The Night that Never Ended p10

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Literature Text

The throne room of the palace had changed much in the last few months. The once sunny and pristine white walls and floor were now permanently shrouded in shadows. Moonlight streamed in from the vaulted windows crisply, keeping the darkest of the shadows locked to the corners. A deeply purple carpet ran from the double doors to the foot of the throne, where Trixie was currently prostrating herself.

Trixie looked up at her queen standing above her. Much taller than any other pony, except maybe Celestia, Nightmare Moon glared down at her. The purple and black flames of her mane flared to suit her mood, casting their own version of light through the room. Any sort of artificial light was strictly prohibited in the throne room, but none was needed in the presence of the goddess pony.

Currently, the flames simmered low, a sure sign of rising anger. When Nightmare Moon spoke, the voice was lighter than one would expect from such a dark figure. "Trixie. This report is…disturbing. You went behind my back, and the back of a pony I trust dearly, to spy on the leader of my airforce?" The voice was gentle, almost seductive even. Trixie knew without looking that her queen's face would hold no softness, however. "You are aware, of course, that this is a breach of rank and confidentiality."

"I know, oh glorious Mare of Night. I was foolish and vain to take such an action, and it was an insult to your wisdom for me to believe that a pony near you might be disloyal." She bit her lip nervously, but she had to continue now, "However, I think that the evidence is insurmountable."

She dared a glance up at Nightmare Moon. The flames had returned to a more normal height, but the goddess stared at Trixie in scrutiny. After a few moments, her horn flashed and the report that Trixie had handwritten appeared in a flash of green smoke. "Yes, your 'evidence'. Let's see here, you've written that my captain has known about the location of one of Equestria's most wanted ponies for several days without telling me, taken her lieutenant to follow up on it, and then got herself captured by…Rainbow Dash, Twilight Sparkle, two other fugitives, and entire town of ponies that the captain herself killed 10 months ago? And furthermore, you hypothesize that the captain did all of this intentionally, and is now working with a resistance movement?" The paper vanished in another puff, and Trixie suddenly became nervous. It hadn't sounded that ridiculous when she had written it.

"Y-yes, oh Most Noble of Rulers." Trixie heard hooftsteps, and raised her head enough to see Nightmare Moon descending the steps from the throne. She heard her circle around and around, and could feel the movement in the air as a regal hoof stepped past her hair.

"Trixie, I have given you no small amount of my own power, and in the past you have proved quite adept at using it to both of our benefits." Nightmare Moon looked toward a window, where her namesake hung high in the sky. "I obviously cannot be everywhere at once, and so rely on ponies like you to enforce my will across this hate-filled world. And by 'ponies like you', I very specifically include my captain." Trixie shuddered involuntarily as she heard Nightmare Moon stop moving, knowing that her gaze was fixed on her. "I've always know you to be ambitious, Trixie, and if you could possibly harm me in any way I would have never let you grow close to me. As it stands, it seems to me that you've reached the limit of your ambitions, and now your jealousy of the captain has led you to become paranoid and see fanciful visions in your own spells."

"N-no, your majesty! I know what I saw, and my spells have never-"

"At least, that's what I hope it was, Trixie." A hoof propped itself under Trixie's chin, and Trixie raised her head to see Nightmare Moon's eyes directly in front of her. "Twilight Sparkle is dead, foal, I killed her myself. And if you didn't misread your spell, it would mean that you are lying to me. And if you are lying to me, the loyalty of the captain will be the least of your concerns."

Nightmare Moon turned and strode back towards her throne. Trixie's mind was racing, If she doesn't believe that the captain was captured, I won't be able to attack New Ponyville at all. If I can't attack New Ponyville, then I can't prove what I'm saying. But she won't let me attack without proof first. Desperately, she cried out to the back of her retreating queen.

"Y-your majesty! When was the last time you heard from the captain?"

Nightmare Moon froze. Slowly, she turned her head back over her shoulder, and to Trixie's relief they wore not a scowl of indignant rage but a frown. A frown is good, she thought, it means that's she's listening at least.

