Chaos Runs Rampant

by RK_Striker_JK_5

Chapter Seven

The water stirred, rippling slightly against the sides of the glass. The surface started bulging, rocking like waves on a beach. Finally, one small drop broke the surface tension and floated up, past the rim and into the air.

Megan stared at the small droplet, eyes narrow. She held her hand close to it, fingers glowing a slight reddish-orange. “Light as a feather, stiff as a board,” she muttered. “I got it. I got it!”

You know, you don't have to repeat that mantra from 'The Craft', right? I mean if it helps, all right. But it's really not necessary.”

Megan groaned at the sound of her Inner Voice, a 'part' of her that was helping her learn about her internal magic. “Remember Twilight Wish? It helped her out!”

Oh, yeah. 'I wish, I wish!' You know, I wonder who she had foals with.”

“I'll ask Twilight Sparkle if we ever see her again.”

What do you mean 'if'? We've gotten out of worse jams before, just on Earth!”

Megan sighed and sat back down. “I seriously doubt being able to levitate a few drops of water is gonna help against Discord.”

Well, you never know. The littlest things can sometimes make the biggest impacts. Isn't that what Wind Whistler used to say?”

Asmile tugged at Megan's lips. “Something like that...” She paused and glanced up. “Wait, have we decided what to call you? It's more than a little awkward and rude for you not to have a name.”

Well, I mean I'm still 'you', just a part separate for the moment. A bit of a coping mechanism, maybe?”

“I suppose,” Megan responded. “But still... what about 'Reflector'?”

The same name as the Decepticon who was three robots and combined into a Polaroid camera?”

Megan smiled as she stood back up. “Think of it as redeeming the name.” She sighed as she focused on the glass once more. “I am so gonna need therapy after this.”

Pretty good idea, there. I'll make my own appointment.”

Megan raised her hand towards the glass, but paused. “No, not even gonna try.” She looked to the glass and narrowed her eyes. “Light as a feather, stiff as a board...”

Spanish Steel and Fancy Pants slowly trotted down a nigh-infinite hallway. Spanish Steel turned to his companion. “How long has it been since Blueblood disappeared down one of these doors?”

Fancy Pants floated a watch out of his jacket pocket and glanced at it. “Well, if this is right, chicken o'clock,” he said, turning it to face Spanish Steel. “Almost mundane for the old chap, wouldn't you say?”

A smile slowly crossed Spanish Steel's muzzle. “I don't mind.” He cantered about to face one of the identical doors lining the hall. He reached up with a wing, but stopped before grabbing the doorknob. “Maybe...”

Fancy Pants' horn glowed. An identically-colored magic enveloped Spanish Steel's wing as he yanked it away. “Not good, General. Not good at all! Remember what happened last time?”

A groan escaped the pegasus. “What else can we do, Chancellor?” Spanish Steel spun about, coming nearly muzzle-to-muzzle with Fancy Pants. “The hallway goes on pretty much forever in both directions. I've got some food and a flask of water, but that's definitely not going to last forever.”

Fancy Pants sighed. “I knew I shouldn't have gotten out of bed this morning. I rather wish this was some sort of horrific nightmare, and the smell of breakfast would wake me from it.”

“Me, too,” Spanish Steel admitted. He looked up at where the ceiling should be, instead of an endless gray expanse. “Boredom can be quite preferable to this madness, where I don't know where we're going or where we've been. Or if we'll get out of this.”

A small smile crossed Fancy Pants' muzzle. “Don't worry, old chap. I'm sure Twilight Sparkle and her friends have the situation well in hoof. They've dealt with far worse, after all. Remember Tirac? Queen Celestia and Neo-Equestria?” His expression fell. “Oh, my.”


Fancy Pants grimaced. “I shudder to think what that demon's doing to her or the other prisoners. If I remember, Neo-Equestria's version of Discord gave her some sort of prophecy that dictated her entire course of action. Bonnie knows what he's doing to her, now.”

