• Published 27th Oct 2014
  • 1,333 Views, 30 Comments

Silver Star Apple and the Search for More Money, Love, The Meaning of Life, and Magical Cards - SilverStarApple

He arrived in Canterlot a few years ago with a sack of bits, good eyes, and a greater vision. Now he's the sixth-richest, third strongest, and most handsome. But when even gold loses its lustre, Silver must embrace friendship and- WOAH, MAGIC CARDS?

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4 - The Strength of Family

A rooster let loose its strange rooster roar to remind a certain crimson farmer, who’d been out all night, that he’d earned the right to sleep in today. Princess Celestia’s vast and beautiful sun’s rays bathed the charming farm in a warm spring-sun glow, and all seemed right with the world.

And then a falling meteor hit the field, causing a titanic crash and sending a monochromatic black-and-white mushroom cloud to the sky. A crash that caught Big mac’s attention. He raised his head into the camera’s view in surprise, and turned around. Gazing at the spreading mushroom cloud that rose from the meteor’s point of impact, he braced himself and grabbed the thickest tree around him, only for the spreading clouds of black and white magical energy to phase right through him and everything else, as if the whole thing was an illusion.

Eeeyup, that was weird.

Pretty weird, alright.

And if he didn’t check it out now, it would likely bite him in the butt later that day.

Ignoring the danger and heading for the point of impact, he found a crater four feet wide and ten feet deep. Jumping in, he found something small. It was small, rectangular, and thin... It appeared to be some sort of playing card, only... indestructible.

One corner, just one corner was in the ground, and it was less than an inch in the ground, like it had been thrown there by one of those weirdos who could somehow throw playing cards like they were razor-sharp discs. Peering closer to the card, as the smoke all around him started to fade away, he saw something on the black and white card. At the top, the letter ‘V’, followed by three letter ‘I’s. At the bottom, one word in black-outlined white text, “Strength”. And in the center, a monochromatic drawing of an eyeless mare with a wide, shark-toothed grin, her hooves wrapped around the neck of a life-sized stuffed-toy lion with button eyes and a stitched frown. She had already wrapped her hooves around the animal’s neck, and she had sprung into the air and turned to the side, using the weight of her body to unbalance the plush Lion and pull his head down to strike the ground beneath them.

An intense aura of magical energy seeped into the air and simmered around this strange card, which seemed to be... calling to him.

“Nnnope,” He flatly said, turning around and getting out of the crater.

“Nnnope,” He repeated as he walked back to his home.

“Nnnope,” He repeated to himself as he walked up his wooden stairs, hopped onto his bed, and closed his eyes for a well-earned nap. “Nnnope, nnnope, nnnope, nnnope...”

He was in Ponyville for one reason and one reason alone. To reconnect with his family, make some new friends, and see Twilight more often. Some may have called that more than one reason, but he knew if he planned on getting all reasons over and done with as soon as possible, he could count them as one and therefore fit them all on one line, to save space on his mental To-Do list. His will was unstoppable, his determination overflowing, and nothing could distract him from his goals.

But he felt hungry, so Silver Star Apple chose to take a brief detour.

A detour that landed him in Sugarcube Corner, a building shaped like a giant gingerbread house. The wonderful scents of freshly baked cakes and pastries greeted him. He could forgive the absurd décor when the place smelled this good. He closed his eyes and took in a deeper breath, letting the scent fill his lungs, and there, at the counter, was a sight he’d never forget. Her bright, innocent, joyful and lively baby blue eyes, and her brighter smile. Her hot pink body, well-furred and muscles tense, like a coiled spring perpetually ready to jump... No, like a puppy perpetually ready to play. She lit up upon seeing him, the supernova of light and life growing even brighter, and he noticed what felt like a tiny smile appear on his own face as he beheld such beauty and adorable cuteness, growing into a proper smile as her infectious joy took hold in his heart. Something about her innocence made this building’s décor feel less like a somewhat tacky design choice and more like something that perfectly reflected its owner’s spirit.

She gasped, but not like a normal pony. Instead, it was a massive, overdramatic audible inhalation of air, her mouth stretching open so widely that a snake would have backed away nervously. And yet, somehow, on this incredibly open and honest mare, who didn’t seem to have an untruthful bone in her body, it seemed perfectly genuine. “Hi, I’m Pinkie Pie! Welcome to Sugarcube Corner! What would you like?” She asked happily.

“You.” He almost blurted out, but managed to restrain himself. “Do you do milkshakes?” Silver asked.

“Yep!” Pinkie Pie said happily. “We have chocolate, banana, strawberry and apple!”

“Strawberry, please.” Silver said, because that was his favourite flavour. Not Apple. Apples were alright, and they tasted great after doing something epic, but his true love was the flavour of strawberries.

“Just stay right here.” Pinkie said in excitement, and she rushed off into the back room, leaving behind a pink blur. The odd slurping sound of a milkshake machine pouring its contents into a glass could be heard, followed by the higher-pitched sound of foam entering a glass. That same pink blur rushed back to the counter while carrying a tall glass filled with a pink liquid, a light white froth on the top, a strawberry impaled perfectly on the glass’s edge - though not squashed enough to cause precious berry juice to leak down the glass’s side - and a blue bendy straw in the drink’s center. Without even slightly disturbing the liquid within, she placed the drink on the counter with grace impressive even for an Earth Pony, the very picture of naturally-superior magic-enhanced balance and skill. “That’ll be two bits!”

Silver’s horn started to glow, summoning forth a tome-sized orange fabric bag with his Cutie Mark on it, opening it up, and taking out two bits. He gave them to her, dismissed his bag, and happily levitated his drink closer to him with his magic as she took the bits and placed them in a register. “Thanks!” Pinkie said happily.

Silver took his drink, sat down at the table nearest to her, closed his eyes, and sipped his straw.

His eyes widened in surprise when the liquid graced his tongue, the incredible sweetness overwhelming his senses as his mind focused more and more on that drink, trying to decipher what made it so amazingly wonderful.

“This is... delicious!” He whispered to Pinkie, light sparkling in his widening blue eyes. Never had he experienced such sensory delight!

She giggled cutely. “Yep!” She said happily. “I made today’s batch myself!”

“I love-” Silver blurted out, and then quickly switched what he was going to say. “This drink!” He said happily. “What’s its secret ingredient?”

“Love!” She chirped happily.

He kept his smile bright as he screamed internally in rage, needing to know the ingredient.

Perhaps a little too cheerfully, he got up and leaned on Pinkie’s desk, smiling brightly as he asked, “Come on, from one food expert to another... Surely, you could tell me the REAL secret ingredient, right?”

She smiled happily. “Nope!” She chirped. “Mr and Mrs Cake wouldn’t want me telling anypony.”

Undaunted, Silver pressed again, bringing out The Voice. “They don’t have to know, and I certainly won’t tell them. Just Whisper It Into My Ear, and I promise I won’t tell another living pony.”

“Pinkie Promise?” Pinkie asked.

“Huh?” Silver asked, confused.

She leaned in, her muzzle poking his as she stared suspiciously into his eyes, possibly searching for any trace of deception. “Do you Pinkie Promise?”

“Uh, sure, just... how do I do that?” Silver asked, only a little off-balance.

“Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye!” Pinkie rhymed, performing the actions. “Now, you do it!”

Silver blinked, and then performed the actions correctly with the care of a technician, glad his Cutie Mark made him great at analyzing things like movements and dance routines. Was The Voice causing her to act like this, or was she always like this? “Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.” Silver said.

“Okay, now I can tell you.” Pinkie said, leaning in extremely close as her neck stretched like some kind of rubber limb. To do something like that so casually... how much Earth Pony magic did this body contain? She stage-whispered into his ear, which twitched a little when he felt her warm, sweet-smelling breath on it.

Silver blinked in surprise when she told him the secret ingredient, and then she pulled away, behind her desk once again. A tiny part of him wondered how she was so stretchy and powerful, but most of his mental processing power was busy processing this new information. “Huh.” He said in surprise.

