Spectrum of Lightning - FiMFetch.net (2024)

by Seriff Pilcrow

Chapter 14: Chapter 14: Cat and Mouse

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Three down, but things were getting nowhere.

Levitating the fire extinguisher, Velvet trudged out from a shipping container and huffed, kicking the door closed behind her. Though the slam shook the floor beneath her hooves, it didn’t shake the grimace off her face as she rubbed her forehead. “Feels like I’m in a barrel and floating down a waterfall.”

The walkie-talkie crackled to life. Velvet turned her head and opened the flap of her saddlebags, a wrecked padlock on the floor briefly crossing her vision. Her magic levitated the radio to ear level as she trotted towards the fourth container.

“Twilight! Twilight!” Daring panted out under the ambient sound of gunfire. “Watch your back! One of the mercs knows you’re there!”

“What?! Can you get her off my tail?”

Three gunshots, then one small explosion, rang out from the radio as Velvet made her way to the next container. “I’m doing my damnedest to link up with you, but the guys over here are just lining up for autographs!”

Velvet stomped a hoof down in frustration. “Well, can’t you do something?!”

Several more shots crackled from the speaker. “...I could...uh...I could pull the trigger on this last bomb of yours—send them a message they won’t forget?”

For the first time since fighting Nightshade and her goons, Velvet’s heart raced. “Are you crazy?! That brick of C-4 is planted in the main turbine!”

“I know!”

Velvet blinked in astonishment, her hooves trembling as they took the bolt cutter from her saddlebags and made short work of the next container’s padlock. “If you set that off, there’ll be no way to power the weather modulator—and it’s typhoon season out here in the Luna Oceans! This ship better damn-well float!”

Daring still found it in herself to scoff despite the gunfire zipping past her. “Do you want that cow off your tail or not? ‘Desperate times,’ right?”

Velvet furrowed her eyebrows, both at Daring’s statement and at the container door now enshrined in her magic. “‘Cow??’ What does that mean?

Gunshots roared from behind; grit and shrapnel splattered on Velvet’s face. She dove to the side of the container, folding her ears down as four new holes were left in her wake. Flattening herself down and spinning around to face her new attacker, Velvet fought to steady her breathing.

“Talk to you later, Do Dare!” Velvet yelled under fire. “Be sure to leave a message at the sound of ‘F.’”

Bullets ricocheted off the container, a few fragments stinging off her hide as Velvet put the radio away. Her eyes bulged as the sound of F crescendoed until it finally erupted from her chest and out her mouth.


Scrambling to her hooves, Velvet scurried down to the far side of the container, then veered around the corner. Adrenaline surged through the veins in her forehead and itching, sweating legs. Wiping her brow, she noticed her horn had stopped glowing. The bolt cutters and fire extinguisher were nowhere in sight.

Must’ve canceled the telekinesis when I got startled.

The words that came out of her mouth were much more concise.

“DOUBLE f*ck!!”

After racing through a single breath, Velvet peeked out the edge of the container. Her eyes were already wide, but they swelled to the size of hubcaps when the mysterious shooter came into view.

A grayish-brown, two-horned figure charged forward, rifle on her hip.

“River Rapids??” Velvet gasped. “Let’s talk! We don’t need to do this!”

Rapids replied with rifle rounds. Velvet yanked her head into cover, the zip of high-caliber bullets shaking the air and rumbling into her facial bones.

“TRIPLE f*ck!!!”

River Rapids’ heavy hoof falls rapidly drew closer. Velvet turned and sprinted for the next container, rounding the corner and softening the sounds of her pounding hooves.

“LESS TALKING!” Rapids’ bellow bounced around the cargo hold. It threatened to force Velvet down to a fetal position. “More fighting!”

Making it to the end of the section, Velvet kicked the broken padlock away as she hid behind the corner of the container she had exited only a minute before. She fought to get her heaving chest to relax so she could hear Rapids’ heavy, cloven hooves better. The bison’s steps slowed to a walk. What was she planning?

Velvet’s head drifted downwards, and she mentally slapped herself in the face. Why was it that only now that she noticed the hoof prints she was leaving in the residue on the smooth floor surface. Why did knock-out gas have to leave a residue?! Just about the only consolation was that the residue was inert.

Velvet’s heart skipped as she picked up the unmistakable sound of hoof steps. Rapids was trying to be stealthy, bless her buffalo heart. “Enough sneaking around, little pony!” Rapids snarled. “Don’t you want our party to go off with a bang?”

