by ToixStory

Chapter 1: 1 - Smoke

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Smoke blotted out the sky. It was dark gray and acrid, the kind that comes when a house catches fire. The kind that clogs the nose, floods into the lungs, and fills the vision with salty tears. It was all Quicksilver had seen for days now. Nothing but smoke.

He didn’t know when he had lost Morning Glory. She’d been right by his side on the flight out of Fillydelphia, but somewhere along the way, he’d realized she wasn’t there. He’d lost a lot of ponies on the flight out of Fillydelphia.

When they had first appeared, the dark things that came from the ground and destroyed everything in their wake, thousands had fled the city. “Go to the stardock,” they’d said. “The stardock. We can escape if we get to the stardock.”

Quicksilver didn’t know who’d come up with that plan, or if they were even still alive. He didn’t know if anypony else was still alive at all. The damn smoke wafted through the air like a blanket that hugged the ground. For all he knew, he could be all by himself or in the middle of a crowd of thousands.

A tiny wail from below him reminded him that there were, at least, two left alive in the haze. He tucked the makeshift sling tighter around his neck and tried to cover the foal inside. The little filly stared up at him with big, silver eyes. Her entire coat and mane, much like his, were colored matte gray from the smoke.

“Just a little more,” he told her, then took off running. Somewhere in the distance, not sure whether it was in front or behind him, he heard a terrible roar. It was like something between the screams of a pony and a dragon, and it was a sound he had been hearing more and more ever since he had left Fillydelphia. Quicksilver ran faster.

His rump had a silver arrow plastered on it. Running was how he had gotten his cutie mark. It was how he had gotten his wife, his job, his whole life. In stadiums they had chanted his name when he tore across the track; no pony had been faster. Now all he heard around him was the clopping of his own hooves on asphalt and the distant sound of terror come to life.

No, don’t think about that, he told himself. Just focus on moving forward. That’s what he always did in races. Even in a stadium of twenty thousand ponies, it all fell away until it was just the track and himself. Like he was running through oblivion, no end in sight, just his hooves and the ground. Now, with the smoke-choked road, he really was running through oblivion.

Then, just like a curtain being pulled open, he emerged into the sunlight. In front of the rolling cloud of black smoke was the Green Hills Stardock. For all the talk it had gotten in the papers, there wasn’t much to see; just a massive field of concrete stretched as far as the eye could see. What was most important, however, was what stood in the middle. Pointing up to the sky like a gigantic needle, a rocket stood at the ready.

Just sixty years before, Princess Luna had come back from the moon, and now ponies had already established a colony on it. Quicksilver had heard the news, seen the grainy film they had brought back, but it wasn’t until he saw the rocket up close that he believed they could really go to space. On a normal day, he might have stayed and gawked at it, but instead he sprinted toward it, muscles screaming and begging for rest.

The spacedock was surrounded by a thick ring of Equestrian soldiers. Many of them were bloodstained, with ripped armor and weapons that looked like they had been dragged most of the way to the stardock. Their eyes were vacant and stared off into a distance that wasn’t there. They opened ranks just enough for Quicksilver to run through, then shut again. He looked over their shoulders into the smoke, trying to see if anypony would emerged from behind him. No one did.

In front of him, a mare in what might have once passed for a white lab coat popped up. Behind her, a great red elevator rose up to a tiny door in the side of the rocket. Dimly, in the gloomy haze, he could see ponies boarding.

“You’re it,” she said, an accusation rather than a question.

She looked up to the rocket, then back to Quicksilver. Her gaze held on him, cold and emotionless. Not of somepony who didn’t care, but of one who had watched everything she cared about ripped away right in front of her. All the while, a rumbling beneath Quicksilver’s hooves grew heavier.

Smoke billowed out from beneath the rocket. No, not smoke, steam, from the water they put beneath them. Somepony had told him that once. He shook his head.

“Sir, sir,” the mare was saying, “we’re already stretching the load limit as it is; we won’t be able to—”

“I know.” He used his hooves to carefully unwrap his foal and present it to the mare. She was a unicorn, he realized, when a field of pink magic—like her coat and mane—enveloped his little filly. “Before the radio cut out, it said children would be allowed on board.”

Her shoulders slacked, and the mare let out a breath. Quicksilver realized he towered over her. If he had wanted, he could have shoved past her and onto the elevator himself. But he wasn’t there to start fights. He wasn’t going to leave Morning Glory; all he had was one last job to do. So, he backed off while she took his filly away.

By the time he realized he hadn’t even held her one last time, his little filly, the lab coat mare was already on the elevator. Instead, he could only watch them ascend up the side of the rocket with a numbness in his hooves. Behind him, he heard the steady clatter of rifles, the zaps of magical weapons, and the cries of soldiers. The monsters had found him at last.

But it was okay. While the world collapsed around him, Quicksilver watched and thought, just for a moment, he could see the mare enter the rocket, carrying his child onboard. Then his view was gone as massive blast shields raised up from the ground.

The ground shook like an earthquake, and then the rocket was gone. Trailing smoke and fire, the thin metal needle rose up into the sky, growing more and more distant with each passing moment. Quicksilver watched as it arced upwards until it was almost parallel with the ground, breaking atmosphere . . . and then it was gone.

From where he stood, he could make out similar smoke trails rising all over the Equestrian sky. Some ended up plumes of explosive flame and debris, but more rose in their place and disappeared past where the eye could see.

The sound of weapons died down, and screaming replaced them. The unpony sounds of gurgling and screeching erupted across the starport. Quicksilver ignored them. Don’t turn around, he told himself. His hooves shook and his teeth chattered. Don’t look.

He wondered what it would be like to die. Would he go meet Celestia? Since she had disappeared when the monsters emerged, everypony had assumed she was dead. Maybe he could see Morning Glory again.

The monsters came closer. Quicksilver thought he should go out in some sort of way, but he wasn’t sure how. Maybe with good dying words, though nopony would be around to hear them. Maybe go out thinking of his time with Morning Glory and their brief time with their filly. Maybe just yell at the monsters bearing down on him more every second. All he could think of, though, was that it was unbearably hot and he wished there wasn’t so much damn smoke around and what he wouldn’t give for one last breath of fresh air.

Then, with the slash of an unseen mandible sharp enough to sever steel in two, Quicksilver didn’t think anything again.

Next Chapter: 2 - The Quiet Earth Estimated time remaining: 33 Minutes
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