Torchwood. Outside the Monarchy, beyond the Royal Guard. Tracking down alien life in Equestria and arming the pony race against the future. This is the era when everything changes, and you gotta be ready.
"Mother?" the pony child asked. The mare gazed down at her daughter so very tenderly. It was a rare sight for the child; her mother's normally stoic, stone-faced expression had been eased away by something far different. It was a smile, a simple, beautiful, and uninhibited smile.
"Did you like the party I threw? For real, I mean? For really real? I really tried my best. I really did. Because, I wanted to make you smile."
The mare hugged her child, her embrace as warm as her smile. It was a hug far more gentle and loving than any before, or even, any since. "I've never had more fun in my entire life," the mother responded, "it was like being your age all over again."
The little pink pony rested her head upon her mother's lap. A yawn escaped her. The long day and night of work, of planning, hoping, and partying, had finally taken its toll on her. As she drifted off to sleep, a single tear ran down her cheek. It was the happiest moment of her life.
Blood, thought Pinkie Pie as the saw blades ran loud, as the claws bit into her flesh, and as the drills prepared to pierce her. That's what that smell is. Pony blood. Down the saws of the Cyber Conversion Unit went, till one of the blades finally cut into her flesh. It was akin to fire, the scorching heat burning open a widening wound. She was paralyzed by electricity, she couldn't even scream. A single tear ran down her cheek, a single memory crossed her mind.
Mommy, did I make you smile?
The shadows hid her, that equine flesh and fur far blacker than the silver plating of Cybermare steel. Princess Luna, aided by the darkness, darted forward, ramming her horn into the side of the Cybermare. The machine monster was knocked out of the way, slamming into cavern rock, and Luna, now pointing her horn at the conversion unit console, blew it apart with a single spell.
The stunned Pinkie Pie, witnessing the devices above her being pulled apart by alicorn magic, turned to the alicorn mare.
"Princess Luna, my hero!" cried out Pinkie, the pony moving her wounded shoulder as far away as she could from the slowing rotations of the deactivated and deconstructed saw blade. With another spell the cuffs that held down the pink mare were transmuted into dozens of glowing, fluttering blue butterflies.
"MOVE!" the princess bellowed. Pinkie Pie sprung herself out of the way, tumbling onto the cavern floor and curling up into herself, turning her sight away from the princess and her ever glowing, ever more powerful horn.
She waiting for the explosion, or the sound of whatever spell Luna was planning to use. There was a silence, one that lasted for far longer than Pinkie had expected. Strange sounds prevailed, echoing throughout the cavern, something that was like a wet gurgling and the struggling of hooves scraping against rock. The wounded pink pony rose to face the princess. She gasped.
The princess was twitching in desperate spasms, her hind hooves were barely touching the rock surface underneath her, her own blood was squirting from her impaled throat. Much of it trickled down her coat and dripped down to form a darkening pool underneath her. Spurting, deep red blood obscured the glittery shine of the Cybermare's horn. It had punctured through her neck, and Luna, with her blood streaming down the machine's gleaming armor, gasped for breath. It had risen to its hind hoofs and was suspending the writhing pony in the air. The machine didn't move, didn't speak, didn't do anything except wait for the struggling pony to die upon its horn.
The light in Luna's eyes, those desperate, terrified eyes began to fade. With tears rolling down her face, and with one last gasp of gargled air she forced her head backwards, plunging the horn further through her neck. The sound of squishy flesh tearing echoed heavily in that dank air, and as she pointed her glowing horn at the Cybermare's head, she unleashed the power of her final spell.
The explosion of brilliant rainbows and the sound of something otherworldly screaming its last breath temporarily rendered Pinkie Pie both blind and deaf. Once more she felt her body floating, or flying, and in a completely directionless fashion. She once more felt her body slamming against cold, musty rock, and felt the bliss of passing out amid the ringing of her eardrums.
When Pinkie Pie next awoke the ringing was still there, and so was the darkness. She could see though, even if just blackness. "Hello?" she asked before quickly covering her mouth. She couldn't be sure of what still lurked, of what was stilling alive in that cave. She wished for the Cybermare's death, and then fought the urge to cry. She wanted it to die…
And then an even worse thought popped into her head. Her flashlight helmet was gone, most likely crushed under a ton of rock. But something glowed, she could see it now. They were the blue cave flowers she had seen earlier. Limping from stem to stem she picked them, the shaking pony fighting the urge to panic.
She was trapped, surrounded by rock in a space barely big enough to throw a party in. She pointed the flowers in her mouth in every direction, searching manically for a way out. It was dark and damp and hot and there really was no room to party at all. And she was alone. Alone. Alone. Alone. Alone. Alone. Alone.
"Twilight!" she Sparkle, did she leave to get help? She must have. Twilight would save her, she wouldn't abandon her friends. She couldn't. But what if…
Another turn of the bouquet revealed a grouping of butterflies hovering above something blue and winged. Pinkie raced toward the body, smiling at the thought of finding somepony else. It was the princess, but she was asleep, obviously passed out from the spell. Only, there was something wrong with her. Her eyelids were halfway open but not blinking, her neck had a gaping, bloody wound through it, and her head was angled in a strange direction, like as if she didn't have bones in her neck. She wasn't even breathing. It was almost as if she wasn't asleep at all. But that's silly, thought the pony. "You're just asleep, just dreaming. Only you're not, you're… you're…"
No, it was impossible, princesses don't ever, they can't ever, she wouldn't allow herself to believe it. Her hair went limp, her heart stopped racing. No, she was fine, she was just on the rock farm, moving rocks. Her sisters would come out and help out soon. Luna was just being lazy, like she always was. Everything was fine, perfectly fine.
"Luna, be lazy if you want," she said coldly, her left eye twitching, "but I have to get back to work. Rocks don't push themselves you know." Well, some did, but not these. She placed her head against the nearest rock and began pushing it due east. "Lots of rocks to push, lots of work to do," she grunted out. One of her forelegs burned with pain. It didn't matter though, because the rocks needed to be pushed. To the distance she saw her stoic, unsmiling mother watching over her and her sisters as they pushed the rocks.
"Mother, I'll make you smile."
Toy War Horses
At some point the combined agony of her broken ribs and Spike's reluctant snapping of her dislocated foreleg back into place had caused Twilight to faint. How long was I out for? she wondered. Her foreleg was now numb, and her side slightly ached with each breath she took. "Spike?"
