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The Night that Never Ended p11

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Rarity brushed a hoof across her desk, sweeping most of the papers to the floor. Slowly and delicately, she smoothed out a pristine page before her, the only one remaining on her table. She read it twice, committing the words to memory, and picked it up with her magic to be placed in her desk drawer. With it safely tucked away, she sat back and smiled.

I've done it, she thought triumphantly, rereading the page over and over in her head. Ten months, Celestia knows how much death, but I did it. A grin began to form across her face as she strode to the curtained window. I've given and given and they've finally accepted.

Her horn lit up as she pulled the curtains back, stepping up to see the sight before her. Her office overlooked the center of the town, and below her ponies went about their lives. To a casual observer, they looked little different than they had two days before, but to Rarity's eyes the world had changed.

A teal earth pony walked down the street with another mare, talking and giggling. A colt sat against a wall smiling, whiling away his time. Somewhere in the distance, Rarity could hear a group of mares singing, the off-key notes broken by laughter. Ponies looked ahead of them instead of at the ground, they stood up straight with their shoulders out, and every now and then one would glance toward the ceiling.

Rarity knew what those ponies were thinking, because she was thinking it too. We've struck back. We struck back and won. Who's to say we can't strike back again? Who's to say we can't go home someday?

She turned away from the window, a sense of elation coursing through her. I've given them hope. I've sacrificed of myself and of my friends, but I've given them hope. All they needed was a little generosity. She felt reinvigorated by the thought. Numbers and figures could make things seem bad, but this was the real face of New Ponyville: happiness, hope, and love for her.

She walked to her desk and took the top paper off of a stack Twilight had organized. As always, it was her agenda for the day. Besides the tedious day to day management tasks written down, there were three entries marked as important. As she began to sit down behind her desk, she froze. A smile played across her face as she rose back up, looking around the room for her saddlebags. Today is a joyous day, she thought to herself, I think it would do myself and everypony else some good to give these tasks a more…personal touch.

She gathered a few papers and some supplies into star-marked saddlebags. Grabbing a matching hat, she walked out of the door and down the hallway. As she descended to the first floor, she saw a familiar face in the lobby.

"Well, good morning, Applejack!" She smiled brightly as she trotted by. Applejack looked up from her lunch in mild surprise, and her face screwed up in confusion.

"Uh, begging your pardon, Rarity, but I think it's actually quite dark outside." Applejack took another bite of her meal, work of her own scattered off to the side. "And where are you off to, anyway? Ain't you got some mayor duties to attend to?"  

Rarity turned around at the door, the motion causing her mane to swing gracefully in front of her face. "Oh my dear, you're beginning to sound just like Twilight. As a matter of fact, I'm going to give my personal presence to today's issues, I believe that the mood of the town warrants it, don't you?"

"Well, I suppose that's fair. Everypony does seem to be in a particularly good mood tonight, I'll give you that. I've got my own work to take care of here," she motioned toward the papers next to her with her head, "otherwise I'd come with you."

Rarity pouted but sighed, "That's just as well, I suppose. Getting the aid of the resistance takes priority, of course. Have you tried showing them a personal touch, my dear?"

Applejack brushed the pages behind her unconsciously and shook her head. "I've met with 'em a few times, but I ain't ever been to their base of operations, so to speak. They're an awful suspicious sort, you understand."

"Oh course, darling, you've explained it before. If even one pony from here was loyal to Nightmare Moon, and the resistance lent their aid, then they would be hunted down and extinguished if uncovered." Rarity shifted the weight of her bags, which reminded her of the work she was supposed to be doing. "Oh! But I've gone and let precious minutes slip away in idle chitchat. I'm afraid I must be off, my dear, do take care of yourself today."

"Tonight, you mean. See ya later, Rarity."

As Rarity left the building, Applejack looked down at the pages next to her. I hope she's wrong, she thought, about us needing them. I hope that that captain didn't report us to Nightmare Moon. I hope this war really is over. Her smile slipped away as Rarity's good mood faded from Applejack's reality.

Applejack shook her head clear. Hope ain't a strategy, Applejack, you gotta sit down and think this through. When the Shadowbolts come knockin', how are you gonna save these ponies?

____________________________________

Rarity held the agenda in front of her with her magic, walking through the town. Ponies muttered as she passed, and for once she didn't have to force a smile when they said hello. It just came naturally to her, the attention and gratitude bringing out the best mood she had had in months. Riding the high of emotion, she made her way out of the town proper and across the small bridge, heading towards the storehouses.

