1. Published 4th Mar 2015
  2. 12,297 Views, 1,672 Comments

The Mare Who Once Lived on the Moon - MrNumbers


In a steampunk reimagining of the universe, Twilight Sparkle finds perhaps the one pony as lonely as she is. It's rather unfortunate that they're on the moon.

Featured In27

Registered users don't see these ads
  • ...
 1,672
 12,297
Click a paragraph to save bookmark

Situation:

I've got a gun aimed at my face.

My brother is holding the gun aimed at my face..

My brother is about to shoot me with the gun he is holding aimed at my face.

If my brother does not shoot me with the gun he is holding aimed at my face, our friends and family will be executed in my place.

This is the third worst moment of my life.

Oh, and there's another soldier flanking him. You know. Just in case.

Conflict Resolution Scenario Proposal #1:

– Plead for life.

Assessment:

        – Shining Armor hesitates.

                – One of his soldiers shoots me instead, resulting in my death.

                        – Probable death (Henceforth: Resolution A)

                – Shining Armor shoots me anyway

                        – Resolution A

                – Shining Armor orders my safety

                        – Everyone we love is executed. (Henceforth: Resolution B)

                – Shining Armor doesn't hesitate.

                                – Resolution A

Proposal rejected.

Conflict Resolution Scenario Proposal #2

Fight back.

Assessment:

– I state intentions.

        – Shining Armor refuses to fight own sister.

                – Resolution B

        – Shining Armor shoots me

                – Resolution A

...

– I state intentions after disabling firearm

        – As above, but a soldier shoots me instead.

...

– I state intentions after disabling firearms and shielding

        – Shining Armor refuses to fight.

                – Resolution B

        – Shining Armor uses superior tactical acumen and fighting ability to eradicate me with reluctant prejudice.

                – Resolution A

        – Through sheer luck and force of will, I win.

                – Shining Armor has plausible deniability and I live the rest of my life in exile. (Henceforth: Resolution C)

                – Shining Armor has plausible deniability, I live the rest of my life in exile and Celestia follows through on her threat regardless. (Henceforth: Resolution B.1)

– I do not state intentions, strike hard, fast and with the element of surprise behind me.

        – I win.

                – Resolution C... or B.1

        – I lose.

                – Resolution A

Proposal #2 re-categorized Plan A

Proposal #3

Last words:

– I say my last words.with dignity

        – Resolution A

Proposal #3 re-categorized to Plan B

I allow myself another third of a second longer to think about this. It's already been a full seventy milliseconds, which is far, far too long in these circumstances. Every millisecond I spend reduces the factor of surprise quadratically.

"Woah, no way," Rainbow balks, "You're going to shoot us for trying to fix the bloody toilet? That's just unsporting!"

What?

"What?" Shining echoes me, lowering his gun slightly, as does the soldier by his side.

"Well, yeah, why in the knee-high boots else would we have gone down there?" Rainbow snorts. "It's hardly a bloody picnic, that's for sure."

"So why were you down there, then, Ms...?"

"Oh! Right, pleased to meet you. I'm the intrepid explorer Rainbow 'Dashing' Dash! Twilight's the patron for my next glorious expedition, don'cha know, boy?"

Shining raises an eyebrow involuntarily. "Next question, Ms Dash, what was an explorer doing in my sister's plumbing?"

That's Luna's job!

No! Bad thoughts! Get back to tactical assessment.

"Well, when Twilight here, what ho, pulled me from my tally-whatsit, desk job, back at the Spark works, she saw I'd turned my whole ruddy office into a jungle – keep me in the right mindset, you know, Mr Armor—"

"That will be Captain, Miss."

"Nah, I already know a Cap'n, and you ain't him, so as I was saying, Shining, and to do that I had to kind of, uh, mess with the building's pipes. Without anyone noticing. Stealth plumbing, you get me, and I got real good at it." She claps me on the withers hard, affectionately, jolting me out of the branching off modifications of Plans A through D, and the further analysis of proposals 5 through 16 – Obviously only 8 and 11 passed muster. "For some reason, your sister thought somepony might go and shoot her if she got caught trying to fix it. But that's crazy, now, isn't it?" She says, at once jokingly and levelly. Like she's putting on a show.

No, what it is, is a dare. Even if Shining doesn't buy it, he's got a proper story to sell. He's got an out now.

Shining hesitates.

"Sergeant?"

"Yes, Captain?"

"Go confirm Ms 'Dashing' Dash's story. I want a full report from Bright Spark here within the hour as to the truth of her statement."

Shining never was one to back down from a dare. Even the one time it caused him to turn up to the war room covered in custard—blame Cadance for that one.

The Sergeant salutes, then darts off. Rainbow Dash chants 'hup, hup, hup!' the whole time he scurries off, much to my brother's chagrin.

"Fixing the plumbing, eh?" He remarks to the both of us.

"Well, there is an awful lot of it. You wouldn't believe how much piping I had to lay for the doorbell alone..." I groan.

He looks confused. "You have a doorbell? I just knocked. Is that why nopony answered...?"

Internal screaming. Intense internal screaming.

Rainbow grins. "Man, you can just hear her grit her teeth, eh?"

Shining sighed. "Honestly, I was doing the same thing towards the end. Normally I'd have shot you for the 'Captain' remark, but you'd already talked me out of having to do it once. Double Jeopardy saved you on that one."

Wait, where's Pinkie?

Why didn't she answer?

And I thought Rarity might be here too, when I got back...

"So!" I declare loudly instead,

Rainbow and Shining look at me askance.

"Tea?"

Shining smiles slowly, relief setting in. Tension evaporating off him almost visibly. You can see where the hardened cords of it in between muscle disappear into the air around him, and he holds himself easier. "Tea sounds lovely."

"Too bloody right it does!" Dash agrees. "You wouldn't happen to have any assam, would you?"

"I have my own box of Oolong outside, I'll give the stand-down order while I grab it."

"Oolong?" Rainbow snorts. "That tea tastes as weak as you look."

"Arm wrestle?" Shining asks excitedly.

"This! This is a red-blooded stallion!" Rainbow proclaimed for her own benefit. "If I win, you gotta give me one of your medals."

Shining shrugged. "If you win, I reckon I can get a trophy commissioned. That do you fine?"

Rainbow's mouth hung open silently for a moment. Twilight was confused as to why right up until the squeal reached audible frequencies and kept working its way down.

Twilight didn't have a plan for this.

After a bit more back-and-forth, Shining left with a look back over his shoulder. "What do you think Bright Spark's going to say? I mean, you sucker punched him right?"

"Allegedly!" Rainbow declared cheerfully, just like Twilight had trained her to.

"And here I thought this was going to be a bad day..."


It took the soldier an hour to return, even sending a pegasus messenger ahead. The paperwork just took a lot of time.

What came back was a stack of formal patent sheets, blueprints of the building, illustrated cross sections and diagrams... the postage on it alone must have been costing the Crown a pretty penny.

The final document was from the desk of Professor Bright Spark himself, which the Sergeant read to the ponies gathered at the tea table:

"Architecturally speaking, the extent of Ms. Rainbow Dash's achievements is incomprehensible, irreparable and ingenious. The only reason she has not been sued for damages is that I've taken the liberty to incorporate her designs and schemata into industrializing the growth of forced rhubarb, with a wide variety of further applications in the field of, pardon the pun, indoor farming in the future.

I have taken the liberty of avoiding a court settlement in exchange for her ceding the right to the designs. She is free to pursue her own legal action at any time, though I believe her 'lawyer' incapable of showing up at the courthouse.

In summary, Rainbow Dash's abilities continue to win out against her not inconsiderable deficiencies and eccentricities. Now please don't bother me with such frivolous matters again.

Dictated but not read

The Offices of Prof. Spark"

"Looks like her story checks out, Captain."

Shining sighed with relief, more than anything else. "Alright. Okay. Dismissed, Sergeant."

That left Shining, Rainbow and Twilight around the table. Shining glared at Twilight, who gulped. "Now, next time you have a problem with your utilities, we've got some chaps from the engineering corps with nothing better to do."

"Isn't there a piffling war on, though?" Rainbow asked.

Again, Shining sighed, this time massaging the bridge of his nose. "It's not a particularly good one."

Twilight took that as a cue to go make tea. Tea always helped. Assam, no milk, two sugars.

"But aren't those natives weak-spined cowards who back down at the taste of Equestrian steel?" Rainbow asked. "Nasty, vicious vermin who don't know the taste of civilization?"

Shining's eyes softened, and his voice became parental. The kind of voice you used to explain Santa wasn't real and the stove was hot. "Well, to start with, which are these savages; nasty and vicious, or weak-spined cowards?"

The gears in her little feathery head started to turn. "Both?"

"So they're vicious cowards?"

"Yeah, like swaggering bullies, who haven't known anything else!" Rainbow assured him. "I don't see a problem with our way of life, so why should they?"

Shining outright snorted at that, a little sadly. "I'm sure they've said the same thing, themselves, when I showed up on their borders." Twilight returned with the cup of tea, and he gratefully brought it to his lips. Not quite sipping it, but just enough to appreciate the aroma. Clears the head something wonderful. Gets your thoughts ironed out. "Look, Dash, I appreciate you want to be an explorer. But take it from someone who's been there, the locals don't appreciate being explored. It's not undiscovered lands if they were there first."

Careless talk like that would get an officer shot for treason, Twilight thought. Especially given his current circumstances. Her brother was either being very brave or very stupid, or maybe some place right in the middle.

Rainbow looked shellshocked, for her part.

"How's Cadance?" Twilight felt compelled to ask, taking a seat beside the deflated 'explorer'.

Shining finally took a sip of his tea and made a delighted exhale, steam intermingled with breath. "She's worried, very worried, about all this. She's trying not to seem too happy that I'm getting extended leave after this. The Princess does at least grant the small mercies where she sees fit."

