She sighed and looked up at the stars. The moon hovered overhead so large that the mare felt as if she could just reach up and touch it, feel the grit of the lunar rocks under her hooves, and find her home amongst the stars. Weightless on the moon, drifting away from all the worries and thoughts that plagued her
Her literal mind kicked into gear, demanding to know what she would breathe, since there was supposedly no air on the moon. The khaki colored mare growled at herself, finding the fantasy slipping from her hooves, and settled back down on her flank. The cushion beneath her was at least comfortable, and the soft sound of the leaves rustling helped relax her again, sitting on the balcony of the library near where somepony had set up a telescope. She'd come up here after her training "shift" to get some time alone and in hopes of distracting herself.
The Library was old, almost stately in its way. It was built in the lee of a large tree so that they almost seemed to be part of each other. Long branches extended out over the roof of the library, shifting and swaying in the near constant breeze of these Northern colonies. Aside from the rustling of leaves the library was quiet, and only a few dim lights radiated from inside to prevent trips and missteps. All of which made it easier to forget herself; to forget the fact that she'd only been contacted only once since she'd come to the Northern Reaches almost a month ago, to forget the gnawing worries about her friend Tome in the "tender" care of their enemy, to forget the niggling voice in the back of her mind that felt abandoned way out here in the Northern Reaches to forget the craving to fly and fight again with her friends and teammates.
At least Galaxi thought enough to tell her that Skillet's surgery had been a success, and once he was strong enough, he would start the long physical therapy process so he could walk again. He'd probably never run very well, but at least he'd be on his hooves again. Clockwork was thankful for that small favor.
She sighed and pulled another cushion over, lying down on top of it where she could fold her hooves, and rested her head upon them. With the big tree blocking the brunt of the fierce winds her perch was comfortably cool, and the whispering of the leaves overhead were slowly lulling her to sleep. Sure she had a temporary house, which she shared with three other mares, but this was just so serene.
"Granny?" a curious voice came from behind her, stirring the mare from her reverie, "Granny, you up here?"
"Probably not, it's just me," the mare answered, and stifled a giggle when the colt jumped in surprise. The little guy stepped forward, the moon catching enough of him to show her his soft cream-white coat and disheveled lavender mane, and his wide blue eyes regarded her with childish curiosity.
"Sorry ma'am," he apologized, "I don't recognize you. Are you new in town?"
"I'm here temporarily," Clockwork answered with a half smile, "I'm up from the south to help train some ponies how to use their new equipment."
The colt stepped forward a little more, and Clockwork spotted the small stub of his horn poking from under his mane, "Are you the one Granny Belle mentioned?"
"Is Granny Belle who you're looking for?" she asked in return, her eyes starting to realize how closely the young colt resembled the unicorn from the Crusaders.
The colt nodded eagerly, "Yes'm. Momma said she'd be here in the Library."
"And so she is " a new voice added from behind the colt, who yelped in surprise, then rushed to the half shadowed figure of the elder unicorn. "I must've dozed off; I didn't expect to be here so long."
"I just wanted to hug you goodnight Granny!" the colt cried happily, hugging on the unicorn, who laughed, "Maybe I can get a lullaby?"
"I don't know have you been a good boy?" she asked the colt, and Clockwork turned away with a smile. She'd never felt the desire to settle down and have foals herself, but the scene was too sweet for her not to feel a small pang of regret for her "active" life with the agency. She did her best to ignore the pair, figuring it wasn't her business if the child got a lullaby or not, even if she wondered if Echo was as good a singer as she was a "screamer".
The soft sound of a body lowering onto some cushions nearby pulled her attention back, and she watched the elder unicorn settle into place with the colt curling up against her side on another cushion.
"Should I leave you be?" Clockwork asked softly, "I don't want to intrude."
"You're alright," the unicorn answered with a smile, "I actually didn't realize you were down here, or I'd have joined you earlier."
"Are you alright? Your voice sounds a bit ."
"It sounds like rocky field after plowing, as Bloom would say," she answered with an easy smile and nuzzled the sleepy colt. He wasn't being pushy about the lullaby, so Clockwork got the impression that staying with "Granny" was the alternate solution to her singing.
"Er, yeah, that," Clockwork offered sheepishly.
"Doctors keep telling me I have to stop doing that sonic scream," she answered with a slight shrug, "If I don't, I might loose my voice permanently. As it stands it'll be a few months before I'm ready to sing lullabies again. Yet every time I try to quit and settle down with the grandfoals, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo drag me off on another crazy adventure. Just like when we were fillies."
