• Published 16th Jul 2013
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Transformed - the flying spaghetti monster



A new stallion shows up in Ponyville, garnering a lot of attention from the mares. But watch out, he is not what he seems!

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Chapter 11: Left Hand Path

Last Thursday Night:

He was from Cybertron…

Applejack saw that Ravage still looked upset, even though it was a huge improvement over his state a few minutes ago. The apple farmer chose her next words carefully. “Ah’ reckon it’s a whole lot farther than Froggy Bottom Bog, ain’t it?” Ravage made no hints that he even heard that and kept looking at the stars.

At first Applejack had dismissed Cybertron as yet another one of the enumerable towns that peppered Equestria. But as she thought about it she realized that such a bizarrely named place had never graced her ears. She and Rainbow Dash never really believed that Ravage was from anywhere in the region of dense forest north of that bog. In fact, Dash had flown over it many times, as had Fluttershy. But why would a smart pony like Ravage construct such a feeble lie? Truth was like apples, the farm pony knew. Buckin’ the tree may not be enough. For the more stubborn ones, you’ll need to change your approach.

“Ya know I didn’t come here to help ya. I just came ‘cuz ya looked outta place taking a trail outta the farm while the night was coming on.”

His expression finally changed, and he rolled onto his belly to face Applejack. “And in our short exchange, you concluded that I had a problem which required your extensive experience to solve.”

Applejack had to bite her tongue, trying very hard not to leave this thick-headed stallion to his own devices in the cold of night. As far as she was concerned, Fluttershy liked him and she had to find out why. She calmed herself once again, and looked upon the almost glaring male, trying to pick up any kind of information. Okay, what have we got? Well, he’s not the biggest stallion, but the word is he’s a powerhouse. She could smell no offensive odour from him, only traces of soap, so he cleaned up at Fluttershy’s. His fetlocks weren’t unshorn. Hmmm. “Ravage, why are you not back in Cybertron? Home is where the heart is,” the farmer described putting her hoof in front of her heart. “Why are ya here?”

The Autobot Moon bases orbiting so close to his home were reason enough. “My family and I had a disagreement with the former tenants of our house. They claim it is theirs. It is rightfully ours! But – legal proceedings have forced me out until the matter is resolved.”

Applejack knew this was horse apples, but went along anyway. “Dontcha have any other family ya can live with?”

“Yes, but I cannot return to Cybertron until the issue is resolved.” Ravage considered actually telling her the truth, if only briefly. It certainly sounded more believable than the load of junk he was spewing out like a waste treatment unit.

“Ya really don’t wanna tell me the truth about Cybertron, do ya?”

Ravage was aware of the risk that Luna could somehow be listening in, as well as watching, though he didn’t know she was with her sister at that moment. Nevertheless, he needed to carefully think about what to say.

There was a bigger problem that had been growing in his mind ever since he left Fluttershy’s. The galactic satellite he sent to Cybertron did not report in, a fact he would have been made automatically aware of. He could have miscalculated, but he was so sure he would be informed of pictures of his home world arriving that day. In fact, when was the last time he checked to see if it even transmitted to the Equestrian system?

Applejack noticed a subtle, sudden inhale, and saw a micro expression she never expected to see on Ravage: terror! And then he went back to being as nearly upset as when she first found him in the meadow.

“I can’t go home!” he barked. “I think I’m stuck here,” he growled, turning over on his side and away from Applejack. He felt his chances of going home in a timely manner were dwindling like energon reserves during a fire fight. It didn’t look good.

The Mare of Honesty didn’t know what city would bar entry of any Equestrian citizen, but whatever the truth really was, Ravage could not go home. THAT, she believed. “Oh, Ah’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry – well, I guess I did – but, Ravage Ah’m sorry! It’s just that you’re a mystery, a-and that’s just encouragement for anypony to solve it.”

Ravage’s expression softened. He understood the irresistible urge to solve a mystery; it was shared by ponies and Transformers alike.

The mare hopped over his sullen form, and faced him directly. “C’mon, you don’t have to sleep in a field like this,” she said as she reached out with a hoof. “Ah’m sure we can help ya find a place.”

Ravage smirked, no longer surprised by this pony’s tenacity. “But this is such a nice field,” he spoke in a sarcasm laced compliment. In truth, what he needed was distance from these ponies so he could continue his work, but moreover so they could stop asking him personal questions.

In spite of dodging questions about his origins, Applejack found a lot of qualities in Ravage. He was hard working, good looking, and her herd expressed strong interest in courting him. Indeed, her heart fluttered when she imagined him helping out on the farm. He had a heaping helping of brain power too. In any case, she had an inherent need to protect her friends, and it was her hope that he wasn’t a criminal, or that he was hiding anything else that would condemn him from being the stallion partner they sought. Only until the truth was found would she decide. “Well, Ah’ just wanna get to know ya, since yer so close to mah’ circle of friends n’ all.”

Ravage nodded in understanding. “Yes, they’ve been most pleasant.”

“So,” she started cautiously, “What’s it like in Cybertron? As far as Ah’ know, Canterlot is the most technological o’ Equestrian cities. I’d really love to hear about a town that could give ‘em a run for their bits.”

This made the Decepticon smile. “Well, there are a lot more fliers.”

“You mean pegasi.”

“Pegasi,” he accepted. What on Cybertron wasn’t superior to Equestria? The cleanliness and all-metal architecture; the power grid, even diminished from eons of war was still better than the magical wireless transmission. “It’s spotless; a gleaming jewel that can be seen from all directions.” A good analogy could have been a gigantic space station, if only Applejack knew what that was.

The inquisitive farm girl found herself wanting to check out an atlas. Vague answers tended to inspire such reactions. “Well that certainly sounds like a place Ah’d like to see. Maybe we can all see it when your situation improves.”

Ravage chortled at the sudden appearance of ponies on Cybertron. The pest disposal units would have a heyday! “Indeed, it would be most entertaining.”

Applejack tried to think of other questions that had nothing to do with Ravage’s home, since he was so sensitive about it, but then she noticed he had lied down on his side and closed his eyes. He was turning in! “Aren’t ya gonna find shelter? It’ll be cold tonight.”

“I’ll be fine, Applejack.”

She had decided to leave the stubborn stallion be, but only after one more question. “Ravage?” His facing eye opened to look at the inquisitive mare. “Could ya tell me about your parents?” It was really just a sideways tactic to get more information on his home. Applejack felt a little guilty.

Millions of years ago on Cybertron, Ravage had activated his optical sensors for the first time. He had awakened to the sight of chaos: exploding control panels and smoke; his two creators rushing around frantically while dodging pieces of falling debris. The very foundation of the installation shook and heaved under a barrage of incoming fire. A violent crash sent him flying off of the assembly table, but he landed neatly on all four legs. The new quadruped form, designed for both strategic and tactical warfare, was based off of the deadliest alien predators the Transformers had ever encountered. The secured doors to the room turned red and bulged inwardly before exploding. Three Autobots stormed the room, engaging his creators in a firefight. Acting on pure instinct and rage, Ravage counter-attacked with his Decepticon makers, evading the Autobot assault, elegantly jumping around their laser weapons and missiles. Using a lethal combination of ripping and tearing along with his own conventional weapons, he did tremendous damage. His creators were subdued and killed, but Ravage got the last laugh as he tore the spark chamber out of the remaining Autobot.

His muzzle scrunched up, as if in annoyance. “They’re gone.”

And then as swift as lightning, Applejack felt as if she had just lost the farm. What had she done? All the ponies she knew were at least respectful when it came to that dark point in her life. "Ah - Ah'm sor..." she tried to speak, but could not. How could she?

How dare she?

Applejack suddenly became sullen, and could not prevent her green eyes from tearing up. It was her greatest loss, shared by Applebloom, Big Mac, and Granny Smith. Nothing could compare. She did everything she could to control the tears, and it took all of her self-control to speak properly without blubbering.

"Ravage, do ya mind if Ah' join you for a while," she humbly requested. She couldn't go until she apologized properly, but she also felt the kinship of a bond forged by profound loss.

The Decepticon pony nodded, noting Applejack's sudden change in mood. This was because she was sensitive about parents? He decided to keep this information handy for future communications.

The earth pony mare lied down half a meter away from the stallion, and began to doze.

About an hour later, she woke up shivering and saw that Ravage seemed to be doing just fine. She could have gone home, but the evening had been such an adventurous reach to the stallion, she preferred to stay. Shifting onto his body, she found him surprisingly warm! Enjoying the heat source, she snuggled in, and was a little startled when his foreleg came down around her.

Applejack smiled widely, and secretly hoped that the moral side of Ravage checked out. It would be great to have him for a partner.

=^.^=

Morning sunlight filtered between the tall buildings and castle towers, forcing the night to retreat to the other horizon. The unique melody of high altitude birdsong tried to coax the ponies awake that sleepy Saturday morning.

Ravage groggily opened his eyes to the ceiling, dimly lit by dawn light. He had considered avoiding Flitter and Cloudchaser, but pretty much crashed as soon as he lied down. It was now quarter past six in the morning, going by his internal clock. At about this time, he noticed the soft snoring and realized why he felt so hot, and restrained.

