Part 38 - Los Pegasus Confidential
The distant, cloud crowned towers of Los Pegasus glittered in the golden light of the receding sun as apple orchards and orange groves whisked past far below. Pip and Soarin skirted the shoulder of the white capped mountains to the sprawling city's east, savoring the scent of the fruit trees wafting on a wind that also carried the faint hint of salt air from the ocean, which drew the line of the horizon in serene blue to the west beneath a sky full of yellows, oranges, and purples.
Pip nodded toward a row of gigantic, whitewashed, plywood letters adorning a row of hills to the north that spelled out the word "APPLEWOOD" as they towered over a lush expanse of their namesake trees. "I say, you don't suppose that's all Apple family land down there, do you?"
Soarin gave his young partner a shrug. "I wouldn't be surprised. AJ said their family reunions can make the crowd at Madison Mare Gardens look small and intimate."
The waning daylight glinted off of the spotted earth pony's grin. "I suppose you'll need to get used to being in-undated with in-laws, eh what old bean?"
The sky blue pegasus chuckled. "You and me both, kid, unless you manage to tick Apple Bloom off again somehow."
A blush stole across the young stallion's features as he looked away bashfully. "Well, it's rather too soon to be talking about hitching the old yoke, as it were, but rest assured I'd sooner perish than upset my own sweet Apple."
Soarin gave his companion a rueful smile. "Good flight plan, kid. Anything to keep your brainpan out from under Big Macintosh's hoof."
Pip cocked an eyebrow at him. "Er... whatever might you mean by th..."
A look of sick realization washed across the young pony's face as he stared straight ahead with widening eyes. "G-good heavens! Was... was that what he was on about with the rocks and gravel and all that..."
The veteran pegasus let out a sigh and brought a hoof to his face as the youthful stallion shuddered and drew his hooves close to his body. A haunted expression settled on his handsome visage as he muttered half to himself. "Crikey! Now I'm even more relieved that we patched things up."
Both airborne stallions were shaken from their reverie by a voice calling from their nine o' clock. "Hey there! Hello! You're the team from Harmony Aeronautics, right? Hey!"
They turned to see a gangly youth of a pegasus only a few years older than Pip, with a cream colored coat and a shaggy brown mane. He wore a sloped cap backwards between his large, fluttering ears and a scarf around his neck, but the most remarkable part of his ensemble was a harness attached to a bulky camera like device hanging off of his chest.
It looked far too heavy to be borne by such a scrawny stallion, but he carried it with ease. The camera was surmounted by a pair of cylindrical film canisters emblazoned with the symbol of a star tipped wand trailing a crescent of film. The newcomer's own cutie mark was a single white feather.
Pip's smile flashed as recognition dawned in his eyes. "I say. Featherweight, is that you?"
The frail looking pegasus gave him a broad, buck toothed grin in return. "Heya, Pip! Long time no see! I been readin' all about ya in the papers!"
He turned his attention to Pip's wing pony. "And it's an honor to meet ya, Mister Soarin! I been a big fan since before Rainbow Dash joined the team!"
Soarin turned to Pip with a quizzical look on his face. "You know this guy, Pip?"
The young earth pony nodded. "Oh yes. He's an old chum from Ponyville. He was in Apple Bloom's class in school. A real whiz with a camera, he was."
He gave a bob of his head toward the contraption hanging off the cream colored pegasus' scrawny frame. "Still at it, eh old sock?"
Featherweight's smile widened a bit, before he dropped into a businesslike tone. "Yeah, on that subject. I was wondering if you colts would mind me getting some footage of you flying over Lo Peg and landing. Would that be okay with you?"
Before Pip could respond, Soarin held up a hoof and gave the young pegasus a searching look. "You with the press?"
The flying camera pony gave a chuckle. "Uh... Yes and no. More a documentarian, to be honest."
He reached up a hoof and patted the rear film canister. "I work for Lulamoon Studios, Ltd. and we're doing a short piece on the Pegathalon and its competitors. You guys are a big part of what makes it worth filming."