"I gathered the Pegasus wasn't the sort to let age slow her down "
"No, even if she should," Sweetie Belle sighed as she nuzzled the colt again, who stirred only a little, his eyelids starting to droop, "Doctors kept saying her wings never grew out fully. If it weren't for her abilities, she wouldn't be able to fly at all, and they've plagued her with problems all her life. Only Apple Bloom managed to steer clear of any major medical problems, which considering her family, isn't a big surprise. They were always some of the healthiest in Ponyville."
"Did you know that when the three of us first came up here, Apple Bloom demanded they get this town as close to the original Ponyville as possible? Even the farm over there," and she waved a hoof to some fields Clockwork remembered seeing, "is where Bloom's old family orchard used to be Sweet Apple Acres if memory serves.
"I can still see it; the tall trees filled with juicy red apples, that silly little club-house that Apple Bloom somehow managed to fix up, and our crazy adventures as we tried to find our cutie marks. We were all late bloomers, you see, the last three in our class to get our marks. I think I was the last of us to get mine, but that's because I always wanted to make clothing like my big sister, and completely ignored music for years. Can you believe that?"
Clockwork didn't answer, instead just listening. In an odd way, she felt privileged to be there with the elder unicorn; she was perhaps one of the last living ponies who even knew "The Six" before they became "specials".
"Celestia knows, we caused SO much trouble as fillies, and half the time all we had to do was give the adults that 'look' and they'd forgive us just about anything," the old mare wheezed a laugh, causing the colt to squirm a bit before giving a cute little snore, "Well, 'cept Apple Bloom's sister, she was onto us from the beginning. Applejack may have been a country filly all the way, but I swear she used that to get other ponies to underestimate her, because she was not stupid. In fact, just the opposite, she was smart as a whip. Stubborn as a mule, but to keep that farm afloat as long as she did, she and her brother had to be among the smartest ponies I knew.
"Then there was my big sister, Rarity. Oh Celestia I looked up to her, I so wanted to follow in her footsteps and become a great fashion designer. Didn't have a lick of talent for it though, and I always ended up making a bigger mess then I started with. Big sister was always so easy to make loose her temper. I think she was a little obsessive/compulsive, but if I ever wanted to get out with my friends I'd just have to try and 'help'. I still remember the old Carousel Boutique too; you know she lived in there, right above her store? We had our bedrooms built upstairs. Some days I still wish I had her talent Did you know she designed gowns for Hoity Toity at one point? One group of those designs her and her friends wore to the Grand Galloping Gala that year.
"Of course there were our sister's friends too, who eventually formed 'The Six' you know. Twilight Sparkle was always in the library, and she could never resist 'the look', the poor girl. We put her on the spot so many times to hide us from Applejack when she was ticked off at us for one thing or another. But she always had some new idea too, usually pulled from one of those many books. One year she talked us into trying for a talent show Dear Celestia what a disaster THAT was! We didn't see it until years later, but we all did the wrong jobs. Bloom tried to do the choreography, I did the scenery, and Scootaloo wrote the music for a big rock ballad. I think the only saving grace was we won the award for the best comedy act, it was just so bad. I still cringe when Scootaloo brings it up.
"Then of course there was Fluttershy. For as meek a pony as she seemed to be, she was the only one of the mares who got us to behave. Of course we put her through a few hours of hell too before she got there. See, her chickens got out, and we were CONVINCED that we could get cutie-marks for tracking them down I think that was Scootaloo's idea. She always talked us into doing the craziest things, even zip-lining once who ever heard of a pony with a zip-lining cutie-mark? But Fluttershy she was just so timid, but she came after us when we chased the chicken right into the Everfree. Turns out it was probably a good thing we did that, because Fluttershy stumbled over Twilight back there, who'd run afoul with the monster that was giving Fluttershy's chickens problems a Cockatrice! If you never seen one, they look like a chicken stuck on top of a huge snake with wings, which is just downright silly. But their gaze can turn you to stone, so we quickly went from laughing to screaming if I remember correctly. But Fluttershy, she literally stared down the Cockatrice right in front of us. She was slowly turning to stone, meeting the Cockatrice eye to eye, and forcing it to back down. Fortunately, when the Cockatrice fled, the process reversed itself and it freed everypony the cockatrice had afflicted. That was the first time I ever saw the infamous "stare". Tell you what; she never had any problem with us after that.
