• 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 12: Goodbye Fluttershy

It was Sunday, just after midnight on the coastline by the sleepless city of Baltimare. A litany of tents and semi-permanent structures that comprised the pavilions of the Love Festival bit into the night sky like a mountain range. With construction nearing completion one could only marvel at the size and scope of the installation, rivaling even the adjacent naval base.

To the east over Horseshoe Bay, creatures from the ponies’ worst nightmares hovered half a kilometer over the water, for all had wings. They were as black as the night itself with bodies like ponies, but integument like insects, and perforated limbs. Several smaller individuals, indistinguishable from one another, gathered around the largest.

“We are ready to begin, Princess,” one spoke, levitating and opening a pouch in front of herself, for all had horns. Her comrades produced various pouches and other objects in a similar fashion.

“Be quick about it!” the big one replied curtly, for it was only a matter of time before they were spotted.

Compared to the members of her support team, Princess Jocasta was larger and fuller in every dimension. Her eyes were not a uniform blue either, but were amber in colour, with narrow pupils not unlike that of a reptile’s. Her long, vermilion mane was done up in a practical ponytail. The soot black Princess levitated a glass dome from one of the saddle bags of her helpers. Inside and magically protected by the dome, was a tiny plant.

Her underlings were awed at the sight of the little piece of vegetation.

“Yes,” she hissed, smiling evilly. “An Epoch tree.” She plucked it from the soil with her magic, and sent the dome plummeting into the bay. The plant’s fine, fluffy root system held on to dirt and debris. “Fifteen hundred years to germinate,” a brief but subdued flare of magic ground up the little tree and the other components. “Another six-hundred to grow it to this size,” she described, as a whirlpool of swirling magic mixed in the tree and other ingredients. Soon the faint glow of a ghostly, transparent disc no wider than a foal’s head appeared. In a few seconds, its light vanished. The bizarre structure would be completely invisible if it were not for its light bending effects; it resembled a stone poking out of a pond. In the night sky, nearly a kilometer from the shore, it looked like nothing.

Another helper suddenly raced in as soon as the spell was cast. “No pegasi have been dispatched.”

“Our work is finished here. Follow me!”

A brief flutter of wings later, the interlopers were gone, leaving the strange disc to hide in the open sky.

=^.^=

With an angry grunt, Ravage’s fist slammed into the statue, pulverizing concrete into jagged rocks and dust. He had punched and kicked the former Ponyville masterpiece until it was just an aluminum frame. The ship’s extraction facilities would have normally been used for such a purpose, but this was much more fun.

Lifting the twisted metal and banging it on the ground a couple of times cleaned it enough to be melted down. He walked it over to the furnace, opened the door by kicking it with his alloyed foot and unceremoniously shoved the tortured thing into the waiting fires, pushing some parts forcibly and crumpling others to make sure the whole thing got in. Once melted down, the metal would be purified, subjected to specific levels of gamma radiation and neutron bombardment, and the required isotopes harvested for the black matter detector.

Incoming Satellite Message: Priority 3.

“What have we here?” the Decepticon queried. The satellites found something? Even though he was the only Transformer here, the message was automatically encrypted, though decoding it was but a two second delay.

Assessment: Potential Temporal Anomaly.

He froze a bit after reading that one. It seemed that on planets with magic, rare cosmic events popped up like mushrooms. He immediately did an about face to get to the main console, and kicked something rocky, but not like the debris that lay strewn about.

It was the alicorn horn from what used to be a statue those silly ponies revered. He picked it up and tossed it behind him. As it fell to waist level, Ravage drew his sidearm, spun around, and shot it in a display of accuracy few Decepticons could match. A pink flash accompanied by burnt, sandy debris exploded outward. He chortled as he twirled his weapon in his fingers. “Surely not as satisfying as the real Celestia.”

Two roving medicroids, common Decepticon medical drones, rolled in and started cleaning up. A boon of energon production had allowed for their activation. He reseated the weapon in its mechanical holster and proceeded to the main monitor to study the event in more detail.

The spy was perplexed by the data, and held his chin as he tried to figure it out. It was located just off the eastern seaboard, right by Baltimare. Ravage had no information on where in that city the Love Festival was being held, but that was something he intended to correct the following day. The fact that Twilight mentioned it numerous times piqued his interest.

The strange event was like a black hole as it effortlessly bent space-time, yet the crushing gravity was not present; definitely worthy of further study! Before Ravage got back to work, he instructed his satellites to monitor the anomaly continuously.

=^.^=

The next morning, Twilight Sparkle woke up early yet again, intent on meeting the other Princesses in Canterlot. Apparently, Princess Cadance had recovered information from the Westerlore Islands.

Her morning rituals finished up in her bedroom. She hummed softly to herself, running a comb through her mane, as she smiled upon Rainbow Dash’s sleeping form. It was no secret that the competitive pegasus spoke ill of ‘mushy’ things, romance included. Yet in spite of this, she was snoozing contentedly in the alicorn’s bed sheets.

The pair of ponies had spent a lot of personal time together. Social talk and games gave way to staring into each others eyes, and soon after the two would indulge in snuggles, kisses, and rubs. Yet, their intimacy stagnated soon after, as Rainbow had insisted that she had to work out, or finish up Wonderbolt business, like attempting those accursed double rainbooms, or even just fall asleep. Undeterred, the Friendship Princess had countered with many different tactics, many ways of indicating she was willing to go further.

She tried wearing expensive perfume. “You smell great, Twilight.”

She tried the fabled bedroom eyes, but that only intimidated the pegasus.

She tried unladylike discussion on the intimate lives of celebrities, including the Wonderbolts. “Aw yeah, the Wonderbolts are awesome at more than just flying,” Dash would agree. Nothing further would come of it.

But today would be the day! After putting her dresser in order, Twilight levitated an old wooden box from behind an assortment of objects in the closet, and placed it by the bedroom door. It found use in combating loneliness when she was living in the capital, and it would find use again. The little Princess squeaked out a giggle, feeling like something of a rebel, as she would normally keep such things under lock and key. Being with her unabashed girlfriend made her comfortable enough to share, and she was eager to see the results.

=^.^=

At around nine in the morning Ravage stood upright in the repair bay, a bastion of the highest Decepticon technology. It was a compact space where control panels, tools, video displays, scanners, and repair devices of every kind covered the walls entirely. Even the ceiling anchored instrumentation that could be brought down by various springs, folding arms and other attachments.

He had several body panels open. Thanks to the two medicroids he brought online, maintenance was received many times faster than what could have been done by himself. Most important was the installation of the detector the spy bot had waited so long to build. He was not idle though, as he continuously monitored operations through insets that would systematically pop up on his vision.

He checked the data on the temporal anomaly. If he didn’t know better, he’d swear it was growing. In just few more hours, he could verify or refute this hypothesis.

Of particular interest was the video acquired from the probe he sent to Cybertron. It had stopped transmitting on Wednesday afternoon, and he was scouring over the video and system logs trying to dig up any clues as to why it failed. The fact it stopped transmitting without good cause further decreased his chances of going home anytime soon.

He would masquerade as a pony, yes, but doing so in the short time he was in Equestria had already raised suspicions, including that of Princess Celestia. Unfortunately, that made staying anywhere on this mud ball of a planet a dangerous proposition. He hated to admit it, but the way around Celestia may be through Luna. Curiously, she had not entered his dreams recently though she could do so tonight. The prospect made him shudder.

The maintenance and upgrades finished. His gears whirred, closing up the body panels precisely as Ravage started strolling toward the bridge. “Verify all gravity sources,” the Decepticon commanded, as the time had come to start acquiring data with his new black matter detector. The ship produced a log of the relevant gravitational sources: the sun, moon, and Celestia-1, and displayed them on the main screen.

He activated his new machine.

Detection Apparatus BZ2C109: Activated.

Detection Radius: 10.4 meters. Acquiring data…

The data from the new device popped up as an inset, duplicating what was on the main screen. Coloured in white were several thin, streaming filaments of black matter. He found something already!

“Superimpose data onto my vision.” The software did just that. Added to his field of vision was an ever changing lattice of white filaments, threadlike and fleeting, with packets of black matter that zipped to and fro like little white bolts of lightning. Composed entirely of straight lines, some were thicker, while others varied in intensity. Nearly all of them stuck to the same route, while a few slowly altered their trajectories. It was stunning how much of it there was. Could he have found the missing mass that he suspected was responsible for the Celestia system’s bizarre orbiting scheme? While the thin strands around him couldn’t be responsible for all that mass it definitely seemed like he was on the right track. More research was needed!

“Impressive,” he remarked as he literally passed his arm through a bunch of them. “Weakly interacting indeed. Are the filaments evoking electrical signals?”

“Affirmative,” responded one of the medicroids.

Ravage’s detection field was similar to the field used to contain black matter within subspace radios. The black matter functioned by vibrating within the radio’s containment field, disturbed by subspace perturbations invoked by the transmitter at the other location. These perturbations were then converted into electrical signals, and then into voice or data, depending on the protocol employed.

The curious robot prepared a table of the electrical signals on the main screen. Each filament had its own unique characteristics. “This is absolutely fascinating,” he said, awed as the list kept growing and growing while he walked around the room.

He planned a walk into Ponyville so he could visit all six Elements of Harmony. In doing so he intended to circumvent the town’s more amourous mares, as Ravage was all done dating these ponies. He wanted to duck out before noon so he could avoid the stupid unicorn trio. And his date with Luna? Skip that. Using her to curb Celestia’s curiosity was the only thing she was good for.

He came upon the train pass, lying on the counter where he prepared his food. Black matter seemed to periodically flash from it, but what made it interesting was that it was the first observed terminal point.

“Uh oh…” The angle and direction also looked like it went to Canterlot. He didn’t need any calculations to know that Celestia may have been monitoring him.

Ravage was undone. He sat down on the munitions crate he ate his meals from. Metallic pinging could be heard as he thrummed the side of his face plates with his fingers. It was a good bet that Celestia knew exactly where he was, though for the life of him he couldn’t figure out why she hadn’t just sent in the guards, or come to collect him herself.

He had to get out. Although well hidden, his current location was no longer safe.

The next logical requirement was to situate himself so he could keep collecting data on Equestria’s black matter distribution while avoiding detection and possible capture by the princesses.

He needed more energon, since it was energetically very expensive to extract aluminum isotopes. His avian androids would do well to fly around with black matter detectors.

Celestia gave him till nine o’clock that evening to show up at Canterlot, a command he had no intention of fulfilling. That left him just over eleven hours to collect data, and evacuate.

Ravage transformed into pony mode. He opened the dossier profiling Fluttershy, something he had done a few times during the night. Sometimes he had stared at the three dimensional rotating depiction of her looking for more information than was detailed in her file. Sometimes he caught himself staring and closed it up. As if that lump of flesh could interest him. Bah! Equestria was not even useful as a slave state.

“Fluttershy, what am I going to do with you,” he wondered aloud.

“Message not understood,” spoke one of the medicroids, in a monotonous, acidic voice pattern. Ravage waved it off.

=^.^=

The Princess of the Sun teleported into her sister’s room. She could hear Luna singing in the shower, and was tempted to just focus on her melodic, enchanting voice. But her bond to Ravage was mysterious, and pondering it had kept the Sun Princess up most of the night. The more she thought about it, the more agitated she became.

What did her sister see in him? Looks and work ethic aside, he was pretty sharp. The Day Princess found that out the hard way, though she could think of several stallions of such prominent intellect. Nevertheless, Princess Luna didn’t just up and choose a homeless stallion to be her lover. She was ever the dedicated planner and schemer, and took time to do anything of merit.

The Dark Princess emerged from the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her mane. A light gasp escaped her lips upon noticing her sister looming in the doorway.

“My apologies, Luna, but there is a matter I need to discuss with you immediately.”

“Haven’t you heard of knocking?” the agitated princess rebuked. Stalwart and unsympathetic, her sister kept standing there, staring intently. “I gather not.” There was still no response. “Well, it’s simple. All one does is raise her hoof and…”

“It’s about Ravage.”

“Oh? Have you found out where he lives? My magic keeps pointing to the Everfree Forest.”

“No, what concerns me is that you didn’t seem bothered in the slightest when I told you that it was he who entered the child’s dream.”

“My confused cutie mark didn’t know what it was doing,” the incredulous alicorn explained. “I thought we discussed this.”

“Then why him, specifically?”

“We are both creatures of the night, and he is bound to me.”

Celestia’s right hoof motioned in the air, as if pushing some ethereal button. “That is what has really been bothering me. Your bond.”

Luna’s eyes grew wide, and then laughed heartily. “’Tis a bond of love!” Her sister narrowed her eyes. “We know thou art uneducated in the ways of Moon magic, and we forgive you,” she said in a condescending tone. “But take heart! In mere weeks, he shall share the dinner table with us.” Her sister looked perturbed. “Us, us,” she clarified, pointing to Celestia and herself.

“You don’t think it seems a bit sudden?”

“Nonsense. I was aware of Ravage long before I saw him.”

Celestia’s wings flared up. “What?!”

“Is it really that surprising?”

“Has he also felt your life force?” she rebutted. It tripped up Luna, too. Good! “I’m sorry, but I intend to watch him closely,” she warned.

“Please do! And please let me know when you find something new on him,” Luna replied as if nothing happened.

Princess Celestia was riled, but managed to mask it. “Good Day, Luna,” she said before turning and leaving.

“Good day!”

=^.^=

A small southbound train sped up as it turned onto a straightaway. Framed by thickly treed hills, the Equestrian capital loomed in the distance.

In her heavily guarded private car, Princess Cadance stared at a missive sent by Celestia earlier that morning. Reading it had given her that sinking feeling. This was not going to be a good day.

The loving bond between Luna and Ravage turned out to be magical! Celestia was worried about her sister, and asked Cadance to use her talents to probe the bond. The alicorn love expert had already felt Luna’s love for him, but never suspected anything unnatural, not at the time.

Luna was a different kind of pony. Missing a thousand years of social and technological progress hadn’t dulled her magic skills and, unfortunately, she could get as angry as she was powerful. Upon her return from the Moon, she instantly defeated her sister, and plunged her great nation into permanent darkness. Was such capability the source of Celestia’s concern?