"Well, tell her I want to be an aunt sometime, okay? I want a little foal I can spoil stupid with books."

Her brother coughed on his tea a little, punching a foreleg to his chest repeatedly, choking and wheezing far longer than the tea would have caused. He was also blushing furiously. "Twilight!"

"What?"

"Just... I don't know!"

"Well, you must have been thinking about it!"

"I mean... yes, but that's different!"

Rainbow nudged Twilight in the ribs, still looking a little shellshocked from before, but having the presence of mind to say "I think he just doesn't want his sister to know he's spelunking the moist caverns of pleasure."

Shining turned as red as a tomato. "That was the worst possible way to say it."

"Delving the moist pits of carnal pleasure?"

"It's the word 'moist' isn't it?" Twilight agreed straight-faced, watching her brother carefully. He seemed to be shrivelling inside himself. It was decidedly innocent.

"Please make her stop?"

But Rainbow was on a roll now. "Cannonball the fiddle cove? Burying the bishop in the fleshy pink congregation? Giving a kiss to the little man in the canoe? Going up to his nuts in guts?"

Twilight paled noticeably, stealing her brother's tea – with much protest – to take a stiff sip herself. "Okay, that last one was a little much."

"You think!" Shining protested three octaves higher than his usual register.

Twilight tried very hard not to giggle, truly she did. It was just the squeamishness caused by Rainbow's last euphemism that saved her. "Well, what does Cadance call it? She doesn't seem the sort to be shy about it."

"I don't want to say."

Twilight took a swing. "Is it snuggle times?"

"..."

And it's good! "Oh my goodness, it is, she really calls it that."

"...!" Shining stated eloquently behind the sound of him choking on his own tongue.

"Okay," Dash added, "that's actually kinda adorable. Nauseating, yes, but also totally adorable." She tried to keep a straight face, but every other breath became a snort out her nose and down the back of her throat.

"S-shutup!" He was definitely red right down to his neck, now, and squirming in his seat. Both hooves thrown over his head and pulling down on his ears.

"Oh my gosh," Dash wheezed, "now he's stuttering! That's even worse."

Shining stood up suddenly, pointing at Dash, still blushing furiously, but that furiosity was matched by his eyes too. "I swear on my rank, Ms Dash, that I will find out who you're smitten for and I will rub your nose in it."

"Me? What'd I do?"

"I already know who Twilight has a crush on, and it's already ridiculous."

Twilight blinked, then tapped the table with an indignant hoof. "Hey!"

But Shining would have no protests. "Your idea of romance involves giant lasers."

"That's because my idea of romance is objectively better than yours!"

Shining shook his head, trying to clear the excess blood, or at least move it around a bit. "Doesn't matter! Dash! Rue the day! Etcetera!"

And as he turned and stormed out, it was almost forgotten that, about an hour ago, he had nearly been forced to kill Rainbow and Twilight.

Almost forgotten.


As Rainbow left to fly home, and talk to her landlord about her... career prospects again, Twilight wandered around the basement she had ceded to Pinkie Pie. Still hadn't repaired the ceiling... floor? above. She found herself again looking through the blueprints.

She wished the ridiculous pony was here to explain some of these notes to her. Where was she? It wasn't like her to leave without telling Twilight. Or leave at all most days. In fact, she couldn't remember the last time Pinkie had left without at least Rainbow Dash accompanying her.

Some of these devices required parts and components and materials that simply wouldn't exist for decades, centuries even, and yet she had shorthand for them. Whereas Twilight herself would have reams of pages of notes on just one of these parts alone, Pinkie scribbled off with a number. What even was a 555 chip? What did a flip-flop element do?

Still, what she could understand, and the numbers she'd put down – even if Twilight didn't know how the numbers were put there – they all checked out, every time she calculated them. Which took a long time, admittedly, but still.

Time and time again she came back to the concept of escape velocity.

Pinkie had initially considered balloons, like how she had gotten that foal off that stack of books. But recent calculations that Twilight herself had contributed had shown that gravity was... well, gravity was weird.

You end up going high enough, and if you're not going fast enough you end up going sideways instead. You just keep going sideways faster. Because what happens, the scholars have discovered, is that 'down' is relative, and rather quickly becomes your sideways.

If you go fast enough, you achieve orbit, like the moon around Equestria. Falling up in perpetuity.

There were a few equations she had worked out with Pinkie.

Escape velocity was the first, and perhaps the most important. It was the speed whatever vessel they had would need to be moving to be able to escape Equus orbit. That was simple enough to calculate in theory: It was the point where velocity would exceed gravitational potential energy.

Simple enough in theory. In execution, Twilight would kiss the pony who invented calculus.

Whoever said pure math had no practical applications was a fool and a part of a depressing majority!

There was one chalkboard wheeled down into the basement – Pinkie had insisted, but Twilight felt bad for some reason about it, considering her old living conditions. Having her share a room with a chalkboard seemed immoral somehow, but there was a difference between 'with' and 'behind'.

Right?

Still, the equation was simple enough. The square root of (gravitational constant multiplied by mass of Equus) over the radius.

The hardest work had been done a hundred years before by a distant Apple family relative, Latunda, in figuring out the mass of Equus. Now they got the relatively simple number of five kilometers a second.

That number had scared Twilight when she first saw it. Scared her a lot. The muzzle velocity of a musket ball was a fifth that! The idea of getting a pony to 5,000 meters a second was inconceivable!

Well. It was conceivable. The force required was simply mass times acceleration. Assuming a near instantaneous acceleration – well, that would be 5,000 meters per second per second for a second. Nice and simple numbers. Cannons were great like that. They had a great tendency to cause complications to explode. Or complications caused them to explode, either way.

Assuming the weight of a powered bathysphere with pony loaded inside, the weight of the hull being replaced with equipment designed to propel a passenger through the aether, call it two thousand kilograms, then the force required to propel it would be...

Ten million newtons of force. That would be about...

Actually... given a large enough reserve, that was reasonably feasible. More force had gone into gunpowder stockpiles going off!

Twilight did some more quick calculations...

Assuming the structure could be no longer than the entirety of Canterlot mountain was tall, then that gave her about 5,500 meters of room to accelerate evenly over.

To get to escape velocity, then, she could accelerate for three seconds at about seventeen hundred meters per second per second, to make the use of the entire length.

That would be a force about four hundred and fifty times the strength of Equus gravity. How much could a pony take? That, she didn't know.

But aside from fireworks and gunpowder rockets, there wasn't really another way to bring the cannon with her, not the thrust she'd need. The more fuel she wanted to bring with her, the more fuel she'd need.

Even then, it would only even mattered if she could secure funding.

She might have had a lot of savings, before, but not enough to fund what might be the greatest industrial and scientific undertaking in all history.

Twilight looked, again, at the hole in the ceiling. At the glimmering brass cannon. At all the maths surrounding her. The light filtering down. Through it, the light catching off the barrel of her telescope and laser array, something that also had been impossible, had been inconceivable, before this year.

The array she would use to talk to Luna again tonight.

That Twilight would make it to the moon and save her Princess was not an impossibility. It was an inevitability.

And where was Pinkie Pie?

Twilight moved up from the dusty confines of the basement and meandered herself up to the coffee engine in the entrance foyer. The big box of grinders and boilers and steamwands and drip trays rattled and hissed as she poured herself her fourth coffee of the hour.

She sipped it. Needed more sugar.

The sugar tin came up empty, even after a few shakes with it held upended. Her home’s net sugar consumption had skyrocketed since Pinkie Pie moved in, and that was fine, but it didn't help her now.

Where had Pinkie gone? She hadn't said anything. Normally she'd suspect her of going with Dash, but she'd been with Dash when Pinkie had vanished. Maybe she'd ask Applejack when she showed up later. Food deliveries had remained a constant, even with her savings dwindling.

She should also ask Rarity about... things. Applejack too. There was a growing surge in Twilight's gut that maybe she was taking Pinkie for granted, or worse, using her like Bright Spark had. How was she any different, now, to the Professor who kept her locked away? What difference, truly, was there in living in a basement to living behind chalkboards? He'd done horrible things to Pinkie in the name of treatment, but was that truly any worse than not doing anything at all, in what Twilight assumed was her best interest?

She seemed happy in her basement with her tinkering.

She had seemed happy when Twilight first found her, too.

Oh, horsefeathers.

Now here she was, left alone with her thoughts, and the prospect that maybe Pinkie Pie—

— yep, definitely needed more sugar —

—that Pinkie Pie had seen the writing on the wall that Twilight had missed. That maybe Twilight didn't respect Pinkie Pie for more than her brilliance, and what she could do for her. As a means to an end.

That was a horrible way to think of a friend. One of her first. One of her closest.

She had to get her back.

She had to hide from her brother.

She had to apologize to Applejack for only seeing her for her services for so many years, and even then...

Twilight had to talk to somepony who was an expert on growing feelings of loneliness and isolation.

It was growing closer and closer to nightfall. She could talk to Luna soon.


The guards knew to keep their distance. Twilight might have been confined to her house, but the photons she fired off into the aether cared little for civil law, or the wellbeing of straggling pegasi. It's not like she didn't give them fair warning.

Morse code powerful enough to vaporize an entire guard fired ever upwards into the aether, dissipating and diluting as it made the 400,000 kilometer journey to its destination, a lonely blue princess who only ever saw from it the tiniest sparkling of light, semaphore from a passing ship concealed by the heaviest pea-soup fog.

Tonight's missive simply started, in dots and dashes, "What's it like up there, really?"

Luna thought for only a second before using her long, slender limbs to drag out in the cosmic dust: "Beautiful and serene for a time, and then very lonely thereafter."

