"Wheels within wheels"
The air was thick and heavy like a woolen blanket, comforting and stifling all at once. Marble arches stretched to meet in the center of the spacious room, where a single wrought iron lamp was hung by a chain. Despite this single lamp, the room was awash in light, ensuring each of the eight alcoves were clearly visible. From one alcove a pony could enter this room from the rest of the memorial, a solemn place created to remember those who had fallen in the service of Princess Luna's "Agency", to remember those Specials who gave their lives to protect Equestria from the invading danger of the Imps.
In the nearest six of the alcoves to the entry rested a statue of one of "The Six", the first specials of Equestria, flanking the entry with three to each side. Captured in white marble that stood easily 20 feet tall, not counting the 10 foot base, these mares stood watch in silent vigil.
Immediately to the left of the entrance, the statue of Pinkie Pie the Random rested, her curly mane somehow captured in marble. Her face shone with happiness and glee, and the sculptor managed to capture her with such energy she looked ready to leap off the pedestal and throw a party to liven up the dreary place. On the pedestal below her rested a golden plaque that read her name, the date of her passing, and a brief few words to honor how she died. In an act of selflessness, she teleported a spell-bomb out of the city of Baltimare, saving both her friends and the city at the cost of her own life. She was the first of "The Six" to die, but her passing was most valiant and remembered by all ponies. In fact some ponies refuse believe she died, and insist she still lives. They reason that since her body was never recovered, there is no proof she did not herself teleport to safety, and for a long time sightings of her at various parties and events were the stuff of urban legend and tabloid newspapers.
The alcove next to Lady Pie held the figure of Rainbow Dash, the Fastest mare in all of Equestria. Her self-confident smirk and wind-tossed mane seemed captured in mid-jump, as though she were just waiting to leap off the pedestal and into the air to challenge any about keep up with her. Her plaque heralded her speed and loyalty, and how she lead a squadron of Imps away from her friends before she perished. It politely glossed over the fact that she died from a trap that the Imps had set for her, catching her just as she achieved one of her famous Sonic Rainbooms. She was lead into a well camouflaged wall, which she impacted with such force her bones were crushed to powder instantly.
To Lady Dash's left, stood the statue of Applejack the Strong. Her expression was one of open warmth, and the smile that played across her features that hinted at her tremendous strength of both body and character. At the time, the remaining member of "The Six" had been very vocal in insisting that the sculptor include her cowpony hat, which was tipped back on her head at a raucous angle. Her plaque was as honest as the mare had been in life, where it outlined her stubborn defense of a hospital, standing at the main entrance and defeating at least a hundred Imps before they finally brought her down from sheer numbers and exhaustion. She was one of the last two survivors of the group, and had stalled long enough for her partner to transport the last of the injured away before she fell.
To the right hand side of the entrance rested the other trio of statues, the first of which was the ever statuesque Rarity the Elegant. The statue maker was possibly infatuated with Lady Rarity in life, as this statue was meticulously crafted and all but breathed of the elegance and beauty the pony had possessed when she was alive. Her plaque gently glossed over the event that lead to her death in favor of her acts of selflessness, but nearly all ponies knew the story, and to this day stands as a warning to stay vigilant against attack. Lady Rarity was one of the few to hold a career outside of being a "hero". She had been unwilling to give up her creative side, and continued to design and sell dresses of all kinds up until her passing. Unfortunately an imp assassin in the crowd at one of her fashion shows managed to fire a single magically propelled shard before she could rise her infamous diamond hard coat. Worse, she could have been rescued, but she could not be woken again to lower that same coat. The doctors and nurses attending to her never felt more helpless then that day, and were only able to track the shard as it made its way through her body to her heart, where it finally ended her suffering.
To the right of Lady Rarity, directly across from Lady Dash, rested the demure statue of Fluttershy the Caretaker. She was as shy in image as she had been in life, and barely seemed to peek out at visitors from under her exceptionally long mane, her eyes soft and gentle and welcoming. Lady Fluttershy was one of the most popular statues in the hall, and her pedestal was constantly littered with flowers and tree branches (though no-pony is really sure what started that latter tradition). Master of "The Stare", she could create a hypnotic beam from her eyes if she met the gaze of her target, a power that was multiplied by hundreds of times when she became a "Special". Unfortunately, it did not always work, and the massive Destroyer Imp that did her in was smart enough to hide his eyes from her. Fortunately the plaque glossed that event over, heralding instead the pegasus' dedicated care of Equestria's animals and tender kindness to everypony.