"That's none of your concern, Guard Captain. Was there anything else?"

"Your majesty, please, how long will you wait for her to come back before you listen to your most humble servant? Allow me to take a scouting party into the Everfree forest at least, every day that we wait for her to return is a day that she could be executed or be planning with the enemy." She could see that the queen remained unconvinced, and so stooped from her ornate rhetoric to common logic: "Besides, what do you have to lose?"

Nightmare Moon's face was twisted in thought, and after a moment she snorted and returned her gaze to her throne. "Fine. Take whatever men you require to chase your ghosts, but you are to use only your own resources in this fool's errand. I don't care how you waste your time, but you will not waste mine as well."

"And if the captain was, indeed, captured by the ponies? Or turned traitor?"

Nightmare Moon sat back in her throne and studied the pony beneath her, her face unreadable. "If the captain is out there, for any reason, she is to be brought back to me. Alive, you ambitious worm. Now go, the duties of this pestilent kingdom call to me."

Trixie stood and curtsied her way backwards toward the door. As the large doors slammed shut of their own accord behind her, she sighed in relief. It may not have gone as well as I planned, but I have what I need. Now all I need is the captain herself, and…

A bang of static went off inside her head, followed by a low pitched whine. Mentally turning off her alarm spell, she hurried down the corridor. My oh my, speak of the devil.


Rainbow Dash was angry.

She wasn't angry that the captain had been the Rainbow Dash from this world. She wasn't angry that she had been knocked out after setting her free. She wasn't even angry after her friends told her everything that had happened during that day.

She was angry because she was bored.

"I want to leave, Twilight!" Dash yelled across the room from her bed. Nurse Redheart had expressly forbidden her from moving for the at least three days after she had been dragged out from under the crates. Her injured hoof hung suspended from a sling, except this time it was tied in. She struggled fruitlessly for a second and then shot a glare at her friend.

Twilight didn't look up from where she was sitting on the floor, instead using her magic to turn another page in her book. Dash rattled her contraption noisily until Twilight looked up in annoyance. Sighing, she stood and walked to the other pony's side.

"Rainbow Dash, you've only been in bed for a few hours since you woke up. How can you possibly be so bored already?" Twilight adjusted the bedsheets around her friend, which Rainbow Dash immediately messed up again by moving around.

"Because I haven't moved since then, Twilight! I want to go stretch my wings, or at least my hooves." She frowned at her bindings. They were surprisingly durable for pieces of cloth.

"Rainbow Dash, Rarity and Applejack are still…trying to work out what happened last night. Seeing you, but not you, and then Rarity almost…" The unicorn looked to the ground, and Rainbow Dash felt a surge of guilt.

"I know, Twi. What I did was stupid, I should never have let her go." Dash looked at her bed, suddenly not wanting to leave her house very much at all.

"No, that's not what I meant. Like I told you, err, the captain, I think you did the right thing by letting her go." Twilight smiled bashfully at her friend. "You took action for what you thought was right, and in the end it didn't work out so badly, did it?" After all, the prisoner had been saved and nopony else was hurt.

"Not so badly? Twilight, I'm not allowed to move for three days! And I saw the way Applejack was looking at me when she walked me back here. Rarity couldn't even meet my eyes, Twilight; they're scared of me! They look at me and"

"Stop it, Rainbow Dash." Twilight's voice was stern now, her smile gone. "Just stop right there. I know where this is going, and you're wrong. You aren't the captain, and anypony who looks at you and sees her doesn't know you like I do."

Rainbow Dash looked up at her friend. Despite her mood, she couldn't help but smile. She was actually touched by Twilight's words, not something that happened often to the blue pegasus. Still, the shadow of doubt nagged at her, and she averted her gaze."I…I'm not so sure, Twi. Look at our other friends that we've seen so far! Pinkie lost her laughter and her sanity, Fluttershy still seems the same, and Rarity's generosity is going to kill everypony. These are still our friends, Twilight. These are the same ponies that helped us defeat Nightmare Moon, but put into impossible situations." She looked down at her legs, not wanting to risk meeting Twilght's eyes. "I thought that that could never happen to me, but now I've seen the captain, and I work for Nightmare Moon? I don't know how I fell so far, Twilight, but somehow I did. Not some pony that looks like me, but me."