His eyes shifted left to find Flitter. Lying on her back with her limbs comically bent at several angles, she and Ravage’s head were supported by the same pillow, and their faces were pressed together at the cheeks. Shifting his eyes right he found Cloudchaser, who was lying on her side with her head using his right shoulder as a pillow. Oddly, she seemed much heavier than she should have been.

His eyes popped wide open when he felt a stirring near his groin. Like an autoscout probe, his head flexed up and forward. An earth pony mare had taken up residence between the top of his right hind leg and his chest, where her head lied. The new mare sported a full mane of wavy blue and purple tresses, and a tawny-brown coat. He had no idea who she was.

Ravage was a thread away from leaving the girls where they lied, and not only because of their revealed plan to use him as a plaything. He was unable to update the transmission logs of the galactic satellite he sent to his home world, and therefore had no reconnaissance, and no idea what was going on. Added to that, he was still unable to reach the Decepticons on Earth. All this made him reconsider transmitting at all, as hostile forces may be able to triangulate his position. From his studies with Twilight Sparkle he felt the possibility of Celestia-1’s magic interfering with his subspace radio transmissions was remote. As Twilight had pointed out, magic does highly specific things. In any case, he needed to get back to the ship.

The stallion bot had to be patient. One of his mission objectives was learning how magic worked, and if he wanted to see Princess Twilight Sparkle he had to keep up appearances. It was apparent that earth ponies and pegasi were not even taught magic, at least not in the detail that Twilight was prepared to go into.

He thought of his last conversation with Applejack, about how he thought he was stuck there. It sent a chill down his spine. If he was really there for the long term, possibly several years, or even decades, he needed to consider his options.

In the best case scenario the communication problem would be fixed, and he would be able to go back to Cybertron, but then all bets were off. Megatron’s orders would be fulfilled, and Equestria would be bombed into a lifeless desert of ash.

This did not sit well with Ravage. He had sat around with Twilight enough to know that blowing up the species that can control magic directly does not bode well for learning magic, and certainly not for using it as an energy source. And that was just the half of it.

The stallion bot heard Flitter let out a sleepy sigh, followed by the shifting of her body. She draped her left foreleg over his barrel, pulling herself in closer and cooing happily. Tacitly, he admitted to himself that he liked the contact; even the kisses weren’t that bad. Why deny it? Nevertheless, he frowned at the thought of his updated description. Ravage: Decepticon soldier; specialties included sabotage, espionage, and assassination. He was fast, fearsome, stealthy…

…And cuddly.

Well, in this world it was practically a requirement. He tried to take solace knowing that if he ever got back to Cybertron, these pony-inspired characteristics would be excised and thrown away like garbage.

In the worst case scenario, he would be cut off from Cybertron. Unfortunately, his most up to date data pointed to this grim reality. If it became intolerable, or he was forced out, he could fly another world. Alternatively, he could orbit the planet, or isolate himself on-world while he pushed ahead with his mission objectives, but he considered this to be inefficient and the answer of a coward, even if his time scale had advanced to years.

That left one other option, the ‘best bad idea’ as it were. He had a functioning pony body and the means to go wherever he wished. He liked ice cream and other pony foods. He could tolerate their affections. The Decepticons designed Ravage to live among the ponies, and by The Pit, that was exactly what he was going to do! That is, assuming he was really stuck there.

The organization of his thoughts and priorities allowed Ravage to relax. Feeling lulled back into sleep, he closed his eyes and slipped into unconsciousness.

=^.^=

Rainbow Dash slowly opened her eyes in the darkened room, lying on her side facing Pinkie Pie. Somepony had covered the windows with posters, and Pinkie’s frothy mane fogged up much of her limited view. Their faces were just an inch apart. Somehow, there felt more to it than that.

The awakened pegasus noticed another set of forelegs wrapped around her, from behind. They appeared grey looking in the dark. She craned her neck to see the cutie mark of this other pony.

And then she discovered more mares! One was jammed between her and Pinkie at the hind legs; another was cuddling Pinkie from behind; another smiling one had Rainbow’s tail entwined in her forelegs like taffy…

She was lying on top of a big one! She and Pinkie both used her as a pillow, as well as the one hugging Pinkie’s back, and…

Cloud Kicker! The perky blonde maned mare grabbed Dash more tightly and made a mewling sound, as if she delighted in doing so.

Rainbow remembered speaking to some of these girls, but never went to bed with them. And yet, there they were. With a downtrodden attitude, like when she realized she was an ‘egghead’ for enjoying a novel, she sighed.

I’m a mare magnet.

=^.^=

Twilight Sparkle sipped her black coffee and closed her eyes, letting its earthy flavours stir her senses. The shuffling of little dragon feet in the kitchen was accompanied by the muffled sounds of bees in the verge, and distant barking dogs. She let out a deep sigh of relief. “Thanks Spike. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“I’ve often asked that question myself,” he replied haughtily as he walked out of the kitchen.

The contemplative Princess ignored the bait for a round of verbal fencing with her assistant. She thought of Rainbow Dash, and had longed for her confident demeanor and warm body the previous night. She wasn’t jealous of Pinkie Pie, just the opposite in fact. While Dash was content with snuggling and kissing, Twilight yearned for more, and hoped that the rabidly excitable party pony made some headway in that direction. Yet, Rainbow’s absence wasn’t the only thing bothering Twilight.

Issues with Ravage were discussed with the girls in a short meeting the previous afternoon. They weren’t happy about catching Ravage in a lie, but immediately connected it with his unwillingness to talk about his past.

What really threw everypony for a loop was that their handsome, intelligent stallion prospect had no home. This was very difficult to believe, but Rainbow and Applejack had verified it. But why lie? For that matter what pony had even heard of Cybertron? Twilight was a high scorer in geography class, but as surely as the sun rose and set, she could not find it in her atlas.

For all the mystery, it was pretty clear that Twilight’s friends, even Applejack who abhors lying, wanted to give Ravage a helping hoof. Reluctantly, Twilight agreed. Nevertheless, she felt lucky to be with Rainbow Dash. In crediting the stalwart stallion for initializing the opportunity, she felt justified in providing aid as well.

Manipulating the door, and her coffee with her magic, the sleepy mare walked ponderously into the library proper, where her very early morning guest was perusing the atlas. “So, not from north of Froggy Bottom bog is he?” she said in a complaining tone. At least Rarity had the sense to checkout books while she was still at the library after the girls had their meeting.

Applejack decided to look at rivers, mountains, and other geographic features that were not towns or cities, attempting to locate Ravage’s elusive home. “You were there, Twi. Remember the Hydra? That was the day you started understandin’ Pinkie Sense.”

“I was expecting to actually find something north of it,” she replied indignantly. “Not just a lumber mill. What, you mean you knew there wasn’t anything there all along?”

“And Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash. And pretty much everypony else,” the focused farmer retorted as she scrutinized the northern areas of Equestria.

“Doesn’t it bother you that he’s obviously covering up were he’s from?”

“It does. Though Ah’m pretty sure that he really is from Cybertron.” The orange mare had expected Twilight’s confused look. “It was the way he said it. Ah’ believed him.”

The Princess let out a defeated sigh. The Element of Honesty condoned the notion of where Ravage was from. “I couldn’t find Cybertron in the atlas either.”

“Ah’ know. But when Ah’ asked if I could see an atlas, Ah’ meant world atlas.” Applejack enjoyed the way Twilight’s eyes lit up at the idea. “There are ponies all around the world, Twi, not just Equestria. He could have stompin’ grounds in the Minotaur Kingdom, or even the Griffon Lands.”

“Oh dear,” a humbled Twilight responded, blown away by the implication.

Egocentrism, the feeling that the world revolves around you, was rampant in Canterlot. It took the unworldly Twilight the better part of her adult life to shed that debilitating attitude, though threads of it still lingered. It took getting sent to Ponyville for the sole purpose of making friends. The neonate Princess actually assumed that Ravage must have been from Equestria by default! That’s why he didn’t know any party games. That’s why he didn’t know anything about hoofball, a sport played largely in Equestria.

Applejack waved her hoof in front of her buddy’s face, trying to get her attention. “Ya still with me?” she asked smugly.

Twilight shook her heard quickly, recomposing herself. “Yes. World atlas!” Her friend nodded in acknowledgement. “Unfortunately, atlases take up a lot of shelf space, and we only have the Atlas of Equestria in this library. The Canterlot Library has a complete collection though. I could easily have a world atlas sent in,” she said, smiling and tapping her front hooves together at the suggestion.

Applejack thought a bit on her friend’s suggestion. “Ah’ wouldn’t worry too much about it, Twi. Ravage’ll clue us in when he’s ready.”

“We can’t commit to helping him if he insists on being obstinate.” Key to aiding Ravage was that he eventually had to open up about where he was from, what he had done, and provide details. Being mysterious was romantic, but it was the farthest thing from practical.

“He don’t need our help.” Applejack shook her head at a disapproving Twilight. “He’s survived perfectly fine without it, and we’re gonna end up pushin’ him away if we keep askin’.”

