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Dusty

[AoH] A Balefire Symphony (closed)

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Loyalty. The guiding light for all pegasus ponies in the war and after. Loyalty was everything and this fact was trained, taught and beaten in to every last pegasus. There was no other way, no other path. And yet Bravo found himself lost thanks to it. What was loyalty when the very thing you swore to die for is nonexistent. When everything you know is nonexistent. This reality shock Bravo to his core just by being itself. By being here in this shape and lacking everything that made his world, his views work. 

 

It was crushing and took him weeks… months to even go outside again. Mech was a good friend even his help did not make this more easy. Acclimatising to this world and shock it was to his beliefs, views and understand just took time. A lot of it. He was better now… Somewhat. It was still hard, confusing and confusing but he managed to do trips outside without breaking down or lashing out at some pony. Mech was the only pony to even have a hope of understanding… It. Why this was hard. 

 

But Bravo had to push on. Well he wanted to go home he knew he couldn't. It's been too long. He’s MIA or KIA and can’t go home. And this world was better in every way. Food! Water! Safety! It took weeks too learn how to sleep without jumping at every sound. Weeks trust water. Food… so on and so on. And yet he was still spinning in place. Loyalty… Loyalty. The word that haunted him like hounds on a fox and it made him feel aimless. 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

With a clap of thunder Bravo looked up at the sky's pouring rain. He liked the rain. It made him feel… safe. Familiarity was the word, safe was the feeling. Rain was part of life back… There. Mud, rain and death. At least he had rain. Walking down the road gazed up at the towering buildings of white. Time to time a flash happens and he saw HIS Canterlot and its countless horrors. It made a shiver roll down his spine but he pushed onward, dry from the storm underneath his power armor. He still can’t go outside without it. Not for long. Panic attacks. When one spent months in it leaving it is terrifying. Every part of his brain screamed ‘outside is danger!’ without it. Even a friend next to him he’d start to panic. More time… maybe that is all he needed. 

 

Looking at the map in his HUD he gazed up at another big building. This was the place… Blueblood. A war hero… At least for Bravo. The mare from his first moments here was tied to Blue. Mech never did explain how very well, saying it will be easier if he ‘saw it’ for himself. Or something. Bravo just hoped the offer was still open. Mech was fun, but insane. A level head was something he needed and with luck this pony had one to offer. 

 

….

 

Ringing the door bill he looked up at the giant wood doors. Why on earth did a pony need doors do big? Did they have a pet sphinx or something? Well he sat at the door he removed his helmet, letting his golden orange mane flow out with a shake and lit up a cigarette. Was no dash but it helped keep his shakes down. He still hated Mech for not making him more. He knows the mad-doc can, he just did not. jerk.

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There was, within Prince Blueblood, a deep upwelling of anticipatory caution.  It was an increasingly familiar sensation to him, ever since he had begun frequenting a certain mad-doc's lab.  He hadn't many friends, the Prince, and so couldn't afford to be picky about the ones he had.  Nonetheless, he was well aware that he took his own life and sanity into his hooves every time he visited Mech's laboratory while an experiment was in progress.  Not to mention all the times his alter ego had run some "friendly security tests."  Discretely curing the effects upon his servants of those magical energy crystals had been a tall order, to say the least.

 

And now, the unexpected result of the experiment running at the time of his little "break-in" was coming to visit him.  A stallion from another, parallel universe, he was given to understand.  Not the first interdimensional visitor to this plane of existence, and not even the only one Blue would know personally.  What both intrigued and intimidated him about Bravo, however, was that the pegasus seemed to know him.  Or, at least, an alternate version of him.  An Alternate version that this Prince Blueblood was far from confident that he could live up to.

 

But what was there to be done?  He could hardly be an ungracious host and turn away what was a de facto ambassador.  Plus, that power armor... the Prince preferred magical relics as a power supplement, but having somepony with a suit like that by one's side would be quite a coup, if he could be recruited for the cause.  And the Prince held no compunction about leveraging an unearned reputation to get what he wanted, provided he could get away with that.

