Dreamless this time, I drifted in a void that was my own being. Surrounding me, as much as I could call it me, was nothing. Not darkness per say, or any other shade of color. It was an absence of existence. I myself was also without body, being only a thinking entity. This was new, right? Did that mean I was doing something right, suddenly? A snap of realization hit me. Everything made so much more sense to me now. I was stuck inside of myself because the barrier I put around myself to stop the ooze was still active, wasn't it? My consciousness couldn't slip back through the link that was still inside of me to that other world; to my other self, who I now realized wasn't as dead as I had originally assumed. What I saw in my dreams weren't dreams at all then, but me 'waking' as my other self?
How was it possible? I knew enough about magic to realize that I should have died almost a week ago. That was the nature of 'Denique Veneficus', after all. It used my life force in order to heavily magnify my casting capability. All of it. That meant that either something was keeping me alive on the other side, or...
Well, it had never been proven or disproved, really. It was just a theory, set aside until alternate dimensions were stumbled upon. If the Einstein-Rosen Bridge could be crossed, they debated that the time flows between dimensions might not entirely match up. I usually stopped paying attention when 'parallel universes' and 'doubles' started getting mentioned, though. Prior to suddenly finding myself as a pony, it didn't exactly have a lot to do with my life. Essentially, from what little I understood, the theory was that time might move slower or faster in different dimensions. Normally a moot point as most 'dimensionally traveling' objects got squished into a fine singularity after entering the more traditional wormhole. Something tells me my case is slightly different, based off the fact that I was somewhat more alive than I'd be otherwise.
What did that mean, though? Ultimately, it came down to only two things. Something might be forcing me to stay alive, which was really bad news if 'they' had me. Or time was moving so slowly there that I just hadn't died yet. Better for Equestria, worse for me. Now that I had found these ponies, I suddenly realized I didn't want to give them up. But I was either on a time limit until I died or holding a link open from hell itself directly to their doorstep. What was I supposed to do?
A stirring. My body recovered from its exertion enough to regain consciousness, it seemed. Slowly, my eyes cracked open. Lavender mare staring at me, check. Feeling like an icicle was stuck through my chest, check. Symbols covering my skin holding back a hungry eldritch abomination of quantum physics, check. Still in Equestria, I see.
"Oh, you're awake. Thank Celestia!" Twilight Sparkle muttered, exhaling weakly.
Honestly unsure of what to say to her, and suddenly feeling a little uncomfortable, I simply nodded quietly. Her eyes softened and lowered a little as she saw my reaction and she looked away.
"Chin up, ponies! He's all right, so don't let the silly thing from yesterday stop what's important," I heard Pinkie chime in from somewhere behind me, in a surprisingly whimsical voice.
Twilight sighed, but nodded. Her head slowly lowered and rested on the edge of the couch I resided on. "She's right. I apologize for my horrible behavior. I didn't know how to react, and freaked out. Plus all of this happened. If you’d been at the library, I might have been able to help you. After what happened yesterday, I should have realized I needed to keep a watch on you. This is all," she exploded into apologies, burying her eyes in the edge of the couch.
“Twilight!” I interrupted, if only to get her attention. She stopped and looked back up at me, tears now going down her cheeks. I shook my head gently however and smiled at her. Once I had her attention, I continued with, "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable, so I'm sorry too."
"I've been thinking about it a lot all of last night and I think we need to talk about it later. But there are more urgent things for now," she muttered, nodding again but looking away from me. This I wasn’t expecting. She acted almost ashamed of herself. I sighed, but was interrupted before I could say anything further.
"Aahh-greed! Fer example, properly thankin' ya fer the hocus pocus ya did to get the stuff offa me. That looked mighty painful for ya from mah end," Applejack suddenly added, popping upside down into my field of vision from above. There was a light bruise on her cheek and another on her neck from what I could see. Based off Fluttershy's recovery time, that meant I must not have been unconscious long.
I chuckled, and reminded, "I was the one that put you in danger in the first place. If you'd gotten hurt..." Trailing off, I sighed. Yeah, I was selfish sometimes. Ultimately, I didn't want to die. I wanted to stay here, in this amazing heaven I found. But it looked like my time was running out and if it came down to dying or potentially killing everypony here, was there really a choice?
