"Caught in the Trap"
"What's your ETA?"
"Approximately five minutes, Princess," Spectrum responded over the mental link. The group was assembled currently above the cloud cover as they flew along as sub-sonic speeds. Spectrum had volunteered to pull the chariot along and, according to Flourish, she was doing a much better job than the last pilot they had. Spectrum politely declined to ask who that had been.
Galaxi leaned over from inside the chariot, trying to catch a glimpse of the town below through the cloud cover, "With the pegasai in this area gone there are just too many clouds, I can't get a visual."
Flourish, the other pony in the chariot, patted her shoulder and grinned, "Relax, we'll see it soon enough."
"Dragonfly, any chance you can get a read with your scanners?" Spectrum asked, looking to her left. The armoured pony had taught Galaxi well, and the psychic had them formed up in a classic Alicorn formation, with Spectrum at the horn, Steelwing and Dragonfly on the right and left wings respectively, and Pyre on the tail. The chariot itself acted as the saddle, with Galaxi and Flourish riding it.
"Negative," Dragonfly sighed, "We're still out of range."
"Break in the clouds coming up on the right," Steelwing pointed out.
"I see it. Steelwing, break off and check it out," Spectrum ordered, "The rest of us will slow down. I don't want to go in blind."
Steelwing peeled off, and flapped her metallic wings to head for the opening in the cloud cover as the rest of them slowed their speed. They'd been in transit nearly an hour to respond to this panicked call from the small town of Trotsburg. It was a small farming town just off the Snakebite River, an area relatively untouched by the Imps until now.
"This looks bad," Steelwing said over the link, "Looks like a number of the homes have been destroyed, the entire town looks like hell. We're in for a lot of smoke too; one of the fields was set on fire, looks intentional. Even if we were under the cloud cover, it would make visibility an issue in the air."
"Any survivors?" the Princess asked with a note of concern in her voice.
"If there are, I can't see them," the gryphon responded, "The main areas have some imps crawling over them but something looks strange. They look too spread out. Most of the time the Imps like to clump together and attack in swarms. These are spread out, like they want to maximize their visibility."
"Odd or not, we need to go in. Steelwing, where's a good landing zone?" Spectrum interrupted.
"There are no really good options," she answered, "I can see one possible spot near the docks, but that would cut us off from any proper retreat. Another is a farm on the opposite side of town, but the smoke is covering too much for me to get a clear idea of how suitable it is. Other than setting down right in the middle of town, those are the only options I see."
"Sounds almost like they're trying to force us into a bad landing zone," Dragonfly chimed in.
"It does, doesn't it?" Spectrum frowned, "Any other ideas?"
"I know you need to hurry," the Princess gently insisted, "They haven't been responding."
"Clockwork, Steelwing, buzz the area and see if you can find a better landing zone, and see if you can spot anything else that might be useful. Don't engage if you can help it, but if they do open up, see if you can draw their fire," Spectrum ordered, "Pyre and I will come in low and fast. Worst case scenario is to ditch the chariot in the river."
"Um please don't? I I can't swim," Galaxi squeaked shyly.
"You think we'd let you drown, Galaxi?" Flourish asked, grinning, "I'll get you to dry land."
Galaxi blushed, just barely noticeable through the openings of her mask, as Steelwing rejoined the group. No verbal instruction was necessary as Dragonfly dropped lower from her position, flying in synch with Steelwing as the two skimmed just over the clouds.
"See you on the other side," Dragonfly called, and the duo dropped through the cloud cover.
For several moments, the pair could only see the white fluffy clouds before them, the cool dampness clinging to them even as they plunged through. The white mist peeled back as they finally cleared the cloud, small fluffs of it training from their wings as the sight of the small town came fully into view.
