The sun descended slowly behind the Everfree Forest, casting a shadow over Ponyville. A single grey Pegasus flew down from above the rooftops and landed on a grass covered path. The mare begins heading towards a single house that is hidden under the shadow of the Everfree Forest. This house was once considered to be haunted and cursed by the creature in the forest, but all that had changed now. The front was surrounded by a small white fence. Flowers lined the pathway to the front door. The house was now just as nice as any other in Ponyville. The blonde haired Pegasus reached the front door and stopped.
She could hear shouts of laughter coming from inside the house. Curious, she looked through the window. A small pink filly with a blonde mane was running circles around a table in the kitchen being chased by a larger pink pony with cotton candy pink hair which was also being chased by a white rabbit. An odd scene if the Pegasus had ever seen one.
The grey mare knocked on the door with a single hoof. The laughter died down immediately. After a moment, the door opened slowly and there in the doorway stood an ivory colour coated earth pony with short light blue hair. His worried expression relaxed as he looked at the mare on his doorstep.
“Oh, it’s you.”
- - -
Lance Angelswift couldn’t be happier. His little sister, Cherry Blossom, had found her cutiemark, a single white Calla Lilly because of her talent with growing flowers. She was doing well in school, they had their own business, she had her best friends, and he could spend all his free time with her. Lance himself also had made some great friends. Pinkie Pie was currently chasing his sister, around the house who was also being chased around Angel, Fluttershy’s pet rabbit. Although, mention he’s a pet and you might regret it. That animal is anything but cute when it gets mad. Then there’s Fluttershy herself. Calm, shy, quiet, Lance was sitting with her on the sofa, she didn’t like to talk much, but loved to listen.
Lance was talking about how much hard work Cherry was putting into their business. Her talent in the garden was remarkable. There wasn’t a flower she couldn’t help to grow to the fullest and keep healthy, long after it was pulled from the ground. A sudden knock on the door brought Lance to a stop, mid-sentence. The laughter from Cherry also stopped. A second later she was running into the living room, followed closely by Pinkie and Angel, who jumped next to Fluttershy. Cheery moved to stand beside her brother while looking towards the front door, a worried expression on her face. They weren’t expecting more visitors tonight.
“Stay here.” Lance whispered to his sister.
He stepped out into the hall and reached for the door. He wished silently for it to not be him. The pony who ruined their lives and they had to escape from. He couldn’t have found them. Could he? Slowly the ivory coated pony opened the door and was greeted by the familiar face of his friend. Lance breathed a sigh of relief.
“Oh, it’s you.” Lance smiled at the grey mare. “Derpy, how are you?”
“I’m fine, I brought you a letter.” She reached back into her mailbag and pulled out a single letter using her mouth. Lance took the letter in his and then placed it on the small table by the door.
“Thank you, but it’s very late, shouldn’t you have finished deliveries hours ago?” Lance asked her. Derpy looked at Lance. Well, one eye did. The other seemed fascinated by the roof or something.
“Yeah, but I lost my bag earlier, couldn’t find it.” She admitted, slightly embarrassed.
“Oh. Well, at least you found it.”
“Yeah, it was on my back. Always the last place you look, huh?” Derpy gave a small laugh, and Lance had to force himself to laugh with her. “Well, I have to go now, bye bye!” She gave a friendly wave and then turned to fly away.
“Goodbye, have a safe flight.” Lance called out as she took flight. “And watch out for those weather vanes!” Lance shook his head then turned to the letter on the table.
Lance had a deep fear that tonight it was going to be their father at the door. But then again, he always feared that. He and Cherry had run away after he attempted to strike Cherry. Lance had tackled their father and knocked him out. They had fled to Ponyville but always had been afraid their father would track them down. Lance opened the letter and began reading it. He felt his stomach do a flip.
They didn’t have to be afraid any longer.
Lance read the letter two more times, making sure that he didn’t miss anything out. Conflicted emotions swam through his head as he thought about what this meant. Lance turned around and saw both Cherry Blossom and Pinkie Pie looking at him from the doorway to the living room. Cherry then stepped forward looking up at her brother. Her face showing signs of worry. Lance had no idea how his face looked to her at this point.
“What’s wrong big brother? Who’s the letter from?” Cherry asked worried what the answer might be.
“L- Let’s go into the living room.” Pinkie backed out of the doorway to let them both passed. Pinkie’s unnatural silence would have seemed completely bizarre on any normal day. But it was like she had some sense of knowing that Lance had received some bad news. Cherry hopped up onto the sofa next to Fluttershy, Angel hopping down from the Pegasus’ mane to sit between her and Cherry. Lance sat down on the floor in front of his little sister so he could be at eye level with her.
“Lance? Is everything okay?” Fluttershy asked, concerned.
“Lancie, do you want us to leave?” Pinkie asked, still standing in the doorway. Lance thought about it, but only for a second.
“No, it’s okay.” The blue haired pony looked down at his hooves. How was he going to tell her? After everything they’ve been through. What would she say?
“What is it? You’re scaring me.” Cherry said. Lance looked up at his little sister, it was worse not to tell her. She already knew something bad had happened.
“Cherry…” Lance hesitated for another second, looking for the right words. “Our father… He’s… He’s passed away.”
Cherry leaned back, straitening up, Fluttershy gasped and covered her mouth with her hooves and Pinkie fell to her haunches exactly where she was.
“What? You mean he’s…” Cherry couldn’t finish her sentence. Lance just nodded.
“Oh, that’s just terrible!” Fluttershy said, looking from Cherry to Lance and back again. She looked like she wanted to reach out and hug the filly, but she could barely move. Cherry leaned forwards a little.
“Was it… after you…?” Cherry didn’t want to ask the question right out, but her brother caught on to what she was asking. Lance shook his head.
“No, it was just a few days ago. It was his drinking that did it.” They were all silent after that. The fun and play that filled that house not three minutes before had now completely gone. Even Pinkie kept respectfully quite, but she was the first to speak again.
“So what you going to do now, Lancie?” Lance looked up at Cherry. She was staring at nothing in particular on the sofa, probably thinking about their father. What was she thinking about? Lance looked to Pinkie.
“Well we’ve got to go back to Los Pegasus as soon as we can. We’ll have to pay for the funeral, burial plot. Then there’s the house…” Lance drifted off into thought. Having to go back there wasn’t going to be easy. A lot of bad memories, but some good ones too, with his mother mostly. Also the times he spent with his sister. “We’ll have to sell the house to pay for the funeral. We can’t afford it as we are.”
“Would… Would you like us to come with you?” The yellow Pegasus looked to Lance. He would have said yes in a heartbeat, but this was something very important.
“I’m sorry, but I really think it should be just me and Cherry.” Lance stood up and then sat down on the sofa next to Cherry. He wrapped a leg around her and immediately she wrapped him tight into a hug. She wasn’t crying, but Lance understood what she was feeling, despite everything. How hard it was growing up with him, the struggle, the pain and the heartache. He was still their father. Lance remembered what his mother told him.
Your father is a really nice stallion. He just has a few problems. But behind that, he’s got a charming, caring side to him. You just have to find it.
Lance hardly saw that side to him. He was always drinking, complaining. Yet their mother loved him for a reason. Fluttershy stood up from the sofa but Lance barely noticed.
“If- if you need us…” Fluttershy said from the doorway. Lance didn’t respond. He just nuzzled his little sister, holding his head against hers. The front door clicked closed.
They were alone now.
- - -
The next morning, Lance and Cherry began packing a few essentials into their saddle bags. They spent the previous night just cuddled up together on the sofa, Cherry had fallen asleep but Lance didn’t want to move or disturb her. He spent the night wishing things could have been different, that they could have been happy together. There were a lot of things that just weren’t fair, but Lance had to accept that’s just how things were. Again, he’d have to be strong for his sister.
This morning they planned to leave for Los Pegasus, catching an early train. It would be late afternoon by the time they reached their fathers house. Cherry hadn’t spoken all morning, they both ate a small breakfast, not really feeling hungry, but they packed a lunch for on the train. They headed out the door with everything packed and locked up the house.
They had to make two quick detours, one past Fluttershy’s cottage. Lance needed to ask her a favour. Her cottage was only a short trot away from his house, just past a hill. The other detour was to the school. He had to let Miss Cheerilee know Cherry wasn’t going to be in school for the rest of the week. They reach the Pegasus’s home and knocked gently on the door. The Yellow mare opened the door slightly, poking her head out and then opened it all the way upon seeing who it was.
“Good morning Lance. Good morning Cherry.” She said happily. She then noticed the bags that were strapped to their backs. “Oh. A… are you leaving already?”
“Good morning Fluttershy,” Said Lance. “And yes, we’re catching the next train to Los Pegasus.”
“Okay then, you’ll take care of yourselves, won’t you?” Fluttershy asked.
“Don’t worry,” said Lance. “We’ll be alright. But actually, there’s a favour we’d like to ask of you. If you’re too busy we’ll understand of course.”
“Oh yes, anything. What can I do to help?”
“We’ll be gone for a few days. Could you watch the garden for us? You know, water the flowers?”
“Of course, that won’t be a problem at all.” Fluttershy looked down at Cherry. She was staring at the ground. “How’s she doing?” Lance looked down to his sister.
“She’s been quiet all morning. She just needs a little more time.”
Fluttershy leaned in close to Cherry.
“Cherry, don’t worry about your garden, I promise to take good care of it. And if there’s anything you need, you just tell me okay?” Cherry gave a slight nod, but she never met Fluttershy’s gaze. Fluttershy stood back up. She didn’t understand how the little filly was feeling, but who could?
“Thank you Fluttershy,” Lance said. “We’ll come by and let you know when we’re back. See you later. Bye.” Lance turned to leave down the path, Cherry staying close by his side.
“Goodbye Lance.” Fluttershy called after them. “Goodbye Cherry!” Cherry looked back to Fluttershy finally making eye contact. Fluttershy gave her a wave of her hoof as the pink filly turned back and walked down the path.
- - -
Traveling to the school was a bit out of their way, but it was something they had to do. Upon reaching the school, Lance saw that class hadn’t started yet. Miss Cheerilee was stood by the classroom door watching over her students. Lance started to walk over to her to tell her what was going on, of course they had only reached halfway before three little fillies ran up to them. Cherry’s best friends, Applebloom, Sweetie Belle and the first friend she ever made, Scootaloo.
“Hey Cherry! Hey Mr. Angelswift!” They all said in unison.
“Hello girls.” He responded. Cherry Blossom didn’t say anything, other than make a murmuring sound.
“Is something wrong?” Scootaloo asked Cherry, looking between her and her brother. Cherry wasn’t going to say anything it seemed.
“I’m afraid we’re leaving town for a few days girls.” Lance said.
“What?!” Sweetie Belle squeeked loudly.
“What wrong?” Applebloom asked. Lance looked at the three fillies, than he noticed another pony coming up from behind them.
“Is everything alright over here?” Miss Cheerilee asked.
“Good morning Miss Cheerilee.” Lance said politely. “I’m sorry this is such short notice, but Cherry and I have to leave Ponyville for a few days.”
“Oh goodness, I hope it’s nothing too serious.”
“Actually,” Lance started as looked down at the ground, than he looked back up to the school teacher. “It’s our father. He’s just passed away.”
“Oh no!” Cheerilee said, stunned. The three little fillies looked up to Lance with their mouths wide open, and then they quickly ran to Cherry’s side, consoling her. Lance thought that the support of her friends might help her, but for some reason she looked like she didn’t want them to even talk to her.
Lance explained to Cheerilee that they had to head back to Los Pegasus and Cherry would be out of school for at least a week. She understood completely and then called for the students to begin going inside the classroom. The three fillies gave there farewells and well wishes to Cherry, Scootaloo was the last to leave, even asking if she could come too. But Lance had to turn her down.
They then left for the train station, leaving Scootaloo to be escorted inside by Miss Cheerilee. The little orange filly kept looking back, watching as Lance and Cherry walked away.
- - -
The train station wasn’t very busy at this time, Lance and Cherry had another twenty minutes until there train would arrive. After collecting there tickets, they both sat on a bench and waited silently. Lance didn’t know what to say. Thoughts played through his head about what he would have to do once they arrived in Los Pegasus. Lance was surprised when his sister broke the silence.
“What was he like?” Lance looked at down at Cherry Blossom, not quite sure what she meant.
“What you mean?” He asked her.
“Our dad, I never knew him for long and all those times together… they aren’t good ones.”
So that’s what’s wrong. Lance thought. She doesn’t have any happy memories to remember him by. Cherry couldn’t be sad that their father was gone and everyone feeling sorry for her was just making her feel worse about it.
“Well, I don’t know what he was like before he met our mother, but the memories I have of him are quite different to the ones that... came later.” Lance thought back, trying to think of a happy memory. “I can’t remember him doing anything that special for us. But it’s the little things that he did, before he started drinking uncontrollably…” Lance was going into an area that he thought best kept out of. He tried to think of something funny.
“Well, I remember that one night, there was a power outage, and I was still scared of the dark. I stayed next to the candle by the window keeping my eyes open, hoping for the big bright lights that I eventually got sick of seeing would come back on. I remember he snuck up behind me wearing a big goofy wolf mask and roared as loud as he could. As I spun around the candle glow made him look even more terrifying. Haha. I screamed and ran so fast, crying out for mum…”
Lance was laughing to himself but then slowly stopped. He looked at Cherry, a small smile coming onto her face. Lance thought about another memory.
“Well, there was this one time that I get a new set of roller skates. Of course I soon fell and scrapped my knee. But dad was the only one there though. He said that he wasn’t going to help me unless I stopped crying like a baby. Said I needed to toughen up. So I did my best to hold it all in, and I did. Once I stopped crying, he said ‘Good. Now up you get.’ And then he helped me back into the house.”
Cherry sat, listening to every word as Lance told her as many stories as he could. It felt good to talk about happier memories of their father, before he became a heavy drinker, before their mother passed away. Although it didn’t help that Cherry never saw this side of her father, but she seemed to be glad to know that it existed.
A train pulled into the station, A few ponies got off and less than half a dozen got on. Being a Tuesday, most ponies were either already at work or staying at home.
“You ready to go?” Lance asked Cherry.
“Yeah, I’m ready.” Cherry said as she jumped down. She was in higher spirits now which was good. They made their way onto the train. By sundown, they should reach Los Pegasus.
The train rolled along the tracks bumpily, going through White Tale Woods. The sun was at its highest point meaning it was noon and Cherry watched with her brother as each of the rich green trees passed them by, occasionally the train would hit a bump and cause them both to bounce up and down for a short second. The pink filly turned from the window and looked around the train. There were barely any ponies in this carriage, seemed like no pony wanted to head out to Los Pegasus. Cherry could see a pony with a dark grey coat and fiery orange hair sitting towards the front of their carriage. Cherry guessed she was a unicorn, since there was a book in front of her being held in an orange glow. Cherry felt a nudge from her brother and looked towards him.
“Hey,” Lance said. “You getting hungry?”
Cherry gave a nod and then Lance reached down for their bags. Cherry saw something out the window, far off into the woods. Lance sat back up with the bags, breaking Cherry’s line of sight with the thing she saw out there. She stood on the chair to look past her brother, but whatever was there before was now gone.
“Let’s see,” Lance started, making a list of foods they had. “We’ve got a Daisy sandwich. err, an apple turnover, apple fritter or some hay crisps. Anything sound good to you?”
Cherry was still looking out the window, Lance spotted this and then followed her gaze.
“What?” Lance looked around trying to see something other than the trees. “Did you see something?”
“I thought I saw-“ A bang from behind them made them spin in their seats. A Pegasus had just come through the compartment door and slammed it a little too aggressively behind them. He had a short black mane and a beige coloured coat. As he passed Lance and Cherry, he was mumbling something about being unable to get any rest because of annoying music. He seemed very angry, as if he’d just been yelling at another pony. He headed right through to the next compartment, again slamming doors behind him. Cherry looked up at Lance and he just shrugged.
“So, what you wanna eat?” Lance asked as he ducked his head into the bag. Cherry saw something huge outside the window but couldn’t say anything fast enough. Something crashed into the side of the carriage causing a thunderous roar from the train as it derailed, and flipped over. Cherry screamed along with every other pony in the other carriages as windows smashes and glass flew around the carriage. She wasn’t sure what happened next except that during mid-fall, she felt her brother grab her before the train landed on its side and skidded across the ground.
- - -
“Is he going to make it?”
Everything was dark. Lance could hear quiet whispers from beside him, yet it sounded so distant like they were at the other end of a tunnel.
“A crash like that should have killed him. Certainly would have the girl if he didn’t save her.”
Huh? Crash? Lance thought to himself.
He tried to think back to what he last remembered. The crash! He and Cherry were flung from their seats. He remembered instinctively grabbing his sister instead of holding onto something. When the train was hit, the force launched him and his sister to the other side of the carriage. Before he realised it, he had her clutched to his chest and placed himself between her and the window. That was all he could remember before everything went black.
“How is she doing?”
Cherry! Lance tried to stand up but a weight on his chest and the pain in his back stopped him before he moved an inch.
“Hey! He’s awake!” Lance heard one of the mare’s say. Then suddenly he felt himself being pushed back down. “Easy pal, easy! It’s alright, don’t move.”
Lance opened his eyes. His vision was blurred but before him was a beautiful white unicorn, with long purple hair.
“Rarity?” Lance asked, weakly.
“Hmm? A rarity to survive that wreck? You bet’cha.” The white unicorn replied. Lance rubbed his eyes with the back of his hoof. The mare before him came into focus, it wasn’t the pony he knew from Carousel Boutique back in Ponyville. This pony’s mane was blue and straight, instead of curled near the ends.
“Ugh, what happened?” Lance moved his head to take in his surroundings.
It was still daylight, maybe a few hours since noon and he was in a small area of the woods. A group of ponies were all carrying bags and bundles, placing them to the side while others were resting against trees, clutching bandages to their wounds. On the other side, he saw the train. Pink, blue, green and an assortment of other colours from the train littered the ground. It was a wreck. Glass was everywhere, parts of it were burning, many of the seats from inside had been lifted out, most likely by unicorn magic, and were being used as beds for the most severely injured. Lance didn’t look closely at those ponies. His heart gave a leap.
“Where’s Cherry?!” He asked loudly, trying to get up again. The mare pushed him gently back down.
“Shh. Your sister is fine. She hasn’t left your side the entire time.” The white unicorn said, calmly. Lance looked down at his side and saw his sister there. She had fallen asleep with her head on his chest. “The train derailed.” The unicorn told Lance. “Dunno how, but felt like something hit it.”
“We think a tree fell on it.” The mint green earth pony said from behind the white pony. The unicorn rolled her eyes but said nothing as the mint green coloured mare walked over to a pony who called out for assistance. Lance guessed that these two were the only ponies who knew anything about first aid.
“So is Cherry okay?” Lance asked.
“Thanks to you.” The mare said with a smile. “We found you both in the carriage after the poor dear started crying for help.” Lance looked at his sister and saw she had tear stains down her face where dirt should have been. She had cried herself to sleep.
“We couldn’t do anything to check if she was okay until we tended to you first. Even then it was a struggle for us to get her to let you go for just a moment.”
Lance thought about how scared Cherry must have been. If he had died, what would she have done? What would have happened to her? He was all she had left. Lance turned back to the mare.
“Thank you… Ms?”
“Moonlight. Just Moonlight.”
“Lance Angelswift. And this is my little sister, Cherry Blossom.”
The mare smiled at him then stood up.
“Get some more rest Mr. Angelswift. And don’t you disturb that filly. If you do, I’ll make sure the next medication tastes rotten.” She turned to leave and Lance watched her as she left. She looked like an angel. An angel that had saved his life. A beautiful mare, with her long blue mane, glorious white coat and a very cute-
See something you like, Lancie? An image of Pinkie Pie popped up right where we was staring, giving him a suggestive look and making Lance jump as if she had suddenly appeared right in his face. Lance didn’t even realise he had just yelped, bringing the entire attention of the camp facing his way. His whole body shook as his heart threated to beat, right out of his chest.
“Huh? Wha…?” Lance looked down to where the tired, cracked voice had come from. His sister was looking at him, startled, than a second later she was yelling, burying her head into his neck, crying her heart out. Lance tried to hug his sister without moving his back too much, but she was causing him a lot of pain anyway so he just threw his forelegs around her. Lance gave his sister a little nuzzle and then noticed Moonlight stood where she last was. She had her hoof raised in a ”What did I just tell you?” manner.
Lance wasn’t going to be getting the good medicine tonight.
