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Part 27 - Sticking To The Plan

The Friend Ship touched down with a thud on a grassy field on the outskirts of Fillydelphia, followed by another heavy thud as Spike landed and secured the balloon with a few quickly driven tethers tossed to him by Twilight and Apple Bloom. He stepped up to the forward platform and gently helped them disembark.

As the two mares cracked their necks and stretched their legs, a cheerful voice called out to them. "Hey there! Doc Sparkle! Apple Bloom! Spike! Am I ever glad to see you guys!" They looked over to see Soarin approaching with a wide grin on his face, with a pensive looking Pip in tow.

Behind them a loose arrangement of support balloons and unhitched wagons stood in the middle of the field. In their midst, Pegathalon athletes stretched their wings, chatted, and allowed their crews to see to their needs. At the edges of the field a herd of fans had gathered in what could only be called a festive atmosphere, with picnic lunches, pennants, and balloons.

The long, silvery shape of the Ambrosia hung overhead, only yards from the ground with a massive anchor holding it in place. A more high toned, sophisticated party was visible through the glass of the forward observation room. The gleaming white outline of Rarity could be seen, waving cheerfully to them from among a coterie of well dressed well wishers.

The sky blue pegasus' stomach rumbled loudly as he came up to them, causing him to blush slightly and give a wan shrug. "I'm so hungry I could eat a horseradish right now."

Twilight replied with a smile. "I'm hardly surprised, that was quite a gauntlet you colts had to run through this morning."

He chuckled. "You don't know the half of it. Hit a few more snags outside Trotnton. I'll tell you all about it while we break out the chow."

Apple Bloom gave the older ponies a nod as she stepped past them. "I'll help y'all out in a minute, but I better check over th' harness fer wear n' tear."

She stopped in front of Pip, neither of them making eye contact, as she spoke in a deliberately neutral tone. "Hello, Pip. How... how you doin'?"

The young stallion drew himself up to attention, only a slight hitch in his voice as he replied. "N-no complaints, Miss Apple. The Luna Moth has been performing quite satisfactorily."

She gave a perfunctory nod. "Good... Good t' hear. Now just gimme a minute t' see 'bout th' wing joints, then I'll help ya out of it and we can get some vittles."

Soarin fell into step beside Twilight as she turned and headed back to the balloon. He leaned in to speak privately. "So... looks like the cyclone's spun down a little..."

The lavender mare gave a guarded nod. "A little. How's Pip holding up?"

The pegasus stallion took a furtive glance over his folded wings and met her gaze. "I'm watchin' him. I don't have the best barometer for that sorta thing, but I'm feelin' a little rise in pressure that I'm gonna keep an eye on."

Twilight smiled at him as she reared up to put her hooves on the Friend Ship's ladder. "Have I told you lately how glad I am we have you with us on this trip?"

He gave a shrug and rubbed the back of his head as he hovered up to meet her on the platform and help her up the rest of the way. "Heh. I'd say I'm totally glad to be here, Doc, but I miss Applejack so much that that wouldn't be entirely true."

She gave a chuckle over her shoulder as she headed into the crew compartment. "Well, honesty is the best policy where Applejack is concerned. Now lets break out some of the apples she sent along. I think they'll help Apple Bloom's mood a little too."

Soarin rubbed his hooves together as he hovered expectantly over the platform. "Now we're talkin'! That'll keep me goin' all the way to Baltimare at least."

The scholarly mare craned her neck out of the hatch, a mesh bag full of apples clenched in her teeth, as Spike's excited voice called up from the ground. "Twilight? Hey Twilight!"

She released the bag's handle as it floated up to Soarin in a cloud of sparkling purple magic. "Yes, Spike? What is it?" She hooked her hooves over the railing and looked down to see the adolescent dragon almost hopping with excitement as he responded. A pegasus in a pink, rhinestone decorated flight suit stood a discreet distance behind him.

He jerked a clawed thumb past his shoulder. "Quillina invited me to lunch. She brought along some prime fire opals from her hoard, and wanted to share 'em with me. Would it be okay with you if I joined her?"

