"That's your town?" Soldier asked with disgust plain on his face.

"Yep! The coolest town in Equestria…well, except for Cloudsdale." Rainbow Dash bragged.

"It looks like someone ate too much candy corn and took a bucketload of hippie drugs on Halloween and barfed up a Technicolor nightmare of prissy girly things and horses." He continued walking while the three locals looked on, offended. "And not even the good kind."

"Well, he's just one big shining ray of sunshine, isn't he?" Twilight asked the Engineer.

He groaned. "Tell me 'bout it. Y'all don't have ta live with him." The orange stallion continued walking.

"Now I do…" She muttered under her breath, trotting ahead of the group instantly regretting her decision.

After a while, Applejack had had to return to work, and Rainbow Dash had left in order to practice her tricks, leaving Twilight Sparkle to lead the nine strange stallions around town. As the group walked around town, taking in the sights and sounds (mostly the sounds of Scout pestering everyone), they came across a familiar bakery. "Let's stop here for a bit, everypony. I need something to eat." 'And drink.' She thought to herself.

As soon as Heavy walked into Sugarcube Corner, his jaw dropped. Looking at all the sweet confections and assorted baked goods, his mouth watered like it never had before. Sascha agreed; if there was a heaven, he was pretty sure this was what it looked like. All the cakes and pies and donuts and bagels and strudels and—

"Hi, Twilight!" A cheery voice snapped Heavy back to reality. A bubblegum pink pony with a curly mane was watching the counter. "Three more days until Nightmare Night!"

Twilight smiled, happy to see Pinkie was doing well, at least. "Hopefully it goes better than the last one. I think Princess Luna still has a bit of practice before she can properly integrate into modern society."

Pinkie nodded. "Yeah, she was kind of a downer, almost cancelling Nightmare Night forever…still, that's in the past! I've got a super duper fun party all planned out! There'll be cake and punch and dancing and a costume contest, but I can't say anymore. It'd spoil the surprise!"

"If you say so, Pinkie." She gestured towards RED with her head. "Have you seen the new arrivals?"

The bubbly pony peered over Twilight's shoulder. "No, silly filly, if they're new arrivals then I haven't—" She interrupted herself by gasping and somehow hovering a few feet above the ground before dashing away in the blink of an eye, leaving a puff of smoke.

Twilight rolled her eyes, although she maintained a smile. "Yep, knew that would happen. You weren't planning on getting any sleep tonight, were you?"

Engineer and Medic were simply gawking at it. "Bu-but zat's…"

"How does she hover like that? She got some sorta hoverhooves or somethin'?"

"Pinkie Pie." Twilight said simply as if that explained everything.


"Pinkie. Pie." She said. "Don't question it; your brain will hurt a lot less. Trust me, I speak from experience."

A blue mare with 3 cupcakes on her flank and a manestyle rather resembling an ice-cream cone took Pinkie's place at the desk. "So sorry, dearies, Pinkie always does that whenever new ponies come to town. Locks herself in her room, can't for the life of me get her out until she's done planning for her party. So, who are the new ponies, Twilight?"

Twilight gestured back towards the nine colts behind her. "Oh, these are Heavy, Jane Doe—"

"That's Soldier to you, missy!" The aforementioned stallion said.

"Wha-why do you want to be called that?" Twilight asked, confused. "You introduced yourself to me as Jane Doe."

"Beggin' yer pardon, ma'am, but fer a majority of our lives he's been called Soldier, like I've been called Engineer. Would ya mind terribly just to call us that? That's the name we're used to, anyhow." Engineer said.

These stallions had strange preferences. "Okay, then, that's Soldier and Engie, and…" She paused as she came to Medic. "I'm sorry, I don't know your name…"

"No need for apologies, Fraulein Sparkle. It is entirely our fault for not introducing ourselves properly in ze first place." He cleared his throat. "Mein name ist Medic."

Demo walked up to the counter. "Me name's Demoman, lass. Do ya serve alcohol here?"

Mrs. Cake shook her head. "Sorry, dearie. I think we have a bar somewhere around, though."

Demo walked off, his head hung in disappointment as Spy approached and kissed Mrs. Cake's hoof. "My name is Spy. A pleasure to meet you, mademoiselle."

She giggled and turned red. "Charmed."

Spy placed Mrs. Cake's earring on the desk with a smirk. "Zat's my job." He walked away as the baker felt around her now earring-less left ear, surprised.

Sniper gave a nod in Mrs. Cake's direction. "Sniper." His look of professionalism went down the drain as his eyes grew wide and he began performing some strange dance. "Erm, d'you know where the loo is?"

The blue mare gestured with her head towards a hallway to her left. "Second door on the right's the colt's room." Giving a quick "Thanks", he trotted off to the bathroom.

"Ach, Scout, where are your manners?" Medic looked around. "Scout? Vhere did zat boy get off to?" Heavy nudged his best friend and pointed under a nearby table, where the young adult Pegasus was currently stationed. Heavy looked as if he could barely contain his laughter while Medic just gave him an irritated look. "Vould it be prudent to ask vhy you ah hiding under ze table?"

Scout shook his head rapidly. "Hidin'? Naw, naw, I ain't hidin', I'm…inspectin'…this table. Fer gunk an' stuff."

Soldier clapped Scout on the back, causing him to jump and hit his head. "There's a good boy, private, inspecting the undersides of people's tables for goodwill! I wish there were more privates like you. However, manners and introductions must come first! If you don't value your manners properly, you'll end up like Musseltoni!"

