• Published 15th Sep 2014
  • 5,826 Views, 335 Comments

The Humans in Equestria Club - billymorph

With a over a hundred humans in Equestria and rising it’s Alexis’ job to keep them safe and sane. But with two worlds colliding she finds herself facing mad gods and queens to save her home.

  • ...

Chapter 2: Passing Pawn

The penultimate gate was a green, wings perpendicular to the ground, at the apex of the course. It was one of the most difficult turns on the course; you had to make a powered ascent, build up your horizontal speed enough to do a harsh banked turn and then drop right away to hit the next gate. Far too many pegasi drifted off the racing line there, losing precious tenths of a second, but I nailed it, primaries scraping the clouds as I completed my barrel roll and dropped into a powered descent.

Even after two months it still amazed me how much speed a pegasus could muster when they put their mind to it. In a vertical dive even the most inexperienced could hit a hundred miles per hour. Such paltry efforts though weren’t enough for my course, I hurled myself towards the ground like a falling star, the air screaming around my ears and I pumped my wings harder and harder for the final sprint.

Last gate was red, wings parallel, and right down at the deck. A rather large cloud lay beneath it, pockmarked by wipeouts from my more overconfident competitors; I’d been running the course all day and had no intention of joining them. At the last possible instant I spread my wings and airshell out as far as they could go. The g-forces were incredible. I hurtled through the gate with my vision greying around the edges, and gritting my teeth I continued the maneuver into an immelman turn. The finish line lay directly above the last gate and it was there I flubbed it. Pulling out of the turn too soon I found myself rising above the checked cloud and I had to waste half a second figuring out where before I could wrestle myself into a dive.

Cheers greeted me as I finally planted all four hooves on the finish line. Two dozen pegasi clustered around, chattering excitedly as I fought for breath.

“Final time!” Swiftwing called, over the ponies’ hubbub. “One fourteen, dead!”

It was a hell of a time, and I would have jumped for joy if my wings hadn’t been trembling. Maybe it wasn’t top of the board, but it blew most of the Club members out of the water and I saw our resident speed daemon Hazeela breath a sigh of relief when she realised she still had half a second on me. The natural born pegasi who’d started to turn up for my weekend racecourse still dominated the top of the board, but I was up there with them and I couldn’t stop myself grinning about that.

“Tartus’ own run there Alex,” Crystal Cog cheered, elbowing me in the ribs. “Sure you didn’t adjust the gates a bit before you started?”

I elbowed him right back, almost knocking the slight colt flying. “Luck and a wasted weekend, that’s all,” I told him, beaming. Being the mare who set up the course was more than a slight advantage; after all, I’d had to take a half dozen test runs or so before letting anypony else have a crack. Just to make sure it was safe, of course. Definitely not to sus the racing line before the rest of the racers.

“Right, that was the last run!” Swiftwing called out, scrawling my time on the blackboard. “Best time is one minute, eleven seconds and six tenths by Thunderlane!”

“Oh yeah!” the stallion roared, puffing himself up and striking a pose.

I rolled my eyes. “So that means first round of drinks is on him!” I added. The rest of the crowd cheered, even as the dark pegasus groaned.

“Last one to the Pony’s a plucked chicken!” Crystal Cog yelled, leading the charge to the edge of the cloud. The flock was on the wing a moment later, headed towards the distant lights of Ponyville.

“...guess that makes us plucked chickens then,” Swiftwing sighed, as we were left alone on the cloud. She hadn’t moved from the board and regarded it with a mournful air.

I grinned. “Plucked chickens with awesome times,” I pointed out, trotting over.

She let out a bitter laugh “That’s easy for you to say. I just got beaten by a girl who didn’t even have feather two months ago.” I looked up at the times, Swiftwing had a one fourteen point seven.

“To be fair, I’ve had about a dozen more runs than you.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Swiftwing sighed, shaking her head. “I just can't match your pace. Maybe after another five years practice but by then you’ll be yet another wingbeat ahead.” Another sigh. “I just don’t have the aether for racing.”

I don’t think I can describe how much I didn’t want to get dragged into yet another an emotional conversation. I got enough of that kind of shit at work. After much kicking and screaming I’d cleared a free weekend for myself and I wasn’t going to let Swiftwing bring it down.

“I thought you wanted to be a weatherpony anyway?” I asked, taking a seat next to her.

Damn it, Alexis!

Swift let loose a bitter snort. “It’s still all about the wingpower. I just don’t have it, and it’s not like this thing ever helps.” She shot an angry glare at her Cutie Mark, stars set against a dawning sky.

“What does it mean anyway?”

“Pfff, that I’m a morning pony? Buck if I know.” She sighed, then began to wipe away the times with her wing. “Now if I had a cloud pushing Cutie Mark then I’d be set. Rainbow Dash would have hired me and I’d be well on my way to senior weatherpony.”

