• Published 15th Sep 2014
  • 5,884 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.

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Chapter 7: Viceroy

“Right, final checks. Notes?” Lyra enquired, holding up one of Twilight’s checklists with her magic.

“On the stand,” I replied, flexing my wings in agitation. The kitchen, while large, was not really roomy enough to hover, no matter how much I wanted too.

“Names?”

“Mathew Win, Ivory Flash and Joy Hutter.” Not that I really needed to remind myself of those names.

Lyra turned to Pinkie, who was also almost vibrating. “Everything ready in the hall?”

“Sir, yes sir!” Pinkie called, saluting, though not with the correct hoof. “All sweets and confectionaries are laid out for the enemy, sir! All Club members present and accounted for, sir!”

“...I’ll just check that off,” Lyra said, shaking her head. “Well, looks like we’re ready. I just wish I’d thought to do this for the last Club meeting. Maybe it wouldn’t have been such a disaster.”

“We can blame Chrysalis for that,” I assured her, resting a hoof on her shoulder. As I understood it, the best part of Lyra’s meeting had been that it ended prematurely when they found out Rose and I had been kidnapped. “And you’ve done a great job running things while I’ve been gone.”

In fact, in my absense, things had been golden for the club. Ten humans in fourteen days had been a great ratio and to top it all off, despite losing the entire changeling workforce, the boarding house had been finished. The third largest building in Ponyville, after Twilight’s new castle and the town hall, it was built like a cross between an American motel and an Amish barn and boasted twenty-three good sized rooms, each large enough to for two ponies to share comfortably.

Due to a few optimistic assumptions back when we were planning, we actually had four to a room, and the large loft had been repurposed as a roost for the gryphon and pegasus contingent. Still, despite the crowding every pony, gryphon and other equine had a warm place to sleep for the winter, a solid roof over their head and a guaranteed meal every day. I was still working on something for the dragons. Though as they could gargle liquid nitrogen, I wasn’t overly worried about any of them dying of exposure.

“So, you ready to meet your public?” Pinkie exclaimed, bouncing on the spot.

I rolled my eyes. “Hardly my public, Pinkie.”

“Pwsh.” She waved her hoof at me dismissively. “You’ll have them eating out of your hoof! Just remember what I taught you and give them the old ‘Pinkie Dazzle’.”

“I still don’t think I should be the one doing this,” I protested.

Pinkie grinned. “Hey! Who’s the party pony here?”

“Umm, you?”

“Yepperoni, and who’s returning from the grave?”

“...me?”

She leaned in close, grinning from ear to ear. Literally. “And who’s going to make those ponies the happiest when they see them?”

“I am?” I was rather unsure about that one. No matter my current fame, Pinkie was beloved by the Club.

“Right, so you should listen to me and get out there!”

“Should we--” I began, gesturing at the floating checklist.

“Nope!” Pinkie began bouncing in place, a jaunty beat began to play. “Just put on a smile, and step up to the plate, and soon you can make them--”

“Okay! Okay!” I exclaimed, cutting the song off at the knees. “I’m going.” I turned to face the double doors leading to the cafeteria. Taking a deep breath I tried to find that ‘Pinkie Dazzle’.

“Can you get the doors please?” I squeaked.

The pink mare gamboled forwards, throwing open the doors; I hurled myself after her.

It was remarkable just how much speed a pegasus could build up from a standing start. I shot through the doors like an arrow, banking hard and flaring my wings out to bring myself into a controlled fall. My hooves hit the low stage with a crack, setting the whole thing wobbling, but it held up well for something made of plywood and milkcrates.

“Hello everypony!” I yelled, beaming as I set my forehooves on the podium (which may have been mysteriously missing from the town hall). There were some scattered cheers. “And everygriff.” I pointed a hoof at the flock of gryphons, who roared in response. “Everydragon.” A much louder roar came from the scaled members. “Changelings.” Rose’s contingent chittered from the corner. “Zebras.” There was a single yell from somewhere in the back. “And miscellaneous.”

That got a laugh, just the one, but it was enough to keep me powering forwards. That and the sea of smiling faces.

“It is so good to be back,” I exclaimed, beaming. “And I’m sure everyone here is happy to finally have a place to call home.” I glanced down at my notes; first order of business was the fun one. “Now, it’s been a busy few weeks since I last saw you all, and I see you’ve gone and opened the boarding house without me, not that I can blame anyone. As you know, we’ve held a straw poll for what to call the place we call home. So,” I paused for effect. “And against my better judgement ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Stable.”

The crowd groaned. Though it was the groan of a long anticipated, though still terrible, pun being delivered.

My wings fluttered as I nodded in sympathy. It was a bad joke through and through, but it was our joke. Stable wasn’t a word in equestrian, they tended to use ‘house’ to describe a building where you kept ponies. No one bar the Club would ever get the reference.

“I know, I know,” I said. “Personally I think The Barn ponies stuffed the ballot box. If they couldn’t have a creative name, no one could either.” Another spattering of laugher spread around the hall, notably from Crystal Cog.

