Transformed

by the flying spaghetti monster

First published

A new stallion shows up in Ponyville, garnering a lot of attention from the mares. But watch out, he is not what he seems!

War is terrifying. When you've been at it for over ten million years, you tend to start to run out of resources. You also start to run out of ideas, and this can be particularly vexing if your people face annihilation if defeated. The warring factions of the Transformers, the Autobots and Decepticons, are locked in such a titanic death struggle.

The Decepticons rebuild one of their best spies into the likeness of a pony and send him to Equestria, a nation found on a planet during a top secret investigation. In an effort to study magic and quantify it, they hope to establish a valuable new energy source. However, their studies of the pony culture, though detailed, are barely comprehensive enough for their agent to fit in. Worse still, the spy must wrestle with the sensations of his never-before-used organic body, including the frequent and puzzling emotions that occur whenever ponies interact with him.

Chapter 1: DiE

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Transformed



Chapter 1: DiE



He felt his chest expand and contract as his lungs dutifully exchanged the air. His optical sensors weren’t reporting any visuals. And then, as if on cue, his eyelids separated and a new view of his world was offered. His optical sensors had been replaced with eyes, he soon realized. The relatively huge pony eyes managed to take in a lot more of his surroundings than his previous mechanical eyes. The recovery room, in all its blue-grey metal glory, was the first thing his new form observed.

At a whim he could activate various computer assisted views. He brought up his diagnostics, both mechanical and biological. Everything from data rate to body temperature could be viewed with this interface. 'Body temperature', he thought. The need to monitor his body temperature was new, since the enzymes that catalyzed his metabolism worked best at a specific temperature. This data, along with a host of other data could be superimposed on his world view at any time, and in a way that didn’t compromise the ability to see where he was going. He shut the diagnostics down when he ‘felt’ uncomfortable for having laid on his back.

He blinked automatically. It was something his new eyes would need to do to stay moistened, but the former pantherbot was a bit surprised anyway.

With muscle and machine working in unison, he started to move his limbs and right himself. A whole new wave of sensations hit him. His back gave him the all new feeling of being somewhat cold, and clammy. His lungs had sucked in more air from this simple maneuver, before returning to the previous rate of respiration. Cybertron’s atmosphere was breathable by creatures from Earth as well as ‘Celestia-1’, the new name for the planet they were studying.

His limbs were shorter, and his head was closer to the ground. He walked around a bit, and was relieved to find that it was just like his panther mode, though with a reduced stride length. His hooves took a little getting used to. He felt the brush of his rather substantial tail on his backside. It was amazing, the sheer amount of sensation he could feel. His back felt quite cool, but only after having got up. The rest of his body integument felt ‘well’, neither hot, nor cold, and the cool sensation on his back was slowly dissipating.

He sped up his walk to a trot, and then to a temporary gallop, since the recovery room was only so large. The feeling of the air passing over his body was difficult to describe, as some areas felt cooler than others. Stopping abruptly, he observed that his respiration had increased substantially, and took less than half a minute to return to normal. His body had warmed up, and the cool sensation from his back disappeared without him noticing it. His integument provided a massive amount of data, yet when it was processed, Ravage felt it a certain way, from a generalized location. Gone was the sector by sector breakdown of environmental variables.

“Environmental detection is more efficient,” Ravage spoke. He did a double take at the sound of his own voice. “What in the universe!” That was when he realized he had a tongue, and he started to feel his new teeth with it. The fact he could speak at all was a testament to Starscream’s ability to preprogram motor skills into the cerebellum. Ravage would eventually discover that his walking, trotting, galloping, and many other motor skills were also preprogrammed, all under the auspices of digital control.

What caught Ravage by surprise was how smooth his voice seemed. When Decepticons spoke, the ‘echo’ of computer generated audio accompanied every word. That was gone now. The only thing that carried his voice was air, and only during exhaling. His new lips, teeth, and vocal chords conspired to modulate the air passage to produce speech. It was a truly remarkable system.

He saw the mirror next, and walked up to it, taking in the image of his new body. What certain Equestrian inhabitants would have described as terracotta, Ravage saw as dark brown fur, his ‘coat’. His mane and tail were black. The eyes were the colour of brushed aluminum metal, a light grey. His body was lithe and muscular, with a ‘little extra’ in the flanks. It was decided in the planning phase that social acceptance was a priority. According to the data, stallions, the adult male ponies as learned by the Decepticons, did better with that feature. As an added bonus, Ravage was able to store more ammunition for his rear mounted weapons. It was a win-win scenario.

His ‘cutie mark’, an all-yellow feature, was the crescent of a ringed planet on a 30 degree angle. Ravage was about to become an explorer after all, and this space born image made sense.

The next new sensation was truly alien to Ravage, having no Decepticon counterpart. It came from his gut.

“That’s hunger,” Starscream’s voice chimed over the intercom. Of course, Ravage’s systems were constantly being monitored. “How are you feeling?”

A more intuitive question could not have possibly been asked. ‘Feeling’ had been all that Ravage was doing since he got up. “I don’t know… All this sensation, I’m surprised it’s not overloading my processing circuits. I have millions of new sensors, and yet it seems summarized automatically.”

“That means your new systems are working properly,” Starscream surmised. “You’d better eat something. You’ll need your strength.”

A quick check of his diagnostics indicated that his radio was left turned on, probably by Starscream, and it had been silently reporting his condition. It also explained the lack of external sensors strapped onto his body. Ravage left the system as is, placing his faith in Starscream and the reconstruction team.

His olfactory sensors were reporting…

“Something sweet,” indicated Starscream. “Simple carbohydrates give that aroma when mixed with warm water.”

Ravaged noticed his ‘meal’ had come in through a chute in the side of the wall. To the side of this he noticed a new structure. Having studied ponies in a little detail before the spark transfer operation, he knew that his room was for later, after his digestive system had sapped as much energy as it could from the food he ate.

His meal consisted of various plants’ seeds grown and ground in the same lab where his tissue was grown. The seed grindings were then incubated in water at 95 degrees C for 15 minutes, followed by the addition of a calculated amount of disaccharides. It felt good just eating it. Using his robotic grabbers and pincers installed in his hooves consumption was made easier, though he will eventually have to learn to use the utensils the way true earth ponies do. Having ate up every morsel he felt his lips curl up at their sides. He didn’t need a mirror to know that this was a smile.


=^.^=


Before he went out of the recovery room, Ravage installed his first weapon system: the missile racks. The rebuilt Decepticon was expecting Thundercracker to try to step on him, and when he did, Ravage would blow a leg off, or an arm. It would be so funny! Not only that, it was to cement his status as a Decepticon that should not be toyed with.

The first room was the repair bay. Starscream was going over the reconstruction procedure at a workstation. “Ah, I see you’ve made a full recovery?” The designer asked this as a formality.

Ravage was about to answer when he saw his old body lying on the repair platform. The good mood he had coming off from eating dissolved into something he’d never felt before. His panther form – his panther form - it looked so cold, lifeless. The bright red colour from its eyes was replaced by black, and bits of light reflecting off the surface. It was dead. Ravage felt the blood leaving his stomach. He felt sick.

“Now this is something I never expected from you, of all Decepticons.” Starscream observed the mood swing as a series of brainwaves on his monitor.

He brought a hoof up to the black metal head, and stroked it gently. It was cold and smooth. There was no vibration, nothing to indicate that the body was anything but a shell. “I feel as if I’ve murdered myself.”

Starscream dismissed this comment as inane banter. “When you two are done bonding, you should go into the lab. Quite a lot of Decepticons want to see you.”

A whole new level of stealth was sought after that would make Ravage a more convincing pony. Since the ponies appeared and behaved in a mammalian way, the new brain included an improvised limbic system. Influenced by the spark, Ravage was to experience emotion with the hope that he would react the way ponies would. While missing nothing in the normal gamut of Decepticon emotions, he was enabled to experience emotion through his pony body as well as his brain.

Ravage forced himself to move along, wondering if the process could be reversed when his mission was done. A detrimental thought it was, considering the work that had to get done, but it helped him feel better. He could hear the chatter of Decepticons as he approached the doors, which soon slid open.

The room was abuzz with conversation as Ravage stepped in, but it hushed quickly. All eyes were on the new pony with the ‘clip clop’ of hoofsteps serving as the backdrop of sound.

There must have been over thirty Decepticons in the room, including Starscream who just followed in. The normally animated monitors were occluded by the heads and shoulders of inquisitive Decepticons. Shockwave, Blast Off, the interceptors, the Constructicons, and many more were watching with interest.

Megatron was the first to speak up. “How is your new body, Ravage?”

Ravage paused briefly, gathering his thoughts. “Very different. There’s a lot more to being a pony than I expected. The locomotion is fairly easy to get used to, though.”

“As we expected it would be. Soundwave, you have something to say to Ravage.”

Soundwave took two steps out from the crowd, identifying himself. “Ravage! Transform.”

Ravage’s mood immediately improved at the prospect. Like the transformations of all Decepticons, all it took was a whim, digitally blessed by activation circuitry. With a surprisingly quiet whirring of solenoids and clicking of parts, the pony quickly transformed into robot mode. His upper back split off, anchored at the sternum, into ‘wings’. The newly exposed jet engines had rested in the abdominal region before sliding upward and closer to the center of gravity. The wings rested butterfly-style so the upper appendages could move about freely. His head split in half, face from occipital region, revealing a smaller, robot head, while the back of his pony head split again and folded themselves inside of the pony face. The remaining compacted head turned about one-hundred eighty degrees, with the eyes closed and face inward. It slid down the neck, coming to rest between the wings. The whole upper body twisted one-hundred eighty degrees. His forelegs turned themselves inside out becoming blocky arms. While all this was going on, his backside changed into his lower body, folding in on itself and becoming blocky, with the tail being sucked into a holding chamber, since is was made of pliable mane. Metallic, wedge shaped feet emerged from the lower, rear leg mechanisms.

The tissue did not bleed and it did not yield pain for the circulatory, lymphatic, and nervous systems were routed in a manner similar to circuitry and conduits, avoiding the transforming surfaces. In addition to the natural microfilaments and microtubules, the tissue was also equipped with carbon fiber tubes to give them strength. When in robot mode, or when endangered, the carbon fiber tubes could hook up with each other, forming a lattice that made the tissue stronger than steel. In pony mode, carbon fiber tubes were also used to knit the seams, making them virtually invisible.

A new transformation system, never before seen, had worked perfectly. A roar of cheering greeted the new Decepticon body, adorned in black and silver with little indicator lights and the Insignia for colour. As per his request, Ravage had a panther head. It was black, with sharp angles and flat surfaces like a typical Decepticon face, and it looked nearly identical to his old head, but with his red eyes facing forward.

All those incredible new sensations Ravage’s new body was feeling seemed to be gone! The body and integument felt like nothing, although he seemed to be aware of his internal organs. His lungs still breathed, though not through his robot mouth; his stomach still digested. His robot mode obeyed standard operating procedure. The pony bot wasn’t sure how to feel about this.

“Excellent, Ravage,” Megatron commended.

Thundercracker picked up on Ravage’s lack of enthusiasm. “What’s the matter, Ravage? Sad that you’ll be missin’ out on blowing up Autobots?” the interceptor teased, followed by his trademark bass chortle.

“Destroying the Autobots is the foremost thing on my mind. Out of the coming mission, we will have an inexorable energy source which will bring us on even ground with our enemies. Our superior technology and perseverance will do the rest.” The bizarre new body aside, Ravage was looking forward to spying on the unsuspecting ponies.

“Spoken like a true Decepticon.” Megatron was most satisfied with Ravage, one of his best warriors. “Now the real work begins. Scrapper, prepare Ravage’s ship. Shockwave, Starscream, Onslaught, plan the insertion of our agent.”


=^.^=


Deception: the sum of all tactics and strategies designed to mislead. It was the defining trait of Decepticon culture. Blending into their environs was not enough; they were eager to blend their motives as well. Oh look, an unassuming freighter. It was really a battleship. How about making a case for peace? It was all for buying time to build more ammunition stockpiles. Decepticons excelled not just in imitating vehicles, they imitated anything and everything. An observant Autobot once said, ‘Even in the most unimposing fields, buildings, and bridges lay the Decepticon army’.

Ravage’s hoofsteps were a new sound on Cybertron. Sharp, rhythmic, and definitely audible, the echoing in the ubiquitous metal construction of his home world made him detectable anywhere. This was in stark contrast to his panther mode, which was designed to traverse any kind of terrain soundlessly, and flawlessly. The spy hardly accepted that soon, very soon, his metal enclave would be swapped with the bright, flowery world of the ponies. The very thought of it made him shudder, but he accepted this mission because of the freedom it offered. No turning back now! It was time to plan.

What he found puzzling was how accepted his situation was among his fellow warriors. They never laughed at his ridiculous form, nor ever jeered at the unspeakable act of actually preparing to interact with the Equestrian people. In fact, if he didn’t know better, he was actually more accepted by his peers. Was it respect for the bravery it takes to explore the unknown? Perhaps. However, it was apparent that Starscream, the Decepticon who had masterminded the entire operation, had also come across similar luck. He wasn’t going anywhere except into combat.

Combat. Ravage relished a chance for combat with the ponies, and a smile cracked upon his face just thinking about it. His smile disappeared just as quickly as soon as he thought about one thing: the unicorns. It was well established that if they wanted to pin you with their magic, there wasn’t a damned thing you could do about it, save for being a unicorn yourself. The best strategy, so far, was to avoid fighting them. Since they were consistently mixed in with the other pony varieties, it meant that battling any pony would be equally problematic. A glorious firefight was simply not going to happen. 'A pity', Ravage had thought. Unicorns were easily the weakest of the pony races. As such, they deserved to be beaten down. Regardless, fighting needed to be avoided until the secrets of telekinesis were elucidated. After that, well – Ravage planned to bring a small arsenal of nuclear and antimatter weapons along. They fit in his ship’s cargo bay, so why not? Megatron certainly had no qualms about it.

Ravage was as ready as he was ever going to be. His ship was fully fueled, and armed to the teeth. All he had to do was go to the space bridge where Starscream and Shockwave would be waiting. Less than an hour later, he would be flying over Equestria. He passed through the Engineering lab on the way. Oddly, the Decepticons were still gathering data on the target.

“Ready to go, Ravage?” queried Skywarp, one of the interceptors.

It was then that Ravage noticed that all the screens were tuned into the same event, some sort of exchange between a green unicorn, and a cream coloured earth pony with a pink and blue curly mane.

“Ready,” was all the ponybot replied. He was trying to figure out why the Decepticons were so transfixed on those particular ponies, who now appeared to be embracing.

Megatron entered the room.

FWOMP! The Decepticon leader blew up the central monitor with a single shot from his fusion cannon, sending smoking debris flying everywhere. Frightened Decepticons backed into the wall, keeping as far away from Megatron as possible.

“I really hate to think that further study of those pathetic ponies is necessary for the conquest of Autobot City,” spoke the irate commander, his voice slow and sinister.

Some stupefied responses were made. They included ‘We were testing the overhead system’, ‘The main monitor’s colour scheme seemed out of whack’, and ‘Just cranking up the anger for the fight with the Autobots’, among other whoppers.

“Laserbeak has returned from Moon Base 1. Do you know what that means?” Megatron asked, still pointing his fusion cannon at his troops.

Suddenly, the red alert alarm came on, with red emergency lighting and the whining klaxon, capturing the attention of every Transformer under Megatron’s command. An intercom transmission of Soundwave’s voice described the situation. “Strike commencing. All Decepticons to battle stations!”

Megatron lowered his fusion cannon. “Get to your posts!” His troops dispersed quickly, if a little clumsily, getting out of the room with exceeding speed. He turned to face his spy. “Ravage! Once your mission is completed, destroy those wretched flesh creatures!”

“As you command, Megatron,” the Decepticon pony happily replied. The upsetting sight of seeing his fellow warriors – glued to the view screens! – just to see those bizarre aliens was most disturbing. Megatron turned around and calmly walked out of the room. Ravage galloped. Starscream couldn’t leave for the attack until Ravage was safely seen off to Celestia-1.

The cyborg pony reached the space bridge room quickly, with Starscream, Shockwave and the Combaticons waiting for him. Onslaught’s team of Combaticons was chosen to stay behind, in case the Autobots counter-attacked instead of protecting Autobot City.

In the center of the space bridge ring, Ravage’s ship was already prepped, with the engines running. The bottom hatch was extended down. It was a fairly large, black vehicle whose shape resembled a ‘manta ray’ from Earth, only it was angular with well defined facets.

Ravage ran straight for his ship’s hatch, when Starscream halted him. “Stop, Ravage!” The explorer turned around. “There’s been evidence of counter-intelligence. Apparently, the Autobot shuttle has already been six days delayed because of it.”

“I’ll watch my back. I doubt the Autobots know how to get to Celestia-1,” Ravage responded confidently.

Onslaught offered his tactical support. “The satellites have found a massive weather system approaching Equestria. I suggest using it to cloak your landing.”

“Maintain radio silence for at least three days,” Starscream commanded. “By then we should hopefully have found out how much the Autobots know about the Celestia system.”

Ravage nodded in response. “It shall be done.”

“Good luck, Ravage!” added Blast Off, enthused. He helped Starscream do a lot of ground work in during the initial investigation, and he was looking forward to the new chapter in Decepticon history that was about to be opened up.

“Who needs luck and magic when you’ve got science and technology,” Ravage quipped. “And thank you.” A short silence occurred, in case anyone had anything to add. There was nothing more than a team of Decepticons standing at attention, accompanied by flashes of red light and the sound of the klaxon.

“Then it’s time to go,” said Starscream. And then, all the Decepticons in the room held a hand in the air, in a certain way, like a frozen wave. It was a gesture of respect that Decepticons gave only to the bravest warriors. With high odds that Ravage may eventually be stomped out of existence by Princess Celestia herself, he was indeed very brave in taking on this mission.

Ravage smiled at his comrades, looking at them for a moment, for it may be the last time he could. He then spun around and entered his ship. He quickly transformed into robot mode and sat in the cockpit, and performed the final manipulations before take off.

The rings of both space bridges, on Cybertron and on Earth, came to life triangulating on the destination, sending Ravage on his way.


=^.^=


It was night time in Equestria, but Luna’s glorious moon did not shine upon the nation. A heavy thunderstorm was upon them, with the most spectacular thunderheads in the Everfree and areas north. The pegasi had done their best to disperse it, but sometimes even they could get overwhelmed with nature’s fury. Luckily for a certain Decepticon invader, the storm was more than enough to conceal his spaceship which made its way to predetermined coordinates, about two kilometers south of Ponyville.

Close to the surface, practically sitting on the tree tops, a powerful beam of energy shot out of the front of the ship, burning into a the side of a ridge. The infiltrating ship’s shields were used to push out a hollow as the energy beam vaporized the ridge side. On the surface, the very ground of the trees bulged upward and outward as the alien craft dug in. Ravage spent the next two days reinforcing the hollow his beam had made. With his ship safely inside of it and out of the prying eyes of pegasi, it was a top priority to avoid a cave in. He had rearranged the vegetation and soil on the plate metal over the entrance, also reinforced. He still needed to add the gear widgetry to allow the side of the ridge to open and allow him to fly his ship in and out – essentially a great door. He also wanted to build a tunnel to the top of the ridge. The operation used a lot of his precious energon cubes. Ravage yearned to start his mission in earnest, but experience taught him to prepare properly.


=^.^=


Aster emerged from the train and looked upon Ponyville for the first time. The pegasus mare welcomed the cool, fresh air after having spent four hours in a confined space. Mid morning sunlight reflected off of the still puddles that were randomly spread about, but concentrated where the heavier hoof traffic made well worn lanes. The place was quaint, but surprisingly active for what was supposed to be a small town.

Rainbow Dash flew down from a nearby cloud she had been napping on while waiting for her friend. The two mares embraced briefly. “Long ride?” she ventured.

“Yeah, it was. But that’s all done with now.” Aster was a big mare, a whole head taller than the junior Wonderbolt she had business with. The long legged mare had a lilac coat, an azure mane and tail, both with golden highlights, and green eyes. A cutie mark consisting of a golden wing in profile was featured on her flanks. Her wingspan was very large for her body size, giving her incredible lift. In fact, she’s been known to glide at the speed of a trot without flapping her wings at all – just using the air currents.

“Do you want me to take your bags, or did you just want to go straight to my place?” Rainbow offered, trying to be a good host.

“Nah, I got this, let’s go.” Aster’s great size also came with great strength. The saddlebags were really not a bother.

A short while later, Aster emerged from Rainbow’s bathroom, freshly bathed. “You have a nice washroom. Actually, I’m loving this huge cloud house too,” she commented.

“I know right! And I totally own it. No mortgage!” Rainbow Dash responded proudly.

“Good on you.” Aster smiled. “You ready for the info?”

“Anything to help Canterlot. We’re working on new maneuvers, right?” Rainbow carried a pitcher of orange juice and a couple of glasses on a tray in her teeth.

“We are.” Aster pulled out a plain looking folder and placed it on the coffee table beside the orange juice while Dash poured their beverages.

The junior Wonderbolt read the simple document. “I have to try to time my sonic rainbooms?” Rainbow peered keenly into Aster’s face looking for a sign of confirmation. The tall mare just nodded, and maintained a neutral expression.

“I don’t think Canterlot would request anything untoward, but you never know,” said the flight instructor from Hoofington.

Aster taught a range of theoretical and practical flight material, and had earned accolades for doing so. When she was told that Rainbow Dash was to take advanced flight mechanics courses in order to be allowed to enter officer training, the two mares were requested to work on supersonic flight training by the Equestrian Air Force, the top air authority. It took about four months for Rainbow Dash to complete the schooling. She had to do it all in Hoofington too, as prescribed by the EAF. In doing so, the two mares had become good friends. Hanging out a lot, they often delved into very unladylike conversation, drank beers, and played hoofball. Suffice it to say that the junior Wonderbolt did well under Aster’s tutelage.

Rainbow Dash was getting excited just thinking about it. “Aster, strap yourself in, because we’re going for a wild ride!”

“In your house?” the flight instructor quipped.

“Actually, I wonder if I can blow up a cloud house with a sonic rainboom,” Rainbow wondered, ignoring the jab.

“I think that’s why the EAF has taken an interest in you.”

“You do realize that nothing’s stopping me from becoming a Wonderbolt officer, right?” Indeed, the agreement between Rainbow Dash, the Wonderbolts, and the EAF was for her to do her practicum on supersonic flight, pending successful completion of the theoretical course material. Most Wonderbolt officer applicants already had the appropriate education prerequisites, but Rainbow did not. However, since she was the only pegasus capable of faster-than-sound flight, as well as the Element of Loyalty who answered directly to the diarchy, a compromise was made.

The tall mare had a mild look of surprise. “Money talks.”


=^.^=


On the forth day after he landed, Ravage emerged on a muggy, sunny morning. Humidity was high as the storm had soaked everything. His new found senses made it a delight to experience. He could smell the soil and moisture in the warm air, and it had a calming effect. He wanted to get a closer look at his surroundings, but felt that he had delayed his mission for long enough. It was time to meet the ponies.

The Decepticon made his way to a path the satellites had picked up. It led to Ponyville.

Ravage turned on his Battle Computer, a sort of ‘Heads Up Display’. He didn’t feel comfortable unless he had all the information he could get. The main satellite orbiting above provided information on ponies in the vicinity while his own processors provided an instant profile on every pony that came into view. Detailed dossiers were available on the Elements of Harmony.

The path he was taking had slowly changed from a muddy, leaf covered trail with exposed roots to compacted gravel to cobblestone as pony buildings increased in number, complexity, and height. His intent was to do a walk through Ponyville and test his disguise.

It was late in the morning. The heat and humidity kept increasing, and Ravage felt somewhat uncomfortable as his sweat glands started up. Indeed, any breeze that passed over the sweatier portions of his coat was welcome.

The sight of ever increasing numbers of colourful, smiling ponies gave him a bad taste in his mouth. What have I gotten myself into? he thought. Even though he had long since accepted his mission which entailed learning a new way of life in order to empower the Decepticon war machine, the overwhelming feeling of not belonging was difficult to ignore.

And they were mares… Mares, mares, mares, mares, mares! In abject defiance of evolutionary prerogative, where approximately equal ratios of male and female individuals could be found even in the forest creatures around Ravage’s ship, the population of ponies was primarily female. Every now and then, a stallion could be spotted, but they seemed to be the exception. Unnecessary to Decepticon propagation, typing its warriors as male and female was never attempted, and thus they were profoundly male. Let the Autobots waste their energon on useless robot sex typing.

As if that wasn’t enough to confuse the zoologist, there were an endless range of colours in these ponies. There were green ponies with purple manes, yellow ponies with orange manes, blue ponies with silver manes, and every colour combination imaginable. Ravage would have to check if colour traits were not inherited by subsequent generations at all, but rather established at random like some sort of genetic lottery.

Ravage started his way down the main strip. This was it! If he was detected now, he would go down fighting. He felt a wave of trepidation though, as he realized he brought the wrong weapons, the mini guns. Now, if he were being attacked by pegasi from the sky, the effectiveness of the mini guns would be known by bringing down the whole flock in a hail of bullets. In this case, the threat was more likely to come from the ground. His machine guns used armor piercing rounds and would be far more useful in close quarters combat. The bullets would have been able to stop at least 2 ponies each, one in front of the other, if not more.

The Decepticon tried to walk confidently, and for the most part did just that. The air was strong with sweet smells that seemed to waft off of the mares’ bodies. Not food, per se, but sweet, and pleasant. The mares’ scents mixed in the smells of fresh produce, wet soil, cooking, and wood smoke. It was, in all honesty, comfortable being downtown. To find out why, Ravage looked at his integument profile. All readings were normal. The mares were certainly not a threat, and most of them paid him no heed. Most of them. The Decepticon agent picked up a few of them that were looking directly at him, mostly smiling, but some wore more provocative expressions.

Surprisingly, the ‘mare walk’ had disarmed Ravage’s more war like instincts. His disguise appeared to be working as it was meant to. He had a few questions though. His ‘ears’, which turned out to be excellent audio sensors, sometimes heard a distinct noise amongst the din of busy ponies. It had two tones, with the first bit being of higher pitch, and the second bit was more drawn out, ending with decreasing volume and pitch. This behavior was not picked up by the investigation team, along with a lot of behaviors not previously observed. Ravage had no choice but to learn pony society while trying to live within it, and learn fast.

Suddenly, his Battle Computer picked up a pony familiar to the database. Overlaid on his vision, the pony was outlined in a box of red. A unicorn! In spite of having just walked by several of them without incident, Ravage hated unicorns and their cowardly magic. There was a dossier on her, and the information was on display. It was Twilight Sparkle. Realizing he was on a side of the street that would put him directly in her ground space, Ravage turned direction, practically ninety degrees, in order to put himself on the other side of the street as quickly as possible without arousing suspicion. Barring the element of surprise, and having no idea how to handle unicorns in a fight, he had no wish to face one of their most powerful members.

Calmly he continued to walk, approaching her position, but still side stepping it. He considered powering up the main satellite’s forward weapons array. If she pinned him, he may still be able to operate it.

“No, no. Princess Celestia is going to the Summer Sun Celebration in Trottingham this year,” Twilight spoke.

“Awww. But when is she coming back to Ponyville?” replied a slightly disappointed mare named Carrot Top. As was typical, she was selling carrots from her stand.

“Well, she comes at least once a year, kind of at random, actually.” Twilight continued on with her description of the Princess’s visiting demands when she realized that Carrot Top’s attention was turned elsewhere. “Um, hello?”

“Yeah,” said Carrot Top, dreamily. “Hello gorgeous.” Her eyes were fixed on something behind Twilight, who turned around to see what it was that caught her friend’s attention.

Of course it had to be a stallion. Twilight giggled at how easily the carrot vendor was distracted by him. “You silly pony,” she jabbed. Looking a little closer though, the mare noticed that he seemed to have exceptional physical attributes. His shiny, jet black mane and tail went perfectly with his terracotta coat. His earth pony body sported sleek musculature, contrary to the typical ‘big boned’ look. And his cutie mark… a planet! Even though she was skeptical at first, the academic unicorn was drawn into watching him stride by. After all, if he had a planet cutie mark, it could mean he was as educated as he was handsome. It didn’t take long for Twilight to notice how happily the planet mark stretched and bounced about his very well developed flanks.

Carrot Top whispered into the research pony’s ear, “Twilight, I don’t think we’re the only ones staring.” She followed up that statement with an effeminate giggle. Indeed, the two friends noticed another physical attribute: he didn’t have a mare to escort him.

BOOM!

The crowd hushed as a decent sized cloud exploded in a shower of rainbow coloured precipitation.

Way ta’ go, Rainbow Dash! could be heard amongst the murmuring. Soon however, with the crowd used to explosive aerobatic displays, things soon returned to normal.

Ravage, however, was stopped in his tracks, gawking. He knew there was a cloud there before. It was somewhat out of town, but now it seems to have been turned into a colourful explosion. His sensors had recorded the cloud in his peripheral vision. He would have to review it when he was safely at his base. The power of the shock wave it created was no minor feat either! Had the ponies developed heavy caliber weapons that were not noticed by the investigation team?

“You must be new here.”

Ravage turned to somepony who appeared to be addressing him directly. 'By The Pit, no!!' Thanks to eons of being a Decepticon, he remained calm enough, as Twilight Sparkle was clearly not using any magical attacks – yet.

“You can tell?” he responded, looking a little surprised.

She giggled, elated to be talking to this stallion. “Well, everypony’s seen Rainbow Dash do a Sonic Rainboom. Except for you, of course. Right?”

'Is that what that was, a Rainbow Dash attack?' Ravage brought up the dossier on Rainbow Dash. Sure enough, she was one of the Elements of Harmony: the Element of Loyalty, to be exact. And that shock wave may have been a sonic boom!

“Remarkable,” he concluded, staring into the sky where a cloud once floated.

Twilight laughed and snorted all at once. “I knew you were from out of town! Heheh. Actually, Rainbow Dash is a close friend of mine.” The prospective unicorn loved the way this was going, making small talk with one of the hottest dudes in recent memory. She was thinking about suggesting he have lunch with her and her friends where he might meet Rainbow, but decided on another kind of tactic.

“So,” she started, curving her purple body into a more provocative stance, “What planet are you from?” she asked making reference to his cutie mark. Twilight intended to respond to whatever Ravage said with something on the order of ‘I’m from planet Canterlot’ in an attempt to appear clever while finding common ground.

“Not from here,” he calmly replied, starting to walk away. Ravage needed to get away from Twilight. He felt that the longer he was around her, the higher the risk to him and his mission was. She may be well on her way to deducing that he really was from another planet. The more distance the Decepticon could put between him and the oddly behaving Unit Commander of the Elements, the better.

“But….” Was all Twilight could say, after he walked off.

“I don’t think it was a good idea to try to make friends by insulting him,” said Carrot Top, whom had just come up from behind. “Why not just ask him to have lunch with us?”

Twilight face-hoofed.

Ravage picked up the pace. Satellite thermographics indicated that the mare was not following. He didn’t pick up any of Twilight’s signals, let alone the unintentional ‘insult.’

What he did find puzzling was that the crowd didn’t seem impressed with the sonic boom event. They seemed almost bored. Ravage used his satellite to locate where the sonic boom had originated. A small video window indicated pretty clearly where that was. The fact the cloud was spinning before Rainbow Dash blew it up made the maneuver all the more impressive. He decided to head for ground zero.

The buildings slowly gave way to wider spaces which featured fields of short grass kept to a specific height. Dispersed at random were large, healthy trees unmarred by deadwood like forest trees. Cobblestone pathways, benches, and the occasional construct from which foals hung, swung, and ran about completed the scene. 'This must be a ‘park’', the Decepticon thought.

In a few minutes, Ravage was at the beach where the cloud had exploded. Rainbow Dash was grouped with three other ponies. His database identified Pinkie Pie and Rarity, but the other pegasus mare was unknown.

“Aw yeah, now all I gotta do is try that with a snow cloud!” Rainbow Dash declared.

“Hmm…” Aster was pondering Rainbow’s statement. “Snowflakes do refract light, but not the same way water does. And how would you keep them from melting?”

Ravage arrived. “Impressive.” The four friends turned to the stallion that made that statement. “Was that really you?”

Pinkie Pie gasped, having found pony in Ponyville she’s never seen before, but before she could interrupt, Aster covered the pink mare’s mouth up with her hoof. “Shhh… Let ‘em talk,” she whispered into Pinkie’s ear.

Rainbow giggled a bit, “Yup, that was me.” She was faux observing one of her hooves for debris.

“You flew faster than the speed of sound?” Ravage’s face was serious with inquiry.

This time, the giddy pegasus let out a choked, almost cackle of a laugh, “Yeah! Master of the Sonic Rainboom and Rainbow Rain.” She had put on a pair of shades to emphasize the point.

Ravage didn’t notice Rainbow Dash’s antics. He had been alive for millions of years, and had been on countless worlds. Up till now he had never, ever seen an organic being fly faster than sound under its own power. Looking upon the pegasus, it still felt like something of a miracle. Her wings seemed small and she possessed no engines or propulsion systems of any kind, at least outwardly. Even Ravage had jet engines attached under his wings in his robot mode. How did she do that?

“Amazing…” he uttered, starting to walk away. Dossiers on Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie had popped up and been verified. Having encountered four of the Elements of Harmony without being detected was sufficient evidence of his disguise’s effectiveness. His first objective was accomplished. His next objective was to find work. He needed to earn and spend bits like all the other ponies if he was to integrate into Equestrian society. Besides, his ‘amino acid pony’ diet that he had crates of in his cargo bay was nothing short of awful, even with the sugar.

The sexy stallion that sauntered into the suburbs of Ponyville did not escape Aster’s notice. “Rainbow. Are you pondering what I’m pondering?”

“I think so, girl, but burlap chafes me so,” Pinkie Pie interrupted.

“An untaken stallion?” the blue pegasus answered. “There’s no way.”

“Pinkie Pie, have you seen that stallion before?” asked Rarity.

“No, and that’s why I gotta get his name so we can party!” The energetic mare was bouncing in place, eager to welcome the new stallion in the traditional Pinkie Pie style. “Not to mention giving him his welcome song. Oh! I gotta write him a welcome song! Oh! Oh! I gotta get his name so I can write him a welcome song!”

“Okay Pinkie, we get the idea,” said Dash, trying to calm down the pink mare.

“Ya know Dash, he was looking at you,” Aster indicated, and winked. “I think he was looking at you all the way from the park, actually.”

“Oh please! The only mare he would have been looking at is moi,” Rarity didn’t notice him until he addressed the group, but was certain that she was the center of his attention.

“No, he was looking at Dashie,” Pinkie declared. Rarity wore a disbelieving look. “When my shoulders shiver and my tail twitches, that means that a stallion was looking at my best friend.”

Rainbow Dash blushed. Rarity opened her mouth, inhaled, and prepared to say something along the lines of who Pinkie Pie’s best friend really was, but stopped herself, looking nonplussed. She then closed her mouth.

“You got the ball, Dash. Don’t drop it.” Aster smirked at her friend.

“Okay well, I guess I can talk to him.”

“Go get ‘m, Dashie!” Pinkie cheered.

Rarity decided to support the initiative. “I concur. If such a handsome, polite, and probably educated stallion is actually available, then no time should be wasted. Besides, our herd could use a stallion.”

“Ooooh, your herd is pretty big,” said Aster, thinking out loud. “You’ll probably kill him!”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, one thing at a time here. We don’t even know this guy.” Rainbow was uncomfortable with shifting her focus from aerial maneuvers to ‘sappy talk’, but having a stallion around would be useful in combating certain ‘urges’ that popped up from time to time. She’d feel better if it was Rarity that got elected to make his acquaintance, but from what was said it was herself that he was interested in.

The speedy mare began to hover. “Alight, I’ll see what I can do. Catch ya guys later.” With that, Rainbow Dash took off.

“For the herd!” shouted Pinkie Pike, raising a front leg in victory.


=^.^=


Rainbow Dash did a quick patrol over Ponyville and she found the stallion of interest walking around the perimeter. She landed on a cloud, and thought about how to start communication with him without seeming totally lame. What could she use to break the ice? “Aha!” she said, having figured out an angle.

Ravage was taking the safest path he could think of that would most likely avoid Twilight. The satellite was tracking her to the library, though. It was a good bet that she was going to spend the afternoon reading. The pony bot was getting hungry so he decided to head back to base and correct the problem. His disguise was successful and he felt like celebrating. It would be like a victory toast drinking energon.

With a loud thud, a pegasus suddenly landed on his left side, startling him.

“Hey there,” Rainbow Dash said squeakily, smiling up at him. She barely managed to hide a laugh from his surprise, though a couple of snickers got out.

“Hello?” Ravage didn’t know what to make of the situation.

“Question for ya. Are you new here?” Any nervousness Rainbow had was abolished, now that she was steering the conversation.

“Uh, yes. Just got here today.” This was close enough for the Decepticon.

“Did you want me to show you are around? Ya know, a little orientation. Makes it easier to find stuff.” The pegasus’ plan was to ‘include’ the library, the boutique, Sugar Cube Corner, and other of her friend’s abodes. What are friends for, right?

Ravage had satellites to find stuff. Rainbow’s unexpected arrival did get him thinking though. Could this pony be useful? Unable to come up with an answer, he decided to do a risk/benefit analysis on possibly befriending one of these ponies later. He had always questioned being stationed in the same place as the Elements Of Harmony, and while he understood the need to be close to powerful magic so he can study it, it seemed a little reckless, even for him. It didn’t help that the Element bearers were the first ones to talk to him.

“The way I like to remember area layouts is to explore them myself,” the Decepticon pony explained. “I find that this is the best way to commit the details to memory. You showing me around isn’t a bad idea, but I need to get home, and I’ve already explored most of Ponyville.”

Rainbow Dash’s confidence waned, as she tried to carry on the conversation. The stallion needed to head home, should she get in his way?

“Did ya like it?” the pegasus asked, looking inquisitive as she started hovering.

Ravage thought a bit. “Yeah. It’s alright,” he replied, smiling. Ponyville would be easier to get used to if it wasn’t for the Element bearers, but this problem was dropped into his lap by Starscream, with Megatron’s permission. He just had to endure.

Rainbow felt she was intruding by then, and hovered with the intent to fly away. “Okay, I’ll leave you to it. Oh! Name’s Rainbow Dash, by the way,” she said as she extended a hoof.

The Decepticon bumped it – his first hoof bump! “Ravage.”

Rainbow smiled, a little evilly, “Now that’s a cool name!”

“Ya like it?”

“Yeah. Listen, I gotta head too. I’ll see you around, okay?”

“Alright. Thanks for the tour offer.” The Decepticons established the use of such polite mannerisms during the investigation. They were easy to understand, and, with luck, would help keep Ravage out of trouble.

Rainbow Dash flew off, feeling positive about their encounter. Her and her friends’ stallion prospect seemed solid. He spoke intelligently, and kept it real. He spoke in a smooth baritone voice that didn’t slur or stutter, in fact, Rarity would love his diction and enunciation. He may have turned her ‘tour’ down, but he didn’t turn herself down. They will meet again, and by then Rainbow will have thought of a few strategies that she can use to try to sway him over to the lives of the Elements.

Ravage quickly put the bothersome pegasus in the back of his head, and began figuring out how to statistically implement a risk/benefit analysis of a friendship with one of these ponies, adding today’s experiences to the data set. The Elements of Harmony were too dangerous to befriend, and yet they were the only ones bold enough to strike up a conversation with him. Indeed, most puzzling. The stallion bot was so deep in concentration he hardly noticed when he was well into the Everfree Forest, nearing his new home.

Chapter 2: Vermin

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Chapter 2: Vermin



Ravage woke up sixty minutes before the sunrise via his internal alarm system, and prepared his equipment. He disliked how disobedient his tissue body was. It wanted to fall asleep at the most inopportune moments, and then it wouldn’t rise on command. As if that weren’t enough, the daily needs to eat for it, remove the awful waste, and clean it were most annoying. It was definitely a high maintenance item. In fact, it was easier speaking the pony language than it was listening to his body’s unspoken needs.

The day’s plan was to observe Princess Celestia as she raised the Sun. ‘The Sun’ was how the humans referred to their star as well. What made things more perplexing, was that the star field on Celestia-1 was exactly the same as it was on Earth. Even in orbit, Ravage didn’t see the real star field. How could this random star system have the night sky of a planet thousands of light years away superimposed on it like that? He had trouble believing that Princess Luna did that, but there was no other better explanation.

He left his base in a groggy, semi-alert state, his saddle bags loaded with observation equipment, and some of the crummy diet. He was hungry, and planned to shove down as much of it as he could when he reached the tallest part of the ridge where he would watch the sunrise.

In front of him, blocking his route to the peak, a group of timberwolves had come out of nowhere, growling and snarling. With a yawn he turned on his battle computer and began receiving satellite information on his surroundings. There were four wolves, and they are all in front of him. This could have been a good chance to test one of his ground based cruise missiles, or the main satellite’s gamma laser, but the Decepticon pony was getting short on time. The eastern sky wouldn’t hold the darkness for long.

Being moved out of the way from the weapon bay doors, his saddle bags dropped down using an electronic pulley system. The doors opened and a pair of missile racks, Ravage’s choice of defense today, revealed themselves. A missile launched out from its holding chamber from a still tired Ravage and struck the ground in front of the wolves, causing all of them to yelp in fear and turn tail, running for their lives from the scalding debris.

Ravage face hoofed, blaming his lack of aim on his persnickety, tired body. “Vermin!” he exclaimed. “Next time I won’t miss.”

The now fully awake stallion made way for his observation post. Upon arrival, he set up his equipment and tried ramming down some of the supposed ‘food’ he was required to eat. On the outside, his instrumentation looked like a simple telescope on a tripod. On the inside, it was packed with sophisticated Deception sensory equipment.

Suddenly, a brilliant light appeared on the horizon. It must be Celestia! His telescope did indeed have mighty Celestia in its view finder with the sky getting bluer and bluer. Ravage took as many measurements as he could. His instruments’ detectors were collecting data on every kind of electromagnetic or particle emission. The Equestrian leader easily had the widest wingspan as well as longest horn of any pony. In fact, she was so morphologically different from the norm, one might suspect a different species altogether, or maybe it was a combination of age and magic. Whatever it was, she was majestic, and the Sun followed her into the sky.

Ravage noted, however, that there was predawn light even before the Sun Princess was in the sky. Had Celestia’s efforts merely primed the star’s orbit around Celestia-1? Did the amount of sunlight vary daily as it did on other worlds with any kind of tilt? It was very clear that this world had seasons, which would suggest a planetary tilt and a regular yearly orbit, but how did that work on this world? Magic? With the existence of magic verified, it was the current explanation. Ravage also noted that the ponies had a yearly calendar, but what could justify it? It was then that Ravage activated the display for his internal compass: it was following Celestia.

When he first landed, the Decepticon noticed his compass pointing north, through Canterlot no less, and had assumed that it was pointing to the yet-to-be-established magnetic north. Now, with this exciting new data, he began to understand the physical implications of magic. What he found odd was that the ponies themselves possessed compasses, but they seemed to work properly. Perhaps there was a ‘magical north’?

Princess Celestia flew back to Canterlot, and Ravage’s compass followed. Astounding! Even if he never managed to figure out how pony compasses actually work, at least he had the technology that could find Celestia anytime he wanted to.

Having made the discovery, Ravage decided to celebrate with breakfast – at least what could pass as breakfast as he ate the horrid pony diet. Afterward, he walked back to base, and collapsed into his makeshift bed for another few hours.


=^.^=


Ravage was still kicking himself for his stupidity. How could water and heat make that much of a difference to the palate? Having realized that neither the water, nor the heat and incubation period were added to his pony diet, Ravage tried them out and this time he got excellent results, having actually prepared a tasty breakfast for once.

How could he have actually thought his dry diet would be better for him? Since the water to diet ratio was about one to one, Ravage figured he could save on eating time, while doubling nutritional value, rather than add valueless water into the mix. Once again, his body’s quirky needs intervened, forcing him to ‘cook’ properly. In all the eons of his existence he had never cooked, not even once. In fact, until recently, he had never drunk a glass of water in his life either. Energon and regular maintenance had been all he needed.

If he could not perform even the simple task of proper food preparation, how could he even pretend to be able to actually associate with the ponies, particularly the Elements of Harmony? At least his ability to grasp utensils the earth pony way was improving.

About an hour later Ravage was in Ponyville again, looking for work. It was almost to the hour since the previous day that he had showed up on the main strip. The pony bot noticed his compass going crazy, pointing at the nearest unicorn, but typically spinning around aimlessly.

Hmm, looks like unicorn magic has a proximity effect, he guessed. Indeed, it seemed that the only way to overwhelm Princess Celestia’s magic was to be two-hundred thousand times closer than she was. Ravage vowed to study this magic’s signal strength sometime. He casually wondered if its intensity was inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source, like light was.

He chanced asking a local vendor, a seller of daisy flowers, about possible job opportunities. “Excuse me?” he asked. This phrase was typically used when strangers addressed each other. On Cybertron, Decepticons would simply state their business regardless of whether they knew each other or not.

The vendor clerk was – you guessed it – a mare called Daisy. In spite of being one of his secret admirers, among many secret admirers, she reacted quite well to Ravage’s line of conversation. “Would you like to buy some daisies?” she asked, keeping her excitement under control.

“Actually, I’m looking for a job. Would you know where I could look?”

“Oh! Oh my…” Daisy took a few seconds to think. “Well, I don’t know off-hand but you could check town hall. They might know better.”

“Okay, thanks.”

She decided to offer him a freebie anyways, just as a courtesy. She placed a daisy on her hoof, preparing to chuck it. “Would you like one for the road?”

Before Ravage could say anything, she already made the pass. He caught it, by the stem and sideways, in his mouth.

“Oooooo!” she swooned, nearly doubling over, but then realized that her celebration was premature when the stallion started eating it.

Ravage was enjoying the taste of the petals, and then swallowed. 'This is crazy, he thought'. “Um, that was delicious! Thanks again for your help.”

Daisy was all twisted up in emotion. The hot new stallion liked her flowers! She managed a provocative half-lidded stare, as he nodded and walked off.

The secretive stallion put two and two together. I think she was trying to start a courtship ritual! Ravage wanted nothing to do with courtships, or relationships of any kind. As observed during the data gathering, they tended to lead to ritualized mouth pressing, and then inefficient data exchange would occur. The very thought of it sickened him. He decided that he would have to be cautious whenever a mare tried to give him free stuff. Not only that, but he ate a flower – a freaking flower! And he liked it! Still, he pressed on.

Regardless, he wasn’t really in a bad mood. His body was finally well rested and the pleasant weather had the effect of, well, helping him keep happy. Besides, the daisy mare had given him a lead.

Upon completing his risk/benefit analysis, Ravage determined that what he did need were friendships, at least as far as using your friends for their abilities and resources was concerned. These would increase his knowledge base and hopefully help him get around the mystery of telekinesis. The trick was to avoid the Elements of Harmony. Ironically, the mare that could tell him the most about magic was also the mare he really needed to keep away from, lest she expose him using her talent for deductive reasoning. As for Rainbow Dash, he was still stumped on why she would randomly land beside him like she did. She evidently wanted to expend time and effort in order to facilitate his understanding of Ponyville. What did she want in return?

After a brief walk, Ravage entered town hall. He made for the reception desk, as there appeared to be a pony that might help him. “Excuse me, do you know where I could get a job in Ponyville?” he queried.

“I’m not sure,” the dark-maned grey mare replied. “Just look around, I’m sure you’ll find one.” She was staring at her hoof for imperfections.

Well, that was useless. The Decepticon picked a random direction and walked around town looking for areas that may be in need of an extra set of hooves.

During his walk, his Battle Computer posted an alert, and an orange box enclosed itself around two pegasi. They were flying fast and in formation! He zoomed in, and it turned out that they were looking at him. Both were mares, as is typical of any random population sampling in this place. They had light purple coats. One had a green mane, and one had a silvery-blue mane. He instructed one of the smaller satellites to track those two. They could be trouble.

Walking into an area of town he’d never been in before, Ravage came across a large, mostly excavated area. It was a construction site. Since the Decepticon was continuously recording everything he saw, he was eager to hear Scrapper’s comments on these images later. They seemed very busy, and appeared to be working hard. After about forty-five minutes, they settled down and began eating and drinking. Ravage approached the herd.

This group had a proportionately large number of stallions in it. The mares were also considerably larger than average.

“Can I help you?” asked the foremare.

“I’m looking for work. Would you need the extra help?” Ravage suggested. It was completely beneath him, asking for work like this, but it was a necessary discomfort in order to support his cover.

The foremare and her right hoof ponies eyed Ravage, looking up and down his body. She looked at them and they gave her a nod. She rubbed her chin in deliberation. “I’ll tell ya what,” she begun, in a surprisingly gravelly voice, “Since our mixer pony skipped town, you can try out her position today. Fifteen bits an hour. Trial period. This afternoon only. You in?”

Ravage loved this discourse, and smiled in approval. It wasn’t so much the success at having landed a job, if only temporarily, as much as it was the quick and decisive conversation.

“I’ll do my best,” he responded, still smiling.

The foremare smiled back, enjoying at how the stallion didn’t melt into a puddle of sycophantic goo, constantly thanking her for the opportunity. She extended her hoof, “Name’s Bright Rock.”

“Ravage.” He met her hoof with his own and closed the deal.

“Ravage?” Her response was met with a couple of chuckles from her coworkers. She sometimes met ponies whom requested being addressed by names that are less flowery than the ones their parents gave them. It looks like this calm, collected stallion was one of those that didn’t like his real name. “Okay, Ravage. If things work out, I’m going to be giving you a bank draft that you can deposit or cash at a bank of your choice, not bits. If this keeps working out, you’ll get another on Friday, and then every two weeks after that. These drafts will say ‘Ravage’ as the receiver on them. You okay with that?”

“That will be just fine,” the pony bot responded politely. He noticed some frowning at this politeness. Could it have been excessive?

That afternoon, the foremare started Ravage out hauling rocks in a cart. His doing such a menial task so quickly and easily earned him some respect. His dropping rocks on the ground due to hitting other rocks too fast got his coworkers mad at him, but in the end he felt he made a positive impact. The Decepticon’s hydraulic systems were the key to his success, even though his muscles were actually quite strong. He made a mental note to keep these particular mechanical systems well maintained.

One thing that the construction ponies found odd what how Ravage moved the cart: he was pushing it, walking on his two hind legs as he did, and with a nimbleness that they previously would have thought implausible. A few rocks dropped due to his use of excessive force going over the bumps, but his movement was otherwise quick and clean.

The two pegasi that had been spying on him came back to his position twice more that afternoon, always looking at him. Other than that, they were pushing clouds around. He had the satellite stop tracking them, since it seemed to be a waste of time. As a precaution, he had four song bird androids patrol the area watching for suspicious activity. If they wanted trouble, Ravage was more than willing to give it. He quite enjoyed the notion that although he appeared to be a simple, defenseless pony, he and his collective armaments could deliver a blow like Megatron’s fist.

Most of the information the Decepticons knew of pony culture came from androids, sent long before Ravage set foot on the the planet. They were disguised as rattlesnakes, and various kinds of bird.

At the end of the day, he departed the job site, more hungry and thirsty than he’d ever been since he got here. He would remember to bring his own water and food supply to the job site the next day, which is what his coworkers did. His foremare expressed something resembling gratitude when she said ‘Okay Ravage, you’ll do well not to drop all your junk all over the place next time. Other than that, not bad. See ya tomorrow.’ He assumed he’d be doing something on the order of ‘mixing’ the next morning, since that was indicated by his job title.

He made as direct a route as he could for the base. He needed food. Now. This time, it wasn’t going to be easy. There were three unidentified unicorns following him, keeping far enough away for their hoofsteps not to be heard. Not only that, but his favorite purple pegasi were back, stalking him from he skies. Did they know about his deception? They were all mares, but that could just be a skewing effect from the mostly female population. He was on the road out of town, but all five kept tailing him, with the pegasi doing lazy circles over the buildings before crossing over his main trajectory.

Ignoring his stomach’s pleas for food, he devised a plan to see his opponents face to face. Using the last city block, at least what was perceivably the last chunk of town surrounded by four streets, he made a loop with his new direction heading back into town. The unicorns were easy to track with his compass, especially since they kept together. Almost magnetically, they followed the Decepticon agent around each road. This was becoming tiresome. He wanted to go home and he didn’t want company.

Back on the main road out, Ravage reversed his course, intent on running into these unicorns. As he was about to make a turn onto one of the block roads, he could see the pegasi in the sky, arms flailing. It was fun to watch his satellite fed overhead motion tracking display as the unicorns seemed to be in full retreat. He rounded the corner, and they were out of sight. In fact, they were hiding behind various fences and barrels and such – the sight of a swishing tail confirmed this.

Ravage turned around and carefully resumed his homeward course, paying close attention to the data the song bird androids and satellites were giving him. The pegasi buggered off, and the unicorns headed back into town. Ravage was finally able to go home without risking his base’s position.

He ate a substantial amount of pony meal, and then spent the rest of the evening cleaning his body and documenting his research, preparing to break radio silence. It was long after the period described by Starscream, so why not? He found it unusual, however, that the Decepticons had made no attempt to contact him. He cleaned up in pony form, but the rest he did in robot mode, since working the instrumentation required fingers. Before he contacted Cybertron, he wanted to organize his data first. It would be only a day or two more.

As the sun set, he realized his didn’t feel any of the oppressive tiredness while he was in robot mode, so he transformed. He immediately felt tired, including the heavy eyelids! Is the body capable of sleeping while in robot mode? He decided to experiment later on, since he didn’t want to ruin the integration process. After a couple of wide yawns he settled into his bedding (made from the finest packing materials from Cybertron). It wasn’t very warm though, so he kept the cabin temperature higher to compensate.

The next morning, Ravage was on his way to work for eight o’clock. He was fully refreshed. Could the use of his robot mode preceding the sleep phase have helped his tissue’s regeneration?

Soon after he had left the forest, his relatively happy disposition was disturbed, once again, as those pesky purple pegasi made passes over his position. This time they were intercepted by Rainbow Dash. After some probably work related talk, the two headed off to push more clouds. That was the good news. The bad news was that if they continued to follow the Decepticon’s movements, they will inevitably deduce the location of the trail that leads to his base – and then possibly find his base! Ravage knew that must not be allowed to happen, and pondered ways to deal with the problem.

Rainbow Dash didn’t seem to share in her comrades’ zeal to monitor Ravage. The stallion bot replayed some of the video from the exchange, zooming in on Rainbow. She did look at him, but only once. Her face was wearing a prideful smile. She didn’t repeatedly fly over him either. Perhaps she was respecting his space?

So far, he was not happy about being here, even if he was integrating into pony society as planned. It didn’t help that it took nearly an hour to walk all the way to work. He desperately wanted to transform and fly, taking only a few minutes, but that was not an option.

To make matters worse, and in spite of trying to keep as low a profile as possible, ponies seemed attracted to him, especially the females that dominated the nation.

His morning consisted of mixing concrete and moving it in a wheelbarrow. He did this quickly and easily, and without spilling anything. The net effect was to get his coworkers to stop talking about his ‘clumsiness’, which can be considered a step up in this rather brutal, heavy line of work.

And along came coffee time! This time, Ravage was prepared. Instead of saddlebags, he brought two keg-like structures, one filled with water, and one filled with his cooked pony meal. They were actually containers for radioactive waste, designed to capture emissions and slowly turn it into energon. They hadn’t been used yet. The fact that they used insulation for a yet-to-be-filled liquid nitrogen envelope made them excellent for keeping food hot or cold.

As to the real radioactive waste, Ravage wouldn’t have to deal with any spent fuel rods for at least another year. Besides which he might get creative, perhaps putting them in the pony’s water supply. Entertainment would ensue as cancers spiked and some pretty interesting deformations of their foals occurred. Alternatively, he could just bury it in concrete.

Ravage stared into space for a few minutes, enjoying his yummy meal. Instead of being here, he could have been shooting Autobots in the face. Following the orders of stiff-backed, lumpy ponies to move concrete and rocks around just didn’t suit the over eight million year old scourge of peace and life itself.

“Ya alright, Ravage?” said Bright Rock, waving a hoof into his face.

“Oh! Um, yeah. Yeah, I’m fine,” he lied.

“You seem contemplative.”

“Yeah, I was wondering. Will the next gamma burst from the super massive black hole at the center of the galaxy be intense enough to reach our planet and damage our atmosphere?” Actually, this was a valid query, since the Celestia system was a full galactic arm in closer to the hub relative to Earth and Cybertron. Ravage only wanted to distract his coworkers from his real thoughts, but nevertheless pondered the notion with a hoof supporting his chin. Bright Rock and a couple of others were slack jawed. The Decepticon was feeling apathetic, still wishing he was elsewhere.

Ravage was about to end their mental pain with a quick quip, something on the order of ‘haha, I’m just messin’ with ya.’ But then the two unicorn engineers shifted positions and sat right beside Ravage. “Actually, we really would like to hear about that!” They both looked more eager than they should be. The rest of the team grumbled.

Honestly, the pony bot just wanted to eat his sugary meal, so he silenced both sides of the intellectual fence. “Just messin’ with ya. We’re well within the Sun’s magnetic field so any charged particles created by the wave would be deflected away.”

“The Sun has a magnetic field?” asked the female engineer.

Uh oh. Empowering the ponies with solid knowledge of the universe that they didn’t learn for themselves? Blasphemy! At least he didn’t mention the not-so-deflected gamma rays.

And who else would be interested in this conversation but the two purple pegasi mares come to spy on Ravage. Again. The weather ponies and construction workers, indeed, most of Ponyville, seem to have had similarly structured work days.

“Um, maybe you can talk about something relevant, Ravage?” the foremare requested.

“Concrete is heavy.”

“Ya got that right!” Bright Rock happily interjected. “Why, this stuff here? It’s got fifty percent granite components in the aggregate. When it hardens, it does not move. No way, no how!”

Bright Rock went on about the wondrous substance that was concrete. Ravage started looking for the nearest pole. He needed to bang his head against it.

The rest of the morning went technically well. Nobody talked negatively to Ravage. A couple of construction ponies asked his opinion on domestic matters such as Mayor Mare’s effectiveness, hard hat quality, and – the opposite sex. Ravage was able to easily deflect every topic unless it was anything involving relationships. What was worse was that it was the most discussed item.

‘Got any kids?’ “I ate them.” ‘You married?’ “Nope” ‘Got a girlfriend?’ “Nope.” And after some shocked silence, ‘Boyfriend?’ “Nope.” It’s hard to believe that any work got done, but it did because Ravage never stopped mixing and hauling the precious concrete.

Mercifully, lunch came. Ravage had eaten his fill at coffee time, because he wanted to go to the beach to see Rainbow Dash perform. How convenient her timing was, practicing at lunch time. Also, some young mares seemed to gather at the construction site. All wore the same style of clothing: white shirts with green collars and bands around the sleeves. And they were all unicorns. He could swear they were giggling at him. Was hauling concrete so funny?

And the dynamic duo of purple pegasus ponies flew overhead. Yet again.

The engineers approached the departing earth pony bot. “Say, do you mind if we join you?” said the stallion of the pair.

What is this? Why am I constantly attracting unicorns! Ravage was upset by his abject inability to keep his head low. At least no unicorns attacked him – yet. He didn’t trust any of these ponies, but he trusted unicorns least of all, especially after yesterday’s tailing incident.

“Sure,” he conceded, not really caring. In this society, ponies could follow him around whether he wanted them to or not. Besides, these particular unicorns haven’t upset him. This might even be productive. Perhaps these unicorns may speak of inherent weaknesses.

Ravage looked towards the group of three unicorns. They responded with a chorus of giggles.

“Yeah, I think they like you,” spoke the mare. “I’m Bo, and this is Micah.” The other pony gave a hoof wave.

“And I’m Ravage,” he said dryly. The unicorns laughed along. He didn’t understand why they were laughing. The silly way some ponies talked had been a source of entertainment during the research phase of the operation, but Ravage spoke quite plainly. Perhaps he spoke too plainly?

Bo and Micah were both light grey unicorns, though Bo was a shade darker. She had a right angled squaring triangle and ruler for her cutie mark, and her companion had a square root symbol. Bo’s mane and tail were poppy red, while Micah’s were a dark shade of grey.

“So, where are we headed?” Bo and Micah seemed happy to let Ravage lead them to wherever.

“The beach. I want to see Rainbow Dash do those aerial stunts of hers.”

“Ah, our budding Wonderbolt!” Micah seemed more excited now.

“Indeed so,” said Bo. “She represents Cloudsdale, but she also represents Ponyville.”

“More Ponyville, I think,” Micah added.

“So, anyways, as to the reason we wanted to go with you,” began Bo, changing the subject. The unicorns took up flanking positions beside Ravage. “You seem – smart. Really smart. Why are you working construction? Not that there aren’t smart ponies in construction, but it seems a little shocking to see you doing grunt work.”

Ravage couldn’t agree more, even if he avoided showing so. He paid attention to the sky as it started to become streaked with Dash’s rainbow trails. She appeared to be on some sort of sky bound obstacle course. The three construction workers watched the show in the sky as they walked ever closer to it.

“It’s the only work I could get,” he replied, mostly paying attention to Rainbow’s flying.

The unicorns were flabbergasted. That simply can’t be the full range of his abilities, especially with his type of cutie mark. The answer to their line of inquiry was mechanical and digital design and implementation, a basic ability of all Decepticons, tempered with four million years of combat experience – and another four million locked in stasis. During the combat part of his life, he’d learned a million ways to fight Autobots. Of course, he was not going to tell his unicorn companions this.

“Oh wow! The Fantastic Filly Flash!” Micah proclaimed.

Ravage assumed that was the name of the complex, and very specific, maneuver that was just done. Rainbow Dash continued her show, her flight path having resembled rainbow ribbons.

“So where are ya from?” Bo asked.

The pony visitor had this lie prepared, and it seemed that the time had come to test it. “Rural Equestria, north of Froggy Bottom Bog.” The Decepticons had noted that the ponies had a wood processing installation there.

“You’re a lumberjack?” Micah showed a little surprise in asking this.

Ravage recognized the term ‘lumberjack’ as one who acquires felled trees as their occupation. “A close approximation,” he responded clinically.

Bo gave the Decepticon’s body a good look, smiling. “Well, that explains the muscles.” However, it wasn’t enough to explain the brains, she felt.

“I couldn’t get any better than math muscles,” Micah added. Bo chuckled at this.

The three continued idle chatter as Rainbow Dash dished out a couple more tricks. She began spinning a large cloud around. Was it about to be destroyed?

Now it was Micah’s turn to ask Ravage a personal question. “What part of town are you staying in?”

The cloud was rapidly spinning now. Suddenly it was pierced by a rainbow trail, and it exploded into a fantastic ball of light and rain, with the primary colours of the rainbow. Ravage was, again, gawking at the sight. He had three raven androids stand by, clocking Rainbow Dash’s speed. There was no doubt about it, she had gone supersonic. Again, there were no propulsion systems visible and her body emitted no particles or light during the process. The corollary was that it could have only been magic that made her capable of doing this, this impossible thing.

It was by magic that the unicorns were able to perform telekinetic feats, and it was by magic that Princess Celestia, and Princess Luna were able to move heavenly bodies. The beautiful thing was that Ravage, and Ravage alone, was the only interstellar visitor able to study it through a scientific eye. He had the most sophisticated technology available to do it with too. Assuming his cover held, the secrets of magic would soon join the realm of proven scientific principles, and his mission would be completed.

“West side.”

“Huh? Oh! Oh, I gotcha.” Micah sheepishly replied, having been transfixed by the sight himself.

Unfortunately, all Ravage had to show for his time here was a compass that pointed to the nearest unicorn which – which was pointing almost directly behind him! The armature was vibrating, shivering in place, yet Bo and Micah were right beside him. Alarmed, he held his head up, and looked behind him, seeing the source of the disturbance.

“Oh Hieeee,” Twilight Sparkle sputtered, blushing grievously. She was about ten body lengths away. “Uh, how did you know I was here?”

“Oh, hi Twilight,” Bo greeted. Micah gave a nod. Both had puzzled expressions.

“My tail,” Ravage swished it, “is very sensitive.” It wasn’t the best lie, but it was the best he could do on short notice.

Twilight gasped in delight, “Your tail can detect electrical impulses? Like a shark!?”

“Uh, what?” Ravage knew nothing of sharks, even though he had seen many back on Earth. He would have to consult the ‘critter’ database later.

Twilight lunged at Ravage, rearing up and planting her hooves on both sides of his backside.

Ravage had no words, only slack-jawed surprise.

Twilight’s horn started lighting up. Ravage didn’t even think of his machine guns hidden between her hooves (he liked to change weapon systems after bathing), as he was still trying to figure out what the excited unicorn magician was doing. “Okay, swish your tail so I can measure the charge!” she demanded, looking all to keen, toothy grinned and inappropriate for her regal fiber, clasping at Ravage’s behind with increasing pressure.

“Swwwaaahh..!” Bo yanked Twilight off of Ravage with her magic.

“C’mon,” implied Micah, somewhat forcibly, tipping his head in a direction away from Twilight. Ravage started following Micah away from the weirdness.

“Oh, I’m sorry! Did I freak him out?” said the disappointed unicorn.

“Not yet, but maybe if you can calm down just a bit. Hey! Why don’t we get a couple of hay shakes? My treat!” Bo did her best to get Twilight’s attention elsewhere, and off of Ravage.

Rainbow Dash saw the whole thing and landed beside her friend and Bo. “What was that all about?” she asked, exasperated.

“Sorry…” was all Twilight said, her ears pinned back. “He has such a beautiful - cutie mark - and he caught me staring, and…”

“You were just looking at his cutie mark?” Bo had trouble believing that was all that Twilight was looking at.

“And he has nice, well…”

“He has nice flanks, we get that. But if he thinks we’re invading his space, there’s no way he’ll warm up to us. I think he might be a bit of a recluse too.” The junior Wonderbolt was thinking of going over to Ravage and try to smooth things over.

“Wait, you guys are interested in that stallion?”

“He was staring at Rainbow yesterday,” Twilight added.

Bo looked over to Rainbow Dash, half smirking, “Really now?”

“That’s what Aster and Pinkie said. I did get to talk with him a bit. He’s actually pretty cool,” the pegasus explained.

“And today he wanted to go to the beach to watch you perform,” said Bo conspiratorially.

Twilight perked up at hearing that. “We still have a chance!”

Rainbow snickered, “Of course we do. All ya gotta do is respect his space, Twi.”

Twilight fired up her powerful mind. The task was simple. What could she do to help ensure Ravage’s union with their herd? Many solutions presented themselves; one in particular seemed to be most promising. “If he’s a recluse like me, then he might enjoy reading and studying.” Her eyes widened, liking this possibility very much.

“Atta’ girl, Twi,” Rainbow spoke, supporting her friend’s resolve.

At the same time, Ravage and Micah were putting distance between themselves and the purple unicorn. “Okay, what was that?” asked Ravage, likening their current social status to an act of fission.

“When Twilight gets a crazy face, you gotta get away. This is the voice of experience talking here,” Micah assured. “That and the inappropriate touching.”

'Oh, that was inappropriate?' he thought. Via Soundwave, he’d seen numerous ‘hooves on flank’ maneuvers on video during the study, but until now didn’t realize that they were accomplished in areas not easily seen by the public. He shall have to remember this information.

It was then that Ravage decided that unicorns were probably non-threatening. Twilight’s assault was nothing more than scientific curiosity. He tried to reconcile her impromptu test with Micah’s declaration of ‘inappropriate touching’. Ravage didn’t care about what Twilight just did, even though there was every indication he should have. His cover was not blown, and he was not damaged. Not only that, but these engineer ponies both acted in his best interest. Ravage also concluded that it would be beneficial to forge stronger communications with those two ponies.

“Do you like hay fries?” asked Ravage’s stallion friend.

“Uh, yeah?” The Decepticon assumed it was a kind of food, and that Micah wanted to get some. Food costs money. He was intending on supporting his dietary needs with the pony meal and delayed purchasing any food until he had assured an income of bits. “I don’t have any bits. I’ll be fine with my pony diet.”

“That stuff in your thermos? The oatmeal?” Micah gave a cock-eyed expression that hinted at confusion.

“Yes.”

“I’ll get you some hay fries if you like. Consider it a gift! You’re the new guy on the team, and frankly, I’m happy to have you with us. It’s nice to know an intellectual pony. As for Twilight, I hope you can forgive her unusual behavior. She's actually quite an amazing pony.” Micah spoke his mind, knowing that Twilight wasn’t short on remarkable attributes. He and Bo were thrilled about having Ravage around ever since his ‘black hole’ statement. The earth ponybot was also very hard working on top of it, and had yet to show an inkling of exhaustion. He was cool!

It occurred to Ravage that these ponies celebrated the new, as well as annual occasions, and this would explain the onset of Micah’s sudden interest in hay fries. Ravage’s being referred to as an intellectual felt odd though. The maximum degree of his processing would only be explored when he figured out the bombing schedule for Equestria. Shockwave, now he was an intellectual. Megatron and Soundwave, both were very smart, very committed. Starscream trumped them all though. He designed the very body that was infiltrating Equestria even as Micah was offering it free food.

“Sure. Thank you,” Ravage replied. A genuine smile graced his face, in spite of his evil thoughts. This spontaneous smile was spawned by the very real emotional response to Micah’s gracious offer. The spy recognized the unusual connection and resolved to try to understand it later.

Ravage and Micah finished lunch and chatted on the way back to work. Ravage was the one to actually start a discussion on the Elements of Harmony, since he was able to answer most of the common questions. When the conversation drifted the Decepticon let Micah take the lead while he mostly listened. The topic eventually got around to talking about work and life when Bo caught up with the two, and that was when it was verified that Micah and Bo were mates. They offered Ravage to come over for supper, but he declined saying that he had a lot of work for to do, which was very true.

Ravage went on to finish his day at the construction site, seemingly earning more respect from his fellow workers. On the walk home he assembled his plans, making sure to remember that there was only one more day in the ‘week’, and there was no work on the two day ‘weekend’.

The spy was to break radio silence this night, since his update was prepared for transmission. Whatever reason that Cybertron had to not contact him thus far would have to be ignored. Tomorrow afternoon Ravage would process his bank drafts into bits, establishing a ‘cash flow’. Finally, either tomorrow night, or Saturday night would be used to study Princess Luna. The Decepticons had observed that she seems to fly out to the south and east from Canterlot, apparently in a sparsely populated area in order to raise the moon. He needed to check the train schedules and see if he might be able to intercept her for study. Unfortunately, the quick and easy act of flying himself out was out of the question.

The purple pegasi were executing yet another flyby, but his time their trajectories were slower, and lower. There were moving to intercept! Ravage wasn’t too concerned, as all of these ponies seemed docile. They landed a few feet directly in front of the pony bot, effectively forcing him to stop. The two Ponyville sentinels had deigned to reveal themselves at last.

“Hey sexy,” one of them spoke, looking entirely too mischievous. She had a spiky, silvery electric blue mane.

Ravage barely managed to suppress a frown, and kept his emotions under control. He suspected that the design of his body was flawed and this mare just proved it. It was meant to help him be socially acceptable, not desirable. If this infiltration procedure was repeated, the flaw would have to be corrected. He decided to include this revelation in his update.

“Good afternoon,” the stallion replied plainly. This made the two mares giggle.

“Polite and sexy!” said the other mare, whom had green hair and a bow tying it at the back of her head.

“I’m Cloudchaser.”

“I’m Flitter,” both mares offered their hooves, which Ravage shook in greeting.

“My name is Ravage.” Similar to what happened at the construction site, this resulted in giggling. It was a strange way to express laughter. No Decepticon did that. As far as he knew, no Autobot did that either.

“Don’t you mean ‘Ravish’?” Flitter joked.

“Uh, yeahhh…” Ravage decided that he could substitute ‘Ravish’ as a ‘fake-real’ name, of some sort, but only if necessary. The two mares kept looking at him expectantly. “Can I help you?”

“Oh yes you can,” the confident Cloudchaser cooed. She walked toward his backside, sliding up against his body like a cat. She made sure that her cutie mark rubbed up against his, and finished the maneuver by contacting Ravage’s cutie mark with her silky tail as she turned back around. “I can think of quite a few ways, actually.”

More giggling came from the green-haired pony. “Actually, we were wondering if you wanted to go to a party.”

'What’s a party?' What felt more dangerous was that his compass swung sharply, pointing behind him. It appeared almost like a repeat of yesterday, only this time the pegasi were engaging him directly. He started to walk forward. Flitter and Cloudchaser took up flanking positions. “A party?” Ravage spoke, suddenly regretting it.

“Yeah, we’re gonna have a sexy party,” Cloudchaser described. “And well, we were just flying by and saw you looking all alone. So, being good ponies, Flitter and I decided to ask ya.” The silvery-maned mare couldn’t fib her way out of a paper bag. It made Ravage die a little inside. She could at least try to tell a lie properly! His disappointment turned into apprehension when the satellite’s thermal imaging reported three unicorns bearing down on his position from behind.

It’s a trap!’ Ravage picked up his pace, but the sound of hooves indicated that they were galloping. In just a few seconds they caught up with the group.

“Oh hi, girls!” one of them greeted. “Oh my, did you make a new friend?” asked another. “You do plan on sharing, right?” That third comment worried Ravage. Flitter and Cloudchaser drew in closer to the confused stallion bot, often rubbing against him.

The pegasi tried to swerve him onto a road on his left, but Ravage pressed forward. So far, he had concluded that ponies were tame enough to not have to worry about starting a fight with them, but this act of aggression was unexpected. It had been barely over forty-eight hours since first contact and they were trying to drive him into areas he didn’t want to go. Another thing that was worrying was that the unicorns hadn’t introduced themselves yet. “Um hello, I’m Ravage.”

“Don’t you remember us?” a dark green-maned mare asked. Ravage looked and immediately recognized them.

“In fact I do.” Ravage verified his findings by looking at the other two. “Where are your clothes?”

Giggles from all five ponies assaulted Ravage’s ears. This kind of laughter was too commonplace, and frankly, it was starting to wear on him. “We’ll wear clothes if you want us to,” one of the unicorns commented, followed by laughter from all the mares. Ravage wasn’t laughing. He was confused and wondered what their motivations could possibly be. He ruled out courtship, since all five seemed to be eager to be with him. The air around him became full of those sweet smelling fragrances again, which is something that happened when there were large groups of mares together. Were they secreting them?

“Pearl Bliss,” the dark green-maned mare finally admitted. Her coat was white and her mane had a short-yet-bouncy look about, it and this was reflected in her tail as well. She wasn’t within hoof-shaking range - blocked by Cloudchaser in fact - so Ravage nodded and smiled at her.

“Saffron,” acknowledged a light orange mare with a pink mane. She was walking right beside Flitter. She had a fairly straight mane, with a yellow streak swirling through it. Her tail was the same way.

The other unicorn chuckled before introducing herself. “I’m Winter,” She said with a sultry voice and a smile. As one would predict, she had a white coat, a flowing, ice blue mane with white streaks, and an equally flamboyant tail.

Their cutie marks were a ring of black pearls, a purple flower, and a light blue snowflake.

Ravage kept on the road that would take him home, but the mares wouldn’t leave his side. It might have been smarter to accept Bo and Micah’s invitation, as the bothered Decepticon had no idea how to get rid of all these ponies without resorting to more ‘forceful’ tactics. Again the pegasi tried to drive him left, and again Ravage pressed forward.

“Uh say, the party’s over that way,” Flitter said. She indicated the leftward direction with a shake of her head.

“Ah, so that’s what you wanted. I cannot do the party tonight. I have too much to do.” Ravage remembered some conversation he overheard regarding parties, about the typical times such things are held, though he wasn’t exactly sure what they were aside from being some sort of gathering. “Besides, Friday or Saturday night works better for me. I don’t work on the following mornings.” Indeed, Bright Rock indicated that there was to be no work this weekend. Ravage noticed that nopony was responding to his words. He checked both sides for reaction. As it turned out, all of them were looking at him predatorily.

“Saturday at my place!” Pearl Bliss declared. She used her magic to write the address on a piece of paper, and then stuff it between two of Ravage’s keg straps so it could not fall out. “Seven o’clock. We can do the starlight thing a couple of hours after we start.”

The mares suddenly became excited, and talked about food to bring, other ponies to bring, alcohol to bring, and other paraphernalia. Ravage, just a few seconds later, realized that the first use of unicorn magic on his person had just occurred. He noted that zero damage was done.

They made plans while walking a few blocks more, and making quite a few references to the ‘flanks’ of various ponies. They indicated that Ravage’s own flanks were ‘a gift from Celestia’. He deduced that was probably what Twilight was staring at back at the beach. The downside of this valuable new information was that Ravage risked being sensitized to ponies looking at him. He decided that since he did not care for the whole flank thing anyway that he should go back to ignoring it. The only purpose of the muscle group was flexion of the leg.

Ravage was approaching the edge of town, and his stomach was complaining fiercely, desperately needing food. However, his pony entourage would not leave. They just kept talking and talking. The pony bot suspected that even if he did have something to say, he wouldn’t be able to get a word in.

“Hey Ravage,” Cloudchaser suddenly queried, “got a girlfriend?” All other conversation was instantly halted.

Ravage knew exactly what a girlfriend was, and he couldn’t figure out a lie to sate them. Cloudchaser and her minions had been spying on him ever since he started exploring Ponyville, and he knew that only because the satellite detected the formation flying. There were definitely other mares interested in him. There was no way he could convince them of a make believe marefriend. He could try to make them believe that he had one out of town, but then they’d begin asking questions about his life before Ponyville. Avoidance was the best way to handle that particular set of questions and that wasn’t about to change now.

The mares watched Ravage closely. They saw his face respond to his internal thought processes. The lack of a quick answer made them ever more hopeful. Their eyes grew bigger and bigger while their mouths grew wider and wider. The Decepticon had no choice but to reveal his true status. “No.”

“Yeah, as if we didn’t already figure that out.” Pearl Bliss’s response was accompanied by laughter.

“If you did, she’d totally barricade you away from everypony else,” added Saffron.

Cloudchaser took the lead. “I think he should remain girlfriendless. I mean, how else would we be able to party?” A chorus of feminine approval supported the pegasus’ statement.

Ravage didn’t like having his status determined for him. He didn’t like feeling hungry and tired either. He had to get out! Hardly even noticing he had stopped, he cradled his abdomen, as if hoping his stomach would fill itself. The small plate of hay fries didn’t do what a keg full of pony meal would have done.

“Awww, he’s so hungry!” Pearl Bliss was holding the sides of her face as if she were looking at a litter of kittens.

“Perhaps we should leave him be?” suggested Winter.

“Yeah, you go eat, Ravage. We’ll catch up with you tomorrow. Let’s go, girls!” Cloudchaser mercifully put and end to Ravage’s suffering by using her own strong status to round up the other mares and make their exit. She knew that if he wanted to ‘party’ with them tonight, he would have allowed himself to be steered left, like she wanted. Also, a hungry, tired stallion just wouldn’t be any fun, not at least as far as Cloudchaser was concerned. She preferred her partners to share in the work.

They each said their goodbyes, but not without adding their own personal touch. Flitter winked at him, while Pearl Bliss blew a kiss at him. Winter applied her brand of provocative tail swishing.

At last, Ravage could get back to the base.


=^.^=


After having tanked up on food and water, and cleaning up his body, Ravage transformed into robot mode and attempted to contact with Cybertron. It was not going very well.

“Ravage to Shockwave…” The Decepticon pony’s plea for communication was not being answered this night.

“Ravage to Shockwave….” He had been at it for the rest of the evening following his clean up period. A pity it was, for he had gotten used to the hot, sudsy bath water. In fact, it was something Ravage looked forward to. It seemed his good mood was spoiled once again by the unexpected.

“Come in Shockwave…” Static filled the dimly lit radio room. The lights of the instrument clusters did not change, for there was nothing to stimulate them.

“Cybertron, do you read?”

Ravage checked the communications systems of his satellites. They were all working. He tried using different satellites to relay the subspace signal. Nothing. This was downright peculiar. He wanted to blame Starscream for not allowing him to establish contact as soon as he got here, but that was just hindsight. Besides, Starscream was at war. Shockwave could have easily received a signal, had Ravage decided to disobey.

More than two hours passed. He had become really frustrated with the lack of contact, but now he was slowly becoming scared. Had the Autobots reversed their fortunes? Had they taken control of Cybertron? In such a scenario, all communications with Ravage would have been cut off.

The concerned Decepticon came up with a plan to redirect a galactic satellite back to Cybertron. There were many available and they were all designed with stealth in mind. Their optics would be able to reveal everything that occurred on the surface as long as they got to within fifty radii of the planet.

To do this, Ravage redirected one of the minor satellites orbiting Celestia-1 to fly well outside of the dwarf star’s orbit around the planet. His plan was two fold. He would be able to send a galactic satellite back to Cybertron, and he needed to reduce the star’s gravitational and electromagnetic influences by having the small satellite get far enough away. He would also be able to acquire valuable data on the magnetic fields of the worlds and star in this system too. Since his compass is always pointing to the most powerful unicorn, relatively speaking, it was important to ground the coming study of their magic by first understanding the relationships of this system’s magnetic fields.

It would take nearly a day for the satellite to get far enough to perform the redirection operation. It would then swing around and study the magnetic fields. In another seven days, at least, the nearest galactic satellite should meander back to within observation range of his home world.

Ravage tried contacting Earth, attempting to reach Motormaster, or even Ramjet. Again, there was nothing but static. Indeed, most puzzling. Optimus Prime was a mighty leader, but there was no way that the Decepticons could have been routed from both worlds. Was there?

“Come in Cybertron, do you read?”

Ravage’s radio room was awash in static.

Chapter 3: Pattern Analysis Blue!

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Chapter 3: Pattern Analysis Blue!



Ravage got up for work much earlier than usual this morning. A couple of attempts to establish contact with Cybertron were made first, but nothing had changed from the previous evening.

He used the roads on the outskirts of town to walk to the construction site. There was adequate tree cover so he was able to avoid being spotted by Cloudchaser and Flitter. The pony bot didn’t know what to think of the pegasi duo and their unicorn friends yet, but he was suspicious. His resourcefulness overrode his pride and caused him to take action and shift to a longer, safer commute, and avoid the purple pegasi. It took longer than using the main roads, but keeping the location of his base a secret was paramount. However, as long as he was unable to contact his people this felt like a useless gesture, as he was overwhelmed by a feeling of helplessness.

The Decepticon managed to start a good thirty minutes earlier than his coworkers. His initiative had allowed everypony to start working immediately, since Ravage unpacked and distributed all the relevant tools. A pleased Bright Rock said that he could add the time to lunch, or to leave early.

Micah approached him at coffee time, Bo in tow. “Wanna go out for lunch? All you can eat daisy sandwiches for ten bits at The Flower Factory,” he chirped. Oh, the engineers looked so happy. That dusty, harsh working environment did nothing to dull their seemingly blissful state. Or, that could have been because it was Friday.

Ravage put on a strong, but silent face. “Alright, I’ll go get some bits,” he said unenthusiastically. The stallion bot was only a couple of scoops into his oatmeal, but he could easily eat it later, or even during the weekend. He decided that he would add a heating circuit to each of his ‘kegs’ this weekend, that way he could reheat his food without having to remove it.

Ravage closed up his containers, and set off for the bank, having made sure he had Wednesday’s bank draft with him. He hoped he could get a sack o’ bits in just a few minutes, and it helped that a bank was one block away. Not surprisingly, Bo and Micah joined him at his side.

“You don’t look so good, Ravage,” Bo observed. “Did something happen?”

“I’ll be fine.” Ravage had zero desire to discuss his communication problem.

“We’re here if you need us,” Bo spoke with empathy, speaking for her husband as well.

Ravage admired loyalty, theirs in particular. Indeed, these two unicorns could be counted among Soundwave, or even himself in terms of being loyal. “Thanks for that,” smiling as he said it, once again having drawn out a bout of positive feeling. Only these two have accomplished that so far. How were they doing it?

The unicorns were making small talk as the Decepticon entered the bank. He managed to convert the draft into bits just as he had planned.

“Do you have an account with us?” said the dark blue pegasus stallion.

“No.”

“Would you want one? It allows you to store bits in our vault, so you don’t have to carry them around with you all the time. All the ponies are doing it.” The teller thought he was merely being humorous. Ravage, on the other hoof, was only too happy to receive such useful information.

Ravage agreed, and they began to process the account opening. It could not be completed due to the stallion bot not knowing his ‘roll number’, apparently some sort of number that Equestrian citizens use for official purposes. Ravage agreed to complete the procedure later that morning, and the construction trio went back to work.

Taking lunch a half an hour early, he went to get his roll number from city hall. As expected, the clerk was inspecting her hoof while simultaneously being useless.

“So, you won’t give me my roll number?” the Decepticon stallion asked patiently.

“No, you don’t got one,” replied the clerk, whom might as well have been asleep.

Ravage already encountered this individual and expected this, so he had a contingency plan prepared. He leaned in over the counter, his face looking stern. “I’ll be back.”

And return he did, with Bright Rock. In the most heated exchange between ponies Ravage had ever witnessed, including all the video he’d seen during the investigation, Bright Rock managed to tear a strip out of the clerk, whom emphatically denied Ravage even having a roll number. Bright Rock argued that this was simply not possible, and that no adult pony could function in modern day society without one.

Eventually the clerk relented, ‘prepared’ a number for Ravage, and put it in the books. Ravage got his bank account, and returned just in time for lunch with his coworkers. The pony bot had noted an impressive use of intimidation on the part of Bright Rock whenever a perceived slow down in production occurred. He also noted Bright Rock really liked having him around. It was a cinch to conclude that using her as a catalyst would speed up the bureaucratic process.

“Shall we go?” Ravage asked of his two unicorn friends, smiling as he did. It had turned out to be a pretty good day so far.

“Glad to see you’re feeling better,” noted Micah.


=^.^=


Ravage and the engineers started their trek to downtown Ponyville. “So how was your dinner last night?” he asked, wondering at what he might have missed.

“Cabbage soup and garlic bread with a cheese, tomato, onion, broccoli, and noodle casserole. Yeah, you definitely missed out,” Micah gloated.

“This guy knows how to cook.” Bo was looking conspiratorially while motioning to her husband with her head.

“Why else would you marry me?” he joked.

“I have my reasons,” she said right into his ear, followed by a peck on the cheek.

“Okay, so Micah makes good food,” Ravage concluded with a nod.

“Shall we ask him over tonight, babe?” Bo suggested. Micah nodded and smiled. “We’re having company over, ya’ know, food and fun. Wanna partake?” she asked Ravage.

The Decepticon pondered the offer. If he left at his normal time after work he would almost certainly have to deal with Cloudchaser’s gang. They might want to know where he lives and ask to visit. That would have been an unacceptable situation. On the other hand, he could stay with Bo and Micah, be fed, and get to know pony society in a safe environment. He calculated a departure time so he could see Princess Luna in action, but he’d have a couple of hours with them at least.

“Okay, sure. I’ve gotta head out around 7:30. Is that okay?”

The couple looked at each other and nodded in agreement. Bo continued, “In that case, you can come straight to our place after work. You can help get things ready.”

That was exactly what Ravage wanted. “Sounds good.”

The couple went on about who’s coming over, food they’ll eat, games they’ll play, the status of their plumbing, and other minutia.

Speaking of safety, Ravage turned on his internal compass (he turned it off when he went to bed, otherwise he’d be looking at a bright white compass icon when he was trying to sleep). As commonly happened, the armature swung sharply away from whatever unicorns he was with to somepony more powerful. Passing the windows of a store front, he could see that it was Twilight Sparkle in the reflection. No surprise. She didn’t appear to be following him though, as she was talking to some squat little green thing on her back – and it talked back! Another species? Ravage thought.

Taking into account that it was lunch time, and that Ponyville was a small municipality, he deduced that he could be passing by Twilight almost everyday. Therefore, she was considered a non-threat as long as he avoided purposely interacting with her. In a few weeks from now, he would be able to act like he belonged here, no matter how much he missed the G forces of fast ships, hammering guns, explosions, dire situations, and the excitement of war. He even had himself slowly getting used to having his overhead displays turned off. The ponybot didn’t need it telling him that Flitter and Cloudchaser were on the prowl, he knew they were there. The only thing he needed to do to feel right is re-establish communications with his Decepticon comrades.

They turned the corner. Jam-packed in front of The Flower Factory were countless ponies. The line-up spilled out into the middle of the road, creating havoc with traffic. Needless to say the inside of the establishment was probably full.

“I sense failure,” Ravage remarked.

“Ummm, there’s a pub at the end of the road. It’s got a patio,” Micah hinted. The other two understood and changed plans.

And a large patio it was, with several round tables for four to six customers, and facing a park no less. That made the prices more expensive, but the trio didn’t care. They sat at a parasol-covered table near the patio fence.

Just then, Rainbow Dash came cruising down to the establishment, landing smoothly on the patio. “You guys are Flower Factory refugees too?”

“Yeah, there was no way we’d get in without missing work. Our boss just doesn’t allow lateness,” Micah explained.

“You’re Ravage, right?” inquired Rainbow Dash, pointing her hoof at the brown stallion, smiling confidently.

“And you’re Rainbow Dash,” Ravage quipped.

“And who am I?” Bo asked pointedly, looking at Dash.

“Uh, I dunno? You never introduced yourselves.”

Introduce themselves, they did. The Wonderbolt bumped with the hooves of both Bo and Micah at the same time while hovering.

“Say, do you mind if me and my friends sit with you guys?” Rainbow suggested.

Bo had no issue with Rainbow’s request, since she wanted to see the dynamics between the blue pegasus and Ravage. Micah had zero qualms about having Rainbow Dash sit with them, as he was a Wonderbolt fan, and was told of Ravage’s interest in the pegasus. Ravage didn’t seem to care one way or the other.

Aster landed just then. “I gather we’re eating here due to the sheer impossibility of eating at The Flower Factory?” A large number of ponies, including temporarily displaced customers, started trickling onto the patio.

“Say Aster, do you mind getting us some tables while I get the others?” asked Dash.

“Good plan.” Aster started yanking on a couple of large tables while Rainbow took off.

“We’re on a tight schedule,” Bo indicated. “We have to be back for one ‘o clock.”

“I don’t have a problem if you order now, but do you mind moving to one of these larger tables? That way we can all sit together.” Aster tried to do her part to support the plan. Bo and Micah agreed immediately. Ravage was puzzled; as far as he was concerned, he should be able to sit down, order, eat, pay and leave. The unexpected inclusion of a pile of other ponies which his engineer associates so readily agreed to seemed forced. Something was amiss, and he couldn’t put his hoof on it.

Ravage’s suspicions were silenced however, as Bo had already waved over a ‘waiter’ and they began ordering. The stallion bot had only seen Micah order hay fries the day before, but it was accomplished at a stand. The waiter seemed to be a more mobile transaction facilitator. He just ordered the same thing as Micah, but realized he’d made a mistake shortly after though – he eats considerably more than Micah! Ravage decided that suffering will be his teacher and this would make him order a more appropriate food quantity next time.

Shortly after the construction ponies’ orders were taken, Rainbow Dash walked up to their improvised tables with the Elements of Harmony in tow. Fear struck Ravage’s heart as he realized that one of the worst case scenarios was about to happen. He considered trading seats with Micah, but he knew that these ‘coupled’ ponies were supposed to stay together. He had concluded that he was to try to avoid the Elements, and make associations with other ponies. In spite of his attempt to do so, the failure in progress continued as more and more of the forbidden troupe settled down. Rainbow Dash sat down beside him. Ravage wondered if he should prepare for combat as the Element of Laughter approached – no – bounced toward him, her face contorted in an impossibly wide smile.

She grabbed him in what would be a ‘death hug’ if it weren’t for his metal frame.

“Welcome to Ponyville, Ravage!” she shouted. But the death hug was only the beginning! What happened next had no Decepticon, nor even Autobot counterpart, and would test his endurance for torture to the limit. Pinkie Pie sang.

Welcome, welcome, welcome,
Welcome Mister Ravage,

Welcome, welcome, welcome,
We are not so savage,

Welcome, welcome, welcome,
Gotta try our cabbage!

Welcome, welcome, welcome,
We welcome you, Ravage!

Accompanied by some strange art form the investigation team identified as ‘dancing’, Pinkie’s body twisted and gyrated, all the while juggling between various props, including three cabbage heads and a small reptile.

The speechless pony bot just wanted to eat.

Before Pinkie could do anything else, the waiter asked to take their orders, immediately causing the pink ball of energy so sit down and behave. It turned out that she was hungry as well.

After the waiter left, Rainbow Dash introduced her friends. Ravage made new database entries for Aster and Spike, whom both seemed to have better powers of communication than the much lauded Elements of Harmony.

Their questions would come, but Ravage was prepared for even this contingency. He only had to hold out until the food got here, and he would use deflection and redirection to the best of his abilities.

“Oh my,” Rarity started. “I’ve never seen a stallion with grey eyes before.”

“They’re very pretty,” added Fluttershy.

The assembly of mares staring at his face was unnerving. Unlike plate metal Decepticon faces, pony faces left little to the imagination as to how they were feeling at that particular moment. Ravage had been developing his skill at reading them during his time at the construction site, though he had a long way to go. By his reckoning, they all were curious, but each with their own individual bent. Fluttershy and Applejack shared neutral stares; they were reserving judgment. Pinkie Pie and Twilight Sparkle had curiosity and wonder. Rainbow Dash was difficult to read, could she be feeling proud? Aster had a look as if she’d just won at something. Rarity’s half lidded stare and smile spelled trouble.

Of the group, Ravage liked Spike best as the ‘dragon’ was perusing the dessert menu. Not contributing to the tension was a trait that the Decepticon really enjoyed.

Deflection. “Spike, what are you looking at?” asked Ravage. All stares turned toward Spike.

“The desserts. Do you think it would kill ‘em to have a few gem stones?”

Does the dragon eat precious stones? Ravage wondered. It wouldn’t surprise him if he did.

“Spike,” Twilight said in a soft, almost chastising voice. Ravage failed to understand why she would do that. Did she want him to join the mares in their scrutiny? It didn’t feel right, yet she was displeased with her dragon companion.

Aster spoke across the table to Rainbow Dash, and Rarity to Fluttershy. Quickly, the tables became awash with the chirpings of mare talk. The cacophony would be deadly if it wasn’t for the fact that everybody was outside. Ravage felt that he might sustain nerve damage if the location were inside a room with hardened walls and floors. He decided to watch out for that.

