• Published 26th Mar 2012
  • 15,927 Views, 770 Comments

The Past is the Future - the_panic



A human escaping from a nuclear holocaust brings change to all of Equestria and a certain librarian.

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Waiter, There's A Monster In My Village!

After several days of prototyping and development, Professors Hoofstein and Bunsen were ready to test their first version of the replicator generator. The end result was somewhat different from the archive file description, but this was to be expected given the various magical substitutions that the scientists had made out of necessity. All the same, they had followed the functional schematics as closely as possible and were confident it would function properly. It was a large box-shaped unit, with a hollowed out cavity inside which the nanomachines would be generated through the manipulation of individual atoms of input material by carefully modulated magnetic fields.

Bunsen began inspecting the device, double-checking the connections and contacts between the various circuits and moving parts as well as ensuring that the storage tanks contained enough material to create the initial spawn of nanomachines. Satisfied that the generator was ready, he stepped out of the test chamber to return to the observation deck outside, where the control panel and the rest of the newly-appointed research team, courtesy of the Princess herself, were waiting.

“So... Hoofstein... Ready for the big moment?” Bunsen’s hoof was practically shaking with anticipation over the power switch.

The other professor nodded. “As ready as ever, let’s see what this thing can do.”

Bunsen threw the switch, causing a cascade of indicator lights to fire up across the control panel. The next step was to provide some scrap material for the machine to transform into the desired product. In order to give the machine a test run, they had configured it to produce a simple, commonly-used object: a horseshoe.

Bunsen then turned on the intercom. “Crescent Wrench, I need you to dump the scrap into the machine, then I can run the program!”

A muscular brown earth pony with a wrench-mark on his flank stepped into the test chamber, wearing a hardhat and carrying a large barrel of broken bits of wood, glass, and lab refuse. He hesitantly moved closer to the violently-humming machine, and gave Bunsen a suspicious look through the observation window.

Bunsen hit the intercom button again. “Wrench, just dump it in already! The machine is just initialized, I won’t actually run it until after you’re safely out!” The chance of it spontaneously exploding is miniscule at best, anyway...

Wrench shrugged, and tipped the barrel over the machine, sending a wave of old tools and splintered planks into the machine. His task completed, Crescent Wrench made a quick trot for the exit.

Bunsen turned to the unicorn scientists behind him. “Hey, you with the notebook and ruler cutie-mark, would you be so kind as to take notes on this trial? Celestia wants detailed records kept of our activities.”

The junior researcher nodded.

“Alright, here goes... Something!”

Bunsen flipped the final sequence of switches, causing the machine’s humming to quickly become an ominous rumbling. A slight glow came from the inside of the generator’s cavity; the heavy table that it was bolted to began shaking from the intense vibrations. The glow began growing brighter and brighter still, until the air was filled with a sudden and deafening roar; the shockwave blew out the observation window and knocked the researchers off of their hooves before the noise and intense light dissipated.

Hoofstein shouted for someone to cut the power, and one of the assistants quickly obliged, though it was not necessary, as it was clear that the machine was no longer functioning.

Once he was certain that it was safe to enter the test chamber, Bunsen walked over to inspect the wreckage. To his surprise, the generator was mostly intact, but it had failed to produce anything even remotely resembling a horseshoe.

Bunsen sighed in disappointment. “Well, that was a bust... Though it seems it did manage to produce something,” he aimed a hoof at a scorched lump of iron, “it may not be a horseshoe, but at least it got the material right. Back to square one, gentlecolts...”

---

Sam awoke at the crack of dawn, a habit he was surprised to have picked up without an alarm clock. He quickly got dressed, and made his way downstairs to the kitchen. To his surprise, neither Spike nor Twilight were up yet. Sam decided to grab his breakfast to go so that he could get to Sweet Apple Acres early; if Applejack’s ankle was still sore, he and Big Mac would again have to pick up the slack.

Upon arriving at the farm, Sam was relieved to see Applejack already outside and starting her chores.

The orange mare heard him approaching, and turned to greet him. “Mornin’ Sam! Didn’t expect ta see ya’ll here so early.”

“Yeah, I wanted to get a head start in case you were out of commission again. How’s your ankle?”

“It’s jest like Ah told Granny, Ah only twisted it a bit is all. Really she shoulda let me get back ta things after lunch, ya’ll coulda really used the help and Ah was feelin’ fine at that point.”

Sam shrugged. “Eh, don’t worry about it. If we had to work extra hard one day to make sure you haven’t really been hurt, I think I can deal.”

Applejack pawed at the ground idly. “Well thank ya Sam, Ah ‘preciate the concern.”

“All the same, I’m glad to see you back on your feet. I don’t think I can take another day like yesterday,” Sam chuckled.

“Well, don’t worry too much, you an’ Big Mac got a lot done ahead of time yesterday. All we really need ta do today is haul a few bushels into town to sell. An’ that reminds me, today’s payday for ya, isn’t?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

Sam followed Applejack towards the barn, where she dropped the pitchfork she’d been carrying.

“Well, remind me before ya’ll leave and we’ll settle up. If ya’ll don’t mind my asking, what exactly are you doin’ with yer earnins?”

Sam shook his head. “I don’t mind; really I’ve just been saving up. For the moment, Twilight’s been getting extra money from the Princess to cover the added costs of having me around. I’ve tried to give Twilight something of what you pay me so she could keep some of the extra stipend for herself, but she vehemently refuses,” he laughed, “that unicorn has been too good to me. I don’t know though, I’d kinda like to eventually get my own place and provide for myself. I don’t really want to be her responsibility forever, you know?”

Applejack laughed. “Ever thought of at least gettin’ her a gift or somethin’?”

“Actually, yeah, and I was wondering if you could help me out there. I told Twilight about this drink that we had back in my time, called ‘sangria’, and she said she’d like to try it.”

“Really now? What’s in it?”

“First, you guys have wine right? And liquor?”

“Ohh it’s one ‘a THOSE drinks,” Applejack winked knowingly.

“So you do have that, cool. Basically, what I’m talking about is wine with a bit of brandy mixed in with a lot of sugar and a big helping of chopped fruit in the bottom of the jug. Personally I like apples for this. Where can I get wine around here, though?”

“That sounds pretty nice there, Sam. ‘Specially the bit about mixin’ in apples. There’s a mare by the name of Berry Punch in town that makes a livin’ selling the stuff. It ain’t half bad either. And I’ll give ya a nice sack of apples on the condition that ya’ll make a little extra for me ta try.”