Twilight looked down at her friend and noticed a tear roll down her cheek. She wanted to comfort her, but she knew that this was something Dash had to say. "Twilight," she continued, "I can feel myself changing. I look at Pinkie Pie now and I'm not sorry for her, I'm happy that she found a way to escape from all of this. Even Fluttershy seems…noble, I guess."

Twilight blinked. "Fluttershy? What's wrong with her? I thought she adapted remarkably well." Rainbow Dash opened her mouth but hesitated, and Twilight could see conflict in her eyes. "Rainbow Dash, please, tell me. I want to help."

Dash choked back a sob, but began to speak. "I know you do, Twi. I wanted to help you too, that's why I didn't tell you. But you don't deserve to have anything hidden from you, not from me. Fluttershy is…killing animals. There was a stable in the woods where she had a bunch of them holed up, and she was killing them one by one to feed this town."

Twilight's stomach churned. "F-feed? Rainbow Dash, we have the mushrooms. Why would she-"

"The mushrooms aren't enough. They don't have all the nutrients we need. When you boil the meat in a stew with the mushrooms, we can digest it enough to stay alive." Rainbow Dash wiped her eyes with her good hoof and sniffed. "When I found out, I tried to make her stop. She would have let me kill her, but when she told me that I would be killing everypony…I don't know if it was my loyalty to her or her reasons or if I was still too weak to take a life, but I couldn't do it. I let her keep killing so that everypony could live."

Rainbow Dash looked up at Twilight's whose mind was racing. Fluttershy is killing animals? So that she can save lives? She's betraying her own element of harmony for us?

"I…Rainbow Dash…I think I can understand. I might not have then, but being here for so long-"


Twilight was taken aback by Dash's yell, whose face was desperate and pleading. "No Twilight, don't understand. Don't sympathize with her, please. Call her a monster, condemn her, but don't let this world corrupt you too!"

Twilight looked down in surprise at her friend. Dash's eyes begged Twilight, but she didn't know what for. "Wh-what do you want from me, Rainbow Dash?" Twilight was trying to work with her friend, but she was beginning to worry about the head wound from the boxes. "You're not making sense. You want me to hate you for what you did?"

"Yes, I mean…ugh, it's all so complicated now!" She tried to throw her hooves down in frustration, but only succeeded in tangling her hoof's harness. "It's like, I didn't know what to do after that. I just wanted to go home more than anything, but I didn't know if I could. Do I even belong in our world after what I've seen? After what I did in letting her continue? I thought, 'maybe if I can keep one shred of innocence alive, hold on to just one thing from our world, I'll deserve to go back."

"And you chose me." Twilight didn't know what else to say. In a horrible way, she was beginning to see what Rainbow Dash was saying. What would they do if they got back home? Can I really go back to tending the library every day? To letting Rarity design dresses for me? Her stomach dropped at the next thought, to seeing Spike?

"Rainbow Dash, this…I…" she looked at her friend's pleading eyes, wanting so much to be hated like the monster she thought she was. "I…don't agree with you. What Fluttershy did was wrong. What she's doing is wrong. I understand why you let her continue, but she's a monster." The words sickened Twilight, but for her friend, she could lie. "She's a murderer, just like Rarity, and she doesn't deserve our pity."

Dash looked up at her friend with relief, though she tried not to show it. "Twilight, what do you think of me now?"

Twilight's heart nearly broke when she looked at her friend. She was painfully fragile, her body and spirit on the point of breaking. Twilight knew what she wanted to hear, but she couldn't bear to shatter her friend. "Rainbow Dash, I…I love you. You're my best friend in all of this, and I never would have made it this far without you. If that means I'm not innocent enough, then I'm sorry, but I need you. Anything you do, I'll be by your side, and I'll always try to understand it."

