• Published 20th Jan 2012
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Harpflank and Sweets - Arcainum



Lyra and Bon Bon: THEY FIGHT CRIME. And robots. And monsters. And ponies. And more robots.

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Episode 36: A Night At The Fair

HARPFLANK AND SWEETS: TRIPLE TROUBLE

by Arcainum

Opening Titles

Metropony City! Mighty skyscrapers towering over the millions of ponies going about their lives on the streets below! Working, playing or just taking in the weather, Metropony bustles as only the big city can. But! All is not well in this equine metropolis! Below the streets lies a threat - a threat to the happiness and friendship of good ponies everywhere! And the name of that threat is Luna, the exiled Princess who has returned with vengeance in her eyes! With the aid of Her villainous helper Trixie and her army of terrible Lunatrons, She will stop at nothing to destroy the pony way of life! Standing against her, however, are two heroic mares, known only to the citizens of Metropony as...

HARPFLANK AND SWEETS: EPISODE 36 - A NIGHT AT THE FAIR

Scene 1

Trixie stood beside Luna’s throne, glowering at the shadowed ponies addressing her mistress. She did not trust these two and was not afraid to show it. Luna, it seemed, had no such qualms.

“AND HOW DO YOU PROPOSE TO, AS YOU SAY, ‘DEAL WITH OUR HARPFLANK AND SWEETS PROBLEM,’ WHEN YOU REFUSE TO EVEN SHOW YOUR FACE BEFORE US?”

One of the ponies gestured extravagantly.

“Well, You see, Ma’am, we see an opportunity in this community. Don’t we, brother of mine?”

The other figure nodded and continued, wildly gesticulating as he spoke.

“Indeed we do! An opportunity for magical and mechanical mayhem of a most magnificent magnitude!”

“So for nothing more than a mere, a paltry, a trifling seventyfivetotwentyfive stake in Your Empire, we can rid You of Your pesky Harpflank and Sweets before the week is out!”

“And You won’t even have to lift a hoof Yourself!”

The two ponies spoke rapidly and alternately, firing their words like a machine gun at a speed that barely allowed for thought, let alone a response. Luna managed to interject, Her Royal Voice too much even for the fast-talking ponies before her.

“WORDS DO NOT IMPRESS US. WE REQUIRE A DEMONSTRATION.”

The two threw a hoof to their foreheads as if lamenting that they ever could have considered otherwise.

“And why not, Your Majesty? So many crooks around in this big ol’ world, You never know who to trust!”

“So we brought a little something down for You, Your Majesty! A little taste of what we’ll be feeding Your troublemakers!”

“Figuratively speaking, of course!”

“Feast Your imperial eyes... on this!

The first pony pulled a small device from a pocket of his waistcoat and pressed a few buttons. A cacophany of clanking, whirring and hissing erupted from the shadows behind them, growing louder as the source came rolling into the light. Luna’s eyes widened in surprise just as Trixie’s narrowed in suspicion.

“THAT IS IMPRESSIVE. VERY WELL! CONSIDER YOURSELF HIRED. TAKE ALL THE FUNDS YOU NEED. BUT KNOW THAT THE FACT YOU ARE BUT MERCENARIES SHALL NOT SAVE YOU SHOULD YOU FAIL.”

The figures bowed theatrically.

“Thank You very much, Your Majesty, You can rest assured that You will not regret this!”

“So why don’t You go ahead and take a day off? Because we guarantee that come tomorrow, Harpflank and Sweets will not be on Your list of problems!”

With a final flourish, they and their contraption disappeared into the shadows to be escorted to the surface. As soon as they were gone, Trixie ran to Luna’s side.

“My Lady! We cannot trust these ponies! They are clearly charlatans of the highest order!”

Luna looked down Her nose at Her indignant servant with wry disdain.

“INDEED. THE IRONY IS PALPABLE.”

Trixie stepped back, face burning with shame. Sometimes her mistress’ words could cut like a knife.

“I... I merely wished to protect you, my Lady, I...”

Luna’s face softened.

“AND ADMIRABLE YOU ARE FOR IT. YOU HAVE WORKED TIRELESSLY FOR OUR CAUSE DESPITE YOUR FAILURES. GO. YOU ARE RELIEVED OF YOUR DUTIES FOR TODAY. SPEND YOUR TIME ON YOURSELF, NOT THE EMPIRE.”

Trixie looked up at Luna, torn between happiness at the Princess’ unexpected kindness and disappointment at being sent away.

“You... You are kind, my Lady. I shall return tomorrow.”

With that, Trixie slunk away. As the enormous bulkhead swung closed, Luna sat still for a while, gazing into the distance thoughtfully. Something the ponies had said was stuck in her mind.

“A DAY OFF...”

