Chapter Eleven - To The Citadel
Solar One, Arcturus Relay, Arcturus Stream
April 8, 2183
There were some perks that came along with being the head pilot of Princess Celestia's ships. The one that Honey Dawn loved the most was her own stateroom, which she shared with the rest of her tiny herd. She had met Carmel Breeze when she was just entering flight school with the wonderbolts, and the two mares had hit it off nearly instantly. Carmel lived down the road from the flight school, the ships the Wonderbolts practiced with being far too heavy for their main facility in Cloudsdale to support, and the two of them often spent time in Carmel's apartment. Carmel Breeze lived for cooking, and she loved to show off every new skill she learned from her own school to Honey. It was only a matter of time really until they both realized that they had feelings for each other and they both fell hooves over head in love with each other.
Carmel Breeze was the one who had actually met Lucky Arrow. Honey Dawn had been training with the Wonderbolts at the time, getting her certification in zero-gravity training. An enthusiastic engineer, Lucky Arrow was a young stallion working for one of the many shipyard startups that had sprung up around Canterlot. He spent his mornings working at one of the tables that Carmel waitressed at, and the two had hit it off. As soon as Honey Dawn had returned, she found herself just as enamored with the brilliant stallion as Carmel was. It was only natural that they offered him a place in their little herd.
They grew together, rising through their own respective careers, until a Royal Emissary approached them with an offer. At the bequest of Princess Celestia, the Alicorn had offered the small herd positions on her newly constructed ship. They had jumped at such an opportunity, and they hadn't had a need to regret it since.
It was moments like this where they were as close as they possibly could be, limbs tangled around each other in bed, that the wonders of working together on the same ship. Honey Dawn, and Carmel Breeze sandwiched Lucky Arrow, relaxing in the warm afterglow of their love. They had spent their years on the ship slowly making their suite as much their own as possible. The larger bed, the sturdy and expensive furniture, and the little trinkets and souvenirs gathered from across the galaxy made the large suit their own.
"Mmm…" Honey Dawn practically purred, fluttering her wings. "That was good."
"That it was." Lucky Arrow agreed, rubbing a hoof up and down her foreleg. He wondered, not for the first time, what it would be like to be a Pegasus. Wings seemed so useful, and they had so much potential in everyday life, and that wasn't even including how much fun they could be in the bedroom. Still, he had a horn, so it wasn't all bad.
"I love you." Nuzzling forward, Carmel Breeze kissed Lucky Arrow with a lingering hint of the passion they had just experienced. Pushing herself up on her forehooves, she leaned over Lucky Arrow to kiss Honey. The Pegasus eagerly rose up to meet her, and they giggled into each other's mouths. "And I love you too."
Falling back into her place on Lucky Arrow's right side, she let out a contented sigh, wiggling up against him for warmth. They were a happy herd, madly in love, with the best jobs in the galaxy. It couldn't get any better than this.
The moment was ruined when Lucky's stomach rumbled hungrily. He looked sheepishly at Carmel. "What's on the menu for breakfast?"
"Oh Celestia…" Carmel frowned, struggling to remember as hormones as dopamine still fogged her mind. She put her hooves to her temples, massaging to try and clear her head. "I believe it's… Huevos Rancheros… maybe. Don't take my word for it."
"Sounds wonderful." Lucky Arrow grinned. Any type of food sounded wonderful, and the fact that it was coming from Carmel's marvelous hooves made it even better. Leaning over, he kissed her tenderly. "And I'm sure that you'll make it taste divine, just like you always do."
They lapsed into silence, just enjoying each others company.
"What time is it?" Honey Dawn asked, thoughts of beginning the day starting to run through her head. She didn't want to get out of bed, but she wasn't going to have a choice. That was what happened when you were a helmsman of Celestia's private ship, now her young protege's.
Carmel Breeze looked over at the clock on her side of the bed. She groaned when she saw it, rolling her eyes. "Too damn early. We all need to get up soon."
All three of them groaned. Getting out of bed was literally the last thing on their minds, especially after such a great wake up. Two hours of bliss and happiness, and now it was time to get to work… well, maybe they could wait a few more minutes.
"What do you think of Twilight Sparkle," Lucky Arrow asked after a moment of silence.
"Why do you ask?" Honey Dawn looked over at Lucky Arrow, an eyebrow raised.
"Just curious, I guess." Lucky shrugged, running a hoof up and down Honey's foreleg. "It's a lot of pressure to put on a pony, especially one as young as her."
"The Princesses certainly don't seem to think so," Carmel noted, taking a giant yawn. "Who are we to say otherwise?"
"Whatever." Honey Dawn rolled out of bed. She stretched, spreading her wings out wide, sighing in relief at the cracking of her bones as she did so, settling them back against her side. "I'm feeling way too sticky. I'm going to take a shower. If you want to join me…"
She trotted towards the shower, shooting the two of them a sultry look over her shoulder. "I certainly wouldn't complain."
Lucky Arrow and Carmel Breeze looked at each other and grinned before rolling out of bed and following after their wife.
Sometimes the perks of being at the top meant you could show up a little late to your shift.
Twilight Sparkle and Gilda lay in the massive bed of the Royal Suite. Twilight could honestly say that she had never had a better night's sleep, and she had to wonder why her own mattress in her tower didn't even come close to the comfort that was afforded Celestia.
Gilda was still asleep, and Twilight just watched her, an easy smile on her muzzle. It wasn't often that Gilda had a chance to be at peace since her return to Equestria, and Twilight treasured every moment that it happened. They were precious, and sadly few in occurrence.
Glancing over at the clock, the little timepiece lit up when it sensed her gaze, the only light in the dark room. It was definitely past time that they get up, and Twilight regretted that she would have to wake up her marefriend from her rest. Still, they had important things to do and prepare for. Leaning forward, she nuzzled Gilda's cheek, trailing soft kisses up and down her neck.
"Gilda…" Twilight whispered, hoping to bring the griffin to a slow awakening. "Gilda, it's time to wake up."
"No…" Gilda groaned, clacking her beak. With a claw, she pushed Twilight away and then rolled over, covering her face with her claws.
"Come on!" Twilight giggled. She crawled over Gilda's side, burrowing between Gilda's forelegs until they were beak to muzzle. "We need to get ready. We're going to be at the Citadel soon."
"The Citadel can buck itself," she mumbled, her eyes bleary as she looked at Twilight. "I wanna' sleep."
Laughing, Twilight rolled out of Gilda's grasp and out of bed. Igniting her horn, she lifted Gilda off the mattress. Immediately, the griffin squawked in alarm, her eyes shooting open in panic as she flew through through air behind Twilight.
"Oh, you're fine," Twilight said, rolling her eyes. "Stop being such a chick. It's time to wake up."
"I was sleeping." Realizing what was happening, Gilda crossed her forelegs and let her hindlegs drag behind her, glaring at Twilight.
"And now you aren't!" Twilight chirped, humming happily to herself.
"Yeah, and who's fault is that?" Gilda yawned, rolling her neck. "You couldn't at least have given me a better wake up call?"
"I tried." Twilight shrugged, setting Gilda tenderly down on the floor on all four of her legs, only canceling her magic when she was sure that the griffin was ready. "Then you ignored me, so I had to take desperate measures."
"I don't like your desperate measures." Gilda refused to meet Twilight's eyes as the smaller pony trotted to her side, kissing her cheek.
"I never said you were supposed to," she said with a tiny giggle.