The last statue on the right was, unfortunately, new. The final surviving member of "The Six", Twilight Sparkle the Wise, finally joined her compatriots. She sat on her flank, her knowledgeable eyes washing over the room, a hoof resting on a small pile of books just to her side. The plaque glossed over how ignominious her defeat was, how a simple brain-worm gem had held her in place and helpless to the attack around her. Instead it outlined the massive effort the imps made to eliminate her, mobilizing thousands to invade multiple points to prevent reinforcements to her position, and how she finally made the ultimate sacrifice to prevent them from stealing her knowledge. A pony could be forgiven in missing an addition to her statue, a late request from the Princess herself. The form of a very young dragon stood faithfully by the pony's side, holding still more books at the ready for his friend, and was adorned with a small plaque that only identified this figure as "Spike".
In the final alcove directly across from the entrance, and under the watchful gaze of "The Six", rested a simple display that few ponies believed was the real thing. Pulsing with ancient magic, the Elements of Harmony rested in their golden frame, each gem shaped by their last representative. It hovered above a white marble pedestal while it waited, or perhaps to honor the fallen around it, its chosen. Heedless of pony or Princess, the Elements refused to be moved from their chosen spot.
This final display held great interest to the pony that stood alone in the chamber, her eyes devouring the six gems with an odd hunger that was not her own. Despite the nameless craving in the back of her mind, she tore her eyes from the display and moved instead to stand before the statue of Lady Sparkle, her eyes downcast as she dropped a flower to join the pile at the foot of the statue.
"Guess our rivalry is pointless now, isn't it Twilight?" the cyan mare asked the statue softly, her voice trembling with unexpected emotion, "This isn't how Trixie wanted to become the greatest mage in Equestria. She wanted to beat you fair and square, and you went and died on her. Meanwhile, Trixie hides her name. So many times was she the villain, the bad guy, her ego chewing up the scenery as she stood opposed to you. Maybe this is what it took to make Trixie see the light, a reminder that her immortality is as much a curse as it is a blessing. That she will have to see those she knows pass on, reminders her how fragile life really is." The mare wiped a foreleg across her muzzle, pushing away tears as she looked around the room.
"Can these ponies forgive Trixie?" she asked the open air, "She won't know until the day her immortality lets her die and she can join them in the Summer-lands. Or maybe that's the point, she's immortal because you can't forgive her. She embarrassed every one of you multiple times, but she never tried to hurt any of you. She was a foal who didn't know what else she should do. She craved power, to be in control. It took Trixie all your lifetimes to just understand what you had in each other. For the first time since she can remember, she has friends. For the first time she's following your example, instead of deriding it.
"She's learned more about the Elements of Harmony, what it meant to you, and how you were chosen. Maybe as Tome, Trixie can make up for her wasted past. She wants to know your secrets, why these Elements draw her like a moth to a flame, and why they whisper to her with promises of things she did not dare dream of. Are they trying to tell her something? Under your gazes, it is hard for her to understand what, as she can only remember that which she has done to each of you. That which she has cause to now regret."
The mare turned back to the statue of Lady Sparkle and raised her teary eyes to look upon her, "Can Twilight ever forgive Trixie? Can she ever forgive ME? I won't ever know, will I? It's too late to ask this of you now."
The mare drew her conical hat back on, pushing it down on her head to hide her eyes, and proceeded from the chamber feeling drained. To her, it felt as if the gaze of each statue followed her accusingly, weighing her hooves down with her past misdeeds.
In reality, only one pair of yellowed eyes followed her, watching the mare closely with a wicked smile across it's beak.
"Okay, let me see if I got this straight."
The white mare in the purple bodysuit reached across the table, nudging a pony figurine to the center. A single light shone down on the table from overhead, leaving the rest of the room hidden in shadows.
"That's a solo formation," Galaxi stated, then pushed a second figure beside the first, so they were standing side by side. "That's a paired formation, 'pegasus' style. If they were single file, they'd be 'unicorn' style."
"Correct," Clockwork said, smiling where she sat just outside the circle of light. To her side, also observing, was Ironjaw. "Do you remember why the names?"
"Um because side by side they represent the wings of a pegasus. Single file they represent the horn and tail of a unicorn." Galaxi said thoughtfully.
"Correct again," Clockwork smiled.
Galaxi pushed a third figure to the center of the table, standing in front of the first two, "This is a standard Alicorn formation; two wings, and a horn."
"Precisely. That is the most common formation," Clockwork added.
"Ya. In a team like ours, if we had three fliers, we'd use two groups of three instead of the larger group," Ironjaw added helpfully.
"Not always," Clockwork corrected, "It depends on the situation. Sometimes keeping everpony in one group is safer. Regardless, continue Galaxi."
Galaxi bit her lip, and pushed a fourth figure into place, this time behind the group. The 4 figures formed a diamond on the table, "That's the four pony Alicorn configuration. Horn, wings, and tail."
"Another very common formation," Clockwork nodded, "Since usually the Agency uses groups of 3 or 4 for all but the most routine of checks, or if we're understaffed."