The town of Trotsburg had definitely seen better days. What used to be a bustling small town that had been slowly growing thanks to the twin wheat farms that rested at the opposite ends of town and the small port, was a wreck. The usually colorful buildings were covered in scorch marks and claw rents from the attack. More than one house was missing walls, and even a number looked as if they had collapsed completely from the damage done. Smoke drifted from any number of buildings, even as the field from the northernmost farm burned mightily, covering the entire area in a black sooty smoke.
"I've got life signs from the Schoolhouse," Dragonfly piped up as the duo swept lower, "Looks like a good number, probably where they hid during the attack. I have a handful in the town hall too "
"Do you notice anything unusual, Dragonfly?" Steelwing asked as her brow furrowed.
"If you mean the attack patterns, then yes," the armoured mare said, "I see a LOT of scorch marks, and very few claw marks. This isn't the usual Imp tactics, they prefer to go after the living, and just ignore the buildings unless they give good cover."
"Then it's not just me. Imps don't usually use explosives when they attack," The gryphon pointed out, "They set us up in Appleloosa, but here "
"They would have had to attack right off with explosives to flatten some of those homes like that."
"We'll focus on that when everypony is on the ground," Spectrum cut in.
"Roger that," Dragonfly answered quickly, "The unburned farm looks possible, but "
"They aren't attacking us," Steelwing pointed out, as the pair dove down further then they had planned, almost to rooftop level as they flew along "main" street for the town, which ended at the Town Hall.
"They see us I can see them watching," the mare shivered.
"They aren't even trying to attack."
"That doesn't bode well," Spectrum inserted.
"They might be waiting for when we land?" Dragonfly offered.
"We'll find out. We're breaking through the clouds now," the rainbow maned pony stated. The mare and the chariot both plowed through the cloud cover, followed closely by the flaming pegasus Pyre, and dove towards the town. Dragonfly paused at the opposite side of town, directing them towards the landing area they had chosen, Steelwing hovering nearby just in case.
But the Imps continued to ignore the duo, instead all swiveling to face the chariot in unison. Their mouths came open, but the scream the ponies expected from the Imps didn't come Instead beams of energy lanced out from their mouths, aiming for the chariot. The first volley narrowly missed the chariot, but Spectrum was barely able to avoid the second volley even as Steelwing dove at the nearest attacker.
"This is really freaky!" Dragonfly shouted, the metallic sound of her plasma ejectors filling the air about her, "They're acting in perfect synchronization!"
"Could it be mental control?" Luna asked over the link.
"Only if a powerful psychic is mentally controlling them all at once!" Galaxi cried, struggling to hold onto the chariot as it bucked and weaved and rolled with Spectrum's attempt to avoid the incoming fire. Unfortunately a new volley of attacks slammed into the chariot HARD, breaking one of the links between pilot and rider, causing the entire thing to list drunkenly. Metal screamed in protest with Spectrum's continued attempts to avoid the incoming fire, which caused the chariot to buck under Galaxi's grip and then it seemed to vanish beneath her hooves.
The blind mare shrieked as she fell, the chariot all but disintegrating in air as the blasts seemed to target it exclusively. She was only barely aware of a sweet smell as hooves grabbed her and in an odd series of teleports that left her head spinning, landed on a still intact awning in the market, which collapsed under their combined weight.
"Sorry," Flourish apologized, untangling herself, "I maintain momentum through a teleport I had to slow us down. I would've used the river but you said you couldn't swim."
Galaxi threw up a telekinetic shield as a new series of attacks from the strange Imps came at them, "Thank you. Right now I'm just happy to have my hooves on the ground!"
"Well that didn't go as planned," Spectrum grumbled, ripping off the last of the harness before diving for the imps in the street.
"I want to know why these imps shoot from their mouths?" Pyre demanded, "do they have bad breath or something?"
"Stay with me Pyre," Spectrum demanded, and twisted around a series of blasts from below, diving down along one end of the street.
"C'mon Steelwing." Dragonfly said with a grin under her helm.