"Scootaloo looked up to Rainbow Dash, probably why she fawned all over Ultrapony when your team visited, being her son and all. She was a huge fan-filly for Dash, and hung around her every chance she got. She tried to get Dash to teach her to fly time and time again but Dash was smarter then she looked, and was waiting for Scoot's wings to grow out. But she did promise Scootaloo she would help, and made a few attempts, but nothing ever really came from it. Rainbow Dash also tried to help us find our Cutie Marks a few times too I always came away from those tries SO sore. It was like she tuned into some sort of sports coach or something; she always took it so seriously. I guess, with as much as she practiced for the Wonderbolts audition, she really did take that sort of training seriously. I know Bloom, before she hooked up with Scootaloo and myself, said she got help from Dash to try and get her Cutie Mark. Of course it didn't happen, but Bloom said it was how she was introduced to martial arts, and we know she stuck with that. I think of all 'The Six", Dash was the most disappointed to become a 'Special'; it disqualified her from trying out for the Wonderbolts.
"Then of course there was Pinkie Pie. None of us really knew her that well, but everyone in Ponyville KNEW her, if you catch my meaning. She was the eponymous party mare, constantly in the thick of things, and she always seemed like she knew more then she possibly could. Loose something? Ask Pinkie, she'd point out where it was, or ask if you checked something, and there it would be. Just never ask her HOW she did it, because she'd drive you crazy; her logic just wasn't logic, it was just Well, we usually just said "It's Pinkie Pie", shrugged, and moved along. I know she and Dash would occasionally tear through town pulling pranks on everypony!! Well, everypony except Fluttershy They'd even prank each other! Some of their funniest jokes were, in fact, pulled on each other, and Pinkie somehow managed to give as good as she got. Dash used to just say she was 'so random' all the time, and I heard when Pinkie earned a title, she declared herself 'Pinkie Pie the Random' to honor that. Not that we didn't cross paths. I remember one time we decided we'd try to find out how the group earned their cutie-marks, and somehow Pinkie was just 'there' in the cart we used to ride around in. Sure it was just a wagon that Scoots pulled with her little scooter, but it might as well have been a chariot to us. But bang, she's just 'there', and she even has a helmet on. She told us her big story about how she earned her mark, and then throws all of us for a loop by ending it with 'and that's how Equestria was made!'. Scootaloo about fell over the handlebars of her scooter when she heard that, and Pinkie just hopped out and told us if we were good she'd tell us the story of her cutie-mark, which supposedly was the story we just heard."
"Why did you leave?" Clockwork asked softly, her eyes lidded as she could almost envision life as the elder unicorn described it.
Sweetie Belle heaved a sigh that seemed to rattle her body, "After that first attack from the Imps, Ponyville became a warzone. It was destroyed time and time again, and finally the ponies just gave up trying to rebuild and moved further away from the front line. Of course 'The Six' went active and worked for the Princesses, which meant they weren't ever home anymore either. For a trio of fillies like we were, that's not exactly the best place to grow up, especially while the closest things we had to parents were gone. Bloom did better then Scoots and I, since she had Big Macintosh. But Rarity had to leave, and Scootaloo's parents didn't survive the first attack. In the end I think the big guy took all three of us in to alleviate some of the loneliness with Applejack and Twilight gone. Most of us ponies moved to New Ponyville, and the Agency moved into areas near White-Tail Woods and the Everfree Forest, establishing their own perimeter to try and keep the Imps back."
"Wait White-Tail and..." and Clockwork choked, her head coming up off her hooves, "I worked that zone. Lady Sparkle used to be assigned there too."
The unicorn wheezed another laugh, "Doesn't surprise me. Twilight would never abandon that old library without at least trying to rescue the books. For just a library grown inside a tree, literally, it held a lot of secrets. It held a lot of books that you couldn't find anywhere else either, thanks to Ponyville's own resident Librarian, Twilight Sparkle. She read every book in that library at least once, and if she couldn't find it, she'd order it for the shelves."
"I I didn't know that's where Ponyville was," the mare admitted sheepishly, "If I did, I would have looked for it."
"It's probably why they didn't tell you," Sweetie Belle pointed out, "Somepony would have gone charging out there to see the site where 'The Six' had once lived, and the Imps would have crushed them. Really, Ponyville was too close to the Everfree, but thankfully very little wandered out of it. I always wondered what happened to Bloom's friend though, she used to live inside the Everfree all by herself."
"Who is that?"
"Zecora," the Unicorn answered, "Zecora lived her life in the Everfree, picking herbs and making remedies that could almost compete with Twilight's magic. I think they called her an 'Alchemist' or something, I don't remember clearly anymore."
"You mean THE Zecora?!?" Clockwork almost shouted. She caught herself when the colt stirred, and ducked her head sheepishly.
"I don't know about 'THE', but yeah, Zecora."