"What do you miss most?"

"About home?"

"Yes."

"Difficult. So much must have changed. Would not recognize it anymore. It would not recognize Us anymore." Here Luna saved time by writing the sentences parallel to each other, sharing the 'would not recognize' and the 'anymore' between both.

They were such simple questions and answers, given far more weight by the long minutes it took to send and receive and translate them. By how limited their conversational windows were. Every word counted, and so even the littlest nothings were made so infinitely larger because of that.

"Were you happy?"

Luna paused for a long time, seeming to look seriously right down the telescope. Twilight couldn't make out her face, but her head seemed to be angled... well it made sense, it was the same place the laser was coming from. Still, it was almost unnerving, watching Luna look at her without seeing. Something she never quite got used to, even after all these long months now.

"No."

Another long pause. More words dragged on after that first.

"I was always quite alone. Worse now, though."

Was it possible for a pony to write something wryly in moondust? It certainly seemed so.

"Why?"

"Celestia cast a long shadow that was hard to step out of. I grew bitter and jealous, shamefully." No abbreviations, no cut corners. The thought was written in its entirety; obviously a thought that had been gnawed down and tasted and chewed for a long time that was only just now able to be spat out. It wouldn't do to keep it down a moment longer, nor to hold any of it back. "Silly pony. Has she forgiven us?"

Celestia... forgiven her?

But that didn't make any sense.

Celestia banished Luna, why would Luna feel...

"What happened?"

"You don't know???" Three question marks underlined in the dust.

"No."

"Long story. I will write during day. We still have this night."

There was so much Twilight wanted to talk to Luna about, but there was so little time in a night, and the world spun too fast. Soon enough she'd have drifted around again, and the moon would be gone.

Did she talk about Fluttershy? Did she talk about what happened with her brother? Did she talk about... no. Don't talk about rescue plans. Not until hypotheticals become courses of action. Still, there was one thing Luna was in a unique position to talk to her about.

"I am also alone," Twilight admitted.

"Oh? Is my company not enough?"

"A marvel," Twilight typed out, followed by her signal for half power, to indicate time wasn't the only limiting factor. Rainbow Dash could only produce so much power for the capacitor banks during the day. "But I am confined to house arrest. Too dangerous to visit."

"A shame. Friendship is a powerful thing. Often a tool of destiny."

"Destiny?"

"Magic is strange. Fate especially is a force to be reckoned with. I consider our meeting fated, certainly." Luna stopped to consider this. She found a large, blank portion of moon surface to work with and wrote in it the word MAGIC. Around it she drew a five pointed star. Each point had its own word attached to it.

INSPIRATION

DEDICATION

IMAGINATION

VALOUR

CHARITY

Then the writing continued as before, to the side. An arcane diagram written just for her on the surface of another world. Everything Twilight had dreamed of since she was fourteen. "Where you find these in your life, fate has seen fit to intervene, as certain as a cutie mark. All traits you have shown just to help me with my own loneliness. I wish that we could meet so I might know your body as well as your mind."

There was a long pause as Twilight soaked that in. Then a very panicked Luna erased 'know your body', drawing a long line out from those words and into more blank space so that she might write instead "Appearance? Forgive my unintentional euphemism."

She alternated so quickly between forward and bashful sometimes. For some reason Twilight didn't find it as endearing as she usually did; this time it just worried her.

"You won't scare me off," Twilight sent. "Don't worry."

Luna just sat staring up at her for a long time. Her usually impeccable writing became hurried and messy. "I am afraid. I have been alone for so long. I do not wish to lose you to careless words."

Twilight had no words for that. But Rarity had taught her some.

"To love the moon

Is not easy

To talk to her

Is harder still.

To reach the moon

Impossible

But all these things

I surely will."

A longer silence than before, Luna staring up at the sky motionless but for the impossible breeze through her hair. Finally, she brought herself to say one last thing that night.

"For all my fears that you will no longer speak to me, I find myself with no words to say." Then those last four words were scratched out, replaced with "Speechless". Scratched out again. "Grateful". Scratched out again. "Lost for words again." Then she erased all but a skeleton of the sentence to create a new.

"you will no longer find me lost"

Then even that was reduced.

"you will find me"

Even if Twilight had the power to say more, a single flash was all she needed.

"Yes."


As Twilight dragged herself out of bed at midday, she had plenty of time to consider the helplessness of her isolation. With Pinkie Pie gone she didn't really have anyone just... here, besides Spike.

She tried to remember how she was okay with this before. How was she okay with this for so long?

There was no answer that she could grasp at.

Rainbow Dash was still having problems with her landlord. While Twilight had enough bits to tide the pegasus over, the loss of her stipend had reached the news, and it seemed 'lack of stable employment' would be a convenient enough excuse to be rid of Rainbow.

Rarity would make for pleasant company, but she had no means of contacting her. She had no right to ask for Applejack, considering how busy the farmpony was just keeping her head above-water.

Pinkie was still... Twilight didn't know. Gone. Maybe Fluttershy had been right.

So all Twilight had to do, then, was read.

Yet for as vast as the library was, there didn't seem to be a book Twilight would allow herself to read. It seemed so... ineffectual would be the word.

Luna had a thousand years of practice at this. Would that have made each day better or worse? Would you grow more numb or more sensitive to the passage of time? Was the thought of escape a light at the end of the tunnel, or a hollow mockery?

What must that first message to her have felt like?

When she ran out of power that first time...

Again, that memory kept coming to kick her in the gut.

So here Twilight was, having just learned what it was like to have friends, to understand just how lonely she had been, and now the Princess of Mourning had taken that away from her just like she had from Luna.

Her laser was big, certainly. Designed to move with the observatory roof...

What if rescuing Luna was but a pipe dream, an unattainable fool's errand? She didn't believe that yet, but she knew it was a possibility, just like she knew her communication's system could be aimed and pointed at a much closer target. The Hollow Castle was perched higher on the mountain, a lone target and a sitting duck.

She knew what it could do to a pegasus oblivious to her warnings. What could it do to an alicorn, if Twilight had intent?

Maybe that was how she was destined to help Luna. She would aid in her escape by destroying her gaoler.


Pinkie Pie didn't know what a patent office was, but Rainbow Dash seemed to know what she was doing, so that was okay.

Bright Spark knew what patents were. He'd talked about them all the time, and given Pinkie a lot of patented-cure-alls over the years, but most of them just made her really sick, or dizzy, or happy-in-a-bad-way, or sleepy. Drowsy sleepy, not bored sleepy.

Patent offices were bored sleepy.

Everything was beige and covered in wooden desks where wooden ponies sat rubber-stamping everything and doing lots of maths, and while the maths was okay, it was pretty boring arithmetic. Everypony wore the same type of suit in the same boring colours, and they all seemed like they were so much cleverer than her. They acted like the university professors did when Bright Spark introduced her to them, and they all knew so many things she didn't. But they didn't really want to talk to her then, either.

It didn’t help that everything was lit by ornate, brass candelabras in the wall, which looked super cool but weren’t that great at lighting everything super well. At least all the clerks had nice lamps to work with.

Rainbow Dash looked like she was feeling the same way, though, and that was cool. After they'd been sent past the front admissions desk for having just too many patents to file, they'd been sent to sit in this room full of typewriter ponies until a case manager could be assigned. It was only seconds before both ponies were getting squirmy and fidgety, and an impressive amount of restraint on Dash's part to last a full minute.

"Bunch of stuffed shirt eggheads, I tell you what," Rainbow grumbled. "Two shakes of a lamb's tail, Pinks."

With that, the adventurous pegasus flew up and over the desks, sending clerks scrambling for paperweights and bullclips as loose papers were sent scattered by her downdraught.

"Brown suit, grey suit, brown suit, grey suit, grey suit, grey suit, grey suit – ooh, paisley, I'm avoiding you like the plague, sir." Rainbow respectfully doffed her pith at the very unamused stallion. "C'mon! Isn't there any pony around here who isn't made of starch and stiff?"

Well at the back of the deep and dim room was a petite pony with a sparkly red dress. She must have saved up for months to buy it. As bright as the dress was, it was mostly hidden behind piles of paperwork. She’d been pushed into the back, surrounded by filing cabinets filled with index cards and the cumulative weight of oppression given physical form in paper.

Everywhere else was beige carpets, cut-and-paste ‘antique’ wooden desks, but here there was the dark olive green of the cabinets, the yellow of old paper and index cards, the bright red of an insecure pony’s dress.

Dash ran a mental checklist: Not boring? Check. Does paperwork for us? Probably check. Looks like she needs a jolly good talking to? Absolute check.

She zoomed back to the simple padded bench at the entrance of the room, where Pinkie sat. She’d apparently taken some crayons out of her bowler hat and started to doodle more sketches, using the back of an illustration demonstrating the workings of an oscillating kilogram thingamajig that apparently shook buildings. She was lying across the bench, kicking her legs behind her, head over the edge and buried in her drawings set on the floor.

The crayon sketches looked complicated.

Rainbow got distracted, of course. “Woah. What’s this?”

Pinkie smiled. “Well, the moon’s really far away right? And it’s not like we can trail a cable behind it. So I’m trying to figure out how to make a really, really big radio antenna, right? And I’m thinking, gosh, Twilight’s telescope is so clever with all its slidy moving parts for focal length, and light and radio are just different mechanical waves passing through the medium of the ether, right? So it stands to reason I could make a really big radio antenna using the same principles!”

The crayon drawing was flourished with much pride. It looked like the cross section of a Ferris Wheel trying to eat a water tower built into its side, in bright pastel colours of course.

“The blue thing is the shaped-surface subreflector, which is of course bouncing off the bigger purple shaped-surface reflector, and the pink bits are geometric foci. Twilight told me the red bits called an alidade! Isn’t that a fun word! Alidade. It looks super funny when you spell it out, too.” Pinkie filled it in with a little number affix.