He deftly turned the lens in their direction with a half pleading look on his face. "My boss would have my hide for a projection screen if I didn't get this footage. So how about it, huh?"
The Harmony Aeronautics team exchanged a shrug, and Soarin called back in reply. "Hey sure, it's fine with us, but you'll want to talk to our bosses about a legal release for any shots you take. We're gonna be rendezvousing on one of the farmsteads north of town, so if you don't mind waiting for 'em."
Featherweight's tongue poked out of the side of his smile as he squinted one eye and craned his neck to peer through the camera's viewfinder. "Thanks a bunch, fellas! Now just fly casual and I'll start filming ya."
Chrysalis, the tyrant Queen and Supreme Phenotype of the Changelings, crouched like a tiny, emaciated black gargoyle atop the lid of the ornate commode in the bathroom of the TMSS Ambrosia's royal suite, a look of cross, desperate concentration on her angular face. Daylight had faded to darkness outside as the massive silver airship forged on through the night to reach Los Pegasus.
Her mind buzzed like a beehive of evil thoughts as she fought against the gnawing of hunger in her philogastric sacs and the gnawing of fear in her circulatory pump to come up with a way out of her current predicament. With a member of the dreaded Elements of Harmony aboard, her situation had degenerated from merely tedious and annoying to downright dangerous.
Part of her was stridently demanding that she cut and run, slip out the window and buzz off, back to the relative safety of her hive. But it was a long journey over the desert, and dangerous without a swarm to back her up.
Plus, she had to admit, her alliance with the loathsome Prince Blueblood stood to be gainful. Under the guise of his hate saturated shrew of a wife, she had material wealth, security, and a safe identity to fall back on. Once installed in their mansion in Canterlot, she could prey on the ponies of the city with ease, gradually growing in size and power until she could overpower her "husband", shove his pasty white rump in a slave pod, and get a fresh hive going.
Chrysalis ran a fang along her lower lip as she furrowed the chitinous plates of her brow. Yes... The dressmaker had to go, but how? She needed to get rid of her with nopony being the wiser. Nopony...
The bathroom reading light flickered on over her head as she reared up with a sharp toothed grin of triumph. Her tattered wings buzzed as she hopped down to the porcelain tiles and crossed to the vanity, pulling herself up onto the cushioned ottoman. With a reedy chuckle, her form vanished in a burst of sorcerous green flame, which ablated into the air around her leaving the flawless image of a pristine white unicorn mare with luxurious violet curls and sparkling, sapphire blue eyes, her flank marked by a trio of blue diamonds.
The image of the Element of Generosity leaned on the vanity and batted her thick eyelashes as her poison green eyed visage looked back at her from within the mirror. "Yesssss. Nopony needs to know but you and me."
The flawless facsimile of Rarity trotted down the lushly carpeted hallway at the side of an earnest young unicorn stallion named Stanchion, who wore the royal blue tunic of a steward and bore a ring of keys floating around the tip of his horn in a halo of blue green magic. Only the dim, art deco fixtures marking the space between doors provided any illumination in the otherwise darkened corridor. The dull hum of an airship on "dog" watch filled the air with a velvety stillness.
She gave him an apologetic smile and batted her eyes as she spoke to him in her mannered voice. "I feel like such a silly filly for locking the keys in my stateroom, darling. Thank you ever so much for coming to my rescue."
The steward gave a professional bob of his horn. "No problem at all, ma'am. These things happen sometimes." He nodded toward one of the doorways. "Here we are, room G4. We'll have you inside in a jiffy."
With that, he turned and stood before the door, levitating the key ring before his face as a look of concentration settled there. "G1... G2... G3... G3.5... G4!"
Stanchion cocked an ear as he floated the selected key into the hole, as the alabaster figure at his side spoke to him in a voice that seemed to take on an ominous, buzzing undercurrent. "Excellent. Perhaps you'd like to join me in there for a while..."