He went back to his drink, taking another sip. “Well, I like it.” He said, and she grinned happily.

He then licked up some of the foam, his long tongue scooping it up and taking it into his mouth. Between licks, he spoke. “By the way, Pinkie Pie?”


“That party you threw for me when I first got to town was one of the best parties I’ve ever had.” Silver said.

Pinkie Pie sucked in a tremendous gasp, and grinned while squeeing adorably. Rushing over to him, she hugged him so tightly she easily lifted him up, and almost managed to hurt his back. “Ohmygosh, thankyouthankyouthankyouTHANKYOU! I work really hard on all my parties and everypony says they like my parties which is nice but was my party really one of the best parties you’ve ever been to ever?”

“Yes.” Silver said.

Some odd energy built up within her as she let go, sat on her haunches, and squashed down into herself as her body shook and vibrated with power. Suddenly, she sprung up with enough force to resemble a firework, leaving behind a sparkling pink trail, hot pink and baby blue explosions happening indoors crafted from sheer joy as she spread out her limbs. “Woohooooo!” She cheered, hovering somehow at the peak of her jump.

Silver stared, open-mouthed. “...Hah?” He asked in confusion. There was Earth Pony magic, and then there was... whatever this was. Something this powerful... he wondered what she’d be capable of if she became an Alicorn.

This couldn’t be possible. He didn’t sense any Unicorn magic, or any illusions, or anything else that could explain it. Pinkie Pie just... did that, through pure Earth Pony magic, even though it shouldn’t have been possible.

Some day, he’d get to the bottom of that. There simply had to be a scientific reason for this, and some day, he’d find it. But not today, because today, he had a farmer to reconnect with.

She landed, and then hugged him again, these thoughts meeting the shelf as he realized that not only was this adorable pony was touching him, but she was soft and fluffy and huggable. “Can I please plan your birthday party? I promise it’ll be even better! Pleasepleasepleasepleasepleeease?” She begged.

“Ok.” Silver said happily, a little surprised. He wondered why he felt so oddly... young... around her. Her cheerful, foallike innocence was absolutely infectious, but how? Even his keen eyes didn’t detect anything on her face besides genuine happiness and joy that a friend liked her parties, so could that be it? He’d spent so long around Canterlot ponies, where fake smiles hid dark hearts and those who seemed to have nothing to hide always had something under the table. But this pony... was nice. And the more time he spent around her, the younger he felt. “You’re, um... you’re really cute.” Silver said like a lovestruck colt.

“Thanks!” She chirped cutely. “You’re cute, too.”

“I’m not cute.” Silver grumbled cutely. “I’m the Sky Scion! I’m the King of Games! I’m the Twelve-Hooved Dragon of the New World! I’m a super-special-awesome triple-blackbelt Unicorn!”

She giggled. “A cute... that!”

He smiled. “Like this?” He asked, turning to the side and putting a playful smirk on his face as he placed the straw in his mouth and sipped.

“Hmm...” Pinkie thoughtfully judged while taking an incredibly ‘thinking’ pose that could only look genuine on her, stroking the base of her muzzle with a hoof.

“Or like this?” Silver asked, bringing his head down and looking up at her while sipping from the milkshake, which wad now beneath him, looking almost like an innocent little foal.

Back in the Silver Spire, Aquilla - or rather, Talon Terra - paused her butt-kicking of eight henchponies repeatedly knocked back into her stone-covered claws by flying boulders and dramatically looked back while the blue and white streams of fabric tied to her black catsuit fluttered in the wind, sensing a disturbance in the universe so strong, she felt it from inside the latest issue of the Power Ponies, though she doubted anyone else had a connection with him strong enough to feel it.

And far away, back in a place Silver had left behind long ago, a large orange-coated mare with a grey ponytail and golden-orange eyes prepared to buck an apple tree. She paused in mid-buck as the disturbance washed over her, and ended up falling to the ground. “Star...” She muttered angrily as she got up. Turning her head back to the tree, she drew her body back and bucked that tree hard enough to send splinters flying out as all the apples fell straight down, even the baby apples, with no regard for where she’d placed her baskets. Making the ‘Eeyup, that looks about right’ expression you’d usually see on a sad Manehattanite whose private magically-driven chariot parking space had been stolen once again, she let go of her rage and began to pick up her good and put them into her baskets while stamping the bad ones into the ground.

“Or like THIS?” Silver asked, horn glowing as he held the milkshake in his hoof, the straw rising up into the air and floating towards his mouth, which his long pony tongue extended towards, curving around the straw’s end to form a pipe leading from the straw to his mouth.

“Nah.” Pinkie decided.

“Or like this?” He asked as his horn lit up. Stainless steel was summoned forth and moulded into a long and spectacularly complex crazy straw with over twelve loop-de-loops and ten drill-like spirals and a slightly pointed end that allowed it to force its way into his current straw’s tip, a quick thought turning the metal translucent.

Silver Star began to suck, and it took almost half a minute of sucking while Pinkie cheered him on before the wonderfully sweet liquid finally entered his mouth in a controlled stream. Silver gave his milkshake the legendary ultra suck, and Pinkie, enthralled, watched the liquid rapidly rise through the crazy straw like it was a lava lamp, the cup’s contents draining in just four seconds.

Once it was done, he slammed his glass down like a real man, and exhaled air victoriously. And then, he passed the Epic Crazy straw to her. “You can keep this,” He offered.

She gasped, and squeed. “But it’s not my birthday!” She chirped happily.

That was an unusually cheery reaction to being given an unusual straw. Did she not get gifts often, or did she just really like getting gifts? “Would you like it for your birthday?” He offered.

“I shouldn’t know what my birthday gift is gonna be, silly!” Pinkie giggled.

Normally, Silver found himself feeling unspeakably infuriated when insulted even a little, but from Pinkie, being called silly didn’t feel anywhere near as insulting as it would be from a boring and lame normal pony.

“Alright... You can have this now, and I’ll get you something else for your birthday.” Silver decided. A quick spell turned the crazy straw a shade of blue that matched his eyes, with an orange stripe 0.25cm tall every four or so loops and at the top and bottom of every spiral, and he passed it to her with his hooves, which he knew meant more to some ponies.

She took it, put it on her desk, squeed, and stretched her upper body over to him so she could hug him tight. He happily hugged back, rubbing the side of his face on hers. She was so warm, and soft, and fluffy, and cuuute! He wanted to take her home with him and love her and cuddle her forever and she’d be all his and- no, that was weird, he’d just hug her whenever he saw her.

She suddenly pulled away, blushing. “Woah, settle down, cuddle bug!”

“Look who’s talking!” Silver chuckled.

She giggled. “Still, we’ve just met!”

“I know, and I like you already.” He said with a grin, and then thoughtfully said. “Though you do make a good point... May we meet again, some day!” He declared, and teleported away in a flash of blue light.

Pinkie Pie sighed dreamily.

As another Silver Star walked up towards Sweet Apple Acres’s main gate, he saw Applejack bucking trees near the place’s entrance, baskets all around him as one good kick sent all the apples falling. “Howdy, welcome to Sweet Apple Acres!” Applejack greeted warmly and energetically. Thankfully, she didn’t do that odd rearing-thing Braeburn did when welcoming new ponies to his town. And the way he said the town’s name... What even was that, anyway? “Ah’m Applejack.”

“Good morning.” Silver Star said to her in his Twilight-esque Correct-Pronounciation Canterlot accent. “I am Silver Star, Gentlepony Adventurer, Gentlepony ‘Acquisitions Expert’, and decidedly UN-Gentle master of the duelling arena. I’m here because I’m thinking of investing in some local businesses, and nothing says guaranteed profit like a farm.”

“Really?” She asked, pleasantly surprised. “Well, butter my biscuit! Is there anything you’d like to check over first?”

