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The Night that Never Ended p8

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The captain awoke to a hard kick in the side. Doubling over reflexively, she opened her eyes in a dark room, her muscles cramped from the cold stone beneath her. I guess I shouldn't be surprised she thought, bracing herself for another impact, they've already beaten me once.

But despite her expectations, no other blow came. Her eyes adjusting to the gloom, she looked up at the face of her lieutenant, who was scowling fiercely at her. "You foal! You damn, bloody foal! Why the hell did you come back for me you daft, bloody, incoherent…!"

The captain coughed raggedly, trying to catch her breath as her lungs recovered from the kick. She braced herself against the wall as she stood shakily to her feet, her lieutenant screaming at her all the while. She looked around the cell, taking in her surroundings. It seemed to be the dead end of a natural tunnel, with the only exit being a heavy wooden door with a small, barred window allowing one to look through. Three ponies could stand abreast inside the room, albeit barely, though it was slightly longer than it was wide. The only light came from somewhere beyond the door, and the captain's observance was interrupted by the lieutenant steeping up to her face and blocking the light.

"Damnit captain, will you listen to me! I'm a just a lieutenant, but capturing the captain of the Shadowbolts? Tell me, did you somehow rationalize this to yourself, or did you just think 'hey, I wonder if there's anything I could possibly do to make this worse'?" Her wings stood on edge in her rage, every word accompanied by venomous spittle.

"I'm sorry."

"So of course you tried to come to my rescue like some- wait, what?"

The captain leaned against the wall, breathing slowly. "I said I'm sorry, lieutenant. For bringing you out here, for getting us into this. I'm sorry I risked us both to chase some stupid dragon to find selfish answers." The captain looked up at her lieutenant, whose wings had lowered back to her sides. " But I'm not sorry for trying to save you. This is my fault, and I'm not about to let you pay the price for that."

"You foal." The lieutenant walked over to her captain and nudged her shoulder under one of the captain's hooves, taking some of the weight off her injured limbs. "You stupid, selfish foal." Despite her words, she nuzzled into her wounded friend.

The two stay together for a long time, simply glad to be in one piece. The captain's entire body hurt from when she had been beaten and dragged down to this cell, but nothing seemed to be broken at least. Tentatively, she took some steps toward the door, trying to see outside. She stumbled, and her lieutenant caught her weight, lowering her to the ground. "Don't try to walk yet, give yourself some time to recover. They've left some mushrooms and water on the corner, if you can't eat then at least drink something." Pulling the meager meal towards her friend, the lieutenant sat down on her own haunches and leaned against the wall. After a moment, she spoke up again. "Captain, I want to apologize. Back there, in the fight, I…I was running away, when Soaren got me. I just couldn't fight them, captain, I didn't sign up to fight other ponies, I only ever wanted to help others. I know that's pathetic in a military pony, but I just never thought…" Her voice trailed out, lost beneath the weight of her own words.

The captain thought back to what she remembered of her underling's records. "You wanted to help restore order, right? That's why you joined the force." The captain took a sip of water, relishing the coolness if not the obvious dirt in it. "Did you ever ask yourself why you became my lieutenant? Why you, and not a more ambitious pony?" The lieutenant looked at her with slumped shoulders and a face that looked on the edge of tears. "It was because you're not a fighter. You're a friend and an idealist, you don't see an enemy and think about how to beat them, but instead ask 'why must we fight?'." The captain smiled at her confused look, but noticed that she seemed a little brighter. "Strange for an airforce? Yes, but we aren't just a military branch. Other ponies might see us as a weapon of Her Majesty, but we are the closest thing to a police force Equestria has. If we are ever to be looked up to as a tool for order, it's ponies like you that will bring us towards that."

"Captain, I…you are a good friend. I'm sorry I left you alone back there, and thank you for never giving up on me." The lieutenant stroked her friend caringly with a wing while the captain closed her eyes, letting her body rest.




