• Published 14th Jan 2013
  • 26,295 Views, 1,588 Comments

The Monster Below - Greenback



An earth pony seeks to transform himself into an Alicorn, but how far is he willing to go to get what he wants?

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A Life for a Dream

“-it's a risk bringing him here.”

“Did you even hear what I said? Once we're done, he'll be as helpless as a kitten, and you can parade him around in a cage, or whatever it is you want.”

Those voices... I don't recognize the first, but there's no mistaking Mangus.

“He needs to be locked up, not brought into a lab!”

I keep my eyes shut, pretending to be unconscious. But it's difficult: my neck's throbbing; it's almost like a harpoon went in it. But worst is feeling straps around me, and the sensation of movement. I'm on a gurney, and almost certainly in Medicomp's surgical center.

There's only one reason I'd be brought here.

“How do you think Silverspeak would react if he woke up inside a cell?” That's Coin Counter. “He'd be like a wild animal, lashing at anyone who gets too close with magic he can't control”

“He's right.”

That sad, resigned voice belongs to Beakbreaker.

“And how do you figure that?” the unseen officer asks.

“Silverspeak believes that his life revolves around those wings and the horn. If he was in a cell and believed that they were going to be taken from him...”

“Are you saying he'd try to kill us?”

“You think?” Mangus says. “He attacked his own parents, for crying out loud! If you've gone that far, there's only one step after that.”

The gurney shudders as it hits something. I hear two doors opening.

“Alright. Just get it done, and quickly,” the officer says. “The public's clamoring to see him behind bars."

Even with my eyes closed, I can sense the grin on Mangus' face. “Believe me, they're not the only ones.”

Snapping my eyes open, I hurl myself to the side. The gurney goes with me, knocking everyone over. My horn glows before I even hit the ground, readying a shockwave to blast the others back and undo the straps around me. But I can't! My horn won't work! But why? What... Wait. There's a horn around it. No! Not a magic inhibitor!

Mangus fires, hitting me with a blast. I shriek, almost passing out again.

“Crafty little devil!” Mangus growls. “He was awake the whole time!” He grabs my gurney and yanks it back up, letting me see where we are. My blood runs cold: We're inside Medicomp's main surgical auditorium, where I first got my wings only a few days ago. Stationed around the automated surgical device are a dozen of Mangus' guards, all dressed in full combat gear. Their horns are pointed right at me, ready to fire at a moment's notice.

“You try anything, anything at all,” Mangus says, “and you'll be hit so hard that even the doc won't be able to put you back together.”

The officer impatiently glances at his watch. “Enough with the chitchat! We've wasted enough time as it is!”

Ponies dress themselves in surgical outfits. Beakbreaker isn't among them. She's standing to the side, along with Coin Counter. Both watch me. They're not angry or sad. They pity me.

It's the pity you save for someone who had so much potential, only to waste it all.

One of the surgical ponies readies the anesthesia.

“I have been brought here against my will!” I say. “I demand to know why!”

Mangus groans. “Oh, come on...”

“Am I under arrest?” I ask.

The officer walks up. “You are.”

I breathe deeply. “What are the charges against me?”

The officer pulls out a scroll. "you are charged with multiple counts of assault, resisting arrest, theft of Medicomp property, and harassment and assault of Medicomp employees.”

Mangus whistles. “Wow. Pretty serious, huh? I don't know much about sentencing guidelines, but that's gotta be... What? Ten, twenty years at least?”

I struggle against the straps, but they refuse to yield.

The officer takes a quick step back. “I'm bringing the others in.”

“No need,” Mangus says. “I've got all my best guards here.”

The officer glares at Mangus. “I'm not going to take any chances.” He opens the doors and fifteen SWAT officers enter, surrounding my gurney, their horns at the ready. If those are intended to intimidate me, it's not necessary. Their scowls do that well enough, as these as the toughest officers the police department have to offer. Each is highly trained and well-practiced in the use of offensive magic, called out only for the most dire of situations.

They look like they want to beat me to a pulp.

“All right, let's get going,” the officer says.

The pony with the anesthesia looks to Beakbreaker. So do I. No words pass between us, but I plead with her not to let them do this. She's my last chance.

