Twilight’s eyes slowly opened as the morning sunlight glinted through the shutters and onto her face. With a yawn, she sat up and rubbed her face, waiting for the tiredness to wear off. “Daily... daily routine,” she mumbled, beginning a chain reaction in the room.
As her hooves swung off the bed and landed on the floor, the shutters flipped open, allowing the light to flood in. On the far side side of her bedroom, the television switched on, displaying the daily news channel. The smell of coffee made its way to her nostrils. She took a breath, and sighed happily. “Today’s the day,” she said, trotting over to her dresser and looking into the mirror.
She brushed her hair as she usually did, humming as she gently stroked through it with the comb. Twilight wanted to look her best for her first day back since she’d been captured, and right now she was looking better than ever. After she was satisfied with her mane, she walked to her closet. As she approached the dark door, almost reflective from the amount polish on it, it slid open to reveal it was big enough to walk in, and full of various attire.
To her left was an ensemble of business suits, all very similar: Black, single-breasted jackets, white undershirts with black and dark grey crosshatched ties that had just a touch of shine to their patterns. They hadn’t become standard for her until Rarity insisted that she get professional attire and look the part of a pony in an executive position. While once stuffy and uncomfortable, she had grown to tolerate the feeling, but never quite got used to it. Twilight always preferred to disregard clothing entirely.
She took the nearest suit and looked it over, checking for any imperfections or dirtiness. Once she verified it was in its prime, she pulled it over her back and slipped her hooves through the arms, buttoned it up, then wrapped the tie around her neck. After it was tightened, she slipped on the jacket and buttoned it up as well. Once she was done, Twilight stepped out of the closet and back in front of the mirror, observing herself.
“Looking good, Twi,” she said, with a smile. Just for fun, she brought out a pair of sunglasses from the dresser and slipped them on. “How do I look, Dusk?”
“Good! I think I’ll go without the shades, though. Those have never looked good on me.” With that, Twilight took the glasses off and put them back where she found them.
“A wise choice.”
“Coffee done?” Twilight asked, leaving the room and making her way downstairs.
“Just how you prefer it.”
She reached the bottom of the steps and turned left, heading through the entryway and into the kitchen. A coffee pot was bubbling as it dripped its dark liquid into a white mug which had the Sparkle Industries logo wrapped around it. Twilight levitated the mug over to her as she sat down at the table, where the days paper already lay. Taking a sip of her coffee, she flipped open to an article. “Not bad, Dusk. There might be a teensy bit too much milk, though.”
“Hmm... let’s see...” Twilight began, going through the paper. “Blah blah... market down... Griffon captors still at large... Celestia honors new city... pretty standard stuff today.” Twilight’s ears perked up as she heard a commotion from upstairs, which she assumed to be Spike. Sure enough, the young dragon scurried down the stairs and into the kitchen, still buttoning his shirt up as he entered.
“Morning, dragon boy,” Twilight said, looking at him over the rim of her mug.
“Twilight!” the dragon replied, his eyes wide. “What uh... What are you doing up so early?” He asked, opening the refrigerator and rummaging through it.
“Didn’t I tell you? I’m coming back into the office today.”
Spike’s movements halted for a moment, before he leaned away from the refrigerator and looked to Twilight. Several seconds passed in silence, and then he walked to Twilight and, without a word, gave her a hug.
With a laugh, Twilight asked “What’s this for?”
Spike looked up to her with pleading eyes. “It’s unbearable, Twilight. The meetings, the requests, the media harassment... I can’t take it! Please let me go back to being a secretary!” By this point his claws were digging into her suit, sending soft wrinkles through the fabric. Once he realized this, he gave an embarrassed grin and brushed her suit off, getting it back to its prim and proper look.
Twilight patted him on the shoulder and smiled. “I wouldn’t want anypony else taking your job.” She began to say something else before the telltale sound of a rumbling stomach interrupted her. Her cheeks went crimson as she glanced up at Spike. “Wanna start by putting together breakfast quick? Celestia knows you’re better at cooking than I am.”
“Would I ever!” Spike chirped, spinning around and going right back to the refrigerator. “Oh, it’ll be great to not have to sign anything anymore or look over any charts...”
Twilight chuckled as she looked back to her paper, pleased with her morning thus far.
- - -
As Spike and Twilight stepped through the sliding doors into Sparkle Industries’ head office, they were greeted with a mix of gasps and excited greetings. “She’s back!” some exclaimed, as the two walked to the front desk. The pony who sat behind it was a young stallion Twilight had never seen before. He stared at her in awe.
