Jigsaw stood on the pavement, staring up at the towering buildings overhead. He was about to speak when he received a jab in the side from one of Tiptoe’s wings.
“Ow! What was that fo-” he stopped short, interrupted by Tiptoe’s glare. Slowly, he began to take notice of his surroundings. His attention slipped from the architecture to his immediate surroundings to the general attitude of the ponies surrounding him. They were all walking with their heads lowered, eyes set resolutely forward. Jigsaw, with his head up and mouth open, looked very out of place. He quickly lowered his head and walked side by side with Tiptoe.
He still couldn’t help the occasional glance up, though. The hyaline spires of the city extended hundreds of feet skyward—but, they were all dwarfed by the tower they had just left. It extended several times higher than even the highest building near it, thousands of feet high, piercing the sky like a needle. It appeared even more piecemeal than the rooms inside it had led him to believe- it appeared as though it had once been a much smaller tower that had been continually built upon. The base was rectangular and dark, though as the tower ascended, the exterior changed many times, from orbicular walls to the final, sleek, antennae-like point at the very top. The exact center of the shimmering protective dome around the city radiated out of this central point, encasing the city in its constantly billowing blue light. The effect was something like the bottom of a pool, though the warm, white lights of the city helped to lessen the effect.
The city itself was immaculately clean. Ponies were filing in and out of several nearby buildings. They quickly assumed the same head-down posture that everypony had, quickly making their way away from the tower. The sidewalks were made of a white material that felt something like rubber. The roads were made out of what looked like black volcanic glass, though Jigsaw knew that would be an exceptionally bad material to build a road out of. As they walked along, some ponies shot them strange looks, but they weren’t bothered. After a few hundred feet of walking, Tiptoe and Jigsaw came to a crossroads. The road curved off to the right in one direction and continued straight on in the other. This far from the tower, the ponies were beginning to raise their heads and talk to each other. Tiptoe nudged Jigsaw and gestured with her nose towards a space in between two buildings right where the roads diverged, and they slipped inside.
Tiptoe was the first to speak. “Jigsaw, where are we going to go?” Her voice quavered, as if she was unsure of herself.
Jigsaw still hadn’t quite recovered from the shock of the city. He had a wide-eyed, stunned expression on his face. “What are you talking about?”
“Yeah, we escaped,” Tiptoe said, “But we’re still in danger. We have nowhere to go!”
However, before Jigsaw could respond, a bright flash of red light and a sharp crack came from the entrance to the alleyway. When the light had faded, a small band of ponies was blocking the exit. Around their midriffs, they all had a red jumpsuit encircled by a black stripe. At the head of a the pack was a gargantuan, forest-green earth pony. Embedded in his shoulder was a small, round disc that was currently flashing red. When he spoke, his voice was harsh and raspy.
“Did you think you could escape from Rubidium that easily?” he hissed, walking forward slowly.
“W-who are you?” Tiptoe said. She began edging backward, and Jigsaw quickly followed her.
“We’re who Rubidium sends when he wants something dealt with,” said a small blue pegasus who emerged from behind the burly green pony. Her voice was dripping with malice. She looked directly at Tiptoe when she said “dealt with”. Jigsaw’s horn flared to life and he stepped forward.
“Stay away from her!” he shouted.
The group of ponies looked at each other briefly before breaking into derisive laughter. The green pony moved out of the center to allow a gray unicorn to take the center stage. His horn began to glow with a dim white light and Jigsaw was thrown against the concrete wall of the building next to him. Tiptoe gasped, but Jigsaw stood up and shook off the shock. He didn’t try to take the offensive again, however.
“What do you want?” he demanded.
“Our orders are to capture you,” the gray unicorn replied. “The girl is disposable.”
At this, Jigsaw bristled in anger.
Tiptoe’s back was against the wall now. Jigsaw was directly in front of her. Rubidium’s hit squad moved in slowly. The gray unicorn’s horn was glowing brighter.
Jigsaw looked over his shoulder at Tiptoe, and in that instant, they both understood what the other was thinking. Jigsaw crouched down, and the group of ponies advancing towards them were momentarily taken aback.
Then, Tiptoe leapt up, grabbing Jigsaw’s midriff and pumping her wings furiously. They sailed over the stunned ponies and landed back near the mouth of the alleyway. “Run!” Tiptoe screamed, and they took off.
Rubidium’s hit squad wasn’t stunned for long, though. They raced after them. The chase was on.
