When Celestia's sun rose that morning, it shined into the face of Monochrome Gale, as he sat on a small dark cloud high over Ponyville.
Monochrome's silver eyes watched the first few beams of sunlight spread over the mountains. A few seconds later a rooster crowed, echoing from Sweet Apple Acres. He closed his eyes for a moment and sighed. He wondered briefly how his family was doing, then dismissed the thought. It wouldn't do to dwell on the past.
A small breeze played with his mane, and Monochrome's eyes snapped open. He caught the breeze and rolled it between his hooves, building up speed. The cloud beneath him coiled away from the ball of air in his hooves.
He released the gale, and it roared away from him and spread throughout the sky. It would be a very windy day in Ponyville today.
Monochrome smiled. He threw himself off the cloud and shot forward as he caught the gust with his wings.
Beck strolled through the streets, his golden vest gleaming in the sunlight. Quill perched on his back and watched passerby with a steely eye.
"So. What's the plan for today?" the bird croaked.
Beck didn't answer, humming to himself. He scanned the market with bright eyes, watching for anything of interest.
Quill balled his wing into something resembling a fist and knocked on the unicron's head. "Beck! It's noon! You should be awake by now!"
Beck chuckled. "Apologies, my fine, feathered friend. I am observing."
Quill waited a moment. "Observing."
"Yes. Oh, look at that. The mailmare has just crashed into a vegetable stand."
Quill raised what must for simplicity's sake be called an eyebrow. "So she has."
"And not a single reaction from anypony more than ten feet from the impact. Hmm."
Quill rubbed an approximation of a chin. "You'd almost think it's a regular occurrence, wouldn't you?"
Beck nodded, eyes closed. "I would indeed."
The two looked at each other and broke into huge grins.
Beck laughed and pulled a notepad out of his saddlebags. "I like this town!"
Quill squawked as a flash of magic yanked a feather from his tail. Beck wrote a few notes and smiled. The veggie vendor whose stall the mare had wrecked looked more resigned or annoyed than angry. The grey pegasus had a sheepish look on her face, whereas the vendor had a look of strained patience. Yes, clearly this had happened before.
"Excuse me mister?"
Beck looked down and then further down to find three small fillies. He put up his notes and smiled. "Yes, my fine young strangers?"
The white unicorn with the striped mane stared up at him. "Are you the Mister Meter my sister was talking about?"
Beck's smile shrank a bit. "That depends on who your sister is, miss."
Quill, who'd been more fit to mingle the past few days, whispered in his ear. Beck's relief was tangible. "Oh! Rarity! I see it now, yes, thank you."
Quill's eyes narrowed. "Pinto, who'd you think she was-"
"Sshh not in front of little fillies sshh!" the writer hissed at him.
The three fillies watched in confusion as Beck and Quill started off into what would have been a flaming row had they not been whispering so as to keep anyone else from hearing. Their gestures, however, were both informative and highly entertaining.
Something about a rhesus monkey playing drums with a plunger, they decided. Hooves are not good at hand gestures.
At length the raven suddenly said, still whispering but now audible, "What were we talking about in the first place?"
"I don't know. Fudge, I think."
"Then why are we whispering?"
"I'm… not sure."
The pair turned back to the fillies, smiles once more. "Terribly sorry, got a bit sidetracked. Prone to that," Beck offered. "What did you need me for, miss… er, name?"
"I'm Sweetie Bell!" the little unicorn said.
"I'm Scootaloo!" the orange pegasus seconded.
"And Ah'm Applebloom!" the yellow filly finished.
Beck squinted at the last one's accent. "You'd be… what was it, Applejack's sister, yes?"
"Wow, yeah! How'd ya guess?"
"The word 'apple' was a clue, methinks. And what can I do for you three?"
Sweetie Bell tilted her head. "What did we want… Oh yeah! Rarity went to check on you a while ago, but you weren't home, so she came back all worried, and so we decided to look for you." She finished with a huge breath.
Beck took a moment to look the three over. Small fillies, not quite teenagers but getting there, all without cutie marks, and-
"Oh ho? I hadn't noticed that before."
"What," Scootaloo asked. Beck ignored her and turned his body so Quill could get a better look.
"See those capes they're wearing, Quill?"
"Oh yes, so I do."
"Marvelous gold, isn't it?"
"Surely is, though I can't imagine why anypony would waste it coating the inside."
"Yes. A shame, that."