Spanish Steel's wings rippled. “Not even she deserves that. None of them do. None of us do.” He nickered and tossed his head about. “Oh, this is bucking ridiculous! We're trapped in this endless hallway with a cursed Blueblood and we're never going to get out and we'll be forgotten and–”

Fancy Pants trotted over to Spanish Steel. He took the pegasus' head in his telekinesis and moved it around so they locked eyes. “Stop that, stop that! If you continue down that trail you'll lose control again, General. And if you go down I'll almost certainly follow soon after. And then what?”

A slow sigh escaped Spanish Steel. He closed his eyes and his nostrils flared. “In with the sane, out with the crazy,” he chanted out. “Thank you, Chancellor.” He looked around. “Granny Bonnie, if you can hear me? We could use some help right now.”

A beam of midnight-black light stabbed through the air, tearing a hole in the fabric of space a few feet from the pair. It slashed down, widening the hole and allowing Princess Luna herself to walk through. A beam of light trailed behind her, crossing through the portal she had just emerged from. Luna looked around, quickly spotting Spanish Steel and Fancy Pants. “Huzzah!” she cried out, thrusting a hoof in the air. She turned back to the hole in space. “Sister! I have found General Steel and Chancellor Pants!”

Celestia's voice echoed from beyond the hole Luna had carved in the ether. “Okay, Luna! Could you hurry it up a bit, though? I don't know how long I can maintain the connection with you!”

Luna nodded. “Of course. Gentlestallions, if you please? Time is short.”

The two stallions exchanged a look. Spanish Steel turned back to their would-be rescuer. “Princess... Captain Blueblood is trapped here, too. He's been... affected, changed by Discord's chaotic magic.”

Fancy Pants slowly nodded. “Indeed, Princess. We can't abandon the old boy. It wouldn't be proper or right.”

Luna's eyes narrowed. Her eyes darted back and forth. “It would not, Chancellor. Fortunately, I know my nephew and how his magic feels.” She slowly looked from left to right. “Ah, ha!”

One of the endless doors flew open. Blueblood floated out of it, his front half resembling a buffalo, and his back half a deer. His muzzle was in the air, and he paid his surroundings little mind as he floated over to Luna's side.

Luna stared at him. “Oh, this is worse than I thought.” She looked to Fancy Pants and Spanish Steel as they started towards the portal. “Discord's magic is a curse upon this world.”

Fancy Pants paused right before entering the portal. He looked Blueblood over and whinnied. “Sadly, your highness, this is better than the last time he walked out of the door.” With that, he turned and left the infinite hallway.

Spanish Steel spared Luna and Blueblood a glance. “Last time, he was split into three floating parts. One was his head, his midsection resembled a human's, and his hindquarters...” He trailed off and stared into space before blinking and shaking his head. Spanish Steel then walked through the portal, following Fancy Pants.

Luna sighed and shook her head. “Do not worry, dear nephew. You shall be safe... or rather safer from Discord's magic.” She turned and walked through, leaving the now-empty hallway and sealing the portal up behind her and Blueblood.

Fancy Pants and Spanish Steel respectively trotted and flew out of a small tear in space. They emerged from the cerulean whirlpool and found themselves in the Royal Canterlot Gardens, or some twisted, nightmarish version of it. Topiaries had uprooted themselves and were running wild all over. Some of them were fighting, ripping off branches and shredding leaves. Small furrows formed in the dirt and raced around underhoof, eventually coming to a stop. Creatures with the heads of birds and bodies of Squirrels poked their heads out of the ground, sending up small showers of dirt and debris. And finally, the sun and moon raced through the sky, spinning around each other in the sky when not dipping below one horizon, only to emerge from a completely random part of the sky.

Celestia stood off to the side, head held high. A golden dome of energy flowed from the tip of her horn, surrounding an area a few dozen meters in diameter. About thirty servants and government officials huddled underneath the dome, an island of sanity in a stormy sea of chaos. Celestia'a head tilted down slightly as Luna walked over. “Is that... Blueblood?” she asked.

Luna nodded. “I am afraid the demon's magic got to him, Sister. Hopefully your shield spell can cleanse him.” She floated the discorded Blueblood through the barrier golden barrier and over to Celestia's side. “May your magic drive Discord's taint from his form!” she shouted.

