I was ready to take my place as the world’s last fertile woman. Scientists had worked for 4 years genetically altering my body, while simultaneously extracting and freezing about 500 of my eggs. I could now grow to superhuman feats, my uterus could hold thousands of pounds, my skin would never rip open from inhuman stretching, and my legs would be able to stretch far out without pain, and able to support my body weight for most of my pregnancy. My body was manipulated, now my brains main function is to keep my organs working, and my uterus working to develop a full term pregnancy with extremely big and healthy babies in roughly a month’s time, though the scientists weren’t certain on the exact amount of gestation time. I was now ready to grow a belly filled with at least five hundred large babies. I was transported to a facility with plenty of space, thousands of square feet wide and twenty feet tall. I was placed on a large bed, with an iron foundation, and a very comfortable yet firm mattress. The facility was built specially for me, as I would be spending the next thirty years breeding for Earth. I laid down comfortably, my womb injected with my 500 babies. Over the next two days my belly swelled into the size of an average full term pregnancy, with a popped out belly button, extremely firm to the touch. I enjoyed rubbing my belly, massaging it with lotion, trying to get every inch. I would just watch it all day, I could see the growth. Three days later I looked to be carrying big quadruplets. One of my favorite activities would be to simply walk around with a bra and pants on, but no shirt, cradling my huge belly constantly with my back arched. I loved how firm it was, I knew every inch of my womb was occupied with life. The growth is a slow and gradual process that happens over the day. I wear very tight spandex which becomes almost translucent over my tummy, and have a grand old time when it rips open by the end of the day. I sleep with my belly exposed, usually on my side, and it takes quite a bit more of the bed by the morning. Two days later and I’m done with the first week of my pregnancy, my belly is a massive ball of flesh, super firm, no kicking yet. My belly button also grows with the added pressure, somewhat comical, a tennis ball protruding in front of this huge womb. When I lay on my back all I see is this beautiful belly, when I sit up I get to rub a lot of it as it sits far over my legs. Over the next three days I went from octuplets to what looked like twenty healthy babies, healthy fluttering babies. Imagine the feeling of fluttering wings, and multiply it by 500, I imagined this was my “fourth” month of pregnancy. One of the scientists did an ultrasound. Twenty bottles of ultrasound goo later and my belly was shiny and covered up, it took a few ultrasound technicians to cover most of my belly. I just sat back and enjoyed the sensation of wands dancing over my super taut skin. All of the embryos seemed perfectly healthy, plenty big, if not larger than average. I got up, which for now wasn’t an issue thanks to my extraordinary body, and headed for my indoor swimming pool. I sat on the steps of the shallow end and slowly submerged my belly into the shallow water. My belly hit the ground of the shallow end and was still decently high above the water’s surface. I laid back, eyes closed, stroking what I could of my belly, and dozed off. Waking from my sleep I noticed my belly was a good five inches higher above the water than it was before. I eased myself out and checked the time, it had only been about eight hours. Over the next three days my babies movement got a lot stronger, and my belly shot forward a lot. It was so far in front of me that I had to walk extremely carefully, but of course it ended up knocking everything over. I had a team of professional massage therapists work the far end and sides of my belly with a warm lotion. I requested a lot of belly button work, as it was so distended and swollen from the babies in the front kicking it all day. My belly hasn’t obstructed my view yet, it’s just very long and wide, but I know it will start to grow much higher rather than longer. It grew a wider and longer over the next day, I estimated by babies to be about five and a half months developed based on the strength of the kicks. Three days later I knew I was six months gone, my belly was now almost over the edge of my enormous bed. I simply lay on my side, belly way out in front of me, stroking what I can and enjoying warm massages. The amniotic fluid can be heard constantly sloshing about, and subtle movements seen over every inch of my gorgeous tummy. I just wish I could cradle every inch of my belly, but I always hug as much as possible, I can tell these babies love me a lot. The euphoria is truly indescribable, every movement feels amazing, I feel so gorgeous knowing that every single inch of this incredible belly is life. Over the next week my belly really started getting high, it grew about three feet above me, before it wasn’t obstructing my view at all but now all I can see is tummy. It grew much wider too, if I sat up in the middle of my bed, the sides of my belly would be covering over half of it, and it was all I could see directly in front of my face, eye level with me. I was told my belly button was enormous too, really red from the babies stretching it out with their legs constantly, it didn’t hurt but I could feel the soreness of it. I had an ultrasound done, with twenty ultrasound technicians using a specially built machine that had twenty different wands attached, and fifty gallons of ultrasound jelly being generously lathered all over my dome, feeling absolutely amazing thanks to my now very sensitive skin, the scientists estimated I had a week and a half to go, although it was going to be up to my uterus to contract on itself, and that I may go overdue, even a week or two. Breaking my water forcefully was not safe given the size of this pregnancy, and a c section was completely out of the question, there was no way to medicate my huge body enough to not be fatal to the babies. Luckily the genetic modifications made me very resistant to pain, my legs and hips stretching way out to accommodate the belly and the sheer size of it weighing down on me didn’t cause me any pain, I knew I would be fine. A week and a half later, it’s my due date, and no contractions. My belly is way over the edges of the bed now, far and wide, and a good three more feet above my eye level. It constantly quivers with babies who are desperate to get out, but they’re going to have to be patient, and as for me, I wish they could stay in forever. Not to fret though, 500 offspring isn’t enough to keep Earth populated, and I know I’m going to be doing this for a LONG time. I’ve taken my big belly to the pool, which is filled up completely with it. The chlorine free water feels incredible on my skin and my babies really enjoy it. Two days passed, nothing, my belly growing a little bit bigger each day, my high nutrient diet and super human uterus making them quite chubby. Day after day, it grows bigger, a week more and it’s another foot wide tall and long. And finally, after two more days, my water breaks, nearly flooding the room. I’m taken to the birthing chamber, and my belly is hoisted up so that I’m free to birth. The contractions aren’t very painful, they’re not pleasant, mostly just pressure, and I can feel these babies going through my birth canal in a single file line, one by one, they slide out easily with my stretchy skin. Push after push, over the next four hours, I’ve given birth to five hundred big, beautiful, healthy babies. Of course I love them all, I’ve bonded with them, and they will know who I am, but they’re going to extensively interviewed families all over the world. After birth my belly is still as big as it was when it was occupied, I’d have to wait for it to contract to normal before I could begin my next pregnancy, but I was ready to start again. I’m definitely going to enjoy the first week more this time, simply because I get to cradle my whole belly, of course being barely able to by the end of that week. This first five hundred were a beta test of sorts, a lot more than five hundred, and multiply that by nine, 4500 babies are born each year, so I’ll be expecting a bigger and better belly in the near future.
Just a generic belly expansion short story. I'm not a great writer, but this is a good way for me to get to visualize my fantasies better, and if you like it, it's a win win. As I always will be, sorry for any grammar/spelling mistakes, and if the switching from past and present tense is confusing. My stories aren't meant to follow any style of writing, I don't spend an hour proof reading, it's just for my enjoyment, and hopefully yours.
My parents dropped a nuclear bomb on me today, but I'll get to that in a minute.
A few new developments - no, that isn't meant to be a pun - but where to begin? Most importantly, I think, the clinic has set me up with a house. They're paying the rent and the water and electric for the duration of my pregnancy. It's nice. There aren't any video cameras monitoring my every move, anyway. At least I don't think there are. Of course, the clinic can reach me there any time they have to. The house is near campus, it's comfortable enough and I've been told that arrangements have been made for me to study at home when I get so big I can't move.
Well, they didn't put it like that, exactly, but it's what they meant. As I think I've said already, Dr. Yamada and the others have an odd sort of etiquette when it comes to telling me things, as if they think I can't translate from scientist-speak. It's weirdly endearing, when it isn't frustrating as hell.
I'm filling up pretty quickly now. Nothing's in motion yet, so I'm just feeling very heavy and, well, pregnant, although that's meant in more than the literal way. I'm not sure how to explain it properly. I've experienced more than my share of morning sickness at this point, but I'm not going to tell you about that, and anyway, who would want to hear about it in the first place?
(I realized just now that I keep writing "you," but who exactly do I mean by that? Not the doctors, and not you, because you're just a laptop computer, but that's all we are when you get down to it, right? Meat computers, programmed, ultimately, to reproduce? I don't know. If it's true, I must be a Pentium 20 or something. Maybe all this is meant for some past version of myself so she'll know what to expect, like that probe they sent out from Voyager with all the animal sounds and music. Like a time capsule, only in reverse. End of tangent.)
I don't know how I'm going to make it through another eight months of this. I can picture myself, immobile, packed full to bursting with babies, my little spider-limbs finally outdone and comically useless. Like Lilith, or Gaea, or Shub-Niggurath (without all the tentacles). Entire cults of black-robed Internet fetishists chanting my name.
So. As for this impending cataclysm I promised I'd tell "you" about. I've been calling home every Saturday since I moved overseas. My parents are, of course, overly concerned with their daughter's welfare. I don't mind so much. Everyone needs a little coddling once in a while. Today went much as past calls had - until my mother, entirely out of the blue, broke the news to me: my little sister, Bai, who I'm pretty sure I've mentioned somewhere previously, is coming to stay with me for a while. Three weeks, in fact.
"It'll do her a world of good to see her sister in America," Mom said. Or something to that effect. "You'll just need to meet her at the airport, and I'm sure you have a spare room in that house you're renting out of your stipend."
"Ah," I said.
That's the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but an ah.
When my eyes are closed You are there to love me But awake I've found that I just can not believe Do you really love me? I can only hope it I'm lonely on my own and I hope that I can cope it Boys, I really love you And girls I hate to say It's hard to fall in love When no one knows you're gay
My Little Pony Friendship is Magic New Game Plus Pinkie Pie Pony POV Series
Hi! Yes, it's Pinkie Diane! It's been awhile since we did a good old fashioned interview huh? How ya been? Is that broken nose healing alright? Oh, how have I been? I've been adjusting. I can't say it's not less stressy that I don't have to pretend I'm still crazy, but I feel, I dunno, a bit naked not having to follow the script.
It's nice to have AJ knowing about these things, it was always so lonely to be the only one who knew about this stuff. And I'm really extra happy I was able to pull off Cranky's welcome to Ponyville a lot better than in the heart world. Oh I know the Shadows-Who-Make have gone on the record as saying that I'm not really a fourth wall breaker, but look at it this way; which way is more constructive for the story? More fun, for that matter?
Oh don't give me that look, it's not at all like those Trixie/Big Macintosh pairings stories (not that they can't be a cute couple; I just don't think Trixie is Big Mac's type). I'm saying it makes this place feel more alive with me able to see the Shadows.
It's funny but no matter what I do I can't get my hooves on a copy of the script for the season finale, so I guess I'm going in there blind.
Aww! That's a nice baby Phoenix you have there. His name is Peewee? That's so cute! Who's a cute widdle Phoenix? Yes you are! You won't be able to take him with you after you've finished all your interviews? That's just mean. You should talk to your superior about that. Huh? Spike? You think Spike's cut out for that responsibility? Trust me, I know how that works out. Then again, he does sometimes gets lonely when we're all busy, having a cutesy little Phoenix to keep him company will be super nice!
So what do you gals wanna talk about this time?
Oh. That. Yeah. Yeah, after I managed to make things run smoother with meeting Cranky Doodle Donkey, I wanted to try it again with the MMMM mystery.
I actually was able to snatch some of the author's notes when he wasn't looking. Or I don't think he was looking, maybe he's just stopped caring by now. But I was able to read up how things could go differently.
"So you guys all had the same dream too?" Rainbow Dash asked the Flutters and Rarity. The twins, Aloe and Lotus, were polite and business-smart enough not to question what their customers were talking about, and just set about making them feel relaxed in their spa.
"Well, technically I had the dream, 'Cruel slept like a baby," Fluttershy whispered. "We can't see each others' dreams, so she didn't see mine."
"I shall confess, I did indeed have the same dream you described Rainbow darling," Rarity seemed to be a little uncomfortable, but they all were.
"Well, in my dream, 'Cruel wasn't with me, and Pinkie Pie was acting, well, like old Pinkie Pie."
Personally Rainbow Dash was thankful it was just a dream. Even though that dream-cake HAD been delicious, the idea of betraying Pinkie Pie's trust, having to scrub every inch of the store, kitchen, basement, and the ovens (no magic), and getting banned from Sugar Cube Corner for a year alongside Rarity (who whined about her hooves getting pruney) and Fluttershy would've just been unbearable. It reminded her of her dreams of Scootaloo not being with her.
It took a really long time for me to figure out how to do things right. I mean, I saw things can go wrong after that talk with Twilight about the whole self-fulfilling time loop thingie... wait a sec', that hasn't actually happened yet? Why not? I'll have to ask Star Catch- I mean Princess Celestia about that. Huh? How did I mess with how things've been going in other spots? Not very much to be honest, somethings were better just to let continue as they are, like if that time loop thingie doesn't happened, Ponyville won't get all those repairs it really, really needs! And a lot of things happened differently on their own. I guess I'm not the only one who's grown up, makes things kinda cool huh?
Sometimes cohabiting a body sucked. It's got plenty of fun perks, but it ain't all sunshine and rainbows.
Take that mess with the tornado, for example. I couldn't believe how thick Rainbow had been letting Thunderlane infect seven other pegasi with the feather flu. But Dash was weather team captain and not me and what she said went. Heck, officially, I wasn't even on the weather team.
Rainbow didn't want the whole 'two ponies, one body' thing to make the job more complicated than need be. Which meant 'Shy had to do the flight work and not me. At least I was there to support 'Shy from the inside.
When this adventure started 'Shy was expecting half the flight team to fly slower just so they wouldn't get a wing power higher than their Princess Gaia, and the other half might look for a chance to buck her in the back during the tornado.
'Shy may not be the most hated or loved pony in Equestria: but living with Nightmare Whisper's legacy sometimes stank worse than dragon's breath.
One thing I hadn't expected was for 'Shy's deeply rooted fear of ridicule to be so powerful that it would actually create a WALL between the two of us! It reminded me way too much of my time in mental limbo, trapped in a pond under a sheet of ice. I screamed out to my family only to be muted by the wall of jeering eyes. I may call her spineless from time to time, but... ugh... that wall is one thing I can't blame her for being terrified of.
The mess with the hurricane reminded me of us going to see the great dragon migration. Okay, me going and dragging Fluttershy there kicking and screaming. I had to bribe Angel and help Rainbow drag our body to the dragon-blind. And even then Rainbow ended up getting bruised from 'Shy flailing around so much. Adrenaline does wonders for a weak body... oh yeah, I guess you already knew that... um, how's the broken nose healing, by the way? Erm, "Did Rainbow do the same thing to me when 'Shy wanted to see the butterfly migration and I didn't?" Eh, I'll leave that to your imagination. Just know we can really overwhelm each other if we get emotionally charged enough.
I knew I was being cruel. But she's the only one of our group who can stop a rampaging dragon with The Stare. She had to get over her dracophobia eventually, not just for her own good, but for OURS.
Made me wish I could duplicate the Counter-Stare I gave Nightmare Whisper on command like 'Shy can now.
'Shy made our body faint twice at the migration, Spike saw that coming and had a bucket of ice water handy (yes, I know the irony!). But at least things worked out better than last time we conflicted, and the dragons were awesome! So many in one place, all that sheer might and majesty! By the end, 'Shy started to stop blacking out and was able to watch with a cold sweat instead of acting like one of her chickens. It was a start. But, as seems to be the curse of my life, the spotlight got stolen from me.
Dragons rule! Except when they decide to have their midlife crisis at infancy after seeing all the kick-flank dragons in the sky, and Marshmallow said the wrong things at the wrong time.
I hate to admit it, but I really did feel bad for the little guy. Call me a softie and your nose is getting rebroken.
"Hey, Spike," I called, walking up to the little pipsqueak.
"What is it?" he asked, he sounded pretty sharp.
"Look, about your little identity issue," I said, looking at him carefully. No two butterflies' wings needed to be mended the exact same way.
"You gonna rub it in?"
"Hey, I'm not gonna kick somebody when they're down!" My eyes shifted away, "... Anymore!"
"Then what is it?"
"Look... there's nothing wrong with being different from the other dragons, alright?"
The little guy looked down looking ready to cry. "You don't understand... How could you?"
"I understand because my 'dad's' a sick brat with the world's worst sense of humor and my 'mom' is a shrinking violet still scared of her own shadow!"
'No offense, 'Shy.'
'None taken. It follows me.'
Oy. I mentally face hoofed. "How much am I like either of them?"
"Not by much! I was born out of Disharmony, and if that's all there is to it, then I should still be an evil, sadistic bu-"
'Fluttercruel! Not in front of the baby dragon!'
"I mean... ugh... a big dumb meanie. Is it a bad thing that I'm not?"
I saw the little guy blink a little. "No... "
"Then is it a bad thing you're not some giant greedy brute?"
He didn't answer me for a few minutes. "I guess it's not... thanks 'Cruel. I just wanna know where I came from, like you."
I was startled, but kept on track, "Spike, I was born from a innocent Pegasus' mind being violated when she proved just why she was kindness, you were hatched when Twilight took her first step to being a hero. If anyone should be envious here, it ain't you! And look at it this way; some day you might be Ponyville's kickflank guardian dragon! I've even heard some epic tales about dragons like that! You got that to look forwards to, right? You can build your own legacy!"
I didn't tell him those 'epic tales' came from storybooks for little foals I made Twilight show Fluttershy to try and help her overcome her phobia. Hey, not the Element of Honesty here.
Spike actually chuckled at that. "Yeah, I hadn't thought of that!"
Purple spent a couple days with Spike talking about some family history of his she had dug up. I don't know the details, but he held his head a little higher around us after that. All he would tell me was I wasn't that far off the mark with that 'guardian' thing. And that he finally felt proud of what he was. Not scared, not ashamed, not unsure, but proud.
I didn't get the chance to get more out of him at the time, he was going on some sort of play date with the Cutie Mark Crusaders Plus One.
But then with the hurricane-
Eh? What did I really mean about 'last time we conflicted?' Oh come on I obviously meant when we had that stupid fight over the hamburger right? Right? Don't you want to hear about the hurricane and-
So you want to hear about the 'time before the hurricane'? I was afraid you'd ask that. Fine. I guess it'll make things make more sense. Just don't blame me if you get confused. It's just I, we don't like to talk about it.
Me and 'Shy... after Dash started reading, me and 'Shy had, well I guess you could call it our first big fight in a WHILE.
'Shy was letting Angel treat her like his serving-maid/punching bag. I wasn't putting up with that: I got the furry little brat to eat his veggies. Going through our mailbox, (Derpy may be a wall-eyed klutz, but she's a law of nature when it comes to mail) we noticed a bit of junk mail about self-confidence lessons. You bet we went! Or rather Fluttershy went with me in the driver's seat.
We'd never seen a Minotaur before. Apparently they'd been left critically endangered after whatever 'games' dad played with them, and even today they were considered a threatened people, at least that's what Purple said. We had to keep correcting ponies who had no idea what he was when they called him a 'monster.'
My first observation of him? Minotaurs are hot. No two ways about it. They are smokin' hot. Iron Will was the biggest hunk I had laid my eyes on. Admittedly, it's a short list. Most of the good stallions in Ponyville are spoken for. Big Mac's not really my type, and most of the others are very close-minded about my liking meat... except for that one stallion, I left him to his tubs of jelly.
Maybe it was just Iron Will's 'take no prisoners' attitude, or his way of taking command, or letting no pony push him around! But the way this bull SOLD himself he could make Tiamat herself back down! I was in heat!
So when Iron Will chose us to bring onstage during his self-confidence lessons, you bet I told 'Shy not to mess it up! Of course, the last time 'Shy had 'forced' herself on anypony, it had nearly brought about the end of the world as we knew it. Consequentially, she was SCARED to be forceful. So 'Shy needed to be retaught assertiveness from the ground up.
Naturally, when 'Shy attempted to back out with a stream of limp excuses, Iron Will just kept building up the pressure. Even with some of her 'subjects' cheering her on in the crowd, she needed a lot of prodding just to stand up to a goat of questionable sapience. Finally, the angry part of herself that Fluttershy had assimilated finally seized the helm.
'Shy had kept her anger shackled to ball and chain in her basement for decades, and like any foal after being cooped-up, she ran wild.
I've got to admit I liked New 'Shy. No more apologizing for every choice she made! No more mea culpa for breathing somepony else's air! No more me needing to step in every time somepony tried to clean their hooves on her!
Until she became a bad imitation of me! Talking smack to others with cheesy rhymes instead of my trademark wit and grace. Turning every minor inconvenience, every thoughtless comment into a fight she had to win.
Boom! Suddenly, New Fluttershy was my fault! Yes, that made me angry! Purple, Marshmallow, all of them except truth-vision Orange, thinking I had backslid and was stealing her life! You bucking bet that made me mad! But oh, you do not want to know how mad that got 'SHY, though. If she was that nasty to ponies being 'mean' to her, you can guess how she reacted to them accusing her 'daughter.' They definitely didn't blame me for it after that.
And she got worse.