- - -
It was getting late into the day, Lance was starting to feel better, though his back would be messed up for a while. He wasn’t a stranger to pain though. Compared to the time he was attacked by a four headed hydra, this pain was nothing. Still, he didn’t need to move so he kept as still as possible. His sister was by his side and their stuff had been recovered. It was lying beside them both, one bag being used to support Lance’s head.
The entire makeshift camp was being delighted to a song being played by a pegasus with a white coat and long blue hair. At first Lance wondered if the stallion pegasus playing the guitar was related to Moonlight, since they looked almost identical, but she said she only had a sister, and laughed at the idea of a unicorn being siblings with a pegasus. Lance and Cherry exchanged a look. They both remembered the twins, Pound Cake, a pegasus colt, and Pumpkin Cake, a unicorn filly. What boggled the mind even more is that their parents were earth ponies. Genetics gave Lance a headache.
Moonlight said the guitarist’s name was Rift and was supposed to be performing at Los Pegasus, suddenly yelling could be heard across the camp, coming from where the guitarist was sitting. The music had stopped midway through.
“ We’re tired of your garbage music! Ponies are in need of urgent medical treatment and you’re causing nothing but pain, disturbing their rest!”
“I’m causing trouble? You’re the only one complaining and disturbing everypony.”
Lance recognised the beige pegasus from before on the train, now he had a bandage wrapped around his right wing, and he was in the face of the white pegasus, Rift. The beige pony with the black mane was being pushed back by a third pony that had entered the fray, a white earth pony wearing a red Fez hat. He was trying to play the role of peacekeeper. Lance slowly got up as he noticed the pegasus being held back wasn’t backing down. Lance didn’t like how this was looking. Moonlight told Lance to stay down but he instead shook his head and turned to Cherry.
“Cherry, wait here for me.” She nodded and then sat down. Lance headed over to the argument, followed by Moonlight, and though his back was hurting he would be ready to step in, should anything bad happen.
“No pony gives a flying feather about your music!” The beige pegasus was saying, while trying to be restrained by the earth pony.
“Hey, it’s a free country! You don’t like it, go somewhere else, no one’s asking you to stay!” The white pegasus retaliated. The arguing went back and forth between the two, the beige pony becoming more aggressive, then in the blink of an eye he broke free, charging the white pony. Lance prepared to tackle him to the ground, when suddenly a wall of fire leaped up from the ground, causing the pegasus to stop dead in his tracks. Ponies around them screamed and ran backwards, but as quick as the flames appeared, they also disappeared. A dark grey unicorn mare with fiery orange hair stood forward with a closed book floating by her head.
“I’m trying to read!“ She said in an annoyed tone. “And your argument is more frustrating than anything else that has happened today!” She turned and walked away. Everypony stood in shock. An unbelievable sight that Lance himself wondered if Twilight had a spell such as that. Lance turned to Moonlight.
“Who was that?”
“Fire Wire” She said, calmly. “Not much is known about her. She’s a nice pony who just likes to study.” Moonlight turned around to leave. “Just don’t interrupt her while she’s reading.” The unicorn walked off, leaving Lance standing there.
“Ridiculous.” Lance overheard the beige pegasus talking to himself, but he was talking like he thought no other pony could hear him, or he just didn’t care. “These ponies are just sitting around, wasting time. We should be out looking for help.”
Lance thought he had a point. There were a lot of badly hurt ponies who needed help. Lance looked over to Cherry who was sitting right where he left her, and she was looking over to him. He headed back over to her and lied down next to his sister, nuzzling her gently. He didn’t get a chair to lie on for his back like the other more seriously hurt ponies were. Instead he just had the flat ground. Not what the doctor ordered, but still he was feeling well enough to move now, thanks to the medication. Moonlight had gone and sat next to Fire Wire, and Lance wanted to ask her something.
Lance motioned to Cherry for her to follow him, as he stood up he felt the pain surge down his back, but he ignored it. Cherry asked worriedly if he was alright and he told her he just felt a little stiff. They reached the two unicorn mares sitting on an old log and they were laughing together. Lance thought this couldn’t be the same pony that had set fire to the place and just as quickly put the flames out.
“Umm, excuse me?” Lance said, trying to get their attention. They looked at him towards him, still with smiles on their faces.
“Ahh, Mr. Angelswift,” Said Moonlight. ”You know you should be resting.”
“Yeah, I mean no, I mean, I know, but... Well, I was wondering if a search party had been sent out? And please, call me Lance.”
“Well,” Moonlight looked over the place at all the ponies. “We’re not exactly all fit enough to go running off for a trot down the tracks, Los Pegasus must be like a few days journey, on hoof. We’re best off just waiting here like Fire Wire suggested.”
The dark grey mare with the bright orange hair smiled.
“Well, it’s simple really,” Fire Wire began talking very fast at this point, as if speed reading from a book. “This train is supposed to arrive in approximately two hours from now. In three hours when the train hasn’t arrived, a pegasus team will be sent down the tracks, each of which will be towing ‘Emergency Vehicles Air Carriages’ or EVAC’s for short. They’ll have medical supplies and then they’ll take us all to Los Pegasus where we’ll be taken to a hospital. It’s pretty standard procedure.”
Lance blinked serveral times at how fast this girl could talk, than he thought about it.
“Wait. If they won’t come for us for another three hours, and it takes a normal pony as few days on hoof, when will they reach us?”
Fire Wire though about it for a moment then answered.
“What?” Lance asked stunned. Moonlight looked surprised at this news two. Apparently they figured they knew when help was coming, but neither thought about When that help would arrive. “We can’t just stay out here the entire night! Who knows what’s out there. And then there’s the cold, we don’t exactly have shelter or blankets.”
“Well, what can we do?” Moonlight asked Lance. “As I said, not many of us are fit to start walking and meet them half way. You yourself shouldn’t even be standing.”
“I’ve felt worse, believe me.” Lance said. “But we’ve got to find someplace to stay the night. Let me go out there and-” Moonlight cut him off.
“No way!” Moonlight interrupted. “It’s dangerous to go alone.” Cherry then spoke up.
“He won’t be alone. I’ll be with him!” Lance looked down at his sister.
“I’ll go too.” Fire Wire said as she jumped down from the log. “This was an oversight on my behalf and we could have started searching earlier if I had just thought about it. Besides, I know all manner of things that could help us in the woods.”
“But-“ Lance tried to get more than a word out. But before he could, he heard a voice calling from behind him.
“Hey!” It was the beige pegasus with the black hair and bandaged wing, the one who had caused an argument. “If you all are starting up a search party, then I’m going to.” He said, not really giving anyone a choice in the matter. “I’m not gonna just sit around. I need to get urgent medical attention for my wing! I’ve got a Wonderbolts try-out tomorrow!”
“You do?” asked Moonlight, suspiciously. The pegasus flexed his good left wing.
“Heck yeah! I’m Skylar Black! The fastest flyer to ever come outta Cloudsdale!” He boosted.
“The Fastest?” Fire Wire doubted.
“Of all time!” Skylar looked proud of himself.
“If you’re so fast, why were you taking a train?” Moonlight asked with a smirk.
The beige pegasus looked around, as if struggling to find an answer. “Well… You see…” He then looked right at them an angry expression on his face. ”Because! I… I didn’t wanna wear myself out.”
The other ponies exchanged looks. Lance had the feeling that the difference between this guy’s ego and Rainbow Dash’s is that she can back up her claims of being the fastest. Lance then remembered what they were all doing and then stepped forward to put a stop to all this. But before he could get a word out, another pony spoke over him.
“Hey there!” It was Rift, the guitarist. Up close Lance could see that his long blue hair had small streaks of purple running through it, and he had a lot of hair that covered up the entire side of his head. He also had two blue musical notes for a cutie mark. Lance guessed that obviously, his special talent was music.
“Couldn’t help overhearing you were setting up a search party.” He said.
“We certainly are.” Replied Moonlight.
“Wait-“ Lance again tried to speak but he was completely ignored.
“Excellent, I’d like to volunteer myself.” Rift said, with a smile on his face. Skylar was staring at the white pegasus as if he wanted to buck him in the head. Rift was taller than the rest of the group, but still not as tall as Big Macintosh, yet he had a very slim body like the rest.
The longer legs must help make it easier to play the guitar with., Lance thought.
“You two aren’t going to cause any more trouble, are you?” Fire Wire warned.
“What? Naaaa.” Said Rift. “I’m cool, if you are?” Rift turned and looked down to Skylar, with a big smile on his face. Something told Lance that the white pegasus was enjoying the height difference between the two of them. Skylar turned away.
“Whatever, let’s just get this over with!”
“Okay then, looks like we have a team.” Moonlight said and she clopped her front hooves together.
“We should inform the rest of the passengers.” Fire Wire said, ignoring Lance.
The four of them walked off. Moonlight, Fire Wire, Rift and Skylar Black. Lance was left behind staring after them. Cherry nudged her brother.
“Aren’t we going with them?”
Night time fell quickly. Lance, Cherry, Moonlight, Fire Wire and Skylar all moved as quickly as they could through the woods. Every tree looked the same. Every rock seemed to mimic the previous one. The word “Lost” would be perfect for their current situation, though Skylar had chosen much more colourful words.
“We’re all well and truly F-“
“HEY!” Lance yelled over the top of him, “Watch your mouth!”
Cherry stood behind Lance, her eyes shut and her ears flopped down against her head. The plan seemed so simple. Follow the tracks, watch the skies and stick together. Back at the camp they had told everypony that they were all planning to go out and try and find some help, and a white pony wearing a red fez hat promised to keep everypony safe until their return. As they walked along the track, they saw a dark pegasus flying across the sky.
Lance, Moonlight and Skylar called out to the flying pegasus, but instead of responding to them it darted down into the tree tops. Rift flew up and went after it. They all followed, running into the woods and chasing the pony down, but it had disappeared along with Rift. They headed back to the train tracks, but despite going back directly the way they came they could never find them. The sun went down completely soon after and the five found themselves surrounded by the darkness. Tensions began to get high at this point and tempers were boiling over.
“If you idiots had just stuck to the tracks like we planned-“ Skylar started saying.
“Excuse me?” Moonlight interrupted. “I believe it was YOU who ran from the tracks first!”
“N-No! It was that feather brain guitar boy. I was just following him!”
“And whose fault is that?” Moonlight retorted.
The arguing continued back and forth between the two, Lance tried to get them to calm down but neither was listening at this point.
“Quiet!!” Their arguing stopped as Fire Wire screamed, snapping her book shut with her magic. “I can’t think while you two bite each other’s heads off. Now listen, I think I’ve just about got our bearings on our location. We’ve travelled east along the tracks, then we headed north as we left the tracks and ran into the forest. So we need to head south, but in order to know which way south is, we need a compass or a gap in the trees so I can see the stars in the sky.”
Lance was amazed with how well read the dark grey unicorn was. However, he had spotted a flaw in her plan.
“But to see the stars, you’ll either need to climb up to the top of these trees or find a large wide open field where we can see the entire sky.” Lance said to Fire Wire. She thought this over.
“Then we’re walking till we can find a-“ Fire Wire stopped as they heard a rustling from the bushes. Cherry took a step behind Lance and he stood ready to protect her. The others took a few steps back, Lance then realised that he was now ahead of everypony. The beast in the bush would no doubt go after him first, which should give the others enough time to run. Lance lowered himself down, ready to tackle whatever it was.
“Hey friends!” Rift said, stepping out from the bush. Everypony breathed a collective sigh of relief, and then Skylar jumped forward.
“What the hay do think you’re playing at? Scaring everypony and disappearing on us like that?!”
“Haha,” Rift chuckled. “You were scared?” The taller pegasus walked past Skylar with a smile on his face. The beige pony stared right at Rift with anger. Lance was worried another fight was about to breakout.
“Rift!” Said Moonlight. “We need a pony to carry Fire Wire above the trees so she can see the stars in the sky.”
“Well heck, I’d be honoured.” Rift walked up to Fire Wire, flapping his wings. “You ready?”
“I… Wait, hold it-” Fire Wire shreaked as Rift flew over her and, using his longer than average forelegs, he scooped her up. Fire Wire kicked her legs wildly, screaming for a moment before both she and Rift disappeared above the trees. They all kept watching above them looking out for their return. A cold wind blew between the trees causing Lance to shiver momentarily. He looked towards where the wind came from and then felt Cherry pulling on his left foreleg. Lance looked down at her and she was looking to where the wind was blowing towards.
“It’s just like Everfree.” She said, sounding a little worried.
“What?” Lance asked.
“I remember the wind in the Everfree Forest. It’s not like it’s blowing past you, but more like it’s pushing you towards it.” Lance shook his head.
“It’s just the wind, don’t worry about it.” Cherry didn’t take her eyes away from the direction she was looking. It was as if she was waiting for something to show itself. Lance looked up to where Rift and Fire Wire disappear through the trees but still, there was no sign of them.
“Hey Lance.” Lance looked at Moonlight who had just walked over to him.
“Hi.” He said, wondering if she wanted something.
“Getting a little cold, isn’t it.” Moonlight said, making small talk. This always made Lance feel awkward, especially that type of question because the only answer he could give was,
“Yep.” Lance looked away from Moonlight, feeling as awkward as he expected.
“So… Umm, what were you and Cherry heading into Los Pegasus for?”
“A funeral.” Lance said while looking down at the ground. “Our father just passed away.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.” She said to Lance and then turned to look down at Cherry. She wasn’t paying any attention to the conversation that was going on right beside her. Moonlight looked back at Lance. “Was it… did he go peacefully?”
Lance looked away, the details of what happened never really crossed his mind. The letter only said it was because of drinking complications. Lance only guessed it was the alcohol that finally got to him. But he wanted to know smaller details, like did he black out at the bar? Did he have any last words? How long was he in the hospital before he…? Lance didn’t want to think about it.
“I don’t know, we were living in Ponyville when it happened.”
“And… your mother? She’s…” Moonlight was dancing very gently around her questions. She didn’t want to seem like she was intruding on his private life. Lance knew she wasn’t being nosey, just trying to be friendly.
“She… passed away soon after Cherry was born.” Moonlight held a hoof to her mouth as she gasped. She looked down to Cherry again who this time was looking at the ground. She must have heard that part at least.
“Oh gosh.” Moonlight said, looking between both Lance and Cherry. “I- I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have-“ Lance cut her off.
“It’s okay,” Lance said. ”I’ve been looking after Cherry since then, and… Well, sometimes you’ve just gotta be strong and carry on for the ones you love most.” Lance wrapped a foreleg around his sister.
“I understand.” Moonlight turned away from Lance, he was about to ask if she was okay, but then he thought about maybe changing the subject completely. He noticed her cutiemark, a black crescent moon with a black star next to it.
“So umm… Moonlight. What’s your cutiemark mean?”
“Huh?” She turned back. “Oh, well it’s the moon and the stars, so that means that one day I’m going to be a great astronaut and explore the stars beyond the moon.”
“You’re gonna… huh?” Lance asked, confused. “How did you find out that was your special talent?”
Moonlight opened her mouth to answer, but a noise behind them made her turn around.
“Never again.” Fire Wire said as she shakily lied down on the grass, grateful to be back on the ground. Rift was out of breath. He flapped his wings a few times and then folded them in.
“You find out anything?” Moonlight asked as she walked over to the pair. Lance hurried over as well. The cold wind blew at them, making each of them feel much colder. Rift and Fire Wire didn’t seem fazed by it, but they had just been up in the cold sky.
“No,” Fire Wire said. “It’s too dark to see anything and the clouds blocked out the sky.”
“What? Didn’t you go above the clouds?” Moonlight asked.
“We tried,” said Rift. “But the wind is a lot worse above the trees and it’s gotten too strong. The extra weight made it impossible for me to fly any higher.”
“Hold on, are you saying I’m heavy?” Fire Wire asked, insulted.
“No, I just meant that-“
“Typical,” Skylar interrupted. “Our only hope of getting out of here it ruined because our white friend here is too weak to even fly into the wind.” Rift looked down at the smaller pegasus. “Maybe you should trade in your guitar and get some flying lessons.”
“Hey, there’s no need for that attitude.” Moonlight said.
“What’s your problem, dude?” Rift said as he got in Skylar’s face.
“My problem ‘dude’, is that we’re all lost because you went chasing after that pegasus in the first place!” Skylar said, raising his voice.
“Well no one made you follow me, or even invited you to join this group!” Rift said, his own voice getting louder.
“Guys, stop this right now!” Fire Wire said, trying to be louder than both of them.
The arguing continued. Lance was expecting one of them to hit the other, he turned to Cherry to make sure she was staying back.
She wasn’t behind him.
Lance looked around the area, but she was nowhere to be seen.
“Cherry?” Lance called out. His words drowned out by the yelling of the other two. Lance called as loud as he could. “CHERRY?!” The arguing behind Lance stopped, Moonlight quickly moved over to Lance.
“What happened?!” She asked, sounding worried. “Where is she?” Moonlight looked around as well. Cherry had disappeared. A cold wind blew again pushing against Lance.
“This is your fault!” Lance heard Skylar saying, obviously wanting to restart his shouting match with Rift.
Lance ignored them. The wind was constant now, blowing between the trees, pushing Lance forwards.
Oh no, did she...? Lance wondered. He started walking forwards, in the direction that the wind was pushing him.
“Lance?” Moonlight said as suddenly the ivory coloured pony with the short light blue mane took a few small steps forward, and then broke out into a full gallop. “Lance!” Moonlight followed him, who was then herself followed by Fire Wire and then Rift. Skylar hung back for a second, still fuming, then he followed as well.
- - -
The woods were getting darker. The deeper they ran into it, the thicker the trees became. The group was weaving in and out between each tree, all trying to keep up with Lance. Lance was out of breath but he knew that Cherry’s curiosity got the best of her and she wanted to know where the wind was guiding her.
That silly filly. Lance had thought to himself. He ran as fast as he could and soon came to a slight clearing of the trees. The thick clouds above blocked out the light, making almost nothing visable in this area. Lance’s eyes had to adjust to the darkness as he looked around, then he saw her, but only just. Cherry was stood still in the clearing, looking at something Lance couldn’t see.
“Cherry!” Lance ran up to her, stopping by her side. “Cherry! You-“ Lance stopped to take a breath. “You can’t just run of like… like that!”
Cherry turned to face her brother and looked confused.
“But this is what we were looking for. Weren’t we?”
Lance was now the one who was confused. Cherry looked back to what she was staring at before. Lance turned his head and saw it. He didn’t even hear the others running up behind him.
“Oh, thank… goodness.” Moonlight said, trying to catch her breath. “Cherry, why’d you-“ Moonlight was interrupted by Rift.
“Whoa! Check that out.” He said, pointing a hoof out in front of himself.
In front of them was a large barn. It was a much bigger one than any of them had ever seen before. The thing was a wreck. It was all made out of unpainted dark brown wood. Boards were missing, the wood was splitting, wild plants were climbing the sides, a large section of the wall had collapsed and there was a hole in the roof where a large tree branch had fallen off and crashed through it. To the right of that there was an old cabin. It was made of the same wood as the barn. It had a porch and two windows either side of the door, yet neither had any glass that wasn’t cracked or shattered.
“Greaat.” Skylar said, sarcastically. “Lost in the middle of nowhere, and we find an abandoned cabin in the middle of the woods.”
Everypony ignored him.
“I’m gonna check it out.” Rift said. ”Maybe somepony still lives here. Or at least left a few supplies.” He flew over to the cabin and looked in through a window. He quickly turned back to the others. “Hey, any of you unicorns got a light?”
Moonlight and Fire Wire looked at each other than simultaneously both of them made their horns glow. Moonlight’s was white, like her coat and Fire Wire’s was orange, like her mane.
“You check the cabin.” Fire Wire said. “I’m gonna poke around in the barn.”
“Sounds good.” Moonlight said, with a nod. They both walked off to their destinations. Lance figured that Rift and Moonlight should be okay on their own so he followed Fire Wire, before he did though, he turned to Cherry.
“Cherry, listen.” Lance got down low to be at his sisters eye level. “You can’t ever wonder off on your own like that.”
“But-“ Cherry started but Lance stopped her.
“But nothing. Listen, I don’t want anything bad to happen to you, any more then you want something bad to happen to me.” Lance looked towards the barn then back to Cherry. “Do you remember the Everfree forest? What happened when you went in there and I got so scared that I went looking for you and got attacked by that hydra trying to find you?”
Cherry nodded. She looked like she understood what her brother was trying to say to her.
“I never wanna be in that situation again. And I’m not talking about the hydra, I’d fight two of those to get to you. I mean where I fear for your safety so bad that I get scared and panic, and do stupid things.”
