• Published 24th Jun 2013
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Return of the Dawn - pchn00



A substitute teacher with what she's always been told is a mental condition begins to suspect that's not the entire truth when a familiar sun shaped cutie mark appears on her hips.

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Chapter 3: Poison

Chapter 3: Poison

“Welp. This is about as fucked up as my mornings have ever been.” I’m looking in the mirror in my bathroom but definitely not seeing what I normally see. Instead of the usual brown my eyes are orange. almost brown, but definitely orange. Then there’s my hair. Not only has it grown out of the close cropped cut I always kept it, now falling about my ears and neck in a shaggy mess. But it’s also orange. A lot oranger than my eyes. Most of it is anyway. The bits closer to the roots are yellow.

My eyes drift down my legs and I shift my boxers out of the way. Yup. Still there. Spitfire’s cutie mark is undeniably on my butt. Now I’ve got matching eyes and my hair has either changed to match hers too, or I caught some sort of horrible clowning disease. Yesterday was bad enough. Waking up with not one, but two tattoos mysteriously appearing is a pretty jarring experience. But seeing your eyes and hair physically change color? Maybe Erin’s not the only one who needs to see a shrink.

But the tattoo… I’m not calling it a cutie mark… Is real. I went to the parlor downtown to have it looked at. The guy could definitely see it too, and he said it wasn’t a tattoo at all. It was part of my skin. Like a birthmark or something. I can get it removed, along with the flesh it occupies.

Shivering at the images that brought up I look back at the mirror. Slowly I run my hands through my hair. It feels softer and fuller than I remember. Like a…

Shaking my head I scowl and banish that train of thought. Today’s fucked up enough as it is without thinking of even weirder shit. Could someone have snuck in and dyed my hair while I slept last night? Of course that doesn’t explain my eyes. I definitely would have noticed someone trying to sneak lenses in my eyes.

Tearing myself away from my reflection I head to the living room grabbing my cell. I can’t help but compare my apartment to Erin’s. I have no idea how anyone can live like that. Let alone a woman. I was always raised to believe they couldn’t stand a mess. Of course that just might have been my overbearing father’s influence on me and the women of my family.

I tap the number for the family physicians office and it’s soon ringing. “Doctor Steven’s office. How can I help you this morning?”

I clear my throat. “Hi this is Jake Matsen. I was hoping to make an appointment for as soon as possible.” While I talk I move back to the bathroom, again staring at myself in the mirror.

“Of course Mr. Matsen. Is it an emergency?”

Tilting my head this way and that to see my altered hair from every direction I consider my answer. “I think so. I don’t think it’s life threatening but something is definitely wrong with me.”

“Alright Mr. Matsen. We’re a little busy today but if you can get in here ASAP our 7 a.m. just cancelled on us.”

I check the clock on the wall. It’s quarter after six now. “I’ll be there, thanks a lot.”

“Not at all. We’ll see you soon.”

I hang up and waste no time hopping in the shower. Giving my head an extra vigorous scrubbing just in case. Neither it or the cutie… Tattoo seem willing to come off. With a grunt of dissatisfaction I step out of the shower toweling off. I grab some jeans and a t-shirt out of the closet getting dressed. As an afterthought I snag an old Tigers cap stuffing as much of my hair into it as possible and tugging it down tight around my ears.

I’m heading to the door when a sound catches my ear. The wall separating my and Erin’s apartment is pretty thin and we’ve had more than one conversation through it. She’s talking to someone, and she’s sounding a bit panicky. Memories of the other night still fresh in my mind… Bozo hair or no Bozo hair I step into the hall knocking on the door.

She stops talking abruptly and with some concern I hear her feet pounding the floor boards as she rushes to the door. “Y-yes?” She speaks from the other side.

“Erin? It’s Jake. Are you alright in there?”

A long pause. “Y-yes. Yes I’m fine Jake thanks.”

My frown only deepens. “Are you sure? Want me to come in?”

“No!” I blink and step back from the door as she practically shrieks it at me. “No. No thank you. I’m fine really just… Just a mess. I don’t want you to uh… See me.” She trails off lamely.

As excuses go it’s pretty piss poor. Especially since I’m fairly sure she can’t be any worse than she was the other night. Still I have someplace to be and if she doesn’t want me to come in I’m not about to break her door in a second time. “Alright Erin. I’ve gotta get to a Doctor’s appointment. We’ll talk when I get home ok?”

Another pause. “Are you alright?”

I can’t help but smile. No sense dumping more problems in her lap than she already has. God knows she has enough of her own turmoil to deal with. “Yeah just a regular checkup thing. No big deal.”

“Alright. Well… Well yeah come by when you get home. Sorry I’m just not feeling so hot this morning.”

“Don’t need to explain, I was just worried. I’ll talk to you soon.” I step away from the door frowning in concern. There’s obviously something bothering her but a quick glance at a lock of errant orange hair sticking out of my cap reminds me I have problems of my own. Sighing I head down to the parking lot and climb into my truck.

