Episode One: Belle Runner
A My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Fanfiction
By Andrew J. Talon
DISCLAIMER:This is a non-profit fan-made work of prose. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is the property of Hasbro. Please support the official release.
- - - - - - -
Twilight Sparkle prided herself on her organizational capabilities and her meticulous attention to detail. It was a reflection of her skill as a librarian, a researcher, and as an academic. All these things combined to made Order paramount to her job, and she sought it out or imposed however she could.
Frankly though, Spike thought she could go more than a little overboard.
"Twilight, we do not need blueprints for a pillow fort," Spike said unhappily, his foot tapping as his unicorn mistress drew upon her writing board with a pencil and a slide rule. Next to her on the nearby table sat several books having to do with pillows, architecture, and fortifications.
"Of course we do!" Twilight said. "I mean, how else could you have fun with it?"
"Because... It's a pillow fort?" Spike asked sarcastically.
Twilight looked over her shoulder with a huff. "That is not the proper way to have fun when it involves engineering, Spike. Proper fun with engineering involves math, and charts, and strategic analysis."
"I'm just going to be fighting a few fillies for their sleepover!" Spike protested. "It's not that big a deal!"
"Of course it's a big deal!" Twilight admonished her charge, turning to face him fully. "I'm not having my wonderful assistant face down the Cutie Mark Crusaders without at least five contigency plans, two escape routes and a self destruct mechanism in case the fortress is taken!"
"Uh... Twilight, I could just knock it over for that last one," Spike pointed out. Twilight huffed and turned around.
"No Spike, we must be diligent about this." She smiled at him. "Besides, think of how they'll scream when the pillows go everywhere from the air catapult I'm going to build!"
"Well, that would be kind of fun," Spike admitted. "But that's not my problem, exactly."
"Oh? What is?" Twilight asked. She scowled at the design, crumpled it up with her telekinesis, and tossed it into a pile of similar balls of paper. Spike coughed, and directed his eyes to the waste basket. Or rather, where the waste basket had been.
Twilight coughed, and blushed a bit. "Ah... Well... I just want it to be perfect..."
"Who was it who said that engineering something perfect is as pointless as trying to make the sun go out?" Spike asked.
"Archimedes of Hippodrome, yes, but with my gamma ray laser concept-"
"Twilight," Spike admonished, glaring at her. Twilight cringed. "You said you'd stop with the doomsday devices!"
"I am! It was just a thought experiment," the purple unicorn said.
"Twilight," Spike pressed.
She pouted. "I wouldn't even use it on our sun, you know! Princess Celestia would be quite unhappy..."
"And that's assuming I could get the funding, you know how the grant board reacted to my weather machine-"
"Twilight!" Spike shouted.
The purple unicorn sighed. "Oh... Fine." She scowled at Spike. "You know, you're not too big for me to flip you over and spank you."
"Like that would get through my scales anyway," Spike taunted. Twilight glared death at him, and her eyes began glowing. Spike gulped and held up his clawed hands.
"Not... Not that I'd like to test that," he said quickly. Twilight's eyes returned to their normal luminosity, and she smiled.
"Good," Twilight said. "Now, I have to finish some experiments downstairs, do a little research, that sort of thing. I'll be back up in time for popcorn and scary stories."
"Good," Spike said. He sighed. "I really don't think there's a cutie mark for 'fighting dragons in pillow forts' though..."
"You never know! Wouldn't that be quite the discovery?" Twilight asked cheerfully as she trotted for the door downstairs. Spike stared after her.
"You're not thinking of dissecting them are you?"
"Spike!" Twilight gasped. "I hope you're joking! Of course I wouldn't dissect them!"
"Oh, good," Spike sighed.
"Observing them in captivity is much more informative, you know that," the purple unicorn admonished with a playful smile. She trotted downstairs, leaving a gawking Spike. The purple dragon shook his head and grumbled to himself.
"Figures she gets a sense of humor at the same time she goes mad scientist, brr," he said with a shudder.
- - - - - - -
Twilight Sparkle sat in the underground lab of her library, beakers and tubes of plastic glowing and bubbling all around her in every color of the rainbow-And some that weren't even in it.
"Oooh... I'm in my Sanctum of Science and Magic and everything is right with the world," Twilight sighed, stopping to sniff a few of the books and beakers. She shivered and grinned. "And soon, I shall know all about...!"
She lifted a squash out of a bin Applejack had kindly donated to her.
"SQUASH SKIN TEMPERATURE VARIANCE TOLERANCES! MWAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHA!" Twilight cackled. "MWAHAHAHAHA-!"
"Heyah Twilight!" Gaily greeted young Sweetie Belle, popping out of nowhere.
"BWAH!" Twilight cried out, her experimental squash flying out of her telekinetic grip and smashing some beakers. Twilight looked over at this damage, and then over at the innocently smiling Sweetie Belle.
"... SPIKE! YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO KEEP OUR GUESTS ENTERTAINED UPSTAIRS!" Twilight shouted.
"THEY OVERWHELMED MY POSITION! MAYDAY! MAYDAY!" Spike shouted back over the sounds of fillies giggling madly. "AH! NO! HAVE MERCY!"
"Mercy?! Never! You will become our dragon slave and help us conquer the world!" Scootaloo cried.
"Yours will be a hellish existence until your mind is broken and your will is twisted to serve us!" Applebloom contributed. A long silence followed, before Applebloom sheepishly added, "ah, Ah found it in a book..."
"Nevermind that! Keep pushing forward!" Scootaloo cried. The sounds of pillows and books flying around could be heard above them, and Twilight raised a hoof to her face. Sweetie Belle smiled, continuing to look so innocent.
"Sweetie Belle... Why are you down here?" Twilight finally asked.
"I got killed in the first volley," Sweetie Belle explained. "But it was a heroic sacrifice for the cause of evil." She looked over at the smashed equipment and winced. "I'm really sorry about that... Was it really important?"
"The squash, yes. The plastic tubes? Don't really know what they do so no idea," Twilight admitted as she began telekinetically cleaning everything up. Sweetie Belle helped out as best she could with her own weaker magic.
"Really? No idea at all?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"No. They came with the lab and I didn't really mind them because they were pretty," Twilight admitted. "I probably should figure that out..."
"Anyway, I came down to see you because I was dead and because I was hoping I could learn some magic. Like, to raise myself from the dead," Sweetie Belle said.
"Like for pretend?"
"You can pretend raise yourself from the dead?" Sweetie Belle asked, eyes widening. "Wow! Neat!"
Twilight stared at her. She really didn't have much experience with young fillies, so she decided to react as she would to Pinkie Pie saying the same thing.
"Yeah, sure, let's go with that," she said.
"So, how do I pretend raise myself from the-Oooh!" Sweetie Belle shifted geared rapidly as she brought a strange device up to her eyes from the pile of debris. "Ooh! What's this?"
"Hm?" Twilight asked, looking the thing over. "Good question... I would have tried to figure this out but well... Ya know, one thing after another came up..."
"Didn't this place come with an inventory?" Sweetie Belle asked, with surprising insight. Twilight smiled at the younger pony.
"For the books, yes, but most of this stuff? No. You know who owned it before me?"
"Some nice old mare and her weird husband, I think he was a farmer because when he left all these ponies gave him a going away party with pitchforks and rakes and torches," Sweetie Belle said, turning the bizarre device this way and that in her telekinetic grip.
It was about nine inches long, with a set of bunny ear antennae sticking out of the top. On the front were several small buttons on knobs just below a screen that shifted color as she turned it this way and that.
"Hmm... Well, this is probably a good chance to use a scanning spell I recently mastered," Twilight said. She closed her eyes and her horn glowed. Beams of light issued forth from her horn, sweeping over the device in a grid like pattern, making the device look like it now had a frame of glowing wires. A wire-frame, if you will.
At last Twilight's scan was finished, and the purple unicorn raised an eyebrow.
"It's... A soul detector."
"A soul detector?" Sweetie Belle asked curiously. "How did you figure that out?"
"Well... Ahem... There's a label on the side that's slightly obscured by tape," Twilight coughed, looking to the side. "There's a power button on the back, too."
"Neato!" Sweetie Belle said. She pressed it, and the little device began to hum cheerfully, as lights blinked along the antenna and the screen turned green. "How does it work?"
"Well, presumably you point it at a pony and determine if it has a soul," Twilight said.
"Well, I mean, would that really work?" Sweetie Belle asked eagerly, as she pointed the device at the older unicorn. Twilight waved her hoof up and down vaguely.
"Well... In theory you could construct something to detect a soul, but the easiest way is to just ask Princess Celestia if you have a soul or not."
"What did she say to you?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"Yes, of course," Twilight huffed. "Why would you think otherwise?"
"Ummm..." Sweetie Belle looked at the device, then back at Twilight. She seemed quite nervous all of a sudden. "Umm... No reason."