Gilda just groaned. She stomped over to the dresser. Opening it with one of her claws, she pulled out a baggy green hoody with a printed picture of Daring Do, merchandising from the upcoming first film. Needless to say, both Gilda and Twilight were wildly looking forward to it. Twilight had taken Gilda through the entire book series, and they were both fans.
Pulling the hoody on, she pulled the hoody over her head, reveling for a moment in the fact that she could wear whatever she wanted without the approval of a master.
"It's too early." She glared at Twilight. "I need coffee."
"Then you're in luck!" Twilight turned the lights of the room on, and she regretted it instantly, squinting her eyes at the sudden brightness. Gilda hissed, covering her eyes with a claw. "The kitchen should be open by now."
"Good." Gilda grunted, blindly making her way towards the doors on three legs. She stomped out of the room, glowering at Twilight's giggles as struggled with the door, still covering her eyes. Somehow, they managed to make it to the dining room, which thankfully was nowhere near as bright as their bedroom had been.
Gilda slumped down into a seat at the table closest to the kitchen. The dining room had been built to hold far more people, with all of the room that the Princess needed to throw parties for all of the dignitaries and VIPs of wherever she was visiting. Needless to say, the dining room was not fulfilling its purpose at the moment, with only Gilda and Twilight present for their meals.
As Twilight trotted after Gilda, taking her seat next to her, a young unicorn mare, Tiny Berry, burst from the kitchen and trotted up to the table. She had a perky and cheery smile on her face. The moment that Gilda saw her, she groaned and dropped her head down onto the table.
"Good morning!" Tiny Berry chirped, almost sound like a gryphon herself. She had been serving the entire crew their meals, and was quickly becoming a constant presence on the ship. Her enthusiasm was infectious, at least for most.
Gilda was completely immune.
"Good morning, Berry." Twilight greeted. "What's on the menu today?"
"Carmel Breeze is making a wonderful Huervos Rancheros for breakfast." She did a little trot in place, ending the little flourish of her forehoof.
"That sounds good." Twilight was eager to eat, her belly beginning to protest hungrily as Tiny Berry filled two cups with ice cold water and set them before the two of them.
Gilda just grumbled into the table.
"I'm sorry, Ms. Blackwing," Tiny Berry said. "I didn't quite hear you."
Gilda rolled her head over so she could look at Berry without lifting her head up. "Bring me two."
"I can most certainly do that!" Tiny Berry hopped away back to the kitchen, humming to herself.
"She's too damn cheerful." Gilda grumbled, her eyes half-lidded. "I need coffee."
"You're too grumpy." Taking a sip of water, Twilight bumped Gilda's shoulder with her hoof.
"Never!" Gilda protested, shaking a claw at Twilight. She pushed up the sleeves of her hoody, playing with the drawstring.
Sitting there, they lapsed into silence for a moment. Gilda rolled the drawstring around one of her claws idly, looking up to find Twilight chewing on her lip, looking conflicted over something.
Opening her mouth, Twilight started to say something but it died in her throat. She choked, coughing and taking a deep gulp of her water to sooth her throat. Blushing, she looked at Gilda and gave her an embarrassed smile, her ears flat against her head.
"You alright there?"
"Yeah," Twilight coughed out. She beat her chest with her hoof for a moment until she was better. She was silent for several long moments, before trying again. "How…"
She snapped her mouth shut, chewing on her lip.
"What?" Gilda asked, ready to move the conversation along.
"It's nothing," Twilight said blushing, shaking her head.
"What?" She rolled her eyes. She had noticed that this was something that Twilight did sometimes. She would get too flustered and just try to move past whatever it was that she wanted to ask. You had to sometimes just push a little harder for her to spit out what she had wanted to ask. "Come on. Ask your question."
Twilight sighed, scowling, before scooching her chair closer to Gilda's. She put a hoof on one of Gilda's claws, meeting her gaze. Taking a deep breath, she asked her question. "Are you alright with returning to the Citadel?"
Gilda ducked her head. It was a valid question. The last time that she had been on the Citadel, she had gone through one of the most emotionally trying times in her life. She tapped her claws against the table nervously.
"I'm… I'm fine." She shrugged, not really sure whether she believed that or not.
"It's okay if you're not Gilda." Twilight reassured her. "It's a big step. You don't ever have to step out of the ship if you don't want to."
"I'm fine." Taking a deep breath, Gilda sat up, resting her head on Twilight's shoulder. "I'll be fine."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah." Gilda gave a short nod. "Like ya' said. It's a big step." She nuzzled against Twilight, letting herself relax. "It's a step I need to take. I need to do this if I'm ever going to be okay with myself."
"I'll be there with you the entire time," Twilight murmured, trying her best to reassure her.
"Thanks." Gilda clacked her beak and sat up straight in her own chair. "I… I don't know what I'd do without you."
"You'd be strong, and you'd be just fine." Twilight gave a confident nod of her head before finishing off the rest of her water. "You're a strong griffin, and you're the one who's making the choices to get better. Your parents are proud of you. Celestia is proud of you."
Twilight leaned forward and laid a kiss on Gilda's beak. "And I'm proud of you! You're going to show the galaxy what you can do."
Tiny Berry burst out from the kitchen, Spike following after her with a plate full of food in his claws. Tiny Berry bounced over to them, two plates floating after her in her magic.
"Hey Twilight!" Spike waved with his free hand, speaking around a mouthful of food. He slid into a seat next to Gilda, gorging himself on his breakfast as Tiny Berry set her two plates in front of Twilight and Gilda.
"Good morning, Spike." Twilight gave him a little wave. "How did you sleep?"
"Like a…" He paused, his face scrunching up in distaste at what he realized he almost said.
"You are a baby dragon, Spike. No shame there." Twilight giggled.
"Enjoy" She chirped.
"Thank you," Twilight said.
"Yeah, thanks." Gilda mumbled, already picking up her fork with a claw to start eating.
Tiny Berry gave a satisfied nod before bouncing away, humming to herself.
"This is Colonel Honey Dawn." The hidden speakers in the dining room rang out clearly. "We are just about to make the jump through the Arcturus Relay. We'll be docking at the Citadel in about an hour."
"Brace for jump." Little Hoof's voice came from the speakers. One of Solar One's copilots, he had served with Honey Dawn for the five years since his graduation from the Wonderbolt's academy. "5… 4… 3… 2… 1. Mark."
There was an ever so slight judder throughout the entirety of the ship, barely noticeable to anyone who wasn't specifically paying attention to it. Twilight noticed it, and nodded to herself in appreciation of the smooth flight. Some pilots were nowhere near as good.
"We are now in the Serpent Nebula." Honey Dawn said.
Presidium, Citadel, Serpent Nebula
Ponies were among the shortest of all of the Citadel races, a trait that they shared with the much less adept Volus. Unlike the volus, ponies were highly adaptable with talents that included far more than banking. The ability to breath oxygen was also a plus. The volus breathed an ammonia mixture that required them to wear specialized suits outside of their few worlds.
None of this was going through Sweetie Belle's mind as she trotted after her sister, looking around wide eyed at the Presidium surrounding her. All of the other races towered over her, and all she really had was an amazing view of everyone's knees. She had to crane her head back to see anything, while also keeping her sister's bobbing violet tail and elegant dress in view. She had a feeling that getting lost here was not the best idea, and she would be ground for at least a week! Being stuck in their hotel room for that long was sure to make her go mad. She slipped between a tall turian's legs, squeaking an apology over her shoulder, as she struggled to keep up with her sister's excited trot.
