“Okay... I'm going to have to toss out about a half-dozen theories I had about this place.”
Twilight scuffed her hooves across the grass, or at least whatever it was that was masquerading as grass here. Charcoal grey and prone to crumbling into something resembling ash when walked on, it was a poor substitute for plant life- but it was also a far cry from the blank rock they'd walked across earlier. The orange crystals had likewise undergone a change, from random outcroppings to more spire-like formations; their light output had also increased, making much of the strange field resemble plains at sunset.
“If'n you ask me,” Applejack murmured, “seein' it look more normal makes it look more strange... y'get what I'm sayin'?”
“Indeed.” Jack had his hand on the hilt of his sword, ready to draw at a moment's notice. “I do not like it. It feels as though something attempts to deceive us and is learning the art as we progress.” He turned. “Dash, please scout for us.”
“Yeah, sure.” The pegasus was gone in a flash- and back seemingly almost as quickly, barely having left their sight. “Ugh! You remember that weird wall of air I hit before? This time it's a lot lower- less than a hundred feet up. I didn't see much from that height, but it does look like the plain is about three hundred feet wide and sort of ends a couple thousand feet in that direction.” She pointed. “What's past that, I don't even know- and there's nothing saying something couldn't just appear there anyway.”
“Very true. Thank you for the attempt, Dash.” Jack rubbed his chin. “Perhaps we should stay together in this place. We may rely on the ability of Applejack and Pinkie Pie to sense threats coming from the ground. And we should all keep alert for danger in case it manifests another way.”
“You needn't tell me twice.” Rarity moved her eyes back and forth over the landscape as she trotted along, ears flicking this way and that at every sound. Despite the half-hearted, monochrome attempt at a pastoral scene, this place still felt sterile- there wasn't a whisper of wind, nor a single birdcall or insectile buzz. It was exceptionally unnerving, and Rarity found herself dragging her hooves from time to time just for the extra sound to break the silence.
It was just after one of those little hoof-dragging sessions that her ears picked up something that was definitely not coming from the group. “Do you all hear that?” she asked quietly.
The humans couldn't- not a surprise to the unicorn; with those strange immobile ears, it was a wonder the poor dears could hear anything- but Fluttershy confirmed it. “I think I do,” the timid pegasus said, trotting up ahead slightly. “It sounds like....” She tilted her head, frowning in confusion. “Like... running water?”
“We had better check it out,” Twilight declared. She led the group at a quick trot- though slow enough for Indy to keep up without strain- to the source of the sound: A thin, shallow stream of water that sprang forth from a small fissure in a rockpile. “Okay, so is that real water or something else this place is trying to copy?” Dash wondered.
“Seems real enough to me; I'm going to take some.” Indy put his canteen up to the water source, letting it fill. Once he'd topped it off and hung it from his belt, the group moved on again. “I'm getting sick of this place,” Dash complained. “Can't even trust the water! Can't even fly! Can't-”
“Dash, shhh.” Twilight gave her a stern look. “None of us like it here, but we need to keep it together!”
“I know, Twilight, I know, it's just... rrrghhh.” She shook her head. “I'm so frustrated. I wanna be in the air; it's where I belong.”
“If I could fly as fast as I saw you go back in the building, I'd probably feel the same way,” Indy told her, giving her a sympathetic look. “Obviously this place is afraid of what you can do up there.”
“Darn right it's afraid of me. It oughta be!” Dash snorted. “Just wait until it messes up and lets me into the skies. I'll show it.” She started stomping the ground as she walked, muttering imprecations at whatever it was keeping her from flying freely; Twilight shot Indy an appreciative smile, getting a grin and wink in return. Obviously he'd figured out that the best way to keep Rainbow Dash focused was to put her in an adversarial mood.
They'd made it most of the distance Dash had judged to the far edge when something else loomed out of the darkness a hundred feet ahead. As one, the group stopped, looking up at it in confusion. “Okay, so... that's supposed to be a tree?” Twilight asked.
“It's a pretty sad and lonely one, if it is,” Pinkie remarked. “It's almost like... whatever made it only knows how to be sad.”
