The Golden Age of Apocalypse - Book I

by BlueBastard

Chapter 18 - Whatever Happened to Buford the Janitor?

Golden Age of Apocalypse

Chapter 18—Whatever Happened to Buford the Janitor?

In hindsight, ponies would recollect later, the animosity should have been obvious: the two, the unyielding force and the immovable object, forever destined to clash between each other.  Like timberwolves and smokecats, like manticores and bugbears, even as viciously as Celestia fought her occasional diets, the two forces would never meet a happy twain, and so it was again.  

Ponies would say that later on, anypony could have seen it coming.

Too bad that nopony did.

After Corner Shot had narrowly managed to pull ahead with back-to-back wins to prove victorious over Golden Break, she’d been only too happy to subsequently agree to Raspberry Beryl’s request to be a part of her search for some good pool table quality felt. According to Razz, Princess Cadance had asked her to make a crystal pool table or something the previous night, and while for the most part Razz could manage using her magic for everything, she couldn’t replicate the qualities of a felt surface out of crystal. While Corner declined the invitation to basically show off in front of a bunch of royalty on the to-be-built table, she could at least lend her expertise as a pool player to identify the kind of felt that only professionals would play on. And so together, they merrily went on an afternoon adventure through Ponyville for the second day in a row and had no cares in the world whatsoever.

…at least that’s what should have been the case.

While Corner could not fault Razz’s intuition for the one reason the afternoon trek was probably already ruined, nor even the original plan itself given Rarity was supposed to be the third wheel of the group, the fact that damnable Coco Pommel ended up in the alabaster unicorn’s place just irritated Shot for some reason. That one pesky filly, thinking she was a real mare, kept popping up around Razz at all the wrong times and seemed to gravitate to the unicorn a bit too much for Shot’s liking. Hell, if she could I bet she’d willingly sit on Raspberry’s horn right next to her bird, thought Corner, netting a small grin at the mental image generated.

“You say something, Shot?” murmured Razz, as she led her compatriots through town.

“Oh, nothing, just figuring out my plans for how I’m going to psyche my next opponent out.  Don’t worry about it.”


Meanwhile, Coco finished putting away a slip of paper into her own saddlebags. “Well, we’ve searched Fabulous Fedora’s Fabrics and Faucets, Patrol Box’s Tents and Dishcloths, and even Terrific Tietack's Textiles and Tables, but nopony in town seems to have any suitable felt!”

“We could always just ask Rarity if she’s got some felt around,” suggested Corner nonchalantly.

“Can’t—I used the last of the green felt she had for a costume order this morning. Wasn’t even good enough to be used for the outside, all of it ended up as interior lining for the costumes. Never would have served well for a pool table meant for royalty.”

“Like you would know felt quality for pool playing,” muttered Corner.

“You okay, Corner?” asked Razz with somewhat firm tones. Ever since Razz had noticed Corner’s sudden nervous streak, the pegasus had been acting rather strangely—by now Razz was sure it wasn’t just a case of barely even having known the pony before the Nightshade incident, and if nothing else Corner appeared to be highly evasive when it came to divulging potentially personal, albeit minor, reasons.

“I’m…just getting a little antsy, since I doubt there are that many stores in town that would carry felt to begin with, much less pool table quality.”

“I disagree: there’s probably someplace with a surplus of the stuff that did event-related pool table repairs prior to the competition getting going, ponies in town would need to practice, y’know.”

“Given that the town’s rebuilding from the war against Tirek, it doesn’t surprise me that a lot of things are out of stock ,” added Coco. “Maybe if we were in Manehatten, then we would be able to find this felt easily—that city’s basically the Meccolt of pool.”

“No, that’d be–” began Corner, before getting interrupted by Razz shoving both her and Coco into a store almost at random.

“Davenport’s Sofas and Quills, might as well give it a shot!” Razz said with a sweet smile.

For some reason, Corner found herself blushing as she smiled back before replying in a huskier than usual tone, “Razz, you’re like a candy bar: half of you is sweet, the other half is totally nutty!”

The entire world seemed to stop just then as Razz and Coco stared at the mare whose lips had just uttered what very well might have been one of the worst flirting lines in recorded history. So much so that it could have easily passed as mock-flirtation. Even though the crowds kept moving on like nothing had happened, all Corner could hear was the high-pitched “BOO!” cries from the crickets who wouldn’t even give her words the dignity of their chirping.

“Was… that supposed to be a pickup line?” asked a bewildered Razz. Heliodor—perched on her horn as always, still had his beak agape in shock.

