Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 181: Beyond the Horizon

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Beyond the Horizon

The light fading, I sort of descend to the ground, which I’m hovering over by... maybe a meter? Half? Whatever, it’s not a long or fast drop. I also take notice of something else. Ponyville looks totally fine as if I hadn’t gone on a rampage and was smashing buildings left and right.

The flash of light seems to have attracted attention, the first pony to notice my ‘return’ just so happens to be Rainbow Dash. Looking around to confirm my next statement, Ponyville is still just as normal as it was a few moments ago. “You rebuilt. Pretty fast.”

“Well, we’ve gotten used to rebuilding. Last week, the city hall got finished up, and that was the last one to get fixed. I helped out.”

“Last week?” I couldn’t have been gone more than three days, and my outburst was during the middle of the first day.

“Yeah, not sure where you been for the last month, but plenty of ponies have been worried about you. Not me, though, I know you’re too tough to just vaporize or whatever Twilight was theory-ing.”

“Nah, I got called to have a chat with the big guys upstairs.” I jab my thumb at the sky.

Rainbow looks at me like I’ve got lobsters crawling out of my ears. “Uhhh... what?”

“The constellations. You know, the ones who are stars but not ponies or humans? From what I can tell, they pretty much run everything, or at least that’s what I gathered from their ‘almighty overwatchers’ mumbo-jumbo.” I pause. “So a month huh? What’s been happening while I’ve been gone? Start from after I smashed half the town.”

“Wait wait wait, those old tales about the stars actually granting your wishes and stuff?”

I sigh. Guess bringing me up to date will have to wait a bit. “Yeah, but they’re picky and moody. I can’t grant wishes, or if I can they didn’t tell me how, and when I asked them to do something about the demons coming through they just laughed at me.”

“Wow... they sound like jerks.”

“Power, man. Give someone power and they end up a total prick. Canterlot for example. You have a position that means something, you get be an asshole and nothing anyone can do about it. Jus’ the way it goes I guess. That said they did teach me something.”

“Huh... yeah, that makes sense. At the very least, it explains you.” Rainbow Dash says, smirking.

“Hey, I have power and brains. Besides, I’m unstable not a megalomaniac.”

“Yeah, whatever. Anyways, I bet you wanna go chat with the others! Oh, and Clark’s got this nifty thing he does now. It’s so awesome!”

“Eh, bet I can top it. Anyway, sure. But seriously, what’s been happening for the last month?”

“Oh, yeah. Well, first, Pinkie baked this cake that was, like, the size of a house! We ended up having to eat it all...”

“... and then they had to get the chickens out of the tree with a butterfly net!” Rainbow Dash finishes her story as we approach the library. It was so funny, I hope I never forget any of the details.

“So why is it that when I’m around the most exciting things that happen is there’s sometimes a monster to fight, but when I’m not around you do crazy stuff like save entire kingdoms or stuff like that?”

“Idunno, maybe you’re just a boring-magnet.” Dash says with a shrug as she opens the door, stepping through. “Anyways, that was just the first week. You’ve been gone for, like, a month and a half!”

“Five weeks, two days.” Spike corrects, walking by. “Hey Anthony, where’ve you been?”

“Up in space, talking with the Constellations. It was... not as interesting as you’d expect.”

“Well, yeah, if that one Gladius mare was there, no wonder it wasn’t as great. Oh, your room’s been cleaned, by the way.”

I sigh. “So now I won’t know where anything is until I open everything. Thanks pal, you’re a real bro.”

“Hey, I was just trying to get rid of that smell that was creeping from under your bed. There was an abandoned muffin under there that Twilight confiscated for a potential first-contact scenario. And I wish I was joking.”

“Let’s not talk about Twilight. Anyway, I hear Clark has some new power. I do too, and I bet mine is more impressive. Jerks or not, the constellations taught me something real neat.”

“Nice! Clark does this thing, where he makes, like, a cool sword and a shield and it’s all bwee-worrrr!” He starts making slashing motions, as if carrying a sword and making sound effects, though sometimes he makes it sound like it’s a lightsaber, other times made of metal. I can’t help but chuckle. After a moment, he stops, panting. “Oh, and a bunch of changelings invaded. Sorta.”

