Pony POV Series Shining Armor Part 10 1/2
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
Pony POV Series
Written By lz0291 http://lz0291.deviantart.com/
Getting out of the embassy once we returned was much easier than expected. Bond was waiting for me, not in navy uniform but a dark blue hooded sweatshirt with a messenger saddle. He asked to discuss a few matters with me and the Princess. Before that though, we bid the other Air Navy officers with us goodnight as they left. Ace was also advised he'd be needed tomorrow as apparently I was getting another day off.
Assuming I survived the evening.
"Well then, Princess, please have the kitchen toast me a muffin, I'll be back for breakfast," he said as he left.
"...What a guy!" Twinkle Shine giggled, not nearly as quietly as she probably hoped.
"That's the first time he's said that when breakfast was actually the next meal," Bond noted.
Candence ordered trio to bed which they reluctantly complied. Cadence and I followed Bond to a spot away from prying ears, with Bond's anti-listening spell up for good measure.
"Princess, I'm going to tell the door guards that me and Shining have gone out to a party I've been invited to. You should change your clothes and sneak out and meet us at the end of the street so no one sees you getting in the cart. We'll wait with the carriage around the corner," Bond said.
She agreed to this, then made a show of bidding us goodnight and hoping we enjoyed the party. Bond and I went out the front door.
"Wait there, I'll bring the cart around," he said, before trotting off around a corner.
"Er, Bond, who's going to PULL the cart?" I asked, but he was gone.
I was assuming he'd planned for the Princess to ride inside and us to pull. It made sense, I guess, but I was never a very good carthorse. Still, it had to be a light cart if he was pulling it around by himself. I looked the other way from where he had went... and then I heard a deep, rumbling growl coming up behind me. Like an angry wolf.
I turned almost in a panic, only to see Bond sitting inside a bizarre... thing. A black-metal cart-like thing with a stretched out front and a rather small looking cabin. He sat behind an odd thing that looked like a ships wheel, in the faint glow of his magic. It was making the rumbling noise. I stared at the odd contraption. As it stopped the rumble drew down to a faint but low purr.
"Commander Bond... What is that thing?" I asked, as he climbed out.
"It's a magic-powered self-propelled carriage. A Gaston-Maretin, to be precise. This will get us there fast and inconspicuous. No one builds a cart like Gaston," he said as if this explained anything.
"...Er... good for Gaston."
I looked it over with a raised eyebrow. Bright silver, looking like it came from another planet...
"Yes, Commander. Inconspicuous...."
Soon enough, I'd realize he was right: this WAS inconspicuous. The only reason our Gaston-Maretin would have stood out at all, was for looking cheap compared to some of the more modern Itallion and Columbian 'sports carts' parked outside Mason's apartment. When did these mechanical monsters come about?
"Shame there's only two seats," I pointed out another fault.
"Look in the back."
I did. All I saw was a rather cramped space with a bench.
"...Are you proposing we stuff a Princess of Equestria into the rear luggage compartment?!"
"No, not at all. First, those are seats, and second, I'm proposing we stuff a Captain of the Royal Guard in there. Besides, I put all my gear in the rear luggage compartment."
He duly had me stuff myself in the back. I had to sit on the rear seats like it was a bench. Still, the short ride to go wait for Cadence down the street was smooth. And I suppose it did make sense to put the guy Makarov actually cared about where he wouldn't be noticed as easily. A few moments later there was a gasp from behind us. We turned to see a purple pegasus in a hooded shirt, and thanks to that hood I never recognized her until she spoke.
"...Is that a Gaston-Maretin?!" A familiar voice asked as the hood was pulled down.
I noted that it seemed to have been resting on an invisible horn, so clearly it was just a sort of glamour spell. With the hood down I saw her eyes were also purple.
"Yes, it's me, figured the hoody would help a bit once I was out of the Germane Embassy. But... Wow. I can see why the Conserve Canterlot's Beauty Committee had these banned, they'd make the rest of the city look ugly..."
Once we were inside the apartment, I wasn't surprised to discover the cover-story was in full swing. Cadence removed her disguise as soon as the door was closed, and the soldiers inside saluted upon seeing her. Otherwise they seemed remarkably cool about the whole thing.
It was a very large penthouse apartment, and the living area was well-stocked. A nice stereo system, a well-stocked fridge - there was a door leading to a patio, but it faced the wrong way to look to the hospital, but it gave a very nice view of the city behind us, not to mention an easy way for the flying squad to take off.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Nice digs for a Navy Lieutenant Commander...)