She opened her eyes, and staring upwards at the cloud-obscured sun, she saw the blurry outlines of two ponies who were definitely not Spike.
"Ah, I see the Captain Lady Twilight Sparkle still has some life in her yet. Welcome back to the land of the living my dear lady." It was a pegasus, a somewhat older, dull green coated, mustachioed colt with a proper Canterlotian accent who was addressing her. A unicorn nurse worked on her wounds.
"Where's Spike?" Twilight asked, rising to her hoofs despite the pain. The nurse took several steps back as Twilight waved her away.
The pegasus answered. "Your dragon assistant has been temporarily pressed into service on behalf of UNIT and the Equestrian Royal military. The two fillies in your care have also been detained and moved to another location, though I assure you, they are perfectly safe."
"The Cybermare!" Twilight cried, looking down the dark black entrance to that horrible cave labyrinth, "Scootaloo, they converted her, she's a Cybermare, we… oh… dizzy…" The colt took hold of Twilight, whom was on the verge of collapse.
"Do relax, you've yet to fully recover. As for the situation, you yourself have supplied us with most of the necessary intelligence. You've been muttering about it for quite a while now."
Twilight groaned. Her body still felt like it had been hit by a tractor. "How long was I out for?"
"Roughly twenty minutes. I felt no need to wake you, especially since you were diagnosed with a severe case of dying."
The unicorn looked at the pegasus incredulously. "I was dying?"
"Yes," he responded nonchalantly, "severe internal bleeding." There was a pause as Twilight continued to stare at Brigadier Alistar in disbelief. "Well, you got better."
"Clearly. Wait never mind that, who are you? Where's Princess Celestia? This is an urgent situation, her sister is in trouble!"
"Yes indeed, we do understand the gravity of the situation. And yes, I do apologize, how rude of me, a proper introduction is in order, especially for a Lady of your most prestigious reputation. I am Brigadier Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart Alistar of the Equestrian Royal Air Force, and it is a pleasure to meet your acquaintance."
"Wow, long name."
"Yes, so I've been told. I am here as a representative of the royal family. Her Majesty sends her regards."
Twilight couldn't fathom it. "She's not coming? But, how can that be? I issued a PONE, I mean, that's the whole point of a PONE, what can possibly be more important than the threat of extraterrestrial invasion?"
The older colt's face hardened. He looked above to the skies, and Twilight, raising her head upwards as well, spotted in the distant horizon dozens of pegasi pulled chariots flying toward their direction. Several pegasi had already landed, and were preparing to guide in the oncoming chariot armada.
Brigadier Alistar continued speaking even as the two watched the chariots begin their descent. "The princess had other matters that needed her attention, and as you can imagine they are matters of the utmost importance."
"Even more important than-"
"For now, yes. But her Majesty's secret services and her regular armed forces are entirely capable of handling the current crisis, this much she assuredly believes. And, as she told me herself personally, she has the greatest confidence in her star pupil's abilities."
She could feel her cheeks heat up. The princess always had a way of guiding her through even the most uncertain of times. A single ray of sunshine touched her cheek, if only for a moment. "But what about Prince Blueblood? Isn't he supposed to lead?"
Brigadier Alistar winced. "My Lady, have you met our fair prince?"
She had. "Point taken."
"Enough of that then. You have officially declared a PONE-tier invasion scenario, and as dictated by the Empress Initiative statutes, I am granted full authorization to take both Torchwood and the Unified Intelligence Taskforce directly under my command. You're working for me now until this crisis is resolved, understood? Ah, and speaking of UNIT, here they come now."
Twilight could sense the self-absorption before she could actually see the pony it was pouring out from. A single chariot sped by the rest of the armada at an incredible speed, spewing forth a spectacularly gaudy display of fireworks that shot off in all directions. Before the chariot began its descent, its lone silver-maned unicorn passenger jumped out, her cape and mane billowing in the air as she was propelled at just under the speed of a sonic rainboom. The unicorn was quickly taken hold of by two UNIT pegasi, both ponies deftly supporting her as she cast a spell that summoned a pure blue dragon-shaped flame. It was so enormous that it covered the entire sky with its flashy image.
Twilight couldn't help but groan. As the mare was guided through the flames the dragon exploded into a shower of countless blue and violet rose petals. The mare was gracefully dropped onto her hoofs whilst a flurry of rose petals whirled about her, her cape flowed in the wind as a heavy gust blew in her direction. The Great and Powerful Commander Trixie of the Unified Intelligence Taskforce had arrived, complete with a wicked smirk and enormous ego. Twilight tried her best to smile. Trixie ignored her immediately.
"The Great and Powerful Trixie demands a perimeter sweep and a cordoning off of the entire area!" Trixie immediately said to the dozens of blue beret wearing colts and mares galloping out of their chariots.
"Yes m'am!" a mare shouted.
"I also demand all updates on current Cyber-related activities to be brought to me immediately."
"Right away m'am," a colt said hurriedly.
"Wintergreen, Merry Gold, Orion Heart, get those caves scouted post haste! I want those rescue teams set up five minutes ago! Lt. Lagoon, get those rockets operational! And Fire Song, I desire an apple latte macchiato with no foam, the Great and Powerful Trixie requires caffeine. And will somepony please clean these petals up! This is a military operation, not a night at the Grand Galloping Gala!"
"Hello Commander Trixie," said Twilight, saluting the blue pony though technically she didn't have to, "what a pleasure to be working with you again."
"Why yes, the pleasure is all yours, since it is me," Trixie brazenly replied. "Never fear, for I, the leader of the most illustrious, elite organization in the world, for I, who by far am the most powerful wizard in all of pony history, have come to save Equestria once again!"
"Well," started Twilight with a forced chuckle, "it's clearly going to be a group effort. You know, what with the military also being mobilized, I'm sure together we'll stop the invasion and rescue the princess. Together."
Trixie scuffed. "Oh hello Twilight I didn't notice you there, I was addressing Brigadier Alistar. I'm not sure what you're doing here since it is your fault Princess Luna got captured in the first place."
"What? No I-"
"I quiver at the thought, our dearest princess abandoned by her own escort. Truly a dark day in Equestrian history! And for Torchwood."
"Hey that's not what-"
"At this point I wouldn't trust you or your little group to handle a latte."
Twilight's eyes narrowed. "And I wouldn't trust you to handle an itty-bitty Ursa Minor."
Trixie gasped. "That's just low. You're treading on thin ice Twilight Sparkle."
"Oh yeah? What are you going to do about it, run away? I think you already used up all your smoke pellets."