Galaxi nodded and used her telekinesis to hover a fifth pony figurine into the center of the 4 pony formation, "That's the saddle position, used for escorts or um "
"Civilians or even wounded," Clockwork provided, "Basically anypony we can't expect to fight goes there."
"Right," Galaxi beamed, and then hovered another figurine above the group entirely, "That's the 'cloud' position. They act as spotters and to try and minimize the chance of an aerial assault getting to the saddle."
"Exactly. That's the position I covered the other day," Clockwork chimed in.
"It's also the position Warpony usually covered, ya?" Ironjaw interjected.
Clockwork looked slightly saddened, but nodded, "Yes. That was Widget's old position in most formations."
Galaxi felt a wave of sadness from her friend, and lowered the figurine to the final position she'd been taught in an effort to distract her, hovering it just over the lead pony, "This is the 'mane' position. It's basically back-up for the horn."
"Correct," Clockwork stated, "This entire formation scheme was devised by the Royal Guard ages ago, and we still use it today. Supposedly it was based off Princess Celestia herself, thus why it uses an Alicorn for reference. Now here's a question Galaxi: what's the proper distance between ponies in any of these formations, assuming no specific orders to the contrary were given."
"Um err " the other mare stammered while she set the last figure down, then sat up when the answer hit her, "Oh! Ten to Fifteen feet on average, and twenty feet upwards for the cloud position. Spreading the wings should double the distance from the center, and flaring the mane should increases the distance between the horn, mane, and tail from the center."
"YA! I think she's got it, Little Key!" Ironjaw laughed.
"Yes, I think she does," Clockwork agreed with a broad smile, "I'm glad you asked me to show you these Galaxi. It's something I did not think about you needing. All of the active Agency members in the field know these positions like the back of their hooves. I forgot that you don't have the same level of field training."
"Technically you don't either," Galaxi shot back playfully. Clockwork stuck her tongue out at the mare as Ironjaw guffawed.
"Well, this is an interesting scene Tome finds everypony in," came a new voice as she flicked the light-switch to turn up the lights in the cafeteria, momentarily blinding the ponies assembled, "Tome never figured you the sort to play with dolls, Ironjaw."
Clockwork and Galaxi fell over themselves laughing as Ironjaw cleared his throat, trying hard to hide a blush, "They are not dolls they're action figures ya?"
"Your personal fetishes do not interest Tome," she answered smoothly, resulting in another wave of laughter from the mares, "Tome comes bearing a gift, instead."
"Oh? Who for?" Ironjaw asked quickly, his embarrassment forgotten in his curiosity.
"Our little Clockwork, that is who."
"Me?" Clockwork squeaked from where she'd fallen, half under the table. She got up carefully, peeking her eyes just over the table in a way that made Ironjaw burst out laughing.
"Awww, just like a little filly," Galaxi chortled, and Clockwork answered with a very grown-up raspberry.
"Why is Tome always the mature one?" the cyan mare asked in a "long suffering" voice that made everypony laugh before she magically nudged the figures to one side. She used her magic to tug a package from under her cape and laid it on the table, the metallic green wrapping paper glinting in the light, golden ribbons holding the long clothing box closed.
Clockwork sat up fully and looked over the package, "Aww, Tome, you didn't have to "
"Tome knows this, but she WANTED to. Now go on, open it," Tome insisted.
"Well okay." Clockwork reached out with her teeth and tugged at the ribbon which refused to give. Using a hoof to steady the box she tried again, giving it a good long pull. She had to strain a moment before it gave way with a "SNAP", sending the short mare head over hooves onto the floor.
Ironjaw roared with laughter as Galaxi rushed over to check on her friend. Tome covered her mouth as she giggled softly herself, "Tome thinks you must be fun at parties."
"Ironjaw!! Everypony's picking on me!!" Clockwork cried in her best little filly voice. Tome and Galaxi all but doubled over with giggles as Ironjaw tried, and failed, to look officious.
"I will protect you, Little Key!" the stallion announced.
"Protect who from who now?" a new voice asked, and a grey pony extended her head into the door.
"Flourish!! All these ponies are makin' fun of me!!" Clockwork cried. Flourish managed to look confused as the four ponies fell about each other in laughter again. Never one to be left out of a good laugh, the grey mare teleported over to try and make heads or tails of what was going on. Tome flinched slightly at the new addition, but her eyes met Galaxi's and she sucked in a slow breath to steady herself, she did promise she'd give the pony a chance.
"Tome is TRYING to give this silly filly a present," Tome stated, her voice taking that 'long suffering' tone again, "Tome is starting to think that Clockwork doesn't want her gift."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry " Clockwork managed, wiping her eyes with a foreleg as she pushed back to the table, taking the edge of the box and starting to tug at the paper.
