Applejack: Marvelous

by Dusty the Royal Janitor

The Avengers: Ch3

Applejack wept for hours after Phil left. The roiling stew of emotions she felt in the pit of her stomach threatened to overtake her. Part of her was infuriated. She wanted to blame SHIELD for what had happened to her. She wanted to jump the next person that came in, break out of her cell and make all of them pay.

But she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Some part of her still clung desperately to reason and reminded her that it wasn’t all their fault. People died trying to investigate what they’d taken from the Nazis. She couldn’t demand people throw away their lives just to look into every crate and box they got. Especially not when they couldn’t have known she was trapped there in the first place.

It didn’t make her feel any better though.

With her anger in check, though, she could do nothing but wallow in misery. Almost seventy years had gone by in a literal blink. One minute she was back home, harvesting the south fields, and the next she was breaking out of a tube in a moving, self-driving carriage.

If she even managed to get back home, would anyone even remember her anymore? Would anyone even care? How many of them would even still be alive? Granny Smith would certainly have passed on by now. Winona too. Big Mac might still be around but he'd be downright ancient if he was. Applebloom would still be around if she hadn’t gotten herself killed on some crazy crusade at some point.

The girls would probably still be alive, but they’d all be almost halfway into their 90’s. And that was assuming Rainbow Dash didn’t kill herself with some crazy stunt and Pinkie Pie didn’t eat herself into a diabetic coma…

...And that was all assuming some horrible, ancient evil didn’t come back and wipe everybody out. That had been happening far too often in recent years to completely count out.

If she could even get back at all, would she even have anything to go back to?

She supposed the Princesses would remember her. They’d still be there, standing as the eternal pillars of Equestria. Sun and Moon, forever watching over their little ponies. But she never managed to get ‘close’ to either of them the way Twilight got close to Princess Celestia. If nothing else, though, perhaps they might be able to commiserate with her newfound situation.

Of course, this was all assuming she could even get back at all.

She was on an alien world, among creatures who’d never even heard of Equestria, or even Equus. They had no idea how she managed to get here, and presumably had no idea how to get her back. Admittedly, she hadn’t seen much of the world or its inhabitants at this point, but she did notice that she’d not yet seen anyone on this planet use magic. Maybe humans were like Minotaurs or Diamond Dogs and couldn’t actually use magic. That in and of itself was a frightening and mystifying thought.

She slumped out of her chair and fell to the ground not minutes after Coulson left. There she lay for hours, weeping until she had nothing more left to shed and fell into a fitful sleep. Her dreams were troubled and disturbed as she banged on a glass window in her new, twisted form. Through the window she could see them all; Granny, Applebloom, Big Mac, Winona, and all of her friends. None of them were smiling. All of them looked like they were in mourning. But somehow Applejack knew that none of them could remember why they were mourning. She tried to scream through the window at them but none of them heard her. And then, one by one, they started to disappear. Granny was first. Then Winona. Then Rainbow. Then Pinkie. Big Mac. Twilight. Fluttershy. Rarity. Finally, nobody was left but little Applebloom, and it wasn’t long before she vanished too.

THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2012 - 5:41 PM

A few hours passed and she woke with a start. She breathed heavily as she lay naked on the ground, the carpet scratching at her and irritating her naked skin. As her breathing slowed, she slowly looked around the room, her joints and back aching as she sat up off the ground.

“Still not a dream…” she thought to herself miserably.

Sitting with her back against the coffee table, she moaned. Her head throbbed and ached from all the sobbing she’d done, and though her heartbreak hadn’t let up in the least, she couldn’t bring herself to cry anymore. She sat there, her strange knees pressed to her strange new chest for what was probably a good hour, staring into nothing.

Finally she sighed. She was going to go crazy if she continued to sit around and wallow. She had to do something. Phil had said something about a shower in the bathroom. She looked toward the walled off area of the room and decided there was nothing to be gained by continuing to just sit there. She clumsily got to her new feet and stumbled into the bathroom.

She fiddled with the knobs of the shower for a few minutes, trying to figure out how it worked. Nothing about the fixture seemed familiar. It seemed it was a universal constant that strange showers would always be stupidly difficult to figure out. Eventually she managed to get the water to a temperature and pressure that was reasonably comfortable and leaned back against the wall of the shower, slipping down the wet surface to sit on the shower floor as the water beat over her face. She sighed, deeply breathing in the moist, steamy air.

What should have been a relaxing experience, though, ended up being a more uncomfortable one. The shower really only served to remind her that on top of everything else her body had been twisted into a strange, alien, shape as she fiddled with small bottles of body wash, shampoo, and conditioner that were set around the base of the shower. After some trial and error with her new fingers, she managed to figure out how to get them to relinquish their contents and lather herself up, forcing her to come to terms with her new anatomy as she meticulously cleaned off all the sweat, grime, dirt, and leftover tube-goo that clung to her body. If she hadn’t been so busy focusing on everything she’d lost and her new, apelike shape she might have been slightly embarrassed that she’d spent the whole conversation with Phil filthy and stinking like a pig.

She sat in the shower for far longer than was strictly necessary, letting the water beat over her as the soaps and shampoos scrubbed off the grime and cleaned out her pores. Her mind began to wander to how she could have possibly gotten here. Her first and most panicked thought was that Discord must have somehow gotten free again.

