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Childhood's End, Draft 1, 1/2

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Mar 30th, 2020
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  1. Childhood's End, Draft 1
  3. Chapter 1 - Sun and Steel
  5. "Well, Princess Cadance, I have to admit, you're my favorite pony so far."
  6. >She giggled a little, clearly flattered.
  7. >"Really, after you've met Celestia, Luna, the Elements, and Celestia know who else, and you're impressed by me?"
  8. >Shining Armor smiled and looked at her.
  9. >"Well, I was certainly impressed by you. You're the most beautiful mare in the world, you know that?"
  10. >She blushed a little.
  11. "I actually meant that you're a nice middle ground - not too serious, but still mature enough to not fire glitter out of a cannon."
  12. >"Well, I guess I haven't let the 'seriousness of the crown' get to me", she said, doing her worst Celestia impression.
  13. >"You certainly still know how to have fun." Shining said with a grin before giving her a less-than-chaste kiss.
  14. >Oh, wow. They're really getting into it.
  15. >It really was a shame that you had to leave soon.
  16. >These two have been the best hosts in Equestria.
  17. >Too bad the portal only works at certain times.
  18. >Otherwise, you would try to make the wedding.
  19. >You ended up shooting the shit with Shining and some of his friends for the rest of the night.
  20. >You explained the way warfare worked in your world and your past experiences in the Marines.
  21. >It turned out, not all ponies were pussies like those pacifists in Equestria.
  22. >The Crystal Empire has historically had a martial culture, probably from their historica; skirmishes with the Griffons, Yaks, and Changelings.
  23. >Shining seemed to seriously consider offering you a job as a military advisor, but you declined preemptively.
  24. >You had a lot of shit back home you needed to sort out first.
  25. >At least there were ponies that didn't think you were a baby killer for being in the military. That's always nice.
  27. >Only a few ponies were there to see you leave through the mirror.
  28. >Cadance, Shining, his bratty little sister who took a liking to you.
  29. >You weren't too broken up about the whole thing. You liked this place, and you'll visit it again.
  30. >No, you were worried about having to explain to the IRS why your taxes are 3 months late. Not to mention your boss.
  31. >Right before you walked in, you made an off-hand comment that you thought was smooth as fuck.
  32. "If you guys ever need me, just ask. I'm always willing to defend the rightous."
  33. >Unfortunately, the ponies seemed to take it to heart.
  34. >It was going to bite you in the ass later.
  36. >The first instinct when passing through an extra-dimensional gateway, it seemed, was to exhale. Your breath caught on the winter air like dense smoke.
  37. >The woman in front of you seemed genuinely surprised.
  38. >"You have to be over 7 feet tall. Hopefully that won't be too big of an issue. Welcome back to Earth, Anon."
  39. "And you must be Principle Celestia. And it's pretty obvious we're not on my Earth. I wasn't 7 feet tall where I'm from."
  40. >Fucking multiverse. They told you this might happen.
  41. >You actually felt relief when the portal behind you collapsed. The IRS wasn't going to find you here.
  42. >She smirked. "Well then, it seems like we have different sized feet. To cut introductions short, the plan is for you to use the Social Security Number of someone who died shortly after birth. We'll just tell the feds that you bounced from friend to friend after being abandoned by your birth parents until now. Register you as a high school student here. You should be set for life here after you graduate."
  43. "Oh, nice. That sounds fun. High school all over again."
  44. >She frowned.
  45. >"I'm doing the best I can here, Anon. I knew from the way that the Other Celestia described you that you weren't from around here. Do you know how hard it is to establish an identity from scratch nowadays?"
  46. >You sighed. This wasn't too bad, given the circumstances.
  47. "What's the name on the birth certificate? And what happens when the dead kid's real family finds out?"
  48. >She looked away, pretending to hear a noise behind her for a moment too long.
  49. >"Smoke Jaguar. He was my first son."
  51. >So, legally, you were now her 17-year-old son.