“Well, uh…” Corner desperately tried to find a logical enough sounding response. “Admittedly, that one might have accidently slipped out, but can you blame me? I’m kind of used to being pushed around by overzealous fans of both sexes; kind of an occupational hazard when you’re as good as me!”

Razz, much to Corner’s dismay, didn’t really buy it. Coco even less so when she replied, "Corner Shot?  I’m sorry, but I don’t buy it, no offense. I don’t think pool has ravenous fans the way real sports do.”

That was enough to trigger the pegasus.  “WHAT?” she suddenly roared, getting in the other mare’s face.  “Wanna say that again? Because I’m pretty sure I heard you say pool isn’t a real sport!

The near-apocalyptic brawl that almost erupted right then and there—prevented only by Razz’s well-timed use of some dark crystal hobbles on the pegasus before she assaulted the earth pony—had attracted a small crowd that only began to disperse when a frustrated Razz dragged a mortified Corner with her into the oddly, but accurately, named store, with Coco hesitantly bringing up the rear. And from a rooftop nearby, all of it had been captured in a series of still photographs. Nineball gave a satisfied grunt before he quickly broke down his portable camera stand and made his way off the roof, to blend back into the masses below as best as a thickly accented, Stalliongrad giant like himself could.

“She said what?!” exclaimed Sunset later that day. Following the potential hospitalization of one friend by another when they were supposed to have been helping Razz find good pool table felt, it had been mutually decided that the three should split up lest something else happen. Sunset, who had gone off shortly after the pool match of the day had been finished, didn’t know about any of what Corner had done until just now—she’d gone off to join the triplets, Cadance, and Shining Armor instead.

“Yeah, she said I was a candy bar—among other things,” winced Razz in recollection. Corner had seemingly not had a clue about what she’d suddenly been saying, but some of Bumper Thumper’s words about how Corner got around seemed to be more accurate than she’d willingly wanted to believe at the time. “To be honest, I’m pretty sure Corner has been making passes at me for a while now, but I just tried to ignore it because she’s sort of become a friend. But now with Coco getting involved, things are starting to get weird.”

“Wait, Coco? As in Coco Pommel?” Sunset asked. “How is she involved?”

“Why, do you know her?”

Sunset shook her head. “Not the one here. But I’m… sorta related to her human counterpart.”

There was the briefest of pauses as Razz attempted to process this information. “Oh yeah, that’s right, I was there when you got named part of the French Napoleons or something and Coco was the cousin of the human Sunset Shimmer, who you’re now legally the identical sister of, so...yeah.” The mulberry unicorn shook her head in disbelief, adding “Is there anyone in that world you’re not related to?”

With a humorous smile, Sunset answered, “For now, but give it a few years.”

Razz chuckled in response. It was a brief but much needed distraction from the situation she’d found herself in. “Well anyway, to answer your question, Coco seems to have gotten very… attached to me ever since I found her on board the Arno, and Corner is having none of it.”

Sunset nodded in understanding. “Jealousy?”

“It’s the most likely explanation I can think of,” Razz sighed. “Coco is a very… affectionate pony by nature—Rarity said as much from experience—but there’s something noticeably different about how she is around me. The more I think about it, the more I notice there’s something more… I guess, intimate in her interactions with me. She’s even started to return fire a bit to Corner. I’m afraid the feeling is mutual between them, and it’s all I can do to keep them from tearing each other to pieces.”

Cadance delicately cleared her throat and asked, “Well, do you feel the same way for either of them?” A harsh and immediate glare from Razz met Cadance’s words, and the alicorn raised her forelegs defensively. “Hey, I had to ask!”

After letting her glare subside, Razz said, “I think I’m going to have to have a good long talk with both of them if this continues to be a problem.”

“So you’ve got two girls fighting over you, and you don’t want either of them?” Sunset nodded with a look that was stone-cold sober. “Razz, I know exactly what you’re going through.”

“Any advice?”

Sunset sighed wearily. “Honestly? I’m still trying to figure out what to do about my own little harem.”

“Well, I guess I’ll figure out how to handle it on my own time. But for now, might as well get started on the project. Here, take this and hold it up for me.” Razz handed Sonata the plans for the pool table she’d gotten from Table Rack, then let her magical illusion spell drop.  “Before anypony asks why I’ve dropped the illusion,” piped up Razz, fully expecting to having needed to field the question, “it’s that this is going to be one of the most complex things I’ve ever sculpted out of crystal and I need total concentration on this—being out of my normal guise eliminates what otherwise would be a minor distraction.”

