• Published 10th May 2012
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All-American Girl - Shinzakura



A pony raised amongst humans finds out about her birth mother - Rarity.

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Chapter One: Equine-American

The rain fell from the sky, a dark and dreary thing. The woman raced back to the house, her faithful dog following her. At the same time, an SUV pulled up and a man cleared it, racing toward the pair, a dour look on his face.

“Weird, I thought the sky was supposed to be clear this week,” the woman said to the man. “I mean, it is spring, isn’t it?”

The man leaned over to kiss his wife. “Well, at least it isn’t supposed to snow into April like it did last year,” the man drolled, adjusting his glasses. “Let’s get in; it looks like it’s going to be a ba—”

The man’s words were cut off as an ear-shattering thunderclap sounded, and a jag of lightning, thicker than any tree, slammed down in their backyard. From the backyard, portions of what was the backyard storage shed flew over the house, and a thick column of smoke rushed to the sky. The man turned to the woman and shouted, “Call 911!” as he raced into the back, hoping he’d be able to put the fire out. The gas for the lawnmower and the snowblower were stored in the back shed and his mind went back to his Navy days; was the fire extinguisher they had just outside the adjacent gazebo rated for Class Bravo fires?

All thoughts stopped the moment he heard the shrill cry of a baby – a baby? – any thoughts of putting out the fire ceased. He rushed into the burning wreck and pulled the baby out. Why was a baby abandoned in the shed? Had an illegal immigrant or a drug addict left their child here to die? Or worse, was living in the shed, a substandard life when winter’s weather was still flitting away from the area. Either way, the baby needed help now, and he had to do something.

The man raced into the house with the baby, just as the fire department arrived.


Twenty minutes later, it was over. The man thanked the firefighters for the effort, though the shed and the gazebo not too far away from it were total losses. With that done, the man went back into the house, where the woman was holding the baby. “Uh, hon?” she said, a worried look on her face. The baby was cooing softly, gurgling as if it knew it was in arms of comfort and love.

“You okay?” the man asked his wife.

“It’s the baby….” she told her husband, as she handed the child to the man. The man lifted the face cover off the swaddling…

…and beneath the fabric, a pair of precious purple eyes peeked out at the human pair, the eyes’ owner looking and gurgling at both, as a coo of happiness came out of the infant’s muzzle, a sound somewhere between an equine neigh and a child’s laugh.

March 30, 2047. A beautiful day at the United States Naval Station, Yokosuka, Japan. The bastion of the United States Seventh Fleet, this facility was the paramount structure of American power in the western Pacific. Two aircraft carrier strike groups called this place home; the base buzzed daily with life both military and the civilians that either worked for the Navy or joined their families here in this slice of Americana in Japan’s 35th largest city.

And in the middle of the hustle and bustle of NAVSTA YOKO, in a home in the David Farragut Officer’s Housing section of the base, an interview was being conducted. And at present, the interviewee was clearly nervous. “Is this thing on? Good – wait, let me tilt it a little bit. There. Well, it looks straight. If not, they can digitally correct this, right?” she asked, flittering with anxious energy.

The interviewer grinned, trying to set the interviewee at ease. “It’s okay, Ms. Martinez—”

The interviewee relaxed. “Just call me DJ, Ms. St. Germain. Everyone does.”

“Okay, then DJ. I’m Nicole. And to be honest, I’m a bit nervous, too The network usually has the big guns come out for these kinds of interviews, but since I’m the only one in the Tokyo bureau who has a press pass for American bases, I get to be the lucky one.”

DJ sighed, trying to get the remaining nervousness out. “Sorry – haven’t been this anxious since…well, I’ll get to that later, I guess. Okay, let me see, where to start? Well, my name is Daisy Jo Martinez, it’s 2:15 pm here in Yokosuka, Japan, and I guess you’re interviewing me for the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, right?”

Nicole nodded. “Well, that, but from what I understand, you’ve done a lot of firsts.”

DJ shrugged. “It’s not like I wanted to, but hey, Dad always said you don’t get fate, it gets you. But I guess I should start. It’s March 30, 2047, twenty-five years after the Supreme Court made that decision that I was declared a person, and it just happens to coincidentally be my 35th birthday today.”

Nicole smiled. “I didn’t know that. Well, congratulations and Happy Birthday!”

“Thanks! I wish my husband was here to celebrate it with me and the kids, but he’s out at sea right now. But I’m probably getting ahead of myself, right? Let me start again.” She bowed her head and murmured something that sounded like a prayer before looking up at the camera again. “My name’s Daisy Jo Martinez. I was born – or so my birth certificate says – on March 30, 2012. I’m married with two kids, my husband’s a Naval officer—” DJ turned to Nicole, asking, “You’re interviewing him as well, right?”

“The Navy’s agreed to let the network interview him as soon as they can get a reporter to his ship.”

“Good; this is just as much his story as mine. Anyway, I’m originally from a town just outside of DC called Winchester, Virginia – apple capital of America, yay, go me. I’m a Republican – that tends to shock a lot of people – and I’m a practicing Catholic – and that tends to shock more people than the first, and like I said, I’m married – I think people start passing out at that point. Like my Dad, I’m a novelist, and at the risk of shamelessly plugging my next book, it’ll be available for purchase and download in August. I’ve lived a happy, charmed life and I’m proud to be an American.”

She then smiled as she looked straight at the camera and added, “And as you can also see, I’m a pony. Well, physically anyway.”

Nicole then spoke into the camera’s mike: “For those of you listening to the audio-only broadcast, Ms. Martinez is a light cream-colored pony, with a dark brown mane and purple eyes. DJ, do you have one of those…um, what are they called again?”

“Cutie marks?” DJ smiled softly as she shook her head. “Nope, my butt’s plain as vanilla, or what some call a ‘blank flank.’ I realize that for ponies my age, that’s an extremely terrifying thing, for which I’ll get into later. For me, meh, no different than my husband, who doesn’t have any tattoos. Maybe that’s just another first – being a pony that doesn’t care…but then again, I don’t think that I’ve ever felt like a pony in my entire life; as far as I’m concerned, I’m human, just pony shaped. And maybe that’s where I’ll start,” she said, closing her eyes as if to focus.

“Cue back to way before I was born. My father, Matt Martinez, spent some time in the Navy before he got all James Michener and got famous with his first novel. My mom, Anna Van Hoed, was in the Army at the time, an aspiring comic artist. They met in Hawaii when they were both stationed there, and when they got out they moved to Mom’s hometown, Washington – Dad’s from LA, by the way. They bought a house in Winchester because hey, the housing market was down at the time and Mom needed the space for her art studio, just in time too as her first graphic novel broke sales records. They had the ideal life: house, picket fence, Jindo dog with a name in Korean no one could remember but they called her Stinkerbell. They had it all.

“Except for kids. Mom and Dad tried for years to have kids, but it just never happened. Maybe Mom was barren, or Dad spent a little too much time in front of a radar dish. They were willing to adopt, but who takes careers like theirs seriously? Adoption agencies always want banker dads and CEO moms, and I suppose they qualified: they owned an at-the-time small media company, but hey, not-serious jobs. By the time Dad turned 40, it was clear that their chances of even adopting were slim.

“Cut to March 30, 2012. As the old cliché goes, it was a dark and stormy night. It had been raining all day and the sky was black, Mom said. By the way, did you interview my parents for this part?”

“The local station’s taking care of that and their portion will be mixed into the final segment,” Nicole explained. “But we’d like to get your perspective too.”

“What perspective?” DJ laughed. “I was just a baby! How is a newborn supposed to have any kind of perspective?”

Nicole felt embarrassed; this was her potential breakout interview, and a rookie question like that obviously made her seem a tad on the green side. “Didn’t your parents tell you anything?”

“What Mom told me was that she was getting home from walking Stinky, and that Dad had just gotten back from the lawyer’s office; they were optioning his third novel for a film and he and the lawyer were going over the fine print. It seemed like just another typical rainy spring day, when suddenly there was massive bolt of lightning that hit the shed in the back yard.

“Needless to say, my parents freaked. Lightning bolts don’t usually hit like that in that part of the country, and so needless to say the shed was on fire. They were about to call the fire department when they heard a baby’s cry.”

“A baby’s cry?”

“Well, what, did you think I neighed? No, I cried my soggy little butt off, and when Dad approached, he saw a baby covered in bloody swaddling, apparently abandoned, in the rain. They got me inside and were taking off the swaddling, when they found two things: one, my diaper needed changing, and two: well, let’s just say I kinda surprised them.”

Nicole looked concerned at DJ’s explanation of her baby blanket. “Why was the swaddling bloody?”

“All of us found out at the same time, but I’ll explain that later. To continue, the fire department arrived, put out the storm-assisted backyard barbeque, and when they asked my parents if anything else was wrong, my parents, somewhat shaken, said no. Of course they were shaken: they had just been handed an alien, or a demon child, or whatever. Either way, the baby – me – wasn’t human.

“For a few hours, they didn’t know what to do. Who does, in that kind of situation? They wrapped me up in a dishcloth for the moment because they obviously didn’t have diapers. I was crying like a baby – because I was one – when Mom said Dad make his first stupid mistake: he went to the store to get baby items, just running on brainless automatic. When he got back, she was cradling me and I was sound asleep. She later told me that after that, both she and Dad agreed that they didn’t know what I was, but one thing was for sure: they weren’t going to just hand a defenseless baby over to anyone.

“Well, hours turned into days turned into weeks, and by that time, a childless couple figured that whatever I was, I was intelligent and curious and bright, just like any baby. But I reacted in ways that Mom and Dad said they’d seen human babies do, not animals. And then one day, they just looked at each other and decided what I was: their daughter, via grace of God. That’s about the time when Dad said Mom made her first stupid mistake – by the way, you’re going to be hearing this phrase a lot; I think it’s some weird family tradition. The mistake was waiting so long to choose a name for teh bebe, quote unquote. Well, they decided to compound the mistakes further: Dad’s a huge otaku – he grew up on that stuff and I learned Japanese and Spanish from him. Being a raging otaku, he was partial to Japanese names, and he wanted to name me Hikaru. Mom, on the other hand, just wanted to pick a name that wasn’t humiliatingly bizarre; if I was going to be raised by people I was already going to have a hard enough life as is without having to deal with a name people couldn’t pronounce. But Mom couldn’t think of a good name. Fortunately, it was about that time that Mom realized that I looked kinda sorta equine-ish and she came up with a compromise. That was stupid mistake number three, she later told me.

“Mom was a fan of a cartoon show and toys when she was a kid: My Little Pony. First generation, not the third generation crap that made Hasbro give up on the franchise for decades. There was supposedly a character on the show that looks nothing like me, but had a semi-normal name: Daisyjo, and that’s how they got my name, though mine’s not all one word. As an embarrassing side note, I didn’t find out until later that Mom misremembered; apparently Daisyjo is G3, not G1. Oh, and Dad kinda got what he wanted, my middle name’s Hikaru.”

“Hikaru? Isn’t that a boy’s name?”

“It’s supposedly gender neutral,” DJ sighed, shifting in her seat. “Most Japanese names are. Frankly, I would have preferred Rebecca, or Andrea, or something normal. Hell, I could have lived with either of my grandmother’s first names: Patricia or Lauren. I swear, if I ever have a daughter, Hikaru is not on the list.”

Nicole grinned. “I don’t blame you – my middle name’s Gertrude, after my grandmother. But we’re digressing.”

DJ nodded, then continued. “For about four years, it was just us three and Stinky. The first few years were tough; when I was smaller than Stinky, Mom and Dad had to make sure she didn’t think I was a mobile play toy; oh was that fun. When I finally started walking on all fours and then on feet, like a normal person—”

“Excuse me, did you say ‘feet’?”

DJ nodded. “Yeah. I know it sounds funny. I know that I have just four hooves and four legs, and I call them that when I’m in ‘Four Wheel Drive’, as Dad calls it. But when I’m walking upright – my normal way of walking – back hooves, to my mind, become feet. My forelegs become arms, and my forehooves become hands. I know they don’t actually change, and it’s just terminology, but that’s part of who I am: my parents didn’t raise a pony; they raised a girl that just happened to be a pony.

“Anyway, it was just us three and Stinky right up until I turned five. That was about the time that Mom and Dad finally got lucky with the adoption process and brought home my brother, Sam. But his arrival added a new wrinkle to the whole process: Mom was more than willing to home school me – she’s a substitute teacher for the local school district and her mother is a teacher as well – but the addition of Sam to the family made it difficult to take care of the baby, have a career and take care of me. It meant I was going to have to go to regular school, and while my education needs would be solved, it also meant I’d be revealed to the world.”

Nicole paused the camera. “Do you want to talk about this part?”

DJ shrugged. “Well, I’m sure you’re going to edit out the boring parts, right? I honestly wish my life was so dull that I wouldn’t be bothered at all, but I didn’t get that lucky.”

“Er…right.” The reporter pressed the button on the camera to continue recording. “Well, please continue.”

“Anyway, revealing me to the public would change everything: I was probably an alien, definitely not normal, and there was the fear that I’d end up in some government lab. But my parents wanted the best for me; I deserved a shot at life, just like all the other girls my age – ‘we girls can do anything, right, Barbie?’ So, they went to enroll me in Catholic elementary, also known as Sacred Heart Academy at the other end of town. By the way, that was mistake number four.

“After I inadvertently scared half the faculty, my parents assuring the parish priest that I was not a demon out to eat everyone’s souls, as well as someone finally noticing I was hiding behind my mom’s legs because I was terrified, they realized I was more afraid of them than vice versa. Thankfully, another parent was also enrolling their kid at school, overheard my parents’ pleas and offered to help. That was when I met my newest protector, as well as one of my lifelong best friends.

“Tyson McAllister was an attorney working for his congressman; when said congressman lost the election, the McAllisters opted to stay local instead of returning to Michigan. Anyway, Uncle Mac, as I call him, threatened to sue any and everything if that’s what it took to get me enrolled, because no child deserved to go without an education, human or not; he threatened to play every card, from the fact that Dad’s Hispanic to the fact that Mom and Dad were vets to the point that they weren’t taking him seriously because he was an African-American. We didn’t know how much of a battle that was going to be later on, but for the moment, it was enough to get the principal to relent. Eventually, the school became one of my most vociferous supporters, but that wasn’t until later.

“Meanwhile, a girl the same age as me knew I needed a friend and hugged a scared, strange little alien, not worried about repercussions or diseases or anything adults do. Erica McAllister thus became my best friend, the sister I never had. From that point on, our families bonded: Erica and I, and eventually a boy named Carlos Salazar, became our own little club, outsiders of a sort. And I needed those friends, too: when parents found out someone was bringing a horse foal to school – Winchester, even today, is still mostly farms and apple orchards – they chewed out the faculty; when they found out that the foal was sapient and a student, parents started pulling their kids out of the school; and when the school decided to back me, parents picketed the school – because, as people trying to raise their kids as good little Christians, they decided that being as un-Christian as possible was the correct thing to do, right? Thankfully, some parents were willing to give the school a chance that it was doing God’s work – and give me a chance that I wasn’t the monster other parents claimed me to be.

“There was just one problem: sooner or later, the news was going to get out of control and beyond the town, that either the diocese would find out or the government, someone who could put a stop to it because I wasn’t a human and so in the eyes of just about everyone who didn’t know me, I didn’t count. That was when Uncle Mac decided on the plan that eventually got him so famous that he’s Senator McAllister now….” DJ trailed off.

