Somewhere above Equestria, multiple balls of energy in all colours streaked through the sky, seekin new bearers. It was many, many years since the demise of the previous owners, and it was high time that new users were chosen.
At length, finding compatible hosts, they fell from the upper atmosphere to land on the ground below, to await their destined bearers. Things were about to change on the new world, and someone had to be there when they did...
The Cutie Mark Crusaders had gathered for their weekly meeting. It used to be a bi-daily meeting, but there was less and less to meet about. There had been fewer and fewer cutie mark problems to solve lately and they were getting straight-up bored. Which any resident of ponyville could tell you was never a good thing. And having graduated from Ponyville's school hadn't helped matters
As they talked each time about their plans, they had less to talk about. Sure, they still had their fun together, had their weekly shakes at Sugarcube Corner, any parties and festivals that were going on, but they feared that if this dry spell continued, they might begin to drift apart.
"Hear ye, hear ye." Apple Bloom (the de-facto leader of the trio) said. "Ah call this meetin' ta order." Immediately, Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle turned their attention to their yellow friend's countenance
"Ah ain't gonna lie, Crusaders." Apple Bloom continued, "We're in a rough patch. Things are gettin' somewhat too calm 'round these parts. Tha good news is that no serious troubles have occurred lately. The BAD news is that there're fewert blank-flanks ta help with their cutie mark troubles. If this keeps up... we might hafta disband."
Her friends gasped. "After all this time... after all we've been through together..." Sweetie spoke up, "All of these adventures that we've been going on... are we beginning to run out of material?"
"It has been getting a bit dull around here lately." Scootaloo admitted. "Maybe we have something of a cutie mark problem ourselves."
"Ah think ya may be right." Apple Bloom acknowledged. "Ah think our next prah-ority oughts be findin' somethin' new for us to do."
Sweetie Belle said, "Maybe a change of scenery might do us some good? Just because the cutie mark problems of our peers are drying up here, it doesn't mean that our services aren't still required elsewhere."
"Crusaders." Apple Bloom called out, "Our new prah-ority mission is ta figger out this problem. Think o' some places we might go or things we might need ta do ta spice things up. We'll talk about our ah-deas over our weekly shakes. 'til then, dis-missed!"
The next day, Apple Bloom was on her way to meet with Zecora, who she still studied alchemy under from time to time.
With her she had her saddlebags, which were enchanted by Miss Rarity to carry up to twenty times her body weight(1) and to be gyroscopically stable, so that no matter what happened the contents wouldn't jostle around. In there she had her potion-making supplies (ingredients, decanters, flasks, mortar and pestle, et cetera) and several potions already made.
Now, Apple Bloom was walking through the Forest -on one of the safer paths-, when she spotted something glowing to her right, not far off the beaten path. Quite forgetting Rule 53, she decided to investigate.
As she grew closer she heard a rumbling sound, like the very earth beneath her hooves was being shifted.
Upon approaching the glowing object, she found a glowing green and yellow sphere of light. Tentatively, she trod forward and poked the sphere with a hoof. Suddenly, there was a white flash in her vision and she heard a voice speak to her.
'Potential user detected. Compatibility score: 90%. Initiating scan.'
"Wait, what?" Apple Bloom protested,
Suddenly, she felt herself being examined from nose to tail. She almost felt violated by the energy that permeated her little body.
'You are Apple Bloom, correct?' the voice queried
"Yeah." she replied, a touch testily, "What of it?"
'You are about to inherit the powers and skills of operative Jake Rockwell, ground-based operations specialist. This will, if you accept, grant you access to a variety of weapons systems, namely systems Detonator, Fireforce, Hornet and Wild Weasel. '
As each of the weapon systems was named, she felt the descriptions of each unit enter her mind and take root in her memory, as if she'd known of them all her life.
"Ah dunno." she said, unsure, "These sound pretty powerful. And dangerous ta boot."
'True, these are arguably the most powerful weapons among the Centurion Team's arsenal, but they will only appear to you when you choose to summon it, and with the skills of operative Jake Rockwell, you will have the knowledge to use it responsibly. However, you will also be required to take on new responsibilities, such as the occasional mission...'
"Well, in that case, Ah accept."
'... You accept so easily?' the voice asked, sounding surprised.
"Well, from whatcha said, these missions sound mighty important. Be-sahdes, Ah'm like's not ta be the last pony y're gonna hear from fer an awful long tahm if'n Ah'm not tha one..." Apple Bloom drawled.
'Deliberating...' the voice said, unsure. At length, it spoke again. 'Very well. User accepted. Prepare to receive upload of data. Warning: this will feel strange. Brace yourself'
Immediately, Apple Bkoom felt dizzy as data entered her mind. Schematics flew by her eyes, information, training, skills and abilities, general knowledge and so forth.
