A World Without Shadows

by MiriOhki

First published

Luna owes an ancient mentor a debt and, despite his recent death, plans to repay it. Even if it means taking on a strange student, and breaking one of the wisest rules of the streets: Never cut a deal with a dragon...

Ages before Luna had become Nightmare Moon, she had a curious mind. Traveling the space between realms, she encountered an ancient mentor, sleeping yet letting his own dreaming spirit wander.

Now Luna is on the road to recovery when she learns that her mentor has been slain. To investigate the matter, she comes in contact with one of her mentor's associates, one who owes her mentor a debt as well.

The two plan to fulfill that debt by following up on a plan Luna's mentor started: a child, both naive and skilled, showed a spark of nobility he did not want to see crushed by the shadowy life she lived.

Thus Luna's decision: to take on a disciple, a hoof in the shadows. Because even in a World Without Shadows, a Shadowrunner in the right place at the right time can make all the difference.

A Shadowrun Crossover that wouldn't get out of my head. Gore tag only for the first chapter.

Prologue: Deal With A Dragon

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It had been a very long time since Princess Luna of Equestria had sent her spirit past the bonds of her body. Not since the... Incident. She didn't like to think about the origins of Nightmare Moon, mostly because she believed that the fault rested solely upon her. It was for that reason, that she refused to roam the planes beyond the corporeal until this night.

But duty and an ancient debt countered her reluctance. She had felt a familiar ripple across the Astral plane, then suddenly cease several days ago, and after arranging things with Celestia, began a journey across the plane.

A voice like a tectonic shift sent a shiver through her mind and pulled her out of her musing. "I assume you are the one I seek."

Luna turned toward the source of the voice. A wyrm. Ancient and powerful. The average dragon in Equestria was a lazy, aggressive firebreathing hoarder. The wyrm before her was none of the above. His eyes blazed with immense intelligence and a dangerous craftiness, the gaze of a chessmaster planning his first twenty moves before his opponent even finished his first. Luna thought she could hold the dragon to a standoff if it came down to it, but she definitely did not relish the idea, or just what a confrontation would cost. "I have met one of your people before."

"That is why you and I are here," the wyrm replied. "We have both lost a mutual... associate," it explained.

Luna felt a catch in her heart. The only other great dragon Luna ever met was also, in some respects, a mentor and even a friend, after a fashion. "I see," she replied hesitantly.

The wyrm looked at her, then said, "I owe him a debt, and with his death, I could not find a way to unburden myself of it, until recently."

Luna looked at the dragon curiously.

"I know that you also owe him a debt. This opportunity could alleviate them both. That it could help others is merely collateral benefits, and good business sense," the dragon explained, a hint of mocking self-deprecation in his tone at the last part.

Luna nodded, confused but unwilling to interrupt, believing it was a reasonable thing to let the ancient being talk. Talk was good and safe in this situation. And she did find herself intrigued by the opportunity the wyrm hinted at.

"He had a fascination for the younger races, particularly the children thereof. And therein lies the opportunity. He would occasionally observe people, both insignificant and notable, and his attention was on one person, some vapid musician, if you could call her screeching music. At one point, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A group of... outside consultants were performing an objective raid upon a facility she was touring, and she was almost killed," the dragon explained.

"It was the almost that brings us here. One of the... consultants, streetsmart but somewhat naive, rescued the singer from the crossfire, despite jeopardizing her mission. This drew our associate's attention," the being contined, starting to look a bit hesitant, as if forced to admit a mildly annoying secret. "I have no great love for the younger races, but once in a while, they can show a bit of true nobility."

Luna looked at the wyrm. "So what would you have me do?" she asked.

"To be blunt, her employment is likely to get her killed. It would be a waste of good material, and forgive the sentimentality, a slap in the face of a noble act, fueled by nothing more than greed. I would suggest extracting her and taking her in. Perhaps her skills could be of use to you," the wyrm explained.

Luna tried not to show her distaste at the callousness, and considered the options. It would satisfy her debt as well as her sense of justice...

A wise ork once told Tina, "A good run requires about thirty hours of planning, requires about three hours of preparation, and requires about thirty seconds to well and truly shag the shin tzu." Tina thought Carl massively overestimated things.

