An Engineered Friendship

by Engiminer


Chapter 5

I passed out sandwiches to my new comrades as we walked deeper into the forest. The unicorns levitated the earth ponies' and their own sandwiches so they could eat while they walked. The pegasi flew to keep their hooves free. When the food was finished, I passed out water bottles. When those were empty, I took them back.

"These won't take up much space it my pack," I said. "But, I wonder... The ambient magic is very strong in this dimension, planet, whatever, and I might not need a horn to harness it." I removed the caps from each bottle and put them in my jet pack. It would automatically break the plastic down into oil, and therefore fuel. Then I focused on the bottles. A faint blue aura surrounded them and levitated them into the air. The same aura illuminated my hand. My hand shook as I closed my fist, and the bottles collapsed onto themselves and made a small plastic ball. I opened my hand again, and the bottle ball dropped to the ground. I picked the ball up and inspected it. "Interesting... Apparently, it is a LOT easier to utilize ambient magic with a horn, but anyone with at least some knowledge of how it works can use it, if there is enough raw power around and within you."

Twilight said, "There is massive amounts of knowledge on how to utilize magic, but few know anything about how it actually works, or where it came from."

A frustrated Rainbow Dash interrupted, "Oh, come on, not this again! We can get back to the science later! I don't mean to rush everypony, but we have a forest to get through!"

Applejack and Pinkie Pie nodded their approval. Rarity interjected, "Dash is right. We have a task that needs to be completed before anything else."

Twilight inquired, "So, I take it none of you have been in this forest before?"

"Heavens, no!" Rarity exclaimed. "Why, look at this place. It's absolutely dreadful!"

"And it ain't natural." Applejack added. "Ah hear it don't work like the rest of Equestria. Ah wonder why?"

"NOOO PONY KNOWS!" cried Rainbow Dash, taking the opportunity to scare her friends.

"Rainbow!" Applejack scolded. "Cut it out!" Uh, oh. Here it comes.

"'Cause nopony who has ever gone in, has ever come back OUT!"

As if on cue, the ground suddenly gave out below us and everpony but the pegasi began sliding. I slid at first, but regained control by sprinting at the edge of the cliff rather than trying to stop myself. As I ran, I saw Dash grab Pinkie, Flutter stop Rarity, AJ bite down on a root, and Twilight stop at the edge. I reached the cliff, and, without hesitation, leaped off. I righted myself in midair, as if I was trying to land on my feet. I glanced up and saw that Applejack was holding on to Twilight, who was dangling over the edge. I fired my jet pack, which slowed my descent, then rocketed me upwards towards her. I shut the jet pack off just as she let go of Appejack. My momentum carried me forward, and Twilight fell neatly and gently into my arms. She threw her forelegs around my neck before she even realized that I'd caught her and stopped screaming.

"Oh, hello." She said. "Um, thanks."

I grinned. "Just a day in the life of this guy!"

The anti-grav on my jet pack kicked in as we neared the ground. We landed as if we fell from six inches. I set her down, and looked up the cliff face. Applejack bounded down the cliff face, rock by rock. The others were already on the ground.

"Well," I said conversationally, "that was one heck of a shortcut! Now that that horrific incident of terror is over, what say we take five and get back on the road?"

"Make it ten." The unicorns said in unison, shaking from residual fear.

"That is, if you don't mind..." Fluttershy stuttered.

"Take as long as you need!" I agreed cheerily. "But talk to Twilight. She's the organized one."

Twilight was instantly suspicious. "How did you know I was organized?" She asked.

"For starters, you live in a library." I chuckled. "Not many unorganized people would even think to live in a library, let alone enjoy it. Second, I heard you make your own checklists. That's rare, but a good quality to have."

"What about you?" Rainbow Dash asked. "You regained your balance in the landslide, ran at the edge, leaped off like it was the most natural thing in the world, caught Twilight like a little bird, and landed as gently as possible. And all without breaking a sweat!" She looked at me with impressed respect.

I coughed nervously, a bit embarrassed. As much as I like showing off, this is not my time to be a badass hero.

"Sorry 'bout that."

"Sorry?!" Pinkie exclaimed. "You saved Twilight's LIFE! What do you have to be sorry for?"

"The way I was showing off, I put myself and Twi' in danger."

"Well, at least you can admit it." commented Rarity. "I've found few ponies that can apologize for showing off something worth showing off, and lots who brag about absolutely nothing."

"True, but if I didn't have my jet pack on, or it didn't have much fuel, I would not have been so eager to leap, now would I?" I smirked ruefully. "I did NOT just get rescued from spiraling depression to commit accidental suicide because my jet pack peters out too soon. I checked the fuel gauge before regaining my balance. If I hadn't had enough, I would have smashed my pickaxe against the slope to stop myself. Don't get me wrong, I would've still found a way to help, but don't think for a moment that it would have been as efficient, stylish, or flashy without flight."

"You sound pretty organized yourself." Twilight said, smiling with one eyebrow raised.

"Adrenaline scrambles the minds of most, while sharpening the focus of others. I am one of the latter." I frown and hesitate before adding, "In a zombie apocalypse, the ability to think clearly and quickly is one's greatest asset. I... was one of the lucky ones. I am the only one who was able to escape, but I hope that some small pockets of humanity are surviving and rebuilding."

"Z-z-z-zombies?" Fluttershy stuttered. I am a little surprised her name isn't Stuttershy. She dived behind Pinkie Pie.

"That's a story for another time." I replied.

My new friends could see I wasn't going to elaborate anytime soon, so Twilight asked the group: "Has everyone caught their breath?"

Rarity sighed. "I doubt I should bother to clean my hooves before we leave..."

"Ready to move!" said Dash.

"Ready when everypony else is," responded Applejack.

"Letsgoletsgoletsgo!" Pinkie Pie cried. She looked over her shoulder. "How about you, Fluttershy?"

Fluttershy peeked her head over Pinkie's back. "Okay," she breathed.

Twilight clapped her hooves once. "Then it's settled! Let's move out!"

"Ok!" Dash shouted, already rushing forward to lead us on.