"Don't tell me that's going to give you trouble too?" Galaxi groaned.
Flourish grinned, "I can help with that!" She leapt forward, her horn glowing as her "sword" leapt into existence. Clockwork yelped and fell back, quickly ducking under the table, where Galaxi joined her in short order even as Tome and Ironjaw backed away from Flourish's antics. With a few quick motions of her head, the agile mare shredded the paper into nothing more then confetti.
"You're going to be in trouble, ya?" Ironjaw joked, poking Flourish lightly "Making a mess like that?"
"What? Every party needs confetti!!" Flourish announced, pleased with herself.
"Tome thinks perhaps that we can make it even better " and she focused her own magic, swirling the sparkling green paper higher in the room, where it hovered just under the ceiling. Tome then grinned, and the small whirlwind exploded outwards, green paper and golden faerie-lights falling about the room.
"Ooooh, pretty!" Flourish grinned.
"HAH!! Now THAT feels like a party, ya?" Ironjaw bellowed, and clapped his hooves together with a clanging sound.
Clockwork grinned broadly as she tugged opened the box, gasping at what lie inside, "Is this ?"
"Yes Clockwork," Tome answered, "Tome felt you could use your own 'costume'. It is a bodysuit, similar to Galaxi's but without the mask, in the colors you chose for your power armour."
Clockwork spread it out so she could see the full length. It was primarily a deep emerald green of a wet-suit like material, with gold trim over the seams and zipper. At the flank of the suit, right where her cutie-mark would be, was an golden embossed dragonfly hovering in place.
"Go ahead, put it on!" Galaxi urged excitedly.
"Ya! Try it on!" Ironjaw agreed.
"Well okay!" Clockwork agreed after a moment, and carefully undid the zipper along the back and stepped into it, black rubber boots covering her hooves as she tugged it up. She paused to look at her own cutie-mark, a winder key in the shape of a heart, before tugging the suit over it. She adjusted her tail into the hole, and carefully zipped up the back, wriggling a bit to get it all the way closed before she flexed in the suit.
"Wow, this is really a good fit!" Clockwork noted, stretching a little and taking a few steps around, "I bet I could wear this inside the armour too."
"Tome hoped you would like it," the cyan mare grinned.
"Nope, I don't like it " the mare said, tossing her nose into the air. For a moment, Tome's face fell, before Clockwork launched herself to hug the other mare.
"I LOVE it!!" she laughed, "Thank you Tome!" Tome beamed widely and hugged back. Galaxi joined as well, and after a moment of awkwardness, Ironjaw and Flourish joined in. No pony noticed the tear in the cyan pony's eye.
"Tome is so glad."
Clockwork pushed her way into the Princess' office. She hated to admit it, but she was scared what the result of this "conversation" would be, but she knew the reason she was there. Ultrapony already had his discussion with the Princess, which she could only wonder how it went. She did know he was still on the team, so that gave her some hope for what might occur, but she'd had to deal with Ultrapony's ability to come through nearly anything unscathed before.
"You wanted to see me, Princess?" she asked softly. The Princess stood across the office from her, partly lost in the dark blues and silvers she had decorated with, looking out the window at the back of her office. Clockwork gasped despite herself, the sunset was beautiful through the window. She noticed, almost belatedly, that Luna's horn was glowing with a gentle silvery light. Clockwork realized almost immediately what the alicorn was doing and worried if she was intruding on her nearly sacred duty. Clockwork found herself frozen in place as she openly stared, and the sun dipped slowly behind the edge of the world, sending colors streaking across the sky like a handful of spilled watercolors. Slowly, into this darkening sky, the silvery glow of the moon lifted into place. One by one shining stars flickered into existence, filling the sky with a whole new kind of light.
The Princess let out a sigh and lowered her head, the glow about her horn fading as she turned slowly, "Sorry about that, Clockwork, I had to see to my duty."
Clockwork snapped out of her reverie and blushed, "You don't need to apologize, Princess, that was breathtaking."
"Thank you, that means a good deal to me," Luna said as she paused to take a long drink from a cup she had nearby, "Would you like some tea?"
"No thank you, ma'am," the mare answered, confused by the Princess' casual tone.
"I've decided not to formally reprimand either you or Ultrapony for your conflict yesterday," Luna said softly, lowering the cup back down to the tray with her magic, "But I do want a full explanation why it occurred, and the reasons for the actions you took. Do remember that I was there, observing, and listening to Galaxi's psychic network through the group. Fair warning, as I can assure you that lying will result in a less then favorable response."
Luna raised an eyebrow slightly and chuckled, "Well there's one difference between you both. Ultrapony launched into a self-defense the moment those words were out of my mouth."
"Well " Clockwork said softly, "I thought you'd have your own questions, and I'd do what I could to answer them."
