by That 1 Guy

Chapter 37: Aftermath

Previous Chapter

The roar of dropship engines spinning up for takeoff filled the air. Clockwork sat alone on one side of the unfamiliar transport, his body bound by restraints in such a way that he could do little more than walk. Charger sat opposite him, flanked on both sides by heavily equipped security personnel. The pegasus’ memory flashed to only an hour ago.

Captain Venor had given the order for everyone under his command to head to Bridal Shores Medical Center’s courtyard and await alliance personnel. At that point, Venor and his crew would become the first griffon prisoners of war in recorded history. Clockwork and Charger had gone on ahead, radioed Colonel Bright Side to bring him up to date on the situation, and secured a position on the hospital roof to watch the fireworks.

Neither pony spoke as dozens of tiny ships pour out of the Triumph, fire spewing from multiple places along the zeppelin’s hull as its fuel cells grew more and more unstable. As the crowd in the courtyard grew, so did the condition of the zeppelin worsen. Clockwork had turned to Charger, barely having the energy to form a smile. They had won, just the two of them against an entire invasion force.

However, the fire in Chargers eyes had long since gone out. Those twin sapphires no longer conveyed a sense of pride or bravery. No, the only thing they shone with was fear that he rescuer would also be her executioner.

The was what really shut Clockwork up, the stallion barely saying anything as an entire flotilla’s worth of Alliance airships arrived to secure the city, survey the damage, and take him into custody.

A resounding explosion shook Clockwork from his recollection of past events. The engineer looked out of the drop ramp just in time to see the Triumph engulf itself in a powerful flame bright enough to rival the sun. It bathed the entirety of Bridal Shores in a light that made perfectly clear to the pegasus just how dire the situation was. Nothing was completely intact, even the remaining skyscrapers looked to be on their last legs. The streets were nothing but grey lines in the mud, and bodies still littered many of them. Most of them downed by Clockwork’s own-

“You know. . . I thought you created that thing to help families. Not break them.”

Clockwork turned to Charger. His blinked.

“I can see the blood on your prosthetic. Some old, most of it new. None of it yours.”

Clockwork’s mouth hung agape. “It was made for flying.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard you say that you want this war to stop. It’s like. . . like you don’t care who you cut down anymore.”

The stallion with a wing of metal became the definition of catatonic. The only signs that he was alive were the tears that rolled down his cheeks and the constant mumbling of a boy who had just killed so many with such little thought. The memories came rushing back without mercy. Ponyville, Valor Point, Zebrica, Appleloosa, Stalliongrad. Moppet, Axel, Warfather, Seastone, all those griffons, dogs, and changelings. They were all dead because of him. So many families broken. So many children who would ask when daddy would come home. So many mothers who would remain silent. So many funerals. . .

“Oh sisters oh Celestia oh Luna please my gods my queens my lords forgive me what have I done what have I done what have I done what have I done. . .”

Charger seemed terrified at what she had just triggered. “Clockwork, I didn’t mean-”

“STAY AWAY FROM ME!” Clockwork roared. “What have I done what have I done what have I done what have I done what have I done. . .”

Charger remained silent from then on, and Clockwork continued mumbling in terror. They both felt the vessel land clunkily in the unfamiliar bay of what seemed to be an Alliance troop transport. “Excuse me, sir?” Charger asked.

“Yes, lieutenant?” one guard answered.

“Allied Forces Military Protocol 159-7F dictates that all personnel currently assigned to special forces teams are to be judged by their comrades in arms aboard a ship of their choosing if charged of any illegal wartime acton. This isn’t the Szary, what’s changed?”

“You’re right.” the other guard answered. “This ain’t no HIRO ship. Nah, it’s the Justice. Only political prisoner ship flying Alliance colors. Also, Protocol 159-9B. If a squad member is believed to be a danger to his or her fellow comrades in arms, they are to be taken into custody aboard this ship and tried here.”

Charger departed first, in stunned silence no less, rushed away by equines wearing uniforms that signified them to be medics. Clockwork’s escort, however, was far more heavily armed.

Clockwork kept his eyes on the floor as he was shoved through the drab halls of the prison ship. He recognized nopony here, but his lack of familiarity did little to lessen the sting of cold stares that everypony gave him in passing. He caught a few choice whispered words here and there, none of them decipherable and all of them filled with malice and fear. Had news of his actions really spread-

“Clockwork! ATTENTION!”

The pegasus suddenly found himself in another unfamiliar room. He knew by now that tis was most certainly not Szary, but the room reminded him of the impromptu tribunal chambers. Three ponies sat on one side of the long table, their faces hidden in shadow yet their eyes judging his every move. Clockwork did not meet their gaze as he was chained to the far side of the table, nor did he stand when instructed.