Scene 2

The door to Derpy Hooves’ office opened with its usual quiet hiss. The room was, as ever, strewn with muffins and discarded paperwork. Derpy saluted from her chair as Lyra and Bon-Bon entered, and the two returned it, Lyra’s nonchalant wave of a hoof offsetting Bon-Bon’s crisp precision.

“You wanted to see us, sir?”

Derpy put her forehooves together, making what she referred to as her “official face.”

“You may be aware that there has been no activity from the Empire for the past six days.”

Lyra settled into a visitor’s chair and began to spin it.

“Yeah, it’s pretty weird. That’s almost a week. And we fight Trixie every week.”

Derpy nodded.

“Exactly. Which is why we’ve decided to give you the day off.”

Lyra stopped spinning and stood up as Bon-Bon quizzed their superior.

“I’m sorry, Commander? You’re giving us the day off? But what if Trixie attacks? You said it yourself, we haven’t heard from her in six days. If she is going to attack, it’s going to be today.”

Derpy stood up and began to pace around her desk.

“Unlikely. You see, Octavia’s been working her magic. Not her actual magic of course. She’s an earth pony, as well you know. She doesn’t have any magic. So, if she was working actual magic, that would be pretty...”

She trailed off as the looks Lyra and Bon-Bon were giving her finally penetrated whatever cloud her mind occasionally visited.

“Ahem. Octavia has been doing her job and has calculated that if our knowledge of Luna’s operations is correct, her supplies should currently be in crisis. Almost all of her work is done through Trixie and, due to the increasing magnitude of the recent Lunatron invasions, Octavia estimates that Trixie should be so low on materials that this may be the one week we don’t see her rampaging through our beloved city.”

She came to a halt before her subordinates, snapping to attention with a smile.

“Which is why we’re giving you the day off. I have something for you.”

She walked back around her desk and pointed to two slips of brightly-coloured paper that lay atop the thick strata of unsigned forms. Examining one, Lyra gasped.

“Whoa! These are tickets to that new amusement park! It’s meant to be a-mazing, even better than Pinkie’s Funhouse, and they built it in less than a week! BB, we have to go. The waiting list is, like, the length of the city!”

Bon-Bon’s face was uneven, clearly unable to decide between her sense of duty and the promise of what looked like a great day out.

“But... If Trixie attacks...”

As she spoke, Derpy looked uncomfortable.

“Well, I haven’t been entirely honest with you. You see, if you think about it, were Trixie to attack today...”

Lyra finished her sentence for her dryly.

“Then she’d most likely attack there. Classy, Commander.”

The commander had the decency to look embarassed. Bon-Bon, however, had begun to smile.

“Well then, that’s good enough for me. If we were on duty, we’d only be patrolling the fair anyway. Why not make a day of it? Thank you Commander.”

Lyra smiled at her partner, amused at but understanding of her need for an excuse just to go out and have some fun. The two saluted Derpy once more and left the room. On their way to the main elevators, Bon-Bon realised she’d missed something.

“So, Lyra, what’s this place called?”

Lyra thought for a moment.

“I think it’s called Flim Flam Funland.”

Scene 3

~:~ The handsome stallion is unable to look the mare before him in the eye. The sunset frames her like a halo, and he can’t bring himself to do what he knows he has to do, not when she looks so beautiful. She cries his name, her velvet voice carrying far in the still air across the bay.

“Shining Star! Don’t go! You can’t go! I need you!”

He hangs his head, despair gripping him as he forces out the words that he knows will end the happy life he has known these all-too-few months.

“Sweetfire, I’m not who you think I am. I’ve done... bad things. Terrible things. Things I can never forgive. I can’t be the stallion you want me to be. I’m...I’m no shining star.”

He turns, ready to leave everything he has ever loved behind him, to face the music and atone for his sins. Sweetfire calls to him, calls to him with words that both chill him to the bone and fill his heart with joy.

“The baby! It’s not Stormy Sky’s! It’s...It’s yours, Shining Star! The baby is yours!” ~:~

Luna spluttered with surprise, spraying her drink across the room and spattering the throne room’s communications screen with still-warm tea.

“THIS CANNOT BE! IF THE BABY IS SHINING STAR’S, THEN HER UNFORTUNATE RELATIONSHIP WITH STORMY SKY HAS BEEN MEANINGLESS!”

She was interrupted by Trixie’s sub-henchponies, Snips and Snails. Snails shuffled forward, gangling frame quaking with fear.

“Uh, your Royal Highness Majestyship? The food you ordered has arrived.”

Luna pulled her gaze from the screen, which was now advertising an amazing new method of manecare for only ten bits a bottle, and gestured imperiously.

“YES, YES, WONDERFUL. BRING IT IN, THEN LEAVE US. WE MUST PONDER THIS LATEST FASCINATING DEVELOPMENT.”

She took another sip of tea, and settled deeper into her chair.

