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Act III - The Grandfather Paradox
Part 6: Everything Changes

Apples.

Apples and cabbages and sweet potatoes and corn.  The crate in Pumpkin Custard's shed was filled with food, but it wasn't the meager shriveled product of most of their farming.  Instead, Rarity was staring at the cream of the literal crop, the small fraction of their food that grew to be virtually unblemished.

"Why in Equestria is this in your shed?" she asked the stallion.  "You better have a really good explanation for this."

Custard didn't answer.  He knew better than to lie; no fake excuse could possibly be plausible enough to convince Rarity.  But remaining silent for just a second was preferable to speaking up and incurring her wrath.  And then, when the next second came, he made the same decision.  He didn't speak until Rarity asked again, her harsher tone finally forcing his hand.  He accepted that there was no way out.

"Where did all this food come from?" Rarity asked for the final time.

"Your sister-in-law."

The connections were slowly coming together for Rarity.  She knew there had been something off in the bookkeeping; they always seemed to have more food than predicted.  Now she was beginning to understand why, but knowing where the food came from didn't explain the how.  Or why.

"Explain," she ordered.  "Now."

Custard sighed.  He felt so demeaned, having to submit to a mare that was barely even his family.  "She came to me a month after you had the falling-out with her.  She had a proposition; she was willing to give us all the food we weren't able to grow anymore free of charge, to make sure we didn't starve.  We were her family, after all.  But she had two stipulations.  Firstly, in exchange for the food, I had to keep her informed 'bout the state of things here on the farm.  She wanted to know what was happening to all of us, particularly her brother and sister.  Wanted to make sure the family was safe."

Rarity spent the entire spiel fuming, wanting to call Custard out on the ridiculousness of the story.  "Orange wouldn't help us, not unless she has something to gain.  If this is really just a benevolent act of kindness, why the secrecy?  Why didn't you just tell us?"

"Because she knows you.  We all do.  That was the second condition, that we do this without running it by you.  Big Mac knew, he helped, but you were off limits.  We know you'd never trust her after what happened.  Your pride wouldn't let you, because that would mean admitting she succeeded where you failed.  If she'd openly offered to help, you'd never accept it, even when the lives of other ponies are on the line.  I know some ponies describe you as generous, but that's not quite accurate, is it?  You're always about being the better mare, no matter what.  You have to wield the moral right, even if it means suffering for everypony close to you."

Somehow, the accusation triggered something in Rarity, something beyond simple outrage or offense.  Baseless insults had no reason to sting, so why was she so bothered, Rarity wondered.  "How dare you!" she cried.  "How dare you imply I've done anything less than work to protect my new family.  How dare you portray me as some sort of saboteur!"

"You're more than that, Rarity," snarled Custard, and he chuckled, feeling liberated.  "You're a lot more than just a snake, a sly little parasite that sneaks her way into our family and cannibalizes it. I see what you really are.  You, miss Rarity, are a whore.  You're a seducer that sets herself up as a queen who deserves our respect.  But I won't buy it."

Rarity paled, but Custard refused to stop.

"You make your sister-in-law out like some sort of monster who pulls the strings to get what she wants.  But do you really have a right to accuse her when she resorts to subterfuge?  She doesn't have any other options, not since you took over by grabbing Big Macintosh by the testicles and screwed your way into authority.  And she's been keeping you alive all this while, and she can't take the credit because you'd sooner die than owe her thanks.  Maybe you should face, Rarity, that the only reason you have anything is because you're a prideful pig and an easy lay.  Big Macintosh has sold our farm out in exchange for a quality slice of-"

Speaking can often be difficult after being kicked in the face by an angry mare.  Custard, knocked back the the blow, collapsed and crumpled onto the ground, dominated by an enraged Rarity.  "Say what you want about me," she hissed.  "But do not bring Macintosh's judgment into this."

"Enough!"  The two feuding ponies turned to a desperate and furious Pinkamena, who was instinctively holding Scootaloo and Apple Bloom protectively.  "I don't know what your problems are, and I don't care.  But before you speak another word to each other, we are going to find my daughter.  Once she's save, you can call each other whores and traitors all you like.  But not until the safety of this family is ensured.  Do you understand?"

