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PART 2 - ADJUSTED FOCUS

Nurse Poultice held a pointer in her teeth and tapped it on a slightly faded eye chart, speaking to her patient through the sides of her mouth. "Hokay, read me the shmallesht line y'all can shee."

Twilight dutifully held the opaque paddle over her unscathed eye and peered across the test site infirmary's cramped exam room at the rows of letters. The relentless, colorful sparkles in her right eye were starting to give her a mild headache, but they seemed to settle down as she concentrated. "Um... 'Manufactured under Crown Charter by the Twenty Twenty Optometrical Supplies Company, Manehattan, Equestria.'"

The earth pony nurse blinked, then craned her neck to peer at a tiny line of text at the very bottom of the chart. After a moment she pulled out a pair of glasses and put them on, squinting as she pushed her snout against the paper, Her pointer clattered on the concrete floor as her jaw dropped open in shock. She turned and stared wide eyed over the top of her spectacles.

Twilight pawed nervously at the edge of the exam table. "Did... did I get it right?"

Before the medical pony could reply, the door slammed open and Rainbow Dash came soaring in with a breathless Rarity close on her heels. The colorful pegasus stopped in a tense hover at the lavender unicorn's eye level. "Twilight! Are you okay? What happened?"

Twilight gave a fond smile to her devoted friends. "I'm fine Dash, this isn't the first poke in the eye I've taken. It's just some spots and a little double... vision... " She trailed off as she squinted at their expectant faces.

Rarity took a slight step back at her business partner's intense scrutiny. "Um... Are you quite sure you're all right, darling?"

Twilight turned her attention Rainbow Dash with a cocked eyebrow. "Dash? What did you do to your mane?"

The stunt flyer drew herself up self consciously, her sandy voice coming out in a stammering torrent. "Do? To… to… my mane? What a totally weird question, Twilight. Hah hah. I don't do any... I... I mean, I didn't do anything to my mane except comb it of course 'cos I was gonna do this press conference thing. Why in the world would you ask such a personal and private question all of a sudden and totally out of the blue?"

Rarity's pristine alabaster features tweaked with the slightest of smirks as she cast Dash a knowing sidelong glance. Her face went blank with horror as Twilight turned her squinting gaze on her. "And there's something... off about your face, Rarity."

Faster than even a perfectly healthy pair of eyes could follow the pale unicorn was across the room with her hooves clenched on the edges of the wash up sink, peering intently at her reflection in the streaked mirror on the door of the medicine cabinet that hung over it. She wheeled and dropped back to all fours with an archly raised eyebrow. "Twilight, just what has gotten into you? What's this all about?"

The scholarly mare let out a soft growl of frustration and rubbed her eyes. "I can't... this... this double vision is making things really hard to look at straight."

She clenched her right eye shut and looked at them, her brow furrowing. "Huh... Now everything is normal."

Rarity gave a toss of her head, the scarf binding her mane hindering the complete effect she would have usually hoped for. "Normal? Darling, I'm fabulous!"

After a moment's thoughtful pause as the precision wheels began to turn in her head, Twilight closed her unaffected eye and opened the other one. Her brow furrowed. "Okay, that's really strange."

She proceeded to hold the optometrist's paddle up to her right eye, then her left, then her right, then her left, then her right.

Dash fidgeted with her fore hooves as a tense silence fell over the little room. "Ya wanna quit creepin' us out here, Twi?"

The unicorn scholar cocked her head. "Its... Well, to explain it simply if I look at Rarity with my... well for lack of a better term lets call it my 'good' eye, she looks how she normally does."

Rarity nodded matter-of-factly. "Fabulous. Of course."

Twilight pursed her lips. "But if I look at her through the eye that got zapped, again for lack of a better term, then it's like she's not wearing any makeup at all."

The pale fashionista drew in a sharp breath and spun away from her old friend's gaze, standing stiff necked and self conscious as she faced the opposite corner of the room with a thoroughly mortified expression. "Oh… how… unusual…"

Twilight cleared her throat and turned to Rainbow Dash, speaking gravely to the colorful pegasus. "And when I look at you with the zapped eye, your mane's getting kind of faded at the tips."

Dash drew herself up indignantly, nearly hitting her head on the low ceiling, then after a moment deflated and let out a sigh, rubbing the back of her head with a hoof as she drifted back downward. "Yeah yeah, okay. It's a dye job, all right?"

She gestured vaguely with her hooves at her chromatic forelock. "Nothing fancy, just keeping the colors bright and punchy like they are on the posters. You wouldn't believe the abuse my hair takes on the road doing all these shows and appearances, and well, y'know I got a public image to keep up and all. So..."

Rarity turned to her and spoke in a solicitous tone, her voice slightly muffled by a newly donned surgical mask. "Honestly, darling, whoever does your styling does excellent work. Nopony would ever notice... except yours truly, of course."

She cast a pointed glare through her designer goggles at Twilight. "And a lady never points out the flaws in another mare's makeup."

Dash crossed her fore hooves in front of her. "Well, nopony better go blabbing about it to the reporters out there, that's all I care about."

She looked down past her shoulder at the earth pony nurse who'd been watching the proceedings with a bemused look on her face. "Medical confidentiality, huh?"

Nurse Poultice looked up at her with a deadpan expression and gave a shrug. "Yer not my patient, hun."

Dash bristled. "Ya want me to go find a good, sturdy wall to slam into?"

The medical pony raised a propitiating hoof. "Okay, I'll keep quiet. No need t' git all loco on me now."

Twilight let out a sigh and plucked up her eye patch in a sparkle of purple magic. "Well, speaking of the press, we probably ought to get out there and give a statement. We'll investigate this phenomenon later under more controlled conditions."

She turned to the nurse with an expectant look in her eye. "I presume otherwise I've got a clean bill of health, Nurse Poultice?"

The earth pony gave a nod. "Yer good t' go. Just try not t' strain yer eye too much. I'd say keep th' patch on fer a couple days. And if'n ya git a headache then lie down someplace dark with a warm, wet cloth over yer face."

Twilight trotted up to her and shook her hoof. "Will do. Thanks, Nurse."

The Appleloosan mare gave her a warm smile. "Jest doin' m'job, ma'am. I'd say y'all come back anytime but seein' as to why most ponies come here I'd just as soon wish y'all the opposite."

The lavender unicorn gave her a nod as her friends trooped out the door. "Well, lets just say I'll see you around."

***

Flashbulbs strobed with a clatter of camera shutters as Twilight and Rarity entered the press room and took their places at the podium. Pip, Apple Bloom, and the Flim Flam brothers were already there, all looking a bit frazzled from delaying the onslaught of questions from the raucous herd of reporters before Harmony Aeronautics' principals could join them.

Rainbow Dash semi-surreptitiously joined Spitfire at the back of the audience, stopping only to sign a couple of autographs before taking her seat near to where Trixie stood with her sound recording equipment on her back, murmuring direction to her pegasus camerapony while Featherweight filmed the proceedings with a normal lens on the Lulamoon Studios movie camera.

After they'd settled in Rarity took command of the press conference, having removed scarf, goggles, and surgical mask (and secured a Pinkie Pie Promise that Twilight wouldn't look at her with her magically affected eye) so that she could scintillate properly. She gave a bob of her horn to a unicorn mare with fine jewelry accenting her sharp appearance.

The reporter stood with a notepad hovering in her pink magic. "Rue Moor-Mills, Canterlot Chronicle, with a question for the executrixes of Harmony Aeronautics. Do you consider todays test a success, considering the terrible explosion shortly after the test subject achieved rainboom velocity?"

Flim Flim Flam cleared his throat and gave a nod to his brother and their employers. "If I might answer that one Doctor Sparkle, Madame Chairpony."

He adjusted his glasses and levitated a small blackboard with a diagram of the rocket cart drawn on it out from behind the table. "The explosion was due to an unforeseen fault in the design of the testing apparatus, not in the overall theory of the Destiny Drive." He floated a piece of chalk over and drew arrows under the leading edge of the rail cart's platform. "We simply didn't anticipate that air flow at that high rate of speed would cause the cart's surface to act as a sort of air foil, lifting it into the air. It is, after all, faster than anypony has ever gone on land. The sudden drop in air pressure caused the fuel tanks to rupture at roughly three thousand hooves up, by our estimation."

At this Flam chimed in. "Indeed. All those problematic peccadillos aside, we're quite pleased that the drive itself performed as expected, even at the cost of having to rebuild it from scratch."

Apple Bloom cleared her throat and gave the two unicorns a sidelong glare even as a smile brightened her pale yellow face. "And since th' safety precautions kicked in jest fine, no harm no foul."

She hooked her hoof in Pip's under the table and gave it a squeeze as Rarity gave the nod to another reporter, a slightly shabby looking pegasus with a curly blonde mane.

The pegasus ruffled his wings as he stood. "Goldenrod, Equestria Inquirer. On the subject of ponies being harmed, I'd like to ask Doctor Sparkle about that eye patch. Is there any truth to the rumors that have been flying around that your eye got put out during the experiment?"

Before Twilight could answer an indignant bellow came from the back row. "LIES! Lies and farcical fabrications! And anyway you can't blame the Spectacular Trixie for this!" The azure showmare jabbed a hoof toward the podium. "It was Twilight Sparkle's stupid fault for looking at a rainbow blast through the Spectacular Trixie's bombastically brilliant Reel to Real lens!"

Rarity huffed and tapped a hoof on the table for order as Twilight leaned toward her microphone with a conciliatory smile on her face. "I'm all right, fillies and gentlecolts of the press. My eye is still here. If you'll promise not to take any flash pictures for a minute I can show you. It's still a little light sensitive." A murmur of assent came from the press ponies as the cameras' clicking momentarily stilled.

With a nod she lifted up her eye patch and looked out over the crowd of reporters. After a moment her brow furrowed, and she pursed her lips as she closed her left eye and stared at them with her right.

A fierce expression settled on her face as she reared up with her hooves on the table, craning her neck with her ears canted back aggressively. "I don't believe it..."

Rarity pawed at the tabletop as she spoke tentatively to her friend and partner. "T-twilight? What's wrong?"

The lavender unicorn looked as if she were ready to leap over the table. With a quivering hoof and a snarl she pointed at MacGuffin from the Los Pegasus Times. "THERE!"

She turned her gaze on Jewelers Glass from Mariety Magazine. "And THERE!"

And then again she pointed furiously at Goldenrod, climbing up on the table with her ears perked and her tail hiked. "And THERE! I can SEE them! EVIL! Pure and simple from the pits of Tartarus. There are CHANGELINGS among us!"

Her horn flared with crackling purple magic and fired a blast at MacGuffin, exploding his chair in a burst of sparkling splinters as he leapt into the air with an uncanny burst of speed.

A shocked hush fell over the room, the only sound a deep, droning buzz as the lanky, frizzy maned unicorn hovered in midair with no sign of what was keeping him up. In a burst of sour green sorcery the red maned roan was gone and a black shelled insectoid equine dressed in a the reporter's powder blue jacket and thick glasses floated in his place, its tattered wings thrumming as murmurs of panic about to break loose rose from the crowd.

Its luminous blue eyes narrowed in a scowl of inequine rage as it spat back with a glob of viscous green matter that thudded into the curtains behind the Harmony Aeronautics delegation, narrowly missing Twilight as she dropped to the tabletop.