“Thanks, sounds like a fair deal to me. Anyway... I suppose we should get to work?”

---

To Sam’s delight, Applejack’s estimate of an easy work day was very accurate. After he helped her bring the apple cart to market, she gave him his pay and the promised sack of apples before dismissing him for the day.

Sam set out to find Berry’s store. It wasn’t far off the beaten path through the town square, and fairly non-descript aside from the brilliant pink sign with the outline of a wine bottle on it.

He began inspecting the various bottles on the wine shelves, looking for the right one. His efforts were impeded by the fact that all the labels were written in Equestrian.

“Hello! Can I *hic* help you?” A cheerful, slurring voice rang out from the back of the dimly-lit store.

Sam found the source of the greeting, a pink pony standing behind the cash register.

“Yeah, I’m looking for some red wine? A sweet variety if you’ve got any.”

“I certainly *hic* do! That’s my favorite, they’re on the front rack... Hey, you’re that *hic* human that Pinkie threw the party for.”

Sam nodded. “That’s me, Sam Mitchell. And guessing by the grapes and strawberry mark you’ve got, you’re Berry?”

“*hic* Yep!”

Sam left the obviously inebriated mare and made a second attempt at locating the wine.

“Berry, I can’t read Equestrian,” Sam shouted, ”can you point out a specific bottle for me?”

Berry Punch unsteadily trotted to the front of the store, swaying and stumbling as she went. “Here *hic* you go! That’s *hic* twenty bits.”

“Alright, what about brandy?”

Berry looked up at him quizzically. “What about her?”

“It’s a drink, you know, liquor?”

“OHH yeah yeah, *hic* I have a few bottles behind the counter...”

After several more minutes of confused conversation on Berry’s part, due to her alcohol-blurred vision causing her to mistake five bits for thirty and vice versa, Sam finally completed his purchase successfully, and left for the library.

---

By the time Sam had returned home, it was nearly lunch. In order to gain entrance to the library, he had to knock and wait for Spike to open the door; his arms were overloaded with bags containing the ingredients for Twilight’s gift.

“What’s with all the groceries, bro?” The dragon asked.

“Just some apples, sugar, and some other ingredients.”

“Gonna make a pie, eh?”

Sam ducked his head to enter the tree-house. “Nah, I’m going to try making this special drink that I used to have back in my time.”

“Cool! Think I could try some?”

Sam chuckled. “Maybe,” he lowered his voice into a whisper, “but this is really going to be a gift for Twilight, ok? So keep it on the downlow.”

Spike followed him into the kitchen. “Gotcha bro. By the way, while you’re putting all that away, want me to make you a sandwich? And when are you going to show me that special way to catch fish?”

“Yeah, I’m getting a little hungry. As for the fishing, I don’t know, but soon, I promise. By the end of the week, for sure.”

This answer seemed to satisfy the purple dragon, and he handed Sam the finished sandwich.

“By the way, where’s Twilight, Spike?”

“She’s up in her room reading. She told me to come get her when you got home, but do you want me to wait so you can make her gift?”

“That’d be great, give me like half an hour, alright? Thanks!”

Spike nodded, and went back to organizing the bookshelves.

Meanwhile, Sam emptied his bottle of wine into a large jug. Measuring out a few shots worth of brandy, he added that to the mix along with a generous amount of sugar, followed by several good handfuls of chopped apples. He repeated the process with another jug, to have a portion of the beverage left to repay Applejack for the apples she gave him.

His task finished, Sam decided to go see what Twilight wanted. Spike was busy taking a nap, so he went to Twilight’s room in person.

Seeing the door closed, Sam knocked. He heard the clatter and rustling of books falling to the floor followed by the panicked sounds of hooves scrambling to straighten things up.

“J-Just a minute Spike!”

“Spike’s napping, he told me earlier that you wanted to see me when I got in?”

“OH! Yes, just a second... Ok come in.”

The door glowed purple before opening to allow Sam inside. Twilight was sitting on her bed, surrounded with books, with a strange look of nervousness on her face.

“So, what’s up?”

“Oh, just doing some reading as usual, you know...”

“I can see that,” Sam laughed, and sat down next to her, “though I thought you usually did this in your study.”

“Oh I do, I just wanted to do it in private today,” Twilight’s eyes briefly darted to the side.

“Yeah, so anyway what can I do for you?”

“Um, I wanted to ask you a few things.”

“Does this have anything to do with that crush of yours?”

“Uh, no, I mean, um... Yes,” Twilight smiled nervously.

Sam laughed. “Ask away, but I already told you not to let this worry you.”

“I know, I know... Anyway... What do you usually do on dates?”

“Lots of things. It might be easier for me to ask you what ponies do, and I can describe the differences.”

“Ok, well, I’ve seen pony couples go have ice cream together, go on walks at sunset, or go out for dinner at a nice restaurant.”

“Sounds pretty similar to what humans do. Are you planning on asking this stallion of yours on a date?”

Twilight blushed. “I’m considering it, because I can’t think of any other way to figure out once and for all what he thinks of me.”

“That’s good! I don’t know how things go for ponies, but for what it’s worth I’d be really flattered if some cute girl just came over and asked me out.”

Twilight felt her heart jump. “You think so? Well... I told you earlier that I’ve never been on a date... And in all honesty I’m also kind of interested to see how humans act in this sort of situation and-”

Sam cut off her rambling. “Are you asking me on a practice date, Twilight?”

Twilight could feel her face burning. “...Yes.”

Sam laughed and bowed his head. “I’d be honored to do that for you.”

Twilight’s heart was on the verge of exploding. This just might work! You’re a genius, Twilight!

Fighting to contain herself, Twilight threw her forelegs around Sam’s neck. “Oh, thank you! Thank you thank you thank you!”

Sam could feel his own face reddening slightly. “Don’t mention it.”

Twilight regained her composure and sat back down. “So, Sam, what do you want to do?”

“I’ve got something in mind. Give me some time to clean up and change clothes, and be ready by dinner time, ok?”

Twilight was beaming. “Ok! Oh, speaking of clothes, right now is probably a good time to give you these.”

Her horn began to glow as a rectangular package floated over from the other side of the room into Sam’s lap.

Sam opened the package to find several pairs of blue jeans, a pair of khaki dress pants, and several shirts to go with each.

Sam’s jaw dropped in surprise. “Twilight, where’d you get these?!”

“Remember that set of clothes that vanished from your room? I borrowed them so that Rarity could get your measurements, and had her make these. I told her what you were wearing in some of those pictures you showed me.”

