The Mane Six Discover Human Music

by Blissey1

First published

Twilight has developed a device that can detect strange signals coming from outer space; signals from aliens! She gathers her friends so that they can all listen in. But they may not like what they hear...

Twilight has developed a device that can detect strange signals coming from outer space; signals from aliens! She gathers her friends so that they can all listen in.

But they may not like what they hear...

cover image courtesy of DocWario

I'd appreciate if everyone could keep the YouTube embeds in the comments to a minimum. The sheer number of them is putting a bit more strain on my connection than I'd like. I'm going to start deleting any comments with 2 or more embeds in them.

A Rock?

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The interior of the Books and Branches Library looked almost the same as it ever did, with the exception of a strangely shaped object covered by a cloth lying on the table in the middle of the room.

The door burst open, and Twilight and her friends quickly entered.

“Whatever this is had better be pretty awesome, egghead,” Rainbow Dash said with a frown. “I had a nap scheduled about now.”

“It is, Rainbow! This is going to be the breakthrough of the century!” Twilight Sparkle replied enthusiastically, her wings quivering against her sides with excitement.

“That’s what you said when you tried to tame that parasprite, sugarcube,” Applejack said, more than a hint of amusement clear in her voice.

Twilight’s enthusiasm noticeably decreased a notch and a small blush appeared on her face. “Alright, I know I can get a little overenthusiastic sometimes, but this time I’m serious! This is going to change everything!”

“Ooh, ooh! Is it this thing!?” Pinkie had seemingly teleported next to the cloth covered object on the table. “What is it? Is it a surprise? I love surprises!”

“It sure is, Pinkie! This is the result of nearly a month of work! Girls, let me present to you… the Subspace Transceiver!” Twilight dramatically removed the cloth, revealing a box like object. The front was covered with gauges, dials, and knobs, and one corner had a long, cylindrical shape sticking up into the air, like a wildly elongated unicorn’s horn.

Twilight’s friends were all silent. Applejack was the first to speak. “Twilight… that looks like a regular ol’ radio to me.”

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to agree with Applejack, darling,” Rarity added.

“Umm… but it's a very nice looking radio…” Fluttershy mumbled.

“That’s the thing, girls! It looks like regular old radio, but it’s not! I’m going to have to give a bit of background to explain this, so bear with me a moment.”

Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes in exasperation as Twilight began. “So for the last couple of months, I’ve been working with Princess Celestia to find ways to harness electricity, and—”

“Electricity? You mean like lightning?” Dash interrupted. “Twilight, pegasi can already harness lightning! And you can too, now!”

Twilight gave a frustrated sigh. “Yes, I know, Rainbow. I mean ways for non-pegasi to harness it as well.” Her face lit up again. “Just imagine how useful it would be if everypony could harness the power of lightning for use in their homes! We could use it for heating, or lighting, or any number of other things!”

“Well, that does sound mighty useful, but what does that have to do with yer fancy radio?” AJ asked.

“I’m getting to that! So, anyway, we were doing a lot of experiments with electricity and magnets. One of those was a way to see if we could use lightning to instantly send messages over long distances, just like with dragonfire. We created a prototype of a device that should be able to receive these messages, and the most amazing thing happened! We began receiving signals from outside the planet Equus!”

She now solidly had the attention of all her friends. Even Rainbow Dash was listening intently. “But that’s not even the best part!” Twilight continued. “After studying these signals, we came to the stunning conclusion that they weren’t natural! Something was making them!”

“Woah, woah, hold up, time out,” Rainbow Dash said while waving her hooves about. “You’re telling us that you picked up signals from aliens?”

“Exactly!” Twilight said as she leaped up in the air with excitement, her wings unfurling to keep her there. “This is the most amazing discovery ever!”

“My my, that is rather exciting,” Rarity said. “Actual proof of aliens… I wonder what kind of fashion they have?”

“Do you think they like parties? I bet I could throw a party an alien would like!”

“I hope that they’re nice aliens…”

“Ok, I gotta admit, that is pretty awesome,” Rainbow Dash said. “But you said that these signals were supposed to be like messages, right? So what did they say?”

“Well, that’s the thing, Rainbow,” Twilight replied. “We we were able to detect these signals, but we couldn’t actually make any sense of them.” She grinned victoriously as she turned back to the radio on the table. “That is, until now…”

“So then this fancy radio of yours is supposed to pick up alien signals?” AJ asked, clearly intrigued.

“Right! I’ve spent the last month modifying the universal translator spell used by diplomats to work with these electrical signals, and I think I’ve finally got it working!” Twilight turned back to her friends. “Girls, we’re going to be the first ponies on Equus to listen to an alien message!”

All of her friends, now fully caught up in her enthusiasm, gave a small cheer. “So, how exactly does it work, Twilight?” Rarity asked.

“Well, pretty much just like regular radios. I just have to adjust the frequency until we pick up the signal. Only instead of the magical signals we use for our radios, we’ll be picking up electrical signals!”

“Electrical signals from aliens!” Pinkie shouted. “This is the most superrific stupenderlous thing ever!!”

Rarity gave a quiet sigh. “It’s just too bad Spike couldn’t be with us…”

“I know, Rarity,” Twilight replied. “I wish he could be here too, but Princess Celestia needed him for something back in Canterlot.” She turned to the device on the table. “Now lets see here…” Her horn lit, and the device was engulfed in a magenta glow. There was a click as it turned on, and a quiet static filled the room as she began tuning the device.

“Twilight, wings,” Dash said.

“Oh, right,” she responded with a slight blush. Her magic released its hold on a few of the knobs on the device, and she instead unfurled her wings and began using those to manipulate them. Rainbow Dash insisted that occasionally using her still somewhat new wings for fine manipulation was a vital part of keeping them in proper shape, but she was just so used to using her magic for everything that she always forgot.

As Twilight tuned the device and Dash observed her wing work, the others conversed quietly amongst themselves. “So what kinda signal do ya’ll think this is gonna be?” AJ asked.

“If it’s anything like our radio stations, It will probably be a advertisement of some kind,” Rarity said with a sigh. “I swear, they’re playing more and more advertisements and less and less music these days.”

“Ohh ohh! Whatever it is, I hope it's loud and fast paced! Like party music!”

“Not too loud, I hope…”

“Girls!” Twilight shouted. “Girls, I think I’ve got it!”

They all leaned in anxiously as Twilight made a final turn of one of the knobs and backed away. There was silence for a few moments, and then a few soft guitar strums became audible. They all listened in stunned silence for a few more moments, and then words joined the guitar.

“This… this is music!” Twilight said in a reverent whisper. “This is actual alien music!” Her voice was quickly starting to rise. “Do you know what this means!? About their culture and their society and—”

She was cut off by a white hoof being shoved into her mouth. “Dear, do be quiet. We’re trying to listen,” Rarity said.

Twilight nodded sheepishly and Rarity removed her hoof from her mouth. The alicorn’s horn glowed, and a stack of parchment and a quill appeared before her, and she eagerly started taking notes. Winter? That means that their planet has seasonal variations just like ours! And snow means that their global climate is also water based! she thought excitedly to herself as she wrote.

Dash’s face scrunched up in confusion at the chorus line. “Wait, so the aliens are rocks and islands?” she asked quietly.

Pinkie looked similarly confused. “I don’t know if I could throw a party for an island… But I do know how to throw a party for rocks!”

Twilight shook her head without taking her eyes from her notes. “I don’t think they’re being literal, girls. It’s clearly some kind of figure of speech, but I’m not sure what it could mean.”

“Huh, well they seem pretty industrious, building walls and fortresses,” AJ said. “I guess I can appreciate that. Unless ya’ll think they’re not being literal again.”

“Right. I get the feeling that was symbolic, AJ. I think that—”

Whatever Twilight was going to say next was forgotten upon hearing the lyrics that followed. The six all sat in stunned silence for a moment as the song continued. Twilight was the first to recover enough to say anything.

“...Friendship causes pain?” she squeaked out in a disbelieving whisper.

“What the hay!?” Dash shouted angrily. “That’s like, the exact opposite of what friendship does!”

“And they hate lovin’ and laughter, too?” AJ said, then snorted. “I don’t think I like these here aliens very much.”

“Now now, I’m sure that this song isn't a reflection on their entire species,” Twilight said, though her tone of voice didn’t convey nearly as much certainty as her words. To hear something that she held so close to her heart blasphemed against like that… it was a bit much. “It’s probably just the one alien that’s signing it that feels that way! ...I hope.”

“Well, I, for one, don’t see what reason this individual could possibly have for feeling that way about having friends,” Rarity said, disdain clear in her voice.

“I’m sure if we keep listening, we’ll learn more,” Twilight said, and hoped she was right. Part of her wanted to just turn the thing off right now, but another part of her wanted to see if the song explained itself.

Sure enough, they soon got their answer.

“‘If I never loved I never would have cried’?” Dash asked.

“It means that somepony close to him hurt him so very much, that he’s afraid to ever get close to anypony again… that poor creature…” Fluttershy explained.

“...I think that answers that, doesn’t it?” Twilight said. She was relieved that the alien at least had a reasonable explanation for feeling that way, even if she still felt that his reaction was a bit drastic.

“I suppose so…” Rarity admitted, her tone now much more sympathetic. “That does seem rather tragic, doesn’t it?”

“I guess you were right about that whole ‘building a fortress’ bit being symbolic, then,” AJ said.

“I still don’t get that stuff about being a rock and an island...” Rainbow grumbled.

They remained quiet for a few moments as the song continued, Rarity being the next one to speak. “Books and poetry? Why, this alien almost sounds like you, Twilight.”

Twilight grimaced. It actually sounded uncomfortably close to what she had been like before coming to Ponyville and meeting her friends. Granted, she had avoided making friends with others only because she didn’t see much reason to it, not because she thought it would hurt her, but still...

As the song came to an end, Twilight reached out with her magic and turned the device off. They all sat in silence for a short while longer, thinking on all they had just heard.

“You know…” Dash quietly said after a moment. “I think I can kinda understand where they’re coming from.”

Her friends turned to look at her expectantly, so Dash continued. “I never really told you all this, but when Gilda dumped me like that, I… I felt really…” Her face scrunched up in confusion for a few seconds, trying to find the right words. She eventually gave up with a sigh. “Look, I’m just really glad I had you girls around afterwards, okay?”

“Why, Rainbow, I had no idea…” Rarity said.

“Yeah, I think I know the feeling, too. Or at least, have an idea what it feels like.” AJ said. “Last year, up near Manehatten, one of my relatives ended up publicly disowning the rest of the Apple family.” She pulled her hat down over her eyes. “I had only met the feller a few times at our reunions, and I still felt plum terrible ‘bout it. I can only imagine how the family up there felt.”

“Bleh, all this talk about being sad and stuff sucks!” Rainbow Dash shouted. “C’mon Pinks, we need to liven things up around here!”


It was then that they realized that Pinkie hadn’t said anything in an uncharacteristically long time. They turned to look for her, and found in lying in a corner of the room, her mane flat and her eyes on the verge of tears.

“Oh horsefeathers!” Rainbow said, and quickly dashed over to Pinkie, the rest of her friends quick to follow. She put a hoof on Pinkies shoulder. “Pinkie! Pinkie, c’mon, what’s wrong?”

“T-that alien…” Pinkie said, her voice shuddering. “He needs a big hug and a party and friendly ponies so, so bad. But he’s on a different planet, in another galaxy… and I’ll never be able to make him feel happier…”

“Aw jeez…” Dash said under her breath. “Hey, look, Pinkie. I bet that whatever planet that alien is on has their own alien version of Pinkie Pie, and that she threw him a party right after he sung that song! I bet he’s feeling just great now!”

“And besides, Pinkie,” Twilight added, “I doubt that that song is actually how he feels, or what happened to him. I mean, just listen to some music here in Equestria! There’s plenty of songs that aren’t based in reality! I bet that aliens is actually perfectly normal with plenty of friends!”

“...Maybe,” Pinkie said halfheartedly, though she at least no longer appeared on the verge of bursting into tears.

“You know, I’m absolutely famished!” Rarity said. “Pinkie, dear, why don’t we all head to Sugarcube Corner and grab something to eat? Some food is sure to make you feel better!”