Nicole picked up on that. “The network interviewed Senator McAllister last week during his campaign stop in Illinois. If it matters, I wasn’t sure if I could vote for him for president – I’m a Democrat – but if even half of what you’re telling me is true, he’s got my vote.”

“Thanks. That means a lot to me,” DJ said with a smile. “Anyways, he and my parents, three people who had spent extensive time at one point or another in their lives working for the government, decided that they were going to tell Capitol Hill that it could just go stick it and I had the same rights as Erica or Principal Matherson or Father Lucas or Valerie Anderson, that girl in kindergarten that was even at that age turning out to be a royal pain – more on her later.

“So the next day, the three of them sued the government to force it to accord me the same rights that everyone had under the Civil Rights Act and all those related laws. When I think about it now, it kinda bothers me, in a sense: I didn’t go through what all those people in the 20th century did to get those rights they deserved; I didn’t go to school being escorted by police; and thankfully we didn’t have crosses burning on our lawn. I never dealt with any of that, as far as I saw: they were heroes back then when it was needed. I was just a kid whose biggest problem in life was finishing Super Mario Galaxy 5.

“I really didn’t realize it until later, but those were probably some of the most humiliating years of my life. My family became the local freakshow: when word got out, we had newsvans parked on the street in front of the house, they wanted interviews and sound bites and everything. At first I thought it was fun, but after it didn’t stop I got scared: I couldn’t go play in the front yard or the back, because there were paparazzi everywhere, talent scouts hounded my parents to let me be a model or act or something, because they all wanted a piece of the horse-thingie that could talk, and even at one point, Mom says we even got a massive offer from Hasbro – because of me, they wanted to restart the My Little Pony line and base the main character on me. Mom and Dad said no, however, because that was the last thing I needed. As for the rest of that part, you already know that story; Hasbro merged with a Japanese toy company and Takara-Hasbro finally started making a fourth generation MLP toyline last year…at least I’m getting paid as a spokeswoman, and the stock option’s nice. But I’m digressing.”

“Is there one based on you?” Nicole asked, hitting pause. “It’s not going into the interview; I’m just curious.”

DJ grinned. “They based ‘DJ the GroovePony’ on me, initially, but after a trademark violation lawsuit from a certain individual, all the variations got pulled from the market. Apparently they’re collector’s items now.” She walked over to the shelf, producing a MLP Dance Party box set; the DJ-Pony was boxed behind a turntable setup, while a Firefly doll was on a dance floor; the disc jockey did have her namesake’s colors, though the real life individual holding the box wasn’t a pegasus. The box also mentioned that the turntable doubled as a 20PB FLAC player. “Personally, I’m glad. Least thing I need is a billion kids asking me where I hide wings I don’t have.”

Nicole hit play again. “Okay, go ahead and continue. You were talking about the legal battle.”

She nodded. “But the part that really hurt my parents was the humiliation of having to treat their daughter like a pet at some points. Whenever I got sick – remember, this was back in the day before the development of equiniatric medical practitioners – I had to go to the same veterinarian as Stinky. I had to have the range of human and animal shots in order to go to school, but at the same time, I had to be registered with the county like other ‘horses’. I couldn’t go on half the field trips with my class because of regulations preventing pets from going. I couldn’t go into certain stores.”

“Did you realize any of this was going on?”

A sullen look crossed the pony’s face. “People who cared about me tried to shield me from it: for example, the vets got so offended at the way human doctors treated me, or rather, didn’t, Dr. Hilton – my ‘doctor’ and one of the founders of equiniatric medicine – spent money out of his pocket to retool one particular room in the vet office to be more like a regular doctor’s office.” She looked down for a second before adding, “But in the end, it didn’t really help. I started to understand what was going on when Dad and Mom took me to one of his book signings, and an old man who turned out to have lived during the Selma marches back in the 60s took a look at me and told my parents that no child should ever have to see the look of hate.

“It went on for years. Five whole years, and while now that seems like not much time has gone on, for a child, it’s an eternity. An eternity of being told you’re not the same as others. An eternity of being singled out because you just, and I quote, ‘don’t belong.’ And all I wanted to do was belong, all I wanted to be was just like every other kid. But it felt so many times like so many adults didn’t want me to, or worse, actively tried to make sure I was anything less than I am.

“But finally, on my tenth birthday the Supreme Court unanimously decreed that the 14th Amendment undoubtedly applied to anyone born in the United States, regardless of race, creed, color, gender, sexual orientation…or species, provided that said species was sentient, as applicable to the modified Turing Test.”

“Could you explain what the Turing Test is, for the folks in the audience?”

“Sure. The test is named after scientist Alan Turing, and it’s supposed to measure artificial intelligence. Back in 1974, an anthropologist, Dr. Amy Rogers-Keating modified the test to see how smart homonids – the great apes – were, in comparison to humans. The test isn’t precise, as some apes pass it and some don’t, but considering it involved a lot of stuff that was on the range of things I learned in, oh, say, kindergarten, everyone was pretty sure I passed it with flying colors. Dr. Rogers-Keating herself was impressed.”

“So the test was made to be passed by Homo sapiens and…uh….”

Equus sapiens,” DJ supplied. “I eventually found out I’m Equus sapiens familiaris, rather than bellerophon or monoceros, but that’s down the line. In any case, the State of Virginia was required to give me a birth certificate, which the governor was more than happy to sign personally. The president called my parents and me to congratulate us on the successful end of a long fight. But now I had my birth certificate and was a United States citizen – but the most important thing was that it made me finally, totally and officially my parents’ daughter. What we fought for a decade of my life came true for us at last.” DJ stopped at this point, tears filling her eyes.

Nicole handed the tissues to her. “That’s just…I can’t even picture anyone going through that, but you lived it.”

DJ took it, wiping tears from her eyes. “Believe it or not, I hear that from a lot of people, and every time I do, I never know what to say to that.” She paused for a second. “Listen, I’m going to get something to drink. Would you care for something?”

“Sure, bring me whatever.”

DJ walked to the kitchen then came back with a bag of chips and two Cokes. “I stress eat when I’m flustered,” she admitted with some embarrassment. “I’m lucky my metabolism is much higher than a human’s, because otherwise? Cellulite City. Even still, I have to spend some time on a treadmill to keep my girlish figure,” she said with a laugh.

She took a moment to compose herself, then continued. “The summer after I turned ten was like a dream. We spent the summer in LA with my grandparents, and let me tell you – ever want to see a spoiled kid? Well, that was me. True, my parents objected, but only half-heartedly: I was getting all the things that every other little girl had already experienced by my age; my cousins already knew and weren’t about to complain. But to me? It was heaven. I was finally – finally! – like every other kid out there, and free to be me. I really didn’t get most of the legal ramifications as until I was a few years older, but for the ‘teal deer’ version, I was finally normal.

“When I returned to school in the fall, it was a different world now. Some parents freaked, but most were supportive. Erica, Carlos and I were inseparable, and no one could deny I was just a normal little girl, just another one of the kids. I did everything that a good little Catholic girl did: catechism, first communion, all that. Yeah, sure, I was still a kid and like any girl that age, got in trouble on occasion, but a normal trouble, not a ‘oh my God, someone call the Ghostbusters’ kind of trouble.

“The next few years passed, and like any kid who finishes eighth grade, I then went on to high school, Freshman year at Winchester Christian High. By then, I had started to reach….” She paused for a second, before laughing. “Um, I went into puberty. That was a very difficult time for me and Mom – especially Mom. That’s where we get into Mistake Number Five: trying to explain the Birds and the Bees to your non-human daughter when you have no idea which way she goes biologically – it’s hard enough to have ‘the Talk’ to any girl, but me, yeah, I was unique to say the least. I mean, Mom explained to me human biology, dating and all that…and then she got the bright idea to take me down to a farm to get an explanation on horse biology and, um, mating. She meant well, and I love her for that, but I don’t think she was quite prepared for what happened.”

“May I ask what happened? Did you find them…attractive?”

DJ looked as if she’d been slapped. “What? Of course not! Humans are primates; do you get turned on any time you see an ape at the zoo?” When she saw her comment had hit hard, she felt guilty. “Sorry, that was rude of me. No, what happened was that stallions smelled me and became aroused, a budding equinoid who was now capable of having children. That sent them up the wall. Then they saw me.” The look on the pony’s face was sad, as if this reminded her of how different she was. “In some degree or other, apes have been around humans since the dawn of time, so they’re used to them. However, a pony is not the same as a regular horse or even what they used to call ponies, like Shetlands. Horses are unique in that due to their cranial configuration, they have a mixture of predator and prey eyes. But the hallmark of sapient creatures – me included – is a configuration that makes the eyes completely predatory. Yup, I was an equine predator in their eyes, so….” She brought up a wistful smile, the memory coming to mind.

“After the stampede was cleaned up, all the animals recovered, and Mom and were I banned from that farm, we agreed I probably fit the human standard with some changes here and there. I’m not going into detail on that because there’s more than enough books out there now that cover pony physiology. Now, Mom and I laugh about it, but at the time it was going to be very interesting: here I was, the world’s only non-human person, and I’d reached that age. My grandparents all say that God works in mysterious ways, and that He’d relieve all my problems. Well, I think He removed all the problems regarding my life because there were new ones on the horizon.

“Freshman year was a disaster. Yes, any teenager will tell you their teen years were disasters, but that year hurt. First off, our family dog …she was too old, and…well, she lived a good life. But it felt like I cried for days, feeling death’s sting for the first time. Just as I recovered, I got the next one, a double whammy: Erica got hit by a car; I wasn’t paying attention and I likely could have pulled her out of the way – one thing about being a pony is that I’m much more muscular than I seem, and had I been raised as a pony, I probably would have reacted instead of just standing there and looking stupid. Nobody blamed me for what happened; no, I did that myself, the founding member of the emo party. Erica was seriously injured and was going to be in the hospital for a long while, and because of that it was the first time I hated myself for being ‘human’ and not a pony.”

Nicole took a quick sip from her soda. “I’m guessing there have been other times?”

DJ, as she’d stated, started munching on the chips. “Yes, but I’d rather not go into that right now. To continue, the administration at the time did a raid on several businesses in the area to ferret out illegal immigrants; while they didn’t deport Carlos, they did that to his parents; and that he blamed me for – no real reason, but I guess it was that I wasn’t human and got a break instead of him, who was. My uncle took him in, but for a long time Carlos wouldn’t speak to me and Erica, recovering from the crash, couldn’t play peacekeeper.

“Seeing that I was completely on my own for the first time and very vulnerable, like any teenage clique Valerie and her followers noticed and moved in like sharks, using every little nasty trick in the book: writing in my textbooks, breaking my laptop, passing notes around school and spreading rumors about ‘the thing that thinks she’s human.’ I couldn’t tell anyone; one of my best friends was mad at me and the other had her own problems at the time. My parents probably could have helped but I didn’t want to put them through another round of misery at my expense. Even Sam, little brother that thought the world of his big sister, wanted to help but he was too young to really understand. So I suffered every blow and cut, every soda poured on me and every time gum was stuck in my tail, every time they put horseshoes in my locker with a note that read These are the only shoes you’ll ever wear! High school’s a cruel place, cruel enough for teenage girls who are normal. Far worse for those that aren’t.

“I needed a miracle, and I didn’t think I’d ever deserve one. I used them up when I became a person, right? When Mom and Dad finally got to be my parents, right? Well, oh me of little faith at that point, learned otherwise. I got the first two when I made up with Carlos and got the news that Erica would be released from the hospital soon. And a third when Valerie’s former boyfriend, Logan Bradford, joined my circle of friends. And then after all that, I got my White Knight,” she said with a smile, one filled with love and life. “My stallion.”

“Stallion?” Nicole repeated. “That’s a pony term, and I didn’t think you used them for yourself.”

“I don’t; it’s a joke of sorts and really, the only one I use. One day, when I felt I couldn’t take it anymore, I was leaning against my locker, crying. Suddenly, I got a friendly word from the new transfer student. He saw me from the back, and I was upright, so he didn’t notice who I was. For some reason, he didn’t see my ears,” she said, flicking them in demonstration. “My hair was as long as the typical teenage girl’s and in a typical fashion for a time, so it made me look more human. I had just put on my coat so I could go to the hospital and visit Erica, so my body, including my tail, was covered; and I was wearing bellbottoms that day, so he couldn’t see my feet.” She smiled widely, nourishing a memory that was clearly important to her. “He didn’t know who I was, only that there was, in his words, a cute girl crying and he had to do something. When I turned around, he was surprised to see that he was talking to the school’s Legendary Alien Girl, but he didn’t mind. His name was…is…Michael Hengst.” She smiled demurely as she added, “Hengst is German for stallion.”

“I was a wreck, so we went to go get coffee; we talked for a while and he calmed me down. He was from a Navy family as well; his father had been stationed in Spain before he retired and went to work at the IRS office up in Martinsburg. That made me smile; Dad always loved to tell sea stories and some of them were about the days he was stationed in Rota. As for Mike, it was the first time since he was a kid that he’d been back in the States, so he was trying to get the hang of things. I took him to meet Erica and Carlos and we all became fast friends, all of us. I just don’t think that we expected it to go farther than that.”

“So, I take it this is how you met your husband, then.”

She nodded slightly. “I know, not what you expect – every girl gets that Happily Ever After fantasy about meeting the guy of their dreams at the prom, only to find out that you never speak to him after graduation. For me, I didn’t know what to think: I only had one reference in my life, human males; and so Erica and I often talked about which guy was a total Alex—”

“Alex?”

“Oh, just teenage slang from back then for a guy who was utterly perfect and it comes from that werewolf romance novel series back in the mid-20s. Anyways, we always used to talk about the Alexes, and I think Carlos was a bit jealous that we never rated him that way – blame the Westermarck effect, I guess.”

“Oh, the Gloaming series. Personally, I’ve always disliked Tiffany Breyer’s works.”

“Well, I chalk my experiences up to being young and dumb,” DJ giggled. “In any case, I liked guys, but I never thought there’d be anyone thinking of me that way. And as Mike and I got closer, it kinda scared me; I think it scared him, too. History in the making: the first mixed-species couple. And the day he told me that he didn’t see me as the upright pony girl, he saw me as his girl, my mind just went stratospheric, and our first kiss? I still remember it, and what it told me was that while my birth certificate told me I was a person, his kiss told me I was a woman.

“When I told Mom, she was floored; I know she wanted me to be happy, but I don’t think that she was actually expecting me to find someone. Dad, however, is a hopeless romantic, so he was wholeheartedly for it. Mike’s parents, on the other hand; well, now Carl and Lila love me dearly, but back then, understandably, they freaked, just freaked the fuck out.” She paused for a second before asking, “Um, this is going to be censored as necessary, right?”

“Always. FCC broadcasting rules, you know.”

“One bad thing about being the daughter of a Sailor and married to another Naval family is that I swear like one at times. Mom keeps telling me it’s not ladylike, but I think she’s just as bad, being exposed to Dad. And speaking of Dad, when I came home looking morose because Mike’s parents wouldn’t accept us, Dad went all Missouri broadside on Carl. Ever seen two Old Salts argue? The sheer amount of profanity alone peels paint off the walls, but he got through to Carl, that no one was going to talk about Dad’s little girl like that unless they actually got to know her. Somehow, he changed Carl’s opinions, and they allowed Mike and me to date. I don’t think Mom could have been any prouder of Dad than she was that night.