Velvet eyed at Rapids’ shadow as it slid into view. The merc was in front of the container door—normally a red flag, but this time, positioned perfectly for a counterattack.

“Great idea!”

The container door flew open. A gong, followed by a groan, resounded through the cargo hold.

Velvet came out, surveying the scene to find Rapids clutching her cranium with her cloven hooves. Her body was sprawled on the floor, the rifle under her weight. Her red cap, along with her headset, lay a few meters away. “Rapids, come in!” Fuze’s voice crackled from the headset. “Where the hell did you run off to this time?! The CO is–”

The buzz in Velvet’s mind caused Fuze’s words to enter one ear and out the other. Sprinting past, Velvet crushed the headset underhoof. It wasn’t long before she reached the container from before—the one she was about to breach prior to Rapids’ interruption. “All right…uh…”—Velvet fidgeted—“behind Door Number Four…!”

Taking the extinguisher with her magic, Velvet scampered into the container and slammed the door behind her. Okay…okay…Rapids heard that. Her hooves drifted up to her mane as a flashlight spell surged up her horn. Move your fat ass, Vel.

Velvet’s eyes panned the scene, and her brow furrowed as more sweat streamed down her legs. There were boxes upon boxes, yes, but already she was sure she hadn’t struck gold. It wasn’t so much the fact that the boxes were labeled things like “RATIONS” and “MEAL, READY-TO-EAT,” while a crate of plastic cola bottles lay on the floor. It was more the lack of a leather bag; she could still remember how it felt from her long-range sensory spell.

“Damn it!”

A growl from outside diffused into the container. Velvet jumped. She’s gonna bust through those doors any minute! I’ve gotta cook something up—

Her eyes drifted to a cardboard box for MREs

“Cook something up…”

Velvet’s telekinesis tore through the box like the glorified paper it was. An unlucky MRE packet, meanwhile, was no match for Velvet’s teeth. It didn’t matter if the MREs contained daffodil rolls or, Celestia forbid, quesadillas. Her eyes were sent on finding something else.

“There! The heating brick!”

She tore the heating brick out of its packet and set it aside, brushing the dust off her face. Next, her telekinesis plucked a cola bottle from the crate and screwed it open.

“Don’t think I don’t know where you are!” Rapids bellow vibrated through the container walls before she broke into a menacing laugh. “Stupid pony—that is a dead end!” Heavy hoofsteps clanged closer to the door.

Not much time. Let’s…uh…let’s try exciting the cations a notch…

Velvet’s eyes narrowed as her telekinesis crushed the heating brick, then funneled the particles into the bottle. She held her breath, both in order to avoid inhaling the powder and in an attempt to control her surging adrenaline.

There we go!

The cola began to glow a deep blue; azure sparks danced inside. The plastic of the bottle was beginning to swell, and not a moment too soon. Velvet cupped the bottle with her hooves while lifting the cutter and extinguisher with her magic. She puffed out a breath.

The door opened, light spilling past the silhouette of Rapids and her rifle.

“Remember! Sharing is caring!”

The bottle bounced in front of Rapids’ hooves, still swelling. Only the label popped off.

“That’s it?” Rapids looked up from the bottle, raising an eyebrow.

Shrugging, Velvet gave a sheepish smile. “Said I only wanted to talk.”

The bottle disappeared. Rapids yelled.

The shockwave fluttered Velvet’s mane as she shot her foreleg up to cover her face. She galloped towards the now-smoking exit. Rapids was doubled over, yes, but her front hooves were still on her weapon, and her bipedal stance loomed over the Canterlot unicorn.

She’s not going to stay that way for long!

A white cloud erupted from the extinguisher. Two, maybe three short bursts—Velvet didn’t want to asphyxiate Rapids. All she needed was time.

Rapids was crumpled onto the floor, her coughs mixed with shivering. Velvet’s mouth hung open as her ears folded back.


Velvet’s mind seemed to enter a sort of lightheaded autopilot: run to the next container, cut the bolt, throw the door open wide and survey the treasures therein. Her hooves felt light, despite the heavy pounding of her heart.

Horseshoes, balloons, streamers, confetti… “What are they transporting!? Supplies for a cute-ceañera?” Container after container was filled with festivity-themed boxes that made Velvet’s heart move further and further into her throat. Sweat poured down her face as she jumped at every shadow. Finally, she found a container upon its side, bits of wrapping paper protruding from the opening.