Princess Celestia had assured them that Discord was trapped for good, and as long as the six of them bore the elements of harmony, the only way he’d be able to get out is if they let him out. Applejack was inclined to trust the princess, but then again, Discord was the master of throwing expectations in ponies’ faces. She couldn’t rule out entirely the idea that he’d managed to break free again.

The last time he’d gotten out he’d turned her and her friends into their polar opposites in the hopes that they wouldn’t be able to use the elements of harmony against him. Could he have gotten out again and realized that it would have been much simpler to remove a single link from the six friends to render the elements useless? That by sending her away to some strange, alien world there was no way the elements of harmony could stop him?

It sounded reasonable, but that in itself was rather the flaw with the idea. It was a little too reasonable. Discord didn’t strike her as the kind of person who could enact some sort of terrible plan and not have everybody involved aware that he was the one pulling the strings. If he were involved, surely he would have poofed in front of her and thrown a pie in her face before teleporting her away to parts unknown. He wouldn’t be able to live with it if everybody didn’t know exactly who’d beaten them.

She huffed. There was something about the idea that Discord was behind it that didn’t sit right with her. Instead, she cast her mind towards the other foes she and the girls had faced that might have wanted her out of the picture. Queen Chrysalis was a conniving schemer who had access to great power, but her power during the wedding had only been so vast because she’d been feeding off the princess of love and her fiance for who-knew-how-long before that showdown with Celestia. It seemed possible that she might be able to get some kind of spell or artifact or something that could send Applejack hurtling into a strange new world, but there were still hiccups in the theory. ‘Why me?’ was the big one that came to mind. True Chrysalis wasn’t exactly a fan of any of the six of them, but her main feud was with Twilight, not her.

There was Sombra, though last she understood he’d been blown to pieces by the power of the Crystal Heart, so he didn’t seem particularly likely. And Luna had been cured of the Nightmare so there wasn’t much chance it was Nightmare Moon behind it.

She shook her head, water dripping from her hair. None of the theories really fit. It didn’t seem like one of her old foes could be behind this. True, she couldn’t really rule anything out, but there was no way to come to any solid conclusion when there wasn’t any evidence to support any of the theories. Other ideas started coming to her mind instead. Maybe Twilight had been experimenting with magic and a spell had gone wrong? But Twilight wasn’t anywhere near her at the moment she vanished. Unless she’d taken to practicing dangerous magic on the Acres without her permission, but Twilight didn’t seem the type.

Applejack rubbed her forehead in frustration. None of the ideas she came up with made any sense. For all she knew a hole could have just randomly opened up in front of her and sucked her in. As far as she knew portals didn’t just rip open in space willy-nilly but it made as much sense as anything else.

And then a thought struck her.

Does it even matter?

She paused as the line of reasoning ran through her mind. Even if she could figure out who or what had been behind her sudden teleportation, there was little she could do about it. Perhaps these SHIELD fellows had some sort of magic or gadget to help her get back home, or knew somebody who could help, but in the end it didn’t really matter how she’d gotten here, did it? Not now that 67 years had passed at least. If it was one of her old foes then surely it was far too late to help. And if it was some foolish experiment of Twilight’s then she supposed the simple fact that she wasn’t back home aged into her golden years, sitting on the porch of Sweet Apple Acres in a rocking chair with a cup of hot cider in her hooves and a dozen grandfoals surrounding her was proof enough that she couldn’t undo what she’d done.

As it was, though, was there even a point to going back?

Sixty-seven years had passed. Even if she found a way back what would she be going back to? Old friends and family who had probably long since moved on if they even remembered her at all. Even if some chaos creature or tyrant overlord hadn’t conquered the world in her absence, the absolute best she could hope for was a few short years with friends who might not even remember her, or who had moved on only for her to come back and rip the wounds in their poor, old hearts back open?

Maybe she wasn’t meant to go back.

AJ had never been one for philosophizing or navel-gazing over the nature of life and the universe. Some ponies would argue that the mere existence of cutie marks meant that there was some ultimate destiny that ponies were bound for and that they should aspire towards. Others would argue that cutie marks were less important than pony culture insisted they were and merely existed as a sort of tangible proof of a pony’s inherent talent, more like a resumé rather than any sort of ‘roadmap to destiny.’ These ponies would argue that they still had the free will to nurture and follow their talent or not.

The topic had come up at various picnics and parties over the years she spent with her friends, but she’d never really been able to commit to one side or the other. She believed in free will well enough; if a pony wanted to take her life in a different direction than their cutie mark suggested there was no reason such a thing couldn’t or even shouldn’t happen, she figured. But at the same time, there had to be something more to cutie marks and life and the universe than just ‘what a pony is good at.’ Perhaps not destiny, but something close to it? When she looked at the trio of apples on her flanks, she always felt a calling: A meaning in life that she could always look at and be reminded of her place in the world. And she could take comfort in it.

Somberly, she looked down at her new, human hips. There was no cutie mark there anymore. The three apples that had adorned her flanks since she was but a little filly had vanished with her transformation. Humans, it seemed, did not get cutie marks. Or perhaps hers had simply vanished.