"Right behind you," the gryphon answered, and followed the armoured pony's lead. They were at the opposite end of the street from Spectrum and Pyre, with Galaxi and Flourish caught somewhere in the middle. The pair swept forward, Dragonfly's blasts ripping through Imp after Imp as they moved towards the center of the street, Steelwing flying lower and slightly behind the armoured pony to use her wings and talons to catch and destroy any Imps that managed to get under the firing arc.
"We'll meet up at Galaxi's position," Spectrum said from above, and increased the speed of her dive, and Pyre followed in her wake. The pair leveled out and seemed to fly directly at the other half of the team, skimming just over the surface of the ground.
Galaxi yelped as the quartet of her teammates came at each other, destroying every Imp along the road before Dragonfly and Spectrum both arced upwards, killing their momentum. Steelwing swept down to the ground by Galaxi's shield, swiping the serrated edge of her wing through an Imp trying to blast its way into the shield. Only Pyre over-flew the group and had to circle back to bleed off her momentum. Galaxi let her shield drop as Flourish re-appeared by them.
"What's going on here?" Flourish asked, "I've never seen Imps act like this. They aren't even trying to use their claws; they're just shooting at us from their mouths no less. Maybe Pyre is right, maybe it is halitosis."
"No. These aren't Imps," Steelwing stated as Dragonfly and Spectrum landed nearby.
"What makes you say that?" Spectrum asked.
"I have never met a metal Imp," she stated, holding up half of the Imp she had just sawed in two.
"W-what in the A a robot?" Dragonfly stammered.
"Robot?" Spectrum frowned.
Dragonfly trotted up to the husk that the gryphon held, inspecting the sever point, and then yanked the beak open, "They're ROBOTS! They're made to LOOK like Imps! This isn't an Imp attack, it's "
"It iz revenge, Mizz Key," a voice interrupted from the "Imp" they held, via a speaker hidden in deep in its chest. Dragonfly yelped and dropped the robot Imp torso on the ground, "I vas beginning to vorry you vould not zhow up. Zis trap vould have been uzelezz zen or perhapz zat is ze point."
"Who ?" Flourish asked softly.
"Professor Burner," Dragonfly sighed, "Don't you think you're taking this a bit far? These are innocent ponies ."
"INNOZENT?!?!" the voice demanded, his voice cracking over the transmission, "No, zey are a zacrifize for ze greater good! To eliminate ze Eqvuestria ov Clocvork Key!!"
"Surely you don't plan to kill the ponies here .?" Spectrum asked softly.
"Kill? Oh no, zat vould not be zporting," the professor laughed, "But inztead Mizz Key's machines vill kill zem. Zere vill be, unfortunately, no zurvivors. Not even ze team ze Prinzzezz zent to zave zem. All because Mizz Key had been faking zome Imp attackz to boozt her popularity."
"Wait, what?" Dragonfly asked, and one could almost hear the gears grind in her head, "This is my tech, and you perverted my designs. You you've been telling those ponies that I invented them, haven't you?"
Clockwork's voice came from the speaker, "Of course I did. After all, one must make the situation believable if Equestria is ever going to believe in me after the debacle with Ultrapony."
"But instead you're going to make it look like I screwed up, and everypony was killed in the aftermath," Dragonfly sighed.
"Exzactly!!" Burner's voice hissed over the speaker, "But now zat you know, I am afraid I vill have to kill you Oh vait, I vas going to do zat ANYVAY!!"
"Then I guess we'll have to stop you," Spectrum stated firmly.
"I did not forget Mizz Key'z friendz," the voice seemed to growl softly, almost predatory, "I have planz for you all. But firzt, we remove ze little inventor mare from ze eqvation."
From the speaker that Burner had been speaking through, a soft humming sound began, just out of the range of hearing. Unfortunately there was one pony who could hear it, and despite all the filters she built into the helm of her armour, it seemed to bore right into her brain. The mare currently known as Dragonfly collapsed to the ground, desperately yanking the helm off her armour as she tried to stuff her hooves into her ears, tears welling in her eyes as she screamed.
