Fallout Equestria: Crystal Reborn

by Psychoshy887

First published

My name is Cadance, and this is my story of how I survived in the Wasteland

10 years after the day of sunshine and rainbows, a new pony emerges from her stable, a mare of the old world, her country is torn apart by violence. This is the story of the Crystal Empire, war torn and devastated by megaspells. This is a wasteland unlike any other. Cadance the former ruler of the crystal empire emerges from her stable to find out that Shining Armor is missing and to find that her land is a sick twisted version of the beautiful place she once but the real question is, will Cadance be able to fight the wrongs of the wasteland or will the wasteland consume her.

Intro

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Once upon a time in the magical land of Equestria...

Equestria has been thrown into turmoil many times if anything more time then anypony would see in a lifetime. However now Equestria is at war with another nation, they call themselves the United Confederation of Zebra Tribes. Equestria has never seen such out stretches of violence and destruction since before Equestria was formed and Princess Luna and Celestia were mere fillies. Ever since the kidnapping, nothing has ever been the same in Equestria. Ponies roam the streets looking at one another as if they were their enemies. This war has turned friends into foes, ponies, driven mad from the sheer destruction that was witnessed and defectors. Defectors were the ponies who abandoned Equestria to help the Zebras, thinking that they would win the war but on that last day, none of that mattered. Both nations were torn apart and burned in balefire including the nation of the Crystal empire far up north away from all the fighting and destruction. However, the Crystal Empire did their best to remain neutral throughout the war however war between them and Zebras was inevitable.

The Crystal Empire entered the war 5 years before the balefire bombs were dropped on Equestria and her allies. The Crystal Empire had a much stranger role to play in the war. The Crystal Empire was known to houses hundreds of different types of crystals ranging in size, shape, and color and were the true technological backbone to Equestria even before their involvement in the war. The Crystal Empire was credited for the first laser weapons Equestria has ever seen and with the large population produced all sorts of magical energy weapons ranging from mere firearms all the way up to airships and tanks. With this new technology and the resources to now fulfill any goal the crystal ponies were delighted to work under Princess Cadance. With the the numerous factories in the empire weapons were started to get loose on the streets. Princess Cadance ordered three months of conscription to bolster the strength of the empire's army and the recruitment fielded dozens of ponies and crystal ponies alike and towards the end, they even rivaled the Royal Equestria Military.

Shining Armor was appointed as the head general of the entire Crystal Empire's military. However the Crystal Empire lacked sufficient airpower since very few crystal ponies were born as pegasi, so Shining Armor put in a request to build a machine that can fly faster than a pegasus and way past their height and range. So after 4 years of development an airplane dubbed Prototype-29 Super Pegasus later renamed P-29 changing prototype to pegasus; rolled out onto the assembly line. It met all the criteria that Shining Amor could ever hope for. Scootaloo saw much hope in non-pegasus flight and helped develop the next plane E4G Wild Horse. With these new advancements the Crystal Empire would be the strongest Empire in the history of Equestria. Equestria saw this as a possible threat and tried to peacefully annex it as part of Equestria but much to their disappointment Cadance refused. After months of turned down proposals and Princess Luna gave up on the idea of a fully unified Equestria entirely and put her attention towards the war. On the last day all B-29 Super Pegasus were sent to the Zebra Homeland, each plane given their own mission to hit a different city in the Zebra Homeland. However, it is unclear if the truly fulfilled their mission as the world would have already ended by the time they made it to their destination. A few hours after Equestria was hit with Megaspells the Crystal Empire was invaded by the Griffon Kingdom who's cities were just east of the Crystal Empire, and that was the final nail in the coffin. The zebras used this as a distraction to launch their final megaspells attack that would end the Second Empire in a balefire.

Fallout Equestria: Crystal Reborn

Chapter 1: The Last Days of the Empire

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Chapter One: The Last Days of the Empire

"The world is dying? Not if I can help it."

"Autumn, year 1025 under Luna's Reign the war has been raging for 10 years... Oh what is this world coming to," I exclaimed sitting back on my throne after reading the news crystal. I threw the crystal off into the distance and made a distant clunk as it hit the wall.

"You know, you really shouldn't be throwing things," a light but firm voice rang out from end of the throne room. He approached the throne wearing purple power armor with a gold trim with a symbol that resembled Twilight Sparkles cutie mark in a way. He took his helmet off and placed it beside when he stopped in front of the throne. "Hello your highness," the stallion bowed as his blue mane fell into his face.

"You know you don't have to call me that anymore, we are married you know," I got up off my thrown and stood above him. "You are my equal you know and we don't have time for you to fool around Shining Armor, you know that. We get more and more recruits by the day and they seem to be less and less experienced by the day," he rose up and with a embarrassed look on his face. I think he was trying to muster up the words to tell me it wasn't his fault. He is such a foal but when it comes to his duties he sure was great at that.

"Cadance the reason for all the disorganization is because we don't have enough staff who are able to train the mass quantities of soldiers we are getting. We have had to extend the number of soldiers in a boot camp regiments and its 50 new recruits per company. The empire is big but we aren't just talking about ponies from our nation, those from Equestria's nearby cities have come to enlist and its just to har..." I cut Shining off before he was able to finish his sentence.

"Just last week a group of airponies crashed one of our training craft, and it wasn't just any old training accident. Those ponies who crashed the plane were intoxicated and smashed their plane shortly after takeoff. You know how badly that reflects on us? That we let a bunch of drunken ponies almost take off in one of our aircraft. Shining Armor you need to get things straight with our troops because we can't have another incident like this, luckily no ponies were killed. You need to discipline them for this Shining Armor and I'm not talking about the ones who crashed the plane. I am talking about everypony in the Crystal Air Corps," I was furious. After that whole incident, I wasn't in the best of mood this morning. My military is undisciplined if something wasn't done soon I will just have to fix it myself.

"Cadance, take a breather you just need to relax this whole war has gotten you paranoid," He moved behind me and started to message my shoulders trying to ease my tension. "Don't worry just focus on keeping our investors in the Crystal Empire. Thats all you need to do let me handle all the military strategy and war production. Half of our empire is in the military and the other half works in our factory," He was right I really had no reason to worry but I had a strange feeling about the things that were about.

Suddenly the throne room doors bursted open and a messenger pony came running in. "Your highness's, Cloudsdale has just been hit by a megaspell, it's been completely destroyed. The military is waiting for you to give the order," I gave a frightful look and then realized that my worst nightmare is right on our doorstep.

I levitated over a microphone that was connected to the Crystal Empire Military Emergency Radio "All B-29s are to be fit with megaspells and given its own zebra city to hit, all escort fighters are to launch with the bombers and kill any zebra ground units that appear on your EFS, don't come back until you finished your mission, good luck my brave ponies. Long Live the Crystal Empire!" I shouted at the end trying to sound all patriotic. Any morale I could provide was better then nothing but now its time to get all the crystal ponies to the Stables. I pressed a button on my throne and a small panel full of button appeared on my right. Each button was carefully labeled. "Its time for me to evacuate the city, Shining are you coming with us to the Stable? I hit the blue button and a alarm came blaring out of the speakers with a pre-recorded message saying 'All residents of the Crystal Empire report to your assigned Stables, this is not a drill.'

Shining looked at me and said "No I am going to stay behind and direct our forces you need to take refuge inside the Stable, head west to Stable 13."

"No, either we both go or I stay and defend with you," I wasn't about to let my husband stay behind to fight without me. "As the leader of this nation I am going to stay and fight we must make a stand if we wish to keep the Crystal Empire alive," I was right and wrong at that moment I knew in my head I wanted to stay with him but I run the risk of being killed in a megaspell blast.

"Cadance we don't have time to argue you need to lead the crystal ponies to the stable and run the empire from their I will be in direct communication with Stable 13 the one we are assigned, don't worry if you need anything you can use their com channel to contact my PipBuck, now go! Guards the princess to Stable 13 and when your done return here for your next mission," I saw the guards nod in response. Shining Armor was a good leader over all the soldiers respected him just only when he was around.

The guards escorted me and a few other ponies from the castle with me to the stable I saw three ponies outside the stable two had on power armor with miniguns attached to their battlesaddles. They were keeping some of the ponies out of the stable as we approached the the stable door the soldiers at the door let us past without saying a word. I heard the crowd of ponies shouting obscenities at me and at the guards. One that really hurt was that I was cowardly hiding underground while the rest of them are left to die above ground. The guards parted ways with me as soon as I stepped onto the platform. One guards gave me a gold heart shaped locket and told me it was from Shining Armor to remember him by if he didn't make it back. The platformed lowered and brought us down to the main floor where the overmare was waiting for us. The overmare had a light purplish pink coat it was hard to tell with a purple mane with a blue highlight going through it.

"Hello my name is Starlight Glimmer and I am the acting overmare of Stable 13. It seems Princess Cadance will be joining us. Splendid, we are so happy to add you to our little community. Alright everyone head up the stairs and get a Stable Suit," Starlight pushed through the crowd to get to me. "If you would kindly follow me, I wish to speak with you in private," I nodded in return and followed her up the stairs. We walked down several corridors. There were a few windows here and there with these giant box like structures. They had giant doors the slid upwards and I saw ponies climbing into them and watched the doors slide back down and lock into place. At first I was a little hesitant to ask but curiosity got the better of me.

"What are those giant pods those ponies were climbing into?" I got no response. After a bit of walking Starlight opened a door to a room labeled 'Overmare'.

"Alright princess I have been running this Stable in your absence so here is the run down. This is one of the most advanced Stables in all of Equestria only four types of these Stables were built. We use cryo technology to freeze a pony solid and preserve them for their allotted time for everypony. We are supposed to stay shut for 200 years but not everypony is going to be cryoed. You, Prince Shining Armor and me are one of the last ponies that are going to be frozen. Since we can confirm that one princess made it to the stable and we are to make sure your survival is our utmost importance. Where is the prince anyways?" Starlight seemed to know this whole stable like the back of her hoof but something felt off, did the ponies know they were being frozen and will Shining Armor actually make it back. "We access to the Crystal Empires surveillance cameras and one that looks right at he castle as well as a..." I cut her off she was getting to logistical.

"All I need are the coms and the access to the cameras," Starlight sat down on her desk and flipped the terminal towards me and turned on the camera function. I looked around from different cameras and saw Shining Armor on the castle balcony talking into his pip bucks radio. "Starlight is there a PipBuck I can use to contact Shining Armor?"

"Oh thats right let me get his radio frequency on so you can talk to him you are also able to contact the stables that the other princesses are in but you will have to hook it up the the terminal to increase the range," She opened a drawer in her desk and gave me the PipBuck and clamped it onto my foreleg and she turned it on. "There now turn the nob all the way to the right and click on the one that says Shining Armor," I did so as she instructed and flipped the radio on.

"Shining Armor can you hear me? Shining Armor come in, can you hear me? I continued to say that for about 5 minutes I got no response. I looked back at the terminal to see him being attacked by a griffon. A wave of fear and confusion rushed over me. After a few minutes of them fighting the griffon was killed by a sniper who shot at the griffon. The only way I knew is hearing Shiny yell great shot. He got up and looks at his PipBuck and sees his radio was receiving messages from Stable 13.

"Cadance is that you, listen the Griffon Kingdom has turned on us and the radar shows multiple megaspell strikes bound for this location. I am going to put up a shield to try to block a majority of the megaspells, I can't block all of them but it will buy enough time for all the soldiers to escape to the military shelter. I have already ordered them to fall back and wait there. Once they are there the last remaining officers and generals will discharge everypony who is left. Three B-29s left with megaspell bombs heading to Griffonstone its all we can do they were prototype bombers with newer engines, I don't know if they will make it. If I don't make it to the Stable just know I love you Cadance," The transmission was cut there. A new signal video image appeared and a griffon appeared on screen.

"Hello Cadance," It was the king of the Griffons he was a rather slender griffon and a good looking one, he had grey feathers and was wearing black with white trimmed armor. He was the last thing I wanted to see, "Ponykind has enslaved the griffons for to long now watch as the last bastion of Equestria is burned in balefire," the camera was turned showing the city. I watched as several megaspells hit the shield each one driving the shield a farther back. Shining Armor couldn't hold the shield for much longer. The Griffon King zoomed in onto the city and I watched as 4 megaspells hit the castle, the shield finally broke and I watched as the last megaspell missile hit the city. "Now you see how it feels to loose the one who is the closest to you. You know how it feels when you ponies killed my father you better hope I don't find your stables or else I would..." The sound of gunfire interrupted him. "We can continue this later Cadance goodbye and good riddance." I turned off the terminal.

"Shining Armor is dead," I started tearing up. "Right before my eyes he was obliterated in a second, damn him I am going to kill him and every last griffon on the face of Equestria. Starlight gave me a hug to try to comfort me. Then a message came up onto my PipBuck.

"Cadance if you can hear me... survived the blast... used the last of... teleport.... Stable door... need...," Shining Armor sounded like he was in a ton of pain from what I could hear there was to much static for to hear the rest.

"Starlight drop the magical shield, I am going to teleport Shining Armor inside," She logged back onto her terminal and dropped the magical shielding.

"Do it quick, I can't keep the shield down for long," I nodded and used every bit of my magic to teleport Shining to me. From what I saw he was burned badly on the lower part of his body. Starlight grabbed the intercom, "I need a medical team in the overmares quarters on the double," it didn't take long for them to respond. Within minutes Shining Armor was placed on a stretcher and was brought into the medical room.

After a few hours of waiting the a doctor came out, I recognized him, his name Arc. He had dark blue coat with black mane mane and green eyes. He was the Equestria's most famous cybernetics doctor. He never left the Crystal Empire, I saw him a few times at Crystal Fair but never got the chance to speak to him. "Hello Cadance and Overmare, he is very lucky to be alive, we couldn't treat his burns well enough and we didn't have enough supplies for a long term treatment. We had to amputated what we could and replaced his lower half with a cybernetic body. It should be good for now but I had never done this kind of thing before. We lasered his cutie mark into the metal flanks. He is conscious right now but I can't say he will stay that way," the doctor walked back into the room and I followed him in. I stood next to the bed Shining Armor was laying on and kissed his forehead. He opened his eyes and stared at me.

"Hey there beautiful, still looking as worried as ever," Shining muttered in a quiet tone. He was still the same Shining Armor thats for sure. He lost half of his body and still is trying to make a joke out of it. He tried to laugh but half way through he started to heavily cough.

"Oh Shining, if you weren't in the state you are in now I would have slapped you but for now I am happy your alive," I looked down at him and watched him close his eyes. The Doctor Arc escorted me out.

He will heal from his injuries don't worry about that, his body just needs to get used the cybernetics. We will place him in the cryopods later today once we modify his cybernetics and heal his injuries while he sleeps until then go get some food and wait you and Starlight will be cryoed at the same time he is.

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Several hours have gone by and Shining Armor was just put into cryosleep. I walked out of the room and into the room next door and Starlight was staring at her cryopod. Each cryopod where labeled for us to tell which pony was in which pod. "Having some second thoughts Starlight?" I came up from behind her she jumped a bit.

"You scared me, and yeah just a little what if we don't survive we could die down here and nopony would know. I know some of the scientist will stay here until they are given a all clear but still," She made a very good point.

"The Crystal Empire helped developed these stables. I would know if they tampered with it or anything like that plus they are housing a princess they can't tamper with one of the leaders of Equestria's stable," I did my best to reassure her. "I will stay here until the cryosleep activates ok, the window here will allow you to see me for a short window of time before you enter cryosleep and if I am waken up first I will be sure to wake you up myself," I didn't even know if I would survive this whole ordeal but its better to put your hope in a bright future. She gave me a hug and stepped into the cryopod, I waved at her as the doors closed then watched her drift to sleep as she was put into cryosleep. I walked back to my own pod took a breath and said, "I am ready for whatever future holds for me," I stepped into the cryopod and looked out of the glass in front of me. I felt the pod grow colder, my eyelids felt like weights. I could see ponies outside the pod slowly begin to blur until everything went black.

Cadance's SPECIAL

Strength: 3
Perception: 4
Endurance: 6
Charisma: 6
Intelligence: 5
Agility: 5
Luck: 3

Chapter 2: Rude Awakening

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Chapter Two: Rude Awakening

"I never could understand why one pony would want to kill the other."

"Ow my head, what... whats happening?" I started to rub my eyes and wiped off the glass in front of me. There stood several griffons, there four of them. Two of them had on some type of combat armor, the other had on a hazmat suit. I have never seen a griffon hazmat suit before and the last one was wearing a crown. He looked a lot like the griffon king that I saw before. I saw the hazmat griffon open up the pod that Shining Armor was in and saw the king look at me. He had white feathers on from his neck up and had all grey feathers on his wings with a gray body. He was definitely a descendant of the king I once knew.

"My great grandfather was right, you and Shining Armor did survive the war. Its a shame I have to do this to both of you but I will return for you princess but for now watch me take what you hold dear," he laughed maniacally. He was a cliché version of the king I knew that's for sure. He was your stereotypical storybook villain. Although he could be just be doing this to spite me because I am powerless. I felt the pod start to get colder again. I again found myself drifting off to sleep.

I awoke again, but this time it was a little bit different. I did my best to look through the glass to see if anypony was there. Then my pod opened. I fell out and landed on the floor. "Ow, ugh that hurt," I sat down and rubbed my head. I had a bad headache but I figured it was because of the cryogenic sleep. "Tho-those griffons were they real or was it just a dream?" I looked up and Shining Armors pod and glanced in it. I felt my heart sank. "Shining Armor is really gone. I swear I am going to kill the griffon king for this, he is going to pay," I looked around still seeing all the other pods closed. I was wondering why all of them were closed. I walked over to the terminal at the end of the room. I selected residents status. As I went down the list of the ponies that were in the room I saw that the list said all the same things for everypony. They all have died from asphyxiation, Shining Armor's pod said status unknown. I turned the terminal off and walked into the room next to this one. As I tried to collect my thoughts I passed by Starlight's pod. "Oh that's right I need to release Starlight from her pod. I searched the room for its terminal. After a few minutes of searching I found it. As I was going down the list of ponies it shows they died from asphyxiation. However Starlights said unknown so there may be a chance she is still alive. I started the defrost procedure for her pod. When the pod door finally opened I heard her take a deep breath and start coughing. "Oh thanks Celestia your ok Starlight," I was so happy I ran up to her and hugged her.

"Cadance... is that you. Whats happened why is it only you and me out of the pods?" She gave me a blank look I didn't know how to tell her everyone was dead so I decided to just go out with it.

"Everypony died. They died of asphyxiation, Shining Armor was kidnapped by the griffons, their kingdom didn't fall after the bombs fell they continued to live on. We need to go and get him," I was frantic, I wanted to go right away and go fight the griffons. I helped Starlight up and let her get her bearings.

"So Shining Armor is gone. we can wait on him for the moment Cadance we need to get out of here. Let's head to the armory we can find something to defend ourselves with and maybe some armor. I don't think Equestria will be as friendly as we remember, follow me I know where it is," Starlight got up and started walking to the door. I followed behind her. I look around and the walls seem to be unmaintained. We walked a for a little bit, I had nothing to say I just had a hard time wrapping my head around what was happening. "So here we are Cadance, there may not be a lot of weapons in here this stable. We weren't equipped like with the same stuff, hold on let me put in my access code," She turned on the terminal, she worked quickly and she typed rather fast, I heard a click and the door opened. We walked inside and started looking around trying to find some weapons.

I started to dig around in one of the piles of dirty vault suits and a 10mm pistol was under the pile. "Starlight! I found one come over here," I yelled at her from across the room. She came over to me levitating a small yellow box. "What's that box for?"

"You found a 10mm cool give it here," she took the gun and started to examine it. She pressed a button on it and a clip slid out from the bottom of the gun. "There are three bullets in the clip and the clip can only hold twelve bullets. The yellow box here contains bullets for the gun," she used her magic to start loading the bullets into the clip. "We only have five spare bullets so we have to use this wisely. Cadance do you know how to shoot a gun?"

"I may I haven't shot conventional firearms like that, I used to have a laser pistol on me but I dropped it trying to get here," I felt bad about never taking the a firearms course at the castle, I knew how to shoot magical energy weapons and laser weapons but not conventional firearms. "If we can get to the castle armory inside the city we should be able to re-equip ourselves. So should we head out?" Starlight nodded and we started walking, we followed all the signs to the stable door. Starlight walked up to the control panel and plugged her PipBuck in. Then a yellow light started flashing and the giant machine on the ceiling went forward into the door and pulled the door back rolling it to the side. On the other side of the door was a similar look stable door but this was a elevator leading to the top. I walked outside the stable door and pressed the red button to call the elevator down. Starlight joined me shortly. The elevator made a large screeching noise at it came down. Once it stopped me and Starlight stepped on and the elevator took off for the top. There was an outer shield for the vault door elevator which opened as we approached it. I squinted my eyes, it was much brighter out here then it was inside the stable. Once the elevator stopped at the top I rubbed my eyes again and let them get used to the light. What I saw was not what I expected. The sky was darkened and covered with clouds. My PipBuck's watch said its 2:30 pm. "This isn't right why is it so dark and its only 2:30pm?"

"Let's go, the map on our PipBucks says the castle is to the east of us. We need to start walking traveling at night in the crystal empire is a bad idea. We have no idea if the world has changed or not," Starlight was right there were monsters that were known to roam the area around the Crystal Empire. The castle is only a days trot away anyways. We walked down to the gate where there were soldier ponies not refusing to let ponies in. Now there were just skeletons of ponies who used to be. Something that I couldn't understand is why aren't the power armor ponies here. Did the survive the blast because of their armor? I don't think I will know the answer to that one. Once we got to the bottom of the hill we walked on the tip of the castle was barely visible from the bottom of the hills. What was left of the pine trees blocked my view of it and so we started our journey.

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Several hours have gone by, it's now 10pm. We are just at the edge of the city limits. "Shall we call it a night Cadance? My hooves are killing me, we should enter the city in the morning," So we made camp outside the city and started a fire to keep us warm. "Cadance want to take shifts on sleeping, I don't want a bear coming at us while we sleep," she playfully laugh and I laugh along with her. "I will take the first shift I will wake you up in 5 hours,ok," I nodded and laid down and fell asleep. I started to dream, it was something that really never happened to me. I either didn't have a dream or was plagued with nightmares. This dream was pleasant it was before the war and I was at the crystal fair. The one right after we defeated King Sombra. I say the crystal ponies full of life and energy. Damn do I miss those times. After that I was woken up by Starlight."Cadance, it's your turn to keep watch," she gave me the pistol and laid down and fell asleep. Three hours had past and the sun was starting to rise. With the daylight fast approaching I was able to see down one of the streets. There were four ponies each one was holding a gun to each other.

I tapped her to wake up. "Starlight, Starlight get up quick!" I did my best to say this in a quiet tone, I didn't want them to know I was here. "Starlight get up," I used my magic to shake her.

"Wha-whats going on?" I put my hoof over her mouth and pointed over at the four ponies. "Oh so there are survivors, should we go say hi to them," Starlight got up and shouted "Hello to you over there!" He voice echoed through the streets each one of those ponies looked right at us. Then I heard gunshots, two of the ponies were on the floor bleeding from their heads and the other two came charging at us.

"Oh no what do we do," I felt utter terror the two remaining ponies came close and used fallen trees for cover they started shooting at us. Starlight grabbed the gun and started shooting back at them. She fired 2 shoots and each of those shots hit the one of the ponies and that one dropped dead. My PipBuck identified the two as raiders. Both of them were raiders I didn't understand what that was but right now I need to focus on surviving. I cast a paralysis spell on the raider in front of us. The bullets stop, I ran up to him, he was breathing heavily and I could tell he was trying to break free. I levitated him up and leaned it against the tree and removed his helmet. He was red unicorn buck with a orange mane.

"Fuck you, once I am free I am going to tear you apart and pin you to my wall," That red buck was still able to talk but I wish he couldn't.

"Do you know who I am?" I spread my wings out and gave him a menacing look.

"No why the hell would I? Your probably one of the alicorns that serve the goddess although, I have never seen a pink one like you, and even if I didn't I don't give a fuck," he didn't seem to want to cooperate but I have my ways.

"Now look I am one of the three alicorn princess from before the war and leader of the Crystal Empire, so I suggest you tell me what I want to know."

"Ha, good one, one of the three princesses. Everypony knows they all died when the bombs fell," He rolled his eyes, Starlight was growing rather impatient with him.

"You better believe she is the real deal. She survived in Stable 13 with me, we are the only survivor. So you can either tell us what we want to know or I can send you straight to Tartarus. Our magic strong enough alone to rip you in two and send you to the moon," Starlight started to bluff a little there, I wasn't that strong in magic.

"Ok, ok, just calm down I will tell you what we want to know, just ask away," the raider was scared out of his mind, looks like Starlight was great at persuasion or threatening whichever came first.

"Now then, what is your name and have you seen a bunch of griffons carry away a pony with cybernetic legs?" I demanded that he answered I needed leads before I went to Griffonstone and shot up the place.

"My name is Napalm, and no I haven't seen anyone like that, now can you let me go?" I took his weapons, ammo and saddlebags from him.

"You can either join us or you can try to walk back to your raider friends who are left and explain what happened, your choice," Starlight said from behind me talking as she was making a bargain for his life. "Maybe if you came with us you will have a less chance of dying hmm," Starlight was talking in a very suave tone, I feel she was used to stuff like this.

"No, I am going to make my way to the Jewel and probably go back to mercenary work, I don't think I am cut out to be a raider," He really didn't seem like the raider type considering we were able to beat him rather easily.

"Whats the Jewel?" I assumed it was some type of city or stronghold.

"The Jewel is one of the biggest settlements in the Crystal Wastes. It's just north of here past the old castle just be careful, there is a settlement of ghouls on the way and not all of them are sane," I disabled the spell on him he got back up and began to run away, I wasn't surprised that he ran, I would have run away if I was in the same situation. I wondered what a ghoul was but that wasn't important. Starlight tried to go after him but I stopped her and shook my head.

"Let's get moving again, we already wasted a ton of time," Starlight trotted towards the city streets. I trotted up next to her, still in the back of my mind I wondered how she was able to be such a smooth talker.

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We continued to walk through the city, the streets were covered in broken wagons and skeletons. It was a horrible sight to see. My heart sank even lower, the city I once knew and loved was gone, my PipBuck started clicking. This happened every so often as we traveled through the city streets. The blast that hit the castle hit pretty high so the wind must have spread the radiation out all over the city. Now I was able to see a good majority of the castle. There was a huge hole on the side of the castle where the megaspell hit. I check the map on my PipBuck and we weren't too far away and we would be there in about a hour. However the closer we got the harder it was to walk the streets. A few blocks away from the castle a building had fallen into the path to the castle.

"What do we do, the path is blocked," Starlight walked up to the building and started examining it.

"I could try to fly us over, but I have never carried a pony before, your cutie mark, you have a star are you proficient in magic? We could try to levitate the building out of the way or you can try to self levitate yourself over, I can't fly and levitate you at the same time it's too much focus and energy for me to handle," What I suggested was ludicrous, I knew she was a magic adept and self levitation is almost impossible no pony other then Star Swirl the Bearded was able to use it.

"I don't think our magic combined is strong enough to lift the building and I only attempted self levitation once and I can't hold myself up for more than a few seconds, I don't think we should teleport in because of the radiation hazard or accidentally teleport into a raider camp," She looked down at her PipBuck and turned to the map. "Ok the next road in is about another hour's trot, but looking down that way, it may take more than an hour."

"I don't think we have much of a choice," we started walking, we had to weave our way in and out of destroyed rubble and abandoned wagons. As we were walking we passed a building that my PipBuck identified as the Equestria Aeronautics. How my PipBuck knew where it was and what it was, is beyond me. "Should we go inside? There may be something useful in there," I walked up to the door and opened it.

"Sure just remember we only have a small amount of time left, the sun will be set in a few hours," she walked through the door and I followed in after her. The first floor of the building was a mess, there were papers and boxes everywhere and a staircase on the right, I walked over to the receptionist's desk, the terminal looked like it blew up, under the desk, there was a skeleton of a pony. "We should split up so we can cover more ground," I nodded in response I walked into the hallway on the left side of the room and Starlight went up the stairs. I walked up to the first door it was locked, I didn't know how to open it, so I moved on to the next door. The door was missing the upper right section of it, I opened it and walked in. There was a glowing terminal, I didn't know what even kept it running. I assumed that the Crystal Empires' power plans were destroyed or at the least offline. I logged onto the terminal, there were a bunch of employee logs. I skimmed through them, they mostly talked about production quotas or opinions about their boss. I shut off the terminal and searched the desk. I found eight bullets, my PipBuck identified them for the 10mm pistol. "Why is there ammo but no gun? The gun has to be nearby," I kept searching but there was nothing of use in the room so I walked back out into the hall. I walked to the door near the end of the hall. I opened it up and it leads to the factory floor. Something was off, it smelled like something was rotting in here, I looked around there were several conveyor belts of several sizes and they were all over, several of the belts stretched into the wall and went up and down the walls. Behind one of the conveyor belt engines was what looked like a rotting corpse. Most of its mane was gone except with a few strands of hair and it was missing most of its coat with the exception of a few small patches. I moved away from it and continued searching.

After about an hour of looking through the factory floor, I found a small chest. It had a bunch of bottle caps in there, a few pieces of leather armor, and a gun that my PipBuck identified as the 'Crystal Revolver', I moved the revolving chamber out of place, there were two small bright pink energy crystals in there... I had never seen a gun like this before, I put it in my saddlebags, then I heard gunshots coming from the other room. "Starlight, are you ok in there?" I got no response. I turned around to walked back towards the hallway, I heard a groaning noise coming from behind, I turned my head and saw the corpse getting up, it let out a loud screech and started charging towards me. I used my magic to pull out the Crystal Revolver. I shot at it in the head almost point-blank, the gun made a loud sound the echoed throughout the whole facility and the whole right side of its head tore off and burned to ash. The rest of its head was slowly turning to ash from the burn marks. The gunshots continued from the other room, I ran as fast as I could and tried to track the sound my compass was lighting up with red marks. I ran up the stairs and shouted, "Starlight, where are you!?"

"I am inside the third room on the right!" I followed the sound of her voice as well as the bullets I ran into the room, it was full of those zombie-like ponies like the one I had killed. Two of the walls in the rooms were collapse leaving a giant hole to enter the other 2 and the adjacent room. There were about five zombie ponies in here. My PipBuck called them ghouls, no idea why but I didn't have time to think. "Use your SATS, it stands for Stable-Tech Assisted Targeting Systems, Cadance it will slow down time so you can aim better, there is a button on the side of your PipBuck to activate it," I did what she instructed, time slowed down, the ghouls came to a near standstill. I only had one shot left so I had to make it count. I aimed for the body of the ghoul, then SATS released, the bullet tore through three of the ghouls and left the first on a pile of ash. Starlight shot one of the last ones and used her magic to throw the other out the window.

"That was close, I have no idea what they were, they looked like crystal ponies but without their luster and coats and manes, that's probably going to haunt me forever," I took a deep breath and sat down with my back against the wall.

"Yeah that was close, what kind of gun is that?" Starlight asked examining the Crystal Revolver. She opened up the slides and the two crystals fell out and shattered on the ground. The color changed from pink to dark purple, which must mean they lost their energy. "I assume the gun, is out of ammo," I nodded and sighed.

"How much ammo do you have left" Starlight pulled the clip out of the gun, there were no more bullets. If this happens again I don't think we will survive another attack, sheer magic alone won't help with this many targets. "Since we have some time, how did you become a Stable 13's Overmare?" I saw Starlight sigh.

"It's a long story are you sure you want to hear it?" I don't think she really wanted to tell it but I think I could press her into telling me.

"Yeah, maybe we can visit where you came from when we are done here," I looked inside the saddlebag for some food, I found some weird looking fruit and I gave one to Starlight, I took a bite out of it, odd taste my PipBuck started clicking a bit but overall wasn't awful.

"Well, I am from a village that's not too far from here. It's northwest of Manehatten and a little southeast from here. I was the leader of the village and back then I was a much different pony than I am now. Back then I thought that cutie marks only set up a barrier between friends because when everyone is the same there is no jealousy, no fighting or arguing over things that somepony has over the other. So I started a town where I would remove the resident's cutie marks making them the same as everypony else. Just if I removed mine I couldn't remove others and then I would be as good in magic as the common unicorn foal. I had a good size village but the war came around. The ponies I was with wanted their cutie marks back to go fight in the war, one of the ponies that were in my town a close friend, his name was Double Diamond, he went into the cutie mark vault and broke the glass covering, then all the cutie marks returned to its original owners. Before long my town was empty and my philosophy forgotten. So I came here seeking work, after a year of working in the Crystal Empire, I met Apple Bloom one of the leaders of Stable-Tech, she saw my proficiency in magic and compared it to that of the ministry mare Twilight Sparkle and asked me to be the leader of Stable 13. She told me to guard the wealthy and the princess, and there you have it my story in a nutshell my fillyhood wasn't much different but that's for later. It's already night we should get some rest," That story really shocked me in a town where the thing that made a pony special was seen as bad. Starlight fell asleep, she seemed more at peace than the last night.

I looked outside the broken window, the sun was already on the horizon, which gave me some hope the Luna and Celestia Survived the war. This trot to the castle is taking too long but we will be there by tomorrow. Maybe if we have time later we will journey to her former town but for now, I should rest who knows what the castle has in store for us.

Starlight's SPECIAL

Strength: 3
Perception:6
Endurance: 4
Charisma: 6
Intelagence: 7
Agility: 5
Luck: 3

Chapter 3: Castle Crashers

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Chapter Three: Caste Crashers

"The palace, such a magnificent place or at least it was."

Tonight we didn't sleep in shifts, we were way too tired, all the walking and fighting left us utterly exhausted. You think after sleeping for as long as we did we really didn't need much sleep. When we finally awoke it was about 7am, I dug through the saddlebag to see if there was more food. Turns out there was only the two fruits we ate last night, I'm sure the castle has enough food for us anyways. Starlight was still asleep, I started checking what we had inside the saddlebags, we had the broken pistol we took from Napalm, it looked like it was made of pipes and a few pieces of wood, the trigger itself was just a screw. My PipBuck identified it as a pipe pistol. I pulled out some of the leather armor, I picked it up and strapped some of it to my chest.

"It may not stop bullets but it will soften the pain, I hope," I left the rest of the leather armor for Starlight, maybe she would get some use out of the rest of it, inside a small pocket in the saddlebag was some small bullets, they weren't same kind of bullets and were identified as the .38s. They were useless at the moment until we could get another gun that could fire that kind of bullet. I debated to myself whether I should go dig around the four rooms up here. I didn't want Starlight to wake up and think I abandoned her. I walked through the broken wall and started searching, I made sure I was still in both eye and ear shot so she wouldn't freak out when she woke up. In the desk I found a few bobby pins, good to see I could still keep my mane up or pick a lock if I needed to. I walked to another desk, it had a few bottle caps, I left them there, I wouldn't need junk like that. I walked to the room right across from where Starlight was sleeping. Where the corner of wall used to be was now just a giant hole. "Oh Celestia, I forgot to check what day and year it was," I looked at my PipBuck. "It was just as I though,exactly 200 years after the bombs fell minus the 2 days we were out here, "I think I am developing a bad habit of talking to myself," I was turning into a very strange pony before I know it, I will be giving speeches to myself.

"So Cadance what have you been up to this morning," Starlight tapped my shoulder, I jumped back in fear, I didn't know she got up. She was laughing at me.

"Don't do that!" I was breathing heavily after that one, "I am going to get you back for that one," I was not a happy pony at the moment

"Do we have any food left?" I shook my head, I felt like were just living off luck at this point. Raiders attacked us and we survived that, then a pack of ghouls attacked us, I thought to myself our survival is just our dumb luck.

"Lets get moving we can resupply at the castle," and so we left Equestria Aeronautics. Right now our only defense was our magic, I felt so vulnerable, while we were walking I was listening to the pip-bucks tutorials using my ear-bloom, it said there is a little compass that appears with the user called the EFS, it stood for Eyes Forward Sparkle. It shows locations of interest that I have been to, hostile life and regular ponies who didn't want to harm us. On the walk to the castle I got a few red blimps here and there but I never saw anypony. Maybe a few sleeping ghouls, but then I though how would they appear red, the one I saw didn't get up until Starlight started shooting. Our walk was pretty quiet we kept talking to a minimal to avoid being spotted by unwanted company.

We finally arrived at the courtyard, I walked up to where the Crystal Heart should be and put my hoof over the device that kept it floating, nothing happened. I assumed its because of the castle loosing power or that Shining Armor hid the Crystal Heart. Either way I could reunite my country to help fight the griffons that would be helpful but, how would I get everyponies attention? There was so much planning to do for that part. As we approached the gate there were a three ponies setting up explosives to try to blow the door open. They looked more well organized then raiders and had combat armor on, one of them had black combat armor on so I assumed he was the leader.

"You will never get that door open by blowing it up you know," I shouted at them and I started walking closer to them. Two of them pulled their guns on me but I wasn't afraid they seemed more civilized and willing to talk. The one with black armor walked up to me, she was a white earth pony with a light grey mane and soft blue eyes.

"Oh yeah? What makes you so sure that we can't blow up the castle door," she walked around me his expression changed after he finished circling me, "Who exactly are you? You don't seem like one of the Goddess's alicorns, they usually don't have cutie marks and aren't pink.

"My name is Princess Cadance, ruler of the Crystal Empire, formerly anyways, and how I know is because it's enchanted to be blast resistant, just look at the rest of the castle it took a direct hit from a megaspell and its still mostly here. Crystal doesn't hold magical radiation well so it should be mostly dissipated, I don't know about the blast area where the balcony used to be though," his expression dropped he bowed in front of me. I was a little confused at this, the first pony that was actually civilized just bowed to me, I didn't have to force it or anything.