The trip isn’t too bad. I get to avoid downtown and take the express most of the way to my Doctor’s office. Been seeing the same one for as long as I’ve been old enough to graduate from pediatrician. Briefly I consider swinging by home and surprising my folks with a visit, but a quick glance in the rear view mirror reminds me of why I’m going to the Doctor in the first place. I don’t think my dad the military man would appreciate his son coming home with bright orange and yellow hair.

It’s still pretty early so easy enough to find a parking space. I hop down from my truck not bothering to lock it behind me. If someone really wants to steal my old heap they’re welcome to it. Seeing the small, aging building brings up fond memories. Doctor Stevens has always been good to my family. When we hit a rough patch a few years back he even let us skip on the bill when my sister got sick.

Feeling a bit better about my situation I step inside making for the front desk. There’re no patients in the waiting room just now, but even stranger there’s no girl behind the desk. Becky had been working for the Doctor almost right out of high school. She and I graduated from the same class. We weren’t really friends in school but we did exchange a friendly not now and again.

Frowning faintly I lean over the counter. “Hello?”

I hear her call from the back. “Just a second! Sorry!”

Propping myself against the counter I flip through a magazine while I wait. I hear her coming soon enough and set it down turning to greet her. The greeting dies in my throat.

Becky had always had ferociously bright red hair and dazzling green eyes. She was definitely one of the prettiest girls in school, probably why I never got up the nerve to talk to her much. Now though, her hair had faded to a very pale pink. And she didn’t look back at me with green eyes, but pale blue. She seemed just as surprised at my appearance as I was at hers. Slowly she reached out and poked the cap off my head.

I make no move to stop her, letting my oddly colored hair spill out. She swallows and looks from my head to my hips. “You uh… Tattoo too?”

Wordlessly I nod and she whips around to the back of the office again. “Doctor Stevens! Jake is here! He uh… He has what I have!”

“What? Really?” Our family physician makes his way to the front of the office, eyes blazing with curiosity behind his glasses. He’s getting on in the years, his thinning hair combed back but his eyes are as bright and alert as ever. “With the tattoo too?”

I nod. “Yes sir. The tattoo showed up yesterday. Eyes and hair this morning.”

He looks from Becky to me frowning faintly. “And you two aren’t conspiring just to pull one over on me are you? This is all in pretty poor taste if so.”

As one we shake our heads rapidly, probably making us each look guiltier. He grunts but waves me back. “Well come on back. I’ll draw some blood and we’ll see what we see hm?”

I finish signing in before following him back to one of the rooms. I don’t wait to be told to hop up on the table. “So no chance you just got very drunk and got this all done while intoxicated is there?”

Again I shake my head. “No sir. I spent my birthday with my neighbor. We sat up all night talking and watching TV. The next morning when I went to shower I found the marks on my hips. Then this morning I found my hair and eyes had changed.”

“Hm. Can I see the mark on your legs?”

Nodding I stand, dropping my pants and lowering the side of my boxers to give him a clear view of the tattoo. He rolls over on his stool looking it over carefully. “A burning wing? This isn’t an air force thing?”

“No sir it’s definitely not. My squad and I all got the same tat back when I was serving. It’s on my shoulder though.” I roll up my sleeve to show the yellow lightning bolt lined in blue. Let’s just say I wasn’t the only brony serving in my squad.

“Hm. Very strange. Becky’s is a red cross. Nothing out of the ordinary happening in your life? No one could have slipped something in a drink at a bar or something? I’ve heard they have fast acting splicing now that can be distributed through pill form.”

I shake my head. “Not unless they’re sticking it in cans of Miller.”

“Hm. Hm, hm.” He takes a cotton swab dabbing at my arm. I brace myself as he brings the needle over causing him to chuckle. “Didn’t your plane get shot down over some desert somewhere? And getting blood drawn still gets to you?”

I mumble something under my breath in the affirmative as he slides the needle in. After what seems like an eternity he slips it out and applies a fresh cotton ball and a bandage. “Alright Jake. Sit tight. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Nodding I settle back on the table folding my hands in my lap. “Yes sir.”

He chuckles and shuffles out of the room. Becky peeks in soon closing the door behind her. “…you know what these look like?”

Raising my eyebrows I regard her speculatively. “What do they look like?”

“Cutie marks. Mine’s Nurse Redheart’s. Yours is uh…”

“Spitfire.” I supply for her, before I realize I hadn’t actually confirmed I knew of the show or not.

She grins playfully at my inadvertently outing myself. “Yeah Spitfire. And our hair? Our eyes? Is yours the same as hers?”

Self-consciously I run a hand through my shaggy mop of hair. “Yeah it is. But I mean, it’s gotta be a coincidence.”

“Does it? Maybe some lunatic fans of the old show got their hands on some splicing tech or nanites or something and let them loose in the air or water or whatever.”