Cadance read the message once again, trying to see if she could read between the lines, but to no avail. Celestia had been as clear as the sunny days she presided over. The pink Princess rolled up the message with her magic and slumped in her comfy chair.

=^.^=

The crunch of the twigs underhoof was pleasant. If there was any one thing Ravage learned to like since his arrival here, it was the morning, though the irony of this was not lost upon him. It was something about the air, the moisture, and the earthy, early morning smells.

More and more data on the black matter distribution was acquired with every step, as threads zipped in and out of his field of detection. Sometimes they came in a torrent, and sometimes there were perhaps one or two per minute. Curiously, they only seemed to connect to points on the planet itself. Tracing the origins and destinations had led to other geographical areas, points underground, and even clouds in the sky.

The trees thinned, and the open spaces widened as he approached the village. He had eaten lightly, expecting to purchase breakfast in town. His strategy was to make a circuit into Ponyville, and end up at Sweet Apple Acres. Applejack, the town interrogator, was the second last pony he wanted to visit.

The last pony he wanted to see was Fluttershy. Around her, he had no data gathering plan. Approaching her but keeping her within the perimeter of his detection field would look suspicious, probably resulting in the amourous pegasus simply trotting up and hugging him. Ponies liked to get close.

The Decepticon wondered if magic was at play. Oh, he felt strong now, but whenever he got near that mare, his resolve would weaken, and it got worse with every encounter. In her presence, he had forgotten about how far he was from home, that he was the only Decepticon for thousands of light years. He had forgotten about his communication breakdown, unable to tell anyone about this place. He had even forgotten his mission, if only for a short while, when he kept his attention on his butter coated friend.

He passed Fluttershy’s yard, close by on his right. Don’t look at it, he guarded, fighting back an urge to get nearer. He was oblivious to the eyes of a loving pony looking upon him from behind the windows.

A few blocks later, he turned onto one of the less remarkable streets and headed east, the Element of Kindness’ home behind him. The handful of ponies he saw on the other side of the street yielded no data, since they were outside of his detection field. However, behind the walls on his right, the breadth of his detection field picked up about two dozen concentrations of black matter in just a couple of blocks. Were these ponies?

He mentally assembled an itinerary. First, get a hay shake and fries. Then, locate and talk to Rainbow Dash, Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie, and gather data on how black matter affects them. Avoid unnecessary contact.

“Hmm. I haven’t yet had a substantive conversation with Pinkie Pie,” he realized.

“Hell-oooo,” Pinkie greeted, her upside-down body flopping down like a swing, startling Ravage, making him grunt with surprise.

The pink mare was hanging onto a braided hemp rope that was tied to a wooden sign holder. “Whatcha’ doin’ this morning, handsome?”

Ravage’s response was delayed, unable to figure out how Pinkie managed to appear out of thin air, and with equipment. “I’m acquiring breakfast.”

“Oooooooh.” The pink earth pony jettisoned herself from his space.

Ravage looked up and found that Pinkie and her rope had vanished! It was like they were never there. How can this be?

She could either teleport or she was very fast, although no wind was observed. Ravage continued eastward, pondering Pinkie’s perplexity. Adding to the bizarre nature of her locomotion was that the proximity alert didn’t trip. It was then that Ravage noticed – bouncing?

Sure enough, Pinkie was bouncing right beside him, keeping pace. “Mind if I come along?”

The pony bot looked at the Element of Laughter, pleased to see a very large amount of black matter activity. “Sure.”

“So I had everything ready for Cloud Kicker’s birthday yesterday, but we had that HUGE storm! It wouldn’t affect the party which was in the evening, but there was mud like crazy so I asked Applejack if we could use her barn, but she said we couldn’t because they were shoring up the joists, and I was still looking for a different venue because there was all this mud in front of Sugar Cube Corner…” The pink mare started talking, and then never ceased talking.

Ravage patiently withstood the verbal onslaught. This was surprisingly easy to do since his attention was really on the black matter as it beamed in and out of her like a laser show. Filament streams penetrated all parts of her body. He tasked the main computer to measure the input versus output of these streams. Of particular interest were two streams coming out of her back which seemed to originate and terminate in the open sky, something he hadn’t seen yet.

“... You wouldn’t believe the ideas I have for Winter’s birthday party, and I know you’re gonna party with Pearl Bliss, Winter, and Saffron today, but please don’t tell them I’ve already made plans.” Pinkie got right in Ravage’s personal space, close to his ear. “It’s a secret.”

“Ah yes, a secret,” he agreed, closely watching Pinkie Pies’ lively network of black matter streams.

Pinkie assumed a normal walking gait. “Say,” she started slowly, eyeing him suspiciously, “How come I don’t know your birthday yet.”

“My birthday?” Well this was highly irregular. Decepticons used age to determine maintenance schedules, not observances.

“I find out by asking the friends and family of the new pony, but you qualify as an exception.” Pinkie had gone from zany to almost professional in seconds. Noticing that her change in behavior was confusing her acquaintance she clarified. “I don’t know any pony that knew you, so…” she insinuated, leaning toward him, waggling her eyebrows.

“So?” She’s not really asking for it, is she?

“When’s your birthday, silly?”

Ravage decided that such information was of no consequence, and calculated a solution using his actual age against the Equestrian calendar. “Five days ago,” he replied with a small smile. He did technically have a birthday, even though he had no need of it except to humor this peculiar mare.

Pinkie jumped in the air in an indescribable fit of surprise, with her legs splayed out, as she gasped like she had been underwater for over two minutes. With a gust of wind, she exited in a blur of pink.

Ravage stopped upon seeing this, trying to make heads or tails of what just happened. He heard that the pink mare was strange, but not this strange. At least he got good data from her.

=^.^=

Rainbow Dash was staring into the pages of five magazines from a box that Twilight left by the door. It looked like she might have forgotten to take them to Canterlot, so the prying pegasus took a peak. She’d been looking at them ever since.

Adult magazines – good thing Spike went with her. They all had mares and stallions with clothing that emphasized choice parts of their bodies. The current page was of a playful stallion spread over a patch of grass, lying on his back with body fitted fabric covering his groin. But that wasn’t all! Sinful socks from a sports clothing manufacturer covered every leg.

Rainbow had gone through the whole stack three times and was made so tense she could peruse no longer. Relief was needed!

“Hey Rainbow,” greeted Pinkie, causing Dash to jump and yelp out of surprise. Her hooves were slung over the window frame. “Ooo, nice magazine,” the creeping mare commented, pointing a hoof at an issue of Compromised Pony. “You should get number forty-one. I hear there’s a Soarin in it,” she chirped.

“Pinkie! What are you doing here?”

“Ravage’s birthday was five days ago! Can you believe it?”

Rainbow Dash stared at her friend incredulously.

“We need to have a sorry-we-didn’t-know-it-was-your-birthday party!”

“Uh, wasn’t he at one of our parties five days ago?” Dash reasoned.

Pinkie gasped in astonishment, “That wasn’t just his Welcome Party, it was his Birthaversary!”

“But he had already been in town for – you know what, never mind.” Wrestling with the mind of Pinkie Pie would be unproductive at best.

“Close enough,” the fluffy-maned earth pony agreed, seemingly having a moment of clarity. “I just think we should recognize his birthday.”

“Yeah, but wouldn’t he…”

“Don’t you worry your pretty little head off, Dashie,” she patronized, “Auntie Pinkie Pie will take care of everything.”

“I’m a year older than you!” Dash snapped back. Her retort met only an empty window. She could appreciate her friend’s randomness, but sometimes it became overwhelming. Her irritation evaporated quickly when she turned back to the magazines.

It was very clear why Twilight left these. She’d been champing at the bit to move to the next level, but Rainbow Dash never committed. Uncertainty hung over her like a dark cloud. She would have to address the surprisingly naughty mare when she got back.

Was Dash to take care of the problem herself? She was too cool for that of course, and planned a way around it. Putting the magazines back gave her enough of a distraction to regain control over her excited wing musculature. She flew out the window, intent on handling her problem the old way.

She started her search by flying over the business section. Prowling from the skies for a specific pony to hook up with wasn’t atypical for a pegasus. “Let’s see.” She analysed the well-known streets. “Taken, taken, taken,” she spoke of some reasonably good looking stallions, making her feel lucky that she had a wing on Ravage at all. “Mare, mare, mare, mare, mare,” represented all the mares who had left standing offers for some fun, and all these choices were available. Boy, would Twilight hate that! “Stupid too many mares,” the stifled pony admonished. She continued her search over the park, as her thoughts strayed to her girlfriend.

Twilight wanted everypony to follow the rules and allow time for all to date Ravage first. However, some of her herdmates didn’t feel the same way. Rarity would probably take him to a fancy dinner and then introduce him to her favorite candles – which were in her bedroom. Fluttershy certainly looked interested in him. In fact, some herds behaved more like Flitter and Cloudchaser, and tested their date’s bedroom might before going any further. As for Dash, she would have preferred to date him first, until this morning.

The aroused pegasus had often thought about why she often joined the herd at all. Her intimate experiences with mares were limited, and they all had been when she was a filly – and they had all been bad. But herds do things together, and in the stride of her confident swagger Dash agreed to go to Pearl Bliss’ party, and look what happened! “Should have thought that one through,” she groused. Being so close to Twilight wasn’t all that bad though, was it? Rainbow didn’t consider the former unicorn to be attractive until she brought out her wings from their magical casing, and now her every hoof step seemed graceful.

As she flew over to another section of town, the shine off the back of a procurable stallion rewarded Dash for her patience, his yellow cutie mark able to be seen for blocks. Dash smiled evilly, rubbing her hooves together. “Why, it’s Ravage and his fantastic flanks,” she remarked. She put a hoof under her chin and regarded her potential playmate. Flitter and Cloudchaser had failed to hook up with him despite all the time and bits spent, and the amazing venue. They said that he had fallen asleep. Ha! The very thought made Rainbow snicker. No, the problem was that those two were just not Rainbow Dash, and she knows how to talk to stallions.

The Decepticon turned down the road with the hay shake kiosk he had sampled recently. He salivated in anticipation of the fibrous food going down and into his unsatisfied belly. A heavy thump and the sound of displaced stones and earth shook him from his dinner inspired day dreaming. Yet, he was not all that startled, perhaps getting used to the hard landings of a certain prismatic pegasus.

Rainbow Dash looked up at him expectantly. “Hey Ravage.”

“Good morning,” he greeted, sounding more and more natural by the day. Like Pinkie before her, Dash radiated black matter activity, but something was very different. It seemed she was absorbing quite a lot of the black matter streams, but that would have to be analysed later.

The pegasus mare hatched a plan, and almost shivered with excitement. It was very hard to maintain her composure. “How was your date?”

“Date?”

“Flitter? Dancing in the Warehouse? Booze?”

“Oh!” he realized. “That was two days ago.” Clearly, Dash wanted more than that, listening intently as she was. “Uh- we danced, drank…” What was he supposed to tell her? That Flitter cornered him, expecting him to reproduce? Stressful though it was, it contrasted with the other prominent memories. “We sang.”

“Oh? What’d ya sing?”

Cherry Moon,” the memory evoking a very pleasant feeling. There was no doubt about it, he definitely liked singing.

“Aw yeah,” Dash nodded. “Good ‘n moody.” Seeing that her mark was really smiling at the thought, it was time to make her move. “Though there are things in this world that are way better than singing.”

Ravage had never seriously thought about that. He looked up and screwed up his expression in calculation as he neared the food vendor. It turned out that even ice cream couldn’t overtake singing in terms of pleasure production.

Judging the earth pony’s reaction, Rainbow felt she might consider singing him a rock song, since they both liked the dragon music that disrupted the Warehouse dance party. However, that would have to be decided later. It was time to spring the trap. “Pinkie tells me it was your birthday five days ago.”

“Yes?” the pony bot replied questioningly. He just spoke to Pinkie! How did she know so fast? He also came to realize that something was off about Rainbow Dash. She seemed nicer. That broad smile just didn’t figure.

Rainbow took to a hover as they neared the kiosk. “The first time you met us by the lake it was me you were looking at. Right?” Her dishy friend did a double take, trying to make the connection. “Come on. Admit it!”

“Well – yes.” The stallion bot sensed he was about to receive more cultural education, whether he wanted it or not. The pegasus’ absorption of black matter continued to be interesting though.

Rainbow landed in front of the pony bot just as he was about to reach the counter. “Then have I got a present for you.”

Whatever she was insinuating, her half-lidded look was something Ravage had learned to distrust. Seeing the establishment’s server look over to him inspired a possibility. “You’re going to buy me a shake?” he fished.

The slim mare guffawed. “Oh no, much better than that.”

Ravage was disappointed, having started considering the possibility of two hay shakes.

Rainbow Dash’s wings flared up, preparing her for take-off. “Just meet me at the library,” she added, winking before zipping away.

The stallion bot watched the dazzling speed and agility of Dash’s flight pattern before noticing that the server was waiting for him. “Large hay shake and large fries,” he ordered, tossing some bits on the counter.

Dash flew back through the window of Twilight’s room. She closed it up, chuckling at how it became more used than the actual door this morning. Deciding she should be prepared for Ravage’s arrival, she spun around the room, looking through every drawer. Her girlfriend was hiding something sensual, she had to! Else why keep those magazines?

It wasn’t long before her snooping rewarded her with a set of lacey pink, floral embroidered, silky socks matched with a sensuous backside covering. Rainbow normally didn’t care for clothes, but she wanted to get Ravage in the mood and put the attire on without a second thought. Twilight was a little taller, but Rainbow was bulkier, and the apparel fit rather well.

She hopped onto the mattress with a bounce and stuffed a pillow behind her head, smiling as she anticipated his arrival.

=^.^=

The meeting was due to start, as Luna led Cadance and Twilight to where she suspected she might find her sister. Sometimes Celestia could become consumed in a project, much like her former student. Unfortunately, what consumed the Day Mare now was suspicion. Finally entering the platform, and finding Celestia, Luna barely managed to prevent herself from face-hoofing in front of the other princesses.

Cold mountain air, thin and crisp, buffeted Celestia and the newcomers as she peered into her spyglass. “He’s finished talking to Rainbow Dash,” she noted, one eye still looking through the ocular.