Jigsaw and Tiptoe galloped down the roads, blowing past crowds of highly confused-looking ponies. The strange vehicles driving down the roads slammed to a halt when they saw the strange pursuit. Jigsaw glanced over his shoulder to see the blue pegasus rapidly gaining on them, her wings flapping furiously.
Jigsaw directed Tiptoe around a corner. They were now running parallel to the edge of the shimmering shield. Jigsaw glanced back again and saw, to his relief, that there didn’t appear to be anyone following them. He was just about to slow down when Tiptoe yelled, “Stop!”
Jigsaw whipped his head back around to find that the group of red-banded ponies had somehow managed to beat them to the end of the street and were now running towards them. Jigsaw dug his hooves into the sidewalk and skidded to a stop, then quickly turned direction and galloped away. Tiptoe had taken off and was now flying slightly ahead of Jigsaw.
“Tiptoe!” Jigsaw yelled. Tiptoe slowed down slightly so as to be next to Jigsaw.
“What?” she called.
“We have to get inside somewhere and fight them off! We can’t just run forever!” Jigsaw said.
“You’re right!” Tiptoe shouted back. “But how can we ever hope to fight off these ponies?”
They didn’t have to wait long to find out. They barrelled around a corner and down an alley only to find that their path was blocked by the rather imposing front doors to one of the many giant towers. They turned around only to find that the group of ponies standing at the mouth of the alley again.
The green earth pony stepped forward. “Really, you two? All that running to end up in exactly the same situation?”
The blue pegasus swooped up into the air. “And don’t think you can try that fancy flying trick again. This time, I’m ready.”
Jigsaw noticed a faint metallic scent in the air. Suddenly, a bolt of what appeared to be lightning shot from one side of the alleyway to the other, stopping the progression of the hitponies. Tiptoe stared at Jigsaw. “Did you do that?”
“No!” Jigsaw said, stunned. “I can’t do anything like tha-”
He was interrupted by a sudden blast of light and heat. He and Tiptoe were pushed back into the wall by the force of the blast. When the light faded, a single female, inky black unicorn was standing between Tiptoe and Jigsaw and the hitsquad. Her shoulder appeared to have a somewhat large, glowing rectangle set in it, reminiscent of the green pony’s, only much more bulky looking. Her cutie mark showed a stylized orange-and-yellow wisp.
The burly green pony stood there in shock for a moment. The pegasus quickly landed, and the unicorn lowered his head.
“So, Rubidium actually decided to send you after these new arrivals? Why is that?” the black pony said. Her posture was strangely laid-back, in stark comparison to the hitsquad, who looked as though they might snap at any moment. Tiptoe silently wondered why this simple unicorn inspired such fear in this elite squad.
“None of your business, Incendia. What are you doing here?” The burly green pony said, his voice even lower and raspier than usual. Every muscle in his body was tense.
Incendia, to Jigsaw and Tiptoe’s shock, actually sat down and began to exam the alleyway.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been to his particular district before. Lovely outdoor gardens.”
“You didn’t answer my question,” the green earth pony snarled.
“Oh, fine then, if you insist. I’m here to do what I always do! Save people and ruin your day.”
She turned her head and winked at Jigsaw and Tiptoe, though they couldn’t help by notice that she was beginning to tense up too.
Then, with a shout and a flash of white light, bedlam broke out. The gray unicorn had lifted what seemed to be an entire car and hurled it at Incendia, while the blue pegasus followed not far behind.
Incendia responded in a split second. She hit the button on her shoulder, and she vanished in a blast of heat and light. She reappeared a few seconds later directly behind the group. The car hit the ground and skidded to a stop only a few feet from where Jigsaw and Tiptoe were standing.
Incendia’s horn began to glow deep orange, and she began to chuckle. Then, without warning, her whole body erupted into flames. From her horn spouted what looked like a gigantic whip of fire, which she swung around a few times before lashing out and the burly green pony. He quickly jumped aside and galloped out of the alleyway, shouting instructions to his cohorts.
The two other ponies quickly galloped out into the street to join him. Jigsaw and Tiptoe cautiously approached the mouth of the alleyway to get a view of the action.
Incendia was now engulfed in flames. The blue pegasus struggled to dodge the flaming tip of the whip as it flew through the air. She wasn’t fast enough, though. The flaming whip caught her in the side, ripping apart her red banner, and creating a deep cut down her flank, bisecting her cutie mark, a soaring bird of prey. She went spiraling to the ground.