“Oh yes, that sounds wonderful,” Fluttershy said with a nod.

“...Okay,” Pinkie said.

Rainbow Dash helped Pinkie up off the floor, and the six all made their way outside.

Twilight was the last to leave. As she stepped through the doorway, she paused and turned to look back at the Subspace Transceiver sitting on the table. This was not how she had expected things to happen. With a sigh, she levitated the cloth covering back over the device, then stepped outside and closed the door behind her.

The Entire Universe?

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The door to the Books and Branches Library burst open and in stormed Spike, quickly followed by Twilight and the rest of their friends. Spike and Twilight had just returned from Canterlot, but despite having finally come home after a long absence, Spike seemed none too happy.

"I still can't believe that you did the first test run without me!" he said angrily.

"I know, Spike, I'm so sorry!" Twilight replied. "I was just so excited when I finally got that translation spell set up correctly that I couldn't help myself!"

"Yeah, that sounds like you alright..." Spike muttered under his breath, a scowl still on his face.

"Spike, dear, you know she didn't mean anything by it," Rarity said.

"Yeah, and besides, I don't think you woulda liked that song we heard anyway..." Rainbow Dash added.

Spike was still clearly upset, so Rarity decided to kick things up a notch. She walked up next to him and put a hoof on his shoulder. "Tell you what. I've recently acquired some fantastic sapphires, imported all the way from Estonia. I was meaning to use them in a design I've been dying to try out, but it's clear that my little Spikey Wikey needs them more right now."

"Ooh, even better!" Pinkie said. "You give me those sapphires, and I'll bake them into a super duper amazing cake, and we can throw Spike a Welcome Back To Ponyville party!"

"Now that sounds like a mighty fine idea to me!" Applejack said.

"Oh yes, that sounds lovely," Fluttershy added. "You and Twilight have been so busy helping Princess Celestia lately, that the seven of us haven't been able to get together and just enjoy each other’s company in quite a while."

"So what do you say, Spike?" Twilight asked anxiously.

Spike looked at the girls thoughtfully a moment before responding. "Alright, sure. I guess that sounds like it would be pretty fun." His face lit up a moment later. "And then afterwards we can all listen to the Subspace Transceiver again!"

The rest of the girl's enthusiasm, especially Pinkie's, dropped noticeably. "Wait, seriously? We're gonna listen to that thing again?" Dash asked.

Twilight sheepishly rubbed the back of her head. "Right, that's the other thing I meant to tell you all. You see, I told Princess Celestia about what happened, and now she's tasked us with listening to more of this music to try and learn as much as we can about these aliens."

Twilight's friends all looked apprehensive at the news, which is no surprise given what they had heard the first time around.

"Well, if Princess Celestia herself has asked this of us, then I suppose that it is our duty to see it through..." Rarity reluctantly said.

"I dunno, I don't think it would be such a good idea to listen to that thing again..." Dash said while glancing at Pinkie, who was quietly staring down at the ground.

Spike looked at the others in confusion. "Was what you all heard really that bad?"

"Now girls, I know our initial experience with it wasn't the best, but I'm sure that their music is at least as varied as ours!" Twilight said. "We're very likely to get a much more… upbeat song this time!"

"I'd like to try it again..." Fluttershy said quietly. "Um, if that's okay with you all..."

"Really, Fluttershy? You want to try it again?" Applejack asked, clearly surprised.

"Oh, yes," Fluttershy replied. "It's true that that song we heard was very sad, but I still kind of liked it." She looked off to the side. "...And I am very curious about these aliens..."

"Well, I ain't gonna argue with ya on that point, sugarcube," AJ said. "I gotta admit, I'm mighty curious to learn more about them myself. And if Princess Celestia wants us to do it, then I'm raring to give it another go!"

"I still don't know..." Dash said.

“It’s okay, Dashie,” Pinkie said, glancing up at her friends. “I’ll give it another try.”

“You sure, Pinks?” Dash asked, not quite convinced.

“Yup!” Pinkie responded, her mood returning to normal. “I was a silly little filly, letting that song get to me like that. I’ll be ready for it this time! And there’s a chance we’ll hear alien party music! There’s no way I can pass that up!”

“Alright then, sure. Lets give that thing another go!” Dash said with an eager grin.

“Great!” Twilight exclaimed. “So then tomorrow, after Spike’s welcome back party, we'll give the Subspace Transceiver another try!” Her smile faded and her expression turned more serious. “Oh, and one more thing, girls. This proof of the existence of aliens still isn’t public knowledge, and Princess Celestia would prefer if we keep it that way. So no letting anypony else know about what we’re doing here. Okay?”

Her friends all nodded their heads, and Twilight smiled again. “Great! Then I’ll see you all tomorrow!”

The next night…

The door to the library opened, and six ponies and a young dragon walked in. They were all talking and laughing with each other, and the dragon had an oversized party hat on his head.

“You most certainly outdid yourself this time, darling,” Rarity said to Pinkie.

“Yeah, that party was awesome!” Dash said enthusiastically.

“And that had to be the best chocolate sapphire cake I’ve ever had!” Spike added.

“Aww, thanks!” Pinkie replied. “Now, after a success like that, I’m ready for anything those aliens can throw at us! Bring on the music!!”

“Alright, give me a second. I’ve got it stored downstairs.” Twilight opened the door to her basement and descended down the stairs.

Her friends continued idly chattering for a minute before Twilight returned, the Subspace Transceiver floating beside her.

She placed it on the central table and turned to her friends. “One last thing. I just have to place a sound damping spell over the library…” Her horn glowed purple, and the walls and windows surrounding them also glowed the same color for a few seconds, before returning to normal. “There, now nopony will be able to hear what we’re doing in here! Unless anypony has any other objections, we are ready to go!”

“Fire it up, Twilight!” Spike shouted.

“As you command, Spike!” Twilight replied enthusiastically. She turned back to the radio and dramatically extended her wings to begin manipulating the device alongside her magic.

In only a few moments, the quiet static was replaced with an extremely loud, blaring noise. The six ponies in the room immediately folded their ears back against their heads, and Spike covered his with his hands. Fluttershy took it a step further, and actually leaped underneath a small writing desk situated against the back wall.

“What the heck is that supposed to be!?” Spike shouted after listening for nearly twenty seconds, barely audible over the noise

“I-I don’t know!” Twilight replied.

“Turn it off, turn it off!” Dash yelled.

Twilight complied, and the room dropped into silence, much to everypony’s relief.

“Well that didn’t sound like any kinda music I’ve ever heard!” Applejack said.

“I… don’t think that was music at all,” Twilight replied. “It sounded more like… an alarm of some kind.”

“Well, it certainly alarmed me!” Rarity said indignantly. “I felt as though my life were in danger!”

“Hmm. that’s funny…” Pinkie said. “It made me feel like I had a twitchy tail!” She turned her head to glance at the aforementioned appendage with a suspicious glare. “Except my tail clearly isn’t twitching…”

“That doesn’t count as our try, does it?” Fluttershy asked as she creeped out from underneath the desk. “I’d still like to hear some actual music…”

“No. No, of course not,” Twilight answered. “Let me just re-adjust the frequency, and…” She stopped where she was, her wings half extended to use the device. “Actually…” She turned and looked at Spike with a smile. “Spike, how would you like to do the honors?”

His face lit up. “Really? You mean it?”

“Of course!” Twilight replied. “Think of it as one last gift to make up for leaving you out of our initial test run.”

“Alright!” Spike said, and ran up to the device excitedly. “So… how exactly do I work this thing?”

“This switch here turns it on, and then you just have to adjust these two knobs until we pick something up!” Twilight explained, gesturing at the appropriate areas with her hooves.

“Alright, that seems easy enough…” Spike said, and then turned on the device and began fiddling with the knobs.

The rest of the six all waited patiently while Spike worked, and it wasn’t long at all before the quiet static was replaced with a jaunty tune.

“Hey, Twilight…” Dash quietly said after the first few lines, “what’s a particle?”

Twilight didn’t answer immediately. Atomic theory was at the current cutting edge of Equestrian science. If this song meant the kind of particle she thought it did, then explaining to somepony like Rainbow Dash, or indeed, most of her friends, what a particle was would be a long, drawn out affair.

“Ask me again when the song is over,” is all she said.

“I don’t know what a particle is either, but I like this song!” Pinkie said, bobbing her head up and down to the tune.

Twilight couldn’t quite agree. While the tune was certainly fun enough, she was finding the lyrics somewhat infuriating. How could what this particle man is like possibly be not important!? And how can water “get” something?

Pinkie’s head bobbing was replaced with outrage at the next verse. “Wha- Hey! Why’s that stupid triangle man have to be such a big meany head!?”

“He does seem to be quite the ruffian, doesn’t he?” Rarity said disapprovingly.

“Yeah, a real jerk,” Rainbow Dash added.

“I hope particle man wasn’t hurt too badly…” Fluttershy mumbled.

“Oh hey, now there’s another man!” Spike said.

One of Twilight’s eyes twitched slightly. “This is absurd!” she shouted in frustration. “You can’t have something the size of the entire universe! That’s impossible!” This song was seriously starting to annoy her; nothing made any sense about it!

“Now Twilight, dear, do calm down.” Rarity placed a hoof on Twilight’s shoulder. “It’s entirely possible that this particular song isn’t meant to be taken seriously.”

“I’m thinking that Rarity’s right,” Applejack said. “That watch just sounds plum crazy!”

“Yeah, not even Princess Celestia could use a watch with an eon hand!” Spike said, then continued listening. “And another kind of man!” he shouted. “Hey Twilight, what’s a person?”

Twilight sighed in defeat. “I have no idea, Spike.” She listened for a moment longer. “...But he sounds absolutely miserable.”

“Oh my, that poor person man,” Fluttershy said. “He almost reminds me of myself before I met you all…”

“Naw, you were never that bad, Flutters,” Rainbow Dash said.

“He just needs a good party to— Hey! It’s that stupid triangle meanie head again!” Pinkie said indignantly.

“And he’s being a total jerk. Again,” Rainbow said.

“And this person man character already had things bad enough, this is simply dreadful!” Rarity said.

As the song ended, Twilight turned the device off with her magic, and they all sat in silence for a few moments.

Spike was the first to speak. “So, that was… different.”

“Well, I just don’t get how somepony is supposed to lose a fight with a triangle...” Applejack said.

“You shouldn’t underestimate triangles, Applejack!” Pinkie said, then pulled a triangle instrument out of her mane. “They can be vicious opponents when angered!” She held the triangle against her body in a hug. “Of course, my triangles would never be big meanie jerk faces like those alien triangles! I’ve raised them better than that!”

The rest of the six all gave Pinkie questioning glances. “Right…” Rainbow Dash said. “Anyway…”

“Twilight, what’s a ‘man’?” Spike asked. “I know I’ve heard the word before, but I don’t actually know what it is…”

“‘Man’ is a word originating in the Minotaur Kingdoms used to refer to male minotaurs, and is interchangeable with ‘bull’,” Twilight explained.

“Oh, so that’s where stuff like ‘oh man’ comes from?”

“That’s right, Spike! That particular phrase has only come into use in Equestria in the last ten years or so.”

“Sooo… the aliens have got a song ‘bout male minotaurs?” Applejack asked dubiously.

“Uhh… well, that is one possible interpretation, yes…” Twilight admitted. “Much more likely, I think, is that they just happen to also call themselves ‘men’. And since the song only ever used ‘him’ and ‘he’, I think it’s safe to assume that that term only applies to the males of their species as well.” Twilight couldn’t help but wonder what they called the females…

“Well, they certainly do seem to be a varied lot, don’t they?” Rarity said.

“Oh hey, Twilight!” Dash said. “You said to ask you again after the song about what a particle is!”

“Oh, right,” Twilight responded. “Well, without going into a lot of detail, it’s something too small to be seen with the naked eye. In fact, we have yet to create any magnification devices powerful enough to directly detect them.”

“...Huh,” was Dash’s only response.

“So, then are all those different mans like the different types of ponies?” Spike asked. “You know, like instead of earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns, they have particles mans, triangle mans, universe mans, and person mans?”

