Adventures in The 6ix

by Wiz Ahmad

First published

After a malfunction with the Crystal Mirror during a demonstration, the Mane 6, Spike, Tempest, and Skystar get transported to another world - Toronto.

After Songbird Serenade's concert, Twilight Sparkle attempts to give Tempest Shadow a fresh start on life, but Tempest is anxious and stubborn, insisting that there'll be nopony that she can relate to heart-to-heart, the frightened townsfolk of Canterlot only adding to her attitude.

While attempting to restart the Mirror for a teleportation presentation, Twilight Sparkle causes a serious malfunction. Tempest tries to use her horn to blow a fuse and terminate the portal's magical power supply, but ends up overclocking the portal, which becomes overpowered and pulls them all in. Moments later they fall through storm clouds, eventually hitting hard pavement. Dazed, the group of friends finds themselves on the run-down streets of downtown Toronto, where they face even greater troubles - and a group of friendly faces.

WARNING: This story contains:
- Discussion about drugs
- Violence and some blood
- Cursing, though no vulgarity
- Sex tag is for romantic talk only.

P.S.: This story takes place after the events at the end of the MLP Movie. My Little Pony as a TV show and a franchise does not exist on Earth in this story, so no human knows of the characters' names or existence.

Chapter 1: Public Reception

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“Are you sure about this?” Tempest asked sleepily as she stepped out into the kitchen, where Twilight was already preparing breakfast.

“I’m positive it’ll work,” Twilight replied, a confident smile across her face as she poured a glass of apple juice.

Tempest trudged over to the dining table and slumped down. “I sure hope so, Twilight. I barely managed to make it here last night without being the source of fright and small-scale panic.”

Twilight swallowed, wishing that what her friend said didn’t occur - but it was true. Not long after Songbird Serenade’s concert, Tempest attempted to go her own way, but stayed in Canterlot at the insistence of Twilight and her friends. A simple evening walk to a hotel room had the townsfolk of Canterlot so terrified that they sent in report after report of a possible invasion or attack, which led to Celestia having to schedule a global meeting to publicly redeem Tempest in the eyes of everypony. Even the hotel manager was spooked, and the duo barely managed to scoop up a room for the night.

“I am still not sure about my future at this point,” Tempest admitted, making use of her hoof to hold a large mug. “I could simply restart where I left off in the badlands and semi-desert near the Storm King’s residence, but the love and harmony of Canterlot is too much to resist. If only it was believable…”

“Of course it’s believable!” Twilight insisted, almost spitting out her oats. “Equestria is a land of harmony, it-”

Tempest cut her off. “I know it is.” She got up and walked over to the balcony which overlooked the lower elevated parts of the city. Twilight followed in earnest as her friend pointed to a group of frightened market-goers who were shakily pointing a hooves at the balcony. “The behavior of those around us is making it hard for me to believe so. Inside I know it, but on the outside it’s tough to convince myself so.”

Twilight nodded sadly. Having been through Trixie and then Starlight Glimmer, she knew how difficult it would be to get Tempest assimilated back into Equestrian society, especially one as hostile and uptight as Canterlot. Not to mention the damage that she’d done - physically and mentally.

“Are you sure you’ll need that?” Twilight asked as Tempest began reattaching her plated armor.

“I...uh, I just feel more confident when I wear it,” Tempest replied admittedly. “At least I had that painful reminder rubbed off my hind plate. You ready?”

Twilight rolled up a couple sheets, closed a few books, and slid them into her saddle bag. “Yep, I’m ready.”

As the morning sun rose up, the two ponies left their hotel room and locked the door behind them. Taking the stairwell to avoid any scares, they trotted down to the lobby, where a couple receptionists already began shaking in fear.

“Have no fear, it is Fizzlepop Berrytwist here,” Tempest announced in the calmest tone she could, setting down two slips of paper and a key card.

“Thanks for letting us stay,” Twilight consoled, setting down her key card.

With that, she and Tempest headed out the hotel’s grand entrance and out into the streets. Hardly had the duo taken ten steps before literally everypony’s heads spun around and attempted to run.

“E...e-e-enough!” Twilight panted, using all her magic power to hold as many ponies in their positions. “Stop it! Enough fear!”

“I could do with some real respect right now,” Tempest mumbled. Twilight looked back at her, mustering all the strength she had to pull a confident face.

“And you’ll get it… soon enough.”

Shocked by the sudden magical auras that were restraining, the townsfolk looked back to see Twilight, her horn alight and her head dripping sweat.

“Let us go, Princess!”


All eyes shifted to Tempest’s face. She’d spoken - and in a serious tone, the same tone she’d used just weeks prior when demanding the magic of the Royal Sisters.

“The Elements of Harmony were about to be destroyed by the Storm King, and guess who saved them from being encased in stone and having their magic taken? You know who? ME.”

The last word left her lips in a clear, loud, and thunderous tone that seemed to shake up the minds and hearts of those whose ears picked it up. A few frowned and attempted to talk back, but Tempest was unfazed.

“Even I was about to be imprisoned in stone, until Twilight Sparkle here rescued me and brought me back.”

“So it goes without saying that you should give her the respect she deserves,” Twilight concluded. Without waiting to notice any significant responses, she urged Tempest forward, and they continued their walk towards the royal castle, where many stagehands were already preparing for the big event.

As they approached the royal gates, Tempest looked up at the castle’s tall spires, then back at the close-knit buildings of the city. Aside from the hostile upper-class community, there wasn’t much to dislike about Canterlot. From what Twilight had told her about Ponyville, it sounded like a much more open concept, smaller town - and hopefully with more accepting residents. Whichever angle you looked at it, both places were inviting, especially after living a life of constant travel and endlessly serving under a ruler claiming to restore what you lost - quite painfully.

“Halt!” boomed two voices, which Tempest had quickly learned to associate with the Royal Guard. In spite of her power, she felt too timid to speak, so Twilight had to step in.

“I am Twilight Sparkle, the Princess of Friendship and mentor to Her Majesty Princess Celestia. I have arrived with Tempest Shadow for the event that Celestia had announced yesterday night?”

One of the guards lowered his head slightly and sighed, as if he regretted even performing such an act. The other gave a proper bow and moved his spear aside. “Very well, your Highness, you and your friend may enter.”

Tempest’s eyes narrowed slightly and she bit back a sigh as they entered the castle. Sure, she liked Twilight’s company and her sound advice on friendship, but didn’t consider her a very close friend. At least not yet. Her horn - or, what was left of it - still stood as a sharp reminder of how different she was from Twilight, and how attempting to be a unicorn again only drove ponies away from her. She was a pony in a whole different area where literally nopony else was.

“Think you’ll like Canterlot, Fizzlepop?” Twilight remarked.

“It’s not about the location, it’s about those who inhabit it,” Tempest confessed.

“Well, here’s your opportunity to prove their thoughts wrong,” Twilight stated, confidence all over her face.

With a big sigh and a loving hug from the one pony who helped and supported her, Tempest Shadow headed towards the large balcony doors and pushed them open.

Chapter 2: Station Retaliation

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“Remain relaxed and composed,” Tempest repeated over and over in her head as she stepped out onto the balcony. All of Twilight’s friends - Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Applejack, and Rarity were all there. So were Princess Celestia and Luna. As inviting as their face were, their presence somehow boosted her anxiousness.

But she lied to herself. As she reached the very edge her hooves felt twitchy. Sighing, she began her speech, which she’d thought over in her head for a brief while.

“Thank you all for attending. I really do… do not have much to say. But what I do need to say will be said. I need you all to understand who I am and what happened to me. I lost the most precious thing in my life to an accident while saving old friends, and the outcome of it only drove them away. For a long time I trekked across Equestria, feeling worthless and lonely. Everyone I met always questioned me about my horn or shied away on first contact...It was as if no one loved me…”

Fighting back tears, Tempest rose her head high again, biting her lips to stop them trembling.

“It was through the love and compassion of Princess Twilight Sparkle that I was able to see the error of my ways, dare I say foolishly believing the tyrant that is the Storm King could restore what I wanted back so badly. Looking in the now, the healing process comes from both sides. I understand that the true value of a pony is not how they look like, but what lies inside of them - their heart and their mind. I wish to give back to you all with a bid of the same kindness and compassion that Twilight gave me. Will you contribute to your side of the healing process just as much as I contributed to mine? The choice is entirely up to you - and know that your actions and behavior affect not only me, but everypony in Equestria.”

Looking back, Tempest turned to face the townsfolk of Canterlot once again, tears spilling onto the golden railing.

“It is from you that I seek love, respect, and harmony, oh citizens of Equestria. Please love me and let me love you. Thanks again… for coming.”

Tempest gave a low bow and sulked away, expecting a wave of boos and insults. But to her surprise, a torrent of applause erupted from over 2,000 pony throats.

“Are you… is it true?” she whispered, turning back to the cheering crowd. Celestia shot her a told-you-so wink.

“I LOVE YOU TEMPEST!” came a loud shriek, considerably louder than the others. Looking straight down over the railing, Tempest noticed a young little filly, hovering high up in a desperate attempt to stand out.

“Love you too, little one,” Tempest whispered back loudly, giving the youngster a little wave before leaving.

“So, got plans to stay in Ponyville, Fizzlepop?” Rarity teased as they all re-entered the castle hall.

“I think I actually will,” Tempest replied. “For the time-being, until I can make a final decision where I want to go. Maybe I can try to find my old fillyhood friends, though I’m not sure if they’ll remember me…”

“If they are really are your true friends, then they’ll recognize you for how awesome you are on the inside!” Rainbow Dash beamed.

Tempest smiled back. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

At the train station, Twilight and her friends waited patiently, only to be interrupted by a horde of Canterlot nobles.

“You didn’t attend the event, huh? Huh?” Rainbow Dash barked, already in their faces.

“That dark beast has no place in our fair city!” one shouted back, clearly not fazed by Rainbow’s tough attitude.

“Everyone is welcome to Canterlot!” Rarity responded in retaliation.

“Be gone, you block-faced purple donkey!” another older stallion shouted.

Before Twilight could even get out a word, Tempest charged at the group of big-mouthed nobles. Swallowing with regret, she unleashed a powerful bolt from her horn directly at their heads, throwing them into a seizure which physically shook them.

“Tempest, what are you doing?” Twilight cried. “Let them go!”

Tempest ignored her and locked her eyes on the ponies she’d temporarily held in a paralyzed state. “Don’t you ever call me - or any pony for that matter - such names ever again. Now you tell your elitist friends exactly what you said to me, and tell ‘em there’ll be more coming from Tempest.”

With that, Tempest gave a hard stomp to establish her seriousness and released her magical grip, casually dropping them like a stack of cans onto the station platform. Without a word, they fled back to the city like bees seeking honey. Other ponies on the station platform stepped back in fear, others rushing inside the main building, waiting for the train inside instead.

“Why…” Tempest muttered, her bulk slumping down to the ground, her eyes welling up. “Why can’t you see…”

“Fizzlepop, darling,” Rarity began, setting a hoof on her shoulder. “Did you really have to do that?”

“You could’ve killed them!” Pinkie Pie screeched, before biting her lip upon realizing the weight of what she’d just said.

Killing. That was something Tempest had fond but excruciatingly painful memories of almost doing to the rulers of the land she resided in. And now they were back to haunt her along with the reprimand talk of who she was that she just received.

“Tempest, I - we,” Twilight began, but Tempest turned away quickly, her head down.

“I’ll come with you to Ponyville, just for you, Twilight,” she muttered, a hint of anger and frustration in her voice. “But, I’ll stay on top of the train, where no one will notice me or say anything about me.”

“Are you sure about that, sugarcube?” Applejack inquired. “Seems like going a long way out just over the opinions of a bunch of snooty-nosed meanies.”

“I just need time to feel better about myself and what I can do to put a smile on other ponies’ faces. And I need to do it alone,” Tempest confided harshly.

The train pulled up, its loud brakes shattering the conversation. Tempest leapt to her feet and hid behind the station building. Twilight, Pinkie, Applejack, and the others organized their luggage and lined them up neatly on their respective carts before boarding the train.

“I sure hope Tempest will be okay,” Fluttershy whispered sadly, looking out the window at the empty station as everypony else settled down.

“She’s just emotionally unstable due to what was said about her.”Rarity replied. “She just needs time to chill and recover.”

The train’s whistle blew, and it began slowly chugging away from the station. Checking to ensure no one was watching, Tempest crept out from her hiding place and watched the caboose pony through the windows as the train sped away. As soon as his back was turned, she stepped onto the tracks and ran after the train, invisible to anypony.

The train picked up speed, getting faster and faster. Tempest galloped as rapidly as she could in an attempt to catch up. At full tilt, she finally reached the caboose. Grabbing the coupling, she used all her strength to pull her muscular body up. With a mighty push of her hind legs, she heaved herself up onto the roof and lay flat, getting a firm grip. At last, she was where no one could see or hear her, and was still on the journey to a town where at least, the chances of being loved and accepted were higher.

Chapter 3: A New Town

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Tempest lay on the roof of the train’s passenger car for a long time, staring out at the bright endless blue sky. Nothing about the situation irritated her - not the wind pulling her mane back or threatening to chap up her lips, not the gray smoke from the train’s stack, not even the prospect of falling off due to a potential sharp turn. All that racked her mind again and again was why? Why had a group of elitist ponies deliberately refuse to attend an event specifically designed to clear her name, then to show up again and verbally degrade her in front of everyone at the station? Had they been specifically set up by another pony with bad intentions, or were they simply just being annoying because they felt that they could speak and act in such a way? The answers were fuzzy and fuddled.

“I should ask you to ask Celestia to inquire about that group of miscreants, Twilight,” Tempest whispered, laying down to relax in peace.

The town of Ponyville loomed into view. Tempest tightened her hoof grip, preparing to jump down in between cars so she wouldn’t be seen by those at the station.

“Well, here we are everypony!” Pinkie Pie announced happily, pointing out the window at the train station, which was clearly visible on the horizon.

Tempest crept silently across the top of the passenger car and jumped down - just as the train driver hit the brakes.


Tempest found herself slammed against the train car door, her legs dangerously dangling over the edge near the hinge and buffers. Shaking herself conscious, she pushed herself up to her feet and stood on the edge outside the door, holding onto a rail until the train came to a complete stop.

The doors opened, and a flood of ponies came on and got off. Feeling insecure, Tempest jumped off on the other side and crouched down, out of sight but listening in closely. Finally, the noise died down until it was audibly clear the station was empty, except for a few voices.

“Tempest, where are you?”

“Darling, come out, please!”

“She’s probably -”

“Here,” finished Tempest, stepping out from behind the train as it sped off.

“Tempest! You’re okay!” Twilight exclaimed, running to her.

“I’m alright,” Tempest replied, giving the anxious Twilight a hug. “I just hope Ponyville is alright too, if you know what I mean.”

“Don’t get yourself too tied up with anxiety,” Pinkie said encouragingly as they walked down the road. “Ponyville is a very welcoming and friendly place. No pony here has an elitist mentality. They all go about their own lives without so much of a scuffle.”

Feeling a little bolder, Tempest continued down the road, using the moment to take in all the sights and sounds of the outskirts of the new town. The trees, bushes, and flowers provided a relaxing and tranquil atmosphere, as if it were actively showing love and care - exactly the qualities and behavior she hoped to receive from the townsfolk of Ponyville. Yet as she started down one of the main streets, something seemed off.

A few residents were out and about, selling fruit at stands or simply out for a walk. But for the most part, the town looked empty, as if everypony had fled with a couple stubborn residents staying behind.

“All this beautiful socialization and flourishing economy, abandoned,” Tempest muttered. “It’s like they already knew a storming attack was coming.”

“Fizzlepop, you’re not a storm or a danger to anypony,” Rarity pleaded. “You’re powerful, strong, and beautiful, no matter what some petty low-lifes may say.”

“I’ve heard...less,” Tempest muttered under her breath. Inside, she wanted to just abandon Ponyville, abandon Canterlot, and just return to the solo outcast life she’d always known prior to being under the rule of the Storm King. Just to be in a place where she would have nopony to worry about except herself. It was pointless if living amongst others if they were stubborn in their seemingly deliberate fear of your presence. Rarity’s puppy eyes were the only miniscule driving forces that kept her moving forward.

“Hey, what’s with all those low whispers?” Fluttershy interrupted, and was met with a shrug from the others.

“No, seriously,” she replied. “Listen, it’s like a whole crowd on the far side of town.”

“Well, it is 1 o’clock y’all,” Applejack added.

“One o’clock?!” Twilight yelped. “I totally forgot - Mayor Mare’s holding a town meeting today regarding a new citizen!”

Without a word, Twilight flew off to the center of Ponyville, her friends instantly in tow, while Tempest stood briefly in thought.

“Um-hm!” she exclaimed, the dots finally aligning and connecting. Now she realized why almost everyone in town was absent - they hadn’t ran away, they were waiting for her to arrive! Maybe this meant they actually wanted her to live with them…

Having understood the situation, Tempest took off after Twilight and her friends, her hoof armor leaving a loud clanking sound in her wake. Reaching the town hall, she noticed the crowd all gathered around the town hall building. There were so many, in fact, that they extended all the way back across the main road and into some side roads. Over their whispers, Tempest caught the notable voice of Mayor Mare, who’d been giving them all a short preface.

“Our town’s newest resident is one that many may or may not be familiar with. She tried to take over Canterlot by the command of the Storm King, until she rebelled and instead pushed him to his own demise, thus saving Equestria from eternal chaos and destruction. Everypony please welcome, Tempest Shadow!”

Back at the rear of the crowd, Tempest heard the call, and strode forward.

“Excuse me, everypony, I need to get through!” she asked several times, trying to get through the rows of ponies, but they refused to budge.

“This row isn’t for…” one rude stallion began, then looked up at the bold, serious, and muscular figure of Tempest. He choked on his own words, falling silent.

“Hehe,” Tempest smirked. “Have it your way, little ponies. I’ll do it my way.” Glancing around, she spotted a low-lying ledge and jumped. Getting a grip, she then caught sight of a balcony two stories up on a house on the opposite side of the street. Without a second thought, she pulled herself up onto the small ledge and kicked off hard with her hind legs, taking an enormous leap towards the balcony. This was her special power: Tempest didn’t have wings, but she could leap, spin, and kick very hard. She’d used it before to unleash the Storm King’s magic to encase the Princesses in stone, now she’d use it to reach the stage where everypony would know of her presence as a good pony.

Crashing through the balcony’s wooden railings, Tempest spotted a lamppost and made another huge leap spanning some thirty meters, landing right on top of it. Before her weight would crush its frame, she threw herself sideways, rotating her front legs and tucking her back ones in. With a mighty crash, she landed on the town hall’s announcing stage, rolling as she fell.

“Tempest!” Twilight shrieked. “Are you okay?”

“ gotta use old strategies to get yourself to where you can fully embrace the new,” Tempest groaned. She wasn’t writhing in pain, but clearly achy.

“Good thing your armor protected you,” came a familiar voice. “Maybe even tougher than dragon scales.”

“Hey Spike,” Tempest waved, getting to her feet. “Twilight’s told me all about you.”

“How’s the castle?” Twilight inquired.

“Did the workload overclock your awesome dragon powers?” Rainbow Dash teased.

“Ah, it wasn’t much,” Spike bluffed. “I swept all the hallways, organized a cluttered section of the library, and baked a couple things.”

Tempest gave him a glance-over, before turning to the stage - or what was left of it. Her landing had cracked the concrete wall and punctured a hole in the floor. Added to which, the podium had fallen over and Mayor Mare’s papers were scattered everywhere. It was a mess.

“Go,” Twilight urged her. “I’ll fix this, while you fix the other,” she added with a sly wink. Tempest smiled back and turned to face the crowd, her worries receding slightly as the townsfolk remained in their positions, not yelling or running away. It was a huge improvement over the events in Canterlot.

In no time, the papers were collected and sorted, and the podium was back up.

“You may begin,” Mayor Mare coaxed in a low voice.

“Thanks,” Tempest whispered, before turning to face the crowd.

“In all honesty I shouldn’t be here,” she admitted firsthand, keeping her voice clear and definite. “I should be in the deserted lands way down south, scraping out a living with whatever destiny throws my way. But I came here - because I had a choice, and firm belief that the choice was a good one. I wanted to get back into pony society, to be loved and help others out, to make new friends. Beforehand, I wanted nothing more to restore the one thing that brought about all my sadness and exile - my horn. And that led me into the wrong hands. Now in the right league thanks to my newest friend Twilight Sparkle, I make my return to pony society. I stand before you all, in hopes of your love and acceptance. I know you understand that we all are special in our own ways, even if said ways may mean we look or perform differently. But if we overcome those differences and recognize ponies for who they truly are in the now, then we can truly function as a prosperous and harmonious society. Thanks for allowing me to speak, and I wish you all a fantastic day.”

Unlike in Canterlot, the crowd cheered immediately, clapping and smiling back at her.

“Thank you for being a great friend, Twilight,” Tempest complemented, raising her voice so the crowd would hear it clearly.

“You too,” Twilight replied with a loving smile. “You helped me understand too. In fact, I have something special to show you. But for now, go establish yourself amongst those you reach out.”

Nodding firmly, Tempest stepped off the town hall stage and headed for the main road. Amazingly the crowd politely parted to make way for her.

“You don’t have to be so submissive, but...but thanks,” Tempest chuckled, walking down the ‘hallway’ that was formed. Spotting a couple fruit stands, she headed straight for the market. She was ready to assimilate herself back into the society she left so long ago.

Chapter 4: Major Malfunction

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As the crowd dispersed, Tempest walked down the main road around the town hall building. Now that the streets were “back to normal”, she hoped to enter the market stalls and get a quick bite to eat, hopefully getting Ponyville’s residents acclimatized to her presence in the process. Twilight happily looked on as she casually made her way down to the market. Only thing was, she really didn’t know the way.

“Excellent,” Tempest thought, approaching a fine stallion. “Perfect time to see if they truly have changed.”

“Hi there,” she said in the friendliest tone possible. “Mind if you show me the way to the market please?”

The stallion took a backward leap and almost gasped, but held his cool and pointed to a road . “W-w-well, hello. The market’s just down there. At the end after crossing the brook, turn right and it’ll be right in front of ya. Have a good day.”

“Thanks very much!” Tempest replied, already trotting away across the town square and down the road. For once, she actually felt happy and eager to be in a public area, amongst others, rather than travelling across deserted lands solo. Not a single pony shook, gasped frightfully, or ran away in fear. They all went about their business as if Pinkie Pie herself was just randomly bouncing through. It felt good to bring about relaxation rather than fear.

Her ears flicked as she approached the bridge, quickly picking up the distinct sounds of eager, talkative market-goers. Using the advanced filters inside her ear, she could pick up several conversations within.

“That’ll be eight bits.”

“Aw, but I only have seven!”

“Well, you’ll have to go back and get another, simple as that.”

“Selling price is twenty bits, final!”

“Where are you, Lyra?”

For Tempest, most of them seemed to be waiting for friends or were shopping with them, or busy declaring prices or arguing over them. However, two voices immediately caught her attention.

“Thanks for coming, Starlight.”

“Argh, darn cider’s so heavy! But I gotta sell ‘em…”

Having crossed the bridge, Tempest trotted down the road and turned the corner, where she could now see all those whom she’d heard moments before. There was a smooth, thin-tailed pony with a star-covered wizard hat atop her head shopping for accessories with her best friend.

Smiling humbly, Tempest attentively scanned the stalls and stands as she walked down the road, further into the marketplace, taking note of what items were being sold. There was practically everything possible one could think of - party horns, play balls, bars of soap and shampoo, flowers, hats, even plush animal-shaped pillows.

“You wouldn’t need to buy large quantities of these if you just hit me up,” she thought with a snicker upon passing a stall with several buckets of firework rockets.

At the far end lay the best part - at least, for Tempest - the foodstuff. Carrots, grapes, strawberries, lettuce, and of course pears and apples. With a slightly grumpy stomach, Tempest boldly walked forward, taking in all the colorful sights and enchanting smells that surrounded her. But as she started to approach a row of bulbous strawberries, the familiar voice of a hard-working farmer split the otherwise calm air.

“Almost there…” Applejack groaned, pulling the two carts, both stacked high with cider. The crop this year had been exceptionally good, and so she’d made extra effort to produce more cider from the extra apples to sell or perhaps trade for fertilizer and soil. However, the journey to town from Sweet Apple Acres was tiring and stressful, even for a pony as strong as her.

Just as she was about to pass out from exhaustion, she found herself - and her carts - moving forward.

“What the hay?” Applejack blurted out, jumping to her feet and slowly walking in time. “Somepony please tell me how in the name of Equestria did I recover and get so strong so quickly to be able to pull both these carts here?”

“Because you did. You helped another recover,” came a resonant voice from behind. Out stepped the tall, thick figure of Tempest.

“T-Tempest?!” Applejack gasped. “How can I ever repay you?”

“Well…” Tempest began, “I came here to the market to check things out… and I found myself hungry.” Fighting back an awkward blush, she loosened up her posture. “So… would you mind if I had a bottle or two?”

“Here,” Applejack replied with an endearing smile, tossing five bits into the air. “Buy whatever you wish.”

“Wait!” Tempest quickly thought. “My…” But then she briefly remembered how she was able to get past the crowd at the town hall. With a few swift moves, she jumped and flung the bits high up, then neatly flicked them into two separate vendors’ money platters. Tempest bought a bunch of grapes and a basket of strawberries. Washing them at a nearby faucet, she held the basket in her mouth, draped the grapes around her neck, and headed off to Twilight’s castle to discuss further plans, giving a couple of hellos and good days to townsfolk along the way.

En route, a brief shadow passed over the houses, though Tempest didn’t think of it too much. “Probably just Rainbow Dash on her way to Cloudsdale.”

Stopping under a tree, Tempest laid down and gently shrugged off the grapes, before setting down the basket. Concentrating as precisely as she could, she aimed her horn at the tip of the grape bunch and tried to gently ease out her magic.

BZZT! Distorted sparks shot out, charring four grapes to black powder and sending sparks floating amongst the grass.

“Still the same after all these years,” she muttered, undoing the straps of her front hoof guard pieces. Holding up the bunch with one hoof, she leaned forward and nibbled a couple grapes, chewing them down fast. Leaving half the bunch for later, she stretched out, hoping to relax - only for her eyes to catch sight of a yellow-colored bird-like creature hopelessly trying to make its way down the path without being seen. But why though? And who - or what - was it trying to hide from? Its wings and long tail were dead giveaways, sticking out like sore hooves.

This is rather amusing… no, Fizzlepop. No. You don’t know if -

Tempest bit her lip in a brief giggle. “Damn it.”

A short frightful squeal was heard from behind a large bush, and instantly Tempest’s eyes locked onto it. “I can see you,” she teased, before easing her throat into a more sympathetic pitch. “But why though? What’s the fright? If anything I’ve got more to give than to take.” Tempest paused, observing the wings and tail. “Hang on a minute, I recognize you. You’re Queen Novo’s daughter.”

Unfortunately this only resulted in a tighter tucking of the wings and the bush to shake even more. Tempest rolled her eyes and chuckled. “You might as well give it up now. There’s no point hiding when you can clearly be seen. Besides, I’ve got a nice basket that could potentially be used to contain shells…”

A slight gasp was heard, but that was it. Damn it, Fizzlepop, you’ve got to try harder. “How about I tell you that I practically saved Equestria and you can relax that timid heart? Because you sure are making it a lot more difficult and painful on your end.”

“Y-you did?”

“Yes. I almost died in the process, and I kinda knew that I would, but I went for it anyways because there was a driving force behind my actions. It’s what Twilight taught me. You can never truly understand and embrace something if you’re always in fear of it based on prior knowledge. Good to stay updated on the subject now and then, you know?”

For a moment the air stood still, and Tempest popped a grape into her mouth, then casually laid down in the grass, whilst still keeping a watchful eye. Slowly, out stepped the lean and graceful figure of the hippogriff Princess Skystar. Still a little shaky, she stepped forward anxiously, evidently still fearful of being attacked. Tempest glanced down at the grass and pretended to look sad.

“Come,” she whispered, glancing back up at the poor timid hippogriff. “You’ve flown quite a way to come here. Have a bite.”

Tempest set down her basket of strawberries before Skystar, desperately trying to win her over and mend the deep wound she’d inflicted way back on a failed attempt that, in the long run, had scored her absolutely nothing. Skystar took a couple steps forward, then sat down, still keeping a reasonable distance.

Okay, enough is enough, Princess. Tempest tossed the grapes onto her head and shuffled away from the tree, closer to Skystar. Surprisingly, it was now Skystar’s turn to laugh.

“Thank you,” Tempest said with a blend of bemusement and gratitude. “I didn’t realize I could actually be funny.” She picked up a strawberry from the basket and stuck her arm out. “Here, try one.”

Rather cautiously, Skystar looked curiously at the bright red fruit. Then she looked up at Tempest’s convincing, pleading, friendly face. Finally she leaned forward and took the berry in her beak, crushing it in a couple quick chews. Tempest beamed, then pulled a few grapes off the bunch and offered them. Skystar nibbled up every one.

“Thanks for these fruits,” Skystar said with a smile. “They’re so delicious.”

“I...I don’t even know what to say, but… thank you for…” Tempest couldn’t even finish, her eyes spilling tears onto the soft grass beneath them.

“I see you not for who you were, but for who you are now,” Skystar declared, putting a reassuring hand under Tempest’s chin. “And um, can I call you Fizzlepop?”

Tempest’s smile grew even wider, her vision still blurry with tears of delight and bliss. Her real name was one that she reserved only for those who dearly close to her. Previously she’d only allowed Twilight to refer to her by that name, but now it seemed Skystar was just as worthy of a close acquaintance.

“You certainly can, Princess Skystar,” she replied, pulling the delighted hippogriff into a cuddly embrace.

A quick realization dawned on Tempest as her eyes caught sight of the castle door, which was now swinging slightly in an arriving breeze.

“You headed to the castle?” Tempest inquired in a friendly tone.

“Oh I definitely was!” Skystar exclaimed. “It took like, forever to persuade my mom but she finally agreed to let me go to Ponyville. I originally wanted to surprise Twilight and her friends in the marketplace but then I heard about this meet-up she was going to have with Tempest Shadow so then I got all scared. But I still really wanted to surprise them again…”

Tempest released her hug and cut her off. “So that’s why you were trying to sneak up on the castle. You could’ve asked some of the townsfolk about me, you know? Would’ve made the castle entry expedition a lot shorter and easier.”

“Yeah, it definitely would.” Skystar blushed sheepishly.

Tempest picked up her basket full of strawberries and grapes, and the two of them - unicorn and hippogriff - walked down the pathway and up the castle steps.

“Applejack has said the door is typically open, so we shouldn’t have any issues entering. However, we should still knock,” Tempest noted, lightly tapping her hoof against the door.

Almost instantly, the door opened, and a very familiar dragon face appeared.

“Hi there, Spike!” Tempest greeted. “Just coming in to discuss a couple things with Twilight. Is she busy?”

“She’s busy signing a bit of paperwork at the moment, but she’ll be in the meeting room in a couple minutes...” Spike trailed off, suddenly freezing in shock at the presence of an excited hippogriff.

“Um… well… hi, Skystar…”

“It’s soooooooooo good to see you again, little dragon!” Skystar exclaimed excitedly. “How’s life?”

“Busy as usual,” Spike sighed, glancing gloomily at the ground. “But it’s a good kind of busy, you know? Cleaning bookshelves, baking desserts, organizing pens… it all helps further remind me of my role as a duty as an assistant to my best friend Twilight.”

He pushed the door open further, and Tempest and Skystar stepped inside. Just as Skystar was about to go on an enthusiastic rant about the crystal walls and how similar the door arches were like the pattern of shells, a demanding shout rang down the hall.

“Spiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiike! The meeting’s about to start! Have you found Tempest yet?”

“Come on, you two!” Spike urged as he ran off down the hall, gesturing for them to follow. Tempest simply shrugged and trotted after him, with Skystar in tow.

Near the end of the hall, Spike burst through the doors, panting slightly.

“Surprise!” Tempest exclaimed, skidding to a stop behind him, with Skystar adding a little “Ta-daaaaa!”

“Oh, um, hi Princess Skystar,” Twilight blushed. “You’re in Ponyville? I… wasn’t expecting you to arrive.”

“That’s exactly it!” Skystar exclaimed excitedly. “The hippogriff kingdom has successfully recovered and we’re all gradually getting used to being above the water instead of under its surface, you know? And I got a bit bored and I really really really wanted to come see you guys!”

“And then she bumped into me,” Tempest added, setting down her basket, “and I offered her some of my berries and then we came here. So… I was going to briefly ask you, Twilight, about my future and where I should position myself in society and stuff.” “I’m not sure what Skystar here has in mind, though…”

“How about a ‘Hippogriff party’!” Pinkie exclaimed, a wave of confetti raining down instantly. “Skystar should definitely feel at home here just as she is at Mount Aris!”

“I just got an idea for a pretty dress you could wear to the party!” Rarity announced. “And it will include an amazing shell pattern that I just know you’ll love!”

Tempest quickly turned to Twilight. “How about you?”

“Well,” Twilight began, “I wanted to show you all the Crystal Mirror. I’ve been working on improving its capabilities, and I think I can get it to transport us between two distant locations in a flash. All thanks to some extensive reading I did of some of Starswirl’s old books on time warps and limbo banishment!”

Rainbow’s mouth twisted a little, but she shrugged it off. “Sounds...awesome!”

The group followed Twilight out of the room and down one of the halls, into the main library room. There, in the center of the room stood the shiny, tall mirror portal in all its glory, with all the components still intact. It looked practically the same as it had been three years ago, with the electrodes, wires, and energizing shafts. Except for one little detail.

“What’s that thing?” Applejack interrogated, pointing at a rather large panel of wires, tubes, and switches that stood beside the mirror.

“Oh, that’s a moderator and a modulator,” Twilight explained. “It gives more control over the magic resonating from the book, since - ”

“Starswirl’s books contain a lot more power than Sunset Shimmer’s journal, don’t they?” Rarity interjected.

“Exactly,” Twilight replied, flying up to a high shelf on the right. “Now, I’ve looked through several of these books, and I’m sure this is the one.” She held up a rather thick purple book with a unique ancient design on the front, complete with a subtitle in runes. “We can begin a test by travelling to the Crystal Empire from here.”

“Um, you sure about this, Twilight?” Fluttershy questioned softly.

“I was going to ask the same,” Tempest added. “How exactly does this work?”

“The magic from the book is used to power a spell that can pinpoint a pre-defined location and send those who enter the portal to that location. It’s far more efficient and faster than one pony teleporting with others in her grasp,” Twilight explained, and pointed to a crank handle. “The only way we’ll know if this machine still works is to actually use it. Applejack, can you turn that crank please?”

“Sure,” Applejack replied with a slight sigh, as if reluctant. Grasping the handle, she started turning it, gradually picking up speed. Rainbow Dash then took the book and inserted it into the stand above the mirror. Slowly but surely, the modulator began to light up, and energy started to flow through the modulator and into the main portal’s circuitry. As her friends looked on, Twilight began to fiddle with a few controls, until two rows of lights were fully lit, and two large central lights were almost fully bright.

“The location has been fixed according to the spell,” Twilight declared. “Keep cranking, Applejack! The electrical input needs to be controlled to avoid a surge.”

“It’s going as fast as I can turn it!” Applejack replied, noticing the zaps of energy getting louder. All at once, the portal began to shake slightly, and a slight fizz was heard from one of the lines, indicating a very high pressure point.

This wasn’t exactly what I’d planned, but everything else looks stable so far, Twilight decided. Making one final tweak to the modulator, she turned to her friends.

“Alright, it should be ready now. Formation! We need to form a triangular shape so the mirror will pull us all in with equal force.”

Keeping an eye on the modulator, Twilight noticed the pattern of lights, which kept constantly changing. And then, just for a moment, they appeared in a pattern which matched the Crystal Empire’s location.

“Now, ponies! NOW!” she yelled, running towards the portal. Spike, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Fluttershy all followed suit. Taking a hoof to hand, Skystar and Pinkie ran into the spinning vortex after them. For a moment, Tempest hesitated, her muscular figure frozen in shock at what was occurring before her very eyes. The portal was so overpowered it was starting to crack from the intense energy forces, and the wiring of Twilight’s bodge modulator was melting. The lights blinked rapidly, as if threatening to go out completely. A pipe burst, followed by a random leak of energy that almost blasted her right in the chest. There was no escape but to enter the fragmenting machine itself. It was now or never.

Without even asking or ordering, Tempest leapt to the side, grabbed Applejack right off the crank, and threw herself into the portal, just as a series of large crackles and a big explosion occurred right behind them, knocking the two out cold.

Chapter 5: A Deadly Encounter and an Unexpected Getaway

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“And that’s the last of it,” Kaito said, handing me a small box - though it was the size of a shoebox.

I glanced down at the cardboard, tightly wrapped in its plastic shipping cocoon. This was it - I’d finally obtained all the means for me to increase power.

“Thanks again so much,” I replied gratefully. “Maybe you can come down sometime and we could attend a meetup, maybe even qualify for CSCS.”

Kaito sighed sadly. “That would be beyond a dream come true, but I have to attend to my family’s business. It’s what means the most in life.”

“Yeah, me too,” I confided. “Well, call or email me if you got time! Have a good night.”

“You too, my friend,” Kaito replied, waving as I got into my car. I smirked at his Japanese accent - it was smooth and beautiful. After all, he is pure-blooded Japanese. I lived in Parkdale with my mom, but had come all this way up north since he was a special one who knew of a method to import premium car parts and sell them at half-price.

Shifting into first gear, I set off down the road on a long journey back down south. All I wanted was to hit the pillow, eat a hearty breakfast the following morning, and get to work. Yet as I turned onto the highway and turned up the radio to keep me awake, I had no idea I was about to cross paths with a group of colorful friendly beings that would change my life forever.



“Fizzlepop, wake up, wake up!” Twilight pleaded, shaking her friend in a desperate bid to rouse her.

“Uuuuuuuunnnnnnngggggggghhhhhhh,” Tempest groaned. “Wh-what was that? My head is so… fuzzy. I can barely make out anything.”

“Wh-where are we?” came the faint voice of Rarity, and soon the others began to rise from their resting places.

“I don’t recall the Crystal Empire having grass this short, or having houses that shabby,” Applejack added, pointing across the street.

“A-a-and why is it s-s-so d-dark?” Fluttershy whimpered, still curled up. “It was daylight before we teleported…”

“Maybe we’re just in a foreign city,” Tempest theorized. “Like Klugetown.”

“Come on, we’ve gotta find out our actual location,” Twilight declared. “Let’s move… quietly.”

Picking themselves off the grass, the group - seven ponies, a hippogriff, and one little dragon - set off across the grassy area, only to come to a hard road moments later.

“What are those things?” Spike inquired, pointing to a lineup of large objects along the other side of the road.

“I don’t know,” Twilight admitted. “But they don’t look alive, more technical. Much like our carriages, but in an enclosed design.”

“Do you even think this is Equestria?” Skystar asked worriedly. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

“It kinda does remind me of Klugetown,” Tempest admitted. “The buildings do look worn-down and slightly shabby. Stay close everypony. This place doesn’t look very trusting.”

To the left the road split in two - one heading further down, the other straight up. The group stopped, still slightly unsure which path to take, until Rarity noticed a tall building in the distance.

“There’s an apartment block up there,” she said, pointing. “If we can get up there, we’ll be higher up and thus be able to see better…”

“...And find out exactly where we are,” Pinkie Pie finished.

“Why didn’t I think of that?” Rainbow mused, and without warning, shot straight up into the air.

“Wait!” Tempest called out, but she was too late. The eager pegasus was already airborne, almost a multi-colored smudge in the sky due to the extra darkness the buildings brought.

From her vantage point high up in the sky, Rainbow Dash got a good look at where she and her friends actually were. In one direction stood hundreds of tall buildings, densely packed together, and beyond it a large body of water. In the opposite direction lay more run-down houses with small parks, and one large building of sorts. Down on the ground, a couple of those “modern carriages” moved about at considerable speed. The lights of the city stretched on for miles beyond the visible horizon.

Her heart sank. This was nothing like anything she’d seen - only Manehatten could come fairly close. They were definitely not in Equestria, not with this size of a city and the large, fast moving, ground-dwelling contraptions. Unbeknownst to her, another set of eyes was also scanning the city.

“Don’t do that again!” Twilight snapped the instant Rainbow Dash touched back down on the road. “We all agree this place isn’t the safest in Equestria so we need to be cautious. How is that - ”

“Whoa whoa whoa,” Rainbow harshly cut in. “You’ve gotta be a fool if you think this is still Equestria. These” - she pointed to one of the large objects by the roadside - “are capable of movement! They move quite fast, but I’m not sure if they do so on their own though. This city is huge, like really really really really REALLY huge! It’s also, um, next to a large lake, in case you wanted to know that.”

Twilight bit her lip in a painful zap of realization. She and her friends were in a shady-looking area with little light in a place they had no knowledge of.

“Let’s try to slowly understand the world around us here,” she ordered. “I know nothing about it, though a few things look similar. Point out what you recognize.”

“Trash can.”

“Doors and windows.”


“Hard road surface.”

Still taking turns at random, Twilight and her friends headed right and continued down the road, the sounds of fast-moving objects and talking voices getting considerably louder as they proceeded.