“Now, before we go any further,” I continued, dropping into a more somber tone. “I’d like to once again extend my thanks to those who risked their lives last week, fighting Queen Chrysalis.” I hung my head. “I... think I’ve said my peace at the memorial yesterday, and I won’t drag things down by sounding like a broken record. Still, I’d once again like to extend my thanks to Mathew Win, Ivory Flash and Joy Hutter. It would be fair to say that we’ve all be dealt a very bad hand in recent months, and it takes incredible bravery to stand up and try and take something back. I don’t think I, nor Rose, are ever going to be worthy of their sacrifice, but from the bottom of our hearts, we thank them for the chance.”

I hung my head, letting the silence stretch for a long moment.

Drawing a deep breath, I rapped a hoof on the lectern and continued. “So. Our first order of business today is a very important one, and it concerns home.” Everyone in the audience seemed to lean forwards at those words. “There have been lots of rumours flying around about a weather balloon, and whether it’s just an accident or a deliberate contact attempt. I can say officially now that yes, we have received a message from Earth.”

You could have heard a pin drop.

“Tony Acey and Louis Hubble successfully crossed the barrier back to Earth some weeks back. How they survived is beyond me. But they have contacted the government-- all of the governments. There is apparently now a large research project trying to understand this whole ‘universes merging’ thing.”

Excited murmurings ran through the crowd. I held up a hoof to forestall them.

“Now, I hate to bring you all back down, but this doesn’t mean any of us are going home today.” The murmurings stopped dead. “Sorry folks, but it’s the truth. Princess Twilight has been swapping notes with the research teams and yes we have contact, and it seems crossing the barrier is less devastating than we thought, this also confirms a lot of things we feared about Earth. There’s no magic there, and the atmosphere is leathal to our new forms without a lot of resistance spells.”

I put on my best smile. “Still, it’s a step in the right direction, and there is at least one immediate upside, though. The mail came.” There was a moments confused silence. “ And by that,” I continued, grinning. “I mean The Barn ponies took a long list of names with them on that crazy plane, so some -- and I stress some -- of you have had your families contacted, and there are letters from home waiting for you.”

Pandemonium erupted in the hall. Shouts, screams, flapping wings and excited cries drowned out all my attempts to bring order, though I didn’t try very hard. We needed some properly good news every once in a while. After a long while, and the noise falling down to a loud thrum, I raised a hoof for silence. The excited babble fell away... slightly.

“Now, I’m sure you have a ton of questions, but I’ll hit the highpoints,” I called, straining to be heard. “Your families have not been informed as to the specifics, just that a scientific anomaly has separated you for the time being. Currently the world is not aware of what’s happening here, nor what we now look like, but given there’s apparently a lot of people working on our problem back home I don’t know how long that’s going to last. Because of that, and as Princess Twilight is already sending messages back and forth, we’ve reached an agreement to allow for a finite amount of mail to be sent home to Earth.” I had to raise my voice again to be heard over the renewed roar of the crowd. “For now it’s going to be one letter per person and one piece of A4! But don’t worry about CENSORSHIP!”

I roared the last word, finally bringing some semblance of order back to the hall.

“Censorship,” I repeated, clearing my throat. “There’s no conspiracy to cover up Equestria. However, I would strongly suggest you don’t encourage anyone to try and get here; the very last thing we want is people intentionally crossing the barrier. There is still the very real chance that stressing the barrier could cause catastrophic damage to both worlds.” I fixed the crowd with a glare. “So, do not tell people to come to Equestria.”

“Right, that’s the major news,” I concluded, glancing down at my notes. “There are--”

“Actually, there is one more thing.”

Princess Twilight Sparkle stepped into the hall. She wore regalia, which was the first warning sign; Twilight detested wearing any form of jewelry around Ponyville. A small but extremely ornate silver tiara graced her head, a torc of similar design hung around her neck, and she wore silver shoes which made a musical clink as she made her way slowly through the crowd.

I glanced over at the half open doors to the kitchen to where Pinkie and Lyra were watching, with big grins on their faces. Pinkie had managed to get a bag of popcorn from somewhere.

“Hello, your Majesty,” I said, as Twilight leapt onto the stage with a single, controlled, flap of her wings. “How can I help you today?”

“Actually, Ms Kingston,” she began, shooting me a look. I was probably going to pay for calling her ‘your majesty’. “Today we’re thanking you.” She made a small gesture and I ceded the podium to her.

“These past few months have been very trying for all of us,” Twilight began, addressing the silent crowd. “And no more so than for all of you gathered before me. It terrifies me to think of the adversity set against each and every one of you, but today I’m looking out at a sea of smiling faces and I couldn’t be happier for you all. When our worlds began to collide I wondered how anypony-- anyone could cope with humans in Equestria. I know I certainly had a few frantic days.”

And now, the winner of the ‘understatement of the year award’ goes to...

“You all have risen to the challenge wonderfully, and I am proud to stand beside the Club, and fight beside them if needs be. Today, with the dedication of this building, you are no longer refugees, but part of Ponyville, and this never would have happened without the tireless efforts of an exemplary mare.”

She turned to me. My stomach did backflips in terror, I had a horrible feeling I knew where this was going.

“Alexis Kingston,” Twilight continued, smiling. “Your work for the Club and for Equestria has been above and beyond all that could be asked, and it does me great pleasure to offer you, on behalf of myself, Princess Cadence, Princess Luna, and Princess Celestia, the role of Viceroy of Humans Affairs.”