  52. >Apparently, she was using low-level magic to disguise you age a little. Taking off 4 years honestly didn't make you look that different.
  53. >The first thing you did after meeting her was go for a physical with the school nurse.
  54. >Celestia made it clear that anything related to you was covered by NDA.
  55. >You wondered for a moment why the examination was in a hospital as opposed to the school clinic.
  56. >"So, Anon, right? Principal Celestia told me that you're her long-lost son. Stand straight on the scale here."
  57. "180 pounds. Seems about right. Much have lost some weight while... camping."
  58. >"That doesn't seem right, actually. Way too high, even for someone of your build. Let's get you over to the x-ray and see how your bloodwork measures up."
  59. >Hours of tests later, she looked at your chest x-ray with a raised eyebrow
  60. >"Your bone density is at least 3 times average. Muscle density is unusually high as well. The blood work came back with abnormally high levels of growth and sex hormones, but somehow normal liver function. Are you on a dozen different steroids, Smoke? My second best guess is that you're a genetically engineered super soldier. That would explain your clotting ability, certainly. No human should be able to do that without a stroke every other day."
  61. "No to both, although the second is probably closer to the truth. You think I can get into professional sports or something? And you can call me Anon, by the way, nurse."
  62. >She chuckled. "Any contact sports and you might get someone killed. Try not to get too much attention, kid. Otherwise you'll be gang-pressed into some Army black ops program. I doubt being forced by the government to murder is your dream job."
  63. "Actually, that was my-"
  64. >"He means he was killing trees up in Canada with my cousin's friends. No need to probe too much, Redheart" Celestia interupted.
  65. >"If this is what I think it is, I suggest you at least get him to a psychologist. There's no telling how different we are."
  66. >"We'll keep that in mind." Celestia said as she led you out of the room with an apologetic smile.
  68. >God, it was good getting internet and good whisky again.
  69. >This Earth was very similar to your own, the main difference being that everyone's a manlet weakling compared to you.
  70. >You were in shape, but you could barely bench press 200 pounds. However, that's apparently considered the level of an elite athlete here.
  71. >You had choices now that you didn't before.
  72. >You thought back to you last life, right before you slipped through that rabbit hole and into fantasy.
  73. >You had washed out for the second time for Marine Force Recon. You were certain that you were physically good enough. You just got worn down mentally, got a bit too sloppy and unlucky, and injured your way out of the program both times.
  74. >But here? You could probably pass. Hell, you're almost a supersoldier.
  75. >You closed out your windows and went out for a jog. You had work to do.
  77. >High school was a breeze. You learned calculus this time around, got in the best shape of your life, and went to the Olympics before shipping out for boot camp.
  78. >You got the gold in two weightlifting events and failed to medal in anything else. You might be really really good, but the was no way in hell you could keep up with people who spent their entire lives training.
  79. >Especially when they're almost certainly taking roids.
  80. >The press surrounding your decision to join the military was like you were accepted to Harvard but decided to do porn instead.
  81. >But you were proud of yourself. And you think your adoptive mother is too, even if she wouldn't admit it. Too bad you never got the Pat Tilman treatment.
  82. >Minus the getting shot part, of course.
  83. >The one person who was positively enthusiastic about it, though, was your jogging buddy, Rainbow Dash.
  84. >Since she decided to join the Navy and become a pilot, she thought that you would be shipping out together.
  85. >Somehow. Despite you being in the Marines. And the fact that she had to finish college before she could become an officer.
  86. >In hindsight, showing her Top Gun on your laptop might have been a bad idea.
  87. >You always joked that she was like the little sister you never had, and she would always call you a faggot back.
  88. >You were good friends.
  89. >She and her friends were the only ones who weren't afraid of you. Probably because they were familiar with dimensional travel and magical horses.
  90. >You may have a lot of people you considered friends, but you think Rainbow was the only one from high school you're going to keep for life.