Rainbow snorted. “Okay, yeah, throw it on the cart and we’ll get it patented too.”

Pinkie looked hesitant.

“I mean, they’ll give it back. So you can finish it. It’s just proving you designed it, right?”

“Oh right! My signature. Bright Spark taught me it was very important I put my signature super properly on everything.”

Her super important signature had the prettiest yellow crayon saved up just for it. Yellow and pink just matched. It was very, very pretty, she decided.

Rainbow was already hiking the wagon train past the desks of much grumpier looking ponies. The petite mare in the red dress seemed honestly surprised when they stopped in front of her.

“Ah?” she murmured somewhat hesitantly after a few seconds of Rainbow and Pinkie beaming brightly at her, her gold-rimmed spectacles falling down her nose as she looked up at them. She pushed them back up with a hoof. “Can I help you two?”

“I certainly hope so!” Rainbow declared brightly, “or I have made a terrible, horrible mistake.”


Two ponies walked down a long country dirt road with a simple white fencing on either side. Both had a stein of fresh apple cider with them. Both were businessmares, and both were devoted older sisters, but that was about where the similarities between them ended.

"You're lucky Applebloom likes that sister of yours, else I might not have trusted you past the property line. Still ain't lettin' you anywhere near my brother."

Rarity smiled wickedly. "I taught Sweetie Belle to share her toys."

"That ain't it. Mac's too much of a romantic, though you'd never think it by looking at him. Pony like little old you'd break his heart the second you got bored of him. You seem nice enough, Rares, but you don't seem the settlin' down type, and that's what Apples need."

The Lady sighed bitterly. "I suppose you're right. No stallion is so gorgeous as to be worth ruining his life, I suppose. Even if he's a charming, romantic farmer from a family that prides itself on integrity. Probably strapping. Delightful accent. Almost certainly too good for me. Big, strong, yet delicate and innocent, so unfamiliar is he to the ways of the world outside his little farmstead..."

"Rares, hate to break it to ya, but you're droolin'."

"Let me have my moment, Applejack, please. I am fantasizing."

"That's darn near what I was afraid of, yep."

Rarity heaved a long-suffering sigh, straightening herself up a bit. "I suppose it's best we don't meet, then, if only because I'm sure he couldn't possibly live up to the ideal I'm putting together for him in my head."

There was a long silence, unbroken by the country stillness here, even so close to the city. The city's soot did nothing to dull the vibrant green and red of the apple trees, instead settling as fertilizer. The Lady took a moment to appreciate its simple, tranquil beauty.

Speaking of simple beauty, she couldn't help but notice Applejack's eyes darting back and forth, anywhere but at her.

"Oh, dear, he's exactly as I described him, isn't he?"

"Eenope," Applejack lied. Badly.

"I'm choosing to believe that. I want you to know that, because I value our friendship."

"Thank'n you kindly. It'd be a shame. It's been nice, Applebloom having a friend her own age. School's just a mite bit expensive at the moment."

"Actually, I've been meaning to ask you about that. Or, rather, something tangential to it. You've been spending so much more time off the farm lately, when you speak so constantly of your debts."

Applejack snorted, tipping her hat low over her eyes in such a way to hide her smirk from Rarity with the bulk of her foreleg. "You tellin' me it's my own fault for not workin' hard enough, Rares?"

"What?! No, no of course not, I just... I wonder—"

"Easy there." She moved her arm, showing off her big smile, "It's because I'm losin' customers. Doesn't matter how much we grow if nopony's buying. And I don't make enough metalworking to cover costs. So I reckon I've earned a little time off lately to hang around with smart ponies and good company. We'll get by."

"Smart ponies! You have so much potential yourself, mon cher! Why, with this spare time, if you were to get yourself an education—"

Applejack rolled her eyes at that, raising her nose in the air and half lidding her eyes. Her expression just screamed; Peasant! How dare you get your blood on my carriage wheels! "Vous n'êtes pas aussi intelligent que vous pensez que vous êtes." The easy-going smile returned, and Applejack punctuated it with a big sip of cider that gave her the biggest foam moustache as she could manage. "You're not as smart as you think you are, sugarcube."

Rarity balked at that. "You speak the language of culture?"

Applejack snorted. "N’importe quoi. Whatever you say, mon cher. To me it's the language of prissy prep schools."

"You did mention you had 'been there, done that'... " Rarity murmurred thoughtfully, sipping on her big wooden mug of fresh apple cider.

"Yup. Folks thought the best way to save the farm would be to marry me off to a rich pony, sweep me off to a life of luxury and send a little bit home to my precious, rustic beginnings as a sentimentality." She gave Rarity a look so heavy with meaning it seemed to bend time around it, and everything seemed to get slow and heavy for the Lady. "Sound familiar to you?"

"Oh. Quite." Rarity coughed into a white glove. The cider was finished, and Rarity pulled from her small clutch a packet of cigarettes, lighting up. She offered the pack to Applejack, who snorted and turned it down.

"Nah thanks. Gets in the way of the country air, what little of it there is 'round these parts. Reckon if I could bottle and sell that, then we might be in business."

Another long silence. Contemplative.

"You know, for a pony who's so good with the industrial arts, your farmstead seems quite... regressive. It's quaint, but have you considered modernizing?"

"Now there's a phrase I'm familiar with. You want me to mechanize? Just told you, it ain't that the work isn't gettin' done, there just isn't a market. Nopony wants fresh local produce these days, it's all exotic imports."

"You just need branding! To make a name for yourself. You lack exoticism, certainly, but it's a manufactured quality. I'm absolutely certain I don't need to point out to you that far away lands are local to the locals."

"So, you're sayin' make myself a, whatsitcallit... sell out the family's good name just to keep the farm afloat? Sounds awful close to spittin' on it if you ask me."

"Not at all, 'sugarcube'! Perhaps making your family name a household name among the homes of the wealthy elite." Rarity enthused, taking a deep drag on her cigarette, eyes sparkling with ideas. "There's certainly a lot to be said about a cider I can still taste so clearly through the ash."

Applejack snorted at that. "Layin' it on thick there, Rares. Starting to sound like a tiger that's caught sight of my tail."

A white gloved hoof pumped triumphantly. Rarity smiled a smile that grew fangs, and those fangs passed the bar exam and acquired expensive suits to become something far worse. "But when the tiger's got your tail, do you go down with dignity, or do you kick him in the bits that dangle?"

"Seems more like I'm lettin' the tiger kick me in the bits, here, honestly."

"Well, you having bits to kick seems like a requirement."

"You talking money or anatomy bits?"

Another far-too-wide smile. "Seems you're lacking in both."

"Why don't you just spit out this little idea of yours, then, before I kick you myself."


“Where are my manners? How uncharacteristically rude of me, my fair lady, I implore your forgiveness!” Rainbow Dash removed her pith helm, clutching it to her breast respectfully. “My name is thoroughly unimportant, so let’s get to the matter at hoof, shall we?”

The mare in the red dress blinked. “Wait, so, what—?”

“That’s the spirit!” Rainbow Dash ploughed ahead, valiantly and chivalrously and gallantly and not at all cruelly to the poor clerk caught in her wake, “You see, my friend, Pinkie Pie here, she has a lot of inventions. A real tinker if you get my drift. Say hello for the nice lady, Pinkie.”

“Hi!”

“There’s a spiffing girl. Tell me, what’s your name then?”

The poor confused thing looked around in confusion. Much as she expected, a miraculous way out of the situation did not present itself. Still, she wasn’t quite ready to accept that this absurdity was going to happen, and was willing to go down throwing logic wherever she could. “Hold on, if your name isn’t important, why’s mine?”

“Jolly good question!” Dash exploded with enthusiasm, “You must be a very clever pony for thinking to ask it, what ho!” She turned to her accomplice with the red wagon train,  “Pinkie, I think we’ve found the right pony to help us, indeed I do. Sharp as a tack this one.”

“She seems nice,” Pinkie agreed, offering the yet-unnamed pony a smile.

“Also you have a nameplate, but I don’t want to move the papers covering the last half. So shall I just call you Ms Golden for now?”

“Oh, uh, sure, I suppose.”

“Spiffing!” Dash enthused again. “It seems you’re rather bogged down in paperwork here. If I scratched your back, would you afford us ludicrous favours you wouldn’t otherwise agree to?”

Golden looked around at the towering and borderline toppling piles of paper and parchment perched precariously around her workstation. It was not hyperbolic to say that her chief worry was the risk of the paper forming sedimentary layers from the compression.

Clerks at desks closer to them had begun staring openly at the two standing before her. She shrugged nervously.

“I can’t agree to anything,” she admitted, “I don’t even know how I’d be helping you yet. Since you’ve come all the way back here, I’m guessing it’s probably not entirely legal.”

“I prefer the term ‘extralegal’! Far less judgemental, and frankly, it sounds awesome.”

Pinkie piped up there, showing off her wagons of potential patents. “Please, Ms Golden. My friend says it’s very important that I patent all this. My other friend, Twilight Sparkle, has been really, really super nice to me for ages now, and I really want to pay her back.” Pinkie smiled, even as her right front foreleg vibrated anxiously. She wasn’t used to being out in public for this long. “I have a lot of neat friends.”

Golden’s brow furrowed as she studied the twitching pink pony in the bowler hat a long moment. “Twilight Sparkle... the one with the big telescope?” Pinkie nodded. “I know of her work, it’s always a pleasure to file it,” Golden smiled, “I’ve been over her schematics, and some of the designs she’s made are just absolute perfection. Like art with a very rigid set of rules, I suppose. I think she taught me maths can be beautiful, do you know what I mean?”