Silver’s horn flashed blue, and summoned a flock of golden ravens with black beady eyes. They took flight and soared over the farm, leaving the two alone. “They’ll get back to me,” He said. “Is there anything you’d like to ask me while we’re waiting?”

”Well, Ah’ve been t’Manehattan when Ah was younger, but Ah always wondered... What’s life like over in the fancy part of Canterlot?” She asked.

“It’s pretty good. There’s always something going on, and there’s always somepony with something to say, sell, or suck at. There’s never a dull moment, unless you’re in an elevator, which I don’t bother using. The theatres and their shows are amazing, the restaurants are superb, and the nightclubs are spectacular. I’m not actually native to Canterlot, I moved there in search of money and excitement. I’m a businesspony, which means I have to manage and micromanage a lot of things. Restaurants, stores, travelling merchants in my union, R-and-D teams, farmers, my supermarket chain, my chain restaurants, bars and taverns and pubs, and so on. I enjoy that, even if it does get irritating sometimes. Still, I have a lot of free time to spend practising magic, setting up the next Duelling League event, and adventuring. I started from the bottom with nothing at all, and now, here I am. And every time I feel the overwhelming pretentiousness of rich hypocrites and gold-digging frauds starting to get to me, I spend some time with those I work with, to remind myself what really matters.”

“Well, that’s nice. Ah spend most of mah time helping out at the farm, but I still try ‘n’ make tahm fer mah friends. If ya don’t mahnd mah askin’... What d’ye mean by irritatin’?”

“Well... While most of the places I get are okay, some of the places I purchase need a LOT of work done before I could consider them functional. For example, this one startup that didn’t seem to understand the concept of supply and demand or even basic crop rotation, or a restaurant whose prices and standards for food were just... terrible, absolutely terrible. It took a lot of work to get them working, but it was necessary. Every move I make, every purchase and every investment, has to be calculated to perfection, and then perfected again beyond that. Countless ponies are relying on me for a solid paycheck, and one mistake could ruin us all. But still, it’s a rewarding job, and an exciting one. And when I feel that kind of pressure getting to me, I remember why I wanted this in the first place. I don’t just try to squeeze as much money as possible out of everything I see, I try to make things as great as they can be. I want orphans to eat better, I their want food to be tastier, I want delivery services to be faster and more reliable, and I want their Extreme Gears to go faster, I want gardens filled with flowers and opened to the public, I want home defence and town defence weapons to be available and affordable for the average pony, I want to make this world better. I make sure everything is the best it can be. It may not always be optimal, profit-wise, but I have enough money. And the world could always be more beautiful.”

“Well, that’s mighty decent of ya.” Applejack said as she smiled, starting to like him.

‘Great, now we’re friends. That was easy,’ He thought. ‘Now, where’s the next one?’

‘No, I came here to talk to Applejack, and tell her what happened to me, so that’s what I’m going to do.’ He decided.

“There’s something I wanted to know... What’s it like to be an Element of Harmony?” He asked.

“Well, I’ve got some great friends I know’ve always got mah back. And getting to go to places like Canterlot and the Crystal Empire has beem fun. But mah day to day life ain’t changed much, ‘part from the occasional friendship problem or giant monster attack. Ah’m still buckin’ apples, and Ah’m still an Apple Pony, through and through.”

“That’s nice. Speaking of farmwork, I know a pony who can get you some of the best automatons on the market. She offers good deals on vehicles, too, but she’ll only make them if they’re awesome enough for her. We’re talking high-spec high-performance works of art here, Tetramand engines firing on all cylinders into mana-burning-”

“Woah there, Ah’m not sure Ah want some fancy arcane science thing running around mah farm.”

“Don’t worry, this isn’t amateur hour. This is Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! For the vehicles. For the Automatrons, every day’s a working day. These things will patrol your farm, buck apples, help around on the farm, and smile like a cute puppy when you tell him or her or it that it’s a good and very helpful automaton. In fact, I can even ask her to make it look like a dog.”

“Thanks, but I already have a dog.” Applejack said, thinking of Winona.

“Cool. How about an apple? Something with a head, legs, and a giant apple-shaped body.”

“That actually sounds kinda weird.” Applejack admitted, imagining a dog’s head and legs on a big red apple.

“Don’t worry, I’ll ask her not to give it spider legs. So, how about a bird? Or a pony that could realistically pass for a family member? Making it look exactly like somepony while putting it to work for that pony is just asking trouble, so how about I switch her colours around, and make her mane brown, like apple trees? Brown is, after all, the worst colour. In fact, since you run a farm, that’s guaranteed regular income. How about we raise the quality of the internals, and I work out a payment plan?”

“Well, thanks for the offer, but ah’m not really interested in-”

“What if I pointed out that automatons don’t need to sleep, eat, or take breaks, which means one could easily work from dusk till dawn, with no breaks, not slowing down for a second, expecting no reward save your smile? If you’re worried about the magical energies messing with your farm’s produce - Which you shouldn’t be, since she’s not an amateur and she’ll shield its magical core properly - then I’ll ask her to make it steam-powered, so it’ll only take water as fuel. Steam isn’t concentrated mana, but it’s still cleaner-burning than Charcoal. More efficiency than a farmhoof at the same cost. Come on, steam-powered iron- Actually? I’m feeling generous, let’s make it stainless steel. Steam-powered stainless steel automaton, level one intelligence, on a payment plan that’ll make it no more expensive than hiring a farmhoof for a while. Going once!”

“Maybe some other time?” Applejack offered. “Closer to Zap Apple harvest season.”

“Looking at all these apple trees, surely they were planted at different intervals. Apples all year round, right?” Silver asked.

“Well, yeah, but we can harvest apples just fine all year round. But we could use the help during Zap Apple harvesting season, so... I’ll see you then.”

“Makes sense, just visit my store whenever you’re ready to order. The order should take around one or two weeks, some parts take a while to make. Just don’t enter one of these into a robot battle arena.”

“Why not?” Applejack asked, expecting a grave warning.

“Her dedicated combat bots are far more suited for the job, that’s why.” Silver explained. “Hey, have you ever been to the Grand Library in Manehattan?”

“Once or twice.”

“I love that place, and I donated quite a few of the books you’ll find there. I hunger for knowledge the way some hunger for food. Of course, I like that, too,” He admitted. “So, Applejack... Have you recognized me yet?”

“Huh? Can’t say I’ve seen you before today, except on the cover of some magazine at Nurse Redheart’s that one time. Why?”

Silver sighed. “It’s understandable. I have changed a lot since you last saw me. Basically, I’m somepony from... Actually, could we go into your barn? It’s a lot easier to set up the best privacy spells when you’re inside a building.”

Some strange pony wanted to take her into her own barn, and cover the place in ‘Privacy spells’? “Well, that ain’t happenin’,” She said flatly.

“Too late!” Silver Star’s voice called out to her from just outside the barn, hi-fiving another instance of himself. “We’ve already taken the place of every map on the planet for the next week!”

“Try and catch us, Filly!” The second Silver shouted, and they rushed into the barn.

“Why, you little-” Applejack shouted, rushing into the barn.

And what she saw stunned her.

On the left, Silver Star, his suit removed and thrown at the ground before him. He stood his two rear hooves, pointing his forehooves at the pony between him and the Silver Star on the right, who matched his pose exactly.

The pony between them, sitting atop an identical black suit... Was a colt. A small colt, with an orange body, a short silver mane, a long and wavy dark-orange tail with a silver streak running through the middle and spreading at the end to form an arrow... and those big and bright baby-blue eyes, happily looking at her like he hadn’t seen her in years, even though he didn’t look like a day had passed since the last time she saw him.

“Star?” Applejack asked the colt in shock. “Star Apple?”

“Howdy, cousin!” The colt greeted her with a bright grin. “Ah go by Silver Star now, but-”

She rushed over and hugged him, tears in her eyes as she crushed him.