“But you said -"

“‘Ah know what I said, and I will follow through if he pipes up. Ah’m just sayin’ to wait till he’s comfortable enough with us.”

Twilight didn’t know how to respond to that, but the high likelihood of him being from another country started flooding her brain with a river of new possibilities. Was he exiled? Was he a political refugee?

The newly relaxed Princess chatted with her farmer friend about relatively insignificant things and then bade her a good day. Her fears of not knowing much about Ravage were substantially abated from Applejack’s insight, and the librarian started preparing the morning lesson for him. She very much enjoyed teaching the earth pony about magic, and was thrilled at how easily he absorbed and understood the rather advanced concepts.

The lie, though silly, had tainted his image. Calmed by her friends mostly on the side of dismissing the fib, Twilight decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. Nopony was infallible.

=^.^=

Flitter laid a gentle kiss on Ravage’s cheek. “Wake up, sleepy head,” she whispered in his ear, and thought it cute when her date’s body slowly stirred back to life. “It’s nearly seven.”

The Decepticon stallion opened his eyes slowly, surprisingly tired after being so alert not even an hour ago. He rose to find Flitter joining the other two mares at the foot of the bed, conversing softly. Brushing a hoof over his somewhat tangled mane, he remembered that his top priority was to get back to the ship.

Weather Update: Storm Warning.

An inset appeared in his vision, detailing a storm system coming up from the south through the Everfree forest. It was about as powerful as the one he used to conceal his landing in Equestria, what a great start to the day. He almost did a double take while looking at the information as he noticed that the foreleg of the new mare had just pointed at him.

“Hi, I’m Sugar Gem,” the tawny mare introduced with a smile, as she exchanged a hoof bump. “Too bad you fell asleep.”

Armed with his new priorities, Ravage felt no need to discuss the previous night. “Is it time to go?”

“Anytime you’re ready,” replied the smiling Cloudchaser. She was already planning on asking him out after the next moonset. The crafty mare felt that he would crack eventually, and she and Flitter would be the first girls to partake! Regardless, even if he wouldn’t want to sleep with them, it was still fun trying.

The four ponies walked through the eerily quiet Warehouse and into the morning light.

Ravage felt Celestia’s sun on his face. Combined with the morning dew and cool air, it was invigorating. Still, his gait was somewhat lagging. “Do we have time to get coffee?”

“A stallion after my own heart,” Sugar Gem reveled. Still exhausted from the night’s festivities, she felt like sleeping on the nearest bench. “The train station market’s got good coffee.”

The excellence of the suggestion was echoed by Flitter and Cloudchaser as they plodded onward toward the Saturday morning market stalls. Alertness was maintained by Sugar Gem, who entertained them with a tale of one of her transoceanic voyages to the Griffon Lands, providing lavish detail about the males and females of other species she slept with. The pegasus listeners held on to every word.

The Decepticon disliked how this pony seemed to open herself up to other races so easily. The purpose of her journey was to examine unusual strata in a part of the world the ponies didn’t control. Considering a total of twenty days of transportation time, just two days were given to the task at hand, and that’s because she consumed too much of her first day – shopping! And socializing! She even went as far as to brag about getting up at noon with a Saddle Arabian mare she met in a foreign port. Such incompetence! Ravage got up before six every work day, no exceptions.

He quickly determined Sugar’s experience to have been useless. She and the clique he now found himself mingling in encouraged intimate contact, yet the entire scope of the date had been about keeping those mares off his hide. Now that he could identify them, taking care to avoid such groups of ponies would be part of his living strategy from here on in. The Elements of Harmony didn’t seem to gravitate toward such things. Perhaps getting closer to them was the solution, though he wouldn’t have to tolerate them for very long. When he returned to the base he intended to steal the statue that night.

Flitter yawned at length. “I can’t believe how tired I am. Ravage, do you think you can let me ride on your back?” she spoke a little too plainly, while the other two mares followed with yawns of their own.

“Do I look like a carriage?” the annoyed pony bot replied.

As they were passing through the newly opened market place, a large, grey unicorn stallion with an eye patch, and scars on his face and chest had taken notice of the group. While he was purchasing cucumbers, his ears had pricked up when he heard Ravage speak. Slowly, he turned his head toward the improbable source.

“Please?” Flitter pressed. Pushing Ravage’s buttons was fun, as he looked like he was just asked to fight off a Changeling army. She leaned against his shoulder mirthfully. “Pretty please?”

“No.” Why was she so persistent? “Look, that's not even done.”

“Sure it is. See!” she countered, pointing to a couple of foals riding on their father’s back.

The Decepticon pony recalled the foals that rode on his back at Bo and Micah’s evening gathering the previous Friday. It made him smile.

“Ah, I know that look,” prodded Sugar Gem, alluding to Ravage’s suddenly serene state.

“Hmm?” The pony bot found himself in yet another ‘second meaning’ in pony conversation he couldn’t comprehend. “What look?”

The girls tried to prevent themselves from snickering.

“I knew it,” Cloudchaser declared coolly. “You want foals.”

“What?” His female tormentors looked as if they were holding back their laughter. “Foals? You can’t be serious.” And with that, their laughter exploded like a burst dam. “Who says I want foals?”

Sugar Gem recovered first. “I’m sorry, Ravage. It’s just ironic to see sentimentality in a tough guy.” She nudged him with her hoof. “No hard feelings?”

Following just within earshot, the grey stallion listened in closely. They arrived at a coffee kiosk, and began waiting in the short line. Deciding it was low risk, the pursuing stallion got in line behind them.

Ravage was in the back, with the two pegasi in front of him. In front of them, the worldly earth pony took point. “Hmm. Standard two by two cover formation,” the stallion bot remarked.

“Relax ponies, I got this,” Sugar Gem asserted, enjoying the sighs of relief from her party worn associates. “What do ya want?” Flitter and Cloudchaser responded quickly while Ravage didn’t seem to understand Sugar’s generosity. “Ravage?”

He piped up, as if just being disturbed from his thoughts. “Double, double.” After trying various coffee combinations during his time in Equestria, this was the Decepticon’s favorite.

The group headed to one of the rustic tables placed beside the vendor, as Sugar Gem carried the coffees on a tray which she held in her mouth.

The pegasus mare who operated the stand immediately recognized the unicorn that walked up after them. “Scorchie! Long time no see.” The stallion put on a charming, if a little smug, face of recognition. “I’m surprised Spinner’s letting you have coffee so soon.”

“Spinner doesn’t know.” He kept a crooked smile on, looking directly at the server.

“Ahhhh, I gotcha. So, what’ll it be today?”

“I think I’ll try,” he began, still listening to the conversation Ravage and his comrades were having. “Double, double.”

=^.^=

Applejack became overburdened with curiosity and waited at the platform. She wanted to gauge Ravage’s behavior and compare it with her own experience as her herd was still very much interested in him. Friends first, then lovers was the wisdom used when seeking a stallion, and if it held up, then the Elements should be in good shape.

Twilight approached the platform as well, and noticed her earth pony friend waiting. “I’m here for Rainbow Dash. What’s your excuse?” she teased. Aster would be by to pick up her pegasus lover at around the time the magic lesson began. Before that, she intended to enjoy every precious minute with her Dashie.

“Ravage,” the orchard farmer smiled and shrugged.

“Good reason.”

A couple of ‘yoo hoos’ hailed from Twilight’s side. The girls turned toward the voice and found that Rarity had also wanted to wait at the platform.

“Good morrrrning!” she sing-songed, buoyantly trotting toward her friends.”

“Good morning,” Fluttershy replied from behind, causing all three to sway to her direction.

The Princess instinctively took charge. “Can I surmise that we’re here for the same reason?” she asked.

“I never got to see Ravage at all yesterday,” Fluttershy lamented, but then her expression reversed itself. “I was hoping he would want to come over for tea after your magic lesson.” Her eyes had closed as she started day-dreaming, but then felt Rarity’s presence, somewhat out of place. “Oh my, were you going to ask him the same thing?”

“An excellent suggestion Fluttershy, but no.” She stepped in around the middle of her friends, looking like she had a story to tell. “Now we’re all curious about how Ravage can be, how shall we say ‘homeless’, and yet keep himself handsome and presentable?” Her friends’ responses were of the affirmative. “How he can be so intelligent? Well mannered?” was met with more affirmatives. “It sounds like we’re on the same page then. Now, how about his cutie mark?”

“You said he got it when he was adjusting a telescope,” Twilight reaffirmed. Rarity had checked out some books on other peoples the previous afternoon. It looked like she was about to put her research to use.

“Astronomy is a popular hobby in Equestria,” Rarity indicated, pleased with the fact that her friends’ attention was focused solely on her. “It is an even more popular hobby in Saddle Arabia.”

“Okay,” Rarity’s alicorn friend figured, “Fully a third of the Equestrian Council of Astronomy members are Saddle Arabian.”

“They’re a very fashion-forward people,” Rarity giggled. “I’ve admired their work for a long time.”

“Whatcha gettin’ at, Rare?” Applejack wanted the point, not the buildup.