"You're a smart pony, Clockwork," Luna answered, turning to look out the window again, "You know what I want to know."
"You want to know what cause the near brawl between Ultrapony and myself."
"I also want to know the cause of the animosity between you," Luna added, and Clockwork winced visibly.
"I am not sure that would be worth your attention," Clockwork hedged.
"Really?" Luna asked, her voice lilting with amusement, "I would say anything that affects my team is 'worth my attention'. My goal is to mold you into an effective fighting force, the ultimate combat squadron against the Imps. But if there is something I am not aware of, then it's my duty to root it out."
"No pony believed me," Clockwork said, her voice barely a whisper.
"I am not them," the Princess answered gently and turned to face the small mare. Luna moved to stand before her, looking gently down until Clockwork lifted her eyes to meet the Princess' gaze, "Tell me what happened."
Clockwork sucked in a deep breath and bit her lip, but the Princess' gaze held her own in place with its gentle insistence. The mare finally let out a sigh and seemed to deflate slightly, "It happened several years ago at least five or six years ago. I I was just out of school and new in the Agency, and a real fan-filly for Ultrapony. Classic filly-hood crush and the like, except my brother was in the Agency, and unlike the average fan-filly, I managed to get in to help with my brother's armour. This meant I had a real chance to meet him.
"Ultrapony was larger then life when we met. He had a mission in our area, but chose to hang around for a week after the mission was completed. My brother didn't care for him, but I only saw the hero of my dreams, and I ended up joining a small group of mares he always seemed to be surrounded by. I don't know why he chose to pay attention to me from that group, my brother insisted later it was because he warned Ultrapony away from me, but he did. I was over the moon, as the saying goes, and barely noticed anything other then Ultrapony.
"Near the end of the week, he got me alone in an area of the Agency VIP quarters. At the time, I remember thinking how lucky I was, and fantasized he might even give me a kiss or something. As I said, I was head over hooves for him. It turns out he wanted more then just a kiss however, and while I was naïve, I wasn't THAT naïve. I wasn't going to just lift my tail for him, even if I have to admit I almost caved. He was all hooves and silver tongue at first, but then he started growing very angry at my repeated refusal, and called me a tease and all sorts of other hurtful names I have no wish to repeat to a Princess. I remember being in tears by the end and saying something. I really don't remember what I said, but I remember his face turning bright red and his hoof slapping me across the face.
"Ultrapony is one of the single, most powerful, specials known in Equestria. Now imagine what it is like to be hoof-slapped by that. The fact I was halfway out the door when it happened meant I got launched down the hall and into a far wall. I was unconscious for more then an hour, and when I woke in the hospital the 'official' story had already been told. To everyone else, I was just a stupid fan-filly who got too close, and when he tried to nudge me away he didn't modulate his strength properly. He apologized to everypony, the press, my brother, the Agency everypony but me.
"I knew the truth. I had the massive bruise on my face, which if I hadn't been turning away when he struck, would have shattered my cheekbone. I had a dislocated shoulder, my left, where I hit the wall. I had two broken ribs, also on my left side, where I hit a small decorative dresser at the end of the hallway. I told anypony who would listen exactly what happened, and found out not only did nopony believe me, but they started to accuse ME of trying to ruin his reputation.
"In short, Princess," the mare said, her voice thin and tears starting to cloud her eyes, "Not even my closest friends believed me. Ironjaw, a dear friend of my family, doesn't believe me even now. He thinks it's what I BELIEVE happened, but he feels that the truth is somewhere between what I say and what Ultrapony says. My supervisor in the Agency told me to stop talking about it, to stop trying to ruin the reputation of the top agent they had, or he would toss me out on my flank. Ultrapony made an official statement on my accusations from some other region, declaring he was sorry for the incident, but accused me of trying to leverage this misfortune for my benefit. I have no doubt he blames me for any perceived slight or change in treatment he thinks my statements might have caused him. Only my brother believed me, and he's gone now. Mai believes me too, but because I created her I don't think she counts. I don't think she can believe I'm lying, and even if she did, I don't think she'd tell me.
"That's what happened, Princess," Clockwork finished, taking a ragged breath and wiping her face with a foreleg, "I try not to let it bother me, and I've moved on as best I can, but the moment he attacked me Everything came rushing back, and I was ready to shove my armoured hoof through his teeth! All I could see was that that "
A wing draped over the mare like a comforting blanket, gently covering her in a soothing warmth that brought Clockwork to a halt, her form shivering as she just lowered her head. The Princess used the wing to gently hug the small pony closer, letting her shiver and cry like a young filly, years of pent up anger and frustration in every one of those tears.