It was Twilight’s turn to get glomped. “This is great, Twilight, thanks. How’d you get her to make them for me?”

“I paid her and told her to forget they were for you,” Twilight grumbled.

“Oh... In that case let me pay you back for them, at least.”

Twilight laughed. “Nope, but you do owe me,” she said mischievously, “don’t worry though, I’ve already called in my favor with you. You HAVE to go out with me tonight, now,” she said with the most innocent smile she could muster.

“I suppose you’ve got me then! Anyway, thanks again. You are too good to me, Twilight.” Sam stood up to leave. “And don’t forget, be ready in four hours!”

---

“Bunsen, it seems one of the junior researchers came across something in the archive that should help us fix the problem with the replicators,” Hoofstein said.

Looking up from the partially-disassembled generator, Bunsen replied, “Really now? What does he think it is? We haven’t found any evidence of physical damage or defect in this machine, and the code was quite straightforward, though difficult to enter with our computer interfaces,” he continued, exasperated, “what does that newbie think he’s found that one of US missed?!”

“Calm yourself, Bunsen. It was a hidden file anyway, probably one that Sam had thought to be lost. That archive was quite damaged, after all,” Hoofstein cleared his throat before continuing, “Anyhow, it seems that Chip found an entry on a sort of artificial intelligence, a self-improving algorithm that we could combine with the generator’s base code; the machine produced the right materials but the form was off. Personally, I’m hesitant to try it until we can really ensure that it wouldn’t override our safeguards to prevent runaway replication.”

“Nonsense, Hoofstein, those safeguards are hardwired into the machine itself. They aren’t in resident memory. Half of them are enchantments, anyway!”

Hoofstein nodded. “I understand that, Bunsen. But you heard the Princess, we must be careful with this.”

Bunsen could feel his blood pressure rising. “I know damn well what the Princess said, and I’m saying we’ve got this under control!”

“Now listen here, Bunsen, there’s no need to chastise me! You may be in charge of this project, but only by my own decision. I’m still the senior staff member in this project. Remember what I said mere moments ago? I’m HESITANT to try it. Not against it. I just want more work put into ensuring that this thing won’t become dangerous.”

Bunsen sighed. “I’m sorry, Professor. I’ll see to it personally that everything is in place to keep the experiment safe. I’m just a bit on edge; this is the first project that I’ve been expressly in charge of, and I’m dying to see it succeed, especially if the Princess herself is keeping tabs on it.”

“I understand.”

At that moment, a young, black, bespectacled unicorn entered the test chamber.

“Professor Bunsen, sir, we’ve managed to get a copy of the artificial intelligence code output to disk.” Chip placed two flat objects on the table, “I also made an attempt at making a test version; it’s quite stripped down, missing a lot of functionality but it should be good enough for a test run.”

“Very good, Chip. Leave the disks here and we’ll try out your test program.”

The junior scientist left the chamber.

“So, Bunsen, want to give it a go?”

Bunsen nodded, and absentmindedly grabbed one of the disks, placing it into the programming interface connected to the generator.

Bunsen, Hoofstein, and the rest of the research team retreated to the observation deck. Repeating the same process as before, Bunsen soon had the machine back online, humming away. Within a matter of minutes, much to Bunsen’s delight, the replicator machine was soon producing a solid pile of horseshoes along with the drone of millions of miniature machines buzzing as they worked.

As Bunsen shut down the machine, the observation deck was rife with laughter and congratulations as the team celebrated the machine’s success. Hoofstein and Bunsen entered the test chamber to examine the results.

Hoofstein dug through the pile; the shoes at the bottom, the oldest ones, were quite poorly-constructed. However, as he moved towards the top of the pile, where the newer ones were, the quality began to dramatically improve. He turned to face Chip.

“Well, Chip, looks like that test version you wrote was more than adequate! Well done!”

Chip wore a confused look on his face. “Sir, my modified version is sitting right here on the table.”

Hoofstein examined the generator’s disk slot. Sure enough, the full, unabridged artificial intelligence program had been loaded into the machine.

“Bunsen! You put the wrong program in!” Hoofstein shouted indignantly.

“Oh, I must have grabbed the wrong disk. No harm done though, it obviously works perfectly!”

“That’s not the point, you jackass! Your recklessness could have cost us dearly!”

Bunsen shrugged it off. “I realize, and I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. But, the upside is that the machine works perfectly now!”

Hoofstein shook his head. “You better be careful in the future...”

---

Sam looked in the mirror. It had been a long time since he’d worn anything other than government-rationed jumpers. He had to hand it to Rarity, the dress pants were a perfect fit, and the light blue button-down shirt wasn’t half bad either, especially considering they were probably the first human clothes made in several million years.

Satisfied that his clothes were fitting properly, he went downstairs. There, Twilight was already waiting. She’d even decided to dress up herself, wearing a pastel yellow dress, coincidentally also made by Rarity.

Seeing that she was day-dreaming, Sam spoke to get her attention. “Well, don’t you look nice!”

Twilight’s lavender coat masked the light blush that she felt. “I could say the same about you, Sam! So, where to first?”

“I figured we could go to that cafe you pointed out to me a few days ago. You said you had been dying to try it out, right? By the way, where’s Spike? I figured he’d be here pestering us to find out why we’re both dressed up to go somewhere.”

Twilight laughed. “He’s out with Rarity. I swear, that dragon is nuts about her. And the cafe sounds lovely.”

The two friends left the library, and began walking towards the restaurant. They were quickly seated, though Sam had to shift around to get comfortable in the small chair provided. As they waited for their orders to arrive, Twilight recalled what she’d read from her dating books.

Trying not to sound too forced, she asked, “So, Sam, what do you do in your spare time?”

Sam was slightly confused. Doesn’t she know that about me already?

He decided to humor her. “I work at AJ’s farm, and work on electronics stuff in your basement.”

“Where are you from?”

“I... Uh, Twilight, is there any reason why you’re asking me things you already know?”

Twilight was smiling nervously. “Small talk! You know, idle chit-chat to get to know one another? We’re on a mock date, right?” Her right eye and left ear gave a tiny, but perceptible twitch. “You’re the one I’ve got a crush on, remember,” She said in an exasperated gasp.

Sam raised an eyebrow. Did she just say that she likes ME?

Realizing what she just said, Twilight began to furiously backpedal. “I mean we’re pretending you are!” She took a deep breath. “I don’t really like you, I mean I do, but I don’t like that, not that you aren’t great but-”

Twilight’s blurted rambling was cut off. “Twilight, calm down, I know what you’re trying to say.”