"Here we are, Sweetie Belle."
Before Sweetie could react, she found her muzzle bumping right into her sister's rear and she plopped backwards onto the ground. "We're here?"
Turning to address her little sister, Rarity paused when she found her sitting on the ground. With her magic, she lifted her off the ground and set her on all four of her hooves. "What are you doing the ground, Sweetie? You're going to ruin your dress."
"Yeah." Sweetie rolled her eyes, glaring back at the monstrosity that Rarity had forced her to wear. Who needed clothes anyway? It's not like she had to wear anything on Equestria, but that didn't matter to Rarity. Whenever they traveled off of Equestria, Rarity insisted that they wear clothes. "That would be such a shame."
"I'm glad you recognize that, Sweetie Belle," Rarity said, completely missing the sarcasm in her sister's voice. "Now come along. We don't want to keep the Ambassador waiting."
Sweeping her little sister along after her, Rarity entered the Equestrian Embassy with the same flair that she always exuded. She was definitely a vision with a gleaming white coat and a shining purple mane, curled just so, a deceptively simple dress completing her look.
"Miss Rarity, welcome." From behind his desk, the Ambassador's secretary stood. He recognized her from the scheduled visitor list. "We've been expecting you."
"Thank you." Sweetie Belle watched as Rarity deigned to give the secretary a small smile, bowing her head in that way she did whenever she wanted to wrap somepony around her hooves. "I'm only glad to help the Ambassador."
"Please, go on in." The secretary pressed a hidden button on his desk, unlocking the door behind him that led inside to the Embassy proper. He bowed his head to Rarity, winking at Sweetie Belle. "Ambassador Blueblood is waiting inside."
"Thank you very much." Glancing down at Sweetie Belle, Rarity found her taking in the impressive Royal Guards lining the entrance in their golden armor and polished battle harnesses. Best to get her out here as fast as possible. "Come, Sweetie Belle. We must not keep a gentle stallion waiting."
Rolling her eyes, Sweetie Belle followed after Rarity. She took one last look over her shoulder at the guards. Their armor looked far cooler to wear than Rarity's stupid dresses, and she could just imagine herself in a gleaming set, standing proudly while millions cheered for her.
Her dreams of being a hero quickly disappeared as Sweetie Belle followed Rarity deeper into the embassy and the guards passed out of her sight. The little filly had to instead turn her attention to other things. A few ponies were lingering in the hall, but none of them were of any interest to Sweetie. They were dressed in the same boring clothes that Rarity loved so much. The Embassy itself was not much better.
Much like the rest of the Presidium, the Embassy was made of the same strange materials as the rest of the Citadel, extremely hard to classify and work with. The keepers however, crafted the material with ease. It wasn't uncommon for new buildings to appear overnight, or for offices to be completely remodeled while the workers were absent. It had even happened a few times to the Equestrian Embassy.
Rarity led Sweetie Belle to a large office door at the end of the hall, which was simply marked: Ambassador Blueblood. As they walked up to it, sensors hidden in the walls caught their movement, scanned their identification, queried the logs, and as soon as the query came back positive, the door slid open. The entire process took less than a second to occur, and they didn't notice.
"Miss Rarity!" Blueblood was waiting in his office, just to the side of his office. A warm smile on his face, he gave a welcoming bow as the door to his office opened and Rarity and Sweetie Belle entered. "I can't thank you enough for coming to do this."
"Please, think nothing of it, Ambassador." Rarity smiled demurely, giving a little half curtsey to the tall, handsome stallion. "I am always glad to be of help to Equestria."
"Really, Miss Rarity," Blueblood said. "You are far too kind."
Rarity waved away his thanks, a humble but proud look on her face.
"And who is this?" Blueblood accepted Rarity's desire to move on, and instead turned his attention to the little white filly standing next to her. He offered her a smile, and she gave one right back.
"I'm Sweetie Belle!" She chirped, her voice cracking in the most adorable way. The enthusiasm with which she introduced herself made her curled mane bounce right along with her movement.
"Well, hello Sweetie Belle." He laughed. It was so rare to find such enthusiasm and innocence with the beings that he spent so much of his time around. It was refreshing, and he gave her a little bow in thanks. "I'm Ambassador Blueblood."
"What's an A-Ambassadoor?" Sweetie Belle's muzzle scrunched as she tried out the unfamiliar word.
"Ambassador, Sweetie Belle," Rarity corrected. Sweetie wasn't able to resist the urge to glare at her and her prim and proper voice. She was going to figure it out all on her own. There wasn't any need for Rarity to correct her. She was a smart filly, after all.
"It means that I'm Equestria's representative on the Citadel," Blueblood said, stepping in before sibling rivalry could explode in his office.
"Repra…" Sweetie's muzzle scrunched again and she dropped back onto her haunches. What was it with big words she didn't know all attacking her at once today? "Repra…"
"Representative." Rarity said, apparently unaffected by Sweetie's earlier glare. "It means that he is—"
"It means that I speak for the Princesses in front of the Councilors." Blueblood interrupted Rarity.
"Oh." Sweetie Belle had already grown bored of the conversation. She wanted to go back out into the Presidium and explore! It was far more interesting out there.
"Are you hungry, Sweetie Belle?" Noticing the wanderlust in the filly's eyes, Blueblood took action.
"A little." Sweetie shrugged.
"There is a rather marvelous cake in the kitchens. One of my secretaries had a birthday yesterday, and there's still some leftover." Glancing at Rarity first to make sure that it was okay, Blueblood offered another option to filly, instead of making her wait for the two of them to be done. "If you want, my assistant could get you a slice."
"Really?" Perking up, Sweetie Belle turned to Rarity. "Can I, Rarity?"
"Only one slice, Sweetie Belle." Rarity turned a warning eye to her sister, making sure the exuberant filly was listening. "You don't want to ruin your appetite."
"Daisy, could you come to my office please?" Opening his omni-tool, Blueblood called for his assistant. He laughed as Sweetie Belle started to hop eagerly on her hooves.
It only took a moment for Daisy to enter Blueblood's office. A young earth pony mare, she was dressed in a simple business suit. "Ambassador."
"Daisy, could you please take Sweetie Belle here to the kitchen and get her a piece of the birthday cake?"
"Certainly, Ambassador." She stepped aside to let Sweetie Belle out through the door. Sweetie eagerly trotted out of Blueblood's office, and Daisy shut the door behind her as soon as she had left.
"Well let's not waste any time. I'm sure that you're very busy." Rarity activated her scanning tool on her omni-tool. That little feature had made her life so much easier after the moment she had learned how to use it. Being able to perfectly size a pony had allowed her to create daring outfits that clung to ponies like a second coat. "Now, do you have any ideas for how you would like this to look, Ambassador?"
"I have a few thoughts, but I'm willing to let you work your magic." He smirked, his tone even a little teasing. "I'm sure you won't disappoint."
"I think that you'll be quite pleased." Rarity adjusted her mane, strutting forward proudly. "All eyes will be on you when you wear this, I can guarantee that."
She didn't quite snort in pride, but it was the same effect. She knew her talent, and had a confident ease that went along with it. Lifting her hoof and bringing her omni-tool up to Blueblood's chest level, Rarity held very still. "Please hold still, Ambassador. This will only take a moment."
Like she said, it did only take a moment.