The sudden ferocity was unexpected from her and was enough to cause Rarity and Custard to untangle and upright themselves.  Rarity had never noticed before how intimidating Pinkamena could be.

"You're quite right, darling," apologized Rarity, and she heard Custard a "fine."

"Gestures of apology and forgiveness can wait too.  No more delays," said Pinkamena succinctly before marching into the woods.  Rarity and Custard followed in pursuit.

For once, the Cutie Mark Crusaders were too shaken to go adventuring.









Sweetie Belle wanted to scream as soon as she hit the water.  There were a number of other things that she wanted too, of course, but "wanted" assumed she had a choice in the matter.  And given the choice, Sweetie Belle would choose to be with her friends and family on the farm, far away from this nightmare.  But she did not have much of a say in the matter.  No matter how much she wanted, she knew she was not safe, and she knew she was unable to scream.

The temperature of the water seemed to stab at every joint in her body, forcing them in a rigid position.  She gasped, a sharp intake of what she wanted to be air.  But again, she didn't have a say in the matter and breathed in water instead.

She thought she was kicking and splashing, slowly struggling to the surface, but she wasn't sure.  Maybe she still couldn't move and was just hoping she would float.  Her body felt distant now, and out of her control.  She broke the surface, and somehow, miraculously, managed to grab onto a log sticking out of the ground.  She thought she felt something rub against her hoof, but she wasn't sure.

"Sorry," she heard the mare named Spitfire tell her, and even she seemed to mean it.  "This is the compromise."  Sweetie Belle tried to look up and find her attacker, but she saw nothing.

"This isn't right," came the voice of Soarin, so far away.  But he lacked the same level of defiance he had held when they had first met, as if he had accepted that his protest would accomplish nothing.

"I know."  Spitfire seemed even further away than before.  "Right stopped being a priority a long time ago, and you're the only one who still seems to care.  You don't want to kill them, but you don't have to save them, either.  I can't face what's right, Soarin, so I do what's easy."

"That doesn't make this right, Spitfire."

"Then don't just stand there and complain.  Stop me."

Silence.

"I thought so.  We're not so different after all."

Sweetie Belle struggled to focus on something, anything, through the cold.  At least it still hurt.  She remembered reading about ponies feeling warm when they got hypothermia.  Focus on the cold, she told herself.  Let it keep you awake.

She forced her eyes to focus and noticed Pumpkin next to her for the first time.  The younger filly wasn't moving and was only still holding onto the log because she had no other choice; a pair of handcuffs was connected to a forehoof on each filly, and the chain between them was wrapped around the log.  Sweetie Belle briefly considered trying to detach them from the log, but she realized that even if she succeeded, Pumpkin's weight would pull her under.

"Please," she begged her captors.  "Let us go.  We won't tell anyone."  She wasn't even sure if they could hear her.  Her breath was beyond her control, coming in quick and rapid gasps.  She tried to scream, desperate for anypony, but nothing came out.

Slowly, her situation began to dawn on her.

They were going to die.

She heard shouts from above.  Somepony was calling her name.

"Over here!" she tried to call out, but she wasn't even certain if the words even left her lips.  She was tired now.  The cold didn't bother her anymore.  Maybe if she just stopped struggling...

"Pumpkin!  Pumpkin Alyssa Pie!"

"Sweetie Belle!  Oh, sister, where are you?"

The sound of her name stirred something, and Sweetie Belle found herself shouting, as loudly as she could manage.  Please, she thought, let them hear.  Let them come.

But maybe it would be better if they didn't.  Maybe it was too late to save them.  It seemed better to pass silently then force her family to watch them die.









Rarity telekinetically held the bottle of champagne above her head like a beacon, waving it back and forth to gain the attention of the other ponies in the room.  When her movements didn't produce any reaction, she gave up and picked up a spoon, striking it against the bottle lightly.  The various conversations quieted down, and Rarity took the stage.

"I know we're all busy and anxious with what is undoubtedly a serious matter, but I think we all need to take a step back for a moment and look at what we've accomplished, and what's still in front of us.  When this ship finally lifts into the sky, which it will, tonight, it will be manned by it specially trained crew, and by my good friends Twilight Sparkle and, erm, well, Twilight Sparkle, who will be putting to the test a spell that could revolutionize our world.  Our good friend Fluttershy will be assisting, in the off chance an additional set of wings is required."