Ravage was feeling half relieved that his inevitable interrogation seemed to be postponed but then Rainbow Dash nudged him with a hoof, wanting to speak. Having spoken with her before, and having found her straight forward approach appealing, the Decepticon prepared himself for conversation. “Yes?”

“So what do you think of Ponyville now?” she asked. She showed genuine curiosity.

He was indeed comfortable talking to the blue pegasus. This could be a function of familiarity, but Ravage still proceeded with caution. “I’ve got a job. I’ve got bits. So far, everything is good.” He purposefully avoided mentioning ‘got a place’.

“What about the scenery?” Rainbow asked, her expression looking more like Rarity’s.

Ravage thought about the question. “The infrastructural layout is not efficient, but quaint, as all small towns gain their character from the very land they were molded in.”

Twilight heard the big words, and her ears perked up.

Rainbow Dash laughed a bit in her trademark cackle, “No, no. I mean, how do you like the scenery.” Her eyes gestured in the direction of her friends, but it made Ravage look to the street behind them. So much for straight forward talk. If he wasn’t confused before, he certainly is now.

Rainbow picked up on Ravage’s puzzled expression and switched gears. He would get to know her friends in time, there was no rush. “So, do you like sports?”

“Sports?” Ravage desperately needed to research all these terms. Also, it was apparent that some words had additional meanings that were not defined in the literature the Decepticons copied from the school and library.

“Yeah, like running around, kicking, dodging and trying to score.”

Ravage suddenly remembered some of the video from the study. Some ponies were kicking around a ball in such a game. That was a sport. It was called…

“Hoofball?”

Rainbow Dash’s eyes lit up brightly. Applejack and Aster stopped what they were doing, and zeroed in on the magical word. Ravage was amazed at how easily it claimed their attention.

“Do you play?” asked Aster.

“I’ve – I’ve never played.”

“Never played!” Applejack said, almost in shock. “Shoot, you look like you could kick out the side of a barn, feed the dog, buck a quarter-section, and come back before the wall even hit the ground.”

Ravage had no idea what Applejack just said. Some of her friends were similarly puzzled, rarely having seen Applejack talk so much or so fast. Perhaps she really liked the idea of having Ravage play hoofball with them.

“Do you wanna play with us?” Rainbow Dash asked, hope in her eyes.

Ravage felt the gaze of the three powerfully built mares bore into him like a laser beam. He felt a sense of urgency to respond fast. “O – okay?”

Then all at once, unrestrained yelping and cheering came from the ‘hoofball’ trio, topping it off with a three-way hoofbump. It created a scene, as all on the patio were staring. Rainbow Dash and Aster glided to the grass on the other side of the patio fence. With a mighty leap, Applejack jumped over the fence, elegantly and with ease. It made the patio shake. They started drawing shapes on exposed soil while in discussion, presumably on hoofball.

Ravage found himself admiring Applejack’s strength when he felt another hoof touch his side.

“I heard you talking about,” Twilight narrowed her eyes as she finished the sentence, “small town infrastructure?”

“Yes?” Ravage found it odd that Twilight would be interested in something so trivial.

“Did you – want to comment on the geopolitical ramifications of relocating the ruling class to an elevated central location after the banishment?” Like her blue friend’s, Twilight’s eyes were wide with anticipation of Ravage’s answer. But there was something else beyond the words. There was something about the way Twilight looked with her big eyes and soft smile, and her front legs primly locked together, and the way her tail lazily wrapped around her, and how her head tilted to the side just so. The Decepticon’s tissue body was sending yet more strange signals, emanating from his chest. He felt as if he needed to pick up and squeeze the purple mass, and couldn’t explain why.

“Canterlot?”

Twilight smiled brightly at seeing that Ravage was on the same wavelength. Just then, everypony’s food came. The hoofball ponies scrambled to sit down just as much as the construction ponies scrambled to shove down their food, time being of the essence.

Having paid the establishment, Ravage, Bo, and Micah started on their way back to work. Rainbow Dash caught up with Ravage. She tapped her hoof on his shoulder while hovering, getting his attention.

“We’re gonna practice on Sunday. Ya know, kick the ball around. Wanna join us?”

The stallion bot’s having never played before didn’t seem to deter the pegasus. “Sure.”

“Alright!” Ravage was surprised as he was suddenly hugged by Rainbow Dash. “See ya on Sunday at Sweet Apple Acres! Ten ‘o clock!”

After Rainbow Dash flew off, Micah spoke up. “Careful there, Ravage.”

“Kicking the ball around doesn’t seem to require much care,” the Decepticon countered.

“Have you seen the mares around you?” Bo was rather surprised.

“They’re being sociable, yes.” Ravage noticed their concern, but didn’t know what could have prompted it. “Where is all this leading?” he asked, wondering what kind of social faux pas he may have committed.

“I think the problem is that Ravage hasn’t had much experience with mares,” Micah suggested to his wife.

The trio approached the job site. “We need to get to work,” Ravage said sternly, wishing no more discussion on mares. It was difficult enough dealing with them. “We can talk about this later.”


=^.^=


The end of the work week finally arrived. Bo noticed that Ravage’s stern expression hadn’t yet lifted, in spite of the freedom of the beginning of the weekend. It was senseless to try to talk to an angry pony on the delicate issue of mare-stallion relationships, so she came up with an idea that would hopefully soothe the savage beast.

The group was on their way to Bo and Micah’s when the mare made a suggestion. “It’s Friday. It’s after work. I definitely think we should get some ice cream.”

“Totally a good idea!” Micah heartily concurred. “You down for ice cream, Ravage?”

“Uh, okay.” Ravage didn’t know what ice cream was, but these ponies seemed enthused by it. He decided it would be a low risk to follow through.

The ice cream parlour had a menu detailing many different kinds of ice cream. Bo and Micah had their favourites. “Ravage, you look puzzled,” said Micah.

“I don’t know what to choose.” Indeed, the food made of cream and sugar came in a surprising number of varieties.

“Get mint chip. It’s what I do when I’m not sure,” Micah suggested.

Following his coworker’s advice, Ravage acquired a single scoop ‘n cone of the mint chip ice cream. It was a decision he would learn to revere as the ‘ice cream’ substance tasted great! Hay shakes and ice cream were welcomed as foods he enjoyed while being in a pony body. It helped a lot that one of the unicorns (he guessed Bo, by the magical colour being close to her mane) was levitating all three snacks in front of them as they walked.

They arrived at Bo and Micah’s house on the north side of town. It was close to the library, the residence of Twilight Sparkle. This proximity did not sit well with the pony bot, as she still had the potential to be very dangerous. The couple was adamant about getting everything ready for the gathering first and then they would have a period for themselves with which to explain mares to Ravage.

They swept and tidied, taking turns bathing. Ravage preferred soaking in the bath water for at least thirty minutes but that wasn’t happening tonight. Micah cooked while Ravage and Bo cleaned the cookware and distributed the food. Broccoli, carrots, potatoes, as well as apples, strawberries, and oranges were whipped into tasty things to eat. The dishes were enchanted to keep the food fresh and warm.

After an hour, leaving well over an hour before any guests would arrive, the group relaxed in the living room, all drinking coffee. Drinking coffee on their breaks had gotten Ravage interested in the beverage.

“Ravage, do you know what a herd is?” asked Micah.

“A group of ponies?”

“Well yes, but I’m referring to a more specific kind of grouping.” Micah was somewhat miffed, thinking Ravage may be making fun of him.

“Have you seen many stallions around?” Bo asked.

“No. They seem rare for some reason. Would you know why that is?” Ravage had always wondered this himself. The pony literature never even mentioned the problem.

Micah found it odd, the use of the word ‘they’ in this context. “Well, nopony really knows, that is, except for the conspiracy theorists.” This elicited a chuckle from his wife.

Bo tried to explain. “Well, basically a herd is made up of mares, but they tend to have at least one stallion. Sometimes the mares gather together first, and seek a stallion for their herd. Sometimes, a stallion and mare come together and slowly add mares to their herd. Sometimes, like us, they just want to remain a couple.”

“And this concerns me how?” Bo and Micah’s mouths dropped open upon Ravage saying this. Ravage knew of cliques, loose social associations that form out of common interests. This happened even with Decepticons. This whole thing sounded like the pony equivalent of cliques.

“Well…” Micah honestly didn’t know how to reach Ravage. Could their intellectual friend really be so dense? “Ponies don’t just ask you to join their herd. They, well…”

“They test you first, to see if they like you,” said Bo, completing Micah’s thoughts.

“Look, I don’t have the Equestrian guide to herds. I have no idea who’s in what herd, especially if they’re just ‘testing’ me.” Ravage was thinking of using the time for a nap. This whole ‘herd’ business was nothing more than street talk.

“Yeah, you kinda have to know the community you’re in,” Micah admitted.

“Did you know the Elements of Harmony are a herd?” Bo asked.

“No.” Ravage’s face twisted in thought a bit. “They answer directly to Princess Celestia, so it occurs to me that they can acquire a stallion whenever they want to.”

“And yet they haven’t,” Micah pointed out.

“Then how do you know that they’re seeking one?” Ravage countered.

“Ravage, did you see the way the Elements were looking at you this afternoon?” Bo challenged. “They were longing for you, craving you.”

Ravage laughed. “They’d never seen grey eyes before.”

“Do you want to be part of a herd?” Micah wasn’t sure if Ravage would be a good fit for the Elements of Harmony.

“Nope.”

“No?” Bo seemed shocked. “Not even for the benefits?”

“What benefits?” Ravage was getting tired of this. This was supposed to be an earth shaking conversation, yet it turned out to be pointless etiquette.

“You’ll never sleep alone, for one.” Micah thought he had made a good point, but noticed that Ravage had started laughing.

The annoyed Decepticon had finally stopped. “Thank you for your information. I now know exactly what to do if I am asked to join a herd. I’ll say ‘no’. See, wasn’t that easy? I’m not going to remain in Ponyville forever, why would I tie myself down like that?” In reality, Ravage was very perturbed by the unfettered staring and interest. For his protection, he would seriously consider relocation. While groups of awestruck mares could be handled, the Elements of Harmony situation could explode. The literature indicated that if just one Element was threatened, all six would come after you. Needless to say, they were backed by forces that moved worlds and stars.

Bo and Micah noticed that Ravage was getting upset. “You know, we’ve got some time. Perhaps we should take a nap?”

“I agree.” Ravage had returned to his polite state. After helping put some dishes away, he napped on the couch while Bo and Micah relaxed in their bedroom.



=^.^=


Soon, the expected company came along. A wall eyed pegasus and her unicorn foal, as well as a pair of earth ponies and their two foals met with Ravage and the two hosts. It was pleasant enough, especially since Bo insisted that he eat his fill and wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. She didn’t mind having had to prepare additional baked potatoes, and Ravage ate heartily.

Again, the stallion bot mostly listened. Again, he picked up more terms to research and would try to learn. The questions directed at him were answered quickly, and simply. He felt almost embarrassed when he was forced to admit that he had no ‘special somepony.’ He didn’t like the social pressure to be coupled with another pony.

The foals were simultaneously fascinating, and annoying. They were given to running around corners at the top speed that their little legs could carry them, often shrilly laughing and screaming – that was hard for Ravage to take. When they settled down, they became unwitting objects of study, as the Decepticon stallion observed them closely. What would take the Decepticons the mere flip of a switch to activate, took the ponies years and years to develop. A baby foal was a piece of meat with a blank slate for a mind, and instincts. Knowledge was gleaned slowly, at first from their parents, and then it was added to from their community. It grew inside them as their bodies grew. After two decades or so, an adult would appear. They were remarkably like their parents, yet each was an individual, with his own unique personality. Ponies had one particular, and massive, advantage over Decepticons: they didn’t need to harvest sparks. Individuality, it seemed, was something they had in infinite supply.

Despite their physical and mental differences, they all saw the stoic pony as something to conquer. Ravage couldn’t believe it. The three were clamoring up on his body, as he was lying down, trying to claim a spot on his back. The dozen little hooves would have felt like a gigantic centipede on his back if he didn’t know better. He could hold two more if he extended out his missile racks, but that was an idea he kept to himself. He stood up. The foals braced themselves. He walked to the kitchen to get more of the delicious coffee he’d been becoming more and more fond of. They treated him like – what was it – an airship? Such imagination!

Carrying a cup of the brew in his teeth, Ravage went back to his spot and set himself down on his belly. The very happy parents smiled at him, perhaps because he inadvertently took the foals’ attention from them? It was almost a shame that he had to bid farewell to everypony so he could continue his mission. The foals were especially vocal about their ‘airship’ leaving way too early.


=^.^=


The train station where he got off at a copper mine was also virtually devoid of ponies. From there, Ravage had hiked for thirty minutes to his spot on a ridge overlooking a remote lake. There were no trails that lead there, but he found it thanks to his satellite systems.

Thankfully, the Decepticon brought his telescope and other instrumentation with him on his way out to work that morning. With it, he watched Celestia lower the sun, since he had to wait anyways. She was as magnificent lowering the orb as she was raising it. The spectacular vista of colours seemed improbable, but then again, this was a magical world.

The Decepticon pony munched on a few chocolate-hay bars as he waited. There was really nothing more to do. Unlike observing Celestia, who did her work from afar, Ravage, according to his calculations, had a front row seat to view the night princess. Darker and darker the sky became, as twilight ebbed away.

Movement… Ravage’s telescope had a sophisticated tracking system, and it immediately zeroed in on a dark, fluttering creature. The moon followed it from the horizon. It was Princess Luna! Second in command after Celestia, she watched over Equestria at night. She was not easily seen – the telescope had to activate the infrared so Ravage could study her in the view finder. She was a true creature of the night, forsaking splendor for stealth.

Then all at once, the indigo sky faded to the black dome of space, with thousands of stars twinkling as their light was distorted upon entering Celestia-1’s atmosphere. Ravage took only a moment to view the improbable night sky, hastened so quickly into existence. When he peered again at his view finder, Luna was gone. Odd, he thought. Even Rainbow Dash shouldn’t be able to evade the motion sensors at that height.

Something was wrong. Ravage’s predatory instincts did not disappear now that he had a pony mode, and up till now the Decepticon could at least hear the sounds of animals in the distance, and the rustle of leaves on the wind. This was replaced by total and utter silence. In fact, he couldn’t feel so much as a breeze. The lake was still. The gentle waves that lapped at the ridge side only moments ago were replaced by a great mirror. The stars’ reflection shone off of it. It was so dark and still, he could hear his own heartbeat.

On instinct, Ravage packed his things into his saddle bags, and he was quiet about it. Something wicked was coming, and he had no interest in an unprepared confrontation. He felt it might be wise to activate the satellite’s overhead display. With a final pull from his teeth, he secured the last flap. It was then that he noticed a blue sheen on the buckle.

Reflected light.

His heart rate increased significantly as he turned slowly towards the source.

“Fair stallion, what brings thou to this part of Equestria so late in the evening?” She was a deep blue. Everything about her physical being was blue, her mane, her tail, her fur, and arguably, even her eyes. She was glowing blue, even though every feature about her could be seen crisply. Her mane and tail were stellar fields in of themselves, and they twinkled brightly as they wafted on some unseen magical breeze. Among the metal garments adorning her graceful form was a black breastplate with a white crescent moon embossed upon it, a black crown, and silver shoes. Princess Luna started to walk toward Ravage, and the wind suddenly picked up. The animals and waves from the lake could be heard again.

Remembering to behave like a pony, Ravage bowed. It disgusted him to do so, but Luna was a creature not to be trifled with.

Then he heard it. A giggle. If he would abolish giggles he could, for trouble was never far behind them.

“Please rise, my handsome stallion.”

Ravage rose back up, standing on all four legs. If he heard her correctly, then she said that he was hers. The statement felt ominous as he looked up, straight into her face for they were the same height. The distinctive way that lock of mane curled over her left eye was unmistakable. Blood left Ravage’s stomach when he noticed that she was smirking. Her expression was almost identical to Rarity’s at lunch earlier in the day.

“You didn’t answer my question,” she said expectantly.

“I – I came to do observations, then I saw you. You are hard to follow.” Ravage didn’t know what else to say.

Luna smiled. “’Tis a good place to gaze upon the night.” She nodded while she spoke.

“It is bereft of population.” Ravage felt he needed to support his ‘reason’ for choosing this particular spot. Luna slowly moved to his right side.

“So,” she began, “thou art the stallion the Ponyville mares are dreaming about.” Another evil giggle poisoned the air. “Even some of the married ones.” She placed an ice cold shoe on his shoulder, and slowly walked to his backside, tracing the metal shoe along his firm body. Luna made sure to firmly indent the flank. “Even Fluttershy,” she said as she beamed a particularly naughty expression at him. Her eyes took on a blue glow as she looked up into the vast night sky. “She’s dreaming right now. It’s quite vivid.”

Luna removed her hoof. “May I ask why thou hath come alone?”

Ravage had no intention of spying on Princess Luna with other ponies. The question still made his face contort in puzzlement. “Because it only takes one to operate a telescope?”

“I’m speaking for your herdmates, Ravage,” Luna clarified, shifting to more modern speech. She slipped into the old ways of speaking from time to time, especially when she was focused, but always tried to speak like a pony of the modern era.

The Decepticon stallion was taken aback, but only a little when Luna spoke his name, even though he was not introduced. He was addressing an immortal Princess of the night. Could it be true? Could she really have the power to see into dreams? If so, why in the universe were so many mares dreaming about him? Needless to say, dreams seem to be Luna’s source of information on Ravage. He was at a serious disadvantage here. What he understood about dreams, at least during the construction phase of his new body, was that they were the byproducts of the mind trying to repair nerve tissue, and reorganize memories for more efficient storage – much like a computer hard drive, or data tracks must be reorganized from time to time. In the process, images known and unknown appeared in the ‘mind’s eye’ of the sleeper. What Luna was doing was almost literally mind reading! If she was able to read minds, and tried to read his…

The other bothersome notion was that Ravage seemed to be more popular with the mares than he realized. He considered his fake back story, which indicated that he was from rural Equestria. He may need to do that. Thanks to the limited – and very biased – information Luna may have obtained, the most damning thing was that she may be regarding Ravage as some sort of tool, a tool to be brought into service for pleasing mares! Ravage doubted that the mares were dreaming about him hammering nails into a plank, his body sweaty and his muscles knotted like iron – actually, that’s probably exactly what they were dreaming about. Strange, these mare beings.

And now, the herdmates. “Herdmates?” Ravage had none, why would Luna assume he did? Indeed, the dreams she had been reading may have emitted incorrect information as well.

Luna gasped. Uh oh, his ramblings had just disturbed a night goddess. The trepidation he had experienced when he first walked into Ponyville returned with a vengeance, but he managed to remain calm.

“Surely, you are part of a herd?” She sounded shocked.

“Um, no. The only one in my herd is me,” Ravage responded, smiling confidently, indicating to himself with his hoof.

“Are you being courted?” Luna appeared almost suspicious.

Since no courtship rituals were detected, “No?”

Ravage’s situation downgraded, as Luna caught a gleam in her eye. Sure enough, it was followed by one of those vile, half-lidded smiling expressions.

Ravage prepared for combat. He counted eleven missiles in the racks he had hidden way. That should do for now. He then activated his satellite overhead display, looking for a way out. In front was Luna and rough terrain, and behind him was a lake, about six body lengths to the surface.

Another giggle. Ugh! How he despised those!

The once clear night had suddenly become overcast, and thunder rumbled. Ravage should have LIED, but it was too late for that. ‘What a minute, can you be courted by an entire herd?’ His thought came too late…

“Then I hereby claim you, fair Ravage, as my partner in intimacy.” Luna raised her voice to deafening levels by the end of her proclamation while bolts of lightning criss-crossed the sky.

'Not happening.' Ravage didn’t care what Luna did to him, he was not doing that with her. It didn’t help matters that she would eventually find out that he was not actually a pony. What then?

The satellite reported the depth of the lake by the ridge.

She turned to face the still visible Moon, the ridge behind her. “Your life will be a grand one now,” she said, smiling as she began describing all the nice things she would do to Ravage. “You will serve me nightly. You will also serve any mares I deem fit.”

It was difficult for Ravage not to let his face become crippled with anger. He could be angry later though, for it was time to escape. Ultimately, Equestria was not a place for Decepticons. Ravage hadn’t even remotely come close to deducing how magic worked and already his life was in danger. It hadn’t even been a week.

Ravage came up with an escape plan and stealthily put on his saddle bags.

Luna continued her prattling. “You shall be with me for the rest of your days. Mine and my ally’s infernos of desire shall forever be quenched by your salacious form, and under my training, your own pleasure shall reach previously unattainable magnitudes as you sate us. And there shall be other benefits! All Equestria will be available to you. You may go wherever you please.” The list of destinations in Equestria almost certainly didn’t include Cybertron. She didn’t notice the splash, which was quieted by the height of sheer rock.

Luna’s features softened while her front hooves came together in front of her heart. She gazed dreamily upward, “Tonight, my dear stallion, we shall make love amongst the Moon flowers on the Rainbow Range. In the blissful afterward, we shall sip hundred year old brandy…” Luna continued for an indeterminate amount of time.

Under the water, Ravage transformed quickly as his heavy body sank to the bottom. To support his tissue he activated the carbon dioxide scrubbers, and reoxygenated his blood by electrolyzing the water.

‘I follow only MEGATRON!’ he thought angrily.

Ravage activated his infrared vision, turning night into day, giving him a clear view of everything on the lake bottom. He spun the turbines in his jet motors in and effort to try to displace water to provide locomotion – and it worked! He moved his body at quicker than the speed of a trot using this method, and headed for the river that would take him into the Everfree Forest. His onboard nuclear reactors, as well as the energy taken in the food he ate gave him more than enough power without having to use any of his energon supply.

His saddle bags tossed around, buffeted by the water currents. Thanks to over twenty years of being in an undersea base on Earth, the Decepticons had learned to make their technology very water proof, as well as corrosion proof.

The satellites had been monitoring Luna’s heat signature. It took nearly ten minutes for her to vanish.

This entire observation had been a disaster. What data he did collect was nothing more than heat and light. Useless! Ravage wished he had stayed at Bo and Micah’s, like those foals begged him to.

The Decepticon wondered if his tissue body was sleeping. Then he realized with horror that the tissue part of his brain may start dreaming.


=^.^=


Five hours passed, and Ravage was still moving underwater, nearing the path that would take him home. It turned out that this was a very efficient mode of transport indeed, but there were problems. The water was frigid, and murky. He would have to spend at least two hours getting the gunk out of his robot body’s inlet and outlet ports, and the cold water forced him to use more energy to keep his tissue warm. On the good side, his tissue was alive and well. He had good respiration and heart rate, among other physiological indicators.

An error message in a red box interrupted his infrared view of the passing riverbed. Ravage sighed internally, thinking that he would probably have to replace a jet engine or, unfreeze some sort of locked up hydraulic system, or…

Unauthorized Port Access?’ Ravage thought, as he read the message. ‘Port 32359? What’s going on!

Princess Luna soared in the ethereal plain. This particular dream state was the most bizarre one she had ever observed in her long life, the blackest place! It was like the night, but with no stars. Her wings flew in a windless void, for there was no surface for her hooves to walk on. “Ravage?” she called out.

Incoming Audio Message: ‘Ravage?

All stop!

Having turned off his turbines, Ravage quickly sank to the bottom of the river bed, assuming a comfortable sitting position on a large, algae covered rock. He turned off his infrared, because this new problem would need all of his focus. Just a couple of meters above, he could see the water’s surface with the Moon shining through it. Assuming a thinking pose even Rodin would be proud of, his fingers cupped the jaw of his panther head.

The stallion bot performed an anti-software scan, just in case. Ponies had nothing even remotely comparable to digital technology, and yet somehow Princess Luna had managed to infiltrate his mind through his subspace radio. The Decepticon smiled. ‘Touché.

Touché? What do you mean touché? And what are you stopping?

Realizing that any words he formed in thought could somehow be heard by Luna, the Decepticon switched to thinking in machine language, unless he wanted to address her directly. It was cumbersome, but effective as Luna’s presence didn’t seem to react to it.

The scan identified a group of memory clusters from which the audio was emitted. How Luna managed to do that was amazing. Either that or it was the cursed magic that infected every corner of Equestria. While many clusters had been linked, only a few stored data – yes, actual data – on the audio. Ravage decided that some video could be piped into the remaining clusters.

Luna was still coming up with no reason on why Ravage’s dream was so black when suddenly Ravage appeared right in front of her.

Can I help you?’ He used his pony form, of course.

How dare you run away like that!’ she scolded.

Ravage was sitting at the bottom of a river bed, out of harm’s way. If this was the best Luna could do to try to reach him then he had little to fear, at least immediately. ‘How dare you try to force me to be one of your playthings!

It was done out of love! And it is my right!

I don’t care. What you wanted to do was to bring my existence under the total control of yours.’ Ravage decided that being civil was the best tactic. Luna seemed immature for a princess.

You don’t want to be with me?’ she said, a sadness taking over her features.

I had known you for not even two minutes before you decided my fate.’ Ravage felt his logic was undeniable and very effective judging by the apparent weakening of Luna’s resolve.

I – I thought that it was every stallion’s dream to be courted by a princess,’ Luna rationalized.

Not all stallions are built the same.’ Truer words were never spoken. ‘So, of all the stallions available, why would you be interested in me?

Luna paused, looking away from Ravage, and collected her thoughts. ‘When I noticed how coveted you were by so many mares I became interested myself. I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw you sitting by the lake, watching me. I took action, for I’ve developed a rather desperate need for intimate contact since my return from banishment. Needless to say, there are few ‘available’ stallions, and fewer who are as handsome, and fewer still with an intellect and courage like yours.

Courage?

Facing the Princess of the Night?

I was running away, but I think I see your point.

How did you pull that off? And – what is with this oppressive blackness?

Ravage’s underwater figure smiled again. He piped in video of a profile of Saturn’s upper cloud decks, billowing and churning, with lightning bolts that could incinerate a small ship. The Decepticon shuttle, Astrotrain, had used this place to stage an ambush on the Autobot, Cosmos.

Oh my…’ The Princess looked impressed at the yellow and golden-brown cloud formations. ‘Where is this place?

Just my imagination,’ he lied.

I’ve never seen a dreamer so lucid either,’ the Princess said to herself. She walked up to the Decepticon pony. ‘Ravage, may I please start again with you.’ She took his hoof into hers. ‘I’ve not had any experience with courtship in this new age, unfortunately.

Ravage wasn’t comfortable with Luna picking up his hoof like that, even if it was harmless video. Just then, he received a Proximity Alert from his base. He launched himself off of his watery sitting rock and started heading back. He reactivated his infrared sensors. ‘Start again? What do you mean?

Well, I want you to choose me, since me choosing you is not enough,’ she explained, and chuckled.

I’m not interested in a relationship.’ Like, at all. Ravage was adamant. Luna responded with her best ‘does not compute’ face. ‘Too much trouble,’ he added, trying to drive his point home.

Luna giggled. For the love of all that is quiet and still, not again!

Then let me convince you. We could at least spend a few hours to get to know each other, not in a dream, of course.’ Luna smiled confidently. She was a Princess after all, and this Ravage character would eventually succumb to her wiles. All she needed was some time.

The satellite reported two ponies on the elevated clearing from which Ravage first observed Princess Celestia! That’s what torched off the proximity alert. Ravage drew his sidearm, and crept up to the shoreline, all the while staying underwater. Their position was distant, but within the line of sight from the shore. The Decepticon activated his gun’s carbine mode. With a few minor transformations the gun got longer and more accurate, though less powerful. ‘Before you were banished, what did you do when you wanted intimate company?

Luna laughed, letting go of Ravage’s hoof. ‘I would just send out my guards and they would procure a pony for me. All I needed to do was specify the gender, and colour.’ Luna looked up, recalling better days. ‘Of course, my partners could not have been taking care of family, or something equally important.’ Luna believed that her rather revealing discourse wouldn’t see the light of day, since she was in the dreamscape of another pony, even if it felt unusual.

Ravage adjusted his form while still underwater, throwing his weapon forward and appearing to take aim. One hand was on the trigger, and the other cupped the newly extended barrel. In his hunched position, he lined up an eye through the sights. Then he slowly raised himself above the surface, exposing the top third of his body, river water gently cascading down his many metal facets, his gun already aiming at the two ponies. ‘Times have changed.

They most certainly have! Oh! One moment, Ravage. I have to take care of something.’ Luna closed her eyes as her horn glowed briefly. ‘And done! Sorry, just a small domestic issue I had to take care of.

Ravage had the two ponies in his sights. He calculated that 1.2 seconds would be needed to deal with them both. They were very unusual looking ponies, as they appeared to have bat wings. The Decepticon waited, knowing that killing ponies would almost certainly cancel his mission, not to mention himself – unless he transported the corpses very far away, say, by river. Before he could finish his thoughts, the two bat ponies looked away as if scrutinizing some distant object, and then they showed a lot of movement packing up the remains of some sort. He saw apples, eating utensils, various small cloths, and finally one big cloth being wrapped up. The two pressed mouths together while embracing before taking off into the sky. Ravage had his sidearm transform back into a pistol, before putting it away. There were no other ponies in the vicinity. ‘I hope your issue wasn’t too much trouble.

Oh, no trouble at all. So, did you want to meet again soon?

Ravage turned off his subspace radio.

Chapter 4: Anthems To The Alicorns At Dusk

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Chapter 4: Anthems To The Alicorns At Dusk



Before he did anything else, Ravage tried to contact Cybertron. The radio room lights, unfortunately, continued to be unremarkable.

It didn’t take Ravage two hours to service all of his exposed systems like he thought it would, but he did perform maintenance on his heavily used hydraulics and other systems. The jet engines took the longest to clean, since they were precision instruments that were required to work hard and heavy for extended periods of time. He tested them within his base, and the power band looked okay – not even a sputter.

It was dawn, and Ravage realized that he had been up all night long. Not feeling the need to sleep in robot mode, he transformed into a stallion. The severe drowsiness that was expected was not present at all. In fact, he felt well rested! That little result supported his hypothesis that the tissue rests whenever he is in robot mode. Ravage smiled, almost evilly. Since his robotic components re-energized in pony mode, and his tissue regenerated in robot mode, he could potentially remain awake and alert for a very long period indeed. Perhaps many weeks!

Being a fan of completing one thing at a time, Ravage moved onto his next prioritized task. He looked at last night’s satellite imagery of the two bat ponies that came so close to his base. The stallion bot quickly came to the conclusion that it was that clearing that they were interested in, not his home. They activated the proximity alert when they appeared to be playing in flight, and ventured too close.

He turned on his subspace radio, a device normally left on all the time, and decided to leave port 32359 as it was, as well as the previously occupied memory clusters. You never know who might come knocking. Right after he turned it on, a message came through.

Incoming System Report: Celestia-1

Ravage rerouted the report to the big view screen, eager to see the findings. Instantly, a view of the star and its worlds appeared, along with the relevant magnetic fields. Especially in light of recent events, Ravage, who thought he’d seen it all, yet again was taken by surprise.

The Celestia star had a big, powerful magnetic field as was expected. The Moon had no magnetic field whatsoever as it was small, cold, and lifeless with its core too cooled off to produce any kind of magnetic energy. But the planet – it had a magnetic field alright. It was bigger than the entire Celestia system! In fact, it engulfed the star’s magnetic field, yet both fields had the star and both worlds within them.

“Curiouser and curiouser,” he spoke aloud.

Perhaps more profound was the Moon and star being not only equidistant from Celestia-1, but that they exerted the same gravitational influence. Ravage was tearing himself up inside, eager to experiment!

“Heh, this oughta’ be a snap,” he joked. He fired a small missile at the moon from the main satellite. This comprised his simple and elegant solution. Before it impacted, it would record and report the gravitational acceleration of that world.

Ravage hypothesized that the Moon might be the same mass as the Celestia star, somehow. Until he knew the gravitational acceleration, he wasn’t going to risk sending any satellites near that thing. “The stars will aid in her escape,” he recalled aloud. Under truly immense gravity, which Ravage suspected might be the reason for such a place to be a prison, then nothing should be able to escape it. The Decepticon looked forward to the new data, which he should have by the next morning.

The star in this system was only the size of a gas giant planet, in keeping with the weirdness. Ravage didn’t even want to think about it until he got the data back on the Moon.

Luna was in charge of the Moon too, how powerful was she really? The Royal Sisters operate the Sun and Moon through magic alone; perhaps it is magic itself that is doing all the work, and they were merely ‘pushing buttons’?

The Decepticon sat comfortably in his chair, proud of his robot mode not having used a drop of energon since he got here. He felt, perhaps, a little too comfortable. He knew that he should go outside, but the conditions of his study on this world have changed.

He cannot keep under the radar. Luna’s testimony did not inspire him to go out and explore either.

So far, his integration into pony society required little effort as the inhabitants accepted his pony form with open – legs. What then, would Ravage do if he up and walked into town? Why not stay safely inside his ship until he had to work again? “No. That’s a coward’s answer,” Ravage thought aloud.

He decided to perform another simple experiment: walk into town, buy a hay shake, then buy ‘groceries’, and come back to the ship. Then, record the results. Buying groceries was the only useful thing he could think of doing today. He certainly had the refrigeration capability, and he loved all the new dietary opportunities that presented themselves once he started earning bits.

But Cloudchaser and her troops would be looking for him, of this he was certain. In spite of this, he didn’t want to activate his satellite uplink until it was absolutely necessary, fearing that knowing the whereabouts of every pony might interfere with his integration. He had established that what Cloudchaser’s friends were doing may indeed have been a courtship ritual, or may turn into one. That must not happen!

Ravage exited his base, and headed for town.


=^.^=


Rarity and Sweetie Belle were returning from the train station, with the filly dragging a cart load of materials behind her. “Thanks for – letting me – help you – Rarity!” Sweetie Belle said between gasps. Fabric was heavy, and a cartload was a lot of work to move.

“Oh, you can’t possibly know how much I appreciate you,” Rarity chirped, head held high, her clean white coat shimmering in the morning light. “But remember our deal,” the mare sing songed, “I shall prepare us breakfast.”

This put a smile on the gasping filly. “Can we have apple puff pancake?”

“Why certainly.” Rarity cracked a smile at the suggestion. It had been a while since she’d indulged, so why not?

Just then, Rarity spotted Ravage out of the corner of her eye, immediately causing her to stop. With, an “OOMPH” and the sound of a shuddering cart, Sweetie Belle had stopped as well, colliding with her sister’s backside.

Rarity felt a need to interact with the handsome stallion, but gently. Rainbow Dash’s claim that he liked his personal space seemed to be true as he still appeared to be free of the town’s other mares. Unknown to the newcomer, Rarity noticed two other mares taking pretty good looks at him. “Sweetie Belle, would you mind waiting for fifteen minutes?”

“Fifteen minutes!” the younger replied angrily.

“It’s a lot to ask, I know. I promise I’ll make it up to you. Just please wait for me.”

Ravage was nearing his first destination. In fact, he had the satellite calculate the time it would take to get there. In less than sixty seconds, he would be ordering a hay shake. In less than three-hundred, he would be enjoying one. It made his mouth water. He could almost feel the texture of the hay bits as it rushed over his tongue –

“Yoo hoo!” a mare voice melodiously chimed in, directed at the pony bot.

Ravage halted, his expression frozen in a stint of being unimpressed. Decepticons did stop when interrupted by other Decepticons though. It was usually to discuss something relevant, something useful. Ravage had a feeling that this upcoming discussion would be neither. “Yes?”

“Good morning, Ravage,” Rarity spoke, beaming a smile at him.

Ravage had never used this greeting before so he tried it out. “Good morning.” He then returned the smile.

“Don’t you remember my name,” she asked coyly, fluttering her eyelashes. She silently chastised herself, remembering to avoid coming on too strongly.

“Rarity, yes?”

“Quite right, darling.” Rarity was stuck, but after a little thought she found an outlet. “A fine morning for a walk, isn’t it?”

“A fine morning for food too.” Ravage realized that he had somehow forgotten to eat breakfast. Perhaps the change in the routine had made him a little lax.

“If I may be so bold, Ravage, I was about to prepare breakfast for my sister and I. Would you care to join us both?” Rarity always knew that stallions and food went together like fashion and fabric. Her eyes widened, but just a bit in trying to keep with her more relaxed method of pursuit, and she waited for his answer. “I’m sure you’d just forgotten to make food for yourself. I know I tend to be lazy on Saturday mornings.”

“I don’t feel comfortable taking your food like that.” Ravage was on the look out for free things from mares, and this certainly sounded like it.

“Oh it’s no trouble at all, dear. Socializing with your fellow citizens whom you’ve only recently met takes quite a lot of effort, believe me. So, in aiding your ‘getting used’ to Ponyville, I offer you breakfast. Knowing your neighbors is important, Ravage.”

Ravage digested this. “So you want me to have breakfast with you and your sister, because it should improve our future associations?”

“And improve our communication,” Rarity added. Ravage’s ears perked up at this. Working with the Soundwave gave him a very high appreciation of communication skills. “Better communication, better living,” Rarity pressed, touching it off with a welcoming smile showing her teeth.

Ravage pondered the white mare’s words. While it may have been some sort of ploy, integration can only come about with communication. Since it was obvious that the Elements of Harmony simply won’t leave him be, he considered that it may be worthwhile to associate with them, even if it’s only at arm’s length.

“Alright,” the hungry Decepticon pony said with a nod.

“Excellent!” Rarity was pleased. “Follow me.” She had a definite bounce in her step, if her dancing locks were any indication. Rarity’s nose was up in victory as they approached the boutique.

“Sweetie Belle! We have a guest,” Rarity announced.

“Who is he?” Sweetie Belle was looking surprised and a little suspicious.

“Sweetie Belle, meet Ravage. Ravage, Sweetie Belle.” Rarity had all the grace of a diplomat on an important mission.

“Hel-lo?” Sweetie Belle’s botched etiquette didn’t bother Ravage, but Rarity was really trying hard to remain calm.

Ravage only nodded toward Rarity’s sister. He recognized mounting anger when he saw it.

“Ravage is new in town, Sweetie. We need to be welcoming. He shall be joining us for breakfast, so I ask that you chat with each other while I go prepare things. You don’t mind, do you, Ravage?”

“Uh, sure.” He had to deal with a lot of angry Transformers. It was time to see what angry ponies could do.

“Oh, so I have to haul your heavy stuff so I can eat, and Ravish just shows up and gets to eat for nothing!” Truth be told, that bothered Ravage as well. “You can get your own cart, cuz’ I’m done!”

“Sweetie Belle, calm down,” Rarity squawked, half angry, half embarrassed. Her eyes’ attention switched back and forth between her sister, and her guest.

Sweetie walked into another room, ensuring that her hooves made loud clacks on the floor as she did so, and slammed the door behind her.

The Decepticon stallion saw an opening. “What cart?”

Rarity was flustered now. “Ooooh, that filly!” she uttered, visibly pissed. Looking at the recently abused room door, “She’s supposed to bring both carts, and for that I will make her breakfast.”

“I’ll get the cart. Where is it?” Ravage wanted to meddle in the ponies’ contract, hoping to inflame the conflict. Two unicorns fighting each other might be entertaining. Decepticons were as opportunistic as they were territorial, and in offering to get the other package Ravage hoped to rouse suspicion.

“No Ravage, it’s Sweetie Belle’s responsibility.”

This time, the room door swung wide open. “I’ll show him! C’mon Ravish!” The little filly zipped to the front door with surprising speed.

“Ravage,” the pony bot corrected, maintaining his stoic stride as he went to the door and followed Sweetie Belle out of the boutique.

Rarity was left standing alone, her mouth opened, looking like a combination of spaced-out and surprised. There was nothing more to do except prepare breakfast.

Similar to what Pinkie Pie did earlier, Sweetie Belle was almost bouncing on her hooves, but only after they got out of the boutique. She eventually calmed down enough to talk. “Um, how do you know my sister?”

“I sat down for lunch with her and her friends yesterday,” Ravage said plainly.

“But today you’re in her place eating breakfast made by her. Eeeeenteresting,” the little filly said, suspecting that there was more than breakfast afoot.

A year ago, Ravage didn’t know what a foal was, and now he was talking to one. She was older and had more on the ball than the foals at Bo and Micah’s, but she was still a step down from an adult – though not very far.

Ravage wanted to see her cognition in action. He was disappointed that a fight didn’t break out between this foal and her sister – he had all kinds of instruments activated, ready to measure the ensuing tissue damage – but he soon realized that relying on comparisons between ponies and Decepticons would not get him any results.
“I’m new around here. Getting to know the locals is a good idea, don’t you think?”

“We all need to do that. Just, not in other pony’s homes,” insinuated Sweetie, trying to lure out some sort of confession from Ravage.

“I beg to differ. I was at Bo and Micah’s last night eating supper, and getting to know them and their friends.” Ravage sensed faulty cognition from the little foal. She seemed so sure of herself before, but remained somewhat unable to weave all of her thoughts and feelings into sentences. Like her body, her thinking had to grow from a newborn to an adult, and adult thinking just didn’t turn on like it did with Decepticons.

At that point, they came upon the other cart which Ravage easily pulled back to the boutique. All the while, Sweetie Belle was going on about the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ next plan, foolproof of course. Ravage enjoyed her zeal, even if he thought the plan was foolishness.

Rarity was elated to see Ravage return with the rest of her fabric bolts, even if it was supposed to be done entirely by her sister.

Ravage, to his credit, felt he had at least earned a breakfast, even if the cart weight was less than a quarter of what he was used to. While Decepticons enjoyed opportunities that got others to do their work for them, Ravage differed in that respect. He was built to infiltrate and observe, at least primarily. That kind of work was not something you got others to do for you.

They sat down. Ravage and Sweetie Belle both devoured their breakfasts. “This is amazing,” Ravage commented, never having tasted anything this good since he got here. And Micah was a good cook too!

Sweetie Belle added to the compliments, except that she didn’t swallow her food first. Rarity felt the enthusiasm though, and decided to ignore the mutilated language that left her sister’s mouth while she was still chewing.

Rarity had impressed Ravage. She was beaming instead of doing her usual cleanup. “I’m glad you both enjoyed it.” Rarity felt she needed to play into her ‘communication effort’ with him a little more. “If I may ask, what is it you do for work, Ravage?”

“Mix concrete.”

“Whaaaat?” a shocked unicorn responded.

“Don’t you think mixing concrete is a noble pursuit?” Ravage tried to hang onto the topic, as it was something he could answer questions easily in. “It makes buildings, roads, bridges–”

“Well, of course it does those things, but, your cutie mark – may I ask how you got it?” the puzzled mare asked.

Sweetie Belle also felt there was something amiss. “I thought you were some sort of scientist when I saw you.”

The Decepticon leaned toward Sweetie Belle with a rare mischievous look on his face. “Looks can be deceiving.” He had this fabrication ready to go too. “When I was a kid, I looked at a planet through a telescope. I found it quickly, and the image was clear. Next thing you know,” Ravage pointed to his cutie mark. Suddenly, Ravage thought of another experiment he needed to perform. Pony astronomical literature was rife with images of Saturn. The infiltrating Decepticon decided that he should probably verify that he really could find the ringed world with a telescope in the night sky like the textbooks indicated.

“Did you dream about outer space a lot?” Sweetie prodded.

“More than you know.”

“Darling, I’m sure I speak for us both when I say that we are perplexed at your current occupation. Should you not be an Astronomer?”

“Perhaps my mark isn’t a planet. Maybe it is a bean, with a shaft of wheat wrapped around it. I did have creamed wheat for breakfast, and baked beans for lunch that day.” Ravage decided that the topic had taken a turn for the sillier, and he was about to change the subject when suddenly a loud crash came from the front door.

Rainbow Dash was catching her breath after having burst into the breakfast scene. “Guys! You’re not gonna believe this – oh hey Ravage.” Rainbow’s composure was temporarily regained when she noticed the stallion. “Luna had, like, five-hundred night guards search for some stallion last night!”

“Sounds like a whole battalion,” Ravage commented, pretty certain of whom it was the guards were searching for.

“I heard it from Twilight.” Rainbow Dash didn’t want any ponies questioning the quality of her information.

“Goodness, what did this stallion do?” Rarity wasn’t aware of anything that could illicit such a strong reaction from Princess Luna.

“That’s the weird thing. The Princess called ‘em back while they were in the middle of it. Of course, she had to talk about it with Twilight. Now Twilight’s all confused.”

“She's Luna's confidant?” Ravage wondered if the Elements were being mobilized in order to apprehend the ‘stallion’.

“Twilight said that the princess just wants to see him again. Still doesn’t explain the dragnet.” Dash’s brow was all furrowed up, trying to figure out the lunacy.

The Princess of Friendship entered the still opened front door. “There you are, Rainbow. Oh! Hello Ravage.” She smiled cheerfully.

“Good morning.”

“Okay, so what does Luna want exactly?” Rainbow pushed, looking to Twilight for verification.

“She just wants to see him again.”

“And how do the guards figure in this?” Rarity asked.

“She – she didn’t really want to comment on that.” Twilight’s eyes rolled upward. The unicorn librarian really wanted to know what got Luna so upset enough to do such a thing in the first place.

“Did the princess at least give a description of who I could only imagine would be a dashing rogue?” Rarity’s face lit up. “Did she give his name?”

“Luna said she never got his name.”

Ravage cocked an eyebrow at this. Luna knew who he was without him even introducing himself, and she knew he was in Ponyville. A small, wry smile temporarily cracked his neutrality. 'She wants to play a game', he thought.

Twilight walked up to Ravage calmly, “You wouldn’t have happened to have seen a dishy brown stallion with a black mane and tail would you?”

“Every time I look in the mirror,” Ravage responded, maintaining neutrality.

“Riiight.” Twilight picked up a quill and parchment with her magic, and scribbled upon it. “Not – in – Ponyville.” With a bright glow of her horn the parchment vanished in a white hot light, as if it were vapourized.

Ravage got on all fours, preparing to leave. “Thank you for the meal, Rarity. Your cooking was brilliant.” He nodded in her direction.

Rarity pounced and hugged the Decepticon stallion, taking time to rub her head into his neck before regaining her composure. “It was pleasant having you over, Ravage,” she giddily spoke.

After saying goodbye to the rest of the Elements and Sweetie Belle, Ravage managed to leave without any problems. The mares did not beg him to stay, nor try to suggest how to spend his day. Perhaps he should seek the Elements out whenever he was in Ponyville. “And now for that hay shake.” Once again, Ravage had the satellite calculate the seconds to destination.


=^.^=


Ravage perused the market. It was an inefficient layout where typically only one item could be purchased per vendor. The breakfast and following hay shake had done well to sate his appetite, so he slowly walked by each vendor trying to decide what he wanted to haul back. Fruits, vegetables, glass jars of preserves, bread products, dairy products, sweets, what should he take? This was clearly something the stallion bot should have given more thought to. The only thing he had ever cooked was his pony meal, and that method was determined for him. He saw the carrots, and realizing that they can be eaten raw or cooked, he approached the vendor.

“Good afternoon, sir,” Carrot Top said cheerily. “Would you like to buy some carrots?” Carrot Top was attractive, and she had refined her bargaining posture into a tactical weapon. ‘Like the server, buy the carrots’ was what the mares said.

Ravage eyed her carrots carefully, observing that they came in large, mature sizes and very small sizes. “I’m thinking about it. I’m not sure how to cook these. They can be eaten raw, right?”

Carrot Top put a hoof over her mouth in surprise. A pony that didn’t know how to cook was atypical. Acting on instinct and wanting to make the sale, she spoke. “Well, you can put them in a little salted, boiled water and cook them on the range for ten minutes; you can roast them in oil and spices under tin foil for 30 minutes; they can be steamed.”

Ravage gave a look as if he had just stared into an infinite well. There was so much to know about these silly little roots! “Oil? Foil?”

“I suggest olive oil for the roasting. It works better with the spices.” Carrot Top went into detail, even pointing out vendors that sold spices, tin foil, and oils. It seemed that her assessment of Ravage’s cooking abilities was dead on.

The Decepticon pony felt emotionally drained for how much he lacked in what was supposed to be common knowledge, but was grateful for Carrot Top’s time and help. He purchased two pounds of carrots, putting a smile on the face of the vendor.

Before the undereducated pony bot could leave, Carrot Top leaned forward. “Hey, what’s your name?” Her smiling expression was a mix of confidence and the trouble making half-lidded eyes; her head was tilted to the side and down a bit. Ravage could almost feel hooks latch onto his spark, pulling him in towards her.

“Ravage,” he replied, almost interrogatively.

“Carrot Top.” She extended out one of her hooves, which Ravage then bumped. She brought both hooves to her mouth, trying to cover up a giggle. The vendor, looking sly now, turned her head to the side. “Would you – would you offer me your hoof now?”

This didn’t compute. The two had already hoof bumped, why would she want him to extend his hoof toward her? Since he could not think of an explanation of why not to, Ravage did as she asked and gave Carrot Top his hoof, which she gingerly took into both of her hooves.

Carrot Top’s eyes lit up, as she gripped his hoof more tightly. Was this a precursor to a change in behavior? Whatever it was, it made Ravage suspicious.

“Ravage,” she spoke dreamily, “would you be my special somep –”

Just then, a flood of mares rumbled through sweeping Ravage away. “Ravage!” several of them called out incoherently.

Before he could blink, the stallion bot was dragged several body lengths away from Carrot Top’s stand. Then he noticed a unicorn nuzzling him.

“We missed you!” Saffron was nuzzling him like it had been a year, even though it was only two days.

Ravage couldn’t process the event quickly enough. Looking about, Saffron, Pearl Bliss, Winter, Flitter, and Cloudchaser had apparently interfered with whatever Carrot Top was saying by forcibly pulling him away from her. Peering in the carrot vendor’s direction, he noticed that she was serving other customers as if nothing had happened. During a pause in their conversation, she looked and smiled right at him, giving him a wink before she returned to business. What just happened?

The Decepticon noticed how easily he was removed, and vowed not to underestimate the strength of these ponies. All five were clustered around him like iron fillings on a magnet, clinging to him, hugging him, and nuzzling him.

“You know what we need to do, right girls?” Cloudchaser asked.

Pearl Bliss gasped, and smiled broadly, “Ravage, do you want to play volleyball with us?” The other girls backed off, and all five were looking at Ravage, eager for his answer.

Ravage had felt this way before, back when he was asked to play hoofball, and even today when he was asked for his hoof. Peer pressure. Even Decepticons could not escape it. What was different was that these ponies were not even his peers. Now that he recognized what it was he was feeling in his less than two week old body, he would deal with it accordingly.

“I’ve never played volleyball,” he replied calmly.

“It’s easy!” Saffron half yelled.

“Why not just come to the beach with us and we can show you how,” Cloudchaser offered.

Ravage put a hoof to his chin and considered his options, this time ignoring the otherwise withering gaze of his five associate mares. He could get groceries as planned and go home and sit there, or continue the integration process. He felt fully in control now, and assumed he could leave whenever he wished.

The ‘sexy party’ was that evening though. It was a good bet that ‘volleyball’ was to segue into it, although it was barely noon. Ravage simply didn’t have enough data to make a judgment, and decided that pushing through and getting experience would be best.

“Alright. Where do we go?” the pony bot decided.

As with the previous day, Ravage’s response was handled with whooping and hoof bumping. “To the beach of course!” said Cloudchaser.


=^.^=


The rules were simple: keep the ball within the boundaries and never let it hit the ground. Violating these rules resulted either in loss of serve or a point. A special rule was that the ball could never be ‘carried’; only deflected.

Flitter served first. She, Winter, and Saffron played against Ravage, Cloudchaser, and Pearl Bliss. Cloudchaser was the first to receive and used both front hooves to deflect toward the front of their territory, which was half of the play area separated from the opposing territory by a tall net.

“Set me up, Ravage!” Pearl cried out. Ravage used his two front hooves, trying to copy what Cloud Chaser did, but the ball deflected way out of their play area. In spite of this, Pearl Bliss made a mad dash for it, diving with one leg stretched out, managing to get a hoof to connect. The impressive display was for naught as the ball was knocked further out of the play zone where it landed on the soft sand, stopping the play and earning Flitter’s squad a point.

“So you really haven’t played this,” his unicorn teammate deduced, kicking the ball back toward her friends. She kept smiling at him though.

“Maybe we should practice volleying with Ravage for a few minutes,” Winter suggested.

“I think that’s a good idea,” he said with sarcastic bite. Ravage began to realize how out of his element he really was. Starscream preprogrammed a lot of motor skills into his cerebellum, but all of them were basic, like walking and speech. Needless to say, volleyball was not one of them. He would have to learn and get better the ‘flesh creature way’, by improving himself with experience. Eventually, he may be able to use his database to aid the execution of complex motor skills such as this, but he didn’t know how useful it would be. Additionally, this kind of operation required considerable cooperation between teammates, none of whom Ravage’s database could help.

What drives ponies to kick balls around? The pony bot felt that their time could be better spent growing more food, or enhancing their infrastructure, or a myriad other productive things. Ravage fully expected that he would just have to tolerate a bunch of babbling mares for two hours and learn nothing. Even grocery shopping or bathing seemed more useful than this ‘sport’.

They had him press his forelegs together and deflect the volleyball up and down, and sometimes back and forth between the five mares. Surprisingly, it took considerable concentration. Ravage thought that he may want to analyse the sensory/motor neural pathways at a later time just to find out how much of his computing power is dedicated to what falsely masqueraded as a simple task.

“Bump it towards me, Ravage,” Flitter requested, even though she was largely facing away from the noob. He successfully volleyed the ball into her space, and she returned it by bouncing it off of her left flank.

“Plot bump?” joked Cloudchaser, noting that Ravage had managed to regain control over the ball.

“Giving Ravage ideas?” added Pearl. The girls all laughed. Ravage focused on volleying rather than what the joke could have been.

“Give it to me!” Winter looked as if she had something special planned, and the ball was deflected her way.

“Giving Ravage ideas?” Pearl repeated. All of them were on the ground, holding their stomachs, laughing. Winter joined in the laughing spree, but she did so when she was in the middle of a special rear-hooves bump, and used way too much force. She had sent the ball careening onto the top of a wide-brimmed hat of a pony lady who was relaxing on the sand.

Ravage saw the whole thing, and while he didn’t comprehend what ‘ideas’ he should be having, he did start snickering at the unfortunate situation of the rather irate pony lady. The laughter of the others was affecting him too, drawing out his snickering into full on laughter. The misfired volley, the squashed hat, the silly angry pony face, and the laughter of the mares all contributed to make Ravage laugh in a way he has never known before. After he calmed down, he still didn’t understand why he was laughing like that.

The five mares showed Ravage how to hold his front legs, how to use his hooves, and even special moves involving his back legs, spending about half an hour. In the pony game, any part of the body can be used to deflect the ball, though the limbs were favored, as the preferred trajectory was one with a high arc that could eventually be set and spiked into the opposing team’s territory. After a short rally, where consecutive ponies would volley the ball back and forth from Ravage, they felt they could continue.

“It’s still one-nothing for our team. Just thought I’d point that out,” Flitter prodded.

“And soon it will be fifteen-one!” Pearl Bliss told Flitter’s smirking face.

“Yeah, for us!”

This time there was something of a match. The stallion bot made lots of mistakes, but he also corrected a couple of mistakes made by his teammates. They managed to lose to Flitter’s team fifteen-ten.

Ravage was astounded by what he saw. At first there was no logic in playing what appeared to be an insipid ‘sport’, a waste of time. It quickly became apparent that each team’s players relied on each other, forcing them all to work hard, sometimes engaging in high risk maneuvers that lead to excellent plays as well as mistakes. They were developing skill sets, as well as strengthening their social bonds, Ravage concluded, and eye-hoof coordination and agility had endless applications outside of this crucible of mindless physical exertion. What was most revealing was that this procedure, this ‘game’, was as much work as mixing and hauling concrete was, but everybody was laughing and smiling the whole time.

And then Ravage had an epiphany, Is this fun? He chuckled more through playing the game too, though slowly gave way to a couple bouts of genuine laughter. The Decepticon had never laughed that way before. Oh he did laugh, but it was nearly always derisive. However, these were not Autobots trapped under a collapsed bulkhead, crying out for help, fire slowly melting their circuits. These were ponies kicking a ball around.

They switched up teams every time, and played a total of three games, with Ravage, Pearl Bliss, and Saffron winning the last game fifteen-thirteen. “I think it’s time for ice cream,” Cloudchaser suggested. In a few minutes, they had the net packed up. Ravage had very much enjoyed ice cream with Bo and Micah the previous evening. Judging by how the pace of cleaning up increased, the volleyball ponies also liked experiencing ice cream.


=^.^=


Princess Luna rose from her slumber. Her pitch black room came alive with light from magical lamps as soon as her horn glowed. The private chambers weren’t very large – they didn’t need to be. Like Twilight Sparkle, the alicorn mare was bookish. Shelves of books hid over half of her dark grey stone walls, the rest taken up by a multitude of maps, magic torches, and a few paintings. Her gigantic bed was accompanied by two relatively small end tables. There was an array of shelving which she used so store mundane things, including various small tools, ingredients for spells, hygiene products, among other trivial trappings of life. The room was also equipped with an en-suite, and a spacious walk-in wardrobe. A small laboratory occupied the alcove.

The Princess used her magic to tug a cord. In just a few minutes, a servant would stop by to ask what she wanted. In this case, it was food.

She had risen quite early, though a few missed hours of sleep would have little effect on the alicorn. She couldn’t stop thinking about a certain stallion that was on her mind. There was more than beauty to the attraction she felt for him, and the pondering Princess knew it. Ravage was – powerful – somehow. Luna realized this as soon as she saw him.

He wasn’t a changeling. Luna cast a spell that detected changling magic on her breastplate after the last invasion. There was also a secret team of ponies dedicated to ferret out any changelings that may still be hiding within Equestria’s borders.

The Princess of the Night held a hoof to his body when they first met. She felt his heat even through her metal shoe; she felt the telltale thumping of a pulse deep within his flank. His breath was like that of a pony, and he smelled like a pony, and if there was any magic beyond his natural earth pony magics, she would have sensed it. Come to think of it, Luna didn’t sense any magic from Ravage at all. Was that a good reason to feel secure?

Perhaps most bizarre of all was his dreamscape, as black as pitch. At a whim, he made it become cloud decks that could only exist in a dream. His lucidity was greater than any sleeping pony she had ever visited. This had slowly become worrying, since he might be able to recall everything that was said! Still, the vision of her regal self entangled in the embrace of Ravage was intoxicating.

Using her horn to recreate a shimmering, ethereal image of the elusive stallion, Princess Luna didn’t regret her decision. “I shall pursue you, mysterious one.” Her wry smile hinted at the images she had in her head regarding herself and Ravage. The stir the deceptive stallion created gave way to many potent dreams from the mares in Ponyville. As if that wasn’t enough, the sudden appearance at her, till then, private flying range, and then the fantastic ability to outwit five-hundred night guards blessed with the capability to see as well at night as any other pony could see by day, all indicated that he was no mere earth pony. The guards used motion detecting magic, heat detecting magic, pony detecting magic, and they still couldn’t find him. Was he dangerous? Perhaps, but what could he possibly do? There was not a single magical bone in his body, and yet he evaded Luna and her guards, and he did it at night. Ultimately, it was better to have the potentially dangerous stallion within the loving forelegs of the mighty Princess, than to have him with any other pony.

Luna glanced at Twilight’s message. ‘The stallion is not in Ponyville.’ The student of Celestia was having lunch with him the day before, but Luna withheld Ravage’s name from Twilight, as well as her guards. She did not want anypony to associate Ravage with herself just yet.

Luna activated a spell to summon one of her pony agents. She expected a response within the hour.


=^.^=


Applejack saw Ravage getting familiar with Cloudchaser and her buds when they visited the farmer’s produce stand and purchased some apples. He made it clear that he was playing Hoofball tomorrow with her, Rainbow Dash, and Aster. After some whispering amongst themselves, Pearl Bliss extended the party invitation to the Elements of Harmony.

Having helped Ravage purchase some groceries, the quintet waved good bye to their friend – as far as they were concerned, they were Ravage’s friends. They were eager to see him at the party that night, especially since they had told most of the invitees that he would be coming.

Applejack managed to enlist her sister, Applebloom, to watch over the stand for about an hour while the perturbed earth pony went to fetch Twilight Sparkle.

“No way are they gonna get our stallion,” Applejack vowed to Twilight, as they walked back to the market.

“Ravage can choose who he wants, Applejack. All we can do is put our best hoof forward.” Twilight wasn’t comfortable taking a passive stance while ponies outside of the herd occupied Ravage’s time. The pair had managed to run into Fluttershy on the way, and ask her to tell the other elements about the invitation.

As luck would have it, Applejack and Twilight found Cloudchaser and her squadron.

“Good afternoon,” Twilight greeted with a mellow smile, as both her and Applejack tried to keep a Poker face.

“Hey Twilight,” Cloudchaser replied confidently. “Are you guys coming to the party?”

“That’s your Libido Nocta party, right?” The curious unicorn needed to verify what it was they were getting into.

“Actually, it’s mine.” Pearl Bliss stepped toward the Element pair. “I’m aware of what you two and your friends have done for Ponyville and Equestria, and especially for Princess Luna. I assure you that you’re all very welcome in my house.” The unicorn hostess was quite serious. Twilight and Applejack responded with courteous nods and smiles. “You are aware of the rules, right?”

“Could you outline them for us, please?” asked Twilight.

“Well, I come from a lunar family so I learned to celebrate various aspects of life presided over by Princess Luna. Ya know, rejuvenation, dreams, stuff like that. My personal favorite is lust.” Pearl enjoyed watching Twilight and Applejack squirm on their hooves, prompting a couple of snickers from the hostess’ fellow mares. “As such, each guest, as well as myself, is required to submit their names to a lottery. After the moon rises, two names are pulled out, then again about every fifteen to twenty minutes. They have to go up onto the roof and basically make out for ten minutes.”

Applejack recoiled this. Twilight didn’t seem surprised.

Winter segregated herself from the pack, and approached Applejack. “Ravage is coming,” she said with a sly smile.

“If I came and m’ah name got picked, what if I refused?” the orchard farmer inquired.

“Then you will have offended Princess Luna,” Pearl responded, “not to mention a house-full of ponies.”

Twilight took charge. “I come from a lunar family too. Thanks for your invitation, Pearl. I’ll be sure to let all of my friends know.” The hard part, she knew, would be how to convince them to accept the rules.

“Twi, that party’s gonna be full ‘o mares!” Applejack wasn’t fine with the kissing a stranger even if it were a stallion drawn to go up with her.

“Wanna get some practice, Applejack?” Winter nodded over to a grove of bushes. “I mean, if you and I are chosen I have no intention of going easy on you.”

Applejack lunged forward, trying to get her angry hooves on Winter, but she was held fast at her tail with Twilight’s magic. “Consarnit Twilight, let me go!”

Winter wasn’t even phased. “Oh do let her go, Twilight. I do so love wrestling,” she said, assuming a defensive stance, an almost evil grin written on her face.

“Let’s go girls. We’ve got a lot to get ready.” Cloudchaser maneuvered her group away from the pissed off earth pony, and Twilight. Giving Applejack a naughty look before slinking away with her glorious tail swishing behind her, Winter followed the rest of her group.


=^.^=


The sun had worked its way into the beginning of the evening, and all six Elements had gathered up at the library, where Twilight apprised them of the situation. “I’m going,” she said without faltering.

“Me too!” declared Pinkie Pie. “A party’s a party, and besides, I get to do Ravage’s Welcome Party,” the pink mare described, rubbing her hooves together and looking as if she’s just hatched the ultimate plan.

“I’ll go too,” Fluttershy softly spoke, getting some puzzled looks from her friends. Fluttershy did not respond to their puzzlement.

“While I prefer stallions, it would only be ten minutes with who I hope will be a drunken mare. Regardless, it’s a chance to show Ravage we mean business,” Rarity rationalized, perking up as she did.

“Good job on the breakfast, Rare!” Rainbow Dash commended.

“Why thank you.” Rarity smiled, assuming a ladylike stance.

“And what do you think you would do if a mare kissed ‘ya, Rainbow?” Applejack earned some worried looks from her peers.

“I dunno. I’ve never really thought about it.” Rainbow Dash was relaxed, as if nothing was about to happen. This drew quite a lot of bewildered looks from her fellow Elements.

“Have you never dated?” Rarity asked.

“When I was a filly, yeah. Waste of time, if you ask me.” There were some gasps, and murmuring. “I wanted to wait till I was a Wonderbolt and then I’d pick somepony. I guess that means I kinda have to step up to the plate don’t I?”

“You’ve done a lot already, Dashie!” Pinkie complimented.

“Indeed. It was you who broached our first lunch with the handsome stallion,” Rarity added.

Twilight raised an eyebrow at Dash.

“I’m going too,” the Wonderbolt decided. “If I have to kiss a girl, I’ll kiss a girl. No biggie.”

All eyes were on Applejack, but Twilight moved in to end the staring quickly. “Applejack,” she waited until her friend was looking with her full attention, “Don’t go.”

“’Ah believe that is m’ah decision to make, Twi.”

“Applejack, please, just relax this evening,” Rarity requested, starting to follow the group out the library. The flustered farm mare followed, trying to figure out what was best for the group.


=^.^=


Ravage had been in his bath water for nearly an hour now. He spent the previous ninety minutes constructing a recirculating water heater and filtration unit, adding to the soothing feel of the tepid water.

There was still no signal from Cybertron, and the galactic satellite had yet to reach the home planet.

He was fully intent on avoiding this much lauded party, but his relaxation gave way to reconsideration. Just upsetting Luna, by herself, was nearly catastrophic. Upsetting the Elements of Harmony, as well as several other ponies, whom Ravage found out only today that Cloudchaser’s group told he was coming would also be a very bad idea. By default, avoidance would once again upset the Princess of the Night, whose party this was to glorify, and that would be a very, very bad idea.

By integrating into pony society, Ravage had hoped to make only a few necessary associations. But instead, and with very little input from himself, he had somehow made dozens. Ravage had to find a way to disable the ‘association machine’ without jeopardizing himself, or his mission, but how?

Thanks to hanging out with Cloudchaser’s group for much of the day, Ravage found out that mouth pressing had a common name, called ‘kissing’. That didn’t make it any less terrifying. Reluctantly, he stepped out from his warm bath water and prepared to make way for the party where ten minutes of excruciating torture awaited him.


=^.^=


“Twilight – Sparkle,” Pearl Bliss spoke, as she wrote down the purple mare’s name and encapsulated it within a small, yellow sphere. It was dropped into a bin with several other spheres, all of them the same gaudy yellow. “Welcome to the party!” The hostess had set up a booth on her front porch to handle the incoming guests. Her friends were helping with party operations inside.

“Thank you, Pearl.” Twilight smiled easily as she stepped into Pearl Bliss’ house. It was a spacious split level construct. The place was dim, with glow sticks providing at least half the light. Electronic music permeated the background. It looked like she even managed to book Vinyl Scratch as the DJ was controlling her instrumentation. In one corner, several bowls of food, including sweets, chips, petals, and cooked bits were available. In another corner, a spectrum of alcohols, sodas, juices, and even coffee awaited the eager party goer. Several large pillows and a couple of comfy couches occupied the walls. Two large, spacious areas were kept free of everything else except for wandering ponies. Needless to say, the place was clean.

Twilight walked up to the roof level, which was a common feature in such ‘lunar’ homes. A few other ponies had made their way up here as well, enjoying the evening breeze. It was really just a terrace built on top of a gable style roof, but it was great for star gazing. To think that this area was to be harboring so much naughtiness was hard to believe. It seemed so serene, so peaceful. Many ponies won’t even know each other, and yet, to impress Princess Luna, they were to become intimate with each other. In a flash, Twilight conjured up quite a steamy thought of a pony she would rather be with if she was getting intimate. That was assuming it wasn’t Ravage, of course.

The mare blushed.

More arrivals started filing in. Rarity, Fluttershy, Lyra, Carrot Top, Thunderlane, and many others seemed to come all at once. Pinkie Pie was in her character defining garb: flippers, a yellow ‘duck’ life saver, and fake mustache completed her ensemble.

“Attractive,” Pearl commented, trying very hard to prevent herself from bursting out laughing, writing down ‘Pinkie Pie’ as one of the entrants using her magic.

“Always come prepared,” the pink mare conspiratorially stated, sporting a faux serious look at the hostess.

And then, Ravage appeared.

“Hi Ravage,” Pearl greeted, her voice oozing with sex appeal.

“Good evening,” he politely greeted in return. He brought his machine guns tonight. If it all went south, he could at least deal massive damage to the core ponies of Equestria. Though his poker face was superb, he couldn’t feel anything but horrified as Pearl Bliss wrote his name on that damnable scrap of paper. If he couldn’t figure a way out of this he would eventually be forced into torture.

There was a lull in the inclusion of guests, and the sun was starting to set. Pearl was about to pack it in and join what sounded like a lively party inside. She couldn’t wait to join in the laughter and begin the intimate festivities, and it brought a smile to her face. It was about that time that life fed her an ‘exploding carrot’.

Applejack sheepishly approached the booth. Pearl was speechless. She could deny her entry of course, but it wouldn’t look good inviting her, and then not letting her in. The farmer sat down, holding her hat in her hooves.

“Uh, howdy,” was all Applejack could say, sounding breathless. She couldn’t even look Pearl Bliss in the eyes. It was not lost on the unicorn, however, as to how prepared the apple farmer was. Instead of a being held in with a tie, her mane was done up in a beautiful French braid, but there were wisps of her forelock that were allowed to flow out over her forehead and it looked absolutely stunning. She wore dazzling ruby red shoes. The full bloom of her tail was allowed to waft about freely – silky, gorgeous, thick, blonde tail hair. She wore make-up! Even a subtle light pink lipstick was used.

Pearl Bliss closed her then gaping mouth. “Well you sure impressed me,” she truthfully spoke. “Did your friends help you with that?” she said, gesturing toward the invitee.

“Oh no, this was from a couple of family members, stayin’ over for a few days.”

“Tell them, their work is damned impressive and that they should consider careers as make-up artists.” Pearl couldn’t believe how good Applejack looked.

“Thank you. ‘Ah will,” said Applejack, finally smiling.

“You’re here for the party, right?”

“Yes’m.”

“And you are of sound mind, and fully understand the rules?”

“Yes’m,” Applejack nodded. “Completely.”

Pearl Bliss put her hoof on her chin for a bit, and then waved Applejack in closer. The farmer complied. “Words cannot possibly describe the anger I will project onto you if you buck this up...

“‘Ah won’t Ms. Bliss, ‘Ah promise.” Applejack lowered her head, holding her hat over her heart.

Pearl looked upon Applejack for a moment. The Element of Honesty just gave her word, she realized. “Okay Applejack,” the hostess spoke as she wrote Applejack’s name into the lottery, “Go in and have a good time.” The farmer nodded, smiled, and whisked herself inside. Pearl smiled, happy for Applejack’s change of mind, and hoping whomever she got for a partner up on the roof wouldn’t be too hard on her. Applejack was fully hot. It would be even more difficult than ever for the guests to keep their hooves off of her. It made Pearl giggle.


=^.^=


It was a lively gather. Ponies from all over town – and from another part of the galaxy – all ate and drank and laughed and played. Ravage tried very hard to be sociable, but his need to keep personal details hidden was difficult to deal with. This weakness didn’t seem to bother the ponies who typically chalked it up to ‘introversion’, or ‘reclusive behavior’.

Feeling drained from the constant attention, he went up to the rooftop. He knew that the lottery would be starting soon as the moon was beginning to rise. The Decepticon didn’t feel the need to whip out a telescope and study the phenomenon as no remarkable results were acquired from the previous study. He also felt he really needed to mitigate any association with Princess Luna.

I can see you,’ Luna’s voice teasingly rang off in his head. Adrenalin kicking in, his body went into full military alert. There were no error messages, nothing to suggest which port she was using this time. His heart thumped heavily in his chest. He was afraid! A frightening thought occurred to him. What if he only needs to be exposed under the sky for Luna to detect him? The night had been his ally for eons, and now it was to become his enemy! And then, the awful sound of Luna’s giggling came into his mind. It was at this point that his fear turned to anger.

You want a piece of me? Come on!’ Ravage had again resorted to thinking in machine language until he wanted to speak to Luna directly. He started a full systems scan, trying to find out how she was doing this. He counted his ammunition. There were ponies on the roof, but he didn’t care. He was ready to open up fifty caliber automatic death upon the troublesome alicorn, and if that didn’t work there were heavier options he could consider.

Oh no, my dear earth pony, I want all of you!’ More giggling followed.

Ravage retreated to the party level. Luna’s voice appeared to have ceased, but then he saw the error message he was looking for. This time it was port 33,926, again through the subspace radio. He promptly shut down the port, and deleted everything in the memory clusters it was associated with, though not before verifying what kind of data was in them. He then came up with a notion: if he was within Luna’s line of sight, then her presence would be undetectable. She could even be reading his thoughts without him even knowing it; however, if he was out of her line of sight, then an error message would appear when she wanted to communicate. It was just a notion, not even a hypothesis, but he had a feeling that it would be tested anyways.

Error Port 29,772: Unauthorized Access

Incoming Audio Message: ‘Enjoying the party?

Yeah. Lots of nice ponies.

Ravage smiled, knowing he had his answer.

“Hey Ravage,” Twilight greeted, “You look distant. How are you feeling?” She was using her magic to hold a glass of wine while she spoke.

“Just fine, Twilight,” he replied truthfully, smiling as he did.

The music volume suddenly lowered. “Attention ponies, it’s that time!” Pearl Bliss announced, receiving raucous cheering for her effort. Using her magic, she levitated up a transparent barrel full of the yellow balls and put it on a table.

A brilliant ball of blue light floated in through a window, interrupting the proceedings, catching everypony’s attention. Among whispering ponies, it made its way to an empty spot on the floor, which was quite rare in a party this packed. Blue-white magical flames flashed, and a winged pony emerged, spreading her wings up to the heavens, nobly lifting her head high as she did. The light died out quickly, revealing an indigo furred alicorn. Every pony in the house bowed toward her mighty presence, even Ravage. This was unorthodox. Luna had never attended a Libido Nocta party.

“Pearl Bliss, may I join your party, please?” The alicorn looked toward Pearl, after everypony got up.

“Of course, Princess!”

“Please, call me Luna.” She smiled regally as she spoke. All the ponies were getting more comfortable with her around when she dropped another bombshell. “And please add me to the lottery.” The hush, followed by shock and surprise was perfectly understandable to the Princess. She giggled, and it had a calming effect. “I have worldly needs, just like any other pony.” Luna figured out how to break their reverie. “Vinyl! Music!”

“You got it, Luna!” Dance music once again thrummed through the party.

“Princess – Luna,” Pearl spoke as she wrote Princess Luna into the lottery.

“And we have to turn the music down, as it’s time to name our first two intimate ponies,” the hostess demanded. Vinyl reduced the volume. Using her magic, Pearl Bliss spun the drum and pulled out two random entries. “Rarity!” she yelled as she opened the first one.

Using all her will, Rarity prevented herself from flattening her ears. She was hoping for an uncoordinated, drunken mare, who was more likely to pass out from the change in blood pressure from walking the stairs than to kiss her lovingly. It was much too early in the party for that. “Looks like I’m up,” she said bravely, looking almost pleadingly to Fluttershy.

“It’ll be fine,” Fluttershy reassured.

“Thunderlane!”

“Oh, my goodness!” the surprised unicorn said. She couldn’t believe her luck!

Thunderlane was whispering to his friends when he realized his name had been called. “Oh hey, that’s me!”

On the rooftop, Rarity and Thunderlane were the only two ponies. There was only a dim, magical green light that was on for a couple of minutes before it either turned off automatically, or was turned off by the action of a kick.

Thunderlane had pulled out a sheet, which he tried to read from. “Your eyes are like oceans of beauty and your mane like its waves…”

Rarity didn’t need this. She promptly walked up to Thunderlane and swatted the stupid paper out of his hoof. She then wrapped her forelegs around his neck and started kissing him hungrily.

Applejack, who normally abhorred mathematics, did the math. One down, one to go, she thought as her chances to make-out with a stallion were reduced dramatically. Of course, she knew the odds going in, but whether it was leaving the wooing of Ravage to her friends, or having to kiss a stranger, she felt terrible either way.

Aside from the rooftop make-out sessions, the party proceeded splendidly. Ravage, along with every other pony, got to know a lot of ponies.

Luna, though keen to talk to Ravage, paced herself and talked to a lot of party-goers, particularly the Elements of Harmony. She noticed that he seemed angry with her. Perhaps he didn’t like telepathic communication?

A couple more pairings went by, but on the fourth pairing Pearl Bliss called “Winter!”

“That’s my cue!” she giddily declared as she reared up in delight.

“Fluttershy!”

‘Oh my’ was not heard by Rarity, who had been by her side when her friend’s name was called. Fluttershy just calmly walked toward the stairs and went up, with Winter following directly behind her. It was then that Rarity noticed Winter. She was gorgeous. Voluptuous and photogenic, she had actually done supermodel work, Rarity recalled, just like Fluttershy did.

Ravage had gotten comfortable being mostly a listener in the many conversations he was privy to. There were so many terms he had to know, he couldn’t remember that many without making entries in his database.

Luna started making her way to Ravage. The other ponies seemed to understand immediately, and backed away. “Ravage, may I have a word with you out front? If either of us is called, I can still hear Pearl.”

Ravage nodded, though he found himself wishing that Bo and Micah had invited him to one of their Saturday night gatherings instead. Also, he may have better hearing than even Luna. “Alright.”


=^.^=


Outside the air was delightfully cool, and helped the stallion bot keep calm. Ravage was actually feeling apprehensive, believing that Luna was capable of anything. He turned on his satellite surveillance, looking for night guards. Looks like Luna wasn’t alone, because there were at least two dozen within the town limits, mostly waiting atop buildings and clouds. “What can I do for you?” Ravage asked, while they stood near the middle of the street.

“What do you think of my night?” she opened.

Ravage wasn’t prepared for that question. “The night is my ally. I thrive in it.” He answered honestly, though he found Luna’s assertion of ownership over a sky that rightfully should have shone over the human world – and only the human world – to be somewhat of a false claim.

Luna chuckled, maintaining a weak smile. “Yes, I noticed you seem to slip away in it rather easily.”

“Equestria is a big place,” he countered.

“Well, enough about that. I want to talk about us.” Her tone was worryingly demanding. “I wasn’t lying when I said I wanted to get to know you. While we may be sociable at parties like this one, I would really want to spend more ‘quality’ time with you.”

“And just what does this entail?” Ravage asked, cocking up an eyebrow suspiciously. Viewing the satellite data, he determined that the guards kept their distance.

“A date, Ravage.” Luna lidded her eyes.

Ravage knew what a date was. A date occurred when two or more ponies journeyed together for an evening or night so they could get to know each other better, but specifically so that they might know each other intimately. Bo and Micah indicated that they dated before the fell in love. Love, at least as he understood it, was another term that really bothered Ravage. Getting past all the slang, love meant affinity, like how little rocks in space have an affinity for a big asteroid. Ultimately, it meant a constant companion, but not just any companion. A loving companion knew everything about you, including your deepest secrets. Who, but ponies, would do that to themselves? Where’s the privacy? Ravage worked alone for much of his life, and he really, really liked his privacy.

Ravage shook his head, “I don’t think so.”

“Yes, you seem to like to be by yourself. Trust me, Ravage, there is more to life than being lonely. The privacy is not worth it.”

“And you came to this conclusion how?”

“Because I was trapped on the moon for a thousand years.”

Ravage could say a number of things, but he felt that all they would do is upset the Night Princess. “I have no words.” Ravage needed to worm his way out of this conversation. She wasn’t very smart, or at least didn’t appear to be. It shouldn’t be that difficult.

Luna’s features softened. “It’s alright, Ravage, but please, all I ask is one night from you. After that, you and you alone may decide if we should continue to see each other.”

“You’re persistent.” Ravage wondered how effective a matter-antimatter reaction would be on the Princess’ hide. Suddenly, his eyes lit up. He may have a solution! Luna’s eyes widened, readying herself to receive new information.

“First, you do you realize that you’re not the only mare that’s interested in me.” Ravage hated saying that, he really did. He didn’t want to believe the fiasco that was building up, but that was the torturous truth. He figured at least three mares had shown significant interest in him since he got here.

Luna laughed, giving way to a face on Ravage that was scrunched in confusion. She put her foreleg on her chest, to try to calm down. “My dear Ravage,” she burbled, trying to control a couple more chuckles, “I spied at least twelve mares leering at you this evening.” Ravage’s control over his features was exquisite. Although he felt oppositely, no shock appeared on his face. He wanted to give nothing away. “Especially that DJ!” Luna leaned in. “Better not stray too close, for she may not be able to control her pouncing instinct,” she said.

The Decepticon was pretty surprised at this. Why would there be a pouncing instinct in a herbivore?

“Ravage, date whoever you want to, just be sure to get a little naughty,” she said, somehow retaining her regal poise. Of course, the whole point of the party was to embrace naughtiness. “I only ask that at least one of those dates be with me.”

Ravage put a hoof to his chin, and pondered a dangerous plan. The mares would not leave him alone, especially after this night was finished. Eventually, one of them will follow him home, and that will be the end of his time in Equestria, and likely his life. He could rent a space in town, but he would still have to return to base often. That led to another useful notion: why was he even staying here? With zero contact from Cybertron, or Earth, he feared the worst for his comrades. What point was there to find out how magic worked? Who cares how it worked! Everyday, the proximity to these ponies elevated the risk to himself and this wayward mission. He needed to get away from them somehow. It was then that he remembered his cover story, and how actually living it out may be the only solution. But why stop there? Why retreat to rural Equestria when he could fly away to another world? Ravage loved this idea.

The first order of business was to control the association machine. He figured that if he dated Luna, and only Luna, the other mares would stop bothering him. The sheer force of her prominence should be enough to drive them off. Ravage felt that he may be able to engineer a date that would secure just that. Concurrently, in the time leading up to the date, he wouldn’t care if mares got close to him as this seemed to be allowed, but they would never request a date for fear of reprisal from Princess Luna. It would be like the matter-antimatter reaction: total annihilation! In addition, he could coast along as a temporary member of pony society. For a short interval – hopefully a couple of weeks – Ravage would make the preparations to leave this dangerous planet. Damn this mission to The Pit! There was no way to channel the ponies’ stupid magic into energon cubes. End of story!

“Okay Luna, you win. But we’ll do it my way. Okay?”

Luna squeed, tapping her front hooves together. It was most unbecoming of a Princess. “Oh thank you, Ravage! I promise I’ll show you sites you would not believe!”

“Actually, I’ll be paying.”

“We’ll see the – uh Wah!?” Luna’s face screwed up in disbelief.

“That’s right. I’ll afford what I can on my meager construction worker budget.” Ravage tried hard not to snicker, or do anything to let on that there was a master plan beneath all the posturing.

Luna was nonplussed. “Are you to say that we should date here? In Ponyville?”

“Sure, why not?”

Luna was searching for the words, “It’s just that,” her head shook back and forth, as if reading some invisible script, “There are so many fabulous places to see.”

“I like the rustic feel here. Don’t you?” Ravage held his hooves over his heart, as if his spirits were lifted up in admiration, “And it smells great.”

Now Luna’s face was absolutely contorted in puzzlement. “Uh, y-yeah – lovely cow smell,” she dead panned.

Ravage knew he was pushing it, acting all happy as he was, but it was so much fun! “Now, all we have to decide is when.” He put a hoof up to his chin again, slyly lidding his eyes, as if examining an object from afar.

“Huzzah! We could do this tomorrow!” Luna spoke excitedly, suddenly forgetting all the dubious details.

“Uh no, no. I was thinking the second Friday from now,” Ravage described. Luna’s mouth was agape. “Payday.”

Suddenly, Luna composed herself. She sighed and made a motion with her right front hoof, pushing her troubles away from her. Calm and composed once again, she answered, “Okay Ravage, it’s a date.” She then leaned in and hugged the Decepticon.

Ravage hugged back. Might as well keep up appearances, he thought. After the embrace, Ravage gestured toward the party. “Shall we go kiss some ponies?”

“After you,” Luna cheerfully replied, gesturing the same way.


=^.^=


Fluttershy and Winter descended from the roof level. Winter looked haggard with her mane twisted up in every direction, yet she glowed with satisfaction.

Rarity ran up to her friend. “Fluttershy, you have some mane out of place!” The butter coated pegasus tried to blow the wayward lock out of the way with a whoosh of breath, but it stubbornly remained hanging over her face. The dress maker whipped out a brush she had stashed nearby in case of emergency. Using her forelegs and the brush, Rarity managed to correct Fluttershy’s mane problem. During this, she noticed moisture was accreting on her foreleg. “Sweat?” the white unicorn asked. Fluttershy turned her head to the side, smiling and blushing.

“Pinkie Pie!”

“Yes!” The party mare yelped, as she quickly rushed up the stairs.

Pearl Bliss opened up another entrant. “And it looks like me! Back in ten minutes, friends.” The music returned to its previous volume and the party roared back to life.

The hostess cheerfully trotted upon the roof terrace, the green light reflecting off of her green mane and tail nicely. Strangely, Pinkie was nowhere to be seen.

“Hark! A mare in distress!”

Pearl Bliss was looking left and right, trying to zero in on what sounded like Pinkie Pie’s voice, which sounded surprisingly heroic for some reason.

“Fear not Pearl, for I, Mighty Mare, shall rescue you!”

Pearl found Pinkie. The zany pony was on the limb of a tree, holding onto a rope which was attached to points unknown. Somehow, she managed to change into a gaudy costume which had consisted of a yellow top, red cape, and a black mask for her eyes. “Here I come to save the day!” she sang out, swinging down the roof level and scooping up Pearl Bliss. Only having ‘flown’ a couple of body lengths more, Mighty Mare cradled Pearl safely in her forelegs.

The rescued mare giggled at the display, her cheeks blushing, bringing out her freckles. Holding her front hooves over her mouth, Pearl lidded her eyes, “Gosh, you’re cute.”

“She speaks in a southern accent!” demanded Mighty Mare.

“Oh! I mean – ‘Ah do declare, it is Mighty Mare!”

Pinkie just kept cradling her. In a rare moment of indecision, the party mare didn’t keep rolling along.

“And now that you’ve ‘saved’ me, whatcha gonna do with me?” the impressed white mare said, squirming a bit in Pinkie’s clutches. Pearl could swear she saw a bead of sweat form upon her would be rescuer’s brow. A grimace was slowly developing too, but that wasn’t a problem. The hostess knew what to do.

In a flash, Pearl reversed their positions and cradled Mighty Mare in her forelegs, causing the otherwise pink pony to squeak. “I want to thank you properly for saving me.” She leaned in and started kissing Pinkie Pie.

A few minutes later, the pair trotted back down, Pinkie still in her costume, sans the eye mask. Rainbow Dash and Twilight were looking at her with concern, for Pinkie was not as bouncy as she should have been. Before they could ask the fazed mare what the matter was, she pulled out her party cannon and set it off, sending confetti and streamers everywhere. The bang was so loud, Ravage was about to transform and go for his sidearm, but then saw it was just Pinkie being goofy again. She looked very relieved.

Covered in party paraphernalia, Rainbow and Twilight looked to their friend for some sort of clue. “Just wanted to get rid of some tension,” Pinkie said with a satisfied look on her face. “Back to the party!” she squeaked and then happily bounced away, humming as she did.

A few minutes later, Pearl pulled up another name. This time, the look on her face was truly evil in appearance. Vinyl turned down the music even more, and the guests were even quieter, anticipating the pony who could turn such a naughty expression on Pearl.

“rrrrrrRAVAGE!”

Ravage found out about a new body reaction that night: he gulped. He looked to the side and saw Luna looking at him through the corner of her eye, the side of her mouth turned up a bit. One of her metal shoes was supporting her chin. It was true that Luna hadn’t been picked yet, and that the number of possibilities had been wheedled down significantly.

Ravage caught on to what Luna was thinking, and possibly doing. Could she have altered the names inside the spheres? Her magical power was legendary, second only to Celestia’s. And that was it, Ravage felt defeated. He would have to kiss Princess Luna, the only mare he’d felt like drawing his weapons against. That was quite the sobering thought, because he would have to date her in less than two weeks!

“Flitter!”

Squeeing like a mad mare, Flitter ran about in circles before she flew up the stairs. Ravage actually smiled. He didn’t have to kiss Luna! The Princess of the Night, however, looked perplexed, as if something had gone wrong. Feh, alicorn nonsense, Ravage thought. His smile served him well, and the party guests cheered him on as he walked up the stairs.

He walked upon the terrace, into the green light. Flitter was anxiously waiting for him. She suddenly pounced, mashing her lips into his. Ravage felt as if she were trying to eat his face, especially with how Flitter’s teeth had gnashed into his lips a couple of times.

Flitter knew something was amiss when her tongue was pressing his immobile lips, and his face expressing surprise. “Is something wrong, Ravage?” The pegasus was very fearful that she’d done something to offend him. Then she had a thought. It seemed improbable, but she’d check anyways, “Ravage, have you kissed a mare before?”

Ravage lowered his head, looking at the ground. He knew there was no way he could hide the truth this time. “No, I’m afraid not.”

Flitter backed off a little. It just couldn’t be true, yet it explained so much! The amorous pegasus and her friends had come on to him many times that day, but he returned their advances by pretending like he had never even heard them. That actually seemed rude, but in fact it was because he didn’t know how to respond!

The concerned pegasus wanted to ask how Ravage could have possibly gotten himself in this predicament, but time was of the essence. She went directly for the root of the problem, “Would you like me to show you how?”

Ravage knew that ‘making-out’, a procedure that involved kissing, was a requirement. He feared that violating that rule would yield the same results as not even showing up at all. No good. “Okay, what do I do?”

Flitter smiled and giggled. She closed the distance between the two of them and wrapped her forelegs around his neck. “Grabbing your partner, like this, is better because you’ll get better contact.”

“For stability,” Ravage reasoned.

“Yes,” Flitter said, smiling. “You can still do small kisses without holding on, but making-out is more involved, as you will soon see,” she added foxily.

Ravage nodded.

“Okay, close your eyes and part your lips,” she ordered. Her partner complied. She grasped Ravage’s upper lip with hers, sliding on it like a rail as her head bobbed from side to side. “Upper lip.” She did the same thing with his lower lip, this time suckling it and tugging on, letting it snap out of her mouth with a ‘pop’. “That’s the lower lip. When one partner grabs one lip, the other partner grabs the other lip, and they kiss. Do you follow?”

“Yes.” Flitter’s soft lips had done more than just slide and suckle. They had set off electric sensations throughout is body, but there was more to it than that. This was not expected, and Ravage felt he needed to observe more. It was time for science!

Flitter leaned in slowly and took hold of Ravage’s upper lip, and Ravage, for the first time in his life, kissed as he took in her bottom lip. Like precision machine parts, their lips slid and suckled over each other. Flitter increased their intensity more quickly than Ravage could have predicted, accompanied with slurping, almost eating sounds, and increases in heart rate and respiration. Now he felt her tongue again, only this time his opened his jaw and allowed access. Flitter’s long pony tongue probed and slathered inside his mouth. Ravage responded, with his own tongue movement. The top and middle of her tongue was rougher than the rest.

Flitter wanted to shove more of her agile tongue into Ravage’s face, with her forelegs moving up to his neck and the base of his skull, forcing him toward her. She increased the intensity of her ministrations. Her breathing was deep, venting much of the volume of her lungs, like she’d been flying hard. The sweet smells Ravage had noticed came from different sources. Her breath smelled ‘minty’, and her tongue tasted sweet. Her coat had its own sweet scent, but it was being mixed with the scent of sweat. The pony bot had forgotten when the green light had gone out.

Just like that, Flitter pulled her face off of Ravage’s. She was maneuvering in the darkness, seemingly grabbing his torso in some manner. Before he knew it, he was thrown on his back, and the mare climbed on top. Such strength!

Flitter introduced different styles of kissing in rapid succession. First she plucked at Ravage’s lips, as well as his cheeks. Her mane draped over his face, introducing yet another sweet scent. The pegasus’ soft, thick mane buffeted his visage as she oscillated once again on his lips.

She pulled off with a pop again, and then moved on to the neck at his jaw line. Hungrily, she chewed and sucked at his neck. The effect was powerful, as Ravage let out a gasp – an involuntary reaction he had little control over! The silhouette of her body and fully extended wings blocked varying parts of the star field while she savagely ate into his neck muscle. He felt jets of hot breath exhale through her nostrils. The dark creature shifted and adjusted her weight as she devoured him. She would concentrate on a spot, almost certainly dealing tissue trauma, and then move onto the next area and destroy it. The gnashing of teeth on his neck did less damage than her suckling lips. Mercifully, she pulled her face off.

“Your turn. Put your legs on my neck,” she said, half out of breath. He complied. “Now, use your tongue. Don’t slobber, be subtle.”

Even under starlight, it was easy to determine that Flitter had turned her head to the side, exposing her neck. Interpreting her instructions, Ravage doled out his tongue, and used the tip of it to run down the side of Flitter’s neck. The effect was immediate, causing the pegasus to emit a high pitched sound. Slowly up and down her neck he went, always keeping his tongue-tip wet.

Those ears look interesting,’ he thought. Using his tongue, he probed the cartilage at the base of the ear.

Flitter practically screamed. “Ah!! Yes! Mmmm,” and other incoherent sounds were mumbled as the stallion bot explored her ear.

Deeming the venture successful, Ravage continued his work on the ear, moving to the inside, his tongue leading the way. Gently grabbing the tip with his teeth, he nibbled and sucked the ear tip until it came out with a pop. Then he nibbled, and sucked and gnashed the base of her ear. This got a violent spasming reaction, replete with moaning from Flitter.

“Yes! Just like that. Ah!!” Flitter was almost hyperventilating at this point, purposefully taking in more oxygen. Was she readying her body for a more physically demanding step that was to occur after making-out?

And then the red light came on.

“Nooooo- Indeed, Flitter was disappointed it had to end so quickly.

Ravage had observed that making-out was a naturally orchestrated mix of various kinds of kissing, combined with input from the other senses. He felt not only Flitter’s lips and tongue, but was also introduced to her many scents, her taste, her heat, her weight, her mane, and even her tail which swished against his back legs. What was particularly interesting was that there was virtually no input from his eyes. Could this have enhanced all the other senses?