“Hey,” The foal whispered as he rapidly grew in her hooves, his body colour and tail colour switching themselves around like they were living liquid paint on a moving canvas. “Not so tight, Jackie.”

He’d expected her to be furious. He’d expected her to demand an explanation, a full summary of his life and everything that happened to him. But instead, all she did was hold him tightly, strong and a little crushing, as if she was terrified she’d lose him again.

They didn’t move, and they didn’t say anything. The two Silvers left the original alone, and vanished in flickers of blue light. Even when the Ravens disappeared and sent an urgent message to his mind, he ignored it. He could tell how much she needed this.

Her Star had returned, and for now, that was all she cared about.

But he wasn’t the only Star in town.

Silver Star was seated in a large faux-leather wheeled office chair, behind a counter, talking to three more Silver spares: One, casually leaning against his desk, looking down on him. Another, lying on the top of a bookshelf stocked with food for sale, on his side like a cat. And in the air above them, a third, reading a comic book as he hung upside-down on a stationary and dull-looking grey oval of an Extreme Gear board.

“Operation Avalanche is ready, and awaiting your orders.” The smug Silver at the desk said to the seated Silver.

With semi-amused indifference, the shelved Silver spare spoke. “We’ve developed the Sustained Extraction Spell for Operation Bread Slice.”

“Good,” The seated Silver said evilly. “But... How’s Operation Underwear going?”

The shelved Silver spare chuckled. “Still can’t believe we called it that,” He confided to his friends.

“Hey, nopony’s going to guess what something called Operation Underwear really is.” The seated Silver reminded him.

“Then we should have called it Operation Cloud. Or Operation Wheel,” The standing Silver grumbled.

The seated Silver grew irritated. “No, WE have to know what we’re talking about when we talk about the plan. But nobody else can! Come on, how old are you?”

“Five years,” Standing Silver boasted, his tail pushing against the desk to let him lean as he folded his hooves.

“He made you before another him read the book that gave him that idea, didn’t he?” Seated Silver asked.

“Yeah, and I’ve spent the last five years doing a whole lot more than you’ve done, two-weeker!” He boasted.

“Hey, now,” The Shelved Silver caught their attention. “You know the rules: We can’t fight with ourselves, so save it for ponies we don’t like. Speaking of which, HEY, BOARDER! HOW’S OPERATION PANTS-ON-HEAD GOING?”

Without looking away from his comic, the board-riding Silver spare spoke. “Operation Underwear has hit a wall, and Silver decided that’s what it’s called, stop trying to change its name. The theory’s sound, but the current mixture’s unstable and we’re only getting a 15% success rate during the binding process, and each instance loses too much material to be of any use. We need additional entities to act as solvents – By the way, my ‘EvolutioNext’ theory needs testing but I think it could enhance our current materials – and our scouts have uncovered some worlds with acceptable life forms, but we’ll need Silver to sign off on some proper excursions before-”

A proximity alarm alerted them through audio a distinctive half-second-long combination of sounds: The sound of jingling coins as one hollow block of wood fell on another twice.

The Silver stationed at the counter got ready to flee, as his companions teleported away in flashes of blue light. Then, he paused, remembering that this was his shift. He quickly put on a charming smile that grew genuine when he saw the cute mare that entered the building.

“Hello!” A grey Pegasus with a yellow mane cheerily greeted him as she walked in, the movement of one golden eye matched in reverse by her other as she looked around the store.

“Welcome to Silver’s Sundries, buy six Lava Lances and get a free Lavalanche Scroll!” Silver declared, spawning a blackened metal stick six feet in length, one end topped with a jagged triangular fragment of liquid darkness and solid crimson magma seven feet in length, and a small papyrus scroll, its top end attached to a cheap cardboard cylinder. “Good for three uses!”

“Uhh... Hey, what’s that?” The Pegasus asked, pointing a hoof at a silver-streaked cobalt-blue tracksuit worn by one of Silver’s mannequins.

“Ah, I see you are a mare of taste!” Silver said in approval.

“I am?” Derpy said in surprise.

His horn lit up and the tracksuit flew through the air, encased in a blue glow, showing itself off to her at the optimal viewing angle. That is to say, showing off its butt.

“Absolutely! So, Derby-” He began, adding layers of honey to his voice.

“It’s Derpy.”

“Really?” He asked in surprise, his voice honey-free, and then he realized his mistake. He fought to stay calm and in control, resisting the urge to spin out like a Pegasus tumbling through the center of a tornado, unable to fly or right himself, making a complete fool of himself. He forced a charming smile, and began to feel it for real. “Sorry, I just knew a mare named Derby growing up, she loved racing and wanted to join the Wonderbolts more than anything in the world.”

“That’s nice. Did she join them?”

He looked to the side, as if he’d just heard and smelled somepony pas gas. “No, she couldn’t handle the pressure of living in a bootleg boot camp full of genuinely terrible ponies used to getting away with the stuff they pull due to being celebrities... or the pressure of getting yelled at and called inadequate by a mediocre circus performer convinced she’s the world’s toughest drill sargeant just because she’s been given the right to yell at young idealists who can’t yell back for fear of being treated worse and ruining their shot at what they’re told is the only way to achieve their dreams. Like all idiots in broken systems, they’re terrible because when they joined, their bosses were terrible to them. And now, having rationalized the jerkery as something inherent in the system, they pass it on to the next generation of circus performers.” He looked back at her, and smiled. “Anyway, after she quit and felt sad for a while, she got into some local street races over in Manehattan, bought some of my patented speed-boosting flightsuits, and she’s now the fastest thing in the circuit.”

“Isn’t it cheating to use magic to go faster in races?” Derpy wondered.

He chuckled, as if the question was funny to him. In truth, it was because he’d already practiced this particular question and response. “Is it cheating to move checkers in a board game?”

“Uh... no.”

“Is it cheating to move chess pieces differently from how you move checkers?”

“I don’t... think it is.”

“If you were forced to compete with a Wind Mage in an Iron Pony competition, would it be cheating for you to use your wings to do what the Wind Mage is already doing with magic?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is it cheating to be awesome? The rules of a race set out what is and isn’t acceptable, and if they say you’re allowed to wear clothes, I say you’re allowed to let those clothes do this.”

His tail whipped out and struck the flank of a mannequin clad in a blue tracksuit, and it began to vibrate as what sounded like a mechanical whir became audible. Like a bottle rocket, it suddenly flew through from its position to the far end of the room, embedding itself in the ceiling right up to its neck, like an launched arrow.

“Woah,” She said, impressed.

“The enchantments of these tracksuits are powerful, and impossible for anypony short of a trained professional on my level or above to detect. They don’t activate until you pass the fourty mile an hour mark. And when you do, the magic happens. You now have access to a pool of magic you can use at will to generate a shield of air around you, a shield with a pointed tip for maximum aerodynamic efficiency. Or, you can use more magic, taking that shield of wind and turning it into a constant slipstream. Wear one of these, and the wind will always be on your side. Finally, if the course gets crashed by a giant monster attack, you can create gusts of wind and unbreakable bubbles of air, and launch them like cannonballs from any part of your body covered by this tracksuit. You’d be hard pressed to find anything quite so powerful.” He said, giving the tracksuit a long bodily stroke that made her wings flutter. “Enough charge for one race, two hundred bits. Make that three hundred and the first five refills are on the house!”

The excitement suddenly went away from her face. “Oh, um... Got anything a little more affordable?” She asked hopefully.

“Affordable? These are competitively priced, finely crafted, and without equal or peer! But, alright. If your bitbag is somewhat malnourished, we have these,” He said, sticking his right forehoof out to the side and summoning some magical necklaces into existence, wrapped around his hoof.

“These little charms are coated in steel for extra protection, but at their core, there’s a highly conductive metal called copper. Juuust enough to hold a good magical charge. Some enchanting stores, they’ll force low-quality unstable enchantments into the only gemstones strong enough to contain them, or they’ll put meaningless gems on it and enchant them to glow so it’ll look cooler, they’re all flash and no substance.”

