• 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 9: Soldier Of Misfortune

Transformed



Chapter 9: Soldier Of Misfortune



Ravage stood upon the bridge of his ship, arms crossed, and feeling proud. It took all night, but he managed to install the generator in the west penstock, and hide the microwave emitter inside the eye of one of the pegasus statues that guarded the dam. Looking upon the main screen, Ravage studied the spider web of energy he had woven for himself, and it made him smile.

The product of all his toil was a maser beam that reached the main satellite up in geosynchronous orbit. If not converted into energon, the energy was beamed to the other satellites, as well as Ravage's ship below. In a clearing in one of his nearby hidden missile sites he had a receiver made to look like an ordinary chunk of igneous stone.

A magnetic clutch in the generator allowed the Decepticon spy to vary the amount of energy he could steal, for he did not know when, or if the pony dam workers would be able to detect the slight loss in power. As of that moment, Ravage was robbing three percent of the dam's output, but could increase it to six percent at maximum. He also controlled where the energy ended up, directing about half of it to his ship.

To prevent meddling, two-dozen infrared lasers always surrounded the microwave beam planet side. If the connection was broken for any reason, like from a flying bird to a pony's inquisitive hoof, the power transmission would have been instantly shut off. Clouds also had this effect, but the watchful satellites could disengage the clutch if it became too overcast. Best of all, the system worked day and night.

With only a few minutes before he had to leave again for work, the stallion bot packed up his lunch, newly fortified with fruits and vegetables. It had been a while since he'd been this happy and he hoped it stayed that way.


=^.^=


In Canterlot later that morning, Shining Armor walked himself to his wife’s quarters. It was always nostalgic to return to the capital, and say hello to old friends and acquaintances. What he really enjoyed was taking all the short cuts and passageways that few ponies knew about. In a period of time much shorter than could have been accomplished using the regular routes, he arrived and pushed in her already open door, smiling upon the figure of Cadance.

She was in deep thought and didn’t even notice him! His audible hoof steps brought her back to reality, but she was visibly shaken. “I got your message,” Shining Armor comforted as he hugged his wife. “You know I'm glad you're being brave. A strong leader makes for a strong people,” he complimented.

Cadance shook her head, still puzzled by the previous day's griffon-pony intelligence meeting. “It's just that the griffons wanted me to hide out at one of their villas, and they were serious!”

“That was most generous of them,” he decided, a little surprised. “I thought Equestrian Princesses weren't well liked in the griffon lands.”

“They aren't, except for me. In fact, the griffoness produced a drawing of me that her nephew made. It had my face with a little heart around it. Can you believe it?”

Shining chuckled, admiring the irony. “Hearts and Hooves Day is your day, love. I’m proud of you for making a strong stand, and I'm sure Baltimare will thank you for it too.” As former Captain of the Guard, he expanded his questioning. “What did Princess Luna think?”

Cadance gathered her thoughts for a few moments. “Well, she didn't like that none of the intelligence was corroborated by any of our people, and that the griffons can somehow see what we cannot.”

“Griffons spend a lot on overseas intelligence, don't they?” The Prince of the Crystal Empire didn't want to dismiss the information so easily, especially since his wife was at the center of it.

“Yes, but that didn't do anything to inspire Luna's confidence.”

Suddenly the door opened and Twilight Sparkle walked in. Shining Armor was impressed at how Cadance's spirits were lifted since they hadn't encountered each other in a while. In this case, their ‘Sunshine’ dance made good their sense of elation, a child’s nursery rhyme played out by two Princesses! Long may it last.

“What’s so important to get me up to Canterlot first thing in the morning?” Twilight asked as she parted their embrace.

“Two things, Twilight.” Cadance waited patiently while the Princess of Magic skirted around her to hug and exchange pleasantries with her brother. As always, she got a saccharin inspired chuckle when Shining Armor used his pet name for his sister. As quickly as it started, she regained the attention of both siblings.

“Oops, heh heh.” Twilight blushed, though she was pretty sure she wasn’t being rude.

“No harm done, Twilight,” Cadance calmed with regal skill. “As you know Hearts and Hooves Day is the following Saturday, and Luna told me that you wish to launch a science campaign. I’ll be in Baltimare with Shining next weekend to help conduct the Hearts and Hooves Day festival. It’s big too! There are all kinds of pavilions.” The Crystal Princess threw her friend a look that was almost mischievous, “And I was wondering if one of those pavilions could be for you.”

Twilight’s gasp was memorable. “Really!?” Upon closer inspection you could see stars in her eyes, but she suddenly returned to a more analytical mode. “Wait a minute; is science, erm, festive enough?”

“As I recall, there will be griffon wine tasting pavilion, a cherry art pavilion,” Cadance paused, trying to think of some of the more bizarre exhibitions, “a wub pavilion? Does anypony know what that is?”

“Modern music,” Shining Armor stated. Keeping up with the younger guards meant knowing what they enjoyed.

Cadance made a mental note to look into such music, but definitely liked the idea of Twilight supporting the festival by giving it an academic outlet. “Actually, I think a science pavilion from you would add balance.”

It was Twilight’s turn to sport a wry smile. “And my campaign slogan is Science Needs More Love.” She tapped her front hooves together proudly. “Yes! Yes, I would definitely like to participate.” Her smiling face could inspire cheer even in the most down trodden at that moment. She hugged Cadance once again, nuzzling her long neck. “Thank you!”

“My pleasure, Twilight.” Though her friend’s hugs were always enjoyable, Cadance dreaded bringing up the next point.

“What’s the other thing?” Twilight inquired, having parted from her second embrace with Cadance.

“Okay, but this is the part where no information leaves the room.” It was unfortunate to have to watch the Element’s cheerful mood get exchanged with an almost disgusted look. “Apparently some unsavoury characters want to spoil my day at the Baltimare Hearts and Hooves Day festival.” The Crystal Princess brainstormed for a way to keep Twilight out of this onerous business, but was pretty sure that would be impossible.

Twilight wings suddenly flared out and she looked ready to fight. “What? Who!?”

Cadance supported her chin with a foreleg knee in deep thought. “I can't be sure yet, but the griffon envoy identified a group, and we can't back it up. Twilight, I worry that if I tell you who they think may be stirring trouble...”

“You think I'll spend the next week going crazy trying to figure out when and how they'll strike,” Twilight spoke, finishing Cadance's sentence.

Her brother stepped forward, “You've been known to do that, Twilight,” he said stoically.

Her expression softened. She knew Shining Armor was right. “Alright. I promise I'll keep it together. I'll let the organization do their jobs, and I won't intervene, unless asked to.”

Cadance looked to her husband, who gave her a nod. “Changelings.”

Changelings? “I admit I'm a little surprised.” Twilight paced for a few steps, trying to assess one of Equestria’s most dangerous foes. They terrorized Canterlot, and even managed to nearly conquer it, but since then their threatening posture was addressed very soundly. She looked back directly at Cadance. “Can they even enter Equestria? The magical wards are everywhere, covering immense geographical areas. Nowhere is safe for them.” Twilight started pondering ways around the wards, trying to see it from a changeling's perspective.

“Twilight...” Shining prodded in a warning tone.

Twilight shook her head, “Okay, okay, I'll stay out of it.” Purposely standing down from a perceived threat didn't sit well with her.

Cadance attempted to placate her. “According to the griffons, they're massing in the Westerlore islands by the thousands. We've sent our agents to investigate, but it will take a few days to support or refute the griffons' claim.”