 

Once the head maid informed the Prince that the visitor had arrived, he personally stepped down to the front door to greet him.  He was dressed fairly casually, in a silk smoking jacket, prepared for a day of relic-sorting.  A large batch had come in that he'd picked up for a song, which meant that it was likely 98% junk with the other 2% of actual magic relics that were likely useless for practical purposes.  But one never knew... the price might just be because they were stolen goods.  And that was fine by him; saved him the trouble of stealing them himself.
Putting on a gracious smile to Bravo as the doors open he waved him inside.  "Do come in!  Java let me know you would be arriving today.  I trust he's given something of an introduction to our humble slice of reality?"

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Bravo let out a proof smoke as he watched a passing car, long fancy and screaming power and riches. All of this place did that. It was so different, so alien and unbelievable. Yet there it was. And maybe that was what was most hard… or was it letting go? He did not know, it seemed to change every day. But he was a hunter of the Enclave, he lived years in the wasteland. He can make it. 

 

Turning to look at the door as it opens he saw Blue. His eyes looking up and down a few times as he looks over the details and after a moment's time speaks up. “%@#$.” He mutters the swear on smokey air. “You really are him. Just like the postcard… Nice to meet you sir.” With that he stands tall, wings close and tall up tall as he clicks his four hovers together, bows a head than looks up well shooting one giant wing up skyward. One can not underset how large his wings were to a normal pegasus. “SSgt Castle Bravo, Hunter 6th squad of the 5th fleet, Raptor, Frozen Skys.” He spoke fast as he held that pose and did not move for a few more moments before dropping it, standing like a normal pony. Well, normal as one can in his getup and with a scorpion tail behind him. “Java has done his best. It seems we all know him. He did not tell me this… Not shocking. I know him well… and know his great, great grandson from my timeline. It helps us break the ice more easily. Luna bless him, insane as he is he’s done all he can to make this %#@$ %@#$@ #@$@#$ of a deal more easy.” He says with all the charm of a wastelander. He takes in one more deep pull on a cigarette. “No smoking inside?” He asked with a frown, none vocally showing how much he did not care for how many hated smoking. 

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Bravo entered trailing foul language and foul air.  It was a good thing that the pegasus also carried a respectful attitude towards Blueblood as well, otherwise there might be... unpleasantness.  Of course, once the soldier's salute revealed the size of those wings... well, those would have gotten him through so many of the Prince's doors whomever they were attached to.  "Yes!  Er, um, very well then."  The unicorn hastily threw up a hoof in what he hoped would pass for a returning salute.  Java had at least let him know that his alt-universe self was a military hero.  Or, at least, a hero to the military.  Nice to know his namesakes were making names for themselves, at least.  

 

Hoping that his utter ignorance as to what all that business of being the hunter of raptors was wouldn't show, he closed the door behind Bravo.  It was here that he caught glimpse of the scorpion tail, and, well, it was hard to not stare, as rude as that may have been taken.  "Ah, true.  Our... mutual friend is of great assistance in times of chaos.  Which would be more helpful if he weren't the cause of 90% of them."  Bravo was taking the record for the roughest manners that ever dared darken the Prince's door, but he was bound and determined to keep on his own level.  "I only ban smoking from the upper floors; I don't smoke myself, but many of my guests do.  I even keep a stock in the lounge for them.  If you would just leave your armor in the foyer?"

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Bravo arched an eyebrow than chuckles at the hasty salute Blueblood tossed up. He was not at all offended by it, it was an honest try from a pony that had no real clue what to do back. “I can tell you, his great, great grandson is pretty much the same. Never in my life have I had as much fun, and hated him just as much, as when I worked with that %$#^&%$ colt toy of a pony.” He says with a smoky sinker and makes his way in doors, taking care to keep his wet power armor on the door rug as to not trail water all over. 

 

The smoking rules sounded fair, far better than most, so he had nothing to fuss about. “Sounds good to me, will put it out if I ever end up going to the other floors.” He says with a nod of thanks. Now removing his armor… He was safe, he knew he was. Yet it never came easy. Letting Blue guide him to where wanted it to rest he then put his helmet back. “Stand back, don’t touch the moving parts.” He says over the armors speaker as the back hissed, then splits open like a bug shedding its old skin. Bravo pulled himself out much the same way with a skin tight jumpsuit over his body. Key parts of the jumpsuit had metal rings that looked to lock in to parts of the armor to help Bravo move in it. And maybe to some joy Blue saw the scorpion tail stay put as Bravos flank came free. In its place was a balled up tail, tucked up between the legs. Bravo had to shake it some to unstick it from the jumpsuit. 