“One thing that Dad warned us both about was that there were going to be plenty of people who didn’t and wouldn’t accept our relationship, not just Valerie and her petty jealousy, but others who felt that their lives were impacted by things that weren’t any of their business, like us being together. Sure enough, Dad was right. Mike told me about all the insulting whispers like ‘Horsefucker’ and ‘Bestiality Boy’, while I told him about the betting pool Erica heard about, the one where people could bet on who or what species I’d be sleeping with next. But you know what? They kept coming…and we didn’t care. We had each other, and we weren’t letting go. And we beat them all, and the insults died down by around Christmastime.”

“I’m sure you felt vindicated by that.”

“Oh, did we. At one point, some pranksters in the school put up some photoshops of Mike, well, er….” She leaned forward. “This might be best off the record. Could you pause the camera?”

Nicole did so. “I’ll keep this in confidence and off the record,” she promised.

“I’ll be right back.” DJ darted upstairs, and when she came down, she was carrying a picture. “We don’t hang this up, obviously, because of our kids, but we’ve kept it all these years. As for the photoshop, well…here. You can see for yourself.”

Nicole took one look at the picture and blanched. “Someone did this? At a Christian high school?” She handed the picture back to DJ as if it were a snake.

“As if that should shock you. Just about everyone knows the least behaved kids are always from private schools,” she said with a soft laugh. “But he took that picture and framed it, then walked around one day with it, a smile on his face and pretty much telling everyone if he could satisfy that cow, well, I just had to be the luckiest girl in the world. He got detention for it, but no one tried doing that again.”

“I’m turning the camera back on,” Nicole commented, trying to forget about what she just saw.

DJ nodded, placing the offending picture on the floor, face down. “So, by year’s end, the world was perfect: I had my friends back, Erica was going to be off the crutches soon, and I had the cutest guy in school as my beau. I was on top of the world, and I needed to be because what came next came so far out of left field that to this day, I’m still bitter about it in some regards.”

“I take it you’re referring to the Foalnapping Affair.”

Surprisingly, DJ’s brows scrunched with anger. “Sorry, but I hate that term: foalnapping. Just the very word demeans me and my parents, insults everything they fought for. But, yes, that’s what history calls it, and that began to answer so many questions about me and in some ways, I wish they’d never had been.” The pony sat in her chair, shivering; despite the fact that she wore a sweater and jeans, she looked as if she was reliving some chilling memory.

“Would you like to take this up tomorrow?” Nicole said, shutting off the camera drone. “Honestly, DJ, you look like you need some time to process this.”

She held her forehooves together in the same way a human would temple hands, resting her head on it. “I’d appreciate it. Should I meet you at your office?”

Nicole pulled out a business card and wrote an address on the back. “Actually, meet me here. It’s a cafe in the Ginza I usually go to, and it’s quiet enough that we won’t be bothered there.” She smiled and said, “And if it means anything, you’re probably one of the most fascinating women I’ve ever met, human or otherwise.”

That seemed to be the balm that brought DJ back to a semblance of normalcy. “Thanks, Nicole. I’ll see you tomorrow.” The reporter saw herself out and sighed; her parents, father-in-law and husband might have been all military, but it was DJ herself that had post-traumatic stress disorder; what she was about to reveal truly bothered the hell out of her.

In the living room in the military housing she had with her husband, DJ prayed that she would calm down. Getting up, she found herself briefly standing as a normal pony, and the feeling made her feel uneasy in the worst way possible; even though she used this form of locomotion on occasion, it just wasn’t her. Shifting upright and on her feet, she felt much better, and leaned briefly against the wall. 5:00 – time to pick the kids up from Karen’s. As she headed towards the door, she saw the picture of her husband, resplendent in his dress uniform, sitting on a nearby shelf. Picking it up to kiss it, she thought, Mike, I wish you were here. I need you right now. The picture, of course, never answered; it never could, and his ship was still on month three of a six-month deployment.

But first, she needed to put away that photoshop. Never going to hear the end of it from him if the kids see it, she mused silently. I wonder if he knows I actually kept it?


The following morning found her here in the Ginza, Tokyo’s hub for shopping. It was a chilly morning for the last day of March, and during the couple of hours ride, the rime on the windows of the train gave her a new idea for a story; she and her father had been meaning to co-write a book together sometime and this might just be the idea. As she switched trains in Shinagawa, she got the distinctive feeling she was being watched, and she hated that for two reasons: one, the premonition was a reminder of her biological heritage; and two, unfortunately the feeling was never wrong.

As she sat down in the train that snaked down the Yamanote line, she found the car was empty, save for two gentlemen. Both Japanese, both also dressed for the chilly weather, and both rough-looking, not in the yakuza way that so many people in the land of the rising sun were used to, but in the way she’d seen many a time in her life: that of military personnel.

As the train reached her stop, she stood up to go. As she did, one of the men sidled up to her, speaking in accented English. “Miss Sandalwood?” DJ stepped off the train, headed for the gates, completely ignoring him. Unperturbed, the man said it again. “Excuse me, Miss Sandalwood?”

“Sorry, don’t know who you’re talking about,” DJ continued to walk past them, straight through the booths and out of the station.

“I’m sorry; do you prefer Ms. Martinez or Mrs. Hengst?”

“Now we’re getting somewhere.” She stopped and turned around. “Can I help you gentlemen? And you can cut to the chase; I already know where you’re from.”

The first man produced a badge. “Agent Shinoda Kenichi, Japanese National Police Bureau. The other gentleman here is Inspector Katsuragi Minoru of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. We need a moment of your time; won’t take long.”

“Okay, now that I wasn’t expecting.” She crossed her arms. “Gentlemen, I’m already late for an appointment, so unless it’s an imminent issue, do you mind if I meet you later? I’ll give you my cell phone number and we can talk then.”


“Actually, that won’t be necessary,” a new voice said. “They’re here to escort me at my request because my usual complement of guards is a bit more conspicuous. I apologize if I unduly panicked you.” Leaning against a vending machine on two legs and drinking from a hot coffee can, the newcomer smiled. “Wow, this Wonda coffee is great. I wonder if I can work a deal with Asahi to enter the Equestriani market?”

“Considering what you look like, you must be Princess Luna. And try Georgia next time; the Coca-Cola Company’s expanding it into new markets, and that’d be good for the stock my husband and I own.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, Sandalwood…sorry, I meant DJ. And that was an honest slip of the tongue, sorry.” The alicorn dropped to all fours, the can magically floating in front of her. “You’ve grown quite a bit: I haven’t seen you since you were a newborn foal.”

“Funny, because I’ve never been a foal. The term you’re looking for is ‘baby’.”

Luna drank the rest of the can, before floating it to the side. “DJ, you’re not human and you know it. I understand that you very much want to be, but wanting to be doesn’t always mean you will be. Take it from someone who knows the fruit of futility.” Luna used her magic to dump the empty can in the adjacent recycling bin. “There are some things even I can’t do.”

DJ fought the urge to roll her eyes at that. “So, Princess, what brings you to Japan? Or the human world, for that matter?”

“Your mother needs you right now. It’s urgent.”

“She didn’t bring anything up, and she and I talked just the other day. I’m sure Mom would have told me something as important as that.”

“You know who I mean.” Luna walked up to DJ; with the alicorn on all fours and the earth pony upright, they were eye to eye. “I’d like you to finally forgive her and at least make things right.”

“Forgive what? I love my Mom and Dad – my real Mom and Dad, that is, so there’s nothing to forgive them for. The gene donor, however….”

“You really shouldn’t talk about your mother like that.”

“Believe me, I don’t. After all, my parents raised me to be a good little Catholic girl. Now, if you’re talking about your pony buddy, well….”

“Please.” The look in Luna’s eyes was pleading. “Don’t make me beg. To be honest, I would have sent Twilight instead, but she’s…tied up with other things at the moment – she seems to be the only pony you respect.”

“For the record, if you really did know about me you’d know I get along with several of the others as well.” She gave a sarcastic grin as she asked, “So, an all-powerful princess is now running errands for others?”

“No, I’m doing something for my family, the ponies I love.” Luna started to get annoyed; she knew her buttons were being pushed, likely intentionally. “You know, when I saw you as a foal, I didn’t think you’d grow up to be such a harridelle.”

“Harridelle, it’s French, I think. Means nag, if I remember correctly. Sorry, the term you’re looking for is bitch – and yes, that’s me.” She looked at the three of them and said, “I think this conversation’s over, folks.”

“Here, take this.” A business card winked into existence before the upright pony. “It’s the direct line to the Ambassador’s office. She’ll know how to contact me and I’ll be in town for a few more days. Gentlestallions, I think we should leave her be for the moment.” The three headed up the street as DJ turned back towards her destination. But just before she walked out of earshot, Luna called out, “If you’re truly the pon…person you want to be, consider a kindness for…for somepony who desperately wants to see you again.”

DJ had nothing to say as the trio left and the card continued to float in front of her. After a few more seconds, she plucked from the air and put it in her purse. She wasn’t sure why, but it wasn’t something to worry about right now; she was already late for her meeting with Nicole.


A few minutes later, DJ entered the café. She realized she’d been here a little over a year ago when she and her family was taking a tour of Tokyo for the first time, and fortunately there were a lot less stares than she’d expected. For a place with so many legends about intelligent animals, she thought, they didn’t seem to react well to a real one appearing. However, the peace and quiet was very much what she needed.

At the other end of the café, Nicole waved from her chair, and DJ happily sat down. “I hope you don’t mind meeting here. This is a nice place to get away from the insanity of everyday Tokyo life, and I’ve been coming here since a colleague introduced me to it.”

DJ nodded. “My family stopped here the first time we visited the Ginza, and I loved it, although I’ll admit the reception this time around is a lot better than the last time I came. The owner looked at me oddly, like there was something very unusual about a gaijin speaking Japanese. I’d like to think that it’s because I was rusty – didn’t have much chance to practice it except with Dad – and not because I’m, well, me.”

“I don’t think that’s the case: here comes the waitress.” A younger pink-colored pegasus with a white mane stopped in front of them to drop off the coffee and pastries Nicole had ordered for them; just like DJ, she walked upright and was wearing clothing, in this case an elegant gray yukata with plum obi. When the two equinoids saw each other, both registered surprise. At that, Nicole said, “DJ, this is Ueda Tsubasa, the daughter of the owners and someone who’s wanted to meet you for the longest time. Tsubasa-chan, this is DJ, the first pony – sorry, DJ – to live with humans.” Turning back to the older one, she added, “I hope you don’t mind if she sits in. She was adopted a few years back and has been having a hard time adjusting to life here on Earth.”

“I see. Well, I don’t mind. And Tsubasa-chan, kimi no sainō no shinboru o shinpaishinaide kudasai. Wareware wa, yori jiyū ni sunde imasu.”

The pegasus blushed, clearly relieved. “Arigatō! Thank you!” she said, bowing as deeply as she could and unfurling her wings in a sign of respect.

“Um, what did…?”

“When you said it was problems, I thought it could be one of two things: either boy problems, or she was worried about the lie surrounding cutie marks; I guessed it was the cutie mark, since that’s generally a bigger fear. I simply told her that she doesn’t need to worry about her cutie mark – the Japanese call it a talent symbol – because here, we make our own fortune. Like I mentioned yesterday, the stigma regarding ‘blank flanks’ is huge.”

That was Nicole’s cue to activate the camera drone. “Would you mind talking about cutie marks for a second? I’m not sure many humans know about them.”

DJ pondered for a moment before adding, “Is that really necessary? Didn’t they just do that PBS special on Cutie Marks a few months ago? Saw it on base TV the other day, which means it had to be on stateside TV months ago. All it’s going to do is just add a lot of pointless stuff that the average person doesn’t care about. I’m pretty sure every human interviewed by ponies don’t get asked about being left-handed. Then again, maybe they do – I don’t get the mindset of the average pony.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” The reporter hit pause on the remote and said, “Sorry, this is my first big get for the network. If I do this right, I could end up with bigger interviews. So, are you up to the big part?”

“Yeah. Had enough time to think about it yesterday and sent an email to my husband. He sent one back, telling me that I should go for it since it’ll give me peace of mind. Oh, and before I forget…” DJ reached into her purse and pulled out a pen and paper. Scribbling an autograph on it, she gave it to the teen pegasus. “You looked like you wanted to ask, but were too embarrassed.” The older equinoid earned an instant hug for that.

Nicole grinned inwardly; she’d known people, true humans, who were less than humane whereas this not-human person tried to be the very model of what a human should be. It was both comforting that someone cared about things like that; and sad that so few of her own species actually did. Pressing the record button on the remote once more, she added, “Okay, let’s go into the Foalnapping Affair.”

“I had just turned fifteen the night before. I was at home, just spending a quiet evening with my boyfriend and friends, doing the usual thing – listening to them make fun of my taste in music. I wasn’t into the typical manufactured pop of the day; I love the music of my parents’ era: Led Zeppelin, Flying Lotus, The Cure, Alan Parsons, Cocteau Twins, Fleet Foxes, that kind of stuff. Like the day of my birth so many years before, it was a heavily rainy and dark night, but this time, it was foggy. I remember that night well, because the pizza was late and we had to reheat it. Anyway, it was getting dark and the guys were getting going; Erica was going to stay the night, because we were planning my quinceañera – it’s a traditional 15th birthday celebration for Hispanic girls, and Dad said my grandmother insisted I was going to have one.

“As we saw the saw the guys out, I had just enough time to kiss Mike goodbye before black arms reached out of the sky, pulling me. I screamed; I had no idea what was going on. I looked up…and found myself staring into the firm eyes of a heavily barded pegasus.”

“Barded?”

“Horse armor; he looked like a Roman legionnaire. Anyway, I wasn’t sure if I was seeing things or not, but I just screamed. The pegasus responded by starting to tear my clothing off while screaming to another pegasus behind him to ‘contact dash’, that the Lost Foal had been found. To this day, I’m not even sure if those were the exact words; I just remember being scared of my wits that I had just encountered the first being like me ever – and that I was going to be raped by him. All I could do was to scream and cry for help.

“Of course Dad, Mike, Sam and Carlos were going to help me; they were the men in my life and weren’t going to stand for what was happening. But no regular human is a match for an earth pony in terms of strength: there were two hiding behind the side of the house and they attacked immediately. Dad got slammed into a tree; broke a rib before they knocked him out. One of the earth ponies bucked Carlos in the face, breaking his nose and dislocating his jaw. When it came to Sam, somehow they knew he was just a kid and left him alone, but scared him enough that he wasn’t able to do much. My beloved stallion, however, kept fighting; he’d taken a couple of hard blows but was fighting like a madman to save me. But even he couldn’t stand for long; a direct buck to his arm broke it in two places.

“Mom ran back inside to get the guns, while Erica was trying to call 911. All I could feel was them pulling the last of my clothing off me, leaving me naked and frightened. I was trying to hold onto the cherry tree by the front door like my life depended on it. But my Dad was down, Carlos was bleeding horrifically, Sam was checking on Carlos and there was only so much Mike could do with one arm. Meanwhile, I was seconds away from what I thought was rape and abduction…or worse – these were soldiers, after all, and that meant they carried swords.