"Fancy Pants said you were the finest seamstress in Equestria," Blueblood said as he watched Rarity check over the scan.
"Really?" She looked up at him in surprise.
"Yes, he did." It amused Blueblood that Rarity seemed to have no concept of how much of a rising star she was. She was shining so bright that it had caught even his notice. "When I learned that you were going to be visiting the Citadel, I couldn't help but see if you were open for a commission."
"Well!" She blushed, hiding demurely behind her mane, but she couldn't hide the excited twinkle in her eye. "I am glad that I could be of service."
"I'm sure that whatever you create will stand out. How could it not?"
"We can't have Equestria shown up by any of the other races." She sniffed, lifting her muzzle just enough to let Blueblood know what she thought of that idea.
Before Blueblood could respond, a soft chime came from Blueblood's omni-tool. Looking down, he answered the call. "Golden? What is it?"
"There is a Twilight Sparkle to see you, Ambassador," one of Blueblood's secretaries (presumably this Golden) said.
Rarity's eyes widened, the name instantly familiar to her. How could it not be? The personal student to the Empress of Equestria. That mare was going places, and it appeared her first stop was Blueblood's office.
"Huh, she's early." Blueblood shrugged, sparing a glance at Rarity. "Please, Golden, send her in. Call for Elelia. I need her here as soon as possible."
"Yes sir." Golden ended the call.
The office fell silent, and Rarity stared at Blueblood. It was against everything she believed in as a proper mare to pry into Blueblood's affairs, but she was pony enough to admit that she had a problem with gossip. She shuffled closer to him, biting her lip as she tried to keep from blurting out every question that passed through her mind.
"Go ahead and ask." Rolling his eyes, Blueblood laughed and shook his head. "You look like you're about to explode."
"Twilight Sparkle?" It would be bad for her image if she bounced for joy at the excitement she was feeling. Keep it cool Rarity, don't let the Ambassador know the extent of your madness. "What is she doing here?"
"She has immediate business with the Citadel Archives," Blueblood admitted, retaking his seat behind his desk. "For what, I wasn't made aware. It has to be important though."
"It seems that being the personal student to Empress Celestia certainly opens doors." What she wouldn't give to have that type of notability. Who knows, judging by Blueblood's own admission, she could be well on her way.
"You haven't heard?" Blueblood's eyes widened and he smirked, realizing that he knew something that Rarity had yet to discover.
"Heard what?" She had been out of touch for several days, working on her latest inspiration. Did she miss something important?
"Celestia named Twilight as her Celestial Emissary." Blueblood said it with such finality that Rarity knew it meant something important.
"What does that mean, exactly?" She had never heard that title before, and that was a rarity in and of itself. Rarity had spent weeks at the Ponyville library when she was a filly reading about all of the noble houses, and she had managed to give herself a practical education in the workings of the Equestrian government, as confusing as it could be at times.
"It means that the Princesses decided that Twilight had every reason to be granted the authority of Celestia herself." That was no small feat. Equestria, on both the national and planetary level, had ponies to manage the day to day running of the government (or governments, as it was on a planetary scale), but whatever Celestia said was law. The amount of power that the Empress had vested into a mare that was still on the verge of adulthood was simply staggering. Twilight Sparkle had the power to start wars and command armies.
It must be an awful weight, Rarity thought. She knew that she would never be able to do the same. "I must confess that I've been out of contact for the past week. This is certainly news for me."
"It was news to a lot of us."
Before he could say anything else, the door to his office slid open and Twilight Sparkle entered, followed by a taller, heavily scarred griffin chick. Rarity was instantly struck by how… plain Twilight was. As the Princesses student, she had been expecting a mare with perfectly styled mane and clothing from the finest tailors across the galaxy. It would only be fitting after all, there were rumors that Celestia thought of Twilight as her daughter.
Twilight fit none of Rarity's expectations. Instead, she was dressed in a simple dress, made of plain yellow fabric and a slightly dirty pair of saddle bags were wrapped around her waist. Her mane looked as if it had been cut as simply and efficiently as possible, into a style that probably required no major work in the morning.
The griffin behind her was a surprise. Beneath the scars, Rarity saw a great beauty that was just waiting for the right hoof to come along and coax it out. That beauty however, was being hidden (or possibly ignored), and the griffin had chosen to wear one of those horrid hooded sweatshirts that humans seemed so fond of, with a colorfully printed pony stenciled onto its chest. The sweatshirt hid her wings, though there was something about the impression of them under the fabric that didn't look quite right. The griffin was also wearing a pair of hosts to protect her own modesty, but it appeared that she cared just as little as Twilight did about her appearance.
Before Rarity could find it in herself to be disappointed (this is the student that the Empress chose?), she caught sight of Twilight's eyes. It was in that moment she understood. Twilight Sparkle was an exceptional mare, and it showed in every step she took. She may not care about fashion, but Rarity had a feeling that she wouldn't want to go hoof to hoof with her over any matter without the expectation of losing horribly.
Rarity's entire observation took less then a second, and when Blueblood bowed, she followed his lead. She caught sight of a surprised look in Twilight's eyes, and realized that the mare was probably startled to find anypony else with Blueblood.
"Oh, Ambassador, I didn't know you were already busy." The sheer embarrassment in her voice was one of the most adorable things that Rarity had ever heard, and she had a feeling that she would have an easy time befriending the mare if the opportunity ever arose.
"It's no problem at all." Blueblood gestured at Rarity, making introductions. "I was just getting fitting me for a new outfit. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, I believe that we were just finishing up."
Twilight offered a kind, but distant smile to Rarity. She was obviously eager to get to her business, whatever that may be. Blueblood looked over at the griffin and winced as he immediately realized a problem.
"Elli is coming to take you to the Archives," Blueblood said, frowning, "But I was only able to get access for you, Twilight."
"Oh?" Twilight's muzzle scrunched up in thought as she glanced over at the griffin. "Are you alright staying at the embassy?"
"Yeah." The griffin shrugged. It was obvious that she wasn't thrilled with the prospect, but she wasn't going to voice any complaints.
"That is perfectly alright—"
"I would be more than willing to show you around the Citadel as you wait." It took Rarity a moment to realize that she had spoken, and another moment after that to realize what she had offered. The next moment she took to think about it, and realized that she had no problem with what her mouth had offered without her permission. The griffin obviously meant a lot to Twilight, and sparing her from a few hours of boredom was simply the generous thing to do. "It would be far more exciting than waiting here for what I am sure is going to be hours."
Both Twilight and the griffin looked surprised at Rarity's offer, neither having paid much attention to her despite her placement in the room. They both looked to Blueblood, hoping that he would be able to tell whether or not it was a good idea.
"Miss Belle is an upstanding young mare." He had nothing else to offer.
Twilight glanced at the griffin, who shuffled her claws on the floor for a moment before meeting Rarity's gaze and giving a brisk nod.
"Yeah," the griffin said. Rarity was surprised for just a moment at the huskiness of her voice. She looked away as quickly as possible, pretending to be interested in the shelves of books that lined Blueblood's office. "Okay."
"Wonderful!" Rarity nodded, a warm smile on her face. The griffin may be standoffish, but she would receive nothing but friendliness from her.
"When you're finished, please meet me back at my ship," Twilight said. Rarity had to keep herself from bursting in excitement at being addressed directly by her. "Gilda knows the way."
"Let me just collect my little sister and we can get going." Rarity kept her surprise at Twilight's admission to owning a personal ship off her face. It was no small deal, especially considering the cost of upkeep for even the smallest eezo drive core. Obviously being Celestia's personal student came with quite a few perks.
