• Published 15th Sep 2014
  • 5,827 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 3: Boundaries

“Umm, Alex, are you busy?”

My head hit the desk.

It was trickier than it should have been, my desk had been buried in paperwork and books; even scrolls had colonized a small corner and were making moves to annex more territory. Just integrating three changeling drones into Ponyville had been a legal quagmire and convincing everypony not to run away screaming at the sight of them had been worse. Queen Rose had destroyed all that effort just through her existence. All that carefully constructed fiction about the drones not representing a threat and instead were tragic figures, had vanished like so much smoke. It left me to trying to figure out a place to put a small hive where they wouldn’t get lynched while I wasn’t looking. Or starve to death. Or just be thrown out of the country by the army.

After a long groan into the paper I looked up at Lyra, who stood sheepishly in my office doorway.

“Depends,” I sighed. “Who wants to talk to me?”

Lyra rubbed her forearm, not meeting my eye. “Well...”

“Is it lawyer?” I asked. Lyra shook her head. “A shopkeeper?” Again she shook her head and I leapt into a game of ‘Guess Who’. “A banker? A merchant? A famer? An Element? A dragon? A Club member...”

Lyra nodded frantically.

“Is it Star Charge?”

Her face fell.

“Right, I’m out,” I said, glancing at my calendar. I had been planning to skip Twilight and Crystal Cog’s meeting but it was as good an excuse as any. At least it technically being a meeting with royalty meant no one could barge in on me.


“Lyra, that damn door has not been closed for four days because of somepony coming in here to whinge about the changelings,” I snapped, jabbing a hoof at her. “Can you promise me that this isn’t another one of the same?”


“So I repeat,” I said, opening the window. “I’m out.” And hurled myself from the building.

I sighed as I took wing; rising on a thermal above the rooftops till Ponyville and it’s problems were a hundred feet below me. There are, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned by this point, fringe benefits to wings; being able to escape the petty problems of a bigoted town when I had too where pretty high on that list.

Okay, so that wasn’t being fair to Ponyville. They had coped fine with a rash of blank-flanked strangers. The resident population of gryphons had been more of a stretch, but there hadn't been a serious gryphon invasion in nearly a hundred years, and the locals had gotten over their presence soon enough. The dragons still could cause panic, but they kept to themselves enough that they tended to stay out of sight and mind enough for nopony to complain. Changelings, through, a race still fresh from nearly toppling Celestia herself, were just that step too far.

I hadn’t managed to keep them in town. Nopony would rent them a building. Nor had any of the drones kept their jobs. I had to shift a dozen itinerant labourers off the boarding house project just so they’d have enough work. The Changeling Parlor itself had almost burned to the ground in an unexplained fire, and their new tent had been replaced three times already. If something didn’t change the problem would soon go away, as the Hive would starve.

With those grim thoughts in mind I landed at Twilight’s castle. Paying my respects to Owlowiscious, I made my way up to the laboratory and there walked straight out of the frying pan and into one of Twilight’s lectures.

“Oh, Alex, I’m glad you could make it,” she called, waving me over. She was standing before a chalkboard, always a bad sign, and judging by the slightly glazed look on Crystal Cog’s face, had been talking for some time. “How much do you know about the six fundamentals?”

“I’ve not looked into much beyond aether, I’ll admit,” I said, trotting over.

“Ah, well you’ll enjoy this then.” She beamed, already turning back to the chalkboard as Crystal Cog and I shared a weary look.

Eh, it was still better than talking to Star Charge again.

“So as I was saying. We have the six fundamental pillars of reality.” Twilight said, tapping the six pointed star on the board. “Solar, the laws of the heavens. Aether, the laws of the sky. Vital, the laws of life. Materia, the laws of matter. Arcana, the laws of mind. And Prime, the laws of emotion. Theses are further subdivided into the fifteen light interactions, those flowing counter clockwise, and the fifteen black, those flowing clockwise.”

I blinked, wondering if Twilight had been expecting us to take notes.