“M-Miss Sparkle!” he exclaimed, the typing he was doing coming to a halt.
Twilight merely smiled and nodded, “Yes, it’s me.” She then looked around at all of the happy and surprised faces. “I’m back, everypony. Sorry for being away so long.” She was met with a round of applause as the ponies around her stomped their hooves and whistled, some even coming over to her and thanking her.
After she exchanged a few words with a few employees, she and Spike approached the elevator that went up to her office. The two stepped in and Twilight pressed the top button.
The main Sparkle Industries building was situated in the business district of Canterlot, which had changed heavily over the years. As the city grew, they began building along the side of the mountain, until the structures had gone all the way down and reached the base. There, the residential areas began to flourish as the upper reaches of the city were reserved for the wealthiest of industries. Thus, the view from the elevator looked out along the expanses of Equestria and down into the city below, where rich and famous ponies were going about their days.
The elevator let out a soft ding as the door opened to Twilight’s office, which was untouched since she had last seen it. As she stepped in, she took a breath of the familiar air and let out a sigh. “I didn’t realize how much I missed the office,” Twilight said, walking inside.
She reached her desk and traced a hoof over the smooth, polished wood, walking around the side of it as she did so. Twilight then sat in her chair and gave it a spin, ending facing towards the desk. After a brief moment of taking in the familiar scenery, she tapped a button on her computer and booted it up, listening to the fans spin up. Everything was just the way she liked it.
Out of the corner of her eye she noticed Spike standing in front of her, clipboard already in hand. “Alright, Spike. First things first. I need reports, statistics, and everything else I may have missed while I was gone.”
Spike gave a mock salute and grinned. “On it!” he exclaimed, turning around and heading towards the elevator. He hummed an unfamiliar tune as he stepped inside and pressed one of the buttons, then disappeared behind the silver doors.
Twilight logged into her computer and went through her basic motions. She checked her email, looked at current company standings, then went to her favorite news site. It was the digital version of The Daily paper, but she still preferred a physical copy, even after all of these years and advancements she had helped develop. There was just something about having printed paper in her hooves that felt right.
By the time she was finished checking everything over, she heard the elevator coming back up. It was Spike, as she had expected, with a small stack of papers in his hands. Twilight preemptively took out her reading glasses and slipped them on.
“Here you go, Twi,” Spike said, pushing the papers in front of her. “Every invoice, progress report, and corporate filing since you’ve been gone. I’ve obviously already gone through them, but I’m sure you’re going to double check them anyway.”
“You bet I am,” Twilight said, pulling the first paper toward her. Without looking at the screen, she opened a spreadsheet and began to input. She then glanced up at Spike, still working despite not looking at what she was doing. “While I’m doing this, wanna go check on how other sectors are doing with their projects? I could use a frame of reference.”
Spike nodded. “Sure. I’ll get you those reports within the hour.”
“Good!” Twilight looked back to what she was doing, glancing between the paper and her spreadsheet several times. “See you in a bit, Spike. I have plenty of work to do.”
The dragon gave another nodded and turned around, heading off to take care of his own business.
- - -
The rest of the day progressed smoothly, with Twilight meeting with the board for the first time in weeks and figuring out where the company was. As she expected, it wasn’t doing great. Investors had backed out, money had been lost, and projects had been cancelled. To her, it was unfortunate but unavoidable.
She also took time to meet with team leaders in other sectors and worked out what they were up to. After receiving the reports from Spike, there were several things she needed to personally look into, including a batch of ‘defective’ MECC units. Upon closer inspection, she could only sigh as she realized they simply hadn’t been infused with the right amount of magic energy.
By the time her rounds and meetings had concluded, it was early afternoon. She was left sitting at her desk, eating a late lunch of hay fries and iced tea, which Spike had insisted she get. Twilight had a tendency to forget to eat when she was deeply invested with something, and her first day back to work in weeks had been no exception.
As she sat there, munching on a hoofful of fries and idly playing a game of compute solitaire, Spike entered the office with a curious look on his face. Twilight looked over to him as she finished another suit in her game, which played a little fanfare. “What’s up, Spike?”
“Uh... it’s about this invoice I just got. The mailpony gave it to me just before I was about to come up here, and, well...” he looked over it again, narrowing his eyes as he leaned in and tried to make sense of it, “I just don’t recognize it at all.”
“What do you mean?” Twilight asked, cocking her head to the side. There weren’t any significant orders that she knew of, and the major ones only happened at the beginning of each month.