There was a moment of quiet from the rest of the group. Not only was the statement exceptionally insightful for Pinkie Pie, but as they mulled on it and examined the black-barked tree's bare, angular branches, they realized what she meant. “What was it you said, Indy?” Jack asked. “'Pale carbon copies'? Perhaps that is all this place can manage.”
More trees seemed to appear as they moved on, until they stood in what could be considered a light forest, every tree almost identical to the last. Still, there was not a whisper of sound to be heard, which is why it startled the rest of the group when Jack suddenly raised a hand for them to stop. Slowly, he drew his blade from its scabbard. “We are being stalked,” he whispered.
Almost as soon as he spoke, there was a soft whistling sound from above. Jack dove to the side- and a black form, vaguely human in shape, slammed into the ground where he'd just been standing. Something metallic flashed in the orange light, and as quickly as it had struck, the form leapt back into the trees, vanishing from sight.
Well, sight other than Jack's. “No you don't!” he declared, taking a few running steps and then leaping high into the trees himself. As soon as he landed on one of the branches, he slashed at the form with his sword; the attack was blocked with a metallic clash, and the form leapt again. The rest of the group watched in stunned fascination as the white shape of Jack chased the darker shape from tree to tree, each of the samurai's attacks blocked, leading to a jump to another tree.
And then there was a flash of rainbow colors, and a cyan streak intercepted the black one in the middle of a jump, sending it tumbling off-course and crashing into a treetrunk. As it tumbled down the branches, Jack leapt down after it, intercepting it just as it hit the ground; when the dust cleared, the group saw the samurai pinning the shape down with his knee, sword held threateningly above it. After a moment, though, he stood. “We will learn nothing from this creature,” he said, re-sheathing his sword.
Dash dove into a landing next to him, kicking up more dust and ash. “Jack! Whoa!” she exclaimed. “Did you just fly?!”
He couldn't help but grin. “No... jump good.” The smile faded as he looked back at the shape Dash had brought down, and the pegasus followed his gaze. “Uh... oops,” she murmured, shuffling her hooves. “I sorta... broke it.”
The rest of the group gathered around the prone form- another of the human-like creatures, this one clad entirely in black clothing that covered everything except for its eyes. At some point during its fall, it had snapped its neck, and its head lolled at a sickening angle. “Looks almost like a ninja,” Indy commented.
“Precisely. And as agile as any I have ever faced. Were it not for Dash's intervention, I am not sure I could have defeated it before it could flee to strike at us again.”
Dash snorted, giving another self-satisfied grin. “Told ya I'd show this place what for once I got in the air.”
“Well, okay, but... what's a 'ninja'?” Twilight asked.
“An assassin.” Indy started searching the body. “Also known as 'shinobi'. Trained in spying, sabotage, and striking from the shadows.”
“Yes. And where there is one, there are likely more, so be on your guard.” Jack stood, waiting for Indy to finish checking the body; all the ninja had of worth was a pair of short, rough iron kunai, which Indy slid onto the end of the short hook his whip hung from, to keep at hand in case he found himself toe-to-toe with something dangerous.
The trees were getting closer now, and the orange crystals more sparse, leaving the area in a murky sort of half-light that made every shadow look ominous. Twilight lit her horn, doing her best to chase off the darkness- but something about the air around them seemed to swallow her light, leaving her a bright beacon in the center of a distressingly small circle of visibility. The group instinctively crowded closer together, not wanting to be too close to the edge lest something unseen have the chance to strike at them.
“It's... so dark,” Fluttershy murmured. “So dark and closed-in... and it feels like we're being watched....”
“That is because we are.” Jack had his sword out now, using the flat to reflect some of Twilight's light into the trees, though it didn't seem to be helping much. “Even I can barely see them in this cursed darkness. They merely wait for an opportune time to strike.”
“Hey, Jack?” Dash looked up at the human. “Maybe we should take the fight to them.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Explain.”
She gestured for him to lean down, then whispered into his ear; as she did, a smile crossed his lips. “Let us give it a try,” he told the pegasus. “Twilight, Dash and I will... vanish, for a short time. Do not worry; we have a plan.”