"This isn't your fault, Mender. I finished compiling the results of my readings from yesterday. Your arrival was purely by accident and those rocks caused the link still in you to resonate, becoming active again," Twilight explained.
I nodded weakly. "I'm connected to my world still and now I'm acting like those rocks, and trying to pull anything with a life signature through that link," I confirmed, not really feeling the energy she had found, somehow. Still, she had come to the same conclusion I had.
Her eyes lit up and she suddenly smiled. "Yes, that's what the readings say. It explains all of the tiny discrepancies I noticed around the crater. My machine was picking up on you as well! It was coincidental that this dimension 'passed' close to yours at that exact moment, from what I've gathered so far. The only two questions that remain are: how did the connection form, and why is it still stable?" she speculated, sitting down on her haunches again and looking perplexed.
"I'll give you 'insider' information. The original me is still alive. Somehow," I revealed, sighing. I might as well give her as much information as I could. I didn't see what good any of this would do, as what was coming was pretty much inevitable.
Twilight's eyes widened and I heard both Applejack and Pinkie Pie gasp. "Does that mean you're two ponies at once?" Pinkie asked, sounding amazingly fascinated.
We were all interrupted by a light snoring sound, followed by, “That’s hogwash!” Blinking, I and everypony else in the room momentarily turned towards the older mare with the light lime coat. Wait, I thought I’d seen her last night. Oblivious, her snores continued regardless of the new influx of attention to her.
Applejack coughed lightly, sounding a little embarrassed. “Ahm mighty sorry, folks. Granny’s not used ta havin’ to get up this early. Don’t mind her,” she muttered, cheeks flushing a little. Twilight blinked as well, then shook her head and shrugged before looking back at Pinkie Pie.
"You're not that far off, Pinkie. So those dreams and visions were dimensional bleeding, not memories. That explains why Mender displayed elevated PTSD symptoms. But what made the link and how are you still alive? It would require a massive amount of energy to open an even temporary gateway," Twilight remarked, looking back at me seeming flustered. She flipped open what appeared to be the same notebook from yesterday, and started rapidly going over her notes. Huh, I hadn't considered that. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder by itself would have been just fine. But I guess I get the 'dimensional bleed' version. I'm lucky like that. Still, it was kind of refreshing to slip back into magical discussion so naturally. It felt like it was comfortable to me. I somehow felt safer in topics where I could actually contribute.
"Now wait just ah apple buckin' minute. Yer sayin' that he's actin' like ah link ta that place he's from?" Applejack asked, looking flustered. Twilight seemed perplexed, but simply nodded. "An' now everypony that pokes him gets pulled away ta that there world?" She continued. I nodded this time, wondering where she was going with this. "Then what happens when that one on the other side kicks the bucket, so ta speak?" she asked, uncertain this time. Ah, that's where she was going.
Twilight frowned, and her eyes drifted down towards her notes, as if trying to draw assurance from them. "I... I don't know. There are theories, but," she spoke uneasily, before trailing off.
"Mender's gonna stick around, though, ra-ight?" came the uneasy voice of Apple Bloom. I glanced over my own body and spotted her sitting next to Pinkie Pie, both on the other cushion of the couch. Pinkie looked surprisingly thoughtful, but Applebloom was watching me with a rather sad expression. She was worried? I hadn't thought I made that good of an impression, unless Sweetie Belle had been talking to her. Out of the three I’d met so far, she seemed to like me the most, anyway.
Twilight looked torn and started flipping through her notes again. I saw a few stray strands of hair that were splitting off from the others at odd angles, and she looked stressed now that I looked closer. Was it because she stayed up too late analyzing the readings, or because of her freak out yesterday? Silence held for several moments and I sighed. She didn't want to say it, and I sort of understood why. I'll say it for her then, as it had to be said.
"Anything could happen. I might be fine, and the link shattered. Or I might be reliant on that form and fall apart without it. Alternatively, I might keep functioning but slip into a coma, my mind leaving with the link. We don't know," I spoke up, feeling gloomy.
Applejack let out a frustrated snort and came around the side of the couch, stomping her hoof and glaring at me. She looked a mess honestly, with bruises covering her entire front and both forelegs. They were ignored however, and she gave a determined nod. "Well ah say pony feathers ta that! That just means we gotta hurry up an' do somethin' about it," she declared. I was slightly taken aback and it must have showed as she got a confident smirk on her expression after a few seconds.