 

Free he stretched his legs some and sniffed at himself. “Eh..” is all he had too say remarking on his sent. Looking back at Blue he puffed his cig a few times. “Well, best I keep this on. Even if this is not too bad… back in my world I went weeks on weeks without ever seeing a shower. But that was pretty normal for every pony. Clean water was to $@%^$#  rare to waste on washing.” He says with a sheepish grin. "I do love all the clean water you have... small things in life."

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Blueblood shared a baritone laugh with Bravo over the craziness each had to deal with in their own worlds with their own 'Java'; it was good to have a sympathetic commiserator.  "He certainly keeps life from being dull.  May fortune bring us all such friends... but no more than one at a time."  No need to go into great detail about all the ways Machina had been of help to him... her, in some instances.  Not unless Bravo sought less than refined conversation, which given his language so far, was a distinct possibility.

 

There was no need to tell the Prince to stand back, he didn't want to risk getting stung by the thankfully fake scorpion tail.  As predicted, his relief at the realization was palpable, quickly followed by equally obvious appreciation of the warrior's physique, now that he could get a look at it.  A body to match the wings, indeed.  Still, again, no need to go into detail about such things.  

Politeness kept him from wrinkling his nose, barely.  "I can... understand that."  Rich words from a stallion who'd never gone without clean water, but Bravo would probably understand that.  "In any case, I'm more than happy to let you use the bathing facilities as well if you so desire.  Honored guests receive the best at Blueblood Manor."  And indeed, the 'best' would not be a simple guest shower, oh no.  Think more, luxurious bath with pretty maids attending one's every need.

 

"Let us retire to the Den, it shall be more comfortable there."  The Den was, as it's name implied, a sort of lounge down half a flight of stairs from the first floor.  It's decor was all in dark tones of leather and stained wood, with an aged billiard table in one of the corners.  Rather more used was the ornate liquor cabinet, set against one of the walls by some card tables, and further on the other end was a fireplace surrounded by comfortable chairs.  "Can I get you something to drink as well?"  He asked, indicating a chair next to a polished brass ashtray.

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“I’m not past taking an offer of clean water later.” Bravo remarked as he followed Blueblood. “It took me a few weeks to get used to the fact that clean water is so readily available. But even now I find it hard to stomach how wasteful some are with it… Same for food. I do my best to not pass judgement, devent worlds and different times.” He added giving some insight to views on the matter. To live on the scraps of a dying world gave one deep respect for the smallest of fortunate gifts. Clean water and food nothing to take for granted and even with so much at his hooves he found it hard to be wasteful. A full sea of drinkable water was as precious and valuable as half a glass full. A full table of food fresh and warm was no less wonderful than a can of ancient, yet edible, soup uncovered in the decaying heart of a long lost city. 


 

Upon entering the den Bravo whistled as he looked about the room, spinning about in place a few to take in all of the room. Well some of the wonder of this world was lost on him, time and time it pulled something new to impress him. He moved about studying architecture and furniture in wonderment of the past now living before him. Looking to Blue he nods his head. “Yes.” He says with a puff of smoke. Looking at the ashtray Blue can see the thinking going on behind Bravos eyes as the wastelander pieces together what it is. Than walked over and drops his spent cig on it. Than lifting a hoof he gently pushed the tip of a hoof down on it, crushing the cig and killing the embers. He then sits down on the seat, shifting his large wings about like a cape on his back. There large size was so much that they seem to get in the way of something so easy as sitting. Yet Bravo made do, a lifetime of dealing with them making such struggles part of life and hardly notable to him. “Surprise me, i’m not pisky. Just no whisky.”

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Like most in the luxurious classes, Blueblood was always slightly uncomfortable when other ponies talked of scarcity.  Even if they didn't intend to, he felt as if they were subtly goading him for having it so good.  Not that he would ever venture to complain about it; he couldn't without appearing like a privileged donkey's-rear, and knowing that irked him all the more.  Nonetheless, for Bravo, he made a special effort to hide his irritation as he went towards the liquor cabinet.

 

"Oh?  Not a hard liquor stallion, or do you just dislike that particular spirit?"  The Prince was honestly surprised; the Pegasus looked like the whiskey sort.  Teach him to assume, he supposed.  On that note, he decided to bring out a bomber bottle of one of his personal favorites, a baltic porter from Stalliongrad.  Pulling out two glasses, he poured half the bottle into each, lifting them in his magic as he brought them to the chairs, levitating one over to Bravo as he settled into another chair himself.  

