Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 173

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Chapter 173

Sitting on the rather plain bed Ren had insisted be put in her room, things are not going well in my mind. I’ve ran through the discussion a few times in my imagination and... “Okay, I’m gonna get to the point because I’m going to tear my hair out if I drag this out. Demons are attacking Equestria, and we’ve determined that a changeling army would be the best option. You’ve said you’re overpopulated, so... Wanna have a few drones sign up?”

“Well, we rather need the m-males... but the soldier caste would be perfect. Is this okay with the princesses?”

“Well, the discussion that led to this plan was... hectic, but given the skill of our scribe, I assume it was relayed in enough detail, and no response has come so far that I know of... I figure if Celly had a bug up her butt about, it she’d respond immediately.”

“Well, as l-long as I won’t be getting us all in trouble. Do you know where they should be g-going?”

“Not really.” I shrug. “Considering where they’d be needed is entirely random, we figure it’s best to try and cover as much space as possible on the national scale. Overpopulation considered... this hive here isn’t nearly enough. Not even close. To know where the first ‘batch’ would be going... we’d probably send them to wherever's had the most attacks overall and send them there for the sake of having the most dangerous area defended first.”

Ren looks at me odd. “Uhm... have you ever... d-done this before?”

“Done what, ask for help? Of course. Granted I prefer to do things alone, but I know when to-”

“N-no, I mean move troops. Give orders. You sound like y-you’re used to it.”

“I’ve played plenty of war games. I understand games lack a bit of realism, but the experience as a leader is there... it just involves the troops always being able to do exactly what they are told... not needing food... yeah. I’m better with the ‘general’ side rather than the ‘personal’ stuff.”

“Oh. Th-there are games about war?”

“Humans romanticize just about anything in the name of entertainment. That said, we’re pretty warlike in general so it kinda... moves into our entertainment. Risk and Chess were a big part of my childhood.”

“Oh... will you be guiding the troops in the field? I d-don’t have any experience.”

I think about that for a minute. “I... don’t think either of us will be out there. The troops just need to be able to follow orders. Queens won’t need to risk themselves, and I’m already ‘stationed’ in Ponyville, that’s where I’m defending, so troops aren’t needed there. As experienced as I am... I’m just a knight or rook in all of this.”

“B-better than a Jack.” Ren comments. “But who will be commanding them, if I’m not supposed to be there?”

That stops me. “Well... I’m not sure. They seemed to be fine on their own to a point... I just kind of assumed ‘attack the monsters when they show up’ was good enough. They’d just be undercover citizens during downtime I assume.”

“Oh... uhm, most of the soldier caste aren’t very good thinkers until they’re gotten enough experience.”

“Well, then we’d need military coordinators stationed with them somehow. I assume Celestia and Luna would take care of that part, hopefully. The changelings would just have to learn to take orders from a non-queen. Again, we’d need much more than just your hive.”

“I c-can start preparing some overseers, then. Do you need anything else, Anthony?”

“I need a way to stop the demons from getting through in the first place. Aside from that... the other problems seem kind of small, really.”

“Oh, I don’t know much about magic, actually.”

“We don’t know that it’s magic sending them here. We don’t know anything about what’s doing it. And without that knowledge, there’s no way to stop it. The only way to stop a machine is to know which gear to throw a wrench into.”

“Uhm... okay. I just thought a shield of some kind might be able to stop them. That’s what shields do, right? Stop stuff.”

“Well, we’d have to know where to point the shield at wouldn’t we? If they are showing up in so many different places, we’d probably need more than one shield. A sort of ward would be more efficient than using a slab of metal or wood to push them back with. Though I think for now, the changelings seem to be our best bet.”

“Well, you know what’s going on more than I d-do. I can send you a messenger when there’s some ready to deploy, okay?”

“Yeah, you do that. I just... nevermind. I’ll talk to you later.” Well, that went better than I thought it could have, so I get up and head back to Ponyville. Once I’ve sent a message to the princesses about the Everfree Hive’s agreement to help... I sit and wait for a response.

Less than ten minutes later, I receive via Spike a letter thanking me for my help and informing me that Celestia is sending a coordinator to speak with Ren as well.