Twilight looked up to see the lithe, golden form of the young dragoness settling down beside a pink canopied covered wagon and a group of pink suited pegasi. She noticed Twilight looking over and gave a daintily poised wave.

The lavender unicorn's brow furrowed slightly as the precision wheels in her mind spun furiously, trying to think of a legitimate reason to say no. With none forthcoming, she pawed at the padded railing at her hooves and gave a diffident shrug. "That... that's fine Spike. It's very nice of her to offer. In fact... here."

She sparked up her horn, floating a trio of apples from the bag dangling from a happily munching Soarin's forehoof. She tossed them to Spike with a flick of her head. "Take her some genuine Sweet Apple Acres apples with our thanks. If she likes 'em maybe she'll want to move up to Ponyville."

She caught herself with a shake of her head. "I... I mean, visit Ponyville. Visit. Heh..."

An elated grin spread across Spike's face as he clutched the apples to his leathery chest plates. "Thanks, Twilight. You're the best! See you later." With that, he spun on his heel and took to the air with a sweep of his wings, gliding effortlessly over the grassy field.

Twilight extended a hoof as she called out after him. "Be back here in a half hour, Spike!"

The scholarly mare raised the hoof to her mouth as she watched him touch down beside Quillina and proffer her an apple with a flourish. She noticed a simliar shade of lustrous red in her peripheral vision, and looked over to see Soarin holding out an apple to her on the cup of a hoof.

He gave her a lopsided grin. "You look like you might need a little cheering up too, Doctor Sparkle."

Twilight took it in her magic with a fragile smile on her face. "It's been an... interesting day."

She let out a sigh as she rested her chin on her hooves and slowly rotated the fruit in the air before her eyes. "I suppose as a pegasus you're not the best pony to be asking this, but do you ever feel like things come at you too fast?"

He gave her a shrug, bobbing a bit as he hovered at her side and fished another apple out of the bag. "All the time, but we pegasi tend to believe that as long as it ain't the ground coming at you fast then you can usually get through it okay. It all comes down to how maneuverable you are."

She nodded pensively, and watched the young dragons chatting and sharing morsels of food, and then looked down to see Apple Bloom helping Pip out of the Luna Moth, their youthful faces straining to remain impassive against flashes closely guarded pain. With a flick of her pink and purple streaked mane, a few strands of white still largely hidden among the deep violet, she shook her head, and took a bite out of her apple.

***

A unicorn stallion in a white cap and blue uniform jacket with lieutenant's bars opened the hatch with his magic and clicked his fore hooves together in a sharp bow as he allowed Spitfire to enter. Beyond, a pair of unicorn mares in similar royal blue tunics looked up expectantly from their seats at the switchboard in the Ambrosia's radio room.

One sat with a clipboard and pencil hovering in front of her, while the other's horn was encased in a brass cone with winding masses of wire trailing from it to the board like spaghetti from a pasta maker. A vacuum tube at its tip winked and flickered with light as she dictated to her companion with a slightly glazed look in her eyes, as similar lights on the board blinked on and off in random patterns.

The stallion gave a bob of his horn toward the radio operators. "Here you are, Captain. Ensigns Dot and Ditto will be happy to assist you in transmitting your message."

The blaze yellow pegasus mare replied with a curt nod. "Thanks, Lieutenant Lanyard. This is a lot more convenient than winging into downtown Fillydelphia and getting somepony on the horn at the courthouse."

She met the gaze of the operator with the clipboard. "I've got an urgent message I'd like to see transmitted to the Pegathalon Organizational Committee in Cloudsdale, with copies sent to the Cloudsdale Athletic Council, also in Cloudsdale, and to the Royal Guard in Canterlot."

Ensign Dot flipped the page on her clipboard and poised her pencil over it in a cloud of pale pink sparkles. "Of course, ma'am. Whenever you're ready."