Actually, it belonged to his cousin, remember? Toneigh, a female deer, owned two of nightclubs - Maisonette Neigh and Firefly. The latter was, er, restricted to males without an invite...
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Oh, it was a lesbian club?)
...I'm not sure I want to know how she guessed that. But the point was, she was fairly rich. Dai took me over to the windows as Cadence spoke with the troopers, while Bond carried a luggage chest from the back of his carriage through to another room.
"Now, Captain, you've got a good view from this window of things..." Dai explained.
Two large windows gave the vantage of the destination. Colony Island lay about a hundred meters off our side of the river, and Broker lay across the way from us. A large bridge crossed the island lower down, but didn't seem to have any off-ramps for land traffic. There was a small two-lane bridge that led towards the tower block where Baseplate and Price were already in place. I couldn't see them though. The ruined hospital lay there, as dark and foreboding as advertised. It gave me chills just looking at it.
"And also, these four will be covering you with rifles from up here. The Unit Metal guys you know, but these are my girls..."
One of the Navy snipers was a female Unicorn, dark blue with a cutie mark of a bird - a snipe, of course, named Hawk. The other was a female Griffin named Horse. They seemed polite enough.
"How's your wing, Grinch?" I asked to change the subject after saying hello to the Navy sharpshooters.
"Oh, it's cool, just a scratch. Can't fly on it though."
"Gullshit, dude, you were flying this morning," Truck shouted from across the room.
"Doc doesn't know that, bro."
"Anyway, Captain, I think we should get you better equipped, more fitting gear for starters..." Bond said, coming over.
"Why does he need to get better gear? Aren't tuxedos what spies wear?" Cadence tried to joke.
Despite being a Princess, Bond gave her a very disapproving look.
"You think real espionage is like Con Mane, don't you, ma'am?" He sighed.
"Er, well..." She trailed off.
"Permission to speak freely?"
"...Granted, Lieutenant Commander."
He took a deep breath.
"Con Mane is a load of rubbish about a spy who steals cake recipes from ridiculous places! A tuxedo is NOT adequate equipment for a jungle, it's not even an adequate disguise for a party if you go around telling everyone your real name and asking for Vanilla milk, shaken not stirred! And a crossbow bolt with a head made of meringue would still have a wooden shaft to penetrate the target at high velocity even if the ballistics weren't shot to hay! Quite apart from being absurd, if he's stealing the cakes for Princess Celestia, what's that trying to imply? That she eats a lot of cake? And don't get me started on that Daring Do crossover radio drama they did..."
(Interviewer's Notes(Pegasus and Earth Pony): Don't diss Daring Do!)
Strange, he stiffened slightly at that time, like he felt a shiver down his spine.
"Um, Commander Bond... She actually does enjoy cake a lot. But I agree, that Daring Do crossover was just silly."
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): That is unfortunately true.)
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Yeah, they SO played down Ahuizotl as a threat.)
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Yeah, why do they always have one side of a crossover overshadow the other?)
"Yes, sorry, it's just it's kind of a sore point. I just hope that Neighson Airborne book doesn't take off, no pun intended."
"Can't say I've read it myself. Probably just as well, for some reason anything I'm seen reading becomes popular..." Cadence said.
"Well, when I write that novel I know who to ask to proof-read it," I noted.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): What was the idea for your novel anyway?)
Science fiction. It's about a special multinational task force trying to fight against invaders from another dimension, about a century in the future. Since they fight extradimensional aliens and the unit the book would be about were called E-Com. Also, the title of the story is Enemy Unknown, because they don't even know the species name of the aliens: They just call them EDs, short for extradimensionals.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): ...X would be cooler.)
Funny, Thunderchild and Audience said the same thing. Anyway, Bond led me off into another room, where it turned out his luggage had been holding a lot of actual spy equipment.
"We've got you some more useful clothes..." He began to explain.
"That's a turtleneck," I don't even know why I was complaining, it was better than the tuxedo...
"It's a tactical garment and it'll help you look a bit less obvious. I'm usually on the receiving end of these things and I'm starting to see why Major Hoofroyd is so sick of me already. Now shut up and listen. That will help cover up this stab vest, which is basically just a pouch-less Neighponese flak vest. You'll also be wearing under-armor, but this is slightly improved over standard issue."
"Good, I'd rather not risk Makarov going for another low blow if he does show up," I said in appreciation.