"Musseltoni?" Medic knew Soldier's knowledge of history had been…spotty at best, but he had never in his life heard of a Musseltoni.

The camo stallion waved it off. "You know. That French maggot you Krauts liked so much."

"Mussolini vas Italian." Medic deadpanned, knowing explaining it to him was most likely an exercise in futility anyways.

An orange stallion with an underbite and three carrot cakes decorating his flank galloped up to the counter, a panicked look on his face. "Honeybunch, there's a strange pony in a full-body suit sleeping in our oven!"

The Engineer climbed over the counter. "Ah got this…pardon me, sir." A few minutes later, he returned with a groggy Pyro, who was rubbing its eyes and making some sort of noise that could be interpreted as yawning through a gas mask. "An' that's Pyro, by the by. Sorry about yer oven, sir…Pyro likes fire." A beat as the friends climbed back over the counter. "A lot. Suit's fireproof, Pyro'll be fine."

Twilight approached the counter. "The usual, please, Mrs. Cake. And…how about a batch of cupcakes for the new arrivals?"

Mr. Cake retreated into the kitchen to make some cupcakes while Mrs. Cake retrieved a paper bag with Twilight's favorite pastry, a bear claw, inside. "That'll be nineteen bits. Would you like something to drink with that, too, Twilight? We're expanding into smoothies if you want to try one of those."

The purple mare took the bag and shook her head, handing over the required amount of bits. "No, I'll be showing Demo to the bar after this."

Mrs. Cake tittered and shook her head. "Don't drink too much, dearie."

Sniper poked his head out of the bathroom door. "Erm, does anyone have a jar?" Engineer procured a jar from his toolcase, which was set on the table next to them, and tossed it to Sniper. He very nearly missed, not being used to his hooves and all. "Thanks, mate." The sharpshooter returned to the bathroom.

Twilight sat. "Why did he ask for a jar?"

"Don't ask." From Spy's repulsed look, Twilight could tell that she didn't particularly want to know what was happening with that jar. "It is a very disgusting habit of his zat I imagine no one here would like to get into a discussion about."

"Riiight…" She looked over the pile of hats that now left hardly enough room for anything else. "I can tell Rarity's going to love you guys. What's with all the hats?"

This topic they were eager to discuss. The nine ponies who claimed to be from another world were now practically climbing over each other to talk about headgear. "Hats are sign of great honor! You have big hat, you have big honor!" "See dat soda hat, right dere? Bonk Helm. Ain't gonna find no one else wearin' that, I spent two months gatherin' the materials ta craft it!" "Hats are like medals, Miss Twilight! They show that you have earned great amounts of respect and most of the time I have to make them myself because my layabout team won't do the honors for me! Except for the times when you find them lying around." "Und zat's how he found his 'Service Medal' as well. It's wunderbar vhen you find zese things lying around, you don't have to spend ze valuable metal crafting und recrafting zem to find ze right one."

Engineer grabbed a teddy bear in a hardhat and goggles not unlike his, which was situated in something that could fit on a toolbelt, and set it onto a free space on the table. "Teddy Roosebelt. Two years and two thousand, eight hundred and fourty-nine pieces of metal."

Scout gave a cocky grin. "Naw, man, dat's nothin'. I can top that real easy." He placed an old-timey milkman's hat on the table. "Milkman. Twenty years! Eight hundred million, fourty-nine thousand, eight hundred and fifty-two pieces a' metal!"

A large uproar of scorn and disbelief came from the group. "Ye ain't even lived tha' long, lad!" "Leetle man bluffs! There is not that much metal in big wide world!"

"Bah! I have an offering for this game of impressing the locals! And I will also slam it on the table like you all did!" Soldier slammed a military-ish hat with a wing emblem on the front of it and a strange logo swirling around the top. "Unusual Team Captain! Ten seconds! I spent an entire dollar buying the key to unbox it!"

Twilight watched the logo orbit the hat with interest. "Ooh, that's a very nice bit of magic there. How'd you do that?"

Soldier laughed. "Merasmus had nothing to do with this, Miss Sparkle!"

"For vonce." The Medic snickered.

"Shut it, Kraut." Soldier shot back.

"'Tain't no magic involved, Ma'am. It's just Unusual." Engineer explained.

Twilight nodded. "Well, yes, I get that, but what magic did you use to make it like that?"

The group stared at her blankly. "It-it's just Unusual, ya know. Unusual hats do dat." Scout continued.

Twilight frowned, slightly frustrated. "Yes, but how?"

Silence fell for a few moments. "You aren' very quick on the uptake, are ye, lass?" Demo asked.

"Ugh, never mind." Twilight buried her face in her hooves as Mr. Cake returned to the counter with the cupcakes.

"Ah, ze gebäck." Medic got up. "No need to bozzer yourself, Fraulein. I'll get zem." The doctor walked over and grabbed the cupcake tin in his teeth, offering a muffled thanks to Mrs. Cake and heading back to the table and spitting them back out. "Now, who vants one?"

Twilight levitated a cupcake out of the tin while Scout looked a little green and mumbled 'Pass.'. "You know you could have just levitated that, right?"

Medic looked like he was concentrating on a certain object particularly hard before stopping and sighing in exasperation. "Ach, I've been meaning to ask you about zat, Fraulein Sparkle. How do you do ze manipulation of ze zero-point energy? I know how it works, or at least I have a very good guess, but for ze life of me I cannot perform it..."

She raised an eyebrow skeptically. "You're serious?"

"Unfortunately..." He grumbled.

"Well, it's a really simple spell, but I guess I can explain later when we're back at the library. That's where I live." She explained. "I think the more important question is about all those sharp objects and things we found in the forest. Those are yours, right?"