Spitfire cleared her throat. "All right. Message begins. Professor Destiny and Doctor Insanity strongly suspected of rocket attack on other racers. Lulong the kirin uninjured, but unable to fly and out of the race. I recommend summary disqualification for cheating, and immediate arrest and detention at nearest opportunity for reckless endangerment and illegal use of explosives. Signed Captain Ember Imogen Spitfire, RAC WB. Message ends." She cocked an eyebrow at the ensign as she hastily scribbled on her hovering  clipboard. "You got all that?"

The unicorn mare gave a distracted nod. "...explosives. Signed Captain Spitfire, RAC WB. Got it, Captain. We'll send it as soon as Ditto has a clear line."

She gave a little bow. "And I think I speak for both of us in saying it's an honor to meet you!"

Spitfire gave her a smile as she turned to leave. "Hey, thanks! I really appreciate you helping me out here. How about I send you guys some passes for a show sometime. Just drop a line to our promotions office and tell 'em I said it's on me."

The young mare's eyes lit up. "Oh, it's our pleasure, but that would be wonderful! Thanks so much!"

The blaze yellow stunt flyer chuckled. "No problemo. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to my teammates before they hit the horizon. Keep up the good work, and tell your partner thanks once you get her unplugged."

With that she turned and headed out the hatchway as the Lieutenant gave her another brisk bow. He paused at the door and met Ensign Dot's eyes, giving a bob of his horn toward a pneumatic tube unit next to the clipboard. The radio operator gave a dutiful nod in reply.

As the hatch closed with a gentle hiss of air and a clank, the ensign jotted a couple of extra notes on the page. She then pulled it free of the clipboard, rolled it up, placed it in a pneumatic delivery tube, and sent it on its way.

***

Diamond Tiara flicked one of her pastel pink ears as the brass tube appeared in its receptacle with a muffled "Thoomp". She glanced away from her binocular station in the forward viewing room at the Ambrosia's prow and pressed a button on a nearby control panel with her hoof. The tube was tipped onto a conveyor belt, where it was whisked to an ornate apparatus that resembled the carriage of a typewriter. With a faint whir of motors the message inside was scrolled out into a bracket that held it flat under a tiny reading light.

The pink pony princess pursed her lips as she dragged the apparatus closer on its adjustable arm and quickly glanced over the note with her cold, calculating eyes. She sat back in her cushioned command chair, stroking her chin with her hoof thoughtfully for a moment.

She let out a chuckle and leaned forward to pluck the note off of the brackets in her teeth. She then proceeded to crumple the paper up in her mouth, spitting the wadded note out into a waste basket with a grimace of distase. "Guh... I need to spring for some better tasting memo paper."

With a smug smile curling the corners of her mouth, she plucked a sheet of foolscap from a tray and took a pen in her lips, jotting down a quick note. She carefully placed this in the brackets of her memo reader, then pressed a button on the control panel that caused the paper to roll up into the brass case, which slid down the conveyor to the pneumatic tube and vanished back to the radio room with another "Thoomp".

Diamond Tiara steepled her hooves and sat back in her chair, her low, throaty chuckle making a seamless transition into a sinister laugh. "Seems like I was a little hasty about arranging an accident for those colts. They're already an accident waiting to happen to anypony around them. Ah well, whoever gets there first, I still win in the end."

She frowned as she glanced around the glass lined room. "I also need an audience if I'm gonna gloat properly, otherwise I'm just talking to myself here…"

***

Ensign Dot levitated the message tube over to her seat and looked over the contents, letting out a sigh as she did. Her horn flared as the note crumpled into a tight ball and bounced into the wastebasket with a clunk.

She turned as Ensign Ditto disengaged the apparatus on her horn and floated it down to the counter. The unicorn mare rubbed her eyes with her hooves and gave her partner a bleary smile. "I gotta take a break for a second. There's a lot of chatter about the race right now."

Dot nodded sympathetically. "I'll take over 'til next break. No problem."

Ditto cocked her head. "Did I hear something about sending away for free Wonderbolts tickets?"

Ensign Dot let out another small sigh as she glanced at the wastebasket. "I'm afraid that message is gonna get lost in transmission too..."

