© 2004 Stratadrake/Draconus of TWZ
(Original Draft: 2-08-2004)
A poorly lit sign reading "Wall Mart" in orange paint graced the entrance to the Sixth District. Various ponies, many hoodlums, were visible meandering about and running errands from shop to shop. There was an odd bustle about this place.
"So," Aeris spoke up as she and Cloud entered the Mart. "While we're here, why don't we do some shopping? Wall Mart is famous for its variety of shops you know."
"Shopping? At a time like this?" Cloud objected. "Lockheart could be in danger. We've got to find her."
Aeris nodded. "Then I'll do the shopping, and you can gather information about Lockheart. Okay?"
"I really think we should stick together," Cloud objected again. "This place could get dangerous, especially for a mare."
"Oh don't worry about me like that," Aeris said. She reached back underneath her red cape and withdrew a small basket with some blossoms. "I'm the flower girl, remember?"
Cloud shook his head as Aeris walked off towards one of the shops. Cloud looked around and spotted a diner. No better place to get the latest news, he thought as he walked over and entered.
The diner was full of patrons, a few of which were obviously plastered. Cloud spotted an empty seat at the counter and soon took it.
"May I take your order, sir?" Asked a waiting pony from the counter.
Cloud looked at the menu. He couldn't even recognize half of the entries on it. "What's today's special?" Cloud inquired.
"Ten silver, up front, for the special. Is that it?" The waitress asked.
"What the heck. Sure." Cloud responded, pulling out a gold coing from his pouch and placing it on the counter. The waitress took it and rang out an order to the cook. "One special for the blue pony on 5!"
Cloud sighed and tried to ignore the ponies chatting next to him. But one word caught his attention like few others. Someone mentioned Snowslide.
"What was that?" Cloud asked.
"S-sir?" The pony next to him stated.
"I heard you say something about Snowslide, did I not?"
"Haven't you heard??" The pony, relieved, piped back. "Word's all over the Mart. They say Snowslide's planning their next move -- and they're gonna take out the Seventh District Pillar!"
No way. Not possible, Cloud thought to himself. Because if anything happened to that Pillar, the Upper Seventh District could come crashing down onto the Slumps beneath it, and countless Ponies would be injured and killed. Sure, Berett held a strong grudge against the Rin Sha, but he was no taker of innocent pony lives.
"Really...," Cloud responded. "Who told you?"
The pony next to him shrugged. "They say that Baron von Borneo has been spying on the Snowslide rebels for weeks now, and he overheard it from them during a meeting."
"One today's special, here you go sir!" Cheerfully announced the waitress as she sat down a plate of brown somethings next to Cloud. Cloud looked at it. He was supposed to eat that? What was it, anyway? Cloud took a bite. Something about it tasted horrid, and combined with the smell, Cloud suddenly lost all appetite for anything. He shoved the plate back.
"Don't like it?" The waitress asked.
Many an insulting description passed through Cloud's mind at the moment, but he picked only the most suitable one as his response. "It's . . . not what I was expecting."
"Sorry to hear that, sir. No refunds, you know. Have a nice day?"
Cloud nodded, muttering, "I would like to have a word with this... 'Baron'...."
"You aren't going to eat that?" The pony next to Cloud asked, heavily interested in the food.
"No, I'm not hungry," Cloud said as he slid the plate to the pony next to him.
"Thank you! I love this stuff!"
Cloud shuddered at the thought of it, then left. He arrived outside the diner to see Aeris crowded by other ponies. "Aeris!!"
Several ponies quickly made way for him as he discovered Aeris was selling her flowers. Actually, it was more like auctioning, as she traded a pair of blossoms to a hoodlum for a lump sum of 35 gold. "Aeris, there's trouble!"
Cloud's timing couldn't have been better, because Aeris had just sold the last of her flowers. "I'm sorry, but I will have to return home and get more," Aeris lied to the group around her. She followed Cloud as they left the area and headed to the northern half of the Mart.
"Find anything?" Cloud inquired.