The black beer was thick and strong, but surprisingly flavorful, having some hints of blackberry hidden among the smoky malts.  It forced one to slow down and take notice of its subtleties, all the while coating the rest of the world in a warm, fuzzy haze as the drink would slowly drain from the cup into the drinker.

 

"Ahh..."  The Prince let out a sigh after the first sip.  "I understand this has been a lot to get used to.  I'm not quite sure, really, how I can be of any help to you, but I suppose I'll do what I can.  Friend of a friend, and all that."

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“I can enjoy hard liquor but I can’t stomach whisky or its smell.” Bravo says leaning back, shutting his eyes as he thought about how he can explain why. After a few moments he looked back at Blue. “We have… something call raiders. They are insane and I must underline this. They are all fully insane, broken and so removed from me or you as too call them a pony seems wrong. I had to hunt one down named Whisky. She loved whisky and horded it. But she had some… extreme likes with it. I will not even touch on what they were so both of us can keep are drinks down. Just know the smell of whiskey brings back what I saw and smelled and it makes me feel very sick to this day.” He says shaking his head as if to toss off even remembering it at all. 

 

Taking the bottle he gives it a sniff before just slamming it back and downing the drink in one shot. It was not even a chuge as he downed it all like a shot. He then leaned his head side to side, flicked his ears. “$%@#^ this is good, got more?” He asked with a hearty grin. “And well, I came here on the offer given by a mare. I belive you know her. An outing to help me adjust more and to get away from are friend too… I don't know. Talk to a pony that is not crazy? Or have something blow up every few minutes? Almost shot him when he had something go bang IN my bedroom. Well I was sleeping. Only just missed him in my panic.” Bravo says rolling his eyes.

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Hearing talk of Raiders... it wasn't something that Blueblood had any parallel ready in his mind for.  Say what you will about the perils of living in a world where any random pony might be capable of tearing you in half, most ponies were still what one could reasonably call ponies.  Absent any temporary enthrallment by that week's villain, most retained full control of their mind and senses in a civilized fashion.  He did find that his brain was surprisingly, disturbingly quick and prolific to come up with suggestions about what 'Whisky' would do with her hoard, though.  The Prince was grateful that Bravo wasn't lingering on the subject.

 

He was a little less grateful to see his favorite sipping beer treated so... casually.  The pegasus had just poured it all down his gullet like some sort of pelican.  "Not on hoof, I'd have to have another brought up from the cellar."  He replied, a little bit reluctant to so generously pour out the good stuff if it would be consumed at that rate.  Hearing that a mare had encouraged the other stallion to visit though did bring his attention to a more positive space.  "That must have been Ossia, yes?  I don't know any other mares that know you... and where you came from."

 

While the Prince could understand, and commiserate, on the travails of rooming with Java, he couldn't stave off a growing awareness and discomfort about just how different the two of them were, and how little they seemed, so far, to have in common.  Maybe two mutual friends?  Besides that, they were literally from different worlds!  "I... suppose it would be insipid of me to ask if you miss your homeworld, but is there anything you regret leaving behind?"

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Something clicked for Bravo with the way Blue reacted to him asking for more. A realization that made him feel very guilty and shameful. He took for granted that drink did not take the time to enjoy it alone with no hope for more. This world was destroying his morals. “Hay uh, sorry about the drink.” He remarked after Blue was done talking, he’d have a pass to forget it but he felt wrong in doing so. “After all my talking of making the most of the things that was… Rude to the extreme. Most of all if you pulled out just that one it must be rare… My deepest apologies.” He offers Blue.
 

Moving on to what was asked of him, and feeling bad about how he acted, Bravo was willing to give Blue whatever he asked for. “Ossia yes, she is an odd mare… some magic spell on her I think. Looking back it was shocking how… much she did things to me. Even in that stressful spot she grabbed me by the nose and lead me about like a mare waving a maternity pass.” He says with a snort and a shake of his head. “Wish I knew more, are friend told me some. But insisted I learn more myself.”
 