“...That is a possibility…” Twilight said, though she didn’t sound very sure.

“So some of the aliens are too small to be seen, some are as big as the entire universe, some are total jerks, and some are super depressed?” Dash asked, and it was clear from her tone of voice that she found the notion absurd.

Twilight groaned in frustration. “It’s also a possibility that Rarity was right and this song wasn’t intended to be taken seriously at all. For all we know, this was just a bunch of gibberish that doesn’t actually mean anything.”

“Gibberish or not, I thought it was a fun song!” Pinkie said with a huge grin.

“Well, it was interestin’, I’ll give it that,” Applejack said. “But it’s getting late and I gotta get back to the farm. Need to get some rest for work tomorrow.”

The rest of their friends also stated their desire to return home and get some rest.

“Alright then, I’ll see you all tomorrow. We should meet up for more alien music again next week!” Twilight said.

They all said their goodbyes, and soon Twilight and Spike were the only ones left in the room. “So, what did you think of your very first alien song, Spike?” Twilight asked her number one assistant.

“Well…” Spike said. “I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but I’m pretty sure that that wasn’t it.”

“Yeah, I think that this alien music is going to be catching all of us off guard for quite a while.” Twilight looked to the Subspace Transceiver thoughtfully for a moment, then turned back to Spike. “But enough of all that. It really is getting late, it’s time for bed, mister!”

They proceeded upstairs, both wondering what they might hear next time they tuned in.

No Rest At All?

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Rarity was laying down on a bench with her hooves tucked underneath her in the sauna room at the Ponyville Day Spa. Her tail and mane were each wrapped in a towel, her face was covered in a green, mud-like substance, and a pair of cucumbers covered her eyes. On the other side of the sauna room sat Fluttershy, who was similarly attired, except she had only two small dabs of the green mud on her cheeks, and no cucumbers.

They were chatting as they relaxed. Or, to be more precise, Rarity was chatting.

"...then, Blossomforth stared me right in the eyes and told me that it was none of my business! Can you believe that?"

Fluttershy didn't respond. This wasn't entirely unusual for one of their spa time conversations, but something about this particular silence caught Rarity's attention. Her horn glowed, and the cucumbers floated away from her eyes as she turned to look at Fluttershy, who was staring down at the sauna floor.

"Fluttershy, dear, is something the matter? You seem awfully distracted.”

Fluttershy looked up at Rarity, a slightly surprised look on her face. “Oh! I’m sorry Rarity, I didn’t mean to worry you.” She looked around the room quickly to make sure that they were all alone before looking back down to the floor. “I just can’t stop thinking about what we’re going to hear when we all go to visit Twilight tonight…”

“Hmm, yes, that special radio of hers…” Rarity responded, a slight frown on her face. “There’s no telling what may come up next… Are you truly that interested in it, darling?”

“Oh yes, I am,” Fluttershy said with a small smile and a nod of her head. “It’s like I’ve discovered a whole new animal I’ve never heard of before, and now I want to learn everything I can about it.” Her eyes widened slightly in alarm. “N-not that I think that the aliens are just animals! They’re clearly just as advanced and intelligent as we are! A-and not that there’s anything wrong with being just an animal either! I just mean that—”

“There’s no need to get flustered, dear,” Rarity interrupted with an amused smile on her face. “I understand exactly what you mean. I have to admit, the existence of aliens has me very intrigued as well…" Her smile faded. "But…”

Fluttershy ventured a guess as to what Rarity as thinking. “...You don’t like what we’ve heard so far?”

Rarity frowned. “Of the two songs we’ve heard thus far, one was rather depressing, and the other seemed to be total nonsense. I wish to learn more about these aliens as well, I’m just not sure that this music is the best means to do so. We have no way of knowing how much of what we hear is literal and how much is gross exaggeration or metaphor."

“I don’t see any other way we can possibly learn about them…”

Rarity gave a resigned sigh. “I suppose that beggars can’t be choosers, can they?"

"Maybe you should ask Twilight about that when we see her tonight," Fluttershy suggested.

"Yes… yes, I believe I will!" Rarity said. “I’m so glad I got the chance to talk to you about this, darling. This has honestly been bothering me for the last few days.”

“Oh, it’s no problem at all, Rarity,” Fluttershy responded.

“Now, as I was saying earlier…”

Twilight was fiddling with the Subspace Transceiver when she was startled out of her wits by a knock on the door. She looked up at the clock on the wall, and was shocked to find that it was already time.

“Spike, door!” she shouted. Then she looked behind herself to find that Spike was already standing at the door.

“Way ahead of you, Twilight,” Spike said as he opened the door.

As expected, their five friends walked in. “Girls!” Twilight said. “Perfect, you’re all right on time! Unless anypony has any questions, I’d like to just jump right in.”

Rarity raised a hoof. “Actually, Twilight, I do have one small concern.”

Twilight gestured for Rarity to go ahead, and so she did. “You see, I was wondering just how reliable this music is for actually learning about these aliens. As I think that last song we listened to demonstrated, we have absolutely no way of knowing how much of what we hear is accurate and how much of it is symbolism, exaggeration, or just total nonsense.”

“A very good question, Rarity, and a valid concern as well,” Twilight replied. “I’ve been thinking about the same thing myself, and fortunately, the answer is very simple: repetition! We just have to keep listening to more and more music!”

“And how’s that supposed to help us?” Applejack asked.

“We need to keep track of various things we hear in these songs,” Twilight explained excitedly. “If we hear the same things in multiple songs, then there’s a very good possibility that those things are actually reflective of reality for these aliens. On the other hoof, if we hear something in only one song and never hear it again, then it was likely just a bit of symbolism, exaggeration, or nonsense specific to just that one song!” She calmed down somewhat as she continued. “That, and of course, we have our own common sense. We could tell that last song sounded funny even without knowing anything about them.”

“I… suppose that does make sense…” Rarity said. “But it seems an awfully long term solution. We’ll still be somewhat left in the dark until we’ve heard quite a few more songs.”

Twilight shrugged. “There’s only so much we can do when we have only a single, limited medium for learning more about these aliens. So, for the time being, everything we hear we’re going to list as tentatively factual unless we have reason to believe otherwise. Now, does anypony else have any questions?”

Nopony raised their hoof (or claw), and so Twilight continued. “Great! Now, I’m sure you’re all going to be delighted to hear this next bit! Thanks to a suggestion from Spike,” she glanced at her assistant, who was smirking smugly, “I’ve decided that we should all take turns using the Subspace Transceiver!”

Everypony else smiled at this. “Well, as long as ya’ll got a fair way of choosing who gets to use it,” Applejack said.

“Of course!” Twilight replied. “We’re going to draw lots!” She levitated a bowl off the table that the Subspace Transceiver was on. “I have in this bowl here slips of paper with all of our names on them. We pick a paper out to see who gets to use it, and names won’t go back in until everypony has had a turn.” She gestured to Spike and herself. “Since we’ve already gone, our names aren’t included, so it’s guaranteed to be one of you all!” She turned to her assistant. “Spike, would you like to do the honors?”

“Sure thing, Twilight!” Spike turned his head and covered his eyes with one claw, and reached into the bowl with the other. He made a show of rummaging around for a bit before he picked out a piece of paper. He uncovered his eyes and looked at it. “Rainbow Dash!”

“Yes!” Dash shouted, and leaped over to the Subspace Transceiver with a flap of her wings. “Time for the most awesome pony to find us an awesome song!"

"Now Dash, you know you don't have any way of controlling what kind of song yer gonna get, right?" Applejack asked.

"It doesn't matter!" Dash replied confidently. "My sheer awesomeness ensures that whatever song I get will be at least as cool as I am!"

She dramatically extended her wings and lifted a hoof to use the device, but then hesitated. She gave what she hoped was a discrete glance towards Twilight, who rolled her eyes and then helpfully gestured towards the correct knobs to use for finding a song.

She turned back to the device, confidence fully restored, and began fiddling with the device. In only a short while, some sporadic guitar strumming became audible.

Dash leaned back from the device, a triumphant grin on her face. "Alright, now this sounds like my kind of song!"

“Well, I think it’s a bit early to tell, but this does sound pretty good,” Applejack agreed.

Personally, Twilight wasn’t to interested in how the songs sounded. She had never been that big a fan of music, although she had a small soft spot for poetry. No, she was much more interested in what they could learn from this song. She levitated a small notepad and quill over to her just as the lyrics began.

“‘A pretty little thing?’” Fluttershy asked, sounding slightly hopeful.

Rarity’s face screwed up in disgust as she continued listening. “Ugh, mares of the night…”

AJ also grimaced. “I remember seeing a few of them when I went to Manehattan… seems we got a thing or two in common with these aliens.”

“Well, at least he seems rather concerned for her…” Rarity said.

Spike looked between the two of them confusedly, but didn’t say anything.

Twilight was furiously scribbling on her notepad. There was a ton of information that could be inferred from the fact that these aliens practiced prostitution! And they had a monetary system as well!

As the chorus line began, Rarity's frown softened. “I may not approve of their choice of occupation, but I certainly wouldn’t call them ‘wicked’…”

“It’s just like the song says, Rarity!” Pinkie said. “I’ve chatted with some prostitutes at a few parties I’ve been to, and most of them really are only doing it to support themselves and their families. Same thing with strippers,” she concluded, nodding sagely.

The five other ponies in the room all looked at her with surprised expressions, while Spike still just looked confused. “Pinkie… just what kind of parties have you been to?” Dash asked.

Pinkie giggled. “I’ve been to every kind of party there is, Dashie!”

"Anyway..." Twilight said, "If we could please focus back on the song..."

They turned their attention back to the device. A few moments later, Fluttershy let out a meep and Rarity put her hoof to her mouth in shock. "Oh my, now the poor dear is being mugged!"

"What's a gun?" Spike asked.

"Based on the context, it's clearly a weapon of some kind. Beyond that, I can't say..." Twilight answered.

"Well, I’m thinking that ‘wicked’ is the right word this time ‘round,” AJ said with a scowl. “Supporting the family is important for sure, but there’s some lines that ya just don’t cross.”

As the second chorus ended, Dash responded. “I’ll agree with you on that one, AJ. Overall though, I gotta say that I’m really digging this song!”

“So am I!” Twilight said, which earned a surprised look from Rainbow. “There’s so much we’re learning about these aliens from it!”

Dash rolled her eyes in response, then turned her attention back to the device as the singing began again.

“T.V.?” Dash asked a few moments later.

“Whatever it is, you can apparently get the news through it…” Rarity said.

“And what’s a preacher? And a church?” Spike asked.

“I’m not sure what a church is, except that it’s apparently a place that would have money in it,” Twilight responded. “A preacher, however, is a profession sometimes practiced in the Minotaur Kingdoms. It involves knowing and teaching others all about their religion.”

“Religion?” Dash asked.

The song having ended, Twilight turned the Subspace Transceiver off. “Religion is…” She hesitated. “Religion is a very delicate and complicated topic that I wouldn’t feel comfortable explaining off the top of my head. If you’re really interested in it, though, I have some books I could lend you!”

“I think I’ll pass, thanks…” Dash replied.

“Alright then. Suffice it to say that preachers are supposed to be very respectable members of their community, so for one of them to have been caught stealing from whatever a church is is a fairly big deal.” Twilight paused a moment. “Assuming, of course, that these alien preachers are anything at all like minotaur preachers.”

“Hey, Twilight?” Spike asked. “Those things you were talking about earlier, prostitutes and strippers, what are those?”

Pinkie and Dash both put a hoof over their mouth in an attempt to not burst out laughing, Applejack pulled her hat down over her face, and both Fluttershy and Rarity turned as red as Big Mac.

Twilight only began blushing a little. Of course, she had already told Spike about the Birds And The Bees some time ago, but she had kept it all at a very basic level. She had since done her best to keep some of the more risque aspects of it away from him, but it had never occurred to her that the Subspace Transceiver might expose him to such things. Well, there was nothing to be done for it now…

“I’ll tell you about it later tonight, alright Spike?” Twilight said with a forced smile.

Spike gave her a questioning look. “Alright…”

“Anyway,” Twilight said, eager to change the subject, “this song was an absolute treasure trove of information on these aliens!”

