XAVIER AND PONIES POV
MAVERICK AND RODNEY’S MOD SHOP
The sun was now setting. All of us had worked hard all day across three projects - the Gran Torino, the Mustang, and the Camaro. Rodney had promised me that we’d work on my Integra after hours, but at this rate, it didn’t look like it’d happen.
“Feeling alright, darling?” Rarity inquired as I stepped into the office, my dreads lined with little glints of sweat and my hands blotchy with oil, dirt, and grime.
“I’ve been better,” I sighed. “Achy and in a little pain. But a part of me is happy for what has been accomplished and what the outcome will be - happy, satisfied drivers.”
“Can’t argue with that,” she replied. “Customers are the forefront of every business - be it shiny smooth engines or fabulous dresses.”
I grinned and slipped into the bathroom, before grabbing a quick cup of coffee and a muffin (Rodney loved baked goods, and always kept a couple as a snack).
Back in the shop, Kristen had finished door panels, seats, back seats, and dashboard work for the Mustang. All parts were ready to be installed. Max’s Camaro was still sitting empty, but the engine was complete. The head was safe, albeit with some major tweaking to ensure it wouldn’t blow under the stress of a 7000 RPM spin. The Gran Torino’s subframe components were all dry and ready to be installed, and Rodney had already ordered parts to replace those that were completely busted. The final task for the day was to run the Camaro’s V8 in the engine dyno room to ensure that it wouldn’t blow up, as Brian was still skeptical of the block.
We slid the engine into the dyno room on a dolly and hoisted it up to the dyno, connected all the components and torqued them nice and tight, then put the engine through its paces. First at a 900 rpm idle, then a 2500 rpm “smooth cruise”, and then a high 4500 rpm “crank-up”. All the while Brian was watching the air-fuel ratio, compression, and valve pressures closely.
Finally, we brought it up to a full 7000 RPM. The block shook after a 45 second pull, but held through 4th gear. A little sputtering was heard from the water pump, but all was good.
“I’m going to tune it to run a little leaner and bring it up more,” Brian said. “From the way Max described the incident he grinds this thing hard.”
I simply shrugged and let him work his magic. With a little tweaking on the ECU, Brian brought the little DZ 302 up to 8500 RPM. Rodney gasped in shock as the block shook even more and a coolant line snapped. Lo and behold, the engine held together, even after three more runs at exactly the same configurations.
“See?” Brian said with a grin. “This block’s a fighter. Honestly it’s most likely the previous owner of the engine put weaker pistons in it - maybe to save money and wasn’t going to rip it like a madman.”
Rainbow (who had flown over to see what the noise was about) glared at him.
“No offense to Max,” Brian quickly added. “Well it’s settled then. Tomorrow morning, we’ll reinstall the engine and plug in a new ECU. Also take care of the transmission and put the car on the dyno to get it accurately tuned.”
Rodney yawned and glanced at his watch. “It’s almost seven o’clock. Let’s get Xavier’s Honda in here so you, Brian, can get its engine on a stand right away.”
“Hey you,” Tempest whistled flirtatiously as I walked out the front office door. “Been a long day, hasn’t it?”
“Probably more so for you, Fizzy,” I replied with a wink. “Got all those customers to give a warm welcome to.”
“You know there’s been more than meets the eye this afternoon,” she countered. “I can name twenty-five different cars off the top of my head.”
My eyes widened a little. Huh. So there had been a substantial customer flow today.
I hopped into the Integra and drove it right into the shop.
“Let’s get to work!” Rodney announced loudly.
Garrett was like a cyborg on fast-forward, undoing every screw and bolt he could lay his eyes on. So was I. In a matter or minutes the front bumper, headlights, and hood were off. Gabriel asked to leave early, so Rodney took over and drained all the fluids. Once the radiator was dry, I took it off and then undid all the vacuum lines, followed by the power steering system and the water pump. Rodney and I then tackled the electrical system, undoing wires and unplugging everything. Finally after half an hour the engine was loose, and Brian hooked it up to the lifter. On a lift, I disconnected the transmission and we pulled the engine free from the bay.
“Looks so small and weak,” Rainbow Dash teased.
“But far from fragile,” I added.
With the engine out and on a stand, I pulled the transmission and set it aside, before removing all the boxes from inside the car - with help from Rodney. He was a great supervisor and a knowledgeable, caring guy.
