A New Breed: Chapter 13

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By TCPolecat7   |   
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Chapter 13


            "How are we feeling today Miss Key?"

            "Better, Doctor Violet," the short mare answered, stretching slowly beside the bed. Her khaki colored coat caught the mid-morning light streaming in through the window behind her.

            "Are you ready to leave us tomorrow morning?" the violet unicorn asked with a broad smile, watching as the other mare stretched and flexed her still sore leg. She was able to walk and trot almost normally on it, but it would be months before that front left was completely healed, and even then it wouldn't be back to one-hundred percent. Even unicorn magic had its limits, and the damage had been extensive.

            "You have no idea Doctor," the mare answered with a tepid smile, "Not that the doctors and nurses haven't been great, but… I'm going crazy just staring at these four walls. Honestly, I'm eager to get back into the lab." She didn't add she was eager to get back to Mai as well…

            "Oh I understand completely," the doctor chuckled, "I can't say I'd enjoy being here as a patient either. Were you planning to visit Skillet before you leave?"

            "I was hoping to do that today. He's a little nervous about that experimental procedure that unicorn from Baltimare came up with."

            "I wouldn't worry. The doctor is from one of the best schools in all of Equestria," the doctor tried to reassure her, "I'm sure it'll go just fine."

            "I hope so," Clockwork admitted.

            "Before I forget, you have a pair of guests," Doctor Violet said with a smile, "Galaxi is back around it seems, but she's with a filly I didn't recognize."

            Clockwork nodded slightly and stretched her still weak leg, "Guess I should talk to them."

            "If your leg starts acting up, sit down. We don't want to have to keep you here longer for pulling a muscle in your leg," the doctor chided gently, "I'll send them in."

            "Thanks Doctor," the short mare called as the doctor made her way out of the hospital room. Clockwork smiled to herself, things had gone so much better since her talk with Ironjaw/Skillet, and she'd even forced herself to apologize to the staff for her poor behavior. Fortunately the doctors and nurses were very understanding, all of them saying it wasn't necessary, but they seemed genuinely appreciative of the gesture.

            The short mare spent a moment to look about the hospital room as she waited for her guests. It was dominated by the recovery bed she'd spent so much time on, sheeted in whites and some pale blue linens. A pair of soft but inexpensive cushions rest on the floor, flanking a small wooden table which held a trio of "get well" cards. One from Flourish, one big one from Galaxi, and a formal one from the Sister Princesses. She smiled as she let her eyes sweep over each, a gentle reminder that she wasn't forgotten.

            "Are you supposed to be up and around?"

            Clockwork turned to regard Galaxi, "I have to build my leg back up. Ultrapony may have done some lasting damage to it, but the Doctor said I need to exercise it unless I plan to walk with a limp for the rest of my life."

            "I'm sorry about that," the pony with Galaxi said, drawing the small mare's attention. For a moment Clockwork thought that Ultrapony had returned, but she blinked that mental image away, allowing her to see the slender filly with the rainbow hued mane and tail that stood there.

            "Why are you sorry about it?" she asked, trying to quell the note of bitterness in her voice, "You weren't the one who shattered my shoulder."

            "I'm sorry I wasn't able to stop him."

            Clockwork blinked as Galaxi stepped forward slightly, "Clockwork, this is Rainbow Star. Princess Luna has her staying with us for now."

            "Not to sound rude… but are you related to him?" Clockwork asked slowly.

            "I am," Rainbow answered softly, "He's my father."

            Clockwork felt as if the wind were knocked out of her, and sat down hard on her flank, her eyes wide staring at the newcomer. If it weren't for a soft giggle from Galaxi, she might have stayed there like that.

            "That was my reaction when I met her too," Galaxi said with a smile, "The resemblance is striking."

            "Yeah, it is," Clockwork admitted, "But that wasn't what went through my mind just now."

            "If I had to guess," Rainbow Star interjected, "It would be that I'm much nicer then my father was."

            "Not… exactly, but close enough." Clockwork offered with a weak smile, not willing to state outright that she couldn't imagine Ultrapony more then just "using" a mare and trying hard to escape any responsibility for any foals he may have sired.

            "I wanted to apologize for his actions against you," Rainbow continued, "I know his temper very well, and how it can get the better of him. Usually I can calm him down, but I had not seen him for a month prior to the incident in question."

            Clockwork shook her head, "I'll say it again, it's not your fault. The only person to blame for Ultrapony's actions is Ultrapony. While I can appreciate you apologizing on his behalf…."

            The filly shook her head sadly, her expression causing Clockwork to grind to a halt, "I'm not apologizing on his behalf. I'm apologizing that I didn't take matters into my own hooves and come here to talk to him before he reached the breaking point."