The pair sauntered down the stairs. Flitter’s heavy blushing was met with approval from her friends, but a lot of ponies were giving concerned looks at Ravage’s neck.

“Whoah, Ravage,” Rainbow Dash started.

“You got – ravaged!” Twilight finished. She tried to turn her head away from the train wreck, but her eyes stayed glued to it.

“Princess Luna!” Pearl Bliss cried out.

The crowd cheered for their favorite princess. Nodding and smiling, Luna put a hoof up to ease the supportive ponies so Pearl could name her partner in mouth pressing.

Ravage felt his neck with a hoof. It really stung!

“Cloudchaser!”

The named mare put her hooves to her face and, like Flitter, and squeed with excitement. She couldn’t have Ravage, but Princess Luna more than made up for it. Maintaining her composure, she followed Luna up to the roof.

“Wow, Flitter and Cloudchaser really scored tonight!” Pinkie Pie observed, just before engulfing a stack of sweets in one bite.

Fluttershy approached Ravage with a medical bag in her teeth. She put it down to speak. “Please follow me, Ravage.”

The Decepticon stallion knew well what the red cross meant, and fully agreeing with Fluttershy’s intentions, followed her into the bathroom.

The mirror showed bleeding and bruises had formed in the wake of Flitter’s trail of destruction. In her zeal to enjoy him, she had bitten him at least twice. The suckling of her lips had produced very low, localized pressure causing the capillaries under his skin to rupture, forming bruises. Though is coat was a fairly dark colour, the bruising was still easily detectable, and constituted his first injury as a pony.

Fluttershy cleaned the mess with rubbing alcohol, causing Ravage to gasp involuntarily once again. After applying a couple of bandages, she rubbed each bruise with a metal spoon.

“Thank you,” Ravage said. His neck felt better, though he was foggy as to why Fluttershy chose to go out of her way to help him. Her element was kindness. So far, the best definition Ravage had for kindness was that it occurred when free labour was dispensed at random. What Fluttershy was doing certainly fit the definition, but he was still careful to follow pony communication protocols. In this case, he needed to verify that he appreciated her free labour by saying ‘thank you’.

Fluttershy finished packing her medical kit. She then spoke, “Ravage?”

“Yes?”

She was blushing, wearing a silly grin. “Well, if it’s alright with you,” Fluttershy began, but then she paused, pawing at the floor with her hoof. Ravage looked at her more closely, waiting for her to finish. “If you don’t mind, would you like to come over to my house for tea sometime?”

A loud knock sounded at the door. “Is anypony in there? We’re about to use the room.” Each of the three bedrooms in the lunar home had an en suite, in keeping practice with maximizing cleanliness. The en suites also served well the purpose of what the partying ponies were about to do with it.

Ravage and Fluttershy quickly exited the bedroom. Ravage noticed her looking at him, before he realized he hadn’t responded. He noted how Rarity’s breakfast was delicious, and how decent the lunch with all six Elements of Harmony turned out. He also noted that his time among Bo, Micah, Bright Rock, and the other construction workers had introduced him to the wonderful substance known as coffee. Perhaps tea at Fluttershy’s would also be pleasant. “Tea, you say?”

“Oh yes!” she gushed. “I have green tea, black tea, Earl grey. I’m sure you’ll love it.” The normally shy pegasus looked cool and collected.

This was an easy sell, since Ravage had warmed up to the Elements of Harmony. “Okay. When?”

“Tomorrow evening works for me,” she replied. “After you’re done hoofball?”

“Okay, but you’ll have to fetch me. I don’t know where you live.”

“Okay,” Fluttershy said sweetly. She up and hugged Ravage tightly.

Princess Luna and Cloud Chaser had just returned from the roof level, with the latter looking especially happy. The Princess made her way over to Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash.

“Have you gone yet, Twilight?” Luna asked. “We seem to be over halfway through those lottery balls.”

“No.” The nervous unicorn answered. “No, not yet.”

“Don’t sweat it, Twi. It’ll be fine,” Rainbow said, trying to comfort her friend.

“Rainbow Dash!” Pearl Bliss called out.

“Ah man, I haven’t gone yet, either!” the surprised pegasus realized.

“Don’t sweat it, Rainbow Dash,” Luna offered, smirking.

“Oh wait, here comes your partner, Rainbow,” Twilight teased, ‘elbowing’ her friend’s chest in jest.

“Twilight Sparkle!”

Both wordlessly looked at each other, and then at Luna, who only smiled back at them. With nothing more to do or say, they went up to the roof.

Rainbow Dash was smiling goofily at Twilight. “Well, this is awkward,” she said, nervously rubbing the back of her head. Twilight was blushing, looking away from her friend. “It’s alright, Twi. I’ll go easy on ya. It’s not even ten minutes.”

Twilight Sparkle faced Rainbow sheepishly. “Rainbow Dash,” she bleated, her ears pinned back. “I – uh, really don’t mind kissing you.” A toothy smile that Pinkie would be proud of followed her words.

It dawned on Rainbow what the librarian was getting at, shrinking her pupils to specks in the process. She shook off the fear and trepidation. “We can talk about that after, Twi. Let’s get to it.”

“Okay,” the studious pony said. “Just give me a few seconds.” With a flash of her magic, new appendages appeared out of the ether, and attached to the sides of her body.

“Your w – w – wings!” Rainbow loved Twilight’s wings. They were gorgeous, angelic structures, befitting of her status, and looked very similar to Princess Luna’s. The neophyte Princess was not well established, as finding her lands and responsibilities to govern took time. Twilight woke up one morning a unicorn, and came home an alicorn. Beautiful as they were, her wings were ungainly. Learning to fly as an adult had proven extremely difficult, not to mention they interfered with her sleeping positions. They were also a drain on her magical reserves, so being a new Princess, she brought them out sparingly until her magical power and flying skill increased enough so she could use them properly. Needless to say, she liked her relationship with Ponyville and therefore managed to train the inhabitants not to bow, or call her anything but Twilight.

With a sultry look, she inched her way closer to Rainbow Dash. “You don’t have to go easy on me, Rainbow,” she cooed, slowly shaking her head from side to side, always keeping her eyes on the prize. The alarmed pegasus had no words, and only watched Twilight get closer. The Princess ran the tips of her primaries against Rainbow Dash’s cheeks, nearly causing her to swoon. Nearly. Rainbow Dash was much too cool to swoon. Twilight anchored herself to her friend bringing forelegs around shoulders, her lips approaching the pegasus flier. “Ready?”

“Y- yeah,” Rainbow Dash stuttered. The green light went out. The soft, moist lips of Twilight Sparkle could be felt plucking her own. They would suckle and shift back and forth, with increasing intensity, eventually gorging themselves on the pegasus’ face. She felt Twilight’s wings folded around them both, as they were that large. Their dance continued this way until the red light came on.

A few minutes later, the two Elements descended the stairs, blushing and grimacing all at once.

This went on for the rest of the evening and into the night, with many ponies getting paired up. Applejack was starting to grow hopeful that Pearl Bliss was showing her mercy, that is, until the last two of the bright yellow spheres were removed from the drum. A drunken mare beside her was making a racket when the hostess called the first name. It was hard to see, but Applejack noticed a grey coated, blonde-maned pegasus flit up the stairs. Derpy? she thought. The exacerbated farmer was pretty sure she never saw Derpy at the party.

The last sphere was held aloft by Pearl Bliss, who took the opportunity to look directly at Applejack. The unicorn really had to work hard to turn off her naughty look, not wanting to upset her timid guest. She opened up the container. “Guess who?”

“Guess Who’s up? Ah, shucks, it looks like you lost m’ah name,” Applejack nervously countered.

“In the case of an odd number of ponies, the last one picked goes up with me. In this case we have an even number of ponies. Your partner is waiting for you, Applejack.”

The music was low and all eyes were on Applejack. Not wanting to upset anypony, she made her way to the stairs. She figured that if it really was Derpy, she’d just tie one of her shoes to her tail and lead her around, with Derpy trying to pounce the shoe like a cat. Time would be wasted, and Applejack would only give a peck on the cheek, since that would be all the time she had for.

The scheming mare walked upon the terrace, seeing a grey pegasus there. Her blonde mane seemed a shade darker than expected, and she wasn’t completely grey. Her coat had a hint of lavender in it. Her cutie mark was not an array of bubbles, but instead was composed of clouds partially blocking the sun. It was at this point that Applejack lost hope for squirming her way out of ‘making-out’ duty.

Her partner turned around, facing the farmer. She was very pretty, with her blonde locks conforming to a beautiful wave of mane. Her body was wiry, much like Rainbow Dash’s. “Hi,” she confidently spoke, advancing toward Applejack.

“Uh, howdy.” Applejack had no idea what to do.

“Looks like my luck hasn’t turned bad. You’re one of the prettiest mares I’ve seen in quite a while,” she said sincerely. “I’m Cloud Kicker.” She extended a hoof.

“Applejack.” She hoof bumped with the pegasus.

“I know who you are. I just want to thank you for keeping the peace in our little corner of the world.” She advanced closer, getting inside Applejack’s personal bubble.

Applejack gulped, “Yer welcome.” Beads of sweat started appearing on her forehead.

The light went out, and Cloud Kicker wrapped her forelegs around Applejack. She kissed her upper lip. “Don’t worry, I don’t bite – much.” She giggled, before carefully kissing the nervous earth pony.

Meanwhile, Ravage had escaped through the back door. Weaving through a couple of yards, he made his way to another street, completely devoid of ponies. The Decepticon was on high alert, and knowing that Luna’s minions were lurking, he activated his satellite display.

The guards were a lot more mobile this time and started to concentrate on the west side of town. Interesting, Ravage thought, so he proceeded east. Luna was really getting on his nerves. He can’t go home now! Unless he somehow finds water without them seeing him, he had no other plan of escape. Also, he really didn’t want to rely on putting his systems through that murky water too much.

Alert: Enemy squadron mobilizing.

Ravage walked north up a straight-away, getting farther from his base, but closer to water. He went over the terrain through daytime overhead photos. Their heat signatures indicated that they were flying away from the moon, heading north like he was. Their trajectory hinted at a fly-by, just observing, but then two of them came his way, assuming an intercept course. The last time that happened, his lack of knowledge of pony society eventually led him to that horrid party. He will not let that happen again.

He considered his options quickly. See what the guards want, or run and hide. They may just tell him to get inside, but since he was certain that Luna had a hoof in this, they could only have wanted one thing: detainment. He could fight them and win, but how could he do that without killing them? Again, without sufficient data known about this cursed land, Ravage resolved to hear them out.

Landing directly in front of him so he couldn’t press forward, just like Flitter and Cloud Chaser, one of them spoke, “Princess Luna demands that you return to the party,” the stallion spoke.

“Strange, I did not hear this request,” Ravage prodded.

“Command!” the mare belted out.

“Am I a prisoner?”

“No, but you soon will be.” She was getting irritated. In fact, both guards were.

“Prisoner or free pony, what difference does it make if Luna can make demands of me without supplying good reason?” Decepticons wouldn’t have even made small talk. Still, Ravage had a pretty good idea of how strong these ponies were – and he was much stronger.

Without warning, the bat ponies took off, grabbing Ravage’s front legs in the process. Ravage was expecting this, though he had not yet experienced the plight of being abducted by bat ponies and flying backwards. He swung up using his rear legs, and combining with the strength of his forelegs, forced two flying ponies together, preventing their wings from gaining any more altitude.

“You fool!” the stallion spoke as they started plummeting toward the street. “Release us or we’ll all crash!” he demanded even though they were only about three stories up.

“That’s the idea,” Ravage said in a creepy cheerful voice. Whatever balance he had from being a panther, he retained being a pony, as he managed to swing the guard ponies downward before colliding with the surface, causing all three to bounce and roll like a spilled drink. Having made sure to position his hooves under their rib cages before the impacted, Ravage forced out their precious air along with their consciousness.

Satellite imagery indicated that the other guards were turned around and headed his way. He noticed that the male guard was about his size with a dark blue coat, which was odd since the night guards seemed uniformly coloured. Then he noticed that his helmet had been knocked off. More than that, he was actually a pegasus.

Testing a hypothesis, Ravage put on the downed stallion’s helmet, and was amazed to see that his own fur had turned grey!

Thinking fast, the Decepticon removed the armor and heaved the stallion pursuer’s unconscious body over a hedge. He equipped himself with the metal shoes, chest plate, and the rest of the armor, and sat over the mare, checking her life signs, just in time for eight guards to show up. The unlucky stallion guard had spoken to Ravage before they tried to apprehend him, and that meant it was time to use Soundwave’s voice replication module! Oh, this was going to be delicious.

“Sir is she alright?” one of them ventured.

Ravage faced them directly, looking stern. He wanted to draw attention away from his body, which had neither pegasus wings, nor bat wings. “She’s going to be fine,” Ravage replied in a very close approximation of the stallion guard’s voice. It was about 95% accurate, since at least an hour of speech was needed to make it indistinguishable, but it seemed to work. “Take care of her injuries,” he ordered, pointing to the downed mare. “Ravage fled eastward. Go!”

“Yes sir!” the apparently subordinate stallion replied. A couple of them gave Ravage looks before they took off to the sky. They’d figure out what went wrong sooner than later, but Ravage was now on the west side of Ponyville, and close to the trail to his base. He galloped quickly out of town, and out of sight, heading into thick tree cover. The guard’s gear was discarded and buried under a pile of leaves and deadwood. Ravage feared that these magical items might be traced.

Having emerged on the proper trail he kept to the shadows. Using his satellite array to warn him of danger, Ravage proceeded homeward. With luck, Luna didn’t evade the satellites.

All he wanted to do was buy a hay shake, and get groceries. It turned out that these simple tasks could not be done without massive interference. Even after he had completed those tasks, some six hours later, he was forced, mostly on threat of upsetting Luna, to go to that party and press mouths with that infernal pegasus mare! And then, even after he had done his duty, Luna still would not let him go home! Thanks to his combat experience and superior technology, Ravage managed to get away from the night guards, but that was not going to last.

He feared that he was going to have it out with Luna, one way or the other.

Chapter 5: That Fluttery Feeling

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Chapter 5: That Fluttery Feeling



Ravage slunk into his base just after midnight, and transformed into robot mode. As far as he was concerned it was twelve days to D-Day. As much as he enjoyed the pleasure of sleeping he needed to fast track his plans. As such, he remained in robot mode while his tissue slept.

He tried contacting Cybertron yet again, and got the same unremarkable results. He tried contacting Earth, and got nothing. He tried transmitting from every satellite at his disposal, both within and outside of the planet's magnetic field, even the galactic satellite that was approaching Cybertron. Still, he got nothing. Lowering his head in hopelessness, he did the only other thing he could.

“Ravage to Autobot headquarters. Ravage to Autobot headquarters. Come in Optimus Prime!” Using a frequency thought until then to be secret, Ravage attempted to contact the Autobots in their volcano base on Earth. Even though he expected a reply to the tune of ‘The Decepticons are defeated, turn yourself in’ it would still be closure. It would also set into motion a whole new set of plans, mostly locating Megatron and the other Decepticons, reviving them, and avenging themselves.

But that didn’t happen. Ravage used every frequency he could think of, even those that could contact individual Autobots, like Jazz, and Red Alert. He tried to contact individual Decepticons, and got no reply. It was then he noticed how similar Transformer naming conventions were to ponies, but then quickly buried that thought.

“Ravage to Moon base 1.”

“Ravage to Moon base 2.”

“Ravage to Thundercracker.”

“Ravage to Perceptor.”

Nothing worked. Twelve days to the date with Luna, and his people are dealing with some sort of galaxy spanning affliction. What happened? A familiar feeling started to seep into his circuits. It was a good thing he was in robot mode.

An overwhelming sense of dread was setting in. Ravage was without his community, without his people. Even his enemies were silenced. He could leave this world, but where would he go? Could a nearby planet that had conditions where his pony body could thrive be the answer? It would keep him safely away from the Equestrians and their powerful Princesses, but what would he do? Even if he brought the main satellite with him, he would eventually run into a problem that would require the skills of the Constructicons, or Starscream. What then? Having stolen a copy of all of Starscream’s research, among other things, Ravage could refer to it, but it would be slow going. He was thankful that he was trained in the finer points of keeping his own body maintained, in case he was out for years.

Ravage shook his head. A date with Luna had high odds of ending in death, either during, or soon after the outing. Ironically, she was like a Decepticon and he felt he knew her type. Exile was the only solution. Not wanting to overload the other satellite he already sent out and risk interfering with the assessment of Cybertron’s status, he reprogrammed one of the minor satellites to exit Celestia-1’s magnetic field. It was to survey the surrounding star systems for the next three days, searching for an appropriate planet Ravage could live on. He had a hunch that the true star field would be revealed as soon as it exited the magnetic field so he started the survey as soon as the device was mobilized. Not surprisingly, he found the planet Saturn within minutes.

He couldn’t help noticing that the ponies had hydroelectric power too, even though he hadn’t spotted a single transmission line. If he was to exile himself, he would have to fully fuel his ship with energon first. Visiting the hydro station, which was conveniently located near Ponyville, would be a priority.

Personally, Ravage liked being detached from dependency on energon, with his small nuclear reactors and food intake providing enough fuel and power for all of his needs. If he were to live on another world, while wanting to maintain his pony body, he would have to grow his own food, and it would have to be nutritious, never mind how much he would have to stock for the journey there and the transition time involved. Also, the very soil that food plants are grown in has to be of correct composition, and there was no way he could haul soil across the stars. Further than that, Ravage learned that the earth ponies used specialized magic and experience to grow their food. The Decepticon had neither. If push came to shove he felt that he could grow his own food hydroponically, like Starscream did. He could grow other products too (like coffee beans), but the gulf between what he could do alone and what an entire civilization could provide could not be traversed. Was he to tend cows too? There was no way to get the hay shakes and ice cream without them. In fact, it felt completely absurd, thinking along those lines. A Decepticon growing food?

Regardless, he believed that his comrades were missing out. It was then that he had another epiphany: there were definitely things he liked about this world. If it wasn’t for this mission, Ravage would have never enjoyed bathing! That little thought really got to him. Soaking in the hot, soapy tub water alone made his pony form worth having. Just having energon and keeping up with maintenance were his total life requirements before accepting the mission and disguising himself as a pony.

If Ravage found another oxygen rich world to live in, and he knew he would as it was just a matter of time, he would do well to build an orbital solar power plant, sending energy to the surface by means of a microwave beam. Endless energon! Normally, this would be a boon, but it wouldn’t help his pony form. Again, if he were to sustain himself as a pony he knew life would still be only a shadow of what an entire society had to offer.

“Society,” he said aloud. In that word were more secrets and epiphanies, just waiting to be unlocked. Deciding that this line of thinking was becoming dangerous, Ravage powered down his transmitter, set the alarm, turned off the lights, transformed into pony mode, and immediately fell into sweet sleep.


=^.^=


Ravage opened his eyes, and felt that something was off. He was lying on grass, though he couldn’t feel its texture for some reason. It was dark out. He then noticed six-petaled flowers that resembled lilies occupying the ground space. They gave off an eerie glow. Even though it was night, rainbows fell from the sky. Ravage’s thinking was different. He simply accepted everything around him! He tried to speak, but he could not. It was bizarre.

A silver-shoed hoof snaked around his torso. It was attached to a dark foreleg, though he didn’t care to notice the colour. It was then that he felt that something was on his back – it was warm, like something between a sandbag and a blanket for it was also very heavy.

‘Not so lucid now, are you,’ a female voice spoke. ‘You left before you could enjoy the fun part last night! But that’s okay, I just told all those mares that you had important business the next morning.’ Helplessly listless in this strange world, Ravage didn’t make any connections from what he was seeing. He didn’t know or care about who was speaking to him either. He did feel a kiss on his ear; even in this state he knew what that was. ‘That was really clever work, what you did to the guards. I’m impressed! It made me want you all the more,’ she giggled. Suddenly, reality started kicking in.

Error Port 34,296: Unauthorized Access

Activating Awakening Sequence

Just like that, Ravage awoke. He saw the tiny running lights twinkling inside his darkened ship. His clock indicated that it was half past five in the morning. “So, Luna likes to go into my dreams, eh?” he said almost drunkenly. More obvious words could not have been spoken. He decided to settle down and let sleep take him back.


=^.^=


Without being disturbed by Luna again, Ravage slept until his alarm awoke him at eight o’ clock. The realization that he really was disturbed by Luna came suddenly. “Did she just…” The Decepticon was at a loss for words. That was definitely Luna, taking advantage of his unconscious state. Whether awake or asleep she kept entering his mind like it was her playground! He decided to take steps to avoid getting bothered by her again.

Anger was subdued by hunger, and Ravage prepared breakfast. His new style of breakfast included his pony meal, as well as strawberries, apples, and orange juice. He enjoyed all of it thoroughly, and was grateful for Cloud Chaser and her friends’ help in acquiring it.

Incoming System Report: The Moon

Ravage routed the report to the big screen, just as he had done the day before. Information on the moon was on display from the missile he sacrificed to get it. Various unremarkable ores, large diameter, he read in thought. It was when he read the gravitational acceleration of the moon that he did a spit-take, covering the wall and part of the monitor in coffee. “Next item on the list: paper towels!” he griped, and then used some of the packing material to clean the mess. He read the line of information again, and it had not changed. Sometimes, I hate it when I’m right.

Gravity: 152x Cybertron standard.

“So, the sun and moon are not only equidistant, but also have approximately the same gravitational influence,” he said aloud. He checked the acceleration plot the missile created before impact. It was reading right.

That explained the gargantuan planetary magnetic field. “Two powerful sources of gravity must be pulling the planet's core like putty,” he exaggerated. In fact, he reasoned that the planet shouldn’t exist at all, or at least be pock marked with volcanoes. And yet, the surface seemed peaceful, with occasional volcanic activity, like Earth.

Ravage went over the facts. “Okay, we have a compass that points to the nearest unicorn instead of magnetic north, a planet with a star-sized magnetic field, and for all the gravitational competition the planet’s surface remains completely intact. I wonder what the tides must be like.” There was no doubt in Ravage’s mind that magic and electromagnetism were related, even if it was impossible to detect magic.

The very existence of the star and moon seemed impossible as well, with the star – and a yellow star at that – being the size of a small gas giant, and the moon having a gravitational influence far exceeding that of even the largest gas giant. Ravage doubted that the moon was hiding a black hole, or even a neutron star, whose radiation would make life in this system impossible. Both objects would surely devour the moon that was hiding it as well. So what begets gravity? Mass. Where was all their mass coming from? Ravage’s expression froze, if only temporarily, in a state of horror as he deduced a possible explanation.

Black matter.

It was called non-baryonic, or ‘dark matter’ by the humans, but it was the same material. Black matter had no electromagnetic influence, at least any that was significant, but it does have mass and is influenced by gravity. It was difficult to detect.

The Decepticon space bridge had black matter components, but it was very energetically expensive to acquire. In fact that’s probably why the Autobots never attempted to build space bridges.

Were the ponies somehow controlling the distribution of black matter in the Celestia system? A Jupiter sized gas giant, under the influence of sufficient dark matter could have its diameter shrunken down all the while being forced into nuclear ignition giving the yellow sun that bathes Celestia-1 in energy. By the same logic a planetary or lunar body could be forced to have many times its normal gravity. The question then became why? Why were the ponies doing this? Why couldn’t they live on normal life-stable planets that actually orbit their parent stars properly?


=^.^=


At around quarter to ten in the morning, Ravage showed up at Sweet Apple Acres. On his approach, he could see Rainbow Dash zipping to and fro leaving her tell-tale rainbow ribbons behind her. Aster and Applejack were on one of the fields south and west of the main barn, and like so many ponies at play, they were kicking around a sphere, specialized for the sport they were about to do. In this case, it was hoofball. From what Ravage heard of hoofball it was a high impact, high energy sport. Perhaps it was harder to do than volleyball?

“Heads up, Ravage!” came shout that sounded like Applejack’s voice. A large, white ball bounced in his direction, with great speed. He simply caught it.

“Smash it to me!” Aster had taken off and positioned herself in what she thought would be the assumed trajectory of Ravage’s ‘smash’.

The infiltrating Decepticon pony bounced the ball off of his left foreleg. It would have been a superb serve in volleyball.

Aster held her position in space, stunned. “What the buck was that?” In just a couple of seconds she started laughing.

“Bwa hahahaha…” Rainbow Dash guffawed and literally fell from the sky, bouncing off the ground in hard laughter.

Applejack wasn’t laughing. She knew that Ravage didn’t know anything about hoofball, he told them so! “Put a sock in it, Aster!” Aster quickly regained composure while the earth mare rushed up to the cackling Wonderbolt. She mumbled some choice words before whacking Dash in the head with her hat.

“Ow! Hey, what gives?” Rainbow rubbed her stinging ear with a hoof.

“We were gonna show Ravage how to play hoofball, if y’all recall. Aster, you do remember our conversation two days ago?”

“Yes, Applejack. Yes, I do.”

“I gotcha, AJ.” Rainbow wanted to play hoofball with Ravage, so she tried to get Applejack to cut to the chase.

“Okay, Ravage, you see them goal posts.” Applejack pointed to a couple of white, square brackets sticking out of the field.

“Yes.”

“Well, the object of the game is to get your ball inside of the opposing team’s goal. You see them boundaries?” This time Applejack pointed to the crudely drawn white lines.

“Yes. The ball’s trajectory must not venture outside them. Correct?” It was about this time that Ravage noticed the similarities in sports, like how rectangles were used to form a grid to limit the ball’s travel.

“That is one-hundred percent correct,” Applejack acknowledged with a nod. “Now, you gotta coordinate your movement with your team to move the ball down the field. You can’t purposely touch any opposing players. That’s a foul. You follow so far?”

“Yes, I think I’ve got that.” Like volleyball, the rules in hoofball were simple.

“Okay, you can use any part of the body to propel the ball,” Applejack explained. “BUT, it is typical for the front hooves to pass the ball forward, while the rear hooves are used for striking, that is, shots on goal, or to move the ball down the field. Ya get all that?” The would-be farmer-coach looked up at Ravage for acknowledgement.

“It doesn’t sound too difficult.” Ravage knew that eye-hoof coordination would decide the game so, “As long as I get some training time.” He knew enough to avoid starting a new game without at least practicing first, learning from the previous day’s volleyball experiences.

Train they did. They started with passing maneuvers, which surprisingly, involved all four legs. Ravage’s cat-like reflexes made it a delight to watch him, even though he had never done this before. Soon, it was time for a test strike.

Aster, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash all had mind-bogglingly powerful kicks, causing the ball to soar each time. Fortunately, Dash’s speedy recovery of the ball pretty much eliminated wait times. Naturally, they argued over whose kick was the strongest although Applejack was consistently solid. Finally, they let Ravage have the ball.

Using maximum firepower, Ravage drilled the ball into an astounding arc. Once again, his Decepticon hydraulics made him a clear winner where leg strength was concerned. The other ponies were slack-jawed.

“Did he just – kick the ball into the next town?” Aster queried. Of course, the stallion bot only kicked the ball farther than his pony counterparts, but Aster’s words were also intended to compliment.

“Ah’ told ya he’d be good at it!” Applejack said proudly.

“Well then let’s start a game!” Rainbow suggested.

Aster was expecting Rainbow Dash to go that route, but she never really believed anything more than practice would be occurring. “Not much of a game with only four players. We can only really practice.”

“Need some players?” asked a familiar voice.

Ravage turned around and saw that Cloudchaser and her squadron were approaching the hoofball field.

Everypony except Aster was involved in the salacious offerings of making-out to Princess Luna. It was in the back of their heads and it showed. The big mare felt she really missed out, but she was just visiting from out of town. She would make a point of keeping in touch with Pearl Bliss.

Ravage looked at Flitter, and saw a completely different mare than the one that tried to eat him last night. She seemed so tranquil, serene. It was hard to believe. Reluctantly, Ravage decided to approve of this, as it was a very Decepticon thing to hide your true motives. Behind the luscious, pristine mane, shiny coat, big wanting eyes, and jovial pink bow lay the heart of predator. Her disguise was superb!

“We couldn’t help but notice a perfectly good hoofball field, and four savvy looking ponies practicing the game,” Cloudchaser began.

Applejack thought she knew the who’s who of hoofball players in Ponyville. It looks like she missed some. “Don’t tell me you five play hoofball?”

‘Not so much’, and ‘Every now and then’ were the summary responses. “I do,” was what Saffron answered.

“It’s perfect, we’ve got four pegasi,” Cloudchaser pointed out.

“And only nine players,” Applejack thought aloud, warming up to the idea. She looked around, trying to complete the team compliment. “Just give me a minute,” she said quickly as she bolted in the direction of Big Macintosh, who was lying against the trunk of a tree, taking in the morning breeze.

Cloudchaser wanted to launch the conversation’s topic before anypony else, and did that just as Applejack was galloping away. “Did everybody enjoy themselves last night?” She smiled cordially.

“No,” answered a disappointed Aster.

“You can come to the next one,” Pearl said, “If I had known you’d like it, or even that you existed, I would have definitely invited you. What’s your name?” Aster was quickly introduced.

Winter sauntered up to Rainbow Dash. “So,” she began, noticing Dash’s immediate blush. “How was our fair Princess?”

“That’s a little private, ya know,” the annoyed pegasus replied.

“We’ve never partied with the Princesses before! C’mon, just a little hint?” Winter pressed.

“She was astonishing,” Cloudchaser replied matter-of-factually. That pretty much ended Winter’s prying, as all knew that 'chaser was paired with the illustrious Princess Luna.

“Twilight’s still Twilight,” Rainbow pointed out, then wishing she hadn’t as Winter’s face lit up, ready for round two of her annoying prodding. Fortunately, Applejack and Big Macintosh cantered up, completing a roster of ten players for hoofball.

Winter managed to control the urge to comment that the population of sexy stallions was rising.

“’Ah feel that the stallions should be the team captains,” Applejack suggested. “Just remember it’s two pegasi to a team.” A round of nods indicated quick acceptance, except for Ravage, who looked to be at a loss. “Okay, we just gotta decide who gets first pick.” Applejack flipped a bit in the air, “Call it, Big Mac.”

“Sun.”

“Aaaand my brother chooses first.”

They’re related? Ravage realized. It appeared that proximity to the orchard meant residence, as he had seen the big red stallion patrolling the area many times.

“Saffron.” Big Mac spoke plainly, using no more words than necessary. The excited unicorn practically galloped to the red stallion’s side.

This puzzled Ravage, because unicorns were observed to be inherently weak. When he noticed all the ponies looking at him, he felt he needed to play along. “Rainbow Dash,” he spoke.

“Aw yeah! This stallion knows his players,” she boasted, and flew to his side, giving him a nudge. Ravage had seen Rainbow Dash in action. She was an easy choice.

“You realize that I have absolutely no experience with this game, yes?” the Decepticon countered.

Rainbow laughed, “With me on your side, you won’t have to worry.” She seemed to brim with confidence. It still bothered Ravage that Big Macintosh chose a nameless unicorn over the one who could achieve supersonic flight.

“Applejack.”

The farm mare casually trotted up to her brother, nearly snickering. “Well, ‘ah was wondering if y’all wanted to wager who was gonna win this, but I’d advise against it.”

“Flitter.” Ravage knew well of her inner fire. With luck she would turn out to be a good hoofball player. The pegasus squeed once again at having been chosen to partner up with Ravage, and dove to his side.

Rainbow Dash’s smirk lost some of its luster. “Well, uh – I’m glad you like pegasi.” Little droplets of sweat appeared on her forehead.

“What was your wager, Dash? Ten bits?” Applejack was trying to goad her friend into giving up some of her money.

Cloudchaser and Aster walked over to Big Macintosh’s side as the girls would automatically be the other pegasi for the team. Aster was a good hoofball player, but her companions just didn’t know it yet. By default, Pearl Bliss and Winter joined Ravage’s team.

The Decepticon reran the rules in his head, taken aback at how the last players suddenly knew where they were going.

“Pick your goalie. We’ll kick to you first,” Big Macintosh suggested, sensing that he had a superior force.

“A goalie?” Ravage asked. Rainbow Dash continued to look really nervous. Ravage looked to the other members, whom appeared to be more than supportive. “All I know is that we have to get the ball into their goal, and presumably, block them from forcing it into ours.”

“A goalie tries to prevent the ball from being – snicker – ‘forced’ into the net, Ravage.” Pearl didn’t mind the stacked odds. It was all in good fun anyways. “I’ll do it.” The white mare smiled, hoping that her teammates wouldn’t take the game too seriously.

Rainbow Dash hovered in a position where everypony could see her. “Okay, if we’re gonna win this, we gotta fight hard,” she pontificated.

“We’ll do our best, Rainbow, just keep cool,” Pearl said.

Ravage noticed Rainbow looking at him, her face needful and exacerbated. “Don’t look at me. I got elected without any input,” he said, trying to address what his teammate might have been thinking.

Soon, the ball was ‘hoofed’, and the game started. As soon as it landed in Ravage’s territory the opposing team went after it with fervor. Rainbow Dash got to it first, and back-passed it to Winter, who it seemed, had surprising ground speed for a unicorn. Without any ground teammates to pass it to, she tried to drive forward.

Ravage woke up. He had stood there watching what turned out to be a fast game, but realized that his team needed him really badly! Surging forward, and keeping the objectives in mind, he tried to support Winter. A difficult, long pass to the Decepticon was intercepted by Applejack.

Suddenly defense was needed! Applejack wasted little time moving the ball on the ground as she kicked it up to Aster who immediately deflected it to Saffron. While dodging Flitter, who was trying to defend on the ground, she struck the ball just out of hoof-reach of Pearl, just catching the top corner of the net. Goal!

Ravage, huffing from all the exertion, tried to piece together what happened in the last twenty seconds. The speed of their attack was admirable.

“Did you get any sleep, Ravage?” Rainbow asked. “I mean, I can understand those girls may have kept you up for a bit, but geez!”

“This game is faster than I imagined,” was his only reply.

Winter trotted up. “It doesn’t help that Saffron’s a sniper,” she said. “Okay, if we’re all done sleeping, shall we play some hoofball?”

“I couldn’t agree more.” Rainbow was glad she wasn’t the only one thinking about Ravage’s lack of attention.

“They’re about to hoof the ball. Prepare to strike!” Ravage commanded, speaking in a way that Megatron would. His team took up positions as the ball was kicked. This time they would have to face Ravage!

Once again, Rainbow Dash met the ball first, but the kick was closer to the center line. She tried to get a pass off to Winter, but her vision was purposefully blocked by Aster’s gigantic wingspan. Temporarily alone, Applejack caught up to the ball, and started to move it down field.

“Oh no you don’t!” Ravage turned around and sprinted at maximum speed, catching up with Applejack. As she was about to pass to one of her pegasi, he dove forward, nicking the ball with his hooves, and sending it on an unknown trajectory.

Winter tried to reach the wayward ball, but Saffron got to it first. She was fairly far from Pearl in the net and had to contend with both Rainbow Dash, and Flitter running in front of her. A sneaky back-pass to Applejack took place as the farmer avoided both pegasi, driving straight for the net. Just as Applejack was about to take a shot, her hooves connected with the ball and Ravage’s hooves at the same time, sending the hoofball on yet another unknown course, straight up into the air.

Flitter got to the ball and hammered it to Winter, who deflected it into the trajectory of none other than Rainbow Dash. Since there were no friendlies on the opposing field, she took the long shot. Big Mac caught it easily, and simply waited for his teammates to compose themselves.

Ravage couldn’t believe the energy expenditure! He was amazed at the speed and skill too. Applejack trotted by him, “Nice D, partner.”

Ravage smiled, but it was not so much at Applejack’s compliment. The whole situation reminded him of battle, and this had an inspiring effect. The tremendous effort on the part of all the players made it a truly eye-popping spectacle. And it was soooo fast!

Eventually Ravage learned the basic tactics of hoofball and his play improved greatly. He would charge ahead with Winter and try to score, but they weren’t good shots and Big Mac proved to be a good net minder. Needless to say, Applejack, Cloudchaser and Aster were able to handle Ravage and Winter’s ground attack more often than not. Saffron, on the other hoof, consistently made spectacular shots on net, often shooting through traffic. With the winning team being first to five points, Ravage’s team lost five to two, with Rainbow Dash contributing both goals. Aster managed to drill one past Pearl Bliss, Applejack sneaked around the goalie for another, and Saffron got all the other goals.

“Okay, for the next game, let’s have the high scorer’s be team captains,” Applejack suggested. As a result, Rainbow Dash and Saffron chose the next teams. With Rainbow already being a pegasus, the dynamics of team picking were altered just a bit, this time choosing the pegasi last. The pegasus captain won the toss. As a result, it was Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Pearl Bliss, Aster, and Ravage versus Saffron, Winter, Big Macintosh, Flitter, and Cloudchaser. The second game was far better balanced and took nearly three times as long. Saffron’s team won five to four, with the captain claiming three goals, Winter making a great corner net shot, and Flitter sneaking the game winner in by joining the ground attack and dodging Pearl Bliss. Applejack, drawing on great support from Ravage, got two in. Rainbow managed to dodge Big Mac and get one in on the ground. Ravage got his first goal which tied the game at four a piece.


=^.^=


Everypony was exhausted, and resorted to lying sprawled out on the grass by the big barn, imbibing several liters of water.

“Is it a good thing that I feel right about having tea with Fluttershy after this?” Ravage asked. He had heard of the calming effects of tea, and how it enhanced relaxation. The laughter from all sides was unexpected, but then again, Ravage had come to expect the unexpected.

Oh slag,’ Ravage thought as he noticed Winter shifting toward him.

“Take it from me, Ravage. Fluttershy is cute and innocent ninety-nine percent of the time, but watch out for that other one percent,” she winked.

“Then I should be fine,” Ravage determined. The Decepticon observed that, like his comrades, individual ponies also had other ‘sides’ to them, the expression of which was determined by the situation. It was interesting that Winter had encountered one of Fluttershy’s hidden personalities. Ravage was about to visit the timid pegasus, and he didn’t want trouble. “Fluttershy is basically unaggressive, yes?” he asked the assembly of languishing ponies.

Lying against a barrel, Applejack’s hat was pulled over most of her face, exposing only her mouth. “She’s a nice pony, sugar cube. She won’t give you any trouble,” the chill mare attested.

“’Ah think we all need to visit the swimmin’ hole,” suggested Big Macintosh. Strong feminine agreement supported the idea as all got up from their playtime induced slumber and started heading in toward their goal. Ravage stayed silent.

En route, Rainbow Dash tapped Ravage on his shoulder, and motioned for him to follow her off to the side. “Ya did great at hoofball,” she commended. “You learn fast.”

“Thanks.” Ravage’s mind was occupied on how he was going to handle Fluttershy. They surely can’t be just drinking tea. What else was going to happen? When he wasn’t thinking about the coming visit, Princess Luna dominated his thinking. There was no way he was able to avoid kissing Flitter, and there didn’t seem to be any way of avoiding kissing Luna, as she would surely expect it from the coming date. If he managed to be ready to exile himself, he might do so in order to avoid Luna altogether.

“Flitter wasn’t too rough on ya last night, was she?” the pegasus asked, referring to the scabs on Ravage’s neck.

The Decepticon’s damage was superficial. Thanks to his optimized genetics, it was healing quickly. “I suppose not.”

“Heheh,” she chuckled. “She said you turned out to be a really good kisser.” Rainbow noticed a rather neutral expression on the Decepticon stallion. She felt her posture threatened by it and decided to change the subject. “Actually, you seemed distant last night. Nopony could really connect with you. Well, except for Flitter, but that’s because of those stupid rules.”

“You weren’t happy to be there either?” Ravage asked, surprised at the pegasus’ viewpoint.

“Well, I thought it was a really thumpin’ party. Great music. All my friends were there. It’s just – having to kiss somepony you might not even know was a little much.”

“You know Twilight well enough,” he said, sitting on his haunches with Dash. By this time, Ravage was adept at using the shortened versions of pony nomenclature.

Dash loved finally being able to talk to Ravage for more than just a couple of sentences. “Oh definitely! I love Twi like a sister. It’s just, she – kinda – loves me too, and not in a sisterly way if you catch my drift,” Rainbow admitted.

Ravage did not catch her drift. He was still at a loss as to understanding what love was, let alone being able to distinguish its many forms.

Dash and Twilight’s little romp on the roof last night had rendered the usually talkative unicorn nearly mute. Sensing something was amiss, Rainbow felt she needed to walk Twilight home. The librarian leaned up against her pegasus friend, nuzzled her neck, and even made affectionate squeals. When they got close to the library, Twilight broke out her wings again, using one to cover Dash. She didn’t go as far as to ask the uncertain pegasus to stay, but the longing was there.

“I don’t know what I’m gonna do,” the weather mare concluded, looking up at the sky, satisfied that the clouds were as they should have been. “I guess that’s the real problem with that kind of party, making ponies fall for each other ahead of their time.” She looked to Ravage, satisfied that he was trying to process what had just been said. “What would you do?”

Ravage was unprepared for that question. His face contorted in a mix of confusion and helplessness. First, he needed to grasp the parameters. “What would I do? If a pony loved me, and I did not feel similarly?” Ravage hated using the ‘L’ word. It troubled him that he understood the mechanics of its use before he knew what it meant. He really didn’t want to research it, but it seemed essential to integration – not that that would matter in a few days. It was time to unleash the other ‘L’ word. “Logically, I would have to tell her to disable her feelings before her affinity progresses any further.”

“Affinity? Disable? What are you a freakin’ golem?” Dash was taken aback by such cold language even Twilight Sparkle wouldn’t use.

Realizing that golems were close to robots, Ravage experienced another physiological first: he blushed. Touché, Rainbow Dash.

“Dude, you can’t turn feelings off. It doesn’t work that way.”

The Decepticon felt as if he had experienced yet another revelation. She’s right. They can’t be turned off; they only dissipate with time, shifting into one another as the situation demands. It was a profound realization. When feeling with his mind alone he could ignore troubling emotions easily, but the inclusion of his tissue body amplified emotional ‘feeling’ greatly. “Wait a minute. What did you pull me off to the side for?”

“Ah!” she reflexively replied. “Well, I wanted to let you know something that you probably already know. Okay first, you were bummed out at the party, because you were kinda forced to kiss another pony. Is that true?” Rainbow was trying to get all her ducks in a row before she asked him what she needed to ask.

“Correct.” That was one reason. Although a more important reason was that he had to avoid discussion of his origins, especially since such talk was often used as an ‘ice breaker’, a way to gain entry into conversation with a stranger.

Okay, so he definitely doesn’t like being forced, even if it’s just for fun, she thought. “Soooo,” she said, nervously trying to avoid pitfalls. She didn’t want to drive Ravage off. The pegasus felt it was best to cover all bases first. “Are you dating anypony? Being courted?”

“As a matter of fact, I am going on a date with Princess Luna.” Ravage felt surprisingly relieved to say that. Ironically, it was Luna herself that made him associate the word ‘courted’ with bad feelings. However, he had concluded that if he indicated he was dating Luna, the other ponies should back off, leaving him in peace. Finally, he deployed his ultimate weapon against the association machine!

“You’re dating LUNA!” she belted out squeakily. Somehow, Rainbow Dash’s eyes seemed to grow even larger as she broke into a hover, her forelegs clasping at her chin. Her mood seemed to become ecstatic: exactly the opposite reaction Ravage had hoped for.

The Decepticon stallion couldn’t speak. He thought he finally figured out something of how this bizarre culture worked, but he was obviously wrong. Judging by Rainbow Dash’s ‘squeegasm’ he was going to pay for it dearly.

The Element suddenly became uncomfortably friendly, throwing one of her front legs over Ravage’s shoulder. “Well, if you’re into alicorns, you might wanna think about –mhmm, I dunno – the Elements of Harmony,” she suggested mischievously, with emphasis on her herd’s title.

“What?”

“Oh come on, you know our herd is looking for a stallion,” Rainbow clarified. Ravage fell into shock, realizing the implication. That which he had tried to avoid so fervently was now coming after him.

Rainbow cackled, “You should see the look on your face,” pointing a derisive hoof at the still phased stallion. She had enough fun though. Her real objective was to try and ease Ravage into the herd, not grab him and take him. “I know we only just met, but since you’re dating Princess Luna I thought I’d put the idea out there, ya know, just in case you were thinking of settling down in Ponyville.”

Ravage sighed in relief. Rainbow was only pointing out that her herd was looking for a stallion, and that he gives it consideration. She wasn’t asking directly, which was good since these mares don’t seem to take ‘no’ for answer.

Ravage’s untimely relief didn’t go unnoticed. “Oh-ho! Don’t go thinking you’re too good for us or anything,” Rainbow jabbed. Yes, her herd was big, but that was beside the point. One of Rainbow Dash’s reservations was that for a stallion who seems to communicate so well, Ravage sure clouded up any ideas about where he was from. ‘A lumberjack from rural Equestria’ tended to lead to other questions such as his schooling, who is parents were, what he did for fun as a foal, among others. He didn’t answer them clearly.

“Oh, what do you mean?” the Decepticon stallion asked. Was Rainbow Dash comparing him to a standard?

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’re trying to hide something,” she said. Ravage’s eyes briefly flashed, stunned by Dash’s surprising display of intuition. “Hah! I knew it! But you can tell us all about it later. You kinda need to.

“As far as the herd thing goes, you definitely got Rarity’s vote. Fluttershy likes you. Twilight likes you. Applejack looks like she’s warming up to you. Pinkie Pie definitely likes you – she’s got a sense about these things. Now as for me,” Rainbow Dash tapped a hoof to her chin, eyeing Ravage ponderously, “I think your being able to pick up a sport and be good at it after just a couple of games is awesome, but I think you need to relax.” Ravage was perplexed, looking like he’d been accused of a crime, and didn’t know why. “You look tense. In fact, only Royal Guards can be as stiff as you, and that’s only when they’re working. You seem stressed all the time, like something’s chasing you.”

Ravage was beside himself. He wasn’t purposely trying to be ‘unrelaxed’, was he? He did everything he could to learn pony behavior and support his cover story as best he could, but Rainbow Dash pretty much just said that she thought he was lying about where he came from, and that having done so was okay since the truth would eventually be revealed. If Rainbow could figure it out, it was a good bet Luna also thought his origin story was bogus, and she just let it slide so she can date him. The situation was getting out of control and Ravage had no idea what to do about it. His stoic posture was eroding too. Rainbow Dash didn’t have to work hard to get a rise out of him. “I, uh…” he was at a loss for words.

Rainbow silenced the beleaguered Decepticon putting her hoof to his lips. “C’mon, let’s go swimming.” A calm pegasus mare offered her hoof to Ravage. He took it, and she helped pull him from being planted on the ground. The two ponies headed out to enjoy the water.

The ‘hole’ was actually the widened part of a creek that flowed nearby. The mares made a mad dash for the water as soon as they saw it, dive bombing, and cannon balling, and running headlong into the previously quiet surface. It was cool and clean and the mares enjoyed splashing and frolicking. The stallions simply sauntered in.

Ravage did not frolic. He was trying to understand why so many ponies kept splashing him in the face with the water. It was annoying as it kept getting into his eyes and nostrils. It wasn’t his bath water, but it did have a relaxing effect in spite of the chill. It also got the sweat and grime off of his body.

Ravage couldn’t help notice some of the girls formed a line, looking like they wanted to make trouble. “Okay, Ravage, you’re going down!” threatened Pearl Bliss. The line maneuvered closer and closer, even as Ravage was trying to back off. Soon again, the annoying water assaulted his eyes and nostrils. To avoid the pestilence, he simply ducked underwater, holding his breath. He realized that he could not electrolyze the water in pony mode, and would have a minute before he must resurface, at best.

Transforming in such close proximity to ponies was out of the question, but when he came up for air the mares simply left him alone. In fact they found another target: Big Macintosh. The farm stallion was trying to splash back, but it was hopeless. Rainbow Dash dive bombed the group, with the resultant splash covering them in a tidal wave of water. This, of course, made her the next target. After a few minutes, everypony settled down and enjoyed the placid pond. It was interesting to see that no matter what the mares’ manes looked like before, they all had the same characteristic shimmer when wet, hanging down in sheets.

The group ended up lounging on the grass beside the pond. Ravage started dozing off when he felt a hoof gently poke his side. His body jolted, and he quickly turned to see who was touching him.

Fluttershy ‘eeped’, and jumped back. “Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” she said softly.

“It’s alright, Fluttershy,” Ravage said as he got up on his hooves. “You’re surprisingly stealthy.” A master of stealth himself, Ravage was also well trained in detection. It may have been the sleep coming on, but what Fluttershy did was impressive nonetheless. The other ponies were lazily watching the exchange, looking for any tidbit of information that might reveal something about the deceptive stallion.

Fluttershy decided that now was a good time to hide behind her mane.

“So,” Ravage began, “about that tea?”

“Oh! Follow me.” The Element of Kindness wasn’t usually this ‘brave’, but she’d been looking forward to sitting down with Ravage, and just having a conversation.


=^.^=


It was early afternoon, and looking to be a hot day. Ravage walked beside the normally timid mare who decided to come for him now, instead of waiting for the evening. Fluttershy was feeling good about herself for having relaxed enough just to walk beside the stallion who was still pretty much a stranger. Her friends liked him, and she respected that. Rarity, Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash shared a notion that he might be the stallion their herd was looking for. She took the ‘scenic’ route through the woods hoping to learn more of him before they made it to her house; it also had the advantage of being cooler.

It was also clear that Cloudchaser and her friends liked him. Perhaps more ominous was that Princess Luna liked him openly, which was very unusual. The list wouldn’t end there either. If he was worth it, if he was a good fit, then the Element herd needed to devote a lot of attention and resources to try to get him to join them. Fluttershy just needed to prepare an informed opinion first, perhaps discovering that he’ll be close to the stallion she dreamed about.

Ravage sensed the silence that was lingering as they walked. He liked it. All the ponies he’d met so far had something to say every minute of every day, but for a Decepticon who spent much of his life lying in wait, silence was a welcome thing. It wasn’t completely silent though, as the leaves rustled in the breeze and the birds whipped around and busily chirped. Come to think of it, that’s a lot of birds, Ravage thought. Suddenly, he had something meaningful to say! “I feel – content.” It was simple, but true. The mundane act of walking in silence had a relaxing effect.

“I love the forest,” Fluttershy said. “I love everything about it; its smell, its moisture, and especially the animals.” Fluttershy and Ravage crossed over the little bridge into the mare’s yard. A cornucopia of small animals came to greet Fluttershy, though they shied away from Ravage.

“This is my friend, Ravage,” she indicated. The little paws and wings of squirrels, otters, and different colours of birds waved to Ravage.

Though he retained a stoic expression, the Decepticon sat down, deeply confused. These creatures are acting as if they are sapient, he observed. He noticed that Fluttershy, and then her animal friends were looking at him expectantly. “Oh! Uh, hi,” he cobbled together, waving his front right hoof. The little creatures paw and wing waved a second time, smiling back at him. Is this some form of mind control? Two blue jays flew in, with a large checkered cloth hanging from their feet, flapping in the wind. Okay, that’s abnormal, Ravage thought. He programmed two blue jay androids that were nearby to fly up from their current position and watch these two specific jays, and see if their behavior returns to normal. He also programmed them to keep their distance.

Like her own personal staff, the woodland creatures prepared and flattened the table cloth after the blue jays flopped it down. Two gophers brought snacks on their backs and placed them upon the cloth. Ravage could swear that three or four songbirds were motioning him to sit down on one section of the cloth.

The reticent Decepticon did as was indicated. He had the main satellite zoom into the yard and perform a full scan. Nothing was found, even though he had suspected ionizing radiation to be higher here. The little animals moved about, bringing in small plates of flower petals, and small bowls of cream and sugar cubes. A chill crept up Ravage’s spine, as he saw the scene unfold. What was happening was totally impossible. Could ponies control the weak minded? The sound of clattering dishware could be heard, and Ravage looked to the side to find the source. Fluttershy was balancing a tray on her back with implements for ‘tea’, including a pot filled with hot water. With ease, she lifted the tray off of her back with her teeth and placed it in the middle of the cloth, sitting down on her haunches afterward.

“How was your hoofball game, Ravage?” she demurely asked.

Ravage and the main satellite performed intensive scans on Fluttershy’s body, acquiring every kind of data possible, including temperature, dimensions, and lung capacity, among a great deal more information. Nothing more than ‘warm blooded animal’ was determined. “I had never played before, but I was told I did well.”

Fluttershy placed tea bags into two cups and then poured hot water into them, all with her teeth. She used her front hooves to bob a teabag up and down with a string, an action her guest copied. “Did Applejack say that?”

“Rainbow Dash.”

“Oh! Oh my,” she said, turning to the side and blushing. “Those are very meaningful words when they come from Rainbow Dash.”

“She is most athletic.” Ravage’s expression remained unchanged. He wanted to get away from this utter and complete nonsense. He would rather fight Optimus Prime than converse with this ‘pony’. Of course, ponies can’t control actions of the weak minded animals. This was something else, something probably dangerous. The Decepticon stallion observed that ponies reserved their true power. Luna can move the move the moon, which means she can move mountains, and yet satisfies herself mingling with the common folk; Rainbow Dash can break the sound barrier, and yet has not done so in days; Twilight Sparkle had not yet been seen teleporting. What was the superlative of Fluttershy’s power? Whatever it was, it appeared to be psychic. Without her, the animals would not behave so intelligently.

“I’d like to introduce you to my friends,” Fluttershy said, changing the subject. She went through seventeen species of small animal, most of them prefixed with ‘mister’ and ‘misses’. All were unbelievably docile. If they weren’t waving, they just sat around and smiled. It didn’t feel right at all. At least only some of them were staring at Ravage. One mammal in particular, a rabbit, liked to glare at Ravage and was the only confrontational animal there.

Fluttershy pulled out her tea bag, another action Ravage copied. “Have you had tea before, Ravage?”

“No, I have not,” he responded without putting any emotion into his words.

“Do you like it?” Fluttershy, without even trying, had more feeling in her words than her guest.

Carefully sampling the steaming drink, Ravage smacked his lips, formulating a response. The drink was bitter, but it was relaxing. Possibly this is because it was hot, meant only to be sipped. “Yes. It has a calming effect.”

Fluttershy cutely smiled. “Tea is nice.”

Ravage sipped tea with Fluttershy. It reminded him of an incident on Cybertron, when Megatron gave a green light to infiltrating Equestria.


=^.^=


Three Months Ago:

After weeks of observation, the Decepticons had a meeting regarding the use of Equestria as an energy source. It was an informal meeting with Megatron merely showing up in the middle of the gathering. His sudden presence caused the other Decepticons to immediately stop what they were doing and listen.

“Well, Starscream. How is it that a star orbits a planet?” Megatron queried.

“Princess Celestia controls the star’s orbit with telekinetic power.” Starscream deftly avoided saying ‘magic.’

Megatron slowly walked around Starscream, circling him like a vulture. “Princess… Celestia…” He stopped and looked directly at Starscream. “And how do we harness the energy from this process?”

“We – we don’t know how pony telekinesis works. The androids have absorbed all the data they could. We have to send a Decepticon agent, someone capable of socializing with the ponies.” Starscream was very frightened at this point. For all the research they did, they had nothing to show for it, except for information on some brightly coloured quadrupeds.

“Socialize with them?!”

“The textbook description on how magic really works is completely indecipherable.”

“What!”

“The agent would need to experiment on-world, make physical measurements and deduce how telekinesis is converted into power.”

“So, you want to send a Decepticon to Equestria so he can study these aliens and figure out how they use telekinesis – to move things. Is that correct?” Megatron had enough of this. All he saw was a waste of power and resources, and he was preparing to cut his losses.

“Yes?” said the embattled Starscream, weakly.

“No!” Megatron grabbed Starscream by the throat practically outraged now. “I will not send Astrotrain across thousands of light years on a rickety triangular space bridge construct just so he can sip tea with Twilight Sparkle!”

Starscream struggled to speak, “You’ve –urk– been paying –ugh– attention.”

Megatron immediately let go of Starscream. He had maintained the notion that he wanted as little to do with these aliens as possible, but not only did he know about Twilight Sparkle, he knew about one of her habits as well. His cover was busted, and the Decepticons were slowly gathering behind Starscream. Clearly, they wanted to see this through, not wanting to have their time wasted. Perhaps it was a nice diversion from fighting Autobots and stealing energy. Also, a relatively small amount of resources were expended – it was nothing compared to the cost of a typical battle with the Autobots, and Megatron knew it. They were, after all, waiting for Optimus Prime to make his move. Why not use the time to study a potential new energy source?

“Very well, Starscream. We will send an agent. What’s your plan?”

“Ahem,” Starscream restored his vocal components. “I have devised a way to build a Decepticon into a cybernetic organism that can transform from robot mode to the likeness of an animal. Those ponies qualify. We just need a volunteer.”


=^.^=


Ravage snickered. He remembered how satisfying it felt to hear Starscream’s suffering as Megatron choked him. Sadly, Megatron’s endorsement gave the pony bot enough confidence to volunteer for this mission. What a mistake that had been! Of course, he could be dead already, since the mysterious radio silence from both Decepticon and Autobot alike continued.

“Are you remembering something funny?” Fluttershy asked, smiling, her eyes opened a little wider this time. It was a rarity to see Ravage in an amused state.

“Yes,” the stallion bot nodded, “Yes I am.”

“Does it have something to do with tea?” Fluttershy wanted Ravage to tell his funny story, but thought it might be rude to ask directly.

“Yeee-ah.”

“Could you share it with me, please?” On cue, Fluttershy hid behind her mane. “That is, if you want to.”

“Can you imagine a golem the size of town hall having tea with Twilight Sparkle?”

“Whoah, that is pretty funny,” Fluttershy decided, even though she wasn’t laughing. She just kept smiling and looking adorable.

Ravage took another sip of his tea. “Yes, this is most pleasant.” The beverage was like coffee, yet different. He really liked the endless variety of different kinds of foods and drinks available. At first, it was just coffee, and hay shakes, but then he decided that many other drinks would be worthy of trying again. The ‘cocktails’ from the party seemed particularly exotic.

Fluttershy was happy that Ravage liked tea. “That’s chamomile tea. I have many different varieties of tea: green, black, peppermint, honey bush…” Without knowing it, the stallion bot had earned ‘points’ from Fluttershy.

“I would be happy to try them.” Ravage smiled as he said it, for the imbibing of tea was yet another bonus to having a pony body. Summarizing his situation, he was going to have to live with this body for a long time so he might as well make the best of it.

“Incidentally,” Ravage began. He then gestured to the many small animals that gathered around the tea camp.

“Oh, the animals? I fell to earth one day, and a group of butterflies saved me from crashing. It was the first time I was on the ground, but it felt like home. It was then that I learned I could communicate with animals,” Fluttershy described.

“You mean this skill was something you were born with?” Ravage queried, looking perplexed. Fluttershy nodded. “Incredible,” was the only thing he could utter. “Preprogrammed to be able to communicate with the woodland creatures.”

The two ponies conversed back and forth. Mostly, it was Fluttershy they were discussing. Topics included why she didn’t like flying, how Rainbow Dash always defended her, and how her life changed when Twilight Sparkle came to town. Hearing tales of the Elements’ Unit Commander from Fluttershy’s perspective served to solidify Twilight’s position.

“Ravage?” The single word interrogative from Fluttershy put the Decepticon on the defensive.

“Hmm?”

“Could you please tell me where you’re from?” Fluttershy’s expression was neutral.

“Rural Equestria. I don’t have a town to call my own.” In a sense this was true, since Ravage’s ship was not located inside of any municipality.

“What did you do as a foal? Did you go on adventures? It sounds like you had a lot of freedom,” Fluttershy pressed. “Did you have a lot of friends?”

“I had a lot of friends, yes. And just as many enemies.” Ravage figured out a way to describe his past without actually describing it. “We all used to mess around in a meadow. One day, we became factionalized. Our side, being mostly fliers, couldn’t stand the other side, mostly ground dwellers, and we tried to kick the other group out, but they didn’t want to go. It didn’t take long for it to turn into a brawl. The fighting escalated until it was a huge, drawn out turf war; we just fought and fought and fought. Both groups wanted to claim the meadow as theirs.”

Fluttershy was flabbergasted. “You couldn’t work out your differences?”

“I dunno. I wasn’t actually there from the start. I was friends with a few of them, and got drawn into the fight.” Ravage was purposely trying to be as vague as possible. He was pretty sure it wouldn’t stem the flow of questions though.

“That’s just awful! It’s hard to believe that ponies can still behave that way in this day and age.” Fluttershy was shaking her head in disbelief. She tried to rationalize Ravage’s past. “Were your friends nice ponies?”

“Well, that depended on what side you were on, but if you didn’t get in their way, they usually left you alone,” the Decepticon responded.

Fluttershy’s eyes narrowed. “They don’t sound very nice to me.”

Ravage narrowed his eyes. “They’re still my friends.”

The kind pegasus didn’t want to believe what Ravage was saying. She knew well of many ponies being victimized by bullying, even violence. She was one of them. It saddened her to hear that the rural areas could be even worse off than the cities and towns in that regard. She lowered her head in defeat; her mane’s shining pink locks completely hid her face. “You’re very loyal, Ravage. I respect that,” Fluttershy conceded.

She couldn’t help but feel for Ravage, whom it seems had a rough upbringing. Without another word, she walked around the tablecloth and embraced him. The stallion bot was clueless as to what to do, except let Fluttershy hug him. “Ravage?” she softly asked, looking up at him with her big, wanting eyes, “Could you tell me about your best friend?”

Ravage chuckled, a little a first then more heartily. The kind mare let him go, and looked up at him expectantly. “That would be…” He looked up at the sky trying to hash out his response.

“Soundwave.” He noticed that he had Fluttershy’s complete attention. “He was a big, blue and white pegasus. Very tough. Nobody messed with that pony. He doesn’t like it when somepony else tells of stories he was involved in, though.”

Fluttershy smiled. “I understand.”

Ravage picked up one of the cherries and gave it to a raccoon he noticed had been eyeing it. The creature cupped it with his two hands and smiled cutely before scurrying off. The stallion wasn’t quite sure why he did that, but it did reduce the number of animal observers down by one. The fewer the better, he thought. The pony bot could swear he could hear Fluttershy gasp, or sigh, or something to that effect before she returned to her spot. His pony ears were very good at low level sound detection, but were unable to filter out the noise.

He started in on his second cup, fully enjoying the tea experience. It was then that he noticed that something was off. It was quiet, even for Fluttershy. He looked to her expecting to see her occupied, and in fact she was. She was beaming.

“You seem happy,” the pony bot guessed.

The pegasus’ response consisted of, once again, turning her head to the side and blushing, but she also emitted a ‘squee’ sound.

Ravage finished his cup. Fluttershy had managed to finish three cups. “Should I go boil another pot of water?” she asked.

More tea sounded good, but Ravage knew of something that might be better. “Hmm. Tea is nice, but it’s a little hot this afternoon. Should we go for ice cream?”

Fluttershy nodded in agreement. “That’s a good idea,” she said wistfully. Like droids, her little animals set about the tasks of cleaning up the picnic. Ravage still couldn’t believe it.


=^.^=


A small line had built up at the ice cream shop, as families and their foals seemed to arrive at the same conclusion that Ravage did. A sizable menu of flavours was available. Ravage decided that he was going to get mint chip, the first flavour he had tried nearly forty-eight hours ago.

Fluttershy stood close – very close. She was also well within his personal space on the way there. Heading out to her cottage she kept a healthy distance, and barely looked at, or talked to him. This time, if Ravage looked to her at his side she would look directly back, smiling. This was not an insignificant change in behavior. Ravage had come to know that even small changes in how these ponies act often had big consequences. Why the change? Perhaps she just trusted him. Ravage couldn’t think of any other reason than that. He didn’t want it to be any other reason than that.

The line had shortened to just a mare and her foal in front of them when Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle came into the line, apparently wanting the same thing. “Great minds think alike!” shouted Dash through the small group of ponies in front of them.

Twilight gave Dash a sideways glance, “I think I can let that one go,” she joked.

Ravage looked around to them, and nodded. Fluttershy smiled, secretly appreciating that she didn’t have to get ‘assertive’ to keep her place in line. Finally purchasing their order, Fluttershy got a scoop of strawberry (he gestured to her to order first), while the Decepticon stallion got his apparent favourite, mint chip.

Suddenly, Ravage’s ears were racked with pain as the scream of a foal shattered the peace. He cringed, while a surprised Fluttershy put her free hoof to her mouth as her way of coping with the noise. It was easy to see that the filly, who had just ordered, just dropped her own mint chip ice cream onto the grass, and she was wailing up a storm!

The mother enveloped her daughter in a hug, gently shushing her, trying her best to calm her down. “Sorry, Sun Speed, we can’t afford any more.” She didn’t have any ice cream for herself. The despondent foal was only calmed a little bit and kept sobbing and crying.

Unable to withstand the pathetic scene, Ravage stretched over from the counter, and offered his own cone. “Here. I haven’t even touched it.” The mother looked at Ravage, completely taken by surprise. Her filly, however, eagerly accepted Ravage’s mint chip scoop.

Levitating the cone with her magic, the mother tried to teach manners to her pegasus pony child. “What do you say, Sun Speed?”

The little foal, excited about her turn of luck, jumped up to Ravage, one of the most feared Decepticons back in the day, and unabashedly hugged his chest, nuzzling into him. “Thank you!” she squeaked out. Ravage had no response and almost gawked, completely ignorant on how to act. After a few seconds, she returned to her mom, who was smiling at Ravage.

“Thank you very much, sir,” the mother said. “I don’t – whoops!” She managed to catch the second cone with her magic before it fell like the first cone. With young ponies, walking and eating ice cream at the same time was a near impossibility. Assistance from their parents was a must. The pair walked away before another incident could occur.

Ravage noticed he had no ice cream, but he was still at the front of the line. “Um, may I buy another?” Since the ponies in line seemed equally happy with his ‘selfless’ act, he easily managed to acquire another cone. It was then that Fluttershy was practically embracing her strawberry ice cream, a look of delight was written on her face as her eyes bore onto the stallion bot.

Ravage tried to walk, but noticed he couldn’t. Three legged walking for a pony holding an ice cream was an act of locomotion only the most silly of adult ponies attempted. He then remembered that his previous encounters with ice cream were always associated with unicorns. Bo held his first cone, and Pearl Bliss, his second. And now his third cone started levitating all by itself. “Do you mind waiting for a couple of minutes, Ravage, Fluttershy? I can hold on to this,” Twilight offered.

“Uh, thanks?” The Decepticon didn’t like this rather annoying limitation.

Fluttershy did a short flight and hovered beside the stallion bot before settling down. “I’m so sorry, Ravage. I should have offered to carry your ice cream.” For the umpteenth time that day, she leaned her head forward, sorrowfully.

“It’s alright, Fluttershy. Everything worked out.” It appeared that the Element of Kindness felt a little too much, since it didn’t take a lot to make her sad. Ravage’s words had an effect though. She perked up and smiled as soon as she heard them.

Fluttershy held out her cone to the unicorn. “Twilight, if you don’t mind?” Her friend got the point and levitated her cone as well. Fluttershy immediately settled down beside Ravage.

Staying as a group, bound by ice cream, the four ponies traveled a short distance to a small patch of field by the schoolhouse. Fluttershy paired up with Ravage just as much as Twilight Sparkle paired up with Rainbow Dash, and all sat down on their haunches once they found a good spot.

Ravage watched with interest as Twilight released the ice cream into her friends’ hooves. “That is amazing. It’s not even melted!” he said, hardly believing the pristine condition of their snacks. Had Twilight provided refrigeration as well as levitation?

“Yup! Twilight’s the most powerful unicorn in all of Equestria!” Rainbow boasted on her friend’s behalf. Twilight cocked an eyebrow, and the blue-furred pegasus got the point right away, “Well, you know what I mean.”

In between lapping up the minty goodness, Ravage was still able to speak. “How do you do that?” he asked plainly.

Twilight’s eyes grew wide. “All I do is manipulate the gravitational properties of the fourth thaumic field. I also used the third thaumic field to keep our ice cream cold.”

“Which explains why our cones are also cold,” Ravage deduced.

“Yes!” Twilight had jumped onto her hooves, very excited that Ravage had taken to her explanation so easily. Rainbow Dash leaned on one of her hooves, a bored expression appearing on her face. Fluttershy was content watching the discussion and carried on licking her ice cream. Twilight continued, “If you like, I can show you some books on the subject, maybe even give you a crash course!”

“Twi, he’s an earth pony,” Rainbow pointed out.

“It doesn’t matter if you can use magic or not. Knowledge is power,” Twilight countered. “We live in Equestria, a nation that is built on magic. Knowing a little about how it works is at least as important as knowing why.”

Rainbow wasn’t sold, and so she looked to her pegasus friend. “What do you think, Fluttershy?”

“Oh, I – whatever is good for you, Ravage,” the yellow mare spoke, looking over to the stallion she sat down beside.

The Decepticon realized that he was no longer afraid of Twilight. He needed to know more about the inner workings of Equestria’s magic and these ponies were not combative. His decision was easy to make. “I’m pretty curious. Can you help me learn about magic, Twilight?”

“Ravage, I would be honoured.” Twilight wore a smug expression, more due to the being allowed to transfer some of her knowledge about magic to another pony, than having won the debate. “You work tomorrow, don’t you? I have to finish reviewing two papers on teleportation before the day’s out; would you like to come to the library for seven tomorrow evening?”

“Yes,” Ravage agreed, a gentle smile gracing his face, “I’ll arrive at seven tomorrow,”

Rainbow Dash was still not convinced. “I hope you know what you’re getting yourself into, dude.”

The group languished in the hot afternoon sun for about an hour. A few choice topics were discussed, but Twilight couldn’t help but try to ‘give pointers’ on the upcoming magical study with the stallion bot. Fluttershy, being comfortable in the presence of her friends who now included Ravage, joined in the conversations.

Twilight and Rainbow Dash eventually left as they had duties to perform. Fluttershy too had a number of chores waiting for her. The timid mare got the courage to ask, “Ravage, could you walk me home, please?” She had enjoyed being in his company and couldn’t bear to part ways just yet.

Soon the two ponies were at the doorstep of Fluttershy’s cottage. “Thank you for spending time with me, Ravage,” she cooed, blushing as she did.

“You blush a lot,” the stallion pointed out. “And thanks for the tea.”

“Oh, you’re welcome!” she gushed.

“Goodbye,” he spoke while waving to Fluttershy one last time before turning away.

“Good bye.” Fluttershy closed the door behind her with both hooves. Truth be told, she really didn’t want him to leave. Her heart fluttered as she thought about him and the subtle, but potent experiences they had during the day. She thought about the possibility of Ravage being the stallion of the Element herd. It practically made her squee while her forelegs wrapped around her chest. Her wings splayed out and she smiled wistfully.

Ravage planned on leaving town as soon as possible. Though tempted to acquire cherries, apples, or even a hay shake, he knew how quickly these mares would locate him and stick to him like strong adhesive. It was late afternoon, but he also had work to do, and the last thing he wanted was to try to make his way home after dusk.

He chose the trail access on the east side of town, the one he used to go to work. He had the satellite track Fluttershy’s ‘sentient’ animals, but they didn’t follow him. The two blue jays his androids were tracking earlier never left Fluttershy’s property.


=^.^=


Safely ensconced in his base, Ravage thought on the weekend’s events. He came to the troubling realization that more energy was expended on a weekend day than on a weekday, even with hauling concrete. He had survived some pretty big challenges with Luna. He also had breakfast at Rarity’s, got groceries, enjoyed sweet snacks, played volleyball and hoofball, swam, attended a party and…

He kissed a mare.

The sensations he felt when he was with Flitter were difficult to properly describe. All of his senses were used. Data was recorded. Still, there was something else, something that he could not describe when she was kissing him. It felt like – it felt similar to when he stared down at Twilight at the lunch two days ago. And then, Ravage’s pony eyes opened wide at the horror of the realization.

“Oh no-”

He transformed immediately. His fists clenched in anger. What did he do? Oh, what did he do!? After all the war and destruction, after all the pain, after four million years of combat, what did he just do!

The act of mouth pressing was no mere physiological task, like eating, or breathing. It was binding! Two individuals, for that is the natural number that can exchange a kiss, came together to perform the act. As a result, and this was profoundly difficult to describe, a ‘piece’ of each pony was taken with the other. Ravage never really knew Flitter until she kissed him. What did she find out about HIM? What was worse was that ‘fluttery’ feeling he had felt from time to time. He can’t actually like these ponies!

But there was work. Burying these damaging realizations, Ravage had his life to defend, and his mission to comprehend. He drew plans to transport energon cubes from the hydro plant. The fact that Luna, and therefore Celestia, could spot him as soon as he was under the open sky proved to be a severe tactical deficiency, but he was certain he would find a way around it.

He had tunneling machines dig and prepare underground shafts. They consumed energon, but that didn’t matter now. Ravage felt that if he couldn’t produce energon on this alien planet, then he was as good as dead. After realizing how threatening this world’s ways really were to his Decepticon stature, his true nature, he decided on preparing missile sites not far away from his base. Some of the tunnels would go to them. Another would lead away from the hangar door concealing his ship; another would go to the riverbed.

The tunnel droids needed supervision, but not that much. He needed to test his hypothesis that ponies may be using black matter as a means to influence the sun and moon, and perhaps their magic as well. In addition to working into the night preparing tunnels, and making plans to acquire energon, he spent the bulk of his time designing a black matter detector.

The detector designs tended to require exotic elements, all of which were unavailable in the ponies’ low tech society. One design required aluminum, but it called for a lot of it. Sensing this was his best chance to get the materials for the detector, Ravage tasked one of the satellites to look for it.

By the time he was satisfied with his efforts, it was dawn.

Chapter 6: Luna Free

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Chapter 6: Luna Free



Three Months Ago:

At Megatron’s command, hundreds of Decepticons massed near the Engineering laboratory. Walking alone in front of the gathering, the Decepticon leader described the situation. “Fellow Decepticons, for some time now, we have been studying a planet thousands of light years from Cybertron. It has come to my attention that this world has vast potential for energy generation; however, we have reached the limit of our remote exploration capabilities. In order to continue our study, we need to have a Decepticon volunteer to have his spark, mind and memories transferred to a new body and infiltrate the society of quadrupeds that dominate a part of that world known as Equestria.”

Starscream nervously fidgeted off to the side. What Megatron was saying sounded crazy, and yet it was all true. Surely, he would have to endure more slights and disrespect for having taken his fellow warriors in this direction even if it did mean new energy, let alone a means to vanquish the Autobots.

“Who shall volunteer himself for a new body? You will assume the likeness of an Equestrian. Your mission will be to go to Equestria, hide within its populace, and determine how to create and quantify pony telekinesis using Decepticon science. If possible, you will learn to convert the energy of this telekinesis into energon.” Megatron walked around the front of all the Decepticons in front of him. Not surprisingly, everybody was still.

And then the unthinkable happened. “I will volunteer.” Shockwave stepped forward. This caused quite the stir, metal parts clanking and voices in varying degrees of shock contributed to the din of disbelief. Shockwave was long considered the only Decepticon strong enough, by himself, to defeat Megatron. And now he was volunteering to become a pony! “I shall let logic guide me to our common goals, that we may all benefit from the energy produced.”

Megatron chortled, “Shockwave, you may not. You are the Guardian of Cybertron in my absence. Your job is here.”

“What?” Starscream challenged. “He volunteered!”

Megatron ignored Starscream. “Anybody else?”

Silence on Cybertron was like the dead. There is little wind, no animals, and seldom was heard even the whir of machines as the planet was so depleted in energy.

“Very well then. I shall select a volunteer,” Megatron said, sneering directly at Starscream, his eyes aglow with red.

“No, no! You need me here! I’m the one leading the investigation!” pleaded Starscream.

“I know, Starscream. You have extensive knowledge of the ponies. You’re the perfect choice.”

Megatron approached menacingly, with Scrapper and his Constructicons ready to make the grab, slowly encircling the beleaguered robot. Starscream was on his knees now. “Please, no! Use Ravage. He’s already a quadruped!” he groveled.

Megatron thought about this, and decided that he could have done with a little more amusement. “Very well, Starscream. We shall ask him. Soundwave, eject Ravage.”

“Ravage. Transform!” Soundwave spoke in his trademark monotone. He opened up the cassette door, and Ravage flew out, transforming from a cassette to a panther. He snarled and growled like a very angry panther indeed.

Megatron required more civilized discourse. “Ravage, resume normal communication.”

The snarling and hissing stopped. “As you command, Megatron.” Ravage spoke in a baritone voice, but even this had a bite to it, cutting the air cleanly, leaving no doubt what was said. He sounded like the seasoned assassin he was.

“Ravage, did you hear everything that was just said? Have you been following the investigation on Celestia-1?” Megatron asked.

“Yes and yes.”

“Then you know what Starscream wants you to do.” Megatron slowly developed an evil grin. The more the silence passed by, the more evil it got. “What say you, Ravage?”

More silence.

“Well Starscream, it looks like I’m going to have to select a…”

“I’ll do it.”

“Volunte – what?” Megatron, shocked, whirled around to face Ravage directly.

“I said I’ll do it,” Ravage repeated. Whispering and low voice murmuring afflicted the assembled Decepticons’ order and calm.

Soundwave lowered his head. Such a deadly Decepticon at his beck and call was going to be sorely missed.

Ravage, on the other hand, was only too glad to get out of there. Mostly, he was used as Soundwave’s body guard, and this, he felt, was a waste of his talents. He was good at espionage. He was good at assassination. He was good at blending into the background. This new mission promised at least two of those things. It’s not that he didn’t like Soundwave, he just felt underused.

“Very well, Ravage. You have made your choice,” Megatron admitted. “Starscream, perform the manipulations that you need to, and build our Decepticon-pony agent.”

“Yes, Megatron. Right away.”

An atmosphere of relief rolled over the Decepticon ranks. They were going to send an agent to Equestria and it was going to be Ravage. Ravage! Most agreed that there was no better choice for the work to be done.

Starscream began his list of wants and needs. “Scrapper, your team needs to design a new transformation system. The current cog and gearbox system is too loud and too heavy to carry inside a pony. You will also transfer Ravages spark and self into his new body.”

“Understood,” Scrapper replied. “Do you have the basic layout for Ravage’s new body?”

“As a matter of fact, I do. I have the transformation blueprints for the paneling. I just need to replace the cog and gearbox.”

“And I suppose you know how to grow and attach the tissue?” Scrapper inquired.

“Oh yes. Ravage will have blood, skin, fur, everything he needs. He’ll feel warm to the touch, and he’ll even be able to get energy from digesting food.” Starscream had been working in this field for millennia even before the war, and he was rather excited that he was going to help build something that would be unimaginably deceptive.


=^.^=


Pouring concrete into yet another mold, Ravage wondered if Starscream or Shockwave would have opened fire on the ponies by now. He started snickering when he thought of what Shockwave might have done when Princess Luna tried to assume control over his life, and in the name of ‘love’ of all abstract things. ‘Die wretched pony filth!’ could have been some of the more choice words he might have used. Who knows if the machine guns can even affect an alicorn that can move worlds?

The pest princess tried to enter his mind again last night. Simply turning off the subspace radio and turning it on again ten minutes later was enough to take care of that, thankfully. However, Ravage did enjoy actually sleeping properly every now and then. He had no control over his dreams in that state, and Luna could do whatever she wanted. This had to stop!

“Lunch time, ponies!” Bright Rock cried out, and not a moment too soon, as the familiar hunger pangs had bothered Ravage all morning.

In the company of Bo, Micah, and a couple of burly stallions, he ate his lunch by an ever growing concrete wall, since it was so effective at blocking the sun. Why can’t it rain when they’re trying to work? It would remove the salty, itchy sweat while simultaneously cooling everpony down. Yet for some reason, ponies just can’t stand to be in the rain. At least he had a couple of fruits to go with his pony meal.

“Should I ask about Pearl Bliss’ party?” Bo really wanted to know how Ravage would handle such a party. With his resistance to joining herds, she wondered why he wanted to put himself in direct contact with so many potential herd mates.

“Sure,” the Decepticon said.

“I hear that you kissed Flitter?”

Anything to do with love, unconventional action, and stupidity became gossip. Ravage hated gossip. He hated anything that pried into his privacy. “Yes.” No more info was offered.

“And Princess Luna asked you out?” the red headed mare pressed. Everypony stopped chewing at that statement and looked Ravage’s way.

“It’s funny how I never discussed either conversation with anypony, and yet somehow my coworkers know about it,” Ravage said sourly.

“I know right!” Micah added. “But that’s what happens in small towns. Anything interesting becomes town talk.”

One of the other stallions, an older gentlepony by the name of Rock Crusher, leaned in to speak. “You are actually dating Princess Luna?”

“Yes,” Ravage answered simply, nodding at the grizzled worker.

“Okay, just asking.” He went back to eating his sandwich.

“You’re gonna be a busy pony,” Bo said in a warning tone.

Ravage suspected that Rainbow Dash’s reaction to his date declaration with Luna forewarned trouble. Could the pegasus have started spreading the information as soon as she learned it? If so, then he will have to refrain from sharing any knowledge about himself with her.

Suddenly, a message from his battle network in the top left of his view, in orange letters.

Source material located: 451B.C179.9425

“That doesn’t bother you?” Bo asked a little confused. She was expecting some sort of cynical response by now.

Ravage correlated the coordinates to a map. ‘It’s right here in Ponyville! Six-hundred meters, due west.’ The Decepticon stallion certainly didn’t have to go far to get the aluminum he needed. “What bothers me is sheer speed that the news traveled, and that it has become a source of amusement.”

“Why go out with Princess Luna at all then?” Rock Crusher challenged. “That’s pretty high profile. I guess I shouldn’t tell my daughter that you’re available for dating,” he determined.

“Wait – what? I just – WHAT?” Ravage couldn’t believe the reach and effects that going on a date with Luna was having.

“Sure, why not? You’re young, hard working, smart.” Rock Crusher was cutting up his carrots as if there wasn’t a disturbance.

Ravage scrambled through his database trying to figure out what to say if somepony asked him his age. Eight-million-plus wouldn’t work at all as a response. He also realized he had to actually support his decision to date Princess Luna, even if it killed him on the inside. “Well, Luna is – loooong,” he tried describing, parting his forelegs to demonstrate length.

And thus, the small assembly of ponies doubled over in laughter. Except for Ravage. He had just made a fool of himself, and there was no getting out of it.

“Ya like long horns do ya?” teased Die Cast, the other older pony. “I hope ya don’t mind me tellin’ m’ah daughter about yer lookin’ for a mare. She’s got blessed horn length.”

Bo was wiping a tear out her eye. Her hooves were previously occupied with holding her stomach. “Did you mean ‘slim’, Ravage?”

Indeed, that’s what Ravage meant to say. “I think that would better describe Luna, yes.”

Die Cast poked the embarrassed Decepticon on the shoulder. “Yer still into horns, right?”

After that bout of foolishness, Ravage tried his best to deflect questions away from him, and answer any questions that got by as vaguely as possible. Eventually, other conversation topics had taken over. There was no doubt about it; he was never going to hear the end of the jokes made involving him and Luna’s horn. He could try to isolate himself, but that would only draw more attention. Sticking by Bo and Micah’s side was his best defense, for they have been most supportive. Fortunately, most of the rest of the day would be filled with hard work, not chatter.


=^.^=


Aster scanned the skies with her eyepiece, and found Rainbow Dash just beyond the Whitetail Woods, exactly where she should be. The officer-to-be took off with a shot, and Aster put her goggles on. Soon, a Sonic Rainboom appeared right where she expected it.

Rainbow Dash slowed down right after she broke the sound barrier, unlike most other times she performed the feat. While she preferred to enjoy the thrill of supersonic speed, Aster needed her to do something a little different today.

Her frame strained and her muscles felt like they were on fire while attempting to repeat the supersonic event without stopping. Breaking the sound barrier was never easy, but it was starting to feel like practicing before she had won the Best Young Flyer competition. A second Mach cone started forming, but Rainbow’s body felt like a lead weight. Unable to push through, the magical ether betrayed the exhausted pegasus, forming an elastic barrier of resistance within the cone and flinging her in the opposite direction. Tumbling out of control, she plummeted toward to branches of the Whitetail Woods, but just before impact, Aster intercepted her.

“Just so you know,” Rainbow vented between laboured breaths, “I could have handled the crash.” She took time to gulp in more oxygen, “It wouldn’t have been the first time.”

“Aw Rainbow, think about the trees!” Aster retorted. She could feel how weak the stunt made her young friend, as the normally stalwart forelegs could only grasp feebly at her body. The trainer had to take great care, and ensured extra support around the neck and head. Upon landing, she tried to let Dash stand on all four legs, as dignity was so important to her. “How are you feeling?”

Well on her way to catching her breath, Dash responded, “Used.”

“Beg your pardon?”

“I talked to Twilight about what we’ve been doing. She thought it might have been research, but found it odd that you haven’t been taking any notes.” Rainbow had become suspicious after talking to her unicorn friend.

Aster caught herself before showing any reaction. She completely missed the possibility of Twilight Sparkle getting involved, and sensed that a change in conduct was imminent. The big mare lowered her head, unable to deflect the inevitable answer. “No. No, I haven’t been.”

“May I ask why? I mean, I’m awesome enough to time my sonic rainbooms,” she chuckled, “but why do I need to do more than one? The way you were talking this morning, you made it sound like I should be able to just go ahead and do two of them.” The junior Wonderbolt had rarely considered doing two consecutive sonic rainbooms, since just one took incredible effort.

Like Ravage, Aster also had honed the techniques of keeping her emotional state under control. She regarded her former student, who she was, how far she’d come. Even if the Elements were brought into the fold and told the truth about what was really going on, Aster herself was largely kept in the dark. Could the truth be trusted with the likes of Pinkie Pie, and Rarity? She didn’t know them like Rainbow did, but neither she nor her associates were going to take any chances. Aster looked away from the determined Element of Loyalty, put a hoof to her chin and pondered a compromise.

“First of all, I want to say that your officer application is being processed. You should be able to start training in less than two months.” Aster’s expression was neutral, and it made Rainbow Dash all the more apprehensive.

Oh, Rainbow was happy to hear that she was well on her way to becoming an officer. Finally! But this was overwhelmed by the sinister aura that radiated from the Advanced Flight Mechanics teacher, her friend! It felt awful, and registered on her face as puzzlement with a shot of confusion mixed in.

“For the other thing, we need you to come to Canterlot. I’ll make the arrangements.” The normally playful language, including the lilt in her voice, was replaced with precise, almost mechanized discourse.

“What is this about, Aster!”

“We need you. In about two weeks, but you won’t be ready.”

“Who needs me? What…” Rainbow was about to say more when Aster had raised a hoof to her face; a request for listening.

“Rainbow, the truth is too volatile to be spoken of outside of a magically secured area. What I can say is that we need you to be able to do two consecutive sonic rainbooms less than a second apart, and at a precise location.” Dash’s incredulous face remained. “What’s involved is big, Rainbow. Please understand.”

“You can’t make me do that ya know,” rebelled the suspicious pony.

“I know. But let us try to convince you. Come to Canterlot with me. All expenses paid. It would be for an evening, but you can stay overnight. It would have to be done soon.”

“When did you plan on telling me what you really wanted, Aster?” Rainbow felt used alright. She had held Aster in such high regard too.

“This morning.”

“What? Are you serious?”

Aster needed to be convincing. “Rainbow, you read the messages yourself. First, we needed you to time your sonic rainbooms, and now we need two of them on top of each other. But before we continue, I need you to swear secrecy, okay? Nothing we speak about from here on in should be heard by any other pony’s ears.”

“Yeah, yeah. I promise I won’t say anything.” Flight maneuvers tended to be kept a secret until they were ready for the world anyways. “Can I see this morning’s message?” Rainbow Dash asked. Aster produced it. Reading aloud, “Top Secret. Final phase of operation will be in less than two weeks. Rainbow Dash is to produce two consecutive rainbooms within one second of each other and train as much as possible. When necessary, magical assistance will be applied.” The junior Wonderbolt flipped the page around, looking for more. “That’s all there is.” Rainbow did not deviate from her original line of thinking. “Why do you need me to do this?”

“I don’t know why they need you to do this, but I can assure you it wouldn’t be done without very good reason,” Aster replied with straight forward narrative.

“Who are they?” Dash demanded.

“My organization.” Aster noticed that this didn’t satisfy Rainbow Dash, who was sitting on her haunches with her forelegs crossed. “Equestria has many organizations that specialize in protecting her people. Military, police, fire brigades – they’re all there to protect ponies. So do we, but at the underground level, and in complete secrecy.”

“And they are called?”

“We’re nameless, and few ponies know we even exist. That’s the way it has to be. The less attention we draw to ourselves, the more effective we are.

Rainbow Dash covered her eyes with a hoof in disgust, “Ugh! I don’t believe this. Am I still under contract? I can’t become an officer in the Wonderbolts unless I keep training with you, right?”

“Yes,” the secretive mare replied, lowering her head. “Sorry.”

Rainbow clapped the bottom of one hoof onto the side of the other, “I knew I should have stayed in school,” she said to herself angrily, eyes narrowed.

“Rainbow, take a look.” Aster gestured to a nearby field that had some foals playing on it, kicking around an ever present ball. “Have you ever asked yourself how it is they can carry on without a care in the world?”

“Uh, because they’re foals?”

“Because they have nothing to fear. The military and police can’t keep all the crazies out – but we can. And we do!”

The irritated Wonderbolt looked at what was just a typical, everyday field, shaking her head at how Aster’s organization could possibly take credit for the boring scene.

Aster continued, “Armies fight armies.”

A young pegasus filly managed to kick the ball away from a throng of foals.

“Police maintain order.”

An earth pony colt, possibly her teammate, kicked the ball between a space delineated by two sticks shoved into the ground. His friends cheered, and many hoof bumps were exchanged.

“But when an enemy acts alone, whether guided or unguided, with intent to hurt our fellow ponies, who stops him?” Aster looked toward her former student, hoping she got the point.

“Lemme guess, your ‘organization’?” Rainbow scoffed.

“You’ll notice that when that filly kicked the ball, she didn’t set off a magical ward, blowing her leg off.”

“What?!” If Rainbow Dash wasn’t disgusted before, she was now.

“Like I asked before, who keeps the crazies out?” Aster had maintained an uncharacteristic stoicism. “A few centuries ago, violence like that was much more commonplace, but our efforts helped stop it.”

“Yeah, I gotta go now.” With a whoosh of air, Rainbow Dash took off. This didn’t surprise the educator one bit, though.

“By the way!” she yelled at the receding pegasus, “We think there may be a threat in Ponyville!” She was confident that she’ll be seeing Rainbow Dash again, and soon. Hopefully, she will have digested the new information.


=^.^=


After work, Ravage traveled to the aluminum source. He couldn’t help but admire what the ponies had done with it. Upon radio emission verification, it turned out to be the frame for one of the more popular statues in Ponyville.

While not gleaming alabaster, the porous rock that made up the likeness of Princess Celestia rearing up on her hind legs was impressive to look at. However, her gentle smile and adorable eyes removed any feelings of intimidation. This was most unexpected. In fact, those eyes – those big, clear eyes seemed almost alive. Ravage scanned the statue again. It was just rock.

Two birds came swooping in, set on landing on the statue. Just before they could land something repelled them, something invisible. It was then that he noticed how free of bird droppings that statue was. All of the town’s ornamentation was clean, and Ravage suspected that magic was somehow involved in this. Still, could it repel Decepticons?

Ravage extended a foreleg and carefully managed to touch the statue’s hind leg without issue. It was then he made an important realization, making his brow furrow and the corners of his lips curled up in an evil sneer. ‘I get to steal something.’ He programmed the satellite to do an in depth scan as he began pondering the logistics of how to get the aluminum out of Ponyville and into his metallurgical processing facility.

“She’s gorgeous, isn’t she?”

Ravage snapped back to reality, doing an about face in trying to address the familiar voice that was speaking to him.

Flitter immediately rubbed her muzzle against his, crinkling the flexible tissue of both. Ravage was totally unprepared for the act, and remained speechless.

“So whatcha doing looking at a statue of Celestia? Aren’t you hungry?” Flitter was upbeat, happy to have run into her kissing partner unopposed.

Ravage sat on his haunches and felt his stomach, “Yes I am.” He couldn’t believe how easily he forgot about the hunger pangs during his scheming.

“Got any big plans for this evening?” she queried. ‘I have too much work to do’ was not an excuse she wanted to hear.

“I have to be at the library for seven, but I need to eat and bathe first,” he replied plainly.

Flitter avoided letting the info get her down, hoping there were other evenings she could get from the busy stallion. “Wanna go out with me on Friday?” With her head tilted gently like her smile, she awaited his response.

Ravage was certain that Flitter knew about his coming date with Luna and, for reasons known only to the locals, this made her feel comfortable enough to ask him out. He remembered Bo’s warning, about how he was going to get busy, but even though he knew that giving in to pony cultural norms felt threatening, he had to soldier on. He was a Decepticon spy, and the great reckoning would come when he finally updated his technology, and acquired sufficient energon to escape to another world.

Flitter would not be the last mare to ask him out. He sensed that the Elements of Harmony would follow, as they had followed him into Pearl Bliss’ lair. Though the breakfast at Rarity’s had gone without incident, Rainbow Dash supplied evidence indicating that Rarity was indeed interested in Ravage, and so was the rest of her group. Just handling Luna expended a great deal of energy, how could he even pretend to make time for six mares? And that didn’t even include Flitter, and whoever else would make a date request. How was he supposed to get any work done?

The potentially aggressive mare was waiting for his response. Her calm and cool demeanor did not fool Ravage. He wanted to repel any and all date requests as they came along and he felt it was pretty clear that he wanted to be left alone, but that did not seem to resonate in this kind of society. “Sorry, but no. My funds cannot support another date.” He felt this was a valid reason, yet he somehow knew this wouldn’t stop Flitter.

She giggled, a first reaction that was not good for talking to Ravage. “I’ll be paying, silly! You just come along for the ride. So what do ya say?”

Putting his hoof to his chin, Ravage pondered. He had to say no again? If he did go on a date, would there be any good to come of it? His supporting, public reasons would be that he had a good rapport with her, and that they had fun. Privately, Flitter could yield more insight on Equestria. On the bad side, it would be largely a waste of time, of this he was certain. Of course, playing volleyball turned out to not be a waste of time like he thought it would, and the same could be said of Hoofball. He would happily play either sport again. Still, there was the other thing to consider.

