Down the Rabbit Hole
The bridge opened with the now familiar deep sigh and you stepped into its energy. This was honestly something of a bore for you these days, what with well over two thousand sub space jumps logged away in the company’s network. This morning was going to be business as usual; repair work on a Centurion class starship which had made one too many high charge subspace jumps without the suggested reset periods.
The thrumming of the stabilized wormhole brought the day's plan back into the forefront of what passed for your mind these days. The technicians who worked on these damned things always tried to assuage your fears with their reassurances of their relative safety compared to interstellar travel the old fashioned way. You were still convinced that a sizable chunk of your brain had gotten 'misplaced' during the course of one these jaunts. Oh well. Details details, as it were.
Suddenly, a massive tremor jarred you quite thoroughly from any inner reflection on something trivial like brain damage. This couldn't possibly fucking happen to some other asshole, could it? Nope, it just had to be you of course. As the particle stream around you steadily pissed all of its energy off into the tenuous reaches of subspace, a sudden thought bullied its way from the deep recesses of memory. Something about the hypothetical 'what if' scenario you now found your dumb ass planted snugly in the middle of. More specifically, just how screwed you really were. Then, just like that, it was as though someone had turned off a grapher screen in the middle of a movie. Except his time, you and all of existence were the screen.
Your first thoughts were, frankly on an entire new level of unpleasant. The entirety of your body felt as though it had been run quite thoroughly through a garbage disposal. Your head felt worse still. Maybe if you brained yourself with one of these rocks the sensation of having your head turned inside out and filled with angry wasps would go away.
Wait a single hot fucking minute. A rock? As in, the kind of rock that would never see the inside of a starship transit facility? Now that you noticed, the rock was really only the beginning of your problems. Blearily, you manage a cursory inspection of your surroundings.
Holy shit was this ever not the transit facility of an interstellar jump ship. You were, as far as you could tell, laying in a crumpled heap in the shade of a rather large tree square in the middle of a dense, lush forest. With as much levity as the situation allows, you think to yourself "I really should have just stayed in bed this morning", and promptly pass the fuck out.
Okay, let’s give this a shot, shall we?
Storage Check: Complete (30% capacity, 5% data error rate accounted for)
Main Processor Check: Operating within tolerance parameters
Synchronization with frame of reference attempted…failed…failed…failed…synchronization successful
Booting consciousness…failed…failed…boot successful
Pain, oh sweet Christ, pain! You’re fairly certain that the inside of your body suit would be sporting a lovely new paint job had you not used the restroom minutes before you’re little fling through space time. You imagined that swallowing a gallon of ignited thermite might feel just about as great as whatever fresh hell your body had recently been thrown through.
For a solid ten minutes you can focus on nothing but the five square inches of dirt that your face is planted firmly in. Eventually your insides seem to be have made up their mind about what exciting form they’d like to be in today allowing you to finally drag yourself into a sitting position. Either you were vividly hallucinating, or you really were sitting in the middle of a vast green forest on a class M planet with a comfortably temperate atmosphere. Somewhere in the back of your mind you contemplated the fact that this was utter bullshit. There wasn’t a single class M planet within four light years of the maintenance facility in orbit around AU Microscopii you had jumped from. The only planet in that system was a barren, scorched speck of rock hardly worth its name.
None of this practical knowledge did a damn thing to change the fact that your ass was bruising and your legs cramping as you sat on what felt like a large unforgiving tree root. You cautiously stumble to your feet and almost immediately collapse again as your vision swims a lovely spectrum of colors and your inner ear calls you a dick. Okay, this sucks way too much to be anything but real. Thankfully you get your bearings after only a few moments and step into the small clearing which had served as your landing pad.
You are relieved to discover that you have retained all of your personal effects and that your suit’s onboard systems are still operational. At this discovery, you activate your subspace tracking and with no better option, start walking directly forward into the leafy sunshine. The whirring drone of bugs seems a natural enough companion to you as you take in your disarmingly familiar surroundings. If you didn’t know better, this could pass for the forests back on Terra. You had only been there once, but the day trip out to a protected forest zone seemed especially vivid now.
Suddenly, a red blur shoots through the canopy above catching you off guards. You are momentarily stunned when you find yourself staring at what couldn’t possibly be anything but a brilliantly red male cardinal. The bird seems to regard you for a moment before calling out and taking flight into the bright sunshine above. You watch it until losing sight and dazedly resume your aimless trek.
This is insane. Unless you someone managed to, purely by chance, shoot clear across the galactic disc there should be no possible explanation for this. With a thought, you summon your suit’s tracking program in hopes of anything regarding your whereabouts. It appears before you with a flourish of color and artfully coalesces into a three dimensional holograph of the Milky Way Galaxy. Thousands of tiny pinpricks are dotted throughout the image, each one representing a settlement or outpost. Honestly you couldn’t care less about any of that shit at the moment. The message ‘Signal Zero – Position Unknown’ crawls lazily across the display in a ghostly red font. A lump of ice slides down your chest and settles firmly in the pit of your stomach. For the first time in the better part of a decade, you are completely off the grid, alone, and terrified.
A Meeting Across Eons
The sound of crinkling leaves and gentle movement in what appears to be a heavily laden blueberry bush some 60 feet ahead quickly brings your focus back around. The accompanying gasp; the very human gasp from somewhere just out of sight, gets you moving before you even realize it. A thousand thoughts are cascading through your mind as you burn a path that would make any speed walker proud. Astronomically improbable scenarios be damned, this had to be Terra! Despite the staggering odds against it being as such, you were grateful. Who were you to question the fickle nature of quantum mechanics?
You are smiling like a moron by the time your hands brush through the bushes almost heavily sagging branches. A greeting begins to form on your lips, but the sight just beyond literally renders you quite thoroughly speechless. A yellow horse some two feet tall at the shoulder is staring back at you with enormous teal eyes. Its sides are adorned with matching embroidered saddlebags which have been stuffed to overfill with a variety of herbs and flowers. With gaping mouth and the sound of your pulse drumming through your ears, you try to process the fact that this horse, more of a pony really, is cowering behind a mane of rose pink hair and despite the protests of your common sense, has unfurled a pair of silky, feather adorned wings.
As your mind desperately tries to make sense of the impossibility cowering before you, said impossibility decides it doesn't much care for you either and starts backing away from you as quickly as its trembling limbs will allow. By the time your mouth manages to reconnect to your brain, the decidedly pegasus pony is already some 20 yards away and blurring into the foliage despite its starkly contrasting color scheme.
"Wait!" you hear yourself cry out. This may be completely ridiculous, but you'll be damned if you lose contact with the first obviously sentient creature on what you quickly conclude is not Terra. Last you heard, there wasn't a race of fashionably minded pegasi living on your species' home planet.
Breaking into a sprint you race forwards trying to keep sight of the pony's trail. Given its diminutive stature, there isn't much to go on, but regardless you carry on. The occasional snapped twig or tiny hoof prints keep you hopeful.
Some fifteen minutes later you find yourself panting and doubled over against another of the forest's towering trees, your lungs protesting and heart painful in your chest. The damn air must be thinner here. Either that or the artificial gravity on the station had been much lower than 1 G as advertised.
Making note of the sun's track across the sky, you realize there will only be perhaps another two hours of useful daylight. You also realize that giving chase to a flight capable native of this world through dense terrain and no sense of direction was probably the crowning achievement in your dumb ass hall of fame. How the hell did you expect that to work out? Even if you had caught up to it, what did you plan to do? Yell at it in the hopes it would understand you? Hell, given your xenological training, what guarantee did you have that despite its frail appearance, there weren't rows of dagger sharp teeth just waiting to shred you like pulled pork hidden within its maw?
Yeah. Smooth move Einstein. Your battered psyche disregards the fact that you've been rationalizing fear of what appeared to be an completely harmless, adorably proportioned pegasus. Hell, it was pretty obviously terrified of you. Probably thought you were going to eat it, especially after chasing it for the better part of a quarter hour. Groaning, you slide down into a sprawl against the rough bark of the tree, wiping your forehead as you go. Well, shit.
After a five minute rest filled with a tasteful amount of muttered grumbling and general bitching, you get to your feet and dust off the seat of your uniform pants. Since it looked like you were spending at least the night in these woods, you decide it wise to find a suitable spot to sleep. None of the small caves and sinkholes you had blurred past earlier looked suitable for your six foot medium build, and you'd be damned if you were sharing the ground with God knows what manner of creeping nightmares.
Turning around and peering up into the canopy, you realize you've left yourself with more or less a single solution. The trees on this planet are some of the biggest you've ever seen, most climbing easily two hundred feet into the sky. Their strong, uniform web of branches looks like it was custom made to keep you safely out of the jaws of any slithering nocturnal terrors. This was gonna' be cake. Besides, how hard could spending the night cocooned in nature's loving embrace be? With resolve sufficiently bolstered, you grab hold of the lowest branch and start climbing.
The irony of your fear of heights becomes painfully obvious almost instantly as you cling desperately to your leafy bed some fifty feet up. You've spent just enough time drifting through the expanse of space to conveniently forget all about it. Thanks a lot brain, you're a real pal lately. If the adrenaline coursing through your veins was an indicator, it didn't look like you'd be getting a lot of sleep tonight. You figure the best way to distract yourself from the crippling fear is to gaze up at the comforting familiarity of the starry sky.