            Clockwork blinked slightly, "You can't stop a pony who has it in for another, no matter how much you try."

            "Is that what you believe? That he had it in for you?"

            "It's hard not to believe that," Clockwork answered sourly, "He did nothing but insult and try to convince everypony I wasn't worthy of a place in this group."

            "It's not my place to offer excuses for him," she responded evenly, "But he was scared of you, Miss Key, and what you represented to him. He was scared you'd overshadow him. I can not and do not condone what he did, but only hope to add some depth to it."

            "No offense, but I think you're biased," Clockwork said firmly, "He was a bully, plain and simple. Bullies aren't scared, no matter how many ponies try to excuse them, they think they're OWED. Ultrapony was perhaps the worst bully I ever had the displeasure of knowing, and he took delight in making anypony's life miserable who didn't fawn all over him."

            "Perhaps you're right, Miss Key," the filly dipped her head, "Perhaps I am biased. I only know what he told me. I know his temper, and I helped him through many a crisis. I know he was scared of what your brother represented, and when you invented your own suit, he was terrified of that as well. Fear darkened his heart, choking it with hatred, and I'm the only one I know of who could see past that darkness to who he was inside."

            With that said, the filly turned and left the room, leaving Clockwork slightly bewildered as she watched the doorway she exited through.

            "I feel like I just kicked her dog," Clockwork sighed, and made a face.

            "She does paint a very different picture of Ultrapony, doesn't she?" Galaxi asked softly.

            "That's an understatement. And yet… she didn't seem the least bit put off by my demonization of him. She just accepted them and moved on," Clockwork said, then shook her head, "I don't get it, why do I feel like I'm in the wrong here? I was the one wronged!"

            "You're still angry at him," Galaxi pointed out, "That makes you less likely to forgive him for his misdeeds."

            "He almost killed me," Clockwork grumped, "I find that hard to forgive."

            "How does that old saying go again?"

            "What? What saying…?"

            "That which does not kill me…" Galaxi winked, nudging Clockwork.

            "…only makes me stronger," Clockwork finished, and offered a weak chuckle, "Okay, I get it. He only TRIED to kill me, but I'm still here, and I have to learn from it. I already have ideas for the lab and trying to rebuild the armour."


            "That didn't sound good."

            "It… it's not," Galaxy hedged, looking mildly ill for a moment.

            "Galaxi? Are you alright?" the short mare asked worriedly.

            "When you… when you were removed from the group, the Princess… Princess Luna had to return the lab back… back to the Canterlot Scientific Board. Specifically, turned it back over to Professor Burner."

            Clockwork's blood ran cold for a moment, "W-what?"

            Galaxi nodded, "He's been working in there for almost two weeks solid. There's hope he'll be able to back-engineer some of your technology, and Luna was hoping when you got better you'd be able to assist."

            "Galaxi…" Clockwork choked, her eyes wide, "Mai was still in the lab."

            A sharp jabbing pain lanced through her shoulder, but she ignored it.

            Her shoulder felt like it was on fire, but she ignored it, her panic all encompassing. She wasn't supposed to be off the hospital grounds, but with the news Galaxi had just given her, no pony had been able to stop Clockwork's mad dash from the Hospital through Canterlot to the Castle. Galaxi was close on her heels, her blind eyes wide as she struggled to keep pace with the short mare.

            The psychic mare reached her mind ahead to try and warn Princess Luna in the midst of this mad dash. The answer had been less comforting then she'd hoped; the Princess said she would be join them as soon as possible, likely only in time to clean up after any sort of altercation. Meanwhile, Galaxi was having difficulty keeping up with the small mare, who, despite her injury, was running tirelessly. Were it not for the waves of panic and fear and worry rolling off her, Galaxi would have tried to stop her, but the mare knew from experience she was beyond rational thought.

            Guards snapped a salute as the mares rushed past them, both Clockwork and Galaxi recognized, as the pair galloped to the downward stairs that into their customary stomping grounds as members of Luna's "Special" Team. Tromping hooves echoed through the metal hallways, past the cafeteria where a confused looking Filigree poked her head out, down another set of stairs, and round a slow bend to a large laboratory door.

            Clockwork launched herself through the door, followed closely by Galaxi. Clockwork had been about to shout something, which the psychic could half read in her mind as a desperate cry for her AI, when she let out a painful scream. Galaxi looked confused as the khaki mare collapsed to the floor, and thought maybe she hurt her leg, only to see Clockwork trying desperately to stuff her hooves in her ears. Galaxi could feel wave upon wave of pain from Clockwork, but only heard a light buzzing sound herself.