“What!? Changelings invaded... When was this!? What hive!?” I grab Spike and hold him up. “What did they do!?”

“Jeez, man, they just helped rebuild! It’s the changelings from the Everfree.” Spike says, flailing a bit from the sudden change in altitude.

I set Spike down, calming myself. “But you said... okay, so they helped fix the town. And uh, how did that go? Socially I mean.”

“Oh, pretty well, actually. Well, once the flower sisters stopped screaming, anyways, it was hurting everyone’s ears.” He gives his ears a pained rub in remembrance. “After that, and once their queen stopped stuttering so much, they explained they were here to help. A bunch of the town buildings are now made with this weird stuff Twilight called ‘bio-chemical-resin’. Idunno what that actually means, but it’s-”

“Dunno how they make it, but it’s changeling goop.” I clarify. “Until they give me an official name for it, that’s what I’m calling it because that’s what it is. Wouldn’t think of it as building material, but I guess it could work like industrial glue.”

“Uh, not quite... Twilight knows more about it, but they kinda built it up, and stuff? I don’t really know, I just tried to stay out of the way or help Rarity.”

I nod. “So... Ponyville’s cool with the changelings now? No racial stigma preventing any social progress?”

“Sorta? There’s still some who won’t have anything to do with them, and Twilight gets all twitchy around them, but I don’t see any problems with them. They seem alright, even if most of them kinda act like zombies half the time. Y’know, just walking around and doing whatever they’re told?”

“Not like zombies, like ants. Small difference, but an important one. When Chrysalis was around, those were like zombies. These at least talk and stuff. I got a chance to get to know a few when they were off-duty. When there’s nothing going on, they’re pretty chill.”

“Huh, cool. Anyways, I have chores to get done, I’ll talk to you later. Oh, and the Crusaders were looking for you, when you can.” Spike wanders off to the kitchen, probably to get a broom or something. I turn to talk to Dash again, but she’s not there.

Suddenly I’m on my back with something on top of me. Clearing the white floaties from my eyes as my head tells me that I landed on it and my back rather hard, I notice a pair of Pinkies sitting on top of me.

I thought the clones were all gone- as my head clears and the two Pinkies turn back into one, my double-vision fading, I relax.

“Hi.” I say, breathily, realizing that I have a pony sitting on my lungs. “Move, please?”

“Oop! Sorry.” She slides off and turns it into a laying-down hug. “Anyways, surprise! I’m throwing you a party now, and you can’t stop me.”

“Like I’d try? Anyway, it seems I’ve been gone for a few weeks, but it feels like just a day or two to me. Time just seems to go slower in space I guess. Rainbow gave me a quick rundown of what’s been happening. I hear changeling/pony relations are starting up around here as well.”

“Huh?” Dash says, looking up from a bowl of chips she was muzzle-deep in a moment ago. Looking around, I see that basically all the ponies I actually know and that live here in ponyville have shown up at the party.

Party? I realize that in the time I was knocked down and dazed, Pinkie had shot the library with her Party Cannon about six times or something, and ponies were already starting to show up. How the hell does she do that!?

“Well, anyway, yeah. The changelings helped fix up the town after I wrecked it, and now ponies are getting along with the changelings aside from a few neophobes. That’s what I’ve gathered so far.” I think about that for a moment. “Any changelings walking around town, sans disguises yet?”

“Only the ones that have to be told to put one on,” Pinkie says, “they don’t really seem to notice anything unless they’re told to, and they keep walking into things. Well, some things, anyways. Like, this one was flying along and hit a lamppost and it made this noise like DONNNNNG! and then it fell on the ground and I rushed over to make sure it was alright, and then it got up and started flying at it again so I just watched and it was actually pretty funny.”

Wellllll then. “But there’s no real issues with changelings? They’re not run out of town or anything? They’re just kinda left to do whatever they do?”

“Yeah, right now. Most of them left, though, once they were done. But a few stayed to help, and to get any of the not-so-smart ones back to their home.”

“Alright. Anyway, there’s a party for me going on, probably should spend a bit of time enjoying it.”