_________________________



"Twilight, I'm fine! I swear you're as bad as my old flight camp nurse."

Rainbow Dash sat in a luxurious bed in her new home, recently upgraded from her temporary hovel. Her broken hoof hung from a sling attached to the ceiling, with Twilight Sparkle furiously concentrating over a mechanism next to the bed, her magic surrounding it completely. Sighing, she relaxed and finished her spell. "Ok ok, I'm sorry, I just want to make sure you're comfortable is all. It will take a few weeks at least for that to heal, and the doctor said it should be elevated to help the process. She bent over and pointed at a crank with her horn. "Just turn clockwise to lift it up, and counterclockwise to lower it."

Rainbow Dash stared at the ceiling, trying to wait patiently for her friend to finish. She was tired after the long night, and just wanted to sleep, but Twilight had insisted on coming over to her new house immediately after she was done conferring with Rarity. "So Twilight, what did you ponies decide to do with the prisoners?" If she was going to be stuck here, she might as well make conversation. To help keep her awake, if nothing else.

"Well, it took awhile, and good points were made on every side," Rainbow Dash recognized her diplomatic beginning as Twilight's way of saying she didn't agree, "but in the end Rarity decided to go with Soaren's recommendation. The prisoners will be handed over to the public tomorrow night, to be dealt with however the ponies please."

Rainbow Dash's jaw dropped. "But…that's murder for sure! How could she do that?" She thought back to who had suggested the idea. "How could he do that?"

"I don't know, Rainbow Dash," A sound outside turned Twilight's head, "but it looks like you can ask him yourself." Rainbow Dash turned to see Soaren standing in the doorway, looking embarrassed at interrupting. Adjusting Dash's bed sheets one last time, Twilight turned and left the room without looking at the Wonderbolt.

"Soaren, you asked for their deaths?" Rainbow Dash was hurt by her idols callousness, her words coming out with barely a squeak.

Soaren walked into the room, his head hung low. "That's…that's what I came to talk about. Rainbow Dash, how could you want them to live?" Rainbow Dash could see just as much pain in his face as she felt in her own heart. Perhaps she had never known her role model as well as she thought she had.

Both ponies stared at eachother for a moment until Dash said, her eyes moist, "I asked you first."

Soaren looked at the ground, trying to explain to himself as much as her. "I don't want them to hurt anypony ever again. Ever since the Shadowbolts came along, there has been fear everywhere they go." His eyes watered as he looked back up at Dash. "Do you remember how I told you about my teammate, Spitfire? Her colt and foal both died in the riots against Nightmare Moon, and it was a Shadowbolt who dropped a torch that started the fire. I tried to save them, but couldn't. That's how I got this." He pointed to his burned face, the fur seared off on his left cheek. "Ponyville was razed to the ground by them, and then these two attacked us outside. Rainbow Dash, I can't think of any reason to let them live!"

"Can you think of a reason to let them die, then?" Dash's voice began as a whisper, but steadily rose with each sentence. "Because killing them accomplishes nothing, Soaren." Rainbow Dash thought back to the necessary murder she had caught Fluttershy committing. "They aren't dying because we can't afford to keep them alive, and they certainly aren't dying because they are still a threat. They are going to be killed because ponies like you want revenge!" Dash was screaming now, only her elevated hoof keeping her from leaping to her feet.

"It's not about me! I'd take a thousand scars if it meant bringing just one of my friends back!" Soaren was screaming too, now. "What do you know of the pain we've all faced? The pain we've had to watch eachother face?" He stamped his hoof, taking a breath to calm himself down. "I never lost anypony close to me, Rainbow Dash, but I had to watch those close to me go through that pain. I had to watch them cry at the funerals, wishing I could do anything to help. If I can save even one more family from that, even one I don't know, I will gladly watch those murderers die."