  91. >She had familly in the military who she looked up to. She understood you. She made you feel normal. As silly as it sounds, she made you feel safe.
  93. >You woke up with ringing in your ears.
  94. >A kid, around 19, with a miniture AK, coming around a corner. You pushed his face into the wall with a backhand blow and saw his brains come out. That was your first kill in hand-to-hand. You knew how soft people were here, just not what it meant in practice.
  95. >The face of your first girlfriend, Kacey. You thought you were in love, until she cheated on you with your best friend.
  96. >Your squadmate from Old Earth getting a bullet through his throat from a Chechen sniper. He died before he hit the ground.
  97. >The world comes back in to view. You slipped and fell from the helicopter over some mountains. It feels like you cracked some ribs. Your head hurts.
  98. >You remember snapping your rifle up before your vision even fully returned and dropping a Hadji.
  99. >You were blacked out for a lot of the fight, but you remember running out of ammo at one point and having to scrounge amongst the dead bodies for something to use with the AK you picked up.
  100. >You got picked up at nightfall, when something like 100 Taliban decided to slip away, thinking you were a full infantry squad.
  101. >More than 2 dozen bullet impacts. Most caught on your plates, one went into your gut, and a few into your limbs.
  102. >Less a few inches of intestines, you were fine after a month.
  103. >And so, you decided to go visit your friend in college since your deployment ended early.
  104. >She had grown into a woman since you last met her.
  105. >You could tell that she looks at you differently now. She didn't know that you killed before, but now, to her, you had the bloody hands of a killer.
  106. >It wasn't until the day you were suppose to leave that she told you that she had a crush on you since senior year.
  107. >You didn't say anything. You just started to lean in. She closed her eyes and smiled. Her lips met yours.
  108. >You made fun of her for licking your teeth. She gave you shit for calling her your little sister.
  109. >Neither of you slept that night.
  110. >She ended up telling you about her fears of joining the Navy. About her uncle who came back smiles and cheers after the war. About his wife who wanted a man who would feel sufficiently guilty for taking a life. About how he drank his way to an early grave because he never could.
  111. >"Don't leave me, Anon," she said, opening her mouth and closing it, like she was holding something back.
  112. >You realize that this is the most emotionally naked she has ever been. All that bluster and ego, replaced by her raw emotion for a few moments. Something that she felt safe enough to share with you.
  113. "I'm not leaving, Dash. I'll always be here, not matter what. I'll never leave you.The sky could fall on us tomorrow, and I'll be cuddled up with you in a bunker somewhere sharing MREs. I'll be here until the end of time. I promise."
  114. >You could tell she took it to heart and she seemed... relaxed.
  115. >In that moment, you meant it, and you think that's what really matters.
  116. >You decided to rebook your flight in the morning. She got to see the SecDef hang a medal around your neck as your girlfriend.
  117. >tfw Mad Dog called your gf a very lucky lady.
  119. >After a while, you were recruited to work for the CIA.
  120. >The fact that you were in like the top 0.1% of height apparently wasn't a problem when working for a spy agency.
  121. >It was still the same job, but with a twist. A lot of the shit you did now was suppose to be more diplomatic. And secret. As in denied by the State Department secret.
  122. >You still shot at towelheads, recieved return fire, and ate shitty food. But you were making a bigger picture difference or something.
  123. >You now regreted not joining the Navy and trying for SEALs. That way you would have had like a dozen movies made about you.
  124. >Rainbow graduated college and went on to become a fighter pilot. Turns out these guys could actually handle g-forces better than the humans of Old Earth. She apparently had an interest in flying as part of the Blue Angels, and had been working tirelessly to join their ranks.
  125. >An engine malfunction, however, meant that she had to eject from a training aircraft.
  126. >Unfortunately, the process damaged her spine much more than it was suppose to.
  127. >When you finally got to see her at the hospital, she couldn't even feel her toes.
  128. >Even after months of rehabilitation, she wasn't making much progress. It seemed that a medical discharge was inevitable.