The team made various noises, ranging from attempting to figure out how to word something correctly to trying to think up an outright denial. Finally Medic spoke up. "Vell, ja."

"So what are they for? I bet you could really hurt somepony with that, you know." She pressed on, growing more suspicious. "And while we're at it, why were you so secretive about your job? It's not anything dirty, is it?"

The team collectively shook their heads in denial. Last thing they wanted at the moment was the only known civilization in this land getting a bad impression of them. "Nien, nein, nein, not at all! Nozzing so uncouth, ve, ah…err, ve, ah…" He struggled to think of something as Twilight's suspicions grew.

Soldier's ears stood straight up and he jerked across the table, getting rather close to Twilight's face. "Quick, gimme a sitrep on the next full moon!"

Twilight's interrogation face broke as he spoke his seemingly irrelevant, nonsensical request. "What? Ummm…in three days or so. Supposed to be last night, but it got moved."

Engie's confusion was evident on his face. "Moved? Hold on there, missy, y'all cain't just move the time a' the next full moon."

Twilight looked at Engie like he was stupid, a look he was entirely not used to getting. "You can if you're Princess Luna. But, um…is there something important you have to do on the full moon?"

Engie facehoofed. "Oh, it…it's nothin', ma'am. Halloween last year, Solly got some ridiculous idea into his head. Never shoulda let him wear his stupid robot costume…"

"Costume…oh! Is that what your costume is going to be for next Nightmare Night? You're going to put on a robot suit?" Twilight asked.

Soldier shook his head. "For the last time, I don't dress up as a robot at the full moon! I become the robot at the full moon! It's called Lycanbotany, and it is a condition that exists!"

"You become the robot?" A look of understanding dawned slowly on Twilight's face. "Oh…oh, I get it! I'm so stupid, I didn't realize it before! You're actors!" A wide grin was plastered on her face at having "figured out" their identities.

Medic was taken aback. "W-wha—" He blinked. "Oh—ja!" He laughed at having a lie ready-made. "Ja! Ve're a theatre troupe!" A smile was prominent on his face. "Ja, you caught us! Err, how do you say…ze jig's up, kameraden!" The rest of the team simply looked dumbfounded. Actors? "Ze jig's up, ze jig's up!" He whispered in an urgent voice. "Do you vant to be chased out of town, you dummkophs?" They quickly caught on and began giving off howls of laughter.

"And Soldier, telling those nonsense stories…" Twilight smacked herself. "That was part of the act! A character!"

He wished. "Ein character! Ja, it's zis little joke ve play on all ze towns! Ve enter through ze forest, und act like dangerous psychopaths to scare you all! Vorks every time!" He laughed a bit more for good measure. "You're ze first vone to catch on, Fraulein Sparkle!"

"Oh, wow." She chuckled. "I'm not usually the type for horseplay, but…that's a good prank. I mean, Pinkie or Dash would be proud." She frowned. "But you're quite the gamblers, aren't you? I mean, you could get yourselves arrested or something."

"Well, of course we reveal ze act if it reaches zat point." Spy had taken over the ambassador duties, not that Medic had any objections; as part of his job description, Spy had always been the better liar. "I admit it doesn't always go over well with ze townspeople—erm, ponies. But, really, what joke is humorous to everyone?"

The lavender mare took a bite of her cupcake as Scout grimaced and cringed. "I guess we'd better go tell Rainbow Dash and Applejack about the joke before we do anything. Applejack first, the Apple Family are very close and she'll likely warn everypony at the farm to stay away from you all. Don't get her wrong, she has the best intentions, but…she's very superstitious. But, um, Spy…is that your stage name? For the joke? Do you have a name you normally go by?"

He shook his head. "Just Spy. We always go by ze names we told you."

Twilight finished her cupcake. "If you're actors…then what do your cutie marks mean? They don't seem related at all to acting."

Spy blinked and paled slightly; he had no answer to that. He didn't even know what these "cutie marks" were. "Erm, well…zis joke…um, we…" He assumed it had something to do with their appearance and began thinking fast. "We used to have different looks and personas for ze joke…so it didn't go stale, you see. But, erm, just recently, Medic botched ze spell required for zis shapeshifting. So now it's quite impossible to revert to our true forms. We're stuck like zis. So, we figured we'd just play ze joke one last time before giving up ze ghost, as zey say."

"Oh." Twilight fell silent for a moment. "Well, I…I'm sorry…"

"Ach, it vas getting stale anyvays. Ve vere running out of ze alter egos." Medic waved his hoof dismissively.

"No, I mean…would your families recognize you?" She asked.

"What, you think we wouldn't tell zem about it? Zey all understand; Medic was never ze best at magic, it was an accident waiting to happen," Spy chuckled. "We were a bit disoriented at first but we've all come to accept ze changes."

"Well…if you're sure it's fine." Twilight smiled and jumped up. "Well, we'd best get going to Applejack's so we can…um, re-introduce you. Let's just wait until Sniper gets out…"

"SAXTON HAAAALE!" The aforenamed man crashed through the window, creating another Australian-shaped hole in the window right next to the previous one.

"Good evening, sir. Any luck?" Bidwell handed Saxton his Earl Gray Tea, which he had been faithfully keeping on hand for the past four hours.

"Our contracted boys in Teufort fell through another one of those bloody interdimensional portals again. I just know it, Biddy. I just hope it didn't go to the world with the talking bananas…I still have nightmares." Hale shuddered before walking over to a bookcase and partially pulling out a copy of "How to Outsmart a Bullet", revealing a secret doorway to an elevator. "Cancel all my appointments, Biddy. I'll be in my Manncave for the next…I don't know. Time is always relative."