"Sonics," Steelwing pronounced, and crushed the torso of the "Imp". Unfortunately that didn't seem to fix the problem, as the humming seemed to almost vibrate the entire town. From every "imp", from every home, from every building, speakers had been intentionally planted. Their sole target, the shuddering mare lying on the ground, desperately trying to block out a sound that cannot be blocked by even her best sound filters
One that only she could hear.
"That should be the last of them."
"For the nearby area anyway," Spectrum frowned, "Good job Flourish." The group had taken shelter in a nearby home, one that was still mostly intact. With every speaker the group had found and managed to deactivate, usually by most aggressive means, the armoured mare seemed to get a bit better. She was no longer screaming and stuffing her hooves in her ears, at least, but part of that could be credited to Galaxi. The psychic mare had gotten protective of her friend, staying close and gently coaxing her, trying to psychically block as much of the noise as possible. She was only partially successful, but at least Clockwork was only whimpering now, pressed close to Galaxi's side, trembling like a foal in her armour.
"Well, we know her weakness at least," Flourish noted, "Maybe we should pool knowledge before we get blindsided by anypony else's"
"No," Spectrum answered, "Not here."
"Huh? Why not?"
"We know he can listen through those speakers as well as talk. We don't know where else he may have hidden ones that he hasn't activated," Spectrum frowned, "If we talked it out, he would know every weakness we have."
"Still no luck reaching the Princess," Galaxi said softly where she was with Dragonfly.
"Keep trying," Spectrum ordered with a sigh, "We need to get through to Princess Luna, and get some help if possible."
"Whatever Burner is using, it has cut me off from her since he revealed himself," she sighed, "My range is usually fairly limited, but Luna can use her magic to keep tabs with me at long range. Right now, it's like she's not even there!"
"Just keep at it, at least until we figure out what our next move is."
"I think I need some help here," Steelwing interrupted over the mental link.
"What's wrong?" Spectrum asked, trying hard to cover the frustration in her voice.
"He had a trap on this speaker," the gryphon answered, "He rigged up some sort of acid sprayers to go off after I shut it down. It's literally raining down from the ceiling, and into some drains that is recycling it right back into the system. It's only the edges of the room right now, but more and more nozzles are activating, each one closer to me. I can't "
"You can't get out," Spectrum frowned, already envisioning the problem. Even if Steelwing's wings were immune to acid (which she wasn't sure they were) the rest of her body was not. Given the liquid nature of acid, any spray at the gryphon would leave her in a world of hurt that even the best healers might not be able to fix.
"Please hurry, the sprays are increasing pace. I think he knows I'm talking to you," Steelwing added.
"I'm on it!" the grey mare cried.
"I vouldn't do zat if I vere you," Burners voice sang from where? Spectrum frowned, unsure where the speaker was.
"Why not?" the team leader asked.
"Zimple. Ze houze you are in iz rigged to explode zhould any ov you leave."
"Wait, I left and returned," Flourish pointed out, only to be met by laughter.
"Zo? I juzt turned it on!"
Spectrum groaned softly and put a hoof to her forehead. This was going downhill fast, and they were stuck in a town turned into a deathtrap, with any number of innocent ponies relying on them. But she was running out of ideas.
"Do not fret little pony, vhen I am ready, you vill have your chanze to die az vell! I have zome zpecial planz for *SQUAWK*"
"Thank you Flourish," Spectrum sighed and smiled thinly at the unicorn, who had used her horn rapier to destroy the speaker she tracked down.
"H-he's playing w-with us," Dragonfly managed from her spot on the couch.
"Yes, he is," the rainbow maned pony agreed.
"W we have to ch-change the game."
Flourish turned with a half smile, "You've got an idea?"