Twilight seemed lost in her own lecture, paying no attention to her audience's rapidly slackening attention. “Now this is most interesting when we start introducing ‘magic’ or the ability of living creatures to shape the interactions. Take the ability of a plant to convert the energy of the solar spheres into life and motion, for example. Or something like every creature needing aether to breathe. Or conscious thought itself, which is a prime/arcana exchange.”

I raised a hoof.

“I’m sorry, why were you explaining this?”

Crystal Cog facehooved. Oh yeah, I forgot the rule about not asking Twilight questions while she’s lecturing.

Twilight blushed. “Oh. Right. Well I was explaining to Cog correct uses of the tribal pillars in crafting magic artifacts.” Crystal Cog rolled his eyes and Twilight addressed him. “What I’m saying in brief is that you’ve done extremely well for somepony who’s only just been introduced to our science, but you’ve made a few elementary mistakes.”

The colt gave her a withering look, laden with all the decades of experience that his body didn’t reflect. “No. No I haven’t.”

“Ah, no see, it all comes down to the interactions between schools,” Twilight continued, turning back to the board. “See, ponies are unique in the world in that each tribe has two pillars that they can warp into spells. Earth ponies can control both vita and materia, unicorns arcana and solar (though solar is a bit of a lost art), and pegasi aether and prime.” She drew a few quick sketches of the tribes and their schools with short, economic strokes of the chalk. “Rarity and I represent typical unicorns in that regard, with strong control over arcane spells but not a lot else; likewise Applejack and Rainbow Dash are almost typical for their tribe with control over vita and aether respectively. Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy both break the mold; Pinkie Pie is a master of the materia and Fluttershy is an excellent user of prime.”

My hoof went up again, despite Crystal Cog’s objections, because I simply had to ask.

“Sorry,” I interjected, briskly. “Are you telling me that prime, the school of magic that the changelings have been slammed over the last week for using, is exemplified by Fluttershy?”

Twilight hemmed and hawed for a moment. “Well... the Stare would count as a form of mind control, yes. But that kind of ability is not unusual for pegasi,” she added in a rush. “Many pegasi use prime to make themselves more charismatic, or convincing, or just braver, but pegasi use magic instinctively; they can’t not use these abilities.”

“I’m more concerned that Pinkie Pie has a scientific explanation,” Cog admitted, sighing.

I shuddered. That was a disturbing thought.

“To be fair, Pinkie just becomes more distressing when you realised how powerful she really is,” Twilight admitted, shuddering. “Even before the mirror pool incident she could stretch reality enough to be in two places at once. That’s a once in a generation ability there.”

“Hang on,” I cut in. “If there’s an actual explanation for Pinkie Pie.” And that was still a big if in my mind. “Why did you flip out so badly over Pinkie sense?”

Twilight’s chalk snapped in her grasp, and the mare snorted. “Because it still makes no Celestia-damned sense.” She rounded on the board and drew a thick arrow between ‘arcana’ and ‘materia’. “This is the interaction that covers time travel and prophecy spells,” she explained, through clenched teeth. “Note it is black magic so flows clockwise, hence it is an arcana spell. Pinkie should not be able to have anything to do with extracting information from the future unless she’s hiding a horn under that mop.”

I stepped forwards and put a comforting hoof on her shoulder. “Twilight, chill. Remember you decided to take this one on faith.”

She took a deep breath. “I still want to solve it,” she grumbled. “But you’re right. I can’t let this damage my friendship.” Shaking her head she looked back at the board. “It still makes no sense though. It goes against all the laws of nature; if species could just pick and choose from any school then we’d have all sorts of ridiculous powers knocking around. Like changelings dream walking, earth pony illusionists, or unicorns raising the dead.”

Both Crystal Cog and I shared a wide eyed look. Despite the rules, that last one warranted a question.

“Wait,” Cog demanded. “You mean there is a tribe capable of bringing the dead back to life?”