What was worse, 'Shy wasn't the only pony in town to take Iron Will's lessons too far. I think Iron Will offered another way out of the dark for ponies who had been damaged by my father and hadn't been healed by Princess Gaia. Others were just emulating Princess Gaia; if SHE acted this way, then it must be okay. Or was showing her true colors or was simply under Princess Celestia's mind control again (the easiest answer).
Boy, did we ever make a mess. Again.
Purple, shocked at the changes in town, took a vote and ambushed us while we were grocery shopping. Dash held her down while she used the memory spell on 'Shy again. From where I sat in Shy's head, I enjoyed a nice little montage of all the times Fluttershy had been kind and submissive to others.
Twilight leaned in close, "Fluttershy? You okay now?"
'Shy head butted Twilight below her horn.
"You need to stop thinking you're an Alicorn! What gives you the right to go messing around with pony's heads?" 'Shy showed her teeth like a tiger. "Unless of course you want to start calling yourself Princess Twilight! Maybe Spike should send Celestia a letter, and tell her to start building a third throne for you! Shall we line up all of Ponyville to be properly adjusted as you see fit, Your Highness? Or maybe you'd like to enchant one of your foalhood toys to do it for you?"
I don't see Purple cry all that often, not with that wall of books she puts between herself and her real feelings. But this, whoa Celestia, she fell down on her knees and began sobbing in her hooves!
'Shy, stop! That was a low blow!' I yelled in our head as loud as I could through her emotions. I may have yelled outside too, I don't remember.
'Oh, and you're going to tell me what to do? Are you going to start acting like your papa and brainwash me into doing things the way you want? When you get a job to start paying the bills, then maybe I'll listen to you, parasite. Oh, that's right, you don't even have a real life of your own without me, so shut up and let me do things my way!'
I think I died a little. I think I even heard my own heart break. I... I cried... I'll admit it, I just hid in our brain, letting her block me out all she wanted.
The worst part was, I couldn't hear the difference between our voices anymore!
"Fluttershy! That's not fair!" Rainbow scolded.
'Shy turned to her. "Fair? FAIR!" I saw RD shrink a little. Then 'Shy let Dash have it. "You want to know what I've really thought of you for letting me fall to my death?"
And she told her. It was like black ripple went through the air. What was scary? I know 'Shy meant every word.
Ponies stared at us like we were a gruesome carriage accident.
Rainbow just stood there, gritting her teeth, barely able to look us in the eye. She said barely above a whisper, those rosy eyes looking so small at us, "And you're right. I was a selfish nag."
No retort, no justification, no excuses, no anger, no self-righteousness.
And 'Shy felt herself fall backwards into a freezing ocean called Reality.
"... Now I'm being the nag?"
'Shy was scared to death of herself, all over again. And I... I had ruined her, again. Going to Iron Will was MY idea.
Maybe in the end I was just a robot, programmed to try and help her, only to have things blow up in my face. Repeating the cliche over and over. I was only good at what I was made to do.
We left for our home. "Left?" We fled. The whole time, Shy apologized over and over for what she said to me and I kept apologizing for what I'd done to her.
I swear, paint scales on us and the Elements of Harmony might as well be a hydra, of course the whole crew visited. Yes, Twilight and Dash too.
"Don't come in! Get the Elements of Harmony ready! Get Celestia! I could go Nightmare any second! Just get ready to blast me!" Shy wailed. A bit of me was hoping they would so I'd get destroyed and never hurt 'Shy again.
"No." AJ bucked the door down (she'd fix it later).
We both curled into a ball tighter and tighter surrounded by our friends. I felt just as much self-loathing as Shy. Who would I turn into a Nightmare next?
We both just muttered "I'm sorry!" over and over again, to each other and everypony around us.
Purple says; sometimes it's best to just leave a friend alone, or they'll close up more. But leave them completely alone and they'll eat themselves alive. Gotta give her credit, she knows her study subject. They all just stayed in a circle around us, patiently, calmly, taking turns, but never leaving us alone even for a moment. No words, no actions, simply being there. Twilight and Dash there just as much as Rarity.
They were such a stubborn bunch. All we did, and they still loved us. We didn't deserve it and they still loved us. Who were all these impossibly good ponies?
We stopped mumbling. They stayed with us. Angel fed us like we were ill. We were. They stayed with us. The CMC Plus Two took turns taking care of our animals because we couldn't, pet care cutie marks or not they did a good job. My friends stayed with us.
Maybe it was one day later or three, but with all five of our friends there, finally 'Shy said, "I'm sorry for the way I acted, I'm not used to being angry? That's a lie, I get angry all the time. I'm more used to hiding it under a mountain. But that's no excuse for being so petty and thin-skinned. I just wanted to grow."
Everyone look nearly teary eyed at us coming out of our shell.
Then I had my say. "And I'm sorry for doing this to Fluttershy to begin with... again."
"Oh will you stop that already 'Cruel!" Dash scolded shattering the mood like a Sonic Rainboom, "That is really getting old! You are not responsible for every bad thing Fluttershy does! You're your own pony, so start acting like it and take responsibilities for your own actions!"
"I am, that's why-"
"That's why nothing! Listen to yourself you attention nut! What Fluttershy does she does on her own! Same with you! The only one here who has something to apologize for is Fluttershy."
Purple said, "I think that a mild case of egocentricism and unresolved guilt on your part is causing you to shoulder the blame for consequences you could have never foreseen."
"So let Fluttershy hear what she needs to," AJ said. "We'll help ya along in a tick Ah promise."
I opened my mouth, then thought better and shut it. I nodded. Twilight began again.
"Now Fluttershy. It's good you want to become more. That's the whole point of living remember? It's nothing to be ashamed of. You're not used to saying you're angry. You just need to learn to channel your anger properly."
"I know... b-but it seems like every time I try to assert myself this happens?" Shy said, tears welling in our eyes. "At the Gala, when I... when I tried to befriend all those little creatures?" I could practically feel the nasty memories coming to the surface. "When I tried to be more assertive... I... I know that was Flutterrage, but she was still a part of me!" And the tears came down, "T-then when I tried to make the world better, I turned into a monster instead! And now... I turned myself into what Discord tried to! 'Cruel was just a baby! I should've known better, I did know better! I'm worse than what Discord wanted 'Cruel to be!"
I'll admit, that hurt to hear.
"Fluttershy," said Pinkie Diane. "That's just silly! Flutterrage couldn't help being what she was anymore than Pinkamena could help being sad all the time, Pinky being a cute little filly, Diane loving mom and dad, or Pinkie Pie being only happy!" Pink stated, producing pictures of her split personalities from nowhere. How did she get pictures of her split personalities?! "Because that's all we were! Her going on a crazy rampage had nothing to do with you having trouble being assertive, it's just who she was! Yeah, it wasn't good to bottle her up in the first place, but I made the same mistake, several times!"
Pinkie then smiled to Shy. "And I know it's really, really, REALLY hard getting used to not having another little you hanging out in your brain to endure all the stuff you don't want to. After we fused back into one Pinkamena Diane Pie, the memories that Pinkamena and Pinky were keeping locked up for Pinkie Pie nearly made me go even crazier than her! You don't want to know what I would've done if Applejack and St-I mean Princess Celestia hadn't given me a reality check!"
I saw Apple shudder. "Trust me, yah all really don't wanna know." Strangely, I saw Purple shudder too, now I was really confused.
"If it weren't for you, Cruel, and Pinkie Pie, I'd have gone Nightmare!" added Dash. "Who knows WHAT I'd have turned into!" I saw Apple shudder again out of the corner of her eye, I think somehow, she DID know.
"Fluttershy, the point is, you're not perfect, only Celestia is," said Rarity, putting a hoof on our shoulder. "I can be... most unladylike sometimes."
"And Ah can be too stubborn for mah own good."
"I hate to admit it, but I can be a big jerk sometimes," Dash admitted.
"And I'm still getting used to functioning without alter egos!" Pink chimed in.
"I'm not a softy or anything... but I'm still learning how to be cruel to be kind, and not just plain cruel," I added, knowing this time putting my problems out there would help somepony else.
"And I can really overreact sometimes," said Purple finally. "We all have parts of us we wish weren't there, but that doesn't make us bad ponies, it means we have flaws to work on. And being there to help each other when those flaws get the better of us is what friends are for," she said, giving Shy a little smile. "It's great you want to become more than you are. Let us help you do it."
Fluttershy broke down crying again and hugged her, group hug followed like B follows A.
Then came my turn.
"Now Fluttercruel, let's get one thing straight, yeah, it was your fault Fluttershy turned into Nightmare Whisper... " Dash said.
But AJ pushed in, "But stop being so stuck-up yer flanks thinkin' it was all yer fault! Fluttershy's just as responsible for takin' it the wrong way! If that's all there was to it, it would have happened buckin' sooner. And it ain't like you were AIMIN' to bring about Nightmare Whisper!"
"We all suffered open wounds from that day, remember darling?" Rarity asked.
"But Shy didn't get broken like all of you! The Old Man made me because he couldn't!"
"And Fluttershy told herself it was just a nightmare," said AJ, giving a serious look. "Ah can't blame yah for actin' how you did at the time. Actually, Ah take it back. Ah can. Yah knew everything Fluttershy did, you thought you were Fluttershy, and were still being nasty even though you could remember being nice felt nice. But that rotten varmint made you that way, so yer no less a victim than all of us!"
Twilight entered lecture mode. "And I've thought about something for a while, and I've realized: it's just not possible that a pony like Fluttershy could be ignorant of nature's vicious side. A wildlife expert like her?! How COULD she be?!"
I had to think a little bit. I consult some of Fluttershy's earlier memories, before I entered the picture. I saw her feeding raw meat to healing predatory animals, even watching some of them hunt other animals she had rehabilitated.
"Yeah... I guess... "
"My theory is this: After she'd seen the world as absolutely cruel, through you, she tried to compensate by seeing the world as absolutely kind and repressed those memories. It's a natural response to trauma, Pinkie did the exact same thing."
'... I guess I really did try to forget it... '
I did my best to mentally nuzzle her. Yes, I did.
"Meanwhile I went insane and brainwashed the town because I was too stubborn to go to therapy. Then helped Trixie escape her personal black hole."
"And I almost went bucking Nightmare because I couldn't handle being sandwiched by conflicting loyalties," Rainbow added.
"And I... I nearly... badly hurt Sweetie Belle with a circlet because I tried to ignore my psychological pain," Rarity added guiltily.
"I ended up making Angry Pie, who tried to gobble me up! All because I was too silly to stand up to how I felt!"
"And Ah... well, it's a long story, but Celestia knows Ah had my own horse apples to work through."
"And we were all so busy healing from our damage we didn't stop to think Fluttershy would need help too."
"And that was my own fault 'Cruel for not talking to any of you, I'm the silly filly who didn't think to ask for help," 'Shy took me by surprise and slip in for the moment before retreating again to let my little session finish.
Purple finished up. "Fluttercruel, you probably helped her by giving her something to focus on!"
That gave me serious food for thought. What WOULD Shy have been like, in a world without little ol' me?
"The point is, you weren't the only one to blame for all this... " said Rainbow Dash, putting a hoof on my shoulder.
"There is plenty of blame to go around... And who you blame for something doesn't change a thing," Purple told me, as if a realization hit her then. "It's fixing the problem that matters. I don't think anyone's tried harder to save Fluttershy than you have."
"Yeah, and you fought your way outta Pony Hell to fix that mess! So stop tearing yourself up!" Rainbow Dash smirked approvingly.
"Trust me; even if you weren't here, Fluttershy still would've gone too far with that assertiveness stuff!" Pinkie Pie added.
"Um... Ah promise yah, that actually makes sense... " said Applejack.
I do my best to let it sink in there. Finally, I looked up. "... I think I understand?"
Cue group hug part deux.
Not long after that, Fluttershy made several meetings with her 'devoted' that she hadn't been right to act as immature as she had, and how she had acted wasn't what she stood for. It didn't have the same feel as the speech at the Gaia Festival, this meeting felt more between her and the ponies who still saw her as Princess Gaia.
She also took the time to apologize to the various people she harmed, but also reminding some of them they could be kinder to other ponies.
When Iron Will came by to collect his fee, 'Shy informed him that, per his 100% satisfaction guarantee, we didn't owe him a thing. Oh we had the money, yes, but 'Shy was standing on principle.
Iron Will proved to be a very mature businessminotaur and accepted our answer. And he actually revised his lessons afterwards after seeing more ponies didn't grasp the concept of using anger as a tool quite right (I could have told him that). I don't think his lessons were wrong: your anger CAN be used for you, but he forgot the part about the anger not using you.
But being me, I had my own ideas at the time.
We both should have seen it coming. Princess Celestia had to have seen it coming!
In our cottage I told her happily, "Hey 'Shy, I think I'm gonna ask Iron Will out."
"No you're not."
I startled at her answer. "Says who?"
"Says me." She said evenly.
"Well I say: 'yes I am.'"
"And I said: 'no you're not!' He's Rainbow Dash on steroids! It would be too weird."
"Well we're pretty weird ourselves."
"Not that weird. And never that weird. And no offense to Spike and Rarity, but I'm really not into-"
"Well maybe I am."
"You're not me."
"Don't think you can push me aside to get what you want again."
"Want to see about that?"
And for the first time since the great hamburger argument, we brawled. Our body jostling back and fourth between us with no control. We banged ourself into the walls and furniture. "Coward!" "Bully!" "Prude!" "Deviant!" Our skull rammed into a wall just missing a window. The birds inside squawked in panic. Angel frantically shoved chairs and tables out of our way. "Every time I want something you say no!" "Everything you want has to turn my life upside down!" We flew our back into the ceiling, if our wings hadn't been outspread, we might have broken them. We belly flopped into the hard wood floor. We rolled around like we were on fire. I don't know how long we kept thrashing ourselves. We were absurd.
At some point, all our adrenaline was spent. We just laid on the floor, panting. Everything was sore. It was anypony's guess what we hadn't hurt. Angel and all the rest of 'Shy's animals cuddled around us.
"'Cruel, please tell me, tell me that was a remnant of Discord's magic, tell me it was some remains of Nightmare Whisper," 'Shy said laying on the floor, not getting up. It was painful to even breath deep at that moment, let alone get up.
"Sorry 'Shy, no can do. That fight was all us. Period."
Already it felt like some weird dream we both had. The pain the only thing telling us it was real. Could I, we, be so immature? We were so petty we'd fight just like that? "I was afraid of that. I was being really rude wasn't I?" She whispered.
"So were a bunch of ponies in town. It's nothing too special. Heck, I'd say I was acting like old me. Don't worry about it."
"I still won't allow Iron Will to date us. He's not my type."
"... I know 'Shy. But he is mine."
"I know that too. Maybe we should ask Princess Celestia to split us apart now?"
My own body. My own time. My own life. Not needing to share it. I seriously considered it. For about ten seconds.
"No. I don't want to be without you. I don't want a life without you next to and within me. I don't want you not there. But can't you be a little more open?"
I was honestly scared of what it'd be like without her. I know, I know, but you think conjoined twins wouldn't feel totally alone without their sibling there with them after spending their whole life with them? Multiply that by twenty and that's how I know I'd feel without Shy sharing a body with me. We aren't just twins joined at the heart. Oh who am I bucking kidding? I bet a lot of them might see it as freedom. But it wouldn't be freedom for me or 'Shy.
"'Cruel, I just don't think I'm ready for a relationship like that. It scares me. And if I... if I fell in love with a stallion you didn't like, would you make me not see him?"
I hadn't thought of that. "I guess I'd act just like you. I'm sorry. It's gonna be tricky... finding stallions to date. We'll BOTH have to like him. He'll have to like both of US. If we get separate stallions, that's going to be interesting to explain."
"I'm sorry too."
"I think I just wanted a somepony of my own maybe." 'Maybe' because even I didn't know.
"There's Coffee Swirl."
"He knows you too."
"Not as well as you."
"I'll think about it."
"I will too."
We fixed up the place and Angel gave us some first aid and made us go to the hospital to get checked out for real, just to be safe. Angel might know all of Shy's medicinal tricks, but he's still just a little bunny. Did we tell the truth of what happened? I'll let you figure that part out.
It wasn't long before Iron Will took his assertiveness training back on the road, after one last, free lesson as "use your anger as a tool, don't be its fool" (the guy learns from his mistakes, I'll give him that). Felt like a cheat really that our conflict resolved itself. As cool as I thought he was, I wasn't about to leave Ponyville for him. I can't say I wasn't sad to see him go. I still would've liked one date with him.
"Next time you want to see somepony, I won't stop you."
"... Thank you. If... when you want to see somepony, I won't stop you either... "
Dear Princess Celestia, This letter actually contains a lot of lessons we've learned about friendship recently. Learning that your friends make their own choices, and you're responsible for what you do, not what they do. That even friends you couldn't live without will have different needs from you. To learn that being a bully isn't the same as standing up for yourself, and you don't need to treat life as a war to stand up for yourself. And true friends can help you see where the middle road lies. -Fluttershy and family
And that brings us back here to the hurricane.
Facing the festival crowd after Nightmare Whisper had been something she knew she had to do. A good adrenaline rush could help 'Shy get over her ghouls, but it didn't always work when it came to responsibilities that came with being a pegasus. And Rainbow had to go and turn it into a production. I might love to show myself off no prob, but 'Shy? Rainbow gets into her pretty dresses easier than 'Shy gets on stage.
In spite of what you might think, Rainbow actually cuts 'Shy a lot of slack, but for ditching her responsibilities as a fellow pegasus? Wasn't happening. Not now. Not ever. Especially when Rainbow had her chance to impress a Wonderbolt and to break a world record.
Not ever cut 'Shy any slack about her responsibilities I said? I've been wrong before. In particular when Rainbow got reminded that not all of 'Shy's demons came from the day of chaos. As much as ponies would LOVE to blame my dad for every chipped tooth and foalhood teasing, the universe wasn't that nice and Rainbow Dash had been there to witness Fluttershy's abuse and suffered some of her own when she failed to reproduce the Sonic Rainboom as a filly.
Nearly falling to her own death had left little 'Shy with a fear of heights, resulting in her panic attacks that left her wings glued to her body when she tried to fly, which could spell death for a pegasus in Cloudsdale, and the constant teasing only made it worse. But instead of facing the problem, she had just moved to the ground instead where her talent did the most good and she didn't have to face her fears, and any anger she felt towards the bullies got dumped on little Flutterrage. She'd eventually get over it enough to fly, but her nerves would still make her wings lock up if they got the best of her.
Foals are innocent? You bet they're innocent! How do you think I was so sadistic and vicious when I was first born? Don't mistake innocence with goodness and being too little to know bad from good.
But seeing Rainbow Dash heart broken at 'Shy not being able to help pretty much reversed 'Shy's decision.
''Shy, is this about what you said to Rainbow when Iron Will was in town?'
'No, I promise. I'd do this either way. I can't do this for a weather captain, but I can try for a friend.' She's still the Element of Kindness.
It was a disaster. And I thought 'Shy's dragon phobia was bad, it was nothing compared to this! Being locked away in a mental room made out of jeering eyeballs is going to be in my nightmares. The worse part? Is that I couldn't help her! That wall totally out volumed me! I couldn't believe she was letting some school yard punch-clock bullies still hurt her decades afterwards! But feelings don't run on logic. And tough-love could backfire on 'Shy.
We even tried doing it with me secretly in control, all that made us do was skin our nose as 'Shy's psychosis ripped control from me and we crashed. I was beginning to develop claustrophobia!
The ponies who did do worse just for their princess was the straw that broke her back. 'Shy decided she was being more harm than good at that point. She ran away crying.
"We're going back there."
"Yes we are."
"No means no! It'll kill me."
Thankfully, Shy had finally given me some ammo to use.
"Remember what my cutie mark is 'Shy? Supporting others! Helping them along when they can't! And 'Shy, you need more support than any pony I know right now. You know you can fly great already. How about you put your popularity to good use for once and INSPIRE them? Like it or not they look up to you. This isn't a mantle you can take off. It's a responsibility. And I know you're mare enough inside and out when you aren't putting yourself down. Besides, they are all ready to help you too." I pointed at 'Shy's collection of animals, some of whom backed up my speech.
So yeah, she trained like a machine, tough girl, I offered to take over, but 'Shy knew this was her problem to deal with not mine and she wasn't going to cheat. I have to admit, bulking up our body felt good, even if I was just the passenger. And where did Angel find all those tiny pony masks?
We never felt so on fire, I had never felt so proud of 'Shy, no evil overlords or monsters here, this was her own responsibility to her fellow ponies she was fighting for! I didn't realize how out of shape we were (seriously, how do you lose a tug of war match to butterflies?! Even if one of them is Our Butterfly!), but she kept going because she knew they were counting on her!
It was like Princess Celestia herself was at our side!
She built up our body, nothing would stop her, they were in awe of us at the test track and...
We still ended up with a below average wing score of 3.0. It was a lot better than the first run, but still way below normal.
'More harm than good. More harm than good,' echoed in her head, as she chose that all she'd do is damage things. She didn't seem to notice that her managing to increase her wing power by about six times its original amount had inspired some of her struggling 'subjects', or that was what Twilight told us later after 'Shy ran off crying. Broken that all her effort had been thrown back in her face. And it made the memories only laugh harder at her.
RD tried to tell her how huge her improvement was but, "How'd you like it if everyone was flying at ten and you at three-?!"