Now the next thing to be asked was… Well, a real shotgun of a deal. Bravo had to lean back in his seat too think on it. Not that it was hard… he had so much regret. “My family. My friends. The wasteland is ruthless beyond measure but friendship is still very much alive… maybe more than ever. When you make that jump it's hard to explain in this world? Yes you have heroes of such power battling it out with their opposing kin but it's so dramatic. A show almost. My show is life and death and from this? Friendship stronger than steel and I miss them every day. Wulf. Swiftblade, Rust and Mire… Mire is my wife. She has two foals, one more on the way.” He says looking at his hooves, well he did not cry, his face was heavy with shame. 

 

“I think of her and my friends every day. They may think I am dead but will never believe it… It's a wastelander thing. A friend is never dead, just lost and someday you will meet them again. I make fun of them, call them mud walkers… But they were family and I was the birdbrain. So yes, I regret leaving that world. This one is better in every single way yes, but home is home. Even if it's rainy, muddy and broken the friends you have make it wonderful. Without them this is just a gilded jail.” He looked back over at Blue. “Sorry for how depressing that got. I swear I’m not that much of a doomer.”

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Bravo's apology was a little surprising to Blueblood; he wasn't used to the idea that one would apologize for impoliteness.  As the famous saying went, "A noble is a pony who is never unintentionally rude."  Which meant that any act that gave offense was generally calculated to do so.  It even applied, at least in the Prince's mind, to the lower classes, who would by their deliberate display of bad manners act to satirize the 'hifalutin' types,' as one so memorably put it.  Seeing the pegasus' contrition made the Prince reflect that perhaps he was being uncharitable.  "Ah, don't mention it.  I do tend to ration those bottles, as you can probably see.  It takes a certain amount of discipline to not destroy one's enjoyment through overindulgence.  But, I suppose you must find it aggravating to hear complaints of abundance."

 

He had to chuckle at bit as his interpretation of Ossia's character, though he probably would never dare do so in her presence.  "Oh, you don't know the half of it.  She's magnificent, don't get me wrong, but... overwhelming, at times.  But worth it, altogether."  The other stallion would perhaps be able to infer some intimacy between her and her obvious admirer from that.

 

Rather significantly more at ease, Blueblood was able even to muster some genuine sympathy for Bravo as he talked of family and friends.  Not so much empathy, Blueblood had admittedly few ponies whom he would venture back into what was to all intents and purposes Tartarus for, but all ponies understood loss on some level.  "I'm... sorry.  I don't think there's much I can do."  Leaning back, he thought a bit more.  "I suppose... if Machina still has that portal machine of his, he could open the gate again.  I don't know if you'd be able to fetch them, though.  Like I said, not much I can help you with there.  But if, say, a collection of interdimensional refugees should just happen to show up in our mutual friend's laboratory... legal status could be arranged for them."

Like most who grew up with an abundance of resources, Blueblood was not used to the idea of an insoluble problem.  Money bought talent, and talent's time.  Enough money would buy enough time and talent to do anything.  And Machina was quite generous with his...

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“He’s trying too fix that… ‘portal machine’ for me. He believes he can do it and send me back to the same spot I came from. He even thinks he can keep it going as needed. He’s pretty… sure this world can use me. I don’t see it. But he thinks I can help by what I know and have seen. I know where things can go and don’t want this world to walk that path… The war that ended my home? Boiled the seas and wiped the land baron? Coal. It all started over coal. We did not even need coal halfway into the war… The Enclave told me why, beat it in to me… But out in the wasteland you see so much… Suffering. Pain. no amount of pride can explain why we did it.” Bravo says leaning back, really just venting now and not caring if blue cared or not. It did not matter. He just needed to vent to a pony that will not go off on some funky rant… or explode.

 

“Luna… The Luna you have? She looked nothing like mine.” He says looking over at Blue. “Mine was named ‘Empress Luna, warmaster of equestria and nightmare of the unworthy.’ and had black fur… really she looked different in almost every way. What use am I to this world when even that is so different? So call me crazy but I want to go back. But for now I will try my hooves at helping. Being some ‘hero’ to promote pace. All well knowing I am hardly the pony for the job.” He waves a hoof. “Sorry for ranting. It's just been building up. You don’t have to act like it matters. Just you sitting and hearing me out is all I need. So, thanks for that… I know you are not my Blue but it means the world to me to have you sit and hear me out. A nice work around for never meet ones heros ‘eh?”

