Part 19 - Rising To The Challenge
Twilight took a nervous glance out the window of the ready room through a crack in the curtains she made with her horn. A sliver of dazzling blue sky showed between the heavy drapes, before vanishing as she stepped back and turned to face her partner with a dubious expression creasing her brow. "It looks more like a big garden party than a technomagical demonstration out there, Rarity."
The elegant alabaster unicorn gave a toss of her impeccably styled mane. "Of course it does, darling, the very flower of Equestrian society are in attendance."
She stepped forward and threw the curtains wide with a flourish of magic, revealing the broad grassy expanse of the Royal Parade Grounds, ringed by a semicircle of sparkling white grandstands, which bustled with activity as a multitude of well dressed ponies mingled, chatted, and savored the fine food and beverages brought by a busy cadre of liveried servants.
High above, alternating banners of white with gold sunbursts and deep indigo with silvery moons fluttered in the gentle breeze, proclaiming that soon the co-rulers of Equestria would be in attendance. For now, the royal box, with its huge surmounting Equestrian flag, was empty, save for a small contingent of gold armored unicorn guards.
Rarity drew herself up as she gestured at the sweeping crowd outside. "Voila, darling. The creme de la creme of Equestrian commerce, finance, and many of the great houses of the nobility, all ready to shower us in venture capital as soon as the Princesses give us the slightest nod of approval."
The lavender mare swallowed hard, and her horn sparked to life as she fidgeted with her cravat. "But... there are so many of them."
Rarity gave a slight roll of her eyes as she reached out with her magic to readjust Twilight's neckwear. "Well I did say I'd been busy this week, didn't I? It's been nothing but an endless succession of soirees, salons, and gala luncheons, all while making arrangements for the 'garden party' outside, designing our outfits for the presentation, and fielding a barrage of inquiries stemming from the impromptu 'technomagical demonstrations' you put on in Ponyville without consulting me."
She gave a magnanimous little bob of her horn. "But I shant speak of those again, one must let bygones be bygones."
Twilight pursed her lips as she shrank back from the window. "I don't know if I'm prepared for this, Rarity. I was expecting the Princesses, some experts from Canterlot U maybe, and a few V.I.P.'s based on what you told us yesterday."
The alabaster unicorn's expression became gentle, as she reached up a comforting hoof and laid it on her lavender friend's shoulder. "Darling, don't tell me you're getting stage fright. You've given your share of presentations, you've spoken to larger crowds than this."
Twilight nervously pawed at the ground, and used her telekinesis to draw the blinds shut again. "Those were different, I'm used to presenting facts. Imparting knowledge. I'm used to what I say being judged on accuracy, not... not subjective value. I've never really had to, well... to sell something before."
Rarity leaned in and nuzzled her partner. "Twilight, while I do add a certain je ne sais quoi to Harmony Aeronautics' board of directors, and consider you one of my dearest friends, you do realize that selling the Harmony Harness is my entire reason for being here, n'est-ce pas?"
She smiled over her shoulder as she walked away to primp in the mirror a bit more. "You stick to the facts, that's where you're eminently qualified. Just leave it up to me to make sure that every pony with their heads in the sky and their hooves on the ground will be beating a path to our door."
Before Twilight could respond, a knock came from outside. Rarity let out a chuckle as she straightened her suit collar. "See, there's somepony already."
The lavender mare called out expectantly. "Spike? Who's there?"
The young dragon's laughing voice came from outside. "Brace yourself, Twilight. You've got company!"
The door burst open to a babble of excited young voices and the thunder of a dozen hooves on the plush green room carpet, as a trio of unicorn fillies came galloping in with their matching monogrammed riding cloaks and the ribbons from their straw boaters fluttering behind them. Before Twilight knew it she was surrounded, with three sets of bright eyes gazing earnestly up at her as she was assaulted on all sides with greetings and questions.
A gently remonstrating voice came from the doorway, causing the fillies to fall silent in turn as their names were called. "Dulcet. Auspice. Serendipity. Let your poor Auntie get a word in edgewise."
