Chapter 5: That Fluttery Feeling
Ravage slunk into his base just after midnight, and transformed into robot mode. As far as he was concerned it was twelve days to D-Day. As much as he enjoyed the pleasure of sleeping he needed to fast track his plans. As such, he remained in robot mode while his tissue slept.
He tried contacting Cybertron yet again, and got the same unremarkable results. He tried contacting Earth, and got nothing. He tried transmitting from every satellite at his disposal, both within and outside of the planet's magnetic field, even the galactic satellite that was approaching Cybertron. Still, he got nothing. Lowering his head in hopelessness, he did the only other thing he could.
“Ravage to Autobot headquarters. Ravage to Autobot headquarters. Come in Optimus Prime!” Using a frequency thought until then to be secret, Ravage attempted to contact the Autobots in their volcano base on Earth. Even though he expected a reply to the tune of ‘The Decepticons are defeated, turn yourself in’ it would still be closure. It would also set into motion a whole new set of plans, mostly locating Megatron and the other Decepticons, reviving them, and avenging themselves.
But that didn’t happen. Ravage used every frequency he could think of, even those that could contact individual Autobots, like Jazz, and Red Alert. He tried to contact individual Decepticons, and got no reply. It was then he noticed how similar Transformer naming conventions were to ponies, but then quickly buried that thought.
“Ravage to Moon base 1.”
“Ravage to Moon base 2.”
“Ravage to Thundercracker.”
“Ravage to Perceptor.”
Nothing worked. Twelve days to the date with Luna, and his people are dealing with some sort of galaxy spanning affliction. What happened? A familiar feeling started to seep into his circuits. It was a good thing he was in robot mode.
An overwhelming sense of dread was setting in. Ravage was without his community, without his people. Even his enemies were silenced. He could leave this world, but where would he go? Could a nearby planet that had conditions where his pony body could thrive be the answer? It would keep him safely away from the Equestrians and their powerful Princesses, but what would he do? Even if he brought the main satellite with him, he would eventually run into a problem that would require the skills of the Constructicons, or Starscream. What then? Having stolen a copy of all of Starscream’s research, among other things, Ravage could refer to it, but it would be slow going. He was thankful that he was trained in the finer points of keeping his own body maintained, in case he was out for years.
Ravage shook his head. A date with Luna had high odds of ending in death, either during, or soon after the outing. Ironically, she was like a Decepticon and he felt he knew her type. Exile was the only solution. Not wanting to overload the other satellite he already sent out and risk interfering with the assessment of Cybertron’s status, he reprogrammed one of the minor satellites to exit Celestia-1’s magnetic field. It was to survey the surrounding star systems for the next three days, searching for an appropriate planet Ravage could live on. He had a hunch that the true star field would be revealed as soon as it exited the magnetic field so he started the survey as soon as the device was mobilized. Not surprisingly, he found the planet Saturn within minutes.
He couldn’t help noticing that the ponies had hydroelectric power too, even though he hadn’t spotted a single transmission line. If he was to exile himself, he would have to fully fuel his ship with energon first. Visiting the hydro station, which was conveniently located near Ponyville, would be a priority.
Personally, Ravage liked being detached from dependency on energon, with his small nuclear reactors and food intake providing enough fuel and power for all of his needs. If he were to live on another world, while wanting to maintain his pony body, he would have to grow his own food, and it would have to be nutritious, never mind how much he would have to stock for the journey there and the transition time involved. Also, the very soil that food plants are grown in has to be of correct composition, and there was no way he could haul soil across the stars. Further than that, Ravage learned that the earth ponies used specialized magic and experience to grow their food. The Decepticon had neither. If push came to shove he felt that he could grow his own food hydroponically, like Starscream did. He could grow other products too (like coffee beans), but the gulf between what he could do alone and what an entire civilization could provide could not be traversed. Was he to tend cows too? There was no way to get the hay shakes and ice cream without them. In fact, it felt completely absurd, thinking along those lines. A Decepticon growing food?
Regardless, he believed that his comrades were missing out. It was then that he had another epiphany: there were definitely things he liked about this world. If it wasn’t for this mission, Ravage would have never enjoyed bathing! That little thought really got to him. Soaking in the hot, soapy tub water alone made his pony form worth having. Just having energon and keeping up with maintenance were his total life requirements before accepting the mission and disguising himself as a pony.
If Ravage found another oxygen rich world to live in, and he knew he would as it was just a matter of time, he would do well to build an orbital solar power plant, sending energy to the surface by means of a microwave beam. Endless energon! Normally, this would be a boon, but it wouldn’t help his pony form. Again, if he were to sustain himself as a pony he knew life would still be only a shadow of what an entire society had to offer.
“Society,” he said aloud. In that word were more secrets and epiphanies, just waiting to be unlocked. Deciding that this line of thinking was becoming dangerous, Ravage powered down his transmitter, set the alarm, turned off the lights, transformed into pony mode, and immediately fell into sweet sleep.
Ravage opened his eyes, and felt that something was off. He was lying on grass, though he couldn’t feel its texture for some reason. It was dark out. He then noticed six-petaled flowers that resembled lilies occupying the ground space. They gave off an eerie glow. Even though it was night, rainbows fell from the sky. Ravage’s thinking was different. He simply accepted everything around him! He tried to speak, but he could not. It was bizarre.
A silver-shoed hoof snaked around his torso. It was attached to a dark foreleg, though he didn’t care to notice the colour. It was then that he felt that something was on his back – it was warm, like something between a sandbag and a blanket for it was also very heavy.
‘Not so lucid now, are you,’ a female voice spoke. ‘You left before you could enjoy the fun part last night! But that’s okay, I just told all those mares that you had important business the next morning.’ Helplessly listless in this strange world, Ravage didn’t make any connections from what he was seeing. He didn’t know or care about who was speaking to him either. He did feel a kiss on his ear; even in this state he knew what that was. ‘That was really clever work, what you did to the guards. I’m impressed! It made me want you all the more,’ she giggled. Suddenly, reality started kicking in.
Error Port 34,296: Unauthorized Access
Activating Awakening Sequence
Just like that, Ravage awoke. He saw the tiny running lights twinkling inside his darkened ship. His clock indicated that it was half past five in the morning. “So, Luna likes to go into my dreams, eh?” he said almost drunkenly. More obvious words could not have been spoken. He decided to settle down and let sleep take him back.
Without being disturbed by Luna again, Ravage slept until his alarm awoke him at eight o’ clock. The realization that he really was disturbed by Luna came suddenly. “Did she just…” The Decepticon was at a loss for words. That was definitely Luna, taking advantage of his unconscious state. Whether awake or asleep she kept entering his mind like it was her playground! He decided to take steps to avoid getting bothered by her again.
Anger was subdued by hunger, and Ravage prepared breakfast. His new style of breakfast included his pony meal, as well as strawberries, apples, and orange juice. He enjoyed all of it thoroughly, and was grateful for Cloud Chaser and her friends’ help in acquiring it.
Incoming System Report: The Moon
Ravage routed the report to the big screen, just as he had done the day before. Information on the moon was on display from the missile he sacrificed to get it. Various unremarkable ores, large diameter, he read in thought. It was when he read the gravitational acceleration of the moon that he did a spit-take, covering the wall and part of the monitor in coffee. “Next item on the list: paper towels!” he griped, and then used some of the packing material to clean the mess. He read the line of information again, and it had not changed. Sometimes, I hate it when I’m right.
Gravity: 152x Cybertron standard.
“So, the sun and moon are not only equidistant, but also have approximately the same gravitational influence,” he said aloud. He checked the acceleration plot the missile created before impact. It was reading right.