Maybe she’d lost any meaning she had in Equestria. Maybe she just wasn’t meant to go back.

Applejack sighed deeply once more. The shower hadn’t cleared her head in the way she’d hoped it would. If anything, she was feeling more lost than ever; adrift in a new world with no purpose or direction. She’d been forced back to square one, with less than she’d ever had in life. No family or friends to rely on in hard times, no cutie mark to even lay out the barest inkling of a path for her to follow. She had truly nothing. And she couldn’t even muster up the strength to cry about it anymore.

At least she’d managed to get clean.

She shut off the water and emerged from the shower, the chill air freezing her to the core and causing goosebumps to form on her bare skin. She began patting herself dry with a towel she’d spied hanging on the wall. Her movements were still clumsy and she kept dropping the towel as she tried to rub it over her. The massive teats on her chest didn’t help with her coordination either. And for the life of her, she couldn’t figure out how to dry her long, blonde hair at all. Eventually she managed to dry most of her body off, and resolved to just let her hair air dry over time.

Just as she exited the bathroom, though, she nearly stumbled directly into a young woman.

“Eep!” the woman yelped, jumping back and nearly tripping over her own feet. Applejack herself was startled enough that she nearly fell backwards into the bathroom, but she managed to grab the wall just in time.

The young woman shook briefly, looking up at Applejack fearfully, wringing her hands along the handle of a briefcase. Her posture was slumped and meek, like she wanted to curl in on herself. Short, black hair framed her face, along with a thick pair of glasses, which magnified her eyes so they looked huge upon her face. She was a tiny, scrawny thing, standing less than five feet tall at a measly 4’10", and without a shred of bulk or curves on her. Indeed, compared to Applejack, she barely came up past the underside of her teats.

“I-I-I I’m sorry…” the young woman stuttered, shaking like a leaf. Applejack couldn’t help but feel bad for the poor girl. She reminded her of Fluttershy on her absolute worst days. “T-they sent me in first in c-case you were st-still…” she trailed off, looking up and down Applejack’s bare body.

“Still what?” Applejack asked. If nothing else the poor girl served as a decent distraction from what AJ was going through.

“U-um…” the woman blushed hotly, looking furtively between Applejack and the foot locker at the end of her bed. “Y-you should really put some clothes on.”

Applejack raised an eyebrow. “Why? I’m not going out to some fancy shindig, am I?”

“W-what?” the woman sputtered.

Applejack shrugged, continuing. “I mean, it’s a mite nippy in here but I can take it just fine.”

The woman wrung her hands on the briefcase some more. At this rate she’d wear out the leather in just a few days. “I-I… uh…” She stammered. “Y-yeah… I heard that you’re um… not exactly…” she averted her eyes, curling in on herself further like she was trying to make herself too small to notice. “...not exactly… human.”

Applejack paused, her eyes looking at the floor. “Oh.”

The young woman started sputtering. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I just… Humans… we traditionally wear clothes… um… all the time.”

AJ frowned, briefly breaking out of her depressive episode as she became suddenly annoyed with the humans around her. “All the time? Is everybody here a hoity-toity nobility-type?” She looked the woman over and began to get that sense. She was wearing a long sleeved tailored suit, not unlike Coulson had been, with a white collared shirt and black tie. Unlike Coulson, though, she wore a thin, pencil skirt instead of trousers. Her legs were mostly bare, but her feet were covered by a pair of low heels, which pointed towards each other on account of her pigeon-footed stance.

The young woman blinked, taken aback by the comment. “I, uh… no?” she fidgeted, tapping her forefingers together. “It’s just that… uh… humans don’t have fur. I heard you used to have fur? ...humans don’t have that.”

“I noticed,” Applejack muttered glumly.

“So, um…” she continued, “...when people don’t wear any clothes their… um… parts can be seen just uh…” she winced, “hanging out there. And that makes most people get… erm… excited?”

“Excited?” Applejack asked quizzically.

“Uhh…” the blush was threatening to overtake the poor girl’s face. “It makes people think you want to have…” she trailed off, looking between Applejack’s thighs before turning away.

Applejack puzzled over what she was on about before it suddenly hit her over the head like a collapsing barn. Her eyes widened and her mouth fell open into a wide ‘o’ shape. “Wait, y’all don’t mean-”

“Mm-hmm…” She replied, averting her eyes.

Applejack looked mortified for a moment as she considered how she’d just spent an entire conversation practically propositioning herself to Agent Coulson. She forcibly shoved that train of thought from her head, hurling it off a cliff and into a gorge where it would land in a huge, metal chest which she then proceeded to lock with a padlock and throw away the key. She coughed into her fist. “I s’pose I should put some clothes on then…”

“That would be best, yes.” The young lady mumbled.

AJ trod over to the foot locker and bent down, fiddling with the hatch. The whole time, the young woman looked away, still blushing madly. Eventually she managed to get the thing open and pulled out a set of large clothes.

“I uh… I heard that they didn’t have many clothes in your size on board so some of the larger… men… donated you their gym clothes. They should be clean,” she mumbled. “I don’t think they had any shoes your size though… or bras...”