Twilight's visage became puzzled. “That's over a thousand miles west of here. In the ocean!” Even though her brother spoke against it, she tried to deduce the changelings' strategy. “They need love to feed off of, but they wouldn't even make it past Las Pegasus. The wards work their love saturation magic in reverse, taking it from them, and leaving nothing left.”

The Prince finished the explanation. “Translation: they'll go 'poof'. The wards also prevent them from disguising themselves.” He was happy to see that Twilight had relaxed once again. “Even without the wards, and even if they blitzed the coastal guard, it would take over a day for the very fastest of them to fly past Ponyville and Canterlot.”

The academic alicorn didn't tempt fate with the obvious conclusion, yet eyed Princess Cadance suspiciously.

“If they're not a threat, then why would the griffons offer to shelter me?” Cadance spoke,
vocalizing Twilight's thoughts. “I don't know. The changelings could be targeting another people, but that's open for debate.”

“Do you want me to try to bring my friends to Baltimare next Saturday? They could help me set up. In fact I'm pretty sure they'd come if I asked them too.”

Cadance snuggled her husband. Both agreed with Twilight's suggestion. “Thank you, Twilight. Regardless of the changelings' dubious position, we're still taking precautions.” She was relieved to see her friend was on board with the plan. “Celestia cancelled her appearance at Canterlot's Hearts and Hooves Day festival due to 'professional' reasons. She will be on the west coast next Saturday. Luna will be in Canterlot. You and I will be in Baltimare, which is on the east coast. Just keep the Elements of Harmony within horn's reach, but not too close to you.”

“Princess Celestia cancelled?” The smaller alicorn's surprise was not unexpected.

“It's in this morning's paper,” Cadance pointed out.

“You mean the paper I didn't yet read, because it was too windy on the chariot?” Twilight smirked. “Okay, thanks for the invite. My friends and I will put on a show that'll thrill the intellectuals, and push the need for better science and technology. We can help defend you if the need arises.”

“Thank you, Twilight.” Princess Cadance bowed to her friend. “You are a bastion of strength as well as reason.”

Cadance purposely avoided telling Twilight that Princess Luna had found love. Luna could reveal her true feelings to the youngest Princess when she felt right to do so, not her former baby sitter.

The trio spent the rest of the morning in each others company, and enjoyed a lunch together. The lightheartedness of their conversations belied the true depth of their responsibilities. Such was the reign of rulers.


=^.^=


Warm winds buffeted the meadow at dusk; the strong smell of alfalfa sweetened the air. In the distance, a lone stallion sat, half his body enveloped by the undulating grasses. Under the darkening sky, a sense of urgency sparked in the heart of Fluttershy and she galloped to him. The very perturbed pony was staring up to space, and he didn’t seem to see her. Fully confident, she asked him to dance with her. He did not hear her, and continued to sit obliviously. Fluttershy prodded him, and it was enough to relinquish him from his frozen state. Ravage finally looked at Fluttershy. Again, she asked him to dance. Ravage’s look of surprise morphed into a state of joy. He said something, though she could not hear it. His elated face was so cute... And so they danced. Somber music let their dance proceed at a slow, comfortable speed. She could smell him; feel his heartbeat. He whispered things in her ear, and they made her heart race, and wings flutter. Again and again they whirled, as Fluttershy smiled, and giggled.

Dusk gave way to darkness, and Fluttershy woke up. It was the middle of the night, and cool, dry air blew in from her window. She hugged her pillow tightly, hoping that one day soon it would be Ravage in the grip of her forelegs. Briefly she wondered if he was thinking the same thing at that very moment.


=^.^=


Late in the afternoon, Fluttershy was once again daydreaming of Ravage, or in this case, replaying the last night’s dream. She pined for him, and was feeling a little frustrated that she hadn’t seen him in two days. In spite of her efforts, she was not able to find him outside of his job site yesterday.

Rarity’s assessment was straight forward. To the unicorn romantic it seemed like a crime to keep them separate, so she suggested the plain strategy of locating Ravage, and then doing whatever it takes to be with him as much as equinely possible.

She finished tending to her animals, and left a couple of carrots out for Angel. Her plan was to go once again to the construction site, but he didn’t seem to leave when the other workers did. It was safe to say that the yellow mare was truly jealous of Cloudchaser and her gang, as they always seemed to be able to find him at will. Then a thought occurred to her. Flitter and Cloudchaser always knew where he was.

She looked up over Ponyville, trying to spot either pegasus mare – she found Cloudchaser, hovering over the market. As if by reflex, Fluttershy took wing and headed over. Upon arrival, Cloudchaser had moved on, but then she saw Ravage! He was looking at the spice selection at Ginger’s stand.


=^.^=


“So nutmeg is used to enhance the cinnamon? And it’s only for sweet things?” he asked.

Ginger sensed an abysmal lack of cooking experience. “How 'bout you tell me what you want to cook, and I’ll tell you what spices you can use.”

Ravage pondered. “Well… carrots,” he enunciated slowly, “Broccoli…” His pronounced ‘ee’ sound at the end of the word annoyed Ginger. “Something with cheeeeese…” Figuring out how to cook a new meal was one of the most difficult tasks for the Decepticon to have performed.

“Lasagna!” Ginger blurted out.

“What?”

“It's flat noodles, tomatoes and cheese, and you can add all the vegetables you want.” The spice distributor went behind the counter and planted her face in a box, rummaging around. She came up with a booklet in her teeth which she then dropped in front of Ravage. “Here! I get these with every order. I usually just throw them out, but I think it might help you.”

The stallion bot examined the coil-bound piece of literature, and used his snout to peruse several pages. “These methods... These are used to craft various kinds of meals?”

Ginger managed to stifle a laugh. Though it was unfortunate she suspected this stallion's cooking aptitude was so low he could burn cereal, it was cute watching his almost child-like sense of wonder being stoked. “Correct.”

Ravage found the lasagna recipe. “Aha! I now have the power to create food!” he trumpeted with his right hoof poised triumphantly in the air, like Megatron from a victory over the Autobots. He was so wrapped up in his discovery he hardly noticed that Ginger broke out into a laughing fit. After a few moments, when he did start to realize why she was laughing, she calmed down. “Erm, how much?” he asked, pointing at the simple volume.

Ginger leaned on the counter with her right foreleg, assuming a smug business stance. “If you buy something, it's free.”

Ravage purchased garlic, basil, and ‘Manehatten Medley’, a spice mix the vendor swore the more popular restaurants used. He looked forward to a second consecutive day of getting back to his ship unhindered, and while there was still daylight out. The time had come to steal the aluminum he needed to build his black matter detector! In the heat of excitement he pivoted and leapt into a westward trajectory – and slammed right into Fluttershy. “Ack!!”

“Eep!”

Ravage held his throbbing muzzle, which was in acute pain from hitting Fluttershy's forehead. It was surprising how much pain there was.

“Oh, I am so sorry!” the yellow pegasus pleaded, trying to look around Ravage’s forehooves to look at his muzzle.

“That’s okay. I’ve been hit a lot harder.” He put his hooves down, and saw Fluttershy. This made him smile and practically forget the collision. He was actually glad he ran into her, though he didn’t understand why. Yet, she seemed to almost cower. “I'm the one who hit his nose, but it looks like it was you who got hurt.” Could he have hurt her? It was an uneasy thought, one that never occurred in all his eons. Hurting and destroying was a part of who he was. He was momentarily confused as to why he was concerned about the pegasus mare's welfare.

Fluttershy looked into his honest face. He didn't seem to realize that she practically stalked him, and got in too close. He wasn't angry with her, as she had feared though. “I... I'm fine. Thank you.”