Beakbreaker watches me for a few moments... then turns to the surgical pony.

She nods.

No!

The pony comes over to me, anesthesia mask held out.

I struggle, fighting to get away. If that thing goes on, I'm finished!

The mask comes closer.

No, no, no!

It can't end like this! It ca-

The surgeon's knocked away with a blast of thunder, the anesthesia falling from his hooves, the tank and hose soaked in his blood.

What?!

The SWAT ponies spin, only to fall as well.

What's going on?!

Spells shoot over me, knocking officers off their hooves. They shout, trying to fight back, but quickly fall.

Mangus charges onto the floor, firing at the officers, his own guards joining him. He blasts them apart until only the officer in charge remains... and then he's blasted across the room.

"Mangus?!" Coin Counter shrieks. "What are you-”

Mangus blasts his boss with a spell, smashing him into the wall.

Beakbreaker screams.

Mangus turns to his guards, delighted at his handiwork. “All right boys; get out there and bring me some nice, warm bodies.”

The guards storm out, locking the doors behind them.

It isn't long before the sounds of battle can be heard.

Coin Counter tries to stand. “Mangus... What...”

“It's nothing personal, boss,” Mangus says cheerfully, as if all this were a get-together for afternoon tea. “I'm just fulfilling my dreams.”

The sudden assault has left me numb. But with the officers now unconscious or dead, Mangus could do anything he wants to me without the law holding him in check.

It would be smart not to provoke him.

The shouts and sounds of combat beyond the room fade away.

Mangus takes off his saddlebags and strolls to my gurney. “In fact, it's thanks to Silverspeak that I'm even here. In my darkest hour, when my life was falling apart, he showed me what I had to do to make my dreams come true.”

“What do you mean?” I can't help myself; I have to find out what insanity is behind that twisted logic.

“I had just flunked out of Canterlot University. I went there expecting to be welcomed as a king, the others in awe of how skilled and powerful I was. So imagine my surprise when they value grades and books over talent. All those stupid classes about history and mathematics and theories! I was the one with all the talent and power, but the professors didn't care!” Mangus growls, grinding his hooves together. “They said I was too proud and too arrogant, but what did they know? They were just jealous, that's what! They couldn't see greatness if it was three feet in front of them!”

I quietly strain my legs against the straps.

“So there I was. My dreams of being famous, of carrying on the proud unicorn bloodline, were dashed. I was forced to become a stupid security guard. I had hit rock bottom... and then you came in.” He taps me on the stomach. “When I got a job patrolling the library, I learned from the librarian that you were the one who had broken in! And you know what? It gave me something to hold onto: turning you in and watching you squirm!

"After learning that you had gone to Medicomp, I got some of my old school buddies and we staged a break-in. We weren’t going to steal anything; it was all so Medicomp would panic and hire additional security. And they fell for it, hook, line, and sinker.”

Coin Counter can't believe what he's hearing.

“Eventually, the time came to reveal your little secret, but you screwed things up by getting those wings. And I admit, after seeing them, I was thinking of getting a pair of my own. But I decided to wait a year to see how you did with those wings. If they lasted that long, I'd spill the beans about what you did, you'd get arrested, and I'd get a pair for myself.

“But then I saw how far you were willing to go to get that horn. Poisoning me and your own family, revealing that you had been manipulating an entire company to get what you want... I never thought you had it in you. And I realized that if I was going to show everyone that I, Mangus Bluehorn, was the greatest unicorn Equestria's ever seen, I'd have to do whatever it took, no matter who I hurt.”

I stop struggling, fearing where this is going.

“I broke into the library and got into the Forbidden Section.” He chuckles. “I took so many books and scrolls, and blasted everyone who tried to stop me. And what do you know? I found a spell that'll let me get what I want.”

Mangus leans in close. “And I have you to thank for it.”

There's a beep from Mangus' radio. He brings it up. “You got them?”

“Yep. We're bringing them up now boss.”

“Mangus...” Coin Counter struggles to rise, his anger momentarily stopping his pain. “You'll pay for this...”

Mangus grins. “Who's going to stop me? You? The police?” By this time tomorrow, not even the entire Equestrian armed forces will be able to stop me.”