From inside the foot locker Applejack retrieved a sleeveless orange shirt and a pair of bulky black shorts made of some kind of smooth feeling fabric. There was also a pair of white underwear, though the sight of them made her blush. Ponies didn’t usually wear underwear except in ‘adult’ scenarios.

She held up the underwear to the woman. “Y’all uh…” she started to stutter herself. “Y’all humans wear this sort of thing all the time?”

“Um… yeah?” She said, kicking a foot meekly in embarrassment. “Women usually wear a different kind of underwear but again… we didn’t have any in your size.”

Applejack gulped. She could tell the girl wasn’t lying; just thoroughly, thoroughly embarrassed. “Alright…” AJ said uncertainly, slipping the white briefs over her legs, followed by the black shorts. Thankfully, though her body shape was certainly different, these simple clothes seemed to work in much the same way as similar clothes from Equestria. The underwear was new for her though.

After securing her new shorts, she slipped herself into the orange tank top. As she pulled it on, she failed to notice the words “GET SWOLE” printed upon them in large, white, blocky letters. Even if she had, she wouldn't have had any idea what a ‘swole’ was or why somebody wanted to get one.

Finally, in the bottom of the foot locker, she found a pair of stretchy, white athletic socks. Socks were another thing normally reserved for ‘adult’ moments in Equestria... but ‘when in Roam,’ she supposed. She quickly pulled them onto her hands.

The woman blinked. “”

AJ blinked right back. “What?”

For the first time, the woman had an expression other than fearful shock, deep anxiety, or blushing embarrassment. She smirked lightly before breaking into a giggle.

AJ frowned. “What?!” she repeated.

The woman continued to snicker. “Socks… don’t go there.”

“‘Course they do,” AJ said, raising an eyebrow. “Socks go on the forelegs.”

The woman chuckled still, though a little tinge of embarrassment came back to his face. “I mean… okay, but humans don’t have forelegs. They have arms and hands,” she said, holding up one hand and wiggling the fingers. She leaned over and patted her knees. “These are the legs we put socks on.”

“Y’all put socks on your hind legs?” Applejack boggled, shaking her head rapidly. “I may be a country bumpkin, and I certainly ain’t some sort of fashionista, but even I know that would look ridiculous.”

The young woman shrugged, her look of embarrassment returned. “I mean… they’re the only ‘legs’ we have…” she said, scratching the back of her head. “I guess you don’t have to wear them if you don’t want to. Those ones aren’t strictly needed like the others... And from what I’ve heard about you, you probably won’t hurt yourself if you step on a nail or something.”

Applejack’s brow creased curiously at the statement but she ignored it, instead opting to remove the socks entirely and throw them back in the footlocker, shutting it. At that moment, the door opened and two more figures entered. The first was another woman, standing just under the height of Coulson from before, wearing a skintight dark-blue jumpsuit like the one in the desert had been wearing, with black accents and accessories. Including, Applejack noticed warily, a pistol holstered at her hip. Her short, dark brown hair was pulled into a low bun, and she had a severe, no-nonsense look on her face.

Behind her entered a man with a chiseled face and short, brown hair. He stood about Coulson’s height, but he dressed nothing like him. He wore a red plaid shirt and brown slacks and shoes. His face might have been described as handsome by other humans, but Applejack was not experienced enough with the human form to know. His face was stern and professional, but not unfriendly, and unlike the woman with the bun, who looked entirely disapproving of Applejack’s presence, the man looked upon her more with curiosity than anything else. He entered the room with confidence, taking in the scene.

“Miss Applejack,” the severe looking woman with the bun began. “My name is Agent Maria Hill, Senior Operative Officer and Deputy Director of SHIELD.” She nodded towards the smaller woman. “I see you’ve already met Agent Jennifer Walters.”

The small woman shuffled back a pace before doing a sort of half-nod to Applejack. She nodded in return.

“She’ll be our legal consultant for the following procedures,” Hill explained. She turned, motioning to the man behind her. “And this is Doctor Leonard Samson. He’s a psychiatrist and therapist.”

“A pleasure to meet you,” Doctor Samson said, stepping forward and holding out a hand. Applejack frowned, recognizing the gesture. She reached out and halfheartedly grasped the doctor’s hand and gave it a shake. She swore she hadn’t given her grip the usual strength she normally put into her hoofshakes, but she noticed the doctor still winced in surprise and even perhaps a little bit of pain. She gave the Doctor as pleasant a smile as she could, though her heart wasn’t into it.

“It’s… good to meet you too, Doc,” she muttered, spiritlessly. “I think I have an idea why you’re here though.”

The doctor nodded, pulling his hand away, flexing his fingers and regaining his composure. “Yes, I imagine you do,” he said without judgment.

Applejack let out a weary sigh, trudging over to the chairs and slumping into one. “I asked Agent Coulson to give me the benefit of the doubt,” she complained, though her heart didn’t seem able to really argue her case.

“From what I understand,” Doctor Samson explained, taking a seat across from her as Agent Walters took a seat in the chair at the table, while Agent Hill leaned against the wall behind Applejack, “Agent Coulson is ready to give it to you, but not everybody at SHIELD is as open minded.” He cast a split-second glance at Hill behind her.

She scowled, her patience quickly waning. “Alright, well what do I gotta say to convince you I ain’t crazy? Y’all want me to talk about my foalhood? Look at spots of ink? Go on about my feelings?”

