Cutting Ties

by fic Write Off

The Mane Six in: Tie Fighters

A long time ago, in a marketing department far, far away...

… a young writer was tasked with writing a tale that would stand the test of time. In typical corporate fashion, they gave him an obscene deadline and almost no direction beyond idioms and slogans. Spurred by the challenge (not to mention the fact that his job was on the line), this intern gave the task his all.

The resulting story was, at best, tangentially related to his original assignment. One benevolent board member saw potential in this misfit production, and wrangled for it a scanty budget from which to operate. Unfortunately, production costs drove the studio to bankruptcy, but not before a majority of the material was filmed.

In a stroke of genius, the young writer locked himself in the editing room, emerging days later with a feature film cobbled together from the second half of the script. Desperate, they released the film, in the hope that its revenue could finance a special effects department skilled enough to someday complete the first half of the work...


Episodes IV-VI

With Lightsabers and Stuff

Twilight Sparkle poured the stranger a glass of milk. “We don’t get too many travellers out here,” she remarked. “What brings you to these parts?”

Twilight set the milk down. The stranger, a bubble-gum pink mare, downed it in one gulp. “I’m looking for somepony,” she said, setting the glass aside with an air of detachment.

“That sounds ominous,” Twilight replied as she sat down across from her guest.

“Oh no, not like that!” giggled the stranger. “I need their help. I’ve got a super-duper-huge-enormous problem, and this pony is the only one who can help me.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Who is it?” she asked, intrigued.

“It’s you, silly!”

The other eyebrow went up. “Me?” Twilight scoffed. “I’m a moisture farmer. What could I possibly help you with? Did you spill water on your library books?”

She stood up and took the stranger’s glass. “Wait,” she said suspiciously. “How do you know my name?”

“I was sent,” her guest replied, “by a friend. She’s super sorry she couldn’t ask you in person, but they hit a bit of a bump!”

The stranger smiled. Unnerved, Twilight stood up to take her glass. “Do you want more?” she asked.

“No thanks! I had a big breakfast.”

Twilight backed up to the sink, keeping her guest in view as she dropped the glass in. “So, what’s the message?”

The stranger cleared her throat and sat erect in her chair. “Twilight Sparkle,” she began, taking on an officious-sounding accent, “years ago, you served our Princess in the Discord Wars. Now we ask you to aid us in our struggle against the New Lunar Republic. I regret that I am unable to bring my request to you in person, but my space carriage has fallen under attack, and I am afraid my mission to bring you to Canterlaan has failed. I have placed information vital to the survival of the Rebellion into the memory systems of this—”

The stranger stopped suddenly. “Hang on, that can’t be right...” she muttered, pulling a large stack of papers out of her saddlebags.

She consulted them for a moment. “Aha!” she exclaimed finally, pulling a marker out of nowhere and making some annotation to the pages. “Sorry about that,” she giggled as she put the papers away. “Where was I? Oh yeah!”

She cleared her throat again. “I have given information vital to the survival of the Kingdom to this messenger. You must see her delivered safely to Canterlaan. Help me, Twilight Sparkle. You’re my only hope.”

The stranger relaxed. “That’s it!” she concluded.

Twilight stared. “Who are you?” she asked slowly.

“I’m Pinkie Pie!” piped her guest. “I brought this message just for you!”

“Yeah, I got that,” said Twilight flatly. “But what the hay is going on? I mean, sure, I was in the Discord Wars, but I’m retired! I can’t do anything now!”

She eyed Pinkie Pie warily. “Besides, I may not like the New Lunar Republic, but at least they’re not...” Twilight struggled to find the right word. “Crazy.”

Pinkie pouted. “I knew I should have done the song,” she said under her breath.

“Look,” Twilight said impatiently. “Why me? That’s all I want to know.”

“Because, Twilight,” Pinkie said, standing up from her chair, “You led the research on friendship during the Discord Wars. You know more about it than anypony else. If anypony can restore Harmony to the Elements, it’s you!”

She turned to rummage in her saddlebags again. “I brought you something,” she said, setting her delivery on the table.

Twilight gasped. “My old tiara!” She picked it up reverently. “Where... how did you...”

“It doesn’t matter,” Pinkie said. “The point is we have them, but without you we can’t use them, so they’re just a bunch of pretty paperweights! And paperweights aren’t fun, no matter how pretty they are to look at. Or wear.”

Pinkie raised a hoof to her neck. Twilight’s heart skipped a beat as she noticed the jeweled necklace her guest wore. “You...” she whispered.

Pinkie giggled. “Me!” she said. “You can trust us, Twilight. But we need to know we can trust you.”

Twilight looked down at her Tiara, then back at Pinkie. “I’m in,” she nodded.

“There she is,” Pinkie Pie whispered. “Act natural.”

They trotted up to the bar. Their target, an orange mare wearing a wide-brimmed hat, glanced sideways at Twilight but said nothing.

Hi there!” Pinkie Pie shouted, erupting from behind the pony in an explosion of confetti and streamers.

“Whoa nelly!” cried their target, falling off her stool. “What in the hay was that for?”

“My name’s Pinkie Pie! I need a ride off the planet, and I heard you can help! So can ya?”

The orange pony pulled herself upright. “Goin’ around sneaking up on ponies like that, I can see why folks would want’cha gone,” she grumbled. She massaged her freckled cheek and looked over her shoulder.

“Sorry about that,” Twilight introduced herself. “I’m with her. My name’s Twilight Sparkle, and she’s Pinkie Pie. I need to bring her to Canterlaan.”

“Charmed,” replied the mare. “I’m Applejack. And she’s right, I could give you two a ride. But keep it down, alright?”

Pinkie Pie ran her hoof across her mouth. “Mm-hmm,” she said, mouth zipped.

“Right. Come with me, I’ll give y’all the lowdown.”

They snuck out the back door of the bar and through a number of winding alleyways. Twilight kept one eye on her back – she rarely came into town, and the stories she’d heard were ample incentive to keep it that way.

“Here we are!” Applejack said, opening a door to admit her clients. “And there she is!” She gestured towards the spacecraft that dominated the hanger before them. A half-circle with a fifty-length radius, the chassis was wide from side to side, thin in front and thick in the back. The rear was covered in engine exhausts large enough to fit four ponies comfortably (if unsafely). From there, the chassis thinned to a rounded taper, like an enormous metal apple slice laying flat on its side. Where the core would be, a wide-angle viewport that bulged slightly out from the center commanded their attention.

“The Century Foxwhelp!” Applejack said fondly. “The ship that made the Kettle-Cook Run in under twelve parsecs.”

Twilight wasn’t very familiar with ships, but she doubted this thing was ready to kettle-cook anything except its passengers. “What a piece of junk!” she exclaimed, eyeing a dent in the landing gear paneling nervously.

“Hey now,” Applejack said. “She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts. I made a lotta special modifications myself – and with the help o’ my first mate.”

A cyan pegasus wearing a welding mask rolled out from under the ship on a mechanic’s creeper. “There you are, Rainbow Dash!” Applejack said. “Got us another job! This here is Pinkie Pie and Twilight Sparkle. They’re goin’ to Canterlaan, same as us!”

