Pony POV Series
Shining Armor Arc
Chapter 15 Part 3 of 3
ouY slliK tahT llaF ehT toN-Not The Fall That Kills You
By LZ and Kendell2
Edited by Alex Warlorn and Louis.
We went onto the Invincible instead. Shepard and her officers were there to greet us.
"Princess, everypony is aboard, and we're heading out to sea..." Shepard began.
"Wait, what about everypony back at the embassy?!"
"...They're already aboard. We're leaving the country tonight," Bond said.
"What happened? Are we being expelled from the country?" Thunderchild asked.
"...Um, we did kind of just have a big fight..." Cadence muttered, perhaps letting all that had transpired (in short, a lot) sink in. On top of that, I think she was still recovering from that whole supercharge thing she did, so she probably had more to deal with than most of us. I couldn't help thinking she just seemed...afraid. Not of anything that was happening but...of something else...
"Not as such. After you left, that government official returned... he told us the Prime Minister had just lost a vote of no-confidence, and his newly appointed successor then passed a resolution condemning the actions of ‘terrorists and bandits' in the countryside and declaring a state of war. As a result, they were asking all non-essential foreign diplomats to leave... including us."
"...That was all democratic, legal, and keeps us safe, right?" I asked.
"Yes," Bond nodded.
"And everypony is back on the ships safely, all our stuff as well?"
"Everything is all back in the cabins where they belong but the civilians are waiting on Enterprise for us to meet back up with them.."
"And we haven't started a war with the Hooviets and neither have the Nambutuans?"
"Nope. They weren't legally identified as Hooviets, after all. Complex matter, but in short... Afraid we can't complain either. Makarov wasn't here, neither were we. And Makarov can't try to spin this back on us either, since he's already on thin ice internationally."
"Well, good to know the Columbians don't get an excuse to start a fight..." I noted.
"And the mission was an overall success. On top of that, we stopped Makarov from setting off the last mana surge, got most of the villagers to safety, and according to Mother Deer, destroyed one of his four cyborg alicorns," Audience interjected.
"Fake cyborg Alicorns...Or is that cyborg fake alicorns?" asked Gag.
"I think the latter, since they're actually cyborgs but not really Alicorns," Thunderchild replied.
"...And freed a poor pony from a fate worse than death," I added.
We took a moment of silence for the poor girl.
"...Elephant in the living room, sir, but may Ah ask what's stoppin' Makarov from makin' more of those fake cyborg-"
"Cyborg fake Alicorns."
"Fine, what's stoppin' him from making more cyborg fake Alicorns?"
"Probably the same thing that stopped him from making more than four in the first place," Bond replied.
In my opinion, that would be Makarov's gigantic ego wanting to give himself ‘elite' bodyguards.
"Captain Sparkle, can I ask you come with me? There's someone coming over from the other ship we've met who wishes speak with you..."
"Commander, he should really be heading for the sickbay, he overloaded on magic tonight," Garnet cut in.
"Sickbay. Now. Your visitor can go meet you there, then you can get some rest, Shining! Lance-Corporal Gag, Private Chambers, make sure the Captain gets there safely," Cadence ordered.
"...Yes, Princess," I conceded. Garnet and Gag then began escorting me away. I was grateful I was so tired I could hardly stay standing...
I looked around the infirmary, which was thankfully empty of patients, in spite of the gigantic battle we'd just had...
"... MakE nO mistakE, I wilL finD yoU"
I snapped up, looking around the room.
".YoU shalL bE blankeD ouT .ExistencE shalL bE restoreD tO itS propeR statE"
Where was Cadence?! She sent me here! She had to know I'm here!
".I wilL finD yoU .entropY musT bE opposeD"
"C-Cadence knows I'm here! You can't get me!"
".NonE escapE thE wolF"
I jolted awake, panting.
"You alright sir?" asked Gag, looking down at me.
I was on a cot in the infirmary. It was just a dream...thank Celestia...
"Y-yeah...just drifted off...hard day..."
Garnet nodded. "I'm surprised you have any mana left, let alone that you're still conscious."
Nodding, I took a look around again. No Wolf...just the doctor on his way in, and an Air Naval Cavalrypony on the way out...
...I thought for a second something had been odd about him, like I'd seen him before or something was wrong with his barding but it must have just been fatigue on my part.
The ship's doctor wasn't somepony I'd actually met yet. The last time I'd needed a medic, the SAS supplied Watsun (nurses had given out the shots). I was actually a little surprised to discover this doctor was a Donkey, a fairly old one at that. But somehow he looked like he knew his stuff.
"Hello, Doctor Ulshade. The Captain's got a bit of magic overload, as well a few bruises...."
"...He didn't get kicked there again did he?"
"Uh, no, everywhere but there," I tried.
I don't want to know the excuse the cover up in Columbia gave for that one.
"No, Doctor, but our main concern is the mana-damage from the overloads. His nose has been bleeding quite a bit, though it's not bled for all that long so far, just off and on..."