"Uh, what do you propose?" Twilight asked, looking as surprised as I felt.
"Easy-peasy! We just send somepony through with ah link ta Twi, then have 'er do that teleport thing she's so good at, pullin' both the pony, an' Mender's twin back. Patch him up, good as new, an' we're all fine an' dandy," she elaborated, whacking the floor with her hoof to punctuate each step.
Twilight stared at her as if she were crazy. A light smile spread across my face, however. It was rather simplistic and a few parts needed expanding upon, but honestly, it was a better idea than I had. Although I had no idea how I could be two people in one spot.
"It's feasible, although a tad more complicated in execution," I agreed, looking at Twilight. She seemed to be the undeclared leader of the group, plus I trusted her extensively when it came to magic. My experience with her was limited, but aside from yesterday, she had always been stable and knowledgeable.
She watched me for a few seconds, before nodding. "Well, maybe. It might work, but we'll need to figure out how to make a safe portal first," she finally admitted, looking a tad flustered. I raised an eyebrow to her, a little confused by her tension. Was she still upset about yesterday? Well, it seemed unreasonable to expect her not to be.
Twilight dropped her notes to the floor, along with the quill, and sighed weakly, finally looking away from me. "I scoured the library last night on anything to do with dimensions and came up with pretty much nothing. Theories and speculation don't help us and the potential risks are massive," she warned, hanging her head and letting her bangs cover her eyes.
"What choice do we have, Silly? We need to do something to get him to feel better again, right? You seem pretty concerned about him," Pinkie added, back to her usual sing-song mannerisms. Well, she technically spoke true, as I doubted I'd 'get better' on my own.
Twilight surprised me by simply blushing and remaining quiet. Pinkie got a knowing grin on her face, but relaxed into the sofa again. I was about to question Twilight when a quiet "Oh dear," sounded from the doorway. Glancing over, I saw the busted front door open again and Fluttershy come in, followed rapidly by Rainbow Dash and Rarity. Fluttershy looked momentarily taken aback before rapidly trotting over to where I lay. Twilight watched her curiously as she brushed a hoof timidly over my skin, causing a ripple to go along the symbols.
"It's warded," I assured her, finding the energy to smile at least. Something about her presence was comforting, regardless. There was something... An echo in my mind when she spoke. What was that?
"How are ya feeling, Mender?" Rainbow Dash asked curiously, sitting to the other side of Twilight. Her question snapped me out of my sudden trance and I glanced back over at her.
Applejack snickered though, and bumped her sideways with her flank, spilling her off her hooves. "Probably ah tad sore from when ya dropped him on his head, right?" she reminded, winking down at the now blushing cyan pegasus. Pity I knew it probably wasn't guilt tinting her cheeks, but Applejack's flank instead.
"Hey, if he lost the barrier when he passed out, I would have been toast if I was still carrying him!" she protested, waving a hoof dismissively towards Applejack. True enough. I could take a meter drop or so. I wasn’t so sure she could survive being eaten by an eldritch abomination.
Rainbow Dash. I stared at her for a few seconds before I got a twinge in my head and winced. Twilight and Fluttershy both started, and leaned closer to me, and the former asked, "Are um, are you a-all right?"
"Oh dear. Perhaps we should get him someplace warmer, and a bit to eat?" Rarity suggested, resting on her haunches in front of Pinkie’s spot on the couch and frowning at me.
I closed my eyes for a few seconds as another wave of dizziness crept over me. Her image was in the dream. Was it a dream? I doubted it. Those colors. That meant she was connected to that day. I looked over at her upon opening my eyes, and found her also looking at me. Then I noticed they all were looking at me now, having heard Fluttershy and Rarity. Dash looked surprised to be locked into my focus however, and tilted her head.
I watched her for a few more seconds before asking quietly, "Rainbow Dash, were you practicing above the field that day of the really bad storm?"
Her eyes widened in surprise and everypony turned to look at her, Twilight grabbing her notes again with record speed. "Uh, wait, how the hay did ya know that?!" she asked, looking honestly surprised, and vaguely angry.