Rainbow Dash pulled the mask off, revealing a filthy full-spectrum mane, and took a swig from a pouch on her saddlebags. “Rah-g-g-g-g-g-g!” she gargled loudly.

Applejack glared. “Manners, Rainbow, c’mon!”

The first mate spat the concoction out. “Sorry, AJ,” she said. “I needed a swig.” She wiped her lips. “I’m Rainbow Dash. You two hop on board, we’ll be outta here in no time!”

Twilight eyed the ship nervously. “Okay,” she said. “If you’re sure this thing can hold.”

“Sure as sugar!” Applejack said with an emphatic nod. “Y’all get comfortable. Canterlaan’s a long trip, and the Pubs ain’t exactly fans of ours.”

“Pubs?” asked Pinkie Pie.

“New Lunar Republicans,” Rainbow Dash explained as she screwed in a loose panel. “They’ve been really cracking down on apple smugglers lately.”

“Like us,” Applejack said grimly. “Nothin’ to worry about, though. We outrun those goofballs every time!”

“Nothing to worry about,” Twilight echoed faintly. “Right.”

BANG. The hangar door burst open, and in stormed a squad of imposing-looking stallions clad in grey armor. “Halt!” commanded one of them. “You are all under arrest for conspiracy to commit treason!”

The troopers levelled juice rifles at the girls. “Uh-oh,” Pinkie Pie deadpanned.

“Inside, now!” yelled Applejack. Shoving Pinkie and Twilight aside, Applejack pulled a pistol out of nowhere and leveled it at the troopers. “Rainbow, bolt ‘er up!” she said around the gun in her teeth.

“Drop your weapon!” ordered the trooper. “You have three seconds!”

One-’hwo-’hree!” Applejack shouted, and opened fire. BLAT! BLAT! BLAT! echoed her applesauce blaster.

The troopers dove for cover. Rainbow Dash picked up her toolkit and scrambled to her hooves. “Done! Let’s go!” she yelled as she flew inside.

Applejack backed up the ramp, trading fire with the troopers all the while. BLAT! BLAT! One bolt whizzed within a nose of her face.

She kicked the ramp controls. “Up! Up! Go go go!” she shouted, holstering her pistol as she ran to the cockpit.

With a high-pitched whine and a bright green glow, the engines roared to life. The Century Foxwhelp rose into the sky, the troopers below firing their fruit juices uselessly at its underbelly all the while. FWOOM! roared the engines as it shot into space.

Inside, Twilight breathed a sigh of relief. “That... That was close!” she said, chuckling weakly.

“We’re just getting started.” Rainbow Dash bit her lip. “Look!”

Twilight leaned around the pilot’s seat. “What is that?!” she asked.

Standing out against the inky blackness of space, an array of tiny glowing satellites were floating directly ahead of their tiny craft. An enormous translucent purple barrier was filling in the gaps, like oozing liquid, between the hundreds of orbs.

“Nuts!” Applejack exclaimed. “They’re jammin’ us!”

Pinkie Pie licked her lips. “That sounds delicious!”

“It’s anything but!” Rainbow Dash gritted her teeth. “They’re putting up a wall of raspberry jam around the planet. I can’t get us up to heartspeed in time – we’ll crash!”

“Stinkin’ knockoff preservative consumerists!” grumbled Applejack. “We’ll show them a thing or two!” She pointed to Twilight and Pinkie. “You two! Get on the turrets with me! We’ll blast our way through!”

She galloped down the hall, grabbing a headset as she rounded the corner. Too fearful to argue, Pinkie and Twilight did the same. “Down there!” Applejack commanded.

Twilight jumped down the hatch and settled into position. “Big red button to shoot,” Applejack’s voice crackled in her ear. “Just line up them crosshairs, easy as pie.”

Suddenly, the ship lurched. A screaming noise passed overhead.

“Applejack! Those were Tie Fighters!” Rainbow interrupted on the intercom.

“Horsefeathers!” Applejack shouted. “The pie turrets fire too slow for ‘em. We’ll be sitting ducks!”

Pinkie Pie chimed in. “Send me outside! I can take ‘em!”

“How?” Rainbow asked.

“I have a lightsaber!” Pinkie replied. “They’ll never expect it!”

Twilight facehoofed. “Pinkie, that’s crazy!” she exclaimed.

“But it just might work,” Pinkie Pie countered smugly.

The ship banked sharply. Twilight’s face mashed against an ammunition monitor.

“There’s no time to argue! It’s our only option!” Rainbow Dash shouted into the microphone. “Pinkie, take the rebreather suit by the door! There’s an airlock just left of it. Do your stuff!”

“On it!” Pinkie’s voice crackled. She hurried to the door and suited up. “It’s time to cut the cake,” she declared with maniacal bravado as she pulled the helmet over her head.

She stepped into the airlock and kicked the lever. The WHOOSH of the vacuum propelled Pinkie right on top of the first Tie Fighter. “YAAAAAAHHHH!!!” she yelled, brandishing the pink-bladed energy weapon as she stabilized herself.

The fighter was flat and wide, but unlike the Century Foxwhelp most of its machinery was in a ball housing the cockpit. Two trapezoidal fins stuck out horizontally on the sides, giving the craft the appearance of a bow tie if seen from above.

A perfect perch for Pinkie to stand on as she made her move.

“I’ll teach you to go high-fructose!” she screamed as she hacked into the Tie Fighter’s wings. Inside, the pilot’s eyes widened in terror as his craft began to buck and weave out of control.

Finally, the starboard wing was severed entirely. Pinkie jumped from the craft a second before it exploded, sending the pilot flying back to the planet, parachute unfurling and a moping look on his face. “How you holding up?” Pinkie asked the girls on the ship.

“We found a faulty pod!” Applejack squawked back. “If we can just destroy a few next to it, we’ll have a hole big enough to leave through, lickety split!”

“Not if they keep shooting at us!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed. The ship barrel rolled to avoid a close shot of syrup, sending Twilight’s pie flying wide. “There’s too many of them! Hurry, Pinkie, I can’t keep this up forever!”

Pinkie grabbed a roll of streamers from her utility belt. “Never leave home without ‘em,” she said cheerfully as she tied a lasso and swung it at the next Tie Fighter.

With a resounding TWANG, the lasso caught, and Pinkie reeled herself in. “HEEEEEERE’S PINKIE PIE!!!” she shouted, sinking her lightsaber into the fighter.

When her sabotage had run its course, she jumped into space once again. “Two down!” she exclaimed. “They shoulda used candy coating!”

The turret ponies were having similar luck. “There goes another pod!” Applejack said happily as her apple pie artillery connected. “One more oughta do it!”

Twilight pounded the joystick, firing pie after pie at the berry-emitting balls. Without warning, a Tie Fighter flew into her firing arc – and collided with her shot.

“I got one!” she cried out happily. She looked up the ladder at Applejack. “Applejack, I hit a fighter!”

“Great, kid!” she replied, her jaw clenched. “Don’t get cocky!”

Dash’s voice sparked to life. “Watch out, girls, there’s more where that came from! Reinforcements off the port side!”

Twilight looked through the glass. Sure enough, a fresh squadron of Tie Fighters was closing in – along with an Star Destroyer.