“Okay, if you two are sure....” Twilight did her best to maintain her composure and continue on; after passing by a small cluster of trees, she glanced back and found that the pair had indeed completely disappeared from sight. She could swear she heard the faintest rustle of fabric, or maybe the flapping of wings, but she couldn't be sure.
Things were nearly silent for a long, fretful minute before the first sounds of battle broke out. Clangs of metal against metal, creaking branches, and dull thuds echoed between the trees, making it impossible to track where they came from; faint blurs zipped back and forth overhead, unidentifiable in the darkness. Fluttershy let out a faint shriek as one of the forms crashed to the ground almost right in front of her- another of the ninjas, a deep slash decorating its stone-skinned chest. A few more thuds sounded off in the darkness as the battle above tapered off, and then there were a tense handful of seconds of quiet before Jack and Dash stepped back into Twilight's light. Jack bore a number of thin cuts through his robe, some of which showed red lines etched into his skin beneath; Dash had also received a couple of light wounds across her sides. “Oh my goodness!” Fluttershy breathed. “You're both hurt!”
“I will be fine,” Jack told her, giving her a gentle smile. “Dash?”
“Yeah, I'm cool, nothing bad.” Dash shook her wings, wincing a little. “Those jerks didn't come out so well, though,” she added, glancing over her shoulder before looking up at the samurai. “Jeez, Jack, you are fast. Especially for somebody with two legs and no wings.”
Jack humbly bowed his head. “Thank you,” he told the pegasus. “And you are a formidable warrior in your own right.”
“A warrior? Me? Well, huh! Maybe I am one at that.” Dash strutted around a bit, until Applejack put a hoof down- on her tail. “Lasso in that ego, o' mighty warrior. We still got us a forest t'get through.”
The group continued on, though Fluttershy insisted on fretting about the wounds her friends had taken. Fortunately the trees held no more surprises for them; when they emerged from the far side of the monochrome forest, however, they found something unusual waiting for them- a road. An actual, paved road of flat blacktop, leading around a tall outcropping of rock. “Well, great, now we're getting somewhere,” Indy quipped. “Any chance we'll find a taxi?”
“Suuuuure, because we've had that sort of wonderful luck this far, right?” Twilight managed a chuckle. “Looks like we're staying on the Horseshoe Express.”
The road wended through valleys, past ravines and between clumps of trees for about a mile and a half, and the group spent most of the distance in silence until Pinkie spoke up. “I just realized something,” she said quietly.
Twilight looked back. “What's that?”
“Me and AJ didn't sense anything before those ninjas showed up.”
“Yer right.” Applejack frowned. “Crud. Wonder why.”
“I think this place is getting better at setting things up for us, too,” Indy said. “Could be they got up before we were close enough for you two to tell, and just waited.”
“I hope that's th' case, Indy. Or... mebbe I don't.” She tilted her head in thought. “Aw, horseapples, I dunno what's worse! Us not bein' able to see them comin', or them havin' the smarts to prepare early!”
“I would call it a draw, dear. Both are equally troublesome.” Rarity shook her head. “But... look ahead! I believe we've reached the end of the road- literally.”
The group came to a halt at the edge of the road, which came to a sudden and unceremonious stop at the outskirts of what seemed to be a small town. Black-walled buildings, almost all of them only two or three stories tall, stood like silent sentinels circled around what looked like a village square of some kind. More orange crystals dotted the landscape and shone from inside the buildings, none of them revealing any sort of life besides the group of eight interlopers as they walked into the center of the square. “Creeeeeepy,” Pinkie intoned, her wide eyes glancing from place to place nervously.
“Should we search the area?” Jack asked.
Twilight thought for a moment. “Quickly, yes. There's something I don't like about this....”
Her voice trailed off as a strange buzzing sound caught her attention. She looked upwards, and gasped as a small group of strange shapes appeared from the darkness; Jack's eyes widened in shock. “Impossible! Here?!”