***

The Harmony Aeronautics crew were packing up the remains of their lunch when Spike returned, a furrow creasing his ridged brow and a faint frown on his face.

Twilight looked him over with a mixture of concern and relief swirling in her heart like oil poured into water. "Something the matter, Spike?"

He gave a flick of his tail back toward the pink wagon and its attendants. "It's those ponies Quillina's got flying as escorts. I dunno if I like 'em very much."

The scholarly mare gave an uncertain shrug. "Well... We've all learned that sometimes you don't like a friend's friends, but that doesn't mean..."

He cut her off with a frown and a shake of his head. "They're not her friends, Twilight. They're just in it for the money she's paying them."

The young dragon cast a glance over his shoulder. "And they were hinting at lunch that it might not be enough, what with everything that happened so far today. There was a lot of talk about that smoke trail, and what happened outside Trotnton."

He pursed his lips for a moment, then looked back at her with concern in his emerald eyes. "But I don't know. I don't think they're scared. I think they're trying to coax more bits out of her."

Twilight let out a sigh and reached up a hoof to pat him on the knee. "She's a dragon, Spike. She's a fifty hoof long, flying, fire breathing, indestructible, magical creature who can bite through diamonds. I'm sure she can take care of herself..."

The young dragon gave her a pleading look. "But... but she's so sheltered and... well... naive. What if they..."

The lavender mare huffed. "Spike, your concern is commendable, but you've got your own team to look out for."

He flicked his tail sullenly. "I know that, Twilight, but..."

Her expression softened and she patted him on the knee again. "Look, unlike some of the other teams in this race, we're good sports. I promise you, if Quillina, or any other racer, got in real trouble, we'd be the first to stop and help them out any way we can. Okay?"

He gave her a grateful smile. "Okay."

She held her hoof on his faintly glossy, purple scales for a moment, and then gave him a playful shove. "Okay. Now come on, my Number One Assistant, we need to get battened down for launch."

Spike gave her a sly grin. "I'm all for that, but didn't we just have lunch?"

Twilight rolled her eyes and let out a chortle. "I said 'launch', not 'lunch'. Now shake that tail, Pun-der Dragon…"

***

The bells of Fillydelphia rang jubilantly as the pack of racing flyers threaded between the city's towers, eliciting cheers from crowds of equally jubilant ponies.

Soarin glanced over at Pip with a grin on his face as he saw the young earth pony crack a smile and wave to the fans as they rocketed past. The spotted stallion's teeth didn't quite glimmer to their usual level of brightness, but there was a little of the old spirit there that put the veteran flyer's mind at ease for the moment. He gave his partner a confident nod as the young test pilot caught him looking.

Diverting his attention down the course, he spotted a cloud sitting ahead of them in the distance. His brow furrowed. That was a number four, maybe a five.

He muttered bitterly under his breath. "Okay, what sleet head thought it would be a good idea to park a skybucket in a controlled flight path."

As he focused on it, calculating his approach and considering whether to waste energy evading or just smash through it and let whatever careless city worker explain the hole to his supervisor, his green eyes narrowed. Something wasn't quite right about the color. A spent rain cloud was usually anywhere from snowy white to a faint dove grey, but this cloud was kind of yellowish tan, more like a dust cloud than coalesced vapor.

As they approached, a pegasus in a bright orange vest hurried skyward to push it out of the way. Soarin gave a nod of grim satisfaction. "Yeah, coffee break's over, bucko..."

He drew in a gasp of air as the weather worker made contact with the cloud and almost immediately started to thrash and flail, his hooves stuck fast to the billowy tan substance as it formed long, ropey strands that wrapped him more tightly the more he struggled, until he was stuck wriggling like a butterfly in a spider's web.

Soarin's eyes went wide and white as he screamed to his partner. "PIP! CRASH DIVE NOW!"

The young stallion's coltish face whipped around in sudden panic. "What!?"

