete."

"Um, right... yes, sir." Skyline snapped a proper salute that he held until his instructor was gone. "Right..." With heavy hooves, he headed back to the barracks. It was mostly empty, but he recognized one pony there. A unicorn. "Hey, Piercing."

"Howdy." Piercing waved a hoof with a smile. "Aren't you on duty?"

"Was." Skyline sank on his bed. "Then I got... Look." He twisted in place to make his mark easily visible, pointing to make it extra clear. "Look!"

"Um..." Piercing paused and lowered his head slightly, taking his time to make a decision. "Yep, that sure is a cutie mark. What about it?"

Skyline snorted into a sigh. "Yeah, but it's stuck. Yesterday, I could have whatever mark I wanted. Today, it's this."

"That's not... something most ponies can do." Piercing dared to approach hesitantly. "So, you really are a changeling?"

"Yeah." Skyline flopped to his belly on the cot. "And changelings don't have cutie marks besides what they feel like."

"So..." Piercing sat next to the bed, watching Skyline. "Whatcha feel like?"

"I." Skyline sat up at the question. "I..." He curled an arm, hoof at his chin. "I didn't think about it for a while. There's nothing wrong with that one." He pointed to the mark he had. "But I don't like being forced."

"Well, what'd you do?" He leaned in over the bed a little. "Ponies get their marks, usually, when they do something that makes their talent super obvious." He pointed to his own, showing a thoughtful pony with little rays coming from their head. "Mine was silly... But, you're feeling bad, so this is a great time." He sat back with a snicker. "So, I was doing this puzzle. The first ten to finish, a prize! That's what the magazine said... So I was thinking super extra extra hard! And it came to me." He clapped his hooves. "Pop! And so did my mark."

Skyline furrowed his brow as he looked down upon the blemish that had been troubling him. "I was doing a bombing run."

It intrigued Piercing when he heard about those, and he quickly sat up to hear more. "Heard about those, but never did one. That's a flying thing." He pointed back at his lack of wings. "No practicing that until I get the armor."

"Yeah, well..." Skyline flapped his wings once, making a single flap. "I was doing that, making sure I was aiming right... Then... I think that's when it happened..." He remembered back to the moment when he felt the sudden pinch. "The commander said I glowed right then. Is that normal?"

"Very normal, for a pony. Not every pony glows, but enough." He tossed his head at his own mark. "Not sure if I glowed, but I sure felt it. I was so excited. How could I not be? I had the answer and a cutie mark. Double win! I had to tell everypony I could find."

Skyline couldn't help but allow a smarmy smirk to cross his face as the thought passed through his mind. "But I wasn't supposed to... I already had one!" He pointed at his mark. "It didn't even change. What am I supposed to do with this?"

"Enjoy it?" Piercing shrugged helplessly. "You already liked it, right? Now it's official. You're good at dropping things!" He hopped back from the bed. "I've heard of worse talents. Lean into it! Be the best dropper the world's ever seen!"

"Official, sure."

Skyline hopped to the ground, considering. "Imagine you're wearing a hat."

"A hat, sure." Piercing even grabbed an abandoned cap and put it on his head. "Yep."

"Right, now... imagine someone glued the hat to your head." He bonked Piercing lightly. "Now you can't take the hat off. Let's say you like this hat, but..."

"But, I can't take it off." Piercing felt over his cap, imagining it quite stuck in place. "That would be bad..."

"It's your favorite hat," taunted Skyline. "You never take it off anyway. What's the big deal?"

Piercing wrestled the hat off frantically, throwing it aside. "I get it! Alright... Well, I don't think we can get it off, so... Welcome to pony life!" He motioned towards the cutiemark on his rump with a swift movement of his hoof. "Even if I find some new talent, this mark is stuck. Once we get one, it's there. Before it comes, it coulda been anything, now it's one thing, forever."

"How do you deal with that?" Skyline slowly let his head fall to the right. "You had so many possibilities... then just one."

"We celebrate!" He pumped a hoof with victory. "I didn't think I'd ever get to run a cutie-cenera for a grown up before, but this sounds fun. Oh, let me at it! I bet a ton of the other guards, day and night, will be super stoked for this." He clapped his hooves to his face. "No promises, but maybe, if we tell them, even the princesses will get involved! This never happened before. Gallop with it!"

Skyline slowly made his way to a small mirror, taking a moment to take in his own reflection. "I'm not sure how much I..." He looked back, and he saw Piercing, who had an eager, excited smile on their face. "You can handle this?"

"With pleasure." Piercing saluted. "You have have to say yes, and I'll take care of the rest. Oh, and have fun." He waggled his hooves with the last part. "That's an order."

"You're not my CO." Skyline prodded Piercing. "But I'll do my best... Alright, go for it. Sarg said I can't come back until my friends clear me."

Piercing managed to bring a smile to his face that was twice as large as it was before. "We're friends? Officially? Oh, that's nice." He stuck out his tongue with a little raspberry. "You know, I'm going to tease you forever about that now."

"Can it." Skyline brushed past Piercing, lightly crashing his wing against the unicorn on the way past. "You'll do it?"

"With pleasure." Piercing made for the exit with a little giggle. "Since the sarg said you had to have this, this means this is on duty. Gonna take full advantage of this." He vanished with a parting cackle, hooves clopping away rapidly.

Skyline hopped onto his bed in a flop, crashing onto his side before he rolled over onto his back, wings spread out. "I thought I had this worked out..." All his plans, straight forward. All he had to do was be a good guard, a quality soldier and confidant of the night princess.

Those tended to have cutie marks, and so too did he. "I didn't sign up for that part." He thumped a hoof back against his pillow, which was kind enough to not complain about it.

Author's Note:

Surprise! He hates it.

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