Spike looked it over again before shrugging and handing it to her. “Here, you look over it. Maybe it’ll make sense to you.”
Twilight took the sheet of paper and began to skim it, looking for any important details. “Lets see... shipment set for later today... bulk batch of parts... Hmm...” As she looked over the parts, a realization began to dawn over here. “Hold on... these are...” Her eyes widened the more she read. “No. It can’t...”
“What? What is it?” Spike asked, beginning to grow concerned.
The unicorn gulped, slowly looking up to him. “These are all the parts it took to build the mage reactor.”
It took a few moments for it to finally click, but once it did, the dragon stepped back in horror. “What?”
“Oh no, oh no, no, no, this isn’t good,” Twilight sputtered, flipping the sheet over hastily to see if there was any more. “Just where are these getting sent?!” She went back to the front and her eyes darted across the sheet, until they found what she needed. “Oh no,” she whispered, staring at the paper.
“Who’s getting these, Twilight?”
Twilight stood up, feeling her heart pounding within her chest. Frowning, she looked back to Spike. “They’re going to the Griffon Kingdom.” She took a deep breath before looking at the clock, then back to the paper. “I can still make it in time!”
“Make it where?” Spike asked, not sure of what to do, if he could do anything at all.
“The air dock,” Twilight answered, hurrying around her desk. She then pointed a hoof at the dragon. “Spike, I hate to ask this, but I need you to stay here and look over things. I need to stop this shipment.”
“How are you going to do that?” he sputtered, watching Twilight get ready to leave.
“Don’t worry about that!” She yelled, galloping to the elevator. Ugh, no, this’ll take too long. Looking back at Spike, her horn began to glow. “Just keep things running here, got it?”
Spike opened his mouth to protest, or try to get Twilight to elaborate more, but ultimately ended up shrugging and sighing. “Yeah, I’ll handle it.”
“Good.” Twilight then disappeared in a flash, leaving Spike to pick up the order form and look it over with worried eyes.
- - -
A loud pop resonated through Twilight’s living room as she teleported in, falling to the ground with a thud. Wasting no time, she hurried down the stairs and began unbuttoning her suit. Her jacket was thrown aside as she entered the lab, followed by her undershirt. By the time she reached the main computer, she was naked.
“Dusk, it’s go time,” she said, frantically typing commands into the device.
“Are you sure? We haven’t even begun to field test it yet.”
Twilight shook her head. “Kinda in a hurry here, Dusk! Just initiate the boot sequence.” She punctuated the last word with a hard stroke to the enter key, which prompted a progress bar to pop up on the monitor. Once it did, she hurried over to the test floor and stood in the middle of it.
Throughout the lab, mechanical whirring and grinding gears sounded, growing in intensity with every passing second. From the ceiling protruded an array of mechanical arms with racks of metal parts attached to the sides of them. Under her, the floor hissed and vibrated, then began to slide apart as a twisting mass of mechanical parts and machinery revealed itself under the floor.
A set of boots slipped onto her hooves and locked in placed, self bolting themselves together. The arms lowered down and started to work, first attaching leg pieces above the boots and securing them in place. Following those were the multiple body plates that wrapped around her and locked together. Her tail was folded and tucked into a small compartment as the metal covered her rear and thighs.
Two of the arms swung down and clipped a neck guard on, which bolted itself together, leaving only her head exposed. Another set of arms spun around and attached the side of her helmet, along with the back plate. Similar to her tail, her mane was tucked in so that none of her hair stuck out. Finally, the top of the helmet slipped over her horn, followed by the faceplate, which secured itself with a mechanical whir.
Twilight took a breath as the arms pulled away from her and folded themselves up within the ceiling. Her HUD hummed to life as the interface began popping up in front of her, displaying numerous bits of vital data.
“You in, Dusk?” Twilight asked, looking at the surroundings. She then looked down at her hooves and noticed they were a gleaming purple color, painted over gold. “Ah, so you went with purple after all.”
“It matches, and the dark color provides a marginal decrease in visibility at night.”
“Yeah, I’m sure nopony will see the shining gold. Anyway, get a diagnostic up, stat. Skip the unimportant stuff, we’re on a deadline.”
“Right away.” After Dusk’s voice left her head, she felt various parts of the suit shifting and moving. Air flaps fanned themselves up while armor plates shifted in direction. Every part of the suit seemed to be getting tested. After a few seconds of this, the pieces slid back to their original positions. “Diagnostics complete. Systems functioning.”
