The End of Innocence

by Bronyxy

First published

Princess Twilight Sparkle found a number of alternate universes while duelling with Starlight Glimmer. These realities were perfectly genuine to those who lived in them. In one in particular, the future does not look good, but a zebra has a plan.

There are many alternate universes.  Princess Twilight Sparkle found a number of them whilst she was duelling with Starlight Glimmer.  These alternative realities were perfectly genuine to those who lived in them.
This is a true story about an Equestria in which Queen Chrysalis had not been defeated when the Changeling Army invaded during the Royal Wedding at Canterlot.  Only a small group of free ponies is left to mount a Resistance.  The future does not look good, but a zebra has a plan.

This can be read as a one-shot or continued to its sequel, when Pinkie Pie mounts a rescue mission into the hive.

The End of Innocence

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The war with Queen Chrysalis was not going well. Those ponies still free had formed a last ditch Resistance in a dark corner of the Everfree Forest, and were eking out a tentative existence whilst fending off the inevitable. But until then, they had one overarching belief that kept them motivated and enabled them to strive for a better future; hope.

Everypony had to be on their guard, vigilant lest their camp should be discovered. Earth ponies and unicorns carried out foot patrols across an ever shrinking area as the Changeling Army advanced through the Everfree. In the air, the pegasi flew surveillance and reconnaissance sorties and reported back regularly to their leader, Zecora, who marshalled her forces as best she could.

Zecora was tired; she needed a miracle. The Changeling Army was getting close and the remaining pegasi were flying constant shifts, but their role was risky and too many were being captured to face a very unpleasant fate. To add to their woes, an epidemic of feather flu had broken out among the remaining pegasi, and so few sorties were being flown that they had no reliable idea about the build up of hostile forces facing them.

Desperate times called for desperate measures, and Zecora called a meeting of the most powerful unicorns to float an idea she hoped would never see the light of day. It was risky, but as the alternative was certain annihilation, she reluctantly spoke up.

“We are losing, there is no doubt
We need more eyes in the air to scout

There is a spell, I can but try
To give a pony wings to fly

It will not work on a unicorn
For that would make an alicorn

A willing earth pony is a must
To make a brand new pegasus.”

There was a heated debate amongst the finest magical minds in the Resistance; balancing the ethics of changing a pony’s complete physiology and disrupting their entire heritage against doing something to plug the widening capability gap in the air. Further, this was only theoretical magic; it had never even been attempted before and was fraught with risk. The argument raged through the evening and well into the night until an eternally optimistic pink pony decided that all they needed was some muffins to end the arguing, and brought in a tray piled high with the best confections she could create given the prevailing hardships.

Just then one particularly senior unicorn exasperated with the lack of progress bawled “Well who could we find to volunteer to be a guinea pig?”
Pinkie Pie interjected “Well, I saw Fluttershy turned into a tree once and I wanted to be turned into a cake, but I never got the chance and I was really sad because I really wanted to see what it was like and …”
“Enough!” interjected the unicorn, but the pink earth pony kept going completely unfazed.
“And then I heard you wanted to turn somepony into a guinea pig and I thought wow, like maybe it might be fun to be a guinea pig…”
“ENOUGH!” shouted the exasperated unicorn, going red in the face. This time the pink pony stopped, but started turning her head clockwise, increment at a time the redder he became.
Zecora smiled at the comedy of the situation; the interruption had eased the tension amongst everypony present, except for one particular unicorn who looked like he was liable to explode at any second. She silenced the meeting by raising her hoof.

“Pinkie Pie dear I cannot lie
We need ponies to make pegasi

The spell is risky there is no doubt
I do not know how you may turn out”

“It’s OK Zecora” beamed the pink pony “I’ve made lots of Pinkie Promises all about hoping to fly, so it would be nice if I could.”
A further debate ensued, during which the assembled unicorns were equally divided as to the merits of her brave offer whilst the other half questioned whether she even had the faintest idea what she was volunteering for.
Pinkie watched for a while then she started contributing herself by chanting “Argue, argue, argue!” just for the fun of it. Eventually, the two disagreeing unicorn factions finally reached an accord; one half ready to accept her for her bravery, whilst the other half just wanted her to be quiet. It was unanimous; she would be the test subject.