In all honesty, the run had gone south three weeks ago. The Johnson who hired their little band told them that the Renraku facility they were investigating was just a dumping ground for unprofitable technologies. Ones that would be useful, but either impractical or incomplete. It wasn't until Jackie finished the data dump that they realized that the Johnson had been lying out his hoop.

Unfortunately, Ace was too dazzled by the amount of zeros next to the nuyen symbol to see that they were being played. Which led to the events of now. It was grimly fitting that Ace paid for his mistake first: a 11mm Armor-Piercing Depleting Sabot (APDS) round punched a hole in the troll's skull, right between his horns.

Jackie was the next to get her ticket punched. She was trying to get a warning signal out to the rest of the team, and got her throat cut by a Renraku Security thug while trying to recover from Dump Shock.

Greaser, a rigger and a fair shot with the Super Warhawk he carried under his jacket, was supposed to be their getaway driver. The front sight on the oversized revolver the dwarf packed got snagged on the inside of his jacket, while the corp-cop already had his own SMG in the dwarf's face. A face that was now disintegrated and spread all over his pride and joy, a customized 2043 HummerX.

Tina had lucked out. She was supposed to be where what was left of her getaway driver was slouched. A need for a bathroom break and a Stuffer Shack raid to curb her bioware-boosted munchies kept her from getting geeked along with the rest of the team.

The yell of "AB, run!" followed by the muffled rattle of silenced automatic fire warned Tina of the total failure of the mission. A wiser, more cynical runner would have just backed into the Shack, playing it off as a civvie wanting to get out of the crossfire. Maybe even put in a call to Knight Errant or Lone Star like a good little wageslave, and let the Cop Company take care of them. A rookie or an idiot would have probably just have turned the tap on the bullet hose. Likely getting themselves killed too.

Tina made a split second decision in panic, and fled. The Renraku thugs decided it meant she was involved, and pursued.

"We really pissed off the wrong people," she muttered to herself before a small flash blinked in the corner of her eye, a signal from the tactical communication system built into her right forearm and sent to her eyes via a retinal shunt. With the slightest thought a channel opened to the only other survivor of the team, as a synthesized voice transmitted to the inner ear implant.

"Argent Blade," the voice spoke without inflection, masking the stress the speaker was under. "Renraku's got us by the balls. Everyone else is dead. Get the hell out of here. If I survive, I'll cont- Signal Terminated." And with Gordy's death, Tina was alone again.

She fled down alleys and up back streets. She knew of a flophouse she could hide out in, maybe get out of the city. All she had to do was lay low and-

The roar of a shotgun was nearly deafening, even with the auditory cutouts. But the pain in her ears was insignificant into the inferno in her stomach. Her vision was a blur of white and digital green. Get up, she screamed to herself. Run!

Unfortunately, everything below her colon was not responding, due to the simple fact that said parts were no longer attached to her. A weapon capable of tearing a basketball sized hole in a troll was more than enough to tear a teenaged elf in half.

She was rolled over, but didn't see the massive gun barrel shoved in her face. She even stopped feeling the pain. All she could see was the fearful but beautiful azure eyes before her. A smile crossed her face as she gazed back into them, and the last thought that crossed the brain of Tina McAndrews was how beautiful those eyes were.

Just before one final roar turned that brain into a smear across the cracked pavement.

Is this heaven? Hell? Newark? Where am I? Who am I?

Images drifted through velvet blackness. Singing in front of a Christmas tree. Curling up under a spread wing. Staring at a pair of shoulders ending in bandaged stumps. Arguing with a horned face. Fleeing from a corporate orphanage. Drifting through a haze with a huge phantasmic figure. Watching an ork in a labcoat soldering something inside her right leg. Staring across a barren moonscape. A giant hand closed around her own left hand, guiding the barrel of a Predator II while muttering advice. A pair of purple eyes looking back, offering advice.

And then a pair of voices.

"...can't hold onto her...

"... too damaged..."

"... Improvise then. Not like we could do wor..."

Then nothing.