"Not much. Mostly just a few new magic stones from one of the shops," Aeris said, presenting Cloud with a handful of small green gems.
"We can manage that later," Cloud said. "Someone told me that the 'Baron' of these Slumps was investigating Snowslide. He said they're planning an attack on the Seventh District Pillar."
"No way," Aeris said. "If they take out the pillar, hundreds of innocent ponies will--"
"--I know," Cloud said as they walked past a brightly-lit gym and a bar reeking of ale. "It's not true," Cloud said, mincing no words. "Snowslide would never do such a thing."
"Wait a minute, you're in Snowslide?" Aeris asked.
"Yes," Cloud admitted. "I've only been on a few missions, but we only strike at the Rin Sha. We do not take innocent lives. That's why I want to hear the truth. And I bet this 'Baron' knows what it is."
Soon they arrived at a fanciful manor at the end of the Mart, no doubt the Baron's residence. Opposite the front door was the stagecoach they had spotted earlier from the park. The large yellow-feathered bird tethered to it let out a loud wark as they approached. Startled, Cloud and Aeris stepped away from the bird.
"What is that...?" Cloud asked, looking up at the bird's large eyes.
"Haven't you ever seen a chocobo before?" Came an unfamiliar voice from the entrance as a pony dressed in a brown suit approached, then retrieved a bag of grain from the stagecoach, setting it down before the large bird. "It's all right, Niki," the pony said. The large bird responded with a quieter, poresumably happier chirp then began eating.
"Wait a moment," Cloud asked. "You rode in to this place with a pegasus in there, didn't you?"
"You're a bright one," the pony responded. "You see, the Baron's been in the market for a bride for some time now. Every time I drop by this City, he pays me well to find the best mares in the Slumps and bring them to him. That white pegasus was the latest. And she came along quite willingly."
"What!?" Cloud retorted.
"Your friend there," the pony said, pointing to Aeris, "is welcome as well, but if you have any business with the Baron you'll have to register an appointment. He's a very busy pony and should not be disturbed otherwise."
"I've got to see her. She's a friend of mine," Cloud insisted.
"No can do. You would get as far as the front desk, but I seriously doubt the Baron has the time for you. Although your friend is welcome...."
"Nevermind," Cloud said as he took some steps off. Aeris followed quickly and then, just around the corner, she stopped him. "Cloud, I've got an idea. How about...."
"Lockheart's in there," Cloud muttered. "But there's no time to make a scene. What do we do?"
"...we dress you up as a mare?" Aeris asked.
"WHAT!?" Cloud objected. "Are you mad?"
"He did say that 'Baron' is looking for a mare. All we really need is a dress and, maybe a hat, and then...."
"You can't be serious?!" Cloud objected again.
"There's a dress shop in the middle of the Mart. We could be done and in there in just a few minutes...."
Cloud shook his head. "Isn't there any other way?"
"You did say we don't have time to waste, didn't you?" Aeris asked.
Cloud shook his head again. "This is nuts...."
"It's for your friend," Aeris said. "For Lockheart...."
Cloud reluctantly agreed, and Aeris practically dragged him back into the center area of Wall Mart. It took a bit of explaining, but the owner of the dress shop agreed to help them out. Before long Aeris was dressing Cloud in a shiny, sapphire-colored dress that reached down almost to the floor, and Cloud keeping his eyes shut, trying to focus on other things.
"Hmmm...," Aeris said as she looked Cloud over. "Almost. I know! We need to comb that hair!"
Aeris took a comb and some gel and then proceeded to comb all the snags out of Cloud's hair and tail until both were as smooth as the dress she put him in. As a finishing touch she put a bow on Cloud's head and a ribbon on his tail.
"There! All done!" Aeris said as she led Cloud before a mirror.
Cloud peered at his reflection and almost died of surprise. The visual shock was so strong, he couldn't say a thing.
"I don't think anyone will recognize you in that!" Aeris said.
"They had better not...." Cloud said, cringing.
"Wow!" The shop owner exclaimed. "I think this could be a new business!"