Samson raised an eyebrow. “Do you want to talk about any of those things?” he said mildly.

Applejack gripped the arm of her chair, her knuckles whitening as the wood beneath groaned and crackled. The anger and pain began bubbling up to the surface again as she grit her teeth and spoke. “How do y’all think I feel, doc? I’m trapped in some plum crazy ape world with people who ain’t willing to trust me after having spent the last seventy years trapped in a damn crate! I ain’t got no way home and even if I did I probably wouldn’t have nothing to go back to!” she shouted. With a loud ‘SNAP’ the arm of the chair came off in her hand, crushed into debris. Behind her, Applejack heard the click-clacking noise of Agent Hill’s pistol cocking. Across the room Agent Walters flinched, shrinking into her corner. Doctor Samson, however, remained calm, not even blinking at AJ’s outburst.

The room stood still for a moment that stretched into eternity. Applejack breathed heavily as Hill aimed down her sights directly at her head. A small part of AJ’s mind clung desperately to rationality, though, forcing her to take a long, slow breath and release the debris of the chair she’d crushed in her fingers. “Sorry,” she finally muttered. Behind her, Hill slowly lowered her weapon.

“You have nothing to apologize for,” Samson said gently. “Frankly, anyone in your position has every right to be distraught. You’re actually handling it really well, all things considered.”

Applejack grunted, prompting Samson to continue. “You’re actually not the first person SHIELD has called me for on matters like this. I was called in just recently for another case like yours.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Y’all get alien ponies dropping in a lot?” she asked, sarcasm leaking into her voice.

Samson chuckled genially. “Well, not ‘ponies’ so much,” he said, taking AJ aback a little at the implications. “That’s what I’d like to ask you about, if you don’t mind.”

“‘Bout me being a pony?” She asked, her eyes narrowing again.

“That and the rest of what you talked to Agent Coulson about. You mentioned a country called Equestria?”

Applejack nodded. “That’s right.”

Doctor Samson leaned back, pulling out a notepad and a pen. “Would you mind telling me about it?”

Applejack blinked at the genuine interest Samson seemed to show. "About Equestria? Uhh…” She trailed off, not sure where to begin. There was so much to say. How does one begin to discuss such a broad and varied topic as a whole nation, let alone one like Equestria?

Eventually, she figured to just start with the most basic facts and see where that took her. “Um…” she began, “It’s the largest country on our planet, Equus. It stretches from the Crystal Empire in the Frozen North all the way down to the Southern Badlands, taking up most of the northwestern continent. Most of the folk living there are ponies, though we got a few other species like Griffins, Minotaurs, and so on. It’s ruled by Princesses Celestia and Luna, who live in the capital city of Canterlot and control the sun and moon…” She trailed off as she heard Hill grumble something behind her. She turned to see Hill scowling. AJ scowled right back. “Y’all wanna say something?” she challenged.

Hill opened her mouth to respond with something biting but Doctor Samson cut her off. “Ignore her,” he said, casting a pointed glance at Hill. “I’d like to hear more about your Princesses, Celestia and Luna you said?”

AJ turned back to him, curious. “What do you want to know?”

His face remained perfectly unreadable as he continued. “You said they could control the sun and moon?” he asked. “How do they do that?”

Applejack blinked looking confused for a moment at the question before, shrugging slightly. “Magic,” she said simply. “I don’t really know how it works. My friend Twilight’d be able to explain it better than me. She knows magic better’n I do.” She tilted her head. “Why don’t y’all just ask whoever raises your sun? Can’t be much different.”

Samson deflected the question with a curious hum as he scratched something down on his notepad. “But you know for certain that they do raise the sun and moon?”

“Shoot, I’ve seen ‘em do it.” She answered. “I’ve met the Princess dozens of times now. Twilight was her student after all. Still is, really, even though she’s moved to Ponyville.”

He continued writing things down in his notepad. “And this Twilight,” he asked, “She sounds like she’s a very important person.”

“You bet your horseshoes,” Applejack replied with a small smile. “She’s been the Princess’ student almost her whole life and there ain’t nopony better at studying and casting magic than her. I’m thinking the Princess is grooming her to be the next court wizard or something.”

“And how did you meet her?” he asked. “Surely if you’ve met with the princess so often and are friends with her student you must be a very important person yourself.”

Applejack chuckled, blushing a little. “Shucks, naw,” she said. “I’m just a regular old apple farmer from Ponyville. It was only ‘cause the Princess decided to hold the Summer Sun Celebration in our town one year that I ended up meeting them.”

He nodded. “You’ve mentioned Ponyville a few times now,” he said. “Is that where you live?”

“Well… lived,” Applejack mumbled, the small amount of cheer that had been building up in her swiftly draining away as she looked to the floor. “If it’s really been almost seventy years since I got stuck in that crate then I can’t even say for sure if Twi or any of my other friends are still alive.”

Doctor Samson reached over to her and put a gentle hand on her leg. “I understand this is incredibly painful for you, Applejack. I really do.”

“How could you?” She muttered, turning away. “T’ain’t happened to you.”