"So the legend is true you did survive the 'Great War'. My name is Ivory. We have been searching for a safe place to settle, we heard that this place has been practically untouched. Nopony has ben able to get in here, so we thought it was safe, we were prepared for maybe some ghouls being in their its been hours of trying different strategies to get in. All have failed but you know how to open it right?" I did know how to open it but trust was something I really couldn't give out at the moment if anything they could, I didn't have much of a choice if there were ghouls inside the castle our magic couldn't hold them off.

"I will open if for you but just stay out of my room and our armory, since you are going to try settling it, the only way for this to be over ran is through the main gate here, the defenses will only activate if you become aggressive, whoever is going to be on guard needs to put on the guard armor, its the only bypass to the anti aggression system it won't shoot me so I will be fine. The castles generators offline so we should be fine for right now, I tried to pick up the Crystal Heart but it wouldn't rise out of the ground, follow me we are going to turn on the generators, we won't get anywhere if we are walking in the dark, follow me and stay close, that goes for you to Starlight, keep your ponies close Ivory, who knows what will be inside," I walked up to the gate and put my hoof on it, the door lit up and opened. I walked inside the castle felt different, the carpet that lead up the stairs were torn and burned, banners that were once there where either ripped and on the floor or faded and still hanging. I turned on my PipBuck light, "Follow me its down the stairs in this corridor," walked down the corridor and stopped at the stairs. "I think you should wait up here the stairs are really long. Starlight watch over them I will be back soon," She nodded and I walked to the stairs and jumped off I opened my wings and glided down. Theses stairs were much longer then I remember, after about three minutes of falling, I landed on the ground. I used my PipBuck light to look around after a few minutes of searching, I found the generator. I went up and flipped the switch. It gave off a loud buzz as the lights slowly turned on, it felt pretty ominous, I didn't want to stay down here much longer to see if there was anything else down here so I flew back up. I flew through the doorway, Starlight, was sitting up against the wall, and Ivory was playing cards, I didn't think I was gone long enough for them to start a card game.

"Hey, I hate to interrupt your game but the powers on. You ponies are free to explore, I am going to the armory, if you want you can join, if not make yourselves at home, I have to start rebuilding my kingdom somewhere," I muttered that last part to myself, I gestured to Starlight that it was time to get moving.

Ivory put her cards down and got up, "I will go with you, Pepper secure the kitchen and Drop Shot, help Pepper out and secure the hallways around the kitchen. If you see any ghouls call out to them if they look at you and don't respond or attack you kill them, make sure you confirm they are feral, dismissed, "It seemed she had some sort of military training. Her soldiers were loyal. We began walking down the narrow hallway to the throne room.

"So Ivory, would you help me if I tried to restart the Crystal Empire?" I felt like a idiot for asking this question, not because of it looking like I am power hungry but a Princess coming back after she disappeared for 200 years. "Its ok if you say no I was just asking."

"Maybe, you would have to prove to me and my team that you still know whats best for the ponies of the Crystal Wasteland, but you have a pretty good start. You could of shot us when we tried to blow up the castle gate, not many ponies would take such a bold move, most would tried to shoot us or just walk right on past. If you can convince the other two to join you then you will have my support," well I at least had a place to start, "By the way what happened to Shining Armor?" That was a touchy subject for me to go over, I really didn't want to think about it right now.

"I am sorry, I don't really want to talk about him right now, but lets just say he has gone missing ok," even saying that made my heart sink,.

"Thats fine maybe we can talk more about it later," I nodded my head, we entered the throne room, the place is virtually undamaged with the exception of the banners, we kept the armory in King Sombra's old hidden dungeon only a handful of ponies knew where it was and even fewer knew how to cast the spell.

"So... How do we get in?" Starlight was examining the area for any doors or labels that lead to the armory.

"Let me show you Starlight," the spell required to open the door used dark magic to use, it was a truly awful kind of magic but it was the best way to protected valuables, the Crystal Heart would usually be stored down here at night so ponies wouldn't steal it. I casted the spell my eyes grew a green hue and my magic glow went from light blue to black, I released the energy into a focused beam and shot it at the giant crystal above the throne, the beam reflected onto the floor revealing a staircase in the middle of the throne room floor.

"There, that should do it," I saw Starlights jaw drop, I looked over at Ivory and she couldn't believe what she was seeing, she was repeatedly rubbing her eyes trying to comprehend what happened.

"H-how d-did that happen, how did you do it, what did you do," Starlight said as she walked over to examine the staircase. She carefully touched the stairs repeatedly, then she slowly started to walk down.

"You ponies going to stand there all day or are we going to go down there?" I chuckled and walked down and past Starlight, Ivory followed me and Starlight picked up the pace. "There is another elevator on the other side of the armory, its where we keep our vehicles, mainly planes because the elevator brings it up to the side of the runway," I did my best to try to make conversation, these stairs were really long, I can't say I agreed with Sombra or whoever designed this castle. After about ten minutes of walking down stairs we reached the bottom, I was so out of breath, I never walked down here I usually just flew down. "Note to self, install elevator," I sat down to catch my breath.

"Phew, thank Celestia the walking is over I thought those stairs were never going to end," Starlight laid down on her back, "I am not going to enjoy the walk back up, can't we just teleport back, I don't think I can make it up," Starlight looked over at the door, it was a giant metal door.

"Lets just open this up and figure it out when we have to," Ivory approached the door, she was trying to find a way to open it, "How do we get this open, is it like the palace door?" I got up and approached the door there was a small circular shaped slot on the right side of the gate.

"They way to open it is somewhat of a DNA check and a magic check, it reads the users DNA and checks if the magic color matches the pony in the data base. However from time to time the door will malfunction which it probably will now since it hasn't been opened in 200 years," I put my horn into the whole and use my magic to pass the security check. A yellow light started to flash and the door made a loud groaning noise as it was opening the bolt heads. Then the sound stopped and the door was still closed, the speakers repeated a message saying 'Malfunction, door locks stuck and emergency protocols have been activated, use alternate route,' a small part of the wall opened, it was the maintenance tunnels, it didn't just lead to the armory but to other parts of the castle. "This may be a problem, I may not remember the tunnels all that well there are signs down there but I will do what I can to try to remember the way."

"Yes, if we are going to try to revive the Crystal Empire we will need weapons and armor to defend ourselves from the wasteland," Ivory was standing next to the tunnel, she started digging through her saddlebag and took out a helmet, it had a built in flashlight on the front of the helmet. She flipped it on, it was really bright it was much better then our PipBucks.

"I am good with what ever you choose princess," Starlight turned on her PipBucks flashlight, "Shall we go princess?" Starlight stood next to Ivory.

I turned on my flashlight, "Lets go in," I walked into the tunnel, Ivory following behind me and Starlight behind her. All the emergency lights were out, that didn't surprise me, a few still did, if you counted constant flickering as working. The tunnel led to a crossroads, I did my best to read the arrows on the walls, the one pointing forward had a 'A' and a 'M', the arrow that went around the corner had a 'M' and a 'Y', I assumed that one was it, the one that pointed to our left had a 'K' so I easily ruled that one out.

"Are you sure its that way, the sign for the path in front shares the same letters," Ivory was skeptical taking a close look at the top arrow, "Princess maybe we should split up, here to cover more ground, we haven't found any signs of trouble here, so I think its safe to assume that we are fine," I scratched my head, we did have a easy time getting in, but something didn't sit right with me.

"Just because we haven't found trouble doesn't mean there isn't any, besides its better that we stay to together how would we contact on another if we split up, yelling though the tunnel won't help, if anything it would attract the trouble to us," Starlight brought up some valid points contact with each other would be dismal, the PipBucks could only pick up radio frequencies, with out a radio beacon we couldn't talk to each other.

"If you think its best but we will be in trouble if we get caught down here by some monster, Starlight do you want to go with me or with Ivory?" She walked next to me. "So its settled, be carful Ivory, I don't want you getting killed or lost meet back up in the throne room if you can't find the armory, good luck," and thus we parted ways.

As we went farther into the hallways the walls started to have more and more blood splattered all over the wall. A red mark appeared on my EFS and suddenly disappeared, I put my hoof in front of Starlight and casted a light spell, I used my magic to form it into a horn and shot it down the hallway. Then my EFS had several red mark, there were several ghoul ponies in the hallway, they had what remained of their royal guard armor.

"Oh Celestia, why these things," Starlight began to charge up her magic. We had no other option, Starlight sent a beam of energy towards one of the ghouls and it dropped dead, five of them began to charge at us, I grabbed one with my levitation and slammed it into the ground, Starlight shot two more magical energy beams, the first shot hit the target straight in the head the head fell right off, I felt like I had to throw up, the second beam hit straight into the second ghouls leg causing him to trip and fall, I sent a wave of energy down the hall killing all the remaining ghouls slamming them into the wall crushing them. I stopped and took a breather.

"That took more out of me then I expected and I..." I threw up mid sentence on the floor, seeing a ponies head fall right off was the killing blow for me, "I am feeling a bit dizzy, ugh, why did you cut the ponies head off?" I tried to take deep breathes and collect my thoughts.

"It was either him or me, trust me seeing that made me feel the same way, lets keep moving we can't stay here long, there may be more of them coming," I nodded to her and got up.

"We need to get there fast kill all the ones we have to, we need to keep heading straight and we will hit a hall that splits to the left and right we will go right it should bring us to the armory, you ready? 3, 2, 1, go!"we took off running Starlight was doing her best to stay behind me, my EFS had multiple red marks on it, I casted a spell that put a small ram in front of us, Starlight was firing several magical energy beams at the ghouls, those who weren't hit were being pushed back as we pushed forward, the bodies of the dead ghouls started to build up making it harder for me to push forward and we were brought from a sprint to about walking speed, "Starlight can you move the bodies out of the way so we can keep moving?" I saw her horn glow she picked up three to four ghouls at a time, grabbing both their bodies and severed body parts and throwing them behind us, I started to pick up the pace again, she threw the last of the bodies out of the way and we began to trot down the hall, I disabled the spell once we hit the intersection.

"Can we take a break, its hard to keep up the concentration while I am this hungry," Starlight sat down and leaned up against the wall. My EFS showed no more red marks on it so I sat down next to her, "You think this may be a little more trouble then what its worth?"

I shook my head, "The armory will be a key tool to equipping the new guards with weapons, after that they can start taking back the city, it may not happen fast but it will happen and we can get you food when were done I think Pepper was heading to the kitchen before we came down here," she nodded and we got back up, shall we continue I don't think we need to run the rest of the way, let me check the arrows, I think we went the right way," I walked up to the wall and took a glance at the arrow, the one to the right was a bit faded but I could make out the letters 'A' 'R' and 'Y'. "Lets get moving its on our right the path should lead us straight to the armory," we started walking again.

After about 5 minutes of walking we reached a door, it had black letters written on it labeled 'Armory', to the left of the door there was a wall mounted terminal. For a really secure area it had a easy password, I logged onto the computer, the password was 'Twilight Velvet'. Shining was always a mama's boy, the door clicked and it opened right up, "I knew I shouldn't had let Shining Armor pick the password for the armory,oh well," I mumbled to myself.

"What?" Starlight apparently heard me she had good ears, I was talking pretty quite though.

"Huh, oh its nothing come on lets go inside," the room smelt horrible, like tons of ponies died in here, there were a few skeletons here and there but there were a ton of dead ghouls, I was happy to know they were dead because most of them were missing limbs, "What killed these ghouls?" Starlight shrugged at me, "Go take a look around see what you can find," she nodded and walked off, I walked over to a equipment locker and opened it up, the locker had a 10mm pistol with a few bullets next to it, I took out the clip and loaded it. When I was done I put the clip back in and pulled the slide. I never understood how some ponies used their mouths to fire these things, just odd how they used their tongues to pull the trigger. Fortunately for me I could use magic to both hold and shoot it. I shut the locker, I heard something in the distance, it sounded like metal being dragged on the ground and it sounded like it was getting closer to me.

"You stupid traitors, I will defend this armory with my life, for the Crystal Empire!" A pony wearing royal guard armor came charging at me, I closed my eyes and froze him in place with my magic, when I opened them his spear was just a few inches from my face. I took a closer look at him, I was able to see that one of his eyes was blind and the other eye, looked fine it was a little blood shot but I was able to see he had light blue eyes.

"Calm down, I am no traitor, its me Princess Cadance," I put my PipBuck closer to my face to try to make myself a little clearer to him.

"Thats, thats impossible, why... why would you come back now of all times? Oh I get my mind is just playing a trick on me again, yeah thats it, the princess would never come down here, I am sure she has forgotten all about us. Living her new life somewhere else in luxury as we suffer," he clearly was delusional, his fur was mostly gone but from what I gathered his coat was orange and he had small patches of blue where his mane should be, his tail there was nothing left of it.

"Its really me, I am the real Cadance, you're not seeing things, I haven't abandoned you," I touched the side of his face, I felt what was his skin it was very rough, I didn't know what other way to prove to him I was real.

"Princess it really is you! Oh thank Celestia you're ok, I have spent the past 200 years guarding the palace, most of what was left of the guards are either dead or deserted, I think I am the only one left still at my post, some of the guards went crazy they tried to break into the armory and take the weapons but I stopped them princess, some of them went crazy and started to wander the palace, they became like zombies, they didn't talk much but only did the same thing kill anything they saw as a threat whether it was from each other or someone who would break into the castle, but I have killed the ones who wandered in here, I just recently shut the door, I had to shoot the lock that was in here trapping me and a hoof full of ghouls inside, you probably don't remember me, its me Flash Sentry, one of your royal captains," Oh my Celestia it was him it was just as I feared, whats next is going to go one of two ways, its going to go to a Twilight themed conversation and the other to Shining Armor. "Princess, what happened to Shining Armor?"

"He isn't with us right now, he was captured, Flash I am here to restore the empire and take him back, the Griffons stole him. Will you help me?" He shook his head and sat down.

"I am sorry Princess, I just can't, I am tired of the killing, I had to kill some of my closest friends and a few of the not so close ones," he started chuckling, I rolled my eyes, "I know the castle is in good hooves and if I can make a last request, can you kill me, I want you to end my suffering, this monster I became isn't even a pony, just a shell of what one was, ending my suffering will be the greatest kindness, you can give me at this point, heh maybe if you came earlier I may had a different request, I don't want to end up a mindless zombie pony like the others," I saw tears role down the sides of his face, I could tell he was suffering, he took off his armor and put it beside him. "Take my armor, give it to your next captain, remember my sacrifice for the empire,"

"I-I don't think I can pull the trigger Flash, would you rather die by your own hoof?" He shook his head.

"I am both your captain and a traitor, I with held punishment against my fellow guard and murdered the castle staff, there is more then enough reason for you to shoot me because I know I will never be able to do it myself, I tried many years ago," a tear rolled down my face, he may not have been my favorite pony in the castle but he was loyal to the end.

I spread my wings up and said, "Then let me grant you this before you die, put your amor back on, and for your 200 years of loyal service you are being promoted to colonel, I thank you for you loyalty to me and this nation, you will be remember throughout time you are here by relieved of your royal duties, anything you wish to do or say before we end this?" I saw him smile wide tears still rolling down his face, he put his armor back on, and spread his wings out, it would have looked better if it still had feathers on it.

"Thank you princess. Long may your reign be and I hope you find Shining Armor and if you see Twilight tell her I said hi," I face-hoofed, he met her once and went head over hooves in love with her, he closed his eyes and I levitated the 10mm pistol up to his head, I closed my eyes and pulled the trigger, Flash Sentry hit the ground lifeless with a huge grin on his face.

Starlight came running from the other side of the room, "What happened? Are there more ghouls? I found a few weapons we can use if there were, I heard the gunshot from the other side of the hall and then I came running..." Her voice began to trail off as she saw my face in tears, "What happened?" She saw the Flash Sentry's body laying on the ground, "Did you know this ghoul?" I nodded in response, I couldn't say a word, when I tried to speak more tears just flooded down my face, Starlight gave me a hug. "He is in a better place now,"

****************************************************************

An hour had past since I killed Flash Sentry, I was sitting on a bench near the lockers trying to collect my thoughts, I told Starlight what had happened, she felt the same empathy for him as I did, Starlight found a assortment of ammo types ranging from 10mm to magic energy crystals, to bad only three of them fit my Crystal Revolver, this was a odd gun anyways so I guess most of the ammo has to be made, most of the guns we found were in poor condition, Starlight found a cart and started to load most of the weapons we found down here, she found a few battlesaddles and tons of guard armor, although we didn't have a ton of heavy weapons for the battlesaddles which was too bad.

"So is there a way we can bring all this up because I am not pulling this thing up the stairs, I haven't pulled a cart this heavy so I doubt I can bring it up the stairs," Starlight started to strap herself into the harness of the cart, I scratched my chin that was a good point I didn't know how we were going to get it up there.

"We have the hangar elevator, its was used to get planes on and off the runway, but we will have to go back outside and who knows whats going to happen once we get out there, we could try the maintenance elevator by the stairs its big enough for a cart to fit in, it will bring us right to the throne room," Starlight had a annoyed look on her face, I felt a little confused, "What?"

"There was a elevator the whole time, why did we walk down the stairs instead of taking that down?" I totally forgot that we had it, we passed by it on the way in and I hoped nopony noticed it, I was right Starlight missed it.

"Well I... ugh kinda forgot about it, I forgot where the button was to call the elevator up to the throne room but thats ok we can take it back up, first lets get the giant door open," I walked up to the mechanism that opens the door. There was a spear stuck in the gears that opened the door, I face-hoofed again "Celestia damnit Flash Sentry you should probably see who is at the door before you jam it!" I yelled at the ceiling, I hopped he heard me, I used my magic to pry the spear out of the gears and violà the door opened, we walked out of the armory and walked over to the service elevator near the stairs, it was a large platform attached to a track on the wall. I pressed the button and we started to ascend to the throne room.

"I can't wait to get up there and eat," I nodded back to her and looked up I saw the ceiling open up as we got closer, finally we we reached the top, we both stepped off and walked towards the kitchen we, we left the cart outside the hallway to the kitchen, we walked into the kitchen, I saw Pepper in the kitchen with a rather sad look, before I could say something, I was struck in the back of the head, I hit the floor, I saw Starlight across from me she was out cold.

"So sorry Princess its just business," my vision was blurring but it could tell that was Ivory's voice, my limbs were growing numb and I slipped out of consciousness.

Footnote: Level up.
Perk added: Ghoul Slayer (level one) - You gain a 10% bonus when fighting ghouls with magic.

Chapter 4: Memories

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Chapter Four: Memories

"Kindness, it's just a luxury I can't afford."

I woke up with a severe headache, I was sitting down, I went to reach for my head but my hooves had been tied down. My vision started to come back to me everything went from a blur to be more clear.

"What happened to me, why am I tied up?" I looked around, I was tied to one of the pillars in the throne room, I couldn't see Starlight either, I tried to use my magic to get myself free, I couldn't cast the spell I looked up at my horn, there was an anti-magic ring on it, damn it. I am stuck, I looked over at the throne and saw Ivory sitting on the throne, "You! Why did you do this to us?"

"You want to know why I did this, I am a slaver. I take ponies and sell them into slavery and you will fetch me a pretty big bonus. Princess Cadance, the former glorious princess of the Crystal Empire, is now a mere slave. Who knows maybe I will keep you for myself, or I can sell you to the griffons, they would pay loads of caps for an Equestrian Princess, and by the way my name is Shard, not Ivory," Shard walked back over to the throne in and sat down, "Now all I got to do is wait for the slavers who are going to transport all of you."

"What do you mean all of us?"

"Why of course you, Starlight, and Pepper of course, honestly I am surprised you didn't see this coming, haha it's like a dream come true I will be swimming in caps in no time, with all the extra weapons I can sell them off and make a fortune alone. Did you really think you could disappear for 200 years and come back and claim this place as yours, out here it's everpony for herself," she began to laugh. How am I going to get out of here?

"What about Drop Shot?"

"What that moron, he is dead, died from trying to protect Pepper, what a valiant knight, what garbage he didn't even last 5 minutes against me."

"I swear when I get out of here I am going to kill you, even if you sell me into slavery and get away with it I will hunt you down," she started laughing at me she jumped off the throne and walked up to me.

"My dear princess, you are in no position to make such an idle threat, maybe I will be the next queen of the Crystal Empire, Queen Shard, that has a nice ring to it don't you think? Don't worry you won't have to be sitting there for much longer, the slavers are almost here to pick you all up." One way or another I was going to kill her. I heard the throne room door swing open, four ponies each one wearing random pieces of metal that were just glued onto their clothes, three of them were crystal ponies, and the other was a unicorn. I saw the three crystal ponies look in my direction and their expressions changed, they were holding their guns in their mouths, one took hers out and started to whisper amongst the others, I assumed it was about me.

"Alright Shard what have you brought me today," the unicorns stepped forward.

"Well aren't you in for a surprise, I've brought you two unicorns and an alicorn," She grinned widely and pointed at me, "Its the pink one over there, her name is Cadance." I managed to get one of my hooves free and remove the ring off my head, right as she looked my way. "Oh shit she removed the ring get her quick, I sent out a wave of energy knocking the slavers to the ground, I untied my other hooves and used my magic to cut the rest of the rope around my body and I took cover behind the pillar.

"Crystal ponies that are with the slavers, it's me Cadance the former princess of the empire, do not fight for him fight for me instead, I have returned to help repair the war-torn streets of our once glorious empire, help me and you shall be rewarded," I peeked my head out, and the unicorn shot at me, he had a shotgun so from where he was he couldn't do much to me. I peaked out again and saw one of the crystal ponies drop her gun and run into the hallway. I had nowhere to go I had to think of something quick, I had to be in direct line of sight of them, and putting up a barrier will prevent me from using offensive spells.

"Come on out Cadance, your outnumbered, come out now and we won't kill you."

"Yeah and you think I am going to take your word on that Shard, you didn't trust us enough to tell us your real name, why should I believe you?" I looked over to my left I saw the cart of weapons we had hauled up her, my saddlebags were on the edge of the cart, I assume that's where Shard put our stuff. I peaked around the corner again and shot off a magical flare, that should blind them for now. I made a break for the cart, the slaver ponies were shooting blindly, I assume it was where I was last but I wasn't going to turn around and find out. I reached the saddlebags and pulled out the Crystal Revolver. I crawled underneath the cart to hide from the slavers.

"Damnit, get her to check every part of the castle she couldn't have gotten far, I will stay here and make sure she doesn't come back into the throne room, search every corridor for her," the slavers left the room and Shard walked around the throne room in search for me, I had the biggest urge just to shoot her from behind but on the other hoof, I wanted to rip her in two with my magic.

"What I am going to do, if I don't think of something fast she will kill me," I whispered to myself, I have to stop doing that but that is a problem for another time, I crawled out from under the cart and put the gun back in the saddlebag, I was going to kill her myself without a weapon, she was on the other side of the throne room looking behind the pillars, I snuck back up and sat on the throne, "Well now Shard looks whose at the bottom of the bin," I saw shard look back up to me she pulled out her pistol and I used my magic to freeze her, "Not so fast, Shard," I got off the throne and approached her.

"Help, she's in the throne room!"

"It's no use Shard, if they come back I have you hostage but I don't plan to keep you alive," I laughed maniacally.

"Oh shit, please I surrender I will do anything, please just let me live," Shard started crying but I felt no empathy. I felt the dark magic start to pulse out, my eyes turned green, and started to have a grey glow around the end of my eyes, my magic in my horn went from a light blue to black.

"Shard you want me to pity you because you are about to be punished, yet you forfeit others lives and don't give a second wind to what they think, you have committed treason against the empire and me, you deserve a fate worse than death, but you are lucky I am not going to banish your soul, I hope you find mercy in the afterlife," I gripped her with my magic and slammed her into the walls, then I vaporized her with dark magic, she screamed in agony as I started to vaporize her until finally, she was no more, there was no ash or anything for her to be remembered by only her gun laid on the floor where she once stood. I saw the other ponies walk in, they looked at me and the two other crystal ponies dropped their weapons and ran deeper into the castle, the unicorn fired two shots at me with his shotgun, I stopped every bullet and redirects all fragments at him, I watched them tear away at his flesh when it hit him, one of the crystal ponies that ran away earlier came out and bowed right in front of me, she didn't say a word, I sent magical streams of energy to pull out the other two crystal ponies that were in the castle, I felt my magic grab them and pull them out into the throne room floor, they were both scream and pleading for their life. I sat back on the throne, and I let the dark magic fade away, I looked like my normal self again.

"Please princess don't kill us, we were just doing our job," the one in the middle stood up, she was very brave, her coat was a nice shiny white with a grey mane and tail, her cutie mark was a gleaming quartz.

" What is your name so I may address you properly."

"My name is Milky Quartz."

"Ok Milky Quartz you three think slavery is ok and you're going to lionize your crime as it was just doing your job?"

"No I don't work for them, they hired us to work security on their way here, I had no idea they were slavers, honest Princess,"

"How about the other two how do you know them?"

"They are my sisters, we work as mercenaries, the one on my left is my younger sister Rose Quartz," she pointed to a young mare, she was maybe a few years older than a filly, she had a shiny light pink coat with a dark pink mane, her cutie mark was a rose wrapping around a quartz crystal. "The other one on my right is my older sister Smokey Quartz," Smokey Quartz was an unusual name for this mare, her coat was grayish-red with an ash grey mane and her cutie mark was literally a quartz with smoke coming out of it.

"I-I ran away from this fight when I saw you, p-princess, I had a hunch that you were the princess from before the war and I was right, I told you there was something wrong with the castle door suddenly opening Smokey," Rose was soft-spoken but she meant well.

"Yes, I know, Princess Cadance if you choose to spare us we will be indebted to you," Smokey Quartz rose up, she had a very raspy voice, her voice had a striking resemblance to Spitfire's.

"Well then, will you help me rebuild the Crystal Empire? You may discuss it if you need to," the three ponies huddled up and started talking amongst themselves, after a few minutes of talking they broke the huddle and Milky Quartz approached me.

"Princess if we may offer one condition to this if that's ok."

"You may."

"Can we bring our mother here and use the castle as a safe haven?"

"That's alright with me, how far is your mother from here?"

"May I see your PipBuck? I will mark her location for you so you can get a good reference," I held my hoof up to Milky and she entered in some coordinates and a small icon with a house appeared labeled, Quartz House. "It's only a few days trot from here, we will pack up what we need and set up here."

"Cadance? Cadance, where are you?" my ears perked up, that was Starlights voice.

"Starlight? Where are you?" I opened my wings and flew off the throne.

"I think I am at the end of the throne room I see a large door in front of me."

"I will be right there," I ran to the front of the throne room, I saw rope wrapped around one of the pillars on the left side and another one on the right, I went to the left, Starlight was tied to the pillar with an anti-magic ring on her horn. I removed her anti-magic ring and cut the rope with my magic. "Are you alright Starlight?"

"Yes I think I am alright, just a few bruises, that's all."

"Where is Pepper?"

"I think she was right across from me," Starlight rubbed her head and pointed at the column across from her. I walked over to it and there I saw Pepper, she was gagged and passed out, she had several bruises around her face and torso. I took the gag out and cut the ropes restraining her. Rose ran over to us.

"Princess is she going to be alright, she has taken some, she looks like she has been beaten badly, here hold her mouth open I am going to give her a healing potion," Rose started digging around her saddlebags and pulled out a medical potion, I held Peppers mouth open and Rose poured the potion in her mouth. I saw the cuts and bruises she had, disappear off her body. "All she will need is some rest and she should be fine."

"Thank you Rose. Starlight take Pepper to one of the empty rooms, it's down the hallway on your left, you will need to get some rest as well," Starlight nodded to me and picked up Pepper with her levitation, and walked off into the hallway.

"Princess would it be alright if I stayed with you and let my sisters go by themselves, they are more than capable of making the trip without me, I just carry most of their stuff," Rose looked over to her sisters.

"Milky it's up to you if you want to let her stay with me, I have no problem with it," I walked over to the cart where my saddlebags were and put them back on.

"That's alright with me, Rose just be careful I will see you in a week ok," Milky and Smokey walked out of the throne room and made their way to the castle gate.

"Let's get the castle's defenses set up, if we want ponies to know this is a safe place for them we need a way to protect it, there were some turrets down in the armory that we could move up here, want to help me bring them up here Rose?"

"Sure why not."

****************************************************************

After a few hours of hauling turrets from the armory to the castle entrance, we decided to take a break.

"Wow these things are heavier than they look, I am starving," Rose dug through her saddlebags and pulled out an apple, and started eating it.

"Yeah let's head to the kitchen and we can make some food," I got up and started walking to the kitchen, Rose was walking beside me, "What made you guys become mercenaries anyways?"

"Well um, when I was just a filly my family had issues with raiders, these ponies harassed my family, they even killed my father, so one day my sisters had enough, they took some of our fathers guns and marched into the raider camp and killed all the raiders there, as they were searching the camp they saw a merchant pony tied up, they set him free and he offered my sisters a job so we worked for him as guards for a long time, and when he didn't need us we hired ourselves out to work as both assassins, guards and stuff, so when I was old enough I joined them," we arrived at the kitchen, I started looking through the pantry, it was mainly just preserved food and rotten apples and other rotten fruits. I found a can of canned oranges and the other can contained peaches.

"So Rose do you want the one with oranges or peaches?" I turned to Rose levitating both of them next to me, I saw she took a seat at the bar across from the kitchen.

"The peaches is fine," I used my magic to cut open the lid on the can and levitated it over to her. I took the can of oranges and cut it open and sat next to her.

"You know Rose, back before the war the city was such a wondrous place, the buildings glistened and the palace was the crown jewel of it all. Now I wish I could just have it all back even if it's for a moment," I levitated one of the orange slices out of the can and into my mouth, it tasted like it was freshly picked, I had eaten in about a day, I didn't really feel all that hungry anyway, after the whole decapitating ghouls and turning Shard to basically nothing. At this point I was forcing myself to eat, starving wasn't an option, I got up and walked over to the fridge and opened it up, I pulled out two 'Sparkle~Cola's'. I levitated on to Rose and sat back down and continued eating.

"Life before the war sounded peaceful, I wish there was a day where I could sleep peacefully without having to worry about a monster possibly trying to eat me."

"I am going to help the crystal ponies put faith in the empire, in me and in the Crystal Heart, the empire will be doomed if we can't get the heart up to work again," I popped off the cap to the Sparkle~Cola and took a sip. I finished eating the can of oranges, I looked over to Rose, she was eating the peaches. "Rose, have you ever heard of the story of King Sombra before?" She looked at me and shook her head.

"I don't think I heard of him before."

"Well King Sombra was truly an evil pony, long ago he lived here in the empire as a normal unicorn, he was really good at casting spells, however his quest for knowledge drove him crazy. He started reading into dark magic, he used those spells to control others and bend them to his will, eventually, he fought the crystal queen and defeated her, he became the ruler of the Crystal Empire. Celestia and Luna the guardians of Equestria wouldn't stand for it so they banished Sombra and turned him into a shadow, he put a curse on the empire and it disappeared for 1000. After 1000 years passed the empire returned and Sombra along with it. Shining Armor and I were called to defend the empire, with the help of Twilight and her friends we were able to get the Crystal Heart and use it to defeat Sombra."

"Twilight? As in the ministry mare?"

"Yeah she was my sister-in-law, I was also her foal sitter when that was still a thing, we never really hung out as much since she left Canterlot to live in Ponyville and when the war started she visited once to help us establish a power plant to run on crystals," I sighed and got up. "I think it's best I get to bed." Rose nodded and got up and stood next to me.

"Where should I stay for the night?"

"I will show you to your room it's next to where Starlight and Pepper are sleeping. Oh and before we go let me grab one thing..." I went back to the pantry and grabbed another can of oranges. "Starlight hasn't eaten since before we entered the city," we walked out of the kitchen and went back into the throne room. She followed me into one of the hallways near the entrance of the throne room, I opened one of the doors and saw Starlight sleeping in the bed in there. I levitated the can of oranges I took and put it on the nightstand next to the bed and quietly closed the door, I check the room across from her, Pepper was sleeping in the bed in there, I closed the door and walked to the room next to the one Starlight was in. I opened the door and used my magic to light the candle in there. "Here you are Rose if you need me, go to the end of the hallway and up the stairs to the third floor, the giant door with my cutie mark on it is my room, see you tomorrow," Rose smiled at me and walked in, I shut the door and walked to the end of the hallway.

"I saw what you did back there, to that pony Shard was her name right?" I turned around and a dark figure walked out of the shadows it was Sombra.

"What do you want Sombra I thought you died when I defeated you."

"Hehe, that's where your wrong my dear girl, you destroyed my physical body, dark magic has more uses then you know, I heard your husband was kidnapped, what a shame," he started laughing. I have had enough shit today I wasn't going to let this delusion pester me.

"No magic in the world can make you live on once your body dies, not even soul jars could let you create your own form, " I approached Sombra, he disappeared and reappeared behind me.

"Dark magic is the strongest magic there is, raw emotion such as rage and sadness increase the magical strength of dark magic, as a last resort I cast a spell on myself as my body was destroyed by the light I can manifest myself into a... Well, let's say it's a ghost of sorts, I can't pick up or use magic outside basic magic, the only things I can touch and interact with are soul jars," I turned around to face him again.

"Why come back now? You have nothing to gain by haunting me or whatever you're trying to do."

"I am going to help you hone your dark magic, embrace it. It gave you strength when you needed it the most, the spell you cast is an advanced dark magic spell, the spell you cast uses a high concentration of heat to vaporize the target leaving nothing left behind, the target feels as if their own blood has turned into fire, however, you should start simple in dark magic, untrained users can destroy themselves, whether it's from their physical form or their mental status, dark magic is the strongest but it doesn't come without a price."

"Did I take any repercussion from the other magical blast?" I started to feel around my head to check for abnormalities.

"Yes you did, your mental state was affected by you gathering your rage and going out of control, the spell probably changed what makes you angry, how you handle violence, and possibly how you talk to others."

"I don't want your help, I think I can learn on my own thank you, even if I did let you teach me you would probably trick me into giving you back a physical body," I started to head up the stairs, Sombra placed his hoof on my shoulder.

"If dark magic had a way to give me back a physical body you think I would have done it by now! You are passing up an opportunity, this will keep you alive, this is what will help you save Shining Armor!" I turned around to face him, I was angry beyond belief.

"What makes you think this will save Shining Armor!? Dark magic corrupts its user even if performed properly, not because of a spell repercussion but because it will drive a pony-mad with power," I stormed off and headed up to the third floor, when I got up there I saw Sombra standing in front of my door.

"Look there is a workaround the corruption, that corruption is not from the dark magic, its what's in your mind and how you use dark magic, as long as you don't go crazy with the power you will be fine, learning this is like learning regular magic minus the side effects with certain spells," I took a deep breath trying to calm myself down, thinking about what Sombra said makes sense, power doesn't corrupt the user unless the user allows it to.

"Alright Sombra, I will let you train me but on one condition, after we rescue Shining Armor I never want to see you again, got it?

"Agreed," He held out his hoof, I put mine out and shook it.

"I thought you didn't have a physical body how am I able to touch you?"

"No idea, I stopped questioning how this spell works long ago, training will start tomorrow, have a good night princess," he faded away and I walked into my room, I walked over to my bed and just fell on it, it was good to sleep in a bed for once rather than on the floor or the cryo-pods. I closed my eyes and fell asleep.

Footnote: Level up.
Perk added: Dark Magician(Level 1): You can now cast the basic dark magic..

Chapter 5: The Rising Darkness

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Chapter 5: The Rising Darkness

"You can deny my warnings all you wish, it won't change your fate."

I have been up for a few hours, I watched the sun rise, I didn't know if Celestia survived or not but the sun was raised. My balcony had the greatest view of the Crystal Empire and Equestria just over the horizon. From what I saw, Equestria was covered in thick clouds, Manehatten and Fillydeplhia were the closest cities, they were a few hours by train and my personal train would get me there in about 5 hours.

"The city doesn't look so bad from up here, I can get the empire back on track," I heard somepony knock on my door, "Oh, come in!" I turned around and say my door open and Rose and Starlight walk in, Starlight was levitating a plate of food.

"We brought some food for you Cadance," Starlight walked out onto the balcony and sat next to me and Rose sat on the other side.

"The city looks beautiful from up here, I wish I could've seen it before the bombs fell on it," Rose laid her head on the balcony rail and sighed.

"The sad part is even if I reunify the crystal ponies how will I provide power, water and food back to the nation, the east side is gone and it's nothing but a crater, the empire's farms are irradiated and the water along with it, and its factories are are either crumbling or destroyed, and I am sure the snow outside is as irradiated as the water. What am I going to do?" I laid my head down on the railing. I was out of ideas, I want to reunify the empire but once I do how can I care for them.

"Well princess, I doubt that Equestria would use megaspells if they didn't know how to clean up the magical radiation," Rose was reassuring, her soft spoken felt like it was Fluttershy talking, maybe she will take her place as the element of kindness.

"Rose is right maybe Equestria has a device to clean the radiation, is there anyway to get to Manehatten not by train?" Starlight posed a interesting question, there was always flying but I can't carry them both and I can't carry one that far, Manehatten by flight was around 3 hours.

"There is my personal train but I don't know how far it can take us, the snowy wasteland the city was built around was supposed to be used as a shield to ward off any threat that wasn't approaching by train or sky, walking through the snowy wasteland is suicide, very few ponies can survive the walk through it just because of distance, lack of food and firewood," I sat down, natural defenses usually isn't a obstacle for just me however, with Rose or Starlight coming with me it will make it to hard to fly or transport them.