Dash smiled knowingly, nodding slowly. “Nope!”

Golden sighed bitterly. “Nopony really does.”

Pinkie twitched, smiling. Or smiled while twitching? “I do!”

“I’m sure.” Golden sighed again. It was apparent the pink one was just trying to appease her. “I’m sorry, but I really am very busy. If you have patents to file, I’m sure the front desk—”

Again, Rainbow made a dismissive gesture and blew a raspberry. “They sent us back here to await a case manager, I guess. I didn’t want to get Pinkie a boring one, though, because she deserves the best of the very best, and you seemed right jolly spiffing, you did!”

Flattery will get you everywhere, it seems. Just as Golden was about to protest she wasn’t really that much more interesting than anypony else in here, as evidenced by her finding math beautiful apparently, she actually focused on the sentence as a whole to rebuff it and— “Wait, they sent you back here to wait? That’s unorthodox. Usually it’s taken out of your hooves and assigned on your behalf.”

“Is it because we brought too much?” Pinkie asked nervously, and her tics grew more pronounced as the worry crept into her voice. Still just little twitches for the moment, but occasionally a little flicker of movement just out of her control would jerk a limb in some direction it wasn’t intended to go. “I’m super sorry, I didn’t think I’d be wasting anypony’s time.”

Golden pushed a pair of gold spectacles up her nose, perfect circles with a crooked line joining them that never quite seemed to fit right. “Well, it's certainly not the usual amount to be processed, that's certain. Are these all your patents?”

“Just the ones we could fit in the wagons. Some of them blew away before we thought to tie the bundles up with twine.”

“Sorry.” Rainbow grumbled, glancing apologetically over her shoulder at the ponies still picking up sheafs of paper in a line between here and the door.

Golden shook her head slowly, doubt creeping into her features. “Still. If you're the Royal Advisor's peer, then I should be happy to help. I just don't think I have the time...”

Rainbow and Pinkie craned their necks up at her workload. Rainbow snorted.

“Oh, yeah, I can help with that.”

“Really,” Golden deadpanned.

“Absolutely! Here… Let me guess, like, eighty percent of this is just you reading through a bunch of it and signing your name at the end to officiate it.”

Golden stared at Dash suspiciously. “It's a little more complicated than that.”

“Is it really, though?”

A very long-suffering sigh. “Well, no.”

“Frabjuous!” Rainbow decreed, pottering around Golden's desk, much to her dismay. Golden curled up a little in her office chair, so as to preserve what little personal space remained from the overwhelming force of presence of Dash intruding on it. “Then I've got one word of advice: Stop reading, just sign. Well, I mean, that's four, but it's one word in spirit, and that's really what counts.”

The bureaucrat in the pretty red dress looked positively scandalized. “I can't just do that! I'm a signatory. It's a legal document!”

“Well, yeah, exactly,” Dash shrugged, pointing at a dotted line. “So here's the thing. Are you in a position of power where, if you notice anything wrong, you can change or fix anything?”

“That's… I'm at the end of a long line, true—”

Dash plowed on. “Splendiferous! So, if there were a problem and it was brought up later, would you be the first pony pulled up on it?”

“I mean, no, that would be the drafter of the document or the editor—”

“So am I wrong in saying you only exist to be a legal barrier for other ponies to cover their flanks?”

“That's a terrible thing to say!”

“But accurate!”

A very uncomfortable pause, punctuated with a long stare at the reams and mountains of redundant paperwork in its triplicate. “They are not mutually exclusive things, no,” was the eventual conclusion from a pony suddenly grasping the horrible insignificance of their life and career for the first time.

“Cool. So just sign the dotted lines and don't read anything. I'm, like, 80-90% certain that's what they expect you to do anyway. Here's a tip; the things you need to read are the things ponies super casually tell you not to bother with. Heck, they probably fill you up with so much of this busy work just to get those things to slip by.”

Golden remained silent. Then, after a deep, wondrous sigh, “I am employed solely to be plausible deniability, aren't I?”

“Almost definitely.”

“My mind has been expanded.”

“Fantastic.” This was said with the utmost earnestness.

“How do you know all this?” There was a frantic twang to the curiosity in the question.

“Because I totally went through like, three assistants doing this, so I had somepony else’s name on the paperwork whenever I needed a scapegoat.”

“Dash!” Pinkie scolded, her voice tinged with horror. Rainbow laughed heartily, deep from the gut.

“Don't worry Pinks, I didn't totally throw them under the cart. I'm not a monster! I just had a deal with a pony in R&D. Walked in there once ‘cause I thought it was a whole department dedicated to me. Ended up making buddies with a pal. We swapped assistants back and forth. They were never, like, unemployed for more than an hour at a time. Upper management never caught on.”

“Have you considered, perhaps, Miss Dash,” a deep and very amused voice that raised every single hair on Dash's neck made itself known, “that we did know, and you were my plausible deniability.”

“Mr Spark!” Pinkie chirped in delight, throwing herself into the velvety tailcoats of an astonished entrepreneur, who only just managed to signal to two large, twitchy-looking stallions that was okay.


Twilight had already placed her hoof on the knobs, had already started aligning her sights, when she heard something she hadn't heard in a very long time.

"Sol invictus?" she intoned solemnly to no one in particular, a threatening determination as she pulled another gear ka-chunking into place, "Sic Semper Tyrannis."

The tinkling of silver bells all around the library.

Someone had pressed the doorbell. The diversion of steam released pressure from the observatory, and just for a moment brought it to a halt. Intentionally or not, somepony had stopped her.

Well.

Twilight took a deep breath. Spike's voice rattled up the tube. "You hear that over moving the whole roof? Somepony's at the door for you."

"Y-yeah, Spike. Sure. I got it."

"Woah. You sound... something. You sure sound something. Do you, ah, want me to get it for you this time?"

"It'll take me a bit to get to the door, so, yes please. Also, could you have a cup of tea ready for me when I get down there? I think it might help a lot."

"Ah, yeah, sure. Milk, two sugars?"

Spike knew Twilight took sugar in her tea when she was in a bad way.

Had she nearly made a terrible mistake?

"Yes, please."

She made the long walk to the elevator, to await judgement for actions she had not yet made.


Two foals sat in a hoofmade treehouse far away, while their sisters yelled at each other about something or other. They watched with a pile of fresh apples piled up in the corner, should things get interesting enough to warrant snacks.

Applebloom and Sweetie took an apple each when Applejack got rowdy enough to take her hat off and start making wild gestures with it, while Rarity made funny expressions and odd gestures of her own.

“Yer sister’s a strange one.” Applebloom opined.

Sweetie snorted at that, taking a testing nibble of her apple. It was sweet and juicy enough that the pressure of her teeth sent rivulets of juice dribbling down her chin. “Ponies in glass houses.”

“It’s called a greenhouse, and it’s a totally legitimate farmin’ practice.”

“What? No, I mean... it’s like a biblical allegory I guess?”

Applebloom seemed to mull that over in serious thought for a moment. “What’s a biblical?”

“Rarity says it’s the opiate of the masses.”

Applebloom took a thoughtful bite of her apple as her sister took a swing at her friend's sister. Her friend's sister ducked it though. That was actually pretty cool. "Applejack and Big Macintosh don't grow opiates. Says they've got no moral fibre in them. Fibres super good for you, so we grow that instead.”

This made a lot of sense to Sweetie, who nodded thoughtfully. “Rarity did give me some law… low… laudanum once when I had a really bad cough, and it made me feel better, but it also made me feel super sick too.”

“Well there you go,” Applebloom concluded. “Wait, what were we talking about?”

“Why our sisters are weird and fighting.”

“Oh right.” Applebloom crunched into her apple again, watching out the clubhouse window as Rarity turned Applejack's flat cap into a top hat, much to her sister's horror. The farmpony pounced. “Wonder what they're fightin' over, anyway.”

Sweetie tried to show off by nonchalantly levitating her apple up to her mouth, but failed miserably as she visibly struggled just to tip it over. Applebloom didn't laugh, but did seem to have a knowing smile that made Sweetie almost blush herself to death in embarrassment. She tried to cover by changing the topic back, quick. “What'd make your sister this mad?”

“Usually Applejack only gets this mad when somepony tells her about the miracles of industrialization. She doesn't truck with it.”

“Oh. Why not?”

“Pride I guess. Family heritage. It's everypony else's fault for not wanting the best dang produce in Equestria, in her mind.”

Sweetie took another nibble, making sure to use her hooves this time. “These are really good apples.”

“Best apples in Equestria,” Applebloom repeated.

Their sisters were whipping up a right holler now. Applejack threatened to lasso Rarity and truss her up good. Rarity threatened to like it.

“Our sisters are weird,” Sweetie said.

“Hey, you want to ask if we can visit Spike again? He was cool.”

“Maybe we'll see Pinkie there too!”

“She's really weird though,” Applebloom grumbled. “Nice! But weird.”

Sweetie Belle pointed out the clubhouse window. Rarity had jumped on Applejack's back, and the farmpony was running around trying to buck her off. The top hat seemed to be glued to her head somehow.

“Okay, point taken about weird.”

“I wonder if Twilight would let us borrow some books…”

Applebloom snorted. “Don't reckon she has any with pictures though.”

Sweetie giggled at that, but stopped when Applebloom flinched. That set little gears sparking in her head. “You can't read?”

Applebloom blushed in the same way Sweetie had when she couldn't quite pick up the apple. “I mean, sorta? I can read individual words if I sound 'em out, and I'm real good at numbers – Applejack lets me help her with the books, just to keep me sharp as an axe – but if you put too many words too close together, I just start feelin' dizzy.”

“Huh. Me and Spike could help you with that, then, and you can teach me how to do the numbers.”

“You don't know maths?”