"Now, let's see...," Aeris said, as she picked out a deep red, nearly maroon-colored dress for herself. "Ah, this'll do." Aeris used the shop's dressing room to don the dress over her red cape, put on an extra ribbon or two, and came out looking . . . purple.
"There. How do I look?"
Cloud shook his head.
"You're no fun," Aeris said. "But we're all ready now."
"...for Lockheart...," Cloud muttered.
"Yes. For Lockheart," Aeris said. "How much?" She asked the shopkeeper.
"You wouldn't believe the inspiration this has given me. It's on the house!"
Dressed so fancifully, Aeris and Cloud had no trouble at all being allowed in to the Baron's manor. Soon the two of them were shuttled to a side room and told to wait. On the other side was Lockheart, wearing a green dress and matching ribbons. Lockheart saw them first, recognizing Aeris.
Aeris nodded. "You're Lockheart, right? Cloud told me all about you. I'm Aeris."
"You were in the park with Cloud, weren't you?" Lockheart said.
"Yeah, but don't worry, we just met."
"And who's that over there?" Lockheart asked, pointing to Cloud.
"That... is Cloud," Aeris said as Cloud took a few steps forward.
"What??? You're kidding me. Cloud...?" Lockheart ran over and gave Cloud a close look, recognizing him. "Cloud!! What are you doing like this?"
"...It was --" Cloud tried responding.
"Forget about that, are you all right? What happened to you after the refractor blew??"
"Hey, give me a chance to answer!" Cloud yelled.
"I can answer that," Aeris said. "Cloud came crashing down into the Fifth District church earlier today. And he looks like that because...."
"...Because it was the quickest way to get in here," Cloud finished. "...Sort of an ... infiltration thing."
"I see," Lockheart nodded. "You've heard the news, then?"
Cloud nodded. "Yeah. The 'Baron' says Snowslide's going to attack the pillar in Seventh District. Hoghwash; we would never do such a thing...."
"Yeah, that's what Berett said, too," Lockheart stated. "I figured I should go see that Baron and get the truth out of him directly. Berett thought I was crazy; he said I should stay away from that creep. Berett's staying behind to keep an eye on the Pillar."
"And now?" Cloud asked.
"Well..., then they said the baron's interested in a bride, and...."
"Are you going to be okay?" Cloud asked.
Lockheart smiled and showed him her fighting boots. "I think so ... I'll pound the truth out of the baron if I have to. But getting out of here is going to cause a lot of commotion."
"Ladies!" Shouted one of the baron's guards from the door. "Baron von Borneo will see you now. This way, please...," the guard pony instructed. He led them out and through a hallway to a set of double doors, then through them to a large room. Three guards stood at attention on each side of the room. At a far desk was a chubby-looking pony in a red suit with white trim, presumably the Baron.
"O-ho...!" The baron said, as he trotted out from behind his desk. As Aeris, Cloud and Lockheart stood in a line, the baron looked them over in sequence: Aeris, Cloud, Lockheart. Cloud, Lockheart, Aeris. Cloud, Aeris. Cloud, Lockheart. Cloud, Aeris. Cloud....
Finally, the baron walked over to Lockheart. "I think this mare would make a lovely bride! Escort the other two out of here!" The baron ordered. His seven guards carefully shuttled Aeris and Cloud from the room, back into the lobby.
"So, what happens now?" Aeris asked. Cloud shrugged.
"The Baron's made his decision. Now we get to make ours," one of the guards said.
Aeris was confused. Cloud, angered. "We don't have time for this...."
"Did you say something, sweetie?" Said one of the guards, to Cloud.
Cloud couldn't take it anymore. He ripped off the blue dress he was wearing, revealing his sword and armor.
"What the...?!" The guards gasped. "GET HIM!"
The room erupted in a brawl between Cloud and the seven guards. Cloud moved and evaded briskly, returning kicks and other blows. In a minute, Cloud was the only one left standing; all seven of the baron's guards scattered to opposite edges of the room, injured and dazed.
"No one... calls me a sweetie...." Cloud said, pulling the bow and ribbons from his hair and tail.