Twilight looked up to see a tall, winged unicorn standing there with a merry gleam in her lavender eyes and a smile on her warm, pink face. In addition to the golden tiara, torc, and horseshoes of Equestrian royalty, she wore a brocade sash held shut by an ornate clasp adorned with multicolored crystals.
Princess Cadance's elegant frame had filled out a bit after bearing three children with Shining Armor, and there were some white streaks forming among the purple, gold, and magenta of her mane, but it all merely served to give her flawless beauty a mature depth and richness compared to the flower like royal bride of a decade ago.
She and her sister in law shared a fond nod of greeting, before the scholarly mare turned her attention back to the fillies surrounding her. Twilight smiled warmly as she gave each of her nieces a hug. "Hello my little darlings. Did you and your mother all come by to wish us luck today?"
The smallest of the three gave a little hop on her deep blue hooves as the flutter of tiny wings underneath caused her cloak to dance across her back. "Yeah Auntie Twiwight! We wanna see you fwy!"
The middle sister's reddish pink face flushed at the cheeks and she tsked and rolled her eyes. "She's not gonna fly, Dippity. They're gonna get somepony else to fly."
The eldest pursed her lips and furrowed her snow white brow. "Don't call her 'Dippity', 'Spice. That's not nice."
Her younger sibling pushed out her lower lip at her big sister and narrowed her deep blue eyes. "You're not the princess of me, Dull!"
All three fillies went abjectly silent at a pointed clearing of the throat from their mother. "Girls. I know you're all very excited to be here and see your aunt's demonstration, but if you don't ease off with the bickering I'll have your father send you right back to school under escort from Lieutenant Grumpy Pants and two of his crabbiest guards. All right?"
The Mi Amore sisters tucked their chins and cast their eyes downward, speaking almost in unison. "Sorry, Mother. Sorry, Aunt Twilight."
A wry smile spread across both mother and aunt's face as a whispered apology came from Auspice. "Sorry, Seri. Sorry, Dulcet"
The three fillies stepped respectfully aside as Princess Cadance came forward to exchange a hug with her sister in law. Twilight's face took on an expression of mock seriousness as they disengaged, and she gave the winged unicorn a terse nod. "Madame Ambassador..."
Princess Cadance returned her formal greeting with a nod and a smirk. "Doctor Sparkle."
Rarity stepped forward with a genteel smile as both mares lapsed into a fit of soft giggling. She bent her knee in a grand curtsey. "Your Highness, I'm ever so glad that you accepted my invitation."
The princess turned and gave the elegant unicorn a courtly nod. "How could I refuse, my dear Rarity? Even if the creators of your wonderful invention weren't kith and kin, the house of Mi Amore strongly supports any advance that encourages closer ties between ponies."
She winced slightly as she raised one of her broad pink wings and flared the violet tinged primaries. "And I've got a bit of a personal agenda as well. These old dusters of mine never were good for much more than short glides, even when I was much younger and thinner. Nowadays they're almost purely ornamental."
She fixed Twilight and Rarity with a thoughtful gaze. "I wonder if you'd given any thought to using your Harmony Harness as an assist to existing wings that are too weak or damaged to fly properly."
A rueful gaze flitted across her face as she carefully refolded her wing. "It would be nice if in addition to resembling my aunts I could actually fly like them too."
She sat down beside her youngest daughter and stroked the filly's back with a gentle hoof, causing the little wings underneath her cloak to twitch a bit. "And it would mean a lot to Seri as well." The slender little unicorn gave her mother a shy smile and cast a hopeful glance at her aunt.
At this, Auspice drew herself up with a touch of indignation on her youthful face. "I want to fly too, mother!"
Her pale elder sister smiled bashfully at the older unicorn mares and pawed at the ground. "Yes, that would be really nice."
Twilight gave all three of her nieces an encouraging grin. "Don't worry, dears. We're already working on flight harnesses in filly sizes. You'll get your chance to try them."
She turned her gaze to meet Cadance's. "And while there may be some work on my part to modify the control dweomers to be reactive to pre-existing neuromuscular pathways, our chief engineer is tremendously skilled, and between us I think we could come up with a modified harness that could accommodate and enhance existing wings."
Rarity chimed in, her eyes sparkling. "And think of the good we could do! Think of the poor pegasi who thought they were grounded for life because of lost or damaged wings. Think of what a boon that will be to them!"