"You want to strike out against the Shadowbolts? Fine. But you aren't just killing a Shadowbolt; you're killing the pony underneath that mask as well." Dash's voice was calm, but her words punched home. "Soaren, when she attacked me first, it was an act of panic. Anypony could have seen that. If you want to stop the Shadowbolts, killing them all one by one is not the answer. Unless Nightmare Moon is stopped, they will just keep recruiting more ponies." Rainbow Dash finished talking, and both ponies lay silent for a moment, considering their words.

"We can't let them go, Dash. We'd all be in danger if that happened. It's either kill them now and have their deaths serve a purpose, or else let them rot in prison for decades." Soaren's eyes flared, determined to make Dash see reason,

"Choosing between two bad options doesn't make either right!"

"They work for Nightmare Moon, they are the enemy! Who knows how many ponies they've killed."

"Exactly, Soaren." Rainbow Dash's voice dropped back to room level, her point being made. "That's exactly it. We don't know anything about them, only that they wear the enemy's uniform. The ponies don't want them to die for their crimes, they want to strike back against the Shadowbolts as a group. They were never tried for their actions, just offered up as a cheap morale boost to the town."

For a moment, Soaren was wordless. For the first time, he considered that maybe, possibly, he actually was wrong. He weighed the implications of this, but still shook his head resolutely. "I don't care. So what, maybe it is about revenge." Soaren's voice was quiet, knowing that he was in dangerous territory now. "Maybe it is just about watching them bleed. But you know what? That's our world, Rainbow Dash. That's how Equestria works under Nightmare Moon."

Dash lay back in bed, her chest heaving. She looked pointedly toward the ceiling, her eyes ignoring the pony in her room. "You'd kill them to make yourself feel better, nothing more. You were my idol once, but I don't know you anymore. Maybe I never did. Get out, Soaren, I never want to see you again."

Soaren stood still as a rock, staring at the ground. Wordlessly, he turned and left, his mind all the more decided. Rainbow Dash simply couldn't handle the truth, but that was not his concern. No matter who they are, they work for a tyrant, he reassured himself.  They deserve to die.


________________________________



The captain's eyes opened at the sound of a door creaking. She began to stand shakily to her feet, but was thrown back to the ground by another pony. Looking up, she saw the face of an unfamiliar guard unicorn standing over her, with another standing over her lieutenant a few feet away. Leaning down, he began to speak. "We're here to inform you of your sentence, monster. In her beauty and wisdom, the mayor has decided to hand your pathetic asses over to us, the ponies of Ponyville." He pointed an accusatory hoof at the captain, "The people you murdered, remember?"

"I remember," said the captain, softly, "I was there. Take me first; I burned your town down."

The guard pony stepped back in surprise, not expecting a confession to be so easy. Suspiciously, he narrowed his eyes at the lieutenant. "Oh, and I suppose she was far away when all that happened? Trying to protect your buddy, eh?"

"No! She was in Manehatten, caught the riots. She was nowhere near your town at the time, just take me first." The two ponies looked at each other, the lieutenant cowering wordlessly beneath them. The first pony turned back to the captain, his voice dripping venom.

"When you burned down Ponyville, me and my brother here lost our home. When you put down those riots, we lost our sister." The captain's stomach dropped as she realized what she had done. The unicorn turned and grabbed one of the lieutenant's hooves as his brother grabbed another, dragging her out the door.

The captain leapt desperately at the closest guard, tackling him to the ground. The lieutenant scrambled to her hooves, but the other unicorn was already busy. Rope lashed out from behind him, magically winding its way around the captains hooves and wings. The lieutenant tried to buck him, but the guard's brother was back on his feet and twirling his own binds around her. In seconds, both prisoners lay subdued, the unicorns laughing at their feeble struggles. Dragging the lieutenant out of the cell door, one turned and smirked at the captain. "Don't worry, murderer, you'll get yours soon enough." With that, he left and slammed the cell door behind him.

"No! Please! She never did anything wrong!" But they were no longer listening, the lieutenant screaming wordlessly until they gagged her. Her eyes met the captain's through the bars as she was dragged away, and in that brief glance the captain saw her goodbyes, and her forgiveness.