Pip thrust out his chin and clambered up on the table before Apple Bloom could stop him, making a daring leap toward the hovering changeling drone."Here now you blighter! Stop I say!"

Jewelers Glass exploded in a burst of sour green flame and in her place another chitinous gargoyle leapt into his path with mandibles unfurled, baring serrated rows of razor sharp fangs. Pip's eyes went wide a moment before he vanished in a spiraling flare of brighter green fire suffused with golden sparkles.

The elegantly dressed changeling had only a split second to blink in bewilderment as Apple Bloom exploded through the dissipating smoke cloud with a flying karate kick to the palps that sent the creature tumbling rump over thorax into a row of vacated folding chairs. "Hiiiiiii KEEBA!"

The changeling that had been posing as MacGuffin rose up to the rafters of the quonset hut and bellowed in a strangely modulated, rattling voice. "Spawn Zirconia! Spawn Pyrite! Cheese it! We've been made!"

A sandy voice responded from among the stampede of panicked reporters. "Not so fast, bugly!" A cyan blur trailing a streak of rainbow knocked the changeling drone from the air in a flying tackle.

Spitfire struggled against the press of fleeing press ponies, kicking and shoving and trying to restore order. "Calm down, everypony! Remain calm, please! CALM DOWN OR SO HELP ME I'll BUCK ALL YOUR RUMPS FROM HERE TO CLOUDSDALE!"

Twilight got back to her hooves and shouted at Dash and Apple Bloom, who struggled with the black shelled equine travesties as clouds of kicked up dust obscured the general chaos. "Hold them! I'll restrain them with my magic! Look out for the third one!"

Trixie stood perched on a chair, shouting up at Featherweight, who hovered beside her avidly filming the fracas from several hooves off the ground. "Keep filming! Keep filming! Keep AWK!"

She cut off with a squawk as a blonde, curly maned pegasus sidled up next to her and burst into a sickly green wreath of sorcery, revealing a third changeling who grabbed her by the mane and yanked her in close. She winced, startled and disoriented, as it loosed a thundering, buzzing shout, its jaws unfolding like a megaphone. "EVERYPONY FREEZE!"

The tumult died down to a low murmur as all eyes turned to the monstrous insectoid. With a lopsided grin on its fanged face it addressed the crowd of ponies. "Everypony back off or the loudmouth here gets it!"

To emphasize its points a wicked array of curved blades popped from the holes in its fore hoof, which it held up against Trixie's throat. It called to the drone that had stopped in mid-tussle with Rainbow Dash. "Spawn Megarump, lets go!"

The tall, scrawny changeling scowled and hissed at its swarm mate. "That's Mac Grump, you numbshell!"

Without even glancing in her direction it cold cocked Dash across the face with a perforated hoof, sending her slumping to the floor with little honking geese orbiting her head. The changeling muttered to itself in annoyance as it dusted off and made for the doorway.

Apple Bloom winced as the changeling she was holding down burst into poisonous green flames beneath her hooves. Her eyes went wide as she beheld Pip's handsome visage smiling up at her, a greenish sparkle playing across his teeth. "Kiss me, darling!"

Before she could reply the image of her fiancé shrugged loose from her grasp and knobbed her hard in the forehead with a vicious head butt. She flopped insensate on her back with tiny wedding bells jangling around her ears. The changeling reverted to its hideous appearance and snickered over its shoulder as it took wing and fell into formation behind its comrades.

The third changeling took up Trixie in a headlock and lifted off with a grunt, dangling her by her neck with its jagged blades still trained on her face. She screamed across the room as they backed out the door. "NO! LET ME GO YOU FREAKS! THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT TWILIGHT SPARKLE!"

Twilight paused and turned to Flim and Flam, who'd been staring dumbfounded as all Tartarus broke loose in the press room. She jabbed her hoof at the two mares sprawled insensate on the floor. "You two! Help Dash and Apple Bloom!"

She turned to her business partner as her horn lit up with a corona of magic. "Come on, Rarity! We gotta stop them!"

Without a second thought the alabaster unicorn climbed up on the table next to her and took her hoof. "Ready when you are, darling."

With a mutual nod they vanished from the press room in a spherical burst of white light.

They materialized outside, as wind whipped sand blew around them and the press ponies who'd gotten free of the jam up at the doors scattered in every direction.

They looked around, squinting as grit stung their eyes, then froze and looked up in horror as a ululating shriek sounded above them. A moment later Trixie dropped out of the sky and landed on them with a crunch, sending them to the ground in a tangle of flailing hooves and splintered recording equipment.

Pip came galloping up, his black jumpsuit still smoldering and a look of annoyance on his face as he set to helping them to their hooves. "Dreadfully sorry, ladies. Bally P.A.E.R.S. took me out of the action for a bit."

Twilight snarled skyward at the trio of tatter winged silhouettes as she charged her horn for another blast of magic. "Stop right there you monsters!"

Overhead the changelings hovered, their luminous blue eyes narrowed expectantly. Spawn Mac Grump nodded to its swarm mates, and they flew over the top of the small Royal Blue Airship tethered over the landing pad. While its companions slashed at the ropes with their sickle-like horns, Spawn Pyrite darted along the side of the airship's envelope, slashing it open with its bladed appendage. Gouts of liberated lifting gas sent the balloon lurching sideways and down in the direction of the three unicorns and the gallant young earth pony who was assisting them.

Twilight, Rarity, Trixie, and Pip's ears laid black and their eyes went wide as the collapsing airship blotted out the yellow sky above them. The spotted stallion had only a second to intone half a curse before he vanished yet again in a spiral of bright green flame. "Oh bugg..."

A heavy blanket of silver painted canvas settled over the trio of unicorn mares, pinning them solidly to the ground. The changelings wheeled in the air and sped off over the salt flats as fast as their buzzing wings could carry them.

The wind whistled in the ensuing silence, save for Pip's distant, angrily raised voice echoing over the complex from the direction of the control bunker. "Aargh! I hate P.A.E.R.S! P.A.E.R.S is sodding rubbish!"

A muffled voice sounded from underneath the deflated gas bag. "Rarity? Trixie? Are you all right?"

Another muffled voice replied. "I'll live, darling, but I might need a couple weeks at the spa."

A third voice grumbled. "You're paying for that hornecorder, Sparkle."

The heavy duty cloth rustled as a hoof was slapped to a forehead.  



The characters depicted in this fiction are copyright and trademarks of Hasbro, Inc. This is a work of fan fiction, and the author makes no claim on Hasbro's copyright or trademarks.

Movie Magic - Part 2
A My Little Pony - Friendship Is Magic Fan Fiction.

This story is set three years after the events described in Earth & Sky -> warrenhutch.deviantart.com/art…

Twilight recovers from her ocular event and realizes that much more meets her eye than normal. But there's something lurking beneath the surface of the press pool.

To be continued...
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PART 1 - PAN & SCAN

The screen flickers to life as the lights go down and an expectant hush falls over the audience.

A jaunty fanfare plays, as a topographic map of continental Equestria fades into view. Multicolored fireworks burst and flicker across the skies over the verdant kingdom, resolving into the smiling visage of a cobalt blue unicorn mare with a pale blue mane and a gleam in her amethyst colored eyes. Her horn sparkles as the words appear over her in pleasing cursive writing. "The Spectacular Trixie Presents A Lulamoon Studios Production!"

With a convivial wink she fades out, replaced by the image of a handsome stallion in a Harmony Flight Harness carrying a movie camera rig and peering through the viewfinder as he traverses the map from one side to the other. Trailing behind him, a glamorous pegasus mare with flowing blonde hair and a sash emblazoned with the word 'veritas' tows a fluttering banner that proclaims: "Eye on Equestria! All the news the nation needs now!"

The scene shifts to a broad expanse of whitish tan desert, extending to the horizon beneath a rippling blanket of heat waves under an intense yellow sky. A brash, feminine voice begins to speak. "The Salt Block Flats of San Palomino, a whole lot of nothing in the middle of nowhere, but there's something brewing here that will soon be the center of attention everywhere that's anywhere."

The view focuses on a large pile of sand and sandbags, circling around it until it settles on a set of railroad tracks laid in a straight line across the packed earth. It pans along the tracks, pulling back as a set of low blockhouses built of concrete and braced with more sandbags roll past.

The  rails finally terminate at a solidly buttressed concrete block wall painted with a purple and gold emblem depicting a pony rising on butterfly wings over a six pointed pink star, a blue diamond, and a red apple.  "Here in this endless open air oven, the unique horns at Harmony Aeronautics Incorporated are at it again, cooking up a new application of magical technology that will wow the world. Today, a new land speed record will be set, and in a single brave bound the barriers of the believable will be ppfffttt... Gah! pffft pffft It's in my pffft... my mouth... ppfffft... again! CUT!"

***

A gust of wind picked up a cloud of dust and salt granules, causing the scrawny pegasus camera pony to recoil from the billowing blast, clenching his eyelids and averting the delicate lenses of his camera from the scouring onslaught. His fearless leader held onto her purple, star spangled beret with a hoof as she spat out the stinging mouthful of grit. "Yuck. pffft... The Spectacular Trixie can't stand the... pfft... taste of this location. Why did they have to pick this disgusting, dusty... pffft... dump to do Sparkle's stupid stunt?"

Featherweight adjusted the bandanna shielding his muzzle and gave a shrug. "Dunno, boss. I guess it's 'cos they didn't want to set off a ground level rainboom anyplace where it could knock anything down, y'know?"

The azure unicorn rolled her eyes behind her goggles and levitated a bakalite cone off of her horn, coiling up the wires leading from it to the boxy contraption on her back and hanging the cone on its waiting bracket, then flipping all the switches running along the side in a shimmer of blue-white magic. "Well, the Spectacular Trixie's gotten enough grit in her teeth for one afternoon. Lets wrap on the establishing shots for now. We'll shoot some more after all the dust settles, if it ever does."

The pegasus hastened to clap protective caps over his camera's lenses. He nodded toward the recording device his employer carried. "I hope ya didn't get any sand on the cylinder, or yer voiceover's gonna sound like y'were chewin' it by the spoonful."

Trixie huffed. "We'll cut a new track back in the studio. Now just flutter along and get set up in the bunker while the Spectacular Trixie goes and gets the new lens rig out of the wagon."

Featherweight nodded toward a small complex of low adobe buildings in the distance. "Don't ya wanna catch any footage of the interviews? I heard the Wonderbolts just got here."

The azure unicorn gave another roll of her eyes with enough emphasis to cause her horn to trace a little figure eight in the air. "Pfft. Please. We've got enough press footage from their promo reels to cut together a three part trilogy of feature length films composed of nothing but 'Uhh's', 'Duh's' and 'Hi Mom!'s."

She drew herself up imperiously. "We're filmmakers, not paparazzi. Let the news hounds bark after unscripted banalities to stain the pages of half-bit tabloids."

With a grand flourish she reared and jabbed a hoof dramatically in the air. "We are hoof crafting a historical record that will burn itself onto the retinas of ponykind for WHOA!"

Overbalanced by the recording device on her back, Trixie began to topple backwards, but was stopped with a deftly placed hoof and shoved back forward by her companion, who had worked with the flamboyant unicorn long enough to keep his eye roll out of her sight.  "Careful there, boss."