“I’m sorry.” Cherry said. She looked to the ground, holding back tears as she remembered. He had almost been killed while trying to find her in the forest. A lot of terrible things happened in that weekend. She’d never wanted to relive that again.
“Hey,” Lance said, holding a hoof to her chin. “It’s okay. But I want you to stay by my side, no matter what, okay?”
“Okay, good.” Lance stood up and headed to the barn with his sister close by his side. They went inside it and Fire Wire was already looking around, but it seemed like there was nothing here. Old pitch forks, shovels, rotten hay, the only signs of life were the spiders hanging from the giant cobwebs on the ceiling. There was a ladder leading up to the second floor, but it was broken. Lance wasn’t sure if he’d be able to climb it while it was at an angle like that, heading vertically to the roof.
Maybe the designer of this barn had claws, Lance thought to himself. Like a dragon or a griffin. But why would a dragon want a barn, or a griffin need a ladder?
Lance, Cherry and Fire Wire all turned to where the noise came from, directly in the middle of the barn. Everypony stood still barely breathing.
What was that noise? Sounded like something like something metal hitting against another bit of metal.
The sound repeated twice. Fire Wire pointed her horn to the exact area the noise came from. The three of them approached it slowly. The silence was now making them paranoid. Every step forward made a deafening clop against the wood under there hooves. Fire Wire’s orange glow showed a large trapdoor hidden under the hay, heading under the barn.
“What you think it is?” Whispered Lance.
“A cellar I’d guess.” Fire Wire said quietly back. She used her magic to lift the hay covering the trapdoor and then floated it to the side. The glow of her horn then focused on the trapdoor itself. It glowed orange and then she lifted it up, slowly. Lance could see a stairway, leading down some very narrow steps. They heard hoof steps behind them. Lance turned around and saw Skylar Black stepping into the barn.
“What’s that?” He asked.
“Looks like some kind of cellar.” Lance replied, looking back down at it. Fire Wire laid the trapdoor down, fully opened, than cast her light down the stairway.
“Hmm, that’s goes on forever.” She said. They heard voices from behind them, Rift and Moonlight were coming into the barn, having a whispered discussion, but everypony was so quiet that they could be heard talking about a button.
“It could have been dangerous.” Moonlight said louder then she expected.
“What’s the matter?” Fire Wire asked.
“Oh nothing,” Moonlight said. “Our friend here just found a button and pressed it. Repeatedly! That’s all.”
“Oh, well that’s-“
“And we didn’t even know what it did. It could have done something bad!” Moonlight turned to face Rift. The pegasus had a big grin on his face and then he laughed.
“Haha, but it did nothing. You’re all worked up about nothing.”
“Did you follow the wire from the button?” Fire Wire asked.
“Kinda.” Rift said. “It just went underground though.”
Fire Wire looked around the edge of the hole that the trapdoor had been hiding.
“What is it?” Lance asked.
“That button was a lock for this thing. But…” She hesitated for a moment. “A little to high-tech for such a small cabin and barn in the middle of the woods.“
“Somepony had a secret out here.” Skylar said, stepping closer to the opening in the floor.
“Was the button just lying out in the open?” Fire Wire asked Rift.
“Not exactly.” Rift nervously brushed at the back of his mane.
“He tripped on a desk and knocked it over.” Moonlight said. “I caught the desk before it hit the floor, and then we saw that there was a button behind where the desk had been.”
“Didn’t catch me though.” Rift said, rubbing his muzzle.
“You forgot you had wings. I Didn’t.” Moonlight said casually. “But, what do you think is at the bottom of that trapdoor?”
“Whoever put this here was very careful in keeping this a secret.” Skylar said, a smile forming on his face. “You know the stories though. Some crazy pony living alone in the woods sees a group of travellers, he invites them over, they have a drink, and then next thing they know is he’s locking them up in his cellar, preparing his latest ingredients.” Skylar put a hoof on the steps.
“Hey wait!” Lance said, stopping him. Skylar looked at Lance with an annoyed expression on his face. “I think we should let either Moonlight or Fire Wire go first.”
“Hang on.” Moonlight said, walking up to Lance. “You really suggesting that sweet innocent young mares like us should go down into a dark scary place like that, first?”
“I-I-“ Lance stammered as Moonlight got right into his face, looking him straight in the eyes. Lance felt rotten for suggesting that, but he was only thinking about the light. Then Moonlight laughed.
“Hahaha, Ah that was too easy.” She was teasing him. “I’ll go. It looks fun.” Moonlight gave Lance a smile and then went down the steps, her horn glowing brightly. Skylar Black followed her and then Rift went down with Fire Wire. Lance heard a noise from beside him and looked at Cherry, she was giggling into the back of her hoof.
“Oh, don’t you start.” Lance lowered his head down under Cherry and lifted her up so she slid down onto his back. She gave a quick squeak as she grabbed hold around his neck. Lance then headed down the stairway. The stairs were narrow and steep but the light from Moonlight’s horn made the stairway shine like, as true to her name, moonlight.
“What you think is down here?” Cherry whispered to her brother.
“I dunno,” Lance whispered back. “But it can’t be any worse than what Skylar’s imagining.”
They reached the bottom and Lance saw that the door was made of metal. Moonlight wrapped it in her magic and then swung the door open.
Skylar was way off.
The room behind the door was massive. The glow from Moonlight’s horn couldn't reach the other side of the room, only what was within a few feet of her. The door had led them onto a catwalk that went across the middle of the room to the other side. Nothing could be seen below because the light couldn't go down far enough. Above them they could see the ceiling, at least a few feet above, so they knew at least that they were on the top floor of this place.
Moonlight signalled for the others to wait as she slowly moved across the catwalk. Fire Wire kept her horn glowing as she stayed back with the others. Lance looked over the edge of the catwalk, a sense of vertigo washed over him as he noticed that the drop seemingly went on forever into darkness. On the other side of the catwalk, Moonlight had come across another door, but this one was larger and seemed to be stuck. There was no handle and no way past. After a few seconds, she gave up and headed back to the others.
“There’s no way past that door.” Moonlight said quietly. “There’s no handle to open the door with or anything.”
“Lemme see.” Fire Wire said walking past Moonlight. Skylar pushed his way past Moonlight too, walking behind Fire Wire. They all then trotted slowly over the catwalk and Lance noticed that the walkway was being held up by large cables hanging from the ceiling. Fire Wire was looking the door over and then she spotted something, mumbling about it being “advanced”.
A second later a spark leapt from her horn and it danced around a small box next to the door. Lance could see a little down arrow lighting up on the box, and then the door squeaked open. The sound echoed around the room, causing everypony to cover their ears for a second before it stopped. The door split open from the middle and slid into the walls.
“Well would you look at that.” Fire Wire said as she stepped into the room, but it wasn’t a room, more like a large box with nothing in it. The orange manned pony was already looking at something the others couldn’t see and was again using her magic. “Come on everypony. This lift will take us down below.”
“What are you talking about?” Skylar asked. Fire Wire rolled her eyes.
“This is a lift. It’s like a large crane then lowers or raises you to the floor you want to go.”
“Is it safe?” Lance asked, giving the edge of the catwalk another quick look.
“Everything seems to be working just fine, except there’s no power. But I’ve read up about these things and I know a lot about technology.” Lance wondered if that’s why she was reading all the time. The others stepped into the lift and it groaned a little.
“Maybe we shouldn’t overload it?” Lance said taking a step back.
“Yeah, that’s a good idea.” Fire Wire said, looking up. “Moonlight, wanna stay with them? I’ll take these two down and then be right back up.”
“Sure, no problem.” Moonlight said as she stepped back off the lift. The doors came out of the walls again, this time a lot quieter, and closed together. Fire Wire’s light was still visible through the crack of the door and they watched it as it went down below, leaving with a loud hum against the utter silence. Lance looked over the side and couldn’t see the lift, or Fire Wire’s light.
“What do you think this place is?” Cherry asked her brother.
“I dunno. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“It’s some kind of factory.” Moonlight said from behind them. She was looking over the other side but couldn’t make out anything in the dark. “I can’t understand though, why something like this would be all the way out here in the woods.”
Lance thought that was a good point. There weren’t exactly any roads leading to this place, nor did trains ever stop in Whitetail Woods. They were lost in the middle of nowhere, so whoever was running this place didn’t want to be discovered. Yet the place seemed like it had been abandoned for Celestia knows how long.
The hum of the lift could be heard coming to a stop far below. It was the only sound other than them, and when it came to a stop, everything was silent again. The three ponies didn’t say a word. They remained quiet, listening out for anything that could be happening below them. After what felt like forever, the hum of the lift returned and they could breathe easy again. The door to the lift slid open and again squeaked loudly. Fire Wire was inside alone.
“I just thought,” Moonlight said. “Is it a good idea to leave those two alone?” Fire Wire smiled and then they all went inside the lift. It was a tight fit and when the door closed, Lance felt like he was trapped. Fire Wire touched the tip of her horn to a button marked with a down arrow. It glowed green and then the lift descended. Lance felt his stomach drop and he had to brace himself.
“What’s the matter, Big Brother?” Cherry asked Lance.
“Nothing,” He told Cherry. “I just wasn’t ready for that.”
The lift continued to hum as it went down, a few seconds later the doors opened and they were greeted by Rift. Skylar was a little further along the catwalk, lying down and looking impatient. The lift had brought them to another catwalk, exactly the same as the one above only one floor lower. Cherry gave out a little yawn from Lance’s back. He turned to face her and she was slowly starting to fall asleep. It was pretty late at night now and they had skipped a few meals today. Lance felt a little tired himself.
“Hey everypony,” Lance called to the others. “What you say we take a break for a few minutes?”
“Are you serious?”
“Are you joking?”
Fire Wire and Skylar Black spoke simultaneously, they both looked at Lance, Fire Wire looking like Somepony told her that her birthday party had been delayed and Skylar just looked angry.
“But there’s so much here to explore.” Fire Wire said.
“And I’m getting bored of waiting around. I wanna get something done!” Skylar said as he stood up.
“I personally think a break isn't a bad idea.” Moonlight said, adding her thoughts to the discussion. Rift then stood between them all.
“How about this then? You three take a break, and we’ll keep on going and come back for you later. Sound good?”
Lance didn’t like the idea of splitting up, but Cherry was beginning to fall asleep on his back. Usually that wouldn’t be a problem for him, but if she fell of his back, she could really get hurt.
“That founds fair enough,” Moonlight said. “We’ll be right here by the lift, if anything happens, hurry back.” Fire Wire nodded and then with a smile she turned on the stop and walked off, Skylar following her. Rift waved a hoof and then trotted after them.
- - -
The catwalk was just as long as the one above. This one must be directly below the other one Fire Wire assumed. They reached a door, but it had a different kind of lock that required something flat to be inserted into it. Like the elevator door, this one quickly opened after a spark from Fire Wire’s horn and granted them access. Beyond the door, to the left, were a set of stairs descending further down into the factory, spiralling to the floor below. To the right there was a small room filled with all kinds of large machines. Fire Wire’s eyes went wide as she jumped into the room looking around.
“Look at all this!” She said, alive with energy. “This technology is years ahead of our own.”
“What is it?” Rift asked. Fire Wire turned to Rift, giving him an unimpressed look as if he just asked her what was the name of the kind of tree that apples come from.
“These are computers.” She said. ”But not just any computers, no. These are like, super computers. Many computers that I’ve seen barely give you any information at all. These look like they were made to hold all kinds of information!”
“Information on what?” Skylar asked.
“Well, I don’t quite know that yet. Let’s see, OH!” Fire Wire let out a louder than intended gasp, which caused Rift and Skylar to leap by her side. “There’s no power!”
They both sighed and then looked at the thing she was looking at. It looked like a typewriter except this one had tiny buttons that no hoof could press without pressing a whole bunch at the same time.
“We’ll have to find a generator and switch this all on.” Fire Wire said, turning to leave the room.
“What? Why?” Rift asked.
“Because then we can find out what this place is, where this place is, and with luck, find out where the next nearest place is where we can get help.”
Fire Wire headed down the steps. Rift and Skylar looked at each other and then followed after her.
- - -
Lance was lying on the catwalk with his little sister, who was resting her head against his foreleg. She had fallen asleep almost immediately after the others had left. They’d been out in the woods so long and it was so late at night. Moonlight kept her horn glowing softly and was sat just in front of Lance, talking softly.
“-and to think, we set out to get help for the ponies who were hurt in the train crash and all we do is get ourselves lost and now we’re in need of the help.”
“It was a stupid idea.” Lance said. “I should have just kept my mouth shut.”
“Hey, you wanted to help ponies who were far worse off than yourself. How if your back by the way?”
“It’s fine, I barely notice it, thanks to your medicine.”
Moonlight nodded, smiling.
“Lance, it wasn’t your fault what happened. We all made the mistake of running into the woods blindly. Your heart was in the right place when you came up with this idea. You wanted to help those ponies back at the train and were even willing to go alone to save them. Isn’t that what your cutiemark represents?”
Lance looked back to his cutiemark, a dark brown shield with a small diamond in the middle. His cutiemark represented protecting others when they needed help. He’d always thought his dream was to be a Royal Guard in Canterlot, but when the opportunity arose he turned it down, instead choosing to give his sister what she wanted. A good home, great friends, and the freedom to live her life as she wanted. He’d always sacrifice himself to protect others, and right now others were in trouble and they needed his help.
Lance looked at Moonlight.
“We should catch up with the others.”
“Are you sure? We’ve only rested for like five minutes.”
Lance gave his sister a gentle nuzzle.
“Cherry, we’re going.” She opened her eyes slightly, looking half asleep as she looked up at her brother. “Come on, climb onto my back again. You can sleep-“
Suddenly a loud thump followed by a humming noise came up from below them. Lance jumped to his hooves and looked over the edge. Something down there had come to life. There were a few more clanks and then shortly afterwards light began to fill up the entire factory. They could see everything now.
Down below was another catwalk and it looked like another catwalk was below that. The walls themselves were completely rounded like the entire room was a big circle. Down the very bottom was a large pile of scrap metal and next to it embedded into the floor was a large rectangle plate that was covering something up.
“Did Fire Wire do this?” Lance said, looking at the lights in the walls.
“Probably. Come on, let’s hurry.” Moonlight ran ahead as Lance ducked down and Cherry jumped onto his back. They rushed to the door leading to the others.
- - -
Fire Wire pulled the last switch, using her magic. The generator was running, all the lights had come on and finally she could stop using her light spell. Great in an emergency, but everything was glowing orange and that tends to get annoying when looking for specific coloured button. The room they were in was a faded blue, like all the others. Each room seemed to be filled with technological items such as steel presses, forges, a few assembly benches, and many larger machines she’d never seen before. What was being made down here, she didn’t have a clue.
Fire Wire left the power room in high spirits. She was finally going to see what was on that computer. She’d always be fascinated by technology, it was such a learning experience and there seemed to be almost no limit to what a pony could create using machines. Whoever made all this was very intelligent, possibly one of the greatest minds in all of Equestria.
Fire Wire walked over to the door and instead of using her magic, it opened on its own as she approached.
“Hey, F.W,” Rift called out to her. Fire Wire turned to face him.
“What is it?”
“Have you seen Skylar? He’s gone missing.” Rift said, looking about.
“What? Gone where?”
“I dunno. We went into the power room, I noticed he stayed by the door, but then the lights came on and I never saw him after that.”
Fire Wire looked back down the hall. Four rooms, two on the left, two on the right. There was another stairway spiralling down to the floor below.
“Maybe he went to explore more? But let’s head back up, he’ll find us later.” Fire Wire walked out the door and Rift hesitated before following her, above them they caught a glimpse of Lance and Cherry through the bottom of the catwalk before they ran into the computer room.
Fire Wire and Rift rushed forward to meet them there.
- - -
“What is all this stuff?” Lance asked as Moonlight looked around at everything. Before she could answer they heard the clopping of hooves coming up the stairway behind them. Fire Wire and Rift appeared and walked into the room. Fire Wire was smiling brightly.
“So, get enough rest you three?” She teased as she made her way passed them.
“We’re alright. Where’s Skylar?”
“He’s downstairs exploring.” Fire Wire said dismissively as she walked over to the only computer with a screen. She pressed a hoof one of the buttons, but nothing happened. She then looked under the table and pressed another button. A hiss filled the room and made them all jump. The wall was sliding open, much like the lift doors and it was revealing the entire circular room with all the catwalks before them. There was a piece of glass between where the walls now separated.
“What is all this stuff?” Moonlight asked, mimicking Lance’s earlier question to her. Fire Wire turned with a huge smile on her face.
“It’s an observation room!”
“A What?” Lance asked.
Fire Wire went back under the table and pressed another button. A quiet hum, like a fan, started up and then the small screen bleeped. Suddenly there was writing on it.
“What in Equestria…?” Lance walked up to the screen, looking at it in wonder. He’d never seen anything like this. Twilight had an old projector in her library that played movie reels in black and white, but this was crystal clear and there didn’t seem to be anything in the room casting the image onto it.
“That’s a monitor, Lance. It’s used to display images and messages being sent by these computers. Very advanced. Look! It’s even in colour.” Images of blue and red spun in circles before disappearing and leaving a green image with several icons all of which looked like tiny office folders.
“What’s it all mean?” Lance asked.
“Well, I’ve never personally seen technology like this before, but I’ve read loads about it. It’s so exciting!” She wrapped a board covered in letters and another small object in her magic and started using them simultaneously to make the computer do things. Soon images were appearing on the screen showing diagrams of things Lance couldn’t understand.
“Listen, umm…” Lance said as he backed away from the monitor. “I’m going to find Skylar, okay? So I’ll be back soon.”
Lance turned to leave down the stairs but Moonlight held a hoof in front of him.
“Are you okay to go alone?”
“He won’t be alone, I’ll be with him!” Cherry said from Lance’s back. Moonlight smiled then gave her full attention to Cherry.
“Alright then sweetie, but you have to look after him. Promise?”
“I promise.” She said with a nod. Lance smiled widely then turned to his sister.
“Hey, I thought it was my job to look after you?”
“I think you need more looking after then I do, you’re hopeless without me.” Cherry said, taunting her brother. Lance sighed.
“Ahh, I guess I lose this round.” He said, feigning defeat. They then slowly descended the stairway and Lance could hear Fire Wire squeeing about something she had just found. She sounded like she was having the time of her life.
- - -
Skylar had found another lift. After going down the stairs he’d come onto another catwalk. He hated the design of this place. The catwalk had led him to another elevator. The door was closed but he had watched Fire Wire carefully and saw how she had opened it. With the factory power restored, it should only be a simple matter of pressing a button and it would open. Skylar pressed the little button and immediately it opened making no more noise than that of something light sliding across the floor.
Stepping inside, he noticed three buttons. An up arrow, a down arrow and a third, marked with a picture of a gear. Skylar pressed that button, curious as to what it meant. The lift began to shake, and instead of going down, It seemed to go into the wall and then up. The lift came to a stop and the black haired pegasus turned around as the back of it opened up into the ceiling.
He stepped out and found himself in a massive room lined with about ten green pods on each wall, each big enough to hold a pony. Most of the pods had the grey gear logo on it and some had a white one. Those pods looked larger than the others and there were a lot less of them. Skylar was on a platform. As he looked over the edge he saw that there were at least another four more rows of these pods before they reached the bottom.
Skylar couldn’t believe his eyes. He did the math and worked out there were at least two hundred of these pods in this room. The pegasus saw that some kind of computer was on the platform too. He walked over to in and gave it a look. A tiny monitor flashed, showing that every pod had an X over it, meaning they were all empty. Skylar gave a double check and this time he saw one pod wasn’t empty. It was one with a white gear logo over it. This pod had a red line under it though but it didn’t say why. Skylar tapped the screen and suddenly the platform began to move.
It was taking him to the pod.
- - -
Lance and Cherry had gone past the factory rooms and down another set of stairs.
“How many stairs does this place have?” Lance said, getting tired. He trotted out onto another catwalk and saw a lift on the other side. He took a step towards it.
“What’s that?” Cherry asked, still riding on her brothers back. Lance looked to his sister and she was looking down over the catwalk.
“What is what?” Lance asked.
“There’s a pony down there!” Cherry said. Lance looked down and after a second he saw it too. A grey pony without a mane was lying on the scrap metal. He looked so small from where they were.
Was that what happened to the last pony who lived here? Lance thought to himself.
