I woke up and immediately panicked when i didn't recognize my surroundings. Sadly, this wasn't even close to the first time this has happened to me. Luckily though, this time I had simply forgotten where I had gone to sleep last night. As opposed to being kidnapped for the umpteenth time. I reached over to my left, expecting to feel Fang lying next to me, but my hand encountered only the soft sheets of my bed.
I bolted up and looked around. Fang was nowhere to be found in the seemingly empty guest room.
I spun to face the voice. Fang was leaning against the wall near the window where previously there had been only the bare wall of the room. Fang had discovered another little genetic gift not too long ago. As long as he remains completely still, he can't be seen. Your eyes will just slide right over him. I was still having trouble getting used to it.
"Morning, sunshine," I said, stretching.
"Celestia wants us to join her for breakfast," came the terse reply.
I sighed theatrically. "You're so hyper all the time. If you don't calm down, I'm gonna have to put you in a time-out." He simply chuckled and shook his head. "How and when did you talk to her?"
"I was walking around the castle earlier."
"Really? She allowed such a foul monster to roam her corridors unattended?"
"Of course not. I left the monster in the room I slept in last night."
"Har, har." I jumped out of the bed and started towards the door. "Well, I guess I'll go wake everybody up." Fang couldn't even be bothered to respond to that, and grunted as I left.
I walked across the hallway that divided the guest rooms and entered one of them. Sprawled out on the bed in a tangle of ridiculously long limbs was Iggy. I shook his shoulder gently and said, "Rise and shine, Ig. It's time for breakfast."
"Not if you're making it, it isn't. Bite me," came the mumbled reply, but he did get up and follow me out of the room.
Eventually, the flock was gathered in the corridor outside our rooms. I did a quick head count and then we started walking back the way I thought we had come the night before.
After several minutes of trudging past seemingly identical hallways, Fang pulled me to the side. "You have no idea where you're going, do you?" he asked with a smirk.
"Yes I do! I'm, uh, just enjoying the architecture!"
He chuckled and shook his head. "Come on, fearless leader. Celestia told me where to go." With that, he turned a corner and took the lead.
Fang had us in front of the double doors in less than two minutes, so I guess I have to give him that one. For those of you keeping score at home, that's Fang: 1 Max: 258. I shot him the bird before opening the doors and leading the flock to the same table we had gathered around last night.
Inside, all the ponies had already gathered. When we took our places, Celestia once again called for the food to be brought out, earning a cheer from Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie.
Pretty much everything we've ever had for breakfast was brought out for us. I heaped a pile of eggs onto my plate. Don't question it. I don't know either.
This time, we made a point to not eat like a pack of starving wolves, and I could tell that the ponies were grateful, but that didn't stop Rainbow Dash from keeping me from my meal with another question. "Hey, you said you could fly as fast as me because the scientists did that stuff, right? So, can all of you fly that fast?"
I sighed and put down my fork. I guess I should have told them the night before, if only so I could have enjoyed that breakfast. "No. Over the last couple months, we've been mutating and gaining skills. Mine is my speed." I pointed to Angel. "Angel here can read minds." I decided not to mention the fact that she could control them, too. Something told me that wouldn't go over too well, and this time, it was my voice.
She suddenly smiled sweetly at Rarity. "No, she's not lying, Rarity." The unicorn leaned back, stunned, but Angel had already moved on. "You're right, Pinkie Pie, cuppins does sound better than mufcakes."
"I KNEW IT!" At least the mare didn't seem very concerned.
I cleared my throat awkwardly. "Okay, moving on. Nudge can sense impressions of the last peo-... ponies to interact with certain objects."
Nudge looked deep in thought for a moment, before saying, "The last pony to eat off this plate was a white... pegasus. Probably one of the royal guard. He accidentally dropped some mashed potatoes on his chest."
"Storm Tail," Celestia muttered. By this time, all of the ponies were staring at us as if we were a bunch of mutant aliens. Wherever would they get that idea?