"Where is the train at, is it still in the storage area for it," Starlight said as she peered over the balcony to try to find the train storage.

"It should still be there however I don't know if all the rails are still intact enough for us to drive it, and if anypony started a settlement over or around the tracks it would be bad to drive it. I know the empire used to have giant command ship, similar to a giant zeppelin but it took off in the last battle. We may still have a plane that can carry us, it will take some work to get it flying again but we can try, lets head to the hangar in the armory to see if we have any reserves left, Starlight stay topside just in case Pepper is wondering where we are." Starlight nodded and Rose and I walked out of my room and down the stairs and eventually into the throne room. I casted the dark spell to open the door in the floor and descended down the stairs. Eventually we made it to the bottom and with the giant bulk head door opened we walked in, I flipped the switch and turned the lights on, most of the vehicles in the main room looked like they were in good condition. We walked through the armory and into the repair bay, there were several machines inside here used to fix most of our vehicles. In the distance were several Mister Handy's modified for vehicle repair. They looked like they were broken, in the distance the sound of metal hitting the ground was heard.

"What was that!" Rose pulled out her pistol and put it in her mouth, I looked at her, I never got used to using the mouth guard pulling the trigger with my tongue was hard and I preferred to use my magic. "Princess stay sharp, I don't think we are alone down here."

"Yeah after the ghoul attack, I feel like a fool for thinking there wasn't something else down here," I pulled out the Crystal Revolver and loaded 6 shots in the revolving chamber and pushed it back into place. We continued to move in slowly, I had a hunch that we were being watched, we moved past the pile of Mister Handy's and walked through another door, we entered the underground hangar. It was almost empty with the exception of a few single seat aircraft. "We have a hangar that houses one of our prototype bombers its up on the surface if you want to head up there."

"That's fine. Is there a elevator that can lead us to the surface?" Rose walked to one of the aircraft . "Amazing how ponies used to fly these things. Out of all my sisters I love looking at pre-war tech it's just so fascinating."

"We lived in a time of glitz and glamour thats for sure. Harmony brought us together and tore us apart." I said as I walked past her towards the hangar. Rose looked confused and followed behind me.

"What do you mean by that?" she said curiously.

"A long time ago before there were the Ministry Mares there were the Elements of Harmony. They defeated Nightmare Moon which freed Princess Luna. They brought the short lived era known as 'The Age of Harmony'. That went on for a few years and then Equestria got dragged into the whole terrorism thing with the United Zebra Federation and thus began their downward spiral. Celestia stepped down and Luna reigned over the land starting the 'Age of Industrialization' and thus we went to war," I walked up to the elevator control panel and called the elevator down the ceiling opened and light showered in the room.

"Well I knew that, most of it anyways but what do the Ministry Mares have to do with this?" she put her hoof over her eyes to block the light.

"The Elements of Harmony and the Ministry Mares are one in the same," I looked over to her she rolled her eyes.

"I know all this already I have read the basic history one the Ministry Mares on how they saved Equestria and all that." I chuckled at her response.

"Well each element was given its own position of power. Twilight who was my sister-in-law was given the MAS, the Ministry of Arcane Sciences, Applejack was the MWT, Ministry of Wartime Tech, Fluttershy the MoP, Ministry of Peace, Rarity was the MoI, Ministry of Image. Rainbow Dash was given the MAW or Ministry of Awesome and Pinkie Pie had the MoM or better know as the Ministry of Morale. Basic knowledge of my time," the elevator finally reached the bottom floor and we stepped on it. The elevator started to rise.

"Princess what was Equestria like before the war. I mean like before the Elements of Harmony?" Rose asked as she leaned up agains the railing on the elevator.

"Well Equestria was not that much different then during the 'Age of Harmony' I was still a young pony during most of it. Rose did any of the books you read mention anything about me not being a Alicorn?" She shook her head, "Interesting, I was born a pegasus, when I was very little I got my cutie mark rather early as a young filly, I always wanted to try to spread love everywhere I went. Celestia being my aunt transformed me into a Alicorn and she told me I would grow up to do great things," I laughed and then sighed. "Never in all my life has my purpose in life feel so diminished. Spread love where love doesn't exist anymore," Rose looked at me angrily and slapped me.

"With that attitude you can forget about reclaiming your kingdom! You got to show these ponies there is something to love again, we need that Crystal Heart then maybe, just maybe the city will return to normal. The city still being here should be proof enough the Crystal Heart is still around. Consider me your first crystal citizen, we are going to get that heart back or die trying."

"Rose... I don't know what to say," my face hurt but I felt warm inside. "I really needed that," I hugged her, I felt tears rolling down the side of my face. The elevator stopped at the surface, what I saw was appalling. The elevator came up in the middle of the runway, to the left was the control tower and along the runway were a assortment of broken planes. After taking a closer look I noticed several ponies duking it out with each other. The ponies on the ground didn't seem to notice the elevator bring us up. "Rose this could be bad."

"Yeah, the ponies in the tower are using energy weapons. Take a look." I squinted and looked closer, one of the ponies fired a shot from his rifle, a red beam came out and struck on of the ponies lighting him on fire. "Stay low we can run for cover for that plane wing over there," I nodded.

"We should ready our weapon just incase," Rose nodded back in return and I levitated the Crystal Revolver out and spun the chamber, Rose pulled out a small pistol. I counted down: "3, 2, 1..." We ran for the broken wing, one of the ponies in the tower looked our way. He was aiming at us.

"Hey! Hey pink pony! Do you think you can lend us a hoof! These raiders ambushed us here!" The pony in the tower yelled at us. I looked over at Rose and she shrugged at me.

"Maybe they will join us if we help them," Rose said as she looked over our cover, "Looks like they know we are here," shots started hitting the cover we were behind. "There is at least twenty of them, this could prove difficult."

"I don't have many shots for my revolver I have about eight or so," I poked my head out from one of the sides and then opened fire on us again, I quickly brought my head back, "There is cover about a few feet in front of us, come on we can make it we will have a better angle on them," Rose nodded and we ran we left our cover and ran forward to new cover.

Rose took took a shot with her pistol and the bullet hit a pony and he dropped dead, I stood above our cover and used SATS to target the raiders, I selected to shoot one into her body. I pulled the trigger and watched the crystal bullet plow right through the pony into the plane behind her. The ponies in tower started to fire at them, the raiders seemed more worried about us then the ones in the tower. One by one we kept taking them down and gaining ground. I looked to my left and saw some metal apple land by me. Rose looked at it and kicked it away.

"Get down!" Rose yelled, I hit the deck and put my hooves over my head, I heard the apple explode and all I remembered was darkness as I closed my eyes

****************************************************************

"That was really loud," I rubbed my head.

"Princess, princess look up."

I looked up and we were surrounded by raiders. Five of them had us at gunpoint.

"Well, well, well. What do we have here? Looks like your still among the living eh, princess," I looked up, it was the red unicorn from before.

"Napalm. If I knew you would go back to being a raider, I would have killed you when I had the chance."

"Believe it or not I am actually under contract, somepony hired us to kill some other pony and here we are. They gave me some pretty sweet weapons too." I saw he was now wearing a battlesadle with a flamer on it, "My boys should be storming the tower as we speak," He knelt down to us, and put his hoof on my chin, "But don't feel too bad it was a noble act to try to save them, if you beg me for forgiveness, maybe I will spare your life and make you my slave, maybe I will keep the white one to she is pretty, where you pick her up?" I just glared angrily at him. "Bitch I am talking to you," he slapped me across the face. "Answer me when I am talking to you."

"Napalm, I swear to my aunt Celestia, I will get you for this."

"Oh I don't think you will, as long as the caps flow you will be seeing me a lot, my slave," He laughed manically, I saw Napalm turn around as I hear the sound of gunfire coming from the tower, "Your little friends won't survive for much longer and they to will fall to us."

Behind me I saw Rose, looking around, I assume she was thinking of a way to get out of this, I heard a explosion come from the tower and everypony turned their attention to it. Rose got up and bucked one of the stallions in the face, he dropped his gun, Rose picked it up. It was a combat shotgun. Rose shot two other raiders and ran for cover, Napalm punched Rose across the face making her lose grip on the gun. She retaliated by bucking him in the side, after a few minutes of hoof to hoof fighting Napalm was gaining the upper hoof. Napalm was bigger and stronger then Rose was. Napalm knocked Rose to the ground, he grabbed a pistol with his magic.

"Its a shame really, such a cute pony too dangerous to be left alive," He pulled back the bolt on pistol.

"No! Don't!" I yelled as loud as I could, Napalm pulled the trigger the bullet plowed right into her torso. Rose's head dropped to the floor, I couldn't tell if she was breathing, but one thing was for sure, I was going to kill Napalm. A tear rolled down my face and I clenched my eyes shut, "This wasteland takes good ponies and takes them away, where was the good Equestria I once knew?"

"Cadance, let me give you a taste of my dark magic, however don't expect me to save you every time you in this situation," I heard Sombra's voice echo through my head, I felt a jolt of pain in my head, I felt a surge of power run through me, it felt like I could cast a mega spell, "Yes, embrace the dark energy and use it," I chuckled at Sombra. "Now kill all who stand in your way."

I opened my eyes, I can feel the dark magic pulsing out of me. I stood up over Napalm, "You have angered me for the last time Napalm, you will die a slow and horrible death," I sent out a pulse of dark magic around me throwing everypony who standing around me back about 10 feet. I casted a dark energy field around me and the raiders opened fire, my shield stopped every bullet. One by one I used my magic to vaporize ponies, the remaining raiders fled, I walked up to Napalm. "Nothing you can say will stop me from killing you," Napalm panicked and activated his flamer. The flames enveloped me but my shield blocked it out, I used my magic to grab hold of his flamer and ripped off his battlesaddle.

"No! Please, have mercy!" Napalm was cowering in fear.

"You deserve a punishment worse then death, but you lucky thats all I am giving you. Good bye Napalm, may you be damned to Tartarus," I charged up all my magic infusing it with the dark magic from Sombra, I release a massive beam of energy at Napalm. When the beam hit him he screamed in agony, until he was no more, all that was left was a shadow burned into the ground where he once stood. I started panting, Sombra's magic is wearing off, I fell to the ground. I was blacking out.

"She's over here!" I heard the pony from the tower shout. "Don't worry we will get you patched up and..." I blackout.

Footnote: Level up.
Perk added: Focus Fire (Level 1): SATS has become a daily part of your life, your accuracy while shooting is increased by 10%.

Chapter 6: The Minutemares

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Chapter 6: The Minutemares

"I have an even more essential task for you to complete: make some friends."

"Rose Quartz!" I screamed as I awoke. I was hyperventilating, I took a look around, I was in the castle throne room, there were several beds out with several ponies laying on them. "Rose? Rose where are you!"

"Shhh, its alright princess deep breaths, Rose is fine, you have been out for quite a while," I turned to see a light red unicorn mare with a black mane with a pink highlight running through her mane and tail. "Although with your wounds, you recovered faster then I expected."

"Who are you, whats going on?"

"Shhh just relax and I will explain everything," the mare's voice was very tender in the way she spoke, "Well my name is Doctor Emberheart, but you can call me Ember for short. As for your friend, Rose you said her name was, she is alive she is in the bed next to yours, however she is in coma, that bullet came close to hitting her heart, a centimeter closer would have hit it. You were in a coma yourself, well sort of you have been asleep for about four days and the Minutemares are now using the castle as their new HQ."

"Minutemares?" My head felt like it was going a million miles an hour, I felt confused, relieved and exhausted.

"We are a group of ponies who go around helping the good ponies of the Crystal Wastes. I am their doctor, when news got around that the castle doors opened I wanted to see it, but we got stuck in that tower as you saw, when we brought you in for surgery most of your cuts and stuff were healing rapidly, once we took out the shrapnel that was inside your legs those wounds healed within a day. You truly are made of some pretty tough stuff."

"So, what about Starlight and Pepper and the other Quartz sisters?" I remember them saying they were coming back within a week and from what I have been told that was about six days ago.

"Starlight and Pepper are helping a few of us take stock of the castles food inventory, as for the Quartz sisters they went out to look for medical supplies. You should take it easy though we gave you a magic potion not to long ago and that should help some of the broken bones heal, you can walk around the castle just try not run or fall, it may reopen your wounds that didn't heal right away," wait I still had wounds that didn't heal? I looked down and saw magical bandages around my stomach. I started to get up with Ember's assistance.

"Where is your leader, I wish to speak with him," I felt my legs starting feel like jelly as I started to stand. I was feeling pain in one of my hind legs. I looked down to one of my hooves and saw my PipBuck was gone.

"He should be coming back from his noon patrol any second now."

"Also, where is my PipBuck?"

"Our head technician is working on it, he is probably in his room on the second floor working on it, first he wanted to fix it but who knows what he is doing now."

"I am going to go get it," I started to walk away from the throne room which is now a make shift hospital.

"I am going to go with you, your PipBuck took major damage after you went down, lots of shrapnel hit it so our head technician had to replace most of the PipBuck," we continued down the hallway and walked up the stairs to the second floor. I didn't respond we continued down the hallway until we reached the door. "Well here we are he should be inside."

"Thank you Ember you should get back downstairs some I am sure the ponies down there still need treatment."

"Oh right!" Ember dashed down the hall and back down the stairs, did she forget she was a medical pony, its odd for a doctor to just up and leave her patients.

"Anyways," I said talking to myself, I knocked on the door.

"Come in," the voice sounded like it was a mare, I opened the door, and there sitting at a desk was a bright blue pegasus pony, she was wearing a lab coat, her mane was silver and she turned the chair to face me. "Hi there, my name is Silver Wire, I you haven't noticed I took off your PipBuck and made it a hell of a lot cooler," she was certainly a spirited mare. "I improved your S.A.Ts accuracy so you will be better at long rang, and upgraded your status monitor so that way it gives you more accurate body conditions."

"Thank you... Silver Wire," I levitate the PipBuck off the desk and clamp it back on. "Hmm... Its lighter then I remember."

"I replaced a lot of the insides with new material, lots of unnecessary parts, I recalibrate your EFS so that way it would have a increased detection range."

"Why is everything all purple instead of green... and why does the casing say PipMare instead of PipBuck?" I took another close look at the casing, it was a darker shade of purple rather then the usual gray and on the side was Luna's cutie mark. Anything from that it was almost identical to a PipBuck.

"Oh that, well about a three months ago me and some old friends of mine were searching a old Stable Tech facility in Baltimare after passing a few security doors and fighting off a few robots, we came to a room that looked pretty much ransacked except for a safe and a terminal on the wall, there were explosion marks all around it so somepony tried to blast it open. After hacking the terminal we got the safe open and inside was the PipMare, it wasn't working at the time so I brought it with me just in case we came across the parts to fix it and now we are here. So I used the parts from your old PipBuck to fix it up. The cutie mark on it looks like it belonged to one of the princess, guess it never made it to her."

"This must have belonged or was going to be Princess Luna's PipBuck, figures that it would be different for hers," the EFS is more sensitive then my old one I am picking up about 12 peg and I doubt they are from up here.

"After exploring the features a little bit there is a feature that most PipBucks don't have, this one monitors your stress, dehydration and hunger levels," Silver Wire walked up to me and switched the PipMare to the conditions screen. "Here is where it shows your heart rate and it will increase under levels of stress as well as how hungry and thirsty you are."

"Well this is interesting, well I best be off, I don't want to keep you from your work," I started for the door.

"If the PipMare start acting up take it back to me and I will run a tuneup on it, anyways I need to get back to maintaining our energy weapons, see you later Princess." I waved good bye and opened the door and walked out, a peg appeared on my EFS on my right. There stood a dark brown unicorn buck pony with a cowpony hat and a trench coat on, from what I could see his mane was light brown.

"Howdy Princess, I hear you've been lookin for me. My name is Bullseye, the leader of the Minutemares.

"Lets head back downstairs to the common area we can talk more there," I nodded and we walked back down the stairs through the hallway into the throne room, then we walked through another hallway and into what used to be my living room. I sat down on the couch and Bullseye sat on the one adjacent to mine.

"So Bullseye, why you were in the control tower and how you even got on the runway, there are walls all around the area, only pegasi can fly over it."

Well, part of the wall is knocked down on the east side," that was probably destroyed after the megaspell hit the castle, "We hoped that we could use the airfield as a base for us in the Crystal Empire. You see, we wandered for 15 years trying to find a place to settle, we originally from Fillydelphia, but a stallion named Red Eye kicked us out. Originally it was started by mares, hence the name Minutemares and when they let Stallions join and hold position of leadership we just kept the name anyways, Red Eye led a assault against us, we held out for as long as we could. I was a just a young colt back then however Red Eye's died five years after we left and Fillydelphia has been absorbed into the New Canterlot Republic. After that we moved just outside Manehatten, we settled in Fetlock but that was short lived. Increased Steel Ranger activity made it unsafe to be there, we used modified energy weapons and they tend to like to kill ponies for said weapons. We slowly just kept moving north, we have been here for about 3 years. We lost several ponies trekking through the ice of the north but we made it here, we have been trying to keep peace and order ever since."

"So you guys have been trying to keep the peace around the Crystal Empire, are there any ponies that have started settlements to try to rebuild?"

"Yes there is, there is one major settlement and that is Emerald Fields. Its where the old stadium used to be, according to local history the city is over 100 years old. They say that the first settlers there the survivors from the megaspells, the first few were a couple families seeking refuge from the magical radiation, after that more and more kept coming so then Emerald Fields was established. MAS technology is what have been keeping the raiders out of there, old machines laced with spells on them prevent ponies from bringin in weapons as well as a magical shield on top to protect from the magic radiation. Since they have machines to detect weapons you have to leave them with the guards out front."

"Why is it called Emerald Field?" I am surprised that the magical barrier is still up, that means the Crystal Heart must still be intact if its magic is still active.

"Inside the stadium there is green grass, its the only place in the wasteland that has actual grass that isn't burned. So the founders named it Emerald Field because the grass is green like a emerald, someponies just call it 'the Jewel.'" Bullseye seems to know a lot more about the what has become of the Crystal Empire.

"So what do you plan to do now since I returned? Are you going to to leave now that I have returned?"

"No we made the Crystal Empire our home, we have sacrificed to much to get here, since our retreat from Fillydelphia we have gone through 9 leaders, our leader in Fillydelphia stayed behind to cover our retreat and is most likely dead. After that we had a struggle for power and one after another were leaders assassinated for power. Once we got to Fetlock we were at our 5th leader, she was eaten alive by ghouls while scouting the area. The one after abandoned us and left to join the Steel Rangers, the 7th and 8th thought they could lead together but that made us pick sides and fight amongst each other, the 7th stepped down and we moved north and the 8th was killed by raiders along with 4 others. So we had another leader, out of all the leaders we respected her the most, her name was Silver Bullet, she was killed while we crossed the icy snow of the north, some monster came out of nowhere and attacked us, we had several injured but she was the only one who didn't make it. Then I took over, we carried her body all the way until the outskirts of the Crystal Empire and buried her. Then under my leadership we grew and here we are now."

"So will you fight for me, to help me make the empire... No Equestria the bright and shining place it once was. The Minutemares won't be dissolved fully if you choose to join me, the current members will considered part of a elite guard faction under the same name, you can still remain the leader, I will give you free reign so long as you keep your cause just and moral."

"Actually princess, thats what we came here to do, once word got around that the castle opened we knew it must have been you or Shining Armor. Where is he by the way, did he not make it to a Stable?"

"No he did, the Griffon Kingdom has raided my Stable and took him, I don't know how long ago that even was, I just know he is gone." I had almost forgotten about Shinning Armor being gone, this whole castle ordeal has been proven to be more trouble then its worth.

"The Griffon Kingdom has been destroyed by the Pegasus Enclave, Griffonstone is still around but there is almost nothing left. I know there are a bunch of other settlements full of griffons to the northeast but I doubt they united as one seeing how griffons can get rather greedy. Anyways I accept you offer to join, the Minutemares and the new Crystal Empire will flourish, now that we have a safe place to take shelter, we can start clearing out the surrounding area's. I will inform the ponies the good news, and get to work right away, in the mean time, you want to head to Emerald Field to inform them of your return and see if they want to rejoin you. I will mark it on you PipBuck for you, just be carful there are a lot of raiders between here and there," I looked down at the location, it was on the west side of the empire, about a few hours trot but with the state of things now, I say around a day or so if there as many raiders as Bullseye makes it out to be.

"Thank you, Bullseye, lets head back into the throne room for to tell them the good news," we got up from our seats and walked out of the room, we headed back into the throne room, there were a considerable amount of ponies now helping the sick and wounded, but a number of them wounded were up and walking around. I walked to the top of the throne where the seat was, "Attention everypony!" I yelled, "Attention, we have a important announcement to make at this point forward the Minutmares are dissolved into the Crystal Military as new branch of elite guards, dubbed Minutemares, the head of the guards is the former head now General Bullseye. You will still act under his orders. All civilians are granted Imperial citizenship and all soldiers access to the armory down below to rearm and repair your gear, as well as the head doctor will now have full access to the the airfields infirmary, if there is still stuff left in there. Soldiers follow me I will lead you down to the armor, I will need a few medics with me to take away the bodies of the old guards who perished down there. That is all return to your duties."

"There are bodies down there?" Bullseye seemed surprised to here that, there where guards everywhere, most died to radiation exposure or were killed by me when I was down there.

"Yes as well as ghouls, I don't know how many are left but we fought off the majority of them when I was down there before almost dying in your firefight. The last active guard from the old empire died down there, he defended the armor from all of the ghouls and any of the insane ponies when after the bombs fell. His name was Flash Sentry, and he asked me to kill him, he was suffering from the guilt he bared from having to kill friends and ponies he served with drove him close to insanity. Come on lets head down there."

We moved most of the medical equipment that would have blocked the stairs, I casted the spell and opened up the stair way. Bullseye alerted the Minutemares with us to be cautious of hostile ghouls. Once we were down there, the medical team started piling bodies into a cart to bring up to the runway to burry them on the surface, I stopped them from taking Flash Sentry's body, he was to be put in the Crystal Catacombs where past royalty and generals were buried.

****************************************************************

I put Flash's body in a cart and enter the catacombs, every body here was encased in crystal and looked the same since they day they died, the crystal prevented any deterioration of the bodies and had the name rank or name of the ruler on it. All over the walls there crystal sarcophogus's that went up were ponies encased in crystal Bullseye and all the Minutemares at the castle at the time were down here for his burial . " Took Flash's body out of the cart and laid it on the ground.

"Are you ready to say you good byes Princess Cadance," Bullseye said walking up next to me.

"Yes, I am I am going to give him a eulogy first." After a brief pause I took a deep breath and said, "Minutmares, today we mourn the loss of Flash Sentry, a pony who served me before, during and after the Great War. Before the Great War he served as a captain of my guard, for over 200 years he was down here in the armory guarding it from ghouls, and the survivors who went insane to try to raid it for a way out. Fighting off those who deserted their post, however I do not blame them for their actions nor what Flash did, he did what he thought was right, he spent over 200 years suffering down here in the hope that one day I would return, he was promoted to colonel posthumously. Now he will be laid to rest here in the catacombs. May his duty and sacrifice inspire all of you," my horn lit up, I casted a spell that incased Flash in a crystal sarcophogus and I used magic to etch him into the wall on the bottom floor. After I used magic to add a caption on his sarcophogus it read: Col. Flash Sentry, served the empire loyally for over 200 years.

"Its a shame I couldn't meet him," Bullseye said as he pulls off his hat, "Minutemares let this be a lesson to all of us, this place here is where the important ponies go when the die, each and everypony laid to rest here died making the ultimate sacrifice where on or off the battlefield. These are the hero's of the Crystal Empire and one day maybe even all of you could end up here. Minutemares, dismissed," after a couple minutes the Minutemares down here started to disperse and head back to the armory.

"So what have we found in the armory Bullseye?"

"Well looking at all the weapons we found we have enough to supply a small army but most of them don't look like they are in working order. So at this point who knows how many we have. There are a lot of broken vehicles down there, not sure if we can fix them, on top getting the parts and knowing even how to do it and we have some battle armor," so limited weaponry and vehicles are out of the question. At least we got some armor.

"Good get them equipped start out slowly, small area patrols around the area and I want guards at the front gate at all times, every day add a little more range to their patrols. Ghouls are to be welcomed if they are sane.That is all."

"Princess what about you what is your next plan, I am going to head to Emerald Fields, I need to see if they want to join us or ally with us."

"What if they don't want to do either Princess?"

"Then we move on, I don't doubt that the pony in charge wants to give up power, but I doubt that the citizens will want to stay with the leader if he rejects one of the royal princesses, I will be heading out tomorrow, I won't need a escort I already know just who to bring," we walked out of the catacombs Bullseye went to the left back towards the armory and I went right to head back up. I finally arrive in the throne room, most of the ponies that where here were moved to the hospital on the airfield, I walked out of the throne room and through a long hallway, portraits of past rulers lined the walls. I always hated this part, all these ponies who did great things and now I have to live up to their expectation, now they would be ashamed of me I let the country fall to ruin. I opened the door at the end of the hallway and walked out onto the airfield. Ponies were using the scrap metal from all the planes to build houses on the runway. I walked past the runway into the infirmary. I was greeted by one of he nurse mares.

"Hello there Princess Cadance, Ember is in the main office on the second floor."

"Thank you, I will head right up," I walked over to the stairs and walked up them, several of the rooms up were empty or just lab equipment. I entered the office of the head doctor.

"Good afternoon Princess, what brings you here?" Ember was sitting at the desk and using the terminal on the desk.

"Well tomorrow morning I will be heading out to Emerald Field, its going to be a long way from here to the stadium, will you accompany me there. It will be a good chance to get medical supplies if you need them and..." Ember interrupted me.

"Let me stop you right there, I will go with you, it will be a nice change of pace for me, I am getting tired of sitting behind a desk all day," Ember got up, she wasn't wearing her lab coat, this was the first time I saw her cute mark, it was a orange trimmed heart colored red inside with fire coming out of the top. "I will pack my saddlebags for tomorrow."

"Good, meet me in the throne room tomorrow at 8am, I will see you then," I walked out of her office, "Good now I just have to talk to Silver Wire."

"Talk to me about what?" jumped back hitting the wall.

"S-Silver Wire, why are you here," I was trying to catch my breath.

"Well I was working on one of the laser rifles and I accidentally discharged the laser and it burned me, good thing I turned down the power," I rolled my eyes, you think someone who is a one of the top engineers wouldn't make mistakes like that.

"Anyways I was wondering if you wanted to join me on my journey to Emerald Field."

"Well let me check my schedule for tomorrow... You know what a spot just cleared up."

"Ok meet me in the throne room at 8am tomorrow," she nodded and trotted off, I walked back down the stairs. Now I just need to find Milky Quartz, I proceed to the door and then in walks in Milky Quartz. I face hoofed, is everypony simultaneously hurting themselves today. "Hey Milky, what are you doing here?"

"Oh I was just checking on Rose, I heard she is still in a coma," I totally forgot about Rose.

"Yes right, Rose went down in the battle for the airfield, we both got hit by a grenade and it knocked us out," I motioned her to come with me and we walked to Rose's room. "I feel like its my fault that Rose is in a coma, I couldn't protect her."

"Princess you didn't know there was going to be a battle raging on the surface when you got there either, so if anything you both were victims of circumstance," we walked into Rose's room, she was hooked up to all sorts of machines to keep her alive.

"Its too bad that we didn't have the same medical technology as Equestria did, we used modified versions some were better some were worst but we did what we could for most ponies, Equestria developed what is called a Crusader Mainframe, its almost like a AI as it would be self sufficient but if needed a person could download their personality into the machine making it a soul jar, it would in turn kill the body but save the life of pony who used it, the only issue with a soul jar is, its not exactly the same pony, it shares the memory and personality of the pony in it but its a copy of the pony and uses the pony's soul to keep it bound to this world prevent the pony who died a way to reach whats beyond this life. However if a pony is healthy then can still bind their soul to something, my Crystal Revolver is a soul jar, it is always a fatal blow when shot from this, or it will miss and kill no pony, even if I hit them in the leg they will die."

"That sound terrible, so the risk is you become somewhat immortal and you soul is bound to it but not your whole soul just your passions and goals, but in return for those your soul enhances the gun for you to use or for the next person and it doesn't wear off until the soul jar is broken or so I assume."

"So far nothing has been able to release a soul from a soul jar, even if the weapon is broken your soul is still bound," a soul jar is a terrible thing, since I am immortal, I bounded my soul to Shinning Armor's enhancements when they were made.

"Anyways Milky I wanted to know if you wanted to join me on my journey to Emerald Field, I need to see if they will join up with us."

"I will go with you but I doubt the mayor will want to give up power, he is a greedy little bastard if anything, he even killed his political opponent running for office. Well thats just the rumor but everypony knows it was him. What do you plan to do after?"

"We are going to head to Manehatten, I want to know who is unifying Equestria under this New Canterlot Republic, if anything we will rebuild Equestria after that and become a once strong nation."

"I heard that Manehatten is a battleground right now, the NCR is fighting with several small raider factions and there is to many ghouls for the place to be habitable."

"I need to get in contact with them regardless of the circumstances, well I best be off, its getting late and I think I am going to go to bed early, we got a long day ahead of us be in the throne room by 8am," I walked out of the room, its going to be a very long day indeed.

Footnote: Item added: PipMare
Perk added: PipMare Guided Assistance: With the new PipMare your perception has increased by 2 and SATs is more accurate.

Chapter 7: A Blizzards Rampage

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"A monster attack?! Blast! I'm performing at the ceremony this afternoon, and I still haven't sorted out what to play. "

The time is 7:45am, Equestrian standard time, I didn't get much sleep, I slept about 4 hours at most, I'm looking out onto Equestria it doesn't seem that bad, I mean minus the broken looking buildings and the cloud cover, I sighed, I guess I can count myself lucky that my kingdom didn't suffer as strong as an attack, however the radiation in certain area's are going to b a problem, I started packing my saddlebags, I still have some food in here from earlier, I pulled out my Crystal Revolver and reloaded it, I need to use it sparingly there isn't ammo out there for it, I also reloaded the 10mm pistol, I had 4 spare clips, each one is fully loaded.

"You know Cadance you wouldn't need such weapons if you harness the full power of dark magic," Sombra appeared behind me, I turned to face him.

"I thought you couldn't manifest a physical form."

"I can only manifest a form because of your hate and rage are so strong, dark magic feeds on that. I still have some magical power after all, my physical body may be gone but so long as I remain within you, I can channel magic."

"Good to know you will be able to potential kill us."

"No, no, if you die, I die with you, its not like I have a body to go back to."

"Anyways why did you surface, I haven't seen you in days, not since you lent me power to kill Shard," this should had been the first thing I asked, I looked back down at my Pip Mare, it was 7:53.

"Its not like you were conscious for all though's days, I can't talk to you if you are unconscious, if you are dreaming thats something else, you are still somewhat conscious, I see you got a new Pip Buck, seems a bit different from the ones I have seen."

"Its a prototype model from Stable Tech, it was meant for Luna. As you can tell it never made it to her. Anyways we can talk more later, I got things to do," I headed for the door.

"Fine then, call on me if you need my assistance."

"I just hope I don't have to," I open up the door and walk out and Sombra disappears, I headed down the stairs to the bottom floor, I walked into the throne room, Milky and Ember were standing in there talking, Milky had a battlesaddle on with a minigun on her "Hello girls, how are you today."

"I am doing fine Princess," Milky said, she seemed a little out of it, probably just tired.

"Cadance is fine, how about you Ember."

"I am doing well, thank you for asking," its been a while since I have met a pony with a refined voice. It reminded me much of Rarity's voice.

"Where is Silver Wire?" Suddenly I heard the sounds of hoof steps

"Sorry I am late!" Silver Wire came running into the room, right as she entered the throne room she tripped and slide across the throne floor and stopped right at my hooves. "Ow... that hurt," Silver was rubbing her head. "Sorry I am late, I had some last minute packing."

"It's fine, now we are all here should we get moving?" I helped Silver up. Ember and Milky nodded. "Alright, lets head out," we walked out of the throne room and down the stairs and opened up the giant palace doors and walked into the courtyard. After passing one of the Minutmare checkpoints at the end of the castle grounds we wondered into the ruins that used to be my city. We started heading west down a destroyed city street. There wasn't anything really here, well anything alive. On the buildings were shadows of ponies who were once there. The blast must have burned them into the walls, we passed the occasional skeletons and wrecks of wagons, we check the ones that were still mostly intact, most of them were empty and the rest filled with junk. After hours of walking we took a break. I looked down at my PipMare, it was 4:54pm. We have gained a lot of ground but it was still about a days trot away.

"Thank Celestia we get to stop, I feel as if my hooves are going to fall off," Milky said as she sat down.

"If we want to make it to Emerald Hill by tomorrow we can only rest for 10 minutes," Ember said, " Don't get to comfortable we got to get moving soon."

"Oh come on Ember we have been walking for hours, we need more then 10 minutes," Silver said as she was laying face down on the ground.

"Ember you know you can't force a army to march if they are tired, if they do end up moving they won't be as ready to fight as a army that has had rest but took longer. I appreciate that you are trying to get us there fast but if we get attacked and can't outrun a monster, we may not survive," I said Ember. A icy wind picked up, Milky got up and turned and looked around.

"Is anypony else getting cold or is it just me," Milky said as she looked up to the sky, snow had started to fall, "Oh shit, we need to get inside fast!"

"What do you mean?" I replied.

"A blizzard is approaching, but not just anyone a radioactive blizzard," Ember looked up with worry, "Yes and there is one more thing that appears with these blizzards," the icy wind got faster as radioactive snow was flung about, the sound of loud steps was heard in the distance.

"Oh no this isn't good, Ember where is the nearest place thats still in one piece?" Milky pulled out a map of the Empire, her and Ember discussed locations for a few minutes, my PipMare began clicking. The sound of footsteps echoed through the city streets, it sounded as it was getting closer.

"Alright everypony get up, we don't have time to... waste..." Ember face dropped into shock, I turned around and Snow Golem was a few feet behind us.

"Run!" Milky shouted, we all took off, running, the Snow Golem picked up a building and threw it at us.

"Incoming!" Silver shouted, she took off into the sky, "I will let you know if any of the objects he throws are about to hit you!" The house collided with a tall building on the left side of the street. I looked back and the Golem was running after us we started to approach a dead end street, our only option as to go left and return to the castle or right and towards the outer city.

"Take a right here!" Ember shouted, we all turned right. My PipMare started clicking faster, the blizzard was getting worse.

"Heads up everypony! Incoming building get on the left side of the street!" Silver shouted still flying above us, I heard what sounded like a laser pistol firing, I looked up and Silver was occasionally turning around to shoot at the Golem. We continued running up the street, we continued to dodge incoming buildings.

"Take a left here and after take another left, we need to lose the Golem!" Ember looked back at us, I was the farthest away not counting Silver who was in the sky, "Silver back on the ground we are going to lose him!"

"On it," Silver dove down to us and began running again. We hooked left and left again, this time we were behind the Golem, he immediately turned left.

"There is a safe place we can spend the night near here, follow me," Ember led the way, we continued to run down the street until Ember pull off to the side, she opened the door to the building, "Everypony inside now!" We all ran inside. I collapsed on the floor panting heavily.

"What in Celestia's name... was that," I said panting, "And where are we?"

"We are in the Imperial Playhouse, we are in the lobby right now," Ember said sitting back against a wall, I looked down to my PipMare it had stopped clicking and the Imperial Playhouse now was register as a location on my map.

"Is everypony here?" I lifted my head up to see but my I couldn't focus.

"I am here," Milky said, she was laying on her side breathing heavily.

"Present," I heard Silver Wire's voice she was probably somewhere behind me.

"Are we all good, anyone sustain any injuries?" Ember walked over to Milky and started examining her, she started mumbling to herself. I saw her levitate a healing potion out of her saddle bag, "Drink this, you only have minor cuts, probably from glass shards. Cadance are you alright?" I sat up and started to examine myself, I got away unscathed sort of, I had a few scrapes but nothing that warranted a healing potion. "Here Cadance take a Rad-Away, you may not be as resistant to magical radiation as he ponies living on the surface."

"Thank you," I drank the Rad-Away. It tasted awful, "That tasted absolutely disgusting," now I had a even worse aftertaste, "Bleh, the after taste is even worse."

"Don't be such a foal, it helps you," Ember said while checking up on Silver. I stood back up.

" We should explore this place before we set up camp, make sure its safe? I don't want any ghouls eating me in my sleep,"

"Yes, we should, we should sleep in the easiest spot to defend if anypony else decides to enter and not take to kindly to us," Milky got up and opened the door to a hallway, "Come on, lets get moving," we got up and walked into the hallway,I levitated the Crystal Revolver in front of me as we walked down the hallway, we walked down the corporate part of the playhouse, lots of offices here, problem for the owners and staff. We opened every door, checking for hostiles, there were mainly broken terminals, desks and papers all over the place. We walked into the boss's office, there was a terminal, it was glowing, seemed to be still active.

"Ooo... A terminal, let me see what kind of goodies you hold," Silver Wire went over to the terminal.

"Now, now Silver Wire, you can play with the terminal when you're done helping us scout out the place," Ember grabbed Silver with her levitation and pulled her away from the terminal.

"But I want to see whats on it!" Silver said flailing about in Ember's levitational field, we walked out of the office and Ember put her down.

"Lets get back to exploring, lets check stage area," I said taking point, we walked back down the hallway and back into the lobby, I opened the door to the orchestra seats, instantly 4 red marks appeared on my EFS," I held my hoof back to signal them to stop, I moved farther into the room. All of a sudden ceiling turrets appeared, and on shot right in front of me.