The blackness was still there, but it was almost comforting. She felt bandages over her eyes, and her whole body felt like a lead weight, but the only pain was in her forehead. Concentrating for a moment, she sent a diagnostic signal to her TacComp.

It was then, when she started to realize something was not right. Usually she saw most of the world overlaid in small digital Latin letters, describing tactical situations, medical and cybernetic diagnostics, and various program interfaces.

Now the darkness was pierced by flowing script in a language she knew but did not recognize. More concerning was what the script was telling her.

Almost all of the cybernetic augmentations she had received from the day she lost her arms in a car wreck, to the upgraded combat assistance augments she had received a year ago, were either altered, damaged, or flat out missing. In fact, the only things that seemed intact were the razor-sharp combat spurs concealed in her forearms. And even they seemed displaced.

The pain in her head was increasing the longer she looked at the diagnostic nightmare sent to her eyes, and with a slight whimper, she banished the display. To her shock, the her vision went completely black again, not even showing peripheral data. But even stranger, the headache started to fade sharply as soon as it did.

"You need to rest, dear," a pleasant voice said. "No magic until the doctor has cleared you.

She flinched at the word magic. She couldn't have said that. The docs told her she could never-

"Leave us please," a familiar voice spoke.

An unfamiliar sound echoed through the room, receding as presumably the nurse left, making her wonder what kind of shoes she was wearing.

"How are you feeling, Argent Blade?" The voice asked, causing another start to ripple through her. How could the voice know her street name unless she was in deeper drek than she realized.

"Why am I still alive?" she asked. "There's no way you corporate bastards would have kept me alive unless you wanted something out of me."

The voice paused, then replied, "I am not with this 'Renraku'. And you are alive because you deserve to be. And because you fascinate me."

If that wasn't creepy enough, Argent Blade thought to herself. "Fascinate you, huh? Who are you?"

There was a pause, before a voice said, "Call me Luna."

"Luna huh..." Argent said, her voice dropping as flashes went through her head. "What the hell?"

Luna's voice spoke as something pressed against Argent's hand. It was only then that she noticed that something was very wrong. She couldn't feel her fingers, but she could feel the pressure against her hand. Yet the diagnostics said the arm was there and active. Only Luna's tone managed to keep her from panicking.

"You were... almost killed," Luna replied. "I did everything in my power to save you, but to do so, I had to... make some changes."

"New cyberarms?" Argent said, calming a bit. Sure, that would make sense. The Renraku jerks probably damaged her old ones, so Luna got some chopshop to replace them and not all the bugs have been worked out. She remembered it taking almost six months before her original arms were working at 100 percent.

Luna didn't respond for a moment. "Not... quite."

"Wait. Something's not right. My legs feel off too. What is-" Argent froze as the barrier concealing her memories from her started to unravel, and her body felt a deep chill. "I was shot..." she gasped, shaking.

"Yes, my dear," Luna spoke as she moved closer. "If I had acted a second later, you would have been dead. Your body was destroyed. I had to create a new one for you."

Argent's mind filled with the horrors of rumors some people had said, of some of the nastier Megacorps turning people into cybernetic zombies or worse. "I'm... some robot monster!?" she whimpered out in utter terror.

"No, my dear," Luna replied calmingly. "You're... like me now. You're still a po.. person. I promise. I want you to take a deep breath while I remove the bandages. And close your eyes for a moment, the light may be a bit bright."

Afraid, Argent closed her eyes, the terror still flooding her veins, but clinging to the promise that she was not turning into a monster.

"Alright, I want you to open your eyes slowly," Luna said.

Argent shivered, terrified, before mustering up the courage to open her eyes.

Wonder clashed with terror and utter bewilderment as she looked at the face before her. The Awakening had brought about many changes to the Sixth World. But nothing in her wildest imagination prepared her for her first look at Luna. "I... what are you-" Argent froze as she saw the mirror out of the corner of her eyes and whipped her head toward it. "What am I?"

Chapter 1 - Shadowy Illumination

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Argent Blade didn't recognize the creature she saw in the mirror for what seemed to be an eternity. Whether it was the fact that nobody in the sprawl sees horses except in TriDs or in stories, or her brain just didn't want to process what she saw, she just could not identify the image before her.