"The princess did warn me about this nonsense," said Alistar, stepping between both ponies, "you two get your acts together and do your duties. Kill each other on your own time."
Trixie smirked once more. "Sounds like a date, what do you say, my Lady Twilight?
Twilight huffed. "Definitely."
Both ponies were so focused on each other that they barely noticed the roar of thunderclaps and the sight of black storm clouds streaking through the gray of a late-afternoon sky. It was Brigadier Alistar that took both ponies by the scruff of their necks and pulled them out of the way of the incoming Wonderbolts.
"Special delivery!" cried out Spitfire, stopping right in front of Twilight, smiling as she and her squadron landed and unlatched themselves from their cargo of large crates. "Straight out of the Princess's vault and to you in under ten minutes flat. That means you still have to pay. Fast enough for you Commander Trixie?"
"Not nearly enough Captain Spitfire," Trixie responded, her eye shut and her head pointed upwards, "you guys must be losing your touch or something. But I guess it'll have to do."
The Wonderbolt Soarin, landing behind Trixie, stuck his out tongue at her. He proceeded to mimic her gestures and mime her speech. The other members of the Wonderbolts giggled.
The crates were opened, revealing six of Equestria's most valued possessions. The Wonderbolts, the many UNIT members, and soldiers of Equestria's regular military all awed as they tried to get a peak at the six pieces of jewelry collectively known as the Elements of Harmony.
"Captain Spitfire?" asked Twilight, "When did that happen?"
Captain Spitfire shrugged. "About the same time you became a captain?"
"Oh, but I'm not really a-"
"You know how it is, one day you're the leader of an elite group of flyers, the next you're orchestrating a six-wave concussion Sonic Rainboom to bring down warships. Whatever, I'm still getting used to all this saluting." She saluted Twilight, who saluted in return.
Both ponies couldn't help but to burst out into fits of giggling. Twilight felt a surge of relief flow through her, even if for just this short moment. "And I used to be a pupil studying the magic of friendship. I guess we live in some pretty strange times."
"You can say that again cap'."
Alistar interrupted the idol conversation. "If you could, please focus. The game is in motion and our most vital pieces have yet to be accounted for. We have you my Lady Twilight, myself, UNIT, elements of the Equestrian military, the Wonderbolts, and the Elements of Harmony in play. Alas, it all accounts for very little without Torchwood, so, my dear Captain Sparkle, would you be so kind as to tell us just where the Hell your team is?"
"I don't believe this nonsense," cried out Rarity, clinging onto a struggling Fluttershy as she tried her best to keep herself and the unicorn from falling down the forty some odd stories of elevator shaft to the Torchwood Hub below, "who's idea was it to dig a hole this deep in the first place?"
This was the second time in as many weeks that the power had given out just as she was taking the elevator. How hard would it be really to put in some stairs instead? Or a slide? She would take a slide down, she'd be perfectly happy with a slide. Slides are fun, she wasn't adverse to having fun, even if it might dishevel her hair a tad. And she'd be perfectly ok taking the stairs up. Or perhaps somepony could put in an escalator. Yes, escalators were far superior. How absurd! thought the unicorn.
The panting Fluttershy swayed her weakening body from side to side. "Rar-Rarity, please don't move or I won't be to carry you for much longer."
Rarity gasped. "What are you implying? You're saying I'm fat aren't you? I am not fat! You can perhaps claim Pinkie Pie to be as such but definitely not a pony as slender -"
The feeling of the deathly free fall had by that point become a familiar one for Rarity. Fluttershy never had very strong wings, and as she flapped her wings to no avail, both ponies plummeted to what was clearly going to be their end. Rarity found it more annoying than anything else.
"Hey guys? What ya doin'?" asked Rainbow Dash, flying alongside both ponies as they continued plummeting.
"Oh nothing much," responded Fluttershy, "just coming back to base after performing surgery on the creature that came through the Rift. She's very sweet, even though Rarity doesn't like her."
"It's not that I don't like her, I just don't think you should keep getting attached to every weird creature you find!"
"I'm gonna call her BB! It's because her breath smells like barbeque sauce, but don't tell her that, she might be self-conscious about it. Oh, and now we're falling to our deaths. I guess I should work out my wings more…"
Dash took hold of both ponies, easily stopping their descent. "Come on Fluttershy, it's not like Rarity's Pinkie Pie or something, she's not that fat!"
"I am NOT fat!" screeched Rarity.
Dash disagreed, teasingly. "Ehh, I don't know Rare, it sorta feels like you've definitely gain a few pounds."
"Well, I never. You can let me go now, I'd rather go on plunging to my doom than continue being verbally abused in such a cruel manner. Next you'll be making fun of my mane. I just had it done too."
"Welcome back everypony," said Applejack as the trio landed safely, "you may have noticed a slight technical glitch on your way down. But don't none of you worry, Dash and I are workin' on it as fast as a whole wagon load of train-pullers. We'll get this ol' boat's power up again in no time."
A sudden bolt of lightning surged from Hub's center. All about them random sheets of scroll paper and pieces of debris flew up into the air as a current kicked up. It was like a storm had formed right in front of them. They all jumped back, shielding their eyes from the sparks that flew across the room like rabid parasprites, the flashes of pure white light were practically blinding.
"What's going on!" yelled Fluttershy. Wrapping her wings around her face and Rarity's, she tried her best to hide from the spectacle of light and sparks that were wreaking havoc about them. She peaked through the feathers of her wing, watching as something moved within the light. It was impossible, a trick of her eyes and nothing more, it couldn't possibly be anything other than that. Despite her doubt, she still believed she could make out the shape of pony ears and a pony mane, and pony legs, at least 3 ponies to be exact, all within the center of that unexplainable torrent of thunder and light. As quickly as it had started it was gone, leaving behind traces of black soot where the lightning bolts had struck and a mess of papers that gently swayed back to the ground.
"What was that!" asked Rarity.
"Uh, swamp gas?" suggested Applejack.
"We're gone a few hours and this whole place turns into a lightning factory. Applejack, darling, you're almost as incorrigible as Dash is."
"I take it that ain't a compliment," said Applejack, not particularly insulted, "after this mess is sorted you can call me whatever you want, but right now we got an emergency. We need to evacuate Torchwood right now."
"Angel!" screamed Fluttershy, "I have to get Angel. I have to keep him safe, and it's so dark, he doesn't like the dark! The Weevils, we can't just leave them behind, I promised!" She galloped out the room and down one of the corridors.