Thanks to his listening to the conversations at work, he was pretty sure that the Equestrian reproductive processes had mostly been abandoned for use in actually reproducing, and for some reason the ponies would rather repeat these processes over and over again. Why? How could that be fun? He found the act of reproduction viscerally revolting, and yet it was apparent that many mares wanted to use those procedures on himself! From the limited data he had, he suspected that there were high odds that feigning reproduction was the secret objective of most dates. The worst implication was that if he wanted to maintain his cover, he couldn’t say anything disrespectful toward these acts. To preserve his sanity, his only chance was denial.

He decided to accept her offer, since it would provide excellent support for his cover. Besides, if it came to a physical confrontation, he would win, assuming no unicorns interfered. As insurance, and knowing that her four friends might be lurking nearby, he turned on his satellite display.

“Okay, what might we be doing?” Ravage agreed.

Flitter’s face erupted in a wide mouthed gasp, and she hopped as if she were surprised at the positive response. “Alright!” She ran up and glomped the Decepticon stallion, nuzzling her face into his neck while emitting, ‘cute’ sounds. “So, eight o’ clock this Friday, sweetie?”

“Uh, sure.” Ravage had learned to roll up his eyes, as if recalling a story, while making these kinds of decisions. Also, it felt natural to do so.

“Meet me at this statue?”

Assuming it is still here by then,’ “Okay.” He smiled warmly, looking forward to building his black matter detector.

Flitter kissed his cheek – not an unexpected reaction – and turned to head away. “See ya on Friday, sexy,” she winked. Ravage turned about and headed to his base.


=^.^=


Ravage had to trot home. He also vowed to use his satellite and compass every time he was on his way home from now on. He took a short bath, which really irritated him since he preferred to relax for quite a while. Devouring his supper instead of relaxing while eating also pissed him off. The result of his sacrifice of down time was that he made the library on time.

Upon knocking on the door, he needed to wait only few seconds for Spike to answer.

“Uh, Ravage was it?” Spike asked, pointing an inquisitive claw at the stallion.

“Correct. Is Twilight around?”

Coming’ could be heard from within the bowels of the building which also doubled as a very old oak tree, somehow still alive and healthy. There seemed to be more than four hooves trouncing the place too.

Ravage was a little surprised to see Rainbow Dash emerge. She stopped and looked at him with a smirk on her face before shaking her head. “Good luck. You’ll need it,” she quipped before flying off at her typical great speed.

The Decepticon pony saw the door open magically, followed by Twilight Sparkle walking up to the entrance with her horn aglow. He noticed ethereal vapour dissolving on her sides where wings would normally be, but took it to be some sort of magical process that the unicorn usually performs, and assumed it was of no consequence.

“Welcome to the Library,” she cheerfully spoke, showing Ravage inside. The interior was surprisingly roomy. Shelves carved out of the very tree itself held the books in oval recesses. The two ponies set up shop on a table with the necessary books and implements on a table off to the side, sitting on their haunches.

“Ravage, you don’t know how happy it makes me to be able to teach you magic, especially since you’re an earth pony,” the Element of magic chirped. “Ready for your first lesson?”

“Prepared,” he replied simply.

“Okay. All ponies possess magic in some form or another. Earth ponies use it to grow and acquire food better than the other phenotypes and it also gives them great strength and endurance. Pegasi are enabled to perform flight and manipulate clouds. Unicorns are born with the ability to use magic directly. It is the magic of unicorns that I want to focus our lessons with, Ravage. It is the most explored, researched, and developed of the pony magics, by far. Is that alright with you?”

“Affirmative,” Ravage said, smiling. Twilight returned the smile, enjoying his unorthodox vocabulary.

“Magic manipulation is not possible through emotion, but with thought,” she went on.

“Oh?”

“That’s right, but it’s not thinking in the sense of words formed in the mind, but with the formation of spells. Like a sentence, a spell is made of components that have different functions, analogous to nouns and verbs, but it takes the form of a feeling – not an emotion, remember! A unicorn can feel for all of the components of magic, and she can do this any day, any time. It’s like a sixth sense. The components themselves are actually things like target, direction, power, and so on.” She looked to Ravage, who seemed to be engrossed in her lecture.

“Go on.”

“It is in understanding which magical components to feel for and how to assemble them that allows a spell to be prepared. Like language, unicorn magic can be learned, understood and,” she opened an entry level unicorn spell book, its lines formed by symbols representing magical components, “written down.” The symbols did not have any bearing on the pony language spoken daily. In fact the symbols could not be spoken, only written down, although each one undoubtedly had a designation. Ponies never bothered with speaking incantations, since it was always faster to activate their Magic directly.

Suddenly, Ravage’s eyes came alive with the thrill of discovery. ‘So that’s why the magical text was impossible to decipher! You literally have to be a unicorn who can feel for each symbol as a magical component!’ Even Soundwave could not deduce the magical code. The only way to understand it was to actually talk to a unicorn who knew how to teach it. ‘Starscream was right!

More importantly than that, Ravage realized that ponies were not mental pushovers either, the unicorns in particular. Decepticons, humans, pegasi, and pretty much all other sapient life forms could think and feel. Unicorns had a third tier of mental acuity: they can sense and manipulate magic directly, and Twilight Sparkle was describing exactly how!

Twilight’s eyes narrowed as her lips drew into a proud smirk, “Cool, huh?”

“Extremely!” Ravage hadn’t been this excited since the last battle with the Autobots, and he certainly had never been this excited about learning. But he still wondered, “So why not use normal language to describe magical components? Why use symbols?”

“Because the symbols are drawn like how a component feels.” Twilight noticed a funny look from Ravage, making her chuckle. “And you can write down Magically enchanted words, but I’ll get to that later.”

Twilight had always dreamed of teaching such an eager student, and an earth pony at that. It filled her pride and she felt encouraged, continuing the lesson. “There are four classes of magic, each with their own symbol sets. They are the first, second, third and fourth thaumic fields. I’m not gonna lie, most ponies only get taught about the third and fourth thaumic fields. Only the princesses are well versed in the first and second. Now, as I am Celestia’s student, I have been privy to a little bit of knowledge from the first and second fields,” she said, placing her hoof on her chest in a respectful gesture.

Ravage was gazing at Twilight, entranced and hanging onto every word. Twilight suddenly became concerned. “Uh Ravage?”

“Hmm?”

“Aren’t you going to write any of this down? I mean, there are over forty symbols in the fourth thaumic field alone. You can’t remember all that!” She levitated a quill and ink well toward him, with the feathered end getting close to his mouth. “Say awww.” The smiling unicorn enjoyed this kind of teasing very much.

“Say what – ummlpch…” Twilight shoved a feather into Ravage’s mouth. It was then that he made another horrible realization: he can’t write! He could read and speak the pony language, but he had never attempted to write it, and now he had to use his mouth! Knowing the spelling and grammar, and knowing what the letters looked like, he leaned forward while securing the parchment with his hooves. To say this was awkward was an understatement. It was also useless! Ravage’s mind was contained in his metaprocessor, a digital construct; memorizing details was something Decepticons never had a problem with, except in rare cases where their brains were purposely powered down in order to authenticate a disguise. For now though, he had no choice but to pretend to know how to write. Using the pony language, he tried to write a list of the magical fields with sufficient space beside them to write brief descriptions.

Grrrmph,’ Twilight growled after just a few minutes, which was actually a lot longer than it should have taken for Ravage to do his meager scribbling. “I swear pony penmanship has gone down the tubes since I was a filly.” She yanked the quill from Ravage’s mouth with her magic and started preparing the notes herself. “I’ll do it for you. I’m faster anyways, but you need to learn how to write properly, especially when you need to finish a quiz or exam.”

Ravage did a double-take (his first one!), “I’m being examined?”

“Of course,” the pony educator primly replied. “How else are you going to commit my teachings to memory?”

Ravage’s brow furrowed in disbelief.

“Ravage, you may think you’re the most capable of ponies, but don’t fool yourself. You need to learn to write properly, and you need to take notes. Pretending like you can memorize everything without effort will lead to disappointment.” Twilight quickly wrote down a summary of what was said so far. “I’ll help you, but now you not only need to learn magic, you need to learn to write properly as well. That way I can focus on teaching.”

Oh, great.

“You can handle it, Ravage. I have faith in you,” Twilight said, being supportive. “Let’s continue, shall we? First, I’ll make a list of the component symbols used in both the third and fourth thaumic fields.”


=^.^=


Ravage learned a great deal. Magic turned out to be a discipline understood almost entirely by ponies, and it was well researched. Included in the discussion of Magic were its origins. Like technological civilizations, ponies came upon their magical abilities slowly, through trial and error. They could access all four thaumic fields, but with the advent of the princesses, were restricted to useful knowledge for only the third and fourth fields. As Twilight continued lecturing, it was easy to see why.

It became clear very early in lecture that each thaumic field had a counterpart in physics: the four principle forces to be exact. Levitation and cloud-walking spells altered gravity, and refrigeration spells that kept food cool altered electromagnetism. Stasis spells altered both. The first and second thaumic fields, which the chipper teacher gave no details on, almost certainly represented the strong and weak nuclear forces, that is, Magic can operate even at subatomic levels. The very thought of it was frightening until Twilight explained that a spell’s power is only as powerful as the unicorn casting it, though magical power, or ‘mana’, can be increased as an individual practices more and more, or by several ponies working in concert. It was rather relieving for Ravage to figure out that a pony should not be able to ‘reach out and nuke someone’. Fissile material or the proper proportions of hydrogen isotopes for fusion still had to be present in the target. Otherwise, the yield from an attack spell would have to be well within her mana.

One of the most interesting dynamics was the ley lines. It was the ley lines through which every thaumic field is connected to every pony. To Ravage, this sounded like a network of conduits, ones which were mobile and stayed permanently connected to each pony, and every living that was influenced by Magic. How this was done, the overwhelmed Decepticon could not even guess.

By necessity, Magic was taught to unicorns by other unicorns. Oh, pegasi and earth ponies would be told in brief what it was about, and what it could do, but it was the unicorns that got the details. Twilight had long felt that other pony races were being cheated of knowledge, and so she was more than a little keen when Ravage showed interest in the subject.

Twilight made many demonstrations. During one of them, the pony bot looked up with concern at the six eggs floating above his head. “Are you sure this is necessary, Twilight?”

“Of course! I’m trying to show that power is proportional. I lifted up one egg using a certain amount of power from the fourth thaumic field, now I’m showing you that precisely six times the power can neutrally levitate six eggs.” She spoke with gusto, passionate about her craft.

“Yes but, wouldn’t it be better to do it over a bowl?” Ravage had little experience with raw eggs, but he knew they were rather fragile.

Twilight looked offended. “And remove the element of disaster? Ravage, I’m surprised at you. Learning to stay focused in the face of a potential mess is crucial to learning Magic.”

Still looking at those six eggs, all he could do was nod and smile. “Okay.”

The unicorn magician took Ravage’s calm demeanor to be a lack of conviction. Could he really doubt her abilities? “Okay fine, I’ll get a bowl,” she said dryly. The eggs were skillfully maintained in levitation while Twilight got a bowl from the kitchen, levitating beside her, and keeping pace. “Hmm, while we’re at it,” a whisk teleported beside the bowl, “why not make an omelet!” The enthusiastic mare dropped all six eggs into the bowl and started rhythmically beating them with the whisk. It took only a few seconds for her to realize her mistake, heralded by her lop-sided frown of disappointment.

“You forgot to break open the eggs again, didn’t you!?” Spike yelled from another room, followed by hysterical laughter.

“Did you use the first or second thaumic field to teleport the mixing device?” Ravage queried as if nothing was wrong.

Ravage was curious as to how ponies were such strict herbivores, and yet had no qualms about eating the unborn young of birds. After dumping the mixture in the garbage, the lesson continued.

How unicorns trained each other was special as well. Educators would assemble Magical components in the proper sequence during their lectures. Unicorn students didn’t need to see anything, since they could feel it just fine. Of course, like all disciplines, many notes still had to be taken.

Another interesting tidbit that Twilight hit upon was the charging of written words with Magic. Like advanced programming languages, the Magical word could be mapped back to the components from which they came. Thus, writing down a spell could be made vastly more efficient with the Magical word. Effectively, this made the Magical text like a lecturer, with all the components prearranged properly. ‘Levitate’, at least the way ponies spell it, could be charged with the necessary components, which the unicorn reader need only assemble for herself. Assuming she had sufficiently developed her skills, the spell should work just fine.

The final aspect of pony Magic was the princesses. Super powerful, they led all of pony civilization in Equestria. It was this small group that Ravage feared. He now knew that they had working knowledge of the first and second thaumic fields. Could they be using it to move the heavens? Control over the sun and moon sounded more like a fourth thaumic field spell was needed, but their power would have to be immense! So immense as to not believed, in fact, Ravage did not believe it. There had to be another explanation.

Twilight’s lesson continued into the night, and both ponies didn’t notice the sun setting. “Well that’s it. Boy it sure is late!” she quipped. “Did you want to go to the dam tomorrow? I’d love to see how much of your magical knowledge you can put into describing how the dam generates power for Ponyville.”

Ravage could not have hoped for a better suggestion. “Certainly! Will there still be magic lessons tomorrow?”

Twilight laughed, “You’re a machine, Ravage! Of course we can make that happen. I was thinking that we might continue on Wednesday so you can digest all those details, but yeah! We’ll learn more about Magic tomorrow.”

Ravage was taken aback by being referred to as a ‘machine’, but he quickly recovered. He thought and felt as other sapient life forms did, but the metal body he possessed for most of his life would certainly give the appearance of a mere machine upon first glance. Besides, it was a compliment from Twilight that meant ‘tireless’.

The Decepticon stallion turned on his satellite display, and ordered the battle network to search for Princess Luna. As soon as he got outside, she could spot him. “I finish up work for five. Then I have to go home to clean up and eat. Then I could…”

“Actually, you can shower and eat here if you like,” Twilight interrupted. “Then we could have more time for the dam and Magic lessons.” The little unicorn looked like she was about to start bouncing on her hooves, she was so excited.

“Really?”

“Yes! C’mon, it’s not like I’m offering the keys to the Kingdom or anything. I like having you as a – well, I like having you around.” The smiling unicorn was about to say ‘guest’, but remembered that her friends had a stake in this stallion. She could easily see why too. The same pony who could learn hoofball so quickly was also an exceptional student, smashing through the earth pony/unicorn barrier and voraciously learning Magic theory. Twilight truly enjoyed having him around. More than a couple of her friends have entertained suggestions of what he might like on a date. She started blushing at the thought.

“Twilight, is something wrong?” Ravage queried, noticing Twilight’s change in behaviour. ‘Oh no, not again.

“Just be here for five tomorrow, Ravage. Can you do that?” She spoke normally, but her eyes betrayed what she was feeling.

“I shall,” he replied, opening the door to leave. “Good night, Twilight.”

“Good night.” She sighed a happy sigh. Was her fledgling herd to be rewarded at last for their patience? A six-mare herd would not be easy to service, and they only wanted one stallion. The wistful mare felt that if any stallion could fill that gap, it looked like it might be Ravage. It was time for action. Twilight decided to gather her fellow Elements on the morrow, and determine whether to pursue the stallion who very recently came to town.

It was the easiest walking home Ravage experienced since he got there. The raven androids detected Luna in her tower during a fly-by. She was reading a book. No other ponies tried to follow him and he made it to his base in good time.

Against his better judgment, he turned off his subspace radio, essentially cutting him off from his satellite network. He made sure that any alerts were forwarded to his ship’s computer, and that a very loud alarm would sound, waking him up. Still, it didn’t feel right to have to lower his defenses just so he could sleep.


=^.^=


The next day started out with quite a good downpour from a light thundershower which receded into continuous rain. Although ponies disliked the rain, it didn’t stop them from performing their daily duties.

Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Applejack showed up at the library late in the morning, happy to get out of the rain, joining Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Twilight Sparkle. Twilight levitated some towels and dried them off.

“Spike is at the Crusaders’ club house,” Applejack indicated. “Can ‘Ah assume then, that this is adult talk? ‘Bout Ravage?”

“You assume correctly, Applejack. Come around the table, girls.” Having been motioned to their places by Twilight, the six sat around a small, round table. “Perfect timing on the rain, Dash,” she complimented to the pony sitting beside her.

“Eh, it was on the schedule.”

*ahem* “I asked you all to come this morning to talk about our herd’s status. The last time we had herd discussion it was when we first declared it. That was – what – four months ago?” A couple of nods and affirmatives followed Twilight’s question. “For the sake of Equestria, we decided that it would be wise to go a step beyond the Magic of Friendship and form a herd. Please note, the other Princesses emphatically feel that we under no obligation to support the Elements by herding, and that we may live our lives and pursue our dreams as we wish. I, however, still feel that our herd will be mutually beneficial to ourselves, as well as our nation. Would all ponies who feel as I do please raise their hooves.” Six hooves went up in the air. “Good. Now, down to business.”

Rarity added, “The Elements of Harmony need to be kept together, no matter how far we travel, or what direction life takes us. As herds are an intimate grouping, it’s the best choice.” A chorus of feminine agreement followed her statement.

“Anypony see any nice stallions, lately?” Applejack asked.

“Ravage is in Ponyville,” a smiling Fluttershy pointed out.

“And he’s dating. Princess – Luna!” Pinkie squealed, holding her hooves to her cheeks, looking wishfully up to the ceiling.

“He’s sure as sugar popular too.” Applejack felt that Ravage was okay, and yearned for more information on him. “Every day ‘Ah talk to more than a couple ‘o mares who hold him in high regard.”

“I’m one of those ponies, Applejack,” Twilight started, “and I’m sure there are more than a couple of mares in this room that reflect my interest. However, to be fair I have to ask, are there any other stallions that may have turned a head or two in here?” A moment of silence passed. “Rarity, you seemed to get along well with Thunderlane.”

“Oh he is a darling pegasus, Twilight, but somewhat lacking in the intellect department.” Rarity’s grimace was a little confusing to her friends, but she didn’t want to let on that her interest in the short cropped stallion was mainly lustful. “Besides, I hear he was asked out by one of the other mares from the party.” Silence returned to the group.

“Any other stallions?” Twilight pressed. “C’mon they’re not that rare.”

Applejack thought hard about it. “Quantity ain’t exactly on our side, Twi. And when you take a good look, neither is quality.”

“There’s a lot ‘o jerks out there,” Rainbow added.

“Oh my,” muttered as she Fluttershy lowered herself so just her eyes peered above the table, “Mean colts often turn into mean stallions.”

“What about the guards, Twilight?” Pinkie asked. “There’s gotta be a least one who isn’t already taken.”

“Yes!” Rarity’s smile returned as if she had just discovered a mountain of gemstones. “The Equestrian Guard trains only the finest ponies.”

Twilight lowered her head. “Nope.” The group unilaterally frowned at the negative answer. “I checked.” Her friends didn’t doubt for a second that Twilight used her Princess status to look over the guard manifest. “The stallion guards all have families, herds, or wives of their own.”

“Um, Ravage is in Ponyville,” Fluttershy repeated.

Twilight and her friends’ attitudes had perked up at the mention of his name. Rarity was about to mention the nobles when she remembered one of her painful experiences at the Grand Galloping Gala, thus quashing the idea.

“Okay, it’s time to talk about Ravage then,” Twilight decided. She could hear a faint cheer coming from Fluttershy. “Let’s sum up the pros and cons, shall we? Pro: he’s a great student.” The unicorn was smiling proudly at how easily Ravage, an earth pony, absorbed the entry level lesson on magic.

Applejack sounded off. “Con: he doesn’t laugh. Ponies that don’t laugh are devious. That’s been m’ah experience.”

“Doesn’t laugh?!” Pinkie Pie cried out, as if in pain. “Is he K-razy?”

“Princess Luna doesn’t laugh much either, Pinkie,” Twilight countered. She put a hoof to her chin. “She is kinda devious though.”

Rainbow figured that Ravage was probably tough, but not devoid of laughter. “Actually, Flitter and Cloudchaser both said that Ravage was laughing pretty hard when they played volleyball with him.”

“He’s kind to animals and foals,” Fluttershy said. It quickly silenced all of the Elements, as none had thought of a retort.

“Hmm. That’s a pretty big one,” Twilight agreed. For a few moments, nopony spoke.

Rarity contributed her experience. “He was quite helpful when he was over for breakfast last Saturday, and I hear tell that he’s never late for work.”

“I haven’t seen flanks that nice on any other stallion in Ponyville. Isn’t that right, Twilight?” Rainbow Dash teased, nudging the unicorn on her shoulder. “Of course, not as nice as yours truly,” the cocky mare boasted, referring to herself by hoof.

Twilight leaned in and kissed Rainbow Dash on the cheek, causing her to blush. “Thank you for pointing that out, Rainbow, but let’s move beyond physical attributes shall we? Rugged good looks and big muscles are common among stallions.”

“’Ah heard he’s hard workin’. Construction worker?” Applejack wanted to verify what she’s been told about him.

“Certainly yes, Applejack,” Rarity chimed in. “He pours concrete all day long! The poor dear. He seems very intelligent; it’s hard to believe he’s not designing those buildings. Moving blocks just can’t be his forte. Look at his cutie mark when he passes by. It just doesn’t make sense.”

“Ahhhh,” Pinkie Pie said conspiratorially, poking her head into the middle of the assembly, “but the one who arranges the blocks builds the nation.” Her peers gave her funny looks.

“We all have histories, Rarity. Our backgrounds say a lot about who we are.” Twilight’s friends nodded in agreement. “Does anypony know of Ravage’s background?”

For a few moments there was silence, but then Fluttershy spoke up. “I don’t think he likes to talk about it. He was telling me about how he and his friends were constantly fighting other groups.” This got some concerned stares from the other Elements. “I think he had a rough foalhood.”

Rarity focused her eyes ponderously. “That could explain why his attributes and current occupation are mismatched.”

“Aw c’mon, Rarity. He just got into town last week,” Applejack countered. “He can’t just waltz in and be the district engineer for Ponyville. He’s gotta start somewhere.”

“But a more prepared stallion would start at a more respectable level,” Twilight responded. “So, we have a looker who’s smart, tough, and yet he’s also kind. He’s organized to a fault, and seldom laughs. I can relate,” said Twilight, indicating to herself with a foreleg. “He’s apparently had a rough time growing up; from rural Equestria, was it?” Fluttershy nodded in response. “Does anypony know why Ravage is in Ponyville?”

“Probably work,” Rainbow suspected.

“Yes, but why here.” Twilight wanted to press her point. “He can pour concrete in Baltimare. That’s where the construction boom is.”

“His appearance does seem sudden.” Rarity didn’t want to be delayed from going after Ravage, so it pained her to do such scrutiny, even if it was necessary.

“New ponies come here all the time, Rarity,” Pinkie Pie happily countered. “And more come in than go out. Yay!” The energetic mare was practically bouncing, loving how her little town was getting bigger and bigger.

Rainbow Dash was getting antsy. “It looks like we’ll have to answer that one later, Twi. He hasn’t been here that long,” she said, wanting to finish up with this silly meeting and take to the skies so she can clear up the rain and practice.

“True. I’m sure we’ll find out eventually,” Twilight admitted. Satisfied that enough background information was revealed, Twilight moved onto the next step. “Okay ponies, do we want to get a little closer to our potential stallion mate?” A mixture of ‘yes’, and ‘yeah’ and no negative responses were heard.

Applejack spoke, supporting the decision, “If by ‘get a little closer’ you mean datin’ then ‘Ahm all for it.”

“An evening with Ravage,” Fluttershy mused, privately entertaining visions of herself cuddled up beside him.

Pinkie Pie gasped, “Do you think he likes chocolate cherry fritters dipped in caramel with peanuts and sprinkles?” she rapid fired, explaining one of hundreds of ways to drown their potential love interest in sugar.

“Ravage has a date with Flitter on Friday, and then Princess Luna the next Friday,” Rainbow Dash indicated.

“Is Cloudchaser’s group a herd as well, Rainbow Dash?” Rarity queried.

Twilight snugged Rainbow Dash, rubbing her cheek into the pegasus’ neck. The junior Wonderbolt kept her nerves in check, and tried to explain, “I don’t think so. I think Flitter and Cloudchaser got a deal going on with Pearl Bliss, Winter, and Saffron.”

The amorous unicorn snapped back to attention, but still held onto Dash. “They’re always one step ahead of us. How? Didn’t we see him first?”

“Ponies, they’re on a mission,” Pinkie spoke, assuming a sneaky expression. “While we’ve been going about our daily lives randomly interacting with Ravage, Flitter and Cloudchaser have made it a priority to see him every day.” The pink mare’s face suddenly became angry. “They threw a party for him before we could.” Then she became disappointed. “I haven’t even thrown him a Pinkie Pie Party!” she screamed, forelegs flailing in the library air. “I’ve thrown parties – for every – pony. Everypony that moves to town has partied with me, even Cranky Doodle! Eventually. But NOOOoooo, not Ravage.”

Realization suddenly hit Applejack. “Four savvy hoofball players, my left flank!” she angrily responded.

“Chill, Applejack. That was a good game.” Rainbow didn’t see Flitter and Cloudchaser around Ravage as a bad thing. If anything, she felt they kept the other mares away, reducing competition.

Twilight took it all in. “Okay girls, our original strategy was to let him get used to us on his own time table. It appears we may have to revise our plan.”

“Other ponies seem to have no trouble occupying Ravage’s time,” Rarity pointed out.

“I think we should spend more time with him.” Fluttershy had wanted to suggest this since the beginning.

Pinkie Pie stuck her neck over the middle of the table. “Oh! Oh! We could have a picnic! Or see a movie!” and with a mighty gasp, “We could make cupcakes!” she sing-songed.

“Whatever we do should be done soon,” Applejack figured.

“It’s time to bring our A-game,” Rainbow Dash said, making a gesture of slamming one front hoof upon the other.

“I think we are all in agreement,” Twilight determined. “Get closer to Ravage. Schedule dates with him if you can. I don’t think we need to show how strong we are, but it might help.”

“Don’t hold back, girls,” Applejack demanded. “If he’s right for us, then we gotta get him!” A strong and simultaneous agreement from her fellow Elements followed.

“Just one more thing,” Pinkie interjected. “We’re a herd, right? So that means we can get a little saucy with each other, right?”

Twilight caught on to what her pink friend was saying, but tried to be cautious with her response. “Yee-ess.”

“So, that means I can kiss Dashie?” she asked in a high pitched voice, and her tail wagging hard enough to shake up the body it was attached to.

A blushing blue pegasus tried to calm her down. “Whoah, Pinkie. Let’s not be too hast…” was a she could get in before Pinkie tackled her to the ground, kissing her on the mouth, and then leaving a trail of kisses on her cheeks.

Eventually, and with the help of the other mares at the meeting, the ‘pink machine’ was calmed down. With renewed vigor and a semblance of a plan, the Elements now had a target stallion to explore: Ravage.


=^.^=


Ravage had prepared specifically to not to have to go back to his base, and headed straight for the library after work. Twilight showed him to the bathroom and left him alone to bathe. The blessing of rain made him feel cleaner and more comfortable than the normally sweltering days.

“Use the red shampoo,” she spoke from behind the doorway. “I think it will suit you.”

Ravage had bathed at Bo and Micah’s. Though Twilight’s facilities appeared different, the procedure was, thankfully, exactly the same: wash the fur. ‘Cherry Spice’s Mane and Body’ shampoo it was called and the bottle seemed new and immaculate. Upon drying down, he noticed a small difference: a scent of some kind. To date, the soaps he had used so far had been the solid bars he had brought from Cybertron (literally scientifically formulated), which he also used for his mane, and the liquid from the unicorn engineers’ home. Both smelled like soap, but this substance was a little different. It carried an unidentified smell which became permeated into his mane and coat upon washing.

Twilight waited by the exit, and Ravage walked up. Before he could finish his approach, the unicorn darted into him, and drove her muzzle into the mane on his neck, and took a deep whiff. A sigh and a lazy expression of satisfaction followed her ‘cleanliness test’. The puzzled Decepticon could not form the words, nor comprehend why Twilight did that.

“Whoops! Eheh,” she chuckled. “Let’s go to the dam, shall we?”

“Agreed,” he said stoically.

Walking to the dam was an experience in of itself. Twilight chattered on, reviewing details of the third and fourth thaumic fields, often asking questions, testing Ravage. She seemed oblivious to the great many heads were turned toward the pair. Ravage found their curiosity most disturbing, as experience had taught him to avoid drawing attention to himself. If this was how it was going to be with Twilight, what would Princess Luna’s presence do?


=^.^=


Bo and Micah sat down for dinner when a knock at the front door interrupted them. Ever the social pony, Bo answered it.

“Hello?”

In front of Bo stood a shapely, peach coloured unicorn mare with a poppy red mane and tail. “Hi,” she responded confidently, her golden earrings and necklace as animated as her mane with her bubbly response. A cherry inside a wine glass was her cutie mark. “I’m Cherry Lush, and I’m looking for Ravage. Does he live here?”

Cherry’s forwardness took Bo by surprise, “Er, Ravage?”

“Yes, I’ve come to ask him for a date,” she pressed, her winning smile and shiny teeth making her the picture of stardom.

“Do I know you?”

The mysterious new mare wasn’t phased. “Haha, no you don’t know me. I’m from out of town.”

“Word travels fast,” Bo replied sardonically. “No, he doesn’t live here.”

“Oh, I see,” Cherry Lush said, putting a hoof to her chin, as if pondering her next move. “Well then, thank you for your time then. Ta-ta!” As abruptly as she came, the new mare was gone, gracefully walking away. Perhaps she was classier than she was letting on?

Bo closed the door behind her. “Well that was awkward.”


=^.^=


About fifteen minutes later, Ravage and Twilight arrived at the power plant. There were few workers. The place was a lump of concrete designed to build a reservoir and control the flow of water, but that’s where the similarities to the dams found on Earth ended.

“They produce mana?” Ravage suggested.

“Right you are!” Twilight happily credited. “The energy produced takes advantage of deflection spells. If you can imagine a pony shoving you, then you get pushed back a bit. A deflection spell can disperse the energy, or it can channel it. Which kind of spell do you think is being used in the dam?”

“Channeling?”

“Right again! Okay, I’m going to set up an experiment,” Twilight said as her horn lit up. Soon her body took on an ethereal glow. “Ravage, I want you to use your head to try to shove my neck. Not too hard!”

The Decepticon did just that. Trying to push Twilight was like trying to push a force field. Nothing happened but be deflected back by his own momentum. Interestingly, the deflection field made little warping sounds that echoed for a second or so. The harder he pushed, the louder the sounds.

Twilight giggled. “Okay, now for the good part: the channeling spell.” Twilight’s horn glowed once again, and though her body did not change her ethereal appearance. “Try pushing me again.” Her smile had a hint of mischief this time.

Ravage’s curiosity was certainly peaked. He pushed Twilight just as he did before, but the warping sounds were absent. Yet, every time he did it he heard a thud from the side. Bumping Twilight again, he could see a rock leap up into the air – not even a foreleg length. ‘Push-thud-push-thud-push-thud’ he bumped. The rock leapt thrice. The Decepticon bumped Twilight particularly hard, resulting in the unicorn having to shift her weight a bit, and the rock leapt to chin height.

“Not so hard,” she said, chuckling. Her horn glowed once again. “Gently this time, Ravage,” the unicorn suggested.

Tired of using his head, he decided to use his flank instead. It was just not appealing to mash her face with it, so he gently shoved it against Twilight’s flank, unwittingly causing their cutie marks to rub against each other. The mare actually gave, as if there was no spell this time.

Ravage came up with only one determination. “Nothing happened.” Twilight was eerily silent. He looked to see what was wrong and saw what he had come to describe the look of mischief on Twilight.

Twilight chortled. “My dear student, are you suggesting we get closer?” Oh, she couldn’t believe this was happening. First Rainbow Dash hooks up with her, and maybe now Ravage? Like her prismatic love interest, Twilight also had early teen flings only to abandon them in order to be able to concentrate on her life’s goals. Now opportunity had come knocking, and as Dash had pointed out so many times before, she had to keep cool. Ponies were more likely to fall for other ponies that had everything under control. “And yes, I turned off my deflection magic, as a control for our experiment.”

Twilight had liked Rainbow for a long time, and the pretty earth pony only recently, and now there was a very real chance she could have them both! Her friends would be pleased, as they would get to share in the intimacy, and with representation from both genders. If everything fell into place, that is. The unicorn approached Ravage briskly and gave him a peck on the cheek. “I like you too,” she said smiling, enjoying the cute surprised look on his face.

So that’s what that means,’ Ravage realized. Cloudchaser was the first to rub his flank, and he didn’t know what she was doing. Several ponies rubbed his flank at Pearl Bliss’ party. After some thought, he realized that those were deliberate, like Cloudchaser’s. They all were indicating that they liked him. At the time, he found it odd that they could be so uncoordinated as they walked by him, even if the party was packed, but that’s because they weren’t being clumsy at all.

Twilight giggled, “Okay, let’s get back to the study.”

After about ten minutes of exposition, Ravage found out that the falling water was turned ninety degrees three times during its journey to the three small gates at the bottom of the dam, and inside of increasingly larger bores. At the sharp angles were enchantments designed the channel the energy of the water, presumably to the conical structures atop the exit gates. Most of the gravitational energy was converted into magical energy, and it radiated outward from those towers – a wireless power grid! At the beginning of its journey, the water was a raging torrent, but by the time it had reached the gates, it was calm. Conducting the power transfer were the mysterious ley lines. The devices they powered were also magical, but this didn’t stop Ravage from deducing how to yield energon from the dam. It made him smile.


=^.^=


Ravage and Twilight approached the library. “I’m really looking forward to the next lesson,” the Decepticon stallion said. “Those experiments were fascinating.”

Twilight chuckled. “I’m glad you thought so, Ravage. You have considerable learning aptitude. If you were born a unicorn, you’d almost certainly be able to master magic, maybe even teach at the university level.”

“You overestimate me, Twilight.” Ravage opened the library door. “While I’m not able to write any functional spells,” he spoke while walking inside the darkened building. “I was wondering though, how to mix the third and fourth thaumic fields…”

“SURPRISE!!!”

In an instant, several neon lights illuminated the space as ponies jumped up from behind furniture and areas not easily seen by the stallion bot. An explosion of confetti and balloons mixed with the commotion as streamers shook and rattled against the sudden activity.

Ravage looked to Twilight for answers and she appeared just as shocked as he was. Music started playing, though this time it appeared to be coming from a simple phonograph. It didn’t take long to notice that the guests consisted exclusively of the Elements of Harmony and himself. “A party?”

“Of course it’s a party, silly!” Pinkie Pie chirped as she engulfed a piece of cake in one bite. “It’s your Welcome to Ponyville Party!”

The shock of disbelief did not disappear from Ravage’s face.

“Try an apple fritter,” Applejack suggested, hoofing over a plateful of the tasty treats.

Ravage was expecting to eat right when he and Twilight came back from the dam, but then he was supposed to learn more about Magic. Ultimately, he was very hungry, and the smell of the snacks piqued his appetite. The stallion bot tried one out, consuming half of it in one bite. His eyes lit up in delight at the gooey, sugary taste. “Impressive,” he said after swallowing. A smile crept onto his face. This may not be a Magic lesson, but it sure tasted good! He quickly ate the rest of the fritter.

Applejack gestured to a table full of food. “Sugar cube, there’s more where that came from.”

“And don’t forget to try some cupcakes!” reminded Pinkie, the glowing rings that hung about her neck and lower legs clattered with her gesture.

Twilight walked Ravage over to the food table. “Well, I hope you don’t mind partying with my friends tonight.”

“Not at all.” At first he did mind, but then Ravage smelled the delicious party food and all the drinks too. He started to stack an assortment of treats onto a plate. Twilight walked over to Rainbow Dash when he felt a hoof tap his side. This time he didn’t respond as if he were being attacked, but calmly looked to find Fluttershy had wanted his attention.

“Good evening, Ravage,” she greeted as if she knew him like a pony within her circle of friends, who were busy conversing with each other.

“Greetings,” he said stoically. He was definitely smiling though, looking forward to the snacks he had collected.

“It’s nice to see you in a good mood,” the yellow pegasus said, also smiling. “How was work?”

“Excellent,” he said, surprising his speaking partner a little bit. “It rained all morning, so working conditions were far more comfortable.”

“Oh, so you like the rain,” Fluttershy ascertained. This only added to Ravage’s mystique – a pony who enjoyed the rain – so rare!

“Like you like animals,” he quipped. He really did enjoy the heavenly precipitation, even if it felt a little cold at times. It was a sensation denied by his Decepticon body armor, and he was looking forward to encountering rain again.

Fluttershy thought back to that day they were having tea. She thought about how comfortable she had come to be around him. She didn’t expect it, but even her animal friends wanted to partake in his company. It felt right. Her heart fluttered once again as she framed him in the center of her peaceful, yet wild setting. That’s what he was: a pony who endured a brutal growing up, but he survived, and found harmony. Experience and patience were etched in his face and confidence underpinned every word he spoke and it made Fluttershy’s heart wriggle a little more. She blushed, yet she didn’t hide behind her mane. She was smiling widely at the Decepticon stallion when, without thinking, the enamoured pegasus up and hugged him, rubbing her head into his neck. Ravage felt alarmed at first, but he quickly calmed down, feeling that there had been plenty of signs that pointed to Fluttershy inevitably acting this way. She slunk her muzzle close to his ear. “I’m glad you’re here,” she whispered.

He felt her breath, warm and moist, and his fine hairs stood straight up, starting a wave of sensation that propagated down his spinal construct. He grimaced, shivering against the innocent, but deceptively powerful act. “And how was your day?” he asked, essentially returning Fluttershy’s own question.

“Oh my, where do I begin?” Fluttershy was still hugging Ravage while she mentally put the pieces of her day together. “Well, I had to wake up early and pick up food for my animals at the train station. Three cartloads was a lot to move,” she lamented. “But it’s okay, since I can be of help to all creatures that need it.”

“I’d help, but I have work in the mornings.” Ravage’s place of work functioned like a sanctuary. There, he had level-headed friends and was well respected by his coworkers. But here, in this library, he could see that Fluttershy had started marching, driving herself inexorably closer to him. The Decepticon spy, for all his ability to adapt, felt it was paramount to avoid intimacy with the ponies. There were many parts of intimate life he found disgusting, many more that were intolerable, and all of it was needless. Most dangerous of all was the sharing of intimate knowledge, and the ponies often pestered him for personal details. Thus, the closer the mares got to him, the less safe he was.

A couple of other ponies looked in their direction, but generally paid them no mind. Fluttershy had taken to rubbing her head into Ravage’s shoulder. “And what else did you do?” he asked.

“The girls and I met up here for a meeting,” Fluttershy began, but then she caught herself before she divulged anymore details.

“Oh, what about?” Ravage planned on using small talk to bore the pegasus mare. What he didn’t count on was the look of surprise on her face. ‘Strange,’ he thought.

“Uh, I have to ask Pinkie something,” Fluttershy said with a grimace. She bolted over to where Pinkie and Rarity were lounging. Ravage started in on his snack pile, certain he hadn’t seen the last of the star-crossed pony.

Fluttershy did not hide behind her mane and start crying when faced with the potentially embarrassing predicament. She wouldn’t have done so if one of her friends was in need, and that was because her friends, like her animal associates, mattered.

Ravage mattered.

The flustered pegasus ran up to Pinkie Pie, “Um, can we start some games, Pinkie?”

“We could play Pin the Tail on the Pony!” the indomitable party girl shouted, eager to start.

“It looked like you were making progress with Ravage,” Rarity winked. “Are you sure you want to give that up for games?”

“I was telling him about what I was doing with my morning,” Fluttershy explained, “I had mentioned we had a meeting!”

Rarity had been nodding, acknowledging her friend’s words, but then her face suddenly screwed up in alarm. Turning to her pink friend, “Games, Pinkie,” she requested.

Minutes later, Ravage found himself being spun around and blind folded. He could have used his infrared, the sensing units of which were special plates hidden in his forehead, but he figured it was better to play the pony way: stumbling about until the target was reached. It was better to be a little embarrassed, than explaining how he could just walk up and pin the tail on the pony as if it were broad daylight. Ultimately it turned out to be fun watching everybody make fools of themselves. He even laughed at times. A mixture of party games and eating were going on for about an hour. Fluttershy had returned to Ravage several times, sometimes to chat, sometimes to snuggle, and sometimes to partner up during a game.

He lost interest in what Fluttershy’s meeting was all about. Since he felt it didn’t affect him, he didn’t need to know.

After another hour and some more food ingestion and drinking, group dancing was encouraged.

“You don’t know how to dance?” Rainbow Dash asked.

Ravage was expressionless. “No, I’ve never danced before.” Until this moment, he never even considered that he might be the one to pollute the scene with random gyrations of the body. A brief glance indicated that Twilight seemed to be doing a good job of that.

“All you have to do is let your body move to the beat,” Pinkie interjected. Her head, midsection and torso oscillated to the rhythm of the music, with her legs dictating changes in movement, as well as providing balance to the otherwise unbalancing forces of dancing.

Ravage put his hoof to his chin and pondered while observing Pinkie Pie. Thanks to his time on Earth, especially disguised as a musical device, he had come to know human music in a way most Decepticons would never know; he even appreciated some of it. The pony music was constructed using the same rules so Ravage could find the beat as easily as any pony could. Allowing himself to be absorbed into yet another cultural norm he did as Pinkie did and started dancing. The range of motion was far more restricted compared to what the bipedal humans could do, but that was the price paid for increased stability and locomotion.

Pinkie exaggerated her movements, matching them close to Ravage’s own. “That’s it, Ravage! Keep going!”

“You’re a natural!” complemented Applejack.

Ravage tried to move his, until then stationary legs, only to trip up. He let out a grunt of frustration as he landed on his jaw.

The farmer could not hide her lament. “Then again, maybe not.”

Ravage seemed unphased as he walked up to Fluttershy, standing by the drink table. “Did you want to collide with the floor as well?” he asked. He thought his inability to dance would serve to push her away. Unexpectedly, she caught a gleam in her eyes, not the frown of disappointment.

Fluttershy gasped as her face lit up, “Yes! Oh yes, I would love to dance with you!” she gushed. The pegasus quickly flanked the confused pony bot. “But please let me show you how you can keep your balance.” Once again, Ravage’s actions had yielded the opposite expected reaction, though he did find Fluttershy’s knowledge of pony leg dynamics to be useful. In a few minutes he was able to train up to a very subdued level of dancing. Like the sports and writing, practice was required.

Soon, all seven ponies were dancing, with Elements of Harmony delighted to have Ravage among them. Fluttershy in particular was only too happy to dance around her favourite new pony.

The Decepticon stallion didn’t care much for the music selection. He remembered that the stuff he warmed up to on Earth had a lot more screaming and hollering, and with a beat twice as fast, and sometimes four times as fast as the current song being played. He remembered it was angry music that had caught his attention. He could even remember some of the lyrics.

“Time to put on some new music!” Pinkie belted out as she cart-wheeled toward the phonograph. The new material was even slower than anything that had been played that evening. Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle had interlocked their forelegs while they slowly danced on their hind legs. It was a very intimate dance. The other ponies did not engage in such a dance, that is, until Ravage felt a familiar hoof tap on his side.

He turned toward Fluttershy, who was sitting on her haunches. She held out her forelegs toward Ravage, her face looking hopeful. Clearly, he was chosen as the last intimate candidate. He could have refused, but that would have dropped his status considerably, perhaps inhibiting his mission, as well as his escape plan. He had rarely been this deep under cover, and it would take only one incident to blow it wide open. He would rather accelerate his plans as a false citizen of Equestria, rather than spend forever piecing together scraps in hiding. Besides, these were no random ponies; these were the Elements of Harmony!

Erring on the side of caution, he accepted Fluttershy’s invitation, and the two began their slow waltz. They swayed to and fro, mimicking the actions of Dash and Twilight, while the other ponies occupied the periphery. Again, Ravage could hear mewling sounds from Fluttershy. He imagined that she was a turret mounted plasma cannon and he was scouring an arid landscape for Autobots. His daydreaming brought him relief, and he kept up the vivid imagery as he shuffled through the highly wasteful process.

At the end of the night the ponies were relaxing. The opened windows did little to mitigate the ever increasing heat and humidity, though the guests acted as if nothing was wrong. He felt Fluttershy nuzzling into his neck once again. Her flowery fragrance managed to overpower the sweat, but barely. He could hear and feel the pleased sounds against his fur. Fluttershy had stuck to Ravage just as Laserbeak had once stuck to Soundwave. The other ponies kept their distance, but kept smiling at them.

Ravage’s stomach heaved and ached under the pressure of feasting so much. Fluttershy’s weight added to the sleepy metabolic state, and the Decepticon realized he had to get moving. He stood straight up, and his doe-eyed companion stood with him.

The stallion bot addressed the group. “Thank you all, that was the best Magic lesson to date.” He received a few chuckles.

Pinkie Pie ran up and glomped him. “I’m glad you enjoyed it, Ravage.” The Decepticon struggled once again, as the pink power plant applied her death hug. The rest of the mares thought it was a good idea to join in, resulting in an asphyxiating, constricting, multiple hooves concentration hug! Ravage felt they didn’t even need their Elements, as they could kill by crushing.


=^.^=


After saying their goodbyes, Ravage and Fluttershy were the first ponies out the door. The pegasus mare quickly maneuvered to his side. “Ravage?” she asked. “Could you please walk me home?” Her voice was syrupy, and only a little tired even after an evening of partying.

“Sure,” he answered in his typical straight forward fashion. Fluttershy smiled and kept close to her new friend.

Ravage wasted no time in turning on his detection instrumentation. One concerning thing was that his raven androids did not detect Luna in her tower. If she wasn’t busy with anything but her nightly duties, then she could see him. He strongly suspected he was going to need the river to cover his tracks, but he needed to gather data on his possible energon source first.

On the plus side, his stomach had never been this full, and the high hydrocarbon content of the party food could easily be turned into extra jet fuel. On the bad side, his study of Magic had been seriously interrupted. The date with Luna was only ten days off, and he needed to be as prepared as possible.

Well over two-hundred meters from the library, Ravage’s compass finally swung of its own accord. ‘By the pit, Twilight’s powerful!’ he mused. With the Magic lessons lending considerable perspective, Ravage knew that some unicorns were more powerful than others, but Twilight Sparkle was in a class all her own, many stations above her counterparts. He reminded himself again not to mess with her.

The cool night breeze was most welcoming, since ponies functioned as space heaters whenever there was an indoor gathering. Their eyes took time adjusting to the low light as they trudged in the darkness. Ravage would have switched to infrared, but the illumination from moon solved that.

“Thanks for walking with me. The night is so scary.” Fluttershy’s voice shivered as she spoke of the night.

“Oh? I love it.”

“You do? Really?” Fluttershy was not that amazed. Ravage was made of stern stuff, so it didn’t surprise her that he could handle the night, but loving the night was something she didn’t expect.

“Why do you fear it?” The stallion bot was pretty sure that little had changed in town except the illumination level.

“Because there are creatures, predatory creatures, that come out, and you can’t see them, and you can get lost, and it’s cold, and, and it’s so scary,” she emphatically described. Fluttershy would be a lot more frightened if it weren’t for the fact she was walking with a friend, but she was pretty sure that she properly outlined the reasons for staying inside when the sun sets.

“It’s also a lot calmer. I like the serenity.” Ravage also liked to be able hide in it, just like the predators in his companion’s description, but he wasn’t going to tell her that. “If I could, I would live at night, but everything around here operates on a daytime schedule. Pity that.”

Now Fluttershy was rightly surprised. A pony who prefers to be in the rain, and the night? What kind of stallion was he? ‘An interesting one, that’s what!’ she thought. Ravage definitely stood apart from the other stallions, and she liked it. She liked him.

While plotting a course to the dam, the pair came upon Fluttershy’s house, crossing over her little bridge. The moonlight-bathed mare operated some sort of pedal with one of her forelegs. With a click, and a flash of light, a wall-mounted lamp turned on casting a warm, yellow light off the two ponies and their surroundings. She turned to the terracotta pony. “Thanks again for walking me home. It’s nice to be warm.” She stared into his stunning silver eyes, “And cozy.” A conservative smile appeared on his face. “And there’s lots of food.” Ravage tilted his head a bit. “And there’s tea.” She saw a tail flick from his backside. “And, and it’s very quiet. When you’re sleeping.”

“It sounds like you’re well prepared,” Ravage interjected. He had work to do, and he didn’t want to hang around.

“Oh! Uh, yes.” Her mind scrambled, trying to think of what to say next.

“Goodnight, Fluttershy.” Ravage held up a foreleg, as if to wave goodbye.

“Goodnight. Ravage.” Fluttershy was grimacing, as he turned around and left like nothing ever happened.

But something did happen. Fluttershy’s heart was screaming for Ravage as much as she wanted to scream at herself. In frustration, she struck the floor with enough force to make the windows rattle. “I have to be more assertive,” she scolded herself, before she started walking to her bedroom.

Ravage was intent on looping around to the northwestern part of town, so he could end up at the base of the dam. There was a big problem though. If his battle network didn’t locate Luna, he may have to count on her finding him, otherwise she might actually see him go into the river and never come back out.

At the base of the dam, Ravage was far enough away from Ponyville’s unicorns. He had to be out of their range otherwise their energy could mask Luna’s approach. Ravage continued watching his compass. He surmised that when it stopped pointing directly at Canterlot, then it would be pointing to Luna on the fly. How far the Princess of the Night would have to be away from Celestia was anybody’s guess, but he intended to find out. Once he got a reading he could use, he could coordinate with his satellite network, and his androids to pinpoint her location.

With no sign of Luna, he crept into the river, swam deeply, and transformed. After adjusting for oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other physiological parameters he swam beneath the transmission towers. She could have seen him through some other means besides line-of-sight, but he decided to take the risk. There were no messages from her on his subspace radio, her favourite method of contact. With the aid of energon-powered antigravity devices that were built into his frame, Ravage swam up into the east penstock. He took measurements, like bore width, concrete strength, and even the otherwise overwhelming current flow, among others. After a little more exploration, it turned out that the other penstocks had the same dimensions. ‘Where is Luna?’ he thought, disturbed that she could just be tracking his movements and saying nothing. The only thing he could trust was his compass, which hadn’t changed since he got to the dam.

Suddenly, his compass swung sharply to the front of the dam, to a place over the water. ‘Twilight? No, she can’t fly,’ he thought.

Error Port 39,222: Unauthorized Access

Incoming Audio Message:Raaavage – Raaaavaaage…

Oh slag,’ Ravage lamented.

Is that a curse word from Froggy Bottom Bog?’ Luna’s voice asked in his mind. ‘Strange, I have not heard it. Also, while I realize Twilight can hardly fly at all, you’ve just got to give her some time.

Hardly – fly?’ he responded, confused. Ravage applied his machine language tactic between the dialogue.

Luna laughed, ‘You should see her, Ravage. She’s like a filly!’ Ravage didn’t dare respond for he knew he traipsed into unknown territory. ‘It looks like Rainbow Dash will lend a wing, the way those two are carrying on.

Ravage realized that the last three days had been peaceful, Luna-free days – and he was starting to miss them already. Now she was right… Outside. The dam! She probably teleported! Ravage reviewed his options within the concrete confines of the penstock until he could figure out a way to get away from her.

Luna continued to fly over the water at the dam’s base. ‘Ravage, you know it’s not safe to swim inside the dam itself. At least, I hope that’s not what you’ve been doing. In fact, you shouldn’t be swimming alone, especially at night,’ she preached. Though short range, her pony sensing magic was thrumming strongly, especially since it was tuned to find Ravage. Tired of looking for the elusive stallion, a pony she desired since that fateful Friday night, she decided to make it interesting. ‘Oh, I get it. You want to play hide-and-seek with me. Very well, I’ll play, but know this: if I find you I get to keep you. How does that sound?’ She giggled, a little more evilly that time.

Keep me?

That’s right, my cunning little pony. When a ruling Princess of Equestria says something, she may make it law, even after the fact.

I thought we’d discussed this. We agreed to go on our date first,’ he reasoned. He also figured that it was high time he got out of there. She could babble in his mind all she wanted, but her formidable presence forced Ravage to be on edge, and avoid doing even simple tasks, like say, turning off his subspace radio. Though late, the satellite infrared came in, showing Princess Luna flying in a stationary position over the water.

Luna laughed heartily, ‘Yes, we will do that, but there’s still ten days to go.’ His turbines screamed as the Decepticon punched through a grate at the top of the dam where the water flow was greatest. Continuing underwater, he started to head up river. He viewed an electronic map of the surrounding region. The river he was currently in would not take him to his homeward trail, so he must come out of the water if he wanted to go home. ‘Ah, so you’re on top, are you?

>‘How does she know!?’< he thought in machine language.

Luna started patrolling the water upstream, looking for Ravage. She had yearned for him all weekend, and into the week. She couldn’t stop thinking about him, he was so special!

The previous evening, Luna disguised herself and tried dating a Canterlot pony in the hopes that she could shake off her thoughts about Ravage. Oh, he was good looking, and had good life prospects, but he was sooo boring! She could predict his movements like reading from a manual, including his ‘humour’. But Ravage, he was interesting, and so full of surprises! And he stood up to her! That was a trait she liked the most; being treated fairly while completely bypassing the oppressive class structure. Ravage was the only stallion that could do this. Soon, she would harvest him from the Equestrian firmament and take him home. The Princess couldn’t wait! ‘Where are you, my foxy little pony?’ she spoke telepathically while patrolling overhead. Then, she got an idea and scooted over the tree tops on the river bank.

Ravage stopped swimming at about three-hundred meters from the dam, since it was taking way too much energy. Corroborating the infrared signature his satellites detected up in the trees, he knew she was trying to ambush him. Ravage figured he could talk to her anytime, though. All he had to do was think it. ‘Luna? Luna, are you there?’ No response. He couldn’t tell her he knew where she was hiding, as that would give away too much information on his abilities.

The big problem was how Luna managed to find him so quickly. What if he had gone home? It seemed that his great ally, the night, had betrayed him and joined forces with Luna. Ravage started the task of problem solving. If he swam upstream and emerged, would she be able to find him? The short answer was yes, just as she had found him even though she was either in or close to Canterlot when he started swimming. The confluence of this river with the waterway that took him home from the copper mine was more than fifty kilometers south of the base. He couldn’t risk Luna getting curious about his swimming ability since she was so close.

He was trapped. He had no choice now but to face Luna directly. Transforming to pony mode, he held his breath as he carefully crawled toward the reeds and shallow water, fighting the current. But then a fallen birch tree struck him on his side, dislodging him and sending him careening toward the concrete dam. He hauled himself on top of the trunk, trying to catch his breath as the river churned below him. He was about to submerge and transform to robot mode when suddenly…

“I got you!” Ravage felt himself scooped up from the river when a pair of dark blue – and very strong – forelegs had gripped him tightly, even as they adjusted and improved their grip. Water that slicked off of Ravage’s exposed coat was freezing against the sheer winds while they rose higher and higher into the night sky.

Princess Luna had just ‘saved’ Ravage. Or so she thought. The Decepticon Earth pony felt he was always in control, but that didn’t matter as he had just fallen into a debacle whereupon he had to be ‘rescued’ and now he had to act accordingly! “Are you alright?” she asked, having cleared over four kilometers in under a minute, and they were still accelerating. The Princess didn’t just go to shore with Ravage; that would be too easy. Release her prize as soon as she caught him? She thought not. With the blackened shape of mountain in front, it was very clear where they were headed.

“I’m fine,” he reluctantly squeezed out. And now, he had no other choice but to say, “Thanks.”

Princess Luna snugged his head, but didn’t like the way his hind legs were dangling in the wind. “Ravage, please put your forelegs around my neck.” He complied, finding her foreleg-under-foreleg hold to be most embarrassing, if not a little uncomfortable. Securing his backside with one foreleg, and his shoulders with the other, Luna felt truly heroic having saved the stallion her heart desired from a terrible fate.

Ravage said nothing for fifteen minutes. He had considered transforming and shooting her with his fusion pistol, but felt it would probably have no effect, as well as be the cause of his certain death. A shot from the gamma laser may have destroyed her, but it would have destroyed himself as well. As his options ran out, his fearfulness increased.

The lights of Canterlot drew closer and closer, but not just any part of Canterlot. The castle where the princesses resided loomed closer. Ravage’s heart raced in fear. Why in the world Luna chose him amongst what should have been the total stallion population of Equestria, against whose numbers the stallion shortage meant nothing, was unbelievable.

Luna had chosen a specific tower to fly to: her tower. Ravage knew it from the investigation, as his heart continued its relentless pace while blood was diverted from his stomach. For all his long life, he couldn’t remember how long it was since he’d been this scared.

>‘I am going to die tonight.’<

Chapter 7: Trapped In Purgatory

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Chapter 7: Trapped In Purgatory



Princess Luna came in through her balcony, horn aglow, carrying Ravage in her forelegs. The room lights came to life, as the balcony doors closed behind her, and the windows soon after.

Two bat ponies, forsaking their invisibility spell, came out of shadows from another tower to see the blinds and drapes hastily closed. “Unless I miss my guess, the Princess doesn’t want to be disturbed,” the stallion of the pair said. His mare partner nodded, and the pair dissolved into ambiguity, reclaiming their place in the darkness to keep watch.

Luna never worried about her things in the high tower, and she liked to flood her space with the alpine air, even on cold nights. With rhythmic wing beats, she hovered over her bed and placed Ravage atop the silken sheets and pillow covers.

The shivering pony immediately drew in his legs around himself to conserve heat. > Gotta think. Gotta get out of here! < The Decepticon feared that turning on his blood heating system may not have escaped detection by such a powerful pony.

Away from Luna’s body heat, the earth pony continued shivering. “Are you alright, Ravage?” she asked, water vapour accompanying every syllable as she settled onto the floor. “Oh my! Let me get a fire going.” She turned toward her oversized fireplace, pointing her horn at it. A raging flame spewed forth, the colour of which matched her magic aura, as each log was instantly turned to fire. The heat could be felt immediately, and Ravage’s shivering calmed down.

Luna put on a coy smile, admiring her newly relaxed stallion. Turning away, she started humming a tune from antiquity, her horn glowing once again.

The Dark Princess took a few of bouncy steps with her hips swaying and tail swishing to whatever she was humming, and letting loose a piece of regalia before repeating the process. Ravage watched the bizarre display, constantly trying to think of a way out. Her chest piece came off first, and then her crown, followed by her front right shoe which she threw into a bookshelf. She gave him a mischievous look before turning around. Slowly approaching with the same reckless abandon, she ejected one hind shoe, and then the other which rolled with a haphazard bounce, like a football, and wound up in the fire. The disposal of each garment was all in time to her bouncy tune. She finally made it to the edge of the bed, propping herself up on her one shoeless hoof, and dangling the other hoof, applying a gentle agitation that made her look like a kitten playing with a toy. She held a look to Ravage, smiling almost evilly as her last piece of hoofwear came off. It hit the floor with a metallic thud that made the end tables tremor. It might as well have been an engine block in Ravage’s terrified state. Suddenly, she pounced the Decepticon, pinning his forelegs under hers.

Luna looked down at Ravage, grinning with lascivious desire. His eyes were closed, and his head was turned to the side. He was shivering again, but this time from fear; she could feel his rapid heart rate against her chest. He’s very frightened, she realized. “Ravage, I’m not going to hurt you.”

He opened his eyes back up, and turned his head to look up at her. > I’m not dead yet. That’s a good sign. < He dared not resist Luna’s immortal strength.

Luna sighed, and fell to the bed space beside her chosen partner. She knew this kind of fear well. She once liked it. Not always, of course, though she could not tell which came first: her appreciation of the fear and terror in others, or her awful transformation.

The Princess of the Night turned onto her side to face Ravage, who had calmed down considerably. “Ravage?” He turned his head to her side. “Ravage, I need your help.”

The Decepticon stallion looked incredulous, almost mocking, “My help?”

“Times have changed, as you mentioned earlier. I do not wish to force myself upon any pony. Can you forgive my over exuberance?”

Ravage nodded, waiting for the princess to continue. He was happy just to be alive.

“Though it pleases me to see that many pony families kept up a lunar bent during my imprisonment, and I know how easy it would be to acquire a willing stallion or mare to share my bed for a night, I feel,” Luna paused, trying to find the words to describe her feelings best, “I feel a connection. With you.” She studied Ravage’s reaction.

The Decepticon’s eyes narrowed in thought. “I do not understand.”

Luna chuckled softly, “It’s a magical connection.” Ravage yielded nothing in his expression. “Alright, can you explain how I sensed you nearly a week before you came to Ponyville?” The Princess believed that Ravage had a familiar feel about him. She felt it before, then more strongly when she observed him in the dreams of Ponyville’s mares, and more strongly still when she first saw him the previous Friday night. That night, his proximity caused her sense of him to spike, and when she searched the lakeside it didn’t take long for her to find him. While the Moon Princess couldn’t pinpoint why she felt as such, she knew that there was more than met the eye about him.

Ravage thought a bit. Sensing other ponies, even specific ones, could be high-level magic involving the first and second thaumic fields, and he made a mental note to ask Twilight. What was he doing around a week before the last Friday? His new body came online, on Cybertron. Could Princess Luna have actually felt it?

“Luna, are you certain it was me?” he stated, trying to downplay the significance of the alicorn’s assertion.

Now Luna’s eyes narrowed. “Positive. I am a Princess of Equestria, Ravage.” She reached out with a foreleg, placing it over the disbelieving Decepticon. “Your existence didn’t cause a disturbance until recently.” Gripping the pony bot, she pulled him in toward her, chest to back, lying on their sides. “You and I were meant to be together. I can feel it. Fate has decided it!”

Ravage felt her wing cover his body like a blanket. “To what end?”

Luna breathed in deeply the scent of Ravage’s coat. Her eyes widened with surprised at first, and then her face contorted into a scowl when she smelled another mare. She then realized the true depth of her stallion’s question. “I believe, my sociable little pony, we will discover that for ourselves.”

Faking reproduction nightly was not on Ravage’s to-do list. He tried to get up, but Luna’s grapple was at least as strong as Devastator’s grip. At that failed attempt, her irritating giggling spewed out.

“Going somewhere?” She tightened her hold. “The best thing is, the longer you’re with me, the stronger our bond gets,” the smiling Princess observed.

With brute force off the table, Ravage had only his wits to fall back on. Oh, he had wits alright. He smiled broadly as his face cast an evil sneer at the ultimate mental challenge he had just thought up! “Uh, I have to go to the bathroom.”

“Oh…” Luna released Ravage immediately, whereupon he calmly proceeded to the lavatory. She levitated over a book to read while he did his business.

Ravage closed the door behind him, and tried to collect his thoughts. What really bothered him was what she said about her bond growing stronger. His pupils shrunk to the size of dots (pony physiology!) as he figured out the extent of Luna’s sensing powers. > Could she learn to detect me wherever I was? <

He scanned Luna’s rather sizable washing quarters. An ornate sink and mirrors, with their metal parts either made of or plated in gold; a surprisingly simple toilet; a wall dedicated to towels, clothing, and feminine hygiene products; and finally, a substantial shower and tub. Ravage quietly moved the shower curtain to the side, revealing a window. Smiling, he opened the window to scan his surroundings.

Proximity Alert: multiple pegasus units.

Ravage looked toward the open sky, and saw nothing at all, but his infrared tab was flashing in warning. Upon switching to heat detection, the sky came alive with pegasi – bat pegasi! There were at least two dozen patrolling in the distance, but two more closed to within a few body lengths of him. He closed the window.

Luna turned a page of the novel she was reading. It was a guilty pleasure, these Daring Do books, but she found the main character’s quick wit, nerves of steel, and unstoppable determination were too likable to dismiss easily. Actually, she saw a lot of Daring’s characteristics in Ravage. Only he was darker. The Princess’ eyes lit up at an epiphany. Was Ravage dark? That would be something she could sense now, since the bond should have grown strong enough. A toilet flushed as the Earth pony reappeared. Luna mirthfully tapped her hoof on the space beside her.

Ravage needed no translation matrix to know that she wanted him back in her hooves. With no other options available, he crawled back onto the bed and allowed himself to be reinserted, thus resuming the same cuddling position. He felt the side of Luna’s snout rubbing into his neck, much like Fluttershy had done earlier. Her forelegs held him fast. A gentle breeze rinsed over his exposed flank every time her tail made its sinuous wave. Her body was warm, and surprisingly soft. Though he hated admitting it, he felt secure, and without planning it, he wriggled against the mighty Princess. What power in the galaxy would be foolish enough to challenge Luna? His head was propped up under one of the Princess’ soft pillows with her magic, and he relaxed further.

In the fog of exquisite comfort, he recalled the evening’s events. The smell and taste of all that amazing food was how it began. His Magic lesson with Twilight was dispatched, but that no longer bothered him. Did he really play all those silly games with those ponies? Did he really dance?

He danced with Fluttershy. He knew there was a problem when his heartbeat sped up at the thought of her, stirring up emotions he didn’t know how to quantify. Ravage tried to avoid intimacy. He tried so hard! And yet, the notion that he and Fluttershy could have been doing the exact same thing, cuddling as he was, seemed viable. The yellow mare pointed out that her place was warm, well stocked and had tea. Those were obvious properties, why specify them?

Ravage recalled the moments when Fluttershy clung to him, or nuzzled him, and albeit cautiously, he felt satisfied. His eyes had closed as thinking of the gentle pegasus mare relaxed him even further. He had planned on escaping from Luna, getting what sleep he could, and reporting for work on time as usual, but his tired body had other plans.

Luna felt Ravage’s form go limp, succumbing to her realm of rest. She smiled, soaking in the sensation of his intimate proximity. Oh yes, their bond was indeed growing stronger, and it revealed something that she suspected during the day of the libido nocta party, but now she was sure of it. The Princess looked down at Ravage’s serene from. The scene contrasted with what she knew to be true. “Are you dangerous?” she whispered.

She cast the Purity spell, one which not only caused his body to fluoresce, indicating his status, but it also registered on Luna’s emotional state. What she found was shocking.

He had not done murder. That was the big one. He would have given off a blood red glow, and Luna would have felt the anguish of the families who lost loved ones in the process.

No, his aura was stainless. Impossible! Even the purest of ponies were soiled with sin. Yet, not Ravage, as his body glowed the white of innocence. Only baby ponies would glow so cleanly. The serenity Luna felt was indescribable, yet she cancelled the spell.

“Pure as well as dangerous,” she uttered quietly. Luna knew he was different, but this was puzzling. Her brow creased in concentration as she raked her mind for an answer. Was there a magical force masking his true nature? Luna can sense any kind of magic, so that was unlikely. Equally unlikely was a miscast Purity spell, as the Princess had practiced magic for so long that if she were to write out her knowledge she would fill volume after volume of spell books, and never finish for years. A pure, dangerous stallion he was.

Luna pondered on what could possibly make Ravage a threat. He didn’t radiate anything forbidden that the Princess’ magic could detect. He was not really dark, although the pursuit of purity had been known to be very corruptive to sapient life. He had no magical power, and yet he was difficult to locate, even with the Night Dweller spell and teleportation.

Also, why was he swimming around a dam at night? Certainly, that could be added to the list of things about him that didn’t make any sense. From conversations with her sister, who often spoke of letters from Twilight Sparkle, he had a knack for understanding advanced magical concepts even though he poured concrete for a living. On top of that, he grew up in nowhere in particular, just ‘rural Equestria’. That left a lot of missing information.

Nevertheless, Luna felt strongly for him. They had a magical bond that was a real as the stone on which Canterlot was built. She liked him from the day she first laid eyes on him. In spite of his simple and polite exterior, she knew Ravage was destined for big things. “Hmmph, all the more reason for you to be my special somepony,” she stated.

Bad nightmares were occurring in a couple of foals and Luna knew it was time to do her duty. She teleported away and went to work.


=^.^=


Proximity Alert: Unit Princess Luna.

Ravage was awakened a couple of hours later by his early warning systems. It was a good thing too, as the fire had died down considerably, and the chill in the air had returned. Before he even opened his eyes, a summary of Luna appeared in his vision, though away from his center of view. With the database updated, the display showed known strength and speed parameters in bright green text, as well as a spinning three-dimensional model of the Princess up in the corner.

The Decepticon pony heard no hoof steps; only wing beats. He could hear Luna shuffling about her things and make a bathroom trip. Though his body was groggy and tired, he felt it was time to get out. Since she works at night, Ravage had hoped her return visit would be brief.

Deciding to keep his eyes closed, he turned on his infrared, but the excellent view of the south wall wasn’t going to help his case. His pony body loved to twist itself into a multitude of configurations during sleep, and he felt fortunate that his skeleton and joints were made of combat ready alloy.

Ravage felt himself being lifted and moved; he was being straightened out. Cracking open an eye just a touch, he could see that it was Luna’s magic that was doing this. Bad mistake, because now his heat sensing plates saw Luna perfectly. She was hovering, and looking contemplative, that is until her face contorted with mischievous ideas. With gentle wing flaps she hovered over him. And then, she tried to interface! Floating down upon the hapless Decepticon, she entangled her legs with his body, elevating his head and neck with one of her forelegs. Bringing her face in close, she maneuvered in to start mouth pressing when Ravage opened up his eyes widely. Startled, she made a squeaky, effeminate noise jumping back into a hovering position.

“Affection is a two way street.” Ravage heard Rarity use that line earlier that evening. Though he had no idea what she was discussing, he knew what it meant.

Grinning like a filly with her hoof caught in the cookie jar, Luna rubbed her forelegs together and her hind legs together in embarrassment. “Hee hee…” Luna knew there was no way out of this, and yet she still had the urge to deny any wrongdoing. “Just, making sure…” she stuttered, “Um, you looked like you could use some company?” Ravage’s glare did not diminish. “Oh. My. Goodness, would you look at that. Somepony’s having a nightmare!” With a flash of light that illuminated the entire room, she teleported away.

Ravage hopped off the bed and transformed. He ordered his battle network to search for Luna while he stepped in the bathroom. Standing, and keeping the light clicked off, Ravage’s indicator lights were the only source of light inside Luna’s lavatory with the moon’s light blocked by the shower curtain. He attempted to set up an uplink with his ship in the Everfree Forest. Within just a few moments of communicating with his satellite network, “Got it!” he stated triumphantly.

The interior of Ravage’s ship lit up like a Christmas tree, as the Decepticon spy uploaded instructions to construct machine parts for his plan to capture energy from the dam. It was a lengthy operation and needed to be started as soon as possible. The ships screens glowed with designs being generated. One by one, he approved each design to make water proof housing, copper coils, fan blades, anchoring systems, and a microwave emitter, including infrared safety alarms, among other devices. The ponies had embraced wireless power distribution, so why shouldn’t the Decepticons? An hour later, he was done, and his ship started constructing the parts.

Ravage’s battle network had located Princess Luna perched atop the mountain that Canterlot was on. She appeared to be in a relaxed sitting position, ignoring the freezing winds, and hypoxic environment. “And it’s time to go,” Ravage declared out loud.

Ravage began to formulate his escape plan. He felt there were two routes: through the castle, or down the wall. The castle was full of guards, and unfamiliar territory; outside the tower was also full of guards, but the wall was easily traversed using small anchoring pins hidden within his hooves. “The wall it is.”

He reviewed video of the wall he saw when he flew in with Luna, getting a feel for its texture. Also, he opened the bathroom window, and disenabled the locking mechanism by unbolting it and keeping it on the sink counter for later use. He doused the fire with water from the tub and a fancy bucket he found near Luna’s supply of alcohol.

Transforming into pony mode, he waited outside the bathroom with the door open and listened. As expected, sounds of attempts to shut the window by the guards, mixed in with some pretty unique curse words and phrases, carried on for about ten minutes. Eventually they kept it shut by jamming tooth picks in the framework.

Working entirely in infrared, Ravage pulled off the shower curtain and laid it flat on the main room floor. He then took the wet ash and smeared it over the curtain’s entire surface. Spinning his turbines once again, he blew air over the filthy shower curtain trying to get it to dry. The best part about this plan was that if he couldn’t go through with it, he could easily wash and reinstall everything, and Luna would never be the wiser. In the middle of drying, Ravage forced the bathroom window back open. He kept an eye on the open window to make sure the guards didn’t come back to the alien sound of his turbines.

Once dried, Ravage cut off a small piece and went to the window. The guards did not approach when he stuck his hoof out this time. While not perfect, the shade of the dirty curtain was close enough for the pony bot.

Using rope that hung one of Luna’s soap bars, Ravage tied a portion of the curtain around his neck, forming a makeshift cloak. The window was more than large enough for a pony to get through. Slowly backing out while the satellites monitored the area for heat signatures, Ravage crept out the window. Using his pins, he slowly scaled down the wall. One meter away, two meters away, four… The farther he had moved away from the window, the faster he descended. It helped that the window was on the side of the wall opposite the Moon’s glare. Soon, he reached the ground! He had noticed several bat ponies making the rounds overhead, but not one came to investigate the open window. The curtain, as well as his ability to reroute his blood supply, must have almost completely blocked Ravage’s body heat, all the while looking like the stony wall.

Discarding his curtain cloak, Ravage moved in behind a thicket of brush and waited. His battle network reported that Luna had moved away from the mountain peak and it hadn’t located her new position yet. Angle Precise, one of the chief engineers whom Bo and Micah work for, lived in Canterlot and sometimes showed up at the job site at around quarter to seven, arriving by train. That meant a train for Ravage to catch in and around five to five-thirty. If only he could wait it out that long. And then, the bathroom light came on!

Ravage smiled in anticipation of the scolding to come. Did Luna not yet understand why he tried to escape her?

Error Port 32,453: Unauthorized Access

> Here it comes. <

Incoming Audio Message: ‘We are not amused!

I couldn’t imagine why,’ his thoughts laced with sarcasm.

We have saved thy life, and this is how you thank us!?

How thankful would you be if your host started feeling up your body without your permission?’ Ravage waited for Luna to form a response, yet none came. ‘You can’t keep your hooves to yourself.

Luna stood mortified, soaking her shower curtain in the tub, not that she was at all surprised at him escaping practically right in front of her guards. She easily fixed the window and curtain, good as new. It was a good thing the frustrated alicorn didn’t have any servants around to witness this embarrassing event.

Saving him did not guarantee unfettered access, as she had hoped. Did she really try to violate him? Luna thought about it briefly. She did. The Princess of Lust was not accustomed to her playmates rejecting her advances in her own bed, yet that is what Ravage did. The Purity spell indicated he had babe like innocence, and this led to only one possibility. ‘Ravage, are you a virgin?

Thanks to his research on love, Ravage knew of the definition. ‘Absolutely I am.’ > And that’s the way it’s going to stay. <

The Equestrian populace overwhelmingly embraces the opposite position, my friend,’ Luna stated, keeping to more modern language.

Let them. I care not for intimate coupling.

The Night Princess was taken aback. ‘Were you raised in a glass decanter?’ she paused briefly, trying to think of a possible explanation, ‘Or, were you that isolated? Since I feel it is the latter, I command you to show yourself and be returned to me at once. You’ll thank me obsequiously once I’ve removed this virginal curse.

No thanks. I’m good.

Ravage’s defiance was getting on her nerves, and the Princess gritted her teeth in anger. What kind of stallion was this? She caught herself though, and using the time tested stress control routine, she inhaled deeply and pushed her troubles away from her.

Besides, Luna reluctantly came to the realization that she really did violate his trust. In most other cases, Luna getting down with her bedmates was practically expected. Simply being in her bedroom was all the permission the Princess needed. This was not so with Ravage. Of course, that failed attempt was also Luna’s first since her return to Equestria. Could it be that society itself had changed so much? In spite of being allowed to do literally anything she wanted, the Equestrian royalty needed a sense of purpose behind every action. They valued being responsible.

Luna and Ravage had a date coming, and they had to remain on good terms. ‘Ravage, I’m sorry. You are correct. I need to be more vigilant over my desires. I’ll talk to you later, okay?

Alright,’ he responded, his terseness due to character, not actual anger.

She terminated the mental link. It was time to plan! This brought a smile to her face, as Luna loved to plan. Though Ravage was brought in against his will, she learned a great deal. He was dangerous, pure, virginal, intelligent, stealthy, and she ached for his company. The Moon Princess’ smile gained an air of evil to it when she made a significant realization. “Any mare that dates him is going to be sorely disappointed.”


=^.^=


Luna’s guards did not pursue him, and he walked out of the castle grounds without the night guards so much as looking at him. Ravage just walked out in the open, quietly traversing Canterlot’s streets at night, using the satellite network to guide him toward the railway. His body protested its overextended use, as his eyelids were heavy and even his legs were tired; he had to find a place to transform, preferably close to the railway station. A clock tower indicated that it was after one in the morning, and going by the twisty route the satellites determined, it was another twenty minutes to the train platform. Work was going to be hell the next morning.

It was not surprising that Ravage found solace in the dead of night. Canterlot was spotless; the architecture of its largest buildings and majestic bridges with their sweeping curves and use of non-conventional shapes actually reminded him of Cybertron, especially with their colours dulled by the darkness.

Weather Update: Fog Warning.

Viewing the details, Ravage discovered cold air was creeping in from the north. The valley below was becoming blanketed in a thick fog. From hot and humid to cold and wet in one night, such was the climate of the region. He wondered if he could fly through it; his jet engines may be loud, but it was night time. Strange noises in this land could easily be chalked up to being of unknown magical origin. All he had to do is descend about fifteen-hundred meters and he would be deep enough into the fog that the bat pegasi shouldn’t see his heat profile, even from his jet exhaust. His radar, satellites, and infrared vision would allow him to get right to his access hatch, his ‘door step’. The Decepticon smiled as he did the calculations: eighty minutes to the launch point; ten minutes to fly home at the most! The plan allowed him to be able to pack a lunch to bring to work as well, instead of paying for a meal. Skip waiting for the train! Most notably, Ravage would be able to fly again, an activity he missed greatly since starting his mission here. He picked up the pace toward the train station, as he would have to start his descent from the platform.


=^.^=


Ravage entered the fog where wisps of water vapour started to occlude the stars and the Moon. There were trails, but they were barely recognizable. A couple of old campfire pits and debris with symbols of royal origin pointed at the possibility that the guards or military personnel trained here from time to time.

Ravage felt like galloping, in spite of the exposed roots, as it was the surest way to flying and safety in his base. He paused for a bit, and made his decision, smiling as he would be home even sooner using the ponies’ world renowned galloping speed. Suddenly, the roots beneath his hooves became soft and moved about. Ravage looked downward to see that the roots had come alive! Like snakes, they slithered about – and then they wound themselves around Ravage’s lower legs and midsection! The shocked Decepticon stallion tried to wrench himself free, but was suddenly sucked down beneath the surface. A multitude of warnings went off in front of his vision as he was roughly dragged down some sort of earthen tunnel, dust and mud assaulting his eyes and ears as he went. The ground suddenly vanished as he fell through air, and with a thud, Ravage stopped harshly.

Shaking his head, he noticed he was unable to wipe his face off, with all four limbs still restrained by the living roots. Instead, he used his long neck to clean his face by his withers. Finally able to see again, he took stock of his situation. Clearing his eyesight turned out to be almost useless, as he was in a dark, dank underground chamber. A faint, reddish light seemed to emanate from stones sprinkled on the walls; small roots dangled from the top of a cavern barely large enough to fit a Constructicon in vehicle mode. The trickle of dirt debris continued sporadically. For a second time since he arrived in Equestria he heard the sound of his own heartbeat, a sound that heralded the coming of dark forces, and for a second time that night he became frightened. The stallion bot had faced a myriad of different situations, but nothing quite like this. He gathered information using his infrared vision, and tested the roots’ strength which held fast around the back of his midsection, and blocked his weapon bay doors. There was no way he was able to transform trussed up like that.

Cackling laughter sounded off somewhere forward. The targeting system identified the source of the sound coming from a jagged tree stump directly in front him. Checking the infrared, nothing changed. But then against all logic, it smiled at the bruised pony bot. It was some sort of creature! Baring his teeth angrily, Ravage leered back, his warlike mind busy thinking of ways to destroy the bizarre looking thing.

“You not happy?” the living trunk needled in a nasal, raspy voice.

“Why did you entrap me?” Ravage asked calmly, wishing to see his captor set ablaze.

“Your soul become food for Golgok! Happy, smiling ponies taste best.”

Ravage’s head turned to the side, still staring at the trunk thing. Does he mean my spark? “And why my soul? What do you get out of it?”

“Shut up!” Ravage was suspended in midair by the enchanted roots. Abruptly, they squeezed the pony bot, the torque forces twisting and constricting his body, making him cry out in pain. The trunk thing laughed maniacally at the agonizing pony’s misfortune, and squeezed again! Ravage figured out its game quickly and willed himself to stop screaming, in spite of the intense pain. “It doesn’t matter which pony’s soul if me get gems,” the vile thing explained. Figuring it must have sent its prey into shock, it put Ravage back down, whose face was reeling from the experience.

It animatedly tore itself free of the long roots that held its catch. With lopsided hops on wooden protrusions that were its ‘root feet’ the thing rollicked away from Ravage, leaving the Decepticon by himself.

Though sore and aching, Ravage tried resisting his bonds again. This time they were not as rigid as a couple of centimeters of play could be yielded from the restrictive roots. After waiting for his odd looking captor to leave, Ravage tried to chew through them. Ten minutes later, no progress had been made, as he was bound in a way that forced his forelegs together making it physically impossible to reach them with his teeth. Evidently, Equestrians had been captured this way before and the hunters had adapted their tactics to evade pony biting forces.

Physically exhausted, Ravage hung his head low. He needed to think; to be creative; to circumnavigate his way out of this hopeless situation, but his vulnerable pony form brewed a stew of potent negative feeling.

How different would things have turned out if he just had tea with Fluttershy? That’s what she wanted to do before he left, he was certain of it now. She was just asking indirectly. Without a doubt, Ravage would have preferred to have spent time with her than with these roots. Her floral scent and gentle disposition weren’t all that bad, were they? They were just different ways of communicating without speaking, and from working with Soundwave, Ravage had come to appreciate many different ways of delivering information. What he found unusual about Fluttershy was how seldom she flew. Suddenly, his face lit up from the sensation of a good idea.

He should have been flying! Right then – in the air. The fog would have covered his trajectory, yet somehow he ended up in this cavern.

Going into his transformation protocols, he isolated the controls for his wings – devices not normally used in pony mode. Without any roots to block them a brief yellow light around the tissue interfaces preceded a whir of solenoids and hydraulics, and Ravage’s wings spanned out. Jet motors were exposed, among an array of shiny machine parts and a litany of indicator lights; his organs were shielded by flexible armor. He reasoned that since his flight steering was assisted by thrust vectoring, and the wings were somewhat adjustable, he may be able to use the hot exhaust to burn through the roots. The odd looking pony with wings coming out from his sternum studied the area behind himself, looking for something to burn. He turned on his jets, but even idling, they were incredibly loud. The trunk thing was gone for at least twenty minutes, presumably to fetch this Golgok character, so he decided to keep going. The stallion bot was indeed able to deflect the hot gases onto the offending roots, at least the ones on his hind legs, and without burning himself. It worked! Ravage was shaking his head though. “Maybe one day I’ll actually use these things for flying.”

Forty-five minutes later, Ravage was severing the last root on his left front foreleg. Once his hind hooves were free, he used the anchoring pins hidden within them to cut the other roots. He let them remain curled up around his limbs and midsection in case Golgok showed up. Gravely sounds of shifting earth were heard, and the tired pony bot looked to the source. He found the tunnel he was dragged down was closing up, as more and more earth magically deposited itself, eliminating the pony bot’s only means of escape.

Ravage was not impressed. He just wanted to go home and go to sleep. This stupid country had been messing with him in the worst way. Never in his life had the Decepticon ever needed to deal with emotional input from a living body.

He was receiving ceaseless attention from the mares, whereas he would have normally preferred to have been hidden and out of sight. Why try to maintain their high opinion of him? He may have been unable to escape Celestia-1 without their guidance. Ultimately, avoidance of mares was impossible, whether or not he pursued his mission objectives. Whether they showered him with delicious free food, showed him how to play good sports, or showed him the discipline of Magic, he had benefitted greatly from retaining a good rapport with Equestria’s mares. Fluttershy in particular seemed to create bouts of positive feeling just by thinking about her. Ravage gasped at the realization. He could have transformed to try to mitigate his emotions, but it was too late. The tired Decepticon pony was developing feelings for them! As unacceptable as that was, Ravage didn’t deny it.

“NO!!” he barked defiantly. This lack of ability to shut out these primitive feelings that resulted from mere neurochemistry would be dealt with. He classified this mission as the most challenging ever, not because of the strength of his opponents, but because of having to be forced to devolve to their level and live in the roiling seas of emotion. Ravage was cold and calculating, not warm and nurturing, and just a fraction of his battle record proved it. His objectives were: acquire energon, complete his mission by deducing how magic works, and leave the planet. And leave he shall! Once his mission was completed he was to return to Cybertron where his spark would be restored to his old body. Surely, the so called thaumic fields were responsible for the radio interference he was dealing with. He just had to get out of the tunnel first.

There was, of course, another objective ordered by Megatron.

Faint noises coming from down the tunnel caught the pony bot’s attention. At around the same time, the living tree trunk creature waddled back. Ravage had to ask, “What are you, exactly?”

“Me diamond dog! Or, used to be.” The noises got louder, closing in on an intersection, which was a tunnel fork. It started to glow green as the creatures got closer. Guttural, hellish sounds and noises of otherworldly denizens could be heard, and were slowly rising in volume. “Hear that? You die soon!”

Ravage found out about the diamond dogs during the research phase. They were enemies of the ponies, and lived their entire existence underground. “How are you going to kill me?” the Decepticon asked in a challenging way.

“Golgok stone you, then take your soul!”

“I was unaware souls are a commodity.” Several stony, deformed creatures stumbled and bumbled into view. In the light, they were too blackened against the glowing emerald background to be discernible, but in infrared Ravage saw the body parts of several creatures, as well as tree parts strewn together; torn up logs with pony legs; a pony head walked on branches like a spider; other creature parts were attached together like some grotesque anatomical jigsaw puzzle. The clambered over each other and some even crawled on the ceiling.

Following them, a great creature larger than the largest stallion, strode into view. Its lizard-like body resembled a something between a dragon and a snake. It had six legs, as well as a long neck and tail; shimmering, green scales armored the integument. Glowing, dagger-like spines erupted from head to tail, looking like a thorny brush; these were causing the green illumination. The head was angular and swept back; the thing’s face was draconic, with fleshy whiskers hanging turgidly from the snout. Its featureless eyes also glowed, but from a more yellow kind of green.

Unbelievably, it carried an air of aristocracy with its snout held high as it was. “Oh my goodness gracious, a child of Celestia,” he spoke in a refined tone and language. Ravage was reminded of that rich human hunter from decades ago who had almost managed to capture Optimus Prime, but before he did he bested some powerful Decepticons, including Astrotrain. It was as if he had come back as this six legged monstrosity. Ravage just smirked at the group; such silly bodies they had! The reptile’s air of indifference vanished. “Come on boy, scream in terror. Beg for your life like a good pony,” he spoke, still looking away, realizing something was different about this catch.

“Golgok, I presume?” Ravage asked calmly. He was ready to open fire in a moment’s notice. Without any means of escape, however, talking to his captors was the only viable option that could lead to an exit.

The lizard finally looked directly at Ravage. “Why yes, I am,” his words flowing out evilly while his eyes burned brightly. He wondered why his prisoner was so fearless. Ponies can’t turn to stone at his gaze unless they show fear! Not a problem; he hid more powerful magic that he could rely on. “Silvertail?”

“Yeah boss?” the trunk thing responded.

“This is an earth pony. I said unicorn. Can you not tell the difference?”

“Ohhh, uh, sorry boss. It dark outside!”

Golgok leaned his head backward with his long, serpentine neck and a foreleg covered his eyes dramatically, “Uh, I had so relished a unicorn soul to devour.” Upon recovering his stately posture, he looked disgustedly at Ravage. “Now, if he were a foal, his soul would have been all the more sumptuous, but as you can see, it can only taste,” he paused, looking for the right word, “gamey,” gesturing toward the pony bot. Ravage remained unmoved, and unimpressed. The reptile, despite his dislike for the Equestrian race, had become interested in the uncharacteristically calm pony. “What’s your name, boy? A little small talk may let you live longer.”

“Princess Luna.”

Golgok returned a disappointed face. “The Princesses can change form, but I haven’t ever heard of them changing gender.” Though, being one of the princesses would have explained the lack of terror.

They can transform? This was a stunning revelation, and it showed on the Decepticon’s face.

“Oh, you didn’t know that?” the hexaped spoke, calm as the calmest lake on a windless day. “It’s how they walk among their people.” He leaned in to punctuate his point, “It keeps them sane.”

“An insane Princess,” Ravage mused, looking toward the ceiling, trying to imagine it. “Now what would that be like?”

For a brief moment, Golgok appeared shocked, but then bellowed in laughter at Ravage’s question, and his minions laughed with him. “You have character, boy,” the reptile complimented, “A pity nobody else will get to enjoy it after this morning.”

The Decepticon counted his ammunition. Golgok’s entourage started closing in. Ravage looked toward Silvertail, “Tell me, minion, do you think these roots are strong enough to hold me?” he asked of the jagged tree trunk creature.

Silvertail appeared insulted. “What? You no escape me! I hold you better.” The annoyed trunk creature stepped back onto the roots he left behind, fully intent on demonstrating the pain that constriction can cause. Yet, the roots wrapped around Ravage’s body did not move. Something was wrong, and it was written all over its bark encrusted face. He looked at Ravage with a mixture of curiosity and confusion, and in spite of the darkness, he was finding out why the roots did not squeeze at his whim.

“Any last words, earth pony?” the lizard beast mocked.

With a quick whir of hydraulics that took less than a second, the weapon bay doors opened up, and Ravage’s machine guns assembled their attack mode from compact storage. “Yes.” The face of confusion was the last emotion Silvertail expressed as Ravage’s guns came alive; deafening blasts accompanied cones of white hot flame that followed the heavy bullets. The tree trunk creature was reduced to wood chips in less than two seconds.

Golgok was spared by Ravage, and the shocked reptilian and his minions were back-pedaling away from the carnage. “How – how dare you!”

Ravage slowly walked toward the last remaining threat, turning on his weapons’ laser sights, causing Golgok to gasp once again at this terrifying new magic. “I’d like to introduce my associates: Fifty, and Cal,” he threatened calmly. He then looked toward the remaining deformed creatures, “Get out.” They scurried off like rats leaving a sinking ship.

“I, I, I…” Golgok sputtered, desperately trying to back away from Ravage, but the pony bot was much more nimble. He had never faced an opponent like this.

“Go ahead, Golgok. Give me a reason to kill you.” Ravage remained calm, for he actually needed the lizard to remain alive until he got out of subterranean Equestria.

Golgok stopped in his tracks. He was certain that if he tried to run, Ravage would bring him down with those brutal weapons of his. He couldn’t deliver his more powerful stoning spells either; they required a couple of minutes of uninterrupted concentration to implement. Sitting on what counted as his haunches and grimacing, he brought his forelegs and mid legs in front of him, and started rubbing his palms together. “Uh, perhaps we can make a deal?”

“Oh?” Ravage uttered softly.

For a moment, Golgok studied the two pins of laser light on his chest. “I, I have information!” Satisfied with his offer, he smiled wryly. “Yes, information.”

“’Better be good,” Ravage said, unimpressed.

“Oh yes, ask me anything,” Golgok offered, still smiling falsely.

Deciding to give it a go, it didn’t take Ravage long to think up something useful. “What is a diamond dog’s soul doing in a tree trunk?”

“Ah! Good story. I exist to devour souls, you see. To do this, I first turn my victims into stone, a state tantamount to death. My methods keep the victim’s soul intact, whereupon I can either devour it, or I can transfer it to some other inanimate object. In any case, I need to break the stone open.” Golgok was still grinning madly.

“Why not eat food?” Ravage challenged.

“Dear boy, my dark magical power simultaneously gives me everlasting life, health, and frees me from mortal bindings which need a constant flow of food and drink.”

Ravage was still unimpressed. He wasn’t going to be on the planet for much longer, and he had no need of this drivel. “Well, this has all been interesting, but I still need to get out of this slag-forsaken pit!” he growled. For all his self-control, anger seeped into his words.

The great lizard had a moment of bewilderment. For all the millennia he had lived, he had heard many phrases, but ‘slag-forsaken’ was completely foreign, even with the changing times. “Of, of course!” He grabbed the tip of one of his spines and broke it off. “I need to place this on that wall, there,” he explained, pointing to one of the muddy walls. “It will create a passage to the surface.” Ravage motioned for him to do so.

As soon as Golgok placed the spine piece, a green glow of magical energy expanded from it. A sphere of green light forced itself upward, and at an angle, magically displacing the earth from around it. Soon, the surface was revealed! Fog started to ooze in.

For a brief moment, Ravage was happy, and a rare joyful grin graced his face. He maneuvered himself into the tunnel, walking backwards with his guns constantly pointing at Golgok. The Decepticon backed up into the new tunnel a bit, before motioning him to come forward.

Golgok took a couple of apprehensive steps forward. “Surely, you don’t mean for me to go to the surface? Princess Luna is up there!”

“It’s foggy. She won’t see you. Now come,” he ordered, use his foreleg to motion his former captor to follow him up. The lizard took more confident steps, keeping up a slow pace with Ravage. “Why do you fear Luna so?”

“Let’s just say that some of us don’t forget history,” he retorted, slowly creeping up the tunnel he made. “Have you seen her true form?”

“Dark blue with a mane made of stars?”

“No.”

Ravage was puzzled at the response. “No?”

Fear seeped into his heart as Golgok neared the surface, but he kept it under control. “The pony you’re describing is her minor form she uses to conserve magical power.”

Ravage would have noticed his rear hoof traversing onto the surface if he weren’t so engaged in Golgok’s words. “Nightmare Moon?” The now trembling lizard nodded. “I thought Elements of Harmony excised her powers.”

“Don’t be absurd!” Golgok rebuked, completely serious. “The Elements of Harmony only contained her dark powers. They are old magics, as old as history, and cannot be destroyed. Celestia make a grave error in banishing her for only a thousand years, the sentimental fool!”

Ravage looked away and pondered a bit. “But the pony race has existed longer than the Princesses have.” It was then that he heard the scurrying. He looked to see a hole closing up and Golgok was gone.

But he was free. Free at last! All at once, Ravage forgot about this Nightmare Moon nonsense and transformed, his machine guns storing themselves as he did so. Immediately, he activated his jets and attained an altitude of about forty meters. He quickly reconnected with his satellites and plotted the most direct course back to his ship. He cared not if it took him over Ponyville, and with a roar of his jet engines he drove headlong toward his destination.