“Thankfully, the neighbors heard me. Mr. Muhammed next door and Mrs. Marbury across the street checked to see what was going on; Mr. Muhammed was an officer for the Winchester PD, while Mrs. Marbury was a State Police officer. Seeing my predicament, they raced back in, grabbed their guns and ordered the strangers to stop; instead, the attackers kept on doing what they were doing, forcefully trying to pull me away from the tree. I was so terrified; the tugging felt like I was being violated and it was happening in front of my family. When they wouldn’t stop, one of the neighbors – I wasn’t sure which – opened fire and killed one of the pegasi. The pony fell, dead in an instant and crashed on Mom’s car. With police sirens now in the distance, the remaining pegasi took off into the air while there was a flash from the gully by the house; we found out later there were unicorns there in case magic had been needed, but they had been spooked by the gunfire.

“They took everyone to Apple Valley Medical while the police stayed behind and arrested the remaining ponies – Mr. Muhammed later told me that they had to actually call up a local farm to get some horse hobbles, because they had never thought of how a pony could be handcuffed; I was the only one known until that time and obviously not a juvie. Dad and the others were treated, though Carlos would be in the hospital for a while. Mom and Erica took me to see a doctor, where they used a rape kit on me. There I was, covered in a blanket and shivering with terror while my Mom held me, and the first human-medicine doctor I’d ever seen was poking and prodding me like an object.”

“So the first human doctor you ever saw was more clinical than hospitable?”

“Yeah. I think she did it only because it was needed for a court case. I’m not going to call her specist but it felt as though it was beneath her. Maybe she was just on the rag that day, or maybe just didn’t have enough sleep. Either way, I felt like an object. Had Dr. Hilton been there, there would have been no way I would have been treated that way, I know – but he was off studying at medical school and creating equiniatric medicine; there was no way he could have been there at the time.”

“The next few days were a blur; the ponies were slapped into the jail and charged with battery, kidnapping and attempted rape. I locked myself in my room and – well, let’s not get into that, as it’s rather embarrassing.”

“How so?”

“Krautrock. 118 hours of the same song over and over again,” she said. “I realize now that I probably made it worse for myself by doing that, but tell that to a traumatized young woman. Anyway, the results came back and I hadn’t been touched. My maternal grandparents, who lived in Sterling, were there in a heartbeat, and my other grandparents were on the first available flight to Dulles. During this time, Erica never left my side, and Mike, bless his heart, slept in Sam’s room, ready to rush over in a heartbeat despite his injuries. I realize I was just 15 at the time, but I think that was the first time I thought that I’d be his wife someday.

“It was a couple of weeks later, when I started feeling somewhat normal again, that they showed up at my doorstep.”

“Who’s they?”

“Some bureaucrats from the State Department, a few FBI agents and others like me – several of them; the latter delegation was led by this beautiful unicorn probably about Mom’s age. She was purple, with plum hair and two lighter stripes of purple in her hair; some streaks of gray, too. She looked furious; not angry at us, but at what had happened. The unicorn looked at me and my family, and there was a huge sorrow in her eyes. Then…she spoke. In English. I know, I said that my attackers had said something that I understood, but that came in hindsight.

“She said her name was Twilight Sparkle, and that she was the Royal Archmagus of Equestria and a special envoy of their government. She apologized on behalf of her government, but there had been weeks of heavy negotiations between the State Department and the Principality of Equestria regarding the revelation of their nation to the human world at large. The plan was to quietly work for the return of what they called the Lost Foal to Equestria in return for an alliance and the US’ announcement of the existence of another world, a parallel Earth filled with dozens of nations, chief amongst them Equestria. But someone in the Equestriani military had ordered an unauthorized attempt to ‘foalnap’ me – that’s where the word came from – and repatriate me to my rightful home. They had torn off my clothing because they’d never seen human clothes before and thought they were bonds meant to keep me enslaved.

“She told me more: that my real name was Sandalwood, and that I was actually born two weeks earlier than we thought; Unidecimus 27, 1480 in the Equestriani Royal Calendar turned out to be March 16th in ours. That my birth parents, a unicorn named Rarity and an earth pony named Silversteel, had been wishing for years for my return and they hadn’t discovered the existence of our Earth until a year prior, 2027. That Rarity was what they called the Bearer of the Element of Generosity and that she was a legendary hero in Equestria; and that Silversteel, while nowhere near as famous as his wife, was a general in the Royal Guard and that they had despaired that they would never see their oldest foal again. Lastly, Twilight told me that she was my aunt, and that she’d spent the last decade and a half tearing apart universe after universe trying to find me with some help of another pony named Pinkie Pie, who was another one of my aunts – at the time, I thought that Rarity just had a big family, but in truth they were just her best friends and had been there at my birth. Twilight had begun to tear up during this part, tears of joy, and I couldn’t deny them. I was afraid of the species that had just attacked me the fortnight before, but I could not – and never would – hold it against Twilight.”

“Meant that much to you?” Nicole asked.

DJ smiled. “She’s my aunt. And she’s always been there for me since.” The pony sat there for a few moments, quiet and still, a simple smile on her face before she continued. “But to continue, Twilight told my parents that her government would take care of all the damages and the medical bills as well as provide remuneration. As for the attackers, they would let the county’s district attorney decide how to proceed. And then she apologized once more, because she felt bad about what she was about to say: when they found me, the Equestriani government had initially pressed to have the Federal government press kidnapping charges against my parents. But after they realized that I was no abducted child and that my parents genuinely and truly loved me, there was no way they could have them indicted. But Rarity and Silversteel wanted me back no matter what…so the soon-to-be-recognized Equestriani government’s first public duty would be to demand the United States return me under the agreement of the 1996 Hague Convention.”

“The one that covered international child abductions,” Nicole commented. “I remember working on an assignment where I had to familiarize myself with it.”

“Then you know that the law does not apply to children 17 and older. Problem was I was two years under the limit and so fair game. Furthermore, the government was trying to negotiate similar cases with Brazil and Japan at the time, so to turn down a new nation would have been hypocritical, even if Equestria was so new to the world it wasn’t a signatory to the convention yet. Due to my schooling, they were willing to let me finish out the year, but when school got out I would be on the next plane, or train, or whatever, back to Equestria. I would lose everything: my family, my friends, my life.

“One of the blessed things about what happened earlier in my life is that I didn’t understand the gravity of what was going on. Well, this time I did, and I couldn’t think straight. I wasn’t some lone, freak being: there was a whole world of ponies, as well as gryphons, dragons and all the things that we were told were just myths. Heck, my biological mother was a freakin’ unicorn! But as that sank in, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t speak whatever the language was, I didn’t know the customs or the history, and I didn’t want to. I wasn’t a pony, no matter what Twilight said, no matter what I looked like. I was my mother and father’s daughter, their oldest child in every way but blood. I had a loving boyfriend, the best friends in the world, a wonderful little brother, and my own life.

“I remember one night, I woke up on my bed, and there was my stallion, asleep next to me, holding me close to him as if he refused to let go. The door opened and Dad looked in, a sweet smile on his face; I think he somehow knew Mike would be his future son-in-law. Letting Mike sleep, he assured me I was theirs, not some unicorn that had no involvement in my life. Mom and Dad didn’t care how or why I came into their lives; they only cared about what was best for their little girl, and they’d take on the whole galaxy to protect me.”

“That’s very sweet. You must be very proud of your parents.”

“They’re fighters, and they taught me how to slug right along with what comes my way,” she said with a proud smile. “I am who I am because of them.”

“Go ahead – sorry for interrupting.”

“Well, the next day Dad called the State Department – the Equestriani embassy wasn’t in existence yet – and told them that it didn’t matter if it was in District Court or whatever the hell Equestria had, we were fighting. A couple of days after that, Twilight Sparkle arrived at our door again, first thing on a Saturday morning. My parents told her the same thing that they told the State folks, but Twilight simply asked that she simply have a few hours alone to talk to me. She gave my parents her word that nothing would happen to me, and considering that she had followed up on everything she’d promised earlier, my parents uneasily agreed to it. She asked if there was a place we could go, and I recommended the French café in the ped mall downtown. Somehow, Twilight was able to figure out where that was and she teleported us just outside.”

“Teleported? What’s that like?”

“Like a roller coaster ride from hell, all in the space of a second. I felt really queasy when after it stopped; teleporting was something she was long used to, but I’d never experienced it before, and it felt like being ripped apart and slapped back together again.”

“Doesn’t sound like the Star Trek stuff you see in the movies.”

“Or maybe,” DJ conjectured, “that is how the Star Trek stuff is, and they just don’t cover that in the movies. Anyways, we went in; the owner knew me so he just waved hi, but was very surprised to see someone else like me though Twilight walked in on all fours and wasn’t dressed. I think Twilight realized that she was essentially naked as far as we were concerned, and she doublechecked this with me. After looking around at what some of the other women were wearing, a second later she had on a black polo top and slacks. She told me that in Equestria clothing was a formal thing, and that had she known that clothing was common here she would have dressed appropriately the first time. She also admitted that she was glad it was happening now instead of when she was younger; she blew fuses over the smallest things when she was my age and only years of adult wisdom had tempered that.

“But we talked for hours on end, about a myriad of subjects. No, I didn’t know Equestria had existed until that day. Yes, I wondered where I came from, but I never worried about being alone because I had so much. No, I’d never been abused or mistreated; I got punished when I was younger like every kid that misbehaved, but that’s different from child abuse. Yes, I wore clothing like everyone else because I was normal and not forced to. No, I didn’t think I’d fit in with Equestriani culture, especially since I was still growing up and hadn’t thought about what I wanted to do for a living – that’s when she explained everything to me about cutie marks, from their perspective at least. And most important, no, I didn’t want to leave. I was from their world but not a part of it, and this was the only life I’d known.

“We walked around the mall for a bit – she absolutely loved the local bookstore and I was surprised to find that she was a book lover. I knew the guy who owned the store, so he gave her a whole bunch of books on the house. She picked out a bunch on human psychology, culture and history. After that, we went back to my place. Mom was making spinach lasagna for dinner, and Twilight joined us. During dinner, Twilight told us about Equestria, how she met Rarity, and her life there. She’d never married and had no interest in relationships, so to her Rarity’s kids were like her own; that was why when I had been lost she obsessed over finding me because it was more than a duty to her friend, because she’d genuinely loved me and wanted to save me. But Twilight never thought my fate would be to have a loving family.

“And then she told us something we didn’t expect to hear: that despite everything, she listened to everything my parents and I said…and agreed with us. I had a family and she couldn’t in good conscience split us up. Sandalwood was long gone, and I was all that remained, and the two were vastly different as far as she was concerned. She would join our cause to let me stay in the human world and she’d use every resource at her disposal to ensure it. She also told us that she’d probably pay a heavy personal price for this: Rarity was one of her best friends, and everyone she knew would be the wall that Twilight was running up against. But she’d do it for me because it was the right thing to do, because she had a personal reason.

“When she was eight, she’d done the impossible: hatched a dragon egg. As she was too young to be a mother, her parents adopted the young hatchling, though eventually Twilight took over most of his rearing. Over the years, Spike, as she named him, was her Number One Assistant, but there was something else, something that she never admitted to him because she didn’t know how: she loved her younger brother, but was never really able to express it. Except for an older brother, she wasn’t close to her family so Spike had been the only daily thing in her life and it just clicked. But even he wondered where he came from and one day went on a quest to learn about himself, but what he learned was that despite physically being a dragon, at heart he was a pony and in the end returned home. It was then that Twilight overcame her fears and told him how proud she was of him and how she really felt. He broke down in tears that day; he never really knew how she felt about him and for years feared he was nothing more to her than a familiar who’d been conveniently adopted. But as the years passed, the two of them became as close as brother and sister could be.

“Now that she knew me, when Twilight looked at me, all she could see was the pain Spike suffered back then, and saw I never had that problem since day one – no, she didn’t know about all the legal struggles during my childhood. But she never wanted what happened to Spike to happen to anyone else; even if she agreed that I needed to go back, she knew she couldn’t look her younger brother in the face unless she did something. So even if it was going to cause her a great amount of grief, she was going to fight for us.”

“That’s amazing. She must have really looked out for you,” Nicole commented.

DJ nodded, saying with a fond smile, “Like an aunt looking out for her oldest niece.” Taking another drink, she continued. “The day after school let out for the year, my family and I left for Equestria, and Erica, Carlos and Mike also went. We went via a permanent portal at the newly-established Equestriani embassy; that was certainly much easier than teleporting. We arrived in a portal in Twilight’s home, a mansion in the capital of Canterlot. She assigned us all rooms, and said tomorrow we would go meet my birth family because that was necessary as well as tell them how we were going to fight this.

“The next day, we headed to Ponyville, where they lived.”

“Ponyville? Isn’t that a little bit…self-descriptive?”

“No kidding,” DJ drolled. “They have a town in the same place as LA on their Earth called Las Pegasas, and another place equivalent to San Antonio called San Caballo. I wouldn’t be surprised if they recommend the first human colony on Alter Earth be named Humanton or Manville or something like that.

“So anyway, we flew via a chariot pulled by pegasi who looked uncomfortable; Twilight later told me that they had been specifically chosen as punishment because they were part of the second team of pegasi who were supposed to have joined the attack several months prior, but didn’t have the chance. We flew about an hour or so southwest of Canterlot, which, for the record, looks like something cribbed from a Tolkien novel. We landed in a small town that looked like a living historical anachronism; while the majority of it looked like something out of the 1950s, there was also a train station that dated to the 1800s, art deco houses, and the like, as if someone was building a bizarre version of Disney World.

“We landed by City Hall, and as we walked through the town, we were treated like monsters. Ponies pulled their kids indoors and shuttered the windows; stores suddenly announced they were closed for the day – with customers still inside; those that couldn’t find a place to hide simply cowered or played dead, hoping that we’d pass them by. As we walked towards the end of town, Twilight told me that on this version of Earth, humans were mythical creatures seen as monstrous, diabolical, warmongering beasts. Her exposure to humanity told her otherwise, but she and her assistants were the only ones who really knew.”

A thought suddenly came to Nicole. “Twilight was bringing humans – considered monsters by ponies in their mythology – and it didn’t occur to her that this might be a problem?”

DJ shrugged. “Twilight’s faced down angry gods, monsters and all sorts of challenges and trials. Plus, she knew who and what we really were. I mean, true, other ponies didn’t, but Twilight’s a huge believer in the magic of friendship and all that jazz, so she thought that all it would take is just ponies getting to know humans to understand we’re all the same.” A pause, soon followed by, “Yes, it was probably naïve of her. But given her stature and experience, it was a mistake she felt she could make.

“But after all the travel, finally, we reached a large house at the end of town, and if you thought my earlier description of Ponyville was odd, this gets weirder. It was a house shaped like a giant merry-go-round, with colorful topiary in the front yard and an apple tree for shade.”

Nicole smiled. “Sounds quaint, in a sorta Thomas Kinkaide way.”

DJ shrugged. “Maybe. But the big rock with the sunglasses, by a small grave underneath the apple tree, gave me a huge Twilight Zone vibe.”

“Big rock…with sunglasses.” The look on Nicole’s face was doubtful.

“In fairness, Twilight said it supposedly made Tom look 20% cooler.” DJ looked as if she was completely embarrassed explaining this. “Please don’t ask me to clarify, because I have no idea.”

“I…see. Please, continue.”

“Twilight asked us to wait outside; we’re not sure how long we waited. I remember wondering how I was going to react, what they were going to think of me, if I’d underdressed – and then remembered I was in a place where the whole nation was a virtual nudist colony. I remember everyone telling me that it’d be okay, and Mike’s kiss, assuring me he’d always be there. I remember the gathering crowd and guards showing up to provide security for what was turning out to be a huge event in the town. Finally, Twilight asked us to come in. We all had to duck when going in; the door was about five and a half feet or so in height.