“It’s in the last container.” Velvet rolled her eyes. “Of course it’s in the last container. Knowing my luck, it won’t even be there. It’s probably in the back of the fridge in some kitchen, right next to the cheese, ugh.”

Hoofsteps caused Velvet’s ears to twitch. Her magic reflexively canceled, dropping the extinguisher, the bolt cutters, and flashlight spell. Rapids’ now-familiar stomps were not subtle in the slightest. “Clever filly…but two can play that game!”

“Crap!” Velvet muttered. “Boss level fight resumes.” Her horn glowed a bright magenta as it reactivated her spells. Both her and the nozzle of her extinguisher gazed down at the door. She’d be ready this time.

A wedge of light entered the room with a drawn-out creak. Her magic clamped down on the extinguisher’s lever.

Rapids never entered. Any second now…

Any second…

Velvet blinked, scratching her hooves, then lowered the extinguisher and co*cked her head to the side. “What is she—”

Something round bounced off the door, rolling to a stop between Velvet’s hooves. Her eyes widened at the device.


A non-electric charge flew down Velvet’s spine. Surging forward, she zipped out the container and kicked the left door wide. At least this time she had the presence of mind to keep her magic from deactivating itself before making her escape.

If only she had the presence of mind to look both ways.

The wind, along with a scream, tore itself from Velvet’s lungs. Something catapulted her into the side of the container to her left. Gasping for a breath that wouldn’t come, she slid down the side as her weapons clattered to the floor, her magic extinguished. The sound of her body’s impact echoed in the hold. Velvet squeezed her eyes shut. Did the grenade just catch her?

A boom from behind, two seconds late, answered that question.

The question was further answered and underlined with bold italics with the heavy impact of Rapids’ hind hoof.

Velvet whimpered as she clutched her throbbing shoulder, the pain shooting from her shoulder blade clean through her hoof. She opened her watering eyes to the sight of dark muzzle of Rapids’ rifle, set against the backdrop of the buffalo’s harsh scowl. The buffalo spat some leftover extinguisher powder, then straightened her sights.

“Eat lead.”

The entire airship rocked. A distant rumble, followed by the shearing and grinding of metal, shook the floor, throwing Rapids off balance.

Thank you, Daring, Queen of Convenient Distractions!

In one swift motion, Velvet grabbed the extinguisher with her magic and launched it into the side of Rapids’ head.

Grimacing, Velvet pulled herself to her hooves, frowning at the pattern forming in her mind. This was what, the third head injury Rapids had sustained? But all she ever did was stay down for a few seconds. What did she need to do, drop a boxcar on her head? Or a boat? Maybe a whole city?

Velvet glanced at Rapids’ rifle. Not the most graceful solution, but she was never one to care for airs and graces.

With a grin, Velvet extracted a tube of mayonnaise leftover from the earlier MRE’s. With more fun than the situation should have allowed, she pulled back the rifle lever—as she’d seen Daring Do do when cleaning—and instead, proceeded to do something that would make Daring scream in rage. With a dash of magic to shoot up the viscosity and stickiness of the mayo, the rifle port was soon dripping with sandwich grease. Velvet tugged the charging handle two times with her magic. When it didn’t budge, she began trotting off with a smile.

Rapids twitched before she grunted and began to stir. She pulled her forehooves under her until she could ease herself onto her side, gazing at Velvet with a level stare. As Velvet stared back, something struck her as just a little bit off. Maybe it was instinct, or the fact that something seemed to be smoldering behind the buffalo’s gaze. Or maybe it was because her right hoof was behind her back and out of view.

Velvet slid back just a bit, feeling like her personal bubble needed a little more room. “Now Rapids, if you would just let me…”


Velvet yelped and scooted back. Metal clanged against metal just between her legs. Velvet’s eyes traced the machete’s blade up to Rapids’ right hoof and to the fire now blazing in her eyes.

That was a little too close.

Velvet rolled onto her legs and sprang up just as Rapids yanked the machete off the metal floor and reassumed her bipedal stance. Both stared into each others’ eyes, but the fire in Rapids’ eyes, not to mention her build, pierced Velvet’s gaze and caused her forelegs to sink into the floor.