"Revolutionize our world."  The phrasing for their alibi had been Rarity's idea.  No matter how much Madame Orange insisted her crew could be trusted, Rarity knew they couldn't risk an information leak.  The Mooncatcher, due to its unique nature, was certainly going to attract attention.  The ponies were about to commit treason against Nightmare Moon in the most populated city in Equestria; the fewer ponies who knew their intentions, the better they could feign innocence if anypony asked.

And technically, their excuse wasn't a lie.  Revolutionize, indeed.

How they were going to explain the second Twilight Sparkle, Rarity had no idea.  But amazingly, none of the crew members of the ship had asked.  They held themselves professionally, and that included not asking questions that probably had stupidly obvious answers.

"I, unfortunately, will not be making this journey with you," continued Rarity, "as I will be helping our Madame Orange locate an important contact of hers."  In fact, Orange had been rather insistent about that fact.  In their time together, the entrepreneurial earth pony had really started to open up, and had insisted that the two of them stick together when the groups were assigned.  "Rainbow Dash will be assisting us as well, due to her connection with the contact in question.  And Pinkie Pie will be providing moral support, as is her tendency to do so.

"So may you all have a safe voyage.  We're all going to do our best to make this world a better place, and I hope you will too."  She looked over at her friends, enjoying their last meal before they split up for their respective missions.  Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie were already eagerly digging into their food, and the Twilights were going over their notes one last time, double checking the hastily-thrown together spell to tap into the aurora.  Rarity tried to spot the last pony of the group, but she didn't appear to be anywhere.  Perhaps there was one more announcement to make.

"Has anypony seen Fluttershy?"








Fluttershy sat on her bed in the ship's barracks, focusing intently on the sounds the airship was making.  Ever since she had first boarded the Mooncatcher, she had been overwhelmed by the noise that came with keeping it aloft.  But now that she had time to herself, she was able to pick apart the different sounds, and it occurred to her how much the airship almost seemed like a living creature, personified.  Fluttershy imagined the soft whines of the engine represented the ship's eagerness to leave the earth behind.  The fans, rotating slowly, were the ship's even breath.  And when she really listened, she swore she could make out the ship's heartbeat.

She jumped when she heard the knock on the door.

"Fluttershy?"  asked Rainbow Dash from behind the door.  "You in there?  There's a party going on, and you probably don't want to miss it.  Pinkie Pie just finished gathering the dice and the butter squash, and, well, you remember what happened last time we did that."

"I'm fine," answered Fluttershy.  "I don't want to make a disruption or anything, so I'll just stay here, if that's okay."

"Yeah, it's 'okay', I suppose," said Rainbow Dash, opening the door.  "Would it be 'okay' if I stayed here for a little while?  I'm kind of burned out."  When Fluttershy nodded, she sat on the bed next to her friend.

"You still freaking out?" asked Rainbow Dash.  "It's a lot to take in, and just when you think you're done, there's more.  Can I ask you something, though?  Why did you choose to go on the ship?  You hate heights."

Fluttershy laughed weakly.  "I know," she explained.  "And I'm worried about every little thing that could go wrong.  But then I realize that all those things would still go wrong without me, and then Twilight wouldn't have a friend that can fly to help her out.  I need to face my fears and be there for her."

Rainbow Dash laughed.  "Which Twilight are we talking about here?"

Fluttershy blanched, not expecting the prompting.  "What kind of question is that?" she asked nervously.

"An honest one.  Are you doing this for our Twilight, or the dark and mysterious one?"  Rainbow smirked suggestively, and Fluttershy did her best to hide the blush.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," she stammered.

"Sure you don't, Fluttershy," joked Rainbow Dash , laughing again.  "Sure you don't."








Staring at the map of Equestria Madame Orange had pulled up from the library, Rarity began to realize just how daunting the task in front of them was.  The Mooncatcher had now launched, and was on its way to the north pole, leaving the remaining ponies to focus on their own task.  "Well," she said, "I never realized Equestria was so big! How are we expecting to find a single pony in the haystack of a country? She could be anywhere."

