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Chapter 29: Preparing for the unknown.
Jack shakes her head as she looks at the afternoon sky. Even now, almost six hours later, there are still a few bits of rainbow hue around the western horizon. “I still don’t see why Luna wanted you to do that. I understand getting a signal out to the other ponies, but doing the Rainboom right here in Iowa is going to draw a lot of attention to us.”
“Yeah, but that’s sort of unavoidable.” I nod over towards Shining. “And this stallion said, that if I did it way over in Des Moines, it wouldn’t draw attention towards this side of the state.”
Jack and I look over at him and he just bites his lip. “Well, um, I never expected that explosion to be as huge as it ended up being.” He waves a hoof to the west to highlight the fact that the spectacle can be seen from over 200 miles away. “So there’s actually a good chance we might get some unwanted attention from the fallout of this.”
AJ shakes her head. “Great, just great. Well, as long as we stay on the grounds and no one does any more flying we should be safe.”
Shining gives a nervous laugh. “Well, um, not so much.”
“What are you getting at?”
He waves a hoof in the air. “Nah, it’s nothing. There’s a chance they might be combing the state with drones, or just going through satellite imagery to look for anomalies. We should be safe though. I mean, even if someone looks at this place from above its just going to look like a normal pony farm. As long as we keep the flying and explosions on the down low, we’ll be fine.”
I sigh, not too happy with this ‘no flying’ rule, but I suppose it will have to do for now. I turn back to Jack. “So, what’s on the docket for things to do around here?”
She shrugs. “Good question. I was thinking that we could just continue improving the house and tending to the crops, but what if your publicity stunt brings new ponies to the farm? I imagine ponies from other states will come to Iowa to try and find you now that they know you’re here. And if we’re going to be getting refugees on our doorstep, well then we should get started setting up some new housing.”
Shining shakes his head. “Gah, that would be bad. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I want to help other ponies out. But tons of new arrivals and temporary housing springing up around here would probably draw attention from the eyes in the sky.”
I scratch my head with a hoof. “Let’s just do some simple steps. Clean out the barn and bring up your old blankets from the cellar. If we get new arrivals they can set up in there for the time being.”
Jack nods. “How much time do you think we have? I mean, new ponies still have to find this place, that would take time, right?”
“Well, Luna did sort of ask me for this address.” I look away from Jack. I really should have talked with my friend before hand and gotten her permission to use her land like this. “And Luna sort of told me she would be assisting lost ponies that were nearby. I assume she plans to give them directions via their dreams.”
AJ facehoofs. “Urgh, fine, we’ll handle it. This farm should be able to support another dozen or two ponies through the winter if it has to.”
Shining raises his eyebrows. “And if more than that show up?”
Jack licks her lips nervously. “We’ll think of something. Now come on, let’s clean out that barn.”
I look up from washing the dishes to see Rarity enter the kitchen. I wave a wet hoof at her. “Hey there, I haven’t seen you much today.”
“Oh hello, Dash. I was actually pretty busy today. Fluttershy and I were decorating the inside of her quaint little woodside shelter.”
I motion for her to set her dirty plates on the counter next to me. “That’s great to hear.”
“You want me to wash those for you? I can’t imagine it’s easy with hooves.” She eyes me up and down.
“Nah, thanks for the offer, but I got it.” I go back to dunking the dirty dishes in the sink.
She raises an eyebrow. “How are things on your end? Shining tells me you and Jack are preparing for new arrivals? Did Luna tell you who to expect or when they would be here?”
“Nah she was really vague, like, to an annoying extent.”
Rarity sighs. “I’m happy to help out some lost ponies, and it would be great to learn what they have to offer...”
I finish with the dishes and look over at her. “But?”
She shrugs. “I don’t know. I’m rather fond of just the eight of us. I feel like we finally started to mesh with each other. I mean, I know we have our differences and we have our arguments, but when we are all together we just feel, well, whole. I’m a little scared that new arrivals might ruin that.”
I dry my hooves on a towel and trot forward to give her a hug. “Aww, don’t worry Rarity, new friends won’t drive us apart. That’s one of those friendship lessons they teach kids in movies right? The more love you give away, the more you end up having?” I brush my cheek affectionately against hers. “Nothing will be able to drive us old friends apart. Giving shelter to new ponies will make things more interesting, and it won’t ruin what we already have.”
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right. Thanks.” She gives me a smile and the two of us head out of the kitchen. “Hopefully the newcomers will be friendly.”
“They’re ponies! Of course they’ll be friendly,” I joke as I follow behind her down the hallway.