“Information that is tentative at best until we hear more, right?” Rarity asked.

“Of course,” Twilight responded.

“I just think it’s so sad that they have to work until the day they die...” Fluttershy said.

“Hmm, yes…” Rarity added. “I have to wonder if they simply have to work so hard just to get by, or if they just value money that highly...”

“Maybe the aliens just really enjoy working?” Applejack said.

“I wonder what the elderly aliens do when they can’t work anymore…” Fluttershy said.

“Maybe the aliens don’t get old,” Dash said. “Maybe they’re all immortal like Princess Celestia and Luna.”

“If they’re all immortal, then how do they ever ‘close their eyes for good’?” AJ responded.

“Hey, there’s a lot of ways to die besides getting old! For all we know their entire planet might be as dangerous as the Everfree Forest!”

“Actually, Dash, the prevalent mindset among most modern scholars is that true immortality doesn’t exist under normal circumstances, so I highly doubt that the aliens are all immortal,” Twilight said.

“Seriously? Then what about Discord and the Princesses?” Dash asked.

Twilight frowned. “Discord, like with a lot of other things, is an exception to the rule. He’s not really an organic being like you and I, or even Celestia and Luna. He’s more of a physical manifestation of an abstract concept. As for Luna and Celestia, there’s still some debate on the topic, but most scholars agree that they’re only extremely long lived, not immortal.”

“Couldn’t they just ask them?” Dash said.

“They have, and even Celestia and Luna themselves aren’t really sure,” Twilight answered with a shrug.

“How can you not know if you’re immortal or not!?” Dash asked incredulously.

Twilight shrugged again. “Well, besides simply growing older, how could you tell the difference between being immortal and extremely long lived?”

Dash opened her mouth to respond, but stopped. She sat there a few moments before simply saying “...Huh.”

“Now, as for Cadence and myself, It’s even harder to say,” Twilight continued. “We both became alicorns via different means, neither of which are the same way that Celestia and Luna ascended. Aside from the obvious changes,” she spread her wings for emphasis, “and the fact that we can now utilize all three types of pony magic, there’s really no telling what kind of long term changes we might experience. Although, I’m personally of the opinion that at the very least, we’ll both have a much longer lifespan due to our increased internal magic levels.”

“So… you’ll probably outlive all of us?” Fluttershy asked.

Twilight, by now in full lecture mode, raised a hoof and opened her mouth to answer before she realized what exactly it was Fluttershy had just asked her. Her ears folded back against her head and her hoof slowly fell back to the ground. Of course, this very thought had already crossed her mind shortly after she had ascended. She knew that both Luna and Celestia had outlived numerous ponies that they had been close to in the past, but the realization that now the same thing might happen to her and her friends had almost caused her to have a breakdown. She had immediately gone to talk to Princess Celestia about it, and that was when she had learned most of what she had just finished telling everypony else.

She had thought about it on and off since then, and she had thought she had mostly come to terms with it. However, now that it was out in the open with the rest of her friends, she wasn't so sure.

"W-well..." Twilight began reluctantly, a slight quavering in her voice. "Assuming that nothing unfortunate happens, then yes, that is somewhat likely..."

"Well that sucks..."

"Shoot, I hadn't thought of that..."

"Oh dear..."

Fluttershy simply looked down at the floor. The only one who didn't look distressed at this revelation was Pinkie Pie, who was casting a critical eye upon everyone else in the room.

"Will... Will you even outlive me?" Spike asked, his lip quivering slightly.

Twilight’s eyes began tearing up, but she did her best to put on a smile anyway. "That's much less likely, Spike. Dragons live a very long time. In fact, before I became an alicorn, you would have outlived me!” She tried to laugh, but it came out as more of a hiccup and her smile faded. “But... Well, if I end up living as long as Celestia, t-then..." She found herself unable to actually finish her thoughts.

Spike, now tearing up as well, simply walked forward and hugged Twilight around her leg. Twilight leaned down and returned the hug. “Spike…”


Twilight and Spike both looked up in surprise at Pinkie Pie, who looked back at them with a slightly disapproving glare which she then turned to everypony else in the room.

“Are we really getting all down in the dumps over something that might happen a really, really long time from now? Come on, cheer up!” She leaped forward and wrapped both Twilight and Spike in a hug. “You’ve got us all here now, and that’s all that really matters, right?”

The rest of her friends all quickly joined in on the group hug, and a smile slowly returned to Twilight’s face. “Y-you’re right, Pinkie. Thanks.”

Pinkie somehow managed to free one of her legs and did a quick salute. “Just doing my job!”

After another few moments, the pony hug pile collapsed.

“I’m sorry for asking that, Twilight…” Fluttershy said.

“No, i-it’s alright, Fluttershy,” Twilight responded while wiping some remaining wetness from her eyes. “It was going to have to get brought up sooner or later, after all.”

“Darling, if you ever want to talk about it some more…” Rarity said.

“I appreciate the offer, Rarity,” Twilight replied, then looked to her side at Spike, who had sat down on the ground and still seemed somewhat depressed. “But I think that right now, I just need to be alone with Spike for a while.”

Rarity looked at Spike as well, and a pained but understanding look crossed her face. “Of course, Twilight. We’ll see you sometime tomorrow, then.”

The rest of their friends all said their goodbyes and departed. Pinkie was the last to leave, and gave Twilight a hard glare. “Are you sure you’re not gonna get all depressed thinking about the future again? Because I’ll know if you do!”

Twilight smiled. “I promise I won’t dwell on it too much. Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.”

Pinkie hmm’d thoughtfully at this, then turned her gaze towards Spike.

Twilight leaned in closer to Pinkie and whispered “Don’t worry, I’ll talk to him about it.”

Pinkie seemed satisfied with that. “Okie dokie lokie! I’ll see you later!” She left and closed the door behind her.

Twilight turned and walked up to Spike, then tucked her legs beneath her as she laid down on the floor next to him. “Twilight? If I was going to outlive you, t-then does… does that mean that I-I’m going to outlive everypony else, too?” he asked while staring down at the ground.

Twilight sighed. She hated seeing him like this, but it was best that he got the truth. “I’m afraid so, Spike. Dragons just naturally live much longer than ponies do. There’s really not much either of us can do about it.”

Spike sniffled and his eyes began watering again. “B-but I don’t want to lose them…”

Twilight wrapped her wing around him to pull him closer and leaned her head down against his. “I know, Spike, I know. I don’t either. But what Pinkie said was absolutely correct. We shouldn’t let the possibility of loss in the future distract us from what we have here and now, in the present.”

Spike rubbed his eyes and took a deep, shuddering breath in an attempt to bring himself under control. “Yeah, I know... but... that’s a lot easier said than done…”

Twilight lay there against Spike for a moment, thinking what to say, when her face suddenly lit up. She lifted her head and looked at him. “I think I know something that might help take your mind off of it...”

He looked up at her questioningly, and Twilight stood and turned to face him. This was going to be extremely awkward for her, but she felt it was worth it.

“Spike, you asked me earlier what strippers and prostitutes were…”

It Really Is Wonderful...

View Online

A loud thunk echoed throughout the orchard, followed by a cascade of smaller thunks as the apples fell from the tree into bins that had been placed on the ground beneath them. Applejack wiped her brow and grinned at another tree successfully harvested.

Rainbow Dash was lying on her back nearby on a low hanging cloud, looking up at the sky. It wasn't too unusual for Dash to hang out with AJ around midday while she worked, but the typically boisterous pegasus was being unusually quiet today.

This hadn't gone unnoticed by Applejack, who glanced up at the cloud as she made her way to the wagon to get another stack of bins for the next tree. “You alright up there, Dash?”

“Yeah, I’m just… thinking, is all,” Dash replied without taking her eyes off of the endless blue above.

AJ took a stack of bins from the wagon with her mouth and placed them atop her back. “Well, don’t go thinking too hard!” she quipped with a smirk, which quickly faded when Dash didn’t respond to her jibe. “Thinking ‘bout anything in particular?” she asked as she moved to the next tree.

"That stupid alien radio of Twilight's," Dash replied.

AJ placed bin under the tree, then looked up at Dash with one eyebrow raised in curiosity. "Stupid? I thought ya liked that last song we ended up hearing?"

Dash rolled over onto her belly to look down at AJ. "Yeah, I did like it at first. But now, whenever I think about it, I also think about what we ended up talking about afterwards..."

AJ placed the last of the bins under the tree. "Yeah, I guess I can see how that might sour yer opinion of it," she said.

"And it was all my fault that the mood was totally killed, too," Dash said.

"How do ya figure?" AJ asked as she backed up to ensure all the bins were placed correctly.

"I was the one who picked the song, and then I'm the one who started talking about immortality," Dash replied.

Applejack reared forward, then slammed her rear hooves into the trunk of the tree, causing a rain of apples to fall down into the bins she had placed. She then looked back up at Dash. “Now, first off, you, me, and the rest of the girls all know that you had no way of knowing what kind of song was gonna come up. Second, there was no way you could have known how that conversation was gonna go. The only one blaming you for anything is yerself."

"Yeah, yeah, I know all that up here," Dash said as she tapped the side of her head with a hoof, "but I still feel bad about it. I made Twilight and Spike, two of my best friends, cry. That is extremely uncool."

Applejack gave an exasperated sigh. "Dash, I just told you, ya didn't do anything. If it was anypony's fault—and it wasn't!—then it was Fluttershy's for asking that question. And even then, Twilight apologized, so there still ain't a problem!"

"Fine, whatever!" Dash said with a scowl. "All I know is that stupid radio totally sucks and I don't think we should listen to it anymore!"

"Really? Y'all think we should just give up on it?" AJ asked in disbelief.

"That thing is just no good for us! Not only did it make both Twilight and Spike depressed, but the first time we tried it, it almost made Pinkie go crazy again! You never saw what she was like last time she got like that…"

AJ gave Dash a hard glare. "Now, I'll agree that some of the stuff we’ve been hearing has been hitting some of us pretty hard. But this here is Twilight’s own special project, and Celestia herself asked us to keep doing it, so I’m pretty sure Twilight ain’t gonna want to give up on it, no matter what. And if the rest of us all ditch on her, then she’s gonna feel plum terrible ‘bout it, and this time it really will be somepony’s fault."

Dash maintained her scowl a few more moments, then her features softened and her shoulders slumped a little. "Yeah, you’re probably right..."

“Besides, ya never know what might come up next. Just cause we’ve gotten some bad draws the first three times doesn’t mean that we aren’t gonna get anything good outa it.”

Dash sighed. “Alright, fine, I’ll give it another chance…”

Applejack smiled. “That’s the spirit!”

Dash's expression hardened again. “But if it ends up hurting one of us again, then I’m gonna…” Her face screwed up in frustration. “...I dunno, talk to Twilight about it!”

AJ nodded. “Sounds good to me. Just straight up quitting ain’t the right answer, but I’m sure that Twilight’d be able to come up with something if it’s really bothering ya that much.”

Having come to a conclusion, Dash flopped back down on her cloud and Applejack returned to her apple harvesting.

There was a knock on the door, and Twilight looked up from her notepad. “I’ll get it this time, Spike.” she said to her assistant who was sitting next to her, and quickly moved to open it. It was, as she expected, the rest of their friends. “Heya, girls! I hope you’re all ready to roll the proverbial die and see what we get this time!”

Her friends all entered, and Twilight couldn’t help but notice that Rainbow Dash seemed significantly less enthusiastic than she usually did. She was curious to know if there was something wrong, but she also didn’t want to pry. “Does anypony have any concerns before we get started?” she asked, not wanting to single her out.

Dash looked over at Applejack, who simply raised an eyebrow in return. She then hesitantly turned back to look at Twilight. “Twilight? Are you sure you still want to do this? You know, even after what happened last time?”

Twilight smiled. “Is that it? I appreciate the concern, but Spike and I have mostly gotten over it, I think,” she said as she looked back at Spike.

“Yeah, we even ended up writing a letter about it to Princess Celestia the next night,” Spike said.

Twilight nodded and turned back to Dash. “It was a lot like one of those Friendship Reports we used to do all the time. It was actually kind of nice. She actually responded that she'd like to talk to both Spike and I next time we're in Canterlot.”