"Wow," Aeris mused.
"Come on, we've got to save Lockheart!" Cloud shouted as he rammed opend the double-doors leading to the baron's office room. The room was now empty, opened shutters on the back wall indicating where the baron and Lockheart had gone. Cloud rushed into the back room and spotted Lockheart standing near one wall, and the baron nowhere to be seen.
"Where is--" Cloud began, just before Lockheart shushed him.
"All right, honey, I'm coming!" Came a voice from a side room as the baron opened a door and entered, now dressed down to a red nightrobe. He froze when he saw Cloud and Aeris standing nearby. "G-guards!!" He called.
"Too late," Cloud said. "We've already taken care of them."
"W-who are you guys?"
Cloud drew his blade. "Now, you're going to tell us, what is this about the Seventh District Pillar? What were you told?"
"I won't tell you that!" The baron shouted. "If they knew I leaked the truth, they'd...."
"How about I chop off his legs?" Cloud asked to Aeris.
"Start with his tail," Aeris volunteered.
"What!? Hey, let's be civilized here! I only ordered a few of my men to locate Snowslide's hideout, in the Seventh District...."
"Keep talking...," Cloud said, taking a step towards the baron.
"Don't rush me! If they found out I told you everything, they'd kill me!"
"I'd think that's the least of your worries," Lockheart laughed. "How about his hair? I think he needs a shave..."
Cloud raised his blade, threatening to slice the baron.
"Hey! Put that down! I was only following my orders. They wanted to know where the hideout was, so..."
"Who told you?" Cloud asked.
"That's classified! It's bad enough the cover story's spilling all over two districts even before it happens, but if I tell you that...."
Cloud sliced about a third of the baron's tail hair off, as a warning.
"Y-y-you're serious, aren't you?" The baron objected, horrified.
"How about you take off his head next?" Aeris chuckled. "It's making too much noise...."
Cloud put his blade on the baron's shoulders. "Sounds good to me."
"--The head of Rin Sha's Safety Maintenance ordered me to! I was just doing my job...."
"And what are they planning? What's this about the pillar?"
"Okay, okay, okay, okay!!! They want to crush a small group of rebels called Snowslide, they just needed to know where. A-and they really are going to crush them. Once they blow up the Pillar, the entire Seventh District will go BAM!" As the baron stomped his foot on the floor. "They were going to blame the whole incident on Snowslide, and..."
"And you couldn't keep your mouth shut?" Lockheart finished.
The baron sneered.
"That's enough," Cloud said. "We've got to get back to Seventh District before we're too late...."
Cloud led the way to the door. "Wait! I've got one more thing to tell you..." Shouted the baron.
They stopped, and turned around to face the baron.
"Why do you think scummy ponies break down and plead for their lives with the truth like that?"
"What?" Cloud inquired.
"It'll only take a second," said the baron, stepping back a few paces. "Why would I tell you truth like that Because I've given up on everything? Or because I'm still going to win?"
"You don't have a clue who we are, do you?" Cloud counter-asked.
"Wrong!" The baron opened a panel on the wall and pressed a hidden button. Suddenly the carpet underneath Cloud, Aeris, and Lockheart gave way as a trapdoor swung open and the three of them fell down, much to the baron's delight. They could hear him yelling something on their way down.
"Argh," Cloud grunted, picking himself up and discovering that they had landed in ankle-deep sewer water. "This place reeks... everyone okay?"
Lockheart threw the green robe she was wearing aside, and it washed downstream. "I hate that baron."
Aeris dusted herself off, having made a much better landing than the others. "Well, we're still in one piece...."
"And we know what the Rin Sha are going to do next. But can we get back to the Seventh District fast enough from here?"
They looked around. Grates sealed off any passage to the north and south; the passage east stunk of something horrid, and the tunnel west led upstream.
Lockheart looked both ways. "I think the Seventh District should be to the west of here."
Cloud looked the other way as something echoed down from above. "What was that?"
"I don't know. But we can't stay here. We don't know when the Rin Sha will attack the Pillar."
