• Published 14th Jan 2013
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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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Icarus: Part I

Tartarus, it's said, is a place of horror and despair, where fear, fire, and smoke clogs the air no matter where you go. If it's really like that, then the scene before me is straight out of the infernal realm.

Screams echo through the towers surrounding Medicomp as I fly into the smoke, coughing as I burst into the Medicomp plaza. It's a war zone: the tower and surrounding buildings are engulfed in flames, some of which have collapsed, crushing panicked, screaming ponies. Those still running around are being attacked by Mangus' goons, who fire wildly as they swoop down to rip horns from the ponies beneath them, laughing as they have the time of their lives.

I frantically look for Mangus, but there's no sign of him; either he's hiding, or watching from high up as his goons do all the dirty work.

Laughter drifts through the air. I spot Mangus flying up from the crowd, dangling a poor soul with his magic.

Wait... I know that pony. It's the heckler, and he's fighting with all his might against Mangus' spell.

Mangus laughs. “That was an impressive speech you gave earlier!” He leans in close. “Please tell me it was a joke. Come on, I gotta hear those words.”

The heckler fires a blast at Mangus, who raises a magical shield to block the spell. A smash to the face knocks the heckler senseless.

“Let me give you some advice: Real conquerors don't parade around in public or make speeches. They hide, work behind the scenes, and strike when the time is right.”

The heckler fights with all his strength, but can't break free of the spell holding him aloft.

“You have any kids? A wife? Husband?”

“A boy,” the heckler growls, glaring at Mangus. “And when I'm done, I'll tell him how you fell like so many before you!”

Mangus jams his horn into the heckler's throat and slices half of it away.

“No, you won't.”

Wracked with pain, the heckler grabs his throat, blood gushing over his hooves. Even from this far away, I can see the confusion and fear in his eyes. Then Mangus lets go, and the heckler plunges into the crowd below, vanishing from sight.

I charge, hooves outstretched. It's only at the last second that Mangus notices me, but he's too late as I bash him from the sky and into the demolished stage below. He hits hard, and I'm right behind him, ready to end this before he can recover. But Mangus is faster than I thought, fires off a barrage of blasts. It's only by some miracle that I manage to veer clear and land on the opposite end of the stage.

“Well well well, lookie here everyone!" Mangus says. "We've got a little colt who lost his mommy!”

His goons fly down.

“You lost, little colt?”

They all laugh, and it's like I'm a child again, trapped in the schoolyard as Mangus and his goons corner me against a wall. But that was long ago.

I'm not a helpless little colt anymore.

“You aren't going to harm anyone ever again.” I say.

“Oh, serious are we? Whatcha gonna do, Silversqueak? Tear my horn off?” Mangus recoils in mock horror. “Oh mommy, please protect me from the scary earth pony!”

I hurl a blast at Mangus, wanting to wipe that smug grin off his face. He sees the blast coming, and has to drop the act to throw up his shield, blocking the blow.

The smile vanishes from Mangus' face.

“You all keep getting horns,” Mangus tells his guards. “But leave Silverspeak to me. He's mine.”

The guards retreat, but stop and hover a short distance away, eager to watch what they believe will be a curb-stomp battle.

I tense, ready to spring. Mangus does the same, and for a long moment we glare at each other, silently daring each other to make the first move.

“You can't win,” Mangus says. He points towards my horn. “And that's mine.”

“Nothing you can say will make me give it to you,” I say.

Mangus grins. “Who says I'm going to ask?”

His legs tighten.

“I'm going to take it.”

Mangus sprints across the stage. I do the same, and we hit.

Howling, I unleash a barrage of blows to Mangus' face. But he blocks each one; I swing faster, and though Mangus blocks me, he's forced back a few steps.

Mangus lashes out with a kick, and I fall, rolling to the side as he smashes his legs down, trying to break my neck the way he broke Beakbreaker's legs. Leaping back up, I eye him, my mind racing faster than I thought possible. As an earth pony, I'm stronger than Mangus, and can take more blows then he can, not to mention having more stamina. If I can dodge his blows, I can let him wear himself out before striking. But Mangus has the advantage of actual combat experience, brought on by years of schoolyard fights and brawls. And as a unicorn, he's had a lifetime of practicing and perfecting his magical skills, where I've had only a few days to do so. No doubt he also knows many combat spells, and with his abilities enhanced, he could potentially take me out with a single shot.

For the first time in our lives, we're evenly matched... and I'm relishing the chance for some payback.