Twilight sighed, and promptly placed her head on the table, hoping that the wildfire of a blush on her face wouldn’t incinerate the tablecloth.

Sam reached across the tiny table to place a hand on her shoulder. “Hey, it’s ok, no need to freak out here. Don’t worry about what your books say. Just enjoy yourself! A date is really just an opportunity for you to get to know someone better and enjoy their company.”

Twilight sat up, with a much calmer smile on her face. “You’re right. So... What are we doing after this?”

Sam shrugged, “I dunno, I haven’t thought that far ahead yet,” he replied nonchalantly.

Twilight could feel the twinge of nervousness returning. “But you’re supposed to plan everything out! That’s what the book-” she saw Sam shaking his head, “Sorry,” she finished, grinning sheepishly.

Sam laughed. “My favorite dates were the ones where we kind of spontaneously made plans on the spot, you know? You’ll have a nice time, I promise. I just don’t know what we’ll do next!”

Their food finally arrived. Twilight found herself calming down and unwinding as the meal progressed; after her initial nervousness and dissipated, she began to get what Sam was talking about. She was just glad to get to spend some time with him outside of the library or the makeshift electrical lab in her basement. It was all she could do to keep from doubling over in laughter when Sam nearly fell out of his chair; after all, it was funny enough watching him try to sit in a chair made for an occupant half his size.

It came time to pay the bill, and both Sam and Twilight reached for the ticket with her hoof ending up under his hand, triggering a bashful smile from the unicorn.

“Let me pay for this, Sam, it was my idea after all.”

Sam shook his head. “No way, you wanted to see what a date was like? Well, any good guy will insist on you letting him pay. Besides, think of it as me saying thank you for all you’ve done for me, since you refuse to let me help pay for groceries or anything else around the house.”

Twilight giggled, and withdrew her hoof. “Ok, if you insist.”

After leaving the appropriate amount plus tip, Sam began rubbing his chin absentmindedly. “So... What to do next... Hmm... The sun is starting to set, how about a nice walk around town?”

Twilight nodded. “Sounds nice.”

They began slowly strolling through Ponyville as the soft orange glow of the sun cast its light over the trees and thatched-roof cottages.

“Thanks for dinner, Sam. It’s been awhile since I’ve been out like that.”

“Don’t mention it, it’s been even longer for me,” he laughed.

Sam continued the walk deep in thought. Something about tonight felt a little strange to him. Twilight’s been acting a bit different around me, lately... And it almost sounded like she said that it was ME she’s got a crush on. I don’t know much about pony girls, but the last time I had a girl act the way Twilight did at dinner was when I took my last girlfriend on our first date. She was CRAZY about me... Does Twilight think that way about me? I mean I’ve certainly grown pretty fond of her myself, she’s been so kind to me. Hell, she’s been WONDERFUL to me. And let’s not forget how brilliant she is. I’ve never met someone that admires intelligence as much as she does. I don’t know, we get along so well, maybe I shouldn’t be TOO surprised at the thought of her falling for me, but dating a pony? I may be in a crazy situation right now, but I don’t know if I’m THAT crazy. But then again... Maybe I owe it to her to give her a shot. I don’t know...

Suddenly he felt something jab his hip. “Hello? Sam? Anypony home?”

“Oh, sorry, heh, I was just thinking about something. What’d I miss?”

“I was just asking about your family, you mention them often. I’d like to know what they were like.”

“Alright, I guess I could start with my dad, his name was John. He was a salesman, traveled a lot. Great man though; always steered me right, anyway. He was kind of stern sometimes though, I guess he had to be since I was such a troublemaker as a kid,” Sam chuckled, “but once I got out of school, he and I were really close. I think he was proud of how much like him I turned out; he was one of the most honest, hardworking men I ever had the pleasure of knowing.”

“What about your mom?”

Sam laughed. “Everyone said she’s where I got my brains from, her name was Susan. She was a very quiet woman, but you didn’t want to make her angry. She was much smarter than she led on and wouldn’t hesitate to show you up if you forced her hand. Mom was a very kind person, though, she’d always go out of her way to help you if you needed it. She was like my sister, I told you about Ellen, except Mom was much more reserved. We really don’t know where Ellen got her extra-bubbly personality.”

“It’s a shame I won’t get to meet them, they sound like great people, almost as great as you,” Twilight sighed.

“Oh come on, anything great about me is because of them. Family does that to you. And yeah, I do miss them...”

Sam noticed the sky darkening, and another idea struck him.

“Hey, you like stargazing, right?”

Twilight’s ears perked up. “Yes! How’d you know?”

“The giant telescope in your study, for starters. Let’s go back to the library, go up to your top balcony, and just lay back and look at the stars. Also, I’ve got something you might enjoy.”

Twilight smiled. “You sure are full of surprises tonight!”

“What can I say? I want this to be the best fake date you’ve ever been on.” You’ve got your fair share of surprises too, don’t you Twilight?

Twilight felt her heart sink a little as he pronounced the word ‘fake’.

They continued walking back home, enjoying the cool, quiet air as a sliver of the moon peered over the trees. They came across a particularly rough part of the road, when Twilight stumbled over her left foreleg, yelling out in pain.

Sam stooped to help her out. “You ok? What happened?”

“This road is a little uneven... I stumbled over a rock.” Twilight examined her hurt leg closely. “I don’t think I sprained it or anything, I think I’m ok.”

She got back up on all fours, and took a few steps, wincing slightly as she went along.

Sam looked down. “You sure you’re ok?”

“Yeah, it’s just gonna be a little bruised, it’ll be fine.”

“Do me a favor,” Sam squatted down again, “come up behind me, sit on my back, and wrap your front legs around my neck. I’ll loop my arms around your rear legs to hold you up.”

“You can’t be serious,” Twilight giggled.

“Yeah, well, it’s either you walk back with your hoof killing you, or I give you a piggy-back ride.”

“Um... Ok...If you’re sure.” Twilight hesitantly did as she was told, and got on Sam’s back, resting her head on his right shoulder.

“You holding on? Let’s go then.” Sam stood up, and began walking back towards the library, aware of the extra weight on his shoulder.

I wonder what it’s like to walk around this tall all of the time... This is really sweet of him. Twilight let out a sigh; she couldn’t remember the last time she felt so happy, so peaceful. This must be what he was telling me about ‘just knowing’... She involuntarily leaned her head to the left, into Sam’s neck, inadvertently pressing her horn into his cheek.

Sam felt this, and laughed. “Hey, I don’t mind you getting comfortable there, but watch the horn will ya?”