  129. >She cried. A lot. Her wings were clipped. You knew how much flying meant to her.
  130. >At least you still had each other.
  131. >You supposed that was what really mattered.
  135. Chapter 2 - Love Lost
  137. >Celestia looked a little tired. Given how hard she hides her weaknesses, however, that must have meant she was exhausted.
  138. >"Cadance, please. Shining was a good friend to me too."
  139. >That only made the pink pony even more furious. Her desheveled locks whipped across the air as she swung around to stare at the other Princess.
  140. >"Friend? FRIEND? HE WAS MY HUSBAND! I LOVED HIM! You don't know anything about how I feel right now. I'm sure you're just so jaded after thousands of years. Is that why you don't take lover any more? Because you can't feel anything? Because when they die you just forget their names?"
  141. >The white alicorn just looked away, deep in thought. When she spoke, it was soft, and without her normal regal flair.
  142. >"Our memories are enhanced by magic, you know. It's hard for me to forget a face. Or their voices. Or how they made me feel. But we're not going anywhere with this conversation, are we? You want revenge, justice, and to prevent your loss from happening to anyone else, but your solution involves the destruction of an entire race, an entire people. They can love just as you can, even if it is parasitic. You can feel it from them, can't you? I've spent a thousand years trying to reform them, and I'll spend thousands more. Eventually, they'll be redeemed. Shining's sacrifice and th-"
  143. >Cadance didn't bother to stay for another lecture. She remembered the last time she had tried to sway Celestia. When she tried to convince her to turn Shining into an alicorn. The refusal was final, and Celestia said that his life wasn't worth the stability of her kingdom.
  144. >It wasn't really even an argument. It was like Celestia listened, nodded, and then did what she was going to do anyways.
  145. >It was like the thought of losing the most important person in the world to her didn't cross Celestia's mind as important.
  146. >Cadance realized that, more than anything, more than even life it self, she didn't want to become like Celestia. She didn't want to keep losing people until they stopped mattering. Things were going to change, even if it cost her everything.
  147. >And so, she walked away.
  149. >"Love. That's what drove men to their deaths in war. Not because they hated what was in front of them, but because they loved what was behind them."
  150. >You were at another funeral. Another one of your friends in the ground forever.
  151. >The chaplain was giving a speech you've heard more than once before, but that was alright with you. The whole thing was a ritual, after all, to help those left behind to move on.
  152. >You payed your respects and decided to sit on a bench for a little while. You didn't know him well, and you're mostly here out of duty.
  153. >Over time, you've noticed that your emotions, while considered average in your platoon in Old Earth, clearly crossed into psychopathy here.
  154. >You supposed that was just one more thing making you a more effective killer.
  155. >Tears didn't have time to form before you realized you were suddenly in someone's bedroom.
  156. >"Anon?" a voice asked, almost whispered.
  157. >You turned around to see a pink alicorn, with tears in her eyes. Pony magic fuckery. Somehow, you aren't even surprised.
  158. "Cadance? What happened? Why am I here?"
  159. >She began to sob again, tears streaking down her face, words coming out one at a time.
  160. >"Our wedding... It was so perfect. I've never seen Shining so happy."
  161. >"But then the Changelings came. And now he's dead."
  162. >She took a moment to compose herself, but you could tell that emotionally, she's being held together by strings.
  163. >"You - you said that if we ever needed you, you'd help us. Is that still true?"
  164. >You vaguely remember saying something along those lines. Fuck you for trying to look cool.
  165. >But fuck, Shining was a bro. He didn't deserve to die to fucking Xenomorphs on his wedding night.
  166. >She broke down crying.
  167. >"Help me. H-help me reform the army, and I'll give you whatever you want. I'm not letting that black bitch get away with this."
  168. "Can you fix my girlfriend's spine?" It was worth a shot.
  169. >She tried to chuckle. It came out as a hacking cough.
