• Published 20th Jan 2012
  • 8,782 Views, 253 Comments

Harpflank and Sweets - Arcainum



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

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Harpflank and Sweets: The Movie

HARPFLANK AND SWEETS: THE MOVIE

by Arcainum

A year has passed since Trixie’s defeat, and the city of Metropony has been at peace. Luna’s Empire has seemingly vanished without warning, and the rogue Princess with it. But Metropony’s valiant defenders Harpflank and Sweets, and their friends in the municipal defence agency M.A.R.E., remain vigilant. Struggling to understand their role as the bearers of the Elements of Harmony and desperate to ensure that the tragedy of The Great and Powerful Trixie may never be repeated, they enter a new year that will test them to their very limits...

HARPFLANK AND SWEETS: THE MOVIE - THE MARE ON THE MOON

Scene 1

Bon-Bon casts a glance sideways at her companion, who has yet to stop talking since their introduction. The green unicorn is babbling at length about the wonders of the oceanic pony subspecies. When Bon-Bon had first been assigned by the agency to manage the (apparently) gifted but so far unrecognised harpist, she had leapt at the chance for work. But now she is regretting her decision as the musician continues to spout nonsense. Attempting to cut the stream of words off at its source, she interjects sharply.

“So... Lyra, was it? As your new manager, I suppose I should get to know you better. What do you do outside of your work?”

Lyra stops mid-flow, thinks about the question for a moment, then begins talking again as quickly as she had ceased.

“I like to do a lot of stuff. I practice, though I guess that’s work too, and I do martial arts and I watch TV and I fight crime and I-”

Bon-Bon blinks and interrupts again.

“You do what?”

Lyra realises what she has just said and attempts to backpedal.

“Like I said, I do martial arts, I watch TV... Normal stuff. I spend most of my time practicing anyway.”

Bon-Bon fixes her with a suspicious gaze, eyes narrowed.

“You definitely said ‘I fight crime.’”

Lyra laughs, waving a hoof dismissively.

“Oh, that was just a joke. Artists, we crazy, you know? Anyway, like I was saying, their music is legendary...”

Bon-Bon sighs and gives in. A few minutes in and already she is tiring of Lyra’s boundless energy.

Eventually they reach the studio. Despite difficulties in making Lyra concentrate on what she is actually here to do, they are ready to record ahead of schedule. Bon-Bon sits, watching the hyperactive pony fidget in the booth while sitting in a most peculiar fashion, and prays that this is worth it. She takes a deep breath and keys the microphone.

“Okay, Lyra? When you’re ready.”

Lyra nods. A sudden change comes over her. She closes her eyes, and she sits almost perfectly still. Her horn begins to glow, and a matching light suffuses the harp.

Later, she doesn’t know how long, Bon-Bon wakes up. She stares at Lyra, who is waving at her like a filly on a school trip, and realises that her mouth is open and a tear has rolled down her cheek. Hurriedly wiping it away, she coughs and tells the grinning studio pony to sort out the rest. She makes her way into the booth and tries to speak.

“Lyra, that was... I don’t even...”

Lyra shrugs and pouts slightly.

“Eh, sorry about that. I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and I haven’t really been on my game.”

Bon-Bon is stunned. What she has just heard, she is certain she will never be able to describe in words. And Lyra is saying that she’s having an off-day. The unexpected virtuoso jumps up from her chair and motions for Bon-Bon to follow her.

“Come on, let’s go get something to eat. I hate all the technical stuff.”

Bon-Bon nods dumbly and follows, mind racing. She took this job because nopony else at the agency had wanted it, saying they “knew the type” and giving each other meaningful glances, and she desperately needed the work after one of her fashion connections had been disgraced, making it necessary to lay low for a while. But it seems she may have gotten a better deal than she had expected.

Lyra is talking about sea ponies again, listing the things about their undersea kingdom of Aquastria that make it “totally awesome”. Bon-Bon is listening a little more closely now, but not that closely. Just as Lyra is describing some sea pony song that she really wants to hear, the ground rumbles.

The two ponies stop, confused. Looking around, they jump as the ground rumbles again, stronger this time. Lyra begins to speak.

“What the hay was th-”

She is interrupted by a tremendous crash as the wide street they are on erupts, sending ponies scurrying. The road splits and a metal shape, almost ten feet tall, bursts into view. It is pony-shaped and gleams in the midday sun, light glinting from the weaponry that adorns its flanks. Bon-Bon is paralysed with fear and, as Lyra yanks at the trembling pony in vain, a voice emerges from the machine.

“Come one, come all! Come witness the amazing power of The Great and Powerful Trixie!”

Before anypony can register what the robotic pony said, it fires its weapons, lances of fire lashing at the surrounding buildings and sending great plumes of flame into the air. Those bystanders that still remain flee, screaming in fear as the rampage begins.

“Tremble before the might of Princess Luna’s favoured servant and prepare yourselves to bow before the Luna Empire!”

Bon-Bon gathers herself and begins to gallop as fast as she can away from the machine but is blocked by dislodged masonry crashing to the ground before her, blocking the street and hemming her in with the mysterious robot. Lyra has vanished.

Suddenly, a green shape leaps onto the robot. With horror, Bon-Bon realises that Lyra has attacked it, prying at its back in an attempt to access the inner workings of the beast. The metal pony begins to buck, attempting to dislodge the unicorn clambering up it. Still in shock, Bon-Bon sees that Lyra is wearing some sort of costume. Before she can think any further, the metal pony’s body crackles with electricity and Lyra screams. Thrown from the enemy’s back by a particularly violent thrash, she crashes to the ground beside Bon-Bon. Rushing over, the panicking pony picks Lyra up and bombards her with questions as the lumbering machine collects itself.