Twilight stared at Sweetie. Sweetie stared at Twilight.
"... Why don't you let me have a look at it, Sweetie Belle?"
"Oh... Oh please, could I just um... Keep it for a little while?" Sweetie Belle asked. Twilight took it out of Sweetie's telekinetic grip and examined it, before pointing it at Sweetie Belle.
On the screen, the words "SOUL DETECTED" flashed, with an outline of Sweetie Belle with something glowing in her chest. Twilight smiled and pointed it at herself. The same thing appeared, showing an outline of Twilight with a glowing orb where it was with Sweetie Belle.
"Well, seems to be working just fine," Twilight said. "However it works. I really should take it apart and study it, you know, just to be sure-"
An explosion sounded upstairs. Twilight sighed irritably, and looked at Sweetie Belle.
"I guess I'll have to deal with whatever that was now... You put it away Sweetie, and then come up. Gah, I must have had some wires crossed to not go through this sooner, huh?"
Sweetie Belle very, very slowly nodded. "Uh... Sure..."
"Good," Twilight said with a smile as she trotted upstairs. Sweetie very carefully pointed it at the ascending pony. She looked at the screen... And her breath hitched.
NO SOUL DETECTED, it stated in bold letters, with an outline of Twilight on it. However, instead of a glowing orb in the center, within the outline was a rough skeleton made of what looked like metal components. PROBABLE ROBOT.
- - - - - - -
Up in the library, books and pillows and popcorn were scattered across like snow over a desolate battlefield. Spike, Applebloom and Scootaloo laid like broken dolls in between the debris, groaning. Twilight gasped and rushed over between them.
"Ah! What happened?!" She cried.
"I fought... To the bitter end, Twilight... But they were too much...! Evil has won this day! Cute, adorable evil!" Spike gasped. Twilight rolled her eyes.
"I mean in reality."
"Oh. I think the air catapult went off too soon," Spike said. Applebloom and Scootaloo sat up with grins.
“CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS! FLANK CHECK!" Applebloom cried, turning in concert with Scootaloo to check her flank... only to see the lack of result and sit down in depression.
"Awww... We didn't get anything," Applebloom said.
"Maybe if we skinned him alive!" Scootaloo suggested. Spike laughed nervously.
"Aha... Ahahaha... You're joking right?" Spike asked.
"Of course she was. There was only one cutie mark for skinning dragons and it was a component mark of a greater Dragon Slaying cutie mark," Twilight lectured. "It was the cutie mark of Foe Hammer, the greatest dragon slayer in history who-"
"Of course! We need to slay him!" Scootaloo said. She turned her head to Sweetie Belle, who looked to be in the middle of tucking something under her cloak. "Hey, Sweetie! Did you get your Cutie Mark?"
"Huh? Oh, um, no, no I didn't," Sweetie Belle said quickly. "I didn't..."
"Oh. Nuts... Well, since pillow fort siege cutie marks hasn't worked out," Applebloom mused, "let's try dragon slayin'!"
"NO!" Sweetie Belle cried fearfully. At everypony's stares, she coughed.
"Uh... I-I mean... Um... I don't think I'm feeling well right now," Sweetie Belle said, coughing for effect. "I um, I think I'll just go to bed. The guest room, right?" Sweetie Belle asked. Twilight Sparkle looked at the other occupants of the room, and then back at Sweetie Belle. She smiled.
"We'll get you water and soup!" Scootaloo said happily.
"And crackers! You like crackers, right?" Applebloom asked.
"Uh, sure... You can send Spike in. I mean, you three should definitely have fun... Without us... Lots of fun," Sweetie Belle said with a nervous laugh. She backed towards the door to the guest room, her eyes on them all the time.
"Uh... By the way, Twilight, where's the R section?" She asked.
"Right behind you, actually," Twilight said, pointing her hoof at the shelf. "Spike, go get her some tea. We'll work on cleaning this up, right?" She looked at the other Cutie Mark Crusaders with a scowl. They nodded, halos appearing over their heads.
"I really need to find out how they do that..." Twilight muttered.
"Fine," Spike said flatly. He carefully walked over the pillows and books to the door to the kitchen...
"AH! Oh, wait Spike!" Sweetie Belle cried. Spike looked over at the young unicorn.
"Yes Sweetie, what is it?" Spike asked, confused.
"Umm... Just wait there, please," Sweetie Belle said. She scanned the shelves in the R section rapidly. "R... O... Aha!" She quickly pulled out a book, and hid it under her cloak. Twilight blinked rapidly.
"Uh... You know, I can help you if you want a specific book-" Twilight began, but was quickly interrupted by Sweetie frantic shaking of her head.
"No no no! I'm fine! I'm really fine..." She slowly backed away into the room. "Um, Spike, you can go now... And then come in here please! Thank you!" She shut the door behind her, leaving three very confused ponies and one dragon who was equally confused, but expressed it by rolling his eyes and muttering something under his breath as he went into the kitchen.
"What was that all about?" Scootaloo wondered.
"Did you turn her into a newt, Twilight?" Asked Applebloom.
"What? No! I mean, I could but I don't have any reason to," Twilight said defensively. "And I don't think it would produce this kind of a reaction... Hmmm..." Twilight scanned the shelves... And then chuckled.
"Aw... I think I know what it is," Twilight said with a smile.
"What? What?" Scootaloo asked.
"Is she sick? Does it start with an R?" Applebloom asked worriedly. "Or an RO?"
"What kind of illness starts with RO?" Scootaloo asked skeptically. "And how would Sweetie know what it was?"
"No, no, it's not like that," Twilight said, shaking her head. "I think she has a tiny little crush on Spike."
The two younger fillies stared... And then burst out laughing.
"What? What?" Twilight said, affronted.
"No, no... Heheehehe... It's just kind of... Funny," Applebloom giggled.
"She has a crush on the guy who has a crush on her big sister, heheheheh... It's like something out of this doofy soap opera my parents watch," Scootaloo giggled.
"So she was just getting a book on romance? Hahahaha!" Applebloom giggled. "Oh... Ah guess she is gettin' close to you!"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Twilight asked irritably. Spike came out of the kitchen, holding the tea tray. He stared at the three ponies laughing and giggling away, and sighed.
"Fillies," he muttered, and he headed to the guest room.
- - - - - -
Spike opened the door and slipped in, shutting it behind him. He looked around the comfy guest room with a frown.
"Sweetie Belle? Sweetie Belle, where are you?" Spike asked.
A cute lavender head poked it's way out from under the bed. Spike stared.
"Uh... Sweetie Belle?"
"Shh! Get under here Spike, quickly!" Sweetie ordered. Spike set the tea tray down and obeyed, sidling underneath with her. Her horn was lit, and beneath her hooves was a book.
"What is it?"
"It's terrible, it's absolutely terrible!" Sweetie Belle said, looking anguished. "See, Twilight and I found this soul detector in the basement, and I used it on Twilight, and... And..."
"And what?" Spike asked. Sweetie lifted it up to him, where on the sensor's screen it showed the last reading it had taken. His eyes widened.
"Huh?! A... A Robot?"
"Yes! A robot!" Sweetie Belle said.
"Oh no... Oh no... NOT A ROBOT!" Spike cried, holding the sides of his head. "WE'RE DOOMED!"
"Shhh!" Sweetie hissed. "You want them to hear you?!"
"But this is horrible! Terrible! I..." Spike paused and rubbed his chin. "What exactly is a robot, anyway?"
"That's what I wanted to know too!" Sweetie said. She pointed to the book. "And look what I found!"
"Dr. Neighnian Soong's Oy, Robots?" Spike read. He looked at the lavender pony. "Huh. I guess Twilight's library does have everything."
"Good for us! Let's see what these robots are, anyway," Sweetie Belle said.
- - - - - - -
Some time later...
"Oh come on!" Spike huffed. "This is stupid!"
"But-But the detector!" Sweetie Belle protested. Spike huffed and crossed his arms.
"You're telling me that Twilight was replaced by... By that?" He asked, pointing to a picture of a metallic, skeletal pony robot. "It's a pile of horse radishes!"
"But the detector... Twilight said it really was a soul detector!" Sweetie Belle insisted. "Why would she lie?"
"If she really was a robot, wouldn't she lie and just tell you it wasn't a soul detector?" Spike asked reasonably. "I mean, it'd let you tell that she was actually a robot, right?"
"Well..." Sweetie Belle hummed. "I... I guess..."
There was a knock at the door.
"Sweetie, Spike, you two all right in there?" Twilight asked, muffled by the door. Sweetie pointed the soul detector at the door... And gasped.
"Ah! It's still showing robot!"
"Come on! Knock it off, Sweetie," Spike groused. The lavender unicorn trembled, but gave him a stern look.
