"Ghosts of the Past"
"Miss Key, you're running late." The AI stated.
The mare this statement was directed at dashed about the lab, which had been straightened up considerably since she first took it over two weeks ago. Most of the physical consoles were gone, replaced instead by large tiled panels on both ceiling and floor. If anything the room looked rather bare now, save for a single console, a handful of blinking computers in one corner, and a number of holographic projectors along the perimeter. However, if one looked under any one of those tiles, they would find a number of robotic arms of varying specificity. The only other feature in the room was a metallic looking pony, the basic framework of a power-suit, currently unpainted and lacking weapon systems. Instead this metallic pony-armour stood near the far wall, facing the door, with several heavy cables connected to it at various points.
"I KNOW Mai!!" the mare fumed as she tossed her tool-saddlebags into a corner, "It couldn't be helped. If I didn't finish that calibration we might have lost the armour!"
"I am sure I could have localized the power frequencies and stabilized it until you returned, ma'am," Mai answered smoothly.
"No I couldn't not finish it. I would have gone crazy the entire meeting," She insisted, and ran a hoof through her mane, "Alright, how do I look?"
"Like you have been working, ma'am," Mai answered, "You are covered in dirt and grease."
"There's no time to clean up "
"This will have to do then, ma'am," Mai stated, and a robot arm unfolded from a ceiling panel, draping a lab-coat over the mare's small form.
"Right then I'm off!" and the mare dashed out the door, struggling her fore-legs into the lab-coat's sleeves the entire way. The AI locked the door behind her before sending a small signal to Princess Luna, letting her know that the mare was on her way.
"It's about time!" "There you are." "Ah, I was beginning to worry." "You kept Tome waiting!" came the series of responses as Clockwork pushed into the office Luna had chosen to use. The room had been done in a lovely midnight blue color scheme with silver accents all around and a massive oak desk that made Clockwork feel even smaller then she was already.
"I'm sorry," she puffed as she struggled to catch her breath, sweating from her dash up ten flights of stairs, "I had to finish a delicate calibration and it took longer then expected." Luna watched as Clockwork slipped in between Ironjaw and Galaxi.
"Didn't have time to clean up?" Luna asked softly, and Clockwork blushed.
"You could tell the difference?" Tome scoffed, and Ultrapony gave a short bray of laughter.
"Princess Luna," Thunderhooves interrupted, much to Clockwork's gratitude, "We have gathered, as you requested. I must confess I am curious what is so important that we could not even unpack."
"Simple," Luna noted with a thin smile, "You need to know what you're up against."
"We're against the Imps, what more do we need to know?" Ultrapony demanded.
"A great deal," Luna said, "I am sure you all know the basics of how the Imps first came to Equestria. A comet many years ago crashed into what was then called the Everfree Forest, and from that comet, the Imps began their invasion. Nearby the Everfree was a town called Ponyville, within which lived 'The Six'. The Six went to investigate the comet, and were set upon by the Imps. They were able to escape, but in doing so inadvertently lead the Imps to the town.
"Twilight Sparkle, one of The Six, was also a student of Celestia. She was able to send a missive that prompted the arrival of my sister on the scene in an attempt to communicate with the Imps. The conversation went poorly, and the Imps attacked the Princess herself. 'The Six' moved to defend the Princess, and in those moments were granted powers far beyond their own, and a long dormant magic awakened across Equestria.
"'The Six' defended the Princess and drove the Imps back with these new powers. In reward for this, they were each granted a title and formed 'The Six' officially, acting as Celestia's right hoof in dealing with the invasion of Imps in those first years."
"Yes, yes, Tome KNOWS all this," The unicorn huffed impatiently.
"Did you ever wonder why I wasn't there on the scene with my sister?" Luna asked pointedly, drawing uncomfortable looks from the ponies (and bison) assembled.
"Everypony assumed you were elsewhere, ya?" Ironjaw offered.
"I was, but not of my own free will," Luna said in a tightly controlled voice, "I spotted the comet first, being MY night sky it was in. I went to investigate, and saw creatures I did not recognize swarming over the surface of the comet. Curiosity overwhelmed my common sense, and I flew closer, only to fall into their trap. I won't go into the specifics, but the Imps captured me quickly. That was one of the things Celestia discovered in her attempt to negotiate with them.