As his boss stepped into the newly-opened elevator bookshelf, Bidwell bowed. "Best of luck to you, sir." Hale descended to his secret base of operations.

"Yo, Snipes!" Scout hammered on the door to the restroom with his hoof. "Da freakin' hell's takin' so long, man? We got ladies ta meet!"

"You try—" Sniper's retort was cut off by a grunt. "You try screwin' a jar lid on with hooves!"

"Out of way." Heavy walked into the bathroom; a few seconds later a slamming sound was heard along with the sound of a jar banging onto the floor.

"Thanks, mate." Sniper's somewhat hesitant reply was heard through the door before the two walked back out, Sniper quickly stowing a somewhat distorted jar of suspicious-looking yellow liquid under his hat.

Twilight decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and say it was discarded lemonade he'd found. "So, let's get going."

As the 10 ponies walked along they came across a large tree. Twilight stopped and trotted over to it. "Hold on for a second, everypony…better check if the mail came yet. I'm expecting a shipment of bookmarks." As she approached, the door opened and a baby purple dragon came out.

"Oh, hey, Twilight. I was just about to come looking for you. Ditzy has a package for you and she really needs you to sign it." Spike noticed the nine ponies behind Twilight. "Oh, hey. Who are the new guys?"

"This is Sniper, Spy, Heavy, Medic, Pyro, Scout, Engineer, Soldier and Demoman. They're an acting troupe." The group looked, interested, at the dragon as she finished. "I hope you don't mind housemates, Spike. They'll be staying here for a little while, except for Engie. I don't know what he's doing, exactly." She trotted towards her house. "I'll be right out, Spike, just as soon as I sign for that package." The door shut behind her.

"So, Twi's bunkin' wit a lizard, is she?" Scout started conversationally.

"Lizard?" Spike huffed, offended. "I'm a dragon."

Scout blinked before a wide smile spread across his face. He gave a little whoop before taking off and doing a small loop-de-loop, partly because of his excitement and partly just because he could. "Aw man, dis is so awesome! Hey, Doc! We's livin' wit a dragon!"

Medic examined Spike. "He seems a little undersized for ze traditional look of a dragon…"

Spike crossed his arms, annoyed. "Gimme a break, man. I'm not even fully grown."

"Hrmmm, fascinating. Ein kind drachen. I vould like to shtudy you…" Medic muttered under his breath before Heavy placed a hoof on his shoulder.

"Doktor, do ve need to talk about end of world again?" Heavy said as though he was informing Medic of something stuck in his teeth.

"Ach, how many times do I have to apologize for zat? It vas only a minor doomsday cataclyst, remember? At least I didn't get my eyeball possessed, like somevone I know…" Medic glared pointedly at Demoman, who grumbled and began muttering underneath his breath.

Spike raised his eyebrow. "Man, you guys are weird…what was that about a doomsday catathingy?"

"Oh, nozzing you need to be concerned about." Medic waved off. "So, Fraulein Sparkle lives in a tree?"

"Well, it's not a tree, it's the public library. Kinda fitting, considering Twilight." Spike noticed Scout doubled over in a fit of silent laughter. "What's so funny?"

"Yer tellin' me she lives in a library?" Scout laughed openly. "An' I thought Hardhat was da ultimate bookworm!"

"You do know you're going to be living there, too." Spike pointed out, giving Scout a deadpan stare.

The delinquent gave a few more half-hearted chuckles before sighing. "Crap."

A gray Pegasus with a blond mane and crossed eyes abruptly crashed through the door before ending up on the ground. "Oops…sorry, Twilight."

The purple mare walked out of her house and helped the Pegasus to her hooves. "No, it's no trouble, Ditzy. But, um…isn't it about time for school to get out?"

The mailmare, apparently named Ditzy, gasped. "You're right, I need to get Dinky! Gotta run, Twilight!" She flew off towards a schoolhouse.

"That was the mailman-er, mare, right?" Engie asked.

"Yes, that's Ditzy Doo. She delivers the mail…and she's married, so don't even think about it, Scout." Twilight teased.

Scout made a disgusted face at the insinuation. "Ugh! Why da hell would I wanna do a horse, man? Dat's friggin' disgus…" He trailed off at seeing Medic's irritated face. "I mean, 'tard, I mean…" Now everyone was giving him either disgusted or offended looks. "Uuuh…Doc used to have a wife! Key words bein' used to, but they say once you go black, right…?" He gave a few nervous chuckles.

"I just vant to say zat I am not in any way affiliated with zis man." Medic said.

"Applejack's farm is this way. Granny Smith's a bit pld, I hope that's not too off-putting, Scout." Twilight began walking away, the rest of the team following.

"'Ey, come on, man, I wasn't serious! I-I mean, I got a cousin wit, uh…Spy, you know I ain't like that, right?"

"You disgust me."

The elevator to the Manncave arrived at its destination, the doors slowly opening. Before Hale was a room straight out of a comic book, with various technological doodads and gizmos doing everything from tracking the locations of all TF Industries' employees/combatants and Dr. McNinja, using hidden cameras all around the bases to spy on said employees and make sure they weren't having a hippie dancing jubilee or something, keeping power flowing to Great Cthulhu's prison in Saxton Hale's Dark God Penitentiary (where he was imprisoned after the great Saxton Hale/Cthulhu clash of 1964) and making the most amazing dark coffee in the galaxy, all manned by thousands of clones, albeit inferior ones, of the man himself, Saxton Hale. Not bad for 1967.