"Look... Um... In the book, it says a robot can be stopped with a logical pair of ducks."
"Paradox," Spike corrected automatically. Sweetie Belle scowled.
“I'm not a dictionary! Why don't we try it on Twilight, and if nothing happens, then... Then that means she's not a robot."
The dragon heaved a large sighed.
"Sweetie Belle? Spike? You okay?" Twilight called.
"SWEETIE AND SPIKE, SITTING IN A TREE! K-I-S-S-I-N-G!" Sang Applebloom and Scootaloo through the door. Spike growled as Sweetie Belle blushed.
"It's all right, come in!" Spike called. Twilight entered, smiling.
"Everything all right?"
"Uh, yes! Yes, everything's fine," Sweetie said, tucking the book and soul detector underneath her. "It's just... We had a question! Right, Spike?" She looked to Spike. The dragon heaved a sigh and looked to the ceiling, before looking at Twilight with his arms crossed.
"Yeah," he said, less than enthused. Twilight cocked her head, as the other Cutie Mark Crusaders peeked in with grins.
"Are you asking for Sweetie's hoof in marriage?" Scootaloo teased.
"Are ya askin' if she wants the foals named after her?" Applebloom laughed.
"N-No! No! Shut up!" Sweetie said angrily - far more angrily than usual. The two fillies stopped laughing and stared at her. Sweetie Belle coughed.
"Uh, I mean... Hahahaha... Spike ask the question," the lavender unicorn said with gritted teeth. Spike nodded, and cleared his throat.
"Right... Twilight. If I said everything I said was a lie, am I lying or am I telling the truth?"
The purple unicorn stared at him, unblinking, then frowned thoughtfully. She then smiled and laughed.
"Oh, that's silly, everything you say can't be a lie, because then you'd be lying when you say it!"
"Yeah!" Applebloom said.
"What kind of a question is that?" Scootaloo asked.
"Oh, and the tea's cold," Applebloom huffed. She took it into her mouth and trotted off. "Ah'll warm it up again!"
Twilight continued to smile... And then frowned as she rubbed her chin.
"Or... would you be telling the truth because you're lying about lying... or are you lying because you're lying about telling the truth about lying..."
Spike blinked. "Uh... Twilight?"
"Or maybe you're telling the truth about a lie, but the lie is itself the truth..." Twilight rubbed her chin. “If the truth is a lie then the lie is the truth... Argh! This doesn’t compute!”
Spike’s jaw dropped, as did Sweetie Belle’s. Twilight sighed.
“Well, I’ll have to figure that out later. Let’s go have popcorn!” Twilight said cheerfully. She turned and trotted out, leaving Spike and Sweetie Belle to look at each other.
“Come on, popcorn time!” Scootaloo said. “Enough silly questions!”
“Uhhh...” Sweetie tried, but the orange pegasus galloped behind her, jumped on top of the bed and head butted them both off.
“Come on!” Applebloom cried from the kitchen. “Ya’ll are actin’ like yer scared or somethin’!”
“Scared? We’re not scared,” Spike said quickly, as he and Sweetie Belle walked ahead of the smiling Scootaloo. “Why would we be scared?”
“Why would you be?” Scootaloo asked.
“Because Sweetie Belle thinks Twilight Sparkle is a robot,” Spike muttered. “Which is stupid.”
“It’s not stupid! She is a robot!” Sweetie Belle hissed back.
“I just need more proof, that’s all,” Spike said flatly.
Twilight was standing in front of the oven, her flank to all three, as they entered the kitchen. The kettle whistle blew, and Twilight screamed.
“GYAHHH!” She cried, turning towards them. Her eyes were bright red and glowing, as steam poured out of her ears and the back of her head.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!” Spike and Sweetie Belle shrieked. Scootaloo yelped as she was run over by a panicking baby dragon and unicorn filly, who ran into the guest room, grabbed the robot guide book and soul detector, and jumped right out the window into the cloudy night.
They ran and ran and even galloped some when Spike’s legs gave out and Sweetie Belle happily allowed him onto her back. At last, they came to a stop on the far side of town, the edges of the Everfree Forest looming ominously above them. They sat down, panting desperately for breath in the moonlight. Sweetie looked out over the sleeping town, and her eyes filled with tears over the threat hanging over it.
"Oh... Spike, what are we going to do?!" Sweetie Belle moaned. "We're doomed! Doomed!"
"You know, it kind of sounds silly when you say it," Spike said. A whack from Sweetie Belle's hoof changed the tenor of his next statement. "But you're right! We're doomed! Also ow!"
"I mean, if they got Twilight Sparkle, then they were able to fool Princess Celestia!" Sweetie Belle wailed. "And if they got my friends then... Then...!"
"They can make robots too stupid to be stopped by a paradox!" Spike gasped. Another whack from Sweetie Belle went across his shoulder. "Ow! Quit it!"
"It’s a library full of evil robots!" Sweetie Belle cried. "They're going to turn us into robots next and take out our souls waaahhh!"
"Now calm down, Sweetie Belle," Spike said consoling, rubbing Sweetie's hoof. "It's all right. We just have to launch an attack on Robo Sparkle and the others out there, and make them tell us where our friends are!"
"Right!" Sweetie Belle said with a nod. "Right... Then what?"
"What do you mean, then what?" Spike asked incredulously. "Then we stop the robot infiltration, save the world! I mean, I have been involved in saving the world more than a few times. I know what I'm doing!"
"Twice," Sweetie Belle said.
"You've been involved in saving the world twice," Sweetie said, sniffling.
"That's as many times as Twilight Sparkle!" Spike protested.
"And you didn't do anything against Nightmare Moon."
Spike rubbed the back of his head. "Well, yeah, that's very close to the actual description of events-"
"And you didn't do anything against Discord-"
"I was Rainbow Dash!" Spike protested.
"And it'd just be us against her and she has Twilight's super magic and laser eyes-"
"We'd have... Uh... The Cutie Mark Crusaders?" Spike tried. Sweetie Belle stared at him. He stared back. Spike finally looked away, crossed his arms, and huffed.
"Well, I suppose you have a better idea?"
"We need to get help from the others!" Sweetie Belle said, determined. "Right now!"
“You’re right!” Spike said. He tried to get to his feet... And slumped over. “Right... Right after I rest my eyes...” He yawned.
“Ah! Spike! Spike, no! Don’t go to sleep!” Sweetie Belle gasped, shaking the dragon frantically. “No! No don’t...” Her own adrenaline rush petered out, and she felt her eyelids grow heavy.
“No... The robot menace...” She yawned and rested her head on the belly of the sleeping dragon, soon passing out in the warm night air.
- - - - - - - -
Episode Two: The Stables of Steel
- - - - - - - -
The sound of steam pistons and clinking metal filled the air as Sweetie Belle slowly awoke. She sat up and blinked the sleep out of her eyes... Which were soon made extra wide by terror as the glowing red eyes of Twilight Sparkle filled her vision.
"AAAHHH!" She screamed, turning to run into the Everfree Forest. However, out of it came Applebloom and Scootaloo, also with red glowing eyes.
"Sweetie Belle..." They said.
"Come with us, Sweetie Belle," said Twilight Sparkle, her voice creaking like an old rusty door hinge. "We're going to make you into a robot..."
"Yes, join us," Applebloom and Scootaloo said, their voices scratching like record players. Sweetie Belle tried to run, but a wall of flames sprang up around her and she cried out. She curled up in a ball in the center, shaking violently.
"Oh Sweetie Belle," called Rarity. Sweetie Belle shot up and gasped as she saw her big sister, mother and father approaching.
"No! Run away! They're robots, they'll get you!" She cried. Rarity laughed, an unsettling sound like something was changing gears in her lungs.
"Oh Sweetie Belle, don't be afraid..." She trotted through the flames, her eyes closed and wearing that comforting smile of hers... But once through the flames, the smile caught fire and began to melt. Sweetie Belle looked frantically between her, her mother and her father as they followed suit, the flesh melting off their metallic bones like wax.
"You'll be joining us~..." The Rarity robot hissed.
"Ahhh! N-No! Not my sister! NOT MY SISTER! Somepony help! HELP! AAAAAHHHH!"
She felt hooves hold her down and she thrashed in their grip, terrified.
"Oh, oh dear, Sweetie Belle wake up! Wake up!" Cried a soft, familiar voice. Sweetie Belle opened her eyes, panting for breath, and the world came into focus.
Above her was Fluttershy's gently smiling face, and beyond her, Fluttershy's warm and comforting house.
"Ah... Fl-Fluttershy," Sweetie Belle stammered. Her eyes widened. "Spike! Where's Spike?"
"Shhh, he's over there, sleeping," Fluttershy said, stroking Sweetie Belle's mane. The little filly looked over and saw that the small purple dragon was indeed sleeping nearby, saliva dripping out of his mouth onto the couch he was placed upon.