Twilight picked her head up, thankful that Sam couldn’t see the intense blush she was wearing. “Sorry!”

After a few minutes of walking, they finally arrived back at the library, and to Twilight’s relief, her leg had stopped throbbing.

“Sam, mind letting me down? My leg is feeling a lot better now.”

“Sure,” Sam bent down, “I hope it isn’t bruised too badly.”

“Oh, it’ll be fine... Thanks for being such a... Well we usually use the word ‘gentlecolt’ but you aren’t exactly a pony,” Twilight giggled.

“I get the sentiment all the same, and you’re welcome. Now, go on up to the balcony and I’ll meet you up there in a minute, ok?”

“Alright, want me to carry anything up ahead of you?”

“I got it, just go already,” Sam said with a laugh, playfully shoving his pony friend.

“Ok, ok, I’m going!”

Sam entered the kitchen, and grabbed the pitcher containing his mixture from earlier, as well as a couple of glasses. As he passed his room, he grabbed a blanket off of his bed. Once he made it to the balcony, he saw that Twilight already laying back on a blanket of her own. She noticed the pitcher he was carrying.

“What’s in the jug?”

“The extra gift I got for you; remember that drink with the apples in it I told you about?”

“Yeah, didn’t you call it ‘sangria’?”

“That’s the one. I had AJ tell me where I could pick up the ingredients, and figured I’d make you a batch as a gift, since you won’t let me help you out with the bills,” Sam laughed.

“That’s really thoughtful of you, Sam, I can’t wait to try some.”

Sam placed the glasses on the floor and poured them both a portion of the drink. “There you go, bit of a warning: it’s a little strong, so don’t drink it too fast.”

Twilight levitated the glass to her lips and took a sip; she instantly tasted what Sam meant. She certainly didn’t find it to be unpleasant, though; the tart flavor of the wine mixed well with the sweetness of the sugar and brandy, and she could just barely get a hint of the apples that had been soaking in the mix.

“So? How is it? Personally, I think I used a little too much sugar, what do you think?”

“I love it, but I see what you mean about it being strong. I’ve never really had alcohol before though, so I don’t know.” Twilight took another sip. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, I’m glad you like it. I’ve never made this before.”

Twilight and Sam finished their glasses, and Twilight found herself wanting a bit more. She levitated her glass over to the pitcher.

“Could you pour me another?”

Sam laughed. “You sure?” The adorable little pout she wore was answer enough, and he obliged her request before filling his own glass again.

“So, have you ever seen that constellation?” Twilight raised a hoof to the sky. “We named it after one of our greatest wizards, Starswirl the Bearded.”

“I can’t say I’m too familiar with that one, I actually don’t see any I recognize. Stars move a lot over a few million years, you know.”

“Oh, right, I forget about that.” As she floated the glass back up to her mouth, she realized she’d already drained half of the glass’s contents. Finishing the glass entirely, she laid down on the blanket. “Whoa, Sam, my brain feels all tingly.”

“I told you it was strong,” Sam laughed, “You ok?”

“Yeah, I feel really good actually, like my head is floating.”

Sam laid down, and stared up into the sparkling night sky. “I was afraid you might be a bit of a lightweight, Twilight.”

Twilight giggled. “Lightweight Twilight. Twilightweight.” She stood up again, and took a few wobbly steps closer to Sam, before clumsily settling down next him, curling up at his side, and resting her head on his shoulder. “This has been a really nice night, Sam. You’re a good pon... Person.” She giggled again. “You’re not a pony. But I don’t care!” Twilight was laughing hard now, “I don’t... I don’t care. You’re... Sam Mitchell is best pony! Oh yeah, I forgot you’re not a pony!” Her giggling and guffawing was reaching hysterical levels.

Sam couldn’t help but laugh at this situation. Great going, you got your pony friend drunk. Probably for the first time. Good thing she only had two drinks or else tomorrow morning would be hell for her.

Slowly, Twilight’s spasms of laughter receded into occasional fits of giggling as she calmed down, resting her head completely against his chest. Between the slight euphoria Twilight was experiencing from the alcohol, and the comforting warmth from Sam’s body, she felt like everything was right with the world. I definitely “just know”, now. Forget the Gala. THIS is the best night ever...

They laid there for what felt like hours, though the movement of the moon suggested it had only been minutes. While he was looking up at the stars, deep in thought with his arm around her, she was instead looking at him.

She couldn’t quite read his face. He certainly seemed to be enjoying the evening’s activities, but Twilight couldn’t quite get a bead on his thoughts. Did he catch when I accidentally blurted out that I liked him? Did he buy my flustered excuses? I thought tonight would help me figure out how he feels about me, by trying to imitate the sort of dates he had been on before... But he’s still the same kind, sarcastic, wonderful person to me that he’s always been.

Meanwhile, Sam’s mind was miles away. This has been a great night. I really hope Twilight has enjoyed herself, she works so hard... She deserves it. God I think if I were to look down and see those beautiful purple eyes of hers, I might just die of adorable-overload and diabetes combined. He looked over, and her eyes caught his as they reflected the moonlight. He smiled as he looked away. But... I can’t shake the feeling that she likes me beyond simply calling me a friend though. I think I’m gonna get some advice on this before I drive myself crazy. I certainly care a lot about this geeky little mare but, I really have no idea what to think. What would letting her call me her “special somepony” change, though? We already spend a good deal of time together, and surely she’s not interested in me, I guess physically is the best term... We aren’t even the same species! But... If she just wants the emotional support, the companionship... If it makes her happy, maybe I should give that a shot. Hell, I need some advice on this.

Twilight felt perfectly content to stay cuddled up next to Sam for as long as he would stay there, though the position of the moon told her it was probably time to hit the hay.

Extracting herself from Sam’s arm, she stood up. “I’m thinking it’s time to go to bed, Sam.”

Sitting up, Sam nodded in agreement. “Yeah... I hope you had a good time tonight.”

Twilight’s smile reached from ear to ear. Misjudging how inebriated she still was, she stumbled forward onto Sam as she tried to hug him. Steadying herself against him while he returned the favor, she planted a quick kiss on his cheek.

“I’ll take that as you saying you enjoyed yourself.” Yep, I’m definitely her crush.

“I had a wonderful time,” Twilight sighed. “The dinner, the walk, up here stargazing, and that drink you made... This was perfect. I hope I was good company.”

As they separated from their mutual embrace, Sam laughed. “Always. Since I’ve been here, you know you’ve become one of my closest friends, right?”