Garnet began her medical-speak.
"...Gag? Can you translate?" I whispered.
"Sorry, Captain, it's like technobabble or unicorn magic speeches. I understand the words, just don't comprehend."
"...Trying to learn though."
"Of course you are..." I nodded.
As I was being examined by the very enthusiastic donkey, though a different kind of enthusiasm from Minuette back in Columbia , a group of Air Naval Cavalry entered. Behind them, Mother Deer and Dima.
"Hello again," I said, not waving. I was having trouble keeping awake, honestly.
"Hello. May I ask everyone but the Captain and Dima to leave?"
"It's all right," I told the ponies and one donkey present.
When the coast was clear, Mother Deer spoke.
"Captain... We wanted to speak with you tonight for another reason but time to speak these words never really came amongst all the chaos. I'd hoped we would have more time before Makarov attacked... But he often dashes the hopes of Gods."
"His very existence seems to be proof of that," Dima noted.
"What is it you want to talk about?" I asked.
"You did a great service to both Equestria and the Roedina this evening, so I first want to thank you for that. But I also need to tell you... None of this should have happened."
"I... kind of know that. Makarov shouldn't be here, shouldn't be allowed to run rampant... But how is it I'm the only one who can stop him according to Reznov?"
"Viktor never had a chance to tell you, did he?" Dima noted.
"No, the.. Someone interrupted..."
"The Wolf. As Reznov told you, our name for it is the Stalker. Unfortunately, merely being associated with the Mother of All Deer means that... for our paradoxical existences, we have no scent to it."
I blinked, surprised he'd been so casual.
"Many of us should be dead, Captain. Only the Mother saved us from death. Solomon once gave me orders, told me I was an important part of his plans... but he wanted me dead, as an excuse to launch a war. I was warned, I evaded my death... by faking it."
"But the problem is, that was not Dima's death or true fate. Makarov has changed things."
"...What exactly is Makarov? Reznov said a lot of things, but...he never really got to explain in detail. Just that Makarov is some kind of imagination demon set loose from Pandora's Box, but that's still pretty vague."
Mother Deer sighed. "Demon isn't quite the correct term, but it is fitting enough. Makarov...the Shadow of Chernobull, was an experiment. Pandora is the Concept of Imagination, in the same way Cadenza is the Concept of Harmony and Music. So naturally, Pandora has innumerable ideas. As with any experiment...hers can go wrong. The Shadow was an attempt by her to create what amounted to a being of pure imagination, something that was her own, a being of stories that could function outside of fiction without losing its fantastic traits. A story in the mortal world...It went wrong.
"When she tried to let it loose in the Realm of Legends, a world she made as part of her realm where only things of story-telling dwell, it began hijacking the stories, twisting them to focus on IT. It didn't even have a name yet, it simply stole one from the bits and pieces around it. Pandora had no choice but to deem it a failed experiment and put it with all her failed experiments that were too dangerous to simply allow to dwell in her realm peacefully; in her Box."
"The Hooviets Imagination Engine...Even from my own prison, I heard the pain it caused Pandora. It tore into her realm, into her. Imagine being hooked up to a generator that tore away at your very being to make power, and you can imagine the agony it caused Pandora."
I shuddered. Even if I didn't know this Pandora, I felt sorry for her.
"This normally would have ended when the Engine and Chernobull exploded, and Pandora's Box should have remained closed...but there was a surge of some sort. Something changed. I can't be sure what it is, it may have been you, it may have been Cadence, but what's for certain is that this surge combined with this unintentional assault on the Realm of Imagination released the Shadow from its prison, and set it loose upon the world."
"...So now that it's free, it's trying to make this world into its story?"
I felt...something. I can't say sympathy, because by this point, Makarov had gone way past the point I could feel sorry for him. But the idea of something trying to finally have a story after it was denied it for so long...It may have been pity, it might have been fear. I don't know...
"Yes, many entities are that way. The Realm of Oblivion is full of such beings. But the difference is that unlike them, the entity released from Pandora's Box has the power to bend the universe to its whims. At present, Solomon is not powerful enough to influence a full fledged god. That's why Cadenza was capable of defeating him after briefly regaining her full strength. But if his plan succeeds, he will be."
"So Makarov is basically a storybook character who's taken over another story?"
Mother Deer nodded. "Yes, he has rewritten history, altered lives, and stolen the places in existence reserved for others... but not forever. There is going back. For all the horror he has caused, there is still a glimmer of hope that we can undo it."
"...You mean there's some kind of way to throw it all out?"