I completed the thought for her. I’d heard it often enough. “Instead you’re still teaching blank flanks to fly?”

Swiftwing laughed. “Yeah, something like that. I don’t know why I even bothered to have a plan sometimes, they never work out. I guess you wouldn’t know anything about that though.”

It was my turn to snort. “Back on Earth I was stuck in a dead end job, had no money, hadn’t seen my folks in months and my boyfriend was cheating on me. I know what if feels like to get stuck in a rut.”

“Yeah, and now you’ve got my wingpower beat by a clear mark,” she grumbled. “I wonder if I can get Discord to give my own flappers a tune up.” I frowned at her, and Swiftwing hung her head. “Yeah yeah, don’t say anything. I know better than to try and make that kind of deal.”

“He’s a big fan of putting a sting in the tail regardless of whether he’s supposed to be helping or not.” I agreed. At some point I was going to have to get Fluttershy to have a word with him about the random nature of his adaptation spell. There were more than a few times where it had strayed from random to ironic territory and I was getting a little pissed he seemed to think he could use being female as a punishment.

Swiftwing crossed her forelegs, glaring at the empty board. “Urgh, I know I shouldn’t let it get to me, but it still hurts that out of four dozen Club pegasi I’ve taught, maybe three, three and a half, could make it into the Wonderbolts if they tried for it.” She rolled her eyes. “I mean really? I’ve run classes for gifted fliers that had a worse ratio than that.”

Okay that was enough self pity for one day. “Are you going to sit there like a grumpy grouse all day or are you going to help me sweep up?” I snapped at last. “Because there’s a free round of drinks we’re missing.”

Swiftwing grinned. “Yeah, wouldn’t want to miss Thunderlane’s wallet screaming for mercy. Right, I’ll get the gates, you get the board.”

It took just a few minutes for Swiftwing to blow through the clouds; I’ve never seen any problem with her weatherpony skills even if Dash hadn’t thought them up to scratch, though it was a little depressing to see my hard work swept away. That was more of an 'end of the weekend' melancholy, though, rather than true regret, but I had spent a good few hours building the damn thing.

Swift met me back at Ponyville High, or at least outside their chalk board storage shed. I’ve not yet figured out why they have a shed full of chalkboards, I suspect Twilight might have been responsible, but haven't figured out a polite way to ask.

“Ah, there’s nothing quite like busting clouds to work off stress,” Swift exclaimed, stretching her wings out so far they popped in their sockets.

I shuddered and set off at a trot. “Come on. Pub.”

Swift cantered after me. For a moment we traveled in silence through the streets of Ponyville, towards the setting sun. It was a pleasant scene straight off of the postcard, arcana lights burning in every house casting a warm parlour across the packed dirt pathways. The air was already chill, though, and I spared a thought for the two dozen Club members still sleeping under canvas. At least they had thick bedding, courtesy of Rarity's recent donation.

“Come on then, spill it,” I said suddenly. “Who are our future Wonderbolts?”

Swiftwing shot me a withering glare. “Really, Alex?”

“Yeah I’m interested. It’s not like I can judge this kind of thing.”

The turquoise mare tossed her head. “Well I think you can guess a couple at least.”

I shrugged my wings. “Well, Tony Acey I’d guess.” The former pilot had, to no one's surprise, taken to the air like a duck to water.

“Eh, edge case at this stage,” Swiftwing admitted. “We’ll see where his wingpower gets once he has the basics down.”

“Okay, Hazeela for sure.” That diminutive black and scarlet mare had got a Cutie Mark in racing in under two weeks.

“Durh. And?”

“Well...” I cast around, no pony sprung to mind. Some of the gryphons were pretty fast but I was fairly sure the Wonderbolts were a pony only organisation.

Swiftwing rolled her eyes. “Let me give you a hint,” she said, wearily, “she figured out how to make checkered clouds this week.”

I blinked. “Me?” I demanded, rounding on her.

My flatmate groaned, pausing before me and fixing me with a flat glare. “Yeah, Alex. Is it really that much of a surprise?”

Quite frankly, yes. You could pretty much put every pegasi on a scale between Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash. A weak flier could hope to maybe go fifty mph in a straight line, I was better than the average at maybe eighty with a tailwind. Experienced cloud pushers and royal guards would top out at a hundred and fifty miles per hour if they pushed it, and the Wonderbolts regularly flew at two hundred plus.

“But... but. I don’t have a fraction of the wingpower for that,” I protested.