The doors open and the guards enter, dragging crates that are all-too familiar. And behind them... Oh Celestia...

Behind the guards, floating on a bed of magic, are dozens of still-bleeding corpses.

Mangus grins, pleased. “Perfect. Let's get to work.”

Beakbreaker, who had been hiding near the back of the room, speaks up for the first time. “Mangus, What are you doing?!”

“Beakbreaker? Oh, silly me, I forgot you were here. I'm just ensuring my buddies get to share my dreams.”

The surgical unit whirs to life as the guards open a crate and attach a pair of wings to the arms.

“Make sure the anesthetic is topped off,” Mangus says, “and triple the steroid dose on the symbiotic fluid.”

Realizing what Mangus is doing, Beakbreaker rushes forward. “Mangus, you can't do this! Even with a triple dose of steroids, it takes time for your bodies and the muscles to bond! They'll be ripped off the first time you fly!”

Mangus considers Beakbreaker's points. “She's right, boys. Make the steroid dose five times as strong.”

“No, you can't! You'll kill yourselves!” Beakbreaker starts towards the machine, then stops as Mangus blocks her path. She and I are both helpless to intervene as Mangus' goons make the final adjustments to the machine, then strap themselves in, and have the wings attached one after another. With each successful operation, they leap off, eager to test their new wings. They get the hang of flying faster than I did, and soon the room is full of guards hovering about. They all have the same glee I did, the same joy at having the gift of flight. But there's a darkness to their smiles, a malevolence I never had.

Mangus watches all the while, smiling at seeing his guards emerging from the machine as alicorns. When the last guard leaps off, he claps his hooves. “All right boys. Go make sure there's no one else here to bother us, then go to the roof and get some flying practice.”

“What if the press shows up?” a guard asks.

“Make sure they can't call the cops.”

The guard grins and joins his fellows marching out.

Now it's just me, Beakbreaker, Coin Counter, and Mangus.

Mangus’ horn glows, grabs a tranquilizer dart from the shelves and jabs Beakbreaker in the neck. It's not enough to knock her out, but she slumps to the floor, unable to stand.

The syringe gets turned to Coin Counter, and then to me. I struggle, but can't do anything as it pierces my chest. The stinging is intense, but fades as I join Beakbreaker in a stupor.

Now that his opposition has been eliminated, Mangus takes off his tactical gear and tosses it aside. He eyes the surgical unit like a worshiper standing before the altar of his god. Rummaging through the crates, he takes out a pair of blue wings, attaches them to the unit's arms before attaching himself to the operating table.

As the machine powers up, Mangus gives me a smile. “This is for you, Silverspeak!”

The anesthesia is injected, and Mangus closes his eyes. I can only watch as the machine flips him over and starts to cut him open. Mangus keeps smiling; he's like a king at his coronation, ecstatic as his brand-new wings are attached. Syringes inject the muscles with steroids, making them grow before my eyes.

I fight, trying to rouse my sluggish body. I have to stop him, have to power the machine down before it's too late. But then the machine powers down, and the time for stopping Mangus is past.

With the final stitches and staples in place, the machine flips Mangus over and releases him. He gets off the machine, takes a few moments to orient himself before looking at his wings. He's like me and his fellow guards, in awe of actually having the means to fly. He flaps his wings up and down several times, then spins, slicing them through the air like scissor blades. He grins, delighted.

Celestia help us... My childhood tormentor is now an alicorn.

Grinning ear to ear, Mangus folds his wings and goes to his saddlebags, where he pulls out an ancient book, the blue leather cover faded and cracked.

“Tell me, Silverspeak, did you ever read about the great Dragon and Pony War?" Mangus asks. "It's forgotten history to most ponies. But near the end of the war, our ancestors had spells they used when things were at their most desperate.”

The book creaks as it's opened.

“This book has those spells, including one that was used to end the war. It transfers the magical essence of one pony to another, enhancing their own powers. All you need is the right words, a little piece of the pony sacrificing themselves for you, and boom! You're twice as powerful as you were before.”

Coin Counter groans, fighting with all his might to throw off the tranquilizer.

“Oh look!” Mangus says. “A volunteer!”