"You'll also have a saddlebag. That'll fit any gear you want to carry other than your main radio, which I'll explain in a minute."
I was shown a selection of things for the saddlebag. Night-vision goggles (I had a spell), flaregun for emergencies (I had a spell), a selection of knives...
"Butterfly knife, small and can fit in the turtleneck's pocket. Talon Combat Knife, bigger and you can slip it below your saddlebag. As for ranged weapons... well, I suppose that you've got stun spells, right?"
"Yes, I would rather use my horn. If I can stun an attacker rather than kill him, I will."
"So what if you're caught in a Death Dome spell again with only your hooves against someone who's already kicked your flank without breaking a sweat? Even a mouthgun or a knife would be better than nothing. First rule of unarmed combat?"
"...Get armed quickly. Okay, I see your point. But I'm a terrible shot!"
"Don't worry, these things are short ranged anyway, I doubt even you could miss. First up, Wheatley Revolver, six shot muzzle loading percussion cap you can fire with the mouth. But if you don't want to try get used to the recoil and taste of blackpowder we've got airguns too. Colt Single Action Airgun, six shot air-revolver. Or you can use my PPK. Air-powered Spiriling type weapon, means Pneumatic Pistol Short in Germane. Actually, Price has a rifle airgun like this right now, the Austneighians, Germanes, and Lindblumians really like these. Same range as bows, but they can be semi-automatic. Or even full auto if you've got a big air tank. In fact, Columbian Generation 3.5 Tanks have them, and I think the new G4 ones will be able to mount them too..."
Had I been under a rock? When did all these weapons come out of R&D? I'd never seen an Equestrian carrying anything more advanced than a clockwork crossbow.
"Uh, I have no idea what the difference is, Bond. Or what you're on about with this Generation three point five rubbish."
"I'm referring to Tank generations. Not too major for us Equestrians, we don't have tanks. Anyway, the Wheatley will not be fun to fire but it'll drop anything short of heavy armor at short range, the SAA might not manage stronger armor, and the PPK is slimmer so you could hide it below the shirt. However, you might hurt yourself with the slide and jam it."
"...The revolver airgun sounds simpler," I conceded.
"Good choice. Look, I KNOW you're not going to like this, but Makarov is a deer, so if you DO end up having to pull a gun on him, aim for the neck. Most instinct would be for the head, but their skull is thick, the area for an instant kill is surprisingly small, you're not a good shot, and you don't have a high powered enough weapon. And his chest will probably be protected by armor rated for arrows, so the neck is your best bet since there's lots of stuff to damage there and less likely to be any armor."
Yes, it did make me uneasy to talk about actually shooting Makarov, but since it was Makarov, it was best that I knew all my options. "...Got it, aim for the neck if I HAVE to."
"Now, it's about forty minutes until you need to get down there, so you should do your best to memorize the layout of the hospital..."
"And make up my mind if I really want to go in," I said.
He nodded. "I understand. Even if he does claim to know about the Defiant, something smells fishy. And not just the tuna sandwiches some of the Griffins were eating. Anyway, the radio..."
It turned out they'd planned quite a bit. The radio was designed to stop anyone listening in because it was actually very weak. The receiver I carried would only work with more or less line of sight to one of the receiver dishes, either in the apartment or on the tower block. Unless I went in the basement I should have been able to get some form of reception.
Of course, it also meant I could only talk to people who had a visual on me. If things went wrong I had a normal radio too, with advice to use 'misfit' as a callsign on it if things went flanks-up, but I was warned to be careful because there was a police exercise underway that might be on similar frequencies. And I also had a flaregun.
As for the hospital itself, much of the second floor had collapsed, long ago, into the first. It had been a two-story brick structure before abandonment, and more or less an empty shell in places now. Reznov wanted to meet me in the main lobby, right in the middle of the place. There was only one ground entrance not boarded up other than coming in by air, and it was at the near end. Luckily, the lobby was open enough that both groups of my sniper coverage could see in. The rest was a maze of crumbling and graffiti-covered walls, and the second floor was the remains of rotting floorboards and crumbled brick.
However, there was another 'entrance' - A tunnel in the basement led to the riverside where there had been a small boathouse. It was gone now, but the way in wasn't. It was exposed though, so the three sniper teams could see it very clearly. As for why the tunnel was there, well, the hospital had started life as a general infirmary. And then it became a hospital for infectious diseases. The tunnel was used to remove bodies discreetly. It maintained that function even when the hospital switched over to become a mental ward. I had no desire to go anywhere near it.