"Haleclone Number 267, did you pinpoint the locations of our missing mercs?" Saxton Hale asked the Haleclone at a monitor showing what looked to be different universes.

"Just finished, Hale Prime. We've got the BLU team right here…" The Haleclone pushed a button on the console, bringing an image of a ponified BLU Scout trying to chat up a mare in a Stable 2 Jumpsuit while the rest of his team battled bipedal canine creatures wearing what was unmistakably mind-control headgear in some kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland.

"That's a new one…better go there last, though, after my last encounter with my arch-nemesis Dr. McNinja my doctor told me I shouldn't go near any radiation for at least a week or I'll explode. Into a million pieces." Hale grabbed a cup of black coffee and took a sip. "Mmm, this really is good. What about RED, though?"

"I was getting there. They ended up in the Sugar Bowl." The image of the BLU team disappeared, replaced by an image of the RED team, Scout trying to get his team to talk to him again as they approached Sweet Apple Acres.

"Well, that bloody figures. Most everything that finds its way into the void between worlds ends up in that sugarcoated candyland." Hale sighed. "Well, suppose this is as good a time as any to establish diplomatic relations with that dimension. How long until the dimensional teleportalers warm up?"

"Right now." Haleclone Number 463 poked his head out of the dimensional travel station, waving at the original.

"Shouldn't have asked. What I should do is get us all checked for a telepathic connection. Right, better get in there now. It'll take at least an in-universe day or two to travel through the fabric of space and time, so I wouldn't want them to do anything stupid before I step in." Hale stepped into the room and boarded a travel pod. "Bon voyeur! Or however the Frenchmen say it." A blinding flash of light was emitted from the pod and a large explosion sounded, and Hale was off.

Applejack finished moving some hay around in the barn when Twilight poked her head in. She beamed. "Oh, hey, Twi! Ah just got finished hidin' the Element of Honesty like y'all said-" The rest of the team poked their heads in for a look around. "Oh. It's them." Her expression turned more into one of irritance and displeasure.

"Actually, it's a really funny thing about them…I'll let you guys say it." Twilight started giggling as Medic stepped forward.

"We're actors! Ve go around doing, erm…actor things and ve totally aren't verrückt!" The Medic said, hoping this would work. "Ve do zis joke where ve pretend ve're violent psychopaths to scare you all! Zere's no need to be alarmed, or, say, chase us out of town or anyzing! Honest!" He put on a big, nervous smile.

Applejack frowned as a subtle, faint glow came from a pile of hay bushels. "Ah…don't buy it."

The Medic, along with the rest of the team, suddenly looked a lot more scared. "V-vhat? Don't be silly, Fraulein!"

Applejack shook her head. "Naw, something's tellin' me…that ain't the truth. Ah just…feel it."

Twilight looked confused. "But…they wouldn't lie, right?" Spy began uttering curses in many languages under his breath as the Medic began looking around nervously. Twilight noticed how utterly nervous they look and she began to look angry. "Right, guys?"

Scout panicked. "Allright alllright allright we ain't actors, okay? We lied!"

"And why did you lie?" Twilight pressed him, looking furious as his teammates looked utterly terrified.

"We're soldiers, soldiers from another world, 'kay? We kill people and dat kinda job description don't go over well wit most societies, allright?"

Twilight's expression turned to horror along with Applejack's as they both stepped away. "You…kill ponies?"

Spy sighed, facehoofing. "Well, I guess zat story wasn't going to hold long…we owe you an explanation." He stepped forward. "Yes, we are all killers. But we do it for a very good reason. Have any of you heard of the Illuminati?" Both Applejack and Twilight shook their heads. "Good. Because zat's exactly ze kind of information zey don't want you to know. Zey are a secret organization which controls the world without anyone ever noticing. Ze President of ze United States, Soviet Russia's dictator, Germany's chancellor, every leader of every world government answers to ze Illuminati."

"Since ze dawn of man, zis organization has been nudging humanity along, for ze better…but zen, during World War I, ze Illuminati experienced a schism. One side, ze enemy side, wanted to make zemselves known as humankind's superiors and rule with an iron fist, reducing everyone else to mere slaves while zey live like kings. Ze ozzer side, our side, wishes to remain in ze shadows, urge humanity towards a new era of peace and prosperity. Ever since, ze two factions have been at war with each other. Ze Allies and Nazi Germany, World War II, zat was simply a more publicized conflict between zese factions…and it provided ample recruiting grounds for soldiers. Zat's how Soldier vas picked up—when ze RED faction heard about his rampage against Nazis zat ended after he heard ze war was over…" He neglected to mention that this information came to him a few years after the war. "…zey scooped him right up. My point is, ze BLU side seeks to destroy RED…and now, with Soviet Russia in zeir grasp along with its nuclear weapons stockpiles, zey have ze manpower to do so."

"Luckily, RED's America developed nuclear bombs long ago, so neither side dares attack in fear of nuclear retaliation zat would destroy ze planet…zis is known on our world as ze Cold War. Our job, where we are stationed, is to gain intelligence about zeir nuclear weapons from ze BLU base in Teufort so we can find a way around ze stalemate in our favor, whilst preventing our foes from doing ze same."

"And it's not easy, either! Commie maggots cloned us! Or did RED clone them? Whatever, I know I'm not a clone!" Soldier pitched in.

"So you see…" The RED Spy finished. "We do not kill because we like killing. We kill to prevent nuclear annihilation. "

Awkward silence fell.