“I think that’s where he’s from.” Weathering her friends’ suspicious looks was expected. “Saddle Arabians will sometimes adopt the orphans of other cultures to help round out the family. This is akin to why Equestrian parents tend to have at least two foals so that the lessons of sharing are learned more solidly.”

“Lotta good that did ya,” Applejack jabbed, a sarcastic smirk appearing on her face.

“Unfortunately, some of the more unsavoury traditions still linger in that country, like what happens when families become merged through marital union,” the seamstress continued, giving Applejack a scolding glare. “Those that aren’t Saddle Arabian are expected to sojourn back to the nation from which they came. They may have to cross its breadth, or stay for a year, or some such. After that, they may be welcomed back into the family, but most tend to rebuild their lives in their birth nation.”

“That’s brutal!” Fluttershy cried out, but then her eyes lit up when she saw the seamstress’ point.

Rarity tried to comfort her sensitive friend. “They’re not completely unsupported, dear. Sojourners are given enough to scrape by, and they tend to become very efficient.”

“Whoah, let’s not jump to conclusions, girls,” the apple farmer suggested. “Ah’ mean, wouldn’t Ravage tell us something like that?”

“He could have taken a vow of silence. It’s been known to happen.” Rarity liked her pet theory, and didn’t want to give up easily.

“Saddle Arabia is scientifically astute, and has big, sprawling cities. Hmmm,” Twilight contemplated.

The ground started to rumble, cancelling their discussion. A gust of wind preceded the train as it slowed down at eight forty-five precisely; the squeal of the metal brakes dogged everypony’s sensitive hearing. Several doors opened, and a small crowd of ponies seeped out.

Twilight spotted Rainbow Dash with Pinkie and eagerly flew over to greet her.

Ravage had spent his ride in relentless blowing of air from multiple open windows. Even then it was still hot. Now, warm humid winds greeted him as he stepped onto the platform. At least it was fresh air. He was escorted by a trio of mares, including the one he just dated, assembled around him in a defensive triangle. He computed the distance to the base to be two point eight kilometers.

“I guess this is goodbye then,” Flitter spoke, looking a little sad. She faced Ravage. “So, what did ya think?” her words accompanied with an effeminate toss of her forelock.

The Decepticon took in the whole experience, summarizing it in his head. It was certainly duplicitous. The primary objective all along had been to feign reproduction, but that was restricted to short intervals during the date. What was good about it? His reminiscing of Cherry Moon put a smile on his face, and thus a smile on Flitter’s.

He supposed Pinkie Pie’s singing failed to impress him due to its intrusiveness.

His pegasus partner had indeed come up with a doozy, and Ravage wasn’t at all surprised when they were later joined by her best friend. He liked the alcohol, and liked the short bursts of dancing. Their friends, especially Octavia, also garnered approval from the Decepticon stallion.

Flitter herself was very attentive, and open-minded. Though her genetic needs vexed Ravage, she was actually fun. Always encouraging him to keep dancing, always smiling and coming up with new things to do, always there when he needed anything, the affectionate little pegasus delivered a good time.

The core problem was Flitter’s insatiable need to get Ravage into a level of intimacy he was neither prepared for, nor interested in. Twice! He couldn’t help but feel that by waking up in one piece he had somehow ‘survived’. Should he have forgiven them for being ponies? It didn’t seem right.

His entourage was edging away, obviously wanting to leave. “That was most excellent, Flitter. Thank you.” Siding with ratios of time, the majority he spent enjoying himself instead of resisting Flitter’s reproductive urges, he judged the time spent to have been a mostly positive experience. The pony bot was unsure of what to do next when Flitter jumped onto his neck, giving him a crushing hug to which Cloudchaser and Sugar Gem joined in.

The happy mares turned around and started to walk away. “Thanks Ravage, I had fun too,” Flitter winked. With one last kiss on his cheek, she turned to join her friends.

Right after spending the last twelve hours with Flitter and her ilk, Ravage pivoted his body, and faced yet another crowd of expectant ponies. “Howdy,” and “Good morning to you,” were offered at the same time. However, his eyes had already focused on the one silent mare, Fluttershy.

She was blushing badly, and she knew it, but this stallion was important to her. Steeling her nerve, she looked into his beautiful silver eyes. Again, she was so confident when she was last with him, but it was because she had built it up. Oh why couldn’t she just remain confident!

“Hi,” he replied quickly, giving Applejack and Rarity a quick look before returning to Fluttershy’s gaze.

The timid mare grimaced at the very sound of his voice, masculine, and to the point. It quickly morphed into a smile as she realized that he appeared as interested in her as she was in him.

Ravage noticed his eyes had been lingering on his yellow friend – and there’s that chest feeling again, perhaps best described as anxious. He was even more surprised to find that he had been smiling goofily, having slowly bared his teeth.

Fluttershy stepped up to Ravage, getting well within his personal bubble, their faces just a hoof’s width apart. “H – how did your date go?”

Her voice was delicate, her very breath coming off sweet and cool like ice cream. He had to swallow first before speaking. How long had his mouth been open? “It went well. There was a lot of activity – it was almost non-stop,” he described.

“I’m glad,” Fluttershy replied, gaining confidence. “I was spending time on the porch last evening, watching the animals. You won’t believe this, but the birds say that you should spend more time there.”

“The birds said that?”

Fluttershy closed her eyes, fondly remembering the breezy evening. “Yes. Oh, and Mister Raccoon said…”

Rarity and Applejack approached the rest of the Elements. Twilight and Rainbow Dash were both hugging while Pinkie took an interest in the conversation between Fluttershy and Ravage.

Applejack looked back upon the rather vibrant talk, and sighed forcibly. “Ah’ gotta feelin’ Fluttershy’s gonna be scorin’ more points than Flitter did.” The orchard farmer felt somewhat miffed at how easily her pegasus friend could carry a conversation with Ravage, while she seldom made it past his brick wall composure.

Rarity could only smile upon them, especially Fluttershy. She hoped her friend remembered everything she taught her about romancing a stallion.

Rainbow Dash was almost awed. “I’ve known Fluttershy a long time, and I’ve never seen her speak to a stallion like that,” she realized, all the while enjoying being under Twilight’s wings again.

“And without beating up any ponies!” Pinkie added.

Looking upon the pair, the Princess reacted with a smirk. “I think you’re right, Applejack,” she decided. “Just give him time. He’ll open up.”

Twilight and Rainbow Dash went to the library, where they expected Ravage shortly, and their friends similarly went about their business.

Ravage continued trying to describe the taste of white cider to the uncharacteristically inquisitive pegasus, who tried to reference it against the cider she was most familiar with.

“I have Sweet Apple Acres cider if you want to try it,” Fluttershy suggested, her confidence renewed. “Actually, I was wondering if you wanted to stop by for tea after your Magic lesson. Maybe even lunch.” She turned her head to the side. Though her mane covered up one eye, her other eye flourished, and eagerly looked up at Ravage for a response.

The pony bot perked up at the thought of spending more time with Fluttershy. This was hardly surprising as he knew he liked the yellow mare, but he was emotionally exhausted and had been away from his robot mode for too long. Most troubling was the way he felt around her; it was like nothing he’d ever experienced.

“Sure, I can come down at noon.” Whatever he felt around Fluttershy seemed toxic. He wasn’t sure if dining with her was a good idea.

=^.^=

The noble ponies had gathered in the throne room, and were getting anxious. Many had waited days to speak to their sovereign and some much longer than that. Court was typically a consistent affair. What could have been tying up their beloved Sun Princess?

Scorched Earth, dressed in full Night Armor, finished his report to Princess Celestia. He studied her face carefully for reactions to his news. She bore nothing but tranquility.

“You are certain that this was Ravage?”

“Yes m’lady. Positive,” he asserted with a nod. He would have gone to Princess Luna first, but didn’t want to disturb her slumber.

“Do you have any insights? Any suspicions?”

Luna’s apprentice was hoping for this. “Aye,” he began. “He has battle experience. I’d bet my horn on it!”

“On what do you base this notion?”

“The way he carries himself has the no-nonsense fashion of a soldier. He sits stock straight, and has a heightened sense of alertness about him.” He looked to the Princess to ensure he didn’t have to defend his words further. “How he regards his surroundings, like how he described his friends at the coffee stand, and referring to the foal in the nightmare as an asset were all very telling. Regardless of what he is, it was his steady nerves and quick wit that guided Feral and I, and won the night.”

Celestia narrowed her eyes, pondering the information. “I see.”

“My Princess, I may be reaching, but if I were to guess I’d say he’s had a command at some point. He’s definitely not a grunt.”

Her visage finally showed some additional emotion as she looked inward, digesting the information. “Anything else?”

“Maybe.” Scorched Earth paused, looking for the words. “He can’t handle mares, or so it seems.” That one got Celestia to raise one of her eyebrows. “With is assumed abilities, and the experiences he would have undergone to acquire them, he should have had the young mares he was with wrapped around his hoof, not the other way around. It looked odd.”