“River Rapids please,” panted out Velvet. “If you would just–”


Rapids lunged forward, bringing her machete down with a diagonal swipe. Velvet veered left, the blade whispering death as it came close to an ear.

“Dammit!” Velvet backpedalled, trying to catch her breath. “I know Thunderhooves. He said that—”


Velvet dodged yet another slash. Rapids wasn’t taking any calls at the moment. Wincing and focusing her magic into a blunt cone, Velvet pushed forward with a telekinetic shove. Rapids staggered back, a hoof slipping on some mislayed mayo, the machete spinning away from her hoof.

Velvet spun around and galloped to the door of the last container. Her head felt light, her hooves felt heavy, and the padlock slipped from her magic a couple of times. That maneuver of hers bought her maybe four seconds tops, and her magic was beginning to run dry. Okay, okay, new plan! Velvet wiped some sweat from her brow as she clamped the bolt cutters onto the padlock. Just gotta get the artifact first and then…

Both container doors flew open. A flashlight spell, plus the red glow of emergency lights, flooded the interior. Like the previous containers, the contents lay scattered on the floor, knocked over by Velvet’s earlier explosives. Unlike the previous containers, the contents of this container were mostly plastic military hardcases. All these, however, were pushed aside from Velvet’s attention by a small, faint glimmer on the floor.

Velvet’s irises converged on the source: a lumpy leather bag with dim, pulsing yellow light leaking out of the gaps on its zipper.

Rapids’ unmistakable hoofsteps, however, shook Velvet out of her discovery. She tapped her horn, and it sputtered in response. Time for the new plan. Don’t fail me now.

Keeping her hooves light to avoid too much noise, Velvet scurried out the container. Rapids wasn’t at the door yet, but Velvet had to act fast or New Plan would crumble in front of her face. As she hugged the container’s corrugated wall and closed the doors with her magic, Rapids’ hoofsteps and snorts reverberated from the other side, shaking Velvet’s core. The buffalo was at the door now, and though Velvet couldn’t see her, she could hear her heavy hooves tapping the doors a few times.

The doors flew open. Rapids stomped inside. “COME OUT!”

Velvet obliged. Rapids spun around at the sight of Velvet’s shadow just as the unicorn huffed out a half-frustrated “How’s it feel to be on the other end of the stick? Comes as a shock, huh?”

Brilliant blue light flooded the container. Velvet’s horn poured out the last of its reserves into an electrical spell on Rapids’ body. The mercenary’s hooves spasmed, her body fell to the floor, and her machete disappeared under the mess of hardcases and radios kicked up by her convulsing body. Velvet meanwhile, grit her teeth and averted her eyes. The current wasn’t strong enough to kill Rapids—not with the amount of magic she had left—but this wasn’t a torture session either.

Another pulse of magic canceled the bluish arcs. Rapids moaned and writhed on the floor, and Velvet’s nose wrinkled at the lingering smoke and smell of singed fur.. She pushed that observation to the side, however. “Right, right.” Velvet hopped onto the pile of hardcases and started digging around like a Mustangian. “Gotta look for the glowing thing. Just like in Treasure Hooves III!”

In the relative dimness of the container, Indra’s Bow wasn’t hard to find, even if Velvet had to toss a few hardcases to the side to retrieve it. No sooner had she pocketed the artifact, though, when some crumped maps beside her shifted, then snorted. A dark shape rose from the pile. No words escaped from Velvet’s mouth, and though the adrenaline tensed her aching, protesting legs, the high had passed several minutes ago.


Velvet leaped out of the mess on the container floor—the last hurrah of her adrenaline rush. What followed next wasn’t exactly a sprint so much as a limping canter. Sweat dripped from her fur, her horn felt like it was about to cave into her forehead, and every muscle screamed for rest. There! The exit of the cargo hold was in view, despite her darkening vision. Come on, Vel! Just a couple…more…

Rapids didn’t need toys. One hardened buffalo cranium made its mark on Velvet’s thigh. The Canterlot unicorn was airborne for less than a second. Her body dented the wall, shooting a resounding gong through her shoulder, up her ears, and out her eyes.

As Rapids’ blurred form trudged towards her target, Velvet's horned sputtered. Something…anything…to get her out of-

Another blow. The spell fizzled out. Velvet’s legs fell limp, but she clung to consciousness even as Rapids mounted onto her.


