World Tossed Wanderer

by Spect

First published

Eleanor Asher has been through all kinds of misery since being tossed between worlds Now she finds herself in a world she wants to stay in, but will she be able to? A Memverse AU story.

I was an ordinary college student. Until I picked up a magic artifact and found myself being thrown from world to world at the whim of forces beyond my understanding. Now I've been betrayed, turned into something no longer human, right before landing in the living room of a mare with a drinking problem. Equestria may end up being the most challenging world I've been to, because this time I want to do more than survive. I want to belong.

A Memverse AU story.

Prologue

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Change. It happens to everyone. It’s part of the laws of physics, from the equations that define entropy, to the chemical reactions going on in our bodies every day. We change, we grow up, we grow old, and we die. Our world changes around us and we change with it.

I had always thought the changes in my life were mapped out: Grow up, go to school, get a degree, get a job, meet a nice guy, and maybe have a family someday. Some of the changes I went through in middle school and high school threw some monkey wrenches into the neatly ordered plans for my life. Despite my parents wishes, I wasn’t interested in settling down with any guys, and that led to another change as I left the church never to return. I went from the brilliant daughter with a bright future to the daughter going through a phase that we don’t talk about in front of anyone.

However, I still went to college. The educational system cared little about my personal life as long as it didn’t interfere with my grades. It was there that the catalyst for some of the biggest changes in my life would cross my path.

I found what I thought was someone’s lost cellphone and I decided to take it to the campus' lost and found. I picked it up and noticed the oddly ornate design of it. A moment later some guy in an all white suit told me he was with something called the Paradox Control Office, and that I was in possession of an illegal artifact. A flash of light from his hand caused the world to fall away.

-Eleanor is banished from Earth-

Since that day I’ve been tossed from world to world by some incomprehensible force. The only constant is my old tablet which somehow has a weird new app I never installed, never needs to charge, and it always finds its way back to me before I get world-tossed again.

The funky cellphone that started this mess was taken from me in the first world I hit. Couple of guys named Wednesday and Low-Key said they’d help me with this mess. I woke up later with nothing but my tablet and a wretched hangover in a hotel room I hadn’t paid for with someone banging on the door. The world travelling effect hit, and me and part of the hotel room ended up in the middle of a North Valdemar winter.

That would likely have ended things right there. The bedsheet I had being hardly enough to protect more than my modesty and having been too far from the bed when I travelled to have a chance of getting the blanket. Thankfully, a Herald, who was gifted in foresight, gave me a cloak and got me to a waystation before I froze to death.

Since then I’ve been thrown through so many worlds I've lost track of them all. Met a few people I could trust, and spent a lot of time trying to survive the trouble I encountered.

I encountered gods.

I don't trust gods. Not in the sense of not believing in them: I've met too many since I've started being tossed from world to world, and I've learned through painful experience not to trust them. Not that this stops me from making the mistake of getting too close sometimes.

A large part of the problem I have with gods is that I am not native to these worlds. Gods have certain connections to their followers and that usually provides the natives of a world with some ability to tolerate their divine auras. I don't have this, so most powerful deity-class beings are able to reduce me to a quivering wreck just by being in the room with me. There's nothing I've encountered that is as horrifying as the feeling of a god's presence crushing my will. Sadly, this hasn't kept them from trying to use me as a disposable pawn in their games.

Gods play games with people. They war amongst themselves, and we mortals more often than not are the ones called on to do the dying. The world I've been stuck in for the last few years has taken things to new levels. Here the gods give out fragments of divine power to their chosen. Sounds great, except it means that you've got a few hundred god-powered people fighting over the world, and us vanilla mortals get screwed - in every sense of the word.

Unlike some other worlds I've been tossed to, I knew this one, or at least I knew of it. I'd run a game here for my roommate before my life went crazy. Unfortunately this meant I knew things about this world that those in power would have liked to have kept secret. In a world where people walk around with world altering power and have ways of knowing that their secrets have been compromised, knowing too much could have gotten me killed or worse.

Thankfully, I also knew who to look up, and what to tell them to get their help. Ultimately it meant deciding which deities I'd end up getting used by. The reasonably human friendly Incarna were a much safer bet than the demonic horrors of the Yozis. So I'd spent the time trying to save the world from the forces of evil. Which translates to trying not to think too hard about what I was doing, because I never wanted to save the world from the forces of evil. It would have been nice, sure, but it wasn't what I'd planned. To this day I still don't know how I survived half of what happened. I'm still not sure I survived the other half at all.

But all things come to an end, and in this world there was even a goddess making sure of that. I started feeling the stirrings that told me I was getting world-tossed again. Luna had told me that not even the Incarna could stop my travels as their power was tied to Creation and my travels went beyond that. I wasn't surprised. None of the gods I'd encountered would stop my travels, though few would openly admit they couldn't.

As the time approached I checked my things again before going to the place that Evelyn had prepared for my trip. When I get thrown between worlds, a small sphere of matter goes with me. The room we'd prepared had a clear space for me to stand, and all manner of arcane magitech to monitor the transit. The clear space meant that a minimum of extra matter would go with me, and hopefully the various monitoring devices wouldn't make the trip any more unpleasant than it usually was. I don't usually get to prepare for this, so the chance to do so was a nice change.

Feeling the shivers that come about a half hour before transit, I walked to the center of the room. Evelyn wasn't around, but I'm sure she was monitoring the room. With her Alchemical charms she could easily interact remotely with any machine not protected from such control. She had built in WiFi and could network her mind. Both very cool, and kind of unsettling all at once. But she had been a firm ally from the moment I contacted her and convinced her of my story.

"I'm going soon, best get the monitors ready" I said to the room. A low hum confirmed my suspicion that Evelyn had been listening in. I gripped the strap on my messenger bag and prepared to stand around doing nothing till the transit so that I wouldn't mess up whatever readings Evelyn was getting. It was then I heard the door open and felt Him.

Autocthon, god of craft, artifice, and invention. My mind reeled under the flood of ideas and concepts that His presence caused me. As He walked closer, I fell to my knees. I couldn't even turn to look at Him. Then suddenly the feeling stopped. I carefully stood up and turned to look at him. A brass humanoid, in the form of an old man with lines of magical metals running in circuitry-like patterns over his 'skin' and glowing crystals set in various ports. He walked with a limp, and coughed smoke every so often. It was strange to look directly at him like this. Up till now, I would find myself unable to look at any of the Incarna, or 'Greater Gods'.

"It Would Seem The Essence Limiter Works. Good. I Had Hoped To Meet You. Your Information Has Helped My Sisters And Myself Considerably. And Yet You Are Still Mortal," Autocthon said.

While I wasn't being crushed under the inspiration of His Divine Aura, his words were like small pieces of the aura tapping at my brain. I lowered my gaze.

"I am honored Great Maker." I told him.

"And A Great Honor And Experiment Shall Be Yours. You Are Outside The System Of Fate I Designed. Because Of This You Cannot Receive The Exaltations I Created For The Other Incarna. My Sister Luna Would Have Claimed You For Your Cunning Otherwise. However Your Skillful Use Of Tools Marks You As Mine. And I May Claim You Regardless Of Fate," he said pulling out a glowing jewel.

Oh crap. Given the two-thirds failure rate on Alchemical Exaltations, I had no desire to have one tried on me, particularly not an experimental model. I had to think fast.

"I am honored, but I am not worthy of such. And besides I will not be in this world much longer," I told the god quickly, trying to sound appropriately humble.

"Nonsense! I Have Chosen You, And You Are Mine. If You Still Travel After This, Then You Shall Carry My Design To Worlds Even I Cannot Go To," Autocthon said.

I had started to back away from the Machine God, but he turned off whatever was protecting me from his aura and I was stunned by the sudden rush of divine presence. I couldn't even think this close to Him, and I just stood there as He brought the jewel toward my forehead. The moment it made contact, a new sensation brushed aside the divine aura afflicting me. Pain. I could feel the jewel burrowing into my forehead, sending wires into my skin. I fell to the ground, clutching at the jewel, trying to pull it out.

You are Auspicious Harmonic Engineer
This Is Your Transformation And Ascension
You will carry my gift to new worlds
You will build, repair, create, and innovate
And the world around You shall change
And You shall be the architect of change
For You are Exalted.

I never wanted this, I'd tried so hard to keep these worlds from changing me so much that I can never go home. And with one action, taken while I was broken by His divine presence, Autocthon took that last piece of humanity from me.

I passed out and the world went away around me.

Chapter 1: Arrivals

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Chapter One: Arrivals
“It’s closing time Blitzen. Ya know the drill, ya don’t have to go home but ya can’t stay here.” The gruff stallion tending the bar said to the mare at the end of it.

“Alright, I hear you. Just gimme one for the road and I’ll be out of your mane,” Blitzen replied.

“Ya know I can’t do that,” said the bartender.

“Stupid bucking laws. A mare ought to be able to get drunk at any hour of the night," she said, pushing her glass and the empty salt bowl back across the bar.

“Ya say the same thing every night Blitz. Doesn’t change a thing.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m going. See you at the usual time tomorrow."

Blitzen took a moment to look at herself in the bar mirror. Her dark blue coat looked a bit ragged, her light blue mane more so. Her electric blue eyes were bloodshot and had a weary look to them.

Meh, good enough, not like I'm trying to pick anypony up at this hour anyway.

She walked out of the Salt Cove and onto the empty streets. As busy as the city could be, at 2 am, the only ones out were the guards and the few barflies like her that stayed till last call.

Despite her drunken state, she had no problem navigating the maze of streets in Fillydelphia, and soon she was near her home. Another turn and the duplex she lived in came into view. Blitzen squinted at the window to her living room, seeing a faint blue light coming from inside.

"The buck? Somepony burgling the place? Not like I've got anything worth stealing," she said to herself.

Cautiously she approached the front door, and with a quick kick from her forehoof, knocked it open.

Her jaw dropped open at the sight before her. A glowing blue pattern of gears and wires was emanating from a figure on her floor. Her living room floor had been changed to have a circle of some kind of blue crystal in the center of it, wiping out what had been there before.

Finally rid of that ugly rug. Pity about the coffee table though.

The figure on the floor tried to stand, and she saw that it clearly wasn't a pony. In fact she had just seen a picture of a similar form in the recent newspaper.

A human? But I thought they only lived in in Ponyville?

The human looked to be having trouble standing, and something was evidently happening to it, because as Blitzen stared she saw bits of wire and metal move on the human's skin. Then the human opened its eyes and Blitzen's world stopped.

There are moments in life that one knows will change everything. Blitzen had one when she woke up in the hospital after having part of a house collapse on her. Every night she tried with diminishing success to drink away the memory of that accident.

Now looking into the glowing eyes of the human in her living room, she knew somehow that this was another such moment, though she couldn't tell if the change to come would be for good or ill. All she knew is that whatever she decided to do would mark the rest of her life.

"H-help me," came the voice of the strange glowing human. Her voice (it was a her, she decided) had a weird mechanical tone to it.

Blitzen stood stunned, her salt addled brain trying to process everything going through it. The human fell to the floor unconscious and the glow subsided, though some of the wires in her skin still had a faint luminescence.

So here was the point of decision. She could just let this go, get someone to take the human to the hospital and wash her hooves of the matter. Nopony would blame her for not wanting to get involved. After all, she didn't know anything about humans. But that would just be running away from things again. Just like she had run away from her life after the accident. And she felt a sickening certainty that if she ran from this, she'd keep running from life until she found her grave.

Her mind made up, she turned away from the human.

"I'll get help, just stay there. I'll be right back," she told the unconscious human.

A moment later she was knocking on the other door of the duplex.

"Blitzen, do you have any idea what time it is? This better be important or by Celestia I don't know what I'll do," said the dark gray unicorn that answered the door.

"I know it's late, Nightingale, but I need your help," Blitzen pleaded.

Nightingale sighed, "What is it?"

"You'll have to see it. Come on." Blitzen turned to go.

Another exasperated sigh and Nightingale stepped out and followed Blitzen.

Once on her side of the duplex, Blitzen threw open the door and stepped aside, taking a look at Nightingale so she could relish the stunned expression on the unicorn’s face.

"Th-thats one of those Humans, like in the papers! But I thought they were a Ponyville thing?" Nightingale said after a few seconds of shock.

"That's what I thought too. But here she is. I just need your help getting her to the hospital. Something seems to be wrong with her, and I can't carry her by myself." Blitzen told her neighbor.

"Well, I'm always glad to help. As I've told you several times before," Nightingale replied with a pointed look at Blitzen.

"Yeah, I know, no need to bust my chops over it, let's just get my friend here to the hospital before she gets any worse," Blitzen grumbled as she picked up her saddlebags and put the items that appeared with the human into them.

Nightingale nodded and her horn lit with orange light. A similar hued light appeared around the human lifting her body from the crystalline floor.


Matthew Brennan paced back and forth in the hallway, "She's a Borg. We have to put her down before she wakes up. One bolt right between the eyes. Quick and painless.”

Alex Roberts grimaced "I agree, she sure looks like a Borg, or one on the way to that end. But, I have a rebuttal made up of three words: Seven Of Nine."

Matt stopped pacing and thought for a moment, "... okay, maybe. But do we want to take that chance?"

"If we're lucky, the Enterprise is someplace close. I mean the original series or Next Gen, not the last-" Alex started to say as Emerald gave them both an unamused look.

"Gentlemen, if you're both quite finished. And Matthew, I will assume you're jesting in poor taste. Now let me see," Emerald said as he looked over the medical records, "They call themselves doctors, this is scant and paltry information at best. Well, when you want the job done right, eh?" He continued to scan the chart, one note pad making written notes, the other drawing very detailed diagrams. "By Luna! Machines implanted into a body for purposes of maintaining and/or enhancing functioning!” He was wide eyed as he continued to read. “Hm... this is not good. It would seem none of the implants can be safely removed. They are quite integrated into her system, and not just physically."

"I noticed that too, the field of magic around her runs through those implants. In fact it seems to be what's making them grow through her like that." Trace added. "It looks like some kind of magitek, but it's beyond anything I'm familiar with."

"I think the main concern should be what state her mind is in. If she's still human, we've got to help her. If she isn't..." Alex let that thought trail off, with a look to Matt.

"Until she wakes up, the state of her mind is a moot point. But I do believe her metamorphosis is near completion, perhaps that will rouse her. I think it might be best if we had her things with us, give her something familiar to focus on. We do want to try to make her comfortable if we're expecting to find out anything. Waking up restrained and surrounded by strangers is likely going to alarm her." With that, Emerald turned to go to the room the human's things had been taken to.


The first thing I noticed was light behind my eyelids. The second thing I noticed by its absence. Over the years, I've collected a few injuries, and generally I feel them, small aches and pains, when I wake. But now they were gone. I felt better than I have in my life, and if it weren't for the memory of why that is I would have been happy. But I remembered all too well.

Deciding to get up, I turned my focus outward, and realized I was in a bed. And I had restraints on my arms and legs. And to make things more fun, someone has chained me to the bed. Wonderful... Given what I must have looked like, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, but the rapid beating of my heart, and the sudden chill down my spine reminded me how much I hated being restrained. I knew I had to stay calm, try to be reasonable...

"Get me out of this!" I screamed as I open my eyes.

Quickly I took in details of where I was. It seemed I was in a hospital room with three men. They didn't look like government types. Old guy looked like some kind of hard case, but something in his eyes told me if I didn't look like a Borg I might have been able to pull the innocent girl act and get him on my side. The next one was younger, near the age I was when I was first tossed from world to world. His bearing and high tech armor just screamed soldier, and I've no doubt he'd use that gun if he thought I was a threat. The third one reminded me a bit of the elves I met on Krynn, especially with that long hair. He was wearing a long dark coat and had a pointed hat resting on a chair near him. I’d bet some kind of mage. Which told me nothing about where I was. I just hoped that since they didn’t look like doctors meant that I wasn’t the guest of honor at a vivisection. In an idle moment I realized I was gathering these impressions and processing them faster than I could before. As if being chained to a bed with roomful of strangers wasn’t bad enough, I couldn’t trust my own brain.

"That'll depend on the answers to a few questions ma'am," the old guy said.

I let out a heavy sigh and prepared to resort to my old standby, snarkiness.

I feel my throat tingling as I open my larynx to sound as deep voiced as possible and with a bad Austrian accent I said "I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle."

I grinned inwardly at the look of shock, and pondered what seemed to be recognition on the faces of two of the men. Could they actually have recognized the line? I'd been to alternate versions of Earth, but there were usually major differences, especially in popular culture. Time to experiment.

I tried my best monotone. "You will be assimilated. Resistance is Futile." More of that recognition. Though not from the elf. Hardly a surprise I supposed.

I finished with an even deeper voice, which caused my throat to feel like something was changing inside it. "We are your salvation through destruction. You exist because we allow it, you will end because we demand it." That was weird, I could hear my voice making that weird layered voice effect that I remembered from the original source of that quote. I knew I was supposed to have nifty awesome powers now, but I had no idea how I was doing this.

"If you're done joking around?" growled the armored guy. Spoilsport.

"I figured you guys were expecting me to say something like that. Figured I shouldn't disappoint. Now get me out of these damned restraints. I hate being tied up," I snarled.

"In good time. We're not going to hurt you, but we do need to be sure you're not a threat to us or our friends," said the elf. That sounded reasonable, but I wasn’t interested in reason.

"Screw that. In the name of Luna, Incarna of the Moon, I invoke her blessing, and redeem her boon." It seemed a bit wasteful to use Luna's gift so soon on arriving in a new world after holding on to it for so long, but I was really starting to lose it being restrained like that.

From my wrist came a flash of silver light, and light started to move around the room, swirling into a multicolored pattern and forming into the semblance of a human child with green skin and pink hair. She wore a red and white dress, patent leather buckle shoes, and had pink antennae poking out of her hair. Her eyes glowed with soft bluish silver light. I felt the blood drain from my face at the sight of her.

-'Spect appears-

"'Spect? What the? Luna's gift was you!?" Incoherence my old friend, how've you been?