A playful smirk on his face, he dramatically looked down at the tracksuit, Derpy’s eyes – well, her main one – following his, and he stroked the tracksuit again. “And then there’s me, who has to wonder... Who says you can’t have both?”

“Wow...” She whispered.

He leaned forwards, and gazed deeply into her eyes. “Do you know why soaring through the sky so fast you can rip right through a tornado...” He purred. “Is like staring into the eyes of a pony that loves you more than anything else in the world?”

Derpy smiled awkwardly. “I’ve never done either of those?”

“It’s the moment when you realize when your life is truly yours. Sure, you may have jobs to work on and friends to spend time with, but when it comes down to it, your free time is truly your own, and you can enjoy it however you want. Sure, you have responsibilities to the civilization that spawned you, and the world you were born into, but when you’re done with them, you can do whatever you want. So go on, live a little! It’s your money, after all.”

“Actually, it’s my foal’s.” She explained apologetically.

He thought for a moment. “Say... You’re a delivery mare, right?” He asked.

“How can you tell?” She asked.

“I run a shipping company. Anyway, how’s that working out?”

“Um... Good. My boss says if I deliver three more first-class packages without any breakages, I can get a raise!”

“Become my delivery mare and I’ll give you that raise right now,” Silver offered.

“Sold!” She cheered.

“Great! Here’s your uniform.” Silver said, and suddenly had a cat-sized cardboard box in his hooves, slamming it on the table. His magic opened it up, she peered inside, and his magical blue glow levitated out...

The stylish speed-enhanced blue tracksuit she’d been eyeing since she’d entered the room.

“Thank you so much!” She said, hugging him.

“Hug me later, that uniform’s cost is coming out of a weekly cut of your paycheck until it’s paid off.” He pointed out.

“Totally worth it!” She declared.

Silver didn’t know how long he and Applejack spent in that barn, but he did know that right when he was about to open her mouth and start asking some of the many questions she had fighting for dominance in her head, the barn’s door slammed open. An impressive feat, considering the size of barn doors.

“WHAT IN TARNATION?!” Granny Smith screeched.

Applejack screamed and Silver reflexively turned into a writhing swarm of steel-grey blue-eyed mechanical crows that escaped her grasp and converged a few feet to the side, back in his black suit once more. “This is NOT what it looks like!” Applejack insisted.

“I know what this is!” Granny Smith shouted, picking up a broom and brandishing it threateningly.

“No you don’t!” Silver said rapidly, skipping over a comma that really should have been there, gramatically speaking. “We were like that because, uh...”

He couldn’t think of anything that didn’t also reveal his identity, which meant it was time for an old classic. A charming grin formed on his face.

“HI, SILVER STAR HERE!” He suddenly bellowed.

“What?” Granny Smith wondered in confusion, lowering the broom.

“What are you doing?” Applejack asked.

He couldn’t stop now. “Have you experienced aches, pains, cell destruction, telomere degeneration, bone degeneration, bone displacement, limb misplacement, hip replacement, organ misplacement, classical gas, or any other signs of ageing?” Silver asked the elderly mare.

“No, I’m a spring chicken,” Granny Smith said sarcastically.

“Not yet, you’re not! But don’t despair, there’s a way! To repair! That problem!” Silver declared while posing, summoning a small orange-star-marked grey tin tub of skin cream onto an outstretched hoof. “Introducing the all-new Silver Star Cream! Just rub it into your face, and you’ll look and feel like a young mare in no time!”

“I ain’t fallin’ for any of that fancy-shmancy fake cure-all ponyfeathers again,” Granny growled.

“Again?!” Silver gasped, dropping the act. ”Tell me who scammed you, give me a name!”

“Who, the Flim Flam Brothers?” Granny Smith asked.

“They just went up my list.” Silver decided.

“Forget that! I don’t know what kind of fancy-shmancy magic-” Granny Smith began.

“Silver Star Cream contains Senzu Bean extract, sap from the tree of life, liquefied mana from yours truly, and over thirty different active ingredients found in other creams! Act now and I’ll throw in two full paint cans of Silver-Seal sealant liquid!” Silver declared, summoning them as well. “Saw a boat in half and repair it! Shoot holes through a bucket, and repair it with this! The only magic-repellant liquid rubber sealant legal in Equestria! You want your Apple Cellar to double as a shelter for all kinds of magical explosions? That’s on the table, with the power of Silver-Seal! Act now for the low low price of thirty-nine bits!”

“I said, I don’t care what kind of magic you cast on Applejack, ye’ve got three seconds-”

Silver shrunk slightly as his age reverted, and he threw his suit off to reveal that he was two colts in a suit all along. “Howdy, Granny!” Star Apple said cheerfully.

Granny blinked. “Star Apple? Is that you?”

“Yep!” They replied in chorus.

“You became a suit?!” She asked in open shock.

“I became king of the suits!” The top Silver boasted.

Far away, in Las Pegasus, somepony with a magical copyright on card puns noticed her eye twitching as she became aware of an old friend’s location.

“My name is Silver Star, Gentlepony Adventurer. And, in secret, Gentlepony Thief. My name is also Silver Blaze, Fastest Horn in the West. And, as some called me, Dragon of The South. And finally, I am Star Apple, Apple Family Unicorn.” Silver explained, growing back to his old form in a few seconds as the colt balanced atop him vanished. “Call me whichever you’d like when we’re alone, but around everypony else, I’d prefer Silver Star. Not a lot of rich ponies would take too kindly to rubbing hoof-elbows with a farm pony, or getting outsmarted by one.”

“Hold on, ‘Silver Blaze’? You’re that bounty hunter?” Applejack asked.

With a light blue flash of his horn, Silver’s coat turned cobalt blue, and his eyes turned a merciless gold. “Fastest horn in the west, merciless bounty hunter who never gives up on a mark,” He growled with a strong western accent, and reverted to his previous appearance and Canterlot accent in a second. “And one of the richest ponies in the country, because nothing says easy money like investing bounty-money into above-ground businesses while you hunt the Outlaws they don’t put bounties on.”

“How can you switch between these bodies so fast?” Applejack asked, starting to suspect that he was a Changeling playing another one of their stupid and thoughtless “Pranks” on her.

“Mentally, a lot of practice. As for the spells, this one time, at band camp, I used one of those magic-draining spells on a Changeling that attacked a mare I was... hanging out with,” Silver explained. “The monster was supercharged with the love it had already drained from everypony else in camp, and you know how strong and uncontrollable young love can be, so this was the only way to bring it down to a more punchable size. Anyway, feeling the Changeling’s energies and magical capabilities running through my horn meant I could synthesize and replicate those energies, and cast the spells that give Changelings their abilities. Shapeshifting, using a modified hive mind spell to sense the location of nearby Changelings, I can even spit Changeling eggs that hatch and obey me if I want! But I don’t like doing that.”

“I thought only Changeling Queens could spit eggs.” Applejack noted.

“Changelings aren’t proper life forms, they’re beings of dark magic, insects with unstable morphing fields and no real intelligence. Queen is just the title they give to their biggest one, which they intentionally feed the most the most love during its youth, so it can get bigger and produce more Changelings. No changeling is really a he or she, physically speaking, they’re all just Its.”

“Hey, we’ll have none of that talk in here!” Applejack insisted. “I don’t care what they were, Changelings are our friends now.”

“Scientifically speaking, they don’t really get friendship for the same reason they don’t see love as anything more than a food source-” Silver said, and blinked. ”Did you just say they’re our friends now?! What, did Twilight magic the parasitic nature out of them?”

“No, they turned themselves good.” Applejack explained.

“Like one turned itself into Cadence that one time?” He suggested doubtfully. “Whatever, I’ll look into that later. Who wants to hear about my epic life story? It has to be at least a few hundred thousand words long.”

