• Published 15th Mar 2024
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Izzy Vs. Personal Space - Estee



The Second Age Of Unity is still coming up with historical firsts. For example, Izzy represents the only time when most of a city took out a restraining order.

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Mobile Discomfort Zone

It would have been unfair to say that Izzy spent the next two days in pretending that the problem didn't exist. She was very much aware that it existed: she just didn't know how bad it was truly going to be. Waiting for the fourth horseshoe to drop was one thing. Every signature collected on the restraining order's sign-up sheet added a certain amount of extra weight. And until the full roster of names was collected, all Izzy could truly do was wait to see just how much of the local terrain would be shaken by the final impact.

It occurred to her that the name 'earth pony' potentially implied the potential for magically shutting down any triggered tremors, but Sunny had shown her an X-ray and 'bones of stone' hadn't exactly worked out either.

She did need to have one major aspect of the verdict explained to her, because the judge had said the zone would be twenty-five hoofwidths. This presumably radiated from every protected pony, created a few inquires about having a sphere of effect, openly wondered whether little things like walls and floors got in the way because Izzy was fairly sure that some scenarios would leave her trying to scoot on barrel and belly across what was probably a really dirty basement -- and also, because this felt like a really important part, how large is a hoofwidth?

...oh. Well, they didn't use that in Bridlewood. And it was really silly way to measure anything, wasn't it? Because it wasn't as if pony hooves were standardized. Take Alphabittle. Twenty-five of his hoofwidths, expressed as a restraining order, might leave somepony across the street. Or pressed against the boardwalk's railing. And what if they were using Pipp as the basis of measurement? Because twenty-five of those probably wouldn't even clear her personal camera space. Or her wingspan. Possibly not even the longest part of her mane --

-- which was when the younger princess had stormed off to the upper levels in something of a huff.

Sunny had sighed, then gone to fetch the measuring tape.

Twenty-five hoofwidths turned out to be the sort of radius which kept Izzy far enough back to require raising her voice in any conversation. It utterly blocked the average hallway, formed invisible barriers against doors, and could tie up most of a bathroom all by itself: that last gave it a lot in common with Pipp. And it was more than sufficient for keeping a windblown mane out of nearly everypony's face: the 'nearly' was because it didn't protect Izzy's own features. She wasn't sure whether there was any point to taking out a restraining order against her own hair, and suspected the wind wouldn't respect it anyway.

Izzy was fairly good with spacial relationships -- on a small scale. She could instantly judge how much distance was required for safety on a pair of independent gear systems: trying to work out a similar factor for ponies was giving her some trouble. Zipp's offered solution was to cut a length of thick string to exactly twenty-five hoofwidths, then offer it to Izzy. All she had to do was use hornlight to stretch it out and if the far end didn't contact a pony, she wasn't violating the order.

She thanked the older princess, then went to her crafting supplies and cut off seven more strings to the same length. Ponies could potentially pass her from any direction, and there seemed to be a pretty good chance that at some point, she was going to wind up checking herself against low-flying pegasi.

Izzy had to make sure she would be complying with the restraining order. (She always did her best to never make the same mistake twice, and it mostly let her discover just how many errors were still waiting for their first shot.) After all, if she did a good job in following the restrictions, and just -- convinced everypony that she was improving -- it could be lifted. She wanted it to be lifted --

-- no, she needed that. Because the world was too strange -- but Sunny was the one who insisted that no matter where you went, even if there were feathers or a total lack of horns, ponies were still ponies. So if Izzy got close to ponies (although not quite as close any more), breathed them in while trying to work them out -- then that was her anchor. If she didn't have that, then she might start to drift.

The current always pushed inwards. That also meant it was pushing away.


She spent most of the waiting period in work. Posey's replacement counter needed to be finished. And besides, if she didn't interact with anypony in Maretime Bay outside the Brighthouse during the signup period, then she couldn't possibly cause offense.

...which also held true for going back to Bridlewood.