It was almost mesmerizing, watching the flustered mare’s face, as if it were indicating her inner state just as a thermometer indicates temperature. But then, realization hit him. Whenever he saw certain mares, he was likely to stare at them. Could he have unknowingly responded to his body’s emotional input as if it were orders from Megatron? The pondering pony bot felt he was on the verge of something profound, and decided to put some distance between himself and the soft spoken pegasus. “Well then, I guess I'll be on my way.” Ravage moved around Fluttershy and tried to go home.

“Wait!” she interrupted, though in her more typical laid back style. Unlike nearly every other pony, Ravage did wait. He looked directly at Fluttershy, and gave his full attention. Try as she might, words did not want to leave her mouth. Instead a silly grin and lobster-red embarrassment burned her cheeks. “I, uh... Did you want to, uh...?” Beads of sweat formed on her brow as she desperately tried to ask him something. This was so much easier at the library! It was then she remembered, while they were at Pinkie’s surprise party, she had earned his trust and he had earned hers. This gave her a much needed confidence boost. “I want you to walk with me.”

Tilting his head and looking up, Ravage processed this request. “Okay, sure,” he responded with unmatched stoicism, though highly suspicious of why he continued to feel an inclination to be with the mare. “Were you going this way?” he asked, pointing to the direction that would take him home.

Fluttershy lit up. “Yes!” she exclaimed, once again in her drawn out, laid back style. The two proceeded toward their homes, or rather, her home and his hidden infiltration vessel.

Ravage knew he should feel more upset at seeing the beginning of the derailing of his evening plans, yet he was content to stroll with the gentle mare. He inhaled, successfully catching a whiff of her, probably shampoo based, floral scent. Previously, he determined that scents were another form of communication. What was her scent telling him? Everypony smelled the same thing, so she must have been telling the world that she was clean, and took care of her body. Thus, the formation of social bonds was facilitated, even encouraged.

“It's beautiful out,” she responded, smiling at the sniffing stallion.

“If you're alluding to the windless heat, I'd have to disagree with you.”

She giggled, loving his brutal honesty. “No, I was talking about the sunshine, and how all the ponies and animals are content and happy.”

“Contentedness is not a force of nature. Starvation is,” he rebutted.

Fluttershy didn't expect a second dour response. She was aware that Ravage somehow preferred the cold rain and darkness, possibly not all the time, but it ceased to bother her. If anything, it made her feel safer around him. Did he seem uncomfortable with all the happy, smiling ponies around him? What of the pretty birds and their lovely singing? He was right, of course. If the ponies and creatures sat on the bottoms all day long and expected to be cared for, then society couldn't exist, and the animals would simply lie down and die. “No, being content is the reward of hard work,” she bantered back. “Everything around you is pleasant because ponies worked hard to get it.”

Ravage liked that Fluttershy rose to challenge his cynical statement. After all, it made him smile. “Touché, Fluttershy.”

Like their first walk last Sunday, silence played a big part. Ravage began his determinations on why he was feeling the way he did. He made comparisons to other mares he talked to. It was comfortable talking to Bo and Micah, and often fascinating to talk to Twilight. Talking to Fluttershy, in fact just being around her, brought out an electric feeling in his chest he hadn’t felt since – Flitter! His face focused forward as he tried to compare the variables. Fluttershy was gentle, whereas Flitter could get violent. And yet, the feeling was statistically the same. Ravage would have to think more on this curiosity later as they were approaching his walking partner’s cottage.

Fluttershy grew more apprehensive the closer they got to her house. Fortunately, she had long since thought of ways to draw him inside, especially noting what he had just purchased. “Ravage,” she spoke, though a little more frightened than she would have liked. “I noticed you bought some spices. May I ask which ones? I have a large collection, myself.”

“Oh? Uh…” The pony bot had never heard of any of those particular spice types that he purchased today. It took a little effort to dig up his memory of them. “Garlic, basil, and,” he pondered a little harder, assessing if the name was correct, “Manehatten Medley.”

“Oh! What are you going to make?” Fluttershy asked with great interest.

“Lasagna.”

“That’s a delicious meal!” The kind pegasus wished she had thought of it. “I guess you already got all the other ingredients, but forgot the spices.”

“Well, I don’t have everything yet.” Without realizing it, both ponies had stopped. Fluttershy’s house was to the immediate left.

Her heart was racing, as once again, she needed to forward her ground without any assistance. This was it! “Ravage,” she uttered softly, but looked away from him, only to have raised her courage as she forced herself to look directly at him. “I have all of the ingredients. If you like, you can have lasagna at my place. I can show you how to prepare it.” Low cooking skill was assumed; else why not get a complete set of ingredients?

Ravage didn’t have to ponder the idea for very long. Sports, magic, and social gatherings were part of his pony repertoire. Why not add the ability to cook food? Faithfully preparing his pony meal, or rather, oatmeal had long since gotten old. With Fluttershy’s help, he could add a few new meals to his eating regimen. At the very least, it would make his final days in Ponyville more tolerable.

“Okay. That sounds like a good plan,” he said, smiling. Suddenly getting glomped and nuzzled by Fluttershy was totally unexpected. His greatly increased heart rate was not unexpected, but unless he missed his guess, the feeling that came from his gut may have been the fabled ‘butterflies’ he had heard about at work. A strange feeling, it was.


=^.^=


The pair entered Fluttershy’s cottage. “You can put your bags over there,” she suggested, pointing to an alcove that contained her own saddlebags, and other accessories.

Strange, angry sounds suddenly caught Ravage’s attention. He pin pointed the source as the same white Rabbit that was scowling at him last Sunday. Its raspy vocalizations accompanied jumping up and down, and the clenching of its paws.

“Now Angel, you know had to wait till supper time to eat,” she comforted in her soothing voice. The angry thing didn’t stop, and pointed at Ravage with a paw. “You’ve met Ravage before, Angel. He’s going to help prepare our meal tonight.” With unmatched serenity, Fluttershy strode forth toward the pantry leaving the incensed rabbit in her wake.

Like their last meeting, the irate little mammal glared at Ravage, but this time he pointed at the Decepticon pony, as if to challenge.

Ravage ignored the pest, stored his cargo, and got his spices out. The two ponies worked well together in preparing the meal. Fluttershy procured the other ingredients, including broccoli, cauliflower, corn, and carrots to tone up the lasagna. True to her word, she showed Ravage how to cook noodles, flat noodles in that case, and they were ready to go.

She had to go into the yard to feed some of her animals, and Ravage was left to cut vegetables by himself. Using his hooves or his mouth seemed to take forever, and he once again wished he could just transform and use the tools from his robot mode. While making yet another painstaking cut, something hit him on his backside.

Putting the knife down, he turned around. This time he got hit in the face – with the top of a carrot! Irritated, he easily determined the source of the problem: the white rabbit. The trollish thing lobbed another carrot top at him, hitting the Decepticon in the face once again. A myriad ways of dealing with the stupid flesh creature appeared in the Decepticon’s head, and most of them weren’t pleasant. “One more time, and you’ll regret it,” he warned.

Angel was bouncing another carrot top up and down in his paw, projecting a mischievous grin at Ravage.

Ravage turned on his overhead surveillance. He found that Fluttershy had just gone into the chicken coop, and no other ponies approached her cottage. Now Ravage had the rare look of mischief on him, daring the rabbit to throw.