They were all wrong, naturally. None of these constellations were on any star chart you had ever seen. How was that even possible? The constellations stretched across millions of light years throughout the universe. If they weren't apparent here, in any configuration, then you must have jumped off course much further than a mere 100 light years. Were you in another galaxy altogether? Impossible. Jump gates were capable of almost instant transmission of matter and energy across truly vast distances, but even the furthest stretches of humanity had only managed an outward trek of 15,625,000 cubic light years.
Oh God this wasn't helping at all! Suddenly, your the suit's holographic display activates in a blur of activity. It seemed like every program and system had simultaneously activated on their own accord. This had literally never happened in your years of experience with these systems. It's even playing back a track from your favorite group's latest album. What's better, it's doing so at full volume, effectively silencing any bugs within a square mile of your perch.
"Why the hell is this happening to me?!", you yell while desperately trying to initiate a system reboot.
"Go on the adventure of a lifetime they said!" - No effect
"Go where no man has ever gone they said!" - You're fairly certain the device just flipped you off
"Great benefits package they said!" - An additional sound file is now playing back a corny laugh track, presumably at your expense
"And the best part?", you begin "is that we've never lost anybody on a jump! Ever!" At this point you can almost feel your brain killing itself in your skull. "Well, guys what the hell happened, huh? What the fuck happened?!" As these last four words escape your mouth with what you hope passes for appropriately dramatic flair, you realize the unit has returned to its normal standby mode. You also realize that you effectively just screamed like a psychopath while likely alerting any and every potentially deadly creature of your exact location. Strike it up for the home team guys! Ten points Gryffindor! Shit.
Right on cue, a deafening throaty roars rips up from the base of the tree you've been having an existential crisis in. With your eyebrows well into your hairline, you peer down and feel your mouth go dry. Some form of monstrosity, apparently three quarters African lion with what can only be the tail of a scorpion, is doing a damn good job of tearing a path towards you upwards through the dense branches. The term 'manticore' drunkenly stumbles to mind, but something breaks in your head as your brain effectively jumps out an open window.
"GO ON AN ADVENTURE THEY SAID!!!" Oh Goddammit it's licking its chops now.
"SPACE! GALAXIES! ORION!" Yeah, today was definitely one of those days.
Screwed would be an understatement to describe to describe your current situation; stranded ninety feet up in a tree on an uncharted alien world with at least three quarters of the known universe between yourself and another human. Let’s not forget the six hundred pound monstrosity currently clawing its way up said tree intent on making you its breakfast. There was also the fact that you had chased away your only possible link to civilization. That probably wasn’t one of your better moments.
The bellowing below has been almost constant for the better part of four hours broken only by the occasional strike of the manticore’s segmented tail. The successive strikes were slowly but steadily boring a hole through the trunk just below your feet. Your black hair was peppered with a lovely paste of wood chips and pine sap.
You note absently that the first thin sliver of the sun’s rays is just now cresting over the distant horizon. Not that it will do a damn bit of good. The beast below has proven to be rather dedicated to its cause.
“Excuse me Sir”, you yell down as the beast takes another stab at impaling you, “but would you happen to know where I might find directions to the county fair?” The manticore actually pauses and regards you with a look of disbelief that somehow manages to make you feel like even more of an idiot.
“Yeah, well screw you buddy”, you crossly remark. “Why don’t you go find a nice big volcano and throw yourself into it?”
Let’s see. You had, what, maybe another five feet of tree left above you? Seven if you got really fancy. Your other option at this point consisted of death by manticore or taking the ultimate leap of faith almost twenty stories to the unforgiving ground below. Your suit would probably absorb a decent chunk of that fall, but given your luck as of late the thought didn’t exactly leave you feeling warm and fuzzy.
Just as the prospect of willingly leaping 190 feet is starting to sound like a pretty good option, your attention is drawn downwards as a large commotion makes its way towards your location. Great, what did your furry little friend here call for backup?
“Is that really friggin’ necessary?!” you scream while pelting it in the head with pine cones.
Your inane babbling reaches a frantic pace as the thick bramble of growth nearest to you begins to shake violently heralding the arrival of certain doom.
“Bababababababababa” is the best you can come up with as the last few branches are parted and you reflexively slam your eyes shut to await your bitey, scratchy, stabby end.
“I know I heard it right up ahead, girls!” a raspy voice excitedly shouts out below you. Wonderful, now you’re hearing things too!
Just for a laugh, you open your eyes and almost fall from your perch. There are five vibrantly pastel colored ponies standing in a semi-circle staring up at you. A cotton candy pink pony with cerulean eyes looks ecstatic to see you and is visibly bouncing around in circles emitting comically appropriate sound effects. She (as you quickly decide that your new audience is obviously all female) is wearing a blindingly white smile so big it should be anatomically impossible.
To her left stands a determined looking orange pony sporting a mane of brilliant goldenrod. A Stetson is firmly in place atop her head. Her sea spray green eyes regard you with cool confidence. A small smirk is played across her lips.
You find yourself strangely unsurprised that the next pony in line is a purple unicorn with matching horn dead center of her head. She is regarding you with what appears to be complete and utter disbelief. Her dark violet eyes seem to be analyzing every square inch of your being. Honestly it’s a little unsettling. You can’t help but be reminded of a grad student cramming for final exams. Her mane matches her vibrant eyes, but is parted by a thin line of magenta.
You almost can’t believe as your eyes pan next to a canary yellow pegasus; the same pegasus from last night. She is doing her best to hide herself behind the scrutinizing purple unicorn, but failing adorably all the same. ‘Timid’ wouldn’t do her demeanor justice, as she is shaking like a leaf in a hurricane. Her eyes are constantly shifting, looking at everything but you, and it’s painfully obvious that this entire ordeal terrified her. Why then, you wonder, is she here? Did she return of her own accord while fighting instincts? Surprisingly ballsy of the little thing.
A burst of blue blasts into your peripheral vision and you instinctively jerk back hard enough that your skull collides painfully with the tree. Before you even have a chance to utter a yelp, a cyan face set with enormous, angry rose eyes completely blanket your field of view.
“What’d you do to Flutterhy?!” screams the living embodiment of rage currently hovering two inches in front of your face.
“Don’t try to lie to me, creep! I know you did something just admit it so I can kick your flank!” At this, she rears up and air boxes her hooves at you. It’s quite possibly the most adorable thing you’ve seen. Before you can stop yourself, you realize your hand has reached, cupping the fine fur along her cheek and tracing your fingertips across the fine bones beneath. “Soft”, you murmur captivated by the sensation.
“W..what the hay do you think you’re doing, pal?!”, she stammers whipping her rainbow hued head back out of your reach. “I ought to buck you into the middle of next week for touching even a single hair one me!”
This does the trick, jarring you from your reverie and bringing you back to the rather large problem at hand; namely that the neighborhood manticore has resumed its bid to violently end you. Since your bright blue, now fiercely blushing pegasus friend dropped by to pay a visit, it looks like the beast intends to include her in the festivities.
The snarl below the two of you is the only warning you receive before the creature’s thickly armored tail catapults upwards on a deadly collision course you’re your companion’s defenseless back. You’re moving before you even realize the commitment was made, diving forwards abandoning the tree’s relative safety. The blue pony’s eyes bulge comically from her head, wings locking as you wrap her in a protective embrace.
You arc through empty space, your improvised cargo screaming and thrashing in your grip. A sudden impact with your right shoulder blade sets you spinning wildly but you manage to maintain your vice grip on your rainbow maned passenger. Almost instantly, pain on a level you weren’t aware possible lances out in waves from where you can only assume the manticore’s deadly stinger has carved a hole through your back.
The fact that the ground is approaching at breakneck speed couldn’t be further from mind as your senses begin to fail in quick succession. Vertigo overwhelms you as your vision dims to a single point of light. The last thing you hear is the roar of blood in your ears and screaming, though you can’t be certain whose it is. Then all goes dark.
'Swimming or some some shit.'
That is your first muddled thought as you begin your ascent through the the hazy layers of sleep. You find yourself, or rather some form of yourself, moving through a void of nothing but darkness.
There is no water here, but you can't help but associate the odd pulsing sensation of movement buffering your entire body with memories of swimming in the ocean. You are reminded of the strange isolation experienced when diving beneath the waves, eyes screwed firmly shut plunging you into a world of only inner monologue and the cyclical sound of the current.
You quickly decide this is pretty much alright. Considering how much of a shit storm things have been lately, you figure a little time spend chilling in limbo might do your fragile psyche some good. The colorful horse apparitions should be a dead giveaway that something broke in your brain during your slight detour.
'Hell, they even spoke Standard!' you chuckle to yourself while executing a lazy barrel roll. 'As if pastel colored ponies and lion scorpions weren't bad enough, you had to try to slip in something dumb like that, huh brain?' You'd probably be waking up in the medical facilities aboard your originally intended destination in the Lacaille 8760 system any minute now. Maybe they got fancy and finally managed to jaunt your entire brain out of your skull this time.
As if sensing your clearing mental fog, a light appears in the distance, starting low on the horizon but approaching rapidly and expanding exponentially.
'Right on time' you muse. 'I was starting to worry you guys forgot me.'