Hitch made a few calls on her behalf. Pickups and dropoffs were postponed accordingly. She occasionally heard dark muttering coming from the phone's speaker and tried not to think about it any more than all of the time.

When it came to the new counter... Izzy had managed to build in several well-concealed storage compartments, but didn't know if she wanted to try for any refrigeration aspects. Posey worked with dried petals more often than she used freshly-plucked, which meant the space requirements for cold storage were fairly minimal. When it came to the required technology for supporting a cool space... well, that was going to need a power supply, plus Izzy would need to hollow out most of the counter and then it would all just break again.

(There was a known magical solution. However, Izzy didn't know how to make inanimate objects talk, she wasn't sure whether an artificial voice would have the same effect and in any case, it was probably a bad thing to have a countertop whispering "Frosty shivers!" on continual loop.)

Izzy did like the way the design was coming out. (She was completely certain that Posey wouldn't, largely because she couldn't picture the florist admitting to liking anything.) Putting most of her crafting hours into the replacement meant it would be ready for delivery on the first day of the restraining order. Izzy intended to deliver it personally or rather, given the 'protective' radius, as personally as she could.

In theory, she'd also had the option to just pass the results over to Posey when the florist came to the Brighthouse during the signup's second day, but it just hadn't been ready yet.

It was rare to get Posey anywhere near the Brighthouse, because there was an actual beacon for the center of the world's changes and the main reason for the florist to get close would be if she'd come up with a reason for turning some part of it off. And Izzy never actually saw her: she'd heard a distinctive I'm Coming In Anyway sort of hoof knock all the way from her carpentry post in the backyard, then made sure not to enter the building until everything associated with it had departed.

She didn't see Posey. But the florist could speak in a way which allowed a significant fraction of what had once been a too-small world to hear her, and so Izzy found out why Posey had come around. Collecting signatures for the signup sheet. And as the mares of the Brighthouse had gone through the experience through living with Izzy, surely they would be interested...?

Pipp had sniffed, very loudly, and then flown away. Misty, who often had trouble dealing with any quantity of ponies which required a plural, had tentatively asked if there was any way to make most of the Bay give her some extra space: this had led to Pipp hurriedly swooping back and chasing the unicorn to the upper level.

Zipp had held back vocal rejection for what felt like far too long a time, and Izzy had tried to tell herself that it make sense. Zipp, if left completely to her own devices, would have freely attempted to explore the entire world. It was just that the older princess wanted the world's population to stay out of her way. Say, on the other side of a door. Or a wall. Approaching only by appointment and because it was Zipp, an appointment book would have been on the wrong side of 'optional'. But eventually, she said no.

Sunny's response had been the sort of low, back-of-the-throat demi-growl which made an argument for earth pony devolution all by itself, along with offering a rather strong suggestion for the florist to move on. And then a few stray sparks of light had come through the open back door, which suggested that many more were being emitted from forehead and flanks.

Posey left.

Shortly after sunset, Hitch came by the full list of names. This was initially delivered as a file which Izzy could put into her phone and after the fourth attempt to access it erased her Match-3 game collection again, he switched to a printout.

Izzy had looked at the results upon the kitchen table, and evaluated them in the only way she truly understood.

"It's too late for the countertop."

The fur along the light streak on Hitch's forehead creased. It probably wouldn't have helped much in a photo shoot.

"Huh?" the stallion finally voiced.

"Pressed paper," Izzy said. "You apply pressure to the used stuff. A lot of pressure. Maybe even a lot a lot. And there's a resin. The pressure compacts it, and the resin keeps everything together. And if you do it right, then the results can be as strong as stone. Some kinds, anyway." She examined the thick sheaf again. "It can make a good countertop. But just the top, because it's a lot harder to hollow out than wood. It's best for those things which are just going to be one solid piece."

"...oh," Hitch eventually responded. "We don't have that." Paused. "Bridlewood does?"