Even as Blueblood passed through, his form started changing. His entire form shrank and became more uniform as the buffalo and deer halves reverted back to his original equine form. Blueblood's expression cleared and his eyes regained their sharp focus. “What happened?” He looked around. “Aunties? Is this some sort of prank or merriment?”

Celestia shook her head. “I'm afraid not, Blueblood. Discord escaped and kidnapped... Megan.” Her eyes drifted to the large structure Discord had formed, still bearing his leafy likeness on it. “Right now Twilight and the others are inside that structure Discord formed, searching for him and Megan. All Luna and I can do is triage out here, trying to keep as many safe as possible.” She looked around at those huddling under her shield. “I wish I could do more, extend my shield out further, but it's taxing enough right now.”

Blueblood looked up at the sky, eyes squinting as he focused on the sun darting about. “How much energy can you get from the sun?”

“Enough to maintain the shield indefinitely, but not much beyond that.”

Blueblood nickered and kicked at the dirt. He suddenly looked up, his horn glowing. A thin beam of magic shot from the tip, striking Celestia's own horn. “Then let me share some of my own magic with you, Auntie. Bonnie knows you need it more than I!” He held a hoof to his forehead. “Just give me a small patch of ground to... lie on...”

Spanish Steel and Fancy Pants entered the dome and flanked Blueblood, steadying him as they helped him down. Fancy Pants half-smiled. “You were always given too little credit, old boy,” he said, glancing up at Celestia. His own horn glowed, and he fired off a short burst of magic. “Princess, if I may?”

Celestia closed her eyes as their magic joined her own. “It shames me that I cannot protect you on my own,” she admitted, cheeks turning scarlet.

Spanish Steel whinnied as he spotted several soldiers under Celestia's protective shield. “I know that feeling, your majesty,” he muttered, wings folding tight against his barrel.

Luna walked up to Celestia. “If there's nothing else, I shall continue my rescue efforts.”

Celestia looked around. “I think we're all set here for the moment, Luna.” She fired a steady beam of magic, linking her horn with Luna's. “Just be careful. I don't know what I'd do without you.”

Luna's eyes went to the sky as the moon passed overhead. “Oh... you'd manage,” she said, before turning and walking through a portal.”

Celestia glanced down as Luna left the Canterlot Royal Garden. “Only because you could still watch over me then.”

Queen Celestia walked up to the sink in her jail cell, a metal cup balanced precariously on her forehead. With some careful maneuvering, she slid it down off, past her nub of a horn and into the basin. She brought a hoof up and turned the spigot, only for Discord's head and serpentine neck to flow out. “Oh, how original,” she said, stepping back as he poured himself out into the air.

Discord twisted his body into knots, wringing himself out and sending water flying all about. “Well, what can I say? I'm a sucker for the classics!” He looked around. “So, trying to get time off for good behavior? Has your Twilight tried some harebrained scheme to bust you out of here?”

Queen Celestia cantered around Discord and went back to the sink. “Well, your chaotic magic has been... well, evil. Now if you don't mind, I'm a bit thirsty. May I have some actual water, please?”

Discord stared at her, one eyebrow arched. “You seem quite a bit calmer since the last time we met.” His hair curled around into dreadlocks, a tie-dyed T-shirt flashed into existence over his upper torso, and smoke billowed about. “So, did you expand your inner consciousness and break on through to the other side? Maybe find some interesting plants that you rolled up and smoked to find this calm?”

Queen Celestia tossed her head back and laughed, the sound quickly devolving into choking gasps. When she looked back at the draconequus, her right eye started twitching. “Oh, Discord! Right now I'm internally screaming my head off.” Her mouth turned up in a rictus of a smile. “The Queenly Mask is good for more than just social occasions.”

A sigh escaped Discord. “Boy. My alternate-quantum reality counterpart really did a number on you, didn't he.” He floated about, passing through the bar cells and into the main hallway. His eyes popped out of their sockets and whizzed about before jetting back and plopping into his mouth, eventually rolling back up into their sockets. “Oh, don't be so stoic, Celly! Your fellow prisoners are making the most of what I'm offering them!”