Rainbow Dash's eyes slowly closed as she lay back in bed, letting out a sigh. "Twilight…I'm sorry. I'm sorry I can't be as strong as you, I'm sorry you have to pick up my slack all the time. I thought that maybe…maybe if protected you, it would make up for me being so weak." Tears began to flow freely down her cheek from her gently closed eyes. "But you're stronger than that, I think. You never needed me to protect your innocence, it was too strong to be broken by this world." She opened her eyes and took Twilight's hoof gently. "I love you too, Twi, and I never want to leave you hanging. Try and understand what I do, but please don't agree with it."

Twilight smiled as her friend slowly fell asleep, but inside she screamed. She wanted to be everything Dash was, to be the mare that took the blows for her friend, but now she couldn't.

She can never know, she thought, that I already agree with her Fluttershy.


The captain closed the door to her office behind her, sighing in relief. The flight back to her office had been nerve wracking; if even one pony saw her without her uniform…but one did not become captain of the Shadowbolts without knowing a few backdoors. Making sure the door was locked, she turned to a chest against her wall. Popping the top open with one hoof, she caught movement out of the corner of her eye.

Whipping around in surprise, she was faced with the scowling face…in her mirror. She sighed and took a deep breath, stepping forward to look at herself. It's been so long, she thought, since I've seen that face.

She raised a hoof to her face tentatively. The feeling of her own coat had become unfamiliar to her hooves. It seems so much coarser than remember. She stroked her face slowly, examining her features. How long had she worn those goggles for? How many clones of that smile had she seen in her underlings? It felt…strange…to be different again.

She shook her head clear. No, I've always been different. When ponies think of the Shadowbolts, they think of me. So what if they don't know my name? I know who I am, I know what I've done.

Oh crap, what have I done.

She had let Ponyville live. If Nightmare Moon ever found out that she had let them live once, she'd be dead for certain. If she discovered that they were allowed to live twice, the captain would be wishing for death. Of course, Nightmare Moon had never found out the first time, and with a little finesse, she didn't have to find out about this most recent incident either.

She walked back over to her chest, pulling a uniform out. She stepped into it, pulling it up around her legs with her teeth and pushing her wings through the back. Her flank tingled and she looked over her shoulder, watching the captain insignia form above her cutie mark. Shadowbolts didn't often have to change their uniform, but the same enchantment that kept their features obscured also recognized whether the wearer was a soldier. Without such measures, anypony could claim that they were a high ranking officer that lost their uniform.

She took a last glance at the mirror, her new mask hanging in her mouth. Had she been caught without her uniform, she could have proved that she was, in fact, the captain. But nopony had known who she really, was, not even the lieutenant. Not until she had shown Rainbow Dash.

Blast, and I didn't even get a chance to talk to her, she grumbled as she pulled the mask over her head. All that effort, all that searching, and all I know is that she's me from some other world, and the Twilight from that world is still alive. Perhaps if I had went back and…no, it's too risky.

She didn't want to admit it to herself, but she had been stupid. Going there once got Spitfire killed, and if anypony knew that I had spared three known fugitives and two ponies of high interest, I'd be arrested for sure. If anypony even knew that I had been to New Ponyville and hadn't reported it, it would be enough to convict me of treason.

A knock on the door interrupted the captain's thoughts. Closing her trunk, she turned towards it. Who the hell is that? Nopony should even know that I'm back-

A low whine warned the captain that something was amiss, and she dove behind her desk just as the door exploded. After the splinters finished raining down around her, she stood up in fury.

"Ah, Captain, you've finally returned to us." Trixie strode into the room grinning ear to ear, Royal Guard ponies flocking through behind her. "I'm here to inform you of some wonderful news. I'm placing you under arrest for treason!"


Rarity tossed and turned in her sleep. She dreamed she was flying over Ponyville, all the ponies beneath her cheering for her. She showered them with fresh oats and water, the liquid glittering in the sun. As the water fell, the mist left behind created rainbows that trailed behind her as she floated above her adoring town.