When Clockwork had managed to regain control, a folder floated from the desk and over to Princess Luna, "Ultrapony did mention to me his belief you were trying to ruin his reputation, just as you had in the past, thus I felt it wise to bring myself to speed with the official records. It seems it was deemed a relatively minor incident, and never reached the desk of anyone higher then the area commander for the Agency. According to the reports, an investigation was quietly launched, as there had been similar claims from a few other mares, but nothing conclusive was proven. It boiled down to your word against his, and as you know from experience, that always tends to fall in favor of the pony with the longest service or highest rank. I this case, it was a mare with barely six months experience verses a decorated agent with almost ten years of service."
"Roughly what I thought it would say," Clockwork said in a drained voice.
"Ultrapony was insistent that you must have sort of axe to grind with him," she said softly, "I did not see any specific act of revenge on the field, but I want to hear, in your words, what happened yesterday."
Clockwork sucked in a ragged breath, "He abandoned the team, short and sweet. He started alright, but when he started snapping at the other ponies, I knew something was wrong. When he yelled at Flourish, accusing her of being a coward, really made me wonder. Then he flew off, and left everypony confused. I just fell into the role I previously filled, team coordinator, and tried to finish the assigned mission."
"Clockwork, I need you to answer this next question honestly," Luna said, her voice dipping slightly, "Do YOU want to lead the team?"
"Whether I want it or not isn't important, it wouldn't be a good for the team if I were the leader," Clockwork answered with a shrug, "I couldn't coordinate the group AND fight at the same time. I froze up at one point trying to coordinate things, but I just couldn't focus on coordinating our tactics when I was firing my weapons. I knew from my brother that battles were hectic affairs, but I didn't expect it to be quite that overwhelming. Even if I had the potential to lead, I'd have a lot to learn before I was ready to lead my way out of a paper sack. I can coordinate, that's what I did for four years for the Agency, and I was damn good at it. But as a coordinator, I never had to sit in the middle of a firefight. I only had to guide them in a general sense, point out targets of priority, or feed them sensor data they didn't have in the field."
"Thank you, Clockwork," Luna said with a smile, "That was an extremely honest answer that tells me what I wanted to know."
"You told me essentially what I knew," she sighed, "The team doesn't HAVE a leader at this point. Ultrapony is too impulsive and short-tempered. Ironjaw lacks the foresight. Galaxi is too naïve. Tome has ego and control issues. Flourish lacks the desire or motivation. You are smart, but as you just said, lack the focus in combat. This leaves me a team with no leader."
"Maybe we need our own coordinator," Clockwork joked.
"That's an interesting idea," Luna mused, her brow creasing in thought, "An interesting idea indeed."
Tome groaned softly as she kicked the door to her room shut, a smile still tugging at the corners of her mouth. Clockwork had loved the gift, and for the first time she could remember, the cyan mare had friends and not fans. Fans dote and cheer and call your name, but vanish the moment you stop living up to their every expectation and whim. They feed your ego, which was something Tome craved back when she lived under another name, but vanished when the lights went off.
She was proud of herself by not loosing her cool around Flourish. The grey mare brought out the worst in her, at least at first, but she felt she was starting to understand her. She couldn't help but think there might be some deep hidden pain in the flamboyant mare, something that causes her to play the jester, but Tome doubted that Flourish would stop smiling long enough to even hint at the tale. At least Flourish was quite adept at picking up cues, allowing them both to entertain Galaxi and Ironjaw for a brief while with their combined antics.
Tome giggled slightly as she doffed her conical hat, remembering how Flourish valiantly "vanquished" the demon she had cast as an illusion for the story she told. Despite having to pause at one point to remind Flourish that the hero of the old story couldn't teleport away in a cloud of pink smoke, things went surprisingly well. More, it helped Tome feel connected to this team Clockwork and Galaxi, and now Flourish and even Ironjaw. In fact, that list was notable mostly for the one name that was absent from it.
The unicorn frowned as she removed her cape and draped it over a nearby mannequin, her hat joining it moments later. Ultrapony, their supposed leader, had been missing the entire afternoon and evening. Clockwork had a reason to slip out, as the Princess had summoned her, but Ultrapony had his "interview" earlier that morning, so what was the purpose for his absence? Clockwork had confirmed later that he was still on the team, but everything else was still a mystery.
The mare sighed and shook her mane out, trying to stifle a yawn that overpowered her, "Oof, Tome thinks maybe she should get some sleep," she chided herself. Her horn glowed briefly, tugging the blankets back on her purple and silver decorated sheets which covered her large bed. Tome could remember how she had to stop herself from bouncing on it like a filly the first night here, as it was by far the largest bed she could remember having the pleasure of in a very long time. Aside from the mannequin she used to keep her cape and hat on, the rest of the room was bare save for the door to a bathroom she considered downright opulent.
