My Little Pony Monthly Issue 61 (April 1, 2002)
Man-Eating Slug Monthly
Established June 1997
This Newsletter is Safe for All Ages
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Index of this issue--
1. The Insane Crossover Story Chapter Twelve (by Tabby and Barnacle)
2. Spare Me the Details (by Baby Jedi)
3. Icon’s Imbroglio Part 2 (by Sugarberry)
4. Elaine’s Decision (by Tabby)
The Insane Crossover Story
by Tabby and Barnacle (TabbyMLP@aol.com and KrzdRaptor@aol.com)
with technical assistance from Spike, Friendly, and Clever Clover
Last chapter, Tabby and gang befriended Puffalump Kitty and agreed to help her find her missing Puffalump friends. Tracing them down on eBay, Tabby managed to win Puffalump Cow and gained the address of the bidder who had obtained the other four Puffalumps. Now, the gang is on their way their to rescue Puffalump Kitty and Cow’s friends.
The DeSoto bumped along the forest road. Tabby kept a keen watch for any house numbers, or even any houses, in the wooded area. So far all they had passed were several domed structures that were unoccupied. The forest setting was completely empty except for the large group of people the crew finally spotted up ahead.
Tabby observed these characters with interest as they drove closer and felt that she and her crew were nearing their destination. The newcomers were dressed in strange clothes, and some had even weirder skin colors. Their expressions conveyed that they were concerned about something, and they appeared to be surprised when the DeSoto drove up next to them.
“Hey, guys!” Tabby called out the rolled-down window. “Is this the Gero party?”
At the mention of this name, everyone in the assembled crowd gasped as they turned around to face Tabby with bulging eyes. “Gero! Are you friends of his?” a character with green skin confronted them, one eye bulging larger than the other, baring his fangs, with antennas twitching.
“Hey, calm down!” Tabby said cheerfully. “We’re just here to reclaim some Puffalumps we have reason to believe he has in his possession.”
“Ooh, are you here to help us fight him?” one of the others said eagerly.
The others in Tabby’s crew had begun piling out of the car. “We have no intention of fighting him,” He-Man declared, “but if he refuses to turn the Puffalumps over to us, we will be forced to meet violence with violence!”
“Whatever that means, it sounds cool,” Tabby agreed.
“So what are you guys doing here, anyway?” Tarquin queried.
“And how did they get such bizarre hair?” Tabby wanted to know.
Tarquin leaned over and whispered in her ear, “Maybe someone should tell them they’re not supposed to use the hair dryer when they’re in the shower,”
“The hair just comes with the job,” said the short, bald human, rubbing the back of his head while laughing a stupid, spasmatic laugh.
“What’re you talking about? You don’t have any hair!” Max exclaimed.
“Or a job, I’ll bet,” Sam added.
“And what’s with those six nostrils on your forehead?” Tabby said, standing in front of him and peering scrutinizingly down at him.
“They’re tattoos!” the stranger yelled.
“Yeah, whatever,” Sam said derogatorily. “Why don’t you just go fall in love with an android or something?”
After that intense verbal lashing, the human went off to sulk. “I like these guys,” said a short angry-looking fellow with black hair standing on end.
“Woah, now!” He-Man finally stepped in to chastise Sam, Max, and Tabby for their treatment of the stranger. “Let us not fight! Obviously we are all allies here, because we have not started fighting yet.”
“That doesn’t mean anything,” a small kid with hair just as bad as all the others stated. “You’ve only been here for ten minutes.”
“Hey! Maybe we should, like, introduce ourselves or something,” Tabby remembered. “Let’s not fight until we at least know everybody’s names, right?”
A tall human with black spiky hair jumped forward with a dumb smiley expression. He was dressed in orange pajamas and black boots, and he proceeded to introduce everyone of his party. “I’m Goku; the bald guy is Krillin,” he said, motioning towards the guy in the corner who they now noticed was dressed very similarly to this Goku character. Mussing up the kid’s hair, he continued, “This little guy here is my son Gohan.”
Gohan proceeded to wave and say “Hi.” He was wearing black baggy pants and a tanktop with a very thick poofy collar.
“And Yamcha,” Goku went on. The identified character, dressed similarly to Goku and Krillin, gave a thumbs up and a short greeting.
“And Chowsu.” This specimen was a short creature resembling a mime in heavy white makeup and white tanktop.
“Ew! A mime!” Max exclaimed. “Can we shoot it?”
“That wouldn’t be very nice,” Tarquin pointed out.
“Get it away!” Tabby shrieked, agreeing with Max.
“But come on, no one would miss it,” Max argued.
The mime proceeded to jump and hide behind the big bald guy who had an extra eye in the middle of his forehead. “If you wanna mess with my friend, you’ll have to go through me first.” he said.
“And that’s Tien,” Goku continued, “the angry-looking guy is Vegeta,” he said, pointing at the guy from before with the hair standing on end in the blue jumpsuit. “And the other angry-looking guy, is, of course--”
“Shelby!” Max interrupted.