Well, now that my part seems to be done, I guess there’s not much to do. Fluttershy was really tired yesterday, something tells me I should check on her. I get to the cottage, but she’s not home, a note on the door stating she’s at the spa with Rarity... eh, alright.

Heading back to Ponyville again, I reach the spa and upon walking in, sit down in the waiting room and wait.

After what feels like three straight hours of bullshit magazines, Fluttershy and Rarity come out.

“Hey ladies.”

“Hello to you, too, Anthony.” Fluttershy says brightly.

“Not so tired today, huh? You seemed a little too out of it at the meeting. Why didn’t you say you didn’t sleep the night before?”

“Oh, it was just some silly nightmares... Clark kept them away last night.” She says the last part with a blush that raises my eyebrows.

“Well, as long as there’s no problem, that’s fine.” I kneel down to pet the pegasus and- holy crap that is soft!

I pick up Fluttershy and rub my hands over her shampooed/brushed coat and it is amazing that anything could possibly be that soft! Oh my god this feels awesome!

“Uhm... Anthony?” I hear Fluttershy squeak out next to my ear. “C-can I go now?”

“Sooooo fluuuufffffy...” I rub my face against her back and I swear to god this is the penultimate reason the universe invented nerve endings. Still carrying the extremely soft pony, I search for someone to share my incredible discovery with. The first person I come across is Clark, apparently coming to the spa to see her as I did. “Dude, feel this!” I thrust the pony into his face.

His voice, muffled by Fluttershy, calls out from behind the startled mare’s belly. “So fluuuffyyyy...” as he wraps his arms around Fluttershy, making her squeak and blush.

I continue petting her and rubbing her back. This is awesome! I’m pretty sure I haven’t thought that yet...

“Get your own!” Clark says, peeking over her shoulder and shooing me away. “I already claimed this one. You can have Rarity.” He begins walking away with Fluttershy on his chest, and I look down at Rarity, by my side and giving me a very odd look. I rub her back and while she seems to like it... it’s soft, but just not the same.

“Eh.” I get up and head back to the library. I want to look over that scroll again. Picking it up and opening it seems to have made my instinct/subconscious/sixth sense/whatever decide that I should enter my Spark form as soon as I open it. Eh, whatever happened when Clark opened it might still linger. It looked like just a flash, but knowing Celestia, it’s probably more than just a bright light.

Going over the information again, I still can’t really see any pattern. It’s odd... all the records that state first-sightings only say where it was. Nothing on how it got there, aside from an accompanying flash and usually a ‘sound of spatial displacement’ whatever sound that is.

Well, there’s no info on what might have happened to get them where they ended up, so I’m guessing I’d need to go to Celestia or Luna directly for more detailed information. Surely they’re smart enough to have at least started an exploration into this.

But not now. All this ‘preparing for the apocalypse’ is starting to wear on me. There’s just so much to do that I can’t speed up or influence. Too many variables, too little true knowledge. Tired of all this responsibility that seems to have just landed on my shoulders.

I pick up the lyre and prepare to play a song to lift my spirits, but only one song seems to pervade my mind and I end up playing that one.

“Music from earth, huh?” A voice says from behind and above me. I turn to see that the mailmare is sitting awkwardly on a tree branch.

“Hey Ditzy... yeah.  I couldn’t think of anything else to play, really. Considering what’s going on though, I can’t really say it’s inaccurate.”

“So what are you? The knight, one of the villains, or the narrating bystander?”

“I...” I hadn’t thought of the symbolism here, really. “Neither. It’s just a song. They don’t mean as much to humans as they do for ponies.”

“Oh. Well, what about in life then?” she asks, the branch underneath her creaking ominously. Deciding I’d rather not have her fall to the ground, I reach out the window and pull her inside, setting her on my lap and I start petting her. Still not as fluffy as Fluttershy was, that was really soft.

“I’m not sure, usually I listen to what other people think of me and pick whatever sounds more accurate. I’m not evil but I’m not exactly a paragon of rightfulness. Not the bystander, I’m more active than that.” I sigh, thinking it over. “Maybe I’m the woman, just some random person Life decided to hurl into important things for the sake of making things interesting...”

“That’s an interesting way to look at it.” Ditzy says, leaning into my petting. “Your hands are really nice.”