Swallowing, I realized I was right. Twilight was right. "Did you do a Sonic Rainboom that day?" I asked weakly, starting to get a bit apprehensive. Things were starting to slide together again and it was starting to look bad.
Rainbow's eyes narrowed as she glared at me but Twilight shuffled forwards a little. "Please, Rainbow. It um, might be important," she requested.
"I don't see why it's anypony's business what my training regiments are," she protested, crossing her forelegs in front of her. Why didn't she want to answer?
"Please? Trust me?" I asked tiredly, shifting so I could see her better.
To my surprise, her eyes softened when I said that and she sighed, looking away. "I... I do trust you. Fine. I was practicing skywriting. I got it in my head to try to make the message more awesome with a Sonic Rainboom. I uh, haven't gotten them down to an exact science yet and I knew I'd be busy with the storm later, so I was practicing earlier in the day," she finally answered. Ah, that explains why she didn't want to say anything, with the pony of her affections being in the room.
"Did ya pull it off then, Rainbow?" Applebloom asked with a bit of excitement in her voice, surprising me. She hopped up, using my left flank as a stool for her two front forelegs, grinning at Rainbow over me.
Rainbow smiled at her, irritation apparently somewhat disarmed by the little filly's cuteness. "Yeah, once. I was ecstatic until I realized it didn't mix well with the rainbow trail and turned my message into bits of burning rainbow, falling towards the field," she elaborated, blushing again. Somehow, I managed not to laugh. Yeah, that wouldn't convey that particular message with the best presentation. Nothing says I love you like burning chunks of rainbow falling from the sky I suppose. However, it all slid together in an instant.
Applejack snickered and nodded to Rainbow, helping her up as Twilight turned and looked back at me, questioningly. Yup, it told me what I needed. The rocks and I arrived at the same moment, if Twilight's theory of dimension shifts was accurate. We were phased out of my reality at the exact second my spell activated. It dug into me to use my life-force to fuel it at the same moment the atmosphere exploded from the energy of the planet buster. It had been known to happen before. Barriers were conductive to other forms of energy, and I must have gathered it like a lightning rod. Then, as Twilight said, the dimensions shifted close to each other and Rainbow Dash did her Sonic Rainboom in the same area, generating a huge amount of energy on this side and forming the link with the resonations. Due to the time differences, she actually had a feasible window of opportunity to do so, I calculated.
Of course, her Rainboom wasn't on the same level as the planet buster so there had to be some localization involved. The field she was in probably was close, locally, to my area through the dimensional phasing. The probabilities surrounding the event were phenomenally mind-boggling. Regardless, the Rainboom synergized with my barrier, which was tied to me, and I bled through, splitting my life force and having a new body form due to the regenerative effect I had on me before the battle, standard issue. Probably, anyway. But why a pony? My deductions sort of dwindled at that point. Ah well. It hardly mattered, as I had most of the pieces to the mystery.
I must have zoned for a few moments. "Uh, Mender? Are you okay?" Twilight asked, looking concerned.
"Yeah. I well, um... I think I was one of those burning bits of rainbow, Dash," I admitted, swallowing. Both Twilight and Rainbow's eyes expanded to the size of saucers.
Stretching, I tried to keep warm in the high altitude air by rubbing my forelegs together. It didn't help much and my coat ended up puffing anyway. It was still a beautiful view, however. The hot air balloon swayed gently in the wind and I was positioned so I could look over the side. We were quite high up, and the view was amazing. Gentle moisture from the clouds around us clung to the side of the basket, and silently turned to frost. It was peaceful, if not melancholy environ, that I drew comfort in. The sea of clouds washed away the view of the ground far below and it felt like my worries went with it. Twilight's sensor device continued to make a light ticking noise behind me, and I heard the light scribbling on her floating notepad next to her as she glued her eyes to the device.
"This is crazy," she muttered again, after looking up from the dancing lines across the paper readout.
Rainbow Dash snickered from the other side of me and I heard shifting of leather. "You said that already, Twi, but you know we don't have the time to be sane," Rainbow remarked, sounding deceptively excited. I could tell, even with the potential danger, she was getting giddy. She seemed the type who loved the adrenaline rush.