"I found you two nearby my house... Are you all right?" Fluttershy asked.
Sweetie Belle sighed and nodded. "Yeah... Yeah, I'm fine."
"Oh good. You also had some things with you. I didn't want to look at them and pry into your personal affairs, so I had them wrapped up," Fluttershy said with a smile. "They're over there."
Sweetie looked over at the table Fluttershy was pointing at, and sighed in relief as she saw the rough shapes of the soul detector and the book underneath her cloak.
"Oh... Thank you Fluttershy, thank you so much," Sweetie Belle said, hugging her around the neck. Fluttershy patted her on the back, singing a soft song into her ear.
"Shh, shhh... Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do~..." She sang. "I'm crazy~, all for the love of you..."
"Ah... Fluttershy?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"Oh, I'm sorry," she said. "It's a song that's been stuck in my head for a while-I can sing something else if you'd like?"
"No, no, that's fine," Sweetie said. She looked down at her hooves. "I guess I just don't feel in the mood for singing."
"Oh, sorry," Fluttershy said softly. "I'll be right back."
Fluttershy turned and trotted towards the door.
"Ah, where are you going?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"Oh, I was going to go let Rarity know you were here-"
"NO!" Sweetie Belle cried, loud enough to wake Spike and send him tumbling off the couch.
"Ah? Is something wrong?" Fluttershy asked, looking bewilderedly at the two of them. Sweetie Belle tapped her hooves together nervously.
"Um... W-We'd just prefer that nopony knows where we are."
"Well that's... Um... Kind of unusual, if you don't mind me saying so," Fluttershy said. She gasped. "Oh my! Are you two running away?" She looked between them. "Together?"
"Huwah? What?" Spike asked, shaking his head free of sleep.
"No! No, we're not running away!" Sweetie Belle said quickly. She motioned to Spike frantically, then pointed at the cloak on the table. "We're uh... Um..."
"Eloping? Aren't you a little young for that sort of thing... If you don't mind me asking, your life choices are your own," Fluttershy asked and amended in the same breath. Spike got it almost immediately, and dashed to the table. He pulled out the soul detector, pointed it at Fluttershy, and clicked it on.
"We're... We're uh..." Sweetie Belle tried, looking over at Spike. Spike gaped at the read out, and looked back at her. He shook his head. "We're... We're just going..."
"What is that thing?" Fluttershy asked, trotting over to Spike. "What's making you so upset, Spike?"
"Upset? I'm not upset! Why would I be upset? Ahahaha, I'm not upset, totally not upset that you're a robot!" Spike laughed. He gulped, and stared into Fluttershy's confused eyes, before looking over at Sweetie Belle.
The young filly gaped at him... And facehoofed, hard.
"Robot?" Fluttershy asked. She tilted her head. "What do you mean, robo-AHHH!" Sweetie Belle had tackled Fluttershy from behind, forcing her to the floor.
"SPIKE! TIE HER UP WITH SOMETHING! FAST!" Sweetie Belle cried.
"Ah, right!" Spike said, quickly grabbing some rope conveniently left hanging on the wall and quickly trussing Fluttershy up.
"Oh me, oh my, what is this? What are you doing?!" Fluttershy cried, soon lying on her back with her legs and wings bound above her. Sweetie Belle took the Soul Detector, and checked for herself. She grimaced.
"It says she's a robot..."
"Robot? I'm not a robot! I-I'd be too scared to be a robot!" Fluttershy cried. "Could you please, please let me go?"
"Stop lying!" Spike growled. "We already almost got roasted alive by the robot that replaced Twilight! Tell us where she is, and where the real Fluttershy is while you're at it!" He jabbed his finger into her nose. "NOW!"
"OW!" Fluttershy cried. "Please don't yell at me!"
"Oh, sorry," Spike apologized. He started. "Hey, wait a minute! Why am I apologizing? You're the robot who replaced our friend Fluttershy!"
"I-I'm not! I'm not a robot! I really truly am not a robot! I'd know if I was a robot, and I know I'm not!" Fluttershy insisted. "Please let me go!"
Spike and Sweetie Belle looked at each other.
"Weird... It sounds just like her," Spike said. Sweetie Belle hummed.
"Maybe there's something in the book that can help us," Sweetie Belle said. She levitated the book in front of her on the floor, and flipped through the pages. Spike continued to scowl at Fluttershy, who whimpered.
"Let's see... Terminating robots... Sentinel robots... Campy robots," Sweetie Belle read aloud as she skimmed. "Aha! Infiltrator robots." She held the book up and read from the relevant passages.
"'An infiltrator robot can be programmed to not even know it is a robot, thus making it impossible for it to be detected. Using psycho... Psycho...'" She held the book in front of Fluttershy. "What's this word?"
"Ah, psychoanalysis," Fluttershy read. Sweetie Belle smiled.
"You're welcome," Fluttershy replied.
"'Using psychoanalysis," Sweetie Belle resumed, "'it can be determined if a subject is in fact a robot or a pony.'"
"So, how do we do it?" Spike asked.
"Apparently we ask her a lot of questions, and check them against the right answers," Sweetie Belle said.
"Um, why don't you ask me if I'm a robot?" Fluttershy asked.
"No!" Spike said. "You could lie to us!"
"But-But I wouldn't lie! Not to you!" Fluttershy protested.
"Fluttershy wouldn't lie," Sweetie Belle pointed out. Spike shook his head.
"Yeah, but she wouldn't lie knowingly," he said, pointing to his head. "If she doesn't know she's a robot, then she would be telling the truth as far as she knows it!"
"I would? Oh my!" Fluttershy gasped. "I would, wouldn't I, if I didn't know I was lying!"
"All right! First question," Sweetie Belle said. "Ahem... 'The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs, trying to turn itself over but it can't. Not without your help. But you're not helping.'"
"What?! No! I would be helping! I really would be!" Fluttershy insisted. "That poor tortoise!"
"What does it mean?" Spike asked.
"Robots aren't supposed to show empathy," Sweetie Belle said.
"But if she's just programmed to think she's Fluttershy, she'd act like Fluttershy with empathy, right?" Spike asked. Sweetie Belle frowned.
"Oh... Right... Um..." She flipped through the book.
"Let's just hit her with a logical paradox," Spike said. "Find me one!"
"Oh, I don't like the sound of that. Particularly the hitting part," Fluttershy said. "Couldn't you just let me go?"
"Here's one," Sweetie Belle said. She looked at Fluttershy. "Ahem... This. Statement. Is. False!"
Fluttershy stared blankly at her. "Then... Why did you say it?"
Sweetie Belle and Spike looked at each other. They then looked back at Fluttershy.
"... Because... It's a paradox? If you're a robot... Who thinks she's a pony..." Spike facepalmed. "Oh no..."
"All we've got to go on is the soul detector," Sweetie Belle said.
"S-Soul Detector?" Fluttershy asked. Sweetie Belle held it out, scanned Fluttershy again, and turned it around to let her look. Fluttershy's eyes widened.
"But... But... But... I-I was sure I had a soul... I couldn't have misplaced it!" Fluttershy cried.
"Oh, oh I'm sorry Fluttershy!" Spike said, patting Fluttershy's shoulder. "I'm sorry... I mean um... Hey, maybe it's wrong!" He looked at Sweetie Belle. "It might malfunction! What other signs are there of being a possible robot?"
"Well... There's enhanced strength and speed beyond those of mortal ponies," Sweetie Belle said.
"Fluttershy?" Spike asked. Fluttershy's eyes widened.
"Oh my... I-I was able to match Rainbow Dash's speed during the Discord incident..."
"Well, um... Maybe you were just, you know, filled with righteous anger?" Spike suggested.
"I was that, but I've never gone so fast before," Fluttershy mused.
"Um, unusual speech patterns, unnatural inflection," Sweetie Belle read.
"Ponies do say I don't speak clearly enough," Fluttershy mused.
"So you're shy! I don't understand half of anything Pinkie Pie says!" Spike said, almost desperate now.
"And strange dreams, possibly involving electric sheep," Sweetie Belle read. Fluttershy gasped.
"Oh my! Oh my! I-I have had dreams about sheep! Electric sheep!" Fluttershy cried. "Oh no, I am a robot!" She broke out into tears.
Spike cringed, as did Sweetie Belle, and the two tried to comfort Fluttershy as best they could.
"There, there, Fluttershy," Sweetie Belle said. "It's okay... We're really sorry you're a robot replacement."
"Yeah, really sorry," Spike said earnestly. Fluttershy sniffled.
"R-Really?" She asked.
"Yeah... I mean, um... You're still Fluttershy, kind of..." He looked at Sweetie Belle. "Does it say anything about good robots?"
"Well, yeah, there are good robots," Sweetie Belle said, reading through another paragraph. She gasped. "But sleeper programs can activate and turn them into puppets of evil!"