“What’s going on?! What’s that robot thing?! Why are you wearing that costume?! What’s going on?!

Lyra grins and once again seems to be a different pony, a third Lyra to go with Hyperactive Conspiracy Theorist and Serene Genius Harpist. This Lyra is confident, almost aggressive.

“I told you before, didn’t I? I fight crime.”

They are interrupted by the mechanical pony’s voice again.

“Who is so ignorant as to challenge the dominance of The Great and Powerful Trixie? There is no place for insolence in my Lady’s Empire!”

The so-called Lunatron advances, casting a shadow over Bon-Bon and Lyra as it raises its hooves to strike.

Suddenly, the Lunatron halts. Bon-Bon, awaiting the final blow, is surprised when it never comes. She looks around. Not just the Lunatron, but everything has ceased movement entirely. The flames stand still as if they are paper cut-outs, and the fleeing citizens are frozen mid-gallop. There is utter silence. Lyra calls out to the world in general.

“Why has everything stopped?”

Before Bon-Bon can reply, a single tiny point of white light appears in the air before them, then flares brightly. When their eyes recover, a sphere of the same light is hovering a few feet above the ground. A voice emerges, urbane and with an undercurrent of disdain.

“My my my, this isn’t turning out well.”

Bon-Bon and Lyra jump in surprise. First the Lunatron, then time seemingly stopping, and now this. Bon-Bon hesitantly asks,

“Who... what are you?”

The sphere bobs in the air and somehow gives the overwhelming impression of a shrug.

“Oh, no one important. Well, that’s a lie. I’m very important, very important indeed. But, you see, so are you, my little ponies.”

Lyra narrows her eyes.

“Us? What are you talking about, light bulb?”

The sphere moves closer, glowing brighter as the voice grows more excited.

“I’m talking about this whole business with the robot! I mean, look at that thing! Doesn’t it just make you, ooh, terrified? I would be. Of course, any pony worth their salt would be asking ‘But why now? Why me?’ But I suppose you’re not quite there yet.”

It backs off, dimming again.

“So, I’m going to help you out. Make a few changes, give you a little pizazz. You’ll thank me for it later, even if things do get a little chaotic.”

The sphere suddenly expands, engulfing the two ponies. A strange feeling wells up in Bon-Bon, a feeling of great power. Every sense heightens, every limb feels stronger. Even her mind seems to work a little faster. As swiftly as it had grown, the sphere contracts to its original size and Lyra and Bon-Bon step back, dazzled by the transformation they have just undergone. The voice laughs.

“Oh, that was fun! It’s been so long since I actually did anything, I’d almost forgotten what it felt like!”

The light begins to dim, the sphere shrinking to the point of light it had originally grown from.

“Well, that’s me for now! You’ll see me again, don’t worry. Just remember, when the night seems set to last forever, take a leap of faith! It’ll be fun, I guarantee! Until next time, Harpflank and Sweets!”

With another flash, the light is gone. Lyra turns to Bon-Bon and shouts her name, voice somehow clearer and louder than it has been until now.

“BB! Hey, BB! Yeesh, it’s like talking to a rock.”

Scene 2

Bon-Bon awoke with a start as Lyra’s hoof impacted with her forehead.

“Hey, you’re awake! Man, you sleep like nopony else I know.”

Bon-Bon pushed Lyra away and rubbed her eyes blearily.

“What are you doing in my house, Lyra? What are you doing in my bedroom?

Lyra looked at her flatly.

“I’m waking you up. It’s that time of the week again.”

Bon-Bon facehoofed as the wisps of the memory-filled dream drifted away and she realised her mistake.

“Ugh, I’m sorry. The agency’s been running me ragged lately. Ever since I agreed to go back to work, they’ve been dumping everything on me. I’ll be up in a minute.”

Once Bon-Bon had roused herself, the two left in silence. Neither said a word as they walked the streets of Metropony. The city was thriving in the Empire’s absence, with the year of peace giving it time to develop without being knocked back by rampaging metal juggernauts on a weekly basis.

At last they reached their destination, the gates of the cemetery looming over them. Entering, they followed the path they had followed every week for the past year. The grave it led to was set apart from the main plot and looked well-maintained, stone smooth and polished. A battered hat covered in stars rested almost jauntily atop it, the last remnant of The Great and Powerful Trixie. Bon-Bon pulled a bouquet from her bag and laid it respectfully at the foot of the headstone. Lyra sighed.

“It’s been a year. It still sucks.”

Bon-Bon nodded solemnly.

“Trixie deserved better. If we’d only known about the Elements of Harmony and what they could do, perhaps we could have avoided this.”

“Not just the Elements. Luna messed her up somehow, and we just made it worse.”

They stared at the grave for a while, lost in thought, as they did every week. And, as usual, Bon-Bon’s communicator bleeped insistently. Digging it out, she activated it and Vinyl Scratch’s voice addressed them.

“Hey guys. You, uh, all finished? We’ve got something. My research on the Elements has finally turned up something and its... kinda big. You need to get down to ExTech right away.”

Bon-Bon and Lyra nodded to each other and Bon-Bon replied,

“Roger, Vinyl. We’re on our way.”

They stood for another moment, paying their respects to the friend they had never made, then left for the base.