“That destroyer’s a Windsor-Class Knotted Tie,” Rainbow whistled. “They really must not want you to leave!” She pulled the Century Foxwhelp into a steep dive. “They’ll be on top of us any minute! One more bombing run, girls, make it count!”

The Foxwhelp pitched sideways, giving both turrets a clear shot at the orb array. Twilight held her breath, fired–

BOOM!! The pod exploded in a splash of apple cobbler.

“We’re through!” Applejack shouted in delight. “Pinkie, get on board, we’re outta here!”

Pinkie yanked her saber out of her latest victim. “Aww, is the party over already?” she pouted as she kicked off from the tumbling Tie Fighter.

The Foxwhelp swooped in low, and Pinkie latched on with her streamer lasso. Twilight ran from the turret to help pull her inside.

“I got her!” she shouted, as she and Pinkie galloped up the hallway.

“Alright!” Rainbow Dash said with relish. “Let’s blow this popsicle stand!”

Applejack rejoined the girls in the cabin. “Strap in, you two,” she said. “Time to thread the needle!”

The ponies obligingly buckled up. Rainbow flipped a glass cover. “See ya, suckers,” she cackled, and hit the switch.

Safely past the blockade, the Century Foxwhelp hummed along at point-five past heartspeed, giving the mares time to collect their thoughts.

“A Windsor-Class Tie,” Rainbow Dash repeated in amazement. She took a swig from her canteen. “What’s a Windsor doing all the way out here? In the outer rim?”

“Probably looking for me!” Pinkie said cheerfully. “I escaped from a Kingdom star carriage that the Pubs were boarding.”

Applejack leaned back in the copilot’s seat. “Yeah, but you’re just one pony. What makes you so special?”

Pinkie Pie shrugged. “Probably my vanilla icing recipe. Mr. and Mrs. Cake always said it was so good it oughta be illegal. And here I am now...” Pinkie held her head in her hooves. “Where did it all go so wrong?” she asked, her voice cracking.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Twilight chastised her, giving Pinkie a pat on the back to be safe. “She knows something,” she said, looking up at the smugglers. “When she found me, she said she had information vital to the Kingdom’s survival.”

Pinkie looked up. “I did, didn’t I?” she said, the smile back on her face. “Did you two want to hear the message?” She sat up straight in her chair. “Ahem. Twilight Sparkle, yea-mmph mmm-mmmph!” she garbled around Twilight’s hoof in her mouth.

Twilight sighed. “That won’t be necessary, Pinkie.” She withdrew her hoof. “But you never did tell me what information you had.”

Pinkie tapped her chin. “Well, if it wasn’t my icing recipe, it was probably the thing about the hermit.” She snapped her hoof (somehow). “That’s it! The hermit!”

“What hermit?” asked Twilight. “What are you talking about?”

“Rarity and I found this hermit on planet Froggibottodagobog. He didn’t say much, but he knows about the Elements!” Pinkie Pie stood up and began bouncing up and down. “He can help you to restore Harmony, and maybe even defeat the New Lunar Republic!”

“Really?” exclaimed Twilight. “Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go!”

“Sounds like a plan,” said Rainbow Dash. “Next stop, Froggibottodagobog!” she exclaimed as she punched it into the GPS.

Applejack snorted. “Amateur. We didn’t need those in the old days.”

“I know, AJ, I’m just as old as you,” Rainbow said dismissively. “I just like having another reason to blame you when you miss an exit.”

Pinkie Pie stopped bouncing. “Uh, girls?” she asked, her head appearing between the two pilot ponies. “Aren’t we forgetting something?”

“I don’t know, are we?” asked Rainbow as she took another sip from her canteen.

“We have to rescue Rarity!” The rest of Pinkie’s body joined her head at the front of the cabin. “I’m the only one who made it off her ship! They probably took her to their prison on Cloudsdale!” She waved her forelegs in exasperation.

“But what about Twilight?” asked Applejack. “Her job’s important too. We can’t just pass up a chance to kick the Pubs for good!”

“So drop me off on the way,” said Twilight. “Come and pick me up once you’ve found Rarity. I’m a quick study, I’m sure I’ll learn everything in time.”

Rainbow shrugged. “Okay then,” she said. “Glad that’s settled.”

The girls fell silent. Pinkie reclaimed her chair, and for a while the four mares simply sat. Only the gentle hum of the engines followed them into their thoughts.

Finally, Rainbow Dash emitted a frustrated growl. “Applejack, how do you queue waypoints on this thing?”

Twilight waved as the Century Foxwhelp hummed back above the canopy. “Guess I’d better find this hermit,” she said, pulling out her flashlight.

She clambered onto a fallen trunk as thick as an alicorn was tall. “Wish I could see further,” she said. “Stupid tre— Oh.” Twilight clucked her tongue. “Trees. I’ll climb a tree.”

Twilight jumped down from her vantage point. “Aha!” she exclaimed triumphantly as she found one with enough low-lying branches.

She reached over the branch. “Hnnnnngh!” Twilight grunted, her eyes bugging as she strained to pull herself up.

CRACK. The limb snapped. Caught off balance, Twilight rolled down the hill and into a stagnant puddle.

“Bleaugh!” Twilight spat out the rancid water. “Not my best idea today.” She crawled out of the puddle and shook herself off.

Suddenly, Twilight heard a rustling in the bushes right next to her. She caught her breath. “Hello?” she called out. “Are you the hermit?”

She raised her flashlight, and gasped. Two lavender eyes were staring back at her.

They blinked.

“This is not gonna work,” Applejack muttered through her teeth.

“Sure it will!” Pinkie Pie squeaked. “Just act natural, like I did when I met you at the bar!”

Applejack facehoofed. “Right,” she groaned as the elevator doors opened.

Pinkie confidently led the three girls up to the desk. She and Applejack were clad in stolen NLR uniforms, while Rainbow Dash walked between them wearing (unclasped) hoofcuffs.

The guard at the desk looked up from his computer. “Where are you taking this... mare?” he asked, looking distastefully at Rainbow’s unkempt mane.

“Prisoner transfer from cell block one-one-three-eight,” Pinkie replied, falsely deepening her voice.

He raised an eyebrow. “I wasn’t notified,” he grunted. “I’ll have to clear it.” He gestured to the two guards guarding the cell doors, then reached for the intercom.

Uh-oh, thought Rainbow Dash. Thinking quickly, she threw off the cuffs and flapped her wings furiously.

Applejack caught on instantly. “Look out, she’s loose!” she cried, brandishing her juice rifle. She fired wide and downed the guard at the desk.

Pinkie followed suit, firing her own weapon wildly. “AAAAAHH!!!” she screamed, shooting out the camera cluster over the desk.

Within moments, the room was still. “Go, go!” Applejack commanded. The three of them ran down separate hallways and began searching the cells.

“Nope... Nuh-uh... No... Not here... Nope...” Pinkie muttered to herself, zipping from peephole to peephole. “No... Nuh-uh... Nope... No— Eew eew eew, gross!”

She backed away frantically, bumping loudly into the cell door directly across. “Who’s there?” cried a muffled voice from inside.

Pinkie Pie peered inside. “There you are, Rarity!” she exclaimed, pushing the console.

The door whooshed open. Inside, a snow-white unicorn was backed into the corner, standing atop the bench. “Get away! Get away you ruffian!”