The last word trailed off into a gag when Rapids wrapped her cloven hooves around Velvet’s neck. Velvet tried to raise her arms to pry Rapids’ hooves off—fat chance of that—but all she could muster was pawing the ground. Velvet’s head was forced to the floor, and her increasingly fuzzy vision dimmed as her eyelids began to close.

Then the golden angel arrived.

But she didn’t seem quick to the trigger this time.

It was hard to see—Daring was just a yellow blob standing in the distance—but it was obvious Daring was aiming down her rifle’s sights. However, instead of opening fire, the pegasus kept hesitating—raising the rifle to take aim and then lowering it again, shaking her blurry head.


Daring’s roar snapped Rapids’ eyes and hooves away from her target. Velvet gasped. Sweet oxygen swirled back into her lungs as color returned to her face.

Recognizing the danger, Rapids rolled back, raising a forearm to ward off the impending blow. Adding her flight speed to the blow, Daring swung for the fences and connected.

A loud crack sounded at the impact, the buttstock disengaging from the barrel and chamber as Rapids yelled in pain, rolling off in a heap. Without the weight of the buffalo holding her down, Velvet pulled herself up with a groan, hacking and wheezing, her head throbbing as if it would burst. Looking to the side, Velvet watched as Daring and Rapids rolled down the cargo hold. It In a few moments it was over: Daring the victor.

Limping closer, Velvet rubbed her face as she watched Daring dismount and then hogtie the buffalo’s hooves together with her bullwhip. Daring’s eyebrows creased as she focused, the air around the whip shimmering and swirling alongside her passive pegasus magic before the wrapped cord tightened itself around Rapids’ limbs.

“Do Dare?!” Velvet huffed out. “What are-”

“We don’t have much time here, kid!” Daring growled. “Her fellow mercs are on their way here! This is your one chance to talk!”

Velvet sucked in a breath, then steadily approached Rapids, still limping while rubbing her reddened neck. Rapids stopped squirming in her restraints as she watched Velvet approach, her frown slowly morphing into a sneer. Velvet only lifted an eyebrow in response.

“You heard your friend. You don’t have much time.” Rapids chuckled. “Do it. Death is preferable to the shameful hell that is life.

Velvet glanced at the floor and swallowed a lump in her throat. Was Rapids really so prepared to die? Perhaps this was the segue she needed.

“Nothing to say to Thunderhooves, right?” Velvet crouched in front of Rapids.

The crooked smile began to fade from Rapids’ face. “How do you know Thunderhooves?”

“It’s...a long story.” Velvet tried to hide her sigh of relief. “I can tell you this, though: he misses you terribly.”

“Feh.” Rapids averted her gaze to the side. “Of course he does. But he’s probably the only one. I’m just the local troublemaker there, and now that Thunderhooves is the chief, it is only a matter of time before his position sweeps him up. He will probably forget all about me.”

Velvet shook her head. “Not true!” Velvet lowered her voice. “Thunderhooves still cares about you, and so many wish you would return... Give them a chance.”

At the last few words, Velvet blinked and glanced aside, Daring’s pep talk from the night before echoing through her head. She then turned her view to Daring, the pegasus’s scowl softening to a more pensive visage.

Rapids heaved a sigh before turning her head to make eye contact again. “Thunderhooves would say to thank you for your kindness…” She pursed her lips and hung her head. “But I cannot go back. I have walked this trail too long now.”

A burst of static erupted from Daring’s radio, a few indecipherable voices filtering through. “Velvet,” Daring said as she loosened her whip, “Time to fly.”

Velvet nodded to her before looking back squarely at Rapids’ eyes. She placed a gentle hoof on her shoulder.

“It’s not too late to turn your life around. Maybe you could ask your higher-ups for a leave of absence? Give yourself a chance to see how the folks in your village really feel, rather than just speculating.”

Rapids opened her mouth to speak, but the words stopped themselves before they could be uttered. She put her now free hoof to her forehead, breathing out a long sigh. What was on her mind, Velvet couldn’t say.

The sound of hoofsteps emanated from one of the entrances, causing Velvet and Daring’s ears to twitch.“Wish I could stick around,” Velvet muttered under her breath as she started to back away.

Slipping her whip into its holster, Daring gestured to the other entrance and gave Velvet a poignant look. “Now, Velvet.”

Velvet took one uneasy step towards Daring’s direction, then looked back at Rapids. The buffalo remained lying on the floor rubbing her likely broken foreleg, visibly lost in thought. Velvet still had one parting gift for her, though, and put a hoof on the mercenary’s shoulder.