"No, just six feet under," muttered Rainbow Dash. "I'm telling you she's dead. I trust Gilda."

"Even when she was trying to kill you?" Orange grinned cheekily.  "Why, Rainbow Dash, that's quite the display of loyalty if I've ever seen one. But even if Gilda was right, it won't do us any good to just take her word for it. Confirming the fate of your other self will be an important requisite for any of our future plans."

"But she still won't be just anywhere!" interjected Pinkie Pie.  "She's going to be in the last place we look, so we can rule out all the other places we would look first."

"Pinkie Pie is right, in a sense," added Madame Orange.  "Especially if Rainbow here is willing to help us pick up the trail.  Where were you ten years ago?  Las Pegasus?  New Whinny?"

"Cloudsdale, actually."

Madame removed a coin from her purse and placed it on Cloudsdale on the map.  "Then I suppose that's as good a place to start as any.  Do your parents still live there?"

Rarity, concerned, raised a hoof.  "Forgive me," she said, "but wouldn't it seem to be a little poor in taste, should we show up at Rainbow's parents doorstep and ask them how their daughter died? Particularly when said daughter is with us?  Ponies leave traces.  It's impossible not to.  We just need to be a bit more discreet with our search."

"Criminal records, perhaps?" asked Orange, resisting a smirk.

"How about schooling?" Rainbow suggested instead.

"Or instead of just grasping a straws, you could actually lend your past experience being you and tell us your life story."

And so she did.  Every time that she mentioned a place where she lived, worked, or traveled, Orange put another coin on the map, slowly forming a constellation of search locations.  When Rainbow's tale was done, the earth mare drew a line across the map, connecting the dots.  "It looks like Trotston's the closest," she commented.  "You got your degree in Weather Systems there?"

"How are the rest of us going to get there?" Rarity asked.  "The cities are made of clouds; we'd fall straight through."

"There are spells to fix that, you know."  Orange didn't even have to think about the problem; Rarity felt that the other mare had already worked this solution out.

"So we're going to hire a unicorn to cast these spells on us?"

"Nope.  You are."

"What?" managed a flustered Rarity.  "I can't do that!  My magic is horrendous."

She felt Orange rub her head against her neck.  "I believe you can pull it off."











With the meeting concluded, Pinkie Pie left for dinner.  Before Rarity could exit, however, she was stopped by Madame Orange.

"Rarity, we need to talk."

Rarity hesitated, sensing the seriousness in Orange's voice.  "Is there a problem?"

"No, not now.  Maybe not for a while.  But eventually.  And I didn't get where I am today without a knack for long-term planning.  What's going to happen when this is all over, assuming we win?  And I am going to assume that we win, because there's no point in worrying about everything that could go wrong, and if things do go wrong, then well we won't have much time to worry, now will we?"

Rarity noticed that Orange was rambling, a bizarre contrast to her usual well-composed self.  Rarity wondered what could possibly unnerve the usually calm mare.  "After we win?  The others and I would return home, I presume, as soon as we know Equestria is safe."

Orange sighed.  "Precisely.  And that's a problem, because you're the only pony I've met in Manehattan that doesn't look up to me."

Rarity wasn't sure how to properly respond to that remark.  "Sorry?"

"Oh, no, don't apologize.  It's refreshing.  Delightfully so, because you don't see me with disdain, either. We're equals, in a way.  And you're refined.  Cultured.  You can hold an intelligent conversation.  The two of us share mutual respect."

Rarity wasn't sure where Orange was trying to take this.  "What about your Twilight?" she asked. "She respects you.  She actually seems a bit smitten with you, if you don't mind me saying."

Orange groaned, almost painfully.  "We don't always see eye to eye.  Twilight's a nice girl, don't get me wrong.  A little too nice, and a bit stubborn at times.  Not to mention the entire 'reverence' angle isn't exactly appreciated.  I don't want to be put on a pedestal, Rarity.  I want to be a pony, in all her flaws." She closed the distance between them, placing her hooves on Rarity's.  "You help me become that.  So thank you, from the bottom of my heart."