Mangus charges. I roll to the side and fire off a blast, only to see it deflected with that shield of his. I leap, trying to tackle him, but he fires a shockwave and blasts me into the air. Spinning, I furiously flap my wings to stabilize myself.

Mangus laughs. “That the best you can do, Silversqueak?!”

I fire again, but into the ground this time. The resulting eruption catapults Mangus into the air. He cries out in surprise, flapping his wings. By the time he comes to a stop, he's not laughing anymore. He's shocked.

I'm no longer a toy he can kick around.

I charge; Mangus veers up to fly over me, but I easily adjust my angle and ram him, punching away at his face. Mangus tries to fight back, but he's never fought while in the air before. I have the advantage, and I press it hard.

“Guys!” Mangus shouts. “Help!”

Someone hits us, and I'm ripped away from Mangus. I twist, seeing one of Mangus' goons. I bash him in the face, and he's knocked out cold after two of my hardest hits. I tear free as he collapses onto a rooftop, and turn to spot Mangus, who now has the rest of his guards with him. He points towards me, and they charge. On one hoof, it's gratifying to see that Mangus is a coward who has others fight for him.

On the other hoof, I now have to deal with all his guards at once.

Blasts shoot past me, and I flee for my life, firing back at them as I go. The guards dodge, but they're still new to flying, and they loose track of where they're going. A few bounce off the sides of buildings and get the wind knocked out of them. One guard dodges a shot and smashes head-first into a building, falling to the ground like a ragdoll.

I look back. Mangus is firing on the crowd; I have to get back to him, but how?! I can't fight him with all these guards on my tail, and can't compete with their firepower!

Wait... maybe I don't need firepower.

I break away and fly upwards. The guards follow, and we do a loop high above the plaza. Reaching the peak, I give a quick burst and shoot down towards the ground. As I hope, the guards try the same, only to veer and swerve as their faces turn green, and most of them vomit. And as I start to level, I shoot straight up. A sharp pain tears into my wing muscles, but they hold.

I hear screams and look back to see Mangus' goons falling from the sky, wings ripped from their backs. I had only intended for them to get so sick that they would give up the chase, but I feel no sorrow as they fall. They would have killed me if given the chance.

With the guards taken care of, I look around for Mangus, only to see him shooting towards me, roaring in fury at seeing his friends falling to their deaths. I can't get out of the way as he blasts me through the windows of a nearby skyscraper. It feels like hammers are smashing into me as I hit chairs, desks, and walls before finally skidding to a stop.

The pain... oh Celestia, it hurts!

The windows shatter as Mangus flies inside, firing a massive beam that tears the floor apart. Instinct screams at me to get out of the way, and I roll, missing his beam by inches. But the pain is horrific; my fur is half-melted and the skin beneath is badly burnt.

“What's the matter?!” Mangus yells. “Can't take the heat?!”

I'm blasted into a nearby office.

“You should have thought of that when you killed my boys!”

Biting down to silence a scream, I roll off my burnt side and scramble out of the office, emerging into a room littered with cubicles. I hide inside one, trying to remember how to cast a healing spell.

I hear Mangus walking into the room. “You know Silverspeak, none of this had to happen. You could have let me take your horn. But no, you had to fight! You had to goad me on! Everything that happens here tonight is your fault!”

I try to ignore him as I finally get a green mist to emanate from my horn. It envelops my burnt flesh, and I try to hold back a sigh as the pain vanishes.

Mangus passes my hiding spot. “Come out and fight! Or are you just going to hide?”

He fires, destroying a nearby cubicle.

“I'm in no rush. I've got all night. It's not like anyone's going to get into the city, or out. And what would they do? Oh, wait, let me guess... they'd be like you. They'd go running and crying to Princess Celestia for help. After all, isn't that what you did all those years ago in that letter you wrote?”

I freeze.

How does he-

“I had started snooping through your mail, looking for something I could use against you. So when I saw you heading towards the post office one day, I followed you. And guess what I levitated out of the mail slot? A letter to the princess herself!” Mangus clears his throat and does a mocking impression of my voice. “Dear Princess Celestia: My name is Silverspeak and I'm a useless little pony who's only good at whining all the time. I'm so pathetic and everyone else is so special, so please make me better than everyone else!”

If there's only one thing I hate about Mangus Bluehorn more than anything else, it's when he does that sing-song voice of his, as I heard it countless times as a child. My vision goes red, and I leap from the cubicle, magically hurling a desk into Mangus' back, turning his happy voice into a startled shriek. I leap onto his back and grab onto his horn, trying to tear it off. If my letter had reached Celestia, then everything could have been different! She could have helped me, and everything would have been different! Everything would have changed!