Twilight was annoyed. Why was Celestia so suspicious of Ravage? There was no reason for it. The other two Princesses looked puzzled and bored.

Cadance shuffled slowly, stealing glances of Luna beside her. “Aren’t we supposed to be discussing Equestrian security?” she ventured, noting that Luna appeared normal. Her magic had been probing the very real bond between Ravage and Princess Luna. In spite of her efforts, she felt only one heart instead of two. So strange!

“We are,” the solar mare responded simply. “Cadance, please regale us with your findings in the Westerlore islands.”

The Love Princess had prepared all manner of test results and maps ready to describe the data gathered from that region. Now she was just supposed to summarize it? “Uh, well...”

“Go on,” Luna encouraged. “If need be, we can dissect the details later.”

Princess Cadance put her thoughts in order. “Our people found the remains of an encampment, less than two weeks old. Fur samples suggest minotaurs.” Celestia finally pulled away from the spyglass and all eyes were on the debriefing alicorn. “The griffons claim to have used natural magics, and said they detected residual love magic.”

Cadance looked at each face of her fellow Princesses. She expected at least some sort of reaction, but their emotionless visages told otherwise.

“Do you have knowledge of these natural magics?” Celestia asked.

Cadance’s eyes narrowed. “No.” Even Twilight’s face became contorted with confusion, which was worrying. “I have no reason to distrust them. Why practically demand that I hide out in one of their villas?”

“Trust can be fleeting,” Celestia continued. “Some creatures are more trustworthy than others. Griffons have proven that they can keep their word.” She put her eye back on the telescope lens. “We shall go through the details later. Thank you, Cadance.”

Twilight didn’t like what her mentor was doing, and finally decided to speak up. “Princess Celestia, is it right to be spying on Ravage like that?”

“Yes.”

The one word response really irked Twilight. “Why?”

“Unlike the griffons, Ravage has not proven himself to be trustworthy.” The pointed comment jolted her former student. “It is more than a little concerning that he has caught the attention of not one, but two Princesses of Equestria in less than a fortnight.”

“We are interested in him,” the edgy librarian verified, “But it will take some time to know if he is really right for us.”

That little comment put a smile on Luna’s face.

Celestia kept on with her spying. “Twilight, I can introduce you to a great many stallions I’m sure will suit your herd. And I suggest taking on at least two.” She heard no rebuttal from the agitated mare, which probably meant she was frowning. Not to worry, as the Solar Princess could write a book on how to handle Twilight’s moods. “Aha! A mare approaches Ravage. Hmm, pretty big girl.”

“Does this big girl have lilac fur, with a blue mane and a golden wing cutie mark?” Luna guessed.

Celestia’s eyes sprang open in surprise. “Indeed she does.”

Luna smirked and felt satisfied by the puzzled looks of the others. “You do not need your eyes glued to the spying device, sister. If Ravage shows any sign of deceit, Aster will tell us.”

“Hold on!” Twilight interrupted, throwing her forelegs forward like a referee, “Aster works for you?” Luna’s smug smile was a sufficient answer, if a little rude.

Celestia put the lens cap on. “Let’s retire to the royal gardens. It’s time we got something to eat. Then we can answer everypony’s questions in a more civil setting.”

Cadance let out a sigh of relief, happy to be out of this windy place.

=^.^=

Ravage decided to ignore Rainbow Dash’s cryptic offering of a birthday present at the library. Given the circumstances, he would indeed get a surprise from the well-known prankster.

“No hoofball for you today?” a familiar voice asked.

The pony bot stopped and put the bag of food down, spitting the string handle out of his mouth. “Hello?”

“Hey,” she responded with a swish of her mane. “You remember me?”

“Aster, Rainbow Dash’s trainer.” She was going to ask him on a date, Ravage believed. All the signs were there. He just had to keep saying no, and after about the fifth repeat she might get the message.

Her black matter profile looked like Pinkie Pie’s.

Aster laughed, “Oh no! I’m helping her push her limits, which makes me more like a coach. Rainbow Dash has more flying skill than I could possibly learn. At this point in her career, only a Wonderbolt could train her.”

“Hmm,” Ravage thought on it for a bit, “Thank you for clarifying the distinction. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a park to visit.”

“Actually, do you mind if I join you? The look of your food has made me hungry, and well, I like to avoid eating alone.” She grimaced, but quickly turned it into a grin.

“I’m sorry, but I prefer to…”

“I’ve got a hoofball we can kick around.”

That got Ravage’s attention. Yes, he really did see the appeal. No dating, just kicking! “Alright,” he conceded. “I’ll be by a large, twisted oak, north side of the park.”

“I know it,” Aster smiled. “See ya there.”

=^.^=

Magically barricaded from the alpine climate, the verdant Royal Gardens were a treasure trove of skittering, fluttering rare animals, fragrant with rare flowers and other plants. Normally, a few ponies were there, reading and relaxing in the warm and humid place, but this morning it was kept free of any ponies but the Princesses.

Twilight floated a double daisy sandwich to her mouth and hungrily took a bite out of it.

“Whenever you’re ready, Twilight,” Celestia nudged.

The famished little Princess swallowed hard. “Thank you,” she forced, while taking slurp of her strawberry malt. “Princess Luna, why do you want Rainbow Dash to execute a double rainboom?” Luna seemed surprised, as if she had just been accused. “Rainbow comes home every night exhausted and says it’s nigh impossible to do.”

Celestia was taken aback at her former student being surprisingly stern, not to mention off topic.

“You think I…” Luna began before she realized the connection Twilight was referring to. “I never ordered Rainbow Dash to practice this ‘double rainboom.’ Aster works for me, yes, but she is primarily an advanced flight mechanics instructor, hence her oversight of your lover.” Twilight’s blush was a lovely, and welcome sight. “If you want answers, then Spitfire is your mare.”

“Is a double rainboom two consecutive rainbooms, or one within another?” Cadance asked.

“Two in a row,” the young Princess garbled through more chewing. “Rainbow is resting today, and it’s about time too.” She levitated a scroll with a quill scribbling in a visit to The Wonderbolts on her to-do list. Wiping her rather messy mouth, she turned her gaze to Celestia.

“Please take your time, Twilight,” the Day Princess encouraged, tranquil as ever.

“Princess Celestia,” she asked demurely, “Why are you so suspicious of Ravage?”

“Ravage is a liar.” Cadance gasped, and Twilight was shocked. “Or didn’t Luna tell you, it was he who ran from her elite guard on the night of the Friday before last?”

“Celestia,” Luna groaned before applying her hoof to her face. That was low. Some things should remain between sisters. She felt the urge, the need, to get angry but caught herself, and tried to remain calm.

The sidestepping Sun Princess still had to make Twilight aware of Luna’s bond with Ravage, but knew better than to further provoke her co-ruler, and waited.

Chunks of chewed bread tumbled out of Twilight’s wide open, disbelieving mouth. She turned her head to Luna, shaking it in denial. “That was Ravage?” Luna had sent her half a dozen letters demanding her help, keeping poor Spike awake till three in the morning before she finally convinced the determined Diarch to stop. And this was about the same stallion that worked that construction job? The stallion that was learning Magic with such zeal, it made her proud? The stallion who her herd – her friends – thought might make a romantic acquaintance? He was at the boutique when she was discussing the news of Luna’s Night Guard trying, and failing to chase him down. He was so flawless in his behavior, that even when asked directly he didn’t have to lie. He was completely free of suspicion!

The emotions of revelation were a sight to behold before Twilight slowly slipped into disappointment. Cadance felt sorry for Twilight, and Luna felt new opportunity. Celestia felt nothing more than satisfaction.

Cadance shook her head. “My dear friends, we must avoid making rash judgments when speaking of affairs of the heart.” Luna’s smile flattened, while the other alicorns looked ready to hear her out. “It’s MY special talent,” she pointed to her flank. “Luna, I know you are in love with him, and I would like to ask you some pertinent questions.”

Twilight was shocked. “In Love!?” Luna hadn’t even dated Ravage yet, how could she love him? Using restraint only the most patient ponies could muster, she kept quiet and allowed Cadance to continue.

“Please tell me how you first met Ravage,” the Love Princess asked, relieved that Luna seemed cooperative.

Stewing, the Princess of Darkness put a hoof to her chin, forging a response. She really, really didn’t want to discuss these details. “About a week before he appeared in Ponyville, I could sense him. It was weak, but definitely real. It was like the wind whispered to me, preparing me for his imminent arrival.”

That bauble of information made Twilight’s jaw drop again.

“Okay, but I want to know when you actually saw him for the first time,” the Love Princess continued.

Against her darkening mood, Luna smiled, as had often happened when she revisited the series of events that led her to Ravage. “In their dreams,” she responded solemnly. “The dreams of the Ponyville citizens are fertile,” she chortled, “Both in content and scope; probably comes from growing up and living beside the Everfree.” She paused to organize the rest of her response. Cadance gestured to Luna to continue. “I noticed a group of ponies remitting a lot of attention to a stallion, and I found out it was Ravage. Like other newcomers, he inspired a brief bout of intimate and sometimes truly lewd dreaming, but that was just ponies being ponies. All told, the townsfolk reaction to him was the strongest in recent memory, and I secretly hoped to meet him.”

“Can you tell me when you fell in love with him?” the Princess of Love asked sweetly.

“The Friday before last,” she began. “I went to my favorite flying range and brought up the Moon behind me, like I regularly have been doing.” She decided to challenge her fellow Princesses. “Can you guess why it is my favorite flying range?”

“It is isolated,” Celestia offered. “I cannot see anything about it that makes it stand out.”

The calculating mind of the Friendship Princess was also trying very hard to see Luna’s point. “The Canterlot Astronomer mentioned that you hadn’t changed your flight path in six months. Why not raise the Moon over different locales, like Rainbow Falls, or Hollow Shades?” What she really wanted to know was how a pony could fall in love with another individual she’s never seen or heard of.

“It is isolated indeed, but not completely inaccessible.” Luna had the full attention of her fellow Princesses. “Sometimes, ponies have intimate dreams involving me.” She took a sideways glance toward Twilight, and was rewarded with a comical attempt to hide her blushing face behind a daisy sandwich. “It’s possible that a few dream of pursuing me for familial love I have never known, since I’ve rarely partnered with anypony.” The other girls kept their attention focused on the Moon Princess. “The more I thought about it, the more it intrigued me. Far be it from me to simply pick one and start dating, however. Nightmare Moon is still fresh in many minds, and my hoof-full of would-be admirers have no plan beyond keeping me in my dreams.”

Cadance cocked an eyebrow. “You want them to come to you?”

“Ah, I see you have deduced my strategy. As sure as stars form the constellations, so too does knowledge of my flight patterns slowly circulate ‘round Equestria. If anypony had the courage, then they could easily figure out how to reach me, and then come speak to me privately.”

Cadance ordered the details in her head. “But nopony ever came.” She started feeling sorry for Luna, until she saw the wry smile on the Night Princess’ face. “Nopony, but Ravage,” she deduced, grinning broadly.

Luna saw that Twilight was utterly lost. “Before I even saw him, I knew he was close,” she addressed the Friendship Princess. “Then there he was, with his telescope, and I just had to have a chat with him. I casted a silencing spell, perhaps a little more powerful than necessary, but I took a closer look before he noticed me.” She turned to the other Princesses. “Such a splendid stallion! Have you seen the like?” Her colleagues looked inwardly and nodded, agreeing with Luna’s boast. “We talked and I found out he wasn’t in a herd, and that he didn’t have love for another. I couldn’t believe my luck!”

Twilight tried to make sense of Luna’s affections. “At least he’s interested in astronomy.”

“So far, it doesn’t sound like Ravage has any reason to run away,” Cadance observed.

“I’ve never been so certain of a stallion in centuries,” Luna concluded, taking a sip of her moonflower tea. Her expression soured. “And then I went and bucked it up.”

Celestia closed her eyes, the only civil aversion available to her. She knew what was coming.

“I had to have him. So like a foal, I issued a Declaration of Love forthwith.” Luna was getting increasingly upset with what could have been, if only she played it cool.

“You knew him for only a couple of minutes and continued to love him?” Cadance queried.

“I – uh, yes.” Before her imprisonment, the Princess of Lust had usually woken up with another pony, or two, or sometimes with her bed bursting over with the bodies of concubines, male and female. Wanting to give herself to a single pony seemed foreign, and yet imagining Ravage in her forelegs invigorated her. She recognized how robust her affections for that stallion really were, it felt almost surreal. They were going to tell her to avoid him, weren’t they? Her heart stung at the thought. “Cadance, you can sense my love for him?” she pleaded.

“I can indeed. It’s very strong.”

Twilight had enough. “Stop!” she implored. “You were in love with Ravage as soon as you saw him?” The Night Princess nodded, having been smitten for him this whole time, during his date with Flitter, during the Welcome party at the library, and even during the libido nocta party! “How is this possible?”

Luna cleared her throat. “I share a special bond with him, Twilight.” She felt like she was being vivisected, her fellow princesses forcing details out of her. “A magical bond,” her discourse dripped with warning. It took all her mental discipline to contain her anger, mask her face.

Twilight was getting emotionally drained at this point. “But, how…” Mystery bond aside, it did explain why she sent a platoon of guards to retrieve him after he ran away. Then the scientific Princess’ expression changed, as she thought of something completely unexplained. “Wait.” The girls kept silent, and only the gentle sounds of the garden were heard. “How does an earth pony get away from a telepathic alicorn? From Luna?”

“This one can,” Celestia emphasized. She recognized the nervous ticks of her increasingly upset sibling, but pressed on. This was a matter of utmost importance. “Cadance, does the magical bond between my sister and Ravage seem natural to you?”

“I’ve been trying to ascertain that the whole time, Celestia.” The pink Princess concentrated. “No,” she decided. Luna was clearly provoked, her wings flittering as she tried to contain them, but Cadance didn’t want to sugar coat the issue. “No, it doesn’t.”

All could feel the ire in Luna now. It was something in the eyes.

The Princess of all things Love continued, “I’m sorry Luna. I would normally tell you to do something akin to Twilight and actually spend time more with him. But in this case, well,” Cadance braced herself as Luna’s anger cracked her composure; her wings flared, and her eyes began to glow white hot. The wooden furniture hissed and cracked as she radiated magical energy, taking her friends by complete surprise. “Luna, there is something very unnatural about your bond with Ravage!” she implored.