“We walked into what looked like a custom clothing shop, only designed for ponies: the majority of the room was taken up by display space, with hangars and pony-shaped clothing dummies dressed in various formal attire, some of it I’d wear if it were shaped for normal people and some of it no different than the crap they make in the fashion houses in Paris. Standing in the middle of the room was a unicorn mare, elegant and white with a purple mane; there were shots of gray in it, like Twilight’s. Next to her was a huge pony that looked like a Clydesdale back on Earth; he was dark gray with a short-cropped bluish-gray mane. Next to him were two smaller ponies; a mint-green earth pony apparently close to my age; she had a bright pink mane, tied up with a large red-and-white hairbow. Next to her was a smaller unicorn colt that looked physically like the stallion, but clearly had his mother’s colors. Against the wall were several other ponies: a yellow pegasus with a long, pink mane; a blue pegasus with a rough-and-tumble mane that looked like it had been attacked by the Crayola company; an orange earth pony with a yellow mane and wearing a Stetson – how that happened, I’ve no idea; and a wild-eyed pink earth pony whose magenta hair looked like it had been savaged by a cotton candy machine – I’d guessed that she was probably my aunt Pinkie Pie; as well as three others, a light yellow earth pony with a candy-apple red mane; a white unicorn with a pink and lilac mane in soft curls; and an orange pegasus with a magenta mane in the same style as the blue pegasus. Standing near all of us, slightly tense as if she prepared for all hell to break loose, was Twilight.

“Clearing her throat, she began. ‘DJ, in order against the back wall are your aunts Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo. The filly here is your younger sister Minty, and the colt is your brother Elusive. And last, but not least, this is your mother, Rarity; and your father, Silversteel.’

“Rarity looked at me as though she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Her eyes began to water as she looked at me and asked, ‘Are you really my precious Sandalwood, come back to me?’

“I turned and looked at my parents, and though neither of them voiced anything, their eyes said it all: it’s okay. I looked at Erica and Carlos; Carlos’ eyes also told me to go – since he hadn’t seen his parents in months, he understood the situation. As for my stallion, he was my strength, saying a simple, ‘Go. We’re here for you.’

“Rarity looked at me, unsure of what to do. Not wanting to look like a total dork, I raised a hand and waved, saying, ‘Um, hi.’ Yes, I managed to sound like a retard anyway. Next thing I knew, she was on her hind legs, hugging me in a practical death grip, crying and murmuring that she’d failed me, she never wanted to lose me, that now that she found me she’d hold me close forever. Soon after that, Silversteel joined in the hug, crying in that way macho men do when they hate to admit they’re crying. One after another a pony joined the hugs and I felt like I was holding up the weight of Ponyville. In the corner of my eye, I caught Twilight talking to my parents and telling them that they should be proud of the foal they raised.”

“What then?” Nicole asked.

“After a few minutes, the hugs stopped. ‘Sandalwood,’ she said, ‘go ahead and say goodbye to your…humans.’ That last word sounded venomous, like an epithet. Barely gracing my parents with a look, she said, ‘I suppose I should thank you for taking care of my daughter. You can leave now; we’ll take it from here.’ She looked at me again and added, ‘Dear, you can stop rearing now – it must be dreadfully painful having to stand so long like that.’

“I looked at Twilight; I knew this was going to happen. ‘Rarity,’ Twilight began, ‘Sandalwood…DJ’s here because she wanted to meet you all, but she’s decided she’s returning to human Earth.’

“Rarity looked like I ripped her heart out. ‘Sandalwood, is this true?’ She turned to Twilight and said, ‘Twilight, see if you can erase whatever kind of spell they’ve got on her.’ She then looked at the people behind me with a murderous glance, snarling, ‘I expected trickery from humans, but I never expected they’d steal my daughter from me!’

“I was at a loss for words. I’d just met the people…er, ponies who were responsible for giving me life and nurturing me through the first two weeks, but they weren’t my family. I’d spent all of two weeks in Equestria; I’d spent my whole life in Winchester, so Ponyville was definitely not my home!

“‘Say something, Sandalwood,’ Silversteel intoned, just as angry as Rarity. His right forehoof twitched slightly; seeing enough bad Hollywood films made me realize it was the move of someone pulling a gun…or in his case, a sword. Fortunately, he had his barding off and was completely unarmed. Behind them, the others reacted the same way as Rarity, except for Rainbow Dash; she was emulating Silversteel and from that move, I assumed she was a member of the military as well.

“‘Rarity,’ Twilight spoke again, and I could see she was about to say was going to hurt her as much if not more than Rarity. ‘DJ’s family is here to fight the court order requiring her return to Equestria. And I’ll…I’ll be serving as their attorney for the case.’

“‘Family? What kind of monsters could even think of raising such a sweet and delicate foal like my Sandalwood?’ Rarity looked at Twilight, horrified for a second, before she paused. ‘Oh, I get it…Twilight, darling, I see you’ve been learning pranks from Pinkie and Rainbow! You almost had me fooled!’

“As for me, I was floored. Rarity’s behavior during this whole meeting was rude, condescending and ungrateful to my parents, treating me like some prize in a cereal box; when Twilight spoke up, she thought her old friend had been joking, because who wanted to be raised by humans? You know who? Me and my brother, that’s who. Erica, Carlos and Mike would say the same thing about their parents. If I had any doubt before, it was gone now: my parents were the ones who raised me to be an upstanding person – pun unintended. But if Rarity and Silversteel’s attitudes were any indicator, this was a house of bigotry and intolerance. My parents raised me better than that and these ponies didn’t.

“I looked at Silversteel and Rarity, trying to keep my temper down. ‘My name is Daisy Jo, DJ for short. I have two of the most wonderful parents a girl could ever ask for. And I won’t stand for you insulting them, no matter who you are.’ I was pissed but forced myself to calm down. After that, I added, ‘I’m sorry, Rarity and Silversteel, but I’m…I’m not your daughter. I know you spent years looking for me, but that child is long gone.’

“If the earlier comment seemed to have ripped out her heart, my words definitely did. “It can’t be true….” Rarity said before collapsing in a heap. Minty rushed to her side, hugging her mother briefly before looking at me with hate, so much so that a typical day dealing with Valerie made her my Bestest Buddy in comparison. ‘Come back to me, Sandalwood, come back,’ Rarity sobbed before wailing as if she’d lost the most precious thing in her life…maybe she did.

“Silversteel looked fit to kill. ‘You bucking humans!’ he seethed, charging for my dad. ‘You thieves!’

“‘Got your back, Silver!’ Rainbow Dash had rocketed forward, clearing the space between where she stood and the front faster than Silversteel. She was going to hit my family hard just from impact alone, when she seemed to bounce off something invisible; it didn’t stay invisible for long. A wide…field of transparent purple was between us as the others. Twilight’s horn glowed purple; I guess she was creating some sort of magic deflector shield or something. ‘Twilight, what the hay is this?’ Rainbow Dash snarled; while the hit didn’t do any harm to her, it was clear that she was shocked at Twilight’s actions.

“Twilight told Dad, ‘Get everyone out of here and wait outside. I’ll throw up a second shield to protect you.’

“‘Kiddo, let’s go,’ I heard my father say. I knew that tone; it was his pissed-off Sailor voice.

“‘Aunt Twilight, how could you?’ Minty said, looking at me as if I’d masterminded the whole thing. When Twilight didn’t speak, she pointed at me and snarled, ‘Get that…freak out of here.’

“Rarity, eyes red with tears, looked at Twilight as if she’d watched her best friend turn into a monster, absconding with precious me. ‘Twilight! Give her back! Give me back my daughter!’

“I looked to Twilight, and I saw her eyes were beginning to water. ‘I’m sorry, Rarity…but she’s not mine to give, or yours to take.’ Tears finally began to slide down her cheeks. ‘You have to understand, all of you: I…I’m doing the right thing….’

“‘Twi, get the buck out of here before I say or do something I’ll regret,’ Rainbow Dash grimaced. Her look was enraged and it was clear she was adding the unicorn to her list of potential targets.”

“That must have been significantly intense,” Nicole asked. “It sounds like you barely got away.”

“That’s the impression I was given at the time,” DJ admitted. “The ride back to Canterlot was quiet; Twilight said she was going to keep the shield up until we arrived at her home; if she took it down at any time before that, one of the pegasi, especially Rainbow Dash, would be on us in a heartbeat. ‘You just saw three of the fastest fliers in Equestria,’ she told us. ‘Each of them can fly at supersonic speeds and be on us in no time flat.’ All of us wondered at the potential of a non-aerodynamic flier reaching speeds requiring aerodynamics, but not for long, as they fell quiet again.

“Dad thanked her for all the help, but Twilight looked as though she’d been cut to the bone. ‘I didn’t mean to, but I know I hurt Rarity, and I’ve probably just lost all my friends.’ She just turned away from us all, looking as if she’d cut her own heart out; she had been right – she was going to pay a personal price for this and it had just begun.

“When we got back to Twilight’s home, Spike was there waiting for us. Obviously, none of us had ever seen a dragon before, and he was huge, probably ten feet tall; it became really shocking when he told us he was still growing. But for such a supposedly fearsome creature, he had the gentlest eyes and voice, and when he saw his older sister coming in looking like her life was completely destroyed he instantly scooped her up into a hug. ‘I’m here for you,’ he said in that soft-spoken voice, ‘You’ll never lose me, Twi.’ Seeing that those two were in a private moment, we all decided to go rest for a bit.”

“So what’s a dragon like? I realize ponies aren’t common on this Earth and you see gryphons everywhere – they seem to have adjusted to our world the easiest – but unless they’re tied to the military or the government, you never see dragons on this world.”

“Can you blame them?” DJ commented. “For most of human history, they’re treated the same way as humans are on Alter-Earth. Sure, books from the past century or so have changed the way we think about them, but think of the dragons in the Bible – pure evil, and that’s from one of mankind’s holiest books, and that’s been the way things have been for most of humanity’s existence.”

“It’s in the Bible? Sorry, I don’t go to church.”

‘And thus appeared another wonder in the skies, and lo a great dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his head.’” DJ recited from memory. “That comes from Revelations 12:3. But though it’s really a hydra – and actually sounds like the Orochi of Japanese mythology, if you want more clarification – it’s called a dragon. That’s the sort of demonization that Spike’s people have to deal with. Granted, I don’t know about others of his kind, but Spike himself is more like Puff the Magic Dragon than, say, Smaug from The Hobbit. He’s only come over to our Earth a handful of times and it’s only when people see how gentle the big guy is that they let their guard down. Truthfully, it always hurts me a little to see that, because he’s family and he’s so harmless.”

“So, you got back from Ponyville,” Nicole asked, restarting the interview.

“Later that night at dinner, everyone listened as Twilight detailed the plan. Court in Equestria turned out to be similar to American courts, in that one side explained their point of view and the opposition spent time poking holes in it. She’d already gathered a lot of evidence on how to proceed, and Spike would help her research the rest. The basic plan was to show how my parents were fit to have raised me; the fact that Sam had come along would point that out nicely. She would also have to show that Rarity and Silversteel were completely unprepared for parenting someone who essentially had become a human. That last part would be the toughest; it required bringing up all her friends’ flaws, and left her open as well – she admitted that like the others, she’d played no small part in Minty’s and Elusive’s lives.

“At night, we all broke apart to do whatever we wanted. Twilight had provided magical disguises to anyone who wanted to wander around Canterlot; the spells would make them appear as normal ponies. Mom, Dad and Erica opted for that one. Sam and Carlos decided to spend the night away challenging each other at Xbox Mobile games, and Mike stayed with me: if there was even the slightest chance we’d never see each other again, we’d cherish every moment together.

“Spike told us he wanted to see me in the main library, and we met him there. When we did, we found a sizable pile of books at his feet, and he was flipping through others at an incredible speed. ‘Sorry, just catching up on some light reading before we talk. One thing I’ve always treasured about being with Twi is that she insisted I get an education. Dragons don’t value learning much and so at the risk of bragging, I’m probably one of the most knowledgeable dragons in the world.’ Setting the book down, he looked at both of us and said, ‘So you’re at the center of this maelstrom.’ The statement was not unkind; rather, it was meant as a statement and nothing more.

“‘I can tell that you two are meant to be together,’ he said in a wistful tone that made me want to reach out and hug the big guy. ‘I had someone, once, but you don’t always get the chances you’d like in life. Cherish every moment you have together, because you never know when that bond will be sorely tested. I don’t doubt you feel it’s being tested now.’ He smiled, and for a mouth filled with sharp teeth, it was a warm and genuine grin. ‘But you won’t be separated from your family. Twi made that promise, and I’ll stand right behind her on that.’

“I smiled. ‘Thank you, Spike,’ I said, before a thought came to me. ‘Can I ask you something?’ He nodded, and I asked, ‘When did you know that you belonged with ponies instead of your own kind?’

“He laughed; it was a booming chuckle that resounded through the room but at the same time, it felt really comforting. ‘I think you know the answer to that already, if you’re asking it for yourself. But I’ll answer the question anyway: the dragon quest I went on was long and arduous, and pushed me to my limits for my young age. I didn’t know it, but Twilight, Rarity and Rainbow Dash had followed closely behind. I met some fellow dragons and attempted to get along with them; unfortunately, I picked the wrong pack and ended up with delinquents. The three came to my rescue and we left the area; as an interesting aside, that’s how I got my pet phoenix, Peewee. But between earlier events with dragons and that incident, I decided I was better off staying with people who cared for me, especially since later that night Twi apologized for any time she made me feel unloved and unneeded. I later found out that there are noble and wise dragons, but they generally tend to be few and far between.’

“‘As for you, I’m suspecting you’re having a hard time wrapping your head around the fact that you’re Rarity’s lost daughter; you don’t believe it, you can’t see yourself being with ponies so radically different from you. Well, let me assure you: you are Sandalwood, and you don’t belong with them – you belong back in your world, with pon…beings you love, especially your young male here. Leaving you here in Equestria, with customs you can’t fathom and a world you don’t know will only bring you pain and sorrow in the long run.’

“The chime on Mike’s watch sounded, and he suggested we call in a night. ‘Thanking him for his wisdom and bidding him a good night, I went to the room I was sharing with Erica; she’d just gotten back from the night out in Canterlot, and she found out quite a lot, which we talked about for the next couple of hours. For starters, Twilight was a lot more important than she’d mentioned: she was the third most powerful magic user in Equestria, outstripped only by its ruling princesses, a pair of alicorns named Celestia and Luna; in fact, she was Celestia’s protégé. But it was the information about the two alicorn princesses that really caught my attention: they were worshipped as both rulers and deities; they generally maintained a distance from the public but Twilight and her friends, including Rarity, often served as the alicorns’ day-to-day interaction with the world. By this time, I was sure that Equestria probably should have been named the Ponies’ Democratic Republic of North Korea, and for yet once more, I wanted to be gone of this world as soon as possible.”

“Have you met them?”

A nervous look crossed the pony’s face. “Well, I’ve met Celestia, but I’ll talk about that later.”

“And Princess Luna?”

“…so, anyway, the next morning, coming down to breakfast was interesting. As the rest of us filtered down to the dining room to have breakfast, I could hear arguing. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good, and since Twilight was going out of her way to protect me, I felt I should at least do the same. As we approached the foyer, it was Spike and Twilight, arguing with Pinkie and Applejack. None of us tried to hide, but the four of them were so engrossed in their argument, they hadn’t noticed us come in.