"Yep yep yep! Miss Luna said I was supposed to help you when you called, Aren't you happy to see me?" the childlike spirit said, bouncing with every other word like a manic pixie.

Now the guys in the room seemed disturbed. The armored one put his hand his hand on his gun, the old guy was fingering a knife handle, and the elf had a brow raised as though mildly surprised. Still at this point none of them were as dangerous as what I'd summoned.

"The last time I saw you, you were trying to crush me with a giant hammer!" I accused.

"Only because I ran out of marshmallows for the mallow cannon. And besides, you were trying to break into Miss Luna's facility without authorization," she replied innocently.

"I had authorization. I showed it to you. Twice. You said it looked good." In my defense, 'Spect scares the crap out of me, so three armed men in the room had become an afterthought.

"Looked good isn't the same as being good. Besides I said I was sorry. And Miss Luna said we're friends now, so shouldn't you let that little mistake go?" 'Spect said while trying to look like an angelic green cherub.

“Argh, whatever, just get me out of these restraints,” I demanded.

‘Spect reached behind herself and pulled out a running chainsaw.

“Not with that!” I cried in alarm.

She put the chainsaw back from wherever she got it from. “Want me to try some C-4?”

“No!” I shot a pleading look at the soldier. “I’ve changed my mind. Just shoot me, please.”

“I wouldn’t recommend that,” ‘Spect said as she reached behind herself again. “Miss Luna said if anyone tries to hurt you I’m supposed to eliminate them with extreme prejudice.” She pulled out a hammer more massive than her own childlike form. Along the side of the hammer's head the words ‘Extreme Prejudice’ were written in multicolored crayon.

The guy in the armor pulled out his gun and seemed to be trying to decide whether to point it at 'Spect or me.

I had to say something before somebody got squashed or shot. “Shining Lunar Aspect! Put that away right now. Look, just go find Luna and tell her what’s going on. She’ll get me out of this.”

‘Spect and her hammer vanished with a popping sound and I looked at my captors with a small sigh of relief. “That should keep her busy for a while since Luna’s in a different universe."

The three men look at each other, a small hint of worry evident. The younger man said, with trepidation, "You don't suppose..."

The older man answered with confidence, "Don't worry. The Princess is a grade A badass. She can take care of herself." A look of worry returned as soon as he faced away from the younger man.

"I suppose I'm stuck till she gets back, so... introductions? I'm Eleanor. Eleanor Asher, of Earth. Please don't kill me." Oh yes, this situation is going ever so well, now I'm begging for my life.

"We're not going to kill you. We're a bit more concerned about it being the other way around. From your little joke earlier, I gather you know what you look like," the old guy said.

"I know what Alchemical Exalted tend to look like, and I can see enough even with the blanket to tell I look like some kind of cyborg. I'm guessing I was still changing when I was brought here, which must have looked really bad. Look, I'm sorry, I just got betrayed by people I trusted, and had this done to me, and I let my mouth run away with me," I said sheepishly.

"It's ok ma'am, I've been known to let my mouth do the same. Now, you were wanting introductions. My name's Alex Roberts. I'm also known as one of Luna's Paladins of Redemption," Replied Alex. I was a bit confused. The Luna I knew had little interest in redemption. Maybe this world had a Luna too?

"I'm Matt," the soldier said gruffly as he holstered his gun.

"And I am Trace Reinhart. And perhaps we should start our questions with some more details about how you came by such... modifications?" the elf asked.

I let out a sigh. "Long story. Short version is, I started a damn war, then when time came for me to leave, my own side decided to stab me in the back and use me as a guinea pig. Lucky for me the thing worked. You'd have liked me a lot less if I turned into one of the biomech monstrosities that are the usual result of the process." I shuddered, remembering the one failed Alchemical I saw. I'd pray for a bullet if that were me.

“Thinking of my arrival here, there was someone, a woman dressed in blue with bright blue hair. I asked her for help. Is she ok? I wouldn’t want her to be in trouble because of me,” I said after a flash of memory.

“A woman?" Matt said looking puzzled for a moment. "Oh, yeah she’s just sleeping in the waiting room.”

“That’s good, I suppose. I just...” Why was I concerned about her? I mean I just saw a glimpse of her when I arrived, but she was somehow stuck in my mind.

Just then my train of thought derailed as the door opened, and in flew the most colorful thing I'd seen so far. And I realized what had been ticking at the back of my mind about the room, that even for a hospital room, it was too clean and bright. And now I knew why. This universe was one that echoed an animated program back home. I'd been in a few animated universes, and I recognized the look. Thankfully the new arrival at least reassured me this one wasn't one of the freaky ones with the tentacle monsters. Meanwhile I'd zoned out and my mouth took over again...

"Rainbow Dash!" I squeed.

"Are you bucking kidding me?" The rainbow maned pegasus asked, giving an annoyed look at Alex. "Has every human from your world watched that stupid creepy show?"

"Rainbow Dash," I repeated in a darker tone as a realization hit me. "Rainbow. Dash. Rain. Bow. Dash."

"Uh, is there something wrong with her? She's starting to creep me out," the pegasus said, backing away from me.

"Here I am, chained to a bed with three creeps interrogating me, and I'm thinking we're waiting for the chief torturer to come, or some doctor to vivisect me, and I've been in Equestria this whole damn time??" I snarled.

Chapter 2: Departures

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"You mean you guys didn't tell her where she was?" asked Rainbow Dash, sounding both amazed and a little exasperated.

"To be fair, she hasn't really given us a chance to," Trace pointed out.

I felt a bit sheepish. I was going a bit fast there. Still you'd think they could have told me. "Sorry about that, please refer back to prior comments about my mouth running away with me. I don't like being restrained. I'm trying very hard to be understanding about it since it's obvious you see me as a possible danger," I explained carefully.

And not without reason

What the hell was that? A voice in my head? So now I'm going crazy too? With that surprise it was a few seconds before I realized someone was talking to me.

I rewound my memory a bit. Alex had been thanking me for being so understanding. The sarcasm in his tone was almost light enough to miss.

I was about to unleash snark cannons when something else came into the room. My eyes were tingling like my throat had been earlier, and I heard a gasp from Matt. Part of me noted that the lighting in the room had developed a bluish tinge, and I figured out it had to be coming from my eyes, which explained Matt's reaction. The rest of me focussed on the new pony who entered the room.

The first thing I thought when I saw it was it looked like a ponified Xenomorph from the Aliens movies. I could see an overlay that looked like a fairly ordinary unicorn pony, but under that...

Despite what my memory stubbornly insists on telling me, I did not shriek like a B movie scream queen. It didn't happen. I don't care if everyone else remembers the screaming too, and my trying to go back through the wall behind the bed was a strategic maneuver to gain leverage.

The xenopony came all the way into the room, and I saw my bag and a few other items floating into the room with him held in a greenish glow similar to the glow from his horn. Another glow illuminated the door handle, and the door closed behind him. If my sight wasn't deceiving me, he seemed nearly as freaked out as I was.

"Wha-what in the nine hells is that?" I said in voice more high pitched than I'd have liked.

"What do you mean he's just a uni- oh crap, she can see through the illusion," Trace said, confirming for me that the layered image was the result of some kind of illusion.

"Doctor Emerald is a changeling and our dear friend. And I'd appreciate it if that didn't leave this room," Alex said, looking a bit perturbed at my reaction.

A changeling. That explained everything. Oh dear, I'd probably upset him, being able to see through their disguise does that, not to mention my poor reaction. I immediately relaxed and tried to speak in as refined a manner as I could. Changelings liked good manners, at least the ones I knew did.

"My deepest apologies for my outburst good sir. I was unaware the Gentry hunted these lands. I hope that I may offer amends with my oath.

“I swear upon my name and my title as Esquire of the Autumn Court, I shall keep thy confidence safe, and may I be stricken down by the wyrd if I fail in this, " I said after wracking my brain for the proper terms. It occurred to me that he may not be a changeling as I knew the term, but it seemed to fit what I could see. He seemed to calm down a little when I was done.

"Yes. Well, I'd like to examine you if you don't mind. It should be brief given how little I can do while you're chained like that, but I will want to perform a full examination when circumstances permit," said Doctor Emerald though he seemed a bit confused by my oath. I tried to figure out why he sounded so familiar but I couldn't place it.

"Certainly, doctor," I said cautiously.

He set down my bag near Alex and came closer. I made it as easy as I could manage for him to poke and prod where he needed.

"Very well, you seem alert and aware, your vitals are strong, and while I can't say I understand what is going on with your magic or the strange implants in your body, you seem well enough. However I don't have a baseline for a human female to compare your results to," Doctor Emerald said, stepping away from the bed.

"Can we move on with getting some answers? You mentioned starting a war, that the kinda thing you do often?" Matt asked impatiently.

It seemed that this was the day my mouth stopped running things by my brain because I answered, "Only every other week or so. Keeps me from getting bored."

Trace held a hand to his face and spoke in an irritated tone. "Ms. Asher, could you please knock off the games and just answer the question. All we want to do is help and all you're doing is making this process longer, and I thought you wanted out of the chains."

"Fine! I didn't want to start anything, but it was the only way I could see to survive. I knew things the people in power wanted kept quiet, and given that they were literal monsters in most cases, it was a matter of giving the information I had to people who could do something with it. The war just followed as a consequence. I didn't want it, I didn't want any of this. I just wanted to get through college and have a relatively normal life." I noticed I'd started crying during my rant but I was past caring. I'd been pushed to my breaking point a long time ago.

A quick glance showed uncomfortable expressions on every face in the room.

"Guys, different realities have different rules. You all know that. Where she was, those were the rules. If we forget that, we're all criminals and murderers by the local standards," commented Alex. Trace winced at Alex's words.

"I get it. I really do. I look like a sci-fi monster, here to crush all emotion and enslave everyone to the robot overlords. I read the books, watched the movies. The cyborg is the bad guy. You want to protect the ponies from me. But I can't stay chained to a bed forever," I said as I tried to calm down.

"No, but if I have to, having you chained down makes it faster and less painful to put you down... at least for you. I on the other hand will have to live with it," Matt growled.

"That's enough Matt," Alex said gently.

Whatever response I might have given was interrupted by 'Spect and a pony I recognized as Princess Luna teleporting into the room. There were two things about Luna I noticed immediately. First; she was much taller in person than I expected, though some of that may have been my perspective. Second; she had an aura that was at once similar to the Luna I knew, and yet ineffably different. And I wasn't feeling crushed or compelled as I had in prior encounters with such a presence. It wasn't that her presence was any less, but somehow I was insulated against it. Probably a benefit of my transformation, makes sense given I've got part of a god welded to my soul. Nice to have some benefits from being changed like this.

The reaction of the others was equally interesting. Doctor Emerald was nervous, ears flicking back on his illusion, before flicking forward again as he looked downward. Alex had gone rigid and dropped to his knees. Matt gave a terrified squeak before diving through the closed window. I winced. Well at least he had armor on most of his body, but as one who has experienced defenestration, I know broken glass can get everywhere. I gave his exit a 7.5, taking off points for his armor catching on the frame on the way out. Trace and Rainbow Dash seemed least affected, but Rainbow had taken a protective stance near Alex, giving him looks of concern. I may not know that much about pony body language, but I suspected I owed my old roommate five bucks. When I'd watched the cartoon I'd thought she was secretly gay, but it appeared she liked guys, or at least a certain human guy.

Huh, no accounting for taste.

After a moment Trace sighed and grabbed his hat off the chair behind him, "If you'll excuse me, I'll go make sure Matt doesn't hurt himself." He made quick bow to Luna and calmly walked out the door. I saw him a second later bolting by the window. Disturbingly for me, I wasn't facing the window when I saw him.

Rather than explore that new oddity, I looked at Luna, trying to avoid eye contact. "Hello your majesty. Please forgive me for not bowing, curtseying or whatever the protocol is. I seem to be a bit," chained to a goddamn bed, "immobile at the moment." Thank Cupyri for making me learn something of proper manners while I served in the Autumn Court. I at least had some idea of how to address royalty. Though I probably should have waited for her to speak first. And been a bit less of a smartass. At least unlike Queen Calyx she's not insane. I hoped.

"Indeed we would not expect thee to do so given thy current state. We've come at the urging of thy... slave to see thee for ourselves." The distaste she used for the word slave was like a neon sign. This was a test. At least I hoped so. If she had jumped to conclusions already, I was in deep trouble.

I chose my words carefully, "I don't own slaves. I had no part of her being bound to me as such, and were it within my power to release 'Spect from that, I most certainly would," I said, perhaps a bit more harshly than was wise Slavery is a sore spot for me, I had been under the lash before on a couple of worlds. And being tested by divine beings really gets old too. I was being honest though. I would never want 'Spect to be my slave. If I had my way I'd ship her back to the other Luna, by express mail.

"Well said. And if thou cannot release the moonbeam spirit from her bond, we most certainly can." She bent her head down and whispered something to 'Spect.

"Can I stay with Eleanor, Miss Luna?" 'Spect asked pleadingly.

"What?! No!," was my immediate response.

"Buh-but don't you like me Eleanor? I thought we were fuh-friends?" tears started to come from 'Spect's wide glowing eyes as she gave me a sorrowful look. Complete with quivering lip. Damn her, she knows how to get to me.

I looked to Luna for help, but she just glared back at me. I looked back to 'Spect. She terrified the life out of me on more than one occasion, but she has the most pathetic puppy dog look.

"I can't believe I'm saying this, but, fine. You can stay with me. Assuming I get to stay somewhere other than this bed." I told the weeping godling.

"Yay!" 'Spect shouted as she jumped onto the bed and vanished back into the moonsilver mark on my wrist that evidently held her sanctum.

"Somepony want to tell me what the hay that was?" Rainbow Dash asked.

I looked at Luna. She was... chuckling. And I had a sneaking suspicion that I'd been set up. I looked back to Rainbow Dash.

"She's a spirit, a minor god from the world I was on last," I explained.

"And as 'Spect has offered to stand surety for thee, we shall hold thee responsible for her good behaviour. However, we have taken the precaution of relieving her of her 'toys'. She is also enjoined against using her powers without thy permission. And for as long as she remains as she is, she will heed thy instructions. Thou art permitted thy freedom Eleanor Asher, and we welcome thee to Equestria." Luna's horn lit up with blue light as the chains were removed from the bed, and the restraints undone.

I sat up and rubbed my wrists. It felt good to be out of restraints. "Thank you, your highness."

"Call me Luna, Eleanor Asher. If my sister can set aside ceremony so frequently, I could hardly do less," Luna said, giving me a smile.

I noticed she'd dropped the royal we, and the archaic speech. Which meant she was talking that way before... Because I'd started out being formal and a smartass. And she played along with it... Well played Luna, well played.

"Thank you, Eleanor. Incidentally, what manner of god were you thinking would damn a hospital bed?" she asked with a wink.

Great, she can read minds. I hoped it was just thoughts directed to her, and not general mind reading. Mind reading gives me the willies.

"If the Bible was any indication Yahweh has damned stranger things," I told Luna.

"As pleasant as this is, I have things I must return to. Please remind 'Spect about the letter she needs to write to my sister." I raised an eyebrow but she declined to elaborate. "And if you wouldn't mind a suggestion, perhaps you should return with my Paladin to Ponyville. Having other humans around may help you to adapt to life in this world as you see how they've adapted." She turned to leave, then stopped. "Oh, and be forgiving of Alex. He has seen more cruelty than even you might imagine, and yet he still has a kind, forgiving heart."

There was a flash of moonlight and Luna was gone. I noticed that Alex managed to put himself between me and my bag the moment Luna left, and he was trying to casually shove it back to the corner of the room.

"If you're worried about weapons, there shouldn't be any in there, but I'll be happy to identify anything odd in there so you can be sure." I was feeling a lot better now that I was unchained. I was still sitting on the bed, no sense alarming anyone. I even held my tongue and didn't demand they kneel before their new robot overlord.

"Time enough for that later ma'am, " Alex said.

"Alright, but I want to get a look at myself. I need to see what Autocthon did to me, " I told him.

I moved my legs over the side of the bed. It felt so weird, they were these plainly mechanical things, but they felt like my old flesh and blood legs. I did feel more solid than before, confirmed by the clunking sound when I set my feet on the floor.

Alex turned his back on me while he rubbed the back of his neck. If I didn't know better, it looked like he was blushing. "Dash, could you give her a hoof? I'm not sure it would be totally appropriate for me."

"No worries, I get it. That human nudity thing, right?" Dash looked up at me, with a friendly smile. "Is there anything I can do for you, Eleanor?” She glanced at Alex, “Anything we can do?"

"I should be alright. Whatever I look like, this still feels like my natural body. Which is a level of weird I'm trying not to think about too hard," I replied.

Wrapping the bedsheet around myself, I walked to what looked like the door to a bathroom. Once inside I took off the sheet. I noticed Rainbow Dash looking but Alex was still facing away from me, thankfully. I faced the mirror and got a good look at myself.

To start with my skin was paler than it used to be, but also clearer. Every blemish was cleared away by my transformation. The scars from where that monster nearly took my face off were just gone, and good riddance. Softly glowing blue lines started from the sapphire gem embedded in my forehead. My eyes were clearly artificial, but at least I didn't seem to need my contacts anymore, as a quick check showed they were gone. Going down from there my body was more dramatically modified. My right arm had the blue tracery of the embedded wiring. My other limbs were fully mechanical in appearance with a deep blue glow coming from various points. The same went for my torso from the neck down, white metal with orange highlights, and some kind of black material covered me. Still I felt kind of naked since this all felt to me like my old body.

Well, except one thing, I'd never been particularly well endowed in the breast department. My change seemed to come with an upgrade to that area. I’d be certain about it If my chest weren't encased in metal, but it definitely felt and looked like I'd gone up a few sizes.

- Eleanor gets a good look at herself -

I bit my lip a bit as I continued looking over myself. It wasn't as bad as I'd feared but I was still severely changed. Even if I had the charm that would let me hide this and look normal again, this would be my true shape from now on. I felt myself getting ready to cry again and told myself to stop it.

