HARPFLANK AND SWEETS

by Arcainum

Opening Titles

Metropony City! Mighty skyscrapers towering over the millions of ponies going about their lives on the streets below! Working, playing or just taking in the weather, Metropony bustles as only the big city can. But! All is not well in this equine metropolis! Below the streets lies a threat - a threat to the happiness and friendship of good ponies everywhere! And the name of that threat is Luna, the exiled Princess who has returned with vengeance in her eyes! With the aid of Her villainous helper Trixie and her army of terrible Lunatrons, She will stop at nothing to destroy the pony way of life! Standing against her, however, are two heroic mares, known only to the citizens of Metropony as...

HARPFLANK AND SWEETS: EPISODE 27 - ESCALATION

Scene 1

“My Lady Luna! It is finished! It is finished!

Trixie galloped down the dark grey metal hallway as fast as her legs could carry her, her starred cape and hat threatening to come off in her haste. She reached a huge bulkhead, ten ponies tall, and entered the password. She pranced impatiently as the impenetrable Reallyhardtofindium door worked its way through the various stages of hissing steam, slamming bars, spinning gears, flashing gauges, “Come oooooon, hurry up!”s and finally an ominous rumble as it swung open to reveal the inner sanctum.

“TRIXIE, LOYAL AND OCCASIONALLY USEFUL SERVANT! DO YOU BRING NEWS OF PROGRESS?”

Trixie winced as Luna’s Royal Supervillain Voice hit her like a steam train to the eardrums, but quickly recovered and trotted smugly to the base of the towering throne that held her mistress. She was used to Luna now, though the first time had been... inspiring.

The room she stood in was vast, several miles wide, and dark, with lamps scattered intermittently about vital areas. The impression was like that of the night sky, a black emptiness dotted with pinpricks of light. Largely hollow, it was crisscrossed with whirring conveyor belts, bubbling vats and creaking catwalks. On the belts, robotic monstrosities the size of houses. In the vats, creatures unknown to science or nature with powers from a nightmare. On the catwalks, thousands of loyal (or perhaps just stupid) henchponies working to further the goals of Luna’s conquest. And in the centre of it all, reclining on a diamond-studded black throne shaped like the crescent moon, was Luna Herself.

“My Lady, my latest creation is at last complete!”

Trixie was beaming now, her pride outweighing her irritation at Luna’s “occasionally useful”.

“EXCELLENT! HOW SOON UNTIL WE MAY USE IT TO FURTHER OUR PLANS TO DESTROY THIS FOALISH CITY?”

Luna joyful was a sight to behold, the stars in Her mane blazing and Her wings outstretched.

“I can leave within the hour, Mistress! The embassy will be ours!”

“PERFECT! YOU HAVE SERVED WELL, TRIXIE. COME, LAY YOURSELF AT YOUR PRINCESS’ HOOVES.”

Trixie glanced at the one thousand steps to Luna’s throne (one for every year of her imprisonment, She had once mentioned in a moment of reverie) and blanched slightly.

“Um, yes, you are most gracious, Mistress, but perhaps I should begin prepara-”

“NONSENSE, TRIXIE! FOR YOUR HARD WORK, I GIVE YOU THE GIFT OF MY PRESENCE!”

There was a moment of silence before Trixie sighed and began the long, long climb.

A few minutes later, she heaved herself up the final step and collapsed at the foot of Luna’s throne, gasping for breath. The majestic alicorn beamed down at her.

“YOUR DEVOTION PLEASES US GREATLY, TRIXIE! SUCCEED TODAY AND YOU SHALL NOT GO UNREWARDED! NOW, GO!”

Luna pointed a hoof at the vault door imperiously. Trixie lay for a moment, just glaring. Then she sighed a deep sigh that she had sighed a hundred times before and began the long, long descent.

Scene 2

Bon-Bon was in a good mood. She trotted along the busy street, occasionally glancing into the window of a popular boutique or interesting-looking restaurant, but never stopping. She had somewhere to be and she had already wasted enough time shopping. Eventually she reached the city’s central recreational park, Fluttershy Gardens. A pleasantly cool breeze rustled the trees, the sound of the leaves mingling with the laughter of children, the blaring of music and the calls of Metropony’s bizarrely varied pet collection.