"'The Six' freed me from the captivity several days after the fateful meeting in Ponyville, before the Imps could truly fortify their position in the Everfree Forest, but I learned much during my captivity. Most importantly I learned what they wanted with Equestria, and who was in charge."
"I have a bad feeling about this " Clockwork mumbled softly.
"They want one thing from Equestria, and it's citizens: Magic," Luna continued, "The Imps feed off magic, and even the smallest earth filly has enough to feed an Imp. Just keeping me drained and helpless fed the entire invasion force.
"As for who was in charge, it was an entity I knew and long thought dead. She held me prisoner once before, feeding on my jealousy to turn me against my sister, and enveloped me completely in the end. My sister had to banish us both to the Moon to prevent this entity from rampaging across Equestria.
"I speak of none other then Nightmare Moon."
The ponies in the room sucked in a breath, looking amongst each other worriedly.
"I was under the impression that the infamous Mare in the Moon had been destroyed by your sister, using the Elements of Harmony, when you returned from your banishment." Thunderhooves pointed out.
"That was what we all thought." Luna admitted in a harsh voice, "Her return was unexpected and unpleasant."
"Then should not your elder sister use the Elements again?"
"If only it were so simple, Thunderhooves. Nightmare Moon has protected herself this time, and Princess Celestia is sure that it will take much more then a simple assault with the elements to banish her for good," Luna stated. She hated having to obscure the whole truth from the team, but Celestia had insisted that the role 'The Six' had in freeing her from Nightmare Moon's control remain a state secret, even if Luna didn't understand the reason yet.
She sighed and turned to look out the window that dominated the office wall behind her desk, which showed a lovely view over the cliffs which Canterlot resided on. A waterfall fell past the window, leaving a rainbow hovering in mid-air where the late-afternoon sunlight caught the spray, before falling into a basin somewhere below. Specially designed gardens and terraces hovered in view, supported by spells put in place by unicorn mages. Luna saw none of it, trying hard to push away the bitter anger that rose in her like bile.
"The Elements of Harmony went active the day of the Imp's assault." Luna stated firmly, forcing herself to continue, "Each of 'The Six' were chosen by an element, and became the first Specials of Equestria. So long as 'The Six" lived, and they embodied the element that chose them, the elements would reverberate across Equestria, wakening the specials.
"With the death of Lady Sparkle, the final of the Element's chosen has passed. Without the Elements in circulation, there will be no more Specials born. This puts us under pressure to act, to stop this invasion now, or we will surely loose when the Specials are eliminated by the Imps. They grow in numbers while we can only loose good agents.
"That brings us with this team," and Luna turned to face the group again, placing her hooves on the desk to lean over it, "You are my chosen strike force, the ones who will go into the heart of darkness itself to destroy the evil that is Nightmare Moon, and free Equestria from this nightmare. I know this power and fell to it ages ago, which unfortunately this means I am helpless to face it now, as I found out the first night of the invasion. But with you as my hooves, we can destroy this threat once and for all!
"Nightmare Moon WILL FALL!!"
Silence filled the room for several long moments, all eyes fixed on the Night Princess looming over them. Her hooves on the desk as she leaned over it towards them, her wings flared in a way that darkened the office, blocking all light from the window behind her. It made her look so much larger and imposing that even Thunderhooves recoiled back from her. Luna seemed to realize this after a moment, and with a lady-like blush she lowered herself back to the floor and brushed her silver-blue hair from her eyes.
"Any questions?" she asked with an impish smile. Silence reigned in the office for several minutes, the ponies (and bison) seemingly not even wanting to breathe for fear of that seething anger from the Princess might return.
"Y-yes ma'am." Clockwork shakily put her hoof up, like a foal still in school, "If we eliminate all imps, would the Elements go dormant again?"
"Would we loose our gifts? You said the Imp invasion caused the Elements of Harmony to awaken, and thus granted Specials like us our powers. If the elements go fully dormant again after the threat of the Imp invasion is dealt with, would we loose what makes us 'Special'?" Clockwork asked and glanced about the room. She was met by various expressions of surprise and dismay: Ultrapony seemed horrified of the idea of being normal, Tome seemed shaken by the thought, Thunderhooves frowned so deeply that his face seemed to distend to accommodate, while Ironjaw's jaw clenched with a fierce grimace. Only Galaxi's expression remained inscrutable.
Luna's smile fell, "I don't know."