"Some older pieces. We stopped making it after the last comedy books were confiscated."

The stallion sighed.

"You don't have to memorize it, Izzy," he told her. "The judge understands that there's too many names to casually learn."

"I don't think I can learn the names of everypony in Maretime Bay," Izzy considered. "Not even uncasually. Is 'uncasually' a word?" Which emerged in tones of distraction, because she was trying to figure out whether she should be knocking the list onto the floor. It wasn't disregarding the contents: she just figured it was going to be dropped eventually and all things considered, the Brighthouse needed to know how bad the resulting tremor would be. Under controlled conditions.

That got another sigh out of him. "It's not that bad, and I think you know it. I took a rough count on the way up here. At most, it's a seventh of the population. And a lot of them are the usual suspects. The ones who still want the Second Age to end in the same way as the first. Some of the rest are going to be from peer pressure: going along with the local herd --"

"-- and some of them are ponies who didn't deal well with me getting really close," Izzy softly cut him off. "Isn't that sort of what you said?"

He didn't answer, not immediately. And when he finally did talk, the words weren't an answer at all.

"They'll be wearing badges," the sheriff informed her. "That's how you can tell. There's no penalty if you get too close to somepony who forgot their badge. Izzy, you've been cooped up in the Brighthouse for a few days, and I know your work has been piling up because I'm the one who had to keep telling your customers. The judge wants to see that you're improving, and the only way that happens is if you go out and interact. So take your cart around tomorrow. Pick things up, drop them off. Start catching up. And when you see a badge, respect the order's distance. Give that pony some personal space."

She still wasn't sure whether anypony could own space. If that was possible, then Izzy probably had very little to give.

But she had to try. There was an alternative to trying, and it was called 'Bridlewood'.

(Bridlewood had the benefit of offering familiar pain.)

"Okay."


You had to get up very early to be the first mare awake in the Brighthouse. Sunny occasionally seemed to be lightly in tune with the more celestial version, in part because she liked making breakfast for everypony and mostly due to the fact that given Sunny's cooking skills, she might still be cleaning up from dinner. Misty's hours were irregular, while Zipp sometimes wanted to look for evidence before anypony had the chance to step in it. And Pipp had been known to sleep through the opening of her own shop -- given what they had to deal with, Rocky and Jazz were really underpaid -- but if inspiration struck, then the smaller princess would stay awake until it had been fully recorded. And if she didn't keep her efforts confined to written sheet music, so would everypony else.

It was the first day of the restraining order, and Izzy had wanted to get a fast start. It had taken so long for her to get a replacement counter together (at no charge, but that was only fair), and that expenditure of hours had taken time away from other projects. Add that to everything she hadn't been able to pick up or drop off while she'd been effectively confined to the Brighthouse... well, she was well behind. The same thing had tended to happen when she'd been arrested on a 30-8, to the point where Bridlewood authorities had finally let her keep some crafting supplies in her cell.

There was one very big thing to get out of the way first: a pickup which had been delayed for several days, and Hitch had made the phone call which verified that it was okay for her to fetch it so early. It put Izzy outside the Brighthouse, checking on the condition of her scooter.

(She'd built it herself, starting from some barely-usable base parts. There were some electronics involved and that would usually come fairly close to being her bane, but the majority of that was just making sure the lights worked. Izzy, after spending several hours trying to get the cricks of an extended ride out of her spine, would usually wonder if there was something else she could have done with the seat.)

The power supply seemed fine. The fold-out drawers did just that. There was a bug on the minimal windshield, and she repeatedly asked it to leave. From a distance, because she was so much larger than the insect, probably intimidating, and she didn't need the judge to hear a very, very small claims case.

She taped a map of Maretime Bay to the interior of the windshield. (Pipp had initially tried telling her to use the turn-by-turn directions in the phone app, only to finally give up after Izzy asked for turn-by-turn instructions in doing so without locking into voicemail replays for six hours.) Checked her first destination: hornlight fetched a pencil, then drew a path and finished off with a small circle.