At first, Rarity was too frightened to respond.  "Are you..." she finally began, but she was interrupted by one of the hired guards entering the room, out of breath.  He was wild, and he looked as if he had just finished a run.

"Sorry," Orange told Rarity, and she turned to her employee.  "What is it?  Speak up."

The guard wheezed, but his breath eventually settled enough for him to speak.  "We lost contact, Ma'am."

"What?"

"The Mooncatcher.  Their Columbus device stopped transmitting unexpectedly.  We attempted to contact them, both with magical and nonmagical means.  They aren't responding.  I don't know what happened, but I worry the ship may have been damaged."

"The ship?" cried Rarity, horrified.  "What about the crew?  What about Twilight?  And Fluttershy?"

The guard didn't respond, looking toward Orange for direction.

"Oh, calm yourselves," Orange finally said.  "We don't know what happened, so either assume the best and stay hopeful, or assume the worst and trust your friends to make as good as they can of whatever situation may have befallen them.  I've supervised that crew personally, and I'd trust them to the ends of the earth.  Whatever happened, they can manage."

This did nothing to lift the guard's spirits.  "What would you like me to do, then?" he asked.  "What should I tell the others?"

"Tell them to be bold.  Your crewmates and my partners are a bunch of tenacious folk.  Don't jump to conclusions.  And most importantly, don't blame yourselves for whatever happens.  You hear me?"  The guard nodded and trotted out of the room, jerkily and uncertainly.

Rarity was barely able to hold in her panic until the guard was gone, at which point her breath collapsed into a combination of quick intakes and short bursts of speech.

"Twilight.  And Fluttershy.  What did?  What can?  How?"  She was stopped by Orange placing a hoof on her shoulder and smiling.  "Have faith in our friends," she reiterated.  "I believe in them."












Twilight's ears were still ringing from the blow when she heard an even worse sound, the terrifying cries of a trained expert panicking.  Her previous encounters with the crew of the Mooncatcher, while brief, had imparted a sense of professionalism.  These were mares and stallions Twilight had been convinced could handle anything, and this only made the screams more unnerving.

"The engine room is on fire!"

Well, crap.

She had been playing chess with Moonlight (who, intentionally or not, had been mirroring her every move) when the first explosion had rocked the ship and sent them both tumbling into a line of cabinets. Now, recovering from the collision, her thoughts turned to Fluttershy.

The pegasus was probably in her bedroom when the trouble started.  She hadn't left at all, preferring to stay away from the hubbub of the crew in the front of the ship and the dizzying views available from the rear.  Really, Twilight wondered why the pegasus had bothered to come at all.

She tried to stand and walk, only succeeding in staggering toward the door, and then away from it as the ship swerved and gravity shifted.  At her side, her counterpart had similar trouble getting her bearings.

Another explosion shook through them, although it was felt much more than heard.  Twilight instinctively raised a magical shield to soften the blow as she was thrown into the air and then unceremoniously dropped.  She watched as the floor rushed toward her but slowed and stilled as the cushion of enchanted air reduced what likely could have been a severely damaging blow into something merely painfully abrupt.

She paused for a breather, and in that time she found inspiration.  Focusing her magic, a thin shell of violet glow formed around her, lifting her slightly off the ground.  The ship continued to shake, but no long connected to the floor, Twilight felt none of it.  Moonlight, seeing the technique, followed suit.

Although the strain Twilight felt from the magical exersion was enormous, she pushed onward, levitating her body across the room, through the door, and into the hallway.  Candles shook in their fixtures, threatening to start another fire.  A panicked mare ran past her, shoving her, but she pressed forward.  Fluttershy was what was important.

The Twilights found the pegasus in her room, backed against the wall.  Fluttershy, overcome, could only breath rapidly, her eyes darting around but not seeming to settle on anything.  Twilight called her name, and she looked up, her eyes focusing.

And then the world lit up, blazed into a million points of heat and light, and faded away into nothing. Within minutes, the smoldering wreckage of the S. S. Mooncatcher sank beneath the ocean.










"Hush," Rarity ordered the other ponies.  The others stopped their trotting, the sound of their hoofbeats surrendering to the natural sounds of the forest.  Birds chirping, water running, and... conversation?

