Applejack: Marvelous

by Dusty the Royal Janitor

The Avengers: Ch1

THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2012 - 1:51 AM

“All Agents, we have confirmation of an immediate evacuation order! Withdraw to minimum safe distance immediately! This is not a drill! Repeat: This is not a drill!”

Senior Agent Maria Hill called down from the catwalk as the building’s foundations trembled and shook. “Let’s move, people! Get those Phase 2 prototypes on the trucks and move out, stat!”

“Wong! MacLain! Hurry your asses up if you don’t want to be flattened!” Commander Bridge shouted, his face flushed and sweating as he waved to two younger agents, running toward his truck, carrying large, heavy metal briefcases in both hands. The evacuation order had come in over thirty minutes ago, but until the building started shaking none of the agents had suspected how dire the situation truly was. By the time Agent Hill showed up and ordered the remaining agents to salvage the results of the secretive ‘Phase 2’ project, a good seventy percent of the staff had already fled off site. The few agents still present now struggled to collect the precious research and load it onto the remaining trucks.

Engines roared and tires squealed as agents driving trucks loaded with the priceless cargo pulled out of the massive underground garage into the vast, empty expanse of the mojave desert above. Minutes felt like hours as normally stoic, trained agents teetered on the verge of panic, running about in a frenzy as the tremors intensified. As the building’s foundations shook even the unflappable Agent Hill’s knuckles whitened as she gripped the railing of the catwalk.

“I said move, agents!” Commander Bridge shouted as another truck whizzed past him, leaving just him and his team still to evacuate. Agent Wong frantically tossed another Phase 2 briefcase into the back of the hastily-repurposed personnel transport truck, nearly tripping over her own feet as the ground shook once more. “Easy, Wong!” Bridge chided her, “We have no idea what these things are! We don’t want to get those things outta the blast zone only to find you wrecked them!”

“Sorry, sir!” Wong gasped, running to collect more briefcases.

“And where the hell is Kirby?!” Bridge barked, watching as MacLain loaded another crate.

“Sir!” called Agent Kirby, finally appearing around a corner. The small, blonde woman huffed and puffed, rolling an absolutely massive crate towards the three of them on a rickety dolly. The thing was over a foot longer than she was tall, and twice as thick. “I found this crate in one of the rooms where they were keeping the Phase 2 stuff!”

“It’s Phase 2?” Agent MacLain asked in his thick Scottish Brogue, loading the last crate save for Kirby’s into the back of the truck.

Agent Kirby fought for breath as she answered. “No clue,” she huffed, “All it has is a number on it. No serial numbers or other labels or identifiers. But it was in the room with other Phase 2 research so-”

“Quit yakkin’ and load it then!” Bridge snapped. “We’ll sort it out when we get to the rendezvous!”

MacLain and Wong quickly rushed over to help Kirby, grabbing the crate and both sides and lifting it off of the dolly. Just as Wong lifted, though, it slipped out of her grasp and toppled onto the floor with a metallic clatter. MacLain grunted as he was forced to his knees.

“Careful, it’s heavy!” Agent Kirby shouted.

MacLain grunted through gritted teeth. “Thanks for the heads up,” he snarled.

“If you louts break that thing it’ll be on your heads!” Bridge scolded them. He was completely red in the face now, sweat literally dripping from his brow to be caught by his bushy gray moustache.

Agents Wong and Kirby quickly bent down and helped grab the end of the crate. “Jesus,” Wong grunted, her sweat-laden hair plastered against her face, “This thing must weigh nearly eight hundred pounds!

“Oh shit, it’s leaking!” Kirby cried pulling her hands away from it just as the three of them pushed it into the back of the truck. Her hands were covered in a viscous, clear gel and a clearly discernable crack was running along the corner of the crate.

“Does it have any labels?” MacLain asked frantically, “Radiation? Biohazard? Volatile?”

Kirby shook her head. “Just the number!” she shouted over the din as another tremor shook the building, causing a crack to suddenly form in the wall, running up the concrete and causing several chunks of mortar to fall to the asphalt below.

“We’ll deal with it at the rendezvous point, then!” Commander Bridge called out to them, pointing at MacLain and Wong, then hooking a thumb over his shoulder. “You two, get in the cab! Kirby, get in the back with the cargo! Try and keep it from shifting too much!”