“Clockwork.” One voice rang out. “You are accused of, among numerous other charges, desertion, insubordination, attacking and severely injuring allied personnel, illegally taking command of Bridal Shores’ local resistance force, unnecessarily risking the lives of all those involved in said resistance force. How do you plead?”

“. . .guilty to all, sir.”

“Do you wish to give your interpretation of events that occurred in Bridal Shores?” another voice, female, asked.

“No, ma’am.”

Silence blanketed the room. Perhaps they didn’t expect him to remain so complacent. “If found guilty of more than half of these charges, your punishment will likely be dishonorable discharge, long term military incarceration, or execution by firing squad. Are you aware of these facts?” the female voice asked.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Report to the male showers for cleansing. After that, you are to remain in solitary confinement until a verdict is reached. Dismissed.”

Several guards entered the small courtroom, freeing Clockwork from the table and escorting him to the male showers as instructed. He was allowed inside on his own, and there he remained alone for some time. Clockwork made sure to scrub himself of every last impurity, preening his wings for the first time since Stalliongrad. He practically had clogged the drain with dead feathers and such before he was done. Even as he toweled himself dry and redressed in a fresh prisoner uniform, he could feel a different kind of filth cling to him.

Clockwork made his way into solitary confinement, not bothering to flinch as he was fitted with a restraining belt so that he could not use his wings, not even batting an eye as the door’s noisy lock system signalled that he could no longer leave. Clockwork almost smiled as a few choice memories flashed before him. He remembered working on these kinds of doors in Research and Development. He suggested that, instead of more locks, the smaller components of each sealing mechanism be replaced with something stronger than brass so they wouldn’t give out as early under duress. He wondered if his ideas had been taken into consideration. Given that the door had six locks instead of, say, four, they probably hadn’t.

A knock on the door shook Clockwork from his thoughts, followed shortly thereafter by a muffled voice.

“Umm, hello? Clockwork? I was told I can’t see you in person but I can still talk through the door. Can you hear me? It’s Eureka!”

Clockwork honestly didn’t believe he would ever again hear the voice of Charger’s father. It seemed like he was wrong about a lot of things today. “What are you doing aboard a prison zeppelin?”

Eureka’s voice faded as he spoke to somepony on the same side of the door as him. “Oh, umm, am I allowed to tell him? Okay. I wanted to come aboard and thank you personally for what you accomplished back in the city. Also, someone called Long Shot called me up, asked me to come aboard and provide testimony about how you save me and my friends.”

“Yeah. How are they? You’re friends, I mean.”

“Well, nopony else is dead if that’s what you mean. We all got to the warehouse safe and sound just like you instructed. What? Oh, okay. Clockwork?”


“I need to go.”

“Can I tell you something first?”


“Don’t lie for my sake.”

“Umm, okay? Dunno why I’d need to lie about how you saved nearly the entire hospital staff and my daughter, but I’ll try not to contradict myself.”


With that, Eureka’s voice disappeared, and Clockwork was alone once more. Clockwork gazed out the window that made up his room's back wall. Outside, the world was as dreary as it could get, coming close to Valor Point but not quite all the way. Grey clouds darkened the sky. Raindrops the size of bullets fell over every inch of visible land, even the lightning was a dull white and subsequent thunder was muffled. Inside wasn’t much better.

The painfully simple room was no different from any other prison cell that Clockwork had seen. It was relatively spacious; a bed with an actual mattress (though lacking blankets) was bolted to one wall. A bench with a small, damaged mirror was attached to the other wall. The entire room looked even worse for wear in the grey half light, darker patches flecking the room thanks to the rain on the window.

Clockwork turned back around and drew his pistol. It was unloaded of course, but it was customary to allow soldiers to keep their sidearm during wartime no matter the situation. The thing was caked with mud, gravel, and rainwater much like his physical self a short while ago.

With dead hooves, the pegasus righted his workbench and disassembled his pistol in a matter of seconds. He didn’t need a maintenance kit anymore. After all, he practically built the damn thing from scratch.

Clockwork looked up from his work as he heard a knock on the wall next to him. Figuring that he had all the time in the world to clean his gun, he plodded over to the wall and returned the pattern of knocks.

“Hey Clockwork.” an unexpected voice called out, only slightly muffled by the cell’s thing walls. “How does it feel, being thrown into a cage because you were doing the right thing? How does it feel. . . to have you wings clipped?”

Clockwork’s blood ran cold. He punched the wall without hesitation, leaving a sizable dent in the sheet metal and a throbbing pain in his hoof.

“Whoa now!” the voice cried out in mock surprise. “No need to try and kill me again. You’d just fail like last time.”