As one, the six matte-black mechanical creatures- each a perfect copy of Aku's beetle drones in shape, if not in coloration- landed around the center of the square, surrounding the group. Jack drew his sword and held it at the ready, watching to see what the drones intended; Indy already had his rifle shouldered, but taking a cue from the samurai, held his fire. For a few moments the robots stood there, motionless, and then as one they spoke. “Targets identified,” they announced in their rough, synthesized speech. “Samurai Jack. Indiana Jones. Elements of Harmony.”
“Targets...?!” Fluttershy whimpered.
“Mission....” Small pods popped out from each drone's upper back, exposing the barrels of a cluster of weapons. “Exterminate with extreme prejudice.”
Then there was a bright flash.
“Quickly, get down!”
Never one to ignore good advice, Indy dropped to his hands and knees behind the counter he'd suddenly found himself beside. “What... what just happened?” he asked, shaking his head to clear it.
“Twilight teleported us.” Rarity risked a peek over the counter, saw the creatures outside stalking about looking for them, and ducked back down. “It looks as though she may have separated us as well- probably deliberately. Much easier for two to hide in a single place than eight.”
“Teleported...?” he repeated. “Huh... I really need to get used to you ponies and this magic thing.”
“Twilight's magic is uncommon. She often leaves me just as bewildered as you are.” She risked another glance, then ducked back down even more quickly than before, looking just a little frightened. “Where do we go from here?”
“The highest floor, if we can manage it without being seen. I'm the only one with a gun, which means I may need to provide fire support, and the top floor would be the best place to deliver it from.”
“I suppose that makes sense.” The coast was clear for the moment, so the pair made their way up to the third floor, where they found something unusual: A bright-red banner hung on the wall, floor to ceiling. On it was a long, menacing black form that ended in what seemed to be a spider-shaped headdress; a pair of baleful eyes, framed by what looked like flaming eyebrows, stared out at them over a grimacing mouth full of twisted fangs. Along the lower left side was printed in flowing script: “OBEY AKU”. “So this must be that 'Aku' creature Jack spoke of,” Rarity said quietly, instinctively stepping back from the horrid image.
“And I'd thought he was going overboard with the description. That seriously is one ugly demon.” Indy crept up to one of the windows and took a quick glance of the grounds below. “Okay, good spot here. I've got eyes on three of the things. But I don't have enough ammo for any kind of real firefight, so I need to wait for the others to get something going.”
“So in the meantime, we wait, I suppose?” Rarity settled down on the opposite side of the window.
Indy set his rifle across his legs. “In the meantime, we wait.”
“I gotta give Twilight credit- splittin' us up like that durin' a teleport can't 've been easy.” Applejack took a quick look through the window of the bedroom she and Fluttershy had taken shelter in; it had obviously been built to human scale, requiring the cowpony to stand on her hind legs and set her forehooves on the windowsill to see outside. “It ain't gonna be long before them things start searchin' the houses.”
“And... and then what do we do?” Fluttershy quivered in the corner, obviously terrified; the snake coiled around her neck had rested its head on hers in what looked like a strange effort to calm her.
“Then you hide, and I kick 'em into next month... if'n I can.” She shook her head. “Jack's seen them things before. Y'think maybe this place is copyin' his world, like the last one did with Indy?”
“I... I guess. But I don't know why.”
“Curiouser 'n curiouser. But there ain't time fer figurin' it out right now. I'm hopin' that Twi, Jack or Indy have got some plan hatchin', but on the off-chance they ain't able, we gotta be ready to set things a-movin'.”
“I... well... okay.” Fluttershy visibly gulped. “What... what do you need me to do?”
“I dunno yet, sugarcube. Kinda playin' this by ear now. I'd love it if Twi came zippin' out with one of her last-second plans, but I ain't lookin' to get caught flat-hooved if she can't. If things go south, jes' do what I say when I say it. Don't even think about it, jes' do. Can ya do that fer me, Flutters?”
The yellow pegasus swallowed hard again, then nodded. “I... I think I can, Applejack.”
“Good. 'Cause it's lookin' like they're startin' their search.” She frowned, closed her eyes for a few seconds, then opened them again. “Okay. Got an idea. Hope I don't have to commit to it, but when yer flanks are against th' wall, can't do nothin' but kick.”
She flinched as a loud crash sounded from the first floor- one of the creatures had shattered the door. “Get ready,” Applejack whispered.