Angel was displeased with this insolent boob, and hurled the discarded piece of vegetable as hard as he could, but it did not strike the stallion. In a flurry of whirring and clicking that was too fast to believe, his body folded, and turned, and twisted, looking like a controlled explosion; his brown coat gave way to shining metal; the tossed carrot seemed to have been absorbed into the chaos. In the end, a giant, taller than Celestia, stood on two legs! Metal ‘things’ took the place of hooves. One of them was holding the carrot top between two pincer-like structures before squishing it. Angel was in shock – what did his mistress let into the house?! He turned around to bolt.

Ravage’s left hand slotted into his forearm, and his tractor beam generator popped out, taking only about a second. The smoky yellow tractor beam caught Angel as he was trying to escape and reeled him in, making alien pulsing sounds as it did. The shutting down of the beam, release of Angel, and subsequent recapture in Ravage’s left hand was done in one fluid motion. He held the offending lapine that so they were face to face.

Angel tried squirming out of the grasp of the metal monster that held him fast. It had a face that looked like some sort of big cat, built onto an obsidian head, but sharp and angular with many facets, like a finely cut gem. Fierce, blood red eyes that glowed had little regard for the rabbit. The captive bunny tried champing his front teeth down onto the hand that was made for interstellar warfare and nearly screamed from the pain, for there was no give in the armor.

“That was not a good idea,” Ravage spoke, his voice now awash in computerized echo. He grinned, and started to squeeze.

Down, down, down went the pitch of the servos and hydraulics that operated his hand, as Angel got squeezed more and more tightly. Angel's eyes were just about to bug out of his head. Ravage stopped at the precise moment when the little thing’s heart could still pump blood into his brain; any further and he would pass out, and he wouldn’t have been able to hear what Ravage had to say.

“Don’t irritate me again,” he threatened as his eyes flared red light. He let go of Angel who then dropped to the floor with a soft thud. Halting just before grievous damage and death was something Ravage rarely did. He didn’t understand the concept of pets, but he did notice a strong bond between Fluttershy and this pitiful little rabbit. Erring on the side of caution, he intended to give it one last warning. Ravage simply transformed back into pony mode and resumed cutting his vegetables.

It took Angel nearly a full minute to recover, but instead of running away he just watched Ravage. The stallion was cutting vegetables and paid the rabbit no mind. He just wanted something to eat. Deciding that it wasn’t worth it to bother him, or complain to Fluttershy since she obviously knew who he was, he hopped away, intent on forgetting the incident as soon as possible.

Ravage himself was almost squeezed to death recently, and it made him think. Silvertail intended to kill him, and he would have if Golgok didn’t need his ‘soul’ or whatever it was he was after. Though sorely tempted to twist the pest’s head from its body, his intention was to warn. Why not act more like Silvertail, and dispose of the vermin properly? Was it for Fluttershy’s sake? She was just a pegasus mare who in less than two weeks he would never see or hear from again.

When he was nearly finished cutting the cauliflower, his pony hostess came back inside. “How’s it going?” she asked, though with more fervor than her typical soft spoken nature.

“Just about done.”

“Oh, I’m sure you’ll get faster with practice,” she concluded. Ravage should have been done by then. Combining the ingredients together, the two placed their concoction in the oven.

She wanted to bathe, since she just worked in the chicken coop, but Ravage also noted that he needed to bathe, having worked all day long. A rather libidinous idea occurred to her: they could both bathe at the same time. Fluttershy entertained thoughts of snuggling up against him in the slippery, warm water. The smell of peach from her bubble bath soap would be so relaxing – and there would be candles! The dreamy mare hadn’t realized her face had stretched into a cartoonish grin.

“That’s a look I’ve never seen from you.” The Decepticon stallion couldn’t figure out this strange new face, though he felt he probably needed more practice at interpretation.

Fluttershy snapped out of it, shaking her head back to alertness. “Oh! Oh my…”

“Actually, I was wondering if I could have that bath now,” he hinted.

“Uh… I need a bath too!” Her big, overly hopeful smile and needy eyes were frozen in place waiting for Ravage’s response.

“Oh.” In hindsight, Ravage supposed that working with the chickens would lead to that eventuality. “In that case, just go ahead. I can go after you.”

Fluttershy deflated. “O – Kay.” Reluctantly she went to the bathroom silently chastising herself for trying to go too fast with Ravage.


=^.^=


After he had cleaned his body, Ravage did one of his favourite things: soaked in the tub. Figuring he had nearly thirty minutes left, he felt it was owed to him, as this was one of the things wanted to do in his ship this evening.

He wasn’t quite happy with Fluttershy’s tub. It didn’t keep the water heated and circulating, and it didn’t filter out the soap suds and debris, which meant he would still have to rinse thoroughly before he could go.

“Ravage, supper’s ready!” Fluttershy called out. She loved the sound of it, but it gave her a nervous chuckle. A beautiful, mysterious stallion was cohabiting her living space, even if it was just for the evening. She couldn’t help but feel apprehensive, but this was a new thing for the shy pony. Stallions have tried to date her before, but she had always squeakily refused. She did have a few flings with mares, but they all felt her shyness was too difficult to deal with. Ravage, with the support of her herd, came into her life a little differently.

At the behest of Twilight and the coordination efforts of Rainbow Dash and Aster, the Elements of Harmony had sat down with the unsuspecting pony – it was only sheer luck that their first meeting wasn’t at the overcrowded Flower Factory. The bookish mare had spoken with Rainbow, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie the previous evening, and the new stallion sounded suitable for their large herd, as he had piqued the interests of some very unalike mares.

Fluttershy liked that half of her friends quickly took a liking to him, giving her the confidence to consider a new face in their herd. Adding to her defenses was the fact that all of them, as well as Spike and Aster, sat at the table during the first lunch. The cautious mare was encouraged by what she saw. He was not a jerk; he was polite. He seemed well educated, in spite of the job he was currently doing, and was easily able to carry a conversation with any of her friends. His body was not the stout type that could be found in the ranks of guards. To Fluttershy’s experienced eye, Ravage’s body was slinky, with a subdued, almost cat-like influence in its appearance. This was an observation even Twilight missed, probably due to focusing on his pronounced backside musculature. Fluttershy loved to dream about him, and when she did, his body was on full display in all its slim glory. In fact, it excited her.

And then there were his eyes. Those gorgeous, silver orbs were captivating! Fluttershy had stared at them for the first time on the patio that day, slowly being taken in by their spell. What should have been an austere grey colour turned out to be shimmering and unique. In fact, when Ravage’s head was at just the right angle, flashes of colour could be seen in the pupil. A trick of the light, the enamoured pegasus had no doubt; his eyes were so beautiful that they not only reflected light, they diffracted it like the jewels they were.

Hoofsteps could be heard as Ravage came down the stairs. The food-inspired smile on her guest’s face in turn made Fluttershy smile.

“That smells good,” he said with interest. He wasn’t making it up. The smell of the lasagna they made together got his hunger cranked up, and his mouth salivating. He also smelled the spices he just purchased. Though skeptical at first, he now knew the true value of spices.

Spices made food good.

Both ponies hungrily ate up their food. Fluttershy’s appetite was far greater than Ravage expected, and he liked that she was able to put away food like that. They talked about what they had done with their days. Fluttershy, eager for more input on Ravage, always had questions regarding Bo and Micah, whom he had good friendships with. It turned out that he was having supper at their place next Tuesday.

“They just decided they liked you? Just like that?” Fluttershy was impressed with the eagerness the unicorn engineers took to liking Ravage.

“Pretty much.”

Ponies liked ponies that were confident, she thought. It was then she noticed her guest seemed to be nursing the back of his shoulder. “Is your neck sore, Ravage?”