That explained the gargantuan planetary magnetic field. “Two powerful sources of gravity must be pulling the planet's core like putty,” he exaggerated. In fact, he reasoned that the planet shouldn’t exist at all, or at least be pock marked with volcanoes. And yet, the surface seemed peaceful, with occasional volcanic activity, like Earth.
Ravage went over the facts. “Okay, we have a compass that points to the nearest unicorn instead of magnetic north, a planet with a star-sized magnetic field, and for all the gravitational competition the planet’s surface remains completely intact. I wonder what the tides must be like.” There was no doubt in Ravage’s mind that magic and electromagnetism were related, even if it was impossible to detect magic.
The very existence of the star and moon seemed impossible as well, with the star – and a yellow star at that – being the size of a small gas giant, and the moon having a gravitational influence far exceeding that of even the largest gas giant. Ravage doubted that the moon was hiding a black hole, or even a neutron star, whose radiation would make life in this system impossible. Both objects would surely devour the moon that was hiding it as well. So what begets gravity? Mass. Where was all their mass coming from? Ravage’s expression froze, if only temporarily, in a state of horror as he deduced a possible explanation.
It was called non-baryonic, or ‘dark matter’ by the humans, but it was the same material. Black matter had no electromagnetic influence, at least any that was significant, but it does have mass and is influenced by gravity. It was difficult to detect.
The Decepticon space bridge had black matter components, but it was very energetically expensive to acquire. In fact that’s probably why the Autobots never attempted to build space bridges.
Were the ponies somehow controlling the distribution of black matter in the Celestia system? A Jupiter sized gas giant, under the influence of sufficient dark matter could have its diameter shrunken down all the while being forced into nuclear ignition giving the yellow sun that bathes Celestia-1 in energy. By the same logic a planetary or lunar body could be forced to have many times its normal gravity. The question then became why? Why were the ponies doing this? Why couldn’t they live on normal life-stable planets that actually orbit their parent stars properly?
At around quarter to ten in the morning, Ravage showed up at Sweet Apple Acres. On his approach, he could see Rainbow Dash zipping to and fro leaving her tell-tale rainbow ribbons behind her. Aster and Applejack were on one of the fields south and west of the main barn, and like so many ponies at play, they were kicking around a sphere, specialized for the sport they were about to do. In this case, it was hoofball. From what Ravage heard of hoofball it was a high impact, high energy sport. Perhaps it was harder to do than volleyball?
“Heads up, Ravage!” came shout that sounded like Applejack’s voice. A large, white ball bounced in his direction, with great speed. He simply caught it.
“Smash it to me!” Aster had taken off and positioned herself in what she thought would be the assumed trajectory of Ravage’s ‘smash’.
The infiltrating Decepticon pony bounced the ball off of his left foreleg. It would have been a superb serve in volleyball.
Aster held her position in space, stunned. “What the buck was that?” In just a couple of seconds she started laughing.
“Bwa hahahaha…” Rainbow Dash guffawed and literally fell from the sky, bouncing off the ground in hard laughter.
Applejack wasn’t laughing. She knew that Ravage didn’t know anything about hoofball, he told them so! “Put a sock in it, Aster!” Aster quickly regained composure while the earth mare rushed up to the cackling Wonderbolt. She mumbled some choice words before whacking Dash in the head with her hat.
“Ow! Hey, what gives?” Rainbow rubbed her stinging ear with a hoof.
“We were gonna show Ravage how to play hoofball, if y’all recall. Aster, you do remember our conversation two days ago?”
“Yes, Applejack. Yes, I do.”
“I gotcha, AJ.” Rainbow wanted to play hoofball with Ravage, so she tried to get Applejack to cut to the chase.
“Okay, Ravage, you see them goal posts.” Applejack pointed to a couple of white, square brackets sticking out of the field.
“Well, the object of the game is to get your ball inside of the opposing team’s goal. You see them boundaries?” This time Applejack pointed to the crudely drawn white lines.
“Yes. The ball’s trajectory must not venture outside them. Correct?” It was about this time that Ravage noticed the similarities in sports, like how rectangles were used to form a grid to limit the ball’s travel.
“That is one-hundred percent correct,” Applejack acknowledged with a nod. “Now, you gotta coordinate your movement with your team to move the ball down the field. You can’t purposely touch any opposing players. That’s a foul. You follow so far?”
“Yes, I think I’ve got that.” Like volleyball, the rules in hoofball were simple.
“Okay, you can use any part of the body to propel the ball,” Applejack explained. “BUT, it is typical for the front hooves to pass the ball forward, while the rear hooves are used for striking, that is, shots on goal, or to move the ball down the field. Ya get all that?” The would-be farmer-coach looked up at Ravage for acknowledgement.
“It doesn’t sound too difficult.” Ravage knew that eye-hoof coordination would decide the game so, “As long as I get some training time.” He knew enough to avoid starting a new game without at least practicing first, learning from the previous day’s volleyball experiences.
Train they did. They started with passing maneuvers, which surprisingly, involved all four legs. Ravage’s cat-like reflexes made it a delight to watch him, even though he had never done this before. Soon, it was time for a test strike.
Aster, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash all had mind-bogglingly powerful kicks, causing the ball to soar each time. Fortunately, Dash’s speedy recovery of the ball pretty much eliminated wait times. Naturally, they argued over whose kick was the strongest although Applejack was consistently solid. Finally, they let Ravage have the ball.
Using maximum firepower, Ravage drilled the ball into an astounding arc. Once again, his Decepticon hydraulics made him a clear winner where leg strength was concerned. The other ponies were slack-jawed.
“Did he just – kick the ball into the next town?” Aster queried. Of course, the stallion bot only kicked the ball farther than his pony counterparts, but Aster’s words were also intended to compliment.
“Ah’ told ya he’d be good at it!” Applejack said proudly.
“Well then let’s start a game!” Rainbow suggested.
Aster was expecting Rainbow Dash to go that route, but she never really believed anything more than practice would be occurring. “Not much of a game with only four players. We can only really practice.”
“Need some players?” asked a familiar voice.
Ravage turned around and saw that Cloudchaser and her squadron were approaching the hoofball field.
Everypony except Aster was involved in the salacious offerings of making-out to Princess Luna. It was in the back of their heads and it showed. The big mare felt she really missed out, but she was just visiting from out of town. She would make a point of keeping in touch with Pearl Bliss.
Ravage looked at Flitter, and saw a completely different mare than the one that tried to eat him last night. She seemed so tranquil, serene. It was hard to believe. Reluctantly, Ravage decided to approve of this, as it was a very Decepticon thing to hide your true motives. Behind the luscious, pristine mane, shiny coat, big wanting eyes, and jovial pink bow lay the heart of predator. Her disguise was superb!
“We couldn’t help but notice a perfectly good hoofball field, and four savvy looking ponies practicing the game,” Cloudchaser began.
Applejack thought she knew the who’s who of hoofball players in Ponyville. It looks like she missed some. “Don’t tell me you five play hoofball?”
‘Not so much’, and ‘Every now and then’ were the summary responses. “I do,” was what Saffron answered.
“It’s perfect, we’ve got four pegasi,” Cloudchaser pointed out.
“And only nine players,” Applejack thought aloud, warming up to the idea. She looked around, trying to complete the team compliment. “Just give me a minute,” she said quickly as she bolted in the direction of Big Macintosh, who was lying against the trunk of a tree, taking in the morning breeze.
Cloudchaser wanted to launch the conversation’s topic before anypony else, and did that just as Applejack was galloping away. “Did everybody enjoy themselves last night?” She smiled cordially.
“No,” answered a disappointed Aster.