"Well!" Soldier clapped his hooves together. "That's over with! Why don't we get some ribs?"

"You mean salad." Medic corrected.

"What are you, some hippie?"

"Hey, where's Pyro?" Engie looked around, the rest of his team joining him—all were happy for the subject change. The answer to Engineer's query came from the streets of the town ahead—Pinkie Pie was leading some sort of march while singing something, and Pyro was in the front of the crowd. "'Scuse me for a moment…I'd better go get him." He walked off towards the crowd.

They waited for a few minutes before Scout decided he couldn't keep his yap shut. "So, I, ah…I notice you ain't kickin' us out or anything."

"Naw, ah understand…" Applejack waved it off. "Ah mean, if ya gotta do it…ah'm sorry fer, you know…thinking you were all psychopaths."

"Ach, it vas perfectly understandable. I mean, ve didn't exactly make a good first impression…" Medic said as Heavy smiled sheepishly.

"Friends?" Applejack stuck her hoof out.

"Frie—" Medic started before Soldier shoved him out of the way.

"Miss Applejack, as leader of this unit, I am proud to accept both your apology and offer of friendship! Today is a brand new era of alliance between humankind and whatever you prissy horsey things call yourselves!" He declared.

Medic cleared his throat. "Friends." He shook her hoof, smiling apologetically.

"…'Cause I love to see you beam, beam, beam…" Pyro followed the pink pony he had seen in the bakery, singing along with her happy song in its own muffled, unintelligible way. Pyro, personally, loved this new world they'd landed in—it so resembled the little Pyroland (or so it called it) it had discovered early in its life and visited many times before, including the night of the mysterious deaths of his high school bullies in a tragic but completely accidental house fire, the day of the severe burning of the head of the Happy Feet shoe company, and sometime soon before it found itself being transferred to Teufort from that little kindling town its previous team had been battling in. Pyro knew he should stay with her teammates in such unfamiliar territory, but what harm could possibly befall him in this wonderful place? From what she'd seen so far the ponies here valued friendship, kindness, tolerance (they didn't even question his full-body asbestos suit and gas mask!)—all generally good things, a stark contrast to the warzones she usually attended. It was so wonderful here he even doubted it would be better on fire, which was a rare and glowing endorsement from Pyro.

So Soldier didn't care for it. Soldier didn't care for anything that wasn't pumped to bursting point with pure, concentrated testosterone. Why, Pyro betted that Soldier was asking for ribs right now! Silly Soldier—the Balloonicorn had told him that all horses were vegetarians! It wasn't like Pyro wasn't going to miss the taste of meat, especially meat that had been just been toasted to extra-crispy by yours truly, but she felt that he could get over a life of salads. No, not life—Engie, smart, resourceful Engie was going to build one of his machines to bring them back home! But that was after an indeterminate amount of time—if it was past a few days Pyro wondered if Soldier wouldn't be dead of starvation due to a stubborn refusal to eat "hippie food"! Although he didn't hope that was the case…his death would certainly put a damper on the town mood and make their struggle against the Bad Guys that much harder. As really, really crazy as Soldier was he did shoot a mean crocket.

As the pink pony's song was reaching a crescendo, Pyro felt a tap on his shoulder. She turned to see the Engineer standing behind it. "Pyro, don't wander off like that. C'mon, the others are waitin'." Pyro visibly wilted. "Don' give me that, Pyro. You'll have time to talk ta Miss Pie later." Pyro let out a muffled sigh as he and Engineer began walking off.

About halfway there they heard somepony calling to them. "Excuse me…oi, you two!" They both turned to find a brown earth pony stallion with a hourglass…Cutie Mark? That's what they were called? Anyways, he was also wearing a tie and panting from running to catch them. "Have you seen Ditzy around?"

"Sure, she was just headin' up to pick up her lil' one." Engineer pointed in the direction of the schoolhouse. "Why? You her husband?"

The stallion blinked. "Husband? Er, yes, I mean no, I mean…it's complicated. Look, I just, ah…I just need to tell her something. Thanks!" He rushed off to the schoolhouse.

What that was about, Pyro neither knew nor cared. She just wished he could finish the song.

"…and so now all that needs to be found out is whether she got DJ Pon3 out for the party." Twilight finished her sentence. Demoman had asked what she had been talking about when Pinkie Pie had rushed out of the room and Twilight had indulged the mercs about the upcoming party they were soon to take part in.

"Dinn't ye say she lives out in Manha—" He caught himself. "Manehattan, though? How far's that from here?" Demoman asked. "Surely she can' pack her things an' travel out here at such short notice."

"DJ Pon3 let Pinkie carry her all the way around Canterlot with her turntable during the Changeling attack so they could DJ at my big brother's wedding. Anypony who'd let somepony else do that are really close friends with that pony—I think she'll find a way to come." Twilight chuckled.

Silence fell . "H-how…?" Medic asked.

"Pinkie Pie." Twilight and Applejack said in unison.

"Sorry 'bout that. Pyro sorta goes where he wants—served us well enough before, flankin' the enemy an' all so we didn't say anything…but ah don' wanna talk too much about my job." Engie and Pyro had gotten back. "So, ah…has this town got any open lots?" The Engineer asked.

"Sure. Right next ta Ditzy Doo's place, why?" Applejack pointed in what one would assume was the direction the lot was.

Engineer had a wide grin on his face. "Ah plan ahead." Hoisting his toolbox onto his back, he began trotting off where Applejack had pointed. "Don' mind me; I'll meet ya back at Twi's place!" He called back to them.

"What's he doing?" Twilight asked.