“Maybe not but I’ve met people it has happened to,” he insisted. “And I’ve met many, many people who’ve lost everything they’ve known and loved, if not in the same way. I recognize this kind of pain, Applejack.” Gently, he leaned further and turned her face to look at him. “I know that right now it feels like nothing will ever be right again. You feel like there’s no chance you’ll ever move past this and you’ll feel this terrible forever. But you can rebuild yourself and your life. You can find new things to find meaning in.”

Applejack shoved his hand away, snarling. “Y’all telling me to just replace them?!” she barked.

“Of course not.” Samson insisted, pulling away slightly. “You won’t be able to replace them. I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you, Applejack. It will hurt like hell moving on. And it’s not going to be easy. And there are always going to be scars but, in time, the wounds will heal and you’ll find new things to find meaning in.” He raised his arms, motioning around himself. “You have a group right now willing to help you start rebuilding.”

“SHIELD?” Applejack scoffed, turning in her chair to look at Hill, whose expression was unreadable. “I’m pretty sure y’all wanna throw me in a padded cell.”

“That all depends on what you tell me now,” Samson insisted. “As well as whether or not you can promise to use your powers responsibly.”

Applejack was struck out of her depressive reverie at that. “Powers? What in Celestia’s name are y’all on about?”

“You mean you don’t know?” Samson asked raising a surprised eyebrow himself. Applejack shook her head and Samson hummed curiously before turning in his chair to look at Agent Walters, who’d been rivetedly watching the whole conversation. “Agent Walters?” he asked

The small agent jumped a little in her seat at being addressed. “Y-yes?”

“Could you come over here, please?” he requested, motioning her over with a small wave. Hesitantly, the smaller woman got out of her seat and carefully tread over to his side. He motioned to the coffee table between them. “Would you mind crushing that?”

The absurdity of the request hung in the air. Walters blinked dumbly for a moment, looking between him, Applejack, and the table. "...what?" she finally managed.

“Doctor…” Hill warned, seeing where this was going. Applejack simply boggled, looking between everybody, unsure what they were all going on about.

“What’s more dangerous, Agent Hill?” Samson asked. “A metahuman with powers who knows she needs to use them responsibly, or one who doesn’t even know she has them accidentally causing chaos wherever she goes?”

Agent Hill fumed, her nostrils flaring. “Fine,” she ultimately grumbled. “You’re paying for the coffee table.”

Doctor Samson rolled his eyes. “Oh dear, I suppose I’ll just have to tighten my belt then,” he said, sarcasm oozing from his voice. He turned back to Agent Walters and nodded. “Miss Walters?”

Still blinking and unable to help but feel incredibly silly, Agent Walters leaned over and straddled the coffee table, gripping one hand on each side of it. The group watched as her shoulders strained and her back tightened through her suit as her face reddened up. Applejack watched as the tiny woman's teeth clenched and her nose and brow wrinkled, struggling in vain to crush the coffee table between her dainty hands. Walters began to grunt with effort as her hair started to fall into her face. After a few moments, Samson waved her off.

“I think that’s enough, Miss Walters.” he said, noting Applejack’s curious expression as she stepped away. The small woman cleared her throat, taking a deep breath and brushing an errant hair out of her eyes as she stepped away. Samson nodded to Applejack. “Now you try.” he said simply.

Applejack pursed her lips, looking curiously at the coffee table. She stood up from the chair and in a single, long step standing easily over the short table. She reached down and easily grabbed the sides of the table in her hands. She squeezed it ever so slightly and-


Applejack started, stumbling backwards as the table buckled and splintered beneath her, cracking down the middle before practically shattering like glass. Wood chips and splinters exploded across the room, prompting the other occupants to raise hands over their eyes. Splinters littered the floor as Applejack looked down at her new hands.

Lowering his arm, the doctor cleared his throat. “I believe that settles that,” he said, turning to point at the armrest of the chair she’d been sitting in. “A human in peak physical condition might have been able to break the table, Applejack, but no normal human would be able to completely crush and shatter it the way you just did. And certainly no human would be able to flip over a truck from the inside the way you did when you first woke up.”

“Sun and stars…” Applejack muttered under her breath.

“Although,” Doctor Samson said, scratching his chin, “Knowing now that you didn’t even realize you had these powers rather paints that encounter in a somewhat different light, don’t you think, Agent Hill?”

Agent Hill said nothing, only grunting noncommittally.

“I barely touched that table,” Applejack insisted, stunned. She raised her hands placatingly as she sat back down. “Earth Ponies are known for being strong sorts, but that ain’t normal, Doc.”

“You don’t regularly go around breaking furniture then?” he asked wryly.

She shook her head. “Earth Ponies are naturally stronger and hardier than Pegasi and Unicorns,” Applejack explained, “But we ain’t so strong that we just break everything we touch!”

“Curious,” Samson said with a nod. “I’m afraid you’re going to have to get used to it quickly, though.”

Applejack flexed her new fingers in front of her face, watching them intently. “No kidding.” She muttered. “I don’t like this. There must be some kind of freaky magic going on around here making me stronger than I normally am or something.”

“I can’t speak to that,” Doctor Samson said, pocketing his notepad. “However, I think I’ve heard enough to reach a somewhat reasonable conclusion about all this.” He smiled gently at Applejack. “It’s been very fascinating talking to you, he said, pulling a card out his pocket and handing it to her. “If you ever need to talk again, about anything, you can call me. Anytime. I’ll make time for you.”