Swiftwing held up a hoof, forestalling any argument. “First, you suck up spells like a sponge,” she pointed out, then added in a mutter. “Or possibly a unicorn. And second, while your technique is sloppy you’ve got a good amount of raw strength behind it. I’m not a talent scout, and you’re a bit on the old side for a rookie speedster, but I bet you’d at least get a look in on the circuit.” She shrugged, shaking her head. “If you hung there for a few years building up your wings the Wonderbolts would stop looking like these unassailable heros and more like a logical career move. Lucky bitch.”

She glared at me for a moment, before resuming her trot.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think that that was my life she was planning out.

“Come on, now I really need a drink,” she snapped over my shoulder.

I rolled my eyes and followed her. She wasn’t the only one.

It surprised nopony that the Club had taken over its own bar. We didn’t own it, but it was very nice to have a regular place to drown your sorrows where everyone had a sympathetic ear, and our swelling membership had driven out any of the original clientele. To be fair the bar in question had been going under long before the whole Humans in Equestria thing; Ponyville was not a large town and our local had been driven near out of business by the other fillyfooler bar, The Sun’s Flank. I’d never figured out what made all the difference between the two, both had equally cheesy names, but our local was saved by the fact their cheesy name was a cross dimensional joke.

It was The Prancing Pony.

The original Human in Equestria, Taylor, had broken down in tears of mirth when he’d seen the sign and from that moment on it was never going to be anything but the Club’s unofficial second office.

After extracting a couple bits from the much deflated Thunderlane, Swiftwing and I secured a mug of the local ale and the free end of a bench.

“Okay, so let’s get this straight. You’re saying I could be a Wonderbolt,” I pressed, as soon as we’d sat down.

“Could. That’s the key word there Alex,” Swift interjected, glowering at me. “Could.”

I rolled my eyes. Way to rein in the green eyed monster there Swiftwing. “Whatever, I don’t really care whether they’d want me.” Swift made a disbelieving little chuff. “My question is: If I could do it. How the hell isn’t Rainbow Dash a Wonderbolt yet?”

It was a serious question. I’d accidently asked Twilight for the details on how a rainboom worked once (and nearly had to gnaw my own leg off to escape), so I knew Dash, post boom, had been clocked at almost eight hundred miles an hour in horizontal flight. That’s about four times what the Wonderbolts manage, eight times what most ponies make do with, a hundred and sixty times Flutteryshy’s speed and mach one point five on the human scale. Tony’s tornado would give her a run for her money, but nothing else on the planet would.

“Oh the rumors I have heard!” Swift exclaimed, spreading her wings wide, almost pushing another pony off the bench. “Some say she already turned them down and won’t talk about it, other say they chucked her out because she couldn’t follow orders. There’s also tell of an affair with like, everypony that’s ever worn a blue flightsuit though I don’t really put much stock in them.”

I regarded her with a raised brow. “Tell me, is Cloudsdale held up by aether, or gossip?”

“A little of both.” Swift took a deep gulp of ale. “Anyway, I think it’s Celestia’s fault. She doesn’t want to break up her little world savering superteam so keeps Dash on the reserve list.”

It made a certain amount of sense. “That’s a little cynical don’t-”

Swiftwing wasn’t paying attention to me, instead she downed her mug in one rush.

“What? It was free,” she said, in lieu of an explanation and dropped the empty mug on the tray of a passing barmare.

“Yex?” it lisped.

I did a double take. It was always a bit of a shock to find yourself next to a changeling drone. They were unsettling on the show but those insectoid eyes right at your level, sunk into the black carapace, were damn near nightmare fuel. Fortunately the drone was wearing a frilly apron, which rather short circuited my fight or flight reaction.

“Another,” Swift told it.

“Yex.” It hurried off, the crowd parting around it.

“You should at least say thank you,” I pointed out.

Swiftwing rolled her eyes. “Weren’t you telling me that the drones aren’t sentient just last week?”

“That’s not what I said,” I snapped.

The truth of the matter was more than a little tragic. We had had three humans cross over into the bodies of drones, but the changeling drones were only intelligent in the broadest of senses, relying heavily on a hive mind for actual thinking. I don’t know if I can ever understand what those three friends went through after arriving in Equestria, but somehow they’d cobbled together a way of thinking in such alien bodies. It was imperfect at best, they had three personalities, but only one could think at any one time, leaving the other two bodies to act out orders till it was their turn to shine.

“Yeah yeah, well that one’s not thinking at least,” Swift pointed out, gesturing with a hoof at the drone which was trying to figure out how to work the hatch on the bar.

I grumbled into my own mug. “That’s not really the point.”

“So what do you want me to-”

“Hey Alex!” I started in my seat, wings flaring as Crystal Cog snuck up on me. Our erstwhile engineer was already at the nicely drunk stage of the evening and seemed to be making a bid for horizontal at record speed; he had a wing around both Tony and Louis, who looked a little embarrassed by the contact.

“Come on, ask her,” he chided, elbowing Tony in the ribs.