She continued her stroll into the park, greeting the ponies she passed and dodging the odd renegade scooter. A few minutes’ walk into her walk, she reached her destination: an out-of-the-way bench situated in front of an old fountain. A bored-looking green unicorn with a white-striped mane and a lyre cutie mark was sitting in a most peculiar fashion looking bored, scanning the area for something. As Bon-Bon drew closer, the unicorn noticed her and called out, smiling.

“Bon-Bon! You took forever!

Bon-Bon smiled back and trotted to the bench. She settled down next to her friend, depositing her shopping saddlebags on the ground.

“Sorry Lyra, I was taking it easy. I went down Fashion Row and - Celestia - have you seen Hoity Toity’s new range?”

The look Lyra gave her expressed Lyra’s thoughts on Hoity Toity’s new range and, indeed, fashion of any kind better than words ever could.

“Ahem. Anyway. I figured today we could go to the new aquarium they’ve opened up. All the magazines are raving about it and it’s meant to have some super-rare fish worth” - She cast a conspiratorial glance about - “worth thousands of bits.”

Lyra raised an eyebrow at the emphasis.

“Thousands, huh? Might be worth keeping an eye on.” She shifted in her seat, resting one forehoof on the back of the bench. “You think maybe Lu-”

She was interrupted by a sharp tone from the shopping bags. Furrowing her brow, Bon-Bon rummaged inside them and, beneath the clothes, hats and magazines, found a small brown object. Half wrapped in paper, its cloud-like top bulged outwards in a way that could only be described as fluffy.

She lifted the object up carefully. “A muffin? I didn’t put this in my bag...” Without warning, the muffin burst open with a moist pop and a grey metal disc was revealed within. As the two ponies recoiled in surprise, a tiny door on the disc opened to reveal a lens, which began to emit blue light. The light quickly took the shape of a pegasus wearing formal military dress. Upon seeing the hologram and the bubbles cutie mark one could just about make out on the pegasus’ flank, they recovered themselves.

“Commander!” admonished Lyra petulantly. “Why always with the dead drops in our stuff?!”

The pegasus, whose eyes resolutely refused to point in the same direction, snapped a quick salute (hitting herself in the forehead and wincing in pain) and blatantly ignored her.

“Lyra, Bon-Bon, good to see you. Is your location secure?”

“Secure enough, Commander Derpy, but it’s a bit late now, isn’t it?” said Bon-Bon, still somewhat irritated at the intrusion into her shopping.

The commander stopped for a moment, obviously processing the fact that she’d just activated a top-secret hologram in the middle of a public park.

“...Excellent point, pony. That’s why you’re the best. And that’s why we need you!” The last was given a dramatic flourish with a tiny blue pointed hoof. “We’ve received intel that Luna is targeting the new aquarium and we need you to stop it. Some of the fish in there are worth millions of bits! Just imagine the chaos she could wreak with that kind of funding! Get back to base and you’ll be briefed in full. Derpy out!”

The pegasus gave another not-quite-right salute (nearly catching herself in the eye this time) and disappeared, the blue light winking out as swiftly as it had appeared. Lyra and Bon-Bon exchanged looks of resignation.

“Guess we’re going to that aquarium after all,” Lyra sighed.

Scene 3

The elevator sped downwards swiftly but smoothly, a low hum the only indication of movement. Bon-Bon studied the notes they’d been handed by a technician upon their entry to HQ while Lyra fidgeted in boredom. After a few minutes of silence, she groaned theatrically.

“Ugh, this elevator is so boring. It takes like, what, five minutes? That’s way too long.”

Bon-Bon didn’t look up. “Perhaps it would go faster if you read what you’re supposed to read.”

“Psh, I don’t need to read that prep stuff. I work better when I improvise.” Sniffing disdainfully at the papers she’d immediately tossed in the corner upon entering, Lyra continued to fidget until the elevator suddenly halted and the doors slid open with only the faintest sound.

The two ponies walked out into a hive of activity. Lab-coated ponies scurried back and forth along white corridors, ducking in and out of innumerable featureless doors while armoured stallions stood guard. Through bullet-proof glass windows one could see laboratories, armouries, training rooms, barracks... all the equipment and personnel needed to defend Metropony from the threat of Luna. As they strolled through the organised chaos, Lyra and Bon-Bon were occasionally greeted by wide-eyed and awestruck staff, with countless variations of “Oh Celestia, you’re...” following them. They dismissed these with casual greetings and pleas for everypony to be at ease until they at last reached the mercy of the Commander’s Quarters.