"Not so much. Think of it as... Think of it as a sketch, drawn in pencils. The artist has a vision in mind, but allows the drawing to guide his pencil as it's being created, let it decide what it is truly about. But the drawing shouldn't be able to change what's already been drawn, should it? When the ink is applied there can be no corrections made. If you want to introduce a new element, the only choice is to add it to a blank spot on the drawing, or make a second drawing with the new element included in it. But imagine if another artist, a less experienced one, not only took over, but sought to make himself the subject of the sketch. That is the Shadow of Chernobull. Makarov has caused a new sketch to be drawn, over what should have been inked. He strives to ink in his new world, solidify this time and this place. This timeline, everything in the past twenty-five years is in flux... It shouldn't be."
That last part cut through how tired I was. I was struggling to follow, but that had me focused.
"...Reznov said the... He said the Wolf saw me as wrong. Am I something that shouldn't be? I'm twenty-five..."
"I don't truly know why The Stalker chases you, Captain. I fear only a Pony Goddess can be privy to that truth. I advise you ask one of them. But I am afraid you are the only thing that stands any chance of letting the sketch that is wrong be rubbed out and the correct one inked," Mother Deer said.
"How? Do I have to kill him? Because I'm in flux, I can break the timeline or something?"
"...No. Ending his 'life' would not undo the evil he has wrought. Besides, the act of killing him would be a difficult feat, anyway. You saw what he did with Dima's coup de grace earlier. He's evaded mortal blows and assassination attempts many times with copies. It's as if he knows they're coming. He can be killed in theory, you have a better chance than most... But to undo his actions, he must be erased while his sketch is still in pencil."
I gasped at the implication.
"Reznov said Makarov would die by my hoof or I'd lead the Wolf to him. So I need to somehow lure the wolf to him and get it to see he's a threat?"
"How? It was thrown away by his dome!"
"...If Makarov is injured, his powers weaken. Things he doesn't expect weaken his strength. So if you can annoy him enough, make him angry enough, and hurt him.... Maybe the Stalker will pick up his scent."
"And if it picks up mine too? Can you protect me?"
Mother Deer sighed.
"My apologies, Shining... But there's nothing I can do. If I protect you and say I will, you become useless. You need to earn the protection of another Goddess once all this is done. I cannot even protect you when the timelines fix... for any protection I give would make you part of nature backwards and forwards, even into branching timelines that should not have happened. To put it simply: all the efforts would be undone, and Makarov's evil would return."
I sighed. Of course.
"If it gets me... What happens?"
"You cease. And all else you've done in your life will be undone."
I pondered this for a few moments. It was difficult to take in, but one thing came to my mind.
"...So it's maybe my existence... My life... that might be the price of stopping Makarov's plans?"
"That is, regrettably, the truth. While you could try to kill Makarov, and indeed have the best chance of succeeding, that would only end his evil now. If you lure the Stalker to him, and it destroys him, then his evil will come undone, the lights he has stole will be returned to those who rightly own them."
I looked to Dima. "...What happens to you?"
"I will have the life I would have had if Solomon never was."
"And you have no idea what that will be?"
"Correct. I could have a better life, or I could die in the years following the Hooviet Empire's collapse, which should have happened twenty years ago. All I know is that this life will have never been. I won't be this Dima, I may not even be."
"...And all the rebels feel the same way?"
"Yes. But do not decide based on our choices. It is yours to make."
"...So that's the purpose I have, is it. Reznov said I had to be here for a purpose..."
"I don't know, Shining. Only a Pony Goddess could tell. All I can tell you is... It looks like the purpose you will serve was a purpose planned by a pony goddess. One I don't seem to know of, possibly one that is yet to be. I know it's a lot to ask. But I am afraid you're the only one that can undo this. "
"...'I choose to place myself in harm's way so that those who cannot defend themselves are defended. Though service is a heavy cost, For Equestria, I pay it gladly.' I swore an oath to another Goddess already, Mother Deer. If I have to serve like this..."
...if I had to be utterly erased... To save thousands, maybe millions... to save the correct way things should have been going. I wouldn't be remembered. Twiley and my parents wouldn't mourn me. No place in the hall of heroes for me. I'd be forgotten, erased because the nature of the deed meant no one would ever know.
"...If I have to end like this..."
...Nopony else would suffer. Even my death, it wouldn't cause any suffering. Twiley would forget me right away. Nopony would shed tears, they'd never know I existed.
I'd wanted to be remembered. I told Reznov that.
"...Would anyone remember me?" I asked. Selfish maybe, but...
"I would. Princess Celestia would. And... Cadenza would. Some others out there may have sensitivity to changes..."
Somepony would still mourn me... I'd still hurt her if I was gone... But I would save others. Someone would remember my name, know I'd succeeded.
She wouldn't. You'd just be gone, and she'd think she was mad... She'd have no idea what you'd done... But what choice was there?
Hurt somepony I cared for... or risk every single living being on the planet suffering in some hellish wrong-timeline reigned over by an insane power-hungry lunatic who defied all logic and reason in pursuit of yet more strength and power for himself?
...It was a paradox of a choice. Tough for me as a person to make. But for the Greater Good, the true greater good of all the world... It was almost easy.
"...I'll do what I have to do," I said.