“Come on.” Lance quickly ran to the lift and jabbed a hoof to door. It wouldn’t open. Cherry jumped off Lance’s back and then pressed the button to call the lift.
“Oh… right.” Lance’s ears folded to down to his head, embarrassed he didn’t think of that first. Cherry just smiled at him. They didn’t have to wait long, the doors soon slid open and they jumped inside. Lance pressed the down button and the doors closed. The lift hummed as it went down, seemingly taking forever. Finally the doors opened and before them was a giant pile of scrap metal. Each bit was bent, crushed and rusted.
“Over there!” Cherry called out.
Lance looked over and saw the pony lying at the bottom of the scrap. Lance and Cherry ran over to the pony but as they got closer Lance stopped. Cherry went one more step ahead before stopping.
“That’s not a pony.” Lance said under his breath.
Lance moved slowly towards it. As he got closer he saw that it looked more like a full body metal suit. It completely covered up the body and head, hiding the pony inside.
“This must be some kind of new armour. Maybe this is a military factory?” They both got closer.
“You mean like the Royal Guards?” Cherry asked.
“Yeah, well… I… I’m not sure, maybe.” Lance couldn’t think of an army outside of Celestia’s.
Maybe these go back thousands of years to Nightmare Moon’s time? Lance thought.
They soon came right up to it. The whole metal suit was grey, there was a tiny spike where the tail was, and the head had a few spikes where there mane would have been. Yet the oddest part was the eyes. It had three red eyes. Two of the eyes were in their normal places, yet strangely a third eye was right on the forehead. The left red eye was hanging out though, hanging on only by the wires. The rest on the suit was dented, cracked, split and a few wires were showing through.
Lance looked around the rest of the room, but there seemed to be nothing else here except a large plate covering the floor but there was no switch to open that nearby.
“Come on Cherry, let’s go back up. Skylar isn’t down here.” Lance turned around and then turned back to Cherry. She had moved to the metal pony armour. “Cherry, come away from there.” Lance moved to her, she poked it with her hoof and then sparks flew out of it and as Cherry screamed, backing away, it then suddenly wiggled it’s legs, rolled of the scrap metal and stood up, facing them.
It’s not a pony suit. Lance thought, horrified. It’s alive!
Cherry moved backwards, away from the metal pony. It then began to walk towards her and she then ran behind her brother. Lance was backing away, keeping himself between the thing and his sister. He didn’t know what to do. It kept moving closer to him, with each step making heavy clangs against the metal floor. Lance backed up and felt his flank press against the wall. He was trapped. Lance saw the lift was a quick trot to his left and knew it was the only way out.
“Cherry! Get to the lift, press the button and then get upstairs!” Lance told her. “I’ll keep it distracted!”
“What? No!” Cherry protested. She didn’t want to leave her brother. The thing was getting closer to them.
“Cherry, do it now! Go!” Lance shouted, Cherry responded by wrapping herself around her brothers hind leg.
“I won’t leave you!”
Lance turned to his sister, she was scared but no matter what, she wasn’t going to abandon her brother. Lance turned back to the metal pony and it was already within reach of him. Lance froze up.
“Hello.” The thing said to them.
Did… did that thing just talk? Lance asked himself. He hadn’t imagined it.
“Hello.” It said again.
It spoke to them in a male pony’s voice that sounded like it was talking into a tin can. Lance stared at it for a moment longer before replying.
“Errr… Hello?” Lance wasn’t sure what else to say, it just kept staring at him. Its left eye was still hanging out, only attached by a few small wires. Its eyes were much smaller than a regular pony eye, yet the metal pony was just as tall as Lance himself. He kept looking at it, afraid to move.
“I have never seen pony folk before.” It looked at them both, making a buzzing noise as it moved its head. A spark spit out the side of its neck as it locked eyes with Lance again.
“Wha-… What are you?” Lance asked, ever so slowing moving himself and his sister to the lift.
“What am I? I am… unassigned.”
“Wh-What’s that mean?” Lance kept moving towards the lift and the thing still followed him. Lance wanted to be ready to escape if things got bad.
“I have no working status, because I am not willing to harm.”
“What? Harm who?”
Lance felt his stomach knot up.
“You mean that, whoever made you… made you to attack… ponies?”
“Negative. I was made to create machines to harm ponies.”
“What? But… who made you then?”
“The machines did.”
Lance looked at the thing before him. It was a machine made by other machines? That didn’t make sense to him. There must have been somepony or someone who designed them in the first place.
“What is it like?” It asked them.
“What? What’s what like?” Lance asked, confused.
“Outside. I’ve never seen it.” The robot pony continued to stare at Lance.
“What? Never? How long have you been down here?” Lance asked.
“I have always been here. Since creation.”
“Yeah, but when were you made? How long ago?”
“Unknown. There is damage to my memory. My memory files are corrupted.”
“Do you remember what you were made for?” the ivory coloured pony asked.
“I was made to be part of the creation team. Advanced work rate, slower mobility and weaker design. We made others.”
Lance was about to ask what it made, before Cherry came out from behind him.
“Made others? Like yourself?” She asked the metal pony.
“Negitive. We were programmed to create a larger machine. Stronger and faster than ourselves. Towards the end of the first prototype, I learned that it was designed for the extinction of ponykind.”
It stopped talking.
“What happened after you found out?” Cherry asked.
“I enabled a safety lockdown on it and placed it into permanent stasis.” It said. “I shut down all the facility so that they could never activate or make another machine again. The safety can only be removed by a pony!”
“That’s… pretty smart.” Lance said, liking the thing a little.
“After the factory was shut down, I was to be dismantled. But without power they didn’t have the resources. So instead I was thrown to the scrap heap from high above. I should have been destroyed, but I was fortunate.”
“What happened to the others?” The pink filly asked.
“Unknown. Logical answer would be they were reassigned to prepare an assault on Equestria.”
What?! An assault from robot ponies on all of Equestria? Lance was worried now. Something like this had to be reported to the princesses immediately.
- - -
Fire Wire was watching the screen with Moonlight and Rift. She’d found a way to get into the surveillance system and could see every room in the facility. They were watching Lance and Cherry talking to the robot.
“I’ve never seen anything like it” Fire Wire said. “That’s a robot, capable of independent thought and communication. It’s amazing!” The dark grey pony with the orange mane never took her eyes off the screen for a moment.
“It’s incredible!” Moonlight said. “Imagine having a robot like that with you. Smart. Intelligent. Tough. I’d never have to do my chores again!” She practically had stars in her eyes.
“Am I the only one wondering if there are more of those things around?” Rift said, adjusting the guitar strapped to his back.
“Oh gosh! You’re right.” Fire Wire said as she wrapped the keyboard in her magic. “I’ve gotta check the rest of the cameras. Who knows what else there could be?” Fire Wire immediately began flicking passed image after image, looking for another anything else like that robot.
“Well, I’m going down there to say hello. Have fun you two!”
Moonlight took off down the stairs with a skip in her step. Rift moved over to Fire Wire, who was scanning the pictures lightning fast before moving on to the next one.
“How’d you learn to do all this?” Rift asked.
“Didn’t I say before? I love to learning about this stuff.” She said with a smile.
“Yeah, but…” Rift hesitated.
“What’s wrong? Don’t think girls can be smart?”
“No!” Rift said, backing off a bit. ”I just… Well, what book teaches you how to learn about technology Equestria doesn’t have?”
“Oh Rift.” Fire Wire said with smirk. “If you honestly don’t think that our brightest scientist’s haven’t created something similar to this, you should really put that guitar down,” Fire Wire floated the book to his face. “And read a book.”
Rift took the book in a single hoof, looking at it. It seemed to be all diagrams and numbers, impossibly long words and some short ones that looked like they were writing in another language. He skimmed over a few pages of it then put it down.
“I’ll pass. I think my head might pop if I tried to read just one page.” Rift sat down in the corner of the room and spun around his guitar so it was in front of him. “Mind if I practise a little?”
Fire Wire didn’t respond, she kept on searching every camera and every room they would show. The white pegasus strummed a few chords on his guitar, and they seemed to carry through the facility.
- - -
“But there’s no chance of them getting too far.” The robot pony said. “Worker bots like me don’t have the energy to travel too far without needing to recharge. Most would wear down before they reached Canterlot, unless they powered themselves down to save energy.”
“Well, that’s good.” Lance said, breathing a sigh of relief.
They could hear the sounds of music coming from above. Lance recognised it as Rift’s guitar. They all stood silently as they listened to it. The music made them feel more at ease, as if nothing terrible had happened. Lance was half way through wondering if the robot had ever heard music before when he heard a noise behind him that almost made Lance jump out his skin. The elevator door behind him opened up and Moonlight jumped out of it.
“Whoops. Sorry Lance,” She said, laughing. “I’m just- Oh! There you are.” Moonlight jumped passed Lance to be very close to the metal pony. “Wow, I’ve never seen anything like you before.”
“More ponies?” It asked, sounding remotely surprised.
“Yes, I’m Moonlight. What’s your name?” Lance couldn’t believe that she was trying to befriend a machine. She didn’t even seem surprised by it.
“I don’t have a name.” It responded.
“Well, that’s not right. Everypony should have a name!” She said, waving her long dark blue mane out from her eyes.
“But I am not a pony.”
“Hey, Moonlight?” Lance called out. “Can I have a word?”
“Sure Lance.” Moonlight said, turning to face him then quickly back to the robot. “Think of a name, and I’ll be right back.” She winked at it then trotted over to Lance, who had moved away from the robot.
“Moonlight. It told me that this place was a facility for building killer robots.” Lance said, trying to keep his voice down.
“What? Wait, are you sure?” Moonlight said, taking a look at the robot. “But it seems harmless.”
“Yes, it is. Or it says it is. Apparently it was designed to build bigger robots to wipe out ponies all across Equestria.”
“No way… How many? Where are they now?” Moonlight asked, her voice getting a little louder.
“There’s none left here. And it can’t remember how long ago it was. After it found out what the robots were for, that one there shut down all the power to this place and made it so that only a pony could reactivate it.”
“Smart guy.” Moonlight said, smiling.
“Yeah, but after that they threw it on the scrap heap, attempting to destroy it for being a ‘Flesh sympathiser’. The rest of them left to mount a war on Equestria. Although if that were true, we’d have heard about that, right?”
“Yeah. It’s not like you can hide an army of robots for long.”
“That’s what I mean. I think he’s either lying to us, or… something else happened to them. Anyway, he shut himself down so that he could warn any pony who ever might accidently discover this place about something.”
“What? Warn them about the invasion?” The white unicorn asked.
“No. Warn them about Titan.”
- - -
A large metal pod stood before Skylar, fixed into the wall. The pod was twice his size, even if he stood on his hind legs. The glass in the front of it glowed a bright green, but he could still see the outline of a pony inside it, lying vertically. The pegasus checked the control panel on the lift platform that he was stood on. Details began to come up on the screen, registering the pod as a discontinued project called “Titan”. The information claimed that the project was stopped because of sabotage.
- - -
“It says here, that the ‘Titan’ project was locked down into permanent stasis until a pony override code is used on it.” Fire Wire told Rift. She had discovered Skylar in a stasis pod room, where the machines shutdown to recharge themselves. “Also that the programming was never completed.”
“What’s the problem with that?” Rift asked, looking at the diagram on the screen. It was showing details of a much larger version of the metal pony from downstairs. This metal monster seemed to have unstoppable strength, a single eye, capable of firing a kind of energy projectile, and was capable of launching one of its own hooves a great distance, which could extend claws like a grappling hook and then use that to lift itself up to higher places. The thought of something like that running around terrified Rift.
“Well, apparently it was made to be an unstoppable machine.”
- - -
“Titan was to be used to attack Canterlot and attack the princesses.” Lance told Moonlight. “To kill them. Then another group of these metal ponies would swarm over equestria, killing every stallion, mare and foal.”
“That’s horrible. But why? What’s this all about?” She asked.
“I don’t know, and neither does it.” He said, nodding a little towards the machine. It was currently lying down on the floor in front of Cherry who was sitting and talking with it.
“And it can’t be awoken, right?” Moonlight asked.
“Titan? It can only be awoken by a pony. And no pony would ever do anything that stupid.”
- - -
Skylar stood before the pod. The screen on the control pad said “Titan: Cancel Stasis - YES/NO?”
He looked at the pod. The small computer told the pegasus exactly when the robot inside was designed to do. He wasn’t a fool and no way was he going to let this monster free. The console offered information that included that the pod itself was on a separate power source and that the stasis could only be shut off by a pony. The pod would continue to run forever it seemed, and messing with it would only make things worse. Skylar tapped a hoof on the screen, pressing “NO”. The pod continued to glow green.
- - -
“I have to shut it down!” Fire Wire said, pressing buttons frantically using her magic.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Rift asked, looking a little worried. “I mean you said that it was permanently in stasis. Why do you need to turn its power off?”
“Because if an inexperienced pony accidently found their way down here like we did, and somehow managed to get into that room like Skylar has and then by mistake turn off the stasis pod, that thing will break free and attack all of Equestria. We have to shut down all of the pods in that room to protect Equestria. We shut it down and never let the thing have any more power. In other words, I’m killing it.”
Fire Wire, who was having the time of her life not five seconds ago, had suddenly changed after seeing the ‘Titan’ file and now seemed completely focused on shutting it down.
“So by shutting the pod down completely, it’ll never be able to power itself on again?” Rift asked.
“That’s right. It runs on its own power, recycling its energy to keep the stasis field active. I kill the power, then it’ll never wake up anyway. It’s simple really.”
“But if that’s the case, why didn’t the robot that sabotaged it just cut its power back then?”
“I dunno.” Fire Wire admitted, then turned to face Rift.
Every monitor screen flashed the words, “Titan: Shutdown - YES/NO?”
”Maybe because it wasn’t willing to kill its own kind to save others? Or maybe it wasn’t as cleaver as me?”
Fire Wire winked at Rift and then magically pressed the “YES” key.
- - -
Skylar stood on the platform ready to be taking back up to the elevator, when suddenly the Titan pod stopped humming and then the green glow faded away, turning to darkness. Curious, he stepped closer. Skylar realised how quiet it was now, as the sound of his own hooves were the only noise in the room. He got to the pod and saw that the entire thing had been shut down. Not a good sign.
Skylar looked up and down it, wondering what happened. Suddenly a flat red line started to glow towards its head. The beige pegasus never had a chance to react before the pod smashed open, sending glass shards everywhere. He covered his eyes as the glass rained over him and then looked up, seeing a huge metal pony with sharp points for ears and another pair on its cheeks. It didn’t have a mussel like all other ponies did, just a blank oval face and a bright red line across where its eyes should have been.
Skylar barely had time to scream before its red eye flashed and fired at him.
Lance walked with Moonlight over to his sister, who was still talking to the robot.
“Hey Cherry.” Lance said. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah.” Cherry said, turning to face her brother. ”Spark and I were just talking about-“
“Eh? Whoa whoa…” Lance interrupted her. “Spark?”
“Yeah. Miss Moonlight suggested that he should have a name so I thought-“
“He?” Lance interrupted again.
“Well, he sounds like a boy to me.”
“I am neither boy nor girl, but you may call me what you will.” The robot said, turning its head to Lance. A quick spark flashed out from its neck.
“I think the name suits him.” Cherry said, smiling up at her brother. Moonlight sat down next to the robot. It looked at her and leaned back a little, as if she was getting a little too close.
“So Spark, what were you and Cherry talking about?”
I guess we’re calling him Spark now. Gah, I mean it! I mean- Lance thought, having an internal discussion on whether Spark is a “he” or an “it”.
“We were talking about Cherry Blossom’s garden.” Spark said.
“It’s really pretty, Miss Moonlight. You should come with us when we go back home.”
“Huh?” Lance snapped out of his own thoughts and re-joined the conversation. “What do you mean by ‘us’?” Lance asked his sister.
“You, me and Spark.” Cherry said innocently to her brother before looking back to Moonlight. “You will come too, won’t you Miss Moonlight?”
Lance was frozen once again. He couldn’t get his brain to send orders to his mouth say something before it was too late. Moonlight looked up at Lance and knew exactly what he was thinking. She couldn’t help but smirk.
“Of course I’d love to come see your garden, Cherry. That’s so sweet of you to offer.”
Lance could only stand there. His brain had packed up and left for a holiday it seemed. After everything that had happened, he had to ask himself if things could get any worse.
…Huh. Usually that’s the point where something bad happens.
“And you can stay with us in Ponyville, Spark. You’ll love it there.”
“Wh- What a minute, Cherry.” Lance finally said, finding his voice. “We can’t just invite him err, I mean, Spark to stay with us. He… he needs to stay here and recharge. You heard him before. He can’t leave here.”
Cherry looked at the floor sadly. Moonlight looked up at Lance and gave him a stare that just screamed the words ”Did you really have to say that?”
“Cherry.” Lance began, speaking more softly. “I’m sorry but it is true. Spark, there’s no technology like you have here anywhere else in Equestria. I don’t think that even Twilight Sparkle has anything that she could use to help you.”
“Twilight Sparkle. I know of this Pony.” Everypony turned to Spark, surprised he knew about her.
“How do you know Twilight?” Lance asked.
Before the robot could answer, there was a scream coming from all around them, echoing through the entire facility. Spark slowly turned his head to face Lance.
“What have you done?” He spoke with a flat tone that sounded like he was accusing Lance of breaking something. Lance never thought the machine would have been capable of sounding like that. Spark then stood up and began moving to the lift.
“What’s going on? What was that?” Lance asked.
“That… was Titan.” Spark said.
Lance exchanged a look with Moonlight and then she turned to face Spark.
“But I thought that Titan was in permanent stasis?” Moonlight asked.
“He was. And can only be awoken by another pony tampering with the pod.” Spark pressed the button on the lift and the doors opened. “One of you ponies must have interacted with it.”
“Skylar.” Lance said to himself.
Spark stepped into the lift and looked at the buttons. He shook his head and then pressed the up key.
“Wait!” Cherry called out. “Where are you going?”
“To access the control room and lock down this facility. We have to stop it from escaping.”
“Lock down the facility?” Moonlight questioned while holding the door open. “You can’t lock this place down while we’re still all in here.”
“Then hurry, because it will be here soon.”
The realisation of Sparks words hit them all. Moonlight motioned for Cherry to get in the lift and then Moonlight stepped inside. Lance ran to the elevator and stopped. The lift was already pretty full and Lance was worried about the weight. Especially with the extra weight of a robot.
“Lance, come on.” Moonlight said while still holding the door for him.
“The lift is too full.” Lance warned. “Go up with Cherry. Then get her and the others out of here. I’ve gotta find Skylar. Spark, are there any other areas in this facility?”
“Many.” The robot pony said. “This lift will take you to the other side of the facility. It’s the gear button.”
“Okay, thanks. I’ll wait here and once you’re off, I’ll call it back down again.”
“No, I wanna stay with you!” Cherry protested. She immediately tried to get out the door but Moonlight stopped her.
“It’s okay sweetie, he won’t be gone for too long. Besides, I need your help with Spark. He listens to you.”
“But…” Cherry began to protest again, but stopped. She turned to her brother. “You’ll be back quickly, right?”
“I will.” Lance said with a nod.
“Pinkie promise!” Cherry demanded.
Lance smiled at his sister and was about to begin the chant, but the doors started to close. Cherry saw this and tried to jump out at the last second, but Moonlight caught her. Lance let out a worried sigh. He didn’t like leaving his sister, and never had. But Moonlight had taken care of Cherry Blossom before and he trusted her to do it again. Lance watched as the lift went up hoping that they would be okay until he got back.
The lift reached the top and opened up. Cherry was the first one out and looked down at her brother. She looked so small up on the catwalk. The others stepped out and Moonlight gave a wave to Lance. He the pressed the button and watched as it started to come down. Cherry kept watching despite being ushered along the walk way by the others.
A loud bang caused them all to look back towards the lift. It sounds like it hit something, and then it fell down the shaft, hitting the bottom with a loud bang. Lance jumped and rolled out the way, across the metal floor with all the loose scrap. A small bit of metal scratched his side, but it didn’t hurt much.
“Big brother!” Cherry called from above. Lance looked up to her. She, Moonlight and Spark were each looking down, the girls were looking at Lance, worried. Spark however was looking at the lift and then looked down to Lance. He was trying to say something but was too quiet over the ringing in Lance’s ears. There was another loud bang from the lift. Lance looked at the doors, and they were splitting at the bottom.
Something was moving around on the other side of it. Lance could make out the silhouette of a leg. He moved closer, worried a pony was inside the lift when it crashed.
“Skylar?” Lance called out.