Two-hundred kilometers per hour; five-hundred kilometers per hour, surpassing Luna’s top observed speed; eight-hundred kilometers per hour. He maintained this speed and enjoyed the abject freedom of flight, disregarding his normally incessant need for camouflage.

In just a few minutes, he approached the outskirts of Ponyville. A rather nasty idea occurred in his head, and he sneered as he pushed his jet engines as hard as they could go. In under half a minute a Mach cone started forming as he cleared twelve-hundred kilometers per hour. “Wake up ponies!” he yelled harshly. And then, he flew above town hall…

BOOM!

Just seconds later he landed by the access hatch, and after making sure nobody was around, he let himself in. He stayed in robot mode, since he would have had to rise in less than two hours anyways. He couldn’t wait to see the results of his very satisfying prank. He felt he owed it to them after all he had to go through since he got this crazy country.

Ravage proceeded to his radio room. Since the main computer was busy guiding the manufacture of parts, he tried once again to reach his fellow Decepticons.

“Ravage to Cybertron. Come in Cybertron!”

Chapter 8: Girls, Girls, Girls

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Chapter 8: Girls, Girls, Girls



Ravage’s head slowly emerged from under the base of a bridge, looking like a piece of driftwood. He scanned left and right while his telescopic ears bent and twisted in an almost machine-like manner scrounging up any stray sounds. Satisfied it was safe, the cautious pony bot climbed out of the river. His pony form and kegs full of food and drink dripped wet. Having arrived earlier than usual, his strategy was to make an exaggerated walk through Ponyville while he dried off. During his recent attempts to contact Cybertron, dozens of guards had been sent to the Ponyville area. At least two patrols had been sent into the Everfree forest too. He smiled. The worn Decepticon pony’s prank gave him solace amidst all the crazy events that had been happening lately.

Another reason for his good mood, regardless of how tired he was going to feel after toiling all day long, was that his ship would be finished constructing the energon collection parts he needed while he was at work.

His weary, but satisfied feel was continuously fueled everywhere he trod; the faces of tired ponies mixed with the buzz of guards flying and searching everywhere. Many folks were being interviewed as Ravage strolled by. Actually, it was a very strong response, he felt. Walking by Town Hall made him smile once again, as several shattered windows defaced the proud, but pretentious building; all the damage was on the north side.

“Halt!” commanded a nearby guard pony, causing him to stop. It appeared that he was to be interviewed as well. “Sir, I would like to ask you a couple of questions, please,” stated the armored stallion.

“Sure.” Ravage examined the colour codes on the guards clothing, trying to establish a relationship with pattern and function.

“You look tired,” the guard started. “May I ask why?”

“I was awakened by a loud crash.” Ravage overheard many ponies saying that very thing.

“Anything else?”

“Not really, no. What happened to Town Hall?” Ravage had no intention of acting differently from the other affected ponies, and easily maintained a veil of ignorance.

“I’ll ask the questions. Please take no offense.” The guard was only looking to do his job quickly so he could move on. “Did you see any rainbow trails?”

Ravage’s face contorted in disbelief. “Rainbow trails?”

“Did you see any?”

The Decepticon found the question to be unrelated to the incident that he himself caused. Also, Rainbow Dash didn’t wake up before the sunrise without good reason. “No.”

The disinterested guard decided that enough information was gathered. “Thank you for your time,” he said, before moving on.

Ravage started to think on what else he might do to Town Hall. Well placed bombs could collapse the whole structure into the basement, and just thinking about it gave the pony bot yet another reason to smile – that is, until he saw a pair of bat ponies.

His smile quickly contorted into a frown. It can’t be! he thought, before switching to machine language. Another bat pony flew by, followed by another, and then other. Ravage’s eye followed the flight paths to a wicked looking chariot that distantly approached from the mountain, its features a quagmire of darkly spikes and sharp edges.

He turned on his compass, and the needle swung directly at the incoming coach. Figuring that Princess Luna was headed toward the damage zone, the surprised pony bot picked up the pace and headed as far away from Town Hall as possible.


=^.^=


A knock came at the front door of the library, awakening Twilight Sparkle. She cracked an eye open, taking enormous effort to do so. She heard Spike’s little footsteps though, probably answering the call. Ah, good ‘ol Spike, she mused, as she resumed cuddling with Rainbow Dash, who didn’t wake up at all. She knew her bliss was about to end when Spike’s rushed footsteps were heard approaching up the stairwell. Soon, another knock occurred on her bedroom door.

Muted by the door’s thick wood, the troubled dragon’s voice came, “Twilight, wake up! The guards are here. They wanna speak to Rainbow Dash!”

That got Twilight’s attention, her eyes popping open at the implications. She shoved at her lover’s shoulder, trying to rouse her. “Rainbow, wake up,” she whispered. She and Dash had been woken up by a loud noise earlier that morning that sounded like a thunder clap. They both had gone onto the balcony to find out that it was foggy; Rainbow flew around to see what the cause was. There were no storm clouds, and most ponies were still in their homes, except perhaps Applejack. The two ponies decided to speak to their farmer friend at a later time and returned to sleep, since there appeared to be no immediate danger. “Rainbow!” she hissed, “The guards want to talk to you.”

Now figuring out why it was so important that the athlete’s sleep be interrupted, Rainbow Dash’s eyes sprung open. Her body shook violently, as Twilight had started using her magic to wake her. “Okay, okay! I’m up!”

At their request Rainbow Dash was separated from Twilight, and Lieutenant Consummate Curiosity conducted a heated interview. It became clear pretty early on why they wanted to talk to the junior Wonderbolt specifically. “Miss Dash, all of the broken glass was on the inside of the building; several windows were broken on the same side; most of the damage was on the second floor. Now, what aside from an aerial blast wave could have done this?” she prodded.

“You think I did a sonic rainboom in my sleep?” Rainbow rebuked. Her frazzled forelock couldn’t hide her contempt.

“There were witnesses.”

But before Rainbow could lose control, “Rainbow Dash and I were sleeping when we were awakened by a loud crash,” interrupted a crown bearing Twilight Sparkle, slowly, difficultly descending to the floor with her wings. Having put on her work clothes, the guards both bowed.

“How do you know Miss Dash was sleeping when it happened?” Consummate prodded.

“Because she was sleeping with me,” Twilight explained, referring to herself by hoof, and looking pretty angry. The Canterlot-sent guards had no idea how to respond to this rather fantastic news, as the rumors of the Elements having formed a herd were just confirmed. Twilight looked to her partner and saw Rainbow’s face scrunched up in annoyance; however, ‘I got this’ was not uttered this time. Taking that information as a green light, the Princess proceeded. “If you’re going around accusing ponies of misdemeanors without evidence, I suggest rethinking your career objectives. Now kindly do your jobs and gather any information you can, and do NOT shake your hooves at anypony until you are absolutely certain, or at least until a trial can be prepared.”

Both bowed once again at the royal command, but Consummate braved expressing her opinion, “With all due respect, Princess, what do you think may have caused that sonic rainb- blast wave?”

Twilight leaned in calmly, leaving only a muzzle’s width of space between her and the guard. “I don’t know,” she said calmly, temporarily showing a face of understanding. “But that’s what we have the scientific method for. Now go!”

One final, quick bow and the guards left.

As expected, Rainbow Dash was still upset. “I could have handled it, ya know.”

“I know, Rainbow.” Twilight hugged and nuzzled her pegasus herdmate, and then administered delicate little nibbles to the back and bottom of one of her ears.

The volatile pegasus gasped and calmed down almost immediately. “Just gimme’ more of a chance next time, okay?”

Twilight landed one last sloppy kiss on the ear, “Alright Rainbow, I’ll try my best.” The Princess disliked giving vague answers, but she didn’t feel like discussing boundaries at the moment.

“I think I need to see Applejack,” Rainbow decided.

Twilight’s face lit up, “Yes! Great idea! She may have actually seen something through the fog.”

“Or lack of fog. Remember what happens when I do a sonic rainboom inside a cloud?” The junior Wonderbolt winked and flew out.

Twilight was very satisfied with Rainbow’s reasoning, and happy that she’s not as thick-headed as many make her out to be. She felt it might not be enough though. “Spike, I’m going out for a while…”


=^.^=


Luna sat inside her coach, which was parked a couple of blocks from town hall; guards barricaded the nearby roads and walkways, and formed a secured perimeter around their Princess. The disaster prone village had yet another unexplained and disruptive event. The typical results from such occurrences were property damage, and the threatening of ponies’ lives. Well this time, Luna was not tolerating it. Ravage lived here! Her bond with him had strengthened to the point that she could feel that he was in good health, and she intended to keep it that way. His residing in Ponyville tipped her decision to come down and investigate the incident herself instead of sleeping, regardless of her afternoon schedule.

A guard opened the door, and Mayor Mare clambered inside the chariot’s plush interior. There was plenty of room to bow, so she did so. “Your highness.”

“What happened?” Luna asked plainly.

The mayor righted herself quickly and answered. “There was a loud noise before the sunrise, like a thunder clap, that managed to wake up nearly every citizen in Ponyville!”

“Were there injuries?”

“No, not from what we can tell. Oh, but our poor town hall! So many windows were broken, mostly on the second floor,” Mayor Mare described, trying to stick to the facts.

Luna’s time was limited, so she needed to move quickly. “Assess the damage. Gather evidence, and try to come up with an explanation. Then clean up. I will personally cover the cost of replacing your windows.”

Mayor Mare’s face brightened up, and she gasped in joy. “Oh my!” she gushed. “That is so kind of you!”

Luna chuckled a bit and rattled her right hoof at the mayor, trying to calm her down. “But I want you to do something for me.”

“Oh?” A green tube, paired with green parchment floated to the politician in Luna’s magical glow. “Is this what I think it is?”

“Quickpaper, enchanted in a way much like Spike’s dragonfire. I assume you know of Spike?”

The mayor nodded fervently and smiled, “Of course, your highness.” Then, her face gained an air of seriousness, “So I just write a message down and put it in the tube?” Every hamlet, village, town, and city was supposed to govern themselves, preferably with zero oversight from the ruling Princesses. What Luna was doing was highly irregular.

“Correct. Your message will be instantly teleported before me.” Luna knew her underling wasn’t convinced. She leaned forward, getting inside of the mayor’s personal space. “You have only three sheets. They’re difficult to produce and it takes alicorn magic.”

Mayor Mare supported her chin with her hoof for a bit while she pondered. “So you want me to notify you if there’s a town emergency,” she suggested. Luna smiled and nodded. The mayor gestured to the town outside of the carriage. “This does not qualify as an emergency.”

Now it was Luna’s turn to ponder; only she finished her thoughts more quickly. “In that case, notify me whenever something out of the ordinary happens until you run out of sheets. Dismissed!” she rapid fired.

Mayor Mare jumped a bit at the command, “Yes, my liege,” curtly bowing. She exited with the messaging equipment in her teeth.

The guards purposely waited a couple of minutes after Princess Luna was done with her first guest. She liked to reflect and plan while relaxing with a drink which was a nice, cool glass of white wine in this case.

The Dark Princess was really waiting for a specific pony to show up for debriefing, one whom she sent for before she left Canterlot. She would be taking on visitors until that moment. The guard opened the door once again, and Twilight Sparkle herself entered Luna’s private space.

“Twilight, how good to see you again!” Luna dispensed cordially.

“Princess Luna,” Twilight replied, nodding curtly.

“I gather you have thought on this morning’s disruptive events?” The level of professionalism drowned out what little affection there was.

“I have. Something woke everypony up before the Celestia raised the sun – and – you seem to be stonewalling my requests to discuss revamping the infrastructure for researching, developing, and teaching science,” Twilight stated with great seriousness.

“I am aware of your unreasonable request. I will make time for a formal meeting on it next month. This, I promise.” Luna had a feeling that their talk was about to start right away. “Besides, the children actually take science classes as part of their curriculum by royal mandate. Is that not satisfactory?”

“Absolutely not,” Twilight rebuked. “They are learning about the components of our world, and how they interact and work together, but that is not science. It’s memorization. The crucial idea left out is the scientific method. I just saw a cadre of trained guards all but accuse Rainbow Dash of causing the damage to Town Hall, long before the evidence was gathered up and processed.”

“I can assure you that accusation without proof is unacceptable. Those guards will be reprimanded,” Luna shot back. “And what does this have to do with your quest for science?”

“Everything,” the Element Princess replied plainly.

Luna raised an eyebrow. She didn’t know whether to cheer Twilight’s passion, or belittle her for it. “You’re a great one for deduction, Twilight. Alright, explain to me how science, this morning’s noise, and the broken windows on Town Hall are related.” Luna crossed her forelegs, waiting to be entertained.

Twilight made herself more comfortable. “The scientific method is essential for science, but it is applicable to any problem, particularly where the causes and effects have never been encountered. This morning’s noise and associated damage is a perfect example.”

Luna sat calmly, unmoved. “Go on.”

Twilight became electrified with the thrill of progress. Having sensed that her chance to fully advance her ideas was at hoof, she eagerly grasped it. “If those guards had been trained to approach their evidence collection and interviews in a more scientific manner then the Lieutenant may have never insinuated that Rainbow Dash did the damage.”

“Consummate Curiosity was it? I’ll remember her. However, the fog was not dispersed by the noise so that automatically clears Rainbow Dash. The Lieutenant is not as big a Wonderbolt fan as you and I are,” the Night Princess winked, purposely using the singular.

Twilight was unfazed at the veiled, but lewd remark. “I feel that all young ponies need to be formally introduced to the scientific method, and tested appropriately. Also, I feel that organizations where problem solving involving unknown variables is the norm, like the police, should embrace the scientific method and put it into practice.”

“You want to change the world,” quipped Luna, grinning, her cheek resting on one of her hoof shoes. “How ambitious.”

“Isn’t that what Princesses do?” Twilight was well aware that her function as a Princess had to have a grander purpose than merely reading and expanding her personal knowledge pool.

“Well, keeping everypony happy and everything working smoothly is our top priority. We prefer to let society advance itself.” Luna knew her broad definition of Princess-work wasn’t going to stop her implacable guest.

“I wish to enhance pony education with this idea,” Twilight continued. “It will lead to superior performance in many disciplines. Reasoning without proof, and needless assumptions will be relegated to the imagination.” The accomplished alicorn held her nose high, like a Canterlot noble.

Luna golf-clapped with her front hooves. “More science, just what ponies need.”

Twilight overlooked the sarcastic remark. “Then it sounds like it’s time for us to discuss the other side of my proposal: applied science.” Luna was unresponsive, but Twilight powered through. “Most of our technology is dependent on magic. It’s fantastic really, and I’ve enjoyed devoting my life to its study, but ever since I became a Princess, I’ve – I’ve kinda been a little disturbed by our unfettered use of magic.”

Luna’s face screwed up at this. “But you’re the Princess of Magic!”

“Let me explain,” Twilight said as she held a hoof up. “We are blessed with magic in this world, and all ponies have it in some form or another. But we don’t know if it’s ubiquitous. Does it work at the bottom of the ocean? Does it work miles underground?”

“If it didn’t work on the Moon, I’d be dead. How’s that for ubiquitous?”

“That’s still assumption,” Twilight maintained. Luna rolled her eyes up in annoyance, but the former pupil of Celestia needed to push on. “In fact, it took the use of the very science I’m trying to propagate in order for ponies to understand and develop magic.”

“The scientific method you aspire to understand and help flourish also has another name. Do you know what it is?” Luna countered. Twilight gestured for Luna to continue. “It’s called reason.”

“But the scientific method is a form of reason; a systematic approach!”

“It seems we’ve deviated from the other half of your proposal, Twilight. Applied science?” Luna didn’t have all day.

“Oh my!” Twilight realized she was getting off track, and reached into her saddlebag.

“It’s all right, Twilight Sparkle. Conversations with you will always be stimulating,” Luna soothed.

She pulled out a small device. “Look at this,” she urged. Upon a wooden platform, a metal box with wires coming out of it attached to a small light in front, also attached to the wood.

“What, pray tell, am I looking at?” Luna was perplexed at the tiny light accompanied by all the metal gear.

Twilight flicked a switch with her muzzle, and the light came on. “Do you know what makes this device amazing?” Luna raised an eyebrow, not impressed at all. “It uses no magic.”

Luna twisted her head to and fro, looking at the tiny machine closely. She formulated a response, not understanding why Twilight would put her weight behind such an inferior device. “We are underwhelmed.”

“The lights in a flashlight use batteries like this device, but they’re magically enhanced. In fact, when you look at it, most of our technology arises from pursuits of pure science, but then it’s quickly enhanced by magic.”

“And this is a problem how?” Luna challenged. “It sounds like you’re describing a good marriage between the two disciplines.”

“The laws of nature never change. Magic, however, is at their mercy. It can change, and it has. There are mountains of documentation that suggest that magical energy actually weakens whenever there is a delay in raising the sun or the moon. And not just for ponies either,” Twilight described.

Luna suddenly became interested, her ears pricking up. “How much of a change are we talking?”

“Point one percent!” Twilight replied, raising her head high as she spoke.

Luna suddenly became very disinterested, as she difficultly resisted frowning. “I see.”

“I believe that magic is finite, Luna. It can be blocked. It can be corrupted. It can be stolen. Things like gravity, heat, and light behave reliably the same every day.”

“You’ll get no argument from me on those points, except for magic being finite.”

“I also believe that galvanizing our every technological development with magic actually thwarts its advancement. The science ends as soon as a device is perfected with magic, at least from understanding it using the natural laws of our world.”

Luna thought for a few moments, trying to piece an appropriate response to what her royal counterpart was saying. “So, enhancing a device with magic, a discipline you agree uses the scientific method for its development and implementation, isn’t good enough for you. You want technology to be as good without magic, as it is with it.” Twilight nodded. “No industry will champion such a cause, you do realize that. The resources needed would be astounding, yet magic is free for all to use.”

“But we could redevelop technologies in Canterlot,” Twilight countered. “All we have to do is install new, far more substantial facilities so we could properly do the research and testing.”

“We already have the Faculty of Science at Canterlot University.”

“Yeah,” Twilight said sardonically, “In the annex of the Music Hall. That’s pathetic!”

“It performs its function admirably, does it not?” Luna knew Twilight had a good point, but didn’t want to get into the monetary values needed for the proposed change that could rival military expenditures.

Twilight wasn’t finished. “More than that, I firmly believe that we’re missing out on developing associated technologies. Take a carriage, for example. It has to be pulled by ponies. Imagine a carriage that can move under its own power! We can do this with enchantments, yes, but it would be tremendously difficult to cast properly, and to cover the distance from Ponyville to Canterlot would use more mana than can be found in a small town,” Twilight paused, “Or, -ahem- I could do it.”

“And I suppose you want them to move fast enough to drive from Ponyville to Canterlot in less than an hour,” Luna teased. Twilight’s face lit up at the thrill of a great new idea. Luna intervened as quickly as she could. “Easy Twilight,” she soothed again, trying to calm the young alicorn, leaning in and rubbing her right shoulder as she did.

“Well, that’s my proposal,” Twilight concluded, calming down. “Revamp our facilities so we can develop technologies that can flourish without magic. Revamp our education system so that the scientific method can at least be considered by young adults when encountering a problem, and implemented by organizations that need it the most, like our police guards.” Reading Luna’s reaction though, Twilight’s chipper mood was slowly replaced with sadness.

After carefully thinking, Luna responded. “These kinds of ideas shouldn’t take hold in the royal domain and filter down the ranks until it has touched everypony. Ponies will resist them. Strongly!” Luna kept rubbing Twilight’s shoulder, and tried as hard as she could be a friend, in particular, a friend that delivered bad news. “Instead, start from the grassroots up. Hold public forums on your ideas, and encourage teachers, researchers, vets – anypony with a stake in the sciences – to attend them. You have a travel budget, use it! Remember, stripped down to our basic fiber, we’re all creatures of habit, and we naturally get defensive when change comes knocking at our door.”

Twilight’s head slumped low, processing the wisdom of the Night Princess. It was going to take much, much longer to see her vision if she had to communicate her ideas pony by pony. Her eyes looked up to Luna in an almost foal-like manner. “Do you like my ideas?”

“Developing more technology with pure science? Training professionals to act more responsibly? How could I not?” Luna decided that enhancing research and development using only the natural laws of the world didn’t threaten magic, and probably never would. Most crucially though, Canterlot didn’t have to raise taxes or drain the treasury if such ideas were launched too soon. “In fact, I’d like to attend a few of your lectures.”

Twilight’s smile returned with gusto. She leapt up, wings springing out, and hugged the other Princess. “Thank you Luna! You’ve been a big help,” she gushed, nuzzling into her friend’s long neck.

Luna soaked it in and visibly exhaled, wrapping her forelegs around Twilight, as if she’d found instant relief. Now, if only I could get Ravage to do that, she thought.

Twilight released Luna from her affectionate grip and the two resumed their normal seating. “Just work at it, Twilight. I’m confident in your abilities.” Luna enjoyed Twilight’s cute little blush from her supportive words.

The Elemental Princess basked in the compromise. Knowing she would soon be immersing herself in the details of Equestria’s scientific redevelopment, the preparing of its exposition excited her. She was so happy she could hardly contain herself! “Thank Celestia for the scientific method!” she proclaimed. “She’s the one who taught it to me, you know.” Luna grinned at how cute it was that Twilight always held her sister on such a high pedestal. “And special thanks to the one who taught it to her!” Twilight announced, holding a hoof in the air.

Luna blushed a little bit, and turned her head to the side, holding one of her hooves to her breast plate. “Why, thank you,” she spoke calmly, smiling.

Twilight ceased all motion as her eyes opened as wide as search lights, and her jaw was gaped and ajar at the shock of disbelief. She didn’t believe it, but attempted to confirm Luna’s involvement. “Y- you?”

“Celestia isn’t the wellspring of all Equestrian learning, my friend. I contributed plenty, as did many other ponies.”

“That’s so incredible... Wow!” Thinking back, Twilight knew that Luna was right and that in addition to Celestia’s timely leadership, Equestria was built by countless ponies. Having accepted Luna’s surprise history lesson, Twilight calmed down once again. “I – I really think I should get to know you better, Luna.” She gasped at the sudden onset of an idea, “We could talk about science!” she gushed.

“We’ll fit it into our schedule. How does that sound?” She giggled a bit at Twilight’s emphatic nodding then poured herself another glass of wine. “Wine?” Luna offered her scientific friend. Twilight declined gracefully. “How’s the herd doing?” she asked before taking a swig.

“Oh! Very well, indeed. It looks like we’ll be dating Ravage too.”

Luna did a spit-take at the new development, covering Twilight’s face in expensive Griffonian white wine. Having experienced this kind of reaction many times before, Twilight just let the precious liquid drip off her face as if she didn’t notice it. “Uh, was it something I said?”

“Oh noooo, nooo…” Luna fibbed. “Just happy to hear it, eh heh.” The Dark Princess was grimacing now. The one group powerful enough to stop her was now interested in the same stallion!

The air became heavy with unwelcome emotions. Twilight was sensing that their hard sought bonding was about to be derailed. “Oh! Well then I’ll just let you get on with your day, er, sleeping that is,” she said, quickly bowing. “Have a good sleep!” Upon wishing Luna well, the Princess of Magic quickly exited the coach.

Luna slumped in her comfy seating. She wasn’t surprised that there were other mares interested in Ravage, but why the Elements! She was a good pony now; she didn’t want to back-stab the ones who saved her from Nightmare Moon. The difficulty had been doubled!

A couple of minutes passed as Luna valiantly tried to assess what kind of threat the Elements were to her interest in Ravage. Just then, a hooded figure walked into the coach – a tall mare, judging by the build.

Sitting down, she flipped the hood back and revealed herself. “Can I hitch a ride?” Aster asked, charming as ever.

Relieved, Luna smiled and relaxed. She tapped the side wall three times, a signal for the coach to take off. The two mare’s bodies rocked gently as the coach was hauled into flight.

Luna closed her eyes as relaxed more deeply, sensing that sleep was not far away. “Please share your thoughts with me, Aster.”

“On this morning?” Aster supported her chin with a hoof in concentration. “Nopony was even remotely injured, and only one building was damaged: Town Hall. Just vandalism. In fact, I’d say this has all the ear marks of a prank.”

“Very well,” Princess Luna nodded with her eyes still closed. She didn’t think it was that serious either. “Did you uncover anything untoward, or new about the griffons’ information?” Luna asked, snuggling into the posh upholstery.

“It looks legitimate. They’re not trying to pull anything,” Aster responded professionally. “Isn’t your meeting in a few hours?”

“Yes, unfortunately,” The Princess lamented, her eyes comfortably closed, and her voice getting fainter.

“In that case, why don’t you just nod off,” the agent suggested, but found out that Luna had beaten her to the punch, her head having lazily fallen to the side with her jaw opened just a touch. Aster smiled at the rare moment of peace her Princess managed to eke out for herself and let her be.


=^.^=


Fluttershy walked down Ponyville’s main strip. It was lunch time and she was hungry. Catching Rarity before she broke for lunch was her plan, even though the dress maker prudently emphasized planning ahead. Regardless, the elegant yellow pegasus needed to talk to this friend in particular.

Fluttershy had gone to bed the previous night thinking about Ravage. When she slept, she dreamed about him. After rising, the smitten pegasus continued thinking about him, even while she interacted with her animals. Without a doubt, she wanted to be with him, but what was the best way to proceed? Her herd’s decision to explore him further certainly helped strengthen her resolve, but she needed to hear Rarity out first. She organized all the information regarding her feelings about Ravage, so that Rarity may process it more easily.

And how did the Element of Kindness feel about the elusive stallion? She wanted him. She thought about what happened at Pearl’s party many times. Admittedly, Winter was fun. With Fluttershy so lonely and enamored, the prurient unicorn was only too happy to be on the receiving end of the dam burst of pent up romantic frustration. Even so, Fluttershy still wished that she could have projected herself onto Ravage.

The typically shy pegasus was hooked the moment she laid eyes on him at lunch the previous Friday. He had an edge to him; an attitude that could cut through anything. Ironically, he felt darker, and scarier than the average male, yet Fluttershy felt safer around him than any other pony, save the Princesses. He was able to talk to any of her friends, and make them happy. He was also willing to participate in quite a wide variety of activities, even if he had to learn them. These were attributes that only a scant few stallions possessed. Finally, he had eyes like pools of silver; rich and expressive. After a little digging, she found that silver, or grey according to some ponies, shouldn’t even exist on the eye colour palate. Somehow, this made Fluttershy desire him even more.

It was at about that time that Fluttershy realized that she had been sitting down on her haunches, staring into the open blue sky for no apparent reason. A cursory look around showed that a couple of ponies were actually staring at her as if something was wrong. She ‘eeped’ and blushed, and was about to get back on all fours when she noticed a trail of drool had just stuck itself to her neck. Quickly wiping it off, she proceeded eastward, getting away from the staring ponies.

She approached the construction site where he worked, as it intersected the route to Rarity’s. Her face brightened with the thrill of discovery when she deduced that in just a couple of minutes she could actually be with him, and took to the air enthusiastically. It was lunch time, after all. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Cloudchaser in flight. Her group was also interested in Ravage, and they pursued him aggressively. With this thought, Fluttershy’s objective was made all the more clear: find Ravage.

The enamoured pegasus flew over the construction site. Using the information she’d gleaned from the party, she knew that lunch times were stringently observed, and hoped to spot him from the air. The law prohibited her from flying lower than the highest crane, so she carefully scrutinized each little gathering for his telltale black mane and brown coat. Unable to locate him in the compound, Fluttershy flew in toward the engineering trailer, hoping he might have been in there. Not once in her adult life had she been so keen on finding a stallion just to be with him. It was a feeling that was frightening and exhilarating all at once. She opened the door to the trailer and found that it was empty. Where could he be?


=^.^=


Pearl Bliss, Winter, and Saffron left their shop to go to lunch, still clad in their work uniforms.

“So, not the Flower Factory?” Pearl suggested.

“But I like Flower Factory!” Saffron had been looking forward to a daisy and celery sandwich all morning.

“They raised their prices.” With no responses from her comrades, Pearl felt that statement ended the debate. All that was left was to figure out where to eat. “We could try – hell-ooo…” The freckle-faced unicorn stopped what she was saying when she noticed Cloudchaser approaching their position – fast! “It looks like we might have to modify our lunch plans, girls.”

Cloudchaser landed beside her three unicorn friends. “Guess who I found?”

“Money?”

“Carrots?”

“No!” the pegasus lamented, applying her hoof to her face like it was salve.

“Silly Cloudchaser, any inanimate object can be part of a pony’s name,” Pearl Bliss dead panned, earning a couple of snorts and chuckles from the other unicorns.

“Is ‘Ravage’ an inanimate object?” the indefatigable weather pony countered. All three unicorns froze in lieu of the new information, with their eyes widened their mouths forming cute little O’s. Cloudchaser crossed her forelegs in smug satisfaction. “Yeah, I didn’t think so either.”

Winter suddenly looked very concerned. “The coupons!”

“They’re in my sock,” Pearl Bliss said, answering the implied question.

“Ew!” the slinky winter unicorn shuddered. Winter had bad experiences with overused socks.

“In the clean set, Winter. Where did you put the clothes I took off the line yesterday?” Pearl inquired.

Winter looked up, trying to remember her actions from eighteen hours previous. She quickly went back inside the shop, which doubled as her uncle’s home, intent on tracing her hoof steps back to the suddenly very important socks. Pearl Bliss followed her in.

Cloudchaser watched the two unicorns fumble about, trying to remember where their coupons went. Then she noticed Saffron was giving her a funny look. “What?”

In a squeaky, yet cool and collected voice, “You’re totally going to crash Flitter’s date, aren’t you?” she accused, but with more than a hint of mirth written on her face.

Cloudchaser said nothing, but a sideways glance with a raised eyebrow was all the information Saffron needed.

“You are!” the light orange unicorn declared, smirking and being surprised all at once.

“Hey, she asked me to,” the pegasus mare reasoned. “Connections. Besides, we work together when it comes to fun time with stallions, so it’s not really surprising.”

“Ah, so that’s how it is.” Saffron was actually quite jealous, but she’d long since learned how to keep that emotion in check.

“Social networking is more important than rain,” Cloudchaser propounded. Her friend nodded in agreement.

Pearl Bliss and Winter rejoined Saffron, and Cloudchaser flew off, having told them where Ravage was.


=^.^=



Ravage and some of his coworkers were relaxing in a park. It was a much cooler day out, and their increased mobility made them seek out nature’s greenery; the shade of an oak tree provided the perfect dining platform. It was about a month into spring and such days were to become scarcer so they took advantage while they could.

Die Cast and Rock Crusher had an involved conversation about some sort of hoofball league to which Micah had a passive interest in.

Bo saw that Ravage was once again eating oatmeal, “When’s the last time you’ve been shopping?” she asked incredulously.

“Last Saturday,” the Decepticon answered plainly.

“Don’t you get bored of the same thing everyday?” she asked.

“Admittedly, yes.” Ravage kept eating his food indifferently. He was seriously considering making a dash for groceries after work though. A well executed foray into the shopping district in a way that minimized the distance traveled between food stands should significantly reduce his exposure to the mares, he thought. His saying ‘no’ to date requests had never worked even once, and he knew it was a good bet that the determined females would keep badgering him. If he knew ahead of time which ones were not ‘single’, that would have been a great help. If fact, he considered updating his pony database to do precisely that task! Ravage’s eyes narrowed, liking the tool of indicating relationship status more and more.

Just as he was pondering his food acquisition plan the three unicorn mares, Pearl Bliss, Winter, and Saffron approached from a distance, easily identified by their green and white work shirts. Ravage shoved spoonful after spoonful of oatmeal into his mouth with almost machine-like repetition trying to consume as much as he could before he had to talk to them.

He noticed Winter though. Like the shining jewel of a mare she was, she easily stood out in a crowd. Winter broke ahead of her friends, and approached enthusiastically. Her immaculate white face was rife with mischief, like the blizzards that ravaged the continents of Darmacron-5. Bouncing with each hoof fall, her long, baby blue bangs spanned the curvature of her forehead, and then cascaded downward in an elegant, shimmering sine wave that cast itself into tresses that rolled inward beside her soft white neck. Reactor cores of blue energon could hardly…

“Hungry stallion, aren’t ya?”

Blinking as if having awakened from a dream, he noticed Winter right in front of him. Ravage shook his head as he silently chastised himself. Did he just stare at her mane? And her face!? The Decepticon felt his heart beating hard in his chest – hard enough to register against the inside of his metal rib cage. This was not good, not good at all!

The effect was worsened when Winter hooked her right foreleg around the back of his neck like a clamp, and into his left ear, “And I meant the other kind of hungry,” she whispered teasingly. Ravage’s exasperated mood only served to encourage the passionate unicorn further, who then started massaging his shoulders.

“Whoah, is that really your thermos?” Saffron observed as her hoof clanked the side of Ravage’s radioactive waste vessel turned water keg.

Unlike Winter, who seemed to think she could do whatever came to her little pony mind as if there were no consequences, the Decepticon welcomed Saffron’s more down to earth nature. “Indeed. It gets hot working on that building,” he explained, just before gasping at Winter’s hooves finding another sore muscle group. He didn’t want that pony touching him, he really didn’t, but whatever she was doing was positively delightful! If his muscles could talk they would be thanking her.

Winter continued to work on Ravage’s shoulders, “You don’t need a building to get that way, Sweetie.” She kissed the back of his left ear, and relished in the very noticeable shiver on his back.

“Beggin’ yer pardon, but who in Tartarus are you three?” Die Cast asked calmly, though pointedly.

Rock Crusher crossed his forelegs, finding these three ponies to be highly invasive.

“Ah!” Pearl replied, “I’m Pearl Bliss and these are my friends, Winter and Saffron.” Though introductions were long overdue, she felt she didn’t need to point out that Winter was the one with the snowflake on her flank. The alert unicorn also picked up a lot of negative emotion coming from Ravage’s construction buddies.

Ravage couldn’t help but sink into the bounty of attention that Winter was giving, and his eyes had long since closed. He didn’t notice that he had dropped his spoon in the grass. The attentiveness, it reminded him of Fluttershy. The way the soft spoken pegasus had been going on, he actually saw her giving him shoulder rubs like this.

Saffron assumed a position beside Ravage and threw her left foreleg around his right shoulder. “We’ve come to ask Ravage out on a date,” she announced plainly.

Ravage’s eyes opened up widely. How was he supposed to refuse a date request now? He had all but ogled Winter, and then did nothing to block her affection. More than that, he had expected only one of them to come forth and ask him out – but all three? His face focused in concentration. There had to be a way out of this.

Bo and Micah had a look on them that somewhere between surprised and upset. Ravage, who had so prudently avoided getting romantically involved with other ponies, was allowing himself to be whisked away by this group. It was puzzling, and they didn’t like the look of it.

“Wait a minute, all three?” Ravaged asked, pretending to be surprised. “I can’t do that. It is too much.”

“Threesome and foursome dates are more common than you think, Ravage,” Saffron parried.

“And by foursomes, we’re not talking double dates,” Winter added lasciviously.

Pearl Bliss thought she heard a crackle of magic coming from Ravage’s group. Any more dumb comments from Winter, and they could intervene. Very strongly! “Uh say, girls! Could you leave Ravage alone for just a bit?” From years of friendship, Winter and Saffron were finely tuned to Pearl’s voice stressors, and let him be almost immediately. They walked to Pearl’s side.

Pearl took a step closer to the construction group. “I’m sorry that we disturbed your quiet lunch. That was rude. We’ve been interested in Ravage for some time, and yes, we’ve come to ask him out.”

“He hasn’t got a lot of experience with mares,” Rock Crusher stated. “The three of you might be overwhelming.”

“He came to our Libido Nocta party, as did Princess Luna,” Pearl countered.

Ravage was trying to figure out what was going on. One moment, the unicorn mares were all over him, the next they’re debating with his coworkers on a date they wanted to make with him. It was strange behavior and the Decepticon observed it carefully, trying to take in every detail.

Micah leaned forward to speak. “He’s new in town, and parties are a good way to get to know the neighbors…” The engineer and his wife didn’t want these mares taking advantage of Ravage, especially since he couldn’t possibly know who’s in what herd, or other arrangement. He was a good pony, and yet claimed to want nothing to do with relationships. He therefore, should not have gone to that party. Was he pressured to? “I guess we’re just concerned about whether or not he’ll be treated decently. Also, he is to be Princess Luna’s first date in over a thousand years. Isn’t that significant?”

“We’re not gonna break him, we’re just gonna have a little fun.” Saffron didn’t see what the problem was. Princess Luna’s approaching date with him was pretty much her seal of approval. Luna courting him would have been a different matter entirely.

The ruling Princesses tended to avoid bonding with, and then subsequently outliving their mates. For Princess Luna, however, Ravage was special case, complete with a magical bond. Though he refused her courtship, he did eventually settle on a date with her – better than nothing!

Bo was worried that her group’s comments may have made them look like they were mothering Ravage, but thankfully the conversation turned out to be a civil debate. For a responsible adult, Ravage lacked knowledge of the opposite sex, and his friends were well aware of that deficiency. The audacious mares were after a pony who Bo thought was an asexual stallion, but that characteristic seemed to be slowly changing, judging by a complete lack of anger at Winter’s just walking up and smothering him.

Pearl Bliss was relieved to see that Ravage’s watchful friends had calmed own. “I have the perfect idea for a date,” and looking over to their stallion of interest, “If Ravage accepts of course.”

Ravage raised an eyebrow and tilted his head. Were these three after his friends’ approval?

Winter turned sharply toward Pearl Bliss, “I thought we had an idea?”

“Hear me out,” Pearl insisted. “Ravage, would you want to have a picnic with us on Sunday afternoon? Pretty much what you’re doing now with your construction friends, but it will be with us. Games, food, good times. What do ya say?” Pearl could almost smell the burnt mane of Winter, smoldering from the heat of her disagreement. The construction workers seemed passive – good!

“So it would be like the hoofball then?” Ravage didn’t have any qualms about doing more sports!

“And swimming!” Saffron enthusiastically added. Ravage’s eyes widened at the idea, and a genuine smile graced her face.

Winter’s friends looked at her expectantly. This was not what they planned. Clearly, they didn’t want to provoke Ravage’s crew and changed plans on the fly! She felt like snarling at having to reign in her passion for the handsome stallion, but kept herself in check, allowing only her eyes to telegraph what she really thought of the situation. Ravage seemed calm, almost clueless in fact, which Winter found to be charming and sexy – par for the course for Ravage! For his sake, she would fold without an argument this time. “Okay girls, I’ll bring the volleyball stuff.” She walked in toward her target stallion, lavender eyes locked onto silver. “How about it, Ravage?” Her smile was subdued compared to the almost Pinkie Pie level she exhibited when she first walked up to Ravage this day.

Ravage was only too happy to converse with a tamer version of Winter. Also, sports are fun! Ravage had put a hoof to his chin to think about it.

“We could meet at high noon on Sunday at this oak tree,” Winter suggested, looking to her friends to see their appreciative nods. It wasn’t often that Winter took the reins.

“Sure, okay,” Ravage said, nodding in agreement. Sunday events tended not to spill into the night, since almost everybody worked the next morning. He also admitted to himself that he like playing sports, and actually looked forward to Sunday’s games.

“Alright then, it’s a date!” the white unicorn squeaked, her enthusiasm returning. It was a date, and with Ravage!

“Time to have lunch?” Saffron prodded.

In more ways than one, was a quip that Winter yearned to say while perusing the chiseled features of Ravage’s body, but she restrained herself. It was as if she had turned on additional mental filters.

“Definitely, but before we go,” Pearl Bliss produced a hoof full of coupons and levitated them to Ravage and his construction friends, “Enjoy a free game of mini-golf, on us.” The pleased looks were a welcome change from the scowls the unicorn trio had to endure just a few minutes earlier. Ravage was nonplussed as he looked at his ticket. “Don’t worry, Ravage, we’ll show you how to play.”

A few courteous ‘thank yous’ and goodbyes later, Pearl Bliss and Saffron started heading toward the restaurant block. Winter stuck back, not wanting to leave Ravage so soon. She trotted up to her coming date and kissed him on the cheek, smiling at his smirking, semi-surprised look, and then rejoined her friends.

The way the three unicorn mare unit worked was that if one hooked up with a pony, all three benefited, like a herd. Flitter and Cloudchaser, also good friends of theirs for a long time, used the same technique and sought to expand their range, though they usually snagged stallions. Since the pegasus and unicorn units worked the same way, and all decided Ravage was a particularly good catch, they combined their efforts in order to increase their chances of getting with him.

Recently though, the maturing mares of both groups had discussed forming a herd for real. After all, they knew each other very well, lived close together, they all worked and pulled in incomes, and they had their fun together. An official herd seemed to be the next logical step.

Winter wasn’t completely sold on the idea though. Was it a problem of being the youngest in the group? Almost certainly, but she still didn’t like it. She liked the idea of lavishing a pony with good times and satisfying herself in the process, and then moving onto the next pony; she loved to browse the selection. She loved to ‘hunt’ her pony prey, and used her looks and charm in increasingly diabolical schemes. Sticking with the same friends was fine for that’s what she’d always done, but sticking with the same target stallion or mare was a foreign concept to her.

The girls walked into the more urban areas of Ponyville. “Thanks for changing your mind, Winter. You really came through,” Pearl praised.

“We’re still camping, right?” the still fuming mare attempted to confirm. Her friends’ nods were relieving.

Saffron offered her assessment, “Ravage is shy, girl. Chances are he would have run away if we tried anything sexy with him.” This also explained his sudden absence at the party. She was secretly thankful his construction friends were there to keep her group under control.

Winter wasn’t quite convinced. “Hmmm, I dunno. I’d think he’d come around.”

Pearl laughed, “Count your blessings when you get them! Did you see that?” she asked, but looked precisely at Saffron, as if directing it toward her.

Saffron saw that Winter was still processing Pearl’s advice and helped her out. “He likes you, Winter. It was written all over his face.”

Winter finally clicked what her athletic friend was saying, and an evil smile, forming at a glacial pace, crept upon her face.

“You got a shot,” Pearl concluded. “Just don’t scare him off.”

Winter could only giggle at the images of her and Ravage together. Her mood became all the more lascivious once she included her friends in her daydreaming. “Perhaps it might lead to him camping out with us, eh?” Her friends got a good chuckle at that statement.

And thus, the unicorn trio went on to have a very satisfying lunch, having packed their weekend full of fun.


=^.^=


At about half-past noon, the five ponies were engaged in a card game. Ravage liked the delightful simplicity of the rules, ease of set up, and how much fun was had from such a simple game. He also admired at how a pair of hooves could effectively be used to play it.

“Pony up,” Micah dictated.

The relaxed Decepticon yielded two of his sapphire cards. If he could prevent Die Cast and Bo from getting his diamond card, he could win!

Rock Crusher shifted his gaze to the field, where a pony approached Ravage from behind his back. “Ravage, I think we need to get you a receptionist.”

“What?”

The older pony nodded in the direction of an incoming Twilight Sparkle. All in the group turned around and laid their ‘hooves’ down, not wanting to give away any information. “Twilight,” his deep voice greeted with a smile.

Bo noted something definitely different about the young alicorn. “With wings,” she teased.

“So is that Princess Twilight, or Twilight, I’m confused,” Micah prodded.

“Oh ha-ha,” the Element retorted. “I – erm – well, I’ve decided to use them regularly. I have them, so I might as well use them, right?” Besides, Twilight felt she had become powerful enough where any magic used for her wings would not interfere with her more complicated spells, like teleportation.

Bo had already come to a conclusion about the Princess’ rather sudden appearance of her wings. “The Dash effect.”

A grumpy Die Cast hoofed over some bits to Rock Crusher, who was smiling smugly.

Hrmph, Twilight growled, none too pleased with the big stallions’ display. Must she withstand their teasing, even as a Princess? She turned her attention to the pony she had come to see, sitting right in front of her, his silvery eyes sparkling like crystal. “Hey Ravage!” she beamed, her mood instantly shifting to that of joy. She grasped the unsuspecting Decepticon in a loving hug.

“Twilight,” he addressed, taking in the sweet smells from her mane and coat. Tacitly, he admitted to himself that he actually liked the way mares smell.

She broke the hug but still held Ravage in her arms. “I just wanted to know if you wanted to come over after work for a Magic lesson. It’ll be short though. I’ve got some planning to do this evening.” Twilight wasn’t planning on talking to Ravage, as she took the route through the park to the Apple farm, but she seldom ignored an opportunity.

His eyes lit up at the prospect, “Yes. Definitely!”

Twilight smiled. “Then I’ll see you at the library.” She gave him a peck on the cheek before turning around and departing. “Ta-ta!”

Ravage picked up his cards, ready to win the round! He noticed that his coworkers did not. In fact they were expressing concern.

Satisfied that Twilight was out of earshot, “Twilight too?” Bo asked. She didn’t expect the Princess to be so familiar with Ravage.

“All of the Elements are part of one herd,” Micah added. “Actually, I think she’s liked him for some time. Remember the first day we went out to lunch?” His wife nodded sagely.

“She has a noticeable sway in her hips, that one,” Die Cast observed.

“He’s already made dates with Luna, Flitter, and three unicorns.”

“Cloudchaser’s in with Flitter. Thought you might like to know.”

“What if Luna’s starved for attention? What then?”

“We all know what happens when earth ponies try to do magic with unicorns.”

Ravage’s jaw was ajar as he observed the other ponies talking about him like he wasn’t even there.

“Okay, that’s one, two, three, four, five, six – twelve mares!” Rock Crusher rolled up a newspaper and hit Ravage with it.

“Hey!” Ravage’s cry of protest went unheeded, as the other ponies continued their exclusive discussion.

And yet again, Ravage had misjudged pony society. Their card game was never finished, and he was about to win it too! They went on till the end of lunch about the implications of the pony bot’s dating methods, accompanied by dire warnings. Fortunately, Bo and Micah promised to straighten him out.


=^.^=


Princess Cadance emerged from her quarters in Canterlot castle, and escorted by the guards, made her way to the meeting room. She was surprised how difficult it was to sleep any number of nights without her husband, as both rulers of the Crystal Empire had gone away more often than they wanted, typically on matters of state, or public interaction. Cadance’s recent outings, however, had little to do with festivities.

Upon personal request to Luna, Princess Cadance wanted direct involvement in Equestrian Security. ‘Getting nailed twice in as many months’, as one guard so eloquently put it, certainly helped sway the Night Princess to her side. Additionally, she had experience in the operations of the Royal Guard and she was good at it, especially since her beloved rose quickly among its ranks. On this alone, Princess Luna allowed her to share in overseeing the Guard. The actual directing, of course, was done by the Captain. However, the Love Princess was also granted access to the ‘other’ branch of Equestrian Security. The difference between that branch and the regular Guard was that most ponies didn’t even know it existed. Sadly, her toil for such an organization forced her to leave the Crystal Empire more than she wanted to.

She ached for Shining Armor, and daydreamed of him as she strode along. Leaving the tapestries and stained glass unnoticed as she passed them by, she reached out for him with her magic… Ah! There he was. Cadance could feel his heart, healthy and strong. He was probably dealing with matters of state at this very moment. But there was something else she could feel, another smoldering; something nearby. Somepony she knew personally had become smitten! The Princess of Love smiled, longing to find out who it was. Eventually she arrived just outside the meeting room, where the Griffonian envoy was waiting. The new love had gotten stronger, and Cadance was puzzled by this. She found it agreeable to have just walked through the door to sate her curiosity, but procedure dictated that she and Luna go in together.

It was nearly two o’clock in the afternoon. Princess Cadance’s desire to know who`s heart was aflutter elevated the moment she saw Princess Luna striding down the cavernous, ornate hallway that bisected the castle’s south wing. With her head held nobly high, the Princess of the Night projected dominance. Her might was legendary, and her accompanying Night Guard, though respectfully powerful in of itself, felt more like an afterthought.

A wry smile forced itself onto Cadance’s face as Luna walked closer; she could feel something stirring in the indigo alicorn’s heart. Knowing what it was, she still couldn’t believe it! “Oh my goodness!” she blurted out as she covered her mouth with both hooves, hardly believing what she felt.

Luna returned a smile while waving her guards off, “Hush Cadance, there are more important matters at hoof.” She motioned for the guest Princess to proceed to the room’s entrance alongside her. “We can talk afterward.” The pair walked in for their meeting and the doors were closed behind them.


=^.^=


Ravage’s plan was working perfectly. The Decepticon stallion acquired celery, bread, milk, butter, spreads, and of course, more carrots, since he quickly consumed the entire two pounds from his first batch. Carrot Top treated him very well, and her half-lidded stares made it look as if she was about to ask him out, but he was quick and decisive, and bounded from stand to stand, getting the food he needed.

Finally, he reached Applejack’s stand, but she had already closed up. In fact he was nearly galloping when he skidded to a halt, surprising her in the process.

“Whoah partner! What can I do ya for?”

“I guess you’re closed. I’ll come back tomorrow.” Ravage wasn’t surprised at missing one of his targets since the vendors seemed to close at around half past five.

“Shoot, we’re as good as friends you and I. What do ya need?”

“Oh!” It looked as if Ravage caught a break after all, though he didn’t recall when he became ‘friends’ with Applejack. “Six of your red ones will do.”

“That’ll be four bits.” Applejack bagged them, and put them into one of the forward saddlebags on the apparently overburdened stallion. Though normally folded and stored behind his kegs, the wearing of his saddlebags made it look like he was about to travel over to another country. This gave Applejack an idea.

“That’s a pretty big load yer haulin’. ’Ah got a little bit of time before supper. You wanna little help getting those to yer house?” When Applejack was little, her mom told her doing a favour like that helped fire up the romance with her father. For farm ponies, a mare’s strength was not only respected, it was sought after.

Ravage didn’t even need his hydraulics to help him carry his things. Also, the possible meaning behind Applejack’s facial expression was only recently discernible by the Decepticon pony. The eyes were more focused, and there was perhaps just a hint of a smile. And yet, this expression and Rarity’s half-lidded projection meant almost exactly the same thing. Applejack was just more subtle. “I move concrete all day long for a living, but thanks anyways.”

“Well shoot, ‘ah can at least walk ya home,” continued Applejack, undeterred.

“Actually, I’m on my way to Twilight’s first. I know, neither place is very far, but Twilight’s time is limited, and I missed yesterday’s Magic lesson.” What Ravage meant to say was ‘Don’t follow me,’ but such a statement could obliterate his social status. He would receive no more help from the Elements; in fact, he could even get harassed by them. Such were the teachings of Bo and Micah from the afternoon coffee break. The more mares he got romantically involved with, the more work he would have to do to gently let the rejected ponies down, trouble multiplied by the number of mares in the herd of each representative. Date a mare, and her herd has shown interest in you. Court a mare, and you court the entire herd. Ravage had tried to explain that no Element had asked him out yet, but Bo dismissed that with a simple rebuttal, ‘wait.’

“Fair enough.” Applejack was only slightly disappointed. She tipped her hat to him, “Catch ya later, partner,” she bounced back with her characteristic country charm, and turned around to haul her cart away. She had entertained thoughts of getting together with Ravage more. Fluttershy may have taken the lead, but that didn’t mean the dependable orchard mare couldn’t help things along.

One of her big tests of the quality of a pony was how she, or he, lived. When it was for frolic, the Elements typically gathered at the barn, or Sugar Cube Corner, and sometimes the library. Even Fluttershy has had friends over for tea at her place. However, what about Ravage’s place? Finding out that a house was clean, and well maintained earned big points from Applejack, and a possible new venue for her group piqued her interest.


=^.^=


Of course, Twilight had complained about her earth pony student bringing groceries to the evening’s lesson instead of going home first. The librarian specifically mentioned that she had limited time though, and her persnicketiness was completely overridden by the stallion’s scent from the shampoo she bought for him.

All sat down at supper and were hungrily devouring their meals before Twilight started her lecture. “Spike, Ravage, I’m about to embark on a campaign, a campaign for science!” the librarian said excitedly.

Spike, in his characteristic deadpan tone, asked, “For science? Why?”

“Science is the backbone of technology,” Ravage offered.

“That’s correct, Ravage. Well done,” Twilight complimented.

“Isn’t magic, ya know, the backbone of everything around here?” Again, Spike only drew upon the facts, in this case, the immediate world around him.

“I believe magical craft is limited, whereas technology, and the science that generates it, is limited only by our imagination. The basic premise is that I want to see our technology not rely on magic so much, if at all.” Twilight enjoyed just thinking about the possibilities, if the dreamy expression on her face was any indication. She also decided to leave the ‘scientific method’ portion out of the supper table conversation.

Ravage was awed. It was as if the studious Princess had escaped their world and saw the galaxy for what it really was: an entity that obeyed the laws of physics, and nothing magical. “You are perhaps the most perceptive pony I’ve ever met, Twilight.” Not perceptive enough though, as she had no idea there was an alien spy right across from her, taking advantage of her knowledge and status.

“Thank you, Ravage,” she trumpeted, putting her foreleg to her chest. “I’ve got a slogan for my campaign too: Science Needs More Love.” The Princess was absolutely beaming. “Well, what do you think?”

Spike wore a cock-eyed expression with his jaw agape, and said nothing.

Ravage, while not intrigued by the idea so much, was very intrigued by Twilight. “Impressive foresight.” He decided to test the idea. “Okay Twilight, a carriage can be pulled through the air by pegasi. Without any magic, how could the carriage move through the air on the same flight path, while maintaining the same or greater speed?”

The challenged mare focused her mind on the problem, and her brow furled and her lips were pressed tightly until they mouthed invisible words. She shot down one idea after the other, including strapping on fireworks rockets onto her grounded mental carriage. A magically unassisted balloon or airship didn't work because pegasus coaches typically move faster. And then it looked as if she’d figured it out! “I have no idea!” she said with a surprisingly happy smile. “But with the application of the scientific method, I believe anything is possible.”

Ravage smiled at this. In spite of the difficulties of living in this world, he suddenly became very happy that he met Twilight. It had been very pleasurable conversing with her, regardless of if it was for study, or for casual talk.

The three of them finished their meal. Spike went out, and Twilight began to teach in earnest. As promised, the lesson was short. Twilight’s exposition on the details of magical power, and mana storage and development, though fascinating, ended at around half-past seven. Ravage’s agreement to take on a full lesson on Saturday morning resulted in a kiss on his muzzle from a very pleased Twilight.


=^.^=


For the first time since Sunday, Ravage arrived back at his ship while it was still daylight. It seemed that Bo's premonition was coming to pass, and by all estimates it was only going to get worse. Safely within his metal fortress, he transformed to robot mode. The significantly reduced feeling of emotion actually felt akin to coming up for air.

The influence on his emotions from his flesh body had no analog in a Transformer body, and on top of that, they were very persuasive. Why like certain smells? Why suddenly like the way a mare’s mane and tail blow in the breeze? Ravage took time to stare at his shiny, metal hands and arms, noting the intricate facets and little lights. How in the name of Cybertron could a cold blooded killer have done the things he had been doing? Cover or no cover, this was all wrong. Ice cream? Mind controlled animals? Parties? Mares??? This was a backward world in a backwater part of the galaxy that singularly owed its existence to not having been blown up yet by some marauding interstellar warlord, or sterilized by a gamma burst from the center of the galaxy, or hypernova. It was an irregularity, a blemish upon the rest of the universe which harmoniously followed the laws of physics. A zit!

Rationalize as he might, one pony in particular occupied a disproportionate chunk of his thoughts. Her constant attentiveness at the library party, her deep, relevant queries, and her inscrutable need to have the Decepticon stallion walk her home just because it was dark added up to something significant. However, though it was for a brief moment, Ravage had wished it was Fluttershy who was rubbing his back earlier. Furthermore, whenever mares were discussed that day, it was her that he envisioned as the model.

The spy was glad he was in robot mode and resolved to stay that way for as long as he could, for it was the only way to shut out his pony body’s mewling for attention. Fluttershy would soon be forgotten, and he could live like a Decepticon again.

Ravage quickly put his groceries away. There was real work to be done now. Suddenly, his battle network had relayed a message to him. How fortuitous! Already within the bridge of his ship, he routed the message to the main screen.

Survey Completed: Planet located. Organic life suitability: excellent. Distance: 14.3 light years.

“Finally, some good news!” Ravage checked out the specifications, and it was indeed an excellent planet for his pony body. Of course, it would be a moot point to go there if he reestablished contact with Cybertron, but for now it was the only option. Some cursory calculations indicated that it would take him about eighteen months to fly there. With just his robot mode that would not be a problem, but his living tissue needed nearly constant servicing. This would be more difficult than he thought.

A spacecruiser could reach that world in just a couple of weeks, but it required exotic elements and alloys that were not easy to come by on Celestia-1. It would take over a year to build by himself too, needless to say how would he secure it? Also, staying for an entire year in Equestria was out of the question.

Ultimately, nothing happens without energon, and Ravage went to work, first collecting his newly fashioned generator parts.


=^.^=


The base’s underwater river access door opened up and Ravage swam out. Anchored behind him was his neutrally buoyant package of generator, microwave emitter, and various pieces of installation equipment. Swimming from the base to the confluence, and the taking another river north to the dam was a round trip distance of over two-hundred kilometers, with a total travel time of over eight hours. Ravage didn’t dare use any energon, as his supplies were so depleted, so he relied on his on-board nuclear reactors operating at maximum to plow through the river.

When the infiltration ship busied itself with the construction of his equipment, the main satellite’s fabrication facility built additional microwave receivers and emitters; distribution to the rest of the satellite network was in progress. The strategy was to power the entire Decepticon network. Ravage could top off his own energon supply whenever he saw fit.

Down the river, the pony bot went. Even with the coming energon and the newly found world where he could escape to, his future was never more uncertain.

Chapter 9: Soldier Of Misfortune

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Chapter 9: Soldier Of Misfortune



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

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

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

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

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


=^.^=


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


=^.^=


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

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


=^.^=


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

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

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

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


=^.^=


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

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

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

“Lasagna!” Ginger blurted out.

“What?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Eep!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lasagna.”

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

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

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

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

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


=^.^=


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just about done.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


=^.^=


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spices made food good.

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

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

“Pretty much.”

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

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

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

He seemed surprised. “You can do that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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


=^.^=


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Eep!” Fluttershy immediately disengaged her probing.

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

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

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

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

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

And that worried him.

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

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

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

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


=^.^=


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fluttershy hummed dreamily.

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


=^.^=


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

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

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


=^.^=


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

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

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

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

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

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


=^.^=


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

Ravage?


=^.^=


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luna swallowed. “Okay, what of it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celestia’s sly smile indicated the affirmative.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Never!”

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

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

Celestia dropped her tea.


=^.^=


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

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

Proximity Alert: Unit Applejack.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Applejack was not convinced. “Uh-huh.”

“You appear to be doing the same.”

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

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

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

The smiling pony bot chortled. “No.”

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

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

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

“I find the lack of privacy disturbing.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They were called Autobots and Decepticons.

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

“Cybertron.”

Chapter 10: Flitter

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Chapter 10: Flitter



Friday had come. Warm winds had delivered a smoldering evening that succeeded a cooler, rather breezy day.

Ravage departed from his ship’s hidden entrance, and proceeded toward Ponyville. He focused hard on ‘pony affinity’, which is what he decided to call the very un-Decepticon suite of feelings which occurred during periods of interaction with the species. He felt this was the overwhelming influence of his pony body which, disadvantageously, could not be reprogrammed. It got worse with proximity and would keep getting worse over time. In fact, his lying with Fluttershy eclipsed his mission objectives, whereas he would have normally kept them in mind at all times.

Trepidation was becoming an all too familiar feeling to him. He was actually going out with one of these creatures. The option to turn around and flee the planet and continue his research from a safe vantage point was looking more and more attractive with every hoofstep.

What good was it even being a pony? This was not his culture. These were not his people. From the perspective of a Decepticon, the statistical number of uses his pony body had when not for disguise was zero. And yet, Ravage had long since convinced himself that he didn't want to get rid of it! This was an enigma that needed to be solved, for the first date between a pony and a Decepticon was going to begin in less than an hour.

In spite of this, it had been a trouble free day for him, and he even managed to soak in the tub for nearly an hour after work. Inside the bluish grey metal paneling of his ship he felt at ease. Homesickness was the worst emotional experience he had in his life, bar none.

Be that as it may, ponies spoke of far, far worse ways to feel; in particular, the end of things. The end of relationships and the end of traditions were certainly high on the ponies’ scale of emotional hardships to be avoided. Most feared among the ponies though, was the end of life, but this meant little to Ravage as his mechanical and organic components could be restored indefinitely.

The ponderous Decepticon hardly noticed that the Everfree forest had vanished behind him.

=^.^=

Go to sleep, little foal…

Pumpkin Cake bore her head into her pillow a little harder, and smiled a little wider at the sound of the soothing lullaby. The suspended toys and trinkets seemed to dance in rhythm to the melodic voice. Pink hooves that hung over the wooden bars also swayed to the tune. Behind them the darkened silhouette of the singer, with her impossibly big eyes and bubbly mane, sung softly.

It instantly put her brother to sleep.

Pumpkin closed her eyes, tranquil from listening. She heard the soft hoofsteps of the singer fading into the distance, followed by the click of the door as it was closed.

Her eyes opened up again though. Would the monsters come for her tonight? Sometimes, the pretty blue pony swooped in and shooed them away, but not always. Slowly, and surely, Pumpkin Cake’s fear mounted.

=^.^=

Pinkie Pie bounded into the private living area of Sugar Cube Corner. “Pound and Pumpkin Cake are sound asleep!” she tweeted.

“They don’t still wake up in the middle of the night crying, do they?” responded Sweet Leaf, an engineering student ensconced in a fortress of literature on the table. Delegated foal sitter of the Cake family for the night, the glasses wearing, dusty green earth pony was the daughter of one of Mrs. Cake’s longtime friends. As such, it was easy for Pinkie to ask her to take her place as foal sitter in exchange for some cold, hard cash.

“Welllll… they seemed to sleep fine laaaast night…” grimaced the pink mare.

Surprisingly, Sweet Leaf didn’t seem that bothered. “Ya know, that’ll probably be a good time for me to take a break if they wake up.”

“Great!” Pinkie exclaimed with a wistful bounce. She placed her saddlebags on her body with her teeth, and turned around to go. “Enjoy yourself!”

At the front entrance of her home and place of work, Pinkie stood. With an irrefutable smile and a foreleg to protect her eyes from the Sun, she glanced upward toward the horizon, and waited for her date to come in from the sky.

=^.^=

Aster and Rainbow Dash left the cloud home and set a flight path toward Ponyville. It didn’t take long for the Element of Loyalty to get over Aster’s description of what the organization did, and she actually became very curious about it.

“So?” Aster queried.

“So what?” The junior Wonderbolt’s attitude could be felt in the terse response. “Ya know I can’t do the double rainboom, or whatever it is you wanna call it.” Truthfully, Rainbow Dash had attempted the stunt almost every afternoon since the Monday, without success. “Oh, and I’m not going to be trying it again unless you’re there. I kinda hate landing on my face.”

Aster nodded in agreement. “Okay Dash, just let me know when you want to practice, and I’ll be there for you.”

Rainbow felt little comfort from Aster's commitment. Scattered aches and pains could be felt with every wing flap, much more than usual. “I guess you missed the part where I said I can’t do the stunt?”

“What the organization was asking of you isn’t easy. When the time comes, you will have magical assistance.”

“Okay, but I’m going to be mixing in my regular routines too,” Rainbow demanded.

“Sounds fair to me.” The last thing Aster wanted was to suppress the one pony in the world that could have a chance at doing the maneuver. She felt it strange though, that no further intelligence was provided describing why Rainbow Dash needed to do such a thing.

A couple of minutes were spent without conversing as puffy white clouds zoomed by the pegasi and the breadth of Ponyville quickly engulfed the scene. Out of curiosity, Aster looked at her friend. Dash did not have the look of a Wonderbolt, and her normally cocky attitude was swapped out for silence and beads of sweat that accumulated on her forehead before they were dried away by the wind.

“Is everything alright?” the big mare asked.

Dash sighed. “What is it when you’ve been friends with somepony for years, and now she’s going on a date with you?”

Aster’s face contorted at the simple question. “Progress?”

Rainbow sighed again. “It’s just that, when I hang out with Pinkie, we shoot the breeze, we play pranks, we get hay fries… Now she wants,” she gulped, “Me.”

“I think half of Equestria wants you,” Aster interceded. That put her friend back in the saddle with a confident grin. “I don’t see what the problem is if Pinkie does too.”

“She actually asked Twilight if it was okay. Can you believe it? Twilight!”

Aster merely nodded her approval. “Good herd communication is essential.”

“Yeah, but now I have to go.” Rainbow was slowly becoming more and more exasperated.

“You do realize you could have refused.”

“Yeah, yeah, but I was kinda thinking it was, you know, just gonna be another fun time with Pinkie. But the last couple of days, she’s been rubbing her cutie mark against mine, whipping her tail against my flank, nipping at my ears…”

“Well you’ll have to decide what to do soon. She’s right there,” Aster indicated, pointing at the widely smiling mare with a hoof.

Like a true champ, Rainbow Dash went straight in, as Aster looked on while hovering. Pinkie immediately tackled her friend, bowling her over like a big dog.

As fun as watching Rainbow sweat it out would have been, Aster had other business to attend to, and flew up toward Canterlot.

=^.^=

Ravage once again found himself looking at the statue of Celestia.

Thankfully, the mares didn't bother him that day. They probably knew about his date with Flitter and respectfully waited on the sidelines. What she had in store, he had no idea, but he ate well just in case. Actually, there only really seemed to be Twilight’s group, Cloudchaser’s group, and Luna who showed any real interest in intimacy. Perhaps Luna’s claim of ‘all the mares were dreaming of him’ was an initial reaction to a new face in town, and that it had since ebbed.

“Oof!!” he yelled as an unseen object smashed into his side and turned his world ninety degrees. He had to snort out the grass that got into his nostrils before turning his head toward the cause. A deviously smiling Flitter, her head resting upon the bends of her forelegs, had shown up at eight o'clock exactly. Then his satellites warned him with a proximity alert, indicating that the plucky pegasus was nearby.

She laughed jovially at Ravage's misfortune as she watched him get up and dust himself off. “Got ya!” When it looked as if he didn't get the joke, she up and hugged him lovingly. “Aww, I was just having a little fun.”

Ravage realized he had forgotten how strong these things were. More impressively, she managed to get around his early warning systems. It made him grin.

His satisfaction in turn piqued Flitter's excitement, as she casually wrapped her forelegs around his neck and started kissing him.

Ravage's senses were overwhelmed with the familiarity of Flitter, with her lovely scents, perky demeanor, and violent kissing; Flitter in all her glory had returned to him, four days hence. The hot sliding of her lips upon his felt good, and the electric feeling in his chest started up once again. From angles not occluded by his date's gyrating head the Decepticon pony saw the trailing hairs of her exuberantly swishing tail – something he couldn't view during their first encounter. She pulled her mouth from his face. No damage this time. Supposedly, introductory kisses were just that: the beginning.

“Is a sexy stallion ready for some real fun tonight?” she said, bouncing on her hooves briefly, making her forelock puff up and waver. Flitter was optimistic, and didn’t even bother with the half-lidded stare, or ‘bedroom eyes’ so common when a mare hints at the mischief to come.

The smile bearing her teeth, and the way her eyes seemed to shine, and how her mane seemed to ‘frame’ those features up was more than enough for Ravage’s heart to beat unnecessarily rapidly. This was not unexpected, as his pony body seemed to have a will of its own, though it still disturbed the Decepticon to no end.

With great suspicion, he followed his body's cues. “I would have to say yes,” finally answering Flitter’s question.

Flitter chortled. “Mmm, I thought you would be,” she replied breathily, bedroom eyes full on. “To the train station!” she announced. The excitable mare started walking in the general direction of the station, and Ravage followed.

“Train station? Aren't we having our date here?”

“Nuh-uh. I had four days to think about what to do with our time. Gotta say I came up with a doozey,” she propounded with confidence.

“I need to point out that I have to be at Twilight’s library at nine o’clock tomorrow morning.” Even with his limited information on pony outings, Ravage knew that leaving this late would make it impossible to return until the next day.

The affectionate pegasus rubbed her head into Ravage’s neck as they walked. “No problem, sweetie,” she crooned. “We can take the seven-forty-five train back to Ponyville. Just wake me up in time,” she explained, chortling once again, “Assuming we actually sleep.”

Flitter produced tickets for them both when they reached the station, and they boarded. Though he had already used the service, Ravage still had trouble getting used to the vehicle designed for transporting quadrupeds, with its rows of benches separated by frilly dividers.

Flitter giggled. “It's like you've never been on a train before.” She hopped onto one of the benches, looking at him expectedly. He got on beside her, occupying a space by the window.

The conductor yelled something regarding the boarding status of the ground vehicle. In the next moment they started moving.

“Where are we going?” he asked simply.

And with a wry smile, “Canterlot,” Flitter replied, feeling proud of herself.

Ravage was surprised, but was careful enough to hide the negative feeling. Into the fires of The Pit, he thought woefully. By his estimation, the odds of running into Princess Luna were at least nine chances in ten. However, she laid down the rules for dating itself. Would she respect them? She certainly left him and Applejack alone the previous night, though that could have been classified more as ‘hanging out’, than dating. “Sounds like a ton of fun,” he responded, maintaining his order and calm.

“You got that right!” the cheery mare proclaimed, before giving him a peck on the cheek.

Tacitly, the wary pony bot admitted to liking Flitter’s kissing. He knew that this was one of many bouts of affection, and that it would continue throughout the date. He couldn't help but wonder what it would feel like if Fluttershy kissed him like that. She did attend the Libido Nocta party after all.

Ravage pondered a lot on Applejack’s application of affection. The warmth he felt was as welcome as sturdy shielding in an asteroid field, but it was the gentle touch of her hooves, petting him, and comforting him, that really supplanted his sad feelings. His observations of Bo and Micah, and the massage he received from Fluttershy supported this idea. His recollections of pony behavior recorded in research videos further strengthened it. Thus gentle touch, he hypothesized, imparted positive feeling in ponies. It was no mere poke and prod though, as one would do in a scientific analysis. There was timing involved, the pressure used had to fall within a specific range, and only certain zones on pony bodies would respond to it.

Ravage decided to test his hypothesis. He deployed his right foreleg, and gingerly snaked it around Flitter’s withers. His test subject emitted a high pitched girly sigh and snuggled into him, giggling as she did. A sensation akin to fuzzy warmth soaked his upper body. How satisfying it was to feel that way after supplying affection.

Flitter pressed her face into his side, kneading her head into the muscle. She liked muscles, and her date’s delectable paragon of maleness launched many a daydream from her lately.

A powerful device it was, this affection, and since the explorer’s own experience supported its use he could not easily rule it out as ‘flesh creature nonsense’. In fact, he could use it to lend credibility to his stallion mode’s claim to being a pony. Nonetheless, there appeared to be a distinct disadvantage.

He saw the data points line up. Three times in twenty-four hours, the mares had used his body as their personal comforter, ironically starting with the most timid one of all. Applejack, the strongest of her herd, couldn’t take the cold in the meadow, and snuggled up against him in the middle of the night when he was sleeping. And now, Flitter. Prolonged use of affection would almost certainly drive up his intimate interactions with mares.

“Ravage?” Flitter asked in a soft, almost whispering voice, “I’m really looking forward to this evening. And I hope you don’t mind, but you’ll be meeting lots of my friends tonight.” She angled her head toward his muzzle. “Lots of girls,” she teased, practically singing the last word.

That made him nervous, as it sounded like more data points on intimacy would be acquired regardless of whether he showed affection or not. He felt one of her forelegs wrap around the front of his chest as Flitter clamped on him more tightly. The warm comfort of affection competed with a very loud Decepticon identity, making him confused.

Flitter was looking at the world rolling by as she snuggled into her date. “Do you like dancing?” she asked playfully.

“I have – rudimentary skill.” Ravage wasn’t sure if he wanted to explore his weakest ability just yet.

Flitter practically purred into the stallion bot. His use of language was oblique, yet likable, as no other pony seemed to talk quite like him. It was a mystery she would enjoy solving as she got to know him better, slowing peeling away his substance layer by layer. “Oh! And we totally have to try out white cider!”

“White cider?”

Flitter and Ravage went on for the next twenty minutes discussing the details of their outing. Eventually, Flitter yawned and closed her eyes, still cuddled against him.

With nothing more to do for the rest of the train ride, Ravage also sought sleepy relaxation. Leaning against the window with Flitter still under his foreleg, he closed his eyes and began scheming.

It was essential that the black matter detector be built as soon as possible. If he kept Saturday night clear, then the material acquisition would be done. After that the construction of the detector was mostly automated. Then the calibration, accompanied by the relocation of the orbits of at least two of his satellites would need to occur. Speaking of which, why hadn’t the galactic satellite reported in yet? It should have been well within range of Cybertron and sent its observations the previous day.

=^.^=

Princess Luna watched the sun set, entranced by her sister’s hoofwork. Like Celestia’s devotion to running their great nation, her artisan-ship was always a marvel to behold. Sipping at her moonflower and rosebud tea, she struggled to reconcile the emptiness she felt from witnessing the daily event. The Solar Diarch expressed great reservations against courting Ravage, assuming Luna actually got close enough to suggest so, until the riddle of the magical bond had been solved.

She closed her eyes, and reached out for Ravage’s essence. He was on the move, and it didn’t take Luna long to deduce the means and destination. She smiled, pleased with Flitter’s date solution.

Yet, her heart longed for him still. If only she could get closer! While sipping her tea a smug smile worked its way onto her face, as the machinations of her extraordinary mind yielded a plan. The only delay was the wait to raise the Moon.

A knock came at the door and right on time. “Enter.”

In walked two ponies, clad in silver and black Night armor.

A big, grizzled unicorn stallion by the name of Scorched Earth took the lead. Where his coat was exposed, scars could be seen on his shoulders and forelegs; a blue, magical orb occupied the space where his left eye once was. He had served in the Night Guard for decades, and earned great respect and experience.

Accompanying him was a young pegasus mare by the name of Feral Flight. She was of slim build, and nearly as tall as Luna. A superb tactician and fighter, she excelled in Hoof to Hoof combat.

The duo bowed before the Night Keeper.

“Salutations, my little ponies,” Luna greeted. “I hope you are ready to work alone tonight.”

Rising up with his partner, Scorched Earth responded curiously, “We are not continuing our studies tonight?” His liege smiled upon him, and in a way that told him what they would really be doing tonight. Finding it difficult to contain his enthusiasm, his good eye widened as he began smiling himself.

“Whoo-hoo!!” Feral Flight hollered as she jumped into a somersault, stopping in a hover. Seeing Luna and ‘Scorchie’ giving her stern looks, she settled down.

“Feral, do you even know what I want you two to do?”

“Go into the Dream World?” she responded, smiling broadly and practically springing off her hooves.

Luna chuckled. “Correct. I want my finest apprentices to come to the aid of our fellow ponies tonight.” She swore that the high pitched squeak she heard was a giggle from Feral.

“May I assume that her majesty has important projects that need her attention?” The inquisitive stallion always tried to get more information on the subject whenever he could.

“Neigh, my apprentice,” she responded, drawing in more closely to the two. “I am not working tonight.” The Princess enjoyed the puzzled looks from her pupils. “At all.”

“Oooh…” Feral Flight was getting a gleam in her eye as to what her Princess might be doing with her time.

“Feed yourselves, and meet me in the classroom in thirty minutes,” Luna ordered.

“Yes my liege,” her charges said in unison, before leaving the Night Princess.

=^.^=

Aster was about halfway to Canterlot when the Moon rose.

Come to me,’ Princess Luna summoned.

Responding to the telepathic message, Aster adjusted her course so she could arrive at Luna’s tower as quickly as possible.

=^.^=

Rising from their cuddling positions was surprisingly difficult for the dating pair. Alertness and vigor were restored quickly, however, as the two ventured into the sweet night air.

For Ravage, walking in downtown Canterlot on Friday evening was a vastly different experience from walking it at two in the morning the past Wednesday. A spectrum of colours and buzz of commotion vied for his eyes’ attention as the streets seethed with laughing, cheerful ponies and decorative carriages. Contrary to Ponyville, most ponies in Canterlot were adorned with some sort of clothing, even the males. He caught glimpses of many ponies staring at him and Flitter, probably because neither had any real clothes on. Also, it appeared that a shift in race occurred in this place, as the majority of ponies were unicorns. Overhead, proportionately fewer pegasi plied the Canterlot skyways; most were pulling carriages.

“Ya know, I’ve been meaning to ask, where are you from?” Flitter suddenly asked out of the blue.

“Well, I’ve been living north of Froggy Bottom Bog in the rural areas, but I grew up in Cybertron.” He didn't know what kind of response to expect from saying ‘Cybertron’, but hoped it would be as uninteresting as Applejack’s was.

“Ah yeah, I’ve heard of it.”

Ravage did a double take. “You have?!”

“Yeah, it’s up in the northwest, isn’t it?”

It was possible that there was a town with a similar sounding name. Ravage would be sure to check later, as his attention was drawn to what lay beyond the windows of the shop they were passing, which featured several gem encrusted garments. Gems seemed to be valuable in Equestria, tossed around like currency; a two-tiered money system?

“I’m actually born and raised in Ponyville,” Flitter said like it was a confession. “I guess you can kinda tell, can’t you?”

“Oh? How is that?"

“Well, I don't project attitude like a lot of the ponies here. Ponyvillans have a nice mix of all the races, and even one alicorn. I think it goes a long way to making us good cooperators, having dealt with all the hurdles regarding race as foals.”

Ravage didn’t realize that race could have a big influence on culture. Autobots and Decepticons kept themselves pure and never mixed unless it was absolutely necessary. The very thought of having to interact, let alone work with the Autobots could make Ravage cringe.

The pony spy had expected Canterlot to be a more wide-open, spacious city, but it turned out that many businesses and residences coexisted in a compact arrangement, where one dwelling continued into the next without any spacing, each separated only by a wall. Ravage approved of this, of course, as yards and gardens seemed to be an inefficient use of space.

Eventually, their walking route opened up, and a rather substantial park lay before the two dating ponies. In just under ten minutes of walking on the cobblestone trail, “Ravage, this way,” Flitter bade, motioning for him to walk a root-strewn dirt path which wove its way between large, old trees.

The tree canopy covered the stars and made it very dark. The Decepticon was about to turn on his infrared when they seemed to arrive at their destination: a small clearing, surrounded by several greenish-white blossoms that seemed to glow of their own light. Ahead between the trunks of centuries-old trees, a built-up section of the city adorned by a plethora of little lights could be seen. Up until they reached the dirt trail, Flitter had been talking, describing the trouble she and Cloudchaser used to get into. Ravage only just then realized that she had quieted up.

Flitter sat down on her haunches, and motioned Ravage over. Licking her lips, she watched as her compliant, handsome stallion date sat down beside her, though his attention was on the amazing array of infrastructure and culture that lay beyond the trees. Without warning, the eager pegasus mare toppled him and started to kiss him, madly mashing her face into his with unbridled passion. Joined at his lips she sucked, slurped, and drank like an animal that had been without water for days, forcing him back and making him have to support himself with his forelegs. She gripped his head from the base of his skull, gaining leverage, as her tongue twisted and struck against his mouth. Allowed entry, she lashed and probed his oral space, finally forcing him onto his back with a thud. She violently tore her sopping lips from their quarry, and attacked his chest muscle, savaging it with lustful bites and kisses. In a long lick she reveled in his delicate, salty taste as she made a saliva trail to his ear where she nibbled and sucked on the base. Her date gasped and convulsed from the sensation, and she enjoyed latching on, continuing her assault on his ear unabated. She took the top half of the extremity into her mouth and pulled on it, using her lips and suction. His head was hoisted up before she let it fly out with a pop. She hunkered down, her mouth just millimeters away from his ear. “I want you,” she whispered huskily, breathing hard.

Those three words could have not been clearer, and Ravage computed his options as fast as he could. Her behavior was consistent with the intimacy data he had been gathering since his first day in Equestria. He was pretty sure of what she wanted to do next, and avoidance was essential! He had to kick her off, and end the date. But then, both Ravage and his date’s ears twitched, and rotated toward a sound – the sound of singing.

“Oh, you have gotta be kidding me!” Flitter was really angry and upset, as another mare was walking on the same dirt trail toward them.

“Who is that?” Ravage asked, relieved that the passionate mare’s plans had been halted.

“I don’t know!”

In the darkness, the figure of a tall mare with a blonde mane emerged. “Oy!” She was as surprised at Flitter was. “Are all the spots in this park filled up?” she asked in a Trottingham accent, also as annoyed as Flitter was. She shook her head and started to backtrack. “I’ll just get me mate ‘n we’ll go somewh…”

“Don’t bother!” Flitter spat. “C’mon Ravage, we’re gonna be late.”

“I’m terribly sorry, I really am.” The intruding mare’s apology went unnoticed, as the angry pegasus had stomped away, and her boyfriend had to almost trot to catch up.

Minutes later, the interrupting mare emerged from the dirt path she trod on. She then removed her blonde wig, revealing its owner to the park, Aster. Princess Luna had assigned her to follow the pair and report their whereabouts when they settled down.

She felt remorseful as she stored the wig in her saddlebag, but felt it had to be done. As Luna’s agent, it was part of her job to protect Luna’s interests. Though the risk of impregnation of Flitter was small, she couldn’t take any chances.

She removed the blanket that covered her wings and put it in the saddlebag.

Princess Luna was a conundrum for Aster. The same mare that worked so hard to better Equestria and protect foals in their dreams also attempted to murder her sister, and a thousand years of imprisonment on the Moon did not rehabilitate her. In fact, she brought about ‘eternal darkness’ as soon as she came back. But all things come to an end, and she was struck by the Elements of Harmony, and thereafter was said to have lost her dark powers. Presently, she sits beside her once hated sibling, working hard, and doing her best to reintegrate into pony society.

As fishy as that sounded, Princess Celestia was not much better. Without warning and without proper training, she sent her introverted student into the crucible from which Nightmare Moon emerged. She did this even after being advised by said student of the imminent return of her mighty sister.

Aster had trouble believing, let alone understanding it. It was her business to test information; to weigh it against as many variables as she could, and do it quickly. The story of the six mares who brought down a juggernaut like Nightmare Moon seemed sketchy at best. For the magic to transfer from stone to living ponies required great planning, the academic pegasus thought. She may not have been a unicorn, but she had considerable knowledge of how magic worked, as well as its history.

Regardless of what Aster thought, the Sun and Moon rose and set in a timely fashion, and both of the ruling Sisters were back. More than that, the Elements of Harmony managed to defeat Discord, though more out of his carelessness than their strategy.

With a flap of her powerful wings, Aster was airborne. It was not time to report back to her boss, not yet. Her targets’ position had not stabilized, though she suspected it would be soon.

The agent had to restrain her analytical mind from delving too closely to the affairs of the silly alicorns, with all the power games and nonsense they allowed. As far as she was concerned, one of the essential ingredients needed to safeguard Equestria was to keep Luna happy. Sometimes, amoral things had to be done to achieve this.

=^.^=

Princess Celestia walked elegantly up to her bed, and wafted up the covers with her magic. She only managed to get a single hoof on when a knock came from the door. It was a very specific knock from her sister. “Come in?” Her sibling entered and approached excitedly. “To what do I owe such a cordial visit?”

“Sister, we’re going out tonight!” she confidently explained, with as much determination as gusto.

Celestia maintained a neutral expression. She levitated over a dainty she ‘rescued’ from a botanical conference attended earlier that afternoon and nibbled on it, never taking her eyes off her sister. Luna’s smile never left. Celestia levitated the treat back to its plate and still Luna’s face would not yield. “’Beg your pardon?”

“We. Are. Going. Out tonight. Like a pair of sisters should on a vibrant Friday night such as this.” Now it was Celestia’s turn to hold her expression. “We will change our appearances, and melt in. Nopony will be the wiser.”

A night of frolic? With just Luna? This hadn't been done in centuries. Funny, she thought, that the urge to do so came on the spur of the moment. “Is this because Ravage has come to Canterlot?”

“It’s your chance to meet him,” the Night Princess winked. “I’ll go whether you come or not, but I feel that this opportunity could be very educational for you.”

Celestia quickly caught on to what her sibling was saying. “My skills are requisite then? You can transform yourself, certainly. Is it because you think ponies will be able to spot you, like your disguise was so much mosquito netting?” Her sister’s head tilted whimsically from side to side, eyes to the ceiling, looking like she had been caught fibbing. “You need me to coach you on how to manage your behavior.”

“Right on all counts!”

“Luna,” Celestia started as she approached her sister. “I work during the day. Tomorrow morning I…”

“Most ponies work during the day!” Luna fired back. “Trust me; I know this all too well.” The uncharacteristically excited Princess briskly walked over to the glass doors that covered her sister’s balcony. “And yet, there they are, playing at night,” she indicated pointing downward with a hoof. “You have given up countless thousands of nights like this one just for our ponies. It’s noble. It’s agreeable. But don’t think that is how things should be until the end of days. Besides, have you not relished a little night fun for yourself every now and then?” Finally, the Day Keeper’s face started to shift. “I know the time is short, and I apologize in advance, but I need your help.”

Celestia paced slowly, weighing the pros and cons of Luna's plan, a long night ahead of her if she accepted. She lived to raise the Sun, and raise it she shall! However, she would surely be tempted to collapse right back into bed. Nevertheless, there had been too many mornings where that was already exactly the case: too much work, not enough time to herself, and quantities of sleep that were all too short. All of it was due to too much demand on her time, and now her sister had made a rare request for her presence. Could she really have refused her, while so many other ponies, institutions, and dignitaries stole away all her time? Without realizing it, Celestia had plodded an errant circle around her very excited sibling. It felt so much better seeing her perky and energetic rather than the reserved, all too serious pony she typically was. She cast an eye on her sister, “So much for showing your lovers your true face, hmm?”

“He is not yet my lover.”

The pensive Princess sagely nodded. “Indeed.” Celestia processed her thoughts just a little more. “More than transformation will be required for this little ruse to work. Your voice must change and your cutie mark shall be blanketed with a false one.” Her sister smiled broadly. “I trust you know how to make your magical aura invisible?” Luna nodded, grinning cheek to cheek. “I suggest you use your spell craft so we may communicate mind to mind, just for tonight.” Luna cheerfully nodded. Celestia swallowed her dislike for telepathy in a bid to abandon all barriers to helping her sister this night. “Most difficult will be the art of disguising your mannerisms, for no magic may aid you in the arena of self-expression.”

“You're going to do this?” Luna gushed. “You're really going out for a night on the town with me!” Her body took on a pale appearance and started to glow, and the whine of the influx of a tremendous amount of magical power could be heard, increasing in pitch.

“Yes Luna. I like the idea of doing more for our recreation than playing a chess game.” Celestia activated a similar magical transformation sequence.

“Then let us instantiate the great veil over the rulers of Equestria,” Luna suggested, smiling wickedly. Her eyes and body radiated white hot.

A serpentine, blue-white ribbon of magic coiled around the bodies of both princesses.

“By all means,” said a now brilliantly glowing Celestia. “Let’s!”

A flash of light and colour followed the princess’ spell casting, and their transformations were underway.

=^.^=

Ravage filed through a glut of ponies with Flitter leading, the noise of conversation and background music making it difficult to hear each other. His head was suspended over her rump as he kept close. Though it was rare and interesting to watch, he was glad her anger had subsided.

Entering the establishment was a surprise in itself, as from the street it was identifiable only by a single unassuming door with a dark wooden sign hanging over it. The use of low light, and lacquered, reddish wooden furniture made the place somehow comfortable, in spite of the constricting forces. Several photographs and mementos hung off the walls. Servers were valiantly trying to transport trays of drinks and snacks.

“This way!” she directed, as she guided her date to a booth where four other ponies were settling down. Flitter looked upon the expectant pack. “This is Ravage,” she said, and indicated him by hoof. “Ravage, this is Octavia and Storm Front.” She looked at the other two mares she’d never seen before. “And friends!”

Storm Front gestured to the new faces. “Hyacinth, and Indigo Light,” he said, the mares smiling at the new arrivals. “We sort of got the last booth at the same time. Been chillin’ ever since.”

Storm Front was a lanky pegasus stallion. He sported the same confident swagger that did Ravage’s construction worker associates. “Pleased to meet ya,” he addressed as Ravage met his hoof bump. And were those – earrings? Not to be outdone by merely having the shiny gold rings on his ears, he had them on his left nostril and bottom lip as well. As Rarity might have pointed out, they went with his golden brown coat. Like the infiltrating Decepticon, he had a black mane, but with a rainbow of colours on the edges of each of his locks. Actually, his mane seemed almost messy for a pony, as if it were organized chaos.

“Hiiii.” gushed an overly ecstatic greeting from Indigo Light. Her almost alien, dark blue eyes and equally dark blue mane were in stark contrast to the deco blue coat of the unicorn mare. Two thin streaks of pink in her weightless forelock reminded Ravage of the neon lights back on Earth. A ‘ponytail’ (do they really call them that?) of mane erupted from the back of her head, alight with more pink streaks; both of her ponytails were adorned with bright green bows where they attached to the body. And then, she up and hugged him! Lovingly! She crammed her face into his neck with such force he had to adjust his posture so he could breathe properly. By some miracle her horn didn’t wound the flesh.

“Octavia,” the smiling grey earth pony mare identified herself, with her discourse coloured by an ‘accent’. Ravage met her hoof bump with Indigo Light still attached to his body like a parasite. The grey mare carried herself differently from the others, exuding confidence like Storm Front, but her posture was perfect, giving her a commanding presence among her peers. Indeed, Ravage noticed that many ponies tended to slouch, though not himself. The perfectly centered pink bow and white collar on her neck added to her authoritarian stance.

“Okay, I’ll let you go now,” Indigo said, and then proceeded to sit down as if nothing happened.

“Hyacinth,” the other unicorn mare spoke, indicating to herself with a foreleg. Her huggy counterpart had sat down between her and Ravage. She was very colourful, with a violet coat, green eyes, and a two-toned blonde and orange mane. Added to that was a white flower wedged between her mane and right ear which had large pointy petals and leaves– a lily?

Yet more database entries were made as Ravage processed the whack of new information. He and Flitter sat down across from each other, Indigo beside him, and Storm beside the Ponyville pegasus. Hyacinth and Octavia were in the corners of the booth.

“We're all going to the party tonight?” Storm asked, having his query quickly verified by the mares, including Flitter. “Hey, you know where we're going, right?” he asked Ravage directly.

“Dancing?” Ravage’s simplistic response earned chuckles from every pony in the group.
He was told that he'd be meeting up with Flitter’s friends, and then they'd be going dancing after. It was suspicious, he felt, that dancing was the only activity discussed for the upcoming party.

“Oh, did I forget to mention? We're going to the Warehouse for dancing,” Flitter said with a wink.

The Decepticon's glazed expression earned looks of surprise from the other ponies, which in turn really bothered him, which in turn yielded more giggles. A warehouse was a storage unit, but this particular warehouse seemed to have more to it.

Octavia reached out with a foreleg to get the noob's attention. “Have you heard of Vinyl Scratch?”

Ravage recalled the DJ from the Libido Nocta party. “The name rings a bell.”

Storm Front shook his head, chuckling, and looked upon Ravage like he were a cadet, “Dude, you have no idea what you're getting into.”

“He’s a tough stallion, he can get through it,” Flitter retorted, nudging Storm with her foreleg.

A server came with six drinks, all in large, frosted glass mugs; all the same drink. It was the fabled white cider.

“To partying hard!” Flitter toasted, and all six clinked their glasses together.

“To parties!” screamed Indigo, while the other ponies echoed Flitter’s toast. She seemed out of place for having really enunciated the ‘t’.

Ravage had long since learned the custom from Pearl Bliss’ party, but said nothing. It appeared that he was to have his third party, and within the space of a week. Ponies sure expended a lot of energy on gatherings! The infiltrator thought of the food that would be available, and it made him smile.

Storm Front downed his cider quickly and piled some boxes onto the table. Hyacinth levitated them so they were somewhat evenly distributed between the six ponies. Upon opening up one of the containers, Storm tilted it and several coloured rods spilled out. Applying pressure with his hoof, he broke them all at once, making an audible crunch as he did so. Then they started to glow!

Ravage looked on with curiosity, as the other ponies began to process the coloured rods the same way.

“Ravage,” spoke his date trying to get his attention. She had assembled a green and purple ‘glowstick’ in her hooves she had bowed into a horseshoe. “Gimme your leg!” she demanded. He did so, and was surprised to see the glowing green and purple loop installed upon it. In fact, her entire pile of glowing matter seemed to be composed of green and purple.

As the hour went on, every pony at the table engaged themselves in constructing elaborate designs with the glowsticks. Round after round of white cider accompanied the laughter and merry making, each pony paying in turn. Storm Front actually managed to create a reasonable likeness of ‘The Wonderbolts’ insignia, or so the mares had claimed, and wore it around his neck. Hyacinth made rainbow baskets which hung around her neck, torso, and legs, but also wore coloured beads referred to as ‘rock kandi’. Indigo enchanted her collection of blue rings and things so that a ghostly trail of blue light followed her motions. She also enchanted several of Octavia’s pink glowsticks so they formed neat little treble clefs. Ravage wasn’t idle either, having been called into the service of Flitter to sculpt various designs consisting of green and purple. Interestingly, she was adamant that they were for both of them.

Great quantities of cider meant a great number of bathroom trips, and this shuffled the group around. By the time Ravage sat beside Octavia, his own glow units were finished. Under Flitter’s direction, they had fashioned hexagonal frames for their necks, legs, torsos, and even tail bases.

“Ravage, is it?” Octavia verified with the big stallion nodding the affirmative, giving her a crooked, mischievous grin. Pink treble clefs connected to white glowsticks hung from all over her body. The clefs on her ears exaggerated her otherwise modest head tilt. “Did your parents name you that?” Another nod gave Octavia a cheery chuckle. “They must know something I don’t.”

“Oh, what do you mean?” Ravage liked talking to Octavia, and enjoyed hearing her crystal clear diction and accent.

“Well,” the grey mare continued as she tidied up her area, “It sounds like the kind of name ponies gave their foals during extended periods of war.” The stallion’s brow went up; she had hit a nerve! “Yet, Flitter says you’re in construction, not military training,” she ended with a look of faux puzzlement.