“‘Twilight, how could ya do this t’ Rarity? She’s been waitin’ fer Sandalwood t’ come back all this time – we all have – an’ Ah think y’ owe us an explanation!’ Applejack’s accent, oddly, made her sound like she was from Texas or a similar state. Obviously that was impossible, but there that accent was, and considering she wore that cowboy hat it made a sort of weird sense.

“‘Yeah, Twilight! We’ve been looking for her forever and ever and ever and ever….’ Pinkie Pie seemed to go on for at least nine or ten more evers before she reached the end of her sentence: ‘…and you have to pull a Meanie McMeanerson! I mean, what’s with that?’ There was a girl at my school, Brenda Everson, who bounced around like her bloodstream was made of espresso; people nicknamed her Caffy. Looking at Pinkie Pie at that moment, I was pretty sure Caffy was lethargic in comparison.

“‘Pinkie, AJ, you two of all ponies should understand how she feels,’ Spike said. ‘AJ, your parents passed away when you were a filly, and Pinkie, you’ve told me how your parents disowned you because you wouldn’t stay on the rock farm.’ Spike, true to his word, was stepping full into the fray and wouldn’t back down. ‘The humans with DJ are the only family she’s ever known and now you want to pull her away from them out of personal pride?’

“‘I know how you feel,’ Twilight continued. ‘When she first told me she wanted to stay with the humans, I didn’t believe it either. But as I listened to her, I realized it was just arrogance on my part. She has a normal life there, pon…er, humans who love her and want the best for her. All you have to do is just listen to her like I did and you’ll see that she’s had the life we all wanted for her, just not the way any of us thought it would be.’

“‘Ah still think she b’longs with Rarity an’ Silversteel,’ Applejack said, unconvinced. ‘It’s gonna take a mite o’ convincin’ fer me that anything less is whut’s best fer Sandalwood.’

“I couldn’t say silent any longer. ‘What about what I think is best for me?’ I practically shouted as I stomped into the room. ‘I’m almost an adult, and my parents treat me like that. But you seem to think I’m still the little baby that disappeared years ago.’

“Applejack responded with hurt and anger. ‘Ya don’ understand. We’ve spent th’ last fifteen years lovin’, worryin’ and hopin’ you’d come back t’ us.’

“‘No,’ I snarled back. ‘You’ve been those years focusing on the image inside your heads and hearts, the perfect representation of Sandalwood. But I’m not her – I may have been for the first two weeks of my life, but not since that time. And even if I wanted to pick up that part of my life – and believe me, I don’t – I wouldn’t know how to be the Sandalwood you expect me to be!’ At that point, neither Applejack or Pinkie Pie spoke; I think I completely broke their hearts at that point, or maybe they realized the little baby they’d spent all that time obsessing over was long since gone.

“Twilight sighed and tried to be conciliatory. ‘Look, let’s all have some breakfast. We can talk then and maybe you three will get to understand each other a little better.’”

As Tsubasa went to get them more coffee, Nicole asked, “Was it really this difficult for you? It sounds like they were desperate to keep you in Equestria.”

“They kept hoping that somehow I’d be all saudade and stuff,” DJ explained. “And before you ask, saudade is a Portuguese word which implies a sort of longing for something you’re afraid you’ll never see again. Personally, I’m hoping they invent a word for the exact opposite, because that’s what I’ll feel towards Equestria.”

“Isn’t that a bit brusque?”

“Well, no, not really. Anyway, breakfast turned out to be another round of the interrogation that Twilight had given me just weeks before, but this was more intense, more definitive. Applejack refused to back down, insisting on believing that the birth parents I didn’t know was what was best for me. Pinkie Pie, however, stayed out of the argument, instead choosing to reload on the unnatural amounts of sugar that kept her going – I have never seen anyone use that much syrup on pancakes in my entire life, and I’m convinced in that one sitting she ingested enough sugar to give everyone back home diabetes. But as Applejack and I talked, she started to realize that what Twilight had said was true, and that I did have the life that they had all wanted for me. It definitely shocked her that I was dating a human; even in a place such as Equestria, where multiple sentient species abounded, inter-species relationships were rare. But she warmed up to the fact that I was growing up in apple country, and from what everyone else’s stories were about me, I think we changed her mind at that point.

“Looking at me, then Twilight and Spike, she sighed before saying, ‘Ah’m sorry, Sandalwood. Ah didn’t take yer feelin’s inta consideration. Ah hope y’ll forgive me fer that.’

“I smiled; whatever the problem was, Applejack had genuinely cared about me and probably still did, even with the changes. ‘I will if you stop calling me Sandalwood – my name’s DJ.’

“‘Ah think Ah c’n do that,’ she told all of us before adding, ‘Twilight, y’ c’n count me an’ Pinkie on yer side, right, Pinkie?’

“Pinkie Pie looked up from her abomination of pancakes, butter, five types of syrup, chocolate chips, powdered sugar, various fruits, sprinkles and a small mountain of whipped cream. ‘Sure! Okay, ready whenever you guys are!’ When everyone stared at her as if she’d missed everything, she gave a small smile and said something to me; I was later told it was the most mature moment anyone had ever seen out of her. ‘DJ, we’ve spent your whole life looking for you, because we love you and wanted you back with us. But you’re never coming back, and that hurts, it hurts a lot. But all we’ve ever wanted for you was the best and for you to be happy, and if you’re happy, I can understand. Just…when you go back, don’t forget about us, okay?’ She practically inhaled that pancake monolith in one bite before she added, ‘That was good! Now, who wants tacos?’”

“From pancakes to tacos?”

“Rule Number One about Equestria: if it’s weird, it’s Pinkie’s fault. I love her dearly, but whether it’s chocolate rainclouds or flying beavers, it’s Pinkie’s fault somehow.” DJ grinned. “You’ll find out more about her later.”

“Flying beavers?” Nicole made a mental note: Do not go to Alter-Earth if at all possible.

“Don’t even ask. But anyway, from that point on, I’d developed a small core of people in Equestria who were willing to stand up for me, and that gave me comfort, if for no other reason than the fact that Twilight wouldn’t be alone on her mission. But in the choices, battle lines were being drawn, and it was going to seriously tear apart long-time friendships. On one hand, there was Twilight, who had been joined by Spike, Applejack and Pinkie; eventually Sweetie Belle joined us. The last comer was even more shocking than any of those before; Sweetie Belle was Rarity’s actual younger sister and thus my biological aunt. But she told me that her long and storied attempts to get her cutie mark had taught her a lot about life and desire, and she couldn’t see my own dreams taken away like that even if she went against her older sister.

“On the other hand, it was Rarity and Silversteel, accompanied by Rainbow Dash, Scootaloo and Apple Bloom; eventually Fluttershy’s husband Macintosh joined their side as well. The defection of her siblings hurt Applejack greatly, especially when they both told her since they grew up without parents, it was paramount that I know the joy of having mine…as if I’d somehow lived my life as Jungle Jane of the Potomac. But that was tempered when Rainbow Dash claimed that the assault on my family should have been more thorough, that had she been in charge it would have succeeded. When Applejack heard that and considering I told her what happened to my family, she swore she’d tear Dash a new one and it had been Twilight who had held her back from keeping that promise.

“Desperately trying to stay neutral was Fluttershy, Applejack’s husband Noteworthy and Pinkie’s husband Thunderlane. The princesses, close friends of all at hand, stayed completely out of it for both political and personal reasons; from what Twilight told me, watching their circle of friends tear each other apart was like a physical pain to the alicorns, who loved them all and hated to see what was happening. Yet if the court case was to be handled in a fair manner, there would have to be no sign of favoritism whatsoever, and meant that my situation was like absolute political poison to the two ‘goddesses’ – so much for almighty.”

A thought came to Nicole’s mind. “How do the alicorns feel about being viewed as gods?”

“I have no clue, nor do I care, if you want to know the truth. It’s bad enough you have an entire world of alicorn worshippers; I’m betting before long the Hari Krishna folks will be fighting for space with the Holy Church of the Alicorn Trinity at your local airport.”

“But aren’t they a part of your family?”

DJ crossed her arms, impishly saying, “No way no how am I planning to change my name to St. Sandalwood the First.”

Nicole grinned. “Cute.”

“Glad you thought so. But anyway, while we spent all that time in Canterlot, I did nothing to make any of this any better. Feeling really manipulated, I happily did the Ugly American and really embarrassed myself in front of all of Equestria, determined to prove my humanity. From visual displays of walking upright to ordering a steak at one of the few restaurants that catered to carnivores, I was determined to make my point to all who saw me, the more horrifying the better.”

“You ate meat?” Nicole was floored; horses were herbivores and even evolved ones had to still be herbivores, right? Tsubasa, even with her years living amongst humans, looked extremely queasy at the mention of meat eating.

“I know what you’re going to ask: yes, I can eat meat…but mostly ground products: burgers, tacos, and such, and even then not much. And I paid for my stunt with the steak for days afterwards: indigestion and stomach aches galore. After that, my parents told me to quit the displays and Mike wasn’t happy with me, either. It wasn’t one of my better moments.”

“How long did this go on? I can’t see any of this having dragged on forever,” Nicole commented. “Court systems of any kind anywhere are notoriously slow, but considering the particulars in this case, it was probably bumped to the top of the docket, I assume.”

“Absolutely. Considering these were some of the most important people in government, the case was dumped to the top of the workload. The feuding had actually affected local services to some degree, and finally after a couple of weeks the case started, being handled in front of the Crown Court of Equestria, basically their version of the Supreme Court. By this time, there was so much bad blood, Rarity and Silversteel had hired a notorious attorney to represent them: Contempt O’Court. Mr. O’Court was a brutal, vicious lawyer known for pulling just about every underhanded trick in the book against his opponents, while still remaining on the correct side of the line. Moreover, he had a perfect winning streak and took this case on with gusto. It was clear that Rarity and Silversteel were out to win at all costs, but I can’t help but think that part of it was also to hurt my supporters as hard as possible – that definitely didn’t endear Rarity to me in the least.

“The minute the trial started, the gloves came off. The two sides savaged each other worse than two fighters in an MMA match. Twilight directly attacked Rarity’s fitness to raise a human-reared pony; with witnesses, she’d accurately gauged her friend’s nasty comments about humans and turned that into a case of how bigotry could prevent a fair life for me. Contempt, on the other hand, turned it into nothing more than abuse of Twilight’s authority and power, withholding me from my rightfully-deserved parents because she was unmarried and getting towards the end of her foal-bearing years. Again, anyone and everyone who was called to the witness chair was going to get savaged by one side or the other; the war was starting to stretch beyond these friends and into the second layers of friendships, as couples like Lyra and Bon-Bon were torn apart or ponies that had nothing to do with the conflict, such as Blossomforth, leaving the witness stand in shambles and tears.”

“Lyra, I’m guessing, is Ambassador Phillips, isn’t she?” Nicole asked.

DJ sighed. “Do me a favor, Nicole – please leave Lyra out of this. Her husband was in a car accident last week. He’s okay, but she’s more than busy juggling taking care of him, her kids, and her usual workaholic tendencies at the embassy.”

“But she’s the only other pony that—”

DJ leaned forward. “Nicole, I mean it. Leave her be, or I’m ending this interview right now.” When the reporter relented, DJ said, “If you have to ask someone, get a hold of Bon-Bon. Though they haven’t been a couple in ages, they’re still very close friends.”

“Fine. Please, go ahead.”

DJ relaxed, and then continued. “At one point, Applejack pulled me out of the courtroom after a particularly nasty session. ‘This ain’t right,’ she said, feeling completely down in the dumps. ‘We’ve all been a family fer so long, and this is all ‘bout what’s best fer ya, so why are we killin’ each other? Ah can’t get it, an’ it ain’t fair t’ ya, DJ.’ She didn’t say it, but I saw that look in her eyes: she feared that when all was said and done, the years that they’d all been together were about to come to a tragic end.

“At one point, O’Court had unleashed a brutal hit on our side by calling Rarity to the stand and detailing the events regarding my disappearance. There had been a huge magic storm brewing, and it was serious – magic storms weren’t able to be directly controlled, and all that could be done would be to create wind patterns to move it out of the path of Ponyville, and so the Bearers were called into action to evacuate the town, just in case. Rarity and Silversteel had left their newborn daughter, aka me, with a friend who lived outside of town; the storm wasn’t expected to swing anywhere near said friend’s home, so leaving me with her was fine. What they hadn’t counted on was a group of gryphon brigands deciding at that very moment to raid the nearest home, as they expected no one to be present due to the evacuation order. What they found instead was a trio of ponies at home, watching a newborn foal. Gangbangers, even gryphon ones, aren’t exactly known for their better nature, so….

“The storm had been knocked away successfully from Ponyville…but now it was headed towards the Everfree Forest – and the cottage was directly in its path. The Bearers and Silversteel raced to the scene, only to find a horror of a destroyed house and two young mares, cut down in the prime of their lives. A window had been broken, and a bloody trail led to the Everfree, but just as the storm hit. The group was forced to wait out the storm in the damaged cottage while they saw to the remains of those lost. The moment it stopped, however, Rarity led a second group deep into the Everfree, ignoring its danger.

“What they found was a dead pegasus, coated in blood. She looked as though she’d gone down fighting, and her last act in life was to point a hoof in the direction in which the brigands had run. Rarity was frantic, one of her friends had been killed and her at-that-time only foal was out there in the hands of murderous gryphons. All of them rushed into the forest, heedless of the danger, their only thoughts of saving the little filly that three lives had been lost defending.

“Onstage, Rarity was in her element. Twilight had told me that Rarity had taken some acting classes and was probably overacting it, but I knew the truth just from looking in her eyes: it was all true. People…ponies had lost their lives to protect me. I looked at my parents and they realized the same thing; I didn’t have to look at the eyes of any of my supporters; I had the truth already.

“Meanwhile, spurred on my Contempt’s urging, Rarity relived her nightmare. ‘There had been a lightning bolt, it came down and shattered a whole section of the Everfree. I had nearly passed out; that had been the section that the gryphons had run into the area right where the thunderbolt had hit. Everything was on fire…the gryphons had been killed, torn to pieces by the blast.’ She dabbed at her eyes with a silk handkerchief – hoofkerchief? – before continuing. ‘I wanted to die that day. My friends had been murdered and now my baby was dead, vaporized by the storm. I lay in bed for weeks, unable to just focus on anything before my dearest friend Twilight told me there might be a way to save my Sandalwood.’ I saw the look in Twilight’s face when Rarity virtually spat those words at her and at that point I so very much wanted to go over to where she was and just kick her ass, biological mother or no.

“Eventually, she ended her diatribe, and the room was silent. Everyone that had been involved in it was forced to relive that night and there weren’t many dry eyes in that courthouse. Rarity finished up explaining how Twilight had discovered that the magic storm had sent me to another world, one filled with horrible monsters and unnatural beasts, but that somehow, I survived long enough for Twilight and Pinkie to find me. She deliberately left out the attack; either she was embarrassed by it all or it would jeopardize the case, but I was furious.”

“I think I’ll skip the obligatory ‘how did you feel’ question at this point.”

“Thanks. I could show you how pissed I was, but I’d rather not break the table.” DJ leaned forward, templed her hooves together and placed her head on them, giving the reporter a coquettish look.

“You can really do that?”