The blue pegasus rolled his eyes. “Okay then... Alex, where are you from?”

“Oh god,” I groaned, rubbing the bridge of my nose. “Are we really doing this again?”

“Come on,” Cog needled, leaning in overclose.

I wrinkled my nose as the wash of alcohol on his breath reached me and sighed. “Fine. I had a flat in Buckingham.”

“And where did you grow up?” he pressed.

“Urgh. I grew up in Canterbury,” I snapped, and then continued on in an angry snarl. “My father’s family is from the Shetland Isles. My mother’s maiden name was Champney and my brother is currently living with his girlfriend in Derby. That enough for you?”

Tony had lost it long ago, the stallion clutched his sides as he rolled on the ground, laughing his stupid head off. Even Louis was grinning, though he at least managed to look sympathetic. “You were pretty much doomed to end up in Equestria then?”

“Yes,” I said in a growl. “I am a walking horse pun.” I took a deep draft of ale. “Now, either buy me another drink or bugger off.”

“Oh don’t mind her, she’s always a grumpy drunk,” Crystal Cog exclaimed, dragging our pair of pilots away.

“I just sat down!” I yelled back, then turned back to Swiftwing, grumbling to myself. Somehow the mare had managed to get her hooves on another pint while I wasn’t watching.


“How exactly are you paying for that?” I asked her, looking pointedly at the mug.

Swiftwing frowned at the liquid. “Can I get an advance?” she inquired, with a smile filled with undue optimism.

“No.” And when that didn’t seem to be enough for her. “For one, I’m near broke to start with, and two, so’s the Club.”

“Really, because I’m seeing a lot of ponies with beer money?” She gestured at the fairly large crowd.

“What they spend their money on is their own problem,” I muttered. “But food prices are still spiralling and that means there’s about three bits left in the vault until our next advance arrives.”

“I thought you were talking to Applejack about that?”

I sighed. “Sadly, farmers have to buy food too,” I explained. “She’s saying that she has to put prices up so she can feed her own family over the winter. And it’s probably true, I don’t really think the element of honesty would be bullshitting me.”

Swift sniggered, a blush forming under her coat. “Oh, you humans have been a revelation to swearing. That one’s awesome.”

“Are you already drunk?” I asked, cocking my head. “Man, you’re a lightweight.”

“Hey! I am not a lightweight. I’m a cheap drunk,” Swiftwing protested, then added bitterly. “You need to be in this town. I’m going to have to make another trip to the Changeling Parlor if I can’t get some extra work.”

I repressed a shudder. A nasty side effect of granting a small group of changelings residency had been the need to provide them with a supply of love, or at least some kind of emotional energy. Twilight and her friends had tried hard, but they couldn’t provide an unlimited supply of emotion and donors had been hard to find. For a while it looked like our changelings would starve, then they solved the problem themselves in a very human way.

They started buying emotion.

It was a very simple method, and it worked wonders. All that was needed from a pony was two hours of unconsciousness and then the changelings would give you a stack of bits. The whole process did leave you feeling like you’d run a marathon but, unless you overindulged them, it was perfectly healthy. Hell, I’d had to rather symbolically take a turn and, while the whole ordeal had given me nightmares for a week, it was no worse than scary movie marathon.

“Oh don’t make that face, I’m broke,” Swiftwing snapped, rolling her eyes. “If unicorns still bought blood I’d be selling that.”

I held up my hooves in surrender. “I didn’t say anything.”

“Yeah, but you had that ‘alien, so I don’t like it look’ most ponies here wear,” she countered.

That took a moment to process. “I am an alien!” I shot back.

“And still a pony.”

I groaned and rubbed my eyes. Pegasi were the most illogical of beasts sometimes.

“Okay, let’s stop talking about my xenophobia,” I grumbled. Swiftwing looked quizzical. “It means alien hating... probably. I have no idea how latin terms translate to Equestrian.”

“Right, so who’s zerophobia do we want to talk about-”

The bar’s front door slammed open, almost crushing an unfortunate bouncer, and Lyra burst through.

“ALEX!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. “There’s an angry mob outside!”

Dead silence descended on the crowd. For a moment I wondered whether this was just Lyra being her usual hyperactive self, or an actual crisis.

“What, are they here for me specifically or...?” I began.

“They’ve rounded up the changelings!” Lyra continued, still screaming.

Ah, so the second one then.

I was third out of the door, mostly because Lyra hadn’t got out the way fast enough and Crystal Cog and I body slammed her through. The rest of the bar was only a length behind; there was an unofficial one for all policy in the Club, though it had never had to face down an angry mob before.

