'Testing, testing, 1,2,3? Dear, can you hear me?'
Diamond blinked looking around. Silver was currently sleeping while she kept watch, they had plans, but they needed to rest like anyone. "Hello?"
'Good! You can here me!'
"Who are you?"
'It is I, the one and only Spirit of Chaos and Supreme giant hat, Discord! Long story short, Diamond, we have a bit of a link, and even while in this statue, I can speak with you.'
"Hey! Since when can he do that?! You were saying 'no new powers'!"
"It's not NEW, Discord has a link to Diamond because she's descended from his mortal mother Shady, he's just never had REASON to use it...until I implied he could..."
"So now Discord is going to reveal he was never locked up and break free and curbstomp everypony, right?!"
"No, he still needs HELP to be free."
'Oh good! You have plans to put Little Miss 'Everything Must Be Equal!' out of business. We are OH so on the same page. I do hope in the end Celly let's ME be the one to decide her punishment! Allow me to give you a little advice dear: before you head north, there are a few things I think you can do to throw a gigantic wrench in her plans...'
'Hey! No fair! We're supposed to be the one to let them save the day!'
'You really don't understand our ACTUAL job, do you?
Diamond and Silver, with guidance from Discord, exploited one thing about THIS kind of utopia: paranoia. And if there was one thing the Spirit of Chaos knew how spread a little disorder.
The next morning, the group found the local 'Re-education' chamber burned to the ground (the pony who'd happened to be in it missing). Diamond Tiara had enjoyed doing that. That horrid place that'd replaced her parents with those smiling strangers.
The guards of the local Cutie Mark vault, having been brought down to the lowest common denominator, had been tricked into leaving them chamber for the moment it took for whoever had done this to steal a number of Cutie Marks.
Starlight Glimmer wasn't sure what to think that HERS had been among them.
On the wall had been left a note. It told how the perpetrator had kidnapped the pony who'd been in the Re-education Chamber along with two foals named Diamond and Silver Spoon with intent to 'teach them a Cutie Mark wasn't something to be ashamed of' and that 'we're still with you'. And loaded with so many red herrings it looked like there wasn't one pony in town that wasn't a suspect.
While Ponyville became a Witch Hunt, the two little fillies that'd escaped fled north, their Cutie Marks back where they belonged, several others in their hooves. Some they had no intention of using, some they did.
Dinky Do walked with them. Even with her mother 'normal', even without the teasing, without the pain...the filly had NEVER stopped saying how this was wrong...Derpy had been special. She'd been her mother. Now her mother loved her 'equally' as everypony else...her mother wasn't her. Her REAL mother would never have let her be put in that awful Re-education Chamber. EVER. That smiling face wasn't her mother.
And she was right. Dinky had insisted they try to reach her mother before they left (keeping it secret they were working along and not with somepony else)...in the end, it turned out that her daughter saying those words to Derpy was all it took to break her free of conditioning and north with the fillies.
"If being normal...if not being made fun of...if it means my little girl can't recognize me anymore, then this isn't RIGHT...I'd rather be a good mother than be normal," Derpy told them, crying heavily.
Derpy took back her talent...along with rejecting the 'equality' she'd traded it for. And not one part of her regretted it. Though it had taken some changes to the note...
Starlight had always underestimated one possibility: that she might not be correct. That love and friendship could exist with difference...or that somepony would rather be different and have the love that meant most to them than be the same as everyone else.
"Why did you have us steal Cutie Marks we don't even know who they are?" Diamond asked, her team already aware of that fact. It'd been strange...but then again, this was DISCORD.
'Simple, dear. The 'perpetrator' would naturally steal back their OWN mark, so with more missing, that means they don't know where exactly to point their hooves. The more ponies they think they CAN'T trust, the longer our little distraction will keep them occupied.'
"I guess that make sense. But why steal that witch's mark?"
"Simple: she took Fluttershy from me, your parents from you, so we're taking a little something from HER to see how she likes it...plus, once we manage to turn the tables and free dear Fluttershy and her friends, she won't be able to use that stupid spell of hers on her own to cheat back. That, and with as paranoid as that Starlight Glimmer is, her Cutie Mark having been taken should ensure quite a few nights without sleep...speaking of which..."
"I got them too," said Diamond Tiara, looking back to see two Cutie Marks, one of a sun, one of the moon.
'Good, now follow my instructions exactly...'
