• Published 5th Aug 2013
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The Titan's Orb - Old Man Dusters

Callum lives a sad, violent life in the human world... But that is soon to change as he meet some unexpected visitors that will change his life.

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Chapter Three: Lil' Miss Stressy Pants

So, that was the seventh time I've had to sit through Kung Fu Panda, which turned out to be the perfect choice for everyone (good job, Pinkie), there was enough fighting and humour to entertain Dashie and Applejack, with enough well-written dialogue to stimulate Twilight and Rarity. Even Fluttershy was immersed by all the fight scenes, I was expecting her to hide under the pillow at all the violent parts; perhaps I underestimated the ponies' maturity.

"I think that was AWESOME!" Pinkie yelled.

"It was alright, but there should have been more action." Dashie said.

"Well I think it was perfect!" Pinkie screamed.

The two were left playfully arguing over how the film was, while I took the disk out of the TV and put it back into its box and onto the shelves. That was when Twilight approached me, ironically bearing a very unapproachable expression.

"Can we talk, alone?"

"Of course, let's go somewhere more private." I replied merrily.

I quickly informed the others that I'd only be gone for a few minutes, and then we walked out of the room together; escorting her to Oliver's room and shutting the door behind us so we had some privacy. This would definitely be my best chance to connect with Twilight, I gave the unicorn a warm smile as I sat down on Oliver's bed and got comfortable.

"So, what's up?"

Just as I had anticipated, she deflected my friendliness and chose to remain standing, looking me in the eye and frowning.

"It's obvious that my behaviour has taken you by surprise. What, were you just expecting me to be as ridiculous as the childish cartoon portrays me? Did you expect this whole ordeal to be some sort of gleeful childlike fantasy?"

Trying my best to level with her, I shook my head quickly and shrugged.

"I don't know what to expect, Twilight. I didn't even think you were real until yesterday."

Sighing in response, it was clear that she was trying her best to empathise with me, but was unable to do so very well.

"Do you want to know why I'm so on edge?"

She answered before I could even open my mouth, looking at her own hooves.

"Princess Celestia warned me of this world, I know what it holds. The others haven't got a clue what's going on, they think this is going to be some merry gallivant around a friendly alien world. I'm the only one who knows how much danger we are heading into, and worst of all, I know what's going to happen if we fail this mission."

"What do you mean? What's going to happen?"

She looked back up to me and stared into my eyes, on the verge of divulging to me, but eventually receded back into her shell and refused to answer. Not wanting to push it, I held back on asking further questions, I'd find out what she meant at a later date. For now, I knew she was right about the potential dangers ahead, but I wasn't going to just sit there and tell her that it's hopeless, I had to comfort her.

"It's going to be okay, Twilight-"

"No it's not!" She yelled, "Our lives are at stake here!"

Another outburst like that and the others would surely panic, if they hadn't already; I had to shut her up, so I tried a different approach. Furrowing my brow and scowling at the unicorn, I snapped back at her sternly, without giving her a chance to speak.

"Twilight, don't be such an imbecile, are you trying to demoralise the others? You're absolutely right, and I'm not going to lie to you, it is dangerous, it is risky, and I've barely a clue what lies ahead. But let me tell you this, if any danger comes to you, it's got to get through me first. I will die for your safety if that's what it takes, do you understand?
Now get your shit together, okay? I understand how you feel, but whether you like it or not, the only way you're going to get through this is to trust me."

In spite of Twilight's belligerence, she was completely taken aback from my sudden change in attitude, my approach somewhat appeared to be working.

"Now that you're here," I continued, "your safety is all that matters to me, and I'll give everything I have to give to ensure that you are all safe. Now then, no doubt your shouting has put the others on edge, so you need to pull yourself together and show them that everything is fine, and that there is nothing wrong; okay?"

She was well and truly speechless, my outburst caught her off guard.

"I'm just so afraid..." She sighed after a short silence.

Not wanting to pass on her lowered defences, I placed a hand on her shoulder.

"I know Twilight, I know... But you've got to trust me, I will protect you."

Whether it was the physical contact, or what I had said, it didn't matter, I'd overstepped my bounds; something snapped and she glared at me, brushing my hand off her with a hoof.