He didn’t expect the concern, though he knew he should have. “Yeah,” he conceded. “Winter rubbed my shoulders when she and her unicorn buddies asked me out.” The annoyed stallion kept trying to rub the muscle himself, but to no avail. “That was yesterday. It sure made a difference.”

Fluttershy already knew about the stallion’s Sunday date from Rarity. That was okay, because his apparent aches and pains gave her a honey of an idea. “Would you like me to massage your back?”

He seemed surprised. “You can do that?”

“Oh my, yes!” She smiled, giddy as a school girl. “I can help you after we clean up.”

Ravage could only ask about the hostess’ animals, Angel in particular. Fluttershy’s pet functioned as a companion, and was simultaneously resentful and respectful. He always bugged her for the best food, as often as he wanted it, yet he looked after her when she was feeling down.

“That was excellent food,” Ravage complimented, effecting another cultural norm he had picked up from watching Bo and Micah. This time, however, he really meant it. He got up to help Fluttershy clean. Perhaps it was because he kept his ship tidy, but he certainly felt the compulsion.

“You helped too, Ravage. Thank you,” she said while smiling and nodding. “Did you want to relax on the back porch after we clean?”

“Alright.” He smiled at the hostess. Like he did with Winter the previous day, Ravage was beginning to stare at Fluttershy, yet again. He was not as surprised this time, and he suspected he knew why. Many of the features that made Winter so appealing Fluttershy also possessed. He tore his head away and kept scrubbing.

Ravage’s little show didn’t escape Fluttershy. Using her own experience, and combining it with Rarity’s suggestion to just spend time with him, Fluttershy could swear that Ravage might be interested. This gave way to an almost euphoric sense of elation, and a wide grin crossed her face. This new, heightened status yielded some confidence, and the pegasus mare found herself coming up with ideas she only rarely considered. Some of them she would test in the yard.


=^.^=


When there was nothing more he could help with, the sated stallion bot sat down in the middle of the living room carpet. If he were at Bo and Micah’s everypony would be chatting, and he would just try to go with the flow. Alternatively, he could try to excuse himself from this strangely silent environment, and forget about the porch structure that Fluttershy was about to introduce him to. All he would need is a night – one single night to acquire and purify the aluminum, and then another to build the detector. There was enough energon to go around, so he could use his antigravity pods to move the frame, even the whole statue.

The hostess came into the living room with purpose behind every hoof fall. Ravage suspected that he couldn’t leave just yet.

“Could you lend a hoof, please? I need you to help me move something.” The object of her affections stood straight up, almost as if he was a soldier. No food coma for this guy!

Ravage went with Fluttershy into her store room, and after uncovering half a ton of chicken feed, moved a device called a ‘futon’ to the back porch. Evidently, it was piece of furniture that could transform, and it had two modes. The first mode was like a couch, which was how it was stored.

The second mode functioned like a bed. “Come on up,” she beckoned, tapping a spot beside her with her hoof.

The Decepticon noticed quite a large number of birds gather in the vicinity as he clambered on. Was it some sort of effect induced by Fluttershy's Element of Kindness?

“Lie on your belly,” Fluttershy instructed. Her guest did as he was told, and she got on top, straddling him between her hind legs. Her wing bases began to tingle, probably from her love interest being in such a prone position with herself on top, but she stifled the reaction. Her hooves explored from the middle of his back and out, giving her an overview of which areas need more attention. “Oh my, your shoulders are carrying a lot of tension.”

At first, Ravage didn't know how to evaluate the small wrenches of pain he got as Fluttershy did her work. Before long though, he was relaxing, and then thoroughly enjoying the pegasus hostess' nimble hooves. Winter's backrub felt good, but it was nothing like this! Whereas Winter performed the same motion repetitively, Fluttershy's strokes found the sorest of his muscle fibers, loosened them up, and followed with a more generalized massaging. It was an amazing physical experience that lasted nearly fifteen minutes.

“Words cannot describe how good that feels, Fluttershy.” Ravage just let himself act on his feelings, but monitored the ‘electric-chest-feeling’ very closely.

The gentle mare was elated, and practically gasped at the positive feedback. “Would you like me to do your backside as well?” She blushed at the very suggestion, and knew her impulses may have been getting the better of her.

“Sure.” Why stop a good thing? Of course, Ravage thought that 'backside' equated to 'lower back', which is where Fluttershy started. But she didn't stop there.

His face contorted in surprise as one of the pony no-touch zones was breached; the infamous 'hooves on flank' maneuver was in progress. The conditions for it to occur were met: two ponies, and privacy. However, this was different than what was seen in the video during the early parts of the study of Equestria. It wasn't a clandestine reach out, squeeze and retract action, but a methodical effort to relieve muscle tension, as was done in his shoulders.

“Oh my, your legs are so muscular,” she meekly observed. They were almost devoid of tension too. As professional as Fluttershy was, her long repressed libido started to revolt again, and her wings began to splay out of their own accord. However, their progress to full arousal was halted when her attention was diverted by something unusual about Ravage's flanks. Beneath the outer inches of strong fiber lay not more musculature and bone, but a sheet? It was wall-like, but difficult to detect through all the muscle. Perhaps it was something he had acquired to recover from an injury in his youth? Or was he just that strong?

It wasn’t easy to find either. She had prodded for nearly a full minute before she realized that Ravage was looking right at her, one eyebrow raised.

“Eep!” Fluttershy immediately disengaged her probing.

Ravage was not threatened, or even disturbed. Twilight grabbed his backside for science; Fluttershy massaged over his weapon bay doors by accident. Muscle that was deeper inside him had frozen into armor mode, unknowingly reacting to Fluttershy’s tissue reorganizations. He simply willed the musculature back into pony mode and the hard, wall-like feeling disappeared. It was amusing to look at the yellow mare’s confused face, as her findings vanished before her eyes. “Thank you, Fluttershy. That was incredibly pleasant.”

“Oh! Er, uh… You liked it?” she fumbled. Her guest nodded and started to get up. “Oh wait, Ravage! There’s one more part,” she requested, having started hovering, her right front hoof directing him to stay.

“More massaging?” he queried. He didn’t feel he needed it, and his host pony seemed to be getting – impatient? Edgy may have been a more appropriate description, for Ravage was not certain. She had zipped back inside her house, and returned with two pillows.

“Lie on your side, please,” she requested.

Ravage saw no reason not to. As he lied down, she put a cool, fluffy pillow under his face. Indeed, everything he had done with Fluttershy this evening had been most pleasant.

And that worried him.

With her own pillow, she lied down in front of him, her back making gentle contact with bits of his barrel. She began describing, in surprising scientific detail, the scenes of nature that could be seen from just her back yard, from the myriad different types of birds and their behaviors, to the little mammals that scurried about. Every kind of animal, flower, tree, insect, and fungus that could be seen without moving from her comfy futon was meticulously characterized.

Ravage made many database entries. Fluttershy was full of surprises, but the scale of her intellect was the most profound. In fact, if he were to judge the yellow mare’s brain power among her fellow Elements, he’d say she was second after Twilight.

After a while, they were just staring at their surroundings. Under the late evening sky, the landscape was a living thing in of itself, and now Ravage had an appreciation for what was right in front of him. Till then, he never cared for it, but at least now he considered it, and understood how the web of life could easily fascinate a young mind.

The good food, calm of the late evening, and the new found respect for the yellow pegasus who always hid from confrontation caused Ravage to do another biological first: he took a nap – with a mare.