Princess Cadance beamed as she rose to her feet, shifting her wings slightly to settle them back into place. "Well then, what can I do, but give you my fondest wishes for a resounding success today."
All the ponies in the room perked up their ears as the sound of a two part fanfare echoed outside, a warm flourish of brass answered by a scintillating chorus of silver trumpets. The pink winged princess gave her sister in law and her partner an encouraging smile. "Sounds like their highnesses are arriving. We'd best get to our seats before Shiny sends out a search party for us. And speaking of parties, we'll see you all afterward at the banquet tonight."
With that, she turned and set about ushering her daughters out the door, turning back to give them a wink over her shoulder. "As Auntie Luna would say: 'Knock 'em dead, kids.'"
Down the hallway Apple Bloom gripped a well gnawed pencil in her teeth as she went down a checklist mounted on an easel in the locker room that Harmony Aeronautics had set up as their workshop. "Right primary."
Pip narrowed his eyes and cast a glance at the forward portion of his right wing. It twisted upward and downward, angled forward and back, and then traced an arc perpendicular to the young pony's side. He gave her a nod. "Check"
The red headed mare made a checkmark. "Left primary."
The test pony put his left forward wing through a similar routine. "Check."
Another check mark. "Right Secondary."
More rotations and arcs with the rear portion of the right wing. "Check."
With another terse nod, the handymare stepped up and tugged at the band around his middle, speaking out of the side of her mouth as she clenched the pencil in the other. "Girth support. Check."
She came forward and tugged on the straps around his withers. "Forward supports. Check."
Apple Bloom turned and tugged on the bands around his haunches. "Posterior supports. Check."
Pip coughed and cleared his throat as a blush came to his face. "Rather."
The young mare cast him a wry grin as she trotted back to the easel and put down three more check marks. The spotted stallion flashed her a glittering smile. "Well, there we go, then. Everything battened down and ready to go up, as the skybaggers are wont to say."
Apple Bloom set the pencil down and walked around to face him with a lopsided grin on her face. She reached up and tucked his white satin scarf in to the collar of his buff canvas flight jacket. "Well, there's just one more thing... fer good luck n' all."
With that, she craned her neck forward and kissed him, causing the wood and cloth wings on his harness to rattle a bit as the surge passed down his spine and caused his short cropped tail to frizz out like a broom.
After a long tender moment, the sound of the royal fanfare outside drifted in from down the long hallway leading onto the field. The two youthful ponies pulled away from one another and perked up their ears. Apple Bloom's brow furrowed as a look of intensity settled on her blushing face. "I reckon it's showtime."
Pip reached up with his hoof and gently guided her chin back to face him, leaning in for a second kiss. "I'd better have another one of these, for backup don't you know."
The young mare's eyes drifted closed as she melted toward him. "Yeah, good thinkin'."
Prince Blueblood floated a pair of glasses off of a passing servant's silver tray, raising one to his lips to savor the delicate pinkish white wine gently sloshing within. He turned with an unctuous smile to his young wife Princess Diamond Tiara in order to proffer the other to her, but found her scanning the gathering of magnates and noble ponies around them with a cold, darting glance, fuming like a dragon whose hoard had been audited.
The dissolute stallion let out a soft, weary sigh, then tossed his head back and finished the whole glass in one gulp, giving a strained cough as he set it clumsily down on a passing platter of canapes. He brought the remaining glass to his lips and took a deep pull, before clearing his throat to speak to her. "So... we take it that your little stratagem failed to bear any fruit."
Diamond Tiara huffed, her lip curling back in a sneer. "Based on the transcripts of what Flim Flam's crackpot brother said he was going to do to YOU with a chainsaw and a can of kerosene, I was hoping that he would be crazy enough to toss a monkey wrench into the works for this namby pamby Harmony Aeronautics bunch. I'm gonna fire that pencil necked geek so hard the janitors will need to empty his desk out into an ashtray." Her eyes narrowed as she looked over the grandstand from the balcony where they stood. "This should be a state funeral for those saddle tramps, not a YEEK!"