The sky blue pegasus let out a bellow as he rolled into a tight corkscrew flight path that brought him directly underneath Pip, hooking his fore hooves into the straps of the harness and pulling the spotted stallion downward at a sharp angle. Soarin struck like a snake, grasping the handle on the young earth pony's lapel in his teeth and giving it a savage tug, folding the purple and white wings shut with a snap as he tucked his own wings tightly to his sides.

They sailed beneath the dun colored cloud, a long, quavering wail sounding from the depths of Pip's throat as the crowds below gasped in shock and alarm. With a grunt of effort, Soarin spun them so that he was upright with his partner hanging beneath him, unfurling his feathered wings scant seconds before they crashed into the street and sending them skyward with a powerful beat as parasols and fancy hats were scattered into the air like panicked pigeons in their wake.

Soarin's ears laid back as the tone of the crowd's dismay changed to horror, accompanied by a rain like patter of gooey splats coming from the other side of the cloud. This was closely followed by shouts of anger and distress as several of his fellow racers met the fate he'd narrowly avoided.

He let out a sigh and looked down into his companion's coltish face as he realized the young pony was still screaming, curled up into a trembling fetal position in his hooves. He called to him urgently and gave him a slight shake. "Pip! PIP!"

A pair of slightly glazed brown eyes snapped open and met his. "WHAT in Luna's... perfect... face was THAT about?"

Soarin's face settled into a scowl as he scanned the flight path ahead of them. "More trouble with a capital D."

He cast a glance backwards at the receding obstacle, nodding in satisfaction as he saw other flyers evading it. He looked back down into Pip's face. "Lets take a minute, grab a puff, and then go back and see if we can help."

***

A few streets over, Otto Bomb peered out of the window of a black dirigible's gondola through a battered telescope and let out a throaty, gravelly chuckle as he watched a series of winged blurs collide with the tan tinted cloud and become ensnared.

The dwarfish earth pony lowered the glass and gave a gloating, snaggle toothed grin to a small cask marked with a skull and crossbones and stenciled with the words "SOVEREIGN GLUE POWDER". He reached up with a stubby hoof and patted it on the lid, his grin becoming a grimace as the container lifted up off of the floor, stuck fast to the end of his foreleg. A stream of sotto voce curses issued from between gritted teeth as he struggled to shake it loose.

He let out a rattling sigh, allowing the cask to drag on the floor as he turned and engaged the dirigible's phlogiston turbines with his remaining free hoof. The skull and bat festooned airship floated steadily out from behind its concealing billboard and sailed away over the rooftops of Fillydelphia.

***

Soarin coasted to a stop next to Rainbow Dash, Spitfire, and Shootin' Star. Pip followed on close behind, his legs still shaking a bit as he settled into a hover at his teammate's side. The blaze yellow mare was scowling angrily as she surveyed the sticky mess before them, and the rookie stallion seemed a bit on edge as well.

The rainbow maned mare gave her captain a nudge. "See, Cap. I told ya Soarin wouldn't like the color of that cloud anymore than I did." She gave her sky blue former teammate a wink. "Chalk another one up for the weather ponies."

Soarin nodded to her with a smirk, then looked to Spitfire with a serious expression settling on his face. "Is there anything we can do to help?"

She pursed her lips and gave a bitter shake of her head. "Nah. Let emergency services handle this."

She gave a nod downward toward the red wagons gathering below to the sound of wailing sirens beneath a shoal of red jacketed pegasi adorned with white crosses, then looked back at her former teammate and gave a rueful shrug. "No point in any more racers gettin' stuck in this cloud of goop. That's at least two more pegasi teams totally out of the race. Thank Celestia and Luna none of the griffins got caught, or we'd probably pulling somepony loose in pieces."

Her expression darkened. "This is those two maniacs' hoofwork, no doubt about it. They better hope the guard gets their hooves on 'em before I do for what they've done to this race."

Shootin' Star jerked his head toward the course. "Speakin' o' which, can we git a move on? Or are we just gonna float here jawin' with this backbitin' has-been all day?"