Bon-Bon pressed a hoof to the intercom and requested entry, stepping back as the reinforced door hissed open.

“Ah, just the ponies I was looking for! I’ve been expecting you.”

Commander Derpy, her grey colouring and blonde mane now visible without the filtering effects of a hologram, stood at her desk. Paperwork and muffins lay strewn across it in a ratio weighted heavily towards the latter; a computer terminal was its only other feature. The rest of the room was just as chaotic as the base outside, but without the underlying sense of purpose. Ornaments and furniture had been placed, apparently, wherever had been convenient at the time and numerous diplomas, medals and old photos covered the walls haphazardly, as if they had been thrown there.

“Yes, Commander. You sent for us,” said Bon-Bon in a carefully neutral tone, looking pointedly at the muffins on the desk as the door behind them closed automatically.

Derpy followed her gaze and coughed apologetically, sweeping the desk clear in a few hurried motions and improving the overall tidiness of the room precisely not at all.

“Yes, yes of course. Now, for the reason. That I sent for you. Which is why I was expecting you. Because I sent for you. For this reason.” The commander pressed a button on her computer and a projection flickered into life on the one clear space of wall behind her. Featured was a picture of Former Princess Luna, laughing maniacally and rearing over an adorable cartoon representation of a city. “As you know, Luna is forever trying to destroy this wonderful city we call home. She will stop at nothing to destroy the peace that Metropony has held for so long.”

Lyra rolled her eyes. “You’re right, we do know. You tell us at least once a week. We fight her at least once a week.”

Ignoring her again but huffing slightly, Derpy continued, the projection changing to what could only be the new aquarium. It was an impressive building, made almost entirely out of magically-reinforced glass and at least five stories tall.

“Now, to the general public this is just a brand new aquarium, albeit a particularly impressive one. But what the general public do not know is that it is also an embassy for the sea poni-”

Before she could finish the word ‘ponies’, a yelp from Lyra cut her short. Bon-Bon jammed a hoof into her friend’s mouth and smiled sweetly, speaking over Lyra’s muffled protests.

“Ignore my partner, Commander. Please, do continue.”

Derpy blinked, then rallied from the interruption. “Uh, right. Yes. It is also an embassy for the sea ponies, who are donating generously to the city in return for protection against Luna’s undersea operations. I think you understand how important it is that this aquarium stay safe. I’m led to believe you had to plans to visit anyway. I want that visit to become a full-on undercover patrol. Stay ready, stay alert, but don’t give anything away. You’re just two mares enjoying a day of looking at the fish.”

Bon-Bon saluted with her free forehoof. “Roger that, Commander. We’re on our way. Should we drop in on ExTech before we deploy?”

As the commander nodded and returned the salute (causing the terminal’s monitor to wobble dangerously) she turned to leave, dragging a still-protesting Lyra out of the door. Just before the door closed behind them, Derpy could hear Lyra’s vehement protests. “Sea ponies! You said never again with the sea po-

Scene 4

“Bon-Bon! Lyra! My two favourite ponies!”

As the duo entered the laboratory, Lyra trailing sullenly behind, they were greeted by a white unicorn with a shocking two-tone blue mane wearing purple-tinted goggles. It seemed she had been liberally applying a blowtorch to some arcane contrivance with her magic before they entered.

“Hey, Vinyl. What do you have for us today?” The unicorn pushed up her goggles and put down the blowtorch, trotting over with a wide grin on her grime-smeared face.

“Oh man, have I been making beautiful technological music for you two! Me and Tavi have got something that’s going to blow your minds.”

Bon-Bon looked around Vinyl Scratch’s lab, wondering what the unicorn and her cohorts could possibly come up with that was more...well, more anything than what they usually turned out. Experimental Technology was the organisation’s bleeding-edge branch: the place where the most innovative, ingenious and usually dangerous technology in Metropony was produced. Its only rivals were Luna’s vast and terrible magical factories, in which she produced her thousands of deadly Lunatrons.

