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The Other Side · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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Just A Different Shade
Dear Princess Twilight,

Sunset Shimmer was shot. Come as soon as you can.

- Fluttershy

Princess Twilight stepped out of the mirror portal outside Canterlot High, greeted by Rainbow Dash limping impatiently in a tight circle.

"Okay, so what exactly is going on now? Sunset Shimmer was shot by what, exactly? I'm guessing 'out of a cannon' and Pinkie is to blame, but I haven't ruled out adverse vaccine reaction or experimenting with alcohol and Fluttershy just isn't fluent in the lexicon."

Rainbow Dash stopped her pacing, and leveled her red, blood-shot eyes at Twilight. "With a gun, Twi."

"Oh. What's that?" Twilight asked.

The girl's eyes flashed from tired to angry, and then to confused before understanding finally dawned on her. "You really don't know what a gun is, do you?"

"I don't think we have those in Equestria, no." Twilight finally took a moment to read Dash's disheveled look and realized something was wrong. "Sunset's hurt, isn't she?"

"Just... just get in the car. One of the other girls can explain at the hospital. I'm at my limit for being the person who isn't a basket case right now, and I still have to make the drive back before I can totally crack."

Twilight sat quietly in the passenger seat while Rainbow Dash drove. She didn't even notice Dash's bloodied knuckles until they had nearly arrived at Canterlot General Hospital.

The waiting area of the Emergency Room was as cold to the eye as it was to the touch. White tile and white paint reflected white fluorescent light, and the blue of the sky outside looked like a painted facade when viewed through the double-paned, thermally insulated windows that dotted the western wall. Five girls sat in stiff maroon chairs at the center of the room, each of them more worn down than old wooden arm rests on their chairs.

"Hey," Twilight said as she walked through the sliding doors into the reception room. She turned to speak to Rainbow Dash, but was met with a flash of colored hair as the other girl made a bee line for the bathroom.

Rarity got up from her chair, a basket of mascara smeared tissue at her feet, and grabbed Twilight's hands. "Don't mind her, darling. It was hard for her not being here."

"It's fine, really." Twilight walked back to the line of chairs and sat in the one next to Rarity. "I just wish I understood exactly what was going on. The journal message said Sunset was shot, Rainbow said by a gun, but I don't know what kind of monster or magic that is and I'm starting to freak out a little bit. When can we see Sunset?"

"It's a weapon, Princess," the native Twilight explained after a minute. "There are many different models and variations, but basically they all use a controlled explosion to launch a projectile at incredible speed with the intent of causing grievous harm to the target."

"What was Sunset doing anywhere near something like that?"

"Bein' a hero, like she does sometimes," Rainbow Dash said as she sat herself back down in the circle of chairs. "Sorry about the silent treatment, Twilight. Had to focus on not losing my head in the car. I think I'm square now. I can't believe you don't have weapons where you're from, though. That sounds... kinda great, actually." Rainbow casually wiped her sleeve across her eyes one more time.

"We do have weapons, Dash. The Guard has swords, spears, lances, bows, cannons, dozens of different offensive and defensive spells. Just no 'guns.' Which, back to the point, what exactly happened?"

"She saved my life, that's what happened," Applejack answered. "Mine and who knows how many others, to boot. 'Bout half an hour before school let out, we all got a text from Sunset saying there was an emergency in the south hall, and to call the police. I rushed out of class when I saw the message and left my phone on my desk, on account of my being a damned fool and all."

Applejack pulled a tissue out of the box on Fluttershy's lap, blew her nose into it, and tossed it into the bin at Rarity's feet. Rarity, to her credit, didn't flinch.

"When I got there, I saw Sunset staring down some guy with a gun in his hand. Looked like he was wearing the same jacket as Mac had when he was at CHS, so I reckon he was a student a couple years back. She kept his attention and I snuck up and clobbered him good from behind. Thought he was out cold—being a damned fool and all, remember—and I stepped right over him to ask Sunset if she was alright. Next thing I know she's shovin' me aside, there's a bang like the whole world's coming down, and then—"

"—I saw him lift the gun," Rainbow Dash interrupted. "I ran as fast as I could, but I wasn't fast enough. The bastard only got one off, though." She balled her hands into fists until the fresh scabs on her knuckles threatened to split. "I kicked the gun away. Fell and twisted my ankle, but I got it. And then I climbed on top of him and started hitting him until I couldn't feel my hands. Not sure who finally pulled me off of him."