Once I recovered my composure, I covered myself and stepped back into the main room. Doctor Emerald and Rainbow Dash had left, and given the look Alex was giving me, I figured he must have asked them to step outside so he could say something in private.

"Ma'am, I've got a feeling you've been jumping between worlds for a while," He started.

"About twenty seven years give or take. I couldn't always keep track."

He nodded, "I've been jumping a little over twice as long. And I've been here longer than Matt or Trace. So I'd like to give you some advice."

"Shouldn't I have to climb a mountain or something for that, O ancient and wise one?"

He chuckled a little. "At least what you've been through hasn't cost you your sense of humor. However, I'm being serious here. These are things that'll save you a lot of trouble. Would have saved me some trouble had I known.

“First thing is that you should be careful about what you say around ponies. They aren't used to the kind of violence that we grew up seeing in movies and on TV everyday. Or what you may have witnessed since you started jumping. The second thing is forget whatever you may remember from the show. This is a real world, and it's not the same. Names and such are usually right, but the rest is broad strokes at best and inaccurate to the point of being insulting at worst."

His face lost the smile and became very cold and scary. "Third thing is that you don't hurt anypony. I'll admit I don't know what you are, or what you can do, but if I find out that you've hurt somepony, I will not let it stand. Neither will Trace or Matt. Do we have an understanding?"

Part of my mind bristled at that, and I wanted to ask how dare he presume to threaten me. Fortunately the rest of my mind told me to shut up. "I think we do. I'd never want to hurt anyone anyhow. I didn't always have a choice in the matter, but I try not to get in those situations."

Alex nodded and gave me a hopeful, kindly smile. "So long as we understand each other."

The door opened and a new pony came in. It took a second to realize why she looked familiar; this was the woman I'd remembered from my arrival. Only now I realized my addled mind must have made me think she was human. Her coat was dark blue, her mane was a bright blue, and her eyes were the most vivid electric blue I'd ever seen. On her flank was a white lightning bolt. I realized I was staring and shook my head to clear it. Now I saw more clearly, she looked sorely in need of a brush, her mane was mess and her beautiful eyes were bloodshot. She also smelled of booze, and had grains of salt around her muzzle. I suppose if an alien dropped into my home, I'd need a drink too. Though I'd go for a shot of rum rather than a margarita.

"So you are awake," she said nervously. "How are you?"

"I'm fine, thanks to you." Not that I think I wouldn't have been fine, but she helped me as best she could.

I crouched down so she wouldn't have to look up at me. I noticed Alex had taken my bag out of the room.

"My name is Eleanor Asher. Pleased to meet you. Sorry about landing in your home," I said, holding out a hand.

She put a hoof in my hand, and it took a moment before I remembered we were supposed to be shaking hands.

"I'm Blitzen, and it's ok. Hated the rug anyway," she said looking no less nervous.

Why are we both so nervous? I feel like I did in high school with Beth. Heart racing, palms sweaty, mouth dry. This makes no sense. She's a pony and we don't even know each other, must just be nerves from everything that's happened. That has to be it.

My mind comforted by a rational explanation for my nerves, I tried to think of why she was nervous. The only reason I could come up with was a rather uncomfortable one. She was afraid of me. I was more alien than even the other humans. That made a painful kind of sense. I looked down at the ground so she wouldn't see my expression.

"It looks like I'll be going to Ponyville. Heh. I don't even know where I am now," I said after a moment.

"Fillydelphia," she said, her voice sounding like she was looking down at the floor too.

"Ah... So I guess I won't be seeing you again. At least for a while." I couldn't imagine why I felt like I was losing something important by leaving her behind.

"Actually, I was going to Ponyville. Um, I was wondering if you'd like to stay with me while you're there? I'd like us to be friends," she offered.

"That sounds great. I hadn't even thought about where I was going to stay. And I'd like us to be friends too. You're my first friend here." Given that the people and ponies I'd met so far have mostly been suspicious of me, it felt good to have an open offer of friendship. Even if she was scared of me.

I stood up. "I suppose I shouldn't keep everybody waiting. Time to check out and get the bill for this." Not that I had any way to pay for the hospital stay yet. I hoped they'd let me work it off or do a credit deal or something.

Blitzen nodded and relaxed, walking with me to the door. As she stepped in front of me I noticed two ridges on her back, behind her shoulders. Maybe some kind of congenital deformity? It was odd to think ponies might have such things, but as Alex said this was a real world even if it looked like a cartoon from Earth.

Anyhow, it was time to see more of this world outside a hospital room. I stepped beside Blitzen and opened the door, and Alex was in the hall with Rainbow Dash. Alex had my messenger bag slung over his shoulder. Rainbow shuddered a little as we came out of the room. Guess she's spooked by me too. I'll have to get used to that, I suppose. As long as ponies aren't running away at the sight of me I should be fine.

"Doctor Emerald is getting you signed out to his care. You should probably plan on getting regular checkups for a while. If you're feeling up to it, I'd like to catch the train today so we can be in Ponyville by this afternoon. After we find Trace and Matt, of course, " Alex told me.

"As long as I get out of here, I'm good. I'm not a fan of hospitals," I said as we walked toward the big door at the end of the hall.

Fortunately, we didn't have to hunt down Matt and Trace as they were waiting with Dr Emerald in the waiting area near the exit of the hospital. I could tell this would be fun, being the shortest in this group. Alex had about six inches on me, Matt was an inch or two taller, and Trace was a good foot taller than me. Still, with the ponies around, my height difference probably wouldn't be much of an issue.

When he saw me, Trace took off his long coat and held it out to me. "Here Miss Asher, this will serve better than a bedsheet. Besides, I'm sure the hospital would like their sheet back."

I gave him a grateful look and put on the coat, pulling the sheet out from under it. "Thank you. I'd have asked for my spare clothes from my bag, but they wouldn't fit any more."

"So we're letting the Borg girl walk around now? Guess Her Lunar Majesty said she was ok?" Matt asked.

"She did," Alex said simply.

"That is the second time you've referred to Miss Asher as 'Borg', I'm not familiar with the term. Is it something from your world? Does it explain why your initial reaction was to want to kill her?" Trace asked Matt.

"I confess to being curious about that myself. So far I haven't seen anything about Miss Eleanor that merits such an extreme reaction," Dr. Emerald added.

"Mind if I field this one? Being as I'm the borg in question?" I asked since I figured it was best to get this out of the way before everybody was calling me Borg Girl. Seeing no objection I continued to my explanation.

"Given that Matt and Alex likely come from the same world as I did, or one very close, they probably grew up with the same stories. When our technology reached a certain point we began thinking up scenarios where it turned against us," I started.

"One of the versions of this fear sprang from the idea that we might start replacing parts of ourselves with machines that operated more efficiently or otherwise in a fashion superior to the original parts. From there the idea was that having that kind of enhancement might make one less human, as their personality becomes more machine-like as more of the body was replaced. Or that some machine intelligence might take control of humans by making such modifications to them. A popular show had a race called the Borg, they'd replaced most of their bodies and their minds were a mechanized hive mind. And they took people of other races and converted them into more Borg," I continued.

"I don't look quite like they did, but I'm close enough that I see the concern," I added.

"As it is I know that I'll become less human as time goes by. Maybe four or five hundred years down the line. I'll be all efficient and logical. And I have to make sure when the time comes my goals are things that work with that mindset and won't harm anybody... anypony if I'm here that long, " I concluded, trying to keep my composure, and failing at the end.

After that we shared a somewhat somber walk through Fillydelphia to the train station. The city looked nice enough, though ponies seemed to vanish as we came down the street. The sunny sky was a contrast to my mood. I would have preferred a leaden overcast sky or even some rain. Nothing vanishes quite so well as tears in the rain.

Soon enough we were at the train station, the first stop on my way to Ponyville...

Chapter 3: Journeys

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As we boarded the train, Matt turned to me and said "By the way, the jury is still out on the subject of putting you down... Nothing personal but if it has to be done, I’ll be the one to live with it."

Alex quickly stood between us, placing his hand on Matt's chest. "We need to relax. She's just as hurt and lost as any of us-"

Matt shoved him into an empty seat. Dash was right there to catch the stumbling Alex, wings flared and an angry scowl directed at Matt, "Watch it! You almost hurt him."

Alex waved her away and spoke calmly, "Matt, calm yourself. You're better than this. Anyway, we both know it was just some stupid show. She's not one-"

Matt snarled, a slight tone of fear in his voice, "You don’t get it do you? You of all people should know there is a very real chance she’s practically a Borg. Who has to deal with that, huh? We both know you can barely stand the guilt of killing in combat. That leaves me to manage the risks, you’ll act too late and worse comes to worse I can take the both of us out."

I'd had enough of this crap. I stepped in front of him and glared up at him.

"Alright, let me explain why that's a very bad idea," I growled. "I'm not a Borg, no matter how I look. These parts aren't true technology.”

Matt muttered, "I’m pretty sure any engineer would beg to disagree."

Alex, still keeping that friendly little smile on me, whispered back to Matt, "Shut up, kid."

I kept my eyes on Matt, "Autocthon, the god of invention and machines, made me this way. What I am is an Alchemical Exalted. I've had a piece of Autocthon's divine soul grafted to my own." I held up my mechanical left hand. "This is my hand, changed into an expression of that soul. If you killed me, the divine soul shard in me would seek a new champion. Given the selection criteria, bets are, it'd be you. And these things have a high failure rate.”

"Failures get turned into monsters that run around trying to eat magic and anyone that uses it. They're hard to stop and harder to kill. And all that happens when you kill one is the Exaltation goes looking for another host to try again. So if you really want to start an endless cycle of death and misery, go right ahead. Shoot me and see what happens," I said, trying to keep up a brave front. Inwardly I was worried that he might take me up on that.

"Since I doubt there are many humans around for the Exaltation to use as potential hosts, how soon do you think it would be before it was trying to bond with a pony? It was designed for human hosts. It's entirely possible it would kill a pony, which means even more death and misery until it found a suitable host.” I shuddered at the thought, imagining that horror unleashed on innocent cartoon characters.

I calmed myself a bit before continuing, "and before you think it, you can't destroy an Exaltation. They've proven indestructible over thousands of years in a world filled with beings of all kinds that seem to have nothing better to do than find new ways to destroy things."

"I get that you don't trust me. I wouldn't trust me. But right now the burden of this is all mine. I just have to survive until I'm thrown to another world. And try to become a better person than I have ever been before. Or hope I land in a world that is ready to welcome their new robot overlord," I finished, looking at my hands, one metal, one flesh, both changed.

"I watched what was happening, stuff like that. Honestly I almost put a bullet in you to end the torment," Matt replied.

Before I could comment, Dash called out from beside Alex, “Oh, I bet you would. Is that what you do? Think about ways of killing us all?”

Matt, glared at her, “Last time I didn’t plan on my allies turning on me it got someone I loved like a sister killed and almost got my leg blown off me. I don’t like the idea of killing anyone more than you like the idea of dying, but I can do it anytime, every time and without hesitation.”

Dash hovered up to him, nose to nose, “So? What about me? Any plans to take out the awesome Rainbow Dash?”

Matt shoved his nose into hers, “Only if I dealt with Alex first.”

Dash grinned, “Don't get your hopes up. I don't think you're his type.”

Matt opened his mouth and raised a finger to reply. In the end he settled for a smirk.

Alex’s very calm, kind smile never changed. I was fairly sure he had seen this before. Maybe… maybe they really are friends, and maybe they really want to help me. Maybe.

I took a deep breath and faced Matt, "Thank you for that. For being willing to do what might have been necessary. Really. I'm glad you didn't have to, but if I had become one of those monsters I mentioned, it would have been a mercy. I know you're worried about what I could do, but I don't even know what charms I have installed or how to use them. I'd just like to move on from the topic of what a threat I am. There's nothing I can do right now to prove I'm not dangerous," I told him.

Then he smiled at me, the sudden switch in demeanor left me a little concerned for his sanity. Did he just flip a switch in his mind to go from nice guy to someone willing to kill in cold blood?

Hypocrite. All concerned with another’s propensity for violence and mayhem with no thought of your own.

And again with the voice in my head. I was starting to get creeped out by it. Whatever it was seemed to have some kind of idea that I was a monster or something. I’d have to worry about it later when I had some time to myself.

"I for one would rather we stopped talking about killing my patient," Doctor Emerald interjected.

"I have to agree with Emerald. I believe now is as good a time as any to take a look at Miss Asher's bag," Trace commented before turning back to me. "If that is okay with you."

"Much as I'd like to get my stuff back, I'd rather find out more about you guys," I said as I turned toward Emerald. "Like you, Doctor Emerald, all I know is that you're a doctor... and the other business we're not talking about." Much as I wanted to ask about the Changeling thing, Blitzen wasn't in the room when I found out so she may not know. And I wasn't about to risk my oath. Fate or what they called 'The Wyrd' had a way of punishing those who broke an oath to a Changeling. And besides, oathbreaking is just a bad idea.

"Not that much to tell really, you've covered the basics and I left my curriculum vitae in Ponyville. As for the other topic, I will want to discuss that with you when you come in for your complete exam," Emerald said.

"Alright," I said as I looked up at Trace. "So what's your deal other than being tall and having a really comfortable coat?"

"I'm a half-elf, thirty four years old, and former Archmage of a group of magic users know as the Black Circle. I came here after Twilight accidentally got dragged into my world. I came back with her because I had fallen in love with her, I've been living here since the start of last winter. I could go into more detail about my life some other time if you'd like to know more, but I think that should do for now." Trace said, proving rather more forthcoming than I'd expected.

I looked over to Alex, but he'd already told me about himself, at least as much as I thought he'd be comfortable sharing at the moment. And I wasn't going to ask Matt anything. I was getting a bit annoyed with his attitude, and I didn't see the need to subject myself to more of it.

We sat down, and it looked like we had the car to ourselves. It was a fairly cozy looking train car, padded seats and all, even if they were a bit low for humans. Still it was a nice train and I was looking forward to a comfortable trip, other than the conversations.

"So how many other humans, elves, etcetera, are living in Ponyville?" I asked. I was expecting to hear that there was a small population, given that the town wasn't that large from what I remembered.

"Just the three of us, and you now," Alex said.

"So I rate a welcome from the entire human population on this world? Wow, if I'd known I was getting that kind of reception I'd have dressed up." I said surprised to hear that there were so few of us. I knew reality travelers were not common, but I'd have thought that there'd be more than just four of us in a world as pleasant in appearance as this one.

Alex sighed and held up my bag, "Moving on. Is there anything we should worry about with this bag Ma'am?"

"Only unusual thing about my bag is that the stuff in it doesn't show on scans for magic." I was hoping that being open about the bag's one secret might get me a little trust. It wasn't as if I had any weapons in there.

Alex opened the bag. My spare clothes were at the top. Nothing fancy, just a t-shirt and shorts. There was no way I could get the shorts over my new legs, and the shirt was too small for the changes to my chest. He set my clothes on the seat next to him.

Next came a compact, hairbrush, and a tube of lip gloss. I'm not a big fan of makeup, but sometimes you need a little extra something. But it'd take a lot of concealer to hide glowing wiring under my skin. Those went on top of the clothes.

Then he pulled out my tablet. Simple looking thing, not one of the big fancy models, but it runs. "That's my tablet, it's all I have left from Earth. Other than always coming back to me, and the weird fortune app on it, it's fairly standard for its kind. I suppose never needing to charge is also kinda weird, but it's still just a tablet."

I held out a hand for the tablet, but Alex just set it on the pile next to him. "Maybe later Ma'am."

I was getting heartily tired of being called 'Ma'am' when he pulled out the zippered pouch with my 'monthly supplies'. So I decided to be a smart aleck again, "Careful with that. Handle it wrong and it could go off with enough force to level a city block." Cue the shocked looks from everyone and everypony in the train car. "That was a joke, it's just garbage. You can throw it out, I won't be needing it anymore."

Trace spoke up, "hmm... I don't recall casting thunder." I looked and he was holding a ball of lightning in his hand. It dissipated a moment later and I decided to keep any other jokes to myself for now. I didn't know if I could take a lightning blast, but now was not the time to find out. I didn't think he'd hurt me, but he might have a taser setting for that spell and being tazed is no fun.

I spotted Blitzen with a panicked look on her face, and felt rotten about my little comment. I really did need to work on not mouthing off every time I get annoyed with something.

Glaring at me, Alex unzipped the pouch and looked inside. He gave me another look and then tossed it onto the pile without comment.

Then he pulled out something I hadn't expected. A ring of iridescent starmetal about a foot in diameter, with a ring of crystal set in the outer edge, and various etched circuits in the body. I gasped in wonder as I looked at it. "He actually made it... Autocthon used my design for an improved gyroscopic chakram. And it's made of Starmetal. I can't believe he did that... It was just an idle design I'd made."

"So what is it exactly, and what is Starmetal? I can see the same kind of metal on you and other than the odd reflections off it I'm not sure I see what's special about it," Alex said.

I decided to answer the second question first. "Starmetal is a magical metal for manipulating and working with fate. It's made from the bodies of dead gods. It's my primary magical material, and determines what kind of Alchemical Exalted I am. And the chakram is an artifact weapon that Alchemicals use. At least those who aren't into guns. And I'm not."

I waited while that sunk in. Evidently one of my visual enhancements allowed me to see in all directions, like having eyes in the back of my head... I really hoped that wasn't literal. So I had a good view of everyone and everypony.

Alex just raised an eyebrow. Matt snorted like he didn't believe me. Trace didn't even seem surprised, but if he was a mage he might have had some idea of what the metal was. Rainbow Dash looked horrified, and then she paused to think and looked even more horrified. Blitzen and Emerald seemed a bit uncomfortable.

"You mean gods like that 'Spect child? You're made out of them?" Rainbow Dash asked in a shocked tone.

I turned to face her. "Yes. And that has occurred to me. It's not something I had any choice in, though. At least it's not Soulsteel. And Incarna like Autocthon can make Starmetal from divine energy, so what I have may never have been sentient." Rainbow Dash didn't seem particularly comforted, but she looked less horrified.