“Okay now I believe you, Rainbow,” Twilight confessed, as they all caught sight of several lean, tall creatures walking upright far down at the intersection where the road ended. “We definitely aren’t in Equestria.”

“I feel rather drained,” Skystar whined. “Can we just rest over there?”

Twilight and Tempest looked over to see a dark, empty corner behind a small parking area, with a large tree hanging over it. If anyone came up here they wouldn’t be able to see them, at least not clearly.

“Ooh, looks like a good hiding -”

Pinkie’s words were interrupted by the sound of a blaring siren. Within minutes one of the “fast-moving modern carriages” sped up to them from behind, nearly knocking Fluttershy over.

“All of you, whatever the hell you lot are, on the ground, now!” a voice barked. A large, well-built man burst out of the door and drew his gun on Twilight and her friends, so fast they were taken by surprise.

“Uh, hhhhhh…” Fluttershy whimpered, starting to cry.

“SHUT UP! I SAID, ON THE GROUND NOW!” The cop’s voice bellowed like a minotaur, and for a moment even Rainbow Dash felt fearful. Tempest slowly knelt down, keeping silent but observant. Skystar, however, stood her ground.

“Why do you think we’re going to do any harm?” she asked defiantly, taking a step forward, we just -”


In a state of anger, a shot rang out clear, shattering everypony’s ears. Spike and all the others dropped flat on the pavement and froze. Suddenly a loud agonizing scream of pain was heard. From the corner of her eye, Tempest caught sight of a bleeding Skystar collapsing on the ground. One of her hind legs had a thick streak of blood. She looked dead.

“You…” Tempest couldn’t even get the words out as her blood boiled over. She rose to her feet and blasted all the magic she could right into the gunman’s chest. He shook, wobbled, and collapsed unconscious in a heap.




It had been a long night, and I’d been driving for almost an hour. At least I was closer now, rather than farther. The radio was helpful at first, but soon became boring. Seriously, who plays cheesy pop from Alicia Keys in the dead of the night? C’mon.


The loud pop of a gunshot startled me out of my woozy feeling, and I immediately sat upright, eyes darting around to catch sight of any movement or a hand holding a gun. Passing by one neighborhood side street, my eyes caught one of the most chilling sights ever. A group of colorful pony-like creatures of an unknown kind were all huddled on the ground along with what looked to be a...hippogriff? But it what was beside them that made my blood run cold. A cop car, with its occupant lying unconscious, his gun several feet away.

I didn’t know exactly what struck me at this moment, but inside all hell broke loose. I stopped in the rightmost lane - the parking lane, leapt out of the car, and threw open the trunk. I pushed the passenger seat as far forward and over as it would allow, then rushed up the street, pulling my phone out as I ran. If news of this incident ever got ‘round, I was going to get all the evidence I could before any of it was altered.

“All of you, run down that way, now!” I ordered sternly, already taking pictures of the cop and the hippogriff’s leg, which I noticed was badly injured. You sick trigger happy bastard, I thought, before turning back to the innocent creatures with a serious face. “Your life depends on it, I warn you. Go.”

After taking a quick video of the cop car’s license plate, the cop’s face and (thankfully) a fragment of the bullet, I put my fingers on the poor hippogriff’s neck and chest. It felt slight movement, but somewhat rapid.

Slipping my phone back into my pocket, I lifted her up. Boy, was she heavy! Supporting her hurt leg, I pulled up with all my might, and rested her on my chest, almost staggering backwards due to her weight. I took off after the others down the street, a moaning sound heard behind me.

“In there!” I exclaimed, pointing to the open doors of my car. The sight of me struggling to help one of their friends may have triggered something in them, because at that moment one of them - rather tall, dark-colored, and muscular - rushed to my side and helped support the hippogriff’s weight. Together we loaded her into the trunk. Pulling a rag from my pocket, I wrapped it around the bloody area of the hippogriff’s injured leg.

“You, in front here!” I instructed the large, muscular one - who I now noticed looked like a unicorn. The others seemed to understand my car to a certain extent, as they were all huddled in the back seats. I repositioned the front seat as quickly as I could, before shutting the door and sprinting around to the other side.

With all the occupants loaded up, I threw the car into second gear and slammed the throttle, lurching the car forward with a loud screech from the spinning tires. Even though I didn’t even know these alien creatures, there was no way I was going to let them die at the sight of a gun wielded by a trigger happy cop.

A couple gasps and dialogue was exchanged between them, but I kept silent and focused on my driving. In the distance I could hear the all-too-familiar sound of police sirens.

“Ah, great.” The sicko was onto us from a distance, and I had to lose him. If I was to die by his gruesome hands, it’d be protecting the occupants of my car.

Spotting a residential area further west, I yanked the e-brake and skidded into the corner, my rear tire missing hitting the curb by inches. No sooner did the front start to re-align with the road, I hit the throttle again, shifting into third gear but keeping the speed down - the weight of the occupants assisting somewhat. I let out a slight sigh of relief as I noticed the cop car passing on by on the main street and the siren’s sound dying off. In a quick move, I stopped, jumped out, and pulled off a cover that I’d used to shield my rear license plate, before hopping back in.

“You’re the last things in the world I expected to show up on a night like this,” I muttered, driving away slowly and keeping my ears alert, just in case. “What were you doing on that street in the middle of the night, anyway?”

“Um, thanks for saving us,” a slight whimper came from the back seat, and my heart sank. Had I done a bigger favor than I originally anticipated? As small and timidly expressed as that question might’ve been, it sparked another, so I put up my hand like a stop sign. Amazingly, they recognized what I meant, and fell silent.

“It goes without saying that you all have a lot of questions, and so do I,” I began. “Let me first explain to you the where, the what, and the why, then you can fill in the rest. You’re in Toronto, a large and diverse city. Toronto is a city within a province called Ontario, in a country called Canada, on a planet called Earth. Those you see living here are called humans. We are living creatures that walk upright, and use our upper limbs to hold objects, eat, climb, and do all kinds of stuff. We’re made up of cells and organs, just like you. Males are called guys or dudes, and females are called girls or sometimes gals. What you’re in right now is called a car - like a carriage, but with an enclosed body, and its own method of driving power within that is controlled in a mechanical manner. There are several types, I’ll explain more later.”

“Now onto the why. That sicko you encountered back there was a cop. Police officer, if you will. They serve to establish law and order, though some are horribly abusive of their positions of power - the bad apples, if you wish to assign a term. As a fine dude who’s lived in this city his whole life, I’ve encountered and witnessed cases with cops like that. I’m sorry you had to be at the heart of one, and I’m happy I got you out of it.” I let out a big fake sigh. “Over to you lot.”

I pulled down my rear sight mirror so I could see them all clearly.

“My name is Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Friendship,” said the first one. She stood out with a violet mane and tail with a pink streak. "We are ponies."

“Wait,” I interrupted with a sly smile. “Let me guess.” I observed them closely in the mirror for a moment while we waited at a stoplight. They were a mixed bunch - pegasi, unicorns, and "regular" ponies.

“Rainbow, because your mane and tail’s colors speak for themselves. Applejack, because your flank has apples on it, and you’ve got a nice little Stetson. Many cowboys’ names are often Jack, so go figure. Pinkie - it’s in the color. Rarity - your mane is a rare design compared to that of your friends. And the one in the corner there… you’re shy, so, Shy.”

Twilight’s eyes widened at how accurate my guesses were. “I can’t believe it - you got it all right! Only for Shy, it’s Fluttershy. And the little dragon here you missed is Spike, my number one assistant.”

“Quite the super-smart one, aren’t you?” Rainbow sneered. God, I haven’t heard a girl’s voice as tomboyish as that since middle school.

“You can say that,” I chuckled, and turned to the one opposite me. “How about you?”

“Tempest Shadow,” came a thick, serious voice, and I stiffened slightly. Looking at her build and the armor she wore, she was a force to be reckoned with. A brief thought hit me.

“Were you the one who put that blaster in his place?”

“Yeah…” Tempest looked down, as if feeling remorse. My eyes widened, and I pulled a little smile. How could a figure as big and strong as her have such a deep level of sympathy?

“It’s okay,” I said, consoling her with a little caress. “You’re brave and strong to stand up for your friends and defend them. That in itself is worth more than what the world contains.”

Tempest smiled so solemnly at me she looked as if about to cry, but held it in. I then turned onto Dundas and went onto the next question.

“How about the one in the back?”

“Oh, Skystar?! Is she going to be okay?” Pinkie gasped, and my heart melted again at her worried face.

“She’ll be fine,” I reassured the little pink pony. “She just needs to rest. Hopefully that rag I put on her leg will ease the blood loss from that bullet wound. I’m not sure if the bullet went through her leg or just passed it through the skin, so I’m going to have to take her to the vet ASAP next morning.”

It then dawned on Twilight: that cop nearly killed Skystar! No wonder Tempest burst with rage.

“Almost home everyone,” I announced, turning onto Roncesvalles Avenue. “Oh, I forgot to mention, my name’s Xavier William Brown, but most call me Breezy X.”

“Xavier,” Twilight repeated, rather fluently. “Interesting name. Thanks for saving us.”

“Happy to save nine lives,” I replied with a smile. Noting the body physique of Rainbow, I gave her a sly wink. “I have a feeling you’re going to like what’s inside these boxes. More on that in the morning.”

“Will you help us get back home?” Twilight asked worriedly.

“If only I knew where to start,” I admitted. “But I will try my best. First though, Skystar needs to get healed up and we all need some good sleep. I’ve been driving for almost four hours now just for those boxes, but I can guarantee it was all worth it.”

At last, I pulled up into the driveway and pushed a button, causing the garage door to rise as the little ponies looked on in awe. Entering the garage, I pulled the e-brake and cut the engine. “Alright, let’s get to sleep.”

I opened the door and let Tempest out, then Twilight, Spike, and their friends. Re-adjusting the front seat once more, I shut the door and opened the trunk. Skystar lay there, looking almost lifeless. I gently felt her neck and her chest. Yep, still got a beat. Instantly Pinkie was onto her before I could even.

“Skystar, Sky!” she pleaded in a heartbreaking sorrowful voice. “Please wake up, please!”

I gently wiggled her front arms, and then stroked her wings. Slowly, Skystar’s eyes fluttered open and she moved her limbs slightly before wincing in pain.

“Oh Skystar, you’re alive!” Pinkie exclaimed, hugging her hippogriff friend. I felt like crying but knew we had more important things to do. “C’mon. Let’s get her inside.”

Tempest supported Skystar’s front half while I held her lower back and legs, taking care not to touch or bump her injured one. The rag was wet with blood, but thankfully not soaked through completely, which meant her blood loss hadn’t reached fatal levels. I shut the trunk and locked the car, then handed Applejack a remote, and with a hoofpress of a button the garage door shut.

“Can you open up, please?” I kindly asked Twilight, tossing her my keys. She caught them using telekinesis and had the front door open in a jiffy. We walked down a short flight of steps. A night light was on, and my mother was fast asleep on the couch. We snuck past her into my room. Door shut, Tempest and I laid Skystar down on my bed and I instantly held up her leg to avoid any bloodstains.

“Pinkie, hold her leg up like this,” I ordered. “I’ll be right back.”

I slipped into the bathroom and took a quick relief, then washed up and got a couple sheets of paper towel,a cup of warm water, and a first aid kit.

“Um, can I help?” Fluttershy asked as I began to carefully clean the wound. It didn’t look too bad, but the skin had definitely been pierced. It looked as though the bullet had simply made a deep incision on the skin as it passed, but not hit any bone. Still, an expert would be needed to confirm this.

Working together, Fluttershy and I cleaned the wound, clipped away some of the blood-stained hair, and applied a dab of rubbing alcohol. The ensuing pain resulted in a bit of a squeal, but amazingly Skystar held it together quite well. In no time at all the wound was dressed, bandaged, and covered.

“Good,” I said with a yawn as I put away the first aid kit, the cup, the rag, and the paper towel. “Now let’s get some sleep… once we clean up, of course.”

In the bathroom, we all took turns washing our hands (and hooves) and drying them well. Finally, drained of energy, we entered my room again. I pulled back the blanket and flopped down, and Fluttershy, and Rarity snuggled up next to me, while Skystar slept on the other side and Spike rested by my legs. Twilight, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Tempest simply curled up on the floor and we all nodded off to sleep.

Chapter 6: A New Home

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I couldn’t remember exactly when it was at first, but I heard a loud ring. Everyone else in my room heard it too, and awoke with a bit of a start.

“Ah, just the alarm clock…” I mumbled in a half-awake state, then felt a super-gentle hoof stroke my arm. Opening my eyes, I could see the state of my room. The dresser with all the stickers from my childhood was still there, along with the closet. Skystar was by my side, and thankfully still breathing fine. All around me I noticed the little ponies and the little dragon by my feet, still sound asleep. They looked so peaceful and cute I felt like my heart was going to give out. Briefly thinking back on how I saved them and even let them stay in my home for the night made me reflect for a moment. Somehow even though I didn’t fully know them, a part of me wanted them to be close friends. I did have two close friends, but they were still more of workplace bosses or teachers. And then another thought hit me: How would my mom react to them? Would she let them stay? And how could they feel happy and free during their time here - I couldn’t just shut them up in the house 24/7.

But the hardest question was the one no one - not even they themselves - knew the answer: Would they be able to return home?

“Rise and shine everyone,” I announced groggily. “Important early start.”

“What early start are ya talking about?” Applejack asked, slowly rising to her feet.

“Are you on the phone again trying to imitate white accents?” came a distinct voice with a thick accent.

Darn, I thought. Mom.

“All of you,” I ordered in a serious but quiet voice. “I need you to stay silent. Not a peep. There’s… someone I need to talk to.”

“Um, who is it?” Fluttershy whispered back.

“My mom,” I replied so low I could barely hear myself. I raised a finger and looked at them all sternly in the eye to know I meant business with my previous statement, then carefully slipped through the door.

“Ayy, good morning son,” said Joyce, my mother, who was up and reading a book, her blanket neatly folded.

“Good morning to you too,” I replied, giving her a warm hug.

“Busy day today?” she teased, pouring some milk into a bowl.

“Yeah…” I began, slightly slow. “About that… there’s something I need to inform you. It’s highly important.”

Joyce squinted slightly. “Is it related to that damn car of yours, or how late you came home last night?”

I nodded slowly, and sat down at the dining table. “I saved a couple of young folks who were lost. They’re not from around here, and they… almost got shot.”

“What!” my mom shouted, and for a moment I thought I heard a gasp from my room. “You just trusted a couple of strangers just because they were shot?! Who knows if they actually were thugs and staged it all?”

I fought back an eye-roll. “Big flaw there, Mom. If they really were thugs, wouldn’t they have killed me before I returned home?”

Joyce fell silent. A slight smile played across my lips, and I sighed. There was only one way to do this, and I had to do it. But, I knew she wouldn’t like it.

“They’re… not human,” I said in a low voice, “and they aren’t even from Earth.”

I skipped back to my room and shoved the door open. “All of you, come out and please make yourselves presentable,” I announced.

Slowly, Twilight crept around the corner, followed by Spike, then the rest of their friends - the Mane 6, as I quickly dubbed them on the spot. Finally Tempest and I came into view, supporting Skystar. We gently lowered her onto the couch, where she simply flopped down to relax.

“Still tired, eh Skystar?” I remarked, before turning back to my mom, who’d taken a sit in the chair - presumably to avoid a heart attack.

“Wh-what are you all?!” she gasped, barely able to get her voice out.

Do it, I told Twilight sternly with my facial expression. Do it now.

She understood, and stepped forward, placing a hoof on Joyce’s leg.

“My name is Twilight Sparkle,” she began in a gentle voice. “I’m sorry if the presence of me and my friends startled you. We do not mean any harm to you or your son. If we happen to be an inconvenience or trouble of any kind, or if you choose not to trust us, we will gladly leave.”

That wasn’t what I wanted Twilight to say, but it was true. My mom was the boss, and it was her house. If she said no, it meant no period.

For a moment the air stood so silent and thick you could hear Skystar’s breathing clearly. “Forgive me if I withhold my calm demeanor. I wasn’t expecting this, nor have I seen anything like you all before. You all can stay, but. But… it’ll be my way, and my rules.”

“Of course it will be, darling!” Rarity interrupted. “It is your house, after all. We won’t damage anything, nor will we cause trouble. We will clean up and follow your commands.”

“I sure hope so,” Joyce replied, her eyebrows raised. I bit back a snigger - she somehow looked amusing whenever she did that.

“But first, we need a good clean-up and some food.” Tempest’s voice resonated from the living room, and immediately Joyce’s head spun around, eyes locked onto her. Tempest simply nodded with a wink.

As we all headed off to the bathroom to wash up, Fluttershy still stood in the living room, before finally uttering a couple words.

“Thank you for letting us stay, Joyce.”

“Awww, come, come…” It was rather amusing how Joyce’s seriousness melted away at the sight of someone like Fluttershy. Joyce squat down and Fluttershy embraced her in a soft hug. I was glad I only heard it and didn’t see it because the cuteness would likely have terminated my heart.

In the small bathroom, everybody took turns to wash their hooves again. With Tempest’s help, I used the detachable showerhead to rinse Skystar’s fur and wings of all the grit and grime from the road.

“That showerhead looks simply beautiful!” Rarity exclaimed.

I narrowed my eyes. “You seem to have quite the taste for the finer things in life. But you’re a generous and loving pony at heart. Yes, indeed. I got this for my mom back when we first moved here. Spent all my hard-earned money as a kid on it - $100.”

“A hundred bits?!” Applejack exclaimed, spitting out her mouthful of water.

“If one bit in your world amounts to a dollar, yes. Can’t figure out an exact currency exchange rate though.”

After we all washed up, I took a bunch of towels and helped them all dry off their super-soft furry legs and hooves, then plugged in a hair dryer.

“How does that run?” Twilight inquired as I passed it over their legs and faces.

“Electricity,” I replied, gently stroking them to make sure I hadn’t left any wet spots. “I take that you’ve got electricity back where you’re from?”

“Yes, but we don’t use it often. Most of the time we just run everything on our magical abilities.”

Huh, I thought, hanging up all the towels. So there is more to it than just telekinesis.

We all headed back out into the kitchen, where I used every last bit of the milk and cereal to make breakfast for everybody. Thankfully there was enough bowls and spoons. Only four people could sit at the table at once, but Joyce spread out a picnic mat on the floor for the others. Being part-bird and part-horse, Skystar kindly refused the milk, so I gave her a fat granola bar from the cupboard and a big glass of water with a straw.

“Alright, everyone,” Joyce began as we tucked into our breakfast. “We can’t survive if we stick to just what we want for ourselves. We need to use our skills and use our achievements of help each other. As such, we need to work as a team. Names?”

“Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Rarity, and Fluttershy. Tempest Shadow and Skystar.” I called each one out on cue, and they each raised a hoof (or hand).

Joyce smiled, then turned to the little dragon. "And you?"

"I'm Spike, Spike the dragon."

I took this as a cue that identifying each of them would be easy for her.

“What’s your work, dear?” Rarity asked. Her accent was so soft and charming that she was able to sound polite without even trying. “Like, your business?”

“Grocery store cashier,” Joyce responded casually, as if she’d been asked the question a thousand times before.

Twilight gave me a curious glance. “And you?”

“I work as a mechanic with my best friend,” I replied. “He owns a shop with his brother where he fixes, restores, and resells cars. I’ve been wanting to get a better job, but haven’t found the time to educate myself enough for it.”

“Earlier is better,” Applejack added. “How long you’ve been working?”

“About 3 years,” I confided. “First year I did it as a side helper, and then I started getting paid for it.”

Uh-hm. Joyce cleared her throat, indicating it was her turn to speak. “Can you walk, Skystar?”

The hippogriff sighed and shook her head.

“She got shot,” I said, and explained the details of the wound.

“Sad to hear,” Joyce replied sadly. “Will she heal by herself?”

“Not likely,” I confided. “Will have to take her to the vet as soon as possible. I would like to show everyone around though briefly beforehand.”

“So to sum up, I’ll be off to work shortly. Xavier will be taking Skystar to the hospital, and then each of you can decide who will stay at home and who will help him out at work,” Joyce concluded. “Beforehand, Xavier will show you around the house and remind you all of the rules.”

We finished up our cereal and stacked up the bowls. I washed all the dishes while Spike cleaned the table and the picnic mat. The rest of them patiently sat down and waited.

“Good,” I said in a glad-you’re-meeting-expectations voice. “Let me show you around.”

I pulled a canvas off a table top beside the couch to reveal a plethora of items. “This is my mom’s table and some of the stuff she and I own.”

“A sewing machine!” Rarity squealed. "Rolls of fabric and thread, ribbon, and lace!"

“That’s a rather small piano,” Applejack affirmed. “And what’s with all the cables and these other funny looking items?”

I sighed. “Guess the pearls are out of the oyster. My mom loves sewing, and I also make music. My mother used to be a pianist, and I learned from her as a child. Other interests took over, but I got back into music about a year ago. My mom wanted to get me the car as a graduation gift but I’d already saved up to buy it myself. So she got me the car and I spent my hard-earned money on all this.” I pointed to the 61-key keyboard, drum controller pad, audio interface box, and a string of cables.

Immediately a wave of excited questions came and I had to put my “stop” hand up.

“I’ve released a few singles, and they haven’t had that much success, but I’m working on an awesome mixtape. It’s been delayed for quite some time because I’m so busy with cars. My mom also uses it to play piano since she loves music as well. Again, I’ll show you later.”

“Bye everyone, have a good day!” Joyce called from the steps.

“See you in the evening, Mom!” I replied with a wave and a smile, then returned to the table, pointing to a thin grey rectangular slate. “That’s a laptop, called a MacBook Pro. I’ll explain more later on that, it’s super complex. Let’s head into my room.”

My room was very simple: my bed that my mom and I shared, a small bedside table, a chest of drawers, a box of accessories, a small wardrobe, and a little box of hair care items.

“What are these?” Pinkie Pie asked, pointing to a rack of boards on the far wall.

“Another one of my passions,” I replied. “Skateboarding. I used to be a sponsored skateboarder in my early teens until I got in trouble and got booted.”

“After that I kinda gave up, and then came the love of speed, which is how cars came along - and stuck.” I added, giving Rainbow dash a snicker. “But enough with the talk. Let me get freshened up and changed, and we’ll head to the vet. Who’s coming?”

Everyone’s hooves raised up, and I groaned. We talked and debated for a couple minutes before ultimately deciding that Tempest would come, and the rest would stay.

In the bathroom, I washed up and sprayed on some good ocean-fragant cologne, before donning a tank top, a thick navy T-shirt, and a pair of overalls. I tied up the laces on my aged steel-capped boots and carried Skystar up the steps, with Tempest tagging along to offer a helping hand. Pinkie, already an eager and loyal friend, wanted to come along as well, but I convinced her to stay behind to give Tempest a chance to prove herself worthy of helping out. In reality though I was worried about the potential hysteria that would go down in public over her hyperactive personality.

“Don’t damage anything and don’t touch any of my mom’s stuff!” I hollered down the steps before shutting the door and locking it.

In the garage, I pushed the front passenger seat out of the way, and Tempest and I carefully eased Skystar into the back seats. After I repositioned the front seat again, Tempest settled down. I hopped in, cranked up the engine, reversed out of the garage, shut it, and we took to the streets. It would be the first time any of them would experience society - and the first time other people would see them, too.

Chapter 7: Visiting Nancy

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10:00 AM

“So now what?” Rarity blurted out. “We can’t touch or use anything, Xavier told us not to touch anything.”

“He said not to touch his mother’s stuff,” Applejack pointed out. “It is important that we respect both their property.”

“Yeah, they were the only ones who would take us in even though we’re completely alien to this land!” Pinkie pointed out.

“So it’s just a matter of being bored out of our minds until he returns?” Rainbow Dash groaned, flopping down on the couch. “I am so done with this place, it is not cool.”



Out on the roads of Toronto, I felt much more relaxed. It was where I spent most of my time, and I knew almost every intersection. Today’s road trip was different. This time Skystar rode in the backseat, while Tempest sat up front with me. She stood upright, her chest stiff and her eyes watchful, observing every movement.

“You act like a bodyguard, Tempest,” I teased.

“I might need to be one,” she countered.

As if to prove her right, the number of people crossing the street in front of us was triple what I usually saw during this hour. A little boy pressed his face to the side window, and Tempest glared right back, causing him to jump out of his skin as his mom pulled him away. I let out a little giggle, but deep down I knew the situation would get ugly real fast.

Within seconds people were lined up alongside the sidewalk’s edge, snapping photo and after photo of me and Tempest in the car. I had no problem with photos - I’d had zillions of photos taken as part of promotion during my skateboarding sponsorship days. But this was going too far.

“We should get out of here,” Skystar whispered from the backseat.

The lights finally turned green. Just as I was about to press the clutch a guy with a large fancy camera leapt in front of the car to take a grand photo.

“GET OFF THE ROAD!” I yelled as loudly as my lungs would permit, window down. I threw the car into second gear and sped off in frustration, slamming Skystar against the seats, resulting in a little yelp.

The guy moved out of the way just in time, and I swerved to avoid hitting him.

“All this time in these humans’ lives, and they waste it harassing others…” Tempest hissed, her voice thick with anger.

“Hey hey,” I said, softly caressing the back of her neck. “Don’t get your hooves up in a twist over it. This stuff happens all the damn time in this city. People have rather boring lives, so anything out of the ordinary is bound to grab their attention. Besides, don’t you want to be a pony who’s admired and respected rather than be a pony who’s feared and shunned?”

Tempest’s face fell. “Absolutely. But defending is in my nature. I guess I became quite aggressive in my act of it in my previous days.”

“You don’t have to tell me about those,” I replied. “Now that the trouble’s behind us, let’s set a mood.”

I quickly skimmed through the playlist on the car’s headunit, before finding an ideal song.

Even though I didn’t give a formal introduction, Tempest was already into it, her head bouncing along to the African-style beat. Before I knew it, her lips were quietly singing.

“And you are, unforgettable…”

“Like it?” I asked, a sly smile across my face.

“Interesting lyrics,” Tempest confided, “Though there are a couple words I don’t understand. Seems like a stallion and mare noticing each other during a dance at a party, and the stallion can’t get himself off her.”

“That’s exactly it,” I replied. “How about you, Skystar?”

“I can’t even understand this lovey-love stuff,” she muttered.

“Literally every song talks about that these days,” I replied, laughing. “Let’s see what else I can find. Ah, here’s a icon from a couple years back.”

“This sounds better!” Tempest and Skystar declared at the same time.

“Glad to hear,” I said with a smile, turning up the volume.

We were having so much fun with the stereo that I almost forgot where I was headed, and nearly got trapped downtown. Finding my way back uptown I located a familiar street and soon we pulled up in the vet parking lot.

“Stay here,” I ordered, looking at Skystar dead in the eye. I pulled the e-brake to keep the car stationery, hopped out, and headed inside. I had been here before, but only once - when my middle school friend’s rabbit got sick. Still, seemingly insignificant memories have a way of sticking with you.

“Hello there… Dr. Nancy!” I said in a cheery voice, strolling over to the front desk. Somehow after all these years her name was still in my head. Out of all the vets that worked here, she was by far the most friendly, helpful, and easy-going.

“Hi there, how may I help you?” she asked in her usual jolly inquiring voice. Again, another memory that still existed in a far corner of the back of my head.

I sighed, the image of Skystar’s bleeding leg feeling like a pair of dumbbells on my shoulders. “Um, I have two very special guests I’d like to bring in today. One is rather… large and doing fine, the other has an injury that needs examination.”

“Oh, could you please bring them in? I’d like to see them right away!”

“The thing is though, Nancy; they aren’t regular pets. In fact they’re nothing like any pet or animal for that matter that I’ve seen before. They… talk.” I lowered my voice at the last part, but Nancy still caught it.

“Really? Sounds quite the tale!”

I rolled my eyes. Seeing is believing. So true.

“I’ll bring ‘em in,” I simply replied, and darted out the door.

Back in the parking lot, I unlocked the passenger door and let out Tempest, then moved the seat forward so we could pull Skystar out. This would be the defining moment. How would Nancy and the other doctors react? Would they be surprised, scared, or fascinated? And what if they didn’t want to give Skystar treatment at all?

Stupid brain, stop panicking! I directed my energy into holding Skystar’s arms while her body draped over Tempest’s back. I shut and locked the car doors and we stepped inside.

Nancy gasped. “Is that…”

“Yes,” I asserted. “I’ve got a hippogriff here with a bad leg injury that will definitely need attention. My unicorn friend here tagged along to help out.”

“Don’t you worry, little one,” Nancy cooed to Skystar, stroking her furry neck. “We’ll get that little boo boo all gone.”

I rolled my eyes again. Nancy was very affectionate with animals, and it only stood within reason that it was a considerable factor in her landing this job.

Skystar was loaded onto a stretcher and whisked away to an examination room, in spite of Nancy’s fellow shocked doctors. Tempest and I eagerly followed, before being ordered to sit in the waiting room.

As we sat patiently, Tempest soon became the center of attention, and the clerk behind the desk couldn’t help but ask.

“Your horn, how did it break?”

I rose and glared right back at her with a I-haven’t got-time-for-this -BS look, but thought better of it and sat back down. “It’s a long story, but when that horn did break, so did the heart and spirit that it was connected to. The healing process is still ongoing, mind you.”

Sensing that it was a sensitive topic, the clerk fell silent and continued with her office work.

As I sat back in the chair, my mind drifted to the other ponies back at home. How were they doing? Did they manage to keep themselves occupied? And more importantly, had anyone else found out about their existence in that little basement?

It then hit me: I had ordered them not to touch anything, which meant they were more than likely bored out of their minds.

Slapping my forehead in self-disappointment, I pulled my Samsung Galaxy out of my overalls pocket and called the home landline.



11:00 AM

“It’s been an hour!” Rainbow Dash groaned. And there’s little to no room in this little place! I can hardly fly!”

“Stop bickering,” Rarity groaned. “At least we’re not out on the streets where some ruffian could abduct us and hurt us badly.”

“But it’s sooooooooo boring here!” Pinkie whined. “I’ve found a whole collection of shells in the storage room, a whole lineup of exotic jewelry up on that shelf, and a chess set, but it’s all off limits!”

“How are you supposed to enjoy yourself and stay out of trouble when you’re left without anything to do?” Fluttershy complained.


“What was that?” Fluttershy yelped, her eyes darting around worriedly.

Twilight’s ears flicked, and she soon picked up the sound, as well as the others. Soon Rarity spotted it.

“Oh, it’s the phone! I wonder who’s calling?”

Before the others could even decide to respond, Rarity rushed over and picked up the receiver.


“Hey Miss Rarity,” I replied in a lustrous voice, though my Caribbean accent made it sound more like a mischievous kid. “How’s everybody doing? I called because… I need to apologize.”

“What for?”

“Leaving you with no options of what to do or how to have fun. You poor ponies have likely been bored out of your minds for about an hour now! My mom is pretty strict about her personal items, especially her shell collection, her jewelry, and her sewing machine. I guess you could use the chess set though.”

In the background I could faintly pick up the sound of Rainbow Dash’s hundredth groan of boredom, and Twilight’s magic as she levitated something. Probably reading through a book, I thought.

Before I could inquire about that, though, Pinkie burst onto the line.

“Hi there! Who is iiiiiiiiiiit?”

“It’s me, Xavier, or Breezy X,” I muttered, somewhat angry that she’d forgotten my name in less than 24 hours.

“Oh, right. Sorry! I just wanted to ask how Skystar’s doing and will her injury heal just fine or…”

I cut her off. “Well, we’ll just have to see in about half an hour. Anyways, there’s something I thought you guys could do while I’m at work after noon today.”

Chapter 8: Bandages and Beats

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11:00 AM

I had promised to explain the MacBook to my four-legged friends, but after a quick re-evaluation of my schedule it didn’t look like I’d have any time after we left the hospital.

“Can I speak with Twilight for a moment?” I asked.


In a moment, Twilight’s voice came through clear as day, with her friends in the background. “Hi Xavier. How’s Skystar?”

“Tempest and I will find out soon. Listen, I don’t think I’m going to make it to spend time with you all, I gotta get to work straight after Tempest and I return home. Now I know you girls are a curious, excited, hyper bunch, so there’s something I need you to do.”

I bit my lip in anticipation, knowing this would be a big step in the scope of acts deemed permissible for them. “Can you use your magic to lift the lid upwards on the MacBook?”

“I can try, hang on.”



Passing the phone back to Rarity, Twilight focused her magic very carefully on the thin slate atop the table. Slowly, the lid came up, revealing a smooth black surface. Without warning, a loud bass-heavy hum was heard.

“Woah! That’s amazing!” Applejack gasped.

Twilight returned to the phone. “Alright, it’s up. Nothing damaged, in case you were worried.”

“Don’t get scared, little ponies,” Xavier chuckled. “A lot of things in this world make noise, and I’ve probably broken more things as a child than you ever did. Now, take a look at the flat surface. You’ll see an arrangement of letters and numbers. Each one you press will make that letter appear on the screen. Beside the MacBook is a little device, which is called a mouse. Take hold of the mouse with your hoof, can you do that?”

“Yes,” Twilight replied. “I can see a little black arrow on the screen that moves.”

“Good. Now, that little arrow is called a cursor. It follows every move your hoof makes with the mouse. On the screen you’ll see a little box. Passcode is SKATEearth3030. Hold down the key that says Shift to make the letters uppercase as needed.”

“Got it!” Twilight exclaimed. “But hard though, I had to use my magic to individually control each key.”

“You’ll get used to it. Okay, there’s a ton of stuff that could be done here…”

Over the next fifteen minutes, Xavier explained to Twilight how the computer worked, how it displayed information, how to use all the keyboard functions, and what could be done with it. She was amazed at how powerful and seamless it could load and display things.

“Now, open up the Launchpad, and click the little brown card icon. Should say ‘Logic Pro X’.”

“Okay, it’s opening up.”

“Now, let me quickly explain. Logic Pro X is an application that allows you to make music easily and realistically. What I want to do is show you how to create your own songs. There are over two thousand individual sounds within, so you can have hours of fun.”

“Two thousand?!” Rarity screamed. “But how will we get through them all?”

Xavier’s hearty laugh came through the speaker. “You don’t need to. Twilight, can you navigate to the top left?”

“Yes, under ‘File’ it says ‘New’.”

“Good. Click it and let’s choose some settings for the first song. Would you prefer to start from scratch, or go with a preset?”

“Yah mean it can even set it up for you before you begin playing?” Applejack exclaimed in astonishment.


“Okay Xavier, we’ve chosen to go with an empty project. Just so we can learn everything from the bottom up.”

“Good thinking there. In your settings - use the mouse here - pick your tempo and your key signature. I’d recommend going for E, which is a rather popular one.”

“What’s tempo?” Fluttershy asked. “Some kind of bird?”



It was rather painstaking, and the phone bill would be huge at the end of the month, but I was rather enjoying talking and explaining technology to Twilight and her friends. For a pony her age, Twilight learned pretty fast and mastered sequences brilliantly. Fluttershy’s question was amusingly interesting though.

“No Fluttershy, it’s a fancy term for the speed of the song. Twilight, set it to 140. Should sound fine. You can change it later.”


"Now, the application should be open. Tell me what you notice, Twilight.”

“I see a box with selection options.”

“Ah yes, choose MIDI. That will connect to the keyboard and the drum pad - which is that square device with all the little white squares on it. Fluttershy, can you turn them on, please? There’s a little button at the back of each.”

“Okay Xavier, they are on now. At least i think they are.”

“Good. Twilight, what else do you see now?”

“A library and a timeline, along with lots of numbers at the top telling the time, the tempo, and other stuff.”

“Pick an instrument from the library. Let’s start with a classic piano.”

“Okay, it’s on the timeline.”

“Almost there!” I replied with enthusiasm. “Now, look on the keyboard. You’ll notice there are plenty of buttons and a few knobs.”

“Ooh, what do those do?” Pinkie asked eagerly.

“We’ll get to those in a moment, Pinkie. Okay, Twilight last two steps. Press the ‘Metro” button and then the ‘Tempo’ button. Click OK on the pop-up on the MacBook screen. ‘Tap Tempo’ should be enabled now. Hit the record button!”

“I hear a tapping noise,” Twilight inquired. “Is that a metronome?”

Huh. I thought. So you do know a bit about music. “Alright, listen in. Bring up the volume as needed. Tap away on those keys. When you’re done, press stop, select the notes, and press ‘Quantize’ to align all the notes in sync with the tempo. Open a new instrument on a new track and repeat. Get creative! I’ll try to give you a few more important nitty-gritty details when Tempest and I return. So yeah, that’s the gist of Logic Pro X and the keyboard. Play around with ‘em and see what beats you can make. I’ll be leaving now, as our time is almost up. In fact, I think Dr. Nancy is coming right now.”

“Thanks for teaching me how to use this, Xavier,” Twilight replied gratefully. “It looks like a lot of fun.”

“It is,” I admitted. “See you soon and enjoy yourself.”

I hung up right as Dr. Nancy came through the door. “Hi you two.”

“Hi Dr. Nancy,” I piped up. “How’s Skystar?”

“Skystar? Oh, what an adorable name!”

I nodded slowly. “Yep, it sure sugar is.”

“Well, the wound’s pretty bad, but thankfully blood loss wasn’t too much, so just a good bandaging and a week or two’s worth of rest should be sufficient. It’s been cleaned, stitched, and properly dressed, so there’s no high risk of it getting hurt again. Just keep her in a safe place, and don’t let her walk on it until after about ten days, okay?”

“Thanks so much for your help,” Tempest said, her eyes full of gratitude.

“Well, I’m honored,” Nancy replied, feeling a little intimidated by the large unicorn’s presence. As kind and easy-going as Tempest attempted to be, she was always an impressive sight to behold before you, if not an intimidating one.

Dr. Nancy then gave us a large dog wheelchair to help Skystar move about independently and easily, and a couple of medicine pills to speed up the recovery process. The total cost swiped a good $496 from my wallet. Ouch. I was going to have to ask Mom for some allowance to cover the next month’s insurance on my car.

“Do you have a name for this car?” Tempest asked, still keeping a close eye out for anyone suspicious as we drove back down to Parkdale. However, the streets were still busy.

“If you’re referring to make, model, and type, it’s a 1998 Acura Integra Type R with a B18C1 engine in it. I’ve had it for a couple months now and it runs great. Done a couple mods to it - cams, bigger intake manifold, racing coilovers, exhaust system, and LED headlights. Also the headunit that we were enjoying before. The insurance is already rising. It’ll probably be too expensive for me to even own by the time I install the turbo, fuel system, and new ECU.”

Tempest gave a slow nod, pretending she knew what I was talking about. “Will adding the turbo make it faster? How much power?”

I grinned. “A lot faster. Power for cars is measured in horsepower. It currently sits at around 180 hp, but after I add the turbo and get a good tune it could be over 500hp. With some nitrous added it could reach almost 600 hp.”

“That’s a lot of power!” Tempest exclaimed. “Sounds quite scary.”

“It...kinda is,” I confessed. “But speed runs through my veins, even thought for some it may be seen as reckless.”

“I’ve been reckless before,” Tempest confided. “I led my friends near a cave when we were playing, and I tried to retrieve the ball from a cave where a giant bear was lurking. I could’ve left it, but I wanted to continue playing with my friends. And then it attacked me.”

So that’s how you lost your horn, I thought. “I may seem like a chill dude but I’m no outstanding citizen. I’ve gained nearly five points on my driver’s license since I bought this car because I was so reckless. Had two accidents as well and all my earnings went into those expenses. I finally learned my lesson when I badly hit and almost ran over a child. I brought him to the hospital and even offered to pay for his medical fees, but the parents weren’t convinced and I was arrested. Thankfully the cop was a nice guy, and in an interview about my driving habits I agreed to stop speeding and recklessly driving if I could get to a track event, which I’ve been saving up for as well. I still gun it on the highway now and then though.”

We took it easy on the way back, but something told me it wouldn’t be easy forever. That electrocuted cop was bound to get word out about his encounter with Twilight and her friends. And from numerous stories passed around at work, I knew we were screwed if anyone showed up - cops, the press, or worse, the CIA.

At a red light, I opened up the Toronto Star news app on my phone. Sure enough, there it was.


“Great,” I muttered loudly, glancing at Tempest. “You and I have some… explaining to do to the city, and it won’t be easy. But I will try my best to make it as non-confrontational as possible.”

With that, I shut off my phone and said nothing more. I didn’t want to tell Tempest that she could be facing jail charges - at least, not yet. I still had the evidence footage on my phone, though I needed to back it up elsewhere.

At exactly 11:50 a.m., we pulled into the driveway. I cut the engine and stepped out, checking the surrounding area for signs of any cops or suspicious activity. Fortunately I lived on a rather quiet dead-end street, so there was literally no movement or noise apart from the railway tracks and the highway down below. Thanks to a row of tall trees, we were hidden from view.

Tempest and I helped Skystar out of the Integra. With some effort, I took out the dog wheelchair and strapped the hippogriff into the harness, then attached it to the wheelchair.

“Try walking,” I encouraged her. “With your front legs.”

Skystar put one front forward, then another, before wobbling a little.

“Don’t panic,” Tempest reminded her. “I know it feels uneasy with your back legs up off the ground, but try to just walk as normal. The wheelchair will assist you.”

Skystar put another foot forward, then another. Soon she was walking smoothly across the driveway, then turning slowly. Incredibly, she then walked around the car and back to me - all without any wobble or insecurity.