A snarl creased Spitfire's face, her voice hissing like a rapidly diminishing fuse. "Rookie... I swear to Celestia if you don't clamp down that wind hole of yours I'm gonna..."

Soarin raised a hoof with a chuckle and cut her off. "Ease off, Cap. No need to get anymore steamed." He cast the younger stallion a pointed glare. "It's just wind, and hardly enough to ruffle my feathers."

Shootin' Star snorted a jet of steam from his nostrils. "I'll ruffle yer feathers, fatsack."

The sky blue veteran flyer rolled his eyes and wheeled away. "Save it for the race, fledgey. See ya in Baltimare, ladies. C'mon Pip."

The young earth pony gave Dash and Spitfire a halting bow and wheeled into formation with his wingpony. Dash threw them a salute, as Spitfire rounded on Shootin' Star, flying in close so her nose touched his, forcing him back slightly away.

Her amber eyes flashed like coals. "You can thank your stars that stallion has more class in his front right fetlock than you've got in your whole body, rookie. You keep opening up that big mouth of yours, one of these days somepony's gonna reach down your gullet and pull your tail out past your tonsils."

Dash was between them before either was aware, a smile on her face and a cheerful tone on her voice. "Hey there, team. I think everypony's gettin' kinda overheated here."

As they turned to face her, she tapped a hoof on her chin. "Y'know, I think I know a good way to cool off, a little airflow. Lets go!"

With that, she vanished, leaving a rainbow silhouette in her place that rapidly tapered into her trademark chromatic contrail. Spitfire and Shootin' Star growled at each other, and lit out after her.

***

Sir Champion was becoming tired and exasperated. He'd been diligently flying at top speed for hours to try and catch up with her solar highness' troublesome team of competing inventors. A moments briefing, some quick signatures on the Pegathalon entry forms countersigned by her highness, and he'd lit out like a shot from a cannon.

He was one of Celestia's top flyers, renowned for his speed and endurance, and to lighten his load he'd divested himself of his golden ceremonial armor in favor of a pair of goggles and the smallest whither pack nestled between his wings with a standard issue royal guard toothbrush, a watercress sandwich to keep his strength up, and a tri-fold gold locket that he never parted with, containing photos of his mother, his wife, and his princess. Normally he wore it over his heart beneath his peytral, but on his back was close enough.

Champion scanned the horizon ahead of him as the city of Fillydelphia loomed over the rolling farmland, hoping for any sign of the black smoke contrails of his newly appointed charges. He'd been hopeful passing over Trotnton, but it had only been some sort of conflagration in a corn field.

He'd had no time to stop and inquire, his goal focused like the tip of a sword on finding and sticking to Professor Destiny and Doctor Insanity like... Well, maybe that wasn't the best metaphor to use after what happened to his poor comrade Paragon.

The muscular white pegasus gave a grudging nod as his stomach rumbled. That and the ache in his wings finally compelled him to acknowledge that even his finely honed body had its needs. He'd stop for a brief rest and a bite to eat on the far side of the city, then wing on toward Baltimare and continue his search. Those pointy headed kooks would have to stop sometime.

The royal guard pony's musings were cut short by some sort of disturbance ahead of him as he sailed between the tall buildings. He squinted his deep blue eyes, trying to make sense of it all.

As he came closer, he realized it was a cloud of some sort, with winged shapes splayed across it and struggling in tangled strands of some sort of gummy substance that appeared to be of the same stuff as the vapors. Red vested pegasi and earth ponies and unicorns on fire wagon ladders were struggling to pull them free.

He drew up short, hovering a few hooves back from the cloud with an incredulously raised eyebrow. "What sort of underhoofed skullduggery is this?"

His ears perked up in alarm as a voice shouted out to him. "Look out!"

A deep, mooing bellow sounded behind him, and he looked over his shoulder to see a massive, shaggy, red furred shape approaching like the engine of a runaway train and sounding rather like one too.

Sir Champion's pupils shrank to pinpricks, and a single word escaped his throat. "Mommy!"

And then the whole world became adhesive.