And that sent RD's pep talk into limbo.
I was half expecting the mean Griffin Gilda to show up and rub it in her face things were going so bad for my 'mother.' Funny how our roles switch around. No, not funny at all.
But what really did more harm than good actually was Rainbow Dash not giving ponies sick leave and letting them infect each other. Turns out those low flight scores didn't have to do with 'Shy after all.
We found all this out during our regular visit to the hospital the day of the tornado. We had no intention at first to go to the hurricane, 'Shy figured we'd do more good visiting the hospital. Nurse Redheart seemed to know what we did even if she never said so. She welcomed us loyally each time. When we ran into eight pegasi all in bed with the feather flu including Thunderlane, 'Shy's desire to pitch in and help those in need overrode her self-deprecation as par for the course. You go filly.
By the time we got to the reservoir, the tornado had failed once already according to Twilight there with Spike. And Rainbow and the rest of her crew were willing to try again even if it killed them. Forget Earth Ponies, pegasi were the ones who had 'never surrender to a challenge' hardwired into our cultural identity and double that with Rainbow Dash.
That Wonderbolt Spitfire was there, but Twilight said she had to stay back to act as a rescue flyer if worse came to worst.
So yeah, here we were.
'Shy got ready to take off to help, but--
The room, the prison cell formed again. It was like it was getting smaller, like it wanted to crush me. The room wanted to smoother the life out of me! 'Shy was paralyzed, the ghosts laughing at her. They chanted "Fluttershy! Fluttershy! Fluttershy can hardly fly!" over and over. It was so loud our ears were going to burst!
"I won't make a difference! If I make any difference I'll just make things worse! And again! And again! AND AGAIN!"
Twilight shouted over them all, "This isn't about you! It's about everyone! You want it to be about you? FINE! But what's going to hurt more?! That you tried to help them and failed? Or that you didn't try at all?"
"Not if I make things worse!"
"You don't know that unless you try! This isn't about forcing something on somepony! So stop it please! They need you! Rainbow needs you! Equestria needs you! And you need this! You wanted your chance to grow? Now's your chance!"
A giant yellow and pink dragon ripped the room to shreds. 'Shy flew. I gave every drop of strength I had to keep up. And she flew, oh did she fly! And I think seeing their Princess take flight with them gave some of her followers the incentive to try harder too. Our wings were burning but we didn't care! The wind howled and we roared back! We tore a circle in the sky! Fly! Fly! Fly! Gotta fly! Nothing else mattered! Gotta fly! Fly! Fly! Fly! Gotta fly! Huh? Cloud? We did it? 'SHY DID IT!
And Spitfire, I didn't get the expression in her eyes. She seemed to be smiling, almost wistfully at us.
"Nice going Dash," She said smiling, like RD was a personal friend, "You might not have set a new record, but that was some guts you showed."
"Thanks Spitfire," She said in kind, not really melting in front of her like I thought she would in front of a 'Bolt. "But if you wanna talk guts, then you've gotta give it to my number one flyer, Fluttershy!"
"Fluttershy! Fluttershy! Fluttershy can really fly!"
And they cheered her, her. Heck, I joined them mentally. The girl deserved it!
They didn't call her Princess Gaia, they called her Fluttershy! Not their Mother Princess! Not Nightmare Whisper! Fluttershy the pegasus!
You have no idea how much that helped her, you have no idea how much that healed her, you have no idea how many weights that took off her. How much it freed her! She was loved for herself.
And 'Shy just took it all in, the glory, the cheers, this was something she did for everyone. She enjoyed the little inopportune parade they did for her more than she could ever have enjoyed the Gaia Festival, she felt as light as air.
Dear Princess Celestia... And you know the rest! Ha-ha!
'Thanks! Fluttershy is back and better than ever!'
And she flew, for the first time in her entire life, 'Shy flew for fun. She was dancing on air. Dancing on air with glee. She was celebrating them seeing just her. Doing cartwheels in the air, her hopes realized. From all the anticipating, it was sure a big surprise! She was floating lighter than a cloud. This was no gloating, she was laughing right out loud! It sent her spirits flying, not one eye was crying. It was like a dream come true, this I can say so too! It was an answer to her every prayer. Time would tell if she came through. And just look at what happens when I do! Prancing, dancing on air!
Oh, huh?! We're back? Didn't think we'd have another story in here! Hope it works out better than the last episode adaptation we did! I think this one was a lot different though, since we weren't bound to the heart world for it! You really need to give Fluttershy her own interview, I don't think she's ever had one yet and the series is really near the conclusion now. Well, not really but from a narrative perspective. I wonder how many got that song tribute. Too meta? Okay, sorry I promise to scale it back from now on.
Like I was saying at the beginning, it took a lot of thinking for me to decide what to do differently if anything. I mean, what if by me trying to do everything better, I just make things go worse? But if I tried to make everything go the same as they did in the heart world, I might make trouble anyway! So I had to be really, extra careful! I only had one shot, and I couldn't count on this becoming one of those groundhog day loop thingies! Since AJ knew about this a little bit, I even asked her, she said she can't decide for me and it's something I need to decide on my own, since it's my story and not hers.
Finally I decided to still invite everypony with me to Canterlot and give my big speech about how delicious a cake the MMMM was anyway. AJ's family sure picks up her slack a lot when she's out of town.
I installed several pegasi and unicorn proof defenses around the MMMM this time and I knew when they were going to strike, I'm still not trusted with coffee, so I just took a nap earlier to be wide awake when they showed up. In the dark of night I heard two sets of hoof steps coming towards the car. But they stopped at the door for a few minutes and then turned back... Had we all changed that much? Dashie, Fluttershy... I wish you knew the things I do so I could tell you how proud I am.
Then right on clockwork, the drapes for the car came down. Except this time I shouted out and snapped on a glow stick I brought along this time and dive tackled for the back side of the cake screaming, "RARITY!"
"Pinkie!" Exclaimed the fashion queen on the carpet with me on top. "What-how-why-did you see the way the thief went?"
"I'm looking at her," I said darkly. I really thought they'd all changed enough that this wouldn't happen.
Rarity made a small, nervous laugh. "Now Pinkie, don't go back sliding and start acting weird again. Now would I-"
I instantly launched into my speech about how perfect and divine the Cakes' creation was, and watched her drool. "Rarity, those drapes could have only gone down with unicorn magic, and the fact I didn't see the sparkle means it had to have come from a unicorn who'd know how to hide it, a unicorn who's good at images, in other words illusions, in other words, appearance, in other words, fashion."
Rarity fidgeted, her irises' looking small. "Now now Pinkie, let's-let's not blindly jump to conclusions, there could be a hundred different explanations, and-"
I gnashed my teeth, "Rarity please stop. Please Rarity, just stop. You don't need to hurt me or yourself by lying." I considered bringing out my trump card that I knew about her false eyelashes, but let it go. That 'lie' had nothing to do with this. "Donut Joe is a baker, not an illusionist, and Twilight is the only other unicorn on this train right now who knows about the cake, and I only heard one set of hoof steps. And Twilight could have just teleported a piece of the cake away. I get it. I shouldn't have baited you or anypony. But Rarity, how Rarity," I felt sick inside contradicting my Element, but this thorn had to come out. I intentionally hurt a friend's feelings. "How could you be this greedy?"
"Greedy!" Rarity, still with me holding her down with my heavier weight and natural Earth Pony strength, looked rightfully scandalized, "How dare you! Pinkie! I was only going to take a little bite!" Then she heard herself, I felt her hooves try to go to her mouth, but I was holding them down with all my might. "Oops."
I slowly and gently got off her. "Rarity." I looked sadly at her, I didn't feel angry at her for nearly destroying a lifetime achievement of my foster family and for nearly crushing the trust I had so painstakingly gained from the ponies I loved as a second pair of parents. "Rarity what you did wasn't the least bit-"
"If you say it wasn't 'generous' we're done. As much as I wish it wasn't, so I'm not perfect. I'm not a robot programmed to always be generous."
I smiled wistfully at her in the dark, both of us illuminated by my glow stick like we were ghosts, heh, in a way we were. I sang,
"I always plan to be purely perfect, time and again it's my goal. Got to admit I'm not always perfect, Please, don't you dare tell a soul."
For a moment I saw glint of something in Rarity's eyes, like she remembered the song from far away. Then she just shook her head. "Pinkie, that song. That wasn't yours was it?" She asked confused.
I so badly wanted to tell her about the little rare Rainbow Princess who never existed. But that wasn't here nor there. I'm done going in random directions.
"No, it was sung by a friend of mine who helped teach me not to take everything seriously and what to take seriously, even if I haven't thought of her in a while. But Rarity, what you did wasn't what a friend does. You knew how much this would hurt the Cakes, you knew how much this was going to hurt me. So why?"
"You just made it sound so delicious. It's like you have this magic about you when you describe treats."
"I guess I do." I was hurting inside so bad she'd still do this, even without the script there we were still doing small and selfish things. But one thing I had to get used to was dealing with it myself when that happened. "And Rarity, this is also what a friend does: I forgive you."
"I forgive you. There's no harm done, and no one needs to know. But Rarity, there's something you need to hear," I said sadly. "And you're not going to like it, not one bit."
Rarity took on the most mature stature she could in the darkness and said simply, "I'm ready."
"Rarity. This hurts for me to say. But, there's always been a little greedy Rarity on your shoulder. Discord didn't make you greedy, he made it the queen of you. We're all proud of you for listening more to the little generous Rarity on your other shoulder but you do listen to her, and not just once or twice."
Rarity shuddered but said nothing. I wished 'Ruelly was here, this was her thing. But she wasn't there, I was on my own.
"But Rarity, that greedy Rarity, she's not going to lose every fight. And what she's going to tell you is always going to sound like a good idea at the time. Just like the stubborn AJ inside AJ. The anti-social Twilight inside Twilight. The jerk Rainbow inside Rainbow. The lying Trixie inside Trixie. The Flutters inside Fluttershy and Fluttercruel too. But that's what we're all here for. We're here to help each other and to recognize them.
"Er, I'm not used to giving these kinds of speeches, that's Twilight's department. But Rarity. The only way you can really guard against that greedy Rarity? It's to know she's there, and always will be, no matter how tiny she gets. Even when Fluttershy took all of the bad feelings away and locked them up, they didn't go away. Just like Lonely Pinkie and Angry Pinkie will always be a part of me. I'm not ashamed to be sad anymore, and Fluttershy's not ashamed to be angry anymore. And you don't have to be ashamed of what you feel."
Rarity lowered her head so low it touched the carpet.
"And the darkness within shall make the inner light shine brighter." Rarity said as if she was quoting somepony.
Is it in character for us to open up to each other like this? To trust each other like this? To just bare our souls to each other without hesitation? To forgive? Yes. It's who we are, it's what we are, this friendship between all of us, like the ingredients in a pastry, we're part of a whole, even if some of us aren't there at the time. This pure, unconditional trust we have for each other, it's not just part of the puzzle, I think it is the puzzle. Huh? Why are you smiling like that?
"And Rarity, you really don't need to be ashamed of feelings that contradict your Element. You said so yourself, we're not robots, we don't just do what our Elements want. But if you just ignore that Rarity, she'll just get bigger. If we cut off little parts of ourselves to take those feelings for us, we end up breaking apart until we're an empty storm inside. They're a part of us, and that's all there is to it."
"I understand darling, I know. Thank you... thank you for reminding me and--" I saw it in her eyes, for a moment she was going to ask if she could take a bite after all. But then just said, "And thank you for stopping me, and good night."
Before you ask, yes, Rarity did charm Spike into sending a 'private' friendship lesson report to Princess Celestia.
The next morning I lured the three chefs into the car, and 'repeated' my performance of describing their works of culinary art just as the tunnel hit and they got gobbled.
Huh? Why? Like duh! So the three of them could still become friends! They were bitter rivals to each other and me! I don't know if this counted as cheating or not to help the Cakes win, but I wasn't about to let a friendship like this not happen!
"Pink piggy! She ate them!"
What I HADN'T expected was for all the suspicion to turn on me! My cake was the one thing not touched now! I suddenly felt very cornered. Now Twilight had to prove my innocence!
Having a pony lie detector isn't as big a game breaker when mythical truth vision doesn't stand up among a bunch of strangers. Princess Celestia might have been able to know AJ was right when I said I wasn't the big-eater, but by then the contest would be over and I'd have failed my second parents.
"Pinkie, do you think, you might have done it on reflex? Without thinking about it?" Twilight asked gently.
"I am not a pig Twilight!"
Twilight was startled at my voice.
Then Rarity came to my defense zipping between us, "Now darlings! Let's not jump to conclusions on circumstantial evidence. There's more than one person in this car after all."
For second I was scared Rarity was going to take the blame 'for me.' Then Twilight said. "You're right. Let's solve this mystery." Turns out Twilight had a sherlock hat in storage too! Doesn't work without the bubble pipe in my humble opinion. So I just handed her mine for effect.
I made sure to let things take their course. It felt good though that I didn't have to pretend to be old me, and I let Twilight play Sherlock, taking in all the details. She even found some clues I didn't, like Mulia's Chocolate Mousse Moose had beak marks instead of teeth marks.
Smarty pants Twilight was able to pin who ate what and they broke in confession about my charming geass like descriptions of their master pieces. Close call.
So yes I still suggested they pool their efforts, and lent a helping hoof in assembling it. They were shocked at that considering they had accused me of sabotaging their works but I Pinkie Pie Swore I wasn't trying to 'pay them back.' Maybe it counted as helping the enemy for the Cakes, but considering what I had just done so the three of them could become friends I felt I owed it to them. Forging a friendship between the three of them meant a lot more to me than any prize could. Besides, I knew from the script that even if they won first, we'd at least win second or so, and the Cakes would be alright with that. They weren't stubborn like Applejack was.
Oh? Who won first place with the MMMM still whole and the combination work missing a piece? (Not that they knew that.) Oh come on, you don't expect me to tell you everything! Let the Shadows-Who-Watch have to guess a little bit! Just know I didn't eat the whole thing in one bite this time, I made sure everypony got a nice big slice. Especially three who'd wanted it the most.
Dear Princess Celestia,
Today I learned that even when you know what you're talking about, and you take the time to plan, things can still go wrong. Being honest with new friends can't always be an option until they know the real you first. But you should be ready to accept when misunderstandings happen, because ponies aren't puppets, and can always surprise you.
Your friend in this world and the one before, Pinkie Diane.
I just want to take a minute to say that it's been a fun ride for me and I hope it's been a fun ride for you guys too. I'm sorry that things aren't done yet like the were supposed to be months ago, I really really am. But, you'll keep coming back even after the canon stuff is done right? You will? Thank you guys! Pinkie hug! I'm sure we'll have lots of new adventures, even if they're not by the original author, I mean just look at the fan works list already!
Please come again. We still have plenty more to do. I'm sorry for this going on for so long. Oh stop apologizing for that? Okay, I... I think I'll try. Good luck.
Series line. "Discord is beaten, but it's the scars that you can't see that take the longest to heal. Anyone can die, living is the real challenge."
Chapter Line: Taking a break from the darkness of Mind Games for a moment. Let's ask ourselves, once the ponies no longer have to follow the script, how will adventures turn out differently? Pinkie Pie answers.
Pony POV Series Shining Armor ecnarbmemeR-Remembrance By LZ0291 (with Revisions by Alex Walorn, Kendell2, and producers of the Pony POV Audio Adaption)
It really all began the day I was promoted, shortly before the return of Princess Luna. Promotion in the Equestrian Royal Guard, for officers, is a great honor. Like many great honors, there's a ceremony involved. One that those in charge prefer takes place at a certain time, and excuses you from normal morning duties.
And so it came to pass that, since the ceremony was at noon, I was more or less commanded to have a long lie-in. That didn't guarantee a good night's sleep though. I slept very lightly, in fits and starts. Awakening, very suddenly, after a mere hour in bed, only to realize there was nothing else for me to do but settle under the covers and drift off again. Awakening, while feeling as if I hadn't truly been asleep in the first place. Awakening, confused. And experiencing the strangest dreams, all the while.
Now, I'm no expert, but I've heard it said that the average pony experiences an average of four to six dreams during a typical night's sleep. Have you ever been able to remember the whole set? Knowing each is a dream but ultimately just an observer, like a spectator in a first-equine game like Left 4 Herd or Unreal Tourneighment? Each dream I had involved me, or, more precisely, a version of me.
I dreamed of myself as a Captain, not in the Royal Guard but in the Royal Air Force. I wore black armor, and I was referred to as a 'dark knight' more than once. It seemed the airships I commanded were known as the Red Wings.
Once I dreamed I was a mare counterpart of myself. It was a little strange but it really didn't seem much different. Just that all males were now females and females were males, but our personalities were pretty much unchanged. Patrols remained boring, the enlisted troopers remained prone to halting their chatter only when it became obvious an officer approached. Prince Solaris was still all-loving Alicorn with an impish streak and my brother was still a bookworm. As for his assistant... the pink apron actually looked a lot better on her . And dad as a 'mom' was actually a better housekeeper than Mom is!
I dreamed of myself wearing an eyepatch, talking to a strange group of ponies. One was a yellow pegasus holding a hammer aloft, another was an earth pony in red and gold magic-powered armor, one was a blue pegasus in a strange red white and blue costume, one was a white unicorn with a bow and a cutie mark to match it, one was a lavender unicorn mare in a form-fitting outfit holding two strange little box things with her magic, and the last was a hulking pink... earth pony hulk-thingy.
It seemed as if I had a dozen dreams, but I remember only snippets. I dreamed of myself as a small, fluffy version of myself that drowned stupidly fast when it began raining.
I dreamed of myself in a gray suit fighting off small gray minotauroids. I dreamed of myself in a red and black uniform being spoken to by a voice claiming to represent 'the Mysterons.'
I dreamed of myself in a black and red skintight outfit controlling a giant blue, white, and red machine; crushing the head of another machine with a glowing gold hoof. Oh and I dreamed of myself as a green girl pony with an unhealthy fixation on socks.
But none of those dreams capped the last one I had just before waking up! I dreamed that I fell OFF the bed to stand on my four groggy hooves. Ate a cheese sandwich backwards, -I mean out of my mouth and whole again!- put it back in its wrapper, then walked backwards out of my room! I walked backwards to the Officer's Lounge, where some friends welcomed me with a 'good-bye'. We then all sat down, took some empty cider mugs and... you get the idea.
Eventually though, I awoke and it was reality. I felt tired even as I forced myself from bed. I might as well have not slept at all.
There are many theories on dreams. They are windows to our souls, they display our subconscious desires, they're prophetic, they're messages from the Mare in the Moon (which turned out to be relatively true), or there's the theory that they are just a sign that somepony should lay off the cheese before bedtime. A theory the Equestrian Cheese Board are trying to counter, might I add.
I blinked a little and looked at my quarters. They were fairly standard for a billet in the officers' dormitories of the Canterlot Barracks. Bed, desk, bookshelf, armor stand, closet for any clothing the trooper may own, walk-in shower, and a map of the world on the wall all came as standard. From there the officer puts up posters, puts whatever books they want beside the half-dozen manuals of rules and regulations, and generally adds whatever they like to the room, within the restrictions (no big ones, but a million tiny ones). Overall my room was neat and tidy, but evidently lived in. Especially since I hadn't yet made the bed.
And yet, even though this had been my room since I was a mere cadet, today it felt... unfamiliar. As if I had suddenly standing in a counterfeit REPLICA of my room, instead of the real thing. I tried looking for what could've triggered this impression, but the best I could turn up was a wrapper for a cheese sandwich from the mess hall lying in the small trash can beside my writing desk.
Then my eyes landed on the map on the wall, and it seemed wrong. The continents were the wrong shape, something told me. Next second, I blinked... and suddenly everything seemed right again. The Equestrian continent was the center of the map, with Zebrafrica to our southwest, Neighsia and Equrope to our east. Yet something still felt off.
And then I thought I had it. My thinking at the time went like this:
"This map is a conventional map! Not an enchanted one that would let me use magic to enlarge certain areas and see more information. Larger than the issued map! Not the one that would normally hang in any officer's quarters!
"Yes, somehow my issued enchanted map was replaced with a plain old map! Fortunately, the right map has been rolled up and lies on the shelf here! I shall quickly put it up in place of the plain old map that was a gift from Twilight! A plain old map that... is staying exactly where it is, Shining Armor, you great moron! "
I facehoofed as this very important fact came to light. Quite apart from the fact I'd managed to forget just how important the map really was... Nopony even cared if the 'issued' map stayed up, and nine out of ten officers usually swapped it out for an extra poster of whatever Wonderbolt had all eyes on him or her at the moment, or the occasional Pony Rangers poster.
Yet doubt persisted. Something still seemed wrong. Out of place. I looked back at the wrapper in the trash, citing it as being at least the cause of this one way or another. Then it hit me as I truly woke up.
I was what was out of place.
It was oh five hundred hours! So much for a long lie-in. Oh well, I thought, first I'll shower, then put on my armor and...
...Horseapples, my armor isn't here, it's in the, er, armory. Getting upgraded to Captain's armor. Okay, maybe a uniform? Ah, wait, my red dress uniform is at a tailor's getting new rank symbols and buttons stitched on. And so is my green parade service uniform. The only article of clothing present was a replica Hoofball shirt.