"I heard about her in the Agency. She single-hoofedly revolutionized the healing practices we use," Clockwork noted quickly, trying to keep her voice down, "My brother met her once when she acted as a liaison from her home country while we helped coordinate their defenses against the Imp invasion. Poor Widget was talking in rhyme for a week after meeting her."
Sweetie Belle cackled softly and nodded, "That was her, alright. She could rhyme anything, and after too much time, you'd end up doing it too. I remember one time the three of us tried to see if we could fool her, and we started throwing out words for her to rhyme to try and stump her."
"So which one of you tried 'Orange'?" Clockwork asked with a smirk.
"Apple Bloom. Bloom thought she finally got her, and then Zecora shot back, 'Orange you do want in a rhyme, and now you have it in good time'." The unicorn grinned.
"She dodged it?!?" Clockwork blurted.
Sweetie Belle began to laugh and nodded, "Poor Bloom looked so devastated when she realized she got outsmarted." The unicorn wheezed another laugh, and then ducked her head to nuzzle the sleeping colt gently.
Clockwork just shook her head as she watched.
The unicorn gave a soft sigh, "So much got left behind when the Imps invaded. Now the only place I see Ponyville is in my dreams. Even this place is no Ponyville but it has life and warmth, and my son and my two grand-fillies. So I've lived a good life, even if I wish sometimes that Archer was still around to enjoy it with me."
"My late husband," the unicorn answered softly, "Had a crush on him since I was a filly, but he was one of the few in Ponyville who had a war-time cutie-mark, so he was recruited for the royal guard. One of the first groups assigned to Luna too. They named his squad 'The Equestria Stars', and he ended up as squad commander. He served honorably until some years after the Imps invaded and he was injured in a raid, and was honorably discharged and he came back home well, to New Ponyville anyway. Of course by then we were both all grown up, but with that scar, the fillies left him alone. I didn't." The elder unicorn offered a bright smile recalling those days, one that seemed almost bordering on lecherous to Clockwork, before she heaved another sigh, "I miss that Stallion sometimes. He wasn't a 'special', and most of the foals seem to take after him in that regard, but he was special to me. Though I wonder sometimes about little Tempo here, I think maybe he may have gotten some of my genes."
"Given the number of 'Specials' amongst the Unregistered, I'd imagine you ponies know how to handle that," Clockwork interjected, wanting to steer it away from the subject of her late husband, if only to avoid another of those lecherous smiles from the elder unicorn.
"Oh certainly," the unicorn noted with a smile, "But if he has it, he's not aware of it yet. I don't even have conclusive proof; I only noticed that he vibrates things around him when he's really angry. I don't mean the usual temper-tantrum stuff, but REAL anger."
"Makes me think a bit of Thunderhooves," she mused softly, "He was a bison that started out on our team, and he could control vibrations in a way that sounded like thunder."
"That sounds similar. I'm not sure how or even if it'll develop. It could be a powerful version of unicorn telekinesis as well, which could indicate a natural aptitude for magic. But I'm hoping I'll be around to find out in a few years," she sighed, then frowned as she looked up at something, "What in Equestria is that?"
Clockwork blinked and looked in the direction the elder unicorn gazed. The mare watched an object arc across the sky, glinting in the silvery light of the moon, as a quartet of jets propelled it along. Her eyes narrowed as she recognized the blue-white trail, plasma jets, and her design specifically. She slowly stood up as it seemed to veer to the side, arcing towards the trio of ponies on the balcony, and she could almost feel the pony beside her tense up.
"Wait, I don't think it's a threat," the khaki mare said. The "thing" flew closer, and the quartet of jets flared about what looked like a large metal slab, which lowered itself to the balcony in front of Clockwork. The mares looked at each other, then back at the slab. Somehow the colt continued to snore on, oblivious to the occurrence.
Clockwork frowned, stepped towards the metal slab, and poked it with a hoof. It was almost two feet tall by five feet wide by at least eight feet long, but with her nudge the smooth upper surface folded up and away, revealing a large number of robotic arms underneath as well as glints of green and gold armour, currently dismantled within.
"Looks like you've got work to do," the elder unicorn sighed as she stood up, gently lifting the colt with her magic to lie on her back before she came over to Clockwork, "I'll tell them you had an emergency summons from the Princess. We Crusaders will understand, at least." She smiled, and used a foreleg to hug the smaller mare, "Don't be a stranger. As far as I'm concerned, you're welcome here anytime. The upper echelon may not want to admit it, but we could use a pony with your technical skills. Now you best get going I'll see the little one home."
Clockwork nodded, and turned to the elder unicorn, "Thank you for the stories. It's nice hearing about life before before the Imps."