***
Princess Celestia let out a weary sigh as she took a break from reading a pile of missives stacked high on the mahogany desk before her, and looked out the window at the wooded mountains rolling past outside.

Due to her faithful chariot team being so suddenly and lamentably short hoofed, a private railway car had been hastily arranged for her return to Canterlot rather than wait for a new team to be assembled and sent to Manehattan. While it was a stark departure from her traditional mode of transport, she was willing to admit that traveling by rail had its charms.

Struck by the novelty of it, Princess Luna had joined her, and was currently fast asleep in the curtained off sleeper suite at the end of the car. Celestia often envied her younger sister's ability to fall asleep when and wherever she wished. The steady click clack of the wheels on the tracks was soothing, however, and the sun princess was sorely tempted to doze off herself rather than pore over another trade agreement's fine print. She was a light enough sleeper that it wouldn't take much to wake her. Yes. A cat nap would do her some good.

Just as her eyelids began to drift closed, a silvery bell sounded in the compartment. Drawing herself upright and shaking off the drowsiness, she glanced at the gilded, box like contraption mounted on the desk beside her as its ornate bells chimed again. She smiled to herself, more modern marvels to play with.

There were several similar devices in the palace, but usually one of her unicorn servants was responsible for answering and conveying the message to her in a more traditional fashion. She often found it slightly annoying having a conversation through an intermediary, but protocols were protocols. Here was another tiny silver lining to todays complications.

The golden cone floated off of its carriage before the third ring had completed and settled on the tip of the princess' long, tapering horn. She cocked her head, her rose colored eyes going a bit unfocused. "Greetings, my faithful subject. This is Princess Celestia speaking… No, really, it is..."

***

Princess Luna sat bolt upright, burying the tip of her horn in the mattress above her as she was galvanized by a thunderous exclamation from beyond the velvet curtain dividing the train car. "WHAT!?"

She fluttered her wings and extracted her horn with difficulty, haphazardly shoving her moon embroidered sleep mask off of her eyes with bare hoof. The princess of the night was normally a very deep sleeper, but when she heard her big sister's voice raised that loudly with that particular inflection, she was instantly, urgently awake, and wondering how quickly the Elements of Harmony might be gathered.

Luna rolled out of bed and staggered to the curtain, flinging it aside and blinking in the torrent of sunlight that confronted her. She stood unsteadily, her nebulous, star speckled mane drifting in disheveled whirls around her face and shoulders as she stared at her elder sibling. "Sis! What e'er doth thy stridency betoken?"

Celestia sat stiff backed like an ivory chess queen, a blank expression on her face as the cone drifted back to its cradle, snapping the gilded tines off as it flattened on the desktop and started to dig its outline into the mahogany. She turned her head to face her younger sister, a distant look in her eyes. "That... That was Sir Champion, calling from Fillydelphia."

The dusky princess of the night rubbed an eye with her hoof. "Oh? Dids't... um... did he catch up to your creeps... er... I mean your team?"

The sun's regent shook her head slowly, like the dome of the royal observatory rolling back and forth on its gimbals. "No... He's currently... glued to a buffalo."

Luna's ears laid back as she nodded just as slowly. "Oh..." She cleared her throat. "Shall... shall I have a servant summon Sir Charger?"

Celestia let out a long, shuddering sigh as she raised her hooves and covered her eyes with them, slouching forward over the desk. "I... I'm going to need a moment before you do that."

The princess of the night winced and swallowed hard as flames began to lick out of her elder sister's ears.

***

The unicorn nurse's hooves click clacked on the linoleum as she walked away with the hospital 'phone hovering on a tray. The orderlies went back to swabbing universal solvent solution on a massive, bulky shape that resembled a butterscotch frosted cake gone horribly awry.

Flies Like Thunder rolled his eyes upward to address the pegasus currently adhered atop his head between his curving horns. "Hey paleface! How did She Who Tells The Sun take the news?"