I turned back to Alex, "because the chakram is made of Starmetal, I never have to worry about it hitting anyone I don't explicitly intend it to. Fate keeps it from hurting anything but its target. If it works like I planned, it'll be a sight to see. Unlike other designs, this doesn't use metal blades. Instead, it generates a ring of plasma energy as a cutting edge. The plasma also provides lift, propulsion, and control. Not as clumsy or random as a gun and better range than a beamklaive." I was getting a bit excited. I never thought I'd actually see the design made, much less have one of my own. As a human it would have been useless for me to have one. But now I could actually attune an artifact.

"So it's a weapon then," Alex asked pointedly.

"It can be. But you'd have to be an Exalted to use it, at least as something more than a blunt object or slightly heavy frisbee. I won't even be able to use it until I can attune to it. Ooh, it's going to need a name. Artifact weapons have to have names. I'll call it... Zippy. Zippy the wonder disc!" I said cheerfully.

Alex blinked at me, Matt unsuccessfully fought a grin and Trace facepalmed.

"Why?" Trace asked with a hint of resignation to his tone.

"One reason is, if I ever figure out how to use my powers, sooner or later I'll end up on some world where some idiot will get the idea in their head to worship me. If that happens I want to make sure such worship will be as absurd as possible. The other reason, I like the idea of calling a weapon something silly," I explained.

"Well, we'll hold onto this for now Ma'am. Ponyville's a fairly peaceful place, you shouldn't need it." Alex told me. The others looked at him as though he'd told a bold faced lie.

Next came a simple metal box. It seemed to be sealed by some odd shaped screws, and there was a logo of a gear on the front. I shrugged, it didn't look familiar to me, then my glasses in their case. Alex held them toward me but I held up a hand to indicate I didn't need them. He pulled out my scrollcase, looked inside, closed it and set it down too.

The last thing to come from my bag was a golden ring with a comet and L logo on the front. "This looks familiar... Have you been to the DC universe? Maybe around the 30th century?" Alex asked as he looked at the ring.

"Yeah, ran into some bozo named Booster Gold, his robot Skeets said I wasn't from the 52, whatever that is. I told them my story and found out he knew something about time travel. Skeets thought maybe going to a different time might stop whatever keeps tossing me from universe to universe. So Booster got me in touch with some friends of his and I got a trip to the 30th century," I explained.

I sighed. "The annoying thing was I didn't get to meet any of the people I'd wanted to."

"Like who? Superman?" Alex asked.

"Got to meet him, and he’s really cool to meet in person, but I was hoping to find The Spectre. Or John Constantine," I said.

Alex looked at the ponies evidently making sure they were out of earshot and dropped his voice to a harsh whisper, “Ok, I hate to ask this, but... Do you have a death wish or something? Because I think we should find out now. From what I remember the Spectre was all about killing people in bizarre and gruesome ways. And John Constantine had a bad problem with getting everyone around him killed and just walking away from it."

“No, I don’t have a death wish. The Spectre was the literal Wrath of God last time I read one of his comics. If he could make contact with the Almighty, maybe I could be sent home. Or at least ask why this was happening to me. Besides, the Spectre only went after murderers, and I’ve never killed anyone.” I told him in a similarly harsh whisper.

Are you sure about that?

Screw you, voice in my head. Great, now I was talking back to the voice.

Putting the freaky voice out of my thoughts I continued. “And as for Constantine, if anyone was likely to know some hidden way back to my Earth, I figured it’d be him.”

"Sounds like an interesting pair," Trace muttered absently.

“So anyhow, I got sent to the 30th century. The Legion were great, Brainiac 5 did everything he could to try to find some way I could go home or at least stop getting thrown from world to world. Didn’t work out, but I got the nifty ring.”

While I was explaining this, Rainbow Dash tried to talk to Blitzen.

"Hey Blitzen, what made you decide to come back with us?" Rainbow Dash asked, evidently trying to be quiet about it, but I could hear her clearly.

"I've got my reasons," was Blitzen's reply.

"Yeah, but are you going to be ok going back to where... you know... 'That' happened?" Rainbow Dash asked.

"I'll be fine. I've gotta do this sometime. Now's as good a time as any. Can't run away forever. Besides, Miss Eleanor Asher is going to Ponyville," replied Blitzen.

I was a bit stunned when I overheard that. This mare just met me and she was uprooting her life and following me to Ponyville. And from the sound of things she had reasons to not want to go there. Was she feeling the same weirdness I did whenever I thought about her? What was going on?

Part of what was going on was that I'd zoned out on Alex. He was holding the ring and it looked like he'd asked me something. "Sorry about that, my brain's trying to keep up with everything. You'd think I'd be used to this kinda thing by now."

"I was just asking if you were serious that this is one of their flight rings," Alex said.

"It is. Made of some funky supermetal that responds to thought and makes you able to fly by will alone. I try not to cringe whenever I think of how many laws of physics it violates." I explain.

Blitzen walked over to us and Rainbow Dash flew over to land near Alex. It looked like she wanted a closer look at the ring.

"So that little ring can make you fly? Just by thinking about it? Can I try it?" Rainbow Dash asked.

I looked at Alex and nodded. He handed the ring to Rainbow Dash. Rainbow looked at the ring and grunted, staggering. She dropped the ring and flew back up and away from it hovering at the top of the car.

"Sorry, but I think it's broken. It felt like I was suddenly carrying a big weight." She said, not coming down.

Alex picked it up and hovered a foot above his seat. "Seems to work fine, maybe some kind of interference with magic?"

"That could well be, perhaps it nullified Miss Dash's natural magic... That would explain the sudden feeling of weight," Emerald replied thoughtfully.

I saw a disappointed look on Blitzen's face. Concerned I put a hand on her shoulder. She stiffened for a second and then relaxed, leaning towards me a bit.

"Still, it can make Alex fly..." Rainbow Dash trailed off. "Do you mind if we borrow it for a while when we get back to Ponyville? I want to... show Alex some cloud stuff."

"Really, you can have it. I'm not going to need it here, and I haven't used it in years." And somehow, though I wasn't sure why, I knew that it wouldn't be right for me to use the ring. Maybe it was something to do with the look of disappointment I saw on Blitzen's face.

"Ok, now you've seen everything I've got. Can I please use my tablet? It kinda gives me a fortune whenever I get to a new world. Usually cryptic as all hell, but always accurate. I'd like to get some idea of what I can look forward to." I asked Alex.

"I suppose it should be ok," he replied handing over the tablet.

I turned it on and found the Fortune app. Tapping it once, I waited while swirling colors filled the screen. Finally letters started to form.

You will die here. Your lucky number is 13. Your lucky color is blue.

Well, that was fairly direct, and also rather disturbing. I tried to control my reaction but I must have looked rather upset because Blitzen poked her head over my arm and looked at the screen, turning a look of horror toward me.

"Don't worry, it's not always accurate. At least not always literal. I'm not worried." I told her. Inwardly though I was having a small panic attack. Still I had to say something to salvage this or they'd all be looking at me like I was going to drop dead at any moment.

"Thankfully if it's being direct like this that usually means it doesn't mean what it appears to. Stupid thing is big on Jedi truths." I said as I showed the tablet to Alex, Matt, and Trace. Again with the raising of eyebrows.

“Not all Jedi embraced the whole ‘from a certain point of view’ bullshit. Ayren hated it.” Matts eyes seemed to lose some life when he said that.

"Well, I can think of at least one way it could be accurate without being entirely direct," Alex said after a moment. "If your next jump is far enough out in years, it could refer to old age."

"Or something, given that I shouldn't be subject to old age. Though if the whole automatic understanding of my powers isn't working that may be broken too. Maybe it just means I'll never get tossed to another world." I said after some thought. "Huh, if that's true, then I've finally gotten what I've been wishing for since this started. A chance at having a life instead of killing time and trying to survive until I got thrown to the next world."

"You've landed in a good place for that. I know I was just surviving from jump to jump until I came here," said Alex. Rainbow Dash landed next to him and leaned against him with a smile on her face.

I nodded. "Well if you don't mind putting my stuff back in my bag, you can hang onto the chakram and anything else you don't trust me with, but I'd like my things back."

Alex put my stuff back in the bag. He considered the odd box for a moment and then put it in the bag with the rest of my things.

"Thank you." I said as I took the bag.

"I'm going to try something so I can maybe wear my own clothes. Don't be alarmed if I start to glow or change shape. I should be able to banish my Exaltation to Elsewhere, so I can be human for a while. At least if I can figure out the trick to it." I told the group.

I closed my eyes and tried concentrating on various commands to try make things happen. Getting no result, I tried visualizing the robotic changes reversing themselves and the machine parts going away. Seeing my body shift and reshape, metal becoming flesh. Given the gasps I heard, it seemed to be working though I didn't really feel that different. And then I felt it, a sense of lessening. I was stepping back to a nearly mortal form, and I could feel the difference.

How could I have been crazy enough to try to provoke the guy who had a gun? I was so lucky that Matt hadn't decided to shoot me. And then there was Trace's magic and that knife Alex had. I suddenly realized I was very alone, and very vulnerable with three armed men in a train car. I think if it hadn't been for the ponies I might have lost myself to panic right then. Instead I took several deep breaths to calm myself as I felt Trace's coat settle over my changed frame.

"So... that worked." I pulled my shorts and shirt out of my bag. "Nobody peek." I went over to a corner and awkwardly got my clothes on without dropping the coat. Thankfully I was fully human again, no funky wires in my skin, no soul gem stuck into my forehead. The moonsilver rivets on my left wrist had changed back to the bracelet that Luna had given me. Confirming my earlier suspicions the shirt was rather tight across my chest. Still, I could deal with that. The shorts also seemed to have to deal with some different curves than I was used to having. Once I had those on, I pulled out my glasses and put them on. Apparently 20/20 vision was part of the upgrade package, so I'd need the glasses to see anything more than blurs if I were going to be human. I touched my face to confirm that my scars were still gone and found the same flawless features I had seen in the mirror at the hospital.

El in her human form

I walked back to the middle of the train car, holding the coat out to Trace. "Thanks for the coat Mr. Reinhart," I said. "And I'm sorry for being such a smart aleck earlier. I really don't know why I was acting that way."

"It's alright, I'm sure you're dealing with a lot right now Miss Asher." Trace replied.

"Just a bit." I admitted.

"I must say, that is a remarkable transformation! Are you biologically human now? What happened to the implants you had?" Doctor Emerald asked excitedly.

"If it worked right, I am human now. Except for the no aging thing, faster healing, and I probably can't get sick unless a disease is really strong. My charms are Elsewhere, some kind of extradimensional storage." I replied. I left out the changes to my physique that had remained through the change.

"Fascinating. I will have to make sure to give you full examinations with and without your 'charms'." Emerald said.

Just then my stomach decided to remind me that I hadn't eaten in a day or so. Loudly. I was actually somewhat surprised I hadn't noticed how hungry I was sooner. “Sorry about that, I didn’t eat before I came to this world.”

"We're not that far from Ponyville, we'll get you something to eat when we get there," said Alex.

"Thank you. I hope I can find work soon so I can repay what I owe. I don't usually end racking up hospital bills right as I arrive somewhere." I said, feeling a bit guilty. Here I was without any idea of what to do to even make a living in this world, and I'm already indebted.

"Don't worry about the hospital, the Princess took care of that." Alex told me.

I felt sick. I don't know why I was even surprised anymore. Gods are the same in any world. And for some reason I seem to fit the profile of the perfect pawn for their games.

I gave Alex a sour look. "It just figures. I'm resistant to direct divine manipulation for a day and already a deity is trying to find some other lever to use on me. I don't know why I expected any different here."

"Now wait just a moment, Luna didn't do that to try and manipulate you." Alex started to say.

"And I should trust her Paladin on that?" I snarled. "Forget it. I'm done being some god's plaything. I'll find a way to repay what I owe and then I'll go find someplace out of the reach of gods, if I have to build it myself."

"No? How about you trust me when I say that while they do sometimes let their curiosity get the better of them they aren’t some stupid chess gaming gods... Well Celestia and I have a chess game going but you know what I mean." Matt didn’t seem like he was under their control... but he also seemed like the kind of person who would be an unwitting pawn.

I stomped to the rear of the car and flopped down on the bench. As I did I felt a sudden rush of energy. My body shimmered with light and I heard tearing fabric. My mechanical form had reasserted itself, destroying the only clothes I had. The bench creaked a bit with the sudden change in my weight. My vision went blurry till I took off my glasses. I pulled off the torn scraps of fabric that used to be my clothes. I'd have been upset about being naked, but I was too annoyed with the situation. Also, there really wasn't anything showing in this form.

I felt a light smack on the back of my head. I looked and saw Trace standing just behind me.

"Do not assume the Princesses are the same as every other deity you've come across, they are actually very similar to their mortal subjects. Luna did this out of generosity, not so she could gain your debt," he said.

"Look, Mr. Reinhart. I've been chained up, interrogated, and threatened. I've just wrecked the only clothes I have. My mood is kinda shot right now. I'm trying not to snap at you here." I said bluntly. I left out the weird voice in my head. Didn't need anyone thinking that I'm crazy. At least not more than they already thought so.

"The Luna I knew in the other world, she was a real piece of work. I arranged the rescue of her siblings. I helped heal her. And she kept me like a damned pet for months till she got bored with me." I said, my voice descending to a growl. "And that was nice compared to what I've dealt with from other gods. So I have some trust issues where divinity is concerned, OK?"

Trace shook his head, "you've dealt with an entirely different Luna," he said gently before going back to his seat.

I focussed my attention on the world outside the window. I entertained a brief fantasy of kicking out the window and just running away from all of this. But I couldn't run forever and my situation would hardly be helped by running. No matter how pleasant the idea was, to just run away and keep running.

Maybe the Luna here was on the level, but I didn't want to risk that. I was so tired of being manipulated by gods. Princess Luna seemed nice enough. I really hoped she was as nice as she seemed. But I wasn't going to bank on it.

At this point there wasn't much I could do about it though. If she wanted me controlled, I wasn't yet in a position to stand on my own. So I abandoned that train of thought for now and let my wander.

Annoyingly my mind kept wandering to Blitzen. I barely knew her, but I found myself wishing she were closer. There was something comforting about having her near me. But she was on the other end of the train car, looking as miserable as I felt.

I kept trying to puzzle out why I was feeling this way. Why it bothered me so much to see her looking unhappy. However, my questioning was interrupted by the train slowing as it pulled into the station. I had been so caught up in my thoughts that I hadn't noticed that we had arrived at Ponyville.

Looking out the window I saw a small crowd of ponies at the station. I sank down on the bench so they wouldn't see me. I wasn't feeling up to being the center of attention.

I watched Trace leave the train first. As he stepped off the train, I heard a female voice greeting him. I couldn't be sure, but she sounded familiar and given what he said earlier I suspected it was Twilight Sparkle.

"Trace! I think I've found something that explains the gender disparity among the jumpers. I've developed a theory that whatever force is behind these world jumps is somehow unable to affect females. I brought my notes with me if you want to have a look," Twilight said excitedly.

"There's a slight problem with that theory," Trace started to say before I hopped up to go to the ramp leading off the train.

"Just a small one, but a problem nonetheless." I said as I stepped over to where the lavender mare could see me.

Twilight looked like I remembered from the show, other than not being a flat cartoon image. She was holding a small stack of papers in her magical field. As soon as I spoke her right eye started twitching.

A moment later she threw the papers into the air. "Argh! So much for that theory," she growled as the papers fluttered to the ground.

Just then I heard a strange sound like some kind of electronic buzzing hum. Suddenly a brown coated stallion with an hourglass cutie-mark jumped in front of me. He was holding some odd shaped instrument with a blue light at the tip. Whatever it was it seemed to be the source of the noise.

"Run everypony! I'll hold it off!" He shouted. Great, I'm not in town a whole minute before someone thinks I'm here to cause trouble. He seemed oddly familiar, but I couldn't place the resemblance. Maybe the messy hairstyle reminded me of someone.

Everyone seemed to be waiting to see what was going to happen. I just gave the stallion my best 'are you kidding me?' look. The stallion looked at the device he was holding, and then up at me.

"You're not, are you?" He asked after a moment.

Needless to say I was confused. "Not what?" I asked.

"Nevermind. Mistook you for something else. Sorry about that. Must go. Allons-y!" He said as he ran off.

I stood there, looking dumbfounded as I tried to figure out what the heck that was all about.

Twilight cleared her throat. "So... Welcome to Ponyville!" She said with a somewhat strained grin.

Chapter 4: Settling in

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I gestured to where the crazy stallion had confronted me. "Is that going to keep happening? I just have this mental image of being challenged over and over. With each challenger being crazier than the last."

Twilight thought for a moment. "Usually there's just one really insane incident per new arrival and then you just deal with the average level of wacky in this town."

“Um, Twilight,” Trace said, looking past the lavender mare. “Where’s Fei? I’d have thought she would have come with you.”

Twilight blinked before looking around her. “She did,” she said, looking back at Trace. “I could have sworn she was right beside me.” Before anyone could respond, an excited, high pitched voice cut them off.

“Hey dad!” Trace turned just in time to be tackled by a little girl with pinkish red hair and a pair of fox ears sticking out of the top of her head. “Welcome back,” her ears twitched slightly as she tightened her grip around him. Trace was smiling as he wrapped his arms around the child.

“Happy to see you too Fei,” he replied. There was a sound of hoofsteps and his attention was drawn to an ice blue pegasus mare casually trotting over to us. “Hey Frost.”

“Greetings, my Lord,” she replied, giving him a quick bow before turning to me, “I see your mission was successful.”

I raised an eyebrow and looked up at Trace. "So now there was a whole mission just for me?" I said, smirking. "Were there codenames and everything?"

"Nothing quite so formal. Luna told us of your arrival and she assumed you might be more comfortable if you knew you weren't the only human here," Trace explained with only a hint of exasperation.

He seemed to be getting used to me. At least somebody was. Every time I saw myself like this I wondered if I could ever get used to how my body has changed.

