Chapter 7: Just A Couple Of Surprises
The sun was close to setting when the three finally arrived at the Apple Family homestead. Curiously, there wasn't a soul in sight.
'Huh, I wonder where everybody went.'
"Hey Twilight, there isn't some special event going on in town today, is there?"
"No, nothing I've heard of."
Seeing nobody, James walked off towards his current place of residence.
'Something doesn't feel quite right. It's like one of those feelings I get when shit's about to hit the fan.
Nearing the old barn, he noticed a faint glow coming from inside.
'Funny, I definitely didn't leave any lanterns on in there and my flashlight is still in my rucksack.'
Fearing a fire, he swiftly ran up to the doors and threw one open.
'HOLY SHIT!' James dove to a table, kicking it on it's side while drawing his pistol, punch flying everywhere. When he realized he wasn't getting shot at, he took a peek over the edge. What he saw was a group of now equally surprised looking ponies staring in his direction. Slowly, James slipped his pistol back where he had pulled it from.
"Uhhhh, my bad." He said, gradually standing up. "What's going on here?"
Suddenly a bright pink mare with a darker pink frizzy mane appeared from out of thin air behind him.
"It's your welcome to Ponyville Party silly!" She said energetically.
"GAH! Where'd you come from? There's no door there!" James screamed, tumbling backwards over the table he had just knocked over.
The strange pink mare giggled and bounced over to him. "I dunno, want some punch?" She said, giving him a cup with a smile.
James took it and looked over to Twilight.
"This is Pinkie Pie, isn't she?"
"Yeah, how'd you know?"
"Ohhh, just a hunch."
Rainbow Dash floated down from the ceiling, her sides bursting with laughter.
"Nice! That was probably the funniest thing I've seen this week!"
She put her forelegs under his arms and lifted him up onto his feet with her wings.
Twilight walked in as the rest of the guests began casually talking amongst each other.
"Wow Pinkie, I didn't even know you were setting this up."
"Sorry Twilight, I would have told you, but you were showing James around Ponyville, and I wanted it to be a surprise, so I couldn't tell you without tipping James off, and that would have ruined the surprise!"
James went towards the back and sat down on a barrel, trying to get his heart rate down. He had almost shot one of these ponies by accident and he was a little shaky. Rainbow Dash and Applejack trotted up to him, looking concerned for their new friend.
"What's wrong James, aren't you going to join the party?"
"Why so glum, sugarcube?"
"Nothing, I-I could just use a beer right about now is all."
"Well, we don't brew beer here, yer gonna hafta go inta town fer that, but we do make the best apple cider this side of the Everfree here!" Applejack said proudly, hoofing James a wooden mug filled with frothy cider.
James took a sip. It was sweet and delicious, he could even taste a small hint of alcohol, but not too much.
"This is really good!"
"Drink all ya want, Ah got plenty after what happened last year."
"I might take you up on that."
"Jus' be careful, that'll get ya buzzed mighty quick."
"Ha, don't worry. I got a high tolerance for this sort of thing."
"Ya wanna put that to the test, buddy?" Rainbow Dash challenged.
"Ha, sure. Just gimme a moment."
"Alright, come get me when you're ready to do this!"
"I'll do that." James promised as she trotted away.
Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Fluttershy and Twilight came over to see how their guest was doing. Twilight started to ask a question, but Pinkie Pie beat her to it. About ten times over.
"Hey! I know your name is James, but I didn't know what you were, Applejack says your human, what's a human? Do humans like parties? Do you like this party? I didn't know things like you existed, Twilight said you just kinda appeared or something, how'd you get here? Did it hurt? I heard you took a tour of the town today, whad ya think? Did you like Sugarcube Corner? What do you want to do now?" She blurted out, seemingly all in one breath.
James just looked at the pink party mare for a second before replying.
She gave him a blank stare before simply stating; "Okie-dokie-lokie!" and bouncing off to join the rest of the party.
The other three mares stared confoundedly at James.
"It's just that, we've well.... uh, we haven't ever seen that handled quite that way before." Said Rarity.
"Why, is that normal for her?"
The trio just gave him uneasy smiles. Just then an ash colored mare with a gray mane approached the group.
"So, this is the 'human' you told me about, Twilight."
"Yes Mayor Mare. Like I said, his name is James."
The mayor turned to James, "How are you liking our humble town so far?"
"I like it very much, ma'am. It's clean, calm and collected. I wish we had more places like this where I'm from."
"Thank you, and where are you from exactly?"
"Right..... well I hope you enjoy your time here." And with that, she trotted away.
"That went well." James said flatly. "I think I'm going to go walk around for a bit."
He stood up and walked over to a table with a couple of casks sitting on it. Upon closer inspection, he saw taps at the bottom of each one.
'Hopefully this is the cider.'
He placed his mug under the tap and pulled the tab. Thankfully delicious golden cider flowed out and filled his cup.