“You’re actually capable of using your brain?” Adagio began, but then got a hard stare from Sunset.

“Dagi, you do realize Mom’s going to want to know if you gave Razz here a hard time,” Sunset explained.  “Do you want to end up grounded again?”

Adagio blanched.  “You wouldn’t!”

“So, orders from your liegelady don’t matter, but being grounded by your aunt does?” Sunset said with a grin.  “I’ll have to keep that in mind for next time.”

Ignoring the banter between the two, Razz charged her magic, then summoned up several crystal growths right out of the floor, the universal dark shades giving off an aura of intimidating presence until Razz’s tools flew out from her saddlebags and made contact with the still growing magic minerals. Upon contact, the obsidian colors faded away, replaced by brighter, less evil looking pastel shades that the final build of the pool table would display.

“So this is your natural magic, Razz?” asked Aria, dazzled at the brilliance of the artful performance Razz was giving as her tools flew among the rough crystals, grinding and chipping away at the rapidly changing shapes. While the distinction had been made when the SIRENs had first met Razz in the human world, visually the only difference anybody had noticed between the magic used between Razz and Sunset was the former’s yellow hued magic—which as was later found out to be her having “hijacked” the magic of Divine Right, while the latter was much more of a “traditional” magic user. Raspberry’s true dark powers, drained before her time in the human world due to Tirek’s machinations, hadn’t returned until after she was able to come home to Equestria, and as such her dark magic in its full form hadn’t been seen by humans before now.

“Well, the Sombraic branch of black magic is,” explained Twilight, “in that it’s still dark magic solidified into crystalline shapes, and then an illusion coating embedded into them to hide the truth. While they are still capable of continually growing and overtaking the immediate environment, Razz is able to make that aspect of them sealed and dormant within and it takes something designed to dissolve crystals wholesale to make that magic become active again.”

“Don’t even ask me about it!” shouted Spike as he passed by the open door in the hallway, evidently transporting a box of something from one place in the castle to another.

“Yeah, this is gonna take it outta me….” groaned Razz.

“Raspberry, please,” said Cadance, “don’t push yourself too far just to make a fancy pool table, I can always–”

“No, no, I don’t mean that!” chuckled the crystal artisan, “I just don’t think I’ll be able to make the table and the matching set of pool balls and cues tonight. Fortunately, Table Rack lent me a full set so you all can at least play with the table once I’m done.”

“Oh, that’s nice of him!”

As the rest of the group watched, the now-geometrical shaped crystals, in a variety of colors matching Rainbow’s hair, suddenly lifted off the ground and began to form together in the air into what looked like a pool table. Held together with screws and bolts—also made from crystal—the assembly took no less than a few minutes thanks to crystal effectively being the replacement for wood in what was otherwise a standard looking pool table, now open for business.

“Phew!” Exclaimed Razz, wiping sweat from her brow, “Haven’t worked with dark crystal in a while, so that was one heck of a mental workout!”

“Well, time for a physical one, then!” said Cadance, who took the liberty of removing the pool equipment from Razz’s saddlebags. “Now, who here knows how to play pool?” She honestly expected nopony other than Twilight to raise a hoof, so to her surprise, the triplets raised their hooves high almost immediately.

“It’s a longstanding tradition in various human armed forces to play that sport,” said Dagi, “so if you’re looking for a challenge, then we’ll step right up—though I feel I must warn you that we’re pretty good at this, all things considered.”

“Oh, really?” Cadance asked with a wolfish grin. “I do so love a challenge…”

Cadance looked at the trio with disappointment.  “Wow, and it seemed as though you knew what you were doing!”

To everypony’s amazement, not only were the trio very knowledgeable about pool, but based on their positioning and movements, it was clear that they were very good at it.  This, of course, came up against the stark reality of being good at humans, a condition they were not currently under. Thus, when it came to actual control of the cues, while the desire was there, the body was lacking and thus the trio put up a brave fight only to be crushed under the strength of Cadance’s own skills.

“I feel continuously marginalized by you three,” mock-whined Sunset. “Just when I start learning how cool pool can be, you come and just be total badasses about it.”

“Uh, weren’t you just watching us making idiots of ourselves?” Sonata asked her.

“Well, how about you come and help me make dinner, then?” asked Cadance of Sunset. “Let the three of them lick their wounds.”

Everypony shared a good chuckle at that.

Perfect, thought the dark unicorn. “Okay, look, I need to ask a favor from you three, seeing as how you’re all foreign super-soldiers who play pool.”