I regard her with a flat stare. “That’s ridiculous.”

“And suddenly having cutie marks appear on our bodies while our hair and eyes change color to match the ponies they belong to isn’t ridiculous?”

I open my mouth to reply but I realize she’s right. This is pretty insane no matter what the explanation is. “Well if there is something like that the Doctor’s test will find it right?”

She shrugs. “Maybe. We’re not exactly a state of the art facility. He’s going to send my blood to the St. Joseph’s. The big hospital in the city? See what they find.”

As if on cue Doctor Stevens comes back. “Jake I’d like to send your sample to St. Joseph’s for a deeper analysis. Would that be alright?” He glances at Becky and she slips out.

I nod. “Sure, of course. Anything to help figure this out.”

“Well the good news is you look fine. I don’t see any sickness or unusual activity in your blood.” He slips closer sliding on his stethoscope. Pressing it against my chest his expression darkens.

“Uh… Something wrong?”

“Are you feeling alright physically? Nothing out of the ordinary. Hot flashes or dizziness?”

Concerned now I shake my head. “No. No nothing. I mean I’m pretty hungry I guess? Why?”

He listens to my heart again. “Your heart is racing. Beating nearly twice as fast as it should.”

My eyes go wider at that. “What?! Am I like… Going to have a heart attack?”

“I’d like to say no but I’m not sure. I think it might be a good idea to actually head to the hospital yourself Jake.”

I’m on my feet in a flash. “Oh god. O-of course. I’ll uh, head over there right now.”

He rests a hand on my shoulder. “Take a deep breath. You seem fine. You have no shortness of breath, no unusual sweating, no signs of heart problems. It’s almost like you’ve been engaging in heavy exercise or the like. All the same I think it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

His words do help me calm down some. “Y-yeah. Thanks Doc. I’ll head over there. I’ll call and letcha know what they say.”

“Why don’t you take Becky with you? I was going to send her over there with the blood work this afternoon but I can get by on my own today. Might as well have you both looked at, at the same time.”

I shrug. “Sure if she doesn’t mind.”

He walks with me to the counter waving my card off when I try to pay. “Let’s see that you’re alright before we worry about that. Becky would you mind riding with Jake over to St. Josephs? I’m a little concerned about his heart and would feel better if he had someone driving for him.”

Now her eyes go wide and she jumps from her chair. “Of course. Lemme get my purse and I’ll meet you in the parking lot Jake.”

At my nod she hurries off to the back room. “Well thanks Doctor Stevens. I guess you’ll be hearing from me.”

“Good luck over there son. I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about.”

I smile as I turn to go. I can’t hold it beyond the threshold of the door though. If there was nothing to worry about, I wouldn’t need to go to the hospital.

***

Erin please calm down so we can speak.

“Calm down? Calm down?! I’m hearing voices again! I haven’t heard your voice in years! Why didn’t I take my meds?!” I’m pacing frantically in my living room running my hands through my ridiculous rainbow hair.

If you’d please just sit down and take a deep breath, I can do my best to explain.

A short burst of slightly frantic laughter escapes my lips. “Oh the voice in my head is going to explain everything to me. Well thank god for that.”

Erin I AM sorry to be causing you so much distress but it’s terribly important that we speak. If what that young man said is true there’s a very good chance humans all over the world are going to begin exhibiting Equestrian characteristics.

I blink slowly. “Oh. Well that’s really clear thanks for that!”

I swear I hear the voice in my head sigh softly in exasperation. What I mean is, humans are going to turn into ponies. Partially or fully. I’m not sure.

Another laugh. I can feel myself losing it the more she talks. “Oh! Is that all? People are turning into magical, talking, cartoon ponies.”

Yes.

“Yes? Yes?! That’s it? Why do you think people are going to turn into ponies!?”

Recall Markus’ words Erin. He said a lot of people are going to be counting on you… On US soon. I believe he is my sister Luna’s host.

“Host? Her host? As in she… She lives inside him?”

That is the simplest way to phrase it, yes. I cannot be entirely sure but I believe Discord’s spell was never intended to kill us… Simply to send us away. It’s likely even he didn’t know where he was sending us. I don’t know how many ponies he dispatched this way but it’s not unthinkable that they all ended up on your world.

“Why… Why are you inside me then? Why aren’t you just… You.”

Our bodies were destroyed by the magic. A good way to think of it was his spell forcibly reincarnated everypony it came into contact with. They, and I were reborn as human infants. There is a very good chance many of the ponies caught in his magics would not have their memories, their personalities as fully intact as my own… And likely my sister and nieces are.

Slowly I walk back to the bathroom gazing into the mirror, working hard to keep myself from running screaming from the room as my reflection once again shifts on its own gazing back at me. “What makes you three so special?”