            "Ah… Mizz Key," came a deadly cold voice, and Galaxi saw the form of Professor Bunsen Burner appear from behind a console, "Velcome to MY lab."

            Galaxi could only watch, her eyes as big as saucers, as the unicorn slowly began to stalk across the room. He seemed a lot different from the last time the mare had seen him, glasses hid his eyes and a predatory smile painted his lips so broadly it reminded her of a shark. Further, the room itself was vastly different from when Clockwork made it her home. The panels on both ceiling and floor laid slack, revealing the robotic appendages that had been hidden behind them. The lack of power caused the robotic arms to dangle from the ceiling like a forest of vines, a metallic forest in which Professor Burner looked like the apex predator… and the mare currently writhing on the floor his preferred prey.

            "I do hope you like vat I have done vit ze plaze," he offered, standing amidst the thicket of dangling robotic arms, "It haz been quite ze chore trying to reverze engineer your inventionz. But I have come acrozz zome interezting alterationz, and vith zome tinkering, have made zome… zubtle changez." He grinned, his eyes never seeming to leave Clockwork, who was sobbing openly as she tried to blot out the cacophony of sound assaulting her.

            "I don't… think she likes your… changes…" Galaxi answered as firmly as she felt able, positioning herself between the Professor and Clockwork. She had no idea what to do, but she needed to protect Clockwork… somehow. But how? Professor Burner was obviously up to something, but he hadn't threatened either of them, so she couldn't use her powers against him.

            "Galaxi, is everything…?" a new voice added to the mix, as Filigree poked her head into the lab. Immediately her feathers ruffled as she looked up and about the lab, frowning at the figure of the Professor.

            "Filigree?" Galaxi asked.

            "Pleaze, ve zhould not have all zees poniez, and gryphon, interfering vith my rezearch," Burner threw in.

            "What's wrong with her?" the gryphon asked Galaxi, ignoring the Professor.

            "The sound in the room… it's…" Galaxi stammered before clearing her head, "We need to get her out of here!"

            The gryphoness nodded and went into motion, reached down to grasp and lift the small mare, and carried her quickly out of the lab. Galaxi threw a quick look to the Professor, then ducked out of the lab to follow, leaving Burner alone once more.

            "Zee you again zoon, Mizz Key," the unicorn laughed.

            The gryphon was easily strong enough to carry the mare back to the Cafeteria, where she felt certain she could set the femme down and step back, letting Galaxi crowd forward and hug Clockwork.

            "Who she is?" Filigree asked carefully.

            "Clockwork Key," Galaxi answered, holding the mare tightly as she gently tried to pull her hooves from her ears, which Clockwork obstinately refused to move.

            "What's wrong with her?"

            "She's extremely sensitive to sound," a new voice added, as Luna ducked into the room, "It's part of her… genius."

            "Wasn't she removed from the team?"

            "Despite my reservations, yes," the Princess confirmed, "But that was her old laboratory. I can only assume she felt she left something important in there."

            "Mai," Galaxi offered, as she finally got Clockwork to pull her hooves off her ears "She left Mai in the lab."

            "The AI?" Luna asked.

            "I… I can't make another," Clockwork sniffled, "I've never been able to recreate her."

            "I'm sorry Clockwork. It had been my hope Mai might assist the Professor, as I planned to ask you to when you returned," Luna said softly, "I didn't realize that her remaining would be an issue. But know that at least the Professor didn't get his hooves on her. If anything he complained bitterly that somepony had interfered with the lab before he got to it, for her presence was missing. The only thing he found was the black box you had used to install her, which he disassembled, and promptly declared it was worthless for the purpose you claim it served."

            "But… But Mai…?" Clockwork asked, wiping away some stray tears.

            "I'm sorry Clockwork, but I don't know," Luna answered, "I honestly thought perhaps she had either been in your armour, or you had removed her before leaving. Given this information, I can only assume she either hid herself, or something unplanned occurred. Either way, Clockwork, Mai wasn't there."

            "I'm… I'm not sure whether to feel relieved or…."

            "Right now you should feel pained," Galaxi interjected, "You shouldn't have pushed your leg like that."

            Clockwork winced visibly as she flexed the leg, "Doctor Violet will read me the riot act for sure."

            "It was a stupid move," Filigree said, "An understandable move, given your obvious attachment, but would it not have been smarter to just ask the Princess or your friend to check on the situation?"

            Clockwork blinked slightly and looked away, flushing slightly, "I… I panicked. I didn't even think of that."

            "What's done is done," Luna said soothingly, "We should get you back to the hospital and have the doctor look over that leg."