Rarity put a hoof to her lips, gesturing for silence.  She then began moving painstakingly slowly off the path, in the direction of the noise.  Taking the utmost caution to avoid stepping on any dry branches, she made her way through beneath the trees, the voices gradually becoming clear.

"Let's get out of here," said a voice that, while slightly effeminate, was definitely male.  "I can't believe I'm saying this, but let's just get out of here and not stop flying."

"Not a chance," said the second voice which, while slightly masculine, was clearly female.  "We return to our post and wait for whoever sent them here to show up."

"And then we kill them too?  This isn't going to end, is it.  You said before that you didn't understand how I manage to keep smiling.  I don't understand how you're able to always be so grim.  It's like we're just caricatures of our real selves.  You're the orderly, and I'm the happy-go-lucky, but we're not ponies anymore."

Rarity could see them now, a pair of pegasi dressed in the black uniforms of the Shadowbolts.  They were standing by a river which ran quickly and dangerously.  In the middle of the river, two more figures struggled weakly while being battered abouts by the rough currents.

The uniformed mare gave her partner a disapproving glance and took to the skies.  The stallion prepared to follow her.

Rarity had sworn to only use magic for emergencies, but if anything qualified, it was this.  

Soarin flexed his wings and pushed off.  Rarity focused on him, prepared to try and keep him on the ground.  Instead, she lost her focus when she was abruptly shoved aside by Pinkamena, who pushed past her and launched herself into the air.  She gained on the pegasus rapidly, colliding with him in the air and knocking him down.  The two landed dangerously close to the edge of the river.

Custard burst out from the trees behind her and hurried into the water.  He was immediately struck by how cold it was.  He was already struggling to move, and Sweetie Belle and Pumpkin, with their smaller body masses, would have succumbed even more quickly.

"They're handcuffed," he shouted over the sound of the water.  "Don't know where these bastards got cuffs, but they won't come off."

"Where's the key?" Pinkamena snarled at Soarin.  Rarity, thrown by the sudden shift in behavior, took a cautious step back.  Pinkamena repeated her question, pairing it with a smack across Soarin's face.  "How do I free them?"

Soarin looked at the pink mare almost apologetically.  "I don't have it," he told her.  "Spitfire does."

She laughed.  "Really?" she asked.  "I don't believe you."  She pinned Soarin beneath her, although he didn't seem to be offering any resistance.  "Where's the key?" she repeated, this time lifting up Soarin's head and slamming it against the ground.  From her position, Rarity could see the blood on the ground from the impact.

"Pinkie, stop!" screamed Rarity, horrified.  "He doesn't have it!"

When Pinkamena turned to address Rarity, the unicorn saw the crazed look in her friend's eyes, almost feral.  She felt more frightened than ever before in her life.  "We don't know that," barked Pinkamena.  "So don't interfere.  This stallion here is about to tell me how to free my daughter."

Rarity swore she saw Soarin crack a grin.  "And if I don't?" he muttered weakly.

"I don't think you understood me.  That was not an order.  It was a statement of fact.  When I'm done with you, you will tell me how to free my daughter."









Madame Orange returned to her study, not sure what to make of the day's events.  The only clear conclusion was that she needed a strong drink.

After making sure to tell one of the guards that she was under no circumstances to be disturbed, she locked the door behind her and collapsed into her desk chair.  Keeping up appearances really could be tiring.

The room was furnished with paintings and pottery, the details and history of which Orange didn't have the faintest clue.  The only decoration she actually cared about was her collection of drinks in bottles along the wall.  Orange whiskey cocktails, hard orangeade, orange scotch, even an orange soda for when she was hung over and couldn't stand the thought of drinking more.  She was probably going to be needing that tomorrow.  Instead of reaching for any of the drinks on the shelf, however, she opened the bottom drawer on her desk and removed the two items contained within.

The first was a bottle of cider from Sweet Apple Acres.  No matter how much she drank, she never seemed to get sick of it.  There was no such thing as too much, not when it was made with the level of commitment and high standards from the farm.