Twilight hopped about her cell, quills and scrolls just out of reach of her hooves. “Get down here!” she shouted, jumping up and just missing them. “I need these! I NEED THESE SO I CAN MAKE SENSE!”

Flutters was huddling in a corner of her cell, wings folded over her head. Three rats the size of bulldogs surrounded her, teeth bared and dripping saliva as they snarled at her. Mosquitoes the size of falcons hovered near her, buzzing. “No, please stop,” she whimpered. “I'll be good! I'M SORRY!”

AJ sat on her bunk. Ghostly shades resembling her long-dead parents stood next to the bed, staring up at her. “Why did you forsake our legacy?” Pear Butter asked. “Why did you deceive so many?”

AJ's breath hitched in her throat. “No, no. I didn't mean to, Ma! I thought I was doing good things!”

Rares galloped about her cell, chasing various items she had collected while imprisoned. “GET BACK HERE!” she screamed, eyes ablaze. “YOU BELONG TO ME! YOU'RE MINE!”

Pinkie's lips curled back, exposing her teeth in a sneer. She batted her forelegs in the air. “You're not funny! You're being mean to me! Shut up, you hear?” her ears folded against her skull, and she hunkered down against the hard, stone floor. “Leave me alone!”

Shiny stood in front of a translucent image of Princess Cadance. Every time he took a step towards it, the image faded. When he stepped away, it solidified. He stared at it, eyes never leaving the shade of his beloved.

Finally, Dash sat in the middle of her cell, staring up at a patch of blue sky hanging right above her. She flexed the remnants of her wings and sighed. “So close,” she murmured. “Just so... so not cool.”

Discord turned and flew back into Queen Celestia's cell. “See? What'd I tell you?”

Queen Celestia stared at him. “I think you might be crazier than the Discord back in my reality. Or at least more vicious in your own way. He set up the bogus prophecy that destroyed all I had worked for. You seem to live more for the moment, for the thrill of breaking someone.”

Discord grinned. “Oh, I have plans. They're a bit short-term, some contradict each other, some run parallel to what you desire, but make no mistake, Queenie. I have plans. And not just for Equus, either!” He held his paws up, two spheres forming in their palms. One was Equus, with a super-continent dominating one hemisphere and a trail of islands scattered all about the ocean. The other was Earth, with its continents scattered about. “The humans are so wonderfully chaotic! I think they'll like me a lot!” He closed his paw over Earth, crushing it. The pieces turned steel-gray and reassembled themselves into a metal world. “I think Cybertron might like me, too!”

“They'll stop you,” Queen Celestia finally replied. “They stopped me. They'll stop you.”

Fire danced in Discord's eyes. He brought out a stick with marshmallows impaled on it and shot the fire over them roasting the marshmallows. He slid the stick all the way into his mouth, then spat the marshmallows out. They expanded into clouds, chocolate rain falling from them. “You're so gullible you'd buy the beans without any need for them to be magic,” he said, chewing the stick up and swallowing it. He tossed a wave at Queen Celestia, the water washing over her head and soaking her mane. “Ta-ta for now!” Discord turned, grabbed empty space and pulled it open, stepping through the hole in the ether before it snapped back into place.

Queen Celestia stared at the spot Discord had vanished from. Her breath hitched in her throat, and eyes bulged from their sockets. She backed away from it, the Queenly Mask slipping away from her as quickly as it had formed. “They'll stop him. They'll stop him,” she repeated as she cantered about, eventually collapsing onto her cot. She folded her ears down as tightly as she could against her skull, then folded her forelegs over her ears to drown out the screams of her fellow prisoners as much as possible.

For US Marine Sergeant Robert 'Bobby' Field, his assignment to the Everfree Forest guarding the reconstruction team for the Castle of the Two Sisters could feel almost... quaint, nostalgic. It reminded him of the years spent in the Realm, fighting off what would once be considered to be otherworldly threats and not sure what to expect around the next corner.