This particular room was larger than the other laboratories on the base and cluttered with piles of magical technology that only Vinyl could ever hope to understand. Numerous assistants bustled about in the more open spaces, testing contraptions at various stages of completion. Here, a pony hovering a few feet above the ground in a makeshift jetpack, terror clear in her eyes as the gauges spun wildly. There, an experimental rifle reducing a practice dummy to ashes, along with the eyebrows and mane of the scientist firing it.

Before Bon-Bon could take in any more of the scene, Vinyl grabbed her and Lyra and guided them through a heavily-secured door (Vinyl had to scan her eye and hoof, put a lock of her mane into a glass receptacle and even sing a few bars before it opened) into the main office: the nerve centre of ExTech. Inside was a grey earth pony sitting elegantly at an array of terminals and screens that covered the entire wall. She glanced around as they entered.

“Ah, the terrible twosome. Come to destroy more of our work?”

Vinyl Scratch laughed brightly. “Ah, come on Tavi, you know it’s not their fault. If it weren’t for Trixie...” A brief hint of bitterness flashed across the unicorn’s face, replaced almost instantly with her usual smile. “Anyway, that’s not important. We need to show them The Things!”

Lyra surfaced from whatever depths the mention of sea ponies had taken her to, her eyes lighting up at the mention of the untold mysteries of ‘The Things’.

“The Things? What’s The Things? Show us The Things!” She rushed into the centre of the room, eager to witness what new marvel was about to enter the battle against Luna.

Vinyl grinned and turned to her partner. “Fire it up, babe.”

“Don’t call me babe.” Octavia went back to her computers, typing furiously as the screens blurred with data and Vinyl began to pull levers, press buttons and, at one point, pump bellows.

Seeing the two at work never ceased to amaze Bon-Bon. Vinyl Scratch was a mistress of the mechanical famed for her ability to build, upgrade or catastrophically destroy absolutely anything you could name and probably several things you couldn’t. Octavia, on the other hand, was queen of the digital. There was nothing she couldn’t hack, program or infiltrate. She wasn’t famed, because she never left a trace.

At last, Vinyl stood prepared by one final important-looking button and Octavia hit her final keystroke with a flourish, as though finishing Concerto For Computer Keyboard.

Vinyl’s grin widened. “Check this out.” With great ceremony, she pressed the button. A cunningly-hidden partition in the wall beside her slid out of view, revealing an alcove within that held...

“Barding? That’s it? You got us suits?” Lyra’s voice was simultaneously incredulous and disappointed. Hanging from the wall were two full-body suits made of what looked like plastic, one bright red and one a deep blue, with matching angular patterns picked out in white. Each suit had a heavy belt where saddlebags would lie and an oddly thick neckline. Lyra walked over to them and poked the blue one, an are-you-kidding-me look on her face. This look quickly evaporated as the suit began to flow up her foreleg, seeming to dissolve from the wall as it traveled along her outstretched limb. She squeaked in surprise, leaping back.

Vinyl’s smile, if possible, grew even wider, this time with smugness. “Not just any suits. Nanotech suits. I guess that one’s yours now. It’s bonded to you.”

Bon-Bon looked stunned, being quicker on the uptake than her partner, who was currently rolling around on the floor trying to get the blue suit to stop dressing her in itself. “Are you serious? Nanotech? That’s...amazing!”

“I know, right?” Vinyl was practically prancing with pride and glee now. “Each suit is one big colony of nanomachines with a central AI. They react to impacts dynamically, they repair themselves, they give us readouts on your vitals, they play music...These things even manufacture weapons on the fly! They are sweet, if I do say so myself. I made the nanos and Tavi wrote the program. This is gonna totally throw out our arms race with Trixie.”

With that, the effort the two specialists had put into the suits made a lot more sense. Equal to and sometimes surpassing their desire to defend Metropony from Luna was their desire to scientifically one-up Trixie, Luna’s most senior henchpony. It seemed that every time one side created something something so utterly crazy it couldn’t be topped, the other had been working on something equally insane and usually almost identical. It was getting to the point where the grunts would joke that the two organisations were sharing designs. But this was something new altogether.

There was a brief silence as Bon-Bon tentatively touched the red suit, letting it cover her, and Vinyl recovered from her gushing. Lyra, who had finally given up trying to disengage the clinging blue after hearing Vinyl’s explanation, picked herself up from the floor and looked at the suit that now hugged her body.

“So... can I take it off?”