It was all Fluttershy could do to nod weakly.
“Okay, Twilight. Think. Think.” The unicorn tapped her head with her hoof. “Six opponents, apparently heavily armed and armored, capable of flight and speech. Direct attack would probably be... inadvisable.”
“'Suicidal' is more like it,” Dash responded from her lookout point on the edge of the roof. “I could probably take one, even two... but six? If those weapons are anything like Indy's guns....” She shook her head, grimacing. “The words 'smeared across the landscape' come to mind.”
“Euuugh.” Twilight shuddered. “Thanks for the great mental picture.”
“Hey, don't say I never share.” Dash thought for a moment. “Think you could teleport them away?”
“Not far enough to matter. I could disorient them a bit... but that would probably only work once.”
“Keep it as a... what's Scootaloo like to say? 'Super secret last resort'?”
“Precisely.” Twilight nervously scraped at the black stone of the rooftop with a hoof. “This would've been easier if I'd been a little more careful about who I teleported where.”
“Yeah, I was wondering about that. Kinda surprised you took me with you instead of Indy or Jack. Who'd you put them with?”
“Heh heh... heh.” Twilight blushed. “Funny you should ask....”
“No. It is suicidal. You do not understand the capabilities of these machines. Their destructive power is great; their relentlessness, unmatched. Many fine warriors have fallen before them. I would not risk you meeting the same fate needlessly!”
“Jack, please!” Pinkie's gaze was unflinching. “You've gotta trust me on this. Yeah, I know I seem like a goofball, but when my friends are in danger I can totally focus. Nobody else has done anything yet and we're running out of time!”
“No time! Just follow my lead!” And with that, the pink pony galloped out through the doorway before Jack could stop her. He made it outside to see her bouncing into the square, an almost ridiculously happy expression on her face. “Hey, you guys!” she called out. “Over here!”
The four drones who were still in the square stopped and turned towards her. “Target identified: Pinkie Pie.”
“Yeah, yeah, sheesh. You guys are boring. I know what'll liven things up! Let's play hide-and-go-seek!” With that, she bounced towards one of the lampposts set around the edge of the square, seemingly blithely ignorant of the multiple blasters being aimed towards her. Jack muttered an imprecation under his breath as he began to draw his sword, trying to figure out how he could possibly get to her in time to protect her.
Then she bounced behind the lamppost- and vanished.
Jack blinked in shock, moving his head from side to side in order to see how the pony had somehow managed to hide behind a half-foot-wide lamppost. The robots, despite their better vantage point, seemed similarly lost; two of them stomped their way towards the post, while the other two spread out, heads turning back and forth as they scanned the area.
“Oh, you guys are terrible at this game!” Pinkie stuck her head out from behind an abandoned street vendor's cart. “Tsk tsk. Try harder!” She ducked down again.
The two drones in the square trained their weapons on the cart and opened fire. Streams of destructive blue energy turned the cart into a mess of splinters and half-molten metal within seconds; Jack grimaced, expecting to see the torn body of an overenthusiastic equine behind it- but nothing was there. “How...?” he whispered to himself.
“Aww, I get it.” Pinkie had somehow climbed onto the back of one of the droids and was tapping it on the head with a hoof. “Well, not everybody can be good at hide-and-go-seek! How about we play tag instead?” She clonked the machine on the head. “You're it!”
The drone's partner was already targeting her when she ducked down behind its back. A shower of blue lances of light peppered the drone, the friendly fire blasting holes in its armor and taking it off of its feet; with a dull thud, it crashed to the ground, smoking and twitching.
Pinkie suddenly sprang up from behind a black-leafed hedge. “You're no good at tag, either! Silly robot-thingy, how are we supposed to have fun? Oh, I know- pin the tail on the dragon!”
She didn't move as the drone repositioned itself, training its blasters on her form. “Target acq-”
The blasters fell to the ground as a white-clad form landed in front of the drone, then turned. The robot took one step forward. “Target identified: Samurai Ja- Ja- Ja- Ja-”
And then it split into two halves and slowly collapsed to the ground, then exploded.