"Well that was an interesting reaction to your question, ma'am," Mai stated.
"Yeah," Clockwork said softly, having finished recounting the events of the meeting for the AI, "I almost felt sorry for Ultrapony, he just seemed so terrified of the idea of loosing his powers, like a colt suddenly having somepony crush his dreams."
"You felt sorry for HIM?!?" Mai demanded.
"Um... maybe?" Clockwork admitted, recoiling from the AI.
"Need I remind you what happened the first time you met, ma'am?" the AI pressed angrily.
"No, Mai," Clockwork sighed, "I remember it clearly. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have any feelings at all. Just because he's a braggart with a ego twice the size of his entire body doesn't mean he doesn't have any emotions."
"You are correct, Miss Key, but " Mai started, but her tone softened at a new intrusion into the room, "Good afternoon, Miss Galaxi. Are you here to listen again?" Clockwork found herself looking over to the door as the suited mare pushed through. She'd become a common sight in the lab, and Galaxi always insisted that it was to listen to her surface thoughts, listening to the music as it slowly came together about the half finished suit of armour in the starkly empty lab. Clockwork suspected it was also so she could report back to Luna her progress, which didn't bother her as much as she thought it would. The Princess does, after all, have a vested interest in her work. Clockwork just wished she could work faster, so she would actually have something more then a basic exoskeleton to show.
"N-not this time Mai," Galaxi said, her voice oddly unsteady.
"Is something wrong?" Clockwork asked quickly, trotting towards the other mare, her argument with the AI forgotten.
"No Yes I don't know," Galaxi answered.
"Can we is there somewhere we can speak, alone?"
Clockwork nodded, "Sure. Mai? Do me a favor a lock things up here?"
"Of course, ma'am," the AI stated pleasantly, and the two mares slowly moved from the room. Galaxi didn't talk, and Clockwork didn't press, only leading her back up to the level their rooms were on. Clockwork glanced at the doorway to her private room, which now had the name "Clockwork Key" over a number five, and used her hoof to key the door open and allow Galaxi in. The room was done in soothing blues and greens, with oaken fixtures and some brass fittings. One side of the room was occupied by a large comfortable bed, while a wall was dominated by a large desk that seemed littered with a series of half finished gadgets scattered about a computer.
Clockwork closed the door before turning to face Galaxi. The blind mare was the closest thing she had to a friend here for the past two weeks, but her lack of expression made her nearly impossible to read. Clockwork was startled to see that this was not the case right now, as tears ran down Galaxi's face.
"G-Galaxi?!? What's wrong??" Clockwork asked, quickly moving to the other pony's side and placing a hoof on her shoulder.
"I I'm sorry," Galaxi managed as she scrubbed at her face with her fore-leg, then used her hooves to grasp the hood of her suit to pull it back almost angrily, leaving the mask hang at her neck. This was the first time Clockwork had ever seen Galaxi without her mask on and paused to look at her snow-white pelt and sea-green mane. However it was the odd star shaped mark on her forehead that gave Clockwork pause, right where a unicorn horn would normally be. Despite her curiosity, Clockwork forced herself to focus on the mare in question.
"Sorry for what? What's wrong Galaxi?"
"I I'm usually better at controlling my emotions, and " Galaxi sniffled.
"Oh shush, it's better to let it out. Let me get something to wipe your eyes with," Clockwork answered softly, and moved to one of the dressers to tug out a neatly folded handkerchief. She carried it back over and wiped at the other mare's eyes lightly.
"So you want to tell me what's wrong?" Clockwork asked after several moments of silence.
"That that question you asked Princess Luna," Galaxi tried to explain, "I think it scared even her. It was like no pony had ever thought of that possibility. She rushed off to consult with Princess Celestia afterwards, and asked me to keep an eye on the team, but "
" but I just kept thinking. The idea of loosing my abilities just " she said in a shuddering voice, "My entire world is what I can sense with my gifts. I can only see by sensing things psychically, and even then they are incomplete pictures. I can't see holograms or writing on a monitor or even read a book without borrowing from another pony and viewing it from their mind. I I can't imagine what it would be like without any way to see. I don't think I could handle being blind."
"Galaxi " Clockwork started, then paused, unable to find the proper words. How could she tell her it would be alright? The idea scared her too, but she wouldn't be nearly as affected as ANY of the other ponies collected. Worse, how could she even hope to comprehend what it is like to be blind? With a nervous swallow, Clockwork offered the only thing she could think of to say, "You'd learn to adapt. We all would."