But Mangus...stupid, idiotic Mangus screwed everything up!

With a roar, I kick Mangus away with all the strength my legs can muster. He flies through a window and plunges from sight. I leap after him as he plunges towards a crowded street far below, but I'm forced to break off as he fires a barrage of blasts. By the time I dodge them, he's pulled out of his fall and gone into a controlled dive, coming to a stop above the street.

“Nice try!” he shouts, firing a blast. I'm forced to veer away, coming so close to Mangus that our wings touch. He turns and gives chase as I fly to the top of the closest towers and beyond, shooting over Manehattan's skyscrapers. Mangus follows behind like a hawk in pursuit of dinner, firing a shot every now and then, but he's not trying to hit me... He's toying with me.

“Let's play a game, Silverspeak! For every minute you refuse to surrender, I'll blow a building to pieces! How does that sound?!”

I flip over and fire off a shot. He dodges, then fires his largest blast yet, hurling it towards the Manehattan Public Library. The blast hits the western wing, which erupts in a thunderous explosion, the heat scorching my wingtips as I fight to rise above it. Somewhere inside that explosion is the remains of thousands of books and priceless manuscripts, all blown to pieces in one careless blast.

“That's one!” Mangus shouts. “What's next?”

I spin, head towards the park. Maybe I can lose him in there, and-

Several blasts shoot ahead, destroying a baseball field. The park's exquisite gardens erupt into flames as fires break out.

“That's two!”

Celestia, I have to stop this maniac! I flip back over and fire off blasts as fast as I can, trying to overwhelm Mangus with sheer numbers. But that shield of his blocks all of them, and he just keeps coming.

“Oh look! Third time's going to be the charm!”

I look ahead, and my heart leaps to my throat. The hospital lies before us, and I can see forms moving around inside; the place has been filled since I dropped Beakbreaker off, almost certainly with the wounded from Mangus' rampage.

If he hits the building with one of his blasts...

“I can just see tomorrow's headline!” Mangus calls out. “Silverspeak refuses to surrender, causes hospital to be blown up.” His horn glows as he charges another blast. “What a story that'll make!”

No! Oh sweet heavens, no! I rocket towards him, and the two of us collide, falling onto the closest rooftop. Mangus leaps up, but I'm faster, punching him in the face with a frantic barrage. But he raises that shield and bashes me with it, knocking me flat on my back. He leaps onto me, his horn pointed right at my eye.

“You're awfully eager to protect that place,” he says with a chuckle. “Why? After all, you don't know anyone in there. Unless... Unless there's someone very special to you inside...”

No.

“Someone you want to save.”

No, no, no!

Mangus grins. “I think Beakbreaker could use a guest to cheer her up, don't you think?”

I scream and fire off a blast, but Mangus is ready and smashes his hooves into my face. My vision goes white and an incredible pain shoots through my skull until it feels like it's going to burst

Slowly, far-too slowly, the pain fades. My vision clears and finally comes back into focus. I keep my hooves up, ready in case Mangus is waiting to hit me again.

He's gone.

Leaping up, I shoot towards the hospital as fast as my wings will carry me.

Oh please, Celestia, don't let me be too late!

***

As I touch down, I find the hospital entrance surrounded by demolished ambulances and smoking craters. Nobody's in sight, and as I creep to the doors, slowly open them, and slip inside.

To my surprise, the hospital lobby is intact. There's no sign of violence, no blood upon the walls or ponies with their horns missing. It's as if everyone just got up and left. I want to call out to see if anyone's here, but decide to stay silent. No doubt I'm walking into a trap, but if I can delay Mangus knowing I'm here, the better my chances are.

I make for the stairs, only to find that the handle has been welded shut; the metal's still warm, and it'd be impossible to get through without raising a ruckus. I head down the hall, hoping to find another set of stairs.

No sooner do I step inside then the lights snap out, plunging the hall into darkness.

Come into my web, said the spider to the fly...

I jump. Is he... no. No, Mangus' voice came through the hospital's intercom system.

Mares and Gentlecolts, please remain calm. Whether you live or die depends on what actions our guest, Mr. Silverspeak, takes in the next few minutes.

Oh no, not more mind games. I have no intention of going through those again, especially if someone's life is at stake. I take off down the darkened hall, relying on flashes of lightning to guide me.