Sweetie Bell looked at the cape on her back in confusion. She hadn't thought about that…
She remembered something. "Oh yeah!" The three twisted around to inspect their flanks. Blank.
They sighed as one pony. The sight pulled the bard and bird out of their tangent. "What's wrong? Quill asked, concerned.
Applebloom sighed again. "We were hopin' to get our cutie marks, but no luck."
Beck blinked. Exchanging a glance with the bird, he asked, "Were you? At what, might I ask?"
"At-um, at-what was it again, Scoot?"
"Retrieve and rescue, I think."
Beck fought back a laugh. "Retrieve and rescue, you say? Ah. Well, I could have told you that would have got you nowhere."
The little pegasus jumped up, indignant. "We've got to try! We've tried everything else!"
Beck raised a brow. "Have you now?"
Sweetie Bell stuck put a hoof to her chin. "Yeah, yesterday we tried to get demolition cutie marks, but we just blew a pothole in the road."
"I told ya we should have set'em up somewhere else."
"It's not my fault! It was the only place somepony didn't drive us off!"
"Then there was the time we went paragliding."
"Yeah, that was a bad idea from the start. I don't know who thought it would work, but-
"It was your idea!"
"…and it was awesome."
"And what about that time we tried dragon slaying?"
"Ooh, yeah… Spike wouldn't go near us after that."
"Can ya blame him? After all, we were chasing him with swords."
"It was only a stick."
"It was a sword!"
Beck slowly pulled out his notebook and feather and started writing. Overhead, something black shot past, and a gust of wind nearly knocked Quill from his perch.
Monochrome shot over the town, coasting on the airstream he'd set in motion that morning. He flapped his wings a few times to get used to the feeling; he usually just kept them stiff as a board, but the Ponyville skies required a little more push than back home.
He alighted on a cloud and gave a satisfied sigh. It wasn't his best work, but it was pretty good considering what he'd had to work with. Pegasi could not actually make wind, per se, they merely amplified it. Wind sort of happened on its own. It could be repressed if a pegasus set up the right safeguards, and it could be directed if you were fast enough, but otherwise, it just… happened. Most places in Equestria had been under the influence of scheduled weather for so long that barely a breeze would form on its own, but their was always some wind. Trying to get rid of it was like trying to get rid of the air. Exactly like it, in fact.
Monochrome stirred as the wind blew through his mane. Slight irregularity, he noted. Wind current behind me is slightly distorted, distortion is moving…
The cloud wobbled slightly as Rainbow Dash landed behind him. "Hello, Dash," he greeted without turning.
"Thought I saw you up here. Windy today, huh?"
"Took me twice as long usual to put all the clouds in place."
"Don't be. It was only like-"
"Twenty seconds flat, haha, good joke."
Rainbow deflated. "Go ahead and suck the fun out of it, why don't you?"
This didn't seem to warrant a response. Rainbow scowled and looked down. "What's going on with this cloud, anyway?"
The cloud had a growing patch of grey spreading from where Monochrome sat. Monochrome glanced at it and shrugged. "I'm a Storm."
"What does that mean?"
"It means I'm a Storm."
With that, the black pegasus stood trotted off the edge. Dash ran to the edge and looked over.
Monochrome's wings snapped open, their angles sending him into a tailspin. He adjusted his left wing and made a ninety degree turn, dragging the air behind him.
A pegasus's magic is more subtle than a unicorn's. A unicorn makes a conscious choice to use his or her powers, but a pegasus's are always on. For example, a pegasus can't fall through the clouds because he forgot to turn on the cloud-walking. Some pegasi can turn it off at will, falling through clouds by deciding they want to, however.
And then there are pegasi like Monochrome, who have abilities unique to them and their talent. Some pegasi with talents dealing in fire can't be touched by flame. Some who specialize in snow and ice can tolerate extremely low temperatures.
Monochrome's talent was wind. When he wanted, he had the same effect on air while flying that a swimmer has on water. He pulled air behind him. When he flew with this ability on, his contrail was wind.
Monochrome flew up and hovered for a moment, then spun in place. After a moment a small twister faded into existence around him. As it tapered into a complete funnel, he dove down, dragging the tornado with him. Pieces of debris followed him as well, pulled in by his twister.
The black pegasus suddenly became aware of colors. He looked behind him. Rainbow Dash was matching his every move perfectly. She stumbled a bit on the turns, clearly not used to gliding, but she kept up with him, riding his slipstream almost flawlessly. She smirked at him and said something, her words stripped away by the gale.