“Yes sir!” The three of them all saluted and rushed to follow his orders. Quickly, Kirby found herself clamoring into the back of the truck as Commander Bridge revved the engine, the vehicle rumbling to life. With a squeal of angry rubber, the four of them heaved out of their space, missing something from Agent Hill as they sped out of the garage. They burst into the open, desert night as the tremors continued to grow ever more violent behind them.

“We’re out, sir!” Agent Wong panted, finally catching her breath as they passed the compound’s front gate. Gently she brushed a lock of black hair out of her eyes as she collected herself.

“I can see that, Agent, thank you” Bridge grumbled, his beady, gray eyes darting back and forth between the road in front of them and the side mirror. He watched as the SHIELD base shrank into the distance behind them for a moment before turning to Wong. “Get on the radio. See if you can figure out what in the hell just happened!”

Wong nodded, reaching to grab the radio when a thundering ‘KRA-KOOM’ resounded through the air. A shockwave rippled across the desert, kicking up dust and causing the truck to shudder as it passed over the four of them. In the mirror, Commander Bridge watched as the compound imploded, collapsing into itself. A small plume of fire and ash burst up from the epicenter of the disaster. Helicopters hovered into the air around the calamity, escaping the massive sinkhole that had just swallowed up one of the more prominent SHIELD bases in the Western United States.

“Mary, mother of God,” MacLain swore under his breath as he craned his head to look out of the window in the back seat. Kirby’s mouth hung open in shock as she looked on, having the best view of the catastrophe from the back of the truck.

“Get that radio up, Agent Wong,” Bridge snapped, “Find out what in God’s name just happened!”

Wong quickly sped through the radio channels, trying to pick up a signal. “This is SHIELD transport 616, evacuated from Dark Mojave base. Can anyone hear me?” she called into the receiver, twisting the dial and looking for a signal. “Hello? Can anyone hear me?”

The immediate danger passed, Agent MacLain settled back into his seat, running a hand through his bright red hair and wiping the sweat from his bushy beard. Shifting in his seat, he turned to pull back a panel affixed to the back wall. Peering back into the van of the vehicle, he spied Kirby through the stacks upon stacks of briefcases and crates. The short, pretty blonde was busy catching her breath as she sat on the troop transport’s bench. “You okay back there, Kirby?” he asked.

Kirby nodded. “I’ll be fine. Just a little shaken,” she said taking a deep breath. MacLain nodded in response, closing the panel back up.

Taking another deep breath to get her bearings, Kirby looked around the van. Despite the cargo being relatively unsecured, nothing was threatening to fall out the open back of the truck, though some of the items were rattling a little. Carefully she stood and moved towards the cab, hoping to better secure some of the loose crates and cases. As she turned her back to the massive crate that had stymied them back at the base, however...


Kirby paused, quickly turning to regard the heavy duty crate. A moment passed, with no noise other than the rumbling of the truck to break the air. She gently unclasped her sidearm, holding it at the ready as she looked it over with wary eyes, looking it over for any sign of further damage. A pool of the viscous slime that had gotten on her hands had started to form beneath it but other than the crack it had gotten back at the base, there was nothing else to be seen. It was still just a featureless, heavy duty crate with nothing else to identify it by other than the 0-8-5 printed on its side.

“...You can’t be anything too terrible, right? You’re just… large enough to be a nuclear warhead or bioweapon delivery system… shoved in the back of a top secret room in a SHIELD secret research facility,” She mumbled nervously to herself, chuckling. “Nothing to worry about, then.”

In the cab, Wong had finally managed to find the channel she needed. “Hello? This is SHIELD transport 616 evacuated from Dark Mojave, Agent Wong speaking. Can you hear me?”

The radio crackled to life as a male voice began to speak. “Copy that, 616 this is Truck 1610, Lieutenant Seagram speaking. What’s your sitrep?”

“We’re clear of the danger zone. Situation Normal, sir,” Wong replied, “Any idea what happened, sir?”

“Negative.” Seagram replied over the radio. “There’s rumors flying all over the comms but nobody seems to know exactly what happened. The leading theory is that one of the eggheads’ experiments got out of hand, but there’s also been reports of a Code 316.”

Wong blinked, pausing for a moment. “A 316? A compromised agent?”

“Nothing’s been a hundred percent confirmed yet, but the reports seem to corroborate it,” Seagram responded.