“You aren’t enjoying it now?” Pinkie asks, while sitting partially on my chest, like a cat. I will freely admit, she is rather soft and fluffy. And warm.

“Well, I’m not dancing or eating, or doing anything with the party guests... but I suppose I am still enjoying it.” Pinkie smiles and snuggles in, the two of us just laying on the wood floor for a while. “So, how’ve you been while I was talking with the stars?”

“I’ve been pretty good.”

“Yeah. I hear a lot of people have been missing me. I really don’t feel like it’s been a month. I mean I’m taking your word for it, I believe you, but it really doesn’t feel that long. But I guess I have solid proof that it did happen.” I hold out the ‘new’ Lyre I was given. It’s not gold, rather a shade of bronze or brass that doesn’t look as fancy, but I like it better. “I haven’t gotten a chance to try this out since I gave back the real one. How about a song?”

“Ooh! It looks different, though...” Pinkie narrows her eyes at the instrument. “Did you get your harp a haircut?”

“No, I didn’t. I gave back the real one for this one. Supposedly it plays music just the same, but it doesn’t do any of that world-destroying stuff Twilight was freaking out about.”

“Okie-dokie-lokie! C’mon, let’s get you to the stage!” Pinkie then wriggles under me and stands up, lifting me and pronking to the stage. It’s a bit like getting a roller-coaster ride at lower speed. Also... since when does the library have a stage? I don’t know what to think except... Damn, Pinkie is good.

However, I’m rather disappointed when I’m simply deposited on a ‘stage’ made of the main library table and a large cloth pinned in place on it.

Eh, whatever. I lift up my new harp and start tapping it on it’s side, producing the sound of two drumsticks being clapped together repeatedly, signifying that yes, this will work just fine. Then the actual drums start with an electric guitar.

Everyone seems to enjoy the song, and I notice that this time my arms aren’t all starry. Guess it had something to do with the other one. Oh well, not losing anything from it. And while not many really seem to know what ‘vertigo’ really is, they’re all cheering along with three Pinkie Pies in the front row looking very enthralled.

Oh-kay, there are only a few reasons this could be. I give a bow and make my way off the table, and when I step onto the floor the trio of Pinkies jump up and latch onto me in a ‘hug-like’ fashion. Doing my best at keeping my balance with the sudden addition of unevenly distributed mass, I walk down to the basement/laboratory area which is not crowded with ponies. It takes a bit of prying, but I manage to pull all of the Pinkies off.

“Alright, might as well ask now rather than finding out later. Changelings, clones, or some sort of accident?”

One of them says ‘Clone!’, another shouts ‘Accident!’ and the the third says ‘Changeling.’

“Oh for fuck’s sake... What happened?”

The changeling discards its disguise. “I just wanted a quick fill-up, and these two are overflowing.” The bug-pony begins to leave the basement.

“Woah, hold on pal. That’s cool and all, but if you’re trying to be in disguise, pick someone who isn’t already present alright? It can freak people out, ‘kay?”

“Well, there’s already, like, four of them running around. And besides, everyone loves Pinkie Pie.” The changeling retorts, before recreating the Pinkie disguise and stepping out of the lab.

“Okay, that’s true- four!?” I turn back to the other two. “One said clone another said accident... Just give me the whole story, alright?”

In unison, the two immediately explain, perfectly in sync, creeping me out on a level I usually equate with me coming off of pain medication. “Well, daddy Pie used to say we were a ‘happy accident’, and none of us knows who’s the original Pinkie Pie, so they’re both applicable answers!”

...Wow, that is probably the most depressing thing one could say with full enthusiasm. “Uh... huh. So there are three Pinkie’s running around, but they aren’t... y’know, stupid?”

“Well, four of us. Twilight said, based on our memories from a quick scanning spell that I mirrored myself once, then both of me mirrored ourselves again, and the four of we are all that’s left because we don’t have any matching gaps in our memories or internal organs!” both Pinkies say simultaneously.

“So... all those clones, the massive swarm... didn’t just come from one of you, you just duplicated and made duplicates from each batch just multiplying like crazy? Then if there are four perfectly ‘complete’ Pinkies, how come most of them were so ‘simple’?”