With the executions over, ponies had returned to their regular duties. Outside the tunnel, a brown unicorn in a rough coat stood guard. Seeing Rarity, he stood up from his slouch and brought a clipboard up with his magic. "G-good evening, mayor! We- that is, I- that is, uh, nobody expected to see you in person tonight, Ma'm."

Rarity approached, all smiles. She looked the pony up and down, and a small part of her winced at the fashion choice. A plan brown jacket with one patched elbow hung loosely over his flank and legs, his natural brown coat being several shades off from this one. Now now, Rarity, she reprimanded himself, you of all ponies should know that fashion sense is hardly the most important thing to take care of in this town. Besides, he's obviously just an unfortunate soul who's trying to look his best for the job.

"Good day, my dear. I apologize for not giving any advance warning, but I thought that today I would take a break from my dreary office and come see the faces of New Ponyville." Her horn glowed and the agenda slipped out of her bags, "So let's see. It says here that somepony here has urgent news about the supplies of the town, correct?" The brown unicorn nodded, and she put the paper away, "Very well then, I'll speak to the supervisor at once."

"Oh, uh, of course, miss Mayor. Please, uh, this w-way."

The brown pony turned and led the way down the tunnel, branching off from the main passage to go through a door. Inside, another tunnel stretched off perpendicular to the main one, and although it was slightly smaller it was still large enough for both ponies to walk side by side. Every now and then, another pony would pass by them in either direction, but their features were hard to make out in the low light. Although Rarity made small talk with the pony where appropriate, she was hardly paying any attention as they walked, her mind distracted by the gloom.

She waited until the other pony had finished speaking, then changed the subject to a question that had been nagging her. "Excuse me, but why is it so dark down here? There's just these icky blue mushrooms for light along this whole tunnel, why no torches?"

"Err, miss Rarity, if you'll remember back to our reports, I believe we made mention of several conditions down here." The brown unicorn looked at Rarity with confusion, but his faith in her never wavered, "Actually, I think it was only mentioned once or twice, so I'm not surprised you didn't remember. There's no tunnel to the surface down here that we've found, and with torches burning up the oxygen nopony would be able to breath after a few hours. Thankfully, most of the supplies are kept closer to the main cavern, it's just the offices that are located back here."

Rarity looked aghast. "The offices? You mean ponies suffer all day in their workplace while the food is kept closer to fresh air? Why on earth would they do that?"

The unicorn looked at Rarity awkwardly, not sure how to proceed. "Er, actually Ma'm, it was the forepony's idea. He said he took a page out of your book, always giving of yourself to help everypony else. He said he'd just hold his breath real good, and save other ponies the long trip down here."

The brown unicorn pulled up short and Rarity barely caught herself from stumbling. With regal elegance, she turned to realize that they had stopped next to a door in the wall, nearly invisible in the shadows. "This is it, miss Rarity," the smaller unicorn began, "Forepony Checkers' office. I've got to get back to my post, it was nice to meet you miss." Rarity said her own goodbyes and the unicorn left Rarity alone. As his hoofsteps faded, the silence of the tunnel poured over Rarity.

It's almost terrifying, she thought as she took a deep breath, to be so far removed from everypony else. As the tunnel stretched out of sight in either direction, she suddenly felt terribly alone. Steeling herself against such negative thoughts, she knocked on the wooden door with her hoof.

Before she had even put her hoof down, the door flew open inwards. Standing inside was a heavily built red colt with a construction hat on his head. His face was framed by a yellow light inside the room, and Rarity could see his face flash from hope to disappointment to surprise. "Rarity? What are you doing here?"

Rarity raised one eyebrow at the stallion until he remembered himself. "Oh, err, I mean, come on in, mayor." He stepped backwards, and Rarity nodded to him as she entered the narrow doorway. The office inside was small and sparse, with a simple desk and chair. A mushroom inside a small pot was on the desk, giving the room a soft blue glow.

"I'm sorry, Ma'm, I don't normally get visitors down here." He lifted a bucket of tools off another chair, which he dragged over to the desk and offered to Rarity. As she took a seat graciously, he rounded the desk and sat in his own chair, resting his elbows on the desk. The pot tottered dangerously as he put his large forehooves down, but he deftly reached out and steadied it before it fell. Turning his gaze back to the mayor, he narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "I suppose you're here about the supply shortage, huh? Well I can assure you' we've taken every step we could to draw out our supplies. If-"

"Actually, my dear, I was hoping you could tell me why I was here." Her horn glowed, and the agenda slipped out of her bag again. "'urgent supply development' is all that this notice says, could you perhaps elaborate?" Rarity was smiling, but the forepony gave no notice as he bent over the desk to look at the paper. Rarity obligingly turned it towards him, but he barely glanced at it before he sat back again.