"You young mares never saw Equestria without them," Sweetie Belle answered gently, "It's my job to remind ponies what it was like. It's your job to make sure we can someday return to that."
Clockwork threw the old pony a salute, "Yes ma'am," she said formally, and then turned to the metal slab on the balcony in front of her. She drew in a slow breath, and climbed onto the surface, pressing each hoof into place, "I'm going to feel really stupid if this is a trap."
The elder unicorn only smiled as she started to carry her grandfoal away, her ears picking up the mechanized sound of the robotic arms as the metal armour was assembled about Clockwork.
"Go get 'em filly."
"Your rendezvous is up ahead."
"Roger that," Clockwork answered, grinning fiercely behind the helmet, the power of the new suit thrumming through her. The Princess on the comms had been evasive about where it came from, but Clockwork suspected that Mai had something to do with it. This meant her silly AI went and hid in the system when Prof. Burner took over. How she managed to find an unoccupied lab to rebuild the Dragonfly armour, with a few minor improvements she'd already put on the drawing board, was beyond her. But she didn't care, the thrill of flying again was vibrating through her from her head to her hooves, and she was thrilled to be suited up again.
Unfortunately the situation didn't exactly call for smiling.
"You'll want to continue at your current speed due west from that location. If you get lost, follow the train tracks." Luna ordered.
"Who am I linking up with?"
"You should see her just off your left," Luna said, and Clockwork looked. In the dim glow of the pre-dawn light, she almost missed the rainbow-like streak in the air, and for a moment worried that perhaps it was Ultrapony again. Then Clockwork counted the colors
"All seven colors of the rainbow well, it's not Ultrapony," she mused over the open comms.
"No, you have me instead," a new voice answered, and Clockwork's jaw dropped when she recognized it. She'd only heard it once, but
"She's using Spectrum in the field," Luna corrected over the comms.
"Spectrum I like the sound of that," Clockwork admitted, "But, no offense, isn't she too young?"
"I come of the age next month," Spectrum answered, "But the Princess felt this crisis was enough to call me into action. You and I are the only Agents who know this team."
"What's the situation then? I've only been told they were in trouble and I would be briefed when we made the rendezvous point," Clockwork asked.
"Short version is this," Luna said, "We got an emergency call from Appleloosa, which, as you know, is a primary source of Apples for Equestria. Seems they came under heavy attack from the Imps, and put out a distress call. Thinking it would be a good test for this new team, I dispatched them."
"Isn't that near Thunderhooves' stomping grounds?."
"It is. I contacted him first to see if he could report, but he wasn't able to get close enough to be of any assistance. As it stands now, he and his people are caring for the refugees."
"So all was not as it appeared when the team hit town?" Clockwork considered.
"A trap?" Spectrum asked.
"Yes. All seemed normal upon entering Appleloosa, and nopony had called in any sort of attack. The Imps had been waiting for the team to arrive, and then launched an attack from all sides. Much of Appleloosa is in ruins at this point. Thankfully most ponies were able to evacuate."
"Which means they weren't after the natives," Clockwork said sourly.
"Precisely," Luna growled, "They were targeting my team."
"Any injuries?" Spectrum asked.
"Barricade is hurt badly, Ion Storm was killed in the initial attack," Luna said softly, her voice shaking with anger, "Pyre, Steelwing, Galaxi, and Flourish are holding, but their position is weakening. They've managed to survive the night, but there's likely going to be another push just before dawn."
"Which is why we're rushing," Clockwork said, "Why us though? Surely there were other specials a lot closer."
"Because I wanted I wanted Agents I can trust," Luna said, her voice dipping.
"What do you ?" Spectrum started.
"Wait, save it for later," Clockwork cut in, recognizing the Princess' tone, "We should be coming up on Appleloosa."
Spectrum nodded, "Let's go make some noise."
Another blast impacted the gryphon's metal wings, driving her back a half step.
"I cannot take much more of this," she said through gritted beak.
"On it!" and a puff of pink smoke both behind the gryphon and out in the field indicated Flourish was making her attack, quickly taking down the blasted Imp before teleporting back behind Galaxi's telekinetic shield. The grey mare was sporting all sorts of claw marks that would need medical attention, but her surprisingly good nature had managed to buoy the team through the night, even in these dire circumstances. Not that circumstances were all that good, given the open nature of the terrain. Orange rocky ground surrounded them in every direction, with the occasional scrub of a plant that had been missed in the battle the previous night. Behind them rested the now abandoned town of Appleloosa, the buildings covered in scorch marks and soot from the ongoing battle. The fact the imps had been attacking from the empty buildings was the only reason the team had not sought refuge there.