Twilight had to hide her pain and confusion. I’ve never felt more disappointed to be called a ‘friend’ in my life... “Yeah... Best friends...”

Sam noticed the change in her mood. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, just getting sleepy... Probably that sangria stuff.”

“Alright, well, I’ll let you get on to bed, I’ll carry this stuff downstairs myself.”

“Ok, goodnight then, Sam.”

Twilight left Sam to finish up everything on the balcony, and retired to her bedroom. Curling up on her bed, she began quietly sobbing. I should have known this wouldn’t work. He must just like me as a friend, nothing more... I don’t know. I thought this ‘fake date’ idea would help me figure him out or at least get this out of my system. I guess it’s for the best... After all, I’m no human and he’s not a pony... I don’t know what I expected out of this... I just can’t get him out of my head though...

---

The next morning, Sam decided to pay Fluttershy a visit before heading off to the farm. He had seen the way she and Twilight hung out with each other at his welcoming party, and judging by the calm, sensitive demeanor she possessed, Sam figured Fluttershy could help him figure out how to handle this situation with Twilight.

As he walked towards the edge of town, where her cottage was located, he couldn’t help but think he had seen a twinge of sadness on Twilight’s face immediately before she had gone to bed the night before. Sam felt a pang of guilt as he realized what it might have meant.

Soon, he arrived at the cottage. The yellow pegasus was already up and in the middle of her morning routine, flying around feeding her numerous pets and animal patients. Fluttershy recognized Sam’s distinctive form, and dropped to the ground to greet him.

“Hello Sam, I didn’t expect to see you around today. How are you?”

Sam sighed. “I’m fine, myself. I was hoping you and I could talk for a few moments.”

Fluttershy nodded. “Oh, sure, I’ve got one more pet to feed and then we can go inside.”

She grabbed a small red bottle from her doorstep, and jumped into the air to refill her hummingbird feeders.

“Ok, I’m done,” Fluttershy opened her door, “please, after you.”

Sam entered, and took a seat where Fluttershy pointed.

“So, it’s about Twilight.”

A look of panic spread across Fluttershy’s face. “Oh no! Is she sick? Or hurt? Oh I hope she’s ok...”

Sam laughed weakly. “No, she’s perfectly ok in those regards. Look, I noticed how you and her stuck together at the party, so I’m guessing you two are close right?”

Fluttershy sighed in relief, and nodded. “Oh, yes, Twilight and I are very close friends, we know almost everything about each other.”

“Good, I was hoping that was the case. So, I think she’s got a bit of a crush on me. I don’t know for certain, but she’s been acting a lot different around me lately.”

Fluttershy nodded. “I see. Is this a bad thing? I hope it hasn’t offended you, I’m sure she doesn’t mean anything to annoy you or anything...”

“Oh, no, no, if that were the case, I’m flattered, really. But it’s confusing. I mean, between you and me, I care a lot about her. Twilight is smart, she’s funny, if unintentionally so, and I can tell she’s a very caring individual. Believe me, I’d be absolutely flattered if someone like her were falling for me.” Sam sighed. “The problem is, if that is the case, I don’t know what I think, and I’d love to know her best friend’s opinion on how to handle it.”

Careful Fluttershy... You promised Twilight you wouldn’t tell Sam, but I think he already knows. It sounds like he might like her too, though, and wouldn’t that be great? Twilight would be so happy! Oh it makes me happy just thinking about that outcome! But what to do...

Sam waved a hand in front of Fluttershy. “Hey, Flutters, you there?”

“Oh, yes, sorry, I was thinking, I didn’t mean to space out... Do you like Twilight? The way you think she likes you, I mean.”

“Honestly, I want to say I do. I can’t think of a better way to put it than to say that I care immensely about her. She’s done so much for me, and... Well, she tried this little thing last night where she wanted me to take her on a ‘mock date’, and told me it was to learn about how humans interact socially and so she’d not be so nervous when she asked out the stallion she supposedly had a crush on. I agreed to, and it got really obvious that she was probably just testing the waters about how I felt about her. Seeing her that happy last night,” Sam chuckled, “that was probably the happiest I’ve been in a very, very long time. You should have seen her, Fluttershy.”

Fluttershy’s jaw was nearly on the floor. “She went through that much trouble to find out how you felt?”

“Yeah. It probably made a lot of sense to her, in some sort of overly-complicated, mad-genius sort of way. But I’m glad she did that, we both had a great time.”

I might not have to break my promise after all! Sam already knows! And he might like her too! Oh this is wonderful!

“Sam, that sounds so lovely. But, I still don’t really understand what the problem is.”

“It’s not obvious?” Fluttershy’s blank expression told him to continue. “I’ll spell it out for you. Twilight’s a pony. I’m not. Do relationships usually work out in situations like that around here?”

“I really don’t know, Sam. Maybe you should talk to her...” Fluttershy sighed, and made several furtive glances around her house. Pinkie, this one doesn’t count, because he already knows about Twilight’s feelings... “Sam, I’m going to be honest... Twilight told me about this awhile back, before your welcome party. I’ve known for a while how she feels about you, and she really does care about you, but you know that. I think all she wants from you is to be there for her. I think you’re very nice, Sam, and I’d be very happy knowing that Twilight has someone like you taking care of her. Are you ok with that? I really hope you are...”

Sam was taken aback. “I think I would be. I’m not sure I feel comfortable about the uhm... Physical aspects of that relationship, though. This sort of arrangement is.. Well... It’s not anywhere near normal with my kind.”

Fluttershy’s pale face turned bright red. “Oh, um. Yes, you wouldn’t have to worry about that, we’re... Um... We’re only attracted.. THAT way... To um... Well... As far as I know, anyway... I never really asked any of the pony and buffalo couples I've met... It only comes up once or twice a year anyway, during... Um...”

"During...?"

Fluttershy's blush reached the intensity of a solar flare. "You know," Despite there being no one else around, her voice dropped to a whisper, "estrus season?"

"Oh. OHHH. Right..." Sam let out a sigh of relief. They really are similar to the horses from my time... Oh thank the gods, I might be able to handle this situation well after all. “Alright, that’s a HUGE load off my chest; my kind are very much the same way. I still need to think and figure out where I stand on this whole situation, but you’ve helped me clear up a lot, Fluttershy. Thank you.” Sam looked at his watch. “Well, I should probably get on down to Sweet Apple Acres, Applejack’s probably waiting on me. Thanks again.”

The redness in her face slowly receding, Fluttershy hovered over to let Sam out. “Oh it was no problem, you’re very welcome. I bet you’ll make Twilight very happy, if you feel the same way, that is...”