"Stop where you are! Not one step closer or your dead, tired of you raiders tearing up my theater," a voice came over the intercom, it sounded a lot like a Canterlot pony, at least by her dialect.

"We aren't raiders, its me Princess Cadance."

"Doubt it, the princess is long dead."

"Ok how do you want me to prove to you I am her."

"Hmm... Who brought the Crystal Heart to the pedestal after Sombra's return?"

"Spike did, Shining Armor threw me to save Spike from falling and got the Crystal Heart to the pedestal."

"Thats correct, one more question, what happened to the princess the day the bombs fell?"

"I was instructed to go to Stable 13 when we got the alert of incoming megaspells, Shining Armor stayed outside to help defend the kingdom, he barely made it to the stable before the magical radiation killed him, he lost the use of his legs in the the battle and now the lower half of his body is mechanical, after that we were cryogenically frozen in Stable 13, then Shining Armor was stolen by the Griffon King, I didn't know which one since I couldn't tell how much time had passed, then I woke up again and now I am here. Now that you know what happened can you show yourself?"

"It really is you, let me disable the turrets meet me at base of the stage," we walked up to the stage and a hologram appeared on stage, it took the likeness of Octavia Melody, a famous musician from before the war. "My Name is O.C.T.A.V.I.A, its a acronym for Optimized Computer for Tactical Assistance via Interface AI."

"You're a combat AI? What are you doing in this theatre?" Milky asked as she walked up to the stage.

"Well, I am a Ministry of Morale AI unit. A few days the megaspells fell, ponies sought shelter from the blast and some came here, since this place has its own water talisman and better resistance to the radiation, I was originally inside of a PipBuck for the head Ministry of Morale Crystal Empire brach, I believe her name was Sugar Belle. After the bombs fell my previous owner heard about all the ponies gathering in one place to try to figure out how to survive, so after trying to help the ponies here security became a issue. The turrets here used to be automated but my owner thought it would be better for me to take control of it for better control and more efficient security."

"Fascinating, I didn't think a AI could do such a thing, the fact your a full copy of another living pony or was living I should say, " Silver Wire asked as she jumped on stage and examined the hologram.

"Well I am not a full AI, my core program chip is a soul jar with a piece of Octavia Melody in it, she volunteered for the experiment, according to my data banks, the Ministry Mares oversaw my creation." Milky gave a look of confusion.

"What is the Ministry Mares? What's a soul jar?" I forgot that they weren't as big here as they were back in Equestria.

Well the Ministry Mares were a group of six ponies that made up the Elements of Harmony, Twilight Sparkle ran the MAS which stands for Ministry of Arcane Sciences, Applejack ran the MWT which was the Ministry of Wartime Tech, Pinkie Pie ran MoM which is the Ministry of Morale, Fluttershy had the MoP which was the Ministry of peace, Rarity had the MI or the Ministry of Image and Rainbow Dash ran the MAW which is theMinistry of Awesome. Each one had a vital role in Equestria government, research, and production. I was created by all of the except for the MI and MAW as well as some help from Stable Tech. They made three different AI's using Octavia as the first one, then a Shadowbolt named Wild Fire, then a pony named Raven... There are others but those are the only ones who work in the MoM."

So they used three ponies each of different types, I am surprised they used Raven as a subject knowing her personality," I knew Raven before the war she was the Princess Celestia secretary and advisor, she was very good at planning not surprised they used her.

"Were the other two like you or did they have different purposes?" Milky interjected.

"All three of us were different, I was made more for general use while Wild Fire was used for homeland reconnaissance she was able to freely jump from terminal to terminal without her chip being inserted to search for information, they put a 5 foot radius her jumping abilities to prevent her from going rogue. Raven's counterpart was used to monitor transmissions in and out of Equestria's radio stations and save them to the MoM server and each one of us is our own acronym to separate us from our live pony counterparts."

"Do you know where the other AI's are?" I asked taking off my saddle bags and putting them on the stage, the hologram shook her head.

"No, I don't, we weren't allowed to privately contact each other, not like could on our own anyways," we enter a awkward silence. I looked around at everypony else.

"Anyways Octavia mind if we stay the night here, there is a radioactive blizzard outside and on top of that a Snow Golem is out there and he probably doesn't want to see us any time soon," Ember said entering the conversation. She put her bags down on the stage and sat down.

"Sure, but on one condition," Octavia's hologram sat down. "You have to take me with you, I am tired of guarding this place, its empty no pony knows its here, most of the turrets are malfunctioning and I think I am starting to go crazy with no pony else here."

"Cadance its your call, your PipMare is the only way we could bring her with us. Well that is if the MoM didn't use modified PipBucks to carry the AI's but back to the matter of fact that I don't know how long we will even stay alive, for all I know we could be dead tomorrow, are you sure you really want to go with us?" Silver Wire said, I took off my PipMare and gave it to Silver. Silver nodded to me.

"Lets take her with us, she could be a huge help," I said, I started rubbing my leg where the PipMare used to be.

"You can retrieve me in the morning, it will be my last night of security here, there are some preparations I want to do before you unplug me. Oh I almost forgot, I hoped you packed something warm, its going to cold night with the blizzard, if you need anything just ask," the hologram disappeared and the house lights went on, good to know there is still some power left.

"Ember, Milky, mind getting the bedding rolled out and the food prepared, I need a minute to be alone with my thoughts," they nodded and I walked out into the lobby.

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I sat in one of the chairs off to the side. Sombra appeared and walked out of the shadows.

"You know Cadance, Octavia is going to have to know about me if she is going to be traveling with us, you in particular," Sombra sat down in a chair across from me, I looked up at him, he wasn't wearing armor this time, he looked like a normal unicorn.

"What happened with you horn?"

"My horn, heh, the curve is going, that was formed from a side effect of the dark magic, since I no longer have a physical body I can either appear as myself before the dark magic or after," Sombra changed his appearance, he was now wearing armor and had a cape. "Better princess?" I face hoofed, he still had the same look as the day I defeated him. "Tell me princess why didn't you call for me to help beat the Golem?"

"I don't want to use dark magic if I don't have to, I will only use it when its absolutely necessary. I don't want the magic to corrupt me like it did to you," I looked down at my hooves, dark magic corrupts the user the more that its used.

"I was never corrupted, I was always like this, before I became the tyrannical ruler my friend and I approached the Crystal Heart and saw our destinies, hers was pure and lead to a life of luxury and love, mine lead to darkness and torment, it was something that haunted me forever. When the day came where I learned dark magic I embraced my destiny and said to myself that I wouldn't be like that, these powers can prevent it, but all it did was make the ponies fear me. If I couldn't be loved I wanted them to fear me instead, for those who called me a monster, I showed them a monster, I was always in full control, the purest of hearts always are uncorrupted."

"You took over a peacefully country and enslaved them how can you call that pure."

"When you heart is dead set on something nothing can stop it, they hated me and I didn't care, those same ponies caused my friend to abandon me, so I took their Crystal Heart and hid it, then Celestia and Luna came by and took everything from me. Then you come along and finished what they started. My cutie mark was in magic, it was a spinning black hole. My magic just wasn't strong enough even with the dark magics help."

"Even then, what would had been worth, land is nothing but dirt for buildings to be placed upon to house your citizens. A ruler should not have his ponies fear them but love them, they will be more willing to fight and fight harder but seeing how both our rule went, in a way we both destroyed the empire. This empire has fallen three times, the first when you took over and you overthrew the former ruler, then when I finished you, then when we were destroyed by the megaspells," Sombra was looking at me, he seemed emotionless.

"Yes it seems that way, but I wouldn't say it has fallen, it doesn't die till the last citizen or monarch dies, continue where I have failed."

"Sombra, if your dark magic can make the empire what it was, I would gladly sacrifice myself, its time for me to rejoin the others, I will call on you if I need you," Sombra nodded and dissipated.

I walked back into the orchestra seating area, there I saw Milky pulling out cans of food and sleeping bags arranged in circle. Silver was on the other side of the stage tinkering with my PipMare. I walked onto the stage and sat down, Milky gave me a can of oranges. I used my magic to pull them out and put them into my mouth.

"So Princess have thought about what we plan to do after Emerald Field?" Milky asked as she sat down next to me.

"I have. I had Starlight making preparations to go into Equestria so that way we are ready to depart when I get back, seeing that Snow Golem is going to set us back but it's nothing we can't work around."

"I see, who do you plan to go with you? Ember said as she sat down, I looked up and she was across from me.

"I don't know. I thought about just going alone because I need somepony to watch the empire for me. I can't take any of Quartz as they are now the head of the guard, Ember they will need you to provide medical attention and Silver will be needed to maintain the castles technology or getting running whatever comes first and I can't take the any of the Minutemares because I need them here maintaining order."

"Well what about Starlight," Milky asked.

"I don't want her coming with me, I almost got her killed on more then one occasion," I yawned, I was so tired from all the excitement that has been going on. I finished my can of orange slices and got into my sleeping bag. "Well girls I am off to sleep, don't stay up to late we got a long day tomorrow, Octavia can you wake us up at 8am, I want to get the Emerald Field as fast as I can."

"Ok I will," Octavia said speaking through the speakers in room. After that I closed my eyes getting much deserved rest.

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I started dreaming, I was in the Canterlot the day of our wedding, it was such a fond memory. It was both a day I will never forget and can't forget. I was dancing with Shining Armor, I closed my eyes and smiled and after I opened them again, Shining was gone, there was nothing all around me but a burning landscape. Then another me appeared, I stared at her and she followed my moments, I stuck my hoof out to touch her and she slapped it away.

"Poor, poor Cadance, nothing can ever go right for you, your wedding was crashed and Canterlot was invaded, you were pushed to the point of exhaustion to keep a tyrant from taking over again and your nation was destroyed. Seems nothing can ever go right for you," the clone of me circled me.

"Things did go right, Shining Armor as saved and we were married, I stopped Sombra and I am rebuilding my kingdom," I started to get agitated. The clone laughed.

"Oh you really think so, where were you when Shining Armor was outside the Stable fighting for the empire, what did you to stop him from being taken from the Griffons, where were you when you citizens were suffering after the bombs, where were you when everything went to hell," she started laughing again, "I sense strong darkness from within you," she was probably referring to Sombra. "No I wasn't referring to him."

"Wait, what, how did you..." she interrupted me.

"I am you and we are one, you just don't know which one I am but soon you will come to accept me, very soon and then we will rule this kingdom with..." A laser beam came from out of nowhere. "Damnit how did you get in here, Cadance I will see you next time," she start laughing as she start to vanish into thin air. Sombra then approach me.

"Am I dreaming?" I asked.

"No, no your not," Sombra replied.

"Who was that Cadance there?"

"She is what was created when I lent you my powers, the dark magic need a place to manifest, it seems it found a way to manifest its self into a mental form. Pay no attention to it, it should cause you any trouble, so long as you keep your mind focused and pure you can keep her at bay, she is one of the risks that comes with dark magic, she is just a manifest of insanity and rage, be carful when preforming certain spells because she will affect your ability to cast the spell, I help you keep control of the magic, she on the other hoof will make you lose control and cause harm to everyone. As of now she is no harm but this is just a warning, stay strong and..." Sombra looked away for a moment.

"You alright there Sombra?"

"Something is coming, you have to wake up right now," I was confused as what he said. All of a sudden I heard a large crashing sound, the next thing I knew I was flying through the air, I hit the back wall of the orchestra area, I opened my eyes and the Snow Golem was pulling his arm out of the theatre. "Shit, that thing is back, I looked back at the stage, we all go knocked off. Everypony sound off!" I yelled.

"Ember's here and not happy this snow cone ruined my beauty sleep."

"I am still alive! I got knocked up on the balcony," Silvers voice echoed though whats left of the theatre.

"I am good too, I just got knocked into the orchestra area!" Milky yelled.

"Get up quick, we don't have a choice we got to fight this thing, Octavia can your turrets target the golem?"

"They can but I will have to manually fire them, the golem doesn't appear as a entity," I looked over at the golem and a hail of bullets rained on him. The golem staggered back a bit, Silver took to the sky, shooting her laser pistol at the golem. Ember took cover behind some of the chairs and start shooting at it with her pipe pistol, I ran towards the stage, my saddlebags where still up there along with the Crystal Revolver. I jumped onto the stage, I saw milky climbing out pit where the orchestra would be I used my levitation to help her out.

"Thanks," Milky ran across the stage to get to her battlesaddle. The Snow Golem furious with rage tore half of the roof off, looking up at the sky I noticed the sun hasn't risen. I turned my head back down as I dug through my saddlebags, I heard Milky's minigun starting to spin up. I found the revolver as well as the 10mm pistol and pulled them out. I looked back up to see the golem fist smashing down onto the stage. It sent me flying through the air, I opened my wings and glided to one of the balconies. From there I looked out, I saw Milky on whats left of the stage firing her minigun at the golems head, Silver flying backwards distracting the golem as it tried to swat her down, Ember was occasionally firing back, not like hers was doing much and Octavia's turrets constantly firing at the golem. We weren't doing any long term damage, most of our bullets just bounced off.

"Milky watch your fire I am going to try to take out its head!"

"I have been trying but you are more then welcome to give it a shot!"

I flew up into the air, I pulled out the Crystal Revolver and spun the slide. I flew as fast as I could and stopped right before I hit his face, then fired a point blank round right into his face. After firing the shot I flew directly above him as his face was encased in crystal. The golem fell backwards, crushing several buildings behind him. Silver flew over to me.

"Wow Princess how did you know that would work?"

"It won't, as tough as this thing is its not going to go down that easy..." I was swatted out of the air, I opened my wings as wide as I could to try to stop the fall. I slammed into the ground, I couldn't open my eyes, the pain was to immense, then the clone Cadance appeared.

"You know you can use to defeat that monster, us your insanity to burn him up, burn that thing to the ground!" she broke out into laughter and vanished. I opened my eyes, using whatever strength I had left to stand up, I took a look around, Milky collapsed on the stage in a pile of snow, Ember was continuing to fight, and I watched as Silver was knocked out of the air and into the chairs in the balcony section. All the turrets in the room were either destroyed or ran out of ammo.

"Ember! Run to the lobby and take cover, I will handle him on my own, I can't risk you getting hurt."

"But..."

"I am not asking I am ordering you! Go now!" Ember ran across the room, I started firing the the shots I had left in the Crystal Revolver at the golem. I froze one of his legs in place, the rest of the shots either missed or hit his body. I couldn't focus, I had a immense headache. The golem reached back behind him and threw a building at me. I jumped and rolled into the orchestra pit. "I have no other choice, going to have to use it."

I heard a voice inside my head that sound like my own, "My power is yours use it to defeat him, Sombra's powers are nothing like mine," the voice began to laugh, "You ready now?"

"Lets do this," I felt the dark magic surging through my body, my horn began to glow black and purple, my eyes turned green, I rose up into the air in front of the golem, he tried to swipe at me, before it hit my I gripped his arm with my magic and ripped it off. The golem wailed in pain, I pulled the arm back behind me and threw it at him, it went clean through his body. The golem was on a knee, suffering from pain. He started to regenerate his arm and started to cover the hole in his chest. "No! You! Don't," I gripped him in my magic lifting him up into the air and then slamming him back into the ground. I picked him up again, throwing him into a sky scrapper. The sky scrapper toppled on top of him. The golem began to get up again. "Enough playing around. Time to die!"

I gripped him in my magic, lifting him a few feet off the ground, and began to chant: "Death to you, the one who destroys, now death is on your doorstep, death will show no mercy, I call upon the fire's of tartarus, now it will surround you. Ignite!" A magic rune appeared on the ground and then green fire shot out from the beneath the golem engulfing him in flames, the golem was screaming from the fire, I increased the power and the fire shot up into the air way past the golem, the pillar of fire could be seen for miles. I burned him till he was no more. I flew down to ground zero, a small blue orb was laying on the ground, I picked it up, the PipMare identified it as the 'Snow Golems Core'. I felt the magic starting to recede, I couldn't focus, I picked up the orb with my hoof and walked back to the stage, I dug through the snow and pulled Milky out of the snow pile my PipMare was clicking fast, the snow was irradiated.

"Ember! Come quick we need your help!" I started panting, Ember opened the door and ran to the stage, she began to look for her saddle bags, I went into the lobby to try to find a way to the balcony section, I followed the signs and began to walk up the stairs, I felt dizzy and weak. I finally finished climbing up the stairs, I began to search for Silver. "Octavia... you still with me?"

"I am here a bit shaken but still sound."

"Are you able to locate Silver?"

"Let me see if there are any ceiling cams still working," I looked through the rows, I sat down and shook my head, it only made the pain worse. "She is three rows above you better hurry who knows what that thing did to her," I walked up to the row she was in, I tried to pick her up with my magic but it just couldn't concentrate. So I decided try to carry her, I walked up to her and put her on my back and then proceeded to the railing.

"Lets hope I can still fly," I jumped off the balcony spreading my wings, I started to glide down, I was having trouble balancing with her on my back, when my hooves touched the ground I tumbled and flip over. I was panting harder, next thing I saw was Ember running up to me. She lifted my head up and fed me a healing potion, as well as started to bandage my leg, I must had hurt it during the fight. The pain in my head started to vanish, my vision was becoming more clear.

"Ok good, I didn't think I got you the potion to you quick enough. You had a concussion, I didn't think I could stop you from blacking out, but your still conscious," Ember moved on from me and began to treat Silver. "Milky is alright I gave her a Rad-away, she should recover, her radiation levels were almost lethal from being in the snow but she is fine now. Now Silver here she got the worst of it, we are out of healing potions and all I have left is magical bandages, her left wing is broken and has fractured 3 ribs," Ember began to wrap the bandages around Silvers wing.

"I'm going to grab Octavia," Ember nodded at me and I walked out into the lobby.

"How did the power feel, the ability to crush a opponent who is ten times bigger then you are. To dispatch him with ease," the clone of me appeared in front of me.

"That power was incredible, that spell, I have never heard it before when I studied dark magic.

Then Sombra appeared, "It is a forbidden spell, the flames you conjured burn hotter then tartarus itself, I am surprised the golem's core survived. But be carful with, although forbidden spells are not dark magic, they do corrupt the user, this other you..."

"I am tired of not having a name, since Cadance doesn't use Cadenza I will go by that. Its better then being called it or other you."

Sombra rolled his eyes, "Cadenza here, combines dark magic and forbidden spells together, how she knows these I have no idea, but what we do know is that she can you need to be carful."

"All you need to do is ask me Sombra, after all I am a combination of both of you, Cadance's little love spell that she uses is a forbidden spell, to force two ponies to fall in love, it manipulates the mind, being the princess niece she was allowed to study spells that no pony should use, at a young age she was able to caste a love manipulation spell. Of course she used it to benefit the two ponies rather then use the spell to control them. Since I reside inside her mind, I have access to all her memories and to ever forbidden spell she ever studied, so I combined your knowledge of dark magic and her knowledge of forbidden spells and combined dark magic fire with a death spell and Cadance was able to preform it with my help, of course it does corrupt but in this day and age who isn't in fact who wasn't corrupt back then," Cadenza started laughing.

"Look Cadenza try to go easy on the spell combining, anyways lets go get Octavia," they both disappeared, I walked through the hallway that lead to the boss's office, the hallway was destroyed from the battle most of the wall had come down and the stage was visible from the hallway. Upon entering the hallway Octavia greeted me.

"Hello Cadance, let me just eject my chip and I will be ready to go," a chip came out of the terminal on the desk. I grabbed the chip in my magic and put it into my PipMare. The small round piece at the top of the PipMare began to glow and Octavia appeared in hologram form, "Alright all system seemed to be green, OS is... PipMare?" She gave me a look of confusion.

"This was a prototype meant for Luna, it had more uses and had bigger storage capacity as well as a improved SATS."

"Oh, alright, I will run a system diagnostics later to get more acquainted with the system, lets go see how the others are doing shall we," I nodded and walked out of the office, I jumped out of the huge hole in the wall and landed up on the balcony section, Ember had moved Milky and Silver on stage, Milky was sitting up while Silver was laying down. I jumped off the balcony and glided down to them.

"Lets take sometime to rest, after that battle I don't think I can travel," I looked down at my PipMare, it was 5:20am. I looked out the giant hole the golem made, the sky was starting to turn blue, it was still dark but daylight was coming fast.

"That sounds like a good idea Cadance. I need to make sure everypony is ok, and check our supplies before we leave anyways, plus after that battle I could use a little break myself," Ember said as she rummaged through her saddlebag.

"Yeah I could use a little break as well, that thing caught us while we were asleep, so I feel exhausted, might sleep for a hour or two to make up for it," Milky said as she began to rub her hoof, it was covered in bandages, Ember must had given the last healing potion to Silver, her injuries were far worst but its bad to run out.

"Alright then we will leave her at 9am, Octavia let us know when that is."

"Roger that."

"We will sleep in shifts till then to recover, I will watch for the first shift, Ember, Milky get some sleep, I will wake one of you up to take over for me in a hour," they both nodded and pulled up what was left of our sleeping bags and went off to sleep. "I guess it can't get any worse than this."

Footnote: Level up
Perk added: Spell Binder: You learned how to bind spells together, take caution when using, it has a small chance to corrupt the mind, chances of corruption vary depending on power and ability of user.

Chapter 8: The Great Green Jewel

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Chapter 8: The Great Green Jewel

"And I thought Twilight was the master of the freak-out."

After getting a little more shut eye after the attack, we headed out. The Empire was covered in snow. My PipMare wasn't clicking at all. The snow must be able to expel radiation quicker then water. When they fell from the sky they must had been irradiated but after sitting for a while it seems to have dissipated. The snow covered the buildings, it reminded me of Canterlot during Hearth's Warming. The heart kept snow from falling inside the city so it was kind of pretty to see the snow on the remaining buildings. The city was rather quiet after the blizzard, not many raiders out as well as very few gunshots heard. There were some but not many. I looked down at my PipMare, it was a few minutes past 3, we had been walking for hours though the snow making little ground, the snow was so thick in some areas we would have to try to go around or through buildings and the snow that pilled up neck deep emitted low levels of radiation so we avoided most of it. We entered the ruins of a crumbling mall.

"Alright lets take a break," I said sitting down, the events of this morning were still fresh in my mind.

"Oh thank Celestia, my hooves were starting to hurt. So this is whats its like to not fly everywhere."

"You get used to it," Ember snickered, I rolled my eyes, ever since I got my wings I was never accustomed to flying.

"I am going to go take a look around, this place is huge, got to be some good loot around here," Milky began to head towards one of the former stores.

"I agree, Ember and Silver set up a temporary camp so we can rest up, I am going to go explore the ruins to see if we can find some good stuff. Milky!"

"What!" she shouted from inside one of the stores.

"Keep your weapons loaded who knows what could b here!" I shouted at her.

"Normally I would love to go around and tinker with some of the old stuff around here but I am going to take a nap my hooves hurt too much from walking," Silver took off her saddle bags and used them as a pillow.

"Alright, Ember if there is any trouble scream, I'll be back shortly," Ember nodded to me and I started to walk deeper into the mall. "Ok were to look first, I guess I can check the second floor." I walked over to the escalators and started to walk up them, right as I reached the top the crumbled and feel apart hitting the ground causing a large echo through the building. I walked into the store across from the escalator, it was a MWT recruitment center. As I walked in I saw torn poster lining the walls. The posters were either posters of Applejack or of a Steel Ranger. I walked over to one of the posters with Applejack and put my hoof on it. It was good to see her face, even if it was just a poster I took it off the wall with my magic and rolled it up, I decided I wanted a memento of the old life, for the ones who didn't make it. After that I entered the back room which was converted into a office. I started to search around and found a locked safe, I dug through my saddlebag for a booby pin, I levitated one out and started to pick the lock. "Damnit," I broke one, I pulled another one out and went back to work on it. After three more bobby pins, I finally got it open. "Finally!" I opened the door and found a memory orb inside. Puzzled I picked it up with my hoof, 'Applejack' was its inscription. "Wonder what's in it." Then I gripped it with my magic, I lost my vision and everything went black.

<-=======ooO Ooo=======->

I was in the a tent, Big Macintosh was standing in front of Celestia with Luna by her side. I presumed I was one of the soldiers with Big Mac. I looked around the room, there were royal guards everywhere. The sound of gun shots and artillery fire could be heard in the background, I felt the earth shake occasionally.

"Princess, the megaspell was a success but, it not only healed our ponies, it also revived the enemy zebra's. We need a way to better contain this megaspell," Big Mac said, he had a deep voice, he sounded a bit raspy but thats to be expected from a soldier in a war zone.

"So the battle is back on I presume," Luna chimed in.

"Eeyup."

"We are already low on troops and ammo and every other soldier is either elsewhere or wounded," Celestia said as she levitated a tea cup to her mouth.

"Rainbow Dash is already on the front lines holding them off, we need anything we can spare," my host said, "You can hear the artillery strikes from here and I don't think our troops want to be out there any longer especially having to fight after almost being on the verge of death."

"We can't give up Shatterhoof Ridge, that will leave us at a disadvantage and leave Staliongrad right open for them to take, think of the ponies we have to protect, we put our lives on the line so other ponies can live," Luna said.

We still have a few Shadowbolt squads nearby that haven't deployed yet, we can bring them in," Big Mac interjected.

"We don't need them we already got this under control they will only get in the way," my host interrupted them.

"Applesnack thats enough, now go outside and tell Echo to bring the 3rd and 7th Shadowbolt battalions to head out to the front lines," Big Mac said pointing his hoof to the exit of the tent. Applesnack grumbled a bit and walked outside. I immediately smelled gunpowder and blood in the air. I walked into a tent across from the princess, there sat Macintosh's Maruaders.

"So any news?" Twist asked. Twist was a cream colored earth pony with a frizzy red mane.

"No, but Echo relay to the Shadowbolts that the 3rd and 7th are to head straight to the front lines," Echo nodded at me, some of the mares in here seemed a little young to fight a war. "The rest get you gear ready we are moving out in-" a gunshot rang out, it sounded like it came from outside our tent. All of us ran outside the tent to see Big Mac laying on the ground at the front of the tent there was a gunshot wound in his head and in his chest, Celestia was right behind him, she was looking at this in horror.

"Guards sound the alarm, we got a zebra in the camp!" Luna yelled.

"Get me a medical team to the Princess tent, stat! I am going to help get them back to their train, Jetstream and Stonewing, sweep the camp and find him, capture if possible kill if capture is unobtainable," Applesnack ran back into the tent where the Marauders were in and jumped into a suit of power armor with a minigun attached to the side. We walked back outside to see MoP ponies picking up Big Mac on a stretcher and carrying him off, Applesnack peeked his head into the tent, "Princess's lets go," I lead the escort to the train, we slowly made progress, and then we finally got them on board. I walked over the the train engineer, "Get them back to Canterlot as quick as you can," Maruders after you finish finding the zebra's meet up at the front lines, I think we found a new reason to fight."

<-=======ooO Ooo=======->

I started coughing and breathing heavily, I fell back onto my back, "So thats how he died," I sat up against the wall and sighed, "He died on accident, not that he wouldn't had taken a bullet for Celestia anyways, but since he was the first one to walk out he was shot," I stood up and put the memory orb into my bag. No pony should have to witness that memory again. I walked out of the office and then out of the store. The building creaked as we walked back out onto the walkway. I continued to walk down the pathway, there were skeletal remains of ponies from before the war. I felt a tear roll down my cheek, I had failed to protect my country from the war. I continued on, I entered a much bigger store, the sign on the front read: 'Rarity's Chic Boutique'. Rarity, before the war, expanded her business in several other towns, and she chose our mall, she told us it would be big enough to hold her collection. Of course when the ministries opened up she just had her design team come up with the all the dresses, she was far to busy focusing on the war back then.

I continued walking though the store skeletons of ponies and tattered clothes laid strewn out on the floor. I was horrified at what I saw, so many didn't survive. I turned my head away and kept walking I moved up to the next floor. There was nothing of interest up here, just more skeletons. I walked back out onto the walkway, I was three floors up from the ground. I continued walking, all these stores were ether already looted or collapsed. As I continued deeper into the mall it got darker and darker, seems the sunlight didn't reach this part of the mall. I turned on my PipMare's light.

"Place is really dark," Octavia said, a little holo-projector pop up out of my PipMare and there stood Octavia.

"Yeah its a bit creepy, but there might be something useful down here."

"Wandering around in the dark may not be the greatest idea, who knows whats in here."

"Well Cadance is fine on her own, she doesn't just have you around here Octavia," Sombra appeared.

"Well Sombra dearest, its not just you either," Cadenza said as she walked into the light of the PipMare.

"Oh my... Cadance I didn't know you had two more AI's now," Octavia shifted her gaze to me.

"I, uh... well don't, this is the actual spirit of Sombra and Cadenza was formed from fusing Sombra magic with mine causing an alter ego of sorts."

"Oh my, Sombra survived after his second defeat of at the battle for the Crystal Empire as well as the bombs, how interesting and as for... you Cadenza, you are your own little oddity," Octavia looked concerned, I don't think she trusted Cadenza that much, as matter of fact neither do I.

"Now, now, Octavia play nice with them, they are good ponies, well sometimes. Аnyways Octavia you can stick around if you want but I am going to keep moving on, as for you two, don't cause any trouble who knows whats out there," I started to walk again, Octavia disappeared and so did Sombra, "You going to vanish to Cadenza?"

"No I think I will stick around a bit, it's not everyday a girl gets to go shopping," Cadenza started to chuckle, I rolled my eyes at her and continued walking. I saw a jewelry store on the other side, it wasn't uncommon for them to sell magical gems for spells, alchemy and laser weapons. I jumped off the walkway and cautiously flew over to the jewelry store but what I saw I wasn't ready for.

"What the hell," I said quietly, bones of security ponies laid strewed out across the entrance to the shop, one of the ponies even had power armor on, someone had deployed the National Guard here, was this a Zebra smuggling outpost, what happened here. I ventured into the store, this place was burnt, somepony must of used a flamethrower to smoke out whoever was here, there were a few marks left by explosives but the flamethrower must had covered the rest of them up, behind the jewelers case were some charred up skeletons. "What were they trying to hide."

"Thats a good question Cadance why don't you check some of the briefcases they had on them?" Cadenza replied, then she disappeared.

I moved a bunch of the skeletons out of the way and grabbed a briefcase, there were 4 of them, so it either meant that somepony was trying to smuggle something out of here or this was some Zebra outpost making a last stand. The first briefcase required a pass code to unlock, so I used my magic to pry it open, inside were a bunch of papers inside, classified information, store ledgers, worthless now-a-days. I levitated the second one over to me this one had a rusty padlock on it, I broke the lock off, and opened the briefcase, inside there were nothing but papers, I walked deeper into the store, I found a skeleton of a pony huddled around a briefcase next to a pedestal. I moved the skeleton off the briefcase and opened it up, it was unlocked, inside was a green crystal, my PipMare identified it as a Unstable Energy Emerald.

"Seems like some sort of laser crystal, why would they be after it?" I put the crystal in my saddlebag and walked out of the store, I walked up to some power armor keeled over on the floor, my PipMare identified the armor as E-40 power armor, I opened turned the hatch on it and the power armor opened, no pony was inside. "Thats odd its a empty suit."

"Maybe the original pony in it abandoned it after the bombs fell," Octavia appeared, "Plug in your PipMare, I can check the data logs from the helmet cams," I opened a side panel and pulled out my PipMare's plug in cord and plugged it into the power armor. "Ok I am going to start the scan..." Octavia started muttering to herself.

"Where is his weapons, his power armor is here but where is the actual gun?" I looked around and I only saw small arms weapons, but next to the power armor there were tank shells laying around him.

"Ok I finished sorting through the data files and helmet feed. It seems this suit of armor was abandoned before it left the base, thats odd, the video feed has sound and it seems like there was a pony inside," Octavia seemed puzzled. "Wait look at the helmet something is wrong, here," I went to take off the helmet and it was stuck, I pulled harder but it didn't budge, I put my head inside the power armor and looked up into the helmet, there were wires all inside the helmet.

"Octavia, could this suit have been powered by a AI?"

"Hmm, I am not sure, the only AI I know that could potentially pilot power armor alone is my sisters and I, I am not sure if the other AI's could pilot them alone, let me run a diagnostic on the helmet rather then the armor itself," Octavia started to mutter to herself again, I levitated on of the shells to me, the side of the shell was marked with HE, I think that meant high explosive, Shining Armor taught me most of this before the war just in case I ever needed it, but it seems like now I need him. "Ok Cadance, I just finished analyzing the helmet, seems it was piloted by a AI named Sparkler, during the firefight her armor was disabled, and she was ejected from the suit of power armor, at the time of her ejection it was about a hour after the bombs fell, another pony with power armor took her out of the suit and thats all the logs say."

"So this was piloted by another AI, are you able to pilot this?"

"Well yes I can, can I pilot this suit, most likely not, the suit has taken damage to the legs as well as the weapons have been blown off, we would need to acquire new servos for the legs and a new battle saddle entirely. The suit should be able to accommodate me but we should get it repaired first. In my opinion we should just leave it here, its probably not worth taking with us because it will bog us down."

"Silver can fix it up enough to get it moving, we should be fine," I used my magic to pick up the suit of armor, it was heavy, I am probably going to have to walk all the way back to the entrance. Well this will take a while.

****************************************************************

When I made it back to our camp Milky was dumping out her saddlebags showing all the loot she gathered, it wasn't anything note worthy, just scrap parts and other stuff like that.

"Hey everyone I'm back," I said with the power armor gripped in my magic.

"What the hell, where did you find power armor in the mall?" Milky said, as she walked up to me, I set the power armor down and took a deep breathe, carrying that thing was no easy task. All of a sudden Silver darted to the power armor.

"Oh my gosh you found power armor, this, this is..." she took a closer look, "A piece of junk, where the world did you find this."

"I found it outside a jewelry store," then Ember sprang up.

"Did somepony say jewels?" Ember said running towards me.

"Well its not just any kind of power armor, you can't wear it, it's meant to be piloted by a AI, Silver some of the legs aren't working you think you can fix it up for Octavia to use?"

"I can try, but the battle saddle is unusable we will have to find a new one at Emerald Hill. Milky bring some of those parts over here we need..." I smiled in response and gave the Octavia AI chip to Silver then walked away, I sat down by a corner and shut my eyes.

I could swear I was back in Canterlot right before my wedding, well after we defeated Chrysalis, that day had its ups and downs but everything was alright. I remember it like it was just yesterday, clear night, warm air, the sounds of ponies chatting, what a night.

"Reminiscing a bit Cadance?" Cadenza appeared.

"A little, it was such a lovely night," I sighed, "Those days are over now, can't go back no matter how much I want to, this isn't the world I wanted, but its the one I found myself in."

"We can change that, however its going to take work, the ponies in this new Equestria aren't unite they hate each other, its everypony for themselves, we need somepony strong, somepony who can give orders, somepony who can lead her troops into battle, somepony who can instill fear into her subjects to prevent treason," Cadenza grinned menacingly.

"Maybe this is a different Equestria, just because a princess shows up doesn't mean they are going to drop their loyalties and follow me, conquering Equestria might be hard, it was a big nation filled with dangerous creatures."

"Cadance, don't listen to her, she is brainwashing you," Sombra instantly appeared, "The ponies of this new world need love and kindness and second chance, they are brutal to each other sure, but thats because they never were given the time of day they were told they were worthless unless they were feared. We need to show them that one of Equestria's princess's lived and..."

"You expect them to blindly follow us just because we promise equality, Sombra you enslaved a entire empire using fear and no one stood against you until the Celestia and Luna fought back, they were ponies who were stronger than you. To think that they will show no resistance is basically admitting defeat right there," Cadenza interjected.

"Alright thats enough! I am in charge here and if I see that we need to use force so be it, however we should see if they are willing to support us first," I just about had it with these two arguing, they bicker about everything. What combat spells should I use, how should I run my country, what day it is, I am done with it. "Listen up I don't want to see either of you until we conclude our business in Emerald Hill, or so help me I will find a spell to eject your from me and I will shoot personally," Sombra looked at me with disgust and disappeared.

"Maybe there is hope for you after all, caio sweetheart," Cadenza vanished. I opened my eyes, Ember examining me.

"What are you doing?" I asked, I caught Ember off guard and she jumped.

"O-oh, I-I was just making sure you were ok, you kinda were muttering to yourself in your sleep then yelled 'enough', so I thought I should take a look at you to make sure you are ok," Ember said, she took a deep breath to calm herself down.

"Thank you but I am just fine," I stood up, and walked to the doors and looked outside onto the street. The night is rather peaceful. I looked down at my PipMare's map, we weren't far from Emerald Hill. It's a few hours trot from here. The glow of the morning sun became to peak over the horizon as the sky went from a peaceful dark blue to a light orange. "I wonder who is raising the sun every morning?" I asked myself. The others began to wake up, I heard Silver yawn. I turned around and saw Ember waking everypony up.

"Is it morning already?" Silver yawned. She rubbed her eyes and stretched. Milky was lightly tapping her face to wake to get herself up.

"Silver did we get the power armor working?" I asked.

"Well yes and no~" Silver yawned again. "Well the servos in one of the legs is still a bit well broken, it will be fine at a walking pace but it might break if we have to run. I will have to buy new servos, I might as well replace all of them while I am at it and she will need a new magic core, but those may be hard to come by and might be a bit pricy. As for her battlesaddle we will have to find one later."

"That's fine, so long as I don't have to carry her there," I responded.

Silver stood up and walked over to the power armor, "Octavia, activate," she said, I looked at the power armor, the visor began to glow a light purple.