“What’s in the boxes, Breezy?” Twilight inquired.
“Yeah, we gotta know, sugarcube,” Applejack added.
I shook my head, disappointed that I’d kept it a secret for too long. It was time to spill it before it caused any tension or worse, mistrust.
“These are all the upgrade parts for the Integra’s engine,” I explained. “Everything you see here is where my savings since last year has gone - perhaps even before that.”
“You sure this little pocket rocket can really be a rocket?” Applejack mused. “It doesn’t look like a strong reliable car to me, no offense.”
I snorted. “None taken, AJ. I know it doesn’t look like much, but once it’s together, you’ll be questioning the precision of your mind’s ability to interpret reality.”
We all shared a laugh before parting ways. Garrett headed out the back door, while Maverick shut the blinds in the office, locked all the doors, and shut off all the lights. Much to our surprise, Brian hopped into the shiny red Viper and reversed out of the back garage door.
“Wha - that’s YOUR car?!” Twilight gasped.
“You bet!” Brian replied with a proud wink, and zoomed away, the V10 leaving a loud echoey roar in its wake.
“On behalf of my friends and also for myself, thank you both for a great work day, Mr. Maverick and Mr. Rodney,” Twilight said gratefully.
“Loved operating the two-post lifts. Those were awesome!” Spike added excitedly.
I tried not to snicker at Maverick’s slight blush. “You’re most welcome, little ponies.” He spotted Tempest standing some distance away. “And to the patient and welcoming greeter, Tempest Shadow.”
“Who is still in the shadows,” Rainbow whispered, before shutting up upon receiving a glare from Twilight.
XAVIER AND PONIES POV
STREETS OF TORONTO, JUST AFTER 8 PM
With my Integra out of action, we had to walk back home. I had done this a few times before but it wasn’t a regular occurrence at all. Given the housing in this area, the large trees and the minimal, often poorly maintained street lighting, it’d be easy for anyone to pounce on us. But with my lovely Fizzy by my side and my squad of brave strong-hearted ponies, my worries were somewhat lessened.
“Feels so much different without the sun,” Rarity noted in an anxious voice. “It’s almost like someone’s always watching you all the time but you never know where they are.”
“It’s called feeling enclosed, Rarity,” I explained, as we crossed the street and headed down the main road. In spite of the time, Dundas was still bustling with traffic. We waited at another intersection while the opposite traffic drove by. I took a glance around. There were a couple people on the sidewalks - mostly on their phones, but some still up and alert like me. Instantly a few gasped and pointed.
Tempest sighed and rolled her eyes as I too realized it. I was exactly where I didn’t want myself to be - unprotected on the streets at night with a bunch of adorable colorful aliens who were attracting attention. If Tempest could get more people around her than could fit on a corner sidewalk, than Twilight and her friends would cause a commotion that would rival that of fans and paparazzi outside of Ariana Grande’s Paris hotel.
“W-w-why does it feel like everypony is looking at me?” Fluttershy stuttered anxiously.
“That’s because they are,” I replied bluntly. “Remember how this world sees you - cute, small, and… attractive. They want to get to know and understand you.”
“Only I think they’re not exactly the most considerate and wise in doing so,” Twilight remarked. “But at the same time if we revolted they’d perceive us as the opposite - dangerous and savage. You humans are rather sensitive but powerfully interconnected creatures.”
I nodded slowly in agreement. Twilight was one intelligent girl. Now I had to use my intelligence to effectively protect my friends. As the light changed and the green man lit up, I boldly walked across the street, gesturing for my friends to follow. Tempest stood by my side, her big stern eyes scanning the intersections like a security camera on an army base.
“Relax, Fizzy,” I whispered. “You’ll make them fearful with that body language.”
Tempest loosened up her shoulders and we continued walking to the other side. I glanced back at the corner we’d just come from. There was a young woman in her 20s, excitedly pulling out her iPhone X. My heart pounded a little as I realized that my friends were probably blowing up all over social media at this point. Would we even get people from overseas flocking to Toronto just to see them? How would I handle it all - how could I keep them safe? Before I could think about it too much, Twilight spoke up.
“We gotta make a choice here. We can stick to the main road for as long as possible and risk being seen by many people, or we can dodge down the side roads through poorly lit neighborhoods where there’s a greater chance of being attacked by would-be ruffians. What do you say, everypony?”