"We need to think this out more. If anything goes wrong, anything at all, it could mean getting lost in a totally different place, possibly forever," Twilight warned, looking exasperated.
Rainbow rolled her eyes and sighed. "And if we don't hurry, what's the risk of some horrible race of unstoppable monsters invading and destroying like, everything?" she returned, adjusting her wings again. Fluttershy stood behind her, softly manipulating the series of leather straps that Rainbow Dash wore in a makeshift harness. Embarrassingly enough, with my current level of strength and barely having the ability to walk by myself, I wouldn't be able to hold onto her at normal speeds, let alone the velocity we needed to accomplish opening a gate. Thus, the harness. I’d recovered some of my strength after waking up, but I was nowhere near the level I was before. Which was to say, I was even weaker than my prior pathetic self.
Twilight looked beyond frustrated but she nodded sharply, accepting the point. I had to agree. There was no way of knowing how risky it was leaving an open connection to those monsters, because I knew full well what they were capable of. "Without the ability to experiment, this is the most accurate method possible. Recreate the angle, location, speed, and even the mare involved. This is the best shot we have," I added, shifting my attention to the ground instead.
"I know. I just really don't like having nothing really solid to go on. Plus, the plan risks two of my best friends," she muttered, checking her readings for probably the hundredth time. Best friend? She hadn't even known me a week yet. I took a reign check on my thoughts, deciding they might be a little too cynical. I rephrased it a little before voicing it.
"Mmm, you've only known me a little less than a week, though," I pointed out, deciding that was phrased a little less venomously.
Twilight stopped taking scribbled notes and looked back over at me, a slightly saddened expression adorning her features. "You think too little of yourself, Mender. I think I safely speak for everypony when I say you're a good pony, and a friend," she reiterated. I'd heard her say it before, but it was more than a little difficult to actually 'listen' to it; to believe it. Was I a good pony? I didn't want to die, honestly. If that's what it took to destroy the link, what was I supposed to do? Could I honestly live with myself if I potentially doomed this entire dimension to repeat what happened in mine? No. As much as I didn't want to admit it, Equestria was honestly bigger than I could ever hope to be. Was it too late to be a truly good individual, though?
"We're d-doing this to save you, r-right? That has to prove that w-we're your friends," Fluttershy spoke quietly, agreeing in a hushed whisper.
I nodded gently, still plagued with guilt over my own feelings and wondering how much easier it would be to simply topple over the edge of the balloon. No more choices, no more greed or selfish impulses. Equestria's potential problems would be erased along with my life, and ponies could move on without me, no longer in any danger from ‘them’, the Grosh. Shuddering at the name, I found myself considering me more as an intruder, a disruption, than just a traveler. If I was truly a mistake, it meant I didn't belong here complicating things, no matter how kind and friendly I tried to be. No matter how friendly they were to me.
Twilight swallowed uncomfortably in the silence, eyes filled with unease and apprehension. She looked stressed, like she had a horrifying secret bottled up for centuries and desperately wanted to pull it out of her. Well, I probably saw it as more dire than it was, but she certainly looked strung out. "Just be careful today, both of you. You two need to be all right, okay?" she requested, eyes softening as she looked down again.
"Relax, Twi! I'm a pro at speed, so there's really no danger," Rainbow half assured, half bragged cockily.
Twilight let out a giggle and seemed to agree, smiling quietly at Dash. She trusted her, obviously. Rainbow's boisterous nature served to vent the stress of the situation amazingly, as well. She kept things lighthearted, similar to Pinkie Pie. She also distracted them all from noticing I made no such promises. If it came down to either myself or Equestria, no matter how vague the potential threat may be, I vowed to make the correct choice. I turned and looked back over the side, lowering my eyes and steadying my resolve. I needed to focus.
We were at the right altitude. A direct angle to the crater point, at roughly eighty-five degrees, and a good half dozen kilometers off the ground, moderate cloud cover around us. A light parting of the clouds occurred and I watched the four large flags being erected on the ground level by Applejack and Rarity. They were lined up with the crater, and angled to face us as we stayed anchored above the calculated point where Rainbow fired off the Sonic Rainboom that day. It was a simple plan. Fire another one off at the exact same spot, with me in the middle of it, and try to open another stable portal.