Scene 4

“Wow. This is cool.

Lyra and Bon-Bon passed through the gates to Flim Flam Funland, heads darting all around to take in the whole scene. The main plaza teemed with ponies of all ages, paths leading in every direction to swooping coasters, creaking haunted houses and sizzling food stands. Here, a family heading for the biggest coaster, colt bouncing excitedly around as his parents smile. There, three ponies - one cream, one magenta and one pink - arguing over a map, trying to best plan their day. Fluffy mascots ambled around, giving foals hugs and taking pictures when asked. The park felt alive and Bon-Bon found it very difficult to stop herself from smiling as much as Lyra. Her friend was beaming like a filly as she ran ahead, taking in the sights and sounds of the fair.

“Oh, oh, oh, we have to go on that, look how tall it is! Oh, and that! That too! What is that thing? BB, seriously, I need a map right now!

Bon-Bon laughed at her friend’s boisterousness. It felt good to be off-duty, even if for just one day, though it seemed like chaperoning Lyra was going to be job enough in itself.

“Let’s go to the information booth, I’m sure they have... Lyra?”

Lyra had stopped, a look of absolute surprise on her face. Bon-Bon, puzzled, hurried over.

“What’s the matter, Lyra?”

Her friend, very carefully - as if not wanting to universe to catch on to her saying it - said, “Bon-Bon. Trixie is right over there.

Bon-Bon froze. Trixie? Here? But there had been no alarm, no call from headquarters, no Lunatron attack.

“What are you talking about? There’s no way Trixie would be just standing around in an amu-”

Lyra grabbed her head and turned her to face a small circle that had opened in the crowd by chance, revealing an all-too-familiar blue unicorn. Though not wearing her usual starred cape and hat, it was unmistakably Trixie. She was just standing there, foreleg raised as if to start walking, but an uncertain look on her face as she took in the heaving crowds around her.

The two ponies quickly huddled and whispered furiously to each other.

“What the hay is Trixie doing here? And why is no one, I don’t know, running and screaming?!”

“We’re probably the only ponies who’ve ever seen her being... well, Trixie. The only times we’ve ever seen her out of a Lunatron she’s been out of the public eye.”

“Okay, great, that’s very clever and all but what are we going to do?

Bon-Bon glanced back at the worried-looking Trixie.

“I... I don’t think we should do anything.”

What?

“Okay, not nothing. But I don’t think she’s here on business. I think she’s here for the same reason we are.”

Lyra snorted.

“Oh, The Great and Powerful Trixie is out for a day at the fair. Sure.”

“I’m serious! Look at her! She looks so... alone.”

Bon-Bon bit her lip, as she tended to do when thinking hard, weighing the situation.

“I think... we should go over and introduce ourselves. She doesn’t know what we look like under the suits, and if we can get her to spend the day with us, we can keep an eye on her and hopefully lock down any plan she has prepared.”

Lyra looked at Bon-Bon as if she had just suggested that taking a bath in a volcano sounded like a nice way to cool down. But she relented, trusting her friend’s judgement. Bon-Bon had never had a bad plan yet.

“You do realise that I’m the one who’s meant to come up with the plans that make no sense, right?”

Separating, they looked round to check Trixie was still there. She was standing in the same place, looking so lost that even Lyra felt a pang of sympathy.

“I still can’t believe we’re going to do this.”

Bon-Bon took the lead, trotting up to Trixie with a bright smile on her face and holding out a hoof.

“Hi! You look a little lost, can we help you?”

Trixie jumped, looking around in panic until she noticed Bon-Bon and eyeing the extended hoof. Something clicked in her brain and she seemed to recover from her stupor. Grasping Bon-Bon’s hoof and shaking it thankfully, she returned the greeting.

“Oh, hello. I confess to being somewhat overwhelmed by the quantity of ponies here. I came here by myself and I am unused...” She shook herself. “Excuse me. My name is Trixie. No relation.”

Lyra rolled her eyes, Bon-Bon kicking her surreptitiously before Trixie could notice.

“Nice to meet you, Trixie. I’m Bon-Bon, and this is Lyra. You said you came alone? Perhaps you’d like to spend some time with us?”

Lyra piped up, still rubbing her leg in pain.

“Yeah, it’s no fun at the fair by yourself. Come hang with us!”

A number of emotions ran across Trixie’s face in quick succession, ranging from surprise to happiness, thoughtfulness to suspicion, and finally settling on an awkward smile.

“I... believe I would like that. Very well, I shall accompany you. Thank you for your kind offer.”

As Bon-Bon beckoned Trixie follow them and the three ponies headed towards the information booth, Lyra sidled close to her and quickly whispered in her ear before breaking away.

“Just remember, this was your idea.”