"The rest of us showed up after the gunshot, along with most of the school," Fluttershy said. "We tried to keep everyone calm. It kind of worked. Once the police and paramedics showed up, I realized I should contact you. Luckily, Sunset had the journal in her bag. Right after that is when everyone except Rainbow Dash... oh what's the phrase..."

"Lost our shit," Pinkie said from behind a frock of perfectly straight hair.

"Adrenaline crash," the native Twilight said. "But Dash kept her head on straight. She loaded us into her car, dropped us off here, and went back to wait for you. The implicit assumption being that you'd show up almost immediately, and weren't off handling your own emergency."

"I was doing the best I could at the time, alright? Thinking things through isn't my strong point in the best of days, and today is basically the worst day."

"You're a real hero, Rainbow Dash," Princess Twilight said. "You did great."

"Bull," Dash spat back. "Real heroes stop the bad guys before anyone gets hurt. I just ran cleanup duty."

"Don't sell yourself short, darling. Minimizing a crisis is its own sort of miracle."

"Would have been two of us in deep mud if you hadn't shown up when you did." Applejack pulled Dash in for an awkward side hug across the chair arms. "Don't beat yourself up."

"AJ's right," Twilight said. "I've seen hostile foreign armies invade my home twice, chaos gods run amok, magical dictators return from ancient exile, a soul-sucking demon centaur, and more malevolent unicorns than I care to count; most of whom live in or near my house, come to think of it. Through all of that, though, I learned that, sometimes, bad things happen before you can stop them. And it's not your fault. But you pick yourself up, and get right back to fixing the problem. That's what you did. That's what my friends back home do, too, and they're the bravest heroes I know."

The six girls stared at Princess Twilight for a long, drawn out moment.

"So Equestria has it's fair share of trouble, too, I guess," Rainbow Dash finally said. "I guess the grass isn't always greener on the other side."

"It does taste better, though."

And for what felt like the first time in forever, all seven girls laughed.

Several hours later, a doctor emerged from the doors marked "Authorized Personnel Only" wearing a white coat and a green mask tucked under his chin. "Family of Sunset Shimmer," he said into the waiting area.

The girls, all strewn across the chairs and each other in a vain attempt to nap comfortably, snapped up to attention and charged the doctor at the mention of their wounded friend's name, clamoring for answers on her condition and when they could see her. The doctor silenced them all with a sternly raised hand.

"Do any of you know where her parents or other legal guardian are? I need to speak to them first."

The girls all looked at each other in a panic.

"She's emancipated!" Twilight yelled out, pushing her glasses back on her nose. "Kind of."

"I'm the one whose supposed to be looking out for her," Princess Twilight volunteered.

The doctor looked back and forth between the two nearly identical girls.

"It's complicated," the two Twilight's said simultaneously.

"So you—" the doctor pointed at Princess Twilight "—are a legally responsible party in the matter of Sunset Shimmer's medical care and affairs?"

"Yes," Twilight lied.

"Fine. Come on back," the doctor said, clearly having already passed his threshold for dealing with anxious teenagers. "Just you."

"I'll be back with news as soon as I can. I promise."

Twilight followed the doctor back through the doors and down a long stretch of halls with colored lines across the walls and floor. Mobile computer stations and supply carts stuck out from every nook and cranny while nurses worked their way between rooms cordoned off with draw curtains; taking notes, reading temperatures, and trying to soothe panicked patients. The doctor swiped his badge across a grey panel on the wall and a door swung open in front of them. Down another hall, passed a nurses station with a coffee maker that clearly seen better days, first door on the right.

"Room one twenty seven," Twilight said aloud so she could commit it to memory more easily.

The doctor opened the door and gestured for Twilight to go in first.

Inside was Sunset Shimmer. She had plastic tubes wrapped around her her head leading into her nostrils, and her left arm was draped across her stomach, a mess of IV drips taped down to her skin and monitors clipped onto her fingers. Her right hand did a weak little wave from her bedside at Twilight, and a near voiceless "hey" escaped her dried lips.

"Heard you were playing hero again." It was Twilight's turn to break down, but she pushed the worst of it down for later. With watery eyes, she sat down at Sunset's bedside and gently clasped her free hand.

Sunset shrugged and gave Twilight a little smirk before the pain set in.

The doctor pulled a stool up to the other side of Sunset's bed. "I'm Doctor Hawkeye. I'm the surgeon who operated on you." He caught a flash of shame on Twilight's face and spared her a quick, soft glance, to let her know that this wasn't the first time someone in distress hadn't thought to ask his name during the long walk through the corridors. "This young lady here says she's your guardian?"