Zecora retired to the privacy of her quarters along with a handful of elder unicorns and a bouncing pink earth pony. A cauldron bubbled and exotic smells pervaded the room. Zecora confirmed what was required of everypony present and just before starting confirmed with Pinkie that she was fully prepared for what was going to happen. In return she got a broad smile and an “Okie, dokie, lokie!” She frowned inwardly, but reconciled herself that there was no better option.

The magical zebra directed the pink pony to a point in the middle of a circle marked out on the floor and passed her an unappetising looking potion as the five invited unicorns positioned themselves at five equidistant points on the circle perimeter around her, each facing inwards. One at a time, they lit their horns and started to focus on the task at hoof. Magical auras began to emanate from each, which then all began to join together, weakly at first then building up strength until they had created a circle of brilliant white light around the pink pony.

When Zecora instructed, Pinkie knocked back the concoction in one shot and then placed the cup down neatly by her side, closing her eyes as she has been told. This was going to be even more exciting than ‘pin the tail on the pony!’ she thought to herself.
The intensity of the light increased until none dared to look at it, then it spiralled inwards to wrap itself around the spell’s subject, forming a cocoon that embraced her more and more tightly. Suddenly, with a flash everything went dark.

Zecora forced herself groggily up onto her hooves, taking in the scene before her. All five elder unicorns lay on the floor where they had fallen, passed out from the exertion of having created the magical field, and in the middle was what appeared to be a ball of energy floating just off the ground with strange sparkles zipping around the outside in organised patterns. Just visible were a few wisps of pink mane at one end and pink tail at the other. Whatever they had done; it was still taking effect as they watched.

One at a time, the unicorns began to recover, each complaining bitterly about a most tremendous migraine. Meanwhile, Pinkie was undergoing some kind of metamorphosis, like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. Zecora hoped this was the case; she wouldn’t be able to live with herself if it had gone wrong and she had betrayed the trust of the pink pony. She fought to remain impassive as a jumble of frightening thoughts smashed their way round inside her like a tornado.

Slowly, the magical field began to decay and their pink subject was lowered the floor. Zecora’s heart was in her mouth, and by the looks of it, none of the unicorns felt any differently, their headaches all swiftly forgotten as the final act of their spell ran its course. They all wanted to see what had happened, but Zecora wanted to know that Pinkie Pie was safe more than anything else.

The pink pony had been deposited in an untidy heap, but nothing was discernible to reflect her anticipated new physiology. She twitched as she began to regain consciousness, followed by a gasp of excitement from one of the unicorns “It … it’s worked!”
The unicorns all cheered excitedly, only Zecora remaining impassive; it couldn’t be classed as a success until she knew that her friend Pinkie was alright.

Pinkie Pie started to come round and staggered uneasily onto her hooves, faltering slightly.
“Whoopsie” she giggled as she regained her balance.

“Pinkie my child, how are things?
I believe you have pegasus wings”

“Oooh, really?” said Pinkie, turning her head to see. Sure enough, there were two pink wings furled at her side.
“Go on … try” said one of the unicorns, hesitantly putting into words the thought that was on every pony’s mind. In response, Pinkie put a hoof in her mouth, screwed up her face, popped her cheeks and out burst a pair of pink wings at full stretch.
“Oooh” she giggled “That feels funny!”
The unicorns all gasped, then cheered.

Zecora looked on.

What had she created?

The next morning, Pinkie the pegasus was paired up with Thunderlane for basic flight training. Pegasi have an inherent talent for flight, but Pinkie was an earth pony and had problems grasping even the most basic of concepts. To most, her slow learning would have been a trial, but Thunderlane liked Equestria’s newest pegasus, even if he had to explain the same idea over and over from different perspectives. Her bubbly optimism and self-effacing nature made her a pleasant distraction from the dangers of flying reconnaissance sorties. The more time they spent together, the more he enjoyed her company, and the more he became attracted to her.
“How do you make it look so easy?” she asked.
“I’m a pegasus; it’s what I’ve always been. The sky; flying free; it’s part of what I am. I guess there are things that make earth ponies appreciate the earth more than the rest of us?”
“Like cupcakes?” Pinkie replied.
“Yeah. Maybe that’s it. You have a natural affinity for cupcakes!”
Pinkie Pie giggled. He was her kind of pony.

