• Published 27th Mar 2013
  • 6,345 Views, 280 Comments

Hope - TwilightSnarkle

Memories of the past can destroy even the strongest soul, but what happens when the past can visit in person?

  • ...

Chapter 3

Chapter 3
Worker clung to Sundown’s neck, too distracted to consider magic. His mind was flooded with images of Skyshine in trouble, and with every passing moment the thoughts grew darker. By the time he arrived home, his wife was already struggling with an implacable foe... and trying to convince her to finish her waffles.

“Skyshine!” he called, bursting into the kitchen. “Someone-”

Two sets of surprised eyes looked up from the breakfast table, each above a feminine muzzle. One was covered in whipped cream, and the other tried to swallow a mouthful of tea.

“Worker,” Skyshine choked down her drink and stood, bracing herself with one hoof against the table. “What’s wrong?”

“I...” Worker sighed, and rested his head against the doorjamb. “Nothing, apparently. Too little sleep, and too many worries.”

Something must have caused this.” She approached her husband, worry knitting her brow.

Sundown peered over Worker’s shoulder and, seeing nothing of concern, busied himself outside.

Snowdrop took the opportunity to reach for the whipped cream bottle.

The mare nuzzled Worker’s cheek, then pulled back to look him in the eye. “What happened at the shop? Young lady, put the bottle down.”

Snowdrop stared at the back of her mother’s head, incredulous. Worker spared his daughter a smile and a shrug before looking back to his wife.

“Someone broke into the shop. They made a beeline to the back office, forced the door, but only took a picture. Everything else, if scattered, was left behind. I’m afraid I drove Sundown to distraction getting me back up here. I was convinced something bad was going to happen; the picture was one of you and me.”

“Worker,” she began, then sighed. She opted instead to kiss his cheek. “Your dreams have been getting the better of you. Will you write to Luna tonight, after things have quieted down?”

Worker took a deep, calming breath, then relented. “We’ll talk about it after the party.”

“Good. Now, I think you have some promises to keep. A stack of them, if I recall. About eight inches high.”

Worker blinked, and mouthed to his wife. “Eight?”

A satisfied grin was her only reply.

He sighed in resignation, glanced over his wife’s shoulder, and addressed his daughter. “How about it, little filly? Are you ready to set up for your big day?”

With an eager nod and a graceful leap from her chair, Snowdrop cantered towards the couple. She favored her mother with a brief nuzzle, and then practically pushed her father into the next room, grinning madly. “Let’s go, Daddy!”

He could only chuckle and obey. Soon, his worries collapsed under the weight of her optimism.

It was going to be the best party a filly ever had.

Two ponies lay exhausted atop a jumbled pile of cushions in a corner of a large room. While the mare slept fitfully, the stallion examined with weary eyes what remained of his surroundings.

Streamers hung from every imaginable point, spilling over the floor and tangling around piles of debris. Empty boxes were piled high, wrapping paper strewn to every corner, and, somewhere in the pile of stuffed animals on the other side of the room snored a little seven-year-old filly.

A stack of new books had collapsed at some time during the evening. From his vantage point, he could just make out titles like Seapony Adventures, The Cutie-Mark Crusader Handbook, and Legends of Everfree. He could not see the one he had purchased—Teach Yourself Levitation—but from his wife’s reaction, he had a suspicion that she was sleeping on it.

There had been a cake on a table, somewhere. He knew that because his left hoof had just found a slice of it. No sign of the table remained, but it might have been moved to the deck—a draft was coming from somewhere, and he could see the front door was tightly shut down the hall.


There was no answer.

Skyshine...” He nudged her gently.


“The party’s over, Skyshine. We need to get a filly to bed, and then ourselves.”

“Mm. Fine here.”

Worker realized that he was fine there, too. He rolled over, slid the back door shut, latched it, and then snuggled close to his wife. Soon, they both slept.

The mess was still there in the morning when they woke. After waiting a few minutes to be sure it was not a dream, the pair helped each other up and set to work. Skyshine started on breakfast, and Worker levitated the bulk of the trash into separate piles. Then, he began searching for the furniture.