Sir Champion stared past his hooves at the skylight, noting the definite shade of red the sunlight had taken despite it being early afternoon. He tried to shake his head, wincing as his mane held it firmly immobile against the buffalo shaman's scalp. "Not well..."


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.

A My Little Pony - Friendship Is Magic Fan Fiction.

This story is set three years after the events described in Windfall -> [link]

Part 27 - Sticking To The Plan

A pause and a pitstop outside of Fillydelphia
A message diverted in the cause of mayhem
A sticky wicket in town
And the Princesses have a fling with some newfangled technology

Part 28 -> [link]
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ShadowLDrago Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2014
This is turning out to be a bit like a more serious version of Wacky Racers, with Muttley and Dick Dastardly being Destiny and Insanity. Glued to a buffalo, those words made my day!
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:iconlonewolf218:
LoneWolf218 Featured By Owner Sep 30, 2012
"No... he's currently... glued to a buffalo..."

That's one of those lines that never stops being funny, no matter what. I wonder what Celestia's going to do to the F.F. Bros when she gets her hooves on them...
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:icontaren14:
Taren14 Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2012
I really hope that at the end of this story Shootin' Star gets kicked off of the Wonderbolts. Someone that can't respect anyone but themselves and doesn't like to be a team player has no business on an elite flying team.
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:iconlilypelt334:
Lilypelt334 Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2012
Does Shootin' Star have some form of pony-coprolalia or is he just an annoying jock?
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:iconwarrenhutch:
WarrenHutch Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2012
The latter gives him a bit of the former. :/
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:iconrock-raider:
Rock-Raider Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2012
Oh yes. I also wonder what Spitfire will do once she finds out all her messages about the Flim Flam Bros.' cheating have been "lost in transmission". I imagine she may have a few things to say to Dot and Ditto about it. Then, when she finds out it was Diamond Tiara who's been keeping her messages from reaching Pegathalon Organizational Commitee and Cloudsdale Athletic Council, she'll have a few things to say to HER too. Of course, Diamond Tiara will likely try to have Spitfire removed from her presence if she has that kind of power.

I wonder what Princess Celestia will do to Diamond Tiara if she finds out that Diamond Tiara is keeping Professor Destiny and Doctor Insanity in the race. That is one of the reasons why several of her guards have been hopsitalized.
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:iconrock-raider:
Rock-Raider Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2012
Seems that the tension between Pip and Apple Bloom has lessened. At least Apple Bloom isn't spitting venom at Pip anymore.

I'm actually kind of worried for Quillana right now. From what I've read, it seems she may end up being milked for all the diamonds she brought by her flight crew. I actually thought she would be the one who got booted from the race by the Professor's and Doctor's antics. Probably best for them though that this didn't happen. After all, they've already brought the Princess' wrath down on them, the last thing they need is to have even more creatures mad at them.

Seems Diamond Tiara intends to keep the Bros. in the game for as long as she can. I wonder what she intends to do once the winning flight device crosses the finish line. Probably has to do with those Griffin mercenaries she hired. Maybe she'll have them attack the flight harness that crosses the finish line first. She also mentioned she wanted to gloat... why would she want to gloat in front of all those people. If ponies saw what the owner of Royal Blue Airlines was like, I doubt it would net her any repeat business.

Also, sucks that Flies Like Thunder is out. Hopefully he can get back in once he's freed from the glue. And maybe it could temper the Princess' mood if Champion gets back in too. I mean, they're just covered in glue. Unless they lose too many feathers, they can still get back in the race.

I wonder what the Professor and Doctor have planned next. I mean, after the glue cloud, it would be pretty difficult to imagine what they could do next. Guess I'll just have to wait and see.
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:iconduplexfields:
DuplexFields Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Wonderful, as always, and wonderfully bloodless despite the worst of intentions. It takes skill not to write to kill.
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:iconjlbarnett:
JLBarnett Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2012
Diamond Tiara's just a fool. She's setting herself up to be ruined even if Flim and Flam cross the finish first
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:iconwarrenhutch:
WarrenHutch Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2012
She's got plausible deniability thus far, I don't see how she could be ruined by a "dropped call".
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