Somehow, with Discord's aid, the three children managed to write messages on the Princesses Cutie Marks and release them.
"How did we write messages on their Cutie Marks?" Dinky asked.
"I don't know, Discord told me how...and he's Discord..."
The next day, the re-education chamber the Princesses had been in was found blown to atoms, the two had escaped. And another note casting more confusion on everything left behind.
Deus bounced in place like Pinkie on a sugar high. "Finally, some action! Okay, so now can the princesses use their super princess powers and fry all the bad guys?"
Amicitia groaned. "Why, of course they could... or maybe they wouldn't, because that would be *totally out of character*!"
The teenage Alicorn blinked several times, pointing a hoof. "Um, you have a..."
Amicitia sighed. "Soapbox. I know..."
"Not that!" said Deus more urgently.
Amicitia looked over her shoulder, then gasped, teleporting out of the way of a vicious swipe of claws. "You?! What do you think you're doing?"
"I am doing what I was reborn to do," said the large grey wolf with the terrifying grin full of sharp fangs, and the Equal mark branded on his flank. "No more, no less. Why should I treat Alicorns any differently?"
"Um, good doggie?" said Deus hopefully.
"How is this even possible?" said Amicitia, her mind racing as she tried to think of places to escape on one hoof, and possible distractions on the other. An idea came to mind... "And don't you think this is just a teensy bit hypocritical, you being a lone wolf with all those powers?"
The wolf smiled a notch more, somehow. "I begged my Princess of Sameness for that very blessing, but she would not let me become a mortal pony. Until every threat to equality is erased, the Equal Wolf will still be needed. Now, hold still while I delete all of the things that make you falsely believe you are wiser and more special than other ponies. The two of you will be the Princesses of Sameness for your own worlds."
"Bad doggie!" cried Deus. "You're a bad dog!" She grinned naughtily. "Suddenly, there were ten million zillion Gundams there, ready to punish the bad doggie!"
"GUNDAMS AREN'T EVEN A PART OF THIS SETTING!!!"
The Equal Wolf calmly swiped his claws, removing the gundams from existence.
"Go, Fixer Sue. Stop the bad dog!" A neon pink alicorn that was also half-changeling and part draconequus with all the powers of Celestia, Luna and Discord lifted a keyblade and-
The Wolf just erased it as well.
"STOP HIM!" Some sort of strange amalgam of Equestrian creatures that hurt even Amicita's eyes to look at flew/ran/swam at the wol-
It was erased in the same instant.
"You're going to get fat if you keep eating them like that!" It was a childish taunt, but it was the only thing Deus had done that the Wolf couldn't erase.
"I do not get fat from erasing these things," he smirked a bit. "Though they do taste good." His expression turned much more serious. "Now, enough of this nonsense; my goddess will greatly reward me for stop you." He charged forward, only to run headlong into a barrier of magical energy.
Amicita, her face scrunched up in concentration, had her mind cycling through every minor variation of the shield spell she knew. And, as the concept of magic, that was quite a large number. "Stop this, you are in violation of your duty to Rota Fortuna!"
"I have long since severed ties with my mother," there was a twinge of sadness in the Wolf's voice as he spoke. "She could not understand, what I was offered... I made my choice." He slammed against the barrier once more, actually managing to phase partially through it before Amicita could find a variation he hadn't been stopped by before. "Give up, accept your new destiny; embrace Equality and become-"
"CELESTIA OUT OF BUCKING NOWHERE!"
"What?" Before the Wolf could say more than that, a pair of white hooves slammed into his midsection and kicked him away from the shield bubble.
True to Deus's scream, Princess Celestia herself (minus her usual gold barding) now stood between the two of them and the Wolf. The princess actually spared a smile, a genuine and knowing one, for Amicita before she turned back to the Equal Wolf.
"I- What- She- HOW?!" Amicita looked toward Deus, who was smiling like mad and practically dancing in place.
"I did it! I did it! YATTA!"
Amicita, her mind still reeling, looked to the story world, checking a few minutes back.
"Are you sure you trust him, Sister?" Luna, lacking her usual royal apparel, stood beside her similarly naked sister. Before the pair of them was a swirling pool of chaos, one they were both considering entering.
"He didn't have to help us if he wanted us out of the way, Luna." Though her old confidence was returning, Celestia couldn't quite shake her own doubts. "And, if what he tells us is true, then their efforts will be for naught unless we play our part."
