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.