"No, I don't trust you, Princess Celestia has told me enough about your kind, she's shown me exactly how twisted your species can be. I am not trusting you, and I never will, no matter how nice you pretend to be. We aren't friends, and it will stay that way for as long as we're on this planet together. You are nothing but our guide."

Hoofsteps sounded on the wood floorboards outside, and we both went quiet; the bedroom door opened, and Applejack's head popped around the corner.

"Everythin' alright in here, you both?"

I gave Twilight a very quick glare, too fast for Applejack to notice. she looked at Applejack with a smile.

"Yes Applejack, everything's fine." She said.

Applejack looked at me with a doubtful expression, clearly not believing Twilight; I gave the farm pony a warm smile and nodded with certainty.

"Everything's absolutely fine, we're just discussing the mission, I hope the five of you aren't too bored in there."

"Nah, we're all reading those books of yours, they're really interesting, they're so in-depth and tell so much about your kind, you humans sure are something..." She replied.

"Yeah, they sure are something." Twilight remarked coldly.

I had no idea what Princess Celestia has told Twilight, but my best guess was that she'd taught her about the world wars, terrorism, murder, and most, if not all of the other atrocities that exist in this world. That's when a jolt of fear ran through me and brought on one of those cold sweats, I had a book about food somewhere in my collection, what if the others found it? If they found out that humans were omnivores and not herbivores, who knows how they'd react...
Jumping to my feet, I knew there was no more gain with Twilight for now, and hoped I could get the group away from the books before they stumbled upon something I'd rather they didn't find.

"Alrighty then, books can be fun, but they don't entertain forever; let's find something more active to do!"

Hurrying out of the room and into mine, I was instantly greeted by the smiles of the other ponies; I couldn't help but simply grin along with them, just walking into a room to see these characters from my favourite TV show made me feel so warm, and happy inside; it truly was a dream come true.
By the looks of things, they hadn't found the book I had in mind; I sighed a breath of relief, only to inhale in a huge lungful of surprise as Pinkie jumped in front of me, her nose no more than a centimetre away from mine.

"Are there any games we can play? I'm bored of books now, let's do something else, what games do humans play? Do you have any more cake? Anyway what games can we play? I bet you have loads and loads of fun games. Can we play a game huh? Huh? Can we? Can we?"

I didn't really know how to respond, there was no reason we couldn't play a game of some sort, but I had no idea of what to play, the only games I played these days involved holding a controller and looking at a screen. Sport wise I only played basketball and rugby, and I don't think either of those would suit their fancy. Eventually I decided to take the easy route and knock the ball back into her court.

"Sure! Do you have any idea on what you would like to play?"

The hyperactive pony stopped and froze like a block of ice, she didn't even appear to be breathing, she was completely motionless; I nervously chuckled and turned to Applejack with a look of bewilderment, to which she laughed.

"She's thinkin' hard, Sugarcube, that's all."

After about ten seconds of being utterly motionless, the pink pony started vibrating before jumping up and down in a fashion identical to her cartoon self, during a particularly big jump, her head bumped the ceiling and the bouncing ceased, her mane now wobbling like jelly.

"I have a great idea!" She screamed, "Let's all play hide and seek!"

Raising an eyebrow and pursing my lips, I looked to Rainbow Dash and Applejack and assumed that they would be a bit too old for such a game; Dashie groaned under her breath and Applejack rolled her eyes and gave me a look as if to say 'fine, but let's just get it over with.'

"Is that what everybody wants to play?" I asked.

"Everybody?" Rarity asked, "Surely you mean everypony?"

I smiled and leaned against the wall, deciding that it would be good to quickly deal with this little subject before playing.

"Well, here on Earth, we say things a little differently. It's rather obvious that we don't have talking civilised ponies here, so saying everypony would be rather pointless, so we say everybody." I explained.

Emitting a simple 'ah', to begin with, Rarity's eyes darted around sheepishly, clearly feeling a bit like an idiot; wishing not to make similar mistakes in the future, she inquired if I could teach her more humanisms.

"By all means." I confirmed.

A few minutes went by as I taught the girls various differences in vocabulary between humans and ponies, such as hooves to hands or feet, stallions to men, colts to boys, mares to women, and so on. The ponies were amazed by the small but significant changes in the dialect, despite us speaking the same language.
I was about to ask if they had any questions when Pinkie randomly started to jump up and down.

