An Equestrian Engineer

by JetGrey

1: A Unicorn Without Magic

There is always something infinitely curious about beginnings. They start without warning - no fanfare or blazing trumpets to warn their hapless victims. Nor is there any hiding from such a change. You are simply swept away by them...

"Are you sure, then, that it will come? You know, I can already conjure light." This came from across the study, to where I sat. Silver wandered his way through the room, poking into the stacks of books around me. My brother, the fiend, started his way through the mess around me. Tomes of magic and history formed a treacherous, musty landscape that had become a feature of the room. I had long lost sight of the floor. Its stained wood was now covered by crumpled notes

My brother's always carried a hint of smugness now that he outstripped me. I set my latest book down, ears flattening with humiliation.

Of the many known races and creatures that roamed throughout our land of Equestria, the Unicorn is a race of sorcery. Most are limited to parlor tricks or spells dedicated to our profession, but many could keep on getting more and more skilled through study and practice. Certain families and pedigrees had power thrumming through their bloodlines, and ours' traced back almost a thousand years.

All of this made my situation more vexing. My magic was limited: almost anypony with a horn and a stray thought could best me at casting spells. I could do simple levitation of small objects but not much more. The journal in front of me demanded all of my focus to unshelve.

My brother, years younger, was catching up too quickly; he would pass my ability soon, and never missed an opportunity to rub it in.

"...and what will the Toities think?"

The insolent whelp's words hit my nerves like a riding crop. Two could play this game...

"Why must you be so concerned about appearances? It is a great thing to have a horn - but you lack the head behind it, foal!"

I almost regretted my words, but his mood was shared by too many around me. Condescension seemed like my companion on rare trips outward. In a family renowned for being powerful wizards and sages, I was best known for my inability. Even Father, whom I once felt would best understand, pressed harder with my lessons.

I could appreciate the extra time in the study - if I were alone!

"Better watch that temper! Mom says that's bad for concentration - and you need all the help you can get. You've got that exam-thing tomorrow, and you might be the first in hundreds of years who might fail!"

My eyes shot up from the desk, across the papers and books. It scorched past alchemical reagents and vials, to his impish face. It didn't help he was right, albeit partially. Image was everything to a proud family like mine. They pressured me to succeed not because I needed that future, but they did.

Silver's last cut dealt, I saw the colt leave through the oaken doors. Just like his namesake: he was flashy, quick to show you your faults, and slightly toxic. He wasn't always a pest, but the recent attention I had attracted set him off. Knowing that just ground at me worse.

Trying to bring my anger in check, I turned to a source of inspiration. Across a stack of spell-books and atlases, a small turbine sat mounted on display. Its myriad of tubes and hosing snaked their way inside, where delicately crafted fans lined up in perfect stages.

My eyes sparked upon first seeing this machine. Back then, wear and corrosion had seized it up its moving parts. Days were spent researching it, taking it apart, and restoring it. The turbine was now practically mine. In my head, I could see every part fitting together. Like me, it was a tool; we were both designed for a purpose. Neither of us could magic that fact away.

I shook my head. Unlike the steady rules that governed turbines, the arcane was a hopeless knot. The convolutions of its rules made just as little sense as the incantations I was being forced to learn. Sighing, I headed of to bed, dreading the coming dawn.

The next day came with the test Silver was all to happy to point out. To prove I was competent enough in magic to "defend the household", I had to impress the family heads. Another who-knows-how-old tradition, I was to freeze water, then boil it off - but manipulate the steam produced. Father had, as a colt, forged armor out of frost and weapons of hissing vapor. I would be lucky to bring the water past lukewarm.

Even with all of my study, I knew that I would fail. I wanted to run or find any excuse to avoid the saddest fall of my life. I gritted my teeth against the the inevitable, and made my way to the ballroom.

The whole household watched me enter. Quiet stares told me nothing, but I felt the thrum of their anxiety. A low, metal dais had been moved into the room; its bowl-shaped top held a pool of water that reflected my silent desperation. I played my part, throwing my magic at the liquid. Spare snippets of what I had learned were all me to cling to. My efforts fell short.

I bungled the spells to the point where I could no longer muster energy from my horn. Disappointment hung in the air like fog, as I racked my brains for anything I could do. If not with brute force enchantment, perhaps something else. Just as they had turned to leave, images of the turbine went through my mind.


The spark of hope I saw as they slowly spun to face me cleared away all doubt.

"I wish to try again. I can do this without magic."

I requested the turbine from the study, a lamp, a broom, and a gas burner. The old machine used to power the lights of the estate - before the Ever-lit spell made it an expensive curiosity. Old magnets and ruddy coils hardly needed maintaining, and they'd be enough for this.

Assembling the project was swift. In moments, I had water boiling into the machine. High-pressure steam swirled the fans with a rising shriek. This device, now pointed towards the ceiling, was sending off an invisible (though very loud) jet. The lamp's wires took some work to attach, but the bulb shone with the power I was calling - not from a horn, either!

They still weren't "wowed". For this, I had to give them a little scare.

"Magic is fairly easy for a trained Unicorn to detect. However, this is a weapon that is invisible, and deadly..."

I strained to levitate the broom, bringing it closer to the focused blast of exhaust. Like a shot, it embedded in the frescoed ceiling. All of us were shaken by the suddenness of it - I myself expected it to be sliced.

Even so, the test was over. Without magic, I had won!

While I waited, the family consulted itself with quiet murmurs. Uneasy muttering and muted discussion filtered through a magical privacy screen. I counted each long minute of their talk; it took several score for them to finally decide. Each pony filed out, with the exception of Father. His face was unreadable.


I sat down, expectant. I had done it. I was saved by the science I knew, and could understan-

"You are no mage. It is apparent that you lack the talent."

I could feel my chest constricting. I knew what this meant. To prevent an embarrassment, I would be sent away from Canterlot. Exiled. Tight lipped, but strangely calm, I turned to go. The weight of his hoof on my shoulder stopped me.

"You are an engineer, something Equestria is always short of. Perhaps one day, you'll be a fine one too." - here he cut off any chance of protest - "I cannot allow you to stay though. You would be helpless against the pernicious here."

His look softened as he saw my dejection. "There, now. I can tell you of a way back, if you wish. Make a name for yourself. Go outward, into the world, at have it quake at your presence. Do things never done by ponykind! Then you could return not to the scoffing glares, but the awe-struck visages of the Canterlot Elite."

I took heart at this. Throughout the history of my family, individuals were known to spread through Equestria; they struck out across the land to find themselves, develop innate talents, or to simply go on adventures. These diaspora gave this fair city much of its cultural and magical wealth. I now could count myself as one of them. Having no home, no family nearby, seemed impossible. I had to fight for it back.

Father's gaze then shifted. "A fine symbol for you, I think." Craning my neck, I let my eyes travel along to find what he was talking about.

There. An image lay embossed on my hide. My flank was adorned with a set of concentric circles, four blades radiating out form the center-most. A stylized turbine.

My fate was set that day. From then on, I kept a journal, and wrote letters, to report my work and experiences. In my lifetime, I would later travel all across Equestria, but my first destination was a small town. You see, Father spoke of a talented mind, one who could help me with my "new" studies. She was a unicorn filly just older than I: a Miss Twilight Sparkle.