“You can come to the next one,” Pearl said, “If I had known you’d like it, or even that you existed, I would have definitely invited you. What’s your name?” Aster was quickly introduced.
Winter sauntered up to Rainbow Dash. “So,” she began, noticing Dash’s immediate blush. “How was our fair Princess?”
“That’s a little private, ya know,” the annoyed pegasus replied.
“We’ve never partied with the Princesses before! C’mon, just a little hint?” Winter pressed.
“She was astonishing,” Cloudchaser replied matter-of-factually. That pretty much ended Winter’s prying, as all knew that 'chaser was paired with the illustrious Princess Luna.
“Twilight’s still Twilight,” Rainbow pointed out, then wishing she hadn’t as Winter’s face lit up, ready for round two of her annoying prodding. Fortunately, Applejack and Big Macintosh cantered up, completing a roster of ten players for hoofball.
Winter managed to control the urge to comment that the population of sexy stallions was rising.
“’Ah feel that the stallions should be the team captains,” Applejack suggested. “Just remember it’s two pegasi to a team.” A round of nods indicated quick acceptance, except for Ravage, who looked to be at a loss. “Okay, we just gotta decide who gets first pick.” Applejack flipped a bit in the air, “Call it, Big Mac.”
“Aaaand my brother chooses first.”
They’re related? Ravage realized. It appeared that proximity to the orchard meant residence, as he had seen the big red stallion patrolling the area many times.
“Saffron.” Big Mac spoke plainly, using no more words than necessary. The excited unicorn practically galloped to the red stallion’s side.
This puzzled Ravage, because unicorns were observed to be inherently weak. When he noticed all the ponies looking at him, he felt he needed to play along. “Rainbow Dash,” he spoke.
“Aw yeah! This stallion knows his players,” she boasted, and flew to his side, giving him a nudge. Ravage had seen Rainbow Dash in action. She was an easy choice.
“You realize that I have absolutely no experience with this game, yes?” the Decepticon countered.
Rainbow laughed, “With me on your side, you won’t have to worry.” She seemed to brim with confidence. It still bothered Ravage that Big Macintosh chose a nameless unicorn over the one who could achieve supersonic flight.
The farm mare casually trotted up to her brother, nearly snickering. “Well, ‘ah was wondering if y’all wanted to wager who was gonna win this, but I’d advise against it.”
“Flitter.” Ravage knew well of her inner fire. With luck she would turn out to be a good hoofball player. The pegasus squeed once again at having been chosen to partner up with Ravage, and dove to his side.
Rainbow Dash’s smirk lost some of its luster. “Well, uh – I’m glad you like pegasi.” Little droplets of sweat appeared on her forehead.
“What was your wager, Dash? Ten bits?” Applejack was trying to goad her friend into giving up some of her money.
Cloudchaser and Aster walked over to Big Macintosh’s side as the girls would automatically be the other pegasi for the team. Aster was a good hoofball player, but her companions just didn’t know it yet. By default, Pearl Bliss and Winter joined Ravage’s team.
The Decepticon reran the rules in his head, taken aback at how the last players suddenly knew where they were going.
“Pick your goalie. We’ll kick to you first,” Big Macintosh suggested, sensing that he had a superior force.
“A goalie?” Ravage asked. Rainbow Dash continued to look really nervous. Ravage looked to the other members, whom appeared to be more than supportive. “All I know is that we have to get the ball into their goal, and presumably, block them from forcing it into ours.”
“A goalie tries to prevent the ball from being – snicker – ‘forced’ into the net, Ravage.” Pearl didn’t mind the stacked odds. It was all in good fun anyways. “I’ll do it.” The white mare smiled, hoping that her teammates wouldn’t take the game too seriously.
Rainbow Dash hovered in a position where everypony could see her. “Okay, if we’re gonna win this, we gotta fight hard,” she pontificated.
“We’ll do our best, Rainbow, just keep cool,” Pearl said.
Ravage noticed Rainbow looking at him, her face needful and exacerbated. “Don’t look at me. I got elected without any input,” he said, trying to address what his teammate might have been thinking.
Soon, the ball was ‘hoofed’, and the game started. As soon as it landed in Ravage’s territory the opposing team went after it with fervor. Rainbow Dash got to it first, and back-passed it to Winter, who it seemed, had surprising ground speed for a unicorn. Without any ground teammates to pass it to, she tried to drive forward.
Ravage woke up. He had stood there watching what turned out to be a fast game, but realized that his team needed him really badly! Surging forward, and keeping the objectives in mind, he tried to support Winter. A difficult, long pass to the Decepticon was intercepted by Applejack.
Suddenly defense was needed! Applejack wasted little time moving the ball on the ground as she kicked it up to Aster who immediately deflected it to Saffron. While dodging Flitter, who was trying to defend on the ground, she struck the ball just out of hoof-reach of Pearl, just catching the top corner of the net. Goal!
Ravage, huffing from all the exertion, tried to piece together what happened in the last twenty seconds. The speed of their attack was admirable.
“Did you get any sleep, Ravage?” Rainbow asked. “I mean, I can understand those girls may have kept you up for a bit, but geez!”
“This game is faster than I imagined,” was his only reply.
Winter trotted up. “It doesn’t help that Saffron’s a sniper,” she said. “Okay, if we’re all done sleeping, shall we play some hoofball?”
“I couldn’t agree more.” Rainbow was glad she wasn’t the only one thinking about Ravage’s lack of attention.
“They’re about to hoof the ball. Prepare to strike!” Ravage commanded, speaking in a way that Megatron would. His team took up positions as the ball was kicked. This time they would have to face Ravage!
Once again, Rainbow Dash met the ball first, but the kick was closer to the center line. She tried to get a pass off to Winter, but her vision was purposefully blocked by Aster’s gigantic wingspan. Temporarily alone, Applejack caught up to the ball, and started to move it down field.
“Oh no you don’t!” Ravage turned around and sprinted at maximum speed, catching up with Applejack. As she was about to pass to one of her pegasi, he dove forward, nicking the ball with his hooves, and sending it on an unknown trajectory.
Winter tried to reach the wayward ball, but Saffron got to it first. She was fairly far from Pearl in the net and had to contend with both Rainbow Dash, and Flitter running in front of her. A sneaky back-pass to Applejack took place as the farmer avoided both pegasi, driving straight for the net. Just as Applejack was about to take a shot, her hooves connected with the ball and Ravage’s hooves at the same time, sending the hoofball on yet another unknown course, straight up into the air.
Flitter got to the ball and hammered it to Winter, who deflected it into the trajectory of none other than Rainbow Dash. Since there were no friendlies on the opposing field, she took the long shot. Big Mac caught it easily, and simply waited for his teammates to compose themselves.
Ravage couldn’t believe the energy expenditure! He was amazed at the speed and skill too. Applejack trotted by him, “Nice D, partner.”
Ravage smiled, but it was not so much at Applejack’s compliment. The whole situation reminded him of battle, and this had an inspiring effect. The tremendous effort on the part of all the players made it a truly eye-popping spectacle. And it was soooo fast!
Eventually Ravage learned the basic tactics of hoofball and his play improved greatly. He would charge ahead with Winter and try to score, but they weren’t good shots and Big Mac proved to be a good net minder. Needless to say, Applejack, Cloudchaser and Aster were able to handle Ravage and Winter’s ground attack more often than not. Saffron, on the other hoof, consistently made spectacular shots on net, often shooting through traffic. With the winning team being first to five points, Ravage’s team lost five to two, with Rainbow Dash contributing both goals. Aster managed to drill one past Pearl Bliss, Applejack sneaked around the goalie for another, and Saffron got all the other goals.