Scene 5

The day passed. Sun high in the sky, the three ponies walked every inch of the amusement park’s grounds. They screamed with joy as they shot up, down and around the coasters’ tracks. They gasped in fear as the scares in the haunted house proved too much for the delicate constitutions of two superheroes and a pony who had survived being hit with a cello the size of a building. They laughed with delight as the sideshows plied their trade, drawing them into games and mini-plays and lotteries. And through it all, Lyra and Bon-Bon watched Trixie, never seeing anything more than a pony at the fair, gleefully pulling them to the next attraction and trying to impress them with funny little magic tricks, smiling all the way.

The sun was low now, and twilight neared. The park was open late, and a fireworks display was scheduled to herald the coming of night. Lyra and Bon-Bon sat on a bench in the main plaza, space between them for Trixie, who had insisted on buying the three of them ciders and could be seen in line across the square. Lyra turned to face Bon-Bon, conflicting emotions dancing on her face.

“BB, I seriously don’t think I can do this for much longer. She’s so... happy. I feel like she’s just a normal pony, I feel like she’s a friend, and then... And then I remember everything she’s done. And I don’t know what to do.”

Bon-Bon nodded solemnly. Throughout the day, Trixie had consistently shown herself to be an intelligent and fun-loving pony, with no greater flaw than an amusing sense of self-worth, a flair for the theatrical and a tendency towards the third person. It was unsettling that this same pony was only last week threatening to kidnap the Mayor.

“I’m starting to think that we may have misjudged Trixie from the start, Lyra. Who knows what it’s like under Luna’s rule? For all we know, she does those terrible things out of fear. I just can’t reconcile the pony we’ve seen today with the Trixie we battle every week.”

The two looked back to Trixie, who was thanking the stand’s proprietor with a smile and walking back towards them, tottering as she dealt with the logistical problem of carrying three mugs.

“We gotta tell her, BB. I can’t go home tonight knowing I’ve let that pony go back to being the Great and Powerful Trixie.”

Before Bon-Bon could reply, Trixie had returned, balancing on her back legs with a mug on each forehoof and one on her head.

“Tada! Is Trixie’s skill not astounding?”

Lyra and Bon-Bon laughed, easing some of the tension from their discussion, and took their ciders. Trixie sat down between them.

For a while, they just sat quietly. The sun continued to set and the crowd of ponies thinned as they returned to their homes or hurried to the square where the fireworks were being held. Sipping their drinks, Lyra, Trixie and Bon-Bon sat and watched the night fall.

The fireworks began slowly, one or two rockets whistling upwards before flaring briefly and falling back to the earth. The display quickly intensified, the snap, crackle and pop of the distant explosions drowning the cheers of the crowd and the mechanical sounds of the rest of the park shutting down. The varicoloured light danced across them, an artificial aurora in miniature. Staring into her mug, Trixie spoke so quietly as to be barely audible over the joyful crowds, her voice trembling slightly.

“I would like to thank the both of you. For today. I had a great deal of fun.”

Trixie’s voice dropped again, almost a whisper, talking mainly to herself now. Her words seemed to come from deep within, creeping from her heart to her mouth as if she dared not speak them.

“I think... I think I had forgotten what it felt like.”

Lyra and Bon-Bon exchanged a glance as the fireworks died down and the crowd shuffled past them, yawning and comparing favourite moments from the display. Their minds were made up. Bon-Bon turned to look Trixie in the eye.

“Trixie. I... we have something to tell you.”

Trixie shook herself from her reverie, and looked up questioningly. Bon-Bon swallowed and soldiered on.

“We haven’t been entirely honest with you. But... today you’ve shown us that you’re as good a pony as any we’ve ever met, and we just can’t lie anymore.”

She took a deep breath, meeting Lyra’s gaze one more time before she took the plunge. Lyra nodded. They were alone in the plaza now.

“Trixie, we are Har-”

She was interrupted by spotlights suddenly shining in their faces, causing them to recoil and shield their eyes. Through the glare, they could just about make out the silhouette of a large vehicle carrying the piercing lights, upon which stood two tall, lanky ponies. Striking a pose, the ponies’ voices boomed across the plaza.

“Well, brother of mine, looks like we’ve reined them in!”

“And now the crowds are out of the way, the show can begin!”

Scene 6

~:~ The doctor paces about the cold white hospital room, trying to form the words that he has said a thousand times before. It never gets any easier. At last the sentence aligns itself in his mind. He pauses for a moment, drinking in the brief period of time before he has to see the patient’s reaction to what he’s about to say.

“I’m...I’m sorry Mr. Sky, but... it’s the Cutie Pox.”

The news hits Stormy Sky like a lead ball in his gut, taking the wind out of him. He knew that it was bad, but this... He pulls himself together, bringing the strength his father taught him to the fore. He meets the doctor’s gaze, eyes blazing with the courage to face whatever may come. There is only one question he can ask, a question the doctor is ready for. It’s the same question every time.