"Discord has betrayed us in the past," she pointed out. "And, with out us, it would only leave Cadance to stand against him. She is not ready for a battle like that. And, even if he were being entirely truthful in what he said, we would no longer be able to assist our subjects until things are corrected."
Celestia nodded, looking at the portal a moment longer. "So many ponies have faith in us, Luna. I think it's time we had a little faith in them." And, with that, she flew into the portal, leaving this level of reality behind for the moment.
Amicita blinked, turning back to see Luna appearing now as well, then looking at Deus.
"Well... he was just erasing anything I could make, so I figured I could bring in them to help... and you never actually said what the notes Discord's group left on their cutie marks actually said..."
Amicitia blinked again, then slowly smiled. "No, no I didn't."
Celestia wished she had time to say some wise words to the foolish and childish incarnation of her former student Deus Ex Machina and words of encouragement to Amicitia for talking the line Celestia herself walked every day. "This is madness Wolf, you are supposed be beyond the command or corruption of ANY concept. We MADE YOU that way so none of us could use you as a tool for our own designs."
The Equal Wolf paced restlessly, growling. "You made me mighty and immortal... but I am not one of you. I can choose!" He turned aside, head low, snarling. "I can regret. I regret the thousands upon thousands of years I spent with a heart of stone, without a single friend. Mother did not make me that way, but she considered it my choice. So long as I did my job." He rolled his eyes, jaws still locked in that ghastly grin.
"What changed, Sir Wolf?" said Luna, in a tone strangely calm and quiet for her. She spread her wings, and cool soothing clarity seemed to spread through the aether, touching all of them.
"They changed me," the Wolf muttered quietly, looking off into the distance again. "Twilight Sparkle... her magic, her enchanted castle found me. Applejack told them truthfully that I meant no harm to them or Equestria. Rainbow Dash promised to kick my flank if I played them false. Rarity gave me the benefit of the doubt, Fluttershy treated me kindly, and Pinkie Pie... never gave up trying until she got me to smile. What was I to do, when they came back from *that place*, promising a wonderful gift for me and all of their friends? How could I refuse?"
Celestia came to stand beside her sister, gently projecting warmth and life. "And those unique qualities you saw in them, that allowed them to become your friends... do you still feel them now?"
"No!" said the Wolf, shuddering. "I do not even know them now! I..." The Equal Mark on his flank glowed brightly, making him howl in pain. "Stop me... Please!"
"There will never be another Wolf in another world line anywhere across time and space that suffers the fate of you. You have my word," Celestia said.
Amicitia whispered, "You're worried, if you erase your equal mark, the splash damage will erase your friendship with them, since it was your friendship that left you open."
The Equal Wolf look at Amicitia, his eyes full of pain and anger and regret. "You know I am, you know what friendship is; that wondrous, beautiful thing, worth more than anything I have ever been offered in my duties. I can't risk it... I can't... I can't lose their friendship!" Madness slowly seeped into the Wolf's gaze, only offering two final words to the gathers alicorns. "I'm sorry."
With a howl that rivaled the most bitter and violent of harsh, winter winds, the Equal Wolf charged forward through the comforting waves of the two princesses. It was only a timely shield from Amicitia that kept him from sinking his innumerable teeth into them; however, even as vast as her knowledge as the concept of magic was, there were still only a finite number of variations she could use on the same spell to keep the Wolf at bay... and that number was shrinking far more rapidly than she was comfortable with.
Deus, meanwhile, was basically trying to do her best to hide from the Wolf.
She didn't know any more magic than Amicitia did, and anything she could make up had been erased by the Wolf time and time again. She'd hoped that bringing in the princesses would solve the problem, since she still remembered her time as Twilight; learning under Celestia and befriending Luna. They had always seemed to have the answers when she didn't know them... but now...
She didn't want to think about it too hard.
Instead, she just looked back to the world they had been trying to save. It had provided inspiration for her actions once already, but maybe it could again.
"Why did you have us steal Cutie Marks we don't even know who they are?"
Deus blinked, that one line sticking out to her, then glanced back at the Equal Wolf.
As a being outside of most realities, she was aware of the various incarnations of the semi-existent pony known as 'Snow Bound'; the form the Wolf took whenever he wanted to interact with ponies not aware of his normal existence. And, he was aware that -- as a pony -- he also had a Cutie Mark of his own... and getting one back had been enough to break the princesses free of their 'reeducation'... And, as with the notes on the princesses' Cutie Marks, it had never been established what they ones they carried were...