The junior agent fidgeted in her seat. Could one of the higher ups have turned traitor on them? Could the whole thing be an inside job? he thought that a single compromised agent could cause so much panic and destruction disturbed her. She shook her head, dispelling the thought. It had yet to be confirmed after all. She decided to change the subject. “Lieutenant, where is the rendezvous point at?” She asked into the radio.

“No rendezvous has been set yet,” came the reply.

“You’re shitting me,” Wong heard Bridge call out frustratedly from the driver’s seat. “What, do they just want us to keep driving until we run out of gas and then wait for rescue?”

Seagram obviously heard him through the radio because he quickly replied. “At this point? Pretty much, yeah,” he continued, explaining the situation. “The higher ups are all talking over each other trying to figure out what to do with us, and the Director’s gone dark for some reason. Hopefully they’ll sort their shit out sooner rather than later but until then, we keep trucking.”

“The Director’s gone dark?” Wong asked, fidgeting in her seat. “Was he on site? Do we know if he got--”


All at once, a piercing, feminine shriek cried out from the back of the truck followed by the cracks of two gunshots. A mere moment later, the agents felt something slam into the side of the vehicle and the truck lurched to the side. Bridge fought to regain control of the vehicle as it skidded across the dusty road. Metal crashed and clamored in the van of the truck as Kirby screamed and wailed. The other agents didn’t fare much better as they were thrown around by all the chaos. In the mirrors, Wong watched in a brief moment of stunned clarity as crates, cases, and metal shrapnel flew out of the back of the van, scattering and smashing against the road. MacLain braced himself in the back seat only to be thrown for a loop as the panel to the back of the van suddenly swung open and hit him in the face. The gun fired once more and a bullet hole suddenly appeared in the windshield, startling Bridge into abruptly twisting the steering wheel. The truck spun out and rolled over, tumbling dozens of meters off of the road. The occupants of the truck all held on for dear life as best they could, limbs flailing as their seatbelts pinned them to their seats and airbags suddenly exploded into their faces. The world spun and rolled around them as the truck smashed into the dusty, sandy soil of the desert. The vehicle skidded across the sand, digging a furrow into the ground before it finally came to a stop, resting upside down in a ditch off the side of the road.

A minute passed before Bridge’s senses returned to him as the crackling and shrieking of the radio brought him out of unconsciousness.

“-lease respond! Truck 616 do you read me?! What the hell happened?!”

Bridge shook himself off, quickly realizing he was upside down. To his right, Wong hung from her seat, her arms dangling towards the inverted ceiling thanks to gravity. A shallow cut ran along her forehead. It bled, but it didn’t look too bad. Twisting in his inverted seat, he turned to see MacLain had fallen out of his seat and was slumped on the ground, his arm bent at an unnatural angle. The commander patted himself down, making sure he was all in one piece. He seemed to get off easiest, getting away with a slight burn on his arm from where the airbag went off.

Finally gaining his bearings back, Bridge fidgeted with his seatbelt, wrestling with the strap before finally unsticking the buckle and falling bodily to the ground with a grunt. Straightening himself up, he grabbed hold of the radio and hit the switch. “Mayday! Mayday!” He called into the radio. “This is Commander Bridge, SHIELD Truck 616. We’ve been attacked by unknown hostiles! Agents Wong and MacLain are down! Status of Agent Kirby unknown!”

“Acknowledged, Commander. Do you have eyes on the hostiles?” Seagram’s voice replied

“Negative! Attempting to pull downed agents to a safe location!” Bridge shouted, crawling over to Wong and checking her for a pulse. Thankfully it was strong, and his prodding caused her to stir.

“Nnhh… Commander?” Agent Wong mumbled dizzily.

Bridge kicked the door open behind him and began clumsily crawling backwards out of the wreckage of the truck. “Wong, get yourself free and help me get MacLain! He’s got a broken arm at least.”

Wong snapped to attention, quickly freeing herself from her seatbelt and slumping to the ground. Kicking herself free of the truck, she quickly circled the wreck to help Bridge pull MacLain free. The second they grabbed hold of him, though, he suddenly shot up with a shout.

“Aaagh!!” MacLain cried, clutching his twisted arm.

