Twilight's horn glowed softly, casting a dim purple light which barely illuminated the pillows around her. She felt a familiar weight on her back shift as Spike leant forward.
"Should I take a look topside?" he whispered. Twilight twisted her neck so she could see her passenger.
"Not yet Spike, they could be right above us," she replied in a similarly hushed tone.
"Wouldn't we have heard something if they were that close?"
"Maybe, but we can't take that risk. The Motherland cannot afford for us to fail."
Spike broke into a salute, knocking his ushanka askew. The hat was several sizes too big for him, and he was wearing it more with his spikes than his head, but it did go very well with his moustache.
They both looked up as the faint sound of 'Toot toot' came from somewhere ahead of them. It sounded like Fluttershy.
"Sonar's getting something," Spike said quietly.
Twilight nodded and they both strained their ears as another voice came wafting down from above. The meaning of the words were lost in the pillows but Applejack's accent was unmistakable. Twilight grinned.
"Spike, get the periscope ready," she said, lowering her neck so the dragon could climb onto her head. Twilight looked down at the pink tail that poked out from between the pillows in front of her and gave it a tug. The head of Pinkie Pie emerged.
"Orders, Cap'n?" said Pinkie, in an accent Twilight couldn't quite place.
"Flood tube one and prepare to fire."
"Aye aye!" Pinkie gave a quick salute and sank back into the pillows, leaving a single ear protruding.
Twilight didn't ask about the eye patch. Or the plastic hook.
Spike kept his balance as Twilight raised her head, allowing him to just barely breach the surface.
"Applecarrier at 7 o'clock, 6 meters ahead. Not moving. Fluttership at 1 o'clock, 7 meters ahead. Also not moving."
"Did you get that, Pinkie?" Twilight asked the pink ear, which wiggled in response.
"Target the Applecarrier. Get ready... fire!"
- - -
A short time earlier, on the surface.
"Toot toot!" Fluttershy cried out, enthusiastically.
"Fluttershy! You're supposed to be the battleship," said Applejack.
"Oh... um... I thought I was a tug boat..."
"Sorry sugercube, but a tugboat has no place in a combat area." Fluttershy's face fell.
Fleet Admiral Angel, resplendent in his bicorne hat, gave Applejack a reproachful look. "Err... I guess you can still go 'toot toot' if you like." Angel's flagship brightened up immediately.
"Yay!" Fluttershy cheered, shortly before adding: "toot toot!" The white rabbit sitting on her head nodded approvingly.
Smiling, Applejack turned back to survey the sea of pillows before her, searching for any signs of disturbance.
"RainbowHawk," she called out. "You see anything?"
"Nothing yet..." Dash trailed off. Something had caught her eye. "There!" she said, pointing ahead. "Periscope spotted!"
Applejack turned to relay the news, but was interrupted by Pinkie Pie, who erupted out of the pillows beside her and tackled her to the ground.
"Consarn it! I've been hit," said Applejack, fighting back laughter as she attempted to ward off the giggling pink pony and her relentless tickling. It was a losing battle. "Fluttership, I need help!"
"Oh dear, oh dear," said Fluttershy, moving to help her stricken ally. As she approached, Pinkie leapt off of Applejack and dove back into the pillows, quickly becoming submerged once again.
Above them, Rainbow Dash had zeroed in on the periscope sighting and went into a rapid dive as it began sinking below the surface. Dash completely disappeared beneath the pillows, emerging a short time later with a dragon's tail in her mouth. The rest of the dragon, now dangling upside down, seemed to have something to say about this arrangement and was squirming rapidly, trying to break free.
"Dag itf!" Rainbow said, with a mouth full of dragon. "I waf hoping tu cafch Twfiligh!"
"Release me you capitalist pig-dog!" cursed Spike in a terrible Russian accent. With one hand keeping his hat from falling off, the other joined his legs in their wild flailing.
Rainbow Dash transferred her hold on Spike's tail to her hooves so she could speak clearly.
"You're our prisoner of war now and you had better start giving us information!"
"I know nothing of which you speak, I am but a simple fisherman," Spike replied defiantly.
"Then what were you doing under the water?" Rainbow inquired.
"That is where the fish live."
Rainbow scowled, this wasn't getting anywhere.
"I'm takin' you back to the fleet. Maybe you'll be in a more helpful mood there."
Spike said nothing, and tried to look dignified as he was flown to Applejack and Fluttershy.
"Well what do we have here?" said Applejack, who had one front leg around Fluttershy's neck to keep herself 'afloat'.
"I caught Twilight's periscope," said Rainbow, "but he's insisting that he's just a..." she trailed off.
"Simple underseas fisherman," finished Spike.