The time approached... and I wimped out and ran away LIKE A HOSS!
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus):...)
Kidding again. Of course I went down there. The walk was fairly short, but played upon my paranoia.
"A'right, laddie, we can see ye noo. Can ye hear us?" Baseplate's voice rang out as I began to cross the small land bridge to Colony Island.
It wasn't the best reception even with clear lines. On top of that, Baseplate had decided to let his accent run wild.
"Yeah. How long have you been watching the ruins?" I kept my voice low, so I didn't seem suspicious.
""Few hours. Some of mah lads had a quick scout aroon, scanned it frae a distance. No' a soul been in or out that we've spotted. Haud oan... Whit the..."
"What's wrong?" I asked. I was about to start heading around the tower block to reach the hospital entrance.
"Target just walked into the main lobby. Unless he teleported I think he's good at sneaking. " Price then cut in.
"...Normal Deer can't teleport. Apart from the telekinesis, they're basically Earth ponies," I noted.
Once upon a time, the deer had been a techno-minimalist, nature-loving people. The rise of the old Roedinian Empire, the battles between noble tribes, and the emergence of the Tsars led to much of that being nullified. By the Hooviet era, the Deer regarded themselves as pioneers of technology. Yet, to my knowledge, none of them had invented a non-magical answer to teleportation or invisibility.
"They've also got stronger grips with fully grown horns even if they can only grasp two things at once." I was helpfully reminded.
"Just keep the motherbucker in your crosshairs and tell me if anything looks suspicious."
"...Roger that. I don't see a weapon on him. Bugger needs a shave, though..."
"With your facial hair, Price, you've no room to talk. Are you SURE it's not Makarov in disguise? I know HE can teleport."
"Nope, not him, wrong body type."
"All things considered, I wouldn't put shapeshifting past him, keep a sniper on him. I'm going around the building now, let the others know I'll be dark for a moment..."
As I walked around the corner, the tower block got in the way of the directional radios, Luna's moon hung over the city, brighter than ever, making the river into a silver mirror, reflecting the lights of the bridges and cloudscrapers. It felt strange to see it without the Mare in the Moon across her surface any longer. Gas lamps helped to throw more shadows behind me and I tried to fight the urge to look into them. The hospital, however, looked like pure blackness.
"Hello! We can see you again!" Cadence cheerfully spoke.
"...Good to know," Thankfully she'd had the presence of mind not to use my real name. I felt safer.
Was it the sniper coverage, or just the fact that any potential attacker would have an Alicorn to deal with? Sorry, but I'm afraid it was the snipers. I trust Cadence but she's the Goddess of Harmony and Music, not War.
"Okay, I might have bad reception now, I'm not looking up at any of you," I warned, and readied my night-vision spell.
It relied on my horn to emit infra-red light, so it was really just a form of hornlight only I (or someone else with their own night-vision spell or equipment) could see. I saw a window that had obviously once been boarded up, but now wasn't: this was my way in. It led into what looked like a former ward, with nothing but trash and rude slogans graffitied on the wall. I didn't stop to investigate anything.
"Why'd they leave this place standing in a city like this..." I muttered into the radio.
"Ghost stories, dude. Well, no, not really, there's been a campaign for years to designate it as a historic place." Grinch replied.
I noticed a half-open steel door leading into a stairwell was in the corridor outside. The way to the basement. Certainly not a place I wanted to go. The corridor here, as long, dark, and spooky as it was, led me to Reznov.
"You guys hear me?" I asked.
There was a faint crackle, but nothing. I walked down the corridor, and paused halfway there. I had this sensation there was something coming up behind me.
"...Can you hear me now? I could have sworn I heard something behind me."
"No' a thing there, laddie. Nae ghosts, nae hooviets, no even a hobo wi' a knife. Wan wi' a shotgun though..."
I turned in panic. Nothing.
"Ye say it like ye never met me."
I continued, reaching the lobby. Reznov in the middle. I took a moment to make absolutely sure it wasn't Makarov in disguise before continuing.
"Greetings, Captain Sparkle. I am glad you came."
"Hello to you to. What's this about?" I asked.
He tutted. "Oh, Captain, you know very well what I have to say to you. But I will say it only to you. Please drop the transmitter. You can retain any normal radios, but I am familiar with how your allies operate. What changes there have been to the game, I have paid attention to."