"D-damn straight I d-do." The mare stammered, grimacing as she shivered, "We'll need some co-coordination t-to save save Steelwing."
"We still need to save the other ponies too," Spectrum reminded her.
"O-one thing at at a time," she hissed, shuddering for a second, "W-we won't be safe any-anywhere in town."
"It's starting to look that way," Flourish agreed, hopping onto the back of the couch to watch curiously, "Makes me wonder how long he's been rigging this up for us."
"An-anywhere but w-where Professor B-Burner is, that is. H-his room woul... would be safe."
"And where would he be?" Spectrum asked, her eyebrow lifting.
"T-town hall. R-remember the life signs the-there?" dragonfly swallowed sharply, "I'd... I'd be vulnerable. He'd he'd have more of those sonic emit-emitters set up t-there. But you n-none of the rest of you would be."
"What of you?" Spectrum asked carefully.
"C-can't leave St-steelwing b-behind." She stammered, and pulled her helmet on again.
"Alright, quickly now, we don't know how much longer she has," Spectrum said softly.
"Okay, we do it like this ."
"How can you zit in zis chair?"
The mayor of Trotsburg, a heavy stallion with a dirty brown coat and mussed green mane, glowered at the orange unicorn and pulled against the ropes. If it had been just him he would have told the unicorn where to stick that chair, but with his assistant and the local mailmare both caught with him, he had no desire to antagonize this villain. He glanced over his shoulder slightly, spotting the cream coat and mocha streaked mane of his assistant, and the warm sunset red coat and pale blue mane of the mailmare. Oddly he was slightly comforted by their presence, even if this situation was bad all sorts of bad. Worse, the crazed orange stallion seemed to spend a lot of time now talking over some sort of microphone to a group he could only assume were sent in response to his distress call to the Agency. Too bad they were over a week late, but then the Professor sitting at his desk had delighted in telling them how he'd intercepted and blocked their signal when it first went out, recording it to use with his ruse.
"I azked you a qvuestion, Mayor." Professor Burner insisted.
"W-what exactly would you have me answer?" he asked back in kind.
"HAH! You ztill have zome zpirit left!" the orange unicorn laughed, "Ve vill zee how vell zat vorkz for you."
"You Monster!" the filly behind the mayor shouted.
"Miss Quill!" the mayor cried, horrified.
"Ah yez, Mizz Qvill, it iz not polite to interrupt your betterz," the unicorn chuckled darkly, stalking around the trio of bound ponies, the mailmare squeaking audibly as she tried to hide behind the larger mayor.
"You're just a crazed lunatic " Feather Quill hissed at the unicorn, her trapped wings fluttering helplessly against the ropes.
"Crazed?" Professor Burner seemed to consider, rubbing his chin with a hoof, "Crazed you zay?"
"You have spent the last week with the town trapped in the schoolroom, barely giving them enough food to survive," the mayor pointed out, hoping perhaps that his assistant's outburst might have gotten through to this lunatic, "You have your robots pull us out of our homes, destroying a majority of them, and having them install all sorts of wild contraptions. This isn't how ponies should act towards each other "
"You prezzume to know what a pony zhould and zhould not do?!?" the unicorn demanded, and the Mayor cringed. The unicorn swept forward, his pungent breath washing over the mayor's face, "You azzume you have zome zort of authority over vat iz good and evil?! Vat givez you ze right to judge ME?!? I do zis for your good! For ze good ov Canterlot, for Eqvestria!! Mizz Key iz ze threat, and iv I have to enzure her liez are revealed through ze uze ov more creative meanz, zo be it."
"She wasn't the one who tied us up," the Mayor's assistant growled.
"I can azzure you zat you vill not zurvive to tell anypony zat," the unicorn grinned.
The mayor cringed at the threat, when all of a sudden the entire office seemed to shake. Within milliseconds the sound of a roaring explosion reached his ears, which caused him to flatten them. The unicorn, on the other hand, frowned.