The farm that Orange knew she would never be able to return to.  Pushing the cider away for the moment, she examined the other item she had removed from the drawer, a modified Columbus device.  While it retained the disc-like shape of the other devices, the bulge in the center had been replaced by a customized spell matrix, a circle of etched runes with a small glowing bundle of magical energy in the center.  Theoretically untraceable.  And if her own employees hadn't picked up on its existence, it probably was.

She didn't have to wait long after its activation for the air in the room to light up with a painful magenta glare.  The light condensed into balls, which clumped together into a vaguely pony-like shape.  The result shimmered before exploding, a mare filling the hole left behind.

"Hello Applejack," scorned the Great and Powerful Trixie.

Madame Orange snarled instinctively.  Trixie's sheer level of contempt could get under her skin effortlessly.  "Don't call me that," she said angrily.  "That's not my name anymore.  I left that life behind me."

Trixie exaggerated a pout.  "Aww, how cute," she teased.  "But we all know that's not true at all.  We mean, giving them food in exchange for tales from the farm?  Very adorable."

The hairs on Orange's neck only raised further, and she seethed.

"Oh, don't get mad at me," said Trixie, brimming with feigned innocence.  "We're not the one who alienated you; you did that all on your own.  Excellent job, by the way.  We wonder if you any chance of reconciliation left?  Not if they knew who you were really working for."

"You're a monster."

Trixie prepared to argue the point, but she paused.  "Probably," she conceded.  "But that's the fate of us monsters, don't you know?  Take it all out on other ponies to distract ourselves from how much we're hurting.  Do everything we can to keep things solid.  And speaking of other ponies, I take it your mission went well?"

Orange nodded solemnly.  "The bomb worked exactly as planned.  So much more efficient than that Griffin assassin.  Twilight Sparkle, both Twilight Sparkles, are dead."
Yeah, I'll add the image tomorrow.

This is the second part of the double update, and things just took a turn for the grimdark.

The story will not always be this depressingly bleak, but in this case the title is a good description of the chapter. Everything changes, at least for now.

There's only a couple of chapters left in the act and the action is almost at its peak. I suppose that means I need to enter that phase of wrapping up plot threads for the end of the act. I promise that a lot of big questions are going to be answered before the act is done. For starters, I'm running out of time to make the act title relevant.

But I'm allowed to kill off Fluttershy, because I've got two of her. That's like, a Fluttershy and a backup Fluttershy, right?

In other news, I am a terrible person.
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:iconkurseofkings:
This is only my opinion so don't take it personally, but killing off Fluttershy?! I'm sorry but that just seems like bad move. If she really does die, there's probably going to be lots of responses some will bereally angry, some not. For example, here's mine: You're killing off Fluttershy?! why would you do that to this?: [link]
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:iconsolaceandsilence:
SolaceAndSilence Aug 11, 2012  Student Writer
Ah, but is she really dead?
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:iconthegamefilmguruman:
What have we learned? NEVER mess with Pinkie's offspring. EVER.
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:iconfreedomandchaos:
[link]

Do not mess with an Angry Pinkie Pie.
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:iconwaypointbravo:
HAH. I KNEW Orange was a spy! I had my eye on her ever since Zecora got killed; Moonlight and Orange were the only ones who knew where she was hiding, and only one of them had a followup attempt on their own life!
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:iconfreedomandchaos:
Yes! I was wondering if anyone would pick up on that.

The only way Gilda could have found the hideout was if Orange told her the location.

Also, Orange knew about Zecora's demise before anypony told her.

I love you. Any other predictions, since you appear to be on a roll?
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:iconwaypointbravo:
I predict that we have some rather strange foals walking around, as Spitfire and Soarin used HANDcuffs on the kids :P

I'm also going to guess that the Elements won't be wielded by the Moonside Manes -- and the ones that are probably won't be holding the obvious ones. Pinkie just doesn't seem to have Laughter in her, Orange is a bad guy, Dash is probably dead, and Soarin seems itching for a switch.
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:iconxtsgx:
I'm not buying it for a second.
Rule #1 of fanfictions: No body, no death.
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:iconbuckingawesomeart:
called the madame orange thing. but fluttershy....dead? i feel like i shouldnt believe that. just like i dont believe second rainbow dash is dead. why must you be so murderous?! nah but its still going good. i like.
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