Apple Bloom felt herself changing on a fundamental level. Her coat darkened by a couple of shades. Her eyes hanged from the usual amber hue to burning gold. Her muscles toughened, becoming tightly corded. Also, she could swear that she was just a little taller. To a casual observer she would look no different. But those who were more observant would be able to see the change.
Soon, though, the disorientation passed.
'Upload complete. Welcome to the force, operative Apple Bloom. To complete the change, envision a unit and intone the codephrase!'
Apple Bloom thought of the Wild Weasel unit and the speed it could grant her.. "Equip Jumpsuit."
A yellow outfit phased into existence, shifting to fit her snugly.
Making sure that nopony was watching, she called out: "Select Wahld Weasel!"
'AWS unit Wild Weasel selected; Ready for upload'
Taking a bipedal stance in the form of an X, Apple Bloom commanded, "POWER EXTREME!"
She suddenly felt herself being endowed with the armour of the Wild Weasel unit, shifting into its vehicular mode. With a whoop of excitement, she sped toward her previous destination, a sight faster than she was before.
Arriving at Zecora's hut, she reverted to her normal form, albeit significantly changed.
Sweetie Belle decided to go to her favourite hill on the outskirts of Ponyville and do her latest favoured craft: Crochet.. She was still an amateur at the craft, but she liked doing it anyway.
Besides, it helped her concentrate.
She was already halfway done with the craft beforehoof. Finishing it would allow her to think upon her current situation. She felt that maybe they were coming to a crossroads with life. They might have to expand their search area. Their talents were still as they were. That might mean that... they'd have to leave Ponyville. At least temporarily.
Though she'd miss her sister, she had to do something. It's what her cutie mark was saying to her.
Suddenly, an orb of teal light streaked across the sky, landing somewhere nearby. Something told her that she had to check it out.
Stowing her hoofy-work in her right saddlebag, she dashed off to find out what was what.
As she got closer to the crash zone of the light, she began to hear the sound of water flowing, as if she was entering the sea. Sure enough, as se grew to the landing site, she felt as if she was moving through -albeit breatheable, for whatever reason- water.
She crept toward the light and carefully tapped it.
'Potential user identified. Compatibility score: 89%. Scanning...'
Sweetie felt a strange sensation as her entire body was being analyzed; every square milimeter of her.
'Analysis complete. User Sweetie Belle. You are about to inherit the skills and abilities of Centurion operative Max Ray, Naval operations specialist. If you accept, you will be given enhanced naval capability, as well as access to Assault Weapon Systems such as the Cruiser, the Depth Charger, the Sea Bat, the Tidal Blast and the Fathom Fan.'
Sweetie felt each of these entries embed within her mind, description, image and all.
'Your body chemistry suggests fear.' the voice said, questioningly.
"Oh, nooo. I'm just a touch edgy about getting my mind invaded, my body probed and given sudden access to an extensive array of devastating armameents." she snarked.
'If this is overly invvasive, apologies are offered. However, Centurion operatives must be chosen. If you would prefer, you can simply decline and foorget that this unit ever existed.'
Sweetie considered that, but the voice spoke again.
'However, it may be some time before another potential user finds this unit. And they may very well be far less responsible than yourself. Choose wisely.'
Sweetie thought carefully about the decision presented to her. After some deliberation, she decided. "If this really is as necessary as you say..."
'There is a 93.5% probability of this unit being needed in this world's near future. And a 73.4% chance that this unit isn't discovered for an extended period of time.'
The alabaster filly sighed. "In that case, I accept."
The voice spoke again. 'Very well. Warning: This will feel strange, but shouldn't be painful. Commencing upload...'
Sweetie Belle felt information flowing into her mind. Schematics, access codes, a whole bestiary of marine life. Then she began to change in suble yet major ways. Her muscles became more dense, cording tightly and granting her enhanced strength. Her body became subtly more streamlined, which would allow for greater mobility in water. her mane gained a sort of wavy pattern to it, much like Mistmane's eponymous mane, but slower. And she felt just a touch taller than before.
Soon, the flow of data -and the changes to her physique- ceased.
'Upload complete. Welcome to the Centurion force, operative Sweetie Belle.'
Sweetie commanded, "Equip jumpsuit."
A green suit imported, shifting to fit her form and size.
Locating a nearby stream, she said, "Select: Cruiser."
'AWS Cruiser selected. Ready for upload.'
Nodding and taking on an X stance, the new operative intoned, POWER EXTREME!
Taking on the form of the Cruiser, her saddlebags disappearing into the on-board storage unit automatically, she dove into the water and sped off.
Scootaloo herself was also considering her next course of action. She too felt that they had stagnated. She, however, had the least idea of what to do. After much thought, she'd come up blank. Maybe she'd find the others and see how they felt about the situation.