“Yeah, at least that’s something everyone seems to agree on. One place I go I’m a menace, other places I’m dirt, some people treat me like a god or some ultimate hero... My opinion; I’m just a guy thrown into things for some reason I need to figure out myself. No hints, no clues, just...” I sigh and don’t really bother finishing. “It’s hard you know? Trying to be what some people see and trying to not be anything at all like what others see. I know the lesson is always ‘be yourself’ but that’s not a clear answer, you have to know who you think you are first.”

“That’s pretty deep...” Ditzy looks up at me -and out the window- as she speaks. “But I have to say, Anthony, maybe you just need to ask somepony else. After all, it’s hard to say what your house looks like on the outside when you’re sitting in the living room.”

“I suppose...” I move from her back to her ears. “But who should I ask? Who has the best idea of who I am or who I should be? I usually have a plan or an answer of some kind, even if it’s obviously the wrong one... but, now I’m out of plans. So much has changed since I got here. I mean... I’ve never hurt anyone in my life, and now I’m expected to punch monsters to bits to save people. Before coming here, I’d never been in a fight in my life! I never hit anyone, and now with all this hero business... killing stuff is my most defining feature.”

“Well... maybe you should ask someone you knew back then, and someone who only knows you now, and try to figure out who you are from that.”

“But... What if I can’t get a straight answer? I’m still trying to get Clark back. He’s coming along great, but he’s nowhere near stable. And remembering the past is... kind of a sore spot for us.”

“Yeah, I suppose. Still, at least you’re good friends, right? Even if he is a little scary, he doesn’t seem mean.”

“Yeah, he’s still my friend. That’s why I’m still trying. I’m trying to fix everything, but each solution seems to come with more problems. Like... like what happened in Chickago, or trying to figure out this whole ‘love life’ issue.”

“Yeah... love is hard. It’s really hard to get ‘right’, but it’s worth it when you do. My little muffin is all I need...” Ditzy lets out a large yawn, “But I still wish she could’ve known a father that wasn’t such a jerk.”

“I have a hard time imagining a nice mare like you would end up with an asshole.”

“He wasn’t, at first, but he changed over time. Or maybe I just noticed more. I still loved him, even at his worst... he got hit by a carriage and didn’t wake up.” Ditzy seems sad, and hugs me. I hug her back. “No matter what kind of pony he was, he didn’t deserve that.”

“Death is only deserved, or the right option, in very specific circumstances. It’s why I usually tried to find an alternative to violence no matter how mad I got. But here... I’ve never been as angry before. Since I got here, it’s like I can’t keep up my emotional barrier, like this world just punched a hole in it... And the dam bursts before it gets half full.”

“Well... maybe you should go find somewhere to meditate. I find it helps when I’m practicing my martial arts.”

“Eh, won’t help. Even back when I wasn’t so... ‘touchy’, yoga, meditation, hypnosis, none of it worked. There’ve been proven cases of them doing it for some, but... just not me.”

“Oh, well... I guess it’s not for everypony.” She snuggles up in my lap. “Mmph... I should go home soon. Dinky is home from school soon.”

“That reminds me, what are your thoughts on my little ‘chaos’ lesson? Think I’m corrupting their tiny little minds?”

“No. It’s the definition in the dictionary, after all. So many ponies just assume chaos means ‘Discord’ or ‘scary’. Especially ponies who had to live through the first time he got loose.”

“Well, it wasn’t really to make Discord look innocent. He’s messed up and still needs a bit of training... but I don’t want him being antagonized just because of what he does. That’d be like everyone picking on you because you have wings and not a horn or super strength or whatever earth ponies get.”

“Lots of endurance. My husband was an earth pony, and the honeymoon was fantastic.”

“I did not need to know that... anyways, I guess you should go get your kid. Seeya again?”

“Sometime. You get mail a lot, after all.” She hugs me again, and plants a kiss on my cheek. “Have a nice day, Anthony! And stay out of trouble if you can!” she yells over her shoulder as she flies out the window. She flies straight into the branch she was on before, knocking it free, and flies at a distinct angle off towards where I assume she lives.

Well... that happened. Next Chapter: Smiles Reflected Endlessly Bring Infinite Joy Estimated time remaining: 7 Hours, 36 Minutes

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