“Well, that’s good to hear,” Rarity said.

“And besides,” Twilight continued, a more serious look on her face, “even if I didn’t like what we were doing here, I still couldn’t just quit. Now that I’m a Princess, I have a responsibility to the rest of Equestria to do whatever I can to make our world a better place, and that includes learning whatever I can about any potential neighbors we may have among the stars.”

“Ya don’t think we’re ever gonna actually meet these aliens, do ya?” Applejack asked incredulously.

Twilight shrugged. “Who knows? But it’s better to be safe than sorry.” She smiled again. “And anyway, I'm just so excited to be learning more about these aliens, that I think it's well worth any emotional distress that may occur! So, with that out of the way, are we ready to get going?”

All of her friends nodded immediately except Rainbow, who hesitated only a few moments before she nodded as well.

“Great!” Twilight turned and headed towards the table with the Subspace Transceiver and a basket on it, the rest of the her friends following her. “Spike, tell us who’s going to pick a song this time!”

“Only four options left…” Spike said as he reached into the basket. He pulled out a slip of paper. “And the winner is… Fluttershy!”

“Eep! Me?!” Fluttershy squeaked out. “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly… Somepony else can take my turn…”

“C’mon, sugarcube, it’s easy! Ya just gotta turn the knobs!” Applejack said.

“Yes, do go ahead, darling. I’m sure you’ll come up with something simply delightful,” Rarity added.

“Oh dear… Um, o-ok, if you’re all sure…” Fluttershy meekly responded, and slowly walked up to the table. She quickly took to the device, apparently having watched what knobs to turn when the others did it.

“Yeah, you go, Flutters! Get us something nice!” Pinkie shouted as Fluttershy worked, and soon enough, some soft piano playing began. Fluttershy’s unsure expression quickly turned to a smile as she listened.

“My goodness…” Rarity said after a few moments. “That voice!”

“It sure is distinctive, ain’t it?” Applejack said. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard anypony who sounds quite like that.”

“He reminds me of Harry...” Fluttershy said.

“Harry?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“Oh, Harry is a bear I’m friends with,” Fluttershy responded.

“I guess I could see a voice like that belonging to a bear,” Spike said.

“Their world really does sound wonderful, though…” Fluttershy said with a small smile.

Even Dash couldn’t help but smile as she listened to the next verse. “Hey, their skies sound pretty similar to ours! It might be cool to fly on an alien planet!”

“That’s not the only thing that’s similar!” Twilight said, taking only a moment to look up from her notepad. “Green trees and red roses, blue skies and white clouds, bright days and dark nights? Their planet seems to have a surprisingly large amount of similarities to ours!”

“It sounds super duper fun! I’d totally love to visit!” Pinkie said.

A few moments later, and Dash spoke up again. “And they even have rainbows! Their planet sounds pretty awesome!”

Twilight was already paying close attention to the song, but her ears perked up at the next part. “People?” she asked, looking up at the Subspace Transceiver in surprise. “Is that what the aliens call themselves!?” She broke out in a huge smile. “This is fantastic!”

“Well, these people sound like a perfectly friendly bunch, even if we know they’re not all that way from some of the other songs we’ve heard,” Rarity said. She listened for a few more moments, then turned to Fluttershy. “This really is a lovely song you’ve managed find us, dear.”

Fluttershy nodded shyly, but then immediately perked up with a small gasp. “Babies? I wonder if baby people are as adorable as foals…”

“I hope that they’re easier to take care of than foals!” Pinkie said, a very serious look on her face.

Rarity looked to Pinkie with a smirk. “I think that young are an absolute hooffull no matter the species, darling.”

They fell into silence as the song slowly came to an end and Twilight turned off the Subspace Transceiver.

Fluttershy had the widest smile on her face. “That was such a wonderful song… I’d love to be able to visit their planet.”

Rarity smiled as well. “I agree, it was a very nice song.” Her smile faded a bit. “I just wish I knew what these people looked like. The song painted a lovely picture of their world, but without knowing what the inhabitants are like, it’s an... incomplete painting, so to speak.”

“Well, we already have a few clues as to what they’re like based on the music itself,” Twilight said, and began flipping through her notepad. “For instance, the fact that they were playing what sounded like a trumpet in this song means that their mouths must be able to create an airtight seal with the instrument, so we know that they don’t have beaks or anything like that. Which also lets us narrow down what their diet might be like!” She paused for a moment, a thoughtful look on her face. “That is, of course, assuming that their mouths are connected to their respiratory system in the first place.” She paused again and blinked. “Assuming that they even have a respiratory system like we do.”

“Hey, and this song mentioned shaking hands, so we know that they have hands, too!” Dash added.

Twilight nodded. “Right, although we kind of already knew that from the first song we heard. The fact that they were using a guitar means that they have hands, claws, talons, or telekinesis, since you can’t really play a string instrument with hooves.”

Dash’s expression turned thoughtful. “Ya know, I’ve always wondered about that. How did ponies end up inventing a type of instrument that only unicorns can play?”

Twilight smiled. “That’s because ponies didn’t invent string instruments, Dash!”

Dash’s head drooped to the floor as she realized that she had just started Twilight on another lecture, but Twilight didn’t notice. “The first string instrument, the lyre, if I recall correctly, was actually invented by the griffons shortly after the unification of the pony tribes.”

“If it was a griffon invention, then however did they become so popular among ponies?” Rarity asked.

“Well, even though the tribes had officially unified, there were still a large portion of unicorns who felt they were better than earth ponies and pegasi.” Twilight grimaced slightly. “The lyre became wildly popular amongst them almost purely because it was an instrument that they could play but other ponies couldn’t.”

Rarity shared her grimace. “Ugh, I’m so glad that there are bowed string instruments now that anypony can play.”

Applejack chuckled. “And y'all got the Apple family to thank fer that.”

“Wait, are you saying that the Apple family invented bowed string instruments?” Spike asked.

Applejack grinned. “Eeeyup!”

“Really?” Twilight asked. “I would have remembered if I had read that before... although admittedly, musical history is an area I’m not particularly well versed in…”

“Yep, it’s true! It’s actually kind of a funny story!” Applejack said.

“Yippe, story time!” Pinkie shouted, then plopped herself down in front of Applejack and pulled a bag of popcorn out of seemingly nowhere.

Applejack, having long since grown used to most of Pinkie’s antics, began without a hitch. “I dunno if y'all know my cousin Fiddlesticks, but it was her great-great-great-great-great—”

“Okay, we get it!" Rainbow Dash said. “They were alive a really long time ago! Get on with the story already!”

Applejack glared at Dash. “...great grandpappy, Fiddle Around, that invented them.” The scowl on her face quickly turned back to a smile as she continued. “Ya see, he had heard some unicorn playing a lute, and he really liked what he heard! Now, Fiddle wasn’t the brightest of ponies, and so he ended up ordering one for himself without realizing that he couldn’t actually play the durned thing!” She smirked. “When he finally got the thing and realized it was useless to him, he right flew into a rage!” Applejack curled her tail around as if she was holding something in it, then began squeezing with it as if she were trying to crush something. “In his raging, he grabbed that lute in his tail and began trying to break the thing in two! It was pure luck that one of his tail hairs managed to catch on one of the strings in just the right way to make a noise! It immediately broke him out of his rage, and he decided that he liked what he had heard!” She smiled. “And that’s how the first bowed string instrument was invented!”

“Yay!” Pinkie shouted, and clapped a hoof against the floor.

“Well, that was… interesting,” Twilight said.

Applejack nodded. “Some of the details may be off, but you’ll find that it’s true if ya go looking.”

“Ok, now I have to look into this!” Twilight said.

Applejack chuckled. "Well, I guess we should be leaving you to yer studies, then. It's 'bout time I headed back, anyhow."

The rest of her friends all agreed, and Twilight nodded. "Alright, then. I'll see you girls next time!"

“Spike!” she shouted once the last of her friends had left, then turned around to find him already at the bookshelves.

“Way ahead of you, Twilight." he said. "Where do you want to start?”

Wash Your What!?

View Online

Twilight came to a stop in the middle of the Ponyville marketplace in order to look at the checklist that was floating next to her and see what she needed to pick up next. She looked back towards the market, and quickly located her next destination.

"Good afternoon, Twilight!" Carrot Top said as Twilight approached the stand. "Doing the shopping instead of Spike, today?"

"Yep!" Twilight replied with a nod and a smile. "He wants to try out a new recipe he heard about, and he's been doing such a good job assisting me lately, that I decided I'd go shopping for what he needs this time!"

"I see! And just how many carrots does he need for this new recipe of his?"

"Only two, but I'd like to get some extras for myself, so I’d like five carrots, please."

"Alright!" Carrot Top said as she carefully separated five carrots from the large stack at the end of the table. "That will be four bits, please."

Twilight's horn glowed, and four bits floated out of her saddlebags. "Here you go," she said, and took the carrots in her magic to put them in her saddlebags.

Carrot top waved as Twilight turned to leave."You have a good day, Twilight!"

"You too, Carrot Top!" Twilight said with a nod.

It was to Twilight's immense relief that, as long as she wasn't wearing her regalia, everypony in Ponyville treated her more or less the same as they always had despite her new wings. She figured it was at least partially because she hadn't started to grow into her full alicorn stature yet. If one didn't notice her wings, it was easy to think that she was still just a regular unicorn. Even the nobleponies in Canterlot didn't treat her with nearly as much reverence as they did Celestia and Luna. Of course, Celestia and Luna had a few thousand years of history backing them up, so that wasn't too surprising. If she was to be completely honest with herself, she really wasn't looking forward to growing as big as Celestia, or even Cadance. Having the Royal Guard kowtow to her was bad enough; she didn’t want normal ponies to start doing it as well.

"Oh! Hello, Twilight."

The familiar greeting knocked Twilight out of her musings. She turned, and immediately smiled as she saw who it was. "Hi, Fluttershy! I wasn't expecting to run into you out here!"

Fluttershy smiled slightly in return. "I normally save all my shopping for the weekends, but Mr. Nibbles was a very naughty mouse and broke into my bag of birdseed. I simply couldn't wait another day to get more."

“Well, isn’t that a coincidence! I normally wouldn’t be out here shopping, either! I’m only doing the chores today because Spike has been such a good helper lately.”

“That’s nice,” Fluttershy said as she smiled and nodded. Her expression suddenly turned surprised, then slightly worried. “Oh! Um, actually, Twilight, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you.”

Twilight managed to only look slightly curious. “Of course, Fluttershy. What is it?”

“Umm… well…” Fluttershy nervously looked around at all the ponies moving about the marketplace before leaning in closer to Twilight and continuing in a whisper. “It’s about the music…”

A look of understanding dawned on her face. “Ahh, I see. Lets find somewhere a bit more quiet to talk.”

Twilight looked around for only a few moments before spotting an alleyway off the the side. She quickly made her way over to it, Fluttershy following right behind her.

Twilight did a quick scan of the alley. “This looks good. Lets just seal off the exits to ensure nopony sneaks up on us…” Her horn lit up, and a set of translucent purple barriers appeared at each exit to the alley. Twilight nodded at her work. “Alright then, that should do it!” She turned back towards Fluttershy. “Now what was it you wanted to ask me?”

“Well…” Fluttershy began. “It’s just, I’ve been wishing I could hear that last song again, so I was wondering if we could possibly get some recording gems to record the songs we hear from the aliens. I know that they can be expensive, but I really don’t want to miss out on another song as nice as that last one.”

“Hmm…” Twilight sat down on the ground and put a hoof to her chin. “The playback spell used in recording gems wouldn’t work with the electrical signals we’re getting from the aliens, just like the translation spell… But, since I was able to adjust the translation spell to work, I should be able to do the same with the playback spell…”

“So… you’ll look into it?” Fluttershy asked hopefully. "You're not worried about the cost?"

Twilight smiled. “Recording gems can be very expensive, especially ones with the kind of sound quality and storage capacity we'd need for something like this. However, since this is something we’re doing under orders from Princess Celestia, and since I am now a princess myself, it shouldn’t be too difficult for me to get my hooves on a few to tinker with.”