You’re familiar enough with the television program to know Luna, Cadence and I are not normal ponies. I’m not entirely sure about Cadence. While more powerful than the average pony she hasn’t been alive as long as Luna and I to accumulate as much magical power as we have.

“So because you’re the Princesses, instead of just being reborn we… We share my body? Like… Our souls?”

That I believe is precisely our situation. I tried many times in the past to speak with you but made the mistake of allowing your Uncle to overhear. I tried to explain my situation to him but naturally he assumed you were mentally unstable. I had no idea your world was entirely bereft of magic.

I chew my lip staring at the woman in the mirror. It’s my face but she has a look of infinite wisdom and patience on it. Definitely not a look I’ve ever worn. “What… Why now?”

Magic has rules. An odd statement I know, but it does. Even the most powerful spell erodes over time. The Equestrian souls that were bonded to human ones merged fully together. Small bits of their old lives may shine through. A pony nurse may be a medical practitioner here or…

I frown severely now. “Or a stunt flier could be a pilot?” Jake was fussing with his hips yesterday morning when I ran to see Doctor Corddis. Was he rubbing at a cutie mark beneath his pants?

Her frown matches my own. Precisely. The mingling of Equestrian magic in your magic less human souls would likely cause a buildup of magical energy in your bodies. I suspect eventually it would become too much for a human body to safely contain. The magic would sense this and instead of letting you all burn out, it would alter you to a familiar shape.

“So you’re telling me all of these reincarnated ponies who have been living as humans for years are just going to start turning back into ponies?”

I believe so. If not fully Equestria in shape than very nearly so. It’s my belief this is what Markus was speaking of. Remember he hasn’t been taking that vile poison for some time. There’s a very good chance he and Luna have reached an understanding of some sort. I’d be very interested in speaking with him again.

“Poison? Why do you call it a poison?”

Your psychiatrist I am almost entirely sure is Discord in disguise. He’s been giving you that medication to keep me suppressed. If not for that we may have been able to forge a bond much like the one Markus and Luna likely share.

I chew my lip, eyes darting to the pill bottle in my room. “The pills are what keep you locked up? What keep me normal?”

She can sense where my line of thinking is going. Erin they aren’t safe for you. Your body has been accumulating magic like every other human with an Equestrian soul. Discord knows this. He fears Luna and I, it’s why he’s been keeping such a close eye on you. Likely Markus too.

I shake my head vigorously marching from the bathroom unerringly to the pill bottle. “No. No I’m not doing this again. I’m not going back to the institute. Not for you, not for him, not for anything!”

Erin! Erin I recall the time we spent in that awful place when your Uncle first discovered your… Condition. I assure you it won’t happen again, I won’t let it. Please you don’t need to do this!

Tears are running down my cheeks now. I had to spend six months in a mental institution because of all the screaming and creepy talking to myself I did when I was a child. Now I find out that it was all because of some… Some pony Princess living in my head? Of course who’s to say this isn’t just all in my head as well? It was the most terrifying, hellacious time of my life and I swore I’d never let it happen again.

Ignoring the imploring pleas in my head I snatch the pill I’d already taken out the night before from the night stand and swallow it hastily.

Her voice is fainter now. Please… Please just… Think of what I’ve said. And then it’s gone. I stand stock still while my eyes dart back and forth as if expecting her to leap out of the closet or something. Slowly I step back into the bathroom peering into my mirror.

My reflection looks back. Only fear and confusion in her eyes. Then I see my hair begin to shift. Starting at the roots the pastel color is bleeding away to my normal chestnut brown. My hand is shaking as I lift it to feel at my hair, reaching touching it softly as the last of the color vanishes from the tips. My vision blurs momentarily and when it clears again my normal brown eyes look back from the mirror.

Wiggling out of my pants I feel some slight dismay to find Celestia’s cutie mark is still glaring up at me from my hips. The twin suns almost feel like they’re looking at me accusingly. Snorting in annoyance I push thoughts of magical pony Princesses from my mind and climb into the shower. Still, one question keeps floating to the surface of my thoughts.

Was she right about Doctor Corddis?

***

“You know, this could be a lot worse.”

I glance at Becky from the passenger’s seat. “How the hell could this be worse?”

She looks over with a grin. “Could be Pinkie Pie’s hair.”

“Ha! Jesus, could you imagine what that would be like?”

Finding our exit Becky gets off the express way. “Dunno. If it came with Pinkie sense or reality warping powers like she seemed to have it might be worth dealing with all that hair.”

“Maybe. Course it could also come with her special brand of insanity.”

She shrugs. “Meh. There are worse things in the world than seeing everything in a positive light. Ask me we could all do with a little more Pinkie in us.”

“Hm.” I gaze out the window watching the city pass by. Poverty’s been getting worse and worse. The unemployment rates only gone up and hunger and homelessness are becoming a pretty serious problem. They’ve been saying the U.S. is in danger of not being most powerful country in the world anymore no less.

