Rites of Ascension

by CvBrony

Catching Up

Dedicated to my grandmother. I've never known anyone with a bigger heart.

“I need a report, ponies!” Twilight said as she landed on a cloud, from which she had overseen the clearing of changelings from Manehatten. The air had a slight chill, but as the sun was due to rise soon, the summer heat was due back in mere hours.

The crowd looked to each other, eventually settling on the former member of the Day Guard. Shrugging, Cloud Burner waved her over. “Been talking with folks. No pony casualties this time; the Hive was caught completely off-guard. Whatever you did scrambled them so bad they had no chance.

“A few hundred ponies have been recovered and are being brought out of the pods at basically every hospital in the city. Among them are Vinyl Scratch and Duchess Demesne's assistant. None appear seriously hurt. Physically, I mean.”

Twilight nodded and made a prayer that coffee would happen soon. “And the populace at large?”

“Police are dealing with a lot of confused ponies. Confused, but unhurt beyond reports of headaches and nausea. Not a pleasant experience for anypony, I'd imagine.”

A chill went through Twilight’s body. “Good, good. I'll trade a slight bump in aspirin sales for kicking the changelings out of Manehatten. And we now know that the anti-changeling tactics put into place after the attack on Canterlot have proven themselves. If that doesn't make Chrysalis a bit more cautious and restrained, I don't know what will.”

Cloud smiled. “How about a giant bomb in the middle of her hive?”

“Pfft. Much as I'd like to see that, I think it would just make her panic. I know that's what I would do.”

“Because you like to be the one causing the explosion?”

“Well… that too. But no more explosions today if I can help it. And by today, I mean the day it technically is, because the night isn't over but by the clock it's—”

Twilight heard a sound like glass breaking , and lost the sense of balance in her inner ear, sending the world spinning. A dozen straws attached themselves to her muscles, sucking away at her adrenaline and strength like a thick milkshake. Her hind hoof lost traction on the cloud, sending her rump into the curiously solid condensed water vapour.

“Aw, crap.” Twilight grabbed her head to keep it from falling off her body and going for a walk.

Cloud Burner snapped to attention. “Are you okay? Should I send for an ambulance?”

“No, no, I don't need that,” Twilight said through the yawn of the century. “Celestia put a spell on me to keep me awake and alert. It just ran out of steam, and that means I'm about to collapse for half a day or more. I need you to get my shleepy… sleepy flank to a safe place to nap this off.”

She yawned again, stretching open her jaw like a snake. “And maybe take over the investigation cleanup. Just until this… This stuff…” Twilight forced her eyes open, washing at the sleep coalescing around her. “You know, it goes… away…”

Cloud snapped off a salute. “You can count on me, Lady Sparkle. Always. Rest without worry.”

The next yawn punched Twilight in the nose and sent her on her back. “Okie… Nightie night…”

A strangeness stirred within consciousness. Repetition, vibration… a quiet engine. At idle.

One covered in… fur?

Twilight’s eyes pried themselves open with crowbars, finally coming to some form of focus on a bundle of black fur making a purring noise while it slept.

Must… not… snuggle… sleeping… kitty…

Despite her inner monologue, Neutrino was already being cuddled by her forelegs in a warm, fuzzy hug that only made the purring motor in the cat that much louder.

“Hey, you're awake.”

Twilight blinked and pushed more of the sleep out of her eyes, finding Rainbow Dash, still in a hospital bed and gown, eating what appeared to be lunch. “Wait… where am I?”

“Canterlot Castle’s Medical Wing.” Rainbow slurped down some soup. “My room. ‘Parrently Celestia showed up after that spell of hers expired. Took you here and tucked you in. At least, that's what I heard. I was asleep when it happened.”

Twilight indulged in a yawn and systematically stretched every muscle group she could think of. A few of them threatened to break, and one in a hind leg was even more asleep than she was moments ago. “Well, at least I got the important stuff done before I collapsed. How are you holding up?”

“Pretty good.” Rainbow munched on her sandwich. “Got the time jumps under control a little. Or at least I can spot them easier.

“Pinkie was here earlier. Had a little party, then the nurses made her clean up and kicked her out for a while.”

Snerk. Sounds like Pinkie, all right,” Twilight said. “She's probably in a room in the castle staring at a clock until she can come back and throw another party.