“Oh, thank goodness. I was afraid you might think it wasn’t worth going through so much trouble just so I could listen to some music…”

“Nonsense, Fluttershy! It's no trouble at all for a friend!" Twilight said. "And besides, recording the alien’s music would be a huge benefit to to this entire project!" She sheepishly rubbed the back of her head. "Honestly, I'm kind of embarrassed I didn't think of it first... But enough about that!" Her horn glowed, and the translucent barriers at either end of the alley disappeared. "You said you needed birdseed, right? I think that that's near my next stop, too! We can go together!" The two of them walked out of the alley side by side.

Unnoticed by either of them was an opened third story window. As they left, a gray coated stallion with what appeared to be grape jelly covering his face stuck his head out of the window and glared at the retreating mares. "Aliens?" He gave a snort. "And everypony says I'm the crazy one!"

The sun was beginning to go down as Rarity knocked on Twilight’s door for the third time. “Where could she be… ?” The door had a “closed” sign on it, but Twilight always put one of those signs out for these meetings so they wouldn’t be disturbed.

“You don’t think anything happened to her, do you?” Fluttershy asked.

“Ooh, maybe she was doing some kind of crazy magical experiment and she and Spike got sucked into a portal and now they’re both halfway across the universe fighting horrific monsters alongside hairless aliens that stand on two legs and have hands!” Pinkie suggested.

AJ raised an eyebrow at Pinkie. “Uh huh. More likely is she just got so caught up in some work she was doing that she plumb forgot what time it is.”

“Yeah, well, there’s only one way to find out and I’m getting tired of waiting!” Rainbow Dash flew up to the second story and barged in through the unlocked balcony window. A few moments later, she opened the front door from the inside and let the rest of them inside before closing the door. “There wasn’t any sign of her upstairs, and she clearly isn’t down here,” Dash reported.

“Oh my, now I really am getting worried,” Rarity said. “Twilight!” she shouted, “Twilight, dear, are you home?”

The door to the basement opened and Spike poked his head out. “I’m sorry, but we're closed right now. If you could come ba—” He stopped as he noticed who exactly it was that had entered and his face scrunched up in confusion. “What are you all doing here? Unless…” His eyes widened in shock. “Oh man, it’s not already that time, is it?”

Rarity nodded, and Spike blanched. “Oh jeez…” He turned to face back down the stairs. “Twilight, music time!”

“What!?” came a shrill cry from downstairs. A moment later there was a flash of light and a crack of displaced air, and Twilight was standing before them, looking more than a little disheveled. “I’m so sorry, girls! I completely lost track of time!”

AJ shot an ‘I told you so’ look at the rest of the group before speaking. “That’s alright, sugarcube. Whatcha working on, anyhow?”

Twilight smiled. “It’s actually directly related to this little project of ours! Thanks to a conversation I had with Fluttershy earlier this week, I’m now looking into getting us a way to record the music we hear!”

“So we’ll be able to listen to awesome alien music whenever we want!?” Pinkie asked.

Twilight nodded. “That’s the plan. I just need to modify the spellwork used in recording gems to work with the electrical signals we’re getting, just like I did with the translation spell.”

“But Twilight, didn’t that translation spell take you the better part of a month to modify?” Rarity asked. “We will have missed so much by then!”

“Yes, it did take a while," Twilight admitted with a nod if her head, "but since I’ve already done it once, it should go much faster this time! But enough about what I’ve been doing!” She spun towards Spike. “Spike! we need to choose who gets to pick the next song!”

“Right, I just need to…” He blinked a few times, then smacked himself in the forehead. “We don’t have the basket or the slips of paper ready!”

“That’s alright, I have a better way of choosing somepony!” Pinkie said. In a blur of motion, she picked up Spike and deposited him in between Applejack and Rarity. He had also somehow gained a blindfold over his eyes.

“Uh… Pinkie? What are you—” was all Spike was able to say.

“And now we just spin!” Pinkie said, and sent Spike spinning in place before taking her position, forming a triangle around Spike with Rarity, Applejack, and her as the corners.

It took a good ten seconds before Spike’s spinning slowed down. “Wooooahh…” he said woozily as he stumbled about for a few moments, before falling to the ground in Rarity’s direction.

“And Rarity wins!” Pinkie shouted.

“Err…” Rarity looked confusedly about at everypony else in the room, slightly at a loss as to what to do.

Applejack shrugged. “That’s fine by me.”

“Well… very well then,” Rarity said. “Since Applejack has no issue with the method of choosing, and Pinkie clearly doesn’t, then I shall accept this burden!”

Meanwhile, Twilight was glaring at Pinkie. “Pinkie, while I appreciate your enthusiasm for helping out, I’d also appreciate it if you didn’t leave Spike insensate.” She trotted up to the downed dragon, a glow forming on her horn, and touched her horn to his forehead, releasing the spell.

Spike shot right up. “Woah! What!?” He looked about for a few moments before recalling what had happened. “Oh man, that was crazy! It’s a good thing that Sober Up spell of yours works on regular old dizziness, too!”

Dash raised an eyebrow. “Sober up spell? Why does an egghead like you have a spell for sobering up?”

Twilight's face turned red. “Oh! No, you see, it's not a spell for sobering up per say, it's just a clarity spell! It helps focus your mind, that's all! Spike only calls it a sober up spell because, uhh..."

She was distracted by the sound of Rarity clearing her throat. “Ahh… Twilight?” Rarity said, and gestured towards the table which currently did not have a radio on it.

“Oh, right!” Twilight said, immensely grateful to Rarity for the distraction. “I have it downstairs because I was working on it! Just give me a second…” Her horn glowed, and in a moment there was a flash of light over the table and the Subspace Transceiver appeared. As she gently lowered it down onto the table, her friends were able to see that some changes had been made. On one side of the device, there was now a metallic prong that curved upwards at the bottom and a series of similar prongs that curved downwards at the top. It looked much like one of Spike’s claws or a griffon’s talons.

“Hey, now what’s that there thing on the side?” Applejack asked.

“That’s part of what I’m working on,” Twilight said. “Once I get the spellwork in the recording gems right, that’s where the gem will go! Right now it doesn’t really do much of anything though, so don’t worry about it.” Her horn glowed and a small notepad appeared in the air in front of her. “Ready whenever you are, Rarity!”

“If you say so, dear,” Rarity replied. Everything now set up, she approached the device. Her horn lit up and began fiddling with the knobs, and pretty soon, they were greeted with some artificial sounding beeping and booping.

Rarity listened for a few moments as her face twisted in disgust. “Eugh, what is this?” Her horn glowed and enveloped the knobs once again, but her concentration was broken by a blue blur flicking her horn before she could do anything.

“Nuh uh!” Dash said, “This is the song you got, and you’re just gonna have to stick with it!”

Rarity glared at Rainbow while rubbing her horn, then harumphed and turned to scowl in the direction of the radio.

Applejack chuckled quietly. “Sorry, Rarity, but that’s just how it goes.”

“Oh, I don’t think it’s… that bad…” Fluttershy said placatingly.

Pinkie was bopping her head side to side with the beat. “I think it sounds kinda fun!”

“It’s certainly different,” Twilight said. “It’s nothing like any of the other songs we’ve heard so far.”

Despite her friends reassurances, Rarity maintained her scowl until the song reached the first line, at which point her expression instantly changed to one of interest.

She wasn’t the only one either. “A song about personal hygiene?” Twilight said, interest clear on her face. “This should be enlightening!”

“Ha!” Rainbow shouted, “Breath bad enough to melt ice cream? That’s a good one!”

“It reminds me of Spike after he ate all of those baked bads…” Twilight said, casting a glance at the dragon.

Pinkie turned slightly green in the face. “I still can’t believe that you actually ate those things…”

“I’m telling you, they weren’t that bad!” Spike protested.

Twilight just smiled back at her draconic assistant and they continued listening.

“Hey, AJ, what’s up?” Dash asked a few moments later, noticing that the farm pony had a scowl on her face. “You not liking the song?”

“It’s not that, it’s just I can’t understand half of what this feller’s saying!”

“I’m having some trouble, too.” Fluttershy admitted.

“Yeah, it is pretty fast paced, but I kinda like it!” Spike said.

“Did he just say a bus station? What the hay is a bus station?” Dash asked a moment later.

“I’m not sure…” Twilight replied. “Maybe it’s something like a train station?”

“I sure hope not.” AJ said. “I remember visiting the Manehatten train station when I was a filly, and made the mistake of going to the restrooms there.” She shuddered. “Never again…”

They all fell silent for a short time, content to just listen, until the chorus began.

“Oh good, some useful information!” Twilight said and began scribbling in her notepad. “They have asses, hair, and teeth!”

Rarity winced as Twilight spoke. “Twilight, please, that language is most unbecoming of a princess…”

“Well, what else do you want her to say?” Rainbow asked. “It’s not like there’s any fancy way to refer to your butt!”

“No, but there are funny ways!” Pinkie said. “Like fanny! I like that one!” she said with a giggle.

“Actually, I’ve heard that some colts and fillies these days are using the word “plot” to refer to their butts.” Spike said.

“What!?” Twilight shouted, her head jerking up from her notes. “That doesn’t make any sense at all! What does the story of a book have to do with a pony’s backside!? How did that get started!?”

Applejack loudly cleared her throat, catching everyone's attention. “Ain’t we supposed to be listening to this music, not talking ‘bout butts?”

“Um, yes, I would like to just listen to the music again, please…” Fluttershy said.

“Oh right, sorry.” Twilight said with a sheepish smile.

They listened in silence for a short time, until one line caused Rainbow to make a retching noise. “Eugh, gross! Gargling with sweat?! You don’t think they actually do anything like that, do you?”

“It’s hard to say,” Twilight replied. “I get the feeling that a lot of what we’re hearing here is exaggeration, but there’s really no way of knowing how much is hyperbole and how much is real.”

They continued listening until the second chorus began. “You know…” Twilight said, “this song really is different from all the others we’ve heard so far.”

“You mean because of how fast paced it is?” Rainbow asked.

“Because it’s about bathing?” Rarity ventured.

“Because you can’t understand half the words?” was AJ’s guess.

“No, none of that,” Twilight answered with a shake of her head. “What I mean is…” She put a hoof to her chin. “I’m not quite sure how to say it…” The rest of them patiently waited for her to collect her thoughts. “It’s like… the lyrics are leading the music, instead of the other way around… if that makes any sense…”

“…I think I get what you’re saying,” Spike said after a moments thought. “I know I’ve never heard anything quite like it in our own music.”

“Well, I really like it!” Pinkie said. “I bet this kind of song would be great for helping to teach things to other ponies!”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “This? For an educational song?”

“Sure!” Pinkie exclaimed. “Everypony knows that a good tune can help you remember stuff, and since this kind of music is so fast, you could fit a ton of words into a small song! And more words means more information!”

“Uh huh…” was Twilight’s only response. The song having ended, her horn lit up and she turned off the Subspace Transceiver with a click.

"Well, anyway," Rainbow said, "That was fun and all, but I'm pretty sure there aren't actually any ponies that are that stinky."

"I only wish that were true, Rainbow..." Rarity replied with a sigh.

"You mean you actually know some pony with hygiene that bad?" AJ asked.

Rarity nodded. "I used to, yes. She actually still lives here in Ponyville, though her hygiene habits are now vastly improved."

"Who was it? Tell us, tell us!" Pinkie shouted.

"Alright... Though I trust you girls to keep this quiet. It was Carrot Top."

"Really?" Twilight asked, remembering the carrots she had bought from the mare just earlier in the week.

Rarity nodded. "Yes. You wouldn't know it from how she is now, but I went to school with her when we were just little fillies, and she... She was a disaster area. She must have discovered her love of gardening before she developed good hygiene skills, because she would often come to class with her coat covered in dirt and her tail full of mud and twigs and decaying plant bits." Her nose scrunched up. "She smelled like a compost heap!"

Rainbow let out a guffaw. “Oh man! You must have completely freaked out anytime you got near her!”