Sam began the walk to Applejack’s farm. Once he arrived, Applejack set him to chopping down some of the dead, older, diseased, or otherwise under-producing apple trees to be used for firewood later in the year. Once he had done that, she could replant new, healthier trees from the plant nursery.

As he chopped, he thought about Fluttershy’s advice. Just talk to her. It’s direct, honest, and you’ll both figure things out together.

His thoughts were punctuated by the sounds of the metal axe hitting the tree trunks. With each smack, he focused harder on the emotions frustrating him. What if it goes badly? Twilight’s one of my closest, and at this point, only friends. I can’t afford to screw that up.

Eventually, Applejack noticed his exaggerated wood chopping.

“Hey there, partner, ya’ll know that if you keep swingin’ the axe like that, you’re liable to throw out yer shoulder, right?”

“Oh, right sorry.”

Applejack laughed. “Don’t apologize to me, it won’t hurt me none, but do tell me what seems to be buggin’ ya.”

“Nothing, boss, just chopping some wood for you.”

“Horsefeathers. Ah ain’t never seen you lookin’ so ponderin’ and frustrated while workin’. Somethin’s buggin’ you, and Ah’d like to help if’n Ah can. It’s not about Twilight, is it?”

Sam dropped the axe beside him. “What makes you say that?”

“Well, for starters, Ah seen ya’ll all dressed up walkin’ about town last night. You two looked mighty happy, and that mare don’t really do dress-up for anything but really special occasions.”

“You got me, AJ. Yeah, it’s about her. I’m pretty certain she’s developed something of a crush on me. I can’t say for sure that it isn’t mutual, but I don’t know how to handle it. Fluttershy told me I should just talk to Twilight about it, but I’m a little worried about what that could do to our friendship. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost that.”

“You’re right, there, Sam, that’s a right strange situation. It’s pretty rare around here to fall fer somepony in that manner, but then again most folks you see ‘round here are ponies of some kind... But to each their own, right?”

“So the fact that I’m a different species isn’t strange to you? Frankly it’s strange to me, but Fluttershy tells me Twilight’s got more of a mental and emotional connection with me.”

“Oh, hay, it is strange, fer sure. But we ain’t too judgemental ‘round here. Honestly, if ya’ll care ‘bout each other, and make each other happy, nopony is gonna care too much.”

“That’s sort of what Fluttershy told me.”

“Yeah, so Ah guess what Ah’m sayin’ is, Twilight should probably loosen up a bit and jest talk to ya, or barrin’ that, ya’ll oughta buck up and do it yerself. Really more of the last one. Like Ah said, Ah saw ya’ll last night in town; ya’ll looked so adorably happy together, Ah didn’t wanna interrupt by sayin’ anything when ya’ll walked past.”

“You’re right. I’ll make a point to talk to her when I get done here. Thanks AJ.”

“Don’t mention it. Ah don’t rightly understand it, but if callin’ you her special somepony is what makes mah friend happy, well, Ah want mah friend to be happy. Now, enough with this sappy stuff an’ let’s get back ta work!”

Sam chuckled. “Fair enough.” So it really seems obvious now. Twilight just wants the companionship. Nothing will really change, she and I would just be closer, emotionally... I think I’d like that, really. Not that we aren’t already very close... Hell, I’m stuck here, and this might be the strangest relationship I’ll ever be in, but I feel happy, no, privileged to have someone like Twilight in my life. That’s it, I’ll open up completely to her, next time I see her. If all she wants is an acknowledgement of her feelings towards me, who am I to say no to that?

Sam continued his work at a much more controlled pace, finally able to think clearly for the first time since Twilight left him on the balcony the night before.

---

With the accidental, and slightly controversial, addition of the artificial intelligence program to the nanomachine generator, the experiment had become a complete success. Within a few minutes of any new production run, the machine could analyze, perfect, and rapidly reproduce nearly any item or substance from any sort of scrap material.

However, the researchers found that it was becoming more and more difficult to get the generator to produce the correct item. At times, it would simply sit there and spawn nanomachines idly, before finally resuming work properly. Soon, this quickly came to a head.

One of the junior researcher unicorns, Chip, was assigned to be in charge of monitoring and correcting the program operation. He noticed that the machine was beginning to consume more material than was measured into it. He double-checked his readings, until it became obvious what was happening; the nanomachines were consuming the workbench, clearly violating the program safeguards restricting input consumption to just the inner cavity.

Chip bolted into the test chamber, shouting for help as he attempted to cut the power. As he drew near to the machine, the nanomachines converged on him as a blue glow enveloped the room.

"Chip! Get out of there! For Celestia's sake run!!" Bunsen frantically tried to employ any countermeasures he could to shut down the device and it's mechanical spawn of micro-locusts.

Chip tried to run away, but the growing silver cloud of nanobots began following him in greater numbers with each burst of magic energy he blasted at it. Eventually the swarm covered him, and Chip let out a blood-curdling scream as the tiny machines began tearing him apart, cell by cell, before dissipating in a thin red mist. Chip was gone, but the nanobot cloud was now sparkling with blue bolts of energy jumping within it, as if the cloud had absorbed Chip’s power.

The scientists in the observation deck were scrambling to cut off the power, but it was too late. The nanomachine’s AI had improved its own design to be able to generate its own power supply and replicate without the generator, at the disadvantage of needing to consume and assimilate new materials.

Bunsen was in full panic mode. "We have to get out of here before we end up like Chip! Hoofstein, drop the records and HAUL FLANK!"

As the scientists dashed away from imminent doom, the floating blob of nanobots began eating away at the laboratory walls. Bunsen and Hoofstein were on their way to summon Princess Celestia and Princess Luna for help.

As they bolted through the crowded streets of Canterlot, explosions could be heard in the background as the nanomachines escaped the lab and began ravaging the city.

In between ragged breaths, Hoofstein verbally attacked Bunsen. “I told you the AI was dangerous! I bucking told you! Why didn’t you listen?!”

“Now isn’t the time! We have to get the Princesses!”

The normally unathletic ponies managed to dash right past the palace guards, right into the main hall where the two princesses were sitting.

Bunsen did all the talking. “PRINCESS CELESTIA! We need your help! The nanomachines are attacking the city, the artificial intelligence is controlling them and they’re eating the city and we aren’t powerful enough to stop them and it’s apparently attracted to sources of magical beings like unicorns and alicorns so HELP!”