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Blueblood just let the rant wash over him, for the most part.  Oh, there were thoughts he could interject, but they probably wouldn't help his situation.  *We've long since discarded coal as an energy source, largely thanks to magitek innovators like Machina.  It's the lack of resource pressure more than any 'moral' strength that's kept us from going down that dark route.  Probably says something about the whole heroism endeavor, eh?*

 

The remark about Luna did pique his interest.  "Eh?  So Auntie Luna more or less reverted to her nightmare form permanently in your world... I can't say I'm surprised."  He sighed, shaking his head.  "It seems dear Auntie Celestia is always neglectful of family, no matter what universe, or timeline, or whatever."  Snorting, he took another sip of his beer, smacking his lips as he continued.  "I don't mind hearing out your rants, if you don't mind mine in return.  Honestly, I feel if the world knew what sort of pony Celestia was, they wouldn't look up to her so much.  One hardly thinks well of a civilian pony who neglects their family for their work, or worse, their hobbies.  And what does my dear Auntie do?  Only get so wrapped up in her little 'school of heroes' that she completely misses her little sister's turn to the dark side, ultimately having to rely on a chance prodigy to save her, and all the while neglects the family she has left..."

 

Sighing again, the Prince rubbed his temples.  "Well, you're right about not meeting heroes.  As the old saying goes, 'No one is a hero to his butler.'"

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Bravo was fine with Blue firing back a rant of his own. Really it was fascinating to hear the contents of it regarding the two sisters.  Fist him calling them ‘Auntie’ was something Bravo did not really understand. How was Blue related to them? That can be something to dig in to later as something far more… odd leaped out at him. This ‘nightmare from’ and Celestia. “Not going to lie, got no $#@%@$# clue what a ‘nightmare from’ is with Luna. Luna has been Luna forever. But I can say my world did not look up to Celestia. She was in her own way the first traitor of the war when she was unwilling to do a thing. She just did nothing, unwilling to even send in the army as the Zebras… killed us. All she did was try and talk them down. Even after the…” He trailed off, looking away for a few moments with a deep breath looked back at Blue.

 

“There's anevent. A bad one… A lot of colts and fillies were killed. Even in the wasteland this is well known and remembered so many lifetimes later. But Celestia did not have the guts to go to war even with that. She stepped down and had Luna take over in full to give the order. After that she just sat and did nothing for the rest of the war. She refused to speak about it and went on like it was not going on. She did that until the very end. From what news papers I found speaking of her… about two years before the end she still acted like nothing was going on.” He looked down at his hooves, inspecting them. “I don't know why. I understand she wanted peace, love and friendship but to stand down and just block what is going on helped no pony. That is why we all love Luna. She did so much for us, no matter how much it was wearing her down. How I wish I was alive in them days, to stand with her and defend are home.” He shakes his head and leans back. “No matter the timeline some things seem to be broken it sounds like. Maybe its fate.”

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"Ah, so to explain... in this universe, Luna is also known as Moonlight Knight when she's doing her hero business... but Celestia, the Sunlight Sentinal, took up most of the public glory, which ultimately led to Luna turning against her, becoming Nightmare Moon, who looked more similar to your description of your timeline's Luna, to be frank.  That's why I said it."  As Bravo continued, Blueblood wasn't sure what to make of what he said.  There were certainly grounds for skepticism, given that wartime histories were not known for strict factual accuracy.  On the other hoof... his long-brewing resentment over neglect by his Aunt, further cultivated now by Ossia, inclined him to believe the worst of her.

 

"Hm, well, as the generals say, it's ultimately the winners who write the history books.  Not sure anypony really won in your case, but those who won't fight in a time of war are more or less doomed to ignominy."  He sipped his beer again, reflecting that it was at that time, relative to Bravo, that his counterpart was alive.  "I think my alternative self must have agreed with you, judging by his reputation with you.  I... hm, well, I don't like hooligans running around my city destroying it for their own purposes, I'll tell you that much.  I'll go out to clean the streets myself in that case, if I have to."  Villain(ess) though Blue may be, they possessed some local patriotism for Canterlot.

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Bravo cocked his head to the side as Blue explained the deal with ‘nightmare from’ Luna. He felt just as much skepticism as Blue did to his story yet it seemed too make sense. But was it bad for her to step up and do what must be done? Celestia seemed far to weak to do what had to be done all well clinging to power. But can he make such a judgement? They have been dead for three generations all he had was the broken past to look on. Fragments from half rotted books and newspapers and what his small school had between fire drills and training to keep the airship flying. That was most of his schooling after all… history did not matter much when all hooves were needed to keep the ship flying. 