Scene 3

The thick metal door of ExTech’s Head Office muffled the sounds of the lab’s activity as Lyra and Bon-Bon settled into chairs and Vinyl paced the room. Octavia sat at her terminal array, continuing her work as Vinyl began to speak.

“Okay, so I’ve spent the last year researching the Elements of Harmony. It’s been way harder than I thought.”

Her horn flared and a book flew across the room to hover in front of Lyra and Bon-Bon. The cover was thick and featured an embossed golden unicorn’s head. The pages, of which many had been torn out, began to turn until they showed a collection of six gems.

“This is literally all I’ve been able to find. Hey, even half of this book is missing. These are the Elements of Harmony. Seems they sometimes take corporeal form, but that’s not important. What’s important is that somepony is hosting their essence. But here’s the real kicker.”

She stopped pacing and gave the two heroes possibly the most serious look they had ever seen on her face.

“We only have five.”

There was a shocked silence. Octavia turned her chair to face them, disapproval clear on her face.

“You didn’t say anything about this to me, Vinyl.”

Vinyl nodded apologetically.

“I wanted to make sure of it first. And I figured it was best if I tell you guys first so we can decide how we put this to the Commander.”

Lyra spoke up.

“Wait, we only have five? But there were six of us in that big... friendship... rainbow beam thing. Me, BB, you, Tavi, Derpy and Redheart. Six ponies, six Elements, right?”

Vinyl shook her head and moved to Octavia’s keyboard, tapping a few keys and bringing up a barely comprehensible diagram covered in lines of varying colours.

“Nope. I’ve managed to isolate the Elements’ magical waveform from the tests we’ve put you through over the last year, and cross-referenced it with the data we got from Celestia Tower during the battle. See these lines? Each colour represents the energy from an Element, and this shows where it was coming from.”

Bon-Bon and Lyra studied the mass of colour. Bon-Bon, quicker on the uptake, realised it first and gasped.

“That... can’t be right.”

Lyra looked at her friend in confusion.

“What? What am I missing?”

With a single keystroke Vinyl zoomed in on the relevant section of graph.

“That’s right. Don’t ask me how it works, but... You’re both the Element of Loyalty. Somehow, the two of you are so in sync that the power is shared across you equally.”

Bon-Bon raised a hoof to her chin in thought as Lyra stared in surprise.

“So, where’s the sixth? And why were we able to do what we did if we don’t have every Element?”

Vinyl shrugged, worry evident on her face.

“That’s just it. I have no idea. Somehow, Celestia Tower acted as a conduit for the energy we were pumping out and focused it. And that’s where it gets even weirder.”

She brought the book back into play, flicking through the pages quickly until she found the one she was looking for and turning it to face Lyra and Bon-Bon.

“Look at this.”

On the page was a stylised drawing of the Princess Celestia and... It looked somewhat like Luna, but larger-than-life. Her horn was longer and more pointed, Her wings more daunting, and She was wearing a suit of cruel-looking armour.

“This, apparently, is ‘Nightmare Moon’. This is the only reference I’ve been able to find anywhere and, look, even this page only just escaped.”

She pointed to a long rip in the page near the binding.

“Anyway, all I can gather from what’s here is that Nightmare Moon threatened the world major-style and Celestia banished her to the moon using the Elements. I think that’s why the Tower was able to help us like it did. There’s always been urban myths that Celestia or the Six somehow infused it with Her power back when Metropony was built, and Celestia could use the Elements independently without playing host. We could never find anything, but I guess this is our proof.”

Lyra raised a hoof.

“I have a question. Is that what happened to Trixie?”

Vinyl blinked, surprised at Lyra’s insight.

“That’s what I was thinking. But not exactly. I think the Elements tried to do something, but couldn’t manage it without all six.”

Bon-Bon’s mouth dropped open in realisation.

“You mean... what happened to Trixie could have been avoided?”

Vinyl sighed.

“Looks like. The Tower had enough power to let the Elements act as a unit but not enough to stand in for the final Element itself.”

She snapped the book shut and laid it back down.

“So, to recap: You two have one Element split between two ponies. The Elements are in some way related to this Nightmare Moon, but something or somepony seems to have removed every trace they can of her existence. Celestia Tower is connected somehow, but that connection is hidden so well that we’d never seen even a hint of it until a year ago, despite all the... work we’ve been doing there lately. And, finally, we still don’t know what the sixth Element is or who holds it.”

She grinned, her love of mystery overtaking her worry at the mystery itself.

“It’s all starting to get interesting. This last year’s been pretty quiet.”

Bon-Bon sat pensively as Lyra moved to study the graph more closely. A thought struck her.

“Wait a moment. You said ‘something or somepony’. You think there might be somepony behind this?”

Vinyl shifted uncomfortably, as if realising she’d maybe said too much.

“Well... Look, Metropony is old. We don’t even know how old. The more I research, the more I realise our history is full of holes. With Luna and all, the city’s been kind of living in the present, but...”

She drew herself up, looking serious again. Her voice lowered and took on a conspiratorial edge.

“There’s gaps everywhere. For hundreds of years. If anypony were to actually look it up, all they’d find is that Metropony used to be some village that sold a lot of apples way back when. So far as our records are concerned, we just... exist. And the only ponies I can think of who’d have the ability to affect such a massive cover-up would be either a organisation like us or...”

Lyra finished the sentence with an edge in her voice as even she quickly grasped the implications of what Vinyl was suggesting.

“The Princesses. And Luna’s been underground for years.”