“No, my name’s Piccolo,” the green-skinned person said gruffly, antennae twitching. He was wearing an outfit like Gohan’, except in a larger size and with an added cape and turban.
“Look, tennies moved!” Max shouted.
“Cool!” said Tabby. “Okay, like, I’m Tabby; those’re Sam and Max; Tarquin of course; Orko’s the flying t-shirt thing; and Puffalump Kitty and Puffalump Cow, who we’re helping out here. Oh yeah, and--”
“And I’m He-Man,” the handsome barbarian introduced himself, striding forward, “the most powerful man in the universe.”
“Oh, really?” the one introduced as Vegeta stepped forward, squinting.
“Yes! I am Ad-- I mean, I am the defender of the secrets of Castle Grayskull. Fabulous secret powers were revealed to me--”
“Let’s see how fabulous those secret powers are,” Vegeta interrupted. He started grunting and straining as he began gathering energy. “I am prince of all Saiyans and the most powerful being in the universe!”
“So, it is to be a friendly contest of strength?” He-Man said good-naturedly.
At that point, Max hopped by with an interesting device held before one eye. “His power level’s over five thousand!” he exclaimed.
“Five thousand? But that’s impossible!” Orko said in disbelief.
“What is that thing, and where did he get it?” Puffalump Cow wondered.
“You don’t want to know,” Tabby said. “Hey, Max! Lemme try it! Please?” She ran after him to try to obtain the power scouter for herself.
“Look, we don’t have time for this,” Tarquin spoke-up. “Shouldn’t we just go in and see about getting the Puffalumps back?” The two Puffalumps agreed, and they eventually got Tabby, Orko, Max, and Sam’s attention away from the impending fight. He-Man looked up and saw that his companions were ready to continue onwards; his mission remembered, he turned away to go with them.
“Wait!” Vegeta shouted as He-Man strode away. “I haven’t gained my full potential yet! Are you mocking me?!”
He-Man led the way up the rocky butte to which the address had led them; a cave entrance towered above them, blocked with a steel door. Finally, they stood assembled before it and determined what course of action to take next. The Z fighters had followed them (minus Vegeta) and stood at the cave entrance, their eyebrows twitching.
“Ooh, it’s so sparkly!” Tabby exclaimed, peering down at the forest below them toward Vegeta in the clearing. Energy was swirling around him, and the earth in his immediate vicinity was collapsing into a crater with him at the epicenter. Nearby trees were beginning to tumble, clouds gathered over head, and strange atmospheric disturbances rippled through the air. “How impressive!” Tabby was also in a good mood because she had managed to score the power scouter away from Max, which she now flaunted without knowing really what it did.
“So you’re sure this is Gero’s lab?” He-Man questioned of the Z fighters. He would not break into one’s house unless he was absolutely certain that that one was the guilty party.
Goku nodded his head. He-Man proceeded to throw himself and his sword against the heavy metal door in an attempt to break it in.
“Wait! He hasn’t done anything evil yet!” Goku shouted.
“He outbid me on eBay! You don’t call that evil?!” Tabby seethed, turning away from Vegeta’s showcase.
To the horror of the Z fighters, He-Man successfully broke down the door and ran inside. Stunned, they could do nothing but stare at the scene before them as their eyebrows twitched violently and they groaned with disdain. However, not one of them moved even an inch to stop He-Man or the rest of his crew from filing into the lab.
The eight quickly took in their surroundings. They were in a lab of sorts, surrounded by big machinery. What particularly caught their eye, though, were the four large test tubes situated in the middle of the room. Floating inside each was one of the missing Puffalumps: Puffalump Bear, Puffalump Bunny, Puffalump Puppy, and Puffalump Lamb.
“Oh!” cried Puffalump Kitty and Puffalump Cow, rushing forward.
At that point, another strange character stepped out from behind a large computer monitor. He wore big yellowish baggy pants, in addition to having big baggy sleeves and a hat shaped like stovepipe. His face was adorned with a weird mustache and beard.
“Who are you?” Tabby gasped.
“I am Gero,” he ominously revealed himself.
“What are you doing with my friends?” Puffalump Kitty cried in distress.
“I’m creating an army of cute little androids which will be evil, destructive, and unstoppable. But the greatest thing of all is that they will be cute, and no one will be able to bring themselves to destroy them, or even fight them. Behold!” And with the flick of a lever, his machines started spitting out cute little fuzzy Puffalump androids.
Meanwhile, the Z fighters had stepped into the doorway to get a better look. They all just stood there, convulsing uncontrollably, as if they’d never seen true evil before. “It’s-- it’s--- horrible!” Piccolo responded.
“Aww,” Tabby cooed upon seeing the cute little androids. “Aren’t they adorable?”
“They’re-- they’re just too cute!” He-Man said remorsefully, sheathing his sword. “I can’t bring myself to harm them.”
“That’s okay, we can,” Sam said, he and Max jumping in on the scene. Pulling out guns, the two started sending cute fuzzy little Puffalump androids to the next dimension.
In no time at all the carnage was over. The others were left in shock as the dust cleared, revealing the cute critters laying in pieces on the ground.
“How horrific!” Puffalump Kitty gasped.