"Hard to remember I lived so long in squalor and cheap hotel rooms," she told herself as she made her way to the bed, scooting in under the sheets. Her horn flared momentarily as she tugged the sheets up over her, reaching to her nose as she snuggled in, smiling tiredly at the silly filly-hood habit she had never managed to outgrow. Her horn flared briefly again, and the single light in the room snapped off, blanketing the room in darkness. A darkness shortly filled by the sounds of her slowing breath as sleep claimed her.
From behind the mannequin, a soft whispery sound was heard, and a pair of pale gold eyes opened in the darkness. The imp's beak curved with a smile, and another whispering sound was heard, this the sort of sound old leather makes when it caresses the skin. The imp unfolded itself, the simple camouflage that hid it so well in the shadows falling away as it stretched. It was small for an imp, but it was here for a very specific reason, and it was time for it's mission to be fulfilled.
From under it's wing, it tugged free a glowing green gem, it's clouded surface swirling with magic. Unlike most brain-worm gems, this one wasn't designed to steal memories this one was designed to implant a specific idea and suggestion. He'd stalked the Nightmare's chosen target, and his mission was so close to completion he could almost taste it. But he had to be careful, he couldn't risk discovery when the plan was so near completion.
Carefully, with a slow precision, the imp crawled across the floor, his wings spread and held down. He knew to stay low, as occasionally she would look into the darkened room as if she felt him, but tonight she seemed too tired. Her mind was filled, no doubt, with of disgusting things like sunshine and green grass and friends. The Imp made a face as he crept closer, unable to understand what these ponies saw in such horrible concepts.
Finally he reached the side of her bed and paused, head cocking as he listened to her breath. He froze for a moment when it caught, but she only smacked her lips and began to snore afterwards, and he allowed himself a moment to relax. With the green gem in hand, he slowly and carefully began to stand up, slitting his eyes to minimize their glow as he looked over her. She was lying on her side, facing away from him, just as he preferred. It always felt a bit creepy when she faced him, even if he knew she wouldn't wake once he triggered the gem.
Finally satisfied she was truly asleep, the imp stood up fully, barely as tall as a pony. Stealth imps were notably smaller then their kin, suited primarily to slip into areas no normal Imp could reach, and hide for as long as it takes. He'd been in Canterlot for years, making the occasional contact as he spied on the accursed Night Princess, the weak willed fool who had been purged of the glorious Nightmare that lead them. Others lived in the walls of the Palace as well, but all were focused on this task, and when the time came they would likely be sacrificed for Nightmare's ultimate victory.
What a glorious way to go!
The imp shook off the reverie as he held up the glowing green gem, suffusing the pony's face in an odd sickly green glow. He only had to probe it with a claw-tip for it to spring to life, shining down on the pony lying in bed, locking her in sleep as it fed it's suggestions to her. In this case, it was a simple one, which made it all the more powerful. She only had to examine the Elements of Harmony with a small spell. She'd think it would simply confirm if they were real or fake, but woven into it was a weakness, a special touch designed by the Nightmare herself.
The Imp was sure it would happen soon. The fact she visited the shrine told him that her resistance was failing. Soon, so soon, he could leave this horrid place for the darkness of the deep skies once more. A smile washed over his face as he imagined soaring on the solar winds, and the embrace of the deepest dark that would welcome him after his sacrifice
Soon, he told himself, and grinned toothily.
As always, all comments and feedback is appreciated.
Spark Chapter 2
Spark Chapter 7
Spark Chapter 3
Well I like it that way actually. But the death of characters doesn't really get to me. But imagining how those left behind feel and react to their passing really gets my eyes watery.
>In fact some ponies refuse believe she died, and insist she still lives. They reason that since her body was never recovered, there is no proof she did not herself teleport to safety
-Well... Maybe, as she teleported herself with the bomb, the explosion did something or interfered in a way and she got trapped in the space between dimension (one that you go through when you TP)... Simply waiting... ?
>she achieved one of her famous Sonic Rainbooms. She was lead into a well camouflaged wall, which she impacted with such force her bones were crushed to powder instantly
-...Not awesome... at all... *BAM - a wall - death by bones reduced to powder*, seriously ? Death by WALL for RD ??
...at least AJ died making a *Last Stand* to protect an Hospital...
...Rarity dieing from an assassin, meh, ok (still BETTER than ''bones to dust'')... by a shard ?
Nothing better than a ''shard'' to kill her ?
And it wasn't even really the shard, but rather her OWN power that ultimately caused her death ? Bleh...
...Fluttershy killed by a special ''massive Destroyer Imp'' ? Well... it works 'ok', I think (at least it wasn't a simple Imp)...
...Twilight, well, dieing because of a big scale ambush and for the safe-keeping of vital information is ok, but Spike killed in his draconic-sleep (if I recall correctly) is a big *Boot to the Head*...