Right now he stood near a newly-rebuilt wall of the castle, his trusty magic club, a souvenir from his adventures in the Realm, held high as several pieces of heavy construction equipment shambled or floated towards him. “Okay, if this is some sort of damned joke, it's not funny!” he shouted, as he jabbed at them with his club. The enchanted wood glowed with each movement, brightening as it came closer to the marauding machinery. He looked his club over. “Ah, screw this!” He brought the weapon up and, with a loud shout, started swinging.

The club struck a chainsaw, knocking it out of the air. A large flash of light burst from the point of impact as it flew off, striking the ground and bouncing a few times before stopping. It lay where it landed, not moving or operating.

Bobby looked at the chainsaw, then at his club, then at the machines around him. Some of them waggled about in midair, almost as if they were looking from Bobby to the knocked-out chainsaw. A smile slowly formed on Bobby's mouth. “Thank you, Dungeon Master!” he shouted as he moved forward, club swinging.

The machines all scattered, flying or scurrying off in different directions. Most of the ones in the air evaded Bobby's blows, but the ones on the ground were quickly knocked out. Bobby hefted his club high into the air. “No one stops Bobby the Barbarian!”

A noise from the side caught Bobby's attention. He looked over, gasping as a large monster shambled over. It was bipedal, with the upper body of a trout, and lower legs in pants and dress shoes. Bobby's eyes widened as he spotted a name tag right below the fish's gills, reading 'Potter'. “Colonel?”

The Discorded Colonel Henry Potter, head of the detachment of marines assigned to the Everfree, shambled towards bobby, mouth opening and closing. Fishing lines swung from his fins, large hooks tied to them, their barbs somehow glinting in the dim light.

Bobby sucked in a breath. “Oh, son of a bitch.” He swallowed and brought his club up. “Colonel, are you in there? Can–” He ducked and rolled to the side as one of the hooks sailed at him, nearly slicing his head open. “All right, I'll take the court-martial!” With that, he charged Henry, club swinging.

Henry, being half-man and half-fish, was unable to dodge as Bobby ran up to him and swung his club. The wood struck him, not nearly as hard as it did the machines, but enough to send him falling to the dirt. Even as Henry fell, he was enveloped by a bright flash of light. When it faded, Henry Potter lay there on the ground, fully human once more, a fish in his right hand a fishing pole in his left. He stared up at the forest canopy, blinking. “Sergeant Field?”

Bobby leaned forward, paling slightly. “Yes, sir?”

“What happened to me?”

Bobby swallowed. “Well, sir, as far as I can tell you were turned into a fish-man with giant fishing hooks for weapons. You attacked me and I struck you with my club.” He pasted a grin on his face. “Sorry?”

Henry groaned. “Apology accepted, Sergeant. Now could you please help me up?”

Bobby knelt down and grabbed Henry's right arm. He helped the older man to his feet. “Sir, do you remember what you were doing before you became that thing?”

There was a pause. Henry looked over his shoulder. “I was at a river with some of the ponies on the restoration team, doing some fishing. I heard a voice say something about me wanting to be with the fish so badly and then... I'm staring up at you.” He looked back, eyes landing on all the pieces of machinery scattered about. “What happened here?”

Bobby scratched the back of his head. “Well, I was just walking along when the machinery started up. I thought it was some sort of glitch or prank, until they all started flying at my head!” He hefted his club. “If it wasn't for this, I'd be in the middle of a horror movie by now!”

Henry looked around. Distant screams and shouts, muffled by the walls and foliage, echoed. “I think we already are, Sergeant.”

Bobby looked his club over. “Sir, if I may test something out?” At Henry's nod he walked a few paces away from his CO. He let his club slide down a bit out of his grip, until he was only holding it by the strap. He started spinning it around, the wood glowing and brightening with each revolution. He finally brought the club down onto the ground, striking the dirt with a mighty thwack!

The ground at the point of impact shattered and cracked, bolts of energy racing along shallow fissures forming in the dirt. A large dome of translucent energy burst from the crater, expanding out for a few meters and passing through both everything it touched, restoring them to what passes for 'normal' in the Everfree Forest and removing Discord's taint.