"We won't know until we get there," the pony answered softly, "I know it's not what you want to hear, and the idea of loosing my abilities scares me too. We would all loose something, but we'd also gain something too."
"What? What would we possibly gain?" Galaxi demanded, "We'd no longer be Special!"
"No, we wouldn't. We'd be normal," Clockwork answered softly, "For once we wouldn't be stared at, called 'freak' behind our backs, or have ponies believe we need to be controlled like a weapon just so they can feel safe from us. Maybe we'd be able to settle down, find a nice stallion, have a few foals, live out life normally. Instead we're embroiled in a war with critters from the dark side of the moon, and no guarantee we'll even be alive when Princess Celestia raises the sun next."
"So that's it?" Galaxi all but shouted, making the other mare wince with the hurt in her voice, "We just give up everything?!?"
"Galaxi do you remember what was life like for you before your gift formed?" Clockwork asked, trying a slightly different tact.
The mare in question looked surprised, then shook her head, "I don't. As far as I know, I was born with my gifts."
"Me too." Clockwork said, "I never noticed a firm beginning to when my gift revealed itself. Dad he said I was always knee deep in his stuff, fixing things before they even seemed broken. I used to always get in trouble for taking apart his stuff, but he never stayed mad once I rebuilt it better then before."
"At least you had a father."
Clockwork winced again and sighed. She was on a roll, sticking her hoof in her mouth repeatedly, "I'm sorry, I didn't know."
"No you didn't. I never really talk about myself." Galaxi admitted softly.
"You really don't." Clockwork pressed gently, "Is there a reason?"
"I just prefer it that way." Galaxi answered sharply.
"Is that why you wear the suit all the time?" Clockwork asked carefully, "To hide yourself away from everypony else so they can't learn about you?" Galaxi didn't answer, biting her lip before she shook her head angrily, pushing her way to her feet.
"I'm sorry for wasting your time." She said bitterly, pulling her mask back over her face. She looked briefly at Clockwork and, even with her nigh unreadable expression, the mare realized she was hurt. Then she turned and left, leaving Clockwork alone in her room.
"Galaxi!" Clockwork called out, but the other mare didn't look back, letting the door close behind her with an odd sound of finality.
"Good going, idiot." she reprimanded herself dejectedly.
"Check the input levels Mai," The mare ordered. She looked like hell, but her eyes seemed possessed while she worked. She never noticed the door open behind her, her entire focus on the system hanging by a multitude of cables from the ceiling. Screwdriver in her mouth, she carefully tweaked a small screw.
"0053 0056 Stop, Miss Key. 0061," The AI counted off , "Frequency matched. Good evening Princess Luna."
"So what is going on here?" Luna asked curiously.
"You will want to stay behind Miss Key, Princess," Mai instructed, "She is about to do an initial test on both the basic plasma thruster/ejector system and the hard light shield system."
"Oh? Sounds like I arrived just in time," Luna said, the smile in her voice clear.
"Power up the shield generator in the armour Mai," Clockwork interrupted, so focused that she was oblivious to the Princess' presence.
"Yes Ma'am. Power initiated. Twenty-five percent. Fifty percent. Sixty-three percent. Seventy-six percent ."
"Too slow. We'll have to find a way to power those up more quickly in the final revision," Clockwork fumed.
"The design takes time to spin up without an active field already in place, Ma'am."
"I know, I know, a flaw in the design. I'll figure it out," She growled. Luna raised an eyebrow noticeably as she watched silently.
"One Hundred Percent Ma'am." The AI intoned.
"Right. Start the recorders Mai, I want this in every possible angle for review."
"Recorders started." Mai said, and a few of the panels shifted to angle towards the armour.
"Right then let's do it," Clockwork said, then shoved her left hoof into the mechanism that hung in the air. It covered most of her fore-leg and was festooned with cables and wires protruding from it, but at the hoof tip there rested a hole that glowed a brilliant blue-white.
"Firing in 3.. 2 1 " and Clockwork shifted the muscles in her leg. A white-blue beam lanced outward from the hole with an odd metallic sound from the discharge, causing Princess Luna to shield her eyes with a wing before tentatively looking out over it. The beam arced out towards the armour, seemingly intent on ripping it apart. At the last second a golden glow seemed to envelop the armour, absorbing the blast with a focused grid-like glow around the point of impact.