“I hope you do the right thing, kid.”

At Broom Closet HQ, Velvet unbuckled the saddlebags from her waist, allowing them to slide off and spill their contents on the floor. They rattled from the new vibration humming through the airship—an aftertaste from the prior “desperate measures.” The first piece of Indra’s Bow came to a rest by her right hoof, but not even its eerie glow attracted Velvet’s eyes. They were centered on an even more important treasure—now unfortunately lost forever.

“My babies didn’t make it.” Velvet sniffled a bit as she frowned at the plastic bag housing her now-smushed eclairs, complete with a cherry-sized bullet fragment on top.

“Oh, you poor, pampered unicorn. Night Light will be happy to see you on a diet.” Daring rolled her eyes as she stretched her legs and curled up near the window. A gust of wind blew their manes when Velvet opened the window, tossing the plastic bag off the edge.

“Pfff… They were probably cream cheese eclairs anyway.” Velvet shuddered and stuck her tongue out. “Seriously, screw those pretentious posers. Traitors to good taste.”

A thick silence shrouded the room. Despite Velvet’s attempt at levity, both ponies’ minds lingered on the events of their raid. Velvet knew she couldn’t keep pushing her thoughts to the back of her mind forever, and judging by the lack of amused chuckles at Daring’s end, neither could her mentor. For a few minutes, nothing filled the cabin save for the rough vibration of the deck and a swooping sensation as the ship veered to the side every so often.

“So…” Daring filled the silence, sharpening her trowel after cleaning the blood off. “Is adventuring all it’s cracked up to be?”

Velvet cracked a half-hearted smile that failed to make its way up to her eyes. “Thought you didn’t like me being the mopey housewife…”

Daring sat up, sending the bloodied paper towel to follow the doomed eclairs. “Something else the matter?”

“I told Rapids her tribe would forgive her, but can I really say the same for myself? I mean…”

Daring put her whetstone away before holstering her trowel, looking squarely at her protege. “Velvet, we’ve been over this-”

“I know, I know.” Velvet waved a hoof at herself. “We don’t need an instant replay of that dialogue two nights ago. It’s just…”

Velvet’s stomach twisted itself. She wasn’t usually at a loss for words.

“Guess you have a lot more in common with that bison than just a thirst for action,” Daring offered.

“Brilliant deduction, Shadow Spade.” Velvet chuckled, then sighed. “But yeah, makes me wonder if I really got through to Rapids. For all we know, she’ll reject my advice. She sure wasn’t ready to listen earlier.”

Daring placed her helmet on a nearby shelf. “Chin up. You kept your promise to Thunderhooves. That should count for something.”

“I suppose… Thanks.” Velvet’s ears perked forward with interest. “But enough about me…”

Velvet’s tone of voice caused Daring to raise her eyebrows, pausing in the motion of unbuttoning her shirt.

“Oh, don’t stop on my account…”

Daring smirked. “You’re not asking for a third, are you, Vel? Have we been hanging out for too long?”

Velvet chuckled into her hoof. “Nah, if I really wanted a third, I would’ve chosen somepony whose fur didn’t look like a hospital sample.”

“Hah! You’re missing out,” Daring said as she slipped her shirt off and revealed her toned physique for all the world to see.

“I saw what you did though, or well, what you could have done.”

Eyebrows furrowed, Daring turned to look at Velvet in concern. “What do you mean?”

“You could’ve shot Rapids. It would have been a hell of a lot easier for you.”

Daring blinked for a moment before pursing her lips. “Look, granting your request was the least I could do.”

Velvet shook her head, her eyes gravitating to the journal of Daring’s uncle, sitting on the shelf next to Daring. “Was it? I think there’s more to it than that.” Daring’s eyes followed hers to regard the journal. “You saw something in her, didn’t you?”

Daring stammered, then waved a hoof. “I…it was on the spur of the moment, okay? I don’t want to talk about it.” She turned and started re-coiling her whip.

Velvet leaned forward, rebalancing as the airship jostled in the sky for a moment.“Look, I might not have all the details, but it doesn’t look like adventuring is all it’s cracked up to be for you either.” The seconds stretched out for several more moments. Velvet couldn’t read her face, as her back was turned away. “What the hell happened in Abyssinia?” Velvet pushed further. “Your uncle’s journal mentioned-”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Daring pounded the butt of her whip against the cabin wall before slipping it into her harness. She sat down and gave Velvet a glare.