“How gruesome!” Puffalump Cow agreed.
“How fun!” Max added.
However, He-Man was already at work setting free the original four Puffalumps from their test tubes. Thankfully, they were no worse for wear and the six friends had a joyful reunion. “I’m so glad to see all of you again!” Puffalump Kitty said tearfully as they all joined for a group hug.
“Ooh! Look at all the pretty numbers!” Tabby exclaimed, still wandering around with the scouter.
Gero was now kneeling on the ground, crying. “Another plot failed!! And this time I would have succeeded if not for you meddling kids!”
“The writers must be having a difficult time with the dialogue for this episode,” Sam commented.
“Come on, Sam, give ‘em a break! They’ve been doing this for twelve chapters already!” Max replied.
“How could you have defeated the androids so quickly?” Piccolo exclaimed.
“Well, maybe if you would have done something instead of standing there staring!” Tarquin said in exasperation.
The Puffalumps, eager to return to their peaceful lifestyle back home, hurriedly expressed their thanks to Tabby and crew and were off to get back to their village. Meanwhile, the two groups that were left stood chatting about the battle while Gero managed to slink into the shadows and disappear.
Everyone gradually began gravitating back to the mouth of the cave, making plans for departure. However, they had all forgotten about Vegeta until suddenly, from out of nowhere, the fully-powered being flew straight towards He-Man with deadly intent in his eyes!
“Now we’ll find out who’s really the most powerful being in the universe!” he cried.
He-Man drew his sword and prepared to defend himself. Tabby began jumping up and down excitedly on the sidelines. “Wheeeee!” she cheered. “C’mon, fight!”
To be continued...
Spare Me the Details
by Baby Jedi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Note: As this story is fictional, I dunno if there really is a li’l forest in Baltimore, Maryland where somebody lives, so it’s not like this is modeled after an actual place. Just letting you all know. ALSO: do NOT read if you are NOT a fan of The Lord of the Rings!!!!! (sorry - -*) Thank you!!!
It was 12:00 AM. No one was out, except the last few persons racing for home for a half decent night’s sleep. Little did they know, black figures, Riders, silently patrolled the dimly lit streets. Three of them snuck into a little forest-like cluster of trees in which somewhere sat a little log cabin...
Something was there that they wanted.
Inside the house, a startled figure awoke. Tired of sleeping, the earth pony snuck out of her bedroom. Then, sneaking into her friend’s room, she promptly kicked her.
“Ow!” gasped the (previously) sleeping unicorn.
“Shh!” the earth pony hissed.
“What in the name of wonder are you doing up? It’s only 12:04, you know.”
“I’m not stupid.”
The unicorn rolled her eyes. “One should hope, Baby Toe Dancer.”
Baby Toe Dancer and Baby Explorer snuck out into the living room. They didn’t live in the house with relatives, just friends. And one of their friends was immortal, one was young and made a gazillion mistakes in two seconds, and one had something very special and important-- and it had to be destroyed.
Some of their friends came from another world, another time, not even from this universe. They had showed up four or something years ago, at Christmas. Then they went back to their... world or whatever it was. Four years passed. The passage of time was obviously different there because after four years on Earth, they had all lived only another miserable week apart from each other.
The living room was dark. Baby Toe Dancer unlocked the front door and she and Baby Explorer snuck out. They prowled around the log house and looked out into the dark woods behind and in front and on both sides of the house.
Suddenly, a twig snapped. The two ponies jerked around. They saw no one.
“What are you two doing out here?”
They screamed and jerked around again. It was only Legolas, eyeing them as if they had just stolen the cookie from the cookie jar.
“Leggie!” Baby Explorer yelped. “You freaked us out.”
Legolas (he’s the immortal one) nodded slightly. “And what are you doing out at this hour?”
Baby Explorer and Baby Toe Dancer glanced at each other. “We just...” Baby Toe Dancer’s words died on her lips. Several twigs were snapping behind them. Legolas drew his bow and arrow.
Baby Explorer and Baby Toe Dancer have this sort of power, I’ll tell you that now-- when they need or want to, they can change into humans or back into ponies. As ponies, their age is seven. This is their REAL age. As humans, their age is thirteen. So they both changed into human form.
The three black robed figures jumped out at them. Legolas’ bow was already singing. A black hand reached out to grab him. He ducked away and put an arrow to the string.
“Legolas, look out!” screamed Baby Toe Dancer.
A Wraith leaped out of the shadows. Their shreiking filled the night. Now four of them were there. “Where are the other five?!” Baby Toe Dancer shouted while ducking out of the way of one’s vicious attack.
The last five leaped from the shadows. “There’s your answer!” Baby Explorer yelled back. “We need help!”
Dodging Black Riders all the way to the front door wasn’t easy, but Legolas made it. Baby Explorer and Baby Toe Dancer realized the Mirkwood Elf wasn’t outside anymore and bolted after him. They ran to the door.
“How’d you get in there?” Baby Toe Dancer yelled through the door.
“Wasn’t easy!” Legolas responded. Baby Toe Dancer rolled her eyes. She pushed open the door and she and Baby Explorer ran in. They locked and latched the door. Suddenly, the Wraiths pushed against it.