She froze. “Hold on. Aren’t you a little short for a moontrooper?” she scoffed.

“Huh?” asked Pinkie Pie. “Oh yeah, the uniform.”

She pulled off the helmet. “Rarity, it’s me, Pinkie Pie! I’m here to rescue you!”

“Pinkie?” Rarity exclaimed. “Oh, thank goodness!”

They ran back into the cell corridor. “Applejack, I found her!” Pinkie Pie yelled.

A pony appeared at the front desk. “I found her, let’s get out of here!” Pinkie repeated.

BLAT! BLAT! BLAT! The pony responded by firing their fruit rifle up the hallway.

Aaaaahh!!!” Rarity screamed as they dove back into the empty cell.

“That’s definitely not Applejack,” Pinkie noticed, her voice perfectly level.

“You think?!” Rarity yelped. “We have to get out of here!”

“Hold on!” Pinkie said. Gunshots still echoed from outside. “Aww, they’re starting the party without me!”

Rarity restrained her rescuer. “No, Pinkie!” she exclaimed. “I lost you once already! I am not losing you again!”

She snatched Pinkie’s fruit rifle. “What are you doing?” Pinkie asked.

“Somepony has to get us out of here in one piece!” Rarity shot a hole in a grate near the floor. “In you go! We’re leaving!”

“But what about our friends?”

“They’ll be fine – I’m sure they can look after you better than you can anyway! Now go, into the vent!”

Rarity kicked Pinkie into the vent, then crawled in after her. Almost instantly, it began to slope downwards.

“Careful, Pinkie,” Rarity whispered. “It would be very easy to sli-aaaaahh!!!

Rarity rocketed down the chute and bashed into Pinkie Pie. They rocketed through the tunnel, bashing into right-angle turns and bumps until it abruptly spat them out the bottom in a tangled heap of hooves.

“Ughhh...” Rarity groaned as she stood up. “Where are we?”

The chamber they had fallen into was perfectly circular, with a number of large, convoluted-looking machines emitting a sinister red light around the walls. The floor was covered in thick metal grating, with the exception of a solid panel in the center of the room.

Pinkie Pie shivered. “I t-th-think th-that w-we-we’re in-n a f-fr-free-z-zer!” she said, her teeth chattering.

“It certainly is very cold in here,” Rarity agreed. “Still, at least we lost them.”

The moment she said this, a squad of moontroopers materialized behind them. “Cuff ‘em!” one of them barked.

“Aww, they brought the party to us!” Pinkie said cheerfully as the two of them were restrained. “How nice!” Rarity simply screamed.

“Silence!” commanded a guard. He gestured to the others, and they pulled Rarity and Pinkie to opposite ends of the room.

“Her majesty has a special punishment in mind for you,” he said, walking menacingly behind Pinkie Pie, “after your little escape. Or should I say, escapes.”

“Hey, you can’t blame me for that! I had a delivery to make!” said Pinkie. “If this was about the vanilla icing, I could understand, but—”

“I said silence!” the moontrooper barked. He pressed a button on a nearby console. Clucking noises began to echo from below the grating. “You won’t be troubling the New Lunar Republic ever again,” he growled, grabbing hold of Pinkie’s mane.

“Ow ow ow ow ow ow OW!!!” she yelped, but the trooper paid no heed as he dragged her to the center of the room. Her footsteps echoed on the metal plating. The clucking grew louder, as if her presence goaded it on.

“The cockatrices are ready, sir!” shouted one of the guards at the room’s perimeter.

“No!” Rarity screamed, struggling against her bonds. “Pinkie, no!”

A buzzer sounded above their heads. “It’s okay, Rarity!” Pinkie smiled.

“Pinkie...” Rarity looked pleadingly at her friend. “I love you.”

Pinkie Pie looked serenely back at Rarity. “I know,” she said quietly.

The platform sank into the cage. A cloud of smoke billowed out from below, and the clucking rose into a frenzy.

Rarity shook with fear. The smoke cleared, and before she could help herself, Rarity looked into the cage.

Pinkie Pie had been petrified.

Twilight took a cautious sip from her bowl. “This is delicious, but how soon can we go see the hermit?”

The tiny alligator said nothing. In fact, it had said nothing since Twilight had found it in the bush.

“I hate to be rude, really,” Twilight said hurriedly, “but he knows about the Elements of Harmony, and I need to learn how to re-master them so I can defeat the New Lunar Republic. The fate of the galaxy rests on me finding that hermit!”

The alligator blinked.

“Ugh!” Twilight huffed. “Fine, I’ll eat!” She finished her soup in resignation and set the bowl aside. “There, all done,” she said, standin upright. “Now, can we— Ow!”

Twilight rubbed the back of her head and sat back down. “Gosh, your ceilings are so low...” she grumbled. “As I was saying, can we please go and find him?”

The alligator slowly raised a leg into the air.

“Oh good, we’re moving.” Twilight breathed a sigh of relief.

But the alligator did not move. He simply stood, stationary, with his front right foot held into the air.

Twilight stared blankly at the lizard. Suddenly, something clicked. “You’re the hermit?” she asked incredulously.

“Eh-choo!” The itty bitty gator sneezed mightily, exposing an utter lack of teeth.

Twilight sat down eagerly. “Oh, this is wonderful! Please, tell me your secrets, hermit! I have come only to learn!”

She scratched her chin. “Well, also to hear all sorts of magical secrets that will help me overthrow a tyrannical, overbearing military regime and change the political future of this galaxy for decades to come. But mainly to learn!” she finished, nodding vigorously. “I like learning!”

The alligator slowly waddled out of its tiny hut. Twilight struggled to follow, eyes bulging as she squeezed through the front door. “Oh, this is so exciting!” she whispered to herself under her breath.

The alligator came to a stop by a ball of yarn lying in the dirt. “What’s this?” she asked.

The alligator slowly raised a claw again, then clambered on top of the ball. Once atop the yarn, it stood up on its hind legs, then on a single leg, then on its tail.

The ball did not quiver.

Twilight watched in awe. “Oooh,” she exclaimed. “That’s impressive! Is that my first exercise?”

The alligator blinked, but otherwise remained stationary.

Twilight turned around. Before her stood a boulder exactly as tall as she was. “Here goes nothing,” she said as she jumped up.

Once she found purchase, Twilight clumsily mounted the rock. Steady... she thought, struggling to concentrate as the rock ground against the dirt.

“Okay... Easy now...” she breathed, slowly raising herself onto her back legs.

Twilight felt the rock lurch. “Oh no,” she exclaimed as it began to roll. “No, no no no no no nonononono— OW!!!

She fell off the boulder and landed face-first on a stump. “Oww... SNERK!” Twilight rubbed her nose. “This is going to be harder than I thought,” she moaned.

The alligator sneezed again, never once falling off the ball of yarn.

Applejack fired her applesauce blaster down the corridor. “We have to find another way around!” she shouted over the noise.

“No!” Rainbow Dash yelled back, hiding behind a waste bin. “I heard Pinkie Pie yelling for us before. We have to save her, AJ!”

“I think we’re the ones who need saving right now,” Applejack said. She fired two more shots – BLAT! BLAT! – both of which connected with moontroopers by the front desk.

Applejack heard a pounding noise from the cell door next to her. “Keep it down in there, I’m busy!” she yelled, bucking the door.