Sweetie smiled with just a hint of bitterness, a stark contrast to Applebloom's embarrassment. “Rarity says ladies as pretty as we are don't need to know maths, because we'll either find good husbands or good assistants. So I never learned.”

“Woah.”

“At least she thinks I'm pretty. So I'm not like, mad or anything.”

“Well… yeah alright. So, we get our sisters to stop fighting and take us to the library, I'll help you with multiplication and you help me with words?”

“Yeah!” Sweetie squeaked, her voice fracturing with excitement. “We just gotta get our dumb sisters to stop being so...”

“Dumb?”

“Yeah.”

Applebloom took one last bite of her apple before bouncing it in her hoof, testing the weight of it. “I was just gunna huck apples at them ‘til they got more mad at us than each other.”

“Okay!”

The fillies armed themselves with the bushel in the treehouse, weaponized in the name of friendship and learning.


Pinkie disentangled herself from her former-and-possibly-still-father figure. He seemed relieved, not that Pinkie had let go, but that she had squeezed so hard to begin with.

“I’m surprised, little one, that... Twilight Sparkle,” the hesitation was not from lack of memory, but of a stallion preparing himself to bite into some particularly unpleasant boiled spinach, “has not poisoned you against me.”

Even as Dash watched on silently, keeping the hired muscle in the corner of her eyes at all times, Pinkie shook her head emphatically. “No! Twilight never ever says mean things about you. She’s actually really nice.”

Dash bit her tongue. Didn’t bite it hard enough. “Dictated but not read, huh?”

The captain of industry snorted, actually cracked a smile. “I see you got my letter, then. I actually hold you in a certain high regard, Ms Dash. Keen spirit of adventure, abilities far beyond your peers, and quite a mean right hook. Quite why you forced yourself into doing paperwork exceeds comprehension.”

“My new employer talks fancy like you too, but she lets me play with the big toys.” Rainbow wiggled her eyebrows up and down, a wink-wink nudge-nudge of a look if there ever was one. Inside she was sweating it out. Pinkie... Pinkie was...

The situation was complicated and she hated it and she just wanted to punch the old buzzard again and be done with it, but he was actually kind of being cool and Pinkie was looking at him like she was and she didn’t want to lose her friend over some stupid macho bullpucky, excuse her language.

So she endured. She could be friendly too. Heck, she’d beat him at his own game.

“It's so good to see you!” Pinkie was all bounces and hugs and excitement and energy, and Spark seemed far more appreciative than annoyed. “What are you even doing here?”

“The same as you, I suspect, my dearest girl. Filing patents, filing patents.”

There was a very strange look on Golden’s expression that Dash found difficult to read. Golden was trying very hard to keep it that way.

Rainbow Dash smiled weakly. "You file the patents yourself? I thought you'd have, like, an assistant to do the boring paperwork for you."

"Ah, but I do!" Bright Spark agreed enthusiastically. "I would never call patents boring, however. You just never know who you're going to meet."

Pinkie Pie gasped, hugging him tight again. "This time it was meee!"

"Yes, dear, yes it was. And it's very good to see you."

This whole scene felt so wrong on so many levels to Dash. She just couldn't quite put a pinion on why.

Golden was all business-like. "Did the front desk send you around too, Mr Spark, sir?"

"Oh, no, no, of course not. I was just saying hello to some friends backstage, as it were, while I was here. Might even be interested in obtaining a few, if some catch my eye."

That sounded... reasonable.

Golden continued to smile, and put on a tone that seemed vaguely ditsy. "What a wonderful coincidence, then, that you came within the hour of another pony with patents so similar to yours. Absolutely remarkable."

That caught in Spark's craw a little. "Er, yes. Why, yes it is. A very happy coincidence, I might add. Now, what's this I hear about you filing patents of your own?"

"Oh! Rainbow said I should be able to have my own money, even though Twilight's been super nice to me. She says I should try being a strong, independent mare like her."

"It's true, I am pretty strong and female," Dash agreed.

Spark's response was glib. "Yes. Well, that's a very mature step for you, Pinkie. But filing all these patents by yourself can be very expensive! Are you sure you can afford all this on your own?"

“I’m sure I can’t! But Rainbow was really nice, and said she’d front the administration costs. We were hoping to get discount on bulk, though.”

It had been easy. She just had to not make rent that month. But that was fine. Her landlord had been trying to evict her since she lost her job at Spark’s. What more could she do that she hadn’t already?

Both Pinkie and Dash looked at Golden expectantly.

“Ah, sorry, but that’s not how this works.”

“Aww...”

“Aww...”

Bright Spark at least had the decency to look disappointed.

“I’m sure you’ll at least have the money to patent the designs that don’t infringe on mine,” he reassured, the muscle behind him flexing slightly in the uneven scattering of shadows that made up the offices, making them look even more misshapen and foreboding.

“Hang on,” Dash felt a little loose thread in the conversation and, like any truly curious mind, decided to pick at it. “How’d you know they infringe on yours?”

“I can see some of them from here, Ms Dash. Rainbow, must you be so suspicious of me?”

“Hrrm,” Golden murmured, largely ignored by the rest.

“I suppose that’s true. I’m sorry for being so jumpy. I’m obviously being unfair, and jolly unsporting. Had a gun to my face rather recently, obviously left me in a rather unspiffing frame of mind,” she said quite proudly.

“It’s okay, Dashie, Mr Spark used to patent stuff for me all the time. I didn’t really know what they were, then. So he just knows what he’s already helped me with before, I guess. Some of these are really old drawings, right Mr Spark?”

Spark’s smile became a fragile and brittle thing, no less there but seeming what was there had become less. “Right you are.”

The hairs on the back of Dash’s neck raised, but she still couldn’t quite tell yet why.

“Oh, wonderful,” Golden interjected, bringing herself back into the conversation as if waking the participants from a dream, where the offices around them had simply faded from their notice, “then Ms Pie here should already be in our files, and we can expedite the process. I’m certain that a respectable stallion such as yourself filed them in her name?”

Spark removed the pocket square from his tailcoats and wiped at his mouth, paying special mind to wipe over the cracks in his facade. “Ms Pie was a dependant of mine at the time, and I was tasked with her financials. It was far more expedient to simply file her patents with my own, under one name.”

Golden looked very serious. “Are you aware that what you are describing, Mr Sparks, may be an admission of a very grave felony?”

Spark’s brittle smile hardened. He had put out the trail Pinkie was blazing!

“Don’t be silly,” Pinkie laughed, much to Dash’s continued surprise, “Mr Spark was just being nice.”

Golden took a long look at Dash’s face expressing... whatever conflicted emotion it was expressing. They shared a moment of acknowledgement. An understanding that Dash didn’t understand.

“Well, Pinkie, if that’s the case, here’s my key to the archives. Do you see that pony in the tweed jacket over there, with the green bow tie? Yes, him, where I’m pointing. Why don’t you go ask him very nicely if you can look through the patents Mr Spark filed for you, and you bring them back, and we’ll see if we can’t help you out. I’d really like to see them! Don’t worry, Dust Jacket is lovely.”

A little brass key on a flax lanyard was pressed into her hooves from a desk draw, and Pinkie was off like a rocket, talking to the purported Dust Jacket. Bright Spark smiled and waved her off, his composure remaining until the very second she was out of sight, at which point it fell, and a look of pure and raw anger replaced his benign happiness.

“What do you want, Ms Dash?! Why are you so intent on twisting her against me?”

“Well that’s a ruddy rotten play of it. What makes you think—”

Golden interrupted Dash, speaking over her not by raising her tone, but by lowering it so that one had to focus to hear her. “How long have you had a plant in this office, Mr Spark?”

The angry indignance just grew further. “Excuse me, Miss? Do I know you?”

“No, but you apparently have been the cause of a considerable deal of extra paperwork piling up on my desk, and it’s left me rather miffed. So I’ll ask again; How long have you had a plant in this office, Mr Spark? Because you clearly have somepony telling you when someone files a claim similar to yours, so that you might be here to personally deal with it. I imagine you’re a very intimidating presence?”

“These are baseless accusations.”

Rainbow had the perfect rebuttal. “No they aren’t. You’re a serial jerk. That’s a basis.”

This time Bright Spark didn’t even dignify her with a glance. “Ms Dash, the grownups are talking.”

A calm voice, a diplomat in a courtroom, came from Golden. “She is trying to help her friend. She has as much stake in this conversation as anyone.”

Her friend?” Spark spluttered. “Her friend? I have devoted myself to nurturing the genius in that tortured soul for over a decade, only now to have her taken from me with the most misguided of intentions.”

“Like claiming her patents as your own?”

Bright Spark was conspicuously silent on this.

“That’s outrageously illegal isn’t it?”

“Only if you can prove it,” Spark growled low, and suddenly his meatsuits were standing between him and Dash and Golden. They seemed to be whispering to him urgently, but he ignored them. “Until then, these patents infringe upon mine. And until my assistant is returned to my custody, voluntarily, you will never see a cent of profit from her work, you thieving, opportunistic bitch.”


A cup of sweet tea and mug of hot chocolate lay on coasters, beside which were a pile of stationary and graph paper. A foal hunched over one of the pages with a quill in hoof, etching out the final three letter-pairs; X x, Y y, Z z.

The page was lifted up and behind her, Twilight reading over it with a thoughtful hum.

“This is very beautiful writing. You’ve never had a formal lesson before?”

Scootaloo was caught in the center of a lot of conflicting emotions. A life on the streets taught you to look for hidden edges wherever you could find them, whether they be hidden under cloaks or under words. And there were certainly a lot of pointy bits that could be hiding behind those words, but before she could get angry about it, she looked up from the page at the genuinely bright and happy smile on Twilight’s face and the hot anger sank into a cold shame instead.

Instead, Scootaloo said “No, never.”