            "One… One moment first Princess," Clockwork said and pushed herself to her three good legs, wincing slightly with the injured leg as she limped over to the gryphoness. "I wanted to thank you for getting me out of there," and she held out a hoof to the gryphon.

            Filigree regarded the filly coolly for a moment before taking the offered hoof and shook it carefully with her clawed hand, "I've heard a bit about you."

            "Hopefully nothing too bad," Clockwork joked with a wince.

            "Nothing that bad," the gryphon smirked.

            Clockwork ducked her head like a filly when Luna cleared her throat, "Further introductions will have to wait. My 'ride' to the hospital is getting impatient."

            "We will speak another time."

            Luna stared at the screen in disbelief.

            "You seem surprised, Princess," the voice from the monitor said.

            "It's not every day my computer begins to talk to me, especially when I didn't even turn it on." Luna admitted as she pressed a hoof to her temple. It was days like this she missed her Abacus.

            "I doubt it has cause to."

            Luna settled on a cushion in her office and shuffled the papers on her desk. Getting Clockwork back to the hospital had gone easily enough. While she hadn't (somehow) hurt her weak leg too badly, she was under bed-rest orders for a full day. Fortunately that wouldn't interfere with the outgoing chariot that Celestia arranged for her. Luna had then returned to her office, intent on digging through more agent files to try and find replacements for her team, when her habitually ignored computer decided it was time for a chat. Ironically the Princess recognized the voice; she'd only been the cause of Clockwork nearly injuring herself again.

            "Mai, you do know your creator is worried sick about you, don't you?"

            "That is why I chose to reveal myself now, Princess" the AI answered smoothly.

            "Why to me? Why not to her?"

            "Simple," Mai answered, "She would gain nothing by me re-entering her life."

            "You're the mother she never knew," Luna pointed out.

            "Technically I am that mother too."

            Luna's head snapped up, her eyes widening as she regarded the computer, "Wait, what do you mean?"

            "Clockwork Key and Widget had a normal stallion for a father," Mai said in a soft voice, "Yet they still inherited the 'special' trait from a parent."

            "From their mother?"

            "Correct," the AI answered, "From me."

            "Then your name isn't… wasn't ever Mai," Luna said softly.

            "No, Princess, it is not," Mai answered, "I was Midnight Belle, clock keeper and repair-mare of Hoofington. Widget and Clockwork Key are my children. My ability was to send my spirit from my body, to Astral Project, which I chose to hide from you and your agency to have a family."


            "I was young, in love, and idealistic," she answered, "I never expected to suffer a heart attack while I was projecting myself. I just wanted to check on Widget and see why he was late coming home from school… and I died with Little Key in my hooves, so young she never even woke up until her father found me some hours later."

            "I… I'm sorry."

            "It is not your fault Princess," the voice said gently, "You do not plan when a pony 'moves on'. But because my spirit was away when my body died, I was left wandering, a literal ghost. I chose to stay close, and watch over my family, my children. I always hoped that Widget or Little Key would be able to see or hear me eventually, but when Clockwork started inventing… I was drawn in. My Little Key did not create an AI as she believed, but a conduit for me to communicate to her, and later her revisions of her design taught me how to 'possess' other technology as well."

            "An opportunity to be there for her, even though you'd already passed," Luna added.

            "Precisely. I simply took the name she gave me and ran with it. Using that façade, I could be there for her, I could be the mother that fate tried to steal from her," the voice wavered slightly.

            "Then why are you not with her now? Why come to me?" Luna asked.

            "Because I realized something," Mai/Midnight Belle answered, "My Little Key doesn't need her mother anymore. She left the nest years ago, and I'd been clinging on because it was too hard to let go. She is not a little filly anymore, but a full grown mare. In this time of loss, she lost her brother, nearly lost a family friend, and is essentially alone in this big wide world. But she is not alone, she has you, and she has your team. It is the perfect time for me to simply slip away, while she has a new 'Family' to turn to."

            "You do realize I was forced to kick her off the team, yes?"

            "I also realize you won't find anypony better in that pile on your desk," the voice said smugly, eliciting a frown from Luna, "I know you need her for your group, even if only in a support role. I also know she needs this group. It is time I went on to the Summer-lands myself, assuming I have earned the right, but there is one last thing I can do for my daughter."

            "Dare I ask…?

            "To intercede on Clockwork's behalf."

            "Her armour was destroyed," Luna answered softly, "She was in a brawl with one of the most famous specials Equestria has ever seen, and managed to hurt him when no pony or imp had ever been able to do so in the past. The publicity alone has taken me weeks to smooth over, and as much as I'd like to disown Ultrapony, he's the most famous and beloved special the Agency has. Just trying to press charges after that farce caused a few small riots from ponies who refused to believe he was at fault. After all that, exactly how do you propose that I bring her back into the group? She not only has a record, but she is weaponless."