Frost walked around me, looking me over. "A creature of order. How interesting, " She seemed pleased with this. I’d never thought of myself as being particularly orderly, but having Autocthon’s essence merged with mine probably qualified me as a creature of order. Beat the heck out of being one of those formless things that lurked in the chaos of the Wyld.

Just then 'Spect popped out, "if you think she's a creature of order, you've never seen how she keeps her room."

Frost gave 'Spect a look that could only be described as a cold stare. Alright, I could have used other terms but that one just seemed apt. ‘Spect just grinned and stuck her tongue out at the Pegasus.

"I need to get back to thinking... Call me if you find marshmallows!" 'Spect said before vanishing back to her sanctum.

Blitzen tapped my hand with her nose. "Speaking of rooms, I'm going to go make arrangements for us. I'll come find you later," she said as she turned and walked away. I needed to talk to her but it looked like she was in a hurry to go. I figured we’d talk later when we had more time and less of a crowd around us.

Whatever power was giving me the ability to see everything around me had apparently not reactivated when I changed back, so I heard rather than saw Alex and Matt disembarking behind me. I was fine with having just normal vision for now. Being able to see in every direction at once is more disorienting than helpful.

"You mentioned being hungry earlier? Is that still the case with you..." Alex started to ask as he walked around me.

"All robot-y? I don't feel it as strongly, but I still feel hungry. And before anyone makes the suggestion of nuts and bolts with motor oil, I still eat human food no matter how I look," I said.

"And I'd kill for a cheeseburger," I added under my breath, but evidently not quietly enough as Trace gave me a look that said I should be careful about such comments.

Not that I should need such reminders. I knew ponies would be vegetarians. But I'd been letting my mouth run without much oversight since I woke up. For the life of me I couldn't figure out why. I could hardly afford to alienate the people and ponies I'd need to establish some kind of life in this world. Maybe I'd feel better once I'd eaten something.

Trace walked up to me, the little girl hiding behind him. “Excuse me, Ms. Asher, but if you’d like we could stop by the library for lunch. Afterwards Twilight and I can show you around Ponyville.”

Someone, or rather somepony cleared their throat behind me.

"Miss Asher, I'm concerned about your mental state. As your doctor, I think it would be best if you were kept under observation at Ponyville General for a day at least," said Doctor Emerald.

"Doctor, I know I'm a bit out of whack, but I'd really like to be out of the hospital... Can I go with Trace and Twilight and I promise I'll check in at the hospital before dark so that I can be monitored," I pleaded.

"I'd prefer you have some rest, but I suppose that will do. Try not to overstress yourself, please," Emerald replied.

"I'll do my best," I told him solemnly.

"Excellent, I will see you later then," Emerald said as he turned to leave the station.

Alex smiled kindly at the doctor as he left. “You know, he’s a good man. I’ve seen him stand up to Princess Celestia for a patient. Didn’t even blink, and I mean for real, not the illusion. You can trust him.”

I kept my voice low, not sure who was privy to Doctor Emerald's secret, "Him, I trust. It's the rest of you I'm undecided about."

We started walking out of the station, Matt gave a grunt and a small wave to Alex before going off to the right, presumably to wherever he was calling home.

Alex gave a little chuckle. “Ma’am, we both know you could swat me like a fly and I couldn’t do a single thing about it, yet I have no reservations about walking beside you with my wife.” I noticed he placed his calloused hand on the back of her head and stroked her ear with his thumb. She smiled and leaned into him a little. “Do you know why?”

I rolled my eyes and considered pointing out that I really wasn't stronger than I appeared. I might be tougher but not necessarily any stronger. Then again I might have reflexive combat charms I don't know about. I settled for going with what I suspected was his reasoning, “Hmm... Luna told you to?”

This time he actually laughed, “No. To paraphrase Carl Schurz, My Princess, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right. That’s one of my jobs. Another is to make sure our beautiful daughter grows up in a safe world, free from Discords and Nightmare Moons. I do that one by making sure my wife can do her job. My last job, and I think the one that makes the other two doable, is to help good people that have lost their way. I think you are a good person."

I stopped walking and he didn’t notice for a few steps. He turned back with a gentle smile on his battered, scarred, ugly face. I looked at him, not quite sure how to react. I couldn’t remember the last time someone had said that to me who wanted nothing from me. Nothing at all.

A rough female voice jarred me back to reality, “Hey El. Don’t cry, dude.” I realized Rainbow Dash was hovering in front of me. Her hoof wiped my cheek. “But if you do, it’s totally cool. We’re your friends.” She waved a hoof at the others around us, “All of us.” She chortled playfully, gesturing at Alex with her muzzle, “Even the captain of the B team.”

Alex rolled his eyes a little, “So, bottom line. We want to help you. We want to give you a home. We are your friends. All of us.”

Would they be if they knew what you've done? But how can they know? You don't even know. Yet.

Just when I was beginning to miss the crazy in my head, it came back. And I really didn't feel like listening to it right now.

Sensing he had something to add, I turned to Trace.

"I have to agree with Alex, despite everything you've been through, I can tell you've stayed who you are, rather than let someone else control you," Trace said giving a friendly smile and extending his hand "I hope we can be friends, and I'd like to let you know you'll always be a welcome guest in my- I mean our, household," he said while glancing at Twilight.

I sighed, "I'm not a good person, I just try to survive. I've broken nine of ten commandments, along with enough other things that if I were Catholic, I'd be spending the next year in confessional. Not that it'd matter given that there are some things I can't truly say I regret. Plenty of things I do regret, sad to say, but still a few sins I don't feel a need to have forgiven."

“You assume that to be a good person you must follow strict rules and never make mistakes, but that is not true,” Trace countered with a slight smirk. “Tell me, Miss Asher, do you care about those around you, the ones you hold close? Do you mourn if they are injured or killed, or do you just brush it off, as though they had no affect on your life?”

"You'd have hated the church I grew up with. They were all about the strict rules," I said. "They had a nice long list of things we couldn't do. I've done a fair number of them since I left."

Trace chuckled for a second before narrowing his eyes. "You're dodging the question."

"I'm good at dodging," I said with a grin. Then I sighed, "You want to know if I care about my friends, I do. And every world where I leave a friend behind, I mourn because I know I'll never see them again. It's one reason I knew I wouldn't be travelling forever. Someday it'd be too much and my heart wouldn't be able to take any more."

Then to everyone's surprise, Fei spoke up, "I think that's what my dad is getting at, you're a good person because you care. No one is perfect, we all make mistakes, sometimes we regret, other times we don't. You shouldn't beat yourself up over things that have happened in the past, you should accept them and use the experience to judge how you should proceed in the future, in hopes that your life will improve."

I arched a brow and looked at Fei with what I hoped was a kindly smile, "Either you are remarkably precocious or you're older than you look."

"And you are a better person than you think you are. I don't think anyone could go through what we have without doing some things they'd regret later. I know that all too well," Alex said as a hint of pain showed briefly in his eyes.

I made a decision. Taking a deep breath, I reached in my bag and pulled out my tablet. "Io: documents - Autocthonians, Autocthonia, Shards," I told the device, grinning a little at Twilight's sudden interest.

I dropped the grin and held the device out to Alex, "These documents have everything I have about what I've become. I... I want you to read them, and decide if it's safe for me to stay. You're from Earth so you should be able to judge them from that background. If it helps, the reality of being like this is about as close to those books as this world is to the cartoon of it. At least from what I can tell so far."

"That's not necessary..." Alex started to say.

"It is. I... I need to trust you with this. If I'm going to be any kind of friend, I need to trust you." I said, looking up at Alex.

"Alright, I'll read through these, but I don't see them changing much," said Alex with another smile.

"Is that something like Alex's 'laptop'? How many books does it have in it?" Twilight asked excitedly as she kept her gaze locked on the tablet.

I had to smile at that. "A few hundred, you can read what you want after Alex is done with it. Though I hope you'll let me suggest which ones are best in keeping with your culture. Or at least give you some warning about which ones might be unsettling to read if you're not used to human fiction."

I looked up and saw that we'd gotten to the library. It looked different from my admittedly hazy memories of the show, like some additions had grown from the tree. I recalled that Trace and Fei were living there too, so the additions made sense. A cozy home for a single unicorn and her dragon assistant would be a little cramped for a whole family.

"Here's where we part company for now. Miss Asher, if you need anything, feel free to stop by. Trace or Twilight can direct you to the cottage," Alex said as he and Rainbow Dash turned to continue down the road.

"Thank you. Sorry about earlier, I'm so used to divine beings trying to control me it just felt like strings being attached again," I said before Alex had fully turned to leave.

"Don't worry about it. Already forgotten," Alex said as he started to walk away, Dash hovering beside him.

"Alright, if you say so," I replied. "And by the way, my friends call me Eleanor, or El. Not ma'am or Miss Asher. Ok?"

Alex chuckled a bit as he and Dash headed away from the library. Hopefully he'll take the hint. If he called me Ma'am again, I might sic 'Spect on him. After talking to her about appropriate levels of retribution. Her marshmallow creme sprayer would be about right, I thought.

A violet glow illuminated the door handle as Twilight used her magic to open the door. I'd seen similar displays but it always amazed me to be around such casual use of magic. I knew there were ways I could do similar now that I was changed, but I still had no idea how that would work.

Once inside, I heard Trace let out a sigh of relief as he tossed his hat and coat onto the coat rack by the door.

“It’s good to be home,” he said before turning to me. “Well Miss Asher, I promised you something to eat. Would you like pork, chicken, or maybe something more unique? I still have some manticore left.”

I shuddered and my appetite dropped considerably at the mention of manticore. I know it probably wasn’t the kind of manticore I was thinking of, but having had the memories of that manticore’s victim stuck in my head, the association was hard to avoid.

"You okay? You look like Twilight did when we first started keeping meat in the freezer," a voice asked from about waist height. I looked down and saw Spike looking much like I remembered from the show.

"Yeah... just bad memories. Not even mine. I'm alright," I told Spike, giving a weak smile to try and reassure him.

"I think I'm going to try getting used to being vegetarian again. I was vegetarian before I was tossed out of my world," I said to Trace.

Trace nodded and headed for the kitchen. “Anything to drink then?” He paused in thought. “We have.. water, milk, tea, coffee, non-alcoholic cider, and mead.”

"Coffee? Real coffee, from coffee beans?" I said, hoping beyond hope that I'd heard correctly.

He gave me a look that said he was questioning my intelligence "Yes..."

"Gods, I haven't been able to have real coffee in years. Last world just had some kind caffeinated lizard pee," I scrunched my face in disgust at the memory of the taste of that wretched stuff.

Trace just raised an eyebrow. "I'll take that as a yes, under the condition you never say the phrase 'caffeinated lizard pee' around me again."

"Deal," I said.

Trace and Spike went into the kitchen and came out with a large salad and some bowls. These were set on the table before the pair returned to the kitchen. They brought out some other platters of food, some steamed vegetables and slices of meat. It looked like they'd planned a feast for eight or nine rather than just the five present. Then came drinks and I nearly wept for joy at holding a mug of real coffee in my hands.

Looking at the food, I considered the meat for a moment and decided to stick with the vegetables. I watched Fei piling her plate high and wondered for a moment where she was going to put it all. Spike and Twilight were sticking with the vegetarian option as well, though Spike seasoned his salad with some kind of small gems.

"So, Miss Asher..." Twilight began.

"Please just call me Eleanor. I'd like us to be friends." I told Twilight.

"Thank you, Eleanor. I'd like that too. So as I was about to say, I'd been wondering about your mammaries." Said Twilight.

I choked on my coffee, barely stopping myself from doing a spit-take. "Excuse me?"

"I'd read some things that say that they are a mating attractant for humans, is that why they are placed so prominently on your chest and are so large?"

"Ah, uh,..." I tried to come up with a coherent response as I felt my cheeks heating up. I could see that I wasn't the only one uncomfortable with Twilight's topic of choice. Trace and Fei were both looking like they wanted to suggest another topic, any other topic. Spike was just looking at me with a confused expression.

"Is the size because you are pregnant? Or," a look of horror came across her features, "did you have to leave a foal behind in the world you came from?"

I decided to deflect further embarrassment. "Neither, they're actually not mammaries. They're twin fusion engines to allow me to power a 20 foot tall royal warstrider when I plug in to the pilot seat," I told Twilight.

I was starting to grin until I saw her levitate a scroll over and start writing on it.

"Kidding, kidding. It's just the way humans are shaped, the female ones anyway. Though they did get a bit larger when I got this," I said tapping the soulgem on my forehead.

Trace rolled his eyes, "I forgot to mention, she thinks she's funny."

"I know I'm funny, it's the rest of world that hasn't gotten the memo," I said sticking my tongue out at him.

"And so mature too," Trace said with another small sigh.

"Hey, it's the first chance I've really had to relax in years. I can be a grown up tomorrow," I protested. Tomorrow I'd have to start dealing with what has happened to me. Playing around and trying not to think about how much I've changed can only go so far.

"Maybe I should try and save my questions until then," Twilight said.

"I swear I'll take the time to answer all your questions as fully and accurately as I can, just give me time to get settled. You have my oath as an Esquire of the Autumn Court," I told her solemnly.

"You swore by that once before. What is the Autumn Court?" Trace asked me.

"Heh, it's one of the seasonal courts of the Changeling Freeholds. We're also known as the Court of Fear. We spread fear among the humans to keep them away from the Fae," I explained, smiling a little as Twilight's eyes widened and she filled the scroll with notes. "Not that I was a proper changeling, myself. But they said my travels were akin to the suffering they endured in Arcadia. They treated me like family, better than my own family ever did." I left out the part where I ran away when the Fae attacked. Bitter irony, I now had powers that could fight the Fae and no way to reach my old friends to save them.

"Interesting," Trace muttered. "While I find it a bit unnerving that they'd focus on inspiring fear, I can understand if they wanted to keep their species hidden. Though you may want to borrow a book on Changelings here in Equestria, they're not the same kind as you've met in the past."

"Hmm, I'll do that. And it wasn't just about keeping hidden, we did it to protect people. We didn't want anyone else going through what we... they did. Better a little scare than being taken to be one of the Gentry's playthings." I said before returning to trying to have some salad.

Just before I'd actually taken a bite, the door burst open and in came a blur of pink that interposed itself between me and Twilight.

"Twilight! I heard there was somepony new in town - my coltfriend just told me - he said she's like a Cyberman - but not a Cyberman - because Cybermen are total meanies and the new somepony is not a total meany - at least she's not a Dalek - because they're meanies too - and not as fun as Cybermen - all they want to do is exterminate - even when there's no bugs - but this new human person isn't a Dalek or a Cyberman so she needs a 'Welcome to Ponyville' party - and I was thinking it could be a surprise party - but not really because she's right behind me isn't she?" Said the bouncing pink pony without stopping to breathe even once.

"Yes Pinkie, she is," Twilight said after taking a moment to be sure Pinkie had stopped talking.

Pinkie turned around, her blue eyes staring straight into mine as though she could somehow see into my soul. "Sooo... what kind of parties do you like?"

I couldn't stop myself, "I like a balanced one. Right now we've got two wizards and a young dragon to handle ranged dps. I've probably got a few charms that'd be good for tanking, I think Fei might have some crowd control skills, so if you're a healer I think we can do this raid."

Blank looks from everyone but Pinkie.

Pinkie giggled, "I like you, you're silly."

"No, I'm Eleanor," I said as we grinned at each other.

There was a flash of light and 'Spect appeared in front of Pinkie. There was a moment of silence as they stared at each other. Pinkie spoke first, "You!"

"You!" 'Spect replied in kind before reaching forward to hug the pink pony. "I haven't seen you in forever, Pinkie!"

"I know!" was the reply.

"Do you still have the marshmallow cannon I gave you?" 'Spect asked.

"No, took it apart to build a flying machine," Pinkie told her.

There was a look of dawning horror on the faces of the others in the room, my own among them. There were two of them. I only hoped Pinkie Pie wasn't as careless about mortal frailties as 'Spect could be.

Their mouths cracked into identical maniacal grins.

Gods help us all.

Interlude 1: Blitzen

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Blitzen's mood fell long before Ponyville came into view out of the windows of the train. Rainbow Dash had tried to reassure her, but the pegasus didn't understand why Blitzen was coming back to Ponyville. To be honest, Blitzen didn't understand it herself.

Somehow this strange human, with her shining metal and soulful blue eyes, had gotten past all the walls that Blitzen had put up over the years. She didn't want anypony getting close to her, didn't want to care about anypony.

Now I'm fretting over how Eleanor is getting along with her fellow humans and I'm worried that Eleanor might say something to cause them to decide she is a threat. I'm not sure what I'd do if that happened, but I shouldn't even be worried about this at all. What is wrong with me?

Finally the train arrived at Ponyville.

I think I know what I'll do. There's a glass bottom I need to visit. And a bit of salt to make things easier.

She made an excuse to Eleanor and left the train station as quickly as she could.

Once away from the station old habits took over and she navigated the familiar streets of her old home. She stuck to out of the way paths to her destination not wanting to be seen by anypony she used to know.

I hope I don't run into Caramel or Cheerilee. I don't think I'm ready to tell them I've come back. And Merciful Celestia don't let me run into Rose... I can't face her. Not now.

Eventually her destination was in sight. The Grain Bucket. Time enough to have a drink or two and then go looking for a place to stay.

Chapter 5: Looking Around

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Thankfully for my empty stomach, Pinkie and 'Spect decided to leave to prepare for my welcome party. When they left we returned to the interrupted meal and I was soon in a much better mood. Amazing how food and coffee can do that.

"Feeling better Miss Asher?" Trace asked

"Much. And it's just Eleanor ok?" Maybe I should not have mentioned my last name. Then again being called Miss Asher beats being called Ma’am.


The tour was pretty basic, it's a small town. Bigger in person than it seemed on the show, but still nothing special were it not for the residents. Unlike Fillydelphia, nopony was hiding from me here. I noted more than a few glances my way. But nothing fearful, they just seemed curious about the new person in town. There were a couple of double takes and I heard the words 'human mare' a few times.