For a moment I stood stunned, my wings twitching as I contemplated the fastest way to get the hell out of the building. Twilight had played her hand too well however, turning down the role here and now would be... incomprehensible to most of the Club members. Politics in Equestria was a complicated beast, and I was an novice at best, but from the title, the impressive list of signatories and my pending official position, it was fairly clear where the wind was blowing.

The Humans in Equestria Club was getting annexed.

And there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to stop it. Turning Twilight down wasn’t an option; Star Charge would leap at the chance to replace me, and Crystal Cog wouldn’t be far behind. Either would be a disaster.

I bowed my head. “Thank you Princess,” I lied smoothly. “I hope I can live up to your expectations.”


An hour later I sat in a rather opulent reception room in Twilight’s castle, fidgeting on an, admittedly rather comfortable, silver-banded sofa. I had a sneaking suspicion Rarity had been behind decorating the room, the furniture was all of the same ostentatious set. Though to be fair, there was a lower limit on the decor when the walls are made of crystal.

Twilight let herself into the room, a tea-set floating along in her wake. She’d stripped off her regalia from the meeting, and somehow much of the royal attitude. She smiled weakly as she approached.

“So, how do you take your tea?” she enquired, resting the tray on a low table and slipping onto her own seat.

“Black,” I snapped.

Twilight winced, busying herself with the teapot. “Sooo...” she began, pouring me a cup and setting it down before me..

“That was not very subtle,” I continued, trying to keep my voice level and my anger at a low simmer.

“Sorry... unfortunately, my hoof was forced.” She let out a long sigh.

I glowered at her. “I would have prefered a little warning. Maybe a chance to sit down and discuss things before this was dropped on me. Something to stop me bolting for the door at least.”

A knowing smile appeared on Twilight’s face. “Celestia always said that those who most deserve responsibility are those that try to run from it.”

“Twilight.” I fixed her with a flat glare. “A week ago you told me I got this job because I didn’t run.”

Twilight frowned. “Darn, how does Celestia do this? It sounded wise when she said it.”

I rolled my eyes. So this one really had come from the top. “Princess Twilight, just tell me why you felt the need to annex the Club?”

“Oh! No, no, no,” she protested, her wings fluttering with worry. “It’s not like that at all. We’re not going to step on any hooves, you can keep running the Club just as you--”

“Twilight,” I interjected, holding up a hoof. “As of this morning I am now a member of her majesty’s government. Regardless of what you want to happen, the Club is going to change because of this. You’ve made a support group a ruling body for Christ’s sake.”

Twilight opened her mouth to protest, and I fixed her with a flat look. She closed it again, hanging her head.

“Why, Twilight?” I repeated.

“Legal reasons, and political,” Twilight sighed, disgust writ clear on her face. “The official date of your appointment is the day Chrysalis kidnapped you. It turns out that while we’re allowed to violate border treaties with half a dozen tribes to rescue a government official, we cant do the same thing if we’re rescuing a private individual. Not without my using my ‘untested authority in an unprecedented manner contrary to political convention’.”

I cocked my eyebrow at her.

“It means if I get away with unprompted invasions, than half a dozen other princes and princesses can also do whatever they want in the border kingdoms.” She shuddered, and I idly wondered if she was thinking of Blueblood. “And, unless we want to provoke the gryphons into invading again, that is a very dangerous carte blanche to give.” Yep, definitely talking about Blueblood.

“So technically we didn’t save Rose?” I enquired.

Twilight smirked “She was a pleasant side effect of your rescue, as far as the High Court is concerned at least. How is she settling in by the way?”

“It’s rough, but at least she has her hive with her,” I said, shrugging. “But that’s dodging the question. What about the political reason?”

“Urgh...” Twilight massaged her forehead. “It’s because the Club saved you. The administration is already spitting nails because of the impact you are having, and there’s already a couple motions to revoke your emergency citizenships. Fortunately the department granting them is firmly on Celestia’s side, for now, but there are a lot of powerful ponies very worried about you.” She sighed, lifting a cup of tea to her lips and taking a short draught before continuing. “When you were just refugees living on the government coin in tents, they weren’t too worried. Now you have a small army, a solid point of identity and a large potential income. That makes the Club a political rival and, take it from me, the administration can’t stand new rivals.”

Shakily, I picked up one of the cups, and tried to take a sip. It was a stalling technique as much as anything, while I tried to organise my thoughts. It was a very well reasoned argument, if one that missed the critical point that to salve a few egos we were losing any semblance of autonomy. Just like always though, there wasn’t anything I could do to fix things, all I could do was stop them getting worse.

“This is the compromise, isn’t it?” I began, after I set the cup back down. I had not managed to spill a drop, an achievement with hooves regardless of how much practice I’d had. “The Club is safely under the thumb of the government, but at least a former human is running it.”

Twilight smiled. “I knew you’d figure it out. Luna was worried about your lack of political background.”

“I’ve learned on the job,” I replied in a deadpan. Months of dealing with the Equestrian bureaucracy on others’ behalf had given me a crash course in backbiting. Rubbing a hoof on my forehead to forestall an growing headache, I continued.

“Okay, I think I can deal with this,” I grumbled. I didn’t have much choice, I had to deal with it, or the Club would suffer. “Who am I reporting to?”