“Okay, for the next game, let’s have the high scorer’s be team captains,” Applejack suggested. As a result, Rainbow Dash and Saffron chose the next teams. With Rainbow already being a pegasus, the dynamics of team picking were altered just a bit, this time choosing the pegasi last. The pegasus captain won the toss. As a result, it was Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Pearl Bliss, Aster, and Ravage versus Saffron, Winter, Big Macintosh, Flitter, and Cloudchaser. The second game was far better balanced and took nearly three times as long. Saffron’s team won five to four, with the captain claiming three goals, Winter making a great corner net shot, and Flitter sneaking the game winner in by joining the ground attack and dodging Pearl Bliss. Applejack, drawing on great support from Ravage, got two in. Rainbow managed to dodge Big Mac and get one in on the ground. Ravage got his first goal which tied the game at four a piece.
Everypony was exhausted, and resorted to lying sprawled out on the grass by the big barn, imbibing several liters of water.
“Is it a good thing that I feel right about having tea with Fluttershy after this?” Ravage asked. He had heard of the calming effects of tea, and how it enhanced relaxation. The laughter from all sides was unexpected, but then again, Ravage had come to expect the unexpected.
‘Oh slag,’ Ravage thought as he noticed Winter shifting toward him.
“Take it from me, Ravage. Fluttershy is cute and innocent ninety-nine percent of the time, but watch out for that other one percent,” she winked.
“Then I should be fine,” Ravage determined. The Decepticon observed that, like his comrades, individual ponies also had other ‘sides’ to them, the expression of which was determined by the situation. It was interesting that Winter had encountered one of Fluttershy’s hidden personalities. Ravage was about to visit the timid pegasus, and he didn’t want trouble. “Fluttershy is basically unaggressive, yes?” he asked the assembly of languishing ponies.
Lying against a barrel, Applejack’s hat was pulled over most of her face, exposing only her mouth. “She’s a nice pony, sugar cube. She won’t give you any trouble,” the chill mare attested.
“’Ah think we all need to visit the swimmin’ hole,” suggested Big Macintosh. Strong feminine agreement supported the idea as all got up from their playtime induced slumber and started heading in toward their goal. Ravage stayed silent.
En route, Rainbow Dash tapped Ravage on his shoulder, and motioned for him to follow her off to the side. “Ya did great at hoofball,” she commended. “You learn fast.”
“Thanks.” Ravage’s mind was occupied on how he was going to handle Fluttershy. They surely can’t be just drinking tea. What else was going to happen? When he wasn’t thinking about the coming visit, Princess Luna dominated his thinking. There was no way he was able to avoid kissing Flitter, and there didn’t seem to be any way of avoiding kissing Luna, as she would surely expect it from the coming date. If he managed to be ready to exile himself, he might do so in order to avoid Luna altogether.
“Flitter wasn’t too rough on ya last night, was she?” the pegasus asked, referring to the scabs on Ravage’s neck.
The Decepticon’s damage was superficial. Thanks to his optimized genetics, it was healing quickly. “I suppose not.”
“Heheh,” she chuckled. “She said you turned out to be a really good kisser.” Rainbow noticed a rather neutral expression on the Decepticon stallion. She felt her posture threatened by it and decided to change the subject. “Actually, you seemed distant last night. Nopony could really connect with you. Well, except for Flitter, but that’s because of those stupid rules.”
“You weren’t happy to be there either?” Ravage asked, surprised at the pegasus’ viewpoint.
“Well, I thought it was a really thumpin’ party. Great music. All my friends were there. It’s just – having to kiss somepony you might not even know was a little much.”
“You know Twilight well enough,” he said, sitting on his haunches with Dash. By this time, Ravage was adept at using the shortened versions of pony nomenclature.
Dash loved finally being able to talk to Ravage for more than just a couple of sentences. “Oh definitely! I love Twi like a sister. It’s just, she – kinda – loves me too, and not in a sisterly way if you catch my drift,” Rainbow admitted.
Ravage did not catch her drift. He was still at a loss as to understanding what love was, let alone being able to distinguish its many forms.
Dash and Twilight’s little romp on the roof last night had rendered the usually talkative unicorn nearly mute. Sensing something was amiss, Rainbow felt she needed to walk Twilight home. The librarian leaned up against her pegasus friend, nuzzled her neck, and even made affectionate squeals. When they got close to the library, Twilight broke out her wings again, using one to cover Dash. She didn’t go as far as to ask the uncertain pegasus to stay, but the longing was there.
“I don’t know what I’m gonna do,” the weather mare concluded, looking up at the sky, satisfied that the clouds were as they should have been. “I guess that’s the real problem with that kind of party, making ponies fall for each other ahead of their time.” She looked to Ravage, satisfied that he was trying to process what had just been said. “What would you do?”
Ravage was unprepared for that question. His face contorted in a mix of confusion and helplessness. First, he needed to grasp the parameters. “What would I do? If a pony loved me, and I did not feel similarly?” Ravage hated using the ‘L’ word. It troubled him that he understood the mechanics of its use before he knew what it meant. He really didn’t want to research it, but it seemed essential to integration – not that that would matter in a few days. It was time to unleash the other ‘L’ word. “Logically, I would have to tell her to disable her feelings before her affinity progresses any further.”
“Affinity? Disable? What are you a freakin’ golem?” Dash was taken aback by such cold language even Twilight Sparkle wouldn’t use.
Realizing that golems were close to robots, Ravage experienced another physiological first: he blushed. Touché, Rainbow Dash.
“Dude, you can’t turn feelings off. It doesn’t work that way.”
The Decepticon felt as if he had experienced yet another revelation. She’s right. They can’t be turned off; they only dissipate with time, shifting into one another as the situation demands. It was a profound realization. When feeling with his mind alone he could ignore troubling emotions easily, but the inclusion of his tissue body amplified emotional ‘feeling’ greatly. “Wait a minute. What did you pull me off to the side for?”
“Ah!” she reflexively replied. “Well, I wanted to let you know something that you probably already know. Okay first, you were bummed out at the party, because you were kinda forced to kiss another pony. Is that true?” Rainbow was trying to get all her ducks in a row before she asked him what she needed to ask.
“Correct.” That was one reason. Although a more important reason was that he had to avoid discussion of his origins, especially since such talk was often used as an ‘ice breaker’, a way to gain entry into conversation with a stranger.
Okay, so he definitely doesn’t like being forced, even if it’s just for fun, she thought. “Soooo,” she said, nervously trying to avoid pitfalls. She didn’t want to drive Ravage off. The pegasus felt it was best to cover all bases first. “Are you dating anypony? Being courted?”
“As a matter of fact, I am going on a date with Princess Luna.” Ravage felt surprisingly relieved to say that. Ironically, it was Luna herself that made him associate the word ‘courted’ with bad feelings. However, he had concluded that if he indicated he was dating Luna, the other ponies should back off, leaving him in peace. Finally, he deployed his ultimate weapon against the association machine!
“You’re dating LUNA!” she belted out squeakily. Somehow, Rainbow Dash’s eyes seemed to grow even larger as she broke into a hover, her forelegs clasping at her chin. Her mood seemed to become ecstatic: exactly the opposite reaction Ravage had hoped for.
The Decepticon stallion couldn’t speak. He thought he finally figured out something of how this bizarre culture worked, but he was obviously wrong. Judging by Rainbow Dash’s ‘squeegasm’ he was going to pay for it dearly.
The Element suddenly became uncomfortably friendly, throwing one of her front legs over Ravage’s shoulder. “Well, if you’re into alicorns, you might wanna think about –mhmm, I dunno – the Elements of Harmony,” she suggested mischievously, with emphasis on her herd’s title.