 

“I see… thanks for explaining it. But I'd find it hard to see her in the wrong.” He says well stretching a wing out than moving it out in front he starts preening the giant thing. “History is even harder to read when so much is lost. Just pieces of a puzzle with much of it missing. Just have to take a shot in the dark… At least I had some schooling but even they lacked real books on the past. Why’d the aeronautical navy need them in the war? When the end came they did not have time to go looting books. Just aimed are ships up and pushed off at max speed. Been flying than on. Grew up in a raptor class cloudship. They work as are destroyers in the sky. Small, fast and what not. Mine was named Frozen Skys and she was home. And it's spelled S.K.Y.S, yes it's spelled incorrectly.” He rolls his eyes. “Not that most back home know that but well, real schools are a thing here.”

 

“Going off track. Frozen Skys is where I grew up. She’s been flying none stop for a over a century and a half. Like all are cloudship she’s held together with hope, duct tape and a lot of hooves. Power outs, engine blowbacks that shake the full ship. Stunk something else, only knew that after spending so much time away. When you are born on it you never know it smells bad. That is the defalt. Spend some time out in the open air and go back in the can? Made me wonder how I knew knew it heh. But they are homes for the most part. More than half of all the Enclave lives on are old warships.” Closing his eyes well he preening his wing he can still remember his bunk room. A dozen others shared it with him. The wailing alarm klaxons screaming into his ears, accompanied by the bone-rattling throb as the enormous raptor engines beat at the air, struggling to keep it aloft on an inconsistent stream of old and ‘repurposed gasoline’ made from Luna knows what. An engine blowback made the room shake so hard a mare almost fell out of her bed. Static coated orders hiss over partially functioning intercoms. Stripped of all vitality by the failing electrical systems in to barely understandable messes of garbled speech.

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Blueblood's eyes grew wide as Bravo described how and where he grew up.  It sounded more like some kind of adventure story, like being shipwrecked on a desert island, or being adrift at sea for an extended period of time.  Being a sailor by hobby, the Prince had enjoyed many a nautical novel in his spare time.  But none of them were century-long sagas; none had gone on long enough for all the romance the rub off the tedious, day-to-day struggle for existence.

 

"That's... incredible."  Blueblood had to raise his glass, just in acknowledgement of the whole enterprise.  "I wonder, though... that can't go on forever.  Especially if the naval yards in your world no longer exist, or remain under your control.  It's amazing that it lasted so long as that, but... maybe 50 years, I don't think the Enclave is going to have a navy after that."

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Bravo wanted to give Blueblood an earful for that, to say the Enclave can last for a thousand years. But he knew it was a lie, much as the as the schools and radios told them it can last how can it? He grew up on the old ships. He saw the work needed every day just to keep them in the sky. Best outcome they can stay up for another hundred years but Blues number was much more realistic. And what was the Enclave without the navy? They ARE the air navy! To lose them would be to lose the heart of the Enclave. It was a deeply disturbing thing to think about in its inevitability. They had a few ad hoc airdocks but they built after the end with skimp tools and were so over worked as is. The needed the real docks but they down wasteland and controlled gang of ‘steel rangers’ that’d never allow them to take it. Sooner blow the docks up than hand them over. 

 

Bravo gunted. “You are not wrong, I wish you were. By Her will I wish you were. But the facts are easy to see. We have no way of doing full overalls on ships and with the tossed together docks we do have they can only handle the smallest of the fleet. The largest warships can never stop flying even as they undergo repairs. The old yards are out of are hooves, been so for a long time. When we moved to see if they were not blown off the map we found them taken over by another leftover of the old world. The ground army, they call them self Steel Rangers now. They _hate_ us and are insane. They want to lock up all technology and force the world back in the days of old. They even run about using knight titles and call there bases ‘chapters’ like the dark ages. Do to this they hate us. They have scrapped most of the docks and what is still useful they are not past blowing up. Done it in the past just to spit on us. We want to being Equestria back as it was in the good times. They want to drag us back to the dark ages as if the age we are in is not dark enough.” He flips a wing up in a rather foul gesture as he ranted, but it was not aimed at Blue. More so at the Steel Rangers, a topic where Blue can hear the raw hate he had for them in every word thanks to his tone.