"Fluttershy came back!" shouted Applejack, just shy of chasing after her. "What in Sam Hill was that about? And ain't Angel her pet rabbit? Ain't he dead?"
Rarity shook her head. "I-I-"
"Fine, nevermind her. Rainbow Dash, take Rarity back up the elevator shaft and see if you two can figure a way to get that entrance open."
Rarity shook her head. "That book case is five inches of solid steel and weighs several tons. And it's protected by Princess Celestia's magic. I'm no Twilight Sparkle, I really doubt I could make it move regardless of what spell I use."
"You're gonna have to try. I'll keep tryin' to get the lights back on down here."
"What about Fluttershy?" asked Dash.
"Worry about her later, you got your orders. Go!"
Fluttershy slammed her side against the brig door. That hurt far more than she had expected. She tried again, ignoring the pain. It wouldn't budge. She could hear them, the Weevils, she could hear their howls in the darkness on the other side of that infernal door. They knew something was coming, and it was something bad, something horrible.
The blowtorch! she said to herself. Applejack had brought in a blowtorch a few weeks back. If she couldn't open the door, then burning an opening through it was the only other option. "Angel, honey, I'm right here, don't be scared. I'm not going to lose you, not this time."
Luna could see the planet from atop the barren body she sat upon. It was quiet on the moon, and it was lonely, and so very cold. Her sister's charge, that bright sun, was on the other side of that living planet. Subsequently it was dark, but that had never bothered the younger princess, after all it was nothing more than the absence of light. In many ways she was more comfortable in the dark than anywhere else.
It was the isolation, that crippling knowledge that every pony on that planet had forgotten about her, that was what caused her the most pain. For a millennia it would tear at her soul, would leave her an empty shell, and had turned her into a mockery of the living. At best she had been reduced to a fairy tale, and at worst she was a bad memory repressed, a horror wiped clean from Equestria's consciousness. From her consciousness. From her conscience. The sun's rays barely peaked from around that happy planet.
There had been a fight, one she had lost. She was effectively dead then, wasn't she? It felt like death at least. There was a wound somewhere on her body, some puncture that stung her in waves. It was pain, but at least it was of the flesh. Her body felt numb, though perhaps that was simply a consequence of having her spine severed.
If she was dead than it didn't matter what she felt, this Luna pondered. Perhaps, when compared to everything else, that was the most frightening part of all. What did pain matter on that little dead rock in space with its lone dead body, orbiting a living planet full of life? One thousand years of unending loneliness and counting. An eternity of death.
Something moved in the darkness. Something always did. For a very long time it had been her companion. It was the part of her that had kept her sane, the part that had helped fuel her rage, that had sworn revenge on her sister and on Equestria. That part of her had become the closest thing to a friend she would have for a very long time. She had let herself become one with her own rage, had been swallowed up by her own blackness. At some point, on that rock, she had changed. She didn't just know that something was moving in the darkness, she had become that darkness.
She wasn't any of that anymore. It had been stripped from her. What was left couldn't feel Rage anymore. It was only its vestiges, guilt and remorse, that echoed as a specter of what had once been there. The rest was Love and her many children. Was that death then?
In the darkness something moved, and it wasn't herself. Behind her Princess Luna heard the rustling of a giggling pony as she pushed or pulled at something while whispering nonsense. The princess opened her eyes, and found that she couldn't move.
"You're being a very bad rock," said Pinkie Pie, "Selene will not be pleased. She wants all her friends to be at the party, and it would be terrible if you didn't show up. You don't want to hurt her feelings do you?"
"No," replied Pinkie Pie, clearly pretending to be the rock, "I wouldn't want to hurt my sister's feelings."
Oh dear Celestia that pony has gone insane, said Luna to herself. "Pinkie Pie, my little pony, it is we- I mean, it's me, your princess."
Pinkie didn't turn around to address Luna. "Oh, hello Missus Selene! You're not supposed to be here yet, it's a surprise party! Oh well, SURPRISE!"
Well, that was rather disturbing. "We art verily surprised… now Pinkie… look behind thee."
A bouquet of flowers dropped from her mouth. She remained silent for a long while, as if deep in thought. "Why would I want to look behind me Missus Selene?"
Luna grunted. She didn't have time for this. "We are not a fucking rock you psycho, turn around."
"I-I-," a shaking Pinkie sputtered out. Luna now noticed Pinkie's oddly flat hair. Had she come into the cave with a new manestyle?
"But," the pink mare continued, "there was an accident on the farm and you got sick. A filly got called in and she didn't do any work at all! That's OK though, because I'm used to lots of work and being alone on the rock farm. Only, I'm not. There was a rainbow. There was a fire? But that's not right.… something changed. We're not on the rock farm anymore, are we?" Pinkie Pie turned around finally, her eyes terrified and frozen as they locked onto the bloodied body of the motionless Princess Luna. The little mare bit at her lower lip. "Where are we?"
"Please, try to get a hold of yourself," Luna said, trying her best not to slip into the old Equestrian tongue, "because a lot of ponies are in danger. As an operative of Torchwood and a subject of the crown I order you to follow my commands. Do you understand?"
Pinkie thought about those words. "Torch… wood… I'm Torchwood. For princess and country, we serve the crown. For our friends. For the future. Yes… your Majesty."
"Good, I know it's a bit of a shock seeing me th-"
The pony pounced on the princess, hugging her so tightly she was practically crushing Luna's motionless body. Pinkie's flat mane puffed up the instant she smiled. "YOU'RE ALIVE! This is the greatest day ever! OhmygoshIsawyouandIdidn't'syourbirthdayI'llthrowyo uaparty," the pony inhaled her deepest, "andwecancheckoutthe -"
"Pinkie!" the princess interrupted with a giggle, "I'm happy to see you too."
She gasped. "You are? I'm so happy, I was worried we weren't friends anymore because- because- but this really is the best day ever! Wait, it's not, but it got a whole lot better!"
Pinkie Pie had always been the most earnest of all the ponies she had met since her turn to good. Her sincerity made her feel a bit flustered. "Thank you Pinkie, you've always been very good at making me smile."
The princess observed Pinkie Pie's physical state. She wasn't faring much better than she was. Poor filly. But Pinkie Pie smiled anyway, as if the cuts and bruises meant nothing. "You've always needed a smile the most," the pink pony said.
Luna blushed. "Anyway, I need you to do something for me, as an operative of Torchwood, as a subject of the crown, and as my friend?"