“Well... Twilight said something about tiered memories and how quantum defragmentation results in an exponentially decaying system. But what Spike explained for me afterwards is that basically, each batch of clones was dumber than the previous by a bigger amount than the one before it was to the one before that.”

“So... why didn’t you just stop at five or so? Why make a huge mass of them?”

“Well... using the Pond is really fun... and it makes you feel really giddy when you’re coming back out, and it’s a little hard to think for a couple moments as you come back out, and I may have lost count a few... dozen... times.”

Oh geez... “But you’re done with this... pond, thing. Right? You aren’t gonna...”

“Well, Twilight closed it off. Until something comes up that makes us separate to the point where it’s obvious who’s a clone, then something can be done, so long as it’s not too far into the future. Something about ethical treatment of near-equine constructs.”

“Oh so now she takes into account what I’ve been saying, after she went and popped a bunch of fakes thinking it was just fine? I mean the stupid clones sure but... When I questioned her standing on this, she just... Arrgh!”

The twin Pinkies lean forward and wrap me in a double hug, and I feel some of my anger melt away. Not all, but some.

“I just don’t know what to do with her sometimes. She’s smart, but there’s a lot of times when she acts like such a child. She doesn’t have the world experience I do, so she just kinda fudges a few details and everything works out anyway. But you can’t fudge certain details, and it seems impossible to get her to tell the difference.”

“I don’t think she ever got a real foalhood, Anthony. I mean, she has a brother, and she has parents, but... she’s told me when she got into Celestia’s academy. It’s a university, you know? And she started it when she was eight.”

“So rich parents, best education money can buy, and no real time to explore the ‘outside’. Yeah, I get it. I didn’t really have much of a childhood either. Frankly all my cynicism and pessimism about the world being awful... is from having my life be forced to flip around with no control. I never tried to live an exciting or dangerous life... but it found me. That’s why I keep saying it’s unavoidable. For me, it was. I just... had to deal with whatever crap life threw at me and learn that way. It sucked, but... I guess I understand things not a lot of others would... I’ve had other experiences. Forced to grow up too fast.” I go to sit down and lean back, and accidentally jostle a bottle from the table. Where it hits my skin, it begins to steam and sizzle, and I quickly tear off my shirt to get the liquid away from me.

“The hell is that!? What’s Twi doing down here?”

“Uhm...” One of the Pinkies leans in. “The label says ‘hexa-chloro-flouro-carbo-nitrous acid. Idunno what that is.”

“I’m not sure exactly either, but it has more than five syllables and ends with ‘acid’ so I’m just going to assume it shouldn’t be just laying around.”

“Idunno. Probably not. Your shirt’s stopped smoking, but there’s not a lot left of it.” one Pinkie points out, and I feel a slight breeze go through the large room. As I shiver, the Pinkies draw close, warming me slightly by snuggling.

Point in favor of fur. It’s awesome, especially if you don’t have any yourself. “So where are the other two then? I’d expect any ‘normal’ Pinkie to show up at a party. Do we find them and... deal with them?”

“Well, las-”

Suddenly, the door to the lab busts open, and Rainbow Dash, wearing a lampshade, leans in. "Hey, guys, you gotta see this! Pinkie and Pinkie are doing karaoke, and there's a chorus of Changelings making the mu-" She stops and stares down. “Oh, sorry man. Didn’t mean to interrupt.” She then closes the door.

What was- I look down, and realize I’m shirtless, with two Pinkies draped over my chest, and we’re laying on the floor.

What is with Dash? Does she just perpetually have her head in the gutter or something? She should know by now that the remaining Pinkies aren’t after my nethers? Seriously, these two seem to remember the top of the mountain. Either way though... “Yeah, okay, so they are here. So now that I’ve gotten my answer, we don’t have to stay down here.”

“Oh... okay, Anthony. Ooh, you wanna join the karaoke? No using the magic harp, though, that’s cheating!” One chides me, while I scoop up the other. After a moment, I’m able to get both of them up. They will make suitable replacements for my shirt until I can get an actual shirt.

Next Chapter: Chapter 182 Estimated time remaining: 6 Hours, 9 Minutes

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