"Vell, zat vas unexpected," he considered, "I did not zink zey vould opt to blow zemselves up inztead of playing my gamez Oh vell, zat meanz I have no more uze for you or your ponies, mayor."
The mayor blinked slightly, looking back at the stallion from under a fall of his green mane, "You're letting us go then?"
"Ov courze not! After all, you know exzactly who did zis to you. Iv any zurvivorz are found, zey need to zink it vaz Mizz Key." the unicorn grinned.
"Wait, you mean all those announcements in the schoolhouse in that mare's voice ?" the mayor paled.
"Zat iz Mizz Key, zey vill zink zhe iz ze real villain here," Professor Burner laughed, "Now zen, it iz time vor ze main event!"
"Dare I ask what?"
"Ze mazzacre ov Trotzburg!" the unicorn cried happily, and the mayor could only shiver at the shark-like grin.
"Are you sure about this?"
"N-nope," Dragonfly managed to answer, still struggling with the shrieking sound in the back of her head. But with most of the nearby speakers having been taken out, she was forcing herself to act. She was slow, her focus swimming in and out of reach like a slippery eel, but she was at least doing something a far cry better then lying helpless while her friends worried.
Steelwing looked up at her, concern etched across her features. The two figures were stuffed into the room that the gryphon was trapped in, stacked one on top of the other to minimize the amount of space they took up. Dragonfly was hovering over Steelwing, using her body to try and block the acid if it happened to trigger early, even if the armour was as likely to be acid resistant as the gryphoness.
The room itself used to look like a normal office, but the acid had eaten away through a majority of that ruse. Gone were the wallpaper and wooden desk, the plush carpeting and even the ceiling overhead. Instead the floor was an arched tiling like one would find in a bathroom, with the highest point in the center, and a series of long rectangular drains near each wall. In a way, it looked like some fetishist's version of a shower, given the sheer number of spray nozzles over head that formed a series of concentric circles. Steelwing had managed to count 10 rings from her own attempts to figure her way out.
Only the 4 centermost rings were still inactive.
"The smell is making it difficult for me," the gryphon gagged, covering her beak with a wing.
"You'll wa-want to see a healer after this, jus-just in case you inhaled t-too much spray. We'll both want want a bath after this too," Dragonfly said, thankful for the air system she installed in the armour, and went back to her work. Steelwing had to admit the small mare was clever, she was using her plasma ejectors to bore through the floor, forming a circle in the center of the room. The gryphon could tell it was getting near falling away, but the question was how long would it take, and how long did they have?
"Why didn't Flourish just teleport us both out?"
"S-she couldn't," Dragonfly answered, "Flourish can onl only teleport one at a time, and even that takes effort. She w-was already carrying me, and Galaxi, Spectrum, and Pyre needed her to stop this flankhole."
"Why YOU though?"
"B-because I'd be the least reliable where they they are going," Dragonfly stated, "Burner would have taken precautions to ensure I could not get close to him or the hostages."
Steelwing would have asked another question, but the floor fell away under her at that moment, causing her to squawk as she fell into the room beneath, followed quickly by the armoured mare.
"MOVE!!" the mare shouted, and the gryphon suspected why, and dove away from the hole and splintered the door to the basement, rushing up the stairs with Dragonfly hot on her tail. Only when they reached the top of the stairway did they pause to look back, the entire basement floor covered in sickly green acid.
"We shouldn't stop here. Let's make for the port so we can wash off the acid," Steelwing said helpfully, able to see the wisps of smoke from Dragonfly's back where the acid was already eating into and pitting her armour.
"They're stronger then they look," Spectrum growled.
The mare wiped a bit of blood from her lip before she dived back at the robotic Imp, this time dodging under its claw to catch it across the face with a strong buck. She continued the spinning motion and grabbed it by the neck with her forehooves, pulling back sharply to break its mechanical spine, before tossing the robot aside.