"Well I can tell you right now what you're problem is, Ma'm. That ain't my report, that's just a piece of paper telling you that my report was urgent. And a bloody daft waste of good paper it is, if you don't mind me saying." He smirked, proud that he had identified the problem so easily.

Rarity paused, but wouldn't let his observation slow down her good mood for long. "Oh, no, I don't think you understand. I'm sure I have the report…somewhere, in my office, but I felt that it had been awhile since I walked around New Ponyville. On this most optimistic of days, I decided that I'd hear all of the important reports in person." She held a hoof to her chin, thinking, "I'm beginning to think of it as a step in a new direction of direct communication. Paper just leaves such a mess and gets everywhere, don't you think?"

The forepony just stared at her for a minute, his mouth a thin line. It wasn't until he spoke that Rarity recognized the rising anger in his purposefully calm voice. "I'm glad you feel that way, miss mayor, because that won't be a problem anymore. I can assure you, no more of my reports will be cluttering up your office in the future."

Realizing how she must have sounded, Rarity struggled to save herself, "Oh no no no, forepony, I didn't mean it like that. I was simply remarking on how inefficient paper is in general, just general conversation if you will. Please, I'd love to hear your report, I'm sure it's very important and interesting." She leaned forward and batted her eyelashes, but the forepony was unimpressed.

"No, mayor, I don't think you understood me either. I'd love to keep filling out daily reports of our dwindling supplies for you to ignore, but unless you want me to chisel rocks there's not much I can do." Confusion crossed over Rarity's face, but the other pony answered her question before she could ask it. "Our dwindling supplies that I mentioned? Yea, they're gone now. Ironically, that report was the last sheet of paper we had."

Rarity sat for a moment, mostly unconcerned. "Well, it's only paper after all, you can simply make more, right?"

The forepony sighed patiently, pausing before he started again. "No, miss mayor, we can't. I didn't mean that our supplies of paper were out, I meant our supplies for making it. There's no more wood left in Ponyvile, mayor, none at all."

Rarity sat in her chair, her mind perturbed. While wood was useful around town, it wasn't an absolute necessity. "Yes, forepony, I suppose that does qualify as urgent news. Thank you for bringing this to my attention, I'll have to devote more consideration to alternate building materials."

"And lighting, since torches will be burnt out within the week. And heating, since nopony will be able to burn the rotten muck on the surface for their fires." The forepony began counting down uses for wood on his hoof, "and-"

"I get the idea, forepony, thank you very much." Rarity stood to leave, her mind troubled. As soon as she turned around, however, a voice called back from behind her.

"What, you don't want to hear my report?"

Rarity froze and turned around. The forepony's face looked honestly puzzled, and Rarity had to retrain herself from screaming her next sentence. "You mean that wasn't the urgent news?"

The forepony shook his head. "Oh no, that was just part of it. The urgent news is that we are out of supplies." Rarity looked at him angrily, and after a moment he clarified "I mean, all supplies. Food stores are empty, Ma'm."

Rarity reeled backwards mentally, and even on the outside she couldn't hide the shock form her voice. "I thought…I thought that we had enough food to last us another week at least, forepony. What happened?"

For a moment, Checkers just looked at her blankly. Then, to Rarity's surprise, the pony behind the desk laughed. It started off small, but gradually grew until it was a mighty bellow. His eyes were closed shut as his chest heaved, and every time he opened them to look at Rarity he began another round of laughter. Rarity was at first angry that she was being laughed at, but gradually became sad as he continued. Did I…do something wrong?

Finally, the laughter abated. Wiping a tear from his eye, the forepony looked at Rarity again and stiffled a chuckle. "Heh heh, oh Celestia, you're serious aren't you? Bahaha, this whole time I thought that maybe you were just messing with me, trying to get a rise out of Ol' Red Checkers, but no, you actually didn't read any reports! That's amazing!"

"Honestly, forepony, I'd suggest that you try to remember your place." Rarity's voice was ice cold, but the forepony didn't notice as he kept laughing. "And you still haven't answered my question. We should have enough food for another week, so what happened?"

"Hahahah, you're right, Rarity! We should have enough food, but I'm interested, how do you know how much food we should have? From my reports? Because I know nopony else could have estimated how long it would last us, I'm in charge down here!" he stopped to catch his breath as the laughter ended, "but see, that's just it. Those were estimates, based on my projection of how much food we were using per day. But then you decided to throw two more feasts." He spread his hooves open in a shrug, "What are you gonna do, right?"