“This is true.” Rarity opens a door with her magic and I follow her inside as she continues speaking. “I daresay I haven’t seen a pony in that cartoon that I didn’t like.”
“And all of those ponies are not just a cartoon, they exist in real life, apparently.” I chuckle.
“You know, that still sounds completely and utterly crazy to hear. Even with all this going on and the fact that we ourselves have been ponies for like two weeks.” Rarity starts undressing to put on some other clothes. I don’t even flinch as she goes nude, we're both girls here, there is nothing to hide.
“Yeah, it hurts your brain when if you think about it too hard.” The door opens and I glance over at the pony that enters the room. “Hey Shining.”
He waves at me as he heads over to kiss his mare on the cheek. “Hey there, ready for tonight?”
I shrug. “Yeah, I’m ready for it I guess. Pretty quiet night, I think I might catch a movie or something.” I watch as Rarity puts on the rest of her pajamas and then gets in next to Shining. “Jack has this great DVD collection, like seriously over 200 movies. He even—”
I freeze as it dawns on my that I’m in Rarity and Shining’s bedroom, the door is closed, and they’re cuddling right in front of me. Wow, that's actually really adorable.
She opens an eye and spots me. “You’re joining us in bed tonight, correct?”
“I-I uh...What?” I stammer.
Shining smiles and he pats the spot on the bed next to him. “Rarity was telling me that you might prefer to sleep here with us if you were sick of having Pinkie as a roommate. I'm fine with it, the more the merrier, right?”
Rarity laughs. “Normally, Dash, I would be more hesitant. But I do feel like I owe you. You've saved my tail more than once, and you brought me and my friends out to the farm. I think you deserve a little special treatment, don't you?”
Oh god, I think I just got a nosebleed. I’ll admit it, I've had dreams like this before. Cuddling with Rarity or Shining would make for an interesting night, and right now I have the chance to spend the night with both of them. That's just, wow...
“Well?” Rarity raises and eyebrow.
I whimper. Why do you tempt Celestia? “Sorry guys, but, I don't want to get between you two. Besides, I don't even sleep on beds anymore, I sleep outside on clouds.”
Both of them turn to stare at me. Shining tilts his head, “Wait, you’re kidding, you can actually sleep on clouds? That's amazing, I thought that was just made up for the show!”
Rarity scoffs. “Well, that's hardly fair. Sleeping on a cloud sounds really comfortable.”
I nod slowly. “You have no idea. It's a billion times better than any bed, trust me.”
Rarity frowns for a second. “Well, if you think that your accommodations are superior to our offer...” Her horn lights up and she opens the door behind me.
A second later I see a blue glow around my body and I feel myself get pushed out into the hallway. I look up in protest. “Hey!”
She waves a hoof at me. “Go enjoy your soft clouds Dash. I guess Shining and I will have to suffer alone with this uncomfortable bed.”
I hear Shining giggle as the door closes. “It's not that uncomfortable once you wear it in.”
“But wait, I never said—” My protest gets cut off as the door shuts. I sigh as I turn to head outside. Argh, me and my big mouth! I had that! I so totally could have had that!
I grit my teeth as I move outdoors to take flight and nab a low flying cloud. I grab one, then tug it down closer to the ground before plopping down on top of it. Well, at least I wasn't lying about these clouds, they really are ridiculously comfy.
I give a soft yawn and glance back at the house. It is a bit lonely out here though. One of these days I'm really going to have to somehow talk Fluttershy into sharing a cloud with me or something.
“Good morning, and welcome to CNN’s Morning Brief. It’s currently 9am on this Thursday, May 21st. Our lead story is the aerial explosion that happened over Des Moines, Iowa yesterday morning.” The TV picture changes to show a tourist’s video of the explosion. I lean forwards to see if I was caught on camera, but nah, all you see is the Rainboom and a rainbow trail headed east.
The TV anchor continues. “It’s spectacular brilliance is only matched by the mystery that still surrounds it. Scientists around the world remain at a complete loss to explain this massive prismatic explosion that was seen as far south as Texas. So, what is it, is it connected to the other explosions and disturbances across the country, and will it have an impact on the Presidential campaign? For those questions and more CNN is now joined by Dr. Scott Gale, a physicist from MIT to help us explain just what this sky explosion was. Hello Dr. Scott, welcome to the program.”
The camera pans to show an esteemed man seated at the news desk, “Thanks, Jill, now I’m afraid neither myself, nor my colleagues, have an explanation for this one yet. What we do know is that the Chinese, the Russians, NASA and the Europeans Space Agency all state that this wasn’t a meteor or space debris. If it didn’t come from space, that means it came from Earth. However, the Pentagon is denying reports that it was an American weapon test, and in fact, they seem just as confused about this as the other government agencies and scientists.”