Pyre let out a shriek as she strafed the area with her fireballs, trusting Galaxi's telekinetic shield to keep the flames from reaching the schoolhouse behind them. As it turned out, securing the schoolhouse had been easier than expected. Unfortunately the robot imps had swarmed out in large numbers shortly thereafter, apparently intent on flattening the building.
"I still can't believe that worked," Galaxi grumbled, sweat beading her forehead as she protected the schoolhouse.
"You can blame Dragonfly for the crazy idea later," Spectrum added, plowing into another robot, and used it like a weapon to hurl into several of its compatriots.
"But to have you fly me out, and use my shield to protect us from the blast ."
"While having Pyre leach away the heat of the explosion," Spectrum added, stumbling back a step as an imp blasted her across her chest.
"Yes, do not forget my part in things," Pyre chimed in, hurling more fireballs at the line of robots approaching.
"It was a stupid plan. I almost passed out trying to maintain that shield!" Galaxi cried, "I'm not sure how much longer I can keep this shield up. I'm exhausted."
"We all are, but we can't let up until we hear back from Flourish," Spectrum stated, pummeling another robot before grabbing its arm in her mouth and swinging it around like a hammer to flatten the robots around her.
"How did Miss Giggles get that role?" Pyre groused as she dove forward to grasp at a robot that got too close, superheating it until its electronics popped and fizzled satisfyingly.
"Subtlety," Spectrum answered as she hurled the robot through a handful of others.
"I am not subtle?!?" Pyre demanded, shooting a fireball right into the face of a robot trying to jump her.
"Yeah, as subtle as a brick upside the head." Galaxi teased.
Pyre made an angry sound, and the heat of her fires intensified.
"Vell, zis iz unexzpected."
"I'm good at that," Flourish grinned, standing on the large oversized mayor's desk, her rapier-horn leveled at Professor Burner's neck, the tip drawing just a single drop of blood. Burner was sitting in the mayor's chair, looking awkward, and feeling even more-so now that he had a sharp magic blade at his neck.
"But not unplanned vor." The orange unicorn grinned, holding up a box with his telekinetic magic, "Zis iz a deadpony svitch. Iv I die, ze zwitch iz opened, and ze mayor and hiz lovely azzizztants vill die."
"Oh? How do you plan to manage that?" Flourish demanded, her eyes spotting the box with a frown. He was right; his magic was holding the switch closed on the rectangular black box, a lever like switch on one side that would normally be for a pony to hold tight with their mouth.
"Ze mayor iz not ze only zing in ziz offize," Professor Burner grinned predatorily, "I took ze privilege ov rigging zis building vith explozivez. Iv I die, zo will everypony here."
"Then I suppose we have a stalemate," Flourish grinned, "And I still have friends outside to help."
"Oh pleaze, you take me vor an idiot."
"Oh, I juzt finizhed rigging ze mayor vith a zpezial belt ov my own dezign, vhich vill electrocute him, and anypony zat is cloze to him. Zat vun iz timed."
"Interesting. So we'd both die here anyway," Flourish grinned.
"Perhapz. Perhapz not," the unicorn noted, his grin only increasing, "But zat dependz on how exzpendable you believe ze mayor iz."
For several long moments, the pair stared directly into each other's eyes, as if trying to test each other's resolve. Flourish's lip quivered as she considered just skewering the professor right there, but she could not figure a way to reach the switch in time. She wasn't all that concerned about her own life, but the innocents behind her she couldn't do that. She may not be part of the guard anymore, but she still felt the need to protect those who could not protect themselves.
The two ponies acted simultaneously, as if there were some sort of choreographed signal that only they could recognize. Flourish dove for the Mayor and the two unfortunate mares he was bound with, while Burner leapt away and through the back door to the office.
Flourish severed the ropes with a quick flick of her head, and nudged the mares to their feet, "RUN!!" she shouted at them, "Out of the building, do not stop!" She turned back to the Mayor and frowned, easily seeing the belt the unicorn had rigged up.