"Hey, we haven't played hide and seek yet!"

"Oh come on then, let's go." I laughed, playfully rolling my eyes.

While we were originally doing this just to keep Pinkie entertained, it turned out to be like most games and became quite fun once we all got into it, besides Twilight of course, who sat by the shed reading books.
We had played for almost two hours, and I'd actually really come to enjoy myself; I was certainly the hardest to spot, thanks to the girls all having the disadvantage of being so brightly coloured.

"Let's set Callum a challenge!" Pinkie yelled, "All five of us are the seekers, while Callum hides!"

"Make it fair though," I said, "no using magic to find me, and no flying too high!"

The ponies all agreed, covering their eyes and starting to count. Now, if they were going to challenge me, then I'd challenge them back, I ran over to the ironwood tree in the garden, and climbed to the very top; they'd never suspect me to be so high up.

"Twenty one! Twenty two!" Rainbow Dash called.

I absolutely loved being up in this tree, the ironwood's branches were almost impossible to break, so I always had confidence in scaling to the top. I could get a whole view of the garden, not to mention the park beyond it.

"Twenty three! Twenty four!" Applejack shouted.

Looking down towards the house, I suddenly started feeling a bit homesick, the childish feelings subsided as the realisation that I'd never come back here again crept up on me, I'd be leaving my whole life behind, my computer, my games, my best friends, my online pen-pals, and my beloved dog, Chilli.

"Twenty five! Twenty six!" Rarity yelled.

My attention drifted back to the ponies as they counted, the previous feeling washed away and my enthusiasm was restored over time; to travel with the 'mane six' in order to help save Equestria, no, all of Equus!
It was worth it, it was worth it all.

"Twenty seven! Twenty eight!" Fluttershy squeaked.

Everything I had in life now, it could never be half as good as this opportunity, to go somewhere else, to do something else, and to be someone else! And to think, if I actually succeeded in helping the ponies repair this orb, I would be revered as a hero, just like in all the fictional tales, the hero who saved the world.
Who wouldn't take the chance to achieve such a title?

"Twenty nine! THIRTY!!!" Pinkie Pie screamed at the top of her lungs.

All five ponies scattered across the garden searching for me, while I sat there in the tree watching them search for me.

A gentle mid-summer breeze of blew against my face, lightly caressing it without being strong enough to irritate my senses; taking in a large breath of air, I closed my eyes, and for the first time, I felt happy.
Like, truly happy.
Never before had I experienced such a deep feeling of mirth. Sure, I've had the standard sense of happiness and joy over my life, like when I opened my first Xbox, or when I received a laptop for Christmas, but this was a whole new type of happy, I felt it deep within me, I felt genuinely happy as a person, like I had found a purpose in life, it was wonderful.

I'd zoned out for some time, simply relishing in such a brilliant and peaceful mood; that was when I suddenly felt a hard, smooth object gently nudge my arm.

"Umm, excuse me, I found you."

I whipped around to find Fluttershy sitting calmly on the same branch as I, lightly prodding me with her hoof; I jumped slightly and almost fell out of the tree altogether, how had she crept up on me so efficiently?
She really was the quiet one...

"How did you find me?" I asked.

"With my eyes..." She replied with her tongue sticking out.

I couldn't help but burst out laughing, I had never expected in a million years for Fluttershy to give such a sharp and witty reply, especially seeing as I was still somewhat of a stranger to her.

"It's nice up here isn't it?" I asked, still chuckling.

"It's wonderful," she replied, "trees are beautiful, and you can always get such a wonderful view from the top. To be perfectly honest, sometimes I'd quite like to be a tree..."

I giggled as I drew a likeness to a very similar quote she had once said in the cartoon. It seemed that Fluttershy had warmed to me already, she had totally relaxed and was all happy, next step, Twilight.

"Well," I said, "let's go and tell the others you found me."

Fluttershy slowly climbed down using her wings for support, while I simply jumped after sliding down a couple of metres. As I hit the ground, I performed a roll so I didn't hurt anything, and used the momentum to spring back up to my feet; I stood up to see Rainbow Dash staring at me with raised eyebrows, clearly impressed.