She lashed her tail and raised her snout in the air to reclaim a bit of dignity. "Anyway, I'm still not talking to Perry for agreeing to go thru with this while we're right in the middle of shooting another serial. I need that gorgeous mug of his up on the screen, not potentially smeared across a half mile of salt crusted desert."

Featherweight shrugged. "A.B. seems fine with all the safety precautions Doc Sparkle set up, and if she ain't worried then I don't think anypony needs t' be. And just think of how they'll flock to the theaters when we've got the first earth pony to ever pull off a sonic rainboom as our headliner."

She tapped a hoof on the packed salt sand and cast him a glare. "How is the Spectacular Trixie supposed to get any grousing done if you're just gonna hover there and be sensible at her? Didn't I tell you to go get set up in the bunker?"

The skinny young pegasus gave a nod and fluttered away. "You got it, S.T."

He paused a few yards off and gave his employer a wave as he cradled his camera in the other hoof. "Try not to monologue too much when yer bringin' out that lens rig, okay boss? Ya don't wanna throw the calibration outta whack."

Trixie stomped a hoof in irritation and flicked her horn at the low buildings flanking the track. "I'll whack you if you don't get a move on!"

She let out a long, irritated breath as he turned and hurried off, leaving only a little cloud of dust rising from the desert in his wake.

The Spectacular Trixie glared out over the wide, drab vista all around her, and spat out a few more loose grains of salt. "Pfft."

***

The wind rustled a rack full of Harmony Harnesses, each one's canvas wings emblazoned with the masthead of a different Equestrian news service or metropolitan paper. The silver cylinder of a light duty excursion class airship cast a long hazy shadow on the ground as it rocked gently between its mooring towers, which flew the flapping, rattling flags of the Royal Blue Airship Line.

Inside the adjoining quonset hut, a gaggle of pony reporters leaned eagerly forward with cameras and notepads at the ready, clamoring for the attention of a row of well known ponies who sat at a long table decorated with Equestrian flags and the Harmony Aeronautics logo.

At the center, naturally, was Rarity, looking resplendent in a gleaming white jacket with a colorful scarf binding her hair against the desert wind and a set of jewel encrusted designer goggles raised up beneath her horn. To her left were the delegation from the Wonderbolts, Rainbow Dash and Spitfire, both clad in their medal festooned Royal Air Cavalry dress blues. To her right sat Pip and Apple Bloom, the former wearing a clinging black jumpsuit crisscrossed with a network of rune inscribed ribbons converging at several points on small vials of greenish powder, his marefriend and associate dressed in more traditional denim coveralls with a set of dark goggles pushed up over her customary pink bandanna and an extra bandanna hanging down around her neck, ready to be pulled up over her muzzle in the blowing sand outside.

With queenly aplomb, Rarity gave the nod to one of the clamoring reporters, an earnest looking mare in a fairly well put together ensemble. The earth pony stood as the others settled down to let her speak. "Jewelers Glass, Mariety Magazine, with a question for Mister Grand. Are you..."

She cut off as the handsome stallion held up a hoof to politely interject, a winning smile spreading across his chiseled features that gleamed as an onslaught of flashbulbs went off. "Please, my dear. 'Perry Grand' is just a stage name the publicist ponies at Lulamoon Studios came up with. Looks better on a movie poster, or so they tell me."

He nodded toward Rarity and Apple Bloom, who he gave a sidelong wink. "While I'm on the clock for Harmony Aeronautics just 'Pip' will more than suffice. Terribly sorry to have interrupted. Do please continue."

A couple of the other mares around her fanned themselves with their notepads as the journalist resumed her questioning. "Um... Okay, 'Pip'. What film fans want to know is, are you at all concerned with the risk you're undertaking, especially considering that you're currently in the middle of filming 'Commando Pony Versus The Brombys of the Stratosphere'?"

The spotted stallion gave a casual shrug. "Risk is a part of both my jobs. As you all know I insist on doing all my own stunts for the movies I appear in, and if I come a cropper on set it would be just the same as on the test range."

At his side, Apple Bloom's smile became a bit strained, but she brightened up as Pip turned and gave her another nod. " As always I just have to trust in the keen expertise, consummate professionalism, and breathtaking inventive brilliance of my friends and co-workers to keep me out of trouble."

He stood and turned to show off the tight garment he was wearing, flexing his flanks with a flick of his tightly wrapped tail. The room strobed with flashbulbs, and two mares and a stallion in the audience of reporters keeled over. "A fine case in point are these unusual togs I'm done up in today. This is the Peril Actuated Extraction and Retrieval Suit, or the P.A.E.R.S. for short. It uses an ingenious re-purposing of dragon fire based translocation to whisk me out of a jam should things go all 'pear shaped' as it were."

The audience chuckled at his joke as he turned and shared another smile with Apple Bloom, who winked back and blew him a kiss. Rarity smiled vivaciously and gave the nod to another raised hoof. A grizzled blue-grey pegasus stood to address the platform. "Weathervane, Cloudsdale Sentinel, with a question for Rainbow Dash. What do you think about an earth pony performing your signature stunt?"

The rainbow maned pegasus gave the crowd an affable smile and a nod to Pip. "Well, they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so in general I think it's pretty awesome. Plus now when I tell the all the kids who come to our shows that if they practice hard enough they can grow up to be just like good ol' Rainbow Dash, it's twenty percent truer."

The crowd murmured their approval. After a couple of beats a look of alarm washed across her cyan blue face, and she hastily leaned forward to add on to her statement. "Uh... That... that being said, make sure to include this message from me to all the kids out there: Don't... uh... don't try what Pip here is gonna do at home, okay? Hospitals are no fun to hang out in at all, and I'd rather sign an autograph book than a cast any day of the mrmph..."

She cut off as Rarity's manicured hoof covered her muzzle. The pale unicorn gave a strained smile to the reporters. "Next question, please?"

A lanky unicorn stallion with thick glasses and a slightly frizzy red mane stood up. "MacGuffin, Los Pegasus Times, a question for Major Spitfire. Do you foresee any military applications for this artificial rainboom technology?"

The blaze yellow pegasus was distracted by glaring in annoyance at her star flyer, and blinked to attention at the sound of her name and a nudge in the ribs from Dash. "Uh... What?"

Before the reporter could repeat his question Pip cleared his throat and stood, casting a glance over at Rarity as Apple Bloom hastily got to her hooves as well. "I hate to interrupt again, and I quite apologize, Madame Chairpony, but we're approaching H Hour and Miss Apple and I must be toddling off to the test site to get ready. If you'll excuse us, please?"

The alabaster unicorn gave her two young employees a magnanimous bob of her horn. "Of course darlings. Best of luck to you, Pip dear. Clear skies, eh?"

Dash called out as well. "Yeah, Clear skies, kid! Try not to break anything besides the sound barrier, okay?"

He threw them a jaunty salute, then gave a bow to the assembly of reporters as they got to their hooves and applauded. His smile gleamed with a final twinkle as he headed out the door with Apple Bloom in tow. The young mare looked back at the rainbow maned pegasus with a crease in her pale yellow brow before she trotted out of view.

When the stomping of hooves died down Rarity tapped her hoof on the table for order and nodded to the reporter who'd spoken last. "Would the gentlecolt from the Times please repeat his question?"

***

Several cooling fans were blowing at full capacity in the ready room as Apple Bloom helped Pip don a heavily padded, quilted body suit, followed by a fully enclosed suit of enchanted steel plate armor with articulated, hydraulically locking leg joints and piston actuated clamp mechanisms on the hoof plates, as well as several heavy duty attachment points on the withers and croup of the back plates.

The red headed mare gave him a smile over her shoulder that didn't quite reach her eyes as she laid her hooves on a conical faced helmet. "I'm gonna be mighty glad ta git ya outta this tin can when all this is over n' done with."

Her grin turned saucy as her eyes gleamed. "'Til then, do y'all got any last minute requests 'fore I hang th' control array offa yer kisser?" Her emphasis on the final word made it clear what she was hoping for.

He gave her a glittering smile, edged a bit with nervousness as sweat began to run down his forehead from beneath his padded hood. "Er... yes, as a matter of fact I've a couple of things to run past you."

With that he lumbered off over to a locker marked with his flag and mountain cutie mark, pulling it open and rummaging around in the satchel that sat inside beneath his hanging canvas Harmony Aeronautics flight jacket and his trilby hat with two sky blue feathers poking out of the brim.

He came out with a roll of white fabric in his hooves, which he presented to her. "Since I'm sallying forth all kitted up like one of the knights destrier of old, I thought it would be appropriate to be carrying an appropriate token from my lady most fair out on the field of honor."

Apple Bloom raised her eyebrow and unfurled the span of silk, revealing a red apple in the center with her name embroidered on either side in cursive script. She blushed and let out a chuckle as he inclined his head to allow her to reach up and tie the headband across his brow. She leaned in and planted a tender kiss on his lips. "Y'all make me proud now, sweetheart."

A look somewhere between thoughtful and panicked passed across the young stallion's handsome face, and he skittishly cleared his throat and took a step toward her. "I... I'd like to make you much more than that, my darling..."

He carefully lowered himself onto his haunches, and produced a small jewelry box, which he popped open and proffered to her. Inside a gold chain earring with two diamond crusted cutie mark charms, his flag and mountain and her apple and hammer, glinted on the dark velvet cushion.

He cleared his throat a second time, then embarked with a halting voice that only grew in warmth and sincerity. "I... I know it's not... ahem... not traditional for the stallion to propose to the mare, and I was going to do this after... well... after this whole test sequence was over but I thought about it and decided I ought to do it right now. Just in case, you know..."

He met her dumbfounded gaze. "Apple Bloom, you are by far the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. Would you make me the luckiest stallion in Equestria and consent to becoming my wife?"

A silence fell between them as she stared, her amber irises shrinking around tiny pupils as she looked down at the engagement earring, then up at him, then down, then up, then down, then up. "Wh... whut? Yer... yer proposing t' me? Now? Right now? Right before we strap a high explosive n' rainbow powered rocket t' yer back and shoot ya down a railroad track? This is when ya decide to do this?"

A bloom of fiery red washed outward from her cheeks as she bared her teeth in a snarl and clamped her hooves around his throat. Her voice was a throaty growl as she started to vigorously shake him. "YOU SLACK JAWED KUMQUAT PICKIN' ADDLE BRAINED IDJIT! HOW COULD YA DO THIS T' ME!?"

***

The south bunker hummed with a low murmur of activity, as rows of unicorns sat at switchboards with their horns linked into a cleverly conceived and constructed communications grid that kept them in touch with a network of observation posts spread out along the test track and at each point of the compass around the Harmony Aeronautics test site.

A cadre of unicorns in flight harnesses circled high above in the clear blue sky with state of the art portable crystal radio sets on their backs and highly trained pegasi at their wing, observing wind and weather conditions and sending up to the minute data back to the nerve center below.

At one end of the viewport, Featherweight made minute adjustments to his camera tripod with a portable spirit level and took light readings with an enchanted gemstone mounted in a brass watch casing. The camera's lens assembly had been removed and set aside in a carrying case as the the boxy device awaited its replacement with a protective cap over the aperture.