James wandered around the barn, but found almost no one he could talk to. eventually, He ran into Rainbow Dash.
"You ready to live up to your challenge?" He asked almost drunkenly.
"Am I ever!" was the response.
They sat down at an old wire spool that was serving as a table.
"So, what are we gonna do, just keep drinking cider until one of us passes out?"
Applejack trotted up with a tray full of mugs and shot glasses balanced on her back.
"What's that there?" asked James, noticing the shot glasses.
"It's our special whiskey, made and distilled from mashed apples. The deal is that ya both take a shot after every two mugs of cider."
"Sounds good to me!" James said enthusiastically.
"Bring it on! I'll have you under the table in ten seconds flat!"
Applejack set down four mugs and a couple of shots between the pair. Immediately James grabbed a mug and started chugging. Rainbow Dash, surprised by his quick start, fumbled a bit before beginning to empty her own. Once she had finished her first she looked over at the human as she grabbed the second only to see that he was almost finished with his second and was reaching for his shot. She tried to pick up the pace.
"We're gonna need more drinks over here!" Applejack called to her brother.
It was almost midnight when the party finally started winding down. Guests had begun leaving and James and Rainbow Dash's contest had come to an end. James was pretty tipsy, but Dash was far worse off. They had both consumed about fifteen mugs of cider and half as many shots. She had called it quits after the seventh shot of whiskey.
"Wow, yer the firsshst one to give me a, a run fer mah bitsss." She said, stringing her words together in a slur.
James just sat there with a half full mug, a slight smirk on his face.
"Eh, I've had a lot of practice over the years." he said, taking a sip.
The whiskey was pretty good. It was sweet, less sweet than the cider, but it still burned going down. All in all, not bad. Rarity trotted over. To collect her friend, having only had a few drinks for the evening.
"All right, Rainbow Dash, it's time to go home. James probably needs his sleep."
"Don't worry, I ain't that tired yet. Although it does look like she is." said James, pointing to a now passed out pegasus, her head resting on the table.
"Oh, I am terribly sorry, she doesn't usually get the intoxicated."
"S'alright, no worries."
A tipsy Twilight trotted over, Applejack and Pinkie Pie close behind. Applejack looked a little buzzed, however, the pink party hostess looked as if she hadn't had a drop to drink all night. This was strange as James was certain he had seen her downing drinks with almost as much regularity as he was. She bounced over to the table.
"What a great party!"
"Yeah, we did some damage tonight." James said looking at all the streamers and cups strewn around the barn.
"Hehehe, don't worry about that, I'll have it all taken care of."
"I was talking about all our drunks here, but thanks."
She giggled at that.
"Well it is getting late, you all good to get home?" James asked, carefully standing up. "Wait, where's Fluttershy and Spike?
Applejack spoke up, "They left jus' a short while ago, 'Shy said somethin' about her rabbit, Angel and Spike whus jus' tired."
"As long as they made it back safe. How are you all getting home?"
"I'll take Twilight back, Pinkie, can you take care of Rainbow Dash?"
"Sure thing, Rarity. C'mon Dashie, we gotta go."
Dash had finally been roused by Rarity and started stumbling towards the door with help from Pinkie Pie, following the two unicorns.
"Be safe!" James called out to them as they walked out the door.
"I will. Ssee ya later stud!" Rainbow replied with a sultry look.
"Heh, don't pay her no mind, hun. She's jus' a might drunk right now."
James shrugged, "S'all good."
"Well, Ah guess Ah'll see ya tomorrow. C'mon Big Mac."
"Yeah, see you later."
They turned around to leave and James went to climb up to the loft. The left over cups and streamers were still scattered everywhere, but Pinkie said she would take care of it so he left it out of mind. The night sky was beautiful once again. He checked his gear to make sure it was still all there. Seeing that it was, he grabbed his iPod and headphones. Popping them in, he put on some Daft Punk and lay back on his makeshift bed.
'I just got drunk with a bunch of strange technicolored ponies. I wonder what my teammates would think about that. If I even ever get a chance to tell them, they probably wouldn't believe me. Huh, next time I should get pictures.'
His mind slowly drifted off, his thoughts on his home.
When he awoke in the morning to a slight hangover. He peered over the edge of the loft to see that everything from the party last night had mysteriously disappeared.
'Funny, I didn't hear anyone come in, I would have woke up. Cleaning up all that would have been loud as well. I SHOULD have woken up.'
The thought of this spooked him a little.
The next few days were spent working the farm and entertaining Twilight's many questions. Even Rainbow Dash stopped by a couple times a day, sometimes demonstrating her tricks for him, eliciting claps and cheers from the human. In about three days Princess Celestia was due to arrive in town. Twilight said that if "anypony" could explain how to get back to his own world, it would be the princess. Apparently she was highly skilled and powerful in magics. He wouldn't get his hopes up.