It took just a minutes for the Club to arrive on the scene. The mob itself was made up of over a hundred ponies, a good fraction of the entire village, which is a terrifying number when you found it enraged. Ponies by themselves tend to be somewhat skittish, though to be fair to them they live in a world where both dragons and manticores exist. When faced by a threat bigger, or more numerous, than them, they tended to run away. However there was an old instinct, buried away deep in the pony psyche, that of the stampede.

The furious herd looked rather like they were riling themselves up for a good old fashioned trampling to my eyes. They had the beleaguered changelings were pinned up against the side of city hall, hemmed in on all sides by snorting pastel ponies. It would have been funny if it weren’t about to end the lives of three Club members.

The winged members of the Club took to the skies, swooping over the mostly earth pony throng and landed between them and the changelings, forcing the herd back. Our terrestrial membership had to push their way through, but if anything that disrupted the mob even more and within just a few moments there were two large crowds facing off against each other. Ours, three dozen ponies plus a few other miscellaneous species and another dozen changelings, theirs maybe a hundred or so locals-

Hang on. Did I just say dozen changelings?

For a moment my entire plan of attack fled as I realised that the Club had at it’s heart, not the familiar black carapaces of our three resident changelings, but twelve and a queen. The queen was not Chrysalis, or at least I hoped not; she was far fairer in colour with a greyish carapace that still seemed slick with some unknow ichor. Her mane was a dark pink, rather like a rosé wine and her eyes shared the same piercing intensity.

For a moment I was struck dumb. Then I remembered the angry mob and rounded on the ponies, drew in a deep breath and roared with all the magical assistance I could muster.


The herd took a collective step back as raw fury of my voice washed over them. I may have been practicing the Royal Canterlot Voice. I hadn’t quite foreseen the circumstances, but I had spotted the utility.

“Alex, stand aside,” one pony stepped forwards from the herd. I was more than a little surprised to see it was Amelia, the busy-body stallion who’d been nagging me about food prices at the last meeting. As a Club member she should have been on our side of the lines.

“Oh no. I am not just standing aside and letting a bucking lynch mob kill fellow Club members!” I roared back, rearing back, flaring my wings and stamping my hooves on the ground. All around me other members of the Club did the same thing, forming a wall of equine flesh between the mob and the changelings.

“Alex, Alex, Alex,” Amelia said, waving a dismissive hoof. “Last I checked. We only had three changelings.” His eyes narrowed. “And none of them were queens.”

It was a cutting point. I glanced over my shoulder at the queen who seemed to be doing her best Fluttershy impression and hiding behind her mane. The ring of angry drones made the display less endearing than it could have been. Even the Club members were eyeing them with suspicion, they knew as well as I that the changelings probably weren’t the people we’d rushed in to save. Hell, for all we knew they were the villains of story, after all, they always were on the show.

I found myself torn. I could walk away. I could take the Club with me if I chose to be particularly persuasive. It may well have been the right choice. I wasn’t Amelia’s biggest fan by any means but then I didn’t know the changeling queen at all.

Did that really matter?

I sighed, steeled myself and spoke. “And that does not constitute a reason for murder!”

A few of the ponies near the front of the mob looked sheepish. Further back there was open muttering.

“Oh, so you’re just going to sit around while we all get ensorcelled?”

“Ladies, please, let’s be reasonable,” Star Charge cut in. Both Amelia and I glared at him as the self important arsehole and his clique shouldered their way through the crowd. “No one’s been hypnotised and-” He looked pointedly at me. “-no one is dead.”

“Not for lack of trying,” I muttered, inaudibly.

“Which is why we must act now,” Amelia snarled, pawing the ground.

“You are not doing anything!” I snapped back, glowering at the stallion.

“If I might interject,” Star Charge persisted, as Amelia and I glared daggers at each other. “Perhaps a compromise.”

“Star Charge, just butt out.”

He gave me a warm, politician's smile. “Now Alex, you don’t want the changelings hurt, but I think we can all agree that they can’t stay here.”

I shifted my ire to the unicorn. “Star Charge-”

“Run them out of town?” Amelia said, rubbing a hoof on her chin. “I think we can get behind that.”

“NO!” I boomed, flaring my wings out high. “You two do not get a say in this!” I jabbed a hoof at Star Charge. “You! This is not a democracy.” Then at Amelia. “And you! It sure as hell isn’t mob rule! It is a bloody tyranny and, unless one of you happens to be royalty, neither of you gets a say.” And finally I glared at the mob in general. “The situation is under control. GO HOME!”

The grumbled from the mob returned, but they seemed half hearted. Nopony near the front had the murderous fire that had been so terrifying just a few moments before. A few of them just shook their heads and left, pushing their way through the unyielding crowd.

Judging the situation safe for the next few moments I ignored both Amelia and Star Charge and turned away, regarded the ring of Club members with unwarranted ire. “Will someone please go get a Princess,” I snarled at them. “Twilight preferably, but any you can lay your hooves on, I’m not picky.”