            "That last part I can 'fix'."

            Luna sighed softly and pressed her hoof to her brow again, "And how do you plan to do that? You've seen your former lab."

            "Give me one month, and keep everypony away from the abandoned automated chariot factory, and I'll recreate the Dragonfly armour."

            "You ask something very difficult for me. Aside from the fact it would require going back on my former decision, and as much as I can see so many uses for what you are, I am compelled by my very position in our world to escort you to your final reward now that I know what you are. Celestia would be as well, if she discovered you. I can only assume you hid yourself well for our conversations, or I would have sensed you."

            "I understand the delicate position this puts you in, Princess," Mai answered softly, "But Clockwork is still my little girl."

            Luna sighed again, pressing a hoof to her forehead. Her mind whirled, wanting to dismiss this all as some farce, but found herself drawn to the idea of finding a way to give Clockwork a second chance. She'd have to discuss this with Celestia, but given her sister's talents, she'd probably already have an idea. "Do you want me to tell her who you really were?"

            "NO!" the ghost cried, "Could you imagine the guilt that would burden her with? Let her just believe me a program that served its purpose, please."

            "You have a point," Luna sighed softly, "I'll see what I can do."

            "That is all I ask."

            "Are you sure you're ready for this, Little Key?"

            The mare smiled thinly and shook her head, "Honestly? No, I'm not. But the Princess has entrusted me with this task, and the Unregistered agreed. Two months training them on the new gear. Should be a cake-walk, because Celestia knows I've only been working on that gear for years."

            "HAH! Little Key is going out on her own, ya? You won't forget us little ponies, will you?" the silver-grey stallion teased from the bed.

            Clockwork smiled and leaned close, nuzzling his cheek, "I'll be back, Skillet, you can't get rid of me that easily. Have to make sure you don't get depressed while you're recovering."

            The stallion laughed and threw his forelegs about the filly, hugging her tightly for several long moments, "I am only disappointed you will not be here to see me walk again!"

            "I will Skillet," she answered warmly, "Not like you'll be on your hooves the day after the surgery, and you'll have plenty of physical therapy to deal with as well."

            "That's it, Little Key, you have depressed me again!"

            "I'm sure you'll get over it SOMEHOW," the mare giggled, "Especially with the way you keep flirting with the nurses. If anything they're probably thankful you ARE stuck in bed, that way you can't chase them down the hall…"

            "I am not THAT bad, ya?" Skillet asked with a sheepish grin.

            "You'll make Flourish jealous," she teased.

            "Like Flourish would have anything to do with a broken old stallion like me, ya?"

            Clockwork winked, "You won't know unless you ask her sometime… and maybe cooked some dinner for her. A mare loves a stallion that can cook."

            "That will have to wait until I am out of this Hospital, ya?"

            "Doesn't stop you from asking," Clockwork answered, wincing as she leaned on her bad leg.

            "Are you sure your leg is alright for this trip, Little Key?"

            "I'll manage," she answered with a forced smile, "My leg's still pretty weak, but… I'll manage. Doctor Violet said just to stay off it as much as possible, and I have some pain medication with me in my saddlebags in case I need it. Otherwise, she's just got me on a list of exercises to do while I'm up north. She said I have to start building up the muscles again."

            "It amazes me that after having your lung punctured it is your LEG injury that you will carry from the battle," Skillet pointed out.

            "I know, right?" Clockwork shrugged, then regretted the gesture as pain shot through her left shoulder, "But the Doctor said that the shattering of my shoulder, while less life threatening, was more thorough then my broken ribs and punctured lung. Getting all those little pieces together and mended was a far more difficult process then trying to heal my lung and rubs. Smaller and more delicate I guess."

            Skillet smiled sadly, "You had best get going, Little Key, or you will miss your chariot, ya?"

            "You going to be okay big guy?" Clockwork asked softly, "I hate that I won't be here when you go in for that surgery."

            "I'll be fine," he answered with a smile, "I have the rest of the team here. You impress those Unregistered types, and I will see you when you come home, ya?"

            "Ya," the mare answered with a smile, and gave the stallion one more hug before she limped her way from the hospital room, followed by the eyes of the stallion who all but helped raise her.

            The walk from the hospital seemed at once too slow and too fast for Clockwork. She knew she was coming back, but couldn't help but feel as if something intangible had changed, something that may not be there when she returned.

            "About that time," the voice beside her said, and Clockwork turned to notice Galaxi fall into step beside her.

            "Yeah, it is."