The pony inside the lift stopped moving, then with great force the metal doors began to bend outwards, making the pony inside a little visible. Lance stood stunned. Whatever was in there wasn’t Skylar, unless he grew since he last saw him. Lance started taking a few steps backwards, walking over the scrap metal. The thing inside the lift was hammering hard on the doors, breaking its way out. Lance could see a line of red flashing from inside it.
“Lance!” Moonlight shouted from above. “Run! The cover behind you!” Lance looked behind him, seeing a massive plate on the ground beside the scrap. He saw a button on the wall behind it, with all manner of warning signs around it. Lance hit the open button and the cover noisily opened up, grinding with effort. The plate opened much like the lift doors, split down the middle. Beneath it was some weird machine.
It looked like dozens of thick round metal plates going between each other, each with thick strong points designed to grab and crush between the others discs that were the same. It was like some kind of horrible grinder, designed to crush thick metals.
Which would explain why there was so much dumped here. Lance thought to himself.
The lift door burst open and out stepped a huge monstrous looking robot. Much more terrifying then Spark could ever have described. The spikes on its head, then large body and the red line where the eyes should be on a flat egg shaped face plate. It was looking around the room for something.
And then it spotted Lance.
“BIG BROTHER! RUN!”
“GET UNDER THE GRINDER!”
Cherry and Moonlight screamed together. Lance saw a gap between the edge of the pit and the grinder. Lance jumped for it as the murderous mechanical pony attempted to charge him. Lance fell into the dark hole, landing awkwardly under the grinder. He was safe. The metal pony stood above him, hammering on the machine, trying to make its way to him. Lance had enough room to roll over and stand up, but he had to keep his head down. He saw a green “On” button on the grinder and pressed it.
Lance dropped to his belly as the machine began spinning, making a very loud noise. Above, Lance could hear the sound of the robot pony moving away quickly. Lance breathed a sigh of relief, and then he heard the sound of the scrap pile tipping over, falling towards where he was now hiding. The machine was about to start grinding up the metal, and Lance was about to be buried underneath it. He couldn’t climb back out. The thing up there was waiting to kill him. He was trapped.
The first few pieces of metal fell into the grinder and Lance covered his ears from the horrible noise the metal made as it was being crushed into tiny fragments, right above his head. The sharp metal bits fell onto the ground in the middle of the pit he was in. Lance pressed himself against the wall, trying to keep out the way of the debris. He looked around.
There has to be something. Anything! This scrap can’t just build up here! Lance thought with panic.
More debris rained down on him. He had to find a way out. Then he spotted something. An override switch was on the wall, for the manual disposal of debris. He pulled on the lever, but it wouldn’t budge. Lance couldn’t get his full weight behind it because he had to stay low and he had no way to get his hooves under it for a better grip. The debris was beginning to fill the pit now. His ears were ringing from the noise. His headache had quickly returned and he was struggling to think. He was desperate. He was going to die.
Lance gripped the lever with his teeth and pulled hard. It moved! Lance pulled harder and then got a hoof behind it, letting go with his teeth and then putting all his strength into pulling the lever all the way down with a loud clang that he could barely hear. The floor then collapsed from under him.
Lance fell with all of the debris and tumbled down a slope into utter darkness.
- - -
Moonlight and Cherry watched in horror as the monstrous machine, known as Titan, stood over the grinder, trying to find a way in. A red light shined over the grinder and then turned yellow.
“He found it.” Spark said. “He should be safe from Titan now.”
Spark had told Moonlight about the grinder, how there was a way out under it. She was glad to see that Lance found it quickly. Moonlight suddenly found herself wondering.
“Where does that go?” She asked Spark.
“To the in-“
“Miss Moonlight!” Cherry interrupted Spark as she poked Moonlight’s back leg repeatedly, pointing down below. The unicorn looked down and saw that Titan was looking right up at them.
“Move! Quickly!” Spark yelled as it saw the killing machine raise its foreleg and fire a hoof at the catwalk. It flew at them and large claws came out the end, grabbing the railing. They watched, stunned as Titan began to pull itself up, using the cable connected between its hoof and leg.
“Ponies! We have to go!” Spark told them.
Moonlight didn’t move. She had an idea on how to slow it down.
“Cherry! Turn away from me and close your eyes!”
“But why? And where’s my brother?” She asked, confused.
“Please, just do it! And when I tell you, I want you to run for the stairs. Got it?” Moonlight looked very determined. Cherry didn’t argue and looked away, closing her eyes tight.
Moonlight ran to the railing where the grappling hoof was and she waited. Titan then appeared in Moonlight’s face and she almost forgot what she was doing, startled by how large the thing was face to face. She then cast a spell using her magic. A blinding white light shot out from her horn and hit Titan in the face. The machine, blinded, wobbled on the edge. Its hoof came loose for just a second, but long enough for Moonlight to buck it and cause the massive robot to fall, crashing on the floor below with a devastating crash that shook the catwalk.
Moonlight hadn’t expected that to work out so well. She looked over the edge expecting to see the wreck of the machine. Instead she saw Titan was already getting up and retracting its hoof back into its leg.
“What?! Not even a dent?”
It was waiting for its grappling hoof to retract and then it would climb again. Moonlight doubted the same trick would work twice, so she shouted to the others.
Cherry opened her eyes and looked around. Moonlight ran past her looking worried. Cherry didn’t ask what happened, she knew it was bad and just began to run up the stairs. However, Spark didn’t run. He moved at a snail’s pace up the stairs.
“Spark, we have to hurry!” Cherry said to him.
“I cannot move any faster. I do not have the mobility.” Spark kept moving up the stairs slowly while he talked. “Tell your pony friend to initiate the lockdown. The code is #10112012.”
“What? But we can’t lock this building. We’re still inside. My brother is further down then we are!” Cherry said, sounding upset.
Moonlight came back down the stairs. She hadn’t noticed right away that Cherry had stopped.
“What’s the hold up? We’ve gotta go!”
“Spark can’t run!” Cherry said looking at Moonlight, worried. “Can you carry him with your magic?”
“I- I don’t know.” Moonlight said, unsure of her ability.
“Please! You have to try!” Cherry looked up at Moonlight with large pleading eyes.
“Okay… but get upstairs, quickly!” Cherry nodded and ran behind the unicorn. Moonlight then began to use her magic on Spark to levitate him. It worked, but it was a strain. She moved backwards up the steps, bringing the metal pony with her. They soon reached the top and she put him down. Moonlight was exhausted.
“You did it!” Cherry called out in glee. But her happiness faded quickly as the sounds of Titan stomping up the stairs, echoed from below. He was right behind them.
“Quick! Get inside!” Moonlight shouted.
They jumped into one of the four rooms in the hallway and shut the door behind them. The sound of Titan climbing the staircase ended. It was now in the hallway. If it chose to look in the room that they were in, they were goners.
Moonlight looked around the room to see if there was anything they could use. It was packed high with boxes, unlabelled and unmarked. There was nothing else in the room. Spark wasn’t daring to move, his movements would no doubt bring attention to their location, fast. Moonlight had her weight against the door. She knew that she couldn’t hold it out, but tried anyway. Cherry was stood, shaking from head to hoof. She was looking at the window of the door, seeing what they couldn’t see.
Titan was stood on the other side of the door, unmoving. He was searching for them. They both held their breaths, trying to be as silent as possible. The sound of the grinder and the hum from the power room next to them was all that could be heard. They waited, as did Titan. It seemed like it wasn’t going to leave.
The silhouette of Titan walked away from them. Cherry breathed a sigh of relief then pointed towards the other wall, signalling that the bigger robot had moved away. Moonlight exhaled, taking in a few breaths and then she stood up. The unicorn moved silently to the window, looking around. Titan was gone.
“Okay, we’ll wait here a few more-“
“He’s gone back down.” Spark interrupted Moonlight.
“What? But I didn’t hear him on the stairs.” Moonlight said, looking towards the steps.
“And he went that way, away from the stairway.” Cherry added.
“He’s not going to that room.“ Spark informed them. “He’s going to the other half of this facility.”
“What? What’s down there?” Moonlight asked.
“Lance Angelswift is.”
“What?!” Cherry squeaked. “We have to go help him!”
“Spark. Is there any way we can stop this machine?” Moonlight asked, hoping for something.
“We could trap him, his power will run out eventually.”
“How long is that?”
“Without a recharge pod, Titan will power down in twenty years.”
“But I thought you said you robots couldn’t last long without recharging?” Said Moonlight.
“Titan is different. He was made to be superior.”
Moonlight sat down. The killing machine would hunt them for twenty years and will never need food or water. And on top of that, it was damn near indestructible. Their only hope was to get out and lock the thing inside this building. But Skylar and Lance were both missing, and no way was Cherry going to willingly leave while Lance was still in here. They had to get up to the others and figure out a plan.
- - -
Lance hit the floor pretty hard after sliding down the slope, being chased by hundreds of sharp pieces of shrapnel. He rolled out the way quickly as the debris threatened to land on top of him. The sound of the tiny bits of metal hitting the floor echoed throughout the room he was now in. Lance sat down to take a breath. His heart was still pounding in his chest, and the sound of the grinder flowed down from the hole above. He could also hear the small bits of debris as they continued to fall down the hole, the grinder still doing its job. He wasn’t going to be able to climb up, even if the machine was off.
Lance couldn’t see anything. He was trapped in a room total darkness. The floor felt like a grate and the walls were made of a thick metal. The temperature in the room was surprisingly high. The walls were warm, but the grate under his hooves was warmer. Lance felt his way along the wall in the dark, looking for some way out. There couldn’t have designed a thing like this without some kind of way in.
Gah, if only I could see! Lance thought to himself.
Just then, as if some mystical higher power heard him, two flickering orange lights lit up the room.
“Oh, thank Celesti-“ Lance stopped min sentence, he could see everything.
The debris from the grinder was rising higher. Below the grate was tons of ash. The lights were tiny flames sticking out holes on the walls pointing down at the floor.
“Oh no! This is an incinerator!”
Lance saw a ladder right above where he was standing. At that very moment, massive flames spewed out at the floor. Lance jumped and pulled himself up the ladder. He was going to be burned alive if he stayed down here too long. Already the flames were generating a heat wave that Lance could feel burning away the hairs on his tail. He climbed quickly, as fast as he could but it wasn’t easy. This ladder was designed to be climbed by something that could grab it. He was already beginning to sweat and lose the minimal grip he had. Lance again resorted to using his teeth to hold on, he slowly made his way up. The heat getting more unbearable the higher he got.
He then saw a small hatch door. The top of the ladder did thankfully offer a way out. Holding on with his teeth, he raised a hoof and pushed on the hatch.
It didn’t budge.
Lance hit it hard, but couldn’t get into a position where he could use both his hooves. Again he hit the hatch. Again and again. Sweat was pouring down his face and into his eyes. He couldn’t see. He was going to lose his grip, and fall to his death. Or worse, survive the fall, long enough for the flames to burn him to death.
He kept holding on, weakly banging on the hatch but it remained solid. Lance couldn’t believe this was how it would end. He felt his grip loosening.
Light. A white light shinned before his eyes. The mix of sweat and tears in his eyes blurred the outline of an angel before him. Lance felt the angel pull him up, taking him up to the heavens. It was nice and cool. Lance laid down on the metal floor, enjoying the coolness of it.
Wait… Metal? Not clouds?
Lance blinked a few times. He saw pipes and machines everywhere. Lance looked up at the figure before him. It was another earth pony. A brown stallion with a dark brown mane.
“Well, looks like I made it just in time.”
“Doctor?” Lance asked shocked, between fits of coughing.
He couldn’t believe it. The Doctor was earth pony from Ponyville and he had been gone for several months. A lot of ponies thought he wasn’t coming back, especially his old assistant, Derpy.
“Lance my boy, it’s been so long. How are you feeling? You look terrible.”
Lance had been in a train wreck, lost in a forest, chased by a murderous robot and had almost been incinerated. Lance figured he looked worse than terrible.
“What-” Lance had another coughing fit from inhaling too much smoke from the incinerator. The doctor patted him on the back a few times till it stopped. “Thanks. But what are you doing down here?”
The Doctor smiled at him.
“You mean other than saving you from having a new coat of crispy brown? Not much. Listen, I’d love to let you get some well-deserved rest, but I’m afraid your friends upstairs don’t have the luxury of time. They’re in trouble.”
The Doctor helped Lance get back up to his hooves.
“What do you mean?” Lance asked.
“Walk and talk Lance, hurry.” The Doctor turned around and climbed a short set of steps, then headed down a long corridor. All the lights in this area were red and the walls had several thick pipes on them, leading in many different directions.
“Doctor, what’s going on? Why are you down here? What’s happening with the others? Is Cherry okay?”
“Well, Cherry should be fine. You left her in good hooves, with Moonlight. Right now they should be getting to the command centre. That Fire Wire is quite a smart girl you know, working out how to crack the Clockwork Stallion’s code. I barely managed to do it myself.”
“Clockwork what?” Lance asked as they climbed up more stairs.
“Clockwork Stallions. Strange name for ‘em really. I’ve always thought they were closer to Cyber ponies myself.” The doctor chuckled to himself. ”Ah, that always makes me laugh. Still, what’s no laughing matter is that Titan fellow.”
“Yeah, I had a run in with him.”
“He’s a tough one. Not gonna be easy to stop him, but I’m sure you can do it.”
“What? Me?!“ Lance asked, surprised, thinking the doctor was off his rocker.
“And don’t worry about what I’m doing here,” The Doctor continued, stepping out onto a catwalk over a pit that looked bottomless. Lance felt his stomach drop out as he looked down. “Just make sure to give me this when you next see me.”
“Give you what?”
Lance suddenly noticed that The Doctor was wearing a small card around his neck, held on by a thin bit of rope. He took it off and put it over Lance’s neck.
“What is this?” Lance asked, looking at the card. It had ‘LVL1’ printed on it.
“That’s a level one access card. It’ll get you into any room. Don’t lose it.”
The Doctor looked over the edge and down below. Lance looked around, noticing have similar this room was to the other side of this facility.
“Very little imagination went into making this place.” Lance said, looking at another catwalk above himself.
“Haha, yeah.” The brown earth pony then climbed over the railing.
“Doctor!” Lance called out. “What are you doing?!”
“I’m taking a shortcut. Now get upstairs, and hurry. There’s a good lad.” The Doctor then dropped off the edge.
“Doctor!!” Lance shouted.
Suddenly a grey pegasus swooped in out of nowhere and caught The Doctor on its back. Lance recognised the mare. It was Derpy. She circled around, keeping the speed but flying dangerously close to the wall where one of the pipes were sticking out. The Doctor saw it coming and ducked under it, just in time. He sat back up, turning to the pipe and laughed, taunting it. Then another pipe hit The Doctor on the back of the head, knocking him dizzy.
“Are you okay, Doctor?” Lance heard Derpy say as they disappeared into a vent in the wall large enough for both of them.
Lance couldn’t believe it. He even began to wonder if he really did die in that incinerator. After a moment of gawking, wondering if they would come back out the vent, Lance turned and started moving quickly. He had to get back to his sister and the others. Skylar was still missing, but at this point Lance was much more concerned about Cherry.
Lance continued to the other side of the catwalk and came across a large factory floor. There were dozens of tables, welding booths, tools, a crane and many machines that Lance could only imagine were for cutting metal. Large stacks of thick metal lay in piles across the place. Half formed helmets that would soon become the head of a robot like Spark were lying in a large metal bin with dozens more helmets, ready to be collected for assembling. Now they just remained here, never to be assembled. Without power they couldn’t work the machines. They couldn’t build more. The Clockwork Stallions had to leave.
Spark mentioned that the robots designed for building the others were weaker than the actual fighting ones. Did that include there power? How long did the builders work for before they had to regenerate their power? Fighting robots would be useless if, like Spark, they only lasted a few hours. So why would they be reprogramming the builders to be fighters?
Lance found a lift and climbed inside, pressing a hoof against the button to take him to the higher level. The lift began to ascend. He hoped this took him to somewhere familiar.
- - -
“I’m telling you! The thing tried to kill us! It’s alive and it’s gone to the other side of the facility!”
Moonlight had been trying to convince Fire Wire about how Titan was free, and currently looking for them all. She couldn’t believe it.
“But I shut it down!” Fire Wire said, looking horrified that her plan backfired. “It should have been deactivated.”
“You only shut down the pod.” Spark said, walking up to the dark grey unicorn. ”When all the power to the factory was shut down, I made it so that Titan’s pod was to stay powered by other means. When robots, such as I, need to regenerate energy we first have to power down. When Titan was in stasis, it was still activated. Titan’s own energy was what was powering the pod to keep the stasis active. With the pod deactivated, Titan was immediately mobile. But I am unsure as to why it reacted violently so suddenly.”
Fire Wire jumped to her hooves.
“Huh? What about him?” Moonlight asked.
“He was by the pod when I deactivated… oh no!” Fire Wire immediately turned to the computer, going to the security footage for the regeneration room. The image on the screen was horrifying. There was a squeak behind them from Cherry Blossom. Moonlight immediately hugged the filly and turned her from the screen.
“Don’t look Cherry.” She said to her. But it was too late. Cherry had already seen it and immediately began to panic.
“M- My brother! Wha- What about my brother? We have to save my brother!” Cherry’s voice kept getting louder with each moment her panic also rising.
“Shhh, it’s alright Cherry. We’ll figure out a way to help Lance.” Moonlight looked up to Fire Wire who was still fixated on the screen. The body of Skylar Black was lying on the floor beside a broken regeneration pod and glass shards were lying around him. His eyes were wide open, unseeing, and a large deep burn mark on his breast showed more of Skylar then anypony ever wanted to see.
Rift stepped forward to Fire Wire, shouting her name in her ear. She jumped, coming back to her surroundings. She could hear Cherry, begging the others to find her brother. She then snapped her attention to the monitor and changed the image, starting to scan every room on the other side of the facility.
“Don’t you worry, Cherry.” Fire Wire said, calling over to the little pink filly “We’ll find your brother and get then we’ll get everypony out of here.”
Fire wire kept scanning rooms using the security cameras, but Lance couldn’t be seen anywhere.
“We have to lock this facility down.” Spark said, stepping forward. “If Titan escapes, then all of Equestria is at risk.”
Rift turned to face the mechanical pony.
“No way! We’re not locking this place down until we get everypony out of here.”
Spark looked at each pony in the room, his head buzzing as he turned it.
“Then may I suggest you all begin to leave.” Spark suggested to them.
“Well… I can take Cherry out of here and we can wait above.” Moonlight said still sitting next to the filly.
“But what about-“ Cherry started to say but she was cut off by Rift.
“Cherry, there’s not much you can do here and I’m sure your brother would be worried sick about you still being in here while that thing is about.”
Rift put a hoof on her head and ruffled up her mane a little.
“And don’t you worry. I’m going down there right now to find him.” Rift stepped back from the filly and then adjusted the guitar on his back, giving him room to spreading his wings. “I assure you, I’ll get to him quick.”
“I’ll watch these monitors and keep an eye out.” Fire Wire said, determined to make up for her mistake. “There might still be some good I can do from here. I mean, I do have full control of the facility here.”
Spark turned to Fire Wire.
“You should leave with the others. I can control everything from here.”
Fire Wire narrowed her eyes suspiciously.
“Oh no. You’ve been adamant in wanting to lock this facility down, with all of us still in here with that monster machine you built.”
Spark didn’t respond. He continued to stare at Fire Wire as if she was right. And she was.
“We have a plan then?” Moonlight called over the room. “Rift, you’ll go as fast as you can through the other side of this facility, try and find Lance and for ponies sake, be careful.”
Rift gave a nod and galloped down the stairs, as fast as he could.
“Fire Wire, you watch all of the cameras and if you see Lance, do what you can to communicate with him.”
“There’s a speaker system.” Spark added. “Just use the microphone there to communicate through the active camera.” Fire Wire saw the microphone Spark indicated. It looked like a tiny block designed to fit into an ear.
“That’s a microphone? But it goes in the ear.” Fire Wire said, confused.
“It’s a speaker also, so you can hear them on the other side.”
“This tiny thing? That’s incredible!” Fire Wire said as she floated it up, placing it to her ear. It didn’t fit but she could use her magic to hold it in place.
“Okay then.” Moonlight said as she stood up. “Cherry, you and I are going outside where it’ll be safer while we wait.”
Cherry looked up to Moonlight, her eyes were still wide with worry and she wanted to protest.
“Can’t we stay here?” She asked quietly. Moonlight got down low to Cherry.