Vinyl opened her mouth to reply, but was interrupted by a sound that they had not heard for a year, a sound that sent chills through everypony present.

The Lunatron alarm.

Scene 4

Lyra and Bon-Bon stared from their rooftop vantage point, eyes wide. Lyra let out a low whistle.

“Where does She find these things?”

Bon-Bon nodded slowly, unable to tear her eyes from the sight below.

“I think we know what the Empire’s been up to this past year.”

The huge plaza around Celestia Tower was filled with Lunatrons. Hundreds of pony-sized robots crowded the grounds of the colossal white spire, all facing the Tower but unmoving. The citizenry had fled before the sea of metal, and the area was eerily silent. The sun gleamed from the Lunatrons’ flanks, almost blinding the two heroes as their minds struggled to encompass the scale of this new threat. Bon-Bon reached for her communicator and flicked the switch.

“Commander, we’re going to need a full mobilisation.”

Derpy’s voice was incredulous.

“You’re going to need a what?

“You heard, sir. The situation here is... indescribable.”

The sound of Derpy’s door hissing open emerged from the communicator and was followed by the voice of a breathless Vinyl Scratch.

“Commander... you’ve... gotta see this... so many...”

There was a pause during which Bon-Bon presumed Vinyl was showing the Commander her scans of the area.

“Celestia help us... Roger, Bon-Bon. We’ve got your back. Stay low until we arrive.”

“Roger.”

Bon-Bon deactivated the device and placed it back in her bag, turning as Lyra tapped her shoulder urgently.

“Uh, BB, I don’t want to worry you, but I think Luna’s upgraded the bots.”

Following Lyra’s gaze, Bon-Bon squinted across the distance. Several Lunatrons were beginning to turn in their direction, various scanning apparatus adorning them having apparently homed in on her signal. In unnerving synchronisation, the hundreds-strong crowd swivelled, the sound of their metal hooves like thunder in the silence. The two ponies tensed.

“Yeah, now would be a good time to move.”

As one, the Lunatrons opened fire with a hail of flame. Uncountable beams of searing plasma erupted from the plaza and flew towards them, some merging in the air to form larger fireballs that crackled with deadly energy. Lyra and Bon-Bon leapt from the roof and the storm of destruction barely missed them, reducing the rooftop to ashes along with a large chunk of the rest of the building. Bracing themselves, the two ponies hit the ground with a force that made the street buckle. They swiftly recovered and Lyra called to Bon-Bon before galloping straight at the robotic army.

“We gotta get close, BB, no way we can dodge that much fire!”

Bon-Bon followed her partner at speed, grudgingly agreeing. This had gone very wrong, very fast. Their recon had become a full-on hoof-to-hoof battle with more Lunatrons than they could count. Ahead, Lyra jumped high in the air, soaring into the mass of metal and disappearing amongst them. Within moments, however, pieces of Lunatron began flying out of the crowd accompanied by the crash of hoof on metal and Lyra’s battle cries.

Bon-Bon followed her partner’s lead, leaping to Lyra’s side and joining the fight. The Lunatrons, while seeming to have no sense of self-preservation, seemed reluctant to fire their ranged weaponry when there was a chance another may be hit, and their close combat programming apparently consisted of “1. Slice with blades, 2. ????, 3. Profit.” The ponies’ greatest disadvantage, the army’s vast numbers, was turning in their favour.

The battle raged on. Lyra fought with a combination of martial arts and sheer aggression, ripping Lunatrons apart with both brute force and deft precision. A bladed hoof swung down at her and she caught it between her forelegs, tearing it free from the Lunatron that had attacked her and wielding it as a makeshift sword, decapitating another three robots in one swipe. As another two moved in to attack, she deftly blocked their clumsy strikes with her new weapon and bucked both of them into another pair behind her, all four exploding in plumes of dark blue smoke.

The smoke was dispersed by Bon-Bon leaping through it, gracefully dodging the attacks of the metallic ponies that surrounded them. Where Lyra battled with power, taking hits head on and turning them against her attackers, Bon-Bon ducked and dived in a deadly dance, never placing herself in a position in which an attack could successfully reach her. A Lunatron thrust its blades at her, the razor appendages slicing deep into another robot’s neck as it became apparent that Bon-Bon was already behind it. Pulling her grapnel gun from her pack, she fired it into the chest of a nearby Lunatron then tossed the gun to Lyra, calling to her partner over the crash of tearing metal.

“Lyra! Present for you!”

Lyra sliced the legs from under the nearest Lunatron and turned to catch the gun in her mouth. Ducking more fumbling robotic attackers, Lyra wrenched the wire to the side, swinging the captured Lunatron in a great circle. The nigh-indestructible monofilament sliced through the mass of robots at chest height, reducing them to scrap in an instant and clearing Lyra and Bon-Bon tens of feet of valuable breathing room. But still the metal army stretched into the distance, marching in perfect time as they advanced on the tiring heroes. Lyra dropped her impromptu wrecking ball and groaned.

“BB, I don’t know if we can do this.”

As Bon-Bon opened her mouth to reply, she heard a familiar sound. She smiled.

“Looks like we won’t have to.”

The two heroes looked up to see the forces of M.A.R.E. descend. Helicopters full of armoured ponies fired missiles into the mass of Lunatrons around them, precision targeting ensuring the safety of Lyra and Bon-Bon. Pegasus snipers swooped into position on the surrounding rooftops and began to unload shot after shot into the ranks of the Lunatron army, shattering the glowing orbs that powered them. The helicopters touched down in the spaces cleared by their heavy munitions and the ponies within leapt to the ground, swiftly and efficiently forming firing lines and activating quick-release barricades to protect them from the Lunatron’s return fire. The rattle of assault rifles and the crackle of plasma filled the air as the two forces brought everything they had to bear.

