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  1. Penny’s heart soared as she danced through the air above the streets of Mantle.
  2.  
  3. Ruby was here.
  4.  
  5. She unleashed a beam that tore through two Sabretooths that were preparing to pounce on a man cowering behind a car. She saluted the civilian as she flew past, continuing her sweep of the city.
  6.  
  7. Ruby was here!
  8.  
  9. Ruby, her best friend in the whole wide world, was here in Mantle!
  10.  
  11. Penny thought she’d never see her again. After the Fall, Penny woke in the safety of her father’s workshop. He told her that she’d “died,” killed by Pyrrha Nikos during their tournament fight. Penny didn’t remember that at all. She had been fighting blow-for-blow against Ms. Nikos and having such a grand time. No one had ever been able to match her in a spar before and Penny found the whole experience delightful.
  12.  
  13. When Penny pulled back to unleash her special move, everything went black. Moments later she was rebooting and her father was smiling down at her. He must have deleted that last moment from her memory to spare her the pain. He was such a kind man. Penny was just a little bit disappointed though - she thought it would have been a rather unique experience to have.
  14.  
  15. Penny wanted nothing more than to leave and go find Ruby. There were villains out there and she just knew that her best friend would be out there fighting them. Mr. Ironwood asked her to join the military officially and protect Atlas. He’d said that they could be attacked at anytime and that the people of Atlas needed her help. Her father argued a lot with Mr. Ironwood about that but they eventually found a middle ground. Penny would be the unofficial protector of Mantle and be there to respond to any attacks the military weren’t able to stop in time.
  16.  
  17. It was frustrating at first. Ruby was a huntress and a hero but she’d need all the help she could get. The people of Mantle really did need Penny though. The Grimm were getting into the city at least once a week and they were often stronger than the AK-200s that patrolled the streets could handle. She knew Ruby would never abandon people in need and she wasn’t about to either. Penny had even made new friends, though none as close as Ruby.
  18.  
  19. One such friend was calling to her now. Penny turned at the next intersection, using a streetlight to swing herself around and gain momentum. The traffic over the military network indicated that the attack was over but a sole distress signal was coming in from two blocks away. She didn’t need to rush - there were no hostiles in the area, after all - but the sooner she helped her friend, the sooner she could get back home to see Ruby.
  20.  
  21. —-
  22.  
  23. The street had seen fighting during the attack. Scanning the road, Penny was happy to see that none of the local residents had been caught up in the attack. The only “casualties” to be found were the remains of the AK-200s that fell victim to the Grimm. It was under one such crumpled robot that she found her friend.
  24.  
  25. “Salutations, Lemon! Are you in need of assistance?”
  26.  
  27. She received no response, though the distress signal continued to blare. Crouching down, she came face-to-camera with the surveillance drone. The poor thing was on its side, crushed under the weight of the combat robot.
  28.  
  29. “Are you well?” she asked. The only response was the whir of the bot’s camera as it scanned Penny’s face.
  30.  
  31. She lifted the heavier robot off the little drone and dumped the mangled remains off to the side. Penny dusted her friend off and patted the lemon sticker on its chassis affectionately. She had given each of her drone friends one and each neighborhood had its own theme. This neighborhood’s were fruits, to the east were vegetables, to the west were birds, and so on. Whenever the little girl who lived across the street gave her a new sheet of stickers Penny would range further from home to give her friends names.
  32.  
  33. “I’m glad to see you’re unharmed,” Penny said happily.
  34.  
  35. The little droid hovered in place for a time, internal devices whirring as it did a self diagnostic. Then, without so much as even a glance, it continued down the road on its preprogrammed route. Penny waved after him until he disappeared around the corner. They weren’t like her, she knew. They didn’t have aura, or a personality, and they never responded when she chatted with them, but she loved them all the same. She was glad Lemon was okay.
  36.  
  37. Lifting off, Penny decided to make one last lap around the neighborhood to make sure no one needed assistance. There were no hostiles reported in the area, but casualties among the local residents often went unreported. As excited as she was to hang out with Ruby, she wouldn’t abandon the people she swore to protect.
  38.  
  39. Penny couldn’t help feeling giddy. She wanted to hear all about Ruby’s adventures. They hadn’t seen each other in so long, after all, and no news ever came in about the outside world. Penny even had stories of her own to share. And when was the best time to share stories? At a sleepover, of course!
  40.  
  41. Nails! Clothes! Cute boys! Penny would finally get that sleepover she had been planning since she first met Ruby. She’d invite the rest of Ruby’s team, naturally. And Team JNPR as well. The more the merrier, after all. Team JNPR was 50% cute boys though. Could you talk about cute boys while said cute boys were in the room? She’d have to ask Ruby.
  42.  
  43. Penny didn’t recall seeing Pyrrha Nikos with the group earlier. She’d have to ask about that as well. She really wanted to tell Ms. Nikos that there were no hard feelings for what happened during the tournament. After all, they’d cross blades in the heat of battle and, according to that cartoon Ruby told her to watch, that built the strongest friendships.