“I think it’s better to wait outside, don’t you? When Lance comes back, we wanna be ready to leave.” Cherry nodded and then stood beside Moonlight. “Let’s hurry. And you two,“ Moonlight looked to Fire Wire and Spark. “Be careful.” Fire Wire smiled and then turned to focus on the monitors, as did Spark.
Moonlight walked to the door with Cherry and out across the catwalk. They reached the lift and walked in together. The little pink filly was keeping her head low, looking worried.
“Hey, don’t worry about it.” Moonlight said as she pressed the up button on the lift. “I’m sure Lance will be-“ The doors started closing and Cherry jumped out the door. “Cherry!“ Moonlight reacted too late.
The doors closed and the lift began to ascend with Moonlight on it. Cherry Blossom ran back across the catwalk and then peeked into the control room. Spark and Fire Wire were busy watching the monitors. The filly slowly snuck through the room, to the stairs and went down to the lower level. She was heading to the other side of the facility.
- - -
Cherry made it to the door leading to the other side of the facility. A large door hidden between two shelves stacked with all kinds of electronics was in one the room next to where they were hiding before. The door was ajar, so Cherry knew this must have been the way Rift came. She took a step inside and jumped as she heard a voice behind her.
“Weren’t you leaving with Moonlight?”
It was Spark. He had seen Cherry going down the steps and then followed her, leaving Fire Wire to watch the monitors. The filly turned to Spark, her heart beating hard in her chest after the scare.
“S-Spark!” Cherry shook her head and looked at him seriously. “I’ve gotta go down and help find my brother. He might need me.”
“And getting yourself lost is going to help him?”
Cherry turned back to the door.
“I-I’m not leaving without him. H-he’s the only family I-I’ve …”
Cherry couldn’t get the words out. The thoughts of her brother lying unconscious on the train and that moment of panic when he wouldn’t wake up, even when she screamed his name haunted her. And after seeing what that monster had done to Skylar, Cherry couldn’t get the thought of the same thing happening to her brother out of her head. Tears welled up in her eyes as she sobbed silently. Spark walked past, indifferent to her current emotions.
“We must be fast. Your brother could be anywhere, but we’ll try down in level one first.”
Cherry wiped her eyes with the back of her hoof.
“Th-thank you, Spark. You’re a good friend.”
A spark shot from the little metal pony’s neck, as he turned to face her.
“Come, Cherry Blossom.” He turned back and they both went in together.
- - -
Fire Wire was still checking through the camera. All she saw were empty corridors, rooms filled with half assembled robots, but no signs of Lance or Titan. The sound of hoofsteps caught her attention and she turned around. Moonlight was stood in the doorway, looking around nervously.
“Moonlight, what are-“ Fire Wire started to ask, but Moonlight shouted over her.
“Have you seen Cherry?!”
“What?” Fire Wire looked confused. “Wasn’t she with you?”
“We got separated at the lift. I think she’s gone down to find her brother!” Moonlight said, panicking.
Fire Wire turned to the monitor, and brought up the camera to the entrance leading to the other side of the facility. The door was open, but no pony was there. She checked a few other ones before she spotted them.
“There they are.” Fire Wire pointed out to Moonlight.
Cherry and Spark were walking through a room filled with computers, making their way to a platform in the corner. They both stood on it and it took them down into the room below. Fire Wire changed to camera to the next room. This room was filled with hanging wires and was darker, lit only by a red light. Exposed power boxes were everywhere, making that room look incredibly dangerous.
“I’m going after them!” Moonlight said, making her way to the staircase.
“Wait!” Firewire shouted. “Lemme talk to them. Get them to come back.” Fire Wire pressed a button on the computer in front of her. “Cherry? Cherry Blossom, can you hear me?”
- - -
Cherry stood frozen. Somepony had called her name, but she could see nothing. A hum and a buzzing noise came from the power boxes around her, but no pony was there, nor another robot.
“Cherry! It’s me, Fire Wire.” Cherry hardly recognised her voice. It sounded so robot like.
“Where are you?” Cherry asked looking around her.
“I’m in the control room where I’ve always been. Remember how Spark said I can talk to ponies through the cameras? Well that’s what I’m doing now.”
Cherry looked around and then saw a camera, hanging from the ceiling in the corner. Cherry looked at that as she spoke.
“Is… Is Ms Moonlight with you?”
“Yes, yes Moonlight is here with me!”
There was a rough rubbing sound coming from the speakers, followed by a “Hey!” from Fire Wire.
“Cherry! Cherry it’s me, Moonlight! Are you okay?”
Cherry looked down sadly at the floor.
“Are… are you mad at me for running off?” Cherry asked, quietly.
“No,” Moonlight said, breathing a sigh of relief into the mic. “No I’m not sweetie, but you’ve got to come back upstairs right now. You know it isn’t safe in there.”
Cherry looked back up to the camera.
“But I can’t, I’ve got to find my brother!”
“Cherry, listen.” Moonlight started to but Cherry cut her off.
“It’s alright. Spark knows a shortcut.”
“Cherry.” Moonlight was cut off again by the filly.
“And don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”
“Cherry!” Moonlight shouted into the mic but still the filly kept talking over her.
“We’ll be back up before you know it. You should get out quickly though.” Cherry turned around and began walk with Spark out the door.
“Cherry? Cherry wait!” Moonlight’s voice called after them, but they left the room quickly, cutting off the sound of what Moonlight said next.
- - -
“Cherry, come back here!” Moonlight yelled again. She stomped a hoof and then turned to Fire Wire. “Follow them! Get the next camera up.”
“Moonlight.” Fire Wire said with a sigh.
“Come on, how does this thing work? Moonlight asked, trying to get the controls in her magic. Fire Wire over powered her though and kept it from her.
“Moonlight, listen. If we start following them and calling to them from every camera they walk past, that monster thing down there will be lead right to them.”
The white unicorn thought about it for a moment and then floated the communication device down next to the monitor. She took a few breaths, clearing her head before speaking again.
“Okay. I’ll just go down and get them back then.” Moonlight said, making her way to the stairs.
“Don’t you dare!” Fire Wire yelled.
Moonlight stopped in her tracks, looking back to the orange haired unicorn.
“If you go down there, you’ll just become another pony we have to worry about.” Moonlight looked like she wanted to argue, but was never given the chance. “We’ve got Rift down there already. We’ll contact him, tell him what’s up, and let him bring Cherry back.”
Moonlight walked over to the corner and sat down on the cold floor. She knew Fire Wire was right, but she felt like Cherry was her responsibility now. Lance had been counting on her and she blew it.
- - -
Lance was right next to Titan. He had found a room that required a level one keycard. He knew he didn’t have time to go snooping around but curiosity got the better of him and he decided to take a look. After using the card, the door beeped and the large shadow of Titan could be seen at the end of the hall. Lance jumped inside the small room after seeing this and hid. But his biggest mistake was leaving the door open. Seconds later Titan was inside the room with him and Lance had to curl up under a desk in the middle of the room.
Lance couldn’t see where it was nor could he hear it. Spark was noisy when he moved, but this monster was silent, except for the sounds of its metallic hooves hitting the floor. Lance couldn’t hear it moving, but he definitely didn’t hear it leave. It was still here. Lance was holding his breath, afraid to make the slightest noise. He waited.
Soon he heard movement. Titan was coming further into the room. Lance saw its legs come into view, and he was inches from it. Lance felt every joint and muscle freeze up in his body. If he moved now, he was dead, and there was no way out the room except that door. Titan stood there unmoving, just as still as Lance. Titan could do this forever. Lance couldn’t. His lungs were begging to take a breath. Lance needed air but he knew that Titan would hear him.
The sound of a voice echoed from far away. It was slightly muffled, like when Spark talked. Titan then walked to the door and left the room quickly, following the sound. Lance let out a gasp of air, breathing deeply after he was sure that Titan was gone. Lance poked his head out slowly, making sure he was alone. He then crept to the door and shut it. Lance relaxed, glad he was alone again.
Lance screamed and fell over backwards, kicking his legs trying to defend himself from… nothing. He was still alone in the room. The sound of laughing came from above him.
“We’re- We’re sorry Lance. Are you okay?” The voice said. Lance didn’t think it sounded sorry between its fits of laughter.
“Who are you?” Lance asked, standing back up.
“It’s Fire Wire and Moonlight. We’re speaking to you using the speaker system throughout the facility. We can see you on the camera.”
Lance looked around the room spotting the camera. He moved towards it and peered into the lens, getting a little too close.
“Hey, hey! Don’t do that, your fogging up the picture.” Fire wire said though the speakers. “And are you okay? We saw Titan and decided to distract him.”
“Wait, that was you?” Lance asked.
“Yep. Just one of my simpler idea’s. These machines are strong, but aren’t too smart.” The smugness behind Fire Wire’s voice couldn’t be hidden, even through a speaker that made her sound like Spark.
“Hold on. Fire, is Cherry there? You said Moonlight was with you.”
No response. That was bad news and Lance didn’t want to hear bad news involving his sister.
“Fire Wire!” Lance yelled worriedly into the camera.
“Lance. This is Moonlight.” Her voice sounded different though the speakers too, but he could hear the fear in her voice.
“Moonlight…” Lance could feel his worry building. “What’s happened? Where is Cherry?!” He yelled into the camera. If anything had happened to his sister…
“She’s not hurt Lance. She’s… She’s okay.”
Lance relaxed, leaning against the desk.
“She’s with Spark and… and their looking for you.”
Lance turned back to the camera.
“Don’t worry!” Moonlight said quickly. “We’ve got Rift looking for them, but you’ve still got Titan hunting you. Lose him and then get up here fast. Rift will make sure Cherry gets up here when he finds her.”
Lance couldn’t believe this.
“Where are they now?”
Lance never got an answer. There was a loud bang from down the hall and he ran to check it out, praying Cherry wasn’t the source of the bang. As he made his way down the faded grey hall where he heard the bang, he noticed that everything looked normal. No Titan, no marks, no debris. Whatever caused the bang was…
The door right next to Lance sounded like something was slamming into it, trying to get out.
“Well, that didn’t work. Need to think of something else.”
Lance recognised the voice on the other side of the door. He saw the card slot and used the Level one card on it. The door beeped and opened.
“Doctor? Is that you?”
The brown earth pony stepped out from the room.
“Ahh, thanks for that friend.” The Doctor then looked Lance up and down, realising who it was he was talking to. “Lance my boy! It’s been so long. How are you feeling? You look terrible!”
Lance had a feeling of déjà vu as he stared at The Doctor.
“What do you mean? We saw each other not five minutes ago.”
“We did?” The Doctor asked, confused.
“Yes, you saved me from that incinerator.”
“Then you gave me this card to open these doors.”
“Is that so?”
“Don’t you remember? You jumped off a catwalk and landed on Derpy then flew into a vent.”
“Derpy? But, I havn’t seen that ditzy mare in months.” The Doctor looked puzzled for a moment then smiled.
“I think I get what’s going on.” The Doctor said to himself. “Gotta love a good, old fashioned, paradox.”
Lance stared at The Doctor.
“How hard did you hit your head on that pipe?”
- - -
Rift rounded a corner. He knew that Cherry was around here somewhere. The white pegasus flew down every hallway that was wide enough for his wings and constantly listened out for any sound from around corners before going down them. Fire Wire had said that Cherry and Spark were on this floor, but he felt like he’d checked every room. He wanted to call out, but that was a dangerous risk. Rift was ready to try another floor further down, but then he heard a clang noise from behind him, followed by a silenced shriek.
“Cherry?” He whispered.
Rift flew silently towards where the sounds came from. He reached a room and listened for a moment before opening the door. It creaked quietly but it sounded loud against the silence. The pegasus landed on the ground gently. He carefully looked around the room then stepped in. The lights were off in this room, so Rift couldn’t see much. Tables had stacks of drawings on them, as well as littered the floor. A smaller table had been toppled over, which might have been the clang he heard.
Rift turned around and saw a faded red light shining at him. His heart stopped.
“Rift?” He heard a young filly call from behind the robot.
It was Spark and Cherry Blossom. Rift never felt more relieved.
“Cherry! I’ve been looking all over for you.” Rift said, letting out a deep breath.
“Did you find my brother yet?” She asked, looking hopeful.
Rift shook his head.
“No, I had to stop to find you. You should have never came down here.”
Cherry hung her head low.
“I… just wanted wanted to help.”
Rift smiled then kneeled down close to her.
“And it’s great that you do little Cherry, but if you wanted to help, you should have left earlier like we planned.”
This didn’t make Cherry feel any better, she just wanted to help and now felt like a hindrance. Rift saw the sad look on her face, from the light coming through the door.
“Hey, don’t mope. I still need to find Lance and I could use your help.”
Cherry brightened up at this and had a huge smile on her face.
“Really? You mean it?” Cherry asked, happily.
“Come on.” Rift smiled at the filly and led her out the room. Spark walked in front of them and stopped in the hallway, Rift was looking down at Cherry and noticed her smiling face turn into a look of sheer terror. Rift looked up to see what she was looking at.
Titan was standing at the end of the hallway. It was staring right at them.
We’re dead. Rift thought to himself. He felt paralysed.
“Rift. Grab Cherry and flee. I’ll hold it off.” Spark said.
“What?” Cherry gasped. “No!”
“All of Equestria is doomed if we don’t lock this place down. Cherry Blossom, I gave you the code. It’s up to you to lock the facility down.”
Rift looked from Spark to Titan. He started moving towards them.
“I’ll hold him for as long as I can. Protect Cherry Blossom from harm, and lock it all down.”
Rift grabbed Cherry, picking her up as he jumped into the air, flapping his wings. She screamed, demanding to be let down. Repeatedly she called out Spark’s name, begging him not to do this. Rift flew of down the hallway and Cherry’s screams could be heard all the way as they left. Spark was left alone with Titan.
“Goodbye, Cherry Blossom.”
Titans stomping grew louder as it made its way to Spark. Soon the metallic pony was face to face with its own creation, the one that he himself had designed and made to be the perfect machine. Spark stood still, ready to face the consequences.
Titan looked down at Spark. The giant Clockwork Stallion without hesitation fired a red blast of energy from its eye, blowing off a large chuck of Sparks head. Spark hit the ground, twitching as Titan raised its foreleg up and stomped down on the much smaller Clockwork Stallion’s torso, crushing it. The machine didn’t care who it destroyed. It just wanted to kill. Titan stepped over the now smoking wreck of Spark and gave chase after Rift and Cherry.
“Let me go! Let me go!” Cherry screamed as Rift flew down the hallway.
He flapped his wings harder then he ever had before. Rift had to put some distance between him and the monstrous robot that was right behind them. The pegasus could hear heavy thuds of its legs as it chased after them. Rift flew around the corner and the filly he held in his forelegs began kicking at the air, trying to get free.
“Put me down! We have to go back!”
She kept screaming and fighting, but Rift knew that if Titan was chasing them, then Spark was already dead.
“Cherry, you’ve got to stop that!” Rift shouted down at her. Her kicking was making it harder for Rift to keep his speed up.
“You left him with that monster! You should have helped Spark!” Cherry said, yelling up at Rift.
“I’m sorry Cherry, but Spark did that to save you. If we had stayed with him, we’d be dead too!”
Cherry stopped kicking.
“Wha… What?” She asked quietly.
Rift didn’t hear her. The sounds of the metallic thuds were getting louder. Rift glanced backwards and immediately regretted it. He could see Titan getting closer to them. Soon he’d be within reach and it would all be over. Titan fired an energy blast of crimson red at the two ponies ahead of itself. The beam missed them, barely shooting past the pegasus. Rift looked ahead, almost too late, as he saw the corridor went to the left. Rift tucked his legs in, spun around in the air and then kicked off the wall, not losing a beat of his wings.
Rift flew down the corridor at his top speed and just behind him he heard a crash. Titan had slammed sideways into the wall as it turned the corner, leaving huge cracks in the wall. It did nothing more than slow it down for a second. The pegasus with the wild blue mane was willing to take that second, but he still had a murderous robot on his tail and it wasn’t going to give up. He needed a plan, or at the very least, a safe spot he could hide Cherry, till he could lure the monster away.
- - -
Fire Wire and Moonlight watched Rift on the monitors. He was fast but nowhere near as fast as Titan at full speed.
“It’s too fast.” Moonlight said, watching Titan chasing after Rift. “How can that robot be faster than a pegasus? Rift’s not gonna be able to escape it!”
Fire Wire turned from the security footage for a moment, thinking. She turned around, facing a smaller monitor and she quickly brought up a screen with details showing the layout of the facility on both sides, zooming in on the area that Rift was currently going through.
“What are you doing?” Moonlight asked.
“You’re right. Rift isn’t fast enough. If he carries on the way he is, he’s finished.”
Moonlight didn’t like that news. She looked back up to the security monitor, watching the pegasus struggling to go faster. She had to do something.
“But he is more agile.” Fire Wire continued. “If we can make him take a different route, perhaps one that isn’t a straight line…” She trailed off, mid-sentence. The grey unicorn was looking for a route Rift could take that would zigzag his way to a safe area. “I think… Yes!”
An orange glow wrapped around the tiny mic and Fire Wire floated it to her ear.
“I’ve got a plan. Moonlight could you…” Fire Wire turned around, and noticed she was alone in the room. “Oh pony feathers, girl! What are you thinking?”
- - -
Rift continued to flap his wings, he could feel the strain finally taking its toll and he was starting to slow down. Titan was right behind him, Rift knew this was his end, but maybe he could slow down the machine enough for Cherry to hide somewhere. His thought was cut short as a burst of static came from overhead.
“Rift! It’s Fire Wire!” The speakers distorted her voice, making her sound just like one of the machines. “Listen to me. When I say, go through the door on the left.”
Many doors whizzed past him as he flew down the dark grey corridor. Titan was right behind Rift, one more second and it would be too late. Ahead of him, he heard a door hiss as it opened.
“In there!” Fire Wire’s voice commanded. Rift turn into the doorway and it immediately began to close. Fire Wire was remotely opening and closing the door. The door didn’t close though. Titan charged into it, head first, making the sliding door whine and bent inwards as the massive robot pushed through it, like it was soft plastic. Rift kept flying, away from the door. The room was filled with dozens of workbenches, each covered in what looked like computer chips. This was possibly a room where all the smaller electrical pieces were manufactured.
Rift didn’t have time to think about that now, flying over all of the benches, he moved to the door on the other side. Titan fired the beam from its eye and it narrowly missed him by a hair. Cherry screamed as the blast caused the door to explode, right in front of them. Rift didn’t stop. He flew through the burning wreckage that was once the door and was again in a hallway.
“Go left and go down the stairs!” Fire Wire’s voice called from above them.
Titan had been slowed down by all the tables blocking its path, but that was only a few seconds delay at most. Titan was back in the hallway, giving chase. Rift came to some stairs and flew down them. Cherry tucked her legs in as they came dangerously close to the steps. She held on as tight as she could. The threat of Titan was now more real to her after seeing how easy the door had just exploded, leaving almost nothing. She had felt the heat of the ray and just being close to it, made her feel like she had been burned.
They reached the top of the stairs and another door opened up ahead of them, leading to a catwalk in a large empty room that went up into darkness and also went down into darkness. The walls were covered in large pipes, each leading to the darkness below. There was another catwalk below them Rift noticed as he flew out halfway across the catwalk. Fire Wire’s voice echoed throughout the room.
“Don’t go to that door, it’s sealed! Head up to the-“
A red light flew across the room, hitting the camera in the wall and destroying the speaker with it. Rift turned back. Titan stood in the doorway that Rift had originally came through, stopping him from going back. The pegasus looked up quickly. Fire Wire was trying to tell him something about a way out before she was cut off. Titan began to step closer to Rift.
The white pegasus flapped his wings, bobbing up and down. He was tired. He’d pushed himself too hard and was having trouble keeping in the air. Sweat was running down his forehead, he couldn’t keep going. Just then he saw it. There was a large vent in the wall where Titan couldn’t follow them. Rift pushed himself one last time, with Cherry holding on tightly.
Rift flew straight up, heading for that hole. Titan saw it too and fired his grappling hook leg up to the vent. It missed and Rift had to stop for a second as the hook leg flew past it, Rift looked down at Titan and too late he realised the error he’d made. He held still for a moment and that was all the killing machine needed. Another blast of red from its eye struck Rift in his side, as he turned to protect Cherry Blossom. She screamed but not as loudly as Rift himself did.