"Stress levels climbing," The AI intoned, but Clockwork ignored it, keeping the output from the weapon constant. Her eyes flickered across readouts on the weapon itself, her frown deepening before she suddenly snapped the beam off.
"Switching firing mode," Clockwork hissed through clenched teeth.
"Miss Key, I am not sure that is a good " the AI started, but was cut off by the sound of the plasma ejector firing off multiple times in quick succession. The bolts lanced out at the armour, the first two impacting on the shield and dissipating. The third caused an odd crackling sound, and the golden glow about the armour shuddered, turning orange for a moment, before fading completely.
"DAMMIT!!" Clockwork shouted, all but throwing the weapon off her hoof, the cables causing it to bounce and spin wildly in mid-air before it came to a rest. She turned her back on it, facing a blank wall, her breath caught in angry pants forced through clenched teeth.
"The frequency is wrong," Clockwork said with an oddly drained voice, "The sound is wrong. I can hear it, I can hear what it should be What am I missing? It's right in front of me, what am I not putting together?!?"
"Time, Miss Key," The AI interrupted, "Minimum required break, one hour."
"Yeah I need a break. My head's not in this," Clockwork sighed. She felt a hoof land on her shoulder and looked up, blinking owlishly as she found herself eye to eye with Princess Luna.
"There you are," Luna said with a barely suppressed chuckle.
"P-Princess!!" Clockwork cried out and moved to kneel, which Luna stopped with a swish of her wing.
"Oh stop it, if I'd been worried about that I would have said something before now," Luna noted with a smile, "But I did want to poke my nose in on you."
"You probably could have chosen a better time," Clockwork admitted softly, "This was not one of my finer moments. The hazards of going with a smaller system are the lower available power levels. I'm having trouble getting the speeds I need with the efficiency required from the smaller power generator."
"I'm sure you'll figure it out in time," Luna said, "But that's not why I wanted to talk to you."
"I hope it's not about Galaxi," The small mare noted with a sinking in her stomach.
"Only partially," Luna noted, "Seems your question at the meeting this morning stirred up a whole barrel of parasprites."
"Oh no," she groaned softly, "I didn't mean to cause any problems ."
"I know you didn't. It was an honest question, and one I had never considered either. I conferred with my sister on it. Unfortunately she didn't know any better then I did. If I might be honest, I think Celestia hopes it would return everypony to non-special status. I think that, to her mind, it would mean the threat had passed us by and ended."
"You don't seem so sure," Clockwork noted softly.
"I'm of two minds about it. I see Celestia's point, but there will always be threats to our way of life, and those who can protect it are important," Luna answered honestly, "Walk with me Clockwork, you need to get out of your lab."
"You sure Princess? I mean I look like hell."
"I hardly see where that matters," Luna said with a warm smile, nosing the door open. Clockwork quickly followed.
Clockwork attempted to let Luna take the lead, but Luna seemed to reject that idea without saying a word, pausing until Clockwork was walking side by side with her. Clockwork felt odd walking with the Princess like that, but Luna seemed comfortable with it, even as she steered the smaller mare from the steel hallways of their "home" and up to the main floors of the palace. While Clockwork had gotten more used to the sights of the palace itself, they never ceased to amaze her. She found herself staring at a golden statue of an alicorn when Luna chuckled softly.
"Back when The Six were just a normal group of mares, my sister invited them to her yearly Gala up here," She mused with a chuckle, "I don't know why, they were hardly the sort who would enjoy such a stuffy affair, and they caused all sorts of chaos. That statue, for instance, had to be replaced."
"Why did they have to do that?" Clockwork asked, realizing this had nothing to do with what Luna wished to talk about, but curious despite herself.
"Through a chaotic series of events that my sister could never clearly explain without breaking into fits laughter, something about a large multi-layer cake and a stage dive, the statue got bumped and knocked over. But instead of falling to the floor, Lady Dash made an attempt to 'rescue' it."
"She wasn't successful?"
"She was, to an extent," Luna noted, a smile twinkling in her eyes, "She caught it, but found it too heavy and it overbalanced her. She stumbled into those columns surrounding the statue, causing them all to fall over. Finally the stress was too much for the statue, and it fell in two parts around the poor filly. She tried so hard ."