=^.^=


Purposely dropping the saddlebag full of tools, the clanging woke Ravage and Fluttershy. “Hey ‘Shy, I brought yer gardening tools back,” Applejack said with a smirk.

Ravage was surprised once again. It turns out his pegasus hostess had abandoned her pillow and opted to use this right foreleg as a headrest, and she had crammed herself against him without him noticing. The sun had set, and the descent of darkness in progress meant Luna was about to make an appearance.

Fluttershy hopped off the futon, with Ravage right behind her. “Did the tools work out?” she asked her friend.

“Ab-so-lutely! Granny got all her gardening done,” Applejack replied with bluster. The earth pony came in closer to her friend. “It’s just that Applebloom and her friends thought they could get their cutie marks in gardening and wrecked m’ah other set,” she explained, still feeling perturbed from having to resort to borrowing farming tools from Fluttershy.

“That’s alright,” she said, and with a great deal more confidence that Applejack was used to. She then noticed Ravage making like he needed to leave.

“I gotta go. Thank you for the evening, Fluttershy,” the pony bot politely spoke. The look of her face – it seemed so longing. Deciding to ‘nip it in the bud’, as his coworkers liked to say, he tried to complete what Fluttershy might have been thinking. “Actually, is it possible for you to show me how to cook on another night?”

Fluttershy let out a joyous gasp. “Really? I mean… Yes! Yes, of course.” She thought of an appropriate time. “Would Monday evening do?”

“Most certainly,” he nodded in agreement. Before he could say anything else, he was once again glomped by Fluttershy. She kissed his cheek, and let him go.

“Goodnight Ravage,” she spoke again, maintaining her new-found confidence.

“Goodnight Fluttershy, Applejack,” he replied, and nodded to both. He turned around and parted ways.

Applejack observed the departing stallion with interest. “Sorry for waking you two like that, but I didn’t know you were sleepin’,” she apologized.

The love-struck mare watched as Ravage walked way. “It’s okaaay.”

“Hey, ‘Ah didn’t know you had a date with Ravage.” Applejack prodded.

“I – uh, I didn’t,” she sputtered, blushing a bit. Her and Ravage got closer than she had ever experienced with a stallion.

“It’s probably for the best. The way our society is, we could get excluded from dating because our herd is so big.”

Fluttershy hummed dreamily.

“It looks like we both need to hit the hay.” Applejack gently hugged her friend. “Good job, by the way,” she complimented, approving of Fluttershy’s handling of Ravage. The orchard mare tipped her hat to her friend, and the two parted ways.


=^.^=


Ravage trotted, and was again tempted to break out into a gallop. And then, as if a dimmer switch had been put on the sky itself, the dusk became darkness, and the stars were soon joined by the moon. The sphere looked as if it had been shot into the sky with a canon.

Ravage stopped, annoyed by Luna’s continued antics. He could not go back to the ship now! He was sick of this, and eagerly looked forward to the day he could leave the planet. But not now; there was not enough energon to power his escape.

Walking again, his new plan was to take the fork in the path north to the Whitetail Woods. He could sleep in a meadow, and it didn’t matter that it was going to be a cold night, because he could burn a little energon to keep warm.


=^.^=


From one of the great balconies that stretched out from Canterlot Castle, a lone dark alicorn stood still in concentration: the Princess of the Night! From the edge she was treated to twin views of nature, from the verdant valleys of Equestria below to the majestic sky above. The world felt big up there, and it influenced one's perspective, pressing them to consider the big picture.

Luna’s horn powered down from her lightning fast resurrection of the moon. And then, her horn and eyes glowed brightly as she prepared to activate another spell…

“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” she jingled.

Luna placed her legs squarely apart from each other, as she launched one of the most powerful magics in her arsenal. Within seconds, she had access to the eyes and ears of every creature of the night; every bird, every insect, every frog, every bat; any terrestrial creature that lived when the Moon was up and within the domain of the Princesses became Luna’s unwitting spy. Such was the power of the Night Dweller spell. Of course, no two spells were the same, and the Princess limited its geometric range to as far as ten miles beyond the southern outskirts of Ponyville and everything within that radius. She would also feel no sensation unless it was Ravage who was being gazed upon.

“Ah, there you are,” she chortled, as she watched him traverse the darkened forest. “A true creature of the night indeed.” Luna had been scheming up ways to interact with Ravage better. The first step: find out where he lives. Such knowledge would facilitate the sending of gifts and surprise visits, but the servant Luna had tasked to gather information on him said she couldn’t find his name on any citizen registry. This left the night Princess no other option but to gather the information herself. No matter, he probably went by ‘Ravage’ as his preferred name. After all, what mother would actually give their foal such a name?

Luna bore a toothy smile as she thought of what Ravage’s face might be like upon teleporting at his doorstep. Only the most powerful ponies were capable of such feats, and he would be awed by her great magical power. Or better yet, she could teleport directly into his bed! Back in the day she loved to do that, and her face took on a maniacal appearance at the idea. You thought you were going to sleep? You thought wrong! But her dreaming wasn't without opposition as logic and reason battled with her overwhelming sense of lust. In the end, her wits won out. Their date was only eight days away, and she could have him then. She let out a sigh when familiar hoofsteps were heard approaching the balcony. She turned her head towards the source. “Sister?”


=^.^=


Applejack walked up to her home, looking forward to some shut-eye. Before she could, her keen eyes, honed to detect timberwolves, vampire fruit bats, and other trouble, noticed a peculiarity in the distance. It was moving with a pony’s gait, so it was probably a pony.

Ravage?


=^.^=


“Good evening, Luna,” Princess Celestia acknowledged with a serene smile. “I brought cookies!”

It was then that Luna noticed a tray that consisted of tea and cookies had been placed on the balcony table, no doubt when she was staring out over the horizon. “Double chocolate I see,” she observed, eyes still glowing. Those were the dark Princess’ favourite. “So, to what do I owe a visit from the Keeper of the Day, since she would otherwise be sleeping?” she jabbed. Luna deactivated the spell since it looked like her sibling wanted to have an in-depth talk. The fact she delivered the tray herself supported this.

“Straight to the point as always.” Celestia liked that about her sister. “You’ve been acting differently during the past week.”

“If I behaved the same every day, I would be a boring Princess.”

Celestia nodded. “Very true. It is better to be lively and exciting.” Her sister’s stony face showed desire for the conversation to be over, for she probably wished to get back to whatever it was she was doing, but it had to wait. “You have acquired lilt in your mannerisms; bounce in your step. I like it.”

Luna floated over one of the chocolaty treats. “So when I eat this cookie… I am displaying more lilt?” she spoke through a mouthful of sugary paste. Sometimes, when it was just her and her sister, ‘unnecessary’ cultural rules went out the window.

“Yes.” Celestia answered, smiling as if in victory.

Luna swallowed. “Okay, what of it?”

“You really want to play this game?” Celestia loved guessing the motives of ponies, including her sister. Luna’s lack of change of her expression gave her the go-ahead. “Alright. Who is he?”

Luna froze, if only temporarily. It was enough to allow Celestia to win the game. “Can I not hide anything from you?” she said, annoyed.

The Princess of the Day laughed. “Love is a little hard to conceal.” Celestia sipped her tea.

“He calls himself… Ravage,” Luna admitted, submitting the spoils of victory to her counterpart.

Celestia chuckled. “He sounds like the future child of Rainbow Dash. Is he as volatile?”

Luna thought on it. “No. No, not at all. He is more purposeful. Calculating, I dare say.” It was Luna’s turn to sip tea, which turned out to be moon flower and rosebud, another one of her favourites. “I guess you already know all about him?”