Henry looked around. “Nice job, Sergeant. Think that'll work again?”

Bobby looked his club over. He walked forward a few feet before stopping, spinning his club around again and bringing it down again with another thwack! This time, however, the point of impact barely sparked, and no dome formed. He sighed and brought his club back up. “Sorry, sir. I think it's gotta recharge.”

Henry walked up to his side. “It's all right, Sergeant.” He waved a hand around. “Looks like you've already done some–look out!”

Bobby brought his club up just as a timberwolf with wings and the head of a snake bounded at him. He jabbed his club at it, striking the head. It flashed, breaking apart into a timberwolf, an eagle, and a snake. The animals all scattered, running, flying, or slithering off.

Henry swallowed. “Good job, Sergeant.”

Bobby relaxed slightly. “Thank you. I think it'd be best if I take the lead in seeking out any from the restoration crew, or our fellow marines?”

“Quite prudent, Sergeant. Lead on and keep that club high!”

For the tenth time that hour, Mike Richards pulled his cell phone out and scrolled down to his wife's number. For the tenth time he looked at it and almost called before sighing and sliding it back into his pocket.

The kitchen door opened and a young blond about Danielle's age walked in. “Hey, Mister Richards,” Tessa Yeager said, walking over to him by the kitchen counter. “You all right?”

Mike looked to her and pasted a smile on his face. “Oh, me? Just fine.” He waved her off. “Just making lunch for Cade.” He leaned in close. “You know how he gets when in his workshop.”

Tessa rolled her eyes. “Only been dealing with it since I was five, Mister Richards.” She looked him over. “Are you all right? You seem a little tense.”

Mike hesitated for a moment. He picked up a brown paper bag with one hand and held up his phone with the other. “Megan said she'd call me after her business with that Discord thing was done. Unless there's been some sort of time-slippage going on, that should have been nearly an hour ago.” He swallowed. “I'm worried.”

Tessa bowed her head. “Well, that explains it,” she finally said. She looked back up. “What do you need, if anything?”

A sigh escaped Mike. “I don't know if I 'need' anything, Tessa. What's the old saying about hoping for the best?”

“And preparing for the worst,” Tessa finished. She looked to a silver picture frame on the counter, showing a young, wild-eyed man with short brown hair and a woman with longer blond hair and a face almost identical to Tessa's. “It's a hard lesson.” She cleared her throat and held out her hands. “Here, let me help you with that.”

Mike handed over the paper bag and a thermos of coffee, grabbed another bag, and followed Tessa out of the large, two-story house and across the yard to an old, dilapidated barn. The pair maneuvered around several craters and ditches in the ground and walked up to a small side door in the barn, next to the much larger main ones. Warning signs were plastered all over the door and the wall surrounding it, while a scavenged and refitted traffic post had been stuck into a patch of concrete next to the door.

Tessa looked the traffic light over. “Okay, green. We're cool.” She opened the door and walked in, Mike following.

The interior of the barn had been long since gutted and rebuilt into a combination laboratory and test chamber. Random bits of machinery, tool racks, and plain junk were scattered about, with high-powered lights strung up on the ceiling and casting harsh shadows all about.

A man in a lab coat and goggles around his forehead about Mike's age was sitting at a table, old-style tape recorder in hand. “Notes for future experiments; energon is not suitable for use inside an internal-combustion engine.” He kneaded his forehead before continuing. “Although I'm wondering if the Mythbusters don't know that or not.” He turned in his chair as Mike and Tessa approached. “Oh, hey!”

Mike placed the paper bag on the table in front of Cade. “Hey, old buddy. It's lunchtime, and Tessa and I know how you can get... really into your work.”

Cade looked back at the bag. “I had breakfast. Tessa brought me some.”

Tessa walked around to Cade's side. “Did you eat the breakfast I gave you?”

Cade swallowed. He cleared his throat and waved his hands about. “Well, do you see the food anywhere around?”