“Tell me, Doc... will I make it?”

The doctor sighs. Just like the question, his answer is always the same.

“I’m not sure. All I know is, your life is going to be pretty busy from now on.” ~:~

Luna stared at the screen, rapt, pizza halfway to her mouth and dripping cheese on her throne.

Scene 7

Lyra spoke first, shouting into the light over the racket of the machine the two shadows stood upon.

“Come out and show yourselves! Who are you?”

The lights dimmed to a bearable level and the two became visible. They were both unicorns, wearing dapper waistcoats and boaters. They bowed, pointing to each other and speaking in turn.

“He’s Flim,”

“He’s Flam,”

Then, together, “And we’re the world-famous Flim Flam Brothers! Travelling villains nonpareil!”

Lyra muttered to herself.

“Nonpa-what?”

Trixie stood, incandescent with rage, her horn glowing with magic as she gathered her energy.

“Traitorous tricksters! What is the meaning of this?”

Flim shook his hoof at her patronisingly.

“Now now, young filly, that’s no way to speak to your elders.”

“Or your superiors, for that matter!”

Trixie fumed at the snub.

“Just because you may have Lady Luna’s favour for now, does not mean that I am diminished any in Her eyes!”

The Flim Flams sat back into the chair built into the strange vehicle’s roof.

“Oh, but that’s where you’re wrong, dear Trixie! You see, once we’ve removed Harpflank and Sweets from the picture-”

“And your delightful self, of course!”

“There is nothing Luna won’t give us! No more picnics in the gutter for us! Isn’t that right, Flim?”

“Right it is, Flam! Our futures shall be most certainly assured!”

Bon-Bon carefully reached into her bag and activated her emergency communicator. She narrowed her eyes as she was met with nothing but static. She whispered to Lyra as Trixie’s shouting match with the Flim Flams continued.

“Our communications are being jammed.”

Lyra’s response was immediate.

“We gotta get out of here. Leave Trixie and those two to do whatever it is they’re doing.”

Bon-Bon stared at her friend.

“After everything we just talked about? You’re seriously conside-”

Trixie suddenly grabbed them both and the glow of her magic engulfed the three ponies.

“Do not worry, Trixie shall protect you both!”

With a puff of smoke and spirals, they were gone.

Flim and Flam shrugged at each other and flicked a switch on their machine. From the shadows came the gleam of crimson eyes, glinting from their owners’ claws.

Scene 8

The trio reappeared in a dark section of the park, low-slung buildings surrounding them. Lyra and Bon-Bon stumbled from the disorientation of the sudden teleport, and Trixie slumped to the ground panting.

“No... problem... for the Great... and Powerful... Trixie...”

Shaking the cotton-wool feeling from her head, Bon-Bon checked their surroundings and realised they were in the area of the park devoted to boat rides. Before she could think any further, eerie laughter began to rattle in the air around them. As she and Lyra crouched into defensive stances, the distorted laughter grew louder, the echoes in the empty park playing off each other and seeming to come from everywhere at once. Lyra hoisted Trixie up and nudged her with her head.

“Trixie, we gotta move. I don’t know what that laughing is, but I sure don’t like it!”

Trixie pulled herself together and quickly took stock. Beckoning Lyra and Bon-Bon to follow her, she ran towards a ride that seemed larger than the rest, calling back as they followed at speed.

“We are too exposed, we must seek shelter!”

The three ponies scurried into the building, leaping the turnstiles and vanishing into the gloom.

The interior was pitch black until Lyra found the main fuses, the lights flicking on one by one to reveal a garish rainbow sign above the artifical river: “It’s A Small Equestria.” The strains of a maddeningly upbeat song could be heard further into the tunnel the ride followed. Lyra grimaced.

“I hate this song.”

They moved further in, not speaking. Their silence was both functional and awkward, stealthy and unpleasant. So far as Trixie was aware, she had just spent a day at the fair with two kind ponies whom she had now dragged into her own dangerous mess, and Lyra and Bon-Bon were faced with the challenge of dealing with the situation without revealing their full capabilities. The only sound was the endlessly looping song, setting their teeth on edge as every drumbeat was mistaken for a hoofstep and every laughing foal set them scanning the shadows for their pursuers. The setting was not helping.

The tunnel was lined with dioramas of wide-eyed and wide-smiled plastic ponies, swaying endlessly in time to the music in stylised representations of the many kingdoms of the world. Griffons and pegasi swooped through the plasterboard skies and sea ponies danced in the painted oceans. Zebras gambolled across their rolling savannas. The whole thing was at once a heartwarming display of multi-species togetherness and thoroughly disturbing.

