• Published 2nd Feb 2013
  • 6,593 Views, 148 Comments

Justice - TwilightSnarkle

Worker has found happiness, health, and most importantly, home. Now he struggles to defend those who made his new life possible while he wrestles with his own demons.

  • ...

Old Wounds

“All rise for the Seventh Special Session of the Royal Court!” barked the bailiff.

The door behind the dour pony opened, and Princess Celestia entered, her expression unreadable. The gallery fell silent as every pony tried to find an answer in her features.

She mounted the stair immediately, sparing no attention for the gallery or the defendant. As soon as she stood behind the bench, the bailiff once again struck the floor with a forehoof. “Order in the court!” he demanded, despite the deathly quiet. “The Royal Court continues its session!”

Celestia cleared her throat, and then looked at her sister, immediately regretting the course of action. She pulled her eyes away, and gazed into the gallery, noting the presence of Worker and his bride, and close to two dozen other ponies.

For what she hoped would be the last time, she rapped the floor with a hoof, and announced, “Deliberations have been completed in this, the Seventh Special Session of the Equestrian Royal Court. The gallery may be seated if desired. I ask that the defendant and counsel remain standing.”

There was a period of quiet shuffling as a few ponies found comfortable positions. Celestia bore the delay with good grace, counting silently to sixty before continuing. She cleared her throat, took a breath, and began.

“In the deliberation of this case, the Court has considered the severity of the crime, the circumstances of its commission, the impact upon the victim, and the intent of the defendant.” She took another breath, and her blank expression melted into one of compassion. “It is with a heavy heart, then, that the Court accepts the plea of No Contest, and has decided upon a sentence.“

Luna’s cautious optimism faded away, leaving in its wake a mask of stark terror. She shook her head, staring at her sister, silently pleading.

Celestia continued. “The Court hereby decrees that Princess Luna—”

“Your Highness, I object!” In the gallery, a familiar pony stood on his hind legs. One forehoof rested upon the gallery rail, and the other lifted into the air, waving wildly. The crowd’s confusion created a dull roar which echoed through the court.

Celestia’s melancholy was buried under a crush of anger and frustration. Can he not see how difficult this is, without interruption? “Order!” she shouted, banging on the floor with ferocious strikes. “Order! Bailiff!” She stared daggers at the orange-maned unicorn. “Seize that pony and bring him before the bench.”

The older stallion strode forward, his expression grim, and opened the gate to the gallery. At the other side waited Worker. “Sir,” he stated, his voice flat. “The Court demands your presence.”

“Of course, bailiff,” Worker replied calmly. “As the Court wishes.”

The black-maned pony stepped aside to let Worker pass, and then shadowed him to a spot between the defendant’s table and the bench. As he passed Luna, she shook his head at him frantically, begging him to back down.

The princess seethed, glaring at the pony before her, every word falling from her lips as if bitten off. “What right do you have to interrupt these proceedings, Worker?”

“I possess the right of the wounded, Justice.”

“Oh, you’re a clever pony,” she chuckled mirthlessly. “You do not expect me to allow you to turn this Court into your own personal soapbox!”

“I expect precisely that, Justice.” His chin was lifted in defiance, and his tone grim, but his eyes showed the depth of his fear. He was terrified, yet he spoke confidently. “It is my right as the wounded party to address the court before final sentencing has been decreed. I have not yet availed myself of that right.”

“You have never once complained about your circumstances, Worker,” she replied, ice replacing fire. Her rage cooled, but her anger was no less intense. “Not once, in all the times we’ve spoken. Do you expect the Court to allow you to demand its attention for something you have not bothered to pursue until now?”

“I demand my rights, Justice,” he declared simply. As Celestia glared, a bead of sweat trickled across his temple. The crowd’s murmurs built once more into a buzzing cacophony.

“I said order!” she roared, striking the floor a final time. “Bailiff! The next pony who speaks without permission shall be ejected bodily from the Court!”

In response, the dun pony returned to the gate, and stared wordlessly into the gallery.

Celestia returned her attention to the pony before her. “Very well, Worker,” she replied, every hint of emotion excised from her voice. “You have your rights. Exercise them. The witness station is yours.”

Worker bowed in respect, and approached the station. His jaw set in grim determination, he entered its confines, rested his forehooves against the rail, and faced the crowd.

"Princess Celestia,” he began with a nod in her direction. “Princess Luna.” He nodded to her as well. “I thank you for the opportunity to address the Court. There has been a grave injustice done, but it is not the one you pursue."

A whisper passed through the crowd, cut off as if by a switch when Celestia fluttered her wings in annoyance. Silence awaited Worker, then, and he tried to speak.

"My name..." He sighed, then, and looked across the gallery, at the faces of his friends, and of the mare that meant the world to him. He caught her eye, and mouthed a silent apology, then closed his eyes.