Sure enough I see an entire family of four living out of their car down an alley between two buildings when Becky stops at a red. Sadly enough this isn’t an uncommon sight as you get further downtown.

Soon enough Becky pulls into the hospital and we both climb out. She tosses me the keys and I pocket them. “So is there a special delivery entrance we use?”

“No there’s a special one I use. You head in the Emergency doors. I’ll drop off our blood then catch up with you.”

I shrug and head to the indicated entrance. A bored looking receptionist sits behind a desk in a room filled with waiting people. She levels a disinterested gaze my way. “Yes?”

Instantly I feel my hackles rising but take a deep breath. “My family Doctor sent me over. He said my heart sounds off.”

“Fill these out and have a seat. We’ll call you when you’re up.”

I take the forms to one of the open seats doing my best to get comfortable and not think about my heart exploding any second now. It’s mostly standard medical history junk. Filling them out I drop them at the desk retaking my seat. My eyes roam around the room casually when something catches my eye. There’s a girl sitting in the corner hunkered down into her jacket. A girl with mint green hair and a white stripe running through it. I can see golden eyes darting back and forth nervously. She sees me staring and her eyes flick up to my own hair and she tilts her head.

I simply nod and look away. She fidgets in her seat before hastily crossing the room to sit next to me. “S-so… You too?”

Obviously I don’t need to ask what she’s referring to. “Yeah. Cutie mark yesterday, hair and eyes today.”

“Me too. D’you think this is happening all over?”

“I… Well I’m starting too. The girl at my Doctor’s office has Redheart’s mark and coloring. She’s dropping off our blood work before coming around to meet me here.”

She stares at me for a few minutes. “So who d’you got?”

“Spitfire. Captain of the Wonderbolts?”

“Oh. Yeah I see it. Your hair’s not all… Swooshy.”

“I guess she styled it on the show or something.” I blink at that. “Jesus I’m talking about her like she was a real person.”

She shrugs a little. “Who’s to say she wasn’t? Kinda ironic for me though right? A human turning into Lyra.”

I frown. “You don’t think this is going to keep getting worse do you?”

She shrugs again. “Well it started with cutie marks. Now we’re physically transforming. You don't think this is going to progress?”

That’s an unsettling thought. “I… I guess I hadn’t thought of it. But that’s why we’re here right? To find out what’s wrong with us?”

The woman shakes her head. “No I’m here with my brother. He broke his leg being an idiot. I mean I feel fine. I look weird but I feel fine. I don’t exactly have tons of spare cash laying around for hospital visits y’know?”

That’s when I take another look at her. The dirty disheveled clothes, and her minty colored hair is greasy and looks like it hadn’t seen a proper wash in quite a while. “O-oh you’re uh…”

“Homeless? Yup.”

She says it so easily. I shift uncomfortably in my seat. “Is there uh… Anything I can do for you?”

She chuckles at that and shrugs. “Nah. There’s a nice shelter we sleep at most nights. My brother’s only thirteen so they let us in more often than not. Between you and me I hope this keeps going. Ponies can graze y’know? Hard to have a hungry night when I could eat grass. Plus magic. Magic would be sweet. You don’t think having wings would be cool?”

I shrug. “Would it be cool? Sure. Would it be worth losing my hands and my uh…” I glance down between my legs.

She catches my meaning. “Ooo. Yeah ouch. No that sucks. I think they’re wheeling my brother out now. I’m pullin' for ya buddy. Good luck huh?”

I watch her stand. “Good luck to both of us.”

She quirks a faint smile before moving to a wheelchair bound kid with a new cast on his leg. She’s arguing with the orderly who doesn’t look happy but let’s them both go. Becky comes in from the same door the orderly did waving me over.

“What’s up?”

She jerks her head toward the corridor beyond the doors. “C’mon I gotcha bumped up. Perks of being in the profession.”

Now I feel a genuine smile coming on. “Awesome. I wasn’t looking forward to waiting an hour or two.”

“No kidding.” She walks me down the halls to an empty room. We don’t have to wait long before the Doctor arrives.

“Alright Officer Matsen. I’m Doctor Adams. What exactly is the problem?”

“Just Jake is fine ma’am.” She nods at that and I start in on everything that’s happened. She wants to see the tattoos of course.

She spends some time examining that first. Prodding it with a couple different instruments, even scrapping at it gently. “This is very odd. It’s not ink.”

“Yeah uh… Yeah I know. I told you I didn’t get any tattoo.”

“And you say your hair and eye pigmentation just changed overnight?”

I nod. “Yes ma’am. Becky’s too.”

She gives Becky an appraising look. Becky nods. “Yup. My eyes were green last night, and my hair was a much brighter red.”

“Tattoo too?”

Before I can look away Becky tugs down her skirt showing off Nurse Redheart’s cutie mark. Doctor Adam’s chuckles a little. “So the former air force pilot has a burning wing and the medical assistant has a red cross? If they clearly weren’t ink I’d think you were messing with me.” She motions for Becky to pull her skirt back up. “You said something was wrong with your heart?”