Doctor Twilight Sparkle adjusted her reading glasses and looked over a blackboard full of equations in the muted sunlight streaming in between the steel slats of the bunker's long, horizontal observation port as Professor Flam Flim Flam stood at her side chewing anxiously on his mustache and awaiting her final judgment. His bespectacled younger brother, Flim Flim Flam, pored over a scrolling ticker tape and annotated it with a highlighter pen held in the green sparkles of his magic. All three unicorns wore lab coats emblazoned with Harmony Aeronautics patches, with face masks and goggles at the ready should they need to go outside.

The lavender mare gave a nod of satisfaction. "Well, gentlecolts, everything seems to be in order here. I look forward to witnessing conclusive proof of your theories today."

The two brothers swelled with pride as they grinned at one another and shook hooves.

Her horn glimmered with purple sparkles as she levitated her glasses off, folded them, and tucked them into a pocket on her lab coat. She stepped up to look out on the harshly lit expanse of desert outside. "Now all we need is for our test pony to take the stage and..."

Everypony in the bunker's heads whipped around as a sputtering pop and twinkle of magic and a flare of green flame spiraled in the air over a thick mattress laid out in a specially designated back corner marked off with black and yellow emergency tape. It spun in on itself and exploded in a puff of white smoke and sparkles, and a spotted earth pony stallion in a smoldering black jumpsuit tumbled out of thin air and landed with a thud before the startled bunker staff's eyes.

With a cough and a shiver Pip shook his head to clear it. He met Twilight's gaze with a tremulous grin. "Um... I'm pleased to report that the P.A.E.R.S. works exactly as expected, Doctor Sparkle."

She blinked at him incredulously. "Pip!? What... what happened?"

Before the young stallion could formulate an answer the door to the bunker crashed open, bucked aside by a pair of pale yellow hooves wearing size five horseshoes. All heads whipped in that direction as Apple Bloom came stomping in snorting steam out of her nostrils, her amber eyes flaring like hot coals.

They all watched in silence as she crossed the control room, the soles of her work boots echoing like a snare drum cadence off the reinforced concrete. She reached out a hoof and hooked it on Pip's lapel, dragging him up to a half seated position with their snout's almost touching as her gaze bored into his. "I got just one thing t' say to you, Peregrine Squeak."

Her eyes became large and liquid as a soft blush bloomed on her face. "Yes! I'll marry ya."

With that she pulled him into a long, deep, passionate kiss, as everyone in the bunker looked on, dumbfounded.

Apple Bloom's brow furrowed as they parted, the little floating hearts around their heads drifting over to orbit Pip as a tiny black storm cloud appeared over her apple red forelock. She sighed in a weary voice. "That is if'n I don't come down with th' colic from havin' t' worry 'bout my consarned fiancé gittin' blown t' smithereens instead of just my dumb ol' coltfriend now."

She grabbed him by the collar and dragged his limp, sprawling form behind her as she made her way back to the door. The young mare paused and cast a brusque glance at Twillight and the Flim Flam brothers as she passed. "Sorry for th' delay. Gotta take shmoopy bear here n' git him suited up again. I promise t' fix th' door later."

The lavender unicorn could only nod slowly in response. "All right, Apple Bloom. Congratulations."

The younger mare stopped, her expression softening to a warm smile. "Thanks, Twilight."

The lavender unicorn turned a gimlet eyed glare on the young stallion lolling on the floor in new fiancée's iron grasp. "And Pip?"

He replied in a besotted, loopy tone of voice. "Yes, Docter Sparkle?"

She let out a small sigh. "You really need to work on your timing."

He gave a wobbly nod of agreement. "Yes, Doctor Sparkle."

Apple Bloom pursed her lips and stared hard at the lanky unicorns standing behind her employer. "And as fer you two, if'n anythin' bad happens t' my colt here 'cos y'all screwed somethin' up, just know that no amount o' powdered dragon fire is gonna keep me from trackin' ya down and stompin' y'all into hospital welcome mats. Y'unnerstan?"

Flam swallowed hard and nodded frantically. "In... indubitably, my dear Miss Apple."

Flim lashed his tail nervously and pushed up his glasses. "D-do let us know where you'll be setting up your gift registry."

She gave them a terse nod of satisfaction, then dragged her twitterpated husband-to-be out the door.

Twilight rubbed her temple with a hoof as Flim turned to Flam and spoke in a tentative voice. "Methinks, brother, it would further behoove us to re-check your equations one more time."

As they bent their red and white maned heads to pore over the blackboard the bunker door opened with another sharp crack, causing Flam to drag a crazy, jagged line across his figures with a tooth clenching screech of chalk on slate.

All heads turned to behold the Spectacular Trixie standing confindently in the doorway with an oblong carrying case bearing her cutie mark hovering after her. "Behold! Cinema's greatest genius, arriving with an awe inspiring advance in camera lens technology! The Spectacular Trixie has come to both make history and bear witness to it as well in her own inimitable fashion!"

Flam snapped his chalk in half and wheeled on her with his green eyes flaring. "Confound it, you megaphone mouthed mush minded mountebank of a mare, will you kindly keep your cacophonous clamoring down so that actual intellects can work in peace?"

The azure mare snorted and tossed her head, meeting his gaze with an imperious glare of her own. "The Spectacular Trixie will be glad to temper her tone if any should happen to show up. 'Til then feel free to shove that chalk in your ears, you simpering second-string snake-oil salespony."

Flim eyed them both over his glasses with an arch expression as he twirled his highlighter and spoke up in a voice dripping with sarcasm. "You two are just so ineffably cute when you flirt."

Flam and Trixie both grimaced in disgust and gave each other the cold shoulder, the mustachioed stallion wheeling to resume his calculations while the brash mare turned to greet Twilight with a terse nod. "Hello, Sparkle. How long 'til you put my studio's biggest star in mortal jeopardy?"

The lavender scholar flicked an ear and met her former rival with a deadpan expression. "Not long now, Lulamoon. Is that the new lens assembly you've been going on about?"

A smug smile spread across the azure unicorn's face as she brought the case around and unlocked it. Nestled in the red velvet padding was a brass cylinder roughly the length and thickness of a pony's cannon and hoof with sapphire, emerald, and ruby lenses at one end and a flawlessly clear diamond lens at the other.

Her grin widened as she preened over her newest invention. "Indeed it is. Behold! Reel To Real, the next bold advance in Trixiecolor cinematography. Any footage shot through this baby is so lush and sharp you'd almost think you're in the picture yourself. It looks more real than real, it's Reel To Real!"

Twilight's horn sparked to life as she cast the Gem Finding spell she'd learned from Rarity so long ago. An array of gemstone mirrors and prisms was revealed hazily through the cylinder's casing. "Hmm. Yes, very clever indeed. I can see that HEY!"

She recoiled as Trixie snapped the case shut and snatched it away behind her in her blue white magic. "Ut! This is proprietary and patent pending, Sparkle! Keep your spells off!"

The lavender mare rolled her eyes. "Honestly, Lulamoon. I signed every N.D.A. and trade secret compact you shoved under my quill. Not to mention the fact that I happen to be close friends with the Elements of Loyalty and Honesty and hope to always remain so. I think you can trust me not to swipe your ideas."

Her former rival snorted and replied with a surfeit of simmering sass. "Well, unless you're prepared to fork over enough bits to impress your close friend and business partner the Element of Generosity you ain't gettin' to poke your overcharged howitzer of a horn into the Spectacular Trixie's business, Miss Elephant of Magic."

Twilight let out a huff of exasperation and flicked the aforementioned horn toward the corner where Featherweight waited with the camera. "Just go hook it up and try to keep your voice down so that everypony else can concentrate, okay?"

The azure showmare hiked her tail as she sashayed across the control room. "Fine. The Spectacular Trixie had better be impressed when she sees this show you're gonna put on.."

The lavender scholar called after her. "The Exceedingly Patient Doctor Sparkle had better be impressed when she sees your footage."

Turning away as Trixie set to work installing her lens assembly with Featherweight's help, Twilight closed her eyes and brought her hoof to her chest, inhaling deeply, then stretched it out in front of her as she exhaled, centering herself with the trick that her sister-in-law Princess Cadance taught her so long ago on a hectic visit to the Crystal Empire.

A rustle of paper beside her caused her to crack an eyelid in a sidelong glance at Flim, who stood with a clipboard hovering in his magic and an eager grin on his face. "Only a few more items on the checklist, Doctor Sparkle. All the data has been collated and re-checked, and we're ready to go when you say so."

Twilight glanced out the view port and saw Apple Bloom making her way across the salt flats with a tool kit balanced on her back and her head swaddled in pink bandannas and dark goggles. Trundling along behind her a pair of earth pony drafters pulled the heavily armored form of Pip, who stood atop a rail cart with the hooves of his boots locked solidly in place.

Behind him, another Harmony Aeronautics staffer pushed another cart carrying a brass and stainless steel contraption composed of two fuel tanks with tubes running into a sort of carburetor and then out again into an array of cone shaped jet thrusters.

She turned and gave a nod to Flim as she sparked her horn to life and set her own facemask and goggles in place. "Excellent. Lets go and get Pip hooked up to the Destiny Drive."

He bobbed his horn in return. "You got it, Chief."

With that Twilight trotted out the door with the lanky stallion at her heels.

***

The dust laden wind whipped fitfully around the small knot of ponies as bolts were tightened and valves and actuators tested. Twilight stood with her checklist and a quill hovering in her magic, scrutinizing the track, cart, armor encased test pony, and rocket drive with a hypercritical eye.

She began to run down the final row of unchecked boxes. "All right. Phlogiston feed?"

Pip extended his tongue and flicked a lever in the cone shaped muzzle of his helmet, causing a small gout of lurid green flame to puff out of the central jet cone. Twilight nodded. "Check!"

She moved on to the next box. "Rainbow injection?"

Another tongue switch flipped, and a burst of multicolored mist sprayed out of a nozzle on the carburetor. Twilight scratched her quill on the page as Flim closed the test valve with a wrench. "Check!"

She turned her attention to the wheels of the cart, now resting on the tracks with wooden chocks holding it in place. Scrutinizing the pistons and heavy duty rubber pads poised above the wheels, she called out to her companions. "Brakes?"

Pip clenched down on the bar between his back teeth. A staggered hiss sounded as the brake pads pushed against the wheels. Twilight pursed her lips beneath her dust mask. "Hmm. A little hesitation there. Apple Bloom, tweak the pressure on those pneumatics."

The young mare nodded and leaned down with a socket wrench puckering the bandanna on her face. Twilight moved on. "Thruster Alignment?"

Flim checked each cone with a protractor and plum bob, and gave his employer the nod. She nodded back and checked the box. "Check!"

She called out the next step. "Throttle control?"

Pip stuck out his tongue and tapped the central button in his helmet's control array. A brief burst of phlogiston flame from all the rocket cones caused the cart to rock forward against the chocks before it settled back again after the thrust cut off.

Twilight put down another mark. "Check! How are those brakes looking?"

This time all the pistons pushed on the break pads in unison. "Check!"

The quill moved to the next box. "Emergency chutes?"

Flim checked pneumatic pressure on a small gauge, tugged on a couple of straps, and nodded to her. "Check!"

Twilight gave a final bob of her horn to Apple Bloom and Flim, and then reared up with her front hoof on the cart platform and tapped the side of Pip's helmet. "How's our test pony doing?"