Rarity turned and left, trotting out of Blueblood's office. Gilda glanced at Twilight before following after her, and the door shut, leaving Twilight and Blueblood alone in his office.
"The last time we saw each other," Blueblood leapt off his chair, walking around the desk to stand next to Twilight, "I don't think either of us was picturing you being my boss six months later."
"I'm not your boss." She rolled her eyes, scoffing at him.
"Technically, yes. Yes you are."
"Well…" Blushing, Twilight scuffed a hoof against the floor. She had known Blueblood for quite a long time, having spent a large majority of her life living in the Royal Castle. In many ways he was almost like another big brother.
"There's no need to be embarrassed, Twilight."
"Right, well." Twilight straightened up, taking a deep breath. She had a job to do after all. She wasn't just on the Citadel to visit. "Who's Elelia?"
"She's an archeologist with the Archives, fairly low level, but you won't find anyone more knowledgable than her in the archives." Blueblood had spoken to her after Councilor Tevos had granted Twilight access to the archive, and he had quite enjoyed the Asari. She was knowledgable, but extremely shy, much like Twilight herself.
"That's good." Twilight nodded, pleased. "Hopefully she can help.
"What exactly are you looking for, if that's something I can ask." He walked back around to his chair, sitting down.
"It's classified," She said with a small wince. "I'm sorry."
"Hmm." Blueblood nodded. Important then. "I hope you find what you are looking for."
"Ambassador, Dr. Elelia has arrived." Golden's voice chimed over Blueblood's omni-tool, startling Twilight at its sudden noise.
"Very good. Thank you, Golden. We'll come out to meet her." Blueblood walked up to the door to his office, and it slid open for him. He held out a hoof, motioning for Twilight to walk out before him. "Please, after you ma'am."
"Yes, sir." Golden cut off the communication.
Together, they left his office and walked down the hall towards the entrance of the Embassy. They exited out into the main lobby to find a tall and thin Asari standing near Golden's desk, rocking back and forth on her heels with her hands clasped nervously at her waist. She was nowhere near as beautiful as the majority of her kind, and her back was ever so slightly hunched, as if she spent a lot of time leaning over a desk. Her wide eyes curiously took in everything, looking everywhere. Dressed in a simple coat and pants with comfortable shoes, it was obvious that she was dressed to spend time in a slightly chilled place.
"Elelia," Blueblood greeted, trotting up to her.
"Ambassador, hi!" Elelia gave a small wave, biting her lip as she looked at Twilight curiously.
"Elelia, this is Twilight Sparkle," Blueblood said, gesturing at the mare.
"Your highness." Elelia bowed to Twilight, stumbling over her words. She was unfamiliar with all of the workings of Equestria's government, and hoped that she wasn't saying anything that could counted as an offense.
"Please, just call me Twilight." Twilight knew that it was an appropriate title, but that didn't matter. To her, only the Princesses deserved such an honor.
"Oh, um…" Elelia blushed, embarrassed. "Of course… Twilight."
"Well then, why don't we get started!" Twilight gave the Asari a warm grin, wanting to let her know that there were no hard feelings between them.
"Yes, Twilight." Elelia gestured towards the entrance to the Embassy. "I have an aircar waiting outside. I'm ready to go immediately to the archives."
"I'll follow you, then." Twilight turned to Blueblood, trotting forward to give him a quick hug. "Thank you, Blueblood."
"Of course, Twilight Sparkle." He returned the hug. "Anything for you."
Twilight followed Elelia out of the Embassy, and just like the Asari had said, there was an aircar waiting outside for them. The engine was still idling, and they climbed in. As soon as the door shut, the aircar lifted up and joined the plethora of other vehicles above the Presidium lake speeding around the massive inner ring.
Twilight was bouncing in her seat, unable to contain her excitement. Getting permission to enter the Citadel Archives was no small feat. There some that waited lifetimes for such a chance, only to pass before permission ever came. The Archives themselves held the combined knowledge of all of the Council species, their histories, recovered artifacts, and other bits of interest. It held the most complete knowledge base of the Prothean race in the entire galaxy, and it was jealously guarded. The caretakers of the Archives often fell away from their past connections with their family and friends, burying themselves completely into their work.
The flight seemed to take forever for Twilight. In reality, it only took a few minutes. Elelia was silent, tapping her fingers nervously against her leg, taking the occasional glance over at Twilight before looking away just as quickly. It was entirely possible that she had never seen a pony in her life before being contacted by Ambassador Blueblood.
Thankfully, before the flight could grow awkward, the aircar came to land in front of the heavily guarded entrance of the Archives. The Archives themselves were actually hidden deeper inside the ring of the Presidium, with only a single story building on the surface that acted as an entrance and a choke point.
Elelia led Twilight through the entrance, and she saw that the doors were half a foot thick. Glancing up, she saw a much larger, heavily armored door that would come slamming down in the case of an attack. Everywhere that she looked, Twilight saw evidence of a building built to defend any type of attack. It made sense. The Council obviously wanted to protect their repository of knowledge as carefully as they possibly could.
"Right this way, please," A turian C-Sec officer said as they walked up towards the first checkpoint. He ushered them through a large scanner, and both Elelia and Twilight came up clean. The C-Sec officer waved them through. "Thank you. You're clear to go."
"Welcome to the Citadel Archives," Elelia said, smiling down at Twilight.
Elelia led Twilight out of the C-Sec check point and into the Archives proper. Twilight's eyes went wide when she saw the sheer amount of work that was going on, especially so close to the surface levels of the Archive. Dozens of people were going about their business, studying little pieces that the archives had recently collected, the little unimportant pieces.
Twilight rubber necked at every table as Elelia led her past them. She saw Asari fertility artifacts, prothean data discs, ancient scrolled salarian breeding contracts, and some things that she couldn't even begin to name. It boggled her mind when she realized that this wasn't even the impressive stuff. Those were probably hidden deep within the archives.
"Was that…" Twilight's excitement grew as she caught a glimpse of what looked like an early first attempt at turian armor. It looked ancient, and Twilight wondered how old it was. "Is that…"
"No!" Twilight shook her head. She was getting access to bigger, more important things and it wasn't worth wasting her time looking at trinkets. "Right. Now what I'm here for."
Elelia giggled at Twilight's enthusiasm before gesturing towards an elevator at the back of the room. "The Archive access I've scheduled for you is down another level."
"I can't wait!" Twilight chirped. She followed Elelia inside, and watched as the Asari typed in a code into the hard-light keypad on the side of the elevator. Moments later, Twilight felt her stomach drop as the elevator sped downwards.
Presidium, Citadel, Serpent Nebula
Gilda followed after the mare and the little filly, down the walkways of the Presidium. They were garnering looks from all of the other races who were going about their day. Lawyers, politicians, millionaires, billionaires, and even the occasional trillionaire stopped and stared at the two ponies and the griffin as they passed. They obviously weren't a common sight on the Citadel.
"Pay no mind to them, dear," the older mare said, noticing Gilda's uncomfortableness with the situation. "They are only looking because they are jealous."
"Jealous?" Gilda's face crunched up in confusion.
"Of course!" The mare flipped her violet curled mane out of the way in as dramatic a way as possible. "Why wouldn't they be? We are young, we are beautiful, and the galaxy is our diamond to just reach out and take for our own."