The pegasus fell from the air, twisting as Cherry screamed again. They missed the first catwalk, but landed hard on the one below it. Rift landed on his back, with his guitar splintering underneath him. Cherry was lying on top of him, scared and crying. She opened her eyes slowly, looking past her watery vision and could see a large red burn mark in Rift’s side, right under the wing which laid spread out and limp against the catwalk. The blast from the robots eye had burned away Rift’s fur where it struck, burning the flesh and turning it a deep red.
“Oh no. Mr. Rift, you’ve…” She looked to Rift’s face. His eyes were only half open. He wasn’t moving. “No! Mr. Rift!”
Cherry moved down to his side, shaking him gently with her forelegs, then more roughly.
“Mr. Rift! Please wake up! Wake up! Rift!” She screamed out between tears.
The little pink filly was terrified. Rift had given his life to save her. If she hadn’t of come down here in the first place, none of this would have happened. She called out his name again louder, and then a heavy bang from in front of her caused the catwalk to shake from side to side as it began to bend. Cherry looked up to see Titan walking towards her. The red light shining from its long slit for an eye seemed to focus entirely on her.
Cherry scooted backwards, away from the monstrous robot. Titan stepped over Rift’s body, completely ignoring him, making its way to Cherry. She kept moving backwards, getting closer to the door behind her, she knew that running would do no good. The filly was terrified beyond words. She heard the door behind her open but didn’t turn to look. Cherry was grabbed from behind and pulled into a tight embrace. Whoever it was placed themselves between her and Titan.
“Don’t look sweetie!”
It was Moonlight. She had come to get Cherry but it was too late. They were both going to die here. Cherry never even got to see her brother one last time. Everything became red. It was firing its red beam at them both. Cherry felt Moonlight hold her tighter.
A shout came from behind Titan. Cherry and Moonlight looked up as Rift came flying down from above, swinging the shattered remains of his guitar and brought it down over Titan’s head. It connected just as it fired the blast of red energy and it caused the guitar to explode point black in Titan’s face. The mechanical monster stumbled and bucked as its head burned. The catwalk began to buckle and break away. Rift flew past Titan, grabbed Cherry and Moonlight in a hoof each and flew them into the room just before the catwalk collapsed, falling to the dark below, along with Titan.
- - -
Lance and The Doctor were moving swiftly down the corridor when they had come to a stop outside of a door marked “Private”.
Their curiosity was peaked.
The Doctor used the keycard to open the door, and then they stepped inside. They were both shocked when they were greeted by the giant face of Twilight Sparkle.
“What in Equestria…?” Lance looked around the room. Twilight’s wasn’t the only familiar face in the room. Lance could see Pinkie Pie’s, Fluttershy’s, Applejack’s, Rainbow Dash’s and Rarity’s faces each on separate monitors of their own. The monitors also had complete statistics, from weight and height to strengths and weaknesses.
Why? Lance wondered. Why would the Clockwork Stallions care about these six ponies?
The answer came quicker than expected.
“The six bearers of the Elements of Harmony.” The Doctor said, looking from each mare to the next.
“What?” Lance asked, looking at The Doctor. The brown pony looked back at Lance and smiled.
“Kindness, laughter, generosity, loyalty, honesty and magic. Your six friends here represent the six elements I just mentioned. These Elements of Harmony when brought together create a powerful weapon that can abolish evil or even turn spirits into stone.” The Doctor walked over to a computer, proding it with a hoof. “Locked.”
“Hold on.” Lance said, moving over to The Doctor’s side. “What’s all that gotta do with anything that’s going on here?”
The Doctor tipped his head forward and something long and metal fell out from behind his ear, which was hidden by his mane. He caught it in his teeth and then pointed it at the computer. The tip of the metal rod glowed blue, and instantly the computer was showing up all of the files marked classified. The Doctor then spit the thing up into the air and caught it again behind his ear.
“Ha, I’m getting quite good at that. Wouldn’t you say Lance?” The Doctor grinned happily to himself as he double tapped a file on the screen, causing a whole page of information to pop up.
“What’s all this?” Lance asked.
“Everything you ever wanted to know about the Clockwork Stallions, including their plans for those six mares.”
“What? Well… what are their plans?”
“Hmm, seems that they plan on separating them from each other. Something about the elements being a potential threat while being a useful weapon of their own.” Lance instantly began to worry for his friends.
“We have to warn them! They can tell the Princesses that-“
“Oh, it gets worse.” The doctor said, not looking at Lance.
“According to this, they plan to take over Canterlot, steal the Elements, lock away the Princesses, trap the city under a giant shield and separate the bearers of the elements from each other. A pretty solid plan if I do say so myself. But of course they’ll need an army to pull it… oh.” The doctor had opened another file.
“What is it? Don’t tell me more bad news.”
“Well, seems this isn’t the only facility for the Clockwork Stallions here in Equestria. In fact, this was one of the experimental ones that didn’t work out.”
“You mean because of Spark shutting the place down?”
“That was part of it, yes. Seemed they were making unique robots here. Apparently their last completed project was a mechanical buffalo. However it would only attack other robots or anything that moved fast. They released it out to the surface because they couldn’t contain it to reprogram it. It was infinitely strong. A daresay stronger than your Titan fellow.”
Lance thought about that for a moment. A metallic buffalo that only attacks other robots and fast moving targets? Could that have been what derailed the train?
“Why though?” Lance asked The Doctor. “What are these robots hoping to accomplish by doing all this?”
“Isn’t it obvious Lance?” Seeing the blank expression on Lance’s face, the brown earth pony answered. “They want to take over Equestria.”
- - -
Rift threw himself down against the wall, holding his wing out to stop it from touching the extremely nasty burn on his side. Moonlight and Cherry were right next to him.
“Rift, don’t move okay? I’m going to take a look at it.” Moonlight told him.
Rift didn’t move. He just kept his wing held out. Moonlight tried to touch the burn with a hoof and Rift yelled for a moment from the pain, before gritting his teeth to keep it in. Moonlight had barely touched it, but shecould feel the heat, still on the tip of her hoof. The scaring could be permanent.
“We need to get you to a doctor. That’s beyond anything I can help you with.” Moonlight said, shaking her head.
Cherry looked at Rift sadly, thinking about all he risked for her. Seeing Moonlight again also made Cherry remember how she had run away and ignored Moonlight when she told Cherry to go back upstairs. If she had just listened to her in the first place, Rift would never have been shot and Spark would still be alive. If she had listened to her brother before this all started and never ran away in the forest, they’d have never come to this awful place. The tears fell from her eyes as she dropped to the floor, crying.
“I’m sorry!” She cried out. “I’m sorry! It’s all my fault! Everything!” She kept crying loudly.
Moonlight and Rift looked at the filly, neither sure what to say. After everything that happened today, it would be a miracle if she didn’t need therapy for years to come. Moonlight couldn’t think of anything to say.
A loud bang from the door told them that Titan had somehow recovered from the fall and was trying to get in.
“Doesn’t it ever give up?” Rift asked, groaning as he tried to stand up.
“What are we gonna do?” She asked, helping Rift to his hooves.
There was a burst of static from above, then Fire Wire’s voice called down to them.
“I’ve got an idea!”
- - -
Titan crashed against the door, breaking its way in. The machine’s visor was wrecked from the previous explosion. Its red eye no longer glowing. Cherry watched it enter the room. Moonlight was hiding in a place away from her. Titan walked across the floor, looking around the room. It was unable to see any of the ponies it was stalking. Moonlight gave the signal to Cherry Blossom and the filly screamed, then jumped inside a small vent in the wall, to hide out of sight. Titan followed the scream across the room, running through the room, knocking over boxes filled with hollow helmets that would have been used for making other robots.
Moonlight watched as Titan reached the vent, kicking at the wall. It was trying to get through. Moonlight focused her magic. With Titan distracted, she was able to lift up all of the heads slowly and not give herself away. She floated them up into a line and launched the first head at Titan. It struck its back and the machine then turned around. Another one was telekinetically thrown at Titan and struck it in its face. Seemingly frustrated, the killer robot began batting the heads away, one by one. Moonlight smiled as everything was going according to plan.
Then Cherry sneezed.
Titan stopped and turned back to the vent. Moonlight panicked and tossed another of the hollow robot heads at Titan. It ignored it. Again and again she tried, but nothing. It was focused only on Cherry. Moonlight had to do something quick.
“Hey!” She yelled out, jumping out from behind a crate. “I’m right here! Come and get me!”
Titan turned its focus on the unicorn, than ran after her as she began to gallop off across the room. Titan was fast, much faster. But Moonlight still had her magic and was tipping over boxes and crates, just to slow it down. It wasn’t enough though. Titan fired its grappling hook leg at Moonlight and she didn’t see it coming.
It grabbed her hind leg and Moonlight fell to the ground with a hard thud. She screamed from pain as the hook cut into her flesh. Moonlight could feel her leg starting to bleed as she crawled away from it, but she didn’t get far. The thick steel cable between Titan and its hook pulled tight. Moonlight wasn’t going anywhere. She panicked as the grappling hook began to pull her towards Titan itself. She was in the middle of a big open space with nothing to grab hold of.
Moonlight closed her eyes, she had an idea. It worked on Spark, it might work on Titan. But he was much bigger. Moonlights telekinesis spread from her horn and slowly wrapped itself around Titan’s frame. It looked at itself and then began to wiggle its legs as it started floating. She brought Titan closer to herself to make the cable slack again and began crawling across the floor. The cable was getting taut again and Moonlight had to hurry.
The strain on her magic, lifting Titan was getting too much. She was running out of time, and room. Titan was close enough to her now. It was all over. The grappling hook had reconnected to became its leg. Moonlight used her last bit of telekinetic strength to tip Titan over, dumping it on its side. The monster machine let go with the hook so it could stand up. Moonlight smiled up at the machine standing over her and then looked up at the ceiling above them both.
Titan looked up. Rift was holding onto a crane hook, flapping his wings slowly.
“This is a hard hat area!”
Rift smacked the safety pin off the crane’s hook. Moonlight rolled out of the way as the pallet above them fell, bringing with it a ton of metal, both in number and weight. It landed with a loud crash. Debris flew off in all directions as the pallet of metal crushed Titan under it.
“Wait. This all started because of one pony with good intentions?”
Lance and The Doctor had been looking deeper into the files of the Clockwork Stallions. The recent file they uncovered told them about a single unicorn from hundreds of years ago named Cypher Clockwork, a genius who had created the stallions as a way to improve life for the ponies of Equestria. He was trying to make a utopia for ponies across the world by creating mechanised ponies that would change lives and to make the world a better place. But Cypher had made them too well. He gave them the ability to learn. The Clockwork Stallions believed that ponies were inferior and the world would be better without them. The robots began creating more of their own kind, more advanced and better equipped to remove what they considered to be an infestation. The Clockwork Stallions had killed hundreds of ponies before Celestia banished them, using the Elements of Harmony, sending them all through a portal, into a place called “The Void”.
“So that’s why they are trying to kill the princesses and take the Elements of Harmony!” Lance said. “Wait. How did they get back?”
The Doctor looked up a file that had information on ‘The Void’.
“According to this,” The Doctor began. ”The Void is like an endless world of nothing. Just an eternal plane of white. Once you’re in, there’s no way out.”
“So wait, how did they get out? This entire facility has recent information on Fluttershy, Pinkie and all their friends.”
“It seems that their ability to learn is more advanced then we could have ever imagined.” The Doctor turned to face Lance. ”They copied Celestia’s spell.”
“I’m not sure how they were able to do it, but they sacrificed most of their own to build a machine that would generate the spell, sending them back to Equestria. But it didn’t work as planned. They tore through to another dimension. An opposite Equestria, if you will.”
Lance looked at the monitor again, as did The Doctor.
“The file says that the remaining Clockwork Stallions wiped out an entire city and then they started to build more of their own, creating an army that wiped out all civilisation. They even made Clockwork animals!”
“But if that was another Equestria, wouldn’t there be another Celestia?” Lance asked.
“According to this… Celestia was already dead before the Clockwork arrived on that world.”
None of this news settled well with Lance. An entire world full of machines and pony civilisation wiped out. If the Clockwork returned to this world, would the same thing happen? Without Celestia, were we all doomed?
“So, why are the robots back?” Lance asked “If they’ve won their war on that side, why have they come back to our world?”
“Revenge. They want to take their vengeance on Princess Celestia.” The Doctor said, sounding annoyed. “They learn, Lance. They’ve also learned to hate and hold grudges. And that also means they’ve made technological advancements over the centuries that they’ve been trapped there, ready to fight Celestia.”
Trapped, wasn’t a word Lance would have used. They had what they wanted in the other Equestria. Why couldn’t they stay there?
“They knew ponies still existed outside of the world they conquered,” The Doctor continued. “And they want to wipe out all the ponies. And they knew we were still here. They think this world belongs to them.”
“But how did they get back? Maybe we can stop more of them from coming.”
The Doctor smiled at Lance and then brought up a file entitled, ‘The Gateway Generator’. He opened it and there was a picture of a large machine. There was a huge steel platform that had two poles apart from each other on it. Each pole had a green ball on the top of it. Between the two poles was a large black circle with wisps of black smoke reaching out across the room.
“That’s the…” Lance was at a loss for words. He didn’t even have a clue what he was looking at.
“It’s the Void Generator, or at least an older model of it.” The Doctor said to Lance. “Seems over the years they made smaller versions of it. One for each of the leaders of the Clockwork Stallions.”
“They have leaders? And how small are the generators now?” Lance’s couldn’t stop himself from asking questions. This could all be important information that the Princesses have to know.
“Well, the generators are now about the size and shape of an average unicorn horn. I just hope it’s not a real one.”
It was a horrible thought and Lance blocked it from his mind. The doctor was scanning all the remaining files for information on the leaders, but there was nothing on them at all.
“Well isn’t that just a buck in the face.” The Doctor said as he shook his head.
The brown pony returned back to the gateway generator’s file and began reading up about it. A loud scraping noise followed by a crashing sound echoed from the hallway.
“Doctor, I think we should go. We’ve been here a bit too long.” Lance looked anxiously to the doorway.
“So it is here!”
The Doctor wasn’t talking to Lance, but more to himself.
“What’s here?” Lance asked, curious.
“The gateway generator. It’s right here, under the facility. That’s why I’m going down there!”
“…Going down?” Lance looked at The Doctor quizzically.
“Everything is making sense now. I must come back here later with Derpy.” The Doctor was whispering to himself, but Lance could hear every word.
The ivory pony had about reached his limit with The Doctor and his weird and freaky knowledge. Knowing what was going to happen before things happened. First, there was the letter from him, warning himself about an immediate accident that was about to happen. He knew about Lance being in the incinerator as well, and was only there to get him out? Then there was Derpy. How’d he know she would be there to catch him as he jumped? He also knew that he was going to hit his head on a pipe. He had tried to avoid it but smacked his head anyway! Yet here he was and didn’t remember anything that happened within the last hour. Lance wasn’t willing to bet it was amnesia for the recent events. Something had always been off about this pony. Lance grabbed The Doctor and spun him around.
“Okay, what’s going on here?! Who are you? And I want the truth!”
The Doctor looked taken aback at first, but then smiled at Lance.
“You won’t believe me.”
“After today, I’ll believe anything.”
- - -
Rift was standing against a large assembly booth where the Clockwork Stallions would have been put together. Or at least pieces of them. Rift was breathing heavily and Moonlight and Cherry Blossom were by his side.
“I told you that you need to take it slow! You’re lucky you’re even alive.” Moonlight said to Rift.
His flying had caused him a lot of pain from where he took a shot from Titan’s laser. Metal monster was now lying buried under a ton of metal, crushed and broken. The danger was over, but Rift still needed urgent medical attention.
“We need to get moving. Cherry, go open the lift doors please.”
Cherry nodded and galloped over to the lift and had to stand on her hind legs as she pressed a hoof to the button. It opened up instantly and she waited beside it for the other two ponies. Moonlight stood on Rift’s good side and helped move him to the lift. The sound of metal scrapping against the floor caused all the ponies to look at the junk pile. Something under it was moving.
“Oh, you’re kidding!” Moonlight said, now dragging Rift faster to the lift.
He flapped his wing once and then yelped from the pain. He’d pushed himself too hard and was suffering for it now. Cherry jumped into the lift, her hoof over the up button, waiting for the others. The metal fell away and Titan emerged from under it.
The robot looked broken and damaged. Its body was split open, dented and its small tail was bent, pointing to the ground instead of pointing upwards. Its head though was heavily damaged. The entire left side of its head was broken off. They could see all the electronics, wires and circuitry. Even the part of its head where the eyebeam was, was horribly melted from taking its own blast, right to the face.
It began moving towards them, and there was no way they could stop it. Moonlight and Rift moved faster, quickly getting inside the lift. Cherry pressed the button and the doors closed. Something heavy hit the door as the elevator went up. Moonlight guessed it was the grappling hook leg and the door had just saved them all. Once the lift reached the top, they all got out, moving as fast as they could. Moonlight was still helping to carry Rift.
“Just… leave me.” Rift said, trying to breath. “I’m only… slowing you down.”
“No!” Cherry shouted, surprising the other two. “You may have left Spark behind to help us escape, but we are not leaving you behind. You don’t leave friends behind, no matter what!”
Moonlight smiled at the pink filly and kept moving along. Rift was still looking down at Cherry, then he turned his head away.
“I’m sorry we left him Cherry. He was a friend of yours. We should have done something to help him.”
Cherry didn’t respond. She just looked at the floor as they moved along quickly.
“What happened to Spark wasn’t anypony’s fault.” Moonlight said, breaking the awkward tension. “He sacrificed himself to make sure that you two were able to escape. And if you two want to honour that,” Moonlight looked directly at Rift. “Then keep living!”
Rift smiled, as did Cherry. They all jumped as a loud bang from behind them, followed by a loud screech and then an even louder bang told them that Titan had just torn through the elevator. Its strength seemed to be unlimited. Rift then put more effort into walking fast. They were running out of time.
- - -
The Doctor trotted alongside Derpy. His head still hurt from where he had banged it. They reached a pair or large double doors that were sealed and marked with caution signs, warning personal that they shouldn’t enter. The Doctor reached up into his hair and pulled out his Sonic Screwdriver, pointing it to the access panel on the door. A moment later it opened with a hiss and a familiar sight greeted The Doctor.
“Is that the machine Doctor?” Derpy asked, craning her head up to see the top of it.
The entire room was pure white. Before them were two sets of stairs, one on the left, one on the right, both going up to the same platform where a large machine was. The machine had two poles with large green spheres on the top of them. The Spheres were dark currently. A large space was left between them. On the edge of the platform, between the two stairs, was a large console for operating it.
“Yes, that’s it alright. That’s the Gateway Generator. Now we must hurry, we don’t have long.”
Derpy flew up to the console while The Doctor ran up the stairs on the left side. Derpy was already looking at the buttons, hovering above them.
“Careful assistant.” The Doctor called out as he reached the console. “Don’t go pressing any buttons at random or we could be in trouble.”
The earth pony looked over the controls. Most of it was as he expected.
“Okay, now if we active this, we can start the entire process. This will destroy the gateway generator and overloading the portal with power that’ll start a chain reaction to destroy this facility, preventing the Clockwork Stallions from using this gateway to enter our world. Now Derpy, I’ll give you this option again, even though I know the answer. You can still back out and leave. You don’t have to do this.”
The grey pegasus mare with the blonde mane landed next to The Doctor and placed a hoof on his.
“You’re not leaving me behind again. We’ll do this together.” Derpy said, smiling at the pony before her.
The Doctor smiled, and then together they activated it. The spheres lit up, turning a pale green colour. Smoke began to pour out both of them and it drifted towards each other. They met in the middle and began to spiral clockwise, as more black smoke joined them. It began to take on a more stable form, like how condensation can make a drop of water appear on a glass window. The wisps of smoke continued to poor out, making the portal larger. The Doctor nodded at Derpy and then they increased the power from the console.
The portal grew even larger at a faster rate. If they kept pushing the power, they could overload it and completely destroy the gateway generator. The Doctor knew that after that point, it would begin to destroy the facility from the inside, preventing any more of the Clockwork’s from returning and retrieving any data relating to Twilight Sparkle and her friends. Spark had it all wrong. When his brothers left him, they didn’t leave exactly. They went to the other world. A dimension where the Clockwork Stallions had been banished to, centuries ago by Princess Celestia.
Celestia believed she had banished them for an eternity to a place known as ‘The Void’ filled with nothing but endless space. But the Clockwork found a way out. They were smart. They had seen the princess’s magic and found a way to copy it, killing most of their own kind for parts to build a machine that would get them back out. ‘The Gateway Generator’. They had broken free into a world just like Equestria. Only it was different. It was a world of fear and hatred. A world ruled by a tyrant king known as King Sombra. For the ponies living there, it was hell. For the Clockwork Stallions… It was a chance for revenge.