“Oh yes, the pegasi,” Twilight explained, apparently not noticing Cog and I’s shared amazement. “It’s an old technique, not used since the dark ages. It never really brought anypony back, just reanimated them as zombies to fight for the pegasi.” She shuddered, I didn’t blame her. “A nasty practice by all accounts. Though curiously, some pegasi will actually use these magics on themselves at the point of death, in a form of autonecromancy, giving them a few extra minutes of life to achieve some final goal. It comes up a lot in their oral history but that’s not a great source at the best of times. Still, there’s fragmented evidence that it still occurs today in times of great need.”

I shook myself. “Okay, I have no idea what the topic was originally, but we are way off it now.”

Twilight rolled her eyes and gave Cog a dirty look. “I was explaining to Crystal Cog why you shouldn’t mix materia and arcana when constructing an artifact.”

“And you’ve been explaining that for the last twenty minutes because you have no idea,” Crystal Cog grumbled.

“What!” Twilight rounded on him, wings flaring out.

“You heard me!”

I left them too it. The magibabble went way over my head at the best of times and when Crystal Cog or Twilight really got going my eyes glazed over within seconds. With the two of them having an argument over what was and wasn’t possible I caught every third word at best.

The short version was that Cog thought Twilight was an arrogant ivory tower intellectual who’d never bothered using her knowledge in the real world, and Twilight thought Cog was an arrogant upstart who barely understood the ground he stood on, yet still dared to lecture her on what was and wasn’t possible in a subject she’d studied for her entire life.

In Twilight’s case she put it far more politely than that. Crystal Cog didn’t pull those kinds of punches.

Bored, I wandered over to a bench full a magical artifacts. The Barn, Crystal Cog’s brainchild, made many things, and every day it seemed like they discovered a new human invention they could replicate with magic. The range of technology they’d already churned out was remarkable, from simple fountain pens, to hover boards, to arcana motors and now, what looked rather like an attempt to build a wireless telegraph.

I picked up a jeweled circlet, turned it over in my hooves for a moment before dismissing it as an arcana artifact and so beyond me. Tossing it back into the pile I knocked a long pipe to the floor and it was only when I picked it up the familiar shape came back to me.

A long metal tube, wooden stock, open breach... A bolt action rifle.

I felt like I had been hit in the head with a hammer. The gun dropped back to the ground with a clatter and I hurled myself up and away from it.

“YOU BUILT A GUN!” I boomed, my voice catching the aether by accident as I hovered above Twilight’s and Crystal Cog’s heads.

Twilight, pausing in her beration shot me a confused look, and then cocked a brow at Crystal Cog. “I don’t recall any firearms on the list.”

“It was listed as a breech loader.”

“Oooh that. Yes, that was a very interesting idea.”

I landed next to them. “I think I may have been unclear,” I growled, glowering at Crystal Cog. The stallion had the affront to look confused. “Why on god’s green earth did you bring guns to Equestria?”

“Because we already had them...?” Twilight suggested.

I blinked. Trying to wrap my heads around the Equestrians having firearms. A type of weapon that, when added together over the years, must have have killed at least a billion humans.

Through force of will I closed my hanging jaw. “For how long?”

Twilight thought about that for a moment. “Three hundred and fifty years at least since their conception, as they were used during the Gryphon Khan’s Scouring. They didn’t become hugely popular or effective, though, until the Fire Ring Rebellions about two hundred years ago.”

I sighed. It was always a bit of a metal jolt when something reminded me just how bloody Equestria’s history really was. Surrounded on all sides by empires, monsters and fighting amongst themselves for petty reasons every other generation or so, the ponies were far from a weak-willed breed. To butcher to a human quote; the Equestrians were not descended from the timid ponies.

“Does Far Quest know this?” I asked Cog.

A vicious grin appeared on the caramel-coloured pony’s lips. “I’m waiting for the ideal time to tell him.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle. Twilight cocked her head at me as Crystal Cog trotted over to his gun to check it for damage. “So guns never came up in our ‘episodes’?” she enquired.

“Well, it was a children’s show,” I pointed out. Speaking of which, I had yet to get a proper explanation for when MLP was a TV show, the one Twilight had given me on arrival I understood only in part. It was something to do with it being a forerunner effect of the eventual collision of our universes, but why that started a TV series I have no idea. Some day I am going to have to sit down with a big book on the multiverse and figure everything out.