Octavia voice began doing a diagnostic check, "Armor Status: compromised, Magic Battery: stable, Kinetic Servos: damaged, Weapon Systems: Offline, Memory Unit: Online, Helmet Feed: Online, HUD: Online. Unit O.C.T.A.V.I.A, ready for combat operation," The visor on the helmet began to gather light purple pixels forming two eyes. They blinked began to move. "Well then, seems the armor digital feed is working, could use a little more repair but that will have to wait. Anyways I am all ready to head out," the Octavia took a step and fell over. "Oh dear... Its going to take me some time to get used to these controls."

"Take it slow Octavia, its was already damaged so don't worry about walking fast," I said, I gripped her with my magic and lifted her back on her hooves. "Ready to get moving?" I asked, they all nodded and we began to our journey to Emerald Hill. We had to walk a little slower than before due to Octavia's armor being damaged. As we walked I kept having flash backs of the time where I used to walk these streets and see all the smiling faces and now... All I see are blasted our ruins of a nation I once called my own. I let our a sigh.

"What ever is the matter princess?" Ember asked.

"It's hard to walk these streets and not think about the time before the war... I remember a time where ponies didn't live in fear and they laughed and played," I sighed again. "But now... It's nothing but the remains of a leaders failed attempts to save her subjects," I paused as I faced a building. Ember put her hoof around me.

"Princess, with all due respect we are better off then most places. Canterlot was covered in a poisonous layer of cloud killing all those who entered. Hoofington suffers from high levels of damage from a Enervation Field and Manehatten is a radioactive mess. Can't you see princess, you did save us. Most of the city is still standing and ponies still live here. The Crystal Heart may be gone but that doesn't mean their hearts have lost faith," Embers words cheered me up.

"Princess Cadance, on the bright side you were able to take back your castle and reestablish your royal guard through the Minutemares. You brought one of the many warring factions to help you, the wastes are a mess and we need leadership, you're all that's left of the old world. Harmony is on our side," Milky said. Those last words echoed in my mind. 'Harmony is on our side.'

"You're right," I said solemnly. "Dwelling on the past isn't going to do anything, I can't change it and that's that," time magic does exist but I've never been studious enough to learn them. Outside basic defense and basic spells, I didn't spend to much time into learning them like Twilight. I was more interested in stallions then learning. To think magic school would have actually helped...

We continued walking. The streets were quiet and empty. The sun began setting and in the distance I saw giant stadium lights lifted up by metal pole. The lights began to flicker and one by one until all of them turned on.

"I assume those lights are for Emerald Field?" I asked.

"Eyup," Milky replied.

"Yes, the lights are still powered by their underground generator, it runs of crystal energy," Ember interjected. We approached a large metal door covering what used to be the main entrance.

"Let me handle this, my brother usually works the gates," Milky smirked. She walked over to a little intercom on the wall and began to talk. I looked away and began to day dream.

I remember the selection day, Ms. Harshwhinny came to explore the Crystal Empire and the accommodations. Oh dear, I remember when Twilight and her friends pick up the wrong mare from the train station. I quietly laughed. I remember Ms. Harshwhinny coming into the spa where I was getting my hair done. I remember how upset she was when we did greet her. But we still passed by some miracle. Too bad the war broke out before the games could begin.

"Celestia damn you to Tartarus! You will let me in right now Blue Quartz or I swear to Celestia I'm going to kick your ass!" Miliky yelled.

I walked up to Milky and put a hoof on her shoulder and shook my head. "Let me handle this," I walked up to the small speaker. "Hello there, I would like access to Emerald Field. I have enough trade to supply for your stores to last you months."

"Geez well, I'm not allowed to Milky, mayors orders... But I don't want to have to deal with crazy Mirror... Oh alright I'll take the heat for now," Blue Quartz replied. The door began creak and grunt, the gears began to turn and the door began to lift.

"Quick lets get inside before they can kick us out," Milky said. We walked inside and there, was a gray pony with a graying mane wearing a suit and sporting a rather strange mustache.

"I thought I heard the gate open Blue Quartz I will have you court marshaled for this insubordination. I told you not to let Milky inside here, we can't keep paying for the damage she causes when she's drunk," he sighed, "I'm Mayor McDonut, welcome to Emerald Field. Enjoy your stay and Milky, we're watching you."

Milky snickered at him, "Keep talkin' its all your good for," Milky walked up to Blue Quartz, "Blue, don't think I forgot about what you did... We are staying at your place tonight and I'm not asking."

Blue said nothing but glared back. We walked through the gates to the stairway to enter the stadium. I took a look around. It was a collection of houses built from scrap metal lined through the field and built up into the stands. We walked down the stairs to the field. I looked around and saw a news stand selling paper, food stalls selling a variety of items and a weapon smith and a general store, it seems that most of the vendors built their homes out of their shops. We walked passed them into the back part of the field, there stood some rather large house. Milky approached a house with the name Quartz written on the door post. She knocked on the door and an alicorn with a deep purple coat opened the door.

"Hey there Heliotrope," Milky said shakily. The mare at the door hugged Milky.

"Hello sister, how have you been," Heliotrope exclaimed in a very composed almost regal accent. "It's been a year yes, how is mother and you sisters doing? she said. I felt a wave of confusion fly over me. "Tiger's Eye! Cat's Eye! A special guest is here to see you." I heard a clamoring of hoof steps then I saw a unicorn filly and a Alicorn filly come charging down the stairs to the door. The pegasus was dark orange with a crystal coat and the Alicorn was a shiny green.

"Hi Auntie Milky!" the dark orange crystal filly yelled and Milky hugged her.

"Hi Auntie Milky," the shiny green filly said in a monotonous voice.

"Hey Tiger's Eye, my have you grown; Cat's Eye how's my favorite little strategist doing?" Milky replied happily. If this was old Equestria they would probably be in high school by now. But I was to busy staring at the alicorn.

"So Milky who's your pink friend?" Heliotrope pointed at me. I raised an eyebrow.

"This is Princess Cadance. Ruler of the Crystal Empire,”’Heliotrope began to laugh.

"A Princess? Like the ones the Goddess once spoke of?"

"Yes, except she is the princess of the Crystal Empire before the war," Milky replied.

"Impossible. The Goddess assured us all of the Princess's were deceased," Heliotrope walked up to me and began to examine me, she walked up to my flank and touched it, I jumped back in surprise.

"Wha-wha are you doing? I exclaimed. She didn't say anything. She began to walk around me.

"You have a cutie mark... Alicorns can't have cutie marks, even the new ones."

"Well I got my cutie mark when I was still a Pegasus."

"Please come shall discuss this more inside."

"Hey Princess, Silver and I are going to see if we can go find parts to get Octavia fixed, we'll be back a little later," Milky whispered to me. I nodded and walked inside.

"I want to go with you Auntie Milky!" Tiger's Eye yelled.

"Only if it's okay with your mother," Milky replied. Heliotrope gestured Tiger to go with us and she ran out the door. Cat's Eye walked back inside. Heliotrope used her magic to shut the door and I sat on a chair across from her.

" Did the Goddess created you?" Heliotrope asked.

"No... When I was young I was orphaned by my parents. I wandered the streets of Canterlot where I discovered a spell of love in a book I found, it was an ancient incantation but it didn't require you to be a unicorn to cast it. It was an ancient spell written in 5th century Equestria had to go to hundreds of libraries to get it decoded. But I used it to strengthen the love of others. Princess Celestia noticed the amount of love in Canterlot was increasing and she began to search around town, she found me hiding around a cafe spreading love to others. Celestia approached me, she asked me if I was the one who was spreading all the love, scared for my life I couldn't say a thing. She asked me what I wanted to do with my life when I grew up and I said I wanted to spread love to all of Equestria. She said good answer. She asked me then if she wanted to be apart of her family. I was so excited when I heard her say that. I finally felt the love of another towards me. She then turned me into an alicorn and raised me in all facets of royal society. Traditionally all books and newspaper said she was my long lost aunt but really she was my adoptive mother."

"Intriguing. So not even you were born an alicorn."

"No I was born a Pegasus. But since I learned to teleport I got lazy and hardly used my wings.

"When we... I mean I was under the Goddess's control we never flew. Only on rare occasions because if we flew too high the pegasi hiding in the cloud layer would shoot us down or ponies on the ground would shoot as us."

"Who is this Goddess you speak of?" I replied.

"The Goddess? She was our creator, we are not born through traditional means at least not the original ones. We were created through a vat filled with Impelled Metamorphosis Potion, in a place called Maripony, such a place no longer exists as it was completely destroyed. We know not of how long we shall live but it is much longer than the normal life span of a pony. Alicorns however only existed in three colors blue, green and purple. We knew a variety of spells but each color had a spell the other two could not preform. Blue was able to use an invisibility spell, purple had the ability to teleport or teleport a small group to a location we have been, and green use force fields powerful force fields. However I lived before the war, I was formerly called Fleur De Lis. I was a former model in Canterlot and worked for the Ministry of Moral as a spy. I was sent to Maripony to keep an eye on Twilight Sparkle.

"I remember seeing you in magazines before the war. Showing off the latest styles. But why didn't you change your name back? I asked.

"The pony I once was is no more. Fluer is dead and she shall stay that way. I am Heliotrope, Fluer was a terrible pony and now that she is gone I can live free of my past the way I see fit," Heliotrope pouted a bit. I can tell it was Fluer, from the few times I've seen her at royal events she always made that face once or twice.

"How did you meet Blue Quartz?"

"My husband found me wandering the frozen wastes. Me and 4 of my sisters were tasked to find the Crystal Empire and find potential alicorn caidates. However when we got close the Goddess was killed and severed our telekinetic link which rendered us unconscious for a time. When we woke up we were in the towns hospital. Confused we tried to escape only for Blue Quartz to be standing outside the door. He told us to wait and explained the situation. We decided to check in with the Goddess but we got no response. Soon we lost telecommunication with each other. Eventually my sisters began to leave seeing no point in remaining in the city. I stayed because I felt I owed a debt to Blue Quartz. Then he proposed to me and I am happy where I am now. Care to help me with diner Miss. Cadance?" Heliotrope asked. I nodded and went to the kitchen.

The day became late, Milky, Silver and Octavia eventually returned. Octavia seemed to be working fine, she was sporting a minigun battlesaddle and was standing in the corner all night running updates and calibrations. Diner wasn't anything our of the usual family diner. I saw as they all talked and laughed and enjoyed each other. It reminded me of when Celestia, Luna and I would have. At the end of diner Heliotrope set up the guest bedroom, there were two large beds.

"So how are we going to split the beds?" Silver asked.

"I guess Cadance and I will share a bed and Milky and Silver can share the other..." Ember replied. I didn't object, I laid down in the bed and fell right to sleep. I feel right into a nightmare, the day the bombs fell. The day everything went to hell. I was soon woken up by Ember.

"Darling are you alright. You were squirming and mumbling in your sleep. Were you having a nightmare?" Ember asked. I nodded my head. "Would you like to talk about it dear?"

"It was about the day the bombs fell. I was rushed from my home without my husband, he was put into cryostasis with my and then he was kidnapped sometime during our time in stasis," I replied. Ember embraced me and wrapped her hooves around me.

"It's okay, we'll get your husband back. Don't be sad. You'll be reunited with him again. I'll be with you the whole way, I promise," Ember said warmly. I smiled at her and she began to sing a lullaby. I began to fall back to sleep.

Footnote: Level up.
Perk added: Scavenger (level one) - What luck, you permanently will find more caps and ammo.

Chapter 9: The Battle Hymn of the Republic

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Chapter 9: The New Canterlot Republic

"I'd like to be a tree."

I woke up to the sound of sirens going off, I jumped out of bed and scrambled to the door, I looked up at the sky saw a giant airship was flying over the city. It was a large flying battleship attached to a zeppelin balloon. I've never seen anything like this. It was like a flying fortress, there were large guns mounted all over it.

"Um... Hello? Is this thing on, oh! Attention everypony. This is Fluttershy of the New Canterlot Republic. We come in peace and..." The voice began to trail off. That sounds just like Fluttershy. The voice returned "We will be docking at the Crystal Palace Airfield. We mean you no harm. We seek only to aid and protect you," the palace airfield is where the Minutemare's are. Heliotrope was standing right behind me.

"I see... They use Fluttershy's voice to preach peace while they drop bombs on us."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"The New Canterlot Republic is a war zone right now, ever since their founding, the cities under their control are not there by choice, but by force. From what we hear from traders, the Republic is in the middle of a civil war between them and the Legion of Celestia. The whole Equestrian Wastes is a warzone between the raiders, the rogue alicorns, and the band of legion raiders. I heard over the radio that the Minutmare's took over the Palace."

"Yes they did, I aided them and that's how I met the Quartz family. Rose Quartz couldn't bring herself to fight me. Smokey Quartz stayed behind to watch over Rose Quartz after we were knocked unconscious," I replied. I kicked open the door and ran to the radio on the table and tuned it.

"This is Bullseye calling all Minutemare patrols back to the palace. We have come under attack by some flying doohicky. We have no idea what it is but it ain't friendly. We can't hold out for much longer, hurry please!" The message began to loop again. The sound of gunfire was prominent throughout the message.

"We need to leave now! Silver! Ember! Let's go!" I yelled.

"Not so fast there princess, we'd never make it in time. It took us a few days to get here. With all the rubble blocking the way it's going to take us some time to get around, not to mention a building almost crushed us," Milky interjected.

"Milky in order for me to save our friends back at the palace I'm going to have to fly there alone."

"I could perhaps teleport you their... but I could only teleport three of you... or I could teleport with you and lend my support, knowing the Republic they probably brought at least three alicorn divisions with them.

"I can't possibly ask you to join us in a battle. You have a family to take care of and besides..." I was cut off.

"Milky could stay here and watch the fillies while we go, although we would be leaving two behind," she added.

"Heliotrope our sisters are back their not to mention our mother. I should go, I need to help them," Milky exclaimed.

"Milky Quartz this is no time to argue, only the Destroyer could ever defeat more than one of us at a time. Normal ponies are no match for them but maybe I could get them to stop," Milky was about to interject but remained silent. Alicorns must be tough if they are this hard to kill.

"Heliotrope, can you teleport, Ember, Octavia, and Milky? If you can do that me, you, and Silver can fly there. It should only be a few hours of flight. That way Milky and Octavia can help out with the fight and Ember can tend to the wounded.

"I can but I won't be able to use my magic for a while, it's easy to teleport with me included but to cast a teleportation bubble around them and back will cost me a lot of magic," Heliotrope responded.

"Ember, Octavia!" I yelled, "Ember came walking out of the guest room yawning with Silver following close behind. "Ember we are going to teleport you back to the castle with Octavia and Milky. We are going to fly to have to fly there. We will try to get there as quick as we can, gather your things. Octavia, I need you to keep Ember and Milky safe. I need you to stay with Milky and help engage her targets, got it."

"I understand, I will help in any way possible," Octavia said. Ember grabbed her saddlebags and stood in front of us.

"Do be safe now please," Ember said. I looked at her and smiled.

"Good luck princess. May Celestia keep you safe," Milky put a hoof on my shoulder then stood next to Ember.

"Alright, I can't promise that the teleportation will get you to the castle but I can say it will get you near it. Good luck we will meet you there," Heliotrope responded. Her horn began to glow, it was a nice soft pink color. A sphere of color began to engulf, Ember, Octavia, and Milky and just like that, they were gone. It's odd seeing someone teleport. Here one second, then gone the next... Just like death. Heliotrope began to walk to her closet and opened the door. There she donned a battlesaddle with armor that stretched out along the wings. I noticed bombs were hanging from the underside of her battlesaddle and on one side she had an anti-machine rifle attached. Heliotrope gave me a battlesaddle and attached three small bombs underneath them. "When we encounter them drop these on top of them before we land. All you have to do is pull the cord here," she pointed at a small cord by my face. I nodded and we walked outside, Heliotrope wrote a note and left it on the table.

"Well we better get a move on," Silver Wire said tightening her saddlebags. I nodded and we took to the sky.

I noticed quickly that I began to lag behind the other two. I wasn't used to flying let alone flying with bombs and my saddlebags strapped to me. I tried to speed up but just became more tired. I began to look down at the city below. It was empty. The only gunshots I heard were coming from the castle and from the battleship raining fire on from down below.

"Hey Heliotrope, why don't we bomb the airship?" I asked.

She shook her head, "These bombs won't do enough damage to a war machine like that, these are anti-personal bombs meant to be dropped on ponies. In order to hurt that thing we will need a big missile of some kind."

After about an hour of travel, we came closer to the castle. The fighting seemed fierce even from far away. Once we arrived Silver broke off from us and landed on the balcony to help with the fight inside. Tons of ponies swarmed the airfield and we began to dive towards them. I saw a group of ponies hiding behind some broken airplane parts. I pulled my cord and the bombs dropped. As they fell they emitted a sharp whistle, I heard an explosion. I couldn't look back. I met back up with Heliotrope and landed near some Minutemares hiding behind a barricade.

"What's happening?" I yelled.

"They came out of nowhere, these small ships started dropping them off and they began shooting at us when we approached them. They have been using that battleship to shell us when we try to leave the castle. We are all spread thin and they just keep coming!" one of the Minutemares responded.

All of a sudden a pony came running at us and jumped over our cover, Heliotrope shot him from near point-blank. The bullet tore through him with ease. He dropped to the ground and I peeked my head over the barricade to see what's out there. It seems we lost the battle out here as the soldiers were killing and wounded survivors.

"Attention ponies on the airfield. I ask you to please surrender, we mean you no harm, we just wish to speak with you. If you surrender we promise we will help you live a better life," Fluttershy voice emanated from the battleship. I looked up and saw one of the cannons aim at the castle. "Please surrender, I really don't want to do this."

"Heliotrope we need to stop that cannon!" We both flew up at it. The cannon fired and my horn began to glow. I used my magic to try to slow the shell down but it wasn't working. I wasn't strong enough. Heliotrope used her magic to help me push it back. It just wasn't enough. The shell kept getting closer I put up my hooves and pushed against it using all my strength and magic.

"Cadance, only this once will I lend you my strength, I will not allow these invaders to destroy the Empire as I did." Sombra's voice echoed through my head.

"For once I think we agree," Cadenza's voice followed Sombra's.

My horn began to glow black as Sombra's power flowed through me. The shell began to stop and as I gripped it and threw it back at the ship, a roar was let out of the shell as if it were a monster, then Sombra's shadow form encased the shell laughing. As it hit the ship a dark wave of energy flooded over the ship causing its guns to go silent. Pieces of the ship began to rain down from the sky and for a moment there was silence. NCR and Minutemare soldier's alike were baffled by the power they had just witnessed.

I flew up into the air, using my royal Canterlot voice I yelled, "Ponies of the NCR under Celestia Wartime Convention you will drop your weapons and surrender, failure to comply will result in the complete annihilation of you forces.

NCR soldiers began to drop their weapons and surrender. I heard a cheer from our side, our soldiers celebrating their hard-fought victory. The Minutemare's rushed out to collect the prisoners of war. Then several small aircraft launched from the battleship.

"Hold fast my troops. Don't shoot unless shot at!" I yelled. Then a dropship landed and pony waving a white flag stumbled out. I flew down to greet her. Then a yellow mare with a long pink mane with gray streaks stepped out of the aircraft.

"Oh my, Princess Cadance? Is that you?" Fluttershy asked.

"Fluttershy? But how? I have so many questions. How did you survive the war? How are you alive 200 years later? What happened to Twilight and the rest of your friends?"

"Now, now Princess Cadance, patience we will get to that later. I apologize for the Republics attack on the castle. It wasn't my intention for them to hurt anypony. We were sent by the leader of the NCR as an expeditionary force to the north. Unfortunately, I'm not that capable of a commander in battle. I was hoping for no bloodshed."

"Sorry about your ship Fluttershy, I think I went a little overboard on the damage..."

"Oh no Princess, you were rightfully defending your castle from foreign invaders I completely understand."

"How are you going to fix the damages. The shell I threw back seems to have done more damage than intended.

"Well with your permission we would like to dock here and use the facilities here to repair our ship. I heard that this place had a huge repair bay for large attack zeppelins back in the old days."

"I have no issue with you using our repair bay but what about your wounded?"

"Oh don't worry about that either Princess," she pointed over at the ponies setting up four strange pylons around the airfield. Then a loud sound almost that of a magical explosion cut through the air. I looked around and saw the wounded begin to stand, their wounds completely healed.

"Fluttershy... What just happened?" I looked around and ponies who were fatally wounded were healed, ponies who had been cut in half by explosions have been repaired and mended, gunshot wounds were healed, cuts scrapes and even the energy of all the ponies were restored.

"This was the original purpose of megaspells, it was meant to heal those wounded on the battlefield. Much to my dismay however the dead will remain dead. Pinkie Pie stole the plans and wanted to develop them into a weapon to use against the Zebra's. Twilight wanted to find a way to end the war fast so Pinkie, Twilight, and Applejack modified my healing spell into a city-destroying weapon," Fluttershy looked down at the ground. "Equestria... My home... My friends... All destroyed because of me..." Her voice trailed off. I gave her a hug.

"Would you like to go inside for some..." I paused. "I guess tea isn't a thing anymore."

"Actually when the NCR raided the Enclave Cloud city over Ponyville, we found that they grew tea and other spices. I actually brought some with me."

"Shall we head to the meeting room then?" I asked, Fluttershy nodded, and off we went, the NCR and Minutemare's began to collect and count their dead.

Once we were inside the meeting room the negotiations began. Fluttershy had her attendant bring us tea and we began to talk.

"Fluttershy, the amount of damage to the castle is immeasurable. The times haven't been kind to her, especially with the battleship damaging the surrounding area's the underground tunnels and storage's may be damaged beyond repair."

"I'm sorry that the NCR was so foolish to think that the ponies here were nothing but raiders. Most ponies consider it rare to see a Pegasus much less a flying battleship. As far as we knew our losses are around three hundred fifty who are dead, the megaspell saved so many lives, I'm afraid that without it we would have lost so much more."

"It's good to know your losses were minimal but we as of right confirm around one hundred twenty-five dead, both civilians and soldiers. Lots of ponies came to the castle after the Minutemare's established it as safe haven. Fluttershy our population before that including soldiers and the families was only three hundred. Almost half of the population was wiped out and the rest are traumatized," I rubbed my head with my hooves, I looked out the window and saw the ponies salvaging the destroyed houses and burying the dead.

"Cadance, these losses here dwarf the losses of the NCR's last major battle against the Legion of Celestia. In the Third Battle of Shatteredhoof, the casualties on the first day numbered in the thousands on both sides. Shatteredhoof is the only fortress repelling the Legion of Celestia from entering the Capital of Junction town. The battle has been in a stalemate for the last three months."

"As of right now, Equestria's issues aren't my primary concern. The Griffon Kingdom kidnapped Shining Armor and I need to find him."

"Oh my... I'm so sorry I didn't know. I know what its like to lose somepony you love," she walked up beside me and hugged me. "While I'm here I'll help in whatever way possible. Regina told us to win the favor and help the ponies of the Crystal Wastes," Fluttershy pulled out a map out of her saddlebags. "We are here," she pointed. "This is Griffonestone, the capital of the Griffons. If anything Shining Armor should be there. The battleship with the damage we sustained..." she began to think. "I believe we need about three weeks to at least patch the breach in the hull and another week to fix the weapons and engines."

"What do we need to repair it?"

"The airfield should have everything we need to fix it. We will send engineers to collect what we need and I will send another squad of engineers to help rebuild and build power supplies. I also will have my troops work and train with yours to increase the effectiveness."

"Alright that sounds good let get to it!" I yelled excitedly.


Footnote: Level up.
Perk added: Magical Surge- Your large scale magic is power is so strong and so uncontrollable it will surge out of control increasing the damage of the spell while damaging the user.

Chapter 10: Shots and Recreation

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"I thank thee, dear Fluttershy! Our normal speaking voice shall surely win us the hearts of thy fellow villagers!"

Several days had passed since Fluttershy arrived in the Crystal Empire. Her troops stored the battleship in the underground hanger for repairs. Since the rebuild of the city the NCR and the ponies of the Empire have been at odds. Constant fights have broken out between the two sides. Fluttershy and I have been trying to keep order but the no one can replace those who have died.

"Now Fluttershy, lets discuss how we are to move forward from here, the Empire has been damaged from the megaspells and most of the city is damaged beyond repair. Not to mention the damage to the palace property from your ship and attack, and the new graveyard we had to dig," I asked, I looked around the room, I felt off. Maybe it was just the way I slept.

"Well Cadance, we apologize for your loss but we don't have very much to offer, increasing tension between the NCR and the crystal ponies are rising and if we can't stop it than we will have more dead than we can count. We should address how to rally them both together."

"Once we get them on the same side then what, do we divide and reconquer the city, as of right now the only part of the city I control is the palace and the area that surrounds it."

"Well we could start with the heart and minds of the ponies, we go to the settlements and find a way to get them to support you, military occupation should never be the first option."

"I can see how well that went for you, we barely were able to drive you back if it wasn't for my magic we would all be a goner."

"We will head to the Crystal Stadium, we spotted a small town that had sprouted up within the stadium that might be the best place to start."

"If we are heading there I suggest we take your ship, it was a few days trot from here without flying," I said, I remember the giant golem that attacked us and I felt a chill roll down my spine. "What is the name of your ship anyways?"

"It's the NCRNS Harmony. But the stadium should only be a few hours, right? I mean I can see it from the balcony."

"Fluttershy occasionally winds from the north will pick up blowing radioactive snow and it caused the formation of a massive snow golem. We then had to take refuge overnight. Then in early morning a giant snow golem attacked us again tearing apart the-..." I was interrupted.

"Madam Secretary!" A pony ran in wearing an NCR soldier uniform with the letters MP on the helmet. A riot has broken out between the Imperial citizens and the NCR."

"Oh dear we should handle this," I said, we walked over to the balcony and saw the mob of ponies gathered in front of a line of military soldiers. Then a gunshot range out and I heard the screams of the ponies below and a fight broke out.

"Please patch me through miss Baton," Fluttershy said.

"Right away ma'am."

"That's enough, you will stop right now, both of you are wrong. You should be ashamed of yourself-," Fluttershy flinched, I noticed the ponies below were throwing glass bottles and vases at her. That's it I had it.

"Silence!!" I yelled in my Royal Canterlot voice, I looked around and the fighting stopped. Both sides were quiet. "How dare you ponies insult our guests by throwing bottles and instigating fights. The battle that broke out a few days ago is in the past, we can't change that. If we dwell on the past we will be no better than the ponies who ruined both Equestria and the First Crystal Empire."

"Soldiers of the NCR, you know better than to open fire on a squad of unarmed ponies. I demand you pay reparations of 100 caps each to the Imperial City for damages," Fluttershy demanded.

"And citizens of the Empire, you will get a long with the NCR, you do not have to like them but under no circumstances shall you instigate violence against them, any violence or malcontent will be swiftly and harshly dealt with, do I make myself clear?" I turned around and walked back inside. I can't believe this, ponies would rather fight with each other than help each other out. I stormed back to the parlor where me and Fluttershy were talking before. When we entered back in several ponies were standing inside including Bullseye, Starlight Glimmer, and a few NCR ponies in decorative military uniform.

"Whats going on here?" Fluttershy asked.

"Princess you need to head to the front balcony now, it's Shining Armor..." Starlight's voice trailed off. "However I would come armed he isn't alone."

"Princess, the NCR and the Minutemare's will have our best guards posted around you and Fluttershy at all times," Bullseye said.

"Pardon my interruption, my name is General Cloud Buster, but if this is the prince of the Crystal Empire why are we bringing such heavy guards," Cloud Buster seemed skeptical.

"Well general, during the Great War, the Griffon Kingdom attacked Equestria trying to claim its resources. When the Zebra's launched their megaspell strikes across Equestria they were besieging the Crystal City. They had a been besieging it for around a year but with supplies were well stocked. Once the megaspells hit that was it, the crystal army, the griffon army and any crystal ponies were killed in the blast," Fluttershy explained.

"While I was in cryostasis within Stable 13 the griffons once again invaded breaking into the stable and stealing Shining Armor from me," I said. "Those griffon will pay with their lives. They took the love of my life away from and for that they will pay with their lives."

"Starlight have the NCR and Minutemare's post snipers, I know this is Shining Armor but he may have been brainwashed by the Griffons," Cloud Buster whispered to Starlight. Starlight nodded and left the room.

We exited the room, I was joined by 7 guards clad in power armor and heavy weapons. My friends stayed inside as we walked out, I couldn't believe my eyes, it was Shining Armor... I took a closer look, he had added cybernetics to himself. I noticed his left eye wasn't blue but red. A metal spine rolled down his back. This wasn't Shining Armor this was an abomination that used to be my husband. Several Griffons stood behind him.

"Princess Cadance!" he yelled forcefully.

"Attention Griffon Kingdom, you are trespassing on Imperial lands. State your business or you will be fired upon."

"The Shining Armor you once knew is no more, I have seen the light of the corruption that the princesses led for 1000 years. Emperor Tallonquill has shown me how corrupted the world truly is. I will stop at nothing to purge the world of evil. And for you Cadance, love is the most corrupt way to rule. To play with the ponies emotions you should be ashamed of yourself. I shall return in one year's time to conquer this land and claim it for the Imperial Griffon Empire," Shining Armor began to laugh, "From this day forth, to you ponies I will no longer be known as Shining Armor. I accept my true name, my Imperial name one bestowed upon my by the true king of Equestria: Glistering Shield. Legionaries, we are off," Shining Armor turned around and began to walk towards this guards.

"Shining Armor!" I ran to him to him. "What has gotten into you?" All of a sudden I was picked up and then slammed into the ground. A wave of pain surged through my body as I felt bones break. "Shining Armor why..." I asked gasping for air.

"All ponies protect the princess!" shouted Fluttershy." My vision began to blur. Before I knew it I felt the cold metal of a pony in armor as a storm of bullets rained down around me. I couldn't hear anything. My vision returned for a slight moment, turning to see ponies fighting the Griffons and led by Shining Armor. I reached out a hoof to him. He turned to look at me.

"Cadance... I'll kill..." Shining Armor's voice was cut off by Silver Wire slamming into him from the air. My heart broke and I blacked out...

<-=======ooO Ooo=======->

I woke up in a field. It was rather windy and cold but I didn't see any snow on the ground. I turned around and it was Ponyville. Where was I? I looked down and noticed my hooves were still pink and my golden slippers were freshly polished. This didn't feel like a memory orb. Something was way off, something felt surreal...

"That's because it is Cadance," Sombra appeared beside me dressed in his royal armor and cape. "This was a world never meant for you. What you are viewing is another dimension. "

"Well it could be reality just not yours dear," Cadenza appeared beside Sombra. "It took a lot of magic for us to show this. This is an alternate reality. Where Equestria never went to war. Look there dear Cadance," Cadenza pointed to Twilight and the crystal train that's pulling into the station.

"Lets take a closer look," Sombra teleported us to the roof of the train station. "Shhh just watch."

I took a closer look and I saw Twilight, she had wings. There is something wrong here. I saw as the guards got of the train. The first off was Flash Sentry and then Achilles's Lance. Then I saw myself walk off and great Twilight.

"Sunshine. Sunshine. Ladybugs awake. Clap your hooves and do a little shake," Twilight and myself sang in unison.

"Come, on I got lots to show you," they walked off the platform and when I turned to the other side I noticed a massive castle in the shape of a tree made of crystal. As they approached the castle I saw the Ministry Mare's come out to greet them. Following behind them I saw Sunset Shimmer, Starlight Glimmer and Trixie Lulamoon. I was bewildered by what I saw. Sunset Shimmer abandoned Equestria long before the war started. Maybe she returned after the bombs fell. They all went inside the castle.

"Shall we get a closer look?" Cadenza said, teleporting us outside a window to the dinning room. We saw all of them laughing and talking.

"So Cadance where's Flurry Heart?" Twilight asked.

"Oh, she is just accompanying her father on a trip to Changeling land to talk with Thorax and the other Changelings. How's your school going?" Cadance asked.

"Busy, busy, busy. It's a lot of work but I've had a lot of help. Ever since Sunset Shimmer came back from the other world my workload has been growing. I need more friendship teachers and they are hard to come by as it is. I feel bad all my friends have to spend most of their day teaching. The Wonderbolts even set up a training program here for potential flyers. I love what my school is turning into. Even Chancellor Neighsay is surprised by the growth..." Twilight continued to ramble on.

"I can't believe what Equestria has become. It's so amazing. It's peaceful, its everything I wanted," tears began to stream down my face. "Why couldn't Equestria be more like this one."

"Not everything in life is fair. In this universe I was completely destroyed, killed by the Crystal Heart. Today is the exact day the bombs fell in our universe. Here the world is at peace but in ours, peace became a distant memory. I may have been a tyrant but I would have never wished for the destruction of all pony kind," Sombra walked away from the window and vanished into smoke.

"Well there is no use crying over what we do and don't have, this universe doesn't belong to us. That Cadance is here, and that Twilight is alive, we should leave before we are spotted," Cadenza then walked away from the window disappearing.

"If only life were as good as this one..." I turned around and saw a light brown pony with a hourglass cutie mark looking at me. I stared back at him and he began to panic.

"Oh no, oh no, no, no, no, this can't be right. You're not supposed to be here. Somepony messed with time and space again. You need to leave now or else the fabric of time... well its actually more like a rug really, but never mind that you're not supposed to be here," the pony said with a strange accent. I closed my eyes tightly and I heard a strange buzzing noise. Then I felt the coldness of the void embrace me. I opened my eyes back up again to see darkness.

"It's time to wake up Cadance," a unfamiliar voice echoed in my head.

<-=======ooO Ooo=======->

Footnote: Perk Acquired.
Perk added: Survivor Pony- Your a born survivor of the wastes. Your Endurance increased by 1 and your bones are 10% more resistant to damage.

Chapter 11: Turnabout in the Clouds

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The sounds of arguing woke me from slumber. I opened my eyes to find myself tied to the bed. My head was pounding, I felt like I was about to vomit. I noticed two ponies arguing.

"Should we bring her to the council?" The stallion asked.

"No bringing her to the council won't get our cutie marks back," the mare's raspy voice sounded coarse, like she had just got out of a screaming contest over who's best pony.

"Well its worth a shot the worst they can do is tell us no."

"Or they will just kill us, keep the money and we will be dead and wasted our effort. I don't trust them."

"Ahem," I cleared my throat. They both looked at me.

"Oh fuck..." They both said in unison.

"Shit, she is conscious, we are so going to die," The stallion said. I rolled my eyes. I tried to use my magic but it fizzled out. My head began to pound bad, it was as if I had taken a sledge hammer to the head.

"Look, I know that this conversation is real important do you mind freeing me..." I said lethargically, feeling my head pound. Oh Celestia it feels just like the time Twilight discovered a migraine spell. Who ever created such a thing should be sent to Tartarus.

"You know what maybe its for the best, we should just let her go you know. She has no bounty, she is just a random Alicorn. And she is pink which isn't a normal color."

"I'll have you know this pink Alicorn has a name," I snickered. They ignored me and continued to argue. I felt my energy start to return slowly. I took a deep breath. It was different, it was fresh...1 it felt clear. I haven't taken a breath like this since before the war. "Where am I?"

"That's none of your concern," a pegasus pony entered the room. He wore a black suit with a purple lightning bolt down the middle. He wore a mask that concealed his face but exposed his mane. "The Enclave has a warrant for your arrest, Princess Cadance. You will be tried for treason against Equestria and dereliction of duty."

"What? I didn't abandon Equestria? I was thrown into a Stable against my will and my husband was kidnapped by the Griffons!" I shouted.

"Oh we know, we've been trying to hunt him down for years now. The Griffons keep their pet on a tight leash. Now you can come willingly or we can drag you there, your choice," he said, undoing my restraints.

"You must have a lot of trust in me to let me go like this," I retorted.

"I'm not letting you go, I'm just the escort, and if you think about escaping I will kill you," he replied. I rolled my eyes at him. He put me on my hooves and pushed me to the door.

"You and what army," I said sarcastically. He laughed and the door swing open. We were up in the clouds, I could see the blue sky and the sun. This is the first time I've seen sky since I was frozen. I looked around, there were hundreds of ponies lined up in rows wearing black bug like armor like the two guards in the room. I was escorted to a large building made of clouds, it was circular, like castle rotunda. Upon entry there were rows for audience members to watch from above and on the ground floor, rows of tables, occupied by pegasi wearing black robes. A flag of Equestria with a giant letter E in the middle was present above the center podium. I was seated on the right side of the room, there was only one table there.

"This trial is now in session," a judge pony standing at the podium announced, his mane was sparse but he had a really thick beard for a older stallion. "Let us not delay this further. We, the ponies of the Grand Pegasus Enclave, the last bastion of Equestria, who valiantly fought by Equestria's side during the Great War, only to be betrayed as the princesses let Cloudsdayle be completely and utterly destroyed as they guarded themselves in Canterlot. We the Council of Clouds, have brought you to the sky city of Far Harbor, the new Pegasi capital, to charge you with treason against Equestria and abandonment of the ponies in their time of need," the pony said. "Princess Cadance please step up to the podium and tell us where you where when the bombs fell," I was dragged out of my chair to the podium.

I regained my composure and took a deep breath. I could see hundreds of pegasi looking at me with scowls across their faces.