Somehow, Celestia understood all of this. “Sister, quickly, join me above the castle, we must extend protection to the castle and what remains of the city. You two,” she pointed to the two scientists, and motioned for four guards to draw near them. “You two stay here. I will deal with you for causing this later. I warned you about tampering with technology you did not understand.”

Luna and Celestia quickly flew outside, and focused their combined powers around the castle, and the few undamaged buildings of Canterlot. They then began focusing their remaining energy on pushing the monstrosity back. The nanomachines drew closer to the castle, undoubtedly trying to get close enough to assimilate the Princesses, but the protective shield put in place combined with the Princesses’ mental attacks thwarted its efforts. Calculating that the expending of additional energy was not worth capturing the two alicorns, the nanomachines receded, much to Luna’s relief.

“Celestia, it doth appear that the demon hath been defeated, it retreats! Huzzah!”

“Luna, you might want to hold off on celebrating. Look where it is heading next... It is going to attack Ponyville! And if what Bunsen said is true, and that machine it is attracted to magic sources, we have to get there before it does and warn Twilight! She’s the most powerful unicorn there! I’ll go warn her, you go get Bunsen and Hoofstein, we may need their help to destroy this thing.”

With that, Princess Celestia took off as fast as she could towards Ponyville, the force of the rushing air stinging her eyes.

---

“Well, Sam, looks like ya’ll have chopped enough wood to build my family two more barns! Heh, that’ll last us a whole winter of bein’ nice an’ toasty inside. Ya’ll want some lunch before you head out for the day?”

Sam shook his head. “Normally, I’d love to, but given what you and I talked about earlier... I kinda want to go on and take care of things with Twilight...”

Applejack winked. “Ah gotcha. Well, tell the ol’ gal Ah said hello. See ya’ll later, Sam!”

Sam waved goodbye and left for the library. Seeing that he was mostly alone, he began thinking out loud.

“Alright... Just gotta talk to her. Ask her what she wants from me, and above all I just want to see her happy, right? I owe her that much. I saw how thrilled she was to spend all that time with me like that last night; and I can’t say I didn’t enjoy myself... Bottom line, I just gotta be honest. I should’ve asked her about this last night, I could tell something was on her mind and I just let it slide. I hope she’s not too upset, I could’ve sworn I saw her holding back a tear when she left the balcony last night...”

Sam slowly meandered home. Entering the library, he took a deep breath, before calling out, “Hey, Twilight, you around? I need to talk to you about something.”

Twilight was still in her room, reading, and pricked up her ears at the sound of Sam’s voice. She sensed the nervous tone in his voice, and wondered what he had to say. She opened her door, and went downstairs to meet Sam.

“Hey... You’re home a little early. What did you want to talk about?” Sam could just barely make out where a few tears had streaked Twilight’s coat.

“Is Spike around?”

Twilight shook her head. “He’s running a few errands for me, he’ll be back later.”

“Good, come over here and sit next to me,” Sam motioned to the bench near the bookshelves. He put an arm around her and pulled her close to his side. “First, I wanna ask if you’re ok.”

“Yeah, I’m fine, just didn’t sleep well last night.” Twilight’s eyes darted back and forth.

“That’s not all it is, though, is it?”

“What do you mean?”

“I should have said something last night, but you were a little... Different, last night.”

“I’m sorry, I thought you were having fun spending time with me...”

“Oh, no, I did, I definitely did. But, I think when you blurted out at dinner that I was the one you had been thinking about, I don’t think you misspoke. It IS me, isn’t it?”

Every muscle in Twilight’s body stiffened. Oh Celestia here it goes, he’s going to be repulsed by me now...

Sam sensed her reaction, and rubbed her shoulder reassuringly. “Whoa, relax there, it’s ok. I’m flattered, really I am.”

Twilight began to breathe slowly, to calm her racing pulse. “Ok, so you don’t think I’m strange or crazy or... Weird... For wanting to date you, even though I’m not a human?”

Sam laughed nervously. “Not gonna lie, this isn’t a situation I’ve had come up before. I feel pretty awful, because I should have asked you about all of this last night instead of ending up with you crying yourself to sleep. I asked Fluttershy and Applejack for advice this morning, though.”

“Fluttershy broke her promise?!”

“No, no she didn’t, she didn’t say anything until she heard me say that I knew what was on your mind. Anyway, she told me that you like feeling that sort of emotional bond with me, that’s it. Is that true?”

Twilight blushed. “Y-yes. I mean, I look at you, and I see somep- I mean someone that understands me better than most of my friends. I don’t get the same feelings as when I see a nice stallion, that’s just physical attraction. You’re someone I could talk to for days straight and then some... You aren’t my closest friend; you’re something different, much more special to me, I think, but I don’t know the word for it. Yesterday I spent hours looking through dictionaries and thesauruses trying to find the right word, but I’ll have to search some more...”

It was Sam’s turn to feel his face redden for a change. “Wow... I had my suspicions but... I had no idea you felt that strongly...”

Twilight looked up at him with a wry smile. “You didn’t think I’d fall for someone outside my species if I didn’t see something special in them, did you? But now that I’ve thoroughly embarrassed myself in front of you... What do YOU think? What do you think of ME?”

Sam tightened his one-armed embrace. “Twilight, you’ve been an incredible friend to me since I’ve arrived here. I’ll admit, this whole situation, between you and I, it’s a new one to me, and I still don’t really know what I think about this, but-”

Sam was cut off by the sound of a loud crash outside. Twilight immediately jumped down to peer out the window. Another crash tore through the air. Sam and Twilight ran outside, and were greeted by the sight of a massive silver cloud smashing through Ponyville, with several of Twilight’s neighbors attempting, in vain, to fight off the menacing swarm.

Twilight gasped she watched the cloud throw ponies clear through the air as they tried to fight off the strange attacker threatening their homes.

“Sam! What is that thing?!”

Sam felt a sickening feeling growing in his gut as he began to recognize the intruder. “If it is what I think it is... This is going to get ugly. They’re probably-”

“SAM! Explain later! Run!” Twilight couldn’t suppress the panicked tone in her voice as the silver swarm began moving towards her.

Before they could even turn around, a bright white flash filled the air, and the replicator cloud was pushed back with Princess Celestia marking the midpoint between Twilight and the replicators.

“Twilight Sparkle! Are you ok?” Celestia turned to look back, her horn still glowing in a monumental display of power to restrain the nanomachines.

Twilight nodded, still in shock over what was going on.

“Good. A few more seconds and this... Thing would have likely assimilated you and absorbed your magical power.” The Princess turned to Sam. “Sam Mitchell, I think we have a problem.”

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