She'd checked the weather forecast before leaving the Brighthouse, making sure to keep the television's volume low. It was going to be an exceptionally warm day for spring: the nicest to date for the season. Some of the breezes coming off the sea might only freeze her halfway to the bone, and the salt in the air was strong.

The unicorn got on her scooter, started the engine and rode towards town through lightly-snoozing, almost completely empty streets.

She got eight blocks before realizing that she'd never asked what the restraining order badges looked like.


When viewed through the slow-motion replay of memory, this was the sequence of events: she knocked, the door started to open, and then Izzy came within a few hoofwidths of setting the Maretime Bay record for the standing backwards jump.

Somewhere between #2 and #3 in that sequence was when she got her answer about the badges.

The one which was on her customer's sternum was cheaply-printed paper, probably attached with a faint coating of adhesive: there hadn't been enough time to make much of anything else, especially in bulk. And it was easy to spot as a badge, because...

A lot of time had passed between the end of the First Age Of Unity and the start of the Second. (Nopony seemed to be sure about just how much time had been involved. Sunny's father hadn't been able to pin down an amount, and Opaline apparently really liked being asked that sort of question because it gave the alicorn something else to dismiss.) It had allowed for a certain degree of cultural drift. Traditions had twisted. Social mores became social more-or-lesses. Everypony still more or less spoke the same language, but some words had acquired new meanings while kicking away old ones.

But some things were still held in three-city common. Everypony celebrated the manifestation of a youngster's mark. Nightmare Night had the same name everywhere. And a red circle with an angry diagonal slash across the middle meant NO.

The slash was cutting across a rendition of Izzy's horn.

She could mostly tell that based on the colors. It was hard to make a quick sketch which got all of the grooves and patterns right. If an observer wasn't paying close attention to the hues, it could have meant any unicorn...

Izzy's startled body landed. Her brain caught up two heartbeats later, and sent her legs scrambling backwards. Twenty-five hoofwidths...

Her horn ignited. Light fetched a string, carefully unrolled it, and found she was just barely clear. Rerolled it.

Izzy exhaled. The lightly-trembling elder earth pony on the other side of the door just watched, and exhaled a little too loudly as the glowing string moved away from her face.

"I forgot you were due so early," her customer said.

Even after all the calls? Well, this was an old mare. Hopefully her memory was okay. "I'm really late, actually!" Izzy quickly said. "By a few days. So I wanted to be early now, to make sure there wasn't as much extra late being added on! Anyway, this is still a pickup, right? I'll just fetch the piece, load it up, and take it back with me." She helpfully tilted her head slightly to the right, because the earth pony's gaze was sliding in that general direction --

-- it kept moving. Skidding away from Izzy's features.

From my horn?

This was a customer. Somepony she couldn't have shaken up too much before this, or the elder wouldn't have hired her... right?

"...you -- still want me to fix it, right?" Izzy carefully said. "I know I'm late, but --"

"-- you can take it," the earth pony quickly said. "Yes. Take it with you and do the work at your home."

Which was probably going to mean the Brighthouse's backyard again. Izzy only went home when the entire group had to enter Bridlewood, or if there was nowhere else to search for the one part which she'd sworn had been packed two seasons ago. Most of what she did during those occasions was dusting.

I don't want to go home.

And she didn't know how she'd meant it.

A salt breeze blew past her snout. The sun shone down on the little tableau, and did so far too brightly. Strange birds sounded their calls.

Maybe her customer smelled more or less right. Provided something to which Izzy could anchor a single sense, in the name of having anything a little familiar. But she couldn't get that close.

"If you're sure," Izzy tried, and wondered if the words had come out of her mouth even more slowly than they'd assembled in her brain.

