Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 164

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Chapter 164

I wake up in the hospital bed for the second time today... only this time I feel in pretty bad shape. AJ did a number on me. Still, I have an obligation to protect my friends. A damaged knee is nothing compared to what I prevented AJ from doing to Clark. Rather than just Pinkie, it seems most of the Element bearers are here, though Rainbow Dash and AJ aren’t around.

“Hey. So which fight are you here to talk about? The monster, or the neophobe?”

“Both, actually.” Twilight says, looking concerned. “From what I heard from witnesses, Clark was doing some form of self-repair using, ergh, parts from the demon. He was acting more like a Golem or an Animus than an actual natural creature. We’ll talk about Applejack next.”

“Fine. As for Clark, perhaps you need a bit of perspective. Remember where he was for years on end. If the law of the world was ‘kill or be killed’ and a monster came by trying to kill you, what would you do?”

“I- I don’t know. I’ve never been in that situation, or any like it, and I hope I never am. But the point still stands, that wasn’t normal or natural. Even you have to admit that, right?”

“I do. It was disgusting, and really fucked up. But I still understand why it happened. Clark said the parts that are ‘salvaged’ can replace broken, damaged, or inferior parts of your own. If you got a leg cut off and you could just... replace it without surgery or any kind of waiting, and otherwise you run the risk of bleeding to death, I’d say that stealing a replacement is a justifiable measure to take.”

“So... they’re like prosthetics?” Fluttershy asks, looking both confused and a little frightened.

“I... suppose, yeah. But from what I heard, they... ‘graft’ themselves onto you, so it becomes a part of you rather than just a fake to replace what you’ve lost. He stole a heart from the wendigo, and now he’s got a heart that, if damaged, could repair itself.”

“Close enough I guess, but I’m not exactly sure what this new heart will do for me.” I turn to see Clark, leaning on the wall, looking absolutely terrible. “That said, new stomach’s working great. Got any food?”

“Sorry man, not in any real condition to get you another bird... don’t think I have the money, either. But I’m right kind of, aren’t I? You take parts to upgrade yourself, make you stronger or faster or more durable. That kinda thing?”

“Yeah, sorta. Would’ve been nice to have some Endbringer hide, or maybe have gotten in with the Sons for a while to get some pestilent attacks. Some form of containment would’ve been nicer than having to go with ‘ring of fire to hold that thing in with me’.”

“Well, I think you did an excellent job keeping the damage minimal. You were certainly quick to the scene, darling!” Rarity’s praise makes Clark smile.

“Yeah, just because you have their parts doesn’t mean you start acting like a monster. It seems a certain somebody fails to understand the difference, though.” The somebody I’m referring to is Applejack, but it takes a few moments for the other ponies to catch on.

“Er, I actually have a few things to go over with you later, on that subject.” Clark rubs the back of his neck, and I hear his jaw pop. “Uhm, but in the meantime, I’m going to go raid the cafeteria. You get better, Anthony.” He shuffles off, and I can hear his joints pop and groan in protest at the swift, jerky movements.

“Yeah. So when do I get to leave the hospital?”

A nurse takes that moment to poke his head in. “Actually, for the slow progress your healing is going at, we’re guessing you’ll be here for at least two weeks. Mostly for the head wound; we don’t want you going into a coma. Even Princess Luna can’t pull somepony from that.”

“Great... So in the meantime... Applejack had her reasons for hating Clark, as misplaced as they were. What do all of you think of him?”

Pinkie shrugs. “Well, he’s real nice, and he gives big hugs, but I don’t think he means it when he smiles or laughs.”

Rarity thinks for a moment. “Well, he’s a perfect gentlecolt- or, er, what’s the term, Anthony?” -“Gentleman.”- “Ah, yes, a perfect gentleman all the time. He’s even got a fine taste in colors, and seems to know his way around a sewing machine!” she smiles. “He does keep bemoaning the loss of something called ‘Duck Cloth’ or something. I’m not sure what it is, but it seems to be some form of invulnerable fabric.”

“Duct tape. You can do anything with enough duct tape.” I grin. “I think it’s clear what Fluttershy thinks of him. So how about you Twi?” Fluttershy blushes so hard I think her face is on fire, and she gives an embarrassed squeak. The other ponies look confused.

“Uhm, well, he likes to read, and has been extremely helpful around the library! I suppose I like him; he always tries to be as useful as possible, and puts up with a  lot of my, er, eccentricities.”

I nod. “The problem is, Clark has been on Hell-Earth for too long. He’s still a nice person, but what he did with scavenging those parts is just an old habit. If he didn’t do that, he may not be able to win the next fight or something. He’s still sick, and I want to make him better, realize he doesn’t need to do things like that anymore... but that will take time and care. Not to mention he needs real friends to help him along; without a strong support group, I’m not sure we’ll be able to snap him out of the ‘kill or be killed’ mentality any time soon.”