“I'll swing around and say hi when I have a chance. Right now I need to get my flank to the War Room to get an update. Hopefully Manehatten didn't catch on fire without me.”

Rainbow belched from probably somewhere deep like the duodenum. “You know, I'd like to come with you. The docs say it's time for me to start walking around. Cause, you know, blood clots are a thing.”

“I don't think they'll be happy with me if I let you go that far. But I'd be glad to send up some of my paperwork for you,” she said with a wink.

Rainbow sighed, “I knew you'd say that. Literally, I knew it. Saw it happen. Still had to try.”

“Get well soon, Rainbow.” Twilight stepped out of the room and started her journey through the labyrinthine maze of hallways to the War Room. Leaving the medical wing took several minutes, and she spent a lot of that time debating taking a shower before diving back into the thick of things.

Then dancing coffee pots tangoed through her head and led her nostrils straight to the War Room’s dispensary of the finest organic suspension ever devised. At the third gulp, though, reality ensued and she finally noticed the chaos around her.

Ponies were buzzing around like they were being chased by Ursa Minors. One was carrying a stack of papers a half meter tall, another was zooming from alcove to alcove, and yet another was trying to figure out which pony needed what telegram. The place reeked of sweat and worry, and Twilight was reasonably certain it wasn't all coming from her.

Welp, time to find the center of the action—which usually means Celestia.  With a mug in front of her lips, she wandered the halls of the War Room, turning each time towards the higher density of ponies. The cascading cacophony eventually concentrated around a cornucopia of cartography and communications. And as predicted, there was Celestia in the middle of it all.

It was the Map Room, the same place where Her Highness had planned and executed the aid to Saddle Arabia, and where Twilight had met General Nocturne. Then, the room was tense, but controlled. Now, she could feel the confusion dance a jig on her horn.

“Ah, Twilight, you're here.” Celestia sipped not from her normal tiny teacups, but from a stein of steaming tea, most likely Earl Grey. “Mind the madness, my student. Things are… not as controlled as I'd like them to be.”

A few ponies made room for her next to the Princess, and Twilight took her spot at the side of the nation's leader. She put down her ears while her stomach whimpered. “Princess, about earlier, I'm sorry—”

“No need to apologize, Twilight. I think your judgement was the correct one.” The Princess took a gulp of tea that would choke any other pony. “Even if I didn't, we have other, much more pressing issues to worry about.

“While you were asleep, Gryphonia spiralled into civil war.”

Twilight held back a gasp, looking over the map on the big table. This time, it wasn't of Equestria or Zebrica, but of Gryphonia. Also unlike before, very few pins and markers had been placed.

Twilight’s vision slowly blurred from tears, and her heart put itself into a vice. “This is my fault, isn't it?”


A wave of heat painted onto Twilight’s skin like a thermal brush, and her leg pushed her back on its own.

Celestia stopped breathing for a moment, and the heat subsided. The floor under her, though, was charred. “My apologies, I didn’t mean to… Twilight, this is not your fault. Things were stable until Morvana brought a new challenge to Ragnar. RGIS thinks it wasn’t even the challenge itself, but the terms of victory that set things off, but we’ve no specifics on either.

“What matters is that Ragnar and his aerie saw this as a grave insult, and everything spiraled from there. We don’t know much else yet beyond ‘civil war.’”

Twilight wiped her eyes dry, for the most part. “I learned in school that gryphons don’t fight wars like we do. No large fronts or huge armies. They assemble into small groups, no more than twenty, and set out to attack critical infrastructure or infiltrate cities. When clashes happen, they’re over in minutes, and the victors will take the losers’ breastplates before setting the corpses on fire.”

Celestia grabbed a report from a message runner. “Indeed. That’s how they’ve done things since before even I can remember. Which means, we’re in a pickle. Unlike the war across the ocean, we have no allies. We have no agents who can quickly and accurately gather intelligence on troop movement, battles, or infrastructure status. We can’t even watch from above, as we’d quickly be discovered if we tried.”

Twilight laid her head down on the table. “So since we’re not in the fight directly, we don’t really have any idea what’s going on. We’re reliant on diplomatic communiqués from either side. Is this going to be my next mission? Find a way to gather intelligence?”

Celestia choked on her tea, sending her into a coughing fit. “No! Heavens, no. You are to stay out of Gryphon lands. The presence of a Grand Mage in this conflict could be misconstrued as a sign that Equestria intends to take a side. Barring some drastic, unforeseen development, we cannot allow that to happen.