Celestia’s sly smile indicated the affirmative.

Luna didn’t have to think for very long. “Twilight?” Her sister nodded. “Still writing letters to her former instructor I see.”

“And she always shall. We both enjoy each others company and communication.” She knew Luna would want to know Twilight’s position. “She’s interested in Ravage too, as is her herd. That will complicate things.” Till then, Princess Celestia only suspected that her sibling's interest in Ravage may extend beyond a mere one night romp.

“It shouldn’t. Ravage may choose who he wishes,” Luna countered.

Celestia didn’t want another Nightmare Moon incident, and chose her next words carefully. “If I had your blessing, and asked Cadance to test your love, what might I find?”

Luna sighed, knowing where this was going. “That it is true. And strong.”

Celestia grinned at her sister. “Then I shall prepare to get used to seeing the face of your earth pony boyfriend around the castle.” As predicted, Luna was quite surprised at her sister’s stance.

The Dark Princess’ expression slowly morphed into that of joy. “And what of Twilight’s herd?”

Celestia put both forelegs on Luna’s shoulders. “What of them? Twilight may be my former faithful student and a good friend, but you are my sister.” The next moment, Luna had pulled her into a tight embrace, to which she reciprocated, good memories and nostalgia flooding her mind. It felt good.

The pair ended the embrace and relaxed on the balcony with their goodies. Celestia was figuring out what kind, and the order of questions to ask, while Luna tried to figure out how to say how difficult Ravage was being, resisting her like he was.

Celestia was the first to ask. “Have you decided where to take your beau next Friday?”

Luna blushed a bit. “Actually, he insisted on treating me.” Celestia was surprised, as expected. “In Ponyville,” she said flatly. It was practically embarrassing to say it.

The Day Keeper took a few seconds to formulate a response. “Ambitious, yet quaint.” She had known construction workers to be bold, and hoped Ravage's date plan would impress her sister.

“And he's not exactly my beau, although I would like him to be.”

“No doubt due to the rules of engagement, which you laid down centuries ago,” Celestia countered. “Which leads me to my next question. How could you fall in love with a mortal that you have not so much as kissed? I thought the Princess of Lust was about the magic of making love.”

To abolish jealous rivalries as well as prevent any new ones from occurring, Luna declared, several centuries ago, that a pony can date whomever she wants as long as it was just for pleasure, and the annealing of future commitments was not permitted. When courtship was to begin the pony, typically a mare, selects one other pony, or couple, or herd, and proceeds. She is committed then, until the courtship is either broken, or marriage or herdship occurs. As long as a pony is not being courted the individual, couple, or herd, may pursue as many dates as they wish. Indeed, Luna had long recognized that her ponies are a gregarious species.

“Times have changed,” Luna quoted, remembering her first psychic conversation with Ravage.

“Indeed, they have. Of course, you understand that falling in love with a mortal will have consequences in a few decades?”

“I am not concerned with age and mortality.” Luna really needed to broach the subject on the unusual magical connection she had with Ravage. “You think I should disguise myself and play with random ponies in the populace?”

“It works for me.” Celestia sipped her tea. “I have my fun, and in the lustful way that you yourself enjoy. Besides, it prevents me from being expected to start a family, creating even more lines of nobility.” The extremely unbalanced wealth and influence that the nobles of Canterlot carried over all other ponies was more than just a little upsetting to the sisters. Celestia was forever thankful that Luna's love making had not contributed the bloated aristocracy.

“I've always felt that my lovers should see my true face,” Luna countered. Of course, she could disguise herself easily. In fact, she could use that ability to get closer to Ravage. “And yes, not creating anymore noble lines helps us all.” She then posed the serious question that needed to be asked. “Celestia, if you well and truly fell in love with one of your dates, how do you deal with the outcomes? None of them are pretty.”

“That's the brutal truth, isn't it?” Celestia didn't like it either. “Leaving a great lover and trying not to think of the consequences is the least damning way to go about it. It's why I've kept my forays to one-night stands, and the occasional weekend.” She saw her sister was concentrating on the issue.

“Since we're talking about brutal truth,” Luna began, “I'd like to point out that Ravage - err - doesn't like me very much.” Celestia did a rare double-take, and nearly lost the magical grip on her tea cup.

Luna went through the veritable rap sheet on all the misdeeds she'd made regarding Ravage. Celestia was stunned that he completely ignored the Declaration of Love by the lake, astonished at his ability to evade the night guard, shocked at his backtalk when she was finally able to telepathically reach him, perplexed that he insisted on covering the date with her sister, puzzled by his dangerous swim by the Ponyville dam, and angered that he left her sister right after she had saved him. Of course, that anger was tempered by the fact that Luna didn't take the poor near drowned pony to the nearest hospital and dragged him into her bedroom instead.

“If I may be so bold,” Celestia started, “Ravage seems to resist very powerful ponies. Wealth and power don't seem to matter to him. It's possible he prefers the simple life. In fact – and I know you're going to hate this – he seems to be doing just fine with the Elements. Fluttershy is very smitten with him.”

“Fluttershy?” the Night Princess blurted in a spate of recognition. So that's who I smelled, she then realized. She had given hearty hugs to Fluttershy on her first experience with Nightmare Night, and knew her scent.

“You don't look as if you're going to abandon Ravage,” the Princess of the Day observed.

“Never!”

“I admire your fighting spirit. May I ask what continues to drive you? If he won't be enticed by the vast powers of royalty, then you've got a steep, uphill battle to win him over.” Celestia took another sip of her tea, looking for ways she could best help her sister. “In the end he's only mortal, and sadly, he would fade from your loving hooves before the century turns.”

Luna needed to tell her sister about the magical bond. If Ravage ended up joining the Elements of Harmony and the bond didn't disband, but kept increasing... “There is another matter.” Luna took a deep breath and tried to relax. Her sister grew tense, and braced herself for bad news. “I have established that I have a magical bond with Ravage. If I focus, I can feel his emotional state, his health, and in time I will be able to locate him without any other aid. The bond is getting stronger.”

Celestia dropped her tea.


=^.^=


Ravage came into a fairly wide open meadow, full of tall grasses and shrubs. He activated his blood heating system and powered it with energon. Simply put, he would remain comfortable not matter how cold it got outside.

He found a suitable spot by a maple tree, and lied down. The dew might get uncomfortable, but it was hidden well enough.

Proximity Alert: Unit Applejack.

The green box in the upper corner of his vision summarized the earth pony. The satellite infrared showed her bearing down on his position, and yet he heard nothing, and couldn’t even see rustling in the brush.

She’s got impressive stealth capabilities. I’ll give her that, he thought. He had seconds to decide his next move. He would either confront Applejack, or evade her, and he was sick and tired of evading. Even if he did get away, he was fairly certain the stalwart mare would just double and redouble her resolve.

Ravage quickly went through his options, as a confrontation could result in her telling the other ponies that he didn’t have a proper home. Decepticons did not live in thatched roof houses.

If he killed her, he would likely be fighting Luna in minutes, and he knew for a fact that she was tough. Even though her true might was only hinted at, he didn’t want to take any chances. He could disable Applejack... A thin, ultraviolet laser through the hippocampus would render her alive, but incapacitated with catastrophic dementia, and the entry wound would look like nothing more than a small burn. It would still be tricky though. If his aim was even slightly off, she would get killed. More than that, he would have to do it without alerting Luna.

Now he heard the gentle rustling of bushes as Applejack got closer. What would she think of this? The farm mare had been known to get adversarial, even combative. However, the Decepticon pony would not allow himself to be intimidated, or frightened, or blackmailed by her.