Rarity smiled back at Rainbow. “Not quite, actually. I wasn’t quite so... sensitive to such things then as I am now. I hadn’t even gotten my cutie mark yet, mind you.” She fell silent a few moments, a thoughtful look coming over her face. “Thinking back on it, Carrot Top may actually be partially responsible for making me the mare I am today. I think that seeing first hoof the depths one can fall to when they do not properly take care of themselves may of been what instilled in me such a strong belief in personal grooming.”

Twilight nodded. “It’s entirely possible.”

“Yeah, well, you’d never see a pegasus let themselves go like that! Least, not one raised in Cloudsdale.” Rainbow said.

AJ raised an eyebrow. “And just what exactly makes pegasi so different from unicorns and earth ponies when it comes to grooming?”

Rainbow proudly unfurled her wings. “These babies, of course! Any pegasus that wants to be able to fly worth a damn without breaking their neck has to keep their wings groomed. They beat that into us from the time we’re foals, before we’re even able to lift ourselves off the clouds!” She folded her wings back against her body. “And I guess good wing grooming habits kind of leads into good grooming habits in general.” She turned towards the only other pegasus in the room. “Ain’t that right, Fluttershy?”

“What? Oh!” Fluttershy hunched down slightly at having suddenly been put in the spotlight, but quickly recovered. “Um, well, yes, but I always keep myself clean for other reasons as well…”

“Oh, let me guess!” Pinkie shouted, “It has to do with your animal friends, right?”

A smile graced Fluttershy’s face as she nodded. “Uh huh, that’s right, Pinkie.”

“That makes sense.” Twilight said. “There’s more than a few diseases that are communicable between ponies and other animals, and you wouldn’t want to take any chances, I’m sure.”

“Exactly.” Fluttershy replied. “And it’s especially true when I have to help one of my animal friends out with medical issues.”

“You do medical work on your animals?” Rarity asked.

Fluttershy nodded. “Only simple procedures, since I’m not actually a trained vet, yet.”

“Such as…” Rarity prompted her to continue with a wave of her hoof.

“Well, just last year, Harry, my bear friend, his wife was going to give birth, and he wanted me to help deliver his cub! I was so honored!” She said excitedly. Her gaze drifted up towards the ceiling as she remembered the event, a huge grin spreading over her face. “I had to go out to his cave since his wife wasn’t in any condition to be moving around. There were some minor complications that required me to get personally involved, but I was able to help them through it, and a few hours later they were with a beautiful baby cub! Of course, afterwards I was absolutely covered in blood and amniotic–”

“Uuhhh, Flutters? A little bit TMI there, I think.” Rainbow interrupted.

“Huh?” Fluttershy took a look at the rest of her friends. Pinkie, Spike, and Rarity were both looking more green than their usual color, AJ had a grimace on her face, and even Twilight looked completely shocked. Her eyes widened. “Oh goodness, I’m sorry, everypony!” She turned her gaze to the side, causing her mane to fall over part of her face. “You probably didn’t need to hear all of that…”

“Well, a-anyway,” Rarity said, desperate to change the topic, “I think that it’s safe to say that all of us, at the very least, have a healthy respect for personal hygiene.”

"Not quite all of us..." Spike muttered under his breath while shooting a sidelong glance at Twilight.

A glance that did not go unnoticed by Rarity. The temperature in the room seemed to drop a few degrees as Rarity turned towards Spike. “I'm sorry, Spikey Wikey, but are you insinuating that our dear Princess Twilight Sparkle does not bathe regularly?”

“Hehe,” Twilight chuckled nervously to herself. “I really do try to bathe at least once a day, but sometimes I get so caught up in a project I'm working on or in research I'm doing that I just kinda... forget…” she explained sheepishly.

In a slow, steady, and decidedly un-pony like manner, Rarity turned her head to stare Twilight in the face. “What.”

Twilight suddenly found herself shaking slightly. "B-but it's okay, really! I know a few cleansing spells! I just have to cast them on myself and it's almost as good as the real thing!"

Now Rarity turned to face her fully. The smile she had on her face was somehow absolutely terrifying. "Twilight. Darling. Almost may have been good enough when you were just a small town librarian, personal student of Princess Celestia, and occasional savior of all of Equestria. But you are a Princess now!" She began slowly walking towards the trembling alicorn. "Almost is no longer sufficient! You must keep yourself to a higher standard!"

Twilight was cowering against the ground as Rarity finished, but yet out a yelp as she felt one of her wings suddenly yanked open. She turned her head to see Rainbow Dash holding her wing and casting a critical gaze over it. Dash slowly started shaking her head in disapproval. "Jeez, you really haven't been taking care of yourself." Dash dropped her wing and turned to look at her. "I never thought I'd be agreeing with Rarity on something, but she's right. You can't go taking magic shortcuts when it comes to wing care. They need personal attention."

"So, Twilight, dear, what are we going to do about this, hmm?" Rarity asked with a smile that promised terrible, terrible things if such behavior continued.

With both Rarity and Dash glaring daggers at her, it took Twilight a moment to muster a response. "I-I could start adding bathing to my project checklists! You all know how closely I follow checklists!"

“Hmm… a good long term solution, perhaps,” Rarity said, “But I also think we need to make an emergency spa visit. Right now.”

“What!?” Twilight shouted. “But the spa is going to be closing soon!”

“Yes, but I am confident that Lotus and Aloe will stay open a tad longer for their most frequent customer and one of the Princesses of Equestria,” Rarity responded, then began walking towards the door. As she did, her horn lit up and a similar glow appeared around one of Twilight’s ears. “Come along, dear.”

“Wha? Hey! Ow!” Twilight yelped out as Rarity tried dragging her along the floor by her ear.

She tried resisting, but then Rainbow got behind her and started pushing her forwards as well. “Give it up, Twi. I don’t usually care for all that pansy spa stuff, but even I have to admit that those spa sisters know how to take care of a pair of wings.”

Between the two of them, she quickly disappeared out the door into the night, her protest still audible until the door slammed shut a moment later with the glow of Rarity’s magic.

Spike, Applejack, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie just stood there in shock, mouths hanging open, staring at the door. AJ leaned over towards Pinkie. “Remind me never to let Rarity know that some days, I’m so plumb tuckered out from work that I skip my shower before hitting the hay.”

Pinkie nodded dumbly. “Uh huh…”

“Um… we should probably be going…” Fluttershy said quietly.

“Right…” Applejack replied. “I guess we’ll be seeing you next time, Spike.”

“Right… next time...” Spike replied, still slightly dumbfounded by what his innocuous comment had snowballed into. “Later, all…”

The Devil?

View Online

At the edge of the west orchard near the border of the Everfree, Applejack sat in the grass, her entire body tensed as she gnawed on her hoof. Her gaze was locked straight ahead, and though sweat was rolling down her face, she dared not even blink.

The reason for her distress was readily apparent. Not ten feet in front of her stood a pillar of fire in the shape of an apple tree. The blazing conflagration showed no signs of spreading, but the sight of even a single one of her beloved apple trees engulfed in flames was almost too much for her to bear.

Her gaze was not locked on the tree itself, however, but on the butter-yellow pegasus hovering in the air right beside it. Despite being so close to the raging flames, Fluttershy showed no signs of fear. She instead had a very determined look on her face as she slowly circled the tree, staring intently into the fire as though searching for something.

The sweat building up upon her brow finally becoming too much for her to ignore, Applejack removed her hat and wiped her leg across her forehead. Then, instead of replacing her hat on her head, she began chewing on the rim of it in favor of her hoof.

Fluttershy suddenly let out an excited gasp. She darted perilously close to the fire and paused. She seemed to be saying something, but Applejack couldn't make it out over the roar of the fire. Then, with only a hint of trepidation on her face, Fluttershy dived into the inferno.

Applejack’s breath caught in her throat and she nearly bit right through the rim of her hat. She stood stock-still, not daring to even breathe as she waited for something to happen, for any sign that her friend hadn't just done the unthinkable.

A few tense seconds passed before a small wick of flame, standing taller than the fires around it, appeared at the very top of the tree-turned-inferno. Applejack's gaze followed it closely as it moved down the side of the ball of fire that was the canopy of her apple tree. It continued moving down onto the narrow pillar of flame that was the tree's trunk, and finally reached the grass at the base of the inferno, which despite the proximity to the fire, wasn't so much as even singed.

The tall wick of flame continued onto the grass and began moving towards the Everfree Forest, more fire trailing in its wake. Applejack's anxiety somehow managed to spike even greater for just a moment, until she realized that it wasn't spreading more fire behind it, it was actually drawing the fire from the tree along with it!

As she watched in growing relief, the fires receded from the tree, starting from the very top. Leaves and branches slowly became visible, somehow completely unharmed, still showing vibrant greens and healthy browns. The only color missing was red; the majority of the apples had vanished, and those that remained had been reduced down to only the cores.

Applejack placed her hat back upon her head and walked towards the tree, her mouth hanging open in disbelief. The last of the flames left the tree as she approached, joining the blazing trail now stretching all the way back to the Everfree. Not quite believing her eyes, she hesitantly placed a hoof upon the now fire-free tree trunk. Her shocked look slowly shifted to a relieved smile as she confirmed that it really was her tree and, aside from the loss of the apples, it was still perfectly alive and healthy.

Fluttershy gently landed beside her, and Applejack quickly rounded and embraced her in an appreciative hug, eliciting a startled squeak from the pegasus. “Fluttershy, you just saved the Apple family a whole heap of trouble!” She pulled back and glanced at the retreating trail of fire. “Granny Smith had told us stories about fire ants, but I always thought they were just tall tales! I didn't know those kinda critters actually existed!”

“Yes, they're quite real,” Fluttershy said as she too watched the fire ants return to the Everfree, “though this is the first time I've actually seen them. I'd only read about them before now.”

Applejack turned back to Fluttershy, a more serious look on her face. “I can't believe you just dived into that fire like that! You durn near gave me a heart attack! Those critters didn't hurt you none, did they?” she asked as she began circling her friend, looking close for any sign of injury.

“Oh no, I'm perfectly fine Applejack.” Fluttershy replied. “A Fire Ant's fire is magical, they can control what it does and doesn't burn. They only use it for self defense. I just had to tell them that I didn't mean any harm and only wanted to talk to their queen, and they let me through.”

Applejack finished her examination and, not finding so much as a single scorched hair, gave a harumph. “Still scared the bajeezus outta me.” She turned towards her tree. “And the tree? I don't see so much as a single burnt leaf on it!”

“They only came to your tree so they could eat the apples,” Fluttershy replied with a soft smile. “They're smart enough to know that if they burnt up the tree, then it wouldn't be able to grow any more apples! They said they really liked your apples.”

"They did, did they?" Applejack said, a frown coming over her face. She remained silent a few moments before continuing. “I suppose I oughta be flattered that even ants like our apples, but I hope that doesn’t mean they’ll be coming back.”

“Um… about that…” Fluttershy started, her smile fading as she seemed to shrink back into herself, “in order to convince them to leave, I uh… kinda told them that… you’d leave them a bushel of apples at the edge of the Everfree every other week…”

Applejack turned a shocked look towards the pegasus. “You what?”

Fluttershy shrunk down a bit more, her face now entirely hidden behind her mane. “I’m sorry, Applejack, but that was the only way I could convince them to leave…”

Applejack let out an exasperated sigh and brought up a hoof to rub her forehead. “I suppose that’s a small price to pay for guaranteeing they stay outta the orchard…” She turned a critical glare back towards the treeline of the Everfree and remained silent a few moments as her frown slowly turned thoughtful. “…Hey, Fluttershy?”

“Yes?...” the pegasus said as she slowly looked back up to Applejack.

“I’m just taking a shot in the dark here, but I’m guessing that timberwolves and fire ants don't get along too well.”

“Oh!” Fluttershy immediately perked back up, a smile returning to her face. “Yes, you’re absolutely right! Timberwolves hate fire ants with a passion. They won’t go anywhere near them!”

The corner of Applejack’s mouth curled upwards into a smirk. “Hmm. If those critters can keep those durned timberwolves away from the farm, then maybe this ain’t such a bad deal afterall…”

“I think that might work!” Fluttershy said with a nod of her head. “If you leave them a bushel of apples every week, then they're sure to stay in this part of the Everfree. And that would be sure to keep timberwolves away!”