"I, Princess Cadance, sovereign ruler of the Crystal Empire have done nothing wrong. On the day the bombs fell I was in my castle. Shining Armor and myself had a shield across the city in the same manner of when the changelings attacked. We were barraged for hours by zebra megaspells and an invasion from the Griffon Empire, by 7th hour that day, our shield fell, I was exhausted, I couldn't hold it up by myself, I tried to warn Equestria but by then it was too late. Equestria had been hit and we were alone. I sent out a warning to evacuate to the stables, military and civilian ponies alike. However my army did not waver and continued to repel the attackers as the city was hit by the megaspells. I was evacuated into Stable 13 just outside the city. I was forced to leave Shining Armor behind.." I wiped the tears from my eyes. "He was brought in later with severe wounds and trauma. I was then frozen in cryogenic stasis for the next two hundred years. Unaware of what happened around me. Until the Griffons broke into Stable 13..." I looked around, I could see a few ponies expressions had changed, they no longer had the scowls and face of betrayal they wore earlier. Maybe I would have a chance to unite the Pegasi on my side. "They came into the Stable and stole Shining Armor from me, taunting me as I could do nothing from my stasis pod. I was then refrozen to awaken sometime later, I have only been out of the stable about 2 weeks. The only survivors were the Overmare Starlight Glimmer and myself. Although I haven't seen her since the Griffon assault on the Castle," ponies in the gallery were murmuring amongst themselves.

"Princess just because your story is sad doesn't mean you didn't abandon the ponies," the judge pony called out. "Sure you put up a shield but did you not fly to the front lines to help?" the judge pony asked.

"Well, I..." I was cut off.

"Do you know how many lives were lost because of your cowardice? Where were you when Cloudsdayle was destroyed? Safe in your stable! While we all suffered" he screamed at me. "I see no further reason to prolong this trial. I find you guilty of treason," the crowds were murmurs became louder. I could here the sounds of quite arguments and shock among the pegasi.

"Traitor, I hope you rot in hell," a young pegasi threw can at me, it struck me in my right hind leg. I looked up to see several other pegasi pick things up to throw at me. I tried to bring up a shield with my magic but my magic fizzled and I couldn't cast any spells.

"Stop!" the doors behind me flung open, several pegasi wearing the bug-like armor stormed in the room. "Judge Gavel Wing! By the order of the Council of Wings you are being charge with sedition, treason and insubordination against Equestria," the pegasus walked forward, she had several guns attached to her armor, a soft purple glow radiated off the armor. I took a closer look, their armor was different, it wasn't black. They were shaded a sky blue with a cloud and lightning bolt over the cutie mark.

"Guards kill them and the princess!" the judge yelled ducking behind the podium. Enclave pegasi began to open fire. Bolts of magical energy filled the room. I looked up to see the pegasi in the gallery scrambling for safety. I watched as Enclave pegasi flew up to the gallery. A few stray shots missed him and melted a pony down to ash. I shuttered at the sight.

"Psst! Princess!" a blue armored pegasus tried to whisper loudly to me. She was crawling to me. "Follow me, I'll get you out," she turned around and began to crawl away.

I followed her, inching along the ground, the bodies of dead ponies both of politicians, soldiers, and the innocent littered the floor. A stray bolt then hit me on my left hind leg. I screamed in pain. It was excruciating, my leg felt like it was melting. I began to pant, I couldn't focus and my vision went blurry. I continued to crawl my leg hurting with every movement. After what felt like an eternity we made it to the door.

"Quick run through the door!" the mare jumped up and bolted through. "Can you fly?" the mare spoke with a sense of urgency. I shook my head, I could barely conjure up my magic much less fly. "Shit alright then, Slipstream! Help me carry the princess!" then I was lifted up between the two pegasi, they began to flap their wings as hard as they could, we started to slowly ascend, one by one I saw the blue armored pegasi retreat towards a giant airship, it was partially made of cloud and metal. It was a strange amalgamation of weather control and technological progress. A large metal gate opened on the ship and the pegasi flew me inside. They collapsed on the floor and I along with them. Several more ponies came out, lifting me up onto a medical bed with wheels, and rushed me off somewhere in the ship. I looked down at my PipMare to see what I am suffering from. It was labeled as a concussion, dehydration, exhaustion, starvation, and broken ribs.

"You're going to be alright, don't worry Dr. Cloud Berry will have you fixed right up," I was rushed through a pair of doors into the medical wing. There were ponies in lab coats attending to other patients. The lights were bright, much brighter than they had been back in the castle.

"Get the medical equipment we need to make sure she is alright, I need an IV and several screens for concussions and broken bones," a doctor pony in a lab coat grabbed a clipboard and looked at me. "Don't worry you are going to be alright," she said to me. I blackout...

******************************************************

I woke up several hours later, I check my PipMare, and everything was fixed. My head still felt groggy and my magic hadn't fully recovered yet but my head didn't hurt and I could move easier. An orange pegasus wearing a grey uniform approached me. Her uniform was stylish yet militaristic.

"Welcome to the Cryonimbus," the mare said. "My name is Sunset Daze, and I am the captain of this ol' piece of junk."

"It's I pleasure," I said wearily.

"I'm sure you got a ton of questions so, I'll do my best to answer them as best as possible," she looked at me inquisitively.

"Ok..." I responded slowly. "What happened to my friends and everypony after the Griffons attack the Crystal City?" I asked. I rubbed my head as I tried to remember, all I could remember was Shining Armor. Or should I say Cyber Armor, Shining Cyber? I'll come up with a new name later...

"Well, from our end, the cloud city of Cirrostratus was over the Crystal Empire and it's in a constant struggle between us and the other factions. And well..."

"What do you mean our faction, who exactly are you?" I interjected.

"Oh, how silly of me, I never explained who we were. We are the Knights of Awesome," she said proudly. I gave her a blank stare. "Wow you never heard of us?" I shook my head. "Well weren't always this way. About ten years ago the Grand Pegasus Enclave, invaded the surface bellow after 200 years of isolation. Our initial invasion plan was simple, capture the Dashites, secure a base of operation and help the ponies on the surface. However... that wasn't how it went down. We were supposed to set up shop in Canterlot only to find it riddled with Pink Cloud. At the time I was only a lieutenant fresh out of the academy, I didn't question my orders given to me until that day. I was the artillery officer and the orders had come down to blow the city off the mountain. And so we destroyed Canterlot... blew it right off the mountain," regret could be heard in her voice.

"The city I was born and grew up in, is gone completly? Did the Enclave even try to get rid of it?" I questioned. I felt anger and sadness well within me. I could never go back home. I had no home to return to.

"No we couldn't the Pink Cloud fuses anything that the pony is wearing to them, they also can't breathe it or they will die, the cloud never went away. After that we were tasked to go to Manehatten, we had gotten word that somepony was willing to turn in a Dashite for a reward. By the time we got their things went sour, a firefight broke out, and the city was heavily defended. Large guns on the island known as Friendship City, built in the old pony statue, had taken out one Raptor and crippled mine. I was on the Altostratus. After the bridge was hit I took command and we finished off the last of the shore guns. We were constantly being ordered by our sister ship Pyronimbus to continue to fire on the city and destroy it. I disobeyed, our guns remained silent. I was not going to slaughter innocent ponies. After that, the Pyronimbus opened fire and the Altostratus went down. We crashed on the far side of Manehatten. After heading to the rally point but the crew was the only survivors. We flew back up to the clouds and all of a sudden, a massive hole in our cloud cover was cleared by a pony who performed a sonic rainboom."

"Wait, you mean as in Rainbow Dash's technique?" I recalled her performing one at my wedding. It was a true spectacle to see, a sea of colors illuminated the night sky only to be followed by the sky to be dyed once again in fireworks. As much of a disaster as it was, it was still an amazing wedding.

"After that, the Enclave retreated back to the sky. The Enclave was brutally crippled from the invasion, the politicians fractured and civil war erupted as many pegasi abandoned the Enclave for the surface. Right now, there are only three remaining factions. The Knights of Awesome; which is us, you can tell by our blue armor and by Rainbow Dash's cutie mark on all of our stuff. Then there is the Remnant. You already met them, they are traditionalists. They are what's left of the Enclave and the ponies still loyal to them. They wear black armor. Finally, there are the Steel Rangers..." she paused. I knew about them before the war, Applejack and her coltfriend Applesnack came to visit on one occasion, I remember his bulky, heavy, magical armor.

"Wait, Steel Rangers are prominently earth and unicorn ponies, how are they able to stand on clouds?" I asked, from what I know Twilight Sparkle found an ancient spell that allowed a pony to walk on clouds, but it only lasted four hours.

"They have what's called an air talisman. Like griffons, they can walk on clouds but not move them. But they are limited to only 6 hours on clouds at a time, so they don't stray much from the mountains. Anyways the Knights of Awesome are a part of Applejack's Rangers. Applejack's Rangers formed after a split in leadership before the Pegasi attacked. The Steel Rangers were after technology while the founder Steel Hooves wanted to protect ponies of the wasteland like Applejack always wanted. After our massive failure, the Wonderbolts joined Applejack's Rangers, since the Pegasi are the only ones who can walk on the clouds we changed our names to the Knights of Awesome. But on the ground, that's nothing more than our contingent name. "

"And where are we going?" I asked, I was first abducted from who knows where going to who knows what. Well, it seems Twilight's cloud walking spell didn't improve much since the last time she used it.


"Oh, right, we are heading to the Thunderhead Shimmering Night, well at least what's left of it, it still flies but um... most of its cannons don't function and it was left abandoned after the invasion so we took over. It used to protect the Enclave High Council but was sabotaged by defectors and the ship was sent adrift. We found it floating near the ruins of Van Hoover and moored it to the clouds and it's been our base ever since.

"Wait so we are near Van Hoover?" Van Hoover was in eastern Equestria and about two weeks trot from the Crystal Empire.

"No, Shimmering Night is hidden near the Dragon Cave, now it's called Sky Harbor. We fought there too, we really pissed off the dragon living there. He, alongside Applejack's Rangers, attacked us and wiped out the forces assaulting his cave. Rumor has it, that dragon was actually Spike, who was Ministry Mare Twilight Sparkle's personal assistant during the war. And that he watched the wasteland waiting for the chosen one. Anyways we are now in Equestria, not the Crystal Empire.

"Spike? Can we make a little detour, I want to see the cave. Spike is a friend of mine, I knew him since the days if Old Equestria."

"Well Sky Harbor is a bit complicated. It's more or less a safe haven for anypony who comes but most living there hate the Enclave, the Steel Rangers, and the Knights of Awesome."

"Please you must take me there. It's very important I see Spike, he'll known what to do. "

"Can you stand princess?" she asked. her expression grew solemn as I began to stand.

"Yeah, my body feels a bit tender but I can still walk," Sunset helped me out of bed and I stood up.

"Please, follow me," Sunset said as she opened a door and began to walk down a narrow hallway. A mixture of Earth, Unicorn and Pegasi ponies wandered the halls. We continued to walk straight down the hallway and turned right. We approached a door and the sign above read 'bridge'. Sunset opened the door to see several ponies turn towards her and salute her; bringing their hooves too their forehead one of the ponies shouted.

"Captain on deck! All hands to your stations!" the pony approached Sunset and I. "Good to see your guest is alive Lancer Captain Sunset. We have quarters ready for her as request," A pony in a leather flight jacket saluted.

"As you were," Sunset said, the ponies all turned back around and resumed their daily activities.

"Ma'am, our current bearing is 191.2 on route to dock with Shimmering Night," the pony said, she had a propeller cutie mark and was a light green with a light white and green mane.

"Change of plans, adjust bearings to 045 north east toward Sky Harbor."

"Are you sure ma'am, the Steel Rangers and Applejacks Rangers have been fighting over ground.

"Yes, turn this ship around and approach at Flank Speed. We need to get there ASAP. I'll assume control of the helm. Lightning Dust! Front and center!" she yelled. A green pony with blond mane moved with great haste and stood in front of Sunset. "Ensign Lightning Dust will show you to her room."

"Yes, Ma'am!" she shouted. "Please follow me Princess."

"Thank you," I replied. She guided me outside the door into a narrow hallway.

"You know when we caught wind of the Enclave putting an Alicorn on trial, we weren't expecting it to be you," she said, as we walked.

"Yes, in this world I can understand that, I met an Alicorn at Emerald Field. She was purple," I wondered what had happened to her after Shining Armor knocked me out.

"Wow a purple one. Those are a rare sight. Highly valuable soldiers because they specialize in shields and teleportation," we made it to the elevator. She pressed the button to call the elevator. We stepped inside.

"So Lightning Dust, your name sounds very familiar... I can't quite put my hoof on it," I rubbed my chin trying to think.

"I can answer that for you. My great, great, great, great, great grandmother, was the First Lightning Dust. She became a Shadowbolt and Rainbow Dash herself selected her personally for her squadron. I'm the 7th pony to carry her name. My mom also shares my name. In my family if you are born with a mare with a green coat and a yellowish mane, your name is Lightning Dust. All Lightning Dust are trained to be military, each one of us lived up to something special. Except for me... I served in a Shadowbolt unit was on a recon mission to recover 'assets' in Manehatten, turns out it was a crashed Raptor and we were told to take what we can and blow it up. However civilian ponies set up a small community in the hangar and I couldn't bring myself to kill them. I pleaded with my commander but he called them unclean savages. So I killed him and deserted my squad. After I got far enough away the Enclave dropped a huge bomb on it blowing it to pieces with both the remainder of my squad and the civilians inside."

"Why haven't you gone home?" I asked. "Why join the rebels?"

"Well its because if I had returned they would have had me killed for surviving that. I would had been branded a Dashite and my cutie mark branded off and then publicly executed. The pegasi up there don't know whats really happening down here. I said its probably best that I remain dead. I do miss my mom however, I wonder how she is doing. How my sisters and my friends are. Guess I'll never know, if I show my face in an Enclave city they'll probably be my enemy."

"That's awful..." I said solemnly. "One day I hope to reunite Equestria and find my husband. Restore harmony to the land like my sister Twilight," the elevator doors opened and I walked out with Lightning Dust quickly moving in front of me.

"Twilight? Like as in Twilight Sparkle, the Ministry Mare?"

"Yeah that's her. I used to be her foal sitter when she was younger. That's how I met Shining Armor, her older brother. So technically I'm her sister-in-law but that's just technicalities. We were as close as two mares could get," I cleared my throat. "Ahem, well... uh... not like in a romantic sort of way but like sisterhood way."

I know, I got that," she chuckled. I rolled my eyes. "Here we are princess," she stopped and opened a door revealing a luxurious room with a large bed, nice furniture and a painting of Sunset Daze, I walked in and saw the bathroom had a bath tub. After what I've been through I could use a bath. "We should be at Sky Harbor by tomorrow afternoon. If you need something don't hesitate to ask. I'll be standing guard outside your door," I nodded to her and walked in. Lightning Dust shut the door behind me.

"Alone at last," I sighed. I walked to the window. We were above the clouds. I turned around and walked towards the bath. I turned on the water to find it hot. I hadn't used running water since before Stable. I filled up the tub and got in. The water turned instantly black from the dirt, grime and blood in my coat. I quickly drained the water and refilled it to find the water nice and clear. I sunk lower into the tub relaxing. I felt like I was in paradise. After relieving myself of, other more primal needs, I stepped out of the bath. I dried myself off and wrapped my mane in a towel. I sighed. I felt like I just left the Crystal Spa before meeting Mrs. Harshwhinny. To bad the games were cancelled by the war. I laid down on the bed and felt my body sink into it. I was so used to sleeping on the floor this felt so foreign. The pillows were soft and the mattress was clean. It was almost like I was still in my bed in Canterlot. I felt myself drift off to sleep peacefully for the first time since before the war.

Footnote: Level Up.
Perk added: Charming Pony- You're a natural born beauty in mind and body, admired by all. You're Speech and Barter skill is increased by 15

Chapter 12: Among the Clouds

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Who you callin' a gecko?

I slowly opened my eyes. I felt sore. With a yawn and a stretch of my wings, I stood up. I walked up to the window, we were still flying high above the ground. Small patches of ruined and blasted-out buildings littered the skyline. Nature was overtaking old Equestria, one day the buildings that I once knew would be nothing more than a page in history. Equestria is starting to heal from the brutality of war... Equestria may heal but my scars feel fresh hundreds of years later. I rolled my eyes and walked into the bathroom. I found a brush in the cabinet and carefully straightened out my mane. I put my crown and royal slippers on and stood in front of the mirror. I smiled at myself, I haven't looked this proper since the last day.

"Well aren't you a sexy vixen," I purred. I chuckled then made the bed. I had slept peacefully and in comfort for the first time in ages. I checked the time on my PipMare, it was 9:00 am. It is time for me to greet the day. I opened the front door to find Lightning Dust standing guard.

"Good morning Princess Cadance," she greeted me with a smile. "Did you sleep well?"

"Good morning Lightning Dust, yes I did. I don’t think I’ve slept that good since before the war."

"Are you hungry? I can take you to the mess hall if you are," I heard my stomach growl audibly. I blushed in embarrassment.

"How indecent of me. Yes, I would very much like that," Lightning Dust smiled at me and began to walk to down the hallway. "Were you standing guard all night?"

"No, Captain Sunset wanted me to take over around 4:00am in order to be there when you awoke. I got about three hours of sleep and took over. "

"Well it does make me feel better to be greeted by a familiar face," we turned down a hallway and walked through an open door into the mess hall. The mess hall was full of Pegasi eating and chatting about their day.

“Room! Attention!” Lightning Dust’s voice boomed through the mess hall. Every Pegasi stood up, stiff as statues.

“What do I do?” I whispered to Lightning.

“Tell them as you were,” she whispered back

“As you were,” I said hesitantly. I heard Pegasi take their seats and continue their conversations. Lightning Dust lead me to the line and I grabbed a tray.

“Was all that really necessary?”

“Well yes, you outrank everyone including the elder.”

I was given a plate with four pancakes on it. "Oh my..."

"Is there something wrong Princess?"

"No, nothing... Just I haven't had pancakes since my last meeting with Twilight Sparkle," the room fell silent. I felt the gaze of several eyes on me.

"Did she say Twilight Sparkle?" a pony murmured.

"Like the ministry mare?" whispered another. Scattered voices continued to fill the room.

"Common Princess, let's sit down..." Lightning Dust pulled out my chair and I sat my tray down and took a seat. She sat across from me, setting her tray in front of her with a cup of juice. I poured some syrup on top and took a bite. My mouth danced in euphoria. Never in my days of in wasteland had I needed something so much and not known till I received it.

"This is so good," I said. A wide smile grew across my face as took another bite. This ship felt like heaven. What was a normal day for the ponies on bored was a field trip for me. A soft bed, clean sheets, a hot bath, pancakes. It's as if I never left Old Equestria.

"Are they really that good?" Lightning Dust chuckled. I swallowed and took another bite making sure to savor the flavor. I nodded to her. "Since the Garden's of Equestria was activated, life is pretty normal around Equestria."

"Garden's of Equestria?" I asked. I continued to eat my food, I think Twilight mentioned it to me before. It was a fail-safe in case Equestria was devastated.

Lightning Dust looked at me. "You don't know? They are actually at Spike's Cave. At Sky Harbor," she pointed to a window. A large mountain came into view with a small wooden town sprouting up around it.

The speakers in the room groaned with a sharp screech."This is you're Captain speaking. We will be arriving at Sky Harbor in about 20 minutes, all ground crew prepare for decent and ground procedures."

I saw half of the room begin to clear out and scatter through the doorway.

"Well I guess that's our cue," Lightning Dust took her tray and stacked it on top of a large pile of trays. I followed suit and trailed after her. Several ponies were crisscrossing through the narrow hallways doing various tasks.

We soon entered the hangar, several pegasi wearing power armor were there waiting. They stood in a line formation at attention. They saluted me as I walked by. Sunset Daze was standing in the hanger talking to a group of ponies.

"Good morning ma'am," Lightning Dust saluted. Sunset returned the salute and lowered it.

"Good morning, Lightning Dust," Sunset turned and saluted me. "Good morning Princess Cadance."

I saluted back, "Good morning Sunset, you don't have to salute me. My title isn't valid anymore. Equestria isn't a nation anymore.

"Oh, nonsense princess. The Pegasi are still very old-minded. A 100 years after the War, we sent search parties to find each of the princess’s but they never returned. We assume the Griffons, were active around the Crystal Empire."

"Wait, why did they put me on trial?"

"Well, the Enclave has lost a lot of power since Operation Cauterize. They couldn't hold proper authority. Maybe they thought if they killed you or at least held you hostage they could solidify under royal authority."

I thought about it for a minute. "Well, I'm glad I'm not in that mess. Who knows what could have happened."

The large hangar doors slowly opened and the ramp descended onto the mountain platform. Several ponies ran out with ropes in their mouths.

"Cadance, before you leave take this," Sunset Daze gave me a plasma pistol and a holster. "You'll never know when you might need it." I strapped it to my side and saw two ponies in pegasi power armor approach me. "I'm also assigning you two more guards along with Lightning Dust while you're ashore."

"I am staff sergeant Rime Ice," a white pony with a two-tone gray mane saluted.

"I am senior airpony Sheer Cold," she saluted me and stood next to Rime Ice. They both removed their helmets. Rime Ice has a white coat and light blue almost lucid mane. Sheer Cold was a frost blue but has golden eyes and tufted ears. Almost similar to that of a bat pony.

"Attention!" Lightning Dust yelled. "Secure your gear and be ready to move out in 5 minutes."

"Yes ma'am!" they both shouted in unison. They put their helmets back on and began to adjust their gear.

I looked over at Lightning Dust who wore a purple and black bodysuit. Her power armor wrapped around her covering her wings with a large protruding scorpion tail curled above the armor.

"Are you ready to go Princess?" Lightning Dust's face was completely covered by her helmet. If it wasn't for her distinct raspy voice she'd be no different than the rest of the armor-clad pegasi.

"Yes, please take me to Spike."

"Sheer you take the rear, Rime you're on point. Your job is to keep her majesty safe. Is that understood?"

Rime Ice and Sheer Cold both snapped back to attention shouting: "Yes ma'am!"

"Here Princess takes this, a few of the troops made this for you,” Lightning gave me a brown bomber jacket with soft fleece on the inside. On the front, a small patch adorned the front with my cutie mark on it.

I smiled, “Thank you so much, Lightning Dust, please give the ponies who made this my thanks as well,” I put the jacket on and I felt the jacket wrap around me like a warm blanket. I took a deep breath and we pushed off.

I began to walk towards the large open hangar door, my detail of armored pegasi surrounded me. Two pegasi were standing near the ramp and saluted me as we passed. We walked down the large metal ramp onto the rocky cliffs side. I felt the fast wind begin to blow against my face, small metal shacks lined the cliffs. They were adorned with the logo of Applejack’s Ranger. Three ponies stood guard in front of the entrance. One was adorned with full power armor while the other two wore small bits of armor with gray helmets.

“Good morning Princess Cadance,” the ponies said in unison. I salute them and walked past. Sky Harbor was a thriving town. Ponies were hard at work mending structures or working the foundries. The ponies stared as our convoy passed through the center of town. A bright blue ball rolled towards me. I stopped it with my hoof and saw a lavender unicorn fully waving her hoof at me. I smiled and kick it towards her. She returned the smile and returned to her friends.

“It’s wonderful isn’t it,” Lightning stated.

“Indeed,” I responded.

“This is the first settlement since the Great War to include the three pony races.”

“I remember when the Pegasi declared secession from Equestria. There were three Pegasi cities near the Crystal Empire, Frost Fallen, Cirrostratus, and Snow Drift. During the war, they provided a thick cloud layer over the Crystal Empire. Shortly after our entry into the war several Zebra zeppelins flew over the cloud city of Frost Fallen and obliterated it in magical fire. Our aircraft were too late. By the time we sent emergency forces, the zebras were fleeing the area. We couldn’t find any survivors. The Pegasi blamed me for not protecting the city. But it wants until the events of Cloudsdale did they turn their back on us.”

“I’ve heard that the Zebra’s were cruel and they would even target civilians.”

“I met a Zebra long before the war, Twilight Sparkle introduce me to her. She spoke in crazy rhymes.”

“We’re here,” we approached the mouth of a large cave in the middle of the village. A massive steel door lay within with a smaller pony-sized door at the bottom. “We will be waiting outside princess. Not that I don't believe he's your friend but I'd rather not be eaten like others I knew..."

My entourage took a step back and turned around. I approached the small metal door at the bottom of the larger door. I pushed the door with my hoof. With a loud groan, the door creaked open. I walked inside and turned on my PipMare's light. I couldn't see past a few feet and proceed forward.

"You dare to enter my lair uninvited?" a loud deep voice echoed throughout the cave. The door behind me slammed shut. I started to smell smoke, I continued to walk deeper into the cave. "You had your chance to leave trespasser. But now you leave me with no choice. I must protect what my friends left behind," The room illuminated in green fire. In my panic, I instinctively put up a shield around myself. The fire swirled around the shield. I felt the strain on my horn as the fire grew stronger.

"Spike wait!" I yelled, the fire dissipated and darkness flooded the room.

"How do you know my name?" a massive purple and green dragon head broke through the darkness, my PipMare's light barely illuminated his features. He stared at me blinking a few times. "Princess Cadance? Is that really you?" The dragon asked. His head withdrew back into the darkness. I heard a loud clang and the lights slowly flickered to life. What was what I thought was a cramped cave was turned to be a massive cavern. I saw a massive purple dragon with a soft green underbelly. His scales glimmered like gems. He may be much bigger than he was back then but he is still the same Spike that saved the Crystal Empire.

"Hi Spike, it's good to see you," I approached the big dragon, he put his head down to the floor and I put a hoof on his nose. A tear rolled down his face.

"First we found Fluttershy and now you!" he bawled. "How did you even survive the past 200 years?"

"I was cryogenically frozen in Stable 13."

"That explains why I could never find you. I sent my eyebots to the frozen north in hopes of finding you but they either were destroyed or they came back with nothing."

"That's actually why I wanted to talk about it. Spike, Shining Armor is still alive. He was kidnapped by the Griffon Empire."

"That would explain a lot. I don't have too many eyebots left to roam the wasteland but I have heard reports of griffon activities in the north. I'm sorry Cadance, I wish I could help you but I just don't have the resources to go up north."

"That's ok Spike, things really aren't what they used to be," I sat down in front of the towering dragon.

"Yeah, everypony we knew and loved died. I spend the first 50 years crying for Twilight to come save me..."

"What? The almighty Spike, the savior of the Crystal Empire, crying like a foal," I chuckled.

"Oh before I forget I do have something for you," Spike turned around, his tail swung towards me. I flew above it just in time watching it slam into the cave wall. "Oh sorry, I kinda forget how big I am these days. Here, it's a book from Twilight."

My horn ignited and I levitated the book towards me. I picked it up and read the cover, "The Centurion."

"It's one of Twilights' favorite books. She left it just in case you survived and found your way to the cave. I don't think she expected you to be here over 200 years later."

I opened the cover and found a long note written inside:

Dear Cadance,

The world as we know it may soon come to an end. Equestria is slowly buckling under the weight of war. The ponies of the land have lost the idea of friendship. I'm afraid that I have as well. I had a massive argument with Pinkie Pie the other day. This war has taken a massive toll on all of us and I feel like something bad is approaching. Fluttershy told me that it's possible her megaspell research has been compromised and she is moving her research facility to Maripony. I'm about to head there myself to oversee some new projects there as well. Hopefully, this war will close soon, I'm not sure how much more I can take of this. I can't remember when I last saw us all together in the same room. I hope you and my brother are well and that the Crystal Empire is fairing better than Equestria. I apologize for not writing a long note I only have 10 minutes to write this before I have to leave.

Your sister,
-Twilight Sparkle

Tears began to well up in my eyes. The coldness of the cave made it all the more apparent that I was crying. I couldn't control my emotions. Spike laid his head down to the floor, eye level with me.

"I miss her too. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about how she needed me and I wasn't there. I fell asleep for the last few weeks of the war," Spike's face grew sad. I hugged the book, it wasn't the same as if she was with me but I did feel closer. I wiped the tears from my eyes and stared at Spike.

"Do you know where Fluttershy is?" I asked Spike.

"Yeah, she was heading towards the Crystal Empire. I'm surprised you haven't run into each other."

"We did but, what's left of the Griffon Empire came and attacked us. Next thing I knew I woke up a prisoner of the Enclave."

"Enclave? They are still around? Probably a few holdouts but I'm amazed they went down to the surface just to find you. There is a terminal behind me, would you be able to contact Fluttershy with it? She calibrated it just in case I needed to but my claws are the size of a small wagon so..."

"Where is the terminal Spike?" I laughed. He turned around, I jumped up taking flight to avoid his tail. It slammed into the opposite wall.

"It's on the other side of the GECK, just before the stairs to the pre-war library."

I located the terminal booting it up. It took a few minutes to start. Its age showed. Even on the last day of Equestria, this was considered outdated. Once the Terminal was ready I logged in. I scrolled down to the contacts tab and Fluttershy was the only contact on the list. I clicked on the contact and a few dots showed up. No response. I tried again. Success!

"Hello? Spike? Is that you?" Fluttershy's garbled voice came out of the monitor.

"Fluttershy?" I said cautiously.

"Princess Cadance? Is that you?"

"Fluttershy it's me! I'm with Spike, what happened?"

"I'm so glad you are ok. How did you find Spike?"

"I was brought here after I was rescued from the Enclave."

"Oh dear, that's what I was afraid happened. Several days before the Griffons arrived we spotted an Enclave scouting party in the city. We assumed they were a bunch of rouge soldiers but they opened fire on our patrol and headed back to the clouds. That was dumb of me to think you couldn't have been their target."

"Who is this Enclave, who are these Knights of Awesome? I've met a ton of people and never got any answers."

"The Enclave are a bunch of rude individuals who shot up my cave and tried to kill me and my friends," Spike growled.

"Hello Spike, glad you are well."

"You to Flutters."

"But yes, they are pretty rude. Princess Cadance, when the Pegasi abandoned the Equestrian war effort after the destruction of Cloudsdale, they formed their own pseudo-Equestrian government that became the Enclave. Eventually, their population outgrew their cloud cities and about ten years ago tried to retake the surface. The ponies at the surface were already embroiled in conflict but were able to repel them. Their massive assault split their government with some in favor of peace and some who wanted to continue the war.”

“How did I end up being kidnapped by them?”

“They infiltrated our airship... it was my fault. I had allocated my soldiers to help establish airfield operation and the ponies guarding you were overpowered during the night. I’m so sorry princess.”

“I guess we are lucky no one was hurt. What about the Knights of Awesome?”

“They are the Pegasi equivalent of Applejacks Rangers. They call themselves that because of Rainbow Dash’s ministry."

"Fluttershy what is the state of the Empire?"

"So far Starlight has been acting in your stead and the NCR is sending reinforcements to stabilize the city. The Castle population has increased by 50, some coming from Emerald Field, others coming from smaller settlements throughout the Empire. Crystal ponies have been whispering about the Crystal Heart restoring the Empire. I'm contacting the elder to have the knights bring you back-" I heard a large explosion at the entrance of the cave. I turned around to hear a mix energy and conventional weapons.

"Not again!" Spike was grabbing a large handle and began to check the massive locks on the door.

"Oh my. I'll contact the elder right away, sounds like the Steel Rangers are at it again. I'll see you soon," the transmission cut off and the screen shut went dark. I turned around Spike opened the small door.

"I'm sorry Cadance but I have to kick you out, I can't let all of Twilight's work be destroyed!" The light from the door bled into the darkening room.

"It's alright Spike I understand, I'll see you next time," I ran out the door, I have to help the others, I can't let any more of my friends die.

Footnote: Perk Aquired.
Perk added: Command Presence: Your presence inspires all of your allies and puts fear in your enemies,
You gain a boost to speech while talking to military forces.

Chapter 13: Blood on the Risers

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"And that's how Equestria was made!"

I rushed out of the cave, a laser beam whizzed past my face. I jumped back in a panic. A pony in power armor emerged from behind a rock firing his minigun. The barrels turned red from the prolonged use. I looked over to the aggressor, Lightning Dust fired multiple plasma rounds at the steel foe. I heard him scream as his front armor began to melt. The pony ejected out of the power armor and scrambled for cover.

"Stop!" I yelled. Lightning Dust poked her head out at me.

"Princess get to cover quickly!" she motioned for me to come over. I used my magic to grab the red mare who ejected from the suit of armor. I held her by her tail and moved her in front of me. Her eyes were clenched shut.

"Why are you shooting at my friends?" the mare's eyes were still closed. "Do you know who I am?" the red mare shook her head frantically. I set her down and sighed.

"Give her back!" a stallion in grey combat armor began to open fire. I cast a barrier over us, his bullets melted upon contact with the barrier. He continued to fire at me.

"Subdue him please, non-lethally," I postured. I sat down in front of the red mare and lifted her head with my hooves. "Please open your eyes. I promise I am no threat to you. It is not my wish to kill you." The mare looked up at me. Her amber eyes were full of tears. "Please tell me your name."

"M-m-my name is Ch-Chili Pepper," she quivered.

"My name is Princess Mi-Amore Cadenza, Third Empress of the Crystal Empire, Princess of Equestria," I lowered myself to her. "Please stop this fighting this, I am just tired of all the needless bloodshed." Chili Pepper squeaked and passed out. I rolled my eyes. Lightning Dust and Rime Ice had subdued the other pony, she was a Green Mare, her armor covered the majority of her body beside her head and tail. She brandished what looked to be the old Steel Ranger logo from before the war. "Who are you?"

"Fuck you, you mutant piece of shit!" the green mare yelled.

"Watch your mouth, you are talking to Her Royal Majesty Princess Cadance," Rime Ice punched the mare in the side of the head.

"Where is the rest of your scouting party?" Lightning Dust questioned pulling her mane with her teeth. "If you don't tell us we will have to tell our dragon friend about the Steel Rangers violating the treaty."

"You're full of shit, that dragon hates all ponies."

"Not me, in fact, before the war we were close friends. I'm sure he wouldn't mind doing me a favor," I smiled smugly. The look on her face turned to that of disbelief. "I could just feed you to him. A bit barbaric for my taste but an option nonetheless," I smiled coldly. I saw my reflection in a puddle on the floor. It was the same expression Chrysalis used when she assumed my identity.

"Ok, ok, they are on their way here up right now. It's a large raiding party, they want to kill the dragon and take the GECK. Happy now," the mare sobbed.

"Go ahead... Uh-huh, ok. Oh, ok well that's not good, Sheer Cold stall them as long as you can. I need to contact Captain Sunset." Lightning Dust ran towards the Cryonimbus.

"Rime Ice, let her go let's start preparing defensive positions this cave can not fall!" I exclaimed. I turned around and went towards the large metal door knocking. "Spike! Spike, it's an emergency. Open the door!"

The large metal door began to open and the massive purple dragon stuck his head out through the door. "Are they gone?"

"Spike, there is a large Steel Ranger battalion coming up the mountain! They are after the GECK!" I yelled up to him.

"Princess!" Sheer Cold came running into the mouth of the cave. Her scorpion-like tail wobbling freely behind her. "They are almost here!" she was panting. She sat down and trying to catch her breath.

"Rime get behind something. Sheer Cold, tie up the two scouts, we are going to take them with us," Sheer nodded at me and began tying up the green mare.

"I'll take care of them. Applejack made the Steel Rangers resistant to dragon fire but not impervious. If you can pierce their armor it will be enough for my fire to get through.

I exited the cave, I saw the Cryonimbus begin to drift away from the sky dock. The village was completely abandoned, everypony must have fled. I heard the loud voice echoing up the mountain.

"Citizens, remain in your houses, any violating this decree will be shot on sight. We only wish to slay the dragon terrorizing your village. He hordes technology that endangers your very lives."

I began to panic. I levitated some scrap wood placing them in front of several large rocks in the cave entrance. I could hear their marching hoof steps get louder and louder as they pranced on. I ran back into the cave hiding behind a rock.

"Here they come," the green mare cackles.

"Quiet you," Sheer knocked her out with a swift punch to the head.

A pony wearing a strange red gown entered the mouth of the cave. "Dragon! We do not wish to fight you. Surrender the GECK and you will be allowed to leave peacefully," the mare's voice reverberated off the cave walls. It was the same voice from the previous announcement.

The large doors swung open. I turned to face the doors, a thick miasma of darkness bled from the room as if it were liquid. I began to smell smoke. A soft faint green glow began to emanate from the darkness. It began to get brighter as if it was coming closer. Shit that was dragon fire.

"Get down!" I yelled hitting the floor, the fire passed over me with a terrifying presence. I felt the heat began radiating. My back felt like it was burning. I heard the mare scream and within moments the cave was silent. I stuck my head up over the rocks to see the remains of the pony who once stood there. Her fur and mane burnt away and only bone and tissue remained. Her gown had fuzed to her skin on the parts that did not burn away. What a horrible way to die. Several ponies in power armor ran into the room guns blazing shooting wildly into the darkness. Spike quickly closed the metal doors. Bullets and laser weapons were ineffective against that thick of a door. I motioned to Rime and Sheer.

Rime quickly shot up to the cave ceiling letting out a barrage from her four novasurge rifles. Orange beams lit up the cave striking one of the steel-clad ponies the back of the head severing it from his body.

"Contact!" one of the rangers yelled retreating back outside the cave. Sheer Cold took stood up firing her minigun, several beams of blue and gold peppered the retreating ponies.

"Hit the pony with the radio equipment," Sheer yelled. The radio pony was obvious as he towed a small cart of equipment behind him. He was one of the last few in the cave. Rime and Sheer barraged the poor soul burning him to ash. I winced at the sight of watching a pony like that disintegrate.

"Was this what the frontlines looked like?" I thought aloud. By this time, the Steel Rangers began to open fire covering their remaining comrades. I cast a small shield around Rime and Sheer. I put my plasma pistol back in its holster and began to crawl towards the radio equipment. Sheer and Rime had the main combatants distracted. Energy and conventional weapons alike buzzed atop me. I closed my eyes and kept crawling. My horn bumped the wagon. I opened my eyes to find a teal mare had done the same.