DJ nodded. “I wasn’t kidding when I said I have considerably increased strength in comparison to other women my age. From what AJ once told me, I’m extremely weak for an earth pony, but ‘extremely weak’ is still more than strong enough to do a kung-fu action grip on a two-by-four and break it in half easily.”

“How are you extremely weak?”

“I didn’t grow up as an earth pony but as a human, so my innate magic is pretty non-existent. Earth ponies are the weakest of the ponies when it comes to magic, but they are nonpareils at agrimancy – plant magic. Explains why I have a green thumb when it comes to plants.”

“Good, maybe you can show me how to stop killing my ferns every time I try to grow one,” Nicole laughed.

“Maybe. In any case, that night was a very silent trip back to Twilight’s mansion. Rarity’s words had hit home, and no one felt good that night, least of all me. When we arrived, I just went straight to bed; I wanted to cry my heart out. But Sweetie Belle wouldn’t let me. She went right in there and apologized for what happened, that she was furious with her older sister and that – and I have to admit, I laughed – the gentle unicorn would have, and I quote: ‘Bucked the horseapples out of her.’ She then told me that no matter what my decision was, she’d always be there for me, and so would the others.

“I then asked her why no one had mentioned the deaths; I felt guilty, as if it had been my fault. But she told me that the deaths had not been my fault in the least, and that had they lived, neither Derpy nor her daughters would have blamed me. But she knew I was going to blame myself, so she dragged me out of the room and rustled up Spike and let my parents know what she was up to, and away we went, back to Ponyville.

“Despite what we’ve always thought about dragons, there’s two different kinds: flying dragons and land dragons – Spike’s the latter. But he’s also a government diplomat and arranged for transportation for the three of us to head to Ponyville unnoticed. Think about it: a giant purple dragon, a senior-ranked unicorn mage and Equestria’s most notorious pony, all getting transported a couple of hundred miles southwest of the capital, all unnoticed. That’s talent. In any case, we crossed the distance between Canterlot and Ponyville in less than an hour, finally finding ourselves at the edge of the Everfree Forest.

“The Forest…ever hear children’s tales about ominous forests, filled with lions, tigers and bears, oh my? There was a film from my parents’ time, The Blair Witch Project, that made the western Maryland forests seem horrifying; well, being from Winchester, we didn’t live far from the shooting location, and the place is anything but horrific. And here in Japan, well, while despite the mythology concerning Aokigahara, it’s just an unusual and tragic forest where too many people commit suicide, nothing really frightening. Well, the Everfree’s worse and quite literally filled with all the monsters from Clash of the Titans VII: Titan Harder. Needless to say, it’s a death sentence for anyone, not just ponies, to step anywhere near it. It’s the kind of place that makes you wonder why anyone would live near such a horrific place, but then again, people live near prisons, nuclear reactors and other potentially bad things, so go fig.

“When we got to the gravesite, it was on the location of the former cottage; it had been torn down to build a final resting place for the three ponies that had saved my life. I don’t know how long I was there looking at the three gravestones that said DERPY HOOVES, DINKY HOOVES and SPARKLER HOOVES, but I just couldn’t leave. I stayed there forever and just prayed and thanked them for doing everything they could to save me, even at the cost of their lives. I remember promising that I’d be a woman they could be proud of, even if I couldn’t be a mare of the same caliber.

“I then heard a voice behind me: ‘The cost to bring you home has already been too high, and it’s growing higher each day.’ I turned around and standing right in front of me was her: Princess Celestia, the alicorn goddess-queen of the country. She was brilliant, radiating in a way that I hadn’t seen before, glowing like the sun she purportedly controlled. Part of me wondered if this was what standing in front of Christ Himself was like, at least for ponies. As for me, well…she seemed nice enough, but the concept of an absolute monarch is kinda outdated in this day and age. She seemed to know what I was doing. ‘Forgive me for interrupting your private moment. I’m sure they appreciate your thoughts,’ she said with a smile that seemed very maternal – and, strangely, genuine.

“I didn’t know what to say; thankfully, Spike had the presence to do so. ‘Celestia, what brings you here?’ he asked, as calmly as asking what the weather would be tomorrow.

“She never took her eyes off me as she said, ‘Spike, Sweetie Belle, I have to intercede; I don’t want to, but this case is virtually tearing the country apart – ponies everywhere are taking sides as if this was a civil war and some…pockets of discontent have broken out in the larger cities. As much as I would prefer for it to be handled in the courts, I can’t let this go on.’

“Sweetie Belle nodded. ‘It has to end, Celestia. We’re at each other’s throats, and it’s bad.’ She turned away before admitting, ‘I hate my sister for what she said to DJ’s parents; and my best friends in the world, I can’t stand to look at them for backing her.’ She turned back to Celestia and said, ‘Please fix this. We’re all hurting, and if it doesn’t end soon, it’ll all end in tears.’

“Whatever my opinions of Celestia, there was no doubting that she cared about her circle of friends. She bent down and nuzzled Sweetie Belle. That kinda freaked me out; I’ve seen horses and other animals do it, but it wasn’t something a person would do; even still, it showed she cared about the younger unicorn more than just a mere subject. ‘Sweetie, please understand that whatever decision I make, it will hurt several of my little ponies, ones I consider family, and it may only make things worse.’ She finished speaking before addressing me. ‘DJ, do you love your parents? The ones that raised you, that is.’

“I was almost stunned that anyone would ask me that stupid of a question. ‘They’re the only family I know. Silversteel never taught me how to ride a bike, my Dad did. Rarity was never there when I was sick, Mom was. From report cards to my first date with Mike, from when I first skinned my knee to when I wrote my first short story. And only humans would fight so fiercely to give a life for their not-human daughter, something that is taken for granted here.’ I remember being extremely angry when I said, ‘Rarity and Silversteel care only about the daughter they lost. My parents care about me. Maybe Rarity and Silversteel would have cared about Sandalwood in the same way, but I’m not that lost little girl anymore and time can’t be turned back.’ Actually, considering what she was supposed to be, maybe it could have been, but I sure didn’t want it to.

“She looked at me for what seemed forever before saying, ‘I see. Thank you for being honest, DJ.’ She looked at the other two and nodded to them before just disappearing. That just blew my mind. There was a flash with Twilight’s teleport, but with Celestia, it was instantaneous. The way she just disappeared, without giving even so much of a clue as to what she was doing? I was going to be adding a few Hail Marys before I went to bed tonight – the lack of an answer from her really unnerved me that night.


“The next morning we filed in to court. Nobody had slept that night, and there was a murderous look in Twilight’s eyes. I knew what she was going to do, and she was beyond the point of caring. Sweetie Belle had been right: the pain was going to be immense and the family was now at war with each other. I remember asking her to tone it down, but then she looked at me with eyes full of rage. ‘You were treated like an object yesterday, DJ, a trifle to be fought over. I’ve known Rarity over the years, but that’s the lowest she’s ever gone, and I won’t stand for it. I’m going to tear her apart.’ When she opened her briefcase, I wasn’t sure whether she was fighting for me or her own bruised pride at that point.

“But Celestia intervened, just as she said she would. As the judge walked in, the princess teleported in as well, surprising everyone. She somehow managed to look regal, angry and sad at the same time. She spoke and said she was invoking jus regium, and that she was deciding on the case immediately. She ordered the jury and Rarity’s legal team out of the courtroom, keeping only the judge, bailiff and court recorder simply for the record and royal edict she was about to decree.

“She then looked at them, and she looked extremely heartbroken. She told them she loved them all and she was very disappointed in the way everyone…sorry, again, everypony…was acting. She was extremely disappointed in Rarity, whose bigotry and lack of gratitude for my parents, who had endured so much for me, and that it was very unbecoming of a Bearer of the Elements; she also had venom for Rainbow Dash, who had ordered the attack on my family. But she looked at Twilight as well, and she was equally unhappy with her for not finding a peaceful solution, instead falling into the trap of fighting. She looked at all of them and her sorrow and distress and shamed them all. Heck, even I felt a little guilty after that.

“She then looked at my parents, and personally thanked them for raising such a wonderful daughter. Somehow, she’d read up on everything that my parents and I dealt with, and briefly explained it all to everyone else; none of the locals had ever heard of what happened to me as a child. Needless to say, it opened some eyes: Rarity and Silversteel both looked surprised, as the rug got pulled out from underneath them; neither of them could ever believe that any human could care for me, but when Celestia told them of our legal struggle against our government, they looked like their princess was babbling madness – that humans truly could love, and two in particular very much loved their daughter, regardless of where she was born or what she looked like.

“She then looked at me, and I remember those words. ‘DJ, the way you left us was tragic and painful. And now you have returned, and it is causing yet more pain and suffering. As a mare who is watching the ones closest to her tear themselves apart, I can’t help but blame you for that a little, even though it’s truly no fault of your own; for that, I apologize. But as the ruler of Equestria, I cannot let anything harm my realm, even if it is the daughter of one of my closest friends.’ She closed her eyes before opening them and saying, ‘My thought had been initially to “exile” you, quote unquote, but I don’t want to send the wrong message. Therefore my choice is to return you to your family – your human family – in the hopes that your adoptive parents and your birth parents will do the right thing.’

“I blinked. We won? I just kept repeating in my head over and over, ‘Dafuq?’ I wanted to cheer, hug my parents and Twilight; just shout for joy. But I couldn’t. Part of me realized that Rarity and Silversteel had now lost their daughter for good, and even they could not defy their deity-princess. They briefly stared at us with rage, but a quick glance from Celestia put a stop to that. Eventually, they departed, and we waited until well after before leaving the courtroom. There were tons of paparazzi there, wanting to know about the resolution of the ‘War of the Elements’, as the press was calling it, but we all just went back to Twilight’s place.”

Nicole pulled a tablet out and brought up some notes. “I had to a chance to speak to Derek Angelo. He works for the BBC and was one of the few human reporters in Canterlot for the whole thing. He told me that on an individual level, the ponies were kind and friendly, but as a group, they had a mob mentality. Is that about accurate?”

“No more so than we do here on this Earth. But I’m guessing you’re asking about how I feel about being a catalyst for a near civil war. What do you want me to say? That’s horrifying – ponies were going to go to war over me, and there was a riot in Manehattan – their version of New York – and that it was the first riot in centuries. That means that a peaceful society was about to fall apart just over me. What do you want me to say?”

Nicole sat there in silence. What could you say if you were the potential catalyst for the death of thousands? She thought about it for a moment, then asked, “I’m sorry, but I have to ask this: how much were you aware of what was going on?”

DJ was quiet for an inordinately long amount of time. Finally, she said, “Twilight and Sweetie Belle did everything they could to ensure I wouldn’t find out. Apparently Twilight had an issue when she was younger regarding time travel – I’m hoping she’s kidding – and for a while she was afraid she was the cause of ultimate pony war. Turned out that wasn’t the case, but she never forgot that moment. But despite their best efforts, I found out regardless. And it horrified me: some wanted me to go because of my parents, some wanted me to stay with Rarity because I was ‘special’ – whatever that meant – and some wanted me gone…and the gateways between our two realities sealed again permanently.”

“Ouch.”

“Yeah. Very ouch indeed. But as I was saying, dinner that night was a stately and somber affair. Pinkie was apparently a professional party caterer, but even she knew that it wasn’t the night to celebrate, so instead of using ‘the full power of the Party Cannon’, whatever that means, she just redecorated Twilight’s dining room for a more formal deal. There was also the sadness the ponies had as this was the official end of my life in Equestria, not that I’d ever had much of one to begin with. As for me, I promised I’d keep in touch with my new family members; they’d gone through so much for me that they proved their love when they didn’t have to. My parents, in particular, struck up friendships with Twilight and Applejack, and Sam got Spike addicted to video games. Things were going great…right up until Rarity, Silversteel and Minty showed up.”

Nicole had a quizzical look on her face. “Was this part of what Princess Celestia suggested as part of the reconciliation process?”

“Maybe,” DJ replied. “Maybe it was even sincerely meant. My parents were certainly willing to forgive and forget, even though they’d been wronged. And maybe, though even to this day, I’m not sure, Silversteel was willing to mend the gap. But Rarity looked as though she’d been forced to be there, and Minty was there as well. Elusive was not; maybe he was still considered too young to be exposed to human ‘monsters.’

“Well, all I can say is that it started innocuously enough. Rarity came up to me and apologized for her earlier statements, as did Silversteel. Minty, however, didn’t – that should have been a warning sign. Things seemed to get along fine, and for a moment, I honestly believed that everything was going to turn out a-okay. And then Rarity said the words that sent everything back down the tubes again: ‘Sandalwood, dear, now that you’re soon to be an adult, perhaps I can introduce you to some potential suitors? I suppose they’ll have to, ahem, live with your idiosyncrasies, but I suppose nopony is perfect.’

“‘Uh, why?’ I asked, giving her a look. At the time, I was wondering what she was thinking about, but a part of my skin started to crawl at that point.

“‘Well,’ she said, looking at me with a pained smile, ‘because even with your oddities, you are an alluring young mare – you do have my genes, after all – and it’s only natural that you’ll want a stallion or mare to call your own. And while admittedly, I’m not sure how much any particular suitor may want to live amongst…well, human herds…but perhaps it will be a good opportunity for you to return to your proper home once married, correct?’

“I looked at her, suddenly realizing what she was getting at. ‘One,’ I told her, ‘I’m not up for arranged marriages; sorry, not happening. And secondly, I already have a boyfriend.’ I went and grabbed Mike from his chat with Applejack and brought him back over. ‘This is my boyfriend, Mike. We’ve been going together for the better part of a year now, and we’re absolutely happy.’ Even as I leaned into him, I curled my tail around his leg, a gesture that I’ve always considered as just a sign of affection. I mean, I’ve done it with my parents and my brother, and no big deal, right?

“Well, turns out it doesn’t mean that to the average Equestriani, and this was one of the first times that I probably would have benefited from knowing something about my birth culture,” DJ said with some embarrassment.

Nicole already had some idea of what the pony was about to say, but for the sake of journalistic integrity, she asked anyway. “What does it mean?”

“Well, it’s a sign of, uh, couples getting involved in sexual activity,” DJ answered, a sheepish grin forming on her face. “It’s not something for polite company. Basically, it’s, uh…well…foreplay. I didn’t find out until I read a book on pony etiquette a few years later, but at the time, all I was doing was showing affection for my stallion – what could be wrong about that?

“Needless to say, Rarity, who did know what it meant in pony culture, was less than a bit appalled. ‘You mean to say you’re already….’ Her words ended as she suddenly gasped, then turned to Mike in anger. ‘How dare you, you ruffian! Taking advantage of an innocent filly for your debase lecheries, you…you…cretin!’

“Mike was understandably confused, as was I. And Rarity’s tirade had stopped the party, catching the attention of everyone in the room. Thankfully some people didn’t react as brainlessly as she did; Sweetie came to my side immediately, looking at her older sister and saying, ‘Rarity, I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation for this.’ My aunt then turned to me and gave me a look that the gesture wasn’t probably the best to do at the moment. Unfortunately, I was already in a pigheaded mood, and Rarity’s ranting suddenly ensured I wasn’t moving my tail from Mike’s leg.

“Of course, this only served to make things worse. From my left side, a voice dripping with venom suddenly said, ‘And this is the pony you wanted so badly to return, Mother? A tail-lifter who has no problem getting into heat with her…stud…in public?’ Minty had started to make her move, and though I didn’t know it at the time, a lot of this was pre-meditated. ‘Mother, I know…I know you’ve wanted Sandalwood to return to us all this time, but she’s nothing worth your time – yours or Father’s. She’s nothing but a tail-lifting harridelle who would rather live with monsters than to live with civilized creatures, such as us.’”