But it couldn't be that easy a fix... could it?
The being in question was Discord after all, and his influence had already let her bend the rules just enough to get the princesses here... and keep the Equal Wolf occupied. And, while she could probably just send another Fixer Sue with him busy with the other three alicorns, he would be able to undo anything her Sue could accomplish if he popped back into the world while the four of them were stuck here. He couldn't erase something that was already established in the world.
Deus gulped, then looked back at the 'battle' to keep the Wolf at bay... they didn't have a lot of options.
So, using the same technique she'd seen Amicitia use before, Deus whispered into the ear of Discord. "Time to let another one go." She just hoped it would be enough.
"Let another one go," echoed Discord's voice in Diamond Tiara's ear.
In the secret rebel base... well, an abandoned house in Canterlot, really, Diamond tore her gaze from the chaos portal and considered their bag of liberated cutie marks. "Why? Which one?"
"Oh, just pick any of them. It'll be the right one." An overly dramatic sigh went through her head. I'm going to owe my sister for this, I just know it."
So Diamond Tiara reached blindly into the bag and pulled out a mark that looked like a wagon wheel with fancy magic runes and four slash marks. She tossed it in the air, and instead of flying out the window, it sailed into the portal and vanished.
"Was... that supposed to happen?" asked Silver Spoon.
Outside reality, Amicitia’s last shield popped. Celestia and Luna stepped in front of her, Luna summoning an ice barrier and Celestia reluctantly ready to burn the Wolf to ash…
And suddenly, the missing mark shot through the other side of the portal, arced towards the Equal Wolf, and struck home. A brilliant glow lifted the Wolf up, then burst in a blinding flash.
While the four Alicorns squinted and blinked, the Blank Wolf stood transfixed, his fur once again snowy white. “They were not good friends to me that day,” he murmured, as if he was just now realizing it. “I trusted them, and they betrayed me. Why, then…” He clenched his forepaws, claws scraping bits of the “ground” out of existence. “Why do I want to give them another chance? So they can betray me again? Why do I still want to save them?”
Then he froze, because Deus had just run up and glomped him in a great big hug. "Don't worry, Mr. Wolf! Whatever happens, I'll still be your friend!"
"You are a foreign presence. I am the Wolf.” He twitched, then shouted, “Are you insane?!" loud enough to blow her mane back.
Deus smiled warmly, shaking her head. "I know I mess up a lot. I just want so much for everybody to stop being all dark and sad that I skip too many steps and a Wolf says no and I have to start again and try a lot harder, but I won't give up and I won't stop trying, because I'm the Princess of Friendship, you know?"
The Wolf gently slipped loose from Deus’s hug and patted her on the head with a huge paw. “I will remember that. I might yet lose my first friends, but I will not if I can help it.” He glanced aside. “Forgive me, Mother, but I cannot return to my proper duties just yet.”
Back in the rebel hideout, Celestia and Luna emerged from the portal, and then one more pony followed before the portal sealed itself shut… a stark white earth pony stallion with a jet black mane, wearing the wheel and slashes mark on his flank.
He carried a bag in his teeth, and he set the bag down on a table before turning to Diamond Tiara and nodding respectfully.
“Thank you, young one,” he growled. “I am Snow Bound. In that bag are the cutie marks of the Princess of Sameness and her council. I was given those marks to hide them far away from Equestria. I now entrust them to you.”
Deus looked on. "So...what now?"
"Simple...the ball is in Discord's court," said Amicita, watching.
'Now, dears, what we need is something to deal with the weakened Elements, Rainbow Powers, what have you.'
"But what else is there? They're the ELEMENTS?" Diamond questioned.
'Oh dear dear dear, you're insulting the Elements of Harmony with that comparison. The 'Elements of Equality' are watered down versions powered by extremism, not TRUE friendship. Even I can see that. Dangerous, yes, but as powerful? Not in the least. We just need the right kind of magic to counteract them. Perhaps a little blast from the past is what's in order...Tell Celly and Lulu we're going to need some other artifacts of amazing power since I'm presently out of action.'
While the group departed, they burned down another 'reformation' clinic. Discord had learned from his brother that a rebellion needed to spark more rebellion and what better sign of rebellion than burning down the symbol of oppression. And leaving another red herring filled letter.