“In the interim, me.”

I nodded. It was a good decision. Twilight knew when to leave well enough alone, but had enough political clout to protect us from any fallout, and if it was just interim, no one could complain too much about the Club becoming Twilight’s fief. Of course that wouldn’t stop them for long...

I dropped my head into my forehooves. “Urgh, this is making my head hurt. Are there a dozen legal books waiting for me with Spike?”

“Fifteen,” Twilight replied, blushing.

I shook myself. One of these days I’d outgrow homework.

“Right, let’s talk about a far more cheery subject than politics. How’s the research into the world-ending catastrophe going?”

Mouth hanging open, Twilight stared at me in horror.

“That was a joke,” I added, lamely. “I’ve been hanging out with Pinkie.”

“Oh! Right.” Twilight blushed again. “Well actually contact has been a bit of a breakthrough for my studies, at the very least it’s allowed me to test a number of theories that had previously been inaccessible due to the barrier.” She leapt off the sofa, and began to pace as she lectured. “Crystal Cog loaded a large number of instruments into the Tornado, and I’ve been able to prove both the directionality of the collision and it’s progression, and I have high hopes for your people finding an equivalent of the barrier generator for your own form of physical laws.”

“...That’s good?” I guessed. “Does this mean we’re going home soon?”

Her face fell. “Actually...” She took a deep breath, setting her hooves firmly before continuing. “It seems like returning anypony to Earth will be impossible long term.”

I felt the world drop out from under me. I hadn’t dared hope but... okay that may have been a lie. “Tony and Louis seem to be getting on okay,” I said, in as level tone as I could muster.

“Technically they’re dragging our worlds together faster by their presence,” Twilight sighed. “Not to mention the damage they’ve been doing with their experiments in crossing the barrier.”

“Still,” I began, taking another cautious sip of tea. “If we could cross the barrier more easily, or at least without dragging another human into Equestria every time, we could theoretically transport everyone home.”

Twilight took a great interest in her hooves.

“Am I wrong?”

“Yes,” Twilight said simply, dropping onto her haunches and letting her bangs hang over her eyes. “Alex,” she sighed, looking up at me with the mournful expression of someone who had to pass on the news that a favourite uncle had died. “I am so sorry, but all that would do is strand hundreds on transformed humans on Earth. They would need a constant barrage of spells just to stay alive and that would unequivocally endanger both worlds.”

“So change them back,” I snapped, smacking my hooves down on the cushions. “Your entire argument for not changing us back was that you don’t know what humans look like. Now there’s an entire planet of them at your fingertips. figure it out!” I glared daggers at the pony princess who shrank back.

Twilight closed her eyes, took a breath to steady herself and stepped forwards. “I. Can’t,” she said firmly. “DNA can not be made in Equestria. Proteins can not be made in Equestria. Humans are made up of trillions of precisely engineered, impossibly small components that simply can not be replicated in Equestria. If I sent every unicorn to Earth and gave them a thousand years to build human bodies I doubt they’d even finish building a single cell.”

“And yet ponies get along just fine on Earth?” I snarled.

“Ponies are... robust,” Twilight began, waving her hoof before her as she struggled to find words that I would understand. “We have an Intrinsic Vital Pattern, an IVP, instead of DNA. It’s a single, powerful... chord of Vita magic that flows through our bodies, defining our material pattern and resisting outside influences. The strength of the IVP is what causes most transformation spells to wear off over time, and that same strength holds ponies together despite the hostile physical laws on Earth.”

I dropped my head between my hooves. “Of course,” I sighed. “Oh course you’re just fine.” I spat the word. “When does anything ever go wrong for ponies?”

“Alex!” Twilight exclaimed, looking hurt. “I know this isn’t the greatest of news, but we are trying our best.”

I opened my mouth to yell at her again, but at last remembered I was talking to the fourth most powerful pony in Equestria. I shut up and turned away from Twilight. I was done with this.

“Okay,” I said softly. “Okay.”

A long pause stretched between us. “Any other news for me?” I asked at last, in a low montone.

“There are a number of issues I need to brief you on, but they are relatively minor--”

“Great,” I snapped, leaping to my feet and unfurling my wings. “Thanks for the tea, Twilight. I’ll see myself out.”

I did not wait for her permission to leave.


“Alex?”

I groaned, burrowing deeper into the comforting warmth of my blankets.

“Alex, seriously, it’s one in the afternoon.”

A hoof jabbed me in the flank.

“Come on, Viceroy Alexis, you’re giving pegasi a bad name.”

I flexed my wings, which did little beyond rustle the covers, and grumbled. “Kingston.”

“What?”

I wrenched the blankets off me and rolled over to glare at Swiftwing. “Viceroy Kingston,” I snapped. “Humans put emphasis on the second word in names. I’ve been trying to hammer that into the thick heads of a dozen bureaucrats for three days now.”

Swiftwing frowned at me, rocking back on her hooves. “Hmm, Viceroy Kingston... Though that would mean we had a Princess Sparkle.” She shook her head. “Nah, that sounds like something a little filly would come up with.”

I let that one pass without comment.

“Leave me alone, Swiftwing.” I rolled back over, staring at the wall.

“Hmm, let me think about it a moment... no.”

