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by LoftyWithers

“You go first, Petunia.”
She scoffed. “This was your idea, Toola.”
Toola’s gaze, and then the rest of the group’s turned towards her companion, who was staring intently at nothing in the direction of the crisis memorial. “Actually it was Coconut’s.”
Toola nudged her. “Coconut?”
“Hm?” Her attention returned to the group, snapping from face to face. “Why is everyone looking at me?” Realization flickered to her face with a frown. “Oh, no. Someone else go.”
They each looked around.
“Ugh.” Silver rolled her eyes. “There’s no way the colts are going. I guess that leaves me.” She looked back at the gate, and the attendant sitting at the booth beside it. “What do I say?”
Each filly shrugged in turn.
“Better question,” asked Petunia, “is how do we get my tools in there?”
“It hardly matters now,” said Toola.”
“That’s right,” added Coconut. “If we can’t even get in, who cares about the tools.”
“Well has anyone been in there before?” asked Silver.
Petunia hesitated, biting her lip. “I went once with my parents.”
“Well what’d you say then?”
“I didn’t. They only asked my parents.”
“Well what did they say?”
Petunia shrugged. “Wasn’t paying attention.”
“What if we say we’re looking for closure?” asked Toola. “My therapist talked about that when my mom died.”
“Silver? What do you think?”
“I don’t know. It’s been years since that happened. I’m not sure they’d buy it.”
As the fillies argued, Rumbled nudged Pipsqueak. “Well this will have been a big waste of time if we can’t even get inside. Can you believe we came all this way for nothing?”
“Yeah,” said Pip, distantly. He stepped forward.
“Where you gooing?”
Pip didn’t answer, putting one foot before another, gaze fixed on his destination.
“Well just go and try the closure thing,” said Petunia.
Silver lifted a hoof towards Pip. The other three followed the line it traced.
“Mother of Luna. Pipsqueak?”
“I guess colts aren’t so bad,” said Toola.
Coconut elbowed her. “What do you think he’s gonna say?”
“Does it matter?” asked Petunia. “He’s not getting in.”
“I don’t know,” said Silver. “Remember when Luna first came back? He talked to her on Nightmare Night and the rest of us were too scared.”
“I wasn’t scared.” Petunia stepped forward. “If Pipsqueak can do it, so can I. Not gonna be shown up by a teensy colt.” She waved off Silver’s remonstration, and continued towards the gate, as the attendant waved Pipsqueak through and he disappeared behind the topiary bushes. “Ma’am,” she said nodding in the direction Pipsqueak had gone, “I’m with my friend there.”
“Before you enter, you must explain why you want to see the statues.”
“I told you, I’m with my friend, Pip.” Petunia met her unrelenting stare. After holding it for several seconds, she broke contact and stepped towards the closed gate. “So if you could let me in, that’d be great.”
“I’m afraid you need to answer the question first.”
“Look, I just want closure, okay?”
“Then you wouldn’t mind leaving your bag out here.”
Petunia’s ears flicked. She turned and trotted back to the group.
“Why’d she turn you away?” Asked Toola.
“Pip got in,” said Coconut.
“She wouldn’t let me bring my bag in.”
“Do we really need it?” asked Silver. “We’re all earth ponies.” She ignored Rumble’s muttered indignation. “It’s just stone, right? We’ve got hooves.”
“I dunno. How do we get out once we do it? I mean, what would even happen if we get caught? It’s just vandalism, right? Slap on the wrist, sent home, heroes to everyone.”
“I think it’s murder,” said Coconut.
“Murder is okay,” said Toola. “What?” she asked at their sudden stares. “They tried to destroy Equestria. I think a little murder is justified. If Twilight wasn’t such a coward she would have done it herself, and good riddance. Do you really want them getting out again? They might kill us next time.”
“Toola’s right,” said Coconut. “Murder is okay.” As an afterthought, she added “This time.”
Silver interrupted the long silence that followed. “Pipsqueak is inside, right?” She waited for their nods. “We’ve got a pegasus.”
“I have a name.”
“We have Rumble,” Silver continued. “How about we give him Petunia’s bag and he flies it over the wall, drops it in the gardens. We grab it. Destroy the statues. Take the next train back to Ponyville. Or be caught and recognized as criminal heroes. Either way, a win.”
Petunia’s ears lay flat. “I’m not sure they’ll let us back on the train.”
They grunted and mumbled noncommittally.