"Just like Discord! Oh nooo!" Fluttershy sobbed.
"We need to contact the Princess!" Sweetie Belle said. "She'll help us!"
"Yeah!" Spike said, running for some paper and a quill. He scribbled out a quick note, and burnt it. "There!"
"What do we do in the meantime?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"Warn everypony!" Fluttershy cried. "Warn them about the terrible, no good robot duplicates! Like meeee!" She blubbered, and Spike and Sweetie Belle both felt even worse.
"All right, Fluttershy! Don't worry, we'll stop them!" Sweetie Belle said. She smiled brightly. "And I know just who to start with..."
"If it's not already too late!" Spike added. "By the way, who is it we're starting with?"
- - - - - - -
"Well," Spike said, as he and Sweetie Belle looked up at Sugarcube Corner. "We're bucked."
“Spike!” Sweetie cried. “Don’t use bad language!”
“It seems like the time for it,” Spike muttered as they entered the shop. In the back, Mr. Cake was mixing up some frosting. Mrs. Cake was using said frosting to decorate a pan of freshly baked cupcakes. She looked up at her two visitors with a smile.
"Well, hello there Sweetie Belle and Spike! What can I do for you?"
"Well... Um..." Sweetie Bell minced. "We'd like to see Pinkie Pie, if she's in?"
"I think so," Mr. Cake said, looking up from his frosting with a kindly smile. He blinked as Spike pointed an unusual device at his wife, and stared at it. "Uh... What's that?"
"It's a... Uh... Sheep detector!" Spike said, pointing it at Mr. Cake next. "And... There are no sheep in here! So, it's working!" The young dragon smiled at both bakers, a bit nervously. Mrs. Cake raised an eyebrow.
"We're going to scan for sheep upstairs okay bye!" Sweetie Belle said, dragging Spike up the stairs as quickly as she could. Mrs. Cake watched them go, and shook her head with a chuckle.
"Oh, those two..."
"Indeed," Mr. Cake said with a laugh. "Always up to something..."
- - - - - - - -
"They're on to us! They're both robots!" Spike hissed.
"Buck!" Sweetie Belle cursed as they reached Pinkie's room. "What if Pinkie's already a robot too?"
"You know, I don't think Rarity would like it if you were swearing," Pinkie Pie admonished, right behind them.
"AHHH!" Cried both Spike and Sweetie Belle, jumping behind a couch. They slowly looked up from over it, and saw... Nothing.
"Huh? Where'd she go?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"But I won't tattle! I just think there are more fun words to say, like 'cake!' and 'party!' and 'eucatastrophe!'" Pinkie Pie said, once more behind them.
"AAAAAHH!" Spike and Sweetie Belle screamed, barreling over the couch and upsetting it. It now pinned them to the floor, and Pinkie Pie cheerfully bounced on her hooves towards them as they struggled.
"Oh... Oh no... It's a trap!" Spike cried.
"Yes! A trap!" Pinkie Pie laughed. The captives wailed at this.
"Ah! Oh no! Uh... Uh... This Sentence is False! This Sentence is False!" Sweetie Belle cried frantically. "Everything I say is a lie including this thing which is the truth but it's actually a LIE!"
Pinkie Pie came to a stop and blinked. Spike struggled, trying to pull the Soul Detector out. Maybe if he tried, he could at least hit her in the face since she was out of range of his flames!
"Sooo... Everything you say is a lie," Pinkie Pie said.
"YES!" Sweetie Belle cried.
"Except for that, because it's the truth," Pinkie Pie reasoned.
"YES!" Sweetie Belle shouted.
"But it's saying it's a lie, and therefore it's the truth meaning..." Pinkie Pie rubbed her chin harder, and then raised her hoof. "Question!"
"Um... Yes?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"Can I ask another pony for help on this?" Pinkie Pie asked.
Spike and Sweetie Belle both stared at her for a moment... Before Spike turned the Soul Detector on the pink pony. He sighed in relief.
"Thank Celestia... She's a pony," Spike said.
"Well, last I checked," Pinkie Pie said. "What did you think I was going to be?"
Pinkie Pie helped lift the couch off of Spike and Sweetie Belle, and sat back with a happy smile as the two looked back at her gravely.
"Pinkie Pie... Twilight Sparkle, the Cakes, Applebloom, Scootaloo, and Fluttershy have all been replaced by robot duplicates and they're going to take over Ponyville and we're next because we saw Twilight when she was in robot form!" Spike took a deep breath, "And robot Fluttershy turned out to be good and she had us go to find some ponies to help starting with you and I have no idea why-"
"Because if any pony could resist becoming a robot, it'd be you!" Sweetie Belle said.
Pinkie Pie blinked and looked between the two. "... You're sure?"
"Positive!" Sweetie Belle said.
"Absolutely! We saw it ourselves!" Spike insisted.
"Hmmm..." Pinkie Pie rubbed her chin again with a frown. "Evil robots, huh?" She took the soul detector and pointed it at Spike and Sweetie Belle. "Well! Guess I can't argue with a story like that!"
"You-You really believe us?" Spike asked.
"Absolutely!" Pinkie Pie said with a grin. "I mean, you wouldn't just make up something like this, right?"
"No! Never!" Sweetie Belle insisted. "Now please Pinkie Pie, you've got to help us so we can save Ponyville!"
"Don't worry! I have a foalproof plan to help Ponyville!" Pinkie Pie said.
"Actually, um, we were wondering if you could help us with our plan," Spike said. Pinkie Pie blinked, and her lip wobbled.
"But... But... I've had an anti-robot pony plan since I was a little filly!" She raced off to a box, dug through it, and raced back with a proud smile and a sheet of paper in her mouth. "See?"
"Step one, throw robot party. Step two, see who shows up. Step three..." Spike frowned. "Question mark?"
"And step four, save the world!" Pinkie Pie said cheerfully. "I left the third step
blank to make the plan more flexible!"
"Well, she does have steps, and our plan just has warning the town," Sweetie Belle admitted. Spike frowned.
Pinkie Pie frowned too... And then brightened a little.
"I know... What if we make your plan," Pinkie Pie grabbed a pen and scribbled a new number one on her sheet, "Step one! So now it's a five step plan!"
Sweetie Belle and Spike looked at each other, and nodded.
"That works for us," Sweetie Belle said.
"Good! Now, to alert the town will take subtlety, grace, and a great deal of practical know how!" Pinkie Pie said, tapping her hooves together with a grin.
"I have a bad feeling about this," Spike sighed.
"Stop being so negative!" Sweetie Belle huffed. "Things are going our way!"
- - - - - - -
Pinkie Pie hopped down the stairs, smiling brightly. Mrs. and Mr. Cake both smiled up at her.
"Hello Pinkie Pie, what is it?" Mrs. Cake asked.
"I'm gonna need some materials," Pinkie Pie said, "For another party! Some invitations, streamers, nothing too fancy." She winked. "I know how you guys can be."
"So... It's for us?" Mr. Cake asked, screwing his eyes up to recall if it was an anniversary or birthday or holiday.
"Yep! You could say that," Pinkie Pie said.
"Well, all the supplies are here, and there's a spare cake you can use," Mrs. Cake said as she lifted a box full of party supplies up to the counter. Pinkie Pie took it with a smile and set to work, finishing her invitations in a matter of seconds as Spike and Sweetie Belle looked on with awe.
"There! Done!" Pinkie Pie said. She hoofed the invitations over to Mrs. Cake. "I'll just need this in the mail."
"You're not going to deliver them yourself?" Mrs. Cake asked, perplexed.
"Nope!" Pinkie Pie said, now rummaging in a cupboard. "I'm going to be far too busy spreading the word!"
"Word of what?" Mr. Cake asked, cocking an eyebrow. Pinkie Pie emerged from the cupboard, wearing several pots and pans and carrying a tuning flute. She blew into it, a solid note coming from it.
"Ahhhhh," she sang, to get the pitch right. Satisfied, she took a deep breath... And bashed the pots and pans together as she ran out the door.
"RUN! RUN EVERYPONY! ROBOTS! ROBOTS ARE EVERYWHERE!" Pinkie Pie screamed as she ran down the street. Mr. and Mrs. Cake watched her go... And then went back to work.
Spike and Sweetie Belle watched her go as well... And with a look at the Cakes, ran out after her.
"I hate being right," Spike groused.
- - - - - - - -
Sweetie Belle and Spike came to a halt in an intersection of Ponyville, both panting for breath as they looked around desperately.
"Where... Where did she go?" Sweetie Belle gasped.
"I... I don't know..." Spike took heavy breaths, his head low to the ground. "Maybe... Maybe the soul detector isn't working, and she really is a robot...?"
Sweetie Belle took him by the shoulders and shook him violently, her wide eyes boring into his.