“Oh come on, you know our herd is looking for a stallion,” Rainbow clarified. Ravage fell into shock, realizing the implication. That which he had tried to avoid so fervently was now coming after him.
Rainbow cackled, “You should see the look on your face,” pointing a derisive hoof at the still phased stallion. She had enough fun though. Her real objective was to try and ease Ravage into the herd, not grab him and take him. “I know we only just met, but since you’re dating Princess Luna I thought I’d put the idea out there, ya know, just in case you were thinking of settling down in Ponyville.”
Ravage sighed in relief. Rainbow was only pointing out that her herd was looking for a stallion, and that he gives it consideration. She wasn’t asking directly, which was good since these mares don’t seem to take ‘no’ for answer.
Ravage’s untimely relief didn’t go unnoticed. “Oh-ho! Don’t go thinking you’re too good for us or anything,” Rainbow jabbed. Yes, her herd was big, but that was beside the point. One of Rainbow Dash’s reservations was that for a stallion who seems to communicate so well, Ravage sure clouded up any ideas about where he was from. ‘A lumberjack from rural Equestria’ tended to lead to other questions such as his schooling, who is parents were, what he did for fun as a foal, among others. He didn’t answer them clearly.
“Oh, what do you mean?” the Decepticon stallion asked. Was Rainbow Dash comparing him to a standard?
“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’re trying to hide something,” she said. Ravage’s eyes briefly flashed, stunned by Dash’s surprising display of intuition. “Hah! I knew it! But you can tell us all about it later. You kinda need to.
“As far as the herd thing goes, you definitely got Rarity’s vote. Fluttershy likes you. Twilight likes you. Applejack looks like she’s warming up to you. Pinkie Pie definitely likes you – she’s got a sense about these things. Now as for me,” Rainbow Dash tapped a hoof to her chin, eyeing Ravage ponderously, “I think your being able to pick up a sport and be good at it after just a couple of games is awesome, but I think you need to relax.” Ravage was perplexed, looking like he’d been accused of a crime, and didn’t know why. “You look tense. In fact, only Royal Guards can be as stiff as you, and that’s only when they’re working. You seem stressed all the time, like something’s chasing you.”
Ravage was beside himself. He wasn’t purposely trying to be ‘unrelaxed’, was he? He did everything he could to learn pony behavior and support his cover story as best he could, but Rainbow Dash pretty much just said that she thought he was lying about where he came from, and that having done so was okay since the truth would eventually be revealed. If Rainbow could figure it out, it was a good bet Luna also thought his origin story was bogus, and she just let it slide so she can date him. The situation was getting out of control and Ravage had no idea what to do about it. His stoic posture was eroding too. Rainbow Dash didn’t have to work hard to get a rise out of him. “I, uh…” he was at a loss for words.
Rainbow silenced the beleaguered Decepticon putting her hoof to his lips. “C’mon, let’s go swimming.” A calm pegasus mare offered her hoof to Ravage. He took it, and she helped pull him from being planted on the ground. The two ponies headed out to enjoy the water.
The ‘hole’ was actually the widened part of a creek that flowed nearby. The mares made a mad dash for the water as soon as they saw it, dive bombing, and cannon balling, and running headlong into the previously quiet surface. It was cool and clean and the mares enjoyed splashing and frolicking. The stallions simply sauntered in.
Ravage did not frolic. He was trying to understand why so many ponies kept splashing him in the face with the water. It was annoying as it kept getting into his eyes and nostrils. It wasn’t his bath water, but it did have a relaxing effect in spite of the chill. It also got the sweat and grime off of his body.
Ravage couldn’t help notice some of the girls formed a line, looking like they wanted to make trouble. “Okay, Ravage, you’re going down!” threatened Pearl Bliss. The line maneuvered closer and closer, even as Ravage was trying to back off. Soon again, the annoying water assaulted his eyes and nostrils. To avoid the pestilence, he simply ducked underwater, holding his breath. He realized that he could not electrolyze the water in pony mode, and would have a minute before he must resurface, at best.
Transforming in such close proximity to ponies was out of the question, but when he came up for air the mares simply left him alone. In fact they found another target: Big Macintosh. The farm stallion was trying to splash back, but it was hopeless. Rainbow Dash dive bombed the group, with the resultant splash covering them in a tidal wave of water. This, of course, made her the next target. After a few minutes, everypony settled down and enjoyed the placid pond. It was interesting to see that no matter what the mares’ manes looked like before, they all had the same characteristic shimmer when wet, hanging down in sheets.
The group ended up lounging on the grass beside the pond. Ravage started dozing off when he felt a hoof gently poke his side. His body jolted, and he quickly turned to see who was touching him.
Fluttershy ‘eeped’, and jumped back. “Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” she said softly.
“It’s alright, Fluttershy,” Ravage said as he got up on his hooves. “You’re surprisingly stealthy.” A master of stealth himself, Ravage was also well trained in detection. It may have been the sleep coming on, but what Fluttershy did was impressive nonetheless. The other ponies were lazily watching the exchange, looking for any tidbit of information that might reveal something about the deceptive stallion.
Fluttershy decided that now was a good time to hide behind her mane.
“So,” Ravage began, “about that tea?”
“Oh! Follow me.” The Element of Kindness wasn’t usually this ‘brave’, but she’d been looking forward to sitting down with Ravage, and just having a conversation.
It was early afternoon, and looking to be a hot day. Ravage walked beside the normally timid mare who decided to come for him now, instead of waiting for the evening. Fluttershy was feeling good about herself for having relaxed enough just to walk beside the stallion who was still pretty much a stranger. Her friends liked him, and she respected that. Rarity, Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash shared a notion that he might be the stallion their herd was looking for. She took the ‘scenic’ route through the woods hoping to learn more of him before they made it to her house; it also had the advantage of being cooler.
It was also clear that Cloudchaser and her friends liked him. Perhaps more ominous was that Princess Luna liked him openly, which was very unusual. The list wouldn’t end there either. If he was worth it, if he was a good fit, then the Element herd needed to devote a lot of attention and resources to try to get him to join them. Fluttershy just needed to prepare an informed opinion first, perhaps discovering that he’ll be close to the stallion she dreamed about.
Ravage sensed the silence that was lingering as they walked. He liked it. All the ponies he’d met so far had something to say every minute of every day, but for a Decepticon who spent much of his life lying in wait, silence was a welcome thing. It wasn’t completely silent though, as the leaves rustled in the breeze and the birds whipped around and busily chirped. Come to think of it, that’s a lot of birds, Ravage thought. Suddenly, he had something meaningful to say! “I feel – content.” It was simple, but true. The mundane act of walking in silence had a relaxing effect.
“I love the forest,” Fluttershy said. “I love everything about it; its smell, its moisture, and especially the animals.” Fluttershy and Ravage crossed over the little bridge into the mare’s yard. A cornucopia of small animals came to greet Fluttershy, though they shied away from Ravage.
“This is my friend, Ravage,” she indicated. The little paws and wings of squirrels, otters, and different colours of birds waved to Ravage.
Though he retained a stoic expression, the Decepticon sat down, deeply confused. These creatures are acting as if they are sapient, he observed. He noticed that Fluttershy, and then her animal friends were looking at him expectantly. “Oh! Uh, hi,” he cobbled together, waving his front right hoof. The little creatures paw and wing waved a second time, smiling back at him. Is this some form of mind control? Two blue jays flew in, with a large checkered cloth hanging from their feet, flapping in the wind. Okay, that’s abnormal, Ravage thought. He programmed two blue jay androids that were nearby to fly up from their current position and watch these two specific jays, and see if their behavior returns to normal. He also programmed them to keep their distance.