Sunset was confused for a moment before the long-term repercussions of her situation set in: insurance paperwork, bills, liability forms, and a host of questions about her personal history that she really didn't want to answer. She started to panic, but a gentle squeeze on her right hand calmed her down.

She nodded at Doctor Hawkeye.

"Okay then." Hawkeye sat up straight on his stool. "We're still waiting on some post-surgery scans to develop, but my preliminary opinion is that you are an incredibly lucky young lady, all things considered. Given the angle of entry, a few centimeters in any direction and we'd be talking about likely permanent damage to your lungs or spine. There was some damage to your diaphragm, and I had to cut further to remove the bullet, so you won't be doing anything physically demanding in for the next several months. But, as it stands, unless the scans show us something new, you'll be on the road to a complete recovery."

Sunset smiled and gave Doctor Hawkeye a flimsy thumbs up with her left hand.

"I know it's been a harrowing day for you and your friends and you're eager to see each other, but in my medical opinion the best thing for all of you to do right now is to get some rest." Hawkeye leveled a different sort of subtle look at Twilight.

"Right, of course. Have to rest after an operation. Makes sense." Twilight moved to stand up, but Sunset grabbed her hand and stopped her.

"A... J..." she managed in just more than a whisper.

"Applejack is fine. A little shaken up—everyone is—but fine. You saved the day, Sunset. I'm so proud of you. Now get some rest."

Sunset nodded weakly, and let the exhaustion of her day finally take her.

Twilight and Doctor Hawkeye quietly left the room and walked back to the waiting room. Doctor Hawkeye stopped just short of running his badge to open the last door.

"I've taken a lot of metal out of a lot of people," he said without turning to face Twilight. "But never out of a kid like that. I thought things would be easier back home, but..."

"'Not always greener,' or something, right?" Twilight said, still fighting down her own emotions.

"Isn't that the truth."

"Thank you for saving my friend, Doctor Hawkeye."

"I hope I never have to see her again," he said as he tapped his badge and opened the last door, sending Twilight out to deliver the news to her friends.
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#1 · 1
· · >>Rao
Oh. Ohhhhhhhhhhhh. Man, it's been forever since I've seen a MASH reference, especially in a pony fic. I almost didn't get it until the last couple lines, which also do a very good job of tying in another interpretation of "the other side." I did re-read after I understood who Hawkeye was, and I was easily able to read his lines in his voice. Nice job capturing that.
#2 · 3
· · >>Rao
Good Stuff: I thought the real-life drama of the moment was conveyed competently and well - I especially liked the bit where Rainbow's trying not to go crazy from all this - and the moment when Twilight has to pose as Sunset's official guardian was one of those "Reality Ensues" moments I could dig. The fact that guns don't exist in Equestria - confusing Twilight - was an intriguing world-building moment, and I wanted more of that. Nice twist at the end with Hawkeye hinting he too came from another "side", and the "grass is always greener" arc words were neat.

Bad Stuff: The crime was generic, and what was all that about anyway? It was really distracting, and the story never answers it, which irritated me because it also feels wildly unlike something that would happen in the Equestria-Girls world. Apart from Rainbow and Twilight - and Applejack a little - I never got a sense that this had anything to do with pony-verse, like the majority of this scenario and these characters could have been a scene ripped out of any crime drama on TV. Those bits I mentioned in "Good Stuff" needed to dominate the story more, because they're distinctive to the setting and/or interesting ideas, but they feel like light seasoning on a generic "character got shot, cue drama" plot.

Verdict: Needs Revision. The distinctive elements are good, and it's competent at what it does. I just wish there was more distinctive stuff to spice up the bland scene, and the premise felt too off and underdeveloped for my liking
#3 · 2
· · >>Rao
For starters, I’m a little surprised and impressed that you had the guts to tackle this subject matter, Writer. The way you’ve portrayed Rainbow Dash early on really helps to sell the situation at hand, weighing down the potential accidental levity of Twilight not knowing what a gun was and keeping the story grounded. Later, there’s an interesting juxtaposition between the Humane 6 being wound so tight and freaked out, and PT trying to catch up and figure out what’s actually going on.

Right around where Doctor Hawkeye introduces himself, the story suddenly shifts to Sunset’s perspective, then back to PT’s after Sunset passes out. It wouldn’t be too hard to shift things a bit so the story remains from Twilight’s perspective from start to finish.