Rarity's could feel her stomach drop into her legs. "So…no food at all? What about the mushroom farmers? What about Fluttershy?"

Turning around for a moment, Checkers grabbed a few pages from behind him. Flipping through him, he read off the numbers. "On a good day, and I mean a really good day, mushroom harvesters can bring home enough grub to feed everypony for two days. We haven't had a day like that in months, mind you. They've been buying us time, but that's all I can ask of them under the demand on us," he shot an accusing glance at Rarity before returning to the paper, "And Fluttershy doesn't make her own deliveries, you had ponies, or I guess that little dragon of yours, to run and pick 'em up for you, remember? Plus, her meat was a supplement to the rest of the food, not enough to actually sustain a population."

He put down the pages on his desk and looked at Rarity, a smile spreading across his face. "Ya know what, boss? I'm stumped, I really am. You've led us through thick and then since Ponyville got sacked, but I can't figure out how you're gonna get us out of this one."

Her face must have given Rarity away, because Checkers' face seized up. When Rarity didn't come up with an answer after a moment longer, he erupted in a deep bellow that filled the cold room. What do I tell them all now? Is that it, is it just over? Her mind raced as she stood up, trying to block out the laughter. It filled her head, bouncing back and forth in her skull, and in her mind she saw what a joke he saw her as. The leader who killed her citizens with kindness.  I need to get out of here, I need the firelight, I need air!

She opened the door and stepped into the tunnel, not bothering to close it behind her in her haste. She tried to walk slowly, with poise and dignity, but the laughter followed her and quickened her step. It resonated off the walls, bouncing and rebounding over and over her in cascading barrages of mockery. She began to trot, then run, then full on gallop in the gloom, listening to the sound of the wind and her hoofsteps to drown out the noise.

Some part of her knew that the laughter had ended a long time ago, but still she heard it in her head. She saw Twilight standing there, trying to politely hold her smile when she found out about the food. She saw Applejack, trying her best to help while they both knew that it was the resistance that would save them all. She saw the captain, looking down at her with that maddening grin, the little unicorn who was such a little threat that she wasn't even worth killing.

It's just not fair, she told herself, her pace slowing as the laughter in her head faded, I finally gave them hope, I finally got what I had given so much to get. Why now? Why do they have to die now?!

They don't. The thought crossed her mind as a reactionary thought, but she latched onto it desperately. They don't have to die. We still have options. Ponies still have food in their houses, it can be recollected and…rationed…to buy us a few days. And…the resistance!

Yes! She thought in exultation as she neared the end of the tunnel. The main cavern loomed ahead of her, the fresher air filling her lungs. The resistance has food and water, they said so themselves when they contacted Applejack. If we can get them to trust us, they'll help for sure.

She emerged into the main cavern, the guardhouse blocking most of the view before her. As she walked around the side of it, she took in the sight of the town entrance and smiled again. I built this. I brought them this far. What's so different about one more obstacle?  

She took the agenda out of her bags, looking toward her next item. Her eyes read the page, but her mind was elsewhere. All I need to worry about is Applejack gaining their trust. It's out of your hooves now, Rarity, so don't let it bother you.

_______________________________________

The moon hung high over the open plain. Though the grass had long since perished, the cool but firm dirt beneath Trixie's hooves was a much better alternative to the rot that covered most of the ground outside. Despite this, Trixie scowled as she walked up to the wooden stage, the new planks shining bright in the moonlight.

After she ascended, she turned and faced the crowd. The open plain stretched out nearly endlessly before her, and the ornately armored ponies of the Royal Guard stood ranked…about ten ponies deep.

"Warrant Officer!!"

A unicorn in the front row's horn flashed, and a moment later he stood next to his mistress. "Yes, Great and Powerful Trixie!"

Trixie's hood was down, letting the unfortunate officer see the anger in her face rise. "I gave you the order to assemble the Royal Guard, not an invitation for those who felt like showing up! Where are my legions of soldiers!?"

The Warrant Officer hesitated, but gulped as he accepted that there was no escape. "Ma'm, our efforts were hampered by the queen. She insists that the Royal Guard doesn't count as personal resources, ma'm! These ponies are here against orders from her."

Trixie scowled up at the castle, the mountain rising above them. "That bitch, Nightmare Moon!" Trixie turned away from the lowly unicorn, his existence forgotten beneath temporarily. "She wants to strip me of my forces? Fine! She's given me plenty of her own power to purge a few week rebels on my own, nevermind with-" she whipped her head around, her mind counting the ponies before her instantly, "-a hundred of my own troops. Warrant Officer!"