"Sh... Don't. It's some sort of trick!"
"Have them check. There is nothing around. There are no airships swooping in from the Hooviet Embassy. No Spetsnaz lurking in the shadows. We are safe here, Captain, and you are safest under HER gaze."
"...Whose gaze?" I asked, after letting my team know to have a look.
"Princess Cadenza, of course. It is really quite remarkable... And incredibly fortunate. But please, just trust me, Captain."
"Clear, no one around. Just you two. You can drop the transmitter, we've got you covered." I was then told by Dai.
After reassuring Cadence I'd be fine, I put the transmitter down. Reznov promptly placed a piece of slate on it.
"That will be enough to block things. Now... You must have questions."
"Yeah. Who are you really and who working for? Why are you here?"
"Hm. Simple questions. I am here with a warning that your government and the Columbians would both do well to heed. Makarov is planning a large-scale attack on his enemies, at home and abroad. His influence spreads like a cancer. Even the leaders in Mosroe do not know what he is truly planning, even though he plays them like puppets. He is not just a deer with desire for conquest, he's a monster that will not rest until he's consumed all he desires. He must be stopped, Captain."
"Okay, got that, so... the rest?" I urged.
"I work for... not quite myself, but for the many who cry out in suffering. As for who I am... We Deer believed once that, with death, we returned to the soil. But what calls itself 'Makarov' has denied this peace to many. Many of those the Hooviets use as pawns are still trapped above the earth, their souls unable to move on. I am one amongst many who hear the cries of the dead and seek vengeance for them."
"Are you speaking of some form of... necromancy? Body reanimation?"
Good actor or real traitor, I thought, as he paused for a second.
"Captain, I must be honest with you here. You are asking simple questions in the hope of simple answers. I can provide you simple answers that are true, or I can give you complex answers that are truer still but rely on additional information."
"What's the catch for the true-true answers?"
He laughed. "There is not a catch, as such. You simply need to not trust me."
"Not trust you? Look, if your Equestrian is poor I can switch to Roedinian..."
"No, Captain, I mean precisely what I said. Your distrust of me is good. Perfect for me to show you the full truth."
"You know of Ley Lines?"
"Yeah. Ley Lines are a sort of mana-flow that crosses the world. I think Earth Pony rock farmers try to build on them as much as they can, but they're either as wide as raging rivers or as thin as threads. They change as magic changes. They're used a lot in Zebra magic I think."
Thanks for rambling on about your studies into other magics last Hearths-Warming, Twiley!
"Correct. Ley Lines are a flow of magic. There are places around the world where Ley Lines can converge. Those who stand at such waypoints are said to reach incredible epiphanies... gain hidden knowledge. Zebras, Minotaurs, Deer... Yes, you may think we are just Earth ponies with antler telekinesis. But the truth is we are closer to Zebra than Earth ponies in how our magic works. Other than growing of seeds and plants, our magic lets us explore knowledge and imagination with the right circumstances. And it lets me show you directly the 'true truths' as you call them. But first I must tell you the simple truths. Facts that can be proven."
"...Sounds like you're planning to take me on a vision quest."
"Something like that. 'Vision quest' is as close an approximation as any. This is a place where many ley lines converge - nine, in total. Currently, there are but two other places like this, with nine intercrossing ley lines: One is in the Everfree Forest of your own Equestria, where the Princesses built their first castle. The other is in Chernobull. Many places see eight converge. Many more see seven. Most see less, two is common. But only three places see nine lines cross. What's more, they came together since after the hospital was built. Just three ley lines can allow one's knowledge and imagination to open to an unimaginable degree of depth. A novelist could pen his magnum opus, a weapon designer could leave his competitors in the arms race eating his dust for DECADES! You can only imagine what nine ley lines can do to the mind."
"...Hang on, I've heard rumors about something deep in Canterlot..."
"Oh, that. I think I know what you speak of, and it is something completely different. It is more focused, and shows a far broader spectrum of time and space. Ley lines merely work with time, and let one see all existence as applicable to them. Except, for most ponies and griffins. They instead may see shades of the past, shades of what could have been in other timelines applicable to them... but they cannot focus. "
"So... the ghost stories about this hospital...?"
"The magically-sensitive seeing and sharing visions. Delusional unicorns are especially susceptible. If you have ever been truly ill, yourself, you may recall strange visions..."