"Oh? Of course my favoritist princess, what can I do for you? Oh, here's a bouquet!" She picked up the bouquet of glowing blue flowers and lay them onto her forelegs. Luna recognized them immediately.
"Anthousais? I remember these, I made them myself from moonlight and stardust. They were for my sister, so very long ago. Anyway, I just need you to snap my neck back in place."
Pinkie Pie giggled. "Oh Luna, you're so morbid-sordid. Leave the jokes to me okie-dokey? So, really, what do you want me to do?"
Luna sighed. "Pinkie, I'm serious."
The pink pony began to whimper. "That's not funny…"
"I'm paralyzed. When everything in my necked healed up my spine wasn't aligned right. I can't feel anything from my neck down. I may be immortal but I'm not invulnerable. I need you to reset it. I'd do it myself only… I can't move."
"But, won't that kill you?"
Luna tried to smile, even as she winced. "Yeah, I imagine it will. But I'll be back, and quickly, there won't be as much to heal this time around."
Nervously stroking the alicorn's mane, Pinkie laid Luna's head on her lap. The little butterflies continued to hang around them both, their glow accentuating the dried blood on Luna's blue fur. Pinkie's own coat was thick with the odor of dried blood. She felt herself shiver. "I don't think I can."
"I'm not really going to die, it's more like, a short nap."
Pinkie hardly seemed relieved. The princess gazed up at the scared pony. "I'll tell you what Pinkie, once we get out of here, you can throw me a big party, as big as you want. Like, bigger than the one you threw for me after you helped save me from myself. You have a reputation for being a great party planner. The best."
With shaking hoofs, Pinkie Pie took hold of Luna's head. "I do. I guess I am."
Luna, smiling warmly, shut her eyes. "Good, I've never been a party filly. Sis told me about the time you and your friends went to the Gala. It was the one I didn't attend, because I was still getting used to present day Equestria, but she said it was her favorite; you girls practically brought the palace down. Really, we'll go together this year, just like you want. Sound good?"
The neck snapped into place. Luna let out a loud, short neigh in protest, followed by the silence of her once again lifeless body. Pinkie continued to shake, the pony holding back the tears that welled in her eyes. She wanted to speak, to keep the silence away. She couldn't. The pink pony clung to the motionless body. She laid her head against Luna's blood matted, clumped mane. It had lost its glowing azure luster and had reverted to its cyan color, but she still thought it pretty and soft. Surrounded by rock and the dim glow of flowers and butterflies, Pinkie Pie waited for the princess to awaken.
"All right fillies and gentlecolts," announced Commander Trixie to the assembled group, some UNIT, some regular soldier ponies, "Torchwood mess up big time, what a shocker. I on the other hand, do not pride myself on looking like a foal. UNIT pegasi, maintain the perimeter and don't let anything tin-hoofed leave this cave alive. Everypony else, to the princess!"
Dozens of UNIT ponies charged into the cave, the earth ponies charging in with dragon scale-tipped lances attached to their saddle harnesses while those without them pulled carts stacked with very large fireworks. Twilight had never seen anything like them before.
"You heard the commander," shouted Brigadier Alistar to the regular forces, "forward march, for princess and country!"
Twilight remained still, watching as the ponies charged in, ready to stop what had once been a little filly by any means necessary. Scootaloo, or whatever was left of her, was waiting for them. Was this it then? Would a new age of steel begin tonight, with the lowering of the sun, and ushered in by a child who at one point had wanted nothing more than to discover her special talent?
"There's nothing you can do for them out here," said Brigadier Alistar, standing beside Twilight, "for whatever reason your base is in lockdown. We have unicorns working on trying to get through the front door as we speak. In the meantime, you still have a duty to rescue both the princess and your missing operative."
"And Scootaloo?" she asked.
Alistar shook his head. "Forward march Captain Sparkle."
Wiping a tear from her eye, she charged in with Brigadier Alistar by her side. The sun was still above the horizon as she lost sight of its rays. "I saw Scootaloo in action," she said to Alistar, who, for an older colt, could still gallop at an impressive pace. "Scoots, she blocked and repelled everything the princess could throw at her. And she was so fast, I couldn't even concentrate long enough to cast a single thing."
Alistar pointed out the carts of fireworks the earth ponies were pulling. "Hardily an issue my Lady, that's what the rockets are for. Quite remarkable devices really, designed by UNIT, they're essentially a more powerful version of simple fireworks. Instead of using them for jolly decoration and jovial celebration we'll be firing them at the Cybermare. I say, we won't be going into battle with bows and arrows, pies and apples this time around. The Western Frontier this certainly is not."
Fireworks as a weapon? Toys had been redesigned to kill. Something about it bothered her deeply.
The pony force stopped at the first split of the main tunnel. A small party had been sent ahead to scout an hour before. This was where they were supposed to have stationed themselves. A checkpoint had been set up, but the ponies set to guard it, where were they? There was a dandelion sandwich on a table, yet to be eaten. A chair had been turned over. Sandbags had yet to be positioned correctly. And there was an awful odor in the air, lingering heavily in that long tunnel. It was a scent Twilight had long become familiar with.
"Wintergreen, Orion Heart, report your status!" cried out Trixie. There was silence. The unicorns lit the tunnel with the glowing of lavender, blue, yellow, red and every other conceivable color in the light spectrum. Torches were lit. There was no trace of the missing ponies.
There was a sound. Something was scraping across jagged rock, out of the reach of the torches and unicorn horn light. The clop of slow moving pony hoofs reverberated throughout the confines of the cave, growing louder with each step. A few ponies quivered in fear. Twilight, her horn alight, motioned the other ponies to stay back, and with a gulp, she began to walk towards the source of the scraping sounds. She stopped, gasping as she made out the silhouette of something slowly approaching.
A yellow unicorn stepped into the light, dragging a broken, bloodied leg behind her, her eyes barely open, her breathing labored. Her skin and fur had been slashed and torn at, and there was a streak of red running down her face, pouring from a wound where her horn should have been.
"Merry Gold," whispered several ponies.
"Oh dear Celestia," Twilight Sparkle uttered, "Scootaloo, no."
Twilight darted forward, taking Merry Gold unto her back just as the wounded pony fainted. Two medical ponies galloped towards her and took the wounded pony from her. As the two ponies carried the injured pony away, Twilight heard the hard hoof steps of metal against dirt. Twilight teleported, barely avoiding the Cybermare's lunge and the piercing strike of its bloody horn.