“Really, so that time Big Mac almost took Apple Bloom’s head off with that damn hoofcannon of his...?” Twilight petered out as I just looked blank. “Okay right. Far too traumatic. Um. Oh! Appaloosa. They had to keep that more or less unchanged, right?”

I cocked my head at her. “It was just a big pie fight on the show.”

Twilight’s face fell. “Oh...” she said, in a very small voice. “Well I guess if they didn’t know what happened was real...” She shuddered.

For a moment I wondered what the problem was. Then the upshot of a small number of frontiersponies taking on a large number of natives, when they had ready access to firearms hit me. “Shit,” I commiserated.

“Yeah... I don’t think Pinkie has touched a gun since,” Twilight added, hanging her head. “And she gets this weird look whenever Applejack brings her rifle along on our adventures.”

“How common are these guns away?” I interjected.

Twilight shrugged. “Well I’ve got two dozen in the castle for my royal guard to use.”

I looked around, I didn’t think I’d ever seen Twilight with a guard. “What royal guard?”

“Exactly.” She rolled her eyes. “But that’s the bureaucracy for you. Other than that, though, most of the farming families have a couple, but in town they’re pretty rare. Places like Canterlot or Manehatten have almost none; there’s a rather longstanding convention against bringing weapons into the presence of the nobility.”

Crystal Cog returned from checking the rifle over. “Oh, so should I be showing this to you?”

“I’m not Celestia,” Twilight pointed out, testily. “It’s a courtesy, not a ban.”

“In that case, let me demonstrate,” Crystal Cog continued. Bringing the rifle up to his shoulder. “Observe the mechanism at the base of the barrel. It slides open simply allowing you to insert a round quickly and easily.” He demonstrated, thankfully without a round. “You then lock it closed. The materia-arcana decay is contained behind the baseplate and you can then fire it as normal.”

He aimed at the far wall, slipped a hooftip into the trigger guard and-

There was a low rumbled and the building shook.

“What the hell?” I demanded, as dust rained down from the ceiling.

“Oh, I’m sure it was just Dash,” Cog said, waving it off. “Now if-”

“That wasn’t Rainbow Dash,” Twilight interjected, trotting towards the exit. “I’m going to take a look.”

I was only a few steps behind her and, somewhat reluctantly, Crystal Cog followed.

“You got it flying?” I said at last. The three of us stood on Twilight’s observatory balcony with our necks craned back, staring at the Tornado fighter as it rumbled through the sky, high above our heads.

“Took a lot of work, but yeah. I did tell them only to do systems test today, though,” Cog added, that last part in a grumble.

Twilight shook her head in disbelief. “It needed oxygen to fly. Wherever did you find enough?”

“Ah, well we might have cheated a little there. We loaded it up with a transmutor and a couple of massive thunder stones,” Cog explained, his wings twitching every time the jet turned. “It synthesises the oxygen in the air intake. It actually posed a few interesting problems if you’d-”

A rainbow streaked from the ground, shadowing the jet for a moment before coming alongside.

“Looks like Dash has found a playmate,” I observed, grinning.

Twilight laughed. “Let’s just hope you humans can keep up.”

Dash was off like a rocket a moment later, her rainbow contrail streaking out behind her as she accelerated away from the jet. Within moment the jet was after her, pushing hard. “Heh, good luck, that’s a supersonic jet...”

Realisation hit me like a ton of bricks.

It was a supersonic jet. The same supersonic jet that had crossed into Equestria while trying to imitate a rainboom; now racing against the one creature on the planet capable of producing one on demand. Images of Tony and Louis boasting about their jet to Dash flashed through my head. How much work would it really take to bait her into do something really, really stupid?

“Twilight,” I snapped, shaking her shoulder. “Please tell me you closed the ‘supersonic over a rainbow’ hole in reality from both sides.”

Twilight frowned, and I felt my heart go from panic to maximum overdrive. “Actually, it was a big hole, so I haven’t patched it from the Equestrian side. But Rainbow is the only entity that can go supersonic and I told her too-”

We shared a look of utter horror.