Almost as soon as it had begun, the destruction was over. M.A.R.E.’s assault had been unexpected and lightning-fast; the Lunatrons had never stood a chance. Lyra and Bon-Bon stepped gingerly through the wreckage to the sizable VTOL craft that served as Derpy’s command transport, known as The Mailbox because every message in the organisation passed through its servers. Though the Commander could of course fly, the Mailbox was filled with enough monitoring technology to make Vinyl squee and boasted a custom mount for her enormous magical rifle, Bubbles.

As they entered the vicinity of the craft, Derpy waved from behind Bubbles’ sights.

“Lyra! Bon-Bon! Glad to see you’re alright. We sure showed those Lunatrons, huh? Didn’t even have to fire my baby.”

The two heroes saluted, a gesture which the Commander returned inexpertly, catching her hoof in the cables that surrounded her rifle and having to use the other foreleg. Bon-Bon rolled her eyes as Lyra began to speak.

“That was awesome, Commander. I gotta admit, I may have entertained us being doomed for a minute.”

Derpy smiled, eyes practically spinning with pride in the ponies under her command.

“Well, we couldn’t let you have all the fun. It’s been a long time since we’ve done anything but sit around at base.”

Her face became more serious.

“But no matter how well we handled this, the fact remains that it happened at all. We’ve grown complacent this past year, and obviously Luna is still a potent threat. There’s never been an attack on this scale before, and since we cleared out Luna’s last base we have no idea where Luna might be. The game has changed again, and I do-”

She was interrupted by a crash of thunder. Whirling around, Lyra and Bon-Bon turned to face the direction of the sound. The forces of M.A.R.E. milled about in confusion as black clouds raced across the sky from nowhere, covering the sun and plunging the recent battlefield into darkness. A deep laugh erupted from the very air itself and another thunderclap ripped through the midday night as a bolt of lightning flashed from the sky, arcing to the ground in the centre of the plaza and blasting a crater in the shadowed paving. The assembled ponies stood in shock as the smoke dissipated to reveal a figure that sent jolts of fear through everypony present.

“THE GAME HAS CHANGED, LITTLE PEGASUS. AND WE CAN BOTH WIN.”

Scene 5

Standing before them, proud and terrible, was Princess Luna. Her mane and tail blazed with the light of the moon and stars, and Her wings flexed as She laughed again.

“GREETINGS, PONIES OF M.A.R.E.. ARE YOU SURPRISED TO SEE YOUR PRINCESS?”

Derpy’s forces cowered before the awesome presence of the Princess, Her power radiating from Her with an almost physical force. She turned to face Lyra, Bon-Bon and Derpy, who had already recovered and were standing ready to fight, visibly resisting the magic crackling in the air.

“AND HERE ARE THREE BEARERS OF THE ELEMENTS! SUCH LUCK! WE HAD HOPED MERELY TO FIND YOU, HARPFLANK AND SWEETS.”

Lyra shouted above the rolling thunder still clamouring in the clouds above, body trembling with anger.

“You’ve destroyed enough, Luna! This time we stop you! You think you can take on the whole of M.A.R.E. by yourself?”

The Princess laughed again, tossing Her shining mane arrogantly.

“‘TAKE ON?’ WHAT MAKES YOU THINK WE ARE HERE TO FIGHT?”

Lyra looked taken aback by Luna’s words. Bon-Bon spoke up questioningly, voice edged with suspicion.

“What are you talking about, Luna? If you’re not here to fight, what are you here for?”

Luna looked down Her nose at the ponies surrounding her as She formulated her answer. The words She spoke next threw everypony present off-balance.

“WE HAVE COME TO NEGOTIATE.”

Derpy’s eyes were straight as an arrow, focused on the Princess as she took charge of the situation.

“Stand down, Lyra, Bon-Bon. This is a diplomatic matter now.”

Lyra raised her voice in protest.

“But Commander, it’s Luna, we-”

Derpy cut her off with a sharp tone.

Now, Lyra.”

Lyra glared at her, then stepped back. Derpy flapped her wings, hovering forward until she was only a few feet from Luna, eyes level with the Princess’. The enmity between the two ponies was palpable. For years, Luna had endangered the city that Derpy saw as her charge. And every time She had, the organised family that Derpy had created had ruined the Princess’ plans. Several ponies relating the incident later swore they saw sparks leap between the two as they spoke.

“Okay, Princess. We’re listening.”

Luna got to the point immediately, voice slipping easily into a charismatic cadence that reminded everypony present that, evil or no, this was still their Princess of the Night, with all the power and personality that entailed.

“WE SHALL BE BRIEF. WE TIRE OF THIS ENDLESS BATTLE.”

Lyra muttered under her breath.

“You and us both, siste-”

She was rewarded with a slap to the head from Bon-Bon, whose eyes were rapt as she watched the vanguards of the war for Metropony talk face-to-face for the first time.

“THIS... AFFAIR BEGAN BECAUSE WE SOUGHT TO ASSUME CONTROL OF OUR SISTER’S EMPIRE. WE THOUGHT AT FIRST TO CHANGE THE HEARTS OF PONIES THROUGH FORCE. IT IS CLEAR NOW THAT WE WERE WRONG.”