We walked to the town square and Twilight pointed out some landmarks I could use to orient myself when I was on my own. The library was the first of course, one could hardly miss a tree like that. Then there was the town hall, which seemed to be under some reconstruction. And the third most noticeable landmark was Sugarcube Corner. The sight of which was enough to make me want to find a dentist. No question about the kind of sugary treats one could find there. Pinkie Pie and 'Spect waved as we walked past. With those three places memorized I was fairly sure I could find my way around without too much trouble.


It didn't matter how many times it happened on my travels I was always surprised when I heard a familiar voice. Even though I knew it wasn't whoever I was thinking of I felt compelled to look. This time the voice came from the direction of a cart selling several kinds of roses.

Behind the flower cart was a cream colored mare with a lovely dark rose colored mane, and deep green eyes.

"Hello, I'm Roseluck. You must be the new human I've been hearing about.” She inclined her head toward me and stage whispered, “My friend said you're a mare, is that true?" She asked.

I looked down at my chest for a moment before answering. I realized that they really didn't have many referents for human gender differences so I shouldn't be surprised she had to ask. I wondered if I might have the reverse problem. I'd been guessing so far, but some of the mares I'd seen could have been stallions. I wasn't about to check in any definitive way.

"Yes, I'm female. Though I'm a woman, not a mare. My name is Eleanor." I found myself wishing this pretty mare was a human woman. There's something about pony eyes, so large and expressive. They're like a unique body language no other species has. They twinkle and little shapes appear to denote feelings.

"Twilight and Trace giving you a tour?" Roseluck asked, an odd intensity entering her voice.

"Yeah, a quick trip around the town," I replied casually.

"Well, if you come back after I've got my cart put up, I can give you a tour of some of the really interesting parts of Ponyville." Roseluck said with a wink and a twitch of her tail.

"Roseluck!" Twilight exclaimed, "Eleanor just arrived in this world! Don't you think you should let her get settled in before trying to flirt with her.”

“I just wanted to make her feel welcome. Besides, I hear you have to move fast with humans. From what I’ve been told Rainbow Dash was all over Mister Alex Roberts within hours of his arrival.” She said defensively. "But," she looked around conspiratorially, "they say he didn't have a clue for months."

“I do feel welcome Roseluck, just a bit overwhelmed still.” I said, trying not to think too hard about the implications of her flirting with me. If that’s what it was. Pretty or not, she was a pony and I was human. Mostly human I reminded myself, twitching the fingers of my mechanical hand.

"I can only imagine. Though Ponyville itself can be overwhelming some days. At least you arrived on a quiet day," Roseluck said. "I find it usually gets more exciting around this time of day. And now that you're here..."

I felt something odd like a kind of pressure behind my eyes. I blinked and for a moment I saw something like a vast intricate design tying everything together. It wasn't a simple three-dimensional thing but rather a form in motion back and forth in time, and I knew my ideal place to be at this moment was across the square in the building that looked like some kind of carousel. Something there called to me.

"Sorry to run so quickly Roseluck, but I've got this weird feeling that I need to be somewhere," I said, wincing a little at the look of disappointment she gave me. "But I'd love to talk some more, another time."

Not waiting for Trace or Twilight, I walked across the square to the carousel and went inside. I followed the sound of cursing to find a unicorn with a sleek white coat and perfectly styled purple mane, struggling with a clearly nonfunctional sewing machine. My memory took a moment to come up with her name, Rarity. I recalled her being a bit of a fashionista. Her cat, whose name eluded me at the time, walked over and wound around my ankles purring.

"Mind if I have a look at it? I... I think I can fix it." I said to her, though truly, I knew I could fix it. The sound it was making was like hearing a detailed description of the problem. Which was odd, because I wasn’t really mechanically inclined before, but I figured it was probably the least weird talent I’d picked up from my transformation.

“If you can get this wretched thing to function without me having to ship it back to Canterlot for repairs, I’ll make you whatever dress your heart desires.” She said backing away from the machine. Her pretty blue eyes widened a bit as she got a look at me. I gathered she had thought it was another pony speaking to her.

"I'm sure I can, Miss Rarity. I've got a knack for machines." I told her, not admitting that I'd only just realized I had said knack. The number of things I was filing away in my 'think about it later' box was getting a bit disturbing.

"Then I will be ever so grateful, Miss...?" Rarity asked as she looked from her sewing machine and back to me. She seemed to have picked up on my gender without me having to say it.

"Eleanor. Pleased to meet you.” I stepped over to to the sewing machine and opened a panel on the side of it. I set my bag down and just listened the machine.

"If you don't mind my asking darling, what is that you're wearing? It looks like some kind of armor, but it seems to be oddly fitted. How are you able to move in that? The articulation just looks wrong." Rarity asked as she looked over my mechanical parts.

"Um that's just me." I said, feeling a bit uncomfortable at the intensity of her examination. I tried to focus on the sewing machine.

"That isn't normal for human females though is it?" Rarity's eyes widened slightly. "If that's you then you aren't wearing anything? I was under the impression that humans had a cultural taboo against going around au naturel."

"We do... I'm..." Why was this so hard? "I don't have any clothes right now. This looks like clothing so I was trying to ignore the fact that it felt like I was naked." I tried to focus on my task to keep from thinking about how I had just admitted to being naked in front of this sophisticated mare. Seeking something with which to fix the machine, I pulled a small Orichalcum pin out of my arm. It likely went to some charm, but it would grow back in time.

"Oh you poor dear, you simply must let me make you something to wear, even if you don't repair my sewing machine,” she said as I looked at the inside of her sewing machine. “I'm sure I can find something to go with that remarkable metal. Fascinating material, when the light hits it, it looks like there are stars in the reflection."

"That's one of the reasons it's called Starmetal." I said as I watched Rarity’s measuring tape fly around me.

I found what I expected, a pin holding up one of the gears inside had bent causing the gearwork to lock up. I pulled out the bent pin. While I could have straightened it, it would have just failed again. There were minor weaknesses in the alloy that would cause it to fail under the pressure of sustained use. Besides, if Rarity was going to make me a dress, the least I could do is improve the tool she’d be using to do so.

"Really? Do you have any of it that isn't part of you? I'm seeing a set of accessories that could go with a truly stellar outfit,” said Rarity as she sketched out her ideas while still measuring what seemed like every part of me.

Keeping myself in a position where the measuring tape wouldn’t be in danger of getting caught as it flew around me, I held the Orichalcum pin in my metal hand. I watched in fascination as my fingers seemed to reshape themselves into something akin to a small vise grip and lathe, and then spun the pin rapidly as it was reshaped. Within seconds the pin had become a golden duplicate of the damaged pin from the sewing machine. I made a mental note that I definitely had an omnitool implant charm.

"No spare Starmetal at the moment, but if I find any, you'll get first dibs." I told Rarity as I inserted the new pin into the sewing machine. I marveled at the gears, each one looked to have been hand crafted. (Or was it hoof crafted?) Regardless of terminology, the sewing machine looked like a work of a craftsman (craftspony?) rather than something mass produced.

“I’m going to do something that should help keep this sewing machine in good working order from now on.” I said reaching into my bag to take out a brush and ink bottle.

On the inside of the access panel I started writing a delicate prayer with the special Moonsilver and Orichalcum ink I had brought. Carefully making sure each brushstroke was exactly placed, I entreated the spirit of the sewing machine to awaken. When I was finished writing out the prayer, I closed my eyes and tried to imagine filling the sewing machine with energy. It couldn’t hold much essence, but I could tell I’d been somewhat successful in empowering it.

“There. Your sewing machine is awake now, so it should be able to repair minor issues on its own. You’ll want to burn some incense to the spirit that lives within it about once a year.” I shook my head a bit at how silly it sounded. Even after all this time around magic, I still felt wrong using it.

“Spirit? Living in my sewing machine?” Rarity asked, looking at the machine as though it might grow legs at any moment.

Trace and Twilight were also giving the machine speculative looks. I guessed that Exalted style spirit magics were not something they were familiar with.

I realized I had forgotten that anyone had been with me in my haste to follow my vision. And I'd been so focused on the task at hand that I missed their arrival. I hoped they weren't upset with me for taking off like that. I also hoped that Roseluck didn't think badly of me.

"In the world I just left, everything had a spirit within it. I used a bit of material from that world to fix the sewing machine," I explained. "That gave the machine a spirit that I could wake up with a special prayer and a little essence. It’s still the same sewing machine, but now it wants to make fabulous fashion items. Not really magic so much making use of the properties of a magical world."

Rarity gave the machine another look and then turned back to me, "Since this is my first time making clothing for a human, I'd like to go over these sketches and make sure what I have here is fitting for your culture, darling."

"Ok, but I may need you to redo some of those measurements. I want to change back to my fully human form and get clothing for that shape. I'm really more comfortable being human," I admitted.

"Why certainly, darling. You should be comfortable," she purred as she levitated a privacy screen over to me. "Trace, Twilight, you may leave her in my capable hooves. I'll have her looking fabulous in no time."

"I think after this I'll be going straight to bed, so it's alright. And I'd be more comfortable shifting back to human if there were less people around." I told Trace and Twilight when I saw they were reluctant to leave their friend alone with me.

"I promise I'll be good," I added.

They still looked a bit dubious but Rarity started to push them out the door while assuring them, "Everything will be simply fabulous, darlings. Just leave her to me."

A small bit of concentration and I was human again. And naked. With a pony who was going to have to measure me all over. An elegant unicorn with the kind of sophistication and style I could only dream of. I did not think this through. Don't know why I'm worried though, she's a pony. There's nothing about me that would be of interest to her except as a challenge to her dressmaking skills.

"May I ask what happened to your old clothing? I assume you had some." Rarity asked as she brought her measuring tape over. She stepped around the screen and paused, looking me over like she was admiring a fine piece of art. "Actually, let me guess. You must have changed from this," a blush came to her cheeks. "To your metal form while you were wearing them?"

"Unfortunately. The change just shredded them," I replied. I was starting to be a little concerned. Rarity was beginning to show the same kind of odd behavior that Roseluck had. Also, the way my skin tingled as her magic brushed against it was starting to have me feeling a trifle flustered.

"How terrible, darling! To have that happen to your clothing like that. Oh if only I'd been there!" She blushed again and looked away. "To try to salvage your clothing of course."

She floated some of her sketches over to me. I started looking through them. The first one seemed simple enough. As I flipped through them I noticed the designs getting more and more risque'. The last one looked like some kind of saddle on my midsection with long gloves and knee-high socks the only other clothing. I could feel heat in my cheeks.

"Oh my, that blush of yours goes right down to your hooves." Rarity said, starting to seem even more flustered, "From that blush, I'm guessing that last one is a little too risque, darling." She said with a smirk, the purr as she rolled the 'r' in risque almost seeming like a verbal caress.

"A bit." I felt my blush deepen as I said this understatement.

"Don't worry, that wouldn't be appropriate outside for us either. That's more of a... bedroom item. I don't know what I was thinking when I included that," she said with an embarrassed smile.

"What do you think of the third one?" She asked, evidently sensing my discomfort.

"Pretty good, but I'd really want socks and shoes rather than those thigh high boots." I said, grateful to be discussing one of the tamer outfits.

Rarity's face exploded in a beet red blush and she looked absolutely scandalized.

"Wearing socks in public? I've caught a glimpse of some simple white ones on Alex, but he makes sure they're tastefully hidden under his pants. However, this skirt is much too short for that,” she explained after a moment.

"This is one of those cultural differences, isn't it? I suppose it's good I wasn't wearing my miniskirt with the stockings when I arrived, not that it would have survived my transformation." I noticed Rarity zone out for a moment after I said that.

“Ah, um. Will you be staying at the library with Twilight tonight?” if I didn’t know better, I would have thought she sounded jealous. “I mean, you could stay here and we could work on some designs. You’d be able to walk the town in fine fashion tomorrow.”

“Thanks, but Doctor Emerald wants me to stay at the hospital for some monitoring. Given the changes I’ve been through recently, I’m inclined to agree with the need,” I explained.

“Ah, yes. My dear Emerald usually knows best about such things. I can take you there, and visit him at the same time,” she said.

Intereresting. From the way she said that, it sounded like Emerald was her boyfriend. I knew it was terribly hard for the changelings I knew of to keep up a relationship with a normal person. Even though we acted like I was a changeling too, there were times Cupyri’s fae moods would make her incomprehensible to me. I hope Emerald fares better in that department.

“Now that you seem more comfortable, we should get to work.” Rarity said, interrupting my thoughts. She seemed to have regained her composure and was levitating various fabrics to me and holding them against my skin.

“No, that won’t do. Such a challenge! Your skin color isn’t anything like the coat of anypony I know, and I want to find a good shade to go with that mane and the blue of your eyes.”

She kept bringing over various fabrics settling on a soft blue. It was fascinating to watch as scissors, pins and fabric flew around the room. Within minutes Rarity held out a simple frock made from that blue fabric. Simple though it was, she had still added some trim and ribbon to embellish it. It looked lovely and I happily put it on, glad to have something over my bare skin at last.

"I'll work on a couple of the other designs for you later, my dear. I do hope you might try doing a bit of modeling for me. I'd like to see what designs I can come up with to flatter your form," Rarity said as she looked over her work. "It's so exciting to have a chance to make something for one of our human guests. Elusive has been getting nearly all the business from the others. And while I certainly don't begrudge him that, it is so nice to have a chance to try out some of the ideas I've had."

Chapter 6: Day's End

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As nice as Trace and Twilight were, it was good to walk through Ponyville with Rarity. Her presence had less of a sense of being escorted, and more a friendly walk. Probably just my nerves, but any sense of comfort was welcome in a new world.

Sadly it seemed Roseluck had already packed up her flowers and gone home for the evening. A pity. I'd wanted to see her again. Still, there was always tomorrow.

And since my brain hates me, it decided then to point out that I'd given Alex books that detailed all sorts of horrible things I was potentially capable of. If it were me, I'd round up Matt and Trace and go for round two of the interrogation game. I was ready to start checking around every corner for an ambush before I reined in my paranoia.

But not before Rarity noticed.

"Is something the matter, dear?" She asked, stopping beside me.

"Just concerned about what will happen to me. That other shape of mine could have a lot of dangerous abilities. I gave Mr. Roberts a set of books that detail those abilities. I'm just half afraid he might decide it's too dangerous for me to stay here," I admitted, feeling a bit sheepish.

I would have sent me away. I may not be as powerful as a Solar Exalted but the thought of what harm I could do to these ponies chilled my blood. They were so open and trusting. My Solar NPC would have caused all kinds of havoc. But I could still do terrible things. I didn't even know what charms I had.

"You don't need to worry about Alex. He is a rare breed, a true knight. He would judge your actions, not just what you could do." Rarity gave me a reassuring look, and I felt myself calming. "And as wonderful as he is, he is not the final authority on who is allowed to stay in Ponyville."

I'd already decided I would trust Alex to decide for me, but I could see Rarity would likely not want to talk about the possibility that I might have to leave town just after arriving.

I decided it was time for a subject change, "Rarity, do you know anything about human undergarments?" Brain, why do you hate me? Couldn't you come up with any other topic?

"Not much I'm afraid, darling. Not much call for them." She told me as we started walking again.

"I um... I'll be needing a bra." Or I could poke somepony's eye out. The cool evening air and the fabric rubbing across them had caused my nipples to make their presence known.

"A bra?" Rarity asked.

"It's a garment to support and cover my..." I indicated my bosom. "Keep things like my, uh headlights from showing."

"Headlights, darling?" Rarity turned to get a better look at me. I felt myself blushing yet again at her examination of my chest. "I see... I have some ideas for that, but if you have any pictures of what they should look like, it would be helpful."

”I'll show you some examples when I've got my tablet back." I said as we walked past a side street where I noticed a slightly seedy looking bar with a sign proclaiming it to be the Grain Bucket. What caught my attention though was the mare walking from the bar towards us.

Actually, it wasn't so much walking, or maybe weaving, as stumbling. It was clear she'd had quite a bit to drink. Rarity's ears flicked back and she gave the mare a pitying look. As for me, I instantly recognized that electric blue mane as belonging to my first pony friend and I wondered why Blitzen was in this inebriated state.

She paused for a moment when she saw us, her eyes taking a moment to focus. She looked right at me. "I jusht wanted to get good an shalted every night. Then you showed up and I had to do shomething... and you're sho pretty. Why do you make me feel like thish?" Blitzen slurred as she staggered toward me.

I did not expect what happened next. Blitzen got up onto her hind legs, a feat which surprised me given her unsteady condition. She walked the two steps needed to bring herself to stand just in front of me. She stood there for a second before her balance failed and she fell against me hitting my chest face first. Instinctively, I put my arms around her to hold her up. And then she straightened up and kissed me...

I'm not sure I can describe that kiss... It was clumsy, awkward, and messy. Her mouth covered most of my face until I pushed her head back from mine. For some reason, I paused when it was just our lips touching... there was something... nice about the feeling of her lips against mine. She tasted of salt and alcohol. When I noticed that, I realized I was kissing her back. I was so stunned, I stumbled and fell on my backside, leaving Blitzen unsupported.

She dropped down back to her normal quadrupedal stance and we locked eyes. It felt like I was falling into her eyes for a moment. Then she wavered and fell forward. Somehow, her face ended up in my chest again. She let out a snort and her tongue lolled out onto my dress depositing yet more booze scented drool on the already mistreated fabric.

"You make me feel like I'm flying..." Her voice trailed off as her eyes closed and she started snoring.

Rational Thought

Rational Thought has encountered an unexpected error and was closed. Most likely causes for this are: You kissed a pony.
* Press any key to restart Rational Thought.
* Wait for Rarity to tap you to see if you’re alright to automatically reboot system.
You will lose any unsaved information in all applications.

Press any key to continue_

Restarting...
You did not shut the system down properly. Scanning memory for errors...
0 errors found.
You totally kissed a pony.

I recovered my wits to find Rarity giving me a look split between worry and disgust. I was afraid she was upset with me for what just happened, but she quickly dispelled that fear.