“Hold still, dammit!” Bridge snapped, shining an emergency flashlight onto the wounded agent. The man’s bone was poking out of the skin of his arm, blood flowing freely, and he had another gash going down his side. Gently, with much pained grunting from MacLain, he managed to shimmy him out of the cab and prop him up gently against the truck’s inverted van. He pulled the radio back out and switched it back on. “Seagram, are you still there?”

“I’m here, Commander!” came the reply.

“Wong’s back up but MacLain is wounded!” Bridge shouted, pulling his shirt off and pressing it to the bleeding gash on MacLain’s side. He shined his light into MacLain’s eyes. The pupils were slow to respond. “He’s losing blood fast. I need an immediate medevac and reinforcements sent to our location! Still no sign of the hostiles!”

“Acknowledged. We’ve got three helis headed your way. Two minutes out.”

“Commander!” Wong, shouted from behind the truck. Bridge turned to see her waving him toward her. Sparing a quick glance at MacLain, he quickly got to his feet to join her.

“What is it, Wong?!” he snapped, darting to her side.

“Kirby’s gone, Commander! But that’s not all…” Wong said, shining her flashlight into the back of the truck.

The light revealed dozens of crates and cases scattered, broken, and smashed against the walls of the truck. Precious Phase 2 prototypes sparked and crackled, irreparably destroyed in the wreck. But Wong’s light pointed at something even more dire. The unmarked crate had been busted open, the metal bent as if something had burst out of it from the inside. Lying in the wreckage was some kind of burst and mangled capsule with a pool of the clear ooze from before slowly draining out of its remains. Shrapnel scattered all over the back of the truck, embedded into the walls and the other crates and cases. A pool of blood had formed on the ceiling- now the floor- of the truck. And most ominously of all, smashed into the unyielding, steel wall of the truck, was the imprint of a massive, human hand.

Bridges took the scene in, stepping forward and tracing the handprint with his finger, muttering under his breath.

“What the hell…”


--- --- ---


She’d awoken in darkness, abruptly rousing from unconsciousness, gasping only to choke on her own breath. A clear, viscous ooze spewed from her mouth as her lungs attempted to evacuate the offending liquid so she could breathe. Her lurching caused her to bang her head against the metal tube she’d been imprisoned within. Her lungs freed of the slick goo, she tried to take a breath again only to realize that there was no oxygen to be found. She panicked, breathlessly gasping for air that did not exist. Her confines were tight and constricting as she thrashed and twisted in place. Her muscles bulged, her elbows, fists, knees, and feet smashing against her cylindrical tomb. Her panicked strength was on her side, thankfully as she broke free from one prison only to find herself in another, like she was trapped within some twisted metal nesting doll. She heard a muffled voice squeal from outside her prison but she was still too panicked to make any sense of things. Her lungs burned for air, and with more room to move now, she threw her arms and legs in front of her in a desperate attempt to throw off the lid of the coffin that held her.

With a massive heave of strength, she succeeded. The lid of the box practically sailed away from her, spinning into the night as her lungs gasped and sucked at the life-giving air. Not an instant passed for her to get her bearings, however, when a feminine shriek rang out behind her. She whipped around to look for the source of the voice when there was a sudden “CRACK” and a sense-shattering force impacted right between her eyes. Her head snapped back on her neck as pain rang through her skull. It felt like she’d taken a buck from a supersonic Rainbow Dash directly to the forehead.

She shouted, clutching her forehead when the noise cracked out again and she felt another powerful impact against her shoulder, causing her to twist backwards. She rubbed the impact point, trying to massage the pain away and attempted to stand, only to stumble as the rumble of the moving truck threw her already unsteady limbs off balance. Spinning on one foot, she caught a glimpse of a terrified looking creature with hairless, piglike skin, a flat face, and a blonde mane of hair, a few shades lighter than her own. Before she could gain her bearings, though, she tripped over her ungainly limbs, her body shifting heavily to one side and sending her hurtling into the wall. She tried to throw an arm out to catch herself, but when the limb made contact with the wall of the moving carriage she felt it sink into the metal as she slammed into it bodily.

Her heart jumped in panic as the whole carriage lurched as the world around her exploded into noise. Metal crates and cases tumbled all around her as the wheels of the vehicle screeched and squealed in protest, kicking up dirt that choked the air through the open carriage back. She yelped, panicking as crates began to spill over her, smacking her in the face and nearly making her fall out the open back before they scattered into the road behind them. A case hit a panel in the wall, sending it flying open and revealing another part of the carriage, though she was hardly in a place to notice. The strange creature with the piglike skin screamed as it too was thrown about, the thing in its hand ringing off another deafening ‘CRACK!’