The pastel pink princess let out a piercing shriek and leapt a couple of hooves into the air, rotating 180 degrees to land facing empty space. She looked down, her eyes wide in indignation, to see a squat, muddy green earth pony in a threadbare tweed cloak with a large duffel bag slung across his withers. He lowered his stubby little foreleg, which had just left a greasy hoof print on her left cutie mark, and raised the other to doff his sloped cap over a snaggle toothed grin. "Heya dere, baybee. From down here I can see why yer sweet can got crowned queen o' da rumps."
Diamond Tiara reared back with a look of supreme distaste scrunching her features. "Just what are YOU supposed to be, and why haven't they fumigated for it yet?"
She and Blueblood looked up at the sound of a tentative clearing of the throat, and saw Flim Flim Flam standing behind the dwarfish earth pony, looking like he dearly wished he could compress himself into a two dimensional shape and remain unnoticed by his employers. He gave a jerky bow of his head. "B-begging your p-p-pardon, your highnessesses. This is my b-brother's assisstant, Otto... Otto Bomb."
The unicorn prince's lip curled back so far it looked as if his nostril were peering over the bridge of his aquiline nose to see if the other side of his face were a better class of neighborhood. "Ugh. How dreadful."
The diminutive earth pony ignored him, leering up at Diamond Tiara and making a "click click" noise out of the side of his mouth while giving her a wink. She swallowed her gorge and focused her icy attention on the skinny yellow unicorn. "So what in Celestia's eastern exposure are you two doing here, Flim Flam?"
The bespectacled stallion gave her a weak, shivering smile. "W-well, it seems Flam..."
Otto snarled up at him. "Perfesser Destiny, bub!"
Flim winced. ".... Professor D-destiny has something planned for today's um... f-for today's event."
Blueblood's sunken eyes went wide, and his wine glass shook in the glitter of his magic as he swallowed the rest and began to nervously dart his gaze about. "Oh! Well, that's very interesting, pony whom we've never really met before. Now if you'll kindly excuse us..."
He gave his wife a nudge. "Come, darling. We seem to recall our servants having left the teakettle on back at the manor. We should go check on ACK!"
He gave a sharp cry as she fetched him a swift kick in the hock and hissed in his ear. "Oh, as if you even know where the kitchen is. Grow a spine you lily livered ponce."
Diamond Tiara turned her simmering gaze back toward Flim, angling her head to keep Otto as much out of her field of view as possible. "What is your brain-bucked brother planning, Flim Flam?"
The trembling unicorn gave her a shrug. "I... I have no idea, your h-h-highness. No idea at all. He just sent Otto to collect me and said I should bring my half of the patent papers on the B.A.T." He gave her a weak smile as he raised a battered briefcase in a cloud of his sickly green magic.
The pink princess blew out a puff of steam from her nostrils as she gave him a flat glare. "The 'B.A.T'?"
He nodded like his head was going to fly loose from his scrawny neck. "Y-yes. The Biplanar Aerial Transport, the... our... our version of the flying harness."
Diamond Tiara's eyes narrowed. "The patent papers..."
After a long pause, the sides of her mouth curled up in a mirthless grin. "Ah... The patent papers... of course."
An icy gleam glittered across her eyes, like reflection of cold flames off of a steel blade. "This should be interesting. This should be very interesting indeed." A low, sinister chuckle escaped her throat as the royal fanfare echoed across the clear blue sky above them.
She turned with a toss of her elegantly coiffed, pearl streaked mane and made for the grandstand. "Well, it's time we all took our seats. Stick around and pay attention, Flim Flam. You just may get to keep your job after all."
The rawboned unicorn swallowed hard, gave her another halting bow, and began to glance warily about as he faded into the crowd.
Diamond Tiara beckoned her husband with a flick of her tail. "Come along, Blueblood."
The off white stallion cast a nervous glance down at the burden Otto was carrying. "You... um... you don't happen to have a chainsaw in there, do you?"
The dwarfish earth pony shook his head and gave him a lopsided, not at all reassuring grin. "Nope. Got an adze, tho."
The unicorn gave a shaky laugh, then flinched as his young wife's voice cut over the excited murmur of the crowd. "Blueblood! Clip clop, chop chop!"