"Alicorn!" she screamed. I levitated my pistol out of the holster and promptly shot the mare in the back. Her body liquefied into a pile of green goo on the floor. I vomited at the sight of this.

"Fuck! I yelled. "Why can't we solve things with a magical duel like civilized ponies!" my magic began to swirl inside me. Rime was moving around the ceiling using the stalagmites as cover. I saw a rocket hit the ceiling near her knocking her back down to the floor. "Damnit they are coming in."

"Cadance, draw upon our power," Cadenza and Sombra's voice echoed in my mind. "We can give you power beyond what weapons can do!" The blue and gold beams stopped.

"Fuck me it jammed!" Sheer dove behind a rock.

"Secure the radio and move up!" One of the Steel Rangers called out. I peeked out from behind the wagon. I saw 3, 4... 5... 9... 14... 20... to many, way to many for me to handle with this.

"Cadance, you better make a decision because if you won't they will," Sombra's words enraged me.

"You don't think I know?" I yelled.

"Show yourself!" one of the rangers approached the cart. I sighed and began to unleash the dark magic within me.

The Steel Ranger turned the corner of the cart, "Hooves where I can seem them, lady."

I grabbed the buck in my magic crushing him into a ball. He didn't even have enough time to scream. I threw his remains at one of his companions knocking them to the floor. In a torrent of wind and ice, I began to pick up several Steel Rangers off the ground spinning them around the cave. My eyes began to glow a sickly green and black as I increased my power. I heard them scream in terror, but their torment has only just begun. I began to use my magic to freeze the air around me causing large icicles to form. I began to throw them at the rangers caught within the magical typhoon piercing their armor and pinning them against the wall. One by one, I pinned them against the wall. Some by their limbs others by their heads.

"Concentrate your fire and take her down!" I saw a Steel Ranger with dual miniguns, his armor was adorned with gold trim. He must be their leader. I dispelled the torrent watching the surviving rangers hit the cave wall.

"You will pay for damaging property of the Equestria!" I yelled. Several rangers began to focus their fire on me. I conjured a wall of dark flames to surround me melting the incoming rounds. I used my magic to grip some of their weapons as I passed by crushing the barrels rendering them useless. The commander tried to take a step back but I began to pull her closer. She continued her futile resistance. I began using my magic to strip her armor plating. Every piece bent and crack as I pulled them away. When it came to her helmet, my magic turned it to dust and it crumpled away. When she finally got to me she was a bare, honey-coated unicorn. Her mane was done up in a tight bun.

"I-I'm not scared of you, monster," she quivered. She was shaking as if she had just walked the frozen north. I stared her down.

"It's not me you should be afraid of. That dragon is a friend of mine, we go way back, so far back that I knew him as a baby let's see he was born, I want to say, in the year 995 of Celestia's rule," I smiled.

"You're lying, you alicorns are abominations created by the Goddess!"

"Goddess? I don't know who you're talking about. But if it is a goddess you are looking for, she is right here," my wings flared, my crown sat atop my head. "I am Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, Princess of Equestria, third Empress of the Crystal Empire."

The honey-colored mare began to cry. Any and all surviving compatriots fled if they were able to do so.

"Don't kill me, I surrender," the mare wept uncontrollably. Several power armor-clad pegasi landed at the mouth of the cave.

"We have wounded! Quickly!" I yelled, I was worried for Rime, Pegasi have major arteries at the base of their wings and can bleed out if we aren't quick enough. A few ponies placed Rime onto a stretcher and flew out of the cave. Spike cracked opened the door.

"Are they gone?" He stuck his head out once again. "Are you Enclave or Applejack's Ranger?"

"Applejack's Rangers," I replied. I flew up to his face and gave his snout a hug. "It's good to see you, Spike. I hope one day you will be able to come visit me up north."

"If you ever come back to Equestria, please visit. It's good to talk to pre-war ponies again."

"I'm sorry I have to leave in such a hurry, but I'm going to make sure those Steel Rangers don't bother you again. What Twilight left behind here is the last of her legacy. Every book in her library is a part of her that lives on through you. She trusted you Spike to guard the GECK. She spared you from the war because she knew you would be important to the next generation. I'll miss you, Spike, if you ever need me contact Fluttershy, she can get ahold of me," I turned gliding down to the ground. I saw a few of the Pegasi trying to dislodge the Steel Rangers from the walls. My horn began to glow as I pulled the ice shards out of the wall, placing them gently on the ground. I heard the large metal door scrape close the sound of locks moving into place. I approached Sheer Cold at the end of the cave.

"Princess, we have recovered six survivors besides the two we subdued before the fight began."

"Will they recover?"

"I'm not sure, some of their injuries are resistant to magical potions. The medical ponies noted that the potion restores their blood levels but causes massive hemorrhaging to continue indefinitely. For now, all we can do is bandage them up as best we can and move them to the Cryonimbus for further treatment."

"What about the rangers who were routed?"

"Lightning Dust took a flight of pegasi to hunt them down."

"I see, please see to it that our prisoners are treated as if they were our own wounded. Please alert me when Chili Pepper awakens, I want to question her. Do the same for the yellow mare. I want her to answer for this unjust attack on my friend."

"Yes, Ma'am," Sheer saluted and walked to other pegasi to relay the information.

I took a deep breath and exited the cave. I saw Captain Sunset waiting for me.

"Good afternoon Princess," she saluted. I returned the courtesy.

"Good afternoon, captain. Strange to see you out here."

"I like to get out in the field every now and again. We got new orders from Stable 29. Fluttershy contacted our elder and he has suspended our current mission. Helping you is our top priority."

"I need to get back to the Crystal Empire. I've been away for far too long."

"Understood, once we get the survivors on board and Lightning Dust returns, we will head north to the Crystal Empire," Sunset entered the cave to help evacuate the wounded rangers. I saw the Cryonimbus in the distance. I took off and flew towards it. It was a good distance away from the mountain. The high-altitude winds made it difficult to fly. I felt the wind blow me off to the side. I flapped harder and harder until I made it to the hangar bay. I collapsed on the floor panting.

"First time flying at high altitude?" one of the power-armored ponies asked me. She stuck out a hoof to me. I obliged her and got up. The mare smiled at me. "I'm quartermaster Fairy Feather. But most ponies call me Fae."

"It's nice to meet you," I panted still trying to catch my breath.

"The power armor the Pegasi wear assists us in flight at high altitude. It gives our wings extra thrust so we can fly through the massive amount of wind shear and the jetstream. Sunset wants to get you a full suit developed but we don't have the facilities to onboard to manufacture you a fitting Alicorn suit. But I did one better. I think power armor is too bulky for your taste Princess," she held out a little black box. "May I?" I nodded and she affixed it to my windbreaker. "Extend your wings please."

"Ok, what is this supposed to-," I felt metal rods insert themselves between my feathers and along the leading edge of my wings. I looked over my shoulder to find that black trim coated my pink wings.

"With this, you should be able to fly more effectively at high altitudes. As an added bonus, the leading edge of your wings can be used as a weapon. Similar to wing blades but they use plasma to cut through enemies. It does have a limit to its use. It does need to recharge now and again. Try it out." Fae took a step back and I extended my wings. "Now swing your body as if your wing was a knife." I followed her instructions and the plasma blades came to life. "They will maintain their form while activated but will shut off after a few seconds."

"Thank you miss Fae. This should come in handy," I smiled at her. "I think it's about time I return to my quarters, it's been a very long day."

"I agree. If you ever need anything fixed let me know," she waved me off and I departed in the opposite direction towards my quarters.

Upon arrival to my quarters, I removed my gear hanging it on the coat rack near the door. Entering the bathroom I fixed myself a warm bath and settled into the water.

In the corner of my eye, I could see Sombra sitting on the toilet. "I never thought I'd catch a view like this," I giggled.

"Is something funny?" he retorted. His head tilted downwards and he jumped to his hooves. I could see a slight blush of embarrassment on his face.

"So the power Umbra has feelings after all," I snickered.

"Just because I was a tyrant in life doesn't mean I didn't have feelings."

"I know, I know. It just feels like your less of the monster I defeated and more of just a regular pony."

"I am just a regular pony for the most part. I used to be a unicorn studying in Canterlot. Magical gems are ancient weapons that I helped develop. I was told that the Crystal Empire had crystals that could magnify magic tenfold what the ones in Equestria could do so I set out for the frozen north. Nothing could have prepared me for that journey. As a young Unicorn, I was taken under Princess Amore's wing and taught everything there was to know about the empire. One of my closest friends was Radiant Hope. We used to spend hours researching crystals together. One day we were out exploring we found a cave that was filled with black crystals. Radiant protest me continuing further and she waited outside."

"Is that what corrupted you and turned you evil?"

"Yes and no. When I went into the cave it showed me my greatest fears, not only that it was my future. Something in the cave corrupted me turning me into a shadow. Dark magic began to pour out of me and only Princess Amore or Radiant Heart could prevent me from turning completely. One day the dark magic overwhelmed me and I began to grow mad. I tried to escape but I lost control shattering Princess Amore's body. Once I was fully consumed by darkness I ruled the Crystal Empire as a dictator. Radiant Hope never abandoned me. She was the only pony who could push back the darkness even if it was for a little bit. I found out she was writing to Celestia and Luna I felt somewhat betrayed. They stormed my castle and the rest is history. Then after 1000 years, I reappeared and the Crystal Heart returned my sanity. Here we are today. If only Celestia and Luna could see it now. Worse off than when I was around..." Sombra hung his head. "As king, I failed. Darkness consumed me and thus I brought darkness upon the empire.

"You know I met Radiant Hope after your return. She worked as my aide. She never married and she always spoke about reunited with her special somepony. You're a lucky pony Sombra, I'm not sure what happened to her after the castle was hit. I know she had a Stable slot, key personnel did."

"Do you think she may still be alive?"

"It's possible, I mean I am alive and not a day older from when I left Equestria behind. Even though we are in the same place, I feel a million miles away," I solemnly sighed and got out of the tub. Sombra began to fade away.

"Maybe this time we will get things right."

Footnote: Level Up.
Perk added: Dark Magician (Level 2): Dark magic is second nature to you. You gain less fatigue when using large quantities of it and you recover a bit faster.

Chapter 13.5: Hazy Days

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“Did you… Did you just invite me to monologue?”

I had been up for a while. I've been staring out my window for the past few hours. I have a lot of work to do when I get back. The Crystal Empire needs to be reclaimed and I need to find the Crystal Heart. That's my number one priority. I think its time to get breakfast. I walked out of my room into the gray hallway. Pegasi passed by on their way to their stations, occasionally one would greet me but eventually, I found my way to the mess hall. A small stack of pancakes with syrup was plopped onto my tray and I sat down at a table in the corner of the room. I'm going to miss pancakes when I return to the Crystal Empire.

"Princess may we sit with you?" a group of young pegasi approached me.

"Sure, I'm not off limits by any means."

Eating my breakfast these young Pegasi endlessly questioned me. They wanted to know about pre-war Equestria. I wouldn't blame them. They grew up learning about the bright and sunny Equestria of old. Many of the Pegasi asked me about pre-war clothing. I told them about my assortment of dresses and different saddle styles. The concept of show saddles was foreign to them. They only knew of the saddles meant to hold heavy weapons. I questioned them a bit about Pegasi's life during the Enclave but for the most part, they were young when the Enclave split so they didn't know anything outside what they were told. An hour passed by the time we finished eating. It's been so long since I've been able to have a casual conversation where I enjoy myself to this extent. As we were about to part ways I stopped one of the young Pegasi.

"Do you happen to know where the detention block is?" I asked.

"Sure, I can show you," the young mare guided me through the maze of hallways and corridors. After traversing the final set of stairs we made it to the detention center. "Here you are, princess. I hope we can talk more again soon." The young mare turned around and went back the way she through the doorway at the top of the stairs.

"Good Morning Princess Cadance. What brings you here?" the security pony asked.

"I wish to talk to the one leading the assault on the cave yesterday."

"Right this way ma'am," the security pony walked me to one of the small cells containing the honey-colored mare. She was downcast, her head lowered and avoided eye contact with us.

"Please unlock the door I wish to go inside."

"Are you sure? I can not guarantee your safety if you do."

"I doubt she will pose a threat," the security pony passed me and unlocked the door opening it. I entered the cell sitting in front of her. "Please leave us."

"Yes, ma'am," the security pony returned to the entrance and I stared at the mare.

"Are you doing ok?" I asked. She didn't respond to me. I think I have an idea to get her to talk to me. I sat behind her and began to put her mane up into her tight bun.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"What does it look like I'm doing. A mare should look somewhat presentable if possible."

"They took my bands to bind my mane up, so, I'm sorry I wasn't presentable."

"That's not what I meant... I'm trying to say you're pretty," she turned her head to look at me.

"You certainly have strange interrogation techniques."

"I never said this was an interrogation," I stated. I wrapped a small band tightening her bun as best as I could.

"Why did you use your hooves instead of your magic?"

"I wasn't always a unicorn. I used to wear my mane in a ponytail all the time. Even with magic, it's not that easy. It takes more concentration just to do the bun than it would to do it by hoof."

"When did you get turned into an Alicorn?"

"Celestia transformed me into an Alicorn I'd say the year, 993."

"993? How old are you?"

"Too old to be honest."

"You're a pre-war Alicorn? One of the three Mythical Mares?"

"Mythical Mares?"

"Yes, growing up in the Steel Rangers, they teach us about the Mythical Mares. They led old Equestria and were responsible for its downfall. Celestia and Luna were the leaders of Equestria and lots of data are preserved about their reign. Data is incomplete on a third one and they consider it lost as she only appeared twice in our data logs as the Princess of Love."

"That was the title I was bestowed when I earned my horn and immortality. When I got my cutie mark I used to try to settle the difference between lovers who used to fight and try to give dating advice. Who knew it would be my special talent," I chuckled.

"For the Steel Rangers, our cutie mark doesn't matter. You're either a knight or scribe. I wasn't so good at books so I became a knight. I was a Paladin with the Van Hoover Contingent. All that is left of our contingent are the handle full of scribes and the elder back home."

"Why did you attack the cave? Spike... I mean the dragon would have killed you regardless."

"We wanted the knowledge inside. The Gardens of Equestria Creation Kit brought plants, dispelled radiation, and brought some normalcy to Central Equestria. However, the fringes of what used to be Equestria's border cities remained an inhospitable wasteland. But the GECK is a megaspell. It can be easily turned against Equestria and our elder wanted to secure it before it fell into the hands of the bad ponies. I didn't want to hurt the dragon living there and just wanted him to leave. If we had to fight him we would have suffered considerable losses but you wiped out almost all of us in a matter of minutes. I just want to make Equestria a safer place for the future."

"Why not join the NCR?"

"The NCR?" the mare looked puzzled. "We never had run-ins with them. The Van Hoover Wastes are outside their territory. We have very limited communication with other contingents but they were marked as an enemy by the Fillydelphia and Balitmare Contingent."

"If we gave you the opportunity would you join Applejack's Rangers?" I moved to face her.

"I'm not sure. There is a small contingent of Applejack's Rangers in Van Hoover but they stick to the large settlements and leave us alone so I don't know much about them."

"What is your name by the way. We've been talking all this time and I don't think I asked. That's rude of me."

"My name is Honey Butter."

"It is a pleasure to meet you Honey Butter, my name is Princess Mi Amore Cadenza. But my friends call me Cadance."

"I wish it was under different circumstances. I guess we didn't meet under the best of circumstances."

"How about this. Instead of joining up with an Applejack's Rangers contingent, why not form one in the Crystal Empire?" I asked, ponies with combat skills like them would be invaluable.

"I guess I can't go back home anyway, so, what the heck. Do you know if there are any Steel Rangers in the Crystal Empire?" Honey asked.

I shook my head, "Not that I'm aware of. We had Steel Rangers up north during the war. All I found were some remains of Steel Rangers in the Crystal Mall."

"That's a start. We can recover the armor and restore them to working condition, do you know how many of my troops survived."

"No, I don't. But I don't think many will live. Dark magic when weaponized eats away at a pony's flesh and soul. I hit them giant ice icicles conjured from dark magic. I suspect the ones who don't die from their injuries will die from magical necrosis."

"Magical necrosis?"

"Dark magic when used consumes life force. To an immortal Alicorn, this isn't an issue as our life span is infinite. If a regular unicorn were to cast a spell it could drastically shorten their life span."

"That's pretty scary."

"I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"Failing to save Equestria," I said solemnly. I stood up and proceeded to leave.

"Wait!" Honey shouted. "You failed once, that doesn't mean the fight is over."

"The fight is over when I end up like my aunts. We should arrive in the Crystal Empire late tomorrow. If you really want to make Equestria a safer place help me restore peace and harmony for the next generation."

"I believe in ponies princess. I believe there is good even in raiders. I believe the world can change. If one pony could bring down the Enclave and break the cloud ceiling in the same day, I think there is hope for Equestria." I smiled at Honey and exited the cell. I left the detention block and proceeded to make my way to the bridge. After about 10 minutes of traversing stairs and corridors, I eventually made it to the glass bridge of the Cryonimbus.

"Good Afternoon Princess Cadance," Sunset smiled at me.

"Good Afternoon," I replied back looking out the windshield. It was a clear day. I could see the grey and brown scorched earth below. Carts littered the highways and occasionally were followed by dilapidated buildings.

"Sad isn't it. So much of Equestria burned in magical balefire. It doesn't matter how many GECKs we find only time will heal Equestria's wounds," Sunset stood next to me. The glass floor felt surreal as if I have died and went on to the afterlife.

"It hurts my heart to see Equestria this way..." I sighed.

"Princess, the GECK brought green fertile life back to Equestria. It's amazing that the ponies from your time had the foresight to prepare something as powerful as that. While it wasn't strong enough to cover all of Equestria it was even strong enough to tame the Everfree Forrest. I am one of the few survivors of Operation Cauterize..." Sunset sat in her captain's chair and leaned into it. "Almost every Enclave Officer was found guilty of war crimes and was either killed or imprisoned. I was one of the lucky few. When my unit was captured Ministry Mare Fluttershy intervened and pardoned us. She believed our story... After that, I and the remaining crew formed the Knights of Awesome 10 years ago."

"Why are you not the leader?"

"They still don't fully trust the Pegasi. Why would they? We only descended from our cloud haven to obliterate Canterlot and every living thing down here. More and More Pegasi cities are succeeding from the Enclave and because the NCR isn't able to operate up here we have to. Only Pegasi can walk on clouds."

"I know that the Ministry of Arcane Science produced cloud walking talismans in limited quantity."

"Yes well, there were very few of them. I met a few unicorns. One of them was even a sitting member of the Enclave," Sunset sat up. "You know, maybe if you were there when the Enclave formed, we would have been a kinder bunch..."

"Auntie Celestia used to tell me this proverb all the time when I was a filly. 'Be kind to everypony, kindness shows everypony you have their hearts in your mind. Ponies who do not keep kindness in their hearts will be swallowed by it.' Means more now than it did back then," I turned around and faced her.

"Kindness swallowed the Enclave. The Stable Dweller made sure of that."

"Stable Dweller?"

"She is the one who brought down the Enclave. In Equestria, there is no cloud cover. I'm not sure what happened but after that day the cloud factories shut off. We lost control of the weather over all of Equestria. It was just another blow to the dwindling power of the Enclave. With our cities exposed many Pegasi abandoned them for the surface forming the city of New Cloudsdale. I've never been to New Cloudsdale but it supposedly near where the old one once stood."

"What happened to Cloudsdale?"

"You don't know?" Sunset looked at me confused.

"I was pushed into a Stable when the alarms when off. Honestly, I'm not sure what remains in Equestria."

"It was completely obliterated. It took a direct hit..." Sunset grew solemn. "After that, the Pegasi abandoned Equestria blanketing the country with a thick layer of clouds. And Equestria ceased to exist."

"How awful. I was holding the shield around the Crystal Empire. I remember the thick clouds start to roll in and I thought it was the Pegasi blocking artillery spotting."

"Ministry Mare Rainbow Dash originally joined them at first but left for the surface. Thus back then we call all Pegasi traitors Dashites and banish them to the surface. We branded off their cutie marks and put hers. Lightning Dust's mother was a Dashite. Never saw her again after they threw her down below the clouds."

"That's cruel. I'm glad that government was dissolved."

"There are remnants and holdouts like the ones that captured you. It's safe to assume the cities over the Crystal Empire didn't get the memo and all the fleeing officials gather there," Sunset took off her hat hanging on the corner of her chair. She sat staring blankly out the window. "I don't understand how some ponies have the will to keep on fighting for a lost cause. Out of the 10 cloud cities over Equestria seven lay abandoned and the rest are in Enclave control."

"I guess it's just another thing to worry about. What will you do once you've dropped me off?" I sat next to Sunset.

"Wait for orders, probably assist your ponies in any way possible. See there, it's a cloud generator, the Enclave will place them throughout the sky to widen their cloud cover as far as possible. Prepare to fire the main guns," Sunset stood up. I looked out and saw a strange metallic object glowing a deep yellow. "Fire!" the sounds of magical artillery cannons shook the airship. Two large colorful explosions broke apart the clouds leaving a circular gap in the cloud layer.

"Was that necessary? Seems to be a little overkill for a small box."

"Those boxes are enchanted with a shield talisman, nothing short of plastic explosive will destroy it. It's just easier this way," Sunset sat back in her chair, "Take us below the clouds, I don't want the Remnants to find us."

"I'll leave you to it Sunset," I smiled at her.

"See you at chow."

I headed for the door. Upon leaving the bridge I thought I'd stop to see Rime Ice in the infirmary. Heading down several narrow corridors I entered the small infirmary. There were six beds with three on each side. I saw three of the beds had wounded Steel Rangers. Hooked up to machines. I walked up to them and examined their wounds.

"Can I help you, Princess?" a pegasus nurse in a white robe wearing medical saddlebags approached me.

"How are the Steel Rangers?"

"Not good, two of them passed away last night. Whatever you did to them can not be cured by any medicine we have on the ship. Either they recover or die. So far their blight is less than their friends but it can take a turn for the worse at any time."

"How about Rime Ice?"

"What about me?" Rime sat up in her bed.

"Please Miss Ice you must lay down and rest. That bullet hit part of your spine, you can't keep moving around," the nurse protested.

"I'm just fine, it is but a flesh wound," Rime chuckled. Where have I heard that line before?

"I'm glad you're ok Rime, it could have been much worse."

"Worse than sitting in a bed all day?"

"Yes, my husband Shining Armor was given cybernetics. His body sustained a lot of damage after the megaspell dropped. Once he was brought into the Stable emergency surgery was done on him and he was placed into a cryopod to heal. Next thing I knew I was awake and he was being taken, then I fell back asleep and then I woke up alone. Well, there was Starlight but in a Stable of a few hundred ponies, two survivors is pretty scary."

"I can't imagine being in a prewar stable. Any of the Stables in the mountains were long gone before I was born."

"Honestly, I just hope other Stables survived. Equestria's hope was put into those shelters."

"The Pegasi coward in the sky while Equestria burned." Rime laid back. "I've always had a hatred for the Enclave. I'll never forgive what they did to me," Rime's face grew angry.

"What did they do?" I asked.

"Take a look," Rime toss the bedsheets off her. "Look at my cutie mark. I stared down at her flank. There was a burn mark in the shape of Rainbow Dash's cutie mark. "They burned my cutie mark off my flank and branded me as a Dashite. They then threw me off a cloud with my wings tied. I got lucky... I survived the fall. I managed to get my wings loose and glide to the roof of a skyscraper. I hid in Tenpony Tower, working security and maintenance until I was able to earn my citizenship. Once the Enclave invaded, I hid deep within the tower. Once they were defeated I heard of a group calling themselves Applejack's Rangers. It was a struggle earning their trust and once more Pegasi joined the fold. They split us into our own sub-contingent since we are the only ones able to operate Raptors and other airships."

"Dashites are a touchy subject. During Operation Cauterize Dashites were hunted down and killed. Only a handful survived," the nurse added, Rime laid back closing her eyes.

"Cauterize was a spectacular failure," Lightning Dust walked into the room.

"I wasn't old enough to serve in a combat capacity but a few high performing cadets were sent out on the airships. I was in my second year of studies and I was assigned to shadow the bridge officers of Raptor Deep Mist," Lightning sat down on the empty bed next to Rime. "Deep Mist was assigned to wipe out Canterlot. I remember breaking through the cloud layer into a darkend landscape. From what I knew were to take control of Canterlot and establish ourselves there. The Pink Mist was something we could not prepare for."

"From what I heard is you blew the city clean off the mountain," Rime closed her eyes.

"Well yes, several scouting parties were sent prior to our arrival and we received a distress call from the team, the inhabitants of the city were undead. Not just like the normal ghouls you see now. You could shoot them and they would get back up and fight as if you never had shot them. Only five survived the expedition. Their armor fused to their fur and no amount of surgery was able to save their from their plight. They died of dehydration and starvation since their helmets fused to their heads. Canterlot was a place in where no pony could live. It was safer just to have it destroyed."

"To bad the Canterlot ghouls don't agree with you," Rime chimed. "Those ghouls still wander around the mountain and even in the remains of Zebratown. The city may be gone but the cloud still remains in some areas. The only thing left of the city is two towers that built into the side of the cliff. The tattered flag of the old world still flies over the towers."

"I remember when I first joined with Applejack's Rangers. My first task was to clear out some of those Canterlot ghouls. They aren't as tough if they are outside the cloud. Without the cloud, they are just a normal ghoul."

"I can't even imagine one million ponies were zombified instantly. They couldn't even die..." I felt sad. Ponies living forever without even knowing it. Finding no rest.

"Some of the ghouls are still sentient. Ditzy Doo owns a massive trade caravan and she supposedly is from before the war," Rime stated. "Not all of them are the same."

"I know, I met one. His name was Flash Sentry. Captain of my guard. He was guarding the castle armory for over 200 years. He was almost completely blind and suffered alone in the dark. It hurt me so bad when he asked me to kill him."

"I'm sorry Princess, that must be hard. You're a living relic of the old world and it must be hard to not get closure for your friends."

I didn't respond. I continued to make small talk for a bit longer before I left for the cafeteria with Lightning Dust. A few ponies joined us at our table. They asked more and more about the pre-war Equestria.

"Princess, what were your days like before the war?" one of the young officers asked.

"Before or after I ruled the Crystal Empire?"

"Before and after," she responded.

"Well, my days were pretty pampered. I studied magic at Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns. Then when I graduated, Celestia sent me overseas as an ambassador to establish relations. When I returned after two years I lived rather comfortably. I made state appearances, practiced magic, and read books for the most part. I even met the love of my life at the time, Shining Armor."

"You got married?"

"Yes, Shining Armor and I were married a few years before the war broke out. That wedding was crazy. I was captured by one of the Changling Queens and she took my place. Twilight and her friends had to rescue me and save the day like always."

"You knew the Ministry Mares?" another pony asked.

"Yes I did, I was Twilight's foalsitter. After that the Crystal Empire reappeared and Sombra was banished I tried to get the Crystal ponies back on track. They were cursed for a 1000 years and technology and life had drastically changed for them. But the war came the year after and we had to increase our crystal export to Equestria to make weapons."

"Wow, life before the war must have been nice."

"I wish I could have lived back then."

"Then the bombs would have killed you, dummy."

The ponies continue to chat and argue amongst themselves about pre-war life. I dismissed myself after finishing and went back to my room to settle in for the night. I took what probably was going to be my last bath for a while and brushed out my coat. I looked down at my PipMare. I wondered when I used it last. I almost forgot it was there. I chucked to myself before laying down in the soft bed. It was pitch black outside. The sun had already set but it was pitch black below the clouds. I couldn't see the ground or the cloud layer above.

"This is only the beginning," a mysterious voice said. I saw a mysterious pony in a coat and hat out of the corner of my eye. I turned to face her and but nothing was there. I opened the door of my room and the hallway was empty. No hoof steps to be heard trotting down the hallway.

"Am I hallucinating? Sombra did you see that?" I got no response. "Cadenza?" I heard nothing back. Maybe I saw something that wasn't there. I went back inside dimming the lights. I laid in the soft cloud bed and drifted to sleep.

I couldn't shake the voice I heard... "The beginning of what?" I muttered.

Footnote: Perk Aquired.
Perk added: Mysterious Stranger: A mysterious Mare-Do-Well watches over you as your guardian angel. She may be of assistance in the future.

Chapter 14: The Broken Mask

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"Simple minds and simple ponies"

"You ready to go Princess?" Lightning Dust affixed her helmet to her head.

"I mean yes but I don't see why we have to jump out of the hangar?" I replied looking down. I zipped up my windbreaker and made sure my high-altitude wings were on properly.

"Trust me it's more fun this way," Sheer Cold laughed.

"Falling from 12,000 feet is not something you can do every day Princess. We will be right behind you, make sure when you land you aerodynamically break by quickly ascending, or else you might crash into something on the ground," Lightning Dust jumped out the open hangar diving towards the floor below.

"Let's go, Princess!" Sheer Cold jumped out following Lightning Dust.

I took a deep breath and leaped out. I could see the palace grounds beneath us and the runway next to the castle. I began to scream, my scream became laughter soon after. I began to gain control of my movements. I caught up to Lightning Dust and Sheer. I tried to open my mouth and say something but they couldn't hear me. The Crystal Empire was in a worse state than I thought. I could see the mall. It had sustained more damage since I have been there. Snow Monsters probably weren't doing it any favors. As I continued the dive I could see the northern mountains, beyond it laid the Yakyakistan. I wondered how they faired. Once I was a few hundred feet above the runway I began to open my wings and began my flare. I felt my wings push back against the metal supports. I felt myself begin to slow. Lightning Dust and Sheer flanked me on both sides. Once I was over the center of the runway I pulled up losing almost all my speed and touched down.

"Holy shit," I said.

"I told you it was fun," Lightning Dust removed her helmet.

"Not bad for your first drop, Princess," Sheer said as she approached me.

"Princess Cadance! You're ok!" Starlight jumped on my wrapping her hooves around me. She planted her face in my fur.

"Hi Starlight, it's good to see you again," I hugged her in return. Ember Heart and Milky Quartz ran out of the castle joining the now four pony hug. "It's good to see all of you again," I smiled.

"Princess, I was so worried. Fluttershy and I could only handle so much without you."

"How have things been while I was gone?"

"Pretty bad dear," Ember said hesitantly.

"What do you mean? The new settlement at the castle seems bigger, right?" I questioned.

"Well yes, but we have a new issue," Starlight said.

"A new issue?"

"Come with us Princess," Starlight headed off towards the castle.

My group followed after her. Heading back into the main hall seemed a lot cleaner. It was almost sparkling clean. My throne was still damaged somewhat but it was shining like it was new. The faded and dilapidated tapestries were removed as well. The room felt a little bear but it looked good all things considered. When headed down the stairs to the sublevels. The ghouls I had killed have been removed. Assuming we are in the same tunnel, there are tunnels that weave around the Empire from the Castle from Sombra's reign.

"How much work have you done to the Castle?" I asked.

"With the NCRs and the Minutemare's help, we were able to get almost all of the castle cleaned out. We finished the major work a few days ago," Starlight smiled.

"The tunnels were the hardest part. We thought you had killed all the ghouls but holy Celestia was there a lot," Milky chimed in.

"Not just that, scrubbing the crystal floors was such a problem-some task. You know how much floor this castle has?" Ember scowled.

"At least 12 floors worth I'd assume?" I said.

"We are here," Starlight opened the door. Silver Wire was inside starting at the dead pony on the table.

"Hi Silver Wire, good to see you again," I smiled at her.

"Good to see you too princess," she replied.

"Show her what we found," Starlight cautiously said.

"Well I'm not sure what this but look at this," Silver turned the head of the dead pony. I could see a bit of blood still dripping and once she turned it to the other side, the skull turned from flesh to fully robotic.

"Is that a robopony?" I said. I took a step back for a minute.

"Yes and no. Roboponies are metallic and look like they are made of metal, this is a whole new level," Silver said. I extracted a chip from her brain and it contains her memories. She was sent to spy on us. But I can't say who sent her. When we were clearing the ghouls from the tunnels one of the Minutemare's was killed. But the ghoul ripped off her face revealed the robotic bits beneath."

"Any chance she is a cyborg pony?" I asked.

"No, I've already directed the body, there is no sign of anything biological. It's all machine and metal under there. She even has a thick layer of fur and blood underneath to prevent her cover from being blown if she sustained any damage."

"I've never seen something like this. I know the Enclave dabble in infiltration ponies but our technology was nowhere this advanced," Lightning Dust examined the corps. Fluttershy entered the room from the door adjacent to the one we entered.

"Oh good you here, Cadance," Fluttershy said. "I see you met our friend here."

"Do we know how many ponies are these fake ponies?" I asked her.

"Not at this time I'm afraid. These synthetic ponies are going to be a problem if this isn't an isolated incident. Since the 'Broken Mask' event ponies are too paranoid to go outside."

"Broken Mask?" I asked.

"It's what we are calling this incident. This synth was running off one of these," Fluttershy opened her green saddlebags and pulled out a large pink crystal.

"Is this an energy crystal? They shouldn't have enough power to operate a complex pony."

"The pre-war laboratory the castle isn't enough to even comprehend it. I can't scan its memory core. That's all encrypted beyond what I've seen. The energy crystal runs indefinitely with no loss of power," Silver Wire opened the chest of the pony revealing where the crystal once sat. I levitated it towards me. I spun it on each of its sides.

"Can we try to adapt it to be a power source? It would be nice to get the lights inside and outside the castle working again."

"I can try but I'm not even sure how the synth drew energy from the crystal."

"Fluttershy, could it be a soul gem?" I looked at Fluttershy. She rubbed her chin.

"If it is, that would explain a lot, there is no way to know, unfortunately," I levitated the crystal back to Fluttershy.

"I'll do some more research on it. Miss Fluttershy, may I have it?" Silver Wire asked. Fluttershy placed it on the table next to the body.

"I could ask the Knights of Awesome, we have a few engineers who could take a crack at it," Lightning Dust examined the body.

"That would be great! What's your name by the way?" Silver Wire asked holding out her wing.

"I'm Lightning Dust," she extended her wing and did a strange wing version of a hoof bump.

"Secretary Fluttershy!" a pony wearing black-rimmed glasses ran into the room. Her mane was done up in a bun. She kind of looked like Raven, Celestia's secretary.

"What is?" Fluttershy turned around.

"We have trouble! Standoff in the village! Come with me please! You too Princess!" she took off through the door.

"Lightning Dust, go get the engineers with Silver, we can handle this. Let's go Starlight," we followed the pony through the door, booking it through the castle and back out to the runway. I saw two unicorn mares with a crowd looking on from the other side. One had a small crudely made pistol and the other one was laying on her back.

"What is going on here?" Fluttershy asked approaching the two.

"Please help me! My sisters went crazy!"

"Quiet synth! You replaced my sister," the unicorn mare levitated the gun closer to the other head.

"Let's put the gun down and talk about this," Fluttershy said.

"How do you know she's a synth?" I asked.

"She's been sneaking off a night. Wandering out of the village only to show up at our shop earlier that morning."

"What are you talking about? I've been at home the whole time!"

"Are you sure it wasn't a dream?" I asked. I felt the situation get even tenser.

"I think we need to calm down. Are you 100% sure she is a synth?" I said approaching the mare.

She rubbed her chin, she shook her head, "Yes, no way she could be real. She's been going out at night. I think she's reporting to whoever her masters are!"

"I've been seeing Yellow Cake!" the other screamed. "I've snuck out at night so I can go see him," she began to cry. The other sister didn't know what to do.

"Guards!" Fluttershy yelled. A pony wearing a Minutemare coat tackled the other sister. She lost her focus on the gun and it dropped to the floor with a thud.

"Shows over, disperse!" another pony yelled, this one in a NCR uniform. The Minutemare and NCR ponies lead the unicorn away. I approached one of the other guards dispersing the crowd.

"What was that?"

"Princess, since the broken mask incident, many of the ponies are suspicious of their neighbors and family members. It's only been a few days and both the Minutemare's and NCR soldiers are swamped in reports that lead nowhere," the guard took a long breath.

"I guess the only thing to do is wait it out, right? If they don't pose a threat there are no worries right?" I questioned.

"It's only a matter of time before the go hostile is the worries. Lady Fleur informed us that they had a similar issue at Emerald Field, apparently, one of the shopkeeps went berserk and shot up the place."

"Lady Fleur?" I asked.

"Oh, it's been a while since you've returned. Lady Fluer is Heliotrope, she started going by her pre-Alicorn name again."

I nodded in response, "Thank you, that's all I needed," the pony saluted me and went back to his duties. If I have the time, I should visit Emerald Field. I should also send some scavengers out with the Knights of Awesome to recover the suits of power armor from the mall. I sighed, I have so much to do. It's not like the old times, a few decisions here, a few there, a hooficure, a massage if there's time, and back to the palace for supper.

*******************************************************************************

After the incident in the town, we spent the rest of the day going over plans for the future of the Empire. First, it was decided that Knights of Awesome establish its first official contingent in the Crystal Empire. After speaking with the elder via radio she decided that Sunset was the best candidate for the job. Since Applejack's Rangers had almost no presence there, to begin with, my castle would be best to host their operations. Within a few hours, two more Raptors moored off the old runway using ropes to tie their cloud ships to the ground. Their engineers and soldiers set out towards the Crystal Mall to recover the remaining power armor. After that, Fluttershy made use of the Knight's mechanics to help fix her ship. Her first priority was to return back to Junction Town and report her findings. After a few days went by Fluttershy's airship was ready to depart.