Mangus plants his hooves hard on Coin Counter’s back and activates his horn, a blood-red glow enveloping Coin Counter’s head. He shouts in pain, and for a moment it looks like Mangus is going to tear my boss' head off, but there's a crack at the base of his horn, and then the sound of tearing.

Coin Counter thrashes, screaming as his horn is ripped from his skull.

Oh Celestia! I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to hold down the bile in my throat. In order to help cast spells, unicorn horns are packed full of nerves; from what I've read, ripping a horn out is quite possibly the most painful thing a unicorn can ever experience. The shock is so great that some never recover; older ponies sometimes die from the pain alone.

Mangus rummages around in his bag. Dreading what I might see, I open my eyes and watch as he pulls out a small beaker.

”Step one, take the horn. Step two, take the blood.” Mangus grabs Coin Counter, tilting his head so that blood spills into the beaker. When it’s full, Mangus lets go, steps back, and puts the severed horn on the floor.

“Step three: absorb the pony's magical essence.”

Mangus pours blood over the horn, ignoring Coin Counter's pained whimpers. When the blood has been poured out, Mangus reads a spell from his book. The words are harsh and guttural, scraping his vocal cords as he speaks.

Nothing happens.

I try to wiggle. While my mind feels clearer, my body is still sluggish. I can only hope that the spell Mangus is using is obsolete, or maybe a fake, and that no library would dare store a spell so dangerous.

Smoke rises from the blood.

No...

The horn melts into the blood, reduced to a thick, bubbling paste.

Tossing the book aside, Mangus lowers his head and touches his horn to the liquid, which oozes upwards and envelops it.

It shouldn't be possible, but... Celestia help me, Mangus' horn is growing.

Mangus sweats, grinding his teeth, then lets out a sigh as the last of the liquid vanishes. His horn is now a few millimeters longer then it was only a few moments before.

Reaching up, Mangus touches his horn and giggles. Not wasting any time, he turns, and my heart pounds. Is he coming for me next? No...he's looking to all the dead bodies at the entrance.

My heart almost stops.

All of them have horns.

***

The officers are lucky to be dead. That spares them from feeling anything as Mangus rips off their horns one by one, the smell of smoke and burning bone choking the air as he repeats his spell again and again, until his horn is a full two inches longer.

I can only watch as Mangus gets one horn after another. Soon, everyone's horn has been taken, except for one...my own.

“Oh Silverspeak, you have no idea how amazing this feels! The power, the strength!” Mangus fires off a blast that easily tears through the reinforced walls, leaving a smoking hole behind. “Imagine what it'd be like if I got the horns of twenty ponies, or thirty! No, a hundred...a thousand."

“You're insane,” I say, unable to stay silent. "You're insane!"

Mangus chuckles. He strolls over, circles the gurney. “But perhaps I don't need a thousand.” He touches my horn. “After all, why get the horns of commoners when I could get the horn of a king?”

I gulp.

“Oh, afraid of being a nobody again? I thought you'd be used to that by now. You were born to be a nobody, Silverspeak. But me... I was meant for greatness. I'm going to show everyone who the real star of Medicomp is.” He leans in close. “But before that can happen, they have to be shown the error of their ways, for supporting you over the purity of my bloodline.”

I notice movement behind Mangus. Beakbreaker is fighting to get up. I don't know if Zebras are hardier than ponies, but she manages to stand; she wobbles, and her coordination is rough, but she's able to grab a heavy jar, one that could crush bone if brought down hard enough.

I turn my attention back to Mangus, I match his gaze. “And you think they're just going to sit down and let you have their way with them?"

"Of course not. But with all the horns I'm going to get, I'll be powerful enough to take on Celestia herself! Everyone needs to be reminded about what really matters: power, and not stupid little letters on a piece of parchment. History remembers those who go out there and take what is rightfully theirs, not those who got straight A's in scientific theory.”

“Is that what your parents taught you? What everyone at school told you? They were setting you up Mangus.” I turn on the charm. “They were setting you up to fail. Real life doesn't work that way. Nothing is handed to you. You have to work at it.”

Mangus says nothing, but I can tell he's listening.

Beakbreaker struggles to stay silent as she creeps closer.