Mares and gentlecolts, here's your question for the day: What is the value of life? What's one life worth vs. several hundred? No doubt you all value your lives, and the lives of your loved ones who are sick and injured. Tell me, what would all of you do to save them? Would you give up your own life? Would you be willing to take the life of the sick and injured stranger in the room besides you?

I reach the next staircase, find it unlocked. But it only goes up a single floor before I find the stairs have been demolished. Mangus is herding me somewhere: my only hope is that I'm moving faster than he expected. I break out onto the second floor as Mangus' voice comes over the speakers once again.

Thought things over? Good...not that your choices would matter to me, because I'm now addressing you, Silverspeak. I know you're willing to deceive, fight, and do anything necessary to save the one you care for...but what happens when your decisions affect hundreds?

I stop, dreading where this is going.

I'm in the security room now, and I can see your every move. I'm on the fifth floor, the same one where Beakbreaker is. When I say so, a-"

Fifth floor! I aim up and fire a heavy blast into the ceiling. When the smoke clears, there are holes stretching up into the floors above.

Hey, you can't do that!

Mangus' outraged yell is abruptly cut off as I shoot up through the holes, landing on the fifth floor. No doubt he's running for Beakbreaker's room. I run too, blasting equipment aside. I have to reach her before he does, but where is she?!

"Silverspeak!"

"Beakbreaker?!" I spin towards a nearby door and kick it open. “Beakbreaker! Are you-”

Mangus is already inside, has Beakbreaker hovering beside her.

“Too slow,” Mangus chuckles.

Buck!

Before I can fire, Mangus magically hovers Beakbreaker between him and me, having her act as a living shield. I can't get to him without tearing through her.

“You're clever Silverspeak, I'll give you that. But it's over. I win. Now, here's how this is all going to go down. You back off, inject yourself with a tranquilizer, and lie on the ground. After that, I'll-”

Buck you!” I fire at the ceiling. It explodes, and a massive operating table crashes through.

Caught by surprise, Mangus drops Beakbreaker to shove the table aside. And as he does, it's so easy to focus and fire a killing blast.

Mangus sees my blast, but can only partially raise his shield. He blocks most of the spell, but it still grazes his side. He screams in agony, now missing a large chunk of skin, revealing burned muscle beneath.

His screams and tears of pain are the sweetest things I've ever heard.

Mangus stares at the wound in shock, unable to believe he's actually been hurt by me, his childhood punching bag. Then he turns to me, enraged beyond anything I've ever seen.

“You want to fight?! I'll give you a fight!

I grab Beakbreaker and run for my life as Mangus fires. A massive beam of blood-red energy destroys the door as I slam it shut, slicing through the building as if the walls were made of paper. The heat is so intense that anything near it erupts into flame, and in seconds the entire floor is on fire. I run for the staircase, Beakbreaker clinging to my back as Mangus' beams slices into the walls, ceiling, and floor. He's gone crazy, firing at random, slicing into the building without care of where or who he's hitting, and a huge chunk of the hospital falls away. Terrified screams echo from nearby rooms; if the ponies in them are like Beakbreaker, then they'll be helpless to move.

They're going to be burned alive.

I grab a nearby sprinkler system and yank on the handle. The sprinklers in the ceiling erupt, but the damage Mangus has inflicted limits their effectiveness. I need to do more!

I close my eyes, imagining a massive beam of cold, wet water bursting from my horn like a fire hose. I do everything I can to see it come forth, and let go. Water blasts from my horn, and I aim it into the walls, into anything that's ablaze. Smoke and steam fill the room, but I can hear the fires going out.

The floor shakes, and I hear Mangus' roars growing louder. Kicking the stairwell door open, I run inside, only to skid to a stop; the beam has torn the staircase away from the walls.

An explosion rocks the building. Beakbreaker screams.

Clutching Beakbreaker. I leap into the stairwell and fly upwards. But as we near the top, the entire top of the stairwell explodes and comes crashing down.

Beakbreaker screams so loudly my ears hurt.

I ram the closest door and emerge into one of the upper floors. Ponies have run from their rooms, fearing the worst from the explosions down below.

“Out!” I yell. “Everybody out!”

We're all knocked down as the floor erupts. Mangus blasts his way through and kicks me into the wall. I lose my grip on Beakbreaker, and she hits the floor.

“Silverspeak!” she shouts, trying to get to me. “Silverspeak, get up!”

I try. But Mangus grabs Beakbreaker, then smashes through the nearest window and escapes into the open sky.