"Just look at the mess that's been made of your dress. Your first new clothing here and it's already covered in dirt and drool." She gave the snoring Blitzen a withering glare. "And you, just mauled by that mare." Her horn lit up as she began cleaning off my dress with magic. "Do you even know her, or was she so out of it on salt that she tried to kiss a complete stranger?"

“Blitzen’s a friend, she’s the one who found me when I arrived,” I told her. Then a thought hit me, "Wait a sec, salt? What's with the salt? I thought she was drunk."

"Salt affects us like alcohol would affect you, darling. Your friend Blitzen has had quite a bit, it would seem."

I moved my legs out from under Blitzen and stood up, straightening my dress.

"Rarity, I uh...” I was kissing Blitzen, and I really don't know what I'm feeling right now... "I'm sorry about getting the dress you made for me dirty so soon after you gave it to me."

"Not to worry darling. There will be human style gowns at the hospital and I can have your dress cleaned and ready for you in the morning."

"Thinking of the hospital, I'm taking Blitzen with us. I don't want to leave her on her own." I knelt down to lift the sleeping pony. I lifted her easily, surprised at how little she weighed compared to her size. "She's really light, lighter than I was expecting."

"Well of course, she's a Pegasus. It's part of their magic," Rarity told me.

I stumbled and almost dropped Blitzen. "A Pegasus? But?” Where are her wings? I almost added.

Suddenly a number of things made sense. The ridges on her back, the way she reacted to my offhand mention of a flight ring, and the way Rainbow dash seemed disturbed by her.

"It's a sad story, dear. And not mine to tell." Her usual over the top drama was completely gone, replaced by a quiet sadness. "Both the accident and what happened after..."

We were silent for a little while after that. Then Rarity spoke up.

"Bit for your thoughts, dear."

"Just thinking about Blitzen. Trying to imagine what it must have been like for her. To be born to fly and to lose that."

"Yes, terrible thing. Other than Fluttershy, most pegasi seem to barely be able to touch the ground. They fly almost everywhere."

"And here I've been feeling bent out shape over being upgraded by Autocthon against my will. At least I haven't really lost anything. I can't imagine how Blitzen could even come back to Ponyville if this is where she lost her wings... And she came here for me." I felt more than a little ashamed that I hadn't noticed what Blitzen was going through to come here.

We came to the hospital. It seemed I was expected, as a pink maned white pony with a nurses cap came to the door when we approached.

"You must be Miss Eleanor Asher. I'm Nurse Redheart," she said, smiling at me. "Doctor Emerald told me you'd be coming, though he didn't mention you'd be bringing somepony else," She sniffed, her voice full of annoyance. "Is there a reason you're carrying her?"

"Ah, she has become one with her inner self," I replied.

"She passed out." Rarity said, while giving me a look like she thought I'd lost my mind.

"That too." I told the nurse.

Redheart was glaring at the Pegasus in my arms. "She should be taken to her place to sleep it off, then we can see about getting you checked in."

"She doesn't have a place to stay in Ponyville that I know of. She lives in Fillydelphia usually." I explained.

"We don't normally provide a bed to any salted pony that comes along. However if that's what it takes to get you signed in, then we'll do what we can." Redheart said with another glare at Blitzen. "Now follow me Miss Eleanor Asher. Miss Rarity, I think Doctor Emerald is in the east wing."

Rarity perked up and went off to find the doctor. I went down the other hallway with the nurse. Though the hall was fairly wide, she made sure to walk close to me and I felt her tail brushing against my leg a few times as we walked. And once I swear she brushed it up over my rear like she was trying to cop a feel with her tail.

I walked with Redheart down the hall to the room she had in mind. Inside were two empty beds. I set Blitzen down in the nearest bed. I turned and saw Redheart holding a hospital gown in her mouth, which I took from her with a forced smile. I hoped my disgust for the things wasn't as obvious as it felt.

"I'll get out so you can change," she said, stepping out of the room. She closed the door most of the way.

I slid my new dress off, and picked up the hospital gown. It was definitely made for humans and, like every hospital gown in every world I've had to wear one, it covered up barely enough to preserve modesty while doing nothing to preserve dignity. For a moment I'd swear I saw Redheart peeking as I changed, but when I turned the door was still mostly closed.

"You can come in now," I said.

Redheart trotted in, "Now miss, sit on the bed and take off the gown so I can examine you."

I sat on the bed but the gown stayed on, "Shouldn't the doctor be the one examining me?"

"Right. But I want to take your temperature, blood pressure, things like that."

"I don't need the gown off for that," I protested.

"But that's no fun," she said with a sly smile. "You don't need to worry, I'll be sure to take real good care of you... Ooh, listen to me, I don't usually flirt with patients. But you're not really a patient are you. Doctor Emerald just thinks you need some observation for your first night in a new world... And I'd like to observe you really close tonight. If you know what I mean."

At this point I couldn't even pretend to be oblivious. "Y-you want to what? Why? We aren't even the same species." Yeah, because that stopped me with the vampire, the demoness, the elf, or any of the others I'd been with over the years.

"That's part of the fun. You can't tell me you aren't thinking about it. Ooh, you are so cute when you blush!" She said with a giggle and a blush of her own.

I tried to formulate a response to that, and to figure out what I wanted to have happen next.

"Just a moment, gonna get some things." Redheart said as she turned to one of the cabinets and pulled open a drawer.

As Nurse Redheart searched the drawer, her backside was facing me. Her tail was raised and she was wiggling her rear in a way I was finding oddly hard to look away from. She looked back to see me staring and she smiled with a hungry gleam in her eye.

I was actually imagining Redheart kissing me... and more, when the fates decided it was time to pay attention to my life again and start kicking me around some more. Which is to say, our moment was interrupted by the metaphorical cold shower of an angry Doctor Emerald. At which point my brain woke up and reminded me that I was still dealing with internal questions from when Blitzen kissed me, and perhaps now was truly not the time to try anything more intimate.

"Eleanor! In the last few moments you've been adjusting your position and vocal pitch in ways that seem calculated to elicit a reaction from nurse Redheart. What you do on your own time is your business but please stop flirting with the nurse while she is supposed to be attending to her duties." Emerald said in what was likely a lot quieter tone than I heard in my head.

"I... Wait? What?!" Me flirting?! She was flirting with me!

"You mean you weren't aware of what you were doing? Interesting." Emerald commented as he walked over.

An ugly thought rose in my mind and in a nanosecond my brain confirmed my fears. My hands clenched into fists and I felt a growl starting in my throat, "That goddamned brass plated mechanical bastard!"

There was the sound of shredding fabric and a blue light filled the room. The bed creaked under the sudden change of weight as I took on my mechanical form. I stood up and prepared to howl my fury to the heavens when Emerald interrupted me.

"Please calm yourself Miss Asher." Emerald said in a soothing tone.

I noticed then that the ponies in the room were terrified of me. Well mostly. Blitzen was still passed out, and Redheart seemed to be looking at me in a way I wasn't entirely comfortable with.

"Goddamn it... A Thousandfold Courtesan Calculations charm... It's been running in the back of my mind since earlier today. It... makes me a nearly perfect seductress. I didn't even know I was doing it." Every word of the confession burned with humiliation.

I couldn't take this. I leaned against the wall and started to cry. Then because the humiliation conga wasn't done for the night we all got a wonderful demonstration of Newton's third law of motion.

There was a whistle of steam from my mechanical arm and I went flying across the room. Apparently I had a Piston Driven Megaton Hammer charm. And when my hand was flat against a solid surface, the whole equal and opposite reaction involved flinging me across the room.

I also got to find out what the pin I took out earlier was for, as my left forearm detached from the rest of my arm somewhere along the way.

I smashed into the opposite wall, putting a fair sized hole in the defenseless wall. After a moment or ten of seeing stars I tried to sit up.

"Try to be careful there ma'am." Alex said.

Sitting up, I see I've acquired an audience. Rarity was standing by Emerald, and Alex was holding out a hand to help me stand up. Rainbow Dash was hovering nearby.

I accepted the help and got to my feet as Rainbow took a closer look at the hole in the wall.

"I think that's the same wall the Cutie Mark Crusaders put a hole in when they were trying to get nurse cutie marks. They did way more damage though." Dash said as she looked back to me.

”I just put a human shaped hole in the wall, what could the children do that was worse?! Wait, don't answer that. I don't think I wanna know." Speculating on how bad it might have been did at least slow my tears for the moment.

Alex chuckled, "Scoots has cost me many a bit in repair bills. Still, keeps her in fresh air."

I looked at him incomprehensibly.

Dash answered, "Yeah. That awesome little whirlwind of destruction is our daughter." She must have seen the growing confusion on my face. "Adopted, but all ours."

Ok, so their daughter evidently has a talent for destruction that outweighs a semidivine entity with poor power control... Scary.

"Anybody see where my arm landed?" I started looking for the wayward limb.

"I think this is it over here," Alex said. "Is it safe to pick up?"

I nodded and he brought it over to me.

"Beautiful workmanship." He paused for a moment. "Aw geez, didn't mean that to sound flirty." He paused again considering something. "Felt something weird for a moment there but it stopped almost as soon as it started. Like it was testing if it could affect me. One of your Charms perhaps? Involuntary maybe?"

"Broken is more like it. I'm trying to figure out how to remove it, but once I'm in one piece I can shut it off." I said taking the arm and reattaching it. My elbow felt a little sore, but otherwise it was fine. I took a second to isolate the Courtesan Calculations charm and shut it down, hard.

"Wonder why it didn't affect me more than that? Stuff to think about later. For now you should rest up. I'll send somepony to take care of the damage. You have enough on your plate right now, Eleanor." Alex said.

"Huh, you didn't call me ma'am," I noted.

Alex rubbed the back of his neck, "Sorry about that. I hope I'm not stepping over any bounds."

"Only if you called me ma'am again." I replied.

I decided I had put off the inevitable long enough and stepped over to Nurse Redheart. Her blue eyes were filled with uncertainty as I approached.

"Nurse, I want to apologize. Not just for the damage. I was... I was using one of my magic abilities to flirt with you earlier. I didn't realize I was doing it but I should have." I told her.

"It's okay Eleanor Asher. I think I would have found you interesting regardless. It just made me forget that I should check with somepony else before acting on impulses like that." She replied.

"Oh gods... You have a boyfriend. I am so sorry..." I started, feeling shame building up again.

I seriously gave thought to running off to be a hermit in the woods. I'd picked up some survival skills and that way I wouldn't have to mess up anybody's life but my own. If I weren't so tired after all the excitement today, I might have done it.

"Nothing happened, Eleanor. Don't worry about it." Redheart told me with a gentle smile.

"Thank you for seeing it that way." I said.

Then I turned to Rarity and Emerald.

"I've got the same apology to make to you. I'm fairly sure the charm was acting on Rarity right up till I found out she was in a relationship. Evidently my subconscious has some scruples at least. But still I am sorry for what I did." I told them.

"You have control of this charm now?" Emerald asked.

"Yes, and I promise I will keep it locked down till I figure out how to remove it. I know there's a way, I'm just not sure how." I said.

"Please do," Rarity said with a sniff. I gathered she wasn't quite ready to be forgiving, for which I could hardly blame her.

Feeling pretty low after all of this, I got into the empty bed.

"So, let me sum up my day so far. Wake up in chains like a goddamn criminal." I started.

"I'm sorry." Alex said.

"Get interrogated and threatened!" I continued.

"Really sorry," Alex added.

"Things start looking up and then I find out I've been running a subroutine that was trying to seduce every mare I met," I went on.

"No idea how sorry I am," Alex said.

"That one's not your fault," Dash commented.

"I know," Alex replied.

I got what he was trying to do, but it had been a long day, and I was too upset to keep trying to deal with things.

"And now I've put a hole in the wall. I'm tired, sore, angry, embarrassed, and frustrated as hell. So, I'm sorry, hook up the monitor and let me go to sleep. I just can't handle any more today." I finished laying down, letting the doctor apply the contacts for the EEG. I just didn't have it in me right then to deal with any more today.

One day in and I was well on my way to making a complete mess of things in one of the few decent worlds I'd landed in. Admittedly not the first time I'd had a bad time on arriving in a new world, but this time a lot of it was my fault whether intentionally or no.

The worst was that stupid damned charm. It must have been running since I met Roseluck. Which means that what happened with Blitzen was just the charm making her attracted to me. I still didn't know what I was feeling about that kiss and now it was all bullshit. I could feel hot tears leaking from my eyes onto my pillow and I just wished everything would go away.

Chapter 7: New day, New problems

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Since I left Earth, my sleep has been haunted by a variety of nightmares. They range from simple fears of just being killed to grand theatrical productions of all manner of terrors.
For the last year or so the dreams are of burning light, pain, and some monstrous nameless sorrow. This night was no different. Until...

A touch...
Soft warmth...
peace...

It has been so long... so very long since I could just sleep, untroubled by fear and pain.


I opened my eyes to pink and blue. It took me a moment to realize that Pinkie Pie was almost nose to nose with me, and likely had been for a while just waiting for me to wake up.

I blame my subsequent actions on lack of coffee causing my brain to malfunction. Seeing how close Pinkie was, I extended my tongue and licked her nose. For the record it did not taste of cotton candy or bubblegum, but there was a hint of confectioner's sugar and flour.

Pinkie sputtered and moved back a little. "Naughty. I've got a coltfriend. You should at least let me check if he wants to watch before you do that. Not now though, I’m handing out invitations for your Welcome to Equestria (we know the trip sucked but we're glad you're here now) Party." Don't ask how I could hear the parentheses in her voice, I just did.

“Pinkie, I just woke up, I’m really not up for a party.” I groaned.

She tapped me on the forehead and reached into into her mane. And then I had to do a doubletake as she pulled out a cup of steaming hot coffee and handed it to me. She kept that in her mane? How the? I don’t even… Screw it, it’s coffee.

I took a sip and received another shock. The coffee was exactly how I preferred. Dark French Roast with two sugars and no cream.

"It's official, you are my favorite pony. This is the best coffee I've had in years." I said to the grinning pink face that still was about a foot away from mine.

"Of course it is silly. You've been drinking that stuff they used for coffee in the other world. Eeew." Pinkie said, scrunching up her face in distaste.

"Trace made me coffee yesterday." I pointed out.

"Mine's better." Pinkie replied.

"Point for you. This is great coffee," I admitted.

I heard a mumble, and felt something move behind me. I turned over and saw that at some point last night Blitzen’s bed had been moved next to mine, and she’d been laying against my back all night.

I looked back to Pinkie to see she was holding out a card to me. The invitation to the party no doubt. I took the card from her mouth.

“Now don’t try to skip the party. You don’t want me to have to drag you there.” Pinkie told me in a joking voice as she stepped out of the room. At least I hoped she was joking.

I looked over at the sleeping pony behind me and wondered if I could actually stay in this world. Or was this friendship another one I'd have to cut short? Maybe it was best if I did. Given what was coming, it was likely a kindness.

From what I'd gathered, she'd had a hard life before I dropped into it. Would she be strong enough to deal with me leaving? Or would that be the final straw that destroyed her? Would it be better done quickly, or when cruel fate had its way?

Why was I so damned concerned anyway? We just met yesterday, we barely said anything to each other, but it felt like I was trying to tear my own heart out when I thought of leaving…

Blitzen snorted a little and opened a bloodshot eye.

"Good morning." I said, as quietly as I could.

A grunt was her eloquent response.

She looked at me for a moment as the fog of sleep started to lift from her eyes. Several emotions crossed her face too fast for me to try and figure out.

"Did we?" Her face was a mix of embarrassment and terror. "Did I..." she backed away from me and slid off the bed, taking a moment to stand on wobbling legs.

Just then, the door opened and Doctor Emerald walked in. Blitzen tried to sneak out the door as Emerald approached me, but I saw her and gave her a look that I hoped told her I wanted to talk later.

Emerald levitated the other bed back to its original place and took the monitor tabs off of me. A parcel of folded cloth he levitated to me was revealed to be the dress Rarity had made for me last night.

"Interesting," he said as he looked at the EEG readout.

"Yep, that's me. All the interesting stuff goes on in my head." I told him, “So what’s so interesting?”

Emerald levitated the printout to me, showing the oldest part with its spiky waveform.

“This is when we started to monitor you. You seem rather agitated, and not experiencing restful sleep.” He said. He then showed another part, a smoother less jagged line. "This is from when the night nurse says Miss Blitzen pushed her bed to yours and put her hoof over you."

"So that's what happened..." I said to myself.

"In light of this and similar observations from the other humans, I suggest you sleep with Miss Blitzen if she is amenable to such." Emerald told me.

After I rebooted my brain from emergency shutdown, I gave Doctor Emerald my best 'say what?' look. "I'm going to assume you just meant actual sleeping. Because to a human, that could mean I should um... have sex with her." Was my face red? It certainly felt that way.

"Ahem... Yes, I only meant sleeping. However your reaction suggests you may need to have a more detailed conversation with Miss Blitzen than I had thought." Emerald said after a moment.

I sighed deeply. "Doctor, I don't really think it matters how I sleep."

I paused to think of how to explain what I meant, covering that pause with the entertaining exercise of trying to put on the dress without getting out of bed or showing anything. Once mostly covered I did the mental shift that turned me back to my human form.

"You're a doctor, so I'll give it to you straight. My fortune app is never wrong. And it doesn't go for super long term futures. I've got a death sentence just as if I'd gotten some terminal disease," I told him, trying not to break down.

I gave a bitter laugh. "Heh. Heh. Heh. It's kinda funny. I always knew it would happen. One day I'd say too much, or I wouldn't be fast enough. I just never dreamed it would be in a place like this."

And here I am, crying again.

Emerald was looking at me with more than a little concern. "Miss Asher..." he began.

"Doctor, if you have someone who counsels terminal patients, I'd like to see them. I... I don't think I can deal with this on my own. In the meantime however, I need to get some air," I said as I got out of the bed and walked toward the door.

Emerald stepped in front of me, "I can't stop you, and perhaps a walk will do you some good. But please promise me you will come back later so you you can talk to the counselor."