“The door might not hold!” Baby Explorer yelled.
“It’s got to!” Baby Toe Dancer told her. Yet the thick wood door began to crack.
“No!!” screamed Baby Explorer and Baby Toe Dancer. The door gave way.
The three ran to get any sort of weapon. Baby Explorer yanked open a kitchen drawer and met the butcher knife. “This’ll work,” she said, and flung it at a Wraith. Screaming, it fled into the darkness of the night.
The others were up now, too. Gimli (a Dwarf) was ready with his axe, and all four hobbits dashed out, Sting shining like the lamp in the window for the wandering traveller.
The remaining eight Nazgul began to close in on the company...
Things were beginning to look grim. They most definetly outnumbered the Wraiths, yet... Nazgul are not easily beaten.
Desperatly looking around for some weapon, Baby Toe Dancer finally grabbed a loose, sharp thing hanging off of one of the cabinet doors and flung it at a Wraith. It gave a little shriek. Finally, the company just gave up and fled outdoors through the side door in the small kitchen. The Wraiths screamed and ran after them in pursuit.
The company ducked behind trees and bushes to hide themselves. A rumble of thunder sounded, and the sky opened up. Rain poured down and in an instant, the ground was reduced to mud.
Running mud-water rivers were everywhere, and the company splashed in them as they ran for the edge of the forest. A Nazgul saw them and shrieked piercingly. The others mimicked him. They followed the company. “They’re gaining!” Baby Toe Dancer yelled.
“Keep going!” Aragorn yelled, turning back around.
“Aragorn!” Frodo cried out
“Go!” Aragorn yelled back, drawing his sword. The Wraiths came on.
Legolas swirled back around and set an arrow to the string. He let it go, and it hit its mark. The Wraith squealed and fell. Seven of the Nine were left now. Aragorn was dodging their blows and trying to fight them off. “Ary! Come on! Let’s go!” Baby Explorer yelled over her shoulder.
Lightning struck a tree nearby. A horrible cracking noise split the air and shreds of wood went flying. The Wraiths didn’t see it coming. Three went down.
“We have to get out of here!” Baby Explorer yelled over the rain and thunder. “Aragorn!” Finally, Aragorn turned and fled. The remaining four of the Nine followed.
They finally reached the road and sprinted across. The rain was three inches high, and the road looked like a small ford. On the other side, they turned around to watch the forest’s edge. An ambulance came wailing around the corner. A bolt of lightning struck nearby--
The Wraiths were upon them again, slashing and shrieking. A car came squealing by. The road was too slippery, it crashed. A Wraith went over and began slashing at the car. Terrified, the driver ran out, screaming in horror. Another car was racing down the road.
“Get out of the way!” Baby Explorer yelled to the driver. Finally, she changed back into a unicorn and dashed out into the street. Grabbing the guy’s shirt with her mouth, she winked them both back onto the sidewalk. Right in front of a Wraith.
A little gasp escaped the unicorn, who promptly winked back out again. Then, winking back in, she changed back into human form. “Leggy!” she yelled. “Do you have a spare bow?”
“No!” Legolas yelled back.
Frustrated at doing nothing, Baby Explorer ripped off a tree limb. “Sorry ‘bout that, buddy,” she told the tree. “But desperate times call for desperate measures, if you know what I mean.” She ran over to Baby Toe Dancer.
“Where’d you get that?” she asked, eyeing the tree limb.
“The tree lent it to me,” Baby Explorer said. Then, seeing a Wraith leap, she swung the limb at it. It howled in anger and some pain, and swung its sword at Baby Explorer. Legolas shot it in the back.
It was all over, finally.
For now, at least.
Note: Just ‘cause the first time everybody met was four years ago doesn’t mean that Baby Explorer and Baby Toe Dancer were THREE when they all met! Nuh-uh! Everybody knows pony-age works differently.^^
As the unusual group trudged back home, some people couldn’t help but stare at them.
“How did this all happen?” Pippin mumbled. “I woke up for fear, yes, but how, HOW on earth did I end up fighting Black Riders in the middle of a dark and stormy night?” Thunder rumbled, and Pippin moaned.
Baby Explorer said, “Well, Baby Toe Dancer and I have to go to school tomorrow. At least you all get to sleep in.”
“No, we don’t,” Pippin piped up again. “Remember that... person who still believed we--” he gestured behind him to his fellow hobbits and himself, “were CHILDEREN, though we even told him Frodo’s 50?”
Merry rolled his eyes. “Really! The nerve. And so he said--” Merry put on an idiotic face and said in a stuffed-up-nose-sounding way, “ ‘If you don’t go to school starting tommorrow, I’m contacting your parents about this ridiculous charade!’ “ More eye rolling followed.
by Sugarberry (Sugrbery@aol.com)
Pacing the office floor, Icon waved a hoof in the air. “How can you two be so calm when our entire enterprise could be annihilated within the hour?” he ranted to the two other stallions in the room with him.