Monochrome grinned. "Is this what they call a challenge?" he shouted back at her. "Never had one before. Let's see if I like it!"
He dove down close to the ground, corkscrewing to build up his twister's strength, and flew over a small lake. Rainbow matched him move-for-move, not noticing the water pulled up behind her.
He pulled up and angled himself towards Ponyville, pulling Rainbow and most of the lake behind him.
Beck was beaming by the time the Crusaders were done. "Splendid! Absolutely amazing! You girls get in a lot of mischief, don't you?"
Applebloom dragged a hoof in the dirt. "Yeah, well… Most'a the time we get in trouble for it."
Scootaloo grinned. "This is the first time somepony's wanted to hear about all that!"
"I'm sure, I'm sure," Beck said vaguely, reading over his notes. "Girls, I may well be able to make a series out of this! 'Cutie Mark Crusaders?' I like it!"
He passed the notebook and pen to Quill, who took it in his feathers. "Write for me, I need to talk to myself."
Sweetie Bell looked at him strangely. "Why?"
"So I can have an intelligent conversation."
Quill pecked him.
"Ow! What was that for?"
"Intelligent conversation my claw," the bird mumbled.
There was a sound overhead like a waterfall.
The group looked straight up. A black streak and a rainbow line were being followed by a stream of water at least ten yards long.
Scootaloo gasped. "That's Rainbow Dash! Is she trying out a new trick? And who's the other guy?"
Beck squinted. "Quill, you have better eyes, can you see…?"
"It's Monochrome. Only black pony I know. Looks like he's enjoying himself."
"Good for him. Oh look, he's writing!"
Monochrome was indeed weaving through the sky, writing out words with the water stream behind him. The transparency of water made it difficult to see, but it could be read as:
Ponies all over the market did just that. Monochrome, Rainbow Dash zipping right along behind him, corkscrewed again and flew in ascending circles, leaving a spring-shaped mass of water in the air. At the top of his spin, he suddenly dove straight down inside the coils.
He flipped over as he reached the ground and landed on his feet, twister dissipating immediately. He flung himself a few feet away from his landing point and turned to watch, grinning, as Rainbow copied him, touching down right where he had.
She flashed a smile at him. "Not bad, Mono, but you'll have to do more than that to get the better of Rainbow Dash!"
At which point the water hit her point-blank.
Monochrome watched with a wry smile as the cyan mare was completely and utterly soaked. When the water ran out, Rainbow stood, looking much thinner with her coat plastered down, and looked steadily at the ground through her bangs.
Beck and the crusaders watched the scene with various reaction. Beck looked at Quill and whispered, in an offhand manner, "Oh, I forgot to mention. You turned paisley last night."
Rainbow turned her gaze upward until she met Monochrome eyes. His grin grew wider. Rainbow glared at him…
…then snorted and burst out laughing. Monochrome joined in.
"Not bad, huh?" Monochrome asked.
Rainbow fought to calm herself. "Hah, n-no, but I gotta give you props for that! Never would'a stuck you as a prankster!"
"Me neither. What's a prankster?"
That set Dash off again. Monochrome gave her a look of confusion.
"Wait. You're… you're not serious, are you?"
"You don't know what pranking is? After that beauty?"
"Nooo… First time I've ever done something like that. Tomfoolery gets you crippled, killed or worse in Stormburgh."
Quill felt the need to interject. "Worse? How can anything be worse than that?"
Monochrome stared into the distance, thinking. "Well, for starters, you could come out of it just fine and get in trouble with the foreman."
"How is that worse?"
"Ever met my dad?"
Beck chuckled to himself. "Yes, this is all well and good, but perhaps Miss Dash should dry herself before she takes ill, hmm?"
Monochrome stared at him for a second, then at Rainbow. A wind started blowing…
Rainbow caught on more quickly this time. "NO! No, I think I'll just find a towel, thanks."
The wind stopped. Monochrome folded his wings and shrugged. "If you insist." Now that the excitement was over, his stoic manner was reasserting itself.
Rainbow flew off and Monochrome settled himself down on the side of the road, staring at nothing.
Beck observed this for a moment, then turned back to the confused crusaders.
"Right. Now that all that's done, tell me more about yourselves. If I'm going to use your likenesses, I need to get it right, yes?"
One's living space can speak wonders about them. This room, for instance, is dark.