"I heard something," Cloud mused.
"You're always hearing things...," Lockheart chuckled.
"We're not alone down here...."
"Let's get a move on, shall we?" Aeris asked as she began walking down the west tunnel.
Something approached from the east tunnel as they began moving. What could possibly live down in the sewers? Soon they had their answer, as a blue scaly head poked itself out of the darkened, reeking eastern passage, followed by two webbed and talonned feet, a scaly body, two spiny hind legs and a spiked tail.
Cloud took one look at the creature as it roared in their direction. "RUN!!"
The creature lunged their direction as Lockheart and Aeris evacuated, and Cloud drew his blade to jam it into the creature. Unfortunately, the creature clamped down on Cloud's blade with its teeth, tearing it from Cloud's grip and then knocking him back towards the others.
"No! My blade!"
The creature tossed Cloud's blade behind itself and began approaching their direction. "Any ideas!?" Cloud asked.
"Here!" Aeris shouted, tossing a magic stone in Cloud's direction. Cloud caught the gem and sensed what sort of energy it contained.
"Thanks!" Cloud said. Activating the gem, Cloud generated a large fireball and unleashed it upon the monster. The monster flinched from the impact, definitely not taking well to flame. It lunged forwards suddenly, knocking Cloud over as Lockheart dodged sideways, then filled in with her own attacks as Cloud picked himself back up. Lockheart hit it with an ice-based attack, covering two of its legs in a thin casing of ice which cracked and broke as the creature began moving down a southwards tunnel.
Cloud ran to Aeris and Lockheart as the creature situated itself at a dead end of the tunnel. "What is it doing?" Lockheart asked.
The creature grabbed, with its front legs, a large valve-like handle and pulled it aside. Suddenly a door next to it opened and the tunnel began flooding in a rush of water. "MOVE!!" Cloud ordered as they evacuated westwards.
Cloud, Aeris, and Lockheart arrived at another intersection, the creature riding an incoming surge of water after them. They turned north and fled as the creature and the water impacted against the wall.
Then they hit a dead-end. As most of the water spilled to the southward tunnel, the monstrous creature closed in. "What do we do now?" Cloud asked.
Aeris picked a magic stone from her collection and unleashed a large fireball upon the monster, causing it to flinch. "Again!" Cloud followed it up with another while Lockheart thought up a plan.
Aeris and Cloud unleashed another pair of fireballs upon the creature. "This stone's depleted!" Cloud shouted. "Any bright ideas?"
Aeris tossed Cloud another gem from her collection, then unleashed another fireball at the creature. Lockheart rushed forwards. "I've got an idea!" Cloud used the second magic stone to create cover fire as Lockheart ran underneath the creature and then hit it simultaneously with the fire and ice energy from her two magic stones. She jumped out from it as the creature screamed and then fell down onto its belly. She followed this by hitting the creature's backside with an ice attack, affixing it to the floor of the tunnel.
Cloud unleashed a lightning bolt from one of his gems at the creature. The energy arced across the monster's singed face, across and through its body. Aeris filled in with another burst of lightning, and the creature was unable to get bak up, ebgin partially paralyzed from the blasts. Cloud unleashed a final shot on the creature, and then all it could do was twitch. Electrocuted, the creature was defeated.
"Let's get out of here!" Cloud suggested. They carefully made their way across the creature's frozen and fried body, then followed south after the next intersection. They soon arrived at a steep staircase leading up. Cloud led the way up to a metal lid of some sort. Cloud pushed against it and it lifted up, then slid it aside as brighter light from above flooded the area.
Cloud stepped outside, followed by Lockheart and Aeris. Rusted locomotives and train cars surrounded them on all sides. "This is the train graveyard...," Cloud mused.
Lockheart pointed northwest through the evening sky. "The Pillar's still standing. Good, we have time...."
Aeris looked closely to the northwest. "Something's going on up there...."
Cloud looked towards the distant Pillar as well. "Those are lasers being fired . . . it's under attack! We've got to hurry!"