“What do you think it is?” The anchor asks.
The physicist shakes his head. “I wish I knew. I agree with the space agencies that this was not space debris, as it appears to have exploded below the cloud line, and not in the upper stratosphere. There’s also the issue of this rainbow hued light that covered the sky of the Midwest. Nothing that we know of could create a spectacle in the air that large.” He shrugs his shoulders in confusion. “Even if some sort of quartz exploded and acted as a prism to create a circular rainbow, there’s just no way it could be that large or be seen from so far away.”
The news anchor cuts him off, “But this did happen. And you’re saying no one in academia can explain it?”
“Well, it doesn’t really seem to fit with our understanding of physics.” The PhD holder squirms uncomfortably in his chair. “But, as with everything, there are a few hypothesis that my colleagues are suggesting.”
“And those are?”
“Well, even though the Pentagon is flat out denying responsibility, one has to think that this was some sort of military test or experiment. There is no recorded history of this ever happening in nature, so the general idea we get is that this was man made. Also, the excessive military buildup and activity of recent weeks gives credence to the idea that this is somehow connected.”
The news anchor nods. “But if this was a US military test, why did the US raise its alert level and initiate civil defense warnings? Doesn’t that indicate that this was something the US didn’t expect?”
The physicist grimaces. “That’s not really my field Jill, but I do agree with that logic. From a purely objective standpoint this seems like something a foreign power would have done and it caught the US off guard. Though as to who did it, or why, I’m afraid I have nothing to give to that conversation.”
The camera pans back to the news anchor. “Thank you, Dr. Scott. As we all know you are not alone in your suggestions. The suggestion that this may be a foreign attack of some kind is a hot topic on the campaign trail. Senator Corddis has been very vocal about that prospect, and he had this to say at a rally last night:”
The screen changes to show a statesman at a podium. “My opponent is bumbling about and even went on the record talking complete nonsense to his staff about colorful ponies being seen in the area. He’s clearly delusional and living in some fantasy land. This is unacceptable for the Commander in Chief when the United States is being attacked and on the brink of war! Something as serious as a detonation over our homeland demands a military response!” The camera pans to the crowd as it erupts in thunderous applause.
“Dash! Shut off the TV and come help us outside.” Jack says as she trots up to me.
I look up from my spot sprawled out on the couch. “Aww, come on AJ, I was just admiring my handiwork.”
“Making millions of people piss themselves in fear, yeah, that’s something to be proud of.” She rolls her eyes.
I shut off the TV but stick my tongue out at her. “It wasn’t aimed at them. It was a message for ponies, and from the sound of things the message got out.”
She eyes the TV for a moment and shakes her head. “Well, that it did, but I’m getting a bad feeling about this. I don’t think Luna thought about how the humans would react. I can’t help but feel that they are going to do something drastic soon, and we’re going to have blood on our hooves.”
“Something is going to happen soon, and it’s going to happen regardless of what we did. I can’t shake the feeling that strings are being pulled behind the scenes.” I chew on my tongue for a second. “I don’t know, there’s something going on out there. That’s another reason why I’m sort of eager to rally more ponies together. They might bring us some more info or maybe even know how we fix things.”
Jack nods slowly. “Yeah, maybe. And that reminds me, Shining was looking for you. He wanted to see if you were up for patrolling the border of the farm. Apparently his special talent is tingling and he thinks someone, or something is on its way.”
I make for the door and sigh. “You know, one of these days it’s going to be quiet here and we can actually have some rest.”
“Not today sister.”
“Okay, you can do this. Six logs at once, here we go.” I mumble to myself as I close my eyes and feel my horn light up. I have half a dozen heavy logs in a semi circle around me, and I’m trying to see just how potent my magic really is. When I first became an alicorn, I would never have thought I would be able to lift an entire log with my magic. But now here I am, trying to lift six at once. Well, no harm in trying, and I need to really push myself to see my full capabilities.
I feel my magic envelop each once and I grimace as I try to increase my output to lift them all up once. “Come up... upwards, up you go...” Beads of sweat start to trickle down my neck and I feel each of the logs groan as they start to get pulled away from the grass.
Even though my eyes are closed, I can see the waves of intense purple light pulse off my horn as the brilliance grows brighter. I feel the logs around me too. “I... I think I did it! I can feel all six logs in the air! I’m lifting over a thousand pounds!”
I squeal in joy. “I did it!” I open my eyes to take in the view, but doing so ruins my concentration. A moment later all six massive logs fall back to the ground with a deafening crash. I wince from the noise, then hear a single pony clopping her hooves in applause behind me.