She followed the rainbows with her gaze and found that they led not to her, but to the pony she was standing on. Oh, silly me, of course I can't fly! I'm standing on top of Rainbow Dash! Rarity bent down and hugged her friend around the neck, but Rainbow Dash said nothing. She just kept flying around in circles, the ponies beneath Rarity jumping and reaching for her. But as she looked down, she noticed that some faces in the crowd were growing mean. Somepony yelled, then another, and then the cheering was gone and snarls of rage came from the crowd.

Recoiling in fright, Rarity tried to pull Rainbow Dash up farther away from the crowd. To Rarity's horror, however, she only began descending at a steeper angle. Slowly around and around Rainbow Dash flew, her circle constricting as her altitude dropped. The ponies grew fiercer with every inch, their hooves raking the air just inches from Rainbow Dash.

"Rainbow Dash, please I need you!" Rarity yelled at the mute pony below her, but there was no answer. "You died for me, darling! You let me lead these ponies, don't let me die to them!"

A pony jumped and clamped down on Dash's hoof, dragging her down instantly. Rarity tumbled from her back into the crowd, and Dash was gone. The rabid faces of her citizens leered above her before the circle of light closed and she screamed.

"Wha!? Rarity, what's wrong!?"

Rarity scrambled madly, tangling herself in her sheets and falling off the bed. She felt herself hauled to her feet a moment later, and a lantern was lit. The outline of Applejack was revealed, her face concerned. "Rarity, I could hear you screaming all the way down the hall. You ok, sugarcube?"

Rarity breathed deeply and tried to quiet her heart. "I…yes, I'm fine Applejack, thank you for the concern. Just a bit of a nightmare, I'm afraid." She sat down on the edge of her bed. "Yes, just a…a random nightmare. Happens to the best of us, right?"

Applejack sat down next to her, her face stubborn. "You'll forgive me if I don't buy that, Rarity. You screamed out Rainbow Dash's name, so I think 'random' is out of the question." She put the lantern down on a night table and turned to her friend. "If you don't wanna talk about it, I understand, but no need to lie to me sugarcube."

"I'm sorry, Applejack, I'm just confused is all." She waited for a moment, but Applejack was all ears. Not wanting to shoo her friend away rudely, she let herself open up.  "For so long, I believed that Rainbow Dash sacrificed herself for us. But to look up to her for so long, and then to find that she is an enemy, but not really an enemy, but she hates me, I just, uh…" She trailed off and looked sheepishly at Applejack. "Like I said, confusing."

"I know whatchya mean, Rarity. You always told me that Dash gave ya the strength to lead these ponies." She raised a hoof to her face, stifling a yawn, "just remember sugarcube, you always did your best. Whatever reasons Rainbow Dash had for doin' what she did, she betrayed us. You've got to be strong enough to lead these ponies without, or even against, her."

"I hope I am, Applejack. I just don't know what to think anymore. I just…need some time. To clear my head." She looked longingly at her bed. "It would just be nice if I could sleep peacefully, too."

Applejack snickered and stood, looking down at her friend. "Well Rarity, I can't help ya much there. I'm always here if ya need to talk, sugarcube, and I'll be staying here for as long as it takes for ya to feel better. Just give me a yell whenever ya need me."

With a final smile, she turned and left. Rarity lay back down in bed and turned down the lantern to a soft glow, letting it keep the dark of the room at bay. Rainbow Dash is no longer my friend, she thought, I can't afford to let her be. She may have let me live, but she would kill everypony here if she had the chance. Not to mention she's arrogant, self-righteous, a traitor…

Listing the captain's faults helped Rarity to fall asleep, the thoughts substituting themselves for arguments for why the captain was wrong. Just beneath the surface, however, she knew that she was putting off the inevitable. Sooner or later, she would have to face the captain's accusations.


The next morning, Twilight awoke peacefully. By habit, her mind scrambled through the previous day's events, trying to remember what horrible tragedy was due to befall them all today. To her surprise, she found nothing.

Smiling a little to herself, she got out of bed and made some breakfast. Her new house was two stories and rather ornate for New Ponyville, something that she felt guilty about. But there was no imminent danger to her and her friends, nopony was about to die, and Rainbow Dash was stuck in her house and physically unable to hurt herself. For the first time since arriving in this world, Twilight Sparkle had a chance to relax.