At first, the only thing that processed was blue, a blue so dark it would have been mistaken as black in any darker light. The color covered the image in the mirror almost completely, save for storm-gray eyes and a sapphire mane. The eyes were filled with a confused horror as they wandered toward the near-ebony spire that projected from between and above her eyes. It was a sharp spiral cone, about five times longer than it was wide at the base and not as sharp as her cyberspurs, but definitely not something one would want to be on the receiving end of.

Luna's voice was soft, but apologetic. “You're a unicorn, Argent Blade,” she explained hesitantly. “I am sorry I had to change you, but it was all we could do to save your life. Your old body was... destroyed, for lack of a better word.” The princess shuddered as she remembered the horrible thing she saw, the last moments of the old life of the filly before her.

Argent hesitantly raised a silvery hoof up toward her horn, before squeaking as she saw what replaced her hand. She stared at the metal hoof, flexing her arm carefully, confirming that it was part of her with each movement. The shocks took her a moment to work through, as she finally noticed even more changes. Her old cyberarms were not top of the line, yet they were dextrous and effective. They did have, however, a hint of the uncanny valley about them, as they never moved as smoothly as flesh and bone. The silvery limb mounted to her body moved even more naturally than organic, or even the highest end cyberware she had ever seen. She might have thought it beautiful if she was able to concentrate on her movements through the shock. After a pause, she gave a particular mental command, and with mixed emotions, an edged spike extruded from the center of her hoof. Not a retractable spike like her old cyberspur, but something akin to that old sci-fi two-d movie she remembered seeing with the robot made of liquid metal. She experienced the relief of not being unarmed, blended with the confusion at seeing things not matching up as she remembered.

Luna blinked a bit as she watched the spike emerge from her hoof, and then melt back into the limb. “Fascinating,” she murmured to herself, then looked back at Argent's face, assessing the shocked confusion in the patient's expression. “Are you alright?” She asked the filly softly.

Argent blinked as she looked up from the shining limb. “I'm not really sure,” she admitted, pausing as her mind took in her surroundings. “This doesn't look like anywhere I've been in the sprawl.”

“Sprawl?” Luna asked.

Argent gave the princess an odd, somewhat sceptical look. “Um, we're not in FDC anymore?”

Luna shook her head. “No... you're in my chamber, in Canterlot Palace.”

“Canter... lot... Palace...” Argent said, sounding even more sceptical. “Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore,” she muttered sotto voce.

Luna did not respond to the witticism, as she explained, "your body was ruined. Your world does not have enough magic flow to sustain the kind of effects it would have taken to rebuild your body. Ergo, a colleague and I were forced to bring you here, where the magic is much stronger."

Argent flinched again and she heard that word pounding over and over again in her head. “Stop, I don't want to hear that enough with the magical crap, okay? I've had it up to here with magic,” she said, raising her hoof to her head.

Luna blinked. She had heard of thaumophobia, mostly among some outlying earth pony groups, or unicorns who had experienced horrible accidents, but she had never met anyone who had experienced it before. She rested a gentle hoof on her shoulder. “What's wrong?” She asked Argent carefully.

Argent looked away, eyes closed tight. “I... I was seven. They said I was going to go far, to learn how to be a mage, a good one. I was already learning. And then some drunk sideswiped our car. My mother died. And some hack butcher with delusions of arrogance took my legs, my arm and my magic. The insurance covered the cyberlimbs and that was it. And the company decided since I couldn’t use magic, I wasn’t worth their time anymore. So I ended up on the streets. So you can see why I don’t give a damn about magic. It’s brought me nothing but grief.” She struggled to pull the blanket over herself a few times before finally concealing her head.

Luna looked at her and sighed softly, shaking her head but trying to stifle her pity and anger. The filly had justification, true, but denying magic would be exceedingly difficult, considering her new nature. Ignoring her magic would be like ignoring her nose. She moved to sit down next to her, resting her wing over her. “I can understand you’d be hurt. But you have your gift… no, your birthright back.” Argent’s head turned away from her underneath the sheet.

The princess looked at her, then said softly, “Do you really want the hack butcher to win?”