A muffled but jaunty response came from inside the armored face cone. Twilight pursed her lips and nodded. "Okay, I'll call that a check." She levitated her quill and clipboard over to Flim, the purple sparkles shifting to green as he took them from her.

Twilight levitated a stopwatch out of the pocket of her lab coat and held it up beside a similar timepiece built into the side of Pip's helmet. She turned the dials on both with her sparkling purple magic. "Okay, synchronizing timers. Just like we rehearsed, there will be a three minute countdown, then the first bell will ring, signaling you to fire the thrusters, after thirty seconds the second bell will ring, then kick in the rainbow juice and brace for the rainboom. If the rainboom doesn't happen before the third bell, hit the brakes. If the rainboom does happen, hit the brakes immediately and await retrieval. Okay?"

The helmeted head ponderously nodded in understanding. As Twilight nodded in return and stepped down, Apple Bloom bounded forward, pulled down the bandana over her face, and craned her neck up to plant a kiss on the side of Pip's nose cone. "That's... pfft... fer luck. Y'all better come back in one piece or you'll be in trouble, mister!"

A muted chuckle and another slow nod came in response. The young mare leaned down and gripped the ropes leading from the chocks in her teeth, pulling them free from in front of the rail cart's wheels and tossing them aside.

Twilight drew herself up and raised her solemn voice over the whistling of the wind. "Celestia and Luna speed you on your way, Pip. Activating timers... NOW!"

With a flick of her horn the watches were activated. Inside his armored shell, the heroic young earth pony braced himself as the others galloped back to the bunker.

***
The unicorn watching the main clock called out the time into a nearby microphone, the announcement echoing across the salt flats from the pole mounted loudspeakers scattered at intervals around the test site. "T Minus twenty seconds."

Twilight jostled against Trixie at the crowded viewport of the control bunker, squinting her eyes against the hazy glare of the desert outside. Pip's bulky outline stood like a lonely monument on the platform of the rail cart, isolated in the vastness of the flat, sun bleached landscape.

The lavender mare turned at a growl of annoyance from the azure unicorn at her side. "Sorry,Trixie. Are you filming right now?"

The flashy showmare pursed her lips as she continued peering through the augmented camera's viewfinder. "No, Sparkle. I've got it hooked up to a switch that activates when somepony asks a stupid question. It just started rolling."

Before a mildly miffed Twilight could reply, the loudspeaker overhead activated again. "T Minus ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. First bell."

The clear tone of a chime rang across the complex, and was answered by a flaring of green flame from the rocket thrusters attached to Pip's withers, pushing the cart along the track with a sudden burst of speed.

Twilight levitated her stopwatch, half of her attention on the seconds ticking by as she watched the rapidly receding spark of lurid green burn its way across the salt crusted earth. At her side Trixie rotated the camera, keeping the hurtling cart and its passenger in the shot with a look of concentration etched on her face.

Everypony's ears perked up at the sound of the announcer's voice. "Second bell in five, four, three, two, oh WOW!"

A coruscating blast of rainbow colors exploded outward in a hemispherical ring as the cart leapt forward, suddenly tripling its speed. Seconds later a booming roar echoed across the salt flats.

Twilight began to hop in place on her hooves. "Yes yes yes yes yes! We have rainboom! WE HAVE RAINBOOM, EVERYPONY!"

A cheer went up from the staff in the bunker, accompanied by the scattered clopping of hooves on the concrete. Over the murmur of the wind outside a similar, if not even more enthusiastic commotion could be heard from the observation bunker across the way.

Trixie grunted in rapt annoyance. "Impressive, I'm having trouble keeping him in view... I hope this... uh oh."

Twilight's head snapped around, as Apple Bloom seemed to pop out of thin air right next to them. "Uh oh? What's uh oh? I don't like uh oh!"

Trixie bit her lip as her ears laid back. "Is he supposed to be popping a wheelie?"

As soon as she said it there were three mares furiously jostling to look thru the camera viewfinder.

Naturally, Apple Bloom won out over the two unicorns with her earth pony strength, clutching the camera box with her fore hooves as she stared at the tiny dot in the distance trailing a flashing corona of rainbow behind it. "I don't see him! I... No! Sweet Celestia's flamin' feedbag, he just went airborne! He's gotta be twenty hooves up and climbin'!"

Trixie bawled in her ear, her eyes wide and frantic. "For the love of Luna, whatever you do keep that camera rolling!"

A burst of green flames lit up the bunker interior, causing many heads to whip around as Pip dropped out of a spiral of sparkles onto the designated crash pad, his black body suit tattered and smoking.

Apple Bloom wheeled, letting go of the camera with a cry on her lips. "Honey Boo!"

She was across the room smothering her fiancé's soot blackened face with heartfelt kisses a split second before Twilight desperately caught the discarded camera in the purple glow of her magic, all while Trixie looked on, frozen in horror with her face a much paler shade of blue.

Twilight brought the viewfinder to her right eye, tilting the bulky camera with its custom lens toward the sky as she zeroed in on the rising speck of the test armor, the blast of sparkling rainbows trailing from its jets fading to a bright, almost incandescent white as it gained speed.

Suddenly it exploded with a blinding flash as bright as the sun, sending rings of burning color and a scattering of debris in all directions. Twilight let out a strangled cry and jerked violently backwards, clutching at her eye with her hooves as the coruscating light blasted through the array of gemstone lenses and seared her retina.  

Trixie hurled herself at the floor with hooves outstretched, catching her precious camera just before it hit. She wrapped herself around the boxy device in a possessive hug and glared at her fellow unicorn. "HEY! Watch the equipment, butterhorn!"

Twilight ignored her, just laying on her back and squinting at the ceiling with her unscathed eye with tears of pain dampening the cup of her fore hoof.

Presently she heard Flim's voice beside her. "Are you okay?"

Pip answered shakily from across the room. "I'm quite all right!"

Apple Bloom's archly relieved voice chimed in. "Nopony asked you, punkin'." The young stallion's reply was muffled under another deep kiss.

Flim craned his neck into Twilight's uncovered field of view. "Doctor Sparkle?"

The prostrate unicorn let out a sigh, and spoke in a measured voice. "Mister Flim Flam, if you would be so kind as to go to my desk and look in the top drawer, you'll find an eye patch that I keep there for just such an emergency. And then I think it would further behoove us if Mister Squeak and I were taken to the infirmary at this juncture."

He cocked an eyebrow and looked over toward her desk with a note of incredulity in his voice. "You keep an eye patch for... eye patch emergencies?"

The lavender unicorn replied with a slight edge creeping into her voice as her tail twitched beneath her. "Yes. It pays to be prepared for every possible contingency."

Flim cocked his head, then shrugged as he turned to trot away. "I guess that's why you're the mare in charge, Doctor Sparkle. I'll be back in a jiffy."

Twilight let her good eye roll closed as she listened to his hooves recede against the general backdrop of urgent chatter around the bunker.

Even with her hooves clamped over her stinging, throbbing eye, she could see something resembling her cutie mark in multicolored sparkles floating in the darkness above her.



The characters depicted in this fiction are copyright and trademarks of Hasbro, Inc. This is a work of fan fiction, and the author makes no claim on Hasbro's copyright or trademarks.

Movie Magic - Part 1
A My Little Pony - Friendship Is Magic Fan Fiction.

This story is set three years after the events described in Earth & Sky -> warrenhutch.deviantart.com/art…

Our story opens on a stretch of parched plains in the San Palomino desert, as Harmony Aeronautics prepares to break the land speed record, and Lulamoon Studios prepares to record it all for posterity.

Part 2 -> warrenhutch.deviantart.com/art…
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Movie Magic by WarrenHutch
Movie Magic
A My Little Pony - Friendship Is Magic Fan Fiction.

This story is set three years after the events described in Earth & Sky -> warrenhutch.deviantart.com/art…

The best and brightest (or at least flashiest) minds in Equestria are at it again. What will be revealed as an accidental discovery leads to a new way of looking at the world?

Please enjoy. -> warrenhutch.deviantart.com/art…
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Fluttershy hummed softly to herself as she scattered millet from a sack clenched in her teeth across the dirt of her newly built chicken enclosure, smiling at her little starter flock of chicks as they darted to and fro and filled the air with a trilling chatter of peeps and chirps. The soft glow of the sunrise gleamed alike on her pale yellow coat and on her tiny charges' downy fluff.

The young pegasus' tune trailed off as she realized that somepony was humming along with her in a rich contralto, at first distant but coming closer and accompanied by a steady tread that she could feel through her hooves. All around her the baby chicks had gone still, stopping in their tracks and nestling low to the ground like little dandelions, staring intently toward the edge of the forest with nary a peep.

She set her feed sack down and turned, a bright smile lighting up her features as she met the gentle, timeless gaze of the gleaming newcomer who towered like a snowy mountain spire over the fence. "Celestia! Good morning!"

The white giantess rustled her wings and gave a slight bob of her pearlescent horn. "Thank you, my dear."

She blinked and flicked an ear at the nonplussed expression that flashed across Fluttershy's face, and a wry smile pulled at the sides of her mouth. "Ah, my apologies. You spoke in greeting, 'twas not a compliment."  

Fluttershy pawed at the ground with a shy grin of her own. "Well, I suppose it could be both where you're concerned, couldn't it?"

Celestia let out a chuckle and nodded. "Indeed. And thus I wish you a 'good morning' as well, by way of greeting, and shall return thy... I mean... your compliment by saying I quite liked the ditty you were humming to your little flock here."

The young pegasus brushed back a strand of her flowing pink mane and gave a slight shrug. "Oh, that was just a jingle I heard playing on the radio at the trading post the last time I was down there."

Celestia cocked one of her tapering eyebrows. "Ray-de-oh? Some sort of newfangled bell?"

Fluttershy rustled her wings and paused for a moment to formulate a response. "It's... um... it's a sort of... um... a magic box that plays sounds that ponies... um... s-send to it from a far away tower. It lets ponies all over hear things like music or ponies talking about weather schedules or news or things they'd like you to buy."

She gave the sack on the ground in front of her a nudge with her hoof. "Or sometimes you hear both at once, like the song I was humming, which was made by this seed company in Manehattan to get ponies all over the republic to buy chicken feed. It always gets stuck in my head when I'm giving my little chicks here their breakfast."

The towering white mare gave a nod of tentative understanding and replied with a note of wry mirth on her husky voice. "Ah... Yet another of this age's casual wonders. Another marvel made mundane by the pedestrian purposes to which it is put."

Fluttershy's forelock draped a bit farther over her face. "I... I'm probably not explaining it very well."

Celestia reached over the fence with one of her vast wings and brushed the pink tresses back, running the tip of the leading primary down the little pegasus mare's cheek. "Nonsense, you do much to light the stygian darkness of my ignorance, my dear. The outside world would be to me as the summit of the Canterhorn to a blind fish from the deepest depths of the ocean were it not for our little chats."

She gave another nod, this time one of satisfaction as Fluttershy's pale yellow face blossomed pink on either side of a bashful smile.

The towering mare bobbed her horn toward the south, where the Saddle Lake trading post was marked by a few faint wisps of smoke in the distance. "And while we speak of the outside world, it pleases me immensely to hear that you've become bold enough to go forth and mingle among the other ponies with some frequency."