"We can't start thinking that! The robots-They'll lure us into a false sense of security and then-Then they'll get us!" She cried. "We can't let my sister and Twilight Sparkle and everypony else down we can't!"
"Wah-wah-wah-wah-oh-oh-okay-yay-yay!" Spike got out, his voice enjoying the Doppler effect as much as he wasn't.
"Sweetie Belle! Spike!" Called a dreadfully familiar voice. The two young ones turned and saw Twilight Sparkle galloping up to them. She looked unhappy.
"Oh no... Run!" Spike cried.
"Don't you mean gallop-?" Sweetie Belle asked, but Spike cut her off by grabbing her and running while carrying her over his head. Twilight galloped right after them.
"Get back here you two! I've been worried sick! What's wrong with you?!" Twilight shouted, soon catching up. Sweetie Belle, seeing this, threw her head back to send Spike and herself into a roll. She hit the ground galloping, Spike holding on for dear life as Sweetie Belle kicked it into high gear.
"That was awesome!" Spike enthused. He turned back and blew a raspberry at Twilight. "Pffft! You can't catch us, evil robot! We're onto you!"
"Evil robot?! What are you talking about?!" Twilight shouted. Her eyes widened. "LOOK OUT SPIKE!"
Spike crossed his arms over his chest and smirked, keeping his balance perfectly on top of Sweetie Belle.
"Oh come on! The real Twilight Sparkle would think up something better to-"
KLUD. Down Spike went face first into the dirt, pain screaming through his head as he blacked out.
"Oh no! Spike!" Sweetie Belle cried. She skidded to a halt and galloped back, ducking under the table she'd galloped underneath to try and lose Twilight. Unfortunately, the purple unicorn was already standing over him, looking concerned.
"No! Get away from him!" Sweetie Belle shouted angrily.
"Sweetie, he hit his head, I need to take a look at him-" Twilight tried, but Sweetie Belle wouldn't have any of it. She bellowed a war cry and charged.
Twilight sighed, and Sweetie Belle felt herself floating. She ran defiantly, but she wasn't able to break free. Looking down at Spike, and then back up at Twilight's glowing eyes, she felt fit to burst into tears.
"Now Sweetie Belle, that's enough! Your sister and parents are worried sick, we've been looking all over and-"
"NO! Leave them alone you evil robot!" Sweetie Belle wailed. Twilight blinked.
"Evil robot? Sweetie, what are you talking about? I'm not-"
KLANG! Twilight's eyes crossed, and she slumped over onto her side. Sweetie was dropped to the ground and she landed with a grunt. She looked up to thank her savior... And gaped.
"Um," the butter yellow pegasus looked embarrassed, a frying pan sticking out of the side of her teeth. "I'm very sorry, but I didn't know how else to knock out a robot."
"No, it's okay, thank you!" Sweetie Belle said, holding Spike up. "But... Why would you-?"
"Well, I decided that even if I am a robot, I need to do what I feel is right, even if I'm only programmed to feel it is right," Fluttershy quickly explained. She looked up at the sky, and the sun seemed to shine down upon only her.
"You see, freedom of choice is the right of all sentient beings. By my exercising it, I prove I am more than a machine. I choose to be... A pony!"
"Fl-Fluttershy," Sweetie Belle sniffled. "You're amazing..."
"Owww..." Twilight stood up, rubbing her head. "Fluttershy?! What did you do that for?!"
"Oh dear, I didn't hit her hard enough! I'm very sorry I hit you, Twilight Sparkle Robot, but even more sorry that I did not succeed in knocking you out," Fluttershy profusely apologized. "I mean, um, I'm not really sure how robot ponies are supposed to interact, you see, and-"
"What," Twilight flatly stated.
There was a rumbling in the distance, and the sound of hundreds of hooves hitting the ground. All looked over to see that a stampede of ponies was rounding the corner, panicked shouting audible over the pounding of their feet.
"The robots are here!"
"Save the foals!"
"Bar your doors!"
"HAS EVERY PONY IN THIS WHOLE TOWN GONE CRAZY... AGAIN?!" Twilight screamed. Sweetie Belle pulled Spike up onto her back, and looked to Fluttershy when the butter-yellow pegasus coughed.
"Um... Please come with me, if you want to live," she said.
"Right!" Sweetie Belle cried. She jumped onto Fluttershy's back, and the pegasus flew off dramatically... Albeit slowly.
- - - - - - -
Fluttershy safely brought her charges onto the roof of the Carousel Boutique, setting them down while panting for breath.
"Fluttershy? Are you all right?" Sweetie Belle asked, concerned.
"Yes... I'm fine," Fluttershy said. "I'm a robot, I don't get tired unless I think I am tired..."
"But you look like you're tired!" Sweetie Belle pointed out. "You know, for a robot you must have a really good imagination."
"I guess I do," Fluttershy said. "Spike? Spike, wake up."
"Spike! Please, wake up!" Sweetie Belle cried, holding onto Spike's shoulders and shaking him.
"Uh, I don't think that'll really help," Fluttershy said.
"What would?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"Well, um, I could get him some medical supplies. Rarity has them in her shop," Fluttershy pointed out. "I mean, Robot Rarity... If she is a robot..."
"Rarity's not a robot!" Spike cried, sitting up dramatically. He blinked and looked around, as Sweetie Belle sighed.
"That figures," the lavender unicorn muttered.
"How are you feeling, Spike?" Fluttershy asked. Spike rubbed his head.
"Ugh... I've got a headache..." His stomach rumbled. "And I'm hungry... Wow. I just realized I haven't had anything to eat in so long!"
"I suppose, um, that's two reasons to go inside," Fluttershy said.
"Right, and checking on my sister makes three reasons," Sweetie Belle said. "Come on!" She jumped down onto the balcony leading into Rarity's bedroom, and pulled open the glass doors. Fluttershy carried Spike down, and they alighted behind the young unicorn on the elegant wooden floor.
"Wow, she doesn't lock them?" Spike asked. "That's good to know."
"Why is that?" Sweetie Belle asked, looking over her shoulder at Spike curiously. The baby dragon coughed.
"Ah... Ahem... No reason."
They made their way down to Rarity's private workshop, Sweetie Belle looking around carefully.
"Rarity? Rarity, are you here?" Spike called.
"Mm? Spike? Is that you?" Rarity called. All three mis-adventurers sighed in relief. Sweetie Belle smiled.
"Yes Rarity, it's us! We're all here!"
"Oh Sweetie Belle!" Rarity galloped into the workshop from the main shop, smiling broadly. Sweetie Belle galloped to her and nuzzled her.
"We've been worried us sick! Where have you been?" She raised an elegant eyebrow at Spike and scowled. "And you! Spike, I thought you were more responsible than this!"
"Well, um, there were extenuating circumstances," Spike said, holding his hands up. "I mean, everything's been kind of crazy..." His stomach rumbled again.
"It's all right, it's all right," Rarity said with a smile. "There are some snacks for both of you. Eat up before anything else, you look hungry! You too Fluttershy."
"Oh, thank you Rarity," Fluttershy said gratefully. "I've had a bit of a rough day..."
"Oh? Why is that?" Rarity asked, turning around and rummaging in a cabinet.
"Well... Um... I found out I'm a robot," Fluttershy said.
"A robot dear?" Rarity asked, looking back over her shoulder as Sweetie Belle and Spike tore into their food. "Sweetie, mind your manners."
"Sowwy Wawity," Sweetie said through a mouthful of oats.
"Yes, a robot. I've been an unthinking automaton all this time and I never even knew it," Fluttershy said, looking depressed. "It's a lot to take in."
"Oh, my dear Fluttershy," Rarity laughed, taking Fluttershy's hooves between her own and squeezing them. "You've never been unthinking to me. And as for robots, well... If you need help with that..."
Rarity trotted out of the workshop. Spike, Sweetie Belle and Fluttershy watched her go. She then trotted back in, and all three of their jaws dropped.
"I think I can help with that," Rarity said with a smile and a wink, as she spread glowing mechanical wings and light glistened off of metallic plates decorating her skin from her face to her flanks.
Sweetie Belle spat out any oats that hadn't fallen out of her mouth and turned tail.
"RUN AWAY!" She screamed, throwing her bowl through the window and barreling through it. Spike threw his claws up into the air, and his eyes went to the ceiling in his anguish.
"No... No... NOOO!" He yelled as Fluttershy grabbed him by the tail and dragged him out after Sweetie Belle.
Rarity blinked, and her wings drooped.
"... Don't you like my costume...?"
- - - - - - - -
Episode Three: The Positronic Pony
- - - - - - - -
The filly, the pegasus, and the dragon ran for the only known sanctuary they could think of: Sugarcube Corner. Sweetie Belle jiggered the lock of Pinkie Pie's room open with her magic, and swung inside. Spike and Fluttershy followed, the former sitting on her back and covering his eyes.