"Yes, Gre-"

"Our anchors have been placed in the forest by now, correct?"

"Yes! They arri-"

"Good, give the order to the troops. Prepare for mass teleport in ten minutes."

The sergeant saluted smartly, and turned to the soldiers. As he relayed his orders, Trixie jumped down from the stage and walked off to the side. Supported by two of her specialists, the captain hung limply. Her head rose at the approach of hoofsteps, and Trixie saw that no smile was anywhere to be seen on that cursed blue face.

"Well then, captain, we are almost underway. You're friends will be nothing more than a smoking crater by this time tomorrow night." She leered over the beaten pony, the moonlight glinting off her eyes and teeth.

"They still aren't my friends, foal. You really think you can hide this from Nightmare Moon? You're men will be fired as soon as you return, maybe even killed for obeying you over her." The captain tried to spit on the ground, but the liquid mostly just dribbled from her injured jaw.

"They are mere pawns, nothing more." Trixie waved a hoof dismissively, and the two ponies holding the captain up just stared forward. "They have been trained to do their job, regardless of the consequences. Something you never had the stomach for, as these rebels staying alive can attest to."

"You're a bitch, Trixie. We're on the same side, and you're too caught up in your conspiracy theories to even acknowledge the possibility-"

"If you're going to tell me that you simply walked out of that cave, don't waste my time. You're refusal to help me is all the proof I need to know you're a traitor." Trixie snorted and turned away. Not that I care anyway, she added mentally. She'll be just as dead after all of this no matter where her loyalties lie.

_______________________________

The New Ponyville Infirmary was located outside of the main part of town, one of its walls resting against the natural stone of the cavern wall. It was a design plan that Rarity was rather proud of: it gave patients a quiet area to rest while also providing a soft quarantine zone for them to recover in.

Lives are saved here every day, Rarity thought as the building came into view, but nopony ever thanks the kind doctors inside. Perhaps I shall make a note to have them recognized publicly. A feast, perha-, she caught herself mid thought, the good mood she had fought so hard to recover suddenly vanishing. More sullen than when she had woken up, but still forcing a smile, she pushed open the door to the clinic.

All thoughts of public recognition vanished at the sight before Rarity. A long bench sat against the far wall, with sickly looking ponies taking up every inch of it. A few of them waved weakly as she stood in the doorway, but most were too busy trying, and in a one case failing, to hold their lunches in.

"Mayor! Please, go back outside, quickly!" Rarity didn't have time to see who spoke as she was blindsided by a pony and pushed unceremoniously out the door. The unexpected movement coupled with her flat footedness caused her to fall over, the dry dirt of the cavern floor poofing up around her. She coughed and turned around in anger to look at the guilty pony.

"I'm sorry, mayor, but you really shouldn't be in there." Nurse Redheart ducked down to help Rarity up, but Rarity shirked her off and stood up on her own, still coughing. "We don't know how it's spreading yet, and if it's airborne then just being in the same room as them is dangerous!"

Trying to put aside her frustration at being knocked over, Rarity asked, "How what's spreading? What is happening in there?" As she spoke, she absently inspected her now brown and dusty coat and saddlebags. And they had looked absolutely divine, too.

"The disease, or virus, or whatever it is of course!" Rarity's blank look gave Nurse Redheart a pause. "uh, the one I wrote about in my report? The one marked 'Urgent'?"

"Ah!" exclaimed Rarity as she pulled her agenda out. She frowned as she smoothed out the crumples from her fall, but it was still legible. "Yes, I have it marked right here that you submitted and urgent report. That's why I'm here, in fact, to hear it in person." She forced a smile out, suddenly nervous that the other pony would burst into laughter. Why didn't I just read them first, and then come in person? She lamented, Too late now I suppose.

To Rarity's relief, the nurse did not burst into laughter. Rather, she just shook her head  and looked distractedly at the door, "Look, miss Rarity, I'll have to give you the short version since I'm a little strained for free time at the moment. We got our first patient two days ago, and they've been pouring in ever since. Symptoms include sweating, fatigue, nasuea and vommiting, diarhea-"

"Please, don't- err, I mean, have there been any deaths?" Rarity's stomach was churning at the thought of the biological mess inside the infirmary right now, but she couldn't simply excuse herself.