The steward cleared his throat with a brisk, professional mien as he turned to face her. "Is there something else you need, ma'am?"
He let out a shriek of terror as her attractive visage dissolved into a horrible, chitinous mask of terror with blazing green eyes and a mouth full of serrated fangs. She waggled her segmented tongue and flared her mandibles with a throaty, rasping laugh. "Only your delicious pony brains!"
The ring of keys hit the floor with a muted jingle as the terrified stallion spun on his heel and fled at a full gallop down the hall, leaving Chrysalis gasping with wicked laughter as she refolded her face. He rounded the corner as his cries echoed through the darkened corridors. "AAAIEEE! A CHANGELING! THERE'S A CHANGELING ABOARD! IT WANTS TO EAT MY DELICIOUS PONY BRAINS!"
The ersatz Rarity's ears perked up at the sound of the lock on the stateroom door rattling, and in a burst of green flame she was replaced by the image of a plain featured earth pony mare in a maid's uniform. She hastily picked up the keys, rearing up to meet the smoldering blue eyed gaze of the genuine Rarity, who stood wrapped in her silken sheets, a mask of green beauty mud covering her face and curlers in her mane and tail.
She stomped an angry hoof. "Just WHAT is all this commotion about out here?"
The imitation maid gave her a feeble smile. "Er... Um, turndown service?"
Rarity huffed, her voice hung with icicles. "No thank you, I'm still using my bed at the moment, or would be if you weren't making all this beastly racket."
The ersatz earth pony gave an apologetic bow. "Sorry I disturbed you, ma'am."
The alabaster unicorn raised her snout in the air with an emphatic "hmph!" and wheeled, slamming the door behind her with a sparkle of blue magic.
Chrysalis burst into green flames, shedding the guise of a maid as she dropped the keys back to the floor. A gloating grin spread across her angular face. "You'll soon see just what sort of racket I'm running, you miserable mincing mammal."
In another flaring of sorcery, she was the image of Diamond Tiara once more. She wheeled and trotted away, chuckling to herself. "Delicious pony brains... talk about your empty calories..."
Rarity let out an exasperated growl at the sound of an insistent knock on her stateroom door. Flicking the cucumber slices out of her eye sockets with her magic, she heaved herself out of bed yet again and stumbled across to the hatch, flinging it open with a snarl creasing the green mud covering her face. "WHAT!? I swear if this keeps up I'm going to murder somepony!"
A crowd of burly stewards and porters stood outside with Drawstring the ship's purser at the back. Stanchion let out another scream as he laid eyes on Rarity's nighttime facial treatment. "Eaagh! It's even more horrible than before! Don't let it murder you!"
She reared back indignantly, blinking in shock. "I BEG your pardon?"
Drawstring jabbed a hoof toward her. "I knew it! GET HER!"
Rarity scarcely had time to let out a high pitched, whinnying shriek before they shouldered through the door and tackled her, burying her thrashing, kicking form beneath a scrum of blue uniformed crew ponies.
The sun from the distant east outlined the edges of the spotless clouds that wreathed the tops of Los Pegasus' spires. Nestled among them, its conical nose tethered to a high platform fluttering with royal blue flags bearing the compass rose of the Blueblood dynasty, was the vast silvery cylinder of the TMSS Ambrosia.
The airship dock was teeming with busy ponies who'd been at work since dawn, working diligently at their appointed tasks. An unusually high number of uniformed pegasi from the Los Pegasus city guard were flying in formation over the milling herd, or hovering in a cordon along the airfront.
A pair of stern faced pegasi in plain suit collars and fedoras stepped out of the elevators and marched across the dock with two more uniformed guards in tow. They paused at the edge of the platform, and turned to watch as a quartet of their comrades wheeled Rarity past on a luggage trolly.