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'Villain' though he was, Prince Blueblood had never himself felt for anypony the raw hatred that Bravo let spill in the rant.  He let the pegasus go on, leaning back in his chair, sipping his beer.  He had to take a moment of reflection in the light of all that.  Obviously, Bravo was capable of seeing past the indoctrination he grew up with, to acknowledge something of the reality of his situation.  But he wasn't exactly political, at least not compared with Blueblood.  The Prince had picked up a few things about power dynamics and country management, bereft of any official power though he was.

 

"Hm... it's a little odd to hear you say that.  If they are luddites, how is it that they were not blown off the face of Equestria by the technologically superior force?"  He rubbed his chin, thinking.  His thoughts were not encouraging, and he had some hesitation in voicing them.  Indeed, had he not taken in a quantity of strong beer, he probably would not have.  But, loosened tongues can betray...

"Honestly, even if you could take the docks, I'm not sure how much more time it would buy you.  Better repairs, perhaps, but any replacement parts are likely to be in as bad or worse shape.  And the military factories in your world probably aren't in a functional state anymore, either.  High technology kind of needs medium technology to keep it going.  If you don't have that, you're better off in the long term going back to low tech and starting the capital accumulation process all over again, rather than waste wealth in keeping deteriorating technology operating at half-capacity."

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Blueblood had some skills others lack. Some found do to his love of wings. With such a love one can learn much about the races that have wings and how they use them, from flying to how they express feelings. And Bravos large wings were speaking much on his feelings as his body language changed. Wings spread out, chest inflated with fur on end as his teeth are laid open to be seen. He was one EXTREMELY agitated pegasus do to what Blueblood was ‘implying’ about the Enclave. Going so far as glance at his own hip, as if searching for something out of instinct in response to his agitated mindset. Given where he is from, one can think of what such tool he may have been looking for. But with nothing but his wings he looked back at Blue. “Watch your $@$#%^%$ muzzle ‘Prince’ you know nothing of what you speak. I was willing to let you speak more open on something you know not of, but you have moved past talks of reality insulting the government I swore an oath to die for. Well I know not why the admiral council holds us back from retaking them I know we can. Just one hunter team can do it I bet! The mud walkers roll about in dirt and #$#@ and you think they are superior to us? We were winning the war for them! The ministry of awesome gave us the most technologically advanced weapons in all the war!”

 

Slamming a hoof down the big male of a pegues stands up, flaring his wings with an aimed hoof at Blue. “We are holding onto the glimmer of the golden age with all four hooves. We alone cary the empire onward. We alone stand for Luna and are homeland. They are traitors, no different from slavers or raiders. When the time is ready the council will let the fleets part the sky and show every last mud walker are power. When that time comes they will understand what did for them in the war and now. The ministry of wartime technology was always a joke. Mud walkers can never handel war like we can. Every last thing they made was cheap knockoffs of what the MoA did. I know the council will act when the timing is perfect. I am just a gunt, a cog. I do not see the grand map nor the date they do. All I can do is put faith in them as we put faith in Her.” Done ranting he falls back in to the seat, looking far less angry and more upset, rather it be at Blue or his own words is unclear. “All we got is faith.” He repeated with hint of dead to the words as he rubbed his face using his forhoves. All the anger bleeding away as the unspoken reality of things haunted Bravo. When one grows up being hoof feed propaganda it is hard to swallow realty. Even if it's the only thing left on the plate.

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As soon as his words had left his mouth, Blueblood knew they would provoke a reaction.  This foreknowledge gave him the ability to brace against Bravo's rant, to view the situation calmly and analyze vocal tone and body language.  He steepled his hooves underneath his chin, waiting out the storm of words that washed over him.  Eventually, the anger subsided, leaving only the crackling flames in the fireplace to warm the den.

 

"You know, I've never been a unicorn supremacist.  It's a bit difficult to maintain tribalism in any case, since superpowers are distributed pretty evenly among the types of ponies, and even non-ponies.  But they do exist, I've met one, and he was about as convincing as you are."  He let his contradiction slide at that, really, it wasn't any of his business if two remnants of a dead nation decided to kill any of hope of their future in mutually-assured destruction.  "I don't have faith in much myself, or at least didn't until recently.  One can't have a mentor without having faith in that mentor.  But that took her appearing right in front of me.  I don't know if I could go on like that on nothing but hearsay."

 

 

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