"No, thank Celestia," Nurse Redheart looked briefly at the sky, closing her eyes for a moment in silent thanks, "but some of these ponies…it gets really bad, miss Rarity, and patient zero hasn't shown any signs of improvement yet, so we don't know how long it will last. It might even be fatal down the line, it's only been two days for him after all.

"Is there no chance of finding a cure? We've had sickness in New Ponyville before, right?" I mean, we can't have gone ten months down here without something like this happening before, Rarity reassured herself.

"Not like this, mayor." A particularly loud cough from inside made Nurse Redheart turn anxiously toward the door, but she held her ground. "Err, sure, we've had sick ponies, but always little bugs that we knew how to cure." She sighed, looking at the ground. "In Ponyville, we had the equipment to look for our own cures to new sicknesses, but here," she looked around and gestured with one hoof, "We are literally living under a rock. We ran out of serious medical supplies months ago, and with no way of making more our only way to heal ponies is to give them warm meal and a bed."

"That's it?" Rarity was shocked that the medical pony's report ended there. "We have a new medical problem and no way to stop it? Can you at least figure out where it came from?" Rarity's breath was shallow, worry beginning to eat at her.

"No, mayor, we don't know anything. I was just the nurse back in Ponyville," her voice was strained, and Rarity finally noticed that there was moisture in her eyes, "I just tried to help ponies, but I don't know what I'm doing here. I'm not a doctor, Rarity, but I'm expected to run a hospital? I'm good with ponies, I can make them comfortable, but I can't make them better." A call sounded from inside, and the nurse turned her head again. "I…I'm sorry, mayor, but I really have to go."

"You run this infirmary?" asked Rarity, and the nurse stopped in the doorway.

Turning quickly over her shoulder, she yelled back, "Of course I do. Nopony here can do it, but I'm the closest they have to somepony that can." She hesitated for a moment, then added, "I don't know what I'm doing here, but at least other ponies think I do, and that's better than nothing. It gives them hope." Not waiting for Rarity to respond, the white unicorn ducked inside the door and was gone.

Rarity stood for a moment, then turned and walked slowly away from the building. Hope, she thought, it always comes back to hope.

She made her way slowly back into town proper, the buildings becoming larger and more ponies walking the streets as she went. She took the job to help ponies? Doesn't taking a responsibility you can't handle hurt them more than help them?

Her steps slowed as the parallels dawned on her. What about me? No, I couldn't have…hurt everypony. They wanted me to lead them. Plus, I gave them hope. I succeeded.

She knew that the nurse had given her patients hope too, and deep down another question plagued her. But instead, she pulled out her agenda and looked towards the final item. Sighing in relief, she put it back in her dusty and disheveled bags. "A promotion to attend? Well then, finally, some good news today."

________________________________________

Twilight sat in Rainbow Dash's bedroom. Her friend was asleep in her bed, but Twilight hardly bothered to notice. Her work absorbed her, and she had compromised between keeping her friend company and trying to get home by bringing her notes and materials over to Dash's house.

Ok, so basic magical theory says that's teleportation works by moving the pony through space, but any first year student will say that the world looks like it's shrinking and overlapping while the spell is being cast. If it were simply moving, my magic would have guided us both, but with the non magical presence of another pony, the variables would have to be readjusted…

Rainbow Dash snorted in her sleep, and Twilight's train of thought was interrupted. Turning back to her book in a huff, she flipped through the pages magically. Ah, crap, ok, so the spell becomes less like moving forward, and more like being pulled. Like a fishing line in reverse, or something. A reverse summoning spell, maybe? But that would only work with some sort of anchoring pony on the other side, right?

She scribbled some notes with a pencil. No, this is ridiculous, I'm just rambling incoherently now. She sighed and crossed out most of her page, laying her head down on the book. Without any other work to compare results too, I'm just wandering in the dark.

__________________________________________

Rarity walked grim faced towards the guardhouse. She was still happy, she knew she was because she kept telling herself that she was. She just…needed some time to think things over. She was happy because she had given everypony hope. It didn't matter what they were hopeful for, of course, just that they were hopeful.

She was happy because they were hopeful, she just wasn't smiling because she was dirty. Yes, that was it, she was dirty because she had fallen, no, been pushed to the ground by that silly nurse pony. Yes, quite silly, so silly that she really didn't warrant thinking about very much.

Stuffing the events of the day into the cramped corners of her mind, Rarity forced a smile and walked through the doors to the guardhouse. The main room was empty except for a few scrambling ponies, but sound floated down from a set of stairs towards the back of the room. She made her way to them and ascended them quietly, not wanting to disturb the ponies above her.