“Well maybe I am – military,” Ravage toyed. His eyes partially brightened at what he actually just said. He knew that ponies sometimes referred to alcohol as social lubricant, and now he understood why. Wanting to steer the conversation away from anything that might reference his Decepticon life, he opened up the music database. In green font and formatting, an inset screen appeared in the top right corner of his vision. Having no information on treble clefs was troubling him.

Octavia chuckled. “You’ve got the body for it.” She tossed back a swig of cider. “You can probably guess what I do for a living.”

“Practice your scales and arpeggios?”

For a moment, Octavia was frozen with surprise before letting loose a jovial laugh. She extended her head to see around the so-called construction worker. “I like him! Flitter, can we keep him?”

Flitter really appreciated that Ravage was able to shake up her icy symphony mare buddy. “As long as I get first dibs!” she shouted.

In another corner of the pub, a small table with a single, hooded occupant had been watching the group of six closely. Sipping slowly at her ‘hydra’, a strong green drink, Aster had also been mouth writing. The exhaustive assembly of their glowsticks was a good clue, but the presence of Vinyl Scratch’s girlfriend was a dead give-away, and she had long since deduced where they were preparing to head off too. The spy rolled up the parchment she had been writing on and placed it in a green tube hidden by her cloak. In a flash of green light, the message was on its way.

No more white cider had appeared for a while, and the group finished up what was on the table. After a last round of bathroom visits they left for the Warehouse, leaving any Canterlot elite unlucky enough to cross their paths gawking at the gaggle of rainbow lights.

=^.^=

Ravage didn’t say much during the short trip to the Warehouse, while the other ponies were loud and exuberant. He used the satellites to observe Luna’s tower for activity, and there seemed to be none.

He hardly knew they had arrived, as the Warehouse was an unassuming building, but the two stallion guards that accepted everyone’s rather ornate tickets indicated that there was more going on.

Inside, a repetitive, low frequency rich kind of music cycled through the sound system. Indigo Light, Hyacinth, and Storm Front galloped into the area called a ‘dance floor’ and began their unpredictable torso gyrations. Flitter continued a conversation with Octavia they had been having for the last ten minutes. Ravage was ignoring them.

The interior looked like the Libido Nocta party one hundredfold! A great, vast space it was, like a gymnasium. Dozens of light-emitting devices occupied the dark place, along with a pair of reflective globes that hung from the ceiling. The side opposite the entrance was adorned with tables, chairs, and couches; stairwells rose up from behind. Another side had a serving station, a ‘bar’, like the one from the previous establishment. Opposite from that, a control room was suspended over the floor. One could faintly see a pony moving from within it. The side they just came in from had the exit, as well as stairs that led to other levels beside the dance room.

Ravage closely observed all the walls, and quickly became very concerned. He couldn’t believe what he wasn’t seeing!

No food tables.’ He sighed in disappointment.

“This way, Ravage,” Flitter gestured. The dating ponies followed Octavia up the stairs.

Ravage kept his eyes askew as he followed Flitter and Octavia up, avoiding the full, unobstructed view of Flitter's rear end. The unplanned presentation should have made his stomach turn, but the way things were going even this abysmal piece of pony anatomy may catch his eye. If he didn’t get off this planet soon, he may end up like Flitter, who just kept looking into Octavia without a care. It took another five turns in the hallways to finally enter the room they were heading for.

The same music that was playing on the dance floor was playing inside the room, which turned out to be the DJ’s inner sanctum, but at a volume where conversation could occur unimpeded. The jagged, multifaceted area was full of instrumentation and furniture that rose up from the floors, hung from the walls and ceiling, and reeked of booze. It was only slightly more brightly lit than the big room the trio first entered.

Octavia suddenly galloped to the white unicorn that was operating some equipment, who seemed equally pleased to see the earth pony.

“Mah mare!” yelled Vinyl Scratch, like she hadn’t seen any ponies in ten years. She and Octavia shared a loving hug before quietly speaking with each other for a couple of minutes. Vinyl took a good look at Flitter and Ravage, lifting her glasses up with a hoof.

“Hey ponies.” Her tone was rife with mischief, and it matched her crooked, smiling expression.

Flitter was unmoved by the unicorn’s bearing. “We meet again.”

“Hi.” Ravage was shaken a bit by Vinyl’s piercing magenta eyes.

“Welcome to our humble abode. Enjoy the dancing. Get yourselves some drinks. And then, we afterparty,” the DJ insinuated, sneakily rubbing her hooves together. “I just want a few minutes with Ravage, if it’s alright with you two.”

“Sure thing,” responded Flitter.

The confused stallion bot gave a yearning look toward Flitter. Ever since they arrived in Canterlot, she did her best to keep the other females away. But this female, this DJ, seemed to easily get the protective pegasus to relinquish control. Was this another dating rule?

“You’ll be fine, Ravage.”

Flitter’s wink did not make him feel any safer.

“I’ll be back in twenty minutes with some drinks,” spoke Octavia, also seemingly unaware of Ravage’s confusion.

=^.^=

“Weeeeee!” Pinkie Pie yelled as she cartwheeled into the Warehouse.

Rainbow Dash was taking baby steps, stunned and open-jawed at the sight. “How did you get tickets for this?!” You couldn’t easily buy tickets for the Warehouse, which were mostly offered, or bartered for. Nevertheless, her widening smile made it clear that she was pleased.

“I’ve helped Vinyl Scratch a few times with DJing,” Pinkie explained. “She gave me those tickets as a way of saying thanks.”

“Okay, colour me impressed,” Dash admitted, amazed at her friend’s acquisition abilities. “Just gotta get some glowsticks.”

“Got ‘em right here.” Pinkie buried her face in her saddlebag, and fished out a box of the colourful party favours with her mouth.

Rainbow’s opinion of Pinkie Pie kept getting higher and higher. “Pinkie Pie, you’re amazing,” she praised while patting her friend on the back.

=^.^=

The door of the public washroom flew open as the two mares who went in to freshen up made off for the dance floor in a trot. The only sign of life in the now empty room was the thin rod of bluish light sandwiched between the door and the floor. Curiously, the light turned white, and got brighter and brighter, enough to light up the opposing wall and door to the stallions’ washroom. As quickly as it happened, everything returned to normal.

And then two more mares exited the washroom.

Luna giggled squeakily as she walked toward the attenuated thumping sound of the dance music. “I can hardly believe it, Sister. We’re almost there!”

Celestia looked up at her taller, very well disguised sibling. “Just remember what I told you. Also, I’d like to add that dropping ‘sister’ when you refer to me when other ponies are around will help.”

“Of course! I’m not a foal.” Luna looked down at Celestia, impressed with her camouflage. “And thanks for this. You don’t know how much this means to me.”

The music got louder and louder, and the great room burgeoned with excitement as the princesses got closer. A smile crossed Celestia’s new face. “The pleasure is all mine. I’m glad you dragged me out of bed for this.”

=^.^=

Vinyl poured liquor into some small glasses, levitating one of the beverages over to a table where she asked Ravage to sit. “You know, for a wall flower you sure do grab a lot of attention.” She regarded him closely with her hoof under her chin, and then acted surprised, as if she discovered something. “Aha!”

Ravage knitted his eyebrows in trying to understand his musical host.

“You’re a big puppy!”

“A puppy?” Ravage was now genuinely confused.

“Yeah,” she confirmed as she levitated the potent brew onto Ravage’s hoof. “Cute. And loyal too, judging by how you’ve been sticking to Flitter this evening, and...” She downed her drink.

The pony bot downed his, trying to mimic the same carefree way. He immediately coughed violently, and had to raise a hoof to his mouth while desperately trying to get is breathing under control.

Vinyl giggled. “Watching you is like watching a puppy at play. It's fun! Can I assume that your dancing needs work?”

Ravage realized that he was being assessed. For what purpose, he couldn’t even guess. “Your assumption is correct. I’m a terrible dancer,” he said difficultly, his throat still hurting from that drink.

“So if you didn’t come here to dance, what did you come here for?” She looked smug, not at all like an interrogator.

The befuddled Decepticon was tiring of the way these mares talked, seldom making any sense. “Flitter acquired tickets and brought me here.”

“Exactly!” She gave her puzzled guest another shot glass full of drink. “And you’re welcome, by the way.”

Ravage looked at another potent vial of liquid on his hoof, this time a different colour. Vinyl drank hers without so much as a hiccup. The Decepticon regarded the drink with disdain. Expecting another coughing fit, he drank up the toxic brew as fast as his hostess. This time, his breathing was temporarily halted as the vile fluid burned its way down. Holding his throat in pain, “Thanks,” he croaked.

“Another?”

“No!” His whole world became the river of fire raging in his esophagus. “I mean – no, thank you.”

The DJ laughed at Ravage’s predicament. “Here’s some water,” she offered, levitating a glass of it toward her guest, who eagerly drank it up. She then trotted over to her collection of vinyl records, and picked out an album with a colourful cover.

Ravage was feeling much better after dousing with water, almost like nothing happened.

“Check it out,” the slinky white mare invited, holding the album to his face.

It took all Ravage’s will to not avert his eyes from ‘Buttaface’ which proudly displayed the musician’s posterior, bisected by a pink bow and her tail hanging down in the middle of it. The disproportionately small musician’s head could be seen looking over her shoulder from the top and left of the left gluteal complex. Vinyl Scratch was excited about her ‘homegirl’s’ production, and described in detail how it made ponies so randy that they stayed up all night long doing – well, doing things Ravage was never meant to do.

“And Ah’m gonna play it,” she proclaimed loudly, stowing the infernal disc on one of her many turntables before turning around and winking at her dishy guest, “Just for you.”

Ravage’s urge to leave was strong, but the disc had not yet started playing.

“I’ll be back in a few, Puppy,” she spoke as she deftly avoided equipment and tables of empty glasses, and musical minutia. “Gotta fetch Flitter and Octavia. You can handle three little mares, can’t ya?”

Ravage gawked.

Vinyl laughed before exiting, closing the door behind her.

Transforming into robot mode, Ravage went for his sidearm, and pointed it directly at the console, specifically at that damnable disc, the death knell to his Decepticon identity! He halted, trying to think of another way – and maybe there was another way.

“Analytical mode,” he dictated, as he interfaced with the Decepticon network database. Using both passive and active sensors, he took in data about the control console. The network quickly deduced its function, parameters, and how to operate it. In an inset on top of his vision, a block diagram of the device was constructed, taking only a few seconds.

“One of these units is used for recording,” Ravage observed. Indeed, a device with a recording head was connected to the mixing unit. Closer inspection of the area revealed a stack of discs that bore a remarkable resemblance to the vinyl discs on the turntable array, except that there was no etching on them. Blank discs.

The turntables did not spin using electric motors, as they would have done almost anywhere else in the galaxy, but used magic to turn them. Ravage couldn’t interface.

Analysing one of the pre-recorded discs playing for the vigorously dancing ponies, the rotation speed and the distances between the grooves gave the spy enough data to act. He placed one of the blank discs on the recording turntable, which he found was able to spin freely and with almost no aberration. His right hand was retracted into the forearm, and using the micro machinery in the forearms that all Transformers have, a recording needle was produced. It helped that Ravage’s connection to Soundwave allowed him to specialize in audio manipulations.

He pressed down the blank disc with two fingers and a thumb with his other hand, and spun the disc literally by turning his hand like a gear. Ravage accessed one of the clusters from the data track “Screaming Angry Earth Music” and routed one of the music assemblies to his recording head. Syncing the data rate with the revolutions, he spun the disc faster and faster, reaching over ten times the normal playback speed, which he hoped was still slow enough to avoid overheating. It took only a few minutes to finish recording. He had a fair grasp of human music as well as pony music, and knew that the material he was copying had no analog in Equestria. He counted on it to be so jarring it would disrupt and prevent the night's dance inspired frivolity.

Five subdivisions, or songs, were loaded onto one side of the disc, and five on the other. He peeled off the labels from the Buttaface disc using the same small grippers he used when he had his first meal with his pony body. He put them on his new record, and then swapped the records.

Holding the offensive defaced album to eye level, his red eyes glowed white hot. “Bye bye, Buttaface,” he spoke in triumph, as searing beams blasted the dance tunes disc, reducing it to nothing. Only a slight odour remained.

=^.^=

“You’re sure he’s not gay?” Octavia questioned, walking with her friends back to the control room.

“Oh no. I asked my gay friends and they feel he is most definitely not,” Flitter explained. “I’m also sure he would have told us if he had any significant others by now.”

“Yeah, I don’t get that vibe from him, either. But I do like a challenge.” Vinyl and her girlfriend had been made aware of Ravage’s ‘shyness,’ though her recent exchange with him made her think that something else was barricading mares from getting too close to him.

Octavia continued pondering. “Could he have a tragic history? Something that afflicted him in his childhood?” the inquisitive grey mare suggested.

“That’s what I was thinking,” Flitter agreed.

“Aww, does that mean that magical restraint is out?” Vinyl gave her friends a mischievous look.

“I had a dream involving Ravage in magical bindings last week,” Flitter recalled wistfully, “And then Canterlot exploded.”

“Sounds hot!”

“It was!” The pegasus mare wouldn’t be forgetting that dream anytime soon.

The trio entered the control room, and saw Ravage examining the mixing board closely.

“Like what ya see?” The stallion guest’s curiosity gave Vinyl an idea.

“Yes,” Ravage answered as if only partially paying attention to the mares. “This device is fascinating.” He tried applying his knowledge of sound systems to his new found knowledge of how magic may be manipulating the audio signals.

“Anypony wanna lay down a few tracks?” Vinyl suggested.

Octavia conveniently coughed. “As the only qualified musician here, I whole-heartedly endorse that idea.”

“Flitter?”

The pegasus mare’s face lit up. “I can sing!” she proclaimed with a bounce.

“My cello is in the back closet, and I can sing too,” Octavia added.

“My singing kills babies, so I’ll just operate the sound board,” Vinyl decided. “Ravage, can you sing?”

The Decepticon pony gave her a look, as if he had just been asked to walk into the fiery molten pools of The Pit.

“Yeah,” Vinyl verified, nodding slowly. She really didn’t mean to make him squirm, but it sure was fun to watch. “Why not perform a duet with your date?” She gestured to Flitter who had just assumed an alluring pose

What did she just ask?! “I – I can’t sing,” he retorted fearfully. The other ponies chuckled at his expense. “Seriously, I’ve never sang before.”

“Ravage,” began Octavia in an almost pleading manner, “Ponies will appreciate a rich baritone voice like yours. Why deny them?”

“Yeah, and alongside an alto like Flitter – mmph!” the unicorn DJ trumpeted, gesturing with her forelegs in a grasping manner, “That’ll be irresistible!”

Starscream designed Ravage’s voice modulation tissues for communication, nothing more! Ravage had computed many different scenarios that could have ended up happening this evening, and should have seen this coming. Ponies had a massive propensity for music. His face continued showing fear and surprise, what was he going to do?

Octavia strode forward, putting herself in front of flustered stallion. “You’ve never sung before?” The stallion bot shook his head. “Not even in school?”

“No.” Ravage looked away from the symphonic mare, feeling very uncomfortable.

“Ravage, if you could do me the pleasure of letting me try to show you how to sing tonight, I would be most honored,” Octavia offered, her hoof on his shoulder indicating the seriousness of the suggestion.

The exacerbated stallion had no idea to respond to that, and just kept looking at Octavia. Of all the ponies he’d met till then, she was one he learned to respect quickly. To say it would be hard to deny her request was an understatement.

“Just repeat after me,” the intervening mare commanded. “Ahhhh.” It was a specific tone.

It seemed simple enough for the Decepticon. “Ahhhh,” he copied, matching the note exactly, only in his much deeper voice.

“Ahhhh,” sang Octavia, one tone higher, which her impromptu student copied just as easily. She didn’t want to mention that his voice contained zero crackling, or interferences of any kind. That would be useful later. She sang more tones, and Ravage copied them. Before long, they were practicing in unison.

Soon, the uncertain stallion and his improvised music teacher managed to traverse an octave – together. An unexplained, euphoric wave passed through the studious pony bot’s body. He couldn’t identify what it was; the earth pony mare just kept teaching. Did he like what the ponies were getting him to do?

Secretly corroborated by the network database, Octavia reviewed the basics of music construction in Equestria. Simplistic it was, and the reticent Decepticon picked it up very quickly. The crash course took little more than ninety minutes.

This newly unearthed ability amazed the mares.

“Would you like to try some lyrics?” Octavia offered, trying very hard to keep from fan-girling at what an amazing study Ravage was.

Perhaps he had learned to ignore the gaudy glowsticks infesting his body, or maybe it was because he was the only Decepticon with proper vocal cords, but Ravage had stopped thinking of the absurdity of a Transformer singing, if only temporarily. He was still feeling the effects of the enlightenment of just practicing an octave with his treble clef toting mentor. “Okay.”

Many moons, and many nights…” Octavia began. Her pupil easily repeated the phrase, tone for tone. “Try to sing to the ponies in the back, Ravage,” she taught, pointing to the dance room. “It should feel like it’s coming from your gut.” He repeated the verse, but this time he was able to really project.

Vinyl was shaking her head in awe, operating her control board and manipulating the music on the dance floor. She was also recording Ravage and Octavia’s learning session. “Ravage, was your dad a sound board?” she joked.

He actually laughed. “You could say that, yes. Very talented.”

Octavia finished teaching the lyrics of the short song to Ravage. “It’s a song about a pegasus mare looking for her lost love, just in case you were wondering. They met briefly in a cherry tree orchard she was working in, and she fell in love. Deciding that collecting fruit was more important than pursuing him, she finished the day’s work first. However, after that he was gone. Not willing to be denied, she searched for him; first locally, then in an ever expanding range. She flew so far, and for so long that many say she actually went around the world,” she explained. “But never found him.”

Ravage felt a twinge of agony for the character, and then had a full understanding of the song’s title, ‘Cherry Moon.’

“Would you care the sing it for us?” the smiling symphonic mare asked.

Not wanting to waste the time spent, Ravage began to sing in earnest, much to the joy of his three cohorts. And then, a second voice joined in – Flitter!

The duet was underway, as both ponies sang with emotion. Ravage appreciated the somber feel of the tune, finding it counter to the ponies’ flowery world.

The end of the song was a crescendo, which seemed to amplify the sadness. It was over quickly, and only the subdued noise from the dance room could be heard. He noticed Vinyl Scratch was grinning at him; Octavia had an open jawed look of pleasure; Flitter he managed to unknowingly cradle in his arms. She looked upon him like he was a hero.

“Oh Ravage, you’re wonderful!” she praised, hugging him tightly, and rubbing her head into his neck.

The Decepticon spy could hardly believe it either. Transformers were explorers by nature, and could be frequently found in areas of the galaxy they had never been in before. But this – this was a frontier that none of his people could have ever even imagined exploring, and Ravage stood upon the precipice. He felt a natural fear of it, like if he let himself fall into it, he would not be able to withstand its irresistible pull.

Octavia also seemed emotionally charged up, and had begun softly kissing Vinyl’s neck as she sought an outlet.

“Uh, why don’t you two enjoy the dance floor for a while? We’ll come get ya,” Vinyl requested.

Flitter gestured to her date with a knowing look, and they left the musical mares to themselves.

=^.^=

It was nighttime in Ponyville, an interval of quiet for ponies. The hushed whispering of the trees in the wind mixed softly with the calls of the nocturnal creatures.

All but one of the town’s denizens slept peacefully.

Pumpkin Cake struggled fitfully in her sleep, desperately trying to wake up, but so tired she couldn’t. She was dreaming…

A misty, featureless surface; an orange sky without air; an apprehensive baby unicorn trying to crawl in the opposite direction of any movement she sees.

A copse of trees appeared from out of the ether. Trees were nice, and the youngling kept a steady pace toward them. But then, a flock of silvery creatures blew through the trees at high speed. Wrenching, splintering wood erupted as the trees were shattered to dust. Returning to the sky, the creatures banked left trying to turn around, a soot trail spewing from each one.

The foal turned and fled in the other direction as fast as her crawling could take her. Her solution did not last long as the flying creatures and their filigree of soot trails slowly began to block her escape. They had the look of ponyquins made of crinkly tin foil.

Shivering with fear, the foal backed away from her pursuers. The hazy dreamscape had become overrun with the shriveled ponyquins as they floated around and encircled the young filly. Try as she might, she could not scream, as more and more of the alien figures surrounded her.

‘Begone!’ a stallion’s voice commanded, and the swarm of harassers backed off like they had just been kicked. Two armored ponies, a unicorn and a pegasus, landed firmly between the dreamer and the frightening ponyquins.

The child’s tormentors did not back off very far, however, and incoming legions made their numbers larger and denser. Finally, they started combining into a writhing, hissing mass of soot and ponyquins.

The armored ponies knew that anything this aggressive was not only rare, it was also very, very bad. It was worse than a nightmare!

The mare turned to the filly. ‘Wake up, little one!’ she pleaded.

She could not, and lay catatonic with her eyes averted, for she could not shut them.

‘Contact Princess Luna!’ the mare yelled hurriedly.

The stallion nodded, and his eye jewel scintillated a bright blue light as he attempted communication with their commander.

=^.^=

Ravage yet again tried to eke out an existence on the dance floor. Though doing his best, he was able to manage only the simplest of maneuvers. It went without saying that pretty much every other pony harboured more skill in this field, even foals. His date dialed her moves down to around the level of his ability, and it didn’t seem to bother her. In fact, she was thrilled to be with the novice dancer, and always encouraged him to pick up his pace, or try another technique.

Suddenly, Flitter’s face filled with surprise and joy. Surely the pony bot didn’t do anything so impressive to warrant such a reaction. In fact, it was Cloudchaser who made a sudden appearance, and the excited mare bounded up and hugged her long time pegasus friend with great force. Checking the saddlebag her buddy just carried in, Flitter became most pleased as she held her hoofs to her jaw. She quickly went back to her beau.

“Ravage, do you want to wait on the side for a few minutes?”

“I can wait, but don’t you think I should practice?” he yelled back, against the loud music. Whatever Cloudchaser brought sure got her friend’s attention.

Flitter gave his suggestion a couple of seconds of thought and agreed. “Okay, but don’t get into any trouble, sweetie!” she said, before kissing his cheek and trotting off with her pegasus friend. Being left alone off the dance floor put him in the line of fire of a lot of unpaired mares, but she felt she could trust him.

It felt odd for him to dance by himself, as he was usually dependent on his partner for timing. Stumbling his way through the regimen of dance moves he was learning, another mare filled the gap left by Flitter, and then another. He kept dancing, somewhat perturbed by the presence of an interloping unicorn and pegasus, and hoped his purple and green glowsticks would be the sigil they were supposed to be. Notwithstanding, they did prevent his cutie mark getting rubbed by that of a complete stranger’s. Secretly, he wished that one of these dance partners had been Fluttershy, whom he knew he could trust.

Luna couldn’t help but get close to her love interest, especially after searching much of the building for him. It was only dancing, right? She couldn’t help but steal glances at his dancing form, the superb musculature making up for the clumsy execution. There was nothing wrong with looking at a pony, right? Through the magical connection the Princess could feel that Ravage was genuinely happy this night. This only encouraged her further.

Looking from across the room, Celestia noticed her sister was about to get into trouble, and break her own rules in the process. Easily maintaining the conversation with the stallion she was talking to, she chastised her sibling telepathically – except that she couldn’t make the connection! It was then that she remembered one of the weaknesses of assuming a new pony form: the covering up of one’s cutie mark with another confounded telepathic communication.

Error Port 17, 228: Unauthorized Access

Incoming Video Message

Ravage kept trying to dance as this bizarre new form of interruption carried out. How would Luna annoy him this time? A video message should have been a boon for the Decepticon, perhaps finally being contacted by Cybertron, but this one was unauthorized just like all the others.

An inset screen appeared in the top right corner of his vision. Some sort of pulsating metal thing occupied the center view. Erring on the side of caution, the stallion bot had the battle network analyse it.

Princess Luna, we need assistance!

I am not Princess Luna,’ the Decepticon’s disembodied voice responded in the dream realm. This was already too weird for words.

The guards briefly gave each other a shocked look, still maintaining a defensive blockade between the dream creatures and Pumpkin Cake.

Who goes there?’ demanded Feral Flight.

The stallion bot needed to understand the nature of the message. ‘Who I am is not important. Why you have decided to interfere with my progress is.

Pattern Detected: Forty point pentagonal fractal. The battle network highlighted an area where a multitude of the crinkly creatures had been circling around. With there being several hundred of them flying randomly, it would have been very difficult to detect them without network assistance.

You seem to be in a spot of trouble,’ Ravage quipped.

Either call Princess Luna, or leave us to our fate, foul knave!’ Scorched Earth scolded. ‘Know that the mind of a child is at stake!

The massing creatures started taking on the appearance of an amoeba, with globs of it swinging out from the main gathering, becoming more and more threatening.

Ravage saw that there was a terrified filly and two adults between her and the monstrosity that was developing. ‘I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there is a pattern to their flight, lower and to the left of the center.’ And then, Ravage figured it out: this was a dream – the foal’s dream! That’s why it looked familiar, for the pony bot had experienced the otherworldly feel of dreams. That’s why the adult ponies requested Luna’s presence. ‘Look for the floral pattern; like a daisy, but with forty petals,’ he added.

Feral tested the strange information, and she could see it! ‘He speaks truthfully!’ She saw her partner gawk and nod in understanding. He saw it as well.

Good. Now blow it up!’ The two adults just stood there, not believing what was said. ‘Pegasus, draw its fire by flying in close quarters. Use evasive maneuvers and try to keep its attention on you. Unicorn, protect the asset by carrying it with you. Look for an opening on its flank. When the enemy is sufficiently distracted, open fire! Try to hit the center of the daisy.

Princess Luna isn’t coming, is she,’ Scorched Earth said abysmally.

Do I sound like Princess Luna!?’ Ravage snapped back.

There was no time for any more words as an amoebic limb thrust itself upon the dreaming trio.

Back at the Warehouse, ponies danced around the stallion bot. To the onlooker, he appeared to be focusing on the wall behind them with a wide-eyed, absent look.

“Hey Spacey,” prodded a very unexpected mare with a multicoloured mane.

Ravage was watching the dreaming ponies scatter, trying to avoid their amoebic enemy, as they had taken his advice. Refocusing on the real world around him he noticed Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie had been trying to drive themselves in between the unknown mares. “I was trying to focus,” he covered. “And uh, hi.”

Pinkie got in close and whispered, “Don't worry, we'll protect you!”

The familiarity the pink mare was exhibiting caused the unicorn to give up and leave, but the tall, tan-coated pegasus only fell back one pace. Her plume of straight, platinum blonde mane wafted in rhythmic waves to her seductive hoofwork.

Ravage had trouble keeping his eye on both worlds, but the sudden appearance of Pinkie and Dash made him feel secure enough to observe the dream world more closely.

Feral ducked and dodged the roiling, bubbling mass, and expertly managed to buck some of the tin foil ponyquins into dust. This angered the monster, and its very center of gravity seemed to shift as more blobs of tin foil went after the pegasus guard. With skill that would make a Wonderbolt hopeful jealous, she eluded every assault launched by their foe.

Scorched Earth was running at top speed, at least as fast as one can run in a dream, with Pumpkin Cake in his magical grasp. The ‘Voice’s’ plan seemed to be working, and he charged up his horn, taking care not to enrage the creature any further. Opportunity presented itself, as the center of the daisy was briefly exposed.

The unicorn warrior blasted the target! Judging by the freezing and sudden collapse of the ponyquin monster, it was as effective, but then the thing melted and assumed a new form.

Melting, shaping, and congealing, a new pony mode appeared. This one was a dark shade of blue, gleaming and metallic. Several strands of metal ribbon fluttered down from some sort of saddle, and more such ribbons formed the mane and tail, and could be found above the hooves. Small daisy flowers adorned the edges of the saddle, and flank. A pair of dark pink discs occupied the arches of its cheeks. To be honest, it wasn’t frightening anymore.

Suddenly it exploded! Feral Flight and Scorched Earth turned away from the blast wave, but Pumpkin Cake seemed to be anticipating it. It started raining candy!

The giggling little foal would have danced if she could, as her forelegs were joyously flung up, greeting the saccharine rain.

=^.^=

Back in Ponyville, Sweet Leaf put her books down and went to comfort the Cake foals. Strange noise that wasn't crying came from Pumpkin, and it had ignited crying from her brother. To the foal sitter’s surprise, Pumpkin Cake was laughing.

=^.^=

Ravage lost the signal and the video inset ended. Was Luna predisposed? Even absent? His satellites couldn't find her, and being night meant he shouldn't use his small flock of raven androids either. They were stationed near the castle and also couldn't spot the darkly pony.

He knew that message was meant for Luna, not him, and the whole episode was one giant communication error. Puzzlingly, it was him specifically that received the signal, of all the millions of ponies. The Decepticon had no choice but to accept Luna’s claim of a connection between himself and the Night Princess. Now, among all the other mounting problems of trying to coexist in this place, he needed to find a way to sever it.

Accepting Pinkie and Rainbow as dance partners had yielded good defensive results, as the two played off of each other. Consuming a lot of floor space, their elaborate moves also kept other mares away, at least in front of him.

Behind the two Elements, the tan pegasus mare still danced closely. She seemed to float on her hooves, though she was executing only simple moves. The observant pony bot often caught her stealing glances at him, but he was drawn to glancing at her, especially her magnificent mane. Depending on the angle of the light, her mane transitioned from blonde to steel coloured. Her long neck often swirled in opposition to her long, fleecy tail, maintaining an almost unperturbed balance.

He turned on his compass. As expected, the needle immediately found one of the alicorn sisters, pointing through the tan pegasus. However, the armature was shivering in place, which is what it did when it discovered Twilight Sparkle during his first lunch with Bo and Micah. This wasn't surprising. The ruling alicorns were orders of magnitude more powerful than any other ponies, including Twilight, and activating the compass anywhere in Canterlot probably meant a vibrating armature.

=^.^=

Scorched Earth's good eye peaked open, revealing the Dreaming Room from which he and Feral Flight launched their patrol. She was already getting up. Once they established that Equestria’s foals were sleeping peacefully, they made it a priority to find Luna. What high form of sorcery could have possibly intercepted their telepathic communication so casually?

“That rescue wasn’t right,” Feral said. The foal was spared the terrifying nightmare, yes, but that didn't make her feel any less suspicious.

Scorch's eye jewel glowered as he attempted to contact her again, with no results. “I fear we may have to use the Quickpaper.”

Feral frowned at the suggestion. “I think she's gone out tonight. Call it mare’s intuition.”

Scorch nodded in understanding. “I believe you. But do you understand what just transpired?!”

The pegasus warrior pressed her lips bitterly. Though the rumors concerning the Day Keeper were abundant, Princess Luna alone had governance over telepathic powers, and that knowledge was smeared until it had become an urban legend.

=^.^=

Ravage turned off his compass. He felt that either of the ruling alicorns could be on the other side of town and yield the same reading, making the device useless for early warning. Besides, the bright white inset was annoying.

Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie had engaged in an unscripted dance competition, and it had drawn the attention of much of the dance floor. The sleek, muscular pegasus used her wings to execute difficult moves with fluid, athletic skill. The physics-breaking earth pony similarly wowed the dancing spectators with her over-the-top acrobatics. Vinyl Scratch must have seen the dance battle, and adjusted the tunes to incorporate orchestral combat music into the fast paced beat.

In the control room, Octavia gave her girlfriend a lascivious smile as she mixed in one of her classical music albums.

Ravage wanted no part of this, and retreated to the bar. On the opposite end, the tan pegasus mare also slunk away from the ever growing crowd.

Perfect!’ Luna thought. All she needed to do was buy him a drink, and begin a candid conversation. This was almost too easy! When he was looking away, she allowed herself to ogle him, and found it hard not to use her hooves to frame him, as if in a pictorial. She noticed then that magical dust started to swirl directly in front of her. Did she inadvertently release a spell? The tinkling, magical dust got brighter and brighter, and started concentrating in the center of her vision.

Culminating in a bright flash, a scroll with her seal imprinted on it teleported directly in front of her face. Luna quickly grabbed the message in her mouth, and looked left and right. To her relief, Ravage appeared as if he hadn’t seen the scroll teleport in front of her.

=^.^=

Against her desire to converse with the elusive stallion, Luna took the moral high ground and headed for the Mares’ room. She was in the hallway leading to the private spaces when her sister trotted up alongside her.

“An unexpected message, I gather?” the Day Mare teased, finding the scroll jammed between her sibling's ear and mane to have a nerdy appeal.

“Very. I received no more than two of these since my return, and one of them detailed the threat of King Sombra upon the Crystal Empire.”

Celestia's cute discourse suddenly became very serious. “I see.” The sisters walked into the bathroom, the younger of which looked at the bottom of the stalls, and made sure they were alone. “Also, you do realize that your telepathy is disrupted by disguising our Cutie Marks.”

Luna’s eyes rolled to the message still stuck by her ear. “I figured as much.” She took the nearest stall and tried to wave her suddenly apprehensive sister in. “Don't you want to read it?”

Celestia could appreciate that her co-ruler wanted to keep her in the loop but, “What would the other mares think?”

“Whatever they want, it is inconsequential. Now come in,” Luna demanded.

Closing the door behind them in the cramped stall, both mares took to their hind legs as Luna opened the message using her ever potent magic, horn unseen, and they read the contents.

“How can this be?” the Night Princess questioned. Her counterpart’s brow was knitted in concentration. “This doesn't sound like something Discord would do, does it?”

“I doubt it,” Celestia agreed. “Discord prefers grandiose over subtlety, and I’ve never known him to enter the Dream Realm.”

Both girls contemplated the situation when they heard another mare walk into the bathroom.

Cloudchaser snorted at the four hind hooves and two tails dangling on the floor. “Get a room you two!”

Celestia cringed and blushed. Being pressed against her sister’s fur didn't help her feel any better.

The purple pegasus situated herself in front of a mirror. Slowly closing each eye, she checked her mascara, ensuring that every eyelash still floated weightlessly, even with the make-up. Feeling very satisfied with her work also made her feel generous. “Or,” she began, pulling two notes out of her side-bag with her mouth, and depositing them on the floor in the sisters’ stall, “You can come to this thing.”

After the other pony left the room, Luna levitated the papers to Celestia. “Hold these, please.” She then teleported in a piece of parchment, ink, and quill and suspended them in space.

It turned out that the unseen mare had given them a pair of special room passes, which the Solar Diarch held in her magic. “What are you going to do?”

“I'm bringing her in.” She hastily scratched instructions on the parchment.

“Who, the apprentice?” She had only an inkling of what Luna was doing, and didn't like it at all. “Shouldn't we be getting back to the palace? Surely, it is a better place for debriefing.”

Luna smiled wryly and chortled, “No. Nopony in Equestria knows where we are. I would like to maintain that advantage.” She could see her partner wasn’t convinced, yet still teleported in a copy of one a Warehouse admission ticket for that night. “Please stay by my side?” In another flash, she had teleported everything away to their final destinations.

Celestia sighed, hoping that her dark compatriot was right. “Very well.” She read the passes again. The fact they didn’t have any information on what could only be described as an obscure event troubled her.

=^.^=

Ravage finished his drink, and put the glass down by the bar. Pinkie and Rainbow Dash had finished their ‘dance off’, and he had nothing to do. A plume of soft tail was felt brushing up against his haunches. He turned to face the culprit – and gawked. A giggling green-haired pegasus, his date, appeared to enjoy the transfixed reaction. Replacing her glowstick attire were clothing tubes on all four legs, as well as a special unit bound around her waist that covered her reproductive apparatus; it had a hole that her tail was threaded through. The fabric was especially fetching, consisting of frilly crimson and black sections that overlapped each other like roof tile.

Cloudchaser had dawned similar clothes, only hers were sky blue, and shimmered in the light as if refractive dust had been sprinkled over their entire surface area. “Hey lover boy,” she said as she lightly tapped the side of his face with her hoof.

Did he actually… He did! He ogled Flitter! He shook his head free of the spell, disappointed in himself for the lack of self-control. Curse this pony body! A quick evaluation indicated that he probably would have done the same to Cloudchaser if it had been her to alert him with a tail brush. The new clothes they wore somehow increased their appeal. Was it the combination of colours? Was it the highlighting of body parts?

“Rarity made them,” Flitter said, more than satisfied with the quality of the dressmaker’s work, as well as its effectiveness. She slunk a foreleg around the stallion’s withers. “You don’t mind if Cloudchaser dances with us do you?”

“Uh, no.” The spy was honestly surprised he was even being asked. Nevertheless, he developed newfound respect for Rarity, and vowed to study this phenomenon later.

The three of them enjoyed dancing for the next hour. Flitter and her supportive friend were a great help in not only showing him how to dance better, albeit slowly, but he had fun doing it.

=^.^=

Feral Flight was excited even before she came into the Warehouse, but the scene was more than she could have hoped for. Dozens of glowstick-covered, sweaty bodies throbbed in jubilation to the pounding music. The socializing and alcohol combined with the din of laughter made this the best assignment ever! Of course, Scorched Earth was to get the next day off while she and Princess Luna patrolled the Dream Realm, but it would be worth it. Her herd approved, and all she had to do was find Luna, then she could enjoy the festivities.

Tearing her eyes away from the fun she would soon have, she proceeded directly to the place that the Night Princess specified. A couple of stairwells, and three or four hallways later, she arrived.

Entering the room, she tried to flick the lights on, but without success. The door suddenly closed behind her.

“You will not need lights,” the somber voice of Princess Luna reverberated. From behind a stack of old music equipment, a blue hue appeared. It shined more brilliantly when Luna herself walked from behind the pile.

“I – I need to know,” Feral stuttered, “Uh – what goes well with fur and bunny?”

“Eggs and toast, and milk and honey,” Luna replied.

“My Princess!” Feral bowed deeply, ashamed of doubting the regal form of her mentor. Her fears were abated though, as Luna’s gentle laughter calmed her down.

“Rise, my apprentice.” Feral still didn’t look right from asking the code phrase. “Under the circumstances, your actions are admirable.”

“Thank you,” Feral replied as she got up, feeling much better.

Luna needed to know the details of what happened in that night terror, and approached her pupil slowly. “Now, tell me everything.”

And tell the Princess of the Night, she did. Luna didn’t know what to make of it, and she focused hard in concentration, trying to decide if a trap was being laid.

“Princess? I know you probably don’t like anypony eavesdropping on your telepathic conversations, but it didn’t sound malevolent,” Feral Flight offered.

Luna smiled. “Thank you, Feral. That will be all. Go and enjoy yourself.”

Feral returned the smile, and curtseyed. “Princess.”

Once the guard was out the door, Luna used a Reversal spell to resume her previous pegasus form, and left out another door.

=^.^=

The ruling Sisters relaxed on one of the couches in another room away from the noise. Conveniently, they were the only two there.

Celestia spent a good half a minute digesting the information. “Well, whoever it was helped rescue a filly from considerable anguish.”

“Doesn’t it bother you that this meddler refused to identify himself?” Luna rebutted.

“It does. But do you agree that he cannot actually enter dreams?” Establishing the size of the problem was the priority now, for neither Princess had a clue of any being capable of doing such a thing that they didn’t already eliminate.

Luna shook her head slowly. “No, it doesn’t sound like he can.” She looked at her cutie mark of a cloud, sun and wheat shafts blowing in the wind. “I do wonder how much this thing is interfering with my communication though.”

Celestia smiled. “It sounds like you have your answer. When in disguise, be more cautious with telepathy.” Luna hadn’t veiled her true form in many centuries. Seeing her visibly relaxing from the rediscovered wisdom gave the Day Princess the impetus to ask her next question. “Do you think you’ll need me anymore this night?”

“What? Not enough fun for you?” For a moment, Luna was tempted to unleash a plague of spiders as a joke.

“It has been a fantastic night! I’m glad you brought me here,” Celestia defended sincerely.

Luna knew her sister well, and felt satisfied that she had a good time. “You can least come to the room with me? Else, why would only specific ponies get passes?”

“I think only amourous ponies get those passes. But certainly, I will accompany you there. After that, I will take my leave.”

A short walk later, and the Princesses were able to peer into the room.

“Well, it looks like your knowledge of pony behavior trumps all others. I’m impressed.” Luna was not expecting her sibling to be wrong, and it was always a treat to observe her almost prophetic powers of deduction.

Celestia hugged her sister affectionately. “It’s been a pleasure. We simply must do this again sometime.”

“Indeed we shall!” Luna waved goodbye to her departing sibling and friend.

=^.^=

Dodging dancing ponies on the way out, Celestia felt good and decided to treat herself to a walk home tonight. It was then she noticed a cobalt blue pegasus pony with black wing tips; her bluish, silvery mane, and hazel eyes topped off a chiseled military body. But her cutie mark, which exhibited a quartz crystal with two crisscrossing lightning bolts beneath it, was unmistakable. It was Feral Flight. Luna had spoken highly of her, outlining her merits, and in the light of recent events made a convincing argument that she could be trusted with the sensitive information that was wrought by the night’s telepathic faux pas.

Perhaps she would make use of the room pass. It would be a shame to simply throw it away, and her herd had allowed her to come to this den of debauchery in the first place. It seemed like a good reward.

“Excuse me,” Celestia greeted, having found a brief pause in their conversation. While her talking partner seemed annoyed, Feral seemed almost too happy to have the little earth pony interrupt them. “I apologize for interfering, but I’m on my way out, and I was wondering if you could make use of this,” she said as she flashed the room pass.

“Oh yes I can!” replied the thrilled pegasus. She approached the disguised diarch, getting well within her personal space. “Just put it under my wing.” The off duty night guard flexed the powerful appendage while the smaller mare daintily wedged the pass into the space between the wing and body.

She turned to leave when Feral suddenly grasped her in her forelegs, stopping her cold.

“Huuuuugs?” suggested the flamboyant mare.

The tired Princess gently hugged the barrel of her chosen gift recipient, who returned what would be considered by most to be a bone-crushing hug. Luna didn’t forget to mention that Feral had a preference for earth ponies, and hailed from a herd of six that included four earth ponies.

She was intrigued by her earth pony benefactor. Her little body had very limited give to it, and felt like sack of cement. It made her smile widely. “Whoah, you must work on a rock farm!” She thought a bit on that line of conjecture as she let go. “You totally haul boulders. Am I right?”

Celestia laughed at the allegation, walking away from Luna’s well-adjusted apprentice. “Much bigger than that,” she hinted before continuing on her way.

=^.^=

Ravage and his friends finished dancing, and had a couple of drinks. Once again, he was following them into the bowels of the building. Sick of not knowing where he was going in this place, he tasked the satellites to develop a floor plan. Lewd expressions on the faces of his pegasus friends brought on a familiar worrying feeling.

He entered a new room with them, one where over twenty ponies had sat down forming a circle on the floor. In the center was a cone with a bluish glow. It supported, horizontally, a glass bottle on its apex. The pony bot felt that a balancing act like that could only be achieved magically.

Among the seated were Vinyl Scratch, Octavia, and even Indigo Light, who had decided to break off from her non-stop dancing to do this.

The tan pegasus walked in, her lithe form bringing a hush to the conversations. She swooshed her silky tail out of the way and sat down, all in one fluid motion.

“Oh don’t mind me,” the tan one comforted with a smile.

“We don’t mind you,” flirted a random mare.

“That’s the spirit,” Vinyl complemented, Octavia smiling by her side. “I’ll start us off.” Her horn flared, and the spun the bottle around rapidly. Twenty to twenty-five seconds later, it finally stopped – on Cloudchaser.

“What’s it been, six days?” the pegasus quipped as the unicorn DJ moved toward her. She then received a wanton kiss, as their eyes closed and their muzzles mashed together for a few seconds. “Okay, my turn!” the weather mare chirped excitedly. The bottle spun again in response to Vinyl’s magic, and landed on a stallion she didn’t know. It didn’t matter to her, as she enjoyed giving him a simple kiss on the lips.

Ravage closed his eyes, trying to hide his disappointment. Not this again! In only a few minutes, a third of the ponies swapped kisses with each other. How long would it be before he would have to kiss one? Were there any he wanted to kiss? Could Fluttershy withstand be… No! The Decepticon shook his head, and pushed the thought out of cognition.

Pinkie Pie walked into the room, “Oooooh Rainbow Dash, look! Look!” Her hooves were pushed against her chin, and her face was lit up as if she’d been given a mountain of presents on Hearth’s Warming Eve.

“Huh. Spin the Bottle,” Dash stoically replied. She noticed Cloudchaser sitting across from her, grinning smugly. The junior Wonderbolt laughed inwardly, thinking about that awesome prank Cloudchaser received at her hooves just a couple of weeks ago. The look on her face was priceless! And now – she was in a roomful of lusty mares. Oh… Pinkie was eagerly motioning for her to sit down, and she did so.

Rainbow found she was able to take loving mares in small doses, though Twilight had gotten farther than any other. She liked snuggling with Twilight, but only in private quarters, and that was only one mare. Now, she could be on the receiving end of several!

She spotted Ravage with Flitter and Cloudchaser. Those two trouble-makers coming to a thing like this was just like them. Ravage, however, looked out of place. It was subtle, but he almost looked frightened when the bottle was spun, like he didn’t want it to land on him. Why bring him here? Why doesn’t he protest?

Eventually, the bottle landed on Rainbow Dash.

Cloud Kicker eagerly went forth to the perturbed pegasus, only to find her cool attitude supplanted with nervousness. “Awkward?”

“To say the least,” Ponyville’s weather manager said, steeling herself once again.

“Well,” the passionate pegasus began, “You helped me with my weather jobs last Friday.” She put her hooves around her quarry, “Just relax. I’m told I’m really good.” Slowly, she drew her face to Dash’s, and gingerly kissed her upper lip. Parting with a smile, she sat back down again.

Rainbow was thankful that was all Kicker did. In the affairs of love and lust she was most infamous.

“Ready to go?” Vinyl asked.

“Ready,” Dash said firmly. The bottle spun once more, this time landing on the tan pegasus across from her.

Luna smiled with anticipation as the streamlined Wonderbolt approached her, but then she received only a quick peck on the cheek. The pegasus’ job was done. That disappointed the crowd, but the rules did not describe how one pony was to kiss another. “Next one, please,” she asked with a smile, and the bottle was spun again. This time…

This time it landed on Ravage, who hadn’t done anything yet. The crowd responded with interest in the upcoming pairing.

Go get ‘er,” Flitter encouraged, whispering into his ear.

Luna couldn’t believe it. No magic of any kind was used in the direction of the bottle. There was no interference whatsoever, just blind luck! The willowy mare got up and strode to her stallion partner. The room went quiet.

Ravage’s heart beat rapidly. This mare looked fantastic. The way she carried herself, the way she glided so effortlessly, it seemed familiar. She sat in front of him, eyes like twin blue suns boring into his – definitely familiar! Yet he had never known her before. Settling in, she placed, no, installed her forelegs around his neck, for they seemed to hide incredible strength. She closed those radiant eyes, opened her mouth and leaned in. Ravage closed his eyes and inhaled, fearing what was to come. The sensation of warmth and moisture could be felt as their lips met. And then, a new feeling of elation electrified his senses, like he never experienced in his long life. It was like the feeling of being reawakened in the Arc after four eons of deactivation, only much, much stronger. She kissed him, and he kissed back, their lips shifting and sucking, giving no quarter.

Princess Luna used exquisite self-control to keep herself from jumping him right there and managed to pull away, eyes still closed. Her lips hung just millimeters from his face as she tried to process what just happened. She felt his breath as he tried to recover precious oxygen. No simple kiss was this, but something that felt more akin to lifelong accomplishment. It was as if she was directly connected to Ravage’s soul.

As the tan mare was sitting back down, the bottle was spun again. Octavia was the random choice this time.

Ravage approached her casually. “Well, I never expected thi-mmmp!”

Octavia had closed the gap while he was prattling on, and gave him a loving kiss on the lips. “My apologies, Ravage. I usually exercise superior restraint.”

She certainly didn’t look apologetic. No, there was something hidden in her face that he couldn’t interpret. The spy sat back down again, but not before he saw his pegasus friends whispering to each other.

“How much time, Vinyl?” Flitter asked.

“About fifteen minutes.”

Ravage’s companions got up, and motioned for him to follow. Were they leaving? What a relief!

“Till next time, friends!” Cloudchaser said cheerfully.

Feral Flight approached the door to the room as the trio was passing her by. She immediately took notice of Ravage. “It’s that time is it?” she spoke to the fine looking earth pony.

“It’s been that time for a while!” Flitter answered back.

Cloudchaser nuzzled the stallion as they walked.

Feral spared the outgoing group a glance, mostly looking at Ravage.

=^.^=

Flitter closed the door behind them, gripping the lit candle and holder in her teeth. Even this barely contained the loud music just a wall’s thickness away.

Cloudchaser arranged four other candles. “Just crawl into bed, Ravage. This will only take a minute.”

The uncertain stallion placed one tentative hoof after the other as he climbed onto the large, soft bed. He can’t do this. How did he go from planting antimatter mines in Autobot substations to sleeping with Equestrian mares?

He volunteered.

Interacting with the natives was deemed essential. To that end, a tissue body that could transform along with its mechanical components was developed by Starscream. Somehow, he allowed himself to date them. Did he overstep his bounds? This was just Flitter and her friend, imagine those infernal unicorns – imagine Princess Luna!

The pony bot lay on his stomach facing the headboard, which vibrated to the thumping music. Maybe if he covered up for long enough they might get tired. With a soft thud, his hip girdle was driven into the mattress, causing the whole bed to rock. Taking a look, it was Flitter that hopped on top.

“Ya know this works better if you lie on your back,” his date joked.

Cloudchaser sidled up beside Ravage. “Maybe he’s cooking something up for us,” she insinuated.

“Oh! Maybe it’s ready!”

Ravage could feel their hooves work their way underneath his body, which he stiffened to increase the difficulty. He intended to stay in this position and resist them to the last. Repel all invaders! With a quick flip, Ravage was spun around onto his back. Curse their pony strength!

“Hmm, nothing yet,” Flitter noted as she positioned herself by his left thigh.

“I have a sure fire way to get him started,” Cloudchaser boasted, placing herself opposite to Flitter. She put her forelegs around her friend’s shoulders, as if she was about to kiss her.

“Ah ha!” Flitter exalted in understanding. She and her partner adjusted themselves before she turned to her date. “Hey Ravage, check this out.”

Flitter and Cloudchaser began kissing each other, and grew more and more impassioned by the second, rubbing their wing bases as they went. Ravage’s jaw dropped at the act before him.

It was time to end the date. There was no way that Ravage would go through with this. He would lose his social standing, but it would be worth it. Being labeled ‘undatable’ would lose the attention of quite a lot of mares including the ones he’d been depending on for resources and education.

And then, as always happens in dire situations, his Decepticon nature supplied the simplest, most elegant idea. If no ponies helped him, what good were they? Shoot them! Just shoot them both. Just walk out of here in disguise, grab the statue and go. If they wouldn’t help him, then there was no sense in keeping up the charade.

Cloudchaser gained leverage as Flitter sank half a head during their kissing, and she forced her tongue in, violently reefing her mouth against her partner’s. Ravage couldn’t avert his eyes – he couldn’t look away! That was what Flitter did to him nearly a week ago. It felt so…

And then today, when the tan mare kissed him, nothing he felt before felt as good as that moment. Who was she?!

Shoot them!

Ravage remembered Flitter kissing him, and how good it felt; he remembered her scents, her personality. With fondness, he recalled their cuddling session on the train. But then he steeled his nerve once again. ‘Just kill them and be done with it!’ he chastised himself.

Without noticing it, they had stopped, both looking at the stallion bot like prey. Ravage grabbed a pillow and whisked it over his lower half in one fluid motion. It caused them both to giggle, all the while maintaining malicious smiles. They crept toward him fully intent on expanding his intimate experiences beyond mere affection.

Flitter slipped a hind leg between her date and the pillow, and with a flick, the bedroom implement was sent careening against the door.

“Save the pillow for when we’re done, Ravage,” Cloudchaser suggested.

Flitter turned his face toward hers with a hoof. “Don’t be afraid,” she said sweetly. “Just give me a chance. It’ll feel great!”

Transform you fool! Now!!!

New music started playing just then, but it was not Buttaface, as intended by Vinyl Scratch’s timer. No, this music was – different. It was fast, much faster than any pony song ever written. It was heavy, the percussion accompanied by what sounded more like instruments of death than music. And then, the wraith-like singing began, and in a language never before heard in all Equestria.

The girls sat on their haunches looking utterly confused.

“What is that?” Cloudchaser asked.

Flitter’s confusion turned to horror. “That’s not Buttaface!” she fearfully proclaimed.

Both mares hopped off the bed.

“I sense a prank!” Cloudchaser declared angrily.

“We’ll be right back,” Flitter promised to Ravage.

And like that, they were gone. The tumultuous new music kept playing.

The Decepticon soldier lay there, too engrossed in marshaling his thoughts to feel grateful for the interruption he inspired. Why didn’t he act? Was he just going to let them have their way? He was disappointed in himself. For all his clinical thinking, brutal experiences, and hard work, he couldn’t bring himself to transform and kill those that would defile his body. Pony bot or not, those were his feelings that he was unable to countermand.

“Why am I just lying here?” This bedroom was the last place he wanted to be at the moment. The roof! Maybe it was foggy outside, or maybe there were no ponies on it.

=^.^=

The cool night air was most welcome to the tiring pony bot. On the large flat roof only one couple was having a moment to themselves with food and cider over in a rather inaccessible area behind a chimney. Ravage ventured to the side farthest away from them. Only the soft sounds of the picnicking couple and the surrounding city could be discerned under the star canopy. ‘Why are Earth’s stars above Equestria?’ He had been here for over a week, and was no closer to answering that question.

There was no fog that night.

Infrared revealed invisible night guards floating around Luna’s castle, though a small number had saw fit to come fly overhead. He’ll have to watch out for those.

Looking over the safety rail, he wondered how he would get home. Cybertron was so far. Even if he built a space bridge terminal, he couldn't triangulate, as was done to get him here. That would require communication with his Decepticon comrades, which had somehow ceased working.

A fluttering of wings could be heard, and with a small crash and dispersal of roof pebbles, Rainbow Dash made a landing right behind Ravage. She was glowing white hot before he turned off his infrared.

“Nice night for a flight,” Ravage said. “Why did you leave the Kissing Room so soon?”

She snickered. “That music that sounded like dragons singing, it stopped the kissing pretty quick,” Rainbow said, trying her best not to laugh. “You should have seen Vinyl's face!” she squeezed out before breaking into a fit of laughter. After half a minute, she calmed down enough to speak again. “Pinkie went to help Vinyl, so I did some flying. Thank goodness!”

“You prefer the open sky to a roomful of mares?”

Rainbow Dash leaned in, and checked left and right for eavesdroppers. “Yes,” she confirmed. “But don't tell Pinkie that.” The stallion nodded in understanding. “Actually, we both noticed that you were pretty uncomfortable until tan-wings totally made out with you. Even Flitter and Cloudchaser were surprised.”

“Oh?” Getting another perspective was most revealing.

“You three are gonna hook up tonight, am I right?” Dash said, prodding Ravage with her foreleg.

“Uh, well, they’ve gone to find out what was going on with the music,” the stallion bot sheepishly replied.

“Ya know,” Rainbow thought, “Dragonsong didn’t sound too bad, actually.” She nodded, deciding that was her conclusion. “Not too bad at all. Lotta energy.”

“I didn’t find it too bad, either.” Ravage stretched his limbs and yawned. “But it is getting late.”

“Oh, there is one other thing I wanted to talk to you about,” Dash insisted.

Ravage suspected that it couldn’t be good, as the night’s interaction with her and Pinkie Pie had already been covered.

“I talked to Zecora this morning,” she began. “I wanted to know how you were doing, ya know, since you go into the Everfree forest a lot.”

Ravage froze.

Ever since Rainbow Dash and her friends first met him, and she agreed to help get them better acquainted with him, he became the unwitting observational mark for the keen eyed pegasus. She saw Ravage go toward or away from the Everfree forest a few times over the past week, and connected it with the potion maker. What she didn't see was his actual residence.

“She was like, ‘Who is Ravage? Is he savage?’ doing the rhyming thing. She also said that something savage chased the timberwolves off, and that we should be extra cautious because new predators may have moved in.”

If the Decepticon stallion had any exposed skin, it would have turned white. He opened his mouth, trying to speak, but nothing came out. He had nothing to say to that!

Rainbow laid a supportive hoof on his shoulder. “Hey. Homelessness is a serious matter, dude. I can understand why you’d want to cover up something like that. I’ve talked to the others about it too, and they’re willing to help.”

“I, uh…”

Dash assumed a heroic pose. “Oh, no. No need to thank me,” the smiling pegasus self-praised, dusting herself off with a hoof. “I think I should find Pinkie now. Toodles!” Like a jet she took off into the sky, presumably to twist around in the air a few times before she went back to her friend.

Ravage became worried about how he was supposed to get back to the base. He concluded that there was only one thing he could do.

“I'm going to bed.”

Chapter 11: Left Hand Path

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Last Thursday Night:

He was from Cybertron…

Applejack saw that Ravage still looked upset, even though it was a huge improvement over his state a few minutes ago. The apple farmer chose her next words carefully. “Ah’ reckon it’s a whole lot farther than Froggy Bottom Bog, ain’t it?” Ravage made no hints that he even heard that and kept looking at the stars.

At first Applejack had dismissed Cybertron as yet another one of the enumerable towns that peppered Equestria. But as she thought about it she realized that such a bizarrely named place had never graced her ears. She and Rainbow Dash never really believed that Ravage was from anywhere in the region of dense forest north of that bog. In fact, Dash had flown over it many times, as had Fluttershy. But why would a smart pony like Ravage construct such a feeble lie? Truth was like apples, the farm pony knew. Buckin’ the tree may not be enough. For the more stubborn ones, you’ll need to change your approach.

“Ya know I didn’t come here to help ya. I just came ‘cuz ya looked outta place taking a trail outta the farm while the night was coming on.”

His expression finally changed, and he rolled onto his belly to face Applejack. “And in our short exchange, you concluded that I had a problem which required your extensive experience to solve.”

Applejack had to bite her tongue, trying very hard not to leave this thick-headed stallion to his own devices in the cold of night. As far as she was concerned, Fluttershy liked him and she had to find out why. She calmed herself once again, and looked upon the almost glaring male, trying to pick up any kind of information. Okay, what have we got? Well, he’s not the biggest stallion, but the word is he’s a powerhouse. She could smell no offensive odour from him, only traces of soap, so he cleaned up at Fluttershy’s. His fetlocks weren’t unshorn. Hmmm. “Ravage, why are you not back in Cybertron? Home is where the heart is,” the farmer described putting her hoof in front of her heart. “Why are ya here?”

The Autobot Moon bases orbiting so close to his home were reason enough. “My family and I had a disagreement with the former tenants of our house. They claim it is theirs. It is rightfully ours! But – legal proceedings have forced me out until the matter is resolved.”

Applejack knew this was horse apples, but went along anyway. “Dontcha have any other family ya can live with?”

“Yes, but I cannot return to Cybertron until the issue is resolved.” Ravage considered actually telling her the truth, if only briefly. It certainly sounded more believable than the load of junk he was spewing out like a waste treatment unit.

“Ya really don’t wanna tell me the truth about Cybertron, do ya?”

Ravage was aware of the risk that Luna could somehow be listening in, as well as watching, though he didn’t know she was with her sister at that moment. Nevertheless, he needed to carefully think about what to say.

There was a bigger problem that had been growing in his mind ever since he left Fluttershy’s. The galactic satellite he sent to Cybertron did not report in, a fact he would have been made automatically aware of. He could have miscalculated, but he was so sure he would be informed of pictures of his home world arriving that day. In fact, when was the last time he checked to see if it even transmitted to the Equestrian system?

Applejack noticed a subtle, sudden inhale, and saw a micro expression she never expected to see on Ravage: terror! And then he went back to being as nearly upset as when she first found him in the meadow.

“I can’t go home!” he barked. “I think I’m stuck here,” he growled, turning over on his side and away from Applejack. He felt his chances of going home in a timely manner were dwindling like energon reserves during a fire fight. It didn’t look good.

The Mare of Honesty didn’t know what city would bar entry of any Equestrian citizen, but whatever the truth really was, Ravage could not go home. THAT, she believed. “Oh, Ah’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry – well, I guess I did – but, Ravage Ah’m sorry! It’s just that you’re a mystery, a-and that’s just encouragement for anypony to solve it.”

Ravage’s expression softened. He understood the irresistible urge to solve a mystery; it was shared by ponies and Transformers alike.

The mare hopped over his sullen form, and faced him directly. “C’mon, you don’t have to sleep in a field like this,” she said as she reached out with a hoof. “Ah’m sure we can help ya find a place.”

Ravage smirked, no longer surprised by this pony’s tenacity. “But this is such a nice field,” he spoke in a sarcasm laced compliment. In truth, what he needed was distance from these ponies so he could continue his work, but moreover so they could stop asking him personal questions.

In spite of dodging questions about his origins, Applejack found a lot of qualities in Ravage. He was hard working, good looking, and her herd expressed strong interest in courting him. Indeed, her heart fluttered when she imagined him helping out on the farm. He had a heaping helping of brain power too. In any case, she had an inherent need to protect her friends, and it was her hope that he wasn’t a criminal, or that he was hiding anything else that would condemn him from being the stallion partner they sought. Only until the truth was found would she decide. “Well, Ah’ just wanna get to know ya, since yer so close to mah’ circle of friends n’ all.”

Ravage nodded in understanding. “Yes, they’ve been most pleasant.”

“So,” she started cautiously, “What’s it like in Cybertron? As far as Ah’ know, Canterlot is the most technological o’ Equestrian cities. I’d really love to hear about a town that could give ‘em a run for their bits.”

This made the Decepticon smile. “Well, there are a lot more fliers.”

“You mean pegasi.”

“Pegasi,” he accepted. What on Cybertron wasn’t superior to Equestria? The cleanliness and all-metal architecture; the power grid, even diminished from eons of war was still better than the magical wireless transmission. “It’s spotless; a gleaming jewel that can be seen from all directions.” A good analogy could have been a gigantic space station, if only Applejack knew what that was.

The inquisitive farm girl found herself wanting to check out an atlas. Vague answers tended to inspire such reactions. “Well that certainly sounds like a place Ah’d like to see. Maybe we can all see it when your situation improves.”

Ravage chortled at the sudden appearance of ponies on Cybertron. The pest disposal units would have a heyday! “Indeed, it would be most entertaining.”

Applejack tried to think of other questions that had nothing to do with Ravage’s home, since he was so sensitive about it, but then she noticed he had lied down on his side and closed his eyes. He was turning in! “Aren’t ya gonna find shelter? It’ll be cold tonight.”

“I’ll be fine, Applejack.”

She had decided to leave the stubborn stallion be, but only after one more question. “Ravage?” His facing eye opened to look at the inquisitive mare. “Could ya tell me about your parents?” It was really just a sideways tactic to get more information on his home. Applejack felt a little guilty.

Millions of years ago on Cybertron, Ravage had activated his optical sensors for the first time. He had awakened to the sight of chaos: exploding control panels and smoke; his two creators rushing around frantically while dodging pieces of falling debris. The very foundation of the installation shook and heaved under a barrage of incoming fire. A violent crash sent him flying off of the assembly table, but he landed neatly on all four legs. The new quadruped form, designed for both strategic and tactical warfare, was based off of the deadliest alien predators the Transformers had ever encountered. The secured doors to the room turned red and bulged inwardly before exploding. Three Autobots stormed the room, engaging his creators in a firefight. Acting on pure instinct and rage, Ravage counter-attacked with his Decepticon makers, evading the Autobot assault, elegantly jumping around their laser weapons and missiles. Using a lethal combination of ripping and tearing along with his own conventional weapons, he did tremendous damage. His creators were subdued and killed, but Ravage got the last laugh as he tore the spark chamber out of the remaining Autobot.

His muzzle scrunched up, as if in annoyance. “They’re gone.”

And then as swift as lightning, Applejack felt as if she had just lost the farm. What had she done? All the ponies she knew were at least respectful when it came to that dark point in her life. "Ah - Ah'm sor..." she tried to speak, but could not. How could she?

How dare she?

Applejack suddenly became sullen, and could not prevent her green eyes from tearing up. It was her greatest loss, shared by Applebloom, Big Mac, and Granny Smith. Nothing could compare. She did everything she could to control the tears, and it took all of her self-control to speak properly without blubbering.

"Ravage, do ya mind if Ah' join you for a while," she humbly requested. She couldn't go until she apologized properly, but she also felt the kinship of a bond forged by profound loss.

The Decepticon pony nodded, noting Applejack's sudden change in mood. This was because she was sensitive about parents? He decided to keep this information handy for future communications.

The earth pony mare lied down half a meter away from the stallion, and began to doze.

About an hour later, she woke up shivering and saw that Ravage seemed to be doing just fine. She could have gone home, but the evening had been such an adventurous reach to the stallion, she preferred to stay. Shifting onto his body, she found him surprisingly warm! Enjoying the heat source, she snuggled in, and was a little startled when his foreleg came down around her.

Applejack smiled widely, and secretly hoped that the moral side of Ravage checked out. It would be great to have him for a partner.

=^.^=

Morning sunlight filtered between the tall buildings and castle towers, forcing the night to retreat to the other horizon. The unique melody of high altitude birdsong tried to coax the ponies awake that sleepy Saturday morning.

Ravage groggily opened his eyes to the ceiling, dimly lit by dawn light. He had considered avoiding Flitter and Cloudchaser, but pretty much crashed as soon as he lied down. It was now quarter past six in the morning, going by his internal clock. At about this time, he noticed the soft snoring and realized why he felt so hot, and restrained.

His eyes shifted left to find Flitter. Lying on her back with her limbs comically bent at several angles, she and Ravage’s head were supported by the same pillow, and their faces were pressed together at the cheeks. Shifting his eyes right he found Cloudchaser, who was lying on her side with her head using his right shoulder as a pillow. Oddly, she seemed much heavier than she should have been.

His eyes popped wide open when he felt a stirring near his groin. Like an autoscout probe, his head flexed up and forward. An earth pony mare had taken up residence between the top of his right hind leg and his chest, where her head lied. The new mare sported a full mane of wavy blue and purple tresses, and a tawny-brown coat. He had no idea who she was.

Ravage was a thread away from leaving the girls where they lied, and not only because of their revealed plan to use him as a plaything. He was unable to update the transmission logs of the galactic satellite he sent to his home world, and therefore had no reconnaissance, and no idea what was going on. Added to that, he was still unable to reach the Decepticons on Earth. All this made him reconsider transmitting at all, as hostile forces may be able to triangulate his position. From his studies with Twilight Sparkle he felt the possibility of Celestia-1’s magic interfering with his subspace radio transmissions was remote. As Twilight had pointed out, magic does highly specific things. In any case, he needed to get back to the ship.

The stallion bot had to be patient. One of his mission objectives was learning how magic worked, and if he wanted to see Princess Twilight Sparkle he had to keep up appearances. It was apparent that earth ponies and pegasi were not even taught magic, at least not in the detail that Twilight was prepared to go into.

He thought of his last conversation with Applejack, about how he thought he was stuck there. It sent a chill down his spine. If he was really there for the long term, possibly several years, or even decades, he needed to consider his options.

In the best case scenario the communication problem would be fixed, and he would be able to go back to Cybertron, but then all bets were off. Megatron’s orders would be fulfilled, and Equestria would be bombed into a lifeless desert of ash.

This did not sit well with Ravage. He had sat around with Twilight enough to know that blowing up the species that can control magic directly does not bode well for learning magic, and certainly not for using it as an energy source. And that was just the half of it.

The stallion bot heard Flitter let out a sleepy sigh, followed by the shifting of her body. She draped her left foreleg over his barrel, pulling herself in closer and cooing happily. Tacitly, he admitted to himself that he liked the contact; even the kisses weren’t that bad. Why deny it? Nevertheless, he frowned at the thought of his updated description. Ravage: Decepticon soldier; specialties included sabotage, espionage, and assassination. He was fast, fearsome, stealthy…

…And cuddly.

Well, in this world it was practically a requirement. He tried to take solace knowing that if he ever got back to Cybertron, these pony-inspired characteristics would be excised and thrown away like garbage.

In the worst case scenario, he would be cut off from Cybertron. Unfortunately, his most up to date data pointed to this grim reality. If it became intolerable, or he was forced out, he could fly another world. Alternatively, he could orbit the planet, or isolate himself on-world while he pushed ahead with his mission objectives, but he considered this to be inefficient and the answer of a coward, even if his time scale had advanced to years.

That left one other option, the ‘best bad idea’ as it were. He had a functioning pony body and the means to go wherever he wished. He liked ice cream and other pony foods. He could tolerate their affections. The Decepticons designed Ravage to live among the ponies, and by The Pit, that was exactly what he was going to do! That is, assuming he was really stuck there.

The organization of his thoughts and priorities allowed Ravage to relax. Feeling lulled back into sleep, he closed his eyes and slipped into unconsciousness.

=^.^=

Rainbow Dash slowly opened her eyes in the darkened room, lying on her side facing Pinkie Pie. Somepony had covered the windows with posters, and Pinkie’s frothy mane fogged up much of her limited view. Their faces were just an inch apart. Somehow, there felt more to it than that.

The awakened pegasus noticed another set of forelegs wrapped around her, from behind. They appeared grey looking in the dark. She craned her neck to see the cutie mark of this other pony.

And then she discovered more mares! One was jammed between her and Pinkie at the hind legs; another was cuddling Pinkie from behind; another smiling one had Rainbow’s tail entwined in her forelegs like taffy…

She was lying on top of a big one! She and Pinkie both used her as a pillow, as well as the one hugging Pinkie’s back, and…

Cloud Kicker! The perky blonde maned mare grabbed Dash more tightly and made a mewling sound, as if she delighted in doing so.

Rainbow remembered speaking to some of these girls, but never went to bed with them. And yet, there they were. With a downtrodden attitude, like when she realized she was an ‘egghead’ for enjoying a novel, she sighed.

I’m a mare magnet.

=^.^=

Twilight Sparkle sipped her black coffee and closed her eyes, letting its earthy flavours stir her senses. The shuffling of little dragon feet in the kitchen was accompanied by the muffled sounds of bees in the verge, and distant barking dogs. She let out a deep sigh of relief. “Thanks Spike. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“I’ve often asked that question myself,” he replied haughtily as he walked out of the kitchen.

The contemplative Princess ignored the bait for a round of verbal fencing with her assistant. She thought of Rainbow Dash, and had longed for her confident demeanor and warm body the previous night. She wasn’t jealous of Pinkie Pie, just the opposite in fact. While Dash was content with snuggling and kissing, Twilight yearned for more, and hoped that the rabidly excitable party pony made some headway in that direction. Yet, Rainbow’s absence wasn’t the only thing bothering Twilight.

Issues with Ravage were discussed with the girls in a short meeting the previous afternoon. They weren’t happy about catching Ravage in a lie, but immediately connected it with his unwillingness to talk about his past.

What really threw everypony for a loop was that their handsome, intelligent stallion prospect had no home. This was very difficult to believe, but Rainbow and Applejack had verified it. But why lie? For that matter what pony had even heard of Cybertron? Twilight was a high scorer in geography class, but as surely as the sun rose and set, she could not find it in her atlas.

For all the mystery, it was pretty clear that Twilight’s friends, even Applejack who abhors lying, wanted to give Ravage a helping hoof. Reluctantly, Twilight agreed. Nevertheless, she felt lucky to be with Rainbow Dash. In crediting the stalwart stallion for initializing the opportunity, she felt justified in providing aid as well.

Manipulating the door, and her coffee with her magic, the sleepy mare walked ponderously into the library proper, where her very early morning guest was perusing the atlas. “So, not from north of Froggy Bottom bog is he?” she said in a complaining tone. At least Rarity had the sense to checkout books while she was still at the library after the girls had their meeting.

Applejack decided to look at rivers, mountains, and other geographic features that were not towns or cities, attempting to locate Ravage’s elusive home. “You were there, Twi. Remember the Hydra? That was the day you started understandin’ Pinkie Sense.”

“I was expecting to actually find something north of it,” she replied indignantly. “Not just a lumber mill. What, you mean you knew there wasn’t anything there all along?”

“And Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash. And pretty much everypony else,” the focused farmer retorted as she scrutinized the northern areas of Equestria.

“Doesn’t it bother you that he’s obviously covering up were he’s from?”

“It does. Though Ah’m pretty sure that he really is from Cybertron.” The orange mare had expected Twilight’s confused look. “It was the way he said it. Ah’ believed him.”

The Princess let out a defeated sigh. The Element of Honesty condoned the notion of where Ravage was from. “I couldn’t find Cybertron in the atlas either.”

“Ah’ know. But when Ah’ asked if I could see an atlas, Ah’ meant world atlas.” Applejack enjoyed the way Twilight’s eyes lit up at the idea. “There are ponies all around the world, Twi, not just Equestria. He could have stompin’ grounds in the Minotaur Kingdom, or even the Griffon Lands.”

“Oh dear,” a humbled Twilight responded, blown away by the implication.

Egocentrism, the feeling that the world revolves around you, was rampant in Canterlot. It took the unworldly Twilight the better part of her adult life to shed that debilitating attitude, though threads of it still lingered. It took getting sent to Ponyville for the sole purpose of making friends. The neonate Princess actually assumed that Ravage must have been from Equestria by default! That’s why he didn’t know any party games. That’s why he didn’t know anything about hoofball, a sport played largely in Equestria.

Applejack waved her hoof in front of her buddy’s face, trying to get her attention. “Ya still with me?” she asked smugly.

Twilight shook her heard quickly, recomposing herself. “Yes. World atlas!” Her friend nodded in acknowledgement. “Unfortunately, atlases take up a lot of shelf space, and we only have the Atlas of Equestria in this library. The Canterlot Library has a complete collection though. I could easily have a world atlas sent in,” she said, smiling and tapping her front hooves together at the suggestion.

Applejack thought a bit on her friend’s suggestion. “Ah’ wouldn’t worry too much about it, Twi. Ravage’ll clue us in when he’s ready.”

“We can’t commit to helping him if he insists on being obstinate.” Key to aiding Ravage was that he eventually had to open up about where he was from, what he had done, and provide details. Being mysterious was romantic, but it was the farthest thing from practical.

“He don’t need our help.” Applejack shook her head at a disapproving Twilight. “He’s survived perfectly fine without it, and we’re gonna end up pushin’ him away if we keep askin’.”

“But you said -"

“‘Ah know what I said, and I will follow through if he pipes up. Ah’m just sayin’ to wait till he’s comfortable enough with us.”

Twilight didn’t know how to respond to that, but the high likelihood of him being from another country started flooding her brain with a river of new possibilities. Was he exiled? Was he a political refugee?

The newly relaxed Princess chatted with her farmer friend about relatively insignificant things and then bade her a good day. Her fears of not knowing much about Ravage were substantially abated from Applejack’s insight, and the librarian started preparing the morning lesson for him. She very much enjoyed teaching the earth pony about magic, and was thrilled at how easily he absorbed and understood the rather advanced concepts.

The lie, though silly, had tainted his image. Calmed by her friends mostly on the side of dismissing the fib, Twilight decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. Nopony was infallible.

=^.^=

Flitter laid a gentle kiss on Ravage’s cheek. “Wake up, sleepy head,” she whispered in his ear, and thought it cute when her date’s body slowly stirred back to life. “It’s nearly seven.”

The Decepticon stallion opened his eyes slowly, surprisingly tired after being so alert not even an hour ago. He rose to find Flitter joining the other two mares at the foot of the bed, conversing softly. Brushing a hoof over his somewhat tangled mane, he remembered that his top priority was to get back to the ship.

Weather Update: Storm Warning.

An inset appeared in his vision, detailing a storm system coming up from the south through the Everfree forest. It was about as powerful as the one he used to conceal his landing in Equestria, what a great start to the day. He almost did a double take while looking at the information as he noticed that the foreleg of the new mare had just pointed at him.

“Hi, I’m Sugar Gem,” the tawny mare introduced with a smile, as she exchanged a hoof bump. “Too bad you fell asleep.”

Armed with his new priorities, Ravage felt no need to discuss the previous night. “Is it time to go?”

“Anytime you’re ready,” replied the smiling Cloudchaser. She was already planning on asking him out after the next moonset. The crafty mare felt that he would crack eventually, and she and Flitter would be the first girls to partake! Regardless, even if he wouldn’t want to sleep with them, it was still fun trying.

The four ponies walked through the eerily quiet Warehouse and into the morning light.

Ravage felt Celestia’s sun on his face. Combined with the morning dew and cool air, it was invigorating. Still, his gait was somewhat lagging. “Do we have time to get coffee?”

“A stallion after my own heart,” Sugar Gem reveled. Still exhausted from the night’s festivities, she felt like sleeping on the nearest bench. “The train station market’s got good coffee.”

The excellence of the suggestion was echoed by Flitter and Cloudchaser as they plodded onward toward the Saturday morning market stalls. Alertness was maintained by Sugar Gem, who entertained them with a tale of one of her transoceanic voyages to the Griffon Lands, providing lavish detail about the males and females of other species she slept with. The pegasus listeners held on to every word.

The Decepticon disliked how this pony seemed to open herself up to other races so easily. The purpose of her journey was to examine unusual strata in a part of the world the ponies didn’t control. Considering a total of twenty days of transportation time, just two days were given to the task at hand, and that’s because she consumed too much of her first day – shopping! And socializing! She even went as far as to brag about getting up at noon with a Saddle Arabian mare she met in a foreign port. Such incompetence! Ravage got up before six every work day, no exceptions.

He quickly determined Sugar’s experience to have been useless. She and the clique he now found himself mingling in encouraged intimate contact, yet the entire scope of the date had been about keeping those mares off his hide. Now that he could identify them, taking care to avoid such groups of ponies would be part of his living strategy from here on in. The Elements of Harmony didn’t seem to gravitate toward such things. Perhaps getting closer to them was the solution, though he wouldn’t have to tolerate them for very long. When he returned to the base he intended to steal the statue that night.

Flitter yawned at length. “I can’t believe how tired I am. Ravage, do you think you can let me ride on your back?” she spoke a little too plainly, while the other two mares followed with yawns of their own.

“Do I look like a carriage?” the annoyed pony bot replied.

As they were passing through the newly opened market place, a large, grey unicorn stallion with an eye patch, and scars on his face and chest had taken notice of the group. While he was purchasing cucumbers, his ears had pricked up when he heard Ravage speak. Slowly, he turned his head toward the improbable source.

“Please?” Flitter pressed. Pushing Ravage’s buttons was fun, as he looked like he was just asked to fight off a Changeling army. She leaned against his shoulder mirthfully. “Pretty please?”

“No.” Why was she so persistent? “Look, that's not even done.”

“Sure it is. See!” she countered, pointing to a couple of foals riding on their father’s back.

The Decepticon pony recalled the foals that rode on his back at Bo and Micah’s evening gathering the previous Friday. It made him smile.

“Ah, I know that look,” prodded Sugar Gem, alluding to Ravage’s suddenly serene state.

“Hmm?” The pony bot found himself in yet another ‘second meaning’ in pony conversation he couldn’t comprehend. “What look?”

The girls tried to prevent themselves from snickering.

“I knew it,” Cloudchaser declared coolly. “You want foals.”

“What?” His female tormentors looked as if they were holding back their laughter. “Foals? You can’t be serious.” And with that, their laughter exploded like a burst dam. “Who says I want foals?”

Sugar Gem recovered first. “I’m sorry, Ravage. It’s just ironic to see sentimentality in a tough guy.” She nudged him with her hoof. “No hard feelings?”

Following just within earshot, the grey stallion listened in closely. They arrived at a coffee kiosk, and began waiting in the short line. Deciding it was low risk, the pursuing stallion got in line behind them.

Ravage was in the back, with the two pegasi in front of him. In front of them, the worldly earth pony took point. “Hmm. Standard two by two cover formation,” the stallion bot remarked.

“Relax ponies, I got this,” Sugar Gem asserted, enjoying the sighs of relief from her party worn associates. “What do ya want?” Flitter and Cloudchaser responded quickly while Ravage didn’t seem to understand Sugar’s generosity. “Ravage?”

He piped up, as if just being disturbed from his thoughts. “Double, double.” After trying various coffee combinations during his time in Equestria, this was the Decepticon’s favorite.

The group headed to one of the rustic tables placed beside the vendor, as Sugar Gem carried the coffees on a tray which she held in her mouth.

The pegasus mare who operated the stand immediately recognized the unicorn that walked up after them. “Scorchie! Long time no see.” The stallion put on a charming, if a little smug, face of recognition. “I’m surprised Spinner’s letting you have coffee so soon.”

“Spinner doesn’t know.” He kept a crooked smile on, looking directly at the server.

“Ahhhh, I gotcha. So, what’ll it be today?”

“I think I’ll try,” he began, still listening to the conversation Ravage and his comrades were having. “Double, double.”

=^.^=

Applejack became overburdened with curiosity and waited at the platform. She wanted to gauge Ravage’s behavior and compare it with her own experience as her herd was still very much interested in him. Friends first, then lovers was the wisdom used when seeking a stallion, and if it held up, then the Elements should be in good shape.

Twilight approached the platform as well, and noticed her earth pony friend waiting. “I’m here for Rainbow Dash. What’s your excuse?” she teased. Aster would be by to pick up her pegasus lover at around the time the magic lesson began. Before that, she intended to enjoy every precious minute with her Dashie.

“Ravage,” the orchard farmer smiled and shrugged.

“Good reason.”

A couple of ‘yoo hoos’ hailed from Twilight’s side. The girls turned toward the voice and found that Rarity had also wanted to wait at the platform.

“Good morrrrning!” she sing-songed, buoyantly trotting toward her friends.”

“Good morning,” Fluttershy replied from behind, causing all three to sway to her direction.

The Princess instinctively took charge. “Can I surmise that we’re here for the same reason?” she asked.

“I never got to see Ravage at all yesterday,” Fluttershy lamented, but then her expression reversed itself. “I was hoping he would want to come over for tea after your magic lesson.” Her eyes had closed as she started day-dreaming, but then felt Rarity’s presence, somewhat out of place. “Oh my, were you going to ask him the same thing?”

“An excellent suggestion Fluttershy, but no.” She stepped in around the middle of her friends, looking like she had a story to tell. “Now we’re all curious about how Ravage can be, how shall we say ‘homeless’, and yet keep himself handsome and presentable?” Her friends’ responses were of the affirmative. “How he can be so intelligent? Well mannered?” was met with more affirmatives. “It sounds like we’re on the same page then. Now, how about his cutie mark?”

“You said he got it when he was adjusting a telescope,” Twilight reaffirmed. Rarity had checked out some books on other peoples the previous afternoon. It looked like she was about to put her research to use.

“Astronomy is a popular hobby in Equestria,” Rarity indicated, pleased with the fact that her friends’ attention was focused solely on her. “It is an even more popular hobby in Saddle Arabia.”

“Okay,” Rarity’s alicorn friend figured, “Fully a third of the Equestrian Council of Astronomy members are Saddle Arabian.”

“They’re a very fashion-forward people,” Rarity giggled. “I’ve admired their work for a long time.”

“Whatcha gettin’ at, Rare?” Applejack wanted the point, not the buildup.

“I think that’s where he’s from.” Weathering her friends’ suspicious looks was expected. “Saddle Arabians will sometimes adopt the orphans of other cultures to help round out the family. This is akin to why Equestrian parents tend to have at least two foals so that the lessons of sharing are learned more solidly.”

“Lotta good that did ya,” Applejack jabbed, a sarcastic smirk appearing on her face.

“Unfortunately, some of the more unsavoury traditions still linger in that country, like what happens when families become merged through marital union,” the seamstress continued, giving Applejack a scolding glare. “Those that aren’t Saddle Arabian are expected to sojourn back to the nation from which they came. They may have to cross its breadth, or stay for a year, or some such. After that, they may be welcomed back into the family, but most tend to rebuild their lives in their birth nation.”

“That’s brutal!” Fluttershy cried out, but then her eyes lit up when she saw the seamstress’ point.

Rarity tried to comfort her sensitive friend. “They’re not completely unsupported, dear. Sojourners are given enough to scrape by, and they tend to become very efficient.”

“Whoah, let’s not jump to conclusions, girls,” the apple farmer suggested. “Ah’ mean, wouldn’t Ravage tell us something like that?”

“He could have taken a vow of silence. It’s been known to happen.” Rarity liked her pet theory, and didn’t want to give up easily.

“Saddle Arabia is scientifically astute, and has big, sprawling cities. Hmmm,” Twilight contemplated.

The ground started to rumble, cancelling their discussion. A gust of wind preceded the train as it slowed down at eight forty-five precisely; the squeal of the metal brakes dogged everypony’s sensitive hearing. Several doors opened, and a small crowd of ponies seeped out.

Twilight spotted Rainbow Dash with Pinkie and eagerly flew over to greet her.

Ravage had spent his ride in relentless blowing of air from multiple open windows. Even then it was still hot. Now, warm humid winds greeted him as he stepped onto the platform. At least it was fresh air. He was escorted by a trio of mares, including the one he just dated, assembled around him in a defensive triangle. He computed the distance to the base to be two point eight kilometers.

“I guess this is goodbye then,” Flitter spoke, looking a little sad. She faced Ravage. “So, what did ya think?” her words accompanied with an effeminate toss of her forelock.

The Decepticon took in the whole experience, summarizing it in his head. It was certainly duplicitous. The primary objective all along had been to feign reproduction, but that was restricted to short intervals during the date. What was good about it? His reminiscing of Cherry Moon put a smile on his face, and thus a smile on Flitter’s.

He supposed Pinkie Pie’s singing failed to impress him due to its intrusiveness.

His pegasus partner had indeed come up with a doozy, and Ravage wasn’t at all surprised when they were later joined by her best friend. He liked the alcohol, and liked the short bursts of dancing. Their friends, especially Octavia, also garnered approval from the Decepticon stallion.

Flitter herself was very attentive, and open-minded. Though her genetic needs vexed Ravage, she was actually fun. Always encouraging him to keep dancing, always smiling and coming up with new things to do, always there when he needed anything, the affectionate little pegasus delivered a good time.

The core problem was Flitter’s insatiable need to get Ravage into a level of intimacy he was neither prepared for, nor interested in. Twice! He couldn’t help but feel that by waking up in one piece he had somehow ‘survived’. Should he have forgiven them for being ponies? It didn’t seem right.

His entourage was edging away, obviously wanting to leave. “That was most excellent, Flitter. Thank you.” Siding with ratios of time, the majority he spent enjoying himself instead of resisting Flitter’s reproductive urges, he judged the time spent to have been a mostly positive experience. The pony bot was unsure of what to do next when Flitter jumped onto his neck, giving him a crushing hug to which Cloudchaser and Sugar Gem joined in.

The happy mares turned around and started to walk away. “Thanks Ravage, I had fun too,” Flitter winked. With one last kiss on his cheek, she turned to join her friends.

Right after spending the last twelve hours with Flitter and her ilk, Ravage pivoted his body, and faced yet another crowd of expectant ponies. “Howdy,” and “Good morning to you,” were offered at the same time. However, his eyes had already focused on the one silent mare, Fluttershy.

She was blushing badly, and she knew it, but this stallion was important to her. Steeling her nerve, she looked into his beautiful silver eyes. Again, she was so confident when she was last with him, but it was because she had built it up. Oh why couldn’t she just remain confident!

“Hi,” he replied quickly, giving Applejack and Rarity a quick look before returning to Fluttershy’s gaze.

The timid mare grimaced at the very sound of his voice, masculine, and to the point. It quickly morphed into a smile as she realized that he appeared as interested in her as she was in him.

Ravage noticed his eyes had been lingering on his yellow friend – and there’s that chest feeling again, perhaps best described as anxious. He was even more surprised to find that he had been smiling goofily, having slowly bared his teeth.

Fluttershy stepped up to Ravage, getting well within his personal bubble, their faces just a hoof’s width apart. “H – how did your date go?”

Her voice was delicate, her very breath coming off sweet and cool like ice cream. He had to swallow first before speaking. How long had his mouth been open? “It went well. There was a lot of activity – it was almost non-stop,” he described.

“I’m glad,” Fluttershy replied, gaining confidence. “I was spending time on the porch last evening, watching the animals. You won’t believe this, but the birds say that you should spend more time there.”

“The birds said that?”

Fluttershy closed her eyes, fondly remembering the breezy evening. “Yes. Oh, and Mister Raccoon said…”

Rarity and Applejack approached the rest of the Elements. Twilight and Rainbow Dash were both hugging while Pinkie took an interest in the conversation between Fluttershy and Ravage.

Applejack looked back upon the rather vibrant talk, and sighed forcibly. “Ah’ gotta feelin’ Fluttershy’s gonna be scorin’ more points than Flitter did.” The orchard farmer felt somewhat miffed at how easily her pegasus friend could carry a conversation with Ravage, while she seldom made it past his brick wall composure.

Rarity could only smile upon them, especially Fluttershy. She hoped her friend remembered everything she taught her about romancing a stallion.

Rainbow Dash was almost awed. “I’ve known Fluttershy a long time, and I’ve never seen her speak to a stallion like that,” she realized, all the while enjoying being under Twilight’s wings again.

“And without beating up any ponies!” Pinkie added.

Looking upon the pair, the Princess reacted with a smirk. “I think you’re right, Applejack,” she decided. “Just give him time. He’ll open up.”

Twilight and Rainbow Dash went to the library, where they expected Ravage shortly, and their friends similarly went about their business.

Ravage continued trying to describe the taste of white cider to the uncharacteristically inquisitive pegasus, who tried to reference it against the cider she was most familiar with.

“I have Sweet Apple Acres cider if you want to try it,” Fluttershy suggested, her confidence renewed. “Actually, I was wondering if you wanted to stop by for tea after your Magic lesson. Maybe even lunch.” She turned her head to the side. Though her mane covered up one eye, her other eye flourished, and eagerly looked up at Ravage for a response.

The pony bot perked up at the thought of spending more time with Fluttershy. This was hardly surprising as he knew he liked the yellow mare, but he was emotionally exhausted and had been away from his robot mode for too long. Most troubling was the way he felt around her; it was like nothing he’d ever experienced.

“Sure, I can come down at noon.” Whatever he felt around Fluttershy seemed toxic. He wasn’t sure if dining with her was a good idea.

=^.^=

The noble ponies had gathered in the throne room, and were getting anxious. Many had waited days to speak to their sovereign and some much longer than that. Court was typically a consistent affair. What could have been tying up their beloved Sun Princess?

Scorched Earth, dressed in full Night Armor, finished his report to Princess Celestia. He studied her face carefully for reactions to his news. She bore nothing but tranquility.

“You are certain that this was Ravage?”

“Yes m’lady. Positive,” he asserted with a nod. He would have gone to Princess Luna first, but didn’t want to disturb her slumber.

“Do you have any insights? Any suspicions?”

Luna’s apprentice was hoping for this. “Aye,” he began. “He has battle experience. I’d bet my horn on it!”

“On what do you base this notion?”

“The way he carries himself has the no-nonsense fashion of a soldier. He sits stock straight, and has a heightened sense of alertness about him.” He looked to the Princess to ensure he didn’t have to defend his words further. “How he regards his surroundings, like how he described his friends at the coffee stand, and referring to the foal in the nightmare as an asset were all very telling. Regardless of what he is, it was his steady nerves and quick wit that guided Feral and I, and won the night.”

Celestia narrowed her eyes, pondering the information. “I see.”

“My Princess, I may be reaching, but if I were to guess I’d say he’s had a command at some point. He’s definitely not a grunt.”

Her visage finally showed some additional emotion as she looked inward, digesting the information. “Anything else?”

“Maybe.” Scorched Earth paused, looking for the words. “He can’t handle mares, or so it seems.” That one got Celestia to raise one of her eyebrows. “With is assumed abilities, and the experiences he would have undergone to acquire them, he should have had the young mares he was with wrapped around his hoof, not the other way around. It looked odd.”

The Princess thought of her sister, and how Ravage so coldly refused her offer of courtship, surely a bounty for most stallions. Did he have a preference for being single? If so, why did he make three dates within a week, with two of them almost on top of each other? Trying to build a profile was not easy with this pony.

“Thank you, Major. That will be all.”

Scorched Earth bowed deeply, and exited the private room fluidly.

Celestia teleported to her private chambers. Another valuable source of information on Ravage was Twilight Sparkle. They’d become friends and, against all convention, he had become interested in magic. She levitated a scroll received from her former student during the Agriculture Conference yesterday afternoon. Not wanting to be rude, she had simply teleported it away for further reading. It was not enchanted in a way that identified it as an emergency.

Just hearing from Twilight was a pleasure for the Diarch, and so the scroll was levitated and opened up with great eagerness. As she read on, her eyes narrowed and her brow furrowed. With her magic, she quickly wrapped up and stored Twilight’s scroll. Silence pervaded her private space as she pondered.

“Homeless?”

The Solar Princess left her room at a regal pace. She knew she shouldn’t get too close to the lives of her little ponies, and that she should let them succeed and fail of their own accord, but her compulsion to get a closer look was difficult to ignore. Cordial ‘hellos’ from passersby were met with quick nods and even grunts.

What looked like an insignificant stallion just didn’t add up. Maybe it was nothing. Maybe circumstances found Ravage in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nevertheless, it had been Celestia’s experience that such details left unchecked tended to come back and bite you in the flank. Tapestries bowed and fluttered as she breezed by them, sometimes getting entwined in her tail, and yanked.

Experience showed that there was a thin line between being a casual observer with suggestions, and moving into action. She had lost her previous student due to lingering too long in the former, and she would not let that happen again! Her stride and girth made other ponies practically jump out of the way as she steamed toward the throne room.

Upon her arrival, a kerfuffle of ponies shifted their bodies to toward their leader, feeling relieved that they could begin.

“I’m sorry my little ponies, but something has come up. Please reschedule with Corporal Serenity. Again, my apologies.” She left the throne room as quickly as she came, getting away as one gets away from a disturbed wasp nest.

=^.^=

Two point four kilometers,’ Ravage calculated. He covered just a fraction of the distance to his base, but it felt like an achievement. Fluttershy’s proximity had increased his metabolic rate, and made his heart beat faster. The way he felt around her was as unique as it was new. To a Decepticon, any experience that could not be qualitatively or quantitatively understood was a threat. He shouldn’t have agreed to have lunch with her. Distance was the only solution.

A sudden flash of light interrupted his progress.

“Uh, the library is over there,” Twilight pointed with her hoof.