And so I thought: forget it.
I set my alarm for eight, and managed to wake up at my usual earlier time anyway.
I decided to read a little to try and awaken before I would wander off to find some food when my alarm did in fact go off, so I wouldn't be eating at the same time as the rest of the Guard. Rather than walk in the mess hall out of uniform while the rest of the regiment were wearing their armor to their own breakfast. It would be a very bad example to set before I was even a proper Captain.
Doubly so, given this was Canterlot where going around naked was frowned upon unless one was a college student.
I could overhear conversations from guards as I made my way to the mess hall. Royal Guards only speak when spoken to by a commanding officer, or when a commanding officer and civilians are not present. At which point they talk more than a radio.
"... See, ah got mah train ticket a while ago, but more fool me 'cos what ah was worried about never happened. Seems the nobles ain't in a huge rush to be in town there and then so there's plenty of chariots gonna be spare but, ah got the ticket already and there's no refunds. Apparently they only like to visit the Summer Sun Celebration town in advance when it's off in distant parts of the country and they can call it a real vacation. They were all over the place when they held it in Savanneigh when ah was a colt. But for a little town a couple hours away by train, nope, no rush. More fool them though, it's a great village... ."
Or at least one of them did. He fell silent as I neared though.
I must not have been awake as I had hoped, though, for the names of the three sentries at the door to the mess hall took their time to come to mind. They stared at me with their standard-issue Royal Guard Serious Face Mark Ones as I approached and tried desperately to remember their names. If I knew them at all, that was.
"Good morning, troopers."
The earth pony NCO looked at me puzzled.
"Good morning sir?"
That had definitely been phrased as a question. No recognition in his eyes. I feared somepony had slipped dye into my shower gel (again) for a second until he blinked.
"Oh, Lieutenant? Uh, I mean, Captain, sir? Ah, uh, ah mean... I didn't recognize you for some reason!"
It was then I knew who he was. Lance-Corporal Ellis Bitter Apple, a member of my own team. The distinct accent much of the Apple family seems to have slipped through for a moment there. However, at the time my blood ran cold.
"...What color is it?" I asked.
"What color is what, sir?" One of the privates, a unicorn, asked.
Before I could reply, the mess hall door opened, and a pegasus sergeant emerged.
"Is there a problem out here?"
"No, sarge, just a little confusion is all." The second private, another pegasus, replied.
The sergeant looked over at me, and that was when I was convinced some prankster was going to be hunted down and educated in the reception of severe flank-kickings. He raised an eyebrow.
Sergeants are not in the practice of wildly raising eyebrows at officers. A sergeant raising an eyebrow at an officer means something is wrong with that officer.
And then he blinked.
"...Oh, Captain. I almost didn't recognize you without your armor."
"Okay, Sergeant Thunderchild, be honest with me and speak freely. What color has somepony dyed my mane?"
He blinked again.
"Er, Shining, it's not been dyed at all. I just think the troopers might have not recognized you out of uniform."
"Yeah, sir, it's a rule we only play that sort of prank on somepony we don't like much," the unicorn private, Captive Audience, informed even as I, once again tried to decipher why he received a name like that.
Still, one simply didn't ask that sort of thing. It would be like asking Running Gag, (currently standing to Captive Audience's left) whether his parents thought him a joke. Simple manners. Like not pranking officers you like, apparently (and ones who weren't rookies, I knew that from experience, somepony once dyed my mane and tail like a skunk while I was sleeping and slipped some nasty smelling stuff into my cologne when I first enlisted. With the stripe markings I already have, I was just asking for it really).
"...Wait, does that mean I should wait for anguished screams from, let's say hypothetically, Lieutenant Coke's billet when he wakes up?"
I was not the only officer scheduled to be promoted today. Cherry Coke was a lieutenant, set to become a captain also. Troopers did like him, but only in his own platoon. My platoon, for some reason, did not. I was perfectly fine with him - we went to the academy together after all. Perhaps it was because he would pull rank quite often, which had a habit of irritating the enlisted troopers.
"Couldn't possibly comment on any pranking, hypothetical or otherwise, sir. Anyway, you were after something to eat?" Thunderchild reminded me.
"Er, yes. Quite. And if you have pranked him or anypony else, try not to get too murdered by them."
The troopers grinned at that advice, and I walked past them as they resumed their duties of standing around. A patrol neared, and apparently they did not recognize me either, as Lance-Corporal Apple had to inform them it was soon-to-be Captain Shining Armor that had just walked past.
"Shouldn't Apple get going if he wants to reach that family reunion he wanted time off for?" I pondered aloud.
"Not really, sir, he's got a couple of hours yet. He said something about avoiding a brunch. Apparently his relatives go overboard with the food, so he's catching a train that gets him there for just after twelve. He should still be back for eighteen-hundred though."
After eating, and getting a few strange glances from the hoof-full of troopers present (presumably from my lack of armor or uniform), I was a little puzzled about what to do with my time before the promotion ceremony. A short walk in the gardens seemed best. Nopony would be too nonplussed to see me without armor there, as even this early one would find visitors.
Unfortunately, at the doorway out, I instead encountered a resident from the castle coming to visit the guard barracks, or trying to. Another white unicorn, looking a little bit damp with his mane hidden below a towel, was angrily ranting at the door guards who had blocked his passage.
"Stand aside or fetch an officer, you fools! I demand that I see an officer of the guard right away!" Blueblood snapped at the guards that had refused him entry. I decided to act.
"Is there a problem, sir?"
He looked down his snout at me, but he does that to everypony. Even when they're wearing armor or his auntie's apprentice.
"Well, the most pressing would be that some nopony feels he is important enough to interject when I am ordering these foolish guards to stand aside!"
For a pony with a cutie mark that often signifies skill in exploration and map-making, he had a pretty terrible memory.
"I see, sir. Well, for your information I'm an officer, albeit technically off-duty at the moment, and if you have some business in the barracks I would be happy to assist you."
He sneered out his response.
"Oh, one of the ones getting promoted, eh? Very well, Lieutenant, take me to a captain!"
"I technically am a captain."
"Then take me to an actual captain!"
I kept my face blank as he adopted a smug expression at what he no doubt thought was a witty retort that put me in my place. However, the Royal Guard Regulations state in Rule Four Hundred and Nine, that 'in face of overwhelming stupidity, an officer is permitted to deploy sarcasm'(I appreciate the Princess' understanding of our position). Sadly, Major Payne's recent petition to have the rule amended to add 'and/or pepper spray' did not succeed, or I would have used that instead.
Who am I kidding, he'd have an even worse tantrum, which I did not need.
"Perhaps you wish a major to escort you to a colonel, sir? Or should we save time and take you to a general?"
"Curse it, you fool, you'll do. I must report an act of vandalism, and I have reason to believe it was carried out by enlisted troopers of the guard!"
"This is a serious accusation, sir. What has been vandalized?"
"My mane!" He yelled, briefly allowing the towel to fall down and reveal his normally blond mane was a neon green, but it had started to change hues even as he concealed it again.
Myself and the two troopers did very well not to laugh, I think. Remarkably enough, Blueblood seemed far more furious than embarrassed. That was a completely new shade of red for him.
"Well, sir, we can file a report and have the matter investigated..."
"I also want someone to fix this mess! Have a medic specializing in mane and coat care meet me when you file the report!"
"Sir, we have no such medics, I'm afraid, but perhaps you could consult Princess Celestia, or Princess Cadence. They may know a solution, and they are your family. Or perhaps even a scholar in the castle."
"Pha! The princesses are... too busy to deal with the effects of petty pranking! And what scholar in the castle would not find the situation amusing?!"
"...Twilight Sparkle?" I offered.
"That antisocial bookworm? Hm, well, if she does not know a solution she would likely seek one.... She may not be entirely useless."
The troopers winced. I simply upgraded my gaze from attentive to steely.
"I'm sure Princess Celestia will be thrilled to hear you feel she did a good job mentoring my little sister."
He blinked and his eyes widened in surprise for a moment, as if he finally realized who he was actually talking to.
Thankfully the Princess understood the value of bonds; the Royal Guard Regulations, while not condoning violence, did authorize 'scaring the horse apples' out of someone who has intentionally insulted your loved ones.
"Oh, er, Twilight Sparkle?! I was mistaking her for... Twilight... Sharkle. A different pony entirely! Miss Sparkle is a unicorn whilst Miss Sharkle is a... shark... I mean pegasus! Twilight Sparkle is a fine young mare, very attractive and... No, no, not attractive! I mean she is but she is not my type and, I mean, er... I think I left the toaster on in my haste to leave the shower! Good day, Captain!"
"Wait, don't you wish to file a report?" I asked as he began to retreat.
"Oh, er, no, it's merely a jape, very funny now I think about it, hahaha, and I'll just go... switch off the toaster and then have somepony like the Princess fix it!"
And with that he ran off. I looked at the two guards, who each had small smirks.
"Anyway, do you two want me to let your officer know he was here?"
"Thank you, sir. Probably best that Major Payne is made aware of the joke, er, situation sooner rather than later." One of them replied.
It was something to do at least. Alas, when I was reporting to their officer, who was at the time in the dormitories doing paperwork, I also heard an anguished cry from a nearby room. I and the Major soon discovered Lieutenant Coke with a color-changing mane.
Stunning coincidence really, that somepony should prank him when somepony else used the exact same method on Blueblood.
Still, once that one was dealt with and my face feed, I found myself still with time free still, as it was only just approaching nine o'clock. I figured I would maybe go and visit my sister. On the way I encountered two maids that had a good excuse for not recognizing me because I had no idea who they were either.
"Er, are you Captain Shining Armor?" One asked, hesitantly.
"Well, technically. I haven't been formally promoted yet."
She grinned and looked at her companion in triumph.
"See, I told you this wasn't a prank, Sweep!"
The maid named Sweep blinked.
"But I could have sworn... I really did think I'd never heard of him."
"Er, ladies, not to interrupt but I presume you were looking for me for a reason?" I prompted.
"Oh, that's right! The Princess would like to see you right away!"
I hoped I hid my panic well. That steal faced expression of a guard came in handy from time to time, even if ponies loved trying to make you break out of it.
"Ah, thank you. I'll just head straight there..."
They wandered off, and once I was sure no one was in earshot, I swore.
And then I moved my flank. When The Princess says jump, you don't point out you don't have wings, damn the cliff and take the plunge!
I tried not to look too panicky as the two guards to the throne room let me in. I also tried to distract myself wondering why a mess hall got an NCO and two Troopers on the door, whilst the ruler of the country got two bored looking corporals barely even batting an eyelid at anypony walking up to the door.
It didn't work very well because the other dozen of them inside answered that. And the fact said ruler was a goddess whose guards were probably there to protect her attackers more than her. And I was right back to wondering why a sun-goddess wanted to talk to me. I kept my head bowed and neared the throne.
'If she mentions bananas, just run like pony hell.' I thought to myself.
"Ah, Captain. Thank you for coming so quickly. You may rise."
I did so, and noticed that she was apparently feeding her pet phoenix. The Princess' expression was impossible to read beyond the impish friendliness she always wore. Princess Celestia's poker face was legendary. She could be scowling at me suspiciously behind those eyes and I wouldn't know the difference.
"Your Highness," I said, hoping I didn't look too nervous. I tried and failed to distract myself with the fact that the royal firebird looked like she would be molting in a few months.
"I just wanted to have a little chat, Shining Armor. There's no need for formalities. Anyway, I'm sure you're curious as to why you are here?"
I nodded honestly.
"Er, yes, ma'am. It came as a bit of a surprise, to be frank."
"I see. Did you feel okay this morning?"
"Nothing seemed a little out of place? No nervousness, confusion?"
"Well, Your Highness, I did, er, wake before my alarm was set to wake me. And I was a little confused about a few things in my room..."
"Well, I was puzzled as to where my armor and uniforms were for a few moments. And for some reason I thought I had the wrong map on the wall."
"Any other strangeness?"
"A few guards seemed to not recognize me without my armor or uniform."
"I see. Well, I asked you here for four reasons. First, I'd like to personally congratulate you on your promotion. I know the letter we have a copy of in the royal archives said all that, but I'd prefer to say it face-to-face after I saw your name appear on my desk this morning."
"Thank you, Your Highness."
"I honestly do prefer to have a close relationship with those who work for me. Second, I also congratulate you on whatever it was you said to little Blueblood with regards to his, er, mane mishap. It would seem your advice made him look at the prank more rationally. But he did seem like he was a little afraid of something. I can't help but worry he may have left something out when he reported to me. Could you give me your side of events, perhaps?"
"Well, the Prince was attempting to speak with an officer and the guards obeyed standing orders not to let anyone enter the barracks without permission or a confirmed appointment. He did not appear to recognize me and as a result his initial conduct was... conducted on the assumption I was not the kind of officer he was looking for at the time."
"I see. He also mentioned your sister for a moment for some reason, but it seemed to have been a slip of the tongue. Between you and me, I think he may have plans to ask her out at some point. Would you have any opinion on that?"
'Over my dead body' was the first one that came to mind, but at the same time I knew Prince Blueblood was probably just flustered after his faux pas.
"Well, Your Highness, my sister is an adult mare and she can associate with whomsoever she wishes. It's not my place to decide if anypony can seek to pursue a romantic interest in her."
Celestia nodded thoughtfully. As if she hadn't read my mind and heard the first thought.
"Hmm, that is a very understanding approach. I know that elder siblings can sometimes feel very protective towards their younger brothers and sisters. In fact I worried the third matter I wished to speak to you about may be affected somewhat by your relationship with your sister."
She paused, and I realized I should speak.
"Affected in what way, Your Highness?"
"Well, I'd like to sound you out on a possible assignment that is of great importance, but that would mean you would not see Twilight Sparkle again for some time. I know it would be a sacrifice on your part, doubly so given the short notice involved, and I was concerned your possible worries about your sister could affect your choice..."
"Er, no, Your Highness, I'm sure Twilight is able to look out for herself. In addition, I did swear an oath upon Her Highness that if duty requires it, I am ready to perform the assignment regardless of the hardships I may face doing so," I said, quoting the oath in the process.
"Yes, quite. I never really liked the wording of that part of the oath, to be honest. Sounds far too much like every guard swears to obey without question. Perhaps I should look into changing it... Oh, my apologies, Captain, I was going a little off-topic there!"
I held back comment on the matter, of course, and she continued.
"Anyway, as you might know, Princess Cadence is to depart tonight on a two-year diplomatic tour, introducing her to the other nations of the world as well as extending the greetings of Equestria. I understand you and the Princess already know each other?"
I blinked for a moment, feeling strangely puzzled. Twilight's foalsitter and the only other Alicorn on the planet? Why was she phrasing it like this? She knew I knew.
'Oh, it's rhetorical. This is what happens when you tell your brain to expect sleep until eight AM but you forget to tell your body the same thing, Shining.'
That was what I thought. What I said was:
"Yes, Your Highness."
"Good. You see, she will receive a personal bodyguard, drawn from the Day Guard, and I feel she needs ponies she can trust. I've had non-commissioned and enlisted troopers submit applications to transfer over the last few weeks, and a Lieutenant Price had been checking up on the references."
I knew of Price - He'd been a cadet when I was in training myself. I knew at the time he had apparently caught the eye of an officer trying to set up a 'modern warfare' regiment in the style of a Neighponese ANBU black-ops group, and knocked back his own promotion offer to join the new unit. I correctly assumed that until it was set up they had him doing odd-jobs.
And I had been hearing the rumors over the past few weeks. The main story was that Celestia was forming a special unit of the Day Guard to act as Cadence's bodyguards, though others claimed that a whole new branch of the Guard under Cadence's total command was to be formed.
Anyway, Her Highness was still speaking when I was thinking all that.
"Key to ensuring the best are selected, however, will be making sure that the leader of her guard has the final say on which troopers are accepted. I don't expect any trouble on her trip, but I don't want her feeling nervous in foreign lands without soldiers she knows she can trust on hoof. Plus, she's insisted on trying to extend a greeting to the Hooviet Empire..."
I winced. The Hooviets were well known to any guard, and not so well known to the average Equestrian. The Hooviet Empire was a vast nation in the east that claimed to be a voluntary union, many weaker nations protected under the aegis of "The Greater Good" offered by unity and the strength of the largest nation of the union - a Deer nation called The Roedina.
Outwardly, they offered a free society and strength in unity. They tried to tempt neighboring nations to join the union with diplomacy, and the promise of the riches and prosperity that the union had to offer. They offered a vision of a bright and unified future.
In reality, well, it was an empire, and it had conquered much of its territory one way or another. Either by force, or through sheer economic strength. They had forced more than one deer tribe into the position where they simply could no longer afford to keep their freedom. And for ponies in the Empire, freedoms were few and precious. The deer were caste-based, and they forced the caste system upon ponies too. Your cutie mark meant nothing - your talents were to be defined by what you were born as and your life decisions were made for you in the name of the Greater Good.
Want to care for animals? Not with those wings! Want to be an engineer? You're a unicorn, get back to training on magic theory! Want to fly airships? Nice try, earth pony, get back to your farm or workshop. Meanwhile, the deer were in the majority, the middle and upper classes. They were the ones who gained the riches and the prosperity. Well, the Does and Stags of the proper tribe and lineage did, at least.
Planning dissent? There is a surveillance culture pervading all levels of society. The young are indoctrinated to report all unusual activity. There is a virtual cult built around Father Deer, the "Guiding Father and Great Leader" of the Greater Good. You would love him - or you would cease to exist. Your body incinerated, your deeds assigned to others, your name erased. Their vision of the future was a cloven hoof stamping on a pony face forever. They had tried to force Equestria under their hoof with threats, but Princess Celestia made it perfectly clear she desired nothing more than peace, but also what would happen if they intentionally harmed any of her subjects. Having a true goddess as your ruler had its advantages.
So it was a wonderful country that Cadence was so set on visiting, basically(!) But back to the matter at hoof, Celestia was still speaking as I recalled these facts.
"...And, well, you know why that place is a place to be on your guard. Though this is more of an informal check to see you'd be okay with accompanying her over the next couple of years, I'm already quite sure you're the perfect pony for the job - you're practically made for it with your defensive skills. It will technically make you the Commander of her Guard and no longer part of my Day Guard, but... well, I think that it's as good a time as any for the Royal Guard and the Day Guard to no longer be all just the same thing. I am not Equestria's only Princess."
Even with the two years I would be away, as it then stood, as it is now, all of Equestria's Defense Force was the 'Royal Guard' (even if that was now 'our' name), sub-divided into the Cavalry or ground forces, and the Air-Navy crewing Airships (with the two senior Princesses having split most of the armies down the middle between them). As it then stood, all the Royal Guard, even the ones on night duty, were the Day Guard. I was basically being told that I was forming the Second Guard of the 'Royal Guard.'
Of course, as it turned out, it was to be the Third Guard as the Second would in fact be re-activated, but that's a different story entirely. Suffice to say though, the Day Guard are pansies and the Night Guard are afraid of the light!
...What? Inter-service rivalry is great for morale. Yes, I know I used to be Day Guard but now I'm not, okay?!
Anyway, what I said in response to being given possibly the greatest honor any soldier had been given in centuries?
"I... I understand, Y-Your Highness. Thank you." I squeaked and tried not to fall over.
Words that shall inspire for generations to come(!)
"Good. I'll inform her formally later that I am attaching you to command her Guard, so for now if you meet her please try to keep it quiet, but I'm sure when I tell her she'll be thrilled to know she knows her bodyguard commander already. "
"Yes, Your Highness. May I ask the overall size of the detail I am to select?"
"Roughly a half platoon in size, thirty or so troopers. At present you will be the only officer, but hopefully your original thirty will provide the NCO's and maybe even more officers from the ranks for future expansions of Princess Cadence's Guard. I've found that ponies that rise up from the rank of Private often make good leaders once they become officers."
I nodded my agreement. I'd been trained by 'rankers' myself. One of the unspoken lessons of officer training and beyond is that lieutenants and captains are merely in command, while sergeants and corporals are in charge.
"Last but not least, your sister will be getting an assignment to Ponyville as my representative. She'll be checking preparations for tomorrow."
I nodded and tried to conceal my happiness for my sister. Being given such a trusted duty would be a great honor for Twiley! Assuming she wasn't caught up in some area of her studies that made her see anything else as just a distraction.
For the record, it would take me a while before I realized when it comes to things like that I should just stop thinking entirely.
"However, she will be leaving within the hour. If you are willing to take on this mission, now may be your only chance to give Twilight a proper goodbye before she leaves for Ponyville. She won't be back before you leave yourself."
I was startled at this, I will admit. I was facing a two-year assignment yet it would seem I would only have one hour in which to bid my little sister farewell? Would I even have a chance to say goodbye to mom and dad?
"...I can say goodbye to Spike too, right?" I tried to joke, but my voice wavered a little.
The Princess merely looked at me with understanding.
"She'll be getting ready, I think she'll only be on the double-checking checklist just now, which should give you a good bit of time. You should go now."
"Yes, Your Highness, right away. Thank you."
I made to leave, trying not to gallop away.
"Oh, and Captain?"
I turned to face the ruler of Equestria, and soon to technically no longer be my Supreme Commander once I was under Cadence's banner.