“Maybe if you went back to school with that mindset, you'd do so much better. You might even get to the top of the class if you apply yourself.”

Mangus considers what I've said.

Did I get through to him?

Mangus grins. “Nice try, Silversqueak, but your inspirational speech isn't going to work on me.”

No!

“Besides, why go back to that university and the stupid professors anyway?” He fires off a magical blast, destroying a massive chunk of the roof. Chairs, slabs of concrete, rebars, and cabinets rain down from the higher levels, but he effortlessly casts the rubble aside. “By this time tomorrow, I'll be stronger than I ever dreamed possible! Why waste years of going through books and doing homework when I get what I've always wanted, right here, and right now!”

“The princesses will stop you!” I say. “If they're coming for me, they'll see how dangerous you are. You think you can take them on by yourself?”

“No... at least, not yet.” He taps my horn. “But I know what can even the odds.”

Beakbreaker gets close enough, rearing back to smash the jar into Mangus’ head.

Yes!

Mangus spins and catches the jar with his magic.

No!

Mangus chuckles. “Oh please. You really thought I couldn't hear a doped-up Zebra trying to sneak up behind me?” He hurls the jar into Beakbreaker’s throat and she staggers back, wheezing for air.

I struggle against my straps. “No!”

Mangus turns, curious. “Was that concern I just heard? But I thought you didn't care about Beakbreaker. She's just a tool right? Just something to be used up and thrown away.”

I shake my head. “No.”

“I have a recording that says otherwise.”

“I know what I said!”

“Then you were lying?”

“I... No, I...”

Through her gasps, Beakbreaker turns to me, confused.

Mangus eyes me, then Beakbreaker, and then me again.

He grins.

“Silverspeak, have you ever heard about how when things are at their worst, a pony will finally reveal who they really are? Why don't we find out if that's true? Let's play a little game of truth and lies.” He circles my gurney. “Is Beakbreaker a tool to you, or is she more than that? A friend? A business partner? A lover?”

Beakbreaker's eyes watch my own.

“Well?” Mangus asks. “What is it?”

“Friend,” I say.

Mangus grins. “Really?” He leans in close. “You're lying,”

“I'm not!”

“Anyone can say that someone's their friend. But words are nothing. Actions are what counts.”

Mangus steps away from the gurney, using his magic to yank Beakbreaker into the air. She struggles, but can't break free.

“It's time for you to decide what you truly want in life," Mangus says. "On one hoof, you have your horn, the wings, and your dream. And on the other, you have Beakbreaker. You're going to have to choose between them.”

“No! No, I-”

“Choose your dreams,” Mangus says, “and I'll spare your horn and your wings. But in return, I'll take Beakbreaker's life.”

Beakbreaker's eyes widen, and she tries to scream, but another blast of magic silences her.

“On the other hoof, if you choose Beakbreaker, I’ll take your horn, but spare your lives. You'll still go to prison, but, having proven that you care more about Beakbreaker, she may be there for you when you get out.”

“You... You can't do this!” I stammer.

“Just what kind of pony are you, Silverspeak? What's more important to you? Your dreams? Or Beakbreaker's life?”

Mangus grins.

“Choose.”

***

I can't think. My mind is a blank as I stare at the sight before me. I... I can't make up my mind! I can't let Beakbreaker die; even after everything she's done, she only acted to save my life. If Mangus kills her, Beakbreaker's frightened face will haunt my dreams forever, but I'd still have my horn, and my wings. I could use them to honor her sacrifice, to help others and defeat any threats our land faces. By sacrificing one life, I could use my powers to help thousands later on.

“I won't wait forever,” Mangus says.

Beakbreaker silently pleads with me, begging me to save her.

What about my hopes and dreams? When will I ever get another chance to get a horn? To cast magic? To make a difference? Is it not better to live hard and die young doing what you love, than to choose a long and toilsome life as a nobody, knowing that you gave up your chance of happiness?

A scalpel is magically picked up.

Beakbreaker thrashes so hard that she momentarily breaks free, forcing Mangus to focus on immobilizing her again.

My dream is my reason for living. I... I can't give that up. I can't throw it all away, not after all this. How many ponies can say that they achieved everything they ever wanted to do? I can. And if that dream is to be bought at the cost of one life...