It happened without warning, the model Canterlot shattering into chunks of wood and metal as a green shape leapt through it to land between Lyra and her friends. Swiping its tail, it sent Lyra flying across the tunnel before she could dodge. She landed in the water back the way they had come with a violent splash and cry of pain. The shape, now revealed to be the dragon mascot they had seen playing with young ponies earlier in the day, roared. There was a crackling electronic edge to the sound. Bon-Bon went to attack the dragon but Lyra waved her away, spitting water and shouting over her assailant.

“Trixie, BB, go! I’ve got this!.” As Bon-Bon hesitated, she realised that other figures were clambering through the hole the dragon had left in the display, eyes gleaming red in the dim light. She turned, throwing one last glance back at Lyra squaring up to her attacker, then ran with Trixie deeper into the ride. The cuddly killers followed, laughing in time with the song.

Scene 9

The mascots were running Bon-Bon and Trixie down. They had managed to evade the animatronic horrors for almost ten minutes, even destroying most of them with a combination of Bon-Bon’s ability to plan on the fly, Trixie’s versatility with magic, and the well-timed collapse of a lighting array. But still they were hunted, and the pair were tiring. The endless laughter and the voices of the ever-present song washed over them as the shadows closed in and flickered with red. They had not heard from nor seen Lyra since their separation.

Trixie collapsed, her legs giving way as the extended physical and magical exertion took its toll. Bon-Bon slid to a halt, spraying water across a glass case containing a collection of formal wear for various species. Trixie slumped against the river’s edge, gasping for breath.

“I cannot... go on... just leave me.... Said I would... keep you safe...”

Bon-Bon again felt a stab of sympathy for the pony before her, so different from the Great and Powerful Trixie that she considered her enemy. She couldn’t imagine what terrible circumstances led Trixie to commit the acts she did but she had a new-found determination to find out and, if possible, end them. She nodded to herself, mind made up.

“No, Trixie. I’m going to keep you safe.”

Striding purposefully to the fallen Trixie, Bon-Bon stood resolutely between her and the oncoming fiends. They emerged from the shadows, moving in for the kill. In the light, they were almost comical. The remaining mascots were all from the haunted house; a zombie, a mummy and a vampire stalked towards them. But the bright colours of their dress and friendly expressions merely made the shining claws and baleful eyes stand out all the more. The chase through the crowded space had damaged their exteriors, exposing their robotic innards. Still chuckling happily as though playing with pony children, they took a step towards Bon-Bon. She braced herself, ready to protect Trixie to the end.

“Hey! Uglies! You might want to step away from my friends!””

The poised mascots whirled around, focusing their deadly attention on the voice that rang out above the music. Stepping in to the light was Lyra. Standing on her back legs, she was supported by a strange contraption the size of herself. A bellows-like apparatus with four stubby protrusions, a winding nozzle extended from its top to be pointed with both Lyra’s forehooves at the cackling monstrosities. With mounting elation, Bon-Bon realised that it was the inner workings of the dragon-mascot that her partner had stayed behind to fight. Her relief at her friend’s survival was replaced with panic as she realised what Lyra was about to do. Taking a deep breath, she lay as flat as could, throwing her entire body into the cold water. Beside her, Trixie did the same, drawing her ragged breathing into one desperate gasp before following Bon-Bon into the questionable protection of the artificial stream.

Lyra’s horn began to glow as she steadied her aim and braced herself with magic. One hoof moved from the nozzle and hovered over a switch on her trophy’s spine marked “Emergency Gas Release.” She grinned, the beam of light she just-so-happened to be standing in for her dramatic entrance glinting from her teeth in a way that could only be described as “ting”.

“Giggle at this, ghosties.”

She flicked the switch and a wall of flame erupted from her makeshift weapon. Surging forward, it engulfed the hunter-killer mascots in a wave of scorching heat and demolished the monuments to sharing and caring that lined the tunnel. The murderous robots began to melt in the intense heat, their chassis collapsing in on themselves as they were bowled out of sight by the roiling flames. The water around Bon-Bon and Trixie was steaming and they gritted their teeth in pain as the heat reached almost unbearable levels, leaping free of the water as soon as the blast of fire had passed them. They shook themselves furiously to clear the scalding liquid from their coats as soon as possible.

Lyra dropped her impromptu flamethrower and trotted over, still grinning. Her belly and face were dark, coat scorched by the intense heat of the ex-dragon’s discharge.

“So? Aren’t you glad to see me?”

Trixie and Bon-Bon just looked at her, unable to speak.

Scene 10

~:~ The rhythmic beep of the EKG is the only sound in the room bar Stormy Sky’s haggard breaths. Sweetfire stands by his side, one hoof resting forlornly on the edge of his hospital bed. She is no longer crying, having cried all the tears she could cry already. She meets his eyes as he opens his mouth, visibly gathering what strength his body, exhausted from months of constant activity, can still muster. His voice is weak, a hoarse edge creeping into it no matter how hard he tries.