Before you can react, the light has overtaken you in a blinding radiance. You attempt to shield your vision, but your ethereal arms offer no protection.
hell?" you breath out as your eyes open to the real world once again. You groan as it immediately becomes obvious that your body is still in bad shape. Turning your head slightly, you take in the room around you. A gentle and warming bath of sunshine is spilling through the window nearest to your bed, dancing across a hospital room the likes of which you've never seen. Sure, the function of the room's furniture and equipment is obviously tailored to aid in a patient's recovery, but it all appeared so, rustic to you. It was as if you were stuck in some bizarre functional museum exhibit from a forgotten time.
The heart monitor to your left serving as a cake topper to the cart of blinking medical devices just out of hand's reach is a welcome sight. Wherever you were, discounting the very real possibility of psychosis, at least they had some level of technology. You note that the beeps emitting from it have been steadily increasing in urgency since your awakening.
Only thirty seconds pass before you hear the sounds of rapidly approaching footsteps from the hallway. Instinctively you scrunch your eyes closed and proceed to do a horrible impression of sleep. The clacking noises from outside stop almost as suddenly as they began. Minutes drag by as you become increasingly certain someone is watching you.
In what passes in your mind as a pretty slick move, you slowly but evenly open your left eye, not noticing that you've subconsciously stuck your tongue out in concentration. There is a white pony with a pink mane staring at you through the door's slatted glass window. A white nurse's cap emblazoned with a red cross sits atop her head.
Her blue eyes widen and she emits an audible gasp before the drapes remove her from your sight. You can hear as she flat out sprints away, the slam of a heavy door finalizing her departure. Rolling your eyes at your own stupidity, you try to roll over onto your side before being painfully reminded of your high flying (see; falling) adventures in the forest.
You're still not sure what the hell you were thinking. That blue pegasus was likely to rip you a new one after you more or less felt her up. Everything from that point had felt like some sort of out of body experience. It was almost as if your consciousness had been relegated to the background while some outside party took hold of the reigns. Maybe it was just your inner awesome breaking free after years of repression. You keep a straight face for all of three seconds before you lose it, breaking down in laughter.
You're self deprecating laughter is still tapering off when your attention shifts to the hallway once more. The sound of multiple voice approaching your room sets your heart monitor racing. Their trek and quiet conversation ends directly outside your room. Moments crawl by at a snail's pace and you swallow reflexively, noting how your throat has taken on a texture akin to fine sandpaper.
The door opens with hardly a noise, and the nurse pony from earlier cautiously makes her entrance. Seeing that you are still in the same position from earlier, she turns, motioning into the hallway. Your entire body tenses as the purple unicorn from the forest enters. She is doing her best to present a confident expression, but her eyes betray her nerves.
She glances to the white pony and gives a barely perceptible nod. The message is clear enough, and the nurse makes her exit, gently closing the door behind herself. For what seems like hours but is more likely seconds you stare at each other from across the room. It's probably the most awkward thing you've ever experienced.
With a nervous cough, the unicorn breaks the oppressive silence. You can't help but smirk, releasing the breath you were unaware you'd been holding. Seeing your reaction seems to put her at ease, as she chuckles while approaching your bed.
"Um, hi" she begins. "My name is Twilight Sparkle. Can you understand me?" At this you nod slowly, purposely avoiding any sudden movements. She gasps with what appears to be thinly veiled excitement before continuing in earnest.
"What species are you? Do you have a name? Where did you come from? I've never seen anything quite like you before!" You feel your head begin to spin as your eyes cross slightly as she fires off questions in rapid succession, pausing barely long enough to breath.
Before she has a chance to continue her interrogation, you bring your right hand up and wave it back and forth in front of her face. Seeing this, the unicorn pauses and chuckles looking off to the side sweeping her hoof about in a small circle abashedly.
The display brings another smile to your face and you open your mouth to answer.
You're fairly certain someone misplaced a 55 gallon drum of sand in your throat as nothing more than a wheeze passes your lips. You spot a pitcher of water atop the cabinet directly in front of you and gesture between it and your throat several times until she makes the connection.
"Oh! I'm so sorry! Water, of course! You must be parched after being unconscious for three days!"
Three days? Best be joking. How the hell were you out for three whole days? Your brain decides to be helpful for once and plays back a nicely detailed memory of you jumping out of a tree and taking enough venom to kill a rhino. Yeah, three days sounds about right.
You forget to breath when a purple aura emanates from the newly dubbed Twilight Sparkle's horn, grasping the pitcher firmly before performing a perfect pour and levitating the glass to your now shaking hand. You forget where you are until her aura gently nudges the glass of water against the edge of your palm. With a comically slackened jaw, you glance down at the glass as it happily hangs in place, a few drops of perspiration already dripping onto your bed sheets.
In a single motion you snatch the glass from its perch and almost throw the contents down your throat. It is quite possibly the best thing you've ever tasted. With a satisfied sigh of relief, you lay back staring at the clean white ceiling while simply allowing the now empty glass to lose itself in the pool of sheets around your body.
"That was a pretty good trick" you remark without taking your eyes away from the space directly overhead. She gasps again surprised by the sudden sound of your voice.
"What are you talking about?" she asks raising a single eyebrow in confusion.
"The levitation of course" is your reply. She doesn't look like she quite follows so you continue. "The pitcher and glass. Is it some form of magnetic levitation, or perhaps a type of gravitational decoupling?"
It looks like she understood some of what you said, but probably not the context. You notice she has gained a smile of her own though as she approaches your side.
"Oh! You mean my magic!" As if to accentuate her statement she once again sends out her faint purple aura and picks up a potted plant from the room's corner. "I can use my magic for near limitless applications." You can tell she's getting excited at this point.
"Magic?" You can't have heard her right. "Magic as in parlor tricks and clowns with balloon animals? That's magic. No, what you just did was not magic. I've seen thousands of applications of simple levitation before, but none using a particle field.
Twilight looks at you as you would a child trying to cram the square peg in the round hole. "Here, let me show you." She places the plant back on its faded square of tile and screws her face up in concentration. "Trust me, this will be much better than just simple levitation." You notice that vast amounts of energy have begun to swirl about Twilight's horn as miniature bursts of bright purple lightning spark in and out of existence about the room. Just before you can interrupt her efforts, she flashes out of and back into existence far too quickly to see, moving perhaps ten feet across the room.
"So what do you think?" she asks with obvious pride and just a hint of smoke curling from her mane.
You can do nothing but stare at the pleased unicorn in complete disbelief, a single thought looping through your mind. 'What the hell did I get myself into?'
"...and so by applying Marelon's seventh carrier seal, the instantaneous transmission of matter, i.e. teleportation, is achieved! What do you think?"
Twilight had just, with a few 'simple' demonstrations, unraveled the entirety of your understanding of the universe's physical laws, and she was seriously asking you what you thought?
"Um, I honestly don't know what to think," you reply with trepidation. "If what you've just showed me is any indication, then I may be a lot further from home than I originally thought." You pause and Twilight nods for you to continue. "The constellations I saw the other night didn't show up on any charts in my suit's database. I initially took this to mean the jump had sent me several galaxies away instead of a few star systems. On its own, that would be bad enough. Now though, after seeing just how different the fundamental laws of nature here are, I'm not entirely sure. As crazy as it sounds...I think I may be in another Universe altogether." You shift your gaze to take in the beautiful setting sun. "If that's the case, I don't think I'll ever be getting home."
Man, you really know how to kill a mood. Putting on the best shit eating grin, you turn back to Twilight. "Hey I'm sorry about getting a little melodramatic on you there. Things will work out I'm...sure?"
Twilight was literally only inches from your face. At some point during your pity party, the unicorn had been silently inching herself closer and closer to your spot on the bed and your sudden movement had caught her comically off guard.
"Uh, w..what are you...doing?" She appears frozen in place, hardly breathing. Mouth parted slightly and eyes wide and glazed. Her eyes are trained on a spot just below your eyes. That adorable blush is back in full force.
"Twilight, are you okay?" you ask cautiously.
With a slow and deliberate blink, she seems to come out of her trance.
"There's something I've been meaning to ask you since we brought you in the other day." She finally brings her eyes up to meet yours.
"Your species. Humans. What do you eat, primarily? Are you herbivores, like us," at this point she is watching you very intently, "or are you carnivores, like the creatures of The Everfree Forest?"
You quite honestly couldn't be more surprised by this. She was freaking out about your teeth of all things? It made sense in a way though, seeing as you were effectively a wolf in their midst. Maybe it was time to have some fun with your new purple pony friend?
"Carnivores?" you ask, sarcasm dripping from your voice. Bringing yourself up to your full stature you tower over Twilight, even while still seated in bed. "Well, I must admit I'm not familiar with the term." You bring your toothy grin back out on full display, canines once again transfixing the unicorn attention.
Her eyes are shooting from holding your now almost predatory gaze, down to your teeth and back again in rapid succession. She seems terrified, so why is that blush back and stronger than ever?
"C...carnivore; noun," she begins, doing her best imitation of a dictionary. Honestly, this girl is too much. "Any of various predatory, flesh-eating mammals of the order Carnivora."
At this you grin in mock delight and she shrinks slightly, her eyes crinkling slightly at the edges. You would only let this go on a little longer. No sense causing any permanent damage.
"It sounds familiar, but perhaps there was more to the definition you would care to share?" You almost lose it as you subconsciously adopt a slightly British accent.