Jack dashed forward, just barely dodging a stream of blaster fire that turned a bench into splinters and tore a large chunk from the side of one of the buildings; with one quick motion, he scooped Pinkie Pie up from the ground and tucked her under his arm, then leapt out of the line of fire of the two other drones, taking cover for a moment behind one of the buildings. He looked down at the pony incredulously. “How did...?” was all he managed to ask.
She gave him a broad grin. “Silly human. Toldja I could do it!”
The battle drone had to hunch down to fit inside the room, and even then it left gouges in the doorway; the ceiling was too low for it to deploy its blaster pods. But one of its targets was ahead, and it would not be stopped by something as trivial as a building. “Target identified: Fluttershy,” it announced, brandishing its forward legs, the scythes that decorated them gleaming in the orange light. It could see the yellow pegasus cringe at the sight, and the subroutines that enabled it to feel joy at the horror of a target practically sang out in bliss.
Then its audio inputs picked up a muffled sound from outside- an explosion. It spun its head to look out the window to see what was going on, to find the remains of one of its compatriots smoldering in the square and two of its primary targets running away. It paused for only the briefest moment to consider whether to pursue them or finish this one first-
-which was all the time Applejack needed to rush out from her hiding spot.
The force of her kick contained the full measure of her considerable strength, but the weight of the machine was so much that she only managed to push it off-balance and make it stagger- but that weight also meant that the window it blundered into couldn't do a thing to slow it, and it crashed through as though the glass weren't there, slamming into the ground twenty feet below.
“Awright, sugarcube, that's our cue! Let's go get in the dance!” Applejack shouted, making a beeline for the staircase. Fluttershy closed her eyes tightly for a moment, trembling, then gathered all of her scant courage together and bolted off after her friend.
The warcry she gave as she ran could have best been described as the roar of a furious hummingbird.
“How the hell did she do that?” Indy couldn't help but wonder, even as he lined the sights of the rifle on his target.
“Break all the laws of physics? Twist reality around her hoof? Confuse all onlookers? That's just what Pinkie Pie does.” On seeing Indy prepare to fire, Rarity reflexively ducked her head and covered her ears, waiting for the weapon to make its terrible noise. She wasn't disappointed; inside the building, the rifle's report was almost deafening. Indy carefully fired bursts into the one still-standing drone in the courtyard, sending rounds tearing through its armor. Remembering how Twilight had explained her method of helping Indy in his last firefight, she gathered the spent brass together and flung it downwards with as much force as she could manage- not nearly as much as Twilight could, but with the assistance of gravity, the casings were actually doing some damage to the thing's eye apparatus, keeping it blinded and unable to fire back.
Then the rifle clicked on an empty chamber just as his target staggered and fell to the ground. “I'm out!” he shouted, tossing the rifle aside and drawing his handgun. “We need to get back down there and-”
“INDY!” Rarity shrieked as she scrambled away from the window, just in time to avoid being flattened by another drone. A quick glance over her shoulder gave her a glimpse of two hoofprints in the center of a deep dent in its side- Applejack's trademark. Indy brought his weapon to bear and opened fire, but the thick armor turned aside the heavy but flat-nosed rounds. “Rarity!” he shouted, backing away as the thing approached. “Magic it or something!”
“I can't-” She paused as she caught sight of the banner on the far wall. She had nothing in the way of offensive magic, but she did have her talents. “Wait! Indy, that window! We need it open!”
A single shot was enough to shatter the glass. With magic guided by the force of her will, Rarity yanked the banner off of the wall, pulled it past the drone and out the window, then lowered it to form a ramp of sorts leading from the second floor to the ground. “Go!” she shouted.
The human stood his ground. “You first!”
“This is no time for chivalry! Just go!”
He paused for just a second more, then jumped through the broken window, landing squarely on the banner and sliding down to the ground. A moment later, a shrieking Rarity came flailing after him, tumbling down the banner and almost crashing into Indy as he tried to catch her. They managed to share only a momentary relieved smile before a sound came from the building they'd just vacated- the drone was still after them, and had for some reason dove out the same window, aiming to land on the banner as well.
Rarity smirked. “If he wants it, then he can have it,” she said, releasing the banner from her magic's grip.