He gave a heavy sigh as he set his wine glass down in a passing bowl of onion dip and shuffled after her. Otto took one last longing look at the pink earth pony princess' receding posterior and scurried after Flim.
With a flourish of snow white and indigo dark wings, the rulers of Equestria descended to their balcony, nodding regally and waving to the cheers from the grandstands as they took their seats on the thrones. Their honor guard touched down beside them, the pale pegasi stallions in their golden armor taking the fore, as the shadowy negasi took their places in the shade of the ornate alcove, their sensitive night born eyes protected from the glare by thick sunglasses. The quartet of unicorns who awaited them raised their horns skyward as they snapped to attention. A fifth unicorn, a large white stallion with a teal and white streaked mane of cobalt blue, stepped out onto the balcony in shining purple armor and gave his sovereigns a courtly bow, then signaled his cohort to stand at parade rest with a bob of his horn.
The crowd trailed off to a low, expectant murmur as Twilight, Rarity, and Apple Bloom walked out onto the broad grassy field. The lavender scholar swallowed hard to keep the butterflies in her stomach from flying up to her mouth. She took a look over at Rarity, who strode along beside her with a buoyant confidence that made one expect diamonds to unearth themselves from the turf with every step. Twilight shifted her withers and raised her head higher, drawing a bit of courage from her dear friend and partner's effortless aplomb.
Her heart began to beat a bit faster as the trio of mares surmounted the small platform that had been erected in the center of the field. Turning to face the crowd, she got a full sense of the sheer numbers of important ponies facing her, encompassing her with a thousand judging eyes. She looked up toward the royal box containing the most prominent ponies of all, and saw Celestia and Luna awaiting the start with benign but neutral expressions on their faces.
Between them her brother Shining Armor stood, his face impassive as his horn subtly sparked with a subdued purplish blue glow. The lavender unicorn's violet eyes widened as she recognized the pattern of sparks as the Horse code they had learned together as children to transmit secret messages between BBBFF and LSBFF. The precision wheels in her mind spun as she effortlessly decoded the flashes, and a smile spread across her face. "Good Luck Twily... Show Them Your Genius... So Proud..."
She sparked her horn back as she gave him a nod. "Thanks Shiny... Love You..."
Twilight turned to Rarity with a confident smile. "Are you ready to knock their horseshoes off, partner?"
The elegant unicorn responded with a chuckle and a wink. "When we're done, who will even need horseshoes?"
With that, she stepped forward with a toss of her curled violet mane, clearing her throat as she levitated a megaphone up to her smiling face. Her mannered voice echoed across the vast space as the crowd fell silent. "Good day, your highnesses, nobles, ladies and gentleponies. Thank you most sincerely for taking the time to come out and see us on this finely crafted day."
She gave a bow, and then stepped forward with Twilight and Apple Bloom at her sides. "We are Harmony Aeronautics, and we are ever so excited and grateful to be here today, to demonstrate to you a bold new innovation in magical technology that will, with your highnesses' endorsement and the generosity of interested investors, transform the very landscape, or shall I say sky-scape of Equestria!"
Rarity nodded to Twilight, and both mare's horns sparkled with magic as the crest of Harmony Aeronautics appeared as a vast illusion overhead, accompanied by a flourish of fanfare. The huge logo hovered portentiously in the air for a moment, then broke up into a profusion of tumbling geometric shapes that coalesced into a shimmering obstacle course that was familiar to all pegasi in attendance as the test gauntlet for the F.A.T.
The alabaster fashionista nodded with satisfaction at their grand visual display, and then turned back to the crowd and brought her megaphone to bear once more. "And now, without further ado, we present to you the Harmony Aeronautics Personal Flight Harness, or the Harmony Harness, for short. Testing Officer Pip Squeak, will you please begin the demonstration."
Another fanfare arose as the youthful earth pony strode out onto the field, the sparkle of his smile gleaming in the lights as flashbulbs began going off from the grandstands. He gave a nod to the assembly, threw a salute to Twilight, Rarity, and Apple Bloom, and then craned his neck back to deploy the wings on his harness with a pop.
A moment later he launched into the air, as a collective gasp from the crowd rose with him.