"Ohhh... I can't believe this! Rarity, a robot!" Spike looked up in horror. "Oh no... Do you think she's been a robot all this time?!"
"Of course she couldn't have been a robot, stupid!" Sweetie Belle shouted. "She's my sister! SHE'S MY SISTER!"
"Uh, oh my, Sweetie Belle, maybe you should quiet down?" Fluttershy suggested. "I mean, um, we don't want anypony to hear us..."
"Hello!" Said an unfamiliar voice at the window.
"GYAH-MMPH!" Sweetie Belle and Fluttershy cried, but Spike was able to cover their mouths in time. Very slowly he looked over at the intruder. The two ponies pushed his claws away, Sweetie in particular glaring at the dragon before looking with suspicion at the newcomer.
"Uh... Hi, um... What's your name again?"
"Derpy Hooves, mailpony!" The blonde pegasus reported, saluting with her hoof. She grinned and rummaged around in her mail bag, producing an invitation. "Here you go!"
"Huh? What's this?" Spike asked.
"How should I know? I don't go snooping into other ponies' business," Derpy said, looking offended. Though what she was offended at, he couldn't tell given the different directions her eyes were looking in.
"Sorry, I didn't mean anything by it," Spike said, as Sweetie Belle took the envelope. Derpy Hooves snorted.
"Well good! You shouldn't do that! I mean, what if I just assumed you three were involved in a kinky three way relationship that involved rubber chickens as reproductive aids? Huh? How would that make you feel?"
"Ew!" Sweetie Belle cried, spotting said rubber chicken nearby and kicking it away.
"Oh my," Fluttershy gasped, her cheeks going red.
"Uh..." Spike's own cheeks turned red, and he fell silent. Sweetie Belle gave him a glare.
"I'd... Be very confused as to why you'd assume that," Spike finally said.
"Well, so would I about any of your assumptions about me! Especially if they involved tapioca pudding and gnomes that live in museum dioramas," Derpy said, tapping her hoof against Spike's chest. The dragon blinked rapidly.
"I don't have to take this! I'm a mail pony! Good day!" And with that, the gray pegasus flew out the window. The sound of her slamming into something was soon heard.
Spike and Fluttershy looked over at Sweetie Belle, who had the Soul Detector out and pointed in the direction of the odd mare. She turned and shook her head.
"Can you check again?" Spike asked.
"Let's check Pinkie Pie's letter," Sweetie Belle suggested.
"What? But we shouldn't go looking through other pony's mail! It's wrong, it's immoral, we'll get sent to jail!" Fluttershy said.
"It is kind of weird that she's sending an invitation to her own party to herself though," Spike mused. "Maybe she knew we'd be here?"
"Why would you think that?" Fluttershy asked as Sweetie Belle tore open the envelope with her teeth. Spike shrugged.
"It's Pinkie Pie," he said, looking between the two ponies. Fluttershy took a breath to say something... And let it out as a sigh.
"Good point," she said.
Sweetie Belle held the invitation up with her magic and read it quickly. Her eyes widened.
"Oh no, oh no, oh no!" She cried. "Look!"
Spike took the letter and read it.
"Dear Pony. You are cordially invited to the Robot Pony Party, hosted by Pinkie Pie at the Central Gazebo. Please come as you are, robot or pony. You will become robots as well so there's nothing to worry about. If you bring oil, make sure you bring enough for everypony." Spike lowered the letter, his eyes widened in horror. "She... She's a robot?"
"Or maybe she's a pony who turned to the robot side, just as I am a robot who turned to the pony side," Fluttershy suggested. She shook her head. "I never thought she of all ponies would betray a side though..."
"Now what do we do?" Sweetie Belle sobbed. "She's gone and betrayed us, we're all alone! For all we know, Princess Celestia's been replaced by a robot too!"
Spike hugged her and patted the back of her neck.
"I know, I know," Spike sighed. "Don't worry. We'll get through this, I promise."
"I just feel so helpless," Sweetie Belle sniffled, digging her snout into Spike's neck. "We don't have anything that could stop them...!"
"Oh, I'm so sorry," Fluttershy said, nuzzling them both. "I'm so sorry..."
"It's not your fault, Fluttershy," Spike said. "I mean, you were just programmed that way."
"It doesn't make me feel any better," Fluttershy said with a sigh. "Maybe the book has a suggestion?"
"Maybe it does!" Spike said with an encouraging smile. Sweetie Belle pulled away, sniffling. Spike grabbed a hankerchief and wiped the filly's nose. She smiled at him.
"Maybe..." She opened the book with her unicorn magic, and held it in front of them. She flipped through the pages, finally coming to one that bore the chapter title:
Robot Weaknesses: If All Else Fails.
"It sure has," Sweetie Belle sniffled. She flipped through it. "Giant robot you yourself pilot...?"
"The nearest one we could get is at Cape Connemara, and I don't think any of us could pilot it," Fluttershy said. "Um, no offense but uh..."
"None taken," Spike said, waving away Fluttershy's apology. "Sweetie, next page."
"Upload a virus to their network," Sweetie read. Spike blinked.
"Get them all sick? That'd take forever!"
"And how would we get it to their network? Are we all connected with a spider web?" Fluttershy asked, looking around her body curiously.
"Nevermind that one," Sweetie Belle sighed. She flipped the page again. "Electromagnetic pulse...?"
"Hm? Read what that one is," Spike said.
"'An electromagnetic pulse is a burst of electromagnetic radiation. The abrupt pulse of electromagnetic radiation usually results from certain types of high energy explosions,'" Sweetie Belle read aloud. "'When this occurs, the electronics of robots who are not properly shielded are overloaded and destroyed.'"
"Oh my, I'm not sure I like the sound of that," Fluttershy whimpered.
"And I don't know how we'd set off an explosion," Sweetie Belle sighed. "It's hopeless!"
"Maybe not," Spike said, rubbing his chin. "I think I remember one of Twilight's research projects on Uses of Weather in Warfare. This general long ago used a potion on rainclouds gathered by pegasi over an enemy army. This potion released a massive amount of energy into the clouds, causing them to explode in a massive lightning storm!"
"Oh! That sounds like it would destroy the robots for sure!" Sweetie Belle said.
"Can we brew the potion?" Fluttershy asked.
"Not without getting the book we can't," Spike sighed. "And if Robo Sparkle is there..."
"Wait! I've got it!" Sweetie Belle gasped. "I've got it! We don't need the potion."
"Then what do we need?" Fluttershy asked. Sweetie Belle smiled in a way that reminded Spike of Rarity when she had an inspirational breakthrough. It actually made him blush.
"We only need one pony," Sweetie Belle said, "We need Rainbow Dash!"
- - - - - - -
The party was in full swing at the start of six, with ponies from all over showing up in various costumes of metal. At least, some appeared to be costumes-Spike didn't really think that an evil robot would just go around with a pot on their head.
The Soul Detector didn't seem to lie-There were so many robots milling around that frankly, Spike wondered if even a Sonic Rainboom EMP would be enough to take them all out.
But frankly, they didn't have much choice.
"Have you seen Pinkie Pie?" Sweetie Belle whispered, scanning the crowd with a pair of binoculars nicked from Mr. Cake. Spike shook his head.
"No... It's weird, why would she do this? Betray all non robots to the robots?"
"Maybe she just likes metal," Sweetie Belle mumbled. "I mean, without music from a boombox or scratch table and speakers, you don't have parties."
"Saving her livelihood at the expense of all other ponies? No, no, I can't believe that," Spike said. He frowned. "Maybe she just thinks she can bring peace between pony and robot."
"There's not going to be any peace between robots so long as they keep replacing our friends! Or... Or who knows what they've done to them!" Sweetie Belle growled. "We're gonna fry all of them!"
She looked to her dragon companion. "Now, please call up Fluttershy and ask how she's doing."
Spike nodded. "Right." Pulling out a spare baby monitor the Cakes had recently gotten for their twins, Spike flicked it on and cleared his throat.
"One calling Three, one calling Three, do you read, over?"
"Three to One, Three to One, I read. Over," Fluttershy spoke back.
"How is package preparation coming, over?" Spike asked.
"Buttered up and ready to... Um... Slide, over," Fluttershy replied.
"Roger. How soon until delivery, over?" Spike asked.
"As soon as the package finishes doing her hair... Um... In butter...? I think I lost track of the code metaphors, over," Fluttershy replied. Spike rolled his eyes.
"Just make sure the package arrives." Spike looked up from their cover quickly. "We've got enough cloud cover for it. Over."
"Roger that, over and out," Fluttershy replied. Spike turned the baby monitor off, and looked over at Sweetie Belle with a smile.
"We're all set." He rested a hand on her shoulder comfortingly. "We'll beat them, don't worry."