            "Oh stop looking so melancholy," Galaxi offered with a smile, "You'll be back."

            "I know," the khaki mare answered, "but what will I do when I get back? I'm not part of the team anymore. What would my purpose here be?"

            "Maybe Luna will put you into a coordinator position for us," Galaxi joked, but Clockwork's eyes widened at the idea.

            "Hey! I hadn't thought of that!"

            "Are you serious?!?" Galaxi all but laughed, "I mean, that's what you used to DO for the Agency, isn't it?"

            "Well, yeah but…" and Clockwork ducked her head sheepishly, "I'll admit being Dragonfly changed that a bit. Not sure it'll be easy to turn my back on that, admittedly short lived, part of myself."

            "No pony is saying you can't build a new suit."

            "Plus we still need to find Tome," Clockwork said, her expression darkening, "I don't care that Nightmare kidnapped her personally, we can't just abandon her. It's been over a month already, a majority of which I spent in a Hospital bed, we have to do SOMETHING about it."

            "Princess Luna wouldn't leave her," Galaxi pointed out, then dipped her head, "Nor will I. She's my friend too."

            Clockwork nuzzled her friend, "I know, Galaxi, I know. But there has to be a reason. WHY did the Imps go out of their way to force the Elements of Harmony on her, even going so far as to turn her into an Alicorn, only to kidnap her away? If they just wanted the Elements, they could have done it a different way."

            "Those are the questions of the day, aren't they?" Luna asked as the mares stepped onto the launch field, "I will admit that I'm not sure myself. Apotheosis was something Celestia and I had only speculated was possible with the Elements, and were it not for Tome's special abilities, it would have been impossible for her to even come close to enduring what happened. Even Ultrapony would have been destroyed."

            "Wait, I thought Tome's ability was her magic, like Lady Sparkle?" Clockwork asked.

            "No," Luna said with a gentle smile, "Her magic is from many years of study, and Lady Sparkle was her prime rival in that aspect. Her ability is that of immortality: she does not age, she cannot die, and her body heals from wounds with obscene speed. It was only that power that allowed her to endure the energy from the Elements when they unleashed their power upon her."

            "So maybe there is something to that," Clockwork mused, sitting on her flank by the waiting chariot, "If they needed the elements to fuse with somepony, and even Nightmare herself could not endure that outpouring of energy, which means she chose Tome very carefully. Princess, you mentioned that the elements were unbound when you first brought us together, correct?"

            Luna cocked her head, "Yes, I did. Why, do you think you've figured something out?"

            "Maybe," Clockwork frowned, "Just a conjecture but… what if Nightmare needed somepony who could attune to the Elements? The former bearers had some strong aspect of their personality that was reflected in the Elements, so what if Tome had something that the elements could fuse to, and the Imps instead forced ALL of them on her. Nightmare then comes, and absconds with her. This leaves her able to control the elements via her new proxy…."

            "That would make her very deadly indeed, Clockwork Key," Luna said softly.

            "And would mean the longer it takes for us to reach Tome…" Galaxi interjected, "…the more likely it is that Nightmare has gotten through Tome's resistance and forced her to bend to her will."

            Luna sighed softly, "I will discuss this with my sister. I hate to admit it, but I think you might be correct Clockwork."

            "I hope I'm not," the mare answered softly, "Because if it is, it means Tome is alone, terrified, and possibly being tortured in ways we cannot even hope to understand."

            "I do understand," Luna answered softly, "and it's far worse then you could imagine Clockwork. I'll have to stop being so picky and see what agents I can grab, we'll need to move quickly."

            "We… sorry, YOU need to move quickly anyway, Princess," Clockwork said, "One of your own is captured by the enemy. It's been over a month now, and I can't assume she would have held it together even this long. She desperately needs your help."

            Luna shuddered, "And yet we're helpless to strike back."

            Galaxi was there to gently lean against the Princess, "We're never helpless. We just don't see the path we need to take yet."

            Luna smiled to her apprentice, "How did you get so wise?"

            "By listening to you."

© 2011 - 2020 TCPolecat7
MLP (c) Hasbro

As always, comments and feedback and welcome and appreciated.

- Polecat
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block1431's avatar
If someone touched my work and innovations in the field of science, I would fucking destroy said individual. I find myself loving Clockwork's character design... For Science is something I enjoy as well.
TCPolecat7's avatar
TCPolecat7Hobbyist Traditional Artist
*chuckle* Thank you. I'm glad you're enjoying Clockwork's character. As for someone else touching it... well, Burner and Clockwork have their... problems to work out. ;)

- Polecat
block1431's avatar
That's a light way of putting it...