  170. >"I'll give you whatever you want that is in my power. If you help me with this, I'll heal your girlfriend. It would be like she never got injured. And when I win, I'll give the two of you the powers of an alicorn, which would let you live forever. Would you like that?"
  171. "This is starting to sound more than just a simple assasination."
  172. >She stopped crying and smiled. You can see the fire in her belly.
  173. >"We're going to change the world, Anon. I'm going to honor Shining's memory by making sure everypony who wants to can become an alicorn. He always did lament about how we couldn't be together forever.
  174. "I'm going to assume Celestia doesn't exactly agree?"
  175. >"That's why you're going to help me make an army that can let me disagree."
  176. >Holy shit.
  177. "I'm in."
  179. >Loving someone and being in love with them are two different things.
  180. >The first can last for a long time. The latter is a bit of temporary madness.
  181. >It really shouldn't be surprising that the embodiment of chaos itself would be an exception to the latter. In many ways, it had consumed him, for years and years, and he was happy for it.
  182. >He knew it wouldn't last forever. Nothing ever did. Mortals die, love fades, and Discord grew bored. It was simply the way of things. But he never stopped trying.
  183. >There were really only two ways to deal with eternity. One is disconnecting from the world, refusing to form attachments, and becoming "enlightened". The other was to love as though things would last forever, and taste the resulting pain and sorrow as fine wine.
  184. >For at the end of the day, pain was still better than nothing.
  186. >He had tried to talk his beloved into accepting immortality, but she had turned him down. Said that she didn't want to watch her friends grow old and die, over and over again. In other words, she didn't want to become like him.
  187. >He was the most powerful being in existance, but also the loneliest.
  188. >He remembered when he was young, when the very world itself was young. How he had argued with Celestia about alicorns. He had wanted that power given to everyone, for it was what ponies were meant to be. But she was more powerful than him then, and she insisted that the end result of a world full of ponies who could move the very stars would be anarchy. Over the years, he had found ways to reduce that power, but every time she had rebuffed him. In the end, it was clear that she was opposed to the very idea of mass immortality, for she hated it, and saw it as a curse, a necessary evil that she took upon herself to stabilize Equestria.
  189. >He could have opposed her on that point. But it would have meant war, and on some level, he still loved her.
  191. >Be Celestia.
  192. >There is a story you had spread long ago. About two lovers, a unicorn and a pegasus.
  193. >The Elements, in their grand primordial forms, saw them, and realized it was the greatest romance they had ever seen. But they knew that mortality would take them away from each other. They could be so sentimental then.
  194. >And so, with great pain, they fashoned two gems from their very flesh.
  195. >This gift was given to the pagasus, and she was told that she should eat one and give the other to her lover, so that they may be given life everlasting.
  196. >At the same time, they implied that should anyone consume both, they would be elevated to godhood.
  197. >But on her way home, she felt that to give it to her lover would be selfish - after all, she found society weak and anarchy rife. Although she loved him, she felt that godhood would allow her to shepherd her people for all time. Wasn't that better than a single person, no matter how much she loved him? With the power of a god, she could fix injustices and right wrongs - forever.
  198. >At least, that's what she told herself. In a moment of weakness, she ate them both, and was transformed into a hideous beast who exiled herself to the sun so that her consort may never know of her sins.
  199. >It was the truth, in a way.
  201. >The rifle cracked repeatedly as the unicorn gunner tried to make aimed shots against the suspended metal target.
  202. >A few simple enchantments allowed the weapons to be made quite enough to not damage their hearing and the recoil lowered to be controllable.
  203. >The reality of equine anatomy meant that firing on the move was very difficult, except for close-range shots with magic-levitated weapons.
  204. >Instead, you settled on mounting a weapon (generally a MG) on the back of an earth pony, who would also carry most of the gear and ammo. An assistant unicorn would then aim and operate the weapon.
  205. >It was a surprisingly effective tactic, and a modified rifle was also carried to be operated by the earth pony when the team is static and the MG dismounted.