One, an orange stallion with lilac hair who was ooking out the window, glanced at the pony in the chair behind the desk. “His theatrical experience has improved tremendously over this past year.”
“Would you be serious, Cachet?” Icon growled. “Guido Casale is not going to waltz in here with a bland smile on his face and congratulate us on the fine start our business is having, not with that lawsuit his company prompted hanging over our heads!”
“We’re well aware of Casale’s purpose in coming here, Icon,” Hodgepodge, a rather colorful stallion of various hues, stated rather shortly as if he, too, was beginning to feel the stress of the forthcoming meeting.
The three stallions were co-owners of a software development company that had begun as a side venture to boost their revenue, but had taken off with such demand that it had quickly grown into a full-blown business that received more than enough work to keep them and a part-time secretary well occupied. H.C.I. had done so well that it had caught the unapproving eye of Macrohard, the behemoth of the software industry, which frowned upon any upstart’s success, unwilling to share any part of what it considered its domain. H.C.I. had, therefore, found itself under legal investigation concerning infringement rights and exploitation of existing technology, neither of which, H.C.I. maintained, were involved.
“Yes,” Cachet sighed. “He’s bound and determined to preserve his lion’s share of the industry at our expense.”
The office organizer, a very pretty young mare named Fidget, came into the room with a hoof-full of reports which she set on the desk. Surveying the three stallions with a steady eye which belied her name, she said, “I saw Anchor coming down the street; he should be here...”
The sound of the outside door opening and closing finished the thought for her as Anchor made his appearance, his briefcase at his side. He made no eye-contact with anyone in the room but set his briefcase on the desk and barked, “Coffee! Now, Fidget.”
Because he was not focusing on the mare, he missed the sudden lowering of her eyelids that signaled a forthcoming set-down; but Cachet defused the situation by pouring the coffee for the H.C.I.’s lawyer himself. As he handed it to the stallion, he remarked, “I’d hoped you would be in better humor than Icon.”
Cachet, the only one of the three business partners who was married– and happily– seemed to have the calmest disposition of those involved with the impending encounter with Mr. Casale of Vulcanopolis; whether this was due to the additional year of age he had over the others, his inherent ability to overlook irritations, or because the marital state had taught him something of the matter of diplomacy was anyone’s guess.
Anchor focused on Cachet, a frown marring his fawn-colored face. “Icon has every reason to be out of humor, I should think.”
Cachet only grinned, deepening the lawyer’s frown. “You’ve studied every detail in our case and have told us time and time again that there is nothing that Macrohard can legitimately sue us for,” he rationalized.
“And I’m right... I’m quite sure,” he added after a slight hesitation. “But you must understand that Macrohard operates under a different set of rules than we do.”
Icon scoffed. “Guido Casale doesn’t go by any rules at all.”
Fidget made an attempt to funnel their thoughts into a more optimistic channel. “I think that Guido’s coming here today is a positive thing, better than his lawyers descending on us, at least.”
“That’s what I’ve been thinking,” Hodgepodge quickly responded. “He surely wouldn’t lower himself to do the dirty work when he has any number of lawyers to do it for him.”
“Ah-hem,” a voice said from the doorway, causing the gathered ponies to jump and swing their heads in that direction. Every one of them stared disbelievingly at the yellow stallion who stood there, a bland smile on his face and a cold, hard, calculating look in his eyes.
“Guido! Oh... eh... Mr. Casale!” Icon stuttered, extending a hoof as he went to meet the stallion. “Excuse me, but I was not aware of the time.”
Guido accepted Icon’s hoof for a brief instant. “I made better time from Dream Valley than I anticipated and took the chance that you would be able to receive me earlier than our scheduled appointment time.”
“That’s not a problem,” Icon stated, grateful that the waiting was now over. “Let me introduce you to my associates.”
When the introductions had been made, and Fidget had left the office to attend to her duties after seeing the stallions comfortably seated, Anchor extended a welcome to Guido on behalf of the H.C.I. organization and then sat back to hear what Guido’s motive in coming had been.
“H.C.I. has made a commendable beginning to garner such an impressive share of the market so quickly,” Guido began, the smile on his face still contradicting the look in his eyes. “I must assume that you are quite knowledgeable about your field.” He lifted his left eyebrow as if expecting some sort of verification on that point.
“The three of us were at the university together,” Cachet offered. “We found that there was a need for a service like ours.”
“Apparently you were correct; I have seen your business records for the previous years, and I must say that I am surprised at the volume of activity your company has garnered.”
“H.C.I. has responded to its clients needs,” Anchor noted, wishing that Guido would get to the point rather than beating around the bush.
Guido was silent for a moment before continuing. “Everyone here is aware that Macrohard has filed a lawsuit against H.C.I...” He held up a hoof as Icon attempted to refute the need for that action and then went on. “...because of infringement rights on Macrohard’s technology. Macrohard had documented enough evidence to successfully settle its claim in court...” Here Anchor made an attempt to discredit that statement, only to be met with a look that successfully closed his mouth. “... but I would prefer to offer you an option.”
“And that being...” Cachet said in an even voice that did not betray his anxiety.