“Oh – uh, yes! The library.”

“You didn’t forget our nine o’clock magic session did you?”

“No, no. I – really need to eat though,” he spoke truthfully.

His alicorn pursuer cocked a single eyebrow. “Ah, then you can have breakfast at the library,” she responded primly.

With a flash, and a surprising amount of heat, Ravage’s surroundings changed from staring south in Ponyville to staring east at the library’s kitchen. Five seconds after the event, his jaw was still pried open. Till then the space bridge was the most advanced form of transportation known to him, but it paled in comparison to this! Was this also teleportation? Of course, Skywarp could teleport, but a flesh creature doing it with her mind was a wonder to behold. Suddenly, a towel was magically flung over his neck.

“Go shower up, Ravage. We’re going to be learning about fourth order Cometian matrices today!” Twilight looked exceedingly pleased. “Spike!” she called out. “Could you make some breakfast, please?”

An hour later, the showered and fed Decepticon pony finished up a ‘pop quiz’. Apparently, this was some sort of dastardly thing that Equestrian teachers did to their students to force them to stay sharp.

“And time!” Twilight chirped. Her pupil was done five minutes into the fifteen minute pop quiz, but never tried to hand it in. His double checking was as cursory as the initial writing.

Ravage yawned.

His teacher smiled. “At least you got to have fun last night. I was up till one in the morning figuring out the details for the Science Needs More Love presentation.”

“May you thrust Equestria firmly into the realm of science, and mercilessly beat down all superstition,” he said flatly, eyes half closed.

Twilight giggled, “And may you prove to society what a stupid superstition concentrating nearly all magical education on unicorns is.” She looked at Ravage’s finished quiz. “Hmmm. Okay, no more Mrs. Nice Mare,” she declared. Though happy about Ravage's excellent comprehension, she clearly had to make her quizzes harder.

Twilight’s lecture on Cometian matrices was dry but informative. The ability to enchant objects seemed insignificant next to the ability to understanding what is actually going on during an enchantment. Ravage was reading several pages on the subject as instructed when a flashing green warning box superimposed itself upon a corner of his field of vision.

Proximity Alert: Unit Princess Celestia.

The pony bot squinted, a little confused. An inset with details of Equestria’s supreme ruler scrolled down under the alert. Was the satellite system broken? Celestia should be up in Canterlot ruling a country of millions, not dashing into the library at random hours of the day.

Hearing a single set of hooves approach the front door behind him, Ravage held a hoof to his chest in vain as adrenaline slowly began accumulating in his bloodstream.

The door opened, and Twilight became ecstatic. “Princess Celestia!” she gushed, bowing before her mentor.

Doing the smart thing, Ravage bowed as well. Celestia’s gaze was firmly fixed on her former student. He found it startling just to look at the Day Princess. As he already noted, she was so different from the standard issue mare, with her animated, prismatic mane and tail, and elongated proportions.

“Twilight, you do not need to bow to me anymore,” she regally spoke, her voice smooth, and replete with her cheery and relaxed disposition. The oversight was easily forgotten when the younger Princess ran up and hugged the white alicorn.

“Celestia, t-this is Ravage,” Twilight introduced, stammering a little when referring to her mentor without her title. Old habits die hard.

The Decepticon stallion kept staring at her incomprehensible size when she thrust a gold-clad hoof in his face, looking upon him expectantly. It was bent down at an angle, not straight. Figuring it to be one of the social customs modified for royalty, he secured it with his left hoof, and performed an angular hoof bump with the other.

Celestia giggled. “Goodness!” Of all the millennia she’d lived, she observed no behavior quite like that.

Twilight was mortified.

Ravage knew he did something dreadfully wrong, but kept his cool. What else could he do? Offending Princess Celestia was inevitable, and all he wanted to do was get back to the ship – without any ponies tracking him.

“Hello Ravage.” The ancient alicorn was happy that this pony was not tripping over himself with fear for having made such a small etiquette faux pas, even though he was the sole reason she was at the library. Princess Sparkle and her herd developed a romantic interest in him almost immediately, and as robust and far seeing as the Elements of Harmony were, Celestia couldn’t help feel that there was something of contrivance that poisoned the whole affair. It didn’t help that her sister seemed to be under the same spell. The Sun Princess would definitely be talking to Princess Cadance later.

“Hello,” Ravage replied, studying her mane, wondering why it rippled like waves on a pond. “You have me at a disadvantage.”

Celestia started walking in the direction of her former student. “Twilight had written about you in all of her letters to me, ever since she first met you.”

“Oh?” Looking at Twilight, she was blushing badly, and turning her head to the side to hide half her face. It appeared that pony reconnaissance was alive and well after all.

“Erm, Ravage and I were in the middle of a Magic lesson,” Princess Sparkle explained.

“I know you were, Twilight. May I observe your lesson? You had written high praise of Ravage’s learning ability, and suggested how other earth ponies and pegasi should be just as capable of learning Magic theory.”

The pony bot had calmed down to where he was before the ruler arrived. “And you’re interested in knowing whether they can utilize Magic theory,” he added.

That one got a wry smile from Celestia. “Yes,” she said plainly.

Her mentor’s expression surprised even Twilight. “Well then, let’s continue shall we?”

Over the next hour Celestia watched them, commenting here and there, but not interfering. She was struck by Ravage’s insightfulness, odd behavior notwithstanding.

Spike made them delicious tea, and the Sun Princess rewarded him with a bounty of rubies, to which the little dragon transcended from obedient to obsequious. Celestia suggested that he show some of the gems to Rarity, which inspired the young drake to go visit her.

Princess Sparkle asked Ravage if he could review the basic points of enchantment, and he did without so much as a bump in his exposition.

A soldier,’ Celestia thought, and one predicted to have combat experience, something over ninety percent of Equestrian soldiers that weren’t involved in the changeling invasion didn’t have. It was hard to believe. Adding to the weirdness was that none of that information about him was even encountered until he interacted with the dream world. It certainly made a good case for Luna’s magical bond with him.

“... Third and fourth thaumic fields are involved when the enchantment is to last over a year,” Ravage continued.

This pony evaded five hundred of Luna’s elite guard.’ Celestia maintained a serene face, though truly impressed with Ravage’s grasp of magical knowledge. Nevertheless, not even an alicorn should be able to get away from Luna, at least not without some sort of clandestine assistance.

“Do you remember how the dam changes gravitational energy into magic that can be used by pumps and other appliances found all over Ponyville?” Twilight quizzed.

“Your power grid?” Ravage clarified, before explaining how the energy of moving water was literally deflected and turned into mechanical energy for devices found all over the Ponyville district.

A great weight was suddenly lifted off of Celestia’s mind. Ravage said ‘your’. After considering the jumble of inconsistencies that swirled around him, everything finally started to make sense. There were high odds that this pony was not Equestrian.

According to Twilight’s letter, he was from a place called Cybertron. Even Celestia had never heard of it, and it torched off her suspicions about Ravage’s nationality. One possibility was Saddle Arabia, but orphans in that country have never been allowed into the military. Ravage’s evasion capabilities could only have been learned from master tacticians.

Who was he? Regardless of origin, ponies, and all peoples in fact, were born, raised, and did things in their adult lives. Ravage did not figure even in this simple equation. He just showed up in Ponyville one day, bearing no home, or even scarring indicative of homelessness. It was as if he had fallen from the sky.

Celestia chuckled, grabbing the attention of the teacher, as well as her student who had just finished his exposition. “Well Ravage that was certainly a detailed and correct explanation.”

“Thank you.” He liked that her expression gave so few clues as to what she was thinking. Was she as good at hiding her motives as he was? Decepticons approved of such a trait.

Celestia made her move. “Ravage, I would like to hear you address why it would be fruitful to study Magic.”

“You mean, what good would knowledge of Magic be for a pony who isn’t a unicorn,” Twilight clarified.

The three encountered a brief pause. Celestia was expectant, Twilight was worried, and Ravage – well, Ravage answered the Sun Princess with unshakable confidence. “While it is not possible for pegasi or earth ponies to use magic directly, these groups can be of significant value. Consider that throughout his lifetime Starswirl the Bearded only created around two hundred spells. In fact, it takes years for a unicorn to develop his knowledge of magic to the extent to where he can write complicated new spells useful to science, industry, government, and society in general. Most unicorns don’t, presumably because they are too busy with extant spells, not to mention their adventures and responsibilities in life. Now enter the pegasi, and the earth ponies. Armed with the appropriate knowledge, they could write spells. Greatly useful would be ad hoc magic and spells for repeated tasks; on assembly lines for example. With precision, speed, and economy, stitches could be sewn, goods could be packaged, wood could be sawed, wheat could be separated from chaff; I think you can see where I am going with this.” He looked the two Princesses over, and noted that they seemed riveted to his words. “Unicorns don’t have to be entirely responsible for spending the years and even decades of first understanding, and then writing magic. Essentially, the pegasi and earth ponies could choose to be programmers, to which the unicorns, using their natural gift of manipulating magic, would be the end users.”

The Princesses didn’t speak. They just stared, incapable of forming a response.

“Language is language, my Princesses, and none are more executable than the language of Magic,” the pony bot proceeded, bowing gently to both of them.

Ravage did not look smug. He didn’t even seem to care, and it shook Celestia to her core, even if her mastery over her impulses hid it. Pegasi and earth ponies never wrote any spells. Never! It was simply not within their skill sets. They did not feel the thaumic fields like unicorns were able to. “You feel that pegasi and earth ponies should write spells?”

“Certainly. The singer of a song does not have to be the writer,” Ravage countered, deriving his example from firsthand experience.

“Yet the unicorns have cradled the discipline of Magic since the dawn of civilization.” The outwardly serene, inwardly stunned alicorn knew she was losing the debate.

“That is a problem of conformity,” Ravage rebutted. “Any civilization, no matter how meritorious, will repeat the same mistakes through generations, as long as its citizenry are content to copy whatever it was their parents did.” Having seen countless generations of flesh creatures spring up and die within their cosmic lifespans, the Transformers saw the errors of conformity as just characteristics of whatever flesh creature race they happened to be dealing with.

Twilight was as wide-eyed as when the world was new. “I – I can’t believe we’ve never thought of that.” She looked to Celestia, who was as calm as an evening breeze on a pond. “Princess Celestia, I want Ravage to serve me as an adviser on my Science Needs More Love presentation.” The Element of Magic had considered asking Ravage this ever since he started learning from her. Now that he had demonstrated his knowledge, she was certain.

Celestia did not answer immediately. The stallion she came to observe was no construction worker. She had heard enough, and it was time to carry out her next task, which was to determine if he was a friend of Equestria, or a foe. The first step was containment.

Ravage looked at his inset clock; it was going on noon. If he didn’t get out soon, he might run into Fluttershy.

“Well Twilight,” the Day Princess began as she sidled up to the right side of Ravage’s head. “There is the small matter that Ravage is homeless,” she pointed out, and then extended her long neck over the pony bot to his left side, “And that he intends to take my sister out on a date. Isn’t that nice,” she embellished with rare sarcasm as she moved away from the stallion.

“Well, I,” Twilight started to babble. She had no response to that. What was Ravage really going to do when he dated royalty?

The Decepticon wanted to neither serve Twilight, nor date Celestia’s capricious sister, and bided his time.

Celestia looked at Ravage calmly. “Cybertron is not a place in Equestria. Am I right?”

“Correct,” he answered honestly. He could hear Twilight gasp lightly. Applejack turned one small fib into a nightlong experience. What would Princess Celestia have done?

The Day Princess continued her ruthless march. “I had never heard of Cybertron myself, so I visited the Paymaster General. She said that no work visas with your name were activated within the last month.” She was lying through her teeth, of course, but she needed to speed this process up. The more quickly he confessed to working illegally, the faster she could contain the problem. Perhaps, she could even arrange for him to meet Luna on a regular basis. The Moon Princess was really a nice pony under her tough exterior.

Twilight was shocked. “You don’t have a visa?!”

“No.” Ravage frowned, as his lack of knowledge of pony society was getting him into trouble. How he tired of dealing with alicorns. It also occurred to him that Twilight recognized his likely origin was from outside of the pony nation.

“Twilight, what is the punishment for working illegally in Equestria?” Celestia prompted.

The younger Princess bit her lower lip in trying not to blurt out her words too quickly. “Banishment, even prison if the pony tries to return.” She spent so much time getting to know Ravage, her student. Delightful experiences they were, and the thought of it all ending because he was working did not sit well with Twilight. Moreover, she and her herd were developing an increasing interest in him. “Princess Celestia, there has to be another way.” Looking over to him, it was unbelievable how calm he was in the face of such weighty justice.

Celestia noted the use of her title, and chose her next words carefully. She also suspected that this falsely innocuous earth pony would simply break out of any dungeon he was incarcerated in. “Perhaps,” she spoke, shifting her gaze toward the acuminous stallion, “But Ravage would have to agree to go along.”

It was past noon. The Decepticon just needed to agree to whatever terms she vomited up so he could leave. “While I strongly disagree that it is the Diarchy’s business of where I choose my employment, I do not wish to cause trouble.”

“Excellent.” Smiling, Celestia stood on all fours, and her horn glowed. A shiny, silver stamped card teleported from out of thin air, which she levitated down to the table beside Ravage – a train pass! “Perform what tasks you need to before you go. Inform your boss that you can no longer work for her. Gather your things. Settle your affairs. I expect you at the Canterlot Main Station for nine pm sharp, tomorrow.” She casually stepped in front of Ravage and lowered her eye level to his. “Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, Princess. Perfectly.” Just like that, studying this world from the safety of orbit was put back on the table. He knew Ponyville was a bad idea, and Celestia single-handedly ruining his Magic education just proved it, yet he spared little emotion.

Twilight was very surprised at Celestia’s laundry list of manipulations. She really seemed to go on the offensive after Ravage’s show of brilliance. It didn’t make any sense, but it wasn’t over yet. “I intend to keep teaching him, you know.”

“Of course, Twilight,” the Mare of the Day agreed cordially. “I will schedule in lesson times for you once he’s settled in Canterlot.” If he turned out to be hostile, he was only an earth pony. Celestia believed she and her sister were far better suited to be in his midst, whereas her former student could be become victimized. She opened the front door with her magic and started walking toward it.

“Please wait!” the young Princess demanded. This was all happening so fast. The white alicorn halted her progress, and looked over her shoulder waiting for Twilight to continue. “Why are you taking him to Canterlot?” She tapped her barrel with her hoof. “I can take care of him. He doesn’t need to work.”

Ravage silently declared the overbearing white mare an enemy of Cybertron. ‘May Megatron’s fusion blast find your pathetic little head!’ “Does a visa dictate where I choose to live?” he questioned, presuming that it was some sort of form that was being discussed.

Showing rare emotion, Celestia sighed, looking at the ground. “Ravage, I can get your visa prepared faster if the Guard isn’t looking for you. Since you have already broken the law, there will indeed be conditions that dictate where you can live. After that,” she began, not wanting to show any of her cards, but knowing she had to explain to Twilight why he must remain in Canterlot for the next while, “I have more questions for you.” She leaped out the doorway and took flight, teleporting soon after.

It was well after noon now. “I need to go,” the stallion bot stated plainly.

“Certainly, Ravage.” Twilight smiled, truly impressed with the earth pony’s fortitude in such a tense atmosphere, and extremely impressed with his logic and scientific demeanor. She went up and hugged him, and he hugged back. “Don’t worry. I’ll be talking to Princess Celestia about this.” She saw that stallion withdraw his forelegs, probably wanting to go. “Enjoy your tea with Fluttershy, okay?”

“Thank you, Twilight. You’ve been most gracious.”

=^.^=

Ravage left Twilight’s in a hurry, looking around for Fluttershy. Tea time was cancelled as far as he was concerned. If he wasn’t careful, he could soon be confronting Celestia. With innumerable resources at her disposal – many of them magical – his desire to remain in Ponyville was reducing itself by the minute. Finding out what happened to the probe he sent to Cybertron was top on his list of priorities.

He noticed that the warm morning winds had calmed, leaving an uncomfortable, muggy heat. The sky was full of pegasi. Half were scrambling, but the other half assumed tight formations, mostly V-shapes and wedges. Their altitude was specific, and they formed a front line on the southern edge of town. An armored column of nearly fifty more pegasi approached from the north.

Twilight’s lectures on Magic included a significant historical element, whereupon the pegasi actually made war on other ponies. The Decepticon idly wondered what it must have been like to be a pony that fought these creatures thousands of years ago, creatures who wielded weather like a weapon. The terror they must have unleashed – why didn’t they become masters of this world? Ravage saw a chilling parallel between his musings and the war for Cybertron that lingered for eons.

He negotiated an inordinate amount of rushing, frightened ground traffic. Parents hastily herded foals, and protective wooden shutters were closing over windows everywhere. The shops were closing – on Saturday, at noon. In the distance the pony bot could see that Applejack had long since packed up her store front, with the aid of her brother no less.

The sky darkened, and his coat felt relief as the sun was blocked out. Looking south above the tree line he saw the anvil of a storm cloud approaching, just like his satellites had warned him five hours ago.

Rainbow Dash zipped to and fro like a laser beam, but eventually stopped to address what must have been over two hundred pegasi in well-formed ranks. She shook her head, and her forelegs made pushing-away motions. Then suddenly, all the fliers scattered, save for the armored pegasi which descended into the streets in an orderly fashion.

“Um, Ravage…” he heard a pony call out softly.

“Fluttershy?” Ravage knew he heard a familiar voice, and probed to the left and to the right to find it out. Turning around, he saw Fluttershy, and she was frightened. “What’s going on?”

“You don’t know?” She suddenly became concerned. How could Ravage not know? He was a newcomer, yes, but all ponies were supposed to have been educated in how to act when a powerful storm rolls in. “Ravage, we need to get inside!” she exclaimed, though at a volume the level of conversational speech.

The confused stallion’s left foreleg was unexpectedly tugged by a hovering Fluttershy, in a very unusual show of assertion, toward her cottage. She flew on, and he followed. ‘Walk away, Ravage. Just walk away,’ he prodded himself. The distance to the ship was only two kilometers. If it stormed, he could easily take the river and use the underwater access to get in.

Ravage had his satellites scan the storm while he scoured an inset map of the local area for options; the storm exceeded five megatons in water weight. He found a path behind Fluttershy’s that led directly into the Everfree. He would take that!

The warm winds suddenly turned cold, and picked up speed as he crossed the little bridge into her yard. Against the mottled, darkened sky her cottage loomed like a cenotaph. Just meters from her front door, he stopped.

He felt like he was being pulled in all directions. Fluttershy and his ship were big forces. Celestia had weak pull, but he was nearly certain that she could figure out he wasn’t a pony. Ultimately, that left two choices.

On the right, he could choose to go around her house, forget about Ponyville, disappear in the Everfree, and remain in the safety of his ship, forsaking everything he’d accomplished here. He could orbit until his energon stockpile had grown sufficiently and fly to another world, of which he was likely to be the only sapient being. He could also choose the riskier option and fly to another part of the world he was on. Either way, freedom was costly.

He could choose the left hand path. Fluttershy had a hold on him like no other, and he was well aware of this. Going in there would only raise her sway over him, further rooting him to Ponyville, and increasing the risk that Celestia would find him out. If he went back to the ship, he could transform. All this touchy-feely flesh creature nonsense would vanish in a cacophony of shifting body plates.

“Ravage?” Fluttershy was at the door calling to him, just as he had shifted his body to go around the cottage. “Please come inside. It’s safe.” She moved to one side of the door frame and gestured with her foreleg, pointing to the inside of her home.

The Decepticon stallion stared into her bright blue eyes, full of emotion. Wisps of her mane blew on the wind dancing around that adoring smile, opened just a sliver and showing enamel. Ravage had come to understand that there was something hidden behind the face: her true intent. She did not just suggest he come in for his own safety. She wanted him in. The very notion made his heart flutter.

A loud thunderclap shook the ground. Fluttershy instantly became terrified and zipped back into the cottage, leaving the door swinging wide open.

“Fluttershy?” Ravage went in after her. His instincts were screaming against doing so, but he pushed ahead.

The interior was warm and homey, contrasting against how very dark it was, especially with most of the window shutters closed. Activating his infrared, he followed the faint heat prints left by her hooves to the other side of the room, behind a couch. Rounding the piece of furniture, he first saw her tail, and then her body, balled up tightly with her hooves over her ears. Flashes of lightning lit the sky. Another thunderclap rumbled, this one louder than the last, and it made the gentle mare squeal as if in agony.

The door closed without warning, making the room even darker. Ravage peeked over the couch to see that it was Angel that did it, looking annoyed at the stallion.

Ravage turned off his infrared. Ponies couldn’t see heat if they tried, at least not without magical assistance. He had an idea of how to reach her, but he had to first immerse himself in the same environment.

Even in the darkened space he could see that the meek mare was shivering. “Fluttershy?” In spite of the darkness, her eyes opened. “You’re safe, Fluttershy,” he said plainly. Another lightning flash lit the room. Her eyes closed tightly awaiting the inevitable. Sure enough, the thunder clapped, and she jumped and squealed again.

She had a problem with thunder, irrational though it was. “The thunder can’t hurt you,” he reasoned. Another lightning flash was followed by more thunder which caused the little mare to squeak yet again. She hadn’t even addressed his logic.

Rain began to patter outside the cottage, and on the window shutters.

Fluttershy didn’t seem to be afraid of lightning, which was the thing she should really have been afraid of, yet it was the thunder that made her almost catatonic. Ravage rubbed his chin with his left hoof while he digested this data.

He interfaced with his satellites to prepare on inset image of an electrostatic readout of the storm. Whenever there was lightning, the charge would easily be seen as a specific colour. The distance from the lightning burst to his current position would then be calculated, as well as the precise time the thunder would take to reach Fluttershy’s cottage.

The stallion bot lifted the corner of the couch with a hoof, and waited. “Fluttershy, you have nothing to fear.” Again, the shivering mare opened one eye. She opened her mouth, but could not speak. The rain was coming in a heavy downpour now. Another bright flash of lightning scared the little pony into welding her eyes shut once again.

This time Ravage was ready. He let the couch leg drop at half a second before the thunderclap precisely. As if preprogrammed, Fluttershy jumped at the impact, but then opened her eyes, looking puzzled. As she did, the real thunder arrived, but the jolt of fear it inspired was somewhat subdued.

Ravage lifted the couch at the leg again. The half perplexed, half frightened pegasus was still trying to figure out what he was doing. “The thunder can’t hurt you,” he addressed. The next lightning flash was again accompanied by the dropping of the couch just as the thunder came in.

And so, a pattern was established. After a few cycles of this, Fluttershy’s ears unpinned themselves, and she relaxed visibly, eventually not shutting her eyes after the lightning flash.

Abruptly, a very bright flash of light reflected off everything. Fluttershy got down, but this time she watched as her guest held the couch up. He dropped it down causing her to shake, but her curiosity overrode the tangible instinct to jump just as the thunder clapped monstrously. She was expecting it, and though she reacted to it she kept her cool, very much like Ravage in fact. “H – How are you doing that?” she queried. Rain poured fiercely outside.

“I could ask the same of you.” He held up the piece of furniture again. “Should we try it without the couch?”

“I still don’t know how you…” she began when another great flash of lightning lit up the windows. She braced herself.

The thunder came with authority, long and violent, but Fluttershy never went down, nor even did more than wince. It was frightening, but she maintained full control.

Ravage put the couch down gently. “There you see? Nothing to fear.” He looked around the dark cottage. “Perhaps we should turn on the lights?”

The puzzled pegasus went to spots in the kitchen, living room, and other areas doing just that. Did Ravage have a gift for knowing when the thunder was coming? His cutie mark certainly didn’t sport such a fact. The question was buried quickly, however, when she remembered the original reason for having him here. “Shall we have tea?” She brightened up at seeing him, and even more from his response of ‘yes’. It thundered more, causing the meek mare to shiver a little, but it was a far cry from being stranded on the floor in the darkness.

It was unbelievable, the difference Ravage’s help made. Her own friends never got this far. It thundered again and just as she felt a rumble in her stomach, making her laugh.

“You find thunder and lightning funny now,” the stallion bot ventured.

“If it’s alright with you, I think we should make lunch,” the relieved pegasus suggested.

The pony bot put his hooves to his own stomach, feeling how empty it was. He nodded. “Agreed.”

=^.^=

Lunch had been another exploratory affair, this time with Ravage helping Fluttershy make grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, spiced up with Manehatten Medley and parsley. Apple juice was the drink of choice. As with the lasagna meal, it was most delicious.

After cleaning up, they settled down in front of the fireplace. Basking in its warm radiance made a gentle temperature gradient from their forelegs to their flanks. Though it was raining out and still thundering softly, it did little to perturb the cheerful mood of Fluttershy as she adjusted the glowing logs with a poker. The kettle started wailing as steam rushed out its spout. “I’ll get the tea,” she assured.

Ravage felt comfortable; perhaps too comfortable, and it had little to do with the comfortable carpet he was sprawled out on. He knew that he embarked on a journey with a mare quite different from what he experienced from Flitter and Cloudchaser. Just being in Fluttershy’s company felt better than any of the other pony’s so far. Sure, Flitter orchestrated a fun and exciting date, but it really only seemed to be geared toward one thing. The experience with the Element of Kindness felt more ‘cerebral’, though Ravage couldn’t think of a better way to describe it.

The tea was of some sort of composition based largely on orange and something nutty, and was just as relaxing as the other brews he had with her so far. What was different this time was that they both enjoyed it to the sound of the rain, which had slowed down considerably since the start of the storm. With their tea cups back in their trays, they just stared into the small, but ember-hot fire.

Ravage felt Fluttershy cuddle against the right side of his body. He was alright with this. It was more efficient to maintain body heat with her soft, warm fur against his side.

Like each mare he had encountered, Fluttershy had her own assortment of scents accompanying her. Mares always smelled like that, sporting some sort of floral, fruity, spicy mix. But there was also her own scent, the ‘just Fluttershy’ scent, that entertained his olfactory sensors, particularly since it wasn’t the same all the time.

Fluttershy leaned in against his body and rubbed her cheek on his neck. “Ravage?” By her own actions, it was obvious she had more than a passing interest in him. Perhaps it was time to crank it up a notch.

“Hmm?” He maneuvered his left cheek onto the back of her head, enjoying the smell of her shampoo.

“Thank you for helping me.” She smiled, impressed by how far she’d come. “You’re right. Thunder can’t hurt me. I guess you’ve never been afraid of it.”

“Not even once.”

Fluttershy nodded. “I wish I was stronger.” She knew her desire to be more assertive would need to assume more forms than showing a stiff back, and Ravage seemed to be a good template. “I’m so afraid all the time. It’s really stymied my past relationships.”

Ravage wasn’t expecting this. Nevertheless, he felt compelled to iron out any logical flaws. “You confuse strength with toughness.”

Fluttershy didn’t feel confused. “What do you mean?”

It appeared that he had to spell it out for her. “Strength refers to available power. Applejack has great strength; Princess Luna has enormous strength.”

The pensive mare tried to understand what Ravage was saying. “Princess Luna has a lot of available power, yes.”

Satisfied she was following, Ravage continued. “Toughness is the ability to resist depreciative forces. Through this, you can work longer and harder, ignore pain and cold and hunger, ignore exhaustion and run ten miles when you would normally run five.” He couldn’t see her face, so he assumed she was listening. “You have to get the job done. Do you follow?”

The yellow mare winced at having to withstand distasteful conditions. “Yes,” she answered.

“Toughness is a virtue that is irrespective of strength. You can be the smallest one in your group, but that doesn’t mean you can’t outlast them.” This pretty much described Ravage’s life as a Decepticon.

It sure sounded to Fluttershy like she needed to toughen up if she was going to pursue Ravage. No more hiding under the sheets during a thunderstorm, at the very least! “Oh my…”

Ravage placed a foreleg over his demure friend’s. “You’re tougher than you think, Fluttershy.”

She wondered if it was really possible to become a tougher pony. Only time would tell on that one. “Well, my Element is Kindness,” she said proudly.

“Ah yes, kindness,” Ravage wondered aloud. “I fear I lack understanding of its place in society.”

Now Fluttershy did a double take. “You – what?”

“What is kindness,” he postulated, looking up and holding a hoof under his chin. “And what is its purpose?”

He was being serious! How could he not know what kindness was? “Why did you give that filly your ice cream?” Fluttershy challenged.

“Last weekend? Her wailing was hurting my ears.”

Fluttershy’s heart sank. She didn’t want to believe it. “You could have walked away. You could have –”

“I could not walk away,” Ravage corrected.

She was stopped in her tracks – this was her fault! She had to fix this. The flustered mare needed to convince Ravage of his kind act. “I should have offered to carry your cone. I’m so sorry,” she pleaded. Flitter or Winter would have offered to take his cone, no questions asked. Again, it seemed like her timidity had interfered with a pony she liked.

“It’s okay, Fluttershy. Everything turned out alright.”

She was shaking her head, looking for an angle. “Wait.”

Ravage paid attention, waiting for possible new data from his yellow friend.

“You gave her your ice cream after the outburst.” Fluttershy was smiling now, realizing there was only one reason Ravage would have done that. Peering his way, he looked nonplussed at her statement. “That was an act of kindness,” she smiled proudly.

Ravage deliberated on this.

“Kindness is being nice to ponies,” Fluttershy defined.

“It sounds to me like kindness is expending your time and energy in order to improve the situation of another, with no return for your effort.” he hypothesized.

Fluttershy was stunned again. The speed with which her guest grasped concepts and then twisted them around was astonishing. She had to try to keep up. “That’s not true.” Quickly, she marshaled

her thoughts. It felt as if her own Element was under attack! “If all ponies help each other out when they have trouble, then the return for your effort is somepony helping you when you have trouble.”

Ravage thought about Fluttershy’s improved description. “So, kindness is a virtue of society, propagated by individual acts.” His friend’s smiling mouth opened widely. “But,” he started to counter, making her mouth close and grimace. “That would require that all individuals in that society to act kindly,” he finished, causing his pegasus friend to sigh. “I assure you, this is not the case.” In his short stay, he had heard ponies speak of as many acts that ran counter to kindness, as acts that condoned it.

The tiring mare’s head hung a little. “There are a lot of unkind ponies out there, even in Ponyville.” Her face had evened out to a neutral expression. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to improve it.”

“Is that your mission as the Element of Kindness?”

“Mission?” Fluttershy was more than a little curious with the notion. Was she more than just part of a weapon to defend against the likes of Discord and Nightmare Moon? As the living embodiment of Kindness she was to set an example of what it was. “I’ve always been kind to ponies and creatures alike. I think it’s ironic that it’s been the creatures that learned from my kindness, and not the ponies.”

“I’m having trouble wrapping my head around kindness, as you had just proven,” Ravage provided. “Perhaps other ponies are experiencing similar hurdles.”

What could she do? How could she get ponies to be kinder to one another? She had been a sterling example of kindness, yes, but she had been passive. Should she take a more active role with her Element? “I think all ponies are capable of kindness.”

Ravage shifted his body, placing his head between his forelegs. He felt Fluttershy snuggle in closer, with her snout against his cheek. In the ever receding rainfall, and lukewarm fire, both ponies drifted into an afternoon nap.

An hour later, Fluttershy rose to find she had been snuggling a pillow. Ravage was gone.

=^.^=

The moonrise was slow that night. Between the shadows the land was still and wet, never glistening colder and brighter than since Nightmare Moon’s return.

On Princess Celestia’s balcony, two figures stood parallel to each other, looking south of Canterlot. Neither talked. Both had eyes that were narrowed in contemplation.

Luna activated the Night Dweller spell, her eyes becoming opaque white orbs while she searched for Ravage. Deactivating the spell, she looked to her sister, and shook her head. “If he had so much as a single spider within his dwelling, I could find him,” she assured. “But nothing.”

“Then nopony knows where he is,” Celestia concluded. In reality, she had a pretty good idea of where his dwelling was, made all the more impressive that he could keep it free of insects and other small creatures.

Luna also had a pretty good idea of where he was, because of the bond she shared with him. She felt certain he was south, near Ponyville. In fact, she was also certain he was in the Everfree forest, a place as dangerous as her sister’s opinion of him. “You feel strongly that Applejack’s insight is sufficient to verify his birthplace? It sounds more like a temple out of a Daring Do novel.”

“Yes, I do. Without question,” she stated, looking the Night Princess squarely in the eyes. “The Canterlot cartographers have also never heard of Cybertron. I’ve sent messages to cartographers in the Griffon Lands, Saddle Arabia, and other countries. In the mean time, we will await his arrival.”

Luna knew that Ravage wasn’t going to show up tomorrow and believed Celestia felt this way as well. The one thing that was certain was that Luna had to be especially careful around her manipulative co ruler while finding a way to show that the elusive stallion was not dangerous. Surely his foray into the dream world, an incident Luna had come to admire, should prove this! “He shall not harm Twilight. This promise I give to you.”

“You’re right, Luna. He will not.”

For a time, the pair gazed upon the vastness of Equestria in Luna’s moonlight. But for all their scrutinizing, little was revealed about the disappearance of a particular statue from Ponyville.

Chapter 12: Goodbye Fluttershy

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It was Sunday, just after midnight on the coastline by the sleepless city of Baltimare. A litany of tents and semi-permanent structures that comprised the pavilions of the Love Festival bit into the night sky like a mountain range. With construction nearing completion one could only marvel at the size and scope of the installation, rivaling even the adjacent naval base.

To the east over Horseshoe Bay, creatures from the ponies’ worst nightmares hovered half a kilometer over the water, for all had wings. They were as black as the night itself with bodies like ponies, but integument like insects, and perforated limbs. Several smaller individuals, indistinguishable from one another, gathered around the largest.

“We are ready to begin, Princess,” one spoke, levitating and opening a pouch in front of herself, for all had horns. Her comrades produced various pouches and other objects in a similar fashion.

“Be quick about it!” the big one replied curtly, for it was only a matter of time before they were spotted.

Compared to the members of her support team, Princess Jocasta was larger and fuller in every dimension. Her eyes were not a uniform blue either, but were amber in colour, with narrow pupils not unlike that of a reptile’s. Her long, vermilion mane was done up in a practical ponytail. The soot black Princess levitated a glass dome from one of the saddle bags of her helpers. Inside and magically protected by the dome, was a tiny plant.

Her underlings were awed at the sight of the little piece of vegetation.

“Yes,” she hissed, smiling evilly. “An Epoch tree.” She plucked it from the soil with her magic, and sent the dome plummeting into the bay. The plant’s fine, fluffy root system held on to dirt and debris. “Fifteen hundred years to germinate,” a brief but subdued flare of magic ground up the little tree and the other components. “Another six-hundred to grow it to this size,” she described, as a whirlpool of swirling magic mixed in the tree and other ingredients. Soon the faint glow of a ghostly, transparent disc no wider than a foal’s head appeared. In a few seconds, its light vanished. The bizarre structure would be completely invisible if it were not for its light bending effects; it resembled a stone poking out of a pond. In the night sky, nearly a kilometer from the shore, it looked like nothing.

Another helper suddenly raced in as soon as the spell was cast. “No pegasi have been dispatched.”

“Our work is finished here. Follow me!”

A brief flutter of wings later, the interlopers were gone, leaving the strange disc to hide in the open sky.

=^.^=

With an angry grunt, Ravage’s fist slammed into the statue, pulverizing concrete into jagged rocks and dust. He had punched and kicked the former Ponyville masterpiece until it was just an aluminum frame. The ship’s extraction facilities would have normally been used for such a purpose, but this was much more fun.

Lifting the twisted metal and banging it on the ground a couple of times cleaned it enough to be melted down. He walked it over to the furnace, opened the door by kicking it with his alloyed foot and unceremoniously shoved the tortured thing into the waiting fires, pushing some parts forcibly and crumpling others to make sure the whole thing got in. Once melted down, the metal would be purified, subjected to specific levels of gamma radiation and neutron bombardment, and the required isotopes harvested for the black matter detector.

Incoming Satellite Message: Priority 3.

“What have we here?” the Decepticon queried. The satellites found something? Even though he was the only Transformer here, the message was automatically encrypted, though decoding it was but a two second delay.

Assessment: Potential Temporal Anomaly.

He froze a bit after reading that one. It seemed that on planets with magic, rare cosmic events popped up like mushrooms. He immediately did an about face to get to the main console, and kicked something rocky, but not like the debris that lay strewn about.

It was the alicorn horn from what used to be a statue those silly ponies revered. He picked it up and tossed it behind him. As it fell to waist level, Ravage drew his sidearm, spun around, and shot it in a display of accuracy few Decepticons could match. A pink flash accompanied by burnt, sandy debris exploded outward. He chortled as he twirled his weapon in his fingers. “Surely not as satisfying as the real Celestia.”

Two roving medicroids, common Decepticon medical drones, rolled in and started cleaning up. A boon of energon production had allowed for their activation. He reseated the weapon in its mechanical holster and proceeded to the main monitor to study the event in more detail.

The spy was perplexed by the data, and held his chin as he tried to figure it out. It was located just off the eastern seaboard, right by Baltimare. Ravage had no information on where in that city the Love Festival was being held, but that was something he intended to correct the following day. The fact that Twilight mentioned it numerous times piqued his interest.

The strange event was like a black hole as it effortlessly bent space-time, yet the crushing gravity was not present; definitely worthy of further study! Before Ravage got back to work, he instructed his satellites to monitor the anomaly continuously.

=^.^=

The next morning, Twilight Sparkle woke up early yet again, intent on meeting the other Princesses in Canterlot. Apparently, Princess Cadance had recovered information from the Westerlore Islands.

Her morning rituals finished up in her bedroom. She hummed softly to herself, running a comb through her mane, as she smiled upon Rainbow Dash’s sleeping form. It was no secret that the competitive pegasus spoke ill of ‘mushy’ things, romance included. Yet in spite of this, she was snoozing contentedly in the alicorn’s bed sheets.

The pair of ponies had spent a lot of personal time together. Social talk and games gave way to staring into each others eyes, and soon after the two would indulge in snuggles, kisses, and rubs. Yet, their intimacy stagnated soon after, as Rainbow had insisted that she had to work out, or finish up Wonderbolt business, like attempting those accursed double rainbooms, or even just fall asleep. Undeterred, the Friendship Princess had countered with many different tactics, many ways of indicating she was willing to go further.

She tried wearing expensive perfume. “You smell great, Twilight.”

She tried the fabled bedroom eyes, but that only intimidated the pegasus.

She tried unladylike discussion on the intimate lives of celebrities, including the Wonderbolts. “Aw yeah, the Wonderbolts are awesome at more than just flying,” Dash would agree. Nothing further would come of it.

But today would be the day! After putting her dresser in order, Twilight levitated an old wooden box from behind an assortment of objects in the closet, and placed it by the bedroom door. It found use in combating loneliness when she was living in the capital, and it would find use again. The little Princess squeaked out a giggle, feeling like something of a rebel, as she would normally keep such things under lock and key. Being with her unabashed girlfriend made her comfortable enough to share, and she was eager to see the results.

=^.^=

At around nine in the morning Ravage stood upright in the repair bay, a bastion of the highest Decepticon technology. It was a compact space where control panels, tools, video displays, scanners, and repair devices of every kind covered the walls entirely. Even the ceiling anchored instrumentation that could be brought down by various springs, folding arms and other attachments.

He had several body panels open. Thanks to the two medicroids he brought online, maintenance was received many times faster than what could have been done by himself. Most important was the installation of the detector the spy bot had waited so long to build. He was not idle though, as he continuously monitored operations through insets that would systematically pop up on his vision.

He checked the data on the temporal anomaly. If he didn’t know better, he’d swear it was growing. In just few more hours, he could verify or refute this hypothesis.

Of particular interest was the video acquired from the probe he sent to Cybertron. It had stopped transmitting on Wednesday afternoon, and he was scouring over the video and system logs trying to dig up any clues as to why it failed. The fact it stopped transmitting without good cause further decreased his chances of going home anytime soon.

He would masquerade as a pony, yes, but doing so in the short time he was in Equestria had already raised suspicions, including that of Princess Celestia. Unfortunately, that made staying anywhere on this mud ball of a planet a dangerous proposition. He hated to admit it, but the way around Celestia may be through Luna. Curiously, she had not entered his dreams recently though she could do so tonight. The prospect made him shudder.

The maintenance and upgrades finished. His gears whirred, closing up the body panels precisely as Ravage started strolling toward the bridge. “Verify all gravity sources,” the Decepticon commanded, as the time had come to start acquiring data with his new black matter detector. The ship produced a log of the relevant gravitational sources: the sun, moon, and Celestia-1, and displayed them on the main screen.

He activated his new machine.

Detection Apparatus BZ2C109: Activated.

Detection Radius: 10.4 meters. Acquiring data…

The data from the new device popped up as an inset, duplicating what was on the main screen. Coloured in white were several thin, streaming filaments of black matter. He found something already!

“Superimpose data onto my vision.” The software did just that. Added to his field of vision was an ever changing lattice of white filaments, threadlike and fleeting, with packets of black matter that zipped to and fro like little white bolts of lightning. Composed entirely of straight lines, some were thicker, while others varied in intensity. Nearly all of them stuck to the same route, while a few slowly altered their trajectories. It was stunning how much of it there was. Could he have found the missing mass that he suspected was responsible for the Celestia system’s bizarre orbiting scheme? While the thin strands around him couldn’t be responsible for all that mass it definitely seemed like he was on the right track. More research was needed!

“Impressive,” he remarked as he literally passed his arm through a bunch of them. “Weakly interacting indeed. Are the filaments evoking electrical signals?”

“Affirmative,” responded one of the medicroids.

Ravage’s detection field was similar to the field used to contain black matter within subspace radios. The black matter functioned by vibrating within the radio’s containment field, disturbed by subspace perturbations invoked by the transmitter at the other location. These perturbations were then converted into electrical signals, and then into voice or data, depending on the protocol employed.

The curious robot prepared a table of the electrical signals on the main screen. Each filament had its own unique characteristics. “This is absolutely fascinating,” he said, awed as the list kept growing and growing while he walked around the room.

He planned a walk into Ponyville so he could visit all six Elements of Harmony. In doing so he intended to circumvent the town’s more amourous mares, as Ravage was all done dating these ponies. He wanted to duck out before noon so he could avoid the stupid unicorn trio. And his date with Luna? Skip that. Using her to curb Celestia’s curiosity was the only thing she was good for.

He came upon the train pass, lying on the counter where he prepared his food. Black matter seemed to periodically flash from it, but what made it interesting was that it was the first observed terminal point.

“Uh oh…” The angle and direction also looked like it went to Canterlot. He didn’t need any calculations to know that Celestia may have been monitoring him.

Ravage was undone. He sat down on the munitions crate he ate his meals from. Metallic pinging could be heard as he thrummed the side of his face plates with his fingers. It was a good bet that Celestia knew exactly where he was, though for the life of him he couldn’t figure out why she hadn’t just sent in the guards, or come to collect him herself.

He had to get out. Although well hidden, his current location was no longer safe.

The next logical requirement was to situate himself so he could keep collecting data on Equestria’s black matter distribution while avoiding detection and possible capture by the princesses.

He needed more energon, since it was energetically very expensive to extract aluminum isotopes. His avian androids would do well to fly around with black matter detectors.

Celestia gave him till nine o’clock that evening to show up at Canterlot, a command he had no intention of fulfilling. That left him just over eleven hours to collect data, and evacuate.

Ravage transformed into pony mode. He opened the dossier profiling Fluttershy, something he had done a few times during the night. Sometimes he had stared at the three dimensional rotating depiction of her looking for more information than was detailed in her file. Sometimes he caught himself staring and closed it up. As if that lump of flesh could interest him. Bah! Equestria was not even useful as a slave state.

“Fluttershy, what am I going to do with you,” he wondered aloud.

“Message not understood,” spoke one of the medicroids, in a monotonous, acidic voice pattern. Ravage waved it off.

=^.^=

The Princess of the Sun teleported into her sister’s room. She could hear Luna singing in the shower, and was tempted to just focus on her melodic, enchanting voice. But her bond to Ravage was mysterious, and pondering it had kept the Sun Princess up most of the night. The more she thought about it, the more agitated she became.

What did her sister see in him? Looks and work ethic aside, he was pretty sharp. The Day Princess found that out the hard way, though she could think of several stallions of such prominent intellect. Nevertheless, Princess Luna didn’t just up and choose a homeless stallion to be her lover. She was ever the dedicated planner and schemer, and took time to do anything of merit.

The Dark Princess emerged from the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her mane. A light gasp escaped her lips upon noticing her sister looming in the doorway.

“My apologies, Luna, but there is a matter I need to discuss with you immediately.”

“Haven’t you heard of knocking?” the agitated princess rebuked. Stalwart and unsympathetic, her sister kept standing there, staring intently. “I gather not.” There was still no response. “Well, it’s simple. All one does is raise her hoof and…”

“It’s about Ravage.”

“Oh? Have you found out where he lives? My magic keeps pointing to the Everfree Forest.”

“No, what concerns me is that you didn’t seem bothered in the slightest when I told you that it was he who entered the child’s dream.”

“My confused cutie mark didn’t know what it was doing,” the incredulous alicorn explained. “I thought we discussed this.”

“Then why him, specifically?”

“We are both creatures of the night, and he is bound to me.”

Celestia’s right hoof motioned in the air, as if pushing some ethereal button. “That is what has really been bothering me. Your bond.”

Luna’s eyes grew wide, and then laughed heartily. “’Tis a bond of love!” Her sister narrowed her eyes. “We know thou art uneducated in the ways of Moon magic, and we forgive you,” she said in a condescending tone. “But take heart! In mere weeks, he shall share the dinner table with us.” Her sister looked perturbed. “Us, us,” she clarified, pointing to Celestia and herself.

“You don’t think it seems a bit sudden?”

“Nonsense. I was aware of Ravage long before I saw him.”

Celestia’s wings flared up. “What?!”

“Is it really that surprising?”

“Has he also felt your life force?” she rebutted. It tripped up Luna, too. Good! “I’m sorry, but I intend to watch him closely,” she warned.

“Please do! And please let me know when you find something new on him,” Luna replied as if nothing happened.

Princess Celestia was riled, but managed to mask it. “Good Day, Luna,” she said before turning and leaving.

“Good day!”

=^.^=

A small southbound train sped up as it turned onto a straightaway. Framed by thickly treed hills, the Equestrian capital loomed in the distance.

In her heavily guarded private car, Princess Cadance stared at a missive sent by Celestia earlier that morning. Reading it had given her that sinking feeling. This was not going to be a good day.

The loving bond between Luna and Ravage turned out to be magical! Celestia was worried about her sister, and asked Cadance to use her talents to probe the bond. The alicorn love expert had already felt Luna’s love for him, but never suspected anything unnatural, not at the time.

Luna was a different kind of pony. Missing a thousand years of social and technological progress hadn’t dulled her magic skills and, unfortunately, she could get as angry as she was powerful. Upon her return from the Moon, she instantly defeated her sister, and plunged her great nation into permanent darkness. Was such capability the source of Celestia’s concern?

Cadance read the message once again, trying to see if she could read between the lines, but to no avail. Celestia had been as clear as the sunny days she presided over. The pink Princess rolled up the message with her magic and slumped in her comfy chair.

=^.^=

The crunch of the twigs underhoof was pleasant. If there was any one thing Ravage learned to like since his arrival here, it was the morning, though the irony of this was not lost upon him. It was something about the air, the moisture, and the earthy, early morning smells.

More and more data on the black matter distribution was acquired with every step, as threads zipped in and out of his field of detection. Sometimes they came in a torrent, and sometimes there were perhaps one or two per minute. Curiously, they only seemed to connect to points on the planet itself. Tracing the origins and destinations had led to other geographical areas, points underground, and even clouds in the sky.

The trees thinned, and the open spaces widened as he approached the village. He had eaten lightly, expecting to purchase breakfast in town. His strategy was to make a circuit into Ponyville, and end up at Sweet Apple Acres. Applejack, the town interrogator, was the second last pony he wanted to visit.

The last pony he wanted to see was Fluttershy. Around her, he had no data gathering plan. Approaching her but keeping her within the perimeter of his detection field would look suspicious, probably resulting in the amourous pegasus simply trotting up and hugging him. Ponies liked to get close.

The Decepticon wondered if magic was at play. Oh, he felt strong now, but whenever he got near that mare, his resolve would weaken, and it got worse with every encounter. In her presence, he had forgotten about how far he was from home, that he was the only Decepticon for thousands of light years. He had forgotten about his communication breakdown, unable to tell anyone about this place. He had even forgotten his mission, if only for a short while, when he kept his attention on his butter coated friend.

He passed Fluttershy’s yard, close by on his right. Don’t look at it, he guarded, fighting back an urge to get nearer. He was oblivious to the eyes of a loving pony looking upon him from behind the windows.

A few blocks later, he turned onto one of the less remarkable streets and headed east, the Element of Kindness’ home behind him. The handful of ponies he saw on the other side of the street yielded no data, since they were outside of his detection field. However, behind the walls on his right, the breadth of his detection field picked up about two dozen concentrations of black matter in just a couple of blocks. Were these ponies?

He mentally assembled an itinerary. First, get a hay shake and fries. Then, locate and talk to Rainbow Dash, Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie, and gather data on how black matter affects them. Avoid unnecessary contact.

“Hmm. I haven’t yet had a substantive conversation with Pinkie Pie,” he realized.

“Hell-oooo,” Pinkie greeted, her upside-down body flopping down like a swing, startling Ravage, making him grunt with surprise.

The pink mare was hanging onto a braided hemp rope that was tied to a wooden sign holder. “Whatcha’ doin’ this morning, handsome?”

Ravage’s response was delayed, unable to figure out how Pinkie managed to appear out of thin air, and with equipment. “I’m acquiring breakfast.”

“Oooooooh.” The pink earth pony jettisoned herself from his space.

Ravage looked up and found that Pinkie and her rope had vanished! It was like they were never there. How can this be?

She could either teleport or she was very fast, although no wind was observed. Ravage continued eastward, pondering Pinkie’s perplexity. Adding to the bizarre nature of her locomotion was that the proximity alert didn’t trip. It was then that Ravage noticed – bouncing?

Sure enough, Pinkie was bouncing right beside him, keeping pace. “Mind if I come along?”

The pony bot looked at the Element of Laughter, pleased to see a very large amount of black matter activity. “Sure.”

“So I had everything ready for Cloud Kicker’s birthday yesterday, but we had that HUGE storm! It wouldn’t affect the party which was in the evening, but there was mud like crazy so I asked Applejack if we could use her barn, but she said we couldn’t because they were shoring up the joists, and I was still looking for a different venue because there was all this mud in front of Sugar Cube Corner…” The pink mare started talking, and then never ceased talking.

Ravage patiently withstood the verbal onslaught. This was surprisingly easy to do since his attention was really on the black matter as it beamed in and out of her like a laser show. Filament streams penetrated all parts of her body. He tasked the main computer to measure the input versus output of these streams. Of particular interest were two streams coming out of her back which seemed to originate and terminate in the open sky, something he hadn’t seen yet.

“... You wouldn’t believe the ideas I have for Winter’s birthday party, and I know you’re gonna party with Pearl Bliss, Winter, and Saffron today, but please don’t tell them I’ve already made plans.” Pinkie got right in Ravage’s personal space, close to his ear. “It’s a secret.”

“Ah yes, a secret,” he agreed, closely watching Pinkie Pies’ lively network of black matter streams.

Pinkie assumed a normal walking gait. “Say,” she started slowly, eyeing him suspiciously, “How come I don’t know your birthday yet.”

“My birthday?” Well this was highly irregular. Decepticons used age to determine maintenance schedules, not observances.

“I find out by asking the friends and family of the new pony, but you qualify as an exception.” Pinkie had gone from zany to almost professional in seconds. Noticing that her change in behavior was confusing her acquaintance she clarified. “I don’t know any pony that knew you, so…” she insinuated, leaning toward him, waggling her eyebrows.

“So?” She’s not really asking for it, is she?

“When’s your birthday, silly?”

Ravage decided that such information was of no consequence, and calculated a solution using his actual age against the Equestrian calendar. “Five days ago,” he replied with a small smile. He did technically have a birthday, even though he had no need of it except to humor this peculiar mare.

Pinkie jumped in the air in an indescribable fit of surprise, with her legs splayed out, as she gasped like she had been underwater for over two minutes. With a gust of wind, she exited in a blur of pink.

Ravage stopped upon seeing this, trying to make heads or tails of what just happened. He heard that the pink mare was strange, but not this strange. At least he got good data from her.

=^.^=

Rainbow Dash was staring into the pages of five magazines from a box that Twilight left by the door. It looked like she might have forgotten to take them to Canterlot, so the prying pegasus took a peak. She’d been looking at them ever since.

Adult magazines – good thing Spike went with her. They all had mares and stallions with clothing that emphasized choice parts of their bodies. The current page was of a playful stallion spread over a patch of grass, lying on his back with body fitted fabric covering his groin. But that wasn’t all! Sinful socks from a sports clothing manufacturer covered every leg.

Rainbow had gone through the whole stack three times and was made so tense she could peruse no longer. Relief was needed!

“Hey Rainbow,” greeted Pinkie, causing Dash to jump and yelp out of surprise. Her hooves were slung over the window frame. “Ooo, nice magazine,” the creeping mare commented, pointing a hoof at an issue of Compromised Pony. “You should get number forty-one. I hear there’s a Soarin in it,” she chirped.

“Pinkie! What are you doing here?”

“Ravage’s birthday was five days ago! Can you believe it?”

Rainbow Dash stared at her friend incredulously.

“We need to have a sorry-we-didn’t-know-it-was-your-birthday party!”

“Uh, wasn’t he at one of our parties five days ago?” Dash reasoned.

Pinkie gasped in astonishment, “That wasn’t just his Welcome Party, it was his Birthaversary!”

“But he had already been in town for – you know what, never mind.” Wrestling with the mind of Pinkie Pie would be unproductive at best.

“Close enough,” the fluffy-maned earth pony agreed, seemingly having a moment of clarity. “I just think we should recognize his birthday.”

“Yeah, but wouldn’t he…”

“Don’t you worry your pretty little head off, Dashie,” she patronized, “Auntie Pinkie Pie will take care of everything.”

“I’m a year older than you!” Dash snapped back. Her retort met only an empty window. She could appreciate her friend’s randomness, but sometimes it became overwhelming. Her irritation evaporated quickly when she turned back to the magazines.

It was very clear why Twilight left these. She’d been champing at the bit to move to the next level, but Rainbow Dash never committed. Uncertainty hung over her like a dark cloud. She would have to address the surprisingly naughty mare when she got back.

Was Dash to take care of the problem herself? She was too cool for that of course, and planned a way around it. Putting the magazines back gave her enough of a distraction to regain control over her excited wing musculature. She flew out the window, intent on handling her problem the old way.

She started her search by flying over the business section. Prowling from the skies for a specific pony to hook up with wasn’t atypical for a pegasus. “Let’s see.” She analysed the well-known streets. “Taken, taken, taken,” she spoke of some reasonably good looking stallions, making her feel lucky that she had a wing on Ravage at all. “Mare, mare, mare, mare, mare,” represented all the mares who had left standing offers for some fun, and all these choices were available. Boy, would Twilight hate that! “Stupid too many mares,” the stifled pony admonished. She continued her search over the park, as her thoughts strayed to her girlfriend.

Twilight wanted everypony to follow the rules and allow time for all to date Ravage first. However, some of her herdmates didn’t feel the same way. Rarity would probably take him to a fancy dinner and then introduce him to her favorite candles – which were in her bedroom. Fluttershy certainly looked interested in him. In fact, some herds behaved more like Flitter and Cloudchaser, and tested their date’s bedroom might before going any further. As for Dash, she would have preferred to date him first, until this morning.

The aroused pegasus had often thought about why she often joined the herd at all. Her intimate experiences with mares were limited, and they all had been when she was a filly – and they had all been bad. But herds do things together, and in the stride of her confident swagger Dash agreed to go to Pearl Bliss’ party, and look what happened! “Should have thought that one through,” she groused. Being so close to Twilight wasn’t all that bad though, was it? Rainbow didn’t consider the former unicorn to be attractive until she brought out her wings from their magical casing, and now her every hoof step seemed graceful.

As she flew over to another section of town, the shine off the back of a procurable stallion rewarded Dash for her patience, his yellow cutie mark able to be seen for blocks. Dash smiled evilly, rubbing her hooves together. “Why, it’s Ravage and his fantastic flanks,” she remarked. She put a hoof under her chin and regarded her potential playmate. Flitter and Cloudchaser had failed to hook up with him despite all the time and bits spent, and the amazing venue. They said that he had fallen asleep. Ha! The very thought made Rainbow snicker. No, the problem was that those two were just not Rainbow Dash, and she knows how to talk to stallions.

The Decepticon turned down the road with the hay shake kiosk he had sampled recently. He salivated in anticipation of the fibrous food going down and into his unsatisfied belly. A heavy thump and the sound of displaced stones and earth shook him from his dinner inspired day dreaming. Yet, he was not all that startled, perhaps getting used to the hard landings of a certain prismatic pegasus.

Rainbow Dash looked up at him expectantly. “Hey Ravage.”

“Good morning,” he greeted, sounding more and more natural by the day. Like Pinkie before her, Dash radiated black matter activity, but something was very different. It seemed she was absorbing quite a lot of the black matter streams, but that would have to be analysed later.

The pegasus mare hatched a plan, and almost shivered with excitement. It was very hard to maintain her composure. “How was your date?”

“Date?”

“Flitter? Dancing in the Warehouse? Booze?”

“Oh!” he realized. “That was two days ago.” Clearly, Dash wanted more than that, listening intently as she was. “Uh- we danced, drank…” What was he supposed to tell her? That Flitter cornered him, expecting him to reproduce? Stressful though it was, it contrasted with the other prominent memories. “We sang.”

“Oh? What’d ya sing?”

Cherry Moon,” the memory evoking a very pleasant feeling. There was no doubt about it, he definitely liked singing.

“Aw yeah,” Dash nodded. “Good ‘n moody.” Seeing that her mark was really smiling at the thought, it was time to make her move. “Though there are things in this world that are way better than singing.”

Ravage had never seriously thought about that. He looked up and screwed up his expression in calculation as he neared the food vendor. It turned out that even ice cream couldn’t overtake singing in terms of pleasure production.

Judging the earth pony’s reaction, Rainbow felt she might consider singing him a rock song, since they both liked the dragon music that disrupted the Warehouse dance party. However, that would have to be decided later. It was time to spring the trap. “Pinkie tells me it was your birthday five days ago.”

“Yes?” the pony bot replied questioningly. He just spoke to Pinkie! How did she know so fast? He also came to realize that something was off about Rainbow Dash. She seemed nicer. That broad smile just didn’t figure.

Rainbow took to a hover as they neared the kiosk. “The first time you met us by the lake it was me you were looking at. Right?” Her dishy friend did a double take, trying to make the connection. “Come on. Admit it!”

“Well – yes.” The stallion bot sensed he was about to receive more cultural education, whether he wanted it or not. The pegasus’ absorption of black matter continued to be interesting though.

Rainbow landed in front of the pony bot just as he was about to reach the counter. “Then have I got a present for you.”

Whatever she was insinuating, her half-lidded look was something Ravage had learned to distrust. Seeing the establishment’s server look over to him inspired a possibility. “You’re going to buy me a shake?” he fished.

The slim mare guffawed. “Oh no, much better than that.”

Ravage was disappointed, having started considering the possibility of two hay shakes.

Rainbow Dash’s wings flared up, preparing her for take-off. “Just meet me at the library,” she added, winking before zipping away.

The stallion bot watched the dazzling speed and agility of Dash’s flight pattern before noticing that the server was waiting for him. “Large hay shake and large fries,” he ordered, tossing some bits on the counter.

Dash flew back through the window of Twilight’s room. She closed it up, chuckling at how it became more used than the actual door this morning. Deciding she should be prepared for Ravage’s arrival, she spun around the room, looking through every drawer. Her girlfriend was hiding something sensual, she had to! Else why keep those magazines?

It wasn’t long before her snooping rewarded her with a set of lacey pink, floral embroidered, silky socks matched with a sensuous backside covering. Rainbow normally didn’t care for clothes, but she wanted to get Ravage in the mood and put the attire on without a second thought. Twilight was a little taller, but Rainbow was bulkier, and the apparel fit rather well.

She hopped onto the mattress with a bounce and stuffed a pillow behind her head, smiling as she anticipated his arrival.

=^.^=

The meeting was due to start, as Luna led Cadance and Twilight to where she suspected she might find her sister. Sometimes Celestia could become consumed in a project, much like her former student. Unfortunately, what consumed the Day Mare now was suspicion. Finally entering the platform, and finding Celestia, Luna barely managed to prevent herself from face-hoofing in front of the other princesses.

Cold mountain air, thin and crisp, buffeted Celestia and the newcomers as she peered into her spyglass. “He’s finished talking to Rainbow Dash,” she noted, one eye still looking through the ocular.

Twilight was annoyed. Why was Celestia so suspicious of Ravage? There was no reason for it. The other two Princesses looked puzzled and bored.

Cadance shuffled slowly, stealing glances of Luna beside her. “Aren’t we supposed to be discussing Equestrian security?” she ventured, noting that Luna appeared normal. Her magic had been probing the very real bond between Ravage and Princess Luna. In spite of her efforts, she felt only one heart instead of two. So strange!

“We are,” the solar mare responded simply. “Cadance, please regale us with your findings in the Westerlore islands.”

The Love Princess had prepared all manner of test results and maps ready to describe the data gathered from that region. Now she was just supposed to summarize it? “Uh, well...”

“Go on,” Luna encouraged. “If need be, we can dissect the details later.”

Princess Cadance put her thoughts in order. “Our people found the remains of an encampment, less than two weeks old. Fur samples suggest minotaurs.” Celestia finally pulled away from the spyglass and all eyes were on the debriefing alicorn. “The griffons claim to have used natural magics, and said they detected residual love magic.”

Cadance looked at each face of her fellow Princesses. She expected at least some sort of reaction, but their emotionless visages told otherwise.

“Do you have knowledge of these natural magics?” Celestia asked.

Cadance’s eyes narrowed. “No.” Even Twilight’s face became contorted with confusion, which was worrying. “I have no reason to distrust them. Why practically demand that I hide out in one of their villas?”

“Trust can be fleeting,” Celestia continued. “Some creatures are more trustworthy than others. Griffons have proven that they can keep their word.” She put her eye back on the telescope lens. “We shall go through the details later. Thank you, Cadance.”

Twilight didn’t like what her mentor was doing, and finally decided to speak up. “Princess Celestia, is it right to be spying on Ravage like that?”

“Yes.”

The one word response really irked Twilight. “Why?”

“Unlike the griffons, Ravage has not proven himself to be trustworthy.” The pointed comment jolted her former student. “It is more than a little concerning that he has caught the attention of not one, but two Princesses of Equestria in less than a fortnight.”

“We are interested in him,” the edgy librarian verified, “But it will take some time to know if he is really right for us.”

That little comment put a smile on Luna’s face.

Celestia kept on with her spying. “Twilight, I can introduce you to a great many stallions I’m sure will suit your herd. And I suggest taking on at least two.” She heard no rebuttal from the agitated mare, which probably meant she was frowning. Not to worry, as the Solar Princess could write a book on how to handle Twilight’s moods. “Aha! A mare approaches Ravage. Hmm, pretty big girl.”

“Does this big girl have lilac fur, with a blue mane and a golden wing cutie mark?” Luna guessed.

Celestia’s eyes sprang open in surprise. “Indeed she does.”

Luna smirked and felt satisfied by the puzzled looks of the others. “You do not need your eyes glued to the spying device, sister. If Ravage shows any sign of deceit, Aster will tell us.”

“Hold on!” Twilight interrupted, throwing her forelegs forward like a referee, “Aster works for you?” Luna’s smug smile was a sufficient answer, if a little rude.

Celestia put the lens cap on. “Let’s retire to the royal gardens. It’s time we got something to eat. Then we can answer everypony’s questions in a more civil setting.”

Cadance let out a sigh of relief, happy to be out of this windy place.

=^.^=

Ravage decided to ignore Rainbow Dash’s cryptic offering of a birthday present at the library. Given the circumstances, he would indeed get a surprise from the well-known prankster.

“No hoofball for you today?” a familiar voice asked.

The pony bot stopped and put the bag of food down, spitting the string handle out of his mouth. “Hello?”

“Hey,” she responded with a swish of her mane. “You remember me?”

“Aster, Rainbow Dash’s trainer.” She was going to ask him on a date, Ravage believed. All the signs were there. He just had to keep saying no, and after about the fifth repeat she might get the message.

Her black matter profile looked like Pinkie Pie’s.

Aster laughed, “Oh no! I’m helping her push her limits, which makes me more like a coach. Rainbow Dash has more flying skill than I could possibly learn. At this point in her career, only a Wonderbolt could train her.”

“Hmm,” Ravage thought on it for a bit, “Thank you for clarifying the distinction. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a park to visit.”

“Actually, do you mind if I join you? The look of your food has made me hungry, and well, I like to avoid eating alone.” She grimaced, but quickly turned it into a grin.

“I’m sorry, but I prefer to…”

“I’ve got a hoofball we can kick around.”

That got Ravage’s attention. Yes, he really did see the appeal. No dating, just kicking! “Alright,” he conceded. “I’ll be by a large, twisted oak, north side of the park.”

“I know it,” Aster smiled. “See ya there.”

=^.^=

Magically barricaded from the alpine climate, the verdant Royal Gardens were a treasure trove of skittering, fluttering rare animals, fragrant with rare flowers and other plants. Normally, a few ponies were there, reading and relaxing in the warm and humid place, but this morning it was kept free of any ponies but the Princesses.

Twilight floated a double daisy sandwich to her mouth and hungrily took a bite out of it.

“Whenever you’re ready, Twilight,” Celestia nudged.

The famished little Princess swallowed hard. “Thank you,” she forced, while taking slurp of her strawberry malt. “Princess Luna, why do you want Rainbow Dash to execute a double rainboom?” Luna seemed surprised, as if she had just been accused. “Rainbow comes home every night exhausted and says it’s nigh impossible to do.”

Celestia was taken aback at her former student being surprisingly stern, not to mention off topic.

“You think I…” Luna began before she realized the connection Twilight was referring to. “I never ordered Rainbow Dash to practice this ‘double rainboom.’ Aster works for me, yes, but she is primarily an advanced flight mechanics instructor, hence her oversight of your lover.” Twilight’s blush was a lovely, and welcome sight. “If you want answers, then Spitfire is your mare.”

“Is a double rainboom two consecutive rainbooms, or one within another?” Cadance asked.

“Two in a row,” the young Princess garbled through more chewing. “Rainbow is resting today, and it’s about time too.” She levitated a scroll with a quill scribbling in a visit to The Wonderbolts on her to-do list. Wiping her rather messy mouth, she turned her gaze to Celestia.

“Please take your time, Twilight,” the Day Princess encouraged, tranquil as ever.

“Princess Celestia,” she asked demurely, “Why are you so suspicious of Ravage?”

“Ravage is a liar.” Cadance gasped, and Twilight was shocked. “Or didn’t Luna tell you, it was he who ran from her elite guard on the night of the Friday before last?”

“Celestia,” Luna groaned before applying her hoof to her face. That was low. Some things should remain between sisters. She felt the urge, the need, to get angry but caught herself, and tried to remain calm.

The sidestepping Sun Princess still had to make Twilight aware of Luna’s bond with Ravage, but knew better than to further provoke her co-ruler, and waited.

Chunks of chewed bread tumbled out of Twilight’s wide open, disbelieving mouth. She turned her head to Luna, shaking it in denial. “That was Ravage?” Luna had sent her half a dozen letters demanding her help, keeping poor Spike awake till three in the morning before she finally convinced the determined Diarch to stop. And this was about the same stallion that worked that construction job? The stallion that was learning Magic with such zeal, it made her proud? The stallion who her herd – her friends – thought might make a romantic acquaintance? He was at the boutique when she was discussing the news of Luna’s Night Guard trying, and failing to chase him down. He was so flawless in his behavior, that even when asked directly he didn’t have to lie. He was completely free of suspicion!

The emotions of revelation were a sight to behold before Twilight slowly slipped into disappointment. Cadance felt sorry for Twilight, and Luna felt new opportunity. Celestia felt nothing more than satisfaction.

Cadance shook her head. “My dear friends, we must avoid making rash judgments when speaking of affairs of the heart.” Luna’s smile flattened, while the other alicorns looked ready to hear her out. “It’s MY special talent,” she pointed to her flank. “Luna, I know you are in love with him, and I would like to ask you some pertinent questions.”

Twilight was shocked. “In Love!?” Luna hadn’t even dated Ravage yet, how could she love him? Using restraint only the most patient ponies could muster, she kept quiet and allowed Cadance to continue.

“Please tell me how you first met Ravage,” the Love Princess asked, relieved that Luna seemed cooperative.

Stewing, the Princess of Darkness put a hoof to her chin, forging a response. She really, really didn’t want to discuss these details. “About a week before he appeared in Ponyville, I could sense him. It was weak, but definitely real. It was like the wind whispered to me, preparing me for his imminent arrival.”

That bauble of information made Twilight’s jaw drop again.

“Okay, but I want to know when you actually saw him for the first time,” the Love Princess continued.

Against her darkening mood, Luna smiled, as had often happened when she revisited the series of events that led her to Ravage. “In their dreams,” she responded solemnly. “The dreams of the Ponyville citizens are fertile,” she chortled, “Both in content and scope; probably comes from growing up and living beside the Everfree.” She paused to organize the rest of her response. Cadance gestured to Luna to continue. “I noticed a group of ponies remitting a lot of attention to a stallion, and I found out it was Ravage. Like other newcomers, he inspired a brief bout of intimate and sometimes truly lewd dreaming, but that was just ponies being ponies. All told, the townsfolk reaction to him was the strongest in recent memory, and I secretly hoped to meet him.”

“Can you tell me when you fell in love with him?” the Princess of Love asked sweetly.

“The Friday before last,” she began. “I went to my favorite flying range and brought up the Moon behind me, like I regularly have been doing.” She decided to challenge her fellow Princesses. “Can you guess why it is my favorite flying range?”

“It is isolated,” Celestia offered. “I cannot see anything about it that makes it stand out.”

The calculating mind of the Friendship Princess was also trying very hard to see Luna’s point. “The Canterlot Astronomer mentioned that you hadn’t changed your flight path in six months. Why not raise the Moon over different locales, like Rainbow Falls, or Hollow Shades?” What she really wanted to know was how a pony could fall in love with another individual she’s never seen or heard of.

“It is isolated indeed, but not completely inaccessible.” Luna had the full attention of her fellow Princesses. “Sometimes, ponies have intimate dreams involving me.” She took a sideways glance toward Twilight, and was rewarded with a comical attempt to hide her blushing face behind a daisy sandwich. “It’s possible that a few dream of pursuing me for familial love I have never known, since I’ve rarely partnered with anypony.” The other girls kept their attention focused on the Moon Princess. “The more I thought about it, the more it intrigued me. Far be it from me to simply pick one and start dating, however. Nightmare Moon is still fresh in many minds, and my hoof-full of would-be admirers have no plan beyond keeping me in my dreams.”

Cadance cocked an eyebrow. “You want them to come to you?”

“Ah, I see you have deduced my strategy. As sure as stars form the constellations, so too does knowledge of my flight patterns slowly circulate ‘round Equestria. If anypony had the courage, then they could easily figure out how to reach me, and then come speak to me privately.”

Cadance ordered the details in her head. “But nopony ever came.” She started feeling sorry for Luna, until she saw the wry smile on the Night Princess’ face. “Nopony, but Ravage,” she deduced, grinning broadly.

Luna saw that Twilight was utterly lost. “Before I even saw him, I knew he was close,” she addressed the Friendship Princess. “Then there he was, with his telescope, and I just had to have a chat with him. I casted a silencing spell, perhaps a little more powerful than necessary, but I took a closer look before he noticed me.” She turned to the other Princesses. “Such a splendid stallion! Have you seen the like?” Her colleagues looked inwardly and nodded, agreeing with Luna’s boast. “We talked and I found out he wasn’t in a herd, and that he didn’t have love for another. I couldn’t believe my luck!”

Twilight tried to make sense of Luna’s affections. “At least he’s interested in astronomy.”

“So far, it doesn’t sound like Ravage has any reason to run away,” Cadance observed.

“I’ve never been so certain of a stallion in centuries,” Luna concluded, taking a sip of her moonflower tea. Her expression soured. “And then I went and bucked it up.”

Celestia closed her eyes, the only civil aversion available to her. She knew what was coming.

“I had to have him. So like a foal, I issued a Declaration of Love forthwith.” Luna was getting increasingly upset with what could have been, if only she played it cool.

“You knew him for only a couple of minutes and continued to love him?” Cadance queried.

“I – uh, yes.” Before her imprisonment, the Princess of Lust had usually woken up with another pony, or two, or sometimes with her bed bursting over with the bodies of concubines, male and female. Wanting to give herself to a single pony seemed foreign, and yet imagining Ravage in her forelegs invigorated her. She recognized how robust her affections for that stallion really were, it felt almost surreal. They were going to tell her to avoid him, weren’t they? Her heart stung at the thought. “Cadance, you can sense my love for him?” she pleaded.

“I can indeed. It’s very strong.”

Twilight had enough. “Stop!” she implored. “You were in love with Ravage as soon as you saw him?” The Night Princess nodded, having been smitten for him this whole time, during his date with Flitter, during the Welcome party at the library, and even during the libido nocta party! “How is this possible?”

Luna cleared her throat. “I share a special bond with him, Twilight.” She felt like she was being vivisected, her fellow princesses forcing details out of her. “A magical bond,” her discourse dripped with warning. It took all her mental discipline to contain her anger, mask her face.

Twilight was getting emotionally drained at this point. “But, how…” Mystery bond aside, it did explain why she sent a platoon of guards to retrieve him after he ran away. Then the scientific Princess’ expression changed, as she thought of something completely unexplained. “Wait.” The girls kept silent, and only the gentle sounds of the garden were heard. “How does an earth pony get away from a telepathic alicorn? From Luna?”

“This one can,” Celestia emphasized. She recognized the nervous ticks of her increasingly upset sibling, but pressed on. This was a matter of utmost importance. “Cadance, does the magical bond between my sister and Ravage seem natural to you?”

“I’ve been trying to ascertain that the whole time, Celestia.” The pink Princess concentrated. “No,” she decided. Luna was clearly provoked, her wings flittering as she tried to contain them, but Cadance didn’t want to sugar coat the issue. “No, it doesn’t.”

All could feel the ire in Luna now. It was something in the eyes.

The Princess of all things Love continued, “I’m sorry Luna. I would normally tell you to do something akin to Twilight and actually spend time more with him. But in this case, well,” Cadance braced herself as Luna’s anger cracked her composure; her wings flared, and her eyes began to glow white hot. The wooden furniture hissed and cracked as she radiated magical energy, taking her friends by complete surprise. “Luna, there is something very unnatural about your bond with Ravage!” she implored.

One pony comes to see me and you declare him unfit!!” she seethed in her Royal Canterlot voice. “What gives you the right!?” The chair she had sat on and the table caught flame. The flowers in the center vase wilted away from the raging Night Princess, as drinks of different types boiled over their cups and kettles. Twilight and Cadance retreated from the spectacle. “What!” And then, a calming effect was felt. “What…” Her normal voice returned, as she realized what she had done. She noticed stroking, and a soft, familiar voice.

Celestia held her sister in her embrace, whispering into her ear. “It’s okay, Luna. I’m here for you,” she soothed.

Cadance stood with Twilight about five meters away, still awed at having being given just a taste of Luna’s power. She bent down to Twilight’s ear, intent on keeping her voice low. “I’m coming to Ponyville,” she declared.

“What about your trip to Baltimare?” the concerned purple Princess half-whispered. “The inspections?”

“They’ve been cancelled!” Cadance hissed, trying to keep her voice down, though it was relieving to see Luna returning the embrace, crying into her sister’s neck. Celestia didn’t look well either. “I’m going to see Shining off, and then I’ll come down. I should be there this afternoon.”

“I can hear you,” Celestia spoke, stroking her sister’s neck. “And I agree.”

Tears started streaming down a now calm Luna’s face. Her rage had hurt ponies before, and it was happening again. Could she not do anything without invoking misery!?

“We need to tell them everything,” Celestia prodded, happy to feel Luna nuzzling into her neck. “We need their help.”

She loved Ravage still. She wanted him, in her presence, in her forelegs, and in her heart. She just needed time, that’s all. Was that too much to ask? However, noticing burnt debris on Cadance and Twilight Sparkle made her reconsider, in spite of herself.

Twilight shook her head. “You don’t have to, Luna,” she emphatically insisted. “We can work this out.”

Luna felt joy as she smiled. “Such a brave pony,” she remarked. “Celestia,” she beckoned, knowing she’d have her sister’s full attention, “If you please.”

=^.^=

Fluttershy felt as if her heart was being pulled by a tow cable as she crossed the creek bridge from her cottage, smiling at the good-day waves of dozens of little paws and wings. Her legs struggled to keep up before gearing up to a trot.

How could she have stayed behind when she saw him pass by? Was it so impolite so say hello? She wanted to eat breakfast with him. She wanted to discuss philosophy and nature with him. She wanted to hold him, to feel him; to massage the taut fiber that gave him his spectacular appearance.

She wanted him.

And yet she stayed behind! Against her skittish nature, the bothered mare trotted to Ponyville, hoping to find Ravage. As was done more times than she could count, Fluttershy addressed the problem: her shyness.

A debilitating vice it was, it had already stunted her personal development in innumerable ways, and now it was stopping her from seeing Ravage. But Fluttershy rallied, it was time to face this thing. And so she thought…

From being a filly until recently, she had been vexed by social interaction, and a crippling fear of ponies judging her grew like a tumor. Withdrawn and silent she had taken the safe route, walled herself in, and had limited her contact with her fellow Equestrians.

Sweet Apple Acres slowly passed by her left. Inspiring memories of Applejack, and then of her other friends swept into her mindset. It became almost common for them to overcome some sort of personal issue when they tackled a problem, and more so whenever they fought a powerful foe. This ability to expand one’s way of thinking also included herself. Fluttershy certainly would have never thought to approach a fully grown dragon until one threatened her friends. At that point, she made a key discovery: her shyness had been gradually weakening after she befriended her fellow Elements.

A rare smirk dimpled Fluttershy’s face. It appeared that there was hope after all. It was hard to imagine, her courting a stallion, but her thoughts inexorably turned to the mysterious native of Cybertron.

Perhaps his being from a different life made him more approachable, like her animal friends. She had taken time to contemplate his words, specifically his philosophy of toughness. It was similar to Rainbow Dash’s ways, only he hid his capabilities, while Dash boasted openly. He was tenacious, but not reckless; forthcoming, but not really assertive. If his onerous job of moving concrete around proved one thing, it was that he had incredible stamina. He claimed to prefer rain over shine, night over day. He took up residence in the Everfree forest. Ironically, her major characteristics seemed diametrically opposed to his.

Fluttershy nearly tripped over her own hooves, as the solution presented itself.

Sometimes the best traits in a pony came from two ponies – two lovers. Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash were a living example of this with their qualities spilling over onto each other, colouring each other. Very unalike ponies on their own, the deficiencies of one were mitigated by the other.

The grinning pegasus recognized that a similar trend from herself and the stalwart Ravage was developing, and stifled a giggle when she realized that the two tough ones were the hold outs when it came to intimacy. Oh, how she wanted just run up and hug him and hold him tightly, filling her nares with his scent.

She passed a pricey, but popular restaurant that gave her yet another inspiration. Why not ask Ravage on a date? She would love to venture out to a remote locale, ensconced in nature, and picnic with him, or go for a swim. The heartsick girl smiled broadly at the possibilities, and having spent several hours with him already, asking should be easy.

Shouldn’t it?

Her shyness was at war with the fierce new adoration that had been growing in her by the day. Even now she walked down the main strip rather than flew. Should she try Ravage’s brand and take to the sky? Fluttershy stopped, having felt another pang of yearning for him. “Yes!”

She bolted up leaving dust eddies on the ground. Her body spun around as she gained altitude, it was like coming up for breath. Ascending several stories, she very quickly found Ravage in the park. Not surprisingly, he was kicking a hoofball with Aster.

The enamoured pony was hoping to spend a little bit of time with him before his date with the unicorns, and it looked like she was going to get her wish. Two weeks ago, she would have just deferred to these mares.

She descended to the same piece of ground, elated with discovering his location, and just stood there. Wouldn’t interrupting Ravage and Aster be rude? She shook her head, agitated at her lack of conviction, and strode forward. She should be flying, and yet was content to walk to the park. Any other pegasus would have just flown up and spoken to him. If being forthcoming was the elusive toughness that Ravage was talking about, it was sure hard for her to do.

=^.^=

A good hard kick from Ravage’s hind leg was all it took to send the hoofball sailing into the air. Aster flew in behind it and kicked back to him as accurately as she could. He chased it for not more that two bounces before returning the kick. This kind of back-and-forth was exhilarating, testing each of their skills.

Aster hoofed the ball back to Ravage when out of the corner of her eye she saw a pony zip into the bushes near him. She couldn’t tell who it was.

He was about to return the ball when...

Proximity Alert: Unit Fluttershy.

Information on the Element of Kindness was accompanied by a spinning three dimensional image as usual. The ball whizzed by him as he looked around for her.

Aster noticed the sudden change in behavior. She flew in more closely, taking in every detail.

The Decepticon satellites and the black matter detector easily located her behind some bushes, only seven meters from his position. He couldn’t see her outright so he turned on his infrared, and there she was. “Fluttershy?” he called out. His sensitive hearing picked up a very subdued, yet high pitched sound of surprise. “What are you doing hiding in the shrubbery?”

Aster landed close behind her hoofball partner. Hooves shuffled and twigs broke, followed by Fluttershy emerging right in front of her and Ravage. The surprisingly swift pegasus was barely seen. It was amazing that Ravage knew who it was.

“H – Hi, Ravage,” the blushing pony greeted with a tiny hoof wave and a crooked smile. A smattering of twigs and leaves were caught in her mane and tail.

“Did you want to join us?” he offered, noticing a rather standardized black matter profile, much like Aster’s and Pinkie Pie’s.

“Well, um,” she began, but couldn’t bring herself to answer. Go on! she mentally prodded herself.

Aster tossed the ball in front of the yellow pony. “C’mon, Fluttershy. You can join us.”

“I’ve never played any…” she started before shaking her head. “I can try, but I won’t be very good.” Oh, what was she getting herself into? And she still needed to ask him out.

“You’ve never played hoofball either? Wow,” Aster commented. “I know Ponyville doesn’t have organized hoofball, but seriously? Ravage just learned last week.”

“Perhaps just passing the ball might be best,” Ravage suggested, and volleyed the ball toward his yellow coated friend.

Fluttershy watched the ball unceremoniously bounce off her flank, and onto the ground. For a few moments, the most audible things were the birds and the breeze through the trees. The other ponies had nothing to say, they just watched her. The urge to turn around and hang her head in shame was strong, and she would have if it were not for Ravage being one of the ponies watching her. She MUST do this! Sheepishly, she took hold of the ball, and clumsily tried to volley it – and to her surprise it worked! Sort of.

Ravage ran underneath the descending trajectory and uppercut the ball which Aster returned Fluttershy’s way.

She eeped, and blocked her face with her forelegs.

The ball bounced off the cowering mare, but with enough of an arc that Ravage still managed to bat it toward Aster.

Wanting to keep Fluttershy involved, Aster returned the ball with a slow, high arc. “Heads up!”

Without thinking, the novice mare’s body righted itself, and she made a very nice return to Ravage – who then fumbled it.

I didn’t think she was capable, Ravage thought. “It seems that the pass was good, but the receiver was not.”

Fluttershy smiled, “R-really?” She could stare forever into those eyes of his.

Ravage’s heart was pumping like he was just galloping. “Erm –ahem – yes. Shall we continue?” Did her eyes transmit magical power? If so, the new detector wasn’t showing it. He had to tear himself away from gawking, and it elicited a giggle from her, making him blush.

Seeing something more than friendship between the two, Aster stopped short of chiding Ravage for his sudden lack of skill. Luna won’t be happy to hear about another girl winging in on her chosen stallion. How fortunate that prudence required both herself and Ravage’s fan girl to leave at noon. Still, how did he know it was her in the bushes? The breeze was blowing in her direction too.

The trio continued semi-skilled ball playing for a while. Huffing, Fluttershy trotted after a ball that was shot behind the bushes. Rounding the verge, she zeroed in on the hoofball, but then looked up at three unicorns with sports gear on their backs.

“Oh hey, Fluttershy,” Pearl Bliss greeted. “Are you – passing the ball around?” This was a sight she never thought she’d see.

Ravage was certainly surprised at the appearance of his dates. The black matter patterns seemed to follow a standard profile, challenged only by Rainbow Dash thus far. Unfortunately, he could no longer egress gracefully, and he still needed data on Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, and Rarity.

“Oh – I didn’t realize it was that time yet.” Fluttershy felt as if she just got caught with her hooves in the cookie jar, and resisted a strong urge so say she was sorry. There was no social crime in what she was doing.

“It’s after eleven-thirty,” Saffron indicated.

Winter pulled her two buddies into a huddle, and hushed whispering commenced.

The stallion bot knew scheming when he saw it. Chalk up another parallel between ponies and Decepticons.

Winter opened the secretive discussion. “So, do we want to play volleyball with Ravage and break off, and try for another stallion, or do we shake our tails and make him come to us like bees to honey?”

“I don’t think tail shaking affects this guy,” Saffron countered. “I’ve seen lots of girls try it and he just saunters on like they weren’t there. It’s like he’s reading an invisible book.”

“Maybe he’s just really focused?” Pearl offered, keeping her voice low.

“Yeah, focused on Fluttershy,” Winter lamented, before a sly grin came across her face. “But what if we included her and that big chick?”

“Aster?”

“On our date?”

Winter smiled lasciviously. “Yes.” She waited a couple of seconds for the idea to sink in. “Think about it. We’ve already lost him.”

“Wait, wait. The purpose of our date is to strut our stuff. Show him that we’re the best option,” Pearl added.

Saffron caught a glimpse of Ravage and Fluttershy, and didn’t like their odds. “Okay. I say open the date to Fluttershy and Aster. They join. We put our best hooves forward.”

“Worst case scenario, three of us sleep together tonight; best case scenario, four of us,” Pearl Bliss deduced.

“And if it’s six of us, everypony’s happy.” Winter gave a pronounced nod at her conclusion, followed by a three-way hoof bump.

Winter approached with her two friends in tow. “Ravage, we want to ask a favour.”

“Oh?”

“We want to know if Fluttershy could play with us,” she suggested. “And Aster too.” Ravage was skeptical, and Fluttershy fearful. Aster was both. “We would pretty much be dating all three of you,” she stated matter-of-factly.

What trickery was this? “I don’t understand.”

Winter continued. “Oh, we intend to get our turns with you, but six players would be better for volleyball. Plus, there would be two more gorgeous ponies to snug up with,” she explained, her left hoof sweeping over Aster and Fluttershy. She winked at Fluttershy, who blushed and hid behind her mane. “Don’t you wanna keep having fun with them?”

Aster wasn’t happy with this development. Luna specifically forbade her from getting intimate with Ravage, and that she do what she can to keep the other mares off of him. She had already ferreted out some of his likes and dislikes when they ate by the tree. “Thank you, but no thanks.” The unicorns will dilute or even challenge Fluttershy’s attention to Ravage. Luna’s spy couldn’t have done a better job herself, and spread her voluminous wings, preparing to take off.

Saffron stepped forward. “Wait!” She was relieved when the sizable mare had halted. “Why not stay for the volleyball, and then go?”

Aster quickly decided that this was a good thing. “Sure.”

Ravage’s mind was awash in logical computations – and he came up with nothing. Pony culture was impossible to figure out. He looked to Fluttershy, who instantly became comfortable, smiling back. This would go a lot easier if she stuck around. “Fluttershy, I cannot make you…” He stopped talking when a yellow hoof was put to his mouth.

“I’ll stay.”

=^.^=

Twilight Sparkle’s mind weighed heavily on the events of the morning, as her chariot descended from the skies over Ponyville. Luna’s practically manic love for Ravage could have done a lot worse had Celestia not been there.

Most shocking was that Luna was bound to him by some magical force that had yet to be understood, and it wasn’t caused by the Declaration of Love. The Night Princess emphatically condoned the notion that she ‘felt’ his existence even before she witnessed him in ponies’ dreams. So strong was this connection that whatever he felt, she was starting to feel. Soon, she would be able to know wherever he was on instinct alone.

If that wasn’t scary enough, it was revealed that he wasn’t just from Cybertron, but Celestia suspected he was a soldier of Cybertron. Also, how could he get into dreams? Uncharacteristically, the Day Princess glossed over the subject.

Nearing the library, the Princess noticed him with his dates, as well as Fluttershy and Aster. She felt relief knowing that Aster was with them. An advanced flight mechanics instructor indeed, but she was also Luna’s servant.

Her fellow Elements couldn’t be told everything about Ravage, not yet. Twilight sighed, as the neophyte Princess hated keeping secrets. But this was just the beginning, there would be more! A griffon king once wrote that he could fill a tome with all the secrets he knew after decades of service to his people.

With a bump and the skidding of hooves, the chariot came to a halt. “Thank you, good sirs,” she bade her pegasi drivers. The vehicle departed and she made a bee-line to the library’s front door only to be tackled by an unknown assailant.

“Twilight! Twilight! You’ll never believe it!” Pinkie Pie announced with relish.

“Pinkie!” the surprised pony rasped as she was helped back up. She gave her wings a shake to get the gravel out.

“Sorry Twilight, but do you knoooooow whose birthday it was five days ago?” the sugar rushed mare teased.

Twilight thought on the question. “Was it somepony we missed? Actually, it was Ravage’s Welcome party five days ago.”

“Bingo,” Pinkie confirmed with a wink.

“That was Ravage’s birthday?” Twilight was positively puzzled. Forget that Ravage didn’t want to celebrate his own birthday, how was it that Pinkie Pie didn’t know?

The party mare’s excitement waned significantly, upon seeing that Twilight was more confused than happy for Ravage. “Well, I just thought I’d let you know.” She started to turn around when her friend’s foreleg extended out, barring the way.

“Just a second, Pinkie.” The Princess got an idea, and tapped her chin fleshing it out. “Why not have a surprise supper for him, say, at Applejack’s?”

The exuberant mare gasped. “Great idea!”

“Do you mind making the arrangements?” Luna said that if Ravage doesn’t want to be found, then nopony can find him. With luck, his dates will let him go to Sweet Apple Acres at dinner time, joined also by Princess Cadance.

“Okie dokie!” she agreed, bouncing off all four hooves. “I’ll tell Applejack, and Rarity, and Fluttershy and Ravage. You can tell Rainbow Dash. She’s wearing your lingerie.”

“She’s what!?”

The alicorn hurried into the library, and flew directly to the bedroom. What was Rainbow Dash up to?

Still hovering, she turned the knob and entered slowly. Dash wanted Twilight to use her wings as much as possible, and that hovering around like this would be practicing without even knowing it. Judging by her girlfriend’s undisturbed sleep, it looked like the advice was paying off.

Rainbow Dash laid entangled in her bedding, snoozing when normally she would have been awake, even with all the napping she did. It had been a tiring last couple of weeks. She was not sans lingerie either, she was wearing it!

Twilight quietly hovered over her girlfriend, figuring the best way to scold her for using other pony’s things without permission. Instead, she paused, and smiled gleefully. Dash looked so cute! The Princess had a startling realization. Did the magazines work? Could the fearless pegasus have been waiting for Twilight?

With her face morphing into something more lustful, the Princess of Friendship became the Princess of Predation. She simply folded her wings, and extended her legs so they collided with the mattress.

Dash woke up pretty quickly, complete with the acute wail of alarm. The first thing she saw was her girlfriend standing over her, but with an uncharacteristic libidinous face. “H-hey, Twilight,” she greeted.

The alicorn plucked at a sock. “I gotta say, pink looks good on you.”

“Oh sorry! I, uh – huh…” Dash scrambled for something to say that wouldn’t get her deeper into trouble.

“Now,” Twilight continued, lowering herself onto Rainbow Dash, pressing their barrels against each other, “May I ask why you are wearing my private things?”

Rainbow tried to keep it together. The question was simple, but fear addled her mind, and Twilight’s expectant face didn’t help either. She could try to lie, but Ravage would just spill the beans as soon as the Princess talked to him. “I had, uh.” She just had to tell it straight. “I looked at the magazines you left behind.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow, “Go on.”

“And uh – they were really good magazines,” she squeaked, chuckling nervously.

“They are.”

Dash paused. How was she supposed to say this? “I – needed relief?” Her girlfriend motioned for her to continue. “So I kind of asked Ravage to come here and – get a birthday present.” Twilight’s face scowled with disapproval, and she looked away, resettling onto her haunches. “He never came though.”

“So you’re sleeping with me, but when the mood strikes you find the nearest available stallion?”

“No. Just Ravage.”

The discomfort in that room was as palpable as Twilight’s frown. “Granted, we are interested in him, but we have to date him first.” How far did that stallion’s magnetism reach?

“We can’t do this by the book, Twilight. I mean, there’s six of us. Six. Do you know how long that would take, trying to get everypony’s say in?”

The creases in Twilight’s frown softened a bit. The unusual size of their herd could be a huge disadvantage when it came to actually choosing a stallion. By the time they figured out that they wanted Ravage, it could be too late. Some random mare who he really connected with would be all it would take. But even that was not the truth that tortured her.

Twilight’s expression sank, tears pooling up in her eyes. Was she to say that she wanted Rainbow Dash to herself while being the leader of a herd? Her world became distorted as she started to sob. Of course she couldn’t. If only they were just a pair. She felt Dash’s forelegs grasp firmly from behind, and her sharp muzzle kneading her neck.

“I feel awful,” Dash admitted. She could tell that Twilight was trying to control the waterworks, but the rapid heaving from her lungs still came.

“Dash,” she haled in broken falsetto, “Why can’t I have you?”

The normally energetic pegasus felt depleted, and released her grip on the sullen purple pony beside her. “Wow,” she started, gathering her thoughts. “You’re such a great pony, so capable. It doesn’t surprise me that you became a Princess.” She thought a little more. “Maybe that’s the problem.” She felt encouraged that her friend had stopped crying, and listened intently.

“Well,” Twilight started, her voice having only slight reverberations, “Why shouldn’t a Wonderbolt Officer love a Friendship Princess?”