Like her own personal staff, the woodland creatures prepared and flattened the table cloth after the blue jays flopped it down. Two gophers brought snacks on their backs and placed them upon the cloth. Ravage could swear that three or four songbirds were motioning him to sit down on one section of the cloth.
The reticent Decepticon did as was indicated. He had the main satellite zoom into the yard and perform a full scan. Nothing was found, even though he had suspected ionizing radiation to be higher here. The little animals moved about, bringing in small plates of flower petals, and small bowls of cream and sugar cubes. A chill crept up Ravage’s spine, as he saw the scene unfold. What was happening was totally impossible. Could ponies control the weak minded? The sound of clattering dishware could be heard, and Ravage looked to the side to find the source. Fluttershy was balancing a tray on her back with implements for ‘tea’, including a pot filled with hot water. With ease, she lifted the tray off of her back with her teeth and placed it in the middle of the cloth, sitting down on her haunches afterward.
“How was your hoofball game, Ravage?” she demurely asked.
Ravage and the main satellite performed intensive scans on Fluttershy’s body, acquiring every kind of data possible, including temperature, dimensions, and lung capacity, among a great deal more information. Nothing more than ‘warm blooded animal’ was determined. “I had never played before, but I was told I did well.”
Fluttershy placed tea bags into two cups and then poured hot water into them, all with her teeth. She used her front hooves to bob a teabag up and down with a string, an action her guest copied. “Did Applejack say that?”
“Oh! Oh my,” she said, turning to the side and blushing. “Those are very meaningful words when they come from Rainbow Dash.”
“She is most athletic.” Ravage’s expression remained unchanged. He wanted to get away from this utter and complete nonsense. He would rather fight Optimus Prime than converse with this ‘pony’. Of course, ponies can’t control actions of the weak minded animals. This was something else, something probably dangerous. The Decepticon stallion observed that ponies reserved their true power. Luna can move the move the moon, which means she can move mountains, and yet satisfies herself mingling with the common folk; Rainbow Dash can break the sound barrier, and yet has not done so in days; Twilight Sparkle had not yet been seen teleporting. What was the superlative of Fluttershy’s power? Whatever it was, it appeared to be psychic. Without her, the animals would not behave so intelligently.
“I’d like to introduce you to my friends,” Fluttershy said, changing the subject. She went through seventeen species of small animal, most of them prefixed with ‘mister’ and ‘misses’. All were unbelievably docile. If they weren’t waving, they just sat around and smiled. It didn’t feel right at all. At least only some of them were staring at Ravage. One mammal in particular, a rabbit, liked to glare at Ravage and was the only confrontational animal there.
Fluttershy pulled out her tea bag, another action Ravage copied. “Have you had tea before, Ravage?”
“No, I have not,” he responded without putting any emotion into his words.
“Do you like it?” Fluttershy, without even trying, had more feeling in her words than her guest.
Carefully sampling the steaming drink, Ravage smacked his lips, formulating a response. The drink was bitter, but it was relaxing. Possibly this is because it was hot, meant only to be sipped. “Yes. It has a calming effect.”
Fluttershy cutely smiled. “Tea is nice.”
Ravage sipped tea with Fluttershy. It reminded him of an incident on Cybertron, when Megatron gave a green light to infiltrating Equestria.
Three Months Ago:
After weeks of observation, the Decepticons had a meeting regarding the use of Equestria as an energy source. It was an informal meeting with Megatron merely showing up in the middle of the gathering. His sudden presence caused the other Decepticons to immediately stop what they were doing and listen.
“Well, Starscream. How is it that a star orbits a planet?” Megatron queried.
“Princess Celestia controls the star’s orbit with telekinetic power.” Starscream deftly avoided saying ‘magic.’
Megatron slowly walked around Starscream, circling him like a vulture. “Princess… Celestia…” He stopped and looked directly at Starscream. “And how do we harness the energy from this process?”
“We – we don’t know how pony telekinesis works. The androids have absorbed all the data they could. We have to send a Decepticon agent, someone capable of socializing with the ponies.” Starscream was very frightened at this point. For all the research they did, they had nothing to show for it, except for information on some brightly coloured quadrupeds.
“Socialize with them?!”
“The textbook description on how magic really works is completely indecipherable.”
“The agent would need to experiment on-world, make physical measurements and deduce how telekinesis is converted into power.”
“So, you want to send a Decepticon to Equestria so he can study these aliens and figure out how they use telekinesis – to move things. Is that correct?” Megatron had enough of this. All he saw was a waste of power and resources, and he was preparing to cut his losses.
“Yes?” said the embattled Starscream, weakly.
“No!” Megatron grabbed Starscream by the throat practically outraged now. “I will not send Astrotrain across thousands of light years on a rickety triangular space bridge construct just so he can sip tea with Twilight Sparkle!”
Starscream struggled to speak, “You’ve –urk– been paying –ugh– attention.”
Megatron immediately let go of Starscream. He had maintained the notion that he wanted as little to do with these aliens as possible, but not only did he know about Twilight Sparkle, he knew about one of her habits as well. His cover was busted, and the Decepticons were slowly gathering behind Starscream. Clearly, they wanted to see this through, not wanting to have their time wasted. Perhaps it was a nice diversion from fighting Autobots and stealing energy. Also, a relatively small amount of resources were expended – it was nothing compared to the cost of a typical battle with the Autobots, and Megatron knew it. They were, after all, waiting for Optimus Prime to make his move. Why not use the time to study a potential new energy source?
“Very well, Starscream. We will send an agent. What’s your plan?”
“Ahem,” Starscream restored his vocal components. “I have devised a way to build a Decepticon into a cybernetic organism that can transform from robot mode to the likeness of an animal. Those ponies qualify. We just need a volunteer.”
Ravage snickered. He remembered how satisfying it felt to hear Starscream’s suffering as Megatron choked him. Sadly, Megatron’s endorsement gave the pony bot enough confidence to volunteer for this mission. What a mistake that had been! Of course, he could be dead already, since the mysterious radio silence from both Decepticon and Autobot alike continued.
“Are you remembering something funny?” Fluttershy asked, smiling, her eyes opened a little wider this time. It was a rarity to see Ravage in an amused state.
“Yes,” the stallion bot nodded, “Yes I am.”
“Does it have something to do with tea?” Fluttershy wanted Ravage to tell his funny story, but thought it might be rude to ask directly.
“Could you share it with me, please?” On cue, Fluttershy hid behind her mane. “That is, if you want to.”
“Can you imagine a golem the size of town hall having tea with Twilight Sparkle?”
“Whoah, that is pretty funny,” Fluttershy decided, even though she wasn’t laughing. She just kept smiling and looking adorable.
Ravage took another sip of his tea. “Yes, this is most pleasant.” The beverage was like coffee, yet different. He really liked the endless variety of different kinds of foods and drinks available. At first, it was just coffee, and hay shakes, but then he decided that many other drinks would be worthy of trying again. The ‘cocktails’ from the party seemed particularly exotic.
Fluttershy was happy that Ravage liked tea. “That’s chamomile tea. I have many different varieties of tea: green, black, peppermint, honey bush…” Without knowing it, the stallion bot had earned ‘points’ from Fluttershy.
“I would be happy to try them.” Ravage smiled as he said it, for the imbibing of tea was yet another bonus to having a pony body. Summarizing his situation, he was going to have to live with this body for a long time so he might as well make the best of it.
“Incidentally,” Ravage began. He then gestured to the many small animals that gathered around the tea camp.
“Oh, the animals? I fell to earth one day, and a group of butterflies saved me from crashing. It was the first time I was on the ground, but it felt like home. It was then that I learned I could communicate with animals,” Fluttershy described.