Applejack's smirk grew into a full grin. “Sounds good to me! Heck, I might just give them two bushels of apples!”

“I'm sure they would love that!” Fluttershy happily replied. She turned back to the tree line and thought she could still see the slight glow of a fire amongst the trees. “They really are such fascinating creatures.”

They both sat in silence a few moments while looking towards the Everfree. Fluttershy then furtively looked about before turning towards her friend. “Applejack? Do you... Do you think that those aliens have amazing creatures like that on their own planet?”

Applejack grinned back at the pegasus. “Sugarcube, I'm sure they've got all sorts of crazy critters that we couldn't even begin to imagine!” She turned away from the Everfree. “C'mon, let's head back to the house and get something to eat! You deserve as much after what you've done for us!”

Fluttershy didn't want to impose so, but she knew that trying to turn down Apple family hospitality was a futile effort. She simply nodded and fell into step behind her friend as they made their way back.

Fluttershy came to a soft landing just outside the library. She knocked quietly on the door and had to wait only a few moments before the door opened, a familiar purple alicorn on the other side. “Fluttershy! There you are! Please, come in!”

Fluttershy stepped inside and was greeted by the faces of all of her friends seated around the table with Twilight’s radio on it. As she had feared, she was the last one to arrive. “I'm sorry to keep you waiting, everypony. I was about ready to leave when Angel got into a fight with Barry.”

Rainbow shot Fluttershy a disbelieving look. “Again?”

“It's no problem at all, dear,” Rarity replied with a dismissive wave of her hoof. “Applejack has been regaling us with your harrowing experience with those fire ants yesterday.”

“It sounds like it was super-spectacularly awesome!” Pinkie said.

“Though I gotta admit,” Spike added, “I’m having trouble picturing you diving into a fire.”

Fluttershy blushed and shrank back behind her mane slightly, but her smile showed she was still enjoying the praise. “Oh, It was really nothing. It's no different from dealing with any of my other animal friends.”

Applejack grinned back at her. “Fluttershy, maybe for you that was just business as usual, but it was a whole lot more important for us. Granny Smith told us horror stories of those things burning down entire orchards!”

“I really wish I could have been there,” Twilight said, “just so I could see the fire ants for myself! They're such fascinating creatures! Did you know,” she continued, looking excitedly to to rest of her friends, “that the control they have over their magical fire far surpasses even the most accomplished of unicorn spell casters? It still isn't fully understood how they do it! There's actually this one study where—”

“Hey, Twilight,” Rainbow Dash cut in, “I'm sure this study was super amazing and all, but we didn't come here for a lecture on fire ants. We came to listen to some crazy alien music.”

Twilight stared at Dash for just a moment, then grinned sheepishly. “Right, of course! Now, since we’re down to only Pinkie Pie and Applejack who haven’t picked a song yet, Spike and I decided that we would just flip a bit to see who gets to go this time!”

Pinkie Pie and Applejack stood on each side of Spike as he pulled out a bit. “Sun or Moon, call it while it’s in the air!” he said, then flicked the coin up into the air.

“Sun! No, Moon! MOON!” Pinkie shouted, her eyes glued to the coin flying through the air.

Spike caught the bit and slapped it down against his other hand. Pinkie leaned in closer as he slowly lifted his hand to see what it was. “Sun!”

“NOOOOOOOOO!” Pinkie shouted as she stood up and threw her forehooves up into the air, then slowly tipped backwards and fell flat on her back.

Applejack raised an eyebrow. “If it’s that big a deal for you Pinkie, then I’ll gladly give you my turn…”

In the blink of an eye, Pinkie was back on her hooves with her usual smile. “Nah, it’s fine. This way I just know that I’ll be sure to get my turn next time!”

“You sure, Pinkie?”

“Yes I’m sure!” Pinkie replied, then gave Applejack an insistent push towards Twilight’s radio. “Now go on, pick us out a song already!”

“All right, all right!” Applejack replied with a good natured chuckle. She walked up to the table with the radio and sat down in front of it, rubbed her hooves together, then began fiddling with the dials.

There was nothing but static for a few moments, the only interruption a small 'pop' as Twilight's notepad and quill magically appeared before her. Then all at once the room was filled with the sound of vigorous fiddling. Applejack's eyes lit up. “Hey, now this is my kinda tune!”

“Yeah, it ain’t bad!” Dash added.

They all listened quietly to the fiddling, and it was only a short time before the lyrics began and Twilight’s ears perked up. “The devil?...” she quietly said to herself. Then her head shot up to stare at the Subspace Transceiver in shock. “STEALING SOULS!?”

Rarity let out a gasp and there was a quiet “Oh my…” from Fluttershy.

“I can’t believe this!” Twilight said. “How—”

“Shhhhhh!” She was cut off by Pinkie, who had suddenly appeared in front of her. “Less talky, more listeny!”

Twilight grimaced and went back to scribbling in her notepad.

Spike scowled as they continued listening “I’m not liking this ‘devil’ character at all.”

Rarity’s eyes widened a moment later. “Goodness, talk about high stakes gambling…”

“He wouldn’t…” Applejack said.

A huge grin popped up on Rainbow’s face. “He would! Ha, this Johnny is my kind of alien!”

They fell back to listening for a short time, until Fluttershy looked towards Rainbow Dash. “You wouldn’t really bet your soul on something, would you, Rainbow?” Fluttershy asked.

“If that something was flying, then yeah, there’s a good chance I would, because I know that I’m the best flyer in Equestria!” Rainbow replied.

“For a golden fiddle, though?...” Twilight said to nopony in particular.

Nopony had anything else to say as the song continued, until a shudder rippled through Applejack. “That ain’t a sound a fiddle should make…”

“Wait, now he has an entire band joining him? Isn’t that cheating?” Spike asked.

“I dunno, but it sounds pretty awesome!” Rainbow Dash said, bobbing her head to the music.

“Yeah, I like it!” Pinkie added.

“It’s not bad… but I don’t actually hear any fid-gwaah!” A shiver shot through Applejack’s body as the fiddling began, her tail shooting out straight behind her. Her friends gave her an odd look as she kept her teeth clenched through the whole thing, then let out a breath when it finally ended. “That ain't like any fiddle playing I ever heard… and I don’t like it!”

“Well, then lets just see if you like Johnny better, hmm?” Rarity replied.

Applejack turned back to the radio with an anxious look, but her face quickly brightened up. “Hey, now this is more like it!”

“I also like this one a lot better,” Fluttershy said.

“I can’t understand half of what they’re saying, though…” Twilight said regretfully.

Applejack started bobbing her head and tapping her hooves on the ground, her friends keeping silent to let her enjoy the fiddling. “Now that’s how it’s done!” she said as it ended.

“And it seems like the Devil agrees with you!” Twilight added.

“Oh, thanks goodness he kept his word,” Rarity said, letting out a small sigh. “I feared he might renege on their deal if he lost and take his soul anyway.”

Rainbow’s grin grew even wider. “And then he dares him to come back and try again? This Johnny is the coolest alien ever!”

Applejack let out a “Yeehaw!” as Johnny started fiddling again, and this time actually began dancing, rearing up into the air, spinning around, and even kicking out behind herself at least once. Her friends gave her space to enjoy herself, and she was panting slightly when the song finally ended. “Now that was some grade A fiddling if I ever heard it!”

“The music was alright, but it was the story that I really liked! Johnny was awesome!” Rainbow said.

“I'm not so sure about 'awesome',” Rarity replied. “Either very brave or very foolish, to take a bet with his very soul on the line.”

“The fact that there was any mention of soul stealing at all I find to be very disturbing,” Twilight said.

“Umm... You can't actually have your soul taken from you, can you?” Fluttershy asked.

“Well…” Twilight started, then paused as she realized all eyes in the room were on her. She took a deep breath before continuing. “Yes, you can.”

There were scattered gasps and a “Seriously!?” from Rainbow Dash.

“It’s extremely complicated, very dark magics,” Twilight continued, a grim look on her face.

“Woah… What’s it like without a soul? Wouldn’t you die?” Spike asked.

Twilight shook her head. “No, having your soul taken doesn't kill you, though you'd probably wish it did. You lose almost all willpower to do anything, or to even care about anything. Even worse, a pony’s soul is inextricably tied to their magic. If you lose one, you lose the other. So that would mean no more spellcasting,” she said looking at Rarity, “no more flying,” her gaze moved to Rainbow Dash, “not even any enhanced strength and endurance,” she finished as her gaze fell upon Applejack.

The mood in the room had turned quite morose, to the point that Pinkie’s mane was even drooping slightly. “Oh my…” Fluttershy mumbled, the only noise in the room.

Twilight’s grim expression turned into a grin. “Aww, buck up, girls! This is something we’re never going to have to worry about! The last recorded use of such magics was well over a thousand years ago. Nopony knows how to casts such spells anymore, and hardly anypony even knows they exist. Even I can’t even begin to understand how it was done. I never thought I’d say this, but this is one piece of arcane knowledge that I’m glad has been lost to the ages!”

Her friends did indeed perk back up at the news. “Well, that is a relief,” Rarity said. “Though I have to wonder what kind of creature this Devil is to do such a terrible thing as taking one’s soul…”

“Well, Johnny called him a ‘son of a bitch’, so presumably he’s some kind of canine or canine hybrid,” Twilight said. She paused just a moment. “Though it’s kind of odd to call someone the son of their mother…”

“Whatever he is, I don’t like him!” Pinkie shouted, a surprising amount of anger in her voice. “Trying to do such a terrible thing to someone… He’s the worst!”

“Well he ain’t all bad,” Applejack said, to the surprise of the rest of her friends. “He kept his word, didn’t he? Like Rarity said, when he lost, he could have just taken Johnny’s soul anyway, but he didn’t! I’ll agree with ya, Pinkie, on not liking him, especially with the way he played that fiddle…” she shuddered. “But he could be a lot worse.”

“Honestly, he kinda reminds me of Discord,” Spike said.

“Oh, but Discord would never do something like that,” Fluttershy replied.

“Actually, Fluttershy…” Twilight said, “what Discord did the first time we confronted him, when he… corrupted all of us… that was also magic affecting the soul. Our souls. In fact, it’s possible that soul stealing magics may not be quite as forgotten as I had hoped…”

Fluttershy looked with dismay at the darkening expressions on her friends faces. “But… but Twilight! Girls! You have to believe me, he wouldn’t do anything like that! Not anymore! I know he’s done some terrible things in the past, but If we really, truly are going to try to become friends with him, then we have to give him the benefit of the doubt!”

Twilight let out a sigh. “Yes, you’re absolutely right, Fluttershy. Friendship is a two way street, after all. We shouldn’t be assuming such things about him without any evidence.”

“You gotta admit, though,” Spike said, “that offering a prize like a golden fiddle is totally something Discord would do.”

“Yes, the golden fiddle… I didn’t really get that part,” Twilight said. “What kind of a reward would that be? I can’t imagine it would play very well, and it would be extremely heavy. Unless he only meant gold plated? but even then-”

Rainbow Dash groaned and put a hoof to her forehead. “Twilight, how usable it is doesn’t matter! That isn’t the kind of reward that you use, it’s the kind of reward that you show off to others!”

Applejack nodded. “Yep! That’s the kinda thing that you put up above the fireplace mantle and show it to folks that come visiting.”

“And then you’ve got an excuse to tell them the super awesome story of how you beat the Devil in a fiddle-off!” Pinkie Pie added.

“What they’re trying to say, dear, is that it’s a conversation piece,” Rarity concluded.

Twilight slowly nodded her head. “I see… I wasn’t thinking about it from that angle, but you’re right, ponies would definitely ask about that kind of thing.”

“I know I would!” Spike said, then immediately broke into a yawn.

Applejack chuckled. “I think Spike’s got the right idea! I gotta work the fields tomorrow morning, so it’s about time I be heading back so I can hit the hay.”

Twilight glanced up at the clock on the wall. “Hmm, it is getting late, isn’t it? Well, alright then. Next time, I hope to have the recording gems ready for use. I’ll see you all then!”

Twilight went to hold the door open for them as they all said their goodbyes and departed, then Spike and herself went upstairs to get some rest of their own.