“Ah’ve always got time fer family,” Applejack decided.

“Tell it in yer own time, sweetie.” Granny Smith said, and picked up the paint cans and tiny jar of skin cream he’d summoned. “And d’ya want this back?”

“Keep ‘em, they’re on the house.” Silver decided, walking over to a hay bale. He breathed in, sat down on the bale, reverted to his Silver Blaze form, and closed his eyes. “It all started a long time ago, on a small farm to the west. A hardy frontier town barely a year older than me. A place called Manetanner. I was always different, but not like the others. I was...”

A tremendous crash caught their attention. Leaving the barn while Silver dressed himself and did the same, they saw birds take flight, fleeing from far-off trees.

“Apple Bloom’s farmin’ over that way!” Applejack remembered in panic, and she rushed off after her sister. Silver followed, and an energy wave from his right horseshoe allowed both of them to run faster.

They expected devastation, they expected a horrific sight they could never unsee. They hoped it would be nothing, and they hoped that if it couldn’t be nothing, and if they couldn’t see a big old boring farm full of nothing today, then they could instead see something only about as awful as some big monster grabbing Apple Bloom and throwing her away, or less awful than that.

Applejack and Silver Star were shocked when they came across what was almost entirely normal... Except for how a very shocked Apple Bloom was posed on two legs, rear in the air, as if she’d just kicked a currently-missing part of the destroyed tree stump behind her. Silver circled her and checked in the direction behind the small Earth Pony filly, and saw an old Apple tree flying like a thrown rock as it violently shattered and ploughed through other trees, and eventually hit the ground and rolled to a stop.

“Consarn it, Apple Bloom, what did you do now?” Applejack demanded sternly, but fairly.

Silver, on the other hoof, was openly impressed by the small equine. “Woah,” He said, and grinned. ”So, how long have you been following the Silver Diet?”

“Huh?” Apple Bloom asked, tilting her head.

“I just told a hilarious joke,” Silver explained. “A while ago, when fad diets were getting popular, I made my own, with a built-in daily exercise regimen. And it was actually healthy, unlike every other fad diet ever. Eventually, everypony who followed fad diets followed that one, and nopony was willing to give up the actual health benefits of my regimen, so the whole industry collapsed when everyone decided to stop talking about them. I am, hilariously, implying that you became this strong by following my fad diet, which I named The Silver Diet. This is also an unspoken prompt for you to tell me how you became this strong.”

“I saw a crater from a meteor!” Apple Bloom declared. “And I checked it out and the ground around it fell apart so I fell in but I found a card and it jumped onto my hoof and sank into it! I can’t get it out, but I’m really strong now!”

Silver’s eyes widened in recognition. “The size of a regular playing card? With a picture, featuring some young pony and some stuffed animals, entirely monochro- entirely black and white, except for one tiny splash of colour? And a name like The World, or The Star, or The Hermit, or Strength-?”

“Yeah!” Apple Bloom chirped happily. “That one!”

A fake look of horror overtook his face. “I need to save your life by magically extracting that card, before it’s too late!” Silver announced, grabbed Apple Bloom with a flash of blue magic and teleporting away, leaving Applejack and Apple Bloom alone.

A second later, Silver returned with nothing. “Why can’t I teleport you with me?” He asked, horn lighting up and beaming a thin blue horizontal line of light at her as he scanned her.

A smoke bomb was thrown through the air, and it landed in the ground between all three ponies. Silver’s horn flashed to summon something as the smoke bomb released not just thick dark-grey smoke, but also the sound of a large explosion and a blinding flash of light.

“Here we go!” Three canine Diamond Dogs announced as they leapt into the smoke.

“It’s all for one...” A classy female began.

“And one for the long haul!” A Manehattanite female continued.

Loud metal music suddenly blared from inside the smoke cloud, and somepony struck the large dog in the face hard enough to clear the whole dust cloud.

Like a pebble skimming across the surface of a lake, the big Diamond Dog bounced along the ground, landing on his face every time until he eventually hit a tree face-first, and stopped. An Apple fell on his head, to add insult to injury, and he angrily got up. Another apple landed on his head, and he furiously punched the apple tree, only to send a rain of apples falling down on his head.

When the dust cleared, Silver was in the center of it all, standing upright, balanced on two hooves, looking away from everypony while an unusual star-shaped five-pointed orange glass visor balanced itself on his nose and covered his eyes. In a far lower and gravelly tone than usual, Silver spoke. “I’m here to take cards and take names...” He growled, grinned, and paused to let the background music intensify. ”And I’m not leaving until I get both.”

All the females around him gazed at him in awe.

And then, one of them spoke.

“Why are you talking like that?” Applejack asked.

“I’m wearing the Vision Of Awesomeness, one of my most powerful and reliable magically-enhanced visors,” Silver growled intensely as he folded his forehooves, and everypony immediately wanted to buy 20. “It enhances my charisma and stamina, it makes me fireproof, it scans the movements of my foes even better than my eyes can, it lets me hack books, it cannot be removed by anypony other than myself, and most importantly... I needed something that would let me see through smoke, while protecting my eyes from the flash.”

A far-off gruff and male voice called to them all. “You can’t stop us!” Rock the Diamond Dog shouted, and he sprinted back over to the fight.

It took him a long time.

A long, long time.

Halfway there, he collapsed, gasping for air and sweating profusely.

“Seriously, Rock?” Springer demanded.

“Come on, yer killin’ me here!” Butcher insisted.

“I lift stuff!” He shouted between gasps. “I throw stuff! I break stuff! I don’t run at stuff!”

“Forget this!” Springer announced, grabbing Butcher and using her powerful ears to leap into the air and land beside him. They waited for Rock to get back up, and when he was ready, they began their motto.

The area around them went dark, for dramatic purposes only.

“Prepare for trouble, here on this farm!” The female figure announced, thin and lithe, with a spiralling catlike tail.

“And make it double, we’re here, arm in arm!” The buff male figure with huge hands announced.

“An evil as old as the land and sea...” She began.

“Sent here to fulfill our destiny!” He continued.

A smaller third figure popped up between them. “And then, there’s me!” The manehattanite voice announced.

“To eat and drink to our hearts’ content!” Said the tall female.

“And hoard the rest without paying a cent!” Said the large male.

One by one, multicoloured spotlights lit up around them, properly illuminating them.

“Rock!” The top-heavy and muscular male yellow Golden Retriever-breed Diamond Dog announced, flexing his muscles and swinging his arms to his companions. His black Dog collar was studded with golden-yellow diamonds, and an open black leather jacket with torn-off sleeves adorned his chest.

“Springer!” The thin female announced, a beautiful brown Cocker Spaniel-breed Diamond Dog with massively wide fluffy ears, which had extra-fluffy bits on the end that looked kind of like fists, to make up for how incredibly thin and long her regular arms and dainty but elegantly-clawed paws were. Her body was slender, with a long brown tail, a golden open jacket with torn sleeves, big hips with long canine legs, and a thin waist her matching yellow-diamond-studded collar was secured around. She copied his pose and touched their paws together, forming a diamond.

“And Butcher’s da name!” The tiny female Manehattanite dog announced, landing on their crossed arms. The author had no idea what this breed of dog was called, but she was about the size of a filly, she was covered in excessively long bone-white fur, her muzzle was small and pointed, and her eyes were soulless black dots. She had a black collar with yellow diamonds around her neck, matching the other two Dogs, and a white open jacket.

“Whenever ponies are having a ball,” They announced in unison, swinging their arms around and launching Butcher into the air to backflip and land before them with both her arms raised to the sky. Springer folded her arms and stared her foes down imperiously, while Rock flexed and stuck his muscular arms towards her, all three together forming the shape of a D while a big red D appeared behind them, along with a background of black space with coloured gems for stars. “The Alpha Agents will be there, to take it all!”

An explosion of coloured blue smoke exploded behind them.

The ponies stared in shock, and blinked a few times as the background vanished and the smoke faded away.