One pony comes to see me and you declare him unfit!!” she seethed in her Royal Canterlot voice. “What gives you the right!?” The chair she had sat on and the table caught flame. The flowers in the center vase wilted away from the raging Night Princess, as drinks of different types boiled over their cups and kettles. Twilight and Cadance retreated from the spectacle. “What!” And then, a calming effect was felt. “What…” Her normal voice returned, as she realized what she had done. She noticed stroking, and a soft, familiar voice.

Celestia held her sister in her embrace, whispering into her ear. “It’s okay, Luna. I’m here for you,” she soothed.

Cadance stood with Twilight about five meters away, still awed at having being given just a taste of Luna’s power. She bent down to Twilight’s ear, intent on keeping her voice low. “I’m coming to Ponyville,” she declared.

“What about your trip to Baltimare?” the concerned purple Princess half-whispered. “The inspections?”

“They’ve been cancelled!” Cadance hissed, trying to keep her voice down, though it was relieving to see Luna returning the embrace, crying into her sister’s neck. Celestia didn’t look well either. “I’m going to see Shining off, and then I’ll come down. I should be there this afternoon.”

“I can hear you,” Celestia spoke, stroking her sister’s neck. “And I agree.”

Tears started streaming down a now calm Luna’s face. Her rage had hurt ponies before, and it was happening again. Could she not do anything without invoking misery!?

“We need to tell them everything,” Celestia prodded, happy to feel Luna nuzzling into her neck. “We need their help.”

She loved Ravage still. She wanted him, in her presence, in her forelegs, and in her heart. She just needed time, that’s all. Was that too much to ask? However, noticing burnt debris on Cadance and Twilight Sparkle made her reconsider, in spite of herself.

Twilight shook her head. “You don’t have to, Luna,” she emphatically insisted. “We can work this out.”

Luna felt joy as she smiled. “Such a brave pony,” she remarked. “Celestia,” she beckoned, knowing she’d have her sister’s full attention, “If you please.”

=^.^=

Fluttershy felt as if her heart was being pulled by a tow cable as she crossed the creek bridge from her cottage, smiling at the good-day waves of dozens of little paws and wings. Her legs struggled to keep up before gearing up to a trot.

How could she have stayed behind when she saw him pass by? Was it so impolite so say hello? She wanted to eat breakfast with him. She wanted to discuss philosophy and nature with him. She wanted to hold him, to feel him; to massage the taut fiber that gave him his spectacular appearance.

She wanted him.

And yet she stayed behind! Against her skittish nature, the bothered mare trotted to Ponyville, hoping to find Ravage. As was done more times than she could count, Fluttershy addressed the problem: her shyness.

A debilitating vice it was, it had already stunted her personal development in innumerable ways, and now it was stopping her from seeing Ravage. But Fluttershy rallied, it was time to face this thing. And so she thought…

From being a filly until recently, she had been vexed by social interaction, and a crippling fear of ponies judging her grew like a tumor. Withdrawn and silent she had taken the safe route, walled herself in, and had limited her contact with her fellow Equestrians.

Sweet Apple Acres slowly passed by her left. Inspiring memories of Applejack, and then of her other friends swept into her mindset. It became almost common for them to overcome some sort of personal issue when they tackled a problem, and more so whenever they fought a powerful foe. This ability to expand one’s way of thinking also included herself. Fluttershy certainly would have never thought to approach a fully grown dragon until one threatened her friends. At that point, she made a key discovery: her shyness had been gradually weakening after she befriended her fellow Elements.

A rare smirk dimpled Fluttershy’s face. It appeared that there was hope after all. It was hard to imagine, her courting a stallion, but her thoughts inexorably turned to the mysterious native of Cybertron.

Perhaps his being from a different life made him more approachable, like her animal friends. She had taken time to contemplate his words, specifically his philosophy of toughness. It was similar to Rainbow Dash’s ways, only he hid his capabilities, while Dash boasted openly. He was tenacious, but not reckless; forthcoming, but not really assertive. If his onerous job of moving concrete around proved one thing, it was that he had incredible stamina. He claimed to prefer rain over shine, night over day. He took up residence in the Everfree forest. Ironically, her major characteristics seemed diametrically opposed to his.

Fluttershy nearly tripped over her own hooves, as the solution presented itself.

Sometimes the best traits in a pony came from two ponies – two lovers. Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash were a living example of this with their qualities spilling over onto each other, colouring each other. Very unalike ponies on their own, the deficiencies of one were mitigated by the other.

The grinning pegasus recognized that a similar trend from herself and the stalwart Ravage was developing, and stifled a giggle when she realized that the two tough ones were the hold outs when it came to intimacy. Oh, how she wanted just run up and hug him and hold him tightly, filling her nares with his scent.

She passed a pricey, but popular restaurant that gave her yet another inspiration. Why not ask Ravage on a date? She would love to venture out to a remote locale, ensconced in nature, and picnic with him, or go for a swim. The heartsick girl smiled broadly at the possibilities, and having spent several hours with him already, asking should be easy.

Shouldn’t it?

Her shyness was at war with the fierce new adoration that had been growing in her by the day. Even now she walked down the main strip rather than flew. Should she try Ravage’s brand and take to the sky? Fluttershy stopped, having felt another pang of yearning for him. “Yes!”

She bolted up leaving dust eddies on the ground. Her body spun around as she gained altitude, it was like coming up for breath. Ascending several stories, she very quickly found Ravage in the park. Not surprisingly, he was kicking a hoofball with Aster.

The enamoured pony was hoping to spend a little bit of time with him before his date with the unicorns, and it looked like she was going to get her wish. Two weeks ago, she would have just deferred to these mares.

She descended to the same piece of ground, elated with discovering his location, and just stood there. Wouldn’t interrupting Ravage and Aster be rude? She shook her head, agitated at her lack of conviction, and strode forward. She should be flying, and yet was content to walk to the park. Any other pegasus would have just flown up and spoken to him. If being forthcoming was the elusive toughness that Ravage was talking about, it was sure hard for her to do.

=^.^=

A good hard kick from Ravage’s hind leg was all it took to send the hoofball sailing into the air. Aster flew in behind it and kicked back to him as accurately as she could. He chased it for not more that two bounces before returning the kick. This kind of back-and-forth was exhilarating, testing each of their skills.

Aster hoofed the ball back to Ravage when out of the corner of her eye she saw a pony zip into the bushes near him. She couldn’t tell who it was.

He was about to return the ball when...

Proximity Alert: Unit Fluttershy.

Information on the Element of Kindness was accompanied by a spinning three dimensional image as usual. The ball whizzed by him as he looked around for her.

Aster noticed the sudden change in behavior. She flew in more closely, taking in every detail.

The Decepticon satellites and the black matter detector easily located her behind some bushes, only seven meters from his position. He couldn’t see her outright so he turned on his infrared, and there she was. “Fluttershy?” he called out. His sensitive hearing picked up a very subdued, yet high pitched sound of surprise. “What are you doing hiding in the shrubbery?”

Aster landed close behind her hoofball partner. Hooves shuffled and twigs broke, followed by Fluttershy emerging right in front of her and Ravage. The surprisingly swift pegasus was barely seen. It was amazing that Ravage knew who it was.

“H – Hi, Ravage,” the blushing pony greeted with a tiny hoof wave and a crooked smile. A smattering of twigs and leaves were caught in her mane and tail.

“Did you want to join us?” he offered, noticing a rather standardized black matter profile, much like Aster’s and Pinkie Pie’s.

“Well, um,” she began, but couldn’t bring herself to answer. Go on! she mentally prodded herself.

Aster tossed the ball in front of the yellow pony. “C’mon, Fluttershy. You can join us.”

“I’ve never played any…” she started before shaking her head. “I can try, but I won’t be very good.” Oh, what was she getting herself into? And she still needed to ask him out.

“You’ve never played hoofball either? Wow,” Aster commented. “I know Ponyville doesn’t have organized hoofball, but seriously? Ravage just learned last week.”

“Perhaps just passing the ball might be best,” Ravage suggested, and volleyed the ball toward his yellow coated friend.

Fluttershy watched the ball unceremoniously bounce off her flank, and onto the ground. For a few moments, the most audible things were the birds and the breeze through the trees. The other ponies had nothing to say, they just watched her. The urge to turn around and hang her head in shame was strong, and she would have if it were not for Ravage being one of the ponies watching her. She MUST do this! Sheepishly, she took hold of the ball, and clumsily tried to volley it – and to her surprise it worked! Sort of.

Ravage ran underneath the descending trajectory and uppercut the ball which Aster returned Fluttershy’s way.

She eeped, and blocked her face with her forelegs.

The ball bounced off the cowering mare, but with enough of an arc that Ravage still managed to bat it toward Aster.

Wanting to keep Fluttershy involved, Aster returned the ball with a slow, high arc. “Heads up!”

Without thinking, the novice mare’s body righted itself, and she made a very nice return to Ravage – who then fumbled it.

I didn’t think she was capable, Ravage thought. “It seems that the pass was good, but the receiver was not.”

Fluttershy smiled, “R-really?” She could stare forever into those eyes of his.

Ravage’s heart was pumping like he was just galloping. “Erm –ahem – yes. Shall we continue?” Did her eyes transmit magical power? If so, the new detector wasn’t showing it. He had to tear himself away from gawking, and it elicited a giggle from her, making him blush.

Seeing something more than friendship between the two, Aster stopped short of chiding Ravage for his sudden lack of skill. Luna won’t be happy to hear about another girl winging in on her chosen stallion. How fortunate that prudence required both herself and Ravage’s fan girl to leave at noon. Still, how did he know it was her in the bushes? The breeze was blowing in her direction too.

The trio continued semi-skilled ball playing for a while. Huffing, Fluttershy trotted after a ball that was shot behind the bushes. Rounding the verge, she zeroed in on the hoofball, but then looked up at three unicorns with sports gear on their backs.

“Oh hey, Fluttershy,” Pearl Bliss greeted. “Are you – passing the ball around?” This was a sight she never thought she’d see.

Ravage was certainly surprised at the appearance of his dates. The black matter patterns seemed to follow a standard profile, challenged only by Rainbow Dash thus far. Unfortunately, he could no longer egress gracefully, and he still needed data on Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, and Rarity.

“Oh – I didn’t realize it was that time yet.” Fluttershy felt as if she just got caught with her hooves in the cookie jar, and resisted a strong urge so say she was sorry. There was no social crime in what she was doing.

“It’s after eleven-thirty,” Saffron indicated.

Winter pulled her two buddies into a huddle, and hushed whispering commenced.

The stallion bot knew scheming when he saw it. Chalk up another parallel between ponies and Decepticons.

Winter opened the secretive discussion. “So, do we want to play volleyball with Ravage and break off, and try for another stallion, or do we shake our tails and make him come to us like bees to honey?”

“I don’t think tail shaking affects this guy,” Saffron countered. “I’ve seen lots of girls try it and he just saunters on like they weren’t there. It’s like he’s reading an invisible book.”

“Maybe he’s just really focused?” Pearl offered, keeping her voice low.

“Yeah, focused on Fluttershy,” Winter lamented, before a sly grin came across her face. “But what if we included her and that big chick?”

“Aster?”

“On our date?”

Winter smiled lasciviously. “Yes.” She waited a couple of seconds for the idea to sink in. “Think about it. We’ve already lost him.”

“Wait, wait. The purpose of our date is to strut our stuff. Show him that we’re the best option,” Pearl added.

Saffron caught a glimpse of Ravage and Fluttershy, and didn’t like their odds. “Okay. I say open the date to Fluttershy and Aster. They join. We put our best hooves forward.”

“Worst case scenario, three of us sleep together tonight; best case scenario, four of us,” Pearl Bliss deduced.

“And if it’s six of us, everypony’s happy.” Winter gave a pronounced nod at her conclusion, followed by a three-way hoof bump.

Winter approached with her two friends in tow. “Ravage, we want to ask a favour.”

“Oh?”

“We want to know if Fluttershy could play with us,” she suggested. “And Aster too.” Ravage was skeptical, and Fluttershy fearful. Aster was both. “We would pretty much be dating all three of you,” she stated matter-of-factly.

What trickery was this? “I don’t understand.”

Winter continued. “Oh, we intend to get our turns with you, but six players would be better for volleyball. Plus, there would be two more gorgeous ponies to snug up with,” she explained, her left hoof sweeping over Aster and Fluttershy. She winked at Fluttershy, who blushed and hid behind her mane. “Don’t you wanna keep having fun with them?”

Aster wasn’t happy with this development. Luna specifically forbade her from getting intimate with Ravage, and that she do what she can to keep the other mares off of him. She had already ferreted out some of his likes and dislikes when they ate by the tree. “Thank you, but no thanks.” The unicorns will dilute or even challenge Fluttershy’s attention to Ravage. Luna’s spy couldn’t have done a better job herself, and spread her voluminous wings, preparing to take off.

Saffron stepped forward. “Wait!” She was relieved when the sizable mare had halted. “Why not stay for the volleyball, and then go?”

Aster quickly decided that this was a good thing. “Sure.”

Ravage’s mind was awash in logical computations – and he came up with nothing. Pony culture was impossible to figure out. He looked to Fluttershy, who instantly became comfortable, smiling back. This would go a lot easier if she stuck around. “Fluttershy, I cannot make you…” He stopped talking when a yellow hoof was put to his mouth.

“I’ll stay.”

=^.^=

Twilight Sparkle’s mind weighed heavily on the events of the morning, as her chariot descended from the skies over Ponyville. Luna’s practically manic love for Ravage could have done a lot worse had Celestia not been there.

Most shocking was that Luna was bound to him by some magical force that had yet to be understood, and it wasn’t caused by the Declaration of Love. The Night Princess emphatically condoned the notion that she ‘felt’ his existence even before she witnessed him in ponies’ dreams. So strong was this connection that whatever he felt, she was starting to feel. Soon, she would be able to know wherever he was on instinct alone.

If that wasn’t scary enough, it was revealed that he wasn’t just from Cybertron, but Celestia suspected he was a soldier of Cybertron. Also, how could he get into dreams? Uncharacteristically, the Day Princess glossed over the subject.