She was panting at this point, and the flush had spread almost to the tips of her cutely bowed ears. You would be lying if you said the display did nothing for you on a certain, primal level.
Deciding to end your little game, you move your left hand from your side and place it gently against the nape of her neck. You are strangely unsurprised when you feel the gentle thrum of her energies running pleasantly up your forearm. Her eyes are locked firmly on yours now, her breathing deep and almost shuddering.
You gently run your fingertips through the silky soft hair of her mane and ask, "isn't there more to it though? I can't help but feel like you're leaving something out."
As your ministrations increase, you notice Twilight's eyes are slowly drifting closed and just the tip of her tongue is visible as it pokes out from the corner of her mouth. If you didn't know any better you'd swear she was about to fall asleep. That didn't make any sense though. Only a few moments prior and she had been quaking in fear. What else could it be you wondered? Suddenly, an idea occurs, and you find yourself straining to reign in a fit of giggles.
"Twilight. Twilight are you with me?" you ask trying desperately to keep a straight face.
In the same mellow voice, you ask, "Are you okay, Twilight? You wouldn't happen to by any chance be, enjoying yourself, would you?"
"Mmm hmm" she responds seemingly teetering on the precipice of sleep. Oh hot damn. This was one of those watershed moments you always heard about during your time in graduate school. It looked like this world would be your home for the foreseeable future. Who were you to deny yourself the opportunity to make the most of a bad situation?
Deciding to see just where her mind is at the moment, you lean even closer until the faint tickle of her breaths is felt on your lips. “Twilight, is there anything you would like me to do for you?” Her entire body shivers slightly at the sensation of your touch.
“I…I don’t know.” Her eyes are almost completely shut now. “Do you have any suggestions, maybe?”
Wow. This was a completely unexpected turn of events. From what you could tell, it seemed that an increase in adrenaline introduced via an instinctual prey response had flooded the unicorn’s system with endorphins to offset her elevated stress levels. This combined with the apparently rare luxury of fingers had seemingly put her over the edge into a state of pure euphoria.
It appeared that you had your own brand of magic in this world. Powerful magic, if Twilight's reaction was any indication. As with any powerful new tool, you would need to conduct further research, ensuring it was wielded to its utmost capacity.
With a sly smile, you retract your hand from your companion's neck, laughing quietly to yourself when she sighs in disappointment.
"I do have a suggestion, actually," you begin, your voice bringing her deep purple eyes to settle intently on yours. She nods, and you go for the kill. "How would you like a complete procedural breakdown of all systems and components on board my MKIII, Groombridge Class engineering suit?" Your voice does a complete 180, shifting back to its typical animated self.
"I've seen you glancing at it all day", you intone waggling your eyebrows conspiratorially. "I should be out of here in a few days at most, right? As soon as they clear me for release I'll let you go through it to your heart's desire and answer any questions you have!"
Her face looks almost impossibly confused. You immediately decide confusion is adorable on Twilight's face.
"Huh, but, wait. What just happened?" She looks as though you've just shaken her from a long afternoon of napping. "What were we... talking about, again?" She trails off shifting her mane as though the phantom sensation of your fingers lingers still.
"I was just telling you that I'll be giving you free reign to do as much research as you'd like on my engineering suit over there." You gesture to the furthest corner of the room where your suit, a piece of tech worth around 1.75 million credits last you checked, had been laying in a heap. It was a tidy heap at least.
"Oh! That sounds wonderful! When can we start? I just have so many questions about it! I mean, I've never seen anything even remotely similar? What are its functions? Does it have an internal power source?" She is practically floating at this point. Actually, on second glance you see that she is quite literally floating, hooves kicking in excitement an inch or so above the clean white tile floor.
Chuckling at the unicorn's antics, you speak up before she accidentally teleports herself through a wall. "But, I can't do that while I'm still stuck here in the hospital, so it will need to wait until I'm released."
She visibly deflates at this, returning her hooves to Terra Firma.
"Also," you add "if you we're going to be doing any intensive diagnostics on my suit I'll be needing something else to wear."
She raises an eyebrow in question. "Humans don't go gallivanting about in the nude very often," you supply helpfully. "It's a bit of a cultural taboo for the most of us actually."
"I know just the pony to help with that problem," Twilight answers without even a moment's pause. "My friend Rarity is a successful clothing designer who lives here in town. If there's one thing she loves, it's a fashion challenge! I bet she'll be practically begging me to make you an entire wardrobe of clothes!"
"An entire wardrobe?" you ask through grit teeth. "That sounds a little excessive, not to mention expensive."
She smiles happily up at you. "Oh don't worry about the costs! Rarity is a very generous pony. I'm sure she wouldn't mind helping you out considering your situation."
Generous? That sort of altruism was unheard of in the world you were until very recently a citizen of. "Wow I don't know what to say aside from thank you."
"You're welcome of course," she cheerily responds.
A companionable moment of silent passes as the late afternoon sun filters through the single window. Suddenly, your brain pops in to say "hi" and you're left with the certainly that you've forgotten an important detail. Ah, that's what it was.
"Twilight, it just occurred to me that I'm going to be effectively homeless once the doctors clear me to leave in a couple days."
You're surprised yet again when she replies almost instantly. "Oh well that's easy too! I figured that you could stay with me until you're otherwise able. I have plenty of room, so you won't be a burden." She seems very pleased to have thought of this angle. "Plus," she continues, "this is by far the most efficient way to conduct my research on you!"
Oh, so she was planning to conduct 'research' on you?
"You're going to be conducting 'research' on me, eh?" you ask miming the air. "That's a little forward, don't you think?"
She's stammering out an explanation almost before you can finish.
"I..I just meant that there's so much for us to learn from your species. There's so much I want to learn about your history; your technologies; your body. Wait! No, that came out wrong! What I meant to say was...!"
You keep your stern expression glued on as long as possible before it crumbles away into good natured laughter. "Twilight I was only kidding!" you explain.
"Oh, kidding! Of course, a joke!" She laughs nervously trying to convince you she was in on it the whole time, but her flushed cheeks make for a terrible poker face.
"Look, why don't we call it a day," you say still chuckling slightly. "I think it's safe to say we're both pretty tired." As if to accentuate your point, you yawn suddenly into the back of your hand.
Collecting herself, she smiles amicably before turning and walking to the door and opening it with a small shimmer of purple energy. "I guess I lost track of time somehow," she says looking back at you. "I'll be back tomorrow to bring you up to speed on a few things if you think you'll be up for it."
"That sounds great, Twilight," you respond with a smile.
The unicorn returns it, and is almost out the door when you stop her once more. "Hey Twilight? What I said before? I want you to know I really meant it. Thank you so much for everything you've done for me."
She smiles brightly at this, and offers only a small blush in response.
You lean back and close your eyes as the closing door clicks gently into place.
Sleep comes to you almost instantly.
A Proper Introduction
The next two days passed in a blur. Twilight returned the following day seemingly more than happy at the prospect of cramming everything you needed to know about this world (Equestria appropriately enough) into your beady little head. The more you learned, the more obvious it became that you were in an a Universe where physical laws were more like suggestions.
Apparently the whole of their domain was ruled by two living gods, the royal sisters Celestia and Luna, who were as timeless as the planet itself. Twilight casually informed you that their reign extended back eons into antiquity. Lifespans extending to the brink of immortality were common place in your old world, but were only possible through advanced genetics programs and state of the art medical sciences. It seemed that the magic here was present on a quantum scale, and permeated all living things, dramatically extended their natural lives.
When Twilight initially told you she was only seventeen years old you had been surprised by her independence at such a young age. This was of course before she went on to tell you that a single Equestrian year translated into something like nine standard Galactic years. When you asked how it was possible that a year last that long on a planet of this mass orbiting a main sequence star at this distance, the unicorn effectively laughed in your face.
"Our world doesn't revolve around the sun! Where would you get such an outlandish idea?" She looked like she wanted to pat you on your head if she had been able to reach.
That was the other thing. Apparently the royal sisters also had control over the sun and moon. As in physical control over the heavenly bodies.
"So you're telling me that Princess Celestia and Princess Luna are responsible for the movements of the sun and moon around this planet?" you asked incredulously.
"Well of course," she began. "I mean, if it weren't for the princesses, how would the sun and moon rise and set? On their own? That's ridiculous!"
Sighing you relegated the next several hours explaining how gravity, while weak on a small scale, managed the motions of all massive bodies through space. Galaxies revolved around the super massive black holes at their centers. The hundreds of billions of stars comprising each galaxy traced their own paths about this axis over tens of millions of years. Each star was host to its own company of planets, moons and asteroids.
She seemed fascinated, if skeptical, of the concept and more or less demanded a more in depth class on the subject in the near future.
You had also met five of Twilight's closest friends when they stopped by to check in on her. You couldn't blame them, as Twilight was apt to get so engrossed in her historical and cultural lessons she would forget to feed herself.
First to introduce herself was the aforementioned seamstress, Rarity. She was an alabaster unicorn of high culture and self described peerless skill. This struck you as rather conceited until she managed to produce an entire head to toe ensemble for you with but a glance at your proportions. The unicorn worked fast too, producing results almost casually after a single day. She was the owner and proprietor of the Carousel Boutique which was, as Rarity informed you, known all throughout Equestria as being home to only the finest in fashion innovations.