"That is quite an admirable skill, Ms. Nudge." I made a point to ignore Luna. Sure, maybe she didn't mean to hurt me, but I rarely forgive, and I never forget.
"Anyway," I continued. "Fang, if he stays still long enough, can slip out of view, as is he happy to demonstrate." Everypony gasped as they looked over to his seemingly empty chair. A quick shake of his head brought him back into view, an impish and uncharacteristic grin on his face.
Twilight, of course, looked like she was about to squeal with joy at the prospect of so many new things to study. "And you two?" she asked, pointing at the Gasman and Iggy. "What can you do?"
Cazzy opened his mouth to reply, but I quickly cut him off. "We haven't found Iggy's skill yet and Gazzy is a mimic and... Nevermind. You don't even wanna know."
I could tell that they weren't happy with that answer, but everypony turned their attention back to their food. But then, the unthinkable happened.
I heard demonic cackling from the other side of the table, where the blonde ten-year-old was sitting, and my blood ran ice-cold. First, Iggy gagged and let out a strangled cry. Then, I heard the clatter of silverware as birdkid and pony alike began to smell their doom. Finally, the stench reached me, and I died a little inside.
""Oh dear," Celestia managed, coughing slightly. "What is that?"
That was is other "skill." Did you think we called him Gasman just for fun? I don't know what those whitecoats did to the kid, but they screwed something up when it came to his digestive system.
I jumped out of my seat, holding my nose and trying to glare daggers at the same time. Unfortunately, he was too busy falling out of his chair from laughter to pay much attention. "Gazzy!" I yelled. "Now?! Of all times?! In front of freakin' royalty?!"
He climbed back into his seat and between gasps of breath and guffaws, managed to choke out, "Well Max... everyone else got a demonstration... and you didn't even tell them what... what I can do!" Gazzy devolved back into incoherent fits of laughter as I turned to Celestia, seething.
"I'm so sorry about this," I spat through gritted teeth.
"That's... quite alright," the pearly white alicorn said, slowly setting down her silverware.
"That... was... GLORIOUS!" That one was Pinkie Pie. She and Rainbow Dash were rolling on the floor, laughing uproariously.
I made a last-ditch attempt to salvage the situation. "So..." I began, casting a desperate glance over to Celestia. "Now that you know our talents, do you have a plan for getting rid of the whitecoats?"
The princess latched onto the change of subject gratefully and said, "Yes. In fact, I plan to leave soon after we finish breakfast."
I looked around. After Gazzy's little "demonstration," nobody seemed very keen on eating, except the little devil himself, of course. "There doesn't seem to be much eating going on anymore, Princess," I said, shooting a disapproving glare at Gazzy that was completely lost on him.
"It would appear so," the princess agreed. "Well then, once- Gasman, was it?- Once Gasman finishes his meal, then we will leave. I hope you don't mind flying on your own power. I would prefer not to take the chariot and risk intimidating them."
Applejack butted in before she could continue. "Not ta be rude, yer Majesty, but not all of us can fly."
"What my sister means to say is that we have decided it would be safer if you all stay here."
As one, six mares began to protest. "Oh come on!" Rainbow yelled. ""I think we can take care of ourselves, thank you very much!"
"Ah beg yer pardon?!"
"Princess, I honestly believe you ought to reconsider."
"Um... if you don't mind..."
"Princess, I hate to second-guess your judgement, but..."
Celestia raised a hoof and instantly the ponies fell silent. After clearing her throat, the alicorn said, "I am fully aware that you all can handle yourselves, and that fact was a major reason for my decision. If we confront these... 'whitecoats' with two princesses, six bearers of the most powerful magical artifacts in existence, and six of their mortal enemies-"
"And a dog!" Can you imagine who might have said that?
"And a dog, then they may feel threatened and attack us. I would rather not risk anypony getting hurt, no matter where they hail from. It is simply safer this way." At that, most of the ponies mumbled grudging agreements, and Luna nodded in approval.