"Did you just jump from up there?" She asked.

Giving a casual shrug and a nod, I didn't overly want to show off about it, I had been climbing trees from a young age and had fallen from enough of them to know when a landing was safe or not. My passion for climbing had led me to always take me to take the fastest route, and if there was an obstacle in the way, overcome it.

"Ooh, my, I would never dream of jumping from up there." Fluttershy murmured.

"Uh, Fluttershy, you have wings!" Teased Dashie, nudging her playfully.

I chose to interrupt before Fluttershy could respond, after seeing the episodes Cutie Mark Chronicles and Hurricane Fluttershy, I knew well enough that she was sensitive about her wings.

"So, where are the others? I imagine they're still looking for me?" I asked.

"Yeah, Fluttershy went off on her own and I decided to follow her." Rainbow Dash replied.

"I'll go look for them." Fluttershy squeaked.

Once again, I couldn't help but find myself smiling, this time at Fluttershy's voice, it was just so adorable; whenever I had heard it in the show, I received a feeling of comfort and security, something I'd always longed for. But now, hearing it in real life, I felt like I had to return the favour, as though she were a child of mine.
I had to keep her safe, I had to keep them all safe.

Fluttershy trotted away as silent as a mouse, leaving me and Rainbow Dash alone. Believing I could get some further information about Twilight from her companions, I decided to branch out.

"Hey Rainbow Dash, do you have any idea what's going on with Twilight? I understand she's nervous of being here, the whole lot of you must be, but I don't think she's telling me the whole story. Do you know why she's being so cold and standoffish with me?"

Rainbow Dash responded with a disgruntled sigh.

"Dude, I wish I knew. She started acting like this a few days before we came here, it was just after Princess Celestia gave us this mission. She took Twilight away to have a private talk with her, and she's been really touchy ever since. It's like she's become a completely different pony, she's always on edge now. Sometimes she gets up in the middle of the night and walks around, only me and Applejack know about it."

The plot thickens, so whatever was getting to Twilight had something to do with Celestia, and it was making her restless on a daily and nightly basis. At least some of the girls were aware of it, I'd need their help in getting her to spill the beans.

"Huh, odd. What do you think the Princess said to her?" I asked.

She only shrugged, and was about to share her thoughts when the others came along.

"Where in tarnation were you? We've been searching everywhere!" Applejack exclaimed.

Before I could answer, Fluttershy pointed to the top of the ironwood tree with a ginormous grin on her face, ruffling her wings in prideful delight; I presumed that she'd rarely won these sort of games, which hardly surprised me.

"I found him up there."

"Wow, I would never have guessed. Nice one, Sugarcube!"

Merrily trotting up to the buttery pegasus, Applejack put her into a gentle headlock and ruffled her mane; we were all praising her and merrily conversing until Twilight came along, instantly generating an uncomfortable atmosphere.

"Playtime's over, can we get a move on now? Or do you all need a few more minutes of acting like foals?"

Needless to say, the others were speechless, as was I. Twilight was really pushing it now, her blunt behaviour was expected at this point, but blatant rudeness was bang out of order, and it seemed Rainbow Dash thought the same.

"Alright, that's it, if nopony else is going to call you out, then I will! I've had enough of this Twilight! What the heck has gotten into you? I don't give a flying feather what Princess Celestia's told you, I am sick of you being so rude all the time!"

Twilight glared back at Rainbow, holding her ground.

"Rude? Rude!? You have no idea what's at stake here! Nor do you have a clue about the danger we're in! Do you understand that you might never see home again? You could die here! All of our lives are at stake, and all you care about is fun and games!"

It seemed the gloves had come off, there was no sugarcoating the situation now; I looked to Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy with caution, and as expected they both seemed somewhat terrified, Flutters was hiding behind her mane and Pinks was attempting to hide under her hooves.

"Jeez, overreaction much? Just shut up Twilight! There hasn't been a single day where you haven't been uptight, preaching your doom and gloom. I could deal with you being a grouch, but now you're just a bitch!''

Even with the high tension, I was not expecting swearing. Rainbow Dash and Twilight had edged closer and closer to one another, their noses no more than a few centimetres apart, teeth bared. Twilight looked as if she were about to strike her friend, a fight would surely break out if I didn't intervene; I rushed forward and stood between the two of them, using my deeper voice and larger size to establish dominance over the both of them.