A couple of pegasi whipped away. I stalked forwards, grumbling at Crystal Cog as I past. “Keep an eye on things a moment.”

“Aye captain,” he said, flashing subtle simile. I just glowered at him and continued on till I was at the center of the Club, standing before the changeling queen.

“So...?” I began, wings held open at my sides as I held a bundle of aether between my pinions. Masters of the aether could throw lightning bolts with a flick of the wing, with luck I had enough power to run away fast enough if the queen turned on me.

“Thank you, Alex,” the queen said, bowing her head. “I didn’t think we’d make it there for a moment.”

My eyes narrowed. Up close the queen was still huge; she didn’t loom anywhere near as much as Celestia, but she was comparable to Luna and that was still head and shoulders over any of the non-draconic members of the Club.

“Who are you?” I demanded.

She sighed. “A world away I was called Rose.”

It was the eyes that sold it to me. They weren’t the alien orbs that were so unsettling on the drones but just pinkish pony eyes, sad and scared.

“We had a Rose, and a Charlie, and a Thomas,” I pointed out. “None of them came through as queens, though.”

She sighed. “It would seem that, if you isolate drones from the hive long enough, one of them will become a queen.”

I cocked my head at her, as if I could read deception off the face of a species evolved to lie. “I must admit I’ve never heard of that before.” Though the amount that had been written on the changelings was less than a hundred pages, I knew because Twilight had leant me those hundred pages when we’d had three drones turn up claiming to be human.

“I know I can’t prove anything...” she began, but petered off. There was little more to say on the subject.

“How many drones do you have in town?” I asked her, examining her honor guard, which examined me back with distressing intensity.

“Fourteen,” she replied, instantly. “The two that were Charlie and Thomas, and twelve more I’ve hatched since.”

There were only ten around her. She seemed to spot the question. “They were out working. I... had them go to ground when Amelia discovered me.”

“And why... hatch so many drones?” I managed to repress the shudder.

“... I was hungry,” queen Rose said, in a very small voice. “I couldn’t buy enough emotion with just two drones working.”

“God damn it!” I swore, kicking the packed earth. “Rose, if you’d just told us about this we could have worked something out.” I glared at the insectoid monarch who just hung her head. “Urgh. This is going to be a bucking witch hunt by this time tomorrow.”

“I’m sorry,” she murmured, almost inaudible, sinking to the ground. A couple of the drones left the defensive ring and pressed close against the queen, running their pockmarked hooves over her carapace. Another shudder had to be repressed on my part, I would have run away screaming if they’d tried the same trick to cheer me up.

There was a whip crack as Dash landed next to me. She reared backwards, raising her hooves in a boxers pose, fluttering her wings to stay upright. “Okay changelings,” she began, eyeing queen Rose with suspicion. “On your feet and no funny business.” She gestured between her eyes and them. “I’m watching you, so no funny mind mojo or you’ll have to face the Dash.”

Yes ladies and gentlemen, she really does talk like that.

I rolled my eyes, fortunately Twilight arrived a few moments later. Her landing was less sharp but you could hear the sigh of relief from the ponies in the square. Ponyville may have been averaging a monster attack every two months, but with the mane six on the scene the problem was already halfway solved.

“What is going on here?” the Princess demand, furling her wings and looking the changelings up and down.

Sighing I stepped forwards. “Twilight Sparkle, meet queen Rose.”

She blinked, kindled then extinguished her horn. “Wait. Rose as in, the human lost to the hivemind Rose? Rose the drone.”

“...not anymore I’m afraid,” the changeling queen replied, with a sheepish smile.

Twilight facehooved. “Ooo. This is going to be a long night.”

She wasn’t wrong.

Luna’s moon was making its way towards the far horizon when I finally made my excuses and, bleary eyed and with a tension headache pounding away, stumbled from the castle. It had been, as predicted, a very long night, and I’d spent most of it running around town digging up witnesses, rooting through the Changeling Parlor for any sign of missing ponies and finally just pouring over dusty law tomes. I could think of little else beyond rescuing the emergency bottle of whisky from behind my desk to use as a nightcap and then sleeping till noon or better.

“Hey! Alex!” came the high pitched cry of Pinkie Pie. I stumbled, almost tripping over my hooves and rounded on the offending pony. She stood in the lit doorway to Sugarcube Corner, waving frantically.

I let out a long sigh. “Pinkie, I’ve had a really crappy evening,” I told her, hanging my head.

“I know,” she continued unabated, and pulled a large bottle out from behind the door frame. “My drinkie sense told me.”

For a moment I was struck dumb. I can honestly say, I didn’t see that one coming.

“Well that one didn’t make it into the show,” I said at last, rolling my eyes as I walked over. “This drinkie sense tell you anything else?”