"Well, now that that's settled, please make yourselves at home until we return." Turning back to address the Avian-American side of the table, she said, "I suggest we set off as soon as possible. I don't want these whitecoats meddling in our kingdom until I am sure of their intentions."
I suppose by now you're asking, "Max, you've found yourself in a cartoon world that you watch in your spare time. How are you avoiding flipping out or having some existential crisis?"
To which I would respond, "Why are you asking me questions? Do you expect me to answer you?" Truthfully, I was just avoiding thinking about it. I figured that if I did, my head would explode just as fast as it would if Iggy shoved one of his bombs down my throat.
I looked around the balcony at the back of the castle, facing the rest of the kingdom. Around me, the flock was busy chatting with their favorite ponies, but I couldn't focus on anything but the task ahead. I watched the sun slowly rise into the morning sky, thinking about the whitecoats. How am I even going to find them? I wondered.
Have a little faith, Max. chimed the Voice. I'll guide you once you get going.
Gee, thanks. I sighed and looked out over the Everfree Forest. It was hard to believe that the serene-looking trees could be so foreboding when viewed from under their branches. I shuddered when I thought of the Princesses' plan. If- no, when things go to crap, I hoped that they could hold their own in a fight. The flock sure wouldn't last long against that many.
Speaking of the devil, just then, the two alicorns strode out onto the balcony. "We've informed them that we will not be seeing anypony today, and we'd best leave before the presses try to find out anything interesting about the princesses' private lives," Celestia tittered.
"I have said before and I will say again, sister, this 'Freedom of the Press' is pointless if our subjects abuse it as such. If we wished, we could simply-"
Celestia cut her sister off before she could build up too much steam. "We've been through this, Luna. You know that I won't waver from my position. Besides, nopony puts much stock in the tabloids." Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed all of the Ponyville residents cringe guiltily at her last words. "That being said, it's probably time for us to leave."
Around me, everybody was saying their goodbyes and getting ready for the upcoming flight. I looked down and opened my arms. Total jumped into them and I zipped him up in my windbreaker. Noticing the ponies' curious looks, I simply shrugged and said, "The dog goes." I wasn't about to argue about it.
Celestia didn't offer any complaints. She simply gestured towards the sky and said, "No matter, lead on... fearless learder." My scowl was flawlessly countered by her mischievous grin.
I sighed an leaped off of the balcony, my wings snapping open and filling with wind. I angled toward the Everfree Forest, trusting the flock and princesses to follow, and the Voice to let me know if I get off course.
I swooped over the trees, feeling completely free. You will never know how truly liberating flight is unless you either sprout wings or just happen to be a fellow Avian-American. Looking behind me, I could see the princesses and the rest of the flock soaring majestically.
You're slightly off-course, Max. Turn about ten degrees to the north. I turned back forward and corrected my course, expecting the flock to follow my example. I really hoped the Voice knew where it was taking me, because all the trees below me looked exactly the same.
The sound of wings flapping next to me alerted me to another's presence, and I looked over to see Celestia gliding a few feet to my right. The show could never do her justice. Her pristine, white coat practically glowed in the morning sun, and her pastel-colored mane and tail billowed out behind her. The alicorn embodied pure grace in flight, and for a moment, I couldn't take my eyes off her.
"Max," she began. "I want your honest opinion. Do you believe that these scientists will come to see reason and agree to leave? Luna has neglected to tell me anything about your past- whether out of fear or a belated respect for your privacy I do not know- so I know nothing about them but what you can tell me. Do you think that they will cooperate?"
I flew in silence for a second or two, collecting my thoughts. Whitecoats- I wanted to say- have made our lives a living hell since the day we were born. They experimented on us, tortured us, and more recently, tried to kill us in every way imaginable. Because of them, I had to learn to take care of six kids at an age where most kids' biggest fear is their next math test. Because of them, none of us had had a proper childhood or even known our real parents growing up. I wanted to scream out how much I hated whitecoats and everything they represent, but I didn't. Celestia had enough to worry about, and if push came to shove when the diplomatic approach failed, we definitely had the upper hand. Levitation magic alone would be enough to turn a fight with fifty or so flyboys in our favor.