"Make sure you let her know how much you love her."
Even at the time, I felt this was sage advice.
I knew my sister would be in her residence, a tower on the castle grounds that like her old bedroom at home had become like a private library thanks to her bibliophile tendencies. It was also 'relatively' close to the throne room (not saying much in a castle this big).
Perhaps it was just suppressed stress and nerves from the promotion(s) I had received, but I had picked up my pace once outside the throne room. My basic train of thought was that my little sister was heading off to a strange town, and I might not have a good chance to see her again for at least two years if I did not go right now.
A running Captain of the Guard, even out of armor, always attracted some attention.
"Captain, is there a problem?" A voice asked from above.
I slowed down and looked up. Thunderchild hovered above me.
"Not really, Sergeant. It's just a personal matter. Twilight is going to Ponyville and I'm just off to say goodbye."
He landed, and now distracted by his presence, I felt a little less of a fearful urgency.
"I see. Is she going by train or has the Princess arranged a chariot?"
Unfortunately for him, I was now zoning out a little as I began to realize maybe I was overreacting a little. Reflecting on it all at the time, it became clear that it wasn't like the world would end if I didn't say goodbye to my little sister - she'd be here when I returned. Still, she is my only sister... Unless Dad has something to tell us all, that is.
And as for the big brother instinct kicking in, like I had said, Twilight was indeed a grown mare. Albeit a little naive at times, and maybe a little antisocial. Still, surely a trip to a quiet town like Ponyville wouldn't lead her into any real trouble. Right?
Remember what I said five minutes ago about thinking about things like that?
"Shining?" Thunderchild asked, bolting me from my daydream.
NCO-Using-Your-Name. A sure sign you were away with the flutterponies.
"Oh, sorry, I was a million miles away. What was your question?" I replied sheepishly.
"I was asking about her travel arrangements. If it's a chariot team being organized, I could try and be on it. The team would stay in town until the Summer Sun Celebration was over so I'd be able to keep an eye out on her for you?"
"No thank you, Thunderchild. I don't want her thinking she's being watched."
"Actually, she'd not notice someone watching her at all..."
Non-commissioned officers are adept at poking holes in your logic using emotional blackmail. They're like spouses in a way. Er, don't tell you-know-who I said that.
...No, not Lord Voldehorse, you know who! Anyway, back to the present. Past. Whatever.
"...Check who has been assigned to it for me, will you?"
"Yes, sir. Well, see you at your promotion ceremony, sir."
And with that he flew off, and I realized we'd reached Twilight's tower. That was actually quite fortunate - you'd be surprised how many times a 'talk and trot' takes you right past your destination at Canterlot Castle. Especially in the administrative section of the West Wing for some reason.
Anyway, I made my way to the door and knocked.
"Spike! Get the door!" I heard from within.
The door soon opened, and a confused baby dragon looked up at me. I'd always found Spike rather cool. Full grown dragons were rare enough (normally only an 'ambassador' coming to 'okay' a migratory route through Equestria), but Spike was the only baby dragon I'd ever seen.
"Uh... Hi? Who are you?"
Needless to say I was rather startled by that. I'd known Spike all his life and yet, I fail to wear armor now and I'm a stranger?! I was about to speak when my sister, despite having asked her dragon companion to get the door, wandered over.
"Spike, that's no way to greet... whoever this is..."
I'll admit my next actions were a little angered.
"Come on, am I that unrecognizable without armor on?!" I snapped.
Twilight seemed taken aback by this, though her eyes widened not in surprise at some strange pony shouting in her doorway for no reason, but at realizing who I was.
"B.B.B.F.F?! Wha... I don't know how I didn't recognize you!"
She then moved to give me a hug while Spike stood horrified and mortified and all sorts of -fieds at his own part in the error.
"Uh, I knew who you were, I was just joking..." Spike tried lamely.
Two unicorns gave him a look.
"Okay, I didn't either! You gotta admit, Shining, you look different without the armor!"
I sighed, defeated.
"Well, hopefully you still recognize me once I wear Captain's armor..."
Twilight suddenly looked dismayed.
"Oh... Your promotion ceremony. I... I'm going to miss that. Princess Celestia asked me to..."
I cut her off.
"I know, Twiley. She asked me to do something as well and... It's a long term assignment. I'll be part of a diplomatic mission that's going to last, erm, at least two years. It's short notice but the mission leaves tonight so... this might be the only chance we'll really get to say goodbye."
My little sister looked like I'd just told her the library was closing forever. I hope I did a better job of hiding my emotions.
"B-but two years?! What is it, a world tour?"
"Er, yes. I'm commander of the guard detail for the VIP... Er, the Very Important..."
"...Pony, I get it, move on..."
"...And she is taking a small flotilla... that's..."
"A small grouping of airships, normally frigates or smaller," Twilight cut in again.
"Quite. Anyway, she's taking the flotilla around the world, extending the hoof of friendship and harmony to all the nations of the world.... And I'll be in overall command of security for the VIP at all times as Guard Commander. Well, I'll still be a Captain but I'll also be a Commander..."
"Shining, I read all the guard training and regulations manuals, I know Commander is a position and not a rank unless you're in the Air Navy portion of the Guard. I probably know the books better than you actually. And I know how much of an opportunity this is for you."
I nodded, thankful she was at least keeping herself on track even while I was babbling like an idiot.
"I... Thank you for understanding. I just wanted to say goodbye before you leave for Ponyville."
"Okay... Um, what can you tell me about your mission?"
"Not that much, honestly. I think I said pretty much all there is on it, actually." I didn't particularly want to tell her one of the distressingly few friends she'd had as a filly was going too. It was hard enough as it was.
"Well, it sounds better than mine even if it's way too long. I'm being sent to supervise a bunch of ponies in a town we could see with a telescope, and there might be..."
"You arriving so suddenly made it slip my mind! Shining, there's something important you need to know! Equestria is in mortal danger!"
"I've been conducting research and all signs point towards tonight being the night that the Mare in the Moon will return!"
It threw me off guard a bit, to be honest.
"The legendary pony who seeks to bring about night-time eternal."
"You... Seem pretty relaxed about it."
"Well, I am. Twilight, that's just a myth. Nightmare Moon is a fairy tale!"
"Augh! Why does everypony keep saying that?!" Twilight virtually wailed.
I chuckled, and placed a hoof on her shoulder.
"Twiley, we can't believe in every myth and legend. I mean, what if I tell you the ancient Mexicoltian calendar is counting down and it comes to an end in three years?"
"...I'd say you're nuts. It counts sideways, not backwards or forwards."
"See? Factual evidence to dismiss it, because the myth has no facts behind it! Twilight, there are no records that speak about the Mare in the Moon in recorded history."
"...Well, yes, you've got a point... But at the same time there's no evidence against Nightmare Moon! After all, the records on the origin of the Summer Sun Festival are nonexistent and we still celebrate it! Shining, we can't just dismiss this entirely..."
"But you don't need to worry about it. I'm honestly kind of surprised you believe it, Twiley, you're not a superstitious pony. You've never believed in this kind of stuff before."
"I know But I haven't always been right either. Remember when I didn't believe in zebras?"
I winced. " she didn't appreciate you trying to 'wash off' her costume But ponies say Nightmare Moon will eat little foals on Nightmare Night if they don't give her half their candy, did that ever happen to you when you refused to believe it then?"
"Besides, if it is true, the Royal Guard will take care of it."
"Maybe... But are you sure I can't borrow a few elite platoons?"
"Sorry, but I don't think so. Good luck in Ponyville anyway. I'll write if I can while I'm gone, but replying might be tricky with the anti-teleport wards on the ships." I said, trying to get her mind on matters other than myths.
Poor Spike was more than willing to help me, his expertise on sending scrolls coming to the fore with the mention of letters.
"Yeah, it would be. Even if I managed to send it to where the ship is, those wards might cause it to bounce back. I tried it once. And I won't do it again, know why? Backfire."
I winced, even if Spike was immune to his own flames. That must not have been a pleasant experience.
"...So, anyway, I've got a little while until I need to get ready for the ceremony. Need a hoof with anything?"
"Oh, not really. Spike and I were just going over the checklist."
I looked over at the dragon.
"On the first list, we confirmed that the milk that will expire before we're back is used, that the shelves have been re-shelved properly, that the bed is made, everything is cleaned up, you've packed your keys, scrolls, and bag of bits in your saddlebags."
"What about the map?! Did we pack the map?!"
"Twilight, I'm sure a small town like Ponyville won't be too tricky..."
"That's easy for you to say! It's just an Urban Operations scenario for you, the key landmarks, objectives, and choke-points would become apparent to your scouts even without maps, but I need to know which houses to go to!"
"Twiley, I don't apply military jargon to everything I do..."
"The map is packed, Twilight. Besides, like Shining Armor says, it's not that big a town, and if we did get lost we could just ask for directions."
"Or... we could bring scouts! Shining Armor, can I borrow some scouts in case I lose a map?! Say, the Seventh Heavy Brigade?" Twilight suddenly said.
"Nice try, but I don't think so. Besides, I'm pretty sure Spike won't lose the map."
"Nope! It'll be safe with me!" He saluted.
"Okay, scouts are out of the question. I'm sure I won't get lost. After all, it's just a few ponies to check up on, then I can head for... Oh no, Spike, where is it I'm supposed to stay?!"
"In the library in the town."
"You'll feel at home, at least. Should help you sleep..."
"Did you remember Smartypants?"
"Yeah I " Twilight started, then blushed a little bit when she realized what she'd admitted to.
It's typical, really. When you've got the feeling you need to say something important to someone and this might be your last chance for a long time... You're speechless. Awkward silence descended.
"I'm really sorry I'll miss your promotion ceremony," She eventually said.
"Don't worry about it, Twilight. It's not that much. I put on my armor, hold my sword aloft when it reaches noon, and then I receive new orders. And technically I already have my new orders so I just get them officially. Besides, I'll get promoted again someday. That'll be a Major achievement!"
This pun fell flat at first, but cogwheels turned in Spike's head.
"Oh, I get it now."
He still didn't laugh though.
"Well, maybe, but what if you get a field promotion out there?" He then asked.
"Uh, Spike, field promotions happen in battle. I'm meant to avoid that," I corrected him.
"Oh. Maybe start one?"
"That'd get him a court martial instead. Anyway, uh... I guess I'd really better get going. The Princess said she'd have a chariot prepared for me in ten minutes from now."
I nodded, and hoped I didn't look as upset as I felt.
"I understand. Good luck again, and... Can you do me a favor while I'm away?"
I leaned in and gave her a hug.
"Even when I'm far away on this assignment, little sister, remember I'm there, and that I love you. Can you do that?"
She stood back from the hug and gave a sloppy salute that made me smile.
"Of course, Captain B.B.B.F.F! That's a really easy order! Permission to say I love you too?"
I cracked up at that, and so did she. Sure, it's not really all that funny when I explain it, is it, but... You had to be there, you know?
And hey, she seemed a lot less nervous about Ponyville now. I would later discover she actually started fuming about it when Spike re-read out her instructions from the Princess to her on the chariot ride there, but at least she set off happy with me. And I managed to say what I wanted to say.
"I can walk you to your chariot at least, right?" I said once we stopped laughing.
"Of course, big brother. I'm going to miss you though."
My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic POV Series Mind Games Part 3
"My dear can you hear me?"
"Huh, what?" I looked up at Fancy Pants, I was still in the dining room, I was still in my chair. The unicorn looked at me in concern.
"I think you might need a doctor. You went completely catatonic."
"N-no! I'm fine! I was just remembering some things."
"... Then those were very powerful memories. You were crying. What was it you were remembering?"
"How, I'm like my mom."
"How are you like her?"
"That I'm gonna get sick too no matter what."
"I seriously doubt that my dear." He said kindly with odd mix of sternness. When had I felt this before? "Bloodlines don't determine a pony. Princess Celestia would never give that destiny to any pony."
I actually heard the voice growl. It sounded, jealous?
'Will you stop that already MY little pony? You might as well give him your real name, address, and tie yourself up while you're at it! Can't you see already? He says he's 'the most important pony in Canterlot' which means he knows how to play the game! You're hoofing him information without a first thought, let alone a second! The longer your stay here, the more any secrets you have left are going to be laid open without you even seeing you gave him the combination to the safe! You need to get out of here! Or everything will have been for nothing!'
"Can I use the little fillies' room?"
I think I heard the voice actually smack itself in the face.
"Alright. Down the hall, second door on the left."
I nodded and hurried along. As good luck would have it, the bathroom did have a window. On the second floor. With bars on the window.
Okay. No problem. Mom's gotten out of that place lots of times and that place was built to keep her inside! Then rebuilt to make sure, but she still got out!
How did mom do it? Oh right. She moved her bones about. How did she do that?
'Please don't try my dear. I'd rather you not pass out from the pain. They'd find you and in the hospital your father would find you before you know it.'
But I had to try something! This was gonna be the one real chance I'd have to be alone. And the voice was right, there was no telling if they'd let me go now. If I was to get away it had to be now! I didn't hate Mr. Fancy Pants, but I had to keep going.
I don't hate Miss Fleur-De-Lys or Straight Lace either but they wouldn't understand. Mom needs me. I'm the only one who can save her. No pony else is even going to try.
I didn't want to think of having just been fed and washed for the first time in a long time, by ponies who didn't even know me. The voice said they'd be the nice but dumb ponies, but Mr. Fancy Pants wasn't stupid at all.
'Don't confuse intelligent with common sense my dear, now either hurry along or just give up and stop wasting our time.'
I took a nail file out of the drawer and undid the screws. I was careful to try and not make too much noise. Thank goodness everyone knows fillies use the bathroom longer than colts. And thank goodness the screws for the bars were on the inside.
Okay. Now I just need to get down from the second floor. Makes me wish I had wings.
'You're an Earth Pony aren't you? Or is being made of tougher stuff than feather-dusters and narwhals just a myth to cover for you being worthless?'
No it isn't! I jumped.
And I just managed to catch the fire escape on the other side of the alley. I was sure becoming familiar with alleys.
I finally appreciated the fingers griffins and dragons had as I lost my grip. My rear legs caught the fire escape's bars as I fell backwards.
If mom can do this so can I, If mom can do this so can I, If mom can do this so can I, ifmomcandothissocanI! My heart pounding I got onto the stairway of the fire escape, and managed to climb down. On top of a dumpster, that was thankfully closed. All in all, I didn't get the dress I was wearing all that dirty. I looked back at the bathroom window. I I promised I'd return the dress to Mr. Fancy Pants later. I... I wasn't a thief.
I quietly slipped to the street, going between adults and buildings. Ponies were glancing at me, but they weren't looking at me like I was some sort of intruder. It's so crowded.
I think Miss Cheerilee said that the Alicorns who refused to heal my mother had a really big open door policy for the immediate part of the castle I was headed for if I actually made it.
And it hit me. There was a good chance I wasn't going to be able to do this. There was a good chance I was going to fail. And just like every time, everypony would laugh at me while feeling sorry for Applebloom when she blew up somepony's house trying to bake a cake.
Mom would still be crazy. Dad would still be seeing Those Mares, Miss Rarity would still hate me, Silver Spoon would still hate me, and everypony would know I was just a bad pony. And the voice wouldn't be there anymore... Was that good or bad? I don't know anymore...
It was a few minutes later that I noticed the pegasus guards flying over head, their eyes scanning, looking, searching. They were on every street. And the castle... I looked, the castle proper was still so far away. There was no way I could make it. They were going to find me. And take me. I was going to fail, again.
'My little filly! We have come too far! I have waited too long! You have sacrificed too much! For it all to simply be cut short now! Keep to the sides of adults. Walk don't run. They might recognize the dress but we still need it. Don't draw attention to yourself. No matter what. Stay calm and keep trotting.'
I could hear my heartbeat in my ears. I was sweating. My ears turned at the slight sound of feathers above me.
"THERE SHE IS! The purple one!"
I ran like a horse possessed.
I didn't stop running. I couldn't stop running. I made a mad dash to the castle. I didn't dare look behind me. I knocked ponies over, they shouted out calling me rude, I didn't have the breath to spare to say I was sorry, or gasp at the idea of me saying sorry!
You want me to describe how grand the castle was? How beautiful everything was? How pretty everypony and everything looked? How it was like a fairytale castle out of one of my storybooks come to life? Felt like I had stepped into a dream? All I saw was an army of pegasi behind me shouting and snarling with spears and straight jackets and all I felt was my hooves beating against the hard stone until I thought I was going to crack them. All I could see was a giant gateway that was running away from me no matter how fast I ran towards it. I knew the pegasi were getting closer, and closer.
I nearly tripped and crashed inside through the front gates.
"Hey kid are you okay?" Asked one the white guards standing inside the entrance hall.
I didn't waste a breath and began running again, everything was a maze of confusion, if the voice said anything I ignored it, if I saw anything else I ignored it, I just kept running with a stitch in my side. My vision blurry I saw a door that was labeled 'Closet' something something and pushed my way inside the dark space and slid against the back of the door, hugging my sides. My lungs were burning, I could hardly breathe.
Not on that trail here. Not with those Timber Wolves I thought were going to eat me. Not when I hurt Miss Rarity. Not when I hurt Silver Spoon. Not when they took mom away. Had I felt so alone. I had no one to help me. I had no one I could trust. I didn't even know what I was really doing here. Had anypony ever felt as alone as me? I closed my eyes to get some rest.
"Hey Celly," I ask looking at the sunset.
I shifted a bit on the roof we were on, "Do you think there are any more like me out there? I looked in all the books in the library, and I couldn't find anything that looked like me."
"There was that one thing that looked kinda like you with lots of different parts, I think it was called Chee-mare-ah."
"I'm not a thing," I say sadly.
"I didn't mean it that way Dissey! You're my best friend! Have ya asked yer mom about it?"
"I kinda did. She said I was just special."
Celly smiled like a sunny day, "See? All the adults say being special is a good thing."
"You can be too special," I say sullenly.
"But, that's not true."
"It's just a little lonely ya know? Being only one of a kind. You've got Lulu at least. When I was little... I... There were others in my nightmares but they... they were always mean to me. Hurt me." I didn't understand those nightmares, it was like I did something really bad, but no pony would tell me what. Before she was born I once dreamed Celly crying! But I'd never hurt Celly. And I'd like to see any jerk try. "Then they just vanish and I'm all alone "
She put one of her wings around me and snuggled against my snaky body. She was always so warm.
"Yer not alone. And it's not really that awful being one of a kind, I think it makes ya really interesting. And I don't just have Lulu, I've got you, I've got mom, and Uncle Spike, and Posey, Galaxy, Wind Whistler, Nana Galaxia, Twilight, yer mom, Applejack, Firefly! And Surprise too, you know she loves having you around, I'd say you're two of kind. I've got all of you, and you've got all of us. We're all a family!"
I can't take it anymore and hug her back smiling, "Thanks Celly! You're my very best friend!"
I startled at the surprise memory, it wasn't mine, but it didn't hit nearly as hard as-
'IGNORE IT! IGNORE IT! That was just a meaningless memory! Of someone who never existed! It has NOTHING to do with what's going on! Or what you need to do! So it's TO BE IGNORED! Because of this, that memory is not to be even thought about. AT ALL!'
The voice had sounded angry before, but this time, there was such, rage behind it.
I shuddered under the voice's thunder.
What was wrong with me? I had something juicy from the voice that it didn't want me to know, shouldn't I be using it for leverage right about now? Maybe find out who that was? But... that's not what a good puppet does.
'We sadly don't have time to waste on nonsense. Get up, get ready. There's no telling how much time we have before the Alicorns notice us and they dispose of both of us. Well, if you're lucky you'll have your mind wiped and not remember anything from the moment I first talked to you until now, and I KNOW you don't want that, do you? Your dress served its purpose but I'm afraid as lovely as you look in it my little pony it's time to switch costumes again. Don't worry, I'll make sure to give you a new outfit once you help me out as a bonus, I've already got a perfect one in mind, I'm sure you'll love it.'
I don't care about that. Me? Not care about a new dress? But, it didn't feel wrong to think.
'But for now you need to find something to look common place without being... oh, never mind. Perfect.'
I had stood up, then and fumbled for and turned on a light switch. I found a series of maid uniforms of various sizes. I felt sick to my stomach at the sight for what the voice was implying. "You've got to be kidding me."
'You don't have time to be picky filly!'
"Please, anything but this," I moaned.
'Don't be such a baby! Now hurry up! The clock is ticking! We're too close to the Alicorns for me to help you take another long nap while the heat dies down, so we have to move!'
With no small amount of regret and revulsion, I slipped out of the dress Fancy Pants had given me. I hoped I saw him again when this was all over. I... I didn't get... I didn't get to say... th-tha-I didn't get to say thank you, for being so generous to a strange filly who looked more like a dog than a pony. He reminded me of dad, before what happened with mom. He was a unicorn. One of Canterlot's oppressive elite. But, he was the nicest pony I've met here, like Miss Rarity.
'Ugh, douse the nostalgia already! I've already had enough of that to throw up in my own mind! Again!'
'Move it or lose it!'
I had no real clue how to put the uniform on, even if I had seen it on many mares and fillies. Black dress with a white apron, and small shoes, thankfully the filly sized ones weren't high heeled. And the mane band went on top.