“I would suggest that you let Macrohard absorb H.C.I. into its development network.”
“So that you can benefit from our success?” Icon asked, his glacial eyes meeting Guido’s.
“I would like to think that it would benefit both Macrohard and H.C.I.” Guido encountered Icon’s gaze with equal chilliness. “H.C.I. would have the benefit of Macrohard’s experience and reputation; the distinction of Macrohard’s place in the computer domain can hardly have escaped you,” he said with a certain hint of malice.
“What may have escaped you, however, is that H.C.I. has gained credible prominence in that domain,” Hodgepodge pointed out.
“I assuredly have not missed that fact,” Guido replied. “That is why I am interested in gaining H.C.I.’s expertise in the field for Macrohard’s further benefit. You will be well compensated.”
“So that’s it,” said Icon. “You want to buy us out.”
“I think that would be the best way to handle this affair; my offer gives you recompense for your efforts, generous enough that you will not be financially hindered by the arrangement.”
“And if we don’t accept your offer?” asked Cachet.
“If the lawsuit continues, you lose everything.”
No one spoke as Guido’s words sunk in. He was offering them a magnanimous settlement of their predicament, and there would be no further legal hassles to face. For a moment, none of the three owners of H.C.I. could clearly think of the consequences; Guido’s suggestion almost seemed like a provident answer to the last few months worry over this legal entanglement that they neither asked for, wanted, or deserved.
As the moments ticked by, however, the bottom line of the entire scenario began to infringe on the stallions. It had been Macrohard who had charged them with the illegal use of copyrighted software– which was not true; H.C.I. had developed and programmed their own software from the ground up. No one knew better than they that Macrohard had no right to the projects they had authored. It would be one thing to sell H.C.I. to an interested company if one so desired, but quite another to do so under the suspicion that there had been criminal intent to necessitate it.
It was Anchor who spoke. “Mr. Casale, your proposal is... interesting... but H.C.I. does not want to be assimilated into Macrohard. I’m sure that I’m speaking for all three owners when I say that H.C.I. is not for sale.”
“And I’m sure that you don’t quite understand the alternative; if this case goes before a judge, H.C.I. will cease to exist with no remuneration from anyone!”
“If there is any justice, H.C.I. will be cleared from any wrongdoing whatsoever,” flared Icon. “Macrohard is not the only pool of intelligence that can come up with working ideas.”
“It will prove very difficult to convince anyone that your ideas were original,” Guido maintained, the ice in his eyes beginning to show flame-- whether reflected from Icon or sparking from within was difficult to tell.
Anchor attempted to defuse the situation. “H.C.I. has fully documented its work on the project in question. I have gone through every detail very carefully and have no doubts that H.C.I. would be acquitted before a court of law.”
Guido looked carefully at each of the three ponies who were directly involved in the proceedings; and finding that each was closed against him, he rose to his hooves; choosing Icon as the representative of H.C.I., he vocalized once more with quiet determination. “Macrohard can purchase H.C.I. or take it away from you. It’s your choice.”
“You forgot one option, Casale,” Icon said, his voice more confident that his tense muscles felt. “H.C.I. stays with Hodgepodge, Cachet, and I.”
A smirk appeared on Guido’s face. “We’ll see about that.” He swept his arrogant gaze around the room. “Good day, gentlemen.” And he turned and abruptly left.
Fidget breezed into the room in his wake. “What happened? I couldn’t hear... well, I mean, I can’t stand not knowing...” Her voice faded away as she saw the stricken looks on the faces before her. “Was it that bad?” she squeaked.
Anchor got to his hooves. “We certainly have our work cut out for us,” he said, then modified his statement. “Or at least, I do.” He looked at the others as if just realizing what had transpired. “Oh, my. Macrohard’s lawyers will be descending on us like vultures, won’t they?”
No one felt better for that thought having been uttered.
* * *
Knowing his own inadequacies against what he was sure would be the highly efficient litigation of the Macrohard lawyers, Anchor made a wise decision in that he immediately left Woodlawn to pay a visit to Golden City, the royal holdings which centered around the fabulous Rainbow Palace, to obtain the advice of Queen Majesty’s royal lawyers. After explaining the situation in detail and allowing the legal department to scrutinize the records he had brought with him, Anchor breathed a sigh of relief when Lattice, a completely adept royal lawyer, was assigned to aid him in stifling Macrohard’s attempt to obliterate H.C.I.
“Your timing could not have been better,” Lattice confided as they continued their planning over dinner.. “Queen Majesty has been waiting for an opportunity to...” She smiled self-consciously. “Let’s just say that she sometimes finds the distant colony of Vulcanopolis somewhat of a challenge when Guido Casale is involved.”
“He certainly seems to expect all of Ponyland to bow to his wishes.”
“Exactly,” Lattice murmured as if that explained everything.
Anchor was silent a moment before he spoke again. “I appreciate your help; I was not looking forward to facing Macrohard’s lawyers alone.” He cast a grateful glance at the mare.
“I think I’ll enjoy this confrontation,” Lattice stared into her beverage as she swirled the rosy liquid, before looking up at Anchor with a compelling smile on her face. “Besting Casale’s minions will be a worthwhile triumph for me, as well.”