“Time's up. What's it going to be?”

I look at Beakbreaker, then to Mangus. I need more time. I try to speak, but the words die in my throat.

Mangus chuckles. “Very well...your dreams, then.” He turns to Beakbreaker.

I want to call out, to beg her for forgiveness-

Beakbreaker let out an ear-splitting scream…

…and then time seems to stop.

I don’t know if it’s some sort of chemical, or if fear is forcing my thoughts into some sort of hyper-mode, but I can see everything with perfect clarity. Beakbreaker and Mangus are not quite frozen, moving so slowly that I can see the blood pulsing through Beakbreaker’s veins.

I see the surgical unit behind them, individual raindrops falling from the hole in the ceiling, one falling onto the tip of the scalpel.

I see Mangus’ discarded bags in the corner, along with my own. One has opened from being tossed onto the floor, spilling my things. And among the books, meager food supplies, and clothes is little Celestia.

I stare at her.

Celestia…what would she do if she were in my position? What would her choice be, if she was forced to choose between sacrificing someone she loved, perhaps all of Equestria, or keeping her power?

Would she be willing to give up everything she had for everyone else?

I try to convince myself that I don't know the answer, but deep down I know that Celestia would never deliberately let someone die. That's not what she stands for, especially if those she wanted to save were her friends.

Friends...

It’d be one thing if it was a random pony before me in Mangus' grip. But the life dangling above the floor is someone who gave me the chance to get everything I ever wanted. She believed in me, and liked me for who I was. The horn can't give me the happiness she could. The wings haven't comforted me or been there when I needed help. And it felt good to be needed, to help Beakbreaker achieve her own dreams as well.

Beakbreaker is my friend...the first real friend I've ever had. And if things went further, if we got into a relationship like she wanted to, we could possibly spend the rest of our lives together.

Beakbreaker…she's made me happy. The horn, and the wings...

…they haven't.

Mangus chuckles as tears stream down Beakbreaker's face, dripping onto the floor. “Guess you were nothing to him after all.”

He yanks her head back, and swings the scalpel.

“WAIT!”

The tip of the blade stops just short of cutting into flesh. Mangus turns to me, angry at being interrupted.

“My horn!” I shout.

Mangus stares at me. “What?”

“Take it! Leave her alone!”

For a long moment, Mangus can't speak. He didn't expect this, and can't seem to make up his mind whether to be surprised, disappointed, or both. “You're serious?” he asks at last. “You're actually willing to sacrifice everything for...her?”

I look to Beakbreaker, gazing into her eyes. “Yes.”

Beakbreaker stares back, as shocked as Mangus.

“Well, this is a surprise... but a deal's a deal.”

Both the scalpel and Beakbreaker fall to the floor.

“But saving her life is going to cost you,” Mangus says as he jumps onto my gurney, his horn glowing. “And it's going to hurt.”

I feel an invisible force grab my horn like a vice, and start pulling on it. It's slow, but begins to build. It'll only take a few seconds before skin and nerves begin to tear, and bone will break away.

I fight. I struggle against the straps, but they're too tight! I can't break free! Oh buck, it hurts It hurts it hurts it hu-

Mangus falls off the gurney as Beakbreaker tackles him. They hit the floor, Beakbreaker leaping onto Mangus and beating him with everything she's got, punching him in the face again and again, yelling curses in her native tongue.

But it's not enough.

Mangus blasts Beakbreaker against the wall. She collapses and tries to get back up, but Mangus is there in a heartbeat, smashing his hooves onto her leg. Bones break with a sickening crunch, and he smashes down on her other leg with the same results.

Beakbreaker screams.

“Boss? We've got more horns for you on the roof.”

Mangus listens to the radio. He looks to the hole in the ceiling, then Beakbreaker, and heads for the door... only to spin and give a fast kick to Beakbreaker's gut, knocking the wind from her.

Magic shoots from his horn onto the buckles of my straps, tightening them down even further.

“I'll deal with both of you when I get back,” Mangus growls. Then, without another word, he blasts the doors apart and leaves.

***

Beakbreaker's agonized sobs fill the air as I fight against my bindings, straining my muscles to the limit.