He drew himself up, then, and seemed to radiate a new charisma, a potency. His eyes again open, he gazed across the gallery, regarding those gathered there as so many faces in a crowd. He took a breath, and began again.

"The name Worker is an affectation, an attempt to translate my given name into something that makes sense in Equestria. My true name is Julian Kintobor, of the house of Ivo. It is also Dr. Ivo Robotnik, and some," he continued, his voice lowering for a moment, "called me the Eggman.

"I am a man—or was—from a realm called Overland, and before that, from a place called Earth. I have been many things: a friend, a foe, a pawn, a king, a servant, and a god. Above all else, I have been a monster.

"I was born into privilege, given every chance to express myself and grow into my own being. Instead of challenging myself, and becoming what I could be, I compared myself to another—my brother, Colin—and envied him.

"It was that envy that begat my desire for control. For power. If I could not be someone, I could at least rule over them. It was a small thing at first. Paranoia. A desire to be seen as first, seen as best, by my peers. Soon, it began to consume me—and I welcomed it.

"My friends showed me great caring and kindness, teaching me all they knew. My appetite for knowledge is enormous, and I was as a starved man at a banquet. I took it all in. And when they had nothing more to share, I arranged their banishment."

He paused, then, and looked out into the gallery once more. There stood his friends, shocked into silence, with expressions somewhere between fear and revulsion. And next to them, tears rolling down her grey muzzle, stood Skyshine. He forced himself to stare at her, to meet her eyes, and tell her precisely what she had never wished to learn.

"Seeing my promise, I was taken in by a mentor. He was a great man, who devised many a wonderful thing, and took joy at his creation. After learning all he had to teach, I used his creations against him, blaming him for a horrific explosion that I myself engineered. Because no lives were lost, he, too, was banished, although execution had been my true goal.

"When war broke out between my people and the Mobians, I saw it only as a path to power. Harming my own kind, forcibly using them as test subjects, or as living targets, I advanced the art of war for my people. I was found out. Tried. Convicted. Cast out. But I only grew hungrier."

He couldn't look at Skyshine anymore, and she had already turned away. He addressed Luna, then, as she sat next to her solicitor. His eyes were wet, yet his voice remained strong.

"I escaped my prison, evading recapture and death, and was rescued by two creatures from a land named Acorn. I swore allegiance, and quickly learned the intricacies of their society. Given a chance, I cast my only obstacle into a realm known as the Zone of Silence, and assumed the title of Warlord. Then I began my plans anew.

"I developed cyborgs—cybernetic organisms, a... merging of machine and flesh—through illegal testing on innocents captured from another land. One by one, they died in my testing, save for the strongest, who became my living weapon. He destroyed my kinsmen and their machines, but eventually proved unstable. I confined him cruelly. To my knowledge, he might still wail in his prison."

Luna, then, looked away as well, uncomfortable with the parallels. Worker turned back to the gallery once more, and steeled himself for the rest of his tale.

"It was then that the Roboticizer was created. Realizing my cyborg army was unreliable at best, I was enamored by the idea of a machine that could completely convert living flesh to a being of cold steel, which would be reliable, dependable, powerful, and completely subservient to my will. I immediately set to work, forcibly converting countless creatures to mindless slaves. The first one I converted was the one who rescued me after my escape.

"The Roboticizer became my greatest tool. Every challenger, every creature suspicious of my work, every ally who showed the slightest moment's weakness became fuel for my beloved machine, and then another servant. I converted entire cities, and those I could not convert, I expelled into the Zone of Silence.

"I conquered the entire world, placing in key positions those who were slavishly devoted to my will, to keep my grip tight on the populace. I was sole sovereign. I was a god.

"Not all could be captured. Not all could be enslaved. One in particular, who led a group named the Freedom Fighters, fought against me and my mission of conquest. Time and time again, his persistence spelled out another of my failures. His devotion to his ideals proved stronger than my will to rule.

"Over the course of our battles, I destroyed great forests, corrupted immense swathes of land, burned jungles, all to cement my reign. The crimes against the planet were just as horrific as my crimes against those who once lived on it. Eventually, I was able to trap my foe and convert him as well. Thinking my victory complete, I set him to work as my right hand. He was rescued by his friends, but not before he turned one of the largest cities, and its cybernetic inhabitants, into radioactive slag.

"It was then that I developed my final plan. I would rule, or I would die, and I crafted the Ultimate Annihilator."

He turned to Celestia, his tears dry now, as the gallery slowly emptied. The ponies, sickened at such atrocities and repelled by their calm recounting, could stomach no more. Skyshine, however, stayed, and soon was one of only a hoof-full of souls that remained. None of his other friends were among that number.