“Woo-hoo, way to go Twilight! Now lift the X-Wing out of the swamp and then go into the cave to fight a vision of your father.” Fluttershy laughs as she clops her hooves a few more times.
I immediately blush. “Oh, Fluttershy, how long have you been standing there?”
“Oh, just long enough to see you do your crazy magic thing.” She shrugs. “Very nice work by the way.”
I look at the logs scattered around me. “Yeah, thanks, I was just practicing.”
“Practicing for what?” The voice of AJ appears and she trots towards me, staring at the logs. “Sorry for interrupting, I just saw the light from over there and I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
I wave. “I don’t know what I’m practicing for. Just testing my limits I suppose.”
“Oh.” Fluttershy remarks sadly.
“Something wrong?” I raise an eyebrow.
“I was just hoping you might actually be practicing for something specific, you know, like you had some sort of plan.” Fluttershy lowers her ears and rubs a hoof in the ground. “I know at that dinner when everyone argued you got really angry when your brother said he wanted you to fix this, but, well, he’s not alone, Twilight. Every single one of us here is secretly hoping you might have some sort of idea or plan.” She laughs nervously. “So, you know, no pressure or anything.”
I sigh, “I know, I know. But I’m sorry Fluttershy, like I said at that dinner, I don’t know how to change anyone back to human.”
AJ sits down near Fluttershy. “Heh, Twi, I don’t think she was talking about that.”
I raise my eyebrow. “What? But I thought that’s why you two were with my brother and the other half of the ponies here that want to change back.”
Fluttershy chews on her lip for a moment. “Oh, well, that would be great and all if you could turn us human, but I’ll be honest, I don’t see that happening. Too much has happened to us for us to just go back to how things were.”
I tilt my head. “So you’re on our side then? You’re fine with just living here as a pony for the rest of your life?”
She gives me a flat smile and stares at me for a few seconds. “Come on, Twilight, we both know that idea is just as foolish as the idea of trying to change back and forget any of this ever happened.”
“This is true...” I nod slowly. “I know there’s no going back to how things were, and yes, I also know we can’t just sit here and live as ponies forever. Sooner or later, we’re going to have to face our real problem head on. I just don’t like thinking about that. Not only am I scared of what that entails, but even if I wanted to have that encounter, I don’t know how to make it happen.”
Fluttershy says nothing, so AJ picks up the conversation. “I don’t suppose you two consider our ‘real problem’ being something like facing the TV cameras or meeting with the government?”
Before I can answer I hear some rustling in the bushes near us. The three of us glance over to see Pinkie emerge from a hiding place. For the first time since I’ve seen her as a pony, she looks positively distraught. “It’s Discord, isn’t it? You think we’re going to have to face him?”
Fluttershy tilts her head. “Wait, why were you hiding in those bushes?”
“Hmm?” Pinkie glances back at the place she walked out of. “Oh, I came over here when I saw the purple light. I was waiting to jump out when you said something funny, or set me up to make a joke or a pun or something. But then, well, then you had to bring Discord up and ruin the mood. Way to be a killjoy, Applejack.”
I stare at Pinkie for a moment before turning back to AJ and Flutters. “Distractions aside, yes, I do think we’re going to have to deal with Discord before this whole thing gets settled. There’s no way he would let us just live here on Earth in peace. Our fight with him isn’t over, and sooner or later we’re going to have to finish it.”
Fluttershy takes a step back. “But we have no way of getting back to Equestria. Unless, wait, did you mean Discord is here on Earth?”
Pinkie butts in. “He is! Well, aspects of him anyway.”
I bit my lip with worry as I hear Pinkie’s words. I knew not to argue with her, and I think I actually agree with her. “Yeah, there have been too many bad coincidences around here for this to have all been just fate. Discord is pulling some strings behind the scenes, even here on Earth.”
Jack chuckles. “Dash was just telling me that she felt the same way. I agree with it too.”
Fluttershy stares at the ground. “So we have to find him on Earth and then somehow beat him? Will that fix things?”
My mouth moves on autopilot, I’m not sure why I know this, but I know it’s the truth. “No, that’s not the final solution. The only way to defeat Discord is to destroy him at the place where he was created: We have to defeat him in Equestria.”
“Wait, what?” AJ asks.
Pinkie raises an eyebrow, “That’s not possible.”
“We have no way of getting there.” Fluttershy says.
I pause to shake my head. “I know, I honestly don’t have the slightest clue on how we could ever get there.”
Pinkie frowns. “And not just that, but how would we even fight him? On Earth I figure he’s probably weaker, but on Equestria he’s like, a god. It would be suicide to fight him there.” She looks around at us. “I mean right? Tell me I’m not crazy!”