“Our diplomats will continue to plead for peace every hour of every day, but our forces will stay out of this war unless, and until, Equestria itself is threatened.”

A random officer came up to them and poured fresh coffee into Twilight’s mug. Twilight didn't know whether to give her a hug or a medal, but settled on a bow of thanks.

“That leaves one question, then.” Twilight sipped her ambrosia and took a moment to let the scent saturate her nostrils. “What about our ponies who live in Gryphonia?”

Celestia started putting pins in the map after getting some telegrams delivered to her attention. “We've put out an advisory that all ponies are not to travel there, and that those already present must return to Equestria. Those who don't heed the warning do so at their own risk. Our military cannot help them there.

“That's about all we can do, sadly. My decrees have zero legal effect there, so it's not like I can punish them for staying. Nor do I intend to. But they are on their own if they get in trouble, unless they can get to our embassy or one of our consulates.”

Twilight grumbled into her folded forelegs. “Better than nothing, I suppose. Just wish there was something I could do.”

“I fully understand your feelings, Twilight.” Celestia finished her stein as a soldier stepped into the room with another. “For now, focus on Equestria. We've no shortage of places you can help, and I'm sure you’ll want to get to writing your reports for San Palomino and Manehatten. I've no doubt the Council will want to debrief you.”

Just like that, Twilight’s coffee had the life sucked out of it. “Oh, joy. Imagine my excitement.”

Celestia tore off a corner of a piece of paper and scribbled something on it. “Here. Go talk to this stallion; he's an attorney.”

Twilight took the paper and eyed it. “Justice Will Do you really think I need an attorney for this?”

“I'm not saying you're liable or exposed. But he's an experienced attorney that knows the ins and outs of addressing the Council. He can help you write you reports and word your testimony to stymie any of their attempts to make you look bad.”

Twilight stuffed the little note in her mane, since she didn't have her saddlebags on her. “Fair enough. Any word on Manehatten?”

Celestia motioned to one of the ponies next to the map, who cleared her throat and read off a clipboard. “Cleanup is expected to take approximately six months, though no critical infrastructure was damaged. All rescued ponies have been successfully resuscitated and are being treated for side effects. The Duchess is spinning this as a win for the Duchy and the city, though I think we both know that she and I are going to have quite the heart to heart later. For now, word is that ponies are freaked out at how many changelings there were.”

Twilight chewed on her lip. “Yeah. It's weird, isn't it? We expect changelings to be in every city in the country, and we do find some and clear them out from time to time. But when we actually get rid of them somewhere, and the numbers are shown, that's when ponies freak out.”

“Out of sight…” Celestia started.

“Out of mind.” Twilight finished. “There's also something to be said about normalization being a factor. We try to portray whatever our day-to-day existence may be as ‘normal’ as long as we aren't in imminent danger.”

“Pardon if I speak out of turn, Lady Sparkle, but there's also the blood magic circles you recovered.” The officer flipped a page on her clipboard. “We showed it to some researchers at Crystal Phasic — ones with reliable security clearance — and they just about went nuts trying to explain it off the cuff. One says he might be able to detect changelings in a wide area if he gets funding for research.

“Another said, and it's quoted here, ‘You're a daft bloody loon with delusions of grandeur if you think it'll be that easy.’ Apparently there's now an office pool to see who will be right, and it's exceeded five figures.”

Twilight giggled to herself. “Well, I say we let them try. A little competition is good motivation. And a way to detect changelings? It could force the Hive to commit to peace.”

“That would be nice, Twilight, though I remain… unconvinced.” Celestia looked up at a few more ponies filling in with more documents.

Twilight bowed and backed away. “I'll leave you to it, then. Please keep me up to date.”

By the time she left the secure confines of the War Room, the sheer amount of activity that was around her in there had drained whatever energy she had gained from the coffee. Thus she decided to head to her room, which of course now had a coffeemaker.

She pushed aside the clouds hiding her closet and mini-library and eyed the shelf reserved for bags of ground beans. Picking one out, she turned one-eighty and sat in front of the tiny table she'd scrounged up from excess storage and the little coffee maker on top of it.

When she first requested a coffeemaker, they'd tried to get her some barista-level monster her room didn't even have the pipes to actually use. So she went out to a department store and bought a basic six-cup model for forty bits, and the castle butler practically fainted when he saw it.