The pale unicorn mare sat bolt upright in a catatonic daze, manacles around her legs, a magic suppressing safety cork on the tip of her horn, and a few stray curlers still hanging in the disheveled tangles of her mane and tail. A greyish tinge of dust and grime clung to her coat from spending the balance of the prior night in the Ambrosia's brig, which was uncomfortably close to the engine room, and the dried remains of her green mud mask gave her face a sickly pallor in concert with the dark bags under her bloodshot eyes. A violent twitch animated the lower lid of her right eye, the only sign besides her shallow breathing that they were removing a living pony and not a lifelike facsimile from a wax museum's chamber of horrors.
The two plainclothes pegasi glanced at one another, shaking their heads ruefully, then took wing toward the airship's gangway.
Prince Blueblood let out a soft sigh and took a sip of his mimosa as he stood at the railing of the observation deck and watched the Los Pegasus city guard wheel the alabaster fashion designer into the elevators. He raised the glass flute slightly in its cradling cloud of golden magic. "Alas, Rarity, it looks as if you're taking another faceful of cake on our behalf. C'est la vie, one supposes."
At his side, the pastel pink image of his wife allowed the slightest hint of a gloating grin to curl the corners of her mouth in an otherwise impassive expression. She turned and murmured to him. "I assure you, 'husband', it was completely necessary for our... arrangement." He let out another sigh in response, as the elevators marked with his family crest slid closed.
The ersatz earth pony cocked an eyebrow and gave a slight flick of her tail as her smile widened. "Say... Are you feeling what I think you're feeling toward her?"
Her nostrils flared as she took a deep breath, closing her eyes. She nodded in satisfaction as she opened them again, showing venomous green irises in place of Diamond Tiara's lavender ones. "Yes. It's shallow and selfish, but there is an inkling."
Blueblood recoiled a bit as she leaned in closer, whispering in his ear. "You know, I could be her. In private, if you like. I could be everything you want her to be. Consider it a way for me to sweeten our deal a bit."
She ran her tongue along her lips, calculating how she could stoke the dissolute prince's vague, vain yearning for affirmation from a mare who'd rejected him, and turn it into a delicious torrent of passion. It would be the equivalent of gorging on greasy carnival fare, compared to the wholesome nourishment of true love, but she'd been starved for far too long for her to be choosey.
The royal unicorn cleared his throat and took a pull from his glass, a hint of a blush on his off white cheeks as he hastily looked away to hide the smug grin that had settled on his features. Sweeten the deal indeed. Sometimes it was good to be a prince. Truly he was living la vida real.
He composed himself, not wanting to seem too eager. "We... we'll discuss it further in private. For now, just keep up the act and remember not to smile so much unless somepony's gotten hurt or embarrassed... themselves..." He trailed off as he looked up to see the two plainclothes pegasi and their accompanying uniformed guards approach with businesslike expressions on their faces.
The unicorn prince warily cleared his throat as he met their stern gaze. "Er... yes?"
The grey blue pegasus with a gold badge cutie mark emblazoned with the number 714 doffed his fedora and gave a small bow, speaking in a clipped, deadpan tone of voice. "Your highness."
He turned to the pastel pink facsimile of Blueblood's young wife. "Princess Diamond Tiara?"
She turned to face him with a scowl and snapped. "Yes? What is it?"
He met her with a level gaze. "I'm Detective Sergeant Skyway." He gave a nod to the heavyset tan pegasus at his side, who also took off his fedora and held it in the crook of his hoof. "This is Detective Anvil."
His partner gave a terse nod to the royals. "Sir... Ma'am."
The sergeant continued in his droning, no nonsense tone. "We're here to place her highness under arrest on charges of conspiracy, sabotage, and reckless endangerment."
The false Diamond Tiara's jaw dropped as her irises flared green around her pinprick pupils. "Wh... what?"
Detective Anvil put his hat back on and took a step forward. "If you'll please come with us, ma'am."
She took a shaky step back as Blueblood backpedaled all the way to the edge of a gathering crowd. A look of desperation dawned on her borrowed face. "N... no! I didn't do anything!"
Sergeant Skyway donned his hat and glared out from under the brim. "Your hired griffins turned into good little stool pigeons, and they implicated you in masterminding the attack on the Harmony Aeronautics team. If you want to spare yourself any further trouble, you'll come along quietly."