“Alright, good. Time to move!” Twilight’s horn began to glow, sending spirals of energy cascading around it.
“Twilight, I would advise against using a tele-”
With a bright flash and a pop, Twilight and her armor disappeared.
- - -
The next thing the unicorn felt was weightlessness and a rush of air. She held back the urge to scream as she got her bearings, frantically looking and twisting in every direction. The flight jets in her suit sputtered to life while the air flaps pushed outwards in an attempt to stabilize her. Looking down, Twilight saw the familiar peaks of Canterlot Castle far below her.
Her wild spin rounded out as she took control, coming to a more restrained fall. “Okay, okay!” she yelled, still not quite used to the speeding freefall. “Air docks... air docks... where are- there!” She looked over to a large platform jutting out of the mountain, which had an array of airships docked at them. “Now which one has my parts?”
Small digital circles appeared on the overlay, hovering over each airship. After several moments, they displayed a small bit of information detailing who they belonged to. Many of them turned red and fizzled away, leaving one at the edge of the dock which turned a bright green. “Gotcha!” Twilight said, adjusting her legs. The fall quickly turned into a flight aimed straight at the airship, which started to leave the dock the moment she went after it.
“I’m gonna stop this ship one way or another,” she growled, her thrusters burning brighter as she sped up. While the airship was a current model with advanced engines and cargo space, it was still no match for Twilight’s suit. The unicorn had caught up with the ship before it was half a mile away from the city and now she hovered alongside it, contemplating her next move.
Now, how am I going to stop this thing? It’s not like I can just ask the pilot to- Her thoughts stalled as she looked to the door right next to her. Rolling her eyes, she guided her hoof to the latch and opened the door, landing inside the cabin with a clank. When Twilight looked up, she found three reasonably confused stallions, one of them the pilot.
The four ponies paused for several moments, contemplating what to do. Twilight broke the silence, commanding “You need to turn this ship around, now. This is unauthorized cargo.” Her voice came out electronic and tuned, a small tweak made to protect her identity.
“Unauthorized by who?” The pale green pilot asked, his voice coming out from under a bushy, straw colored mustache.
“Uh... unauthorized by me!” Twilight snapped back, holding her ground. The two guards looked at each other for a moment and nodded, then brought out their nightsticks and charged forward. One of them lunged at her and slammed his weapon against her snout, where it proceeded to snap in half, spraying wooden shards around them. He stared at the broken wood hanging out of his mouth, before a mechanical whirring got his attention. As he looked back to Twilight, he was met with a metal hoof to his face, which sent him sprawling backwards and to the ground.
Twilight winced as she made contact with the guard. “Sorry!” she yelled, as the guard came to a stop on the floor. She then looked to the other guard, who was rushing towards her. With a step to the side, and another “sorry,” she lowered herself and tripped the second guard as he passed, sending him into a heap as well. As she stood back up, her glance shifted from the two prone guards to the pilot, where she noticed he was on his radio.
“This is Air Carrier #25, I repeat, there is an intruder onboard and we require air assistance, over!” he shouted, before grabbing a small nightstick of his own.
“Shoot!” Twilight spat out, her thrusters igniting. She made her way to the door and quickly opened it, then jumped outside, flying to the back of the ship. “Dusk, can I get some internals?” she asked, looking over the metal. Before long, an overlay appeared, showing her an x-ray view of the inside of the craft. Boxes upon boxes were stacked together, all filled with different parts and accessories. Grunting, she punched against the back of the cargo bay, making small dents in the metal, but making no progress towards opening it. She cocked her arm back for another blow when she heard the rumbling of thunder and the harsh crackling of lightning behind her.
She spun around to see several ponies in the distance, all but one leaving a billowing trail of thunderclouds behind them. Her visor zoomed in, revealing the Wonderbolts and...
“Rainbow Dash,” Twilight said, her eyes widening. “Not good, Dusk. Not good. We need to crack this hull open and get out of here, stat!”
Before Dusk Shine could respond, her helmet radio hummed to life.
“This is Wonderbolt Captain Rainbow Dash,” the mare’s rough voice resounded around Twilight. “You have fifteen seconds to respond or we will engage. I repeat, you have fifteen seconds to respond.”
Twilight gulped, but didn’t answer the incoming transmission. Instead, she flew several yards away from the ship and looked over the back, studying the structure and design of the cargo hold. The internal view was still active, so she was able to find several key areas.
“This is your final warning. Respond or we will engage!”