A wistful look passed over her face as she bobbed her horn again, this time in the direction of the dark forest brooding across the field behind the yellow pegasus' house. "The Everfree has more than enough hermits in residence as it is."

She turned a warm smile on the little pony. "Glad I am that my words of encouragement might have had some small role in your plucking up the courage to face the thundering herds."

Fluttershy's mane fell back over her face a little as she gave a shrug with her wings. "Well, there aren't that many ponies there, and the few that are there on any given day are... nice. Not... not like back home."

A shadow flickered across Celestia's chiseled features. She let out a slight sigh and used the tip of her wing to lift the young pegasus' chin. "Do not estrange thyself... er... yourself completely from those you left behind to come to this place you now call home, child. There are those that still care deeply for you even though you are no longer at their side. I am sure of that."

Fluttershy swallowed hard as she saw that familiar, deep sadness well in the depths of the white giantess' rose colored eyes. Celestia averted her gaze and looked skyward, her voice cracking slightly as she spoke half to herself. "Do them the kindness of sparing them a fond remembrance at the very least."

The little yellow pegasus reared up and planted her hooves on the top of her chicken fence to brush her own wing tip lightly along her towering visitor's slender neck, regaining the giant mare's attention with an eagerly earnest look on her face. "I... I do! Whenever I get the chance! My parents have been so understanding about me moving here, and they help me out all the time with money or care packages. And my friend Rainbow Dash visits a lot since she joined the Sky Rangers. I think we're closer now than we ever were back in Cloudsdale. I make sure to send her back with letters and pressed flowers and things like that all the time."

The gentle smile returned to Celestia's countenance, and she leaned down to nuzzle Fluttershy's forehead. "You're such a good child."

She shook away most of her gloom and drew herself up with a jaunty bob of her horn. "But I didn't come here just to pass the time, my dear, as much as such pleasantries warm my bleak old heart. An adventure awaits us today!"

A shiver somewhere between nervousness and excitement ruffled the young pegasus mare's wings. "Oh? Are we going into the forest?"

Celestia had shown Fluttershy many wonders in the wild depths of the Everfree. Some were breathtakingly beautiful, some were strange and uncanny, and some were downright scary, but through it all she'd learned to not be afraid with the giant alicorn striding confidently at her side, a glowing aura of light radiating from her snowy wings and coruscating mane that banished the glowering shadows. She looked expectantly up at her mentor, eager to hear what mysteries they would plumb together.

The white mare shook her head with a gentle smile. "No, child. We shall be keeping a vigil in the wild meadows to the west, awaiting a sight unseen in a generation."

Her expression became solemn as a distant look settled in her eyes and a gust of wind stirred her swirling, incandescent mane. "The dragons are aloft."

Fluttershy's extremities, her legs, wings, and tail, all stiffened at once as a violent shiver passed like a jangling wave over her soft yellow coat, her aquamarine irises shrinking to tiny points against the bulging whites of her eyes. Her soft voice came out in a strangled squeak as her vocal cords went rigid as well. "D-d-d-d-d-d-d-dragons?"

Without further ceremony she made a noise reminiscent of a tiny goat getting smooshed by a pillow and flipped over onto her back like an upturned coffee table, her splayed wings flat against the dirt of her chicken run and her legs sticking stiffly up in the air.

Celestia pursed her lips in bemusement as she looked down at the little pegasus, her brow furrowing as her ears laid back against her swirling mane. "Fluttershy?" She leaned down and gently prodded her with the tip of her horn. "Fluttershy?"

The white giantess let out a weary sigh and sparked her horn to life, enveloping Fluttershy in a warm golden glow and carrying her insensate protege across the back yard to her cottage.

***

Fluttershy blinked awake to the sound of a tea kettle whistling, pushing herself up from her couch with flailing legs and awkwardly thrashing wings. She stumbled to the kitchen, where she found Celestia barely managing to wedge herself into the cozy little space as she searched through the shy pegasus' cupboards. Her horn was brightly aglow with golden sparkles, as was Fluttershy's tea kettle as it hovered at her side. The radiance around it lessened a bit as the whistle receded.

Celestia flicked an ear in her direction as her half stunned hostess spoke up with a quavering voice. "Um... how long was I out?"

The white giantess narrowly avoided knocking over her spice rack with her swirling tail as she turned to face her. "Not long." She gave a nod toward the kettle. "It only takes me a moment to bring this to a boil. Where do you keep your tea, dear?"

Fluttershy pointed an unsteady hoof. "In... in that canister next to the stove. The littlest one in the row."

Her outsized visitor gave a nod as she spun the indicated container in her magic, revealing the cursive label that had been turned against the wall. "Ah, of course. And here is the sugar."

Her diminutive hostess ruffled her wings. "Oh... Um... That's full of sunflower seeds for the chipmunks. The sugar's in a bag in the cupboard over the sink."

Celestia cast her a glance as behind her a ballet of kettle, cups, saucers, spoons, and tea bags danced through the air wrapped in glittering gold auras. "How do you take it?"

The pale yellow pegasus had to think a moment to recall what she could normally answer instantly, in the unlikely event that anypony (anypony normal and not sixteen hooves tall at the shoulder) were to ask her, overwhelmed as she was by the spectacle of a goddess crammed into her kitchen willing two steaming, steeping cups of tea into existence. "Uh... just a bit of honey for me, please. It's in that other cupboard by your right wing."

The towering alicorn shifted the wing in question to give the cupboard space to open. She let out a soft chuckle. "How charming. The bottle resembles a bear."

With that she poured a dollop into one cup, then dumped a large glob into the other, followed by three spoonfuls of sugar and another dollop of honey for good measure. Fluttershy backpedaled, narrowly avoiding being bowled over onto her rump, as Celestia, her head ducked and her wings folded tightly against her sides, proceeded out of the little pegasus' kitchen like a grand steamship navigating through a crowded harbor on its way to open waters, with two teacups and saucers floating in her wake with the paper tabs of the tea bags fluttering behind them.

Fluttershy gave a squeak as she nearly toppled backwards over a throw rug in her rush to stay out of her majestic visitor's path. Instead of hitting the floor she found herself gently lifted in a warm, golden glow and set on her couch with a cup of tea pressed into her hooves. Celestia smoothed out the errant rug and settled down on it with her own cup floating placidly nearby.

She lowered her head to meet her diminutive hostess' eyes, putting Fluttershy a bit more at ease with the gentleness that radiated from her gaze. "So...Let us talk about what just happened. I must confess I didn't expect you to react as you did to the prospect of seeing the great dragon migration with thine... er... with your own eyes."

Her hostess fidgeted a bit with the cup in her grasp. "I... I'm... really afraid of d-d-dragons."

Celestia gave a conceding nod, carefully extending her wing to brush Fluttershy's draping forelock away from her downcast eyes. "'Tis not an unwise position for an average pony to take, regarding the average dragon." She paused, a thoughtful look on her face. "But perhaps a bit unusual for somepony who has faced many a great and terrible beast with more fascination than fear as she trotted at my side in our wanderings through the forest."

The little pegasus looked away as the pink mane drooped back into place. "Those were just big cuddly animals, and most of them are perfectly nice once you get to know them, but these are dragons."

The gleaming alicorn cocked an eyebrow. "This is rather a surprise knowing what I do of your illustrious lineage. Your ancestor The Commander feared neither pony nor beast, and in fact relished the prospect of facing down such fearsome creatures in glorious battle."

Fluttershy bit her lip, her eyes retreating further behind the curtain of her forelock. "I... I never liked the old stories that my family always told all the time. I mean, my mom and dad knew how much they upset me and made a point not to mention the 'd-word' when I was around but my aunts and uncles and grandpa thought I was being silly and my cousins would tease me. Then my dad would yell at them and then my uncles would yell at him and grandpa would yell at them all and I spent more than a few Hearth's Warmings under my bed in my room."

She began to tremble, her spoon rattling in the cup. "Which was fine, because the d-d-dragon stories used to give me nightmares when I was a little filly. All the fighting and fire and ponies and cows and sheep getting gobbled up and dragons getting chopped or lanced or bucked in the face or tricked into swallowing their own tails or struck by lightning or getting boulders rolled onto their heads. I hate to hear about any living creature getting hurt. E-even a dragon."

Her cup began, in turn, to rattle on the saucer clenched in her hooves. "And… And I know my family history but I'd never be able to raise a hoof to fight against anypony or anything. Never! But dragons are so scary and awful and mean and I know if I met one they'd just snap me up like a chicken pecking up a kernel of corn without thinking twice about it and then who would take care of my little animal friends and oh gosh they'd probably get eaten up too if a dragon was around to eat me and that would be terrible and my family would be even more disappointed that I wasn't carrying on the "proud traditions of the Hurricane clan" and nopony would even show up at the funeral not even me 'cos I'd be eaten and then..."

She cut off with a tiny squeak as a broad white hoof nearly as wide as her whole head was gently laid against her muzzle to the sound of Celestia's soothing voice. "Take a breath, child. Then take a sip of tea."

The huge white mare was silent for a while as her relatively tiny hostess calmed herself and did as she'd said. There was a note of a sigh in her rough edged voice as she ran a wing tip down a pale yellow cheek to dry a trickle of tears. "Such a gentle soul. I know full well how terrible it is to have to fight, my dear one, to be forced to do harm to one you would not wish it upon. There are times where it is sadly unavoidable, as dearly as we might wish otherwise. It would be my prayer for you, and all other little ponies, to never need to make that choice, but live their lives in harmony with one another and all creatures besides."

A comforting smile appeared on her chiseled face. "I give you my word, 'pon what still might remain of my honor. We shan't be forced into such dire straits on this day. The dragons are powerful, dangerous creatures, but they will be quite intent on their migration, and shall most likely pass high overhead without even noticing us."

Fluttershy couldn't help but notice another distant, wistful look in her mentor's eyes. "And should any chance to take note of our presence, fear not. They are not all complete brutes."

Celestia's expression hardened. "And those that are have been taught, in a manner quite emphatic, to leave well enough alone."

The pale yellow pegasus looked up at her immense guest over the brim of her teacup. "Um... they have?"

Celestia cleared her throat after taking a deep pull from her own cup. "Er... indeed. But you don't want to hear those sorts of tales. Suffice to say my presence and their long memories shall deter them from causing us any trouble."

She set aside her tea and proffered her wide hoof to Fluttershy. "So what say you, my dear? 'Tis a breathtaking sight, and I would dearly love to share it with somepony. There have been far too many times where I took in the wonders of this world all alone. If you can find the courage to sally forth and view the dragons with me then there are many places in the Everfree I would take you henceforth without question. I think it would be immensely good for both of us."

Celestia's rose colored eyes twinkled as a wry smile stole across her face. "And I think you would prove yourself brave enough to face other ponies more often, perhaps even your boisterous relatives up in Cloudsdale. I daresay, if you told your dear parents that you'd been present at the dragon migration they would be most exceedingly proud of you."

Fluttershy swallowed the rest of her tea and laid her empty cup aside on her couch, a pensive look on her half hidden face as she nervously ruffled her wings in thought. She pawed at the cushion with a shaking hoof, and then reached out and laid it upon Celestia's. "O-okay. I'll... I'll come. I can be brave if you're there with me."