The noises of her struggle faded down the corridor, and the captain fell weakly against the wall. For a few stoic moments, she held back the tears, but as the sudden loneliness of the cell crushed in on her the seal broke, and she cried like she had never cried in her life.



__________________________________



Trixie sat in her office, hooves crossed as a magical aura flowed over her. Her eyes opened and flashed, letting the spell finish. She ran over all the new memories in her mind, of arriving at Fluttershy's hut and speaking with her lieutenant, of flying through the air as she stalked the dragon, and finally of seeing the face of Rainbow Dash, then letting herself be captured. The drawback of that spell was always that you couldn't distinguish your own memories from the ones copied. Well, that, and that it only recorded sights and sounds, not thoughts. Oh, what she wouldn't give for just a small peak into the captain's mind, to pick apart that disrespectful pest.

Trixie stood and rang a bell on her desk, at which a royal guard unicorn immediately entered the room. "Sergeant, prepare a full platoon of our men, tell them to prepare for teleportation into hostile territory." She turned to her desk and her horn glowed, searing a spot on to a large map. "In my glorious wisdom, I seem to have discovered a rebel camp."

The sergeant saluted and left, leaving Trixie to stare at her map. She looked at the singe mark on her map, smiling at the unconscious foreshadowing. Ahh, and the captain, she mused, what plans I have for you…



____________________________________




"Rarity, please, I beg you, reconsider this."

Twilight cantered alongside the mayor as they made their way toward the town square. Already, the streets were lined with ponies and the tension was tangible in the air. Rarity looked straight ahead as she walked, with Applejack on one side and Twilight on the other. Above them, Dash hovered in line with them. Around the four friends, a line of earth ponies pushed back the crowd, clearing a path for the entourage.

"Twilight, I will give these ponies what they want. It is the mark of a good leader to help her people, no matter the cost to herself."

"No, Rarity!" Twilight was growing desperate, her voice pleading with every word. "You don't have to do this! Sacrificing innocent lives is-"

"Innocent? Innocent?! Twi, they've killed dozens of ponies! They ruined our lives, burned our town, and killed our friends." Applejack stamped her hoof after each point, accentuating her anger.

"AJ, believe me, I can understand necessary killing, but this is murder, not an execution." Rainbow Dash's voice was strained from stress and lack of sleep, but Applejack would show no mercy.

"We can't let them go, you know that. They'd tell everypony where we were hiding."

Twilight interrupted again. "So clip their wings! Cut out their tongues.  Blindfold them and lead them into the forest." Rainbow Dash's shocked face at her suggestions made Twilight blush slightly. "Anything is better than killing them, but you never even considered other options!"

Finally, Rarity gave her own voice to the conversation. "Girls, please, stop this nonsense. What's done is done, even if I wanted to, I can't take back what has been given." The crowd parted ahead of them and they saw a massive stage that had been constructed. "I've promised them the gift of justice, and they shall have it."

"Rarity, your generosity will get everypony killed. Wanting New Ponyville to be happy did not warrant the irresponsible use of resources, and it certainly doesn't warrant the needless waste of lives! What happens when the Shadowbolts search for the missing patrol and find out we've killed them?!" Twilight was screaming now, but nopony except Dash was listening.

Wordlessly, Rarity stepped onto the stage. The entire cavern immediately fell into silence, with the eyes of everypony in the town on their beloved mayor. She walked to the center of a stage and gave a nod to a nearby unicorn, whose horn began to glow. When Rarity spoke, her voice echoed across the cavern loud enough for everypony to easily hear.