“Wait, what’s a cent?” Apple Bloom asked.

“It’s the unit of currency our secret Underground Kingdom uses,” Springer explained.

“Really?” Silver asked, teleporting his Vision Of Awesomeness away. “What’s the exchange rate to Equestrian bits?”

“About one thousand ta-” Butcher began.

“Grr...” Rock growled, and pointed at the ponies while yelling. ”That’s not important! What’s important that we, the Alpha Dogs, will destroy you, and take that filly’s card for ourselves!”

“I thought you were called the Alpha Agents,” Silver noted.

“Well, we’re da fearless Alpha Dogs now!” Butcher crooned, pulling out a small green Jack In The Box, which opened up to unleash a lightning-fast rubber glove on a thin metal tail-like arm, which grabbed Apple Bloom and phased through her, closing its hand around the card inside her and pulling it back to Butcher, who gleefully held it aloft. “And we’re moving on to da big leagues!”

Springer snatched the card and quickly shoved it into her own chest, the thin material turning intangible as her body practically sucked it up.

Silver blinked. “Why did none of you stop that?” He asked the mares around him.

“We thought you were going to stop that.” Applejack admitted.

“And I thought I’d learn something important about cooperation and friendship today!” Silver declared furiously, teleporting away in a flash of blue light.

Something in Butcher's nonexistent pocket beeped, and she took it out. It was a small and silver pocketwatch-like device, with a green LCD screen on the front. It displayed a green grid with lines that curved more the further away they were from the center lines, and the Strength card's current location was shown by a small green dot. Butcher smiled and put the small handheld radar back.

Silver reappeared in front of Springer and spun himself around for a fierce spinning kick, and with a smirk and one ear, she blocked it.

And exactly as planned, with his free rear hoof, he bucked her, right in the face.

The slam was loud, it should have been painful, and while a shockwave from the blow ruffled the grass around them and caused a few apples around them to prematurely drop, she didn’t feel a thing. “You need to brush up on your history. This card doesn’t just give me strength,” She explained haughtily.

Her ears wrapped around his leg and held it tight, and she began swinging her head around like a long-maned mare at a metal concert, swinging him around like one might swing a cat by its tail. “This card makes me the very definition of strength! The strongest, fastest, toughest, and most gorgeous warrior is right here, in front of you!” She declared, tossing him into the air, where he vanished.

A portal opened up next to her and he emerged, horizontal in the air, striking her in the side of the face rear-hooves-first. Then, he backflipped off her head and unleashed a tornado of flames from his horn, blasting out against her chest and writhing around it, focusing the heat, trying to overheat or consume it. Unharmed, she menacingly walked towards him, even as he roared with fury and poured more magic into the spell, sweat dripping down his face, the flames engulfing her and spiralling around her as they tried to drill into a single point, her head.

She ignored the flames and kept walking, invincible against any extremes any temperature could reach, and she swung a kick where he stood, but stood no more.

Furious, she looked around, only to instinctively duck when she somehow sensed incoming danger and exactly what it was, a magical beam of blue light that shot over her head, struck an apple tree, and turned its fruits to chocolate.

Bending over and looking at her foe through her own legs, she saw seven copies of Silver Star, each one preparing large blue balls of flame above their glowing horns.

She twisted her body and breakdanced on the spot, sending slashes of wind at the Silver Spares, but it was too late, they launched their balls of flame at her, each one converging in mid-flight before somehow transforming from a ball of flame to a glittering spike of ice twice her size, headed straight for her. She was about to catch it with her ears, but her instincts said to dodge, so she pushed off the ground with her ears and soared into the air, as the ice spike pierced the ground and began to violently form new ice spikes, creating a frozen castle the size of a barn. From the castle’s windows, thick streams of ice shards and powdery snow blasted out and curved upwards, ghostly pony-like wisps of pale-blue snow and ice along for the ride.

As Springer descended, she spun around and suddenly, with the Strength card’s help, knew how to channel magic into her ears. Closing her eyes and following instructions she suddenly remembered, dark blue flames of aura ignited around the ends of her ears, with thinner, lighter flames travelling along the rest of her body. Her aura took on a yellowish hue as she formed a corona of lightning around her, disintegrating the Snowpony spirits and melting and evaporating the ice and snow effortlessly. The glowing golden dart approached mach speed as it flew towards Silver, who leapt into the air, and with a rapid flash of his horn, an unusually-shaped shield appeared around him, just for the moment of impact.

“Blip!” Was the sound the shield made, an audible flash of light and reflective magic.

And the shape of that shield... No matter where you stood and what angle you saw it from, you always saw a perfectly-flat two-dimensional six-pointed blue hexagon perfectly facing you, floating between you and Silver, just slightly larger than him, and that moment the impossible shield spent in reality was enough: Springer and the burning electricity around her was left screaming in fury as she flew at double her original speed in the opposite direction, travelling miles before she managed to turn the solid blaze of electrical doom around.

The thing turned like an airship, but finally, it soared at Silver once again, and he leapt into the air to repeat his trick. “Blip!”, his magical Reflector spell went, and sent the golden arrow of growing gold rocketing away, its speed doubled once more. She seemed to be getting better at turning, because she redirected the lightning attack at him faster, only for him to bat it away with the same shield, doubled in size, speed, and power.

One last time, he Blipped her away, and when she came back for more, he was ready.

“THE WORLD!” Silver roared, punching the ground with his right forehoof, an orange field of energy blasting out around him to paint all around him in blazing orange hues, freezing everything. No wind blew, the leaves and grass stopped rustling, it was as if the whole world was frozen. Springer’s lightning was absorbed, her momentum was stolen from her, she was left floating in the sky, unable to move, just like Silver.

Until the Diamond Dog somehow tripled in size, throwing off his mass calculations and becoming momentarily immune to his power-absorbing momentum-absorbing field, menacingly taking a step towards him and causing him to give up on the orange field, the world returning to normal.

Silver spawned six Spares, six copies of himself, arranged in the formation of six cheerleaders: Three on top, two above them, and one above them. Each began raining curses, hexes, transformative spells, down on the alluring Diamond Dog walking menacingly towards them all as her ears, engulfed in dark blue aura, batted away each spell and blast and beam, her aura reflecting the spells without even having to try. Some spells turned small patches of ground to chocolate, to mud, to crystal, or to nothingness, but she didn’t care. Even when they all combined their beams and turned the ground beneath Springer into a pit of quicksand, blue aura flared into being around her paws, and she continued her equally menacing and alluring walk.

Springer swung her right ear and sent a wide gust of powerful aura-infused grey wind at the Silver and his spares, causing the copies to burst out of existence in flashes of blue light, and blowing the original high into the air.

“Silver!” Applejack called.

“Take the others down!” Silver shouted, and turned into a blue-eyed orange hawk, which shot off into the sky.

“The others?” Rock asked in surprise. “We’re actually going to have to do stuff?”

“Over here!” Butcher shouted, extending long catlike claws from her paws to attack Applejack. Granny Smith threw her a broom, Applejack caught it in her mouth, and she blocked the claws.

Swipe after swipe, Butcher swung, and Applejack was kept on the defensive, spinning the broom handle around with her teeth and tongue to block strike after strike.

“It’s over!” Butcher yelled, leaping into the air.

Applejack spat her broom out. “Yer darn tootin’ it is!” She agreed, spinning around and bucking the Diamond Dog in the gut, sending her flying.

“Not bad!” Granny Smith congratulated, menacingly walking backwards like a tiger ready to pounce while the brutish Rock menacingly walked towards her.

Then Apple Bloom clocked him from behind with a full can of Silver Seal Liquid, and he went down.

“Come on, my little fox!” Springer announced to the world, no longer concerned with her allies. “Where are you?”

A steamroller descended from the skies and crushed Rock. And perched atop its roof, reared up on two legs and flexing his chest out as he bent back, Silver Star let out a victorious whinnying battle cry. “WRYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYHIHIHIHIHIHIII!!!”

“Rock!” Springer shouted as her aura vanished, using her ears to leap into the air over to the downed Diamond Dog and strike the Unicorn’s steamroller with a brutal blow, hard enough to send spiderwebs of cracks along every surface, every last piece of it fracturing and breaking apart. Silver leapt from the crumbling machine before it was too late, one last piece of machinery sticking to his right rear hoof.

“Exactly as planned!” Silver declared, casting a repair spell on the piece of steamroller he’d brought along with him. As if the part was suddenly pulled by a super-powerful magnet that grew stronger every second, it flew back toward the wreckage of his steamroller, dragging Silver along like a flag on a stick.

And then orange flames burned to life on his hooves and spread around his body, speeding him up as he shot at Springer. She caught him with her ears, a blazing rocket stopped by the two long ears of a beautiful Diamond Dog with her arms folded.

“There’s something you should know,” Silver said, his horn lighting up in a flash of blue magic.

“What?” She asked haughtily.

Applejack, Granny Smith, Apple Bloom, they all suddenly lost their grip on the ground and fell onto their chests.

“I just stole the farm’s friction,” He said with a grin, and Springer screamed as her feet started to rapidly slide along the ground until she crashed back-first into the reforming Steamroller hard enough for her to sink into it before it reformed fully, Silver leaping away from a road roller that now had Springer, her arms, her legs, and her ears trapped in the actual roller.

She smirked at him, “You think you can keep me down with this?”

“Oh,” Silver quietly said to himself, admiring her. “If only you were a pony.”

Applejack looked at Silver in disgust.

Springer flexed her elegant limbs and shattered the steamroller’s roller apart, and Silver shielded himself and his family members. Once again, she walked towards him, elegantly and menacingly. And then she decided to throw that aside and run straight at him like a dog, her long ears taking the place of her forelimbs, which remained folded.

Silver formed six clones, and she swung her ears around like a long-haired mare at a metal concert, pouring her newly-discovered aura into her ears and weaving together a powerful cyclone that blasted painfully at everypony’s furred skin, destroying the clones.

Furious, Silver realized he wouldn’t be able to make any new clones. Curse their stupid one-hit-wonder weakness, the only downside to that amazing spell of his!

She pounced on Silver, who teleported behind her with a lance, which she kicked away. She spun around, wind attacking him in the process, which he dodged. And then, she rose up. Hundreds of strikes per second came from her ears, all aimed at Silver, each one dodged and evaded effortlessly. “Don’t you get it, dear?” She asked, not even seeming to notice when he stopped dodging and started matching her rapid punches with his own forehooves. ”You can’t beat me. That special little card has made me the strongest warrior who ever lived. Kneel down for your new Princess, Pony!”

“Pony legs can’t kneel...” Silver growled, grabbing her ear mid-thrust and pulling it violently. “FOR A REASON!” He roared directly into the inner side of her overly-long ears, stunning her for long enough for him to flip her over, grabbing her face and slamming it into the dirt. He grabbed her by the fur on her head and lifted her into the air, punching her face. A second later, a small blue bubble the size of a single bit coin was launched out of her head, and the body collapsed.

Silver glared at the body, and spoke with absolute finality. “And the hero lived happily ever after. The end.”

“Woah,” Applejack said in shock.

“Awesome!” Apple Bloom cheered.

“That’s my g-” Granny Smith began to cheer, and then, she changed her mind. “Greatest rival, showing off again!” She declared unconvincingly, shaking a hoof. ”Grr! Fancy shmancy rich folks! Farmers hate him!”

The dog’s body suddenly twitched to life, wrapped her ears around Silver's neck, electrocuted him with blindingly powerful shocks of electricity that visibly arced along his body while forcing it to twitch like a shaken ragdoll, and she flipped through the air, her head touching the bubble in mid-air and absorbing it. She screamed for a few seconds, and noticed that she could scream once again. Furious, she spun him around in the air and when she landed, she slammed him head-first into the ground, leaving him there.

The ground came alive and sucked him and her down, leaving her with just her head above ground and allowing him to slowly and dramatically rise from the earth, dirtless, but sweating and gasping for breath anyway. “You think a few..." He stopped, and took in a slow breath. "Billion volts will stop me?” Silver roared furiously.

“You think some dirt will stop me?” Springer barked back. “...Also, that wasn’t a billion-”

“There’s a certain spell,” He began to stage-whisper to her, ominously walking closer to her, eyes tired, angry, and reluctant. His body language screamed of exhaustion and fury. “And I think I... could use it. Right now. And nopony would think any less of me for it... Except me. Because while anypony else would believe whatever... I told them the spell was, I would know. I don't like that spell. I don't like how it feels to cast it. I don't like what casting it does to my horn, or my rugged good looks. I don’t like that spell... But there’s a reason why I learned it. So, please... don’t make me destroy you. Don’t make me use... That Spell.”

She opened her mouth, and he interrupted. A sick sense of excitement started to dance across his face, and within his heart. “And, just, please, just think about it... After I used my mysterious superpowers to send your consciousness...outside of your own body... Even though I could have just shoved that card outside of your body and taken it for myself... I'm begging you not to make me do something even worse. Now, you might be asking yourself... What could be worse than that?”

He collapsed, right in front of her, his face less than an inch from her, and grabbed the sides of her cheeks with his forehooves, pushing her cheeks together a little. “You aren’t ready to find out. But after the day I’ve had... I’m ready to show you. Are you ready to see it? Are you ready to FEEL it?”

Springer took the option he’d knowingly presented to her, and vanished into the dirt as she used her long ears to rapidly dig through the ground.

He groaned in exhausted relief, collapsing completely.

“What spell were you going to use on her?” Applejack asked curiously.

He closed his eyes and forced a grin. “I was bluffing!” He declared, and the camera angle changed. He looked at Apple Bloom and the audience at the same time. “Remember, foals! Honesty is for your friends, and only for your friends! If you can nonviolently de-escalate a situation by lying, nothing’s stopping you but your pride!”

“What’s going to happen to that thing?” Granny Smith asked, pointing at the ice castle he’d left behind earlier.

“Ela cbenedc uv dra vnuwah Rayndr... Canja drec ayndrah vemmo vencd, yht ran vysemo caluht. Tavaht dra vyns frah haatat, yht vimvemm yho naxiacd dra ayndrah Vemmo ycgc uv oui, ihmacc ed luhvmeldc fedr ouin luhdnyld du sa,” Silver spoke in an unfamiliar language at the small ice palace, and the ice melted and reformed in the shape of a doghouse. Icy ghosts in the shape of dogs emerged from its single door, and rushed over to Apple Bloom, sitting down in front of her. “Hey, filly. You can have this,” He decided.

“What is it?” She asked,

“Ice Palace construct creator, good for about 250 more ice spirits. They’ll do whatever you want, or destroy themselves trying. Just don’t ask them to do anything stupid or evil, and you’ll be fine.” Silver said, and walked off. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to find Twilight and ask her about the card that just let a filthy little dirt-dog get far too close to defeating me.”

Before anypony could say anything, he teleported away. Family could wait. He needed answers.

“Well, that happened.” A figure covered by a white cloak with a long hood stated as he stared into the large crystal ball that showed him Silver Star’s actions in shaky, blurred images, the best it could manage while ignoring its natural instinct to try and display every instance of Silver at once, fail, and explode in their faces. “I think he’s going to stay there for a while. Or investigate these cards for us.”

“Good.” Gold Standard said, ignoring his workers and staring at a map of Equestria with three red pins and over thirty pins coloured differing shades of gold, each shade denoting a different number. “That’s one loose end taken care of.”

He sat on back on his haunches with a metallic clank, closed his eyes, and let his head roll back as his mind swam with visions of the future he’d achieve. “Soon... With the unquestionable power of these cards... I’ll change Equestria’s fate.”