"That's enough! I will not have you fighting amongst yourselves! Come on, we haven't even left my house yet! Twilight's absolutely right, you are here on a dangerous mission, and I am to be your guide. Tomorrow we will try to pinpoint the first part of the orb, then we decide exactly how we're going to fake my death, and then we shall set off, okay? Now will the both of you calm down? I don't want any further hostility!"

All the ponies were speechless, my first impression had given them a 'gentle giant' image, so my sudden change of mood and booming voice had shocked them all, even Twilight was taken aback; poor Fluttershy was cowering in fear.
Without uttering a word, Twilight stormed off to the shed to remove herself from the situation.
I took a frustrated sigh, had I overdone it? Applejack walked next to me and thankfully dispelled my worries.

"You've done nothin' wrong Callum, I'm not sure what the Princess has told her, but it's gone straight to that mare's head. I'll try to go calm her down, take the others inside, I'll be along in a bit."

She walked past me and trotted after Twilight to the shed in attempt to reason with her. The others all looked around awkwardly, clearly embarrassed and unsure of what to do. Approaching Fluttershy, whom was still trembling, I knelt down beside her and spoke in a calm, gentle tone.

"Hey, it's okay now Fluttershy, it's okay."

Slowly looking up at me, she blinked away the tears which were blurring her vision.

"Tw-Twi... Twilight said we're all going to die!"

"No..." I sighed, shaking my head slowly.

Tilting my head and smiling with compassion, I placed a hand on the pony's mane and combed my fingers through it, gently stroking past the back of her ear.

"Twilight is scared, just like you, and fear very often causes one to exaggerate on a situation, and Twilight is coming up with the absolute worst possible outcome. Look, I know we've only just met and that you've got no reason to trust me yet, but I am going to protect you, Fluttershy, all of you. Against all and any threat we may face, I vow to keep you safe, no harm will come to you, do you understand me?"

I'd never really thought that I was good with words, but whatever I had said had done the trick; the pegasus lifted her head and her shaking came to a halt.

"Okay... I believe you..." She stuttered quietly.

I had expected it to take days for Fluttershy to so much as talk to me, let alone put her faith in me; I certainly wouldn't betray such a fragile trust, this was a commitment for life, and I intended to stick to it. Looking to the others, it seemed Pinkie had also calmed down. In fact, it appeared as thought everyone had returned to normal; Rarity smiled warmly at me, while Rainbow Dash was absolutely beaming and making no attempts to hide it, I couldn't help but smile back at such an adorable face.

"What?" I asked innocently.

"Well, it's just that Fluttershy's never warmed up to anyone that fast before, not since meeting some colt ages ago. You might not be a pony, but still, I just didn't expect her to get so close, so quickly."

At Dashie's mention of "some colt", I noticed that Fluttershy very sheepishly combed her mane over her face to hide her blushing cheeks. Fluttershy, having a boyfriend? Surely not. While it wasn't impossible, I highly doubted that Fluttershy had the confidence to engage in such a relationship, but then again, what did I actually know about these ponies?
It would have to remain yet another mystery, alongside the Twilight Sparkle conundrum.

"Can we go back inside now?" Pinkie piped up unexpectedly.

"Yeah," I replied, "I suppose we need to discuss plans for our journey."

I headed towards the house, and the others followed suit.

{What the bloody hell did Celestia say to Twilight?} I kept thinking to myself as I walked.

Twilight was obviously the leader of this expedition, and I needed her trust. Being able to work alongside her positively would surely help us stay out of trouble. But how, just how, could I earn her trust with this current behaviour? I'd have to do something pretty damn spectacular.

Opening the back door, I held it open for everypony just like before. I was about to follow them inside when I noticed Applejack appearing from behind the shed, hopefully she'd managed to calm Twilight down.

"You four head upstairs, I'm going to wait for AJ."

Applejack noticed that I was waiting for her and went into a trot as not to keep me waiting. Observing her as she approached, I found it interesting how the girls were all bigger than ponies on Earth, they stood at around chest height for me, with a rough estimate, I'd say they were all about four and a half feet tall. Rarity was definitely the tallest, it would be interesting to measure them all and know for sure.