The image of the pastel princess reeled as she stumbled backwards in the face of the four stallions' implacable advance. "Griffins? Attacks? Pigeons? What? WHAT?"
She turned and jabbed a hoof towards Blueblood, who gave a start and bobbled his champagne flute as he tried to back away through the elegantly dressed ponies around him. "YOU! You squealed on me, didn't you? You unspeakable, fluid swilling PIG!"
The off white unicorn drew himself up in regal hauteur, failing to keep the quaver out of his voice as he met her venomous glare. "We have no idea what you're yammering about, dear. However you handle your business affairs has been entirely within your purview since we married. Whatever this is about is simply not our problem."
The Diamond Tiara imitator ground her teeth as Sergeant Skyway and his comrades closed in around her. "Why didn't you tell me that she was wanted by the bronzebacks!?"
He gave her a shrug and a weak, lopsided grin as he raised his glass toward her. "Er... Well... You didn't ask us, darling."
The fake princess' eyes flared in bottomless, wasp like fury as she reared up amidst the guard ponies, trails of bubbling black foam dripping from the corners of her mouth. "You... you... backstabbing, two faced FRAUD! You lying, double dealing SNAKE!"
Detective Anvil brought a pair of hoofcuffs out from beneath a wing and advanced on her. "That's enough, ma'am. You have the right to remain silent, and I suggest you make full use of it."
The imitation earth pony hissed at him, her pale pink coat cracking like dried mud as tiny flares of green flame danced along the fissures. "Keep your flabby hooves off of me, pony. I'm completely innocent of your trumped up charges, because I'm most assuredly NOT Diamond Tiara."
She reared up in triumph, jabbing a hoof skyward as her disguise burned away in a bright flare of green, sorcerous fire. "I am Queen Chrysalis of the Changelings! So there!"
The room fell utterly silent, save for the buzzing of the black shelled insectoid's wings as she hung in midair inside the semicircle of stunned guard ponies. All eyes turned toward the unmasked shape shifter and stared aghast. Her overwrought leer of hubris faded on her angular little face as the full weight of what she'd just done sank in on her.
She slumped in the air, dangling her hole riddled hooves as a rueful expression settled on her face. "Oh mucous..."
A violent tussle erupted with a roiling cloud of dust as the four pegasi leapt upon her, and shortly thereafter Chrysalis found herself on the floor with handcuffs binding all four legs and a magic suppressing cork on the end of her crooked blade of a horn.
She gave a flick of her ear at the sound of Blueblood's voice raised melodramatically over the confused murmur of the bystanders. "By our eternal Aunties! You mean that... that creature was masquerading as our beloved wife this whole time!? Who knows what sort of skullduggery she might have gotten up to right under our royal nose... Completely without our knowledge or complicity, we might add!"
Chrysalis snarled and strained at her bindings, spraying droplets of dark brown spittle on the ponies restraining her. "Lemme at him! Lemme at him! I'm gonna cram my ovipositor up his royal nose and lay a load of eggs in his skullduggery!"
Sergean Skyway dusted himself off with his wings and gave a nod to his companions. "All right, colts. Take her away."
The changeling queen let out a weary growl as they easily lifted her and carried her from the room. "That's it. No more pod crammed princesses. Especially not pink ones. They're more freakin' trouble than they're worth..."
Tentative hoof steps muffled by threadbare carpet sounded softly on the wooden stairs, as Diamond Tiara carefully descended, looking like a furtive ghost, her sunken, slightly glazed eyes taking in the homey decor of her hostess and benefactress. Golden sunlight streamed through a set of large bay windows, filtered by neatly kept lace curtains with embroidered cherries festooning the hems.