The room was silent for several minutes, before a whisper emerged from underneath the sheet. “It hurts. To think about it,” Argent said hesitantly, with a tone that Luna could tell held tears.

Luna gently lifted the sheet away from Argent’s head. “I know, Argent Blade,” she said softly. “But you’re recovering and you’re a strong young mare. You’re better than the fools who hurt you.”

Argent rubbed her face against the pillow, clearing her tears, looking at Luna for a long moment. “I’ll have to think it over,” She whispers quietly.

The princess nodded softly and stood. “I’ll let you rest.” She replied softly. Argent nodded and rested her head on the pillow.

Luna came in to visit several times over the following week, but most of the time, Argent was either undergoing physical therapy, trying to become accustomed to her new body, or asleep in exhaustion. It was shortly after Luna lowered the moon eight days later, that she was finally able to have another conversation with Argent.

“You’ve been watching me,” Argent said as she struggled through some exercises, lowering and raising her body.

“Yes, I have,” Luna replied as she moved to sit down on a couch. “You’ve been doing very well.”

Argent didn’t speak for several moments, until she dragged herself onto her bed, panting softly. “I always hated them. Wagemages burning themselves out for an uncaring company. Street shamans babbling about spirits while shaking their sticks and body parts at people. Sanctimonious wannabe Gandalfs thinking they’re better than everyone else because they could create a few sparks within some arcane gibberish.” Her eyes looked up awkwardly at the projection between them. “And now I’ve got this thing. And I can do everything that those idiots do, supposedly. From what I’ve seen around me, better than they ever could.” She raised a hoof, almost as if to swat at the horn.

“I wouldn’t do that,” Luna advised. “It hurts.”

Argent blushed a bit as she said, “I know.” She lowered her hoof, looking embarrassed, having found that out the hard way. “I feel like a hypocrite for even considering it,” she muttered as she looked down at the ground.

“Why should you?” Luna asked. “Just because you disliked them, doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of your birthright. You’re not crippled by their mistakes anymore. You may not be what you were. But you can be what you are.”

“Yeah. A horse with a horn,” Argent said dryly. “Yes, it’s better than being dead. Spending about sixteen years being bipedal and then being stuck on all fours, particularly fours I didn’t have a fortnight ago, is a bit tough to get used to.”

“Unicorn,” Luna corrected, eliciting rolled eyes from Argent. “And it was longer than that. You were in a coma for almost a month after your body was created.”

Argent blinked, then nodded slowly. “That’s understandable I guess,” She said hesitantly, resting her head on the pillow. “A lot of paradigms just went out the window. Two legs don’t exist, four legs do. Magic is my birthright not something waved in my face not pulled away. I think I’m taking it better than I should be.”

Luna nodded softly. “Yes, I don’t think anyone could cope any better than you have.”

“On the other hand,” Argent said, a hint of wry humor entering her tone. “I’m enjoying real food instead of synthetic garbage pretending to be synthetic garbage, I get a neat light show and a bunch of flying bug-like ponies hurtling past my window once a week. All in all, an entertaining week for an invalid. I can’t wait to see what healthy ponies see.”

Luna barely stifled a chuckle as she nodded. “Yes, we did have a nice little incident this week. A wedding, actually.”

Argent blinked and laughed. “A wedding? If you celebrate by having bug-ponies explore new vectors in gravity, I think I’ll stay a confirmed bachelorette, thank you very much.”

Luna couldn’t help but laugh, shaking her head. “Most weddings are a lot more sedate,” the princess said.

“Thanks, but I’ll pass,” Argent said and rested her head on her hooves. “I still don’t know what to think about magic, but I’m stuck with it. Otherwise I’m just cutting off my nose to spite my face.”

Luna nodded. “Apt phrase,” she remarked.

“Old saying,” Argent explained. “I’ll do it.”

Eight months passed as Argent’s tutors worked to bring her up to speed. Argent picked up the skills rather easily, but putting the power behind it was another story. She was being out-muscled by students a third of her age in output. One tutor suggested to the princess that some kind of mental block might have been behind it, though was pleasantly astonished by her creativity, improvising workarounds. Another, more traditional tutor was annoyed by her taking shortcuts, and gave up on her after three months. It wasn’t a wise move, as his attitude got out via rumors. Considering the discussion that spawned the rumors occurred after a particularly abusive tirade Argent suffered after a bad session, and some believe the rumor was started by one of Luna’s hoofmaidens, and it wasn’t hard to draw the line. Once his reputation got out, the tutor was never able to find another teaching job.

