time is a crime
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"An explanation or more glimmer?" Floydien's voice shouted back towards the hovering vessel. "Stabby stabby yourselves before you mix up what you want with what you give!"
The sound stones crackled as the voice on the other end of the megaphone growled, "What in Spark's name is this creature going on about?!" Several Ledomaritan voices argued hushedly with one another. "I don't know who you think you are, but you are violating airspace above a Nightshade Industrial Facility! Bring your airship about and—"
"Floydien comes for Nancy Jane, because the Madame of Night and Shading took her away from Floydien! A fair exchange, it was not. I never asked for glimmer. I never asked for the eyes and the nights of stars and crackles!"
"Friggin' maniac, I swear to—" The megaphone cut off as more hushed voices grumbled and muttered. "I don't care where you think he's from! He's obviously a vagabond and a lunatic—"
"Bite the stabby stabby horses' tongues!" Floydien snarled. The air filled with static energy, raising the hair along Pilate's coat. "Only Floydien gets to speak about Floydien in the third pony!"
And, just like that, a loud crack of thunder rolled. The air heated up, then tingled with electricity as the voices across the way yelped. The patrol ship's engines veered and sputtered.
"What did he just launch from his friggin' antlers?!"
"I don't care! Shoot it! Shoot it!"
"You cannot shoot what you cannot spit at!" Floydien's hooves clamored across the swaying gondola. The air whistled as another blast went off. "Boomers be boomed! For Nancy Jane!"
Screams and howls of peril echoed. Smoke billowed left and right across Pilate's muzzle. He concentrated, and yet all he could sense were residual pulses of runic mana emanating from a tiny source on his shoulder: Simon. With each sparkle of mysterious energy from the rodent's crown, the zebra's sphere felt in every direction at once. He sensed the body of their dirigible weaving, smokestabs looming below, and a metallic vessel dead ahead, careening in a sharp turn as bodies clashed and collided with one another. Hooves flailed, and horns crossed with strange branches brimming with energy.
"Floydien shall pour out all the spit until you give her back!" The voice roared in the middle of the maelstrom. Grunting, cussing ponies drowned him out, not before he could get a shot out. The air crackled with thunder yet again. Pilate went doubly blind as burning tendrils of energy ribboned across the O.A.S.I.S. field. There was a burst of hot air, followed by the ghostly whistle of leaking steam. Their airship had been struck.
"Gaaah!" Pilate fell to the side, banging against the railing. He winced, tilting his head up. He felt Simon a dozen feet away, and O.A.S.I.S.'s energy jumped to it, pulsing, revealing the body of a spinning zeppelin that was deflating, falling, tilting at thirty degrees... forty-five degrees... sixty...
Pilate tried climbing up the side of the drifting, plummeting ship, but several ropes snapped loose from the dirigible above. He screamed, falling through space. He flung a hoof up and caught the rudder of the airship before he could fall to an incalculably long drop. Gritting his teeth, he struggled to pull himself back up. The aircraft had fallen into a spiral; he could feel his lower body dangling like the tail to a shredded kite.
"Nnnngh... guh... Floydien!" he shouted, feeling his hoof slipping. "Mr. Floydien! Augh!" He couldn't yell hard enough. The battle was looming high above. The sound of churning smokestacks boiled all around him. He could feel hot ash pelting him from all sides. "Simon?! Somepony, please! I-I'm falling!"
Just then, the entire airship jolted. Through a sheer miracle alone, he remained clinging to the edge of the craft. He heard a loud grinding sound of the wooden vehicle scraping against the edge of a factory's spire as he lost more and more altitude.
Panting, Pilate pivoted around. The blood was rushing away from his limb. His twitching ears pounded as he sought for a sign of Simon. O.A.S.I.S. was deader than stone, and the darkness beyond the bedlam was for once overwhelming.
"Belle..." Pilate stammered as he finally lost his grip. A last breath. "I love you..."
The zebra plummeted. He flipped three times. He sailed liked a rock towards some unseen abyss. His eyes teared and his breath hyperventilated. Then, suddenly, he realized that a good ten seconds had passed. Twenty seconds. Thirty.
He couldn't possibly have been so high that the drop would have taken a minute to consume him. What was more...
"The w-wind..." He spoke out loud, shivering in midair. "What the devil?!" He could hear Floydien's voice in the distance. If he was still within earshot of his former companion, then that would mean—"I'm... n-not falling?"
As if in answer, a shrill voice chriped from his shoulder Pilate felt a pulse of energy through O.A.S.I.S, streaking through a tiny rodent's body and illuminating a field of floating objects around him... and along with him. Chunks of broken zeppelin matter were levitating in the air besides his flailing form.
"S-Simon!" Pilate gasped. "Simon, you're... y-you're telekinetic...?"
Another chirp. When O.A.S.I.S. pulsed again, the energy was a great deal more concentrated, highlighting the rodent's tail, body, and crown. Pilate experienced a ghostly sensation, as if he was both looking at the squirrel and existing as the squirrel at the same time. In that blink of otherworldly senses, he felt a pair of sparkling tesla coils atop the rodent's cranium.
"Fascinating," the zebra quipped.
Up above, another crack of magical thunder rolled. It was accompanied by the tell-tale sign of a dirigible completely exploding. Hot air surged everywhere at once, followed by the horrific whistling of a heavy weight throttling towards them.
"Simon, Floydien said you would be my guide—now would be a good time to start!" Pilate sputtered.
As if gripped in a magical set of teeth, the two souls were yanked downward and away from the hurdling body of their former aircraft. Pilate's breath left him as his hooves made contact with a sheet of glass. He slid down an angled cliff of windowpanes, his body rolling and stumbling like a giant ponyquin. Below him, a terrible shattering sound resonated. He realized that what was left of the miniature zeppelin had collapsed through the glass ceiling of some sort of tall building. Pilate felt himself sliding towards a yawning hole.
"Simon! The building! We're going to—"
Instead of stopping, the zebra's body accelerated. He felt a magical push—filled with static electricity and resolve. Yelping, Pilate plunged past a cloud of broken glass. His skin stung in several places, then was soothed by the first taste of air conditioning in months. Two loud noises filled his ears: the rumble of a collapsing zeppelin hitting the lower floors, and an annoying siren blaring through the shattered interior of the place.
Before he could make sense out of all of the sounds, he felt his hooves touching down onto a tile floor. He reached out, and his hoof graced a railing, something expensive and polished.
"Solid oak... varnished..." Pilate's ears twitched. "An office complex?" He gulped. "Nightshade Industries. We're deep in the center of Nightshade's manufacturing division in Blue Nova..." He shuddered and flinched from several shards of glass still falling from above. "Then... th-then that must mean..."
Four paws landed squarely on his flank.
"Gah!" He breathed easier. "Oh, Simon! Simon, thank you for saving me." He gulped. "Listen, I don't know if you can understand me any better than Floydien. You're obviously... not a normal squirrel. But, if you can, then—"
Two paws pulled and tugged on Pilate's ears. The zebra winced, then froze in place as another pulse of energy connected O.A.S.I.S. with the rodent. He could feel the little creature's paws pointing towards the far end of a long bridge stretching across the lofty lobby. The sound of sliding doors and galloping hooves became clear through the mayhem of the settling crash.
"Blessed Spark..." Pilate gulped and nodded vehemently. "You're right. We must hide. No sense in letting what happened to Floydien... h-happen to us..."
Simon tugged the zebra's ears in one particular direction. Taking a gamble, Pilate galloped that way, waited for another pulse of energy, and navigated his way into a series of utility closets.