They had taken over. Tyranny fell to the might of the Clockwork Stallions. The ponies believed they were saved. But instead found their daily lives had changed from misery and slavery, to hiding and survival. The machines eventually took full control of the other world, rebuilt their army and created a way to travel back to the world that Celestia had banished them from.
The Clockwork Stallions were on the final phase of their attack plan. The Doctor knew what had to be done. But he couldn’t do it alone. The wisps of the gateway began to unravel, freeing themselves from the portal and crawl about the room. Derpy saw the black smoke reaching for them and took flight. She was going to provide a distraction, while The Doctor finished the job.
- - -
Lance had stood there and listened as The Doctor told him everything. He was sure that the earth pony was just making up a story to mock him or he truly was insane. Lance never had time to come to a conclusion because at that moment, an alarm sounded.
“What is that?” Lance asked as the room flashed red.
“I dunno.” The Doctor said, moving to another computer. This one had a warning flashing across it.
WARNING: GATEWAY GENERATOR REACHING CRITICAL STATUS! OVERLOAD IMMENENT!
The Doctor tapped a hoof to the screen, making the warning disappear. It was replaced by a black and white video, showing the gateway generator. The orbs on top of the poles were shining very brightly, on the verge of an overload. The portal itself was warping and spreading, reaching out as if with hungry claws, wrapping around everything in the room.
“It’s growing?!” Lance said, watching as it slowly spread around the spheres, absorbing them into itself and then continue to grow. A pegasus flew past the camera being chased by a black wisp of smoke.
“Derpy?” Lance thought aloud as he recognised the grey mare with the blonde mane.
She was flying high around the room, attracting the attention of the gateway’s outstretched wisps. Lance saw on the platform with the portal was another pony. An earth pony who’s combed back mane was a little spikey and he had an hourglass for a cutie mark. He looked exactly like…
“Doctor?” Lance turned to face the pony that was to his right. The Doctor only sat there with a sheepish grin on his face. “How can you…? When you’re…? What!?”
“I told you already, did I not? However, that is bad news.” The Doctor said, taking a serious tone to the situation. “There shouldn’t be two of me. It’s creating a paradox.” They watched as The Doctor on the screen pressed a button of a keypad. The gateway shifted and began to wobble. Wisps of it were breaking off and dissolving into the air.
“This is bad. The portal will suck him in!” The Doctor said aloud.
The Doctor on the screen then looked directly at the camera and gave a wave. He knew he was being watched by himself. Derpy then flew over the earth pony and grabbed his waving hoof, pulling him into the portal. The Doctor beside Lance stared in disbelief. His eyes had shrunk to tiny dots. His future self was going into the gateway leading to a world of horror, where the Clockwork Stallions had taken full control.
They continued to watch as the gateway expanded and then began to glow a bright purple. Small sparks of electricity shot about the room as they watched. Soon there were explosions from all the equipment, then a massive one from the portal itself. The entire facility shook as the alarms continued to wail from overhead. After a few seconds, the screen cleared, showing several fires still burning from the debris of the gateway generator. But there was one other thing. The portal was still open.
It was much larger now and was slowly expanding, sucking everything into it. The burning equipment, electronics, tiles from the walls. Even the walls themselves were beginning to crumble.
“You’ve got to get back to the others and get out of here!” The Doctor yelled over the sounds of the alarm. “I’m going to reroute the energy supply to overload the main power generator. Blow this entire facility to Tartarus.”
“You can do that from here?”
“No, there’s another place I’ve seen on my way here where I can do it. Just get out and lock down this facility. Make sure Titan doesn’t escape. Make sure this place blows with him inside it!”
“Right! Wait, what about you?!” Lance yelled back as the ground at their hooves started to shake.
“Don’t worry about me. You’ve got family here who you need to protect!”
“Cherry…” Lance turned on the spot and ran to the door. He stopped and looked back to The Doctor. “If everything you’ve said is true and that really was you on the monitor. Is there any way back out from the other dimension?”
The Doctor looked away.
“There’s no way to get back through that same portal. Judging from these scans, that portal is unstable and now only works one way. Nothing’s going to be able to get through it from the other side. And knowing what I know, I knew that before I went in.”
Lance and The Doctor stared at each other for the longest few seconds before a crack from the computer brought them both back to their situation. Lance nodded to his friend and then rushed down the hallway, making a silent promise to himself. He’d find a way to save The Doctor and Derpy. He would bring them both home.
- - -
The control room shook as did the rest of the facility. Fire Wire was panicking as she stayed at her position, waiting for the others to get back to her. She had seen the warnings on the monitor and watched the footage of what happened at the gateway generator. She didn’t know the two ponies on that monitor, nor what they were doing, but that didn’t matter. Another warning had flashed up on the screen, warning about an overload in power. The entire place was coming down and if the portal didn’t pull them all in, then this facility would blow itself up along with everypony inside.
Fire Wire held her ground. She was scared but she waited for the others regardless. She wouldn’t leave without them. With the camera’s all down, she didn’t know where they were or even if they were still alive. She told herself repeatedly that they were fine. They had to be.
There was a loud bang from behind her and the grey unicorn spun around on the spot. One of the computers had just overloaded and sent the screen tumbling to the ground. She let out a sigh, thanking Celestia it wasn’t Titan.
Cherry ran into the room, looking terrified.
“Cherry! Where’s…?“ Fire Wire stopped and as she saw Moonlight helping Rift up the stairs.
Fire Wire instinctively went to help but then recoiled as she saw the burn mark on Rift’s side. It was turning a sickly orange and he had to keep his wing extended to stop himself from touching it.
“What’s going on?!” Moonlight shouted over the sound of the alarm.
“This whole place is coming down.” Fire Wire shouted back. “Everything’s overloading and something else is tearing it apart from the inside.”
“Then we have to lock the whole factory down!”
“What? No! My brother-“ Cherry started to protest but Moonlight cut her off.
“It’s okay, Cherry.” Moonlight said gently. ”I’m sure the facility has a safety feature to make sure that nopony, or robot I should say, would get trapped inside. We’ll just put in the codes and then wait by the exit. We won’t active the lock down till Lance reaches the door.”
Cherry looked up to Moonlight, smiling a little. Moonlight gave her a bigger smile back.
“But Cherry... we need that code Spark gave you.” Moonlight said.
“What? Umm… I-I don’t remember…” Cherry looked down at the ground but felt a hoof against her chin, lifting her face up.
“Cherry. It’s important that you remember. I know a lot has happened since then, but if you don’t remember… then…” Moonlight slowly stopped talking. Cherry knew what was at stake. She closed her eyes and thought back. It was such an easy code to remember. They all stood in silence, trying not to break the filly’s concentration. It was just three numbers or six individually.
“I think…” Cherry began slowly. “Ten… eleven, twelve! Yes, #10-11-12!”
Fire Wire turned to the computer and a flare of sparks burst out from it. It was still running, but if they waited too long and the console blew up, it would be all over. Fire Wire put the code into the computer. The message on the machine read,
PERMANENTLY LOCKDOWN CLOCKWORK FACILITY.
Once the exit closes, all facility doors and exits will be closed off permanently.
Do you wish to proceed?
Fire Wire pressed the Y key and they heard the entrance directly above them open up. They only had to press one button and Equestria would be safe forever. Once they closed the entrance from the outside, the facility would enter permanent lockdown. They just had to keep it open until Lance arrived. Moonlight agreed to wait by the door but first they had to help get Rift outside.
Moving him carefully, they began to make their way to the elevator.
- - -
Lance galloped as fast as he could, but between dodging hanging live wires, fires burning at his coat and smoke choking his lungs, he’d gotten himself lost. He had to find the stairs, he knew that the higher he got, the closer to the exit he’d be.
- - -
Moonlight and the others almost fell from the catwalk as the facility shook. Fires were breaking out all over the place. Huge chunks of wall were crumbling from a combination of the factory being torn apart and the overloading of the generator. Fire Wire watched with a pang in her heart as the control room burst into flames. Her heart ached for the loss of technology, but the sounds of Moonlight shouting brought her mind back into focus. Cherry was at the lift, holding the door open. With the facility shaking like it was, it would be a miracle that the lift didn’t break loose and fall. They stepped inside, with Moonlight still supporting Rift as they ascended to the top.
- - -
Lance had found the stairs, only to be annoyed that they had collapsed and fallen to the floor below. Smoke floated up from the wreckage, making it harder to breath. There was only one way he was getting up the next floor. And that was by jumping. He took a few steps back, trying not to inhale the smoke too deeply, and then he heard a noise to his left. Lance dared a look.
Titan was walking among the flames, smoke blocked the view of its whole body but Lance could see it was heavily damaged. Why wasn’t it chasing him? Could it not see him? Titan then charged at Lance. He swore, cursing his luck and then ran forward. The ivory earth pony jumped as hard as he could, putting more strength into his back legs then he fought he had left.
He just made the jump, his lower body hanging over the edge. He quickly pulled himself up as bits of the stairs crumbled under his weight. Lance moved as quick as he could heading further up the stairs.
A grappling hook had just missed Lance by an inch, hitting the wall. He looked back at Titan and it was now about to make the same jump as Lance just made, but with something to help pull it across. The hook was in the wall and Lance didn’t dare miss an opportunity like this. He bucked at the cracking wall, and the hook wobbled a little. When Titan jumped, the hook torn from the wall with Titan’s pulling force and it fell out the wall. The Clockwork Stallion hit the stairs as it fell to the floor below and left a heavy thud. Lance smirked as it laid below, unmoving. Lance didn’t think for a second that it was actually finished, so he turned and ran up the stairs, taking him back to the other side of the facility.
- - -
Moonlight had left Rift and Fire Wire outside. They had all made it out safely and her friends were resting beyond the barn that was being used as a cover for the Clockwork’s factory. Moonlight waited with Cherry by the entrance. She wouldn’t wait outside and Moonlight knew better then to leave the filly where she couldn’t keep an eye on her. They both watched and waited for Lance, keeping an eye on the catwalk below. If Lance wasn’t here by the time the facility began to crumble, she’d have to close it and run.
“Please...” Cherry whispered under her breath.
Moonlight looked at the filly.
“Please big brother. You have to make it.” Cherry said a little louder.
The white unicorn looked down into the facility. The button to close it all down was right beside her.
- - -
He made it! Lance was in the control room but no pony was in here.
“Cherry!” Lance called out.
The room was burning and sparks were spitting out at him from everywhere. Wires hung lose from above him. One screen was still active in the room. Lance walked over to it and looked closer.
LOCKDOWN ON STANDBY!
Awaiting final procedure to be completed.
Lance could only guess that that meant everypony was already outside. They were holding off the lockdown, waiting on him. Lance couldn’t see a thing through the smoke, but by memory he knew where the door was. He charged for the door, smashing into it with his side and found himself on a familiar catwalk. He started coughing. His lungs taking just about all the smoke they could handle for one life time.
“Big brother!” Cherry’s voice shouted from above.
Lance looked directly above him and saw Cherry looking down at him, beaming a huge smile. He’d never seen such a wonderful smile in all his life. Just then the sound of tearing metal filled the facility as it again shook violently. Lance had to stead himself on the railing. He looked down and beyond the fire he could see that the portal had moved into this side of the facility and was beginning to eat away at the foundations.
“Lance!” Moonlight shouted from above.
The factory was now getting to a critical point. He didn’t have long before this whole place was gone. Lance quickly ran for the lift and jumped inside it. It had already been send down to his floor, most likely Moonlight using her magic to call for the lift from below. The lift groaned with protest as it took him up to the top floor. Everything was coming apart, bolt by bolt.
- - -
Cherry was holding onto Moonlight’s leg, excited that her brother had made it but at the same time terrified that something bad was about to happen. They watched as Lance climbed into the lift and began to make his way up. The lift struggled during its accent to the top but it was going to make it. Moonlight let out a sigh and then opened her eyes to see the last thing she ever wanted to see.
Titan was on the catwalk below. It fired its grappling hook leg at the above catwalk, trying to take a shortcut. The lift doors opened as Titan was half way up. Lance stepped out onto the catwalk, but it was very difficult to climb up. Moonlight motioned to Lance’s right and yelled for him to run. Lance looked to where she indicated and saw Titan rising fast. Lance then moved as quickly as he could, the facility was shaking again, sending chunks of the ceiling falling onto the catwalk, making Lance dodge the falling debris.
He was only half way when the sound of Titan climbing onto the catwalk got his attention. Lance didn’t look back. He focused on going forward. Then the catwalk, groaning under the extra weight of Titan, began to bend. The bolts in the walls supporting the catwalk snapped and the entire thing bent tipping down below. Titan fell down and Lance lost his balance, sliding down towards far end of the catwalk. Lance reached out, wrapped his forelegs around the railing, just holding on.
“Come on Lance!” Moonlight shouted.
Lance pulled himself up, climbing to the door. The facility continued to shake as flames burst out at them from all directions and the portal continued to grow in size, pulling everything into it. Lance could see that the grinder at the bottom was now gone, swallowed by the blackness of the portal. Flames continued to burst from every direction, debris continued to wall around him. Lance couldn’t hold on anymore, he could barely keep his forelegs wrapped around the railing of the catwalk. There was a loud bang and the facility shook again, making the catwalk almost break away from the wall where the exit was. Lance lost his grip and slid down, almost falling over the edge. Cherry screamed out for her brother and then he felt himself become weightless. He stopped sliding. He was glowing.
Moonlight had wrapped him in her telekinesis, bringing him slowly up the catwalk as it began to collapse. Lance looked up to her, a look of great relief across his face. Moonlight smiled back at him. Cherry had a look of relief in her eyes. Then they filled with horror. Titan’s grappling hook came out of nowhere and attached itself to Lance’s leg. Lance screamed as the hook cut into his leg. Lance bucked his leg as he was dragged out of Moonlight’s telekinetic pull. She barely kept a hold of him, putting all her focus on his forelegs. Lance hit the catwalk with a hard thud. It bent under his weight and the weight of Titan, pulling itself up.
It was like his leg was being torn off, ripped from his body. It was a pain only made worse by the fact Moonlight was still holding him, trying to pull him out. Titan’s head appeared at the broken end of the catwalk. Lance couldn’t get free.
Cherry was on the verge of tears, calling out for her brother, begging him to climb up, begging Moonlight to pull him up. Everything slowed down at the moment. Lance looked at Moonlight, square in the eyes. She stared back, shaking her head, telling him no. Lance looked to his sister.
“I love you, little sis!”
Cherry’s eyes widened as Lance pulled himself from Moonlight’s telekinesis, and slid down the catwalk.
“No! No, big brother!” Cherry screamed loudly, as her brother fell.
Titan’s weight pulled him down faster and Lance tucked in both his hind legs and then drove both of them into Titan’s exposed face. The circuitry cracked and split as the pair of them fell down, beyond the fires below into darkness.
“NO!” Cherry screamed trying to jump down to her brother.
Moonlight held her back as the filly screamed and fought, tears running down her face. Another explosion from inside signaled the worst. It was about to blow. Moonlight used her magic to press the button, closing the door. This was too much and Cherry broke free from Moonlight, banging her hooves on the door.
“Open it! Open it, open it, open it!” She screamed between fits of tears. “Open it! Please! No… No please! Open it!”
The ground began to shake more violently than ever before. Moonlight grabbed the filly in her telekinesis and ran up the stairs. Cherry was fighting with every ounce of strength she had left but she couldn't get free. They made it up the stairs, onto the barn floor. Moonlight saw Rift lying down next to Fire Wire.
“Move! It’s about to blow!” Moonlight shouted to them. Fire Wire helped Rift up and then they all ran into the woods. There didn’t get far. There was a large explosion from behind them, all four ponies were launched into the air and fell down the ground as the debris from the barn and house flew everywhere.
After a few moments, Moonlight looked up and turned to make sure everypony was okay. Rift was looking the worst for wear. He was coughing and wheezing heavily. Moonlight checked him, but as his breathing steadied, it seemed he only got winded. Fire Wire moved next to them, trying to keep off of her front left hoof. Moonlight wanted to check her but was waved off. Fire Wire looked worried about something else.
“W-what happened?” Fire Wire asked. “Where’s Lance?”
Moonlight’s eyes shot open wide as she spun around looking for Cherry Blossom. She wasn’t far away. She had re-entered the clearing and was now staring at a massive crater that was in the ground, still smoking. The ground was badly torn up, Trees had been uprooted, and at the very heart of it was the crater. It was nothing but a giant hole. A seemingly bottomless pit. The white unicorn didn’t dare move, or breathe. Cherry seemed rooted to the spot. Her entire world had been destroyed in the blink of an eye. Moonlight’s heart broke for the filly.
“C-Cherry… I’m-” Moonlight started to say, unsure of what to say.
Cherry fell to the ground, crying into the grass. She buried her head under her hooves. She could only think that this couldn’t be real. This was all a horrible dream. Moonlight tried to put a hoof over her but Cherry quickly batted her away.
“LEAVE ME ALONE!” Cherry screamed, the sound echoing through the woods. Cherry continued to cry loudly, calling out for her brother. She couldn’t believe that she was alone now.
No pony moved or said anything. Moonlight didn’t even move when a large group of pegasi flew down to meet them all. It was early morning and the medical ponies had arrived at the train’s crash site. They had seen the explosion and came to investigate. Moonlight didn’t care at this point. She just stood by Cherry’s side as she grieved.
Five years later.
It was late in the afternoon. Dark clouds covered the sky as the lights from the city of Los Pegasus were starting to light up. The field outside the city was filled with headstones, each marking a final resting place for a loved one. A single pony walked down a particular set of headstones and came to a stop.
The pink pony stood before three grave stones, each one had been well looked after by the groundskeeper, as did every grave in the cemetery. She had three Calla Lily flowers in her mouth for each grave. She had grown them herself, putting all her love into each flower.
Her long blonde mane covered her eyes, but she made no attempt to move it. The young mare placed the flowers on the graves individually. The first read:
1970 - 2012
“Please be happy now that
you can be with mommy again.”
Cherry had learned that her father was a better pony before her mother had died. She hoped that he could be happy once again. She then moved to the next gravestone, it read:
Cherry “Blossom” Angelswift
1972 - 2007
“We love you mom.
You’ll always be in our hearts.”
Cherry placed the flower down gently. She had never known her mother, but she had given her daughter her own name before she died. Every day, she tried to be more like her mother and live up to the name she had been given. A kind and loving pony, who always looked out for others. The young mare then moved to the grave on her right.
1992 – 2012
You were always there
when I needed you most.
I love you big brother.”
Cherry kneeled down to place the final Calla Lily down, but she didn’t stand back up.
“I need you now. I need you so much.” She whispered as the tears ran down her face.
As if the heavens felt her pain, drops of rain began to fall from the sky. Cherry Blossom stayed there a moment longer, not lifting her head up.
“Cherry…” A voice said, as if afraid to be heard. “We, umm… we have to go.”
Cherry slowly stood up. She walked over to the yellow pegasus with the pink mane, slowly she placed a wing around Cherry, holding her close. Fluttershy had taken Cherry her into her home and raised her like her own family. She never left Cherry’s side since her brother’s funeral. She would look after her. But Fluttershy knew that deep down. She needed her brother.
- - -
- - -
The room shook violently. Ponies were galloping everywhere, running between computers, trying to gather any weapons and armour they could. The base was under attack. Two ponies remained at their post, a grey unicorn with an orange mane and a large red stallion with orange hair standing behind her. They were watching a large screen that dominated the room, showing images of the battlefield between bursts of static. The screen was shaking in all directions, not showing a clear image of anything, only a red sky and bright lights flashing across the sky.
“Repeat your last message,” The red stallion said, “You’re breaking up.”
A white unicorn stallion turned the camera onto himself. He had a mane that was many different shades of blue and was wearing advanced body armour.
“I said… Our defences are broken… there’s no way to get in there… We have to…”
The unicorn screamed in pain as he fell to the floor. Another set of hooves appear on the screen and after a brief moment, the pony picked up the transmitter. An ivory coloured earth pony with light blue mane addressed the ponies on the receiving end.
“Can you read me?… This is Lance Angelswift… Shining armour has been shot… The Clockwork Stallions have… … …”
The screen fizzled out temporally.
“Soldier, come in! Repeat your last message. Over.”
The screen cleared a little bit.
“…Clockwork Stallions… … …the gateway… Repeat! The Clockwork Stallions have reopened the Gateway!”