Applejack’s hoof missed, instead mashing the control panel. The door hissed open, revealing a cream-yellow pegasus. “Oh, thank you so much!” she said faintly. “It’s so stuffy in here!”

A shot of raspberry whizzed past the door. “Aaaaahh!!!” she screamed. “What was that?”

“Berryfire!” Applejack shouted, tackling the pegasus to the floor. “Stay down!”

Rainbow Dash blind-fired around the trash can. “Great, another passenger!” she remarked sarcastically. “One rescue mission was crazy enough!”

“Rescue?” asked the new pegasus. “You’re here to rescue me?”

“Not you, Sugarcube, somepony else!” Applejack said, trying to see around the corner. “But as long as you’re here, come with us!” She withdrew as a barrage of berry syrup whizzed past.

The pegasus glared at the pockmarks in the wall left by the shooting. “How dare you,” she muttered, marching out into the hallway.

She held up a hoof. “EVERYPONY STOP SHOOTING RIGHT NOW!!!” she bellowed.

Incredibly, the moontroopers obeyed. The cell block fell deathly silent as she stormed up to the desk where they had taken cover.

“Look here, mister!” she shouted, nose-to-nose with the nearest guard. “Just because you’re wearing that armor, just because you work for the Republic, doesn’t mean you get to run around shooting ponies like that! How dare you? I have half a mind to go and tell your mother what you’ve been up to, young colt! And the other half agrees!”

She fixed her glare on the guard. He lowered his head, not daring to break eye contact. “But it’s my job...” he whimpered.

“Well, that’s a pretty awful job to have!” the pegasus thundered. “And I suggest you find a new one! Now drop the gun!”

With a tiny squeal, the guard dropped his rifle. She backed off a hair. “Now, you go on home and rethink your life,” she said. “And the rest of you, too! Shoo!”

The moontroopers scampered over each other back to the elevator.

Applejack and Rainbow Dash looked at each other, then back at the pegaus as she rejoined them behind their cover in the cell corridor.

“So, uh, you wanna go save Pinkie Pie now?” asked Rainbow Dash.

Without another word, they galloped down the hall. “Pinkie went this way,” Applejack said, leading them into the middle cell corridor.

“I gotta ask,” said Rainbow Dash, looking at the new pegasus. “Who are you? And how did you do that?”

“I’m Fluttershy,” she said, her voice once again barely more than a whisper. “And I really don’t know.”

They came to an open door. “This one’s open and empty,” Applejack said. “And look – the grate’s blasted open! I’ll bet they came this way!”

Rainbow Dash looked out at the corridor. “Well, nowhere else they could have gone,” she said matter-of-factly. “Let’s check it out.”

They dove down the chute. “Gosh, it’s cold in here,” Rainbow shivered once they reached the bottom. “But seriously, Fluttershy,” she continued, “that was really cool. What you did back there, I mean. What was it?”

Fluttershy hunched her shoulders. “My parents call The Stare,” she mumbled. “Everypony else calls it a Jedi Mind Trick. I don’t really know, though. I’ve just always been able to do it.”

Applejack pointed her pistol ahead and scanned the room warily. “Well, whatever it is, we might need it again,” she said, clenching the blaster in her teeth. “Stay close.”

Suddenly, an array of overhead lights turned on. The three of them winced, and Fluttershy tripped on the metal grating.

When their eyes adjusted, they saw a lone guard standing by a door on the far side of the room, fruit rifle leveled at them. “Halt!” he commanded. “You cannot trespass here!”

“Watch me!” shouted Applejack. BLAT! She downed him with a single shot.

“What are you doing?!” Fluttershy cried, horrified.

“He’s just knocked out,” Applejack dismissed her. “‘Sides, we ain’t got time to give every moontrooper in the building a talkin’-to!”

She strode forward – straight into a hole in the middle of the chamber. “Whoa nelly!” she cried, right before landing face-first at the bottom of a cage.

Applejack stood up and dusted herself off, then gasped – she was in a cockatrice cage.

“Not good!” she yelled, pulling a rope out of her saddlebags and keeping her eyes down. She was about to swing it up, when—

“Wait a sec.” Applejack noticed a curious rock in the cage with her. “That statue looks just like... Pinkie Pie!”

She tossed the rope up. “Pull me out!” she yelled, tying the other end of the rope around Pinkie Pie. “Put yer backs into it, girls, I got a passenger!”

Rainbow and Fluttershy bit into the rope, heaving the two ponies up. As soon as the grate was in reach, Applejack bounced up and helped them carry Pinkie the rest of the way out.

“Nuts, Pinkie,” Applejack muttered. “How do we fix you?”

As if in answer, Fluttershy jumped into the cage. Two seconds later, she flew back out, cooing gently as she carried a cockatrice in her hooves. “I need your help, friend,” she said, setting it down next to Pinkie.

The cockatrice ruffled its feathers. “Buccaw!” it exclaimed, opening its eyes wide and staring at Pinkie Pie.

With an ear-splitting CRACK, the statue exploded. The girls jammed their eyes shut as rock splinters flew everywhere.

Pinkie instantly sprang to her feet. “Girls! Thank goodness you came! They took Rarity to the hangar! We have to hurry!”

“Pinkie sense! I got stone-hard all over, it means Rarity’s been kidnapped! Now let’s get out of here!”

Too busy to argue the universal meaning of petrification, they followed Pinkie through the door and made their way to the hangar, a huge room with black tile floors and walls. White lines delineated floating and parking zones throughout the hangar. If the a number of diagonal-parked Tie Fighters and stray shipping containers was anything to go by, though, the moontroopers paid them no heed.

“Short trip,” Rainbow observed as they hid behind a cargo crate.

“Hush!” Applejack cut her off. “There she is!”

She pointed with her hoof. Parked right next to the Century Foxwhelp, a boxy-looking freighter was lowering its entry ramp. A platoon of guards stood in formation before it. Sure enough, Rarity was being held at gunpoint right in the middle of them.

“Double-parkin’ scoundrels!” Applejack growled as she un-holstered her blaster. “Come on!”

She pounced over the crate. “Let ‘er go!” Her shout boomed and echoed off the hangar walls.

The troopers turned around. One of them broke ranks and trotted up to Applejack. “Ha! What’re you gonna—”

BLAT! Applejack fired an applesauce round straight at his head. The guard crumpled to the ground. “That,” she answered.

The two guards holding Rarity ran at the transport. “Don’t just stand there, shoot her!” one of them shouted.

The platoon leveled their weapons at Applejack. Before the first shot rang out, though, they heard a voice from above. “Bombs away!”

They looked up, only to be greeted with face-fulls of apple pie. “Direct hit!” Rainbow Dash shouted, holding Pinkie Pie in her hoofs.

They swooped around for another pass. “Get to Rarity!” Rainbow Dash shouted to Applejack as Pinkie dropped more pies.

Applejack galloped through the disarrayed platoon, giving any that got too close a buck in the face for good measure. BLAT! BLAT! Two well-aimed shots downed the guards that were pulling Rarity up the ramp.

“Down here, with me!” Applejack shouted.

Rarity jumped down from the ramp without question, and together they ran behind a knocked-over shipping container.