Adagio glared at Razz and opened her mouth to say something, but never got the chance.

“Well, sailors, actually, but we get what you mean,” Aria joked loudly, giving a sideways glare of her own to Adagio.

“Here’s the deal: I think something’s wrong with Corner Shot. The way she’s been acting seems like…well, stuff you girls would do on a really, really off day.”

“Look, as far as I’m concerned, the only thing wrong with her is that she can actually stand you,” Adagio snarled.  Ignoring the glares from her sisters, she then reluctantly added, “So I guess you think she’s, to quote you, ‘a foreign super-soldier who plays pool,’ basically?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

The trio exchanged a few glances, knowing what Razz was asking of them. As the unit’s commanding officer, Dagi spoke for them all: “Alright, I guess we can help you. But only out of interest for Sunny’s safety!”

“Hey, Versa, you okay?” asked Stage Fright, waving a hoof up and down in front of her brother’s face. Having been born around the same time that her parents had done the unprecedented deed of adopting a changeling nymph into their family, she was the most experienced of her siblings when it came to handling Versatile’s “unique” behaviors.

But him staring into space, jaw open, was something brand new. She knew he wasn’t going through some kind of love withdrawal—together they’d developed a daily regimen similar to ponies who needed to monitor their blood sugar specifically to keep him mobile without issue—so she couldn’t help but be worried about what this new behavior might mean.

“She…she’s beautiful…” he sighed.

Oh no, thought a panicked Stage Fright, as she looked over to the object of his gaze. He’s falling in love.

“Hey, thanks for bringing these over!” Rough Edge voiced, levitating the bundle of clothes up and away into the stagecoach.

“It’s no problem, really,” said Coco nonchalantly, “I made most of them myself, so as a former Bridleway dressmaker, you can rest assured I put nothing less than the best into my work!”

“Yeah, these look fantastic!” cooed Meadow, examining what looked like a Snow Whinny dress, then glancing over to a tall, pointy hat. “Even got the bells on the Starswirl get-up, too!”

“Actually, I had a question about that….” the seamstress interjected “In addition to the Snow Whinny costumes, you asked for all seven of the breezies…given there’s only four of you, are you planning on hiring extras or using pepper ghost spells?”

“Nope, that’s what Versatile’s gonna do. Hey, Versa!” Brooks called out to his ace-in-the-hole actor.

“Y-yes!” The disguised changeling said, shooting over to his boss’s side.

“Mind showing Miss Coco here what you can do with the—” Brooks, much to his surprise, didn’t even get the chance to finish as Versa dashed into the stage coach with the costumes, slamming the door behind him.

“I’ve never seen him that eager to do his special talent for anypony!” mentioned Rough Edge, rubbing his chin in wonder.

“Yeah, because the unthinkable has happened,” Stage Fright commented, walking up and shaking her head.

“You don’t mean he’s…” said Meadow, eyes widening.

“This involves me doesn’t it?” said Coco, figuring out the obvious. However, before any more discussion could be brokered, the stage coach’s door flew open and there stood a giant Breezie.

“Slippy!” declared the aptly dressed Breezie, albeit in a tone that was not at all suited to the character he was. The door then shut again for but a moment, reopening to reveal Versa in the guise of another Breezie whose name he stated aloud, continuing the process for the remaining six: “Drippy! Nippy! Showery! Flowery! Bowery! And Phil!”    

The costume designer stood in awe for more than a few minutes, looking at the beaming Phil look-a-like. In her head, she was trying to work out how in the world the batpony had managed to don all seven costumes in quick succession—just one was a complex outfit consisting of a shirt, oversized headpiece with a large stocking cap and the long stringy antennae, and most troublesome of all were the wing slips that made a pony’s wings resemble that of a breezie. While she had modified a design taken from a standard template in order for the wing slips to work for any kind of wings—pegasus, bat pony, and otherwise—they too were cumbersome for one pony alone to swap them as fast as this bat pony had done for all seven pairs.

In truth, the seven costumes Coco had made were still folded neatly out of sight inside the stagecoach, and barring unusual circumstances, Versatile would never wear them—each suit had come with a requested faux-wing harness so they could be used by non-winged ponies, so the only ponies who would ever wear the costumes were Rough and Meadow. For Versa, he merely needed to look at the costumes in whole and have an idea of what else was necessary for each role (makeup, intended accent and mannerisms, etc.) and he could do what changelings did naturally and replicate the appearance of a fully costumed actor using actual costumes and such. On stage, this was a major benefit as Versa could quickly dart off stage, shroud himself in emerald fire, then emerge as a totally different character without missing a beat.