She screamed as the entire carriage went into a tumble, rolling over and spinning end over end. Dust kicked up into her eyes and debris pelted her from all sides as the world around her did its best imitation of a tumble dryer. Moments felt like hours as the sound of crunching, twisting metal pierced her ears and metal crates slammed repeatedly into her body.

And then she was airborne.

She was launched out of the back of the vehicle as it rolled into a final skid on its roof, digging a trench beneath it. She hung in the air as the world seemed to suddenly stop. Horizontal to the ground, she hovered in the air for that split moment of time. Though her panicked mind was awash with chaotic feelings of fear, pain, anger, shock, confusion, and dread, a single rational line of thought came to the forefront for that split instant as they all fought for dominance.

“The stars look different tonight…”

And then she slammed bodily into the ground, her mind reeling once more from everything that had just happened. She panted heavily, sweat running in rivulets down every inch of her body as she trembled in the dirt. Her body ached as, limbs shaking, she stumbled to all fours to try and flee the terrorizing scene.

Only to stumble as her limbs bent in all the wrong ways and she slammed back onto her face.

Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt as much as she thought it should, though the thought was hardly a comfort at the time. Briefly she thought her legs must have all been broken in the chaos only to realize that no, that couldn’t be. Her whole body ached with bruises, sure, but her limbs didn’t hurt enough for them to all be broken.
Rolling onto her back she twisted to try and get a good look at herself. Her heart skipped a beat as she brought her arms into view. Her mouth opened to scream, but her strained vocal cords could only manage a breathy yelp.

Her limbs didn’t end in the familiar orange hooves she’d known for her whole life. Instead they each ended in five, wiggly, blunted claws with little slivers of keratin at their ends. Dimly she recognized somewhere in her subconscious that her hooves had been replaced with the hands of a minotaur, though her thoughts were still too panicked and feral to latch onto that fact.

Her healthy orange coat had fallen out or been shaved away, replaced with peachy, pinkish, piglike skin, like on the strange creature she saw earlier in the carriage. Her arms bent in about the same directions that her forelimbs had, but the joints had all been moved around. They visibly bulged with corded muscle that would have been covered by her fur if she still had any.

Looking down her body, a pair of fleshy orbs came into view, and it took a shocked moment to notice the nipples they were capped with to realize that they were her teats; upsized and moved up to the front of her barrel rather than towards the back. Between the large, fleshy sacks she looked down further to see her undercarriage had been chiseled with muscles that were normally hidden by the little pot belly most ponies naturally formed. These muscles trailed down to a pair of wide hips that sprung out into a pair of thick, powerfully muscled legs. And those legs ended in soft, padded feet capped with five little toes, like some of the Great Ape Tribes of the Zebrican Jungles had. And her tail was just straight-up gone.

Her mind was still whirling in panicked confusion, fear, and now a little disgust at seeing her transformed body, though more thoughts were dimly coming to the forefront again. She began to remember a dream she’d had… or at least something she’d thought was a dream.

She’d been going out to check the south fields when a burst of light and magic surrounded her and she was dumped in a dreary, ruined village somewhere she didn’t recognize. Strange creatures in ugly clothes ran all about, shouting in some language she couldn’t place and pointing strange muskets at her. To make matters worse, her own body had been twisted into something of their likeness. When she started feeling the impacts of what felt like a thousand tiny minotaurs all punching her repeatedly she slipped into a feral panic. Her instincts from the days when ancient ponies ran in herds across the open fields of Neighropa being hunted by primitive dragons and foraging for grass kicked in and her fight-or-flight response took over. With nowhere to run, and with the impacts smacking painfully against her but not opening a single wound that bled, she opted to fight. Her gait was clumsy and her swings were wild, but it only seemed that she had to brush against the creatures to send them flying. She fought for what must have been hours, waves upon waves of them coming after her without any end or respite. She was panting, her throat parched and her limbs heavy, at the edge of collapsing, when a massive carriage mounted with what looked to be a stretched, dull-gray version of Pinkie Pie’s party cannon rolled over the hillside. It pointed its barrel at her and then…

...and then she woke up in the coffin.