“I wanted to kill you, Taffy. Believe me, I really did.” Clockwork let himself lean against the wall and fell on his haunches. “I’m sorry I failed. I’m sorry I didn’t just end your life and spare you the misery of having to live like me.”

“War really has changed you. Last time I checked, you were just some timid little patriot in the land of mechanical science. What have you suffered out there? What have you experienced out in the great big world of war?”

Clockwork scoffed. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“You’d be surprised. After watching your home burn to the ground and you family become mulch for the Empire’s beasts, you’re willing believe anything.”

Clockwork nodded along, and there was a long pause.

“Don’t you wish. . . sometimes. . . that you could just end it all?”

Clockwork’s ears flickered at the strange inquiry.

“Like you said. You wanted to end my life. I would in a heartbeat if I had the means, but I’m getting used to the prison life. I found a reason or two to struggle on, but judging by why you’re here, you don’t have anymore reasons, do you?”

A tiny hole in the wall appeared, no more than an inch in circumference. However, it was more than enough to allow passage for a 12 gauge shotgun shell, followed by a pair of .44 magnum rounds. Clockwork picked it up and knew in an instant that they were genuine. “How did you get these?”

“Same way I heard about why you’re on this ship. This kind of jail’s full of people I can relate to. Familiar stories, familiar histories, familiar reasonings behind what they did. I sympathize with them and vice versa. Some of these folks still have some pull with the outside world. Thus, they can get people things in return for favors and the like.”

“Hmmph.” Clockwork looked over his shoulder sorrow and malice equally present in his eyes. “What kind of favors can a crippled pegasus provide her prison-mates, I wonder?”

Saltwater Taffy said nothing more, shutting the tiny smuggling hole with a sharp CLANG!

Clockwork waited for some time after that. For what? He didn’t know, only that it did not come. The pegasus returned to cleaning his LeMane, and it wasn’t long before he could see his grisly reflection in the Mithril.

If physical appearance was anything to go by, Clockwork looked like death incarnate. His eyes, while calm, were sunken and ringed with black. His fur was still somewhat wet and clung to his body. His mane was streaked with more grey hairs than any previous time, and his now skeletal build was unnerving to look at. The fire ruby in his artificial wing had turned a shade of black most commonly seen on corpses entering the advanced stages of decomposition.

However, the inside was what counted most. In this case, that meant the actions taken by the individual.

Disregard of orders, illegal taking of command, insubordination, reckless endangerment, over a thousand counts of murder.

He was guilty of every accusation, and the only suitable punishment was death. For once, Taffy was on the right side.

Clockwork gazed at the bullets. They would be more than enough to do the job, but he had one chance. What if he missed?

.44 magnum rounds had been around practically since the first equine sidearms had been created. They could pierce through walls to a certain degree and blow a hole clean through armor and flesh on the other side. Yet pegasus bone, though hollow, was an astonishingly resilient substance.

It was then that the stallion's eyes fell on the shotgun shell. His eyes lit up with a dull fire. 12 gauge would definitely work. If every pellet hit the right spot, bone would turn to dust. Even if it didn't, the sheer kinetic force of the would kill next to anything at close range. If it wasn’t instantaneous, it would be painful and prolonged. Perfect.

To him, it took years to load the round and ready the hammer. In reality, it took less than five seconds. A small grin adorned Clockwork's face. Justice would finally be served.

His ears flickered as he heard the door to his room unlock. He quickly set the hammer to safe and holstered his revolver.

A few moments later, the pegasus felt a faint rush of wind followed by the sound of hoofsteps. He didn’t get the chance to see who had entered his cell, as a heavy burlap sack enveloped his head as he was lead out of the room. Clockwork didn’t put up a fight; he knew what was coming. When executed by firing squad, the guy on the receiving end of those seven muzzles needed to wear something that hid their face. He’d probably be asked for a smoke to, and the stallion would probably accept.

However, Clockwork never felt the abrasive ropes encircle and fasten him to a wooden stake. He never heard the sound of A1 Valiant Rifles loading full magazines. He never heard a captain give the order to fire, nor did he feel the sudden and blissful release of death.

Instead, he felt himself sit down on a familiar sounding dropship as it flew him to sisters-know where. He felt himself being marched down corridors filled to the brim with crew. He felt himself sit on a bed, an actual bed, and heard the door lock behind him.

The sack was quickly removed and tossed aside, and Clockwork found himself inside his personal quarters aboard Szary. Charger sat at the opposite end of his mattress. Clockwork made sure he didn’t look in her general direction whatsoever.

“What the hell am I doing here?” he accidentally asked aloud.

“Allied military forces protocol 159-9B has three addendums\. The second one is what allowed us to bring you back. Addendum two explicitly states that, if the commander of the squad understands what he or she is dealing with, they are capable of taking custody of those under their leadership.”