As she flipped the little device on, she couldn't help but muse that someday, when she least expected it, the staff would replace it with some top-of-the-line model covered in gold. Yet that didn't matter. What mattered was waking back up and making a plan.

“How long have they been waiting?” Earthen Pride asked, eyes still glued to the financial reports Badlands apparently never read.

“Thirty minutes, Your Grace.”

He gave his temp a grunt and nod in acknowledgement. “I suppose that's good enough. Time for the show.”

The duke picked up his little notepad and walked out of his “office,” if one could call it that. It was one thing to be humble, but the entire tower had a slight odor of sewage mixed with depraved indifference. The carpets had likely never been cleaned — and might have been purchased secondhoof. The wallpaper wasn't just peeling; if one tried to smooth it back down, the adhesive would echo a banshee’s scream as the paper curled back up.

That this particular building had plumbing was a small miracle made possible by a water tower and pump next door. Most others in the city weren't so lucky.

Pride's pace crashed into the metal gates across the hall from his office and ground to an instant halt. His mind flipped through the pages of his personal history, rereading the lessons of his position. Weakness could not be tolerated. Cowardice was fatally worse. When one moved, one must have the sheer presence to have the world move out of the way instinctively.

Bravery and confidence, though, meant nothing in the face of physics. Stepping through the metal gates meant taking an elevator not even Badlands had trusted, and that moron was a pegasus. He let his stride turn him to his right and took the stairs down one level, even if some tiny piece of pride was being left behind.

The tiny conference room he quickly entered was much like the rest of the tower. Pollution had painted its own sheen on most every surface, save for the brand new table he had shipped in. At the current rate of things, though, even that was fated to join the garbage it was placed in.

Noises were being made at his entrance, but none of consequence. He knew what they were: complaints about making them wait, indignation at how he was an upstart. In his mind, he rejected the very existence of the other ponies in the room until he had sat down and slapped his notebook on the table.

Silence, his silence, ruled the table once more. He pulled out a folded up map from the book, and spread it out so they could all see its big red X.

“Representatives,” he began, keeping his tone low enough to shake the table as it danced over it. “There is an unregistered mine located at that mark. I have every reason to believe it's owned by one of you. Which of you had responsibility for it?”

Earthen Pride finally eyed the five ponies across from him, examining their reactions as a doctor might a cancer. To each, there was no need for a name for the pony. They were just there as representatives of the five largest mining companies in San Palomino.

None seemed to do so much as breathe a hint of familiarity with what he was talking about. That was just fine. “None of you? I find that hard to believe.”

The mare representing Mineral Extractions, Inc. took out a paper fan and tried to cool herself. “There are any number of independent mines out there. What makes you—”

“Expensive gryphon mercenary guards keeping everypony in along with an unmapped direct rail connection. Not to mention the expensive mining equipment.

“I'm not here for petty accusations, madam. I don't have the time for them. Now, one of you needs to own up to having this mine off-books, and I'm going to give extra attention to Mineral Extractions and Gem Harvest, because you're the only fully private entities. The others are corporations whose books I have better access to.”

The ponies looked at each other. Three mares, two stallions.

Earthen Pride scraped the taste of their fear off his tongue. These weren't the top executives he requested, but a rank below. He'd expected that insult, but not the ignorance bouncing from one glance to another.

The Duke adjusted his tie and sat up to be ears above them all. “None of you? Figures. Then we go to the next step.”

The door behind them opened, and his new assistant laid a five page contract next to him before darting out again.

Pride cleared his throat. “This mine wasn't being run within regulations, and that's an understatement. Due to egregious violations of Crown and Duchy rules, it's been seized by the Duchy. Internal documents seized on site suggest it has a fair amount of wealth ready to be tapped.

“The papers just brought to me are a purchase contract. We'll start the bidding at one billion bits plus ten percent extraction royalty.”

“Now?!” one mare exclaimed, her wine glass slipping out of her magic and spilling on the floor.

“Now.” Earthen Pride pulled out a pen to lay next to the contract. “I did command your companies to send their top executives. The fact that they didn't means you all will have to grow a spine and take action on your own — or your competitors will stand to gain a lot of wealth.

“Take note, this bidding process is binding. Go back on your word and I'll sue, and I'm sure your competitors will be eager witnesses.”