“You mean this skill was something you were born with?” Ravage queried, looking perplexed. Fluttershy nodded. “Incredible,” was the only thing he could utter. “Preprogrammed to be able to communicate with the woodland creatures.”
The two ponies conversed back and forth. Mostly, it was Fluttershy they were discussing. Topics included why she didn’t like flying, how Rainbow Dash always defended her, and how her life changed when Twilight Sparkle came to town. Hearing tales of the Elements’ Unit Commander from Fluttershy’s perspective served to solidify Twilight’s position.
“Ravage?” The single word interrogative from Fluttershy put the Decepticon on the defensive.
“Could you please tell me where you’re from?” Fluttershy’s expression was neutral.
“Rural Equestria. I don’t have a town to call my own.” In a sense this was true, since Ravage’s ship was not located inside of any municipality.
“What did you do as a foal? Did you go on adventures? It sounds like you had a lot of freedom,” Fluttershy pressed. “Did you have a lot of friends?”
“I had a lot of friends, yes. And just as many enemies.” Ravage figured out a way to describe his past without actually describing it. “We all used to mess around in a meadow. One day, we became factionalized. Our side, being mostly fliers, couldn’t stand the other side, mostly ground dwellers, and we tried to kick the other group out, but they didn’t want to go. It didn’t take long for it to turn into a brawl. The fighting escalated until it was a huge, drawn out turf war; we just fought and fought and fought. Both groups wanted to claim the meadow as theirs.”
Fluttershy was flabbergasted. “You couldn’t work out your differences?”
“I dunno. I wasn’t actually there from the start. I was friends with a few of them, and got drawn into the fight.” Ravage was purposely trying to be as vague as possible. He was pretty sure it wouldn’t stem the flow of questions though.
“That’s just awful! It’s hard to believe that ponies can still behave that way in this day and age.” Fluttershy was shaking her head in disbelief. She tried to rationalize Ravage’s past. “Were your friends nice ponies?”
“Well, that depended on what side you were on, but if you didn’t get in their way, they usually left you alone,” the Decepticon responded.
Fluttershy’s eyes narrowed. “They don’t sound very nice to me.”
Ravage narrowed his eyes. “They’re still my friends.”
The kind pegasus didn’t want to believe what Ravage was saying. She knew well of many ponies being victimized by bullying, even violence. She was one of them. It saddened her to hear that the rural areas could be even worse off than the cities and towns in that regard. She lowered her head in defeat; her mane’s shining pink locks completely hid her face. “You’re very loyal, Ravage. I respect that,” Fluttershy conceded.
She couldn’t help but feel for Ravage, whom it seems had a rough upbringing. Without another word, she walked around the tablecloth and embraced him. The stallion bot was clueless as to what to do, except let Fluttershy hug him. “Ravage?” she softly asked, looking up at him with her big, wanting eyes, “Could you tell me about your best friend?”
Ravage chuckled, a little a first then more heartily. The kind mare let him go, and looked up at him expectantly. “That would be…” He looked up at the sky trying to hash out his response.
“Soundwave.” He noticed that he had Fluttershy’s complete attention. “He was a big, blue and white pegasus. Very tough. Nobody messed with that pony. He doesn’t like it when somepony else tells of stories he was involved in, though.”
Fluttershy smiled. “I understand.”
Ravage picked up one of the cherries and gave it to a raccoon he noticed had been eyeing it. The creature cupped it with his two hands and smiled cutely before scurrying off. The stallion wasn’t quite sure why he did that, but it did reduce the number of animal observers down by one. The fewer the better, he thought. The pony bot could swear he could hear Fluttershy gasp, or sigh, or something to that effect before she returned to her spot. His pony ears were very good at low level sound detection, but were unable to filter out the noise.
He started in on his second cup, fully enjoying the tea experience. It was then that he noticed that something was off. It was quiet, even for Fluttershy. He looked to her expecting to see her occupied, and in fact she was. She was beaming.
“You seem happy,” the pony bot guessed.
The pegasus’ response consisted of, once again, turning her head to the side and blushing, but she also emitted a ‘squee’ sound.
Ravage finished his cup. Fluttershy had managed to finish three cups. “Should I go boil another pot of water?” she asked.
More tea sounded good, but Ravage knew of something that might be better. “Hmm. Tea is nice, but it’s a little hot this afternoon. Should we go for ice cream?”
Fluttershy nodded in agreement. “That’s a good idea,” she said wistfully. Like droids, her little animals set about the tasks of cleaning up the picnic. Ravage still couldn’t believe it.
A small line had built up at the ice cream shop, as families and their foals seemed to arrive at the same conclusion that Ravage did. A sizable menu of flavours was available. Ravage decided that he was going to get mint chip, the first flavour he had tried nearly forty-eight hours ago.
Fluttershy stood close – very close. She was also well within his personal space on the way there. Heading out to her cottage she kept a healthy distance, and barely looked at, or talked to him. This time, if Ravage looked to her at his side she would look directly back, smiling. This was not an insignificant change in behavior. Ravage had come to know that even small changes in how these ponies act often had big consequences. Why the change? Perhaps she just trusted him. Ravage couldn’t think of any other reason than that. He didn’t want it to be any other reason than that.
The line had shortened to just a mare and her foal in front of them when Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle came into the line, apparently wanting the same thing. “Great minds think alike!” shouted Dash through the small group of ponies in front of them.
Twilight gave Dash a sideways glance, “I think I can let that one go,” she joked.
Ravage looked around to them, and nodded. Fluttershy smiled, secretly appreciating that she didn’t have to get ‘assertive’ to keep her place in line. Finally purchasing their order, Fluttershy got a scoop of strawberry (he gestured to her to order first), while the Decepticon stallion got his apparent favourite, mint chip.
Suddenly, Ravage’s ears were racked with pain as the scream of a foal shattered the peace. He cringed, while a surprised Fluttershy put her free hoof to her mouth as her way of coping with the noise. It was easy to see that the filly, who had just ordered, just dropped her own mint chip ice cream onto the grass, and she was wailing up a storm!
The mother enveloped her daughter in a hug, gently shushing her, trying her best to calm her down. “Sorry, Sun Speed, we can’t afford any more.” She didn’t have any ice cream for herself. The despondent foal was only calmed a little bit and kept sobbing and crying.
Unable to withstand the pathetic scene, Ravage stretched over from the counter, and offered his own cone. “Here. I haven’t even touched it.” The mother looked at Ravage, completely taken by surprise. Her filly, however, eagerly accepted Ravage’s mint chip scoop.
Levitating the cone with her magic, the mother tried to teach manners to her pegasus pony child. “What do you say, Sun Speed?”
The little foal, excited about her turn of luck, jumped up to Ravage, one of the most feared Decepticons back in the day, and unabashedly hugged his chest, nuzzling into him. “Thank you!” she squeaked out. Ravage had no response and almost gawked, completely ignorant on how to act. After a few seconds, she returned to her mom, who was smiling at Ravage.
“Thank you very much, sir,” the mother said. “I don’t – whoops!” She managed to catch the second cone with her magic before it fell like the first cone. With young ponies, walking and eating ice cream at the same time was a near impossibility. Assistance from their parents was a must. The pair walked away before another incident could occur.
Ravage noticed he had no ice cream, but he was still at the front of the line. “Um, may I buy another?” Since the ponies in line seemed equally happy with his ‘selfless’ act, he easily managed to acquire another cone. It was then that Fluttershy was practically embracing her strawberry ice cream, a look of delight was written on her face as her eyes bore onto the stallion bot.