"…has left us with room for growth, and it is with great pleasure that I present to you your wings, Guard Captain."

The stairs let out in a small hallway, and Rarity peeked around a doorframe to the source of the voice. Contained inside were a dozen or so ponies, standing in rank with their brown and blue guard uniforms and stomping the ground in applause.  The floor beneath Rarity shook, but she hardly noticed as she looked towards the front of the room.

Big Macintosh grabbed a small box with his mouth and turned to a pony next to him, who took two metal emblems out of the box and pinned them to his collar. He smiled around a scar on his face and shook hooves with Big Macintosh. Now where have I seen those wings before? Rarity thought to herself, I know I should remember, but…no, perhaps it was something unimportant. It's just a militia rank after all. The newly promoted black pony nodded to the crowd, who shouted words of encouragement to him as he cleared his throat.

The new guard captain stepped forward and began to address his peers, and Rarity made her way around the back of the room, trying to find somewhere to stand that was unobtrusive to get to but still noticeable by everypony in the room. As she scanned the room for possibilities, however, she noticed Big Mac gesturing to her. With the other pony taking the spotlight, he had left the stage and now stood in front of a side door, which he entered once he was sure that Rarity had seen him.

I certainly hope he isn't going to reprimand me about being late, she grumbled as she made her way to the door, the agenda never actually said what time I was supposed to be here.

She nudged her way in unnoticed by the crowd, whose full attention was on the speaker. The room she entered appeared to be some sort of preparation area, with a wardrobe of different military dress outfits and a mirror against one wall, with a small writing desk against another. Big Mac stood over the desk, occasionally bending his head back to take a drink from a cup of water.

"Good to see you, miss Rarity," he drawled as he looked at the desk, "You didn't actually read my report about today, I take it?"

Rarity's shoulders rose as blood rushed to her face. At this point, she was more angry than embarrassed that everypony seemed to figure her out almost instantly. "I'll have you know, Big Mac, that the report you sent me never specified a time for my arrival, it only said 'promotion at the guardhouse'." It may be a bluff, she thought to herself, but I doubt he actually bothers to write them out much at all.

"I know it didn't, miss Rarity," he smiled as he nudged a glass of water towards her, which Rarity took with care as she looked at him in indignant anger, "because you weren't suppose to come in person. You just needed to sign his promotion document, miss."

The blood in her face became a flush of embarrassment, and she sank into a chair across the desk in defeat. She looked toward the pony, remembering when she had appointed him the chief of military defense for New Ponyville. Sighing, she took sip of water and spoke, "I'm sorry, Big Mac," she was looking at the floor, but she knew that the face of her old friend was already smiling in forgiveness, "I've just had a long day. Is it really so obvious that I've fallen behind on keeping in touch with events?"

The red colt sniggered, "Heh heh, only to us ponies near the top, don't you worry. Those boys out there put their lives on the line for you every day, though, because you're some kind of savior to them." He winked at Rarity, taking another sip, "But even those of us that know you're just a pony like the rest of us can cut you some slack, so don't worry."

The weight on Rarity's shoulders eased a little. "Thanks, Big Mac," she smiled at him genuinely, her defenses for the day finally coming down a little, "I was hoping for some good news when I came here, and even if that isn't what I expected I still certainly welcome it."

Big Mac drained his glass and immediately poured himself another one. Rarity noticed for the first time that she was being served water out of a different bottle than Big Mac, but before she could ask why he began speaking. "Good news? I'm just being honest with you, Rarity. It's the least I can do. I don't know why you thought you'd hear good news here though."

Rarity's eyes widened a little in surprise. Suddenly unsure of herself, she nervously inquired, "I…I'm sorry, Big Mac, but I was under the impression that promotions were a good thing, correct? I admit that my knowledge of military politics is lacking, but surely that pony out there is quite elated, no?"

Big Mac took a large drink from his stone cup, and Rarity caught as harsh scent as he put it down and began talking to her. "Heh, I keep forgetting, you read literally no reports." He shook his head and looked towards a wall. The wall was covered in pictures, all of ponies in guard outfits. Some of them had their arms in bandages, some had hooves around loved ones, and all had little notes scribbled at the bottom of them. Rarity followed Big Mac's gaze towards a piece of poster that had been cut off, featuring…a Wonderbolt?

"Promotion here doesn't really work like it does in town, Rarity." Big Mac raised his cup to the poster and drank heavily, draining the drink. Gasping as he put it down a little too heavily, he continued his thought, "There's no call to have two guard captains. In order for somepony to have a promotion, the position has to be vacated first."