Not more than three seconds passed before a whirling set of lightning charged bolas flew past Twilight, just barely missing her snout. She gasped and stumbled backwards in midair, but quickly regained her positioning. Raising her hoof, she aimed it at the cargo hold and grit her teeth.
Her horn and the end of her boot surged with purple energy and a beam erupted from the opening, piercing through the hull of the airship like a hot knife through butter. The force of the beam pushed her backwards, but she maintained her aim and guided it through the bottom of the cargo hold. Once the laser reached the other side of the cargo bay, she stopped it and pulled back her smoking boot, just in time to watch the fruits of her labor.
With a heavy groan, molten metal and a huge slab of the cargo bay peeled off the bottom of the ship, swinging downwards and snapping off like a twig. Hundreds of boxes followed suit, plummeting down to the forest with an assortment of faint crashes. They disappeared below the canopy, leaving only holes in the otherwise smooth ocean of leaves below to show they were there.
Inside her suit, Twilight shook, sweating from both exertion and excitement. While one threat had been dealt with, the other made itself apparent as another group of bolas whizzed by, one pair knocking against her left ear and making her head spin. Right, gotta go! Her thrusters erupted as she made a beeline towards Canterlot, with the aerial team hot on her trail.
“I’ll just teleport us back, and it’ll be fine!” Twilight said, her horn lighting up.
“Not so fast, Twilight,” Dusk Shine responded, his voice cutting off Twilight’s magic. “The suit is not fully synchronized to your magic signature or the surrounding environment. Attempting a teleport may severely damage both you and the suit.”
Twilight groaned, speeding towards the city. “Fine, fine. We’ll just have to lose them!”
“I think you’ll find that’s far easier said than done, Twilight,” Dusk added.
Sure enough, the Wonderbolts were right behind her, with Rainbow Dash in the lead by a heavy margin. Twilight looked back ahead at the rapidly approaching spires and towers of Canterlot, looking for ways she could maneuver through them. “There!” she said, spotting an area near the Castle. Shifting her body, she sped towards that area, continuing to swerve and dodge the various projectiles coming after her.
She dove between the towers, weaving between the buildings as they passed. Directly in front of her was the main hall of the castle, which she quickly spun off to the side to avoid hitting. The windows of the great hall shook as she rocketed by them, alerting all of the ponies inside. Most hadn’t been quick enough to notice what had caused the racket, and even the princess of the sun had almost missed it. Out of the corner of her eye, though, she had seen the purple and gold pony-shaped object interrupting her day court session.
Meanwhile, Twilight took a hard turn around the back of the castle, sweeping under one of the bridges and pulling up to go over another one. Behind her, the Wonderbolts followed closely, never getting any farther away.
“This isn’t working, Dusk. They’re too fast for us!” She veered between another two buildings and went through an alley, catching the attention of the few ponies there. Quickly realizing that she was heading to the trade district - the most populated part of Canterlot - Twilight spun around and changed course, flying past another few buildings. “Dusk, call Rainbow Dash, now!”
The number rang several times before being picked up, answering with a very out of breath sounding Dash. “Kinda busy now, Twilight! What is it?”
“It’s me! You’re chasing me! Call it off!”
Dash shook her head, still in pursuit of the metal pony in front of her. “What? What are you talking about?”
Twilight groaned. “The thing you’re chasing, it’s me! I’m inside of that suit! Now call off the chase!”
Her magenta eyes grew wide as the realization kicked in, and she began to slow down. “You owe me an explanation, Twi. A big explanation.”
“Yes, fine! Meet me at my place in an hour, okay!? I’ll tell you everything there!”
Dash then slowed to a halt, pulling her goggles off and letting her teammates catch up to her. She watched the purple suit dip out of sight behind one of the various buildings and sighed. Next to her, a dark stallion looked at her with curious golden eyes. “What’s wrong, Captain?”
The mare spat as she hovered lightly in the air, looking at where ‘Twilight’ had been just moments before. She looked to the stallion and shook her head. “Nothin’, Thunder... turns out it was just some sorta training they forgot to tell us about.”
“What about the airship?” he asked, looking at the speck of an aircraft that was in the distance, still letting out smoke from the previous encounter.
“All part of the exercise,” Dash replied. She then spun around and looked to the rest of the team, pointing a hoof to the city. “Everypony, let’s get back to HQ. I have some things to sort out.”
Sliding the flight goggles back over her eyes, she made a quick glance in the direction of Twilight’s estate.