“Well, I would never have guessed just by looking at this. Do you know what the letters mean, or do you just understand the shape of them?”

Again, Scootaloo had to fight down the urge to get snippy, to see the worst of the words. “Just the shape. I see signs and pamphlets sometimes, and I’m really good at drawing. I thought if I practiced drawing the letters enough, they’d start making sense to me.”

Her page of alphabet returned in front of her. Twilight sat down in the seat to her right at the library table, more curious than anything else.  “Did it, in the end?”

“A little,” Scootaloo admitted, shrugging the thought off and away. “Turns out you can’t always understand something just by watching it hard enough, even if it seems like you should.”

Twilight didn’t say anything to that for a long moment, swallowing nothing in a suddenly too-dry throat. “Wise words.”

“For a filly, right?” Scootaloo grumbled.

“It would be very easy for me to forget that, I think.”

Scootaloo had to fight extra hard to stay grumpy for that one, but fortunately an adult being that honest with her was confusing, and confusion is a powerful fuel indeed to lash out with. “Yeah well, are you going to tell me what they mean or not?”

“Oh!” and again, Twilight was snapped out of her introspection and brought back into her ‘teacher’ mindset. “Somepony’s agitated. How about... I don’t know. I’ve never taught anypony to read before. I suppose it might just be easiest to start with small, words and work our way up?”

Scootaloo’s entire face scrunched up. “Can’t you just tell me what the letters sound like, and I’ll figure it out from there?”

Twilight smiled wistfully, thoughtfully. “I’m afraid not. Language is... complicated. Like, let’s just start with ‘A’--”

“So it just sounds like ‘A’ right?” Scootaloo interrupted. “Next letter, then!”

“-- Well, let’s pair it with the next letter, ‘B’, which really sounds like more of a ‘bh’ sound. Together, they can sound like ‘Bh’ and ‘A’ as in ‘bay’, but it can also make ‘bank’, ‘bark’, ‘ball’ and ‘band’.” Twilight wrote each word as she said them, Scootaloo trailing the blatant witchcraft with her eyes.

“That’s cheating!” Scootaloo protested. “You can’t just put the same two letters next to each other and have them make completely different sounds!”

“It’s even worse than that,” Twilight intoned gravely, just for a little bit of drama, “some words are even spelled the same, but mean different things when you pronounce them, like ‘a bow and arrow’ or ‘to bow in court’.” Again she spelled the words as she said them.

Scootaloo stared suspiciously at the words, mouthing them she looked back and forth at them. “Well, I mean, I guess that sorta makes sense. There’s only so many letters to use, right?”

 “But!” Twilight corrected, waggling her pen almost threateningly, her enthusiastic smile making it all the worse,  “it can be pronounced the same and spelled differently too, like ‘to bow in court’ or ‘the bough of a tree’ is spelled like this.”

As Twilight wrote them, Scootaloo looked practically apoplectic, and just seeing that word might have given her a conniption.

The filly’s face hit desk, and then again a few more times for good measure. When it lifted again; “Wait... so are there even words that sound the same, and are spelled the same, but still mean completely different things? That’s gotta be... you can’t just do that,” Scootaloo asserted, though it was clearly more for her own piece of mind than something she genuinely believed.

“Those are called homonyms!” Twilight was practically delighted as she went back up to her earlier examples for ‘b’, bank and bark, and circled them. “Bank can mean where you keep money, or it can mean the bank of a river. Bark can mean the bark of a tree, but it can also mean the sound a dog makes.”

Scootaloo outright balked, now. “And they’re both spelled the same?”

“I’m afraid so.”

Scootaloo’s head hit the desk one last time, and didn’t come back up. Through the wood, Twilight could barely make out the muttered words, “This is going to be way harder than I thought.”

Somebody else heard them quite clearly, though. “I’m not sure I agreed to this, Ms Sparkle. Scootaloo? Thank Ms Sparkle for her time, we are leaving.”

The filly’s head didn’t raise from the desk, but her voice sounded as cold as the ice that had shot through Twilight’s veins like an arctic current. “Hey, Matron.”


Rainbow stood stock still a moment. As if recalling that, yes, a mere second ago he had called her a very... uncouth word. The urge to wash his mouth out with soap was overwhelming, but suddenly she had a powerful tool at her disposal; an audience.

Bright Sparks’ outburst might still have stunned her new bureaucrat friend into submission, but Dash could see all the studious eyes aimed at the spectacle, at them.

Spiffing.

“So, what if we took you to court then, sir, over the rights and rightfulness of our mutual friend to her designs?”

“Then you would lose, and I would bleed you of every cent over a decade.”

Cold. That was cold. That was fine, Rainbow could be warm and bright enough for the both of them! Riposte!

“I didn’t say I would try to win, sir, just that I would take you to court.”

Now, now understanding bloomed in Golden’s eyes. She, too, began to notice the eyes around them, and while she shied away from them... she was beginning to understand all the same.

She whispered something to herself.

“On what grounds? With what proof?” Still the guards tried to pull Spark away, one of them suggesting someone send for his lawyer. Later. “You would ruin yourself for nothing!”

“Well yeah,” Rainbow shrugged, “so I’d come out with what I started. But we’d still get like, a bunch of felony charges on you right? Like, even if we couldn’t get Pinkie the rights back to her designs—”

“Our designs!”

“Of which you took sole credit,” Golden replied pointedly.

“—you’d still, like, get arrested wouldn’t you?”

“And the newspapers would have a field day. The accusations alone would be front page news. Even if nothing came of the legal action, the court of public opinion would crucify you.”

“It’d make a great story.”

“Enough!” And now Bright Spark’s hoof slammed the wooden floor, and Golden and Dash fell silent. “You have no proof. No evidence. You also do not have the connections that I do. I could see you fired, Ms Golden, and perhaps I shall, and you would not be able to turn the papers against me so readily when I am the leading supplier of parts for their presses. You have done nothing but bluff and bluster. Your patents here infringe upon mine which are, in spite of your protestations on the matter, valid and legal. Yet you still think you, Pinkie’s kidnapper, hold the moral high ground over me, that you deserve this? You will deserve everything you get from me. My next letter to the Guard on your behalf, Ms Dash, shall not be so kind.”

Oh.

Dash looked at Golden. Golden didn’t... there wasn’t help there. Neither had any doubt she’d just lost her job over this.

And Dash had banked her home over this.

And it was at that crushing moment, that moment of bitter realization, that both Golden and Rainbow seemed to lose what colour they had. When there was nothing from either of them, Bright Spark didn’t smile or smirk or anything so loathable. He just remained resolute, and the anger drained from him.

Everything seemed to go dark for Dash. Dark and... soft?

“Guess who!” a very peppy voice called into her ear.

“Pinkie?”

“Yup. I brought back some of the papers you asked for.” She presented a sheath of signed and certified patents to the sickly looking Golden and Dash.

“That was very quick of you, Pinkie,” Spark smiled at that, though, genuine and warm. “You have a rather good memory to have found so many so fast!”

“Nah, it was easier than that, Mr Spark,” Pinkie blushed at the praise, waving it out of the air with a modest hoof, “I just found the ones with my signature on them.”

Everyone stopped. Spark was very even and level when he asked, “What?”

“Yeah, I knew I wasn’t supposed to, but you said I was supposed to sign everything, right? So I hid TESLA on all the drawings I did. Just on the ones I was super proud of though! Like, here I put it in the top right corner, see? And here I put in in the axle system... ooh, here, if you look real close, I actually used TESLA as the algebra component, since I was using non-standard values anyway.”

Golden rifled through the ream, stunned, even as Dash passed them to her. As soon as Golden put one down, Spark wordlessly picked it up from her desk and saw for himself.

There is a certain stage of bruise, where the colours are so unique and intermingled that they form entirely new shades that defy concrete labels. It was, too, then that Spark’s face showed such a crushing mix of conflicting and complementary negative emotions, that to list them would be a disservice to the sum of their whole.

“It was... lovely to see you again Pinkie,” he finally managed to croak out. “Feel free to visit any time. Ms Dash, our lawyers will be in contact. That way Pinkie doesn’t have to deal with the boring details of... all this. Clever girl like her shouldn’t have to worry about such things.”

“Oh, uh, yeah. Sure.”

Pinkie waved as the entrepreneur walked out of the building with hunched shoulders. He didn’t look back.


“How'd you know I wasn't just casing somepony?”

“Because,” Fluttershy explained patiently, “you don't get quite this embarrassed about robbing ponies. Which you very well should be, young lady.”

“Sorry, Matron,” Scootaloo mumbled, kicking her hooves under the table, still not sure whether she was supposed to stand or keep sitting where she was, eventually deciding to sit until she was told otherwise.

Her new tutor came to her defense. “I really don't mind, Ms Fluttershy. Scootaloo's been a very quick study, truly.”

Fluttershy seemed to ignore that, still giving Scootaloo a firm look. “And what have you promised for Miss Twilight in return?”

“N-nothing! I just asked really nicely, and said please, like you said I oughta.”

Fluttershy raised an eyebrow reflexively, lowering it the second she realized Twilight was watching her. Peripheral vision of a playground monitor and more besides. “Is that true, Miss Twilight?”

“She did say please, yes. Very emphatically, I might add.”

A slow shake of her yellow head, not even fast enough to disturb a single pink hair on her head. “That is wonderful to hear, but I'm afraid it's not what I was referring to.”

Twilight was growing more confused by the second. It was starting to feel like an interrogation from her parents, of all things. “Oh. No, Scootaloo came all this way just to ask for reading lessons, I couldn't ask a single thing more of her.”

“And you will not be charging her for, say, a beginner's book to help? Or stationary?”

“Well, I don't have any beginner's books, so I was going to write some simple lessons myself. And stationary is something I have an abundance of, if she needs it.”