Gilda stumbled at mare's words, quickly catching herself. Beautiful? She didn't believe that for a moment, not with all of her scars. Gilda pushed past those thoughts and realized something. "I… uh… I just realized I never got your name."
"Oh." The mare blinked, realizing that Gilda was speaking the truth. Her little sister stopped next to her. "How terribly rude of me. I am Rarity Belle, and this is my little sister, Sweetie Belle."
"I'm Gilda Blackwing." She wasn't quite sure whether or not she should put out a claw to shake their hooves or not, and instead did nothing. That turned out to be the right thing as Rarity trotted up to the railing overlooking the Presidium lake.
"What do you think of the Presidium, Gilda?" Rarity asked, admiring the sculptures that lined the center of the lake.
"It's big." Gilda looked around, following the curve of the Presidium up until it disappeared out of view. "Loud."
"I think it's marvelous." She reared up, supporting her forehooves on the railing. "It has a subtle beauty that I cannot help but admire."
"It's just boring," Sweetie Belle whispered, falling back next to Gilda and sticking out her tongue.
Gilda couldn't help but giggle with the filly.
"What was that, Sweetie Belle?" Rarity cast an unamused but long suffering glance at Sweetie Belle, who instantly gave her older sister the largest, toothiest smile that Gilda had ever seen.
"Nothing!" She chirped innocently.
"Of course." Rarity dropped back down onto all four of her hooves before leading them to an overlook that sat over the lake, near a fountain and a large statue of a Mass Relay, which had apparently been left behind by the protheans.
"Seems like a stupid thing to make a statute of," Gilda remarked, staring at the Relay.
"What?" Rarity scoffed, turning away from her own admiration to look Gilda in the eye. "No! Sometimes finding the beauty in the everyday allows us to see things from a new perspective. This is a beautiful piece of work, and its sculptor was obviously a master. They wanted to capture the most powerful part of their culture and I believe that they succeeded."
"Sure." Gilda glanced down at Sweetie Belle and saw that the filly looked as incredulous as she felt.
"I'm glad that you agree!"
Sweetie Belle rolled her eyes, dropping back onto her haunches. "Ugh! I'm bored. Let's do something fun, Rarity. Neither of us just wants to sit and stare at stupid statues."
"Honestly, Sweetie Belle." Rarity didn't at all sound surprised by Sweetie Belle's statement, and Gilda figured that it was probably a common occurrence between the two.
"Please?" Pleading, Sweetie Belle turned the widest, most adorable eyes at Rarity. She tried to make herself look as cute as possible, and she succeeded.
Gilda found herself instantly within her grasp, and she knew she wouldn't be able to deny the adorable filly anything. Sweetie Belle had perfected weaponized cuteness.
"A lady never begs, Sweetie Belle," Rarity said, completely unaffected. She had long ago built up a resistance.
"Who says I want to be a lady?" Sweetie Belle grumbled to herself, pouting.
"Very well." Rarity relented. "Did you have anything in mind?"
"Huh…" Sweetie had to think for a moment, tapping a little hoof against her chin as she squinted and looked up to the right. In its own way, her adorableness was even higher when she wasn't actively trying to manipulate anypony to her will.
"Is there anything that you would like to do?" Rarity turned her attention to Gilda. "You are our guest after all."
"I…" Gilda froze, put on the spot, a slight blush on her cheeks. "I don't really know anything about the Citadel."
"There's no reason to be embarrassed by that, darling," Rarity said.
Gilda just shrugged, unconvinced.
"Is there anything that you absolutely, positively do not want to do?" Rarity asked, wanting to make sure that they didn't do anything that Gilda was uncomfortable with.
Gilda shook her head. She was up for pretty much anything.
"Very well then." Rarity turned back to Sweetie Belle. "Sweetie Belle? Did you come up with anything?"
Sweetie Belle perked up, an idea coming to her. "We should go to a concert!"
"I don't know if there are any concerts right now, Sweetie Belle." Sweetie Belle lowered her head, crestfallen, her lips quivering in disappointment. Rarity blanched, quickly coming up with a much smaller idea. "But, we may be able to find a restaurant with live music."
"That'd work." Perking up, Sweetie Belle nodded, a smile once again on her face.
"There we go. It's a plan then." Opening her omni-tool, Rarity preformed a quick search for any restaurants of clubs that would work. She found one nearly instantly, and it wasn't very far away either. "Here's one. Purgatory. It's all the rage right now, and it has live music."
"Cool!" Sweetie Belle hopped up to all four of her hooves, a grin spreading across her muzzle. "Let's go!"
Immediately, she started trotting off up the stairs back to the main level of the walkway. She was about to step out amongst the crowd, but stopped, looking back at Rarity and Gilda with a blush.
"Where are we going?" She asked, her voice squeaking.
"This way, Sweetie Belle," Rarity said, trotting off in the opposite direction from where Sweetie Belle was going.
"Oh." Sweetie Belle rushed forward to catch up to Rarity and Gilda as they made their way through the crowds, following the directions her omni-tool chirped out every so often.
The walk to Purgatory was thankfully fairly short, because the looks that Gilda was getting were causing the griffin to pull further and further into her shell. By the time they got there, she was practically hiding behind Rarity, never mind the fact that it didn't work at all. She was far bigger than the unicorn, and the entire effect looked rather ridiculous.
Purgatory turned out to be partially hidden between two larger buildings, and at first glance it was just a simple door in the wall with a sign over it proclaiming its name in flashing neon lights. Rarity eyed the establishment with cautious eyes and a nervous ball in the pit of her stomach. She knew that such places existed, and while she didn't have any problems with them personally, she wasn't sure whether or not Sweetie Belle was ready to be introduced to them.
Together, the three of them entered Purgatory, the door sliding open before them. The entrance led into a vestibule that Rarity realized acted as a sound dampener. As soon as they had passed through the first door, they became immediately aware of a deep, rythmic thumping pulsing through the air. They could feel it deep in their chests, and Gilda found a deeply hidden part of her reaching out for it. It was almost as if something inside her waking up, a primal side that she had forgotten from the chains and the whips.
Passing through the vestibule, they entered into the main room of Purgatory, and Rarity found herself more than little taken aback, realizing that it was quite a bit more than she had imagined it was. On an upper floor, a rather large crowd writhed in beat with the music, dancing in a wild, unrestrained way that went counter to her entire being.
Glancing down at Sweetie Belle, Rarity found the filly bending her knees in time with the music. She looked back over the club and realized despite the sheer wildness of the music and the strobing lights, there was nothing too out there. Sharing a look with Gilda, they wordlessly agreed to give the place a try.
"Well..." Rarity pushed down her inner critic and instead turned her thoughts to Sweetie Belle. Despite their similarities, the filly had her own passions that didn't always match up hers, preferring wilder, dirtier activities than her more cultured older sister. "Why don't we find a table?"
The club turned out to be a free for all, find your own seating type of place. Unlike the clubs that Rarity was more familiar with on Equestria and abroad, the Citadel worked and breathed around the clock. There was always a large group of people who were awake and searching for a good time, and the space-station had long ago adapted itself to that mindset. It was the rare restaurant or bar that ever closed its doors, instead keeping staff on around the clock.
The Citadel never closed after all.
Still, Purgatory wasn't incredibly crowded, the time fitting neatly between half of the station's sleep cycle, and the other half between their lunch hour and dinner, but despite that it was still fairly full. They were able to find a table fairly quickly, and it lowered to suit their height as they approached. Rarity admired the technology for a moment, marveling at just how the Citadel had had adapted itself to the lives of dozens of disparate alien races.