"Great show Twilight!" said Alistar as she teleported next to him, "you truly are a young mare of the highest caliber."
"There it is," shouted a terrified Trixie, "all unicorns: ready, aim, cast!"
Twilight wanted to try and save Scootaloo, she really did. Nopony cared who that machine monstrosity had once been. Alistar didn't care, and neither did Trixie. Could the Cybermare survive the magic of so many unicorns, or the firepower of those rockets? Twilight didn't know, but, as she aimed her own horn, she felt something strange, an emotion she had never felt before. Ignoring the turmoil in her heart, she began to cast the most powerful spell she knew.
Or at least she tried to. She tried harder, concentrating harder than she ever had before. Maybe it was the pain, her body was still aching from her first fight with the Cybermare. Maybe it was the worry of losing Pinkie Pie, or the knowledge that she had abandoned a princess. Maybe it was because she knew who was behind the soulless metal mask. It could've been a hundred fears and concerns and worries that kept her magic at bay. But that wasn't true. It stung her heart, pointing her horn at a friend with the desire to kill. But that was the thing, she was perfectly willing to, because it was her duty to. She was going to kill Scootaloo, and there was nothing else to it. Despite the coldness of that acknowledgement, and even though she was ready to, she just couldn't.
None of the unicorns could. The earth ponies and pegasi waited on the unicorn ponies, expecting beams and blasts and butterflies and rainbows to be cast forth from their horns. The unicorns looked at one another in confused dismay. "I-I can't do it!" screamed out one pony.
Trixie couldn't believe it either. "Mutiny, all of you!" she shrieked, moving among the confounded lines. Trixie had taken great pride in defeating a Cyberman during the war, she had even taken down a Dalek. Pointing her horn at the Cybermare, she was confident she could take that abomination down too. "Well fine, leave it to the Great and Powerful Trixie to save the day once again!"
She tried to cast a spell. Only, she couldn't either, no matter how hard she tried. The shocked unicorn began to tremble. "I- I- don't understand."
"Resistance will not be tolerated," growled the blood stained monster. "You will all submit to conversion or you will be deleted."
"Fire the rockets!" ordered Alistar.
The earth ponies, with their torches attached to their saddles, struggled to move their flames to the rocket fuses mere inches away. "I can't!" cried out an earth pony.
"I can't either," said another, the mare unsure of even why.
"What do you mean you can't?" shouted Alistar. "You're the best of Equestria's colts and mares. You're disobeying orders. Light the fuses! For the love of Celestia and Luna just move your damned flanks!"
A mare earth pony hopped about as if expecting to have been frozen in place. She hadn't been though, none of them had. She screamed out in frustration, "I can't sir, I'm sorry I don't know why, I just can't!"
The Cybermare rose its metal wings, its horn glowed red and silver. "Incompatibility of rogue elements established. The future of the Cybermare Empire will exclude you commencing maximum deletion." The Cybermare directed its horn at the rockets.
"Oh dear Gods," whispered Twilight.
They exploded with a tremendous force, sending ponies flying in all directions. Bodies, some dead and some still alive, bounced off rock or landed on other ponies. A single rocket launched into a crack in the cavern ceiling and exploded, crushing several ponies under the debris of a collapsing tunnel. More ponies slammed their weight against the newly formed wall. It wouldn't budge. They were trapped.
The earth ponies armed with the dragon-scale tipped lances charged at the Cybermare. All of them stopped with hoofs scrapping against rock just as their lance tips inched close enough to almost scratch its armored chest. The confusion in their eyes quickly turned to fear. The Cybermare cast another spell, transmuting them into birds and rabbits and squirrels, and then quickly torched them all with magical white flame till they were nothing but scattered ash. It stabbed an attacking pegasus through a wing and pierced his skull, killing him instantly. It threw the body off its now feather covered horn and at another attacker. The Cybermare continued, stomping directly behind a group of ponies desperately trying to dig through the cave-in. From its chest a Cybermen death ray emerged. It fired the weapon, killing them all as they screamed in pure agony.
"Delete. Delete. Delete."
Twilight grunted as she got back to her feet. The screams and moans of the wounded and dying were almost drowned out by the ringing in her ears. Her head burned with pain. Where was Alistar, and what happened to Trixie? A unicorn colt dropped beside her, screaming as the Cybermare shot him with its death ray. The UNIT beret didn't drop off his head as he fell dead.
"Scootaloo!" screamed Twilight. Before the Cybermare could fire a spell at another terrified colt, Twilight charged in front of it, waving her fore legs in the air. "Scootaloo, stop, please, stop! It's me, Twilight Sparkle! Remember me, I'm your friend! Remember who you are, remember who you used to be!"
It stopped for a single moment, glaring down with wire-mesh sockets for eyes at the violet pony. "Those names are irrelevant." The horn began to glow once again.
Twilight's horn flared the moment she pointed it at the ceiling. She cast her spell, burying Scootaloo, whatever was left of Scootaloo, under an avalanche of rock and dirt.
"I'm so sorry," she panted out. She looked around her. She found Brigadier Alistar, whether unconscious or dead she wasn't sure. There were so many wounded, groaning and wailing in agony. So many were already dead. Ponies hid under the broken carts, trembling in fear. A small group tried to move the rock wall out of the way but to no avail.
"Captain Sparkle," asked a scared purple mare with a gash across her face, "what do we do?"
Under the Cybermare's would-be tomb Twilight could hear drilling. It wasn't enough then, thought Twilight. The rocks would slow it down, but not for long. Something had stopped them from attacking the Cybermare, something she didn't understand. Brute force wasn't going to do the trick, that much was obvious. She needed to think, she needed a plan, fast.
Ok, what am I missing? wondered Twilight. Celestia my head, I can't think!
"Scootaloo went into the cave for flowers, but why? Scootaloo's a tomcolt, and tomcolts don't care about flowers, they like competition and showing off, so why bother? Unless it was for somepony that did like them." Twilight gasped. "That's it. She picked them for her."
"All right, everypony!" she shouted, firing off a spark and capturing the attention of all the panicking ponies, "this is Captain Twilight Sparkle, I'm getting us out of here right now!" With her magic she reversed the damage done to their exit. "All able-bodied ponies, pick up the dead and wounded and regroup outside the cave's entrance. Don't stop for anything and don't engage the Cybermare under any circumstances."
She spotted Trixie watching a dead unicorn being picked up and taken away by a couple of bloodied pegasi. Twilight ran over to her.