"Yeah. When I was a foal, I was pretty ill one time. I was nine or ten, not sure. For some reason my dad and uncle couldn't find a doctor at all during a snowstorm, and they couldn't take me out in it. Anyway, I think I get it. You can use Deer voodoo..."
"Voodoo is one of the Zebra animist spiritualities. Deer call it Divination."
"Oh, sorry. You can use Deer Divination to show me stuff. And apparently because I DON'T trust you, that's a good thing?"
"Your distrust shows you are blessed with strong mental defenses, Captain. A natural strength against deceptive magics. A backstabber could trap you in a genjustu or a geass and even then they'd probably need to make eye contact, maybe even direct horn contact..."
I had NO IDEA how much of all this was true. That WOULD explain that why everyone else was falling for Makarov's spell except me. But when different magic schools usually compare notes, 'That's impossible!' is traditionally the first thing out of their mouths. Either way, I wasn't about to put much stock in it.
"So when I offer to show you what I saw, know that it will be the truth. I cannot show you a falsehood even if I wanted to."
"...So for me to believe you I have to distrust you? Seems a bit paradoxical."
"Indeed. Paradoxical is a perfect word. But now I must ask: what is it your truly wish to know?"
"I want to know about the Defiant, about Makarov... And you said you knew what the monster that chased me was. I want to know what that means."
"More simple questions. But I cannot give you the simple answers to all of them right away. What I shall first tell you is about Chernobull. About betrayals the Hooviet Empire performed in a desperate attempt to save itself. And I will tell you of 'Makarov.' Or what calls itself that. And I will tell you of the Defiant. And once I finish with those, I shall tell you of yourself."
"Myself? Why would that tell me what the beast-thing meant?"
"A unicorn philosopher of Zhongguo's Qilin tribe once said that 'if you know the enemy and know yourself'..."
"....'you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.' We're made to read that as Officer Cadets."
"Very good, Captain. You do not know your enemy nor do you truly know yourself. But that is for later. First, the truths that apply to the here-and-now. The truths you can confirm with yourself as you are now."
"'With myself as I am now?' What is that even supposed...?!"
"...We must start at Chernobull."
"Okay, fine." I tried not to sigh.
"Chernobull was a magical research facility. It was built on the convergence point of nine ley lines. Their aim, of course, was to draw upon its magics, and enhance the knowledge and imagination of the facility's scientists. Roughly thirteen years ago, it exploded. Many were killed, but from the ruins of that disaster, a... hero of the Empire was born, in a manner of speaking. A seventeen year old Captain-Lieutenant of the Spetsnaz, who displayed great heroism, rescuing trapped comrades and preventing the loss of key resources."
"Correct. His star began to rise after the Chernobull incident. This is a truth. But he was actually born there TWICE before... And not metaphorically. Chernobull was the site of many magical research projects. One that succeeded was the creation of unicorn-deer hybrids with exceptional talents in both Deer and Unicorn magics. Curiously, only one such hybrid of this project still lives to this day..."
Wonder how. I imagine Chronic Backstabbing Disorder may have been in play.
"So he is a genetically engineered super soldier born at a magical ley line 'super genius zone' ...and that's how he knows so much? He can use ley lines to scry... divinate... whatever?"
"Yes. Or at least, that is the scientifically-accepted 'justification' for all Makarov is able to do. It's not precisely a falsehood, either. But it only scratches the surface of Makarov's birth."
"...Please, go ahead and tell me."
"I will show you. But first, I must tell you the truth that applies here-and-now about the Defiant. She was shot down in the jungles of Kundu."
Not an accident then.
"Makarov claims YOU were involved in the Defiant's disappearance. Said you went rouge, killed spies and agents of foreign powers without authority," I told him.
"Technically, all of this is correct. The shoot-down... I was not the one who pulled the trigger, but in a way, I was responsible. Work I did had identified a number of spies and agents working against the Empire's interests. One of them..."
"Saltire Bond? So you shot the whole ship down to get him?"
"No. Captain Bond was not the target of the attackers. His wife was, for she interfered in matters of interest to the Hooviets."
"Mrs. Bond was a specialist in Zebrafrican affairs. I supplied information to the Columbians, who supplied it to the Equestrians. And she was the agent who oversaw it all. The Hooviets wanted to be rid of her, so they had Kundu rebels attack the ship after severing communications."
"Wait... You're one of ours?!"