"Oh, Spike," Sweetie Belle sighed, leaning her head against him. "Thank you. I don't know what I would have done if it wasn't for you..."
"Well, uh, hey! You're the one who came up with the idea," Spike said with a little cough and blush.
"I know, but if it was just me I... I don't know, I think I might have just run and hidden forever," Sweetie Belle sighed. "So I just wanted to say-"
"CUTIE MARK CRUSADER MOOD KILLERS!"
Spike and Sweetie Belle had no time to think before they were pounced upon.
"GAH! MY TAIL-AHHH THAT'S NOT MY TAIL!"
A moment later, they felt the familiar pull and saw the familiar glow of a unicorn's magic, and they were floating over their hiding spot in front of Twilight Sparkle, as a crowd of ponies gathered around.
The purple unicorn, replete in metal plates similar to that which Rarity had been wearing, sighed and shook her head.
"Really Spike? Hiding under the punch bowl?"
"It... Seemed like the one place ponies would avoid upsetting," Spike said defensively. Twilight frowned, and slowly nodded.
"Good point. Very clever of you, Spike. But I'm afraid the game ends now."
"What have you done with Twilight? And my friends? And Fluttershy? And MY SISTER?!" Shrieked Sweetie Belle.
"We're right here, Sweetie Belle," Applebloom said.
"Yeah! And now we're all together," Scootaloo said.
Pinkie Pie hopped into the circle with a broad grin.
"Told ya they'd hide under the punch bowl!" She giggled.
"Pinkie you traitor!" Spike snarled. "When the robots are defeated you'll be sorry!"
"Foolish foals!" Pinkie Pie cackled. "Did you really think your pitiful plans would work? You hadn't a chance from the start against us!"
"We'll see about that!" Sweetie Belle cried angrily. "You won't win! I don't care what I have to do, I'll fight you until I can't!"
"Ah, but my dear Sweetie Belle, Spike, there's no need to fight," Rarity's voice came, as the elegant pony turned robot entered the circle. She was strangely beautiful, clad in metal with her artful wings spread like those of a butterfly's. She smiled almost sadly at them, and motioned for Twilight to release them. They hit the ground, and Spike and Sweetie Belle stood back to back, glaring defiantly.
"My sister wouldn't give up on me, and I won't either!" Sweetie Belle cried.
"Really? Spike, my dear, would you please use your Soul Detector on Sweetie Belle?" Rarity asked. Spike glared.
"Why would I do that?"
"Humor me, please?" Rarity asked, batting her eye lashes. Spike stared back, and Sweetie Belle saw he was lifting the scanner up.
"Spike, what are you doing?" Sweetie Belle demanded.
"Come on Spike, scan her," Twilight encouraged. "Just look."
Spike looked at Sweetie Belle, shrugged, and pointed the device at her. It beeped, and Spike's eyes widened.
"What? What is it?!" Sweetie Belle demanded. Spike looked back up at her in horror, and turned the device towards her. Sweetie Belle's jaw dropped as she took the soul detector into her own magical grip.
"I... I... I'm a robot?" She asked plaintively. She felt her eyes fill up with tears, and looked at the crowd. "I'm one of you... All this time...?"
"Oh, Sweetie Belle," Spike said softly. "I'm sorry... I'm so sorry..."
"No, no, no! It's broken! It has to be broken!" Sweetie Belle wailed. "IT'S NOT TRUE!"
"You're right, actually," Twilight said with a smile. Her telekinetic grip took hold of the Soul Detector, and removed the tape on it's sides and back. "Look!"
Sweetie and Spike looked at the back. Their jaws dropped.
"'Soul Detector Prank Device, by Rover's Universal Ripsnorters?!'" They read in disbelief.
"That's right! This was a very mean party device the pony who used to live in the basement of Twilight Sparkle's library invented!" Pinkie Pie said cheerfully. "I knew what it was the moment I used it on you two!"
At glares from Twilight and Rarity, Pinkie Pie gave a nervous laugh.
"Not that I've ever use one of those nasty pranky toys!" Pinkie quickly protested, her cheeks puffing up.
"Wha...?" Spike asked.
"It will randomly display 'Robot' or 'Soul Detected', using a mathematical algorithm that the inventor devised to produce the most paranoia," Twilight explained. Rarity moved up to Sweetie Belle and rested a hoof on her shoulder.
"You fell for a very cruel joke, Sweetie," Rarity said.
"But what about your skin?" Sweetie demanded. Rarity smiled and with a bit of her unicorn magic, pulled off one of the plates. She winced as some of her fur came away thanks to the glue that had been holding the plate on.
"Just a costume I devised for the party, my dear. Even as a robot, I must look my best," she said. She smiled at the crowd. "I think I accomplished that nicely."
"But... But Twilight had red glowing eyes!" Spike cried. "And we saw steam coming out from her head!"
"The popcorn popper cracked open and blew salt into her eyes," Scootaloo said.
"And you know how I react when I'm in pain, Spike," Twilight said. "My magic gets a little out of control."
"But Pinkie believed us! And there was that panicked crowd," Sweetie tried.
"Oh! I saw that you two were reading as robots, so I decided to throw a robot apocalypse party!" Pinkie Pie said cheerfully. "I went a little overboard with the advertizement, but Twilight helped me sort it out with minimal property damage!"
"... Fluttershy thinks she's a robot...?" Spike tried in a feeble tone. At Twilight's glare, Spike looked at the ground.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"I'm sorry too," Sweetie Belle said.
"It's all right," Twilight said, resting her hoof on Spike's shoulder. Rarity nuzzled her little sister. "To be honest, in a situation like that, I might have panicked a bit too."
"And it was a very mean prank toy anyway!" Pinkie Pie said with a huff. "No wonder the inventor was run off by that farmer's convention!"
"I guess it just goes to show you that one pony's carelessness can really cause a huge mess," Sweetie Belle said. She smiled up at her sister and Twilight. Both smiled back.
"Yes, but aside from worrying your families sick, and a little panic, no harm was done," Twilight said.
"Sounds like something to write Princess Celestia about!" Pinkie Pie said cheerfully. Twilight nodded.
"It does indeed... After we find Fluttershy."
Spike's eyes widened. "Uh oh."
"Uh oh?" Twilight asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Oh no," Sweetie Belle whispered.
"Spike? Sweetie Belle? What is it? What's wrong?" Rarity asked.
"We-We totally forgot-!"
"We thought you were robots-!"
"We really need to get out of-!"
"HASTA LA VISTA, ROBOTS!" Cried a loud, shrill voice from above, just before a sonic boom broke and multi-colored lightning flashed overhead. All of the ponies at the party looked up in dismay... Which turned into delight, as arcs of lightning every color of the rainbow shot forth across the night sky.
A smoking Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy landed on the gazebo roof, the former taking a bow to the applause that resulted, and the latter falling over in a dead faint.
"... Sweetie? Spike? Did you have something to do with this?" Twilight asked flatly. Spike coughed, and exchanged looks with Sweetie.
"... Technically, yes."
"In fairness, we thought you were evil robots," Sweetie Belle said.
"Wow," Applebloom said. "If just one Cutie Mark Crusader with Spike's help could do this..."
"Then think of everything all three of us could do with Spike!" Scootaloo grinned. The two of them hugged Spike from either side.
"CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS PLUS SPIKE!"
"GAH!" Spike cried as he fell to the ground. "H-Hey!"
Twilight, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie all laughed heartily, as did Sweetie Belle. The long day of fear was over.
She joined in the laughter heartily, the same sound over and over again long after the other ponies had ceased. They all stared at her strangely.
"Sweetie? Dear? You can stop laughing now," Rarity said gently. Sweetie stopped abruptly, and nodded her head.
"Of course big sister. Of course big sister. Of course big sister..." Sweetie shook her head, and smiled widely. "I was just... A little too charged."
- - - - - - - -
"Well... As I was saying before," Twilight Sparkle stated, "Spike, take a letter and-"
"FOOLISH PONY MORTALS," boomed a mighty voice from on high, as two shining figures descended from the heavens. "THY ROBOT OVERLORDS HAVE ARRIVED!"
"THEY'RE REALLY HERE!" Screamed Sweetie Belle.
"RUN AWAY!" Spike screamed as well. The whole host of ponies ran for it, screaming and yelling in terror. The two figures landed, and the one with the lighter color scheme glared at her sister.
"Luna, did you really have to go that far?"
"Well, Celestia, my sister," Luna coughed, kicking the dirt beneath her awkwardly, "I was so excited I got a bit... Wrapped up in the role."
"The first party invitation by Pinkie Pie I answer, and this happens," Celestia sighed. "Well, on the plus side I doubt they'll forget this one."
"Neither will I," Luna said glumly. With a sigh, she pulled out her abacus and began to do calculations on the reparations to be made.
- - - - - - - -