However, when it was just one pony, who had made the very costumes Versa was supposedly wearing and knew how troublesome the costumes were to put on, the effect was more eyebrow-raising than anything. For the sake of being nice, though, as well as for reasons she would rather not have known already,  Coco did her best to hide her non-surprise. “Wow, that’s the fastest costume changing I’ve ever seen, and I’ve known some quick actors!”

“Thanks!” said the now blushing Breezie-garbed, batpony-disguised-changeling.

“Yeah, the costumes look even better in action!” added Rough. “I trust the rest of our ordered garments will be as good as these?”

“Of course!” beamed Coco, “I’m just glad you like my work so much!”

After some more discussion and banter—half of which involved Coco becoming ever more uncomfortable at the increasingly obvious infatuation Versatile had for her (and also split understanding/amusement toward Stage Fright’s semi-annoyance at her brother being infatuated like this)—the seamstress bade farewell to the performance troupe and departed the Retreat.

Stepping out into the lonely night air, Coco had to admit she actually found the young batpony rather cute, and while something had seemed more than a little…“off” about him when he seemed to change costumes so fast, she’d largely written it off as simply having been his special talent—she hadn’t caught his cutie mark so it was within the realm of possibility. Plus, the fact he’d been clearly head-over-hooves in love that anypony could have felt the love he was radiating, which in a sense nourished her own self-confidence in more ways than–

“And what the hell are you doing here?” suddenly came a voice that, by now, was all-too-familiar to Coco. Only now, after the incident between them earlier that day, and after such a feel-good moment for herself, Coco wasn’t about to let Corner Shot ruin what had been the only decent bright spot of the day.

“Are you still sore about earlier?” Coco asked, turning to face the pool shark standing in front of the Retreat.

“I asked you a question,” Corner said, her voice rough and tinged with threat.

“If you must know, I was delivering a bundle of costumes ordered by a performance group who is currently staying at this bed and breakfast,” Coco explained.  “Look, I don’t know what’s going on, but if anything, the way we’ve been running into each other so often, it seems like you’re stalking me!”

“Yeah, because you showing up in front of this bed and breakfast when I’m staying here, too, sure seems like one big coincidence, eh?”

Normally, Coco would have backed off well beforehand. However, this time was different—she felt far more bolder and willing to stand her ground—just like Rarity would.

“Well, it appears to be just that: a coincidence. But judging from your attitude, you seem to think that’s somehow my fault.”

“Given how you’ve been hanging around Raspberry Beryl all the time like some lovesick puppy, I would have to think so!”

Coco reacted to that.  “Lovesick puppy? No, after what spilled out of your mouth earlier, that role was easily filled by you!”

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah, because I’m pretty sure that wasn’t your drool telling Raspberry Beryl she was nutty as a candy bar…that was merely incidental. After all, that’s why you jumped on me back at that party when I showed up in town, wasn’t it?”

Corner narrowed her eyes. This only looked like the same pony Razz had dragged around town with her that morning. But unlike that other Coco Pommel, this one had a spine—a strong one at that, which caught her off guard. Only momentarily, though.

“Well, aren’t you being a little hypocritical bitch here? Accusing me of chasing after Razz when you’ve been stuck by her side almost constantly since she got back from Night-whatever.”

“Nightshade?” corrected Coco, “Yeah, when she kind of saved my life and then I got offered a job by Rarity? Why the hell wouldn’t I start popping up around town and around Razz whenever she needs my help?” Coco then closed the distance with her own eyes narrowed, stopping until her muzzle was close enough that Corner could smell her dandelion-and-mustard sandwich lunch. “So, Miss-only-here-to-knock-balls-around, back the hell off before you do something you regret.”

“Pssh. What are you gonna do? Cry on me?” Corner then punctuated the statement with a rough shove, pushing a wide-eyed Coco back. “Y’know, I think it’s past time I taught you a little lesson!

But instead of being cowed, Coco responded to the threat with a grin, and something about it looked… wrong to Corner. “Okay. Start teaching!”

With a disbelieving chuckle, Corner moved to shove Coco again, but with speed and strength that didn’t seem to fit such a meek tiny mare, Coco deflected and shoved back hard. With an angry growl, Corner lunged forward with a full punch, but the smaller mare ducked around it and brought Corner into a grapple.