"...If you mean I supplied information to Equestria's allies, yes. Most of the spies and agents of foreign powers I had killed were Hooviets and Hooviet Allies. For the last twenty-five years I have been secretly passing on what information I can to Hooviet enemies. But Makarov's goals have accelerated. That is the truth as it applies here and now."
"...And what about the... other truth?"
"I can tell you the other truth of the Defiant. She was never shot down. Makarov should not have been born. Chernobull should have exploded twenty-five years ago. Something changed."
"...You're saying a time traveler changed the past?" I whispered. I might've accused him of being a complete nutjob... except I knew that time travel spells had been in existence since the days of Starswirl the Bearded.
"Not precisely. Time travelers who journey to the past with the aim of changing it, for good or ill, end up creating temporal loops, creating their own past. Stable loops, most of the time... and very fortunately so! No, what happened with Makarov was that a branch in a timeline was made that technically had no right to exist. That branch, we will discuss more of later, but for now, the unforeseen consequences of it, most notably on a global scale, was that it provided an opening... for LATER changes. To something that should never have been sent to this world."
"...When did Chernobull explode exactly? When 'should' it have, rather?"
He told me a date.
"What a coincidence. That's pretty close to my birthday."
"Indeed... A coincidence, indeed. Now... to explain the true truth, I must show you what should have been. I must show you what WAS instead, in the averted timeline. But first, I must know how you know yourself. The simple truth that applies here and now."
"Uh, okay... What do you already know?"
"You are a soldier. You are loyal to your people and your nation. Like all wise beings you have fear... but not for yourself. You never fear for yourself as such, do you? You are a shield. You wish to block attackers from harming others. You wish to defend. If you must die to defend, you will. That is all you desire, is it not? To do your duty for that which matters."
"...I want to be remembered. I want to know that if I were to fall it would matter, that I'd saved others. That someone would remember my name, that what I did was a success. I guess that's a little selfish but... "
"Hm. Selfish. Is it now? With all you would do for ponies, is it truly selfish that the only price you ask is that they remember you? The only price you ask if you were to give your life for them? I think not. I am biased, of course. Hooviet warriors... Red Deer of the Fire Caste... we dream of serving the Empire as fawns. We dream of being remembered as heroes. In a way, what we are told in the Empire is similar to what you actually live in Equestria. Our Greater Good speaks of peace and harmony, though it does anything but. It speaks of remembering heroes and heroics, but all too often we die forgotten. No names on memorials or in booklets. Only Generals, only the Roe Deer, are ever remembered for 'heroism'. The rivers of blood they spill on their own side be damned..."
"You are both simple and complex, Captain. You desire to protect and serve, and all you want is to know it is appreciated. You feel you were born to be a shield. Born to protect others from that which would harm them, to help them when they are in need. From letting a sister smile to being there for a Princess who often feels alone in a crowd. You live for others. This is good. It will mean you can emphasize with what I was... When I was foolish enough to trust the Greater Good. But first... have you ever heard of Basilisks?"
"Basilisks... The animal, not the Germane cannons? They're similar to Cockatrices, right?"
"I bucking hate Cockatrices..."
"Indeed? Tell me, Captain, why do you hate those creatures so? Have you ever encountered one? Have your relatives? It cannot simply be a matter of Hoofball, as seriously as you take the sport. It is something deeper, is it not?"
This... this isn't what the books said would happen! It was supposed to be a zenlike state, a trance. Some ponies enjoy it... Why am I...
I tried to cast a spell.
I tried to fight. I tried to draw magic! It couldn't affect my mind, it didn't manage to hypnotize me first! Of course! Huh, that's actually kind of interesting... I'll need to tell somepony when I...
Oh no... the cures... The cures work by waking you up. If I'm awake already how do I wake up again!? And... Why can I still feel my magic draining into the spell I was going to cast?
'Where the hay did that come from? And why did it sound like....'
"...I don't know. I've just never liked them or the idea of what they do. It might be... I heard about a Pegasus who went into the Everfree, back when I was only about nine or ten, and they put his statue in the Hall Of Heroes. I felt the whole idea was sick, like putting a corpse on display."
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): There ARE cultures who do that and consider it a sign of respect you know.)
Not now, please.
"They turned him back a few weeks later, but... he'd changed. He'd become addicted to the zen state petrification is supposed to cause. He went AWOL. They searched Everfree. They never found him again. The tabloids stupidly claimed Celestia gave him his wish about wanting to witness the rest of Equestria's history as an immortal observer. But what does this have to do with... changing the past?" I wondered.