"Well," the elder carefully said, "I was talking to some ponies on the boardwalk and... some of what they --" stopped, quickly shook her head until the rough green mane was thoroughly disrupted. "-- but I did hire you, I suppose. And I didn't line up anypony else. So just take it with you. Then bring it back when you're done. And fetch it quickly. I wanted to go shopping today."

"Okay!" Izzy readily agreed, because picking up the item brought her that much closer to leaving.

To --

She carefully looked around. The shaded stoop was empty. Most of what occupied the fenced-off front yard was flowers, plus a small vegetable patch. (The front of the fence had a rock garden, which in Maretime Bay meant 'pleasingly-arranged colorful rocks'. Sunny had needed most of an hour to originally explain that one, and Izzy still wasn't sure the things weren't being grown.) Nothing had been shoved out to the curb.

"So where is it?" Izzy asked.

"...in my bedroom," the elder said.

A little too hopefully, "Are you going to bring it out?"

"It's a walnut amoire," the other mare darkly observed.

"And you're an earth pony! I know you're smaller than I am -- and honestly, how weird is that? -- but you're supposed to be a lot stronger! I'm sure that if you just got your head and forehooves into it --"

"-- then I'd just make the side cracking that much worse," her -- customer? -- informed her. "Carry it out. I'll supervise. Closely. To make sure you don't do any additional damage. That horn looks more than hard enough to gouge wood. As my new friends kept telling me the other day."

The part of Izzy's brain which had recently been forced to take cram classes in larger-scale spacial relationships peered out through her eyes. It looked past the earth pony, made a few measurements of the hallway, then factored in twenty-five hoofwidths in all directions.

"...how am I supposed to come inside?"

The older mare's gaze briefly moved to Izzy's face, and only stayed there for a moment before shifting to the horn.

"You have magic."

"It's not magic for walking through walls. Or making things come alive and having them walk through walls. I'm not sure I can do anything with walls. I tried. Walls don't really listen to me." Walls had a lot in common with ponies that way, although the wall was at least somewhat less likely to leave. "I can't --"

"-- just lift it."

"But --"

"-- make your horn glow," the elder stated, tones dripping with what probably wasn't heroic patience. It was the voice of somepony who was explaining how breathing worked, and doing so to a newborn's lungs. "Push the light past me. Down the hallway, turn left, send it up up the ramp, three doors --"

Almost frantic now, with her legs starting to prance in place. "-- it doesn't work that way! If I can't see something, or touch it...!"

Something in Izzy wanted to run. To sway, if nothing else was available. Channel turmoil into movement: the more of the second, then maybe the less of the first. But this was a customer --

-- a customer with a badge...

"You're sure."

"I'd know!"

The elder thought that over, and did so with visible doubt.

"Then..."


A lot of words had seen their meanings drift over the presumed-to-be-centuries.

The process of getting into an earth pony's home, when the owner insisted on staying close enough to supervise everything Izzy did while insisting that the unicorn obey the restraining order at all times, creating situations where one or the other kept having to duck into closets, bathrooms, there was a porch involved at one point and Izzy didn't want to ever discuss what happened on the ramp again for the rest of her life...

Then there was the armoire. It was sort of like a wardrobe, only it had decided to take out the usual portal to another world and fill in all the space with extra drawers. Plus a hang bar. And it was made of walnut wood, which wasn't the most dense material available from the tree family. That was buloke, and Izzy hadn't seen any near the Bay because when conditions weren't right for oak moss, then you probably weren't going to get the forest's strongest oak either. Walnut wasn't anywhere near that dense. It just felt as if it happened to be way ahead of whoever was in third place.

Izzy wasn't entirely sure as to how strong her hornlight was. She'd learned that she could lift a metal box large enough to contain her own body, because that was what the box had been doing at the time. But she was incapable of lifting herself by herself. Something she was standing on (or in), yes. But just trying to float her own body had the hornlight going backwards, and that just gave her a headache -- something very close to how she'd felt after moving the box around for most of a day.