“Of course, I have been through enough scuffles to know when I’m being insulted. And though Minty was supposed to be my little sister, I knew what a sibling was – Sam was my brother and he’d never say anything like that. I looked at Minty and said in my sweetest voice, ‘You don’t know me at all, so if you’re accusing me of being a skank, you better be able to back those words up or I’ll shove them back down your throat.’

“And of course, my stallion has always had an intuitive grasp of when I’m in over my head. Looking at me, he commented, ‘Uh, hon, this probably isn’t the best time to—’ He didn’t finish as Minty, without warning, suddenly turned and bucked me – hard. Now, remember when I said that for humans I’m extremely strong, but as far as earth ponies go, I’m incredibly weak? Well, I had just found out the hard way how very strong earth ponies can be, because Minty, like me, is one. One that had spent all that time in Equestria, and so had the full magic and power of a teenage mare.

“It was the first time I’ve ever had my ass kicked, to be honest. I’ve been in a few fights, to be honest, and because of my strength, I learned how to pull my punches. Needless to say, when you’re fighting someone just a bit stronger than you, you don’t do that. But my brain wasn’t connecting and I didn’t take into account that I wasn’t fighting a human opponent. But Minty had no compunctions, and despite being younger than me by a year or so, she was easily stomping my face into the ground. Within the first few minutes she’d already given me a black eye and a few sore ribs, while my punches, tailored to knock a human off their feet, did nothing more than get her angrier.

“Fortunately for me, a few seconds later it was over as both of us were grabbed, yanked in opposite directions by Spike. Spike looked at both of us with a disappointed glare and said, ‘You’re sisters – you’re not supposed to be fighting!’

“‘Yeah, well tell that to “Little Miss Will-Lift-Tail-for-Anypony!’ Minty snarled at me. As for me, I didn’t say anything, simply because I was processing the concept that I’d just lost my first fight. Minty took that as an admission of guilt and continued. ‘You know what? I was hoping to meet the older sister Mother told me about and so glowingly loved! But you’re not that pony, you’re a…human-loving tail-lifter who has no respect for our parents and anything that they ever gave you! So I hope when you go back to the human world, you never come back, Sandalwood! I hate you, do you hear me? I. HATE. YOU!

“Sweetie moved to my side immediately, chiding Minty. ‘Minty, I saw. You bucked first, and you should know better!’

“Rarity obviously moved to her daughter’s defense. ‘Sweetie, Minty was in the right! What Sandalwood did was inexcusable and—’

“‘What I did?’ I snarled, pushing my way out of Spike’s grasp to walk over to Rarity. ‘I didn’t do anything! You’re the one who’s trying to get me to get into some sort of shotgun wedding like I’m breeding stock to be farmed out to some thoroughbre—’ I never got to finish my sentence as Rarity slapped me, striking me right across an already hurting face. Shocked – my own parents never raised a hand against me – and already pushed beyond the point of caring, I returned the blow, this time remembering to put a little more muscle into it. I get the feeling Rarity’s never been hit before in her life, and even part of me today wishes someone had a camera out for when I shoryukened her ass.

“Finally Twilight stepped in. ‘Rarity, I think it’s for the best that you leave,’ she said softly, the heartbreak in her heart clear. Not only was she hoping that Rarity and I would somehow overcome our differences, but that the wound that had grown between her and Rarity would also be healed. They’d fought a few times, but always made up shortly thereafter – but not this time.

“‘Fine, Twilight. I’ll just take my daughter, and we’ll leave,’ Rarity responded, nursing her bruised jaw.’

“‘No, DJ’s staying here,’ Sweetie interjected. ‘Celestia said so and even you can’t disregard that.’

“‘I said “my daughter”, singular,’ Rarity responded angrily, then pointing right at me, she made her decision. ‘That…human…isn’t my daughter. Sandalwood…died years ago and whatever that is, it’s not mine.’ And with that, she and Minty departed, followed in short step by a somewhat perturbed Silversteel, who hadn’t said much. But in the end, the decision was made: I was my parents’ child, permanently and utterly. I had nothing to return here in Equestria and I had no desire to, anyway.

“The next morning, we said our goodbyes and hoped we’d see them again soon; nothing else was broached that morning, since the night before had still left everyone with bruised feelings. After that, we used the portal and returned to human Earth; the Equestriani embassy arranged for limos to get us from DC back out to Winchester.”

“That’s just incredible,” Nicole said as she leaned back in her chair. “You made it home only because of the princess’ intervention, and then Rarity’s rejection of you as you are. Did you ever think you’d lose the case and be stuck in Equestria?”

“I thought about it constantly. I think Sweetie Belle did as well; she tried at one point to teach me their culture, but gave up after realizing that after a life of walking on my feet, going Four Wheel Drive on a regular basis was going to be very hard – that, and no way was I getting naked in public, even if it was the norm. Twilight admitted that it was touch-and-go, and that Rarity’s testimony had done our side a lot of damage, enough so that Twilight was going to have to completely tear into her friend to bring us back on even footing. Thankfully, the princess made it all moot.”

“So you came back home. What happened after that?”

“It sounds funny, but everything got easy after that. I kept going to high school, and on my 16th birthday, I got my first car. I was touched when I found out that my parents and my aunts all chipped in and got me a 2027 Ford Mustang – yeah, I know, pony car for the pony. After dealing with the constant raw hatred that Minty showed me, dealing with Valerie was a cinch, and when she realized she meant nothing to me, she never bothered me again. In came 2030, and I graduated from high school, school valedictorian. Graduation meant a lot to me, because my parents and grandparents were there, but so were my Equestriani aunts – Twilight and Sweetie Belle came on behalf of the rest of them. Sweetie Belle told me that it took weeks for most of them to make up with each other, but it took nearly a year before Twilight and Rarity were on speaking terms again. There was something else as well, but she didn’t want to tell me; she did, however, mention that Princess Celestia invited me to come visit Equestria whenever I wanted.

“The next four years were different. We all went to different colleges: due to his legal status Carlos didn’t have the advantages the rest of us had, so he decided to stay local and went to Shenandoah U. Erica, however, remembered the years of pain I went through and went off to Tulane to study medicine; she decided to be a doctor of equiniatric medicine so I’d always have a doctor if needed. Mike got accepted to the Naval Academy, which put a strain on our relationship because of all the regulations placed on cadets; it also didn’t help that I went to my Dad’s family college, USC in LA, on the other side of the country. I lived with my grandparents for the first two years, then managed to get a place of my own.

“Those four years as an English major went by fast; probably because despite my looks I was never known as the Alien Girl; instead, because of my grades, I was known as the smart girl, and that made me a very popular gal with struggling students. As for my social life, I dated a few guys because I wanted to be sure that Mike was the one; he told me he went out with a couple of his fellow midshipmen as well. Well, dating other men was an eye opener for me: most weren’t my type; and the ones who were really interested creeped me out because they weren’t interested in me for my mind, if you get what I mean. But in the end, it always came down to keeping in touch with Mike, and knowing he was the one.

“In 2034 I graduated, and my family was there – oh, were they there. My parents, grandparents and all said how proud they were of me, but I think it was the others who came that mattered as much: Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo had come to apologize to both me and my parents. She told me that as punishment for what she did, both she and Scootaloo had been fired from the Wonderbolts, which is supposed to be some kind of Blue Angels elite flying squadron; both their dreams had been ended because of Rainbow’s actions. It made her think for a few years, and ultimately both pegasi stood there, just begging for forgiveness. By then, I’d had enough of the infighting, so I did the right thing and forgave. And I needed it, too: Mike had graduated from the Academy but he was going to be stationed in the Middle East, so he didn’t want to get married until he came back Stateside.

“Those were the longest four years of my life. It was worth it, though, because by this time Carl and Lila had long since accepted me and were even pushing for grandkids. Mom and Dad, however, were content to wait; they knew that it had been a long time for their children to come into their lives, and it would probably be the same for me and Mike. Meanwhile, Erica was now an intern at Johns Hopkins, and Carlos was studying law at Georgetown; he’d become legal thanks to the DREAM Act of 2029 and he was working to become a family attorney. I kinda felt guilty; both of my best friends were picking lives based on my experiences and I wanted them to be happy for their own sakes; they cheered me up when they both told me that my experiences had inspired them both to ensure no one would ever have to deal with the problems again.

“And then the following year, Mike came home from Bahrain on leave for a couple of weeks. We decided to go on a small vacation up to Boston just so we could have some ‘us time’ before he headed back. It was there, right on the USS Constitution, go figure, that he asked me to marry him, complete with an engagement ring.” She held up her left foreleg, revealing a golden bracelet with a diamond in the center, laughing softly as she added, “Okay, so the rings I wear don’t quite match up with what other girls get, but that’s not exactly a first for me. When we got back to Winchester, we told everyone and there were smiles from ear to ear. I also wrote my family back in Equestria; the next day I got a huge congratulations bouquet from everyone there. Sadly, things didn’t last forever, and Mike had to go back to Bahrain.

“But it gave me plenty of time to plan for the wedding, much to Mike’s chagrin. Mom, Lila and Erica had some ideas, and then they got the bright idea to get Pinkie involved – yup, yet another stupid mistake. Mom wanted a nice little affair at the church, Lila was looking at something at a winery in Purcellville, and Pinkie was planning this intergalactic extravaganza – there’s no other way to really put it – that probably would have broken both Canterlot’s and Washington’s budgets combined five times over. Somehow, they managed to combine their plans – I suspect Erica had something to do with that – and we eventually settled on getting married at the winery. Turned out it was a good thing, too, because we got far more visitors that I’d ever expected.

“The day of the wedding, I was doubly nervous: not only was this the biggest day of my life, but both sides of my family was coming, the humans from California and locally, and the ponies from Equestria. The night before the wedding, I had time to make up with Apple Bloom and the rest; Apple Bloom, in particular, seemed very wistful and sad, because in her own stubbornness to back up Rarity, she’d missed out on my entire life, something she said she deeply regretted. I just hugged them all and told them they were part of my life now and we could all make up for lost time eventually.”

Nicole, ever the journalist, caught the omission immediately. “I notice you left out Rarity and Silversteel and their children.”

DJ nodded. “Fluttershy told me about that. After Rarity’s comment, their family agreed to just completely write me out of their lives, as if I’d never existed. That was part of the reason why Twilight and Rarity didn’t speak to each other for a year; Twilight felt that was monstrous and inhumane – it was also the point when everyone else started coming around. As for me, it didn’t matter, just water under the bridge – they didn’t want to be in my life, and I had others who did. The only biological link I had was Sweetie Belle, and since she was a part of my life, that was all I needed.

“In any case, the wedding went off with a hitch. The reception? Even better. I got to find out what a Party Cannon is – it’s a magical cannon that fires a fully-catered party. Pinkie got things going, with both music and catering – even though she has a cutie mark, Pinkie seems to be an exception to the cutie mark rule, and no one can really explain that. But anyways, I got to spend time with everyone, and it was fun watching some of the humans dancing with ponies, a kind of symbol of my own life. Then when it was time to go on the honeymoon – we had a couple of weeks to spend in Jamaica before Mike had to report to his new station in San Diego. But in the meantime, it was two weeks of absolute heaven, complete with being stared at by the locals, and very much enjoying the gift Twilight had given us for our wedding.”

Nicole’s brows furrowed. “Do I even want to ask?” DJ’s words hinted that the gift was very intimate. Tsubasa, getting the hint, took that moment to grab the empty plates and step away from the table before she became mortified by whatever it was DJ was going to discuss with Nicole.

DJ giggled. “No, it’s not what you’re picturing…well, how my husband and I are intimate normally isn’t anyone’s business, really. And yes, we are, and that’s all I’m saying about that. But I’m willing to talk about Twilight’s gift to us. She had a predecessor thousands of years before, a unicorn named Star Swirl the Bearded, who created something called an ‘amniomorphic spell.’ It’s supposed to temporarily change one thing into another. But Twilight vastly improved the spell, so that it goes down to the genetic level, and then she ensorcelled a stone so that I could use my latent magic whenever I needed to activate it.” When Nicole looked confused again, DJ clarified. “Basically, I focus on the genderstone, and for six hours it turns me into a real human being.”

“Really?”

DJ nodded. “Yup. How do you think I got my kids?”

At that point, Nicole’s brain seemed to be broken. “Wait – they’re not adopted? They’re your kids…as in, you were pregnant for nine months?”

“Eleven months, actually – that’s one of the areas where I come closer to equine standards. But despite what everyone thinks, Stuart and Tyler aren’t adopted; when I became pregnant, the spell adapted my genes to human equivalents or some magic variant. That’s why Stuart has grayish-blue hair and Tyler has my purple eyes. Neither are unheard of in humans, but it’s proof they’re really my kids. The doctors even did a DNA test to see how it works; the kids have normal human chromosomes, but some of their genes match Mike’s and some match mine. Technically, they’re chimeras, but seeing as how that’s a little insulting, they’re regarded as human.”

“Giving birth must have been interesting.”

DJ gave a wistful smile. “Like you wouldn’t believe. Erica was present for both births and told me during my time in labor with Stuart, the doctor passed out from the sheer weirdness and a standby had to finish up the delivery. But I have my kids, and they don’t care that their mom looks a little different than the other mothers. Some kids, if the teachers are serious, tell me that other kids think I’m actually cool. Plus, I get along with many of the other parents, especially the ones that can understand my predicament. My next door neighbor, Karen, is in a wheelchair, so she understands what it’s like to be different.”

“One last question, if you don’t mind. You said the charm Twilight gave you turns you into a human for six hours at a time. Considering your life, and your preference to live amongst humans instead of ponies, if the spell was permanent, would you take it?” Tsubasa, having just returned at this moment, listened intently.

“Do you mean would I want to be human permanently?” Nicole nodded, and DJ sighed. “I…I can’t answer that. Yes, I identify with humans more than ponies, and there’s no doubt that my life would have been so much easier if I had fingers and toes and no tail. Even nowadays, I still get the occasional look, and I have to tell my kids to ignore it, that some people don’t understand and probably never will until enough people from the other Earth move here – and that may not happen until the day of my grandkids’ grandkids. So life would be easier as a human.” She paused before adding, “But if I was human, I wouldn’t be me. My parents wouldn’t have needed to fight for my education and maybe I wouldn’t have valued it as much. Maybe I would have grown stuck up and thus pushed away the man I’ve had there for my whole life. A lot more gates would have been open if I was just the average girl, but I never would have learned how to open them then.”

“I see.” Nicole shut off the camera drone and stood. “Well, I think we’re done now, DJ. Thanks for everything.” The two embraced, and Tsubasa bowed. “I’ll send you a copy of the segment once it’s edited, before we broadcast it.”

DJ nodded. “Thanks, Nicole. And it was nice meeting you too, Tsubasa-chan,” she added, bowing slightly to the pegasus. “Well, I’ve got to pick up the kids from Karen’s, so I’ll see you all later.” DJ picked up her purse and departed, briefly waving goodbye to everyone again as she headed to the JR station, headed for home and just another day in the life of an American wife living overseas.

Author's Note:

And here we go. The first chapter rewrite has been something I've been wanting to do for the longest time, and here we are. Now up next: a new second chapter from a different perspective, and then the rewrites of the rest of the chapters.

Thanks again all for sticking around.

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