The glow around the hovering megaphone shifted from pale blue to purple as Twilight took it from Rarity. "Our testing officer will now perform a series of basic maneuvers to demonstrate that the Harmony Harness is fully capable of self propelled flight. As you can see his rate of climb is constant, as he ascends to a height of a thousand hooves. Now observe his hovering capability, which can be maintained almost indefinitely. Hovering maneuvers are also within' acceptable tolerances, as he demonstrates the X and O pattern. As he enters this dive, you will note a sustained..."
As Twilight's vivacious voice echoed in over the crowd, Diamond Tiara ground her hooves on the railing as she glared upward at the demonstration. She muttered bitterly to her husband. "They've got this crowd of bit buckers eating out of their hooves."
Blueblood only nodded vaguely, his bloodshot eyes focused on Pip's adept maneuvering as he idly licked a bit of salt off of the edge of an empty wine glass.
The pink earth pony princess turned her cold, searing gaze on Flim Flim Flam, who'd been grudgingly allowed to sit in her husband's box when the skinny unicorn had returned claiming to have seen neither head nor tail of his erstwhile elder sibling.
Her voice was like daggers carved from icicles "Hey, nerdcolt! Your moon barking brother had better make his move soon or Royal Blue Airships is as good as sunk."
Her eyes narrowed as he tried to shrink away from her venomous stare into the folds of his trench coat. "And when the airship is sinking, all the dead weight gets tossed overboard first."
He flinched and let out a rather un-stallion like squeal as a duffel bag got tossed over the railing to land with a muffled clank beside him. Otto Bomb's round little head and stubby forelegs appeared shortly afterward, as he vainly attempted to bring one of his back legs up to help him over. He gave Flim an impatient jerk of his head. "Hey bub. Help a fella out."
The unicorn enveloped the dwarfish earth pony in his greenish magic and brought him over the rest of the way, setting him down next to his bag. Otto cast a leering glance and a wink at Diamond Tiara. "Hokay, baybee. Get ready for da REAL show."
With that, he turned and unzipped the duffel, and began rummaging around inside. A moment later, he came out with an ominous looking black sphere painted with a pony skull and crossbones, from which trailed a brightly hissing and sputtering fuse. He scuttled over to Prince Blueblood, presenting it on an upraised hoof to the startled royal unicorn as he gave a sarcastic bow. "Fer you, yer hinderness."
The sunken eyed prince blinked at the object in mildly inebriated alarm, then let out a shriek rivaling Flim's in pitch and timbre and grabbed it with his magic to toss it away. It arced high over the parade grounds and burst in a puff of black and red smoke that sparkled with faintly green magic as it resolved itself into the shape of a pony skull and crossbones over the word "DESTINY".
Pip drew up to a startled halt, having just completed a flawless chandelle, his eyes wide with shock behind his brass goggles. Down below, Twilight, Rarity, and Apple Bloom looked up at the unwarranted pyrotechnics with ears laid back and faces aghast.
The crowd stared with them, transfixed in confusion for an endless second, before the front of the grand stand erupted in a rapid fire chain of loud bangs with rising mushroom clouds of smoke. Four more bursts of white light crackled in the royal box, echoed shortly afterward by four armored unicorns appearing at pre-planned intervals along the grandstand in sudden pops of magic and displaced air.
Meanwhile, a globe of shimmering purple magic rapidly expanded from Shining Armor's horn, pushing aside the clouds of smoke and soon completely encompassing the center of the grandstand. A moment later, four more shield spells blossomed, meeting with the Captain of the Guard's sphere to form a protective structure like a vast chain of soap bubbles.
Celestia and Luna were on their feet, their elegantly chisled faces slack with disbelief. The princess of the moon flared her dusky wings to wave away what wisps of smoke had infiltrated Shining Armor's shield. "Okay, that was seriously bucked in the tuchus. What the hay was that all about?"
Her regal elder sister ignored her, raising her glimmering horn high and drawing in breath, her voice sounding like a clarion peal of thunder over the confusion. "Everypony remain calm! You are safe behind the guard's shield spells! Please remain seated until we can determine what has happened!"