“Okay, okay…” Velvet waved her forelegs, motioning Daring to stay on the floor. “Some other time, then—maybe when we’re comfortable sharing a bed.”

Daring’s frown morphed into a smirk before she finally snickered and nodded in response. “That’s better.”

As Daring gathered a bundle of merc clothes into a makeshift mattress, Velvet took her journal from one of the shelves and placed it on the box-table. “So…do you think they’ll find us before we land?”

Daring squinted and put a hoof to her chin. “We’ll relocate our hiding place in five minutes. Maybe if I release one of their emergency planes this afternoon, they’ll think we abandoned ship. Anyway, at the rate we’re going, we won’t make landfall until sundown. We’ll have to cook up a plan to sneak out, then we’ll head for the jungles. Most of the Neighponese bunkers in that area of the Fillyppines are interconnected. Should make finding the next Indra’s Bow piece a bit easier,” Daring concluded by cracking her neck and resting her head on her makeshift mattress.

Velvet copied her actions and laid down next to her, muttering under her breath. “Nothing about this has been easy yet…and seriously? Five minutes? The mercs are probably sweeping the entire ship for our heads as we speak!”

Daring stuck her tongue out. “Don’t worry your little Canterlot horn-head about it. Just…lemme get some rest, for Celestia’s sake. You didn’t have to fight through an entire squadron.”

Daring might have been ready to rest, but Velvet’s brain was still processing in a blur. She brought up her journal and a quill, and set to work. There was a four to five hour raid to debrief and record!

Regardless, she didn’t get far.

She had barely gotten to the part about Grigory and his earth pony squadmate when a yellow glow pulsed at the corner of her eye. She hadn’t given the glow much thought back then, but without the distraction of a rampaging buffalo, Velvet couldn’t help but notice that the first piece of Indra’s Bow seemed brighter than before—just enough to be distinct from the early morning sunlight streaming in through the window.

“I don’t recall Indra’s Bow glowing like that for so long,” Velvet murmured, raising an eyebrow. Daring’s ears angled back towards her. “Anything in your notes about that?”

Daring cracked open an eye, studying the device for a moment before quickly sitting up from her lounging posture. “Um–”

A soft howl caused both ponies’ fur to stand on end, a chill spreading throughout the room. Daring sat up and looked out the window, blocking most of Velvet’s view as she tried to peek past her shoulder. Through a small gap to Daring’s left, a grayish white streak glimmered across the otherwise clear sky.

As quickly as the chill appeared, it dispersed.

“What…was that?” Velvet’s voice quaked slightly. Her hooves slowly closed her journal, and she could feel her hind legs reflexively coiling themselves, preparing for action despite the fatigue snaking through her muscles.

“Nothing? Probably nothing?” Daring sighed. “I have no idea.” Daring snapped the window shut, then looked to Velvet’s saddlebags. “We might have to prepare to make a quick exit at a moment’s notice, though. We might not have five minutes. Here...” With her wing, Daring brought a dark-hooded leather jacket closer to Velvet.

Velvet held it out in her magic. “What’s this for?”

“The weather. It might get cold and moist out.”

Velvet slipped the jacket on to check the fit as Daring continued to stuff their belongings into their bags. Rather sleek…too sleek in fact: it was cut for a fit mare, a size or two smaller than her. Putting it on right now would be sure to chafe at the very least, and restrict movement at worst. Still, the brass fittings went well with the soft shine of the black leather, and the hood was a plus. Maybe there was a story behind the additional straps and loops in brown leather. Though, maybe there wasn't, and that was all Daring had on hoof.

“No thanks.” Velvet tossed the jacket back to Daring and rubbed some of the remaining chill off her forelegs. “I’ll just rely on my eclair-filled blubber.”

Daring looked at Velvet and then shrugged. “Your loss. Now get over here and help me with this.”

As Velvet darted around the room to pack their belongings, she couldn’t help looking out the window every once in a while, leaving her hooves on autopilot. Though the sky remained clear for the most part—unless her eyes were deceiving her—a grayish wisp seemed to streak past every so often. White dots seemed to dance in each wisp, condensing into droplets that clouded the view.

Velvet shook her head and focused on her bags. Better saddle up, Velvet. Storm’s a comin’.

Spectrum of Lightning - FiMFetch.net (2024)


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