***

Fluttershy gazed upward in awe as she huddled under her giant protector's broad white wing and watched the sinous shapes of the migrating dragons flying in a winding trail high above. Their membranous wings glowed like stained glass in a thousand jewel like colors as the sun shone through them and gleamed off of their scales.

Periodically the little pegasus would flinch and cower as one dragon would edge too far into another's flight path and an argument would erupt with booming roars and gouts of hissing flame. The old stories she'd heard in her youth scarcely did justice to the creatures who soared high above the wild meadow, serene in their terrible majesty.

After one particularly incandescent exchange, Celestia shifted her wing over her smaller companion and spoke to her in a low voice. "Quite the fireworks display, is it not? 'Tis 'nought but posturing. They do one another no harm with their flares, as they are quite impervious to all but the very hottest of flames, which few on this earth are able to wield. Worry not for their safety nor your own."  

Fluttershy suppressed a shudder and gave the giantess a tentative nod. "O-okay. It is kind of beautiful, isn't it? E-even though I think it's really scary."

Another wistful expression settled upon Celestia's features. "There are many things that are fearsome up close that can be seen as beautiful from a distance. Like thunderstorms, for example, or the pageantry and pennants of armies on the march..."

She murmured to herself, just at the edge of Fluttershy's hearing under the roaring and bellowing and flapping of leathery wings high above. "... or the moon."

Before she could ask for her mentor to explain the last cryptic part of her reassurance the white alicorn brightened up. "Which is why we shall stay safely down here nestled among the leaves of grass, and let our parade of dragons pass by safely overhead, like one would shelter from the storm and watch the lightning light the sky for the spectacle it is."

Fluttershy swallowed hard and nestled in closer to Celestia's side, nervously pawing at the ground as she watched the skies and spoke in a small voice. "Um... there seem to be a few heading toward us..."

The pale alicorn's head snapped around as her rose colored eyes widened, then narrowed as she spotted the approaching shapes her little companion's sharp pegasus eyes had seen. Seemingly far off, Fluttershy realized that they were much smaller than the other dragons winging their way across the broad expanse of sky.

Celestia spoke to her in a guarded tone. "Ah. There are some dragonets among them, centennial whelps on their first long flight. Fear not. Their dams and drakes shall gather them back into the column before they come anywhere near us."

Her brow furrowed beneath her pearlescent horn. "Any time now, they shall corral their wayward hatchlings. We have nothing to fear. Any time now..."

Fluttershy cringed a bit as her towering guide spat an unknown prhase that sounded like a densely embroidered curse and watched the flight of smaller dragons get closer and closer. She met Celestia's sidelong gaze as the giantess spoke warily to her. "It appears they are unsupervised, and that yet again I have played the damnable fool. For that I am most sorry, my dear one, but do not be afraid. We are in no danger."

She drew the little pegasus tighter to her side with her wing. "Show no fear if you can, but keep your head down and let me do the talking even if you cannot keep from trembling."

Fluttershy couldn't help but let out a soft whimper and shivered against her mentor's wide, warm flank as the dragon whelps, all as large or larger than a full grown pony, landed around them with ground shaking thuds. She bit her lip and did as Celestia had told her, drawing in on herself and keeping her eyes on the grass despite wanting to bolt as fast as legs or wings or whatever she could get moving would carry her.

A large, spiny headed red dragonet with thick black brows over a speckled face took the center of the semicircle of vicious looking beasts, rearing up with flaring wings. "Well well. What have we here? A couple of ponies?"

A dull brown brute with stubby horns and a knot of bone at the tip of his tail spoke up in a dull, rumbling voice at his side, his pig-like eyes alighting on Fluttershy as she cringed back as far as she could. "I'm really hungry, Garble."

The one called Garble's ruddy face split back toward his aural fins in a cruel sneer. "Maybe these ponies know where we might find someone to eat." He let out an ominous chuckle. "Heh heh. My bad. I meant 'something' to eat."

Celestia drew herself up to her full height, the sunlight radiating off of her snowy coat as she spoke in a steady, even voice to the pack of young dragons. "There's nothing for you here, and plenty of gemstones where you're headed. Best move along now."

The red dragonet recoiled for a moment, a bit nonplussed by the large white pony's commanding demeanor. His grin returned with a few more razor sharp teeth visible as anger arose to tinge the gloating tone of his voice. "A dragon can't just live on gemstones, ya know?"

A purple scaled dragon whelp with a barbed snout and a mop of yellow bristles over his eyes snickered from among the pack as they followed their leader's cue and began to close around Celestia and Fluttershy. "Gotta get some meat once in a while."

The white alicorn held her head high, flaring her free wing while she sheltered the little pegasus with the other. "You will find we do not agree with thee, hatchlings."

The gloating smile vanished from Garble's face as he bared his teeth in a snarl. "No one said you had a vote."

Fluttershy could suddenly feel waves of blinding heat radiating from above her, and could not look up for more than a second to see a nimbus of white light flaring around Celestia's horn, an immense surge of energy generated and held in check.

Beneath the thrumming of vast magic, she heard her mentor and friend's sad voice whispering. "I'm sorry." She was unsure as to whether it was directed at her or at their assailants.

The almost unbearable energy dissipated with a massive thud and the screeching, panicked squawks of the dragon whelps. Fluttershy let out a whimper and covered her head as she lay flat on the ground, terrified beyond reason.

A moment later she became aware of a deep voice, so deep it shook the ground beneath her belly. "Y'know, Garble, I always thought you'd hatched from the blunt end of your egg, but I never thought you were this stupid."

With a tremendous act of will, Fluttershy uncovered her eyes and looked up, and up, and up some more to see a giant purple dragon with green spines sweeping back in a jutting crest from his head and down between vast folded wings. He was as tall as an oak tree, with emerald-like eyes that narrowed at the leader of the gang of dragon whelps, who he held with wings pinched between massive fore claws like a tiny kitten being carried by the nape of its neck by its mother. The others were pinned to the ground beneath his tree trunk sized tail.

Garble could only curl up into a trembling ball and cringe as the huge drake gave him a little shake. "Ponies are off limits. And the one you and your little gaggle of culls chose to antagonize is the entire reason why."

The gigantic dragon stretched his massive foreleg down so that the young dragon was eye to eye with Celestia. "Open your eyes, you inchwyrm, and learn something for once. This is the one your grand-dams and grand-drakes warned you about. The Evermare. The White Diamond. The Greater Fire. The Terrible Dawn. The Bane of the Ravager. The Price Best Not Paid. She Who Burns the Furnace. Sol Equus Invictus. Know her, fear her, and maybe you'll see a few more centuries than you deserve."

The white alicorn cast her eyes downward, ruffling her wings and pawing at the ground in clear discomfort.

He withdrew his claw and raised the whimpering dragonet back up to his eye level. "And even if you can't get it through your dense little skull how close you and your playmates came to being blasted to smoldering grease spots in the grass, remember this..."

He drew Garble in closer. "There is always, always, someone bigger and badder than you, and it's not always obvious just how big and bad they are. More often than not, the biggest and baddest don't want or need to flash it around the way little spurts like you do. So mind how hot you burn or else you might get snuffed out. You got that?"

The relatively tiny red dragon swallowed hard and nodded frantically. The huge purple drake gave a nod of satisfaction in return and casually tossed the terrified whelp over his shoulder in the direction of the migrating dragons overhead. "Good, now go play somewhere where you won't get hurt, like in a live volcano or something."

He lifted his tail, and the rest of the dragonets fluttered away as fast as their wings could carry them, back to the safety of the soaring mass of mature dragons.

The gigantic purple drake watched them go, then turned to face Celestia and Fluttershy. He lowered himself, laying on his armored belly and bent his long neck down until he was face to face with the pale alicorn. His face was grave as he inclined his magnificently crested head in a small bow.

Celestia returned it with a bob of her gleaming horn. "Greetings Spike. It has been a long time."

The dragon nodded and let out a gusting sigh, that Fluttershy could feel as a hot wind. She climbed unsteadily to her hooves, cowering at the white mare's side. She was surprised at the softness of the vast creature's tone as he spoke. "It has."

The pale alicorn looked southward with a distant expression on her face. "How fares your mother?"

A slight pull at the purple scaled drake's cheek, resembling a smirk. "Which do you mean? My brood mother? Who knows? My foster mother? As cantankerous as ever, always complaining of wing ache and the cost of topaz these days. The one who hatched me? Perhaps you can fill me in."

Celestia remained silent, averting her eyes as she ran a reassuring wing tip along Fluttershy's side. The great dragon's attention was drawn to the little pegasus pressed against the alicorn's barrel. "And who might this be? Is she yours?"

At this the pale mare let out a sigh. "No. I have no right to call anypony mine anymore."

She looked down, startled as Fluttershy took a step forward, meeting the Spike the dragon's gaze with her own, partially obscured as it was behind her mane. "H-hello, M-mister Dragon. Cel...Celestia is my f-f-f-friend, and she's trying to t-t-teach me to be b-b-brave. Just... just s-s-speaking to you is the b-bravest thing I've ever d-d-done in m-my whole life. I h-hope you won't be offended if I f-f-faint before we're f-f-finished t-talking. "

Spike's eyes narrowed for a moment, and then a gentle smile spread across his face. "Celestia is a good teacher, despite what she seems to think. She taught me much before she finally sent me to live with my own kind. What's your name, filly?"

She pawed at the ground, leaning against Celestia with knees wobbling. "I'm... Um... I'm Fluttershy."

He let out a rumbling chuckle, and extended a single claw toward her and held it still. "Nice to meet you, Fluttershy. You can call me Spike."

The little yellow pegasus took a deep breath, and stretched out a shaking hoof, tentatively tapping the end of the claw in response. "Hi Spike. It's n-nice to meet you, too."

The vast dragon chuckled again, then turned his attention back to Celestia. "Charming. Well, as much as I would love to sit and chat, I'm busy migrating right now, so I should probably get going or else I'll miss out on the best calderas."

With that, he dusted off, his huge wings unfurling and blowing the grass around them flat as he hovered overhead. "Send me a letter sometime, all right? I still remember that message spell, even if I've grown a bit rusty at it over the centuries."

The pale alicorn gave a wave of one of her snowy wings in return. "I will. I promise."

With a final nod Spike wheeled and climbed skyward with mighty beats of his membranous wings, inserting himself back into the column of dragons with a roar and a flourish of bright green flame that sent the other great beasts winding aside to let him through.

Celestia watched as he vanished over the horizon, sparing a glance down at her side at the sound of a body softly toppling to the ground and the bleat of a tiny smooshed goat.

***

The sun was painting the western horizon in reds, greens, and golds as the last winged silhouettes of the flight of migrating dragons disappeared over the far mountains, the distant sparks of their flames echoing the glimmer of the fireflies rising from the tall grass to dance for one another.

Celestia and Fluttershy walked slowly through the gathering twilight on their way back to the cottage, their hoof falls and the rustling of wings the only sound between them for some time. The little pegasus' tread was steady, as the soft glow of her towering companion's coat illuminated her pensive face.

She turned to her mentor after chewing over her questions. "Um... so my head was kind of spinning while we were talking to Mister Spike, but am I right that you somehow... hatched him and took care of him for a while?"

She flinched back at her own audaciousness. "I... I mean, you don't have to answer if you don't want to. I don't mean to pry."