The two struggled in each other’s hooves for a second before Corner thought to headbutt her, but Coco held firm. Corner moved to try again, and that was when Coco did something she couldn’t have anticipated. She opened her mouth and sank her teeth into Corner’s withers, sending a sharp jolt of pain through the pool player.

Letting out a scream, Corner’s finely honed instincts took over, and she stopped holding back. With lightning fast precision, Corner hit Coco with a series of sharp jabs carefully aimed at her pressure points, weakening the feral pony’s grip on her. Then Corner took her by the foreleg and flipped her over onto her back, expertly spinning and twisting Coco’s foreleg behind her back. As Coco thrashed and gnawed, Corner opened her left wing and brought it to bear….

THAT’S ENOUGH!” Suddenly Corner and Coco were pried apart by an invisible force and held in place.

Both combatants looked to the source of the voice that just called out and saw Raspberry Beryl standing there, purple mist flowing from her eyes and ichorous magic oozing from her horn.

What in the world are you two doing?!” Razz exclaimed.

“S-she started it!” Coco stammered, all signs of the wild animal she had become earlier suddenly vanished.

“She bit me!” Corner exclaimed, wincing and clutching her shoulder. Sure enough, a decent amount of blood was starting to come out of the wound. She was going for my neck, Corner realized.

“I don’t care who started what, you two are acting like foals!” Razz said, and both mares’ ears wilted. “Trust me, neither of you are going to win my affections like this!”

Corner looked indignant, but Coco looked confused. “What? T-that’s not what this was about!”

“Oh really? You mind telling me what this was about, then?”

“W-well, it’s uh…” Coco stuttered and stammered for an answer, but it was Corner who finally answered.

“Nothing. Petty shit, that’s all,” she said. “Just a clash of personalities. I didn't mean for things to go this far. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, me neither. I was just so… so angry,” Coco sighed, looking thoroughly ashamed. “I’m going back to Rarity’s. Maybe it would be best if Corner and I just avoided each other from now on.”

“Fine by me,” Corner said as Coco started walking away with a noticeable limp.

“You might want to get that looked at, Corner,” Razz said, gesturing to Corner’s bleeding shoulder.

“It’s fine. I have a first aid kit in my room.”

Corner was about to go into the Retreat herself when Razz stopped her, giving the mare a suspicious glare. “Where did you learn to fight like that?”

Corner froze in her tracks. “Let’s just say you’re not the only one with a colorful past.” Corner then continued into the Retreat, hesitating only when she noticed Razz wasn’t following her. “Coming in? You do still live here, right?”

To Corner’s dismay, Razz just kept studying her with that suspicious glare. “In a bit. I just need to go back to Twilight’s Castle first. Forgot something important.”

Her words worried Corner, but it wasn’t like she could do anything to stop her, so she made a show of shrugging uncaringly before stepping into the Inn.

She was greeted by the sound of a one-stallion slow clap, and turned to see a familiar red giant of a pony sitting in the lounge… right by the window looking out at where the violent confrontation had taken place.

“You’re lucky I’m such a gentlestallion, Corner,” intoned Nineball in his thick Stalliongrad accent. “If word got out that you’re starting fights with friends of important ponies… it could be quite a scandal!”

“Not trying to blackmail me, are you, Nine?”

Nineball shook his head. “Like I said, I’m a gentlestallion.” The big pony then let out a deep, unsettling chuckle. “I would say that the little mare out there bit off more than she could chew out there, but by the look of things, she was ready for seconds!” Nineball smiled. “From one professional to another, you be careful with that one, Shot.”

Under normal circumstances, the sight of the most annoying not-girl in the known multiverse standing over her bed in the middle of the night would have caused Adagio to cuss her out and throw her out, in that order. But Aria and Sonata were flanking her, and all three of them had deadly serious looks on their faces.

“Something happened,” Razz said. “I might have an assignment for you guys.”

Adagio yawned and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. “That right? Well we don’t answer to you, dumb c—”

“Watch it, Dagi,” the stern voice of Sunset Shimmer warned, and Adagio realized she was standing in the doorway. “Razz’s mission has my approval.”

This did not make Adagio happy. “What mission?

“There was an… altercation tonight between Corner Shot and Coco,” Razz explained. “I only caught the end of it, but I saw some of Corner’s moves, and she was good. She moved like you guys,” Razz said. “Like she was trained.”

Now Adagio understood the serious atmosphere. “You think she’s like, an operative or something?”

“I don’t know, that’s why we need more intel,” Razz said. “Up for some reconnaissance?”