“Beakbreaker, hold on!” But my efforts just aren't enough! These straps are too strong, and I can't even-

My stomach churns as the gurney tilts, then crashes to the floor. Coin Counter crawls away from the gurney's legs and slices away at the straps with a scalpel, trying to ignore the blood pouring from the hole in his head. When my front leg is freed, I join him, and together we manage to tear the straps away.

Falling off the gurney, I run to Beakbreaker, almost vomiting at seeing spiked bone shards pressing up from under her skin. Yet, Beakbreaker doesn't seem to notice them. She's going into shock.

“Hang on Beakbreaker!” I say, heart hammering. I spin, trying to figure out what to do. I have to help her! Wait! The surgical unit! It can help her!

“The hospital," Coin Counter wheezes, his eyes dulled from pain. "You have to get her to a hospital; the bones might have shredded veins in her legs.” He grabs a syringe off a nearby shelf and injects Beakbreaker. She relaxes, slumping to the ground.

“Hurry." Coin Counter injects himself, almost passing out from relief.

"We can treat her here!" I look to the surgical unit. "It can-"

"If Mangus comes back, we're all dead." Coin Counter's breathing deeply, trying his hardest to stay awake. "You have to get her far away from here."

"What about you?"

Coin Counter grabs some bandages from a shelf and presses them onto his head as hard as he can. White turns red in seconds. "You can't carry both of us.'

I want to prove him wrong, but Coin Counter's right. I can't carry both him and Beakbreaker. As much as I hate to do it, I'll have to leave him here.

Reaching down, I carefully scoop Beakbreaker into my legs and hold her tightly, trying to keep her legs still. She's quiet, shock keeping her mute. I start towards the doors, then stop.

“Coin Counter?”

He looks to me.

“I never wanted any of this to happen. I never wanted to hurt anyone.”

Coin Counter eyes me for a moment. “What's done is done,” he says. “Now go.”

I run from the room.

***

Cold wind blows through the hall. Lightning flashes through broken windows, and a torrent of freezing rain pelts me as I reach a crumbling hole in the wall. The storm has finally arrived over Manehattan, and drenches the city with a downpour heavier than anything I've ever seen. I spread my wings and leap into the deluge, flying away from the Medicomp tower as fast as I can go.

It's hard to see in the rain. I keep blinking, trying to clear my eyes. I think I can see the lights of the hospital in the distance, and I fly towards it, trying to keep Beakbreaker steady. She shivers in my arms, but doesn’t say anything, still lost in her drug-induced stupor.

If I hadn’t yelled at Mangus to take my horn, she’d be dead by now.

I shove the thought aside and fly faster.

I finally reach the hospital several minutes later. Landing at the main entrance, I run inside to an empty lobby and rush t the main desk. A nurse looks up, no doubt used to seeing breathless ponies running in for help.

“Please, I need help!” I gasp. “My friend, she has two broken legs!”

The nurse takes one look at Beakbreaker and hits a button as fast as she can. "The doctors and nurses will be here shortly." She hurries out from behind the desk. "What happe-"

She stops. She's seen my face.

She realizes who I am.

The nurse rushes for a panic button.

“Please!” I say. “I don't want to hurt you, or anyone else. I just want her to get treated!”

The nurse hesitates, her hoof wavering over the button.

“If you're going to press that,” I say, “please... Please wait until she's safe.”

The nurse wavers... then pulls her hoof back.

Nearby doors open. A doctor and pair of nurses run out, a gurney between them. When they reach me, I lay Beakbreaker down and step back, leaving her in the care of trained professionals who know what they're doing.

I keep my gaze on Beakbreaker's face as long as I can, watching as she's wheeled back through the doors. Then they close, and she's gone.

I turn to the nurse. “Could you send several ambulances to the Medicomp tower? Mangus Bluehorn and several security guards attacked police officers and the company's CEO. They need help." I rush back out the doors without waiting for her answer. I can't risk making a scene or causing anyone to panic just by being there.

The rain drenches me as I run into a nearby alley and hide behind a dumpster. I need a moment to think, to try and calm my nerves. Even if something happens to me, at least Beakbreaker is safe. Her fate now lies in the hooves of those who have been trained to heal. I can do nothing more for her.