I looked down at the floor for a minute before I spoke. "You have my word. I will come back here."

Emerald stepped out of my way and I found my way out of the hospital. I was on my own for the first time since I arrived.

I looked around Ponyville, and had to restrain myself. The part of me that was still a little girl wanted nothing more than to hug every pony I saw until I forgot about that damn prediction.

However, I was sure randomly hugging strangers was not going to do much to keep ponies from thinking I'm crazy, and I did not want to go to whatever the ponies had for a looney bin.

I was just walking wherever my feet would lead me when I saw something that gave me pause. My brain tried to process what I was seeing. It was a rather large creature, like some kind of lion/bird mix. It seemed to be talking to the nurse from last night.

It spotted me and started walking towards me. I couldn't really tell with the beak, but it looked angry about something. Its hackles were raised and its tail was lashing as it held me with a piercing glare.

Oh crap, angry giant lion/bird thing walking right toward me... Don't say anything stupid. Don't say anything stupid.

"Bah-weep-Graaaaagnah wheep ni ni bong." Too late.

The creature paused for a moment in apparent confusion and said with a decidedly masculine voice, "No, I don't think I need a trombone at the moment. I just wanted to have a word with you."

I nodded, not trusting myself to say anything.

"My name is Gary. You're the new human, right? Eleanor?" He asked.

I managed to squeak out, "Maybe."

"I just wanted to point out that griffons, that's me, don't take too kindly to having others make time with our females, " he said pointing to Nurse Redheart with a what looked to be a very sharp claw, "That's her."

"I can honestly say I did not consciously intend to make time with your female. For what that's worth," I said carefully, trying not to act too frightened in case that woke some predatory instinct in him.

"But your subconscious was getting the message out loud and clear," Redheart said as she walked over to us.

"First: You should keep control of your shellcracked magics. Second: Don't mess with a griffon's mate unless you're willing to die for her," he told me. The twitching of his tail indicated he was still upset but seemed to be calming down.

"I have the charm locked down, and I promise if I'd known she was with someone even my subconscious wouldn't cross that line," I told him.

"Too bad though. I was thinking you and I could give my big strong predator a really special night," Redheart said with a saucy wink.

I was trying to figure out a diplomatic reply when suddenly our increasingly disturbing conversation was cut short by the roar of what had to be some unholy beast. The roar was followed by screams and before I even decided what to do, I was running toward the town square. Right towards the frightful noise.

I felt a shift in the air as Gary shot past me, and he reached the square first.

As I reached the town square I beheld a scene of horror. In the middle of the square was something that looked like a giant boar. Its shoulders stood a couple feet higher than my head. Its own head was at my level and so massive it seemed the creature could barely lift it. The creature had already destroyed several carts. I didn’t see Roseluck’s cart or flowers so I gave thanks that at least she likely wasn’t hurt. However I could see that others were injured.

I saw a strangely familiar orange coated mare trapped under an apple cart. Next to the cart was an unconscious mare I didn't recognize.

Gary leapt at the beast, talons extended. The beast turned its head and snorted a vile gray-green cloud. A second later, the cloud cleared revealing a new horror. The gryphon I'd just had today's most awkward conversation with had just become a stone statue. Nurse Redheart seemed just as petrified, staring at the statue of what used to be her boyfriend.

Oh gods I hope there's a way to fix that here. I don't want to think he may be dead just because he got to the creature first.

Any other ponies apparently had already fled, except two small children... Foals? Fillies? Nevermind, proper terminology could wait. The creature had the two backed up against a wall and was clearly intent on making a meal of them. The pink one whimpered and I realized I couldn’t let that happen.

Hoping I wasn’t about to end up just adding myself to the creature’s meal plans I ran and leapt between it and the children. The beast growled and tried to gore me with a tusk. With a pang of guilt I transformed, destroying the dress Rarity had made for me. I heard the fillies gasp behind me as metal took the place of flesh and my clothing was torn to ribbons. I crossed my arms to block the attack and what looked like some kind of force field covered them, deflecting the blow.

Standing between the beast and the children I felt something I had never felt before: Purpose. I would not let these children be harmed. A ripple of rainbow light spread out from me, and I could see what I was going to do next in a strobing cascade of phantom images of myself. It was the anima power of the Starmetal Caste: Inevitable Fate.

First a swift jab with my right fist striking the beast's nose. "You."
Then a left hook to its jaw. "Will."
A spinning kick. "Not."
Sidestep a slashing tusk. "Harm."
Pull back my left fist. "Them!"
"Piston Driven Megaton Hammer!" I shouted as I activated the charm, sending power down my arm into what I hoped would be a knockout punch. Steam hissed from my elbow as I struck. However I'd forgotten that the charm had a drawback at the moment, and a fair amount of the force was lost as my arm detached on impact. Still I'd succeeded at slamming the monster’s head into the ground and focussing its attention on me. Which was probably not a good thing, as it spun around faster than something it's size should be able to and used its clublike tail to send me flying into a wall.

The impact knocked the wind out of me. The wall showered me with bits of plaster and dust. Feeling a bit dazed by the impact, my mind decided to focus on irrelevancies for a moment. How does getting the wind knocked out of me even work with this robotic chest?

While I was pondering this, the monster had stepped toward me, and it roared in my face. I gagged at the stench assaulting me. “Never heard of breath mints?” I choked out as I tried to breathe.

I shook my head to clear it, and saw that help had started to arrive. Trace and Twilight Sparkle were approaching from behind the monster. Seeing them I thought of a plan to stop the monster.

I jumped at the monster, narrowly avoiding the tusks and held onto its neck. I hoped my weight would slow it down and I felt that weight increase. In a moment I had the monster’s head pinned by my increased weight as my personal gravity had increased substantially. The monster’s body thrashed about, trying to throw me off its head. Trying to hold on with one arm wasn't easy, but somehow I managed.

“I can’t get a grip on it with it thrashing like that! The scales are magic resistant!" Twilight exclaimed, horn lit, obviously trying to get a hold on the monster.

Magic resistant scales certainly presented a problem. Just needed a way to hit the creature where the scales wouldn't protect it. A new plan formed. This was gonna hurt...

"Trace! I need you to cast that lightning spell at me! I'm going to conduct it past the scales." I shouted.

"What about you? Taking the brunt of a thunder spell could kill you!" He responded, as he moved into position.

“Lightning resistant frame charm, I’ll be fine.” I said, hoping he wouldn’t notice a bit of uncertainty in my voice. I didn’t know if I had that charm. Even if I did, it would only protect against natural lightning, not a directed blast.

I jammed the stump of my robotic arm into the creature's mouth.

"Now!" I yelled.

"Thunder!" Trace called out. A bolt of lightning shot from his hand to me, and my vision blurred as my body spasmed.

After a moment my vision cleared. I'd managed to maintain my hold, but the monster was now thrashing harder trying to break free of my grip. The arm in its mouth had been crushed when it bit down, but was still connected. Hurt like hell. I felt the monster starting to draw in a deep breath, likely to spit out another cloud of petrifying gas.

"Again, stronger!" I shouted.

"Eleanor, that's insane! A stronger bolt will kill you for sure!" Trace replied.

"No time! It's gonna use a breath weapon, hurry! Besides, I barely felt the last one!" I shouted back.

"Thundara!"

This time the bolt came from the sky, all one point twenty-one gigawatts of it slamming right into my chest. White fire burned through me, and I only had time for one last thought before pain tore the world away from me.

Maybe this time,
Maybe now I can rest...

Chapter 8: Parties

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Throughout my travels I’ve noticed that most physical laws remained fairly consistent. Minor variations aside, dropped objects fell to the ground under the force of gravity. The atoms of my body remained intact, not flying apart or being crushed by some change in the nuclear forces.

However, some universes had new and strange laws that governed things. Bizarre physics that allowed someone to run at extreme speeds without the issues of escape velocity, friction or other matters that should have prevented their abilities. Worlds where gravity could be overridden with a word. Places where light behaved in ways that made no sense at all.

In Equestria, one of these laws was evidently that there is no avoiding Pinkie’s parties. To this day I am convinced that had I died fighting that beast, I would have found Hell covered in streamers and balloons with Pinkie waiting to give me some cake and punch and welcome me to Equestria (and then to Hell too I suppose).

I have to say I woke to the strangest party I’d ever seen. Everypony was trying to be very quiet. Dr. Emerald had an exasperated look. I had a feeling that the room had more ponies than what he would normally allow. There were a few ponies I didn't recognize, but most of the ones crowding the room were familiar. Trace and Alex were holding my tablet and discussing something in the far corner. Pinkie, of course, was front and center, reaching toward me with a party hat in her hooves.

“Good morning sleepy head! We’ve been waiting for you to wake up!” Pinkie said with her infectious grin making me smile in response.

Once the hat was in place, I scanned the room for Blitzen. I was somewhat disappointed that I didn't see her. And once again I wondered why she was so important to me.

Alrighty, time to prioritize... First: I need to figure out why I'm acting so nuts. I know getting tossed to a new world is disorienting but this is a bit much. Second: I have to figure out what the heck is going on with me and Blitzen and why I'm feeling like this. Third: … okay I have no idea what to do next. Enjoy the party?

Right now I had to deal with the party that had taken over the room. A quick mental check showed I was feeling well and, other than a missing left forearm, I had mostly recovered from fighting the monster earlier. I was in my mechanical form and wearing a hospital gown, so I figured it’d be more of a party if I got out of bed.

I’d expected I would be shaky when I stood up, but was pleasantly surprised to find out that this wasn't the case. I actually felt pretty good. I looked at the ponies in the room.

I saw Nurse Redheart talking to a green unicorn filly. I hadn't seen the filly before, but there was something familiar about her. I realized her pink mane and green coat reminded me of ‘Spect and then I saw the mark on her flank; a glyph of Old Realm script that I could tell meant something like ‘moonlight’. Her right foreleg was in a cast and she seemed to be arguing with Redheart about it.

“‘Spect? Is that you? What happened?” I asked, concerned.

“She got a scrape on her knee. I just put a bandage on it a few minutes before you woke. I have no idea how she got a cast on it,” Redheart told me.

“It hurts!!! Nopony told me being mortal would be like this. I didn't know pain would hurt like this! How do you mortals not fall apart?!” ‘Spect bawled.

“You’re mortal?” I asked, shocked. “How? Why?”

“Luna said I had to be if I wanted to stay. I didn't want to go back. So here I am, mortal for a day and already mortally wounded.” ‘Spect said sniffling.

She stayed to be with me, even going as far as to give up her immortal being. Maybe I had been too harsh with her before. Perhaps I could give her a second chance and let the past stay in the past.

“Hate to say it, but you’re going to get used to it. It just seems bad because it’s your first time feeling pain. It’s just a scrape, leave it alone and it’ll be fine.” Redheart said.

I couldn’t put off apologizing any longer, “Ms. Redheart. I’m sorry about what happened to Gary. I should have moved faster.” I said.

“He was just saying how embarrassed he was getting caught off guard like that,” Redheart said.

“He’s alright?” I was surprised; petrification was never curable in any of the worlds I’d been to.

“Annoyed with himself, but just fine. What about you? You took some pretty bad hits from that Catoblepas.” Redheart asked.

“I’m feeling great, and Catoblewhat?” I asked.

“Catoblepas, Twilight looked it up. It’s evidently from the Zebra lands. She’s looking into how it got here.” Redheart explained.

“Miss Eleanor Asher?” A mare’s voice impatiently interrupted.

The speaker was a beige coated earth pony with light blue mane done into a bun held with hairsticks. It was a style I’d always liked but managed to consistently screw up when I tried to get my hair to do it. The look her emerald eyes gave me was telling me she’d rather be somewhere else. Anywhere else. It took a moment but I recognized her as the unconscious mare that was at the fight with the Catoblewhatsit.

“Yes, that's me. Not that I suppose there would be much chance I could be mistaken for anyone else.” I said, trying to get the mare to lighten up.

“My name is Butterscotch. I work for Golden Coins. He will not be attending but he wanted me to give you these,” she said coldly as she brought out a pair of envelopes from her saddlebag.

“One letter is his, the other is from his associate Filthy Rich.” She said once I took the letters.

As she turned to leave I heard a barely audible "Thank you for saving Silver and me." I looked to her to see if I misheard, but she was already leaving and somepony more pleasant was coming my way. I set the letters on the bedside table to be read after the party.

“Hi Eleanor. I’m glad you're ok. I was worried after I heard about that fight. I know humans aren't as tough as most ponies...” Roseluck said as she stepped over to us. “Though given how different your body is I guess it isn’t as big of a problem.”

Redheart stepped away, taking ‘Spect with her. There was an odd expression on her face when she looked at me. I figured she was concerned I might be acting like I was in better shape than someone in my situation would be.

I turned back to Roseluck, “I am a lot tougher than most humans. Thankfully.” I remembered that I needed to talk to Roseluck about my rogue charm, “Roseluck, about the time we met… there’s something.”

“I heard about the... charm. I was told you shut it off and you have control of it now so I’m not upset or anything. Truth be told, I’m sure I felt an attraction to you before it affected me. Maybe I might not have been as forward without it, but I do want to get to know you better.” Roseluck said, smiling.

I took a moment to think about that. I was attractive to her? It seemed bizarre, but given the others I’ve seen I guess xenophilia is not uncommon in this world, though I probably had the strangest body in this world. What was getting me was the fact that I felt an attraction to her. In my travels I’d seen couples (and more exotic arrangements) that were unusual to say the least. My own lovers had not been human since I was thrown into this life, but they were all close enough to pass for human. These ponies were different. The differences weren’t as simple to overlook as the shape of the ears or teeth. They weren’t humanoid. And yet, I could not deny a feeling of attraction to Roseluck. (And to Blitzen for that matter.) I wasn’t sure why, and self analysis was never one of my strong points. I decided I could let it go for a while and just enjoy the party.

Somepony came to the door while I was talking to Rose. I was focused on Rose so I didn't see who it was. I was also slightly distracted by Rose’s tail swishing back and forth.

“I’d like that.” I told Roseluck. “I’m kinda waiting to find out where I’ll be staying once I’m out the hospital but maybe once that’s sorted out we could maybe have lunch or something.”

Blitzen suddenly appeared next to me. “Hello, Rose.” Her voice was icy and she was almost growling at Roseluck.

Roseluck glared at Blitzen, “What in Discord’s name are you doing here?”

Blitzen turned to face me, making a point of ignoring Roseluck. “I found us a cottage with plenty of room for us.”

Roseluck’s ears flipped back, her head lowered slightly, and one of her forehooves pawed at the floor. Her glare at Blitzen intensified and she bared her teeth in a snarl. She lowered her head further and snorted.

Blitzen started copying Roseluck and I was pretty sure I was about to get stuck in the middle of a pony catfight… ponyfight… whatever.

Suddenly Pinkie appeared between the two mares in a blast of confetti that knocked both mares to the ground.

“Silly fillies, this is a party, not a hockey game. Besides, it’s time for Ellie to open her presents.” Pinkie dragged them to chairs at opposite ends of the room in a way that seemed vaguely angry.

“Fine.” Rose snorted to herself as she got up and ran out of the room. I only saw her face briefly as she passed but it looked like she was about to cry.

I walked over to Blitzen. “What the hell was that? I’m gonna guess you two have some history.” I said with a somewhat irritated tone.

Blitzen looked down at the floor. “She and I… she was my marefriend. Before I lost my wings. It didn't… it didn't end well between us. Sorry you had to get caught in the middle like that,” she said.

I relented, “I get it. I’ve had bad breakups and awkward confrontations too. Just try to keep me out of the middle of it next time. I literally just got here and extra drama is not something I need.”

“I will,” she said quietly, ears pressed against her head.

She sat on the floor and kept looking down. I could almost feel how miserable she was at that moment. I crouched down beside her and put my arms around her, pulling her into a hug. As always, it amazed me how soft her coat was.

“I’m not mad at you. Like I said, I get it. Now there's a party here, so let’s try and enjoy it,” I told her when I let go.

Pinkie brought me the strange box that had been placed in my bag before I came to this world.

“The way my tail is twitching and my hooves are wiggly, there’s a real doozy in this box. You’ll need the grade seven Hyperion key from your omnitool charm to open that.” Pinkie said with a strange look in her eyes.

I set the box on the floor and held my hand over it. It was a bit weird trying to this with my ‘human’ hand, but until I found the other one it was all I had. I watched my index finger reshape itself to fit the odd screws on the box. However, instead of unscrewing them, a pulse of light ran down my finger, the screw vanished, and a segment of the gear logo on the box lit up with blue light.

After I undid the sixth and final screw, the light from the gear emblem rose off the box and formed a large hologram of Autocthon’s face.

“Eleanor, by now you are My Auspicious Harmonic Engineer and, knowing you, you are likely wasting time emoting about your transformation instead of accepting it and the power it gives you. Regardless, I have arranged some gifts to help make spreading My influence easier in whatever world you find yourself.” He stated.

“Oh crap, this can’t be good.” I muttered.

“First among My gifts to you is your plasma chakram. Anticipating your idiosyncrasy I have already established its name as Unbroken Circuit.” He continued.

“Second is this box; within which are supplies of the magical materials of our world that you may use to craft new wonders. Also within are small amounts of Ambrosia and Quintessence enchanted to exist outside of Yu-Shan. Use these supplies well, in My name.” I was really getting annoyed with him now... the damn brass-plated asshole. The gift may have been very useful, but every word dripped condescension. As though he thought I could have no greater purpose for the materials he mentioned other than making some tribute to his glory.

“Last among these gifts is that your heroism will not be forgotten. A day shall be set for all of creation to remember your audacious first strike against the Infernal plague that had stricken our world. You turned the tools of a nation to your purpose and made the hard choice to do what was necessary even at the cost of millions of lives. The ruins of Gem shall hold the glory of your memory for all Creation to see.” He finished as the hologram faded from view.

If I hadn't already been on the floor I think my knees would have given way as stunned as I was by his final statement.

Now you begin to see.

Millions of lives...

“What. The. Fuck?” Was all I could say as my mind shut down.