Before Vinyl could answer, a distinctive klaxon sounded - a klaxon that meant only one thing. The four ponies’ eyes met, their expressions determined.

“Lunatron!”

Scene 5

Vinyl Scratch’s voice crackled in Bon-Bon’s ear as she and Lyra galloped across the rooftops, the new barding augmenting their strength and allowing them to hop, skip and jump the distances between buildings with ease.

“Okay, so at least your helmets work!”

As soon as the alert had sounded, Lyra and Bon-Bon had hustled to the emergency elevator that would take them to the surface in a matter of seconds. Before they left, Octavia had tapped some keys on her PDA and the suits had spread to cover their faces to form tight-fitting helmets in an extremely disconcerting fashion. They had also formed a slightly extruding black outline of their cutie marks where their faces would be. Even Bon-Bon had had to admit, though never aloud, that it was pretty cool.

“I’d hoped to get some proper testing in first, but I guess the field is the best stress-test, huh? Just try and come back in one piece; Redheart’ll have my flank if you’re injured again. Anyways, now that I know the comms work, I’m putting Tavi on for mission support. Always rooting for you guys!”

Her loud voice cut out and was replaced by the dulcet tones of Octavia.

“Bon-Bon, Lyra. Mission objectives: Protect the aquarium, destroy the Lunatron. Simple enough. Civilian reports indicate Lunatron is armed with plasma weaponry. Situation has been described as ‘the horror, the horror.’ Good luck.” Succinct as ever. The transmission cut in a buzz of static.

Lyra shouted over the rush of wind as they bounded towards the objective. “You ready for this, BB?”

Bon-Bon smiled and opened her mouth to respond, noting with relief that the nanomachines didn’t extend to inside her mouth. “When am I not? Let’s go save Metropony!”

The two laughed. Though neither of them would ever care to admit it, they loved their job. They kept running.

Scene 6

Rose cowered under the clumps of masonry that balanced precariously between two fallen pillars. Dust and ash covered her mane and coat, their usual red and cream almost invisible beneath the grey. Even her vivid rose cutie mark was obscured. Above her, all was noise and confusion. The screams of ponies and the roar of the crumbling district were drowned out by regular blasts of crackling thunder and a familiar voice, magically- and technologically-amplified to deafening levels.

“Gaze, feeble ponies, on your robotic doom! For I, The Great and Powerful Trixie, have come to destroy your pathetic temple of fish in the name of Luna!”

She’d just been going about her day talking with Daisy and Lily as usual, when suddenly something huge and metal had burst from the ground, scattering ponies and buildings alike. She hadn’t had much chance to examine it as she had fled. She’d lost her friends in the crowds, too, but she was confident they would be okay. Though Lily had a tendency to faint, Daisy would get her to safety all right. She always did. Every time this happened. Every week.

Rose could still hear Trixie laughing over the destruction.

“Are there none who dare defy the might of The Great and Powerful TrixAAAH!”

There was a kaboom that shook what was left of the surroundings, dislodging the slabs that formed the roof of Rose’s hiding place. She squeaked in fright and scurried into the open. Clear of her collapsing hideaway, she took stock of the situation. Around her, rubble and smashed glass. Above her, a towering metal pony, its head cresting the tops of the office blocks that it was currently destroying.

And there, on the roof of a nearby skyscraper, level with the head of the mechanical monstrosity, silhouetted against the gleaming sun...

“Harpflank and Sweets!” Rose exclaimed, before admonishing herself for being surprised. The mysterious ponies were always there when one of Trixie’s creations ran rampant, appearing from nowhere to save the day and disappearing as quickly as they had come. Their only identifiers were their cutie marks: a lyre and a trio of wrapped sweets.

Two ponies. Two saviours. Two heroes. Also one rocket launcher.

Scene 7

“Trixie, your reign of terror ends now!...Again!”

Lyra’s voice echoed through her helmet’s voice enhancer as she reared with what Bon-Bon considered unnecessary drama. The weapon attached to her back threatened to topple her and Bon-Bon pushed her back onto all four legs with one hoof, not as confident as her partner. This was the largest Lunatron Trixie had ever fielded, dwarfing her previous efforts by hundreds of feet. Like the suits, this was something new.

“Harpflank and Sweets! Curse you and your meddling! Never mind! This time, you shall not be successful! Even you shall tremble before the awesome power of the Lunatron 8000 Mega-X Gamma Special - Trixie Custom!”