The drone hit the now-freefloating banner and continued downwards unimpeded, once more smashing into the hard ground- and this time not getting back up. Indy holstered his gun and dusted himself off, then turned to Rarity. “Why'd you want me to go first?” he asked.
She blushed and looked away. “...I knew I wasn't going to have the courage to jump unless someone was at the bottom to catch me.”
He chuckled. “Should've known. Next time, though, I'll hold the door open.”
The unicorn smiled at him. “If you insist.”
“Gonna have to give those humans credit- they know how to kick off a party!” Dash jumped from the roof, streaking down towards the ground in search of a robot to clobber. Each time she came across one, though, it had just been finished off by one of her friends; inside the space of a couple of minutes, four of the drones were down. Not that Dash was going to complain about that, but she wanted in on the action!
Then she heard Twilight shouting up at her. “Dash! To your left! MOVE!”
She moved, immediately diving towards the ground- and just in time, as streaks of destructive blue energy tore through the air she'd just been occupying. The smell of ozone burned at her nostrils as she got a fix on her opponent; one of the two remaining drones stalked out from behind one of the buildings, its weapons swinging upwards towards her. “Target identified: Rainbow Dash,” it announced.
“Well, you know the name, but you obviously don't know the reputation!” She soared down towards the robot, pulling off evasive maneuvers as it sent streams of blaster fire towards her; while the weapons were even more destructive than the guns she'd seen before, the fact that she could see their fire coming at her made it easier to anticipate and dodge them. Dash just knew that she looked totally awesome weaving her way through the incoming fire, and it was almost a trivial matter to line up her forehooves with the robot's chest and deliver the crushing blow that would end this.
It was only her severe angle of attack that kept her from literally smashing herself against the drone's armor plating or shattering her forelegs with the blow, but the jolt that traveled through her body sent her tumbling across the ashen grass. As she struggled to get back on her hooves and remember which way “up” was, she was only dimly aware of the drone once more training its weapons on her.
Blaster fire shredded the ground where she'd just been, but Twilight's teleport had come just in the nick of time. “Whoa... thanks,” Dash groaned, shaking her head to clear it. “When it comes to kicking, I'm no Applejack.”
“Not by yourself, no. But I think I can help.” Twilight grinned. “Just build up as much speed as you can and then head right for it. I'll take care of the rest.”
Dash blinked, opened her mouth to object, then paused; after a moment, a smile crossed her face. “You've got a plan, don't you?”
Twilight did her best Big Macintosh impersonation. “Eeeyup.”
Without another word, Dash flapped her way up to the top of the nearest building, readied herself, and then once more dove towards the drone. Evading its fire became trickier as she gained speed, but she was just barely able to anticipate its attack vectors and move out of them, all the while keeping her forehooves aimed towards it.
Just as she was about to slam into the machine for a second time, a teardrop-shaped bubble of purple-hued energy formed around her.
The battle drone was knocked aside like a ball before a croquet mallet, tumbling across the ground. It had barely regained its feet before there was a flash of purple light, and Dash came streaking towards it again; it didn't even have time to bring its weapons to bear before she slammed into it, the teardrop of magical energy around her flaring at the impact. Matte-black armor plating crumpled as the drone was once more flung across the square, this time crashing into the side of one of the buildings; metal creaked as it staggered forward, malfunctioning sensors struggling to lock on to the cyan pegasus.
“Dash!” Twilight shouted. “Air combo!”
“You got it!” This time, Dash appeared behind the drone, which didn't even have the time to turn around before she torpedoed it; with a quick twitch of her wings, she altered her angle, sending the drone sailing into the air, well past the tops of the buildings; its momentum ran out about sixty feet above the ground, and it hung there for a moment, a battered ebony jewel in the featureless “sky”.
And then that “sky” was awash in a spreading circle of color, as Rainbow Dash broke the barrier of sound just after teleport a little more than a hundred feet above the ground- fast enough so that she cleared the distance between her and the airborne drone in less than a second.