"Well, that's exactly how it works in every business, too. Honestly, Big Mac, I don't see-"

"I know you don't, Rarity." Big Mac poured another cup, and this time Rarity could see that the liquid coming from the bottle was the color of brandy. "Maybe this will help you: we've never had a pony retire from the force here."

Suddenly, Rarity remembered where she had seen those pins before. They had looked so different on a black pony than when they had been on Soaren's chest. "Oh,Celestia…" Death had become all too common a thing in New Ponyville, but after everything that had happened, all the hope she had felt…. "How did he…die?"

"Suicide." Big Mac was staring into his cup, his forehead supported by one hoof. "Nopony even thought about it until after we found him, but that pony you executed…that was his old teammate." He shook his head and drained his cup again, letting the empty vessel fall to the table. "I can't even imagine what he felt after he saw…that."

Suicide. Rarity's mind was blank except for that one word. As the shock slowly faded, it filled up with even worse ones. Suicide. That was why I executed her in the first place. To end suicide, to give them hope. Now another pony is dead because of me. She looked down at her hooves, her imagination accusingly painting the pristine white fur in blood. I killed the lieutenant to try to save everypony. I did save everypony. Almost everypony. And I never asked myself if it was worth it.

She had expected good news, here. A promotion, a party, maybe a small speech and some cheers. There's a downside to everything, I suppose.  She felt a tear roll down her cheek, but she couldn't tear her gaze from the blood soaking into her hooves. I gave them life by dooming them to starvation. I killed an enemy to save my friends, which ended up killing them too. I took leadership to help everypony, but all I've done is given them an illusion of hope.

With her mind wallowing in question of her character, the damns finally broke. Her memories of her encounter with the captain, every moral question that was put off, every hard decision that was arbitrarily answered with generosity came to mind at once. She choked out a breath, and Big Mac looked up from his own thoughts at the gasping unicorn.

His vision swam before him, but Big Mac could still see that something was wrong with his guest. Focusing enough to remember back to what he had said to her last, he poured himself another cup of Apple Brandy. "I know it ain't pretty, Rarity, but there's always a way forward." She looked toward him desperately, and he looked at the bottle next to him. "'Course, sometimes, forward doesn't look so pretty either." He pushed his cup to Rarity, who hesitated. Big Mac knew that the thoughts behind her eyes were beyond his impaired mind, but he also knew that it didn't matter what those thoughts were once she picked the cup up with her magic and began to drink.
Google Docs Link: [link]

Here's my schedule for any given day:
Wake up at 10:30
wake up whoever house i slept at
shower, get food with them ,go to another friend's house
play Heroes of Newerth, WoW, and Super Smash Bros. until dinner
eat dinner somewhere
Either drive home, or find another place to sleep
play video games, listen to music, or look for jobs for the rest of the night
regret not working on this story at all
fall asleep at 3-5am

yes, sorry this took so long to get up, I eventually got an excuse to stay home for a day and wrote out all the ideas i had spent all that time brainstorming. its about 7k words, which is weird because I feel like it's really short, but here ya go.

Going forward, I'm going to make a note to work on this story a little bit every day. Having a schedule made me feel pressured, but having no schedule meant I got no work done until the guilt forced me to work on it.

Also, I had some people ask me after last chapter: I'm not shipping anyone. I love more than a few people in a very real way without feeling anything sexual to them, so it is possible. After you went through what Twilight and RD have in this story, how else would you express what you feel for your only real friend and true companion?

EDIT: Damn you, italics HTML code!
© 2011 - 2022 BronyCray
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DolphinBuster's avatar
I feel pity for Rarity, really. She has all this pressure on her...Trying to rebuild the citizens spirits, keeping stock on supplies...The health of every1. Like wow, And also she blames herself for Soaren's death [ IN MY OPINION, IT IS HER FAULT! grrrrr ].
Just wow and in the beginning to me, the story was Twilight and Rainbow getting back to their world but now there is so, so, SO much more!

For some reason, I have this weird feeling that Twilight and Rainbow are gonna...get together or something but like you said, It's companionship and their just sticking through it all together.

In my opinion, I THINK Rainbow's going to break apart and loose herself and Twilight's going to have to fix her. She's always upset and less confident to be honest 3: Twilight's just trying to find a way home but deep down inside she and also Dashie probably have doubts that they'd be able to adapt to their world...Coming from such, TRAGEDY and harsh living...

I'M SORRY! I'LL SHUT UP NOW. D: I just had to vent out my thoughts before I go to bed 3: