by Bastinator

First published

Anon is a Spartan-IV and a member of Fireteam Crimson. When he accidently finds himself on the wrong end of a Forerunner artifact, he finds himself in Equestria. It has to be a dream, right?

Anon is a Spartan-IV and a member of Fireteam Crimson. When he accidently finds himself on the wrong end of a Forerunner artifact, he finds himself in Equestria. It has to be a dream, right?

Chapter 1: Taking Stock

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You slouch next to the barricade, shotgun empty. Where’s your team when you need them? The metallic chimes of the beast tick away, its weighty limbs sending small shocks through the floor. You activate your cloaking module, eyes glued to the tracker for any buddies that might show up. You sneak around the corner, the beast towering above you. Your steps are dampened thanks to that stealth module, a good investment in your opinion. The Knight croons its head, a sharp chirping cutting through your muffled hearing. It raises its rifle and screeches. “Fuck.”

Your shield takes the first hit and your roll back behind cover before he can finish them off. So much for the stealth approach. You vault over the wall and sprint towards the metallic fiend. Another shot takes off a sliver of your shields, enough to worry you. He swipes his blade arm towards you and you roll right underneath. It places you right where you want. You spring off your feet, your horn piercing the shielding guarding his head. Your ears ring from the beeps of your depleted shielding, but its nothing compared to the relief you feel watching his form crumble away into dust. Picked a fight with the wrong Spartan. An incoherent mess makes its way through the comm. channel, their communication halted due to the jammer.

You grab his Light Rifle and proceed down the hall. The grunt squeals as you slit its throat, its gargled gasps catching the others’ attention. You toss a plasma, latching onto another grunts methane tank and sending him running into the Elite’s shield. You dodge the round of plasma fire and count down. “Three, two, one…” An explosion rocks the flooring and you take aim at the vulnerable elite. He roars in frustration and you grin beneath your helmet. “You are one ugly mother-”

You send a burst into his head, silencing the Sanghelli forever. The scrambler glows behind his corpse and you discard the rifle, snatching another pair of nades. You prime the two grenades and lob them under the machinery and watch the fireworks. Just another day.

“Anon, this is Lance do you read?”

You switch back over to the radio. “Roger that Lance, mission accomplished.”

”Stay put, we’re locking onto your position now.” You eye the artifact lying in the corner, an eerie orange light emanating from it. “Just hurry so we can give the eggheads their toy.” You sit on one of the covenant’s overturned crates, boredom finding you. All this work just for some piece of tech they’ll probably kill themselves using like that one guy. Whatever, the cycle continues. You twirl your thumbs in anticipation for their approach. The yellow blips hit your motion tracker and you hear them marching down the hall. Might as well have some fun with them.

Ramirez comes in, DMR primed. He scans the room, “Clear.”

Lance and the other Spartan move in as well, “Any sign of Anon?”

”Besides the corpses?” Ramirez asks, “No, he’s not here.” He gets closer, the suspense is killing you. For someone with a good eye he has a hard time seeing what’s right in front of him. You wait for him to get close and then…


Ramirez jumps back in fright and holds his chest, “God damnit Anon. How many times are you going to pull that?” You deactivate your cloak and stop laughing long enough to reply.

“Until you stop falling for it.”

Lance marches up to you, the big captain with all his high and mighty glory, “On your feet solider.” If only you could wipe away the tears of joy.

You comply, albeit slowly to piss him off. “Problem officer?”

He lands a right to your face, knocking off half your shield. ”That’s for disobeying a direct order.” As you move to strike back he lands a direct kick to the chest, your feet grinding against the floor. Your calves hit the artifact, a pulse shooting up your leg. ”And that’s for the rest of your shit. When we get back to the Infinity you’re done. You hear me? Done!”

That piece of shit, he has no idea what he’s up against. You mash helmets with him, your barriers sparking against each other’s. “I had to finish this mission solo, where the fuck were you guys?”

”Held back at the checkpoint where YOU abandoned us!”

“That’s beside the point!”

Ramirez pulls you both apart, the other Spartan not wanting to get involved. ”This isn’t solving anything, Lance you need to calm down.”

”Like hell I do. I’ve had enough of Anon’s crap. He’s compromised Crimson’s mission one too many times.”

“I AM Crimson! You’d be nothing without me!”

Lance frees himself from Ramirez’s hold, “You know what you are? A loose cannon. An unstable fuck that needs to be locked up.” You back off before you do something you’ll regret. ”You don’t care about Crimson. You don’t care about anything. No amount of covies you kill is ever going to bring those idiots back.” You freeze, back turned to Lance.

”Oh shit…” Ramirez mutters.

“You’re right. I don’t care about Crimson,” you look to him. “I don’t care about the UNSC. I don’t care about this stupid mission.” You look at the pulsing box, every flash goading you on. “I don’t care about those scientists,” you clench your fist and slam your foot against the artifact, “or their toys!” Another tingle shoots up your calf and begins to spread. “I don’t care about much, but don’t you dare speak about them, you understand!”

Lance takes a couple steps back, “Anon…”

“What!?” Your HUD flashes red and beeps in your ear. The fuck? You look down at your body, an orange mist flowing around you. “Well… fuc-“ You black out.

Your shields hum to full capacity, your head pounding. Where the- What happened? Your HUD’s all fuzzy and distorted, but a few good smacks and its back to normal. Tree tops? Last time you checked there wasn’t a tree in sight. Brown soil coats your hand as you sit up. That thing must’ve teleported you off to another part of the planet. At least things are quiet for once. You stand up and lean against a great tree. “Infinity, this is Anon from Fireteam Crimson do you copy?”

No response. “Infinity, this is Spartan-054 of Crimson Team do you read?” They must be out of range, that or you need to get to higher ground. You whip out your combat knife and begin to climb. You stab and leap your way to the top, breaching the thick branches and leaves. You look into the deep blue sky and at the moon overhead.
“This is Spartan-054 to any UNSC squads in the area; does anyone hear me out there?” The only response you get is static. Their signal isn’t jammed it’s just… gone. You take stock of the situation.

Lone Spartan out in the wilderness, no food or water, no weapon besides your knife, no response on the comm. DM, I’d like a reroll. Still, all systems appear to be functional. Alright what’d they tell you in basic about this situation? …Oh yeah, you slept through those sessions. Note to self: Don’t sleep through class.

You quickly scan your surroundings. There’s a mountain range out west, it could help boost the signal, but that’s a long shot. Then again, a long shot is better than no shot at all. Into the woods it’s time to go. It may be all in vain I know. You need to get that song out of your head. You leap from the tree and back to the ground. Few things measure to this thrill. Brushing off the splattered dirt you head due west down the path. This is what happens when you lose your composure. You kick ancient boxes and they teleport you to god knows where. Not necessarily an everyday occurrence, but still relevant.

You make out the peak through the dense foliage overhead. A blip hits your radar. It doesn’t detect a UNSC neural interface, so it’s no friend of yours. Two more blips show up. Probably crawlers, but you’re in no position to fight them now. They’re headed directly towards you, gotta go fast. Activating camo, you cling to a nearby tree to gain a vantage point. You wait patiently for the dogs to pass, but what you find surprises you. A purple p0ny is coming down the path. You didn’t know Requiem held indigenous life.

What’s even more intriguing is the horn that protrudes from her head. A unicorn. With what you know about the forerunners, the theory they have some connection with myth is unsurprising. It is an oddity though, but at least you don’t have to worry about crawlers gnawing on your corpse.

The p0ny is joined by two others, one like the ones you’ve seen on Reach and the other has wings. Well then, Pegasi and Unicorns. Are you in some type of mythical creature section of Requiem or what? These are the seven stages of mindfuckery you weren’t trained for. The unicorn seems to be looking at something on the floor, almost as if… It’s following your footprints. Clever thing. The unicorn gets closer to the tree base and looks over it. There’s a quizzical look in its eye as its gaze passes over you. ”Are ya done Twilight?” The regular p0ny says- Wait what? “Zecora ain’t gonna wait on us.”

The p0ny turns her head, “But look at these tracks Applejack, have you ever seen anything like it? How about you Fluttershy?” Fluttershy? Applejack? Twilight? You’ve got to be dreaming.

The yellow Pegasus shakes her head, “Can we uhm… I mean…”

”You know Fluttershy gets scared Twilight, let’s hurry to Zecora’s.”

Note to self: There exists an eight stage to mindfuckery. Twilight, the unicorn, huffs in defeat, “Alrighty then, but I still want to check out these strange tracks.” They continue down the path and you come out of hiding. Yeah you’ve got to be dreaming. There’s no possible explanation for that. You don’t give a shit how advanced the forerunners were, this is bullshit. They took the right route away from the mountain. You can still get to the mountain easy enough, but… There’s something about them that intrigues you. It doesn’t make any sense to follow them, but you want to for some reason. So that’s what you do. You stay at the edge of motion tracker range and conserve camo.

The tracker catches the occasional critter, but you keep your eyes on the three dots ahead of you. You hide behind a log and peak over at the trio. They’ve stopped at a rather menacing looking tree, a variety of tribal masks adding to the creepy visage. They knock on the door and a zebra pops its head out, “Ah Twilight my friend, come in for our potion to blend.”

Well that’s a unique way to talk. They close the door and you slink over to a window and peer inside. A bubbling cauldron centers the room with potions and plants littering the cabinets on the walls. ”How goes the potion?” Twilight asks.

”It is done, but remember it is not for fun.”

”Thank you Zecora, it’s always a pleasure to see you.”

”The same for you Twilight, good night.” A short visit huh? Nothing of interest really. Damn your instincts, you could’ve called for evac by now if you headed for the mountain. You can beat yourself up over it later. You shove aside a fern and head back through the brush. Poor decision after decision. You need to take a class on this or something. Your throat aches slightly from the lack of moisture, only serving to pick up the pace. You’ll drink your eyes out when you get back to the Infinity. There’ll be enough time if Lance goes through with his report. Perhaps if you studied these creatures further… There could even be a promotion in it for you. Isn’t that a thought?

A roar wails from the back of the wood followed by a scream. Welp, time to be a hero. You sprint back through the brush, leaping bounds at a time. The growls get louder as you near them and you push yourself even faster. You slide to the cleared path and look around for the p0nies. The three cower to your right, a monstrosity reared up on its hind legs. It stands slightly taller than you, the monster consisting of a lion’s body, bat wings and a scorpion tail. You try to wrap your head around it, but give up. This is shit of the bull caliber. You grind your heel into the ground and make a course for the beast.

You fly by the p0nies without as much as a sound. You leap upwards and pull your fist back. “SPARTAN PUNCH!”

You clock the creature across the jaw and land behind it. The ground quakes as it collapses, unconscious. Flawless Victory. You stand up and dust off your legs, a rush of triumph coming over you. No freak of nature is going to get the best of you. You’re Anon and you’re… Visible. The p0nies are wide-eyed and you just let your presence be known to them. “Shit,” you mutter and sprint off.

You catch your breath when you’re sure you lost them. What did you just say about decisions Anon? Come on! It’s like you have yearn for self-destruction. At least you managed to save them from that… thing. You’ve seen some shit, but that was just crazy. What sort of mad science did they have to do to cook up those things? And there probably are more, nobody goes ‘one and done.’ Now, where’s that mountain- ”I think he went this way.” Don’t they give up?

You spot a hefty branch bridging two trees above you and climb aboard, activating cloak. It doesn’t take long for them to get in range. ”What in Equestria was that thing Twilight? I ain’t never seen nothing like that up by the Acres.”

”I don’t know, but whatever it is it saved our lives.”

The Pegasus looks to the ground, “He wasn’t going to hurt us.” Say that after it mauled you to death.

”Even then, it’s something no p0ny’s seen before. We need to document it.”

The p0ny adjusts her hat, “I think I speak for Fluttershy when I say that I ain’t looking forward to anything that can take out a Manticore in a single buck.” So that thing was called a Manticore, another mythical creature no doubt.

The unicorn stops dead below you, “The tracks end here.” Crap, you forgot about that. Let’s hope the camo holds up.

”Good riddance, can we get back to Ponyville now Twilight? This place is creeping me out.”

Twilight shakes her head, “This thing isn’t escaping me.” Her horn begins to glow. Glow! What sorcery is this? The branch shivers and shakes with you upon it. Could she be doing- Whoa! You lose your balance after a particularly strong tremor and fall backwards. Your camo lags and shields take a small hit upon impact.

”THE BUCK IS THAT?!” the one called Applejack shouts.

You roll backwards and are about to make another break for it. ”Please wait!” Like you’re going to fall for that.

You take off back down the path, this time not stopping for anything. Their calls dwindle in the wind as you press forward. You just need to keep moving. The density of the forest begins to lighten up as you keep going. A soft light glows tantalizingly up ahead and like a moth to the flame you rush towards it. There seems to be some sort of cottage, birds chirping incessantly in the trees. The p0nies couldn’t have made this could they? Of course not, they’re animals. That can talk. And fly… and use magic… They have hooves, they couldn’t use the door anyways so it’s obviously a human structure. Silly Anon, you’re starting to go off the deep-end.

You waltz up to the door, relaxation taking over you. Though it appears rustic, any human structure on Requiem would have a long range communication device somewhere. Just keep telling yourself that Anon. It’s not like your making this up as you along. You knock gently against the door though it registers as powerful thuds. “This is Spartan-054 of the UNSC, anyone home?”

The door creaks open a hair and you sigh in relief. “Phew, I thought I was the only human out here,” you say as the door opens further. “Do you think… I could use- your radio?” The house is empty, not a soul inside. Then who was door?

A tapping echoes from your feet and you look down to see the cause. A white rabbit is knocking at your armor, his movement slow enough to breach your shield. Did- did this guy open the door? You back away slowly, the rabbit glaring at you. He slams the door shut leaving you stunned. Note to self: When you return to Infinity, take a psych evaluation. You find yourself in the center of the yard, hundreds of eyes gazing down at you.

They’re just animals. Chickens, cats, birds and insects, but it’s like they’re judging you. Out of all the places to end up you find yourself in Mindfuck Central. “Don’t look at me!” You run off further down the path and away from the cottage.

More lights shine off in the distance and you adjust your zoom to get a clear view. It’s an entire town. Things… they’re just not adding up. Requiem wasn’t a preserve for odd creatures like this. Magic doesn’t exist, just really advanced science. Gene-splicing could explain the weird creatures, but why these? And they could talk? That breaks every logical basis that you believe in. In English too no doubt. Don’t even get started on the buildings, they’re too close to human design for it to be a coincidence.

You know what? Fuck it, you’re dreaming. There’s no other explanation. This is all a figment of your imagination that you’re dreaming up. You’ll wake up soon enough and not remember any of this. You can see it now, waking up in medbay on those fucking uncomfortable things they call beds. The light will burn your eyes because they keep them on that one damn intensity. Lance and the others will be there at your side.

He’ll say he apologizes for the way he acted and I’ll do the same. We’ll shake hands, and with a smile, he’ll whistle. A cake will roll on in made of bubblegum and rainbows and just when you’re about to dig in, a pair of strippers come jumping out. Yeah… That’s what’ll happen. You can dream.

But until then, you might as well check out that town. Hell, you might even enjoy yourself. You stroll down the soft dirt road and on towards the town. The moon shines brightly through the clear sky. If that’s a moon at all- Don’t think about it Anon. You swallow, your throat still sandy. You yearn for a cold glass of water right now. Or milk. No wait! Chocolate milk. Yeah, that’s the stuff… Wait, if this is a dream… You concentrate, stopping before you shit yourself. That’s a risk you’re not willing to take. You have a reputation to keep up after all.

You activate your camouflage out of habit as you near the village. You hold onto the cobblestone bridge, the stone leaving a fine dust on your gloves. What you wouldn’t give to feel it on your skin… You pull your mind away from such thoughts, you’re a soldier not a woman. Other p0nies still walk amongst the darkened streets, but they’re few and far between. Once again a desire for water fills you and you peer into the river flowing softly below you. Meh, you’ve had worse. You work your way down to the rivers edge and pull off your helmet. The first breath of unfiltered air is always the best. The icy air chills your lungs, but you welcome it. Feeling the wind on your face is one of the few pleasures you retain as well.

You deactivate your shields, not wishing to fry any fish that might lurk nearby. Dipping your hands within the waters depths you draw it to your lips. The liquid tingles down your throat providing instant relief. You waste no time in taking another series of sips and gulps. Finally satisfied, you splash your face with the cool liquid. You run your fingers through your short hair, the motion bringing pleasure to your scalp. You sit back against the dirt and let the water drip off your face. Your helmet stares back at you wallowing in leisure, the visor a silent reminder of what you’re doing here. Grabbing the FOTUS helmet by the horn you peer right back into it. “Have something to say?” It stays silent. “That’s what I thought.”

You yawn, covering your mouth because you’re a gentleman like that. Welp, you think you’ve seen enough. Just another town with p0nies instead of people. Completely normal. You slip the helmet back over your head and crack your neck. That hit the spot. Now you just have to find something to eat. You could probably break into one of their houses and snag something. Nah, they probably have oats and shit. Gah, you’re screwed even in your own dreams.

You stand up and walk up the incline back to the bridge. *Eep* You freeze and slowly turn your head to the right, that purple unicorn from before staring back at you. ”D-don’t run.” You sigh and turn your body to her before leaning back against the bridge. ”You- You can u-u-understand me?” You nod, the p0ny testing your patience. She begins to hyperventilate, whether it’s from fear or excitement you can’t tell. You’re giving it emotions now, great…

”Are you from the forest?” You don’t respond. ”Forest,” she says again emphasizing the word.

“I know what a forest is.”

She throws her head back, startled, “You can talk?”

“No, I just make a series of noises that sound like I’m talking.”

”Really?” You facepalm, she doesn’t even deserve a reply for that.

“Look, none of this matters being a dream and all, but I’d like a little clarity. Where exactly am I?”

She cocks her head to the side, “So you’re not from around here?”

“No shit Sherlock.”

”Well with an attitude like that…”

You debate whether to inform her you could snap her neck like a twig, but decide that would be counterproductive. “What’s our current location at- gah…” you stifle a grunt as you stand back up. You must’ve pulled something in your leg, it’s not major but it hurts like a-

”Are you alright?” No, that can’t be right. You’re in a dream. ”Well, this is Ponyville.” You don’t feel pain in your dreams. You look back to the unicorn, a smile on her face. ”My name’s Twilight Sparkle by the way.” No no no no no. “Welcome to Equestria.”

Chapter 2: A Strange Start

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“Anon calling to anyone, do you read me!”

Come on, come on, this can’t be happening. Not to you. ”Do you always talk to yourself?” Just ignore her Anon. You try again on your radio, the only response being static. You clench your fist in anger but keep it still atop the table. Stay calm. You can make it through this. You always do. ”Are you alright?”

You stare at her through your visor. “What do you think?”

You’re having a conversation with a talking unicorn. God, if your friends could see you now… ”Are you lost?”

You hold the side of your helmet and nod. “Something like that, yeah.”

She moves closer, slowly sitting in her chair across from you. ”Sooo, where are you from?” You look away from her and around her home. You don’t know what their obsession is with houses in trees, they’re horses not squirrels. Though with the way things are going, you can’t be sure if they’re not just robots controlled by miniature squirrels.

She invited you into her home so she deserves an answer at least. “That information’s classified, nothing personal.”

”Come on, just a hint?” she asks with a gleam in her eye. You recognize that look. You had it back when you joined the UNSC, determination. Not that you give in easy, but you just don’t have the strength to deal with any nagging. As long as you stay away from the biggies you should be fine. Besides, it’s not like Eridanus can suffer anymore.

“I was born on Eridanus II, a secluded colony on the edge of UNSC space.”

”You’re not from here?” she asks almost shocked.

“What gave that away? My looks or the fact that I just told you.”

”Well it’s just…” she points to your helmet, or rather the horn atop it.

“I’m not a unicorn if that’s what you’re wondering.”

You’re not quite sure why anyone would add that little piece or why you’d buy it in the first place. Makes a great improvised weapon though and it intimidates the hell out of some Grunts. You remember the first time you charged into a group of the fuckers, the little bastards screaming in terror and nearly shitting their suits. You hold in a laugh and lean back in your chair. Good times. Her eyes dart between you and the floor, another dash and its starting annoy you.

“You got anything to eat?”

”Of course!” she shouts leaping out of her chair. She sets down the stairs and you go ahead and follow. You browse her bookshelf as she makes you something to eat. You swear if she brings you a pile of oats or something…

Equines For Dummies. Good enough for you. You give it a quick scan, reading not exactly your forte, and take in anything that could be useful. The only thing that stands out besides magic are the Pegasi. A picture shows one moving a cloud around like it were a piece of furniture. You’re logical mind says it’s bullshit and your imagination is the first to agree. There’s this little thing called science, look it up. But they do have magic, so that kind of shits on your entire argument.

Fuck, this place, Equestria you think she called it, is going to be the end of you. Twilight taps your thigh and presents you a dish. You give it one look and begin to rage. Oats… “Where’s your kitchen?”

You follow her hoof and begin to rummage through her cabinets. ”Is this not enough?”

“I’m not eating that crap, even I have standards.”

”Ok…” she replies with a tinge of pain in her voice. It’s all vegetarian crap, no meat. Who called that? Oh wait, it was you. You manage to scrounge up a few eggs from her fridge. It’s barely considered meat, but it’ll do. You whip out a frying pan, some butter, salt and pepper and get to work. Twilight watches as you work your own version of magic.

You’re no Iron Chef, but you can work with what you’ve got. Eating straight MREs for so many years sparked a little creativity in you. Good for you, bad for your enemies. If only you were an interrogator.

You slide the eggs onto a plate. They’re a little runny, but that’s not gonna kill ya. Twilight directs you to where you can find a fork and knife. You think about asking her why she has these, but you find it better to leave it be. You sit down at the table, Twilight still observing. “Do you mind?”

”I’m sorry, go ahead.”

She doesn’t budge. “I don’t like people watching me eat.”

”Oh, that’s what you- I’ll leave you to it.” She trots off, trying her best to conceal the notepad and quill she swiped. Thinking back, you do remember a faint humming. Could she have been taking notes behind your back?

Let’s find out. You take off your helmet and shovel the eggs down your gullet. She’ll likely wait a minute before spying on you, and you just happen to be able to finish up in less than that. Before long the plate is barren except for a few scraps. You’d finish them off, but time’s of the essence. You pry the door open a smidge, put on your helmet and cloak. The door she exited through opens a little and you can see her eye gazing through the crack.

When she discovers you’re missing she bursts through, visibly worried. She gallops over and throws the door open, her breathing heavy but quick. You move behind her, the notepad levitating in air beside her, and grab it. ”HEY!”

There’s a little resistance, but you manage to pull it out of her influence. “What do we have here huh? I’m many things Twilight, but blind isn’t one of them.”

’Name: Anon (Strange)’

“So you were taking notes behind my back. I trust you just a little and you betray it. Unacceptable.” She attempts to explain but you hush her.

’Born on Eridanus at the edge of UNSC (Country?) space (Literal meaning?).’ It was smart of you to avoid Earth. She’s basically taking your words verbatim. ’Subject shows considerable strength. I believe it to be a male due to the tone of voice, but this theory must be confirmed.’ Subject… That’s a nice touch. ’The subject is quick to act, implying a lower level of intellect or possibly ignorance. Note: Take precautions not to anger him. If he can take on a Manticore like that…’

You shake the notepad in your hands and try to find something to say but come up speechless. What do you say to something like this? She spoke about you as if you were just some feral beast. ”I just thought- it’d be wise-“

“Have you no respect? You didn’t drag me here tooth and nail, I came willingly and this is how you repay me.” You toss the notepad to the side and she takes a step back.

”I had to do it. After what you did to the Manticore I had to. I don’t expect you to understand.” Oh lord. How did you not see it before? It’s so obvious and yet you sailed right over it. It really isn’t her fault, it’s just her nature.

You chuckle and hold your head. “You’re an egghead.”

”Ugh, why does everyp0ny say that?”

“Because that’s what you are.”

”That’s not nice.”

You serious the fuck up. “Neither was going behind my back.”

She looks to the floor, “I’m sorry.” You’re not sure if it’s because you have a full stomach or what but…

“I forgive you.”

”You- you do?”

“Did I stutter?” You grab her notepad and sit down on the stairs, tossing her the pad. “Next time, ask first.”

She practically squees with delight at the opportunity. You give the basics, species, eating habits, stuff like that. She was particularly intrigued when you mentioned your omnivorous nature. Most are skeptical to reveal that type of information due to fear of being persecuted. When you ask if she would she shook her head, “We’re not like that.”

You shrug and let her continue on. ”It’s nice to know I was right about you being a guy.”

“Indeed, that would’ve been one awkward conversation.”

She laughs a bit, “So Anon, do you have any brothers or sisters?” Your skin turns cold at the question.


”How about your parents?”

“No,” you say trying your best to stay calm.


“I said no!” You catch yourself before you can carry on. “I’m sorry Twilight. I didn’t mean to yell.”

”It’s ok, I shouldn’t pry.”

“No no, it’s my fault. I have uh, a temper problem. I hate repeating myself see?”

”That’s quite the problem.”

“I try to work on it.” She drops the subject thankfully and yawns. The clock on the wall says it’s around 3:00.

”I think we should leave it at that for today. Do you have a place to sleep?”

“Not exactly.”

”Would you like to stay here for tonight?”

“If you wouldn’t mind.”

She grins, “Just set up wherever you want. I’ll see you in the morning.” She heads up the stairs and to bed, leaving you there where you drift to sleep.

You don’t dream often but when you do they’re generally pretty nasty. It came as a surprise when this one was different. You were in a room, the walls fuzzy and glazed over. A soothing feeling comes to mind as you sit in the corner. Your limbs are numb and weak so you must stare into the empty room. The room itself was small, but the light made it seem vast and inviting. It was warm as well, as if it wrapped itself around you in safety. All your woes seemed inconsequential as you sat in luxury. No Covenant, No P0nies, No War. Just peace. But that is but a dream.

You open your eyes, your HUD flickering back to life. There’s a knocking from the door, likely what woke you. The sun’s shining brightly from the windows. You must’ve overslept. Might as well answer the door while you’re up. You stand up and work your way to the door, light piercing through the gap as you open it. Below your towering figure lies the perpetrator, a tiny purple lizard thing holding a backpack. “Sup.”

The lizard goes wide-eyed at the sight of you and turns tail and runs, the little bastard screeching like a banshee. Was it something you said? Oh wait, you’re a giant. That’s right.

”Hold it right there ya abominanation!” a hick voice calls out. You shut the door, unfazed by her terrible grammar, the mare kicking the door open behind you. It’s that weird mare from yesterday, she’s got the same hat and everything. ”What’d ya do with Twilight you monster?!”

“Isn’t this considered breaking and entering?” you ask questionably.

”TWILIGHT!” she calls out, “You alright?!”

“She should be fine. You horse things can regenerate limbs right?”

A look of terror comes across her face, soon replaced by seething anger, “I’m coming Twilight!” You stand your ground as the p0ny charges at you, not bothering to defend yourself. She swivels her hips and bucks you in the chest, at least she would’ve if your shield wasn’t active. A dazzling display of sparks erupts from your shield as it repels her attack, the p0ny backing away in defeat.

”You- what are you?”

You check your shields, a sliver depleted. “Huh? You packed more of a punch, well, kick, than I thought you would.”

”Ugh… Applejack?” you hear Twilight grumble from the top of the stairs. The orange hick is relieved to see her, but keeps her eyes fixed on you, “I got him cornered Twi, let’s git him.”

You look to Twilight expectantly, not that she can see your expression. “A little help here?”

”It’s alright Applejack, he’s not going to hurt anyone.”

”Say what? He sent Spike screaming off into the sunset.”

“You mean that lizard? All I said was hello.”

”I don’t doubt that,” Twilight replies.

”Dontcha remember anything from last night? Remember what he did?”

Twilight steps down the stairs, “He was trying to protect us.”

”And just why would he do that?” she asks staring daggers at you.

“I’m just a good guy like that.”

”So you just go around saving people?”

“I’m not batman, but I do what I can.” All of her questioning is starting to annoy you. “Look Applejack, that’s your name right? If I wanted to harm any of you, why haven’t I done so yet? Why didn’t I defend myself when you attacked me?”

”You attacked him Applejack?”

She stammers at your combined questioning before bowing her head in shame, “I did.”

“I may have, just by chance, implied that I chopped off some of you limbs though.”

Twilight slowly turns her head and stares at you long and hard, “Really?”

“Too much?” Maybe you were a bit too- What’s the word? Sarcastic? They hardly know you so you can’t expect them to understand. “I think we got off on the wrong foot, my name’s Anon,” you extend your hand.

The orange mare gives your metallic hand a once over. ”I ain’t gonna get shocked again?”

“Only if you move too fast,” you reassure. She’s timid at first, her limbs shaky, but once her hoof is in your hand she loses her fear. She gives it a firm shake and you detect a hint of a smile on her face. “That wasn’t so bad now was it?”

”Ah guess not.” Twilight seems satisfied enough with your results. At least you got this problem off your back. Applejack clears her throat and retracts her hoof, “I uh, better get Spike.”

“Tell the little lizard not to worry. I’m not big on scales.” She forces a laugh and backs out the door. As she closes the door you sigh in relief. “Damn, I thought she’d never ease up.”

”She’s very protective of friends and family. Be glad it wasn’t Applebloom or Big Mac.” You raise a brow at their names. As if reading your mind she speaks up, “And yes, they all have names related to apples, except Granny Smith…”

“That’s the name of an apple.”

She throws her hooves in the air, “Well never mind.” You chuckle at the display and lean against the wall opposite of her.

“Are all your friends like that?’

”Applejack’s one of the tamer ones actually.”

“No shit? When do I get to meet the rest of the gang?”

”Whenever you feel like it really.”

“Like my old drill sergeant used to say, there’s no time like the present.” Well, that and to get my head out of my ass and man up, but you’ll leave that one out.

”Are you sure? Being- Well… Being you will be sure to attract some attention.”

“I’m no stranger to the murmurs of civilians. I’ll be fine.” Twilight tries to sway you away, but you won’t have any of it. If you’re going to be here for a while then you’ll need to meet the locals. And by the responses you’ve been getting on the comm., there won’t be a rescue squad coming for you anytime soon. So you face the unknown head on and follow Twilight out the front door.

All chatter ceases as soon as you exit her front door. Apparently they’re not used to seeing a giant robot man. Who knew? They’re not much different from a lot of the citizens you grew up with. They all do their thing and they all have a fear of the unknown. You shrug off their uncomfortable gazes and walk behind Twilight. If you saw your radar under other circumstances you’d piss yourself. It’s like your walking through a lake of enemies. Thankfully, this enemy is a bunch of tiny p0nies that couldn’t hurt you even at full size. “So who are we meeting first?”

”You’ll find out soon enough.” You follow her to another structure about the size of her home. It’s certainly unique, but at least its not another fucking tree. Reminds you of the carnival actually. You lean beside the door as she knocks.

The door opens slowly, “Why good morning Twilight. What do I owe this pleasure?”

”There’s someone I want everyone to meet. Do you promise not to freak out?”

“Come now Twilight, have you so little faith in me? I am a lady after all.”

You catch her eye roll, “Rarity I’d like you to meet Anon. Anon this is Rarity.” You make yourself seen, a pearly white unicorn staring wide-eyed at you. Oh boy this is too easy.

You turn to Twilight questionably. “Can I eat it?”

Rarity gasps, eye’s rolling back, and faints. ”Again Anon?”

“Hey, it’s kinda my thing.”

Twilight shakes her head, “Well help me carry her inside.”

“Certainly madam.” You heft her over your shoulder, taking extra care not to ruin her flowing orchid mane.

”Why couldn’t you talk like that to her? She would’ve loved that.”

“I’m not here for her to love let me remind you.”

”Yeah yeah, you’re going to leave the second you can, but can you at least try to be polite to my friends? Please?”

“Damn, you said the magic word. Now I have to do what you say.”

”Really?” she asks as you lay Rarity down on the couch.

“Not a chance in hell.”

Twilight huffs, trying not to grin, ”I should’ve known.”

“Alright fine, I’ll try and tone it down a bit. You have my word as a soldier.”

”So you’re a soldier?”

“I didn’t- Fuck. Alright, I’m a solider. Couldn’t tell by the armor?”

”That’s armor?”

You’re just telling her everything now aren’t you? “How about we change the subject? Does this place have running water?”

”Yes, but I don’t-“

“Could you get me a glass please?” Twilight ponders your intent but does as you ask anyways. As soon as she leaves you return to Rarity. “Wakey wakey, hands on snakey.”

No response. Welp, time for Plan B. You flick the tip of her horn, her eyes almost bulging in response. “Good, I like them lively.” She lets out the most ear-shattering scream you’ve ever had the unfortunate luck to hear. You muffle the noises in your helmet as Twilight comes rushing back in with a glass of water. Rarity grabs the glass and begins to chug it like it was the last one in the world. Twilight shoots you the death glare again and you can’t help but giggle. “Okay that was the last one.” For now…

”You’re going to have to have some restraint if you want to live around here.”

“’Want’ is a very questionable term.”

“You know what I mean.”

She does have a point though; you can’t have the local populace brandishing the pitch forks. “I’m sorry Rarity. It was unkind of me to act in that manner and I apologize fully.”

She stops her shivering with a nod from Twilight, “Well, it certainly seems you’ve made an impression on some of us.”

“I have an irresistible charm,” you reply heavy in sarcasm.

”I wanted to introduce him to some of our friends. At least he’d get to know some of us.”

”I’m honored you thought of me first.”

“It’s an honor to meet such a beauty,” you cringe saying.

The mare turns crimson, “Why thank you.” Just be nice. Be the kind gentlemen that your… Damn. You wanted to keep them out of mind for a while longer.

”It was nice seeing you Rarity, but we better keep moving. I want to have him meet the others by sunset.”

”But of course. Perhaps next time it’ll be under more favorable circumstances.”

Twilight glares at you, “Sorry about that. He’s not quite used to all this yet.”

“I’ve been here for a day. I wouldn’t expect much.”

Rarity shows you to the door, “If you ever need anything, don’t be afraid to ask. Anon, correct?”

“Correct you are Miss Rarity.”

She smiles, “Until next time Mr. Anon.” You wave goodbye and follow Twilight once more.

When you’re sure you’re out of sight you sigh in exhaustion. “Gag me.” She smacks you in the arm, your shields lighting up in response. “What did I do?”

”I’d appreciate it if you didn’t insult my friends while I’m around.”

“Oh come on, you can’t tell me that she doesn’t give off that pretentious vibe. She needed a good wakeup call.”

”I don’t care, she’s my friend, and I don’t like you being rude. Are you going to keep this up or do you want a fresh one?” You chuckle at her sarcasm and assure her that you’ll try to behave. The crowd parts as you pass through the more crowded sections of the town. You sense her trepidation and place your hand on her neck. Your silent courage does well to calm her.

“So who’re we meeting next?”

”A very good friend of mine and just about everyone here in Ponyville. She’s a little eccentric, so bear with her.”

“Please Twilight, there’s nothing I, can’t… handle?” You stare at the building before you, its auburn roof and pearly trim, the vibrant pinks and purples on the adjoining walls. And right on top sits the largest cupcake you think you’ve ever seen. “Twilight, get a doctor. I think I just contracted Diabetes.”

”So you were saying something?”

“I- What?”

”That’s what I thought,” she laughs and leads you to the door.

“How can anyone live in a place like that? I’d be on a permanent sugar rush.”

”Oh you haven’t met Pinkie yet. She’s more than a mare can handle.”

You take a deep breathe before she opens the door. “I’m ready.”

She opens the door and steps inside, the interior reminiscing an actual building. It’s certainly a store by the looks of it, sugary treats displayed under glass and a pair of p0nies behind the counter. You’ve got a tall lanky stallion on one side, his color that of a pumpkin and there’s a shorter plumper mare beside him and it looks like someone threw up go-gurt on her. “Hello,” you say with a wave, trying your best to sound sincere.

They glance towards each other, “Morning Mr. and Mrs. Cake. Is Pinkie in?”

”Yeah, um… Who’s your friend?” the mare asks shakily.

”Oh, this is Anon. He’s uh, new around here.”

”No doubt about that,” the stallion replies in a cool tone.

“Nice to meet you folks.” The kindness… it burns us…

”Is it alright if we head upstairs?”

”Sure, no problem Twilight. Just…” She darts her eyes at you hoping you wouldn’t notice, but you do.

“Alright Mrs. Cake. Thank you.” You follow Twilight up the stairs, your mouth barely holding out against the urge to snap at her. ”It’s only natural that she worries about you. She doesn’t exactly know you. Hay, I don’t even know you.”

“Sure whatever,” you groan. Why the hell should you care what she thinks? She’s a fucking pastel farm animal and you’re a god damn Spartan of the UNSC. You grind covenant skulls into dust and don’t afraid of anything. She should be in awe! Oh god, if Twilight could hear this… You’d be on a manhunt by an entire p0ny army. That’s not necessarily an appealing thought.

Until you find a way off, where this is, you’re going to have to fit in. And if that means stowing your dick between your legs and barking like a dog then that’s what you’re going to do. ”Hey Pinkie? Are you here?” No one responds. ”Strange. Usually she’d be bouncing around like a mad mare.” Or she could be taking a nap. God knows that’s what you could use. ”Hey Pinkie!”

“I don’t have time for this,” you say opening the door, “Hey is anyone-“ *splat* Your visor’s completely covered in some type of puffy- Is that shit frosting? How do you work the visor wipers on this thing? You clear the frosting from your eyes manually, first world problems right? But that’s when you see them, two giant sky blue eyes, inches from your visor. So this is Pinkie? How swell…

Chapter 3: Pony Land

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”HI!” the lady shrieks and tackles you. Shields are down. How the fuck are they down?! ”I haven’t seen you before. You’re really big you know. Is it because you ate your vegetables? I don’t like vegetables. I like cupcakes. Do you like cupcakes?” Oh lord, if you’re up there, send down your vengeance upon this travesty of joy and spunk.

Twilight pulls her off of your body, still stunned against the wall. ”Pinkie is one of a kind.”

Your shields hum to full charge and the light engulfing your body recedes from view. ”Ooooh pretty.”

You hold up your hands instinctively. “No, not pretty.”

Twilight laughs at your reaction, “I thought you were a soldier? Aren’t soldiers supposed to be tough?”

“We are- I am.”

”Says the one slumped on the floor with their hooves in the air.”

“Oh you did not just call me French,” you retort getting to your feet, “And they’re called hands, not hooves.” Twilight lets go of her hold on the pink menace and you can’t help but flinch. She giggles at your displeasure, but you stand up firmer than ever. You’re a Spartan of the UNSC, not a child. Not anymore.

“Apologies ma’am. My name is Anon,” you say extending a hand. She looks at your hand and then back to you, a devilish grin on her face.

Oh no, she better not be- ”Hug time!” she hollers and clings to your armor. Right through the shields again!

This- God damn this situation. She’s extraordinarily light though which is a pleasant surprise. She’s not the manatee you expected. Fine, just bear with it. You timidly pat her back, your vision blinded by the puffy folds of her mane. She squeaks in surprise, “Hey now, we just met.”

You didn’t just- Oh god you did. She leaps off you happily, her demeanor unbreakable. You look at your hand. It looks clean, but it will be forever tainted. Today was the day you slapped some p0ny flank. Note to self: Incinerate right hand at earliest convenience.

”I’m Pinkamena Diana Pie, but my friends call me Pinkie.”

“Pleasure Pinkamena.” Her eyes droop slightly at your words and her poufy mane begins to go flat. Twilight clears her throat and looks at you. “I mean that I’d have to get to know you better before I can call you that.”

And Pinkie’s back to normal, “It’s a date then.”

“I wouldn’t go that far-“

”What time should I drop him off,” Twilight asks.

“Ok Twilight, this isn’t funny any-“

”How about the day after tomorrow?”

”He’ll be there.” Fuck me with an iron dildo and call me Papa. Pinkamena hops her way downstairs and allows you to leave. Twilight waves goodbye to the Cakes and Pinkamena. You try and do the same but take another hug to the face. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay the fuck still, hand.

”See you later Anon!” she says dismounting you. You stand in the doorway trying to find something to say. Nothing. Fine by you. You turn around and close the door, leaving the Diabetes Diorama behind you. Twilight attempts to hide a grin as you catch up to her.

”Sooo what’d you think?”

“I was violated in more ways than I thought physically and mentally possible.” Twilight has to stop and lean against a wall as she begins to laugh her ass off.

There’s nothing funny about this. Nothing in the slightest. ”I-I-I’m s-sorr-“ she tries to say but is cut off by another burst of laughter. You change the settings on your shield and flick her on the ear, your shields sending a powerful shock throughout her body. Once she’s stopped spasming on the ground she begins to grow serious. ”That was uncalled for.”

“So was setting me up with one of your p0ny friends.”

”I saw you grab that flank…” she mutters.

“I couldn’t see! I was trying to pat her on the back.”

She rolls her eyes and continues down the road, “Sure keep telling yourself that.” Great, just fucking fine and dandy. Been here for little more than a day and you need to clean your visor, amputate your hand and you have a date with a farm animal. The Guinness book of records has to have something like this. Alright Anon, stay focused on the present. You’ll cross those bridges when you come to them. Perhaps you’ll burn them down as well…

“Great, now I have to think of an excuse to not show up. Or I could hide, that always works.”

She snorts, “You obviously don’t know Pinkie well enough yet. You’re better off fighting through it. Besides, it’ll be good for you.”

“I don’t know what definition of ‘good’ you know, but mine consists of not being the target of repeated assault.”

”She just wanted a hug.”

“And I just wanted to get through this alive.”

”I’m sorry that the tough ol’ solider can’t handle a tiny p0ny like Pinkie.”

“Is that a challenge?”

”I don’t know, you tell me,” she sports at you.

Oh hell no. “Fine then, you’re on. I’ll go on that ‘date,’ gah just the word kills me, but I’ll get through it.”

”Don’t make a girl a promise if you know you can’t keep it.”

“You’ve got no idea what I’m capable of.”

”You have me there,” she replies in a lower tone. There’s a hint of something that you didn’t expect at this point.

“That scares you doesn’t it?”

”Wouldn’t you be?”

“No. I’d be observant and calm, and when the time arose I would take out the threat.”

”And that statement seems completely rational to you?”

“Of course. The entire reason I am who I am is because of that.”

”And just ‘who’ are you?” she asks, her words prying at your history.

“I’m Anon. Who else would I be?” you reply smugly.

”You certainly are,” she replies stopping in front of a building, “Hungry?”

“Not really, but don’t let me stop you.”

You sit down at one of the outside tables, a waiter coming over to assist you. ”Good day, how can I serve you today?” She orders some type of salad, typical, and looks over to you.

“I’m good thanks.” He trots off with her order and Twilight sighs. “Something wrong?”

”Nope, just waiting for someone.”

“Who’re you meeting?”

”Another friend of mine. We have lunch together every once and a while.”

“Only once and a while?”

”She’s timid. You should’ve seen her last night.”

“Oh, the Pegasus. I remember her. She gave me shit for the Manticore.”

”That’s the one.” The waiter comes back, setting down a platter of greens and a glass of lemonade.

He looks beside you, ”And is there anything I can get for you ma’am?” You turn to your side, the very same Pegasus sitting beside you trying to avoid eye contact, her face hidden by her locks of pink hair.

”Oh, no thank you.”

Her sudden appearance shocks even Twilight, “I didn’t even see you coming.”

”I’m sorry, I’ll try and fix that…” She has to be the biggest pushover you’ve ever seen. I see someone to exploit in the future.

”Anyways, Fluttershy I’d like you to meet Anon. Anon, Fluttershy.”

Her head trembles as she tries not to stare, “Umm, hi.”

You could barely even hear her. You look to Twilight. “Seriously?”

”Anon!” she barks before falling back to her normal voice, “What did I tell you.”

“Yeah yeah,” you reply turning you chair back to Ms. Yellow Quiet. She occasionally takes a peek, but does her best not to. Alright, let’s think about this. She’s timid so she’ll take everything seriously. No jokes or sarcasm. She’s already scared of you so you should try your best to stay still. What the hell can you actually say to her? Twilight’s still judging you and you have to think of- You’ve got it. Something so profound she won’t even see it coming. “Hi.” Genius.

Ok maybe that wasn’t as amazing as you imagined it, but at least you tried. Surely Twilight is satisfied with- Nope, that look on her face tells you all you need to know. Okay, how do you get to know someone? “So Fluttershy, what do you like to do with your free time?” She fidgets in her seat like a prisoner in an interrogation. “Was it something I said?”

”Shut up Anon. It’s ok Fluttershy, we’re all friends here.”

“Except for me.”

”Except for Anon,” she clarifies. “Wait a-“

“But yeah, what do you like to do? Arts and crafts? Cooking? What’s your hobby?”

”I um… take care of animals,” she squeaks almost inaudibly.

“No shit?”

”I try and clean it up.”

“Wait a fudge popsicle. You don’t happen to live in a house just outside that forest do you? She nods. “With the picket fence, nearby stream and one metric ton of animals?”

”Yeah,” she smiles meekly, her face blushing.

“Well I’ll be.” You turn to Twilight, “I found my way there when I tried to leave you guys in the dust.”

Fluttershy perks up, “So that was you that Angel was talking about?” That’s a stupid fucking name.

“I don’t remember seeing any p0ny there. Just some rude rabbit that answered the door and a bunch of other animals.”

”Yeah, that’d be Angel. He’s my little bundle of love.”

“I didn’t get that myself.”

”Well we all can’t be winners,” Twilight adds. Can’t disagree with her there.

Fortunately this little conversation seemed to open her up a bit. She can be quite the talker if you let her. Overall, she’s not half bad. At least she hasn’t attacked you, passed out or attempted the hug of death. That puts her firmly at the top of people not to fuck with out of respect. You have a completely different list for people just not to fuck with. Like Twilight, don’t bite the hand that feeds. She’s basically your lifeline here. ”So where are you two going next?” Fluttershy asks.

”The only person I have left to introduce him to is Rainbow Dash.” Speaking of terrible names. ”We’ll probably head up to her house.”

”Isn’t she at Applejack’s?”

Twilight tilts her head before smacking herself, “How could I forget? They’re training for the Running of the Leaves.”


”The Running of the Leaves is a Ponyville tradition where we help shake the leaves off of trees with the pounding of hoofsteps.”

“And this is some type of race?”

”Oh it’s just so beautiful,” Fluttershy marvels, “I never miss it.”

“You don’t look like much of a runner.”

”Well, I just like to watch.” So that’s how she rolls. Dirty dirty mind. “So we’re going to stop by I assume.”

”Right you are,” Twilight states.

You bid Fluttershy farewell, the mare still skittish but seems to have warmed up to you at least. Twilight and yourself head over the bridge and towards ‘Sweet Apple Acres’. “I wonder if it has anything to do with apples,” you joke. The sun beats down on your armor but you don’t mind.

A little sweat is good for the body after all. You didn’t think about it before, but you do feel kinda grimy. Usually you’d slip out of your suit back on the ship, but you don’t have that luxury here. You could probably get it off yourself, but it’s not exactly light. In the end you’ll find a way. You always do. The hill gets steeper as you climb, the trees growing dense. Before you know it it’s like you died and went to apple heaven. It’s actually not that bad looking. Reminds you of Reach before those Covy bastards got there. Just forget it Anon, they’re in the past.

”You know Anon, you should probably run with them.”

“I’m not saying that I’d rather suck down a plasma grenade, but that’s what I’m saying.”

”There’s no reason not to. Everyp0ny will at least be familiar with you, you’ll get to know us a little more, what’s the downside?” Damn that gleam. She’s never going to take no for an answer. She’ll keep poking and prodding at your ass until you go.

“I’ll see if I can make it.”

”Don’t worry, you can.” And you thought Fluttershy was a pushover. Get a mirror already. You brush the thought aside as a vibrant red barn comes into sight.

The trees open up the way for the vast stretch of lands ahead. Besides the growing vegetation this place seems kind of- barren. The sun grants its illumination from the sky’s peak, half a day already passed. Time certainly flies around here. The filtered air passes through your lungs, the circulated material dismissing most of the natural smell, but a small bit remains. You grew up with this smell. This smell made up much of your childhood. You bow your head under the small archway and get closer to the barn. You hated this smell. Everything it encompasses. Everything it represents. This dark thick aroma is the plague of your life. Such a thing…

A stallion pokes his head out of the barn on alert, his demeanor shifting upon seeing Twilight up. It shifted once more when he saw you. ”Good afternoon Big Mac. Is Applejack around?”

He chews on the strand of wheat in his mouth, “Eeyup.” Real talker isn’t he?

”Is she off in the fields again?”

Another chew, “Eeyup.”

“You know any words besides that?”

He ignores you, “Who’s your friend?”

”I completely forgot to introduce you. This is Anon, he’s not from around here.”

He nods, his eyes fixated on you but not acknowledging your presence, “Ah figured.” He just dislikes all kinds of you. Lucky for him, you dislike his hick self too.

“Let’s go find her shall we?” you say to Twilight who agrees and begins to walk off.

”Anon,” the red stallion pipes up, “A word.” Oh boy here we go. You lean against the barn wall, Big Mac spitting out his strand of wheat.

“Something you wanted to say? You got your eye on me? Stay away from my sister?” You shake your head. “I’m not exactly happy about being here okay. This is a lot of shit to handle and not much time to sort it so don’t add onto that pile with threats you’d never see through.”

He soaks what you just said, “Was going to apologize actually, but I figure you deserved it now.”

“Oh. Well… Damn it all,” you curse to yourself as you walk away. What’d your drill sergeant say? Assumption is the mother of all fuckups. Nope, that was Marcus Penn.

You make it back to Twilight in no time, “So what’d he want?”

“He wanted to be kind, but I shit over that whole situation.” This just eats you up; your self-destructive nature is killing any chances you have at living a calm life. “It’s like- I don’t know. It feels as if I have no control over it.”

”But don’t you?”

“And that’s what’s really getting me. This is nothing new for me. I acted like this on missions, off the base. Hell, it’s the reason I joined the UNSC!” You’d told her a little about the UNSC, just some history and such, but never the reason why you joined.

”So why did you?” You spot the orange cowgirl and the skittles mare out on the path and divert her attention towards them. This is a conversation for a never time.

”Howdy you two!” she hollers upon your approach, “What brings y’all up here?”

“Nothing much, just checking out the sights.”

”So this is that Anon guy you were talking about,” blueberry yogurt p0ny says to Applejack.

“The one and only. Why? Want my autograph?”

She snorts at your attempt at humor, “No such luck. Name’s Rainbow Dash. You’ve probably heard of me.”

You shake her hoof, “Can’t say I’ve ever had that flavor bubblegum, but it sounds terrible.”

”Rainbow Dash? Fastest flyer in all of Equestria? Sonic Rainboom? What in the hay has Twilight been telling you all this time?”

“She did imply how all of her friends are weird.”

”Oh really Twilight?” Applejack asks jokingly.

”You’re taking that way out of context,” Twilight tries to explain.

“I can confidently say without regrets that she was right. You’re all weird.”

”What’re you implying there partner?”

“Don’t worry about that AJ, she said you were the tame one.”

”Of course she did,” she states triumphantly.

”I refuse to see how I’m weird,” Blue Fast argues, “I’m just special.”

“I could say something rude right now. So I will.” Twilight cuts you off with another glare and you wave it off with your hand. “Twilight seems to have spared you a flaming butthole. Well, I was just here to say hello. So if you’ll excuse me-“

You walk straight into her hoof, “You’re not going to get away that easily.”

“What do you want from me? I’m not much of a talker.”

”Then you’re going to learn to be.” If you wanted a mother you’d pry open her grave.


Fight through it Anon. “So *sniff* how goes your training?”

Twilight gently nudges your arm, “Are you alright?”

“Don’t worry about it. My sinuses are just acting up again is all. *sniff*”

That seems to deter her for now. Good thing you never mentioned the filtrations system. >”You sure you’re ok Anon?” Applejack asks whole-heartedly. Her caring words don’t help ease the pain, but her intentions do.

“Yeah. Yeah I am.” You shake your head and smile. “But hey- We’re talking about the race here, not me. How’s it going?”

”We’re just taking a quick rest after our latest lap. That makes six now,” Dash boasts.

”Three,” AJ corrects her amusingly, “You probably lost count with all that built-up dust.” Damn, you liked that.

Dash and AJ butt heads. “We’ll see who’s eating who’s dust at the race. Huh *partner,*” Dash stabs teasing the way she talks.

”Oh yeah we will. You may be a fast flyer, but that never got you into them Wonder Colts did it?”

”Wonder Bolts. They’re called the Wonder Bolts!”

”Yeah, whatever.” Note to self: The next time you visit crazy p0ny world, bring popcorn.

“Alright, let’s settle down.” You pull the two apart, their fighting for show by the grins on their faces. “I think we all know that between the two of you, I’m faster than both.”

Twilight smacks her face with her own hoof, “Oh brother…”

Applejack furrows an eye, “Run that by me again.”

”Ok Anon, it may not be such a good idea for you to go to that race.”

“Oh no, that’s where you’re wrong Ms. Sparkle. You coerced me into this and there’s no way I’m backing out now. Besides, I’ll only be running by Applejack once and after that she won’t see me again.”

”And just what do you- Ah I know you didn’t just go there.”

You hold your hands up in apology. “I’m sorry. I meant Applejack and Rainbow Dash.”

Dash and AJ nod to each other. What manner of devilish deceit are they construing? ”I’m sorry to cut this meeting short,” Dash explains, “But we’re going to be a tad busy training so we can put you in your place.”

“OH really? Well, I’ll be busy hanging out with Pinkie Pie and having fun. And you know what? I’ll still roast you a new bunghole at the race. How do you like them apples?”

”Don’t bite off more than you can chew partner. Wouldn’t want you stuck in the hospital when the race starts.”

“Don’t you worry. I’ll be there to fill you up with dirt. Try not to eat beforehand.”

”Come on Dash, we got training to do.”

“Don’t hold up on my account. Let’s hit it Twilight.” You give the two of them the Z-formation triple snap and weave your head side to side while you follow behind her.

”You got into it back there with the two of them.”

“Well I tried to make conversation. It started off as a joke, but then I serioused the fuck up.” You’re not going to lose to a couple p0nies. Not on your life. You enjoy the pleasant stroll with Twilight as you head back down to Ponyville. Enjoy… Strange that it should be for something so trivial. Bah! You’ll take it where you can get it.

You hold open the door for Twilight as she moves inside, a backpack lying next to the door. “Looks like the lizard’s home.”

”His name’s Spike, and he’s actually a dragon.” You can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of that sentence.

“If you’re telling me that that little pipsqueak is a firebreathing dragon, then you’re far crazier than I thought.”

”He’s a baby dragon,” she clarifies.

“Yeah and I’m the embodiment of truth and fairy dust.”

”Fine. If you don’t believe me I’ll show you. Spike!”

”Coming Twilight!” an adolescent voice shouts from upstairs. You grin and prepare yourself as the purple lizard comes down the stairs, “Hey Twilight, sorry about before. I freaked out when I saw that thing.”

”It’s quite alright Spike and speaking of him, I’d like you to meet Anon,” she says pointing her hoof to where you were.

Spike scratches his neck, “You alright Twilight? Did you not get enough sleep?” She looks back to find you missing.

”Where did he go? He couldn’t have run off.”

You inspect the ‘dragon’ the little thing barely worth calling a lizard. Its claws aren’t even all that sharp, his spine isn’t menacing either. Overall, you give him -2/10. He’d look much better on a platter with an apple in his mouth. You could definitely go for some roast lizard. Tired of staying hidden you grab him by the tail and hold him dangling before you.


“Shut up.”

”Anon put him down this instant.” You shake the dragon around, all the while he screams and hollers.

“This is the most pathetic dragon I’ve ever met.”

And it’s also the only one. ”Anon!” she snaps at you.

“Fine fine.” You ease him to the floor, the second his feet touch the floor he scrambles off behind Twilight. “Does that mean we’re friends?” you ask jokingly.

Twilight can only shake her head. ”Are you going to be like this all the time.”

“Trust me. Things only go downhill from here.”

”I can’t wait.”

Chapter 4: A Pinkie Day

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You shudder as the water hits your bare skin, the accumulated grime rolling off as the heated liquid cuts its way across your body. You don’t know what you have until you lose it. That phrase has never been more relevant than right now. Unlike Lance, the rest of us grunts had less than admirable arrangements. The shower in your quarters was always a hell of ice and goose bumps.

Its nice to see that the ponies invested in hot water. You savor the moment, this simple sensation hitting your very core. Next time you see that bastards smug face you can boast how you had a hot shower of your own. Then again, he still has his own bed. You have a floor that isn’t even yours. Always a step ahead of you.

You dry yourself off and step out of the shower, stretching your toes on the tender wool rug. Who knew this felt so good? Whoever they are, they’re going to receive an ass whooping for not cluing you in on this. You tiptoe out of the bathroom in all your naked glory, no camo to hide you this time. Luckily Twilight’s busy writing some ‘Friendship Report’ to a princess or something.

You try not to delve too much into her fantasies. Being cooked up in this library all the time is bound to bring out some of the crazy you know is lurking around in there. You vault over the railing and land on the first floor without as much as a sound. Damn Anon, you’re just good like that. Hells yeah.

You flip open her dryer, its very existence raising a dozen questions you never wanted to get into. She’s not anywhere close to any tech that could be of use to you, like a radio. If you gave her your armor to study… No! That’s out of the question. Even if it worked and you got back to the Infinity, there’s no way Captain Del Faggot would let you get away with it. You’d be hanged and god only knows what he’d do to the ponies here.

Reaching your hand inside the machine you fish out your combat attire. The flexible material is comfortable as fuck and its even machine washable. Good thing too, because there’s no way in hell you’re washing that shit by hand. You’ve got patience, but that takes a steaming dump on the line. You slip into the garment and begin your task of getting back into your armor. Speaking about patience…

After about half an hour of fidgeting and rage you manage to lock your chest piece in place. You actually had to lay down on the back piece and use all your strength to get the front piece in place. After that your suit’s augmentations took over and made the rest a breeze. You plop on your helmet and let your suit run its start up. “Twilight! When are we heading off?”

Your radar pops up, and with it, a red dot running away from you. So she was going to spy on you again, seems legit. You open the door, Twilight pretending to start coming down the stairs. ”Whenever you’re ready.”

“You know Twilight, it isn’t nice to try and spy on people.”

”What’re you talking about,” she plays coy though her face turns a deeper shade of purple, “I never-“


”Alright maybe just a little bit, but what do you expect? You never tell me anything. I have to pull you by the teeth just for a little bit of information.” She has a point. Yesterday was supposed to be dedicated solely for research. It apparently got in her head that you would spill the beans on everything she asked. No such luck though. If she wants to learn about this stuff, she’ll have to earn it.

“Fine, I’m going to cut you a break. For every day I’m here, you can ask me one question and I have to answer honestly.”


“But I retain the ability to decline any question I wish.”

”But you could just decline all of them.”

“I could, but this way you’ll have to find this stuff out by yourself. Deal?”

”I don’t have much of a choice now do I?”

“Nope.” Now who’s the pushover?

”I still don’t believe you.”

“Try me.”

”Alright. How long have you been a soldier?”

“Hmm, that there’s a good question. How long has it been? What is it, 16 years? Nah, it’ll be 18 years in a few months.”

”18 years? Exactly how old are you?”

You chuckle and lean against the wall. “That’s another question now isn’t it?”

”You can’t just lead me on like that and not follow through.”

You look around a tad confused. “Well I just did.”


“Do you really think the puppy dog eyes are going to work on me?”


You head towards the door. “Nah I think I’ll let you fumble around with that in your head a bit, but I’m not cruel. I will say that I joined the military earlier than I should have.”

”And why is that?” you cup the side of your helmet.

“Is that another question I hear?” She gives you an annoyed glance. “Let’s just say that records can be lost, and we’ll leave this conversation at that.”

She’s not happy with it, but she knows an immovable object when she sees one. ”Are you alright going by yourself.”

“Of course. I remember the way and it’s not like I have to worry about being mauled to death. Except for Pinkie… unless…”

”What are you doing?”

“Just a little precaution in case she decides to hug me again. See you later Twilight.” With that you walk out to Sugarcube Corner.

You strut proudly down the street from Twilight’s library to Diabetes Command. Feeling fresh and clean puts a spring in your step and now it’s your time to shine. The pony’s expressions ranger from curiosity to appalled, but when you check your fucks given meter it reads an even 0%. Okay, it’s more of a metaphorical meter, but it’s a recession, you have to make do.

You let yourself into the shop and give the environment a quick scan, the bell ringing as you enter. ”Hello and welcome to- Oh. Anon…” That plump mare from earlier comes in from the kitchen. What was her name? Alright, she’s nice and plump with a round rump. If she’s stuffing her face she must be eating...

“Good Morning Mrs. Cake.” Works like a charm.

”Are you here to see Pinkie again?”

You sit down in one of the chairs and nod. “I have Twilight to thank for it, but you have to play with the cards you’re dealt.”

”I’ll go ahead and check on her.”

“Thank you kindly ma’am.” You’re not exactly sure how you’re going to get used to this, but you will. If there’s one thing Spartans are good at its adapting. Whether it be in combat or on a pony planet. That sounds absurd as all hell now that you think about it. Where in the universe could that shit have sent you to? There’s so much uncharted territory, it’s no wonder this place hasn’t been discovered yet. Still, if the artifact brought you here so there must be some connection-

”Anon!” You spot the pink blob bouncing excitedly down the stairs with Mrs. Cake, suspense building up within you. Come on over you fucker, ol’ painless is waiting.

“Morning Pinkie. How’ve you been?”

”Fine and dandy!” she exclaims to your ears dismay. You extend your hand for a shake but by that look she has other plans. And so do you. She leaps into your arms and triggers your trap, your shields releasing a concentrated current straight into her bouncy body. She collapses on her back, her skin covered in a thin layer of ash. Mrs. Cake is horrified, her mouth permanently formed to that of an O.

You stifle a laugh and kneel next to her. “You alright there bubblegum?”

She puffs out a ring of smoke that drifts to the roof before dispersing. You rub your neck. This might’ve been a bit much. Twilight only took about a fourth of the shock before. If she’s really hurt then you’re in deep shit. There’s no way Twilight would- ”That was soooo cooool!” Pinkie screams as she bounces back up, the ash still covering her body. Mrs. Cake faints at the sight of Pinkie’s return from the dead. ”Whoops, look like someone needed some sleep.” Ignorant lass isn’t she?

“You’re uh, sure you’re okay?”

”Absodutely Wootily.” She steps out of her ash coat, the black mist hanging in a perfect replica of Pinkie’s body down to the hair. Wh-what? Fuck it. Just accept it and move on. She giggles like a school girl when she sees her master piece. ”That was a good one Anon. I didn’t even see it coming and I see everything!”

You’re not sure how she’s still standing, a blast like that would bring a normal Spartan to their knees. ”We’re going to have so much fun! I can’t wait!” she says bouncing off the walls.

“What are we going to do about Blueberry here?”

”Blueberry? Her name’s Mrs. Cake silly, not Blueberry.”

“Whatever, we can’t just leave her like this.” You think about that for a moment and shrug. Yes you can. “Nevermind, let’s go.”

You escort the energetic mare out the door and give a glance back to Mrs. Cake who’s still passed out on the floor. She’s going to make her husband very happy, at least until she wakes up. “So what’re the plans for today?”

”I don’t know what do you want to do?”

“I asked you first.”

”Hmmm… AHA! We can throw a…” she looks left and right before screaming into the air, “A PARTY!”

“Consider your idea shot down.”

”Pleeeease? I promise you’ll love it.”


”Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye,” she apparently promises. “Still no. I hate parties.”

”You’re just a party pooper,” she pouts before hopping back into her happy demeanor.

”How about cooking? We can make all sorts of treats together. I make the best cupcakes in Ponyville.”

“You’re sounding like that Rainbow Dash character, and I’m not into baking.”

She plants her hooves on her hips, “Well I’m just out of ideas.”

“Thank Christ. Actually I know, we can play a game.”

She grins from ear to ear and bounces around you happily, “Ooh tell me tell me tell me!”

“It’s called the quiet game, we sit here and don’t make any noise for as long as possible.”

”You mean ‘Shh’? Everypony knows Fluttershy’s the world champ.”

“Ugh just be quiet.” You cover your ears over your armor and go cloak, the module muffling any noise. Ah, at long last. Peace.

Her eyes go wide as you fade into the background, “Where’d you go?” Even with this her voice pierces your ear drums. She reaches out and pokes your helmet. ”You’re still here! But you’re not here? Are you here or not? Make up your mind.” Why did you ever agree to this?

”Hey Anon. Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey…” She keeps going, every word combined with a poke to the visor. Anger… Rising… Can’t… Hold on… ”Hey Anon.”

“WHAT!” You explode out of camo, birds flying off in all directions, your voice carrying through the air around Ponyville. But she just smiles at you unmoved by your anger-fueled feat. “What is it, and I swear to god or whoever else is watching, if it’s some stupid ass thing I will rip out your throat and shove it up your cooter. Do you understand?!” Her eyes stay fixed on you, that mocking smile ever-present. “Well?”

She pokes you once more on the helmet with a bop. “Tag, you’re it,” she hollers sprinting away.

“Tag…” you mumble under your breath. Your eye twitches as that word bounces around in your brain, her voice ringing in your ears as it spirals down to your core. “Pinkie!” She stops moving and looks back to you. “I- am going, TO DESTROY YOU!”

She giggles in the face of your anger and runs away. A stallion pokes his head out the window, locking eyes with your visor. “You’re next boyo.” He eeks and slams his window shut, your attention turning back to the bouncing pink flank fading from sight. You place a waypoint on her and crack your neck.

Looks like her fun… has just run out.


You sprint down the road and rapidly close in on the mare. She peeks around and you catch the whites of her eyes. She squeaks, almost joyfully, and picks up the pace. You lunge forwards and grab at her with arms open. ”Weee!”

You hit the dirt road chin first and grind across for several yards before coming to a halt. “I missed…” You are a failure as a man and a failure as a Spartan. But you must not give up.

”That looked like it hurt,” the cheery voice from hell mocks you. You swipe at her while you’re down but she glides away with ease. ”Get up Anon. We have all day to play.”

“I’ll play jump rope with your intestines you wretched equine.”

You keep up the chase, the elusive minx always managing to escape your grasp just as you get close. She takes a back alley into the shadows and you activate your flashlight mount. “Here Pinkie Pinkie Pinkie… Come out and plaaay…”

A pair of eyes pop out the side of a trashcan, “You called me Pinkie! Does that mean I’m your friend now?”

“Like hell!” Your foot tears through the trash bin, but the Houdini mare has already escaped the metallic structure.

”You’re my friend now. You’re my friend now,” she beckons bouncing along the walls like a magnetic Easter bunny. You rip the thin mangled sheeting off your leg and toss it to the side and resume your pursuit. She takes a left back into the bright streets of Ponyville. When you escape the alley you find yourself in the bustling area of the Ponyville marketplace. A red screen pops up on your screen, further flaring your frustration. Target lost.

So you’re going to have to do this the old fashion way huh? Fine by you. You walk among the shopping ponies, every one of them scanned quickly before being ignored. She’s hot pink and annoying as all hell so she shouldn’t be that hard to find. The haggling of ponies surrounds you. It’d be enough to overwhelm you if you’d never been in a firefight before.

You check each stall, even checking them twice. You can feel your composure slipping off like an old coat. The sun burns brightly above the clouds as you make your way around. Who knows how long you’ve been at this. It feels like ages, but time’s a bitch so whatever. You stop moving and calm down. You need to be calm if you want to succeed. ”Giving up?” Alright, fuck the stream!

You fling your arm at Pinkie, but according to the trajectory of the sun and the moon you miss again. The only thing you manage to hit is an unoccupied stand which shreds at your wrath. ”Wowie zowie that stand just went powie!” Stop missing dammit!

She gallops under another stand, but you know better than to just run after her. Every time you do she always seems to disappear, so why not try something else. When diplomacy fails and subtlety falls through there’s one thing you excel at. You walk up to the stand, the stall’s attendant running away. Bringing both your fists in the air you bring it down upon the inferior timber material. It splits down the middle, a mixture of fruit flying into the air, ponies screaming bloody murder. How you missed the primitive thrill of destruction.

The pink pony pops her head up from behind another stall like a game of whack-a-mole. ”That’s not very nice.” No shit.

You leap to the next stall Pinkie vanishing underneath. “You better not run!” You smash another stall into oblivion. “You better not hide!” Pinkie’s on the ropes now, unable to avoid both you and the debris. “You better watch out I’m telling you why!” The mare finally comes out of hiding, likely because of the havoc you’ve caused. Oh you have waited for this. “SpartAnon is coming to town!”

The chase is on once more and you leave behind the fruits of your labor, one broken stall and its dozens of disabled brothers. “He sees you when you’re sleeping! He knows when you’re awake!” You know just how to slit her throat so sit still for goodness sake!

Pinkie makes a bee line straight for Sugarcube Corner, the sun descending by this point. She thinks she’ll be safe back home? Not a chance. You push yourself that much harder towards the shadow filled structure. You’re so close to Pinkie you could taste her. She’d probably taste like cotton candy. Focus Anon. She’s almost at the door. “No. You. Don’t!” Throwing all your strength into one last lunge you throw yourself at the mare. She counters with a hug of your own as you crash through the door.

The lights shoot on and a multitude of voices begin to shout. ”Surprise!”

The both of you land in a pile of mush, a substance you’re growing familiar with. Frosting. The crowd oohs as you and Pinkie are both lodged inside what you think is a cake. And deep inside the sweet’s bowels Pinkie lays there smiling at you, “Surprise.”

“This- this was all just a way of keeping my attention so they could set up a party?”

”Yep. I didn’t expect you to go so loco in the cocoa, but I had to keep you busy.” She made you stand on the edge of sanity… for a party! You’re just- just… Tired. You sigh, your will exhausted. Out of all things you’ve just lost the will to fight. Being angry… It’s just not worth it here. Pinkie will outlast you, no doubt about that.

“I guess, well, thanks Pinkie.” She wipes some more filling off your visor with her eternal smile.

”You’re welcome.”


”Best of friends.”

Ugh, might be going a little far there, but you’re not going to fight this one. “As much as I love being wedged inside a dessert, perhaps we should work our way out.”

”Okie Dokie Lokie,” she spouts before drilling her way out of the top with her teeth. Through the layers of cake you hear a round of applause as she makes her exit. Hard to follow up with a performance like that… You pop out the cake’s rear like an annoying turd, a familiar unicorn helping you to your feet.

”Is taking pastries in the face customary where you’re from?”

“Another question, another day.” She rolls her eyes and makes sure you’re alright, which you are of course. It’s cake not a brick wall. Even though that still wouldn’t do much. You’re just a straight up badass aren’t you? She does you the courtesy of magicing off the sweet remnants on your armor. “So where’s my party hat?”

”I- We didn’t get any party hats.”

Pinkie glides up behind you and pokes her head over your shoulder, “What do you mean you don’t have party hats? It’s not a party without party hats.” She slams her hoof on a wooden board, the plank flipping over revealing a secret stash of hats.

”I have hats hidden all over Equestria,” she whispers to you, “For party emergencies.” She flicks the lamp hanging overhead and catches a rubber ball, “Balls too.” She giggles and hops around handing out party hats and making sure everyone’s having a superino time.

You stare at the hat in your hand and prepare to crush it like you’d originally planned. But a thought hits you. Why the fuck not? This is party, might as well try to have fun. You’re a man, not a machine. Content with yourself you slip on the part hat over your horn.

Even though this is your party it seems most ponies are here for the food and company. You actually gave an honest effort to cut down on the dickishness. But they still see you as a freak, which in truth they should. In this fucked up universe you’re the weirdo. Had the roles been reversed would things be any different? You sigh as another group of ponies excuse themselves upon contact.

Seems like you received a better rep for being a dick than you did for being… Normal? Nah that sounds too angsty. Socially grounded! That’s more like it. If you ever said that aloud you’d have to slap yourself, but the term fits. You’ve been less than charitable in regard to how you’ve treated the ponies here. Hell you weren’t exactly kind back home, but you were never this bad to them. Maybe this is karma’s way of being a bitch.

You manage to avoid both Twilight’s and Pinkie’s attention and sneak outside. One last try tonight wouldn’t hurt would it? You peer at the setting sun wrapped behind a thicket of clouds. “This is Anon. Spartan 054 of Team Crimson. If anyone’s out there… Please respond.”

The cold response of static doesn’t exactly lighten up the mood any. Alone again… In most cases you appreciate silence, ironic how now you’d give anything for a voice. ”Mind if I join ya partner?”

You smirk. Not exactly what you had in mind, but you’ll make it work. “Please do, I’m starved for company.”

The cowgirl takes a dash of punch, “Look at that sunset. Can’t see anything like that off in Manehattan let me tell ya.”

“Never liked the city life all that much personally. Felt too cramped.”

”I hear ya.”

“So, how’s Big Mac?”

”That big old lug is doing just fine. He’s probably tiring himself out right now. I offered to help him tonight, but he shooed me off. Seems like hard heads run in the family.”

“Tell me about it… What’d he shoo you off for? I can’t imagine he wouldn’t want help.”

”Between apple bucking and training to teach you who’s the fastest runner in Ponyville,” she jabs, “I haven’t been able to get out much.”

“So you figured you’d come to my surprise party.”

”Might as well right? All my friends’d be there so I decided to come along.”

“Sounds like that’s the reason so many people showed up.”

”What do you- Oh…” she digs her hoof in the dirt in embarrassment, “Ya know I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Don’t sweat it AJ. I don’t exactly have the best rep after all.”

”Yeah Applebloom told me ‘bout your little market adventure. Made a few enemies I hear.”

“All in the name of the chase,” you joke. “Looking back at it I can’t say that it wasn’t a little fun to just let go. I know what you mean when you said how you’re busy.” You lean against a lamp post by Applejack. “I’ve always been either fighting the good fight, stuck in a briefing room or off sleeping. I never had time to do anything different. Mainly because I didn’t want to.”

”Well that don’t make a lick of sense.”

“Some people escape from the world through movies, games or parties. Kind of like Pinkie. I on the other hand escape through work, but it looks like I won’t be going back to that for a good while.”

”Well. Seems we’re in the same kinda boat there.” The sun falls beneath the rooftops, its rays cast overhead as not to blind you. ”Ya know, I don’t mean to eavesdrop, but I couldn’t help hear you talking to yourself before.”

Here we go… “Not exactly to myself, but I see where you figure that. You’re not going to lock me up are you?”

”Naww, nothing like that. It’s just- you sounded a bit sad is all. I figured someone should talk to ya.”

“Taking pity on the lost solider. I like the sound of that.”

”So you ain’t mad?”

“I appreciate the thought that someone, well, somepony, is looking out for me.”

”Anything for a friend right?”

“Yeah,” you look to the ground, “For a friend.”

She hits your armor light enough to avoid the shock. ”Come on now, you don’t want to miss your party.”

“You just want me to plump up on cake so you can beat me in that race.”

”Two trees with one buck,” she grins and walks back inside with you. Today… was an alright day.

Chapter 5: Running of the Leaves

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You tap your foot on the road as you grow impatient. If there’s one thing you should know it’s that girls, no matter the species, take forever to get ready. Of course it’s not like you’re running late. You just like to get there early. Punctuality goes a long way in earning a good rep, and that’s something you desperately need right now. That’s really what today’s all about.

If Twilight is to be believed, and you have that much faith in here, then just getting your face out there should go a long way. When they’re familiar with who you are… who knows. But before you can think that far ahead you still need a certain nerdy unicorn to fucking get here. ”Hey Anon!” a voice chants from an unforeseen vantage point, “Up here!”

You cast your head to the sky or more importantly to the towering hot air balloon in the sky. And popping right off the side is the pink mare straight from hell’s kitchen, Pinkie Pie. ”Whatcha doing down there?” she asks nonchalantly in her aerial vessel.

“Just waiting on Twilight. If you don’t mind me asking, what in god’s name are you doing in that contraption?”

”You like it? I’m going to be the announcer for the race again this year. It’s super fun.”

“I don’t doubt it. You see Twilight from on up there?” She whips out an oversized telescope and swishes around on all sides.

”There she is,” she points out to her left.

“Thanks Pinkie, see you at the race.”

”You know our motto. ‘We Deliver.’” She sets her sails for the horizon and drifts away like a true aerial commander. All you can do is watch as she disappears.

”Quite the sight. I still don’t know how she made that.”

“Some things are best left for the imagination.”

”I might have to disagree with you there.” You shrug your shoulders and look back to Twilight. ”I’ve tried everything to get into her head, but I just can’t seem to get there.”

“If you ever take my advice, take it now. Don’t try. No one wants to know what goes on in a crazy man’s head.”

”Pinkie isn’t crazy. She’s just… unique.”

“Aren’t we all,” you mutter, “Come on, I want to get there as soon as possible. Unfortunately, a certain mare decided to take all the time in the world.”

”I had to double check my list.”

“The same list that you triple checked?”

”No, the list of that list.”


”If you’re going to do something-“

“Then do it right, I know. I’ve only heard that spouted at me a thousand times. Can we just get going?”

She waves a hoof before you, “After you.”

“Ladies first.”

She takes the first gingerly steps down the road, “Quite the gentlecolt.”

“Gentle’man,’” you correct her, “And yes I am.”

”Not very humble about it though.”

“I’m only human.”

You catch a peek down near the markets where you had your little rampage, a crew of ponies still clearing the debris. You chuckle, much to Twilight’s annoyance, and head over the bridge towards the race track. You walk alongside Twilight down the path, brushing your armored hand against the occasional fern as she discusses the history of the event. Never being a history guy you nodded your head and made the occasional vocal cue as not to avoid suspicion.

She had a habit of spewing off information that you didn’t necessarily care about. You knew everything you needed to know at this point. You got the princesses’ names down finally, you could name the nearest major cities and had an overall general knowledge base. Of course, it took almost a week of her sitting you down and forcing your attention, but you got it.

Whenever she wasn’t looking you’d camo and sneak off elsewhere. You didn’t do much. You’d climb the treetop, find a comfortable looking branch and relax. Sloths really had it made.

You zoomed in on the area ahead and made out a makeshift tent along with a small crowd of ponies. “Damn, I was hoping to be one of the first ones there.”

”We aren’t? How can you tell?”

Tilting your head slightly you catch a ray of light and direct it into her eye. She covers her eye and almost falls on her face, but you catch her in time. “This visor isn’t just for looks.”

She blinks frantically, the sudden illumination briefly blinding the poor mare. ”You could’ve just told me.”

“But that’s not as fun,” you pout jokingly.

”Might have to add that to my notes. Remind me ok?”

“Pfft... Your book, your responsibility.” You laugh and lead her over to the sign-up booth where a stallion is taking names.

”Come to participate or are you here to watch?”

”Two participants,” Twilight answers finally coming out of her blind stupor.

The stallion pushes over a clipboard and quill, “Sign here.”

The quill glows in a low purple light as Twilight writes her name. “Show off,” you mutter under your breathe as the stallion drags it back.

”Oh Twilight, good to see running again this year.”

”I’m just doing my part like last year.”

”And a good part you did. Let’s hope you get first place this time.”

She smiles and takes her number, “I’ll catch you over by the refreshment booth.” Twilight trots away and you look back to the stallion.

”So you’re running too huh?” he asks coldly, “Just sign your name if you can.”

You snatch the clipboard out of his hooves and jot down your name. “Rude little prick aren’t you?” Careful Anon, you’re here to make friends not enemies.

You inscribe your name on the sheet, a smirk coming to your face when you spot Applejack and Rainbow’s names. ”Be thankful Twilight can vouch for you.”

“Be thankful I’m in a good mood,” you retort and toss the clipboard back to him.

”Anon? Bucking foreigners…” You see the stand Twilight was talking about and head on over. ”Hey! You forgot your number!”

“Like I don’t stand out already.”

You sit down on the chair beside Twilight who’s presently slurping away at her drink. “Good move, but make sure not to drink too much. You’re a pony, not a camel.”

”You should probably do the same,” she says popping off the straw.

“And reveal my beautiful face to the world? You’re gonna have to prove your worth first.”

”You can’t stay hidden under that armor forever.”

“I can try.”

She was right about that. You never revealed yourself to them. You’re not scared or embarrassed about it. You just enjoy rustling her feathers, well, mane in her case. It makes her squirm knowing that she didn’t know how you really looked and that makes your day. “Maybe one day, if you’re good enough, I’ll let you see my face but that’s it! I don’t reveal the rest until after the sixth date. I’m no sleaz.”

”Yeah, more like a tease,” she mocks sipping at the straw.

“Congratulations you learned to rhyme. Take any prize off the bottom shelf.”

”Shut up Anon.”

“I don’t think I will. I’m starting to enjoy the sound of my voice, the way it resonates in the air. You’ve got no idea what you’re missing.”

”You’re making me want to root for Rainbow and Applejack.”

“As a man who’s made a lot of bad decisions, let me tell you not to vote for the losing team.”

”Yeah,” she nods, “I’m definitely rooting for them.”

You give her a light punch to the shoulder as a pair of mares come walking up. ”Well well well, look what we have here. Don’t fill up too much Anon, I’ve heard the trail is especially good this year.”

“Really? Maybe after you’re finished you’ll go back for seconds,” you challenge swiveling your seat towards her. “Nice to see you Dash.”

”Anon,” she nods. “I’ll be doing some stretches by the starting line alright AJ?”

”See ya there sugarcube.” Rainbow Dash flicks her tail at you and flies off in a flash.

“Damn. I didn’t think she could go that fast.”

”Bit off a bit more than you can chew partner.”

“You can say that again. But don’t!” you make sure to clarify. People have taken that seriously one too many times. Now you have to make sure everyone knows it’s just a turn of phrase.

”I’m sure you’re going to do just fine,” Twilight reassures you.

“Don’t think I’m worried. As fast as she is, I’m that much faster.”

Applejack’s skeptical at your boast and Twilight rolls her eyes. ”Whatever you say sugarcube. I just wanted to wish you luck before the race.” Was that good sportsmanship you just heard? By god it might have been. She spits on her hoof and presents it to you.

“At least I’m wearing gloves.” You grab hold of her hoof and give it a firm shake. “Good luck Applejack.”

”Let’s have a good ol’ time, right Twilight?”

”Try to focus on running this time.”

Applejack huffs lightly, “I’ll try and remember that, see ya’ll on the track.” She makes her leave and you can’t help but wonder what Twilight meant. Almost reading your mind she answers you, “Her and Dash finished in last place last time.”

“Ouch… Focused on hindering each other?”


Hope they learned their lesson. Based on what they said, you know at least Applejack did. You yawn and stretch your arms, your back straining before a series of cracks relieves you “Phew! That felt great.”

”You know Anon. I made sure to reread that book about running and it said-“

“Twilight,” you interrupt, “Are you about to give me advice about racing?”

”The book said-“ You clamp your hand over her mouth and shake her head.

“You can’t blindly follow what every book tells you. Sometimes you have to follow your instincts and do what feels right, not what some researcher typed up.” She begins to mumble for some- oh yeah, the hand… “If you still think its worth saying then go ahead.”

She rubs her jaw with her hoof, “I was going to say you’d probably want to stretch.”

“Oh… That’s actually pretty good advice. Almost too good… Nah it’s good. But now I must ignore it out of spite.”

She laughs, “You’re a funny guy you know that?”

“Funny how? Funny like a clown? Do I amuse you?” Sensing your aggression she tries to apologize but your laughter cuts her short. “Jeez Twilight I’m just fucking with you.”

She chuckles nervously, “Well I’m going to go stretch. Try and stay out of trouble.”

“Don’t worry about me,” you call after her, “I’ll just sit here and look pretty.”

She waves a hoof and grins, “Whatever Anon.” You slouch atop your chair and cast your gaze over to the other contestants. If you’re going to run you might as well check out the competition. Bad, bad, bad, okay, bad, terrible, bad, bad… Done. That was uneventful. You’re not sure why you were expecting, they’re animals not super soldiers. Meh, you’d have better luck elsewhere.

Prying your buttox off the seat you stroll around, most of the runners focused on their warm-ups. You find one runner lying flat on her back while an attendant wraps up her lower leg. In most cases you’d just ignore it, but seeing how the Pegasus hides behind her flowing bubblegum hair as she’s wrapping make you think otherwise. “Hello Fluttershy. Nice to see a familiar face around here.”

”It’s nice to see you too,” she manages to say after a few failed attempts. She finishes up with the runner who thanks her before starting off.

“Friend of yours?”

”She’s one of the contestants. Last time she hurt her hoof during the run. I offered to wrap it up for her so she could run this time.”

“That’s awfully kind of you. I don’t know many people that would just up and do that sort of thing.”

”Well we’re not exactly your kind,” she points out, “Not that there’s anything wrong with your kind.”

“I got it Fluttershy, no worries.”

She sits on a overturned log and you decide to sit beside her. ”The race is going to start soon, you might want to start-“

“Stretching? The more everyone says that the more I don’t want to do it.”

”Oh… ok then…” Whoops, she closed up on you. You need to be careful what you say around her. A lone leaf drops down from a hanging branch, slowly drifting into your hand. The fragile leaf hangs atop you before a gust of wind sends it flying through the growing crowd of ponies. It’s joined by a dozen others as they twirl through the air in a mesmerizing display of natural beauty.

Fluttershy too is enchanted by the sight and stares mouth agape. You press two fingers against her chin and gently close her mouth before anyone can notice. ”Thank you,” she blushes after you break her from the spell.

“Anytime.” An ear pounding trumpet booms from above as you spot Pinkie blowing into an instrument. “Is that a god damn flugelhorn?”

”I thought we got them all away from her,” Fluttershy peeps after the ear rape has been concluded.

”Mares and gentlecolts!” Pinkie’s voice rains down through her megaphone, “Welcome to the Running of the Leaves! I’m your announcer Pinkie Pie!”

“Looks like the race is about to start…”

”Good luck Anon, I’ll be rooting for you.”

“Thanks Fluttershy. See you at the finish.” She waves you off as you make your way through the ponies and back to the starting line. Following the sign you find the others settling into place at the start.

”I’d thought you chickened out,” Dash stabs at you, “Still got a chance if you want.”

You smack the armor around your legs, crack your knuckles and set your hands on the starting line, all the while staring her down. “Not on your life.”

Pinkie continues with her announcements, for some reason listing off ingredients for a twirly cinnamon shake. Dash and Applejack line up to your left, Twilight to your right. ”And without further ado, everypony! Line up!”

“Doesn’t she see us?”

”Take your positions!”

“We’re already in position!” you shout back. You grunt and keep your head forward, ignoring Rainbow’s snickering.

”On your mark!”

Alright, let’s light up the path on the display. ”Get set!” Let’s roast these mares. ”Go!”

The ponies charge straight off the line and the earth quakes under their hooves. A thick layer of dust picks up behind them as they speed down the path. You stand back up, silently counting in your head. ”Anon! You’re supposed to go when I say go.” You hold up your hand to Pinkie, pulling down your fingers. Three, two, one…

“Go time.” You lower your hips and push off your back leg, using the augmented gifts the UNSC gave you to burn some rubber. Your body cuts through the air as if you were meant for this. Every shift of your arms focuses the strength in your legs and propels you forward to the speeding pony horde. Maybe you should’ve given them a bigger head start.

You pass the first runner, now the last, with ease. She’s no definitely no Olympian. Pulling your speed back you slowly work your way up the ladder. Every pony you pass you make sure to give them a nice pat on the back. A little mixture of your sentimental side and your dickish side, mainly the latter. Pinkie’s balloon shadow follows your progress, “And Anon moves up again. He’s like super fast.” Of course you are. What’d she expect?

You spot a rainbow mane and cowboy hat bobbing further up the pack, the two locked in at first place. ”Anon’s got his eyes on the prize, but wait!” The path takes a nasty turn and you move to the inner lane for maximum maneuverability. As the ponies take the turn the few on the left that had kept their speed found themselves face first in the bushes. Rookie mistake. ”Oooooh, that looked like it hurt! Let’s hope the others learn from that mistake.”

You spot another contestant and make your way over to her, making sure to keep pace with her. “Hiya Twilight. Having fun?”

She blows the leaves out of her face, “Anon? How are you so- calm?”

“You know, being awesome and such. You might want to think about doing that sometime.”

”I’m trying to pace- myself. It said so in- the book.” You shake your head.

“More with the books. This is about having fun, not winning.”

”But don’t you- want to win?”

“Of course, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to have fun.” You pat her like you did the others. “Forget about the book. Just have fun.” With that you pick up the pace and leave her behind you.

You reach the gap between the main group and the two front runners. ”Wowie zowie! Anon’s really doing it. Those two better watch out, there’s a new speedster in town.” They don’t take any notice, apparently focused on maintaining their lead. Meh, you’ll let them have their glory… for now. These ponies are all so serious, can’t they loosen up? All work and no play makes Anon a dull boy.

The beating of hooves roll through the tree line, the uproar annoying now that you pay attention to it. Camoing up muffles the roar and lowers it to a smooth beat, almost that of a heart. It’s just for the sound though. Your armor can’t react quick enough to the surroundings at this speed. Still, the calm does well for the mind.

This takes you back to your time on Reach. You used to run from your house all the way to base and then some. There was something about it that cooled you off even when you were drenched in sweat. Your fellow marines thought you were crazy, that drinking was indefinitely better than a stroll. Man that was back when before you even thought about joining the Spartans. You were looking forward to some action back then. If only she’d gotten out in time…

You shrug off the thought, the tsunami of sound reemerging and pulling you back to the race. You push yourself and shorten the gap between you and the lead. They probably thought they had you. “Last one to the finish line is a rotten egg!”

You tear yourself between them and on to glory. ”Bucking…”

You look to Rainbow Dash, her face one of frustration and jealousy. “Sorry?! I can’t hear you over the sound of me winning!”

You laugh at her face and shatter her pride at the same time because you multitask. ”Attention racers, jump!” Jump? You turn back to the front. There’s a tree blocking the path about fifty yards ahead, nothing major, but enough for them to worry. You grin at the trivial nature of the threat and go at it full speed, leaving a trail of dust behind you. Almost… Pressing your feet against the ground you jump into the air, clear over the obstacle, double flip, spin dive, touchdown!

“YEAH! Spartan of the year right here!”

You cheer and keep on going without a care in the world. ”Ouch!” Pinkie sounds off as the others reach the obstacle, “That dust cloud really got her.” Oho. That better be Rainbow Dash. You’re going to rub that in her face after the race is over. She’s going to regret making that challenge. God you love winning.

You slow down for the others; don’t want to make them look too bad after all. Hoofsteps come beating up behind you and you pace yourself to get even. “Well if it isn’t Dash? Having fun eating my dust?”

”Heh. I’m going easy on you,” she bluffs. Unfortunately for her, you’ve played Poker before.

“Yeah I’m sure. We’ll see who’s first to the finish line won’t we?”

”We sure will.”

You look to your left for Applejack. “AJ?”

”Don’t make excuses, let’s go.” You slow down and wait for her. More ponies begin to pass you, that orange one, Twilight, the slowpoke… but no Applejack. Pinkie’s balloon travels ahead with the crowd and you’re left alone on the dirt path. She said that the dust cloud- No, she was talking about someone else. The few stragglers from the beginning come running past. You jog back down the road, your worry speeding you up.

No movement on the radar, that’s not- ”H-hey Anon. Talk about eating dust right?” You almost didn’t see her sitting by the road.

“What’re you doing back here? We got a race to win.”

”Nah, ah think I’ll sit her a while, catch the scenery.”

“Bullshit. Come on let’s get go.”

She takes a deep breath, “Alright, just give me a sec.” She winces as she gets back on her hooves, “You go ahead I’ll catch up.”

You peer at her right foreleg, hovering slightly above the ground. “What’s wrong with your leg?”


“Stand on it.”


“If nothings wrong then you’ll have no problem with it.” She stares back at you. If she really were hurt she wouldn’t- *crack* Applejack grits her teeth and falls down, your hands catching her before she can hit the ground. Alright maybe she would. “You weren’t lying about being hard-headed.”

”Element of honesty,” she jokes with tears in her eyes.

“Dammit this is my fault. I had to show off back there and- Fuck!”

You hold your helmet with both hands, “I ain’t angry at ya Anon.”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I’m not.” It’s like you’re a giant wrecking ball and you fuck up whatever you touch. You stand back up, anger brimming up to your neck. “I’m trying to make some friends here and all I do is- GAH!”

You cleave your fist into the bark of a tree, the top tearing clean off the tree and to the ground. ”Heh, could use you up at the farm,” she says wiping away the last of her tears. This was supposed to be fun. This is anything but. And you’re not going to take this lying down. Not a chance in hell.

“We’re going to finish this race.”

”I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere.”

“Then I’ll just have to carry you.”

”Wait wha- Whoa Nelly!” You cradle her injured leg and rest her atop your shoulder. No need to further harm the poor mare.

“Hold on tight.” You hold her on your shoulder with your right hand and start back down the path. No more stunts or tricks. You’re not going to ruin this race for Applejack. Your feet pound the ground, a cascade of leaves escaping from the trees and into the wind.

”You’re a good man you know that?”

You muster a smile and take another turn. “No I’m not.”

Making up for lost time you catch the blips back on your radar. Not too soon either, Pinkie’s balloon is parked off a ways which means you’re close to the finish line. Gotta go extra fast. You tear through the stragglers once more who gaffa at your speed. The pack grows closer and you make sure to blow through them as well. ”Howdy,” Applejack calls to them as we pass.

Twilight heads the group, the unicorn pouring all of her effort into this last stretch. You give her an approving nod and barrel ahead of her, the finish line closing up faster than expected. And up there still going strong is the ever-pompous Rainbow Dash, likely fantasizing her celebration as you think. But you’re not going to let her have that. Not while you’re around.

You close up behind her, the mare peeking her head back and catching your approach. You can almost hear her curse at the sight of you. Now just to get around- Oh. Oh hell no. Rainbow Dash cuts you off as you attempt to move around her, the Pegasus keeping herself in front of you at all times. Applejack sees this, “It’s alright Anon. Second place isn’t so bad.”

You tighten your hold on her, Applejack piecing together your thoughts, “I know what you’re thinking, and it’s crazy.”

“So stay here.”

She wraps her good hoof around you, “Unfortunately for us both, I like crazy.” It’s not far now. You pull back behind Dash and begin to sprint with everything you’ve got. ”What if we miss?”

You hold her hoof in your hand. “I won’t.” And you jump.

Lights flash midair, the breeze combing through Applejack’s hair. You turn your body as you begin to fall, your back hitting the ground first as you slide. A layer of dirt picks up after you, the incessant sound of cheering telling you all you needed to know. The orange earth pony lies atop your chest, her eyes clenched. “Guess who won?”

She opens them, her mind still trying to take in what’s happening. Dash pants heavily as she passes, the broken mare trying to avoid eye contact, not that you can blame her. “Maybe next time eh Dash?” She grunts and heads off for some water.

Applejack begins to pat her body, “Ah shucks, I’ve gone and lost my hat.”

“Not quite,” you reply, plopping the ten-gallon hat back on her head where it belongs.

”Thank ya kindly Anon. For everything.”

“Anything for a friend right?”

She rests her head on your chest piece, “Right.”

Chapter 6: Fishing for Forgiveness

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You stand up, arms bound at your size by an unseen force. Such a strange dream, it’s always the same. The walls are closed in but not intimidating in their fashion. A faint hum looms in the air further instilling the feeling of peace. You rub your head against the blissfully soft walls. The simple sensation does well to calm your aching mind. You slouch back down, your back rubbing against the wall as you fall to your butt. You can’t help but place a dopy grin on your face and close your eyes. Peace… So peaceful… The lights flicker, as they always do, the shining bulbs signaling your departure from this place. Just a little bit longer. Five more minutes… No, time to wake up.


You take slow steady breathes as you stand by the small archway. Physically you’re prepared for any challenge you could face. Mentally though… Ugh. The words you search for always seem to be out of reach. You’ve never had this much trouble trying to find something to say. Finding anything to say… Maybe this is all for naught. She told you not to worry about it, but you can’t help but feel bad about it. You run your hand over the coarse picket fence.

Very rustic in terms of aesthetic, but considering the location you expected as much. It’s not like you hadn’t been her before. Maybe it’s because Twilight isn’t her to offset your nerves. Or maybe it’s because this is the first time in a long time that you’re going to give a full-hearted apology. Jesus, this isn’t fucking rocket science.

You duck your head under the small arch and walk up to the barn. The crops seem to be almost ripe or whatever you call it. Won’t be long before winter sets in, maybe a month or two. You never had a great sense of time. Direction you were phenomenal at, but you’ll never tell them about your compass. Good ol’ apps. If only there was one for apologies. Doubt there’s an app for that. All these things seem inconsequential when compared to the present.

Here you are, standing in her front yard and you’re off thinking about apps. You should be focused on what to say to her. You don’t see a pony in sight. They must be out bucking some apples. At least that’s what Twilight said that they do. Maybe they took her out with them.

You stroll up the side of the barn and up the stairs towards the front door. Applejack’s doesn’t seem like the girl who’d just lie down while the others did the work. She’s stubborn as a mule. You pry open the screen door and knock. You knead the floor nervously as you wait for someone to answer. Thankfully, no one does. Phew, that’s a load off your shoulders for today. Now you just have to ignore the fact that she might be there tomorrow. You turn away from the door and step down to earth. Coward, that’s what you are. Too afraid to talk to a pony. How pathetic are you? You’re not worth her time. *creak* ”Oh, howdy Anon.”

Why are you wrong whenever it’s inconvenient? You look back to the open door, Applejack’s smile meeting you. “Hey Applejack.”

”Sorry about that wait there, it’s hard to move around with this thing.” Her hoof is wrapped tight in a white cast, the material covered in signatures from her friends, a monument to your sins. A crutch is placed along the inside of her leg to help her walk. “Care to come inside?”

“Sure, I’d like that.” You jog back up and hold the door open for her as she slowly moves back inside. The inside’s- more barren than you’d expect. There isn’t much to see. They’ve got pictures of family hung up down the hallway though you only recognize Big Mac and Applejack. “Quite the family you got.”

”Nothing quite beats it ya know.”

“Yeah, I do…”

”We’re scattered all over Equestria, but at least I got a few here in Ponyville.” She’s one of the few you know who appreciates them.

“You never know what you have until they’re gone,” you say solemnly.

She senses your trepidation, “Do you…” You shake your head. Some things are best left forgotten. Applejack doesn’t pry and leads you further into her house. The walls are brown walls are ground and in need of repair. It wouldn’t surprise you if the majority of their cash is funneled back into the crop. That much you know firsthand. She walks into the kitchen, a square table centered in the middle with the appliances lined along the walls. You notice her medal hanging on the wall and sport a grin.

She sees you staring, “Like it that much huh? Would’ve been yours if you’d bothered to pick up a number.” You chuckle and shake your head.

“It looks better on your wall than it would on Twilight’s.” As a final ‘fuck you’ from that stallion at the sign-in booth, he played ignorant when they were handing out medals. Even Dash had a smug expression, but looked away as you glanced at her. You’re content with Applejack winning first prize even if the record shows you as finishing last.

“So how’ve things been?”

”Rough,” Applejack sighs, planting her flank on a seat, “We’re busier than ever here and they insist I get some rest. They can’t finish the harvest on their own.”

“Didn’t I hear some of your cousins are in town to help?”

”Yeah but, to be honest, they weren’t my first choice.”

“Ooooh, that sucks.”

”Tell me about it. Heck you got me all worked up about ‘bout this stuff and I ain’t even asked you how you were doing.”

“Are you asking now?”

”Yeah how’s things down in Ponyville? I haven’t been able to make the trip since the accident.”

You wince at the mention of it, a reminder of why you were here in the first place. “You know, the ush… Twilight’s a nerd, Pinkie’s crazy, Dash is still jealous.”

”Doesn’t she though? Well, how goes living with Twilight? Any freaky experiments?”

“You’ve got no idea. Just the other day I woke up with a pair of jumper cables on my chest. Needless to say, I’ve been keeping one eye open.”

”Sounds like she’s getting desperate.”

“I’ve limited her down to a question per day.”

She points her hoof at you, “That explains it.”

“What else am I going to do? I can’t just blab on about everything. Where’s the fun in that?”

”Ya need to find a home for yourself, that’s what I think.”

“One step at a time.”

She nods and looks about the room, “So what brings ya all the way out here? Feel bad for this ol’ mare?” You avoid eye contact, but the answer’s foaming out of your armor like a bad case of the runs. ”That’s it isn’t it?” she questions you, “You still feel bad.”

“I can’t get it out of my head.”

”I told ya not to worry didn’t I?”

“I know what you said, but it’s not clicking up here you know?” you reply patting your helmet.

”And here I was hoping for a social visit,” she mutters softly. You knew it was a bad idea to come here. Your brain knew it was wrong. But that fucking niggling idea just fucked it all up… again.

“I’m sorry that I’m not here for the reason you wanted so I’ll finish my spiel and I’ll get out of your mane.” You let it all go and speak what comes to mind. “Applejack, I like to think of you as a friend and I hope you feel the same. I don’t have a lot of those around here you know. I never did, but the few I’ve made… I don’t like losing what I have.”

You pace from one side of the room to the other as your mind starting going a mile a minute. “I can’t have this weight on my shoulders. Please, I just- I’m sorry. I really am. I know my words won’t heal your leg, but… If there’s anything- Anything at all, that I can do just ask.” You sit across from her, your chest clenching painfully. “I want to make things right.”

She goes over what you said, nodding all the while, the mental wheels chugging along. ”Want a drink?”

That’s a- a different reaction, one you hadn’t expected even. “Sure I guess.”

She props her self up on her crutch but stops you before you get up to help. ”Ahm a big girl Anon. I can handle myself.” She puts the kettle on and retrieves two glasses, “Tea?”

“I don’t really-“

”Alright tea,” she says not giving you a chance to answer.


”I ain’t great at speeches so imma keep this brief. Anon… I forgive ya.”

“Phew, thank yo-“

”Ah believe I still have the floor,” she cuts you off again, a slight grin on her face. You sit back down and nod. ”But that doesn’t help my here leg, and since you’re so willing to repay me I think I’ll take you up on that offer.” She take the boiling water off the stove, “How about you work in my stead here up at the farm. Just until I get better.” She pours the steaming liquid into both cups and looks back to you, “Well?”

“I didn’t know it wasn’t rhetor- Screw it, Yes! Of course. Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it. We could use the extra help after all, plus you could move into the guest room. Ain’t nobody living there.”

“This… Thank you, truly. I thought this was going to go horribly wrong to be honest.”

”What’d ya expect? Me to banish you to the moon?”

“I wasn’t going to rule it out.”

”You worry too much Anon,” she says lightly, setting down your cup and nudging it over to you.

It smells of cinnamon and spiced sugar along with a lovely citrus fragrance. “Apple?”

”When in the Apple house…”

“Do as the Apples do,” you snicker, “I can toast to that.” You ding glasses and undo your chin piece, fishing your bendy straw from the capsule on your arm.


You look to the piece of plastic. “What?”

”Oh nothing,” she says twirling her glass around, “I didn’t know you drank like a filly is all.”

“B-but it’s bendy…” you try and reason.

”Just like a filly…”

Well fine, you stow it back in storage, you didn’t need it anyways. Reaffirming your chin guard you press your thumbs to the bottom of your helmet and throw off the release. The helmet clunks free and you pull the beast off your skull and set it down on the table. You run your hands through your hair and scratch the back of your neck. That spot has been itching for a while, damn that feels good. You hastily grab the glass and raise it to your lips, stopping when you notice Applejack’s gaze. “What?” you ask lowering the cup.

”Meh, six out of ten.”

“Oh I am at least an eight.”

She rolls her eyes comically, “Sure...” You let that one slide and take a sip at your tea. She smiles as your eyes widen at the taste and you eagerly begin to gulp it down. You set down the cup and wipe your mouth as the last drops trickle off the top.

“I don’t like tea, but damn! This is some tasty shit.”

”You don’t owe me anymore you can stop kissing my flank now.”

“Can I…” you shuffle your brows over at the kettle.

”Help yourself.” You replace the teabag and pour yourself a fresh cup.

“You gotta stop enabling me like this. It’s gonna come back to bite ya.” She shrugs as you help yourself to another cup of tea. Not exactly a posh English gentleman, but it sure makes you feel like one. “So I can really stay here? Not out in the barn or in the outhouse?”

“A friend of mine gets the best accoma- acooma- Hay, you get a nice place to stay.”

“Looks like I’m in your debt you all over again.”

“Whatever you say, come on, let me show you where you’d be sleeping.” She shows you the rest of the house including the guest room that you’d be occupying soon. It’s actually bigger than the barracks you had on the Infinity, plus it has a bed for you unlike Twilight’s. Sleeping on the floor is bound to start hurting your back. Applejack gives you the rundown of the house before taking you out back. ”You ever apple bucked before?”

“Can’t say that I have,” you answer.

She leads you to a strong looking apple tree, the deep brown bark accented by the fruit that lay in its branches. ”There ain’t nothin to it. It’s just a swivel, arch and BUCK!” she demonstrates. She uses the crutch to balance herself and strikes the tree with a low thud, a few apples falling off. ”Ain’t nothing but a thang,” she replies, her muscles tense after the show. You can tell how much that hurt her even if she does play tough. Best let it be though.

”Of course, you ain’t a pony so you’re gonna have to make do with whatcha got.” You approach the tree slowly, slipping on your helmet and sizing it up. A quick diagnostic shows it to be roughly 17 feet tall and a foot thick.

“You put these things on steroids or what?”

”Just good ol’ fashion upkeep.” Let’s tone down the force, don’t want to destroy their livelihood after all. You pull back your fist before slamming it into the center of the tree. A sick crack erupts from the base and echoes through the fields. Seconds after, the once sturdy apples that had hung above plummet down to earth making for one barren ass tree. Upon pulling your fist free you notice the indent left behind, a first of firsts you think. Applejack whistles, “May have to hold back a little, you even got some others.” She points out the apples trickling off the nearby branches and grins.

“I was holding back…”

”Holy mackerel! Was that you?” a voice questions from your right. You turn to a smaller pony, a filly if you recall, a red bow plopped on her head.

”Say hi to Anon, Applebloom. He’s going to be helping us out until I get better.” The filly waves a hoof, a strange cape thing dangling off her back. You recognized the name from Twilight.

“What’s with the cape?”

”Oh brother…”

”You like it?!” the filly pesters, spinning around to display her attire, “It’s for the Cutie Mark Crusaders!” You turn to Applejack for help here.

“Cutie Mark what now?”

”Cutie Mark Crusaders,” Applejack explains, “Applebloom and her friends formed this group a while back to help them get their cutie marks.”

“That’s the part I’m confused about. What’s a cutie mark?”

”Really? You been here for like two weeks and you hadn’t noticed?”

“I guess not.” She displays her rump, or rather, the image on it, a trio of apples. “How in the hell did I not notice that?”

”Beats me, every pony’s got one.”

”Acheeem,” Applebloom coughs.

”Well, everyone except for fillies. It shows off our special talent.”

“So you’re good at things involving apples. I’m guessing everyone in the Apple family has the same type of thing.” Applebloom coughs again, the not so silent bystander.

”Yep. When a filly finds out their special talent they get their cutie mark. Applebloom and her friends just haven’t found it yet.”

”That’s why we crusade for our cutie marks!” the filly jumps joyfully.

“Why don’t they just find out naturally. Isn’t that how it works?”

Applejack rolls her eyes again, “That’s what I try and put into their heads.” Fucking kids these days… Can’t even wait for their cutie marks… Good thing you don’t have a permanent ass tattoo.

”Did you find what was making that- Ooooh! Who’s that?!” Another filly wearing the same type of cape comes rushing over before staring at you. She’s a unicorn, and is soon joined by yet another filly who’s a Pegasus, both with their eyes trained at your glorious visage.

”This here’s Anon,” Applebloom introduces you, “He’s a friend of my sisters. He’s gonna be helping her and stuff.” The two are incapable of speech in the wake of your holiness. It’s like you’re Jesus and you just turned water into rock n’ roll. Something like that.

“So,” you kneel down closer to their level, “You going to introduce me to your friends?”

The young Pegasus shakes herself free of her trance, “My name’s Scootaloo.”

“And I’m Sweetie Belle! And together…” All three form up. This is going to get old fast.

”THE CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS!” they scream leaping into the air like a bunch of monkeys.

“Yay…” you cheer somberly.

”We’re going to go hang out at the tree house,” Applebloom explains, “Wanna come?”

“Maybe another time, I’ve got some business to take care of.”

”Awwww,” the fillies moan.

“I’m going to be here for a while so don’t count me out on any of your ‘crusades.’” That does well to lighten their spirits and their back to jumping and cheering joyfully.

”Now go on you three, try crusading that-a-way.” They run along chanting all the while down the tree line before darting inside. ”Those three are quite the handful.”

“Preaching to the choir.”

”You really thinking ‘bout helping them out?”

“I reckon I’ll accept every once and a while. After all, I’m not heartless, just mostly.”

”That’s awfully nice of ya.”

“Don’t mention it. Those guys remind me of some of the kids on Reach. My daughter would’ve… fit right in…” She notices the pain in your voice and allows silence to creep in on you.


The two of you walk over to the entrance way along the fence. You force a laugh to break the silence. “Personal problems right? They’re a pain in the keister.”

You step through the archway and look back to Applejack. ”If you ever want to talk about it…”

“I’ll know you’re there to listen. Besides, it’s not like you’re going to take notes behind my back.”

”Not that crazy,” she jokes, silence once again attempting to rise. ”So when do you think you can start?”

“I just need to give the news to Twilight and I should be set.”

”Good to know, first thing tomorrow?”

“See you then.”

”Cya,” she replies as you walk away, “And Anon.”


”Don’t be late.”

“A Spartan is never late.”


You get back to Twilight’s, some freaky invention moved into the center of the room. ”OH! I didn’t expect you back so soon,” Twilight calls out removing her mad science goggles. ”I know how you said you didn’t want me to run anymore experiments on you without your permission.”

“And this is what?”

”Me asking for permission!” Her smile ranges from ear to ear, her every nerve focused on your answer.

“Ye- No.”

She huffs and begins dismantling her machine, “Spoil sport.” How to break the news to her, let’s try this.

“Hey Twilight.”

”Yes party pooper?”

“I’m moving into Applejacks house alright.”

”Fine by mmm- wwwwwhat?”

“That was easy.”

”You can’t just leave. I mean- think of all the times we’ve had.”

“You threw a bucket of water on me to watch the sparks fly.”

”That was a one time thing though.”

“You shot me with a magic missle thing just to see what happened.”

”In my defense-“

“How about when you hid behind the bathroom mirror to spy on me while I was taking a leak.”

She blushes, “All in the name of science. But still-“

“Jumper Cables! Where in the name of all that is holy do you find those?”

”There’s a hardware store just down the street.” You’re not even going to try and explain just how wrong that is.

“I will admit, it’s been fun but I haven’t been able to lift a finger without you crawling up my butt cheeks.”

”Butt… cheeks… Interesting.”


”Sorry, force of habit.”

“Case in point right there. At least when I’m over there I’m not having to watch over my shoulder for you. I was comfortable for once and to drink from an actual cup…”

”You drank from the cup? Like directly.”

“Yes I did and it was delicious.”

”So you’ll take off your helmet for her, but not for me?”

“You’d pluck out my hair before I could react!”

”Hair…” she mutters and takes notes.

“The only thing she judged was my looks and that was questionable. 6/10… Pfft!”

”I think you’re at least an eight.”

“That’s what I said- No, you’re not going to trick me into taking it off for you.”

”But whyyyy?”

“One day, when you’re good, I’ll let you.”

”I promise I won’t steal your hair or anything!”

“Ugh… fine.”



“This is going to be my last day living here so I’ll try and make up for leaving.”

”Won’t you come and visit?”

“Perhaps, but I don’t know exactly how busy I’m going to be.”

She nods, “Applejack’s always busy this time of year trying to finish up the harvest before winter.”

“Then if I get any time off I’ll come and visit… maybe.”

“If that’s really what you want…” she wallows theatrically in one last attempt to sway you. But she’s no Rarity and you can see right through the façade.

“Well if we’re going to do something now’s the time.”

”I’m not going to force you into doing anything you don’t want to.” Wow, that’s mighty mature of her.

“Do you really mean that?”

”I do. We can just talk or go for a walk. Whatever you want.”

“I appreciate that Twilight.”

”Just one thing.”


”Can I have your bendy straw?”

“My bendy straw!” Nopony takes your bendy straw.

Chapter 7: Marshmallow Madness

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You pummel another tree with your fist before jumping back as the apples rained overhead. You’d long since disabled your shields, they always seemed to get in the way. It turned a high-five into a high-what-the-fuck-was-that! You laughed your ass off the first few times but after that it became rather stall. What’s the fun of doing that if it’s not on purpose? You saunter back on over once the barrels are full. Applebloom picks up the few that rolled away and places them back on top. ”That was a good one Anon.”

“They’re all good Applebloom.” You heft both barrels over your shoulder, Applebloom scrambling atop of one before getting her balance on the fruit barrel.

”That wasn’t very nice,” she giggles climbing on your shoulder.

“And who ever said I was?”

You empty out the barrels into a cart, making the ride extra bumpy for Applebloom who’s clinging helplessly to your shoulder. ”I think you’re nice.” Time to fix that misjudgment. You flip your shields on and off the surge of electricity tingling her hooves. She jumps off and onto your arm, “HEY!”

“Still think I’m nice?”

”Ya still caught me,” she smiles snuggling up on your arm.

“I hate you and everything you represent.”


“I will go into your room at night and slay you where you lie.”

”Slay me with kindness maybe.”

“…” God damn that grin. “You still don’t count.”

”And just why don’t I count?” she argues making a pouty face.

“Because you’re just a filly and you don’t know any better.” You dump the last bucket and head to yet another tree with Applebloom tagging alongside you.

”What about Applejack? She thinks you’re nice.”

“Really?” you reply setting the buckets around the base, “I didn’t know you were a mind reader.”

”Ya know what I mean.”

“I didn’t know I was one either,” you joke and line the next shot.

Another stream of apples comes falling down like a rainy day. ”She said you were super nice for coming out to help us.”

“And just why did I do that?”

”I dunno, but does it matter? You’re here.”

You chuckle and shake your head at her innocence. “So, out of curiosity, what else does she say about me,” you heft the buckets over to the wagon again.

”She doesn’t talk a lot about you, but that don’t mean she don’t like ya.”

“Don’t need to tell me twice.” You top off the wagon and head off to the front, Applebloom standing atop like a valiant captain commanding his ship.

”Onward to glory!”

“I will hit you child.” You fix yourself into the harness and pull back to the barn.

”Listen… The Oomu has awoken, run! You may actually hurt this kid if she keeps it up. ”The fluffy king of the east is closing in! We can’t let him get the amulet.” She needs to tone down the imagination just a fuck ton.

“I let the Oomu and fluffy king battle to the death while I escape with the booty, happy now?”


You get back to the barn and halt the cart just outside. ”Wait, Applejack did say something about you.”

“Do tell.”

”I remember Twilight was asking about ya when she showed up the other day.” You shudder at the thought. You’ll never get the sight of Twilight’s face pressed up against the window out of your head. At least not after years of therapy which you’re sure to need after this whole experience.

“So? What’d they say?”

She rubs her head. You swear… “I can’t remember, sorry.” God dammit.

“Don’t sweat it. You hungry?”

”Am I?!” You head on inside the house, ticking off another load of apples to be sent to market. Granny Smith is sitting at the table reading a week old copy of the newspaper. You tried to tell her that, but she said that the best way to know the present is to know the past. Any pony that says something like that goes on the not to fuck with list. You grab a few ingredients and set up the stove.

”Hmm, whatcha cooking sonny?”

“Just some chopped apple and onion with some tomato soup, nothing special.”

”Well I hope ya made enough for all of us,” Applejack comments as she comes down the stairs.

“Figured you’d be along when I started cooking again.” You double up the quantity and let the food sit, fixating on the delicate soup.

”So how’s the harvest?” Applejack questions sitting next to Granny. If there’s one thing she loves more than apple bucking it’s riding your ass.

”Going great,” Applebloom explains saving your tail, “Anon’s been working super duper hard.” You grin at the praise, but keep quiet.

”Is that right? Is he better than me or Big Mac?”

”No one’s better than you two.”

That’s enough to get a rise out of you. “Remember who’s cooking your food here.”

You set the plates and hand out the food, “Thank ya kindly.”

“Anytime.” You give the pot and pan a quick wash in the sink before drying off.

”What’s the hurry?” Applejack asks, “Aren’t you gonna join us?”

“I’d love to, but me and Big Mac have to get those apples to market while it’s bustling.”

”You sure you and Mac can handle it by yourself?”

“Of course.”

She gives a slight nod and enjoys your meal, “Not a scratch.”

“Yes ma’am.” You hurry back out to see Mac stowing away his own earnings for the day. “Ready to sell some apples?”

”Eeyup,” he responds rather coldly. Even after a few weeks he must still hold a grudge over your hmm… nature? Maybe the combination of your initial confrontation and your intimacy with the apple family has put him off. Out of all things you don’t blame him for that. If somepony talked like that to you, you’d have clobbered him… Into a coma.


You let him have the silence he mentally wishes and saddle up to Ponyville. The markets not quite as busy as you thought it’d be, but that doesn’t bother you. Working does good on the mind and good for the body. Not grueling work where you don’t know if you’re going to live or not, but simple honest living. It’s not wonder why your folks had set up on Eridanus. You pause as Big Mac continues to set up the stall. “Strange…”

”What is?” he asks not losing focus.

No pain. “Just a thought,” you shake your head. It’s an oddity when things go awry from the norm. Maybe it’s the heat that’s keeping you calm or the air. Who knows? All that matters is that you feel great for once. You pull the carts around the back of the stall as the customers start rolling in.

”Two bits is outrageous. I could get an apple out by Seaddle for one.”

Barterers, the scum of the marketplace. They’ll rob you high and dry if you’re not careful. ”I’m sorry ma’am, but that’s the price.”

Big Mac and this colt keep going at for a while before the colt decides to be tricky by changing the price to two bits. ”Three bits,” Big Mac responds.

”Three bits it is!” the colt slams down the cash and grabs an apple. That sneaky little devil, you’d never picked Big Mac for that kind of guy.

Mac pockets two and flicks the third back to him, “Your change sir.” The colt curses to himself at his failed ruse and you can’t help but laugh.

“Got three bits for two and you still give him one back. You’re going to make a mare very happy one day.” He instantly goes to another customer without response.

A pony comes up and begins fiddling with your apples. “Please… Don’t shake the merchandise. Bad for business.” The stallion pays and sets off. This is how your days generally go. Buck some apples, sell some apples, eat some apples, sleep with the Apples. It’s a very citrusy schedule. You sell another bushel of apples, a cart load of apples gone in no time. “Seems these ponies like their apples huh?”

”Eeyup.” That’s it. Just a few words at a time if that. His mood is putting a black cloud over your clear sunny day. You wait for the rush to die down before you turn to him.

“You don’t like me very much do you?”

”I don’t know what gave you that idea.” He doesn’t even give you a courtesy glance.

“This might be part of it. I think its general practice to look at someone when they’re talking to you.”

His eyes meet yours, “Apologies.” Okay this is kind of awkward. You take a step back to further the gap between you, but not make it noticeable.

“I know we didn’t leave at the best of terms the first time we met but that was weeks ago. You can’t still be annoyed at that.”

”I’m not.”

“Then- I don’t know. Why do you seem so cold towards me?”

”I ain’t the most talkative pony in Ponyville if you didn’t know. It’s just my way.”

“And yet I feel it’s more than that.”

”Applejack was supposed to be the one beside me today.” Oh, so that’s the reason. ”I didn’t know what to do when I saw her coming back with that cast. I just got so angry…” He didn’t like seeing his little sister hurt. ”I ain’t one to get angry about it, but when she told me how it happened-“

“You wanted to come charging down my door.”

”It ain’t like me. It just ain’t.” She must’ve calmed him down then. Which is good news for him. You wouldn’t want to hurt him, especially now. ”Applejack seemed to forgive you, but I can still feel it,” he touches his chest, “Right there.”

“I know that I already apologized to Applejack, but I’m sorry Big Mac. It’s my fault that she got hurt and it’s my fault you feel this way.”

He shakes his head, “No it ain’t. It’s mine. I figured if I ignored it it’d go away.”

“Pfft, let me tell you firsthand that that doesn’t work.”

”Eeyup. Start over?”

“Name’s Anon. What’s yours?”

”Call me Big Mac.”

You shake, hoof and hand. “This is the start of a good friendship.”

”Acheem.” A mare stands at the other side of the booth waiting rather impatiently.

“I apologize for that ma’am. How can I help you?”

”I’d like some apples.” No shit lady. She checks the price, “Two bits?! That’s outrageous!” You and Big Mac look to each other at the same time and chuckle. ”Two bits is no laughing matter.”

“It is for us.” She wasn’t a very pleasant customer to be sure.


You and Mac sell off the last of the apples and close up shop as one last mare comes walking up in fanciful attire. ”Did I truly just miss it?”

”Afraid so.”

”Well this is just the worst, possible, thing.”

“Don’t get your saddle in a twist,” you reply fetching the very last apple under the stand, “I as planning on having this one later, but you can have it Rarity.”

She catches it, “Why thank you.”

”You planning on paying for that Anon?” he jokes.

“Take it out of my paycheck.”

He throws the last pieces of the stand into the cart. ”I thought you were better at taking these apart,” Rarity says wiping off the apple, “You did it so easily with Pinkie.”

“Ha ha very funny.”

You chat with Rarity a bit while Big Mac finishes up loading the stall. ”Actually, there’s some work I need an opinion on.”

“Ah sorry. I gotta head on back with Big Mac.”

”So you can’t help at all?”

“I never said that,” you tease.

”Well, are you coming or not? You mustn't tease a lady in this fashion.”

“Sure why not? I’ll get home, shower, eat and head straight there.”

”Why not stay for dinner? I may be a seamstress but I am an excellent cook as well.”

“Sounds good to me.”

Rarity smiles and takes a bite, lightly dabbing the juice off her face with a napkin. ”Positively delightful.” You wouldn’t expect any less from the posh mare.

“Alright Big Mac, let’s hurry on back I reek.”

”Eeyup.” You pull on your cart and head out the market.

”Perspiration… hmmm…” You stop at the subtle speech.

”Something wrong?” Big Mac asks as you slip out of your restraints.

“Shhh.” You kneel next to a suspicious looking barrel, slits cut out facing where your stall was. That sneaky bitch.

”Well?” You turn the barrel to its side and wait for a noise, but she makes none.

“Nothing, just my mind playing tricks on me.” *Sigh* There it is. You press your foot on the barrel and send it rolling down the street, the hidden unicorn squealing as her cries fade away.




You get home without another incident. Applejack wasn’t exactly pleased how you decided to skip dinner with them for Rarity, but she allowed it. It was all friendly banter though, nothing serious. She did make you promise to decline her ‘marshmallow madness’ whatever that is. You figured it’d be best not to ask. One quick shower and subsequent agonizingly and irritating session of getting back into your armor, you head off to Rarity’s boutique. Seriously, you need to find an easier way of getting into that armor. Every time you have to take a shower you have to run the gauntlet. At least you have a suit of armor to get into. There’re children on the Outer Rim that don’t have fancy super soldier armor to wear. That one never gets old. Ugh… They’d get crushed if they tried to wear it anyways.

You knock on the door to Carousel Boutique, the door opening but not from Rarity. ”Hey Anon!”

“Sweetie Belle? What’re you doing here?”

”I’m visiting. Didn’t Rarity tell you I was her little sis?”

“I don’t recall her mentioning it. I figured you might’ve.”

”It’s so cool that you’re here. Want to come in?”

“Sure that’d be a start. I’m actually here at Rarity’s request.”

”She’s not going out again is she? I told her I’m old enough not to need a foalsitter.”

“No I don’t think it’s anything like that. She just needed my opinion.”

”Suuuure. That’s how it starts. If I know my sis-“

”Oh Anon I am so sorry I couldn’t come to the door myself,” Rarity excuses herself rounding the corner. “And Sweetie Belle, what did I tell you about talking behind anypony’s back?”

”That it’s unladylike.”

”Precisely,” Rarity smiles to you, “How are you doing Anon?”

“Fine considering I told you the same thing half an hour ago.”

”My mane’s all in a twist with work I’d forget my head if it wasn’t attached,” she laughs lightly. She’s the only one who laughs and soon silences herself. “How about dinner?” she asks changing the subject.

”He can stay for dinner?” Sweetie Belle asks excitedly.

”Well of course he can,” Rarity says heading off, “Right this way.” You step into the kitchen, much cleaner than the Apple’s but also not as homey. Everything’s so orderly and, well, dull. At least at the Apple house you felt like the house had life to it, like it was part of the family almost. Rarity gracefully moves about the kitchen and whips out the fine china. ”This was rather last minute but I managed to throw something together.” You sit down and she reveals some sort of sandwich, a very elegant sandwich, but a sandwich all the same. ”It’s a Panini with mozzarella, tomato, basil and a little olive oil.”

“It looks great,” you compliment her. Rarity and Sweetie Belle sit down with their plates. “Aren’t you going to eat?”

”It’s customary for the guest to eat first,” Sweetie Belle explains eyeing her dish hungrily.

”That’s my little sis.”

You shrug, their house their rules, and slip off your helmet and set it beside you. An unnatural cold hits your face, you didn’t know they had A/C, they must be freezing. Rarity silently observes your facial structure as you take a bite and nod.

“Very nice,” you say covering your mouth. That’s all it takes for Sweetie Belle to begin digging in. Does she ever eat? Rarity does her best to ladyfy her, but after several failed attempts she leaves her be. The table lies silent for the most of dinner, another difference between here and the farm. It was always bustling over there and it made you feel a part of the group. Now you eat in silence with a forced smile. Just be nice. You’re doing great so far.

You stand up to wash your plate only for Rarity to snatch the dish out of your hands. ”You’re a guest, you don’t have to lift a finger.”

“But I could just-“

”I will not hear a word of it,” she hushes you and prances over to the sink. Sweetie Belle locks eyes to you and you can’t help but smirk when she mouths for you to run. ”Now Sweetie would you be a dear and finish this up for me so Mr. Anon and I can talk?”

”Ok…” she sighs.

”Isn’t she just the sweetest?” How in the hell does Sweetie handle this every day? She’s going to be doing a lot of drugs in high school, you’re calling it now. ”Are you coming Anon?”

“Of course.” You head up the stairs and into the closest room on your left, Rarity flicking on the lights revealing the horror that awaited you. Cloth, gems, glitter, string, sewing machines, mannequins, everything that every man instinctively fears. The mindfuck of colors and fabric is almost too much for you to handle but you persevere.

”Now you know that Nightmare Night is coming up…”

“Nightmare what?”

”Nightmare Night. You don’t have that where you’re from?”

“I can’t say we do.” She explains how they gather candy and sacrifice it to some Night lady so she won’t eat them or some shit. It strikes close to Halloween so you have some semblance of familiarity with it.

”Anyways, I’ve been preparing a costume for it and I need some input, specifically a stallions.”

“But I’m not a stallion.”

”Splitting hairs Anon. I still need a male’s opinion.” She draws out a long curtain and steps behind it. The hairs on your back stick up as a sense of dread takes you.

“My Twilight sense is tingling.” You plop your helmet on and zoom in on the windows.

”Did you say something darling?” Nothing there, but… a light shoots off one of the tree branches. Twilight… You gesture that you’re watching her and almost immediately the branch shakes and the peeping tom falls out on her rump. Serves her right. Eggheads and their antics. One day she might get more than she bargained for. ”Tada!” Rarity announces stepping out from behind the curtain, “What do you think?” Oh, so she’s going like thaaat.

A scarlet dress hangs off her body loosely adding a seductive look, the fabric embroidered for a noble look. Centered on her neck is a dark magenta gem holding together her flared collar, the color corresponding with the dress, two strands of sheer reaching from the gem and to the side of her dress. But what pieces the whole costume together isn’t the clothing, but the red contacts she put in and the fangs protruding from her mouth. ”Doesn’t this dress just make you beg to be bitten?”

“I’m going to have to answer honestly and say that any stallion would be head over heels for you.”

She reels her head back in confusion, “But not you?”

“Vampires aren’t exactly my thing. I don’t like the idea of something sneaking into my room and sucking me dry.” You try not to notice the sultry gaze she gives you as you look around the room.

”So what will you be dressing as?”

“I’m going to be a ghost.”

”You’re just going to wear a tarp over that suit aren’t you?”


”And I’m guessing you wouldn’t let me design you anything.”

“Correct again. You’re good at this.”

”Not to fret. I cannot help those who do not wish it.” She steps over her swabs of fabric and crosses you.

“Is there anything else I can help you with?”

”Oh no that was it, but perhaps you’d like to stay a little longer…”

“I have to get up early in the morning, work and all.”

She flicks her tail at you and looks over her shoulder. “You sure? I could wash that dastardly armor for you. That horn looks like it could use a good polishing…” she purrs. Your mind ticks away as it tries to comprehend exactly what she’s implying before it suddenly clicks together. ABORT MISSION! ABORT!

“I think I’m good.”

”I’m sure you would’ve been.”


You let yourself out, Rarity still in her vampire costume. In one last vain attempt to seduce you she asks if you’d like any marshmallow madness before you go. Your mind is too full of fuck to answer her. “Goodnight Rarity.”

”Goodnight… sweet prince…”

You pace back to Sweet Apple Acres, passing a row of bushes. “Goodnight Twilight.”

”Goodnight… Wait no-“ Yeah you’re going to need to take another shower. Maybe two. Possibly three.


You close the door and rest your back against it, a feeling of safety washing over you. You make your way down the hall and to the kitchen where the rest of the Apples are finishing up their own dinner. ”Soooo, how was your night?” Applejack asks.

“Fine. There wasn’t a lot of talking and it felt very formal.”

”So no hijinks?”

“Nope. She fed me dinner, showed me her costume. The usual.” You take a step upstairs before turning back. “Oh, and she offered to polish my horn.”

Granny Smith snickers as milk erupts from Big Mac’s nostrils. Applejack looks like she’s about to explode, and Applebloom is straight up confused, “Applejack, what’s that mean?”

“You’ll find out when you’re older.” Today was an odd day.

Chapter 8: Nightmare Night

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You wipe the sweat from your brow as you store the last of your shipment into the barn. Applejack had a mandate. You were allowed to get off work early if you finished off the northwest field. Of course she would tell you this on Nightmare Night, an event that you’ve been looking forward to. It’s been a long while since you’ve had to use your camo and it’s about time that it got a reboot. You head back inside, peeling off you armor as you walk in, the muddy pieces are in need of a good cleaning. The hose out back is suitable for the task. But first things first, shower and food. As you turn the faucet Applejack calls for you, “Anon? That you?”

“The one and only!”

”You got that section done yet?”

“Yep. Just put them all in the barn.”

”Come find me when you’re done with that there shower. I need your help.”

“No problem, I’m just finishing up.” You finish quickly and dry yourself off, picking up your freshly washed garment off the bed.

Stepping out into the hall you knock on Applejack’s door, “Come in. Gosh darnit…” Spools of what look like medical wrap litter the floor and all wrapped up in the middle is a tied up Applejack. She tries to force a laugh, and all you can do is shake your head.

“Looks like you really could use some help.”

”Ya could say that.”

You shut the door as the tries to untangle herself. “So, what exactly are you doing?”

”Trying to… git this costume…” she grunts further wrapping herself up.

“Don’t even think about going down to Ponyville. The doc said no unnecessary trotting.”

”Well my doctor ain’t here now is he? Besides, I’ve been getting better.”

“Be that as it may, you know I can’t have you hurting your leg again.”

”I know. That’s why you’re gonna watch after me.”

“Calling in that second favor?”

”Nnope. I just know you’re gonna.”

“That’s quite the assumption.”

”Am I wrong?”

“…” For a farmhand she’s one insightful little minx. She knows just which buttons to press. You sigh and approach her. “You’re doing this all wrong by the way.”

You strip away the bandages revealing her toned legs, the muscles tensing when you accidently brush your hand against them. She steps out of the mess one by one until you reach her cast. Your hesitation is unmistakable. ”I said I forgive ya. You can let it go.”

“Were it so easy…” You finish up your work, effectively freeing her of her constraints.

Applejack stretches her legs, “Phew, much obliged partner.”

“Don’t mention it. Seriously, don’t. I don’t need that kind of rep.”

She chuckles and promises not to tell a soul, “Mind helping me get back into costume?”

“You’re just a glutton for punishment now aren’t you?”

”Is that a no?”

“I hate you,” you joke.

”Love ya.” You roll your eyes and take a nearby roll and begin wrapping at her hoof. You work your way up, the bandage sculpting to her leg comfortably. ”Ya know,” she remarks as you get further up her leg, “This is the first time I’ve seen ya without your armor.”

The grey suit you’d long hidden now stands prominently out in the open, and only when she brings it up do you feel truly naked. “Crap. I forgot to put it on, give me on-“

She rests a hoof on your shoulder, “Ah don’t mind the sight.” Well, if it’s ok with her… You guess it isn’t that bad. Her eyes feast upon your skintight suit which leaves little to the imagination, “Ya might be a seven.”

“Not everyone can appreciate my great looks,” you boast jokingly. You finish up the leg and begin wrapping her rear, Applejack getting antsy. “Hold still or I’ll have to hold you down and do it, and I’m not into BDSM.”


“Nothing, just stop moving.” Her breaths slow as you reach her upper body, her chest rising and falling in rhythm with your own. This… this is… Different, yet, strangely familiar.

”Why’d ya stop?”

“It- it’s nothing. Just thinking is all.” She buys your excuse and you finish wrapping her torso and other legs, taking care not to make it too tight. You take a step back and view the mummified pony and rub your chin in contemplation. “Something’s not right… It’s missing something.” Before she can respond you plop her cowboy hat right back on her head. “It’s just not the same without it.”

”Thanks partner, now how about you? Need any help?”

“Nah, the white sheet over the body is too childish. I’m just going in my armor.”

“Well that ain’t very festive of ya.”

“Oho, but that’s what you think.”

”Well yeah, it kinda is.” You ignore her statement and ask if she can move around fine. She wobbles around, getting used to the wrappings before sounding the all clear.

“Good. I can’t tell you how much I hate shoddy workmanship.” She thanks you again for your help and heads downstairs while you get your armor on. You join her out by the barn even going so far as to help her board the wagon because you’re just an upstanding gentlemen. Naww, you’re still a dick. You just haven’t shown it much lately. Now if you can get loose today…

Applebloom and Granny Smith are already on, the pair dressed up as a duo of witches, Granny snoring away. Big Mac’s dressed up as… what the hell is he supposed to be? He’s got on a top hat along with a black cape with a white skull apple thing. “Should I bother asking?”

”Nnope.” With Big Mac by your side pulling the wagon you walk into Ponyville, the town bustling with activity. The little ones scamper about with their parents, everyone dressed up for the holiday. It’s a welcome sight to see so many people just happy for once. The town’s been decorated as well adding to the dark yet cheerful night. The ponyfolk’ve set up a variety of games and the cheers of the contestants don’t hurt your ears as they once would.

“And you would’ve had me bucking apples all night. The gall…”

”I wasn’t gonna make you miss out so quit your jabbering.” Mac stops the cart and you help everyone out. Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle come running along, and before you can make a comment they’ve snagged Apple Bloom and disappear into the crowd.

”Let her go Anon,” Granny Smith says wobbling over to you, “Those young rascals can take care of themselves.”

“Yes ma’am.” You and Applejack get over to one of the gaming stalls, a game where you toss spiders onto some web.

”Want to give it a shot?”

“I’m good thanks,” you say giving another pony a shot, “I don’t want to set the bar too high.” You watch as the contestants have their fun, giving a sigh as you grow bored.

”Ya don’t have to just stay here ya know.”

“I know, but I know you just can’t be without my company.”

”Don’t make me smack you. Go on and have some fun.”

“You sure?”

”O’ course, it’s what Nightmare Night’s all about.”

“Applejack,” you say switching on camo like an old suit, “You have no idea what beast you just unleashed.”

”Don’t get into too much trouble.”

“I will.”

You wave your hand in front of her until it becomes apparent that she can’t see you. Good you’d hate for her to have to hit you. *flick* ”Anon!” she hollers as you giggle off into the crowd. Twas but a taste. What manner of shenanigans shall you pull? You don’t have time to contemplate on this pressing issue when you spot a familiar unicorn. You sneak up by her side and lean against a wall as she chats with her lizard, finally uncloaking.

“How goes it Detective Sparkle?” you ask nonchalantly observing your fingers.

Twilight gasps at your sudden appearance, making your day a little better already, “Do you make it a habit of stalking people?” You give her a knowing gaze.

“An irony in that statement?”

”And what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?” she avoids the question.

“I don’t know. Thinking of exactly how I want to fuck with the ponies. When I saw you I lost my train of thought.”


“It’s kind of like watching a train wreck, you know you shouldn’t stare but you can’t help it.”


You sigh as you are content with watching the ponies in the time being. They go about their business but you find yourself staring more at Applejack’s stand than the others. This doesn’t go unnoticed however. ”I figured you were one for the rough and tough. I couldn’t see you with somepony like Rarity.” Speaking of, Rarity just happens to be passing by and flashes you with her seductive eyes. You shiver before realizing exactly what Twilight’s implying.

“Really? We’re two different species you’re just imagining things.”

”Am I though? You’re showing symptoms remarkably similar to that I read about in-“

“A book and what did I tell you about reading?”

”I don’t need a book to tell me that you have feelings for her. So, am I wrong?”

Applejack sees you and waves, you doing so in turn. “If you tell a soul-“

”I won’t… for the right price.”

“I won’t slit your throat.”

”Deal.” Of course, Twilight’s company only lasts for so long.

“Well, I better get going. Children to terrorize and such.”

”Don’t let me keep you.” You spot a prospective target and stealth your way over to her and her entourage. The pony squees as the door swings open and takes her share of candy. She won’t know what hit her. You grab the pink menace by the tail, squawking loudly as she flails about, everypony shrieking at the sight of the floating pony.


You thought she was freaking out before, but when you mentioned the candy she went haywire. A hoof hits your hand and you lose your grip as the slippery pony shakes free. ”Everypony run! It’s the Ghost of Nightmare Past!” The crowds go into an uproar as the pony incites a panic. Only Pinkie.

You follow the group as they try to escape, but there are no brakes on the rape train. And when there’s delicious treats to be had you can’t resist. You grab one of the younger colts and drag him squealing away down an alley. ”We can’t help him,” Pinkie yelps. “He’s been decandified!” The group grieves at the loss of their friend, but not before fleeing the scene. The colts screams are muffled as you force a sucker into his mouth and snag his stash of goods.

Pinkie takes a breather by the town square as her group tries to reorganize. ”Everyone check your candy, we can’t have him sneaking up on us.” If only she knew, you kneel beside another disguised pony.

“Return the candy, or suffer my curse.”

She goes wide-eyed, the mare shaking like a leaf. ”Keep it together,” Pinkie says unaware of your presence.

“I MAKE IT RAIN!!!” You grab the mare and twirl her in the air as her candy goes everywhere. “You can run my little ponies, but you cannot hide.”

This goes on as you take them down one-by-one like some sort of candy serial killer. ”Ponies fall back now!” You rest on the rooftop and watch Pinkie hold together the last of her group together. Damn this bag is getting heavy. You’re not sure how much longer you can jack their sweets. ”Is there any sign of him?” Pinkie asks one of her underlings as they creep under you.

”Negative Pinkie, I think we lost him.” You perch yourself in lunging position as they begin to calm back down.

“Not yet.” You tackle Pinkie Pie before she can get away, the real prize in this little chase.

”RUN! It’s too late for me!” They don’t have to be told twice, practically pissing themselves as they escape your wrath. When she’s sure they’re gone Pinkie goes still and smiles, “That was fun. We have to do this again Anon.”

You come out of cloak, your ruse ruined. “How did you know it was me?”

”Silly, everypony knows there’s no Nightmare Ghost.” She knew it was you from moment one. Every time you open your mouth…

“Then… why’d you play the part when you knew it was me?”

She pops back up and adjusts her beak, “’Cause it was fun. Wanna go again?”

“Not really, you kind of threw off my groove. Damn, I really thought I had you scared.”

”If you want I can pretend I didn’t know it was you.”

“It’s alright. It’s just not the same.” A bolt of lightning flashes across the sky along with a blast of thunder, a silhoute cast upon the earth.

”I HAVE RETURNED! MUAHAHAHA!” You stare upwards into the sky where a Pegasus drawn chariot rests and a creature as black as night in tow. Her piercing eyes are only complemented by the slick wings and starry mane on her back.

“And just who might that be? Pinkie?” You turn to find Pinkie shrieking off down the street. The chariot swoops down overhead, the fiendish mare bellowing into the sky. You try to ask another pony, but he’s too busy hollering for everypony to hide. In fact everypony seems to be running off in every which-a-way. “Seriously who the hell is that?” Well since no one else is going to answer you… “Twilight, who is that- loud Pegasus unicorn thing in the chariot?”

She drops down the patio ceiling stunned that you found her out. ”How did you-“

“You’re always there, but seriously.”

She dusts herself off and readjusts her hat, “Her? That’s Princess Luna and she’s an Alicorn.”

“And it’s general practice to flee from your ruler here?” She explains how this entire celebration is based around her past persona, Nightmare Moon. “If everyone is afraid of her, why would she go around looking like that?”

”Because sometimes being scared is fun.”



“That’s retarded.”

”Halt!” the princess’s voice commands from behind you, “Who art thou?” So fucking loud… You turn to look at her, her body changed slightly. Her appearance is far less menacing than when you first saw her, but that voice is still there.

”Princess,” she bows, “It’s great to see you again.”

”For me as well Twilight Sparkle, but I ask again, who is this…” Twilight eyes you, eyes darting to the ground signaling to bow.

You look back to Luna and extend a hand. “Name’s Anon, nice to meet ya.”

”Charmed,” she shakes your hand. Shaking hands with a princess, you figured it’d be a bit more climactic. Ah well, what’re you gonna do. ”He’s taller than you reported.”

“I ate my veggies as a- What?”

Twilight looks away from your gaze. ”Didn’t Twilight tell you? She reports directly to my sister. She has been… watching you.”

“I wasn’t able to tell,” you joke earning a blush from Twilight. So she had the inside scoop with the Princess and she didn’t even share it with you. Shame.

”Twilight, I wish for us to chat in private.”

”Of course Princess, Anon…”

You wave it off and walk off down the street and leave them to their business. You didn’t want to listen to what they had to say anyway. Finding your way back to the cart you plop yourself on the back and stretch your arms. Meh, you had your fun for a while. You’re just not having the fun you thought you’d had. But at least you managed to score a metric shit ton of candy. You open up your bag of loot one second and the next its gone, a faint snickering hanging on the wind. You’re going to fucking kill Dash.

It’s a lost cause though. The Corps issued you a rifle, not wings. But you’ll have your revenge, there’s no doubt about that. The screaming finally dies down after what feels like an eternity. You might have permanent hearing impairment after that session. Gwah! Why are you bored?! This is fucking pony Halloween! You should be out having fun, but no, you’re sitting in this cart bored to tears. Well, not tears. Spartans never cry, we’ve just got something in our eye. Maybe this is how things are going to be. Could your life just be going stale? That doesn’t seem right.

“Infinity,” you say on the comm. What are you doing Anon? You know they aren’t there. “I- I’m thinking bout staying a little longer...” You shut off the comm, an intense sense of relief forming inside. You’d rather have a boring stale life than the same thing but you’ll probably die because of it.

Plus, you’ve got something here now. It’s not much, but you can call it your own. ”Ready to go Sugarcube?” And she happens to have an accent.

“Not quite. Just taking a load off. How about yourself?”

”Me? Ah just got relieved. There ain’t no way I’m leaving yet.” You look back over to the game station, Luna and Twilight playing, the princess shouting something about fun and doubles. ”I was ‘bout to check out the haunted house.”

“Sounds like fun.”

She shifts her hooves, “Ah was wondering if you’d like to come with me.” You chuckle at her nervousness.

“The tough Applejack scared to go alone?”

She seriouses the fuck up, ”Ah can take care of myself thank ya.”

You raise your hands and jump off the cart. “I kid AJ, I kid. I know you’re not scared of nothing. Just poking fun is all.”

She raises her head almost defiantly, “So you joining me or are you gonna just keep poking?”

“Of course I’d like to go with you. You shouldn’t have to ask.” You slip off your helmet and take in the night’s air. “So which way’s the house?”

She points her head and the two of you head on over, your helmet attached by the hip. ”So I heard you’re staying.” You eye the mare curiously, “Ya know I don’t like eavesdropping, but I couldn’t help it.”

“Yeah well. If they haven’t answered me so far, I don’t they deserve this hunk of man meat.”

She chuckles before continuing, “It didn’t sound like they were the ones ya were trying to convince.”

“I don’t need anymore convincing. I’ve got everything I could need right here. A place to live, a job, friends…”

”And family?”

You sport a grin and run your fingers through her mane. “Well I’ve got the Apples for that don’t I?”

”Ya certainly do.” You open the door for her and she steps through, Twilight finally turning to look at you. Her jaw hits the floor to see you without your helmet and scrambles for a note pad. Silly egghead.


You and Applejack emerge a half hour later, Applejack clutched to your side laughing her flank off. She struggles to breath and you find yourself giggling as well. ”Ah- Ah think they were- More scared of you than you were of them.” You waft the air about your nose.

“I didn’t expect them to be that scared though.”

She barely has the strength to keep herself standing when you bring it up. You pick up the mare and place her back atop your shoulder. “Gah, you’ve picked up some weight after this long. You’re gonna break my shoulder.”

”I don’t need weight to do that.” You chuckle and place her back on the cart.

“Need I remind you the first time you attacked me? It didn’t end too well for you if I recall.”

”Is that a challenge?”

“And just what if it is?” She growls playfully as the others start packing things in. “You all done for the night?”

Applebloom starts talking a mile a minute, but judging by the candy she’s stored you can understand why. Granny Smith says something ‘bout today’s young whipper snappers and Big Mac just nods. ”Good ol’ fashioned fun for all,” Applejack hollers as the crowds begin to dissipate.

“Well let’s not waste anymore time. Applebloom’s got school in the morning and Mac and I have to keep up the field work.”

”Eeyup.” You help the family aboard and trek back to the barn.


”Night Anon!” Applebloom yells still on her sugar high as she heads back in the house. Mac helps Granny indoors as well.

“Come on Applejack, time to get some shut eye.”

”You never answer my question,” she replies much to your confusion.

“What question?”

”Challenge accepted.”

Oh no she- Before you can protest the mare tackles you full force and you lose your balance, falling back into the hay. “Dangit Applejack. I gotta go to bed.”

”Five more minutes,” she says trying to pin you down. Well if she wants a fight.

“That means I’ve got five minutes to make you my personal tickle slave.”

Terror fills her eyes, “Oh no! You ain’t gonna- Ah haha hehehahaha!” You flip her onto her back and set your fingers loose upon her ticklish skin.

“Give up? Huh? I can do this all day.”

”N-never! Ahaha,” she cries. “Ooh Anon my leg…”

You stop at the mere mention of it, Applejack cradling it in her other hoof. “I’m sorry Applejack I just got-“ No, not that smile. She pulls you down by the arm and sits squarely on your chest.

”And I win again.”

“You cheated,” you argue lying on your back.

”Meh I improvised.” You shake your head as she lies down on you. ”You’d make a good bed ya know.” Her mane sits next to your head, the fragrance of cinnamon apples and shampoo filling your nose.

“Applejack, I have to work in the morning.” She yawns but stays where she is. It’s not that you mind the smell, but she’s acting pretty- pretty. “AJ…”

”Five more minutes.” You sigh reaching your hand up and stroking her mane as she lies atop you. She hums, the beat of her heart echoing down through your armor. This is nice…

“Five more minutes.” Today… You wish today would last forever.

Chapter 9: Derby Turby

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Another day, another peaceful dream laced in white. You’re unsure of why you keep envisioning this place. Perhaps it’s your mind trying to soothe your subconscious. Now that you look at it though, the room’s just bland. There’s no color, no spark to keep it going. The walls seem to be closer in then you originally believed. You look down at yourself, your body wrapped in a white light that blends almost seamlessly into the environment. One part that isn’t hidden by the spectrum is a little funny now that you think about it. You wiggle your toes to and fro and watch the simple yet chaotic rhythm it contains. The nubs of flesh sift through the air reminding you of Pinkie in a small sense. The bounds of energy so fiercely contained in such a small mannerism. Lights dim as you envision the town and where you left off last. Oh yes, the aftermath.


You open your eyes as a stinging ray of light pierces the barn door, holding up your hand to block the blinding perpetrator. ”Finally awake huh partner?”

“Ap- Oh, hey AJ. *yawn* Mind shutting the door? My eyes are killing me.” She walks over to the door and bucks it shut, the hinge’s rattling clawing at your ear drums. “That- wasn’t very nice.”

”Serves you right for drinking that much cider.” You stand up against one of the supports and crack your back, your armor spurring back to life.

“I wasn’t that drunk.”

”Ya tried to ride Big Macintosh like a bull.” Huh, you don’t remember that.

“Did I win?”

”That’s not the point.”

Thinking back, you didn’t have to be drunk to do something like that. Your rub your head, your helmet- MISSING. “Oh shit. Where’s my helmet?! I need a mirror.”

You rummage through the barn, finding a pool of standing water to catch your reflection. ”That piece of metal’s fine Anon. I kept it safe for ya.” At least that’s one thing you don’t have to worry about.


Alright, you’ve still got all your teeth, no needle or burn marks, hair seems to be okay. ”Twilight didn’t get ya either.”

“Phew, that’s a load off my shoulders.”

”Ah do wonder what she put in your drink though.”



“You best,” you reply lightly. She sits beside you, her eyes wandering down to her leg. “So how’s it feel to be back at 100%?”

”Feels good. I ain’t one for lollygagging.” She lifts her hoof, still getting used to the tiny sensations that once eluded her.

“Admittedly, it is a bit disheartening to see you like this.” She replies with a look of curiosity. “It’s just- The entire reason I came here was because you needed help.”

She nods as she begins to understand your predicament. ”Ya think we’re gonna leave ya high and dry.”

“Is that wrong though? With Winter fast approaching and you back in the game,” you shrug. “It’s too costly to keep me here.”

”Cost ain’t an issue.”

You look her in the eye. “We both know that’s not true.”

“Ya don’t know that.”

“I’ve said before that I am many things. Blind is not one of them, and neither is naive.” Sweet Apple Acres isn’t in the best state of things. The equipment’s rusty from sheer age, the walls falling apart. The extra weight you bring on can only hasten this place’s fall. No amount of labor you can exert will make you worth keeping. You’ve taken an economics class before, you know the signs that you didn’t sleep through. “It’s inevitable.”

She sighs, reaching behind her and grabbing your helmet, passing it into your hands. ”What do you see when ya look at yourself?”

“Applejack don’t-“

”Anon…” she speaks, her will shining through, “What do you see?” Fine, you’ll entertain her. You look down at the pool, your eyes staring back at you.

“The only thing I see is a man with a job he can’t finish.”

She takes this in, “Do you know what I see?” She places a hoof on your shoulder and nudges you softly. “I see an Apple.”

“Might want to lay off the drugs.”

She smacks you harder this time, you grinning in turn. ”You aren’t just somepony who wandered into our house looking for work.” Yeah, you were a Spartan. ”Sure we kept you ‘round to help, but that ain’t the only reason.” She looks into the water and into your eyes. ”We kept you… because you’re family, and we don’t let our family go.” You try and fight the smile growing on your face, but you can’t stop it. ”And no matter how bad things get, we’ll always be there for you.”

You pull her close with your arm around her, head against hers as you sit at the water’s edge. “I’m honored to be a part of a family like yours.”

”We know. That’s what makes you an Apple.” Maybe you’re getting soft… maybe your entire time here is some simulation that you’re failing. But you’d be glad to fail. As long as it’s for her.


You stare into the clear open sky, the sun’s aura shining upon the land with its purity. Your radar isn’t picking up anything new and you’re getting impatient. “So exactly when did she say they were coming?” you ask Applejack who’s getting just as impatient.

She huffs, blowing a strand of air out of her face, “Any minute now. I swear if they- There, about time.” A massive blip appears on your radar, but you hear them before you actually see them.

”HI!” And it’s Pinkie Pie. She’s piloting that balloon from the race, setting it down just outside the barn. Inside is the rest of the gang, excluding Rainbow Dash who’s soaring through the air like a kid on speed. ”Hop on in,” Pinkie cheers, “We’ve got room for days!”

Applejack hops on board, “Come on. Ain’t afraid of heights are ya?”

“Quite the contrary, I love heights. What people fear is the fall.” You step onboard the aircraft, Applejack piling in the sandbags.

”Let’s fly!” Pinkie shouts pointing to the heavens.

Pinkie cocks her head, “I said… Leeeet’s FLY!” Still nothing. “Huh? That usually works.”

Twilight’s the first to respond, ”Something must be weighing us down, but wha-“ All eyes turn to you, each with different voice behind it. You know at least what Rarity and Twilight are thinking, strip.

“Hold on, if you think I’m going to strip down to my undercarriage you got another thing coming.”

“Twilight,” Applejack says saving your skin, “Can’t you just fiddle with this here boat to make it fly?”

”I could, but that takes concentrated effort for the whole flight.”

“Welp, turns out I can’t go to the show after all, shame.”

Pinkie starts bouncing up and down, ”Or you could make him lighter.”

“…I hate you Pinkie.” Not giving you time to protest Twilight casts a spell on your person, a purple haze surrounding you before dissipating into your armor. And like fucking magic, the balloon starts to fly.

“Don’t even think about casting something else on me. Especially without my permission.”

”Not cool,” Pinkie says shaking her head in rhythm with yours.

“And you!” you turn to Pinkie.

”Who me?”

“Yes you.”

”Couldn’t be.”

“Then wh…” Fuck. Right into her trap. “Did I already say I hated you?”

”Yep,” she grins madly. Figures. You already used your hate count for the day, have to wait till tomorrow for another go. You lean against the edge, her gravity spell still fucking up with your balance. It’ll take a bit but you’re sure you’ll get used to the change.

“So… Who’re these Wondercolts?”

Dash is pressed up against your visor in a second, “They’re called the Wonderbolts!”

Applejack slaps your extended hand, “Check.”

“And mate.”

Dash grovels as you two snicker, “The Wonderbolts are only the most fantastic group of Pegasi in the existence of forever!” She drabbles on and on about these guys for the whole trip, listing off their names, ranks, accomplishments, the whole shebang. When you spot the pristine cloud city closing in you can’t help but stare at its ornate glory. The Infinity was a collaborative effort built as a monument for scientific and technological superiority.

Cloudsdale… The clouds gracefully fold and entwine together as they make up the structure of this beauty. It’s formless, yet still it has shape. A floating paradox in the sky, dripping rainbows and… Holy shit it’s actually pissing out a rainbow, like a fucking waterfall. ”Home sweet home,” Dash sounds as you near the city.

”It’s as beautiful as I remember,” Fluttershy peeps.


A pair of flyers come in to monitor your approach, the balloon coming to a rest on the outer bay. You’re about to step out when Twilight stops you, “Remember?” Oh yeah, that book.

“Only Pegasus ponies can walk on clouds.” A burst of energy shoots out of her horn and covers your group like a blanket. “Dammit Twilight.”

”Sorry,” she says happily. She’s not sorry… You step out onto the ornate flooring, the cloud condensed such as to grant it a look of marble. Looking out, all of Cloudsdale sports a similar texture much like those ancient guys had in Old Italy.

”Come on, if we get there first we might be able to see them warm up.”

“Remind me again of why I’m here,” you say to Twilight, the one who invited you.

”Dash was able to score tickets for all of us with one extra.”

“So why didn’t you give it to Spike?”

”Oh…” You let it be and follow the street where Rainbow Dash took off. The Pegasi go quiet as you approach, much like those in Ponyville had in the past. They must not get a lot of other worldly creatures here. None like you for that matter. You come upon Dash handing over her tickets in the express lane, the mare hurrying your group along.

“What’s so great about watching a race anyways? It’s just speed.”

“It’s not JUST speed,” Dash corrects you as you enter the stadium. “It’s about athleticism, determination, bravery, courage…”

”And going really fast,” AJ whispers to you.

“Meh, it’s free entertainment so I’m not gonna complain.” You walk out onto the bleachers and get a full view of the open field, a thin layer of cloud serving at the floor. Dash practically squees when she sees the team on the field.

“They’re not even flying.”

”So perfect…”

You roll your eyes and find your seat, plopping down on the cloud. It fits your butt just right. You wonder if they have a Sleep Experts pony branch. This gives a whole new meaning to sitting on cloud nine. ”I hope you like waiting,” Twilight explains, “Dash got us here a good hour early.”

“If Pinkie can stay still so can I. Ain’t that right-“ That pony can’t even sit for ten seconds… “At least I’ve got Applejack as company, ain’t that ri-“

”She went to get refreshments.” Okay, you’re 0-2, but that’s alright.

“Fluttershy doesn’t mind sitting right. Right?”

”Went with Applejack.” Well that’s just great. Twilight sits beside you, another seductress laying to your left.

“D-Dash?” She’s too busy gazing at the Wondercunts. You tuck your hands in as the two fiends gaze upon you like a pair of lions. You flick on your shields like a pair of old gloves. No Marshmallow Madness for them.

You stay put as the crowd begins to pour into the stadium. ”What y’all up to?” Applejack questions when she comes back with a box of popcorn.

”Oh nothing. Just making sure Anon stays out of trouble,” Rarity lies through her teeth.

You look to her pleadingly through your visor. “They tried to touch me…”

Applejack furrows an eye at the two who slink back in their seats. ”Mind making some room,” she says, more of a statement than a question. Applejack sits on one side and Fluttershy on the other, the two acting as a barrier from the two perverts. ”Ya alright?”

“Are the mean ladies gone now?”

”They ain’t gonna hurt you ya big baby.”

You sigh and kick your legs up as if nothing had happened. “Bring some for me?”

”O’ course.” You don’t have time to get any as trumpets blare out across the stadium, a lone Pegasus flying into the center.

”It’s starting!” Rainbow squeals shooting up to the railing.

”Mares and Gentlecolts, it is with great pleasure that I present to you the annual Wonderbolts Derby!” The crowd cheers as the Wonderbolts burst into the air leaving a trail of smoke and lightning in their wake.

“Okay,” you nod your head, “That’s actually pretty cool.”

”And I know how much you’ve been waiting for this race but first a quick announcement from none other than the Princess herself.” The crowd oohs as a light shines up towards the viewing booth as an Alicorn steps out to the balcony. Everypony bows their heads, you zooming in on her. She speaks as you observe her white coat and naturally flowing mane consisting of various light colors. She certainly fits the role.


Her eyes trail over the crowd, stopping on you, “Please, enjoy.” Shit you weren’t even listening, the crowd roaring over you once more. You continue to watch the booth as everypony’s attention turns to the race track where they begin to line up.

”Anon,” Applejack grabs your attention, “You’re gonna miss it.”

“Oh yeah,” when you look back to the balcony, the princess had already retreated inside.


You sit back as the ponies fly for your amusement, taking your thoughts off the princess’s gaze. Surprisingly you start to get into it, cheering for one pony and the next. ”Anon,” AJ shouts again halfway through the race.


She points her head to Twilight who’s motioning for you to follow. “No funny business?”

”No funny business,“ Twilight answers. That doesn’t sound good.


You exit through the stadium, the others too enthralled with the race to notice. “Where are we going exactly?”

”The princess called for an audience with you.”

“And exactly why would she do that?”

”I don’t know.”

“How do you not know? Aren’t you like her study buddy or something?”

”I’m her student, but that doesn’t mean she tells me everything.” She must have some idea, but… she doesn’t. The tone of her voice gives that away. Whatever the princess wants, she doesn’t want Twilight to know about it. Beforehand at least. You walk up a flight of stairs, a contingent of guards directly outside. They stay unflinching at your approach, Twilight and yourself entering the booth.

The room’s devoid of much of what you’d expect from a royalty’s chamber. There’s no servant by her side or bottle of chardonnay she’s tending. Just the room and the Princess looking out the window to the field below. ”Celestia!” Twilight calls galloping over to her.

The Princess smiles and hugs the mare, “It is good to see you again my faithful student. How go your studies?”

”Great, I mean, well. I’ve been sending my friendship reports just as you asked.”

”I appreciate it,” she looks to you her grin dissipating, “I wish to talk to your friend Twilight.”

”Of course, but he doesn’t like to talk that much.”

Twilight turns to face you, Celestia looking down at her pupil, “Alone.” The transition from joy to disappointment on Twilight’s face is almost comical if it wasn’t so tragic. Naww it’s still funny.

But she sucks it up, “Yes Princess. I’ll be waiting outside.” Twilight makes a swift exit, leaving just you and the princess.

”I thought you’d be taller.”

“Can’t please them all,” you sigh plopping down on the couch.

She giggles softly, “Make yourself at home.”

“Thanks,” you reply propping up your feet and taking off your helmet. She watches you as you sit passing the time. “Well. If this is all we’re going to do I think I’m missing a race.”

”I did not excuse you,” she says as you begin to get up. Ok then. Guess you’re just gonna sit here.

“Whatever you say princess.” Her continued observance is rather disconcerting and puts you on edge.

Finally, she breaks her silence, “You are an interesting creature.”

“Tell me about it. I can do some things with my hands that no ordinary person should.”

”Poor behavior towards authority. Twilight was certainly correct in that regard. Tell me… Is it true what she says about you?”

“Yes, but only on Thursdays and only if their husbands aren’t around. Just feels weird otherwise.”

”About the manticore. Is it true?”

“No sense of humor,” you mutter. “What? That I took it out in a single hit? Sure, while you’re at it claim that I ventured into hell and slept with Satan’s wife.”

”So it’s false.”

“I never said that,” you tease, trying your hardest to get on her nerves.

”You understand how dangerous a manticore is correct?”

“Yeah, Twilight said how nasty those were. Ohuhu, scary. I’ve fought worse.”

She takes a seat across from you, “Explain.”

“Hmmm, I don’t think so.”

”You would disobey me?”

You chuckle and get into sitting position, elbows on your knees. “Princess. Think about it this way. You stared at me from the crowd, later on you get your student to fetch me, she doesn’t know what’s going on, I don’t know what’s going on. This puts me a little on edge.” You cross your legs and lean back. “You tell me why I’m here and I’ll tell you what you want to know. Deal?”

”Perceptive, a worthy quality, one that few share. To answer you, I merely wish to talk.”

“And just why is that?”

”Anon. Think about it this way. You appear out of nowhere, vanquish a powerful foe in a single stride, elude my personal student and then- Poof. You allow yourself to be seen. This, Anon, puts me on edge.”

You rub your chin. “I see what you did there, and I like it. But first let me assure you that I mean no harm to anypony. Except for Twilight. I need to pay her back for the jumper cables.”

”Jumper cables?”

“Yeah, long story. Anyways, how was your day?”

She laughs silently, “This is what I get for asking her to get to know you.”

“Ahhh, so you put her up to it.”

”Yes, but I didn’t mean for that to happen.”

You shrug and sit back. “So how about that talk?”


You talk for… who knows how long. Listening to her was simply fascinating, more so than you thought. To think that she’s lived for thousands of years and still looks so young. What is her secret? She’s probably got the fountain of youth stored in her bathroom or something. She asks you about your job, before you came to Equestria. You spoke to her of being a Spartan, the sacrifices that humanity’s had to male to ensure peace. ”And what of your task now? Where does it stand?”

“This place was never in the job description. It’s without words.”

”You seem to like it here.”

“I like the ponies, people, whatever. Things are different here and I like that.”

”Tell me, does Applejack know of your past? The things you’ve done? Those you’ve lost?”

“How did you know about- She doesn’t-“ You furrow your brows angrily and look to the door. “Twilight…”

”I admit, it was strange when she wrote about your affection for the mare. Certainly the physical differences-“

“Alright, I get it. It’s weird okay. Go ahead and rub it in. It’s what you authoritative types do.”

She acts almost shocked at your interruption. ”And just what does that mean?”

“I’ve never met a CO or person above me who hasn’t beaten me over the head with this stuff. No one. I do one thing wrong and they’ll resort to it, a crux to demean me.”

”Anon it was not intention to poke fun.” She’s right. She isn’t your CO, she’s not placing herself above you. She’s different from them.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t assume.”

”It is quite alright. What I meant to say, was that it must’ve been hard to see through that barrier.”

You swallow hard and look to the floor. “Not that hard.”

She looks to the sunset, “Looks like work calls once more.” You stand back up as she walks you to the door, “This chat, was rather pleasant if I should say.”

“For us both it would seem.”

”Thank you for speaking with me. Have a safe journey.”

“And thank you ma’am. Good luck with the whole sun raising thing.”

She chuckles, “Indeed, and if there’s anything I can do to help you, don’t be afraid to ask.”

“Of course.” You’re about to exit the door when an idea comes to mind. “Actually there is something I’d like to ask. A favor, more accurate.”

”Of course.” You whisper in her ear, too close to the door to take any chances. She nods and hums at your request. ”I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thank you Princess.”

”Please… Call me Celestia.”

“Farewell Celestia.”


You head out through the doors and downstairs where an anxious Twilight is waiting with her friends. She practically tackles you, thankfully you still had your shields turned on causing her zap backwards. “Which way to the balloon again?”

”This waaaaaaaaaaaaay!” Pinkie says gliding down the cloud like a giant slide.

Twilight comes out of her shock and follows you aggressively, “What’d she say? What’d you talk about?” The questions go on and on all the way until you reach the balloon. ”Did she-“ you clamp her mouth shut and help the other ponies board.

”Ready to head back home? Granny’s cooking her famous shepherd’s pie.” Applejack asks.

You help her on board with a smile. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Stepping back in you finally release Twilight’s gob, “What’s that for?”

“Not a soul…”

Today was a slitting Twilight’s throat day… Okay fine, maybe not.

Chapter 10: The Spartan Claus

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You stand in the snow, frost built up in the grooves of your armor. Note to self: Keep your mouth shut. You just had to ask what they were doing for the holidays. Oh its winter surely the ponies have Christmas. But noooo, they had no clue what you were talking about. It could’ve ended there if you kept your mouth shut but you had to blab on. The season of giving and so on and so forth. But Twilight, the fiend that she is, decides she wants to be culturally sensitive. And of course, Rarity jumps onboard that train in an instinct because in her mind, “It’s what a lady would do.”

You shudder, more out of the prospect of getting in her head than from the cold. ”Hey Anon,” Pinkie says popping out of the snow like the pink popsicle she is, “Whatcha-“

“Quiet, I’m monologuing.”

”Monowhoha?” You cast the voice out of your head as you stand amidst the building snow.

Twilight and Rarity thought it would be great to let your holiday cross over here as well. So you have to deal with their constant badgering trying to get everything perfect. ”Come on Anon, let’s play a game or something,” Pinkie groans. And Pinkie’s been pulling double duty to ‘lift the holiday spirit.’ Unfortunately the one thing they did have here was snowball fights. ”Hey Anon!” And Pinkie had an unfair advantage with that mother fucking- ”Duck!”

A blast of snow pounds into your back and subsequently buries you under the mass of ice. You’re going to have to steal that party cannon from her someday. Good news is, at least you can’t hear her now. That is until she gnaws through the layer next to your head and plants her face against your helmet. ”Hiii.”

*Sigh* “Hello Pinkie.”

You flick on your shields, the current melting away the ice encompassing you leaving a puddle at your feet, Pinkie falling with it. ”Come on. I know you want to play.” In fact she’s right, but you’ve got stuff to do.

“Can’t, Christmas plans and all.”

She shrugs, “Suit yourself.” Pinkie hops along, disappearing in and out of the snow as she goes. So, where were you? Oh yeah, the town hall. You knock on the door and enter the abode, the warmth of the fire melting off anymore snow that stuck it out. Twilight brightens up when she sees you, the mare donning a jacket along with her lizard companion. You still refuse to call him a dragon, the little bastard hasn’t earned his stripes.

“Oh the weather outside is frightful…”

”I know this one,” she exclaims pressing her head, “But the fire is so delightful!” Oh yeah, and she’s trying to memorize all these songs.

“I regret ever telling you about Christmas.”

”Oh come now Anon, be charitable. It is the season of giving,” Rarity argues in her new fashionable ensemble.

“Ah yes, I forgot someone’s the element of generosity.”

”Why of course she is,” the mayor sits behind her desk by the fire flicking through papers.

Twilight sits you down, “We’re just trying to make you feel at home.”

“I don’t need to feel anymore at home. I tried to tell you but-“

”We will not have that kind of talk,” Rarity cuts you off.

“She said it right there.”

”Even so, the idea is that it brings families together. That’s an idea we can get behind,” the mayor says facing you, her gray mane swishing about.

“I told you everything you wanted to know. What else do you need from me?”

”That’s a good question,” Twilight says, “Spike.” The purple midget gets up and moves over to the side the wall, Twilight following him. ”Lights,” Twilight claps her hooves the lights dimming.

She clears her throat, a single circular beam illuminating her and the stand beside her, Spike trying to jump in the spotlight. ”Christmas, the season of giving and joy. A holiday that a sole citizen must celebrate alone.”

“Happily, I might add.”

”Being his friends, it is our duty to make him feel at home here in Ponyville. So, I proposed that we spread this Christmas joy.” Spike pulls off a slide, revealing a picture of a family in their homes by the tree. ”So far everything has gone to plan, the trees we imported from Canterlot, stockings made by Rarity…” Rarity blushes and mutters a thank you. ”But for all of our festive efforts, we lack one thing that can make this celebration complete.” Spike pulls another slide, revealing a travesty of art meant to depict the jolly red character. ”We’re missing Santa Claus.”

Rarity gasps, “How can it be?” You avoid eye contact with the drawing, the Mayor seemingly buying their act.

“Who is Santa Claus,” she asks.

”I’m glad you asked,” Twilight says, “Santa Claus is a mystical figure who sneaks into pony’s houses in the middle of the night-“

Spike stops her before she can butcher the idea any further, “She means that he puts presents under the tree for everypony.”

The mayor nods, “A giving soul.”

”My thoughts exactly, but that’s where the problem comes in,” Twilight continues. Spike reveals the next one, this time comparing the drawing to that of a pony. ”The suit that Anon shows us in this picture-“

“That was just a quick doodle.”

”Is a symbol of who Santa is, and to preserve the nature of Christmas we cannot fit it onto a pony.”

“I’m not good at drawing,” you try to explain under your breath.

”And so I have come to the conclusion that the only pony, or person-“

“Wait a-“

Spike pulls the last slide, “Should be none other than Anon.”

“That- I don’t…” It’s a picture of you passed out on the barn floor of Applejack’s party when she got her cast off. She even drew a Santa hat on your head. “How can you draw? You don’t even have hands?” Twilight taps her horn. And Applejack said she didn’t do anything to you. “Absolutely not. There is no way that I’m dressing up-“

”All in favor of Anon being Santa say I. I.”




“…I hate all of you.”

”Fantastic,” Rarity says sifting through her bag, “And I have just the thing for you.” She plops a hat onto your horn, “You look fabulous darling.”

“I’m not going to be Santa Claus.”

”But Anon you must,” the mayor says, “The fate of Christmas rests in your hooves, hands.”

”You have to be Anon. Think of the children.”

“That’s the reason I don’t want to be Santa. Kids on my lap makes me all kinds of uncomfortable.”

”Oh… I didn’t know that,” Twilight says going pale.

You know that look, she did something. “Twilight what did you do?”

”Nothing. Do you know if there’s another way out of here Mayor Mare?”

”Why would there-“ You walk over to the door, “Anon don’t!” You throw open the door, a roar of menacing children and their cries of joy piercing your soul.



You grumble to yourself and futily wipe your legs of the stench that found itself there. “Next!” Another filly jumps on your lap, mucus dripping from his nose. “What do you want for Christmas? A snot rag?”

”I want a train set.”

Spike jots down the request on a piece of paper. “What else kid?”

”Can I get uh, another train set?” Yeah you know where this is going.

“Alright two train sets, now run along now. Santa’s got a line.”

The little bastard trots off to his mother who disappears in the crowd. One down, half a million to go. Twilight just had to say that Santa was going to be taking wish lists today. Spike belches, sending the note to ‘Santa’s Workshop.’ What a load of crap. ”Just so you know, I’m in the same boat as you.”

“You make it through this, and you’re worth any dragon I’ve known.”


“Well you’re the only dragon I know so… Anyways, next!” A uptight looking pony nudges his little mare along, her and her friend sitting on your lap. You recognize these two. They’re the bullies who’ve been terrorizing Applebloom and her friends. The cunts. “Ho ho ho, what can I get for you two princesses,” you chortle weakly.

The pink one, Diamond Tiara rolls her eyes at the question. “And exactly what could You get for Me? My father can get already anything I need.”

“Well maybe you can wish for someone else to get something.”

Silver Spoon cues in, “How about we wish for those blank flanks to never get their cutie marks.”

”Oh you are so bad, I like it.”’ The two giggle to themselves, a fire burning inside of you that you must keep contained. ”So how about it Santa Dork? Care to make our wish come true?”

“No,” you growl losing your composure.

You turn Spike around, “What do you mean, no?” You grab them both on the back, stealthily putting pressure on their spines and lean closer to them.

“Listen here Diamond Tits and Silver Splooge. I know who you are, I know where you live. If you are looking for a prank, I can tell you I don’t have the patience. But what I do have, is a particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for ponies like you.” The two are practically shaking now. “If you leave now this will be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you. Understand?” The two fillies nod, their tears frozen on their cheeks. “Good. Now scram.” They waddle off in terror, hiding behind Diamond’s father. “And MERRY CHRISTMAS!”

You sniff, a strange scent working through your visor. It smells like asparagus… You look down, a yellow trail on your lap and leading through the snow. “Dangit, Spike! Wipe this down for me please.”

”Santa will be right back everypony, he just needs to clean up a bit.” He’s got that right. You head out around back, wiping snow off on your crotch in a vain attempt to clean yourself. Wait, there’s that feeling again. Like you’re being watched. You step over in the snow, a snow mare directed at your seat. Moving to her blind spot you undo your crotch piece and turn the snow a nice yellow.

“Phew, I need more liquids.” Once you finish coating the last of the snow you sigh in relief and head on back. “Revenge is sweet.” Her silent sobs sustain you.


You flip on autopilot for the rest of the night, thankfully Spike having washed off your urine stained seat. Can’t have the big man himself sitting in piss with children around, have some class. Still, you don’t think those two fillies will be bothering them for a while. Or they’ll get… the claw. Note to self: Build menacing claw attachment. That is all…

”Anon!” another filly squeals though you recognize the southern accent immediately.

“Hiya Applebloom. Enjoying the week off from school?”

”Sure am,” she leaps aboard, Applejack smiling off to the side, “Hey uh Anon? What’s that smell?”

“Shame Applebloom, lots and lots of shame.”

”Have ya seen Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle yet?”

“Actually they were here a little while ago.”


“Look Applebloom, I may be Santa, but I can’t get you your cutie mark.”


”Language Applebloom.” Spike shakes his tiny finger claw.

“But there has to be something else I can get for you? Just name it and I’ll do my best.”

”Hmmm, alright. I want my family to have a happy holiday.”

”D’aaaaawwww,” Spike voices much to Applebloom’s disdain.

”I’m serious!”

“Applebloom… What you just said is the best wish I’ve heard all day. If there’s one wish I could grant, you just got it.”

Her eyes almost sparkle in joy, “Really?”

“Really,” you grin behind your helmet.

She hugs you with all her filly might, “You’re the best Anon.”

“I know, and hey! Have a merry Christmas.”

”You too Anon.”

Applejack walks up to you as the filly releases her hold, “Sure you can fulfill that there wish?”

“I’ll have to run it by the elves, but I’ll see it done.”

”Ah, you free later?”

“Yeah, just have a few more kids and then I’m home free.” She nods and trots away with Applebloom.


After you were done with your Santa duties, you went off for a drink with Applejack, Big Mac taking the little one off her hands. So there you sit with a mug of cider in hand next to Applejack who’s tending her own. The silence is nice. It’s not usual that anypony can do that for very long. Especially Pinkie. She’d blast a hole through the planet’s core if she ever had to do that, but Applejack seems content with it, just the two of you on the patio of town hall watching the snow. Have to give kudos to Dash for this one. Weather control said that there wouldn’t be any snow this year. That was her present to Ponyville, wrapped in a red ribbon that anypony could enjoy.

“I love the holidays. Well, I love the weather at least. Watching snow just makes everything seem to fade away.”

“You went through this whole kerfuffle just to say ya like the weather most? I don’t get you sometimes.”

“I just asked if you guys had Christmas. It was an innocent question.”

“But then Twilight got involved?”

“And Rarity, and Pinkie…”

”Why don’t you like Christmas?”

“I don’t dislike it, it just brings up some rather unpleasant memories.”

”Oh alright then…” Shut her down again, well…

“It’s reminds me of home. Back on Eridanus, me and my parents loved Christmas. Every year me and my dad would go out and chop down our own tree. Real Christmas Vacation stuff.”

”And… what happened?”

“The Covenant. That’s what happened.”

”They didn’t… On Christmas?”

“No, nothing like that, about a month before. I survived, they didn’t. When they took me back I was placed in foster care. Good parents, just not mine.”

”Ah don’t see the connection?”

“My guardians thought the ‘Christmas spirit’ would do well to cheer me up. It didn’t. Nothing was the same, fake tree, phony smiles…”

”It didn’t measure up to your parents.”

“That’s what I thought at the time. I was a spoiled brat. My parents let me live and what did I do? I wallowed in it.”

”Ya were just a colt.”

“I was a little bastard that’s what I was.”

”It wasn’t your fault, ya didn’t get a choice.”

You drink deep of your mug. “I know that. In a last ditch effort to make me feel better you know what they wanted to do? They wanted to have me meet Santa.”

”You resisted.”

“No actually. I wanted one thing from him, something… That I could never do.”

”You wished for your parents.”

You shake your head and finish off your mug. “I looked into this man’s eyes, just as a kid. He expected me to ask for a toy. No.” You look at Applejack, just like you did him. “I stared into his eyes and asked for Santa to blow the Covenant to hell.”

To say Applejack was shocked would be an understatement. “I know right? I couldn’t have been more than eight at the time.” You stand up and lean against the railing as the ponies engage in a playful snowball fight. “When I woke up Christmas day, I didn’t go to the tree. I didn’t care about presents. I flipped on the news. That’s the day I discovered that if you wanted to do something right, do it yourself.”

”So that’s why you joined the Spartans.”

“Oh hell no. At that time they started up the Spartan-III program. It was throwing lambs to the slaughter. Even as a kid I was smart enough to avoid that like the plague.”

”But that’s why you became a soldier?”

“Indeed. My parents deserved that last Christmas.” You smile as Applebloom smothers Scoots with a snowball. “When your little sister told me her wish… It fixed something in here,” you pound your chest piece. “I felt like she had the answer. She had the real idea of Christmas. It was never about the presents.” Applejack props her hoofs over the railing next to you and leans against you. “It’s always about family.”

You hold her to your side as the fight continues Applebloom waving at you both before getting nailed in the back by Sweetie Belle. “At least I have a new one to spend with this year.”

”Thatcha do.”

A wrinkle forms in the snow moving towards the group. “Oh shit…” you mutter.

”What’s wrong?” Before you can respond Pinkie bursts from the snow unleashing a hail down upon the battlefield, smothering all who would fight her. ”Did they all just get massacred?”

“Looks like, want to help them out?”

”I’m good.”

You too.


As you’re walking through the snow, Applebloom still looking like a snow mare, Twilight comes galloping to you. ”Anon, come quick. It’s almost time.”

Time? What the hell is she on about? “Taken a few too many hard eggnogs I see.”

”I’m serious. We don’t have a lot of time.”

“Come on Twilight. Can’t you see I just want to go home and lay in front of the fireplace with the Apples?”

"This is really important though. Christmas could be ruined.”

Applebloom gasps, the snow exploding off her like a piece of dynamite. ”Anon, you can’t let Christmas be ruined.”

“Not you too Applebloom. Christmas is fine.”

”Anon…” Applejack voices.

“Fine- Just keep the fire going. I won’t be long.” Twilight grabs you by the hand and pulls you away. You find yourself in front of Carousel Boutique, the sun beginning to lower. “What are we doing here?”

”Let’s go.” And she runs off without explaining a thing. And you have to follow because that’s how the story goes. Alright let’s get this over with. It already reeks, but that might just be the faint remnants of Silver Tiara’s piss puddle. Brings a smile to your face.

You get to the door just as Rarity opens it. She gives the outside a quick one-two before hurrying you both inside. “Can someone please tell me what’s going on?”

”A matter of grave importance,” Twilight starts.

”A ghastly predicament we have.”

”We need your help if we’re to succeed.”

”A gentlecolt like you would surely help.”

“Stop with the lingo thing. What’re you talking about?” Twilight looks at you like you just told her the world was flat. Rarity looks at you like you just told her that her coat was out of style. Pinkie looks at you… God Dammit. “Get out of here Pinkie. You don’t even make sense.”

”You’re not my real dad!” Pinkie flails out of the room using her tail as a propeller…

”What just happened?” Twilight asks.

“I have no idea, but random pink helicopters aside, what’s the big deal?”

Twilight nods to Rarity who trots off into the back. ”Anon. I know that you’ve been patient with my requests and done everything I’ve asked of you.”

“You can say that again.”

”Anon. I know-“

“Sarcasm Twilight. Get to the point.”

”We need you for one last thing.”

”It’s the final piece of the great Christmas puzzle, something so grand-“

“Useless dialogue for dramatic buildup.”

She pouts, “You’re no fun.”

“Do I look like Pinkie to you?”

”Anon, we need you to do this. For all of us.”

“And exactly what am I going to be doing?”

”This… Now Rarity.”

A curtain pulls back revealing… “Yeah, there’s no way in hell I’m doing that.”

”Don’t be a spoil sport. I know that you want to try it.”

“Do you have any idea how many laws I’d be breaking?”

“Think of all the joyful faces.”

“Twilight, listen to me. I am in no way, under any circumstances doing this alright?” She just smiles up at you. “No.”


“I hate you and Twilight, you know that, Rarity?” You soar over Ponyville, the sack stuffed in the back. You can’t believe she got all this prepared in one day. “This suit doesn’t even fit over my armor. How’d you get the measurement anyways? Never mind, I don’t even want to know.” The pegasi up front swoosh over the town in another pass.

”Oh darling Anon, this isn’t so bad. After all, isn’t this just a beautiful sight.”

“Beautiful my ass…” you mutter under your breath.

”Oh I dare say Anon, you never asked me what I wanted for Christmas?”

“Really?” Her eyes tell you all you need to know. “Ugh… What do you want for Christmas?”

She loosens her coat, revealing her home-made Mrs. Claus nighty, “So how about that marshmallow mad-" You kick the mare out of your sleigh and safely into the snow below. Meh. That’s what she gets for being worst pone. Anyways, you’ve got presents to deliver.

Today was a merry day.

Chapter 11: The Crystal Door

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You run your hand across the towering obelisk while the others marvel at the city’s splendor. ”I don’t remember it being so glamorous,” Rarity gasps.

”The Princess really took a leading effort into rebuilding it after Sombra was defeated,” Twilight replies.

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” you earn a group glare, “It’s just some shiny city.”

”It ain’t just any city,” Applejack explains, “It’s the Crystal Empire.”

“Well that explains why Rarity’s head over hoof for it. I don’t see the appeal.”

”It’s a beacon of hope,” Fluttershy says coming out of hiding, “A sign of happiness for all of Equestria.”

”Fluttershy’s right,” Rainbow joins in, “We basically saved the Empire. We’re heroes!” Everyone turns to Dash, “What? We did, didn’t we?”

”You’re missing the point,” Twilight berates her, “The Crystal Empire’s aurora shines bright across all of Equestria, a sign of prosperity.”

“Sounds like hogwash to me.”

”I figured.” You walk down through the streets of the Crystal Empire, the ponies being of immediate note. Their coat and mane are… well, crystalline. Their entire form shines brightest, almost blindingly so if you catch them at the right angle. For once, these ponies don’t seem to fear you nor look at you with disdain. They flash a smile and go about their day. ”Do you believe me now?” Twilight asks.

“They’re nice, I’ll give them that, but it doesn’t mean that this place is somehow influencing an entire nation.” You walk through the rather pristine houses, each adorned with their own garden, neighbors chatting away like you’d expect in some fairy tale. This can’t actually be how they act on a day to day basis? You’d be exhausted by the time you hit the street.

”Ooo, I have just the thing,” Pinkie says wiping her hooves behind her.

”Pinkie no!”

You try to cancel out the noise but it’s not enough. Pinkie’s damned instrument cuts through you like a knife through butter as well as her friends. Twilight snatches the horn from her lips, handing it to Applejack for safe keeping. ”Aww, why’d you do that?”

”It’s going to make us go crazy,” Twilight answers without another word.

“The crystal ponies seemed to like it,” you say as a group applauds Pinkie’s performance. You look up at the massive tower reaching to the heavens, a true crystal structure if you’ve ever seen one. At the base of the structure directly underneath the tower lies a simple crystal stone in the shape of a heart. It emanates a strong aura unlike anything you’ve ever seen in your time here. “Uhm, Twilight? What is that?”

”That Anon, is the Crystal Heart.” So… shiny… You reach out to touch it, Twilight slapping your hand. ”The Crystal Heart is sacred to the crystal ponies, you can’t just touch it.”

“Well why the hell not?”

”It’s the source of love and light for the empire. The crystal ponies power it as one to protect against evil.”

“So what you’re saying is that this is some kind of weapon?”

She ponders this as the others move upwards into the tower. ”I guess you could think of it like that.”

“I need one.”

You reach your hands for it again. ”Anon!”

“I’m just kidding Twilight geez. I’m culturally sensitive to a degree.”

”Like a griffon…”

“What’d you say?”


“Damn straight nothing.”

You leave the pulsing crystal behind you as you move back up to the rest of the group. The inside resembles much of the exterior as most of the furnishing is made from crystals. Seriously, they’ve got a cloud city, crystal city… Do they have a sea city too, ‘cause that’d be retarded. You enter one of the many roomy hallways, two ponies approaching you. Twilight yelps in the sight of them and goes running over, “Shining Armor!”

”Twiley,” the stallion hugs her, “It’s great to see you again sis.”

“Sis? That’s Twilight’s brother?”

”Sure is,” Applejack responds.

“I travel an ungodly distance through time and space and I still meet a guy who sounds like a douche.”

Applejack smacks your arm, twice you’ve been smacked so far today. ”Shh, that’s Prince Shining Armor.”

“That surfer dude’s royalty? Celestia needs to clean house.” Make that three smacks.

You’re just going to have to deal with it. After all, you volunteered to go along with them. Twilight wouldn’t stop talking about revisiting this place and you had to keep AJ preoccupied. You’d been waiting for the right time to cash in a favor and this was the time. The other pony approaches, a pink alicorn this time. The Princess you assume. Twilight lets her brother go and… oh lordy is she dancing?

“Applejack, please gouge out my eyes so I never have to watch her dance again.” Four smacks. You’re going for a record. “Fairly unladylike for a Princess though. I can only assume they know each other very well.”

”She was her foalsitter,” Rarity explains.

“What is that, like a babysitter?”


“Hot.” Five and going strong.

”What are you doing here? I thought you weren’t coming for another few months,” the princess says sweetly.

”I know, but I just couldn’t wait to see you. Oh! There’s someone I want you to meet.” Please don’t be me… What are you thinking, of course it’s you. Twilight leads the royal members to you, both of them visually curious. It’s too late to cloak now, damn your lack of clairvoyance. ”Shining Armor, Cadence, let me introduce you to my friend Anon.”

Looks like you get to make the first move. “Friends a strong word, I prefer close associate. Anyways, name’s Anon. Nice to meet you princess.” You bow, Cadence blushing at your formality. An air of jealousy fills the air as Shining Armor coughs in an effort to draw attention to himself. “Sup Surfer Steve.”

”Anon…” Twilight growls.

”It’s alright Twiley, he’s just poking fun.”


This is followed by another uncomfortable silence. Why must you always be the instigator, but alas… “So you going to show us around or what?”

Shining Armor rubs his forehead, “Oh course, sorry about that. I kind of blanked out there.” Not surprising. ”Come on, the others have already been around but you’re new. Don’t wait up for us alright?”

”I wouldn’t dream on it,” the princess smiles. Lucky bastard got a catch like that? They must have a lot in common. Like the brand of douche they use.

”And here’s the royal dining room. It hasn’t been used in a long time, but we’re trying to amend that.” The table’s barren, but even so it has an airy quality to it. Seems nice enough.

He goes about this with the whole castle and you’re fairly sure you’ve been going in circles. “Exactly how long have you lived here?”

”Uhm, I don’t spend a lot of time up here actually.” Oh you think you do.

“Spending more time down below in the private quarters.”

”We’re trying to renovate this area as much as possible, but we drop by every now and then.”

“I’m sure you use that renovation excuse a lot.”

The look on his face is priceless, “And what exactly is that supposed to mean?”

“Oh I’m not saying that you’re using as much time as you can to dine the princess with your personal meat stick, but that’s basically what I’m saying.” That seemed to get him riled up.

”That’s of no concern of yours, and secondly that’s my wife you’re talking about.”

“I’m quite aware,” you say admiring a painting on the wall, “I’d do the same thing in your hooves.”

“You’re intolerable. I don’t know how my sister stands you.”

“Likely the same way your wife stands up with your constant nobbing, small doses.”

”You didn’t just…”

“Imply that your bratwurst is more like a slim jim? I think I did.”

He’s fuming at this point, “Go buck yourself Anon. I’m outta here.”

“Tubular.” His hoofsteps pitter patter down the hall until your left by yourself again. It’s about damn time, you thought he’d never leave. You skip down the hall by your lonesome, this time enjoying the peace and quiet. You open a large pair of crystalline doors revealing what appears to be the throne room. For the most part it’s the same white pink blue combo you’ve seen around here, but a large blackened portion of the floor is sure to grab attention.

It’s cut squarely in the middle of the room right before the throne itself, a looming shadow hanging over. You peer over the edge, a stairwell spiraling down further than you could see. “Huh. An ominous stairwell leading to the bowels of the tower where the previous King likely kept dangerous artifacts.” Sounds like fun. You whistle as you take the stairs down, this is nothing.

Five minutes later… Okay maybe these go down further than you thought.

Ten minutes… There’s got to be a bottom somewhere.

Twenty… Mary mother of god! Where the fuck is the end? Screw this, you activate your shields and take a deep breath. Patience is a virtue until it becomes a pain in the ass. “Geronimo!” *Crack* You stop suddenly seconds after jumping, the floor cracked under the weight. That doesn’t make sense, your shields didn’t even go off. You look back up, the light barely reaching you. Could’ve waited a few more seconds, but nooo… You just had to-

A door? You wasted a good half hour of your life for a door. You huff and tear open the door a white light filling your view. You swear there better be candy at the end of this. You step inside.


”Don’t spend too long out there,” Applejack hollers waving at you from the barn.

”Hurry on back,” Applebloom tacks on holding onto her sister’s leg.

“Come on, it’s just a run. I’ll be back before you know it.” You set off down the trail and let everything seep away. The visor reads all green, your shields hum in your ear, radar silent. It’s times like this that make your time here special. You occasionally hang out with your friends by Ponyville, though you keep the visits brief. Unless it’s official business you try and stay home where you belong. Except for when you go on these walks.

Between your friends in town and loving family at home, this is your alone time. The time where any and all troubles of the world seem so distant. It’s been so long since you’ve had a good run like this. You were overdue.

You stop off by the river and peel off your helmet, exposing your dampened hair to the cool breeze. Breathing deep you take in the fresh Equestrian air into your lungs. You scoop up water from the stream and bring it to your lips. Everything’s perfect here. No more worries about the war. You had a mare who filled in that gap, that anger. She was there for you whenever you were down. You’d become so focused on the past until you met her. And then she decided to settle down… Settle down with you. It was the happiest moment of your life. And you’d never let her go. You lay back on the hill and close your eyes. Never.


You open your eyes to the darkness of night. A smile creeps on your face as you stretch your arms into the air. But something… It’s strange, but something isn’t right. It’s in the air, a subtle yet noticeable change. That’s when you hear it, the distant hum of something you’d wish to forget. The two forward engines of a Type-52 TC. A Covenant Phantom. You throw your helmet back on and highlight the fastest way back to Sweet Apple Acres. Another phantom wails overhead, following your waypoint. No… not here. You push yourself back to the barn, cutting through the brush with your suit. The critters sprint out of your path as you stampede back towards home. Please…

You stumble out of the wood and onto the beaten dirt path to the barn. They’re hanging directly overhead, both phantoms with their plasma cannons at the ready, waiting. You grip your holster, your pistol absent. You always kept it locked up when you were off on runs. You clench your fist as you approach your home. The camo cloaks your body as you stand at the front gate looking ahead.

Applejack and Applebloom must’ve hid, you went through the steps in case this… An elite breaks the door open from the inside and tosses the two into the field, their grunts training weapons on them. The grunts laugh at their conquest, the elite heading back inside. You slide your combat knife out of its sleeve, one of the Unngoy smacking Applejack with the butt of their plasma pistol. “Hands off!” you scream charging in.

They hail plasma fire down upon you, the few that hit taking a good chunk out of your shields. You tackle the closest Unngoy, driving your blade in his neck and tearing off his methane re-breather. You roll his body over you, using it as a shield from the green plasma bolts his comrades continue to fire. His blood shines blue off your armor as you grab his weapon and deal with three more of the grunts. Applejack bucks another in the face as they try and reach for Applebloom. Years of experience give her that edge.

You fling your grunt shield into another of its kin and score several shots into his exposed belly. Your shields hum to full charge as you make sure no one else is around, Applejack comforting the filly. “Are you two okay?” They nod, Applebloom drying the tears on her cheek. “Good, we need to- GAH!”


An elite grabs her by the scruff of her neck and holds her there. You struggle to breathe as you watch the prongs of the sword recede from your chest. Everything goes quiet, your visor flashing red as you hit the dirt. The elite kicks you over, but leaves himself open to one last plasma round to his exposed head. Another brother of his hits his foot over your face and knocks away your weapon. ”Riok ni’ jinohag thugra.” You gasp as he grabs you by your chest piece, your wounds splitting further. ”Ni’ fen fuex. Ei ni’ krorjka riok… wolool.” He rips off your helmet, his beady eyes staring into yours.

With little strength left you spit the gathering blood in his face. “Hinge head.” He hits your stomach forcing more blood to spurt from your mouth. He turns you around facing the two ponies, two elites pressing their energy daggers against their throats.

”Riok krushex diolan iuera, buotq’en ohleru ji.”

“I don’t know *cough* what… you’re saying, but if you hurt them…” The elite openly laughs at you before bringing his head next to your ear.

He growls hoarsely, “Your destruction is the will of the gods, and we are their instrument.” The elite nods to the other who holds Applebloom up a little higher. ”Jafla Buotq'en. Talk to the gods. Khu Muox.” Time slows as the elite obeys his command, the filly falling cold to the earth.


The elite covers your mouth, ”Ni’ jafla!” Applejack closes her eyes, unable to see her like this. He digs a finger into your wound as you try to unsee his act of strength. But all you can see is her bow swaying in the wind before you.


You look to Applejack who remains strong during all of this. She knows as well as you what’s going to come next. But she doesn’t fight it, even as her captor raises her to the air. ”It’s gonna be okay.”

That was the last thing she said before being thrown to ground beside Applebloom. A beam of light shone down from the sky as a powerful gust of wind swept behind you. It was your friends coming to your aid. The elites roared at one another and dropped you to the floor in retreat. But your friends were too late. You were too late. You crawled over to the two of them with the last of your strength and pull them in your arms. “I’m- I’m so…” You bury your face in their mane as you began to weep. “Please… please wake up…” A hoof is placed on your shoulder. “Please.”


You stare out the window of the train as you watch the city move away. ”Anon.” It was all your fault. Applejack sits across from you, healthy as can be. Safe… “Anon?” If only you hadn’t taken that run. You could’ve… ”Anon please say something.”

You look to her, real, concrete, solid, true. She’s still here for you, waiting. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”

”I know that Anon. Ya don’t got to say it.”

You watch the passing terrain as it flies by. “Yes I do.”

“Before… you asked me if I became a Spartan because of my parents.”

She nods, “I remember.”

“I served in the military, for a good while. I lived on that anger, at least until I met her.”

Twilight looks to the others, “I think we should give these two some privacy.”

”We’ll be right outside if you need us,” Fluttershy says sympathetically as they leave the cabin.”

Applejack stays quiet until the doors close, finally speaking up, “Your wife.”

“Yes. I remember when we first met in a training sim. Red vs. Blue. My team was pinned down by sniper fire and I was sent to neutralize the threat.” You can still remember seeing her face pressed against that scope. You were captivated by her. “She kicked my ass while I was distracted. It was our first real fight, one could say.”

”You must’ve loved her very much.” You did. More than anything.

“About a year later I asked for her hand. She said yes. So I moved to Reach, a place I thought we would be safe.” How wrong you were. “I left to go for a run, leaving her at home with my daughter. They told me to hurry back, but I took off by the creek.” You can feel the moisture building behind your eyes. It was so vivid, every detail. “She had me forget all about my pain, only for it to come back with a vengeance. I… I watched it all. Held back and forced to watch.”

“That’s terrible.” Applejack places a hoof on your hand, a little peace forming inside.

“After I had recovered, my friends didn’t recognize me anymore. I was that angry kid all over again, but this time I had a gun in my hand. I signed up for the Spartans the first chance I could and I’ve been killing Covies ever since.”

She searches for the words to say to you. Not an easy task you’d say. But she looks back at you, not at your visor but through it, “Thank you for telling me this.” You grip her hoof and sigh.

“I wanted to tell you for a while, but I couldn’t find the will. When I entered that door…”

”Twilight says it makes you see your worst fear, whatever it may be.” And yours was to watch them die all over again. To watch Applejack and her sister be taken away from you.

“I swear on my life, that no matter what happens. I will do everything in my power to keep you and your sister safe.”

She shakes her head, “Didn’t I tell ya Anon? I already know that.”

You manage to squeeze out a chuckle. “I guess you did, didn’t you?”

She stands up and sits next to you, wrapping you in a hug. ”You’re a big ol’ dummy you know that.”

You hold onto her as you look out the window. “That I did know.”


You and Applejack walk back up to Sweet Apple Acres after saying farewell to her friends. She jokes with you about this and that as you get closer, an energy-filled Applebloom darting down from the road. ”Oh Applejack it’s just great! Have you seen it yet? Have ya?”

”Hold on there sugarcube, what’re you on about?”

”It’s- It’s amazing. I don’t know how you done it.” She looks to you in confusion and you just shrug your shoulders. ”You got to see, ya just gotta.”

She pulls Applejack by the hat towards the barn and you can’t help but laugh as Applejack tries not to ruin it. Her visions obstructed the whole way there, led only by Applebloom and yourself. You smile as you get closer to the barn, Applebloom freeing her once inside the house. ”Now will ya tell me… what…”


”Holy…” She stands slack jawed in the face of her new house. The old floorboards have been replaced with freshly cut pine and the walls have been renovated and touched up. The old lighting fixtures have been replaced along with the kitchen appliances, putting the kitchen back on par with any back in Canterlot. ”How did-“

”It goes like this for the whole house! Even the barn’s redone!” Applebloom cheers galloping up the stairs.

“Don’t run too fast, you’ll trip and fall.”

”Alright!” she yells from upstairs. You just shake your head as Applejack looks at you. “Kids these days. So… Whaddya think?”

”How? I don’t understand.”

“I asked the Princess for a favor while we were back in Cloudsdale. I just needed to get you all out of the place so they could work.”

”That’s why my folks off in Appleloosa wanted to see the rest of ‘em.”

“Yep. I wanted it to be a surprise, and a thank you.”

”Anon… How could you afford this?”

“I saved every bit you paid me, simple.”

She looks around one more time admiring the gift. ”I- I don’t know what ta say.”

“You don’t need to say a word.”

She grabs you and pulls you in tightly for a hug. ”Thank-“

“Shhh,” you shush her, “Not a word.” You stay there for a spell and let it sink in.

Today was a crystal day.

Chapter 12: Spartans Never Die

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You adjust your tie again the mirror, the train’s motion not exactly aiding your endeavor. No armor to protect you this time, just a fresh spiffy suit designed by Ponyville’s finest designer. Surprisingly enough when you asked her about the suit she didn’t bat an eye. It certainly struck you as odd giving her efforts to swoon you into her abode. She took some more accurate measurements without a hint of seduction.

You remember checking your belly to see if you’d gained some flab, but that wasn’t it. Rarity gave a sincere smile when you finally slipped into her clothing. She said you were quite the catch, a stallion for any mare. You couldn’t help but blush at the comment. For once she wasn’t giving the googly eyes and it honestly felt like she was a friend. Odd really, but welcoming nonetheless.

You finished freshening up and leave the train lavatory, the rest of the mane 6 gitty about the night ahead of them. You’re not sure what it is with girls and balls. Of course Twilight would correct you and call it a Gala, but they’re close enough in your opinion. Each of them got dressed up for the occasion, once again thanks to Rarity, even Dash spruced up.

This isn’t their first gala as they tell it, the first one ending frightfully. Something about an animal stampede or some such thing. You try not to get bogged down with the details. What you did know was that this time, they were going to have fun, and that meant staying together. A noble goal, one that you’ll let them accomplish.


The train docks in Canterlot’s train station, the group piling out each chatting frantically with one another. The streets of the city were bustling with activity, an oddity considering the time of day, or night. You squeezed amongst them like a sore thumb, the absence of your suit of armor amongst them placing an uncomfortable feeling of vulnerability upon you.

In truth there was nothing to fear. There were no Covenant patrols passing by. The war was nothing but a faint and distant memory in retrospect. Here you could relax and be amongst friends. Crimson Team is off on another mission right now and what’re you doing? You’re prepared to go to a party with a special mare and your friends. Between the former and that latter? Yeah, you’ll pick the latter.


Twilight hands off the tickets to the stallion at the gate allowing you to step inside the castle grounds. Trumpets sound off as you approach the entrance hall. The room expands outwards with the pony elite gossiping amongst one another. You tug at your neck nervously. ”Jus’ relax. It ain’t the end of the world.”

Even Applejack’s comfortable amongst the elite. You’re not sure why you’re acting like this though. You never took this kind of stuff seriously before. Oh look the Princess. Somepony around here you actually know. The mane 6 chat her up before moving off further away giving you a chance to talk. “Good evening Celestia.”

”Ahh, Anon. Pleasant to see you out and about. No armor I see, must be quite the change.

“Fitting the suit around it was a bit more of a burden than I could take.”

She nods, “The look suits you.”

“Thank you. You don’t look so bad yourself.”

”You do realize you’re talking to the princess?”

“A princess that I happen to know.”

She nods in agreement, “A correct assumption.” She greets another pair of ponies into the party before turning back to you. ”Shouldn’t you be off with your friends?”

“I should, but it’s just- Hell, I don’t know. They seem kinda, off I guess.”

”How so?”

“Well, like Rarity. She’s always trying to grab my attention and suddenly turns a new leaf? Or Twilight, I haven’t felt her watching me for a good while now.”

Celestia seems to understand where you’re coming from. ”Do you know why my star pupil is off in Ponyville in the first place?”

Odd question. One that you don’t know the answer to. “I can’t say that I do.”

”Come with me,” she says, Luna descending the stairs to take her place.


She leads you to her royal chambers and asks if you’d like anything to drink. Water sounds good right now and it’s too early to get drunk off what you know is going to be spiked punch. You take a sip and thank her, the princess graciously moving off to her drawers near her bed. “So, why is she in Ponyville?”

”Twilight, as dear as she is, had a small problem when she lived here in Canterlot. She allowed all of her time to be consumed with her studies.”

“I don’t see how that’s a bad thing. In fact, that’s what I should’ve done.”

”The issue with it was how she became a recluse, distancing herself from everypony to focus on her studies.”

“Didn’t she have Spike?”

”Yes, but as an assistant. He was little more than that back then, so I sent her to Ponyville.” Alright now you’re starting to remember the story. Nightmare Moon and such.

“I’ve heard this part, but I still don’t understand why it’s important.”

She levitates a bushel of scrolls, “Good things come to those who wait. After Nightmare Moon’s defeat all was right again and it was time for Twilight to come home. However, she didn’t.”

“Come again?”

”The friends she made in Ponyville had made her learn a valuable lesson about friendship. I couldn’t have been prouder.”

“So she stayed. And…?”

”I wished for her to continue her studies and send me a report on her findings. Namely, her reports on the magic of friendship.” You want to just yell out how gay that sounds but you stay your tongue.

“Once again, how does this relate to me?”

She unravels a scroll and prepares to read before meeting your eyes, “Would you like to hear what she said?”

“Do I have a choice?”


You were expecting a no to be honest. “Go ahead.”

”Dear Princess Celestia, Over the past few months I’ve learned a valuable lesson about friendship. You can’t force anypony to open themselves up to you, no matter what your reasons may be. I’ve learned this the hard way with a new arrival in Ponyville. From now on, I’ll be standing at his side, not taking notes behind his back. Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle.”

“She wrote that?”

Celestia nods, “Twilight’s always been a curious one, persistent as well, but she isn’t going to push away a friend because of it.”

“So that’s why she hasn’t been pestering me.”

”A good friend will wait for you to open up, not the other way around.” You smile and laugh quietly as you think back to all her shenanigans. ”What is so humorous?”

“Nothing, I’m just thinking I might miss her crazy schemes.”

”Pinkie can fill that in.” Oh she can.

She hands you the letter so you can read it for yourself before drawing up another. “There’s more?”

”Yes, Twilight isn’t the only one who writes these you know.”

“Who’s that one from?”

”Patience…” she hums and holds up the letter. “Dear Princess Celestia, I learned that a good friend should think of others before themselves. I’ve been selfish, unladylike in trying to woo a certain somepony, and I didn’t think to understand why he refused my affections. Thanks to a friend of mine, I know that even though I want something, it doesn’t mean I should take it from away from somepony else. Rarity…”

“And just when I thought I wouldn’t have to slit Twilight’s throat.” Celestia looks at you with concern. “Kidding.”

She loosens up, “Rarity… She knows how you feel about a certain somepony who shall remain nameless.” You look down as you think of her. ”I believe this is why she stopped attempting to, what’s the term she used? Woo?” You nod, finally understanding why they’ve been acting so different. “These are not the only reports she sent you know. There are a dozen others much like these.”

Dozens? You never thought of yourself as the best of friends. “Maybe I should’ve been a teacher with all these lessons huh?” You stand up and walk over to the window and watch the fireworks go off, the Wonderbolts flying off in celebration.

“This makes me curious Anon. The others have all learned something about friendship by meeting you. What have you learned?”

The dazzling show captures your eyes, but not your mind. “I learned to forget the past. I learned it’s best to go along for the ride.”

She immediately senses the fragility of your answers, “What have you learned about friendship?”

“Friendship?” You spot Applejack down below by the balcony watching the fireworks, alone. What did she teach you? “I learned that to be a friend you have to let others into your life. A friend will be there for you even through your mistakes. She’ll give you a hoof when you’ve fallen and a bed when you’re weak. She helped me because she saw that beneath the armor, beneath the flesh… I was just another pony. I only asked for forgiveness, but she gave me much more.”

”Are you talking about friendship or are you talking about her?”

“Applejack’s been a true friend, far better than I. Even through all the bumps and even the rocky start, she was there. She was always there. Celestia…”

You turn to look at her, “Yes?”

“Can we finish this later? There’s something I need to do.”

She stands up and walks to the window. She understands almost immediately. ”Please do, Mr. Anon.”

“Thank you Princess.”

”And Anon?” she stops you at the door with a smile, “Its Celestia.”

“Yes ma’am.”


You hurry down through the now crowded party, the ponies slightly tipsy. How did you know it was spiked? Because you always know. You glide over to the balcony, Applejack still standing there by herself. Say what comes to mind. Striding over to her you lean against the rails. “Applejack.”

She turns to you, her braided hair falling to her side. The sight of her takes your breath away. “Anon.” Your mind blanks out leaving you standing there like a fool. Shit, come on brain work! Don’t fail me. ”Ya alright?” Screw it, go for broke. You lean down and press your lips against hers. No going back now.

Finally your mind restores functionality and realizes what you just did. You pull back. You blew it, all of it. You fucked up. “Aww shoot!” You grip the railing as she stands there stunned by your advance. Always with this shit. Decision after decision! “I’m sorry Applejack. I- fucking… For the past few months since I arrived I just- I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have pressed this onto you. I screwed up again.” You’re a god damn human saboteur.

She places a hoof on your arm and turns you to look at her, the green of her eyes mesmerizing. ”If you do feel that way. Say it.” You swallow hard.

“I love you Applejack.”

She smiles and gives you a peck on the lips, “I love ya too Anon.”

You’re so happy you could turn to stone. You smile and bear hug the mare, crying tears of joy into her mane. ”Whoa Anon. Put me down!”


She pats herself off, “Don’t want Rarity killing ya for ruining her dress.”

“Applejack, you have no idea how happy this makes me, how happy you make me. Ever since-“ She silences you with another kiss, your body like silly putty in her hooves. Breaking the kiss the leans up against you and watches the show.

”Can’t believe it took ya this long to figure it out.”

“This long? How far back-“

”Shhh, don’t ruin the moment.”

You rock back and forth with her, the last piece coming together. “I wouldn’t for the world.” Today was the first day of your new life… and you were happy.


You enter the room, the attendant turning to you. “Any change?”

”Every time you come in here asking the same question and every time I give you the same answer.”

“So no change?”

”None that I can see. It’s a lost cause you know.” He’s many things, weak isn’t one of them. It’s been months though… maybe… No. You’re not leaving him behind, not when you caused this. You inform the attendant you’re going in, walking into the chamber. No wonder he’s not getting better. How can anyone be trapped inside a room like this and be expected to recover? It’s too white and plushy, small too. You’ve seen prisons more accommodating.

He’s sitting in the corner of the room, slumped down, the jacket binding his arms together. “Hey. It’s been a while huh?” He doesn’t respond to you. All he does is rock side to side, a dopey grin on his face. It’s strange to see him like this. “I don’t know if you can hear me in there, but you get better. Alright? That’s an order.”

His head rolls back to look at the ceiling, pathetic sight. You kneel next to him. You had to piss him off. “I’m sorry alright. Happy now? I shouldn’t have brought them up. It was… Damn…” You push up on your knees and give him one last look.

”How’s he doing?” Commander Palmer asks over the comm.

“No change…”

”It’s not your fault. He lost control and now he’s facing the consequences.” You lay your head against the door to the cell. ”Suit up Lance, Crimson doesn’t stop because of him.”

You sigh and make your way to the armory. “Yes ma’am.”