Derpy eyed the Princess, searching Her face for signs of duplicity. Luna continued.

“AN EMPIRE STOLEN IS STILL AN EMPIRE. CELESTIA’S LIES HAVE IRREVOCABLY DAMAGED PONY SOCIETY, AND THERE IS BUT ONE RECOURSE LEFT TO US.”

Luna drew Herself to her full height, looming over the ponies around Her at full regal stature, and Her next pronouncement echoed across the city.

“WE ARE TO CREATE A NEW NATION. A NEW LUNAR REPUBLIC. AND WE WISH TO DO SO IN PEACE.”

There was a deep and pregnant silence. It was clear to everypony that this was a moment that would live in history, that would change everything. Derpy continued to meet Luna’s gaze impassively.

The world held its breath.

Finally, slowly, the Commander spoke a single word.

“Explain.”

Luna smiled and began to pace back and forth as She put forth her plan.

“WE SHALL LEAVE FOR THE MOON, TAKING ANYPONY WHO WISHES TO FOLLOW. THERE, WE WILL BUILD A NEW SOCIETY, UNFETTERED BY THE MACHINATIONS OF MY SISTER. AT FIRST, WE SHALL RULE, THAT GROWTH MAY BE MAINTAINED. HOWEVER WE WILL LATER STEP DOWN AND LEADERS WILL BE ELECTED BY THE POPULACE. UNLIKE OUR SISTER, WE BELIEVE THAT PONIES CAN LEAD THEMSELVES.”

The forces of M.A.R.E. were whispering amongst themselves now as the Princess’s words washed over them. There was as yet no assent, but several discussions had grown heated. Luna came to a halt before Derpy and met her gaze again.

“SO, LEADER OF M.A.R.E.. WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE? DO NOT REQUEST A CONSULTATION WITH CELESTIA. SHE CANNOT BE TRUSTED.”

Derpy continued to hover in front of the Princess. She cast a glance about her forces. The talking had died down now and everypony looked at their commander. Their leader. Their friend.

She landed gently, hooves making no sound as she dropped to the ground. She began to turn, meeting the eyes of each and every pony there one by one. She made a full circle, drinking in the connection she shared with the ponies present and the trials they had shared together as an organisation. As her eyes met Lyra and Bon-Bon’s, something within their souls resonated. They smiled at her, silently endorsing the decision they now knew was coming.

At last she faced Luna once more. She looked up into the Princess’ eyes, then closed her own. She took a deep breath, and let it out slowly.

Her eyes opened once more, gaze straight and true.

And she gave her answer.

“No.”

Scene 5

Luna blinked.

“WHAT?”

Derpy leapt back in to the air, wings beating furiously.

“I said no! I deny your peace offering, as does every pony here!”

Luna’s magic erupted forth, engulfing Her in starlight as She raged.

“WHY?! WHAT POSSIBLE REASON COULD YOU HAVE?!”

Derpy narrowed her eyes and raised her hoof to the sky.

“Because you are not Princess Luna of the Night. You are Nightmare Moon, The Mare In The Moon!”

She brought her hoof down and, as if at her signal, Celestia Tower blazed into light, dispelling the clouds that blocked the sun and bringing brilliant light down upon the massed ponies of M.A.R.E.. The Princess screamed as She cowered from the sun’s glare, an unearthly scream that resonated with power.

“NO! HOW DID YOU KNOW?! HOW COULD YOU KNOW?!”

Derpy brought a hoof to her chest.

“Because of the Element of Harmony I bear.”

Luna’s eyes widened at the mention of the Elements, fear creeping into her expression. Derpy continued, filled with conviction.

“It has spoken to me, revealed everything I needed to know. Your deception was great, Nightmare Moon, but it lasts no longer! I don’t know what you planned to do with our consent, but we, the Elements of Harmony and the forces of M.A.R.E. deny it! Though we stand divided now, the sixth lost to us, know that whenever you threaten our city, threaten our way of life, threaten our friendship, we will be there to fight you with everything we have!”

The Commander began to glow with the power of her Element, a gentle light emerging from her body. The ponies of M.A.R.E. unanimously stood at attention and saluted their Commander, the stamp of their hooves louder even than the thunder that had until so recently raged above. Her force of will dispelled their doubts and raised their spirits. Her voice returned to its normal tone, bright and cheerful.

“You will be banished, Nightmare Moon. And we’ll get our Princess back.”

The light surrounding her flared like the sun, and Luna shrank back. Her outline seemed to fade, and for a moment it looked almost as if two ponies occupied the same space. There was an indescribable noise as the glamour surrounding her shattered, and her true form was revealed, armour gleaming in the sunlight and horn long and cruel.

Nightmare Moon.

Recovering from the magical assault, the mighty alicorn stood tall. Her voice rang out across the city and she blazed with awesome and unholy power.

“VERY WELL. IF YOU WILL NOT DIE WILLINGLY, YOU SHALL DIE IMMEDIATELY.

The impossible darklight glow of her magic suffused the wreckage of the Lunatrons that coated the ground of the plaza. The air filled with hideous clanks and groans as the heaps of metal spiralled into the air, crashing together and blending into each other. Derpy waved a hoof urgently to order a retreat, playing it safe in the face of the Mare In The Moon herself. Her forces scattered as the mass of metal grew and grew, slowly taking shape. The plaza was clear of ponies by the time it had finished, save for Lyra and Bon-Bon, who had shooed the Commander into the Mailbox and insisted she leave despite her protests. After her inspiring reveal of Nightmare Moon, it was clear that the city would need her more than ever and she couldn’t afford to stay on the front line.