“Great work, Skystar!” I cheered, stroking her smooth soft mane. “Let’s head inside so you can rest that leg of yours.”

I unlocked the door and we stepped inside. Immediately Skystar faced the prospect of going down the stairs.

“Just as you’ve seen me do,” Tempest instructed. “One front down on one step, then the other foot on the next.”

“I’ll support you,” I added.

Skystar slowly extended one foot out, then the other, while I held her back to keep her steady as the wheelchair’s wheels bumpity-bumped over the steps. Our descent into the basement was largely interrupted by the sound of a beautiful melody playing. I heard not just the piano, but a well-tuned guitar as well.

“Whoa…” I whistled as Skystar and I reached the last step. “That was amazing! How did you craft something so beautiful? It’s rather catchy and… solemn.”

“It’s the tune to the song my mom sang to my father shortly before they were married,” Applejack said.

I was about to ask how she knew the song, but the tears in her eyes told it all. A seriously sad event happened that later led to death in a tragic event down the line. I thus decided against talking about it, and moved onto the music itself.

“Alright, I need to head off to work right away,” I announced. “Couple questions I have for y’all. Do you like the keyboard?”

“Oh yes!” Twilight exclaimed, while the others nodded eagerly. “It took some time to understand, but it’s actually quite simple. I like how I could start recording and stop, then playback all without using the mouse.”

“There’s so many instruments to choose,” Rarity added. “I especially like the soft drums and the brass.”

“I love the soft flute and high-pitched strings,” Fluttershy whispered, and I let out a little ‘awww’. Her voice was so shy it was painfully adorable. I made a mental note to check my debit card balance later - I really should get a mic. These little ponies’ voices held some good potential.

“There are more in-depth features I should show you, but for now, I think it’s best to stick to simply creating chords and melodies using various instruments,” I said, grabbing a quick glass of water. “I wish I could do more, but I have to head to work right away.”

Without another word, I gulped down the rest of the water, slid the glass across the counter, and darted back up the stairs.

Chapter 9: A Visit to the Shop

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I rushed out the door and quickly locked it in a heartbeat, but just as I was about to reach for my car keys, I hesitated for a moment and thought back to the new occupants of the little basement of my mom and I. The look on all of their faces as they were enjoying using the keyboard was a joy to behold, and for once I actually felt happy to be taking care of somebody else besides my mom. As strange as they may be to others in this world, they couldn’t hide forever. They had to prove that they weren’t a threat nor a science lab’s herd of guinea pigs.

All of a sudden, I felt a pang of guilt, and opened the basement door.

“Who wants to come with me to do some serious machinery work?” I hollered down the steps.

“I will!”

“Count me in!”

“I’d be down.”

“I’d love to learn more about cars!”

“Me too!”

“Um, if you’re okay with it, I’ll be happy to help.”

“I can’t leave you all alone, can I?”

I sighed and smiled solemnly. “Grab some rags and three towels. All aboard the Friendship Integra!”

Tempest sat in the front, while Twilight Sparkle, Spike, Rainbow Dash, and the others all squeezed in the back. I stuffed all the shipping boxes in the trunk. At my insistence, Skystar stayed behind, along with Pinkie, who wasn’t going to let her best friend be left behind either. I warned them not to damage anything, and let them have free reign of the chess set, keyboard, drum pad, and laptop.

“It’s amazing how many people can fit into such a small space!” Twilight exclaimed, looking out the window at all the people on the sidewalk. “Everyone’s different in some way, yet a couple seem to dress alike.”

“One of the ways life’s all the more interesting, cuz,” I remarked, giving Tempest a loving wink. “Especially when you have amazing friends to share all the awesome amazing experiences in it with.”

“So, how do cars work?” Twilight asked.

“Basically you’ve got an engine connected to axles, and they turn the axles in turn turning the wheels, thus moving the whole thing forward...or backward. The engine is started up and turned off through an electrical system through a key - called an ignition, and a set of pedals controls the engine.”

“How does the engine work in relation to the axles, ignition, and pedals?” Twilight then inquired.

I sighed. This would take hours to explain, and we’d be at the shop in only about ten more minutes. At a stoplight, I unbuckled my seatbelt and reached over to the glovebox, and pulled out two books.

“Here,” I coaxed, reaching behind. “Give these a quick read. They’ve got all the info you need.”

Twilight took the books in her magic and started eagerly flipping through them as I drove on. Finally, at 12:10, we arrived at our destination.

“Here we are,” I announced rather excitedly, pulling into a small parking lot next to large warehouse-like building. I parked right at the front, where we’d have easy access to the exit if I needed to zip off for any reason. Tempest stepped out, then the others - Rainbow Dash, then Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, and Spike. Last to exit was Twilight, who was so wrapped up in the Honda B-series engine service manual I had to practically drag her out and confiscate the books.

“This is it, girls,” I declared as we stepped inside the building through an open garage door. “Welcome to Maverick and Rodney’s Restoration and Mod Shop.”

Almost immediately, a rather short but well-built man looked up from the hood of a Ford Gran Torino Sport. I’d known him ever since the day I worked here. He knew everything about car bodies - from the metallic alloy density of chassis to the right way to smoothly roll a fender.

Right away, he recognized the little ponies by my side.

“What are those?” he barked angrily. Fluttershy hid behind me, letting out a little whimper. “You know the policy - no animals on the work site! How did you find such odd pets anyway?”

“Ah-hem!” I cleared my throat loudly. “Good afternoon, Mr. Maverick. These are my new pony friends. I found them in a rather… critical situation yesterday, alone on the streets. I couldn’t just leave them cooped up at home, so… I figured I’d bring them here.”

“We’re only here to help out,” Applejack added defiantly. “And we won’t cause any trouble.”

“WHAT THE -” Maverick spat out, almost tripping backward.

“Yes, they do talk,” I mouthed distastefully.

“Just ask us anything, sir, and we’ll do it,” Rarity proudly stated. “We won’t get in the way.”

“Hmmmph,” Maverick muttered, putting a hand to his chin. “How much do you all know about engines?”

“Always drain fluids before removing any major parts,” Twilight recited proudly.

“A clean part is more awesome than a dirty part,” Rainbow Dash added.

“Always torque all bolts with the same pressure. That way, the engine’s performance is balanced across the front to back,” Rarity chimed in.

I smiled smugly. “So all of you have been reading attentively.”

“Yo Rodney!” Maverick hollered out. “Gather up everyone. We’re having a quick meeting.”

In the meeting hall, we all sat down to discuss how the work day was going to go down. Twilight and her friends formally introduced themselves to the workmen. Maverick and Rodney had several important employees who were in charge of a certain department in the shop, whom they called chiefs. Garrett handled subframe assembly, body panel assembly, and basic engine rebuilds and repair, Kristen was the painter and upholstery designer, Marcus removed rust, replaced panels and did body conversions along with custom fabrications, while Brian took care of performance parts and precision tuning. Rodney was the older of the two brothers. Although nearing sixty, he was still in great shape and worked hard every day well into the evening.

Each chief had two employees who closely worked with them to ensure that each car went through all the necessary steps to be successfully restored and/or upgraded.

“So,” Rodney said, his voice deep and resonant throughout the room, “Who will help in which department? Yes, Xavier?”

“I think we should rank my friends according to their individual skills,” I proposed. “Rarity, what are you good at?”

“I could definitely sew upholstery and maybe paint, along with some bodywork.”

“Rainbow Dash, what are you best at here?”

“Honestly, flying and driving are two very different things. I think I’ll be a fetcher. You know, the pony who can obtain anything in the shop in ten seconds flat. But I’m also here to learn.”

“Fluttershy, what skills can you put to use here?”

“Um, could I clean the floor and help pour fluids?” she asked kindly, looking over at Maverick.

“Sure. And Applejack?”

“I can help lift things. Like manifolds and tires.”

I turned to face Twilight and Spike. “Now, how about you two?”

“I can help with positioning parts and engine management.”

“I can help Fluttershy clean, turn on engines after they’ve been rebuilt, and also operate machinery.”

“Then it’s settled who will work with whom?” Rodney declared.

“Yes,” everyone replied firmly.

“Good,” Maverick chimed in. “Now let’s eat a good meal before we get crackin’.”

“I’ll stand and keep watch, along with greeting those who arrive,” Tempest declared, standing by the doorway. “It’s… kinda what I do best.”

“Almost forgot you,” Rodney admitted. “I agree. You literally look like a bodyguard, but also have a slightly friendly demeanor, so why not put both to good use, right?”

Tempest nodded with a slight blush. “I think Xavier and I should go grab some food. How about some nice hot pizzas?”

“Sounds great,” Maverick replied. “Just make sure they’re all vegetarian.”

“Gotcha, Mav.” I flashed him a thumbs-up and headed out the door with Tempest.

“So, Tempest…” I began.

“Call me Fizzlepop,” she interjected, nuzzling against my arm. My eyes widened and i nearly blushed. I knew she was taking interest in me but I didn’t expect her to go that far.

I looked down at her, and she flashed an endearing smile, before letting out a little whisper.

“Only my dearest friends call me Fizzlepop, so take that as a note how -”

“You love me, don’t you?” I teased, playfully pulling her into a hug. Her body felt muscular yet somewhat soft, like a bodybuilder. I had dated in high school, but it hardly lasted more than a semester. Here the love felt deeper and stronger for some reason. It was like Fizzlepop had just fallen for me at first sight (given how I risked my physical lifting capabilities to save Skystar) and chosen to act like a bodyguard, while keeping her romantic body language at bay… until now.

We hopped into the Integra and drove off. Dundas was a very busy street, with streetcars and numerous small stores. It was midday, so I hoped everyone was still busy at work and the streets were clear. Wrong!

The traffic became congested at one intersection, due to an unusually high number of pedestrians. It seemed word had spread around and there was a line up of people with cellphones - all aimed at us.

“This is getting out of hand,” I grumbled, my voice stiff with frustration. “It’s like my life has turned into that of a celebrity of sorts since you ponies showed up.”

“Hey,” Fizzlepop snapped. “It’s not your fault. I need to talk. They have a right to know about me, and it’s unfair if I refuse to tell them.”

Before I could even reply, she pushed the door open and stepped onto the sidewalk. Immediately a group of people swarmed her from all sides, snapping photo after photo, and some fired out questions.

“No…” I sighed. This was not what I wanted to happen at all. But Fizzlepop was stubborn in her own right, and it seemed like she wanted to deal with these people her way. I rolled down the window to hear the frenzy more clearly.

Tempest seemed unfazed by the crowd around her, and simply pushed through them and walked across the street. Since the light was green for me, I slowly drove on ahead, watching her closely.

It seemed like Tempest would just keep walking - I had no idea exactly what her plan was. But then at the corner she stood firm, her back to the window of a store. The questioners fired away again, clearly unsatisfied with silence as an answer.

“I know you all have questions,” she began, her voice thick with seriousness and defiance. “Here’s the deal, humans. If you leave me and my friends alone after this, and promise to never, ever harass us or cause disruption to public services, I answer all your questions. Right here, right now. So, what’s it going to be?”

“Fine,” a woman with a mic muttered. “So, what’s your name?”

“Tempest Shadow. As you can tell, I am a unicorn, with part of a horn. It broke in an accident when I was a filly, and it cost me greatly. I fell for the lies of a great criminal afterward when he promised to repair it, but my new friends saved me and helped me to see the light. I defeated him and saved their land from destruction and corruption. They and I are from a distant land called Equestria. It is likely a realm beyond any understanding you can comprehend, and not from within this world either. For now my friends and I live under the care and protection of Xavier, our new human friend.”

She pointed to me in the car, and I couldn’t help but smile at her level of determination and humility.

“I’m no threat to anyone, and I don’t want to be thought of as such. My role is to care, love, and protect. I could tell more, but this will be it for now.”

Other people arrived, crowding the interaction even more as they continued with a barrage of questions. I revved the engine loudly in hopes of distracting them. It worked, and Tempest was able to slip out from the crowd.

“Let’s go,” she urged, jumping back into the car. I locked the door, rolled up the windows and we sped off. Not a moment too soon, I noticed police in the rearview, trying to control the crowd who was still crowding the intersection.

“Looks like a lot of word has gotten around,” Fizzlepop said, shaking her head. “I never imagined I’d become so popular among people who never even originally knew me.”

“You’re the most popular with me,” I replied with a smile, and she blushed hard.

We soon arrived at Albany’s. I ordered eight hot pies - three extra-large vegetarian, three extra-large Albanese-style, and two large Margherittas. Additionally, I got fifteen dipping sauces - eight ranch garlic and seven barbecue, fifteen bottles of fruit juice and eight bowls of salad. The wait became so long, I became rather restless. I called home, hoping to find out how Pinkie and Skystar were doing.

No answer. “Maybe they’re just sleeping,” I thought.

After a good forty minutes, everything was ready. I was about to pull my debit card out of my pocket when the waitress stopped me.

“It’s alright,” she reassured. “Maverick already sent in the money. Here’s the change. Also, tell your unicorn and her friends they’re welcome anytime.”

I slipped the bills and coins into the zippered pocket on my overalls and zipped it shut. “Really? Thanks very much.”

A stack of pizza boxes in hand, I headed outside into the parking lot, where Tempest was doing a couple exercises. I gently placed the boxes in the trunk, then reentered the restaurant and got the rest of the items. I shut the trunk and we drove off back to the shop.

Halfway there I tried calling home again. No answer. I shook my head anxiously. Something was wrong.

Chapter 10: A Visit to the Park

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“And… your turn,” Pinkie muttered for the hundredth time, reclining back on the couch.

“I mean, I liked this game at first, but now it’s become so boring,” Skystar muttered. “We’ve played like 1000 times.”

“We’ll try to use the keyboard after this match,” Pinkie suggested. “Even we’ve played that before.”

The chess game continued, with Skystar picking up good defense points with her rooks. But Pinkie was a genius at finding the slightest mistake in pawn positions, and soon Skystar found herself at odds with how to effectively block access to her queen and king. In the end, Pinkie took hold of Skystar’s bishop while she attempted to defend her king.

“Ah, you’re too good at this,” Skystar groaned. “You’ve won more than I ever have.”

“Don’t be sad, Skystar,” Pinkie reassured, caressing the hippogriff’s cheeks. “You just have to perfect your strategies. How about some music? Let’s see about ideas… I actually like cheerleading.”

It wasn’t long before Pinkie found an entertaining, upbeat song. On the desktop, she looked in a folder called “Sheet Music” and found the same song.

“Hmmm, this one looks rather complicated. Skystar, can you play? I can sing and play the drum pad.”

Rather painstakingly, Pinkie set up the instrument layout with a guitar and drum kit, and then hit the record button. They then began together.

“When I need motivation…”

“My one solution is my queen ‘cause she stay strong…”

They continued on, smoothly letting each line out in time with the note pitches. Unfortunately the MacBook’s weak internal mic made the resulting audio so weak that Pinkie had to turn it way up.

“Aw, it sounds distorted,” Skystar pouted. “Let’s try again.”

Pinkie saved the project and started a new one. This time they turned the mic volume all the way up and made sure their vocals were bang-in time with the musical notes.

“Let’s hear it now,” Skystar suggested after playing the last notes. “I’m out of breath.”

“How can you be?” Pinkie laughed, hitting the play button. “You’re part fish, silly!”

The notes still sounded off, until Pinkie realized something.

“Ah, silly me! Forgot to do this!” she giggled, tapping the quantize button.

“Now it sounds better!” Skystar beamed. “I feel I’m running and flying. It’s so upbeat.”

“Well, let’s go outside! There are so many places we could go!” Pinkie exclaimed, unfolding a map of Parkdale. “Look, here’s a little park we could visit! We could play buckball and maybe even enjoy the playground!”

“What are we waiting for?” Skystar exclaimed.

“Actually, I just remembered something I could use!”

Skystar stared in bewilderment as Pinkie zoomed into Xavier’s room, returning with a wheeled board and a ball.

“Now I’ll have someone to roll with! Yay!” Skystar squealed.

Pinkie opened the door and Skystar climbed up the steps, albeit slowly. Pinkie followed her out the door with the board and ball, shutting the door… and forgetting to lock it.

“Woah…” Pinkie gasped, trying to keep her balance on the board with her back legs while holding the ball in her front hooves. Together they headed up the road and onto Downing Avenue, before passing an apartment and eventually turning onto King Street.

“Which way was the park again?” Skystar inquired, catching up to the eager Pinkie (who’d quickly picked up on how to ride the penny board and was bus lengths ahead of her friend).

“Um, it was… that way!” she proclaimed, pointing right. “Let’s go! Shouldn’t be far off.”

Pinkie kick-turned and sped off down the sidewalk, still upright and holding the ball. Skystar happily chased after her as quick as her slender front legs would carry her. Almost immediately, Pinkie’s “sense” crept up.

“Um, Skystar?” she asked worriedly. “I think we’re being watched.”

Across the street and further up the sidewalk, people stood, their eyes locked onto the pink pony and the wheelchaired hippogriff. Some were in shock, others in awe.

“We should keep moving,” Skystar urged. “Maybe they’ll just leave us alone.”

Pinkie nodded and kicked off. Soon they passed a laundromat and a grocery store.

“Ooh, I wonder if Joyce works here,” Pinkie wondered, briefly peeking in through the window.

Her thoughts were soon interrupted by the loud sound of a speeding tram.

“Hey, I didn’t know this place had trams! Twilight told me about these. Maybe we’ll take a ride later.”

After passing a couple apartment blocks, Pinkie and Skystar finally arrived at the park. It was enclosed, with only one narrow entrance. Pinkie didn’t care and tossed her board and ball over the fence, then vaulted over. Skystar ran around to the entrance and darted through, only to find a wide expanse of hard, dry concrete. There was hardly any grass.

“Bummer!” Pinkie whined, catching up on her board. “Well, at least we have a wide expanse to play as opposed to that tiny little basement.”

Setting her board down under a bench, Pinkie set down the ball and rolled it towards Skystar, who was resting in the soft grass under a tree.

“C’mon, Skystar, pass!” she coaxed, lying down like an eager puppy. Skystar got up and grasped the ball in her hand, then threw it at Pinkie.

“Oh yes!” Pinkie whooped, jumping up and kicking the ball back. Skystar ran, reared up, and tossed the ball back, using her good hind leg to support her balance.

The two passed the ball back and forth, playfully running around as they did so. For the first time in days, Skystar felt happy and free, playing with her best friend in the warm city air of the afternoon. But it wasn’t long before their antics started to attract attention from other park-goers who arrived.

A little girl ran up to Pinkie, wearing a jersey, shorts, and sneakers. Her mother tagged along behind,

“Can I play too?” she asked eagerly.

“Of course you can!” Pinkie exclaimed, winking at the mom. “Three times the fun!”

Pinkie passed her the ball, and she kicked it towards Skystar, who then passed it back to Pinkie. The three soon enjoyed their game of ball together. At first Skystar was concerned that Pinkie would kick too hard, but the little girl’s body was stronger than the two anticipated.

“You’ve been practicing well,” Skystar thought, observing the girl’s moves.

After several brief mini-soccer games, Skystar rested under the tree while Pinkie cooled down with gradual slow walks, before sitting down next to her hippogriff friend.

“Shall we play tag?” Skystar asked. “But you have to be on the board.”

Pinkie got up and stepped onto her board, then pushed off, only to fall flat on her belly as she turned.

“Oops, I guess I leaned too much,” she said with a giggle. “Let me try one more time and we can begin.”

Pinkie hopped back onto her board and pushed off again, this time watching her balance. After two tries she made a full circle around the park at considerable speed. Skystar rose to her feet and eagerly pranced after her.

Just as Skystar was about to catch up, Pinkie noticed a car with lights on its roof across the side street. Some distance away, a cop stood questioning a young woman.

“Sorry Skystar, but we gotta get out of here, now!” Pinkie exclaimed, already running straight for the fence. Grabbing the board, she leapt right over it and onto the sidewalk.

“Wait!” Skystar pleaded, running up to the fence, only to realize she couldn’t jump. Pinkie threw herself back over and unbuckled the wheelchair, allowing Skystar to briefly fly. With Skystar now on the sidewalk, Pinkie lifted up the wheelchair and tossed it over, then jumped back onto the sidewalk.

“What about the ball?” Skystar asked anxiously, balancing on three legs.

“Never mind,” Pinkie muttered, securing the wheelchair straps back onto her friend. “This. Is. Serious. Follow me, keep up, and don’t look back.”

Without another word, Pinkie glanced back to make sure the car wasn’t moving, then kicked off on her board, zipping down the sidewalk, with Skystar running as fast as her slender front legs could carry her.

“Coming through, sorry!” Skystar called out as people jumped aside and cyclists swerved. Pinkie looked around anxiously, hoping that they wouldn’t get spotted. At least, not by the “wrong people”.

“This way!” Pinkie whispered, half-skidding, half-kick turning around a curb bend at the home street. Skystar skidded to a stop so hard her wrists almost skinned clean off. Turning fast but gradually, she took off after her friend down the road, where the surface was smoother.

“Almost there…” Skystar pleadingly whispered, noticing the iconic gravel driveway at the end of the dead-end street. On the sidewalk, Pinkie was starting to wobble from constant cracks and bumps in the surface, but she kept it together.

Just as they reached the driveway, sirens could be heard in the distance.

“GET IN!” Pinkie hollered, wrestling the door’s knob and yanking it open. Skystar galloped across the driveway, heading straight for the basement entrance. As soon as her tail was in, Pinkie shut the door and locked both locks, panting.

“That… was close…”

“I know,” Skystar sighed. “We should’ve known that those cops would be looking for us. We’re nothing but accused fugitives.”

“Yeah, and they don’t even know us!” Pinkie added, a hint of anger in her voice. “What kind of creatures claim to live so peacefully and then try to go after and do who-knows-what to other creatures simply because they’re different!”

Skystar’s face fell in sadness, and as they made their way back down the steps, a single phrase could be uttered simultaneously.

“Xavier was right.”

Chapter 11: A Day's Work at the Shop

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“TO WORK!” Maverick hollered, as we all wiped our mouths clean. Lunch was awesome, and everyone had a good fill. I was honestly surprised at how much Pinkie Pie could eat - and how fast she could eat! Not a single shred of salad or a slice of pizza or a smear of sauce remained.

“And don’t forget to wash beforehand!” Rodney added with a chuckle. “Clean hands perform the best work.”

One by one, we took turns using the shop’s two bathrooms. I entered before Tempest Shadow, but she insisted on being there at the same time.

“It’s only fair that I do something for you after you’ve worked to feed us all,” she said, thoroughly washing her hooves before gingerly rubbing my mouth. She even cupped one hoof, scooped some water, and splashed and rubbed it over my face - all in a smooth, gentle manner.

“All nice and clean for some hard work ahead.”

I smiled so hard I nearly blushed. Fizzlepop was really pushing her luck to show her love. I made a mental note to discuss it with her over dinner later tonight.

“Alright guys,” Rodney began, Twilight and her friends standing attentively in front of him, along with all the other employees. “Got a couple cars to work on today. First is this 1971 Gran Torino, then a 1967 Mustang Fastback. Torino has to be ready by tonight, and Mustang needs to be ready by the end of the week.”

Not wanting to be overshadowed by his older bro, Maverick jumped in, pointing to the Mustang’s body. “So definitely a lot of work needs to be done. The Mustang is mostly just a shell as you can see, while the Torino just needs some minor body touch-ups, a paint job, and some engine upgrades. Since the Torino’s deadline is near, we’ll focus primarily on it, while adding a little to the Mustang on the side. Now does everyone understand what needs to be done?”

“Yes!” Twilight and her friends exclaimed simultaneously.

“Yes, sir!” Garrett, Marcus, and the others replied.

With the workload understood, we split up to work on our individual tasks. Rarity and Kristen headed off to work on the upholstery for the Mustang’s door panels and seats, while Twilight, Spike, Applejack, Garrett, and I all gathered around the Torino.

“We’ll begin here by removing the hood for easier access, before taking off the bumper, grille, and headlights,” Garrett explained. “Then we’ll start removing components necessary to extract the whole engine and transmission.”

I scooted over to a toolbox beside the car, and Twilight eagerly followed. “Here we have all types of wrenches, drivers, and whatnot for undoing bolts, screws, and nuts. Also included are drills and torque wrenches - both manual and electric…”

While I explained to Twilight the whole toolbox and how to fit caps to a bolt and heads to screws, Garrett showed Applejack how to lift the car using a floor jack.

“Ready?” I asked Twilight, somewhat teasingly, holding a cordless drill.

“I’m ready.”

Together we unscrewed the screws and bolts holding the bumper, lights, and grill, while Garrett attempted to undo the hood bolts. As I pulled out a stubborn bolt, I noticed Applejack struggling to hold up the hood for him, and got an idea.

“Yo, Dash!” I called out over my shoulder. “Quick hand here.”

Before I could reach out to make a hand gesture, Rainbow Dash was already hovering over my head. I pointed to the hood, and she immediately got the idea.

“Happy to help, Garrett,” she said, effortlessly holding up the hood with one hoof. In no time at all the hood was removed and she and Garrett lifted it up and placed it aside. With the hood and most front-end items off, the engine was more accessible, though not completely. Twilight unplugged several connectors and Garrett labeled them for easy coordinated reattachment later, while I removed the front crossbar and radiator, taking care to drain any coolant fluid first.

With the front of the car completely removed, it was now time to deal with the engine itself.

“There isn’t much to tackle besides wiring and fluid draining here to be honest with you,” Garrett confessed. “I say we could have this motor free in fifteen minutes or less. Xavier, grab that diagram chart, will ya?”

It took a moment of thought, but I soon realized what he was talking about, and ran over to a small desk beside the toolbox itself. In a drawer, I rifled through a stack of sheets, and soon spotted it, clearly labeled.


I ran back to the car and spread it out on the fender for Twilight to observe. Then, as if my magic (literally!) she grabbed ten connectors in her telekinetic grasp and pulled them loose in a series of gentle clicks. In just seconds, half the wiring harness was free. Garrett then tackled the rest while Applejack headed off, returning shortly later pushing a metal frame with a pair of hooked chains on wheels.

“What in the hay is this?” she enquired.

“This is an engine hoist,” I replied, helping her along. “We’ll use it to hold the engine after we’ve released it from the car. Gotta raise the car up first though, using a second type of stand, called a lift.”

“Spike, can you push those just under the side of the car, please?” Garrett asked the little dragon, pointing to the bright yellow arms of the two-post lift.

“At your service,” Spike replied, and gently pushed each arm into place, so the lift saddles were exactly under the car’s frame rails. Garrett then introduced Spike to the control panel, showing him the buttons.

“Car’s going up!” Spike announced, pressing the “UP” button. With a buzz, the car slowly and smoothly rose up off the ground, much to Twilight’s awe.

“Good. Now we can get access to the transmission, and release it too,” Garrett said, climbing under the car with a torque wrench and a drill. I handed him some sockets while Twilight drained the transmission fluid using a pump, and Spike helped unplug and remove more of the wiring. I smiled. Garrett had taught them well.

Soon the transmission was free and the engine was drained dry of its fluids. All that was left to do was unclamp the vacuum lines and remove the manifolds. Glancing under the car, I noticed that Garrett had also removed the exhaust too.

“Okay, let’s get back to them wrenches and drills!” he announced cheerfully.

I showed Twilight how to use an electric torque wrench to remove all the bolts on the intake manifold properly in an even, equal manner. She followed closely and mastered the art, showing how much of a great, attentive learner she was. Garrett and Spike worked on what bolts of the exhaust manifold they could reach, and soon had both off. I unclamped all the lines going to the valves and pumps. The engine was finally ready for removal.

Garrett plugged in the hooks, while Twilight and I operated the lever, slowly bringing up the engine. Applejack crawled under the car.

“Ah got the trans!” she declared. “Nice and steady. Try moving back a bit and down a little.”

“Okay, back more, more, more… there! Now try raising it up a bit.”

Twilight cranked the lever a couple times, while I jiggled the motor a little. Soon the transmission cleared the tunnel and the engine began sliding out with ease. Finally it was free. Applejack clambered out into the engine bay and then out onto the main floor, still holding the transmission.

“Let’s wheel it over to Brian, who will supercharge it to a good 500hp or so,as per the owner’s request,” Garrett declared.

Applejack held up the transmission parallel to the floor while I released the jack’s wheel locks and pushed it along down through the shop. Twilight eagerly followed close behind, levitating her notepad and pen.

“Ayo Jacko!” Maverick (who happened to be nearby) called out. “302 needs some suckin’ power. Get to it, will ya?”

“Gotcha boss,” Jack casually replied, setting down a rebuild manual. Twilight watched in earnest as he picked up a couple of special wrenches and started undoing several bolts. While still a young ‘un at 23, Jack was well-versed in quick, precise engine upgrades and assembly. In just fifteen minutes the whole head was off the block and all components disassembled. Off to the side in front of a 2007 Dodge Viper lay several tubes, electrical wires, and a large circular air filter, among other items. I soon recognized them as the supercharger components.

With the engine work in good hands, Applejack and I returned to the Gran Torino to start work on the body. Garrett was already unboxing a set of brand new coilovers and one of his assistants was lifting a couple subframe components off a large metal shelf.

“Ah, you’re back,” Garrett said, looking up from the box in front of him. “My assistant, Gabriel, is here today. With you two involved, it’s three times the hands and three times less the effort! We should be able to get this done in just a couple hours.”

Amazingly, Gabriel seemed unfazed by the presence of ponies and a little dragon. It seemed like Garrett had already given him the heads-up. Or he probably had a run-in with Fluttershy, who was now hovering up in the air, changing a burnt-out light bulb.

After Spike had raised the car up on the lift, Garrett undid all the bolts while Applejack held up the subframe. The trailing arms were rusted pretty bad, and the main subframe bracket had a large bronze-colored hole in it. It was pretty incredible to think the owner had still managed to drive it to the shop without crashing or breaking down - physically.

“Alright,” Gabriel began, analyzing the physical durability of the stock subframe components. “Coilovers will definitely have to go, given the power levels of that V8 once it gets reinstalled. Axles will need upgrading, just to be on the safe side. Differential is okay, just the housing needs some touch-up and rust removal. Main subframe is toast, and so are the trailing arms. Looks like a 50/50 - gotta remove rust and also replace entire parts as well.”

We worked away. Applejack sanded down the differential housing and Garrett spray-painted it, while Gabriel and I cleaned the inside of the wheel arches, then rust-proofed them. Garrett took a break while Gabriel, Applejack, and I took off the front wheels and dismantled did the front subframe. We wiped, sanded, and sprayed, before adding the parts to the drying rack.

With many hours to spare before the paint and rustproofer spray fully dried, we decided to check up on Brian. Just as we turned to walk down the “hall”, a horn blared from the front entrance. The big garage door rolled up to reveal the thick, bold figure of Tempest. Behind her was a flatbed trailer with a fire red ‘69 Camaro on it.

“Heads-up, Maverick,” she announced, stepping inside, her stride confident and bold. “We got ourselves a new customer here with a serious engine issue. Sounds like busted internals.”

“Probably from too much hard reckless driving,” mused Applejack, who’d caught attention and was now standing beside me. We watched as Maverick scooted up to Tempest and carefully guided the truck driver as he reversed into the shop.

“So what’s the issue, sugarcube?” Applejack asked, causing the owner to literally jump out of his skin while jumping out of the truck at the same time.

“What-the-how-can-talk…” The guy could barely get a few words out so I pitched in.

“Sorry if this all seems weird. This is Applejack, one of my friends. Got several others here as well. Yes they are talking ponies with big eyes and even bigger hearts. Now what’s got your whip busted?”

“Driving one day, everything seems fine, did a nice burnout at a meet and a sweet slide… and then I hear a snap and bang. Whole car just stops working altogether and there’s oil and fluid dripping all over…” The young chap described the whole story as I studied him. He was of a medium build and a rather short height - not taller than 5’2, with a light freckled face and windswept hair. I couldn’t place him any younger than 17.

“Oh, hi there! What’s your name?” Fluttershy asked kindly, flying over from the office area, where she’d finished organizing containers of used fluids and oils.

“I, uh, I’m Max. This is my Camaro SS. She’s quite a kicker, but her heart’s pretty much dead.”

“Aw, don’t worry Max, we’ll get her up and running as soon as we can,” Fluttershy reassured him, caressing his shoulder with her hoof. “We promise.”

It was rather amusing to see Max’s face warm up so easily at the sight and sound of someone like Fluttershy. He gently stroked her mane back and she offered him a hug, which he gladly accepted. For a moment I actually thought he might cry; Fluttershy had immense powers when it came to making others feel loved.

“Alright, I’ll have Brian, Xavier, and Garrett take a look at the engine,” Maverick announced, stepping forward to greet Max. “Come, let’s discuss pricing.”

Max tossed me the keys and headed for the office. Garrett popped the hood and we all gathered around the engine bay.

“Looks like a blown engine, but I need more detail. Let’s get this rocket up in the air.”

With help from Rodney, Applejack, and Spike, we eased the Camaro off the trailer and hoisted it up on a spare lift. One glance under was all it took - and Rodney, I, and even Applejack could tell.

“Thrown rod and a busted gear.”

“Likely second.”

Tempest gave her best friendly goodbye to Max and the truck driver, while Garrett, Applejack, Gabriel, and I wasted no time stripping down the Camaro. The engine looked rad, but all parts looked stock, except for the fuel injectors and the headers.

“Looks like this is going o take a while, even though it’s a simple fix,” Rodney confided.

I had to agree. It was well into the afternoon and we still had two other projects to work on. It looked like the Mustang would have to wait until tomorrow or even the day after.

After half an hour, the Camaro’s V8 was drained, out, and on one of Brian’s stands. Applejack held up parts while I made short work of the headers and head components with an electric torque wrench. Soon the head was off, and we could see the damage. One piston was cracked, another looked slightly bent and had detonated through the oil pan. Thankfully there wasn’t any serious damage to the block, otherwise we’d have to swap in a whole new one.

Upon removing the oil pan and disposing of the broken bits, Garrett then removed the damaged crankcase and returned moments later with a shiny new one.

“How did you get a new part so fast?” Applejack exclaimed, gasping.

“We work with V8s a lot, so there’s always parts to go ‘round,” Brian replied with a shrug. “Looks like the bottom of the block will just need some grinding, cleaning, and a little polish to remove all the bits and scratches from the metal grit caused by those detonated pistons.”

At Rodney’s request, we split up - a little job rotation. Applejack helped Fluttershy out with sorting tires, wheels, and trash, while Garrett, Brian, Gabriel, and I all worked together on the Camaro’s engine. We grinded, sprayed, scrubbed, washed, and dried. Finally the block and head were ready, and we installed the new pistons and properly torqued them to the crankcase - a technique that I’d learned years ago.

“Great job everyone,” Maverick complimented as he passed by, having returned from the office. “Looks like you’re all handling a large number of tasks quite well.”

Chapter 12: Night Walk

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The sun was now setting. All of us had worked hard all day across three projects - the Gran Torino, the Mustang, and the Camaro. Rodney had promised me that we’d work on my Integra after hours, but at this rate, it didn’t look like it’d happen.

“Feeling alright, darling?” Rarity inquired as I stepped into the office, my dreads lined with little glints of sweat and my hands blotchy with oil, dirt, and grime.

“I’ve been better,” I sighed. “Achy and in a little pain. But a part of me is happy for what has been accomplished and what the outcome will be - happy, satisfied drivers.”

“Can’t argue with that,” she replied. “Customers are the forefront of every business - be it shiny smooth engines or fabulous dresses.”

I grinned and slipped into the bathroom, before grabbing a quick cup of coffee and a muffin (Rodney loved baked goods, and always kept a couple as a snack).

Back in the shop, Kristen had finished door panels, seats, back seats, and dashboard work for the Mustang. All parts were ready to be installed. Max’s Camaro was still sitting empty, but the engine was complete. The head was safe, albeit with some major tweaking to ensure it wouldn’t blow under the stress of a 7000 RPM spin. The Gran Torino’s subframe components were all dry and ready to be installed, and Rodney had already ordered parts to replace those that were completely busted. The final task for the day was to run the Camaro’s V8 in the engine dyno room to ensure that it wouldn’t blow up, as Brian was still skeptical of the block.

We slid the engine into the dyno room on a dolly and hoisted it up to the dyno, connected all the components and torqued them nice and tight, then put the engine through its paces. First at a 900 rpm idle, then a 2500 rpm “smooth cruise”, and then a high 4500 rpm “crank-up”. All the while Brian was watching the air-fuel ratio, compression, and valve pressures closely.

Finally, we brought it up to a full 7000 RPM. The block shook after a 45 second pull, but held through 4th gear. A little sputtering was heard from the water pump, but all was good.

“I’m going to tune it to run a little leaner and bring it up more,” Brian said. “From the way Max described the incident he grinds this thing hard.”

I simply shrugged and let him work his magic. With a little tweaking on the ECU, Brian brought the little DZ 302 up to 8500 RPM. Rodney gasped in shock as the block shook even more and a coolant line snapped. Lo and behold, the engine held together, even after three more runs at exactly the same configurations.

“See?” Brian said with a grin. “This block’s a fighter. Honestly it’s most likely the previous owner of the engine put weaker pistons in it - maybe to save money and wasn’t going to rip it like a madman.”

Rainbow (who had flown over to see what the noise was about) glared at him.

“No offense to Max,” Brian quickly added. “Well it’s settled then. Tomorrow morning, we’ll reinstall the engine and plug in a new ECU. Also take care of the transmission and put the car on the dyno to get it accurately tuned.”

Rodney yawned and glanced at his watch. “It’s almost seven o’clock. Let’s get Xavier’s Honda in here so you, Brian, can get its engine on a stand right away.”

“Hey you,” Tempest whistled flirtatiously as I walked out the front office door. “Been a long day, hasn’t it?”

“Probably more so for you, Fizzy,” I replied with a wink. “Got all those customers to give a warm welcome to.”

“You know there’s been more than meets the eye this afternoon,” she countered. “I can name twenty-five different cars off the top of my head.”

My eyes widened a little. Huh. So there had been a substantial customer flow today.

I hopped into the Integra and drove it right into the shop.

“Let’s get to work!” Rodney announced loudly.

Garrett was like a cyborg on fast-forward, undoing every screw and bolt he could lay his eyes on. So was I. In a matter or minutes the front bumper, headlights, and hood were off. Gabriel asked to leave early, so Rodney took over and drained all the fluids. Once the radiator was dry, I took it off and then undid all the vacuum lines, followed by the power steering system and the water pump. Rodney and I then tackled the electrical system, undoing wires and unplugging everything. Finally after half an hour the engine was loose, and Brian hooked it up to the lifter. On a lift, I disconnected the transmission and we pulled the engine free from the bay.

“Looks so small and weak,” Rainbow Dash teased.

“But far from fragile,” I added.

With the engine out and on a stand, I pulled the transmission and set it aside, before removing all the boxes from inside the car - with help from Rodney. He was a great supervisor and a knowledgeable, caring guy.

“What’s in the boxes, Breezy?” Twilight inquired.

“Yeah, we gotta know, sugarcube,” Applejack added.

I shook my head, disappointed that I’d kept it a secret for too long. It was time to spill it before it caused any tension or worse, mistrust.

“These are all the upgrade parts for the Integra’s engine,” I explained. “Everything you see here is where my savings since last year has gone - perhaps even before that.”

“You sure this little pocket rocket can really be a rocket?” Applejack mused. “It doesn’t look like a strong reliable car to me, no offense.”

I snorted. “None taken, AJ. I know it doesn’t look like much, but once it’s together, you’ll be questioning the precision of your mind’s ability to interpret reality.”

We all shared a laugh before parting ways. Garrett headed out the back door, while Maverick shut the blinds in the office, locked all the doors, and shut off all the lights. Much to our surprise, Brian hopped into the shiny red Viper and reversed out of the back garage door.

“Wha - that’s YOUR car?!” Twilight gasped.

“You bet!” Brian replied with a proud wink, and zoomed away, the V10 leaving a loud echoey roar in its wake.

“On behalf of my friends and also for myself, thank you both for a great work day, Mr. Maverick and Mr. Rodney,” Twilight said gratefully.

“Loved operating the two-post lifts. Those were awesome!” Spike added excitedly.

I tried not to snicker at Maverick’s slight blush. “You’re most welcome, little ponies.” He spotted Tempest standing some distance away. “And to the patient and welcoming greeter, Tempest Shadow.”

“Who is still in the shadows,” Rainbow whispered, before shutting up upon receiving a glare from Twilight.



With my Integra out of action, we had to walk back home. I had done this a few times before but it wasn’t a regular occurrence at all. Given the housing in this area, the large trees and the minimal, often poorly maintained street lighting, it’d be easy for anyone to pounce on us. But with my lovely Fizzy by my side and my squad of brave strong-hearted ponies, my worries were somewhat lessened.

“Feels so much different without the sun,” Rarity noted in an anxious voice. “It’s almost like someone’s always watching you all the time but you never know where they are.”

“It’s called feeling enclosed, Rarity,” I explained, as we crossed the street and headed down the main road. In spite of the time, Dundas was still bustling with traffic. We waited at another intersection while the opposite traffic drove by. I took a glance around. There were a couple people on the sidewalks - mostly on their phones, but some still up and alert like me. Instantly a few gasped and pointed.

Tempest sighed and rolled her eyes as I too realized it. I was exactly where I didn’t want myself to be - unprotected on the streets at night with a bunch of adorable colorful aliens who were attracting attention. If Tempest could get more people around her than could fit on a corner sidewalk, than Twilight and her friends would cause a commotion that would rival that of fans and paparazzi outside of Ariana Grande’s Paris hotel.

“W-w-why does it feel like everypony is looking at me?” Fluttershy stuttered anxiously.

“That’s because they are,” I replied bluntly. “Remember how this world sees you - cute, small, and… attractive. They want to get to know and understand you.”

“Only I think they’re not exactly the most considerate and wise in doing so,” Twilight remarked. “But at the same time if we revolted they’d perceive us as the opposite - dangerous and savage. You humans are rather sensitive but powerfully interconnected creatures.”

I nodded slowly in agreement. Twilight was one intelligent girl. Now I had to use my intelligence to effectively protect my friends. As the light changed and the green man lit up, I boldly walked across the street, gesturing for my friends to follow. Tempest stood by my side, her big stern eyes scanning the intersections like a security camera on an army base.

“Relax, Fizzy,” I whispered. “You’ll make them fearful with that body language.”

Tempest loosened up her shoulders and we continued walking to the other side. I glanced back at the corner we’d just come from. There was a young woman in her 20s, excitedly pulling out her iPhone X. My heart pounded a little as I realized that my friends were probably blowing up all over social media at this point. Would we even get people from overseas flocking to Toronto just to see them? How would I handle it all - how could I keep them safe? Before I could think about it too much, Twilight spoke up.

“We gotta make a choice here. We can stick to the main road for as long as possible and risk being seen by many people, or we can dodge down the side roads through poorly lit neighborhoods where there’s a greater chance of being attacked by would-be ruffians. What do you say, everypony?”

“I’d stick with the main roads. What’s a bunch of eyes doing to do to us anyway?”

You’d be surprised, I thought as we headed off down the sidewalk - Tempest by my side, Spike, Applejack, Rarity, and Fluttershy behind me, with Twilight bringing up the rear and Rainbow Dash flying above at a reasonable altitude of seven feet.

The journey went well for the first couple of blocks. A couple people noticed and many of them took pictures, but that was it. No one bumped into us or otherwise disturbed us. A stair handrail at the side of a shop down a back lane brought back a couple memories of skating with high school friends… and concerns of hiding attackers.

“You know a lot of people have died on this street,” I said rather coldly as we reached Lansdowne Avenue and began the long journey down south. My nerves twitched a little as we passed under a low train bridge, with only two very dim lights to guide the way.

“I should’ve brought the flashlight from your room, Breezy,” Rainbow muttered.

“It’s all right,” I whispered. “Let’s just keep moving.”

We strolled down a rather well-lit stretch of road lined with rather run-down townhouses lining both sides, complete with well-aged trees that towered up, their height starting to rival that of the houses they stood next to.

“Nice of them to trim the trees so they don’t intertwine with the power lines,” Fluttershy noted.

At an intersection, I caught sight of a smooth scuff mark on a wooden ledge that surrounded a bunch of grass and a bush. I stopped briefly and stared at it, using my phone’s light to get a better look.

“What you noticed?” Twilight asked, noticing me next to her now instead of Tempest.

“Not too sure, but it looks like a tailslide or a truck grind, even. Someone’s skated here before.”

Twilight shot me a quizzical look.

“I’ll explain later tomorrow.”

Soon we reached Queen Street, and boy, was there more people and a lot more lighting from all the stores - even the ones that were closed. The environment felt a little safer, but still edgy.

“Ooh, a hair stylist!” Rarity exclaimed, pointing across the street.

I chuckled. “That’s actually where I had my dreadlocks refined. Not tip-top service but they do it well.”

After a long walk, we finally reached an intersection with a strip of old townhouses on one corner that I recognized well. Turning, we started down a narrow avenue with dim street lights. Like on Lansdowne, the houses were small and tightly packed, with small fenced-in front yards.

“It seems like all of the houses in this city are so small, shabby, yet homey,” Applejack commented. “Aren’t there any better places?”

“Oh there definitely are much better places, but they’re much more costly. I’ll take you around there sometime on the weekend if Maverick doesn’t call me down for overtime again.”

“He is kind of a workaholic,” Rarity remarked. I couldn’t argue with that - the two brothers were very committed to their profiting business that they loved.

Further down the road a bush rustled and out jumped a raccoon. With its little legs it scooted away towards a lineup of trash bins.

“Stay low, and watch closely for movement,” I warned. “Night-goers have been stabbed just northwest of this neighborhood recently.”

No sooner were those words out of my mouth were mumbles of terror were briefly heard and the air fell silent immediately thereafter.

“You mean… there’s been killing?!” Twilight exclaimed, albeit loudly.

“Quiet!” I hissed. “Yes. It happens quite often, sometimes even bi-monthly. I know, it hurts to know there are psychopaths on the loose. But we must keep moving. We only have to do this once. I promise.”

Twilight opened her mouth to continue, but simply sighed and we continued walking. Tempest’s ears were twitching and her eyes were flickering again, like a hunter watching for a target. She looked more alert than ever.

Around half an hour later, we finally reached Glenavon Road. The sounds of the highway roared up ahead as we trudged down towards home - the final house on the dead-end street that overlooked the Gardiner Expressway highway and the lake.

“I’m so tired,” Fluttershy said with a yawn.

“Are we there yet?” Rarity whined.

“We certainly have arrived,” I announced with a yawn of my own, reaching for the keys in my pocket. It had taken us a good hour or so, but we’d finally made it home under the cover of darkness - without any of us getting stabbed, shot, or harassed.

Entering the basement, we noticed Joyce fast asleep on the sofa, (surprisingly) with Pinkie by her feet and Skystar on the rug beside them. Straight away, we all headed for the bathroom and washed our hands (and hooves). I crept into the kitchen and gave everyone a good glass of water, before we all collapsed onto my bed, completely exhausted from our long day.

Chapter 13: Building the Integra

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The first thing I noticed waking up the following morning was the thick jaw and soft, tender cheeks of Fizzlepop BerryTwist on my belly. It felt so warm and comforting and… protective. Added to which, she had a hoof extended across my legs as well. There was no denying it any longer - Fizzlepop was in love with me.

And being brutally honest, I was too.

My eyes flickered in slumber as the gentle but somewhat resonant breathing of Fizzlepop filed the bedroom air. Right on cue, my alarm clock went off, shattering the silence.


“Time to rise, my little ponies,” I announced, albeit groggily. “We’ve got another busy day ahead of us.”

“No playing or parties?” Pinkie pouted as we washed up in the tiny bathroom.

I shook my head. “Believe me, I’d love to have some fun time, but work calls. Maybe tomorrow or the weekend.”

“Aw! But that’s so far away!”

I dried my hands, gripped her body, and held her close to my chest. “The least I can do is give you this.”

“You’re so nice, Xavier,” Pinkie replied, hugging me back.

“We’ll try to be back earlier this time.”

“Pinkie Promise?”

“Pinkie Promise.”

Joyce had already left for work, indicating that we’d overslept. I rushed into the kitchen and whipped up some scrambled eggs, toast, and several bowls of hot milk.

“Have some of these,” I said, coaxing Skystar with a bunch of organic green grapes.

“Hey, thanks!” she replied with… wait, was that a little blush?

Oh, great. I sighed and forced a smile. Did I have two lovers now? Maybe I was as charming and hot as I was kind and helpful.

Figuring to just roll with it, I hand-fed Skystar one grape at a time while gently stroking her head and neck. My fingers felt like they were in heaven - her feathers and fur were so soft!

“I love your feathers,” I whispered with a wink.

“Heheh, thanks,” Skystar replied, gobbling up the rest of the grapes.

“Ah-hem!” Twilight cleared her throat loudly.

“Oh. Sorry.” I quickly turned around and continued eating up my cereal, which was now barely warm. Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Twilight ate up theirs, while Rarity was enjoying the eggs.

“I never thought eggs could taste this good!” she exclaimed. “How do you cook them so well?”

“Hold up a minute!” Applejack interjected. “You actually eat… eggs?”

“Not with chicks inside them,” I corrected with a stifled giggle. “Unfertilized.”

“Oh, phew, ya scared me there a little.”

“No worries, sugarcube.”

Now it was Applejack’s turn to blush at me using her own signature friendly term. Guess I really was a hot card.

We all finished our meals and prepared to head off to work. Since I was running late, I wish I could just clunk all the dishes into a dishwasher - but we didn’t have one.

“I’ll wash them,” Skystar offered, her face bright and eager.

“Thank you,” was all I could say. It was just amazing how well we got along. I made a mental note to treat her to something special, as well as everypony else.

“Hey, what are those big jars on your bureau?” Pinkie asked, just as I was about to slip out the door.

“Oh, that’s my coin collection from when I was a kid. No rare foreign ones, just a couple of savings. I gotta find time to count it all and give some to the bank.”

Out on the road, we walked back up Dowling Avenue - with Pinkie and Skystar staying behind as usual. Skystar’s wound was improving fast, and I hoped it would be fully healed by the weekend so she could be fully integrated into the awesome fun adventure I planned to have with all my friends. I was starting to feel bad always keeping her at home. Even with somepony as cute, energetic, and positively thoughtful as Pinkie, that little basement could get boring real fast.

“Hey, look!” Fluttershy exclaimed as we reached Queen Street. “It’s the tram! Pinkie told me about it.”

“Indeed it is, Fluttershy,” I replied, leading them around the corner. “Maybe we can take a ride later on it during lunch break. Or the bus.”

“How about a train?” Twilight suggested.

I smiled sadly and shook my head. “That’d be if we were to visit another city entirely. But hey, I’ll ask my mom. There’s a zillion attractions and events in this wide cluster of cities, towns, and counties.”

“What do you mean?” Rainbow Dash asked.

I pulled out a map from my pocket and unfolded it.


Folding up the map, I gave a little smug smile and we continued walking, in spite of the attention we got. Tempest and I walked side by side, with her looking more casual and friendly this time. I hoped my other pony friends wouldn’t notice, and that they’d simply view Tempest as a loyal and supportive friend. But the stinging question struck just as we reached the shop.

“Xavier,” Twilight said, her voice rather thick and slightly interrogative.

I spun around like a ballerina. “Yes, Twilight?”

“I didn’t want to believe it at first, but… it looks like you and Fizzlepop are… in love.”

“What?” I blurted out, pretending to sound oblivious. Twilight wasn’t frazzled, and continued talking.

“You and her.” She pointed directly at Tempest, who was now standing alert and observant for customers.

“She’s… well…” I bit my tongue and sighed, accepting defeat. I scooted Twilight to the side around the corner. “She loves me, though she hasn’t said it straight up. I kinda just fed into her acts of affection, and I… well. I-I found myself loving her too. That’s it! I can’t really say more about it than that. I had plans for us to go out for lunch together later today, but I don’t want to leave you all hanging.”

“If you want to confirm your love,” Twilight said, “then do it with conviction. Don’t worry about us. Now let’s get working.”

We strode through the large garage door, giving everyone a warm friendly greeting.

“Ayo Rodney! Good morning sir!”

“Good morning, sir.”

“Hey all, hope your morning’s going well.”

My Integra was still parked in the front as it had been yesterday evening, with the engine parts still neatly arranged near the back in Brian’s section. He was there too, doing the final touch ups on the Gran Torino’s engine before it hit the dyno. The primary focus today, however, was Max’s Camaro. Its transmission needed a rebuild. Trannies were not my specialty, so I left that work to the pros of Maverick and Rodney’s crew - specifically Brian.

Instead, we worked on my car’s engine. Most of the money had gone into the block and the fuel system, which I’d spent weeks doing extensive research on how to do properly. I had a fresh pre-built and bored block shipped from the U.S., and bought most of the parts from a place up north, and the turbo kit online. My plan was to turn the Honda into a full-on race car, though its daily driver abilities would be highly questionable.

“Up we goooooo,” Spike sang as he pressed the red button, lifting the Integra up on a lift. With Gabriel’s help I drained all the fuel and cleaned off the excess. I disconnected the fuel rail and removed the lines, along with the fuel pump itself. With those out, I replaced them with a more efficient race- spec system sporting a Walbro 255 and Bosch 044.

With that out of the way, I turned my attention back to the engine. Over the next two hours, Twilight, Brian and I worked together to build it up - installing valves and springs, plugging in lines for the turbo system and pumps (water and oil), assembling pistons and properly sliding them into the block. It really was a lot of work, but thankfully my intensive research had paid off. Brian only had to give a few bits of advice here and there. Twilight also learned a lot about how an engine was really put together.

“There seems to be more technological and more efficient aspects to a B18C1 than there is to an old V8,” she noted.

“Indeed,” Brian replied, torquing a nut on the head. “Car engines have changed a great deal over the past sixty years.”

I then installed the fuel line connectors and the massive 1000cc injectors, which would feed the engine with enough fuel to keep a proper ratio with the air sucked through the big GT3076R turbo. The cams, cam gears, and all other stuff under the rocker cover were in. Finally we double-checked the crankcase and began installing belts, gears, and sensors which would hook up to the wiring harness.

Meanwhile, Garrett and Marcus were busy with the body. Marcus decided to paint the sides with a nice red stripe, and Garrett tried his hand at installing gauges. Because my budget was limited, I chose just two gauges - boost pressure and air/fuel ratio.

Finally lunch time arrived. The engine was pretty much done, with all necessary fittings in place. The intake manifold and vacuum lines were ready to be hooked up, as well as the fuel lines and other electrical stuff. To make the engine reinstallation easier I chose to add the exhaust manifold and finish assembling the turbo kit after doing so. But first, our stomachs needed to be filled.

“Pizza?” Applejack inquired.

Rodney shook his head. “Not this time ‘round, sadly. Everyone’s got their own lunch.”


I headed into the office where Tempest was chilling on the sofa.

“Feels good to relax, doesn’t it, Fizzy?”

“It sure does, Breezy. What brings you here, darling?”

My eyebrows shot up like shrapnel from a detonated block. Did she really just call me ‘darling’? I thought only Rarity had that personal trademark.

The more you know, I guess… My thoughts were lost as Fizzlepop rose to her feet and snuggled up next to me like a giant cat.

“How about a luxury lunch?” I proposed. “Just you and me. Together.”

Tempest shrugged - a slight, cute shrug. “Sure.”

We walked down the road to a nice little juice shop, with tables outside. I could see the fearful body language from other people inside as we approached. Tempest pouted and shook her head, so as to appear innocent and non-threatening.

“Now I have to act sad just to cool their blood,” she sighed.

“It’s alright,” I reassured, stroking her thick tall mohawk before flipping my flirtatious switch to the ‘on’ position for a second. “What flavor would you like, sweetie?”

Sensing this, Tempest looked up at me with a gingerly expression. “Anything with grape or strawberry sounds good.”

While she waited outside, I ordered two drinks - strawberry-flavored soda and orange mango. For a meal, I got two filled bagels - strawberry jam and cream cheese. With the drinks and meals ready, I stepped outside. Fizzlepop was there, sitting all alone by a table, gazing at the traffic and giving the best non-threatening smile she could manage.

“So what’s the topic this time ‘round, Breezy X?” she mouthed disinterestedly.

I slid the soda and strawberry bagel over to her side of the table and sat down with my smoothie and cream cheese bagel. “I… well.” She’d caught me good. I wanted to get deeper into love talk but hadn’t really figured out where to start. But I quickly assembled a question and spat it out.

“What is it about me that has won you over?”

Now it was Fizzlepop’s moment of silence. We’ve exchanged flirtatious words and gestures before, but it wasn’t sincere - just me playing along with her overbearing acts of protection, love, and care.

“I want to know if you’re really sincere about this,” I added in a more serious voice, past experiences ringing in the back of my head. I’d been used as a tool before with snitchy girls in high school and had quit dating ever since. Fizzlepop was the “new girl on the block” in this area, and I wanted to get it right this time. I did not want to be manipulated or overly submissive.

“I… I do love you,” Fizzlepop mumbled, then shuffled her chair closer to me with a pleading smile. I bit back a sigh - I’d seen this tactic before and wasn’t going to fall for it. At least, not yet.

“What is it about me, truly, that you love?” I pressed further, taking a big swig of my smoothie.

“Your devotion to your work, and how helpful and caring you are to those close to you, and those whom you see in need. But… you’re also quite wise. And strong. And… have a beautiful face.”

I took another sip and paused. I’d heard that kinda talk before, but only the second half of it. Fizzlepop had made some good points, and I didn’t doubt she could tell me many more. But it was time to pass the horseshoe.

“Now what do you enjoy?” I asked, before pausing again. “Or what did you enjoy in your previous life - before it all crashed down, you know?”

Fizzlepop shut her eyes and looked down slightly. “Yeah. That life. I was mostly just running around playing ball with my filly friends, not really caring much about the world. I wanted to improve my magic at the time. I lost my horn while trying to protect my friend… all over a little ball. My broken horn never functioned properly after that, and many ponies became fearful or deemed me an oddball It hurt, badly. Then I left Canterlot…”

She trailed off, describing her encounter with the creature called Grubber, serving under the Storm King, and her failed attempt at capturing the hippogriffs’ source of power. Right towards the end she looked like she was about to cry. I hand-fed her some of the strawberry jam-filled bagel in attempt to stifle the sad feelings inside her.

“I just want to turn back the tides and make everything right again…” Fizzlepop broke down again, burying her face into my shoulder. I turned and pulled her close to me in a hug.

“I understand,” I whispered, gently caressing her thick, strong neck. “Time can’t be turned back, but it can go forward. It’s about what is being done now. I understand why you love me now, and I accept your friendship as a close guardian of me and my friends. In fact that’s exactly it. Use that same determination of proving yourself and staying loyal to those close to you to better your life. You’ve got eight friends and a special somebody right by your side. It’s not too late, sweetie. But believe me, there will be hurdles and tests that will come up. Stay strong, use wisdom, valor, and merit, jump over them and chase the goal.”

“Thank you, Xavier.”

“Always there when I can be.”

Hug over, we finished up our lunches. Fizzlepop couldn’t hold her soda, so I held it for her as we walked back to the shop.

Right as we entered, Fizzlepop rose up on her back legs and planted a thick smooch right on my cheek. An affectionate kiss displayed for all shop workers to see. Even over the deafening sound of the dyno, the act was head-turning. It was we’d cut off all the electrical power or something.

“Awww, you’ve found yourself a girlfriend,” Rodney cooed. It was hard to tell if he was legit or just teasing.

I simply shrugged and stroked my sweetheart’s mohawk, before making my way over to the Integra, where Twilight was busy rewiring the harness and Brian was plugging in the S300 ECU.

“Ah-hem!” Fizzlepop announced rather loudly. “Um, just a quick announcement as to what took place. Yes. Xavier and I… are in love. He is whom I choose to stay committed to and protect, in return for the love and support he has given me.”

“Thanks… and you may now get back to work,” she finished with a blush, skipping back outside, almost like Pinkie Pie.

“Oh um…” Now I felt awkward after the ‘secret’ was out. “How’s the work going?”

“Your waifu is sexy,” Brian whispered, and I shot him a venomous glare.

“Just kidding! The Integra’s wiring is almost done, and Max’s Camaro is nearly ready to roll. Had another customer come over with her Trans Am to quickly check for any loss of power.”

“Shall we slide that 302 back in?” I quipped.


Spike lowered the Camaro back down close to ground level, but not so much that it would be hard to get under the car. Brian wheeled over the engine and transmission and together we slowly and carefully placed it back in. To our surprise, Rarity pranced over and in a flash, organized and reattached every single electrical component, even the starter.

“How did you that?” Spike, Brian, and I exclaimed all at the same time.

“Oh, I’ve been doing some reading with Twilight,” Rarity replied casually with a shrug. “Although the upholstery department is still more of my specialty.”

Brian glanced at me, and Spike just shrugged back at him. “That’s Rarity for you. Fabulous, pretty, and quite resourceful.”

With the Camaro’s engine in, it was time to put it on the dyno.

“This is where I need YOU,” Brian called out, pointing up at Rainbow Dash. “Time to put this machine through the awesomeness test.”

With Garrett and Gabriel’s help, we pushed the car onto the dyno neatly so its wheels were properly snug between the rollers. Next came the blocks, which we fastened securely, then tightened down three straps to stop the car bouncing.

“So you keep it fixed while it speeds to measure what it’s got,” Rainbow Dash commented. “Much like when I had to train in a wind tunnel. Sure felt awkward flying in place!”

Brian then plugged the ECU into his laptop and set up the tune as accurately as he always did, and I hopped into the driver’s seat.

“Put it through the gears!” Twilight cheered, standing off to the side.

I started up the engine and gently tapped the throttle to get the fuel going, then eased into the RPMs. I slowly brought it up to 6000, then really high to 8000 before shifting. In mere seconds I had topped 4th gear, with my eardrums barely hanging on.

“That was CRAZY AWESOME!” Rainbow Dash cheered, simultaneously doing a backflip and a loop-de-loop in the air.

“That’s on low power!” Brian boasted. “I think I can still turn it up a little bit while still remaining on the safe side.”

I eased into the throttle before rowing through the gears, filling the shop with the deafening noise of an open throttle DZ302 before finally letting off.

“Awww yeah! Ha ha!” Rainbow Dash whooped, gazing excitedly at the monitor. “350.84!”

“Solid run for a little 8-cylinder block from Granny Smith’s time,” Applejack noted when she could be heard over the noise.

“Time for a call!” Rarity announced excitedly, running into the office and picking up the phone.

I gulped. Rarity talking to Max? Oooooooooh boy, this would be funny.

Because the Camaro’s engine was still running, I could barely hear the conversation. Still, Rarity’s iconic adorably charming voice seeped through the V8’s vanishing noise, and I found myself giggling at her word choices.

“Oh, darling, there’s so much to enjoy!”

“This little puppy can just roar like crazy, you have to try it! Pretty please?”

I broke out laughing so hard I doubled over and my face fell into the steering wheel, resulting in a loud horn blare that startled everyone.

“BREEZY!” Rainbow Dash yelled, and I jolted back upright in the seat, still a little shaky from my laughing session.

“Sorry,” I muttered, climbing out. Brian put away his laptop and we resumed work on my B18C. With the engine remounted into the bay, reconnections and fluids were all that's left. Spike hoisted up the Integra and I attached the intercooler piping, MAF sensor, and exhaust sensor. Garrett, always the watchful one, prepared all the fluids while Brian hooked up the rest of the wiring harness. Finally it was time for a transmission bleed and a startup. Garrett slowly poured in the transmission fluid while Brian added some Ultra 94 to the tank. I hopped into the driver’s seat and slowly began pumping the clutch at a smooth rate. It took almost half an hour, but finally the clutch was fully bled and the transmission ran smoothly.

“Why don’t we attach the new brakes and bleed them now instead of later?” Twilight suggested.

I shrugged. “I don’t see why not.”

Brake bleeding was tricky, because you had to ensure no air was caught in the line at any point, or the pressure would cause abrasion and rupture to the valves.

“If this fluid were to escape, it would shoot out at such a high pressure that a slab of wood could be pierced by the jet of fluid,” I said, pointing at the brake line connecting to the system behind the calipers.

Applejack’s jaw hit the floor. “That is crazy.”

I nodded and hopped back in, gently pressing the brake pedal. Clear and precise communication was held between Garrett and I as we carefully cleaned out the system.

With the brakes done and all fluids added, it was time to start it up.

I flicked the fuel pump switches, and turned the key. The engine coughed and sputtered a little, but eventually roared to life, before dying just moments after.

“Aw!” Rarity pouted.

“Don’t feel the blues too fast, Rares,” Garrett reassured her with a gentle horn stroke. “The engine needs time to accept the fuel. It’ll be a couple rounds of startups before it flows efficiently and equally through the engine’s internals.”

I primed the fuel, waited a good amount of time, and turned the key. Again it died just seconds after. Brian pulled the fuel out of the head using a siphon and we tried again. And again. Finally after seven attempts the engine started… and stayed on, much to the joy of me and my pony friends.



“We finally did it!”

“Great job everyone!” Rodney exclaimed with a happy clap. “Now let’s see how much power we can squeeze out of this thing. There’s one small thing though… those tires aren’t going to hook up well, if at all, under the power of that turbo.”

I sighed and headbutted the steering wheel in frustration. Out of all the parts to buy, how could I have forgotten the most important thing of all? There was no point in building something fast if you couldn’t control it.

Just when I felt like accepting defeat and running a turbocharged Integra on stock, partially worn tires, a shout was heard from the office - and it didn't sound excited or positive.

Chapter 14: #CupcakesForToronto

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“I just can’t take it anymore!” Skystar whined. “I have to get out and explore! It just feels so cramped in here, and there’s literally nothing to do!”

“I know, Sky,” Pinkie replied with a sigh.

“It’s such a bummer that we have to stay hidden from people who might hurt us just because they don’t know or understand us, and thus are fearful.”

“But they don’t have to - THAT’S IT!”

“What is it?” Skystar asked eagerly.

“What if we could… get them to change? Win their hearts over and let them know who we really are!”

“Bring everyone together to show love and harmony, just like you did with my mom!” Skystar added excitedly, catching on to the concept. “But… how will we do it?”

With a smile, Pinkie ran to the computer and typed in “toronto tram”. Within seconds she found herself viewing a web page on streetcars and the various routes.

“Could you fetch Breezy’s spare map please?” she asked.

Skystar brought it back in seconds. Together they unfolded the map and observed the roads and routes, before understanding the levels of money amounts. Using pen, paper, and a calculator, Skystar sketched a complete route and Pinkie calculated the fares and time.

“Just to be on the safe side, I’ll take thirty dollars,” Pinkie suggested, unscrewing the jar and slipping several toonies, loonies, and quarters into an old change purse she found on Xavier’s bureau.

“How about instead of just talking, let’s give everyone something special,” Skystar suggested. “I’ll ask Joyce if I can use some of her shells to make necklaces and bracelets, and you…”

“Can make my super-duper special sprinkled and frosted cupcakes!” Pinkie excitedly finished.

So Skystar picked up the phone, while Pinkie raided the kitchen cupboards for all the ingredients she needed.

“Hi Joyce.”

“Still at work.”

“I’ll make this quick - can I use your shell collection to make some bracelets and necklaces?”

“Hmmm. Just the jars that contain the small ones - I really don’t need those ones anymore.”

“Thank you!”

“No problem, Skystar. Have fun.”

Pinkie made four batches of cupcakes, while Skystar constructed thirty friendship shell bracelets and fifteen shell necklaces. She’d arranged them in unique patterns, using beads to add more color.

After a good two hours of preparation, it was time to hit the road. Skystar looped all of her bracelets and necklaces onto a piece of cord and looped it around her neck, to make them easier to carry. Pinkie put all her fresh cupcakes inside two large containers lined with foil, neatly arranging them in stacks separated by wax paper. Then she slid them into a large drawstring sports bag and tied it to her back.

“I’ll hold the money and the map!” Pinkie declared excitedly, looping a cord around her own neck and tying it to a small pouch, inside of which she placed the change purse and Skystar’s hand-drawn map.

“Wait,” she paused right before they climbed the stairs. “Does your leg still hurt?”

“I…” Skystar shrugged. Boldly, she undid her dog wheelchair straps and attempted to place some weight on it.

“Ow! Still hurts a little. But it looks like the wound is all healed.”

Skystar parked her dog wheelchair aside and slowly limped around the living room for a few minutes. Every step hurt.

“Probably just needs some exercise,” Pinkie concluded. “Or the muscles need to flex more. Once they get used to constant, but gradual movements, they’ll get their strength back. Besides, you hippogriffs are some of the toughest creatures I’ve ever met.”

“Yeah, we’re pretty enduring,” Skystar blushed. “So, shall we head to the CN Tower or Yonge-Dundas Square?”

“CN Tower has a lot more visitors and is the city’s primary attraction, so it makes sense to visit there. I’d love for us to go up in the tower but it’s too costly.” Skystar concluded, walking into Xavier’s room. “Just need something a little more special for this trip - your board.”

Skystar strapped herself back into her dog wheelchair, Pinkie grabbed her little blue penny board and they headed out the door, setting it to automatically lock behind them.

“CN Tower, here we come!”

A quick run up Downings Avenue landed them right at the transit stop. Skystar took the opportunity to unstrap herself and lay down on the concrete sidewalk, while Pinkie stood and watched. A couple people walked by and gasped in surprise, but for the most part no one was around. After a good twenty minutes, the streetcar pulled up.

“Here it is!” Pinkie squealed with excitement as if she was a kid about to go on her first camping trip. Almost instinctively she waved.

“Impressive, in the way it moves,” Skystar noted. “Looking forward to a great ride to deliver cupcakes and bracelets!”

The streetcar slowly eased to a stop. Skystar pushed back to her feet and strapped herself back into her wheelchair with some assistance from Pinkie. The two strode forward into the street and stepped up onto the tram. Right on cue, the driver’s eyes grew to the size of saucers.

“W-w-who are you?”

“Hi, I’m Pinkie Pie, and this is my friend Skystar. May we board, please? Thanks.”

“You’ll need coins for a fare.”

Skystar stepped up beside Pinkie and opened up the fat change purse. “Got plenty.”

One by one, Skystar gently plucked coins from the purse using her beak and slipped them into the machine until it added to the right amount for two.

“Here you go,” the driver said, handing out the two paper fares.

“Thank you,” Pinkie replied politely, gingerly taking both.

“You’re welcome. Enjoy your trip.”

With the fares paid, Pinkie and Skystar carefully made their way across the floor of the moving tram. Skystar gestured to the front row seats, and they both sat down, the road ahead in clear view. Instantly all eyes were on them, especially a teen with curly, windswept hair and freckles. He looked sullen but relaxed. Pinkie smiled at the skateboard by his feet, but shook her head in dismay at his worn-down jeans. It was too much for her - she sided up to him.

“Are you okay?”

The young chap lifted his cap-covered head to find two oversized bright eyes looking back at him, letting out a yelp that startled everyone else.

“Shhh, it’s alright,” Skystar added, gently caressing his knee with her hands.

“Great. First I lose my job and now I’m being coddled by a freakin’ pink pony and a yellow hippogriff. How more messed up can my life get?”

“And that’s why I am here. My name’s Pinkie Pie. My original intention was to just have fun with my friend Skystar, but that changes now for both of us, because of you. You now are my top priority. I will not rest, nor will I leave, until you are happy again.”

“I’m Zack. Are you serious, Pink?”

“Yes. Now how about a hug?”

Pinkie hopped onto his lap and wrapped her arms around him, causing a little “awww” to be heard from the back of the bus.

“Now, what exactly was troubling you?” Skystar intervened.

“I lost my job for some dumb reason, and then tried to find another one that paid well. It’s not easy around here, and I also currently have to handle some paperwork at a government services building northeast of here. I miss when I was with my high school friend. We used to hang out all the time and have fun together. I’d find cool skate spots and we’d just have a great time performing tricks, jumping, and even simply just cruising around. Recently I’d saved up some money beforehand to give back to him as a thank-you for how much he’d helped me in life, if I knew where he was…”

“Seems like you feel depressed due to losing the most important things in your life,” Pinkie concluded. “Do you remember his name?”

“Not exactly, but all the skateboarding groups around here called him Breezy X.”

Skystar and Pinkie’s faces lit up like Broadway lights.

“We… are his friends too! He took care of us since we obviously aren’t from around here.”

Zack’s eyebrows shot up like springs. “Really? Tell me everything!”

“He still lives with his mom, and now works at a car repair shop. He doesn’t skate anymore, but still has a collection in his room. Right now he’s at work, but you could come home with us later…”

“I’ll even pay your fare,” Skystar offered.

“Sure! Thanks!” Zack exclaimed, giving her a caress on the neck. “Where are you two headed, exactly?”

“We’re heading down to the CN tower to give out some of my special frosted cupcakes with sprinkles!” Pinkie whispered.

“And my shell friendship bracelets,” Skystar added excitedly, pointing to her neck.

“You know what? Forget the paperwork, I’ll do it tomorrow. Let’s all head down there and spread some love and joy together. I don’t know exactly how, but you both have made me feel much better now and my worries are eased. Thank you.”

Zack’s eyes could barely stay dry as they all shared a three-way hug.

The trio continued their journey on the tram all the way down to Spadina Ave.

“There it is – the CN Tower! Right there, right there!” Skystar squealed, before Zack glared at her.

“Sorry, it’s just… I can’t believe we’re so close!”

“Well, this is our stop,” Zack bluntly announced. “Let’s get off here and start walking… and skating. Pinkie, I’ll carry your board.”

Pinkie stuffed her fare paper into her poofy pink mane and hopped off the bus, Skystar in tow. Zack stepped off, holding both boards.

“So now that we’ve arrived in the thicket of downtown, let’s get to selling,” he offered. “There are like ten-thousand people out and about at any one time here. But…”

“Yessssss?” Pinkie asked in a droney tone.

“I just want to give you a few quick tips,” Zack said, dropping her penny board on the hard concrete. “I used to work in retail – selling clothes. You have to show how unique and special those super-duper cupcakes are. Like, what makes them different from something at the local bakery? You know your baking techniques best, present the food in a way that those who eat it will recognize it. Also, don’t pull people into wanting to buy something. Let them decide, but coax them in with a couple short but cleverly-worded questions. Like, how they’re feeling and what their idea is of a delicious treat.”

“Okie dokie loki!” Pinkie exclaimed, hopping onto her board and racing off down the sidewalk. Zack chased after her, with Skystar now flying behind him, overwhelmed with the architecture and general sights of the busy street.

“Wait! We didn’t come up with a proper plan yet.”

“Oh, yeah, sorry.” Pinkie giggled. “How about I go along the streets first and then towards the tower?”

Zack took one glance around and shook his head. “It’s unlikely we’re going to encounter many people willing to have some cupcakes here. Let’s get to the epicenter by Bremner Boulevard. There are a lot more buildings there. We can wait for the LRT or walk, which would take longer.”

“I vote LRT!” Pinkie hooted.

“It’s not really that far…” Zack coaxed. “Just gotta get down there and then over a bridge and past some tall condos and then turn left…”

“Zack’s right, Pinkie. Let’s just walk,” Skystar suggested.

You can walk,” Pinkie teased, pushing off on her penny board. Zack twirled his board with his hand, jumped onto it, and sped off after her.

Guess that leaves me with the one advantage I have… flight, Skystar thought, flapping her wings and gliding through the air at a reasonably low altitude.

Pinkie was finding getting around easier than before when on four wheels that she had total control over, in spite of the bag of cupcake containers atop her back. Zack, who had been skateboarding since he was in middle school, was ollieing and kickflipping over practically anything that was under three feet high and just enjoying himself.

“Whoa!” Skystar exclaimed, her eyes wide and her mouth aghast as she flew over cars in the rightmost lane. “How do you do that?”

“Lots of practice and precise movement of feet, legs, and body,” Zack mused proudly. “I’ve been doing this for years, though honestly Xavier was much more talented than me. His movements were even more precise and fluid – in fact that’s how he got the nickname Breezy X, because his skating was so smooth, fast, and extreme. Ask him about his skate life – he can do a lot more tricks consistently than I can. And… I think you should come down before you attract unwanted attention.”

Skystar flew down onto the sidewalk and casually sided up to Zack, trying to play it cool in front of all the shell-shocked eyes that were locked onto her.

It wasn’t long before they reached the bridge, and Skystar immediately took note of the trains passing underneath.

“Lots of trains here!”

“Yes. When they’re finished doing their daily rounds, they’re parked here until the next day, and also to be serviced,” Zack explained. “Now let’s get going.”

Skystar bounded alongside Pinkie while Zack brought up the rear, paying careful attention to how everyone was reacting to the two. Some gasped, others just ignored them, amazingly enough.

Good, he thought. The less attention the better.

Finally they arrived at Bremner Boulevard and walked across the street, with Pinkie looking more eager than ever.

“We are almost there,” Zack whispered excitedly as they approached a large round building. “This is the Rogers Centre – a stadium to hold events of sports games.”

“It’s as big as the one in Cloudsdale!” Pinkie beamed in awe. “And look – there’s more people!”

“Correctamundo!” Zack exclaimed. “This is where all the action happens. We’ll see how the environment is like and offer one or two people some cupcakes. The adults may not be too keen on the friendship bracelets, but children certainly will be!”

With the goal closer than ever, the three friends raced down the narrow sidewalk to the other side of the Rogers Centre – and were greeted with new attractions left and right. There was a small stand where several guys were playing music, a big fountain gushing with cold water, a railway museum across the street, the grand entrance to the Ripley’s Aquarium, and the actual CN Tower!

“Wow!” Skystar and Pinkie gasped at the same time. “It’s so tall!”

“And all the people here ready to be cheered up!” Zack added, already helping Pinkie open her bag and taking out one container of cupcakes.

“Let’s find a little place for us to sit down and offer out,” Skystar suggested, glancing around for a table or ledge of sorts that would be in plain view. Soon she spotted it: a couple of smooth, thin concrete ledges right beside the fountain. Pinkie arranged a few cupcakes on top of the container lid while Zack set their boards aside, and they both began calling out.

“Cupcakes ready and fresh for everyone!”

“Come get a sweet treat!”

“All free!”

It didn’t take more than a minute before the duo became the center of attention. The first customer was a little boy. Although looking a little scared, he held up two fingers and held out his palm, showing a couple coins.

“Too much!” Pinkie said, plucking one large coin from his hand and dropping it into a small container.

“I think you’re under the assumption that one coin from your world is enough for one cupcake,” Zack said, shaking his head. “Here currency is much smaller, so one cupcake would be around three.” He held up the coin she’d taken from the little boy.

“This is a dollar, so I’d say from grocery store estimates… about two or three dollars would be sufficient.”

“Okie dokie loki!” Pinkie then turned back to the boy with a sweet smile. “Do you have another coin like what you gave me?”

The boy held out his hand again, and this time Zack noted them – a couple quarters, a toonie, and one loonie. After a one-minute explanation, he took the loonie and Pinkie handed the boy one cupcake.


“Aw, you’re so very welcome!” Pinkie replied with a loving smile.

Zack then pointed to the little container. “How much do you think we’ll make this afternoon?”

Pinkie shrugged. “Twenty bits?”

“If bits equal dollars, then yeah, a fair guess.”

After about a dozen customers, the afternoon was past its prime and began to slowly fade. There were still many cupcakes left, and most of the people were preparing to leave. One person had been kind enough to let them use a table, but he’d left now, so they were now forced to set everything on the ground.

“Let’s reposition ourselves towards the aquarium, so we can catch the attention of those leaving,” Zack suggested.

But as they packed up their stuff to shift around, a couple women ran up to them, several men with cameras following close behind. One held out a microphone.

“Argh, the annoying press.” Zack clenched his teeth. This was not something he wanted at all – either for himself or especially Pinkie, given how foreign and naïve she was to their annoyance, treachery, and attitude.

“Listen up, I don’t have time for this, and neither does she,” he hissed, standing straight up and pointing to Pinkie. “If you want a thick paycheck, go report on someone else. This is public property, but both our personal spaces still apply. Don’t like it? Too bad. We have rights to deny just as you have rights to ask.”

The reporter fell silent, a mixed look of stubbornness and disappointment across her face.

“I just wanted to ask if you knew about the interesting fish that’s somehow made it into the aquarium, since one of you looks familiar to her…”

Zack’s eyes bulged in shock and Pinkie’s head simultaneously whipped around, both of them realizing exactly what was going on.

Chapter 15: The Scramble for Ripley's

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“What is it?” I quickly asked.

“The pink one!” Maverick shouted from the office. “She’s on the…”

My mouth twitched. How did Maverick suddenly see Pinkie? Unless…

I burst into the room, with Rodney, Tempest, and Twilight right behind me. Maverick ushered us over to the TV – and I froze in shock.

There, on the screen, was Pinkie – and what looked to be a guy I seemed to remember from over a decade back. I could hear the guy speaking angrily and harshly, though it didn’t sound like it was directed at Pinkie. He was probably trying to get them to buzz off.

“How did she… why…” Twilight began, only to be caught again by surprise.

Then the view switched to an anchor talking.

“And on this afternoon a special report has come in from Ripley’s Aquarium, where an unusual creature has found its way into the main tank at the tropical exhibit, where Caroline has the story.”

The view switched again, this time to an aquarium, where a group of kids were running back and forth down a glass-lined hall, as a reporter talked in the background.

“Hi Kim, thanks. Currently there is no clear understanding as to how this creature entered the tank or bypassed security. Attempts by aquarium’s staff to safely rehabilitate the creature are already underway.”

“So what is it, exactly, Caroline?”

“Well no one really knows for sure, as some have called an alien, others refer to it as a hippocampus – a hippogriff with a fish’s lower body. Others have reported being able to hear the creature talk in fluent English, given how sound travels through water much faster compared to air. As you can hear behind me, visitors are obviously enjoying the company of this creature, especially children. It is not clear at this point how the aquarium will be dealing with this creature, given how practically no scientific knowledge of it exists. Updates will be given shortly after the rescue and during the course of rehab efforts.”

“So that’s the ‘Skystar’ you were talking about…” Maverick trailed off, but I wasn’t even there anymore. I had one obligation: to get my friends Pinkie and Skystar out of there before bad turned worse. Thankfully, Rodney had the same idea.

“Hop on,” he said, rolling up in front of the garage door on a Harley-Davidson and holding out a helmet.

All at once, I took an authoratitive position. “You three, stay behind and stay out of sight,” I instructed Rarity, Applejack, and Fluttershy. Maverick, if cops show up, don’t let them be seen.”

“Twilight, Rainbow Dash. You two fly on ahead and see if you can de-tense the situation and get Pinkie out of there. Fizzy, you can tag along. Use whatever you got.”

With that, I strapped my helmet on and rode off into the traffic with Rodney.



“Stay here,” Zack ordered, pointing to the ground.

“But she-” Pinkie opened her mouth to protest.

“STAY HERE!” Zack bellowed, his eyes wide with fire. Shooting a death glare at the news reporters, he took off towards the aquarium’s entrance, running like a gang with guns were on his tail. It took some effort, but he made his way up the flight of steps and yanked the doors open. Charging inside, he hollered and shouted for others to move aside as he sprinted past the rays and down the hall. Right at the end beside the kelp forest was what he was looking for: a flight of stairs.

“I’m coming, Skystar,” he panted, skipping down as fast as his thick strong legs could carry him. Although the press had already left – presumably to come after him earlier – a large group had already gathered around Rainbow Reef, extending all the way to the reef shark tank. Skystar was pacing back and forth, playing with the fish and entertaining a small group of children with an adorable little game. It wouldn’t be long before the staff entered in their diving suits and tried to take her away. Skystar was generally kind-hearted and genial, but could likely put up a good fight if need be.

Zack frantically looked around for a door or some other entry. The last thing he wanted was for her to be forcefully dragged out – or worse, incur a fight that could injure the divers or damage the tank.

Backtracking a little, he soon spotted it: a small door behind the kelp forest on the upper level. Taking care to make sure the crowd wasn’t watching, he snuck over and read the sign above the door:


“Damn you,” he muttered, pulling out a lock pick set amongst his pocket keys. It took an excruciating five minutes, but he successfully picked the lock and the handle turned. Walking down a narrow, dimly lit hallway lined with instrument panels and filtration pump systems, he soon came upon another door, also with a sign:



“I hate locks,” Zack muttered, inserting the thin stick and tweaking it again. This one was more complex and harder to pick. Every time all levers were just about to perfectly align, one slipped upon turning and he had to start all over again. Just as he managed to successfully pick the lock and get the knob fully turned, a shout was heard.

“Who are you? What the heck are you doing? This area is off-limits!”

Zack stiffened, and refused to turn around. As footsteps got louder, another shout was heard.

“How did you get in here?”

Zack sighed and shook his head. He’d likely never get out of this one, and probably end up in jail, or have to endure the sight of Skystar being dissected alive for so-called “humane” research purposes. He had to ensure one thing: that he would not fail, even if his freedom would be the parcel of trade. In two, fluently firm sentences, he shot back.

“Through the door. And I’m going to save my friend.”

With that, Zack pushed the door open, emptied his pocket of wallet, keys, lock pick set, and phone, and slid down a narrow ramp just as the staff behind the voices ran towards the door. Down he went, aiming straight for the clear bluish-white surface of water, which he hoped was Rainbow Reef.


Holding his breath but relaxing, Zack dove straight down. Through the painful blur of the salt water, he could make out the colorful blobs – fish – and one bright light with a large tail.


In one quick swoop, he lunged with one arm and grabbed her midriff, then quickly tightened his grip, before kicking hard for the surface.

“Phew!” Zack gasped through a small mouthful of saltwater and air. He spat out the rest and rubbed his burning eyes, whimpering in pain. Standing up above him were the two staff members who had shouted earlier – and they didn’t look happy.

Unable to speak from how tired and angry he was – both from running and swimming – he smoothly raised his finger at them and gave a little half-growl, half-spit of saltwater, before grabbing a ladder that led up to where the door was.

“You’ll never take my friend, ever!” he hissed, flopping down in front of them in exhaustion. Skystar lay floppy beside him, looking listless and lifeless. Suddenly a bright flash of twirling light burst out, blinding Zack and the aquarium staff. As it quickly faded, Skystar stood upright, now the tall, strong, and brave hippogriff she once was.

“Go, Skystar – GO! RUN!” Zack bellowed, scampering between the employees’ feet in an attempt to escape himself, but they reached down and caught one of his legs. Skystar leapt between the two and ran towards the door. With a strong but regretful kick, Zack hit one staff member’s buttocks hard, causing enough pain for a subsequent hand release. Quickly scrambling to his feet, he took off towards the door, which Skystar had already opened.

“Thanks,” Zack replied, slipping through and scooping up all the pocket goodies he’d left behind. Not wasting a minute, the two ran down the halls as fast as they could.



It seemed like everything was perfectly laid out for such a situation, sarcastically speaking. The roads were jam-packed with cars, and given Toronto’s narrow streets, lane splitting was near impossible in many places.

“It’s the afternoon rush,” Rodney reiterated. “Too many people, too many cars, and small roads.” After seeing the long line-up at a red light, he shook his head and turned off.

“So where we headed now?” I asked.

“Side roads,” Rodney replied. “Might be a longer route but we can go faster here.”

“So it is.”

Meanwhile, Tempest took the route far less traveled, running parkour-style across the tops of buildings, dodging smokestacks, maintenance workers, and wires as she galloped and leapt along, keeping the one goal in sight ahead of her – the CN Tower. From here it looked like a hundred miles away. But Tempest knew in her heart that nothing would stand between her and her friends. Her constant drive of hope and ferocity had returned, and this time she planned to use it for good – the greater good of serving justice and keeping her friends safe. And she was strong – very strong.

Taking a brief rest on top of a townhouse, she panted and panted, then gently flexed her leg and neck muscles. She knew she could make it, but needed some energy. A glance down below gave her the answer – a front-lawn sprinkler.

Leaping and shimming down, she plopped down into the front yard with a roll. Lining up with the sprinkler, she copied its movements, opening her mouth wide and letting the water trickle down into her mouth, rejuvenating her heart, muscles, and nerves. Just as she was swallowing the last bit of water, a shocked and upset figure appeared on the front porch.

“Wha-who are you?”

“I am Tempest Shadow, and I thank you for leaving me some water. Now I’ve got some friends to save.”

With that, Tempest leapt over the fence and galloped back to the main road, hoping to find a better way to the tower. Thankfully, one of the city’s famous red streetcars happened to arrive. Thinking quickly, she ran up a flight of steps onto a shop building roof, then took a mighty leap onto the streetcar as it approached. She landed with a thud, shaking the whole roof and leaving a dent from her armor, but kept her grip. Turning to face the road, she could now see the tower getting ever closer.

But so were police sirens. And she knew exactly what those sounds meant.



“Why? WHY!” Zack snapped angrily at Skystar as they burst through an “EMPLOYEES ONLY” door and into one of the aquarium’s main halls, seawater still dripping off his tank top. “You could’ve gotten hurt, or even captured and taken away to someplace where God knows what they’d do to you!”

Skystar looked back at him with a solemn pout, which only aggravated his disappointment and anger.

“Didn’t you learn from the Storm King’s attack? This world isn’t all nicey-nice! And the tanks are the aquarium’s property – you have no right to enter them without permission!” He threw his arms up in defeat. “Heck, I’m not even gonna bother asking how the heck you got inside there. But stay out of trouble, alright? This world does not take kindly to those to disobey laws and rules, whether they knew of them or not. Now let’s get you to safety before-”

Zack’s words died in his mouth as they burst through the main entrance. Spread out around the area stood at least half a dozen cops, all guns drawn and half-cocked. And all aimed squarely at him and Skystar.

“This is just a big misunderstanding…” Zack thought in his head, trying to stay calm, only to have his blood boil at the sight and sound that lay just yards from the bottom of the stairs.

Pinkie lay sprawled on the ground, her little furry body trembling with fear. The lead cop had his foot on her neck and his gun to her little pink mane.

“Zack! Please! Help!”

Chapter 16: The Stand Off

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I knew I had a good amount of patience, but I was on the brink of leaking in my panties at this point from fear and anticipation. It’d been almost half an hour and we weren’t any close to the CN Tower, at least from what I’ve seen. There were a lot of trees along the road we were cruising down and the taller buildings weren’t any help either. But I could still make out the thin spire of the tower’s tippity top.

“I’ve been in this city since you were old enough to drive,” Rodney boasted. “I’m confident we’re close.”

“I sure hope so.”

In the distance, the sound of police sirens could be heard, as well as the rush of wings – indicating something was flying very fast. Someone like Rainbow Dash.



“"Whoa, whoa. Slow down. I think there's been a misunderstanding." Zack said slowly. Darn it. Everyone would be so finished if this doesn’t go how he wanted it...

" Put your hands in the air!" one of the cops yelled again.

Slowly, Zack raised his hands above his head. His legs were tense as a cable underneath him, clearly a reflex in preparation for a battle. Not today, bro. I hope. The officer motioned for him with his gun to move away from Skystar. Reluctantly, Zack cautiously stepped to the side, focusing on coming up with something resembling a plan. He didn’t want anyone to get trigger happy, or the place would be a bloodbath. Not many would care if he died, but the sight of Skystar and Pinkie lying in a pool of their own blood in the media would incite a remake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. For now, the last thing he wanted was for anyone to get their hands on Skystar. There wasn’t anything he could do for Pinkie – at least, not at the moment. Bracing for the puncturing stab of a bullet, Zack bravely parted his lips and spoke.

“This is Skystar – Princess Skystar. She is a close friend of Pinkie – whom I kindly ask you to release from under your foot. She has nothing do to with this fiasco.”

The lead cop released his foot a little, but kept a lock. Zack wanted him to fully retract his foot, but didn’t want to escalate the situation further through demanding. So he kept talking without any room for a response, thus staying somewhat in control.

“Now I know you all are a little upset, quite tense, but please, remain calm. This is all one huge misunderstanding. Admittedly Pinkie and I have been a bit negligent, and Skystar ran off to the aquarium to have fun – only in a manner that broke rules. I was upset – just as you all are. The difference between y’all and I, is that I have forgiven her on account of ignorance. Must feel good having those guns in hand, ready to instantly end innocent lives however the heck you please. Isn’t it?”

To Zack’s surprise, one officer seemed to nod, though it was too slight to tell.

“Now there are two ways we can solve this: Either you shoot and kill us all, claiming one teenager, one cute pink pony who did nothing wrong, and a hippogriff princess who got a little carried away – all as threats to the national security of Toronto who deserved to be filed with bullets and die in a pool of their own blood, or you can let me talk with the aquarium staff and hopefully resolve this, since they were too hot-headed to confront me first-hand in the first place. I’m responsible for these two… creatures. They may look like figures of fantasy, but they talk and are sentient with caring, loving, friendly hearts. Just like you and I.”

“I’ll let this one go,” the lead cop said, pulling his foot off Pinkie’s neck. “But you’re still under arrest. I’ll let you talk with the aquarium staff, but in handcuffs.”

Zack sighed and shrugged. “I’m all yours, so long as my friends are free.”

With a sigh and a heart feeling heavier than the concrete steps he stood under, Zack flung his wrists behind his back as handcuffs were slapped on them. But not before giving a quick signal to Skystar and Pinkie that meant one word:


Fortunately, they seemed to recognize it, despite it being so subtle.

“Skystar!” Pinkie called out. Recognizing the danger and fear in her friend’s voice, the brave hippogriff princess ran down the steps, in spite of the cops still standing by around the area, with some assisting in Zack’s arrest. Gripping Pinkie firmly, Skystar spread her wings, ready to take off and hide… only to hear the sound of guns cocking.

“Hold it, you two! Where you think you’re going?”

“Where they SHOULD go. Safety.”

A booming voice came from above as a dark purplish blur came shooting down from the aquarium’s rooftop, slamming into the pavement so hard the ground shook and cracked with fury, sending shockwaves of fright through everyone, including the cops.

“It’s been some time, but here we meet again. With the SAME circumstances.” Tempest’s voice split the air and cut it like a knife. “Y’all got possessions of guns. Must feel good having such powerful marvels of technology that can end an innocent’s life in seconds whenever the heck you feel like it.”

Without waiting for a response, Tempest continued on. “I am Tempest Shadow, the same creature who blasted her magic into one of your kind’s chest and rendered him unconscious. I have… had a rough past. I lost everything in an accident –” she pointed to what remained of her horn “– and found myself wandering. The only way I could prove myself to be better than what I used to be was through brute force, given my abilities. I served under a treacherous master whom I put all my trust in to restore what I wanted back all my life. I was given a name and a place, and got ordered to fight and destroy, and conquer.”

As if to squash any doubts, she fired a quick zap at a nearby bush branch, charring it to a crisp. This only resulted in one officer firing in panic. Tempest winced as the bullet grazed her shoulder pad and fragmented against the concrete far behind her.

“Hold your fire,” she requested, lowering the potency in her voice. “Now I know you have a responsibility to serve and protect your city and its inhabitants, but what exactly does that entail? Hurting and threatening to kill innocent creatures simply because they’re different than you? Because you can’t understand them?”

Not wanting to be left out, Pinkie added in a sad voice, “How can you be liberating your land by bloodshed?”

Tempest resurrected the merciless, venomous tone in her voice. “Look, I’ve fought too many wars and caused a great deal of harm to too many innocent lives. It’s gotten to the point where without fury, I still can’t figure out who I am and where I fit into the world around me, whether it be my native land or this land of yours. And your hostile, hurtful, and heartless behavior isn’t making it any better.”

“Look into my eyes, all of you!” she bellowed, locking her gaze like a sniper, then relaxed her tone and body posture. “Do you really think killing or capturing innocent creatures whom you don’t understand is going to do any good for humanity, let alone this city? The media is watching, you know.”

After what felt like half an hour but was in fact only three minutes, the police relaxed and lowered their weapons, allowing Tempest Shadow to breathe and restore the peace within her body. For a moment the air was so silently still you could hear rust chipping. Eventually, one officer spoke.


“I am a guardian and a fighter, but I fight only to protect those whom I love,” Tempest replied. “Tell me, if you were once a villain who failed to steal an artifact from a kingdom but later found yourself on another journey to recover and redeem yourself, wouldn’t you retaliate in defense against someone who injured said kingdom’s ruler’s daughter?”

“Well… I… yes, I would be angry.”

“Well there you go,” Tempest said, casually holding up a hoof. “You know, I had the power to kill him, but I didn’t. Because that’s the pony I used to be, but not anymore. Give me every reason not to be a savage and I never will be one again. Ever.”

Bravely, one of the cops stepped right up to her and held out his hand. Tempest then held out her hoof, albeit reluctantly, and shook the cop’s hand gently.

“We have a deal –”

“So long as it applies to all of you,” Tempest corrected, managing a smile for the first time since she’d left the shop.

Chapter 17: Interrogations, Resolutions, and Reunions

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Rodney and I stood by his motorcycle, unable to move or interfere as Tempest Shadow bravely took a stand against a whole group of cops, Pinkie and Skystar behind her. I almost broke loose when a single shot was fired, but Rodney held me back. Incredibly, they lowered their guns shortly afterwards as Tempest continued to speak. And then she requested something unbelievable:

“Give me every reason not to be a savage and I never will be one again. Ever.”

My eyes threatened to pop out of my skull and I forcefully bit back a frightened gasp of shock. Tempest was actually asking the Toronto Police to leave her in peace – and on top that, advising them on unnecessary confrontational situations. However, my heart sank as I saw a handcuffed Zack being led away into one of the cop cars. He kept his head down, thus rendering him unable to see me from where he was. One cop shut the car door firmly and the others started to gather up and disperse.

Meanwhile, Pinkie and Skystar appeared to be having a long, heated talk with the aquarium staff. Once or twice Pinkie looked to be angrily calling out her friend, but for the most part things went well. Warming appearances played a huge factor, as the final words I heard confirmed that:

“I promise.”


“Awww, alright. But don’t’ ever let me catch you pulling something like that again.”

“We promise, with all our heart.”

Pinkie then noticed me standing by the road and ran over faster than I could smile. In a second or two I found myself slammed on the rock-hard pavement with an adorable ball of loving pink fluff on top of me in a big hug and facial nuzzling gesture.

“You’re okay!” she said tearfully.

“I should be the one asking that question!” I replied with a slight chuckle, easing back upright onto my haunches, 200-something pounds of Pinkie still in my lap. I gave her a big kiss on the cheek and Rodney nodded to me, then gestured behind me.

Across the street stood Twilight and Rainbow. I have no idea how long they’d been there, but likely they, like me, had opted to stay back and avoid disrupting the tense moment between Tempest and the cops. Pinkie then noticed and ran over to them, taking note of the road before racing across.

“Well, looks like all is okay here now,” Rodney sighed with a smile, hopping back onto his bike.

“B-Breezy?” came a soft voice. I whipped around to see Tempest walking towards me, her solemn yet somewhat sorrowful face a far cry from the loud, aggressive, commanding posture and tone she’d used just minutes ago.

“I… I’m sorry, I had to…”

I threw my arms around my special somepony and hugged her close, feeling little tingles from her broken horn base and the warm rub of her blood, still fiery and rushing from the standoff. I knelt down and affectionately gripped her neck, fighting back tears.

“You know you’ve wanted somepony like. Love may not be really your thing, but your heart wants it. Know that there’ll always be something new every day, and whatever it is, we’ll get through it together. I know you’re so mighty and strong, but try and follow my lead, alright? I’ll always love you, Fizzy.”

“I… I love you too, Breezy,” Tempest replied, nuzzling my torso. Which caused me to jolt back in surprise.

“Hey, not so deep like that out here,” I reprimanded. “Leave that for the bed tonight, alright?”

With a sly smile, Tempest gave a slight smile, then looked back as a couple cops approached her.

“I’m off to the police station. Skystar and I have an interrogation session which will determine a court case to settle the fiasco.”

“What fiasco?”

“When we first met!” Tempest snapped, before holding back and relaxing as cuffs were slapped onto her. “When you first found us.”

“Ah, yes. Speaking of which…” I pulled out my phone, loaded the photos app, and handed it to the “commander” cop. I showed him the photos of the crime scene - bullets, Skystar lying helplessly on the road, and most important of all, the crooked cop’s body. His mouth formed a little O of shock, but kept his cool and turned to me.

“Well, this makes it official. Let’s settle this the right way. It shouldn’t be too hard.”

I sighed and mounted onto Rodney’s motorcycle. If all went well, this would allow all of us to be together again – my childhood friend, my mom, Tempest, Skystar, Spike, and Twilight and her friends.



I was led with three officers into an interrogation room. It was nothing new to me, as I’d been here before after I was caught in the crossfire of a drug deal gone violent back at the age of 15. However, this time I made sure my behavior was more civilized. With every ounce of patience and cunning wit, a hand and foot-cuffed Tempest trudged along, trying her best to calm Skystar, who was crying like a toddler after a spanking. I was set down in a chair with three officers and a detective, complete with a notepad, pen, and numerous documents.

“First a couple questions, who are these with you?”

“They are my friends. I kindly request to tell you all of it, sir.”

“Go ahead. Lie detector is on standby. You do understand that it is a criminal offense to…”

He trailed off about a few laws and justice codes, before returning to the main topic.

“It is known that you have had a previous offense of being an accomplice to the illegal distribution and selling of heroin approximately three and a half years prior. Given the limited information and evidence to support your involvement in the crime and your truthful, heartfelt confession, the charge was kept at a minimum of three years with an $8,000 fine and 200 hours of community service. You must understand and comply with the fact that you may have to stand at a trial as a witness to the crime shown in the video and photo evidence you provided.”

After the detective had given me the green light, I slowly rolled out the whole story – driving late at night, discovering the situation, and fleeing the scene. I deliberately left out the details of the cop chase and the car I owned to avoid any complications.

“What are these, exactly? And how many?”

“One alicorn – meaning, a pegasus with a unicorn horn… or a unicorn with pegasus wings whichever, two ‘regular’ ponies, two pegasi, two unicorns, a little dragon – who, according to his own words, is eleven years of age, and a hippogriff of royalty.”

“So the alleged victim is a princess?”

“Yes, sir. She is the daughter of Queen Novo.”

The detective nodded, and I continued to wisely release information as required. A court date was set in three weeks’ time, to determine what position I held in relation to my pony friends, and whether Tempest was worthy of any criminal prosecution. I willingly gave a copy of all the photos and videos of the incident to the detective – and, thankfully, Tempest wasn’t put into temporary custody. Little did I know she had plans of her own to win a large lump sum of trust back.


As soon as Rodney and I got back to the shop, Maverick, Applejack, Fluttershy, and the others were waiting right at the open garage door to greet us in the fading light of the late afternoon. Rainbow Dash and Twilight soon arrived, having picked up Pinkie and her cupcake items. Yet one thing still irked me a little.

“Where’s Zack?” I asked, suddenly looking like a kid waiting to receive his Christmas present.

“He’ll be here soon. Had to fetch his board and some other items,” Twilight explained. “I offered to teleport him here, but he kindly declined and hopped on the streetcar.”

“I… actually feel better with you around,” Tempest confided, as we sat on a bench outside the shop drinking juice and watching the sun set. “Really. By the way, what’s got you all antsy?”

“I haven’t seen Zack in almost five years. Coincidentally his family moved away less than a year before I got into that heroin fiasco. We were best buddies since first grade, always getting caught up in typical kid trouble and sharing stuff together. One of our passions was what many prefer to call ‘extreme sports’. I took up skateboarding and he took up BMX, as he’d loved bikes since he was a toddler. We’d hang out together after school and find the best street spots to try out all sorts of cool tricks. I missed him a lot when I was serving in jail, and I’m not even sure if he knew I even was behind bars at all. I feel quite bad for not contacting him after my release, but I was so focused on bringing my reputation back up and supporting my mom and everything else.”

“It’s never too late to mend a friendship.” Twilight walked over, having finished work. Many of the employees were already heading home. I just sat with Tempest close to my side, waiting and waiting for my best friend to show up. And sure enough, he did – just about beating the setting sun.

“Well, I never thought you’d hook up again, let alone with a pony,” Zack joked, fighting the bubbly childish excitement in his voice as he hopped off the streetcar and bounded up the sidewalk towards the shop.

“You distant barspinner,” I muttered under a spillage of tears, brushing Tempest’s hooves aside and pushing myself off the bench. “How’s it been?”

Zack pulled me into a hug so affectionately warm I felt like I was wearing two sweaters, but it was a great feeling. “It’s great to see you again, bro.”

“You’re still here in Parkdale?”


“How’s life been with a pink furball on crack 24/7?”

“Oh shut it,” I blurted, giving him a friendly shove. “She’s just hyperactive, is all. Have you forgotten the pigtailed blonde from third grade who wouldn’t stop super-rapidly asking questions about kittens in biology class until the teacher stuffed cake in her mouth?”

“Ha ha ha! Real good memory there.”

“Okey doki loki, down to the serious stuff,” I continued, gesturing to the bench. “I think I finally found legit love. This is my newest and probably the best girlfriend, Fizzlepop BerryTwist. Or Tempest Shadow as she prefers to be called.”

“Um, ah… heh”

I jammed my fingers into Zack’s mouth to abort his impending laughter, not even caring they might get bitten off. “She’s not the type you should mock. Respect please.”

“Ha, okay. Ahem. Nice to meet you, Tempest.”

Tempest slid off the bench and slowly walked up in mock curiosity, before smiling at him. Not a solemn smile or a sexy smile, just a plain old friendly smile.

“It’s good to meet you, Zack.”

“Can we head home now?” Twilight asked, barely visible in the almost-gone sunlight afterglow. “Your mom must be really worried, Xavier.”

Muttering an angry curse under my breath, I pulled out my phone and hit speed dial. As I went through the call, Twilight introduced herself and her friends to Zack.

“I’m Twilight Sparkle, and this is Spike the dragon, my number one assistant.”

For a moment, Zack’s face fell, and Fluttershy was right by his side in a second.

“Aw, are you okay?”

“Yeah it’s just that…” Zack trailed off as he took in the adorable sight of her flowing pink mane, kind, soft eyes, and overly genial, tender voice. The next thing Fluttershy knew, his arms were around her tightly.

“Oh, um… okay, I guess you like me?” Fluttershy said slowly.

“Hi there! You obviously remember me, riiiiiiiight?” Pinkie said eagerly, jumping up to Zack’s face.

“Yeah, I certainly do.” He noticed Skystar in the back. “And you, too, sweetie. Come here.”

Skystar stepped forward, a look of doubt across her face. “Did you just call me ‘sweetie’?”

“Well,” Zack declared proudly, “Admit it! It’s what you are.” And he gripped her torso and pulled her close to his chest in the same warm embracing hug he’d given Xavier.

“I didn’t really know you loved me that much!” Skystar admitted, nuzzling his cheek.

“Well, I only wished I could’ve gotten to know you better when we were at the Rogers Centre,” Zack replied, stroking her super-soft fur.

Applejack and Rarity then gave their introductions, just as I finished the call.

“Mom says she’ll be here in a couple minutes to pick us up. She’s borrowed a colleague’s car, and says we’ll have to take turns since there are so many of us. And Zack?”


“You can stay over if you wish.”


Twilight giggled a little at his excitement and we all waited outside the closed shop for my mom in rows. I sat back on the bench, my special somepony by my side and surrounded by all my close friends. Closing my eyes, I smiled inside. There’d been challenges that had threatened me and many more to come, but I now felt better about having to face them.

Chapter 18: A Retrieved Reformation

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Morning was considerably slower and quieter than usual – well, quieter at first. The little one-bedroom basement was now full of three people, seven ponies, a little dragon, and an exuberant hippogriff. Always the generous one, I let Zack, Rarity, Pinkie, and Skystar sleep on my bed and my mom sleep on the sofa while I slept on the floor, albeit on a bunch of old pillows – and with Tempest by my side.

Joyce stepped over Tempest and nudged my shoulder hard. “Wake up, son.”

“Unnnnnngggggghhhhhh,” I groaned, rolling over and rubbing my eyes. “M-Mom?”

“Yes, you!” Her tone didn’t sound too nice – it was cold and interrogative. “Get up. You’ve got some explaining to do. Now.”

“As you wish, Mom,” I replied weakly. “Just… let me adjust please.”

I pushed my body upright, trying to carefully slide Tempest’s front legs off my chest and right arm without alerting her. But she was alerted anyways, and sprung to her feet in a defensive pose, her horn buzzing slightly with reactive energy.

“Hey hey,” I barked in a low voice, gently patting her broad neck and shoulders. “Relax. We’re home now, with my mom. I’ll wash up and then we’ll talk together, alright?”

Tempest nodded, but slowly crept up behind me as I walked to the bathroom, like an obsessive bodyguard.

Which in a way, she was.

After I’d splashed my face with cool water and thus relaxed my composure, I was ready to present my mom with all she needed to know, not all she wanted to know.

“Hi Mom, how was your sleep?”


I swallowed. Still on the edgy offense. Well, have it your way.

“My procedure yesterday morning was the same as before – I left Pinkie and Skystar at home and gave them crystal-clear instructions on what they could and couldn’t do. I had no idea they would be so ambitious to try and sell cupcakes in the heart of the city without my consent. Then Maverick called me to the TV and…”

I trailed off about what the press’s cameras showed, how Rodney and I rushed to the scene, and the whole interrogation situation with the police. For the longest time since I was a naughty little kid fibbing, Joyce fell silent. Her emotional state was hard to pick up on – angry, frustrated, confused – I couldn’t tell. Nor could Tempest.

“Well, it looks you’ve done the best you could do. I guess there’s no hiding from the public eye anymore. We’ll have to just suck it up and persevere. When’s the court date?”

“In three weeks. I have all the paperwork.”

“Alright.” Joyce nodded. “However, you’ll be paying the lawyer fees, not I. And Pinkie and Skystar – ”

“We’re so sorry, Joyce!” Pinkie had her puppy face on with the dial turned up past the limiter, and Skystar’s legs looked like they were about to give out from the pain of guilt.

“I do not care about your boredom,” Joyce snapped, her voice rising. “If Xavier or I tell you to stay here, YOU STAY! IS THAT ONE HUNDRED PERCENT CLEAR!”

“Y-y-yes, Mrs. Joyce,” Pinkie and Skystar replied clearly and respectfully.

“And,” I added, “Please understand you are beyond the term ‘strangers’ here. There is nothing like you in this city, or anywhere in this world. So know and be prepared for when others get overly excited, creeped out, or act hostile. Just practice the Elements of Harmony with all whom you meet, and I can guarantee you’ll have a better chance of faring in this city.”

“When will we get home?” Fluttershy asked, peering around the corner. Soon, Rarity was there, too, along with Zack, who’d just finished in the bathroom.

I sighed – a disappointing, almost self-hating sigh. I suddenly felt like kicking myself harder than Tempest had ever done to any adversary. I’d been so caught up in my own problems and desires I hadn’t taken ample time to resolve my friends’ single monstrous problem.

“Soon,” I spat out. “Soon, I hope. I’m off to the park. Need some time to think this over.”

“What about breakfast?”

“I’ll eat later,” I muttered, already pulling on my shoes. And just like that, I was gone.

I can’t recall how much I ran, but I ran quite a bit. Just to make up time and get my mind moving fast with the current elements around me, and to give a simulation of escaping all the pain and mumble-jumble of what I had built up.

Trudging along in tiredness and hunger, I used the last of my energy to climb up an oak tree – something I did often as a kid – and slumped down in the leaves, gazing longingly out to the lake.

It’d been a long and complicated week – with many challenges that were faced head-on with impressive success. But now with Skystar’s foolish lawbreaking and the aquarium manager’s overreaction combined with practically the entire Toronto police force, it felt like more excessively large cans of worms were being opened up left, right, and center. The biggest one, really, was the fact of how much Pinkie and Skystar’s presence - and mere existence, for that matter – had now blown up all over the TV and Internet and thus beyond my controlling capabilities. As my mom said, I had to suck up the fact that my best friends were the new pretty cute ponies of Toronto’s block, and possibly their newest hit celebs-to-stalk.

Then there was the whole fiasco that brought us all together in the first place – Tempest’s assault on a crooked cop. A cop who shot an innocent hippogriff in the leg. And a princess at that. Like any case, it had to be resolved through a court of law.

Finally, there was my car. My Integra, which had gotten me into a lot of trouble since the day I first bought it and went crazy with my newfound love of cars, loud revving, and speed. I’d enjoyed every single moment of the 180 horsepower its four-cylinder engine had to offer and I craved more – to the point of sacrificing every last dime I had to turbocharge it with still some money needed for extra components. Now it was sitting in Maverick and Rodney’s shop with no proper suspension setup and no proper tires, either. It felt like a complete waste. I’d forgotten my priorities altogether.

As I readjusted my position in the branches, I felt a bulge in my pocket. My phone! In all the hurry to crash in the night, I’d forgotten I still had it on me. I pulled it out and glanced at the screen. Only 10% battery left. But that could be enough for a quick call.

With a more content feeling, I pulled up Maverick’s number and hit the call button.


“Hey Mav, how’s it going?”

“Quite well. Why so early? I’m only just about to enter my kitchen.”

“I need to ask you something very important and… personal.”

“Of course, Xavier. Anything.”

“Can the remaining components of the Integra be on you? I want to finish it and trade it for a Forester STI.”

“I’d be glad to, but I’m not sure if I can find that car. It’s already rare in the UK, and I’m not sure if they’re even legal in North America, let alone Canada. And they’re all right-hand drive, which is a pain to insure. But I can try to find a well-made replica.”

“Replica?” I was baffled.

“Forester with full STI engine, tranny, axles, brakes, blah blah, and sporty front end conversion too. Trade value should work out well if the Integra is tweaked right… and the owner is willing for such a trade. Really, it’s a hit or miss.”

“So be. Thanks so much for your support, Mav.”

“My pleasure always, son. See you at the shop later.”

My heart stopped. Did he really just say that?

“You too. Bye.”

Before the tears could arrive, I hung up, shrugged, and sighed. At least it was a start.

“So, are you finally hungry?”

I peered over my shoulder to see the solemn, loving, caring faces of Pinkie Pie, Skystar, Tempest, and Zack all smiling at me. Oddly enough, Pinkie had a plate of hot pancakes with butter and maple syrup perfectly balanced on her head. (How did she cook that up so fast?)

“You do realize that we could be swarmed by a million selfie- hungry phone users at any moment out here, right?” I mused, not budging from my position atop the tree branch.

“Seriously?” Tempest rolled her eyes. “It’s not even 9 in the morning. Everyone’s still rushing to work. Come on, lovey. We need to keep persevering.”

“Even if your lives are at risk from creepy busybodies?” I added, a block of stubbornness still in my chest.

“Even so,” Zack replied, stiffening his pose. “Besides, Pinkie’s already done the effort. All those cupcakes are now like little exemplars of generosity from the newly arrived aliens.” He glanced at Tempest. “No offence.”

“None taken,” she replied, shaking her head.

Feeling better, I pushed my phone back into my pocket and leapt down from the branch. It was only an eleven-foot drop but that was a lot for me, considering I hadn’t jumped that hard in years. I landed with a mighty thump, a jolt, and a roll. Sitting upright in the grass, I brushed the pollen off my shirt and shared a group hug with some of my best friends of all shapes, sizes, and colors.

“Thanks for the pancakes, Pinkie,” I said, sitting back on a bench to eat them.

“So, what now?”

“I’ve got a plan – or at least, trying to form one. First off, I’ve decided to get rid of the Integra.”

“What?” Skystar blurted out. “But… that was your first and favorite car!”

I nodded sadly. “I know. But many of my memories with it aren’t good ones anyway. I’ve decided to switch to something moderately fast – and can haul all of you guys at the same time.”

“So, you’re just gonna chuck it?” Pinkie asked.

I smiled and shook my head. “No. I’m going to finish it up, and Maverick said the costs of new tires and suspension parts, along with a paint job will be on him. He’ll also be working hard to find someone who’ll trade their car for it.”

Pinkie opened her mouth, but I stuffed it with a forkful of pancake. “Nunununununu. I’m not going to tell you. You’ll know it when you see it.”


Tempest smugly shook her head. “I agree. Breezy wants to do this for us, and it only makes sense that it should be a surprise.”

Back at the house, we regrouped to discuss further plans. Mom had already left for work, so I had to manage practically everything. Zack picked up his cruiser board.

“Taken up four wheels, I see?”

“Well, you left yours, so somebody’s gotta fill the gap,” he teased, evidently shooting at my fall as an aspiring professional skater. “Who am I kidding? I still ride my BMX bike literally everywhere. It’s sitting back at home though.”

“I thought you moved away?” I blurted out.

Zack shook his head. “Further west in Canada, away from the crime and low-wage ghettos. But I convinced my mom to reside in Vaughan, and she agreed – more like she had to because a very promising job opportunity sprung up there. I missed you, so I decided to travel further yesterday to visit a service building to resolve an issue after I was recently fired from my job.”

“So will you continue to work while finishing school?”

Zack shook his head. “I have enough spare BMX parts and a room of outgrown stuff I need to dispose of! By the way, why didn’t you return to skating after you got out of jail?”

“I…It didn’t appeal as much anymore since for some weird reason I associated it to how I got into trouble in the first place. Besides, my mom found it abhorrent as soon as she, too made the connection. I end up keeping my stockpile as a personal heirloom of sorts. Displayed but never touched.”

“Well she needs to get through her thick skull that skaters and gangsters aren’t the same!” Pinkie demanded.

“Why didn’t you ask her recently?”

“Never really bothered. Just kept to myself and tried to use my fix-it and engineering skills to support her financially, and landed a job with Mav and Rod, where cars and speed took over, albeit briefly.”

“We should get back to the house now,” Skystar noted, pointing to the sky. “It’s almost nine. Don’t want to be late for work.”

Pinkie took back her now empty plate, and we all walked back home. In the living room, I sat on the couch with Tempest, while Zack, Twilight, and her friends all sat around in a circle to discuss current plans further.

“First line of the plan is to finish work on the Integra so Maverick can put forth a trade offer. For this we’ll need all hands on deck. Zack, do you have time today?”

“No way bro.” My best friend shook his head sadly. “I need to sort out this paperwork and head home to my mom and let things settle down over my job loss. If she allows me, I can probably hitch a ride to come back tomorrow and stay for a week. But whenever the situation permits, I got your back, Breezy. In the meantime, plot that plan and execute your goals! And get back on the board – not for me, but for yourself. Admit it, you miss it.”

I simply shrugged and nodded. Zack picked up his cruiser board and headed for the door.

“Oh, and I found these when I returned to the aquarium to pick up my board.”

He reached into his hoodie pocket and pulled out a tangle of seashell necklaces and bracelets. “You might need these. As a token of friendship, I’ll be taking one necklace and bracelet, alright?”

“Thank you, thank you!” Skystar exclaimed excitedly, catching them in her little hands. “Sure, take one! That’s… exactly what I made them for!”

“I can’t wait to hang out more and get to know you better,” Zack added with his distinctive cheerful smile. With one final goodbye, he walked out the door.

I bit back a snicker as Pinkie completely failed to hide her pout of disappointment. It looked like she was enjoying his company as much as, if not more, than mine. Zack was an entertaining, even flirtatious guy who loved friendly competitions, games, and creative crafting. He wasn’t afraid to go big in his bike tricks or do silly stuff for a friend’s amusement. However, those traits had yet to be fully revealed – and I was positive they would be once the environment was right.

In the meantime, we had a car to finish and a new life to form. It felt like I’d retrieved something great from my past that would help me reform my current life – a retrieved reformation.

Chapter 19: A Completed Project and A Clever Prank

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“Are you all ready?”

“Ready, Xavier!” Twilight and her friends all chorused.

Since we were running a little late, I took the streetcar to the shop instead of walking, with Tempest and Skystar in tow. As I expected, every single face lit up in shock and wonder, but I briefly reassured them all. The driver was, too, taken aback by surprise, but immediately calmed down once Tempest and Skystar introduced themselves in a peaceful manner. Many drivers would be suspicious of even service dogs, but this guy just let my friends go. He really was nice.

During the ride, Tempest kept to herself, laying down across the front seats in a quiet, solemn state, not speaking a word. Skystar sat on her haunches and gazed out the window, her face alive with joy and anticipation as she watched the world go by.

Leaning out and looking back, I could make out the shape of Rainbow Dash flying along, using the streetcar’s slipstream effectively. She sure knew how to fly efficiently.

Down on the ground, Twilight and the others kept walking along at a slightly brisk pace, keeping an eye on the streetcar. Pinkie soon caught sight of Skystar and the two exchanged friendly waves. I just beamed, encouraged even more so to get to the shop and continue where I left off yesterday.

In just over ten minutes, Tempest, Skystar, and I arrived at exactly 9:03 a.m. Rodney had the shop doors open and Maverick was inside the office, already on the phone.

“Hello Rodney! Good morning everyone!” I said welcomingly, walking inside. Garrett, Kristen, and Marcus were all there, along with Brian.

“Hi Xavier, good to see you,” Rodney responded, setting down a torque wrench. Upon greeting me with a handshake he noticed the yellow hippogriff by my side in a dog wheelchair.

“You must be Skystar, right? Well I’ll be damned, you’re a freakin’ hippogriff!”

“Hahaha!” Skystar giggled. “I sure am! I know Xavier kept me at home because I was injured, but this should be my final day with these wheels of assistance.”

Rodney tapped his chin. “Alright so since you’re here, let’s find out what you can do.” He glanced down at the floor. “You got hands, and a lovely voice. Think you’d be up to handling phone calls?”

Skystar shook her head. “Tracking all them would be beyond my brainpower. Maybe some simple handiwork?”

“In that case, basic disassembly sounds great. Garrett, you’ve got a new assistant!”

“Uh… okay,” Garrett shrugged, clearly not comfortable having a hippogriff for a workmate.

I used a clean rubber band to tie Skystar’s mane and tail back so it wouldn’t get caught or pulled, and we set to work. Rarity resumed work on the Mustang’s upholstery, while Spike helped Garrett and I set to work on the Gran Torino’s subframe. Once it was done, we could sort out my suspension and tires, which Maverick had ordered the night before. To make the thick tires fit, Marcus suggested to roll and pull the fenders. I agreed, since many Honda owners loved that look.

“Gran Torino is now fully raised,” Spike announced in a mock announcer’s voice, jumping down from the lift’s support bar. “Ready for work.”

Garrett and I grabbed some power wrenches while Skystar held out all the necessary bolts. Applejack and Marcus brought over the new components, and Fluttershy held up the rebuild manual. Together, Garrett, Skystar, and I put all the parts together, before raising it up into the chassis. Marcus held it in place, while I aligned the suspension and Garrett put in the primary bolts to hook the diff back up to the driveshaft. In spite of her leg ailment, Skystar stood up on her hind legs – still in her dog wheechair – and gave an extra boost of support to the subframe so I could put in the necessary bolts.

“B-but…” I began, double-checking the torque settings to ensure everything was snug and even.

Skystar put a claw on my mouth and shook her head. “Because this is what I do.”

There wasn’t any argument to that – once Skystar had secured a friend, she wouldn’t hesitate to help them.

After one final check, Garrett and I then proceeded to re-installing the exhaust system, after which Brian would take over. It was a shiny chrome one, with a smooth freeflow design.

“Rarity would love this,” Spike whispered from his resting point on the lift’s support arms. I nodded with a sly smile and tightened all bolts.

Finally the car was ready. I gave Spike the signal and he slowly lowered the Gran Torino down. We then proceeded to work on some other projects, while Brian rolled up with his well-detailed rebuilt engine and properly organized electrical harness, ready to go.

Meanwhile, I began unboxing the new parts for my Integra. The coilovers were ISR Racing, with Toyo RX tires. I’d worried about whether my shiny chrome grey rims would work, but Rodney reassured me they’d be up to the task.

Maverick showed me how to use a tire machine, and we removed the old Canadian Tire-bought “daily” wheels and added on the Toyo RX’s. Brian was busy using the lift, so Rodney and I used simple jack stands and took out the stock coilovers and installed the new ones, one by one. Then we re-bled the power steering pump and reattached the wheels. Marcus came over and spent all his time cutting, welding, sanding, and rolling the fenders until they were just right.

By the time it was ready for the dyno, lunch had arrived. Rarity elected to buy us all something, so Maverick handed her $150 in cash.

“Don’t buy anything too expensive!” I warned, leaning out the garage door.

“No worries, darling, I’ve got this covered. See you in half an hour!”



With that, Rarity hit the streets, tucking the money under her mane, out of sight. There was not much difficulty in getting down Queen Street; the sidewalks, despite being narrow, were mostly empty, with only a few people getting in and out of various stores. It reminded her of Klugetown, only nicer. People came in all sorts of heights and skin colors, and they spoke various languages, though the one Xavier spoke – English – was the most commonly heard one.

After some time, her nose came upon an interesting smell – a pleasant mix of spices and vegetables. Eagerly, she chased after it, soon finding herself in front of a restaurant.

“Ali Baba’s Middle Eastern Cuisine,” she read aloud. “Well, sounds interesting enough.”

Upon walking in, she was greeted with sights and smells very similar to one back in Canterlot – Saffron Masala’s “Tasty Treat”. The seating design, the internal architecture, the presentation of the food – it all was very similar.

“Hmmm, let’s see…” Rarity slid onto one of the seats and flipped through a menu. “Soups and salads, appetizers… I’ll take twenty appetizers, two different types, and let’s see about what this… shawarma is.”

Rarity flipped to the next page of the menu, only to be shocked at the options presented before her. “Chicken, beef, and fish?! So, these… humans eat meat?!”

“Indeed. It’s not as bad as you think.” A large, brown figure walked over and sat across from her, looking rather like a human form of Coriander Cumin. “I’m not sure where you’re from, but here, the world is full of many creatures, who are of benefit for us. In our understanding, we consider them as non-sentient… creatures, which we feed upon. We are always breeding them, so there are always more to go around. If you wish, try it. There’s no need to feel overly compassionate or sad about meat. Chicken, cows, fish… they don’t really have feelings or a soulful, sentient state like you and I do.”

“We have vegetarian options available as well,” a man from behind the counter added.

Rarity then sat back and thought it through. In all of what she knew about its origins, the meat did look quite appetizing. It sounded like a good idea…

“And that is $142.37,” the cashier recited proudly. Rarity handed him the bills and slid the change into a small paper bag, then slipped it into one of the bags. She levitated the six bags and knotted the handles of two together to bring it down to three. Then she draped two knotted bags across her back, levitated the third pair, and walked out of the restaurant with her goodies. By now it was well past 12 pm, so she rushed back, taking care not to bump into anyone or drop any of her bags.

In just over ten minutes, she arrived at the shop, panting with exhaustion.

“Made… it!” she gasped, gently resting the bags on the office lunch table. “Let’s eat!”

“You forgot drinks!” Rainbow Dash pointed out, as everyone gathered around to eat.

“I got that covered,” Twilight announced, walking in with three two-liter bottles of juice and a 24-pack of bottled water.

“I’m not even gonna ask how you can hold all of that at once,” Maverick muttered with a chuckle.

Rarity had to use every muscle in her face to hold back a chuckle as she watched everyone eat. She’d ordered chicken shawarmas for herself, Applejack, Twilight, and Pinkie, but gave Rainbow Dash and Skystar a fish shawarma, and got a veggie one for Fluttershy. Xavier, Garrett, and the others got the regular chicken one, and beef for Maverick and Rodney. All the samosas were potato flavored, however.

Bracing herself for possibly the most unpleasant experience ever, Rarity unwrapped hers and took a little bite. Then she took another larger bite, ingesting the warm bread, grilled chicken, sauces, and vegetables. The way the flavors blended in her mouth was unlike anything she’d experienced before. It actually tasted… good.

“Do I… actually like… eating chicken?!” Rarity wondered, trying to keep her shock from being audibly recognized. “There’s no denying the wonderful taste of this.”

From the looks and sounds around her, everypony else was also enjoying theirs.

“Mmmm, dhis tashets delicious!” Pinkie declared through a mouthful of bread and vegetables.

“I’m not entirely sure of it, but it’s got well-balance flavor,” Twilight noted.

“I haven’t had anything like this before, but it sure tastes mighty good!” Applejack noted, licking her lips clean.

“Never would I think there’d be a day where I’d say that fried dough would be as good as gemstones!” Spike chuckled, reaching for his fifth samosa.

Rarity finally broke loose and giggled. “Um… ahem. I’m off the bathroom to wash up so we can continue working.”



Back in the shop, Rarity, Twilight, and the others continued working, while Brian and I got to grips with my Integra. We strapped it down hard and I checked all the electrical systems. Finally, I poured in 94 octane gas and Brian hopped into the driver’s seat.

“Start! Start! Start!” Pinkie suddenly appeared at the side of the dyno room door, cheering us on like a football fan in a stadium. Brian smiled back, encouraged. He gently feathered the gas pedal, trying to get the fuel to flow properly. The first few tries had the engine shutting off and cutting out after less than a minute. Twice I had to siphon excess fuel out the head. But eventually, we got it running consistently with some tweaking.

“Now let’s put this car through the paces, with all the precision possible,” Brian announced, tapping away on the gas pedal and his laptop. After the fuel/air ratio was calibrated and the gauges were confirmed to be working according to the readings directly from the ECU, he put the car through its paces, working up through first gear, then second, and eventually third.

The room screamed with over 100db of ear-splitting whine as the turbo spooled. Even with my weight on the rear and the straps, the car threatened to jump off from the insane power it was making.

“Let’s see… 342.51!” Brian declared. “Still more room in that turbo housing, let’s tweak it more!”

Brian rowed the gears again, and Pinkie squeezed her ears from the insane hiss of the engine’s scream. This time the jolt of throttle release felt more aggressive, and the car took more time to slow down.


All through the early afternoon, Brian kept pushing the Integra, trying to efficiently squeeze as much power out of it as possible. On the fifth run, we tightened the straps a little more and added another fan, and this time Garrett sat in the back while I stood on the passenger frame rail for extra support. Brian tweaked the setting again on his laptop and put the Integra through its paces. The scream was so atrociously loud we all wore earmuffs, but poor Pinkie and Rainbow Dash at the doorway had no protection. The car jolted so much I very nearly fell off, and I could see the engine shaking in its bay from the insane forces of power rushing through the head.

“FIVE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-TWO!” Brian yelled in joy. “532 horsepower!”

“Wow, Breezy! You weren’t kidding when you said these Hondas had potential!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed, gawking at the engine bay with the turbo still spinning, its outlet sticking straight up like a mini smokestack.

“And with that, the project is all done!” Marcus declared, walking in. “I’ve just finished work on a neat custom hood that’ll fit over that turbo pipe.”

“Woo-hoo!” Twilight cheered. “A mission successfully completed!”

I smiled so much my cheeks hurt, and my eyes became watery as we – Brian, Marcus, Garrett, and my pony friends – all shared a high-five, celebrating our victory at successfully building a turbocharged Honda Integra GSR with over five hundred horsepower. From the corner of my eye, I caught sight of Rarity was out near the Gran Torino – also completed – looking rather proud and a little smug. I’d have to talk with her sometime later.

Chapter 20: Confronted and A Call

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After the Gran Torino had its wheels back on and lowered by Spike yours truly, Brian and I set about checking its new wiring harness. The owner had left it collecting dust for a couple years before wanting to have it restored and fitted with a modern, upgraded electrical, computerized engine management system and a 521 big block V8 swap. I bled the brakes and hooked up the hoses with the accuracy I’d developed over many years, while Brian installed the hood. Finally, we worked together for hours to properly cycle and bleed the clutch thoroughly. As I sat back, gingerly pumping the clutch pedal, I called Rarity over.

“Hey, Rarity. YO, RARITY!”

“Yes, darling?” Rarity trotted over, looking up at me in a genial, almost affectionate manner.

“I saw you smiling in a rather… interesting way when we were all celebrating the completion of the Integra,” I stated bluntly, cutting straight to the chase. “What was that all about?”

“Um, you see, when I ordered lunch, Twilight and her friends, well you didn’t tell us everything about human’s eating habits. So…”

“So what?” I hissed, getting impatient and almost hitting the clutch too hard. “Spill it, pony!”

“I… I… I ordered shawarma with chicken, fish, and beef. I gave Rodney and Maverick the beef and gave the chicken and fish to you and Twilight and the others. But for Fluttershy, I gave her a veggie one. I couldn’t bear to see her feeling sad or disgusted, and knowing her level of knowledge on animals she’d recognize it immediately.”

My face fell and I shook a finger at her. “So you actually fed your friends chicken, fish, and cow meat without them realizing it. You sly little marshmallow.”

“Okay, that… that was good. But don’t tell them right away. If they ask, then you gotta tell ‘em. Now can you help Brian under there hold the pipe for the clutch slave cylinder? Owner’s gonna be coming this evening to pick this car up, so we need to get it done fast.”

Rarity nodded sadly and trotted under the car. Getting dirty was not an option, so Brian wiped the underside of the transmission dry so nothing would smear or drip. After a good hour or so, the clutch finally worked properly, and was ready for the dyno. I opted to assist in the cleaning process, so Fluttershy and I scrubbed the floor, swept the entrance, and vacuumed the office. We picked up broken parts and components and disposed of them in the proper dumpster, before returning to work on some of the other projects that were lying about.

As I helped Garrett hand the Mustang’s doors over to Kristen, I spotted Rarity sitting by the garage entrance, looking quiet and stiff as a dead tree in a desert.

“Is something bothering you, Xavier?” Kristen inquired, giving me a compassionate look.

I gave a slight nod. “I… feel a little bad for interrogating Rarity over the prank she pulled. I wanted her to reveal the truth, but I didn’t anticipate how hard it’d actually be on her.”

“Maybe she just isn’t used to having to deal with the pressure of telling the truth,” Kristen suggested. “You don’t really have to apologize, but you should try to make her feel better about what she’s done.”

I paused. She was right. “Thanks for the advice. I’ll chat later.”

“Happy to help, Xavier.”

As we closed up for the evening, I spotted Rarity sitting on Rodney’s iconic bench outside the main building, and seized my chance.

“Hey, how’d the work day go for you?” I asked, trying to get the conversation flowing loosely and gently, figuring I’d straighten it out later.

“Everything but lunch,” she pouted, staring blindly at the puddles of motor oil on the concrete ground.

“For whatever it’s worth, I’m – ” I caught my tongue just in time and hid it behind a quick cough. “There’s no remorse in a prank, but if you realize it wasn’t funny for those it was done to, then at least try to inquire – did they catch it? If not, then look for clues in how they talk and ask about other things. Like, if they mention lunch directly, then you gotta spill it regardless. Once they know you’re truthful, then they’ll be able to reveal the truth about themselves – whether they’ll be angry and erupt in scorn, or be loving and forgiving. And you know them better than I have and probably ever will. Now let’s go, Mom’s probably waiting at home for us.”

I confirmed with Rodney and Maverick about the safety of the Integra and his ongoing search for the perfect Forester STI replica, then bid them a goodbye.

As the sun dipped below the horizon and a pale, burnt orange-yellow light lit up the sky. Just yesterday, I read in the papers that a 13-year-old got stabbed to death by a drunk retard just a couple tens of kilometers north of the shop. Being a strong cultural loyalist, my mom wasn’t one to budge so easily, but I had to convince her that she should move back to the Caribbean – where her true cultural roots lay, but I, on the other hand, am not one for that region’s climate. Unless…

“I somehow move to Equestria and start a new life with… Fizzy sweetie pie,” I whispered, barely audible. For a moment, the thought felt so out of logical bounds that I hit myself over the head as if to knock myself out of a state of insanity.

“Breezy, are you alright?” Tempest asked, siding up to me as we walked across a crosswalk. My hypersensitive ears and eyes quickly picked up a lot of people pointing and whispering some juicy gossip.

“That’s it, Fizzy,” I hissed in frustration, throwing my hands up. “When my mom has adequate time, I’m asking her to make a saddlecloth for you that has big letters stitched on the side that say “I AM PEACEFUL. I’m sick of this judgmental nonsense.”

“Unless I talked with them…” Tempest suggested, a sly look across her face. “I also… I’m not really comfortable with my real name. I let it slide with you, because you’re the only one that really opened up to who I am and the internal issues within. Besides Twilight, of course.”

“I’m not one to believe a single story,” I confided. “Like I’ve mentioned before, I have had my rough past and am trying to move forward in a better way.” I snapped my fingers loudly to catch Twilight’s attention, along with the rest of her friends.

“But in that effort, I became rather selfish and I forgot about what really should matter. I plan to sell many of my items, and try to keep only what I need.”

“Well, what should stay and what should go?” Twilight asked.

“My laptop – I’ll exchange that one for an older, cheaper model,” I began. “The keyboard and drum pad I could also sell or trade for a whole keyboard with the pads built-in, but those are of less quality so that's out of the question. Skystar’s leg should be okay now, but I’ll check with Nancy first. If that’s so, I’ll sell the wheelchair – Zack knows some dog owners who might be needing it. Finally, some of my old clothes I can give away, as well as my cap collection.”

“Yah gonna need a good mic,” Applejack added. “For those vocals.”

“Oh…” I blushed slightly. “I actually don’t really work with vocals, it’s all instruments. Sometimes I sell my scores to other independent artists. Hip hop is huge here, and numerous undercover artists are all striving to make the most lit beats and vocal chains they can. I’ve made a few, but they never really boosted my presence. I have to truly make a legal production name and stage for myself.”

“But… but darling, the voice is everything in music!” Rarity complained.

“For certain types,” I shot back. “But I’m willing to give it a try… if I could afford one. I’ll see how things go once this selling and trading session is over.”

Home was just around the corner. Just as we approached the house, my phone rang.


“Zackeity Zack calling from Vaughan!”

From the way he sounded, I knew he was in bed, probably reading a book or something. “Have you got any time tomorrow?”

I put him on hold and checked my calendar. “My oh my, it’ll be the weekend tomorrow! Absolutely, though I may have to still check in with Maverick on the Integra, and I also have a few things I need to sell and trade. Speaking of which, still got connections to those doggie lovers?”

“Um… yeah, I’m sure I’ve still got them written down in my address book.”

“Good, ‘cause I’m going to need it.”

“Wait a second…” Zack sputtered loudly before I could hang up. “Does that mean Skystar is able to properly walk now?!”

“I sure hope so. Tomorrow’s the big day,” I turned and jiggled my eyebrows at Pinkie, who had to be held back from yelling inconsiderately with joy.

“In that case, I’ll try to get my mom to come down before noon. I’ve calculated my savings and I think I have enough.”

“For what?”

“Bikes for Pinkie and Skystar.”

Chapter 21: Back on The Board

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“And when can we meet?”

“Maybe around noon – twelve is good.”

“Alright, thanks, see you later.”

Having confirmed a meetup event for my laptop trade and inquired with Dr. Nancy, I set my phone down on the table. The moment I entered the house last night, I explained to Joyce my plan of selling and trading some items, and she agreed. We then had a long talk about skateboarding, and I explained how things went wrong early on and how I’d prevent them from occurring again this time round. Eventually, she relented, on the single condition that I share with her all the details on who I hung out with at the skatepark besides Zack.

“And that’s why, officially today, I return to the creative, expressive sport I left too soon,” I declared to all my friends, chowing down on the rest of my breakfast.

“Yay!” Fluttershy cheered, albeit a little softly.

“I’ll explain to you all about it later,” I added, adding empty bowls to the sink. “For now, I need to get some practice.” I winked at Tempest. “Maybe I could even teach you, too.”

In my room, I pulled a large plastic storage box out of my closet. Inside were stacks of Independent trucks, bearings, wheels of slightly different sizes and hardness ratings, rolls of grip tape, and some nuts and bolts. Skystar noticed a stack of boards wrapped in plastic, packed far in the back, and pulled them out too.

“So these are all the components that make up a skateboard. I love how you organized it all so neatly with proper labelling,” Twilight noted, a little excitedly.

“That’s how you’re able to find things quickly and efficiently,” I replied with a smile. “Now, I also have one longboard and a cruiser here.”

I pulled them off a rack in the opposite corner of the room and held the longboard across my lap. “This one my mom bought, back when she wanted to give me some moral support by joining in the fun of skating, shortly after my dad left. I myself didn’t need it, but kept it anyways as a reminder of the times.”

I then brought over the cruiser board. “This one is shorter, and she also bought it sometimme afterwards when the longboard became too big and heavy for her. As I became more bold and independent with my skating, she quit skating herself, and thus they’ve sat here.”

“If she doesn’t need ‘em, and yah don’t need ‘em, then yah should get rid of ‘em,” Applejack suggested. “They’re just taking up space.”

I nodded sadly. “All the other boards and parts here are mine, though. I broke several, obviously. So let’s set up two new ones with this remaining stash, which is a collection of the last of my sponsorship rewards. Watch, listen, and learn.”

I grabbed a craft knife from my closet shelf, and cut off the plastic wrap on one of the boards. Laying it flat on my lap, I unrolled a strip of grip tape, peeled off the backing, and stuck it onto the board, taking care not to form any ridges, and smoothening out any bubbles. Using the knife, I cut around the edges and smoothened them down with a scrap of the excess.

“Note how the graphic reads? That tells you where the front and rear are,” I explained, holding up the board so the bottom faced them. “The nose is to the right, and the tail to the left. Now let’s add our trucks.”

I used the sharp point of the knife to poke holes in the grip tape where the board’s holes were, and pushed the bolts through. Twilight nodded eagerly, picking up on where I was going with this.

“Next come the trucks, bushings – these here” – I pointed to the white rubber disks – “and align them neatly and precisely parallel to the board. Then I tighten them really well with some basic tools.”

Finally I demonstrated how to squeeze the bearings inside the wheels using the trucks’ axles to support them, and slid them on, tightening the wheel nuts. Finally, we were ready.

“I gotta admit I feel nervous about this,” I muttered, holding up the fully assembled skateboard. “I haven’t done this in so long. But wait!”

“What?” Rainbow Dash exclaimed. “Get your board and let’s go!”

I shook my head. “Let’s see in Skystar can walk first. Dr. Nancy said she should be good to go by now.”

“Oh, right.”

Always a hyperactively eager friend, Pinkie held Skystar stable while I untied the holding straps and carefully slid the wheelchair away.

“Now we’re going to only apply a little bit of pressure at a time,” I warned, holding Skystar’s thigh. “Ready, Pinkie? Just a little touch at first.”

Together we slowly lowered Skystar’s leg to the ground until it just about touched. “How does that feel?”

“A little bit of pain, but I can bear it.”

“You sure?”


“Okay, let’s allow a little more pressure then.”

I raised Skystar’s leg up off the floor, then lowered it a little, this time leaving a little slack in my holding support as her leg touched the floor yet again.

“I think she just needs some break-in,” Rainbow suggested. “You know, to get the muscles going again.”

“Same as I had to do when I was young,” I added in agreement. “Many times, actually!”

Over the next two hours, Pinkie and I helped Skystar take her first steps with her back feet, slowly getting used to the pressure and building up the muscle. For the amount of injury she’d received, Skystar was incredibly hardy. A handgun bullet had practically chipped her skin and here she was, developing her natural walking cycle again after just a week’s time.

“Can we go out now please?” Rainbow Dash pleaded. “I’m literally dying from lack of awesome fun!”

I had to laugh at that. “Easy now. You can fly and walk, while this poor hippogriff can only do one. I’m sure you’re well-aware of how much strength is needed to take a sudden landing.”

That shut her up real good. After about thirty walking sessions around the small living room, Skystar felt comfortable enough to walk on her own without assistance.

“I… Am I really doing it now?”

“Yes you are!” I proclaimed loudly. “You can walk again – without support, free and independent!”

“Yay!” Skystar squealed, jumping for joy, only to wince at her landing.

“Yeah, you’ll have to watch out for that. Take your time and that leg will be strong again.”

As if on cue, my phone beeped. It was a notification.

“Okay girls, I have to head off to trade in the laptop, and then afterwards we’ll try to go to the skatepark and I can brush up on my skills. See you soon!”

With that, I pulled all the cables out of my laptop, slipped it into a backpack, and dashed up the steps, outside, and down the road, where I could get a taxi.

“Aaaaand we’re home alone again,” Rarity groaned. “More boredom…”

“Patience everypony, he’ll be back soon,” Twilight reassured her.


“Hi everyone, I’m back!” I announced, prancing down the steps. “Now we can go. I’ll trade in the keyboard later tomorrow. Let’s try this now. It’s the heat of noon but shouldn’t be too dehydrating. Besides, we can easily get some water while we’re at it.”

I set the laptop with its charger and power cable down and grabbed my newly assembled skateboard. We all headed outside, out onto the empty, dead-end street.

Taking things slowly, I set the board down and carefully stepped on. It almost shot out from uder my foot, but I pulled it back and kept control. Quickly correcting my balance points, I pushed off, up the road, trying to get that free, but focused feel I’d developed back at the start of my teenage years. Attempting a brief kickturn, I succeeded, but upon trying a tail manual, tripped backward and lost hold of the board. I bailed out and ran after the board, hopping back onto it with glee. At the end of the road I attempted to powerslide, but just got thrown off.

“You okay Breezy?” Tempest asked worriedly, already at my side.

“Yeah,” I replied, rubbing my hurt head and burning forearm. “It’s coming back to me. Let’s go to the skatepark. I need some level flat ground to do this properly.”

After a quick cool drink and some padding with an ice pack, we walked all the way up to Queen St and up Landsowne Avenue. Rainbow Dash had brought along some water bottles, and Rarity carried a few hand towels. Fluttershy, always the caring one, had a first aid kit.

The park was very small – just two mini ramps, a wavy curve, and a single rail – but its flat, smooth concrete surface was enough. I tossed my board onto the ground and pushed off.

“Right, now that we’re here, let’s see what I can do…”

I began with a simple flat ollie. After five tries I got it consistently. Next I practiced just switching the board’s position underneath me with quick, precise footwork, and some basic warm-up practice.

“Just let your memories flow, like water,” Skystar encouraged.

I pushed hard and approached one end of the ramp, crouching and ready for a trick. With a quick jump and flick, I scooped the board under me – a shuvit – and landed back down while still at the top of the ramp. Landing was sketchy, but I held it down and rolled away, readjusting my stance.

“Now for the hard bit – fakie 360,” I told myself quietly.

I sped up to the ramp, jumped, and flicked hard. As I caught the board in time after it spun, my eyes also caught something too – Twilight taking notes with a pen and a notepad, though I pretended I didn’t see her.

“Taking some notes on the tricks?” I teased, sipping some of the water.

“Oh, yes,” Twilight blushed, her eyes shifting. “It just looks so interesting and fascinating how the board moves in relation to the minute details of your foot and body movements, and –”

I cut her off with a chuckle. “Don’t be nervous about studying me. It’s just creative expression in action. That trick was a fakie 360 – fakie because you ride the board backwards.”

“And it rotates 360 degrees!” Twilight added excitedly.

“Exactly!” I cheered. “Now for some more tricks.”

I then set off yet again, this time sliding my foot off the nose in the middle of an ollie – a kickflip. Then – after ten tries – an actual 360 flip. Finally, I ollied onto the rail and turned the board sideways with my feet mid-air, so its middle hit the rail. I leaned forward, keeping my feet firm to fight the wobble – and lost. I slid forward and my shoulder slammed into the ground, while the board toppled over the other side of the rail. Some of my dreads also got pulled.

“Ow!” I yelped, slowly getting up. I’d fallen numerous times before but it’d been years since I’d fallen this badly. It took much longer for my body to recover from the initial shock, but I tried again. And again. Eventually, I was able to boardslide along the rail’s entire length.

“I’d call it a day,” Applejack told me, as I sat down to drink some more and gain some breathing space after the ordeal.

“Yeah,” I muttered. “But I’m gonna be back tomorrow for several hours until it all comes back into me. Until skating fully flows through my mind and spirit again.”

And then, out of the blue, my phone rang.

Chapter 22: A Road Trip with Zack and The Breezy Studio

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“Sounds like you just won a trithalon by two inches, bro!” Zack chuckled heartily. “Hi Breezy. My mom’s coming in about five minutes, are you home?”

“We’re at WestLodge Skatepark. I think I can get home in about that time. If not, just wait and I’ll be there before you know it. Bye.”

“Who’s that?” Fluttershy inquired.

“Zack,” I replied, picking up my board. “Now let’s go, he’s gonna be here soon and we’ve gotta be waiting at home for him.”

This time, I dropped the board onto the road and skated all the way back, weaving around the large potholes and wide cracks that were ever present on Toronto’s old, unkempt streets.

“I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of cyclists around here during the times we’ve been in and out to the shop all week,” I began, carving around a corner onto Glenavon. “Well, Zack’s a bike fanatic, and he’s more than willing to invite you, Pinkie, and Skystar to join in on the fun. He rides BMX, which involves riding a different type of bike. It’s not my area of expert knowledge, so when he gets here I’ll pass the microphone to him, if you know what I mean.”

“I see that,” Twilight smirked. “What will you do in the meantime?”

“Spend some time at home with my mom,” I replied. “She’s out due to having to work overtime, but she’ll be back soon. I’m going to quickly buy a microphone so we can work together and try and create some songs together. My mom loves to play the piano, and also enjoys other cultural creative arts – sewing, beading, etc.”

“Do you think you could hold a stable future in music?” Twilight suggested, as the others headed inside, while Skystar and Pinkie stood by my side, patiently waiting.

I shrugged. “I dunno. It’s something I picked up fairly recently, so I don’t know too much about it. But I’ve grasped the basic concepts, which I studied hard in my free time. I’ll show you some of the beats I’ve made later. Any of you know music theory?”

“Ah remember Rara teaching me how to match tempo and chord patterns in summer camp,” Applejack added. “Helped me greatly to play the banjo and greatly improve her song ‘Equestria, The Land I Love’, which turned out to be her first hit single.”

I grinned. “Sounds impressive! Do you know the lyrics? Like, in the same tempo and pitch sequence?”

“Stuck with me since the first day we performed it together,” Applejack replied proudly.

“Great! We’ll can try and record some demos,” I declared joyfully, noticing a white Toyota Prius V rolling up. “Look, Zack’s arrived.”

“Hi Zack!” I said excitedly, running over to the side of the car. “Glad you could…”

I trailed off into silence and awe at his attire – black-and-pink bike shorts, rainbow-ringed knee high socks, and a longsleeved purple Adidas training top.

“Wha?” I murmured in bewilderment for a moment, before some weird memories clicked into place.

“Sorry,” I turned sheepishly to my pony friends. “I forgot to mention… Zack is… a bit of a femboy.”

“Huh? Come again?” Applejack asked.

“Darling, it’s like a tomboy, but the other way around,” Rarity explained, and my eyebrows shot up. I was surprised she knew about such a word but then again, when you’re a fashion designer and seamstress you meet people of all kinds – all weird, cool, and wonderful.

“Yo, Pinks and Skye!” Zack called out, gesturing to the car. “Let’s go shopping. I’ll explain on the way.”

Meanwhile, I was struggling with my overbearing smile that was threatening to turn into a mocking chuckle at Patricia’s (Zack’s mom) almost overbearing joy and fanatical love for Pinkie and Skystar, who were just starting to step into the back of the Prius. At her insistence, they sat back in the seats like a person would, and I showed them how to buckle their seat belts, as I had done with Tempest.

“Have fun you two, and Pinkie?”


“Follow what Patricia and Zack tell you, and stay disciplined. Okey?”

“Okey dokey loki!”

“That’s the Pinkie I know! Now head off on an adventure!”

Patricia put the Prius in gear and off they went, Twilight and all her friends waving, even Tempest.

“All right everypony, I’m going to get a quick bite to eat and then quickly buy a mic. Then we can get started.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Spike replied with a shrug.

We all headed inside and my friends settled down, while I set up my new computer – syncing my data, installing apps and plugins, and setting a nice desktop wallpaper of a lake. It was an iconic photo – one my mom took when we went camping together as a complete family – back when my dad was, well, my dad.

Before the tears could arrive, I quickly turned away and darted into the kitchen, where I filled up a glass with some cool water and plopped a stack of biscuits onto a small plate.

“Don’t you ever get tired in here?” Twilight asked, closing a book she’d just read. “Like, feel enclosed?”

I nodded. “Yeah, sometimes. That’s why majority of the time I’m out and about. Work is hard, but enjoyable at the same time.”

“Um, Breezy?” Fluttershy asked, and I could already hear the worry in her voice.

“Do you think… we’ll ever be able to return home?”

I shook my head. “I don’t know. But for now, let’s try to enjoy ourselves with the free time we have. We’ve worked all week and it’s time for some fun. I will try to deduce a way to at least point us in the direction of a probable cause of your initial arrival, I promise.”

After chowing down on the last biscuit, I grabbed my skateboard, dashed up the steps, and out the door. My destination was the same place I’d bought my keyboard – Long & McQuade. Hopping onto the streetcar and slipping some coins into the slot, I sat back for a brief ride that I hoped would be very rewarding.



“Alright, let me break this down,” Zack began, pulling out a large sketchpad and pencil. It took quite a level of erasing and refinement, but after fifteen minutes, he was done.

“Here you go,” he said, reaching behind the front seat to hand them the completed sketch.

“Oooh, okay! So that’s the frame…” Pinkie began excitedly.

“And that’s the handlebars,” Skystar added, pointing.

Zack smiled as he watched them eagerly come to know of the different parts of a BMX bike. “Ready for the talk? I need to explain a few things.”

“We’re ready!” Pinkie and Skystar crowed excitedly.

“Okay, notice how the frame looks like a diamond that’s really stretched out? That’s how you know it’s a BMX frame.”

“Ooooh,” Pinkie awed.

“Yes. Now the handlebars are higher up and wide, so you can reach them easily and are easier to control and spin.”

“You can spin the bars?” Skystar squealed.

“Oh yes!” Zack replied with a little chuckle. “Provided the front wheel isn’t on the ground, that is. It’s called a barspin, obviously. Now onto the wheels. Notice how the rim – the metal part of the wheel – is thick and strong? And the rubber tires are thick? That’s to absorb the shock from landing hard after jumps. Notice how in the second smaller sketch the L-shaped bracket, with a flat black squar-ish piece attached to the end of it? That’s the crank, and the pedal. One of each on each side, as you can see in the sketch. The cranks are always at opposite ends. Your feet go on the pedals, and you push down and over in a circle to turn the main gear in the middle – see?”


“That turns the rear wheel and thus you move forwards. There are two types of rear wheels – freecoasters and cassettes. Freecoasters have a hub – the central part of the wheel – that causes a little slip before the wheel begins to actually turn, so although that makes it easy to go in reverse because you don’t have to actually pedal backwards, it take a little time before your pedaling actually engages. With cassettes, the hub is fixed, so you have to actually pedal backwards, but when going forwards, your pedaling engages the rear wheel immediately. Pedaling backwards out of a trick helps keep your balance, actually. The one big con is that your legs often can’t keep up as fast.”

“Interesting,” Skystar cooed, leaning in as if to hear more. So Zack kept talking.

“Now the brake uses a wire inside a thin tube that’s attached to the frame to pull small pads in a lever action so they press against the back wheel and thus slow the bike down. The wire can tangle during a barspin, so some cleverly thread it through the stem – which is the bracket that connects the handlebars to the frame and the front forks. The forks are what hold the front wheel in place.”

“Very intricate yet simple,” Pinkie noted. “You should’ve brought Twilight. She’d love to study this.”

Zack chuckled. “If I did, there wouldn’t be someone to manage your friends amongst themselves. Sure, there’s Breezy, but nopony knows your friends better than another pony who’s been with them from day one. Face it, Twilight’s kind of your… leader. She doesn’t always act that way, but when she does, it’s clear as the sky.”

Pinkie rested her chin on her hoof in a thinking pose. “You’re right.”

With Zack’s BMX presentation over, everyone sat back and enjoyed the ride through the upper communities of Toronto. The destination was Harvester Bike Shop – a place Zack knew well.

As usual, Pinkie sat close to the window, her face alive with awe and anticipation, gazing at the world speeding by.



“So this will be a better one for vocals but will need a good stand to work properly?” I asked the saleslady.

“Yes, but it works better for vocals all around – which is what you want, right? Right?” she reiterated.

“Absolutely. So what’s the best stand?”

“Anything from Yorkville or K&M sound be fine.”

I end up choosing a Yorkville mic stand with a medium-length boom, a proper screw thread mounting tip, and heavy feet, so as to avoid unnecessary vibrations or jerky movements during recording sessions, to go with my NT2-A. Additionally, I purchased a separate XLR cable, as well as another pair of headphones, an extender cable, and a channel splitter. Total came to almost $750. Ouch. I just had to hope that I could come up with the next Toronto Billboard 100 hit, or at least something catchy and popular. I now had barely enough money to tip the balance if an extra was needed for the Forester – given that Maverick could find one, of course.

“Hey all, I’m back!” I announced, carrying the boxes down the stairs. “Let’s go do this.”

After a quick hand wash, I wasted no time unboxing the new toys. Twilight and Rainbow Dash set up the stand, while Applejack, Rarity, and I pulled out the microphone.

“Whoa, darling, that looks absolutely divine!”

“It sure is, Rarity – but it’s also very delicate. Can you slide it into the opening, here?” I asked, pointing to the shock mount.

Rarity, who was more precise and dexterous with her magic than Twilight, lifted up the mic and gently slid it into place.

“There, nice and snug. Now for the pop filter, which will help reduce the ‘punch’ of the harder parts of vocals. Like the letters B, P, D, and T.”

I gently screwed it onto the shock mount and adjusted it so it was at a reasonable distance from the microphone itself. Finally, Twilight screwed the mount onto the end of the stand’s boom pole and I plugged in the cable, configuring the microphone's little built-in switches to the right setting.

“Okey dokey, let’s get this show on the road,” I declared joyfully, powering up the MacBook and opening Logic Pro X. I opened up the audio hardware settings and added the mic.

“Let’s begin by recording a few short vocal sessions, just so I can figure out where your range is, and thus I can tweak the normalizing and compression levels a bit and save some presets. Who’s first?”

“I’ll go,” Fluttershy offered.

“Me too!” Rarity quickly raised her hoof.

“Ah’m not much of a singer, but I’d like to try anyways,” Applejack said sheepishly.

I smirked. “Alright. Fluttershy it is.”

Before starting, I played a quick track to test my speakers and ensure they were emitting sound equally. Turned out they were just fine, and it was great to hear them playing again.

“What about the neighbors?” Twilight suddenly asked.

“Many are out for the holidays, and upstairs is hardly home at all, so we should be fine,” I reassured her, before turning to Fluttershy and handing her a pair of headphones.

“These are so you can hear your own voice properly and adjust accordingly,” I explained, plugging it into the audio interface and quickly configuring it. “For this session, I won’t be using the speakers, so we will hear Fluttershy in the raw from the speakers, so to speak, while she hears her own voice. Then afterwards, I’ll figure out the best normalizing and compression settings. Rinse and repeat. Take it away, Flutters!”

Fluttershy slowly slid the headphones onto her ears and began to sing.

What is this place

Filled with so many wonders?

Casting its spell

That I am now under

Squirrels in the trees

And the cute little bunnies

Birds flying free

And bees with their honey


Oooh, what a magical place

And I owe it all to the Pegasus race

If I knew the ground had so much up its sleeve

I'd have come here sooner, and never leave

Yes, I love ev-er-ythiiiiing!”

Twilight and her friends were just gazing in pride and joy, given how they’ve heard her sing many times before, but my eyes lit up like saucers with flashlights in the middle. I never knew that Fluttershy could sing so well.

“That was… insanely good,” I breathed, still in awe as I tapped a button on the keyboard to end the recording. “Now, I need to tweak this to make it sound even better.”

I shut off the mic and headphone signals, then slipped on my own pair of headphones and plugged them in. Pulling up Compressor and Channel EQ, I got to work on tweaking Fluttershy’ vocals. It turned to be harder than I thought, given I’d only done this a few times with samples. But after watching a few tutorials going back and forth, I managed to produce a crisp, clear vocal track with only slight reverb, given how soft Fluttershy’s voice naturally was. However, smoothly increasing it with the “Hooooonneeeeeeey!” line made it sound really fluid, as if your ears were floating smoothly through a canyon before gradually coming back up.

“Looks like this is going to take some time, but it’s going to be a load of fun as well," I thought, turning to my friends with a smile.

Chapter 23: Shoppin' for Bikes and Playin' a Banger

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“This area seems a little more high-end than Toronto – in fact, much more,” Skystar noted. “The housing and the cars, to name two.”

“I recognize this building,” Zack noted, pointing to the highway below as they drove over a bridge. “We’re getting pretty close.”

“How about we visit Big Al afterwards?” Patricia suggested, still holding in a squee at Skystar’s big beautiful eyes gazing back at her from the backseat.

“Sounds great. Just… don’t go diving into any tanks,” Zack chimed in with a chuckle. “They’re too small anyways.”

Skystar let out a hearty chuckle of her own. “I know, I’ve learned my lesson. But I’d still love to see the fish there – and oooh, those clams and other shells!”

“Are there any bubblefish there?!” Pinkie asked eagerly, leaning so far forward she almost fell out of her seat.

Zack nodded with a half-grin. “But they’re not that big – no bigger than my thumb – and also quite delicate. Puffer fish are displayed there too.”

“Hey look kids, we’re here now!” Patricia exclaimed, pulling up in front of the shop. “You all head inside, I’ll go park.”

“Thanks, Mom,” Zack replied, giving her a quick kiss before stepping out and opening the back doors for Pinkie and Skystar.

The three strode up to the shop. Zack opened the door and his friends stepped inside.

“Whoa!” Pinkie exclaimed, taking in the sights and smells. The walls were lined with parts of all kinds – saddles, rims, tires, forks, frames, and more. Skystar soon had her eyes on a bright sea-blue frame.

“That’s a 17” frame,” Zack said, gently coaxing her to the back counter. “Let me ask if they got a larger one in stock, ‘cause you’re even taller than me when upright.”

“Well, if it isn’t Vaughan’s biggest street rider, Zack!” the salesman mused. “And he’s got a pack!”

“Ah, Mason. Nice to see you again, bud,” Zack replied with a smile and a firm handshake. Mason was the second-in-command to the store’s manager. A few owners had come in with dogs before, so Pinkie and Skystar didn’t seem to be much of a problem for him. He was a really nice guy.

“What can I help you with today?”

“I’m going to build two new bikes,” Zack stated clearly. “I’d like to know if you have any large frames – 20-22-inches should be ideal from my estimate.”

“Hmmm, let’s see…” Mason scrolled through his database list. “Ah, yes! I’ve got two 20-inch, one 21-inch, and four 22-inch MafiaBikes frames in sea blue. What size?”

“Size? Oh…” Zack quickly realized what was being hinted. “Got a tape measure?”

Mason pulled a small yellow coil from his pocket, and Zack held it up. “Phew! 6’2.”

“You’re a big girl,” Mason cooed, stroking her soft mane. “What’s your name?”


“Alright, Skystar, I think a 21.5” frame should fit you well. And some 8.5-inch bars.”

“I think I can pick out the forks and saddle,” Zack offered. “Rims are up to her choice as well.”

After some scouring and fussing, Skystar eventually had finalized her build:

After being measured when standing bipedal, Pinkie then picked out the parts for her build:

Zack’s life literally flashed before his eyes at the sight of the total bill, but sighed and smiled. He knew what he was doing this for, and for whom.

With a confident smile, he pulled out his debit card. Just as he was about to slide it in, a woman burst through the front door.

“Hi! So sorry I didn’t come sooner, I got caught up with a phone call…” Patricia huffed as she sprinted up to the counter. “Sweetie, I know you’ve got a lot to buy, but it’s only fair if I pay for half of it. After all, I drove you and your friends here, right?”

“You certainly did, Mom,” Zack replied with a smile, tapping her shoulder. “Go ahead. We’ll split it 50/50.”

Patricia paid first, then Zack topped off the rest – a grand total of almost a grand. While Patricia brought the car over, Zack pulled out a marker and quickly labelled all the boxes, so as to avoid confusion as to what parts were for which bike. With Skystar and Pinkie’s help, he carried the parts out the door. Together, they all loaded the parts into the trunk, until it was pretty much full.

“So, what’s the plan, Zackie?” Pinkie cooed, clicking her seat belt in place.

“Um…” Zack began, blushing slightly. Zackie – it sounded seriously feminine, but cute all at the same time. “Since when have I been a girl?”

“You certainly are fearless enough to dress like one,” Patricia teased. “I mean, those legs were smoother and shinier than any forks I’ve seen in the shop.”

“Hey!” Zack snapped, suddenly feeling uncomfortable. “Never mind my clothing, focus on the plan. How about you drop me off home and take Pinkie and Skystar to Big Al’s? In the meantime I can assemble the bikes.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Patricia replied.




“Now that I’ve covered all of you, let’s take a look at some of my previous work,” I said, pulling up a few LPP files as my friends all gathered closely around.

“for_da_club.lpp. Let’s try this one.”

I opened up the file and let all the plugins load, then hit play.

A tight sequence of ambient background vocal chops played before a deep bass pluck and a finger snap clap took over. Immediately I recognized the beat.