“Sweetfire... I need to tell you... tell you something... before I go...”

She shakes her head, stroking his mane tenderly.

“Baby, don’t talk, you’re not going anywhere. You need to save your strength!”

With great effort, he brushes her hoof away and continues, every word sending pain lancing through him.

“I just wanted to say... I never meant to... to treat you the way I did. I just... I just loved you too much. I couldn’t bear to see you go.” ~:~

Luna waved her magically-lifted spoon in the air frantically, eyes glistening with raw emotion. She cried at the screen through a mouthful of zap-apple ice cream shovelled from the jumbo tub she held.

“NO, STORMY SKY! YOU NEED NOT APOLOGISE! IF YOU ONLY KNEW THE TRUTH!”

~:~ Stormy Sky coughs heavily, the act of talking wracking his already failing body. He takes a deep, rattling breath and with a heroic effort speaks again.

“One last thing to say... I... I have to ask...”

Sweetfire leans in, clutching his hoof in hers.

“Anything, Sky! Ask me anything!”

Stormy Sky closes his eyes, hating himself for asking the question, but knowing he must.

“Was I... Was I the only pony for you? Was I... good enough?”

Sweetfire shakes her head and smiles weakly, as if to dismiss the question as not even worth asking.

“Of course you were, Sky. You were always good enough.”

The bedridden pony opens his eyes and looks into hers. He smiles, a look of true happiness dispelling all the exhaustion and pain from his face. Then his eyes close again, he sinks back into his bed. The slow beeping trails off into a single unbroken tone. ~:~

Luna burst into tears.

Scene 11

Lyra, Trixie and Bon-Bon worked their way back through the park to the main plaza, leaving the burning It’s A Small Equestria behind them. Trixie had expressed surprise at Lyra’s single-hoofed destruction of the mascot threat but, to her temporary allies’ relief, had not pressed the issue. Presumably she was still unsure of how to deal with the ‘revelation’ of her identity as The Great and Powerful Trixie.

The main gate was in sight. After surveying the area for threats, they made a run for it, ready to escape by any means necessary. But as they entered the centre of the square, their path was blocked by the Flim Flam Brothers’ bizarre vehicle, chugging forward out of seemingly nowhere to block the only exit. The brothers sat atop it, reclining in their rooftop couch, conversing as though the three exhausted ponies before them weren’t even there.

“It seems that those young fillies have managed to evade our mechanical chums!”

“It seems so! What do you think we should do, brother of mine?”

“It is my considered opinion that we should give them a closer look at our peculiar mode of transport!”

“A most spectacular plan! In the interests of ensuring their timely demise, perhaps a very close look might be recommended?”

The calamitous contraption suddenly sped forward, spitting steam and sparking magic as it rolled towards the three ponies with deceptive speed. They scattered, splitting the brothers’ attention and forcing them to pick a target. They chose Trixie. Swerving dangerously, the machine careened after her as Lyra and Bon-Bon circled back around to chase after it, intent on discovering some way of slowing it down.

Trixie was doing all she could, but she was already near breaking-point both from overusing her magic and the ordeal in the boat ride. The brothers’ machine quickly closed, and she could feel the ground shaking beneath her pounding hooves as it rumbled nearer. Luckily for her, she had led her pursuer dead at the wall of a large barn-shaped shop, and she leapt to the side moments before she hit it herself. The brothers and their transport slammed into the structure, bringing it down around them with an echoing crash. The machine’s racket ceased.

Lyra and Bon-Bon ran to Trixie’s side and helped her up. There was a faint crackle of static from Bon-Bon’s bag and she quickly pulled out her communicator. It was working! Whatever was jamming it must have been part of the brothers machine, damaged or destroyed in the crash. Frantically activating it, she spoke urgently.

“Vinyl, we need the nanosuits deployed to the main plaza of Flim Flam Funland immediately!”

Vinyl Scratch’s reply was tinny, doing nothing to hide her usual bubbly enthusiasm.

“Whoa, you ran into some trouble at the park after all? Guess we should’ve known tha-”

Bon-Bon cut her off before she could waste any more time.

“Right now, Vinyl!”

Vinyl audibly checked herself, her reply professional and swift.

“Roger that, BB. Nanosuits incoming. Gonna use the experimental biometrically-targeted teleportation for immediate delivery. You might want to brace yourself.”

Before Bon-Bon could ask what she meant, a shimmering blue light had suffused her and Lyra. Trixie’s expression froze in horror as the light coalesced to hug the two ponies’ bodies before solidifying into full-body barding, one red and one blue, and the realisation of who she had been fighting alongside thrust itself into her mind with terrible urgency.

“... Harpflank... and Sweets?”