"Her name was Fire Song," whimpered out Trixie, "cause her hair was as red as fire. But she hated that color so she dyed it blue. She told me that, during an interview."
"Trixie, I need you to get up."
"She was so young, just fresh out of Canterlot University. The smartest mare in her class."
"We can't help her now. Brigadier Alistar is unconscious, or dead, I dunno! I need you to take charge."
"I picked her personally, because she reminded me of myself. Brash and bold, and cocky. I picked her…"
"Trixie, please, I'm sorry but get yourself together."
"Did you see what it did to Merry Gold? I sent her to scout. That's my fault. If she dies it's my fault. I killed Merry Gold."
"Trixie!" she yelled, taking hold of the blue unicorn and pulling her close. She hugging her, as tightly as she could. "Please, Trixie. I need your help."
"Twilight. I mean, captain." A set of tears ran down Trixie's eyes. She wiped them away. "I have to take charge. Yes m'am."
Twilight let go. "Thank you."
Despite the agony of her aching head Twilight conjured enough magic to teleport herself out of the cave.
"Captain Spitfire!" screamed out Twilight amidst the dozens of pegasi guarding the cave entrance, all clearly distressed. The sounds of the massacre within that cave must have been horrific. She panted as the ache in her head grew worse with each breath.
"Yes m'am!" Spitfire said immediately upon swooping down to the ground, flanked by Soarin and Fleetfoot.
"I need you to take me somewhere," panted Twilight, "right now."
Twilight was approaching; the darkness of the setting sun was obscured by the perennially unparted clouds. Twilight Sparkle, lying not far from the cave's entrance, could hear the machine's lone march, unabated and uncontested. She remained lying on the soft blades of grass for a moment longer. The UNIT and the military were off a short distance away. They would watch her die, or watch her pull off a miracle.
"Stay back," commanded Trixie, "all forces, stay back." There was blood on her cape and coat, though who's it was she didn't know. It wasn't hers, she had managed to avoid injury. So many others hadn't. Twilight, she said to herself, holding back her tears, you better not die on me.
There it was, past the cave's opening, with wings spread wide open, like it was ready to take off. The Cybermare was finally free.
Twilight seated herself. "Scootaloo," she said as the Cybermare marched towards her, "I want to believe that a little bit of your spirit is still in that shell somewhere, struggling to get out. So, before you try to upgrade or kill me, let's just talk, filly to filly."
It stopped in front of her, its expressionless face pointed down at her. "Scootaloo is an obsolete identification. Biologically only her brain and a small percentage of her nervous connective tissue still resides within this chassis. The rest has been improved. She is better now. And as a Cybermare so would you. I do remember you Twilight Sparkle, the young pony who moved to Ponyville from Canterlot. The pony that saved Equestria from the night and from the discord. Fearful, arrogant, uncertain, insecure, emotional, inferior in magical talent, lacking flight capability, all this characterizes you, all this characterizes all of ponykind as a collective species. Earth, unicorn, pegasus, mare, colt, all are inferior to one another in one way or another, all are unequal. From this inequality there is pain. From the frailty of the flesh there is death and the suffering of loss. I can make the many the same, I can bring immortality. Ponykind believes in Harmony. I can bring true harmony. I can remove all pain from ponykind. I can remove your pain. I can save you."
That it didn't straight off kill her then and there was a victory in its own right. The tears rolled down Twilight's eyes. "Scootaloo, but what about happiness? And the joys of friendship? And those moments that define us? Like, you and Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle, together as the Cutie Mark Crusaders, journeying all over town in the name of finding your special talents and earning your cutie marks. I remember when you and your friends won that prize at that talent show. You were so close to figuring it out then. So close! But it didn't matter, because you were happy, and so were your friends. That was the important part, and it made the day you finally got your cutie mark all the more wonderful. Doesn't any of that matter? You think we're weak; don't tell me we're weak because of that, because of those moments."
"It is nothing more than sentimentality. Sentimentality is weakness. You are weak, as I once was."
Twilight shook her head. "I think you're wrong. Tell me Scoots, does love make us weak too? Love of family, of friends? How about the type of love that binds two ponies together in their shared bliss? I know you're still just a filly but, I think even you felt all those kinds of love."
"Love is irrelevant."
"Scootaloo?" asked a familiar voice.
Stepping out from behind Twilight, Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom approached the machine mare. Apple Bloom spoke again, forcing the tears back. "Scoots, hey, it's me, remember? Ya have to, we're friends. Yer my best fiend, I love ya. I know that matters to you, it's gotta."
The tears fell from Sweetie Belle's sorrowful eyes. "Scootaloo, I-I-"
It was silent for a moment as it examined the two fillies. The Cybermare tilted its head towards the crying Sweetie Belle. "Your pain is palpable. Do not cry. I will take away your suffering. I can make you like me."
Sweetie Belle shook her head. "No, I want the old you back!"
The Cybermare's wings began to lower. It was silent, as if in contemplation. "That is impossible," it responded. There was almost a hint of regret in its electronic voice.
"That's just the thing," Twilight said, smiling, "I don't think it is. Here, you went down into the cave for this," Twilight produced a flower, an anthousai, glowing brightly in the night sky. The Cybermare took it under its own magic. "Underneath all that metal, you're still a pony. I don't really know if we can change you back, but that doesn't change who you are. You're a pony Scoots, you always will be, and you will always have friends and family that will never stop loving you. I know I won't."
The machine pony lowered the flower till it was just above Sweetie Belle's horn. Carefully it slid the stem into her pink hair. The little unicorn burst into tears.
"Do not cry," it said, its metallic voice softening, "please, don't cry."
"Come back to us Scoots," said Apple Bloom, "whatever they did to you, it doesn't matter. Yer still a Cutie Mark Crusader, and yer still our friend."
Scootaloo's eyes met Apple Bloom's once more. Apple Bloom smiled. She turned back to Sweetie Belle, the agony in the unicorn filly's eyes so tragic that Twilight swore it must have burned at Scootaloo's metal heart. Something was different now, Twilight could tell. "Sweetie Belle?" Scootaloo asked.
"Scootaloo," Sweetie Belle whispered back, smiling despite her sadness.
She towered over Sweetie Belle, her shining, sleek body so very imposing and so very alien. And yet, in that moment, the way she held itself, the way she moved, and the way she looked at Sweetie Belle, it was as if the little pegasus pony was still there in that metal body. It was like Scootaloo was Scootaloo once more.