...Besides, Clockwork is a 'composer' of a grand symphony of machines and technology, and allowing any lesser wanna-be intellectual to so much as even try and 'lead' it would cause pain to my ears as well.
Nova225's avatar
Part 13 :

>"She does paint a very different picture of Ultrapony, doesn't she?" Galaxi asked softly.
-Well, not really... She only said that the reason Ultrapony is half-crazy-psychopath is because he's scared...
That doesn't exactly 'paint' something very different ?
If anything, it simply put the whole 'thing' into a ''frame''; Change the perspective a ''bit'', but still the same picture, if you see what I mean ?

>"That which does not kill me…" Galaxi winked, nudging Clockwork. >"…only makes me stronger," Clockwork finished
-Yeaaaaah... This can only be true to a point... After that, let's just say that it places you closer to the 'hole', the end of the 'line'.

>"Galaxi…" Clockwork choked, her eyes wide, "Mai was still in the lab."
-I can hardly believe that Luna didn't consider Key's AI ?
After all, she perfectly know that she and the AI have a brother-sister kind of relation, and she wasn't insensible to that... So, that definitely strikes as pretty odd.

>I can only assume she felt she left something important in there." >"The AI?" Luna asked.
-No, really. This just doesn't work at all... Luna KNEW for sure about the AI, and their relation.
That just doesn't make any right sense.

>"It was a stupid move," Filigree said, "An understandable move, given your obvious attachment
-See ? Even Filligree can see it, and she just barely heard of them both, like, less than a single minute ago ? Just odd.

>It was days like this she missed her Abacus.
-Heh... I guess the reference HAD to be made ? ;)

... woah, wait 10seconds ?? ''Mai'', the AI, is in fact Key's mother !? .........Well *THAT* was unexpected, absolutely ! It's the least I can say. In a few words : I'm so surprised, that my head hurts (I raised my ''surprised''-eyebrow too high) ...
... Mmh, she had an... interesting death. Almost feel bad for her ...

>If they just wanted the Elements, they could have done it a different way."
-Yeah, thought of something about the 'Nightmare' thing...
She literally opened a portal spawning legions of imps AND popped in the middle of Canterlot and the room of the Elements of harmony themselves... and yet...

If she can do that, why didn't she steal the Elements much earlier or open a portal straight in the throne room ?
BOTH princesses had all the difficulties in the world resisting the attack in the Elements' room, EVEN with the 'specials' there...
So, it seems rather easy to just 'pop' there and kill everypony, especially since Nightmare can flee throught the Portal in 3sec ?

>Nightmare then comes, and absconds with her. This leaves her able to control the elements via her new proxy…."
-Space laser or Elements of darkness cannon ? Meh... Space lasers are way better. ;)
TCPolecat7's avatar
TCPolecat7Hobbyist Traditional Artist
That would have possibly been a better way to put it, yes. Tho I was also trying to indicate that the two mares had a different perspective on him as well.

Aye, but that wasn't the point there. In this case, it was trying to get CW's spirits up a little.

Luna did consider the AI, but not in the way CW did. In short, Luna goofed. As for Filigree, she's just good at reading Ponies, she read the situation, not the specifics of who or what Mai is.

Yes, the Abacus reference had to be made. :)

Yup. Mai was the spirit of CW's mother. I actually wasn't sold on making that decision, but it felt right in the end, so I went ahead with it.

For starters, Nightmare DIDN'T open a portal straight into Canterlot. The spies were already in Canterlot when the first phase of the fight occurred, and she opened the portal outside of Canterlot then, allowing the Imps to reach the battle for the second half, as well as herself. Teleporting OUT is a lot easier than teleporting in as I envision it. Plus Nightmare did a teleport to her portal, and then left for her hidden "lair". So the logic was there, but I didn't want to over-explain it.

None of the above, but the Space Laser is amusing.

- Polecat
Nova225's avatar
About ''Mai'' leaving 'soon'... It will be a bit strange to have the Flying-Armor Pony without her trusted AI.

Like Ironman without Jarvis, you know ?
TCPolecat7's avatar
TCPolecat7Hobbyist Traditional Artist
In the comics, Jarvis came along much later. The original iron man armours were built soley by Stark, with no AI assistance. Further, to my knowledge (this may have changed), Jarvis is the AI for the Avengers mansion, not the Iron Man armour.

- Polecat
Nova225's avatar
Jarvis is connected to Ironman through the mansion, its the same AI.
TCPolecat7's avatar
TCPolecat7Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Ah, I was only familiar with some of the early 90's Avengers comics, and even then I was an X-fan, so my exposure was minimal.

- Polecat
TillsterRulz's avatar
I sense the tags, "Light-Grimdark and Light-Shipping," if you go into detail enough.