Rainbow smiled, her confidence returning almost instantly. She wasn’t an officer yet, but that was everyone’s expectation. Then her sweetheart took one of her hooves into both of her own.

“Rainbow?” The pegasus looked ready for the next round of questioning. “Do you love me?”

“No, duh! Of course I love you!” she responded confidently.

“Okay.” The next big question loomed. “Do you want me?”

Dash was not prepared for that one. “That’s not a fair question! If I love you, then I want you,” she glossed, grimacing.

“Tell me the truth.”

Rainbow felt cornered, but this was Twilight. She should trust Twilight. “Well, I – I do,” she stuttered.

Twilight leaned forward, extending a foreleg around Rainbow Dash’s neck. She applied her lips to the flighty pegasus and kissed. With a force only true lovers could muster, both ponies moved in and made out, their tongues sloppily sliding together. Her hoof ran up and down Dash’s side, taking time to massage her firm wing muscles. Their tails whipped to and fro over the bedding. The air became hot with arousal, as the alicorn overwhelmed her partner, forcing her onto her back.

Rainbow panted as she felt Twilight’s teeth and tongue on her neck, and could hardly move in her surprisingly strong grasp.

The primed Princess came up for breath, and enjoyed the look of satisfaction on her lover’s face. “I like the way you taste,” she said between pants. “Let’s see what the rest of you tastes like.” Her lover’s expression changed – she was afraid? “Ya know, for science!” she quipped.

“Twilight, wait!” Dash implored.

“What’s wrong?”

“I – I, uh…” She couldn’t form the words.

“Dash, look at me. Look into my eyes.” She obeyed. “I will not hurt you. If at any time you feel uncomfortable, or feel that something’s wrong, tell me to stop.”

“You’re not frightening, Twilight.” Rainbow responded.

Twilight’s frown returned. “Well that’s good to know,” her tone laced with arsenic, as she reluctantly got off.

Dash remained lying down, and closed her eyes in concentration. Figuring out what to say, she opened them up. “I promised Scootaloo to take her under my wing, tell her everything I know.”

Twilight stopped whatever she had been doing. This rather random statement could be a new angle she’d never heard before, and she listened closely.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with her wings, but she can sure drive a mean scooter. She has as much skill on the ground as I do in the sky.”

That was quite the compliment coming from Rainbow Dash, and the alicorn was impressed.

“Yet no matter how awesome her moves are, no matter how much her abilities grow, she always asks for my approval.” Grim-faced, Dash slowly nodded. “Even though she doesn’t need it.”

Twilight was beginning to grasp what her pegasus lover was trying to say, “Scootaloo really looks up to you.”

Rainbow smiled. “And I really look up to you,” she emphasized, pointing a hoof at her purple friend and lover.

As sudden as a lightning strike, Twilight Sparkle understood. “We get one shot at this.”

Could it be that the Element of Loyalty gave her heart to one lover and one lover only? She’ll play with her herdmates, no doubt, but what if the unthinkable happened? The Princess could find love again, but Rainbow Dash…

Rainbow got up quickly, her confident air having returned so quickly, it was like it never left. “So,” she directed to a rather beleaguered alicorn, “How ‘bout we look at those magazines?”

Twilight almost laughed in disbelief, “Is that all you can think about is dirty magazines?”

“Yeah, at the moment,” Dash replied as she started building a ‘reading nest’ out of pillows against the headboard. “Wanna join me or not?” she prodded.

The alicorn sensed opportunity, and levitated the smutty box of books onto the bed.

=^.^=

The big ponies were shoulder to shoulder, lying against the oak tree. Fluttershy and Winter were curled up against Ravage, while Aster had Saffron and Pearl Bliss spooning up against her.

Their limbs were tired from exertion, and their bellies full of delicious picnic food that the unicorns had prepared, followed by a dousing with ice cream. All had descended into a sleepy, semi-conscious state against the tree.

“So an aerofoil is just a cross-section of a – fixed wing?” Aster asked tiredly.

“Which has some moving surfaces that can move to control air direction, yes,” Ravage added.

Aster let out a subdued laugh – laughing harder would hurt, as her distended belly was pressed up against two adult mares. “You are so full of hay!” One of her little unicorn friends adjusted position, presumably to allow more air into the flight instructor’s lungs. “First, why fixed wings at all? Hook up a pegasus to a cart with fixed wings and go – how fast?”

“Sixty-three miles an hour should be enough for little pony carriages.”

“With fixed wings,” she clarified, “On a payload which flies under its own power is unnecessary, because it’s being pulled by pegasi.”

Ravage chortled. At least Twilight could admit when she didn’t have all the answers, but this educator was hopelessly married to a kind of flight mechanics that depended on magic. He gestured to the town. “Enjoy your thatched-roof houses.”

“I like my house,” Pearl said demurely.

“I like your house too,” echoed Winter. The ponies began chatting in earnest, having recovered sufficiently.

Fluttershy was contented to keep snuggling with Ravage, pressing her face into his barrel. Was herd life with her fellow Elements to be like this? If so, she couldn’t wait! She easily envisioned Aster’s cluster replaced with Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and Twilight. The intimacy of such close-quarters contact, the trust, and the sheer security awaited the still timid pegasus.

Yet Fluttershy defeated her timidity that day, and actually played volleyball. Rarity would have a fit when she saw what her hooves were put through, but that was part of the deal: get dirty. In speaking of getting dirty, she had come to accept the more primal feminine urges that she was experiencing when she thought of Ravage. Holding his body so closely, she found it necessary to exercise a measure of restraint.

Tonight, she thought. No rules were being broken. Thanks to these wonderful unicorns she was, in fact, dating him, even if secondarily. Of course, he’ll have to date the other five herdmates, but this was all just minutia to Fluttershy. He’ll come to love them as the Element of Kindness had, it was inevitable. Further emboldening her was Flitter’s talk of how good a kisser he could be.

Aster caught a glimpse of a pony coming, wearing a very specific hat. “Is that Applejack?” she asked.

The Decepticon pony used his specialized optics to zoom in on the girl. “It is.”

“Are you sure, Ravage?” Saffron asked. “That does kinda look like her hat though.”

The farm pony approached the group with purpose in her gait. “Howdy,” she greeted. Curt and courteous replies were given back. “Ah’ don’t know if Pinkie has told you yet, but apparently Ah’m supposed to host a supper for y’all. I think Twilight came up with the idea, somethin’ about missing Ravage’s birthday.”

That got the girls riled up.

“When was your birthday?” Fluttershy asked.

Unfortunately for Ravage’s sanity, her query was echoed by the other five mares bombarding him with the same or related questions. He shook his head. “Why does everybody know about my birthday?” he snapped in a raised voice.

“Whoah there,” Applejack calmed, gently rocking her front hooves. “It’s a tradition, Ravage. Ah’ don’t know how ya did it in Cybertron, but ‘round her we like to celebrate our birthdays.”

The pony bot leaned his chin on his hoof, dissecting the new cultural information. He nodded slowly, their behavior made sense now. “I see.” Thinking a little further, an additional lesson was learned: do not share personal information with Pinkie Pie!

“Ah’m also not one to interrupt any dating ponies – m’ah apologies – BUT, if y’all wanna add a ‘stop at the farm’ to your dating plan,” she described with air quotes, “you’re welcome to it.” Looking at the unicorns’ expressions, Pearl and Saffron were in, and Winter was just the opposite.

“One other thing,” Applejack began as she respectfully took off her hat and held it in front of her chest, “the manifold for our stove went caput as of this mornin’. It’ll take me the rest of the afternoon to fix it. With all the farm chores that need doin’, A’hm – ehem – gonna need a little help from ma’ friends.”

“What kind of help?” Aster asked.

“The ASAP kind. Pinkie Pie and Applebloom are tending the animals, Big Mac’s buckin’, Rarity will help granny once the stove’s fixed, and ‘Ah can’t find Twi ‘n Dash.” The other ponies looked perplexed at this. “There was a sign on the library saying it was closed. ‘Never seen that happen in the middle ‘o day before. Ah’ slipped a note of m’ah own under the door.”

“Maybe they’re reorganizing the library,” Saffron suggested.

Pearl Bliss rolled her eyes. “Twilight likes to clean every crevice and hole in that place. Her books are so precious.”

“Hold that thought,” Winter intervened, before pulling her pals off behind the bushes for some whispered discussion. “Next stop: bedroom. What d’ya say, girls? Ravage can show up at Applejack’s farm later.”

Pearl twisted her muzzle in disagreement. “I dunno about that.”

Saffron focused, and hummed as she balanced ideas. “If Ravage was into us, he’d be giving affection, not just receiving it. He hasn’t even approached Fluttershy,” she practically hissed. “Fluttershy! In fact, she approached him!”

Winter sighed in defeat. “He’s gay, and doesn’t know it yet.” Her friends both shook their heads at this.

“He’d have stallions hanging off him by now,” Saffron offered.

“Asexual?” Winter was running out of orientation options.

“Not according to Flitter.” Pearl Bliss had known Flitter and Cloudchaser a lot longer than her counterparts, and trusted their advice. “Why don’t we just help Applejack?” she suggested.

Saffron gave a strong nod in agreement, but Winter still needed convincing.

Pearl described her idea more fully. “Okay, Ravage is gonna see how awesome having a birthday party is. Don’t you want to be a part of that?”

Winter balanced her chin on her hoof, eyeing Pearl Bliss suspiciously.

“It’ll be memorable,” Saffron supported. “He’ll admire who was there having a good time with him.”

Winter decided to accept the plan, and sighed. “Alright.”

Ravage eyed the bushes as Fluttershy continued to snuggle him. A quick conversation between Aster and Applejack resulted in the flight instructor also going to the farm to help.

“Ravage,” the apple farmer addressed. “Would you come help if your dates asked you to? ‘Ah know it’s your party, but trust me, it’ll be worth it.”

“I’ll help you, Applejack,” Fluttershy offered. Her hopeful face stared into Ravage’s.

Ravage wasn’t going to say no, but stared back at Fluttershy regardless. Fine fur covered her face like Corlonium anti-nanite mesh, with the more rambunctious fibers rounding her cheeks. Her eyes glistened with moisture, he could see Applejack’s reflection in them, as well as clouds and trees – such finely formed lenses! He gazed at her inlets for respiration. The way her little muzzle hung over her open mouth commanded attention as they sped up the pony bot’s heart rate.

It was happening again. Ravage could lose himself just by looking too closely at these mares, but the effect from Fluttershy was by and far the most pronounced.

Ahem, Applejack interrupted.

“Yes,” Ravage agreed, immediately rewarded by a sudden hug from Fluttershy which threw him off balance. “I will help.”

=^.^=

With the lengthening shadows of early evening came the end of a lot of work and preparation. It was finally time to eat! Picnic tables were butted up against each other to handle the large group of ponies that included the Apples, Applebloom’s friends, the Elements, and Ravage’s dating cluster. A progression of heavy thuds from serving bowls full of food portended the feast to come, but it was the smells that exacerbated each pony’s hunger.

Granny Smith banged a triangle, an alert that meant that food was ready to eat. “Soup’s on, everypony!” The announcement was highly effective, immediately drawing ponies over to the dinner tables.

Aster sat down opposite her Junior Wonderbolt student. “Wow, you look tired. I thought you rested today?”

Suddenly alert, Rainbow Dash replied, “Uh yeah!” Twilight sat down beside her and cuddled up. “Yeah, I got a lot of rest.”

Granny went to the head of the table. “A’fore we start, ‘Ah gotta point out that we have a birthday pony in our midst.” Cheers erupted and hooves thrummed the wooden table tops in anticipation.

The pony bot monitored an update on the temporal anomaly. It appeared that it would stop growing, at least perceivably, sometime Saturday morning. No coincidence was this. He yearned to get back to his ship and look at the full suite of observations so he could make proper predictions. From behind the transparent inset, he noticed his snowy furred dates. Winter was motioning him over while Pearl Bliss tapped on the spot between them. He was uneasy with being the object of attention of this large social grouping, but willed himself into the confined space.

He determined that most ponies absorb about ten to fifteen percent of the black matter streaming around them. Twilight Sparkle absorbed about half of it, while Rainbow Dash took in around seventy percent. They didn’t seem to get heavier from the process, where did all the mass go? Of course, exiting streams could be heavier than when they first came into a pony’s body. There was no way to know.

Fluttershy sat beside Rarity, who was describing in detail what kind of clothes to wear and what kind of foods to order when she and Ravage started dating. The ever modest pegasus still hadn’t asked him out yet, but the dress maker went on like it was a done deal.

“Pinkie Pie, would ya do the honour of startin’ us off, please?” Granny requested.

“Happy birthday to you,” the happy-go-lucky mare began, though much more slowly than would be expected.

At the next verse, every pony joined in! The insipid jingle isolated the hapless Decepticon, and a toothy grimace was all he could express. He could make out each voice familiar to him singing the awful tune, as if they were mind-controlled zombies. His stomach was turning over itself while the lyrics seared him like radiation from a neutron star. He had only just sat down!

It was over very quickly. Ravage had been holding his breath, and didn’t know it. There was no doubt about it, he hated this tradition.

“Everypony gets theirs, Ravage,” Applejack commented with a wink, as the other ponies dug into the food.

He received kisses on both cheeks from Pearl and Winter.

Fluttershy found herself wishing she would have sat down beside him, but suspended the thought. He was Winter and her friends’ date, and they acted very generously by allowing her and Aster to join. However, that did mean that she could have a moment with him too. She bided her time waiting for an opportunity.

Saffron got out of her seat and got behind him. With some force she turned his upper body to face her. Fixing her hoof to his muzzle, she leaned in and, albeit briefly, passionately kissed him on the mouth, causing more cheering. She pulled off, noticing a tinge of disappointment from her date, as he appeared to want to continue. She smiled and giggled. “Just a sample for now, you can have the rest later.” The hoofball player sat down relieved that Ravage seemed to enjoy kissing mares.

The dinner continued and the Decepticon guest ate ravenously, as did most of the ponies. He was on his second helping when…

Interception Alert: Unit Princess Cadance.

Ravage turned his head toward a patch of what appeared to be clear sky and zoomed in. A three-dimensional animation of Princess Cadance was not available, but a profile picture was. Aided by an orange box from the battle computer, a group of ponies was seen flying in formation. It was a carriage surrounded by four guards, two on either side.

“Whatcha looking at, Ravage?” Pearl asked, noticing the sudden change of focus.

Pearl Bliss was not the only one to see this. Aster definitely noticed, as did Fluttershy, Twilight Sparkle, and Rainbow Dash. Aster and Dash turned their heads to the same general patch of sky.

“Huh, we’ve got incoming,” Rainbow determined.

It took Aster a bit longer, but she noticed too. “It looks like a carriage.”

“Such keen eyes you have, Ravage,” Twilight remarked as she munched on petunia salad, keeping it in her head that this guy escaped Luna’s elite guard. To keep the suspicious pony in her sights, the Friendship Princess planned on intervening if it became necessary.

Ravage realized his mistake, how could he get so sloppy? He noticed that Twilight seemed more concerned with munching on her food, as indicated by how much of her face was covered by it, than with his ‘exceptional’ eyesight. Still, he would do well to avoid making the same error.

Soon, Cadance’s carriage could be seen by all, bound to land on the Apple farm.

Applejack wasn’t surprised by a visit from Twilight’s long time friend and prepared another place at the table, by the purple Princess.

Twilight held a hoof up to her agriculturally astute friend. “Actually Applejack,” she started in a hushed voice, “Could you make a place for her over by Ravage? There may be more room.”

Applejack thought nothing of it and did as Twilight asked. She smiled at just how much ponies loved Apple farm food.

The Decepticon stallion observed the proceedings as yet another Princess came to the dinner table, the Love Princess in fact. Spike had come down with her and immediately went to his alicorn keeper. The greetings had been brief, no pomp, and only Pinkie Pie had anything more to say, along with the children who were positively thrilled to have her in their midst. He found it odd that this ‘Cadance’ sat down at the opposing ends of the tables instead of with Twilight, as they obviously knew each other very well.

And thus, there was an alicorn on the left and an alicorn on the right; powerful creatures in of themselves. The black matter detector revealed that Cadance was in the same range as Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash, absorbing around sixty percent of the streams. To say that his instincts had been set off would have been an understatement. Royalty or not, this pink thing did nothing to help, and her impending arrival was not even discussed during the work and dinner preparations. She just sat down and started eating.

She haled from a land of crystal, they said. The ponies had not bowed to her though they never bowed to Twilight either. The way Cadance ate was different, with a reserved appetite that nibbled, as opposed to the voraciousness witnessed so far.

Before long, supper was finished. Applebloom had already gathered up a significant amount of the spent dishware and brought it into the house.

“Anypony ready for dessert?” Applejack asked the group.

“Are you kidding!” Pinkie gushed. “I was born ready.” Her sentiment was shared with a few other ponies, though the majority looked like they had their fill.

“Uh,” Scootaloo began, “We may have been trying to get our cutie marks in baking, and left the pie cutters in the clubhouse,” she said embarrassingly.

Applejack focused on the little foal for only about two seconds. “Well go get ‘em!” she demanded, gesturing toward the little building.

“I’ll get them,” the disguised Decepticon announced, seeking a way out of the unwanted attention.

Fluttershy watched with interest as the stallion walked to the foals’ tree shelter. This was her chance! Step by little step, she meekly walked in his general direction, but she really wasn’t disappointed in herself. She was upset! Like a bucket full of holes, confidence seemed to drain its way out of her, even after leaps of courage had delivered results. Shaking her head, she tried to steel herself yet again, an act of preparation she had done more times since Ravage arrived than since the beginning of the year.

The unicorns were a little distressed by Ravage’s up and leaving, but not too much. What bothered them was Fluttershy flying the thirty meter trip toward the clubhouse just as he was clambering up the ladder. “Well, we invited her along,” Saffron soothed her friends.

“Ravage?” Fluttershy called out.

Just as he was about to open the door, he saw his little yellow friend had come to the ground under him. Was it important? He looked at her over the rail, and smiled, just as she had been smiling at him.

Oh, look at him! She mused. He was genuinely interested in her! “I noticed you were very uncomfortable when they sung Happy Birthday to you.”

Ravage harrumphed. “The song made no sense. You cannot will happiness onto somebody.”

“Well…” Fluttershy got an idea – a stupendous, wonderful idea! Her face really brightened up. “Maybe I could sing something more appropriate?”

The pony bot was puzzled at the concept; would she just start singing out of the blue?

Come to me my fleeting heart,
Our journeys have been long,
Nature strives to make us part,
Resistance makes us strong Fluttershy began, stretching out her left foreleg to Ravage.

The pony bot relaxed, and closed his eyes. She really was singing to him! As impressive as Octavia and Flitter had been, Fluttershy was in a station all her own. Why did each note and each verse resonate so much more with this particular mare?

Winter stared at the spectacle, dumbfounded. “Well at least we know what he really likes,” she concluded.

Rainbow Dash shivered from a chill of realization. What if she had sung a rock song to him? How different the day would have turned out. She hugged Twilight and held her in her forelegs, earning sweet sounds of affection. By the mere existence of this stallion her friends really began to gel as a herd, yet at the same time could have been damaged. Rainbow shook her head, feeling she was way overthinking the situation. She casted the hypothetical situation from her mind and enjoyed Twilight’s nuzzling instead.

Hidden beneath Fluttershy’s soft exterior was a very powerful voice, Ravage realized. He rested his elbow on the rail, and placed his face on his hoof. A soft smile graced his otherwise steely composure.

Sensing victory was nearing, Fluttershy put everything she had into the final verses, especially the crescendo.

The pony bot was entranced, bathing in the vibrations of Fluttershy’s melodious voice. Perhaps he could one day give a sample to Soundwave for analysis.

As suddenly as she started, it was over, and the pegasus beamed at her favorite stallion, thrilled that he so obviously enjoyed himself.

“Thank you, Fluttershy. That is the most impressive thing I’ve heard since I got here,” he complimented. His friend smiled openly and broadly. “Now, I shall acquire those dessert implements.” He turned around and went into the clubhouse.

He was immediately put off by the lack of familiarity. In fact, even if the pie cutters were in plain view, what did they look like? It didn’t matter though, his objective was to be left alone and he set to looking. The space was surprisingly neat and tidy except for a desk by the east window which supported a lot of writing utensils, and drawings, and the like. Suddenly, the tree house rocked, a couple of worn pencils rolled onto the floor making pin prick sounds.

The door opened and Fluttershy came in like a whirlwind, turning around and locking the door.

Sensing trouble, Ravage immediately searched for exits. Two windows… One faced west toward the picnicking ponies, and the other f…

He was bowled over by the eager mare as she planted her lips on his face, knocking him down and smashing into the desk, sending reams of pages and other junk on the floor and crayons rollicking down his barrel.

Holding his head fast, Fluttershy gripped her hind legs on him like a vice while she kissed him lovingly, thrilled to find him receptive. She slid and twisted her body against his, enjoying the texture of his warm muscle, and the male essence of his taste and smell. She broke the kiss briefly, as she stared into his eyes, her respiration drastically increasing. She saw a wanting in those eyes, and with that her aggression was increased two-fold. Her driving tongue was accepted, and she probed his mouth with zeal, encouraged by his thundering heartbeat. She broke off to taste one of his sumptuous ears, chewing and sucking, her body providing the support to maximize her enjoyment. Small, but audible gasps of pleasure emanated from Ravage, but his ears were not enough, her desire far from quenched. She loomed over her prey and a longing few ponies had ever seen, even her closest friends, slowly emerged on her face.

Ravage was paralysed with a combination of fear and adventure. He knew what she was about to do. He must stop this! But… he can’t! Part of him wanted to throw her through the roof, and the other part wanted to explore. Both combatting attitudes rose in unison when she started again on his neck. Oh, her mane was so lovely… Visions of Flitter came into mind and faded just as quickly as she made a trail toward his chest, kissing, licking, sucking, and feasting on one cord of muscle after the other, she continued toward his sternum. He almost didn’t want her to stop. Why!?

Cybertron help me…

A hard knock came at the door, surprising the two ponies. “Did ‘ya guys find the cake cutters ‘er what?” came the voice of Applebloom. The door knob jiggled. “Hey, why’d y’all lock the door?”

Princess Cadance smiled, her eyes opened just a slit as she felt the torrents of the loving exchange. Fluttershy was committed. Ravage was being held back by himself, and only by himself, and only by a slim margin. She opened her eyes fully to see Twilight waiting for her.

“Well?” the Friendship Princess asked.

“I think I can help.” She stepped close to her friend, in an effort to keep her voice low. “Ravage’s heart is in bonds. For whatever reason, maybe his upbringing, or military training, he will not give his heart to another under any circumstances.”

“Oh,” Twilight dejectedly responded. Regardless of what he had done with Princess Luna, it looked like no mare or herd could have him if that were the case.

“It gets worse. I can only feel one heart at a time. It may have to do with how physically close I am to either pony and,” Cadance didn’t know any other way to say this, “Whatever is enamouring Luna is coming from Ravage.”

Twilight’s expression screwed up at this. “I don’t get it.”

“I don’t understand it either, but the bond is a lot stronger than when I felt it four days ago.” Cadance looked this way and that, making sure nobody was listening in. “It would take only a nudge,” she described, closely scanning Twilight’s face, “To bring Ravage and Fluttershy together.”

The Princess of Friendship gasped as she caught onto what Cadance was saying. “You can’t do that. Celestia forbade it!” she pleaded, trying and almost failing to keep to keep her voice unheard by any other ponies.

“I have to break that magical connection. I can only do it if I’m bringing ponies together concurrently,” Cadance added with a business-like candor. Her alicorn friend was horrified. “Luna’s distress will only get worse, Twilight.”

“No!”

The two Princesses were suddenly teleported to an area away from the other ponies by Twilight’s magic.

“We have to understand the magical bond first then act!” she voiced tersely.

“Twilight, I promise you, whatever is happening to Luna is not Ravage’s doing. He’s completely innocent. And I suspect we’ll never understand why the bond is there until it’s too late.”

“Too late for what?”

Princess Cadance was taken aback by this. “Too late for Luna,” she replied, as if it were the most obvious thing.

Twilight thought about the possible consequences. “You think she’ll go insane?”

“Even if she was just very irrational, Luna could deal heavy damage to anypony that opposes her.” She leaned in closer to her young friend. “What if Celestia is no longer able to calm her down?”

Twilight’s eyes went wide with horror, knowing what happened the last time Celestia and Luna had an altercation. It was well known that Princess Luna was second only to Celestia in terms of raw power, and that was very arguable, especially when one considers how easily Nightmare Moon disposed of h…

The little Princess froze in mid thought. The wicked Mare of Darkness was defeated, but that didn’t mean Luna didn’t conceal other terrible magic, yet unseen by anypony today.

Shortly after she was accepted as Celestia’s personal student, the curious little unicorn found an ancient book from a special wing of the library left accidentally accessible. It detailed some of the great wars ponies had against other races, and even civil wars amongst themselves. She recalled a few phrases describing how Luna had done harm to armies even before they could attack Equestria, typically by creating a vicious creature that invoked nightmares – the Tantalus? The Anibus? Twilight couldn’t remember something she had so little exposure to. The little foal never would have never guessed that she would actually meet Luna someday.

A great sadness overcame Twilight. “Cadance, is your spell reversible?”

The Love Princess shook her head.

Twilight exhaled a drawn-out sigh. “I object to such a course of action.” Her fellow Princess stared back neutrally. “I’m going back to Rainbow Dash. Don’t let me catch you,” she warned before disappearing in a flash of teleportation.

The unicorns galloped up to the tree house when they noticed Applebloom couldn’t get in because it was locked.

The little earth pony came down with the dessert utensils in her teeth. “Ish ‘alrah, ‘ah jog ‘em,” she mouthed with difficulty, returning to the picnic tables.

Ravage came down, showing no signs that anything out of the ordinary had occurred. Though his mask was good, his mind was whirling with images of the surprisingly passionate mare. Every clasp of pony legs felt like an armor upgrade, every kiss like a dribble of energon. It was confusing and exciting all at once.

Fluttershy flew down to see three unicorns eyeing her suspiciously, and immediately hid her face in her mane.

Winter got in close to the embarrassed pegasus and sniffed. “Ya’ know, you and I have a lot in common,” she observed, her hoof oscillating between pointing at Fluttershy and herself.

Pearl Bliss came to a logical conclusion, regarding Ravage, Fluttershy, and her pals, and smiled crookedly. It appeared that Ravage was that kind of stallion. “Well girls, maybe we should check the barn for pie cutters.” Similar expressions developed amongst her friends. “Ravage, I think you can help us identify the proper size and shape.” Her friends enthusiastically agreed.

Fluttershy didn’t like where this was going. “B-but Applebloom already got them…”

Winter put a hoof over Fluttershy’s mouth, shushing her. “You can come along,” she whispered in her ear.

“Oh no, Fluttershy. Those cutters were for earth pony mares,” Saffron fabricated, gently tugging at Ravage toward the barn with her magic.

Ravage felt his backside nudged periodically by Winter, while getting tugged ahead by unicorn magic. He almost didn’t need to move his legs. Different pie cutters for different pony races? It wasn’t logical. It was time to get back to the base, and he was tired of the attention. The forceful magic was ever present though, continuously working to move him. He tried to move in one direction, but was carried in another. It was like walking on lithium grease, only he wouldn’t fall.

“Come on, Ravage! Let’s go look for unicorn mare, and pegasus mare pie,” Pearl insisted. “Cutters.”

Fluttershy made fearful, tentative steps with the other ponies. She wanted Ravage, there was no argument about that, but seeing him corralled like that confused her. Was this – was this what her herd would do? They could get pretty randy too, not unlike these unicorn mares.

Ravage had his missiles loaded, no good for close quarters combat. He had to use another tactic, something to go head to head with the unicorns’ magic. “STOP!” he demanded. He was immediately released, and he turned to face the now fearful looking unicorns. “What is the meaning of this?” he said tersely. “Applebloom already acquired the pie cutters. We don’t need anymore.”

Winter sighed. “Ravage, let me level with you. I’m sure you’ve figured out that what we need is privacy, hence the barn,” she explained, pointing at the Apple farm’s main building.

The stallion bot’s face contorted as his powerful brain streamed through one logical comparison after another, and things started to get less foggy. “So,” he began, wanting to be absolutely certain of the situation, “No pie?”

Winter and Saffron were bowled over with laughter.

After some snickering, Pearl Bliss sounded off, “We can have pie and then we can go to my place,” she suggested. “And you’re coming with us,” she demanded, pointing a hoof at Fluttershy.

“I – I am?”

“You are.”

“O – kay.” Fluttershy didn’t have to join in on the date, but it looked like she was there for the duration.

Ravage had enough. The path that would take him to his ship was within visual range, and he had the black matter data he came for. He wouldn’t get any pie, it was true. He wouldn’t get a lot of things anymore, but he had long overstayed his welcome. And these unicorns – confusing as they may have been, not only showed that they had the power to force him, but also convincingly showed that they were willing to use it. That was unacceptable.

“Well, it’s been fun, but now I’m afraid I have to – urgkh…” The pony bot held a hoof over his heart. The cold water pouring into his chest feeling had returned with a vengeance, wreaking havoc on his emotional state. The horrible feeling increased by the second and Ravage sprawled out, eyes glazed over and teeth gritted in agony.

At that very moment in Canterlot, Princess Luna had been scouring her ancient spell books for information on love bonds, having just spent a fruitless search in the main library. Suddenly, she too felt death in her bosom, and doubled over, holding her chest in pain. Ravage

“Ravage, are you alright!?” Pearl asked, taken by complete surprise at the change in mood. Her friends were also instantly worried at their date’s condition.

Goodness, that looks painful. This should have taken an instant!

Red Alert! Target lock detected.

The battle computer indicated the offender was behind him, thanks to the black matter data being shared over the network. Emotional distress or not, nothing was affecting his hydraulic systems and Ravage turned around to face the threat. He found a heavy concentration of black matter streams and one intense stream beaming into his chest. He leaped to the side, nearly mowing down Saffron who scuttled out of the way, and felt no different. He turned on his infrared and found nothing!

“Ravage, what’s going on?” Saffron demanded.

The embattled pony bot dislodged a rock from the soil, stood up, and threw it at the center with all his might. The black matter streams were dispersed and the beam discontinued.

In a flash of light, Cadance appeared behind a copse of trees out of the way of prying eyes. Poor Ravage, he looked awful, though he nearly hit her with that rock. Did she get in too close? Yes, that must have been it; he probably picked up her scent. Her invisibility shield, a special spell she created for whenever she needed to hide from danger, completely masked any light from getting out, even sounds. She was thankful she used the spell at all, as reports of Ravage’s abilities turned out to be accurate.

Cadance had never encountered a love bond this strong in all her years. It was then that she realized that Luna would also be feeling Ravage’s emotional pain. Not good!

That love bond didn’t just take choice out of the equation, it was dangerous, as Luna’s ferocity in the garden early that day proved. Most crucially, its power continuously increased. It must be destroyed! To accomplish this, Ravage would be bound to Fluttershy against his will, although it was evident that they liked each other. And Luna could find a partner the natural way, the proper way. The Princess engaged the spell once again, and ascended into the air. They must be saved!

Fluttershy looked on, very troubled by Ravage’s erratic behavior, though she was relieved to see he appeared to be feeling better. “Can you tell us what’s wrong?”

“I’m under attack.” The main computer calculated that approximately sixty percent of the black matter streams were being absorbed, a rather unique signature. He zoomed in on the picnicking ponies and saw Twilight, but couldn’t find Princess Cadance. A very sour expression etched itself into his face.

Winter was as perplexed as Pearl and Saffron. “Uh Ravage, there’s nopony else around.”

“You have a lot to learn about sneak attacks,” he rebutted, looking this way and that.

Fluttershy was worried. Such a solid stallion shouldn’t suddenly display behavioral issues. She looked where Ravage was looking, trying to find he presumed attacker.

Ravage tasked the satellites to search for her within a five-hundred meter radius. Princess Cadance had come for him, and whatever she was doing hurt.

Back in Canterlot, Luna was focusing her efforts to ascertain what to do. What Ravage was feeling now was anger, apprehension, and a little fear; definitely a warrior’s instinct. She could teleport down, but feared her unbridled love for the stallion would cloud everything, and she would simply whisk him away. And thus, she stood by and waited for his mood to calm down.

Something was wrong; the battle computer was taking too long. Again, a death grip assaulted his heart. Nine-o’clock! The beam wasn’t as concentrated, but was no less painful. There was no concentration of black matter streams within his field of detection which meant Cadance had learned to keep her distance. His brow furrowed, and his anger swelled. He could fire his missiles, but he would be found out, and even with their homing enabled to fly to the source of the beam they would likely miss, assuming Cadance didn’t vanish first!

Luna’s mouth was wide open in shock as she felt hatred now, flowing like a river. The only thing she knew of approaching this much hate was Nightmare Moon. “Ravage, what have they done to you?”

Fluttershy stepped back, frightened by his hateful glare. What could she say? Nopony even knew what the problem was.

Ravage plied his warrior’s instinct, forgetting about hating for the moment. What to do? What to do!? He needed to run… and then, a piercing sensation was felt in his heart, and his eyes closed, and all he could feel was abject loss.

Luna felt it too, and collapsed onto her forelegs. But this situation was unacceptable. “nnNOOO!!!” she screamed, her eyes aglow with powerful magic.

A surge of black matter pulsed from him, and fed back up the beam, hitting Cadance like a cannon, throwing her back, disoriented, and forced to feel intolerable loneliness.

“Ravage, what’s wrong!?” Fluttershy cried out.

With his wits back and his emotions in check, the Decepticon pony executed his plan, and ran straight for the barn. Let’s see if Cadance can hit what she cannot see!

Cadance gathered her wits back quickly. That was Luna’s love that did that, she must not fail! With renewed vigor, she pursued the fleeing earth pony, flying directly towards the barn doors.

Ravage barreled in, jumping over the tongue of an apple cart turned on its side, spinning one-hundred eighty degrees around on the other side and sliding to a stop, his missile racks emerging as he did so. The beam was mere centimeters in front of him before moving in on his heart again, followed by the spiky pack of black matter streams that gave away Cadance’s position.

“Die!!” Two missiles fired at Cadance, but she vanished away as the weapons launched. With reflexes far beyond that of a normal pony’s Ravage dove behind the apple cart.

Twilight and the other ponies were looking upon the commotion wrought by the odd behavior of the dating mares, and what sounded like somepony saying ‘die’ just as the front of the barn blew off in a gigantic explosion.

Fluttershy and the unicorns ran away from the twisted, fiery wall of wood before it could fall on them.

Cadance had the misfortune of teleporting in front of the loft, in wanting to keep close to Ravage, before the shockwave and debris knocked her out of the sky. Her invisibility spell gone, she flew out of control and collided with the unyielding earth, accompanied by the crunch of breaking wing bones.

Defaced, the hobbled structure leaned forward, timbers snapping like popcorn, and collapsed in a heap of rubble, its leading edge giving the hurting body of the Love Princess a further jostle of momentum with broken planks and exposed nails.

The entire gathering rushed to the aid of Princess Cadance, Twilight Sparkle teleporting there first. “Are you alright!?” she feverishly asked, carefully removing the wreckage away from her.

The Love Princess gritted her teeth, wincing in pain. “Nnngh… Broke my wings…” she rasped. Her body was peppered with scrapes and puncture wounds, but it was the broken bones that got all her attention.

Rainbow Dash was the second responder. “What happened?”

“Cadance needs medical attention. Get a doctor!”

“On it!” The pegasus saluted before taking off at top speed toward the hospital.

Twilight casted a minor pain relief spell on her friend. It seemed to work, but only just a little. It was then that she noticed Applejack and Fluttershy waiting impatiently to talk to her.

“Ravage was in the barn!” Fluttershy exclaimed to the best of her ability.

“We need t’ah get ‘em out. Now!”

Twilight looked to Cadance, whose face was wracked with pain, but managed to give a small nod, regardless. She fluttered into the air, trying to assess the size of the job, and landed where she thought was the front, fearing even her power might not be enough. “This is going to take some doing,” she said worriedly.

Her horn lit like a search light, the fuchsia magic glow surrounded every piece of debris as she tried as hard as she could to levitate it. The heaving mass buckled and cracked as it looked like it wanted to lift, and yet stayed bound to the earth. Rarity, Pearl Bliss, Saffron, and Winter joined in the levitation spell, and together, managed to lift the massive heap, one layer at a time.

Aster winged around the globe of debris, desperately looking. “I don’t see him!”

Fluttershy had also taken flight and helped look while Applejack and other ponies trotted around, trying to find Ravage’s broken form.

Big Macintosh returned to the scene at a high gallop with a medical kit. Granny Smith was talking to Cadance, getting information.

Twilight’s horn sputtered, losing power. “Get back everypony!”

A ring of ponies backed off, including Big Mac dragging a screaming Cadance on her belly, and the barn collapsed anew, unleashing a second dust cloud.

The Friendship Princess huffed from exertion, while rubbing her throbbing temples. She saw Applejack on top of the remains, trying to call out to her and waving her over. With her magic reserves low, she flew over and landed by her rather morose looking friend. “What did you find?” Twilight asked, fearing the worst.

“Well, ‘Ah reckon Ravage survived the explosion.”

Twilight was shaken out of her oncoming sadness. “Wh – what?” Looking to where Applejack was pointing, she saw that the back door had been kicked out.

=^.^=

The sentry monitor of the Decepticon ship recognized Ravage, and the starboard access door hissed open. He walked in slowly, several swaths of his coat torn up and bloodied.

A medicroid puttered up to the beaten form of a Decepticon headed straight to the repair bay. With a hiss of equalizing pressure its top portion took to the air using its antigravity pods and flew around Ravage to assess the damage.

“Evaluation. Fifty-seven lacerations. Eight puncture wounds. Significant blood loss,” it determined in emotionless monotone. “Reparation. One point three liters blood replacement. Three point nine liters cytoskeletal gel. Eight-hundred ninety-two protein stitches. Three units ampicillin.”

“And fifteen units of cyclooxygenase inhibitor,” Ravage added. It was delightful how the medicroid ignored the awful pain he was feeling. Such efficiency!

A monitor flipped down while robotic appendages administered injections, stitching and other repairs. All the data on the anomaly could be seen at a glance. This was definitely looking to become a worm hole, a gateway between two physically different locations.

“Move satellite three to these coordinates,” he commanded, wirelessly transmitting the location information. Worm holes were rare. Stable worm holes were practically non-existent. A developing worm hole with the characteristics Ravage was studying was a gift from the cosmos. “Magic…” he realized. He didn’t like that such primitive creatures could have abilities even the most technologically advanced civilizations nearly never achieve, and yet there it was. “Prepare infrared laser experiment. Coordinate with satellite five.”

Satellite five’s engines fired, adjusting its geosynchronous orbit, and it maneuvered to view the infrared laser from above. A beam of light with a path tangential to the surface would be examined right in front of the potential worm hole.

Ravage scrutinized the surface of the ocean beneath the anomaly for a storm swell. There wasn’t one.

After about thirty minutes of protein stitches and gel injections, the satellite experiment was ready. Testing the infrared beam in front of the worm hole, he found it started bending as soon as it got within three meters. Normally, only objects as dense as pulsars and heavier would have such an effect. This object was going to become a very powerful worm hole indeed! Further investigation revealed that it was small, compact, and tidy, and took place inside of an atmosphere. All other natural worm hole observations had, until this time, been conducted in the vacuum of space.

Ravage got an idea. How powerful would it really become? One could be transposed hundreds of kilometers, no doubt. Thousands? Quite probably. The Decepticon spy ran more experiments, all designed to gauge the potential of the worm hole to be. He found out it should be able to transport objects millions, if not billions of kilometers.

His excitement kept growing as he tested the ‘walls’ of bent space-time, and determined the true extent of its event horizon. He found that it would be capable of transposing objects several light years, like a space bridge.

Perhaps it could do thousands of light years, enough distance to bring him within range of the Solar system.

The repair machinery folded itself away as he reached this hypothesis, and Ravage transformed into robot mode. Could he control it? This was not a space bridge, but a magical construct. Shockwave designed the space bridge’s aperture, direction, and translocating distance to be controlled by focused particles, the nature of which the pony bot would have to look up. Could they also control this worm hole?

He needed just a few more determinations, all designed to answer one question: how much energy would be required? And with that question, he was done with Ponyville and it was time to blast off.

As he made his preparations, he couldn’t help but dream of escaping the pony world to return back to Megatron’s side fighting the Autobots. No more working at that stupid job, no more dancing – few processes have been so humiliating – no more Celestia, no more nosey mares trying to taint his form with their disgusting saliva.

No more Luna!

No more food and drink, but none of it really compared to energon. It wouldn’t be missed.

No more Twilight. She was about as smart as that construction human’s associates – inferior to Decepticons. Also, Ravage had discovered that the use of magic is directly connected to the heavy concentrations of black matter, and thus knowledge of magic was completely useless off-world.

No more Flitter, but he had forgotten about her already. No big loss.

And that was it! There was one niggling aspect of this world that continued to linger in his mind. He would simply forget about her while he worked.

It became apparent that Ravage would need considerably more power than what was available from his energon stockpiles. He would also need a lot of raw materials, and he had less than a week to bring everything together. It was going to get very busy.

His metal footsteps sounded loudly as he inspected each critical area of the ship before take-off. That stupid mare wouldn’t leave his mind.

Should he lob an energon charge onto her cottage while he flew away? Ravage frowned at this. She was the only pony that brought him comfort through companionship, an impressive feat indeed.

No, this was going to take something less final, and more direct. She should be recoiling in horror before him, after all. It’s what the other ponies will be doing.

“Since I can’t get you out of my head,” Ravage started before transforming into pony mode. “You will keep me from entering yours.”

He planned on telling her that she was revolting, and that he hoped she would die by fire. As a result, she would eventually forget about him, and Ravage, with no hope of ever connecting with her ever again, would do the same.

=^.^=

Fluttershy sat silently by the fire, having barely sipped her tea. Though it was dusk, it was still too warm to have a roaring fire, so just a couple of logs of embers and dancing flames would have to do. Lying on the floor as she did, she could almost feel the sleek musculature of her love interest.

Yes. She was in love with him, and had been for some time.

Why did he run? Perhaps the sinister thing that was chasing him didn’t stop after he fought his way out of barn.

Where was Cybertron? Rarity mentioned she wanted more Cybertronians around, especially if they were anything like Ravage, characterized by deeds rather than inflated popularity.

Why did he stay in the Everfree forest? Zecora stayed there, and was perfectly content. Perhaps his cultural background made Ponyville unsuitable? Fluttershy understood this, as she didn’t live in the town proper either. She yearned to know every detail about him, but he was not here to talk to.

He was gone. Whatever evil thing had been chasing him nearly took Cadance’s life, and may well have taken his, if the blood trails were anything to go by. A sick feeling came over her and she started to sob. “Ravage... ” she bleated.

Could they have had a life together? Fluttershy had toyed with the idea the previous evening.

And then, a knock on the back door was heard. It was not the familiar hard rap of Rainbow Dash, or the precise repetitions of Rarity or Twilight. She dragged herself out of her sullen stupor, and willed her hope down. It was probably a pony looking for him. She swung the back door open.

Ravage had hardened the features of his face and did a good job of keeping them that way until he saw Fluttershy’s elated visage. He was so glad to see her. As had happened many times before, he bore the brunt of intercepting a hugging pony, launched by well developed limbs. She was crying, and kept crying, her warm tears pooling up and rolling around his neck and her cheek. He was surprised when she suddenly backed off.

She wiped away her tears with a foreleg. “Why don’t you come in?” she suggested with a bright face, moving her body to the side to give him easy access.

The Decepticon pony obliged and entered, albeit with slow, calculated steps. The objective was to kill this friendship, lest it interfere with the rather complicated suite of plans he’d been earmarking. He made it to the living room, but stopped short of relaxing in front of the fireplace. Turning around, he found an upset pegasus mare.

“Ravage, what happened? Why did you run?”

“Something was attacking my heart. What was I supposed to do?” He wasn’t surprised that he couldn’t easily will himself to end the friendship. He knew it was going to be tough, and it turned out to be tougher than battling the Autobots.

Fluttershy walked up and hugged him once again. “I thought you were gone,” she cracked, trying to keep herself from crying again.

This was going to be tougher than fighting Optimus Prime himself. Ah slag

“Ravage,” she uttered in the same unsteady tone, “Would you stay with me?”

It did not help that he enjoyed Fluttershy’s attention, and oh no, now she was rubbing his withers. More joy, just what he needed.

She backed off, but looked hopeful, smiling. “W-we could have a bath together and…” How could she bring herself to ask this? “You won’t need to sleep on the futon, or the couch.” Again, she needed time summon yet more courage. “W-we could sleep in my bed,” she spat out before grimacing in her mane.

What should have been an appalling suggestion actually caught Ravage’s interest, but only briefly. “Fluttershy,” he began. He took a moment to solidify his composure. Oh, she looked so hopeful with that wonderful smile, but the Decepticon soldier needed to complete his objective. “It’s time you knew the truth.”

The enamoured pegasus was taken aback. “Do you – like me?”

He nodded in admission. “Yes, Fluttershy.” The mare skipped over being happy and excited to being ecstatic. “I do like you.”

“We’ll have a bath, and I can make snacks,” she machine-gunned in a rare excited state, “And then we can…” She blushed now.

Ravage lowered his head. “Fluttershy, I can’t be with you.” The poor mare deflated like a torn hot air balloon. “The circumstances for which I am here make this not permissible.”

The yellow mare squinted. “You’re not allowed to be with me?” she questioned. “Are you married? Are you taken by another pony? Maybe you don’t like girls?”

“No, no, Fluttershy, that’s not it at all.”

She took his right hoof into both of hers. “You are your own pony, Ravage. There is nothing on this world that dictates whom you can be with.”

Ravage thought on this for a bit, eventually nodding. “You’re right about that.”

“Then,” the mare started, her smile slowly returning. “Let’s have a nice evening together.” As far as Fluttershy was concerned, it didn’t matter what they did with their time, as long as they did it together. She may have been a little pushy on the sleeping arrangements.

Ravage sighed tiredly. “Perhaps…”

She smiled broadly, mouth wide open. It looked like her stallion was coming back to her!

“Perhaps it is better shown than told.”

Fluttershy became excited at the prospect. Was he being coy? That sure would make a - what in the moon!?

Solenoids and motors whirred to life and his body plates shifted as he transformed, turning him into metal, and standing on two legs, each thudding against the floor for better balance.

Fluttershy backed up against the wall in horror. What was this thing!?

“I am Ravage,” he spoke, this time through his computerized voice, “Tactical support unit for the Decepticon Battle Fleet.”

The catatonic mare stared at his gleaming body, paralysed with fear.

As if it were somehow possible to show remorse on his battle ready body, he showed it as his head lowered. “And now,” he started with sadness in his voice, “I will leave you be.” He hoped to go home in a few days, it didn’t matter what she saw. Nobody would believe her.

Fluttershy saw that Angel was standing right beside him, eating a carrot. This was so puzzling! Even Angel should have ran for the hills unless…

Unless he’d already seen Ravage like this.

The Decepticon soldier was clomping his way to the back door before Fluttershy flew right in front of him, holding out a foreleg as if to say, “Stop!”

For a short interval, Fluttershy hovered in front of him, wings beating gently. Where had her fear gone? In fact, she was almost smiling. She dared to use her hoof to probe the side of his head, finding it was as metallic as the rest of him. “You have a panther head,” she squeaked, her smile returning full force.

Ravage sputtered. “What?” It seemed that the yellow mare really dug his Decepticon form, with the way she’d been feeling up his facets. “But how? Aren’t you frightened?”

“Y-yes, well – no.” She smiled yet again. “You’re my friend, Ravage. I’m not frightened of you.”

“I appreciate your courage, Fluttershy.” He walked past her, transforming back into pony mode at the door. It was already dark outside, and Luna had brought the moon up. “But it is here that we must part ways.”

She didn’t like hearing that one bit. “You’re part pony,” Fluttershy countered. “Aren’t you?” It looking like he was giving her words consideration. “Stay with me, Ravage. What other reasons do you have for coming to my house?”

Why did he come here? All he needed to do was blast off, and instead he was here, back in her cottage. He admitted to himself, that he liked coming here, and he liked seeing her. That was unacceptable.

“Fluttershy, I can’t see you anymore!” he shouted, startling the Element of Kindness. “Megatron would never allow it.”

She suddenly became angry, eyes narrowed and focused. “Who?” she asked in rather sinister tone. “Is she a griffon?”

He looked at Fluttershy incredulously, before shaking off the puzzling feeling. This time, he took her right hoof into both of his own. “You have to make a promise to me.”

Such strong hooves on a strong stallion. She gazed into his serious face, as fear filled her heart. She breathed deeply, like this could be the last time she catches his scent. He looked so torn - he didn’t want to go, but had no choice.

“You have to promise not to follow.”

Fluttershy just stared at him as she took this in. She wasn’t going to lose him, no! She had never felt this way about anypony.

“We can’t be together.”

Her breathing became more laboured as tears pooled in her eyes once again.

“You’ve seen what I am.”

She was going to lose Ravage, and already she felt the sheer emptiness, the finality! He was going to turn around and walk into the Everfree never to be seen again. She just knew it!

He drew his muzzle close to her ear and whispered, “Promise me.”

Fluttershy pulled back and sobbed into her hooves, a quivering wreck of a mare. “I promise,” she choked. And then, Ravage’s warmth left her shaking forelegs, the chilly night air swirling in his place. Crying the whole time, she willed herself to not look south towards the forest for the next twenty minutes.

=^.^=

The pony bot’s legs crunched onto the dried leaves under the moon light. He didn’t even think that Luna could easily see him, and his mind busied itself with more important matters.

Reaching the main hangar door of his ship, he paused. He really couldn’t get Fluttershy out of his mind could he? He decided to suffer it, allow the specter to haunt him until enough time passed when she would finally be forgotten. At least that was the hope.

As he approached the port side entrance, a huge concentration of black matter needled its way to a focal point in front of him.

A second later, a brilliant flash opened up in directly in his path, and Celestia in full armor materialized. Her horn lighting brightly, she spoke, “You should have come to Canterlot.”

Chapter 13: Wake Up The Mountain

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Chapter 13: Wake Up The Mountain

Ravage stared in shock at Celestia’s golden armored form. That stupid train pass, he should have incinerated it! He didn’t need the computer to calculate black matter absorption either; it was one-hundred percent! An intense black matter beam shot at him from her gleaming horn.

Paralysis and pain overtook him, as he was barely able to open his jaw to show his surprise. Hot pain started at his hooves, and began propagating up. They were turning grey and he was losing feeling as the bands of pain slowly worked their way upwards. Multiple warnings and error messages scrolled up his heads-up display. “What is – happening?” he forced out.

Celestia was surprised, as working magic on Ravage seemed to take a lot more effort, and intensified her focus. She was greatly tempted to go against her wisdom and cancel the battle shielding to make the procedure go faster, fearing reprisal from Luna before the bond was broken.

With greater focus, came greater pain, and Ravage howled in agony as the pain spread into his mid-section.

Without warning, the ground shook and shifted from beneath Celestia’s hooves, as the very land itself heaved forward and upward. She cancelled the spell and strengthened her shield, frantically looking in all directions. Was a dragon emerging? Was Luna around? Her target’s restored body collapsed and rolled off the jutting land. She jumped off what appeared to be a deepening fault to get away only to discover the true nature of her situation. Fear tried to grip her heart, but Celestia remained fortuitous, slowing backing off with her horn glowing white hot and ready to disintegrate any challengers before noticing that the soil at the bottom of the thrusting land was sitting on metal! She constantly checked her back, the vicinity, and the horizon as the land swell continued opening up and up – it was a huge door! What was Ravage into!? An eerie violet light started to glow from behind the great black object it was concealing, four barns across, accompanied by the steadily increasing pitch of an unholy sound that could frighten even windigoes. Unbelievably, the whole thing seemed to slowly float up, yet she stayed the urge to fire her attack spell, for she knew not what she was fighting. The warrior Princess noticed shifting and clicking, and a small, silvery shaft emerged and pointed her way.

A bright flash accompanied by the sucking sounds of release occurred as the fusion cannon shot her, bashing through her shield and impacting on her armor. The powerful blast punted her into the trunks of a trio of birch trees, all collapsing on top of her.

The ship flew from out of its hiding place, and hovered above the Decepticon’s unconscious body. A door opened and a medicroid flew out, rapidly collecting Ravage and bringing him in. The craft started vectoring out as he was thrown onto its bridge floor. A jet of ammonia gas was released by a probe in front of his nose, and he immediately returned to consciousness. He saw that the other medicroid had been piloting the ship, and that it had just taken off. The stallion bot transformed and hauled himself up to the console, assuming control of the vessel.

Celestia shook off the pain of her cauterized shoulder wound. She was not happy that her gold-clad Solaria armor that had protected her for millennia was shattered and magicless. The angry Princess reared up on her hind legs, spreading her wings and flung off the fallen trees like match sticks. A single contraction of her powerful wings sent her skyward, where she adjusted her trajectory toward the alien vehicle. Her horn and eyes flared brightly, as her magic enveloped it. “Where do you think you’re going!?”

Ravage lunged forward, his ship having literally been caught in Celestia’s force field. “What power!” he marveled, the engines screaming in protest as she dragged him earthward. He could see hundreds of lines of black matter running through his ship in the same direction that Celestia was pulling. It reminded him of “A tractor beam…” An evil smile emerged on his face, followed by a volley of button pushing.

A rainbow of effervescent lights pooled around her horn as Celestia as prepared a light lance, her most powerful attack spell. It had been used to bring down the largest and most brutish dragons, now it would bring down this fiend from above.

A second shot from the fusion cannon blew the magic force field apart.

Celestia fired her light lance, a brilliant, shimmering beam of light, but the surprisingly nimble vessel ducked out of the way of the deadly weapon, and brought itself about. Her barely contained surprise turned to fear when the ship generated its own force field. How was this possible! A smoky yellow beam from the strafing ship struck her. It had done no harm at first, but then she lost the ability to keep herself upright. And then it spun her around, and then backwards!

The offending yellow beam swung the Princess round and round like a yo-yo, steadily getting faster. She stopped spinning randomly, but the stars had gone from being points of light to glittering streamers. Faster and faster she spun, slowly getting squashed! Eight times the force of gravity, ten times, twelve times, her vision darkened around the periphery.

Sixteen times! Celestia passed out. The tractor beam became stationary, elongating like an elastic band as the ship gained distance.

Ravage flew his ship on a south vector, and assumed a gentle angle of ascent, and terminated the tractor beam connection at his ship. All the built up potential energy of the beam went into Celestia’s body launching her toward Ponyville at over two-thousand kilometers an hour, spinning out of control. She impaled the recently repaired tower of town hall, exploding the bottom portion into splinters, sending the rest careening down onto the streets below. With shredded pieces of armor blowing off her like confetti, the limp body of the solar Diarch dashed down the street like a skipping stone, leaving a dust cloud with each impact before finally smashing into a small building at a T-section.

Ravage enjoyed the show from his satellites’ view, and turned the ship toward Ponyville. He brought up the weapons console. “From the void, terror takes its hold,” he recited, replaying some of the rough dragon music in his head. “Face the wrath, as history,” he continued, launching two missiles at Celestia’s position, “Unfolds!!”

Her two good, but bloodied legs stretched out through overturned boxes of quills; the broken ones returned only agony. Her left wing, crumpled and broken, was pinned beneath an avalanche of couches. The smell of kerosene and what was left of the walls, now aglow in orange, portended fire. Groggy, the Solar Princess willed herself alert. The slightest physical movements resulted in electric pain from her broken body. Shakily glancing upward through her one good eye, she saw two projectiles coming toward her from Ravage’s ship. She lowered her head in defeat, for she had debriefed Cadance right before going after him, and knew what was going to happen to her. After several millennia of leading her people, her time had come. Her last thoughts were for Twilight Sparkle. Stalwart and hard-working, brilliant and beautiful, the Friendship Princess and Luna would have to work tirelessly to steer their people through the dark times to come. She could hear the screaming vengeance of Ravage’s weapons now; it would only be a moment.

A blue flash of light! Luna covered her sister’s body with her own.

Ravage watched with glee as the missiles headed for the fallen Equestrian Leader, but then Luna teleported in and out with her sister in just over a second. The Decepticon spy growled in anger as his missiles destroyed the small pony building. His fist slammed onto the console. “Find her!” he barked, and the satellites began their search, starting with the startled pony town.

Outraged, he adjusted course to Canterlot and gunned the engines. The vehicle made for traversing interstellar space accelerated and decelerated, covering the distance from Ponyville to the capital in less than thirty seconds.

Bat pony guards were monitoring Celestia’s tower on a battlement across from the castle. With a whoosh of wind, the black metal mass eclipsed the stars and approached the tower as the engines powered down.

“We’re under attack!” the captain shouted. “Send for reinforcements!”

Two eight-barreled guns emerged from behind doors on the starboard side of the craft and took aim at Celestia’s residence.

The guards tried to discharge magical weapons against the craft, but they were easily stopped by the still active shield.

The guns erupted to life, barrels spinning, each belching out fire and over a thousand rounds per minute into the stately living space. Countless bolts of metal indiscriminately shredded every piece of furniture and painting, every drape, every chattel, every wall. The ventral starboard fusion cannon dropped down from its enclosure and added to the destruction, blasting key support columns. Not even a minute into the assault the whole place came crashing down. The offending craft took off as a cloud of debris billowed out from the former Princess chamber. As it did, a going away present in the form of one last missile shot out the port side. It vectored around, and exploded under the base of the cantilevered balcony. The structure lurched up from the center of the blast only to collapse, its reinforcing steel squealing and snapping as it did, before tearing itself from the castle. Detached, the platform plummeted earthward, turning over on itself like a giant coin, making crash after thunderous crash as it became a debris pile rolling down the mountain side.

Ravage angrily awaited data from the satellite network as he headed into space. “Where are they?” he steamed. It was doubtful they were killed in the castle assault, they weren’t that stupid.

=^.^=

Fluttershy galloped toward the blaze. First there were screams of what she swore must have been Ravage, but as soon she set out for the Everfree a massive impact came from the direction of town hall, followed by an ear-splitting explosion.

Rarity joined her side and said nothing, shocked by the decapitated tower of town hall.

The two continued on though, as the plume of fire down the street appeared to be the real threat, and were joined by Pinkie Pie. “Somepony had a party and didn’t invite me?”

The three arrived to find Twilight Sparkle already organizing the firefighting effort. “Oh thank goodness, you three are here!”

Rainbow Dash was assembling and directing key pegasi.

“What in tarnation happened here!?” Applejack demanded, having just galloped in. Gazing at another demolished building inspired suspicion and ire after her family just lost the barn. Off to the side, the couple that owned the destroyed business shared a weeping hug.

Twilight was overwhelmed, as Applejack was not the only pony with questions. Only the guards waited patiently for orders. She was relieved when the mayor came galloping up. “Mayor Mare, please handle the fire situation!” the Princess ordered.

The grey-haired mare bowed. “I’ve sent out a message to Princess Luna informing her of these events.” She expected the Quick Paper to result in quick action.

“Well done,” Twilight complimented, and the mayor continued the effort, but this would not stem the flow of questioning for long.

“I heard Ravage screaming!” an exacerbated Fluttershy said, instigating a chorus of questions from the ever-gathering townspeople.

One guard yelled over the cacophony. “Canterlot is in flames!”

All at once, every pony looked toward the mountain city, and for a fleeting moment, not a word was said. All stared in disbelief, even as timbers cracked and popped in front of them. Mayor Mare recovered first, and urged on her helper ponies to continue the fire-fighting effort. Twilight saw the black smoke billowing out of an area of Canterlot she knew very well.

The castle.

“Guard! We need to arrange transport to Canterlot immediately. Spike, contact Celestia at once! See if she’s alright.”

“I’ve got our transport right here,” Rainbow Dash indicated, attaching herself to one of the two yokes on a nearby cart. Presumably, she expected Fluttershy to occupy the other yoke.

A guard galloped up to Dash. “Halt!” she demanded with an outstretched hoof. “This could be a dragon attack. If you are ambushed with the other Elements in tow we could lose all of you.” Rainbow’s angry expression did not deter her. “The safest way is by ground.”

Twilight heard everything as she looked upon the capital. She spun around to address the guards. “Wake the engineer, we’ll take a train.”

I’m already here, came a voice from the crowd, turning out to be the engineer still in his pajamas.

Before that time, trains had never been scheduled to leave Ponyville on Sunday night.

=^.^=

Hundreds of kilometers away, deep inside the Everfree Forest, Luna and Celestia hid. The Night Princess busied herself administering what medical attention she could. Only in the days of yore, when pony hooves marched on the battlefield more than the wheat field, had her sister looked this awful.

“I’ve managed to stop most of the bleeding, but you’re still going to need a transfusion.” The Night Princess used her magic to bundle up leaves and branches into a make-shift pillow, eliciting an agonized sigh from Celestia. Those legs needed to be taken care of really soon. Her right eye was a red smear. In spite of this, Luna was really angry. “I felt Ravage dying one moment, and triumphant the next.” Her sister’s good eye looked away in embarrassment. “I don’t like the feeling of dying, sister.” There was still no response. “What happened!”

Celestia managed a confused look with her one eye. “Pain?”

“Yes pain!” Luna snapped, “As if he was slowly lowered into a pit of lava.” The Dark Princess found Celestia’s incredulous face to be most unconvincing. “What – did you – do?” she demanded through gritted teeth.

With her body shivering, grievously wounded, and losing blood slowly, the Sun Princess was well on her way to dying. Luna, her great savior, was also her only hope. There was nothing else she could do but be honest. “I tried to turn him into stone,” she answered coolly. Her sister was nonplussed. “Had I known it would cause him pain, I would not have attempted it.”

“He was screaming.”

“I needed to finish the spell.” The disgusted face of her sibling, made her rethink her position. “I just want my sister back,” she mourned.

“I am here. I am not going away.”

“The mere suggestion that you let go of Ravage ignited a rage in you I hadn’t seen in a thousand years,” Celestia rebutted, looking directly at her sister, unwavering.

Luna was stumped. She didn’t reply immediately because she knew her sister was right.

“The bond is dangerous,” Celestia added.

Princess Luna’s face finally calmed. “Please let me handle my personal affairs.” The Sun Princess looked away, not liking this at all. “Put your trust in me.”

Celestia realized it was like telling a pony with a love of drink to stop drinking. This was going to be arduous. “Under any other circumstance, I would.”

The Dark Princess harrumphed, and started to work her magic on the last of the bleeding tissue. A few minutes later, messages meant for her and her sibling erupted out of thin air almost at the same time. Luna read hers first. “Ponyville’s on fire,” she summarized quaintly.

Celestia managed pain-ridden chuckle. “Ponyville is always on fire,” she spoke weakly, opening up the message Spike sent her. Somehow, her mood managed to sink even deeper, as the missive was suddenly relieved of her levitation magic and floated gently onto the soil beside her. “The castle is on fire.”

“What!” Luna could hardly believe it. She held various sticks and plants in her magical aura waiting for more information.

“That’s all it says,” Celestia offered plainly. Finally looking at her surroundings, she took note of the thick canopy of trees, and the bats that flew between them. “Luna, where are we?”

“In the Everfree forest, as far away from that firestorm as I could get you,” Luna replied, her magic stretching a piece of vine, testing its strength. “What is it that attacked you? Were you fighting Ravage?”

“Ravage has a vehicle, an airship mightier than any in the Equestrian navy.” Again, her sister looked puzzled, though both started to see the connection between the two burning towns. “You didn’t see it did you?”

“Had I stopped for a pint and relaxed, I might have, but then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. All I know is that your life force was fading and about to be extinguished, so I acted on instinct.” Luna looked as if she was measuring up a piece of wood to act as a splint. “And if we don’t get your bones set by morning then there’s a good chance you’ll be a hobbling, two-legged Princess for the rest of your immortal existence.”

“Then waste no time!” Celestia demanded.

Using her magic, Luna assembled a flotilla of selected lumber and strong vines. Her sister’s broken legs illuminated with the same eerie blue glow. “Ready?” she asked, studying Celestia’s face closely.

“Do it.” Her eye was open, looking ready to face whatever challenge was thrown at her.

=^.^=

Cruising the airless vacuum of space, orders of magnitude faster than Rainbow Dash flew, the Decepticon infiltration vessel sped along unchallenged. The lone occupant in its bridge was pondering the planet he was orbiting.

It turned out that suitable living conditions for ponies occurred almost anywhere in this world. If the Princesses wanted to stay out of sight, it was unlikely that he would be able to find them. He was about to task the satellites to conduct a materials survey for things like tritium, aluminum, and whatever else he needed when he received a message from satellite four.

Unusual Activity: 900B.X382.9812

“The southern Everfree forest?” he questioned. It was unlikely that his luck was going to change, as over a dozen such missives had already been sent, but this one differed in that there was absolutely no civilization around. He decided to give it a closer look. “Route data to main screen, Grid X-ray, Equestrian continent.”

It was an infrared video, with the heat of tens of thousands of creatures peppering the landscape like dust. Vague outlines of rivers could be seen cutting through the area. Ravage inputted the rest of the coordinate data and zoomed in, significantly reducing the noise. He started to play the video though there were still hundreds of the larger creatures. The big Princesses shared the same approximate mass with many animals, would he find them?

At about six seconds in, a quiet quadrant of the map suddenly came alive with activity as flocks of night birds, bats, and other frightened life exploded out of the way of a specific point, an unusual disturbance indeed. Increasing magnification a further five-hundred times to the two creatures in the middle of it all, the outlines of Celestia and Luna could be discerned. The Sun Princess was lying on her back and injured while her sister appeared to be stroking her face. The Decepticon spy could not help but sneer.

Luna could sense Ravage upon her, and looked to the sky where she felt he was – and he was moving fast.

The pony bot sensed trouble as Luna seemed to look directly at him through his main monitor.

Error: Port 35,552: Unauthorized Access.

Incoming Audio Message: Ravage…

There is nothing you can do to stop me, he responded, in thought, to the voice in his head. You are both going to die. Please meet your end with dignity.

Tens of thousands of kilometers away in geosynchronous orbit, the main satellite’s primary weapon, the gamma laser, dropped down and targeted the Princess’ coordinates.

Luna’s jaw dropped as Ravage terminated the mental link. He had become very confident, too confident! “Celestia…”

The Day Princess was shaken by the dread in her sibling’s voice and seeing that her horn had started thrumming with power.

“Celestia, I won’t be able to save the eye.”

“What!? Why?”

Luna’s horn glared with so much magic, it was difficult to look at. “We have to escape. Now!”

In a brilliant flash, the pair teleported. Immediately after, their triage location glowed and hissed, marked by an orange, ribbon-like cloud of nitrous oxides, as the invisible gamma laser scorched the land with radioactive impunity.

Ravage stared into his main screen. Losing those two will have serious consequences, of that he had no doubt. The next time he saw them they would be far better prepared. With nothing else to do but move forward, he changed his focus and issued orders to his satellite network to find the raw materials he needed. In less than a week the Equestrians should be nothing more than memories, easily ignored and forgotten.

=^.^=

Fluttershy and her friends tried to get comfortable in the magically reinforced sleeper car they occupied. Her thoughts were usually occupied by the welfare of her animal friends, and pony friends, but not tonight. Ravage was not okay. Nopony was okay and she was worried sick.

No pony said a word, as all were still consumed with current events and what they meant.

Rainbow Dash didn’t even try to sleep, and instead angrily hovered with her forelegs crossed. “All I wanna know is who we have to take out,” she fumed.

“Rainbow, try to get at least some sleep,” Rarity suggested. “You’ll need your energy for Canterlot.”

While Spike was reading his comics, Twilight laid belly down on the mattress, her face between her hooves. “I can’t sleep either.”

“Twilight, I’m sure Princess Celestia will be fine,” the dress maker soothed. “She’s quite powerful.”

“Yeah? Then why hasn’t she responded yet?” the Friendship Princess returned with vinegar.

That one stumped Rarity, and started a wave of negative emotion throughout the Elements. Even Pinkie Pie couldn’t bring herself to lighten up. Whatever was going on in Canterlot was no party.

Fluttershy was still, and breathing shallowly, her eyes fixated on nothing in particular. Applejack scrutinizing her through the corner of her eye didn’t go unnoticed.

“Y’all know were not going to sleep,” the farmer said to her downtrodden friends, carefully observing Fluttershy. “So what do we know?”

Twilight took the bait, and raised herself to a sitting position. “There’s been a lot of property damage, starting with your barn. Then town hall and what I think is the remains of Sofas and Quills, and the Princess’ castle, all at once!” She suddenly linked one common element to the two timelines. “Ravage was in the barn.” Her expression sunk again.

“Ah’ll bet ya five bits it was him that said ‘die’.”

“But not to Princess Cadance,” Rarity hoped, shaking her head in disbelief.

Twilight’s face flashed anger, as she did not support Cadance’s plan of forcibly uniting Ravage and Fluttershy. “Fluttershy,” the alicorn addressed, “You said you heard Ravage screaming?” The near-sessile pegasus gave a weak nod. “Could you tell me which came first: the screaming, or the damage to Ponyville and Canterlot?”

Fluttershy could only shiver and squeak, hating having all eyes on her.

Rainbow Dash hovered in and landed beside her long-time friend, rubbing her withers. “It’s tough on you, I know,” she spoke, almost apologetically. Her real urge was to shake Fluttershy out of her self-induced coma and make her speak, but Dash’s time with Twilight made her think of ‘finessing’ the information out first.

Fluttershy shook her head, trying to bring herself back to reality. “He-screamed-first,” she rapid fired. Relief, like a warm bath after doing winter chores flowed into her when her friends’ eyes looked away.

“So Ravage screams – then buildings get demolished,” Rarity deduced, still pondering with a hoof to her chin.

“Hmmm, that’s the pattern, but I wouldn’t buy too much into it,” Twilight agreed.

“He was heading back to the Everfree,” Fluttershy added. She realized her mistake when all eyes were back on her once again. “He…” She had to say it, all of it. “He came back to say goodbye,” she choked out, unable to stem her tears.

Rarity was especially struck. “But you two were doing so well.”

Twilight became suspicious after this bout of new information. Princess Celestia was suspicious long before anything was destroyed, and tried to warn her. But like the unwise young adult she was, she ignored it. Perhaps she could mitigate her failings. “Did Ravage say anything else to you?”

Fluttershy gritted her teeth. Noticing Applejack’s sideways look, she knew she could not withhold any more information. “I tried to convince him to stay, but he wouldn’t have it. He…”

“He what?” Pinkie urged on.

“He showed me.” The poor pegasus looked as if she had seen a ghost.

“Showed you what?” the pink pony prodded, eyes waggling.

“His body. It twisted, and folded – I’ve never seen anything like it!” Her friends were frozen in place, hanging on every word. “He turned into metal.” The butter-coated pegasus still wondered if she was ensorcelled, but she felt his body. It was real!

Twilight was the first to recover. “Metal?”

“He was all metal. I felt him with my own hooves.”

Rainbow Dash looked away from Fluttershy, remembering some of the earlier conversations she had with Ravage, particularly how he regarded emotions.

“A changel…”

“No! He stood on two legs, and had red eyes and a panther head.”

“Is he a minotaur?” Rarity guessed.

Fluttershy shook her head. They were waiting for more. “Cybertronian?” she ventured.

“Were you the only one that heard him scream?” Rainbow asked.

“I don’t know,” the animal lover answered honestly. “I hope I was dreaming.”

“Ravage is an earth pony with only innate magical abilities,” Twilight added. “Maybe he got into the Poison Joke?”

“If that’s the case, then Ravage fears or hates turning into a metal panther that walks on two legs,” Rarity pieced together, her face scrunching up in incredulity.

“With red eyes,” Pinkie reminded.

“He changed back into a pony before he left,” Fluttershy added.

Applejack wore a deadpan expression. “That makes absolutely no sense.”

“None of this makes sense until we get to Canterlot and find either Princess Celestia or Princess Luna,” Twilight concluded. “As for Ravage turning into metal – that’s a new one.”

“I haven’t even read anything like that in the comics,” Spike sounded off.

Applejack yawned, “Ah’ hate not having all the information. Y’all can talk as much as ya want. Ah’m gettin’ some shut-eye.”

Rainbow Dash yawned and flew over to Twilight’s bunk. “You guys are making it sound like Ravage is some kind of super pony. That’s just silly. ”She wrapped her forelegs around Twilight, and coaxed her to lie down.

The other Elements and Spike relaxed considerably from Rainbow’s revelation, and followed suit, each pulling their fresh comforters over.

Twilight snuggled into her girlfriend. “True, we shouldn’t be making any judgements until we have all the facts.” She magically turned the lights off. “Good night.”

=^.^=

One by one they woke up, all levitating.

Twilight was the first to establish whose magic was levitating them, and judging by the phosphorescent, jade coloured walls, where they were in the mountain. “Princess Luna?”

“Welcome ponies,” Luna’s voice replied. As she put the Elements and Spike down, her other magic that was concealing Princesses Celestia and Cadance, both bed-ridden, faded and revealed all in the great space. Some guards were present as well as servants, Aster was with Luna, and Shining Armor was with Cadance.

“Princess Celestia!!” Twilight shrieked, as she bounded up to her mentor.

The Sun Princess bore many injuries. Her right eye was covered up by a bandage, its loss heralded by the red smear of barely contained blood. Her right wing and foreleg, and left hind leg were in traction. Her body was spackled with scrapes and bruising, her mane a frazzled nest of blood and dirt.

“Who did this?” Twilight forced out, almost at the level of a whisper.

“Twilight, I think we need to start from the beginning,” suggested Princess Cadance, who was all too glad that Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy came to see if she was alright.

All ponies looked toward the Princess of Love. “I’m sorry Fluttershy, but this involves you as well,” Cadance addressed, looking at the ceiling, trying to find the right words. “Luna and Ravage have, for reasons not yet known, developed a magical connection. It makes Luna love Ravage.”

A silence spread over the ponies in the room.

“I examined him first, it felt right!” Luna defended.

“Luna, you are under a spell!” Cadance retorted.“ A love spell, and one I cannot break easily.” She withstood the pain in her broken wing from her outburst, vowing to pay more close attention to it.

Most ponies were too shocked to speak many coherent words, yet Rarity put forth a question. “Princess Luna, if you were made to love Ravage, shouldn’t he be returning your love?” The thought that the pretty and intelligent stallion might be swept away from her herd for Luna did not sit well with the dress maker.

Luna’s expression sunk. “It seems that he does not even like me.”

“It’s inexplicable, but this may be because Ravage already...” Cadance continued, looking directly at Fluttershy, “Feels for another pony.” She studied the animal protector, who didn’t seem exuberant, or even that happy. In fact, it looked as if she was hiding anger.

“Ravage said something was attacking his heart,” Fluttershy reported, speaking almost in an authoritarian tone, and another hush quieted the underground cavern. She recalled the horror of watching him writhe in pain. “It looked like he was having a heart attack! He ran straight into the barn.”

Applejack watched Cadance closely as her yellow friend told what she saw. The Love Princess had arrived unannounced after all, though the farmer didn’t think much of it at the time. She noticed that her illustrious guest was not present at the dinner table before she heard some pony say “Die”.

“Whether he approves of me or not, we still have a kinship,” Luna continued. She waited until all eyes were on her. “You see, whatever he feels, I also feel.” She ignored the surprise of her ponies. “His heart felt as if it had icicles driving into it.”

Fluttershy was appalled. “Oh, that’s just awful!”

All at once, the ponies leapt into chaotic discussion. Ravage this, explosions that, the one thing they were trying to do was mine clues as to what could possibly have caused all the havoc.

The Love Princess was the most secret point. If the other ponies found out she tried to illegally bind Ravage to Fluttershy, the fallout would be very harsh indeed. And Celestia – Cadance told her about the strange projectiles Ravage fired at her, and how they blew up the barn, prompting an expedient exit from the Sun Princess. Then after her brief stint in Ponyville General Hospital she was carted to this underground cavern to find Equestria’s beloved ruler half dead! Looking upon the roomful of confused, babbling ponies, she wondered if she could possibly keep a secret like this, or even if she should. Whatever her plans would have been, her ruminations came to a screeching halt when she noticed, right beside her bed, a calm, orange-furred, freckle-faced mare.

Applejack removed her hat, and held it in front of her chest respectively. “Howdy!” she greeted with cheer.

A weak hoof wave was returned. “Greetings.” She almost grimaced. In fact, she probably did grimace, but that would be a thought for another time.

“How’d ya like them beans?”

Cadance was momentarily confused. “Beans – oh! The ones with the rosemary? They were delicious,” she answered honestly.

Applejack nodded in agreement. “Old family recipe. Ah’m glad ya liked it, cuz I can only eat so much.” She turned, putting her hat back on, as if to leave the Crystal Princess. “Gives me gas.”

The pink Princess chuckled, “I’m sure everypony enjoyed them.”

“Oh, can Ah’ ask you a quick question?”

Cadance nodded.

“Why were you flyin’ in front o’ the barn when it exploded?” she asked, walking away calmly. Her question found resonance, as all ponies calmed down and turned their eyes on Cadance. The farmer did not actually see her fly in front of the barn. She was, however, looking at the commotion of Ravage’s unicorn dates and Fluttershy when the building exploded, Cadance having magically appeared to get in the way of the debris.

Twilight also wondered how Cadance managed to get in the path of an exploding barn, but cut some slack for the Crystal Princess and waited for her medical condition to get under control. She looked upon the shrinking Cadance with suspicion. “Do tell.”

Princess Cadance lowered her head. “I tried to break the bond between Ravage and Luna.”

‘What for’, ‘why’, and ‘how could you’, among other questions erupted in the face of Cadance’s admission.

“Is that all you have to say?”

Cadance heard that question from Twilight, who was glaring at her, but just barely over the din of chaotic conversation.

Luna was incensed. “I thought that might have been you.” Slowly, shakily, she raised silver-clad hoof, pointing at Cadance. “How DARE you!” she seethed, teeth bared, and starting to stomp toward Cadance. “How would you like it if your heart was stabbed with ice?”

Shining Armor got between the two, facing the angry Night Princess head on.

Luna stopped short of Cadance’s stoic husband. “I have no quarrel with you, stallion. Stand aside.”

“Princess Luna, with all due respect this behavior is uncalled for,” Shining rebutted. “Why are you so angry? Do you think Cadance would purposely hurt you?”

“You get outraged when anypony questions your love for Ravage,” Cadance added. The Elements were practically freaking out over the display, but kept themselves in check. “You did it yesterday morning, and you’re doing it again.”

Relief washed over Celestia as she saw her sister give pause. She felt so powerless watching everything fall apart, and was glad Shining Armor’s renowned courage kept matters under control. “Luna, this is going to keep happening.” The Dark Princess scowled at her, but did nothing more as she slinked away. Aster joined her and exchanged hushed words.

Twilight, looking pleadingly, placed her forelegs over the side of Cadance’s bed. “Why did you try to hurt him?”

The flustered Princess could only shake her head. “Twilight, I don’t understand it either. My magic never hurt anypony, never! Not until Ravage.”

“My magic also hurt him,” Celestia admitted, causing all ponies to hush again as they tried to absorb all this incredible information. “It was not meant to.” Anticipating the questioning to come, she continued. “Ravage is awash in suspicion, you see. He managed to escape my sister’s elite guard nine days ago – an impossible feat without powerful magic.” Rarity was particularly shocked at that admission. “A week later, I found out he was able to see into the Dreamscape, which only Luna should be able to do. Suffice it to say that there is something very odd about that pony so I ordered him to Canterlot where I could perform a more detailed examination.”

Twilight raised a hoof. “You could have told us what was going on. We could have kept an eye on him.”

“Information on Ravage has been slow to come, and he had proven himself to be extremely resourceful and clever. I felt that he would have been a lesser danger to me than to you.”

Twilight shook her head in disagreement.

Fluttershy approached the Day Mare’s bed. “Princess Celestia, Ravage is a nice pony!” she propounded; however, the expression on the Princess’ face was not that of agreement. “He has shown us nothing but friendship.”

“Young one, the reason Cadance and I require hospitalization is because of our altercations with him.”

Silence enshrouded them yet again, the longest and deepest so far.

The Crystal Princess began her explanation. “My apologies Luna, I felt it pertinent to break the bond, since your behavior had become very aggressive as a result.”

Luna harrumphed. These little ponies haven’t seen what aggression really is, the poor, sheltered things.

“I witnessed it cause Ravage great pain, yet I continued, determined to complete the task; however, it seems – well, it seems he was able to sense me even though I used a spell to become invisible and silent. He threw a rock at me, and I had to teleport to escape.”

Fluttershy gasped. “I saw that!”

Aster suddenly remembered how easily he found Fluttershy in the bushes, and not only that, but he was also able to identify her before she could emerge. “Princess, he might be able to see the night guards!”

Luna was shaking her head in disbelief, yet it made so much sense. How else would he have escaped the elite guard she sent a week earlier unless he actually detected them?

“I pursued him into Applejack’s barn,” Cadance continued. “He fired explosive arrows at me – don’t ask me where he got them from. I teleported to evade but they were made with explosive magic powerful enough to blow the barn apart.”

“And this wasn’t a spell that backfired?” the Friendship Princess interrupted. Cadance was horrified. “Oh please, when you use too much power and lose focus you can blow yourself up. Trust me, I’ve done it.”

“I didn’t teleport beside the barn just to blow it up,” Cadance rebuked, still shocked at her sister-in-law’s suspicion. It was effective though, as it stopped the crusading mare.

Applejack had to use her hat like a fan to cool herself down. “Well at least we know how that happened. Fact is, Ravage still walked away from it.”

“How did he survive that, anyway?” Rainbow Dash questioned. “Nopony’s that tough.”

“I tried to collect him before he could escape,” Celestia intervened. She paused, and decided that the direct approach would be best for her explanation. “I tried to turn him into stone.”

Yet another round of shock and awe numbed the crowd.

Rarity lied down on her belly. “This is too much,” she weakly uttered.

Twilight approached her mentor, uncertain what to think, but think she did. “Okay, I get it. Turn him into stone so he can’t escape; break the bond. I assume you planned on releasing him upon returning to Canterlot.” She didn’t enjoy the relief on Celestia’s face. Previously, she thought only revolutionaries, powerful magic users, and high level criminals ever got turned into stone, not earth ponies acting suspiciously. “You said your magic hurt Ravage. Did he scream?”

Celestia closed her eye. “He did.”

“I have already chastised her for it,” Luna intervened, believing Twilight’s patience was nearly spent.

Celestia scanned the crowd. Distrust was brewing, and she was the one in a hospital bed! The Elements gathered around Fluttershy, and whispered. Twilight arrived last before sparing one last disappointed look upon the Day Princess.

After their little session, Fluttershy’s friends moved off to the side, giving her space. She walked forward a few hoof-falls. Her confidence, rooted in the support of the other Elements, combined with her natural grace and beauty and commanded the attention of every pony in the room. “Before you disgraced Equestria, Ravage came to my – home,” she choked. In spite of all the doubt, and stress, she held the tears back and recomposed herself quickly. “He came to say goodbye.”

Celestia felt sorry for Fluttershy, knowing how much she liked Ravage. He was in pain and cornered, but Luna’s welfare trumped even that. “Am I so disgraceful? He had already acted violently toward Princess Cadance.”

“I begged him to stay, but would not.” She could hear her friends shuffling, as if to brace for fantastic information. “He – is not just a pony.” The predictable forgone conclusions started to be heard almost immediately. “He is most definitely not a changeling.”

“Is he pony, or isn’t he?” Shining Armor questioned.

“He’s a pony and – a – metal panther?” the pegasus responded. She noticed Celestia’s one functioning eye became as big as a saucer. Yeah, she messed with that guy, apparently not one her career defining moments.

“Ravage is a metal panther,” Luna dead-panned.

Twilight shushed everyone, “There are more details.”

“He transformed,” Fluttershy continued. “His body shifted and clicked, and folded. It was like if you fold a piece of paper, only Ravage is a living thing.”

“Did he say anything to you after he changed?” Twilight encouraged.

“His voice changed. He said ‘I am Ravage, tactical support unit for the Decepticon Battle Fleet.’” Every pony went wide eyed.

Shining Armor approached Fluttershy. “Let me see if I got all the details straight. Ravage is a – Decepticon, a people I’ve never even heard of. There are more Decepticons. And they have a battle-ready fleet of ships.” The other ponies in the room started murmuring. “Did I miss anything?”

“Weren’t you part of a battle fleet?” Fluttershy replied, but the increasing background discussion drowned her out.

“He’s bipedal,” Twilight added.

Pinkie Pie bounced excitedly.“With red eyes!”

“One of their air-ships attacked the castle!” a guard yelled above the growing noise. He levitated a stack of fresh reports toward the middle of the pony gathering and placed it there.

Celestia sensed the momentum turn in her favour. “Their air-ships also have powerful armaments.”

Luna nodded in agreement. “That’s what caused the fire in Ponyville.”

“Princess Celestia, you mentioned that you fought one of these ships?” Shining prodded.

All eyes were on Celestia. She actually fought one?

“As I was trying to turn Ravage into stone the very ridge line itself heaved open, revealing a great cavity. In it, the Decepticon airship was hid.” That definitely held every pony’s attention.

“In a ridge,” Twilight interrupted. “In the Everfree forest?”

“Yes Twilight,” Celestia continued. “Among its weaponry are cannons that can release concentrated bolts of magic. A single bolt destroyed my shield, ruined my armor, and cast me into the trees like a leaf on the wind. Yet I recovered, and as the ship tried to escape with Ravage aboard, I held it back with my magic.” She looked upon the ponies in the room. All were transfixed. “I unleashed a light lance, but the crafty captain had disrupted my force field with a magic cannon and flew out of harms way.”

“Light lance?” Twilight queried, only to be shushed by Luna.

“Then the ship created its own shield! And its speed! It rounded the skyline as fast as Rainbow Dash can fly...”

Dash’s feathers ruffled.“It what!?”

“It fired its own beam of force energy upon me, and spun me ‘round so fast I passed out from the pressure, only to wake when I found it had flung me through the Ponyville town hall and into another building. When I came to for the last time I saw it had fired more of those explosive arrows at me. Were it not for Luna’s quick wit and teleportation skills, I would not be here with you now.”

“And then the castle was attacked,” Twilight realized, piecing everything together.

“By the same ship? The castle fire was seen from Ponyville before its citizens even started to fight their own fire,” Shining Armor concluded. “If it’s a Battle Fleet that Ravage is part of, then they coordinated the Canterlot and Ponyville attacks.”

As the room erupted into the din of conversation once again, Luna placed a chin on her hoof in thought. The whole thing sounded like a vendetta in spite of the powerful forces involved. “Fluttershy is right!” she pronounced loudly, drawing attention to herself. “My sister, and by extension you, Cadance, acted disgracefully.”

“Me?!” a surprised Cadance responded, her husband equally surprised.

“It is of great fortune that he met and got to know the Elements of Harmony before you or my sister,” Luna pressed as she approached the hospital bed. “You were causing him pain. Why didn’t you stop?” Cadance was visibly disturbed by the probing, almost squirming. “Are you so afraid of me? Afraid I might become Nightmare Moon?” she growled. The Night Princess stepped away from Cadance’s bed, and turned to the crowd. “Let me make this perfectly clear,” her voice significantly rose,“ I cannot change into Nightmare Moon, not on a whim. The last time I did was due to deep-seated hatreds that took decades to develop, and accumulate.”

Twilight was very disturbed by this clarification. Did her great mentor not see what was happening to Luna all that time ago?

Fluttershy really felt for Luna. She remembered the first time they met at her cottage, on Nightmare Night. The reformed Princess wanted nothing more than to improve herself, and make friends.

“And now that I’ve got that little misunderstanding out of the way, it is time we moved forward,” Luna continued.“ As I mentioned, I can feel what Ravage feels. What I am feeling now does not bode well for Celestia and I.” She paused, allowing the information to be absorbed. “He means to kill us.”

A chorus of questions from nearly every pony in the room sprang forth. The most common one, “Why would he want to kill you?”

“And probably Cadance if he gets the chance,” Luna added, intensifying the barrage of questioning. “Please calm down!” It took a few moments, but the anxious and fearful group did. “After reviewing the facts, we can conclude that one does not simply arrest Ravage, not if he’s capable of casting alicorn princesses through buildings.” More alarm and shock came from her ponies. “As long we keep underground, we can avoid the immediate threat he represents.”

Twilight was disturbed by a different kind of looming crisis as soon as she saw the hospitalized Princesses. “How would Equestria operate without you?” It irked her to think the indomitable Sun Princess would transfer power to Canterlot’s mostly greedy and arrogant nobles.

Celestia used her good foreleg to gesture to Luna. “I can transfer my powers of state to Luna while we heal.” Her sister did not appear very accepting of the suggestion, but she was definitely mulling it over. “It’s more than smiling and posing for a few pictures. You would have to interact with ponies from every walk of life, as well as foreign dignitaries. You would also act as a supreme justice, settling conflicts…”

“I am well aware of what you do for a living.”

Cadance really liked where this was going. “If you could handle my Equestrian responsibilities too, that would be…” She stopped upon seeing that Luna was most unconvinced.

Twilight approached Luna, and smiled. “I have faith in you. I know that under your leadership, we can fix this.” She was serious, confident.

Luna regarded her young friend. The little alicorn’s skills were deeply rooted in academia, magic and science in particular. As was typical of genius, overwhelming introversion had accompanied these skills. In Luna’s mind, this should have rendered her one of the last choices as Princess of Friendship. Yet, she prevailed, learning not only how to be a good friend, but a leader as well. She gave Twilight a sideways glance, and smiled. “Yes, Twilight Sparkle,” she nodded slowly, “Yes, I think you can.”

Twilight’s smile and eyes grew bigger. “Well then, let’s get started!”

“We can start by having you assume control of the throne,” the Night Princess stated.

Gasps from the shock of the suggestion filled the space.

“B-but I can’t…”

“Why not?” Luna lowered her muzzle toward Twilight’s. “Is it because a librarian isn’t fit to rule?”

The Friendship Princess became even more shocked. “I can’t do it! I was never meant to!”

“You are a Princess, are you not?” Luna pressed.

“Princess Luna,” Twilight began, as if she had been insulted. “Princess Celestia has ruled for thousands of years. I cannot possibly make decisions to achieve as much effect as she can. I don’t have anywhere near that much wisdom.”

“Wise or not, my dear sister bungled the first friendship between Cybertron and Equestria.”

“Luna!” she responded with authority. “You’re second to Celestia in terms of raw experience. You should be taking control.”

“Ah, but I am compromised,” Luna declared, pointing her hoof at herself.“ The bond I share with Ravage is indeed dangerous. My anger at anything that challenges it is barely controllable.” The little alicorn looked noticeably calmer, not knowing what to say to that. “I need you to do this, Twilight.”

She desperately looked around, looking for any advice, anyone to take her side. Her friends and most of the other ponies were waiting, eyes wide open, for the next part. Celestia was smiling!

The great alicorn leaned forward as much as her injuries would allow, and with her good foreleg, pointed to her bloodied right eye. “This was not begotten by wisdom, Twilight.”

Cadance was beaming! “C’mon, don’t you think it’s time a scientist took the reins?” she persuaded.

The young Princess certainly gave that one consideration, her brow furrowed in concentration.

Shining Armor nodded his head in agreement. “You know Ravage, heck you taught him magic.”

“Which he understood,” Twilight added, as if to complete her brother’s statement. “A lot more quickly than anypony I’ve ever known.” She could not hide her disappointment, and shuffled on her hooves. The other ponies were waiting for her decision, so silent the space was. She looked toward Celestia, who was waiting patiently. “This will only be temporary.”

“Excellent,” the Sun Princess commended among yet more gasps of surprise. “Until I have decided that the rest of the Princesses have recovered from this ordeal, I hereby name you, Twilight Sparkle, Regent of Equestria.” She closed her eye and leaned forward as much as her pain racked body would allow.

The other ponies stood there momentarily, too shocked to speak or do anything, slowly began to bow down on their hooves, one by one at first, and then the rest all at once.

Luna, the last subject standing, showed her ivory teeth in a proud smile. With grace and pomp befitting her station, she bowed deeply to Twilight Sparkle.

The blushing little Princess still found it hard to believe she was in this situation. “Uh, you can all get up now.” After a moment of clopping hooves they rose, all looking hopefully at their new leader. Not one pony spoke or looked away, and waited patiently for the Regent to speak. This only reinforced the difficulty of the job to come. “Shining Armor...”

Shining’s hooves clomped down, standing at attention. “Yes, Twilight.”

“I’ll need a status report on – our nation,” she began hesitantly. “Food supplies, water supplies, magical ley lines, transportation and trading routes, everything.”

“I’ll add military readiness to that list if you don’t mind.”

“You may do so, but believe me when I say warfare is the absolute last option.” Twilight was getting worried. The more she thought on what Ravage was really capable of, the more worried she got.

“Princess Luna,” the new Regent addressed directly to the Night Princess. “I need you help Shining Armor with his data gathering.”

She smiled curtly. “Of course, Twilight.”

“Can you also attend to the Sun and Moon in Celestia’s absence?”

Luna gasped, and teleported a pocket watch in front of her. “Why it’s already nine in the morning,” she realized. “Give me a moment.” Her horn glowed brightly once again, yet she remained calm, though the same could not be said for the other surprised ponies.

“Nine in the mornin’?” Applejack blared. She didn’t say anything else, wondering how her family was faring with the chores. Did Applebloom start school in darkness?

“The night offered the best protection for your transport,” Luna spoke as she exited with Shining Armor, Aster, and most of the guards. She looked back before fully exiting. “And we needed you well rested.”

The Regent quickly planned other resources and requirements. “Pinkie Pie, I need you to visit the local Newspaper publishers – the real ones, not the rags – and try to glean any information from them that might point to unusual occurrences in Equestria.”

Pinkie saluted stiffly and smiled proudly. “You got it, Twilight!” A pendant with the crown seal and an accompanying sprinkle of magical dust materialized out of thin air and onto the excitable pony’s neck. The unmistakable colour of magic made them look toward Celestia.

“You are going to need crown authority to get those questions answered,” Celestia explained.

Pinkie looked at her pendant. “Oooooo,” she ogled. Then a familiar jingle resonated with the other ponies as it meant that Pinkie Pie, bouncing off all four hooves, was on the job. “La la-la la-la…”

“Rainbow Dash – kissed Twilight on the lips just as she was about to deliver her assignment.