"Damned Imps!!" a fiery pegasus swore as she hovered over the group, and launched another stream of fireballs at yet another group of Imps that easily avoided them. The fire was just too slow, "I am wanting to rip their beaks off!!"
"I have a beak too," Filigree reminded her, but she didn't expect a response from the hot tempered pony.
"Any any ETA on help?" asked the injured pony, her yellow coat contrasting with her dark purple mane, and a nasty scorch mark that had crusted over her coat in an ugly, bloody smear that decorated her flank.
"They should be here at any moment," Galaxi answered, "I just wish I knew where these new Imps came from. Since when do they have laser beam eyes?!?"
"Did you warn the incoming about that?" Filigree called back.
"I'm not in contact with them yet, Steelwing. Luna knows, so hopefully she passed it on," she answered over the din, "I just hope they hurry up, the Imps are massing for another push!"
"NO! I refuse to die in such a dilapidated place!" the flaming pegasus cried, launching more flames in the direction of the Imps. Filigree rolled her eyes, and then focused on keeping the ranged attacks at bay through the weak spots in Galaxi's shield.
"They're here!" Galaxi cried, and a pair of explosions sounded overhead. Two figures, one in front of the other, dove towards the ground. Behind them a rainbow exploded outward from the sky overhead, followed by a blue-white ring. The two approaching figures pulled up as the Imps shifted their attentions to the aerial pair, one clad in only her snow white coat and rainbow hued mane, the other in gold and green armour with blue-white wings and jet trails.
"Attack now!" a new voice ordered through Galaxi's mental link.
"Who are you to tell Pyre " the flaming pegasus started.
"Just do it," Filigree cut in, and was already on her claws, her wings flaring out for a low glide to the nearest Imps. Flourish was instantly in the mass of Imps, causing a small riot as she seemed to be everywhere and no where at once. Pyre made a dismissive sound, but quickly followed behind Steelwing, covering the gryphon's attack with fiery sweeps of her hooves and flaming wings. Only Galaxi stayed behind to protect the injured pony, as the newcomers streaked overhead, still in single-file.
The leader of the two airborne ponies suddenly pulled up and back, looping over the armoured one and straight down into the ground. The concussive shockwave blew back all nearby Imps, and Spectrum jumped in, brawling her way to the approaching gryphoness.
"There they are," Clockwork growled, and flared her own wings as she spotted where the new imps were lined up. She fired her plasma bursts at them, blue-white fire washing over the ridge they had stationed themselves on, surprising the Imps. Unfortunately the Imps were not so slow on the uptake, and took to their wings, intent on overwhelming the airborne target.
"It's working," Clockwork sent, and dipped the armour down, under the first wave of attacks. She fired several bolts upwards into the mass, before powering the suit away from them, a large hoard of Imps on her tail.
"Pyre, set up. She's bringing them to you," Spectrum ordered over the link, much to Pyre's dismay, "Steelwing, cover her from below. Flourish, you're with me, we need to thin their ranks before they realize Galaxi is on her own."
"They're focused on you five right now," Galaxi added to the mix, hunkering down with the injured Barricade.
"Here they come," Dragonfly called, and swooped low over the grounded Pyre. She didn't know this Special, but it was easy to see what her power was. The flaming mare focused, her eyes closing for a brief moment, before flashing open again. Her wings seemed to grow by dozens of times, flaming versions of her actual (normal) wings, as she spread them right through the diving hoard after the armoured pony.
A good half of the Imps never saw it coming, their skin literally boiling away as they rushed forward to attack Dragonfly. Those that did see it could not stop, as they were slammed into from behind by less aware warriors and driven through the flaming wall. Dragonfly was quick to pick up the slack as she turned in mid-air, firing her own plasma bolts into the imps that arced up over the flaming line of death Pyre was creating, forcing them further into a bottleneck.
Then Flourish was amidst the confused pack, her horn flaring as she went from Imp to Imp, terminating their existence accompanied by her near constant jibes and taunts. Spectrum was quick to follow suit, with Steelwing close behind, pushing as many Imps as they could forward, further limiting their ability to escape the flaming wall.
"Quick, before they remember they can shoot energy now," Clockwork tossed in as she turned left and right, trying to look for stragglers. The problem was she knew they only isolated about half the group. Where were the rest?
"Galaxi? Where are the rest of them?" Spectrum asked, catching the same train of thought, "Dragonfly, anything on sensors?"
"I don't see anything on sensors yet, but the rocky terrain gives them plenty of cover."