The alicorn mare let out a soft chuckle as she gazed at the stars twinkling to life overhead. "Yes. Long, long ago he came into my hooves when he was but an egg, the result of an... adventure that I shan't elaborate upon. Thus did it abide among my small store of treasures and mementos, until one day I took it into my head to quicken its hatching with an ancient spell I knew."

She flicked an ear as Fluttershy's soft voice spoke in hushed amazement. "Wow. And I thought hatching my little flock of chickens was something."

Celestia laid her wing across her small companion's withers. "It is a wonder, my dear. But I must own my motives were much more selfish than your simple love for all living creatures. I... It was from loneliness, pure and simple. I desired somepony, or I suppose I should say someone, to spend my endless days with."

Fluttershy walked slowly alongside her mentor, gazing up at her glowing white profile. "So you raised him from a baby to keep you company?"

The pale alicorn nodded. "Indeed. And for a time it was all right. He was a sweet infant, and a precocious dragonet. Too precocious. At first I think I regarded him as a clever pet, but as he grew older and so much wiser I came to realize he was something of a foster child, and I had to admit that that was a burden and blessing I had no right to bear."

Celestia hung her head, avoiding her small companion's searching eyes. "So when he was old enough to fly, I took him to a dragoness who lived far away in the wild lands to the south. One I could trust to raise him to adulthood in the ways of peaceable dragonkind. It was... hard. But the right thing to do, I think. It is one of many... separations that weigh upon my heart all the same."

Fluttershy watched as a glimmering trail of tears started down the alicorn's cheek. She rustled her pale yellow wings and spoke to her in a solemn voice. "Do... Do you think someday you and I would have to... go our separate ways?"

At this the towering white mare stopped, her rose hued eyes glistening as she met the little pegasus' forthright aquamarine gaze. "Oh my dear child... I would n-never want to do so willingly. But... I cannot promise... There... there will be a day when we will be separated by a boundary that no pony, mortal or immortal, may cross... but... before then I... I... I know not what the future holds... "

Fluttershy reached up with a tentative wing and stroked at the tips of Celestia's swirling, unruly mane. "It's okay. I don't either. But it doesn't matter. We're friends right now, right? And that counts for something..."

The ancient alicorn let out a shuddering sigh and took her young friend into a hug. "Indeed it does, my dear one. Indeed it does. And I can promise you that in my heart it always will."

They resumed walking, tails entwined as they made their way along the stream toward Fluttershy's home. After another stretch of silence, the soft voiced pegasus spoke up again. "I think Spike still loves you too, even if you don't see each other all the time. In spite of being scared almost out of my wits, I was glad to meet him."

Her looming companion surreptitiously brushed a tear away from her eye. "Glad I am that you met as well."

Fluttershy stretched out her neck and nuzzled Celestia's shoulder. "Thanks for taking me to see the dragons. We'll have to do it again the next time they pass through."

Her ageless mentor smiled softly to herself and tousled the little pegasus' mane with a wing tip. "That's my brave girl."

And together they walked back to the little cottage at the edge of the vast dark wood, as the moon with its dark mare's profile gleamed in the heavens above, a reminder of somepony fondly remembered and pined for. And perhaps, on a night as glowing and peaceful as this, they might well have returned the sentiment.

THE END

 

The characters depicted in this fiction are copyright and trademarks of Hasbro, Inc. This is a work of fan fiction, and the author makes no claim on Hasbro's copyright or trademarks.



Out of the Nest by WarrenHutch
Out of the Nest
Set in the Alternate Universe of "The White Mare" warrenhutch.deviantart.com/art…
This story is a prequel to that story.

Fluttershy loves to be taken on outings by her friend, the mysterious recluse of the Everfree Forest that most ponys know as the legendary White Mare, but she knows as Celestia.
But is she ready to overcome her fears and go with her ancient mentor to watch the Great Dragon Migration?

Read on -> warrenhutch.deviantart.com/art…
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WarrenHutch
Warren Hutch
United States
Hey
My nom de plume is Warren Hutch, and I'm mostly a lurker around here. My main repository of artwork is on FurAffinity, since most of the stuff is pertinent to that particular slice of web country.

Still, I've got a couple things that might interest the folks around here that I'll post from time to time. I'm much obliged if you want to stop by and check 'em out.

Current Residence: Boston, MA
Favourite genre of music: Ska, Funk, Surf Rock, Electronica, Hip Hop, Chap Hop, Nerdcore
Personal Quote: "Good is relative, Better is Absolute"
Interests
The advent of the Sisters, Princess Cadance, and the Royal Family of the Unicorns.

After watching the recent Season 2 finale, I've been mulling over some ideas in terms of the nature the Princesses that we've seen in canon. This is a ramble based on my own headcanon, so take it with a grain of salt. I'm sure genuine canon will blow several holes in this eventually.

I'll start with my belief that Celestia and Luna as immortal demigoddesses were not born in the conventional sense of having two parents, but manifested rather like Aphrodite from the sea foam, or any number of other mythic deities who sprang fully formed from the elements.

In this case, I believe that both Sisters were born from the fiery heart that manifested in the sky when the three pony tribes came together to found Equestria. If I were to flesh out the story I'd posit that Celestia, the eldest, was born when the morning sun rose on the longest day, making the Summer Sun Celebration also her "birthday". After her arrival, I imagine the heart would be much reduced in size, softly glowing and only visible at night, until during a full moon on the longest night, Princess Luna, the younger sister, came into the world. Both Princesses, in addition to being granted power over the sun and moon, also represent aspects of all three pony types, as they were born from the harmony of the tribes.

(On a side note, the flaming heart seen over Canterlot at the end of "Hearths Warming Eve" in my mind is a traditional firework or illusion cast by unicorns to commemorate the original manifestation of friendship between the tribes.)

I imagine that shortly after the Sisters were born, they were adopted as honorary members of the hereditary royalty of the unicorns, making them the "daughters" of the unicorn monarch (perhaps of Queen Platinum, after she succeeded to her father's throne). This would make them adopted sisters to the monarch's children, and aunts in turn to their children, so on and so on through generations until everypony with any connection to the unicorn royalty would be considered the Princesses' nieces and nephews. Technically, Prince Blueblood or Princess Cadance would be great great great great(to the nth degree) nephew or niece, but since there's only so much space on a scroll or so much breath in a herald's lungs, they just say "niece" or "nephew".

This idea further explains why as rulers of Equestria the Sisters stayed with the title of Princess rather than assume the mantle of Queen, as they are adopted members of the royal family rather than blood relations. There may even be a nominal King or Queen of the unicorns still, but true power has been in the Princesses' hooves for a long time and it would at most be a ceremonial position like most modern day kings and queens on earth.

I'm not entirely certain how the Sisters' battle with Discord features into this. I might well imagine that the Sisters were alive before the villainous chaos spirit's arrival on the scene. Perhaps without the flaming heart to remind the ponies their divisions and quarrels would have given him more and more power until he took over, eventually forcing the Princesses' into a conflict with him, until such time as they used the Elements of Harmony to defeat him and took back control of the day and night.

Now regarding Princess Cadance, I believe that she isn't an alicorn so much as she is a winged unicorn. I imagine that shortly after the founding of Equestria, there was a fair bit of intermarrying to cement political and social ties between the three tribes of ponies, and thus pegasi nobility would marry into the unicorn royal family. Eventually, hybrid ponies with both wings and horns would arise, perhaps exclusively to Canterlot royalty. (Which is a damn sight better than Hemophilia as a sign of royal breeding.)

Crossbreeds with earth ponies would be a lot less easy to spot, as in the case of Pound and Pumpkin cake where having unicorns or pegasi in the bloodline could result in a typical looking specimen of any of the three types, even though technically they would be hybrids. I also imagine that perhaps cementing ties between ruling families wasn't as important with the earth ponies as they seemed to be operating in a more egalitarian mode, with an elected chancellor instead of a hereditary ruler.

Perhaps winged unicorns pop up among pegasi populations as well, but I see it as being much less common if not nonexistent due to the logistical difficulties of a ground bound pony marrying into a pegasi family. A lot depends on when the cloud walking spell Twilight cast in "Sonic Rainboom" was invented, but even if it dates back to pre-Equestrian times (which I doubt, due to the conflict between the tribes), it would also mean that the earth pony or unicorn bride or groom would be essentially a prisoner in their home in a pegasi community.

Further evidence, in my mind, that Cadance is a unicorn with wings rather than an alicorn is that she's mortal. She's seen to have aged from being a teenager when she was babysitting Twilight. I presume she's capable of bearing children to Shining Armor, and I also presume she will grow old and eventually pass on with him. (Of course, these are purely assumptions, but there is no canon support for the idea that Celestia or Luna ever married or produced offspring, so it's essentially a very open area to interpretation.)

An immortal would probably avoid marriage to not have to go through their beloved fading away before their eyes while they stay the same. Even if Cadance was a recently born immortal, I'd presume that as benevolent members of the royal family Celestia and Luna would gently nudge her away from bringing that sort of heartbreak onto herself.

Also, her magical ability to create love between ponies seems more on par with a typical unicorn's special magical talent, like Rarity's gem finding or Shining Armor's shield spell. (Whereas Twilight, as a magical prodigy capable of duplicating other unicorns' unique abilities, is a bit more a-typical.) This, and the fact that she has a normal mane rather than the flowing, etherial mane that marks the power of the royal Sisters, points to her more natural origins.

And so that's how I think Cadance fits in to the world of Equestria, as a mortal scion of the unicorn royal family, a descendent of pegasi nobles and unicorn kings and queens, honorary niece to the Sisters as are all the nobility of Canterlot, and future mother of Shining Armor's children and Twilight Sparkle's nieces and nephews.

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:iconccb-18:
CCB-18 Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I've tried to view your FA gallery, but for some reason the website seems to be down. Got any ideas why?
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:iconimascrabblefreak:
imascrabblefreak Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I'm so happy to find more of your pony art here, as I absolutely adore all of your covers on fimfiction. Do you perchance do commissions?

~Super Trampoline
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:iconwarrenhutch:
WarrenHutch Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2014
Thanks! Glad you like it!

I'm afraid I'm not taking commissions at the moment, but I'm flattered that you'd ask. :)
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:iconholycross9:
HolyCross9 Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2014
Greetings, WH.  Do you remember a TV show known as Sabrina, the Teenage Witch?  Well, the reason in asking is because I have a fictional character in a fanfiction I'm writing who sounds exactly like one of Sabrina's Aunts, Hilda (played by Caroline Rhea).  The only problem is, I don't know how precisely how to precise describe her voice verbally.  So, if you don't mind me asking, how would you generally describe Caroline Rhea's voice? 
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:iconwarrenhutch:
WarrenHutch Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2014
I'm sorry, I can't really help you. I've never watched a single episode of that particular show.
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:iconholycross9:
HolyCross9 Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2014
It's alright.  Thank you anyway though.
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:iconholycross9:
HolyCross9 Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2014
Greetings, WH.  If it's not too much to ask, how's Movie Magic coming along?
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:iconwarrenhutch:
WarrenHutch Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2014
It's coming along at its own pace. Other things have been occupying me as of late, so I can't really say more than that. :)
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:iconholycross9:
HolyCross9 Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2014
Also, I've observed that Movie Magic hasn't made any headlines on Equestria Daily for some reason.
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:iconholycross9:
HolyCross9 Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2014
Alright.  Just curious.
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