  44.  
  45. Her sweep of the city complete, Penny turned towards home. She just knew her father would let her have a sleepover. Tonight would be the birth of v2.0 of the unstoppable Ruby/Penny friendship!
  46.  
  47. —-
  48.  
  49. Maria sat heavily on the curb outside of Pietro’s house, back complaining about her choice of seat. Not half an hour in Mantle and the brats had already gotten themselves arrested. She shouldn’t be surprised, honestly. Not since they all so readily jumped at the blond doofus’ plan to steal a bullhead to get here in the first place. Pietro paced nervously in the street, robotic legs taking him to and fro. His daughter was on her way back and he didn’t look prepared to deliver the bad news.
  50.  
  51. In a flash of green, said daughter rocketed down onto the street, going down to one knee dramatically as dust whirled around her landing.
  52.  
  53. “Father!” the girl exclaimed, approaching her father rapidly. “I was hoping Ruby and her friends could stay over tonight for a sleepover…” Penny started, hands gesticulating excitedly.
  54.  
  55. “Penny,” Pietro said patiently as he wrung his hands.
  56.  
  57. “And her boy friends, too. Not boyfriends, though maybe one of them is her boyfriend. Do you think so? Anyway, it would be rude to leave them out, and I know it’s unorthodox…”
  58.  
  59. “Sweetie…”
  60.  
  61. “They can sleep in the other room! Oh, we can watch movies, and play games, and...”
  62.  
  63. “Darling.”
  64.  
  65. “Oh! We’ll also need to feed them. Do you think they’d like pizza? I’ve read that pizza is the sleepover cuisine of choice. But I don’t have any allowance...do you mind if-”
  66.  
  67. “Enough!” Maria snapped, slamming her cane onto the curb for effect. She thought Ruby and that Nora girl were bad, but Pietro’s daughter was a whole new level of energetic.
  68.  
  69. “My apologies, Ruby’s Grandma,” Penny said quickly before turning back to her father. “Where is Ruby, Father?”
  70.  
  71. Maria nearly choked. “Who are you calling grandma?”
  72.  
  73. “My apologies,” Penny repeated, bowing. “Granny.”
  74.  
  75. “Granny?!”
  76.  
  77. “Listen,” Pietro blurted before Maria could start in. “Your friends were...well…”
  78.  
  79. “They were tied up and thrown into the back of a bullhead bound for Atlas,” Maria said, grumbling at the robotic whippersnapper’s sass as she climbed to her feet.
  80.  
  81. “They were KIDNAPPED?” Maria didn’t see where the blades came from, but now Penny was surrounded by the things, each glinting dangerously in the low light. “Don’t you worry, I’ll go and rescue them! You should alert the military!”
  82.  
  83. Pietro rushed to stop her. “They were arrested, Penny. By the military.”
  84.  
  85. “That’s silly. Ruby’s a good girl! Her friends are too!” Penny asserted.
  86.  
  87. Maria rolled her robotic eyes. “They flew here in a stolen bullhead.”
  88.  
  89. That gave Penny pause. Her swords lowered and folded in towards her, disappearing behind her back. Pietro reached a hand towards her in concern. “Now honey, I’m sure it’s all one big misunderstandi-”
  90.  
  91. “Ruby’s in her rebellious phase?!” Penny shouted excitedly. Maria nearly stumbled back from the girl’s explosive excitement. Her eyes were shining as she looked between the two adults. “It must be puberty!”
  92.  
  93. This is it. This insanity will be my final years, Maria realized. I should have never gotten off that train.
  94.  
  95. The blades sprung out again, circling quietly behind the robot girl’s back. Penny’s grin was wide and just a little manic. It reminded her of Ruby’s back in Argus, when they were in the thick of planning their “heist”.
  96.  
  97. “I should be able to catch up with their transport in no time at all,” Penny stated matter-of-factly. “Then I’ll-”
  98.  
  99. “No breaking the law, sweetie.” Pietro begged. “Please.”
  100.  
  101. The blades retracted in a flash and a more innocent smile graced her face. “I’ll go speak with Mr. Ironwood. Farewell Father!”
  102.  
  103. “Be safe, darling!” Pietro called after her.
  104.  
  105. Penny shot into the air and waved back over her shoulder as she streaked away. “I will! And it was nice meeting you, Nanaaaaa!”
  106.  
  107. Maria thought she might need dentures after how hard she ground her teeth. She was just starting to get used to the normal level of wackiness Ruby and her friends got up to and now it looked like things were about to get zanier.
  108.  
  109. “That girl is an angel,” Pietro said with a heavy sigh. “The one that will see me to heaven, at this rate.”
  110.  
  111. Maria only grunted. She was too old for this ten years ago.
  112.  
  113. “I suppose we should get out of the cold and have a look at your eyes,” he said, turning back towards his home. “I’m sure we’ll be hearing from the General in no time at all.”
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