“We’ve got to stop her!” we yelled in unison and hurled ourselves into the air.

I quickly took the lead. The aether flowing through my wings with desperate intensity, banishing gravity and I tore through the air like a gale. Dash was still playing keep away with the jet in the skies above, which meant Twilight and I still had time to stop the disaster. Maybe. If we were fast enough.

Setting my personal best time to three thousand feet I levelled out gasping for breath next to Rainbow Dash who, despite the fact I could barely feel my wings for the amount of magic I was pumping through them, was flying upside down with one foreleg tucked behind her back.

“Hey Alex,” she called, righting herself and waving a hoof. “Did you want a front row seat for me leaving these jokers in the dust?”

“You-” I gasped, fighting to keep up to the speedster who was making our breakneck passage look like a morning jog. “-don’t - can’t - fast.”

“Eh, it’ll have to wait,” Dash cut in, glancing over her shoulder. “Looks like the competition is finally here.”

She swung her hooves forwards into an aether spike configuration and hit the turbo. A moment later she was a receding dot in the sky as she effortlessly piled another sixty miles an hour onto her already prodigious speed.

“Alex!” Twilight called, finally catching up, and breathing hard. The princess was not a strong filer by any measure, and the telltale glow of arcana magic around her hooves was doing little more than allowing her to match my pace. “Do something!”

Behind her the Tornado roared, as it began to gain ground on us. For a moment I appreciated the sheer insanity I could see through the canopy. Two pastel ponies at the controls of a multi-million pound war machine was not a sight seen often, though would have been far funnier if they hadn’t been about to tear the universe a new one.

I turned back towards Dash. There was only one way to stop a pegasus when they were flying; Arcana magic was too weak this high in the sky to be anything but an annoyance so Twilight wasn’t going to be any use. I just had to catch up to Rainbow Dash and force her to stop...

I just had to catch the fastest mare in Equestria.

Have I mentioned I hate my life sometimes?

The Tornado overtook us, but I didn’t have a spare wit to notice. Conceptually speaking, flying at insane speeds as a pegasus wasn’t too hard. First, you had to stop believing your wings were anything but a feathery conduit for magic. Mine were already burning with uncomfortable levels of power when I made that shift, slipping out of the air in a motion that I can only liken to raising an oar out of the water without stopping rowing. Moments later Twilight overtook me as my speed dropped away and I began to plummet.

Second step was to produce a proper air shell. I knew how to do that in principle, but never on the scale to cover my entire body. Gritting my teeth I pushed yet more aether into the spell, taking great gulps of air to try and fuel the magic, and a tenuous shell solidified around me. Shielding me from the wind somewhat and slowing me still further.

Finally, use your wings to push the air. Not with your wings, but with the magic in them.

I had no idea how to do that.

I also didn’t really have any option but to figure it out.

The rainbow contrail stretched ahead of me, a still subsonic jet streaking along it, and a moment’s realisation hit me. If I’d had any breath to spare I would have laughed. I just had to pretend I was jet engine.

Reaching out with the airshell I grabbed the air before me, pulled, and somehow took off like a rocket.

Within moments my speed went from laughable to terrifying as I picked up velocity, my wings beating at a frantic pace as I desperately tried to fill the gaping hole the aether drain threatened to tear in my tenuous bubble of speed. My head pounded, and the world seemed to lose colour as I pushed myself faster and faster, until I was following a monochromatic ribbon in the sky. Twilight flashed past a moment later, I couldn’t spare a moment to see how she was doing. Hell, I couldn’t spare a breath.

The Tornado loomed large for a moment as I struggled past and there, at last, was Rainbow Dash. I struggled to get my aether starved brain to concentrate and pulled up close to the washed out pegasus.

“Wow, Alex!” she cheered, holding up a hoof for a high five. Beyond the wind in her hair you could barely tell she was moving. “You made it to the big leagues. That’s awesome.”