The assembled ponies nod. Twilight speaks up. “Well, I’m glad we’ve got that resolved, at least for now. I think we’ll all need to think this over later. For now, however, let’s talk about Applejack.”

“She wanted to kill Clark, and was willing to go through me to do it. If my friends are threatened, I don’t stand by and let them be attacked while in the frikken’ hospital.”

Twilight sighs, and Fluttershy looks horrified. “I was afraid of this, Anthony. I don’t know what exactly has been going on for Applejack, but ever since Clark showed up, she’s been suspicious of him. Admittedly, she’s always been a little suspicious of you, but she at least seems over that.”

“Don’t get me wrong.” I clarify. “I know where she’s coming from. I understand what she thinks and it makes sense that she thinks that he’s a monster, given how he acts. The problem is, she’s not willing to try and fix him and make him better. She’d rather solve the problem quickly by killing him. The flaw in that plan is that she won’t accept that he’s nothing more than a monster. She’s always been... set-in-her-ways, but this time, it’s self-destructive and she won’t accept that.”

Rarity nods. “She’s very attached to her sense of honesty. It’s not just that she doesn’t lie, it that she’s very thoroughly honest, much of the time. Still, this level of aggression isn’t normal, and it can’t be healthy for the dear.”

“Of course it’s not. If she’s willing to fight me for a chance at Clark... Maybe her definition of ‘monster’ differs from mine, but I classify a monster by how they act not what they look like. She just... refuses to see past the surface. He’s my best friend, and I will fight for him no matter what.”

The ponies sigh. “I’m not sure what we can do at this point, Anthony. I don’t think her opinion’s going to change, though it might while she’s in jail.”

“She got thrown in the slammer, huh? Well, can’t really say she doesn’t deserve it. And I don’t think she’s going to change her opinion just because she’s been locked up. But that’s up to her. If she doesn’t change her tune, she may as well be kept in jail.”

“Well, with an Unprovoked Assault charge, she’ll have ten years to think it over, one way or another.” Twilight explains, looking rather down.

“Ten years? Huh. Well, as they say: Should have thought of that before you did it.” I shrug slightly. “I wonder what she thought would happen if she actually killed Clark...”

Fluttershy, Pinkie, and Rarity all shudder, but Twilight just has an odd look to her, like she’s scared or something. Only, y’know, not quite.

“Uhm... exactly what is the penalty for murder in Equestria?”

“Well, normally, the ah, culprit would be subjected to the Elements of Harmony, if they’re available, and if not, or if the guilty party doesn’t repent, they get a choice. Exile or ex-” she gulps, audibly, “Execution.”

“Seriously? Where I come from, cold-blood murder results in the death penalty, no two ways about it. Straight to the chopping block. Or the electric chair. Or solitary confinement for the rest of your life.”

“Well, the ‘exile’ option means exile from all of Terra. Like with Nightmare Moon.”

“Huh. Well, I doubt Applejack could survive on the moon for very long. No food, no water, no air... May as well be a death sentence in it’s own right.”

“Uhm... Anthony, the moon does have water and air. I think Luna still tends gardens on it, every now and then. She calls the little trees ‘bonsai’, and they were all she had while exiled, and kinda split in half and...” Twilight stumbles and finally gives up, “uhm... she explains it better.”

“Well, that’s pretty different. Anyways, the point is... if we can’t convince Applejack that she’s being a nazi, then... well she’s gonna keep trying and that’s what’s gonna happen. She kills Clark, and she’s sent to the moon. She’d still probably die up there, air and water notwithstanding. She’s not exactly immortal.”

The ponies all look away, sadness on their faces.

“Welcome to the real world, where if you only see things as good and evil, you end up abandoned and dead.” Nobody answers, and nobody can bring themselves to look at me. I’m just telling it like it is. “If you guys can’t deprogram the neophobia from AJ, and she doesn’t change... then she suffers the consequences. This whole ‘monster’ thing is going to her head and messing it up. That said, Clark needs some deprogramming too. He’s living like a wild animal because that’s the only way he could live. We need some way to prove to him that he doesn’t have to scavenge organs and limbs anymore.”

“W- well, other than the got-stabbed-in-the-heart thing.” Pinkie says, looking up at me.

“Okay, point taken. That’s kind of an excusable measure to take in the effort of self-preservation.”

Twilight speaks up, “Wait, he was stabbed? In the heart? How did he survive that?”

“Uhhh... Not sure. But he’s still alive and he’s got a new one. Better than him dying.”

“Still, he should’ve died of blood loss and shock instantly. How did he get his own chest open to do a cardiotomy?”

“Oh yeah, I-” Oh good god! “I held his ribcage open while he-” Woah, I feel sick. Worse than vomit-sick though. Like- Next Chapter: Chapter 165 Estimated time remaining: 9 Hours, 20 Minutes

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