They trained together, Pinkie’s wing muscles getting more developed the more he taught her. Finally taking a rest, Pinkie was for once too tired to be bouncy and asked an innocent question.
“How come you’ve got so much time to teach me?”
“I got an injury a week or so back. We were ambushed by a squadron of changelings and my Lead Pony didn’t make it. Ever heard of Blaze? That was her.”
Pinkie looked pensive, not wanting to interrupt, but her eyes enquiring.
The charcoal grey pegasus wasn’t going to open up further and Pinkie moved closer, giving him a hug and stroking his muzzle gently.
“I know the moves, but I will never recover fully so I can’t risk getting into combat again, but …” he added forcing a grin to cross his features “I can still teach.”
“Well I think you’re just the best” said Pinkie staring longingly at him with her big blue eyes. He perked up immediately, snapped from his morbid reverie.
“Two things, Miss Pie” he said “One: break up that pink colour scheme – you stand out a mile off. Two …”
“Yes” enquired Pinkie.
“Get moving or I’ll catch you!”
With a squeal of delight, Pinkie shot off with Thunderlane in hot pursuit.

As time passed, they began seeing more of each other outside of training and were starting to be viewed as an item. She told him about her upbringing on the rock farm and all about her family. He tried to remember their names, their birthdays, their likes and dislikes, but it all came out so fast that he gave up trying and just listened to her, captivated by her presence. When it was his turn, he spoke affectionately of his little brother Rumble and explained how their parents had been lost during one of the many changeling attacks. He was now both father and mother as well as big brother to this boisterous young pegasus colt, whom he loved dearly. Pinkie looked at him with her big blue eyes and felt a pitter-patter inside her getting louder.

During one of their closer moments, she couldn’t help herself; she asked one question that she knew she shouldn’t; what had really happened with Blaze. He stopped and looked at her a little more distantly, then told her:
“We were on patrol and got into a tussle to the north of the Everfree. We had taken down a few of them, but I was injured and then three of them came for me. I knew I was done, but then when I thought all hope was lost, Blaze dove down out of the sun and took them all out. She was so focused on saving me that she hadn’t seen two more coming up behind her. Then it was over. There was nothing I could do.”
His stoic exterior began to crumble and Pinkie wrapped a foreleg round him, holding him tight.

She felt bad for asking, but better for knowing.

Training continued to progress smoothly until one day, whilst learning about spin recovery techniques, Pinkie happened to see a cloud that looked like a cupcake and was suddenly reminded of Sugarcube Corner and the Cakes and Pound and Pumpkin; flashbacks to her life as an earth pony. Promptly, her wings disappeared and she found herself plummeting downwards. She flexed where her wing muscles should have been, but nothing happened. Suddenly she was gripped with a fear, the like of which she had never experienced before; any second now she was going to hit the ground, and it would hurt!

Thunderlane was getting into position to watch Pinkie’s spin recovery, when his ears pricked up, catching her screams of terror. Immediately he dived down with reactions that would have impressed even the legendry Rainbow Dash, intercepting the helpless earth pony before the ground came up to meet her, picking her up in his forelegs and placing her down carefully in a secluded little clearing.
“Thunderlane …” The pink earth pony stopped, lost for words.
“It’s OK, hun” he said. She didn’t answer him, just wrapped a foreleg around him and drew him close for the most heartfelt of kisses. He responded, and at that moment the two crossed the line from being just good friends.

Later that day, with her wings returned, they stood before Zecora to explain how Pinkie’s wings had disappeared whilst in flight. Pinkie was keen to continue her flying but Zecora was having doubts.

Gradually, these events started to happen more often and Thunderlane became quite adept at catching his wingpony, in fact it had become a game between them. However, by the time her wings were failing multiple times each day, it was clear that the spell hadn’t worked. Thunderlane covered for her as much as he could, partly to give her a chance to work the problem through, but also because he wanted to spend as much time with her as possible.