Two teenagers walked to the table, each a couple years younger than Tessa. “Thanks for the breakfast, Mister Yeager,” the one in the lead, a young girl with pale skin, short brown hair and wearing a vest over a band T-shirt, said. “It was pretty good.”

“Yeah, those hash browns were divine,” the second one said, a young man with dark skin and a halo of curly brown hair said. He looked to Mike and Tessa and grinned. “Oh, hey! When did you get here?”

Cade slowly shrank down in his chair, while, in an impressive bit of improvised choreography, crossed their arms and glared down their noses at the eccentric inventor. “Well, I mean they're both growing kids,” Cade said, swallowing and sweating slightly.

Tessa waved a hand at the pair. “Mister Richards, this is Charlie Watson and Guillermo Gutierrez. Dad hired Guillermo two weeks ago to help out around the lab. Charlie's been working her a few months, actually. Just with the whole Neo-Equestrian invasion she couldn't come over while you, Megan and Michelle have been here.”

Mike nodded. He held his arm out and shook their hands. “Nice to meet you two. Thanks for making sure Cade's limbs stay attached.”

Guillermo grinned as he pumped Mike's hand. “Been a pleasure, sir. But please, call me 'Memo'.”

Mike's brow furrowed. “Well... all right, but why– “

Memo pointed his thumbs back at himself. “Because you always need to get the memo!” he said, grinning.

Silence reigned around the table for a few awkward moments. Mike cleared his throat. “So, Charlie, the Smiths? Good band. Danny, Cade and I made our way to Pittsburgh for one of their concerts in... when was it, Cade?” he snapped his fingers. “August of 1986!”

Charlie's face twisted in jealousy. “Oh, lucky!”

Cade chuckled. “That was great.” He stood up and turned to Charlie and Memo. “All right. I need you two to get the power convertor ready for full-scale testing. I think we've got all the bugs worked out. Bring it out to the back field. I'll meet you there in a few.”

Charlie looked to Memo. “I'll get the dolly ready while you open the back doors. Then we'll get the blast shields in place, okay?” She looked to Cade and tossed him a quick salute before turning and heading off.

Memo stood there for a few moments. His grin quickly faded. “Wait, 'blast shields'?” He hurried off after Charlie. “Hey, Charlie! Wait up! You're kidding about those, right?”

Mike shook his head as Memo ran off. “He'll learn. He'll learn.”

Cade looked mike over. “So, what's the problem?” He held up a hand. “And don't, Mike. I'm the immature doofus who needs his own daughter to remind him to eat. You're the responsible one with his head planted firmly on your shoulders.” He cocked his head to the side. “Megan?”

Mike's head drooped. “Megan hasn't called yet. I'm worried about her, Cade. This Discord sounds like real bad news. I'm not sure if I should call or not. What if she's in the middle of sealing him away or something and whoops! There goes her ringtone, or it starts buzzing. She almost never silences her phone unless she's in a theater or something like that.”

Cade placed his hands on his hips and bowed his head. “I get what you mean, Mike. I mean...” He looked up, his mouth stretched in a gin. “Ah, come on, man!” he slapped Mike on the arm. “It's Megan! She can handle herself. Wasn't she having to deal with crap like this since she was thirteen? She'll be fine, buddy. And she's not alone, either. She's got the ponies, right?”

Mike barked a laugh. “Right, right! They'll be fine! Maybe a bit of mischief with Discord, but nothing she can't handle. Nothing at all.”

Cade jabbed a thumb over his shoulder. “Okay, come on to the back field. We'll run some tests, have some brewskies. It'll be a blast!” He held his hands up. “W-well, not literally.” He turned and started walking to the aft end of the barn.

Mike and Tessa followed. Mike leaned in close to the young woman. “We're not actually gonna be drinking any alcohol, right?”

Tessa shook her head. “Oh, no. We're all gonna need our wits about us when that convertor starts exploding. Or transforming. Or both.” She shuddered slightly. “Like this one time...”

Mike paid just enough attention to Tessa as she talked to get the gist, but his mind quickly drifted back to the Rainbow Bridge, across it, and to the love of his life. She'll be fine. She'll be fine.