My diamond tiara, it wasn't part of the maid's uniform. Somepony might notice under the mane band. I didn't take it off. It might have been a reminder of my worthless mark, but it was from my family!
Without a mirror I worked the creases out as best I could. I took a deep breath, scared out of my wits, and slipped out of the door.
"There you are you little sneak!" A heavy hoof was laid on my shoulder. I shrieked and jumped onto the ceiling on all fours and fell back down on my back.
I came face to face with a faded brown mare with a black mane in a maid uniform with an unhappy look on her face. Her cutie mark was a spiked mace and feather duster looking like the jolly roger. Bad sign. "Don't be a drama queen you lazy brat. Didn't you hear the announcement? All maid staff, and that includes juniors and trainees, are to report to the servant's war room! What's your name?"
"D-Diamond-s, that is-"
"Well, come along filly! Don't think hiding in the closet is gonna get you out of your responsibilities now." She took my ear with her teeth and began dragging me along. It was the best I could do to keep up or risk it being torn off. My head spun in confusion. Mom, was this what it was like for you?
Ya wiggle yer body in, ya breathe through yer mouth, ya wiggle yer body along, ya don't think what yer feeln', ya open yer eyes only when ya need to, ya thank Princess Celestia heaven for the recent scheduled rain storm from Cloudsdale. Ya dump this memory in the waste basket and put on the air tight plastic seal, ya press yer ears against the grate listenin' for some walkin' ponies, nearby. Thinkin' of yer little princess gives ya super strength, and you shake yourself about... .And, I still smell worse than Neglected Hygiene when I have to sit next to her on bath day. Phew. And that's what it's all about.
Oh right first, get these shoulder joints back in place and, there we go! Whew. The stink is going to make me faint first before the pain. Well, no guards, no ponies looking this way when I came up. You think they'd have more security for a drainage line big enough for a crazy pony to shuffle through after dislodging her bones.
Ick. Better do something about this smell before I really do faint. No way am I going to be able to fit in looking completely crazy, wearing just a beanie, an insanity cutie mark, and smelling worse than dragon plop. I need a shower.
Hmmm. Let's see. Oh lookie! Hotels! Perfect! Just climb up the side in the alleyway like Spider-Pony. Spider-Pony, Spider-Pony, does whatever a spider does.
Alright. Let's see... hide under this ledge until the pony in the window above me has turned his back, then wall-crawl on up, next. Cute foals, gotta find mine, up we go, eating in bed? Makes me hungry. Up we go, do that with the drapes closed you two! Up we go, ah! Empty! And... drat. The window's connected to an alarm? Can't be having that.
I DO need a shower. And I can't continue to find my princess until I've done that. So therefore I am going to take a shower and I am going to find a way around this alarm.
Wait a minute. I know this alarm! I told the salespony we didn't want it after I looked it over. Let's see here. Put a little piece of plastic from my beanie between the connectors and... we have a real silent alarm, no need to alert anypony I'm here Mr. Alarm, I'll be done in a minute. Close the window, and I'll be taking my beanie part back. Reminds me a bit of home. Into the shower I go. Wow. I really needed a wash. Hope I don't stuff the drain, that'd be inconsiderate of me.
Oh-oh-oh yes. Wash all the gunk and slime away. My prince would faint if he saw me like that. So good. Not like those scrub jobs the orderlies always give. Ah. I feel like I could stay in here for a year, but duty calls. Nice and clean.
Uh-Oh. Looks like I forgot that these kinds of places charge for everything, including showers. And no pony has checked out this room. Which means they know-know-know I'm here. Which means they're coming in through the hotel room door. Nice looking stallions. Sorry boys, I'm going to need you to move. No? Okay I can move you for you, don't worry, no trouble at all. Oh, wait, have you happened to see a little filly that looks a lot like me? With a tiara on? No? In that case I'll just move you out of my way so I can find her.
I really wanted that hotel breakfast too. It was nice to rough it and do some camping on my way here, but nothing beats civilization. Oh quit your crying, it'll all heal. Here, I'll put the bones back into place for you... Huh, guess he was really tired.
Don't worry my little princess! Mommy'll find you!
You don't mind if I help myself to some complimentary snacks and sweets do you? Don't worry, here's my Pony Express card number and this is the number for my lawyer. Not much here but they'll keep me going for now. So if you'll excuse me please.
Oh, I'm naked, in Canterlot. Hmm Well, he's got my credit number, he can bill me for his jacket. Oh look, it even has a hood! Good, it's cold up here on the mountain! Right?
Now off I go, back the way I came of course. Heheh, that jump made my legs feel silly!
Now if I can just find myself a nice dress shop, a hotel pony's jacket isn't proper wear for a mare in Canterlot after all, but it will do until I find something better. I may not be dressed for the occasion, but I can trot and talk as easy as any snob in Canterlot. Just gotta remember not everypony really appreciates a free chiropractor for some reason. I slip into the crowd without trouble. It's so crowded.
In retrospect, maybe I should have found a nice haunted fountain somewhere and washed myself there instead and eaten at a fancy restaurant and left with my card number there before they had a chance to trace it to 'escaped insane pony.' And maybe I should've borrowed that hotel pony's pants too, walking around with an insanity Cutie Mark in plain view of everypony wasn't my best idea. Maybe I'll just say I'm good with screwdrivers and playing baseball. Hindsight is twenty-twenty like they say.
"THERE SHE IS! The purple one!" And would it have saved me the trouble of having to hide from pegasus guards for breaking and entering, assault, and -I didn't steal anything!- I left my credit card number.
Sweet Celestia they're fast! I suppose I could take on an ever increasing pack of pegasi as I knock one down only for two to take his place in a heroic and bad-flank last stand. But I'm crazy, not stupid, I gallop like I've never galloped before! Too fast! And these boys are trained royal guards, I'd rather not tussle with them. Okay. Plan X. What? It's always the last thing you try that works, so you might as well start with Plan Z and work your way backwards. What is Plan A? I'll let you know when I think of it, I've only figured out to Plan S!
I see where I need to go, but these guards won't give a lady her privacy! I guess I'll just have to undress in a moment out of their view. Here ya go, you can have this jacket! It looks good on you! Oh now they're chasing her Looks like fun! Now where was I? Oh yeah, Plan X!
I'm so going to be paying for this later. All righty. Ya disconnect this bone connected to the hip bone, you disconnect this bone connected to the shoulder bone, you disconnect this bone connected to the neck bone, wait, better not touch that one on second thought. Fold myself up, if I try really hard I'm sure I could fit into a soup can. Really scared the hay out of an orderly one time, you'd think they'd never saw a mare hiding in a box half her size before! Took a while to get out, especially since he fainted on top of me. I take this pony-hole cover off before any of that. Here we go, underneath this balcony, fit myself right under and between the rafters.
The Day Guard almost all think I went underground, the rest start going down different streets, after apologizing to some purple unicorn they tackled thinking she was me, she probably shouldn't have worn the hood. Whew. This is not a good start. Not a good start at all. How am I going to find my little princess when I have to deal with city guards down my back? I don't have to worry too much, the power of love will prevail! After all, all fairytales end with 'happily ever after.'
The 'Red Horseshoes' and 'Godfather Death?' I don't think I read those fairytales.
They end HOW? Where are the authors? I want to have a few words with them!
They've been dead for over seven thousand years? Pst. Cowards. We're in a land of magical ponies! Since when aren't there happy endings here?
What happened the day before I was taken from my home? I can't really, remember, must not have been that important, yes, not important, at all, just another day, nothing bad happened, nothing horrible happened, just another day in our happily ever after.
Huh!? Oh! You again. Don't scare me like that. Oh what's going on?
I got dragged by that big nasty maid through the castle all the way into a room full of random cleaning junk! No pony gave us a second look. There are maps on the walls of the castle and the gardens.
'Memorize those maps for your papa dear!'
'You're not my father.' I whisper back in my mind.
'I've been more of a father than that stallion has been haven't I? He won't do a thing to save your dear sweet old mama! Me? I'm giving you the chance he never did, and I'm not punishing you for being yourself, and I've certainly been more helpful haven't I? In fact, I've done nothing but teach you things that will be very useful, isn't that what a father does?
'Besides, don't we have so much in common? Why, I'd say we're family.'
I shivered. I didn't have a rebuttal.
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): I don't wanna be mean, but a lotta of the adults are sayin' you keep switchin' between talkin' 'bout how things are going on, and then start talkin' like it happened before. They're gettin' kinda upset with that. I don't like it when adults shout.)
Well excuse me! You first ask what's going on, and you ask what just happened, of course I'm going to keep using different tensions, I mean tenses!
'Just ignore them my dear. A lot of ponies just want to cause trouble by overstepping their bounds and neglecting their role even going so far as to invent a new one just to suit their fancy.'
I notice there are a bunch of other maids and server ponies here too. I, didn't give them a thought before, they've always just been part of the background. Now I'm in the background with them. Being interchangeable. Being able to do only what you're told to do. There's the sickness again.
'Oh, don't worry my little pony, sometimes you have to play a role in the background. When you do that, nopony suspects you. They see you as something they can pretend doesn't exist except when they need something, or a pawn to play not noticing they're being played, and that can be a very useful position to find yourself in if you know how to use it.'
The maid that dragged me here pushed me alongside a small group of other fillies and colts who were dressed like me at the back of the group with the adults in front. We were all facing forward.
"Now listen up!" Said an Earth pony stallion server whose cutie mark was a winged martini. "A lot of you have been hired on short notice but I'm telling you right now that's no excuse for anything! You're expected to do your job and do it like you were ninja! Invisible! Understand? No chit chatting with the guests! No staring! No lollygagging! And if any of you think you can just slip off and think no pony will notice you've ditched your responsibilities, think again! I am like a dragon, and you're all my bit pieces! I will hunt you down, and I will find you! Teleportation or flying will not save you."
I felt like he was looking right at me.
'Well this is one pony who needs to learn to lighten up. I wonder how he'd feel about being a clown balloon,' The voice said.
I giggled. My eyes widened. Mistake. Stupid.
"YOU! You find that funny little filly?" He stabbed a hoof right at me.
"N-no no sir!"
"Two noes? So you do find it funny?"
"No! I don't!"
"Then what do you think is funny?"
My brain went blank.
I wasn't supposed to be talked to like this. I was the one who was supposed to talk like this. I'm the one who... who...
The stallion's face got darker by the moment.
I said first thing that popped into my head. "Naked ponies!"
Now everyone was looking at me. I felt red. I wanted to hide. I felt the need to cry slowly crawl up inside me. And I had the feeling that would just make things worse.
"What's your name filly?"
"Well Diamonds I suggest you keep your mind on your job! Just because you're small doesn't mean you're given leeway here. Now I think you've stolen enough time with your selfish thinking that this meeting is somehow about you. DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR?"
My entire body wilted.
The stallion turned back to what he was doing without a word.
Why didn't you help me out of that mess?
'Because, I wanted to see if you remembered any of my lessons. Sadly you did not, my little pony. If you had, you'd have concocted a perfect lie to cover yourself, I have already thought of several. Get on the ball filly!'
I wilted a little more...
The stallion launched into an endless stream of things that needed doing, what to offer and what not to offer to which guests, how to address them, when to keep your mouth shut, when to just smile and nod, what doors to use and which ones not to use in what path. It made my head spin.
The other ponies just patiently took it all in. How did they keep it all straight? It was crazy.
'Don't worry my little pony. You know you're better than them. Or do you? They work more than you, so does that make them worth more than you? But all they do is serve, is doing that more important than... spending your father's money and wearing jewelry and feeling sorry for yourself? Oh, and of course making ponies under you feel worse than you do, can't forget that.
'One self-pitying bully must be more important than a bunch of servant ponies right? They aren't you. So of course they can't matter. But if they don't matter why are you so scared of what they're all thinking?'
Servants talking down to me. Me being the least important pony in the room. Just a face in the herd. No pony cared who I was or how I felt. Everything was contradictions. 'I don't know! Tell me!'
'Now where's the fun if I did that? You still have a much to learn filly. My teacher didn't pull any punches either.'
'Long story, but I learned from the best. You're in good clutches.'
We lined up and were one by one to be given instructions with our names written down on a clipboard.
I panted with sweat but at least nopony was looking at me.
'For the record my dear. I do feel sorry for this necessary evil,' said the voice, lacking its sly tone, 'All these rules and regulations, trying to make the world seem what it isn't. Sorry about that, it's stupid and boring, I know. But if things are going to go the way they need to, you need to endure.'
I wanted to ask the voice again if it really intended to help me, or was just stringing me along for a big let down and a big laugh after. After all, it was something I'd do and- ugh, sickness.
The sickness. Always the sickness. What was it? The voice wouldn't tell me, it wouldn't even respond when I asked it! It was a sickening weight inside me, pulling me down, slowing me down, making me feel small and ugly. Like I needed a bath on the inside.
I wanted to be home so badly.
'But go home to what? A 'father' who's betrayed your mother? A mother who's crazy? A best friend who was only your friend for your money and you made an enemy yourself? A bunch of blanks who are so much better at everything than you? A white narwhal who-'
My turn. My 'name' is written down. I'm handed an assignment.
"Hey! We got the same job! I'm Neatly Spell! Nice to meet you, let's see here again... Diamonds! Nice to meet you Diamonds! I haven't seen you before! Did you just start today or something? Does your big sister work here? Did your parents send you here? Are you hiding from an evil secret organization? Are you royalty in hiding? Are-"
Ugh, did Pinkie Pie clone herself?
I turned at the noise, and bumped nose to nose with another Earth Pony filly. She had a deep purple mane, blue eyes, and a coat as white as snow. Personally I think it made her look like a clown, but what felt familiar about her? She was in a maid uniform exactly like mine of course.
She looked at me smiling.
I noticed her flank was as barren as a field in winter. What curse am I under that I am to be forever plagued by blank flanks?
"Ugh," I shook my head, "What did you say your name was again?"
She stuck out her hoof. "I'm Neatly Spell. Pleased to meetcha!"
"Move along fillies!" Said the senior maid pushing us BOTH out of the room, "And don't dawdle!"
"Oh we better hurry, you don't want to be on Miss War Duster's worse side!"
Her name was War Duster? I was suddenly even more afraid of that already intimidating mare.
She cantered along, thank goodness she didn't skip or I think I'd have gone crazy.
I don't know why, but I felt confused when the voice didn't say anything to that.
Well, she knew the way we were supposed to be going and I didn't. I glanced outside a window and saw the sun was beginning to set. Time really flies.
"Wow, your cutie mark: are you a princess?" The filly's voice pierced my ears.
"Are you a treasure hunter?"
"Are you a jeweler?"
"Oh! Silly me, it must be for serving royalty right?"
"Well then what-"
"For jewelry! It's for wearing jewelry! All I'm good for is wearing jewelry! There! Are you happy now?"
"... No I'm not. And that's stupid. There's no way that's what your cutie is for. Mom and dad said cutie marks aren't obvi-, obliv-, they aren't always exactly what they look like."
"Well mine is."
"Naw. Can't be. Maybe it was helping others look good in jewelry. I'd buy that, but if it was something like that, I'd have a special talent for wearing cute dresses by now!"
I raised an eyebrow, "Maybe your special talent is irritating ponies?"
"Funny, my parents said the same thing before they sent me here. Both my parents are unicorns by the way! But that can't be it. I tried that, but no go."
"You tried irritating others?" Sounds like something those blanks would do.
"Well not really, but that's what everypony said I was doing. I said how those drapes clash with the carpet. That a few less flowers in the display would let their colors stand out more. That those napkins would compliment the tablecloth more. The mare uniforms could be an inch or two longer or a shade lighter. But they said I was just a filly and didn't know anything. I would have told the Zebra ambassador how her jewelry could better compliment her stripes but we're not allowed to talk to the guests like that. And that's sad: they'd probably have a better time if we could talk to them."
"You're a designer."
"Sounds to me like you're a designer."
"Don't be silly! One day I'm gonna be a mage just like my parents and big sister!"
"I try to tell her that she has the voice of an angel, but she won't listen. She insists she'll be a designer just like me when she gets her cutie mark. She just says how I'm good at singing too. I try to use that but she just focuses on trying to copy my talents as a designer instead. And when she isn't, she tries everything except singing."
"Wow. She's oblivious." I said off hoofedly, gasped and covered my mouth. I looked in fear waiting for the wrath I've incurred.
But the tone that comes out of her muzzle reminds me of kind Miss Cheerliee instead. "Let me tell you Diamond Tiara, trying to tell a filly what their special talent is before they realize it on their own is an exercise in futility."
Miss Rarity's sister. Why did I always avoid her when I went to my visits to Miss Rarity? Why did I always make sure I was never seen? What did I have to lose from a measly blank knowing I was taking sewing lessons?
Was I scared she'd tell the others? That she'd tell my father? That I had lowered myself to taking lessons from a narwhal? That I was seeing mom without his permission? That she'd laugh at me for being so miserable at sewing? That all her friends would then have at me? I gritted my teeth.
"Hey you okay?" The playful and oblivious attitude from before seemed to evaporate.
"No I'm not."
"Wanna talk about it?"
"No I don't."
"Talking about problems helps."
"No it doesn't."
"Oh come on! Now you sound like a colt!"
"No I don't."
"You sure say no a lot."
"No I-- okay, I am now , but I don't usually."
"Well you really need to learn to open up more."
'Watch yourself my little pony! Kitchen right up ahead! And try to remember not to get lost in your own farce. I've seen that happen to many.'
We entered the kitchen and practically had the serving trays shoved into our mouths and were told where to place them on the tables in the ballroom.
You want details? It was big. It was shiny. It made my family's kitchen look like a pauper's. I wasn't exactly in a spot to take in the sights. There were so many smells of cooking food, I couldn't tell which was which! It almost made me dizzy. Unicorns were all over the place moving like one giant machine churning out culinary masterpieces like clockwork. And I was suddenly just one tiny cog in it!
"Just follow my lead," Neatly Spell whispered as she saw me begin to panic. How she did that with a mouth full of platter was anypony's guess. Maybe she really is related to Pinkie Pie. Me? I just nodded and followed along doing my best to mimic her body language. Made me feel like we were part of a duet.
I tried to resist having flashbacks to the school talent show. The reviews said my and Silver Spoon's dance routine made the audience feel like their eyes were eating plain white rice. Our dance was just 'there' it said. But we didn't miss any steps. We went through the performance perfectly. Nopony laughed at us. And we certainly didn't cause the half the stage to fall on top of us.
So how did those retarded blanks get an award instead of us?! The sickness hit again, this time I didn't care! Those blanks' act crashed down around their ears, they couldn't have done a worse job if they tried, and they get an award and we don't-?! Even when they crash and burn they get rewarded and I get pushed to the background! It wasn't fair! It didn't make any sense! Even when they lose they win? That's cheating! It's not fair! What about me? My plans backfire and everypony laughs at me! Their plans backfire, everypony feels sorry for them and gives them what they want anyway!
'It's like the universe was against you, isn't it? Here's a secret dear: it was. The Shadows Who Rule would never let you have your day, or for anything to be fixed by The Shadows Who Make. They want everything to stay exactly the same forever and ever. Nothing changing, just superficial changes in the window dressing. Thinking they can keep it going forever when they know they can't. But you're free now, the world is free now. And you have the power to change it!'
"Diamonds! Watch out!" Neatly Spell gasped bumping me to a stop just before I could walk into a very important somepony. We scurried along before we were looked at.
"You okay?" She asked concerned.
"I-I'm fine." I stuttered out at the close save. "T-thank you."
"Welcome." She gave me a quick nuzzle.
It took me a minute to realize we were now in the ballroom. Abstract statue of Celestia in the center. Giant marble columns with plastered crack lines on them (maybe the designers felt it gave them a more classic look or something?). The floor was so polished I could see my face in it. At least you could barely tell I had been crying. Was my eye twitching? Had to be my imagination.
The long tables so full of food that most would go to waste, the fancy dressed unicorns, Earth ponies and pegasi, did everything about this city have to make me feel small?
What happened to the times I had felt big? Before my new toy started biting back. When had I gotten back my crown? When had I finally felt great and powerful again?
The one time in my life I had those three under my hoof. My little gossip reporters. That had been so sweet. Like the world had finally returned to the way it was supposed to be. Seeing those three squirm. I had the power, at last. They were my little minions. They did what I wanted them to and they did so eagerly.
'And that impossible choice you gave them was rather lovely too my dear.'
Thank you. I was on top of the world. Why did good things always have to end?
The news paper was being read by adults. Ponies loved it. What did I care if some ponies' feelings got hurt? I wasn't the one hurting ponies' feelings, I didn't doctor their articles to make them hurtful, so I could just sit back and watch the fireworks in peace. And that idea, 'it's for the paper' acted like the invincible armor I needed from the sickness. I was doing my responsibility. Nothing wrong with that. Then those three tried to chicken out. Well we couldn't have that now could we?
All I needed to do was think those four words 'it's for the paper' and the sickness couldn't hurt me! I could be myself again! They even protected me against the sickness when I showed my rebelling reporters the photos of them I'd be putting in the column if they couldn't dig up something. No matter how much the sickness tried to drown me as I declared I didn't care about ponies' feelings. Those three words were my armor and shield.