No!

I run and leap through the window, giving chase as Mangus flies to the hospital's roof. But he's ready for me, and fires. The blast is easy to dodge; Mangus must be so crazed from the pain that he's losing control of himself.

Wait. What's that sound?

I turn, and my heart skips a beat. Mangus wasn't aiming at me: he was aiming at a skyscraper next to the hospital. The upper half has been severed, and it's starting to fall.

Mangus takes off into the sky, yanking Beakbreaker after him. If I try to stop the building, Mangus will kill Beakbreaker. But if I go after him, then everyone in the hospital will be crushed. Already I can hear them screaming as those near the windows realize what's happening.

Every instinct tells me to go after Mangus... But I can't leave these ponies to die.

I shoot towards the hospital as the building starts to tilt, charging my magic, visualizing a huge force field emerging. And as the skyscraper falls, I fire. Green energy shoots from my horn and envelops the building. But it keeps coming... Oh Celestia, it's so heavy!

The building bears down on me. I'm knocked to my back, and I have a front-row seat to an entire skyscraper coming down to crush me. I shout, my head feeling like it's going to tear itself apart, but I force myself to throw all my strength into the horn.

Something wet trickles down my cheeks. Blood. I'm bleeding from my eyes and nose.

I can't do it... I'm not strong enough to hold up an entire building... But maybe I don't have to! I can't stop the building from coming down, but I can turn it aside.

Shrieking from the pain, I try to force the structure aside. There's no time to see if anyone is on the streets below, and I can only pray there aren't, because I can't hold the building up any longer.

I let go. The building falls onto the street and implodes upon itself, ash and dust flying up like soot from a volcano.

I collapse, gasping for air, my head throbbing with pain. Blood continues to dribble onto the rooftop. I wipe it away as I go to the edge and look down. Oh, thank Celestia, it looks like no one was hit; police officers are trying to keep ponies away from the ruins. They probably saw it coming down and tried to get everyone away so that nobody else would be killed in the hospital's collapse. The hospital is saved.

But where's Mangus?

Looking to the sky, I spot him flying towards the dome, taking Beakbreaker with him, no doubt hoping to escape.

Like Tartarus he will!

My wings beat, and I take off after him.

***

Mangus has a huge lead on me as he shoots higher and higher, reaching the very top of the dome. He fires a stream of magic, and a hole appears. I speed up, but as soon as Mangus and Beakbreaker head through, he fires his magic and starts to seal it up.

I fire several blasts. Forced to break off, Mangus can't seal the hole, and I shoot through the dome into the storm beyond. I'm instantly drenched from the heavy rain, and the howling winds threaten to blow me away like a leaf in a hurricane.

Mangus flies up into the massive clouds. I follow him.

Everything goes dark. I can't see anything ahead of me until a flash of lightning momentarily lights my way. Mangus and Beakbreaker are straight ahead, but everything goes dark once more. Blind, I keep going forward until a barrage of flashes lights the way.

Mangus and Beakbreaker are gone.

No!

I speed up, bursting into a gap between the clouds. But there's no sign of Mangus. He could be above me, below me, or shooting back towards Manehattan, where I'd have no chance of finding him... or Beakbreaker... again.

I try to clear the rain from my eyes. I have to-

Something hits me, and my back feels like it's been doused with acid. I scream and nearly fall, only just managing to regain control.

A nearby cloud briefly lights up, and I spot Mangus below me. Beakbreaker's floating beside him, encased inside a magical sphere that's she can't break. But she's not taking her captivity lightly, struggling, kicking, and smashing against the sphere's walls for all she's worth.

Mangus fires, and I do the same as I charge him. Our blasts hit and explode in a burst of color as I ram into his gut, sending us tumbling through the storm. I hit him, and he hits me, the two of us spinning and twirling until I can't tell which way is up or down.

I hit Mangus again and again, the way he used to hit me. The memory of each schoolyard taunt, every prank, and every beating fuels my blows. I want to see his snout broken and his face caved in. Celestia help me, he's not going to hurt Beakbreaker ever again!

Mangus thrusts his head forward, his horn cutting into my chest. I shriek, grabbing the wound as he jabs again, this time narrowly missing my left eye as he slices my cheek open. Then he sinks his teeth into my neck, trying to tear into my jugular vein. I scream, feeling hot blood flowing down my fur.

And then Mangus is kicked away, taking a chunk of my skin with him. Beakbreaker managed to get close enough to kick him away, buying me a few precious seconds... but those are cut short as Mangus orients himself and unleashes his most powerful barrage yet, trying to vaporize me with overwhelming power.