"Now, how are we supposed to order?" Rarity searched the club for any sign of waiters or staff, but despite a few bartenders, there weren't any visible staff-members wandering about. Instead, the center of the table buzzed to life with a holographic menu that they could order directly from. Viewing it, Rarity nodded in appreciation. "Ah! That's simple."
It only took a couple of minutes to place their orders, Rarity getting a rum and coke, Sweetie Belle an order of vegetarian nachos, and Gilda a side of hot wings (she had a fondness for spicy food that could only be attributed to her diet while stuck in Batarian space).
"Look!" Sweetie Belle cried, pointing her hoof up at a stage that was rising between the large dance floor above them and the lower floor meant for mingling and conversations. "Over there!"
Rarity and Gilda followed Sweetie Belle's pointing hoof to find a white mare setting up on the stage. She had a mechanical leg, with a short and shockingly blue neon mane. A grey earth pony mare was helping her.
"What luck." Maybe this would be something more than she was expecting. Outside of Equestria, running across other ponies, even other Equestrians, was rather rare. To find two of them in less than an hour was simply good luck. Obviously whomever owned the club had excellent taste in musicians.
The grey mare finished helping the other set up fairly quickly, giving the white mare a passionate kiss before trotting down the stage and over to the bar. On the way, she spotted Rarity and her little group and blinked.
"Hello!" With a surprised but welcoming smile, she trotted over to greet them. The mare spoke with a cultured accent, reminiscent of one humanities. "We certainly weren't expecting to see any other Equestrians here."
"We were just showing Gilda here around the Citadel on the Ambassador's behalf." Rarity introduced Gilda first before putting a hoof to her own chest. "My name is Rarity, and this is my little sister Sweetie Belle."
"I'm Octavia Melody-" She pointed up at the mare on the stage, who was just finishing setting up her turn tables. "-and that's my wife, Vinyl Scratch."
Octavia noticed Gilda, and saw her scars. It was clear that she had questions to ask, but she was far too polite to just come out and ask them. Instead, she turned to Rarity. "The ambassador? How is he doing?"
"Ambassador Blueblood is doing quite well," Rarity said. If she didn't travel so often, she could see herself trying to start a relationship with him. Alas, they both had their work and the galaxy stopped for nopony.
"That's good to hear. He has been extremely helpful the past few months." Octavia nodded in satisfaction. She sent a glance to Vinyl, who waved timidly from the stage, offering Octavia a shaky smile. "Without him, I'm sure that Vinyl wouldn't be doing half as well as she is now."
"Would you like to join us?" Rarity offered, gesturing at an open spot at the table with her hoof. "We came here for the music, and it's wonderful to see that Equestrian's have such a large presence on the Citadel."
"I have to admit that I'm a little nervous." Octavia took Rarity's offer, sitting on her haunches between Gilda and Sweetie Belle. "This is her first time performing since her rescue."
Gilda perked up a little at that, paying more of a mind to Octavia. There were only a few things that ponies could mean when they spoke of arescue.
"Music was always Vinyl's favorite thing." Octavia proudly watched her wife for a moment longer before turning her attention to her newly met acquaintances. "I'm proud that she's finally gathered together the courage."
"What type of music does she play?" Sweetie Belle asked, having to lean a little high to comfortably see over the top of the table.
"Trotstep." Octavia's nose wrinkled ever so slightly at that. "It's not my personal favorite, but Vinyl is the best of the best."
"Cool!" Sweetie Belle nodded before turning her full attention to Vinyl.
Rarity's ears folded back and she gave a weak smile, and Octavia laughed.
"Oh, I completely understand." She waved away any attempt at apology that Rarity might have attempted. "It's not the most cultured form of music out there, but Vinyl has a way of touching everypony, everybody that listens to her."
"What's... Trotstep?" Gilda had never heard of it before, which wasn't a surprise in and of itself. She had a few vague memories of her parents listening to what they called 'classic rock,' but she had no real experience aside from that. When Twilight had burst into a harmony song a week after they had both returned to Equestria. It had freaked her out until her marefriend had been able to explain the sudden song and dance.
"Something that can only be experienced, not explained, I'm afraid." Octavia offered an apologetic smile to the griffin.
Gilda didn't at all know how to take that, so she didn't say anything, instead watching Vinyl carefully. There was something about her that was extremely familiar, but she couldn't quite put her claw on it.
Up on the stage, Vinyl took a deep breath before beginning to play. It was loud. It was primal, and it caught the attention of everyone in the club at once as a simple drum beat bounced along. Asari, turian, salarian, human, it didn't matter who they were, they all began to get caught up in the energy that Vinyl exuded.
"H-Hey there, Purgatory!" Vinyl cried out into a microphone that hung from the side of her head. Her voice shook nervously. "I'm DJPon3, and I'll be your host for the evening."
Pushing a hoof over her turn table, a tone started to rise, a feeling of unfulfillment rising right along with it. As it got higher and higher, Vinyl seemed to straighten, becoming braver with each passing second.
With a wide grin, she dropped a pair of magenta sunglasses over her eyes. "Let's party."
She drops the beat, and the house lights dropped with it, a laser show flaring to life.
"Yeah!" Sweetie Belle jumped up, cheering. Her voice was too quiet to be heard over the music, the pulsing and pounding seeming to crush all other sound waves before their might, but the gist of it was clear enough. "I love this!"
It was loud. It was uncultured. It was everything that Rarity despised about the common culture. Whatever had happened to the quiet elegance of Marezart, or Beethoofen? When had it stopped being fashionable to like intelligence and thought provoking music?
Something was making her chair shake and Rarity looked over to make sure that Sweetie Belle wasn't kicking it in her excitement. The filly could be extremely rambunctious at times.
Sweetie Belle wasn't doing it. Looking down, Rarity found that it was her. She was tapping her hoof right along with the beat. Before she even realized what was happening, she found herself being sucked right into the experience like everyone else, and not only that but she was enjoying it.
Gilda was drawn into another world entirely. The pulsing beat drew at the primal part of her mind, and for the first time in a long time, she felt strong. She felt like the predator that she used to be. Like the warriors her father used to tell her of before she went to bed, back before the attack on Ponyville.
She remembered what it meant to be a griffin.
"I see that you've found it."
Octavia's voice seemed to cut right through the music, or maybe the music had such a respect for the mare that it didn't dare play over her.
"Found what?" Gilda glanced at her, not quite sure what she was talking about.
"It. That's what Vinyl calls all of this." Octavia waved a hoof around at the club. Her gaze never left the DJ, who was getting more and more into the act, performing as if life had never tried to crush her spirit. "You've got the same look she gets when she plays."
Gilda didn't have anything to say to that, withdrawing a bit back into herself.
Octavia fell silent for a moment, a debate raging inside her head. She finally came to a decision, looking back up at Gilda and meeting her eyes. "Can I ask you a bit of a... sensitive question?"
Gilda studied Octavia for a moment, before giving a terse nod.
"Were you..." Octavia bit her lip, rethinking the wisdom of her line of questioning before simply plowing ahead. "Were you one of..."
"Yeah." Gilda knew what she meant.
"Vinyl was too."
"Oh." Gilda looked up at Vinyl with new eyes. Now that she knew what to look for, she realized that there was a cleverly hidden stump of a horn on her head. She used to be a unicorn.