"Simple underseas fisherman," repeated Rainbow Dash, rolling her eyes.
"Oh my, that sounds awfully dangerous," said Fluttershy, moving towards their captive.
"Umm..." the dragon began.
"Must get pretty cold," Applejack chimed in.
"Wouldn't it be nice to have a warm snugly bed to go to?" said Fluttershy, sweetly.
"And all the apples you could eat," said Applejack.
"Hmm..." Spike said and glanced towards the basket of apples that Applejack had brought for them to eat. They had been playing for a while and he was getting hungry...
"You could travel from place to place without needing any papers," said Rainbow.
"No papers?" Their offer was a tempting one, but he had his pride.
"Ha!" Spike cried out, accent in full swing. "I see through your feeble attempts to make me defect! I will never follow your decadent Equestrian ways! I will never betray the Motherland!"
"Fine!" said Applejack. "But I've got a quick question. What do I do now I've been sunk?"
"Oh," Spike replied, dropping his accent. "Well now you're a little recon boat. So you can still help find Twilight, but you're not allowed to catch her yourself."
"Got it," said Applejack who grinned as she turned towards Fluttershy. "There's only one thing left to do with the prisoner now."
"We tried to be nice Spike, but you've left us no choice," said Fluttershy, sadly.
"Wait, you can't possibly mean to—" Spike was abruptly cut off by Rainbow Dash's yell.
"Special Agent Rarity!"
"What do you need RainbowHawk?" came the voice of the unicorn on the balcony above them.
"Got a prisoner that needs interrogating," said Dash. "He's being real uncooperative."
"Oh I found just the thing! A lovely set of long-feathered quills," said Rarity as she trotted down the stairs. Spike dropped his hat.
"You can't do this! Tickling a POW breaks international treaties!" Spike cried out, struggling anew.
"But Spike, you said it yourself. You're just a fisherman," said Applejack, moving towards him with a rope to tie the captive.
"Oh," was all he could manage as a reply.
- - -
Behind the Equestrian fleet, unseen and unnoticed, the Twilight October and Torpedo No2 had breached the surface. Together they saluted as they watched Spike being led away.
"Today we mourn the loss of comrade Spike," Twilight began. "We shall remember his bravery and devotion to the cause. His strength of will in the face of certain temptation will inspire generations to come. And today we shall honour him by emerging triumphant over the Motherland's enemies!" Pinkie nodded in agreement.
"They are complacent in their minor victory. Distracted. Take note of the Fluttership's position, she is their only major vessel remaining."
"Aye aye," replied Pinkie Pie.
"Submerge and prepare to fire," ordered Twilight. Both ponies sank down into pillows until no sign of them remained.
"Permission to ask where Spike is, cap'n?"
"Err," said Twilight, pushing a pillow out of the way so she could see her pink companion. "Permission granted."
"He said he had a tummy ache so he wouldn't be joining us today."
"Aww, that's too bad. I finally found a hat just like his," said Pinkie Pie. "And what'll you do without a periscope?"
Twilight grinned. “With Spike's help I've come up with a new kind of under-pillow sonar; I can send out a tiny wave of magic that will bounce off of ponies and tell me where they are.”
“Ooo, clever! Try it now, try it now!”
“Okay,” said Twilight, and her horn glowed a little brighter as she began to concentrate.
Pinkie wiggled in anticipation. “What does it say?”
“Their surface vessels are scattered, this should work to our advantage. I'll check again to see if they're moving.” Twilight's horn flared. “Oh?” she said. “They've all gotten closer...”
“What's wrong cap'n?”
Her magic pulsed out a third time. “This is bad, they're almost on top of us! It’s like they’re able to track my sonar somehow...”
Pinkie began to shake Twilight by the shoulders, completely breaking her chain of thought.
“What are we gonna do Twilight? I know I won't be able to hold up under interrogation; I'll sing like a birdy! One little feather and I'll be telling them all of the secret songs I've been working on! And then it'll be all my secret jokes, and then all my secret pranks, and then—”
Pinkie released Twilight, although it took several seconds for her to stop shaking.
“By now they'll be surrounding us, but you can still escape; it's me they're after.”
“I can't abandon my captain!” said Pinkie.
“Don't worry, I've got a very important mission for you... Sputnik-Pie.”
- - -
“Come on out Twi', we've got you surrounded.”
Rainbow Dash pulled her head out of the pillows. “Pinkie Pie is on the move!”
“What about Twilight?” asked Applejack.
“Didn't hear anything from her, she must still be there.”
“Then Pinkie's a distraction. Eyes on the prize, ladies.”
Rainbow nodded in agreement; this was the closest they had come to defeating the Twilight October, and she wasn't about to mess up this opportunity by chasing a burrowing pink pony.