Pinkie grinned. “Nope. It usually only goes off when somepony needs to talk about something over a drink.”

I gave her a flat look. “How many senses do you have anyway?”

She seemed to consider that for a moment, rubbing her chin. “At least five.”

“Urgh, I walked right into that one.” I pushed past the party pony and into the comforting warmth of Sugarcube Corner. “Why are you still awake anyway?”

“Coffee,” she said simply, herding me through to the kitchen. She caught the look of terror on my face. “Oh, don't worry about any late night caffeine parties. Twilight just didn’t want any of us asleep till she sorted out the changelings.”

“I’m pretty sure there’s an entry in ‘One Hundred and One Things Not to Say to Rainbow Dash’ that specifically says we’re not supposed to give you espresso.”

“Durh, I hate espresso.”

I never really felt I was in control when talking to Pinkie. The pink pony plonked me down next to the huge bread ovens, which still radiated a comforting warmth, and passed me a mug of amber liquid.

“So, what’s this?” I asked, scenting the drink. It had an aroma that was a, not unpleasant, but unexpected mix of fresh fruit and wood polish.

“Oh you’ll like it. It’s made with apples... well mostly apples.” Pinkie parked herself next to me, clutching a huge mug of what I presumed was coffee, it was hard to tell under the mountain of whipped cream, sprinkles, marshmallows and biscuit wafers, all topped by a single chocolate flake. I did not question where she’d gotten it from; you learn not to after a while.

She looked expectantly at me and, resisting the urge to hold my nose, I sipped at the mysterious liquid.

“...smooth,” I gasped, my eyes watering.

“It’s an acquired taste,” Pinkie assured me, then dropped her face into her ‘drink’ and began to munch her way through to the coffee. A moment later she licked the cream covering her face off in a single reality-bending motion and turned to me. “So... what happened with the changelings?”

I sighed. “Well, as far as we can prove it is Rose and she did use to be human.” I took a fortifying sip of my drink. “And that they haven’t done anything untoward.” Beyond buying a twenty times more emotion anyone thought they were, though that wasn’t a crime per se. “And that I’m a complete bucking idiot that should have caught on a full two weeks ago.” I drained the cup. Which at least shut me up for a little while.

Pinkie smiled. It wasn’t her usual manic grin but a true heartfelt smile from somepony who just wants to make you feel better. “You-”

I held up a hoof to silence her.

“Not now.”

The smile didn’t fade. She refilled my mug without a word and went back to trying to devour her coffee. It was a long while before I spoke again.

“Pinkie," I began, but petered away. She gave me an earnest smile. "Pinkie, how do you save the world?”

She cocked her head at me, I didn’t look back but instead stared into my diminishing drink. “Generally by putting on a magic necklace and shappowing any mean nasties that get in the way,” Pinkie chirped.

I groaned. “I mean, what are you thinking?”

“Well, I’m the element of laughter,” she admitted, bouncing in place. “So generally I just think of a funny song while Twilight does her rainbow canon thing.” She sniggered. “When we sealed Discord I had ‘There once was a mare from Vanhoover’ stuck in my head.”

“Pinkie. I’m trying to bare my soul here,” I informed her, glowering.

“Oooh, well in that case you shouldn’t be talking to me. You should be talking to Gummy. I’ll go get him.”

In a flash the mare was off, galloping up the stairs. From the floor above I heard the clatter of hooves, the sound of a bookshelf falling over, shattering glass and a rather effeminate man’s scream. Moments later Pinkie was back, none the worse for wear with Gummy clutched in her forelegs. She deposited the toothless alligator before me, he didn't seem aware he'd been moved.

“Seriously?” I asked in a deadpan. Pinkie nodded.

“Oh yeah. Gummy is a great listener.”

Before me Gummy blinked. It took quite a while.

I shook my head. “Okay I’ll bite.” I looked deep into the alligator's soulless eyes. “Gummy. Today I realised that I had the power of life or death over someone.”

Gummy, as you’d probably guess, said nothing.

“Urgh, this is stupid,” I groaned, running a hoof over my weary eyes.

“No no, he’s listening,” Pinkie assured me, putting a hoof on my shoulder and smiling. “Go on.”

I sighed. “... I didn’t have to do anything. I could have just stayed in the Pony, or let someone else deal with the mob, or just shut up. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t have any special knowledge or skill to save the day. Hell, for all I knew- for all I know, the changelings could have been a genuine threat.”

Once again. Gummy said nothing.

“And I don’t know why I acted,” I continued, hanging my head. “I’m supposed to be the one who makes the decisions about humans but... well, I had no idea if she was human or just some monster.” My head hit the floor. “I put everypony in the square at risk and I did it based off some stupid split second piece of reasoning I can’t even explain, let alone justify.”