Neither the charcoal grey stallion nor the pink earth pony knew how much time the Resistance had left, so they decided that now was the best time to formalise their union and moved in together, turning ThunderPie into a reality. Rumble loved the idea, he thought it was great to have a new big sister to make a fuss of him and happily told all his friends so.

The shortage of pegasi had reached crisis point and Pinkie Pie wasn’t ready, nor would she ever be. In desperation, Zecora ordered Thunderlane to stop his flying training and put him back on operations. They both knew what that meant, but there was no other choice and he accepted his orders without complaint. Pinkie was returned to duties on the ground and even though she was without wings now for most of the time, they would keep re-appearing at odd moments, generally accompanied by a giggle and a “Whoopsie!”

She and Thunderlane had become the most unlikely, but the most solid of couples. Pinkie could spend more time with Rumble now she was grounded, and he relished every moment; she wasn’t just a big sister, but a really cool Mom too, which all helped take the load off Thunderlane as they settled into being a family unit.

Zecora would have liked to have given the couple more time together, but there were so few pegasi left, Thunderlane had to be pressed into active service once more. She ensured that he was given the shorter sorties to fly, but he wasn’t truly fit and he knew it. He never let on nor ever asked for any special consideration, but every day he returned increasingly exhausted, so Pinkie gradually took on more and more of the household and foalcare responsibilities.

A few days later, Thunderlane set off for a routine reconnaissance sortie as wingpony to Sky Stinger, who had recently recovered from feather flu. Pinkie watched, waving to her love as he took off, then turned her attention to resuming her duties, pausing to look up at the sky every so often and thinking of him. As the time drew near for his return, she watched the sky more attentively. An hour after he was due, she stopped work altogether to see if he had come back and was in a debriefing somewhere, but he wasn’t. She sat on her haunches and stared up at the sky, waiting.

Dusk came and then darkness fell. Finally, she heard hoofsteps alongside her; zebra hoofsteps. Zecora stayed with Pinkie for a while, unable to bring herself to say what had to be said, then silently got up to leave. She turned to face a white mare who was comforting a light grey pegasus colt; Thunderlane’s little brother. She looked at the pitiful sight of the colt still trembling with shock, a sickening feeling surging through her entire body and slowly shook her head. She blamed herself. Looking back, she saw a tear trickling down the muzzle of the pink pony as her friend’s heart broke.

Bon Bon drew Rumble into a hug with her foreleg and then led the young colt away. They had both recently lost somepony close to them, but just for tonight they would have each other.

Pinkie waited all night, stock still. She couldn’t move. She felt she owed it to him; her last gift, that of hope. She prayed that if she could be seen not to be losing faith, he would come back. She waited all next day and through to the evening holding on to a receding belief in miracles. When the last few grains of hope finally ran through her hooves she knew she had to reconcile herself to what she already knew deep in her heart.

He wasn’t coming back.

As realisation trumped optimism, she dragged herself up and walked slowly home, not noticing where she was going, but simply following a well trodden route on instinct alone. She fell onto her bed; the bed they had shared and immersed herself in the fading traces of his scent and cried until the whole of Cloudsdale Reservoir ran dry. She wailed imploringly for some justice, some last chance to kiss him, to feel him close; even just to say goodbye.

Her pleas went unanswered.

Pinkie Pie never was the same. The laughter had been sucked out of her life. She focused unsmilingly on her duties, not speaking unless she had to, and even then only under obvious protest. Her wings kept making odd re-appearances at unusual times, but now instead of being some amusing distraction, she hated them. Those wings that had brought her together with the love of her life had been his downfall because she had not been able to control them, and so he had been forced to return to operations instead of her.

She despised her wings; the unwanted souvenir of a past when she believed she could be happy, forever. With him.

She would make the changelings pay for what they had done.

Zecora summoned the elder unicorns together once more. Under the light of a solitary candle she spoke:

“We must face facts sisters and brothers
We cannot make pegasi from any others

We tried our best, I have not mis-spoken
And now poor Pinkie’s heart is broken”

There was nothing more to say. The unicorns melted back to their homes and prepared for defeat.