Applejack brought her head closer to the pillows. “Don't make us come down there!”
The area that the friends had surrounded began to move. Twilight was surfacing.
“All right, you got me,” Twilight said as she finished extracting herself from the pillows. “So what are you going to— Rarity?!”
“Were you not expecting to see me on the ground, as it were?” answered the impeccably groomed unicorn.
“Well, no... you never were before. I mistook you for Fluttershy with my sonar.”
“Ahh, we wanted to mix things up a little. It wouldn't be fun if you won every time.”
Twilight nodded. “Fair enough.”
“Also, Fluttershy wanted to try being a rescue helicopter,” Rarity said, nodding her head towards the yellow pegasus as she did so.
Fluttershy was a little further back from the main group. Angel and Gummy were taking it in turns to dive off of her head and onto the pillows where they would flounder around, pretending to be lost at sea. Fluttershy would then hover down and extract them from their soft, cushiony fate.
“And this time,” Rarity continued, “we have a secret weapon.” She turned side-on to Twilight, revealing her passenger who had previously been obscured behind her mane.
“Spike!” Twilight exclaimed.
“Pryvet, comrade,” said Spike, his accent having slightly improved over time.
“Well that explains how Rarity was able to track my new sonar... but how could you betray the Motherland like this, former comrade Spike? You believed in the cause more than any of us; without you She would have already fallen.”
“She has already fallen, Twilight. Zhe Motherland zhat we fought to protect abandoned us and her own values long ago. Too many of Her sons and daughters have been lost in zhese meaningless conflicts. Is it wrong to seek an end to zhis bloodshed? To wish for zhis war to be over?”
“No battle is meaningless that is fought to protect our freedom,” Twilight retorted.
“And were we free Twilight? Were we free to meet with friends without rousing suspicion? Were we free to visit our own home towns without identity papers and checkpoints? Were we free to read a book zhat wasn't on zhe preapproved list?
“No, Twilight. We could do none of zhese zhings. We did not have freedom. We fought for a paradise of the proletariat, an end to the exploitation carried out by zhe bourgeoisie. Instead her people live in poverty, exploited now by the corrupt bureaucrats and officials zhat were put in place to protect zhem.”
“So you claim your actions are for the people?”
“No, Twilight. I wish my defection had such a noble cause, but my motivation was purely selfish.
Twilight raised an eyebrow.
“Rarity let me ride around on her back.”
Twilight rolled her eyes. Suddenly, she smiled. “So you think you have won?”
“Well, a'course. We captured ourselves the dreaded Twilight October,” said Applejack.
“Oh, we'll see about that,” replied Twilight. “Strike from the sky, comrades!”
Three little ponies leapt off of the balcony above them.
“CUTIEMARK CRUSADER COSMONAUGHTS! YAY!”
“We got 'em, we got 'em!” said Sweetie Belle from on top of her sister.
“Yes. You did,” said Rarity, having been flattened onto the pillows by the impact. She was propping her head up with her hoof. Spike had managed to throw himself free before becoming a dragon sandwich.
“Okay, that was a pretty cool entrance,” Rainbow admitted, trying to extract herself from Scootaloo.
“Really?!?” asked the orange filly.
“Sure kiddo.” Rainbow tapped the plastic bowl Scootaloo was wearing on her head. “But I don't think much of this thing.”
“That's my helmet. Pinkie Pie said we needed them to breath in space.”
Apple Bloom was spinning around on Applejack's back, trying get a look at her own flank. “Didwegetourcutiemarks, didwegetourcutiemarks?!?”
“I sure hope you don't get a 'jumpin' on your sister cutiemark'.”
Their helmets prevented the cutiemark crusaders from checking their own flanks, so they checked each others.
“Awww,” they said together.
Twilight beamed at them. “You did a great job, comrades. The Motherland is lucky to have you.”
“Always happy to help, Twilight,” said Apple Bloom.
“Does this mean we win?” asked Scootaloo.
Applejack got to her feet, which made Apple Bloom wobble trying keep her balance. “Now hold on just fer a minute. We aint’ out of this yet, we've still got Fluttershy. She could... wait... is that a fin poking out between those pillows?”
Seven ponies and a dragon turned to look at where Fluttershy was standing.
“Ummm...?” said Fluttershy
“RAAWR!” said Pinkie Pie, roaring in precisely the way a shark doesn't.
The pink pony exploded out of the pillows, latching onto Fluttershy and dragging her beneath the surface before the onlookers even had a chance to blink.
Fluttershy's terrified “Eeeeeeek!” faded rapidly, as she was taken to the dark, downy depths.
Spike broke the silence. “Just when you thought it was safe to go back to bed...”
“Okay, now ya' win.”