"Why do I have a feeling that wasn't something you just told me randomly?" Clockwork asked softly.
Luna smiled and led the other mare through the empty hall, and out a side door and into a beautiful garden. A million scents wafted past Clockwork's nose, at once calming and soothing right up until she sneezed so hard she fell over.
"You're still kicking yourself for when you tried to talk to Galaxi," The Princess said, helping Clockwork back to her hooves, "You did nothing wrong, and more, you made the effort. You tried to help, even if it wasn't successful. In essence you took on a job larger then you could handle, much like Lady Dash did those years ago."
"I stuck every hoof I have so far into my mouth I'm still tasting my horseshoes," Clockwork added sourly.
"Maybe. You tackled a job too big and now worry you made the situation worse," Luna noted softly, "Neither of us can truly know what it's like to be blind, as she is. To Galaxi, her power is the only thing that allows her to be even partially self-sufficient. She's so conscious of what she has to borrow from others that she forgets what strength she herself has."
"It didn't help that I asked if she always wears the bodysuit to hide herself from everyone else."
"Only because you came so close to the truth," Luna said softly, looking up into the night sky for several long minutes, "Princess Celestia had a beloved apprentice whom she was like a mother to. Even when her knowledge exceeded what Celestia could teach her, and the student became the Mistress when it came to magic, she always deferred to the Princess."
"Lady Sparkle," Clockwork breathed.
"Yes. This isn't to say her life was always easy, and she and Celestia had their fights. One of which was over the death of her assistant, Spike."
"Spike? Wasn't he a dragon?" Clockwork asked haltingly, trying hard to remember her history.
"Yes, he was," Luna answered sadly, "He'd just gone for his first hibernation when the Imps invaded. Celestia had so much on her plate she kept sending The Six to various hotspots to drive back the Imps as much as possible. Those first weeks saw many falling stars carrying their invasion forces to Equestria, and at the time The Six were the only Specials we knew of. But she kept denying Lady Sparkle's requests to check on her friend, there were so many ponies to save she felt couldn't spare them, and was confidant that the dragons could handle themselves. Then we discovered that the Imps were quietly targeting the dragons, killing them quickly and efficiently since they were so solitary, then draining them of all magic. By the time Twilight and her friends got to where Spike was hibernating it was far too late. They only found an unsent scroll from the dragon, begging for help from Twilight Sparkle. The young dragon never lived long enough to send it.
"Twilight was devastated, Spike was like family to her, and she was furious with grief. It was the only time Twilight and Celestia fought, and I don't mean verbally. Twilight proved there and then she was actually as powerful as Celestia herself, but in her grief she could not control of the massive amounts of magic she summoned. She almost killed both herself and her mentor that day. Celestia forgave the unicorn her rage, fences and bodies were mended, and The Six were given more freedom to act on their own as a result of the confrontation. But as far as I know, Lady Sparkle never stopped mourning the little dragon."
"Wow," Was all Clockwork could think to say.
"Precisely," Luna stated, falling silent. There was an expectant air hanging about the two mares, and Clockwork realized suddenly that Luna was waiting to see if she could piece the puzzle together.
"Is Galaxi your apprentice?" she asked softly, and was rewarded by a beaming smile from the Princess.
"Yes, I took Galaxi on as my own apprentice." Luna said with a smile, "Her psychic abilities are far stronger then most unicorns long experienced in magic. It's possible that she could be the first earth pony in Equestria with access to that level of power and magic."
"I thought you said she was psychic?"
"Psychic and mystic powers are very similar."
"Well I suppose," Clockwork considered, "I can see the comparison when it comes to telekinesis."
"The primary difference I've found is that a psychic relies on the flow and 'feeling' of what they are doing, while magic relies heavily on rituals and studious memorization," Luna shrugged, "It all has the same basic source, the force of one's will. Regardless, I chose Galaxi as my apprentice. She has no family, they abandoned her in an orphanage in Baltimare, supposedly due to her blindness. Her psychic powers developed early, and she was ostracized by the other children. I noticed the swell of power on one of my nightly trips across the sky, and I detoured to observe. After several weeks of quiet observation I knew she'd need to be taught, or she'd eventually lash out at a world that refused to understand her, and took her under my wing."
"She's lived in the palace ever since," Luna finished softly, "I've been the mother fate refused her."
"But why tell me all this?" Clockwork asked softly, sidling closer to the Princess.