Nearing the library, the Princess noticed him with his dates, as well as Fluttershy and Aster. She felt relief knowing that Aster was with them. An advanced flight mechanics instructor indeed, but she was also Luna’s servant.

Her fellow Elements couldn’t be told everything about Ravage, not yet. Twilight sighed, as the neophyte Princess hated keeping secrets. But this was just the beginning, there would be more! A griffon king once wrote that he could fill a tome with all the secrets he knew after decades of service to his people.

With a bump and the skidding of hooves, the chariot came to a halt. “Thank you, good sirs,” she bade her pegasi drivers. The vehicle departed and she made a bee-line to the library’s front door only to be tackled by an unknown assailant.

“Twilight! Twilight! You’ll never believe it!” Pinkie Pie announced with relish.

“Pinkie!” the surprised pony rasped as she was helped back up. She gave her wings a shake to get the gravel out.

“Sorry Twilight, but do you knoooooow whose birthday it was five days ago?” the sugar rushed mare teased.

Twilight thought on the question. “Was it somepony we missed? Actually, it was Ravage’s Welcome party five days ago.”

“Bingo,” Pinkie confirmed with a wink.

“That was Ravage’s birthday?” Twilight was positively puzzled. Forget that Ravage didn’t want to celebrate his own birthday, how was it that Pinkie Pie didn’t know?

The party mare’s excitement waned significantly, upon seeing that Twilight was more confused than happy for Ravage. “Well, I just thought I’d let you know.” She started to turn around when her friend’s foreleg extended out, barring the way.

“Just a second, Pinkie.” The Princess got an idea, and tapped her chin fleshing it out. “Why not have a surprise supper for him, say, at Applejack’s?”

The exuberant mare gasped. “Great idea!”

“Do you mind making the arrangements?” Luna said that if Ravage doesn’t want to be found, then nopony can find him. With luck, his dates will let him go to Sweet Apple Acres at dinner time, joined also by Princess Cadance.

“Okie dokie!” she agreed, bouncing off all four hooves. “I’ll tell Applejack, and Rarity, and Fluttershy and Ravage. You can tell Rainbow Dash. She’s wearing your lingerie.”

“She’s what!?”

The alicorn hurried into the library, and flew directly to the bedroom. What was Rainbow Dash up to?

Still hovering, she turned the knob and entered slowly. Dash wanted Twilight to use her wings as much as possible, and that hovering around like this would be practicing without even knowing it. Judging by her girlfriend’s undisturbed sleep, it looked like the advice was paying off.

Rainbow Dash laid entangled in her bedding, snoozing when normally she would have been awake, even with all the napping she did. It had been a tiring last couple of weeks. She was not sans lingerie either, she was wearing it!

Twilight quietly hovered over her girlfriend, figuring the best way to scold her for using other pony’s things without permission. Instead, she paused, and smiled gleefully. Dash looked so cute! The Princess had a startling realization. Did the magazines work? Could the fearless pegasus have been waiting for Twilight?

With her face morphing into something more lustful, the Princess of Friendship became the Princess of Predation. She simply folded her wings, and extended her legs so they collided with the mattress.

Dash woke up pretty quickly, complete with the acute wail of alarm. The first thing she saw was her girlfriend standing over her, but with an uncharacteristic libidinous face. “H-hey, Twilight,” she greeted.

The alicorn plucked at a sock. “I gotta say, pink looks good on you.”

“Oh sorry! I, uh – huh…” Dash scrambled for something to say that wouldn’t get her deeper into trouble.

“Now,” Twilight continued, lowering herself onto Rainbow Dash, pressing their barrels against each other, “May I ask why you are wearing my private things?”

Rainbow tried to keep it together. The question was simple, but fear addled her mind, and Twilight’s expectant face didn’t help either. She could try to lie, but Ravage would just spill the beans as soon as the Princess talked to him. “I had, uh.” She just had to tell it straight. “I looked at the magazines you left behind.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow, “Go on.”

“And uh – they were really good magazines,” she squeaked, chuckling nervously.

“They are.”

Dash paused. How was she supposed to say this? “I – needed relief?” Her girlfriend motioned for her to continue. “So I kind of asked Ravage to come here and – get a birthday present.” Twilight’s face scowled with disapproval, and she looked away, resettling onto her haunches. “He never came though.”

“So you’re sleeping with me, but when the mood strikes you find the nearest available stallion?”

“No. Just Ravage.”

The discomfort in that room was as palpable as Twilight’s frown. “Granted, we are interested in him, but we have to date him first.” How far did that stallion’s magnetism reach?

“We can’t do this by the book, Twilight. I mean, there’s six of us. Six. Do you know how long that would take, trying to get everypony’s say in?”

The creases in Twilight’s frown softened a bit. The unusual size of their herd could be a huge disadvantage when it came to actually choosing a stallion. By the time they figured out that they wanted Ravage, it could be too late. Some random mare who he really connected with would be all it would take. But even that was not the truth that tortured her.

Twilight’s expression sank, tears pooling up in her eyes. Was she to say that she wanted Rainbow Dash to herself while being the leader of a herd? Her world became distorted as she started to sob. Of course she couldn’t. If only they were just a pair. She felt Dash’s forelegs grasp firmly from behind, and her sharp muzzle kneading her neck.

“I feel awful,” Dash admitted. She could tell that Twilight was trying to control the waterworks, but the rapid heaving from her lungs still came.

“Dash,” she haled in broken falsetto, “Why can’t I have you?”

The normally energetic pegasus felt depleted, and released her grip on the sullen purple pony beside her. “Wow,” she started, gathering her thoughts. “You’re such a great pony, so capable. It doesn’t surprise me that you became a Princess.” She thought a little more. “Maybe that’s the problem.” She felt encouraged that her friend had stopped crying, and listened intently.

“Well,” Twilight started, her voice having only slight reverberations, “Why shouldn’t a Wonderbolt Officer love a Friendship Princess?”

Rainbow smiled, her confidence returning almost instantly. She wasn’t an officer yet, but that was everyone’s expectation. Then her sweetheart took one of her hooves into both of her own.

“Rainbow?” The pegasus looked ready for the next round of questioning. “Do you love me?”

“No, duh! Of course I love you!” she responded confidently.

“Okay.” The next big question loomed. “Do you want me?”

Dash was not prepared for that one. “That’s not a fair question! If I love you, then I want you,” she glossed, grimacing.

“Tell me the truth.”

Rainbow felt cornered, but this was Twilight. She should trust Twilight. “Well, I – I do,” she stuttered.

Twilight leaned forward, extending a foreleg around Rainbow Dash’s neck. She applied her lips to the flighty pegasus and kissed. With a force only true lovers could muster, both ponies moved in and made out, their tongues sloppily sliding together. Her hoof ran up and down Dash’s side, taking time to massage her firm wing muscles. Their tails whipped to and fro over the bedding. The air became hot with arousal, as the alicorn overwhelmed her partner, forcing her onto her back.

Rainbow panted as she felt Twilight’s teeth and tongue on her neck, and could hardly move in her surprisingly strong grasp.

The primed Princess came up for breath, and enjoyed the look of satisfaction on her lover’s face. “I like the way you taste,” she said between pants. “Let’s see what the rest of you tastes like.” Her lover’s expression changed – she was afraid? “Ya know, for science!” she quipped.

“Twilight, wait!” Dash implored.

“What’s wrong?”

“I – I, uh…” She couldn’t form the words.

“Dash, look at me. Look into my eyes.” She obeyed. “I will not hurt you. If at any time you feel uncomfortable, or feel that something’s wrong, tell me to stop.”

“You’re not frightening, Twilight.” Rainbow responded.

Twilight’s frown returned. “Well that’s good to know,” her tone laced with arsenic, as she reluctantly got off.

Dash remained lying down, and closed her eyes in concentration. Figuring out what to say, she opened them up. “I promised Scootaloo to take her under my wing, tell her everything I know.”

Twilight stopped whatever she had been doing. This rather random statement could be a new angle she’d never heard before, and she listened closely.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with her wings, but she can sure drive a mean scooter. She has as much skill on the ground as I do in the sky.”

That was quite the compliment coming from Rainbow Dash, and the alicorn was impressed.

“Yet no matter how awesome her moves are, no matter how much her abilities grow, she always asks for my approval.” Grim-faced, Dash slowly nodded. “Even though she doesn’t need it.”

Twilight was beginning to grasp what her pegasus lover was trying to say, “Scootaloo really looks up to you.”

Rainbow smiled. “And I really look up to you,” she emphasized, pointing a hoof at her purple friend and lover.

As sudden as a lightning strike, Twilight Sparkle understood. “We get one shot at this.”

Could it be that the Element of Loyalty gave her heart to one lover and one lover only? She’ll play with her herdmates, no doubt, but what if the unthinkable happened? The Princess could find love again, but Rainbow Dash…

Rainbow got up quickly, her confident air having returned so quickly, it was like it never left. “So,” she directed to a rather beleaguered alicorn, “How ‘bout we look at those magazines?”

Twilight almost laughed in disbelief, “Is that all you can think about is dirty magazines?”

“Yeah, at the moment,” Dash replied as she started building a ‘reading nest’ out of pillows against the headboard. “Wanna join me or not?” she prodded.

The alicorn sensed opportunity, and levitated the smutty box of books onto the bed.

=^.^=

The big ponies were shoulder to shoulder, lying against the oak tree. Fluttershy and Winter were curled up against Ravage, while Aster had Saffron and Pearl Bliss spooning up against her.

Their limbs were tired from exertion, and their bellies full of delicious picnic food that the unicorns had prepared, followed by a dousing with ice cream. All had descended into a sleepy, semi-conscious state against the tree.

“So an aerofoil is just a cross-section of a – fixed wing?” Aster asked tiredly.

“Which has some moving surfaces that can move to control air direction, yes,” Ravage added.

Aster let out a subdued laugh – laughing harder would hurt, as her distended belly was pressed up against two adult mares. “You are so full of hay!” One of her little unicorn friends adjusted position, presumably to allow more air into the flight instructor’s lungs. “First, why fixed wings at all? Hook up a pegasus to a cart with fixed wings and go – how fast?”

“Sixty-three miles an hour should be enough for little pony carriages.”

“With fixed wings,” she clarified, “On a payload which flies under its own power is unnecessary, because it’s being pulled by pegasi.”

Ravage chortled. At least Twilight could admit when she didn’t have all the answers, but this educator was hopelessly married to a kind of flight mechanics that depended on magic. He gestured to the town. “Enjoy your thatched-roof houses.”

“I like my house,” Pearl said demurely.

“I like your house too,” echoed Winter. The ponies began chatting in earnest, having recovered sufficiently.

Fluttershy was contented to keep snuggling with Ravage, pressing her face into his barrel. Was herd life with her fellow Elements to be like this? If so, she couldn’t wait! She easily envisioned Aster’s cluster replaced with Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and Twilight. The intimacy of such close-quarters contact, the trust, and the sheer security awaited the still timid pegasus.

Yet Fluttershy defeated her timidity that day, and actually played volleyball. Rarity would have a fit when she saw what her hooves were put through, but that was part of the deal: get dirty. In speaking of getting dirty, she had come to accept the more primal feminine urges that she was experiencing when she thought of Ravage. Holding his body so closely, she found it necessary to exercise a measure of restraint.

Tonight, she thought. No rules were being broken. Thanks to these wonderful unicorns she was, in fact, dating him, even if secondarily. Of course, he’ll have to date the other five herdmates, but this was all just minutia to Fluttershy. He’ll come to love them as the Element of Kindness had, it was inevitable. Further emboldening her was Flitter’s talk of how good a kisser he could be.

Aster caught a glimpse of a pony coming, wearing a very specific hat. “Is that Applejack?” she asked.

The Decepticon pony used his specialized optics to zoom in on the girl. “It is.”

“Are you sure, Ravage?” Saffron asked. “That does kinda look like her hat though.”

The farm pony approached the group with purpose in her gait. “Howdy,” she greeted. Curt and courteous replies were given back. “Ah’ don’t know if Pinkie has told you yet, but apparently Ah’m supposed to host a supper for y’all. I think Twilight came up with the idea, somethin’ about missing Ravage’s birthday.”

That got the girls riled up.

“When was your birthday?” Fluttershy asked.

Unfortunately for Ravage’s sanity, her query was echoed by the other five mares bombarding him with the same or related questions. He shook his head. “Why does everybody know about my birthday?” he snapped in a raised voice.

“Whoah there,” Applejack calmed, gently rocking her front hooves. “It’s a tradition, Ravage. Ah’ don’t know how ya did it in Cybertron, but ‘round her we like to celebrate our birthdays.”

The pony bot leaned his chin on his hoof, dissecting the new cultural information. He nodded slowly, their behavior made sense now. “I see.” Thinking a little further, an additional lesson was learned: do not share personal information with Pinkie Pie!

“Ah’m also not one to interrupt any dating ponies – m’ah apologies – BUT, if y’all wanna add a ‘stop at the farm’ to your dating plan,” she described with air quotes, “you’re welcome to it.” Looking at the unicorns’ expressions, Pearl and Saffron were in, and Winter was just the opposite.

“One other thing,” Applejack began as she respectfully took off her hat and held it in front of her chest, “the manifold for our stove went caput as of this mornin’. It’ll take me the rest of the afternoon to fix it. With all the farm chores that need doin’, A’hm – ehem – gonna need a little help from ma’ friends.”

“What kind of help?” Aster asked.

“The ASAP kind. Pinkie Pie and Applebloom are tending the animals, Big Mac’s buckin’, Rarity will help granny once the stove’s fixed, and ‘Ah can’t find Twi ‘n Dash.” The other ponies looked perplexed at this. “There was a sign on the library saying it was closed. ‘Never seen that happen in the middle ‘o day before. Ah’ slipped a note of m’ah own under the door.”

“Maybe they’re reorganizing the library,” Saffron suggested.

Pearl Bliss rolled her eyes. “Twilight likes to clean every crevice and hole in that place. Her books are so precious.”

“Hold that thought,” Winter intervened, before pulling her pals off behind the bushes for some whispered discussion. “Next stop: bedroom. What d’ya say, girls? Ravage can show up at Applejack’s farm later.”