Cloud ran towards the north until cars and garbage blocked the path. A metal scaffolding formed a usable, albeit rickety staircase. Cloud hopped upwards to the top of the train-car, followed by Lockheart and Aeris. The three of them ran across the rusting tops of the cars and jumping the gaps between cars. Naturally, Cloud and Lockheart had no troubles jumping and gliding across. What came as a surprise was Aeris being able to make the long jumps herself. Cloud looked at Aeris strangely. "You sure you weren't born a pegasus?"
Aeris smiled. "There's no time for that, right?"
They continued across three more trains, then arrived at the Graveyard Station, evacuated of its railed vehicles, and not far from the Seventh District Pillar. Even from here they could make out the sounds of lasers being fired from above. Everyone nearby was watching in wonder and horror, even the station guards. They ran towards the pillar access stairway. Just then Lockheart stopped Aeris. "I have a favor to ask."
"I run a café in these neighborhoods. There's a young pony there named Pearline. Can you...?"
"Say no more," Aeris said as she ran off towards the Slumps.
"Berett's probably up there. Come on, Lockheart!" Cloud ordered. The two of them ran through the crowd of astonished pony towards the pillar staircase. Wedge lay on the ground near the staircase, injured by many laser blasts. "Wedge!!"
Wedge looked up. "...Cloud...."
Lockheart kneeled and consoled him. "Is Berett up there?"
"...Y-yeah..." Wedge murmured. "Jess 'n... Biggs are up there too. ...Hurry...."
Lockheart ran up ahead as Wedge looked back at Cloud for a moment. Cloud followed up the stairs as fast as they could manage. After a few floors they spotted Biggs lying on a corner platform, also severely injured from laser blasts. "Hey!" Lockheart shouted. She tried to help Biggs stand up but he was too weak to. Biggs looked at Cloud. "So... you didn't care... what happens... to this Land?"
Cloud looked him over. "Hey, you're hurt...."
Biggs let out a wheezing laugh. "Y-yeah... Cloud. We caused a lot of problems... I'm sure many ponies died because of it... I guess... this is our reward.... Berett's up there... help him...."
Cloud nodded and led the way up the spiraling staircase. The sounds of laser fire intensified as they ascended. They spotted Jess lying near the top of the staircase, wounded and unconscious, and Berett standing next to the pillar, his laser drawn and heated up. Three Rin Sha helicopters were circling around and trading shots. Berett noticed Lockheart and Cloud as they arrived on the pillar platform, a metal grating about thirty feet diameter guarded by metail railings. "Hey! Need some help here!!" Berett shouted.
Lockheart raced to Berett's position under a rain of laser fire as Cloud took aim at one of the helicopters and then blasted it with a lightning bolt from one of his magic stones before running for cover.
Berett fired off a few shots at the same copter and hit a critical area. The helicopter's fueltank ruptured and then it started to descend, out of control.
"Well, well, what do we have here?" Shouted a somewhat familiar voice from behind them as a red-haird pony in a black suit jumped out of one of the helicopters, landing squarely on the platform.
"Vegas?!" Cloud shouted.
"Nice to see you again, Mr. Pegasus," Vegas waved, as the two remaining helicopters backed off. "I hadn't figured you'd be one of Snowslide's...."
"Shu'up!" Berett shouted, aiming his laser directly at Vegas. "You ain't gettin' this pillar!"
"So you found out," Vegas said. "Von Borneo's loose lips tipped you off. We'll deal with him later. But for now, you're in my way...."
Berett fired directly at Vegas, but not after Vegas had drawn a weapon with which to defend himself. The weapon, some kind of charged combat rod, absorbed Berett's laser blasts completely. Vegas then charged and struck Berett with it. A spark of electricity stunned Berett as Vegas knocked him aside.
Cloud and Lockheart scattered to opposite sides of the platform and Lockheart unleashed a frost attack from one of her magic stones. Vegas evaded it however, countering by charging, stunning and knocking Lockheart aside in a similar manner.