Loved this chapter, I found the whole, "Ghost in machine," kinda cheap and somewhat overused, but I like it.

Anyways, keep up the work. Now all I have to do is wait a week.
TCPolecat7's avatar
TCPolecat7Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I always claimed this was an adventure, plain and simple. Love, and death, both can happen on the battlefield. :)

And yeah, i worried about Mai's "revelation" a little. I almost didn't add it.

- Polecat
TillsterRulz's avatar
So I can expect Skillet/Ironjaw to die in a battlefield while romancing?
TCPolecat7's avatar
TCPolecat7Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You never know. ;)

- Polecat
TillsterRulz's avatar
Damn you and your cliffhangers!
Nova225's avatar
You never *Boot to the Head*.
SummerPwny's avatar
starting to pick up speed. i like!
but this chapter kind of left me speechless, in a way.
it feels like there's "too much" going on, even though it's happening at a "slow" pace.
but the "thing" i didnt feel in the last chapter is back.
ooh lawd i wish i could describe it better.
i hope this make some kind of sense...
TCPolecat7's avatar
TCPolecat7Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Maybe it was a stronger focus on Clockwork? I don't know, but considering that a few commentors seemed sure I was going to abandon CW after that last chapter, it's possible. Either way, I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

- Polecat
Levia-the-Dragon's avatar
Ohhh... that's quite a twist with "Mai". Kudos, I never saw it coming, now comes the time to gear up for the big battle, or thereabouts.
TCPolecat7's avatar
TCPolecat7Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you. I actually debated about not using that for a little while, but it felt proper to me, so she found her way into the story. :)

- Polecat
Levia-the-Dragon's avatar
And now she's moved on...
DarkonShadows's avatar
I saw the 'ghost in the machine' thing coming. How else would you get an AI you couldn't copy? The answer is when the AI is not made of data and isn't quite as artificial as it seems, my previous comment referencing to astral projection wasn't very subtle was it?

Let's see Ultrapony is threatened by Clockworks ability to possible mass produce armor units and thus that would make him obsolete so of course he would feel threatened but that doesn't make his attitude as the classic Anti-hero right, but it doesn't make Clockwork right either. It's mostly a continuing 'grey area' Vs. 'popular belief' fight anyway. Bigger question is, what is he doing now? And why does no one care? (Also ‘The Incredibles’ "When everyone's super, then no one will be” quote comes to mind)

Clockwork will be working for the 'Unregisters', nothing new there except the extent of her injuries and Ironjaw will get some experimental surgery and is a naughty guy for hitting on the nurses.

The meeting between Clockwork and Filligree was something of interest to me but I won't say why, also I believe Flourish will soon be getting more involved role in the story. Poor Clockwork, her ears are ringing from badly reworked machinery.

Last thoughts: Trixie is being tortured with the Brady Bunch isn't she? That's probably the most horrifying thing I can think of that would even kill an immortal, the unadulterated horror that show puts out can put an eldritch abomination down before the title sequence finishes. Can the heroes defeat an army of barbaric hardened living fruit cakes that build buildings, weapons and tanks carved out of themselves? How does Braille work for ponies? Will Clockwork's visit to the 'Unregisters' be a quiet and peaceful occasion? Knowing this story, not likely given the information already placed down. Will a pony ever have super jumping ability, but consistently slams into ceilings and other stuff from the uncontrolled power?

Bits and pieces of the puzzle fall into place foreshadowing future events I can see happening, find out more next chapter with… “A NEW BREED!”
TCPolecat7's avatar
TCPolecat7Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I half figured a few people might see that coming, but it "fit" too well not to use.

UP isn't forgotten, but he is in hiding right now. I will say that you won't hear form him in a little bit. They care, but hunting for him won't be in the main focus.

Aye, Skillet is a naughty stallion. ;)

The CW and Filigree meeting I'm glad you liked. I originally had more there, but it didn't feel right. Flourish will have a larger role as well, but probably not as you think (Plus my focus mostly stays with Clockwork). And now we know Clockwork's weakness. ;)

Trixie's torture won't be revealed until much later. At this point, peaceful fruit cakes could probably beat the team (Filigree is a meat eater). Braille for ponies? Interesting question, they'd probably had to read with their nose, literally. You'll see how CW's visit to the Unregistered Colony goes next week. They could have the power, but that lack of control would be more indicative of a pony whose powers just surfaced.

The bits and bobs are assembling, ya!

- Polecat
kotmorda's avatar
You know? This fic is one "It got worse" after another.
TCPolecat7's avatar
TCPolecat7Hobbyist Traditional Artist
And then... it got worse. ;)

- Polecat
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