The rainbow hued pegasus you had made first contact with in the Everfree Forest was appropriately enough named Rainbow Dash. Her mistrust of you was made almost comically obvious. It was as if a hurricane followed her into the room. It seemed this was the norm though as her friends only seemed to roll their eyes at the display. Twilight explained that the spirited pegasus was the holder of the element of loyalty. She did her title justice, as her fiery and fiercely steadfast personality struck you as charming in its own right, even though she immediately made a show of trying to beat you up. She only stopped when you stroked the sensitive downy feathers lining the underside of her wings.
"Even softer than I remember," you casually remarked catching her completely off guard. With a yelp, her entire body seized up at the sensation, dropping her onto her rump much to the amusement of her friends.
Twilight's friend Applejack, the element of honesty, especially seemed to enjoy your antics at her friend's expense. As she introduced herself, you noticed that she had an interesting regional accent which reminded you of films you had viewed in your childhood dating back to the mid 22nd century. Applejack exuded a sly charm of her own and even offered you a tour of the apple farm that she and her family owned on the outskirts of town. She also mentioned something about a cask of her family's much lauded over apple cider that she was happy to share when you came around. Thinking back on the last time you had been able to get hands on anything but synthesized alcohol, you were more than happy to accept.
Pinkie Pie, the element of laughter, literally left you speechless when she deposited her entire pink mass directly onto your stomach while cramming an entire banana cream pie down your throat. She produced an armada of brilliantly colored balloons seemingly from nowhere and without missing a beat dove into an impromptu rendition of her 'Welcome to Equestria Mr. Alien' song. The entire thing was hilarious and left you almost literally in stitches. Pinkie informed you that she worked at a bakery in town called Sugarcube Corner. Having a bit of a sweet-tooth yourself, you assured the pink pony that you would be stopping in for a visit as soon as possible.
You had actually been rather hopeful to meet the last of Twilight's companions. Well, you supposed that technically you had already met the butterscotch yellow pegasus, but it was hardly under the best conditions since she thought you were trying to eat her. Twilight explained that Fluttershy was timid by nature and that this sort of thing happened more often than you might think. Despite the unicorn's assurances you still felt pretty awful about the situation and wanted to offer your sincere apologies.
Once Twilight had bodily dragged the pegasus to your bed side, she ended up needing to restrain her with a cloud of purple magic, keeping the shivering mass floating in front of you at eye level. At first you weren't sure what to do. She seemed unwilling to even look at you, wings wrapped protectively around her eyes.
You sat contemplating your next move for a moment. It looked like yet again your only option was one of direct action.
"Fluttershy," she cringes at the sound of your voice. "I know that my actions a few nights ago left you very frightened. For that I am eternally sorry. It was never my intention to harm you in any way. In fact, I was desperate, alone and afraid in an unfamiliar place." At this you notice her wings begin to slowly unfurl from around her face, huge sea foam green eyes revealing themselves to you. Seeing this as a good sign, you continue. "Later that night, when I was trying find a safe place to sleep, it occurred to me that I was the only of my kind in this world. In fact, it's now obvious to me that I may never be able to return home again." Genuine emotion enters your voice as you are reminded of the finality of the situation.
Something about the hopelessness of your story seemed to have resonated with the pegasus. She speaks for the first time, her motherly voice evoking memories of your childhood.
"Oh you poor thing! How selfish of me! I never once even thought of how scared you must be, suddenly finding yourself alone, especially in the Everfree Forrest of all places!" She was floating on her own now, Twilight's magic no longer necessary. "I think you mostly just startled me after all." She bashfully looks off to the side, a slight blush adorning her cheeks.
Feeling your heart leap into your throat at the adorable display, you gently grasp her fore hooves bringing her attention back from the floor. "Hey, I hate to see a pretty lady so upset," you begin when she offers no resistance. "I know I'm still at fault here, so if there's anything I can ever do to make it up to you, please just let me know, okay?" You offer your most sincere smile before realizing that's been getting you into a lot of trouble lately.
Her eyes swelling to the size of saucers, Fluttershy can only mumble "Oh, what big teeth you have..."
Groaning, you rub your eyes at your slip up. Things had been going so well too. Only one option now. You just hoped she would understand.
"Fluttershy, I'm not going to hurt you or any of your friends." You gestured to the other ponies around the room. "My species may have started as predators, but we have evolved beyond that. I'll admit that yes, I do enjoy eating meat," they all gasp at this "but I promise you that I have never and could never even conceive of eating another intelligent, sapient being. That would be barbaric."
She seems to be considering this. They all are.
Finally after what feels like an eternity, she responds, her voice barely a whisper. "Well, I guess that makes sense. I mean, that just makes you the same as some of my animal friends. Like the bears and otters and foxes. Mr Vulture never wants any of the nuts or berries I feed the other birds after all." Her voice has gradually returned to its original unwavering form.
"I can probably get by on an almost entirely vegetarian diet," you assure her, "as long the occasional fish isn't an issue."
"Fish? Oh, getting fish will be no trouble at all" she perks up, all unease seemingly evaporating in an instant. "I thought you were going to suggest eating my chicken and bunny friends, or something horrible like that."
She thought you were going to eat her friends? Great, now you felt worse than ever.
Forcing a laugh, you do your best to lighten the situation. "Eat your friends? I would never do something so terrible! Besides," you begin with a smirk, "why would I bother with furry woodland creatures when there are so many perfectly delicious ponies running around town for me to partake in?" Fluttershy gasps and tries to retreat, but before she can you reach out and place your left hand at the spot where wing meets body, offering a deep and tender caress of the downy fur and flesh below. The effect is immediate, the pegasus can offer only a startled "Eep" as her wings stiffen, locking rigidly in place away from her body. You laugh as she drops onto her rear in a daze, the necessary lift to keep her afloat strangely absent.
"Kidding! Kidding!" you offer waving your hands in a placating manner. "I'm sorry, that was in bad taste! Oh! Jeez, I really need to work on my phrasing don't I?"
Fluttershy's face looks red enough to melt steel, but you could see a dreamy little smile gracing her lips.
"Alright, alright, I think that's enough for tonight, Romeo!" Twilight remarked with a smirk eying you as she once again dragged Fluttershy across the room, this time towards the door. "I think that's enough excitement for one night everpony. Lets let our new friend here get his rest. Say good night everypony," she intoned, ushering her friends back out into the hallway.
"Goodnight everypony!" Pinkie happily exclaimed, bringing her head back into view from the door frame.
"Hardy har har," Twlight droned obviously used to dealing with the pink party pony's antics. With the door mostly closed and the sounds of her friends fading in the distance, she turns and regards you with a playful smirk and lidded eyes. "You seem nice enough, but I have a feeling that the combination of your playful personality and rather, unique, traits could get you into a lot of trouble around here. Can you promise me that you'll be on your absolute best behavior when you get released tomorrow?" She raises her eyebrow awaiting your response.
"I'll do my absolute best, Ma'am," you reply, offering a mock salute.
She chuckles at this and exits out into the hall closing the door behind her. "Troublesome boys," she says just loudly enough for you to hear.
You can't help but feel giddy as a your heart beats strongly in your chest. "Troublesome girls," you say to yourself, grinning up at the ceiling.
You were getting out of here tomorrow. Walking out on your own two legs, finally able to explore this vast world you now called home.
Tomorrow was going to be a big day.
Stretching Your Legs
You promised yourself that you would do this with dignity befitting an emissary of humanity.
This was it. No mulligans.
Taking a deep breath, you take a final moment to ready yourself and stride out into the morning bustle of Ponyville's market.
"Freedom! Delicious freedom!" you yell dropping to your knees in a soft patch of what must be the greenest grass you've ever seen.
Well, so much for dignity.
"Was that supposed to be your idea of subtlety?" Twilight asks from directly behind you.
Awkwardly scratching at the back of your neck, you peer back at the smirking purple unicorn.
"I got nervous?" Your reply sounds more like a question.
She's trying her best to keep a straight face, but your ridiculous attempt at a puppy dog face quickly puts an end to that.
Rubbing a fore hoof against her temple, Twilight regards you for a moment before ambling to your side. In an ironic change of perspective, you find yourself needing to tilt your head up to meet her exasperated gaze.
"Judging by the crowd, I think now might be a good time to take this show on the road."
Crowd? That couldn't possibly be good.
You turn slowly, like a hinge in dire need of an oiling.
A group of at least ten ponies have gathered around you and Twilight, taking in the spectacle with varying degrees of interest.
Chuckling nervously, you stand while brushing a few stray blades of grass from the knees of your new blue jeans. Credit went where credit was due, and Rarity had done a damn fine job on these bad boys. The same could be said of the shirt she had somehow found time to make. You weren't sure what material she had used, but the ivory white garment felt amazing on your skin. It was a standard short sleeved button up affair, fitted with a row of meticulously crafted gold buttons. Rarity had been especially proud of these, saying that she almost never got the chance to work with the fasteners. It made sense. Trying to work buttons without the benefit of fingers sounded like a maddening practice in futility.
"I think you may be right," you reply, casually edging around your impromptu audience.
"Hey Twilight, what's with the bald monkey?" Bald monkey?
"Did you botch a spell and burn off its hair?" There is a smattering of laughs at this.
"Nice outfit at least. Did you have to dress it too?" Okay, that was just messed up.