Ravage assumed a sleeping position, curling into a ball against the chilly air. Her hoof steps put Applejack within half a meter of him, whereupon he looked straight at her.

The curious mare didn’t hide her puzzlement. “What are ya doin’?”

“I went out for some night air, and decided to rest.”

Applejack was not convinced. “Uh-huh.”

“You appear to be doing the same.”

“'Ah was following you, ya big galoot.”

“Oh? And why is that?” Ravage asked with sinister undertones in his speech. He was not happy to have been followed, and his face projected it.

Applejack tried her best to make sense of the situation. Was he really intent on sleeping outside? Ponyville was right there! “Ravage,” she began, trying her best to stick to what she knew, “It looks to me like you’re sleeping outside tonight. Now, 'Ah could understand if it was campin’, or adventurin’ but…” She took a breath and gathered her thoughts, “Okay, I just gotta ask ya a question.” Ravage’s face didn’t change. “Is yer home nearby?”

The smiling pony bot chortled. “No.”

Applejack was disturbed by what sounded like a happy reply to a bleak situation. “Ravage, in case ya haven’t noticed, Fluttershy likes you. What do ya think she’d say if she knew ya had no home? Now don’t sugar coat it.”

“Probably ‘Oh’, or ‘Oh my.’ Something along those lines.” Unexpectedly, the mention of home in the sense Applejack used made him uncomfortable. It was difficult to describe, but it felt like cold water pooling in his chest. Regardless, the Decepticon did not approve of being interrogated either. It was time to leave this strange mare, so he got up and started to walk away.

Applejack wouldn’t have it. “Whoah! Whoah there, partner. Where do ya think yer goin’?”

“I find the lack of privacy disturbing.”

“Now hold on there!” she demanded, running up to his left side. “It's rude to turn yer back and leave durin' a conversation.”

“It is also rude to follow ponies without their knowledge.”

Applejack was angered and sputtered at the back talk, but kept her cool. “Look, ‘Ah don't normally do that. It's just that I saw ya walkin' the trail over at the farm. Thought it was odd.”

At least Ravage knew where he went wrong, but there was a much larger problem with Applejack telling everypony he didn't have a place to live. He began recalculating, trying to circumnavigate societal integration, and he came up with some useful notions.

His ship didn't need to be hidden in order to receive energon; he could just as easily orbit the planet. On the way out, he could steal the statue with the aluminum in broad daylight. It didn't matter what the locals thought. They didn't have digital technology, or even space flight. The problem then would be to prove his theory that black matter plays a role in how Equestrian magic works, and he didn't want to return to Cybertron empty-handed.

Applejack was feeling very bothered with how Ravage was completely ignoring her. Had she done him so wrong? He sure seemed pissed that she discovered that he had no place to live. Strangely, he didn't look any worse for wear. Drifters were always grubby and scrawny, yet Ravage had taken very good care of his body. He didn't always shower at Twilight's, either. She had to know what all this meant. She had to ask him questions, but without getting shut down by that prideful attitude of his.

The curious mare thought of an approach. “Ravage?”

The Decepticon was so focused in his planning he had almost forgotten that Applejack was there. “Yes?”

She knew this part of the trail well, in particular an area that lay to the west. “There's somethin' I want ya to see. Ever hear of Runner's Ridge?"

The calculating stallion concentrated a bit. “No, I have not,” shaking his head.

“Ah'd like to show it to you,” Applejack offered. “It's quite a sight.”

Ravage stopped, and she stopped with him. “Okay, let's go.” The ponies had shown him useful things since he got here. There was no reason to start doubting them now.

The pair headed off on a barely noticeable trail for about ten minutes, stopping at a large ridge. There was a steep downgrade to more of the forest below, its treetops now oddly in direct view, just covering the horizon. This had the effect of having the sky appear even vaster.

“Impressive topography,” Ravage noted, trying to hide a tinge of sarcasm. It reminded him of that 'other' ridge where his problems with Luna began.

For a few minutes, he and his companion mare sat and gazed into the star-filled sky; the stars of Earth. Whereas Applejack was filled with wonder, Ravage was slowly becoming more and more uncomfortable, as a sickness grew in his chest. Due to the circumstances brought on by space bridge manipulation, Cybertron was close to Earth, and it took less than two days to fly between the two planets. If this was Earth, he could fly home... His home. But alas, it was not meant to be, and the sick feeling only increased in strength. What – what is happening?! he thought helplessly. Emotions were supposed to shift seamlessly, not bomb the brain!

Applejack was about to ask him a question when she saw a look on him that took her by complete surprise. It was a combination of sadness and longing, as he gazed intently upon the night sky. She had never seen the steely, uncompromising stallion look like this. “Ravage, is somethin' wrong?”

“I miss my home,” he uttered unsteadily. His eyes closed and he looked away from Applejack. He had no idea what compelled him to share critical information like that. The sudden onset of this powerful emotion took him by surprise. He had spent eons away from Cybertron, and he never missed it like he did now.

Applejack hugged the stricken, catatonic pony. “Ah’m here for ya Ravage, don’t you worry,” she soothed, starting to stroke his back. “Everything’s gonna be alright.” It was shocking, really, to see the pillar of strength and resolve that was Ravage reduced so quickly.

Ravage desperately tried to quantify these new feelings. He knew that this is what sadness was. He didn’t realize it until that moment, but low levels of this feeling had been pervading his psyche since he first walked into Ponyville, but he just ignored them, as he had always ignored them. The sheer alien environment and culture, the mammoth distance from Cybertron, and the unanswered radio calls all conspired to make him intolerably lonely, longing for his home. As a Decepticon, he could just ignore it, but his organic components would not be denied. Whether he wanted to do it or not, this issue had to be addressed.

The embrace of Applejack, with her gently petting hooves lending extra support, did a lot to help him – and he had no idea why. Mercifully, the sadness started to fade. Minutes later he was nearly back to normal. What was that?! He saw the dependable Applejack continuing her hug, and he embraced her with his left foreleg. “Thanks.”

She let him go, and looked at him almost smugly. “Don't mention it.” She recalled a story which seemed relevant. “’Ah grew up in Ponyville, ya know. On the farm. But I also wanted more adventure outta life. To that end, I moved in with m’ah aunt and Uncle Orange, and stayed in Manehattan. It was an exciting town, and I learned the ways of livin’ there pretty well. 'Ah became a socialite, but I always knew somethin’ was missing. One trick o’ the rainbow later, I realized m’ah true home was here, so I came back.”

Applejack was the Element of Honesty, and intimately connected to the other Elements, all of whom resided in Ponyville. “It appears you made the correct decision.”

“Yeah, things turned out pretty good.” She noticed that Ravage had lied down on his back, supporting his head on a lump of earth and grass, staring up at the stars again. “You're gonna be alright this time?” Ravage nodded at the sturdy farm mare. She then lied down beside him, and shared his viewpoint to space.

Another few minutes passed, and Applejack decided to make her move. “’Ah hope Ah’m not being to forward, but could ya tell me where you’re from?”

Applejack had earned the right to ask, even though the stallion bot still had to iron out what happened and why. But he had prepared for this question, and having a plan in place to leave with the aluminum if things went sour helped out. “I come from a place of fantastic science, where our achievements span from horizon to horizon; from a people of great technical sophistication.”

They were called Autobots and Decepticons.

Ravage looked to the side to see Applejack was looking at him with one eyebrow raised. Clearly, he couldn’t dodge the question. Looking up into space once again, he decided to give his best answer.

“Cybertron.”

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