"Ponies of New Ponyville, as you all know, last night our patrols successfully subdued and captured two insidious Shadowbolt agents!" She paused as cheering filled the cavern, letting it run its course before subsiding. "I thought long and hard about what to do with our new prisoners, but in the end, I realized that I am not empowered to decide their fate." Murmurs of confusion arose in the crowd, but Rarity continued on. "My beloved ponies, you have elected me to lead you in these troubling time, and with all my heart I thank you. But the order of execution is not within a mayor's power." Rarity was in full theatrical gear, her every word accompanied by an exaggerated action by her hoof or face. "For this reason, ponies of Ponyville, I will leave their fates up to you!" The crowd erupted as the first prisoner was lead on to the stage by Big Macintosh, a bag covering her head.

In the crowd, barely a dozen feet from the stage, Soaren gazed up at the tired and abused pony. He recognized the mark on her flank as the one he had personally chased down, and his stomach churned at the roller coaster of emotions he felt. Big Mac tore the bag from her head, revealing a cracked goggle and torn mask. Despite the damage to the suit, the enchantment still held, masking the lieutenant's true colors.

Rarity looked down at the pegasus next to her, who was collapsed on all four knees. Big Mac stood behind her, his face stoic and impassive as ever. Turning back to the crowd as the roars subsided, Rarity spoke again. "My dearest friends, this is not a decision I make lightly. I know that executions have never been performed in Equestria before, but these are trying times. Still, you have a choice before you now. Will this pony die by our hooves, for her crimes against ponykind!?"

The crowd erupted again, waves of hatred and anger rolling across everypony. Spittle soared through the air as they frothed and screamed, hungry for the satisfaction of vengeance. Despite his reservations, Soaren found himself screaming as well, the bloodlust of the crowd pushing him off the fence. He yelled along with the rest of the mob, proud to have come up with the idea of letting the ponies decide.

"Then so be it, my beloved citizens! Do with this monster as you will, for tonight a victory has been won for free ponies everywhere!" Rarity reached down and tore the mask off of the bound pegasus, the yellow goggles falling onto the stage. Big Mac turned and bucked her in the back, sending her soaring into the clawing crowd.

For one terrible instant Soaren made eye contact with the lieutenant as the enchantment faded, her terrified eyes meeting his without the goggles to hide her recognition. All too quickly, her yellow body sank beneath the crowd, more ponies pushing past the shocked and horrified Soaren. Her orange mane was barely visible through the rolling mass of bodies, but already it was spattered in blood.

Soaren sank to his knees, uncaring for the fear that he may be trampled. Forever, he knew, he would see the terrified face of Spitfire as she was bucked to her death, her eyes pleading for the mercy he had refused to show.
It's a hard world, guys. If you were hoping for a happy ending, I'm sorry, but that's just not how it works.

Hopefully, this dispels any illusions about Plot Armor you guys might have had.
© 2011 - 2022 BronyCray
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RadiantVoid's avatar
Odd. I only remembered her as "Shadowbolt Lieutenant", not Spitfire.

Okay, based on this piece's release date (May 23, 2011), you had knowledge of the entirety of season 1 when this was written. Which... isn't a whole lot to go on for Spitfire - she appeared in "Sonic Rainboom" and "The Best Night Ever".

Alright, with that in mind, I must ask: What was her reason for defecting? From what you knew at the time (the fact that the Wonderbolts are 'called in' in military applications hadn't yet been revealed), why would Spitfire defect to Nightmare Moon? The only two times we see her, she is at events that Princess Celestia either invited her to, or was invited to. Spitfire also (clearly) has a very laid-back personality in both her appearances (not as laid back as Soarin though). So why the distinct lack of angst? Why did she defect? Why does she support Nightmare Moon? I mean, if Soarin was able to resist, one would assume Spitfire would too. So what's the scoop with all this? I really have a hard time seeing her flipping sides and dropping a rank in the process (although I'm not sure exactly if she's ever stated to be the captain... though I'm fairly positive that it was after this story was written...)

Or was this question rendered moot by the story itself: You've made it clear that is a darker Equestria, and thus the characters we know are - by an indeterminable amount - different from these 'shadows'. Is this why all this is so?