"They were using the buildings for cover," Galaxi noted, "They seemed focused on ranged attacks OH!"
Clockwork barely saw the line of sickly yellow energy that Galaxi managed to shield their fallen compatriot from, her purple shield flaring where it was struck.
"Flourish, Steelwing, clear those out. Dragonfly, cover them. Pyre and I will finish up this group." Spectrum ordered.
Clockwork triggered her jets in that direction, her wings flaring for the slightly slower pace of the half-armoured gryphon. Knowing Flourish, she was already in there mixing it up, but Flourish could also teleport away if she got in trouble. Steelwing, however, was slower and needed the firepower support.
Steelwing was quick to respond as they both saw a flickering of yellow energy beams lancing out towards them. The Gryphon swung her wings in front of her, protecting herself. Clockwork rolled, setting a more approach vector, even as one caused her shields to flare as it glanced off. She thanked whatever muse encouraged her to angle the armour to deflect attacks, since that would make handling these new Imps a lot easier on her systems.
Then the world exploded.
The buildings erupted for no apparent reason, shockwaves tearing Dragonfly out of the air and hurling her at the ground. The sky filled with billowing flames. She wasn't surprised to find she was screaming, even if she couldn't hear it over her own ringing ears. She was, however, surprised when she realized the gryphoness had caught her, and was now huddled over her with her steel wings curled in an odd looking (and imperfect) dome to stave off the majority of heat. Thankfully it only lasted a few seconds, and Steelwing was able to spread her wings cautiously as the armoured mare looked out with trepidation. She was met with a sickening sight.
"What the hell happened?" Luna cried over the link, "Anypony? Team, are you alright?!?"
"We're here," Spectrum answered, Flourish appearing in a whoosh beside the pony, her eyes as big as saucers, "We're here, barely. But Princess Appleloosa isn't."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know how else to describe it Princess," Spectrum swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry, "Appleloosa isn't here anymore."
"It was a trap, wasn't it?" Clockwork asked softly as she rolled to her hooves.
"Seems likely," Steelwing answered softly, "They had all night to set it up."
"That explains how they were arranged," Spectrum pointed out, "They were set to drive you down into the city, then set it off like a giant bomb."
"So we accidently triggered it," Clockwork whispered.
Galaxi shuddered, "The Imps really wanted us dead."
"Why us?" Pyre demanded.
"We are becoming a thorn in the Nightmare's side, it would seem," Steelwing answered, and moved to help Galaxi with the wounded pony.
Clockwork swallowed, "A thorn she thought nothing of nuking an entire town to get to."
"Well, I'd say we made some noise," Spectrum said.
"I think that, technically, they made the noise," Clockwork joked weakly.
"We're the ones still standing."
Author's Note: Archer & the Eqeustria Stars are borrowed from Rilliswriter's ongoing story on Ponychan
Somepony foalishly said the Imps weren't a real threat until they blew up Appleloosa... SO THEY DID!!
As an aside, it seems the story I referenced from Rilliswater is no longer on Ponychan. No idea if it will surface again.
Comments and feedback are always appreciated.
Spark Chapter 2
Spark Chapter 7
Spark Chapter 3
But maybe that's what you wanted me to think- And so on
-Key is in Ponyville ? ...with the CMC... So, the ''unregistred'' are based around Ponyville ?
It's not far from Canterlot, and definitely not as much as we were led to think back when 'the team' travelled to help the CMC (like 2-3 parts ago)... unless they are 2 different places ?
... Good thing with Zecora. She's THE zebra with great wisdom and knowledge of the plants. I almost hope she had a 'special' filly, but that's not gonna happen isn't it ? ...
... Rainbow Star (Spectrum), the filly of Ultrapony, to replace the said pony ? It's good. Hopefully, Ultrapony's ''demensia'' (so to speak) isn't hereditary ...
... Barricade, Ion Storm, Pyre, Steelwing(Filligree ?)... Who ? Luna must have recruited, off-panel, between 2 parts ? ...
>I just wish I knew where these new Imps came from. Since when do they have laser beam eyes?!?
-The Hive had enough crystals and vespene gas for the Upgrade... and now those imps are permanently assossiated with ''Zergs'', in my mind.
Not entirely sure, if it's really a good thing ? But, they do show quite a few simillarities with them, I would say.
>Two figures, one in front of the other, dove towards the ground. Behind them a rainbow exploded outward from the sky overhead
-*Traumatic flashback*... AAHHH ! THE WALL ! Careful with THE WALL ! NOOoooes ...*Roll into a Fetal Position*... Oh ! The memories... Why must they haunt me, FOR-EV-ER...