One of her snowy winged pegasus guards narrowed his sharp eyes and jabbed a hoof skyward. "Look there, your highness!"
A black shape like two pair of enormous bat wings extended in an X configuration arose over the upper tiers of the grandstand, a thick trail of dusky smoke billowing out behind it. It wheeled into a dive toward the platform where the principals of Harmony Aeronautics stood, staring up at it in shocked disbelief.
Twilight Sparkle blinked and shook away her daze, her brow furrowing as her glimmering horn flared. The glowing obstacles for the flight demonstration shattered into attenuated slivers of glamer as she drew back all of her magical strength and manifested another shimmering protective sphere.
As it came closer the hurtling intruder resolved into a scrawny yellow unicorn in a sooty black tailcoat and a close fitting flight helmet and goggles. A scalloped black cloak trailed from his neck, between the bat like mechanical wings and a pair of cylindrical rocket boosters that belched and sputtered with greenish orange flame trailing into black smoke. His curling, oily mustache whipped in the breeze as he buzzed the plaform, cackling like Nightmare Moon on Nightmare Night. He banked sharply and dove past the hovering form of Pip, leaving the young stallion spinning and tumbling in the air behind him.
With hooves kicking and flailing with effort, the spotted earth pony righted himself, his eyes spiralling dizzily as he sank toward the ground. "I say! Foul!"
The interloper angled the quartet of black canvas wings on his back so that they and the thrusters checked his descent, and he floated down to land with only the slightest stumble on his four heavily shod hooves. The flaming, smoke stained tubes spluttered and died out with a flick of his horn, with only an attenuated trail rising gently from the exhaust vents.
After a moment's dramatic pause, his goggles shimmered in green magic as they rose up against the base of his sharp yellow horn, revealing wild, bloodshot eyes. A flat disk like shape floated from out of his coat and popped into a shaggy top hat adorned with a skull and cross bones, and hovered in orbit around his horn before settling jauntily atop his head.
He reared up, jabbing a hoof skyward. "I... am PROFESSOR DESTINY!" He dropped back to his hooves as the cumbersome apparatus on his back creaked and wobbled, threatening to pull him over. "And I DEMAND a fair hearing on MY invention, the fabulous B.A.T. Nineteen." He wheeled and pointed toward the grandstand, indicating the box occupied by Prince and Princess Tiara. Flim let out a squeak and huddled behind his briefcase as Destiny roared on. "I have proof of prior art, held in the audience by my b... by one of my colleagues, and a legitimate patent filed over five years ago."
The onlooking crowd erupted in confused chatter as Rarity and Twilight exchanged another shocked glance. A hush settled over the grandstand as Princess Celestia raised her gleaming white wing for silence. Her voice was even as it echoed through the clear blue sky. "You are disrupting a duly granted royal audience, my little pony. Remove yourself peacefully from these proceedings or the guards will be obliged to eject you."
A crack of thunder overhead caused many in the audience to flinch as Princess Luna stood at her sister's shoulder and called out in a much more indignant tone. "Yeah! Take a hike, Flankenstein, before we toss you out on your sorry tail!"
The moon princess fell sheepishly silent as Celestia lightly stroked her ear with a tip of a wing. The regent of the sun turned her unflinching gaze back toward the melodramatic intruder, heaving the slightest of sighs. "If you have any civil claims you wish to see addressed, you may bring them before the judiciary."
At this, Diamond Tiara reared up and pumped her forehoof. "Yesss!"
She favored her husband with a triumphantly wicked grin at his slightly woozy look of incomprehension. "Even if those goody four shoes get their charter, Harmony Aeronautics is gonna be neck deep in litigious smooze for years if we play our cards right. As soon as we get home I'm gonna call our legal torpedos at Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel and get that tar pit warmed up."
She let out a low cackle as she rubbed her hooves together. "Check and mate, Apple buckers."
Back out on the field, Professor Destiny doffed his top hat and bowed deeply, heaving a heavy sigh as he addressed the royal dismissal. "As your highnesses wish, so be it. I shall interrupt this rank display of favoritism no further. I shall go and ponder how five long years of painstaking development can be summarily dismissed by royal fiat, on behalf of a gaggle of well connected pony-come-latelys. I bow to your timeless wisdom and capricious desires!"