Who cares if Silver Spoon wasn't with me. Who cares that meant the world wasn't really back to normal? Who cares if mom still wasn't home? I had the sense of attention and control I've always enjoyed before. I could just close my eyes and pretend they were with me.
So... so what if I shelved the gossip story they did on Silver Spoon, there... there was not enough room in the paper that day.
Oh, and then there was the BEST part. For once, the whole town was furious at THEM! At them and not ME! Their own family and friends shunned them like the blanks they were! And all I needed to say to myself 'Gabby Gums was their idea, it's not my fault it's got them in over their heads' and I could watch their loved ones hurt them worse than I ever had! The best part was when that rotten yellow one's big brother chewed them out! And her big sister wouldn't even talk to them. Oh the looks on their faces! Priceless! The sickness tried to gobble me up, worse than before or since, but I just put up my armor with those four words: I only tried to vomit once. Surprised? You think I didn't still have Featherweight trailing those three?
Then the world gets turned upside down again! How could Miss Cheerilee do that-?! I was just doing it for the paper. Everything was going great! How could she kick me off as editor? And I thought she was supposed to be just 'advisor!' Some advisor!
And Featherweight didn't even try to warn me about those blanks' little scheme! He had to have known! I bet he told Miss Cheerilee and wanted the editor seat for himself! Everypony in Ponyville was reading the paper and suddenly when those blanks write their letter THEN she gets on my case? I cry foul! If she had a problem with the paper she'd have done something sooner than that!
I get humiliated and no one says they're mean for laughing at me! Things go wrong for me, and they laugh at me, again! I don't see anyone scolding them when they laugh at things going wrong for me!
Then after the whole mess (figuratively and literally), that stupid wall-eyed pegasus actually invaded my family's property saying how I had bullied her filly! Dinky?! I had never even spoken to her! Took her newspaper and pushed her? It had taken days just to remember what she was even talking about! When I bully somepony they remember it and so do I! (I take pride in my art.) Hearing it from the wall-eyed pony you think I'd been a colt and beaten Dinky up and taken the newspaper from her running away laughing after trying to drown her.
And dad, he just let her talk to me like that! After Applebloom's Family Appreciation Day dad just let that walled eye mare talk to me like that! I remembering crying. He made me write out an apology! A written apology! For taking a paper?! Had the whole world gone crazy?
Pain flashed through my brain. And I had two memories shoving against each other, and they weren't even from the same place! In one memory the Cakes' foals, twins, had been born, and one of the Gabby Gums articles included 'Pinkie Pie: Out Of Control Party Animal' (as if everypony in Ponyville didn't already know that). But... I had never seen the Cakes' baby. How could I know it was twins? Mrs. Cake was still pregnant when... when I left. And Pinkie Pie had done a total one-eighty, and had stopped making parties in the middle of the street without a permit.
'Oh don't worry about that my dear. In fact I'm rather surprised my little pony that you even noticed the difference. I guess it might be because I was having you take a long nap when the link to the heart world broke and events were scrambled around to make them fit. You should feel proud, that little incident's place in time was scrambled around just for you. Normally only ponies with a sixth sense are aware of these changes. That or complete and total mad ponies! Ha ha! Or they just go crazy anyway! Good pony! Very good pony! My Little Pony!'
I'm not crazy.
'Of course not, it's the rest of the world that's crazy. Or is it? Oh well, doesn't matter now does it? Or should it matter? You have a mother to save don't you?'
I noticed the ballroom windows all led straight to the royal gardens. No guards. The stars were coming out. The lights inside made the entire outside look black.
'Make a break for it filly. The moment you can slip away unnoticed do it! They won't notice one less server for a small while, even with those rule fixated bullies ordering things around.'
You want me to act natural?
'NO! Not that! Anything but that filly! The more you try to act natural, the less natural you'll act! The night is just beginning. And the cover of darkness will be perfect for you. I'd rather have things happen at high noon for more dramatic effect but sadly beggars can't be choosers. Just keep up the act but inch along closer to the doors and windows and... just relax my little pony. It'll all be over soon. Think of your momma, how happy she'll be when her sanity is back, all the ugh, happy times you'll have '
'Are you okay?'
'Yes, I just threw up in my own mind again. Now get moving!'
Neatly Spell kept stealing glances at me, but I made due. She looked, concerned? That was stupid. Who could show concern for any pony who she had one conservation with? Ugh! There's that same weird feeling I get when I'm around Pinkie Pie.
I said my sacred mantra. She doesn't matter, only I matter. And the sickness hit again, along with images of mom, Miss Rarity, dad, and the one friend who I hurt. My entire body shook. I struggled to keep the tray even and stable. The last thing I needed was a spill among these elites. That stallion and War Duster's eyes would be on me for the rest of the party. And I did not want those two on my case again.
All in all the entire ballroom was a typical fancy adult party. Drab, lifeless, along with drab and lifeless music that looked painful for the musicians to play. What was the point in growing up if that's all that was waiting for you?
'Now that's the spirit, why bother growing up? More rules, more responsibilities that only come with fake consequences. It's so much better remaining small: the world is your playground. And foals always get away with so much more than adults, because your elders are so much lighter on the stupid nonexistent consequences they force on you. Dressing up like a cheerleader during playtime with... ugh, others. Isn't it better to stay a little filly? After all, wasn't it all the stupid responsibilities grownups have that made your dear mother ill? Or was it something or somepony else? I'm not quite sure. But I'm sure it'll be clear before too long.'
What do you mean by that?
'Stay focused filly.'
I went through the routines of a humble servant pony like a robot, I think the adults approved. It was like swallowing bad medicine. It was the same bitter taste as the jumping over the water cans singing the ABCs and being reduced to a printing press grunt.
Except this time, "It's okay Diamonds I've got it."
"Don't worry, just make sure to look busy."
"Pst, watch out, your tiara's showing. Yeah I noticed when I said hi."
I shuddered, finally this torture was too much. "Why? Why are you helping me? You don't know me."
"Of course I know you. Your name is Diamonds. You like being a grump. You don't like being a grunt and you don't like big bullies telling you what to do."
"We just met."
"No we met in the war room."
"I meant we just met today."
"So why are you helping me?"
"Because we're strangers."
"Are you allergic to ponies being nice to you or something? We're friends."
Friends? To a pony she just met? I felt sick again. "But-that's-it's-"
"Hey, it's okay. It's not so bad is it? Having friends?"
I felt a dull pain in my chest, like something black and ugly trying to be pulled out. Inch by inch out of me, barbs tearing my insides as it was torn away. Something gentle soothed me that it was going to be okay. Just a bit more, just a bit, -too much. It hurt too much to take out. I couldn't take it. I was weak. It wormed back into place, the pain fading.
"Yeah, sure, whatever," I said.
Me and Neatly Spell had to split up. I stuck to the rout. But deviated a bit under the pretense of replacing still half full trays and offering snacks to guests. I knew I was stretching it. But hopefully I'd be able to get out of here before my cover was blown.
I didn't see any sign of the Alicorns. That was a good thing. I didn't want to think about what they'd do if they found an intruder in the heart of their castle. They'll erase my brain! They'll want mom to stay sick so ponies won't like the voice in my head better than The Princesses! I bet they'd send me to the moon, or turn me to stone, or turn me to stone and send me to the moon!
And I still felt like I was a sheep in a pack full of timber wolves. All I had to do was one thing wrong, and they'd know I didn't belong here. They'd know that I was an invader. Why did I keep wilting?
"Don't worry." I felt proud at not shouting when Neatly Spell whispered behind me out of nowhere. "They won't look you in the eyes. They have their noses too high in the air. They don't want to waste the energy on judging you."
"Thanks," I whispered, and the word didn't leave a bad taste in my mouth.
"Welcome Diamonds." She smiled.
How could a pony like her even exist?
I continued that routine for over an hour: listening to music that could put Pinkie Pie into a coma, carefully avoiding adults who ignored me more than they ignored the band. I listened to conversations about the buying and selling of land. I listened to companies being sold or bought. I did hear the amusing occasional culture clash. Some pegasi hadn't gotten the memo that ponies didn't wrap their tails together as a hoof shake in Canterlot, and some ambassadors found out sticking your tongue out here didn't mean 'Hello!' in Equestria.
I was a little bit in awe, so many ponies from so many places, all with their own idea of what 'proper' was, and so many conflicting. What was proper then anyway? If no pony could agree on what it was, did it even exist?
I trotted in a pattern, inching close to my portal to getting my life back each time.
Inching closer, and closer, and closer, AND CLOSER-
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): What's your name?
Huh?! Why are you asking that now?!
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Oh! Well. When we talked to my, to the Elements of Harmony we always got their names formally. So can you tell me your name, just for records' sake? It's just a formality.)
Sigh. Diamond Tiara. There, happy?
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Yes. Thanks. And where did you get your name?
You're kidding right?
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Please?)
Fine fine. I got it from my parents. Now I really need to-
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): The same parents who took care of you when you were sick and didn't just hand it off to servants? The same parents who always got you whatever you wanted? The parents who love you?
I, that is, yes?
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Okay, good. Is your dad an honest business pony?)
Of course he is!
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): So would he really approve of you being taught how to lie and hurt other-ACK!
'That is enough out of you my little filly! Why don't you run along to your sisters? Really my little pony, you need to learn to ignore small-minded distractions like her. There is nothing more annoying than those who try to overstep their bound and betray their responsibilities. Really. Interviewers should just interview. Not try to steer the story away from its natural course. Stupid little plot device.
'Sorry for that petty annoyance my little pony. You're at the final leg of your quest. Don't go turning off the console now.'
'Just go for it. You're right at the doors. If somepony asks you, just say the table's out of ice or something and you're fetching more. open the doors, quietly slip out, and away we go!'
The security sure was bigger than the last time I had been here. Then again, the world had gone upside down since then.
I don't think my tricks for getting through here before were going to work again.
They were covering the blind spots I had used before to get inside.
But they were between me and what I wanted, no, what I needed! We did this before and we could do it again.
A lot of trouble over a little thing? It wasn't little to me.
Guards at their posts weren't static, eyes always scanning, ears flicking one direction and another attentive listening for any unusual noise.
They took their job seriously, but hey, they were paid enough to.
This might be a tiny teeny bit harder than I thought it would be.
"You know this doesn't seem like a good idea." She said behind me.
"Don't be a baby Silver Spoon, remember I've got it all worked out in my head. There's nothing that can go wrong."
"Are you sure it's that important?" My best friend asked.
"Don't joke. I just, I just want something that's mom's, Silver Spoon."
"Well I get that, but who's Silver Spoon?"
I looked over my shoulder and saw Neatly Spell looking right at me.
I somehow managed to keep from exclaiming in surprise. "What are you doing here?"
I wasn't in my home. And the Night Guard I saw weren't my family's servers. And what I was going for, didn't belong to my mother.
"What are you doing here?"
"I asked first."
"Well, I saw you escaping from the party, and I didn't want to get in trouble with Miss War Duster or Mr. Tux and I wanted to see what you were doing."
"You're not supposed to be here."
"Neither are you. So what are you doing here?" She whispered with a tiny bit of fear, "... Are... are you a thief?"
"Then what are you doing here?"
"I don't--I'm here to save my family."
"Is your family in the dungeon?"
"Has your family been turned into statues?"
"Was your family sent to the moon?"
"Was your family turned to stone and sent to the moon?"
"Are you hoping Princess Celestia will bring your family back from the dead?"
"Then how is your sneaking off in the middle of work going to rescue your family?"
"I didn't say rescue. I said save."
"Save them how?"
"That isn't your business."
"Wanna see how loud I can shout? I'm the regional champion."
"Okay, okay, you promise not to tell?"
"Never mind." Was Pinkie Pie a friend of mine? Of course not. She just was never mean or laughed at me. She had this really strange power to make me smile and laugh without make anypony else feel bad. She tickled me when my mom went away. Then she left an 'I'm sorry,' note with a basket full of cupcakes after I told her I didn't think it was funny!
And she always made me feel weird! Like being near her made me being on top not matter so much, like she was brainwashing me! But it never felt bad, but isn't that what they say brainwashing is like right? But she never actually tried to force anything on me. She was just nice. Don't tell me you're THAT surprised! That pink party pony has a reputation to keep for being friends with everypony in Ponyville (and cow, and donkey and zebra, etc eteria).
"Well?" Neatly Spell tilted her head.
"How's sneaking off into the garden going to save your family?"
I startled as the question set off gears and levers in my head. I didn't know. The voice had only been promising. The voice had only been guiding. The voice hadn't said what I had to do to help it, and how it was going to make my mom normal again.
'Not normal unfortunately, 'sane' remember? That promise you made me make? I couldn't go spilling the beans in case you did. And this filly is more trouble than she needs to be, a shame, she reminds me of somepony I very much found lovely. You've picked an awful awful time to start being honest my dear. Unless this has all been one big fat game to you and you never had any intention of helping me from the start or were planning to make me help your mother first and then walk away without even lifting a hoof. Though I must say, if it is the latter, bravo, you're a smarter little filly than I thought you were!'
No! I promise I will! I promise! Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye!
'Hahaha! I always loved that swear!'
So how am I going to help you? And how are you going to help me?
'You've picked an annoying time to ask for details when you have a much more important problem waiting for your answer, and it's too complicated to explain right now!'
My brain struggled for some good lie I could use. Some basic deceit. A distraction. A diversion.
'You know what you need to do my dear. You've done it before.'
'You don't have time to explain things. And she'll just think you're crazy anyway, what taking advice from a voice in your head and everything. And she's made it clear that she'll ruin everything if you don't spend the time to explain things to her that you don't have.'
What time? Is something going to happen? Is something happening with mom? What's wrong?
'What did I say about explanations? See that rock right next to you? Do it.'
'What? It's not like she's a friend. You don't have any. It's not like she's family. She's a stranger. Nopony. Just a moment of fancy. And of course, she's not you.'
If-If, I-she, I-I bet it would get lots and lots of attention if they found a hurt pony and I don't see where I could hide her.
'Tsk-tsk. You've come so far my little pony. I've taught you so much. You've become so much more than when I found you. And you're still getting caught up in your own facade.'
'Pst. What a waste. So this is where it ends does it? You braved the wilderness. Infiltrated this city. Made so many escapes. Infiltrated this castle. You've put so much on the table. And here is where it all ends. This is where you lose everything. Because you didn't have the guts to do what you needed to. Even that yellow blank flank knows when to put down a mad dog. You'd faint from the sight. What a total anti-climax. You know what? If you were this cowardly from the beginning, maybe I shouldn't have asked for your help. If this is the final act, I'd have to give you two hooves down. That's about average for you isn't it my little pony? 'My'? Pst. As if I'd be associated with a gutless coward. Don't pretend you think doing it is wrong. Your mother and father are going to be so disappointed in you. That you let one stranger stand between you and-'
Rarity stepped into her little sister's room. Rarity had guessed the sound before coming in but was still hurt to see the source.
"Sweetie Belle? Why are you crying?" Rarity asked gently.
Sweetie Belle lifted her face from the pillow she had been hugging. Rivers came from her eyes and nostrils.
"I-I don't know... " She sniffled, "And I think that's why I'm crying."
"What?" Rarity let out a scared laugh. "Sweetie darling you're not making any sense!"
"I know!" Sweetie wailed. "I-I feel like I just did something really really really bad, that I really really really didn't want to do! And I feel really really really awful for it! But if I didn't someone I really really really love would keep hurting!"
Rarity felt increasingly uncomfortable. "Those are those some pretty precise feelings Sweetie."
"I know! I'm so confused! And I don't even know what I'm crying for! I don't know why I feel like this!"
"Well, if you don't know why you're crying, you shouldn't waste your tears."
"These aren't my tears."
"Sweetie you're just tired, I think you just took a nap, had a bad dream and-"
"RARITY!" Sweetie Belle snapped at her, "I wasn't dreaming! I'm scared! I just know somepony is really hurt. And they can't cry. So I think I might be crying for them."
"Sweetie Belle will you be-!" '-serious,' Rarity was about to tell her little sister. That Sweetie was talking nonsense, that she was letting her imagination get the better of her. But her little sister's face twisted into so wretched a visage of regret that the words were slain in her throat. Rarity had this odd feeling of having stepped into some strange world.
Her sister's eyes were red from crying, she was breaking down into hiccups. Rarity did the only thing she could think of and hugged Sweetie stroking her mane. "Alright, I'll help you cry for them then."
Melody, or "Mel" for short, was an avid traveler. Name a country or a city and she's been there! Mel is an archaeologist, a damn good one at that. Hut, being a women in a "boy's-club" has its draw backs: No one thinks she can take care of herself, very few men taker seriously and of course, she was hot; by default not smart. Mel had proven them wrong with this preconceived notions many times over, but it never stuck. Mel was leggy, with blonde hair down to her butt, with an ample bosom and piercing green eyes. Some speculate that she was the inspiration for ZZ Top's "Legs", but Mel knew that was bull!
One night, after returning from an excavation from deep within the amazon, Mel felt very ill. She ran to her bathroom many times that night, each time feeling worse and worse. The next morning, Mel drove herself to the doctors. She wasn't sexually active, or at least hadn't been for several months, her boyfriend didn't like her traveling, yet Mel was worried because she traveled so much; she had many, many vaccinations and physicals, what if they forgot something?
The doctor ran through the usual routine of blood tests and medical record snooping before diagnosing Melody: She had been infected with a parasite! This diagnosis was bitter-sweet, they knew why she was ill, but still needed to figure out how to treat her. More tests and hours later, the doctor informed Melody that she had been infected by a rare, endangered parasite that could not be trated with any medications to kill it, that would break the law. They could remove it surgically and place it in a "safe habitat", but the paperwork was tedious and took months to finish. Annoyed, Mel knew that she'd be forced to act as host toher parasite for a while before anything could be done.
Before leaving, the doctor gave Mel a prescription of assorted B-vitamins to keep her strength up while the paperwork was being processed. He also informed her that she was forbidden to travel outside her state, the law would see her as "smuggling an endangered species". Melody cussed out the superfluous laws as she drove home.
Sighing, Melody sat on her couch, without work her life was DULL. As days passed, Melody was finally able to get over the vomiting part of her affliction and relax. But a new problem emerged. The parasite had decided to make its "home" int he absolute center of her belly, and since the parasite was constantly feeding off of Melody, it would grow before it could be removed.
One week passed since her diagnosis, her "friend" had grown enough to cause her belly to swell, now her jeans were too tight to fit comfortably. The button would squeeze her gut and the zipper was constantly slipping down. Mel had no choice but to resort to her stretchy pajama bottoms.
The second week had come and now Melody had trouble getting her shirts down over her swelling belly. Her size was ridiculous, it looked like she was pregnant with the parasite now.
By the third week Melody was fed up! Not only did her shirts fail to cover her entire swelling belly, she was now getting heavier. Melody called her doctor and explained the siutation, but he reminded her that until the paperwork was finalized, it was illegal for anyone to do anything to the parasite.
Week four and Melody was getting bigger. No shirt covered her middle at all! At best, Mel looked like she was wearing a tube-top and sporting a 5 month pregnant belly. Annoyed and tired, Melody drove to the clinic, with a heavy coat covering her and showed her doctor. The look on his face worried Melody. Her doctor took her into the examination room and ran more tests. Her vitals were still stable, but her size was alarming. Out of curiosity, the doctor ultrasounded her belly and saw that the parasite had actually managed to move its way out of her intestines and into her uterus. Indeed, Melody was pregnant with her parasite. Now Melody was freaked, the doctor reassured her that whether the parasite was in her intestines or uterus, that when the paperwork was done that the surgery could still be performed. Scared, yet confident, Melody returned home, disgusted at the creature that had taken up residence inside of her.
Weeks five, six and seven rolled by. Within those three weeks, the parasite grew an incredible amount! Melody looked full-term pregnant! She felt like it too, her belly was round and firm, her back ached and she felt tired all day long. Night time was a hastle now. Melody tried sleeping on her back, but the parasite weighed heavily on her, and when she laid on her side, she could actually see the parasite squirming under her flesh. The sight sickened her, she ended up sleeping upright on her couch.
When the eighth week creeped up, Melody felt like she was going to explode, now it looked like she was carrying twins. Mel also had a new disturbance. No matter how she sat or laid down, she could see the parasite moving under her flesh and now she could FEEL it. The parasite was, without a doubt, HUGE. As it her belly constantly squirmed and bulged, a low gurgling noise could also be heard...
The ninth week came and by this time, Melody was ready to give up. Her belly looked full term with triplets and looked ready to burst! Mel was also too big to move, she sat on her couch all day and placed her hands on her actively moving belly. The gurgling noise had gotten louder and more frequent as well. Melody fell asleep earlier than usual that night, but was awakened rather early: While she slept, her parasite seemed to have a massive growth spurt. Melody was aroused by a sharp pain from her entire gut, she put her hands on her belly's sides and flet how tight her skin already was and felt it becoming tighter and tighter. To her horror, she saw the parasite begin to grow before her very eyes.