Images of a ruined Ponyville flashed through my mind. Black ichor crawled up the walls, ponies sealed in glassy cocoons dotted every corner, whimpering in pain, as changelings swarmed the streets. The images were so clear I could smell the rot, and the death, and the despair. It was a scene just one act of trust away from reality and a shudder ran down my spine.

“I can’t do it, Gummy,” I admitted, not even able to meet his lifeless eyes. “I don’t have the strength. I can’t cope with that kind of responsibility.”

Pinkie tackle hugged me, bearing me to the ground and for a moment I was convinced she’d finally gone round the bend and decided to murder me.

“Pinkie,” I gasped, trying in vain to spread my wings. “I need air.”

The pink mare released me and I fell to the ground, panting. “What was that for?” I demanded, glaring at her.

“You looked like you needed a super, awesome, mega hug to stop you frowning,” she protested.

I opened my mouth to yell at her, but then stopped myself. To be fair to her, I wasn’t frowning anymore. Still... “I don’t think hugs can solve this problem,” I admitted, casting my eyes down.

“Pssh, hugs solve every problem,” Pinkie assured me, with an off-hand wave. “You just have to know the right kind of hug. I’m still working on my ‘I’m sorry you were such a meanypants and that you got into a fight with your childhood friend because of me but I forgive you and got you this cupcake to make you feel better’ hug.”

I blinked.

“It’s not quite there yet.”

There were really no words sometimes. I continued on as best I could. “Pinkie, what I’m trying to say is, I’m not the right pony for all of this. I’m not even supposed to be a pegasus.” My wings trembled. “I have a degree in media studies. Back home I had a crappy flat, a crappy job and crappier boyfriend and, god help me, I wish I had all three back right now.”

I looked up at Pinkie’s uncomprehending smile. I wanted to tell her how much I didn’t want to have to tell people that their life as they knew it was now over. That I didn’t want to have to be stuck in some alien body or join some ridiculously named organisation just because that body came with skills I’d never cared about. And I especially wanted to tell her just how much it hurt to have someone’s life in your hands.

But how do you say any of that to a pony that’s saved the world a dozen times?

I sighed. Looking away. “Pinkie... could you ever decide not to save the world?”

I would have stunned her less if I’d hit her in the head with a frying pan. There was a pop as her hair deflated, falling in straight waves down one side of her head.

“Yes,” she said, staring off into the distance. “Because I already did. When we fought Discord we walked away. I... I chose to walk away.”

She shook her head and stuck her hoof in her mouth. Blowing she managed to refluffed her hair up into its familiar pink tangle. “You know what we need?” she announced, leaping to her hooves and spreading her forelegs wide. “We need a party!”

I should have seen that one coming.

“Aren’t you still twenty three ‘welcome to Ponyville’ parties in the hole?” I inquired, cautiously.

Pinkie waved that off. “Not for them. For us. As the two ponies dedicated to making the town a happier place we deserve a little reward.”

I snorted. “Pinkie, I have personally reduced a twentieth of the population to tears and one point or another. I’m not sure I don’t think I’m exactly helping the ponies smile in this town.”

“Silly,” she admonished, wagging a hoof at me. “You don’t need to make them smile to make things better. You just have to make them not sad.”

I opened my mouth to contest that but the words died unspoken.

That was it. That was my entire job summed up. Making the world better by making ponies... people not sad anymore. Keeping them fed, clothed (as far as necessary) and distracted long enough for the pain to go away; until that day where you could wake up in the morning and look in the mirror without tears.

Maybe it didn’t get me many laughs, and maybe it brought responsibilities that I’d never wanted, but it was something I had to do. And I’d keep doing it till the end of my days and be glad for the chance if I had too. Even if it meant facing down an angry mob to save a Club member.

I shook my head in disbelief as I realised in two sentences Pinkie had just solved everything. I’ll be the first to admit that there’s far more going on under that cotton cady hairdoo than anyone gives her credit for. Taking a deep breath I hauled myself to my hooves. The room did its best to spin out from under me but I managed to keep it more or less steady, though did have to extend my wings for balance.

“Thanks Pinkie,” I told her, then cracked a smile for the first time that evening. “You’re pretty good at making ponies not sad yourself.”

“I learned from the best,” she chirped, sweeping gummy up into a one foreleg hug. “Isn’t that right, Gummy?”

Gummy, of course, said nothing.

“Pinkie... never change.”

Author's Note:

You know, this was supposed to be a short chapter when I started writing it...

Anyway, the companion blog for this week is Dealing with Canons, and I'd also like to repeat that I'm still looking for pre-readers as a few have dropped out due to other commitments. If you'd like a chance to read the next chapter early and maybe help me beat things into shape, drop me a PM or comment.