  206. >With enough ammo, a single company of the new Imperial Guard could take on hundreds of thousands of conventional troopers.
  207. >The pegasi weren't left out either - they are currently training with modified mortar rounds to provide air support, independently developing dive-bombing tactics to increase their accuracy.
  208. >You honestly thought that getting weapons to arm them would be one of your biggest challenges, but portals and your CIA contacts meant that Imperial gold was quickly swapped for surplus Soviet-era gear.
  209. >It was clear, however, that this was meant as an army of conquest. The fact that you were secretly training ponies in Yakiyakistan meant that Cadance wanted to keep it a secret - until she could unleash it on her enemies, that is.
  210. >The changelings were going to be first, obviously. Revenge was what brought you here.
  211. >You understood. You weren't sure if you agreed, but you understood. In her shoes, you would do the same.
  213. >Although almost all nations in Equs had been experimenting with industrialization over the past century, Equestria had lagged behind due to the desire of Celestia to avoid unemployment and social disruption.
  214. >The Crystal Empire, on the other hand, had suffered greatly in the Changeling invasion, and naturally sought out automation as a solution.
  215. >It was whispered that the Princess was meeting regularly with otherworldly entities to further this end, but most dismissed these as idle rumors. Still, the ideas of magically automated looms, mills, and even farming equipment had advanced under the supervision of foreigners, yaks and griffons mostly, but also a few odd ponies who seemed... wrong.
  216. >In a few years, the market analysts say, the Empire will become the most industrially advanced nation on Equs.
  217. >Perhaps it was this newfound wealth that caused the crown to build ophanages for those who lost their parents in the past war, although the education ciriculum there seemed to focus on physical fitness and machine maintainance than traditional subjects like history and philosophy.
  218. >More than anything, however, the ponies of the Empire wanted safety. They wanted a force that could stand between them and the darkness.
  219. >For that end the Imperial Guard was established as a new formation in the Imperial Army, although details on their operation were few.
  220. >What was known, however, was that they sought out those who had lost loved ones in the invasion.
  221. >Smiths, carpenter, and farmers, those whose flames burnt bright, led by a surprising number of new officers with martial cuties marks, many of whom were just past majority.
  222. >Surprisingly enough, their leader was announced to be Twilight Sparkle, the sister of the late Prince.
  223. >There was a sense of hope among the people, but also a sense of unease. The threat that hit them the last time was still there, and it was only a matter of time before they tried again.
  225. >Funny how, after months of helping Twilight reform the Imperial Army, the climax came down to a Marine and his rifle.
  226. >It wasn't that you didn't trust those under your command, it was just that you were better.
  227. >And this was a task you couldn't fuck up.
  228. >The armies of the Changelings and the Imperial Guard had lined up at dawn, and it now seemed like battle was imminent.
  229. >You spotter Jade Falcon piped up: "I see her, sector 12, distance... 600 meters."
  230. "The big one, right?"
  231. >"Yes, sir. Minimal wind."
  232. >And so, you ended the war with a single shot.
  233. >Your arms were touching, and you could feel her flinch.
  234. >The only thing you felt was the recoil, and a bit of relief.
  235. "We did good here. If we're lucky, no one else has to die."
  236. >The Changeling line began dissolving as officers panicked without the guiding mind of the Queen.
  237. >You started packing.
  238. >She looked at you with her puppy dog eyes and paused for a moment.
  239. >"I thought it would be more. So it's over, just like that?"
  240. "Yeah, welcome to revenge. You'll probably sleep better tonight, if you're wondering."
  241. >She looked down, and tears started welling up in her eyes.
  242. >"So I went through boot camp, recon selection, and hoofing it the last two weeks with you, and that's it? My mom died and I never got say goodbye. That's IT? So an alien could end the war by himself?"
  243. >You brought her in for a hug and she started crying uncontrollably.
  244. "Yeah. That's it. We did our jobs. Now no one else has to."
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