James sat awake in his small bedroom loft. It was pretty late and he was unable to sleep that night. He had just had a terrible nightmare, one of death and destruction. Gunshots nearby, bullets whizzing through the air, explosions in the distance. James was in a small building at one end of a street and at his feet lay a young man about the same age as him. Only the scraggly young warfighter was bleeding from his throat, a large slit running from ear to ear. James looked down at his hands, one was clutching a sharp knife, both were coated in warm sticky blood. He quickly wiped his knife and hands on the insurgent's clothing.
"I'm sorry brother, I had no choice."
Unfortunately, the corpse at his feet wasn't going to be able to accept his apology.
The now dead hostile soldier was a sniper taking pot shots at a group of marines engaged in a heavy firefight with taliban forces. He had already shot two roughnecks and was lining up on a third when James had crept into the room and silently ended his life. James picked up the sniper's rifle from where it had been laying on the dusty concrete floor. He propped up in the window and began dropping Opfor like flies. Once the rest of the attackers noticed their comrades dropping left and right, they turned tail and ran, the marines giving chase. His task complete, James left the room and descended the stairs. His hands starting to shake again.
James tried to shake the images out of his mind, but to no avail. He looked to the almost full moon for comfort and noticed that he could not see the usual 'man in the moon'. No, instead he could just discern a dark spot that resembled the sleek head of a unicorn. Once again, it hit him just how far from home he was. He couldn't even measure the distance. It was then, deep in thought, that he heard a strange sound. James grabbed his pistol -- attaching the silencer -- and his knife and NVGs. He swung down to the packed dirt floor and strapped on his goggles.
'I hope this is a normal occurrence and not something unpleasant.'
Cautiously, he eased open one of the doors, and turning on his goggles, scanned the scene in front of him. He observed what looked to be three or four equine shapes further into the orchard. None of the silhouettes matched any of the ponies he knew. The dark outlines moved as if they were collecting numerous objects from the trees and the ground around them.
'I hope they're not thieves for their sakes. I fucking hate thieves.'
He quickly and quietly made his way closer, silently stalking his prey, blending with the shadows. James witnessed a unicorn and two earth ponies grabbing apples off the trees and picking them up off the ground.
'Fucking thieves.' He said to himself with a tinge of malice coloring his thoughts.
"Hurry up you dolts, if that damn farm mare wakes up and catches us, we're finished." The unicorn whispered angrily.
James removed his NVGs, sheathed his knife and pocketed his pistol. He probably wouldn't need those deadly weapons for this part. Casually, he strode out into the moonlight.
"Honestly, she's not the one you need to worry about." He stated, hands in his pockets. "If you three just leave the apples here where they belong and take off without any trouble, it would be easier all around. Either way, you're leaving those here, they don't belong to you."
One of the earth ponies jumped back, "Aahhh! Where the hell did you come from?"
"Don't worry you idiots, it's just that freak that's been staying here. Just kick it's flank so we can get out of here." The unicorn said with contempt.
"That, would be a very unwise decision. My offer still stands by the way." James retorted.
The other earth pony tried to look as intimidating as he could, "I can take him! He doesn't look so tough."
*sigh* "Everyone wants to learn the hard way."
The large earth pony charged at James, no doubt trying to flatten him against the the behind tree. At the last moment, James stepped to the side and gave the foolish stallion a swift kick in the rump, sending him tumbling into the afore mentioned tree without even taking his hands from his pockets.
*yawn* "Can you guys just go now? I really do need to get some sleep."
The smaller earth pony went to charge as well, but stopped and spun around, trying to buck James in the chest. Quick as lightning, James pivoted around, dodging the kick and delivering a roundhouse to the stallion's side, twirling the would be thief around. As the pony's head came around to face James, the warrior sent a devastating knee to the side of his face. The pony crumpled to the ground in a heap. Suddenly, James felt a strange tingling sensation as he was surrounded by a red aura.
"Let's see you try that fancy fighting after I've slammed you into a tree a few times!" The unicorn's voice was dripping with malice.
Thinking fast, James reached into his pocket and pulled out his pistol. Aiming at the ground directly in front of his assaulter's face, James squeezed of a round, the firearm making a muffled snap and causing dirt to explode into the unicorn stallion's face, distracting and making him release his hold on the warfare specialist. James took the opportunity to run up and bring his gun down onto the back of the ring leader's head, knocking the pony out cold. James looked around at the bodies, still at the ready. He dropped his hands once he realized all three were unconscious. The entire fight took about two minutes.
James collected his gear and went back to the barn, returning with some lengths of rope. He tied the three together and, making sure all the knots were good and they wouldn't be able to escape should they come to, left them next to their bucket of ill gotten goods. Exhausted, James went back to his loft, lay down and finally drifted off into a gentle slumber.