Speaking of Doctor Hawkeye, at first I thought his name would just be a clever reference, but having it actually be a version of Hawkeye from MASH threw me out of the story. I’ve done a lot of thinking about why, and I think it’s because you’re leaning on him to lend his particular brand of gravitas to an already poignant story. So much so that it comes across as overwrought, I think? The story is tragic enough on its own without making an allusion to the nigh-endless tragedies of war on top of everything else.

All that said, I still liked this story, Writer. I’d be interested to see how this would scan on FimFic, considering the subject matter.
#4 · 4
· · >>Rao
Okay, so you went there. That takes guts, and I honest-to-god applaud that. It's very easy to write super-safe stories that are guaranteed to do okay in voting (see: me), so taking a risk is always something that intrigues and engages me, Well done on that.

But before we go into what I think you can improve on, please note that I do have strong feelings about this subject (like everyone else on the planet), so there's a good chance I'm letting my knee-jerk reaction cloud my thinking. I'm strongly considering abstaining. But I'll try to give you the best advice I can to help you improve this, because even a dumbass like me can see that it does have potential.

Mini-rant over, advice below:

Okay, I've already talked about it a little in the Discord chat, but I'll try to sum up my thoughts. In short, I think that you're not using this premise to its full potential. That is to say, while I think what's here is provocative simply by its nature, it might not be as interesting, from a story perspective. We don't really learn how these characters are changed by their experience. Sunset got shot. Applejack got shot at, and is surely feeling remose that she indirectly contributed to Sunset's hospitalization. Rainbow Dash is clearly dealing with post-traumatic guilt. Princess Twilight learned about guns for the first time. But we don't see the real results of any of these foundation-shaking character shifts.

At the risk of sounding crazy, the shooting itself and how exactly it happened is probably the most boring part of this equation, in my opinion. I don't think you needed to feed us the play-by-play with a second-hand retelling. I think the emotions would be much stronger if it were understated, maybe with Dash not wanting to open up, or having trouble recalling the details because of the adrenaline and the confusion. In any case, though, the what the characters gain from this shooting (or lose from it) is the real goldmine for opportunity, I feel.

I mean you're already paying a very high price of entry simply by writing about this subject, so I think you should go all the way and actually say something about school shootings.That's tough to do, but the fact that you've written this story tells me that you're not afraid of difficult things, so I'm confident that you can develop this idea to something that more effectively pays off. But as it is right now, I'm not sure what the reader is supposed to take away from this, other than things we already know about how school shootings are awful.
#5 · 5
The Hawkeye thing was kind of a last second pull, honestly. I realized I hadn't given the doctor a name and that felt really inappropriate, so I reached into my brain for a list of doctors and Hawkeye is usually the first one that comes to mind. I do really love MASH, so I'm glad the reference didn't go over everyone's head.

Though I didn't intend it to be literally Hawkeye from the Korean war, like Icenrose thought, so I might have to change it up a bit.

Regarding "reality ensues" moments: I'm glad that those few moments came across well. The original idea I had was "Sunset goes back to Equestria for a bit because the random, senseless violence of the human world is getting to her." But that sucked and didn't work for two days, so I went with an inversion where Twilight is suddenly exposed to the consequences of mundane (re: non-magical) violence. That a shooting feels un-EqG like is exactly the point, though I could have shaped the entire experience much better.

Thank you, again, for deciding to comment. Every little bit helps.

I'll work on that perspective shift. Stuff like that always gets away from me when I'm not explicitly writing in 1st Person. And, like I touched on above, I didn't originally intend Hawkeye to be quite so actually Hawkeye. But that's where I ended up, and I will definitely rethink that going forward. I already have some backup names in my mental queue to make his presence less egregious.

I agree that the premise is under utilized, and basically everything else you said. In the early stages of writing I had Princess Twilight casually asking why they just didn't get rid of things that were so dangerous, but at the time I couldn't come up with anything that didn't feel like rehashing the 200+ pages of gun control/school shooting threads I've read on other forums over the last few months.

You're absolutely right in that I don't have a solid takeaway. That's partly because the narrative itself is incomplete, and partly because I didn't want to moralize too hard at the audience. Like you said: we all already agree that school shootings are bad. I need to go deeper to really touch anything important. Now that I have time to breathe that'll probably be easier.

I knew this was a risky idea going in and I'm glad that, at the very worst, I didn't butcher it, and that we got some interesting discussion going. The subject matter is near and dear to me, on account of working at a school and not wanting children to get shot (even when they're being total assholes and destroying my machines).