“Hmph. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. You’d be the one to scour the rule book for loopholes.”

"Are you alright?"

The pegasus didn't move. “You’re not supposed to be in here. You were practically dead when I found you.”

“After the medical staff treated my injuries, the Commander gave me clearance to retrieve you. These cuts and bruises are actually far more severe in appearance than effect. Are you willing to talk?”

"I'm tired. Leave."

"Clockwork, could you please stay awake for a while?"

". . . Fine."

Clockwork turned around somewhat, and could easily sense Charger’s uneasiness in being so close to him. Silence followed for what seemed like eternity. After working up the courage, Clockwork asked the first question. “Your dad was onboard the Justice. Talk with him yet?”

“Yes.” Charger coughed. “He told me how you saved him and his coworkers on the ground. He said that he was glad someone like you worried for my safety.”

“Hmm.” Clockwork groaned. He glanced over Charger’s body for just a moment, but it was all he needed. Many of the injuries he had seen her boasting previously were either already healing or bandaged accordingly. That fire in her eyes had returned. Hopefully the same could be said for Eureka. Her mane and coat were clean, and Clockwork shifted his gaze when he noticed Charger was still without her gloves. Without them, she might as well have been naked. They were probably destroyed when she was captured by-

“Clockwork? Are you still with me?”

Clockwork blinked away the thousand yard stare. “Yeah. I’m fine. Just tired. And thinking.”

“About what?”

"Only I can open that door without using a crowbar. How’d you get inside?"

"I helped design it. I should know how to operate my own machinery.”

Clockwork strained a laugh. "Clever.”

"Please, for the love of Celestia, stop stalling. I know that you'll feel better if just get out why you're in shambles.

Clockwork let out a tired sigh. "I'm a war criminal. No other way to say it. I went AWOL. I nearly killed my own allies in a desperate bid to get to you. Which, by the way, resulted in risking the lives of everyone on board. I illegally took command of a ragtag bunch of soldiers that were in no condition to fight, and slaughtered dozens as I tore through a hospital. I practically blew up an airship on my own just because I was pissed. You believe that my actions were just? I. Committed. Murder.”

"All to save my life."

"I disobeyed your clear instructions not to pursue you."

"No, it was good that you disregarded my advice. Because of you, an entire city's worth of people were saved, and every enemy in the city was either killed or captured. You almost singlehoofedly won a battle, and in doing so you acquired history’s first griffon prisoners of war.

"Still, I wasn't. . . me. After months of strain, I just. . . broke. Something else took over. I killed people without mercy. I don’t care what they did nor does it matter to me. Nopony deserves to bleed to death like that."

"While your methods of fighting were savage, they more than deserved what they had coming. They killed civilians, non-combatants, people who could in no way defend themselves. They attacked Bridal Shores of their own free will and in agreement with their superiors’ orders."

"But they were people too! They had families, lives, children to hug when they got home! What they did, what they tried to do, they believed it was for the benefit of their friends and family and nation! I slaughtered them all without care in the world! Now, hundreds of sons and hundreds of daughters will live with the eternal agony of knowing that their father was killed by a BLOODTHIRSTY TEENAGE PSYCHOPATH WITH A MISSING LIMB!"

The pegasus broke down after that. His throat ached, his eyes burned, and his entire body felt like it had been hit with a thousand and one bursts of concentrated Tearcloud. He covered his face with his forehooves, and in seconds, they were drenched.

"Just. . . leave me be, Charger.”


“Leave me alone. . . please."


“I said. . . LEAVE! ME! ALONE!”

Charger shook her head furiously. "NO! Not now! Not while you're like this!"

Without waiting for a response, the mare wrapped her forelegs around her companion and pulled him close, laying her head on his shoulder. Clockwork froze solid and, in another second, was reduced from a murderous pegasus to a sobbing colt. Charger rocked him back and forth as tears fell from his eyes. She wanted him to cry as long as he needed to. She wasn’t going to let anything like this happen again so long as she could draw breath. After Clockwork’s breathing had steadied, the mare spoke.

"Everything will be okay. Everything is going to be alright." she repeated. "Thanks to you, hundreds of families will be able to see their own mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters again. Bridal Shores is safe. My home is safe, and so is my father. Most of all though, we’re both still breathing. We’re right here, alive, together. I would have it no other way, Clockwork."

The pegasus looked up. He struggled for a moment to blink his eyes. ". . . Really? You’re serious? After everything I've done?"

"Of course. I love you, I always have. I’ll stay by you, be there for you through this war and until the end of our days."

For the first time in a long while, Clockwork smiled out of happiness. "Thank you, Charger. I. . . I love you too."

Both ponies smiled and held each other closer. That night, they finally found solace in one another's embrace. That night, they found happiness.

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