"She looks good," Gilda said, turning back to Octavia.
"I think so too." Octavia agreed with her, smiling proudly at her wife. She had come so far since her rescue, and she was only getting better. Life had never been so good.
Rarity watched the entire exchange, and she smiled. She didn't hear what they had said, but she knew almost instinctively that something really wonderful had come from it, and she settled down, wrapping a hoof around a Sweetie Belle who was swaying with the beat.
Despite its own name, Purgatory seemed to be helping Gilda move on.
Citadel Archives, Presidium, Citadel, Serpent Nebula
Twilight sat slouched in front of her access point to the archives. She had absolutely no idea where she was in reference to public part of the Presidium Ring, but that didn't matter.
Empty cups of coffee were strewn about on the table in front of her, and her mane had become frazzled and her eyes bloodshot over the hours she had spent searching. She stared intently at several large displays, surfing through unimaginable amounts of information in her quest to find any reference of the Elements of Harmony.
At her own table next to her, Elelia was much the same way. She was slouching in her chair, nursing a cup of tea.
"Buck it!" Twilight groaned, dropping her head down onto the desk in front of her. It hit with a solid thunk. She sat up straight, her spine cracking, and looked at Elelia in annoyance. "There's nothing here."
"We knew that the first time you searched through the archives." The Asari had quickly learned that Twilight was far more driven than the usual guests who visited the archives.
"We might have missed something! It never hurts to be thorough."
"Except when it does," Elelia muttered to herself, stretching. She was going to need a massage before she was going to be able to feel right again.
"I'm sorry for wasting your time." Blushing, Twilight jumped out of her chair, wincing a little at her own pain. The archive access shut down immediately as soon as it sensed she was gone.
"No, I was glad to be of help." Elelia stood, struggling to straighten out her poor spine.
Checking her omni-tool, she winced when she saw the time. "I should really be getting back."
"Very well." Elelia led Twilight back to the entrance of the archives, and Twilight called for an aircar with her omni-tool, ready to head back to Solar One.
Elelia waited for her to leave before accessing her omni-tool and making a call.
It rang once. Twice.
"She's gone," Elelia said the moment the call was picked up.
"Meet me in front of the Dilinaga Concert Hall in thirty minutes."
Flagging down her own aircar, it took nearly thirty minutes to make the journey from the Presidium to the Tayseri Ward. Elelia arrived outside the Concert Hall, stepping out of her aircar. She looked around, nervous, wringing her hands together.
As soon as she saw an older Asari waiting for her, standing calmly with her hands behind her back, Elelia jogged forward to meet her.
"Do you have it?" The matron asked, studying Elelia with violet eyes. She made Elelia nervous.
"Everything." Elelia held out a small data-chip for the matron to take, glancing around to make sure no one was looking. "She was searching for hours."
"You are doing the matriarch's proud." The matron murmured, holding out a credit chit for Elelia. "That's the agreed amount. I am glad that this relationship is baring so much fruit."
Seeing just how much was on the chit, Elelia's eyes went wide and she bowed thankfully to the matron. "Thank you! Goddess! Thank you, so much."
"If there's anything else, please don't be afraid to call me." Turning, the matron strode away, leaving Elelia in front of the concert hall.
As soon as she was out of sight of Elelia, the matron activated her omni-tool and made a call. Unlike Elelia, she made it through an encrypted line, bouncing it across three separate planet's communication networks to shake off any potential listeners.
"Speak," A male voice said as the call connected.
"I'm uploading the information now." The matron connected the data chip to her omni-tool and began the exchange.
"Good work, Lilium," the man said as the information began to appear before him. "You're doing Cerberus proud."
Hope pulls off her omni-tool and crushes it underneath her heel before walking to the nearest aircar.
Twilight returned to Solar One with heavy steps and her head held low. She stepped onboard, finding Honey Dawn, Fancy Steps, and Little Hoof working on flight maintenance on the bridge.
"How was your mission, Twilight?" Honey Dawn asked, noticing their onlooker.
Twilight just scowled.
"That good?" Honey Dawn winced in sympathy.
"Don't even get me started," Twilight said with a growl.
"Gilda and her guests are in the dining room." Honey Dawn pointed down to the heart of the ship.
"Thanks." Twilight nodded her thanks before turning and stomping off. She walked down the length of the ship.
Entering the Dining Room, Twilight found Gilda, Rarity, and Sweetie Belle at one of the closest tables, chatting with Tiny Berry.
Seeing Twilight coming, Tiny Berry gave her a smile.
"Can I get you anything, Twilight?" Tiny Berry chirped. "You look hungry!"
Twilight slumped down at the table, letting her head drop down onto the table. She was about to say no, but her stomach growled in protest. "Ugh. Fine. Whatever's in the kitchen."
"Chef's surprise!" Tiny Berry hopped in excitement. "You're adventurous."
Tiny Berry bounced back to the kitchen, leaving them alone.
"No luck?" Gilda asked as soon as Tiny Berry was gone.
"Nothing." She scowled, looking over to the side. "Not even a hint."
She sat up, looking blearily at Gilda. "The largest collected archive of information anywhere in the galaxy, and I couldn't so much as find a clue."
"It certainly sounds as if you had a rough day." Rarity stood, urging Sweetie Belle to do the same. She bowed gratefully to Twilight and Gilda. "We'll get out of your mane and leave the two of you in peace."
"Come along, Sweetie Belle," She said, looking down at her sister. "Let's return to the hotel."
Rarity and Sweetie Belle left the dining room.
"Did you have a good time at least?" Twilight asked, turning her attention to Gilda.
"Yeah." Gilda nods. "They were nice."
Twilight scrunched up her muzzle. "I... I just realized I never got her name."
"Rarity." Gilda laughed, shaking her head.
Twilight blinked once. Twice. "Rarity?"
"Yeah." Gilda nodded. "Why?"
"She's one of the ponies the journal mentions!" Before Gilda could respond, Twilight jumped out of her chair and rushed after Rarity.
Rarity and Sweetie Belle were waiting just outside the ship's gangplank, outside the elevator to return them back to the Citadel.
"Wait!" Twilight cried, rushing up to them at a gallop.
"You're Rarity?" Twilight asked, half breathless, her eyes wide.
"Yes." Rarity perked up a little when she realized that Twilight knew her name. "I am Rarity. You've heard of me?"
"Were you born in Ponyville?" With wide eyes and an even wider grin, Twilight leaned closer to Rarity.
"Yes..." Rarity was taken aback by this, a little surprised that Twilight knew that. "Why do you ask?"
"You got your cutie mark after seeing a rainbow explosion in the sky, didn't you?"
"How do you know that?" Narrowing her eyes, Rarity took a step to the side so she was between Twilight and Sweetie Belle.
"Yes!" Twilight gave a shout of excitement, bouncing up and down. She blushed when she saw the look that Rarity was giving her. "Sorry."
Blushing, she bit her lip. "Will you be on the Citadel much longer?"
"Yes..." Rarity nodded slowly, not quite sure how to take the Princesses' student. "I'm here for a fashion show later this week. Why do you ask?"
"Nothing." She shook her head. "No reason."
Twilight started to back away. "Sorry. I've gotta go. Bye!"
Without another word, Twilight galloped back to the safety of Solar One.
Rarity and Sweetie Belle stared after her, not quite sure what had just happened.
"She's weird," Sweetie Belle said, tilting her head to the side. She looked up at Rarity. "I like her!"