As she munched on some mushrooms, she pulled a notebook across the table to her. Idly, she began calculating and reasoning, trying to find why they had come here. Free time had been rare in the last few days, but the notebook boasted an impressive collection of random figures, long equations, and ornate doodles.

She sighed as this new equation proved self contradictory. Perhaps I'm going about this the wrong way, she thought. This is something nopony had ever done before, teleporting a non-unicorn pony into another dimension. She sighed and finished her breakfast, pushing the notebook away from her. If only there was some book, any book, on the subject. Developing my own research could take years, and even then would require cruel experiments on other ponies.

She looked at the book again for a long moment, and reluctantly pulled it back towards her. If she had the opportunity, it would be an insult to Dash to not help them both get home. She flipped through the pages with her magic, scanning all of her work. Is there some sort of pattern I'm not seeing? I know my math is right, but it all comes out wrong. Always wrong, always self contradictory, like a regular…pattern?

At first Twilight scoffed at the thought, but after a moment she caught herself. Ok, fine, technically all that means is that my math is probably not wrong. But if my math isn't wrong, that means my premises are wrong. But my only premises are what I've read in other books by more learned ponies, and if those are wrong, they who knows what's right! She sighed, plopping her head down in between the pages of the book. Of course they were wrong; nopony had ever done this before. She had only ever read theories on the subject, since nopony actually knew how to teleport between dimensions.

Her next step promised a lot of work in her future, but it was unavoidable. Wincing a little at the sound, she magically pulled out every page that she had written on from the book. Ok, start from the beginning, ignore what other ponies have said. What do I know about teleporting…


Rainbow Dash opened her eyes as she heard a knock on the door. Adjusting herself in bed, she called out "Come on in, Twilight!"

The door opened a crack to reveal the face of an orange pony. "It's me, Dash. Err, can I still come in?"

Rainbow Dash nodded and Applejack entered the room. Both ponies avoided each other's gaze, not fully comfortable in the other's presence. Rainbow Dash tried to wait patiently for her visitor to say whatever she had come to say, but the room was quickly getting awkward. "So, Applejack, uh…how are you?"

Rainbow Dash mentally hit her head with her own hoof repeatedly, but outside she tried her best to smile warmly at her new friend. Applejack was obviously off balance, and muttered under her breath to herself. Finally, she gritted her teeth and turned her gaze to Rainbow Dash, "Rainbow Dash, I am doing well, thank you." She gave a small nod to herself, proud that she accomplished her goal.

Rainbow Dash waited patiently for more to come, but Applejack just stood there. "Was there, uh, something I could help you with, Applejack?"

The orange pony started, remembering why she had come. "Oh! Right. Well, uh, this ain't easy to say, Dash, but I think I need to get if off ma' chest." She struggled to find her next words, trying to put her next words tactfully. "I…I wanted to apologize, actually. For myself and Rarity."

Dash blinked. All this tension for an apology? "Sorry? For what, Applejack?"

"For not listening to you and Twilight. I was, well, I was downright stupid to call for their deaths so soon. I should have pushed her to pump those Shadowbolts for information first, but instead I got all caught up in…well, I don't rightly know what happened, to be honest with ya." She looked down at the floor, kicking a hoof back and forth. "And I'm sorry in advance for what's coming next. I'm worried about Rarity, Rainbow Dash. She woke up last night screaming your name, and I don't know if she has the strength to handle what happened to her. I'm trying to be there for her as much as I can, but…well, it might be better for everypony if you just lay low for a few days, sugarcube."

Rainbow Dash was slightly torn by this. Sure, she had expected her friends to not fully trust her anymore, but to actually hear it was another thing. On the other hoof, Applejack had apologized to her, something that was relatively rare even in her home world. Rainbow Dash was hurt but also a little warmed, and the conflict prompted a question. "Applejack, I need to know: what do you and Rarity think of me right now, exactly? You know that I would never betray you, right?"