"Mph hudda mmph hudda huh. Hudda huh mmphudda huh, mphuuuumphuh." Pyro said, his voice mumbled under the muffling influence of her gas mask.

Twilight fell silent for a minute, trying to comprehend the muffled gibberish that had come out of the Pyro's mouth, before asking, "Um, we can't understand you…maybe you could take off that gas mask so we can—"

"NHO!" Pyro immediately grabbed onto his face mask as if someone were going to snatch it off her at any second.

"Pyro doesn't remove his…her…its mask for anyzing. I once tried to remove ze mask of ze opposing Pyro out of curiosity only to find he'd superglued it to its head, or whatever equivalent zat soulless hellbeast has. We don't know why, it's one of ze many things we don't know about Pyro." Spy explained, looking at Pyro apprehensively as though he might go haywire and start setting him on fire right now.

"Oh, uh…sorry." Twilight apologized quickly.

"Don't be. You'll learn all about our little…quirks soon enough. Such as ze hats—" Spy blinked. "Ze hats."

"What? What about 'em?" Scout asked.

"We left our hats at ze restauraunt. Along with ze rest of our equipment." A collection of groans arose from the group, some of them facehoofing. Spy checked his invisibility watch and abruptly vanished on the spot, prompting a surprised jump from Twilight and Applejack. "Sorry, wrong watch." The air where Spy used to be seemingly said before he slowly came back into view. He pulled out his pocketwatch, the Dead Ringer, which was the only invisibility watch he had with any sort of functionality to tell time. "It's 7:42 PM…assuming your time zone's ze same as ze one I have zis tuned to. How late is ze restaurant open?"

"Until 7:30, sorry. You can probably pick them up tomorrow—" Twilight's sentence was interrupted by a pink blur that sent the eight mercenaries spinning. They spun around in place for the longest time, a time Medic supposed shouldn't have been possible, before slowing to a stop. Pyro clutched his head in an attempt to get his dizziness under control and Soldier's helmet comically remained spinning on his head for a few seconds after he did. As their dizziness subsided they realized that the purple unicorn and orange earth pony they'd been talking to had now mysteriously vanished, leaving a small pile of confetti where they'd once been. The situation was best summed up by the Demoman's next sentence:

"Oi…wha' just happened?"

Engie whistled a tune he had heard before from a song about an Arizona Ranger as he trotted along to his destination, which was slowly coming into view. It was a plain enough cottage, although the mailbox was a little crooked. The only reason he recognized it as the mailmare's house was the fact that he could make out Ditzy Doo and that brown stallion entering the house together with what Engineer assumed was Ditzy's child…she was a cute little thing, though it seemed nearly everything here was designed to be cutesy in some way, shape or form. To the right of the house was a vacant lot, which he figured was about big enough to test out his little contingency plan in case of factors beyond their control rendering him and/or his team homeless. Of course, he had made arrangements with that nice Twilight gal because he really wasn't sure if it worked—the team, try as they might, had never been able to scale the chain-link fence cutting them off from the outside world and Teufort didn't really have enough room for his little side project.

But it looked like he was finally gonna field test what he'd been working on for about 12 months. Engie trotted out to the middle of the lot and let the toolbox slide off his back. It landed dead center, and he flipped the toolbox open before trotting back a safe distance.

For a second nothing happened before the auto-build programming kicked in. Then suddenly a large metal sheet popped out of the toolbox, extending out nearly the entire length of the lot and supported by a large hydraulic arm. Slowly supporting legs extended from the lengths of the sheet, while supporting beams started extending upwards in various places all around the metal sheet.

As the walls of Engie's Porta-House began kicking in, masking all further development, he grinned. Nothing was grinding, sparking, exploding, or shooting rockets, lasers or nuclear weapons yet. So far so good. He didn't want to whack it with his wrench to speed up construction, considering he didn't know if that would actually speed things up and not break it, but his constructions ended up taking forever if the auto-build system wasn't sped up by an encouraging whack by his wrench—Dispensers took ages, and that only took up the space of an upright crate, Lord knew how long something as big and complicated as a house would take. Whatever party Pinkie Pie had planned for them would probably take awhile, though…maybe when he got back it'd be done. He observed his work for a second longer, oblivious to a pink blur dashing by him twice, and began trotting back merrily toward's Miss Sparkle's place. Been awhile since he'd been to a proper shindig.


The entire town of Ponyville, full of energy and life not two minutes ago, was now simply empty. Devoid of any sign of life. They'd dealt with the vengeful ghost of a lost Mann relative, who was a big fan of murder and not so much a fan of your un-decapitated self, and the RED Demoman's long-lost possessed eye (who somehow now shot crockets), so they thought they'd seen everything. Being prepared for anything, however, they were not so prepared for nothing.

"Rphylly, rrph nhot mphhat crrprr." Pyro said to no one in particular, breaking the silence.

"The bloody hell is everyone?" Sniper looked around.

"Curfew?" Soldier suggested.

"So Twi an' AJ just teleported away, did they?" Scout snarked.

"I wouldn't rule it out, son. For all we know their kind could be extremely powerful magicians."

"Ees party time?" Heavy suggested.

"Ze entire town going to ze party? I'm sure zey have better things to do." Medic dismissed the suggestion.

Scout flew ahead, pointing with a hoof towards Twilight's treehouse. "Hey, if it's curfew I ain't gettin' busted by da heat on our first day here, awright? Who's with me?"

The team thought for a second before mumbling assent, the Pyro taking out his lighter and staring at the treehouse for a minute before shaking his head and putting it away.