Applejack leaned around the corner. “Get down!” she ordered Rarity as she fired her blaster back at the platoon.

“Thank you for rescuing me,” Rarity said, “but I certainly hope you have a plan!”

BLAT! BLAT! BLAT! Applejack let loose another round, then ducked behind cover. “Sure do, Miss Rarity.” She pointed across the hangar. “That’s our ship, right there. Soon as the coast is clear, we make a break for her.”

SSSSS-BOOM!!! A huge ball of purple goo soared past the cargo container, exploding in the space between the ponies and their ship.

Rarity looked at Applejack. The force of the explosion blew her hair in the wind. “Once the coast is clear,” she repeated faintly. “Of course.”

Applejack gripped her hat. “Rainbow, what was that?”

“They’re lifting off the Tie Fighters in the hangar bay!” Rainbow Dash shouted back. “We gotta get out of here!”

Applejack gulped. “Toss Pinkie their way, have her cut ‘em up again!” she ordered. “Buy us time to get inside!”

SSSSS-BOOM!!! Another Tie Fighter round exploded, this one closer to the ship. “Now!” Applejack yelled. She and Rarity sprinted across the open space. Applejack fired her blaster behind her for cover as they darted to the Foxwhelp. BLAT! BLAT Her shots went wide, but scared the pursuing moontroopers into diving for cover.

Rainbow Dash flew up to the hovering Tie Fighter. “Do your stuff, Pinkie!” she said. Grunting, she threw her pink friend into space.

WHEEEEE!!!” Pinkie shouted as she free-fell onto the Tie Fighter. In a blaze of pink, its wing was severed and the craft plummeted to the hangar floor instantly.

Pinkie rolled to the ground. “I love bringing surprises!” she squeaked.

She bounced away from the wreckage, lightsaber clutched illogically in her hoof. “Who else wants one?” she shouted to nopony in particular, and jumped in among the moontroopers.

Hearing her war cry, the guards turned to face their new adversary. But Pinkie was already on top of them – screaming at the top of her lungs, she lashed at guard after guard. Her lightsaber was a technicolor fan, deflecting their shots in all directions.

A raspberry blast hissed by her cheek. “Muffins!”, Pinkie yelled. “Are!”, she hoofed a trooper in the face. “Not!”, she slashed him with her saber. “DESSERTS!”, she bucked him into a crate. “And don’t you forget it!” she screamed with finality, as the crate fell on top of three other guards.

At last, Applejack and Rarity reached the Century Foxwhelp. “Argh, don’t tell me I left the keys inside!” Applejack grumbled as she turned to look in her pack.

Rarity smacked her hoof with her face. Her horn lit up, and a second later a densely-packed keyring floated out of Applejack’s saddlebags.

“Good thinkin’!” Applejack exclaimed, as a bolt of raspberry whizzed past. She pulled out her blaster again. “Qui’ shoohin’ me alreahy!” she shouted through the handle in her mouth, returning fire as she spoke.

The ramp opened. “Get in and start ‘er up! I’ll cover you!” Applejack shouted. BLAT! BLAT! BLAT! Another moontrooper fell over.

As Rarity ran up the ramp, Fluttershy landed in her place. “Where were you?” Applejack shouted, pushing Fluttershy up the ramp.

“I went around the long way!” she cried. “I couldn’t help it, there were so many!”

Applejack rolled her eyes. “Girls, come on! Time to fly!” she called out.

Rainbow Dash dumped one last volley of apple pies. “Aye aye!” she shouted, dive-bombing the troopers. She skimmed along the hangar floor and zipped up the ramp. “Didn’t even touch the ground!” she said, with a satisfied flap of her wings.

“Brag later, Rainbow,” Applejack chastised her as she bucked the door console. She galloped into the cockpit. “Buckle up, y’all!”

Rainbow followed and sat down beside her. “Punch it,” Applejack said she belted herself in.

“Stop! Wait!” Fluttershy galloped in behind them. “We forgot Pinkie Pie!” she exclaimed. “Look!”

She pointed into the hangar. Sure enough, Pinkie’s lightsaber was still out there, whirling like a dervish among the hordes of moontroopers. As the Foxwhelp’s engines roared to life, she stopped to stare.

“I’ll go catch her at the door!” Fluttershy said, running away.

Suddenly, another Tie Fighter lifted off inside the hangar bay. As it turned to face the Foxwhelp, Applejack saw Pinkie Pie throw something up in the air. Applejack blinked, and the next thing she knew Pinkie was atop the Tie Fighter.

“Fluttershy, that won’t be necessary!” Applejack called back.

Rainbow raised an eyebrow. “Why not, AJ?”

“‘Cuz she found another ride,” Applejack said as she hit the thruster.

The Century Foxwhelp soared out of the hangar. Pinkie’s Tie Fighter lurched along behind it, like a rodeo pony bucking its rider.

Applejack spun her chair around and flipped a couple of ceiling switches. “Mission accomplished, girls!” she said proudly.

“Uh, Applejack?” Rainbow tapped her shoulder. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Applejack spun back around and looked out the window. “Why, what’s goin’—”

Her jaw dropped. “Land’s sakes...” she whispered.

Floating just outside of the planet’s atmosphere was a two-thousand-kilometer-long star cruiser. Its body was long and flat, like the blade of a sword, with thousands of tiny nodes and towers dotted along its top. At the rear, a ball-shaped central control tower was pushed along by four red-hot exhaust ports – large enough to play cupholder for a small moon – that left smoky trails that stretched on into infinity.

The Windsor-Class Tie was back.

“Well, that’s just it then,” Applejack said. “No way we’re getting past that.”

A shadow passed across the viewscreen. “Wait! What’s that?” Rainbow Dash squinted out the window.

Something was blotting out the sun, and flying fast towards the Foxwhelp. “That’s a fighter!” Applejack exclaimed, pulling down a periscope as they drew closer. “A Hex-Wing class!” She scratched her head. "What's a zebra fighter doin' out here?"

“Hey girls!” a voice crackled suddenly through the radio. “Glad to see you all are in one piece!”

Applejack beamed. “Twilight! Boy are we glad to see you! We’ve had nothin’ but trouble since ya left!”

Static-laced laughter sounded through the comm. “Well, don’t worry, girls. I’ve got a spell that will fix everything!”

Rainbow Dash and Applejack hoof-bumped in celebration. “I guess you learned a lot from the hermit, huh?” asked Rainbow.

“He was a little strange,” Twilight said, “but very wise. I’ll tell you about it later. For now, let’s get you ponies out of here!”

As the Century Foxwhelp and its escorts steered towards the Windsor, red lights along its body began blinking slowly. A swarm of dots exploded out from the red lights and flew straight at the Foxwhelp.

“More jammers!” Applejack groaned as she looked through the periscope again. “And Tie Fighters!”

“Goodness, the fun never ends with you ponies, does it?” Rarity remarked.

“Save it, Rarity,” Rainbow snapped.

“Uh, girls?” asked Twilight on the comm. “There’s a Tie on your six as well.”

“Yeah, that’s Pinkie,” Rainbow Dash explained. “Hold o—”

She gasped in horror. “Pinkie Pie’s in space!” she cried.