I shrug. “I feel fine but Doctor Stevens said it was beating way too fast.”

She takes up a stethoscope of her own giving my chest a listen. Like Doctor Stevens her eyes widen, than narrow in concern. “Well he was right about that. I want to take you up for an EKG. We’re running tests on your blood work so that should be done by the time we get a look at your heart.”

“Whatever you think ma’am. Better safe than sorry right?”

“Right you are. Go ahead and change into a gown. Someone will be along soon to take you up.”

She steps out leaving me alone with Becky. “Sounds like I’m gonna be here a while. If you wanna come back and pick me up later you can take the truck back to Stevens’ office.”

Becky shrugs. “Nah. I got a ton of games on my phone. Plus I mean… This sort of concerns me too right? Not the heart stuff, Doc said my heart sounds fine. But they might find something about what’s going on with us.”

She looks away while I get most of my clothes off and into the thin hospital gown. We make small talk until an orderly comes snapping the rails up. “I can walk y’know?”

He shrugs. “Sorry dude. Procedure y’know?”

Becky waves a little as I’m wheeled out into the hall. I do my best to just relax as he pushes me along to an elevator. A few moments later we’re on another floor and I’m in a room with the EKG machine.

“Go ahead and climb up Jake. Just lay back and try to be as still as possible.”

Settling on the bed I lay back as it lurches to life and slides me into the scanner. I close my eyes and do my best to ignore the faint hum of the machine as it works to scan my chest. After what feels like an eternity it lurches back to life sliding me out. Hastily I sit up taking a deep breath.

Doctor Adams steps inside. “Well… Your heart seems fine. It’s just beating very, very fast. Normally this is a bad sign but you otherwise seem in absolutely perfect health. When was your last physical?”

“Last year. I had to take one to enter the force.”

She nods. “Would you mind if we did some light exercises? I want to see how your heart reacts to stimuli. It’ll be perfectly safe and controlled.”

I shrug. “Sure. Anything to help you guys figure this thing out.”

She smiles and a short bed ride later I’m climbing up on a treadmill with a few sensors attached to my chest. “Alright Jake. We’re going to start out slow then gradually increase the speed. Ready?”

I shoot a thumbs up over my shoulder as she starts the machine up. Slow easy plodding at first. I’m bored almost instantly. Slowly she increases the speed and I pick up my pace to match. From plod, to stroll, to walk, and now I’m jogging. That has me feeling a little better. I’m even starting to smile.

She turns it up again and I break into a light run. “How you feeling Jake? Still fine?”

“Great! Crank it up!”

She obliges. The speed is noticeable now and a burn is forming in my legs, but a pleasant one. Sweat is finally beading on my brow as I pump my legs

“Still alright?”

“Faster!”

Again she obliges and I’m soon running full tilt. I think the last time I ran like this was when that doper popped a shot off at me and I chased his ass down. Had to run almost six blocks before I got ahold of the little punk.

Too soon in my opinion the treadmill begins to wind down and I slow to a stop hopping off, grinning like an idiot all the while. “What’s the verdict?”

“The verdict is you run like an Olympic class athlete is what the verdict is. Your heart beat didn’t increase in the slightest either. I don’t know if this is tied to everything else that’s happening with you but if I had to guess, and I absolutely hate to do so but I’d say your metabolism has increased to abnormal levels.”

“Is that… Bad?”

She shrugs. “Mmm. Yes and no. You’re going to have to eat a good deal more than an average person. You also might start feeling changes in your energy. You’ll have periods of high energy possibly long periods, but then you’ll need frequent naps.”

That’s starting to sound like another familiar character from a certain cartoon show. “Can we I dunno, slow it down?”

“We can. I’ll write a few prescriptions for you that should ideally normalize your heart. I’m going to want you to come back in a week so we can see how you’re doing.” She looks uncomfortable now. “Your blood work also came back.”

I frown at her frown. “What’s wrong now?”

“There’s no easy way to say this so I’ll just get right to it. Have you been taking any hormone supplements?”

“What like… Steroids?”

“Mmm. Estrogen specifically. There’s an unusually high concentration of it in your system.”

All at once I feel the floor drop out from under me and I slip back landing hard on my butt. Doctor Adams’ eyes widen and she calls for the orderly to help me up and into the bed. “Jake? Jake can you hear me?”

I feel the helpless terrifying sensation I felt when my plane was spiraling out of control. Estrogren? All at once the girl with Lyra’s hair’s words come back to me. “I… I don’t know. I’m…” I feel sick and scared. My stomach churns and the Doctor, used to seeing patients getting sick rushes over to retrieve a small trash can for me.

After emptying my stomach of a thankfully light breakfast Doctor Adams takes the can from me. “Jake I think it might be a good idea for you to stay overnight. Would you like that?”