My wings were agony. It felt like someone was taking pilers to the individual feathers and twisting them out one by one. Trying to focus through the haze of exhaustion and pain I gasped. “Rainbow-”

“Don’t worry about it,” she replied, waving me off. “I’ll just send these losers packing and then I’ll be right back.”

At this point I made my first fatal mistake.

“You can’t!” I screeched.

“Ha! Just watch,” she crowed. Bunching herself up, Dash kicked off the air and accelerated like someone had put a rocket under her tail.

I should have given up there. I shouldn’t have taken a deep gulp and desperately thrown myself into the pursuit. Rainbow Dash, the indisputable fastest creature on the planet was already gathering aether around her like a copper rod in a lightning storm, her speed building and building as she accelerated up to a rainboom. My wings were falling apart at the seams, shedding feathers with every flap.

There was a crackle-pop as Twilight appeared next to me, and again as she teleported onwards, and again, and again into the distance. It didn’t seem to be enough, though. The Tornado reached me a moment later, picking me up in it’s wash and hurling me about the sky like a ragdoll.

And here is fatal mistake number two.

My airshell shattered, and I found myself tumbling through the skies. Through more panic than design, I grabbed onto the disturbed ribbons of aether the jet left in it’s wake and the world lurched as I was pulled along after the Tornado. I had, maybe half a second to wonder just how my life had gotten to the point where I was a winged pony hanging onto the back of a jet fighter using a magic I barely understood, before Tony Acey hit the afterburners and I was too busy screaming to wonder about anything else.

Mistake three was not letting go. Though in fairness, once you hit two hundred miles an hour the terror rather makes that impossible. It was all I could do to keep a shield in place to stop my face being torn off by the windsheer.

Before us, at last, Dash hit the sound barrier. The sky lighting up in a rainbow ring explosion. The Tornado was only a half step behind, accelerating with such force I feared it would rip my wings clear out of their sockets.

I’ll give Tony this. He’s a fantastic pilot. He went transonic at the dead center of the rainboom and tore the world apart.

I was falling.

I wasn’t clear on the why. There was a mysterious gap in my memories between hitting the barrier between worlds at mach one and plummeting from the sky...

Okay, I guess it wasn’t that much of a mystery.

I rolled myself over so I was falling belly first and spread my wings to find - nothing. The aether didn’t just slip from my pinions, it wasn’t there. I tried to take a deep breath of air but found nothing but burning pain that assaulted my lungs, my eyes, and every bit of exposed skin. As my flapping became frantic the ground raced up to meet me. Through streaming eyes I spotted a landmark I recognised.

Canterbury cathedral.

The irony of dying barely a mile from home after spending the last two months in Equestria was lost on me at the time. I was too busy trying to grasp the aether, or anything that might have saved my life.

At the very last second, at rooftop height, I caught... something, barely a whisper of power but I pumped everything I had into a single heave of my wings. Somehow that was enough and I managed to slow myself to the point where I didn’t break every bone in my body. I still hit the tarmac hard enough to knock me silly.

A horn blared. I’d landed less than a bonnet length from a car, which screeched to a halt as glass from shattered street lights rained down around me. I was hyperventilating, desperately trying to get aether that wasn’t there into my lungs, and about to die. There was no real question about it, my vision began to go black around the edges as I tried and failed to drag myself to my hooves, but it was a futile gesture. I was suffocating. And there wasn’t a thing I could do to save my life.

I collapsed. Some bitter part of my brain observed that at least my demise was going to be well documented, judging by the number of people pointing camera phones at me.

With no better final words that that bitter note, I closed my eyes, and saw nothing but rainbows.

“Right, now hit her again.”

Somepony punched me in the chest.

Then they did it again a half dozen times till I broke into a hacking cough.

“Hey, Alex!”

With a trembling hoof I pushed the annoying voice away and rolled onto my side, taking wracking gulps of precious aether. Cracking my eyes open I was assaulted by the, now all too familiar, bright hues of Equestria and I groaned.

Somehow I wasn’t dead. I was in far too much pain to be dead.

“Alex, are you okay?” Dash’s asked in her grating voice, prodding me in the shoulder with a hoof.