The table was outside, after all. And upside down.

He slid it into place and began his hunt for chairs. By the time he returned, Snowdrop was perched atop the table, Teach Yourself Levitation open across her lap. She had found her father’s goggles, and was trying to read the instructions, one lens over an eye, and the other perched atop her horn.


She looked up, smiling. The goggles swayed precariously atop her head. “Yes, Daddy?”

There was an odd silence, then, as Worker tried to think of what he had wanted to say. His words had been chased away, and he found himself defeated by his own grin.

Surrounding the precocious filly, all of seven-going-on-twenty, were scraps of spare parchment and a few half-full flasks of ink. Behind each ear rested a number of mismatched quills. A smudge of black ink crossed her muzzle.

“Ah.” No good. He’d start laughing any moment now. “Uh, is that a good book?” His voice squeaked as he fought down an outburst.

Snowdrop lifted her chin and stared imperiously at her father through her goggles-cum-monocle. “Yes, Daddy. It’s very good. Very educushional.”

Worker could only nod and mumble, then walk as quickly as possible to the kitchen.

“Dear?” He barely managed a straight face.

Skyshine looked up from a sink full of dishes. “Mm?”

“Your daughter. She’s... Well. Just go see.”

Her curiosity piqued, Skyshine trotted down the hall.

Worker managed to pour himself a mug of coffee just in time to hear his wife collapse in laughter, and his daughter screech in indignation.

“We really do need to thank Tea Blossom, dear.” Skyshine fumbled with an earring, checked her dress for the fourth time, and then rummaged through her vanity for something that was apparently vitally important.

Worker stepped in from the bath, absentmindedly adjusting the collar on his jacket. “I thought what we were paying her was thanks enough,” he replied with a grin. He turned to the door and pretended not to hear her annoyed grumbling. “But I’ll be sure to thank her directly.”

Worker stepped out into the greatroom, and his grin grew wider.

Bulwark, dressed in a lovely white and gold gown, stood beside her husband, gazing intently everywhere but the room behind her. Skean, close-shaven and wearing his family’s hunting plaid, stared with her, flicking his wings in absent-minded irritation. Beyond the pair, a harried Tea Blossom pleaded with her charge who seemed determined to levitate everything in the room.

Snowdrop still wore the goggles.

His guests, as one, looked to him as he entered, an unspoken plea in their eyes.

“She’ll just be a moment, folks,” he recited, dodging a stuffed rabbit. “I’ll go take the composting out, and we should be ready to go.”

The three, having heard this timeline before, wore fixed expressions of calculated, lifeless joy. Worker’s grin surrendered to open laughter, and he strolled out of the room, stopping briefly in the kitchen for the trash bin. He then left to attend to matters out-of-doors, and away from the enthusiastic filly’s home-grown chaos.

It was a beautiful day outside. The late-afternoon sun had just begun to color the clouds in faint washes of yellow and orange, and the lengthening shadows had brought another early night to the valley below. Worker, still chuckling, trotted to the composter, loaded it up, and spun it about. He shook the dirt off of each hoof and turned around and began the trek back inside, stepping to a merry tune only he could hear.

He paused. The woods had gone utterly silent. Suddenly, he felt very alone, and very vulnerable. The world seemed to tilt, and then something impossible stepped out of the gloom at the edge of the forest.

Worker froze, his mind racing, trying to figure out an explanation while simultaneously calculating an escape. He recognized his visitor. The blue spines, white gloves, and red shoes were unmistakable. What he did not recognize was the expression; that is, it did not seem at home on the hedgehog’s face, but it was one he had seen countless times before.

Sonic approached, slowly, palms out in a gesture of goodwill. He made soothing noises with each step, as if approaching a skittish animal. Were that not an accurate assessment, Worker might have been amused, but in his view those gloved hands were akin to grasping claws.

Soon, he was a pace or two away, and had not said a word.

Worker tried to speak, but found his voice had left him. He opened his mouth again, and making no noise, closed it, watching his guest with wild eyes.