I can only nod. “I think so.”

“Is there anyone we can call for you?”

I can’t bring my folks in on this now. Not if… Not if that happens to me. Dad’s got pretty firm views on what a man should and shouldn’t be. Though there is one person I wouldn’t mind having with me. “Yeah. Yeah I’ll give you her number.”

***

“Look I know. I know! Ugh quit badgering me.”

Markus we are at her home. We merely have to step inside and speak with her. She is my sister’s host. We felt Celestia’s presence within then it was suddenly snuffed. Something may have happened.

I pace back and forth in the alley behind Erin’s apartment building. My beat up motorcycle propped against the back wall. “I know. But if she’s not like us. She hasn’t gotten used to y’know… Having someone else sharing her body.”

This is true. But the longer we wait the greater the danger grows. Discord must know that we will pursue contact with my sister now that we have found her.

“You’re right. You’re always right.”

Perhaps if you had lived enough years to have forgotten your actual age you would be always be correct as well Markus.

I hear the teasing tone in her voice and smirk. Glancing in the side mirror of my bike and seeing the inhuman face smirking back at me. I’ve gotten used to seeing her reflection looking back at me for years now. “Alright, alright. I’ll go talk to her. But we have to be cool.”

I shall endeavor to keep my temperature as low as possible.

Laughing now I shake my head and turn toward the alley exit. My smile fades as I see two large men with arms crossed. I turn on my heel to leave the other way, only to find it too blocked by men in white uniforms. “Can I help you assholes or what?”

Honestly Markus must you always be so cra… What is THAT filth doing here?!

Doctor Cordiss steps out from behind the pair I’m looking at. “Markus you’re very sick. You need to come with us. For your own good. These men are only here to help.”

He is lying! He knows we seek to awaken my sister and has come to stop us!

“Yeah thanks for clearing that up.” I turn to address the ‘Doctor’. “Thanks but no thanks Doc. I’m good.”

He shakes his head with mock sadness. God I’ve always hated this fucker. “Gentlemen try not to hurt him too badly.”

The goons on either side of me close in. I look from one pair to the other. “You guys don’t wanna do this. Just lemme leave.”

“Can’t do it kid. Just come quiet. We don’t wanna hurt ya.”

“Hmph.” I reach toward the pockets of my jacket where I keep the brass knuckles I carry with me everywhere.

Markus these men are innocent. You cannot harm them physically. That is not who we are. We must flee and return another time.

With a grunt of dissatisfaction I remove my hands. “God you’re so whiny sometimes. You better be juicing me up good.”

Our bond has never been stronger. Trust me; they will not be able to catch us.

“Fine. But we better do some cool magic shit when my horn comes in.” I crouch and break into a sprint at the entrance the Doc’s not standing in. The idiots steady themselves to grab me. With a smirk I kick off the ground and vault a good ten feet into the air sailing over their heads and landing with a thump on the pavement outside the alley. “Later assholes!”

And then I’m sprinting down the sidewalk. The scenery passing me in a blur of color and motion. I’m running so fast I can’t make out the features of the gawking jerks I’m blazing by. “Why didn’t we do this sooner?!”

The spell shackling me to your psyche has only just begun to loosen Markus. In a few days’ time I should be able to fully share my power with you.

“So wings and magic?”

She sighs. Yes Markus wings and magic.

“Bitchin’.” I screech to a stop as I see white vans rounding the street corner ahead. Cutting down another alley I can hear them moving in pursuit.

Markus jump up. We can flee across the roof tops.

Glancing up I raise my eyebrows suspiciously. “You want me to jump like twenty stories into the air?”

You will be fine. Your body is far more durable. Even if you miss your mark you’ll suffer little more than a scrape or a bruise.

Gritting my teeth I crouch, coiling as much strength as I can in my legs before kicking off the ground and vaulting into the air. “Shiiiiiiiiiiit!” I actually jump higher than the roof I was aiming for. Arms and legs flailing wildly in the air I angle for the fire escape jutting out from the side of the old brick building. I manage to grab onto the black iron railing with little more than a faint tugging at my shoulders for the trouble.

Effortlessly hauling myself over the rail I’m running across the roof now. Quick jumps take me from building to building leaving the vans trying to catch me far behind. All this running and jumping and I’m barely breathing harder than normal. Only the faintest hint of sweat is beading on my forehead. “Jeez. I mean I kinda thought you and me getting y’know… Closer would be badass but nothing like this. I’m like a goddamn super hero.”

Yes well recall Uncle Ben’s words of wisdom Markus. Power and responsibility?

“Yeah, yeah relax I’m not gonna go on a crime spree or some shit. Can’t you let me enjoy this for two minutes?”

My head whips around as a voice speaks up behind me. “She can be a downer can’t she?”

It’s Doctor Corddis. Or Discord I suppose. “How the fuck did you get up here?”