>"Ironjaw!! Everypony's picking on me!!" Clockwork cried in her best little filly voice. Tome and Galaxi all but doubled over with giggles as Ironjaw tried, and failed, to look officious.
-Heh... Nice moment. I guess this part is to balance the *cough* content of the Intro.
> "What? Every party needs confetti!!" Flourish announced, pleased with herself.
-Yeah, things are looking better with a little bit of silly-funny...
>Ultrapony made an official statement on my accusations from some other region, declaring he was sorry for the incident, but accused me of trying to leverage this misfortune for my benefit.
-And here it goes, it goes farther, even farther ! And now the level of ''a-hole'' of Ultrapony just reach beyond the planet's orbit, toward Infinity ! (I'm kinda half-laughing at this.)
(I, for real, don't know how this character could possibly manage to become/return good, in the nearby future.)
>Stealth imps were notably smaller then their kin, suited primarily to slip into areas no normal Imp could reach, and hide for as long as it takes.
-Micro imps capable of being invisible eternally, and their is apparently quite a few of them (if not MANY)... And apparently PERFECTLY undetectable by anything, anypony, and any kind of magic ?
...overpowered much, no ? (they can stay years, and even do reports while, in the most magical city of Equestria, with plenty of unicorns and guards and security... and EVEN not the Goddesses-Princesses percieved them)
And it's alright, I have a helmet to protect me from those boots. Needed it after the prologue of "Recursion".
As for the Imps... Again, you'll see more about what they can do, and why. It takes a LONG time for them to get a flesh out (I don't think they get a proper explanation until chapter 16), but hey, the villain is SUPPOSED to be extremely powerful. Wouldn't be much of a challenge to overcome if they weren't vastly more powerful then the heroes facing them. Tho they aren't "micro", they're only about half the size of a normal imp. Again, explanations about how they did that come in later chapters, as well as WHY there are so many of them. Amusingly, they have a very VERY simple weakness, even if it can be difficult to exploit sometimes.
But, in any case... Rainbow Dash's death, compared to any of the others, is rather pitiful and feels much inadecate for her.
Even FLUTTERSHY had a better death (even though it isn't said why or in what reasons she had to do this fight).
RD led a big group of imps away... then **squashed** into a wall...
Pinky Pie had a BOMB ! Rainbow Dash had a wall-to-the-face...
...you know I rarely say that, but... Raindow Dash *REALLY* need to have a death more ''Raindow Dash''-like, 20% Cooler, or any RD meme, etc... Almost *anything*, but a face-wall, would be a 100 times better.
-your the writter... it's your call.
Surely, it can't be THAT important to have RD die her face and bones pulverized in... a wall.
(It's like saying that superman died chocking on a chicken bone, because he ate too quickly.)
I know it isn't a big detail... but still...(sigh) oh whatever
As I said, there was going to be complaints about these, no matter how they were handled.
Clockwork:reminds me a lot of Applejack much the way her brother reminded me of Big Mac very honest and straightforward and also so stubborn that without intervention will work herself to death. Element of Honestly perhaps?
Ironjaw: a really nice guy although he doesn't exactly come across as smart. Still he reminds me of Spike in a way because of the way he relates to Clockwork
Trixie aka Tome: I will say one thing she has matured quite a bit since "Boast Busters" funnily enough though she reminds me of Rarity.
Galaxi: A very shy quiet individual still innocent despite whats going on around her much like Fluttershy and honestly I would hate to see what galaxi could do when mad if she is anything like fluttershy when she gets mad
Flourish: you've managed to reincarnate Pinkie Pie while still giving her a personality all her own. Well done. what does she hide behind the smiles and laughter though?
Sunset Sparkle: He inherited his mothers speed yes but where did all this arrogance come from? Dash had her moments yes... unless his ego and bluster developed from having Dash as a mother constantly trying to live up to his mother's legacy might have given him an inferiority complex, he doesn't want Clockwork on the team because he knows she could be better than him which leads to his abandoning of the team on the battlefield because he felt he needed to prove himself
feel free to correct me if I'm wrong about anything here as these are just my interpretations of your new mane 6
However I will note something. Not all of the characters are in play yet. More changes are to come... so don't assume every pony seen here will be the "mane 6" when the final chapter comes around.
Also I wouldn't think Pinkie is dead either, as laughter always gets the last laugh. If they never found a body, can I assume none of the 'elements of harmony' actually wore their necklaces while helping everyone?
Last Thought: Gir goes crazy and stuff = Ultrapony. Hopefully Trixie will continue to be friends and actually live up to Twilight's element of Magic. Clockwork = Do you like waffles? Why did they assissinate Rarity if she wasn't interfering in their plans at all? Somethings stinks in the state of denmark and the death of Rarity the 'Archduke Ferdinand' is actually more important to the plot, that and she was quoted. What are your thoughts on Mariachi Frogs?