A pair of hooves reached around my waist and dragged me off the bed. Through more luck than judgement I managed to land with all four hooves on the floor, and knocked Swiftwing back into my armchair.

“There we go!” she exclaimed, beaming as if that had been her plan all along. Then she frowned, wiggling her butt she pulled a crumpled book out from under her. “Yeash, would it kill you to clear up in here once in a while?” she said, tossing the book aside.

I sent her a flat glare. I had been extremely busy in few days since being made a viceroy, so a little clutter was to be expected. My bedsheets were all over the floor, though that was a very recent change. More entrenched were the build up of wrappers, half empty plates and various other unfinished meals that were making an attempt to usurp my kitchenette. Books had also been scattered hither and thither, in clear defiance of the Princess of Book’s instructions, but the day I started caring about the treatment of tax law would be a cold day in hell. On the desk next to an open tome, and my Alexis figurine, was a vase filled with flower stalks, which I had binged through and had yet to throw out.

“You’re one to talk,” I sighed. “Or have you confined your sock collection to a single draw now?”

“Hey, those are athletic aids!” Swiftwing protested, her wings flapping in agitation. “...well most of them.”

I shuddered. I did not want to think what else ponies used socks for. “What do you want, Swiftwing?”

“Well, I was going to ask you whether you wanted to add your name to the next mail call? I still can’t believe they didn’t bother to talk to your folks.”

I rolled my eyes. Crystal Cog had very deliberately not pushed to find out any details about me for his big attempt to contact home. Perhaps his intention was to ensure I didn’t pry too deeply into his plan, but it had raised the worrying question of whether I really wanted my family to know what happened to me. Being a disappointment was hardly a new experience, but this was a little extreme even for me.

“I don’t know,” I sighed again, dropping back onto the bed.

Swiftwing cocked a brow at me, shuffling uncomfortably on her seat. “Are you okay Alex? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you napping before.”

I hung my head. “I’m tired,” I admitted, grudgingly. “I am very, very tired.”

“Oh come on!” Swiftwing protested, bouncing in place. “You’re a pegasus. We’re just bundles of speed and sass, everypony knows that.”

“Swift. I don’t have the energy.” I shook my head. “I have spent most of the morning being yelled at by the Undersecretary of Defence. Before that I had a dozen ponies trying to see if they’d couldn’t squeeze a few more bits out of me now that we have an official income, and before that I had another chapter of impenetrable rights to figure out.”

Fun fact, Applejack was legally allowed to raise an armed band to defend her property in times of war.

Swiftwing crossed her forelegs across her chest and glowered at me. “You know, most ponies would be excited right now.”

I said nothing, but raised a brow.

“Come on!” she protested. “You’ve been made the left hoof of a freakin’ Princess. You’ve fought a mad queen and come out smiling. You broke The Wall-- which you still haven’t taught me to do by the way --while racing against Rainbow Dash. You’re life is awesome right now!”

“I didn’t want to do any of those things,” I admitted, hanging my head.

Swiftwing glared at me, pouting, though she never would have admitted it. She opened her mouth for some snap, before closing it again, her glower intensifying. You could practically see the gears turning.

“Okay,” she said at last, her hind hoof beating a rhythm on the boards as she fidgeted. “So you don’t want any of those awesome things. You know what I want?”

“To be Rainbow Dash.”

“To be-- Hey!” Swiftwing darted forwards and punched me in the shoulder. “I do not want to be Rainbow Dash.”

I diplomatically said nothing. The only reason Swiftwing hadn’t set up the Rainbow Dash fan club was because Scootaloo had beaten her too it.

“No, I’ve always wanted to be the fastest mare in Equestria.” He eyes almost shone as she spoke. “I want to fly with the Wonderbolts, and go on world saving adventures, and have all the stallions lining up at my door! And do you know what? I have none of those things.”

Her spread wings fell to her sides and she took a deep breath, before continuing in a small voice. “I’m not the fastest, I’ll never measure up to the Wonderbolts, I took a half hour jaunt into the Everfree and was so terrified that I hid behind Fluttershy the entire time.” Swiftwing threw up her hooves and collapsed back into the chair. “I guess what I’m trying to say is, you have all these gifts, what do you want to do with them?”

I looked up at her and just sighed. “I want to go home, Swift. I just want to go home and see my own face in the mirror. Just once.”

“Well, you’ve got the Princess working on that...” She saw my face fall further. “Haven’t you?”

“It’s not an option any more.”

Swiftwing cocked her bow at me. “I thought you were talking to home? I thought you had people and ponies working on the problem.” She gestured with a wing at the window. “Because if not, there’s a lot of Club members out there who are going to be upset.”

“I know,” I murmured, staring at my hooves. “I’ll tell them tomorrow.” That had been my response for several tomorrows.

Swiftwing thumped her hooves on the ground. “Right! You need to fly. I’m headed to the Barn to help them with a project. Why don’t you come with me, it’ll be awesome?”

The urge to lie down and put my head under a pillow was almost overwhelming, almost, but instead I leaved myself to my hooves, flexing my wings. “...okay. Let’s go.”

“Really?” Swiftwing said, beaming. “Whoo! Who’s the therapist! I’m the therapist!”

I glowered at her. “Don’t push your luck.” I made my way over to the window of my loft and threw it open, letting a cold blast of autumnal air in. “Let’s just go.”