It looks as much like a living room as a section of far-too-perfectly-carved grey rock can. There's a doorway on each side of the room. One leads to a long hall that stretches out of sight in both directions, the other leads to another, smaller room, from which an eerie blue glow comes. Off to the side are bookshelves, each and every one holding books bound in various colors. Most of them are black, but some are blue or yellow or red. In the space where the author's name would usually go on the spine, there is instead a symbol. Black books have red omegas or, less commonly, red female symbols. There is a desk and an armchair and even a wall hanging here and there, mostly black banners with the omega on them.
The room is lit by an golden glow, and the light's source is quite possibly the strangest thing there.
The centerpiece of the room was set into a pedestal rising out of the floor at about table-height. It has the same omega motif as the rest of the room, and it is mirrored by an identical platform in the ceiling.
Set into these are a hideously complex series of golden strings and threads running from top to bottom, some at absurd angles. The center of it all is a thick rope as wide as a pony's leg.
Some of the threads are thicker than others. Some have small pieces of colored string wrapped around them. Some intersect with each other. Towards the edge of the construct there are five or six strings tangled together in such a hideous knot that it could put the Gordian Knot to shame. The light come from the middle rope and several dozen cords surrounding it.
As the room's one occupant watched, one of the thinnest flashed once, then snapped of its own accord.
Eclipse tsked and held the snapped thread between two claws. "Such a shame." He pulled the string taut and twanged it. As the note rang, it glowed a deep violet. He turned to a shelf, where a purple-bound book glowed the same.
Eclipse dropped the thread and pulled the book down. It didn't even have cover art. He leafed through the book until he reached the last page. Then he flipped through it in the other direction until he found where the writing stopped. He read the page down to where it ended abruptly mid-paragraph.
"Hmph. That'll do it."
"What'll do it?"
Eclipse had existed for eons. He was not startled by Orion's sudden appearance from nowhere. He regarded the colt carefully. "A world is dying, Orion. Too many things went wrong and it couldn't support itself any longer."
"Nothing. The story didn't go anywhere, ponies were out of character, and nothing of import happened at all," he said, holding the book up. The title of the book was fading already. "You see Orion, the world was written into existence. All of the timelines that sprout from it are simply reflections of what could have been, rather than what was. And if a timeline doesn't lead anywhere, it can't hold itself together. It falls apart."
Eclipse walked into the other room with the blue glow. The light came from a water basin in the center of the otherwise bare room. It looked like a birdbath, all things considered, albeit a very solemn one. Eclipse dipped a finger into the glowing water, and the light turned violet for an instant before an image appeared in the basin.
The basin looked out onto a room that was in many respects identical to Eclipse's. However, the gray walls had a purple tint to them, and the mass of strings seen in the water glowed in different places.
"Quasar!" Eclipse called, voice like a fanfare. "Attend!"
There was a shuffling, and then the steady 4/4 beat of Eclipse's tail was joined by different beat: THUMP-thump-thump-THUMP-thump-THUMP-thump-thump-THUMP-thump…
The two beats matched tempo with each other, and another dragon appeared in the basin. His scales were a deep violet and his drooping spines were black, and his blue eyes were big and sad. His robe was a darker shade of purple and the symbol on his chest was a simple black circle. In all aspects other than color, however, he looked exactly like Eclipse.
The sad-looking dragon a few bars before speaking, and when he did he spoke in a string quartet. "Hello, Eclipse. What is it that you need from me?"
"Quasar, one of the worlds under your jurisdiction has failed," Eclipse said, intoning a brass orchestra.
Quasar glanced over his shoulder at his strings. A pitifully thin thread snapped audibly, its purple glowed fading gradually. "So it has. Oh dear," he sighed. "I suppose you want me to save them?"
Eclipse glared at him. Orion suspected that Quasar would have burst into flames if they had been face-to-face. "Yes, Quasar. You must save those who were unfortunate enough to be born in a doomed world. Now go and save what you can."
Quasar nodded, and the image faded. The room filled with a blue glow once more.
Eclipse glided back into the strings room and laid the book in one of the desk drawers.
"What happens to the book, sir?"
"Originality is hard to come by, and ideas never truly fade completely away. Maybe someday someone will make the story work, and the world will spring into existence again."
Orion frowned. Such concepts as were being discussed do not come easily to a child.
Eclipse glanced at him. "Please take Discord his dinner. I must attend to matters of great importance." A piece of glowing black paper resolved from the shadows around him and he began writing in sharp white letters. His handwriting had serifs.
He wrote: Dearest Celestia…
This site I weird. It's too much of a hassle to make all these changes, so if you want the edited, proofread version, find the GoogleDocs version on Equestria Daily.