Some of the older servants at Canterlot started to see a pattern between the blue-black and silver mare, and a lavender unicorn from years ago. The two were as different as night and day, but than again, so were their patronesses. Luna never said anything of the kind about Argent, unlike Celestia’s obvious pride in her own protege. Yet there were similar assessments, similar approving glances, and the same protectiveness.

Argent adapted to her new body rather well, walking as smoothly as everyone else after about four months. The doctors were pleased at her efforts, though were a little shocked at her pushing herself further than the vast majority of their patients. They didn’t know what drove her, but wished more of their patients had her kind of enthusiasm. But she did not stop there, pushing herself harder, becoming more flexible, more agile.

Indeed, the only real issue the majority of her tutors found was her magic use. To practically every other unicorn, magic was as natural as breathing. With Argent, however, getting her to use magic for anything other than lessons, practice or the very rare task was akin to pulling teeth with a hoof. But it wasn’t until one of her tutors came directly to Luna to ask if her pupil had been magically abused that things came to a head.

Luna walked into the gymnasium at the Royal Guards’ barracks, watching Argent blazing her way through an obstacle course. The guards watched the mare’s actions as she slipped from obstacle to obstacle with the grace of an acrobat. The princess smiled softly from the shadows as she assessed the filly. Argent finished the last obstacle, then turned toward the shadows. “Hello, princess.”

A guard stared at her, then looked toward the shadows, before bawling out for his fellows to come to attention. Luna smiled and nodded softly. “At ease.” She made her way toward Argent. “Very beautiful,” she commented.

Argent smiled. “Thank you, your highness,” she replied, her breathing coming down smoothly. “What brings you by?”

Luna gestured toward the mares’ locker room, making her way there as Argent followed along. “Your tutors have been very impressed with you, Argent Blade.”

Argent blushed a little and smiled. “I’m glad to hear that.”

“The only concerns they have have to do with your magic,” Luna explained.

Argent froze up a little, nodding hesitantly. “Yes?”

Luna sat down on her bench. “There are two threads they mention. The one I can understand is your lack of power.”

Argent nodded a bit sadly. “I don’t know what it is. If I go lightly and carefully, I can just slip right through it. But if I try to muscle through it, it resists. It’s like something I remember seeing in my school when I was a kid. A ‘non-newtonian fluid’, I think they called it. You put your hand through it, it’s fine. If you punch it, it’s like punching a moss-covered rock.”

Luna blinked. “That’s fascinating,” She murmured, then smiled a bit. “We’ll have to talk about that some time. But back on topic, I can see why that is an issue. I don’t know exactly why, but there couple be a couple of reasons. The other thing is a bit more curious. They mentioned how you don’t seem to use your magic all that often.”

The young mare closed her eyes. “Yeah, I saw that one coming.” She rolled her neck a bit then said, “I guess it’s just… where I came from, mages never use their magic except for when they need it for whatever they need to get done. I end up feeling… I don’t know. Self-conscious, I guess.”

Luna tapped her chin thoughtfully with a hoof. “More theories I suppose, but where you came from, the magic was much weaker. That might be why nobody did much with it. Here, magic’s plentiful.”

Argent sighed softly. “That sounds about right. As for the magic, that sounds right too.”

Luna gently draped a wing over her. “It’s just like the whole clothing thing, dear.” Argent blushed as that was brought up. Yet another cultural issue that Argent had to deal with. It was more embarrassing, but she was eventually able to conquer it for the most part. “Practice it on little things. It may even be the answer to your other problem, dear. After all, most unicorns use their magic constantly. They build up their magic like a muscle. You just need to do the same.”

Argent nodded hesitantly and relaxed against Luna. “I’ll try. It’s not easy.”

Luna nodded softly. “It probably won’t be. But it’ll be worth it. I promise.”