“Race ya’!” Swiftwing exploded past me, a wing cuffing me around the back of the head as she past.

Far more slowly I followed, securing the window against the cold before joining Swiftwing in the sky above the town.

“You know, races work better when you beat your wings more than once a minute,” Swiftwing observed, swooping down to my level. I did not increase my leisurely pace, and after a moment the mare through up her hooves in frustration. “Oh fine. I probably should be rested for the awesome, mega thing I’m doing later today.”

She grinned at me. I waited a long beat before answering. “Okay, I’ll bite. What have the Barn ponies got you doing, Swiftwing?”

“We’re going to break the altitude record!” she declared, puffing herself up. “It’s been at thirty six thousand feet for seventy years now, not counting Princess Luna, and we think we can use the thunderstone breathers to smash that.”

I blinked, I hadn’t expected that answer. “Thunderstone breathers?”

“Bottled aether or something,” Swift replied, shrugging. “What those two jokers he sent to Earth are using, basically. Aether really starts to thin out as you fly higher, so we’re thinking that if we can bring our own supply, we can push the boundary clear to forty thousand feet.”

I smiled, looking up at the sky. “Why stop there?”

“Yeah, we could make it all the way to the moon one day,” Swiftwing chortled. “I still can’t believe humans were nuts enough to try that.”

We came into a gentle landing at the Barn compound, just shy of the Thunderchild which had half it’s timbers off. The proud vessel had not fared it’s crash well; most of the frame had been shattered and patched back together with fickle magic and was now coming apart at the seams. Judging by the iron i-beams that were being hauled into place though, plans were in motion to rebuild the Thunderchild stronger than ever.

“So, want to be a record breaker?” Swiftwing asked, prodding me in the side with a wing.

I shrugged. “Maybe, I need to talk to Crystal Cog though, official business.”

“Urgh, that sounds boring,” Swiftwing said, shuddering. “I’ll save a suit for you though if you finish up fast.”

“No promises,” I said, with a faint smile. Then trotted away towards the barn.


Crystal Cog was, of course, at the very center of a knot of ponies, all clustered around the new telegraph. The test line to Canterlot had been built while I had been in the cocoon, but it had only been a few days since they’d opened doors to the public. So far the world changing success Cog had promised had yet to materialise, but a steady flurry of messages had been winging their way between Ponyville and the capital; despite the best efforts of an impromptu protest march which had consisted solely of Ditzy Doo and Spike.

Given a little encouragement, or possibly browbeating, I managed to drag Crystal Cog away and into the relative privacy of his office. The little nook was filled to the brim with a thousand unidentified objects; offcuts of wood, rusted toys, some of the few Earth books that had found their way to Equestria (and not been intercepted by Twilight) and half built inventions. There was a desk, in theory, but it had been colonised by paperwork a long time ago, and covered with a layer of dust. Crystal Cog had to fly over the mess to reach his chair, and I found myself perched on the arm of a chair next to a huge coil of wire. The only thing recognisable was the new and very shiny Bronze Solair medal, taking up pride of place on a shelf; it was the second highest award for valour a civilian in Equestria could receive and well earned.

“So, what can I do for you today, Alex?” Cog chirped. He seemed in a good mood, that would be helpful.

“Well, I’m here to offer you a job?” I began, doing my best to smile.

Cog frowned at me. “Really? Would this be the coveted deputy position that everyone is wondering about.”

I shook my head, sighing. “No, it looks like Star Charge will be getting that.” Crystal Cog blinked in surprise. “Yeah, I know. But it’s an olive branch, and we need the Club to stand together, not be divided by opposition.”

“Huh...” Cog seemed to think about that for a moment. “That might just work out. Never thought I’d see you making up with Star Charge though.”

“Well, he did help save my life,” I pointed out. “And I figure if he’s going to keep trying to usurp me I might as well give him an official channel.”

Cog let out a bark of laughter. “Keeping your enemies closer, eh? Well I can understand that. So if you’ve got your deputy under wraps, what do you need me for?”

And here comes the pitch. “I need you to be my militia captain,” I told him, simply.

Crystal Cog gave a small nod. “I understand. No.”

It took a moment for that to sink in. “Excuse me?” I said, my wings spreading in surprise. “No?”

“That’s my answer,” Cog said simply. “I have no interest in heading some kind of militia.”

“You already had some kind of militia,” I spat. “You’ve got people putting together the local equivalent of a tank this second!”

“The Thunderchild is a demonstration ship,” Cog pointed out, not a hint of emotion in his voice as he explained. “She’s there to sell the concept of repulsor travel to Equestria.”

I pressed a hoof against my forehead. “Crystal Cog, it’s a weapon. It’s a deadly weapon that has been used in front of two Princesses of the land. Do you really think that flimsy cover story is fooling anyone?”

“Do you really think the idea that we were rescuing a Viceroy is fooling anypony in Canterlot?” Cog shot back, shrugging. “I thought the entire point of your promotion was so you could protect the Club from interference from the mountain?”

“There is protection and ‘protection’, and there are lies and ‘lies’,” I grumbled. To be honest, I still wasn’t overly happy with the new arrangement. “A piece of legal fiction that preserves the status-quo? We can run that with all day. A private citizen building doomsday weapons? That raises eyebrows.”