“That clap you hear is a sample. I actually recorded that right here in the basement,” I noted proudly, before hitting play again. The beat continued with an epic white noise riser transitioning into the main beat with a thumpy 808 kick and intricate hi-hats, the background ambient vocal chops and piano still present in their tight fluctuation. Before I knew it, Pinkie was shuffling her feet, swinging her arms, and jumping. Then a familiar voice came.

“You still got that party beat?”

“Mom!” I exclaimed, hitting pause and leaping out of the seat to help her with her shopping bags. “How’ve you been?”

“Away from you for too long,” she confided, squeezing me in a tight hug. “Do you have any plans?”

“Absolutely. We’re all going to stay home today and do some fun, creative stuff together. I have my music, and you have your sewing and beading.”

After helping her put away the groceries she bought, I brought Joyce to sit down and gave her a glass of juice, while I slid into my chair and continued playing the beat, warning Pinkie not to get carried away.

“When did you make this? Joyce asked as the beat ended. “I know I heard it before, but I can’t recall when.”

“About two years back,” I replied. “It was one of my first beats. I actually made it for a frat party, and the host gave me $200 in cash for the full rights to it. But it got leaked and some underground rapper claimed it as their own, which I found out just a few weeks later through a SoundCloud recommendation. I just wanted to keep making more music, so I just shrugged it off.”

“Ah wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Applejack said in a serious voice. “You made that beat, you should own it. It’s your right. Gather your evidence and bring this to the court.”

“It’s just a dance-worthy rap beat,” I shrugged.

“Who knows how much money that loon is making,” Rainbow Dash added defiantly. “And all of it illegally!”

I took a long gaze at Joyce, Twilight, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash, and let out a long sigh. My friends had the winning baton on this one. I knew of the truth and was letting it slip by, with the foolish thought of dismissing it as insignificant.

“I dunno, maybe I can add it to the court case coming in three weeks,” I finally spoke. “Or simply file a DMCA claim. The thing is, I didn’t have any copyright on the beat. No producer tags. So it’s not going to be easy.”

Chapter 24: BMX Assembly and Breezy X's First Song

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“And here we are, peeps,” Zack declared proudly. “The Hoffman residence.”

Pinkie and Skystar gazed out the car’s window at the home. It had a unique look and feel to it, though that was mostly the lovely arrangement of flowers and a small tree that had been planted in front of the porch.

“How long have you lived here?” Pinkie inquired.

“About six years,” Patricia replied. “We moved here after I got a job opportunity. As part of the divorce agreements, my husband handed over most of his wealth, and I invested all of it into the house. Together we’ve worked hard to make it look nice and pleasant – in fact, Zack plans to open up his own business and I plan to make this my retirement home in the far-off future. Currently we’re renting out the basement.”

“So… you’re on your own too, Zackie?” Skystar asked worriedly.

“Yep. But I’m happy to have a proud, supportive half. And half is better than none,” Zack confided, pushing the car door open. “Anyways I’ll see you tomorrow!”

“Tomorrow?!” Pinkie and Skystar gasped at the same time. “B-but…”

Zack shook his head, his neck-length windswept hair waving about. “No can do. You belong with Breezy. He’s your caretaker, after all. I can come down with your bikes tomorrow and we’ll all have fun together then.”

“Wait,” Patricia interjected. “How about I ask your mom if they can stay here? Just for the night.”

Zack turned to look at his mom and shrugged – but not before catching a blush from the corner of his eye. Pretending not to notice, he pulled out his phone and hit speed dial.


“Hi, Zack. How’s it going?”

“Grrrreeeaaaaaaaat, Breezy. Just bought around a thousand dollars’ worth of bike parts. Oh dear savings, may you rest in peace.”

“Haha! You at home?”

“Yep. Anyways I’m not here to shoot the breeze, I have an important 10 second question to ask your mom.”

“Which is?”

“Can Pinkie and Skystar stay over for tonight?”

With a cute snicker, Zack reached into the back seat and pointed his phone at the two.


Patricia stifled a giggle and a squee – Pinkie and Skystar were just too adorable! Maybe, if this went through, it’d be a moment of youthful joy and bliss – just like when Zack was much younger.

Sure enough, Joyce’s voice came on the line.

“Sure you can, Pinkie! You and your friend have earned it for keeping to your word. Just remember to be respectful and obedient!”

“YAY!” Skystar cheered with a squeal, and Zack laughed proudly, sharing a fist-bump with his mom before bring the phone back to his ear. “Thanks so much, Joyce. And thanks to you, too, Breezy. And to Twilight and her friends, love y’all. See you tomorrow!”

“Bye, Zack.”



It felt great to talk with my friend again. Like my mom, I was a little skeptical and doubtful on whether to allow Pinkie and Skystar to stay over, but I soon realized that I needed to show my best friend that I still trusted him. So, with a little coaxing to Mom, she relented.

“Tomorrow, we’ll head to AshBridges Bay,” Joyce announced. “I haven’t done much running in, like ages! Time to bring out those running shoes and hit the block. Meanwhile, you all can have some fun at the skatepark.”

“Whoooo-hoooo yeah!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed, pulling a little backflip.

“Sounds good,” I said, rather excitedly. “I… seriously need to brush up on my board skills. Speaking of skills, what’s a song you guys know best?”

Twilight raised a hoof. “There is one, but we have to sing it all together.”

I proudly tapped the mic stand. “This little guy can record from both sides. So three of you record using both sides, and then the other two.”

“There are several verses that are sung individually…” Rarity pointed out.

“Which is why I’ll record each one individually,” I replied. “For better audio clarity, I’ll stay here in the living room while you record in my bedroom. It’s got enough space for decent ambience without too much background noise.”

I removed all the excess items from my room that could potentially cause distortion to the audio pickup range, and placed the mic stand beside the bed, with the boom extended so it hung low in front of the bed, where I placed a small stool for my little singers to sit on. Twilight elected to go first. I checked all cable connections, opened up a new Logic Pro X project, created a new track, and hit RECORD.

“Friendship used to make me all queasy-queasy,

But you made it all so easy-easy.

Now I don’t have to say what I’m thinking,

You already know without even blinking.”

Nice one, I thought. If only I knew how to edit and process vocals properly…

Sitting back, I looped Twilight’s vocals three times, listening closely for any pauses or noise. It seemed decent, so I removed what little noise was there and applied her vocal preset I made earlier, then played it back again. Now it sounded more normalized and clear.

“Is it done?!” Rainbow asked eagerly, hovering over my shoulder.

I smiled and shook my head. “Far from it. But now, I need to concentrate and try and make a beat off of Twily’s vocals. It’s gonna take some time because for over a year I’ve done it vice versa.”

Closing my eyes, I tried to imagine what a score would sound like behind Twilight’s voice. Adding in an appropriate tempo, I played it again and again and again. Opening a new simple felt piano synth, I bumped up the hardness just a little and started pressing keys, trying to figure out the chord progression. Finally, I figured it out – a wave pattern from C4 all the way to C6, with a repetitive three-part lead over it. There was more to the track, but I’d figure it out later.

“Yeah, getting there…” I whispered to myself, pressing the keys yet again to try and match the sequence I had in my head. Eventually, I got it right. Opening up the roll, I quantized it and tweaked two notes that were misplaced. On another track, I added in the three-part lead. I pulled out my headphones and cranked up the MacBook speakers as I hit play.

“There, that’s it! It sounds great,” Applejack said quickly. “Ah still feel there’s somethin’ missin’ though…”

An idea popped into my head. “Forget singular mic sessions, why don’t you all just sing it together on my bed so I can hear the sequence?”

“Alright,” Twilight agreed, slipping off her headphones. She sat down near the foot of the bed, and her friends formed a row behind her, their heads pointed upward. I repositioned the microphone so it would capture all their voices overhead at a 45-degree angle, and hit RECORD. Twilight kicked off with her verse, with her friends following in immediate, almost fluid succession.

“Friendship used to make me so queasy, queasy

But you made it all so easy, easy.

Now I don't have to say what I'm thinking,

You already know without even blinking!”

Applejack then took it up:

“You girls are the apple of my eye,”

Then came Rainbow Dash:

“The race that doesn't end in a tie,”

Since Pinkie wasn’t available, Fluttershy altered her voice to fill in, before switching back to her normal voice:

“You are the funnel cake at my fair,

The warm hug of a fuzzy bear!”

Finally, all of them chorused together, though I still felt that it could be better – evidently due to Pinkie’s absence:

“Best friends until the end of time,

We'll have each other's backs,

And let our true selves shine,

And that's because everything we need,

Is all right here when we're with our team!”

Twilight Sparkle then continued the next part of the song:

“I simply can't imagine there'd be a day,

That I wouldn't want to be walking your way,

Whatever new problems there maybe, maybe,

Our friendship is always the door with the key.”

Finally, Rarity had her turn:

“You are the jewels in my friendship crown,”

Twilight Sparkle added in one last filler verse:

“The sparks that make my world go 'round,”

Finally, they all chorused together to close it up on an uplifting, well-filled, and somewhat motivational note:

“We bring the best out, that's our goal

There's no telling how far we'll go!

Best friends until the end of time,

We'll have each other's backs,

And let our true selves shine,

And that's because everything we need,

Is all right here when we're with our team!”

I was beaming with joy as I hit the STOP button to end the recording. The power of these little ponies’ voices was unbelievably beautiful and powerful. While they drank some water to cool off their vocal chords, I adjusted the audio levels so they all sounded the same throughout the whole song. After listening to it for the jillionth time, I felt like I knew a couple of good sequences that, when put together and mixed properly, would be the best score to fit the vocals.

“I need to add another sequence to fill in the gaps of the main lead, and the main lead itself needs a different, somewhat harder-sounding pattern behind it to drive you forward. And there’s another simple melody behind that that I think I should add to give the main lead just a little more background clarity. In rap, you often put the highest piano note or the clap on top of the last 808 kick or sub bass line note to push the listener forward onto the next line. So that’s what I need to add – I call it the ‘driver’.”

“Can I help?” Joyce asked, looking up from her beadwork.

“Sure, Mom,” I offered, sliding off the chair. “You’re the one that got me into music, after all.”



Entering home, Zack kicked off his shoes and washed his hands, before entering the kitchen for a quick snack, contemplating on what he’d done. Almost all his savings were used up. If any good opportunity came up to purchase something, he’d have no means to get it.

“But that’s life, isn’t it? Some opportunities just can’t be grabbed. It’s all about the control of destiny,” he thought. “Besides, it’s about more than just yourself. It’s about doing things that, when all is said and done, will allow you to sit back and feel that you made an effort to make others happy.”

After a good meal of bagel sandwich and a chia seed smoothie, he changed into more workman-type clothing – jeans and an old, thick shirt. Stepping into the garage, he opened up one door, and set to work – first opening up all the boxes for Skystar’s bike parts.

The Hofmann garage was a unique one, with a very sophisticated yet clean setup. It contained two storage racks, a workbench, two bike stands, and some basic tools. Zack had three bikes – a childhood heirloom/memory, an off-road/dirt racing assembly, and a freestyle/park bike, which he used the most. On the racks, spare bike parts, tools, and other miscellaneous stuff were stored. This was Zack’s favorite place – a place to work on bikes and invent unique, cool stuff.

Pulling off the plastic packaging, Zack mounted Skystar’s Stranger frame to the stand and began assembly, starting with the front forks. He lubricated the top of the crown race and then pushed it up through the front hole of the frame, before attaching the top headset cup and then the stem, screwing it on tightly. The handlebars were put in afterwards, which were tightened with equal torque to ensure a proper squeeze and a secure fit.

Next came the seat, which was attached to its post, slid in, and tightened with a small screw – no more than three minutes for a BMX expert like Zack. After the internal spacer, lubricant, and bearings were inserted into the frame, the cranks were attached at opposite ends so they formed a proper straight line. Tightening the bolts, Zack then attached the pedals, ensuring that the left and the right were not mixed up.

Attaching the wheels came next. The front wheel came on with a simple pair of nuts and washers, with the front pegs added in as well. The back wheel was then attached, with the chain wrapped around both sprockets and locked together with a tight but even fit that allowed proper, smooth motion of the pedals turning.

Finally came the brakes, brake system, and handlebar grips. The gyro system threaded the brake cable through the stem, so it wouldn’t twist when the bars spun while doing a trick. Finally, the brake pads were hooked up and the bar grips were pushed onto the handlebar ends and stretched out to properly fit. Last but not least, he added air

“And it’s done!” Zack exclaimed proudly, checking every part to make sure that everything fit properly and aligned correctly. “Now to test it.”

Taking the newly completed bike off the stand, he rested it on the front wheel and spun it around – a quick tailwhip. It rotated smoothly without any stutter or squeak. He then gently dropped it and shook it a little. It bounced in a double tap – a good indication the tire pressure was okay – around 100-110 psi.

“Right,” Zack huffed, glancing out the garage door at the sun, which was on its way to the horizon. “Now onto Pinkie’s!”

Chapter 25: A Night at the Hofmann's

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With both bikes fully built, Zack closed down the garage door and trotted up the steps to his bedroom. It was a rather large one, with a bed and a large L-shaped desk - full of sketches, drawing tools, a scanner, and a 3D printer, along with a computer and a music box.

Up on the wall was a painting – a rather memorable one of when Zack was just 6, painting a picture of a BMX bike mid-bunny hop. And beside the bed stood a wardrobe, tall and elegant, with flowery, decorative French-style patterns on it. Just as he was about to change into more beautiful clothes, the phone rang.


“Hi, sweetie.”

“Hey, Mom, how are ya?”

“I’m feeling a little worn out, but great! We’re coming home now. I bought a few things…”

Zack’s head sunk. Please Mom, please don’t tell me you bought fish for Skystar…

“Some clothes and helmets for tomorrow’s riding session,” Patricia said, instantly laying her son’s worries to rest. “And some groceries. Any silly stuff you have in store?”

Zack chuckled. “Not that I can think of at the moment. We’ll talk business later regarding my 3D printer and my other big ideas. Thanks for being so supportive. See you soon.”

“You too, son. Bye-bye.”

Zack figured he’d explain it all to his two new friends when they arrived, and slid into his chair to continue hard work. Besides BMX, he enjoyed creating miniature circuits and machinery with his 3D printer, as well as drawing mechanical structures and systems before turning them into 3D computer models, which he often sold over the Internet.

Logging in, Zack began some simple accounting, managing the expenses from the BMX shopping trip, as well as any payments customers online had made. He was just about to open up one 3D model file of an unfinished part when a key turned in the door downstairs. Leaping out of his chair, Zack ran down the stairs so fast his legs appeared to be floating in a blur. Within seconds he was at the door, hands out and ready to receive his mom’s shopping bags.

“How did it go?”

“There were so many amazing things there!” Pinkie exclaimed.

“We saw goldfish, pufferfish, and yes, those bubblefish you mentioned!” Skystar added excitedly. “How are the bikes? Did you finish them? Can I see them? Can I? Can I?!”

Zack had to laugh at the sight of an over-eager hippogriff practically bouncing up and down in front of him asking about bikes.

“Heh, calm now, Skye,” he said, putting a hand on her shoulder. “Both yours and Pinkie’s are done. I’ll show you them in the morning, before we go out. Now let’s get a nice dinner going. In spite of a short snack I ate earlier, I’m hungry and I’d bet both of you are.

Zack decided on some Indian food with seafood – reheated naan bread, fried cod, and roasted kelp with hot jasmine rice.

“So where do you work?” Pinkie inquired, tilting her head slightly like a puppy as she gazed at Patricia.

“Aw, you’re just so cute, Pinkie,” Patricia cooed. “I work as an engineering consultant, which is in rather high demand. It also means unfortunately I’m away from home most of the time. Thankfully I’ve raised Zack right and he hasn’t fallen into bad crowds. In fact BMX has kept him busy and rather productive.”

Skystar simply nodded, clearly too wrapped up in the power of the delicious flavor of the food she was eating. To Zack’s surprise, she didn’t seem fazed by the prospect of eating fish at all. She even loved the bread, devouring two whole rounds.

“Looks like our sweeties are really hungry today, aren’t they?” Patricia teased, smirking at her son.

Zack nodded with a grin. “Indeed.”

With dinner over, Zack offered to wash the dishes, but Patricia intervened.

“I know I’ve had a long day and you’re probably thinking I want to rest and stuff, but I also know you have a lot to show and discuss with your friends,” she said. “Go ahead, I’ll take care of this.”

Zack’s eyes widened. “You serious? Um, thanks! But at least let me clean the table.”


Pulling out a wet cloth, Zack wiped and scrubbed the table until it was completely clean and dry, before washing out the cloth and zipping upstairs into the bathroom… where he found Pinkie and Skystar brushing their teeth.

“Hey girls, um…” Zack was lost for words. Were they using his toothbrushes, or did they have their own? “Wait, Mom bought brushes for you two, right?”

“Um-hm,” Skystar mumbled through a frothy mouth.

“Oooo-kay.” Zack pulled out his toothbrush and spread some paste on it. As he began brushing, Pinkie noticed something.

“Why is your toothbrush pink?”

“Uh…” was all Zack could get out. “It’s a long story. Come with me.”

After the trio had brushed their teeth properly and rinsed their mouths well, Zack brought them to a door with a poster that read “BEAUTY IS WITHIN”.

“And that’s purple,” Skystar blatantly pointed out.

Ignoring her comment, Zack pushed the door open and ushered them in. “Welcome to my room. Make yourself comfortable on the bed, but don’t jump on it.”

“You seem to have a lot of, well… pretty stuff,” Pinkie said slowly. “Oops. Did I offend you?”

Zack sighed and shook his head. “Not at all, Pinkie. It’s just… hard.”

“Hard to what?” Skystar pressed.

“To show you… this.”

Zack yanked open the doors to his wardrobe to reveal a stunning sight. Lined up on one side were typical shirts and pants, but among them was a ballet outfit – leotard, skirt, and tights. On a small shelf on the other side lay lavender ballet shoes, hair accessories (including a big pink bow), and some jewelry – bracelets and a necklace.

“I am a guy, but a… different guy,” he confessed, while Pinkie and Skystar stood shell-shocked at what they were seeing.

“How did this…” Pinkie began, but Zack was losing the battle against his tears.

“It’s okay, we still love and support you, Zackie,” Skystar said, affectionately wrapping her wing around him. “Come, sit down. Tell me the story.”

“It began in fifth grade,” Zack sniffled, wiping his eyes. “Xavier – and the whole school for that matter – always knew me as the one who’d face up to challenges but also do funny and silly stuff to entertain and to amuse – friendly bets and whatnot. So there was this adorable little girl – I say ‘little’ because she was small for her age – who absolutely loved ballet – she’d perform before the teacher arrived and the bullies would laugh at her. I was initially afraid of them but when one of them actually got up, kicked her, and spat in her face, I lost it.”

“So you got into a fight with the meanie?” Pinkie asked, looking a little eager.

“Yep. I knocked him to the ground and bruised his face real bad. Detention was tough but I got through it. The bullying eventually stopped. Later, Lily – that was her name – had to attend a performance for our school. Unfortunately, the bullies found out and I overheard their plans to ruin the event by humiliating her. So, I played the audio recording to the principal. He didn’t ban them from attending, but asked for security so they couldn’t go backstage to sabotage anything. In the days leading up to the event, I found Lily to be unhappy and anxious. As you might’ve guessed she had stage fright and also fearful of those bullies.”

“So… what did you do?”

“Well, I ignored it at first, but when her parents were silly enough to talk loudly in public that they wouldn’t be able to attend their daughter’s own first performance, I heard it and decided to step up to the plate. Behind Mom’s back I bought a whole outfit and practiced as hard as I could in the remaining week, putting up with an almost-sprained ankle, lots of falls, and popped joints. It really was a lot of work, but for some reason I just couldn’t give up.”

“Finally the dance performance came. I was so busy practicing I almost arrived late. Kudos to my years of BMX experience to getting there in the nick of time. As expected, she got nervous and started crying, so I – yes, a rather well-built 12-year old boy – stepped out in this girly frilly costume and gave her a bit of counselling and comfort. Amazingly, she recognized me, and we completed the performance together, winning a big award. She sat on my lap holding the honorary ribbon while I joyfully fist-pumped the air, and a photo was taken together with the other dancers. It felt so awkward, but inside I felt not only satisfied of what I did for Lily, I felt happy the way I was dressed. Like, I didn’t feel disgusted or offended by it.”

“That’s because your driving force was the will to keep Lily happy,” Pinkie explained.

“I wouldn’t doubt it,” Zack said with a smile. “At first I actually was like ‘okay, I did it, that’s it, now the bullies will shut up and Lily will feel better’ but no. I found myself enjoying wearing that frilly thing, and we actually started dancing together. I donated my old ballet outfit after I outgrew it. Ballet proved to be beneficial, as I incorporated some of the techniques and moves into my BMX riding. High school started and my love for BMX grew even more. Then Lily’s family moved away. However, a big internal battle then begun to rage. BMX for boys, ballet and cute clothes for girls. At one point I actually went out and bought the same ballerina outfit again in my now grown size, danced for a couple months, then suddenly stopped. I didn’t know what to do, so I just kept it up and out for a long time. Drawing and mechanical engineering were two other hobbies that I picked up from my mom, so I was even more two-faced.”

“How about your mom?” Skystar inquired.

“She doesn’t really mind what I wear, so long as it’s decent. I hardly wear stuff other than my usual BMX getup because I ride so often.”

“Do you actually like dancing?” Pinkie asked, looking at Zack directly, a serious tone in her eyes.

Zack gulped and nodded. “Yes, I do. And I can’t dance in pants. It just doesn’t feel right. I have to be wearing a skirt or a dress to do it right. The jewelry is just something I made one day when I was bored.”

“You got a lot going on,” Skystar admitted. “I think your best approach should be to stick to just BMX and dancing. Wear the decent clothing for each respective hobby, and dance as much as you want. Be happy and be free by being fearless yet wise. If you don’t feel like wearing stuff, then give it away – but be firm on your choices.”

Zack gave a slight nod. “You’re right. Thanks for the advice. How about a dance at the skatepark tomorrow? Integrated into our BMX routine. A short one, just to see if I still like it. We’ll go early to avoid excessive attention.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Skystar said excitedly. “And um, can I sleep with you, Zackie?”


“Oh, it-it-it’s okay. I just – ”

“I was just surprised because that’s not normally what someone would ask me. But I know it.”

“Know what?” Pinkie suddenly asked, whipping her head around.

“You’re in awe of me,” Zack stated, his face giving a slight tease. He turned to Skystar. “And you’re totally smitten.”

“Well, um, I…” Skystar desperately fought to find the right words while her cheeks grew as red as a strawberry.

Zack shook his head. “Just admit it. You’re – ”

“Yes, yes, I am in love with you, Zackie! You’re so nice and cute, and kind, and…”

Before she could find herself in another stuttering spat, Zack leaned and planted a tiny kiss on her tiny hippogriff beak, gently rubbing his hand through the fur and feathers on her neck. “Well I love you too. And of course, you can sleep with me. I haven’t ever slept with a hippogriff before.”

As night fell, Patricia got out an old mattress for Pinkie to rest on next to the desk. She’d wanted Pinkie to sleep in with Zack, but Pinkie insisted on sleeping separately, albeit in the same room.

With a yawn, Zack shimmied under his warm blue duvet, tired from the long day he’d had shopping and assembling his friends’ bikes. Moments later, Skystar eagerly jumped onto the bed, jolting him out of a droopy trance.

“Well, now the opportunity has come for you to experience what it’s like sleeping with a hippogriff,” she whispered with a silent giggle, wrapping her arm around his torso and affectionately rubbing her fluffy chest on his broad, muscular one.

Feeling a little irritated, Zack turned on his other side so he faced away from her. Big mistake. Skystar zoomed right in for the kill, heaving her entire top half onto him, resting her head on his cheek and her right leg on top of his, and stretching her arm under his.

In the far corner of the desk, the music box slowly tinkled a little lullaby. Zack let out a low sigh. This was going to be the perfect night.

Chapter 26: A Day at AshBridges Bay Skatepark

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The morning sun rose, with its rays of light beaming onto the bed, warming up Zack’s face.

“Unnnnnmmmmhhhhhh,” he muttered, fluttering his eyes as the sun rays’ warmth became too much to bear whilst asleep. Yet as his eyes fought to adjust to the light, a soft, warm feeling from above was making the awakening process even harder. Skystar’s tender, loving body was relaxed atop his firm, blocky abs. Her feather-topped head nuzzled gingerly against his broad, well-formed shoulders and neck.

After a good five-minute tussle, Zack finally won the battle and heaved himself upright, forcing Skystar to wriggle off him. Unfortunately, she still clung to him a little, her chest fur catching on his waist.

“Woah, easy there, girl,” Zack blushed, quickly gripping the waistband of his boxers. “I’m not sure we’re ready for you to make my rocket glow.”

“Um, what’s a rocket?” Skystar asked innocently.

Zack fought back a sheepish grin and shook his head. “Let’s just say you almost revealed all of me by sliding off. Just be careful next time.”

“I…can’t…Hahahaha!” Pinkie was rolling around, howling in laughter. Zack snickered, realizing that she fully understood his joke. “Well, let’s get going. We need to arrive at the park early so we have it all to ourselves for a reasonable amount of time. Why don’t you two wash up in the bathroom after I finish?”

“Ahaha…Ha…Okey dokie loki!” Pinkie replied, finally breaking free of her laughing fit.

Still in nothing but his boxers, Zack entered the bathroom and began his routine – washing his hands, face, and arms, before drying them and adding some cologne to his underarms and wiping on a little face cream. Finally, he combed his hair until it was fairly even, though still wavy and sexy like he loved it.

“Your turn,” he told Pinkie and Skystar, reentering his room to begin changing. His plan was to dress BMX style while keeping his ballet outfit underneath. Protecting his muscular, warm body with a sweat protection top, he slipped on a pair of lace-edged pink ballet panties before carefully sliding into the ballet outfit. It was a magenta top with super short puff sleeves and lace around the collar, complete with a cute little bow at the collar’s center. And of course, a poofy pink tutu skirt with some glitter sparkles. Next came the light pink tights, which had a thin line of lace around the ankle line. Finally, he slid on a pair of slightly loose jeans and tucked in the ballet skirt as best as possible, and threw on a long, baggy tie-dye sweatshirt.

“All ready, and are…” he announced casually, stepping out the door before his words died on his tongue. Standing before him were his two new best friends, all dressed up as well in matching outfits – pink CHEJI bike shorts (with a hole for their tails) and cute short-sleeve tops. Pinkie wore one with a birthday cake and party streamers design, and Skystar, of course, had a seashell design. They even had their helmets on.

“You two don’t need to wear these until we’re actually there, you know,” Zack chuckled, fighting back a squee as he gently finger-tapped their helmeted heads. “But it’s up to you. Now, let’s go get some breakfast.”



“You got it?”

“Yes, just approaching the GTA now. Give me about an hour. The new owner wants to see the Integra in person.”

“An hour?!” I exclaimed, before catching myself. “Okay, I’ll wait. See you at the shop. Again, thanks so much.”

“Happy to help, son,” Maverick replied, hanging up.

There. He said it again. “Son.”

I smiled and scooped up a stick of wax from my dresser before heading out the door with my skateboard.

“Where you headed?” Twilight inquired, standing at the bottom of the stairs.

“To the shop. The new owner is coming soon to take a look at the Integra and he’s also bought his own car – the one I’ve requested Maverick to find.”

“But that means we’ll be late to the park!” Rarity pouted.

My face fell. “I know, Rarity. But how else can we get there? AshBridges Bay is on the other side of Toronto.”

Twilight and Rarity nodded. With that, I shut the door and pushed off down the road. In spite of the morning rush, there wasn’t too many cars on the side roads, and so I was able to pull off a few flatground tricks – starting with a kickflip, then a 360 flip, and finally a fingerflip… which took me four tries. I’d try out some more extreme tricks at the park.

Scooting around a corner like a Z-Boy, I righted my posture and put out my foot. I pushed and pushed and pushed as hard as I could until my feet started shaking from the speed – probably 22 mph. Crouching a little to reduce drag, I carefully weaved around a car and kept speeding along, narrowly missing a few cars as I sped through a yellow light. The traffic had built up ahead, so I slowed down enough for me to stand up, then lane split like a biker. Finally I reached the shop in just…

“Fifteen minutes!” I exclaimed. “That ought to be an academy record! Now let’s see if Maverick can hold up to his own…”



“Mmm, that oatmeal was good,” Skystar whispered adorably. “I could eat that every day.”

“Mostly it’s the honey,” Zack noted with a smile, holding a small drawstring sports bag. “And banana is the ‘icing on the cake’, as they say.”

“Ready?” Patricia asked, waiting at the door, all dressed up in a running gear – sweat tank top, leggings, running shoes, and a little purse.

“We are ready, Mom!” Zack, Pinkie, and Skystar all exclaimed simultaneously.

Opening the garage door, Zack stood off to the side like a real estate agent during a tenant’s viewing session. “And here are your new – and first ever – bikes!”

“Wow, Zackie, they look so… amazing. You assembled them all by yourself?” Pinkie asked, her eyes as wide as saucers.

“Yep! Been doing it for years now, so it wasn’t a big deal.”

“I love the colors, just like the underwater world of Seaquestria!” Skystar cooed, stroking the smooth, cold metal frame and the shiny chrome forks.

“I’m happy we got to work together to make our family happy,” Zack said softly to his mom, putting an arm around her.

“Glad to have you as my son, Zack,” Patricia replied, planting a little kiss on his forehead. “Now, let’s hit the road.”

Zack loaded up the bikes into the trunk while Pinkie and Skystar hopped into the back seats. Shutting the garage door, Zack slid into the front seat and buckled up, gingerly clutching the sports bag in his hands with a grin, knowing well what was inside – besides his helmet and some basic tools in case of a breakdown.




“Is he there yet?” Twilight asked eagerly for the jillionth time.

“Nope,” I replied. “Let’s… take it easy. If he doesn’t show up by 10 a.m., I’ll just call a cab and we’ll suck it up with the big bill.”

“Or take the subway,” Joyce suggested.

I gave a half-shrug. “That’s an option. But again, patience. I’ll call you guys back in about another half hour, alright?”

“Okay. Bye, son.”

“Bye, Mom.”

I sat back in the old rusty metal bench beside the office’s front entrance and sighed. Rodney had taken the weekend off to spend time with family and relatives – much like I’d planned. But Maverick wasn’t giving up on me, and had taken the whole of last night to meet up with the owner who’d come all the way to Manitoba to meet Maverick half-way and bring the Forester to the shop together.

To pass the time, I practiced some of my harder tricks – hardflip, caballerial kickflip, backside 540 shuvit, and the super-tricky one: the 540 gazelle. It really was a lot of work. I fell like twenty times and my arms and hands got half a dozen scrapes and cuts, some of which I had to wash off and bandage. Thankfully, I always carried a handkerchief and a bunch of Band-Aids. Added to which, I was sore. I’d taken a million slams and even bone snaps from my previous years of skating, but after such a long hiatus, I wasn’t able to shake them off so easily.

On the final hardflip attempt, I realigned my front foot… and barely missed focusing the board. Even so, I heard a little creak, as if one of the ply boards was bent by a considerable measure.

“Aaaand that’s it,” I groaned, flopping down on the rock-hard bench. Just as I was about to pass out from the excess pain and stress, my phone buzzed. It was a text from Maverick:

comin in 5 min

I sighed – a shallow, exhausted sigh. At least it was a start. And sure enough, it ended well. Just as I was about to doze off a series of loud horn blasts jolted me out of a droopy trance. Sitting upright, I caught sight of a F250 pickup and a trailer rolling into the parking lot. And on that trailer – a car under a tarp.

“Yo, Breezy X!” Maverick hollered from the passenger’s seat. “Wakey wakey!”

I let out a brief chuckle and rose to my feet. “Howdy, Maverick! Glad you could make it in time.”

The truck stopped and a well-built guy in his thirties stepped out, wearing jeans and a sweatshirt – the new owner. “Hi. My name’s Logan. Nice to meet you.”

“I’m Xavier. It’s a pleasure to have you,” I replied warmingly, shaking his hand confidently. “Welcome to Toronto.”

“Can I take a look at the Integra?”


Maverick unlocked the garage door and we flipped a few light switches, before leading Logan down to the back of the shop.

“Quite the lavish place you’ve got here in the middle of an old, classical part of one of Canada’s biggest cities,” he remarked.

“Spared no expense,” Maverick boasted. “My brother and I started this shop in a different location decades ago and have worked hard ever since.”

Logan then turned to me as we neared the back of the shop. “You work here?”

“Yeah. Been a couple years, pays well enough.”

Logan nodded. “Alright.”

I was about to brag about the car but kept my mouth shut. I didn’t want to tell him that I did most of the mods.

“Well, there she is.”

I pointed to the clean, black Integra with fat Toyo RX888R race tires and shiny grey rims, complete with an authentic Type R wing. “532 horsepower and all the grip you can get while still on street legal tires.”

Maverick scooted off to the office and returned with a key. Together we opened it up and started talking in detail. I explained the various components and the brand names, but Logan was an intelligent car guy himself, thus rendering most of my in-depth explanations completely useless.

“Looking at this whole setup with the race seats, the authentic Defi gauges, and the brand new turbo kit, added to that it’s an actual USDM Integra Type R chassis, I’d set this at about… $20,500 dollars. I’d originally planned to sell the Forester for $21,000, so that’s $500 extra on you, Xavier.”

“I’ll gladly take it. Need more room and better handling without sacrificing speed.”

Maverick hopped into the driver’s seat and started it up, but it started to sputter after a few minutes. “How odd.”

“I think there’s not much fuel. Don’t want to run it too lean,” I warned.

After two tries, Maverick got the Integra going again, and slowly drove it out of the shop, barely making it out before the fuel cut out. Logan must’ve sense my anxiousness because he interjected, “I can tell that’s a lack of fuel, not a fuel pump failure or anything like that. So you don’t need to worry about any shortcuts. You’ve worked hard to get this car to where it is now.”

I smiled confidently back at him as we unbuckled the tow straps and carefully pulled the cover off the car. My heart surged up into my throat as I took in the sight of the Forester. It had a smooth, pearl white paint job, chrome-style grey mirrors, a sporty STI front end, bulging fenders, and chrome Concept ONE rims, wrapped in Toyo tires. It was the most beautiful Forester I’d ever seen.

“Mav, you persistent oldie,” I muttered, still gazing in awe as Logan carefully drove it off the ramp. With the Integra out of fuel, the three of us had to push it up onto the trailer together. It took a lot of effort, but we managed to get it far up enough without any lower back damage. Finally, we strapped it down. Logan and I then headed to the bank to finalize the process, while Maverick washed down the Forester at his favorite car wash. While we waited in line at government services, I pulled out my phone and texted Mom.



“And here we are!” Patricia announced happily, pulling a U-turn and parking by the roadside. “Let’s rock-and-roll!”

You’re in a mood of higher positivity than even me, Zack thought, opening the door and racing around to the trunk, where he found Pinkie and Skystar already waiting, sitting tensely like puppies ready for a walk.

“I’m not even going to ask,” Zack muttered, pulling the hatch open and reaching in for the bikes.

Holding their bikes, Pinkie and Skystar walked over the grass and onto the sidewalk, then down the pathway to the park.

“Have fun, and don’t forget to take drinking breaks!” Patricia called out, waving as she shut the trunk, before hitting the sidewalk jogging.

“Before we begin,” Zack warned, “I should teach you the basics.” He gripped the pedal with his hand. “You turn it so the side opposite you is downward, like so. Next, one foot on the ground, and then lift the other over the frame, and gently rest it on the pedal.”

“Like so?” Pinkie inquired, reaching over with her front hooves.

“No,” Zack chuckled, finding Pinkie hunched over her bike so amusing. “Your back hoof, here,” he explained, tapping her rear leg. “That goes over. Keep your hands on the handlebar grips.”

“Got it!” Skystar crowed excitedly, looking eagerly into Zack’s eyes, wondering where the fun would lead to next.

“Right…” Zack said slowly, trying to ignore the bright beautiful eyes staring into his soul. “Now’s the tricky part. Are you good at internal balance while your mind independently focuses on the task of pedaling?”

“I think…so,” Skystar said worriedly.

Zack stared at Pinkie for a moment before a little bright light went off in his head. “Have you ever performed at events before? Like, entertained with acts… ah yes, circus! Have you partaken in circus acts?”

“Have I?” Pinkie exclaimed, leaning forward teasingly. “Of course I have! I love making others laugh and feel happy!”

“Well, today’s the day I show you how to take it to the next level with nothing but your bike and your creative mind!” Zack declared loudly. “Now keep your hands firm on the handlebars and pull up your other foot and onto the other pedal, like so.”

Skystar wobbled a little, but soon had herself stable. Pinkie on the other hand, was up and moving in minutes. Before Zack could even begin the next leg of his instructional routine, she was already pedaling down to the other side of the skatepark. Skystar’s face fell with a pout.

“It’s okay,” Zack consoled her with soft caresses and a little ear scratch. “Let’s ride to the other side together. Just push forward and down on the pedals with one foot, and the other will follow smoothly with the same amount of force. Keep your bars straight and balance as best you can.”

Zack then hopped on his bike and began to pedal slowly, with his hippogriff friend by his side. Less than halfway across Skystar suddenly began to wobble and suddenly lean sideways. Zack’s arm shot out and grabbed her handlebar grip. “Don’t worry, I gotcha sweetie. Lean a little the other way to counter that sideways force – just a little. And keep pedaling – you need to have continuous movement.”

Skystar felt a little odd, but soon understood what her crush was trying to say. Soon the far side became the near side, and they caught up to Pinkie. The park was mostly empty, with just one skateboarder and a little kid on a scooter.

Where are your parents? Zack wondered, before turning his attention to Pinkie, who, despite falling twice, got back up and kept riding until she was practically racing in big circles. I had to smile at Skystar.

“See, you can do this if you try hard enough. Now let’s continue riding. This has to become second nature to you – or should I say, instinctual.”

For the next hour, Zack and Skystar kept riding around the park, until it started to become more crowded.

“Let’s pause for a moment,” Pinkie suggested, already getting the hang of gently squeezing the brake lever to slow down. “Let’s get some water from the car.”

“I’m thirsty, too!” Skystar piped up. In spite of her tired state, she spread her wings and flapped them – no, she pumped them hard as she took off. Suddenly everyone started falling into each other because they became so starstruck at what they were actually seeing, they forgot to pay attention to where they were going.




Zack just powered through the park and let out a loud, hearty laugh as he went. “Sorry guys! You all are too funny.”

Reaching the Prius, Skystar touched down gracefully and gazed back at the skatepark, only to realize all the chaos she just caused.

“Um… oops?”

Chapter 27: A Day at Ashbridges Bay Skatepark - Part II

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“Ready for an adventure?” I announced excitedly, rushing in through the door.

“Yes!” everyone exclaimed, even my mom.

“Then let’s head out! Just… I need to do something important. Don’t worry, shouldn’t take long.”

Running into my room, I reached far back into my closet and pulled out a unique board – one with 9 plies instead of the typical 7. I slapped grip tape on it and attached a set of Independent trucks, Bones wheels and bearings. This would be Tempest’s board. I wasn’t sure if she would actually like skating, let alone be able to given she’s a pony, but at least I had made an attempt to share my world with her.

I then took a spare board and slapped grip tape on it, then grabbed a few tools, just in case my current board broke – I was planning to go all out on the extreme tricks and feats I’d attempted at the pinnacle of my skating prime. With a small package of wax in my pocket, I scooted back up the steps and outside, where everyone was waiting. Twilight had brought along a notepad and two pens, Rarity had brought a sun hat with a pretty flower band, and Fluttershy had a first aid kit and a few small towels. On the other hand, Rainbow Dash and Applejack hadn’t brought anything.

And Joyce, of course, had her jump rope, bottled water, and lots of containers of delicious food.

“Is that all?”

“That is all, darling!” Rarity declared humbly. “Now… SWEET CELESTIA THAT LOOKS DIVINE!” she suddenly exclaimed, her head turned to look up the street and her mouth fully agape in awe and shock.

I turned to look too, and smiled with pride. “Well, it’s official – the Integra’s gone for good. That’s our new whip – a Subaru Forester. Do you like it?”

“Like it?!” Rainbow Dash scoffed. “Are you kidding me that thing looks AWESOME!”

“A well-conducted trade and a match made in heaven,” I replied, grinning at Dash’s adorable mid-air hover of excitement. I fished the keys out of my pocket and tossed them to Mom. “You drive. I wanted more room for my friends, but honestly I bought this for you.”

Joyce blushed a little. “I…well, thank you, son. For everything you’ve done so far and what you’ll continue to do.”

We took our stuff and piled into our new car. I sat at the front with Spike in my lap, while Twilight and Rainbow Dash sat on one side at the back, and Applejack and Fluttershy on the other. Rarity sat back in the middle, and Tempest laid down in the boot, out of sight. Even with all the moral support Twilight and I had offered her, she seemed to still prefer being alone – which I feared would be something I couldn’t change.

Joyce turned the key, bringing the flat-four-cylinder engine to life, its low resonant header rumble resonating through the cabin.

“Nice sound,” Twilight complemented.

With a well-conducted U-turn, Joyce smoothly shifted into second gear and we sped off to the skatepark.



“I think you’ve just made your presence really known,” Zack mused, catching up to Skystar. “Looks like we’ve got some explaining to do for everyone.”

“Hehe, they were so caught up in their skating, scootering, and biking that they only noticed when the wings came out!” Pinkie giggled.