The giant metallic pony brought a giant metallic hoof up to smash at the rooftop where the two ponies stood, but they were too fast for the lumbering machine and had already leapt to the next building.

The Lunatron’s head, however, followed them with alarming speed and two lances of superheated plasma burst from its eyes, drawing lines of fire behind the two galloping heroes. Lyra jumped, spinning in the air and firing another rocket at the face of Trixie’s creation. The explosion shattered its left eye, causing one of the beams to evaporate.

Lyra landed unsteadily, almost tripping, but righting herself before the next roof-to-roof leap. The other beam of plasma began to slow, then disappear. If Trixie’s muffled curses were anything to go by, the destruction of the left eye’s weapon was giving the Lunatron power-problems.

With a triumphant exclamation, Trixie switched to more conventional weaponry. A flurry of missiles erupted from the Lunatron’s flanks, darting towards Lyra and Bon-Bon like a school of explosive, jet-powered fish.

Still running, Bon-Bon pulled a chaff grenade from her utility saddlebag and threw it behind them, Lyra pulling the pin magically. The flash of guidance-scrambling chaff caused the missiles to veer wildly, some even turning back on the machine that had fired them, the rest crashing harmlessly to the ground.

“Gah! Confound your gadgetry! Why can’t I hit you?! You’ve never been this fast before! No matter! Now you are trapped, foolish ponies!”

Bon-Bon looked around quickly and gasped as she realised that Trixie had used the beams and missiles to herd them onto an isolated rooftop, the buildings around which were already reduced to rubble by Trixie’s calamitous machinations. The Lunatron lifted both forehooves, ready to crush the structure and the two ponies on it into a fine paste. A voice suddenly sounded within Bon-Bon’s helmet.

“Bon-Bon! The nanomachines! Think ‘defense’ REALLY HARD! Trust me!” Following Vinyl’s instruction and panicking only slightly, Bon-Bon closed her eyes and concentrated as hard as she could on not dying at this particular moment in time, if that was okay with everypony. Lyra was shouting something in her direction, presumably trying to get her to move, but Bon-Bon trusted in the unicorn mechanic’s judgement. She had never let them down before. Lyra was screaming at her, torn between risking the jump from the rooftop and dying with her apparently suicidal friend. The Lunatron’s hooves came crashing down.

Scene 8

There was a terrible silence. The Lunatron stood, hooves embedded in the roof of the huge structure. Trixie cackled, her laughter rich with triumph.

“At last! At last! Trixie finally wins! With this victory, Luna’s empire may...”

Her voice trailed off as the smoke began to clear. Bon-Bon opened her eyes, very slowly, just in case she was dead and wouldn’t like what she was about to see. Above her was the Lunatron, still rearing above the city. But between her and the mechanical monster was a strange haze that hurt to look at, as if reality itself was slightly out of focus. Vinyl whooped in her ear.

“Yes! It worked! I am SO GOOD! Who thought large-scale gravity manipulation could be applied on a small-scale basis? I thought large-scale gravity manipulation could be applied on a small-scale basis, that’s who! Repulsion field is a SUCCESS!”

As Vinyl cheered her own genius, Trixie’s voice gathered itself, and the Lunatron began to shift, its self-repair mechanisms having compensated for the shock that being stopped dead had given its systems.

“Hmph! So you’ve learned some new tricks! Well, that will do you no good, for the Lunatron 8000 Mega-X Gamma Special - Trixie Custom has tricks of its own!”

At this, the Lunatron settled back onto all four hooves and began to emit a terrible high-pitched whine, appearing to brace itself against some imaginary impact. Bon-Bon interrupted Vinyl’s self-congratulatory spiel as the Lunatron’s head began to open like a flower, revealing what was easily the second-largest cannon either she or Lyra had ever seen.

“Um, Vinyl, I don’t mean to sound impatient but, uh-”

Vinyl caught herself and coughed. “Oh, cannon, right. No problem. Lyra, stand next to Bon-Bon. After that, I want both of you to say ‘Cello on.’”

There was a pause, the piercing sound from the Lunatron growing ever louder. A pinprick of light had appeared in the depths of the cannon’s barrel now and the sound was almost painful.

“Do what?” Lyra’s voice could have cut stone.