>"A thorn she thought nothing of nuking an entire town to get to."
-Nightmare Moon can, ''apparently'', fully invade a town and place (tactical-)nukes whenever she wants to now ?
... With Appleloosa gone, the primary source of apples for Equestria, everyone is gonna die of famine in the next month or ? ...
Zecora might have had a filly, but I don't go into that here. But I couldn't resist at least a brief reference to her.
Spectrum/Rainbow Star is filling Ultrapony's old spot, yes. Tho I think Ultrapony's problem was less dimentia and more "raging, uncontrolled, ego".
Barricade, Pyra, and Ion Storm were offpanel, yes. I wanted to keep the focus on Clockwork, and give a sense that the group was haphazardly thrown together. Steelwing is Filigree (I hoped I had made that clearer) and got her own introduction.
Well yes, the Imps are a lot like Zergs... which would help if I ever played the games. Not a Starcraft fan.
Well, when she has 8 hours to rig the place up to explode. Technically it was a chain of explosives going all at once, not a single nuke.
Fortunately ponies eat more then just apples, and some of the Orchards survived... just the town didn't.
I loved the part where Sweetie Belle shared her memories with Clockwork, especially since you reffered to, "Stare Master," which happens to be my favorite episode. And awesome, Skillet is going to a-okay . And don't you find it a bit harsh that you just sorta....well....BLEW UP APPLELOOSA? I guess it just adds to the imps ruthlessness, meh.
Anyways, keep up the good work.
Glad you enjoyed it.
"You young mares never saw Equestria without them," Sweetie Belle answered gently, "It's my job to remind ponies what it was like. It's your job to make sure we can someday return to that."
Tempo's powers sound like sonic emissions. Except so far they don't require his vocal cords and seems to be described as an 'Area Of Effect' deal, AOE is a term used for an ability that knows neither friend nor foe. Otherwise Tempo could evolve into earthquake making or directable vibration cannon like the Shocker and his gauntlets.
Ion Storm, hmmm... sounds like a electrical based mare that would be more effective as a mobile EMP, she went down rather fast too. I can only guess what Barricade does, given you seem to be running a Gambits worth of shield type super powers. Mostly of which have differenty limitations that are all weak against being pierced or caught unaware. Pyre sounds like Firestar(Without the heat convection flying ability), Human Torch(same lack of heat convection flight), Pyro (whose ability was controling alreay existing flames) or Magma (without the small power over earth and the dredging lava up from underground thing).
Last Thoughts: Even if they blew up Appleloosa it's a good thing the apple orchards are out of town right? I wonder what they used to cause an explosion that big? Kamikaze Imps? Also, eye beam imps? Pyre probably is the most safest from energy attacks as heat can refract light and some forms of energy, just by dispersing it by temperature alone. Depends on the threshold that Pyre can reach. Barricade sounds like an offensive shield user, the kind that can project their shield as an attack but become very vulnerable because of said attack. Filligree's wings are shiny. Apparently Clockworks armor is built for handling energy and blasts type attacks directed at it, but can it handle physical projectiles? We already know it's tolerance to heavy force thanks to Ultrapony. Imps don't seem in short supply and they're gaining new tricks too. So... is it Land Kraken's next week or is it exploding Parasprite swarms?
Tempo's powers could be a LOT of things, really. I intentionally left it uncertain, or even if he had anything other then some potent unicorn telekinesis.
Ion Storm was an electrical type, yes. Tho she died "off screen". Barricade will appear later, but you have a good idea of her abilities. She's another shield user (and was a pony that I considered for the final team before hitting on Steelwing) with some flexibility in them. You'll see her again, don't worry. Pyre is a bit of the Human Torch and Firestar rolled into one (The Imps aren't actually shooting lasers, but it struck me as funny to make reference to laser beam eyes. ^_^ ).
Maybe. The Orchards would still have taken a blow. An explosion that close is bound to do some damage. Kamikaze Imps have already been established in the previous brawl. Eye beam imps. They're shooting energy beams, not lasers, so Pyre's abilities aren't all that effective. Filigree's wings are just near invulnerable, and Clockwork's Armour was angled to deflect incoming fire (so it works on energy and projectiles).
Oh don't worry, we get to slow down just a little from this before things fall into gear again. Give the characters a bit of time to settle in again as a team. Still, more fun is coming (clamps on tongue to prevent spoilers)
Beam or laser I'm still pretty sure enough heat would block or divert some energy, unless it's negative energy like ice. I; however, can see the initial problem of burning everyone around you if you had to do that though, so I'm dropping it.