I walked Fluttershy to her dropship, the ponies inside were flipping all kinds of switches in preparation to takeoff. Fluttershy turned to me, with a smile on her face.

"Are you sure you don't want to come with me?" Fluttershy's gentle voice was on the verge of tears.

"As much as I would love to, my duty is to the ponies here. But I really hope you have a chance to come visit me again," I said swinging my hooves around her. I felt a tear run down my face.

"Cadance, I promise I'll visit you again," She smiled at me returning my hug. When we let go she stepped onto her ship. The blades began to spin, I felt the wind blow against my face. Fluttershy waved at me and her ship took off. It was a short flight back to the massive airship but once her dropship was aboard the ship began to make its way slowly to the south.

As I watched the ship begin to move farther away I began to feel a bit unsettled. It gnawed at me on the inside that one of the few ponies from the old world would be leaving me here alone. But then again, I'm not alone... The feeling of having Fluttershy here helped ease my mind but my friends would always have my back. But still, she felt like my only anchor of sanity. I wonder if that's how she felt...

"Ma'am, everypony is ready for the meeting," Lightning Dust said. In the proceeding days, Elder Sunset appointed Lightning Dust to my Royal Guard detail. I mean I wouldn't count my friends as my guards but they've saved me from multiple threats better than the guards of old Equestria. I mean for Celestia's sake, I was kidnapped in broad daylight, a few days before my wedding. At least the Knights of Awesome rescued me... I followed Lightning Dust into the throne room. The room had been converted into a planning room. My throne remained but a large round crystal table sat in the middle of the room. A map detailing the Empire was laid across. There were several seats surrounding the table. To my right sat Starlight, on my left Bullseye and a few other high-ranking Minutemare's. Across from me sat Elder Sunset and Lightning Dust. To their right were the representatives of the NCR that Fluttershy had left behind.

"Can you hear me?" Octavia's voice boomed through the castle. "Oh, that's too loud... One moment..." after a few short seconds of silence a hologram of Octavia appeared on the center of the table. "Good Morning ladies and gentlecolts. I am Octavia. Princess Cadance's personal AI. Today on the agenda we must come up with a cohesive salvaging plan and..." I began to tune Octavia's voice out. Was I really this disinterested in politics and running my country. "Princess Cadance?" I snapped back to attention at the call of my name.

"Yes?"

"Do we have your approval?" Octavia asked.

"Can you go over it one more time," I smiled.

Octavia frowned, "You should pay better attention, this is your kingdom and the ponies expect you to lead them. As I was saying we need to come up with a salvaging plan. The KoA is returning with a few sets of earth pony power armor that were recovered from our excursion to the mall but the dangers lurking in the wastes are too great."

"Have we had any luck tracking down the Crystal Heart?" Starlight asked.

"No, not yet," Bullseye said, he fixed hir hat and sat up. "We've narrowed it down to a few locations. In the northern part of the city, it's mainly uninhabitable, one of the megaspells hit up there making it almost uninhabitable. It may be somewhere up there. At the same time, it could be one of these here Stables," Bullseye pointed at the map. "Here is Stable 13, 49, and 91."

"It's not in Stable 13," Starlight said, "Princess Cadance and I emerged from that vault earlier this year. I would have known if the Crystal Heart was brought in."

"Ok well, that takes one place off the list," Bullseye crossed out our Stable.

"I thought we had seven Stables in the Crystal Empire?" I said.

"These are only the Stables we know the location for sure, Princess," the NCR rep said.

"What about the people who are creating the synthetic ponies? It must take a lot of magic to create crystals like that."

"Maybe, but we have no idea where they are located or if they are some broken experiment like the Goddess at Maripony," the NCR representative said.

"What is the Goddess?" I asked

"She was a failed experiment. From what the Stable Dweller told us, she was formerly a unicorn before the war working with the MAS. Something must have gone wrong and she became a monster that turned people into alicorns. She was responsible for killing Ministry Mare Twilight Sparkle."

Upon hearing those words I slumped back into my chair. I knew Twilight was probably dead at this point but... killed by her own experiment. I took a deep breath trying to steady myself. I saw Starlight look over at me, I blankly stared at the map on the table.

"A place of particular interest is the MAS hub in the Empire. It's also located in the north part of the city and it's the closest point to Stable 49," Bullseye moved a chess piece placing it on the hub as a marker.

"I also have interest in the MAS hub," Starlight leaned onto the table. "Before being selected as Overmare for Stable-Tech, I worked as a head of research and development of the Stalliongrad hub. My biometrics should still be in the system."

I looked down at the map, where did I want to go... I really wanted to go back to Equestria, but I couldn't leave the Empire for a prolonged period without the Crystal Heart protecting the city.

"How about Stable 91?" the group looked up at me.

"Stable 91 is located here," Bullseye moved the knight chess piece over the location. It was under Crystal Preparatory Academy. It was located way in the east, the only thing close to it was the MoP hub. The MoP hub was relatively small compared to the other hubs in the city."

"Stable 91 will have to be a separate trip. It's too far from any known settlement. I think the best course of action is to establish an outpost at the MAS hub and then move for Stable 49," Sunset said sitting back in her chair.

"I'll lead the team on the expedition," I said. The room was silent, the ponies at the table were staring blankly at each other.

"Princess, I don't know how to tell you this but, maybe it's best you stay here," Starlight spoke extremely cautiously. "We were lucky that Fluttershy sent out a massive alert for your retrieval and that the KoA found you in time. You are Equestria's last living Princess and to lose you would be a disaster," Starlight stood up. The other ponies agreed.

"What?" Her words confused me, the rest of the ponies nodded in agreement. I looked over at Sunset, she stared stoically back at me. She looked and sighed.

"In all honesty, I think the Princess can take care of herself, I'm sure had we not showed up she could have saved herself from the clutches of the Enclave," when Sunset spoke the whole table turned to her.

"Starlight please, I need to be able to help my ponies. I can't just sit here and do nothing. I spent the last war sitting here like a pampered show pony but not this time. The world has changed and Equestria can't have figureheads, it needs leaders."

Starlight sighed, "I guess I can't stop you but if you go, I go." Starlight stood up. "Ok, so our current plan is to head for MAS hub then Stable 49."

"Agreed," the rest of the ponies said.

"Princess, assemble your team," Starlight said.

After the meeting, we departed the throne room. I headed out of the throne room and back to my room. I ascended the spiral stairs back to my room, I sat down at my vanity. I looked at myself, my reflection was distorted from the cracks in the mirror.

"I see you're taking your new role well," the mirror's image began to distort and soon became a clear vision of myself.

"It took you this long to visit me?" I opened one of the drawers and noticed my brush was still in the desk. I levitated it up and began to brush out my mane. Cadenza scrunched her nose.

"How are you so casual about what just happened?" Cadenza sounded frustrated.

"What do you mean?"

"You are letting other ponies run your country what's wrong with you?"

"I mean I am talking to myself so possible a lot," I responded. Cadenza frowned rubbing her head with her hoof.

"Cadance, at the end of the day I'm still you. We share the same opinions and thoughts. Dark magic made me my own construct within your mind. I know aren't happy with the way things are."

"I'm unhappy with the current state of the Empire yes. I am perfectly fine with the way things are going."

"Cadance, during the meeting you were thinking about a spa day," Cadenza looked upset.

"I know. It's one thing that will probably not return for a century. As Equestria's last princess I can't continue to live the pampered life."

"I agree with you."

"Then why are you upset?"

"She is upset because you are not leading the ponies. You are sitting there executing others' decisions," Sombra shadow stood next to me. He cast no reflection in the damaged mirror.

"I don't like Cadenza but as a ruler of the Empire, I had to keep the power solely in the crown. It's not bad to have an advisor but you can not let them puppet you. It should be your plan or let them advise you on the best course of action. They ordered you to stay but you should have demanded to go," Sombra seemed angry with me.

"I really don't need this shit today you know. My life is hard enough as it is," I raised my voice.

"Poor spoiled princess. I'm sorry your life of luxury came to end so abruptly. A world with no spas or massages is truly the world nightmare," Cadenza prodded.

"Cadance my advice, the time for relaxing is over, the time for action is now," Sombra vanished.

"I'm sorry you're so worried about your coat's shine, not like your trying to impress a stallion. Actually, maybe you should, Shining Armor is a lost cause anyway," Cadenza laughed.

"That's enough!" I screamed. My door immediately opened. I fell back out of my chair in shock.

"Princess are you ok? I heard you yelling," Lightning Dust looked at me with a worried look.

"I'm fine... Just tired," I said standing up brushing myself off.

"Ok, just wanted to make sure you were safe. There will be KoA guards outside your door at all times. I'll be on first shift tonight."

"Thank you, but I don't need guards," I said.

"It's just a precaution, we can't have you getting kidnapped again," she chuckled. I laughed with her.

"Ok good night Lightning Dust, I'll see you tomorrow."

"Good night Princess," Lightning Dust shut the door. Walking to my nightstand I opened the drawer. My laser pistol was missing. I sighed, that was the last thing Shining Armor gave me. My saddlebags hung from a coat rack near the door. I activated my horn and opened up the saddlebag. My Crystal Revolver was still inside. I levitated it out and put it on the nightstand in place of the laser pistol.

"Two days till we set out for the MAS hub..."

Footnote: Trait Aquired.
Trait added: Old World Blues: You dream of life from the old days and wish the world was still the same and it has become a point of obsession. You gain a -2 to Charisma and Endurance.

Chapter 15: Country Roads

View Online

Take me home...

A few hours after leaving the castle we arrived at Emerald Field. While at the market procuring supplies one of the guards flagged me down. She chatted with me a bit and then told me the mayor wanted to meet with me before I departed again. I shook her hoof and thanked her for the message. I found Starlight browsing the stalls and asked her to come with me.

“The mayor wants to see us?” Starlight asked confused, I took her hoof in mine and pulled her along with me.

“That’s what the guard said.”

He continued to walk following the signs leading to a large elevator. Stepping onto the elevator the guard at the bottom pressed a large red button. The generator began to clang and hiss and it began to pull on the rope and our ascension to the upper level began. After a moment of climbing we reached a stopped. I stepped off the lift and onto a wooden platform that lead through what was formerly a window. The mayors office was formerly the announcers box, most of the electronics have been removed and it was converted into a office, there was a wall that separated the entrance to the mayors quarters. A pony sitting at a terminal was typing away, she briefly looked up from her terminal.

“Can I help you?” She asked monotonously.

“Ugh the mayor summoned me…” I awkwardly said. I rubbed my foreleg, I felt awkward at the exchange. The secretary sighed then stood up. She knocked on the door to the mayors office.

“Mayor, the princess is here to see you.”

“Let her in,” the secretary pushed open the door and revealed a furnished office, the window was draped in red velvet and floors were polished to a shine. The room was immaculately clean. I looked around and saw little trinkets sat in cabinets and hung on the wall behind the desk was the flag of the Crystal Empire.

“Welcome to my office, Princess and guest,” Mayor McDonut smiled, it’s been a while since I’ve seen her but something seems off. I don’t remember her looking this young. She had less wrinkles and seemed in considerable better mood. Her light pink fur shined and her mane was beautifully curled almost like Rarity. I felt a bit conflicted inside about how I felt.

“Good morning, my name is Starlight Glimmer, Aide-de-Camp to Princess Cadance,” Starlight extended her hoof in which the mayor returned. Aide-de-Camp? I think that’s some sort of advisor.

“It’s good to see you again mayor, you seem different since I last saw you.”

“Oh Princess, your settlement has done wonders for Emerald Field. The Castle itself is like a stable, it’s been supplying us with tons of water and now we have so much ponies have begun to start bathing again. We’ve been able to clean the town again and even trade off excess for a profit. We are indebted to you Princess,” the Mayor smiled.

“Mayor McDonut, if I may, I do have some request from the citizens of Castle-Town,” Starlight began to dig through her saddlebags.

“Please call me Milly. No need for the formalities, we are all friends here,” Milly stated. I smiled at the thoughts of having friends again.

“Ms. Milly, we would like to request food and artisans.”

“Artisans?” Milly sat back in her chair.

“Skilled labor like engineers or business ponies, anypony that can help jump start our economy and build new safer structures,” Starlight said holding the list in front of her face with her magic.

“As far as builders go we have a few skilled builders. I can have one sent over but don’t have the NCR and Applejack’s Rangers now at the castle?”

“Yes but we rely on existing infrastructure, our houses are built on top of the former runways at the castle airfield. We don’t have any real equipment to breakdown the broken structures or vehicles left around the area.”

“Alright, but I would like to make a request if that’s alright,” Milly sat up in her chair.

“If it is within our power I’ll see that it happens,” I replied with a smile.

“We would like to request to join the Minutemares. The increasing monster and raider attacks are becoming worrisome. The raiders have been better armed as of late and we can’t let the city be destroyed.”

“I can request Bullseye to allow you admittance but its up to her but I’ll see what I can-“ starlight interrupted me.

“Done. Bullseye is sending a detachment of 10 ponies here to help defend and train your guards.”

“How did you send a message so fast?” I looked at Starlight who held out a book. I looked into it and the title of the page said list of settlements.

“Please sign here Ms. Milly,” Milly took the book and wrote Emerald Field followed by her signature. The book then disappeared into smoke. I looked at Starlight. She smiled back at me.

“How… How did, you… Without a dragon,” I was fumbling to get myself together. The spell she used, if she used it was meant between Spike and Celestia to send letters.

“I enchanted a crystal in library to act as conduit the transport spell is easy to learn but its hard to be both a receiver and sender. Since my cutie mark is in magic, I have enough magic stored to act as both. It’s like teleportation, only certain ponies can do it but long distances require immense magic,” Starlight flipped her mane.

“Must be nice to have magic, I’m just an earth pony, I can’t do much outside baking and being the mayor. “

“Oh don’t be silly, you’re perfect the way you are,” I winked. I saw Milly blush, Starlight was fiddling with her PipBuck.

“It’s time for us to head out Mayor, our team should be waiting at the gates.”

“Let me see you two out,” Milly stood up and walked us to the elevator. She wrapped her arms around me. “Let me know when you’re back, I’d love to see your settlement,” she said. I stepped onto the elevator and we descended back to the bottom floor.

Stepping off the lift we headed to the entrance to the city. Ember, Lightning Dust, and Sheer Cold stood waiting at the gates. The pegasi had strapped additional large bags on their back.

“Do we really need all that?” Starlight asked.

“I would say so. MAS hubs are the most dangerous of all the ministry hubs. You never know what you will find. The Goddess was created in a MAS facility so we need to enter like she’s waiting behind every door,” Sheer Cold said.

“So they what did you buy?” I asked examining their bags.

“Besides the extra medical supplies and food rations we picked up a heavy machine gun. It’s an older model so its not compatible with our battlesaddles but extra firepower never hurts,” Lightning Dust turned around and from the back of her pack several metal apples dangled. “If you ever need them, I have them. It’s good to be prepared.”

“Are you able to fly with all that? It seems to limit your mobility,” I walked around the two pegasi examining their gear.

“No, the packs cover our wings but it’s pretty easy to ditch the bags if we need to,” Sheer Cold smiled.

“Well if you’re ok with it then lets get moving. It’s going to take a while to march across the city.”

We exited the city through the main gates, the large gates came to close with a loud clang. As we began to walk I started to think about Shining Armor. I wonder where he is… Does he still even love me anymore… We continued our trek down the destroyed city streets. Several skeletons hung from a school bus wagon, I felt horrified at the sight. Not only did my Empire end but they killed almost the entire generation.

As we walked down the structures seemed to be getting progressively worse. The glittering crystal houses that dotted the Empire now lay destroyed.

“You know, the capital city always creeped me out every time I came. It’s so abandoned compared to the other cities,” Ember stopped to look inside a delivery wagon. I followed behind her and opened the back doors. The smell of rotting flesh lingered in the air inside the cart. I quickly pulled my face back. The stench was putrid, I couldn’t hold myself back. I threw up as soon as I pulled back. Ember came up behind me rubbing my back.

“I haven’t been up here before but I know down in Equestria, there are massive cities that lay almost abandoned. Stalliongrad or at least what’s left of it is almost completely abandoned besides the two settlements there. But those settlements are still far outside the city limits,” Lightning Dust walked up to me. I lifted up my head wiping my mouth, taking a few deep breaths I was able to regain my bearing.

“What do you mean other cities?” I asked still trying to catch my breath.

“Rainbow Falls survive the majority of the destruction. It’s population was rather low and so it wasn’t hit by the Megaspell directly. But radiation and the Frost claimed a lot of ponies even to this day. Not to mention the raiders and monsters that are wandering around the wilderness,” Ember replied, she walked next to me and looked straight at me. “Princess, many communities outside the city still exist but just barely. Without the capital or their princess they had to fend for themselves and many may still be out there.”

I smiled at Ember, “I hope my ponies are doing well but I don’t think they will want me as their ruler after almost 200 years of independence.”

As we continued out walk through the suburbs I curiously stumbled upon a rather pristine house. It’s exterior wasn’t glittering but it didn’t seem to be wrecked like the other houses in the area.

“Hold on, I want to check this out, lets take a break,” I said. I watched as the Pegasi gasps as they dropped their bags and stretch their wings.

“Princess, does this house seem off to you?” Starlight approached the house. Suddenly a force field appeared repelling Starlight and sent her flying across the street.

“Starlight!” I ran over to her. “Are you ok?”

“I’m fine, just wasn’t expecting that…” Starlight stood up dusting herself off. I walked back over to the house.

“Somepony doesn’t want us here,” Lightning Dust said. “Sheer set up the machine gun and setup a perimeter.” Sheer Cold began to unpack one of her bags and set up the machine gun. “We’ll keep watch while you work on getting into the house. I turned my attention back to the house. I saw Starlight examining the house. I felt my PipMare buzz. Lifting up my forehoof I checked the map. This location was marked as ‘Sunburst’s Laboratories.’ How did it know this was a laboratory… how did it know it wasn’t a house…

“Starlight check your PipBuck,” she looked down at it and her expression changed immediately.

“Sunbursts?” Starlight said quietly. She paused for a moment, Starlight approached the barrier and her horn began to glow. She whispered something and the shield went down. I approached Starlight and I saw tears rolling down her cheek. “Idiot,” she whispered. Starlight proceeded towards the door.

“Are you ok?” She didn’t respond.

“I’m fine,” Starlight said coldly. She proceeded into the house, I followed after her. The place was a mess, papers and charts were scattered throughout the entry way of the house. Chalk boards with old equations dotted the room. Wires covered the few open wall spaces and ceiling connecting to several pieces of machinery. I saw a ladder leading up to the small second story loft, looking around the bottom floor there was a door that lead into a small alcove that contained a kitchen. Walking in I saw ruined furniture destroyed by time and rot. The refrigerator door had long since rusted off its hinges and lay face first on the floor. There were several holotapes scattered on the dining table. I walked up to the table and up the closet one.

“I think I done, I finally completed my life’s work! Starlight I was able to create a shield strong enough to withstand a megaspell. I heard the sirens go off and a loud explosion outside but nothing happened. I was able to construct a shield that had dense enough molecular structure to withstand even the strongest of blows. This can revolutionize what we know about combat shielding and finally put an end to the war. Let Ms. Twilight know I was finally able to perfect it. I told her it was possible and she didn’t believe me,” the voice on the tape began to laugh hysterically. “Now I need to disable the shield and find you. I think you told me you were in Stable 13. I’ll have to start my trek to find you. But I can’t wait to see you again.”

Voice began to cheer and then the tape ended. I removed this one from the PipMare and picked in another one.

“Day two of being trapped in the shield. I’m not sure how to dispel it, everything I’ve tried has failed and has kept me locked in here. Looking at the spell matrix again I seemed to have made a solid wall of magic. If my hypothesis is correct the dome I created was set on a time limit. Everything I’ve tried has either backfired or just ineffective. I hope the shield gives up soon. Anyways, I hope your doing well Star, I’ll find you as soon as I’m out.”

I put another holotape in:

“Day eight of being trapped in the shield. I really need to keep a consistent log. I hear screaming outside the house. I can’t see anything outside the house. The magic barriers isn’t translucent. I guess that’s probably why Twilight didn’t want me experimenting with shields of this power. Starlight… Never mind, I think I know how I’m going to get out. I’m still receiving power from the grid and I’m going to try to dig my way out. Maybe the shield only exists on the surface. It may take a while though, I don’t have many gardening tools to dig. Anyways I’ll let you know how it goes.”

The tape ended. I took it out and put the other tape in.

“I’ve been here for a grand total of 14 days. Yup two weeks. I’m beginning to run out of food and water. The power has finally gave out and now I’m stuck in the dark. I have no sunlight to speak of. Only my magic, but I’m hopeful somepony will come looking. I haven’t heard the screams for a few days. I wonder what happened out there. I wonder if life is going on as usual. Maybe it was a false alarm. Who knows. All I know is I’m trapped in here with no pony looking for me.”

The tape ended abruptly. There was one more tape on the table. I put it in and static began to play. I heard a bit of music in the background.

“This is it… This is where I die… trapped in my house. I’ve been in here for…” there was a brief pause followed by laughter. “I want to say I’ve been in here forty days… It’s been about 15 days since I’ve last ate. And as of this morning, my sink is no longer dispensing water. With the last of my sanity I just… I just want to say one thing before I go…” I heard the pony from the tape sigh. He began to cry. “Starlight Glimmer, you were my best friend. I still think about the time I left you back at the village. It’s something I greatly regret. After graduating from Celestia’s school I was never able to shake the guilt of leaving you behind. Once the war started I thought I was never going to see you again. Then I heard you went to the Crystal Empire and I thought maybe one day I’d see you again.” The voice began to cry. After a few moments he stopped. “I really hope you’re still alive Starlight. I’m sorry I left you behind. Maybe I’ll see you again in the next life,” the voiced sighed. “This is Sunburst, signing off for the last time,” the taped ended.

I left the kitchen and look up to the loft, Starlight was standing at the top looking into the small bedroom. I began to flap my wings and my hooves left the ground. Ascending to the second story bedroom I touched down in front of the bed. It was a mess up here. The bed was unkempt, the drawers a were missing and in the corner, a unicorn skeleton draped with dark blue cape and lighter blue stars. The words I’m sorry were scribbled all over the walls. Lack of provisions drove him insane until he finally succumbed to his ailments.

“I’m so sorry Starlight…” I said pulling her into my embrace. She began to sob uncontrollably and I began to stroke her mane. “It’s ok.”

After a few moments Starlight pulled her head out. “I’m sorry you had to see that Princess.”

“Don’t be, emotions only mean were are ponies. Here, I found these downstairs, I suggest you listen to them when we get back, they are pretty heavy,” I levitated out Sunburst’s holotapes. Starlight grasps them in her levitation field packing them.

“Let’s go rejoin the others,” Starlight said, I nodded in return and she teleported outside the house. I looked back at the skeleton, I activated my magic and wrapped his body in his cloak. I then lifted him up placing him on the bed and encased his body in crystal. That should prevent any looters from touching his body.

“Thank you…” a voice echoed throughout the room. My heart sunk in my chest. I teleported out of the house as quickly as I could.

“Are you ok Princess? You looked like you’ve seen a ghost?” Ember said examining me.

“I might have…” I shook my head. The pegasi have begun to pack up their gun emplacement, Starlight was staring off into space. It seems Sunburst’s fate really got to her.

“We are ready to go Princess,” Lightning Dust said. I turned back to look at Sheer Cold, she had everything packed on her armor. I still think that was a bit much for our mission. Next time I’m going to have to tell them to use only what they have on them.

We set off down the road putting Sunburst’s house behind us. After about an hour of walking we began to see signs of life. Ponies dismembered and hung up on poles. Some of them were even crucified.

“Eyes up ladies, seems like we aren’t alone out here,” Lightning Dust, said. I levitated my plasma pistol out of its holster, there were several large barricades made out of scrap. We passed by the first one and the sight of a decaying corpse. This one was a crystal pony wearing an assortment of scrap for armor.

“Raiders,” Ember said. We cautiously kept moving. Every sound kept us on edge. By the time we made it to the center of the camp we had passed by at least a dozen raiders.

“Let’s split out, maybe we can find something useful,” I whispered. We all split in different directions.

I entered one of buildings. A few raiders were laying against the wall, no weapon in sight, no shell casings or burn marks on the walls or bodies. I turned one of the corners entering an office. There was a dead raider laying on the desk. Seems she died from a shot to the head… I levitated the body the tossing her aside. I found a note with a knife in it. It’s read ‘Beware of Sparkle World’ written in blood. I pulled the knife out and levitated the note. I flipped it around. Underneath the letters it was an old poster of Sparkle World. I walked back out into the main room, the stairs in the corner collapsed in. I assume the upper floors are gone. I walked back out to the center of the raider camp. None of my companions had returned yet.

I started to stare at the tops of the crumbling buildings. Beyond the patch of what I can only assume were apartments, I saw a glint off in the distance. I heard a bullet strike the concrete beside me. I immediately ignited my horn casting a shield around me. From the rooftops several figures began shooting down at me. In a panic I ran back into one of the buildings. Several grenades exploded outside the building. I gripped the plasma pistol with my magic, I aimed towards the door ready for one of the hostile to enter. I could see at least four on my EFS. I took a deep breath. One of the figures was approaching the door. As soon as he entered the room I slipped into SATS.

As time slowed, I began to see my hit chances on the enemy. It was a griffon… I targeted her torso and hind legs. As I released the targeting spell, time speed up. I fired two shots, both hit their marks. I heard the griffon wail in pain as she dropped to the floor. The superheated plasma had burned through her battlesaddle causing extreme burns but none of the shots were fatal. I saw her face dripping with tears as she cried out.

“Just fucking kill me already,” she begged. I stepped over her and rushed outside. There was an aerial battle taking place between the pegasi and griffons. Two more were on the ground and Sheer Cold and Lightning Dust were engaging the other three in mid air. My EFS suddenly lit up with a dozen more red marks.

“Ember! Starlight! Where are you?” I called out.

“I’m in here,” Starlight called out, she was firing at a group of griffons form inside the building. I opened fire at the two trapping her. I hit one in the wing and the other began to take off. I grabbed the other one shortly after takeoff slamming her back into the ground. Starlight had dispatched the wounded one. I rushed toward Starlight, several stray rounds from the novasurge rifle and the griffons laser weapons came close to hitting me. Once I made it inside I found Starlight and Ember, Starlight was wrapping her foreleg with a magical bandage.

“Are you ok?”

“I’m mhmnm,” Starlight replied. I cocked my head at her confused. She spit out the magical bandage. “I’m fine, focus on the fight!” Starlight levitated a shotgun firing into the doorway. I turned around to find a now deceased griffon.

I ran out and took off towards to help the Lightning and Sheer. I put my plasma pistol back in the holster. I doubt it would do much good in a fight light like this anyways. When I joined there were only two remaining adversaries. The two griffons began to fly back to put distance between us. My horn lit up and I began to cast a gravity spell.

“Increase gravity,” I yelled. The griffon began to fall out of the sky like a rock. Desperately flapping her wings before she crashed onto the floor below. The other griffon charged at me only to be stopped by Sheer and Lightning opening fire with their novasurge rifles. I began to look around and I couldn’t see the glint of snipers scope. “Let’s regroup.” We flew back down to the ground. Starlight and Ember were there waiting.

“Who are they?” Ember began to examine the bodies.

“Let’s ask them shall we?” I said. I walked back to the building and found the female griffon still writhing on the floor. I grasped her with my telekinesis and began to drag her out the building and back towards the group. We all circled around her.

“What the fuck do you want?” She said grabbing her side.

“Who are you?” Lightning asked.

“I’m Gawdyna fucking Grimfeathers,” Lighting Dust punched the griffon across the face. “You bitch!” the griffon spit out blood.

“Let’s try this again. Who are you.”

“Answer us truthfully and we will give you this,” I levitated a healing potion out of my bag. I dangled it in front of her face. The griffon frowned at me. “I’ll start. My name is Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, Empress of the Crystal Empire, third princess of Equestria.” The griffon looked away from me. She looked at my companions and back me.

“My name is Ava von Razorbeak,” she panted. “Can I please have the healing potion, the pain is excruciating.” I levitated the potion to her, she grabbed it in her claw sucking it down. The burned patches on her skin and feathers began to heal, quickly disappearing like they never existed. She then stood up.

“Are you a merc or with the Griffon Empire?” Ember asked, she pushed on the griffons former wounds. I saw the griffon wince a bit at the pressure expecting the searing pain but was surprised that it not there.

“I’m conscript from Griffonstone…” she said.

“Conscript?” Ember look confused. I guess this word would be foreign to a pony without a nation.

“A conscripted is a pony or griffon in this case that is forced into military service. They are required to serve a certain amount of time or in some cases their whole life,” Starlight said looking down at the griffon.

“In the Enclave, we used to have something similar called the draft. Every pony had to put their name in a lottery and every month a few hundred names would be called. Service minimum was two years but you could be called more than once,” Lightning said.

“That’s why I stayed in. Got called twice and though it’s better to stay in. Free food, housing and decent pay. Well until Cauterize that is,” Sheer added. She removed her helmet to look at the griffon.

“What are you going to do with me?” she asked.

“We’ll we can’t exactly take prisoners but I don’t reckon you want to go back to the Griffon Empire,” Sheer rubbed her chin. “If it’s ok with the Princess you could come with us. Although, I’m not sure how I feel if you had a weapon considering you just tried to kill us.”

“We’ll either way I’m dead to the Empire. You can kill me now or leave me to the monsters.”

“While I don’t mind her coming with us but are the rest of you ok with this?” I asked looking at my companions.

“Personally, she isn’t a threat to me,” Lightning smirked. I looked over at Starlight.

“Having a griffon might changed the social dynamic at the castle a bit. Make us seem more like the old harmonic style of rule like Princess’s had.”

“I’m rather impartial, she isn’t a threat but I’m hesitant to give her a weapon,” Ember said.

“Well then Ava, you are welcome to join us if you please,” I smiled. I extended a hoof to her, she grabbed it and stood up.

“Thank you Princess. I appreciate you kindness,” the griffon said. Ember levitated a water bottle to her.

“You’re suffering from severe malnutrition and dehydration. When was the last time you ate?” Ember dug through her bag looking for food.

“We were told to scavenge the land but there is no food in sight. But we’ve become little more than raiders stealing from settlements. Even then settlements are few and far between. All griffons have been banned from Emerald Field in light of the attack on the castle so we haven’t eaten in a few weeks. Water ran dry a few days ago. Any spoils go straight to the officer in charge and we get the scraps,” the griffon drooped her head. “Then it’s a fight for scrap.”

“Here darling,” Ember levitated a can of spaghetti to the griffon.

“Thank you,” Ava lowered her head to Ember. She also levitated a two water bottles to her. The griffon used her talons to open the can. The sound her talons caused were akin to nails on a chalkboard. I began to rub my ears. “Sorry.”
“Well Ava, since you’re part of the team I think we should let you know where we are going,” I opened my saddlebags and levitated the map out laying it on the ground. Ava looked over to the map.

“The MAS hub, huh?” She said swallowing her food. “That place is a death trap,” Ava was shoving more food into her beak. “The other day we lost an entire team trying to take the building.”

“Do you happen to know the kind of defenses they have?” Starlight asked.

“Enough to kill a bunch of griffons,” Ava sarcastically remarked. She swallowed hard and looked at me. “It seems that the place is inhabited or at least was recently. A mixture of energy and conventional weaponry on top of traps.”

“Good thing we bought this beauty,” Lightning Dust laughed rubbing the large saddle boxes containing the machine gun.

“That won’t do you any good. Unless you have it attached to a battlesaddle its dead weight. I’d ditch at the front door. Shotguns and submachine guns will be your best friend.”

“And why’s that,” Sheer Cold sat down across from Ava pushing a small bread wafer into her mouth.

“If it follows the logic of other ministry buildings, it will be tight spaced with winding corridors. Only way to effectively move through the building is separately to cover the most ground but the defenses will overwhelm you.”

“What if we move in teams?” I levitated a few stones in front of us. “Each of us bring a Unicorn and if any of us are wounded or incapacitated we teleport them outside the building where Ember will wait,” I said moving the rocks around to show the teams and Ember.

“Who will wait outside with me? I can’t exactly help you and fend for myself.”

“I’ll stay outside,” Ava said. “I’m not in a hurry to die in that hell hole.”

“Well it seems we have a plan to go in.”

“Can we trust the Griffon?” Sheer asked.

“I agree, enemies don’t just turn friend in a matter of seconds,” Starlight said.

“I disagree, after all, Twilight and her friends were able to turn Discord good.”

“Discord?” Lightning Dust asked.

“Like the old mare’s tell, Discord?” Ember look at me confused.

“Discord was a Draconiquis from our time, a lord of chaos defeated by the Elements of Harmony long before started…” Starlight said.

“Yes Discord was a well…” I paused to think. I rubbed my chin thinking of how to describe him. “He was a Draconiquis who reigned over Equestria briefly in ancient times. He was subsequently overthrown by Princess Celestia and Luna and formed Equestria from what remained. After he appeared again and the Elements of Harmony defeated him turning him to stone. A few months later, Celestia thought it would be a go idea to reform him. I was skeptical of this choice at first but it worked out. Discord reformed and he became close with Fluttershy, I never saw him again after.”

“You see all you ponies get is gods easily swayed by words. In the griffon country, we have monstrosities that roam the land. Giants, dragons and other ungodly creatures ravage the countryside. We have no god to protect us. Only our talons and what we can create with our claws.”

“It’s not like we have them any more, the last goddess is right here.” Ember said sadly. “Equestria must had been beautiful before the war.”

“It was, it wasn’t perfect but it was home,” Starlight gave a soft smile.

“In the Enclave, everything was propaganda. Even the legends like Discord were used to scare foals into being good members of society or else Discord would get you.”

“In the part I’m from, they always said Celestia and Luna became the sun and moon after the war to stop the Zebras from ever entering Equestria again, Discord was said to be a punisher who dragged Zebra’s into an alternate dimension and killed them,” Sheer said.

“Lightning, whatever happened to the Changelings?” I asked.

“Let’s walk and talk Starlight said.

“Agreed suns about to go down and make things a lot more complicated,” Sheer said. The Pegasi packed their gear and we began the final leg of the journey.

“What are Changelings?” Lightning Dust cocked her head.

“You’ve never heard of the Changelings?” Starlight raised an eyebrow.

“The Changelings are a complicated bunch. They mainly kept to their land in the east. We have had little to no contact with them. The Enclave has sent scouts long ago but none returned.”

“During the war, Equestria was able to maintain a fragile peace with them,” Starlight said.

“The Changelings were extremely aggressive creatures, during my reign over the Crystal Empire, they would infringe on our eastern villages to feed. Queen Chrysalis would always deny that she was responsible and that each hive is ruled by its own queen but as their leader she needed better control of her country,” I frowned thinking upon their attack on Canterlot. I sighed and continued walking.

After passing through the high rise apartments zone the tall MAS hub became visible among the Crystal skyline. A large eight pointed star adorned each side of the building. I began to notice piles of skeletons lined the street. Signs of protest lay strewed about the floor. These were members of the United Workers Party. They were, for the most part against the war but especially against the ministries claiming all kinds of mistreatment and dangerous pony experimentation. I shuddered at the sound of the bones crunching under the weight of the Pegasi power armor. We were fast approaching the MAS Hub. At the final T intersection we halted our party.

“I think we should make camp here,” Starlight said.

“Agreed, we should rest and scout out the defenses if we can.”

“Into the building, we don’t want to be caught out in the open,” I said pointing to the coffee shop behind us. I looked at the sign, ‘Donut Joe’s’. The sign showed a tan colored stallion flanked by two beautiful mares. Pushing through the front door I heard the sound of a bell. Even after all these years it still worked as if the store never closed. The skeletal remains of patrons lay dead, slumped over the table. I walked farther in checking behind the front counter. A skeleton with a tattered apron and white bakers cap lay solemnly behind the counter. I turned around to check the storage room. A the pungent smell of death assailed my nostrils. I large amount of dried blood led to the walk-in refrigerator. Opening the fridge a pile of skeletons in tattered suits lay in a pile in the center. I ran out of the back and out the front door. I threw up whatever food I had eaten that day if any.

“Princess!” Ember ran to me rubbing my back. “What happened.”

“Th-the back r-r-room,” I stuttered. Taking a deep breath I felt the fresh air enter my lungs. “I think I’m good.” I walked back into the store, Lightning Dust entered the back room to investigate my findings. I followed behind her.

“They did not die any easy death,” Lighting Dust put her helmet on. She approached one of the skeletons pulling it off the pile. “Multiple fractures, lacerations, cracks… I assume they were beaten before they died.”

I levitate a rag out of my bag placing it over my nose. “They seem to be a little to well dressed for a donut shop,” I looked at their blood stained suit. Three balloon pin adorn their lapel followed by a name tag a bit below it. “Limestone,” I muttered.

“They are agents of the MoM…” Starlight looked over me. “They were the most unpopular ministry. Especially considering the thing’s they’ve done.”

Lightning Dust began to check the coats of dead agents. She held her hoof up holding a picture. I levitated it towards me, it was a picture of Pinkie and her family in their younger days. Besides Pinkie there were two grey mares, one held a soft smile while the other gritted her teeth in anger. I put the picture in my saddlebag and walked out of the fridge and headed towards the front of the store. Sheer Cold had set up the the machine gun on one of the tables pointing out the window.

“Everything ok?” Sheer asked.

“I’m fine… I just want to find an end to the brutality.”

“Everyday we inch closer to peace. In order to end the brutality once and for all we must overcome it with our own.”

“Maybe…”

Footnote: Level Up.
Perk adde: Cool Under Fire: Danger is your middle name, you attract bullets and you show no fear. Perception gains +1 while under sustained fire.