“‘Cello on.’ Seriously, just do it. And, uh, try not to be too surprised. We didn’t have time to replace the placeholders.”

The two ponies met each others’ gaze as best as they were able in the face-covering helmets. Vinyl really had never let them down before... Wordlessly, they stood next to each other. Lyra shrugged.

“Cello on.”

The two ponies gasped as though struck. The nanomachines that formed their battle suits felt like they were on fire, and with alarm Bon-Bon realised that they were glowing with energy. Jerking in pain but somehow unharmed, she staggered to her partner and tried to keep them both upright.

As they leaned into each other, the suits began to writhe and bulge. They were replicating. The bulges broke free, the red and blue twisting together to form one mass of writhing grey metal that quickly began to grow. And grow. And grow.

Within moments, the tiny machines had replicated to such an extent that they dwarfed the building they had grown from. The form they had assumed came loose, and the suits cooled, returning to their original colour. Pain subsiding, the two ponies looked up, rendered speechless by shock and sheer disbelief.

“Like I said, still a placeholder program.”

Hovering above them was a cello. A huge, enormous, gigantic cello. Easily the size of the Lunatron they faced, it hung in the air suspended by whatever mix of magic and technology that had powered Bon-Bon’s repulsor field.

Trixie’s voice echoed what everypony was thinking, mocking but tinged with uncertainty. A flying metal cello the size of a skyscraper was not on her list of Things Trixie Expected To Deal With Today.

“But...what in Luna’s name are you going to do with that?”

Bon-Bon opened her mouth then stopped. “What are we going to do with this?”

She looked at Lyra, who had righted herself and deactivated her helmet. She had on her face the most terrifying smile Bon-Bon had ever seen.

“We. Are going. To hit her with it.

Lyra’s horn began to glow with magic, her natural levitation powers augmented by the suit in the same way her muscles had been.

“Oooh, nonononononononono! Snips, Snails, charge the cannon faster! FASTER!”

The Lunatron’s power source was practically screaming now as the glow within the barrel intensified, a miniature sun in the making. The megacello, however, was rapidly rising, Lyra’s magic bringing it up ready to swing downwards. A corona of light formed around its body as it reached the zenith of its ascent, eclipsing the sun.

“Oh dear.” Bon-Bon lay down and covered her ears.

The cello fell. Slowly at first, as if the world couldn’t quite work out how something so large had made it so far into the air and was prepared to let it stay there if it felt like it. Then gravity and Lyra’s magic began to do their work, and it fell, like the wrath of Celestia. The Lunatron’s aim angled upwards, as if to somehow prevent the gargantuan instrument from doing precisely what it was about to do.

And still the cello fell, leaving bright white lines in the sky as it tore the air with its meteoric descent. The glow from Lyra’s horn had enveloped her entire body as she poured everything she had into bringing it down faster. Trixie’s voice was almost as high as the keening of the charging weapon as she shrieked in terror.

And still the cello fell, flames licking at its edge as it reached speeds that no cello had ever reached before or would ever reach again. Lyra was laughing now. Her magic was a blazing pillar of green vengeance.

And then it hit.

The resulting noise was later described by a dazed bystander as “like Celestia playing a power chord on a guitar made out of the beginning of time. Only louder.”

Scene 9

Bon-Bon opened her eyes, worried for the second time that day that she might actually be dead and just hadn’t realised it yet. The sun was bright and the breeze cool. She was still alive. The shockwave, debris and cataclysmic sound from the cello’s impact had blown her across the roof, knocking her into Lyra and dispelling the magical field that had been holding her friend in place.

She rolled over, body aching. Lyra was lying next to her, stirring into wakefulness and asking her something that she couldn’t hear. She asked Lyra to repeat it, but with a shock realised she couldn’t hear what was being said. The look on her partner’s face made it clear she had the same problem. Just as it became horrifyingly apparent that they had gone deaf, a voice buzzed in her ear.

“...on...B...yra?...ou...o...ay?...eak to me, guys!” Blessed sound returned, slowly but surely. Almost crying with relief, she forced her battered body to form a sentence.

“Bon-Bon and Lyra... reporting... mission accomplished.” With that, she lapsed back into peaceful unconsciousness.