Sighing, you stop and rub at the bridge of your noise. "You do realize that I can understand you guys, right?"
"Wow Twilight, you even taught it to speak. That's amazing considering how clueless it looks."
The unicorn in question looked like she wanted to say something in your defense, but lacked the conviction to do so.
That was fine. You took a mental snapshot of the gathered hecklers and filed it away for later use.
"They're usually not like that," Twilight offered helpfully, the sound of laughter beginning to fade into the distance. "What? I'm serious!" You must not have looked very convinced.
"You're real!" a feminine voice exclaims from directly behind you.
"Holy shit!" you yell, spinning on your heel and reflexively throwing your hands up in a terrible approximation of a karate stance.
A mint green unicorn with amber eyes is staring up at you wearing a smile so large it's borderline obscene. Her mane and tail are a color that is almost but not quite teal, and are struck through with streaks of white.
"What do you mean I'm real?" you ask, trying and failing to reign in your racing heart rate.
"Lyra, what are you talking about?" Twilight asks providing you with a name to this new face. "You almost sound like you were expecting him."
"Wait, you mean to tell me that the pony who lives in a library and literally stays up days on end studying has never read any of the ancient myths surrounding humans?"
Twilight considers this for a moment before answering. "Well, I suppose there are a few older texts out there briefly mentioning an ancient hairless ape," she cocks her head at an angle, nose scrunching in concentration, "but those are all books of myth. Bedtime stories for fussy foals."
You feel a headache coming on.
“Okay, wow I'm really having a hard time wrapping my head around the irony here. You're basically saying that every mythical creature from my world is real in yours, and that the entirety of my species has been relegated to the realm of lame campfire stories?" You look to Twilight for confirmation.
"Well," she begins with an awkward laugh, "probably not every mythical creature."
"And I always loved those campfire stories!" Lyra chimes in enthusiastically.
Seriously why were you even surprised anymore?
Kicking at a few rocks, you resume your earlier gait in the general direction of Twilight's house in a huff. Hairless apes? You didn't think your wounded ego could take much more of this.
Lyra is happily trotting alongside you humming tonelessly to herself.
Her eyes keep darting from the path ahead to your hands every few seconds. If she was trying to be stealthy she was failing miserably.
"So Lyra," you begin, a question suddenly springing to mind.
"Hmm? Yes, what is it?" Her lively honey eyes instantly meet your own.
"I'm just curious about your reason for continuing to research humans all these years. I mean, if it weren't for my little accident nothing would have changed. Humans would still be nothing more than fairy tales. What happened to make you think any differently?
She hesitates for a moment before breaking eye contact, nervously pawing at the cobblestone road. You look to Twilight for some hint at the reason for this sudden shift. She looks just as confused as you.
"Doorknobs." Lyra's abrupt answer couldn't have been further from what you were expecting.
"Doorknobs?" you ask.
Sighing, the minty unicorn approaches the two of you, looking around as if to make sure nobody was near enough to hear her next words.
"Look, can you just promise that you won't laugh at me for what I'm about to say?"
This genuinely throws you. "Why would we laugh at you?"
The look she gives you is so crushingly sad it leaves you short of breath.
“Humans were always more than mere fairy tales to me. Ever since I was a filly I’ve been driven by something not even I understand to prove their existence.” She looks to you wistfully, “to prove your existence. I noticed things about everyday objects that the ponies around me couldn’t care less about. Why use silverware and drinking glasses when we lack the anatomy to easily do so? Why was every door in my parents’ house fitted with an infuriatingly round knob? My father’s tool shed was literally filled with perfect examples. How does using a screwdriver with your mouth make sense? Never mind handsaws! Why are they called handsaws if they’re meant to be used with a hoof? It quickly became obvious to me that form doesn’t follow function in Equestria.
Why was that though? Surely there must be historical records detailing the origins of our society’s conventions. I started researching at the local library branch on the weekends and after school. My research on the origins of Equestrian society was nothing but a series of dead ends. Did you know that there are literally hundreds of tomes about cloud density and distribution, but not a single reference to the origin of a hammer? When did ponies first learn to shelter themselves from the elements?"
She pauses, peering into the brilliant blue sky above, breathing deeply of the cool pure morning air. "It's probably obvious where I'm going with this, right?" Her eyes once again catch your own.
Twilight responds before you even have a chance. "You're suggesting that, thousands and thousands of years ago, something happened to the dominant species of our world, and that in their absence we inherited what was left behind."
"I know what it sounds like," Lyra responds stamping her hoof in frustration. Her eyes widen and she covers her mouth realizing how that had sounded. "Look, I'm sorry about that. Over the years I guess I've just sort of gotten used to being mocked for my ideas."
Her hair, buffeted by the gentle breeze, flows across her face momentarily obscuring it from view. She absently brushes it back behind her ear before continuing.
"That's actually why I decided to move away in the first place. Ponies in Canterlot are raised to fit snugly into a mold. My special ability has always been stringed instruments, my namesake in particular." She gestures to the mark emblazoned on her flank. "That wasn't what I wanted to do though. I wanted nothing more than to continue my quest to uncover the truth about our origins; the truth about humans!"
Her voice rises steadily to a crescendo.
"My parents wouldn't accept this. They wouldn't accept this. In their eyes I was destined to be a great musical virtuoso, taking her place amongst the Canterlot Symphony Orchestra elite!" She laughs bitterly. "What a joke. I wanted nothing to do with that lot! There was no passion in their playing! They may as well have been nothing more than puppets in a two bit street theater."
The emotion is heavy in her voice.
"My parents eventually had enough of what they considered to be me ruining my future. They waited up one night and met me at the door as I returned from my studies at the archives. They were done with me. I had one last chance to abandon my dreams and accept an apprenticeship with the orchestra. I refused outright."
She closes her eyes tightly, face drawn and pained. "They threw me out like I was nothing more than trash."
You had heard enough.
Tears begin to well up at the edges of her eyes as you move towards the unicorn. The sound of her quiet weeping reaches your ears and you are struck with a wave of empathy so potent that your heart protests painfully from within your chest.
"Lyra." She startles slightly at your voice as if the world had been momentarily forgotten around her. "Shouldn't you be happy?" Reaching out, you gently cradle her face within your hands. The effect is immediate. "After all," you begin, fingertips tracing circles against her delicate cheek bones, "you've proven that humans are real. Am I real enough for you?"
"Oh my..." she murmurs happily, "Your hands are amazing." Her lips are cutely parted as her previous tension is forgotten with your touch. You move your thumb so that it is played across her pouting bottom lip, tugging at the soft skin.
For a moment, you're afraid she might literally melt.
"Please," she's just short of panting now, "please I can't take much more of this. I can't, can't, can't." Lyra's voice trails off as it fails her.
"Ahem" A smirking Twilight snaps you from your ministrations. "I hate to interrupt this very, touching, moment, but we really need to be going."
Looking down, you can't help but laugh at the annoyed look adorning Lyra's face.
"Sorry about that," you whisper so only she can hear. "Sometimes I let myself get a little carried away." You release her face with one final swirl of your thumbs, rising to your feet.
She smiles sweetly at you. Magic suddenly sparks into life around her horn and a small rectangular card appears from seemingly nowhere, depositing itself neatly in your open palm. Upon inspection, it appears to be a business card. An embossed nautilus shell sits centered while a street address scrolls below it in elegantly written cursive. "Promise that you'll stop by for a visit?"
"Of course. How could I refuse an invitation from a pretty lady?"
Her entire face lights up again. "Great! I can't wait to talk to you about, well, you! Oh, by the way," she trots up to you, eyes shining with mischief, "I think I like when you get carried away!"
Before you can even stammer out a retort, the mare has already turned and trotted away, looking over her shoulder to blow a teasing raspberry.
Twilight walks to your side as you watch Lyra disappear amidst the sea of merchants and customers. "This is going to happen a lot isn't it?" she asks with feigned annoyance.
You chuckle slightly. "I don't know. Remember, I'm kind of new at this whole dimension hopping thing.
Here be Dragons
"You live in a tree?"
Oh, this was too good.
"I don't live IN a tree. My house IS a tree!" Twilight made it sound as though the difference should be obvious.
Whatever it was she lived in, you had to admit it was an impressive sight. The town library too? Well you had to admit that made quite a bit of sense given Twilight's near manic obsession with knowledge.
The door looked pitifully small as you made your way up to it. Like, stooping wasn't an option small.
With a small spout of purple magic, Twilight opened the door and happily trotted inside, leaving you standing on the stoop.
After a few moments, she returns with an eyebrow quirked in confusion. "Are you coming or what?"
"Oh I would just love to join you, Twi, but there seems to be a little problem with your door. Emphasis on 'little."
She looks at you like you have three heads.
Rolling your eyes, you decide that a more visual approach might help drive home your point.
"Door size." You bring your hand out to where said door reaches barely to your chest. "My size." You gesture to the top of your head, and repeat the process for emphasis.
"Ah, heh heh, sorry, I didn't even think about that!" The unicorn rejoins your side looking decidedly embarrassed.
"Let's see. This should only take a second or two."
With an incredulous look, you cross your arms in confusion. "What, are you going to magic the door bigger?" Suddenly the house's entrance somehow begins to warp, reforming big enough to easily accommodate your height.