Easier said than done, I know. Failure at that step meant pretty much nothing, however. I saw the pink pony circling below us still, on that strange gyrocopter machine she had. She had finished setting up the large net directly in our path of descent. I checked the velocity and mass calculations myself, and both Twilight and I agreed that it should stop a potentially lethal fall should the portal fail to open. Rainbow thought it was unneeded but Twilight insisted on it. I wasn't worried about the cyan mare's abilities so much, but on the effects of trying to pull this off with me on her back. A solid five minutes passed in silence, before Twilight put her now rather sizable notes down again.
"Okay, from these calculations, you're right. I triple checked the results dozens of times, so there's not much else for it. In all theory, repeating the same experiment as close as possible should yield the same results," Twilight agreed finally, giving me a weak smile. On the bright side, things were significantly less awkward now that she seemed frustrated about something other than me and her flank. Still unsure if that's a good thing, but I'll have to look into it more at a later date. Well, provided I was still alive.
I nodded quietly, smiling back at her. "You did the calculations right. With the time lapse variation, our window should still be wide open for a good forty-eight hours. We can try this as many times as needed today and still have clearance to try something else if it doesn't work. And empirically, this is our most accurate shot," I reminded.
Her eyes softened towards me and she nodded, a genuine smile appearing on her face this time. Rainbow snickered behind me, and I braced for verbal impact. "I never thought I'd see another pony who can say so much, yet nothing at all," she remarked.
"Hey, just because you don't understand it, doesn't mean he's not saying anything," Twilight defended, much to my surprise. She actually defended me? Well, technically herself, too, but still!
"Relax, Twi! I'm just happy hearing all the magic dork babbling cheers you up. Or is that a hint of hot and bothered I see in your eyes?" she questioned, teasing playfully with a wink. Twilight switched to shocked and blushing in a heartbeat. Fluttershy, however, jerked stiffly while adjusting the middle back strap as if burned, and Rainbow instantly let out a pained choking noise as she flailed her forearms, eyes bugging out. I tried my hardest not to laugh, as it was rude for one, but would also draw attention to my own lightly flushed cheeks.
Fluttershy was scarlet and gawking bluntly at Twilight, body rigid. Twilight stared back awkwardly, blushing lightly before coughing. Fluttershy seemed to notice what she was doing to Rainbow a few seconds later. She made a squeaking noise, and slid the strap back into place, somehow blushing even more than before. The cyan pegasus gasped and fell to all fours, holding her neck with one hoof while glaring back at Fluttershy.
Twilight glared at Rainbow instead. "Okay, you deserved that," she muttered, shaking her head and wearing a victorious smirk instead. Her cheeks were still a bright crimson, but I said nothing lest she kick me out of the balloon this time instead.
Rainbow sighed and sat up again. "I was just kidding. Sheesh," she defended, rasping.
"Rainbow," I muttered, frowning towards her. Her eyes lowered away from me and she nodded.
"I know. I got you in trouble once already 'cause of my mouth. Honest, I was just teasing," she swore.
Twilight raised an eyebrow at her, however. "Wait, you never got him in trouble. What are you talking about?" she asked. Huh? How was being kicked out of the library not being in trouble?
Rainbow seemed to silently agree, as she tilted her head towards the lavender unicorn. Fluttershy also seemed to be recovered from her massive blood rush enough to give a questioning glance as well. "Uh, Twilight, ya kind of kicked him out of the library. I'd say that's as 'in trouble' as it gets with you, no?" Rainbow pointed out, flexing her wings out again. She had such a way with words.
"What? No, I didn't kick him out. I just um, didn't want him in the loft at night. Is a little privacy so wrong?" she reasoned, defensively crossing her forelegs. I rotated back around to face them again as the whirling noise ascended to my right. This wasn't going to be pretty.
"Oooh, but Fluttershy said you hurled his bed down the stairs and almost flattened him with it!" Pinkie exclaimed merrily, leveling her copter off with the height of the balloon.
"What?!" Twilight yelped, turning and glaring at the new verbal assaulter.
Fluttershy blushed, but coughed. "W-well you kinda did. Um, no offense. Please don’t be mad," she muttered weakly.
"Hey, it had a good couple meters of clearance from me," I tried to defend.