Applejack, still stunned from the new discovery of her own brutal strength, gently took the card in her hands. When the doctor reached over to shake her hand, she took it, but pointedly made sure to grasp it as gently as possible. “Er… thanks, doc.”

Doctor Samson stepped towards the door. “Agent Hill, if you’d come with me?”

Hill nodded, casting a dangerous glance to Applejack as she passed, following the doctor. Agent Walters moved to follow but she pointed to the chair she’d been sitting in. “Wait here, Agent.” she said as she exited the room behind him. Agent Walters furtively looked at Applejack, but complied.


--- --- ---


Agent Hill and Doctor Samson moved a few dozen meters away from the room before they spoke. It hardly mattered since the room was soundproofed but the woman had already displayed super strength and invulnerability to small arms, so they weren’t about to take chances. Finally, Agent Hill spoke up. “So?”

Doctor Samson took a long deep breath. “That's a new one on me.”

Agent Hill scowled. “She’s a 6’6” amazon with super strength, abs you could grind meat on, and tits almost as big as my head who thinks she’s a pony, Doctor. I’m sure this is very exciting for you professionally, but I’d like to know if she’s fit for what Fury has planned for her.

Samson frowned. “In that case, hell no. Whether she’s actually delusional or not, she’s far too emotionally unstable from everything she’s lost.”

Hill opened her mouth to retort only to clap it shut as she realized what he said. After a moment she spoke again. “I’m sorry, whether she’s delusional or not?

“Agent Hill,” Samson deadpanned, “You’ve brought me a woman with a story so crazy that nobody in their right mind should ever believe it, but you brought it to me after pulling Captian Goddamn America out of the ice and shoving him in my face. Not four months before that, you ended meeting the literal god of thunder. And only three years before that, I personally witnessed a friend of mine turn into the Jolly Green fucking Giant.”

Hill groaned, dragging her palm across her face. “We should just bite the bullet and bring you on board SHIELD already. You clearly know too much.”

“If you'd asked me four years ago,” Samson said, continuing, “I’d be absolutely certain she was a loon. But at this point I’m hesitant to say she’s delusional and actually be a hundred percent certain of my diagnosis.”

Hill frowned. “How certain can you be, Doctor?”

Samson took a deep breath. “I’m about sixty percent certain”

“That she’s a lunatic?” Hill asked dryly.

"That she's a woman in extreme pain." Samson huffed. “I don't know what crisis you're dealing with this week, Agent Hill, but if you'd pull your head out of your ass for just a split second you might be more sympathetic. Consider what this woman has gone through!”

“I know she’s been stuck in stasis for seventy years, Doctor, but that clearly didn’t push her over the edge or anything.” Hill retorted. “She was making these claims to Agent Coulson well before she found out how long she’d been under.”

“And did you ever stop to consider,” Samson asked, “The conditions that put her under?”

Hill opened her mouth again but quickly shut it again, realization dawning in her eyes. “The archivists are still looking for any relevant documents around object 0-8-5 but…” she trailed off

“This is a woman,” Samson began, “who from what little I’ve read in the file I was given, was found already stashed away in a Nazi encampment back in 1945. Do you understand where she probably came from, then? This woman was likely experimented on by the Nazis, subjected to who-knows-what kind of tortures for who-knows-how long. That’s probably where she got her strength from, and it’s almost certainly where she developed an intricate story of a fantasy land where everything is peaceful and run by magic in an attempt to hide away from the reality of what she’d been through.”

Hill frowned, suddenly silent. She’d been so focused on the absolute insanity of the woman’s story as well as desperately trying to manage Fury’s current plans to bring Stark and the others together that she hadn’t considered the conditions the woman must have gone through before she was put on ice. The accent was still puzzling but it wasn’t out of the question that a woman from the southern US could have been captured by the Nazis. There weren’t many women fighting on the front lines in the second world war, but they did exist.

“Jesus…” she muttered under her breath as she saw Applejack's case in a new light.

“Assuming this hypothesis is true, she’s completely separated herself from reality,” Samson said. “She presents severe dissociative identity disorder and major-depressive symptoms along with a delusional world construct. Combine what she must have been through during the war with the fact that she’s just found out that she’s been in stasis for nearly seventy years and you have a woman who’s at the end of the very last fiber of her rope. I could probably make a career out of her, if it weren’t for the hiccups.”

Hill frowned. “Hiccups?”

“The whole reason I said I was only sixty percent sure.” Samson said. “There’s too much about her that doesn’t add up into any reasonable diagnosis.”

“Like what, doctor?” Hill challenged.

Samson pulled out the file from his bag. “The report you gave me suggested she spent a long time looking at her own face in the mirror, as though she didn’t recognize it. This is actually very odd.”

“What’s so odd about it?” Hill asked.

“Well, normally patients with severe Dissociative Identity Disorder don’t react to their own faces. There are plenty of cases of patients with D.I.D. who thought they were something entirely different from who they really were... but when shown their own faces, they didn’t react as if they saw anything other than what they assumed they were. I myself once dealt with a 46 year old woman who was convinced she was a 7 year old girl. When she was shown her face in the mirror, she insisted that a 7 year old was looking back at her.” Samson explained.