The Tie Fighter came up alongside their ship. Pinkie Pie stood atop it, lightsaber in hoof, and her cheeks puffed out. She raised her saber in salute to the Foxwhelp. Then, flicking her streamer rope like a horse’s reins, she rocketed ahead.

“What is she doing?” asked Rarity.

“Hay if I know,” Rainbow said, taking a swig of her drink.

Pinkie brandished her lightsaber and steered her steed into the cloud of pods. In a flurry of pink, she bounced from machine to machine. “MMMPH-MMMM-MMMMPH!!!” she grumbled furiously. “MMMPH!!! MMMM!!! MMMMPH!!!

The other Tie Fighters quickly caught on to their comrade’s treachery. “Mmm-mmmph,” she said, as a raspberry blast rocked the underside of her Tie Fighter. “Mm-mm-mmm mmph!”

She jumped from her craft right as a fuel line ruptured. Metal debris raining around her, she lassoed another Tie Fighter and continued her assault. “Mmmmph!!” she screamed, cutting into a jamming pod with her lightsaber.

As Pinkie carved a swath through the NLR machinery, Applejack steered the Foxwhelp into the hole. “This is gonna get rough!” Applejack bellowed as they entered the mess.

“Need any help?” asked Twilight through the radio.

Rainbow mashed the intercom with her face as the Foxwhelp pulled up. “Don’t worry about us, Twilight!” she ordered, rubbing her snout. “Get in close to that Windsor, and see what kind of damage you can do!”

“On it!” Twilight rolled into a dive and flew close to the cruiser. “That trench looks promising,” she said, banking to avoid a raspberry round from the turrets below.

SSSSS-BOOM!!! SSSSS-BOOM!!! Two shots hissed across the nose of Twilight’s Hex-Wing. “Get! Into! Trench!” Twilight screamed. “Come on, I gotta get under the turret’s firing arc dive now oh Celestia no!

Twilight shoved the joystick forward an instant before another bolt soared near her craft. “Pull! Up! Grrr!” she groaned, clenching her teeth.

With all the eagerness of a pet rock on a leash, Twilight’s fighter leveled off, and she found herself in the trench. “Phew!” she breathed, wiping her forehead. “That’s the hard par—”

Twilight was interrupted by a blinking light on her console. “‘Enemy lock’?” she read from the label. “What does that mean?”

She looked in her rear-view mirror, and saw two Tie Fighters in hot pursuit. “You have got to be kidding me!” she complained.

On the opposite end of the Windsor, the Foxwhelp ducked and weaved through the field of demolished robotics. Rainbow Dash yanked the craft into a 90-degree right, following Pinkie’s lead as she hacked and slashed a path for the ponies to follow.

“Easy, Rainbow!” Applejack shouted as she banged her head on a cockpit screen. “Watch the G’s!”

Behind them, Rarity was turning green. “I’m going to be sick!” she moaned as the craft pulled a barrel roll around two jamming pods.

“I’ll take her!” Fluttershy offered. “Come on, bathroom for you,” she coaxed Rarity to her hooves, and the two ponies lurched out of the cockpit.

The door shut behind them. “Now we can concentrate,” Applejack said smugly, raising a hoof to adjust her hat.

“Look out!” Rainbow Dash yelped, yanking the control stick to one side.

For once, Rainbow was not fast enough. The Foxwhelp flew straight into a cloud of raspberry jam, coating the windshield in a goopy purple mess.

“Nuts and shoes!” swore Applejack as she tried to see through the gunk. “I knew I should have sprung for the wipers!”

Rainbow Dash rose to the periscope. “It doesn’t matter!” she whooped. “We’re through! Pinkie cleared a path! She did it!”

As if in response to Rainbow’s jubilations, Pinkie Pie suddenly mashed up against the windscreen. “Aaaah!” Rainbow cried out in shock.

Pinkie paid the pilots no mind. Instead, with a flick of the tongue, she licked all the jam off the glass, leaving it sparkling clean. Pinkie made a gagging face, then gave a hoofs-up to the ponies inside and jumped off again.

Applejack and Rainbow Dash looked at each other, then stared after Pinkie Pie. “I ain’t even gonna ask,” Applejack deadpanned.

Meanwhile, Twilight was pitching her Hex-Wing from side to side as much as she dared in the trench’s narrow space, trying to avoid the Tie Fighter’s fire. “I need to find a weak point,” she muttered, regulating her breathing so as to avoid another freakout.

She pressed a convenient-looking “MAGIC SONAR” button. Ping, it echoed, and a moment later a schematic of the Windsor appeared on her display.

“Perfect!” she said happily. She began to study the diagram between intervals of bobbing and weaving.

“Ooh, exaust ports!” she exclaimed after a minute. “That sounds promising! And there’s even one in this trench!”

Twilight reached for a switch on her foreleg rest titled “ARM PHOTON TORPEDOES”. “A little anachronistic, but it’ll have to do,” she sighed, giving it a flip.

Twilight peered at the diagram again. “Vent’s coming up soon,” she said. “Better lose the boys!”

She fired a torpedo down the trench. BA-BOOM! Her torpedo made contact with the trench wall, and the metal plating began to collapse.

Twilight punched the throttle. “Come on, come on,” she pleaded as her Hex-Wing surged ahead.

Just as the plating began to fall, Twilight’s fighter zipped through. “Haha!” Twilight cheered, watching in her rear-view mirror as her trap guillotined one of the Tie Fighters. A dull rumble told her that the second fighter was also too slow to go around.

Twilight looked down the trench. She had mere seconds to the vent. “And here... we... go!” she uttered, timing her second torpedo.

“It’s away!” she yelled to nopony in particular as she pulled up, her payload discharged.

As she flew out of range of the turrets, Twilight caught sight of Pinkie free-falling towards the nose of the Windsor. “What’s she doing?” Twilight asked frantically into the radio.

“Hay if we know,” Applejack replied. “But she sure is doin’ it!”

Twilight slapped her forehead. “No, you don’t understand! The Windsor is going to—”

She faltered as Pinkie raised her lightsaber overhead. “MMMMM-MMM-MMMMMMMPH!!!” Twilight heard her scream in space.

As she landed on the nose of the Windsor, she slammed her lightsaber down. Twilight watched in disbelief as the cruiser tilted forward with the force of her blow.

At that moment, a tremendous explosion rocked the middle of the Windsor. Twilight had to remind herself of her torpedo as the blasts chain-reacted out to the fins of the spacecraft. A concussive wave rocked Twilight’s Hex-Wing as the Windsor detonated, cleft in two by the force of the blowout.

“Sweet Celestia!” Applejack cried into the radio. “Did Pinkie do all that?”

“I may have stuffed a torpedo inside an exhaust vent,” Twilight’s admission crackled back.

“Come on,” Rainbow Dash said, nudging the Century Foxwhelp forward. “Let’s get Pinkie inside.”

They approached the smoking wreckage. At the tip, Pinkie Pie could be seen, laughing hysterically through tight-shut lips. Incredibly, she was still clutching her lightsaber.

“Bring her close,” Rainbow said. “I’ll get the hatch.” She unbelted herself and left the cockpit.

As Applejack pulled her in, she thought she saw a disturbance in the smoke. “Twilight, I think there’s... Oh no.”

A cloud of purple mist rose from the severed Windsor. “Twilight, look out! She’s here!” Applejack yelled.