She shuffled around the overstuffed couch and approached the windows, reaching up with a shaking hoof to pull the drapes aside and peer outside, blinking and wincing at the already harsh desert glare as her eyes adjusted to the light. The huge cherry orchard that she'd bought out all those years ago covered the hills rolling north toward the distant looming mountain crowned by the gleaming towers of Canterlot. It was all so stark, the neat rows of trees behind the glittering steel of the chain link fence surrounding them. She owned every inch of the land inside that fence. Every tree, every leaf, every cherry, but now she couldn't really get a grip on why.
What would she want with a cherry orchard anyway? It was all so surreal. Nothing made sense anymore.
A clattering and bustle came to her ears from what she presumed to be the kitchen. The pastel pink mare let the curtain drop and made her slow but steady way toward it. She paused in the door, taking in the warm glow that suffused the room. It seemed like sunlight, but maybe it was something else. Something she only had the barest inkling of.
She gasped as she looked through the kitchen, past her magenta and white haired hostess who stood at the counter humming "Sweet Clemintine" to herself as she stirred a large bowl of something with a wooden spoon. Beyond the screen door and a small porch was a gorgeous little fenced in garden, presided over by a small grove of winding cherry trees with lush green leaves and fruit that seemed naturally to form the shape of little red hearts. She shuffled forward, spellbound at the lyric beauty of the tiny private orchard in a way she had no capacity to form into coherent thoughts. She owned enough jewelry to bedazzle every mare from Canterlot to Ponyville, but she'd never seen anything so beautiful.
As she drifted past, Cherry Jubilee flicked an ear and turned with a start. She set down the bowl and spoon with a chuckle and turned to greet her. "Whoosh. Ya gave me a turn just now, darlin'!"
She gently guided Diamond Tiara to a chair at the modest little table occupying a sunlit corner of the kitchen. "It's right good t' see ya up and about, dearie. I was just gonna come up n' see if'n ya wanted me to help ya down fer some breakfast. Ya hungry, hon?"
The pale pink mare dragged her sunken eyed gaze away from the beauty outside and looked down at her belly as it grumbled sullenly inside her. She gave her hostess a silent nod.
Jubilee nodded back and turned toward the counter, reaching up to take down a bowl. "Yer in luck, darlin'. I just whipped up some o' my special triple cherry blue ribbon signature recipe. This oughta sweeten yer mornin' somethin' fierce."
She spooned out a dollop of a lumpy, pinkish white substance then set the bowl down in front of Diamond Tiara, followed by a slightly tarnished silver spoon.
The pastel earth pony's sunken eyes widened as she stared at it. "Is... is this..."
Jubilee nodded proudly. "Ayep! Ambrosia salad!"
Diamond Tiara sat as still as a statue and gazed at the sweet smelling lump in the bowl. "Ambrosia... salad..."
Her hostess gave a nod and a wink. "Ayep! Dig in, darlin'. I'll get some tea a'brewin." With that, she trotted into the pantry to gather the ingredients of a wholesome, down home country breakfast.
After a long pause, the Diamond Tiara picked up the spoon in the crook of her hoof and brought a shaking spoonful to her mouth, slowly chewing it and swallowing with great ceremony.
She started to tremble, tears pooling at the corners of her eyes and rolling down her cheeks. She took another bite, and another, stuffing her cheeks with the delicately whipped, fruity mixture and muttering. "Sh-sh-shweet Cheleshtia haff mershy on me. It'sh... It'sh sho delishush..."
The stricken young mare let out a sob as she slouched forward and buried her face in the bowl with a splat.
Twilight Sparkle was surveying a map of Equestria's western coast laid out on a few planks laid across some sawhorses in the shade of the Friend Ship, idly stirring a tall glass of iced tea provided by her team's generous hostess.
The Apple sisters' ebullient Aunt Gala had kindly consented to put the Harmony Aeronautics team up for the night, allowing them to tether the Friend Ship in one of her fields while its worn out passengers and the two brave stallions they followed enjoyed the comforts of showers, soft beds, and an excellent southwestern breakfast in the matronly mare's rambling, white walled hacienda.