The unicorn levitated a large table from a nearby house and hurled towards the flaming unicorn. Incendia reacted instantly. The fiery whip zig-zagged through the air, wrapping around the table like a lasso. She spun around on the spot and swung the table through the air. She released it and sent it flying towards the gray unicorn. It soared through the air, smoldering slightly from where it had been in contact with the length of fire. The gray unicorn’s horn began to glow, but it was too late. The table collided with him with a loud, dull thump and he fell backwards. His head slammed against the strange material of the sidewalk and he stopped moving.
The green earth pony glanced to his fallen comrades and then turned his head and began to manipulate the device in his shoulder. Incendia’s eyes widened and she shot out a tongue of flame, but too late. With a press of the disc, a strange shimmering effect surrounded the green earth pony. The flaming strand deflected off it, causing the field to ripple.
The green pony charged at Incendia. She attempted to jump out of the way, but the green pony was surprisingly quick for his size. He collided into her and she tumbled backwards off of the road and onto a small stone bench on the sidewalk. Her flames went out.
She sat up slowly. The green pony galloped over to her, then turned his back. He raised his back legs as if preparing to kick her. Jigsaw and Tiptoe looked away- nopony could possibly survive a buck to the head from such a large pony. Fortunately, Incendia had her wits about her enough to duck down. The green pony’s hooves hit the stone of the bench harmlessly. With what looked like a great effort, Incendia ignited herself again. She rolled out from under the green pony and bent her head down. A small bright white light began glowing at the tip of her horn. The green pony opened his mouth in shock, but it was too late. From the white point, a concussive blast of flame leapt out. Jigsaw and Tiptoe ducked to the side of the alleyway to avoid the intense heat radiating out from the wave of fire. The green pony’s shield remained intact, but the blast knocked him off his hooves. He hit the ground hard and skidded several feet. He didn’t get back up.
Incendia gave one final look around before extinguishing her flames. She suddenly swayed on her feet and had to brace herself to stop from falling over. She was panting heavily. Jigsaw and Tiptoe ran out to see her.
“That was incredible!” Jigsaw said. “Who are you? Why did you save us?”
Tiptoe shot a disapproving glance at Jigsaw. “More importantly, are you okay?”
Incendia straightened up a little, though she was still panting hard. “My name is Incendia. I’ve come to rescue you.”
“But who are you?” Jigsaw insisted. “Why are you trying to rescue us? How did you find us?”
“I’m from the resistance movement,” Incendia said, “and as for ‘why’ and ‘how’, I think it would be best if I showed you. Come with me. I promise you, we’re the good guys.”
Tiptoe and Jigsaw shared a look. “We don’t really have any choice, way I see it.” Tiptoe said.
“Good.” Incendia let out a weak smile.
Many things happened at once. Incendia’s eyes suddenly focused on a point directly behind Jigsaw and Tiptoe. They turned their heads to follow her line of sight and saw the gray unicorn was back on his hooves, a small chunk of concrete levitating over his head. He let out a shriek and launched it towards them.
Incendia jumped forward, forcing Tiptoe and Jigsaw out of the way. The spinning chunk of concrete struck her on the right front leg, and she screamed in agony. With a sickeningly loud crack, the leg bent backwards- far more than a leg ever should. She collapsed to the ground, whimpering. Her leg was splayed out at an impossible angle. Jigsaw and Tiptoe ran in front of her, blocking the gray unicorn’s path. Before they could get a chance to retaliate, however, a loud clicking sound came from behind them. Incendia had pressed the rectangular device embedded into her shoulder.
Instantly, Jigsaw and Tiptoe felt as though they were being torn apart. They were being alternately pulled on at all sides and then compressed. Breathing was nearly impossible. Then, when they thought they couldn’t take it anymore, the suddenly slammed to the ground. Jigsaw felt as though he had just been run over by a large boulder- his whole body ached. Judging from Tiptoe’s shocked expression, he figured she did too. They were in a small, unassuming room that appeared to have been quickly and shoddily made out of wood. There was no furniture, only a single electric light hung from a ceiling. Then, with a fresh blast of light and heat, Incendia appeared before them. She crumpled to the ground. Immediately, two other ponies- a female unicorn and a male pegaus- rushed into the room. When they saw Jigsaw and Tiptoe, their faces lit up with joy. It was short-lived, however, because they soon noticed Incendia lying in a heap on the ground, her right leg splayed out at an unnatural angle.
The next entrant into the room surprised Jigsaw more than anything else. Cerulean stepped through the doorway, her trademark smile replaced with one that appeared genuine.