"Oh this isn't pretty " she sighed.
"It will go off before it comes off, won't it?" he asked carefully.
"Oh yeah. I expected that," she sighs, "But it'll be tricky what we need to do."
"If I have to sacrifice my life ."
"Relax Mayor the only thing we're sacrificing is a few years off both our lives from the stress," she joked, and pulled the mayor close to her with a foreleg, "But first we need to give your assistants a chance to get out of the building. I hope they're quick. He'll detonate the place the moment he feels he's at a safe distance. Time is NOT on our side."
"So do I "
"Oh, and Mayor, I'd recommend loosening your belt a little."
"Young Lady! I'll have you know I'm a married Stallion!!" he cried.
Flourish looked at him incredulously for a moment, and then began to laugh, "Oh thank you, I was afraid the strain was starting to get to you. Okay, they're clear, ready?"
"For for what?" the mayor asked nervously, only to be met by Flourish's wide smile.
"This," and the world vanished in a puff of pink smoke.
"Well... we survived." Galaxi sighed, and collapsed on the ground in exhaustion.
"Aye, we did," Spectrum chuckled, spreading her wings as the weight of the situation lifted from her shoulders. Sure, there was still plenty of work to do here, and she'd like to help a little before they left, but they all managed to come through when the chips were down. Town Hall being detonated seemed to also destroy whatever mechanisms were running the robotic imps and the speakers, allowing Dragonfly to help in getting the civilian ponies out of the booby-trapped schoolhouse. Thankfully everypony was willing to believe the Mayor when he revealed that Dragonfly was not the true culprit, especially when he was backed up by the mailmare.
"Any luck Steelwing?" Spectrum asked over the link.
"No," the gryphoness answered, "He had some sort of emergency craft waiting for him, and by the time we had everything sorted away, he was long gone."
"Alright, come on back. We still need to find whatever is damping the psychic field that is preventing the Princess from contacting us."
"I hope it's nothing serious," Galaxi put in worriedly.
"She probably got tired of listening to a busy signal," Pyre joked.
"The Goddesses only know how many more booby-traps are scattered about," Dragonfly sighed, "I HOPE the controls for them all went up with the town hall and the mayor's office."
"Speaking of which, I wonder if the Mayor is done thanking Flourish yet?" Spectrum wondered.
"Oh he finished ages ago," Flourish grinned as she appeared nearby, "The mailmare on the other hand "
"I didn't know your barn-door swung that way," Steelwing deadpanned as she swooped in to land.
"What can I say; I'm an equal opportunity freak!"
"I'm sure Skillet would enjoy that information," Dragonfly chuckled.
"Oh now that's just not playing fair !"
"My little ponies!!" the Princess suddenly cried across the mental link.
"Speak of the proverbial Princess," Spectrum answered, "We were just wondering when you'd "
"No time!" the Princess interrupted, "I need your flanks back here NOW! The Imps have launched a major assault! There are portals all over Canterlot, even one in the THRONE ROOM!! The Nightmare is sending Imps directly into the magic protection and anti-teleport zones somehow! You need to come back NOW!!"
"We're an hour out " Dragonfly started.
"Then we need to get moving. The chariot was destroyed, so we won't be able to get the non-flyers there that way. Steelwing, you carry Flourish, I'll carry Galaxi," Spectrum ordered, and the gryphoness grabbed the gray mare and lifted off. Dragonfly was already lifting off herself, even as Pyre took to the sky ahead of them all.
"You're leaving?" the mayor asked, confused.
"We've had an emergency call from Princess Luna in Canterlot," Spectrum sighed, "Looks like we're not going to get a chance to help clean up the mess."
"I understand. Thanks again, and good luck!" the mayor called up to the pegasus, who was already gripping Galaxi in her forehooves.
"Thank you Mayor, I have a feeling we'll need it."