Twilight heard the insistent ringing of the 'phone from inside the Friend Ship's cabin a moment before she heard Apple Bloom calling from up on the rigging of the balloon, where the young mare had been inspecting the envelope for wear and tear. "Yo Doc! 'Phone's ringin'! I reckon it's Rarity checkin' in!"
Twilight shoved off from the improvised table and turned, her horn sparkling with magic. "Got it!"
A flash and a pop of displaced air later and she was standing by the boxy apparatus, floating its bakelite cone to the tip of her horn. "Harmony Aeronautics, Doctor Sparkle speak... R-rarity? What? You WHAT? I don't... A changeling? That's... that's ridiculous! Well... did they perform the test I devised?"
Her urgent expression fell to one of wan sympathy as the blue glow surged and fluttered inside the cone at the tip of her horn. She pawed at the ground, biting her lip slightly as it went on, before stammering out a strained apology. "Uh... yes, I know it's... a bit... intensive but..."
She stomped a hoof in exasperation. "All right. All right! I'm sorry, but as humiliating as it is the Sparkle Method is the only way to be a hundred percent certain." Twilight winced as another torrent of blue flashes played across her forehead.
Presently she gave a weak grin. "Well at least they know you're not a changeling, right? They're letting you go, right?"
The lavender unicorn brightened up slightly. "If you hurry, you can make it back before the Ambrosia casts off."
She flinched and floated the cone a hoof away from the tip of her horn as a crackling corona of blue flashes and sparks flew out.
After waiting a moment for the furious cascade to die down, she settled it back in place with pursed lips as she finally replied. "Well, Rarity, I think if you did even half of what you just described to the ship and its crew, you'd be right back in that cell."
Twilight let out a weary huff. "All right. We're at Apple Bloom's aunt's farm right now, we'll see if we can get a cab and come pick you up after we see the colts off."
The unicorn mare rolled her eyes at the cone's blinking response. "An hour, maybe two. I'm sorry, but that's the best we can do. Seriously, I'm sure you look fine, Rarity. I..."
She trailed off, a pained look spreading across her features. "A bucket, huh? Well, you can get a shower here at Aunt Gala's farm. It's very nice... Yes... All right, we'll hurry. See you soon." She tsked. "All right. All right, I'll see you but I won't look at you, okay? Be there as soon as we can. Bye."
Twilight brought a hoof to her face with a groan as she hung the cone back on its cradle. "Sweet Celestia's back dated library card, is it too much to ask for us to stop in town without somepony getting arrested?"
Another pop of light and displaced air rustled the hay stubble in the field outside as Twilight appeared with her saddlebags slung across her back. She let out a gasp and drew herself up in shock as she spotted Pip, Apple Bloom, and Soarin gathered a short distance away, greeting a cobalt blue unicorn mare that she recognized at a glance. The newcomer affected a flamboyant air with a purple beret, white ascot, and dark sunglasses, and drew herself up imperiously as she spotted Twilight.
A short distance behind her Featherweight stood, giving her a toothy smile and a wave of his skinny fore hoof. Twilight cringed inwardly, chastising herself like an impatient professor with an underperforming student. She should have known as soon as she saw the name on the top of the release papers she'd signed last night that it was only the tip of a horn full of hassle.
The scholarly mare's lavender hued features hardened as she crossed her balloon's shadow to stand eye to eye with the other unicorn. She gave a terse nod of acknowledgement. "Lulamoon..."
The pale maned mare's violet eyes gazed flatly over the tops of her sunglasses. "Sparkle..."
Twilight's eyes narrowed. "That's Doctor Sparkle."
She gave an irritated toss of her mane. "What do you want, Lulamoon? We're busy ponies here. We don't have any time for your..." Her voice dripped with bitter subtext. "...complications."
The blue unicorn's left eye twitched, as a lopsided grin flashed on her face. "Oh, it's strictly business that brings the Spectacular Trixie out here today, Doctor Sparkle."
She drew herself up as her glittering blue magic raised her sunglasses back into place. "Nothing could be simpler..."
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.