The Princess thought of her sister, and how Ravage so coldly refused her offer of courtship, surely a bounty for most stallions. Did he have a preference for being single? If so, why did he make three dates within a week, with two of them almost on top of each other? Trying to build a profile was not easy with this pony.

“Thank you, Major. That will be all.”

Scorched Earth bowed deeply, and exited the private room fluidly.

Celestia teleported to her private chambers. Another valuable source of information on Ravage was Twilight Sparkle. They’d become friends and, against all convention, he had become interested in magic. She levitated a scroll received from her former student during the Agriculture Conference yesterday afternoon. Not wanting to be rude, she had simply teleported it away for further reading. It was not enchanted in a way that identified it as an emergency.

Just hearing from Twilight was a pleasure for the Diarch, and so the scroll was levitated and opened up with great eagerness. As she read on, her eyes narrowed and her brow furrowed. With her magic, she quickly wrapped up and stored Twilight’s scroll. Silence pervaded her private space as she pondered.

“Homeless?”

The Solar Princess left her room at a regal pace. She knew she shouldn’t get too close to the lives of her little ponies, and that she should let them succeed and fail of their own accord, but her compulsion to get a closer look was difficult to ignore. Cordial ‘hellos’ from passersby were met with quick nods and even grunts.

What looked like an insignificant stallion just didn’t add up. Maybe it was nothing. Maybe circumstances found Ravage in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nevertheless, it had been Celestia’s experience that such details left unchecked tended to come back and bite you in the flank. Tapestries bowed and fluttered as she breezed by them, sometimes getting entwined in her tail, and yanked.

Experience showed that there was a thin line between being a casual observer with suggestions, and moving into action. She had lost her previous student due to lingering too long in the former, and she would not let that happen again! Her stride and girth made other ponies practically jump out of the way as she steamed toward the throne room.

Upon her arrival, a kerfuffle of ponies shifted their bodies to toward their leader, feeling relieved that they could begin.

“I’m sorry my little ponies, but something has come up. Please reschedule with Corporal Serenity. Again, my apologies.” She left the throne room as quickly as she came, getting away as one gets away from a disturbed wasp nest.

=^.^=

Two point four kilometers,’ Ravage calculated. He covered just a fraction of the distance to his base, but it felt like an achievement. Fluttershy’s proximity had increased his metabolic rate, and made his heart beat faster. The way he felt around her was as unique as it was new. To a Decepticon, any experience that could not be qualitatively or quantitatively understood was a threat. He shouldn’t have agreed to have lunch with her. Distance was the only solution.

A sudden flash of light interrupted his progress.

“Uh, the library is over there,” Twilight pointed with her hoof.

“Oh – uh, yes! The library.”

“You didn’t forget our nine o’clock magic session did you?”

“No, no. I – really need to eat though,” he spoke truthfully.

His alicorn pursuer cocked a single eyebrow. “Ah, then you can have breakfast at the library,” she responded primly.

With a flash, and a surprising amount of heat, Ravage’s surroundings changed from staring south in Ponyville to staring east at the library’s kitchen. Five seconds after the event, his jaw was still pried open. Till then the space bridge was the most advanced form of transportation known to him, but it paled in comparison to this! Was this also teleportation? Of course, Skywarp could teleport, but a flesh creature doing it with her mind was a wonder to behold. Suddenly, a towel was magically flung over his neck.

“Go shower up, Ravage. We’re going to be learning about fourth order Cometian matrices today!” Twilight looked exceedingly pleased. “Spike!” she called out. “Could you make some breakfast, please?”

An hour later, the showered and fed Decepticon pony finished up a ‘pop quiz’. Apparently, this was some sort of dastardly thing that Equestrian teachers did to their students to force them to stay sharp.

“And time!” Twilight chirped. Her pupil was done five minutes into the fifteen minute pop quiz, but never tried to hand it in. His double checking was as cursory as the initial writing.

Ravage yawned.

His teacher smiled. “At least you got to have fun last night. I was up till one in the morning figuring out the details for the Science Needs More Love presentation.”

“May you thrust Equestria firmly into the realm of science, and mercilessly beat down all superstition,” he said flatly, eyes half closed.

Twilight giggled, “And may you prove to society what a stupid superstition concentrating nearly all magical education on unicorns is.” She looked at Ravage’s finished quiz. “Hmmm. Okay, no more Mrs. Nice Mare,” she declared. Though happy about Ravage's excellent comprehension, she clearly had to make her quizzes harder.

Twilight’s lecture on Cometian matrices was dry but informative. The ability to enchant objects seemed insignificant next to the ability to understanding what is actually going on during an enchantment. Ravage was reading several pages on the subject as instructed when a flashing green warning box superimposed itself upon a corner of his field of vision.

Proximity Alert: Unit Princess Celestia.

The pony bot squinted, a little confused. An inset with details of Equestria’s supreme ruler scrolled down under the alert. Was the satellite system broken? Celestia should be up in Canterlot ruling a country of millions, not dashing into the library at random hours of the day.

Hearing a single set of hooves approach the front door behind him, Ravage held a hoof to his chest in vain as adrenaline slowly began accumulating in his bloodstream.

The door opened, and Twilight became ecstatic. “Princess Celestia!” she gushed, bowing before her mentor.

Doing the smart thing, Ravage bowed as well. Celestia’s gaze was firmly fixed on her former student. He found it startling just to look at the Day Princess. As he already noted, she was so different from the standard issue mare, with her animated, prismatic mane and tail, and elongated proportions.

“Twilight, you do not need to bow to me anymore,” she regally spoke, her voice smooth, and replete with her cheery and relaxed disposition. The oversight was easily forgotten when the younger Princess ran up and hugged the white alicorn.

“Celestia, t-this is Ravage,” Twilight introduced, stammering a little when referring to her mentor without her title. Old habits die hard.

The Decepticon stallion kept staring at her incomprehensible size when she thrust a gold-clad hoof in his face, looking upon him expectantly. It was bent down at an angle, not straight. Figuring it to be one of the social customs modified for royalty, he secured it with his left hoof, and performed an angular hoof bump with the other.

Celestia giggled. “Goodness!” Of all the millennia she’d lived, she observed no behavior quite like that.

Twilight was mortified.

Ravage knew he did something dreadfully wrong, but kept his cool. What else could he do? Offending Princess Celestia was inevitable, and all he wanted to do was get back to the ship – without any ponies tracking him.

“Hello Ravage.” The ancient alicorn was happy that this pony was not tripping over himself with fear for having made such a small etiquette faux pas, even though he was the sole reason she was at the library. Princess Sparkle and her herd developed a romantic interest in him almost immediately, and as robust and far seeing as the Elements of Harmony were, Celestia couldn’t help feel that there was something of contrivance that poisoned the whole affair. It didn’t help that her sister seemed to be under the same spell. The Sun Princess would definitely be talking to Princess Cadance later.

“Hello,” Ravage replied, studying her mane, wondering why it rippled like waves on a pond. “You have me at a disadvantage.”

Celestia started walking in the direction of her former student. “Twilight had written about you in all of her letters to me, ever since she first met you.”

“Oh?” Looking at Twilight, she was blushing badly, and turning her head to the side to hide half her face. It appeared that pony reconnaissance was alive and well after all.

“Erm, Ravage and I were in the middle of a Magic lesson,” Princess Sparkle explained.

“I know you were, Twilight. May I observe your lesson? You had written high praise of Ravage’s learning ability, and suggested how other earth ponies and pegasi should be just as capable of learning Magic theory.”

The pony bot had calmed down to where he was before the ruler arrived. “And you’re interested in knowing whether they can utilize Magic theory,” he added.

That one got a wry smile from Celestia. “Yes,” she said plainly.

Her mentor’s expression surprised even Twilight. “Well then, let’s continue shall we?”

Over the next hour Celestia watched them, commenting here and there, but not interfering. She was struck by Ravage’s insightfulness, odd behavior notwithstanding.

Spike made them delicious tea, and the Sun Princess rewarded him with a bounty of rubies, to which the little dragon transcended from obedient to obsequious. Celestia suggested that he show some of the gems to Rarity, which inspired the young drake to go visit her.

Princess Sparkle asked Ravage if he could review the basic points of enchantment, and he did without so much as a bump in his exposition.

A soldier,’ Celestia thought, and one predicted to have combat experience, something over ninety percent of Equestrian soldiers that weren’t involved in the changeling invasion didn’t have. It was hard to believe. Adding to the weirdness was that none of that information about him was even encountered until he interacted with the dream world. It certainly made a good case for Luna’s magical bond with him.

“... Third and fourth thaumic fields are involved when the enchantment is to last over a year,” Ravage continued.

This pony evaded five hundred of Luna’s elite guard.’ Celestia maintained a serene face, though truly impressed with Ravage’s grasp of magical knowledge. Nevertheless, not even an alicorn should be able to get away from Luna, at least not without some sort of clandestine assistance.

“Do you remember how the dam changes gravitational energy into magic that can be used by pumps and other appliances found all over Ponyville?” Twilight quizzed.

“Your power grid?” Ravage clarified, before explaining how the energy of moving water was literally deflected and turned into mechanical energy for devices found all over the Ponyville district.