“One point one billion, ten royalty.” The stallion from Core Mining had one of his own books open, and had shifted position to the end of the table so others couldn't see into it.

“Well,” Earthen Pride said through a smile. “I see at least one pony here isn't a cowardly waste of space. I hear one point one plus ten. Anypony else?”

“Are you mad?!” The mare representing Arcane Minerals threw her purse at the stallion who bid, which landed with a satisfying enough whump that Pride had to stifle a chuckle. “This is San Palomino! We don't pay royalties here, that was the whole point of the Duchy!”

Duke Pride pushed his lips together and let out a cutting whistle, getting them all back to focusing on him. “The point of the Duchy was an infrastructure explosion to supply a desperately resource-hungry nation. We've done that, and you made out like bandits. Time for this place to put on the big pony's clothes and grow the buck up.

“Now, I hear one point one. Do I hear one point two?”

“Mineral Extractions bids one point seven plus twelve.”

The Arcane Minerals pony sat back in the seat like she'd been punched. “Et tu, Doily?”

“Get with the program, Candy. It’s Business 101: adapt or die.”

That earned a little smile from the Duke. “Well said. I hear one point seven plus twelve. Do I hear one point eight?”

“Candy” huffed. “One point nine, plus thirteen.” Under her breath, she muttered, “The President is going to kill me for this.”

“Two, plus fifteen,” the stallion from Core Mining said, his voice flat as he scribbled what were likely back-of-the-napkin–style calculations in his notebook.

“Gem Harvest bids two point four!” The stallion representing them could have been a hundred twenty years old, and previously looked like he was already dead in the seat. Perhaps there was life left in him after all.

“Doily” scoffed. “I'll not be outbid by a walking corpse! Two point five!”

“Two point eight plus twenty.” The Core Mining stallion scribbled more, emotionally flat as a pancake.

“Hmmm…” Earthen Pride scratched his chin. This unicorn… I believe his name was Lofty Goals? Definitely the sharpest of the bunch. “I hear two point eight plus twenty. Do I—”

“Three!” If Doily had fangs, they'd be bared at Lofty.

“Three point two.” Lofty struck out a line. “Plus twenty two percent extraction royalty.”

Doily slammed a hoof on the table. “Three point three plus twenty-five percent!”

Lofty Goals was silent, still as ice and looking like his book was a magazine in a doctor's waiting room.

“Huh.” Earthen Pride mused to himself. “I hear three point three plus twenty-five percent. Do I hear three point four?”

The room was still as death, save for the subtle miasma in the air the filters couldn't entirely get out. A portrait of two swords clashing, frozen in the moment of impact.

“Three point three plus twenty-five percent going once… Going twice…” Pride paused a moment, watching the breath stop in everypony. “Sold! Mineral Extractions gets the mine for three billion, three hundred million bits plus an ongoing extraction royalty of twenty-five percent.”

Doily sat back in her seat, staring at her competitor from Core Mining and looking like she just went ten rounds with Cerberus. “... crap. You son of a…”

Earthen Pride slid the papers over. “Here's your contract. Sign, then wire the money to the account listed on the last page. You’ll have one hour after the end of the meeting to complete the process before I get angry.”

Doily pulled out a pen. “Lofty, you bastard. You knew, didn't you. You knew how much that area was worth and you led me on to bid too much. Buck me to Tartarus, my hide is toasted.”

Earthen Pride raised an eyebrow. “Did you know? I'm very curious as to how.”

Lofty Goals smiled. “We have the absolute best intelligence when to comes to what area is worth what  terms of mining. As for how we know, well, that's company confidential information.”

Earthen Pride shrugged. “I can accept that, for now. I'm sure RGIS will be more interested, though.”

Lofty leaned back and put his hind hooves on the table. “I'm sure they will.”

Pride opened his mouth to skin him alive with his words for doing that to his table, but when the foul maw of the pollution in the air hit his tongue, he surrendered. I'll be replacing it within a month anyway.

“So then.” Pride thumped the ground with a hind hoof, summoning his secretary again with a new batch of documents. “Next order of business. When the hell are you ponies going to stop polluting my city?”

The group looked at each other, except for Lofty.

“Pardon?” Candy furrowed her brow.”You're not really going to ask us to rebuild our refineries just after our business models stabilized, are you?”