AJ nods. “Pinkie’s right. From what we know, Discord rules over that entire land now. And let’s not forget he’s probably been preparing for our return for twenty five years. Going to Equestria and meeting him head on would be impossible.”
I shake my head. “Not impossible, just challenging. I mean, look at the examples. Frodo and Sam took the ring to Mount Doom even with an entire army in the way, and a few small X-wings destroyed the Death Star. It’s not just in stories either, there is a saying that’s been proven again and again in time: A small band of dedicated fighters have the power to take down the largest of tyrants. We can do this.”
Fluttershy pokes at the ground with her hoof again. “Only this tyrant is also an omnipotent, immortal god that can do unlimited magic with just the snap of his claw.”
I wince. “Yeah, I don’t think it’s gonna be fun. But hey, we’ll have time to train for it.”
AJ rubs her neck. “Well, it’s certainly better than sitting around moping at any rate.”
I yawn as I walk past Fluttershy’s cottage. Or rather, her tipped over treehouse. Whatever it is, it’s all quiet on the western front. I don’t know what Shining was all worried about, it’s dead quiet about here this afternoon. When he asked me to do patrol I was all excited. I figure patrol means flying around the perimeter and keeping an eye on things. But nope, my patrol is not allowed an exception to our new ‘no flying’ rule because it might draw attention. Bunch of baloney that is, I mean, I saw Twilight give off a light show and seemingly lift up half the forest with her magic. That’s the type of thing we shouldn’t be doing outside. But not allowing a flight over our perimeter? Pfft, lame sauce.
I continue my walk and let my mind drift as I see some wild daisies growing at the tree line. Horses eat flowers right? I might have to give one a taste. Hopefully it’s better than that grass I ate the other day when I was bored. Turns out it’s really bland. Hmm, might be good in a bowl though. Sprinkle on some cheese and eat it like popcorn? Damn, I’m going to have to ask Jack about—
My ears suddenly flick as they catch the sound of something that doesn’t belong on the farm. I glance over in the direction of the front gate. That low rumble, is that... a car?
“I’m glad you wanted to help me out Rarity.” I smile at the mare next to me as we worked carrying supplies from the barn.
“The pleasure is all mine I assure you.” She cracks her neck. “Don’t forget that I’m a guy under this fair skin. I’m feeling pulled into the role of the dainty female, so any chance I get to do some physical work is really refreshing.”
I raise my eyebrow. “Feeling pulled into the role? Huh, well, do you enjoy that role in any case?”
“It is enjoyable at times, sure.” She shrugs. “You have it lucky though, you got turned female like the rest of us, but you’re expected to be the rough and hardy tomboy. Sex organs aside, you’re still living the life of a guy.”
I chuckle. “Well hey, at least you get to experience both sides of life’s coin. Sometimes I almost am jealous of that. I go through all the trauma of changing genders, and then I act like nothing’s changed. Who knows how much fun you’re having living something totally new.”
Rarity raises both eyebrows at me. “It’s... interesting.”
Out of nowhere comes the whistling noise of an incoming missile. I glance up in time to see Dash come to a sudden landing a few feet away, her hooves kicking up dirt as she comes to a stop. I raise a hoof to block the debris from hitting me face. “Hey, Dash, I thought Shining said no flying?”
She looks over at us with wild eyes. “Jack! A van pulled up on the driveway, there are people here!”
Rarity panics. “People!? What kind of people, bad people?”
I glance in the direction of the house. “Did you see them Dash? Are they neighbors? The government? Worse?”
Dash shakes her head. “Nothing like that. It’s actually only one person—”
“Oh that’s not to bad, right?” Rarity interrupts.
“—one person and four ponies.” Dash glares at Rarity and finishes her sentence,
I blink. “Wait, four ponies? That’s great news, right? That’s what we wanted!”
Dash rubs the back of her neck. “Yeah, I suppose so. It’s just that, well, these ponies...”
I start walking towards the driveway. “They’re friendly, right? Did you recognize them? Anyone we know from the show?”
Dash stammers from behind me, her voice filling with worry. “J-Jack.”
I turn around and see Rarity put a hoof on Dash’s back. “What’s the matter, Dash?”
Rainbow bites her lip. “Well, there’s a brown earth pony with a short red mane and then an orange pegasus with a magenta mane...”
I tilt my head as I rack my brain for those color combinations. The latter one sounded familiar. Wait...
Rarity raises an eyebrow. “And the other two ponies?”
“They’re um...” Dash glances at me, then at Rarity, then back to me. “I think they're your little sisters.”