Their necks craned upwards as the destroyed army coalesced into the greatest Lunatron they had yet seen, dwarfing even Trixie’s final creation. Great metal wings and a vicious horn graced the metal beast, and they realised with terror that Nightmare Moon had created a robot worthy of her cosmic power.

Nightmare Moon laughed triumphantly and mocked the two stunned ponies.

“DO YOU NOT SEE? THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO TO STAND BEFORE ME! THE GAME ENDS NOW, PATHETIC ‘HEROES!’”

In a flash of magic, she vanished and reappeared atop the colossal robotic alicorn.

Lyra and Bon-Bon looked at each other helplessly. Their noble gesture of staying behind to cover M.A.R.E.’s escape seemed futile before such power. Bon-Bon’s communicator crackled into life unexpectedly. Vinyl’s voice burst from the device, the specialist almost breathless with excitement.

“Oh man, oh man, I have been waiting for this!”

Lyra, unable to believe what she was hearing, grabbed the communicator and yelled back.

“What the hay are you talking about?! You’ve got that thing on monitors, right?! Look at it! And it’s being controlled by Nightmare Moon! It’s like a... a... a Moonatron!

Vinyl’s reply was impossibly smug.

“I see it. And I know we can beat it. Feast your eyes, my little ponies. Feast. Your. Eyes.”

The metal alicorn took a single step towards the heroes, ground rumbling beneath its mighty hooves as Nightmare Moon laughed from her perch. But when the shaking should have stopped, it continued. Bon-Bon, Lyra and even Nightmare Moon looked around in confusion. It was Lyra who noticed it first, raising a hoof wordlessly to point at Celestia Tower.

The tower was opening. Huge plates of white metal unfurled, revealing the massive girders that supported the vast structure. These too began to move, grinding ponderously along as their vast weight struggled against the mechanics and magic that drove their movement. As they moved, still supporting the tower as they moved to their new positions, it became apparent that a section of the building almost as tall as the Moonatron was hollow. Bon-Bon’s mouth dropped open as what lay within became clear.

“It’s... a hangar.

The rumbling stopped, and Vinyl and Octavia’s ultimate project was revealed. Within Celestia Tower’s base lay a vast gantry, in which stood a pony-shaped robot that rivalled Nightmare Moon’s in size. It was painted the same grey as Octavia’s coat, with thick black armour around the chest and legs. A crimson V adorned its chest, and where its cutie mark would be was emblazoned a huge stylised “Z”.

Lyra’s face was a picture of delight.

“Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh! Is that ours?!

Vinyl’s voice was triumphant.

“Isn’t it AWESOME?! We’ve been working on this ever since we finished the nanosuits! Tavi, you’re up!”

The signal crackled as Vinyl passed the communicator to Octavia. Bon-Bon was hardly listening now, dumbstruck by the scale of the specialists’ work, but was still amazed to hear Octavia exclaiming,

“Behold! We have spent years creating this unsinkable castle of steel! Fearing none, thwarted by none; even if it is encircled by a thousand foes, its invincible body protects it from any number of attacks! Its name is... ”

Lyra pressed her face to the communicator, desperate for more.

“Its name is?!”

Nightmare Moon glared at the robot with disdain.

“ITS NAME IS?”

Octavia and Vinyl’s voices rang from the communicator louder than Bon-Bon had thought possible, echoing throughout the plaza. The two chorused the name of their greatest work in tandem.

“TAVINGER Z!”

A flare of magic enveloped Lyra and Bon-Bon and they suddenly found themselves in a tight cockpit, myriad levers, buttons and screens before them.

“Downloading piloting instructions now!”

Vinyl’s voice now emerged from a speaker above them as two helmets extended from the cockpit’s ceiling and clamped themselves onto Lyra and Bon-Bon’s heads. With a jolt and a surge of energy, the two ponies felt knowledge flood their minds. Schematics, training, everything they needed to pilot their vehicle as if they’d been born knowing how. In unison they placed their hooves at the controls. Lyra grinned as the Moonatron on the viewscreen turned to face them.

“It. Is. On.

Scene 6

The two colossi faced each other across the city, as did their pilots. With steps that shook the city, they began to move. The walked slowly at first but with every step they picked up speed, until both of the mechanical beasts were galloping full tilt. The Moonatron lowered its head and brought its horn to bear, aiming to spear Tavinger with the vast weapon. Its alicorn creator stood proudly atop it as she assured herself that no Equestrian technology could stand against her.

At the last second, Tavinger ponderously dodged to the side, wrapping its foreleg around the Moonatron’s neck as it passed. With an almighty groan of straining metal, the black-carapaced pony heaved upwards, kicking off the ground with its remaining hoof with the aid of the Moonatron’s momentum. The Moonatron was lifted into the air, eclipsing the sun briefly as Tavinger stood on its hind legs with the enemy in its grasp. Nightmare Moon cried out in surprise at the relative nimbleness of her enemies’ machine, teleporting to a nearby rooftop in a wisp of purple mist.

At last the two machines fell. Lyra and Bon-Bon’s robotic steed threw itself backwards, putting all of its weight into the meteoric suplex. The Moonatron hit the ground with the force of ten megacellos, creating a shockwave that shattered every window in the city and forced the entire plaza several feet into the ground. As the vast cloud of dust cleared, the two robots picked themselves up, the Moonatron staggering as it struggled to cope with the damage to its systems.