Yet again, you find yourself at a loss at Twilight's magical mastery.
"Do you have any idea how valuable your abilities would be back in my world?"
Twilight blushes cutely at your admission as you step through into the house's main entrance. The now super sized door opens into a large and inviting library filled floor to ceiling with a dizzying volume of books. They all seem to be hardbound and of a very high quality.
You whistle appreciatively. "Nice place you've got here, Twi."
"Thanks! It's not too fancy, and I've only been living here for a few months, but I've put a lot of love into it so far." She gestures around herself at the various pieces of artwork tastefully adorning the abode. "It's really the little things that make the biggest difference for me. I thought I would miss life in Canterlot terribly, but this house is really starting to feel like home in its own way."
You nod understanding the sentiment.
"Home. It's been a long time since I've had a place that really felt that way to me. I had an apartment back on the outpost, but it was really only a place to store all my junk and stop by to spend the night once every few months. Just a place to sleep, not a home."
"Well, until you can get a place of your own I'd really like it if you considered my home your home."
"Thanks Twilight. That really means a lot to me."
She waves a hoof at you dismissively. "It's no problem. Now come on, I'll give you the grand tour!" Twilight gives a little dramatic twirl and you can't help but laugh at the display.
"So you have this whole place to yourself?" The two of you have toured the first floor and basement of her home. You were amazed to find an exhaustive array of experiments and chemicals on display in the surprisingly large sub level.
"Oh no. I live here with my assistant Spike. He's probably in the kitchen preparing lunch right now."
"You have an assistant."
"Uh huh." Doesn't every librarian/mad scientist need an assistant?
"Yep!" As if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"Hey Twilight, good timing getting back. Lunch should be ready in just a minute. I made a lettuce tomato and cheese sandwich just how you like... it?"
A rather portly but decidedly real, honest to God dragon has just sauntered down from the second floor. Seriously, why did you even bother being surprised anymore?
"This is your assistant?"
"Your assistant is a dragon?" Quite a bit smaller than what the term 'dragon' typically brought to mind.
"A baby dragon." Ah, that would explain the size, wouldn't it?
"Well of course he is."
Spike looks you up and down in an appraising manner. "Well well, looks like the mysterious human you can't seem to keep quiet about finally makes an appearance."
"Can't seem to keep quiet about me, huh?" You glance back at a rapidly reddening Twilight.
"Oh brother, you have no idea. I mean the last time I saw Twilight this excited about something was when the Princess came to visit." You're getting more of a brother and sister vibe from their relationship than that of a manager and assistant.
Spike beckons you over and you stoop down to meet his diminutive height.
"Digging the hands by the way. Bit of a rarity around these parts unfortunately."
"Yeah I've noticed." You can't help but smile at the dragon's infectious personality.
"Also, between you and me", Spike leans in conspiratorially shielding his mouth with the back of a scaled hand, "I think Twilight might have a thing for you."
"Oh really? What makes you say that?"
"Just take my word for it. I've been living with her my entire life. If anyone knows what's going on in that head of hers it's me." He finishes poking himself in the chest with smug satisfaction.
"Spike don't you have food to finish cooking?" Twilight asks with obvious irritation. "In fact, why don't you make another sandwich for our guest here?"
"Yeah yeah, coming right up Madame Twilight."
As Spike saunters by, he throws you a wink and utters, "See, what did I tell you?"
Turning back to Twilight, you notice she's looking more fidgety than usual.
"Oh yeah, he's a riot," she intones with ten tons of sarcasm.
"Well I still think it was funny."
"You shouldn't encourage him like that."
"I don't think he needs any encouragement from me."
"You'd probably take that back if you saw what happened the last time he really got full of himself."
"Oh? Sounds like you've got quite the story behind that one."
"You have no idea. I swear it seems like ever since I moved here things have been nonstop crazy." She sighs and makes her way past you towards the stairs.
"Are you sure you didn't just bring the crazy with you?"
"Yes, I am quite sure I didn't bring the crazy with me!"
Twilight tries to look serious in her defense, but can't keep it up, breaking into laughter after a moment. Thinking back on what Spike had mentioned you decide an experiment is in order.
"You know you look quite lovely when you smile, Twi."
Her laughter tapers off abruptly into a series of nervous sputters.
"You're really easy to get riled up, Twi."
She turns away from you with a wistful look on her face. "You know, you really shouldn't say things you don't mean."
Well this was an unexpected reaction.
"But I do mean it. Don't get me wrong. You're beautiful normally, but when you're smiling and laughing it's like your entire being is lit up from within."
"You really mean that?" You can see a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. "I don't think anybody has ever said something like that to me before."
"Hey, I might be a bit of a smart ass, but I'd never say something like that if I didn't mean it."
Her glowing smile is back again, and the two of you find yourselves staring in companionable silence. It's a wonderful moment of peace.
"Ahem. Sorry to interrupt you two, but lunch is ready." Queue wonder assistant Spike with some absolutely world class timing.
Twilight is caught completely off guard and visibly jumps at the dragon's voice. "Ahahahaha of course it is!" She turns back to you wearing an entirely too large grin and laughing skittishly. "I hope you're hungry because I sure am!"
"Pft. Yeah, talking always works up a crazy appetite for me too." The young dragon rolls his eyes so hard you imagine they might fall out of his head.
You take it back. Twilight's assistant wasn't funny. He was hilarious!
The purple unicorn leaves you to chase the now openly laughing dragon upstairs presumably towards the kitchen.
Looking around, you smile, breathing deeply of the earthy smells of the obviously well lived in home. 'This is going to be pretty much okay,' you think to yourself as you ascend the staircase, guided by the sounds of your new housemates' bickering.
Lunch was actually a very pleasant thing. You had to hand it to the plucky dragon. He had a knack for cooking. The sandwiches had been grilled panini style with the cheese melted to gooey perfection. The side of sauteed leeks in a rosemary butter was equally delicious. Sitting in the kitchen basking in the warmth of sunlight and a full belly, you spent awhile bringing Spike up to speed with your abbreviated story up to this point. The dragon seemed fascinated by the idea of traveling to other worlds, and urged you to recount 'just one more' of your travels time and again.
It was nice in a way, as you had long lost the romance of space travel. In your line of work, traveling from world to world had become nothing more than a job. Seeing genuine excitement well up in the youth's face was a nice change, and you soon found yourself throwing every possible embellishment into your 'adventurous tales'.
"So you just dropped out of the sky into the middle of the Everfree Forest?" Spike had moved to the sink to begin cleaning the tableware from your meal.
"As far as I can figure, yeah. Pretty lame ending to my greatest journey ever, huh?" Not exactly the workings of great sci-fi, you admit to yourself while handing the young dragon your cleared plate.
From her place at the table, Twilight joins in after several minutes of silence. "Well, it's not what I would consider an ending, really."
"Oh?" Awfully optimistic of the unicorn in your opinion.
After a moment, she explains. "Well, I mean you just got here a few days ago, right? If you ask me it seems like your adventure here is just beginning." You can't help but return the warm smile that is once again perched across the mare's face.
"Yeah, when you put it that way it does seem that way, I suppose you're right." A thought suddenly comes to mind. "Wait, so you mean you're not anxious to have me out of your hair as soon as possible?"
She looks at you as if the answer were painfully obvious. "The scientist in me would never shirk a chance like this to learn so much of a completely alien society. Besides, as long as you make yourself useful around here I don't see your presence as much of an inconvenience."
"Make myself useful? And how exactly would you propose I go about doing that?" you ask with open amusement.
With a squeak, the water faucet is turned off and Spike jumps down from his place at the sink. "You know what guys? As fascinating as your little discussion is, I actually have someplace to be this afternoon, so, if you'll excuse me?" You can practically see the sarcasm as it comes pouring off Twilight's assistant in torrents.
"Someplace to be?" She sends him a look that practically yells 'explain yourself'. "Why had I not heard of this?"
Sighing heavily, Spike stomps over the table grabbing an oatmeal cookie from the jar resting at its center. "Jeez, lighten up Twi! Can't a guy get out and unwind every once in awhile?" He takes a hearty bite as if doing so would bolster his position. "I was just gonna' go hang out with Feather Weight and the guys down at the lake today. Snips said he had some awesome new Wonderbolts cards!"
"The lake? So that means it's just going to be the two of us here all day today?" She looks at you from the corner of her eye. "Alone?"
"Jeez Twilight, you really do need to relax a little every once in awhile. Our new friend here seems like a pretty cool dude. I mean, how bad could he be? He has hands for crying out loud! Hands!" Spike wrings his own clawed hands about in a surprisingly human gesture.
"Spike's right, Twi! I won't bite! Hard." You can't help yourself with these cheesy lines sometimes. "Besides, this will give us the perfect opportunity to start going over my engineering suit like I promised." Crossing your arms, you adopt a look of disbelief. "Are you saying you'd pass up a chance at unraveling the secrets of advanced, alien technology just because you were afraid to be alone for an afternoon with little ol' me?"
"I'm not afraid!" She sits up straight, puffing out her chest in an adorable show of bravado. "Why would I be afraid...of...you?"
You offer her a decidedly toothy grin and she visibly gulps at the display.
"Hah, I like the human already, Twi! Finally someone around here with my kind of humor," Spike offers with a hearty chuckle. "Anyway, I'm heading out now. I'll leave you to your 'unraveling of secrets', or whatever you pass as fun these days."