But what do I do now? Coin Counter... I need to get to back to him. Make sure he's not-

My thoughts are interrupted by a bright flash. I instinctively turn away, as a thunderous roar echoes through the air.

An enormous pillar of red energy shoots into the sky, blossoming like a flower as it spreads out into a massive dome.

What in the world?!

Wait... I recognize this spell. I once read about how, when the Changelings invaded Canterlot decades ago, Princess Celestia erected a force field around the city to protect it. This looks like the exact same thing.

The rain stops falling as the barrier passes far overhead. Flying to the closest rooftop, I watch as it crosses over the Manehattan bridge and slams into the ocean, encircling and encasing the city.

Ponies come out of nearby buildings to look up at the sky, confused as to what's going on. Nobody notices me; Everyone's attention is focused on the dome.

The confusion is interrupted by a distant explosion.

I turn and see a rising cloud of smoke near the...

...the Medicomp tower.

Oh no.

There's another explosion. Pegasi ponies fly from there area by the dozens, shooting past us as fast as they can. I can barely make out their faces, but all of them are terrified.

Another explosion, and a distant building wobbles, then vanishes, replaced by a billowing cloud of smoke and ash. More ponies fly past us. Some help others with missing legs and wings.

Screams fill the air.

Oh Celestia...oh no, no, no!

More ponies flee as police fly overhead, along with several members of the Equestrian army from the division that's stationed in the city. They reach the explosions in record time, and I can just faintly see magical blasts being hurled back and forth between them and their unseen opponents.

The blasts quickly stop, and both the police and soldiers vanish.

My legs shake.

Hundreds of ponies are fleeing into the hospital, and hundreds more shoot past it, trying to get as far away from the chaos as possible. More soldiers go the opposite way, heading towards the Medicomp tower with all the speed they can muster.

I join those flying away from the chaos. So great is everyone's desire to flee that they don't notice Manehattan's most wanted among their midst. I don't care even if they did recognize me. Out of everyone here, I'm the only one who knows what's coming. Mangus and his goons are going to take everyone and everything near the tower, and then spread out, taking the horns of everyone in every street and ever block. Eventually, they'll become too powerful, and no one will be able to stop them.

When Manehattan falls, they'll spread to Equestria.

I fly on. Where can I hide? The sewers... yes, those should work. There's miles of them beneath the streets. Plenty of places for ponies to hide. There might even be a way to sneak out of the city; maybe there's a line that heads into the ocean. I hope isn't, I'm screwed. Mangus will search every inch of this island for horns he can take, and he'll covet mine above all others. If he finds me, he'll take the horn himself, laughing as he rips it away.

But that won't happen. I'll get out of here. I won't have to die at his hooves, my last thoughts being how I could have stopped...

I stop. Ponies shoot past me, fleeing from the chaos engulfing the Medicomp tower.

My chaos.

Celestia... I created this. My dreams have turned into a nightmare, a nightmare that's dragging everyone into it. It's taken my parents, Medicomp, Beakbreaker, and now even Mangus. And he's going to go after everyone he can.

And it will be my fault.

More ponies rush past me, screaming in fear.

I look towards the Medicomp tower. All the ponies fleeing past me will eventually fall to Mangus. No matter what they do, or where they go, he'll find them. He'll take their horns, their lives, everything.

I... I can’t let that happen

I won’t.

No more running. No more blaming others. No more trying to hide.

It's time to make things right.

Every instinct yells at me to run as I turn towards the Medicomp tower. My heart pounds as I race towards the chaos, and it isn't long before screams assail my ears.

I want to run. Death lies before me. If I go in fighting, I'm not going to come back out. But I can't run away. This is my responsibility. No matter what happens, and no matter the cost, I'm going to stop Mangus Bluehorn.

It's time to end this nightmare.

Author's Note:

Enhas gets a (imaginary) cookie for coming really close in guessing what Mangus was up to! And I must say, it's been fascinating reading all the theories and analysis some of you have been coming up with. Can't comment directly on any of them for fear of spoiling anything, but from a creator's standpoint, it's amazing to see so much discussion going on.

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