Applejack looked up at Dash, but withered beneath her pleading gaze. "I…I know, Rainbow Dash. Whatever happened to the captain to make her that way, you're obviously the Rainbow Dash we thought we knew. But Rarity? I don't know, sugarcube. She's not really doing so hot right now, and I don't think she fully understands what happened with the first Rainbow Dash, never mind you."

"So you're ok with me here, but Rarity isn't?" Dash was glad that she didn't have to put up with the headache that Rarity and Applejack did. She knew who she was, and she knew that the captain was not her at all. Kinda.

"Yea, I'm ok sugarcube. I just keep telling myself that you aren't her, and I can keep going until I have time to get it more sorted out." She backed up towards the door, nudging it open, "just be patient with Rarity, ok? I don't really know what's going to happen next, but I'm worried about her."

Dash lay back as Applejack left the room. She was just trying to protect her friend, she knew. Rarity was vulnerable right now, and Applejack was just trying to look after her. Dash smiled as she pulled the soft covers up to her chin, sinking back into the bed. Trying to protect a friend was something that Rainbow Dash could understand, and she was willing to be bored if it meant that Rarity would come out of this ok. Not that I have much choice, she thought, looking at her tied sling. It really was awfully strong for a piece of cloth.


The captain's vision swam back into focus, just in time to see the hoof come back for another swing. Her head was knocked sideways as this punch caught her on the jaw, blood and spittle flying out of her mouth.


The captain recognized the voice instantly. She didn't need to lift her head to know that Trixie had finally walked into the room herself. The captain heard the Royal Guard next to her step back, and lifted her head to watch him walk out of the room.

The room itself was grey and well lit, though from no obvious light source. The captain knew that she was in one of Trixie's infamous dungeons below the palace, but where in the labyrinth she was she had no idea. She was tied to a chair with a table in front of her, and now Trixie was taking a seat opposite her.

Looking at the captain, Trixie couldn't help but be disappointed. Two hours in here, and all that her underlings had managed to accomplish were a black eye and a little blood? She made a note to give them a firsthand experience of real torture after she was done here. On the plus side, the captain's mask had finally been removed. She knew from experience how strong the enchantments on those things were; if a Shadowbolt didn't want his mask taken off, you had better have a lot of magic at your disposal. Which, of course, I do, Trixie thought to herself.

With the face of the captain finally revealed to her, Trixie couldn't help but chuckle to herself. "No wonder Nightmare Moon didn't believe that you had been captured by Rainbow Dash. She will, though, in due time." She figured the captain would be a sobbing wreck after so much 'attention' by her minions, practiced or not, and she still clung to the hope that her relatively unharmed face was only an appearance.

Her mental image of the captain was shattered when she saw the grin. The grin that said "Oh, hello Trixie, I hadn't noticed you there." Trixie hated that grin, and she knew that the captain knew that she hated it. Trixie really, really, hated the captain.

As if to confirm her thoughts, the captain spoke, "Oh, hello Trixie."

"I could kill you, you know that right?" Trixie had to throw her hard balls at the captain. Make her afraid, make her tremble, and she'll melt to putty right in my hooves.

"Yup. But you won't." The captain's grin never wavered.

"I know where the rebel base is, I know you were captured and somehow walked out unscathed, and I know that the pony with you died. I don't actually need a confession from you to execute you, but it would help smooth things along." Trixie gave her own grin at the captain, trying to unnerve her. Beneath her hood, her horn began to glow.

"Oh right, a confession to treason." The captain tried to lean forward and rest her hooves on the table, but was reminded that they were tied behind the chair. Settling for leaning back nonchalantly, she looked at her captor. "See, here's the position I'm in, Trixie. You and me, we're the right and left hooves of Her Majesty. The interesting thing about that, my good mare, is that we both answer to her and only her. I've said it before and I'll say it again, foal: I'm the damn captain of the Shadowbolts, and I report directly to Nightmare Moon."  She leaned forward as much as her binds would allow. "But we both know that that's not what this is really about. If you had gotten the go-ahead from Nightmare Moon, I would be dead already. And that means, she doesn't know about this. So why are you keeping me here, Trixie?" What are you trying to find out?