Hill pursed her lips doubtingly. “Surely that can’t be true.”

“The mind will go to extreme lengths to protect itself, Agent Hill. It will even convince itself that it isn’t seeing what is clearly right in front of its face. If Applejack in there truly feels more safe as a magical pony, then her mind should be working overtime to convince her that there was a pony in the mirror. It wouldn’t pile more stress upon itself by showing her what she clearly doesn’t believe she is.” He pulled out his notepad. “And on that note, there’s the inconsistencies of her delusion.”

“Wouldn’t inconsistencies in the delusion suggest that it’s less likely to be true?” Hill asked, trying not to show that she was having trouble keeping up.

“Exactly the opposite.” Samson said, scowling at her. “And frankly it’s a little frightening that the Deputy Director of SHIELD doesn’t know this,” he commented dryly. “If a mind is creating delusions to protect itself then it tries to fill in as many details as possible to make it seem all the more real and tangible to the person experiencing the delusion,” he explained. “And when presented with contradictory information, the mind works overtime trying to rationalize it in as believable and coherent a way as possible. It’s the same way with people who are lying. They go into great detail to try and make their story seem more believable.” He motioned to the door of Applejack’s cell. “Instead, when I asked her how her supposed princesses raised the sun and moon, she admitted that she didn’t know how their magic worked. When I asked if she was a member of high society she admitted she wasn’t, which seems to contradict her supposed high-level contacts. And what’s more, instead of putting herself in the seemingly safe, powerful, and secure role of ‘magic student to a powerful princess who controls the sun,’ like a powerless and frightened person might, she put herself in the role of a lowly apple farmer.” He switched hands back to the file. “And all of this is made even more confusing by her lack of balance and coordination.”

“She’s a little unsteady after being under for so long. So what?” Hill asked.

“You did an MRI on her while she was asleep correct?” he said, pulling out a particular page. “A CAT scan? An X-Ray?”

Hill nodded. “She came back in perfect physical health.”

“Exactly,” he said, handing her the medical report. “She has no brain damage to speak of or anything to suggest that she should have lost her basic motor functions.” Samson explained. “Basic movement like walking or moving your fingers is automatic. It isn’t affected by psychological issues unless there’s severe brain damage involved, and yet she’s still moving around like a toddler. If she were merely delusional, she should be walking perfectly fine. If she were, say, a quadruped like a pony suddenly forced into a bipedal stance however…”

Hill frowned, handing him back the paper. “Alright, fine. I get what you’re saying.”

“Under any ordinary circumstance, I’d say she belongs in the Ravencroft Institute.” Samson said. “But there’s just too much that doesn’t add up about her and my gut tells me something is wrong here. My advice…” Samson trailed off, looking back at the door. “My advice is to use SHIELD’s resources to look up the records of every woman you can find who served in the military in World War 2. Nurses, pilots, drivers, soldiers, all of them. Figure out which ones you can’t account for and see if any of them come close to matching her description and if any of them were from the southern United States. And if you don’t find anyone…” he trailed off.

Hill sighed, gently rubbing her forehead and looking at the door to the cell herself. “If we don’t find anyone the world might just be more insane than any of us realized... And I might just have to admit to Coulson that he was right.”

“And in the meantime, I highly suggest you keep Director Fury from putting her on his little super hero squad,” he insisted. “Even if it turns out she really is a magical pony from another world and she isn’t delusional, that still means she’s dealing with the loss of everybody she’s ever known and loved on top of being hurtled across the damn universe.”

Hill frowned. “I don’t control what Director Fury does.”

“You have his ear, though.” Samson said, putting the file away. “And I meant what I said to her, too. She needs therapy, Agent Hill. She needs kindness and stability. She doesn’t need to be thrown into a group full of metas and sent after terrorists.”

“Thank you, doctor.” Agent Hill said with a final sigh. “I’ll take everything you’ve said under advisement.”

Samson frowned at the platitude but put up no further argument. “Will that be all then?”

“Yes, I believe so. Thank you for your time, Doctor.” Agent Hill replied, flagging down a passing agent. “Take Doctor Samson here to the deck and have somebody escort him back to the mainland.”

“Yes Ma’am!” The agent said, motioning for the doctor to come with him. “Follow me, please, sir.”

As Samson followed the agent out of the hallway he turned back to Hill. “I mean it, Agent Hill. The absolute worst thing you can do for Applejack right now is to stick her in the Avengers.”

And with that final statement made, he disappeared around the corner.

Agent Hill slumped against the wall, letting out a long, slow breath. The magnitude of what she had in that cell was beginning to dawn on her. The idea that she was a soldier who’d gotten shafted in the war like the Captain had still seemed like the most logical conclusion to come to but it was getting harder and harder to just assume that to be the case anymore. The Doctor’s diagnosis seemed sound at first, but she couldn’t deny all the hiccups that he picked up on. At the very least she had a severely traumatized World War 2 veteran on her hands, but now it was looking like there was every chance she had something much, much more.

Either way, Samson was right. This woman wasn’t fit to serve on Fury’s team. But she had no power over that decision.

One way or another, Fury would have his Avengers.