A great weight was suddenly lifted off of Celestia’s mind. Ravage said ‘your’. After considering the jumble of inconsistencies that swirled around him, everything finally started to make sense. There were high odds that this pony was not Equestrian.

According to Twilight’s letter, he was from a place called Cybertron. Even Celestia had never heard of it, and it torched off her suspicions about Ravage’s nationality. One possibility was Saddle Arabia, but orphans in that country have never been allowed into the military. Ravage’s evasion capabilities could only have been learned from master tacticians.

Who was he? Regardless of origin, ponies, and all peoples in fact, were born, raised, and did things in their adult lives. Ravage did not figure even in this simple equation. He just showed up in Ponyville one day, bearing no home, or even scarring indicative of homelessness. It was as if he had fallen from the sky.

Celestia chuckled, grabbing the attention of the teacher, as well as her student who had just finished his exposition. “Well Ravage that was certainly a detailed and correct explanation.”

“Thank you.” He liked that her expression gave so few clues as to what she was thinking. Was she as good at hiding her motives as he was? Decepticons approved of such a trait.

Celestia made her move. “Ravage, I would like to hear you address why it would be fruitful to study Magic.”

“You mean, what good would knowledge of Magic be for a pony who isn’t a unicorn,” Twilight clarified.

The three encountered a brief pause. Celestia was expectant, Twilight was worried, and Ravage – well, Ravage answered the Sun Princess with unshakable confidence. “While it is not possible for pegasi or earth ponies to use magic directly, these groups can be of significant value. Consider that throughout his lifetime Starswirl the Bearded only created around two hundred spells. In fact, it takes years for a unicorn to develop his knowledge of magic to the extent to where he can write complicated new spells useful to science, industry, government, and society in general. Most unicorns don’t, presumably because they are too busy with extant spells, not to mention their adventures and responsibilities in life. Now enter the pegasi, and the earth ponies. Armed with the appropriate knowledge, they could write spells. Greatly useful would be ad hoc magic and spells for repeated tasks; on assembly lines for example. With precision, speed, and economy, stitches could be sewn, goods could be packaged, wood could be sawed, wheat could be separated from chaff; I think you can see where I am going with this.” He looked the two Princesses over, and noted that they seemed riveted to his words. “Unicorns don’t have to be entirely responsible for spending the years and even decades of first understanding, and then writing magic. Essentially, the pegasi and earth ponies could choose to be programmers, to which the unicorns, using their natural gift of manipulating magic, would be the end users.”

The Princesses didn’t speak. They just stared, incapable of forming a response.

“Language is language, my Princesses, and none are more executable than the language of Magic,” the pony bot proceeded, bowing gently to both of them.

Ravage did not look smug. He didn’t even seem to care, and it shook Celestia to her core, even if her mastery over her impulses hid it. Pegasi and earth ponies never wrote any spells. Never! It was simply not within their skill sets. They did not feel the thaumic fields like unicorns were able to. “You feel that pegasi and earth ponies should write spells?”

“Certainly. The singer of a song does not have to be the writer,” Ravage countered, deriving his example from firsthand experience.

“Yet the unicorns have cradled the discipline of Magic since the dawn of civilization.” The outwardly serene, inwardly stunned alicorn knew she was losing the debate.

“That is a problem of conformity,” Ravage rebutted. “Any civilization, no matter how meritorious, will repeat the same mistakes through generations, as long as its citizenry are content to copy whatever it was their parents did.” Having seen countless generations of flesh creatures spring up and die within their cosmic lifespans, the Transformers saw the errors of conformity as just characteristics of whatever flesh creature race they happened to be dealing with.

Twilight was as wide-eyed as when the world was new. “I – I can’t believe we’ve never thought of that.” She looked to Celestia, who was as calm as an evening breeze on a pond. “Princess Celestia, I want Ravage to serve me as an adviser on my Science Needs More Love presentation.” The Element of Magic had considered asking Ravage this ever since he started learning from her. Now that he had demonstrated his knowledge, she was certain.

Celestia did not answer immediately. The stallion she came to observe was no construction worker. She had heard enough, and it was time to carry out her next task, which was to determine if he was a friend of Equestria, or a foe. The first step was containment.

Ravage looked at his inset clock; it was going on noon. If he didn’t get out soon, he might run into Fluttershy.

“Well Twilight,” the Day Princess began as she sidled up to the right side of Ravage’s head. “There is the small matter that Ravage is homeless,” she pointed out, and then extended her long neck over the pony bot to his left side, “And that he intends to take my sister out on a date. Isn’t that nice,” she embellished with rare sarcasm as she moved away from the stallion.

“Well, I,” Twilight started to babble. She had no response to that. What was Ravage really going to do when he dated royalty?

The Decepticon wanted to neither serve Twilight, nor date Celestia’s capricious sister, and bided his time.

Celestia looked at Ravage calmly. “Cybertron is not a place in Equestria. Am I right?”

“Correct,” he answered honestly. He could hear Twilight gasp lightly. Applejack turned one small fib into a nightlong experience. What would Princess Celestia have done?

The Day Princess continued her ruthless march. “I had never heard of Cybertron myself, so I visited the Paymaster General. She said that no work visas with your name were activated within the last month.” She was lying through her teeth, of course, but she needed to speed this process up. The more quickly he confessed to working illegally, the faster she could contain the problem. Perhaps, she could even arrange for him to meet Luna on a regular basis. The Moon Princess was really a nice pony under her tough exterior.

Twilight was shocked. “You don’t have a visa?!”

“No.” Ravage frowned, as his lack of knowledge of pony society was getting him into trouble. How he tired of dealing with alicorns. It also occurred to him that Twilight recognized his likely origin was from outside of the pony nation.

“Twilight, what is the punishment for working illegally in Equestria?” Celestia prompted.

The younger Princess bit her lower lip in trying not to blurt out her words too quickly. “Banishment, even prison if the pony tries to return.” She spent so much time getting to know Ravage, her student. Delightful experiences they were, and the thought of it all ending because he was working did not sit well with Twilight. Moreover, she and her herd were developing an increasing interest in him. “Princess Celestia, there has to be another way.” Looking over to him, it was unbelievable how calm he was in the face of such weighty justice.

Celestia noted the use of her title, and chose her next words carefully. She also suspected that this falsely innocuous earth pony would simply break out of any dungeon he was incarcerated in. “Perhaps,” she spoke, shifting her gaze toward the acuminous stallion, “But Ravage would have to agree to go along.”

It was past noon. The Decepticon just needed to agree to whatever terms she vomited up so he could leave. “While I strongly disagree that it is the Diarchy’s business of where I choose my employment, I do not wish to cause trouble.”

“Excellent.” Smiling, Celestia stood on all fours, and her horn glowed. A shiny, silver stamped card teleported from out of thin air, which she levitated down to the table beside Ravage – a train pass! “Perform what tasks you need to before you go. Inform your boss that you can no longer work for her. Gather your things. Settle your affairs. I expect you at the Canterlot Main Station for nine pm sharp, tomorrow.” She casually stepped in front of Ravage and lowered her eye level to his. “Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, Princess. Perfectly.” Just like that, studying this world from the safety of orbit was put back on the table. He knew Ponyville was a bad idea, and Celestia single-handedly ruining his Magic education just proved it, yet he spared little emotion.

Twilight was very surprised at Celestia’s laundry list of manipulations. She really seemed to go on the offensive after Ravage’s show of brilliance. It didn’t make any sense, but it wasn’t over yet. “I intend to keep teaching him, you know.”

“Of course, Twilight,” the Mare of the Day agreed cordially. “I will schedule in lesson times for you once he’s settled in Canterlot.” If he turned out to be hostile, he was only an earth pony. Celestia believed she and her sister were far better suited to be in his midst, whereas her former student could be become victimized. She opened the front door with her magic and started walking toward it.

“Please wait!” the young Princess demanded. This was all happening so fast. The white alicorn halted her progress, and looked over her shoulder waiting for Twilight to continue. “Why are you taking him to Canterlot?” She tapped her barrel with her hoof. “I can take care of him. He doesn’t need to work.”

Ravage silently declared the overbearing white mare an enemy of Cybertron. ‘May Megatron’s fusion blast find your pathetic little head!’ “Does a visa dictate where I choose to live?” he questioned, presuming that it was some sort of form that was being discussed.

Showing rare emotion, Celestia sighed, looking at the ground. “Ravage, I can get your visa prepared faster if the Guard isn’t looking for you. Since you have already broken the law, there will indeed be conditions that dictate where you can live. After that,” she began, not wanting to show any of her cards, but knowing she had to explain to Twilight why he must remain in Canterlot for the next while, “I have more questions for you.” She leaped out the doorway and took flight, teleporting soon after.

It was well after noon now. “I need to go,” the stallion bot stated plainly.

“Certainly, Ravage.” Twilight smiled, truly impressed with the earth pony’s fortitude in such a tense atmosphere, and extremely impressed with his logic and scientific demeanor. She went up and hugged him, and he hugged back. “Don’t worry. I’ll be talking to Princess Celestia about this.” She saw that stallion withdraw his forelegs, probably wanting to go. “Enjoy your tea with Fluttershy, okay?”