Matron looked frustrated, excessively so. There was so much mistrust in her eyes, and Scootaloo was caught in the middle of it.

“Hey, whose sister are you?” a country accent interjected from the doorway.

Another voice cracked to join it. “I think she looks like Rainbow’s? I didn’t know she had a sister...”

“Applebloom! Sweetie Belle! What are you doing here? What are you doing in here.”

The fillies made their glacial pace to the reading table the other ponies were at, too caught up in each other to pay the non-Twilight ponies in the conversation much mind.

“Door was open.”

“We’d have knocked but the guard ponies looked really scary, and we didn’t want to linger.”

A thump on the Sweetie’s arm, more annoyed than harsh. “Stop rubbin’ it in that you can read and I can’t. Usin’ big words like that.”

“It’s only two syllables.”

“That ain’t helpin’.”

Finally, Sweetie pulled up a chair across from Scootaloo and Twilight’s position, Applebloom pulling out the chair beside Sweetie. “Oh! Right, hey Twilight. Applebloom doesn’t know how to read so good, and Rarity won’t let me learn how to do maths, so we were hoping—”

“If’n you’ll forgive us for last time!”

“—that you’d help us learn?”

Twilight was silent for a moment. She still, to this day, had not figured out where the potted plants had come from. Books were still missing. But it had been a learning experience for the both of them, and there they were sitting at the table across from Scootaloo, looking up at her so eagerly. Sweetie just about looked like she’d burst into tears were she to say ‘no’...

“That sounds fine with me girls. But you have to promise to behave this time, alright? And ask before coming next time, please.”

“We’re sorry,” they said in unison. It was only now, mission accomplished, that they really began studying the other ponies in the room. There was a tense moment as everypony in the room realized they were in a room with everypony else, as it were, for the first time.

Through this whole exchange, Matron had just been watching in silence, letting the situation wash over her. Finally she made a subtle gesture to Twilight, and they quietly faded into the background, leaving the foals to themselves. They’d already gotten way too excited with each other to notice the grown-up ponies disappearance.

“What’s your angle, Ms Sparkle?”

“What, you mean my curriculum? I was just going to get her familiar with the alphabet and—”

“No!” Fluttershy prodded Twilight in the chest with a hoof tip. A fierce gesture that still landed light as a feather. “I turned down your offer. What are you hoping to gain by teaching Scootaloo anyway?”

“Hopefully a world with one less illiterate foal in it,” Twilight replied tersely. “I don’t appreciate your tone, Fluttershy.“ Twilight dropped the formalities. Seemed like a physical blow. “I do not know your situation. Cannot comprehend it. I freely admit that. But excluding a pony from helping because they are not in the same cycle of poverty is ludicrous!”

“Every single one of those foals was harmed by a rich pony exploiting them, saying it was for their own good because they were paid a fair wage. Excuse me for being suspicious!”

“No, I shall not!” Twilight retorted, seething now, “because it’s not rich and poor, here, it’s immediate and investment. If you’re so focused on just getting them through the day with no plan for what comes next, then you’re the problem here. You’re condemning these foals to a life of poverty as much as any bastard factory worker.”

Fluttershy stood still, like a statue, expression glazed, mouth hanging very slightly open as if to make a retort.

And that’s when Twilight felt the right hook connect.


The foals, meanwhile, were oblivious to the mature conversation happening just meters away, because what use was a library that didn’t enforce its own quiet?

Scootaloo was enraptured by her new friends.“You know Rainbow Dash?”

Applebloom snorted. “Yeah, she’s pretty cool. Wish she stayed out of our trees though, makes my sis real mad.”

“I think she’s cool too! She’s not my sister though...”

Sweetie started shuffling through the notes Twilight had left on the table. “So who’s your sister then?”

“I don’t got one. Or parents, before you ask. I’m, ah, sort of an orphan...”

“Hey, me too!” Applebloom said with way too much enthusiasm. “But I still got a sister though, and a brother. I can share if you want?”

“Yeah, I can share mine too,” Sweetie offered, “she’s a bit much sometimes.”

Appleboom squinted at Sweetie a long second. “Hang on, why are you sharin’ your sister, don’t you got parents?”

“Well, yeah, but it’s my sister I have too much of,” Sweetie said dryly as she finally managed to make sense of Twilight’s impromptu lesson plan. Actually made a lot of sense. She could work with this.

“Ah.”

“So, should we start on the reading then?” Sweetie pointed to what she thought was a good place to start on the notes, spreading them back out on the table for the other two. “Because I reckon if Twilight’s proud of us, she’s more likely to forgive us for the whole... incident.”

Applebloom nodded gravely, even as Scootaloo’s eyebrows raised. “Wait, what incident?”

Sweetie sighed, and just double tapped her hoof on the page again. “Long story. It involves potted plants and a hot air balloon, and then the dragon got an axe I think but then he got grounded, and I was real high up or something? Why’d we even do that?”

“Don’t wanna talk about it.”

Scootaloo still had no real idea who these ponies were, but she absolutely needed to be best friends with them forever.


The streets had taught Fluttershy to fight, and she fought dirty. Shining Armor had taught Twilight to fight, and so she didn't fight dirty. Twilight had something better. Cardio.

Fluttershy had obviously learned to defend herself well, as a pretty girl who walked down a lot of dark alleys, but proper sparring might have been beyond her. After being stunned by that first initial blow, Twilight found herself on a rather even footing.

To whit: The blow, while stunning, filled her with clarity, adrenaline, and forced her mind quickly into its combat procedurals. Had Fluttershy pressed the advantage, the benefits would have been lost very quickly to the detractors, but instead it had caused pause and hesitation. Surprise at throwing the first punch.

So Twilight poked her in the eye with her magic.

Then the surprise turned to rage and, with a soundless scream – probably in a pitch too high for mammals to register – Fluttershy, with her soft eyes and her beautiful and tattered dress, threw herself at her opponent, sending wild punches and jabs, pressing forward, pushing into the librarian.

No, not the librarian, the soldier’s sister, now. Twilight stepped back with an emotionless face, being very careful. Her hooves guided her back through the stacks without bumping into any obstacles, allowing her to focus entirely on her defense. Losing ground wasn’t a problem. It was a resource freely spent. With each step back was another magical strike to a pressure point, almost at random but with the anatomical precision of a surgeon, or at least an avid reader of medical journals.

Fluttershy got sloppier and angrier, even as the mosquito-bite strikes landed in joints and nerve clusters, and she found herself slowing down more and more as her limbs just wouldn’t bend as fast or as right as she’d want them. In frustration she pivoted, coiling in on herself to buck Twilight’s head off with double-barrel hindkicks.

Her legs cannoned out.

Twilight ducked under them, pushing them further up and higher with her magic – a hard feat, but she only needed to use a little more leverage – and then came up under Fluttershy’s waist, pushing her up and over further still, rolling her past the vertical and then flipping her painfully onto her back with a ‘whumpf’ and a panicked squeak the moment the pegasus worked out what was going on.

Twilight stood over her, both of them panting heavily.

“Sorry,” the pegasus admitted.

“No, no, I... I provoked you. I was a little harsh,” Twilight panted, thinking. “Do you mind if I sit down next to you? I think I have a concussion.” She tapped her head again, moving it side to side slowly. “I definitely have a concussion.”

“Oh. Sorry again. Ah,” Fluttershy weakly tapped the ground by her head, to her left. Twilight’s right. “Is here okay?”

“S’fine,” Twilight murmured as she flopped down onto it. “I really do just want to help, you know.”

“I am starting to see that...”

“Hey,” Twilight poked her in the side, smiling, “can we be friends? You seem really nice.”

“Oh, wow. Uh, I hit you a bit harder than I thought, didn’t I?”

Twilight giggled a little. “Yeah, a bit, probably. You proud?”

“No!” Fluttershy gasped, between pants, too weak and sore to raise her hooves to her mouth to do the moment justice, and kind of just flopped there. “I’m mortified.”

“Oh. Well you should be a little proud.” Twilight nodded slowly, rubbing her jaw appreciatively.  “It was a very good punch.”

“T-thank you.”

They sat and lay there a few more moments, getting their breaths back.

“Sorry,” Fluttershy repeated.

“Hey, s’cool. You’re just... doin’ what you think is right, yeah? I just don’t think it’s the most right, right? But hey!” Twilight smiled punch-drunkenly, cheerfully, “If we were friends, then you wouldn’t mind so much me doing stuff right? Because I have some really amazing plans, and I could use the help of some really talented foals, and I could teach them just,” and here she pressed her hooves together and slowly spread them wide, like showing off how big a fish she had caught was, “soooo much.”

“Oh. Uh... What kind of amazing plans?”

Twilight smiled, finally falling back onto the floor herself, head beside Fluttershy but facing the other way. “I wanna turn a volcano into a cannon.”

Fluttershy blinked, turning her head – slowly, slowly! – to look at the dazed and crazed unicorn beside her. “Really? I didn’t think I punched you that hard.”

“Nah, that’s not the concussion talking. I did the maths for this ages ago. Got a working model in the basement, but I ran out of roof... Or floor? Never did figure it out...”

“You truly are a remarkable lady, aren’t you, Ms Sparkle?”

“The remarkable Ms Sparklable!” Twilight smiled, then fell asleep happily. Fortunately rumours that falling asleep with a concussion is dangerous is purely myth.

Fluttershy stared a long time after, not being able to do much of anything else really, and thought about that carefully.

Eventually, around the time that she could wobble to her hooves again, she made a decision.

Author's Note:

Yes Twilight is accidentally a hypocrite.

But she's our hypocrite.

Also, fun fact; Recurring joke of my characterization of her is that, whenever she's about to make a terrible decision, she quotes something in latin.