"Hey, I'm fun! I'm so fun you don't even know!" She stamps her hoof in bemusement.
Spike pauses as he's just about to close the front door behind him, a look of obvious amusement smugly plastered to his scaly face. "Yeah, you just keep telling yourself that, Twi." With that, the diminutive dragon closes the door behind him, his laughter trailing away from the house and down the road.
"I do so know how to have fun! What does he know anyways? What do dragons know about having fun?!" Twilight is at this point pacing round and round the entryway, having seemingly completely forgotten about you in her anger.
Decidedly to interrupt her little pep talk, you sneak up behind your host with as much stealth as you can muster and stoop down to her level. "So, you're going to show me some of your patented fun today?"
"Ah!" she yelps loudly. "Jeez I really wish you wouldn't sneak up on me like that!"
You almost fall to the ground laughing. "Sorry, but I just wouldn't have felt right wasting an opportunity like that. I'm sure you understand."
"...Uh, right, well..." She is pawing nervously at the ground avoiding eye contact.
"Is something wrong, Twilight?" you ask, climbing back to your feet.
No response, but she's doing an excellent impression of a tomato.
You run a hair through your hair while sighing loudly. "Maybe Spike was right about you needing to learn a thing or two about fun."
"W..What? No! I don't" She quickly snaps out of her stupor at the mention of her assistant.
"Would you like me to show you my own personal brand of fun?"
"Well, m..maybe I could use some pointers here and there," she admits dragging her hoof in pathetic little circles.
"I'll remember that for later," you begin, "but for the time being how about I give you that diagnostic run through as promised?"
Her lack of a loud outburst isn't exactly convincing you that she's still looking forward to your suit's tech run down.
"You know I really thought you'd somehow be a little more excited about this. We could always start the evening off with something else if that isn't fun enough for you. In fact," with a grin you place your index finger against your bottom lip, "I'm not sure you're aware, but you've been giving me all kinds of fun ideas we could try out instead."
"...I am excited. You just caught me off guard a little." For a few moments she does nothing but shuffle about nervously. "What did you mean by that?"
"Care to be a little more specific?" you ask, eyebrow raised in question.
"Actually, never mind. It was nothing important."
"If you insist. Well anyways, if you'd like we can get started with that demo now. I think down in the lab would probably be best, don't you agree?"
"Right!" Your happy to see her energy seems to be back in full force. "You can head down in a few minutes. I need to make sure my machines are properly calibrated to read energy output levels and check for any fluctuations in the sub aether magic stream."
"Uh huh. Guess I'd better let you get to it then." You get the feeling that no length of explanation would allow you to wrap your head around that one.
"I'll give a shout when I'm ready for you!" she yells to you as she happily trots down the stairs to the basement below.
You shake your head and chuckle to yourself. "She's pretty cute when she's excited."
"Did you say something?" you hear Twilight shout back up at you.
"Nope not this guy!" Entertaining as always, this one.
"Do you mind holding the suit up with your stasis field?" you ask, pulling your neatly arranged garb from the duffel bag Twlight had provided for your use.
"How many times do I have to tell you my magic isn't a 'stasis field'? Magic is magic, pure and simple. Can't you humans remember anything?" You can tell she's not actually mad. The back and forth comes across more as friendly ribbing.
"Simple, says the expert on magic."
"I'm no expert. I'm still learning after all."
"I think you're selling yourself short on that. Besides, even the grand master of an art continues to learn and improve every day. I've heard some people who consider the concept as 'living' or some other such nonsense."
"Ha hah. Very funny laughing boy. Now if you're done getting all philosophical on me, do you mind kicking off this little exhibition?"
"Why certainly my lady!"
Twilight rolls her eyes at your antics and offers an amused smirk.
"Remember to keep hooves and horns inside the ride at all times, no flash photography, and please hold all questions 'till the end!"
She's staring at you as though she almost can't believe what you've just said. "I'm starting to think Pinkie Pie is more to the point than you."
"Tough crowd tonight." You're hamming it up, but that's part of the fun. "Well I suppose it'd be best to start from the top, right?" You move to stand beside your suit as it gently sways in within the confines of Twilight's magical veil.
"The name of the game here is form and function. This suit was designed to act as a self contained environment. Mainly for working in the freezing vacuum of space. The visor is a holographic heads up display with full retinal integration contained within a four millimeter matrix of graphene. All wavelengths of light are filtered and automatically modulated to yield optimal viewing of the environment. The helmet also contains the subspace communications transceiver and acts as a master to the suits other sub systems.
The rest of the suit is constructed of graphene woven into a form fitting fabric that provides enough surface tension to counteract the lack of an atmosphere in outer space. The stuff is pretty much the toughest stuff going. Plus it's conductivity is perfect for integrated circuitry systems. In fact, all told, this thing has over 1,700 miles of circuits printed in it.
The integrated re breather and O2 scrubbing systems allow me a solid five minutes outside with no connectivity to the ship. That little fact makes me feel a whole hell of a lot better when I had to work on a gate's exterior systems. Plus, it's completely impervious to micro meteors!
Of course, all this technology doesn't come cheap. I'd say that this baby could probably buy a brand new house for every pony living here in town. Man, I really wish I could see the looks on their bastard faces now that they realize they won't be getting the safety deposit back for this baby!"
As you had requested, Twilight hadn't uttered a single peep throughout your explanation. "Wow. I mean, I don't even know where to begin! I never even dreamed that such technology was possible! Walking and working in space? Being out there amongst the stars and comets? Oh, it's just incredible! It must be so beautiful!"
Twilight had been steadily approaching you, her excitement growing, losing herself in the rush of knowledge.
She has literally begun to glow slightly at this point. The thrill affecting the control over her magic. The display is, in your opinion, far more beautiful than any star scape you've ever seen. "You have no idea," you murmur to the mare before you.
"You're right, I can't even imagine! I'm sure my telescope doesn't do it justice! Do you think you could show me pictures or maybe a videOh!"
You reach out and grasp her face gently within your palms, catching the unicorn completely by surprise.
"I wasn't talking about the cosmos just then, Twi."
On impulse, you begin rubbing your thumbs through the soft fur of her cheeks, teasing up along the ridges of her sensitive ears.
"W..what do you mean?" Her speech is becoming disjointed. "I don't understand..."
"I think you do." She somehow manages to blush an even darker shade.
You move your face closer to hers, grinning while making sure to draw attention to your prominent canines. After a moment, your captive notices and it's as though all other things have taken a backseat to your pearly whites.
"You know Twi, I've been meaning to ask you something for a few days now."
At her continued glazed expression, you continue.
"I can't help but notice that there seems to be something about me you can't quite resist. Is that an accurate assumption?"
She nods slowly but otherwise remains motionless.
"Great! Now, could you do me a favor and point to what ails you most?"
Twilight hesitantly brings her fore hoof up and shakily points to the edge of your mouth, directly at your incisors.
Before she can lower it, you grab her extended hoof and bring it to rest flush with your displayed teeth.
The effect is immediate. You can practically feel her pulse as it suddenly soars off into the heavens leaving Twilight in a panting puddle. It's almost as though the contact had let loose a powerful bolt of electricity throughout the unicorns's being. You decide it's time to quit playing games.
Moving forward, you simultaneously release her hoof and reestablish your former ministrations on your companion's velvety ears, while also bringing the quivering girl's face within a mere inch of your own. She's close enough that you can feel her soft pants against your lips, her eyes moving in quick succession from yours, down to the teeth below.
"Are you okay with this, Twi? I'm not making you nervous am I?"
"N..no I'm f..fine."
"You know, I'm not entirely convinced by that. I think a show of confidence may be in order."
"W..hat do you mean by th.."
She doesn't get the chance to finish as your lips find themselves pressed firmly against her own. You feel her body tense up from the shock, but that passes quickly, and you find yourself needing to more or less hold her up from collapsing onto the floor.
Grinning into the kiss, you exhale huskily, running the tip of your tongue against the smooth edges of her lips, an action which elicits a shuddering exhalation from the purple pony. If her heart beat had been wild earlier, it's quite literally now frantic within her chest.
Deciding that you'd rather not risk giving the poor girl heart failure, you pull back from the kiss, amused to see Twilight frozen there with her lips still twitching slightly where you had left them. Her eyes are still closed, and you can't help but get the impression that her brain may have fried itself.
A solid twenty seconds go by before you can hold your amusement no longer.
"Ahem," you clear your throat dramatically, pulling Twilight from her waking coma.
"So what do you think? Can I interest the lady in some more of my special brand of fun?"
When she hasn't responded several moments later, you actually do start fearing permanent damage.
"Hello? Twilight anybody home?" You begin waving your hands back and forth in front of the catatonic mare's face with seemingly no response.
"Crap, I think I may have actually broken he.." but you don't have a chance to even finish your thought before a purple blur has tackled you to the ground in a heap. Looking up through a single squinted eye, you realize the tables have been turned as Twilight is now straddling your chest with a fore hoof on either side of your face. She has a look on her face that might be unsettling under other circumstances.
"You know, I don't think I quite caught all of that the first time." She bends her fore-hooves, leaning down until your chests are nearly touching. "In fact, I think I might need to take notes this time." She accents her sentence by moving to within striking distance. "For science of course." She pounces.