The armoire outmassed Izzy. It also weighed more than unicorn and metal box combined. She could sort of get it floating just over the floor, but that made her feel as if somepony was very, very slowly lowering their hoof into her brain. And when she moved it, the drawers tried to rattle and slide, the doors threatened to open, wrapping the whole thing more tightly in glow seemed to help up until the moment the lowering hoof started to grind, and she could feel the elder's stare on her neck the whole time. Something which had spiked in intensity when Izzy had passed near the jewelry box.

Then she'd had to get the furniture out into the hallway. Still with the elder watching, still with the restraining order in play. (She kept deploying strings, checking the distance to make sure she was in compliance, and the elder recoiled from glow. The recoil didn't really help.) And she still didn't want to ever talk about the ramp again, right up until she had to deal with it on the way down. Only with extra armoire.

The migraine was well on its way to settling in by the time she finally reached the scooter again. Which gave her some room to work with because she was outside the house, and then provided a crash course in physics because when it came to subjective mass balance, trying to strap the armoire to the back was the full doctorate. This left her trying to levitate the furniture to the top and by the time that ended, the hoof had reached the bottom of her skull and was trying to jam the last coherent thoughts into her neck.

She slowly drove away from the house as her customer watched from the doorway, because 'slowly' was all the scooter could now manage. Listened to a rather strange, near-constant sound which was coming from the vehicle's underside. A pained second-guess questioned the wisdom of trying to balance anything on three wheels, then lay down next to what was left of a misfiring visual cortex and begged to take a nap.

Izzy forced herself to look up towards the Brighthouse.

Then she remembered that reaching the Brighthouse meant going up.

It was at that point when she identified the strained noises. It was the sound of the scooter's suspension giving out.

A lot of words had seen their meanings drift. Izzy was fairly sure that 'fiasco' was perfectly content with where it was.


She couldn't find Misty, and really wished she had. Misty, based on the scant times they'd all seen her using magic, was stronger than Izzy -- but still refused to be tested, continuing to say that anything under Opaline's power probably didn't even matter. For a unicorn with a splitting headache who had to get the armoire down again, it mattered a lot.

The furniture was deposited outside the Brighthouse's doors. Izzy added a note which said that she'd move it later, put in a postscript which just about begged Misty to move it for her first, and then went back inside. This allowed her to verify that Sunny and Pipp had left for work, Zipp was nowhere in sight, and the bathroom cabinet was completely out of headache medicine.

She loaded up the scooter again, adding on the completed pieces which had to be delivered. (It took three times longer than she'd expected, and her hornlight kept flickering in odd ways.) A test roll down the driveway found the undercarriage coming far too close to the road, but... it would take her at least a day to get everything fixed, and she'd lost enough time already.

Izzy slowly drove off towards her first dropoff point.

The air was warming up. (Warm salt didn't feel like much of an improvement.) The extraction of the armoire had taken so long as to allow the bulk of travelers to reach the streets. Ponies were out and about, with some heading for their workplaces, others were enjoying the trot, and that one had a badge --

-- her hornlight just barely managed to surround a string, flung it in the stallion's general direction to give her some idea of how much space she needed and when she surveyed the narrow shore town residential road ahead...

Maybe she would have been able to lift the scooter while she was riding it, if that had been the first thing she'd attempted that day. But there had been an armoire, with no chance to ask what an 'arm' was. She didn't have that kind of strength left. There was only one conclusion to be reached.

Izzy utilized her only option.


...so on the bright side, she hadn't broken the restraining order.

Also, the Maretime Bay tendency towards rock gardens meant that Izzy hadn't driven across any soil or plants. And rocks could be put back. She knew that, because she'd spent at least an hour in doing exactly that. This had been a rather mobile hour, as ponies had kept passing her in the street and because she couldn't always spot whether a badge was in play, she solved her potential problem preemptively by moving away from all of them.

Plus after she'd gone over all of those rocks, the scooter had pretty much stopped squeaking.

It was more of a grinding noise now.