Pearl twisted her muzzle in disagreement. “I dunno about that.”

Saffron focused, and hummed as she balanced ideas. “If Ravage was into us, he’d be giving affection, not just receiving it. He hasn’t even approached Fluttershy,” she practically hissed. “Fluttershy! In fact, she approached him!”

Winter sighed in defeat. “He’s gay, and doesn’t know it yet.” Her friends both shook their heads at this.

“He’d have stallions hanging off him by now,” Saffron offered.

“Asexual?” Winter was running out of orientation options.

“Not according to Flitter.” Pearl Bliss had known Flitter and Cloudchaser a lot longer than her counterparts, and trusted their advice. “Why don’t we just help Applejack?” she suggested.

Saffron gave a strong nod in agreement, but Winter still needed convincing.

Pearl described her idea more fully. “Okay, Ravage is gonna see how awesome having a birthday party is. Don’t you want to be a part of that?”

Winter balanced her chin on her hoof, eyeing Pearl Bliss suspiciously.

“It’ll be memorable,” Saffron supported. “He’ll admire who was there having a good time with him.”

Winter decided to accept the plan, and sighed. “Alright.”

Ravage eyed the bushes as Fluttershy continued to snuggle him. A quick conversation between Aster and Applejack resulted in the flight instructor also going to the farm to help.

“Ravage,” the apple farmer addressed. “Would you come help if your dates asked you to? ‘Ah know it’s your party, but trust me, it’ll be worth it.”

“I’ll help you, Applejack,” Fluttershy offered. Her hopeful face stared into Ravage’s.

Ravage wasn’t going to say no, but stared back at Fluttershy regardless. Fine fur covered her face like Corlonium anti-nanite mesh, with the more rambunctious fibers rounding her cheeks. Her eyes glistened with moisture, he could see Applejack’s reflection in them, as well as clouds and trees – such finely formed lenses! He gazed at her inlets for respiration. The way her little muzzle hung over her open mouth commanded attention as they sped up the pony bot’s heart rate.

It was happening again. Ravage could lose himself just by looking too closely at these mares, but the effect from Fluttershy was by and far the most pronounced.

Ahem, Applejack interrupted.

“Yes,” Ravage agreed, immediately rewarded by a sudden hug from Fluttershy which threw him off balance. “I will help.”

=^.^=

With the lengthening shadows of early evening came the end of a lot of work and preparation. It was finally time to eat! Picnic tables were butted up against each other to handle the large group of ponies that included the Apples, Applebloom’s friends, the Elements, and Ravage’s dating cluster. A progression of heavy thuds from serving bowls full of food portended the feast to come, but it was the smells that exacerbated each pony’s hunger.

Granny Smith banged a triangle, an alert that meant that food was ready to eat. “Soup’s on, everypony!” The announcement was highly effective, immediately drawing ponies over to the dinner tables.

Aster sat down opposite her Junior Wonderbolt student. “Wow, you look tired. I thought you rested today?”

Suddenly alert, Rainbow Dash replied, “Uh yeah!” Twilight sat down beside her and cuddled up. “Yeah, I got a lot of rest.”

Granny went to the head of the table. “A’fore we start, ‘Ah gotta point out that we have a birthday pony in our midst.” Cheers erupted and hooves thrummed the wooden table tops in anticipation.

The pony bot monitored an update on the temporal anomaly. It appeared that it would stop growing, at least perceivably, sometime Saturday morning. No coincidence was this. He yearned to get back to his ship and look at the full suite of observations so he could make proper predictions. From behind the transparent inset, he noticed his snowy furred dates. Winter was motioning him over while Pearl Bliss tapped on the spot between them. He was uneasy with being the object of attention of this large social grouping, but willed himself into the confined space.

He determined that most ponies absorb about ten to fifteen percent of the black matter streaming around them. Twilight Sparkle absorbed about half of it, while Rainbow Dash took in around seventy percent. They didn’t seem to get heavier from the process, where did all the mass go? Of course, exiting streams could be heavier than when they first came into a pony’s body. There was no way to know.

Fluttershy sat beside Rarity, who was describing in detail what kind of clothes to wear and what kind of foods to order when she and Ravage started dating. The ever modest pegasus still hadn’t asked him out yet, but the dress maker went on like it was a done deal.

“Pinkie Pie, would ya do the honour of startin’ us off, please?” Granny requested.

“Happy birthday to you,” the happy-go-lucky mare began, though much more slowly than would be expected.

At the next verse, every pony joined in! The insipid jingle isolated the hapless Decepticon, and a toothy grimace was all he could express. He could make out each voice familiar to him singing the awful tune, as if they were mind-controlled zombies. His stomach was turning over itself while the lyrics seared him like radiation from a neutron star. He had only just sat down!

It was over very quickly. Ravage had been holding his breath, and didn’t know it. There was no doubt about it, he hated this tradition.

“Everypony gets theirs, Ravage,” Applejack commented with a wink, as the other ponies dug into the food.

He received kisses on both cheeks from Pearl and Winter.

Fluttershy found herself wishing she would have sat down beside him, but suspended the thought. He was Winter and her friends’ date, and they acted very generously by allowing her and Aster to join. However, that did mean that she could have a moment with him too. She bided her time waiting for an opportunity.

Saffron got out of her seat and got behind him. With some force she turned his upper body to face her. Fixing her hoof to his muzzle, she leaned in and, albeit briefly, passionately kissed him on the mouth, causing more cheering. She pulled off, noticing a tinge of disappointment from her date, as he appeared to want to continue. She smiled and giggled. “Just a sample for now, you can have the rest later.” The hoofball player sat down relieved that Ravage seemed to enjoy kissing mares.

The dinner continued and the Decepticon guest ate ravenously, as did most of the ponies. He was on his second helping when…

Interception Alert: Unit Princess Cadance.

Ravage turned his head toward a patch of what appeared to be clear sky and zoomed in. A three-dimensional animation of Princess Cadance was not available, but a profile picture was. Aided by an orange box from the battle computer, a group of ponies was seen flying in formation. It was a carriage surrounded by four guards, two on either side.

“Whatcha looking at, Ravage?” Pearl asked, noticing the sudden change of focus.

Pearl Bliss was not the only one to see this. Aster definitely noticed, as did Fluttershy, Twilight Sparkle, and Rainbow Dash. Aster and Dash turned their heads to the same general patch of sky.

“Huh, we’ve got incoming,” Rainbow determined.

It took Aster a bit longer, but she noticed too. “It looks like a carriage.”

“Such keen eyes you have, Ravage,” Twilight remarked as she munched on petunia salad, keeping it in her head that this guy escaped Luna’s elite guard. To keep the suspicious pony in her sights, the Friendship Princess planned on intervening if it became necessary.

Ravage realized his mistake, how could he get so sloppy? He noticed that Twilight seemed more concerned with munching on her food, as indicated by how much of her face was covered by it, than with his ‘exceptional’ eyesight. Still, he would do well to avoid making the same error.

Soon, Cadance’s carriage could be seen by all, bound to land on the Apple farm.

Applejack wasn’t surprised by a visit from Twilight’s long time friend and prepared another place at the table, by the purple Princess.

Twilight held a hoof up to her agriculturally astute friend. “Actually Applejack,” she started in a hushed voice, “Could you make a place for her over by Ravage? There may be more room.”

Applejack thought nothing of it and did as Twilight asked. She smiled at just how much ponies loved Apple farm food.

The Decepticon stallion observed the proceedings as yet another Princess came to the dinner table, the Love Princess in fact. Spike had come down with her and immediately went to his alicorn keeper. The greetings had been brief, no pomp, and only Pinkie Pie had anything more to say, along with the children who were positively thrilled to have her in their midst. He found it odd that this ‘Cadance’ sat down at the opposing ends of the tables instead of with Twilight, as they obviously knew each other very well.

And thus, there was an alicorn on the left and an alicorn on the right; powerful creatures in of themselves. The black matter detector revealed that Cadance was in the same range as Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash, absorbing around sixty percent of the streams. To say that his instincts had been set off would have been an understatement. Royalty or not, this pink thing did nothing to help, and her impending arrival was not even discussed during the work and dinner preparations. She just sat down and started eating.

She haled from a land of crystal, they said. The ponies had not bowed to her though they never bowed to Twilight either. The way Cadance ate was different, with a reserved appetite that nibbled, as opposed to the voraciousness witnessed so far.

Before long, supper was finished. Applebloom had already gathered up a significant amount of the spent dishware and brought it into the house.

“Anypony ready for dessert?” Applejack asked the group.

“Are you kidding!” Pinkie gushed. “I was born ready.” Her sentiment was shared with a few other ponies, though the majority looked like they had their fill.

“Uh,” Scootaloo began, “We may have been trying to get our cutie marks in baking, and left the pie cutters in the clubhouse,” she said embarrassingly.

Applejack focused on the little foal for only about two seconds. “Well go get ‘em!” she demanded, gesturing toward the little building.

“I’ll get them,” the disguised Decepticon announced, seeking a way out of the unwanted attention.

Fluttershy watched with interest as the stallion walked to the foals’ tree shelter. This was her chance! Step by little step, she meekly walked in his general direction, but she really wasn’t disappointed in herself. She was upset! Like a bucket full of holes, confidence seemed to drain its way out of her, even after leaps of courage had delivered results. Shaking her head, she tried to steel herself yet again, an act of preparation she had done more times since Ravage arrived than since the beginning of the year.

The unicorns were a little distressed by Ravage’s up and leaving, but not too much. What bothered them was Fluttershy flying the thirty meter trip toward the clubhouse just as he was clambering up the ladder. “Well, we invited her along,” Saffron soothed her friends.

“Ravage?” Fluttershy called out.

Just as he was about to open the door, he saw his little yellow friend had come to the ground under him. Was it important? He looked at her over the rail, and smiled, just as she had been smiling at him.

Oh, look at him! She mused. He was genuinely interested in her! “I noticed you were very uncomfortable when they sung Happy Birthday to you.”

Ravage harrumphed. “The song made no sense. You cannot will happiness onto somebody.”

“Well…” Fluttershy got an idea – a stupendous, wonderful idea! Her face really brightened up. “Maybe I could sing something more appropriate?”

The pony bot was puzzled at the concept; would she just start singing out of the blue?

Come to me my fleeting heart,
Our journeys have been long,
Nature strives to make us part,
Resistance makes us strong Fluttershy began, stretching out her left foreleg to Ravage.

The pony bot relaxed, and closed his eyes. She really was singing to him! As impressive as Octavia and Flitter had been, Fluttershy was in a station all her own. Why did each note and each verse resonate so much more with this particular mare?

Winter stared at the spectacle, dumbfounded. “Well at least we know what he really likes,” she concluded.

Rainbow Dash shivered from a chill of realization. What if she had sung a rock song to him? How different the day would have turned out. She hugged Twilight and held her in her forelegs, earning sweet sounds of affection. By the mere existence of this stallion her friends really began to gel as a herd, yet at the same time could have been damaged. Rainbow shook her head, feeling she was way overthinking the situation. She casted the hypothetical situation from her mind and enjoyed Twilight’s nuzzling instead.

Hidden beneath Fluttershy’s soft exterior was a very powerful voice, Ravage realized. He rested his elbow on the rail, and placed his face on his hoof. A soft smile graced his otherwise steely composure.

Sensing victory was nearing, Fluttershy put everything she had into the final verses, especially the crescendo.

The pony bot was entranced, bathing in the vibrations of Fluttershy’s melodious voice. Perhaps he could one day give a sample to Soundwave for analysis.

As suddenly as she started, it was over, and the pegasus beamed at her favorite stallion, thrilled that he so obviously enjoyed himself.

“Thank you, Fluttershy. That is the most impressive thing I’ve heard since I got here,” he complimented. His friend smiled openly and broadly. “Now, I shall acquire those dessert implements.” He turned around and went into the clubhouse.

He was immediately put off by the lack of familiarity. In fact, even if the pie cutters were in plain view, what did they look like? It didn’t matter though, his objective was to be left alone and he set to looking. The space was surprisingly neat and tidy except for a desk by the east window which supported a lot of writing utensils, and drawings, and the like. Suddenly, the tree house rocked, a couple of worn pencils rolled onto the floor making pin prick sounds.

The door opened and Fluttershy came in like a whirlwind, turning around and locking the door.

Sensing trouble, Ravage immediately searched for exits. Two windows… One faced west toward the picnicking ponies, and the other f…

He was bowled over by the eager mare as she planted her lips on his face, knocking him down and smashing into the desk, sending reams of pages and other junk on the floor and crayons rollicking down his barrel.

Holding his head fast, Fluttershy gripped her hind legs on him like a vice while she kissed him lovingly, thrilled to find him receptive. She slid and twisted her body against his, enjoying the texture of his warm muscle, and the male essence of his taste and smell. She broke the kiss briefly, as she stared into his eyes, her respiration drastically increasing. She saw a wanting in those eyes, and with that her aggression was increased two-fold. Her driving tongue was accepted, and she probed his mouth with zeal, encouraged by his thundering heartbeat. She broke off to taste one of his sumptuous ears, chewing and sucking, her body providing the support to maximize her enjoyment. Small, but audible gasps of pleasure emanated from Ravage, but his ears were not enough, her desire far from quenched. She loomed over her prey and a longing few ponies had ever seen, even her closest friends, slowly emerged on her face.

Ravage was paralysed with a combination of fear and adventure. He knew what she was about to do. He must stop this! But… he can’t! Part of him wanted to throw her through the roof, and the other part wanted to explore. Both combatting attitudes rose in unison when she started again on his neck. Oh, her mane was so lovely… Visions of Flitter came into mind and faded just as quickly as she made a trail toward his chest, kissing, licking, sucking, and feasting on one cord of muscle after the other, she continued toward his sternum. He almost didn’t want her to stop. Why!?

Cybertron help me…

A hard knock came at the door, surprising the two ponies. “Did ‘ya guys find the cake cutters ‘er what?” came the voice of Applebloom. The door knob jiggled. “Hey, why’d y’all lock the door?”

Princess Cadance smiled, her eyes opened just a slit as she felt the torrents of the loving exchange. Fluttershy was committed. Ravage was being held back by himself, and only by himself, and only by a slim margin. She opened her eyes fully to see Twilight waiting for her.