“I’d stick with the main roads. What’s a bunch of eyes doing to do to us anyway?”
You’d be surprised, I thought as we headed off down the sidewalk - Tempest by my side, Spike, Applejack, Rarity, and Fluttershy behind me, with Twilight bringing up the rear and Rainbow Dash flying above at a reasonable altitude of seven feet.
The journey went well for the first couple of blocks. A couple people noticed and many of them took pictures, but that was it. No one bumped into us or otherwise disturbed us. A stair handrail at the side of a shop down a back lane brought back a couple memories of skating with high school friends… and concerns of hiding attackers.
“You know a lot of people have died on this street,” I said rather coldly as we reached Lansdowne Avenue and began the long journey down south. My nerves twitched a little as we passed under a low train bridge, with only two very dim lights to guide the way.
“I should’ve brought the flashlight from your room, Breezy,” Rainbow muttered.
“It’s all right,” I whispered. “Let’s just keep moving.”
We strolled down a rather well-lit stretch of road lined with rather run-down townhouses lining both sides, complete with well-aged trees that towered up, their height starting to rival that of the houses they stood next to.
“Nice of them to trim the trees so they don’t intertwine with the power lines,” Fluttershy noted.
At an intersection, I caught sight of a smooth scuff mark on a wooden ledge that surrounded a bunch of grass and a bush. I stopped briefly and stared at it, using my phone’s light to get a better look.
“What you noticed?” Twilight asked, noticing me next to her now instead of Tempest.
“Not too sure, but it looks like a tailslide or a truck grind, even. Someone’s skated here before.”
Twilight shot me a quizzical look.
“I’ll explain later tomorrow.”
Soon we reached Queen Street, and boy, was there more people and a lot more lighting from all the stores - even the ones that were closed. The environment felt a little safer, but still edgy.
“Ooh, a hair stylist!” Rarity exclaimed, pointing across the street.
I chuckled. “That’s actually where I had my dreadlocks refined. Not tip-top service but they do it well.”
After a long walk, we finally reached an intersection with a strip of old townhouses on one corner that I recognized well. Turning, we started down a narrow avenue with dim street lights. Like on Lansdowne, the houses were small and tightly packed, with small fenced-in front yards.
“It seems like all of the houses in this city are so small, shabby, yet homey,” Applejack commented. “Aren’t there any better places?”
“Oh there definitely are much better places, but they’re much more costly. I’ll take you around there sometime on the weekend if Maverick doesn’t call me down for overtime again.”
“He is kind of a workaholic,” Rarity remarked. I couldn’t argue with that - the two brothers were very committed to their profiting business that they loved.
Further down the road a bush rustled and out jumped a raccoon. With its little legs it scooted away towards a lineup of trash bins.
“Stay low, and watch closely for movement,” I warned. “Night-goers have been stabbed just northwest of this neighborhood recently.”
No sooner were those words out of my mouth were mumbles of terror were briefly heard and the air fell silent immediately thereafter.
“You mean… there’s been killing?!” Twilight exclaimed, albeit loudly.
“Quiet!” I hissed. “Yes. It happens quite often, sometimes even bi-monthly. I know, it hurts to know there are psychopaths on the loose. But we must keep moving. We only have to do this once. I promise.”
Twilight opened her mouth to continue, but simply sighed and we continued walking. Tempest’s ears were twitching and her eyes were flickering again, like a hunter watching for a target. She looked more alert than ever.
Around half an hour later, we finally reached Glenavon Road. The sounds of the highway roared up ahead as we trudged down towards home - the final house on the dead-end street that overlooked the Gardiner Expressway highway and the lake.
“I’m so tired,” Fluttershy said with a yawn.
“Are we there yet?” Rarity whined.
“We certainly have arrived,” I announced with a yawn of my own, reaching for the keys in my pocket. It had taken us a good hour or so, but we’d finally made it home under the cover of darkness - without any of us getting stabbed, shot, or harassed.
Entering the basement, we noticed Joyce fast asleep on the sofa, (surprisingly) with Pinkie by her feet and Skystar on the rug beside them. Straight away, we all headed for the bathroom and washed our hands (and hooves). I crept into the kitchen and gave everyone a good glass of water, before we all collapsed onto my bed, completely exhausted from our long day.