Rainbow burst into laughter, and Pinkie looked deeply amused. Twilight blushed furiously again and looked down at the floor of the balloon. "Y-you could have stayed in the library, Mender. Just um, not in the loft," she addressed directly to me.
Fluttershy looked sad, and beat me to responding unfortunately, asking, "Y-you wanted him to stay in the m-main floor where all the p-ponies visit, and the night d-draft?" Oddly, there was the slight hinting of disapproval in her voice.
"No, she was planning on throwing him in the basement," Rainbow Dash muttered sarcastically, rolling her eyes.
"Oooh, spooky!" Pinkie added, sounding oddly excited.
Fluttershy gasped, now looking horrified and apparently having missed the sarcasm completely somehow. Twilight glared at Rainbow instead. "That's horrible! H-How could you, Twilight? He's s-sick!" Fluttershy protested, a few decibels louder than usual. Gullible, but very loyal. I caught myself blushing again.
"I was kidding, Fluttershy," Rainbow groaned, slapping a hoof to her face.
"Ug, fine! I'm sorry. I know I overreacted. I'm not comfortable with things I can't study and have no experience in," she apologized, flopping onto her forelegs.
I nodded gently. "I know how you feel. A lot of things can be really scary when you know very little about them," I agreed.
Twilight smiled up at me softly, looking grateful. Pinkie giggled and nodded behind her, as well. "Then you just need to get to know him more, right? He's not going to hurt anypony," she reasoned, smiling while hovering closer on her machine.
Sighing, I slid down the side of the basket and sat down tiredly on the floor. I'd never hurt any of these amazing ponies. Fluttershy sat down half a meter away, and looked at me with concern. Twilight, who was already sitting, frowned as well and scooted closer. "Are you alright?" she asked hesitantly.
"I’m just a little tired. I'd never hurt either of you. And I understand why things are the way they are," I assured quietly, looking down instead.
Rainbow raised an eyebrow but Fluttershy tilted her head and asked, "W-what do you mean?"
I shook my head weakly, not really wanting to discuss it. Rainbow surprised me by suddenly letting out a gasp, followed by a feisty glare. "You never told me what was wrong!" she suddenly announced out of nowhere. Huh?
Pinkie giggled lightly above me somewhere. "He likes Fluttershy, duh! Her saying that would kinda hurt," she explained for me. My 'secret' being told didn't really even register in my mind and I continued blankly staring at a spot on the balloon gondola's wall somewhere between Dash and Twi's machine.
"What?!" Rainbow Dash gasped, looking stunned.
"Pinkie! How did you find out?" Twilight half asked, half reprimanded. Fluttershy looked down sadly but also wore a light blush. I shifted my attention to her.
Pinkie giggled again, sounding like she moved closer to the gondola wall. "Well it was super-duper obvious, but my Pinkie Sense was a twitchy twitchin' when he looked at Flutters! And Twi too! Somepony's rather indecisive!" she exclaimed mirthfully and I felt a hoof patting me on the head.
My eyes drooped and I nodded weakly, looking at my hind legs. This was probably strange posture for a pony, but I didn't really care. "If I'm still alive by the end of the week, I'm going to have to figure out something to fix that," I muttered, mostly to myself.
Fluttershy frowned and shifted closer to me, putting a hoof on my left back knee. Were all four 'knees' now, or were the front two elbows? Twilight maintained a blank expression, but I saw her swallow uneasily. She knew that me not surviving was a possibility. "Don't be a frowny face. Dash here will make sure you're totally all right! She's an amazing flier," Pinkie assured, in a softer voice.
Dash smiled and nodded confidently, walking towards me. "Don't worry about it, Mender. I'm sticking with ya through the whole thing," she assured, a twinkle dancing in her eyes. She still looked excited but proud, confidence almost dripping off of her. It was hard to resist her energy this time and I smiled as well, nodding back up at her.
"Then let's just get this over with. Hit 'em hard and fast, then we can be home and laughing by the end of the day," she offered, extending her hoof towards me, still smirking.
Nodding, I hooked hooves with her and let her pull me to into a sitting position. She nodded and turned away from me, lowering herself to the floor of the gondola. I closed my eyes, gathering my confidence up again, before stepping slowly onto her back and into the harness.