“Really Alex? Doomsday weapons? I know you Brits like James Bond but--”

“The Equestrian army engages Changelings at two to one odds at a maximum,” I cut in, quoting that arse of a bureaucrat, the Undersecretary of Defence, who’d spent so long brow beating me. “That’s fifty highly trained soldiers against one hundred changelings. You, with the Thunderchild and working on three days of training, took on four hundred with just forty ponies and were only stopped when Chrysalis herself intervened; a creature that once successfully sucker punched Celestia. The Thunderchild and it’s guns represents the most powerful weapon outside of the alicorns and that is not something Equestria can allow to exist in private hands.”

“So this is a hostile take over then?” Cog said, narrowing his eyes at me.

“No, it’s really not,” I sighed, rubbing my forehead again. “We just need to sooth some ruffled feathers up in Canterlot and put you under official control. You’ll still answer to me, and I’ll answer to Princess Twilight so we can hold off the worst of the meddling.”

“Hmm,” Crystal Cog seemed to consider it for a moment. “Still no.”

I really wanted to punch something. “Urgh, Crystal Cog, this isn’t really something that’s up for debate. You have a main battle tank in the yard. You either need a piece of paper saying you’re allowed to have it, or someone is going to jail, and this is the best option we’ve been given.”

Cog shook his head, sadly. “Alex, have you actually thought this through?”

“There isn’t really that much to think through Cog,” I snapped. “We are literally being threatened with invasion.”

“Which is why we must, under no circumstances, just give away our biggest advantage.”

I stared in horror at the pegasus. “Are you INSANE?” I boomed, quite accidentally. “We are outnumbered a million to one. And that’s not hyperbole, there are a million ponies for every Club member and you want to... what? Declare war on them?”

Cog sighed, setting his hooves firmly on the desk. “Alex. We are a small minority far from home. While we currently have political favour, that will not last longer than it takes for the next crisis to rear it’s head. We need the Thunderchild, and her guns, to ensure we don’t just get rolled over by the government.”

My eye twitched, as Crystal Cog spoke insanity in reasonable tones. “Two hundred, Cog,” I repeated. “Two hundred of us, two hundred million of them.”

“And by your reasoning they’d lose over a thousand digging us out if we decided to make a fight of it,” Cog pointed out. “Now, I’m no cruel politician, but that sounds like a group it’s better to negotiate with, than use force on.”

“This is not America, Cog!” I roared, unsetting a stack of clockwork gears with my wings. “You are talking about fighting one of the most benevolent rulers I have ever seen. We do not need a fucking paramilitary! What I need is for you to grow up and accept that you can not have all your toys!”

Cog didn’t bat an eyelid. “Despite current appearances, remember I am three times your age,” he said, in a low warning tone. “So believe me when I tell you that I am doing the right thing. Get over yourself.”

I snarled, baring my teeth. “Get rid of the guns, Cog, or I won't be able to protect you.”

Without another word I leapt from my perch and barged through the door, shutting it behind me with a buck that almost knocked it clean off it’s hinges. Fuming, I stalked through the Barn muttering to myself and flapping my wings in agitation.

“Hey, Alex!” Swiftwing called, as I stormed out of the front door. “You ready to do this?”

I turned to yell at her, and did a double take. Swiftwing had been dressed in a lycra flight suit, not too dissimilar from the Wonderbolts’ outfits through with significantly more padding and in a muddy shade of brown. On top of that had been layered a pony sized scuba rig, or at least that’s what it looked like to me, though a thick bank of flickering crystals was strapped between her wings in lieu of an air tank.

For a moment I was so surprised I forgot that I was angry. It didn’t last.

“No!” I barked. Swiftwing took a step back, her wings spread for flight. “Argh, sorry. I didn’t mean... I mean, I don’t think I’m going to be welcome here in a few minutes.”

“But why--”

“Oh, just ask Mr. NRA back there,” I growled, jabbing at the barn behind me. “If he hasn’t marched on Canterlot yet.”

A dozen ponies had turned their heads to watch us as I raved, and I was uncomfortably aware that last time I’d been so mad at the Barn I’d punched Crystal Cog in the face. There looked to be more than a few ponies stepping up to stop me staging a repeat performance.

Snorting I took off and, ignoring Swiftwing calls, winged my way back into town.


I was walking through the marketplace, still fuming to myself half an hour later, when there was suddenly a changeling in my face.

“Wargh!” I leapt backwards and up, somehow finding myself perched on top of a tent pole. The red-eyed drone hadn’t moved and just looked up at me with it’s head cocked.

“Oh god damn it Rose, don’t do that to me!” I exclaimed, fluttering to the ground. I shot an apologetic look over at the stallkeeper, who just huffed and turned his nose up at me.

“Apologies,” the drone continued, in Rose’s formal lilt. It still found it creepy when she talked through the drones, even though intellectually I knew it was no different that using a phone. “But you are late for our session.”

I groaned. “Rose, I am having a hell of a day. Can I call in sick today.”

The drone rolled its eyes. “No.”

Suddenly it slumped, staring at the ground for a moment before looking back up at me. “Follow,” it intoned, in its natural disjoined tones, and trotted away.