“Of course she’s not okay, she almost suffocated, Dash!”

Ah, so Twilight survived too. That was good to know, I’d rather lost track of her just before-

“Earth!” I exclaimed, sitting bolt upright; then degenerated into a coughing fit.

“Easy, Alex. Easy,” Twilight chided, the Princess patting me on the back.

It took far too long till I was able to do anything but sit there on the grass, trying to stop my head pounding and lungs burning. Twilight held my hoof and worked some magic that seemed to ease my aches and pains; though it was really a band-aid fix.

“Okay,” I said at last, when the world stopped swimming. “Can someone tell me what happened?”

Twilight shot a nasty glare at Dash. “Somepony wasn’t listening when I told them 'no rainbooms'.”

“Hey!” Dash held up a hoof to defend her wounded pride. “You didn’t hear what those jerks at The Barn were saying. They didn’t even believe in rainbooms!”

Rainbow Dash, people, element of ego.

I dropped my head into my hooves. “They were bucking using you Rainbow Dash,” I snarled.

The pegasus rolled her eyes and had opened her mouth to argue when Twilight silenced her with a look.

“Right, well after Dash broke the sound barrier, followed by the Tornado, they... tore a hole in the barrier.” I winced. Tearing was bad. “Fortunately Dash didn’t get caught up in the crossing and I was able to prop open the portal long enough for her to dart through and pick you up before you-” She took a deep breath and finished in a small voice. “-died.”

I shook my head. I ignored the worry in Twilight’s voice, or the fact Dash had braved an alien world, and zeroed in on the terrifying word. “Portal?” I echoed.

“It was just for a few seconds,” Twilight admitted, with a hesitant smile. Which did nothing to alleviate my fears.

“You said we could, under no circumstances, ever open a portal,” I echoed, trying to keep the stunned horror from my voice. “A doomsday scenario, you said.”

Twilight let loose a nervous little laugh.

“Twilight. What happened to the barrier?”

“It’s fine,” she assured me, rather quickly. “I can fix it.”

It felt like someone had replaced my stomach with a lead brick. Twilight could ‘fix’ the thin wall that prevented all of humanity going extinct in an instant. That was like hearing everything was fine, there was still time to disarm the bomb. For a moment I stared at the pair, as if someone had struck me in the face.

Then the red mist descended.

“Crystal Cog,” I snarled, dragging myself to my hooves.

“Alex, you shouldn’t be moving,” Twilight interjected, but I ignored her. Every muscle in my body burned and my wings felt like someone had strapped a flaming brand around them, but I ignored them too, breaking into a trot as I set course for Ponyville.

“What?” Dash exclaimed, hovering between us. “What about Cog?”

“The bastard just punched a hole in reality,” I snarled. “I’m going to put a hole in his head.”

I reached The Barn far sooner than I thought. Partly because, for all our speed, the chase hadn’t gone on long enough to really take us that far from Ponyville, but mostly because I was seething far too much to pay any attention to my hoofsteps.

The Barn itself was at the far south of Sweet Apple Acres and under long term loan to Crystal Cog and his friends for something like a bit a month for the next year. The actual land was a postage stamp compared to the farm, but it was still a rather large compound, with the eponymous Barn (still decorated with hearts because, you know, Equestria) a large forge/tool shop and a pair of low blockhouses. It wasn’t a part of town I frequented that often, Cog tended to attract ponies who more or less themselves healthy and happy which left me to focus on the more problematic members of the Club. It seemed that that decision had come back to bite me.

I blew through the front gates and dropped into a furious march. Somewhere, though where escaped me, I had picked up the rest of the mane six who followed in my wake, along with a number of concerned Club members. None of them had managed to dissuade me from my course, Pinkie Pie had given up trying to reason with me a half mile ago, which in hindsight was a very, very bad sign.

The Barn members began to pile out of the various buildings and I stopped next to what looked like a half disassembled air-yacht.

“Crystal Cog!” I roared. It would have been in the royal canterlot voice but I could barely feel my wings, let alone summon enough aether to boost my volume. “Where the fuck are you hiding!”