"Well, according to the Empire, a basilisk's gaze is instantly fatal. All that is left is lifeless rock, a particularly severe and permanent case of rigor mortis. In fact, they're more like Cockatrices. Unless you are a Deer. No zenlike state if you have antlers."
"Do you know that petrification actually is two spells?" He began to answer.
"One to bind the soul to the body and one to petrify it?" I guessed.
"With cockatrices, yes, but the practical effects are the same. Most creatures that petrify feed off the life-force of the petrified being. The binding causes inner-peace because one is part of the greater soul of the universe, but if one has immunity or another blockage, be it a natural one or an attempt to use magic causing interference, one does not get that far. Like the fact that we deer constantly have a sufficient flow of magic to get in the way thanks to the way our magic and antlers work."
Not for the first time I was glad I was a unicorn. And then I remembered I'd probably try to cast a spell at any cockatrice I met, meaning....
"One is bound, aware and not remotely at the normal state of inner peace, into their own body. And feeding off their own life-force in order to sustain the partial soul-binding until it's all gone. Perhaps this is part of why you fear them. You actually would have to deliberately surrender to them to not risk eating away at your own life-force."
Oh good, so I was in trouble either way. Still, I felt a slow lingering death preferable to being an immortal one-pony zen rock garden... But I'd prefer the slow lingering death caused by that fatal condition known as mortal life.
"This is all very good and making me want to level every forest with basilisks, cockatrices, rock dogs, gorgonsnakes and catoblepae on the planet..."
"...Rock dogs live on mountains." I was corrected
"Whatever. Point is... what's your point?" I snapped.
"Thirty years ago, the Department of Truth changed the books in an effort to change the present. Easy enough, few Deer had ever read the real story and anyone arguing about the updated version was quickly was silenced. They tried to erase the past to cover up the fact that any Deer petrified is effectively doomed to a slow lingering death until they finally drain themselves of all their magic. The process can take decades."
"Why? What reason would they even need for that?"
"They changed 'history' to suit their own goals, of course. It would hard to motivate even conscripts to seek basilisk's venom with a risk like that. For some reason an instant death and being told you would be placed as a monument to your own bravery was a far better motivator... Not that many of them even were placed as proper monuments. More than a few Roe Deer generals and politicals decided to decorate the lawns of their dachas with the... waste materials. A few numbers off the casualty figures here and there..."
I felt sick. They'd not put glorified mummies on display, but the slowly dying instead. After telling them it would be quick and painless, that you'd live forever as a hero. Instead you'd die forever as a garden gnome...
(Interviewer's Note (Unicorn): You know there are cultures where elderly monks intentionally petrify themselves and put themselves on display as a spiritual inspiration for the younger generation yes?)
That's nothing like this. These soldiers were told big fat lies so they'd throw their lives away!
(Interviewer's Note (Pegasus): Hey, we're with you. We know more than one pony who was lied to and believed they were doing the right thing...The worst part was probably realizing it was just the opposite.)
"Why did they even want the venom?" I managed to say.
"To kill dragons, of course. It is corrosive and poisonous...And has a shelf life of about three weeks. So plenty was needed for study. This was just one experiment conducted at Chernobull. Just one of the eggs placed in that basket. Just some of the bodies piled up in the name of devising a dragon-slaying superweapon. And at the time, the project to create the perfect warriors was failing. Every single hybrid was dying. That project was abandoned. Research into the other projects was doubled. The imaginations of the deer there, the money and resource put in... It was a massive concentration of thoughts and dreams. But it wasn't just sweet little 'ivory tower' 'pie-in-the-sky' brainwaves. There were also dark thoughts, nightmares, all the ugliness residing in wicked hearts. Amplified eighty-one fold."
He then drew a little closer, antlers flanking my horn but not touching. Which was fortunate as I was getting kind of weirded out already. Then again, he claimed to want me not to trust him...
"I will show you, Captain. I would like you to relax, but you won't. So this may sting a little since you will resist... Oh, and maybe start a stopwatch."
Great, the one useful spy gadget Bond could have given me and he didn't.
"If you try anything funny, remember, I've got an Alicorn watching me."
"Oh, indeed. She watches over your heart. And some other bits, but she is only young..."
Before he answered though, there was a flash of white light, and a bit of pain...
To Be Continued In Part 2
(TELL LZ YOU LOVE THIS IF YOU DO!!! http://lz0291.deviantart.com/)