“Well?” the Friendship Princess asked.

“I think I can help.” She stepped close to her friend, in an effort to keep her voice low. “Ravage’s heart is in bonds. For whatever reason, maybe his upbringing, or military training, he will not give his heart to another under any circumstances.”

“Oh,” Twilight dejectedly responded. Regardless of what he had done with Princess Luna, it looked like no mare or herd could have him if that were the case.

“It gets worse. I can only feel one heart at a time. It may have to do with how physically close I am to either pony and,” Cadance didn’t know any other way to say this, “Whatever is enamouring Luna is coming from Ravage.”

Twilight’s expression screwed up at this. “I don’t get it.”

“I don’t understand it either, but the bond is a lot stronger than when I felt it four days ago.” Cadance looked this way and that, making sure nobody was listening in. “It would take only a nudge,” she described, closely scanning Twilight’s face, “To bring Ravage and Fluttershy together.”

The Princess of Friendship gasped as she caught onto what Cadance was saying. “You can’t do that. Celestia forbade it!” she pleaded, trying and almost failing to keep to keep her voice unheard by any other ponies.

“I have to break that magical connection. I can only do it if I’m bringing ponies together concurrently,” Cadance added with a business-like candor. Her alicorn friend was horrified. “Luna’s distress will only get worse, Twilight.”

“No!”

The two Princesses were suddenly teleported to an area away from the other ponies by Twilight’s magic.

“We have to understand the magical bond first then act!” she voiced tersely.

“Twilight, I promise you, whatever is happening to Luna is not Ravage’s doing. He’s completely innocent. And I suspect we’ll never understand why the bond is there until it’s too late.”

“Too late for what?”

Princess Cadance was taken aback by this. “Too late for Luna,” she replied, as if it were the most obvious thing.

Twilight thought about the possible consequences. “You think she’ll go insane?”

“Even if she was just very irrational, Luna could deal heavy damage to anypony that opposes her.” She leaned in closer to her young friend. “What if Celestia is no longer able to calm her down?”

Twilight’s eyes went wide with horror, knowing what happened the last time Celestia and Luna had an altercation. It was well known that Princess Luna was second only to Celestia in terms of raw power, and that was very arguable, especially when one considers how easily Nightmare Moon disposed of h…

The little Princess froze in mid thought. The wicked Mare of Darkness was defeated, but that didn’t mean Luna didn’t conceal other terrible magic, yet unseen by anypony today.

Shortly after she was accepted as Celestia’s personal student, the curious little unicorn found an ancient book from a special wing of the library left accidentally accessible. It detailed some of the great wars ponies had against other races, and even civil wars amongst themselves. She recalled a few phrases describing how Luna had done harm to armies even before they could attack Equestria, typically by creating a vicious creature that invoked nightmares – the Tantalus? The Anibus? Twilight couldn’t remember something she had so little exposure to. The little foal never would have never guessed that she would actually meet Luna someday.

A great sadness overcame Twilight. “Cadance, is your spell reversible?”

The Love Princess shook her head.

Twilight exhaled a drawn-out sigh. “I object to such a course of action.” Her fellow Princess stared back neutrally. “I’m going back to Rainbow Dash. Don’t let me catch you,” she warned before disappearing in a flash of teleportation.

The unicorns galloped up to the tree house when they noticed Applebloom couldn’t get in because it was locked.

The little earth pony came down with the dessert utensils in her teeth. “Ish ‘alrah, ‘ah jog ‘em,” she mouthed with difficulty, returning to the picnic tables.

Ravage came down, showing no signs that anything out of the ordinary had occurred. Though his mask was good, his mind was whirling with images of the surprisingly passionate mare. Every clasp of pony legs felt like an armor upgrade, every kiss like a dribble of energon. It was confusing and exciting all at once.

Fluttershy flew down to see three unicorns eyeing her suspiciously, and immediately hid her face in her mane.

Winter got in close to the embarrassed pegasus and sniffed. “Ya’ know, you and I have a lot in common,” she observed, her hoof oscillating between pointing at Fluttershy and herself.

Pearl Bliss came to a logical conclusion, regarding Ravage, Fluttershy, and her pals, and smiled crookedly. It appeared that Ravage was that kind of stallion. “Well girls, maybe we should check the barn for pie cutters.” Similar expressions developed amongst her friends. “Ravage, I think you can help us identify the proper size and shape.” Her friends enthusiastically agreed.

Fluttershy didn’t like where this was going. “B-but Applebloom already got them…”

Winter put a hoof over Fluttershy’s mouth, shushing her. “You can come along,” she whispered in her ear.

“Oh no, Fluttershy. Those cutters were for earth pony mares,” Saffron fabricated, gently tugging at Ravage toward the barn with her magic.

Ravage felt his backside nudged periodically by Winter, while getting tugged ahead by unicorn magic. He almost didn’t need to move his legs. Different pie cutters for different pony races? It wasn’t logical. It was time to get back to the base, and he was tired of the attention. The forceful magic was ever present though, continuously working to move him. He tried to move in one direction, but was carried in another. It was like walking on lithium grease, only he wouldn’t fall.

“Come on, Ravage! Let’s go look for unicorn mare, and pegasus mare pie,” Pearl insisted. “Cutters.”

Fluttershy made fearful, tentative steps with the other ponies. She wanted Ravage, there was no argument about that, but seeing him corralled like that confused her. Was this – was this what her herd would do? They could get pretty randy too, not unlike these unicorn mares.

Ravage had his missiles loaded, no good for close quarters combat. He had to use another tactic, something to go head to head with the unicorns’ magic. “STOP!” he demanded. He was immediately released, and he turned to face the now fearful looking unicorns. “What is the meaning of this?” he said tersely. “Applebloom already acquired the pie cutters. We don’t need anymore.”

Winter sighed. “Ravage, let me level with you. I’m sure you’ve figured out that what we need is privacy, hence the barn,” she explained, pointing at the Apple farm’s main building.

The stallion bot’s face contorted as his powerful brain streamed through one logical comparison after another, and things started to get less foggy. “So,” he began, wanting to be absolutely certain of the situation, “No pie?”

Winter and Saffron were bowled over with laughter.

After some snickering, Pearl Bliss sounded off, “We can have pie and then we can go to my place,” she suggested. “And you’re coming with us,” she demanded, pointing a hoof at Fluttershy.

“I – I am?”

“You are.”

“O – kay.” Fluttershy didn’t have to join in on the date, but it looked like she was there for the duration.

Ravage had enough. The path that would take him to his ship was within visual range, and he had the black matter data he came for. He wouldn’t get any pie, it was true. He wouldn’t get a lot of things anymore, but he had long overstayed his welcome. And these unicorns – confusing as they may have been, not only showed that they had the power to force him, but also convincingly showed that they were willing to use it. That was unacceptable.

“Well, it’s been fun, but now I’m afraid I have to – urgkh…” The pony bot held a hoof over his heart. The cold water pouring into his chest feeling had returned with a vengeance, wreaking havoc on his emotional state. The horrible feeling increased by the second and Ravage sprawled out, eyes glazed over and teeth gritted in agony.

At that very moment in Canterlot, Princess Luna had been scouring her ancient spell books for information on love bonds, having just spent a fruitless search in the main library. Suddenly, she too felt death in her bosom, and doubled over, holding her chest in pain. Ravage

“Ravage, are you alright!?” Pearl asked, taken by complete surprise at the change in mood. Her friends were also instantly worried at their date’s condition.

Goodness, that looks painful. This should have taken an instant!

Red Alert! Target lock detected.

The battle computer indicated the offender was behind him, thanks to the black matter data being shared over the network. Emotional distress or not, nothing was affecting his hydraulic systems and Ravage turned around to face the threat. He found a heavy concentration of black matter streams and one intense stream beaming into his chest. He leaped to the side, nearly mowing down Saffron who scuttled out of the way, and felt no different. He turned on his infrared and found nothing!

“Ravage, what’s going on?” Saffron demanded.

The embattled pony bot dislodged a rock from the soil, stood up, and threw it at the center with all his might. The black matter streams were dispersed and the beam discontinued.

In a flash of light, Cadance appeared behind a copse of trees out of the way of prying eyes. Poor Ravage, he looked awful, though he nearly hit her with that rock. Did she get in too close? Yes, that must have been it; he probably picked up her scent. Her invisibility shield, a special spell she created for whenever she needed to hide from danger, completely masked any light from getting out, even sounds. She was thankful she used the spell at all, as reports of Ravage’s abilities turned out to be accurate.

Cadance had never encountered a love bond this strong in all her years. It was then that she realized that Luna would also be feeling Ravage’s emotional pain. Not good!

That love bond didn’t just take choice out of the equation, it was dangerous, as Luna’s ferocity in the garden early that day proved. Most crucially, its power continuously increased. It must be destroyed! To accomplish this, Ravage would be bound to Fluttershy against his will, although it was evident that they liked each other. And Luna could find a partner the natural way, the proper way. The Princess engaged the spell once again, and ascended into the air. They must be saved!

Fluttershy looked on, very troubled by Ravage’s erratic behavior, though she was relieved to see he appeared to be feeling better. “Can you tell us what’s wrong?”

“I’m under attack.” The main computer calculated that approximately sixty percent of the black matter streams were being absorbed, a rather unique signature. He zoomed in on the picnicking ponies and saw Twilight, but couldn’t find Princess Cadance. A very sour expression etched itself into his face.

Winter was as perplexed as Pearl and Saffron. “Uh Ravage, there’s nopony else around.”

“You have a lot to learn about sneak attacks,” he rebutted, looking this way and that.

Fluttershy was worried. Such a solid stallion shouldn’t suddenly display behavioral issues. She looked where Ravage was looking, trying to find he presumed attacker.

Ravage tasked the satellites to search for her within a five-hundred meter radius. Princess Cadance had come for him, and whatever she was doing hurt.

Back in Canterlot, Luna was focusing her efforts to ascertain what to do. What Ravage was feeling now was anger, apprehension, and a little fear; definitely a warrior’s instinct. She could teleport down, but feared her unbridled love for the stallion would cloud everything, and she would simply whisk him away. And thus, she stood by and waited for his mood to calm down.

Something was wrong; the battle computer was taking too long. Again, a death grip assaulted his heart. Nine-o’clock! The beam wasn’t as concentrated, but was no less painful. There was no concentration of black matter streams within his field of detection which meant Cadance had learned to keep her distance. His brow furrowed, and his anger swelled. He could fire his missiles, but he would be found out, and even with their homing enabled to fly to the source of the beam they would likely miss, assuming Cadance didn’t vanish first!

Luna’s mouth was wide open in shock as she felt hatred now, flowing like a river. The only thing she knew of approaching this much hate was Nightmare Moon. “Ravage, what have they done to you?”

Fluttershy stepped back, frightened by his hateful glare. What could she say? Nopony even knew what the problem was.

Ravage plied his warrior’s instinct, forgetting about hating for the moment. What to do? What to do!? He needed to run… and then, a piercing sensation was felt in his heart, and his eyes closed, and all he could feel was abject loss.

Luna felt it too, and collapsed onto her forelegs. But this situation was unacceptable. “nnNOOO!!!” she screamed, her eyes aglow with powerful magic.

A surge of black matter pulsed from him, and fed back up the beam, hitting Cadance like a cannon, throwing her back, disoriented, and forced to feel intolerable loneliness.

“Ravage, what’s wrong!?” Fluttershy cried out.

With his wits back and his emotions in check, the Decepticon pony executed his plan, and ran straight for the barn. Let’s see if Cadance can hit what she cannot see!

Cadance gathered her wits back quickly. That was Luna’s love that did that, she must not fail! With renewed vigor, she pursued the fleeing earth pony, flying directly towards the barn doors.

Ravage barreled in, jumping over the tongue of an apple cart turned on its side, spinning one-hundred eighty degrees around on the other side and sliding to a stop, his missile racks emerging as he did so. The beam was mere centimeters in front of him before moving in on his heart again, followed by the spiky pack of black matter streams that gave away Cadance’s position.

“Die!!” Two missiles fired at Cadance, but she vanished away as the weapons launched. With reflexes far beyond that of a normal pony’s Ravage dove behind the apple cart.

Twilight and the other ponies were looking upon the commotion wrought by the odd behavior of the dating mares, and what sounded like somepony saying ‘die’ just as the front of the barn blew off in a gigantic explosion.

Fluttershy and the unicorns ran away from the twisted, fiery wall of wood before it could fall on them.

Cadance had the misfortune of teleporting in front of the loft, in wanting to keep close to Ravage, before the shockwave and debris knocked her out of the sky. Her invisibility spell gone, she flew out of control and collided with the unyielding earth, accompanied by the crunch of breaking wing bones.

Defaced, the hobbled structure leaned forward, timbers snapping like popcorn, and collapsed in a heap of rubble, its leading edge giving the hurting body of the Love Princess a further jostle of momentum with broken planks and exposed nails.

The entire gathering rushed to the aid of Princess Cadance, Twilight Sparkle teleporting there first. “Are you alright!?” she feverishly asked, carefully removing the wreckage away from her.

The Love Princess gritted her teeth, wincing in pain. “Nnngh… Broke my wings…” she rasped. Her body was peppered with scrapes and puncture wounds, but it was the broken bones that got all her attention.

Rainbow Dash was the second responder. “What happened?”

“Cadance needs medical attention. Get a doctor!”

“On it!” The pegasus saluted before taking off at top speed toward the hospital.

Twilight casted a minor pain relief spell on her friend. It seemed to work, but only just a little. It was then that she noticed Applejack and Fluttershy waiting impatiently to talk to her.

“Ravage was in the barn!” Fluttershy exclaimed to the best of her ability.

“We need t’ah get ‘em out. Now!”

Twilight looked to Cadance, whose face was wracked with pain, but managed to give a small nod, regardless. She fluttered into the air, trying to assess the size of the job, and landed where she thought was the front, fearing even her power might not be enough. “This is going to take some doing,” she said worriedly.

Her horn lit like a search light, the fuchsia magic glow surrounded every piece of debris as she tried as hard as she could to levitate it. The heaving mass buckled and cracked as it looked like it wanted to lift, and yet stayed bound to the earth. Rarity, Pearl Bliss, Saffron, and Winter joined in the levitation spell, and together, managed to lift the massive heap, one layer at a time.