“Besides,” Petunia added. “There’s a guard at the statue.” She shriveled at the attention. “I didn’t put them there! I’m just saying. When I went with my parents, there was a guard at the statue.”
Silver drew in a deep breath and opened her mouth, then hesitated, biting her lip. She released it slowly. “You didn’t tell us this before we left Ponyville why?”
Petunia shrugged. “Didn’t think about it.”
Silver facehoofed. “Okay, so the pegasus is still useless.”
“Sounds like we’re all useless,” he added.
Silver just waved him off. “Maybe that was a temporary thing. Like, after we fought them. And everyone was still angry.”
“I’m still angry,” said Coconut.
“You are?” asked Toola, turning and putting a hoof on her shoulder.
“Well, not really. Kinda angry? I don’t like what they did. But nopony died, right?”
“I heard about somepony in Manehattan,” said Petunia. “Like, my uncle’s wife’s something or other. I don’t remember. They had a heart attack.”
“Well that’s hardly their fault, right? People die of heart attacks all the time,” said Silver.
“Are you defending them now?” asked Coconut, shoving her hoof on Silver’s chest.
Silver shoved it away. “No. I’m just saying, they’ve done enough that we don’t need to blame them for things that aren’t their fault to hate them.”
“So you hate them?” asked Petunia.
Silver hesitated. “I… no, not really. They were kinda lame. Like, all they did was spread a few rumors and we started hating each other. What does that say about us?”
“That maybe we shouldn’t look down on each other just because we’re different types of ponies?” asked Rumble.
“Oh, sure,” said Petunia. “The pony who literally looks down on us when he flies, telling us not to look down on one another.
“But I don’t like, look down on you. I just look down on you,” he said, shifting the emphasis. “It’s not the same thing.”
“Whatever. Are we going in or not?”
They exchanged brief glances, then looked at anything but each other.
“I don’t know,” said Toola.
“I think I just want to go home,” said Coconut.
Silver turned to the gate. “Maybe Pip can tell us if there was a guard when he comes out.”
Petunia nodded. “Yeah! He’s like, a scout. Once he comes out, he can tell us what we saw, and we can figure out a plan.”
“Great,” said Rumble. “Anyone got bits for lunch? I saw a café when we passed the train station.”
Pip stood near the center of the gardens. “So that’s it?”
The old stallion nodded.
“It’s not really what I expected. I’m not sure what I expected, actually. I came here because of my friends, but they were too scared. Are they really stone, or are they just trapped in there? And how do they breathe if they’re trapped? I know Discord was a statue once, but he’s… he’s Discord. I don’t think he follows the rules. What would happen if someone smashed the statue.” Pip glanced at the old stallion. “Not saying I would. But, if someone did, would they escape? I know someone who… well… she was there before Discord escaped. She said his statue was cracked.”
“I don’t think you have to worry about that. The princesses took care of it.”
“But didn’t Princess Celestia take care of Discord?” Pipsqueak look to the stallion.
“Come here,” he said, Waving Pipsqueak to follow as he walked towards the building at the edge of the clearing.
Pip paused at the door, and the sign beside it stating ‘Staff Only,’ but followed him into the gloom, eyes adjusting. Before they could, the old stallion pulled back a curtain, blinding him with the return of light. He blinked a few times at the light, and then again at what it revealed. Returning to the door, he looked out at the statues in the garden’s center, and again to those along the wall. “Which one’s real?”
“None of them. Nobody knows what the princess did with the real ones. Spirited them away. Destroyed them. Nobody here at least. All we’re told is that they’re taken care of, and it’s my job to take care of these.” He swept a hoof towards the statues. “Folks do all kinds of things to the statues in the garden. Smash them. Paint them. Steal them. Wouldn’t be right to do that to the originals, regardless of what they’ve done. They can’t harm anypony now, so no point in harming them. But some folks need an outlet for their feelings, so the princess lets them, and we take care of the rest.”
Pipsqueak couldn’t meet his gaze.
“I think it’s about my lunch break. Nopony’s going to be around to watch the statues. While it’d mean more work for me, it wouldn’t be all that bad of something happened to them. No possibility of unleashing them upon Equestria, at least. Pip, was it? You take care, young Pip. Don’t go getting in too much trouble.” The old stallion grabbed a pail on the work bench and slipped out, leaving Pip alone with the statues and material on the workbench.
“I didn’t think you’d actually do it.” Silver turned over the piece of stone.