Bon-Bon opened her mouth to speak, but at that moment a tremendous metallic groan emerged from the crumbled storefront and the brothers’ machine burst from the wreckage, lights flashing and gears screaming as it sailed over them. Skidding across the square, it came to a clanking halt facing the heroic duo and Trixie’s still-stunned form. Flim and Flam were finally standing, their faces pictures of determination as their machine struggled to function beneath them. Without a word, they focused their magic and the device roared forward, smoke pouring from every crevice.

Their targets’ response was immediate. Bon-Bon stepped forward and projected a repulsor field before them, while Lyra’s suit glowed as the nanomachines replicated sufficiently to create a weapon. She called out to trigger the voice-activation program that Vinyl had insisted on leaving in, having protested that it was “just too cool.”

“Sword on!”

The newly created nanos leapt from her back and collected in mid-air, swirling and twisting as the pony-sized mass combined to form...

Another cello?!”

Vinyl’s voice came through her earpiece.

“Tavi likes it, and just try changing her mind.”

Groaning in exasperation, Lyra set herself, ready to swing. The Flim Flams barreled forward, unable to stop even had they wanted to. The machine hit Bon-Bon’s repulsor field at full speed and with a flash of energy was soundly repelled, the impact pushing Bon-Bon back several feet. The resulting backlash of force catapulted the mass of metal into the air. Lyra leapt, metal instrument flying with her. Her horn glowed brightly as her magic enveloped the musical weapon and the machine spiralled almost lazily in the air above her. The Flim Flams exchanged a terrified glance as Lyra streaked towards them like a green bullet.

“Next town?”

“Next town.”

Lyra swung. The cello collided with the spinning contraption’s underbelly and kept going, tracing a full vertical circle in the air as it sliced through the already-weakened chassis. The machine was bisected totally and Lyra shot through the gap left between the two halves. As she reached the zenith of her magically-augmented leap, she seemed to hang in the air for a moment as the cello dissolved back into her suit. Then she fell, landing gracefully just in time for the machine to explode behind her, the resulting fireball silhouetting her against the darkness. Bon-Bon extended the repulsor field to cover her, Lyra and Trixie as debris rained down.

Scene 12

The metal rain ceased and the smoke cleared. Bon-Bon let the field drop and turned to face Trixie, who had fallen to her haunches in shock. She gently went to help her up and winced as Trixie slapped her away. Trixie slowly picked herself up. Lyra walked uneasily to Bon-Bon’s side as they watched the trembling unicorn gather herself. She was shaking with barely contained emotion. She lifted her head and Lyra and Bon-Bon were forced to step back by the intensity of the betrayal in her eyes.

“All along... All along, you were but Harpflank and Sweets...”

Bon-Bon took a tentative step forward, foreleg extended in supplication.

“Trixie, we tried to tell yo-”

Trixie interrupted her with a snap, voice cracking.

“Tell me what? That this... wonderful day was nothing but a lie? A hilarious game you chose to play with your hated enemy Trixie, that you might laugh when next we fought?”

Lyra stepped forward too, pleading.

“Please, Trixie, we get it now! You’re not the pony we thought you were! We want to be your frie-”

Trixie cut in again, still quivering with rage.

“And you are exactly the ponies I thought you were!”

She pushed past the two heroes, never meeting their eyes. She looked into the sky, to the moon. Her voice was quiet now, but cold.

“I remember now why I joined my Lady’s cause. This city is full of fools. Pathetic ponies toy with each other in an endless waltz of emotional deception while those of us with true talent are ignored. I admit, your scheme led me to... to doubt. But now I am sure.”

She span to face them. Her expression was at once broken and resolute, streaming tears the frame for a mask of loathing. Lyra and Bon-Bon looked away in shame, unable to meet her heartbroken gaze. Trixie spoke again, this time with a terrible finality, each word hissed with venomous precision.

“Friendship is corruption.”

Without another word, she turned away. She kept walking even as the wail of sirens cut through the night and searchlights from the arriving clean-up crews focused on her. Guard stallions dropped from swiftly descending helicopters and surrounded her, guns primed, but still she walked onwards. An officer called to his troops as rotors wound down and sirens ceased.

“Prepare for capture!”

The soldier directly blocking Trixie’s exit raised his weapon as she bore steadily down upon him, barrel shaking as he gazed into the face of her implacable sorrow.

No!

He looked around to see Lyra and Bon-Bon sat in despair, unable to support themselves beneath the weight of their failure. Bon-Bon was trembling as she said the words that she knew she would regret, but could not go on without saying.

“Let her go. We’ve hurt her enough tonight.”

One by one, the guards lowered their weapons, and the circle slowly parted to let Trixie through.

The only sound was the clop of her hooves on the paving as she walked out of the light, gradually fading into the darkness of the night.

Alone.

[ Credits roll. ]

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Coming soon: Episode 37 - Season Finale, Part 1!