He disappears in a flash, reappearing almost nose to nose with me. “Magic of course! Unlike that stuffy mare you share a head with mine is working quite well in this world. Not as well as I’d hoped but still.” His grin turns sinister as he brings a hand up, backhanding me across the face. It feels like someone smacked me in the jaw with a sack of bricks and I go flying across the rooftop, sliding along the roof and coming to a stop against the edge.

I feel blood in my mouth and my head is pounding as I force myself to sit up. Markus it is time to do what we have been preparing for. If you would rather not be the one I will take control. Taking a life is not an easy task.

“This fucker knew I had a twin sister my whole damn life and kept that from me. You don’t think I can beat his face inside out?” I reach back into my pockets sliding the custom brass knuckles over my hands.

Discord just seems amused by this. “Such a tough guy. If you’d just kept away from Erin we wouldn’t need to do this. You could have kept running around talking to yourself like a nut and she’d just go on oblivious until Celestia’s magic burned her from the inside out.” He sighs in mock sadness. “Ah well. There are other ways of keeping you apart.”

He advances probably for another slap, seeming very confident in my inability to actually hurt him. It comes with more than a little satisfaction when my right hook connects with his cheek and I hear the crack of bone as he spins away howling in pain and clutching his face.

I don’t give him time to recover. I leap onto his back landing a solid punch to the back of his head. He drops to his knees and I deliver another into the small of his back, driving him flat onto the rooftop.

As he lays flat on his belly I kneel down in front of him, displaying the gleaming knuckles around my hands. “You like? Cold iron and silver. Shit cost me a fucking fortune but god dam if it wasn’t worth it.”

He snarls wordlessly and vanishes in a flash. There’s a faint tingling in my eyes and my vision blurs for a moment before I see a faint thread of swirling chaotic energy leading away from the roof.

He is fleeing Markus! We must pursue! This could be our only chance to end Discord’s threat once and for all!

Even without all the shit he’s done to me personally I’ve heard plenty from Luna about what a monster this asshole was. People turning into ponies or not, she and her sister were the only two to come through with their sense of selves intact. While the others may get memory flashes from time to time he effectively killed a pretty big number of ponies.

I’m running again. Following the colorful magical trail. “So what am I seeing?”

Teleportation often leads residue behind. I have augmented your sight to see this residue.

“Huh. Cool I guess.” The trail stops abruptly and I halt the chase confused. “Where did he-“ I feel something heavy and solid collide with the back of my head sending me staggering forward.

“You little worm. You nothing. You think you can attack me and get away with it?” I try to turn toward his voice and feel whatever he hit me in the head with smash into my stomach blasting the air from my lungs. He slowly walks into my field of vision leaning on that metal tipped cane I’ve seen in his office. I brace myself as he raises it, bringing it down hard on my back.

Even with Luna augmenting me physically it still hurts like a bitch. With a strangled yelp I feel some unseen force haul me into the air by the ankles. “Our dear Princess of the night seems to have given you a few improvements. I wonder how strong she made you?” The pressure moves to encompass my entire leg as it intensifies. I try to hold it back but he forces a scream as with a sickening crack my leg bends in a way a leg probably isn’t supposed to bend.

He uses the tip of the cane to force my face up to meet his. “Not bad. A good deal stronger than the average human certainly. Not so much compared to me alas.”

I make a half-hearted attempt to swipe at him but the pressure moves to my other leg as it too gives way, breaking at the knee. “Tsk. Good thing I’m a doctor.”

He drops me on my head and kicks me onto my back. By now I’m so out of it from the pain in my legs I don’t even put up a token resistance. “Markus, Markus, Markus. Such a disturbed young man. I tried to stop you. I really did.”

Through the haze of pain enveloping my mind I look up at him blearily. “Th’fuck r’you talkin bout?”

He answers by again lifting me in his magical grasp, carrying me to the edge of the roof. Delicately he slides the knuckles off my hands and pockets them. “So tragic that you’d rather die than be treated. Ah well! Can’t save em all!”

Discord’s grin widens as the magic holding me up vanishes in an instant. I don’t even have time to scream as the ground rushes up to meet me, and my body slams into the pavement below hard enough to crack it. I hear Luna’s voice screaming in my head. Everything’s getting hazy and before I lose it completely I see those fucking white vans rolling up.

They’re saying something but… I can’t hear it. That’s when I see Discord step into my field of vision. He’s holding a syringe filled with some weird glowing blue fluid. He wastes no time jabbing it into my arm. All at once I feel the strength Luna give me drain away. Her voice… The voice that’s kept me company my entire life is fading until I can’t hear it anymore.

That’s worse than any physical pain he could inflict on me. She’s just gone. I don’t put up a fight as they haul me toward the waiting van. Not that I could put up much of one in my condition anyway. I’m pretty sure I’ll kick it before we get to wherever we’re going. But without Luna I don’t see much of a reason to stick around anyway.