* * *
Lattice wasted no time in summoning the Macrohard lawyers to meet with her, explaining to Anchor that Queen Majesty herself was anxious for the proceedings to be dealt with swiftly which was also a benefit to Icon, Hodgepodge, and Cachet as they were more than eager to have the showdown with Macrohard over and done with.
Possibly to show how little trouble Guido foresaw from this assembly with the queen’s legal representative, he sent only one lawyer, a soft-spoken stallion by the name of Justin who was accompanied by a legal assistant with the unenviable name of Splotch; she was a trim, young mare who would assist Justin with the ponderous paralegal work that would be necessary to wade through in the upcoming days.
Justin and Lattice had crossed swords before, so the two knew what to expect from the other; when Justin and Splotch appeared in Lattice’s office where Anchor was already waiting, Lattice, after introducing the newcomers to Anchor and presenting a preliminary rundown of generalizations, turned the conference over to Anchor who had never felt more dwarfed in his life than he did under the intense scrutiny of ponies who appeared to him as virtual paragons in the legal field. It did not help that Splotch, who had been busily sorting through a myriad of papers in front of her, had suddenly stopped her shuffling to beam a disconcerting look upon the already nervous lawyer.
Clearing his throat and casting a dubious glance at Lattice who smiled encouragingly, Anchor finally found his voice. “The company, Hot Computer Ideations, also known as H.C.I., refutes any and all wrongdoing as accused by Macrohard’s lawsuit against them; and I, as H.C.I.’s attorney, have documented proof that Macrohard’s allegations are unwarranted and undefendable.”
Justin raised a hoof to interrupt, but it was Splotch who spoke, throwing such a look at Anchor that the stallion inadvertently shuddered. “Your refutation is pointless; Macrohard has verified enough evidence on which to base our case.” She put an exclamation on her statement by dropping a rather thick file in front of both Lattice and Anchor.
Anchor invariably looked to Lattice for direction, and he found that the mare was bestowing a very reserved look upon Splotch which was followed by a transfer of her attention to Justin, to whom she directed her words. “This means that you are foregoing any discussion as to a settlement?” she asked, her hoof tapping the file.
Returning her gaze as straightforwardly as it was given, Justin replied in the affirmative.
Lattice rose to her hooves, signaling the end of the meeting. “We’ll see you in court,” she said, smiling cordially while accepting Justin’s hoof in hers and nodding briefly toward Splotch.
When the room was empty of the Macrohard lawyer and his assistant, Anchor turned to Lattice with a puzzled frown. “I had expected a chance to argue our position more forcefully than was allowed...” He trailed off, not wanting to secondguess the experience of the royal lawyer.
“I prefer meeting this challenge in the courtroom,” Lattice said, her mouth curled in a smile but her eyes dark and dangerous. Anchor found himself gratified to know that she was fighting for his cause; he would not want to be at odds with that compelling determination for any reason.
* * *
It was late in the afternoon when Icon, Cachet, and Hodgepodge arrived in Golden City, and by the time they had met with Lattice and Anchor and been apprized of what to expect the following day when Macrohard and H.C.I. would clash in court, it was time for dinner; Anchor, who now knew his way around the city fairly well, accompanied the three newcomers to a restaurant that served choice food and would also allow them a certain amount of privacy to discuss further the trials, literally, that beset the fledgling company.
When appetites had been sated and discussion had been exhausted, Anchor made his departure to further fine-tune his notations for the morrow while the three from Woodlawn set out on this mild springtime evening to admire some of the architecture of this well-planned heart of Ponyland, following languidly the broad avenues that led in orderly precision from the Rainbow Palace in all directions to encompass every important building within the limits of the metropolis.
After complimenting the structure of the library, extolling the grandiose civic center, and questioning the dramatically-fronted theater of the arts, the stallions found themselves at an impressive fountain at the center of an open plaza surrounded by various shops, diners, and specialty boutiques through which the stallions meandered in search of souvenirs for friends and family back home while the day faded into a dusky nighttime which reminded Hodgepodge and Cachet that they were under obligation to certain ponies back in Woodlawn to place a call which necessitated their return to their hotel while Icon opted to continue exploring for a while longer.
Spending some time browsing the offerings of a welcoming bookstore, Icon made some purchases before retracing his steps to the center of the plaza, where he meditated on the possibilities that faced him and his partners while he watched the fountain dance its ballet under the colored lights; seeing the rainbow of droplets as a good omen, he turned to make his way back to the hotel, causing him to collide with a package in the hooves of a pony who was briskly crossing the square at just that moment, sending an array of art supplies across the flagstones.
“I’m sorry!” Icon exclaimed, making a rapid dash to recover the items and returning them to the parcel before lifting his eyes to the face of the pony who had been in possession of them.
What he saw made Icon’s heart pound wildly, for he was staring at the most gorgeous mare that he had ever had the pleasure of meeting. She was of a beautiful shade of magenta with primrose pink hair that was swept back into several loose braids adorned with floral ties; her eyes, which held Icon’s with a bemused look, were of a tantalizing emerald green the depths of which were capable of drowning any stallion they lured into their hold. Icon was hopelessly engulfed.