No sooner had the team travelled to the treehouse and opened the door than a burst of confetti popped out and what had to be the entire town jumped out, screaming "SURPRISE!" Pyro jumped, Soldier instinctively got into an attack stance, Spy stood there with a poker face, Sniper quickly retrieved the jar of suspicious yellow liquid from under his hat and stood on his hind legs, brandishing it somewhat threateningly, Medic clutched his heart and Scout screamed like a little girl.

The whole team turned their gaze to Scout. "Aw, screw you guys!" He grumbled.

"HI!" The next thing Medic knew Pinkie Pie was in his face. Unnoticed by the rest of the team, Scout shrunk back in abject terror. "I'm Pinkie Pie! I don't think you know me! I mean, I've seen you before in Sugarcube Corner, but then I was all like—" She gasped again. "And then I ran off to plan this super-duper fun party for you all, as a 'Welcome to Ponyville' party!" She looked past Medic to Sniper. "Ooh, how does he do that? The only ponies I've seen stand upright are Lyra and Scratchy's marefriend Oct—" She put her hoof over her mouth. "I Pinkie Pie swore not to tell that! And I won't! Is that lemonade?"

"No," Came the collective response from the team. The Sniper sheepishly replaced the jar under his hat and got back down on four legs.

"Mmmphudda huh hudda hudda huh." Pyro said.

"Oh, you do? Thank you sooo much! Why are you wearing that gas mask?" Pinkie Pie asked as the rest of the team stared dumbfounded. Did she just…

"Hudda mmph hudda huh. Mmm mmph hudda hudda hudda huh, mmph phurda hurh mmphud."

Pinkie gave Pyro a look of understanding. "Okay then, I won't talk about it." She looked back around at the mercs. "What? Don't you all speak Mumblese?"

"Are dose apples?" Scout's attention suddenly focused on the snack table, his irrational fear of Pinkie Pie forgotten.

"Sure! We have apples, cakes, pies, candy—"

"I want it all." Scout said, a look of dire seriousness on his face.

Medic looked at the vast spread of food. "Scout, you can't eat all zat verdammte food—"

Suddenly Scout was in up in his face. "Ay, screw you I can't eat all dat frickin' food, man! I'm starvin'!" He rushed off to devour the snacks.

"Und whose fault vas it you didn't eat breakfast or ze cupcakes you were offered?" Medic mumbled under his breath.

The team took Scout's sudden departure as a cue to go around and start enjoying (or tolerating, in Soldier's case) the party. A few minutes after the team's arrival, a white unicorn they could only assume was DJ Pon-3 came in and started playing her music. It was a new kind, which everyone called "Dubstep" and apparently was commonplace enough as when Scout asked a random pony if dubstep was a dance move they gave him a funny look as if they weren't sure if he was being serious. In any case, this certainly wasn't familiar music, which displeased the Demoman greatly.

Pinkie Pie and the Pyro trotted up to Demo, who was currently grumbling at the lack of alcoholic stuff in the drinks. "Hey, Demo! Why don't you go and dance? Everypony's dancing right now! I mean, except for the ones who aren't, but they're probably just too tired from dancing!" Pinkie asked.

"Ach, I canno'—wait, I never told ye my name." Demo said, a confused expression on his face.

"Pyro told me allll about you guys! It's so sad about the impending nuclear apocalypse, I mean, brinkmanship is never fun, but that's not important right now! Come on, you don't even have to know how! Just trot in place a little!"

"Mmph hudda huh phurr hudda!" Pyro pitched in.

"I know how ta dance, lass, I jus' can' dance ta this. I haven't got a handle on the rhythm or anythin' about it! I mean, wha's with all the wubs?"

"Come on, just dance a little! Pleeease?" Pinkie started giving him puppy dog eyes, while Pyro tilted his head assumedly in an attempt to do the same. Given his gas mask and the inability to see her eyes behind the tinted lenses, however, it just ended up making it look extremely creepy.

"Nah, I dun think—" Demoman was interrupted, however, by the Scout flying over his head.

"Wait, what? Demo's dancin'? Aw, dis I gotta see!" Demo jumped at the sight of the Scout's upside-down, grinning face popping up between him and Pinkie. "Guy's a frickin' beast on da dance floor."

"N-no, I just said I wasn't—"

"Leetle Demoman ees to dance?" Heavy walked up to them. "I only know dance of my homeland, but Demoman is man of thousand dances. Ees very good thing to witness."

Demoman was definitely feeling the pressure. "Well, I'm not tha' good…"

"Aw, c'mawn, Demo!"

"Surely you are not afraid of song about stepping on Dub!"

Demo faltered for a bit, then determination steeled his face. "All right…clear the dance floor! Ah'm gon'ta show these lassies how a real man dances!"

The team cheered as Demoman strutted out onto the dance floor, ripping off his cap to reveal a quite magnificent afro. "Let's boogie!"

The following has been censored due to cringe-inducing, incredibly dated dancing from the 1960s.

Miles away, in the mountain city of Canterlot, the royal gardens stood, a thing of absolute beauty. The restatued Discord, now surrounded with guardrails to prevent ponies from getting too close and possibly re-releasing Chaos, stood as a monument to the longevity of the princess' rule.

Visitors came and went, the statue now bringing up more bad memories than praises of the creativity of the creature after the incident, until the royal gardens was eventually closed for the day. Such as it went until the day the nine arrived.

On that day, the moment the walls between worlds broke temporarily, the lifeless eyes of Discord stared outwards, never blinking as it surveyed the gardens and the land beyond.

And on that moment, nearly imperceptibly, the statue cracked.