Had she died? Did she just return from the dead somehow or was this Tartarus? Her breathing was quick and shallow, as she shook there, trembling naked in the dirt. Her thoughts were still awash with panic and confusion and pain as she rolled to her new knees, looking at the smoking wreck of the strange metal carriage that she’d awoken in. A part of her wanted to see if she could help, but more of her was still screaming in fear. The creature she’d seen in the carriage with her looked too much like the ones that had attacked her in her dream… which seemed more and more likely to have been real.

Panic still reigned in her mind as she unsteadily climbed to her feet, faintly remembering how she’d moved in that not-a-dream and remembering how Iron Will had moved around when he’d come to town. In her new body it felt more natural to stand like this anyway. She wavered, both from the dizziness and the newness of her body…

...and then letting her instincts take over, she ran.

Wind blasted against her face as she clumsily ran through the desert. Her blonde mane - which she had thankfully managed to keep - fluttered in the breeze as she darted across the sand, despite being caked with sweat and dirt. Her soft feet felt like they were on fire as they repeatedly slammed into the coarse soil, though she dared not stop. An odd buzz began to fill the air around her, though she dared not stop.

She hadn’t been running for too terribly long, though it had felt like hours, when she crested a small, sandy hill. She paused for a few minutes at the top to catch her breath, slumping over slightly and resting her new hands on her knees. She gulped, trying to catch her breath as she spent several minutes on the hill, hoping she was far enough away from the wreck. After a few minutes rest with nothing but the buzz in the air, she scanned the horizon.

Just at the edge of what she could see there were lights. Lights meant civilization. Ponies? More of the strange creatures? Who could tell? She doubted she was even in Equestria anymore. Still, she was exposed and alone in the desert and there was no way she could survive without help. As her senses slowly returned to her she resolved that she would have to take the risk.

She noticed the buzzing noise was growing louder, though, setting her nerves a-tingle and making her already rapid heart rate speed up even further. She looked over her shoulder to see several blindingly bright lights in the sky, shining down from strange, sleek, whirligig vehicles, not unlike the one Pinkie Pie hid in her basement, though significantly larger and faster. She gulped, not wanting to draw their attention when all of a sudden a voice shouted out at her from across the desert.


Applejack’s heart leapt into her throat and adrenaline rushed through her veins as she whipped around to see the creature from the carriage, nearly stumbling on her unsteady feet. The strange, feminine, blonde creature from before was pointing something at her, rapidly stepping closer. Its light blonde mane was matted with sweat and its chest was heaving heavily. A reddened bandage had been hastily and haphazardly applied to a gash that started on its forehead, slashing down the bridge of its nose and across its face. As the creature got closer she recognized the item in its hand as a pistol, though unlike any of the flintlock numbers she’d seen in Equestria.

Her panic was rising again. She was about to break out into a run when something caught her attention, puzzling her.

“Was that…?”

“Get down on your knees and put your hands where I can see them!” The creature shouted once more, her grip (judging by its voice it was definitely a ‘her’) on the pistol shaking.

“Equestrian!” she thought, gasping as the creature continued to approach. “This one speaks Equestrian!”

It was a risk, she knew, but it was the first sign that maybe, just maybe she could make some sense of this strange new world. She held her freaky new arms out and just above her head. “Equestrian?!” she called out. “Y’all speak Equestrian?!”

The creature stopped at the bottom of the ridge, looking up at her quizzically and never once aiming the pistol away from her. The strange whirligig machines were upon them now, bright spotlights shining down upon them. “I speak English,” the creature called back to her, twitching the pistol in her hands in a clear ‘get down here’ motion. “Come down to the bottom of the ridge! Slowly! No sudden movements!”

She paused for a moment. The creature was clearly armed, though now that things were coming back to her, she wasn’t certain that her pistol could even hurt her. That on its own was puzzle enough, but the thought was set aside as she quickly considered what to do. She could keep running, but this was the first creature she’d met in this strange world that she could even begin to understand. It was risky -- incredibly so -- and perhaps it was the exhaustion getting to her or the rush of relief at merely hearing a language she could understand, or maybe it was the fact that, somehow, the creature looked even more afraid of her than she was of it, if that was even possible… but she complied.