Nightmare Moon shone with power, screaming,

“SO, YOU ARE FAST! BUT CAN YOU DODGE THIS?!”

The Moonatron’s wings transformed into two enormous plasma cannons that belched purple fire at Tavinger Z, the huge balls of flame writhing in the air to take the shape of a roaring dragon. The heroic machine braced itself and took the impact head-on, engulfed in the searing heat. But Vinyl and Octavia had learned from their years matching Lunatron science, and the armour’s special coating protected it from the terrible weapons. Lyra’s voice boomed from the robot’s speakers.

“Is that all you got? Guess we’ll finish this quickly! ROCKET HOOVES, FIRE!”

As she shouted the last, great gouts of flame began to erupt from Tavinger’s knees, and the mighty metal pony reared. As it reached its full height its two front hooves burst forth, careening through the air towards the stumbling Moonatron, trailing smoke and fire. Replacement hooves clanked into place from the stumps of its forelegs and Tavinger crashed back to a standing position as its jet-powered limbs raced at the Moonatron.

The metal alicorn tried to leap from the rocket hooves’ path, but it was too slow and too damaged. First, one smashed into its chest, leaving a gaping hole that sparked and spat flame as the projectile lodged itself deep in the Moonatron’s innards and exploded. The second hoof angled upwards at the last moment, smashing into its chin with incalculable force. The impact tore the robot’s head from its neck and sent it spinning into the sky. It detonated in a huge purple fireball as the rocket hoof self-destructed. The twin explosions made light and shadow dance across Tavinger Z as it towered above the wreckage, victorious.

The moment was ruined by Lyra gloating over the loudspeaker.

“Yes! Take that, Moonatron! What’s scattered across the city and clueless? YOUR FACE!”

Bon-Bon’s voice cut off her partner’s, calling Nightmare Moon out as they turned Tavinger to face her. The alicorn was quivering in fury, enraged that she could be withstood by nothing more than two ponies in a skyscraper-sized robot.

“We win, Nightmare Moon. Surrender and we promise to treat you with respect and kindness, despite your crimes.”

Nightmare Moon sniffed and her magic began to radiate from her again.

“FOOLS! WIN? YOU HAVE MERELY DELAYED YOUR OWN DEMISE! MY POWER IS INFINITE!”

Lyra and Bon-Bon watched in shock as the black light suffused the wreckage of the Moonatron. Great chunks of metal rolled across the city to pool together in the plaza, then rise and form the Moonatron a second time. Pristine, as if the recent battle had never occurred, it roared a guttural, strangely organic roar as Nightmare Moon’s unholy power gave it something approximating life. Nightmare Moon began to cackle.

“YOU SEE, HARPFLANK AND SWEETS? ALL YOU MAY DO IS RAIL AGAINST YOUR FATE TO NO AVAIL!”

The Moonatron leapt forward, faster than it had been before, and swiped its wings, now edged with blades, at Tavinger Z. The pilots tried to dodge, but their speed had been matched. As their robot leapt to the side, the slicing metal feathers removed its back legs and it crashed to the floor, an avalanche of metal rolling across the enormous square.

Lyra and Bon-Bon wrestled with the controls as the Moonatron stalked closer, wings raised to strike. Tavinger Z struggled to regain its balance, but could only bring itself to a sitting position, resting on its metal haunches as their giant foe moved in for the kill. Nightmare Moon’s laughter rang in their ears.

“NOW, AT LAST, IT ENDS! WITH YOUR DEATHS, I AM FREE OF HIS INFLUENCE AND CAN DO WITH THIS WORLD AS I PLEASE! DIE, HARPFLANK AND SWEETS! DIE, THAT THE NIGHT MAY LAST FOREVER!”

The Moonatron’s wings drew back, lining up to sever Tavinger’s head from its shoulders, and Nightmare Moon’s face was a mask of glee. There was a moment of silence as the villainous alicorn savoured her victory.

The Moonatron struck, blades scything down.

Wait!

Across the battlefield, littered with metal, rubble and ash, a voice rang clear and strong. The Moonatron ceased its attack as its limited intelligence struggled to process the development, and Nightmare Moon frantically looked about the square from her vantage point, trying to pinpoint the origin of the voice.

Suddenly, atop Tavinger Z’s head, a puff of smoke burst into existence, accompanied by popping fireworks. The voice cried out again, coming from within the smoke.

“Nightmare Moon! Your plans end here! For too long you have endangered the ponies of this city and this world! It’s high time you were stopped!”

Nightmare Moon reared in fury, darklight streaming from her.

“WHO DARES INTERRUPT MY CONQUEST?!”

Lyra and Bon-Bon watched the scene unfold on their viewscreens in stunned silence. Before their eyes, the blue smoke began to clear and an outline began to form. The two heroes gasped as the smoke cleared fully and the light of the sun shone down on the newcomer, bathing them in radiance.

A blue unicorn stood on her hind legs, forelegs spread wide dramatically. She wore a flowing cape and a tall wizard’s hat, both purple and dotted with stars. A large gem affixed the cape across her chest, gleaming in the sun. Bon-Bon found her voice first, barely able to speak as a mixture of surprise, confusion and delight filled her.

“It can’t be. You’re... you’re alive?”

The Great and Powerful Trixie dropped to all fours. She swished her cloak, tipped her hat and gave a theatrical bow. As she came out of the bow and her face became visible onscreen again, she smiled with the self-assurance and showmanship that Lyra and Bon-Bon knew so well.

“Was there ever any doubt?”

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INTERMISSION

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