“Don’t be scared. I’m not going to hurt you.” Sonic crouched down, lowered his hands, and brought his eyes level with Worker.

“Who are you?” the hedgehog asked quietly. His usual sarcasm had been replaced by what sounded like genuine concern. It had been so long since Worker had heard Mobian that he found it difficult to follow. “And where am I? And who taught you to make this?”

Whatever it was Sonic brandished in his right hand, Worker could barely see it. His head was swimming. He felt like he was being slowly asphyxiated by his own jacket. He forced himself to take a breath, which cleared his vision. He recognized his goggles-and-horseshoe emblem stamped on a piece of metal.

His mind raced for answers, piecing together what it could. However Sonic came to be here, he was looking for Robotnik, not a pony. World-hopping was nothing new, and they had both encountered parallel selves in the past. This could be his chance to feign ignorance... But, somehow, misleading him now seemed wrong.

A decision made, he found his voice once more.

“Good evening, Sonic,” he croaked, cordially, in his old dialect. “You’ve looked better.”

As Worker said it, he realized it was true. Sonic looked older—even elderly—and his features were creased with worry and age.

Sonic recoiled as if struck, stumbled back half a pace, and gaped. The scrap of metal fell towards the ground, forgotten, but before it landed Worker found himself in the hedgehog’s grip.

“Robotnik?” Sonic’s voice was a strained whisper, and his pupils widened to take in every new detail. “It’s you? Actually you? You look like an exile from Acorn!” The hand on each of Worker’s shoulders tightened painfully, and his voice grew louder. “Is this some sort of sick joke?”

Worker heard the click and creak of a door opening. Let that be Bulwark, he thought. Let that be another pony. Any pony. Anyone but...

There was an audible slam followed by the sound of hooves on the deck. Sonic’s head swiveled towards the front of the house. There was no doubt of a witness now. They both peered at the corner intently. Worker began murmuring a prayer to Luna while Sonic’s eyes narrowed at the interloper.

A little sky blue unicorn trotted into view, curious about whatever new thing her father had discovered outside. “Daddy?” she called, her gaze scanning the treeline before it fell upon the two old foes. “Daddy!” she cried. “Who is that? Are you okay?

Worker’s heart nearly froze in his chest. “Snowdrop,” he gasped, “go inside. Get the grown-ups. Go.”

“But, Daddy, I...” She stepped forward, curiosity and a desire to help prodding her closer.

Out of the corner of his eye, Worker noticed a change in Sonic’s expression. He seemed to be weighing options.

“Snowdrop, I said go!” His voice touched upon an emotion he had not felt in some time, and he used its power to push the filly away. “I said go, young lady, or you will regret it! Go, now, and get the adults!

Worker’s heart shattered. He watched his daughter’s face crumple and her eyes well with tears, but she went, and she did so as quickly as she could. Sonic watched in wondering silence before he managed to put the exchange together. When he turned to face the pony again, his expression was unreadable; an eerie, emotionless calm reigned over his features.

“A child. You. Which means that other pony’s a sweetheart, at the least. Does she know about what you’ve done?”

“She knows,” Worker replied simply.

“You’ve murdered millions for power. Destroyed a planet. Singled out my friends. And you come here and start a new life—in a new body!—in some sort of candy-colored fantasyland? What gives you the right? What gave you the right?” The calm vanished like a soap-bubble, and the world exploded in sparks.

Sonic had lifted him and thrown him against the wall. Worker, dazed, in a heap on the ground, tried to focus on the face of the creature that loomed over him, shouting . I should end you here! The hedgehog balled his fists and rolled his shoulders in their sockets, moving in for the kill.

The unseen door slammed open, and hoofsteps could be heard galloping closer. Sonic’s head whipped towards the corner, and then back to Robotnik. Frustration and fear battled on his face, and in a flash he was gone.

Bulwark was the first to clear the corner. When she did, she saw only some strange prints on the ground, and an old friend who lay against the wall, too terrified to do anything but mutter a strange word over and over again.