The bubble of magical energy around her collapsed, detonated, as she hit the drone one last time, the entirety of the spell's force blasting forward into the robot along with Dash's considerable momentum. As if shot from a cannon, the drone rocketed towards the ground, leaving a trail of smoke behind, flailing about helplessly as its broken wings frantically beat at the air at a fruitless attempt to slow its fall.
Its impact with the ground was enough to cause the buildings to shudder and crack a good number of their windows. Dash landed next to the crater it had formed, smirking down at the half-flattened robot. “Sonic Rainboom, kid,” she told it. “The original, and still the best!”
“Accept no imitations!” Twilight finished for her, trotting up next to her friend. “Good work, Dash.”
“Me? How about you?! You practically turned me into a bullet!” Dash grinned as she prodded the unicorn's shoulder. “It was totally awesome! How'd you come up with that?”
“Heh. Well, the idea actually did come from when Indy was explaining how his guns work. I learned enough from the remnants of that ward spell in the castle to recreate it in a smaller form, and turn it into your own personal impact shield. And there's a reason we never use teleport spells to try to save us from a fall- it only affects position and orientation, not momentum.”
“Uh... what's that last part mean?”
Twilight blushed. “When speedy thing teleports, speedy thing stays speedy.”
“Oh! Heh, yeah, I think we proved that just now.” Dash shook her mane out. “Okay, I think that's five of those stupid drones handled- time to go find the last one.”
“And gather back up with the others.”
“Yeah, that too!”
Twilight's horn glowed, and with a flash, they were gone.
“Yeah, yeah, 'target identified'. Can't you guys say anything else? Like, maybe 'Processing pink pony for potential perishment'. That Aku guy has no style!”
Pinkie hopped out of sight as the drone opened fire, hitting nothing but black grass and stone. The robot charged after her, rounding the corner of a building- only to run into a muddied banner, which wrapped itself around the drone's head, blocking its vision. “Dear, if you want to dance with us, you simply must dress for the occasion,” Rarity called out.
As the drone began to tear at the banner with its scythes, a bright purple flash sparked behind it, materializing into Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash flying just above ground level towards the robot, carrying Applejack between them. “Oh dear,” Fluttershy said. “The poor thing doesn't even know how to dance!”
“Well, what the hay, I'm in a generous mood. Let's give it some dancing lessons!” Dash smirked. “What do you say, AJ?”
Applejack grinned as a sphere of purple energy surrounded her. “You betcha! Here's a step I've named the 'Ponyville Two-hoof Torpedo'! Hang on tight, pardner!”
At the last possible second, the two pegasi let go of the earth pony, launching her at the drone- which had just cleared its vision in time to see her coming at it. The force of the collision sent the drone through the front of a building, causing part of the facade to crumble; thick chunks of stone thudded against the ground, framing the hole the drone had created. The robot- now missing a leg, with its armor deformed and its eye apparatus cracked- slowly crawled out from the rubble, to find Twilight Sparkle standing in front of it. “Targ- target id-d-d-dentiiiii....” it crackled, attempting to deploy its blasters- only to find that the crash had pancaked the back of its body.
“You look tired,” Twilight commented. “Why don't you lie down for a while, take a nap?” Her horn glowed, and with a brief flash, a huge chunk of rock- almost as large as the drone- materialized overhead, just above the top of the now-leaning building. “Here,” the unicorn continued, giving the robot a slight smile. “I'll tuck you in.”
As the drone watched the rock drop towards it, it calculated the one appropriate thing to say in response.
“Mission failure imminent.”
From where they were watching, Indy turned to Jack; the archaeologist's face was a mask of disbelief. “...they're ponies,” he managed to say.
“Exceptional ponies,” Jack replied. “Certainly you did not doubt their stories?”
“Yeah, well, it's one thing to hear, another thing to see.” Indy took his hat off for a moment to rub at the back of his head, then shrugged. “Well... whatever. Why not ponies? It's not like it makes less sense than some other things I've seen.”
“Such as a time-traveling samurai?” It was the barest of grins on Jack's face.
“Yeah, like that.” Indy snickered. “Okay. I can deal with this. Let's gather back up and keep moving.”
“Indeed.” With that, the two humans walked back out to the square to rejoin the ponies.