"Y'all right sugar cube?" Applejack asked, bringing me back from my thoughts.

"Yeah, fine thanks. How's Twilight?"

Sighing heavily, the farm pony itched her brow with a foreleg.

"She's blowin' steam over there. Hay, I don't know what's gotten into that mare, but it's somethin' sour."

Humming, I shrugged.

"Well, we really need to plan out this whole expedition, and there's no good doing it without her. So she needs to calm down and get her arse back indoors."

Nodding with acknowledgement, Applejack turned around and began to head back to the shed.


Turning back to face me, she raised an eyebrow with confusion.

"Head on in, I'll talk to her."

"Uh, you're kiddin' right?"

I shook my head, and started heading over. After some brief thought, I had a rough idea of what I was going to say and it would sound best coming from me directly.

"Well, it's your funeral..." Applejack tutted, going into the house and disappearing out of sight.

Trudging over to the shed, it at first appeared as though there wasn't a camp at all, that was until I spotted a little silver ball attached to the shed's outer wall, glimmering faintly, it was no bigger than a peanut. Out of curiosity, I went over I prodded the gem-like object, and was amazed to witness three tents and a fire-pit materialise out of thin air, it was like something one would see in a sci-fi movie.
The camp itself had been really well set up, the tents were all perfectly stitched, (I presumed it was Rarity's work), the fire-pit was gorgeous, with curved stones all around it which were all white as marble. The fire was still burning, even though there was no wood in the pit, I guessed that it was magic. The whole setup looked excellent, these ponies knew what they were doing when it came to camping, I was impressed.

Although I was fascinated by the camp, my attention was drawn to a single tent in particular as I detected an odd sniffing noise, it took me a couple of seconds to realise what it was, it was the sound of crying.

"I should probably write up a last will and testament first, but hey-ho..." I quietly muttered to myself.

Approaching the tent, I parted the entrance and peered inside to find Twilight sitting there with her back to the entrance, loudly sniffing to herself.

"Twilight, are you okay?" I asked.

"Go away..." She breathed, almost out of earshot.

"C'mon, Twilight, tell me what's going on so I can help."

"I said, go away..."

Kneeling down, I reached forward and gently placed my hand on her outer shoulder in attempt to comfort her; needless to say, this was a bad move. Before I could react, she whipped around and punched me right in the mouth; I fell back and sat there in disbelief. Holy shit, she could actually punch pretty hard, my lips felt like they were on fire.

"I said go away!" She yelled, glaring at me.

Wiping my lip to find a generous amount of blood, I remained expressionless and stared at her.

"I don't think I deserved that." I uttered blankly.

Taken aback and unnerved by my state of calmness after just hitting me, Twilight froze, and I continued.

"Now then, I can see that a lot of stress has been put on to you, an unfair amount, is that safe to say? I can help you manage that, but you've got to tell me what the Princess said to you in private. Nothing is going to be resolved until I know exactly what the matter is."

"How do you know that the Princess talked to me alone?" She sniffed, recovering from her tearful state.

"Come on, it's no big secret, she spoke with you privately after the mission briefing."

"The others told you didn't they?" She asked.

I simply nodded, to which she started glaring at me.

"It's none of your business, all six of you! What I saw is for me to know, and me alone!"

Although it somewhat was my business, there was clearly no breakthrough in sight for now and I didn't want to push it, for now I just needed her to come inside the house to help make a plan.
Sighing, I gave up.

"Suit yourself Twilight, if you want to keep it to yourself and continue on whatever dark path you're on, then do. But whenever you're ready to be a team player, feel free to open up. I'll leave the decision to, but for now we need you in the house as we're making plans on how we're going to find this orb of yours."

I stood up and walked out of the camp before she could respond, if there was one thing I'd gathered about Twilight already, it was that she loved getting the last word in. As I headed back towards the house, I heard the tent unzip and the sound of hoofsteps in the grass behind me.
Strange, even after the foul behaviour she had displayed since meeting her, and despite the arguments that had transpired today alone, heck, even after she had hit me in the face! There was something about her, something I could relate to.
Although I couldn't put my finger on it, I felt a connection of some sort.

I don't know why but, I couldn't help but smile, just a little...

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