She would also, it turned out, have the least time for introspection, as a solid sky blue object soared through the sky, swerving to land nearby. Kicking her scooter into high gear via her wings, she sped toward the object's crash site.
If she'd been paying attention, she would have noticed that the winds felt stronget as she got closer. However, she was already going at afair clip, so she hardly noticed.
She was more eager to touch the object -once she got to it- than the others. As soon as she did so....
'Potential user detected. Compatibility score: 90%. Initiating scan.'
Like the others, Scootaloo felt the energy permeating throung her, analyzing her every cell.
'Analysis complete. Greetings, Scootaloo. Should you accept, the abilities, skills and privileges of Centurion operative Ace McCloud, aerial operations specialist, will be yours. This will allow you access to AWS units such as Aero-Sault, Orbital Interceptor, Skybolt, Sky Knight and Strato Strike.'
"So... let me get this straight:" Scootaloo said, "These will all allow me to fly." (2)
'Correct.' the voice affirmed.
"I dunno. I'll need some time to- yes. And in case you missed it the first time: HAY YES."
'Confirmed.' the voice audibly shrugged. "Prepare for upload."
Scootaloo felt information filling her mind. Images flashed by her eyes as they did so. Then she felt her muscles getting more dense, her bones becoming lighter, yet as tough as titanium. Her wings filled out, becoming twice the size they were before. Her legs also stretched out, making her a little taller.
'Upload complete. Welcome to the Centurions force, operative Scootaloo'
Changes finished, Scootaloo commanded, "Equip jumpsuit."
A navy blue outfit appeared and shifted to become a form-fitting suit.
"Select Sky Knight!" She commanded.
'AWS unit Sky Knight selected; Ready for upload'
Scootaloo assumed the iconic X stance, then shouted: "POWER EXTREME!"
Various pieces of armour appeared and attached to her body, giving her the Sky Knight form. After the equipping phase finished, she launched into the air with a shout of excitement.
Over in Manehattan, Babs had just finished her fourth week of work at the hair salon. Arriving at home, she flopped onto her bed, utterly exhausted, as she ended up being EVERY day after work.
"Ya know," she thought aloud, "If this keeos up day after day, I might not live long enough to enjoy it for much longer."
After gaining her cutie mark she was all ready and raring to go into her career, but she was still only a filly. Maybe this whole growing up thing was over-rated.
"I wish something... exciting would happen. Something to bring the spark back. Or at least make the daily grind less tedious."
Suddenly, a red and white ball of energy flew through her window, landing righ on top of her.
''Potential user detected. Comppatibility score: 89%. Initiating scan.
Babs felt a strange sensation flowing through her. Each molecule in her body was rapidly being analyzed.
''Analysis complete. Babs Seed, if you accept this, you will be given the skilld, abilities and privileges of Centurion energy programming specialist Rex Charger. This will give you access to AWS units Electro Charger and Gatling Guard.
'Well,' Babs thought, 'I asked for it. I might as well take what life just gave me.' Then she said, "I accept."
'Iitiating upload.' the voice said.
Images flashed by Babs' eyes, information forcing its way into her young mind. Her muscles became more dense, her hide tougher. She felt her lungs become larger, able to take in more air. She also became a little taller.
Babs got up, feeling completely recharged. Looking out her window, she felt that her world was about to change, hopefully for the better.
'Welcome to the Centurions force, operative Babs Seed.'
Pipsqueak was taking a but of a siesta. Ever since he'd moved to Mustangeles post graduation, there'd been a heat wave off and on.
"It's bloomin' steaming 'round here!" he said, still trying to go back to sleep, sweating all over despite the air coditioner n the room attempting to cool the place as best it could.
Suddenly, a ball of viole energy flew through his window, surprisingly not breaking it. t landed close to his bed, sitting there on the floor.
Leaning over, he poked the orb, only to be greeted by a flash as his body was scanned.
'Compatibility score: 70%. You'll do.' a voice in his mind said. "If you accept, you'll be given the skills, abilities and privileges of Centurion covert operations specialist John Thunder. This will give you access to AWS units Silent Arrow and Thunder Knife."
Pipsqueak said, "Well, I'm not getting any more sleep. I might as well."
''Affirmative. Prepare for upload of data.'
Pipsqueak felt the information flash before his eyes before nestling within his mind. Then he began to change. He became a little taller, a fair bit stronger and his body adopted a thermoptic camoflage effect, almost chameleon-like.
'Upload complete. Welcome to the Centurions force, Pipsqueak.'
Pipsqueak got up and walked out the door, ready to start his new double life.
Five young ponies were chosen by fate. Five young ponies accepted at least some responsibility for their world's safety -at least in part-.
What will happen next? Only time will tell.