Aster winged around the globe of debris, desperately looking. “I don’t see him!”

Fluttershy had also taken flight and helped look while Applejack and other ponies trotted around, trying to find Ravage’s broken form.

Big Macintosh returned to the scene at a high gallop with a medical kit. Granny Smith was talking to Cadance, getting information.

Twilight’s horn sputtered, losing power. “Get back everypony!”

A ring of ponies backed off, including Big Mac dragging a screaming Cadance on her belly, and the barn collapsed anew, unleashing a second dust cloud.

The Friendship Princess huffed from exertion, while rubbing her throbbing temples. She saw Applejack on top of the remains, trying to call out to her and waving her over. With her magic reserves low, she flew over and landed by her rather morose looking friend. “What did you find?” Twilight asked, fearing the worst.

“Well, ‘Ah reckon Ravage survived the explosion.”

Twilight was shaken out of her oncoming sadness. “Wh – what?” Looking to where Applejack was pointing, she saw that the back door had been kicked out.

=^.^=

The sentry monitor of the Decepticon ship recognized Ravage, and the starboard access door hissed open. He walked in slowly, several swaths of his coat torn up and bloodied.

A medicroid puttered up to the beaten form of a Decepticon headed straight to the repair bay. With a hiss of equalizing pressure its top portion took to the air using its antigravity pods and flew around Ravage to assess the damage.

“Evaluation. Fifty-seven lacerations. Eight puncture wounds. Significant blood loss,” it determined in emotionless monotone. “Reparation. One point three liters blood replacement. Three point nine liters cytoskeletal gel. Eight-hundred ninety-two protein stitches. Three units ampicillin.”

“And fifteen units of cyclooxygenase inhibitor,” Ravage added. It was delightful how the medicroid ignored the awful pain he was feeling. Such efficiency!

A monitor flipped down while robotic appendages administered injections, stitching and other repairs. All the data on the anomaly could be seen at a glance. This was definitely looking to become a worm hole, a gateway between two physically different locations.

“Move satellite three to these coordinates,” he commanded, wirelessly transmitting the location information. Worm holes were rare. Stable worm holes were practically non-existent. A developing worm hole with the characteristics Ravage was studying was a gift from the cosmos. “Magic…” he realized. He didn’t like that such primitive creatures could have abilities even the most technologically advanced civilizations nearly never achieve, and yet there it was. “Prepare infrared laser experiment. Coordinate with satellite five.”

Satellite five’s engines fired, adjusting its geosynchronous orbit, and it maneuvered to view the infrared laser from above. A beam of light with a path tangential to the surface would be examined right in front of the potential worm hole.

Ravage scrutinized the surface of the ocean beneath the anomaly for a storm swell. There wasn’t one.

After about thirty minutes of protein stitches and gel injections, the satellite experiment was ready. Testing the infrared beam in front of the worm hole, he found it started bending as soon as it got within three meters. Normally, only objects as dense as pulsars and heavier would have such an effect. This object was going to become a very powerful worm hole indeed! Further investigation revealed that it was small, compact, and tidy, and took place inside of an atmosphere. All other natural worm hole observations had, until this time, been conducted in the vacuum of space.

Ravage got an idea. How powerful would it really become? One could be transposed hundreds of kilometers, no doubt. Thousands? Quite probably. The Decepticon spy ran more experiments, all designed to gauge the potential of the worm hole to be. He found out it should be able to transport objects millions, if not billions of kilometers.

His excitement kept growing as he tested the ‘walls’ of bent space-time, and determined the true extent of its event horizon. He found that it would be capable of transposing objects several light years, like a space bridge.

Perhaps it could do thousands of light years, enough distance to bring him within range of the Solar system.

The repair machinery folded itself away as he reached this hypothesis, and Ravage transformed into robot mode. Could he control it? This was not a space bridge, but a magical construct. Shockwave designed the space bridge’s aperture, direction, and translocating distance to be controlled by focused particles, the nature of which the pony bot would have to look up. Could they also control this worm hole?

He needed just a few more determinations, all designed to answer one question: how much energy would be required? And with that question, he was done with Ponyville and it was time to blast off.

As he made his preparations, he couldn’t help but dream of escaping the pony world to return back to Megatron’s side fighting the Autobots. No more working at that stupid job, no more dancing – few processes have been so humiliating – no more Celestia, no more nosey mares trying to taint his form with their disgusting saliva.

No more Luna!

No more food and drink, but none of it really compared to energon. It wouldn’t be missed.

No more Twilight. She was about as smart as that construction human’s associates – inferior to Decepticons. Also, Ravage had discovered that the use of magic is directly connected to the heavy concentrations of black matter, and thus knowledge of magic was completely useless off-world.

No more Flitter, but he had forgotten about her already. No big loss.

And that was it! There was one niggling aspect of this world that continued to linger in his mind. He would simply forget about her while he worked.

It became apparent that Ravage would need considerably more power than what was available from his energon stockpiles. He would also need a lot of raw materials, and he had less than a week to bring everything together. It was going to get very busy.

His metal footsteps sounded loudly as he inspected each critical area of the ship before take-off. That stupid mare wouldn’t leave his mind.

Should he lob an energon charge onto her cottage while he flew away? Ravage frowned at this. She was the only pony that brought him comfort through companionship, an impressive feat indeed.

No, this was going to take something less final, and more direct. She should be recoiling in horror before him, after all. It’s what the other ponies will be doing.

“Since I can’t get you out of my head,” Ravage started before transforming into pony mode. “You will keep me from entering yours.”

He planned on telling her that she was revolting, and that he hoped she would die by fire. As a result, she would eventually forget about him, and Ravage, with no hope of ever connecting with her ever again, would do the same.

=^.^=

Fluttershy sat silently by the fire, having barely sipped her tea. Though it was dusk, it was still too warm to have a roaring fire, so just a couple of logs of embers and dancing flames would have to do. Lying on the floor as she did, she could almost feel the sleek musculature of her love interest.

Yes. She was in love with him, and had been for some time.

Why did he run? Perhaps the sinister thing that was chasing him didn’t stop after he fought his way out of barn.

Where was Cybertron? Rarity mentioned she wanted more Cybertronians around, especially if they were anything like Ravage, characterized by deeds rather than inflated popularity.

Why did he stay in the Everfree forest? Zecora stayed there, and was perfectly content. Perhaps his cultural background made Ponyville unsuitable? Fluttershy understood this, as she didn’t live in the town proper either. She yearned to know every detail about him, but he was not here to talk to.

He was gone. Whatever evil thing had been chasing him nearly took Cadance’s life, and may well have taken his, if the blood trails were anything to go by. A sick feeling came over her and she started to sob. “Ravage... ” she bleated.

Could they have had a life together? Fluttershy had toyed with the idea the previous evening.

And then, a knock on the back door was heard. It was not the familiar hard rap of Rainbow Dash, or the precise repetitions of Rarity or Twilight. She dragged herself out of her sullen stupor, and willed her hope down. It was probably a pony looking for him. She swung the back door open.

Ravage had hardened the features of his face and did a good job of keeping them that way until he saw Fluttershy’s elated visage. He was so glad to see her. As had happened many times before, he bore the brunt of intercepting a hugging pony, launched by well developed limbs. She was crying, and kept crying, her warm tears pooling up and rolling around his neck and her cheek. He was surprised when she suddenly backed off.

She wiped away her tears with a foreleg. “Why don’t you come in?” she suggested with a bright face, moving her body to the side to give him easy access.

The Decepticon pony obliged and entered, albeit with slow, calculated steps. The objective was to kill this friendship, lest it interfere with the rather complicated suite of plans he’d been earmarking. He made it to the living room, but stopped short of relaxing in front of the fireplace. Turning around, he found an upset pegasus mare.

“Ravage, what happened? Why did you run?”

“Something was attacking my heart. What was I supposed to do?” He wasn’t surprised that he couldn’t easily will himself to end the friendship. He knew it was going to be tough, and it turned out to be tougher than battling the Autobots.

Fluttershy walked up and hugged him once again. “I thought you were gone,” she cracked, trying to keep herself from crying again.

This was going to be tougher than fighting Optimus Prime himself. Ah slag

“Ravage,” she uttered in the same unsteady tone, “Would you stay with me?”

It did not help that he enjoyed Fluttershy’s attention, and oh no, now she was rubbing his withers. More joy, just what he needed.

She backed off, but looked hopeful, smiling. “W-we could have a bath together and…” How could she bring herself to ask this? “You won’t need to sleep on the futon, or the couch.” Again, she needed time summon yet more courage. “W-we could sleep in my bed,” she spat out before grimacing in her mane.

What should have been an appalling suggestion actually caught Ravage’s interest, but only briefly. “Fluttershy,” he began. He took a moment to solidify his composure. Oh, she looked so hopeful with that wonderful smile, but the Decepticon soldier needed to complete his objective. “It’s time you knew the truth.”

The enamoured pegasus was taken aback. “Do you – like me?”

He nodded in admission. “Yes, Fluttershy.” The mare skipped over being happy and excited to being ecstatic. “I do like you.”

“We’ll have a bath, and I can make snacks,” she machine-gunned in a rare excited state, “And then we can…” She blushed now.

Ravage lowered his head. “Fluttershy, I can’t be with you.” The poor mare deflated like a torn hot air balloon. “The circumstances for which I am here make this not permissible.”

The yellow mare squinted. “You’re not allowed to be with me?” she questioned. “Are you married? Are you taken by another pony? Maybe you don’t like girls?”

“No, no, Fluttershy, that’s not it at all.”

She took his right hoof into both of hers. “You are your own pony, Ravage. There is nothing on this world that dictates whom you can be with.”

Ravage thought on this for a bit, eventually nodding. “You’re right about that.”

“Then,” the mare started, her smile slowly returning. “Let’s have a nice evening together.” As far as Fluttershy was concerned, it didn’t matter what they did with their time, as long as they did it together. She may have been a little pushy on the sleeping arrangements.

Ravage sighed tiredly. “Perhaps…”

She smiled broadly, mouth wide open. It looked like her stallion was coming back to her!

“Perhaps it is better shown than told.”

Fluttershy became excited at the prospect. Was he being coy? That sure would make a - what in the moon!?

Solenoids and motors whirred to life and his body plates shifted as he transformed, turning him into metal, and standing on two legs, each thudding against the floor for better balance.

Fluttershy backed up against the wall in horror. What was this thing!?

“I am Ravage,” he spoke, this time through his computerized voice, “Tactical support unit for the Decepticon Battle Fleet.”

The catatonic mare stared at his gleaming body, paralysed with fear.

As if it were somehow possible to show remorse on his battle ready body, he showed it as his head lowered. “And now,” he started with sadness in his voice, “I will leave you be.” He hoped to go home in a few days, it didn’t matter what she saw. Nobody would believe her.

Fluttershy saw that Angel was standing right beside him, eating a carrot. This was so puzzling! Even Angel should have ran for the hills unless…

Unless he’d already seen Ravage like this.

The Decepticon soldier was clomping his way to the back door before Fluttershy flew right in front of him, holding out a foreleg as if to say, “Stop!”

For a short interval, Fluttershy hovered in front of him, wings beating gently. Where had her fear gone? In fact, she was almost smiling. She dared to use her hoof to probe the side of his head, finding it was as metallic as the rest of him. “You have a panther head,” she squeaked, her smile returning full force.

Ravage sputtered. “What?” It seemed that the yellow mare really dug his Decepticon form, with the way she’d been feeling up his facets. “But how? Aren’t you frightened?”

“Y-yes, well – no.” She smiled yet again. “You’re my friend, Ravage. I’m not frightened of you.”

“I appreciate your courage, Fluttershy.” He walked past her, transforming back into pony mode at the door. It was already dark outside, and Luna had brought the moon up. “But it is here that we must part ways.”

She didn’t like hearing that one bit. “You’re part pony,” Fluttershy countered. “Aren’t you?” It looking like he was giving her words consideration. “Stay with me, Ravage. What other reasons do you have for coming to my house?”

Why did he come here? All he needed to do was blast off, and instead he was here, back in her cottage. He admitted to himself, that he liked coming here, and he liked seeing her. That was unacceptable.

“Fluttershy, I can’t see you anymore!” he shouted, startling the Element of Kindness. “Megatron would never allow it.”

She suddenly became angry, eyes narrowed and focused. “Who?” she asked in rather sinister tone. “Is she a griffon?”

He looked at Fluttershy incredulously, before shaking off the puzzling feeling. This time, he took her right hoof into both of his own. “You have to make a promise to me.”

Such strong hooves on a strong stallion. She gazed into his serious face, as fear filled her heart. She breathed deeply, like this could be the last time she catches his scent. He looked so torn - he didn’t want to go, but had no choice.

“You have to promise not to follow.”

Fluttershy just stared at him as she took this in. She wasn’t going to lose him, no! She had never felt this way about anypony.

“We can’t be together.”

Her breathing became more laboured as tears pooled in her eyes once again.

“You’ve seen what I am.”

She was going to lose Ravage, and already she felt the sheer emptiness, the finality! He was going to turn around and walk into the Everfree never to be seen again. She just knew it!

He drew his muzzle close to her ear and whispered, “Promise me.”

Fluttershy pulled back and sobbed into her hooves, a quivering wreck of a mare. “I promise,” she choked. And then, Ravage’s warmth left her shaking forelegs, the chilly night air swirling in his place. Crying the whole time, she willed herself to not look south towards the forest for the next twenty minutes.

=^.^=

The pony bot’s legs crunched onto the dried leaves under the moon light. He didn’t even think that Luna could easily see him, and his mind busied itself with more important matters.

Reaching the main hangar door of his ship, he paused. He really couldn’t get Fluttershy out of his mind could he? He decided to suffer it, allow the specter to haunt him until enough time passed when she would finally be forgotten. At least that was the hope.

As he approached the port side entrance, a huge concentration of black matter needled its way to a focal point in front of him.

A second later, a brilliant flash opened up in directly in his path, and Celestia in full armor materialized. Her horn lighting brightly, she spoke, “You should have come to Canterlot.”

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