Instead, I said, "Maybe. I mean, these whitecoats seemed different. Unlike the others, they just wanted to find a new world, not wipe out the population of the existing one. Maybe they're more peaceful." And maybe I'm a fairy princess, waiting for my Prince Charming to come and sweep me off my feet. The alicorn nodded, deep in thought, and fell back, allowing me to take the lead once more.
Five minutes later, the Voice spoke up once again. Dive into the forest. Don't approach them from the air.
I turned to the mismatched group behind me and pointed downwards, saying, "We're almost there. Follow me." Leaving no time for objections, I spiraled down to the trees below. Taking great care to avoid the groping branches, I finally settled on the forest floor and waited for the others to arrive.
"What gives, Max?" Gazzy began, fudging his landing a bit and stumbling. "I couldn't even see the clearing, and this doesn't look like a campsite to me."
I couldn't even respond before Iggy interjected. "Think about it, moron. If we come in by air, then the first thing they do is send the flyboys after us. At least this way they might listen to us first."
Gazzy clearly wasn't happy with that answer, and mumbled, "It's not exactly like they're gonna welcome us with open arms anyway." I have to say, I agreed wholeheartedly with that sentiment.
Get moving, Max. Head North-northwest.
I sighed. "Alright, guys. Enough horsing arou- crap. Uh... let's just go. We walk from here." I pointedly avoided the curious gazes of the princesses and pushed through the foliage, my internal compass pointing me in the right direction.
Nice choice of words, Max.
How am I gonna get you to shut up?
I'll tell ya one thing. I have no idea how you humans manage to walk everywhere. It takes freakin' forever, dirt, mud, and twigs manage to get everywhere,- not like that's a new experience by any stretch of the imagination- and your feet get ridiculously sore. I was almost happy when I realized that we had almost arrived at the whitecoats' little campsite, but then I remembered why we were here.
"You better start laying on the charm," I said to the two alicorns as they pushed through the last few branches and emerged into the early morning sun. I motioned for the flock to hang back in the cover of the trees, and I followed behind the princesses, out of sight.
Peeking around them, I saw that the whitecoats had been busy. All around the clearing, tents had been set up for them. Towards the center of it, a much larger tent stood proudly. I figured it was either the residence of Ms. Head Honcho, or it contained all the food and other provisions. Probably both. The flyboys were all at the far side of the clearing; none of them were moving, thankfully. Once again, I thanked any God(s) that may exist that the whitecoats hadn't had the foresight to add guns on them.
Suddenly, Luna began to speak. Not at an ear-splitting volume, mind you. This time she was just short of deafening.
"People of..." She looked confused for a moment and turned to me. "What was the name of your planet again?"
"People of Earth. It has come to our attention that your kind wishes to settle in our land! Mine sister and I wish to hold conference with you all so as to divine your intentions!"
By now, the whitecoats were beginning to emerge from the tents. Most looked confused or scared, though confusion reigned supreme. Especially when they realized that they were being addressed by a mythical creature. A second later, I realized that my initial suspicions were correct. The head whitecoat woman walked out and stared at us. I hoped that the alicorns' bodies were enough to keep me hidden.
Suddenly, I saw another flicker of movement behind the woman. The entrance to the tent had been drawn aside again, this time by, surprisingly, a flyboy. As I looked closer, however, I noticed that it wasn't a normal flyboy any more than I was a normal human. It stood at least a head taller than the others, and its body fur went from a steel gray to a pitch black. Its claws and fangs were both half a foot long, and the fangs jutted out from its muzzle menacingly. Its wings were spread out behind it and were much darker than Fang's.
When it spoke, I felt a chill run up my spine. Its voice was still canned and robotic, but it had an inflection in it that the others lacked. A sentience that could express emotion, like rage, hate, and contempt. "Ah, Luna, Celestia, I wondered when you would pay me a visit. Do you remember me, your dear, old friend, Nightmare?"
I was listening to this the whole time I was typing. You're welcome.