Slowly she stepped down the ridge, her bare feet irritated by the sandy soil as she cautiously approached the strange creature. The closer she got the more she realized how small the creature really was… Or perhaps she was big? Either way, she noticed the creature barely came up to her shoulder as she approached.

“That’s far enough!” the creature said as she came within a few arms lengths of her. She stopped, keeping her new arms above her head. “Identify yourself!”

She blinked. Her name. With all the panic, confusion, relief, and exhaustion running through her mind it actually took her a few moments to even remember her own name. It came to her, though, as her mind cleared further and further.

“...Applejack” she said, finally.

The creature scowled. “I asked for your name, not your favorite breakfast cereal!”

Applejack blinked. “That is my name,” she insisted, wincing as several of the whirligig machines landed around them, kicking up dust and making a lot of noise. She continued, raising her voice to compensate. “My name is Applejack. Are you with the guard here? Can you tell me where I am?”

“You don’t know?” the creature asked, raising an eyebrow. She looked suspicious for a moment before her eyes widened with realization. “Of course you don’t know you were trapped in a tube.”

“A tube?” Applejack asked, puzzled. She shook it off though and continued to press the creature. “Please, Ma’am, I don’t know where I am and-” she took a step closer only to stop as the creature clicked something on her pistol.

“Not another step.” She said. “I don’t know why you were in that tube. What are you--”

“Stand down, Agent!” A voice called from one of the landed machines. The two of them turned to see a tall, dark-skinned creature stepping out from the whirligig. He surveyed the both of them with a cool, unflappable confidence that, given the situation, seemed practically superhuman. His singular eye took everything in as he stepped down from the vehicle, his black longcoat billowing behind him. Several other creatures took up position behind him, their faces concealed by helmets and carrying strange muskets, but the one-eyed creature was unarmed. He approached Applejack, raising his own hands slightly. She gulped as he approached her.

“My name is Director Nick Fury of SHIELD.” He introduced himself coolly as he came within a few arms lengths of her. “Who are you?” he asked.

She paused for a moment as she took the man in. Somehow, this unarmed man with only one eye was more intimidating than any of the other creatures she’d met so far, including the ones who attacked her. And yet, she didn’t feel threatened by the man. She could see a fire in his eye, but it wasn’t directed at her… not yet at least.

“A-Applejack.” She finally answered with a slight stutter. The absurdity of the world around her had finally caused her to reach her breaking point as the mixture of panic, pain, fear, and relief over the last half hour or wore her down. Her arms fell in exhaustion and her voice wavered as she continued, “My n-name’s Applejack, sir.” She stifled a sniffle as a tear rolled down her cheek. “Is SHIELD the guard around here? Please, I don’t know where I am. Nothing makes sense and I just want to get home.”

Something softened in the strange creature for just a moment, though he never lost his composure. He lowered his arms as he spoke again, “Easy, ma’am. Try and stay calm. We’ll try and answer your questions as best you can if you can answer some of ours.” He looked around at the landscape. “Not here, though. We need to get back to base. Are you okay to ride with us?”

Applejack looked at the strange whirligig machines. She’d never trusted Pinkie’s absurd candy contraption and she was always wary about flying. Her burning need for answers, though, finally pressed her into nodding. “A-alright.”

Director Fury snapped his fingers at the Agents behind him. “Will somebody please get this young woman a blanket already?!” he ordered them before turning back to Applejack. For the smallest of instants, she swore she saw him smile, but with a blink he was back to his usual stoic facade. “We’ll get you sorted Applejack. Don’t worry.”

“Thank you…” She intoned weakly as one of the masked creatures approached her with a long, woolen gray blanket and wrapped it around her shoulders. “Oh, Celestia, thank you…” she said, stepping over to the Director’s side.

He nodded, briefly looking over her shoulder at the blonde creature, who’d been standing there dumbly since he’d arrived. “You coming, Agent?” he asked.

The agent blinked and snapped a hasty salute before scurrying towards them.

Applejack stepped up into the whirligig, the cold metal floor sending a shiver up her spine as her bare foot touched it. She was ushered into a seat across from the Director, wrapping the blanket around her naked skin. She settled into the seat, looking across at him. “Thank you,” she repeated, the sheer madness of the last half hour finally catching up to her in full. Darkness played at the edge of her vision as the overwhelmed girl leaned back into her seat. “Thank you,” she muttered one last time.

Finally, sleep took her.