Far below them, the deep crater where there had once been a Lunatron sizzled quietly. A lone cream pony with a rose cutie mark lay near the crater’s edge, sucking down huge gulps of air and desperately trying not think unpony-like thoughts about the two heroes.

“Every...single...week...”

Scene 10

Nurse Redheart slapped a bandage onto Lyra’s midriff, hard, her face stern.

“Ow! Come on, Redheart, did you see that thing? We got the right to be a little bruised, right?”

Redheart said nothing, continuing to dress Lyra’s wounds with perhaps more force than was required. The struggle was interrupted by a screen on the clinic wall crackling to life and displaying the mismatched eyes of the Commander.

“Lyra, Bon-Bon, that was great work. Clean-up is dealing with the fallout from your, uh, impressive destruction of the Lunatron and Vinyl is very excited about how well the new suits performed. I think we may finally have broken the cycle and left Trixie in the dust. Well done, ponies. You’ve earned your rest.” She saluted, hitting the camera and causing it to cut out.

Bon-Bon lay on another of the base clinic’s beds, lost in thought. She’d expected to settle down and recuperate once the clean-up teams had arrived and the press had gotten their usual interrogation out of the way, but something had been troubling her. Lyra had enjoyed destroying that Lunatron too much. The look on her face when she had had the idea... Bon-Bon could still see it when she closed her eyes.

Her reverie was interrupted by the very pony she was worrying about, leaning over and pushing the fussing Redheart away.

“Never did get to see that aquarium! But what about those suits, huh? Aren’t they amazing? Did you see what I did?! We won’t be having any more problems from Trixie for a while, I bet-owowowowowow...”

Redheart had obviously decided Lyra wouldn’t suffer from a little extra bruising if it made her stay still. Bon-Bon smiled weakly.

“Yeah...pretty amazing, all right.” But all she could see in her mind was a green pillar of magic, reaching into the sky.

[ Credits roll.

NEXT WEEK ON HARPFLANK AND SWEETS:

“Dammit, Lyra, you’ve changed!”

“Tavi! Nooooooooooooo!”

“The sun! What’s happened to the sun?!”

- Trixie laughs triumphantly -

“The horror! THE HORROR!”

TUNE IN FOR THE NEXT EXCITING EPISODE OF... HARPFLANK AND SWEETS ]

Epilogue

Luna enraged was far, far more impressive than Luna joyful.

“YOU HAVE FAILED US ONCE MORE, TRIXIE! THOSE FISH WERE WORTH TRILLIONS OF BITS! NOT TO MENTION THE DIPLOMATIC CHAOS THE DESTRUCTION OF THE SEA PONY EMBASSY WOULD HAVE CAUSED! EXPLAIN YOURSELF!”

Trixie, cloak and hat still smoking and spotted with ash from her narrow escape, cowered before her Princess.

“My Lady, they had some new technology, some terrible new magic...You could not even begin to imagine!”

She shuddered at the thought. She was already jumping involuntarily whenever she saw a stringed instrument.

“AS WE RECALL, THAT IS WHY WE EMPLOY YOU. TO MATCH THEIR TECHNOLOGY AND MAGIC.”

Trixie winced at the implication. If she couldn’t come up with something soon, she would be off the Princess’ payroll. And she had seen far, far too much of Luna’s operations to get off with just a pink slip.

“I know, my gracious and understanding Mistress, but this was...something else! It had to have been...” Her voice faded into a pensive silence.

Luna fluttered Her wings impatiently and stamped a hoof.

“SPEAK, TRIXIE. YOUR PRINCESS DOES NOT APPRECIATE BEING KEPT WAITING.”

Trixie snapped out of whatever thought had been occupying her and smiled brightly.

“No problem, Lady! I shall have my next creation before your hooves within the week!” She galloped out, barely registering Luna’s frustration at being largely ignored.

Once Trixie was out of sight, however, Luna settled down. She knew Her minion and, as much as it pained Her to admit it, trusted her. Better as the enemy’s designs often were, Trixie’s were still excellent. If an idea had so grabbed her that she became oblivious to the attention of Luna Herself, it was an idea that may change the balance of power once more. A great and powerful idea. Luna spoke quietly to Herself, Her voice deafening only those within the room.

“SOON, CELESTIA...SOON, EVERYTHING WILL BE MINE.”

--------------------

Coming soon: Episode 14 - A Scratch in Time!