Trixie heard that last phrase directly in her mind via the link she had established while the captain was talking. Perhaps trying to worm her way into the captain's head for so many months had given her unnecessary practice with detecting her telepathic tricks. Trixie scowled, faced with that same infuriating grin.

She took a deep breath and put on her own mask of confidence, her lip curling on one side. "Captain, you're right. Nightmare Moon will never know about this little talk. You've been an annoyance to me for months, like a little tick that I could never quite detach. But I've got you now, and soon even Nightmare Moon will believe that you betrayed her."

The captain's grin wavered just a bit, giving Trixie all the reason she needed to keep going. "You're no longer a threat to me, captain. You're just another pegasus, one who got in my way and was dealt with in due time. I dare say that Nightmare Moon will find it all too believable that the infamous Rainbow Dash harbored loyalties to her childhood friends all along once I drag your body back." She raised her hoof, inspecting the edges down the sight of her nose. "You're mine now, captain, for as long as I decide to keep you alive. So to answer your question, I'm not trying to find anything out. I'm keeping you here because I want you to see me burn down that precious town that you're protecting."

"I'm not protecting it, foal. You arrested me before I had even made my report. When Nightmare Moon finds out about this, she'll kill you for treason, if not incompetence!" The captain was no longer smiling, which made Trixie grin all the more.

"Sadly, captain, you'll never have the chance to give that report. You see, me and my Royal Guard are on our way now to that blasted town, where we will stumble upon you just as you're exiting the gates. Seeing me, you will attack me viciously with several of your new friends, and I will have no choice but to defend myself." Trixie couldn't help but give a light laugh, commending her own brilliance. "I'll have someone sent in to prepare you, captain. After all, we both know that you'd never give up without a fight. I'm off to finish my report on how you attacked your lieutenant as proof of your loyalty to the rebels. It's rather heartbreaking, actually."

Trixie could hear the captain struggling in her bonds, and knew she had hit a nerve. She stood and walked out the door, making her way towards her office. Her army was ready, New Ponyville lay exposed, and the captain had been removed. As she passed under a vaulted window, Trixie couldn't help but feel a warm glow inside. The sense of imminent victory coursed through her like a drug, empowering her to prepare ever faster.
Google Docs Link: [link]

I have good news and bad news, bronies. The good news is that this story is officially over halfway done! I don't have an exact length planned out yet, but this is the start of the third section out of four. Also, I (just barely) got it up before midnight, meaning that I remained on schedule!

Which, of course, brings me to the bad news. Starting next chapter, every new installment will be uploaded every 3-4 days, instead of the current 2 days. Now that summer is in full swing, I have to split my time between family, friends, travelling, moving, job hunting, and writing. Sadly, writing falls pretty low on the priority queue there, and so I had to make a choice.

I could either upload a crappy, mostly unedited chapter every 2 days, or I can take the time that this story deserves to sit down, brainstorm, and plan out a serious chapter two or 3 times a week. For people reading each new chapter as they come out, I'm sorry, but if I got this far in this series and then ruined it because I wanted to keep a timetable, I'd never forgive myself.
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RadiantVoid's avatar
Great read as always.

Alt Trixie is a bit evil for my tastes, but we never really saw how she deals with... well anything.

I'm loving the mental battle between the Shadowbolt Captain and Trixie: very interesting and you could practically see them get on eachother's nerves.

I also am liking the conflict between Twilight and Twilight's self and RD and herself. They know that what each of their alt-friends does is WRONG, but both also see how it's a course of action that was needed. Twilight being conflicted on preserving the appearance of 'innocence' to Rainbow for the sake of Rainbow Dash was a brilliant touch.

How you dealt with the reactions of Applejack and Rarity to the events were also very much in character, and it helped lift Rarity out of her one-dimensional funk. She seems much more 'real' now than she did in the last chapter or two.

5/5 for this chapter. I'm practically twitching with adrenaline with all the excitement. Very in character characters (even the ones who aren't quite our characters), great lines, interesting take on the premise. Neither side is a paragon of virtue, although it IS obvious who the lesser evil is. Brilliant.