Ravage tried to walk, but noticed he couldn’t. Three legged walking for a pony holding an ice cream was an act of locomotion only the most silly of adult ponies attempted. He then remembered that his previous encounters with ice cream were always associated with unicorns. Bo held his first cone, and Pearl Bliss, his second. And now his third cone started levitating all by itself. “Do you mind waiting for a couple of minutes, Ravage, Fluttershy? I can hold on to this,” Twilight offered.
“Uh, thanks?” The Decepticon didn’t like this rather annoying limitation.
Fluttershy did a short flight and hovered beside the stallion bot before settling down. “I’m so sorry, Ravage. I should have offered to carry your ice cream.” For the umpteenth time that day, she leaned her head forward, sorrowfully.
“It’s alright, Fluttershy. Everything worked out.” It appeared that the Element of Kindness felt a little too much, since it didn’t take a lot to make her sad. Ravage’s words had an effect though. She perked up and smiled as soon as she heard them.
Fluttershy held out her cone to the unicorn. “Twilight, if you don’t mind?” Her friend got the point and levitated her cone as well. Fluttershy immediately settled down beside Ravage.
Staying as a group, bound by ice cream, the four ponies traveled a short distance to a small patch of field by the schoolhouse. Fluttershy paired up with Ravage just as much as Twilight Sparkle paired up with Rainbow Dash, and all sat down on their haunches once they found a good spot.
Ravage watched with interest as Twilight released the ice cream into her friends’ hooves. “That is amazing. It’s not even melted!” he said, hardly believing the pristine condition of their snacks. Had Twilight provided refrigeration as well as levitation?
“Yup! Twilight’s the most powerful unicorn in all of Equestria!” Rainbow boasted on her friend’s behalf. Twilight cocked an eyebrow, and the blue-furred pegasus got the point right away, “Well, you know what I mean.”
In between lapping up the minty goodness, Ravage was still able to speak. “How do you do that?” he asked plainly.
Twilight’s eyes grew wide. “All I do is manipulate the gravitational properties of the fourth thaumic field. I also used the third thaumic field to keep our ice cream cold.”
“Which explains why our cones are also cold,” Ravage deduced.
“Yes!” Twilight had jumped onto her hooves, very excited that Ravage had taken to her explanation so easily. Rainbow Dash leaned on one of her hooves, a bored expression appearing on her face. Fluttershy was content watching the discussion and carried on licking her ice cream. Twilight continued, “If you like, I can show you some books on the subject, maybe even give you a crash course!”
“Twi, he’s an earth pony,” Rainbow pointed out.
“It doesn’t matter if you can use magic or not. Knowledge is power,” Twilight countered. “We live in Equestria, a nation that is built on magic. Knowing a little about how it works is at least as important as knowing why.”
Rainbow wasn’t sold, and so she looked to her pegasus friend. “What do you think, Fluttershy?”
“Oh, I – whatever is good for you, Ravage,” the yellow mare spoke, looking over to the stallion she sat down beside.
The Decepticon realized that he was no longer afraid of Twilight. He needed to know more about the inner workings of Equestria’s magic and these ponies were not combative. His decision was easy to make. “I’m pretty curious. Can you help me learn about magic, Twilight?”
“Ravage, I would be honoured.” Twilight wore a smug expression, more due to the being allowed to transfer some of her knowledge about magic to another pony, than having won the debate. “You work tomorrow, don’t you? I have to finish reviewing two papers on teleportation before the day’s out; would you like to come to the library for seven tomorrow evening?”
“Yes,” Ravage agreed, a gentle smile gracing his face, “I’ll arrive at seven tomorrow,”
Rainbow Dash was still not convinced. “I hope you know what you’re getting yourself into, dude.”
The group languished in the hot afternoon sun for about an hour. A few choice topics were discussed, but Twilight couldn’t help but try to ‘give pointers’ on the upcoming magical study with the stallion bot. Fluttershy, being comfortable in the presence of her friends who now included Ravage, joined in the conversations.
Twilight and Rainbow Dash eventually left as they had duties to perform. Fluttershy too had a number of chores waiting for her. The timid mare got the courage to ask, “Ravage, could you walk me home, please?” She had enjoyed being in his company and couldn’t bear to part ways just yet.
Soon the two ponies were at the doorstep of Fluttershy’s cottage. “Thank you for spending time with me, Ravage,” she cooed, blushing as she did.
“You blush a lot,” the stallion pointed out. “And thanks for the tea.”
“Oh, you’re welcome!” she gushed.
“Goodbye,” he spoke while waving to Fluttershy one last time before turning away.
“Good bye.” Fluttershy closed the door behind her with both hooves. Truth be told, she really didn’t want him to leave. Her heart fluttered as she thought about him and the subtle, but potent experiences they had during the day. She thought about the possibility of Ravage being the stallion of the Element herd. It practically made her squee while her forelegs wrapped around her chest. Her wings splayed out and she smiled wistfully.
Ravage planned on leaving town as soon as possible. Though tempted to acquire cherries, apples, or even a hay shake, he knew how quickly these mares would locate him and stick to him like strong adhesive. It was late afternoon, but he also had work to do, and the last thing he wanted was to try to make his way home after dusk.
He chose the trail access on the east side of town, the one he used to go to work. He had the satellite track Fluttershy’s ‘sentient’ animals, but they didn’t follow him. The two blue jays his androids were tracking earlier never left Fluttershy’s property.
Safely ensconced in his base, Ravage thought on the weekend’s events. He came to the troubling realization that more energy was expended on a weekend day than on a weekday, even with hauling concrete. He had survived some pretty big challenges with Luna. He also had breakfast at Rarity’s, got groceries, enjoyed sweet snacks, played volleyball and hoofball, swam, attended a party and…
He kissed a mare.
The sensations he felt when he was with Flitter were difficult to properly describe. All of his senses were used. Data was recorded. Still, there was something else, something that he could not describe when she was kissing him. It felt like – it felt similar to when he stared down at Twilight at the lunch two days ago. And then, Ravage’s pony eyes opened wide at the horror of the realization.
He transformed immediately. His fists clenched in anger. What did he do? Oh, what did he do!? After all the war and destruction, after all the pain, after four million years of combat, what did he just do!
The act of mouth pressing was no mere physiological task, like eating, or breathing. It was binding! Two individuals, for that is the natural number that can exchange a kiss, came together to perform the act. As a result, and this was profoundly difficult to describe, a ‘piece’ of each pony was taken with the other. Ravage never really knew Flitter until she kissed him. What did she find out about HIM? What was worse was that ‘fluttery’ feeling he had felt from time to time. He can’t actually like these ponies!
But there was work. Burying these damaging realizations, Ravage had his life to defend, and his mission to comprehend. He drew plans to transport energon cubes from the hydro plant. The fact that Luna, and therefore Celestia, could spot him as soon as he was under the open sky proved to be a severe tactical deficiency, but he was certain he would find a way around it.
He had tunneling machines dig and prepare underground shafts. They consumed energon, but that didn’t matter now. Ravage felt that if he couldn’t produce energon on this alien planet, then he was as good as dead. After realizing how threatening this world’s ways really were to his Decepticon stature, his true nature, he decided on preparing missile sites not far away from his base. Some of the tunnels would go to them. Another would lead away from the hangar door concealing his ship; another would go to the riverbed.
The tunnel droids needed supervision, but not that much. He needed to test his hypothesis that ponies may be using black matter as a means to influence the sun and moon, and perhaps their magic as well. In addition to working into the night preparing tunnels, and making plans to acquire energon, he spent the bulk of his time designing a black matter detector.
The detector designs tended to require exotic elements, all of which were unavailable in the ponies’ low tech society. One design required aluminum, but it called for a lot of it. Sensing this was his best chance to get the materials for the detector, Ravage tasked one of the satellites to look for it.
By the time he was satisfied with his efforts, it was dawn.