“Thank you, Twilight. You’ve been most gracious.”

=^.^=

Ravage left Twilight’s in a hurry, looking around for Fluttershy. Tea time was cancelled as far as he was concerned. If he wasn’t careful, he could soon be confronting Celestia. With innumerable resources at her disposal – many of them magical – his desire to remain in Ponyville was reducing itself by the minute. Finding out what happened to the probe he sent to Cybertron was top on his list of priorities.

He noticed that the warm morning winds had calmed, leaving an uncomfortable, muggy heat. The sky was full of pegasi. Half were scrambling, but the other half assumed tight formations, mostly V-shapes and wedges. Their altitude was specific, and they formed a front line on the southern edge of town. An armored column of nearly fifty more pegasi approached from the north.

Twilight’s lectures on Magic included a significant historical element, whereupon the pegasi actually made war on other ponies. The Decepticon idly wondered what it must have been like to be a pony that fought these creatures thousands of years ago, creatures who wielded weather like a weapon. The terror they must have unleashed – why didn’t they become masters of this world? Ravage saw a chilling parallel between his musings and the war for Cybertron that lingered for eons.

He negotiated an inordinate amount of rushing, frightened ground traffic. Parents hastily herded foals, and protective wooden shutters were closing over windows everywhere. The shops were closing – on Saturday, at noon. In the distance the pony bot could see that Applejack had long since packed up her store front, with the aid of her brother no less.

The sky darkened, and his coat felt relief as the sun was blocked out. Looking south above the tree line he saw the anvil of a storm cloud approaching, just like his satellites had warned him five hours ago.

Rainbow Dash zipped to and fro like a laser beam, but eventually stopped to address what must have been over two hundred pegasi in well-formed ranks. She shook her head, and her forelegs made pushing-away motions. Then suddenly, all the fliers scattered, save for the armored pegasi which descended into the streets in an orderly fashion.

“Um, Ravage…” he heard a pony call out softly.

“Fluttershy?” Ravage knew he heard a familiar voice, and probed to the left and to the right to find it out. Turning around, he saw Fluttershy, and she was frightened. “What’s going on?”

“You don’t know?” She suddenly became concerned. How could Ravage not know? He was a newcomer, yes, but all ponies were supposed to have been educated in how to act when a powerful storm rolls in. “Ravage, we need to get inside!” she exclaimed, though at a volume the level of conversational speech.

The confused stallion’s left foreleg was unexpectedly tugged by a hovering Fluttershy, in a very unusual show of assertion, toward her cottage. She flew on, and he followed. ‘Walk away, Ravage. Just walk away,’ he prodded himself. The distance to the ship was only two kilometers. If it stormed, he could easily take the river and use the underwater access to get in.

Ravage had his satellites scan the storm while he scoured an inset map of the local area for options; the storm exceeded five megatons in water weight. He found a path behind Fluttershy’s that led directly into the Everfree. He would take that!

The warm winds suddenly turned cold, and picked up speed as he crossed the little bridge into her yard. Against the mottled, darkened sky her cottage loomed like a cenotaph. Just meters from her front door, he stopped.

He felt like he was being pulled in all directions. Fluttershy and his ship were big forces. Celestia had weak pull, but he was nearly certain that she could figure out he wasn’t a pony. Ultimately, that left two choices.

On the right, he could choose to go around her house, forget about Ponyville, disappear in the Everfree, and remain in the safety of his ship, forsaking everything he’d accomplished here. He could orbit until his energon stockpile had grown sufficiently and fly to another world, of which he was likely to be the only sapient being. He could also choose the riskier option and fly to another part of the world he was on. Either way, freedom was costly.

He could choose the left hand path. Fluttershy had a hold on him like no other, and he was well aware of this. Going in there would only raise her sway over him, further rooting him to Ponyville, and increasing the risk that Celestia would find him out. If he went back to the ship, he could transform. All this touchy-feely flesh creature nonsense would vanish in a cacophony of shifting body plates.

“Ravage?” Fluttershy was at the door calling to him, just as he had shifted his body to go around the cottage. “Please come inside. It’s safe.” She moved to one side of the door frame and gestured with her foreleg, pointing to the inside of her home.

The Decepticon stallion stared into her bright blue eyes, full of emotion. Wisps of her mane blew on the wind dancing around that adoring smile, opened just a sliver and showing enamel. Ravage had come to understand that there was something hidden behind the face: her true intent. She did not just suggest he come in for his own safety. She wanted him in. The very notion made his heart flutter.

A loud thunderclap shook the ground. Fluttershy instantly became terrified and zipped back into the cottage, leaving the door swinging wide open.

“Fluttershy?” Ravage went in after her. His instincts were screaming against doing so, but he pushed ahead.

The interior was warm and homey, contrasting against how very dark it was, especially with most of the window shutters closed. Activating his infrared, he followed the faint heat prints left by her hooves to the other side of the room, behind a couch. Rounding the piece of furniture, he first saw her tail, and then her body, balled up tightly with her hooves over her ears. Flashes of lightning lit the sky. Another thunderclap rumbled, this one louder than the last, and it made the gentle mare squeal as if in agony.

The door closed without warning, making the room even darker. Ravage peeked over the couch to see that it was Angel that did it, looking annoyed at the stallion.

Ravage turned off his infrared. Ponies couldn’t see heat if they tried, at least not without magical assistance. He had an idea of how to reach her, but he had to first immerse himself in the same environment.

Even in the darkened space he could see that the meek mare was shivering. “Fluttershy?” In spite of the darkness, her eyes opened. “You’re safe, Fluttershy,” he said plainly. Another lightning flash lit the room. Her eyes closed tightly awaiting the inevitable. Sure enough, the thunder clapped, and she jumped and squealed again.

She had a problem with thunder, irrational though it was. “The thunder can’t hurt you,” he reasoned. Another lightning flash was followed by more thunder which caused the little mare to squeak yet again. She hadn’t even addressed his logic.

Rain began to patter outside the cottage, and on the window shutters.

Fluttershy didn’t seem to be afraid of lightning, which was the thing she should really have been afraid of, yet it was the thunder that made her almost catatonic. Ravage rubbed his chin with his left hoof while he digested this data.

He interfaced with his satellites to prepare on inset image of an electrostatic readout of the storm. Whenever there was lightning, the charge would easily be seen as a specific colour. The distance from the lightning burst to his current position would then be calculated, as well as the precise time the thunder would take to reach Fluttershy’s cottage.

The stallion bot lifted the corner of the couch with a hoof, and waited. “Fluttershy, you have nothing to fear.” Again, the shivering mare opened one eye. She opened her mouth, but could not speak. The rain was coming in a heavy downpour now. Another bright flash of lightning scared the little pony into welding her eyes shut once again.

This time Ravage was ready. He let the couch leg drop at half a second before the thunderclap precisely. As if preprogrammed, Fluttershy jumped at the impact, but then opened her eyes, looking puzzled. As she did, the real thunder arrived, but the jolt of fear it inspired was somewhat subdued.

Ravage lifted the couch at the leg again. The half perplexed, half frightened pegasus was still trying to figure out what he was doing. “The thunder can’t hurt you,” he addressed. The next lightning flash was again accompanied by the dropping of the couch just as the thunder came in.

And so, a pattern was established. After a few cycles of this, Fluttershy’s ears unpinned themselves, and she relaxed visibly, eventually not shutting her eyes after the lightning flash.

Abruptly, a very bright flash of light reflected off everything. Fluttershy got down, but this time she watched as her guest held the couch up. He dropped it down causing her to shake, but her curiosity overrode the tangible instinct to jump just as the thunder clapped monstrously. She was expecting it, and though she reacted to it she kept her cool, very much like Ravage in fact. “H – How are you doing that?” she queried. Rain poured fiercely outside.

“I could ask the same of you.” He held up the piece of furniture again. “Should we try it without the couch?”

“I still don’t know how you…” she began when another great flash of lightning lit up the windows. She braced herself.

The thunder came with authority, long and violent, but Fluttershy never went down, nor even did more than wince. It was frightening, but she maintained full control.

Ravage put the couch down gently. “There you see? Nothing to fear.” He looked around the dark cottage. “Perhaps we should turn on the lights?”

The puzzled pegasus went to spots in the kitchen, living room, and other areas doing just that. Did Ravage have a gift for knowing when the thunder was coming? His cutie mark certainly didn’t sport such a fact. The question was buried quickly, however, when she remembered the original reason for having him here. “Shall we have tea?” She brightened up at seeing him, and even more from his response of ‘yes’. It thundered more, causing the meek mare to shiver a little, but it was a far cry from being stranded on the floor in the darkness.

It was unbelievable, the difference Ravage’s help made. Her own friends never got this far. It thundered again and just as she felt a rumble in her stomach, making her laugh.

“You find thunder and lightning funny now,” the stallion bot ventured.

“If it’s alright with you, I think we should make lunch,” the relieved pegasus suggested.

The pony bot put his hooves to his own stomach, feeling how empty it was. He nodded. “Agreed.”