Bigger and bigger, the parasite swelled, it's body shaking her entire belly in a ripple like manner as it doubled its size within minutes. Melody moaned in pain as her belly grew in every direction, acting as a fleshy weight against her whole body. Her belly rumbled with gurgles and sloshes, her hands clenched on her tight, shiny flesh, her belly began to heave itself outward more and more from her navel, slwoly lowering itself down toward her thighs. Each passing second her belly would shake and pulse with the parasite inside of it. Melody passed out from the pain, but the parasite kept on growing. When the spurt had finally ended, Melody looked full-term with sextuplets and ready to pop!
Luckily for Melody, her doctor was concerned for her health and sent the paramedics to bring her to the hospital for observations. When they arrived, the found Melody a gint balloon of her former-self and quickly brought her to the hospital. She was still unconscious. That night, the paperwork had finally been approved and the surgery was scheduled right away.
The doctors gently cut into Melody's tightened globe of a belly and began to remove the incredicly large parasite, inch by inch. But to their suprise, what they pulled from Meldoy's body was not a parasite, but an alien infant!
Apparently while exploring the ruins of ancient civilizations, Melody had come in contact with substantial amounts of radiation that had been emitted from alien space crafts, the radiation had altered her genetic structure to mimic the aliens', which to everyone's suprise, are asexual beings. The genetic anomaly in also permanent. Poor Melody, doomed to random and extreme pregnancy for the rest of her life...
Charlie huffed blowing a strand of hair from her face and slouched with an elbow on the counter. The stool pinched her butt randomly where it was cracked when she shifted in a certain as yet undefined way. The kiosk was smelled heavily of pretzels which she initially found pleasant but now haunted her dreams. It was cramped with the appliances to produce and bake them, giving her barely enough room to squeeze around them under ideal conditions.
It was the end of week two of her summer internment at the ‘Pretzelmaniacal’ booth at the local mall. Week one consisted of her brief training and was the longest period of time she had seen her boss. On the second week she was turned loose to run the little food kiosk on her own, only seeing Elise at the end of the afternoon when the owner/manager took over. Charlie at first was pleased at trust she assumed she had been entrusted with but then quickly realized that the booth could be run by a trained monkey. Not even a particularly well trained or bright one.
The headband of the blue visor that was part of her uniform bit into her forehead uncomfortably. The polo shirt that was the other part of her uniform was also ill-fitting, either being too big or too small dependant upon the circumstances of the day. That was her own fault. Currently, it was the latter.
She rubbed coarse knit of the blue uniform shirt over her enlarged middle where it uncomfortably itched. In anticipation of the relative privacy and strategic positioning of her lone outpost in the middle of the downstairs east wing of the mall she had requested a larger polo to be able to accommodate the judicious use of her magic cap. It seemed like a good plan at the time but the shirt produced was not quite big enough to fit a belly pregnant with a single baby much less the two which she had temporarily borrowed. A request for a larger shirt was denied as even the current one was a hard won concession. Elise didn’t care if ‘baggy was in’ as Charlie had offered as an excuse. ‘It’s unprofessional’ Elise had countered.
Charlie’s bemoaning train of thought was interrupted as she pulled up the side of her shirt up from where it was tucked into her pants and slipped her hand underneath. She scratched furiously for a moment, feeling blissful satisfaction as she chased the itch across the expanse of her middle until the sadistic stool once again bit her rear causing her to yelp and fall off. She landed on her feet but stumbled against the prep station trays, knocking a container of sesame seeds to the ground where the top popped off and sprayed the seeds across the floor in a splash.
“Mother of f-” she bit her tongue and didn’t finish her outburst. She looked around to see if any of the passing crowd had noticed the spill and conspiratorially ducked down, quickly scooping the seeds back into the container. She picked out a couple pieces of hair and the remains of some insect and quickly replaced the container back on the counter, looking around innocently. The maneuver seemed to be performed swiftly and smoothly enough to not be noticed. Given her heavily pregnant condition, it was quite the feat of agility. Then she then again, she has had lots of practice in the last almost year since she had acquired her cap. Lots and lots of practice.
That was the only real benefit of the job her father had ‘helpfully’ found for her. She was at the mall, which is where she would have been anyway when looking for bellies to borrow and was in a way the perfect blind to remain hidden in the open while she hunted. People didn’t want to make eye contact with any of the other kiosks that were hawking their various useless items. Her booth tended to be lumped into the same category and so she felt as she had a cloaking field wrapped around it. The booth barely had more than half a dozen customer in her whole shift on any given day, she’d assumed that the traffic when Elise took over must pick up. Elise had mumbled something about the mall’s policies required her to be open during this time as way of explanation when Charlie wondered why they were even open. Besides, the upstairs pretzel shop was much better as Charlie had found out for herself. The customers she did get were usually the same bunch every day. In fact, as she was looking up for a moment to scan the crowd as she habitually did for any pregnancies, she saw one of them and frowned.
“Dieter? Dennis? Darryl?” Charlie tried to remember his name. She was sure it was with a D. Just about positive. It was her brother Jon’s latest friend of the year, mercifully without Jon who was at his own job. As usual he seemed to hover a bit away just within line of sight and fidgeted, craning his neck in her direction. He looked nervous as usual and pulled out a slip of paper out of his pocket which he consulted then wrote something with a pen he fished out the other. She puzzled at this behaviour, not for the first time. He straightened his hair and seemed to check himself over and came walking in her direction with something not quite approaching confidence. This was the fourth time he done this out of the six times she’d seen him since she started working the kiosk. The other two times he walked away after scribbling something. She discreetly watched him come towards her out of the corner of her eye as she returned her attention down to the magazine she kept behind the counter.
“H-hi Charlie,” he stammered with a shaky smile.
“Yeah, hey...D...d...dude. What’s up?” Charlie slid off the stool, forced a smile that didn’t show in her eyes and looked up at him.
“Good, yeah, good,” his eyes flicked up to hers and he cleared his throat looking around. His eyes dipped down every time they passed back over her only to bounce back up and away when he noticed she was looking at him directly. What was his problem? It was like he was scared of her or something. She looked down to herself. Her belly? Was this causing him some sort of discomfort? If it was, she wished he’d just say something or go away. Preferably go away.
She couldn’t take the awkward silence anymore, “So...you want a pretzel?” She prompted helpfully.
“Oh yeah, yeah. Just seeing what you have,” he made a big show of looking up at the sparse menu and scanning the components of the prep station before her. He bobbed his head and made exaggerated noises of contemplation. His eyes would stray back over to her periodically where he would give her his weird little smile and go back to reviewing the menu for the upteemth time.
Charlie rolled her eyes, familiar with this bizarre routine of neuroticness and leaned back against the cutting table behind her, taking the opportunity to crack her lower back against the table edge. She pushed back hard, eliciting a couple pops from her spine which helped alleviate the mounting tension that her unwanted customer was inducing. She sighed in both relief and frustration as she arched her back and twisted slightly. “Donald, it’s all the same stuff that’s been there since the dawn of time,” she blurted out.
His eyes were locked onto her middle. He jumped as he realized he was being addressed and his face flushed. He had a panic stricken expression on his face. He was tense and looked like was about to run. “Huh, what?”
He had definitely been looking at her middle that time, she was sure. Did he have some sort of issue with it? Everyone else she had regular contact with when she was using the hat seemed to treat it like it was nothing out of the ordinary. He didn’t seem to follow that pattern. “The menu, it’s the same things as every other time you’ve been here. Plain, butter and salt, sesame seed, poppy seed or any combination of the above. Choice several of drinks in three different sizes,” she glanced down at the sesame seed container and remembered the earlier spill, “I recommend the sesame seeds.”
He gave a nervous laugh that sounded a bit forced. “Yeah, sorry. Just don’t know what I’m in the mood for today.”
The entrepreneurial side of Charlie decided she might as well try a bit of salesmanship, “Well,” she offered with an easy smile, folding her arms over her middle as she leaned back and gestured with one arm, elbow held in the other, “you could always just buy one of each? Then you’ve got all your bases covered.”
Her confidence seemed to have rubbed off on him as he smiled more brightly. “Yeah, good point. Um, how many is that?” He started to look up again at the menu only to have his eyes slide down to her middle again.
She rolled her eyes and counted off on her fingers. “Plain, butter and salt, butter salt poppies, sesame…” she muttered to herself and counted quickly. “Nine?” she turned to the side to look up at the menu herself. She silently rechecked her figures pointing out the choices to herself while she scratched the small of her back with the other. Damn shirt. She’d wear a t-shirt under it if it was just a touch too warm for comfort in the cramped little booth with the pretzel baker. The metaphorical buns in the oven didn’t help either.
“Yeah,” she heard him agree in a distracted voice. She looked back over to him to catch him, once again, looking at her middle before darting his eyes back up. What was his skeeze anyway?
“Alright, one of everything then,” she sweeped the crud off her prep area and started fishing pretzels out the warmer beneath the counter. “Want a drink?” she asked as she started spread the butter-like substance to adhere the ingredients to the baked goods.
“Yeah, Dr. Pepper.”
She stuck out her tongue and made a face, not looking up from what she was doing. “Gross.”
For the first time, he laughed naturally, which was the most pleasant noise he’d made in the time she’d had the misfortune of knowing him. “You got something against Dr. Pepper?”
“Yeah, it’s gross,” she smiled slightly, still concentrating on what she was doing.
“No it’s not! It’s awesome!” He seemed more relaxed now, folding his arm, “What’s so wrong with DP?”
She looked up and smiled coyly, “Other than it’s utterly disgusting? Nothing at all,” she went back to spreading toppings deftly and bagging the pretzels into a pair of bags. She smirked as he chuckled at her.
“Whatever, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Charlie folded the bags up, placing them on the counter and wiping her hands off with a towel. “Large?” She looked up and asked him as she ran her hands down her belly, smoothing the shirt over it and tucking the fringe back into the beltline where it started to ride out.
He stared at her middle for a moment with his mouth slightly opened. “Yeah...no! What was the question?” He snapped his mouth shut and looked back up at her, his face blanching.
Charlie raised and eyebrow and pointed at the sign above her head. She looked at him dubiously, “Small, medium, or large, what size do you want?”
“Oh, yeah, large. Large is good,” he coughed nervously and looked away suddenly, scanning the crowd as if he was looking for something.
“Oookay,” Charlie shrugged. Whatever. The sale was more than she’d made in the rest of the day so she wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth, no matter how weird the horse. She gave him the total and he rammed a fist into his pocket, his strangeness returning in full force as he muttered to himself and desperately did anything but look back at her. He placed a double handful of coins along with some bills he pulled from his wallet on the counter besides the register. There was also a lot of pocket debris. Amongst the lint, keys, a bottle cap and a battery there was a wadded piece of paper that was partially open. Charlie curiously leaned over to see it, tiptoeing to rest the bottom of her very large belly on the counter to see. “What’s that?” she asked curiously.
It was the same piece of paper she’d seen him scribbling before every encounter, she imagined. She couldn’t tell what it said since it was folded away from her but she could tell that it seemed like a pair of column with check marks next to them. Something was scribbled at the top of each and there seemed to be some numbers along one side. His eyes bulged in his head and swiped the paper away as she reached for it, fast as a mongoose. “NOTHING!”
Charlie flinched, hopping back. She rubbed her middle where the sudden movement had made one of her guests kick. “Alright, sheesh!”
“It’s homework,” he stammered suddenly. He looked like he’d been caught in the middle of something.
“It’s summer,” she countered suspiciously.
“I mean it’s home work,” he purposely paused between words, “some stuff I got to pick up to do stuff around the house.”
“Uh huh,” her eyes narrowed then she just shook her head, “whatever, keep your mysteries.” She took the money for the purchase from the pile herself as he had backed away from the counter defensively. She flicked away a bit of link clinging to a coin. “The rest of that is yours,” she nodded to the change. He swept the money off the counter and crammed into his pocket, opposite the one that he had shoved his precious secret note she noted, and hesitantly took his bags of pretzels and drink which he only took after some prompting with a shake of the bags. “Thanks for visiting Pretzelmaniacal, enjoy your pretzels and please come again,” she droned as she was required to. Under her breath she added, “I’m sure you will,” with a strained smile.
“Yeah, thanks. See ya Charlie.”
“Yeah, lates Dillan,” Charlie said disinterested, fishing her magazine back from beneath the counter.
“It’s Derrick actually,” Derrick said as he backed away.
Charlie flipped the page and pretended to be totally engrossed with the contents, “Yeah, that’s what I said.”
She watched him walk away from the edge of her vision until he was gone. He was heading in one direction then suddenly swerved in a different direction as if he had a change of mind. Charlie grunted, annoyed. So he was heading for the escalator to watch from the upstairs balcony. She knew all the good viewpoints in the mall from her own ‘hobby.’ What the hell was up with that boy?
Her shift ended a few hours mercifully enough. The unwanted attention of her ‘favorite’ customer from earlier had hovered in the periphery of her vision most of the rest of the afternoon until just before her boss’s arrival. As was typical, she dismissed her guests just when she saw her coming to her booth, sending the babies back to their respective mothers to be wherever they were. Elise seemed to have a rather large moral chip on her shoulder and had given Charlie a hard time the one time she had decided to hold on to the pregnancy for the trip home. The lecture on responsibility and how she was personally responsible for the collapse of western civilization was enough for her to end the temporary pregnancy in mid rant causing Elise to suddenly lapse in her train of thought and end the rant. As nice as it would be to be able to relax at home and enjoy the purloined belly, it just wasn’t worth the trouble. She’d look for any new ones on the way out of the mall but none crossed her path. Not being in the mood to hang around the mall any further she just headed out to the parking lot.
The one purely upside to accepting the purgatory of a summer job was that as part of the deal her parents had given her a car. Well, a van anyways. It was hers, with the condition that she maintained a good school grade average (easy enough) and worked to pay the insurance and gas herself. It wasn’t the most impressive of vehicles, a simple white van that was used for a delivery service before being retired, but it ran okay and got her where she needed to go with little fuss. The freedom of her own wheels had been intoxicating but blunted by the fact that she was tied to a job. ‘Part of growing up’ her parents had chimed. Bah. Humbug. Still, she was proud of her ride, inherent responsibilities or no.
She was just fishing the keys from her pockets when she heard the slap of running feet on the asphalt, faint at first then rapidly growing. Realizing that there was someone (rapidly) coming towards her. “Danny!” she muttered as she recognized who it was. She scowled, balling her fists suspiciously.
Stumbling to a halt about twenty feet away was that boy again. He was clearly winded, face red and gulping for air. He held a hand up as if to ward away her clear annoyance and then a finger to signal that he need a moment to recover. Hands on his knees he took deep breathes and fought to will his breathing to normal. In one hand he held the mysterious slip of paper from before. He tried to say her name and only managed a croak then went back to gulping for air again waving for her to wait again. Charlie crossed her arms and waited with what little patience she had left. She was somewhat curious about why this boy seemed to have taken a new leap in his stalking. She felt disturbed but felt she might as well hear him out, if for no other reason than to feel fully justified in the anger that was mounting.
“Charlie,” he finally managed between inhalations.
“Yeah?” she prompted when he paused taking breathes again.
He swallowed and straightened himself up. His mouth moved to speak again and he gave her a quick look over then paused. He seemed to have become mentally lost again, swaying where he was for a moment.
“Okay, whatever, bye,” Charlie finally had enough. She turned and unlocked the van door, opening it to get in.
“No no, wait!”
Charlie turned back to him, giving him a very serious look. “Stop following me, okay? I see you again and there’s going to be trouble, got it?” She stabbed a finger at him for emphasis.
She had gotten in and was just reaching to slam the door shut when he glanced down at the paper he had a death grip of in his hand then suddenly blurted something out that made her pause with a chill.
Charlie paused and had to actually give a quick look to confirm she wasn’t then turned to him slowly, eyes wide. “What?”
The boy shuffled from foot to foot and rubbed his head with one hand, “I mean, you were, earlier,” he gulped and looked her in the eye, “you’re not now, but you were. When I bought the pretzels.”
Now it was Charlie’s turn to stare dumbly. She blinked, swallowed out and forced out a soft laugh. “D-don’t be stupid, of course I’m not. I wasn’t,” she leaned back in her seat to offer the irrefutable evidence of her currently unpregnant state, “See?”
The boy shook his head. He seemed to be having an internal battle that was making it difficult to form coherent sentence. “No. No, you were, and, and,” he stammered and prodded a finger at the paper in his hand, “this isn’t the first time. Sometimes you’re pregnant and sometimes you’re not,” he was clearly in distress, turning in circles and muttering to himself as he gathered the courage to go on, “I don’t remember it well, but I have been more lately.”
He took a few steps towards the astonished Charlie, offering his carefully guarded note then backed away. Charlie numbly took it and after a moment looked down to exam it. Her breath caught as she realized what it was.
“See, I wrote it down,” Derrick smiled hysterically as a look of dawning realization came across Charlie’s face, “I watched you, and I wrote down if you were or weren’t pregnant every time I saw you.”
There were two columns on the page of loose leaf paper with a series of checks, either in a column labeled ‘is pregnant’ or ‘isn’t pregnant’. Along the left margin there were a series of dates and times, some dates repeated but with different times. Thinking for a moment she realized that they were accurate. The most recent were coincided with her work schedule but the older ones she realized were from times when he must have been to her house with her brother Jon. They started about two months ago. He gave her a moment to digest the information then started rambling again when she looked back up to him.
“See, see?” he looked a little crazed, as if he expected for her to refute him but grew more confident when she didn’t. “I started noticing it and wrote it down cause I couldn’t remember if I didn’t,” he spun around again and then took a few more steps towards her, lowering his voice, “I don’t know how you do it, but I know it’s happening, right?”
Charlie was dumbstruck. No one had noticed anything before. No one. Not her parents which had seen her pregnant and not so on too many occasions to count. They never reacted as if there was anything unusual going on. Elise reacted with disdain but even then she didn’t seem to act like it was unusual, just distasteful. Not the innumerable people that had witnessed her doing it in public with no attempt to hide it. Not Mrs. Robbin from next door who had been her first go to person when it came to borrowing pregnancies before she had her baby. And Charlie had come to her dozens of times when she felt the urge and had used the hat directly in front of her dozens of times, at point blank range usually while in the middle of a conversation without so much as a hint of anything being amiss. But somehow, he had. Not only noticed but clearly had gone out of his way to document it, record it and confront her with his evidence. A cold chill went up her spine. She couldn’t deny it. She could, but she knew he’d never believe her. The look on her face was clearly all the confirmation he needed.
“What do you want?” she quietly asked after a minute of silence.
“Want?” he seemed confused by the question and took a step back looking less confident than he had just been a moment ago.
She held the paper up to him. “What do you want Derrick?” his name finally clicked her head, given the circumstance. “You’ve been following me around, you’ve been writing this stuff down, what do you want from me?” she felt a deep fear she hadn’t known before creeping up and the gravity of her situation was quickly overcoming her. Where was he going with this? The thought occurred to her, would he demand the hat to keep quiet? She considered retreating out of there as quickly as she could but realized that with her nerves as they were now she was certain she wouldn’t make it out the parking lot without crashing.
He stared for a moment then shook his head suddenly, “No, I don’t want anything!” he blurted out. “I just want…” he paused and seemed to rethink what he was saying, “I just would like to know, how do you do it?”
Charlie looked him over critically. He seemed frightened, curious and...something else. She didn’t feel like he meant any harm, just that he was overwhelmed with the discovery of something impossible that had made him question his sanity. It was a rather rare of moment of empathy on Charlie’s part. She had initially been shocked at the discovery of the hat’s ability but had overcome it quickly with the thrill of actually using it. He was clearly distressed with the knowledge that something that shouldn’t be able to happen was. He looked on the verge of tumbling over the edge and running through the streets screaming. She wondered why he was having such a much harder time coming to grips with this. She figured she must be simply more mentally robust than him. “Yes, that must be it,” she thought to herself, “after all, I am pretty awesome.” She decided it was safe enough, but she still needed to know something.
“Okay, tell you what,” she started, “you tell me how you figured this all out and I’ll think about it.”
He seemed to relax and smiled a little, “alright, fair enough.” He looked around the parking lot, “You want to go somewhere to talk?”
Charlie nodded. She wanted to get to the bottom of this sooner rather than later, “Yeah, I kinda want to get something to eat.”
Derrick lit up suddenly. He reached around to his back pocket and pulled out a rolled up bag, “Want some pretzels?” he unfolded the bag started to reach inside, “I still got some left.”
“No!” Charlie laughed, leaning away.
“They’re not too mangled?” Derrick offered again with a smirk.
Charlie wrinkled her nose and tried to contain a grin, “No, thanks, really.”
“They’re warm?” he held the bag out to her face.
“Seriously, don’t make me punch you,” Charlie swatted the bag away and cocked a fist back. Derrick feigned fear, cringing away from her and they shared a laugh. “C’mon, get in,” Charlie reached across and unlocked the passenger door.
Derrick ran around to the other side enthusiastically and hopped up to the seat, “Thanks, seriously.”
“Yeah, well, get started. Start from the beginning,” Charlie ordered more seriously as she backed out of the parking space.
“Okay, so it was a few weeks ago, right after school let out…” Derrick began with a deep breath.
This is the first part of a new story involving Charlie. It was too big (hurk hurk) to fit into one deviation so I split it into two parts. If you read them out of order, it probably won't make sense. Well, less sense anyways. This story is preceded almost directly by 'Charlie: Interim' located elsewhere on my page. Enjoy.