Cloud unleashed a lightning bolt from one of his magic stones, hitting Vegas square, but Vegas's armor discharged it into the platform with a minimum of injury. Vegas charged Cloud. Cloud responded by charging Vegas, and the two of them collided forcefully. Both rolled sideways after the impact, slightly shaken. Vegas countered with a small, weak lightning bolt of his own, stunning Cloud.
Vegas laughed. "All too easy...." He walked over to a control panel on the pillar. "Now, to complete the mission." Vegas hit a few buttons on the control panel. Red lights flashed and an alarm sounded, as another Rin Sha helicopter approached to the platform.
"No!" Berett said, stumbling to get back up after being stunned by Vegas. Lockheart fumbled to get back on her feet as another Rin Sha helicopter approached.
"Can't we do somethin'?" Berett shouted. Lockheart dragged herself over to the control panel and looked at it. "I can't do anything. Cloud?"
A door in the helicopter's side opened while Vegas jumped inside and strapped in.
Cloud, recovering from his shock, forcefully picked himself up and then ran over to the console. "No luck. This isn't a normal bomb...."
"Correct," Shouted a voice from the helicopter. The copter spun to its other side, and a black-suited pony (obviously a Lurk) with long black hair leaned out. "Only an executive has the authority to abort the Emergency Plate Release system. If anyone else tries, it'll just detonate sooner."
"Shu'up!" Berett threatened, pointing his laser at the pony.
"I wouldn't recommend doing that," the pony threatened back. "You just might hit someone...." The black pony slid open the helicopter's rear side door, revealing Aeris, her legs cuffed to the helicopter.
"Aeris!?" Lockheart shouted.
"So you know her?" The pony stated as Aeris looked in their direction. "Our orders were to find the ancient Pony and bring her in for study. She's quite an elusive one..."
"Aeris!" Cloud yelled. "Wink out of there!"
The black-haired pony laughed. "We were expecting that. But we have her bound, she can't escape. Even if she did, she'd only take the bindings with her...."
"Aeris! Did you--" Lockheart began to ask.
"Don't worry! She's okay!" Aeris shouted back.
"Quiet!" The pony reprimanded to Aeris before turning back to them. "The President will be most pleased that we finally have the ancient Pony. And now, I bid you all adieu." The pony leaned back into the helicopter, shutting its side doors. Then the helicopter flew away.
"No!" Cloud shouted in disbelief.
Lockheart glanced at the pillar's control panel. "Thirty seconds until it goes! What are we going to do?"
Cloud looked down on the rest of the Seventh District Slumps. "I'm sure we could glide to at least the Sixth District from here. But Berett -- what about you?"
Berett found a support cable connected to the platform, grabbed it and cut it loose. "Grab on!!"
Berett wrapped some slack of the cable around his leg while Lockheart and Cloud rushed over. "We'll ride this. You two steer us somewhere safe!"
Cloud spotted a small clearing some distance from the Seventh District gate. "Over there! There's an old playground in the Sixth District we can land at."
"Then let's move!" Lockheart and Cloud grabbed on to Berett. All three together, they jumped.
And not a moment too soon. Merely a few seconds after they began swinging down, the station on the pillar exploded. Chains of embedded explosives detonated in sequence, and the upper Seventh District began to sag. All lights of the upper Seventh District, both above and on its underside, went out as it snapped free of its power conduits. Shortly after the debris from the shattered Seventh District pillar landed, enormous metal-against-metal scraping sounds rang out from the upper plate. Its secondary supports stretched, buckled and snapped, sending a wave of sparks erupting from its contours. The upper plate tore free from its neighboring districts, and an eerie silence filled the area as it freefalled from the top levels of Midnight City to the Slumps below. Just before impact, a huge shockwave of air erupted from the Seventh District Slumps, joined by a sound so powerful that it overturned trailers, vehicles, and shattered windows in all the neighboring districts and registered like an earthquake on Rin Sha monitors.
And then, for several hours later only a deep silence echoed through the streets of Midnight City. Not a sound could be heard, neither in the upper levels nor in the Slumps below.