=^.^=

Lunch had been another exploratory affair, this time with Ravage helping Fluttershy make grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, spiced up with Manehatten Medley and parsley. Apple juice was the drink of choice. As with the lasagna meal, it was most delicious.

After cleaning up, they settled down in front of the fireplace. Basking in its warm radiance made a gentle temperature gradient from their forelegs to their flanks. Though it was raining out and still thundering softly, it did little to perturb the cheerful mood of Fluttershy as she adjusted the glowing logs with a poker. The kettle started wailing as steam rushed out its spout. “I’ll get the tea,” she assured.

Ravage felt comfortable; perhaps too comfortable, and it had little to do with the comfortable carpet he was sprawled out on. He knew that he embarked on a journey with a mare quite different from what he experienced from Flitter and Cloudchaser. Just being in Fluttershy’s company felt better than any of the other pony’s so far. Sure, Flitter orchestrated a fun and exciting date, but it really only seemed to be geared toward one thing. The experience with the Element of Kindness felt more ‘cerebral’, though Ravage couldn’t think of a better way to describe it.

The tea was of some sort of composition based largely on orange and something nutty, and was just as relaxing as the other brews he had with her so far. What was different this time was that they both enjoyed it to the sound of the rain, which had slowed down considerably since the start of the storm. With their tea cups back in their trays, they just stared into the small, but ember-hot fire.

Ravage felt Fluttershy cuddle against the right side of his body. He was alright with this. It was more efficient to maintain body heat with her soft, warm fur against his side.

Like each mare he had encountered, Fluttershy had her own assortment of scents accompanying her. Mares always smelled like that, sporting some sort of floral, fruity, spicy mix. But there was also her own scent, the ‘just Fluttershy’ scent, that entertained his olfactory sensors, particularly since it wasn’t the same all the time.

Fluttershy leaned in against his body and rubbed her cheek on his neck. “Ravage?” By her own actions, it was obvious she had more than a passing interest in him. Perhaps it was time to crank it up a notch.

“Hmm?” He maneuvered his left cheek onto the back of her head, enjoying the smell of her shampoo.

“Thank you for helping me.” She smiled, impressed by how far she’d come. “You’re right. Thunder can’t hurt me. I guess you’ve never been afraid of it.”

“Not even once.”

Fluttershy nodded. “I wish I was stronger.” She knew her desire to be more assertive would need to assume more forms than showing a stiff back, and Ravage seemed to be a good template. “I’m so afraid all the time. It’s really stymied my past relationships.”

Ravage wasn’t expecting this. Nevertheless, he felt compelled to iron out any logical flaws. “You confuse strength with toughness.”

Fluttershy didn’t feel confused. “What do you mean?”

It appeared that he had to spell it out for her. “Strength refers to available power. Applejack has great strength; Princess Luna has enormous strength.”

The pensive mare tried to understand what Ravage was saying. “Princess Luna has a lot of available power, yes.”

Satisfied she was following, Ravage continued. “Toughness is the ability to resist depreciative forces. Through this, you can work longer and harder, ignore pain and cold and hunger, ignore exhaustion and run ten miles when you would normally run five.” He couldn’t see her face, so he assumed she was listening. “You have to get the job done. Do you follow?”

The yellow mare winced at having to withstand distasteful conditions. “Yes,” she answered.

“Toughness is a virtue that is irrespective of strength. You can be the smallest one in your group, but that doesn’t mean you can’t outlast them.” This pretty much described Ravage’s life as a Decepticon.

It sure sounded to Fluttershy like she needed to toughen up if she was going to pursue Ravage. No more hiding under the sheets during a thunderstorm, at the very least! “Oh my…”

Ravage placed a foreleg over his demure friend’s. “You’re tougher than you think, Fluttershy.”

She wondered if it was really possible to become a tougher pony. Only time would tell on that one. “Well, my Element is Kindness,” she said proudly.

“Ah yes, kindness,” Ravage wondered aloud. “I fear I lack understanding of its place in society.”

Now Fluttershy did a double take. “You – what?”

“What is kindness,” he postulated, looking up and holding a hoof under his chin. “And what is its purpose?”

He was being serious! How could he not know what kindness was? “Why did you give that filly your ice cream?” Fluttershy challenged.

“Last weekend? Her wailing was hurting my ears.”

Fluttershy’s heart sank. She didn’t want to believe it. “You could have walked away. You could have –”

“I could not walk away,” Ravage corrected.

She was stopped in her tracks – this was her fault! She had to fix this. The flustered mare needed to convince Ravage of his kind act. “I should have offered to carry your cone. I’m so sorry,” she pleaded. Flitter or Winter would have offered to take his cone, no questions asked. Again, it seemed like her timidity had interfered with a pony she liked.

“It’s okay, Fluttershy. Everything turned out alright.”

She was shaking her head, looking for an angle. “Wait.”

Ravage paid attention, waiting for possible new data from his yellow friend.

“You gave her your ice cream after the outburst.” Fluttershy was smiling now, realizing there was only one reason Ravage would have done that. Peering his way, he looked nonplussed at her statement. “That was an act of kindness,” she smiled proudly.

Ravage deliberated on this.

“Kindness is being nice to ponies,” Fluttershy defined.

“It sounds to me like kindness is expending your time and energy in order to improve the situation of another, with no return for your effort.” he hypothesized.

Fluttershy was stunned again. The speed with which her guest grasped concepts and then twisted them around was astonishing. She had to try to keep up. “That’s not true.” Quickly, she marshaled

her thoughts. It felt as if her own Element was under attack! “If all ponies help each other out when they have trouble, then the return for your effort is somepony helping you when you have trouble.”

Ravage thought about Fluttershy’s improved description. “So, kindness is a virtue of society, propagated by individual acts.” His friend’s smiling mouth opened widely. “But,” he started to counter, making her mouth close and grimace. “That would require that all individuals in that society to act kindly,” he finished, causing his pegasus friend to sigh. “I assure you, this is not the case.” In his short stay, he had heard ponies speak of as many acts that ran counter to kindness, as acts that condoned it.

The tiring mare’s head hung a little. “There are a lot of unkind ponies out there, even in Ponyville.” Her face had evened out to a neutral expression. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to improve it.”

“Is that your mission as the Element of Kindness?”

“Mission?” Fluttershy was more than a little curious with the notion. Was she more than just part of a weapon to defend against the likes of Discord and Nightmare Moon? As the living embodiment of Kindness she was to set an example of what it was. “I’ve always been kind to ponies and creatures alike. I think it’s ironic that it’s been the creatures that learned from my kindness, and not the ponies.”

“I’m having trouble wrapping my head around kindness, as you had just proven,” Ravage provided. “Perhaps other ponies are experiencing similar hurdles.”

What could she do? How could she get ponies to be kinder to one another? She had been a sterling example of kindness, yes, but she had been passive. Should she take a more active role with her Element? “I think all ponies are capable of kindness.”

Ravage shifted his body, placing his head between his forelegs. He felt Fluttershy snuggle in closer, with her snout against his cheek. In the ever receding rainfall, and lukewarm fire, both ponies drifted into an afternoon nap.

An hour later, Fluttershy rose to find she had been snuggling a pillow. Ravage was gone.

=^.^=

The moonrise was slow that night. Between the shadows the land was still and wet, never glistening colder and brighter than since Nightmare Moon’s return.

On Princess Celestia’s balcony, two figures stood parallel to each other, looking south of Canterlot. Neither talked. Both had eyes that were narrowed in contemplation.

Luna activated the Night Dweller spell, her eyes becoming opaque white orbs while she searched for Ravage. Deactivating the spell, she looked to her sister, and shook her head. “If he had so much as a single spider within his dwelling, I could find him,” she assured. “But nothing.”

“Then nopony knows where he is,” Celestia concluded. In reality, she had a pretty good idea of where his dwelling was, made all the more impressive that he could keep it free of insects and other small creatures.

Luna also had a pretty good idea of where he was, because of the bond she shared with him. She felt certain he was south, near Ponyville. In fact, she was also certain he was in the Everfree forest, a place as dangerous as her sister’s opinion of him. “You feel strongly that Applejack’s insight is sufficient to verify his birthplace? It sounds more like a temple out of a Daring Do novel.”

“Yes, I do. Without question,” she stated, looking the Night Princess squarely in the eyes. “The Canterlot cartographers have also never heard of Cybertron. I’ve sent messages to cartographers in the Griffon Lands, Saddle Arabia, and other countries. In the mean time, we will await his arrival.”

Luna knew that Ravage wasn’t going to show up tomorrow and believed Celestia felt this way as well. The one thing that was certain was that Luna had to be especially careful around her manipulative co ruler while finding a way to show that the elusive stallion was not dangerous. Surely his foray into the dream world, an incident Luna had come to admire, should prove this! “He shall not harm Twilight. This promise I give to you.”

“You’re right, Luna. He will not.”

For a time, the pair gazed upon the vastness of Equestria in Luna’s moonlight. But for all their scrutinizing, little was revealed about the disappearance of a particular statue from Ponyville.

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