I take off through the clouds, trying to outrace Mangus and get some breathing room. But he's right on me, the blasts getting closer as Mangus narrows his aim.

And then there's pain, horrific pain. I scream and nearly pass out from the pain as I fall.

A flash of lightning reveals ribs exposed to the open air.

Screaming, I throw my wings open, managing to stop my plunge. I shoot upwards, trying to get away from those blasts, trying not to faint from the pain. But Mangus won't give up. He's still on me, closing the gap, and I can't outrun him or dodge him forever.

Wait. There's one last trick I can try. It's a long shot, but it's my only chance!

Biting down, I fly straight up as fast as I can. The clouds become darker, and my eyes sting as water and wind alike lash at them as I emerge into a massive vortex that resembles the center of a tornado. We're in the heart of the storm, and several miles above is the clear night sky.

I fly higher and higher. The blasts stop, and I risk a backwards glance. Mangus is chasing me, sporting a grin that looks almost demonic.

“I'm coming for you!” he shouts.

I force my aching wings to go faster.

I'm gonna get you!

Come on, come on!

I take the deepest breath I can as the air thins. No sooner do I close my mouth than it feels like my skin is starting to freeze.

A yank on my tail stops my ascent. I spin to see Mangus' horn jamming into my leg, but the air is so cold that there's almost no pain. I kick with my one good leg, but Mangus dodges it and rears back for another thrust... and then he stops, confused, as if he's forgotten why we're fighting.

Then Mangus' eyes roll back, and he goes limp, falling from the sky as he passes out from lack of oxygen.

Yes!

I stop my wings and fall. My lungs are burning, but I don't dare breathe until the air warms. Only then do I grab a deep lungful of searingly cold air. It hurts to breathe, but I do my best to ignore it as I rocket after Beakbreaker. Unlike Mangus, she realized what I was doing, and managed to hold her breath like I did. Rocketing down, I magically grab hold of the sphere she's encased in, and bring it to a stop.

“Beakbreaker!” I shout over the howl of the storm. “Beakbreaker, are you okay?!”

From the looks of things, Beakbreaker can hear me, but she can't understand what I'm saying.

“Don't worry! I'm going to get you down! We'll get back to the-”

The sphere is suddenly yanked from my grasp.

“Beakbreaker!”

Mangus somehow managed to recover from his fall, and he now hovers before me, yanking Beakbreaker in like a fish on a hook. He destroys the sphere, then magically grabs Beakbreaker, hovering her in mid-air. He's exhausted, breathing heavily and struggling to stay aloft. But his anger burns brighter than ever, hatred and rage etched into every pore, every wrinkle on his furious face.

Beakbreaker struggles, trying to kick Mangus.

“You thought you could beat me, Silverspeak?!” Mangus screams. “I'm Mangus Bluehorn! I'm the greatest Unicorn who ever lived! And you?! You're a nobody!

I focus. One blast to Mangus' head is all it should take...

“You should have known your place! You could have had a good life! But no! You ruined everything! This is all your fault!”

I twitch, ready to fire.

“Don't blame me for this, Silverspeak! Blame yourself!”

Mangus rears back... and then smashes his horn into Beakbreaker's chest.

A magical blast tears out through her back.

For an instant, Beakbreaker's face is full of fear and pain... and then she goes limp, blood trickling from her mouth.

NO!

I fire. Mangus tries to doge, but my blast tears his right leg off. He screams, grabbing his bloody stump as Beakbreaker plunges towards Manehattan. I shoot after her.

Beakbreaker!

I force my legs to my sides and tuck my wings in to streamline myself, fighting to reach her as blood splashes into my face.

Come on!

Her hoof's almost in range. I try to grab it, but miss.

COME ON!

I fire my magic and yank Beakbreaker into my grasp. But we're going too fast; the dome over Manehattan is rocketing towards us. I fire blasts at the surface, one after another, finally causing a crack to appear. One more shot shatters it, and we plunge through, falling towards the Manehattan bridge.

I beat my wings, trying to fly away, but we're going too fast! I can't stop us!

“No!” I scream. “NO, NO, NO!”

Only one chance left! I shoot energy towards the bridge, trying to create a bubble of energy for us to fall on. It takes shape, but I can't tell if it's strong enough to support us!

I clutch Beakbreaker as tightly as I can.

We slam into the bubble. IT bends, then bursts, and we fall towards the pave-