I sighed. You would have thought that getting made a Viceroy you wouldn’t have to come when people whistled; it turned out the opposite was true. More fool me for taking the job, I guess.

Rose had moved back into town after our triumphal return. It had not been the smoothest of moves, the changelings were still unwelcome, but at least Chrysalis had carved a strong divide in the minds of Ponyvillians between her and Rose. After few tense days of negotiation and public appeals, we had been able to find enough emotion to at least keep the hive ticking over and, through some miracle or possibly a royal order, Rose had managed to secure the ruined lot where her parlor had once stood. While technically speaking she was still living out of a tent, the frame of a new house was going up under the industrious hooves of the hive when I arrived.

“Hello Alex,” Rose said airily, as I pushed back the tent flap. She sat on her big cushion at the center of the tent, a single drone at her shoulder. “You seem rather angry today.”

“Freaky Prime magic tell you that?” I grumbled, finding my own cushion to lay on.

“Actually you’ve been wandering around the market muttering to yourself for a while now,” Rose pointed out. “Though the magic helps. Was it that jerk from the Defence Ministry?”

I groaned. “No, I got into another argument with Crystal Cog.” I dropped my head onto the pillow. “He’s refusing to give up the machine guns.”

“Equestria wants the guns?” Rose asked, leaning forwards. “Why?”

“Because Princess Luna has spent the last week gushing over them to anypony that’ll listen,” I grumbled. “I thought if I could at least get them under my control we could avoid the army rolling in to take them, but Cog seems to want that to happen.”

“I’m sure he doesn’t want things to go that far.”

I shrugged. “We’re talking about a guy who built a flying battleship for no reason beyond the fact he could.”

Rose winced. “It’s a fair point. Though I seem to recall you didn’t want anyone getting their hands on those guns last time we spoke.”

I held up my forehooves, pointedly. “I don’t think anyone’s getting their hands on them. And I don’t particularly want Equestria to have machineguns, but I thought Cog would prefer them with the army than at the bottom of a lake.”

“I hope you didn’t phrase it like that,” Rose chided.

I glowered at her. “I think my last words were ‘get rid of the guns’.”

“Okay.” Rose ran a hoof across her chin. “I can see where you went wrong. Want some advice?”

I shook my head. “No. Tomorrow I’ll take it, but today I’m too tired.” I looked up at her hopefully. “I don’t suppose trance-like states count as sleep?”

The queen shook her head.

“Urgh, too much to hope for then.” I buried my face in the pillow again.

“Alex, this is much more than one argument, isn’t it?”

I grunted into the plush. “I’m just tired, Rose.”

“You should perhaps avoid trying to lie to an emotion leaching vampire.” I glared at her, and Rose had the audacity to shrug. “So I’ll ask again, what’s wrong?”

“It’s... urgh!” I rolled onto my back, clasping my face with my hooves. “It’s just... not what I wanted. I had these big plans for the Club after I got back. We’ve got the Stable, everyone’s fed, everyone’s safe from Chrysalis; it was a chance to really do something help people. To move on.” I sighed, slumping. “But instead now I’m rulling them, Canterlot is shoving their noses in and Cog’s being an arse... as usual.”

Rose raised a hoof. “Umm, about that safe from Chrysalis thing?” she began.

Upside down I glared at her. “Please tell me you haven’t seen that bitch skulking around again.”

“Actually no, I haven’t see a hair of her, which is why I’m worried,” Rose pointed out, with a little frown. “Chrysalis isn’t one to give up so easily.”

“It took two demi-gods and a giant fuck-off cannon to get rid of her,” I pointed out. “I’d never call that going down easy. Besides, Twilight says Chrysalis doesn’t have the resources to attack Equestria again so soon.”

A ghost of a smile crossed Rose’s lips. “Twilight isn’t much of a gambler. Still, I am probably being paranoid. Shall we move on, and see if there are any of Chrysalis’ traps left in that hollow skull of yours?”

Another groan escaped me. “I hate mind magic.”

“As does every other pegasus,” Rose pointed out. “But do you want to be Chrysalis’ piñata again?”

I had to think about that. “No...” I rolled over onto my front. “Let’s just make this a quick one. I’m supposed to be talking to Pinkie about a Nightmare Night costume later.”

“Ah yes, I hear she’s got something surprising lined up.” Rose lifted herself from her cushion and stood before me, wisps of red fire building around her horn. “But don’t worry for now. Just... relax.”

Author's Note:

Hello all! I'm back, not that I actually expected to go anywhere. Somehow a month has slipped past and I'm not sure where it went, Christmas happened and I might have read Fallout Equestria, both of which together may explain why I missed at least one update. On that note, I'd like to plug another of my stories, 38 Minutes, in which Princess Twilight discovers the Equestrian wasteland :twilightoops:.

In HiEC news I finally got some cover art, done by the excellent viwrastupr and I'm sure you'll agree it's long overdue. It's nice to finally put a face on our reluctant heroine. In addition there is now a second appendix chapter expanding on the political reality of Equestria, which might clear up some questions about how Equestria is governed and how the Club is going to fit in.

Finally, as a reminder, the next chapter is Nightmare Night. I've got a solid few costume ideas but if anyone has any other suggestions speak now, remember there's Bronies in this Club, so references to other fics is positively encouraged :scootangel:.