"Because, like Lady Sparkle when she was young, Galaxi is quite sheltered. She tends to spurn close contact and finds the idea of getting close to another pony awkward and unsettling." Luna sighed, "Her telepathic abilities are a hindrance in this case, because even without trying she picks up on every stray thought, and quite often they are less then flattering.
"There's very few ponies she can't just read. My sister and I are two of them. Lady Sparkle used to be a third. Tome, when she focuses on keeping her defenses up, is a fourth. You are only the fifth I know of, but only while you are working."
"So she was telling the truth? I always thought she stayed by while I worked so you could keep an eye on my progress," Clockwork admitted sheepishly.
"If I wanted that, I just had to look in the lab myself," Luna laughed, "Mai and I have already had a few long conversations in your absence. Mai is very protective of you, almost motherly."
"She is, in her own way," Clockwork admitted, "My father used to say she sounded like my mother, but she passed away when I was so young that I never knew her. I guess I ended up making my own surrogate mother."
"That makes sense. Galaxi, however, just likes hearing the 'music' in your head," Luna said as she gently steered the other mare through the garden, "Your surface thoughts, according to her, are like your brain is singing while you are working. She insists that it's not so much your fantastic intellect that is your gift, but an incredibly sensitive and acute sense of hearing. I'm not entirely sure she is correct, but I have learned long ago not to discount a theory simply because it sounds unusual."
"I told Galaxi I always thought it was a figment of my imagination," Clockwork admitted, "I imagined it was just how I sorted the schematics and such in my head, turning it to music to make it easier to work on. But even when I was very young I could hear it, a discordant tone in a mechanism that I just had to track down and fix. Sometimes it's so overwhelming it's like a compulsion, a discordant tone so strong it hurts to ignore. It's why I stopped the unicorns from plugging in that cable on the first day in the lab. The cacophony of sound was so overwhelming I just HAD to get into it."
"You looked so happy though?" Luna asked, confused.
"Don't get me wrong, I was happy am happy. That doesn't mean that the sound was any different. If they'd have plugged that cable in " and the small mare shuddered.
"That said," Luna continued, "With the amount of time she spent there in your lab, I had hoped she'd start opening up to you. The fact she was around you so much gave me hope she might have finally found a friend here."
"And then I go and blow it," Clockwork groaned.
"Don't be so sure," Luna smiled, "Friends sometimes have to admit they don't have all the answers. Just because you couldn't give her the answers she wanted to hear doesn't mean they are not answers she NEEDED to hear."
"I want to be her friend, really," Clockwork admitted, "She always seems so lonely. But she's so so hard to read. I've only known her a few weeks, admittedly, so she may not be ready to open up to me. I worry sometimes about her though, she seems so closed off from her emotions, even from herself. It was almost like she was angry with herself for being scared about loosing her powers."
"I think that is an apt way to put it," Luna answered softly, "I wonder, Clockwork Key, are YOU scared by the idea of loosing your powers?"
"Yes and no," Clockwork answered quickly, "In some ways, yes. Building gadgets and the like are my life. It's what makes me feel alive, like I'm solving the unsolvable riddle, or piecing together the perfect sonata from a handful of frayed notes.
"In other ways, no. What I have already made isn't going to just fall apart simply because I can't build anymore. Mai will still be there, my designs will still work, schematics will still be accurate, and robotics will hardly just cease to function because my ability is gone. In that way I know I have it easy. My life isn't reliant on my powers, and sometimes I can't help but wonder if it wouldn't be better to just be normal."
"You had a lot of harassment when you were growing up?" Luna asked softly.
"Yeah," and Clockwork looked up at the stars herself, "My brother tried to protect me as much as possible, but he couldn't be there every second. Being smaller then most other fillies my age, I was regularly picked on. Daddy always told me to just ignore them, but that was always easier said then done. Of course if I was normal NOW, it would hardly change then, would it?"
"No," Luna answered softly, "No it wouldn't."
Any and all feedback is appreciated.
Spark Chapter 2
Spark Chapter 7
Spark Chapter 3
I look forward to reading the rest of this, but for now--snack break!
Good stuff still.
I kind of want to hear more about the 6, and what abilities they actually had. Ehhh.
I referenced that briefly already in the previous chapter when Luna and Celestia spoke. I may reference them more in the future, but I am unsure as of how yet.