“Nothing seemed broken,” he finally managed to say, the retrieved items still in his possession although his better judgement was by now long gone, “but maybe you should check them over yourself.” His eyes never left hers as he handed the package to her.
“I’m sure everything is fine,” she said, accepting her purchases. “And I should apologize, too, as my thoughts were miles away which is why I nearly walloped you.” She smiled, finalizing her perfection– in Icon’s opinion.
“You’re an artist,” Icon stated, remembering the brushes, paints, and pencils he had so hastily picked up.
“I dabble in art,” the mare admitted. “My parents didn’t name me Splotch for nothing.”
“Abstract art?” Icon grinned and noticed a sprinkling of freckles that he had missed in his first perusal of the mare.
“Some would say, although I try for landscapes.” Her eyes sparkled like the liquid fountain.
Icon chuckled before saying, “My name’s Icon; and, yes, I’m involved with computers.”
That statement from the stallion seemed to subdue the lights in the mare’s eyes momentarily, but she quickly recovered. “It’s nice to meet you, Icon.” She hesitated only for a second. “I was on my way for a late supper; would you care to join me?” In the depths of her conscience, she could hear Justin rebuking her for speaking with a member of the opposition, for this Icon must surely be the one who was a partner of H.C.I. and whom she would meet on the following day across the courtroom. As Splotch saw it, it would not hurt to have some intimation as to what she could expect.
And as Icon saw it, as he did not know the connection between Splotch and the problems that beset H.C.I., he considered himself quite fortunate to have received this encouragement from a mare that he found to be unarguably attractive and personable. Not withstanding the fact that he had already eaten, he accepted her kind invitation.
As they walked to the café that nestled under a red and white striped canopy, they talked of trivial and nonsensical things in a light banter that proved to Icon that his original analysis of the mare was correct: she was charming, intelligent, had a great sense of humor, and– to top it all off– she was very pretty. It was only after they had found a table and were served– she with orange roughy dinner and lemonade, he with nothing more than a bowl of soup– that Splotch turned the conversation to Icon’s personal life.
“So you work with computers...” she prodded.
“I do some programming,” he admitted, but did not want to talk about himself. “I get the impression that you are not an artist by trade.”
“Hardly,” she said; “I dabble with painting to relieve the stresses I sometimes find myself under.” She took a sip of her beverage. “You must have a hobby yourself.”
“I belong to a little theater group in my hometown...”
“How delightful! An actor! I can see you portraying the hero.”
Icon grimaced. “I’ve never played the part of the hero, but I’ve been told I capture a villain’s spirit quite believingly.”
“Am I to infer that you have real-life experience in that role?”
“Me? A villain? Oh, no, I assure you.” He thought of Guido. “But I don’t have to look far for a model.”
“Oh! Let me guess... an evil uncle?... a domineering older brother?... a mad boss?”
Icon laughed. “None of the above.” He paused for a second, sending a warm glance across the table. “I’d really rather talk about you.”
The mare finished chewing a bite of food and swallowed before answering. “I grew up in a small town, graduated from high school, went on to get a degree, and landed a demanding job that I complain about lots but actually love.” Her emerald eyes smiled. “Now it’s your turn.”
“Same as you except I don’t complain about my job... per se.”
She raised an eyebrow expressively. “Meaning?”
“I said I would like to talk about you.”
“We’ve already exhausted that topic.”
“I think not. You said you like to paint landscapes; I have a hard time imagining you painting placid scenes. Those flashing green eyes indicate a volatile temperament.”
“Am I that easy to read?” She toyed with the food on her plate. “I do tend to incorporate a fair amount of stormy atmosphere into my work.” Both in painting and in my nine-to-five job, she could have added.
“Black clouds boiling over the horizon, lightning flashing, trees crashing, that sort of thing?”
Splotch looked at the stallion sharply. “Why, yes, the one I’m working on right now is of a tempest-tossed rowboat on a stormy lake, the two ponies in the boat petrified with fear.”
“Good grief! And I suppose you have a lightning strike ready to zap them?”
“I’m still debating,” she admitted, pushing her plate forward and resting her forelegs on the table. “You work with computers.”
“Writing programs is more like it,” Icon said, noting the several small primrose pink curls that had escaped the braid and danced around Splotch’s ears.
“I was loading Macrohard’s latest version of Garret today at the office; it will make my job much easier.”
“If it runs at all.”
“Of course it will run; it’s the best out there.”
Anchor had warned Hodgepodge, Cachet, and Icon not to discuss their pending court case with anyone; but the business itself, Icon maintained to himself, had not been put off limits. “H.C.I. has a better one,” he stated.
“What’s H.C.I.?” she queried, finishing the last of her lemonade.
“It’s the company I work for, and we’ve come up with a much more user-friendly database management system that gives the customer more flexibility.”
“Oh, they’re all the same anyway.”
“How do you know if you haven’t tried ours?”
“Give me one good reason why I should.”