“Who’s here? Where?” Twilight crackled back.

“Nightmare Moon!” Applejack cried, right as the purple cloud zipped into space.

“What?!” Twilight exclaimed. “But that’s— AAAAAHH!!!

What it was, she never said. The cloud tore through Twilight’s Hex-Wing like a pinata, flinging her to the wreckage below.

“Twilight! Twilight!” Applejack screamed.

“I’m alright!” Twilight replied. “I’m wearing a rebreather suit!” Using magic, she alighted on the nose half of the Windsor.

The cloud condensed before her, then materialized into a midnight-black horse that stood half as tall again as Twilight. She wore indigo armor with a teal crest on the neckpiece, and bore both wings and a horn.

“Nightmare Moon,” Twilight hissed.

“Twilight Sparkle,” the evil alicorn simpered. “I have been expe—”

Mmm-wmmph!” Pinkie squealed suddenly.

Twilight turned around to see her friend floating towards her. “Mmmph!” she shouted, and threw her lightsaber at Twilight.

She grinned. “Thanks, Pinkie!” she yelled back.

“Mm-mm!” Pinkie waved, and drifted back to the Foxwhelp.

Twilight ignited the lightsaber. “You were saying?” asked Twilight smugly.

Nightmare Moon rolled her eyes. “I have been expecting you.”

“Did you expect all of this?” Twilight gestured at the steaming pile on which they stood.

Her adversary shrugged. “A minor setback. I have something far better planned anyway – it’ll be here any minute now.”

Twilight smiled. “We took down your cruiser with only a lightsaber and a missile,” she said. “Whatever it is, we can handle it together.”

“I don’t see your friends now!” Nightmare Moon gestured around them. “Your last one just gave you a glowstick and floated away!”

Twilight took a deep breath and pulled her helmet off. “Impossible!” Nightmare Moon exclaimed, as she beheld the tiara Twilight wore.

Twilight re-sealed her helmet. “And what’s more, I know how to use it now – even without my friends by my side!”

“You lie!” her adversary hissed. “You can’t defeat me!”

Twilight sighed. “Your overconfidence is your weakness,” she said resignation, levitating her lightsaber before her.

Nightmare Moon conjured a lightsaber of her own, this one bladed purple. “Your faith in your friends is yours!” she shouted, and charged.

Their sabers clashed. Twilight staggered under the force of the blow. Nightmare Moon withdrew and vaporized.

“Oh, come on!” Twilight exclaimed. “That’s cheating!”

“Life’s not fair,” Nightmare Moon muttered. Twilight whirled around and parried the alicorn’s backstab, countering with a lunge of her own. A hair away from connecting, Nightmare Moon vanished again.

“Let me be clear,” her voice echoed. “I’m toying with you. And as soon as my new toy arrives, you’re gone.”

“You can’t throw me away that easily,” Twilight shouted.

“We’ll see,” Nightmare Moon replied, and materialized again. They traded blows once more, Twilight barely keeping the alicorn at bay the whole while.

“You’re getting tired, Twilight,” Nightmare Moon taunted the next time she vaporized.

Twilight panted, keeping her eyes up. A she scanned the arena, one glint of metal stood out. Her heart skipped a beat. That’s her lightsaber! Twilight realized.

Her horn glowed, and she snatched it out of the air. “Mine now!” Twilight said gleefully, as she levitated the two blades before her.

Nightmare Moon growled. “Fine! Keep it!” she said, pointing into space. “I’ve got a better one now anyway!”

A distant purple glow had appeared where the alicorn had gestured. With a WHOOSH, it began to twirl and expand, until it dwarfed the ruined Windsor they stood atop in size.

Emitting a horrible shrieking sound, a dark mass appeared at the far end of the wormhole. It grew and grew, until it took distinctive shape as—

“Behold!” Nightmare Moon declared. “The Moon!” She shot lightning into the sky for emphasis and laughed maniacally. “And, as it happens, my own little Death Star,” she added slyly.

Twilight gulped. Not much I can do about that, she thought to herself. Outwardly, though, she kept a brave face. “I’m still stronger than you!” she shouted, her voice quavering slightly.

Nightmare Moon laughed again. “Now who’s overconfident?” She leveled her horn at the Moon. “This bores me. Time to open my present.”

The alicorn’s horn pulsed once. A fragment of light drifted away to the moon. “ Say goodnight, Twilight,” she said, laughing once more. “After all, it’s the last thing you’ll ever see.”

Twilight wracked her brain. I was supposed to use the Elements against Nightmare Moon, not the moon itself! she thought frantically. There’s nothing I can do about this unless I—

“That’s it!” she cried aloud.

Nightmare Moon huffed through her nose. “I’m not even going to ask,” she said dismissively, instead raising a hoof in salute to the moon.

The speck of light reached the moon. One of its craters began to emit an eerie green glow.

Twilight braced herself, her own horn glowing so brightly it shone right through her helmet. As the moon’s light solidified into several green beams, Twilight’s tiara began to shine as well.

Suddenly, Twilight began to hear her friend’s voices in her head. You’ve got this, Twilight! echoed Rainbow Dash.

Go on! Show her who’s boss! Applejack’s voice joined in.

I believe in you, Twilight! Fluttershy said gently.

We all do, dear, added Rarity.

Show her what we do to ponies who use artificial sweeteners! Pinkie shouted zealously.

The moon’s beams coalesced into a single green laser. “Goodbye, Twilight,” Nighmare Moon said. She dropped her hoof.

PH-TEW!!! The moon beam pulsed at Twilight right as her tiara’s light burst. Nightmare Moon shielded her eyes from the explosion, laughing as the pyrotechnics went on.

But they did not subside. Instead, they shrank to a single rainbow-colored point of light above Twilight’s horn, and to the twin glows of Twilight’s eyes.

“What’s this?” exclaimed Nightmare Moon.

Twilight shrugged. “Ask Gummy,” she said, and leveled her horn.

Nightmare Moon screamed. “What the fu—


The rainbow stream erupted from Twilight’s head, blew right through Nightmare Moon, and stretched onward into the infinite blackness of space, leaving a gaping hole stretching the entire length of the wreckage.

It was, as Rainbow Dash would later tell Twilight over and over and over again, awesome.

“So, what made you pick this planet for the party?” asked Twilight. She levitated a drink off the squat waiter’s tray.

“I dunno,” Rainbow Dash admitted. “I heard something about Ewoks knowing how to get down, but...”

She looked down at the lower level. A crowd of pastel-colored teddy bear creatures were belly dancing with each other, giggling in high-pitched voices while a bad house beat oontzed from the speakers in the corner.

“... yeah,” Rainbow Dash said. “I’ve seen better.”

“Why didn’t Pinkie Pie throw a party?” Fluttershy asked.

“Yeah, Applejack said. “I thought that was her thing.”

Rainbow Dash smirked. “She did,” she said, trotting onto the balcony. “But it’s supposed to be private.”

She pointed down into the parking lot. In the backseat of their carriage, the friends could make out Pinkie and Rarity...

“... making out.” Rainbow Dash snorted.

Twilight rolled her eyes. “Alright. Well, let’s see if we can get the DJ to play a better tune.”

The four friends trotted inside, to enjoy a night of well-earned rest.