“Of course not!” Duke Pride smiled.”I'm going to force you to. One way or another, you're going to stop poisoning this place, and no amount of quid pro quo you set up in the Council is going to change that.”

“Pfft!” The ancient stallion wheezed out a laugh. “Stupid whippersnapper. You can't just change what's been in place for ages.”

The Duke lowered his voice to a growl. “Your businesses have been highly profitable for years. You have no excuse for this travesty.

“As for changing the status quo, I swore an oath before Her Highness to turn this place into Equestria’s Crown Jewel. I won't be made a liar by the likes of you. I will stop at nothing to see that realized. So you lot have two options: follow my lead or get trampled.”

“Ahem!” Lofty Goals fake-coughed. “Core Mining does not operate refineries within San Palomino, Your Grace, so we do not contribute to the pollution here. We would appreciate leniency in this matter.”

Earthen Pride's ear twitched. “Understood, Mr. Goals.”

Goals smiled wide. “However, should you bankrupt our rivals with fines, we would be happy to take over the facilities and run them as clean as technologically possible.”

“Oy!” Doily stole a wrapper from Candy and tossed it at him. “What are you trying to do?”

Goals hummed. “What was it you said earlier? Oh yes: adapt or die.”

Earthen Pride's hoof itched like there was something under it. A little hard bit of truth he couldn't get to. “I didn't know you were an environmentalist, Mr. Goals.”

Goals huffed. “We got screwed in the initial negotiations for San Palomino. Our contracts wouldn't let us build refineries in the Duchy. So we built them in Stalliongrad instead, and the bureaucracy there wasn't just annoying, it was treacherous. Not to mention the obscene supply-chain costs.

“So you'll forgive me if I have little patience for my… colleagues in the industry.”

“I see.” Earthen Pride’s spine flashed cold, like a demon was licking it, tasting him for a future meal. Something's not right. Don't fall for crocodile tears, Pride. “I shall keep that in mind for the future. As for the rest of you, I need timelines. In two weeks, I want estimates on when you can eliminate or contain the emissions from your facilities in the basin.

“Tell your superiors I'm not joking when I say that if I'm not happy with your answers, I'll start levying fines right away and will ramp them up to the moon within months.”

There were grumbles from the lot, save for the old man who apparently fell asleep, but no futile flailing.

“Good!” Pride let himself sound chipper, or what passes for it in lions. “You understand who's in charge now.

“Speaking of charges, I'm putting in place a five-percent value-added tax  starting next month—which is still the lowest in the nation, so I don't want to hear so much as a groan. There's also going to be new user fees for freight rail, and a flat profit tax on businesses starting next year.”

Candy folded her forelegs and huffed. “Why not just charge us more taxes for last year, too?”

Pride ran his tongue over his teeth. “Considering how much poison you've dumped in my city, I ought to, but that would be a clear violation of the Compact.

“Now, we move on to the last issue. Specifically, the city itself. It's a mess, and I don't just mean the pollution. I can't have buildings collapsing at random, and there's almost no infrastructure to speak of.

“At the same time, I can't mass condemn the place. It would render everypony homeless. Which means, things have to be done in phases, and rebuilt accordingly.

“With that in mind, tell me, which of your refineries could be repurposed to recycle and purify metal?”

The group blinked and looked at each other, each of them spinning different gears in their heads.

Goals shook his head. “None of Core Mining facilities are capable of that, I'm afraid.”

Doily stared off into the distance. “I think we could convert the secondaries in the basin to that function. The primary refinery wouldn't be able to pull it off. It's too much power; regular metal would get, uh, vaporized.”

Candy popped some kind of bon bon into her mouth. “The question is, why?”

“Don't be stupid, Candy.” Goals waggled his book in her direction. “The city buildings are mostly scrap metal welded together haphazardly. He's thinking of taking one down at a time, recycling the metal, and using it to make real structures. Having a recycling facility literally right next door would save hundreds of millions of bits. He could put pieces in place minutes after they're made.”

“Precisely!” The duke pushed back on his chair and stood, pacing around the group while looming over them like a cloud. “I'm not here to drive you out of business. Quite the opposite: my plans would see you all making quite a lot of money. You're going to be a critical part of the future of San Palomino — you just aren't going to get to have free rein to do whatever despicable thing you want to line your pockets.

“It's a new era, ponies. You can either dive in headfirst, or be dragged in kicking and screaming. Your choice. Which do you think will be more profitable?”