The sound of that single burst of magic rang loud in Twilight's ears. Twilight hadn't seen it coming, hadn't even accounted for it. Before she could react, before she could take the two fillies and cover their eyes, before she could find the time to regret her decision to put them all in harm's way, and before she could blame herself, Twilight could only watch as Scootaloo, whether she was happy or not, whether she was truly herself once more or not, fell forward, her wings stretching out in a futile reflex, the back of her head exploding and burning as the full force of a powerful spell struck her from behind. When she landed on the grass twitching and dead, Twilight looked up and saw at the entrance of the cave the Princess Luna, the mare panting, her horn smoking with the heat of the conjured spell, and to her side, a limping, blood and bruise covered Pinkie Pie, her eyes tearing up at the sight of Twilight's stunned expression.
The sun had gone down. It was the moon that lit the sky now. Twilight watched the Cybermare body being taken away by the Wonderbolts. "They won't remember," she said to Pinkie Pie. The pink pony was still crying and holding onto Twilight. "I'm going to administer the amnesia spell to Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom, that way they won't have to remember what they saw."
"But she's still dead," Pinkie choked out, "Scootaloo's still dead, and nothing's going to change that." Twilight stroked the mare's wild hair, careful not to touched the bruises and wounds on her body. "Twi, don't blame Luna. She didn't know."
The violet unicorn felt that strange emotion again, that horrible thing she couldn't quite place. Was it, a lack of feeling? But what kind of emotion was that for a pony to feel? "No, of course not. Collateral damage Pinkie Pie. Scoots was an unfortunate victim, but we stopped it from getting worse. That's all that matters."
"Collateral damage? What's that?"
She hugged her ailing friend, more for herself than for Pinkie. The ache was worse than ever. She could see it beginning, the emanations, much to her dismay. Pinkie saw it too, the dull glow of Twilight's eyes and scar.
"It's happening again," she said, nuzzling her cheek against Twilight's. The unicorn pulled away.
"No, I'm fine, it's nothing," she said, trotting away from Pinkie Pie, "Trixie's got things covered here, get yourself fixed up at the UNIT tent ok? I need to get back to Torchwood. I gotta find out what's going on with our friends!" She had things to do, memories to wipe, reports to file. But those things were a lie. She ran into the Everfree Forest.
"Twilight, that's not the way to Ponyville!" Pinkie shouted as she tried to follow, grunting each time she limped. "I'm not blind, everypony on the team knows." Pinkie Pie, with her wounded leg, desperately tried to keep up. "Wait, please, talk to us! Talk to me!"
Twilight Sparkle galloped manically and directionless. She galloped away from the cave, and from Trixie and her UNIT, from the Royal Forces and the unknown fate of their Brigadier Alistar, from Pinkie Pie and the princess, from the wounded, the dying, the dead, and from the two traumatized fillies only she alone could deal with. Most of all she wanted to run away from Torchwood and the ashes it had arisen from. That was impossible, even Twilight knew that; the war had been permanently slashed into her face. It was the scar of a warrior pony, a perverse cutie mark that signified something she had never wanted. That dark and endless night had tapped into something deep and elemental within her, it had exposed a raw power she never knew she had.
She couldn't escape it no matter how far or how long she ran. It was building, rising, the glow no longer a pulse but a beam growing ever brighter, flaring from her eyes and mouth and scar. Her body hovered off the ground, her legs were uselessly clawing at air. Terrified, she screamed, and felt the power blind her senses and take hold of her absolutely.
From her vantage point on the moon Luna watched something incredible occur. The planet's regular cloud formations were parted down a long, violet line, spreading far from north to south. It was a storm, brewing from an impossible source. "Oh dear sister," she said, awed at the power she felt flowing from the planet's surface.
In the forest Pinkie Pie saw the light spread out from Twilight's body. Her scream terrified her with its piercing sadness. Pinkie covered her ears and tried to approach her friend only to be thrown back by the gusts of wind whirling about her. The trees broke off from their roots, and land underneath cracked and crumbled. Lightning roared its thunder far above. Pinkie Pie wondered if the world was ending. And then, as suddenly as it had started, it stopped. Twilight, still hovering high in the air, began to slowly descend back to the forest below. The lost mare, dazed and confused, fell unconscious, collapsing into Pinkie Pie's awaiting hoofs.
There they were, three ponies in the middle of the Hub when before there had been none. Applejack watched the trio in amazement. The last surge had been the strongest yet, so powerful in fact that she truly had believed it was going to destroy the base and kill her in the process. And yet, when the surge ended, instead of her demise there was a blue pegasus colt, a magenta earth pony mare, and a light green unicorn mare in the middle of very trashed Hub.
"Holy fuck!" swore the magenta earth pony, collapsing on herself. She wore layers and layers of clothing that were both far too big and yet far too constricting for a pony to ever possibly fit into. "Jack, Tosh, somebody HELP! I'm surrounded by horses!"
The other mare stared at the other pony in a state of complete befuddlement. "What? Gwen?"
"Tosh? Gwen?" asked the pony dressed in an oversized navy blue coat. He looked at his hoofs as he also stretched out his wings.
"Jack? No!" cried out the pony named Gwen as she continued struggling in her strange clothing, "Bloody Hell what happened to you? What's happened to me? Why are we-"
"Why are we cute, strangely proportioned horses? Hmm, I can narrow it down to alien DNA splicing, body hijacking, or whatever it was I drank last night. That's strange, why am I suddenly craving for a slice of apple pie?"
"I'm pretty sure this isn't some strange hallucination," said the pony called Tosh, "I was on my computer, searching for additional correlations between the negative Rift spikes and potential Rift victims, and Owen had just left, and I saw you, and Gwen.. and then…"
"We were here," said Gwen, "Like this. Where ever here is. What the Hell is this place? Ho-"
The apple streaked right past Jack and smashed on the back of Gwen's head. "Hey, you three," cried out Applejack, now more annoyed than in awe at this point, "who the hay are you and how the hay did you get in here?"
Tosh, tripping on herself as she tried to check on the knocked out pony, squealed. "Oww. Jack, that horse is talking to us."
"Yeah, I noticed that. Hello, we come in peace? Also, stop lobbing apples at my friends. Nice shot though, wow. Also, what a cutie."
Applejack blushed. That quickly passed. "I stop lobbing apples when I get some answers. Who are you?"
The blue pony finally managed to removed his coat, and raising his head, answered, "The gal you just knocked out is Gwen Cooper. That's Toshiko Sato, and I'm Captain Jack Harkness. We're Torchwood."