At this Princess Luna rolled her turquoise eyes and muttered out of the side of her mouth. "Sheesh. Passive aggressive, much?"
Both she and her sister blinked as a loud pop sounded from the platform, as Twilight Sparkle's shield spell vanished and the lavender unicorn marched down the steps with her ears back and her tail hiked. She came to a stop with her angrily flared eyes staring up from under an aggressively canted horn. "Just WHAT are you implying when you say THAT?"
The scrawny unicorn stallion straightened up and met her gaze with a smirk. "I imply nothing, I merely state that that... comical contraption you call the Harmony Harness, which can be appropriately abbreviated to HA HA, would scarcely warrant consideration for a royal charter in a fair contest."
Up in the stands, Diamond Tiara blanched. "No!"
She curled her hooves skyward in paroxysms of furious panic as her teeth ground together. "Stop talking, you nutcase!"
She turned and grasped Blueblood by his collar, pointing a shaking hoof toward the confrontation on the field. "Make him stop talking, Blueblood! Strangle him with your mind or something!"
The pale stallion rolled his puffy eyes and drained the rest of his glass. "Sorry, o nightingale of our gilded cage , but we don't have any silence spells, no matter how dearly we may wish for them."
She gave him a shake and shoved him away, wheeling to clench the railing with her hooves as her eyes turned red around the edges. "SHUT UP DESTINY!"
Twilight flicked an ear as she stared the Professor down. "The Harmony Harness is a sound, non polluting, magical solution based on solid dweomercraft. It flies almost as well as a pegasus and stands to improve the lives of all kinds of ponies. I'll put it up against your smoke belching monstrosity any day of the week!"
By this time, Rarity had come up beside her, and after giving the pallid unicorn stallion an imperious glare and a dismissive wave of her horn, she turned and laid a gentle hoof on her partner's shoulder. "Twilight, calm down. There's no reason to..."
The lavender mare cut her off with a vehement shake of her head. "No, Rarity. You said the truth is my department." Her eyes smoldered as she frowned up at the Professor. "And I won't stand for this... this charlie horse slandering us OR the princesses."
The scrawny unicorn drew himself up with a sneer, twirling the tip of his mustache in a pinch of greenish magic. "Pah! Pah, I say! An impartial sovereign would see that your paltry spellcraft pales before the awesome power of my phlogiston rocket technology, and your sad butterfly wings droop in defeat against my biplanar design modeled after the mighty dragons, from whom I shall seize the crown when my invention rules the skies."
Apple Bloom had stepped up to support Twilight as well, and she bristled at the looming stallion with her braided red tail hiked behind her. "Y'all can certainly talk big 'bout that trash heap yer totin' there, mister."
Pip marched over with the flight harness folded on his back and stood beside his employers and his lady fair, his eyes flared and his lips a thin line. "Quite so. This beastly exchange has gone on long enough. I'm inclined to take this blighter outside and give him a sound thrashing."
Professor Destiny angrily pawed the ground, a scowl darkening his features as he glared back at the young earth pony. "All right, what say we put our bits where our mouths are like gentleponies then. Anything your Hardy Har Harness can do, my B.A.T. Nineteen can do better!"
Rarity smoothed back a stray curl of her luxurious mane as she nervously glanced at her fuming parter and employees, her voice a low, uncertain murmur. "Where have I heard that before...?"
The scrawny unicorn stallion cocked an eyebrow and made a sweeping gesture toward the stands. "Winner takes all. Loser renounces all claim to the royal charter, and packs their wings away in mothballs."
Twilight reached up with her hoof and poked Professor Destiny in the chest. "You're ON!"
Up on the royal balcony, Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, and Shining Armor let out a three part harmony of weary sighs and almost simultaneously brought a hoof to their faces.
Over in the Mi Amore family's royal box, Dulcet, Auspice, and Serendipity looked over to see their mother was doing the same.
Down below in the Tiara's box, Prince Blueblood glumly floated yet another glass of wine from the tray of a distracted waiter. With a groan, Diamond Tiara snagged it out of the air and downed it in one gulp.
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.