The caramel coloured pegasus pushed his way through the crowd, which swelled around him. “Hello Alex,” he said, in a very measured tone.

I stepped forwards, hunkering down slightly as if to pounce. “Do you know what what you’ve done?” I snarled. “Do you!”

He nodded. “I sent a message in a bottle.”

“You just killed two people!” I advanced a few steps, getting right up in his face. “We. Can’t. Breathe. On. Earth!”

Cog fixed me with a contemptuous glare. “You think I didn’t consider that?” he replied. “They had enough bottled aether for at least two weeks. If they can’t find help by then, well, they knew the risks.”

You know, some small part of me had hoped taking to Crystal Cog would calm things down.

“And what about all the people about to be sucked through into god-damned Equestria?” I demanded. “How the hell does two ponies ending up stuck alone on Earth help them?”

“Alex,” Cog said, beginning to sound annoyed. “Tony and Louis are irrefutable proof that something is wrong with our universe. They can and will get help from the entire scientific establishment of the western world. Any people, displaced, before we can fix things are-” My eyes went wide. “-a necessary part of saving the world.”

I punched him in the face.

It wasn’t a soft punch. I’ve got hooves, it was never going to be soft. Still, I put my entire weight, and two months’ worth of frustration, behind the blow and floored the slight stallion.

Cog let loose a rather equine scream of pain, writhing on the ground, clutching his jaw; I had to fight down the urge to stamp on him. Instead I settled on screaming. “You rat bastard! You think this is going to do anything but drag anyone else into this mess! What the hell is humanity going to do to stop a god-damn magical catastrophe?”

“Alex!” Twilight cut in, yanking me back by my mane with her magic. “Leave him. He doesn’t deserve this.”

That was a mistake.

I rounded on the Princess, glaring daggers at her. “Oh no. You can not tell me that his fuck up, and your fuck up, are going to be just fine.”

Twilight quailed backwards, her wings fluffing out protectively. I didn’t care in the slightest, I was in far too much pain, and far too angry to be paying any attention to little things like the feelings of royalty.

“How many,” I snarled, as the mane six formed up protectively around Twilight. “How many people are going to have their lives wrecked because of this shitstorm you were too lazy to prevent?”

Dead silence descended on the crowd. I may have crossed a line with that last one, but I really didn’t care.

“Hokay sugarcube,” Applejack interjected, stepping forwards and putting a steady hoof on my chest. It wasn’t a great pressure, but I could feel the force in potential that lay in waiting. “Ah think ya had a very hard day. Why don’t y’all just take a deep breath and we’ll talk this over like civilised folk.”

I ignored her. Leaning round the farm pony I fixed Twilight with a glare. “How. Many?”

“Two dozen, maybe,” Twilight said in a whimper.

The words were like a slap in the face. Two dozen. That was another two dozen lives wrecked by the end of the week. Two dozen families grieving for a child, or parent, that they would never see again. My anger seemed to drain away under the hammer blow of loss those two words implied.

“And all because the Princess of Friendship couldn’t keep her damn friends on a leash,” I growled.

“Hey!” Dash snapped, getting right up in my face. “We just saved your ungrateful ass. What are you yelling at Twilight for?”

I shot her a contemptuous glance and asked, in far calmer tone than I was feeling. “Dash, how many more Club members will there be next week because you saved me?”

Dash blinked, backing off and I looked over at Twilight. She didn’t answer.

“Too many,” I said for her.

With Twilight in tears, Crystal Cog still on the ground and a stunned herd of Club members behind me. I walked away.

Author's Note:

Phew, that was exciting. Sorry this one was a little later than planned, it was a surprisingly tricky set of scenes to write, given I've been planning them for over a month now. Ah well.

I'd like to thank Luna-tic Scientist for going through some of the older chapters and clearing out some of my literary stutters, they should read a lot cleaner now. I am still looking for pre-readers if anyone else is interested, just drop me a PM and I’ll add you too the list. You don’t need to be a stellar proofreader, another person to bounce ideas off of is always welcome.

Todays blog is on Information Control when writing.