"Before I completed my work, I saw a potential problem in that persistent creature who sought to undo my efforts. Taking the most expedient path, I murdered an innocent solely to frame him. One more death among so many seems like a small thing, I'm sure, but I knew of her prowess, and of her connection to my enemy. I selected her solely because her death would cause him the most pain. In the end, she was a pawn, and one I could sacrifice.

"I targeted the remnants of the opposition, and began my final stroke. It occurred to me that there was a third option, then. While the machine did its work, powering up to dissolve the very city that opposed me, I did my own work to find an escape.

"I was tired. Even if I had won, there would be nothing left to accomplish. I would be god-king over a world of mindless steel. And if I had lost, well, looking back at what was happening at the time, I would not have survived. Neither of those outcomes truly mattered to me. I wanted out. I wanted to be away from the entire thing. I felt I deserved, after all I had done, peace.

"As the Annihilator churned away, powering up and targeting the populace below, I modified one of my machines to cast me away from that place, into the unknown. Gathering a few possessions, I flipped the switch just as the Annihilator fired. I tore open a hole across time and space, cast my materials into it, and as I stepped towards it, was greeted once again by my foe.

"We battled. I felt the Annihilator working... but it worked against me. Knowing the portal was my only escape, I managed to force him away, and dove through the hole in the continuum. He must have tampered with the machine. Its explosion in my wake propelled me faster than I'd hoped, and I watched as the portal collapsed behind me. I was free.

"I wound up here, in a cavern, in the mountains outside Pasofino. I thought myself alone, at first, and sought to create a home for myself. I planned to live out my final years alone, and then die, unchallenged ever again. Master not of a planet, but of myself.

"Then I found a path, and a town, and the remarkable ponies of Pasofino. They welcomed me. They took me in. Claimed me as one of their own. It was their purity, their innocence, their willingness to love a stranger—love me—that changed me.

"Your Highness,” he said, producing a small book from beneath his vest, “I wish to present to the court a journal which I wrote during my conversion. It is in my native tongue, and if your scribes cannot translate it, it would be my honor to provide that service to you. If I may?"

She nodded, slightly, and he channeled a trickle of magic, lifting the slim, worn tome and placing it atop her desk.

"Detailed in that journal are my experiences here, as I began a man, and ended a—a pony. It covers how I feel about my life here, and my fellow ponies, and the world in which you all live, and how that simple, all-encompassing love changed me for the better. But I understand there are other changes that concern this court.

"I admit to being concerned as I began to change. First, my mane... I mean, hair. Then, I developed a horn. And finally, over the course of a night, I was remade a unicorn. I understand this is forbidden magic. Evil magic. Dark, unspeakable work. And looking back, it is similar to what I have done: convert another to a form more suitable to my needs, more to my liking.

"But evil is not simply an act. Evil is an intent. Your sister Luna sensed me enter. She felt my dreams. That is, after all, her domain, and dreams such as mine must have felt strange indeed. She saw the one thing I would not admit to myself: the need to belong. With Luna’s help, Justice, I did more than belong with friends. I belonged to them, and they to me."

He turned again to Luna, who regarded him with an unreadable expression, although her lip trembled.

"Princess Luna, what you did, regardless of the law, or the strictures, or the traditions, was the second greatest gift I have ever been given: a chance to begin anew, a whole lifetime ahead of me, with a world that both cared for me, and accepted me for who I was—not that they knew. The greatest gift was the love of a young mare —who I, too, love deeply...” his voice fell, becoming nearly a whisper, “although I fear I have driven her from me, now."

He spared a glance for Skyshine, but she was gone. He did not blame her. Turning to Celestia, he lifted his voice once more, and concluded his plea.

"Princess Celestia, your people speak of your limitless wisdom, your everlasting grace, your all-encompassing love for your ponies. While I wear the form, I admit I was not born here, although I feel I was reborn here. That rebirth was due to your sister's love, and her trust of dreams.

"I ask you, Celestia, as Justice and as her sister, to forgive her. She acted out of compassion, out of love, and sought only to make me happy, regardless of whether it was right that I had that happiness. And she did: for five glorious years, she did. I have never been happier, across all my days.

"If the Sun must deny its light for any creature, let it be me. I have earned my time in darkness, and felt more joy than I deserve. It is only right that I be sent to it in her stead. Will you, Your Highness, show her that love?"

The courtroom fell silent, and it was empty. All that remained was Worker, the bailiff, the solicitor, and the princesses.

Worker fell back to all fours, hung his head, and walked out of his station. He plodded, the weight of his deeds clearly borne upon his shoulders, and stood before the Justice, who gazed down upon him from her seat above.

"I await your bailiff, Your Highness, and my just exile." With that, he bowed low, forelegs folded, and remained motionless.

“Bailiff,” Celestia whispered, “please recess the Court.”