Zack nodded. “Truey true, Pinkster. Hey, keep an eye on our stuff so no one takes ‘em.”

“Okey dokey loki!” she replied.

I can’t get enough of your cute pitched-up voice, Zack muttered, leaning against the Prius’s door and sipping some lemonade. Pinkie had some too, while Skystar – rather unusually – opted for some apple juice.

“I thought she’d prefer water,” Zack thought out loud. “Guess it’s the sweetness – apple juice is very sugary.”

“Exactly,” Pinkie replied with a hoof-gesture of agreement.

After drinking their fill, Zack, Pinkie, and Skystar all began to make their way back to the center of the park where they’d left their bikes – but a crowd was quickly forming, full of enthusiasm. Zack had to act fast.

“Hey hey hey, back it up!” he barked loudly, trying to get their attention. “Give her some space.”

Skystar felt enclosed and tense, shaken from the surge of people surrounding her. The words of Xavier echoed in her mind about how foreign she was and how much attention would be given.

But maybe I can use this attention to bring forth more joy and bliss, instead of letting it overtake, she thought. Turning her full attention to the crowd in front of her, she flew over to her bike, hopping on as the crowd rushed over.

“Hi everypon – I mean, hehe, everybody! My name’s Skystar, daughter of Queen Novo. I’ve come here to have fun with my best friends,” she began, gesturing to Pinkie and Zack. “Haven’t ever ridden a BMX bike before, let alone seen one, but I’m willing to learn from Zack.”

“Neither of them are from around here, let alone Earth or this dimension. They’ve landed here, and now they’re in the caretaking hands of me and my mom. I hope you all will learn to love and respect them. Now let’s go have some fun!”

As the crowd dispersed, Zack caught sight of a little girl holding her hands out in plea as her mom tried to pull her away. Eventually she broke free and pushed off on her scooter, heading straight for the trio.

“Ummm…” was all Zack could get out, unable to figure out how to deal with the situation. Before he could work it out, the little girl slowly walked over to Skystar, now looking nervous. After what looked like a stand-off, she finally spoke.


Skystar’s wee little beak opened slightly with a smile. Right away, she dismounted her bike and sat down. Now more level with the child, she gently held out her hand. “Hello. Nice to meet you. I’m Skystar.”

“I’m Lily,” the little girl replied in a soft, low tone. Slowly and gingerly, she took Skystar’s scaly bird hand in her little, human one and gave it a tiny little shake – which only amplified Skystar’s joyful smile. Just as Lily’s mom caught up, the little moment of affection reached its peak with the kind hippogriff’s offering.

“You can give me a kiss and a hug, if you want to…”

Lily didn’t need to be asked twice. She ran up and wrapped her arms around Skystar’s soft, feathery, warm neck, before delivering a big, soft kiss to the hippogriff’s beak, causing Skystar to let out a tiny chuckle.

“You be good. It was nice meeting you,” Skystar said with a smile as Lily ran back to her scooter and her mom. All this time, Zack just stood in awe and joy at such a brief but adorably positive connection.

“That was cool,” Zack exclaimed as they all rode off to the far end of the park.

“A great opportunity to – woah!” Skystar gasped as they suddenly approached down a gentle incline.

“Lean forward, then as you reach the bottom, lean back just a little into your regular riding position,” Zack instructed. “But don’t straighten your legs all the way. Let’s go.”

Zack rode down the incline, gently urging Skystar to come down as well. She extended her neck and subtly brought her chest forward, before cycling down the incline. However upon reaching the bottom, she pulled back quickly, causing the front wheel to almost lift up.

“Whoa, not so fast, we haven’t tackled balance enough to try wheelies!” Zack chuckled. “Nice save. Say, would you like to learn that next, or the hop?”

“I guess the hop first, since this park is about elevated surfaces and inclines,” Skystar shrugged. “Then we can move onto other tricks.”

“I think you actually have better balance than I originally thought you had,” Zack replied, pointing to her wings. “Being a flyer with those, you have to maintain control properly in the air to avoid spinning or tumbling, so it makes sense. Now let’s keep going!”

Zack then went through the basics of the bunny hop - how it worked, the pull-up and push-forward method, and the all-important details of foot angle and shifting body weight. For all her exuberance, Skystar was a fast learner – and a tough nut. After some twenty hard falls, she got up and landed it right. Just as she managed to successfully clear a single small curb, Zack heard a distinct deep rumble from the road. Looking up, he noticed a white station wagon with chrome rims.

What a flashy car, he thought, and continued riding. But upon landing an air-to- 360-to-barspin, the crowd suddenly got louder – a mixture of awe, joy, and shock.

“It’s Breezy X!” one kid shouted.

“Hot Mohawk,” came a whisper.

Then came Pinkie’s bodacious shout.




I can’t recall anytime I felt happier to be back in an environment I knew so well. Pushing down the trail I soon entered the skatepark, with some ten kids all cheering my name. One 15-year-old I recognized from another skatepark two years ago even gave me a hug, which I gladly returned. Tempest rode her thick 9-ply board, using her left feet to push while balancing on her right. Twilight, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Applejack, and Fluttershy were right behind in tow with a picnic basket, a first aid kit, and a few towels. Down the street, Joyce had already begun her running routine. I only hoped she’d run into Zack’s mom sooner or later.

Zack found his feet pedaling towards his friend before his mind could catch up, and in a matter of seconds he was already face-to-face. “What’s up Breezer? Glad ya could make it.”

I dug my toe into the ground and skidded to a stop. “Had to wait for the new whip to arrive but yeah, we made it. Turns out Mom likes the turbo spool, so needless to say we got down the highway in no time. I brought a skateboard with a specialty deck for Tempest to ride on. She said she’s not really into tricks but will simply observe as she rides around by herself.”

Zack smirked as he caught sight of several teens already backing up from Tempest as she made her way to the other side. “Yeah, that’s gonna be real easy for her.”

I rode up a mini ramp and pulled a quick shuvit as Zack caught up on his bike. “What else have you been up to while I was at the shop?”

“Taught Skystar the basics of pedaling, going up and down small ramps. Introduced hopping just now, and it looks like she’s got balance already built-in. Heck, probably even better than me.”

“I forgot about all the fans I had here at Ashbridges,” I confessed. “In fact, I forgot how popular I was, before it all went down.”

“And now it’s gonna come back up, faster, stronger, and better than ever before.” I looked behind to see Twilight, along with Spike, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Applejack, and even Fluttershy all standing straight up and eager. Their eyes were full of hope, love, anticipation, and motivation… like they wanted me to skate…

“Alright,” I simply stated. “Let’s do this. Zack, make sure Skystar gets the basic tricks down so she doesn’t get in the way. It’s a little crowded here now, but I’ll still try.”

I ran out and pushed off down an incline, performing a little tailslide along a ledge before dropping down two stairs’ height. Back in flat ground, I flicked hard, sending the board spinning fully – a 360-shuvit. Further down the park, in the center, Tempest was getting back up on her feet, practicing how to properly lean to turn. All along the side, several BMX and scooter kids stood in silence, their faces full of anxiousness and fear.

“Relax!” I called out. “She won’t hurt you!”

Quickly rushing up a 5 stair, I stood in line with the tall ramp, trying to mentally perceive the trick I was trying to pull off. After three minutes of contemplation, I pushed off as hard as I could, cruising down a short incline and speeding straight towards the ramp. Pressing down on the tail slightly, I scooted up the ramp quite well, reaching all the way to the top, but only just. Right as I reached the bottom, the board somehow slowed down a little, throwing me forward. My hip slammed straight into the concrete, and I pulled my head up to avoid knocking it too hard, but it still hurt. For a moment I was in a daze, before eventually coming to my senses with the soft caresses of a yellow hoof on my head.

“Are you okay Breezy?”

“I… I’m fine, Flutters. Honestly.” I slowly pushed myself upright and wiped the grit off my slightly bruised arm. “I’ll go again. I’m positive I can get this.”

I pushed off again and gently raised the nose to get up the steep ramp better. This time I reached the top a little faster, and was able to pull off a quick rock-to-fakie. I powered down at incredible speed, wiggling a little before transferring that energy to ollie up three stairs, but barely making it before I slid backwards. Catching myself, I pushed back upright, grabbed my board, and pushed off hard again, this time to do a couple trials runs to get a feel for the board at such speed and vertical positioning. My goal was to land a frontside half-cab, and a fakie to frontside rock. More complicated tricks would have to be done in the pool – when it was empty.



“How do you guys recover so well from failed attempts?” Fluttershy asked, biting back a gasp as Xavier tripped and slammed into the bottom of the steep ramp.

“Practice at a young age and endurance,” Zack stated simply. “I’ve broken my leg, my arm, and had a minor knee surgery before. Every time my mom would visit me in the hospital, I’d always give her that face of ‘I’m never going to quit’. She soon realized how serious I was, and that there wasn’t anything that could stand in my way to being the best BMX rider in Ontario.”

“I totally connect with these guys!” Rainbow Dash boasted. “I may not be able to ride wheels, but I can pick out all the details of every move, every trick! And they’re just like the Wonderbolts, only independently.”

“Zackie, dear, I have to say, these moves are divine!” Rarity exclaimed. “Even though I don’t like moving at high speed and having all that concentration to jump, flip, and spin like that, I can appreciate the artistic beauty that it exhibits. It’s… like watching ballet.”

“Oh…” Zack’s voice was barely more than a whisper as he realized what he was secretly hiding underneath – and which was probably all wet from his stinky boy sweat. “Um… could you give me a second? I gotta get something from the car, I’ll be right back. Make sure Pinkie doesn’t get into any trouble!”

Zack quickly pedaled back to the car, where he slipped into the back seats and stripped down. Fortunately his ballet outfit wasn’t too wet, and with a bit of water, a hand towel, and the car’s A/C, he was cool and reasonably dry.

Slipping back into the puff sleeve top, pink tutu and tights, and the purple ballet shoes, Zack tied his BMX shoes to his handlebars and headed back to his friends.

“What the… pffft. Hahaha! I…” Rainbow Dash was lost for words as Zack emerged from the trail in his ballet outfit. So was Twilight.

“I, um… wow. Why?”

“Shut it, Rainbow! Friends don’t mock each other,” Applejack growled, yanking the cyan pegasus’s tail hard, causing her to squel in pain.

“Ow! Hey, AJ! Knock it off!”

“Not until you apologize to Zack!” Applejack replied, her teeth still holding a firm grip on Dash’s tail.

“Fine.” Rainbow Dash groaned and flew up to Zack. “I… I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have mocked you for being different. But seriously though, what’s with this outfit?”

“None taken, Dashie,” Zack replied, blushing a little. “I… also do ballet. Out in public like this seems silly, but that’s the point. I want to prove to myself if I still like doing it; if not, I’ll ditch it for good.”



Having completed my ramp routine, I hobbled over to the sidelines to get some water from the picnic basket. As I approached my friends, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Right next to the big bowl, stood Zack, in a girls cute ballet outfit, performing a pre-performance exercise routine.

“I know you can be an entertaining and silly guy sometimes, Zack, but honestly I thought you moved past this era,” I muttered, taking a swig of water. “Now you’re going to be the center of attention…wait.”

I looked back at the main area of the skatepark. Tempest had finally broken the ice and was chatting with a few skaters. I smiled as she performed a shuvit and a handstand roll, much to everyone else’s awe.

“I think Tempest might actually like skating,” Twilight noted, having also taken notice of her friend’s moves.

“Shall we eat?” Fluttershy offered, holding up the mat.


Rarity opened up a bowl of cherries, Twilight peeled two bananas, and I chowed down on some peanut butter sandwiches, sharing a few with Fluttershy. Zack eventually came over and gobbled up a few cupcakes with Pinkie, while Skystar had three granola bars. Tempest eventually arrived, rolling up on her board, skidding to a stop and flipping it over, then using the single foot motion of the impossible to bring her board right side up, shooting me a wink.

“Looks like we finally have something we enjoy,” I said excitedly, looking straight at her with hopeful eyes of love.

“I can’t say this is definitely for me, but it’s quite the challenge to enjoy,” Tempest replied simply. “How’s Skystar?”

“Doing well. Beat up, but well,” Skystar confirmed herself, breaking off a chunk of granola. “I love biking now!”

“I find using opposite legs works quite well to balance,” Tempest noted, chewing some strawberries and grapes. “I’m going to try use this technic next to try and get on top of ramps.”

“Just one truck over is called rock to fakie,” I reminded her.

“Got it. Now, what will you be up to?” Tempest asked, looking a little cute as she tiled her head in curiosity.

“Everything I can remember about vert. I don’t have any pads, so this will be pretty risky,” I warned.

With our meal complete and washed hands, we decided to split up. Zack would be performing a full-on ballet routine, the details of which he’d all planned out mentally. I had my own mental plan of performing thirteen different vert tricks, with little to no margin of error – otherwise I’d face a painful six-foot tumble. Pinkie, of all ponies, decided to take it easy and just watch me and Zack, along with Fluttershy, Rarity, Twilight, and Rainbow Dash. Skystar, however, wanted to keep riding around, though I suspected she had other plans.

Zack and I stood at opposite ends of the big bowl, readying for the off as an eager audience gathered.

Looking down into the bowl, I gulped and sighed. “Let’s do this,” I declared loudly, getting my feet in position. Squatting a little, I pushed off and slid down the edge at high speed. In seconds I was at the bottom, heading to the other side. Keeping my feet firm yet a little slack for adjustments, I pushed hard and shot up the opposite wall, pulling a little ollie as I did so. As soon as I was in the air, I squatted a little, grabbed the board with my back hand, and turned. Extending my front foot a little, I landed about two feet from the bowl’s lip and landed… and the board shot out from under me. My hips hit the bottom hard and I slid down as if on a playground slide. A few gasps were heard from above.

“It’s okay!” I called out. “Just a slight foot mishap.”

Running after my board, I started on one side and pushed off hard, riding up one side, then the other, trying to gain height. Finally I reached the lip and Twilight pulled me up using all the magical power she had in that wee little horn of hers. Back up top, I pushed off down into the bowl and tried again, ollieing near the top, grabbing and turning. Landing was successful, albeit with a bit of hand assistance, which led to some palm scrape. I winced from the pain, but kept going, pushing a little to gain more speed. After performing a backside varial, I soon pushed hard to attempt other tricks I knew:

360 Varial



Frontside Lipslide


Cab Nosegrind


Cab Smith

Backside Heelflip Body Varial

Shuvit Blunt-to-Fakie

Ollie 540


Given the differences between an actual half pipe and a big bowl, the Cab Smith, Shuvit Blunt-to-Fakie, and McTwist were the hardest, taking several tries to achieve. The McTwist in particular very nearly caused me to have a sprained ankle and a broken wrist, but after six tries I finally landed it.

As I rolled across to the other side and stepped off my board, a pair of furry yellow arms wrapped themselves around my torso and a pink cloud of telekinesis gripped me tightly, lifting me right out of the bowl.

“What the!” I squealed, quickly grabbing my board, but soon fell silent as I realized it was just Skystar and Twilight offering a pair helping hands. The instant my feet touched solid concrete, a wave of cheering and shouting erupted all around. Pinkie, Rarity, Twilight, Spike – everyone was full of energy, excitement, and joy. Joy for me and what I’d accomplished. Even some of the kids were there, holding their scooters and boards up in supportive cheering.




“This is… by far one of the best moments in my journey as a skateboarder,” I declared under a rainbow of tears, finally finding my voice. “And I gladly give it up for Twilight Sparkle and her friends for all their moral support, joy, and love!”

From the opposite side, Tempest Shadow just stood silent, a mixture of awe, contentment, and bliss on her face. The next thing I knew, she rose up under me stealthily, so I was now practically riding her.

“Yes I am a bit broken and sore and exhausted, but I am happy,” I whispered in her ear, holding up my board in a victory pose, before a row of flashes rang out. It was a photographer – someone I hadn’t really thought of, but lo and behold, he was here. Hopefully this publicity would be a positive one for Twilight and her friends.

“I’m so proud of you, Breezy, she whispered, lowering me back onto the ground and planting a big smooch on my lips, cradling my back with her hoof. “You pushed past your pain, fears, and doubts, and you fully embraced the world of skating that you left behind too soon. I may still struggle to rediscover my identity and purpose, but I don’t ever doubt that such a journey will be easy with you by my side.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way, sweetie Fizzy,” I replied, kissing her back.

Chapter 28: Returning Home

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“You’re really determined,” Zack complimented as he observed Skystar attempt a backside 180. While everyone had been caught up watching Breezy duck it out in the pool, she’d snuck away to bike with the other kids in the park – thus learning many more tricks, given her ability to pick up pretty quickly and her resilient body.

“It’s been a great day, but it’s time to head home now,” Joyce announced, her arms still around Xavier. It turns out the photographer had caught wind of his arrival and had made it just in time for the grand finale at the pool. He’d worked with Xavier early on and so yet another reunion was made. Xavier agreed to let the photo be published, but only on magazines – to which Patrick, the photographer, agreed.

Having got the hang of the basics of skateboarding, Tempest found herself at ease and serenity when cruising, performing flatground tricks, or simply speeding up and down ramps. She didn’t really want to admit it, but she enjoyed being on the board.

Zack was just happy to share his love for BMX with his two new friends, but also knew that they were under Xavier’s legal protection – which meant he’d have to say goodbye.



“Do we really have to… go?” Pinkie pouted, as I packed up my board and Tempest’s into the back of the Forester.

“It was so much fun being with you! Please don’t leave me, sweetie!” Skystar sobbed, throwing herself into Zack’s chest. I gulped and sighed – this would be a tough one. With a quick thinking, I called Twilight, Tempest, Spike, and the others over and got them to stand in a row.

“Listen, all of you,” I announced sternly. “It’s been an amazing day, right? It started out joyful, let’s not ruin its ending with sadness. Rather, let’s end it with an important reminder of what lies ahead. Zack’s got school and I’ve got work back at the auto shop. We can always meet up again next weekend and have fun at a good skatepark or even a well-laid-out street spot. Tempest, Skystar, and I need to prepare for the upcoming court case, which will be the determining factor as to your fates – and I mean all of you. Added to which, we need to start backtracking to find out how you all ended up here, so I can try to find a possible way of helping you all return home. We can find some fun stuff to do together in other parts of the city over the course of the week, alright?”

“Okay, Breezie,” Pinkie sniffled. She then joined Skystar, gripping her friend’s leg.

“We love you, Zackie!” they both chorused with a sniffled.

Holding back tears of his own, Zack smiled and lifted Pinkie up, nuzzling and kissing her as if she was his daughter. Kneeling down, he then gave Skystar a big kiss on her beak and a long, comforting hug.

“It’s been great meeting you both and having fun. Keep your bikes at Breezy’s house. They’re yours now and forever. If you have any issues with them, don’t hesitate to hit me up.”

Skystar and Pinkie hugged him hard, then slowly let go, as if they were letting go of something they knew deep down inside they felt they needed, but had to go on without.

Which in a way, Zack was. And so was I.

Sucking in a shallow breath to hide an impending sob, I quickly turned to the Forester’s door and pulled it open. “Come on everypony, it’s time to go.”

We loaded the bikes into the back on the side, so as to give Tempest more space to rest down. I leaned down a little and peered under the trunk door at her with a solemn smile. She simply shifted her eyes in my direction, almost glaring, but managed a pleased sigh and a smile back – a tiny, content smile.

I shut the trunk and hopped into the front seat with Spike in my lap, and we drove off, the Forester’s engine’s iconic rumbles resonating through the cabin. As we cruised down the highway, I thought back to the developing relationship between Skystar and Zack – how he was inviting them into his life, and how he grew on them. For some reason it brought up a song I’d played a few times before in my freshman years. A quick flick through my GPlay song list revealed I still had it, so I synced my Galaxy S to the Forester’s stereo and turned up the volume.

Mere minutes later I had my head leaning back, relaxing my sore muscles and my eyes gazing longingly out at the downtown skyline when the air became vibrant and gray with internal thoughts being ejected in the form of clear salty fluid and body movements. Five of them – Spike, Rarity, Pinkie, Skystar, and Tempest – were all sobbing. I even found something hard pressing between my legs… from on top of me.

“Whoa, easy boy,” I whispered to Spike. “Damn I didn’t even know you were that mature. Hold back the red meter on your rocket.” However, before I could ask anything about his love life, Twilight spoke up and explained how he fell for Rarity and their experiences over the years. I was starstruck – I’d never thought of Spike like that, ever. Or Rarity, for that matter, even though I knew how strikingly beautiful she was.

I glanced over at Pinkie and Skystar in the rearview mirror, passing tissues and breathing heavily. Now I felt bad. What began as a humble attempt to add tunes to fit the mood had only amplified the gloom level by a million times, not to mention causing a little dragon to feel kinky. And I didn’t even want to know how crushing Tempest felt in the back. But Twilight and the others seemed to like Abel’s voice, so I played another song.

This one was more upbeat while still running rich on dark RnB vibes, and slowly the smiles started to come back. So I put it on repeat, until my mom asked to pause for her to be heard.

“I’m getting the feel that your friends are starting to worry that their positive emotions of attraction will fade away because the situation will force it to be temporary,” Joyce remarked in a serious voice as we stopped at an intersection. “You have to give them hope that they will still be able to be with you and be accepted by society. They really love you, more than you can imagine. Especially Tempest.”

I swallowed and sighed, the weight of the whole of Toronto suddenly on my shoulders. I really had a big responsibility. But I had to take it one at a time and take small but highly influential and impactful steps.

“I have to get through the legal system first,” I stated flatly. “Then we can move forward. But before that, I believe we need to fix up things at home and figure out a good schedule to accommodate both you and I. I think I’ve just been running on dry steam – rushing out, workout with cars, come back, work on a bit of music, and that’s it. I… I’m sorry for not chatting and sharing much, Mom.”

“It’s alright, son,” Joyce replied with a warm smile. “Just remember to stay consistent with your word.”

I switched to ambient progressive house on my phone and we continued on our journey home.

Some forty minutes later, we entered Parkdale. Glancing back, Pinkie, Skystar, and Twilight Sparkle were all fast asleep. I coyly smirked at how their thighs were wide open, and two beautiful, smooth-rimmed holes of different sizes were clearly visible, before my smile suddenly shrunk and my mind started thinking hard and fast; I realized – this would be seen – and most likely had been seen – by practically everyone. Sure, their tails hung down when walking, but tails move naturally as part of a quadruped’s walking cycle. And what about running? They’d fly right up and flash for all to see.

I rubbed my temples so hard they felt like they were being crushed. I couldn’t believe I’d failed to realize this dead-obvious reality. I didn’t know about Toronto’s levels of bestiality among predators, but why the heck should I even take a chance?

For a moment, an image of myself, face fallen, at an ATM flashed through my mind. I still had to pay the fees for the court case with Tempest, Skystar, and I. Now the urgent need for clothes came along. How amusing and fun that would be, especially with Rarity! But like so many things in life, it’d have to wait.

“When is the court date, exactly?” Joyce asked.

I opened up the calendar app on my Galaxy S. “Thursday.”

“Alright. I’ll have to call my boss to request an exemption for then.”

“Ha! Me as well.”



The sun was just setting as we all stepped out of the Forester. Right away, I rushed to the trunk and pulled it open. Tempest was lying there, front legs crossed, just sleeping peacefully.

“You know, for such a big strong warrior she’s actually quite cute and lovely,” Joyce whispered, suddenly appearing next to me.

I nodded and sat on the edge beside her, leaning close. “Fizzy, Fizzy my love, May you please rise, rise, the sun’s beaming, it’s last shine, shine, it’s time to relax and dine, dine…”

Tempest just sighed in her heartbeat pattern of sleep. I reached out and ran my fingers through her mowhawk, then gently scratched her ear. She twitched, then blinked, before slowly raising her head to find me smiling lovingly into her eyes.

“We’re home, Tempest,” I whispered, caressing her muscular, crested neck. “Feeling sleepy, sweetie?”

“Stop that,” Tempest spat, before holding back a little smile of her own. “It’s a good thing you’re here, Breezy.” She turned to see Twilight, Spike, Joyce, and the others all gathered around. “And you all, too.”

Chapter 29: A Warm Bath and New Notes

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Dinner that evening was a rather quiet affair. At times Pinkie and Skystar were talkative, and I explained a few of my future plans to Twilight, but otherwise the atmosphere was rather quiet. Quietest of all was none other than Tempest, who simply ate from her plate like a horse. Rainbow Dash, who sat beside her, was trying her best to hold back a face of disgust for some reason. I gave a questioning shrug. Very subtly, Dashie pointed to her armpits and chest and gave a pose of odor-identification. Then it hit me.

“Um, Fiz-I, um-hm,” I began rather awkwardly. “Tempest, would you enjoy a nice bath afterwards?”

“I don’t exactly see how that’d be practical, but, alright,” she replied glumly. I let out a slight sigh and stared down at my food. Just when our relationship was going so well, it seemed to be thinning towards the point of tearing and breaking completely. As I cleaned up my plate, I recalled the week so far, and picked out what stood out about her, eventually coming to a conclusion:

Tempest didn’t completely trust the world around her, not even those who were affectionately and mutually close to her. Twilight seemed to be the one who she had the highest level of trust with, given what Twilight had told me about the fight to save Equestria and how she saved Tempest from imminent death. If I was to win Tempest over, she’d have to take a personal initiative to rebuild her trust with the world around her – both on a small and grand scale, and I’d have to be right there for her in a situation of the highest critical state. Not easy at all.

The best I could do at the moment was simply to bond with her more, understand her past, and try to ease her mental state.

After dishes had been washed (and a lot of them!), I walked with Tempest to the bathroom. As soon as we stepped inside, I kicked the door shut, catching it in time to avoid a slam.

“Take a seat,” I offered, gesturing to the side of the tub. “I want you to feel tranquil and calm, Tempest. Please. It’s not good to be tense and edgy constantly.”

Tempest narrowed her eyes before rolling them and huffing. “It’s in my DNA. I’ve been so steely and cold-hearted in my prior quests for internal strength and power.”

I shook my head. “No it isn’t. It was impregnated by whom you submitted to. Now it is free, your heart and mind. It’s not impossible, sweetie. You can reform their strength and control their impulses.”

She shook her head at me – slightly, and raised a hoof in a direct, accusative pose. “Stop that. Don’t call me ‘sweetie’.”

Now it was my turn for an eye-roll – only this time I chuckled. “How can I not? I’ve never had a girlfriend like you. Still denying your soft, fuzzy, affectionate side, eh? C’mon, let’s get going.”

I reached over and cranked open the faucet, testing the temperature with my fingers until it was hot, but not burning. I then sat on the edge of the toilet seat, arm outstretched, and touched the edge of the bathtub, and wore a sad, pitiful face, just to tease her. Through the corner of my eye, I watched the tub fill up. Then I noticed a slight fluff of fur sticking out, just a little, from behind her ear and on the back of her neck. A light bulb went off in my head.

“Stay here, I’ll be back in a sec,” I ordered, dashing out the door like a soaked cat. A couple minutes later I returned in nothing but a pair of blue shorts with a picture of a beach wave and a yellow sun on it, along with a pair of flip flops. I also tied the ends of every single dread with some hair elastics.

“Alright, let’s get started!” I said rather excitedly, stepping forward.

The tub was now nearly half-full. Observing Tempest’s armor, I soon found the joining points, and undid the clasp of her frontal collar plate without a word.

“You’re seriously going to… No,” Tempest said firmly as I placed her frontal collar plate on the tiled floor.

“Yep!” I replied, immediately unhitching her shoulder pads, back neck guard, and layered back plates. In literally three minutes all her armor was off, and right away she felt timid and queasy, almost shivering as her eyes darted around.

“Relax, relax, easy,” I whispered as softly as I could, caressing her neck while scanning her black spandex jumpsuit for any sign of… yes, there it was! A small, concealed zipper.

How’d you ever manage to take this off, if you ever have? I thought, grabbing the pull tab and easing it down the length of her body. Incredibly, Tempest eased up a little, enough for me to carefully slide her front legs out and pull the jumpsuit off her body and eventually her back legs. Or should I say peel. Her body was caked in dried sweat and even small flakes of hard dead skin. It was like unwrapping a fish covered in crushed cornflakes that had been vacuum packed.

Biting back a gasp and nose wrinkle of disgust, I gently draped the jumpsuit over the toilet, kicked off my flip flops, and stepped into the tub. Oooh, it was warm! The level was at half and still rising, so I shut off the water and drained out a little.

“C’mon, Tempest, let’s get you clean,” I urged, my arms outstretched as if to assist her in stepping in, just like my mom had done for me as a toddler.

Looking down, Tempest pulled the same face I was about to do moments earlier, taking in the sight of her dirty, smelly body. Without meeting my gaze, she stepped right in.

“That’s it,” I cooed. “Let the water warm up and relax those legs. Muscles can be at ease now and regain their strength, soreness fades away now.”

After a few minutes, I squatted and sat down, letting out a small gasp of relaxation and tranquil mentality. “Now, your turn. Just gently.”

Still a little tense, Tempest bent one knee, then the other. Now her whole rear was submerged. For a moment we sat at opposite ends, just calmly gazing at each other indirectly. Slowly but surely, Tempest’s muscles eased out and she began to feel calm. Her eyes weren’t so vigilant and nervous, and her shoulders had drooped.

“Now, how about lying?” I offered, extending myself forward as if bowing. “All the way down, so you feel it all.”

“I probably won’t mind it at this rate,” she confided, and squatted down completely. “Just… my mohawk…”

“It’s alright, Tempy, it’s alright,” I whispered softly. “I know hairstyles, I can get it the same way again. Gosh, I didn’t know you liked your hair that much. But, to be fair, it does add to your grand, firm, intimidating appearance, hehe.”

Tempest spread her rear legs and lay down completely, stretching out her front legs, thus immersing her whole body, leaving her head up and above the surface (the tub was three-fourths full now.)

“Move around a bit,” I suggested. “Make yourself comfortable.”

Tempest leaned to one side, then wriggled a little, letting the water flow all over her. Kneeling upright, I gently rubbed my hand over her neck, back, chest, and belly, then grabbed a stiff comb and gently raked it through to remove any remaining flakes and dirt.

“Feels good,” she admitted, rolling about and splashing a bit of water over the edge, which I didn’t mind at all. I myself began to feel excited, and carelessly splashed some water in her face.


“Oops, sorry. Meant to get under here,” I said, rubbing her chin and throat.

With the first stage done, I moved onto the second stage without a pause. I stepped out, reached behind her, and pulled the plug, draining all the water.

“You can stand now, please,” I ordered kindly, then waited a few minutes to let the water drain off and out of her coat. Turning the water back on, I pulled the stopper, sending a sprinkle down over her thick butt and thighs. I didn’t want to make any lewd comments, even in a romantic context, but they looked glorious. But massaging them would have to wait a good while.

Slipping on a body scrub glove, I drizzled some conditioner on her mowhawk and body wash over her body, and then legs, lathered it all in, then pulled out the hand-held shower and thoroughly rinsed her down all over, before repeating the process. Finally, I shut off the water and wiped the excess water off her body with a shoehorn and the side of my hand, since I didn’t have a sweat scraper. Last but not least, I snatched five large towels from a stack under the sink and rubbed her dry from top to bottom.

“I feel weird, but you put in that work, and it’s paid off,” Tempest whispered. “Maybe you can put in some more work later tonight.”

I had to blush – did she really know about sex? Had she even experienced it before, let alone the various types of foreplay?

Shut up, brain! Not the time for such questions!

“Haha. Do you mean a massage? Sure, why not. But let’s get you dry now.”

I helped her step out of the tub and rubbed her with the last dry towel, before blasting her with a hair dryer at a warm setting. She really was fluffy and furry. It took me a good hour to fully dry her, gently comb her coat nicely smooth and neat, and then stylize her mowhawk to its unique curve and frontal “claw” shape.

“Why so insecure, you’ll turn heads when you walk through that door,” I mused, grinning at her. “Everyone else here in the room – meaning me – can see it, but you just can’t seem to. Do you know how beautiful you are?” I challenged. “Exactly – you don’t. If only you saw what I can see, you’ll understand why I love you. In fact, I have a way. Come over here.”

I led her to the mirror and laid my hand on her shoulder. “Look at that! How just a simple, well-executed action has made such a difference. How do you feel, honestly?”

“I feel better, Breezy,” she replied with a smile. “And I feel reasonably relaxed and healthy. All thanks to you.”

Without hesitation, I turned and kissed behind her ear, which was startling, but she turned and gave me an endearing smile. I then turned and opened the bathroom door – slightly.

“Uh…Fluttershy?” I called out through the gap. “Can you pass me the mop and some rags?”

“Coming, Xavier!” Fluttershy replied from my bedroom. I caught a brief sight of her dashing by as she ran into the storage room. Within minutes she arrived at the door with a wide-tipped mop and bucket, along with an armful of rags.

“Again?” Tempest muttered as I passed a hand over her chest.

“I can’t help it,” I teased. “Your chest fur is so soft and… inviting.”

“Why?” she barked. “Do you want to be on top of me or what?”

I chuckled again, leaning over to wipe some water off the pieces of armor with the rags, before arranging them on the sink countertop. “Not exactly… I mean… you know what, just forget it. Let me clean up this water and we can relax by the desk.”

“Did you misspell bed?” she teased.

I shook my head, fighting back a giggle. “Music helps me relax while still allowing my creative muscles to comfortably flex. Or I could simply play music and do it your way…”

“No no, it’s alright,” Tempest quickly shook her head no. I slowly nodded and continued mopping. There wasn’t a load of water but there was quite a bit. By the time I finished, the mop was nearly soaked. I squeezed the excess in the bucket and hung it over the tub’s edge to dry, then turned on the fan. As for the spandex jumpsuit, I flung it over my shoulder and held the armor in both hands. With my foot, I pushed the door open and we walked out into the living room.

Mom was relaxing on the couch, reading a book with Rarity and Spike, while Twilight was reading something by herself. Pinkie and Skystar were playing a game of chess, while Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Fluttershy were in the kitchen eating some cookies. Perfect.

I led Tempest into my room, and immediately shut the door the moment we both entered. Right away, Tempest struck a defensive position, her legs stiff and her chest and neck hair on end.

“Easy, relax, Tempy,” I cooed. “Just relax.”

Keeping a safe distance from her, I draped her jumpsuit over a corner of the headboard – being careful not to make it touch the pillows – and flopped down on the bed.

“Come,” I coaxed. “Come sit on the bed with me. I just want to chat privately is all.”

Slowly, Tempest’s inner flame shrunk until it was out, and she sided up to me. Her tail felt a little ticklish on my shins, but I ignored it.

“We all have goals. Mine is to ensure you, Twilight, and all her friends are kept safe and cared for. It is also to make you feel relaxed, happy, and peaceful. That’s why I want to share my love for creating music with you – so we both are relaxed and happy. But what about you? What are your thoughts of a nice, relaxed, stress-free scenario?”

Tempest’s face fell, and her lips drooped. “I’ve hardly had any moments like that at all, so I can hardly remember any of them at all.”

“I thought so,” I remarked softly. “You’re a ruthless yet strategic fighter and a fierce warrior, but only on the outside. Internally you’re still soft, kind, and loving, but that soft core has been slashed, kicked, and bled badly to the point where it could barely manifest itself externally. As a result, you lost trust in literally everything.”

“That’s… a well-formed summary of my life.”

“And part of that journey still shows,” I added, sitting up and stroking around her right eye. “Since you don’t have any tranquil moments to remember, I want to create one for you, right here, right now. And even more so, it’s one you can share with someone to try and regain that internal feeling of trust and help heal that hurt soft core within.”

“You… really want to do this? For me?” Tempest asked, looking straight into my eyes with her own hopeful, touched pair.

“Yes, so much,” I replied, looking straight back with the strongest compassionate, loving gaze I could muster. “Some may see a fierce, ruthless fighter, but I see a hurt soul who needs healing. I want Fizzlepop back. Not all of her, but a good portion of her. Because I love Tempest too.”

Tempest smiled – not a little smile, but a big one. Her eyes were so happy, she looked like she was about to cry. Then, all of a sudden, she grabbed me and shoved her lips into my mouth, forcing me to purse my lips back to return the kiss.

“Whoa, I…”

“You’ve earned it, and I’m sorry for being so closed-hearted. I honestly should’ve done that sooner. Because you’re worthy of love, maybe even on another level. Let’s go make some music.”

“After you,” I replied, rolling across the bed and reaching for the door to open it for her.

We entered the living room, small smiles worn.

“Hi Mom.”

“Hi Twilight.”

I slid into the chair and booted up the MacBook. Opening Logic Pro X, I began a long search through my plugins and samples folders. I had nearly 650GB worth of VSTs, synths, and samples in here. I had only used a few folders to make hip hop beats and traditional Caribbean folk music, but hadn’t really explored the rest of the massive sound library I had.

After about ten minutes of skimming and testing, I found a few VSTs to use and a drum pack, along with the Maschine drum selector. Pulling up a piano MIDI, I imported it into a new project, slipped on my headphones, and listened to the whole sequence, before separating the melody, lead, and drums.

Next, I checked to make sure my instruments were tweaked properly and the drums sounded clean, as well as the proper tempo. I hit record and began playing out the lead synth, then adjusted a bit more. I copied the original MIDI piano notes to a new track and adjusted it to sound mellower without being too low a pitch.

“Come,” I beckoned, gesturing with my hand slowly to Tempest, who was still feeling a little embarrassed to be in front of her friends without any armor or clothes on. In hindsight to human norms, it was a little funny. “You can help.”

I set up the mic stand on my right, and placed a chair from the kitchen on my left. Now Tempest was beside me, and I had the mic hanging in front of me.

“This is a drum pad,” I explained to Tempest, pointing to the Maschine MK3. “Each of these pads generates a drum sound that appears on the screen. As I gesture to you, you’ll tap a certain pad. If we observe the pads from left to right, top to bottom, we’ll start with 1 and end with 16. I’ll call out the number and you tap. You have to be super-fast but gentle, to avoid damaging the pads – they’re delicate.”

I hit play and we began. Right off the bat, Tempest was very snappy, and I had to show her how to properly press the pads. However, the notes wouldn’t line up, no matter how fast I spoke. Every time I had to realign them by hand.

“I’m done,” Tempest muttered in a pouty voice, unexpectedly setting off a light bulb in my head. I leaned towards her neck. “Hey, can you… sing?” I whispered affectionately.

Tempest shook her head, but held a slight smile. “I can try, at least.”

“That’s the spirit,” I replied in a motivational tone. Tempest sat beside the couch, on the floor. I repositioned the mic so it sat in front of her mouth at a reasonable distance, then plugged it in and checked my settings. Finally, I checked the drum kit and piano, then unplugged my headphones so all could hear it live. For me to hit every note properly while playing the keyboard with one hand and tapping drum pads with the other would be a challenge.

“You’re not alone,” Mom reassured me, taking center stage as I scooted off to the side. Hands hovering over the MK3, I hit RECORD and gave Tempest the signal. And she began – with a bit of a whisper, slowly building up to a regular voice as she sang the lyrics.

Joyce was great with the piano, though I had a bit of difficulty keeping in time, as I had always used my headphones to listen as I played the drum pads. However, I was pretty good at it.

By the third chorus, Tempest’s voice was full and emotional, almost sobbing as she pushed her heart into the words. Even Twilight, Spike, and Rarity began to join in a little as the song ended.

“That… that was amazing,” Joyce said with pride, hugging me close as I stopped the recording. “Probably one of our best sessions yet.”

“I wouldn’t doubt it,” I whispered over her shoulder, as Tempest gave me a teary-eyed smile.

Chapter 30: The Trial

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A good three days passed by, rather quickly. I continued working hard at the shop, finishing up the Gran Torino and getting the Mustang shell closer to completion. Mom continued her work as a cashier, and Twilight had taken to reading all the books there were in the house. Pinkie and Skystar played in the street with a ball and their BMX bikes, discovering new ways to turn, jump, and spin. They fell a lot but got back up every time, refining their moves.

I, on the other hand, spent a good half hour during lunch break practicing more complicated tricks outside the shop in the parking lot – albeit where there was smoother pavement. I’d managed to perfect my caballerial kickflips and my 540 flips – both regular and nollie. The 360 hardflip and nosehook impossible were tough ones though. Eighteen times out of twenty I’d slip up on my foot positioning and stumble. But nothing beat that inner feeling when I finally got it right – and I always had my pony friends to cheer me on when it did happen.

Back in the far alley of my head still lay the importance of the court case. Skystar wasn’t in too much danger – a lawsuit against her would likely be thrown out – but Tempest could easily be convicted of weaponized assault. Technically, though, it wasn’t by a weapon – because her horn stump was a physical, biological part of her. Maverick and Rodney offered to assist, but I kindly refused.

“It’s alright,” I reassured. “In the eyes of the law, Tempest and I are nothing more than good friends, as we have no legally romantic or biological relationship. I will be acting as a witness, and I’ve submitted my evidence to the cops. However, I do not have any recording of Tempest’s assault, so she will have to solemnly confess for herself, and the same for the cop. Twilight and her friends can be witnesses as well if they wish. And Skystar, of course, can be present.”

“Can we at least attend?” Rodney pleaded.

I chuckled and patted his shoulder. “Of course you can.”

Exactly 24 hours before the court event, I checked my bank balances. Only a couple hundred left. And Joyce was in charge of the rent.

“Well,” I sighed, spinning around on my chair to face my pony friends directly. “It looks like only Tempest, Skystar, and I will be attending.”

Rarity’s eye widened. “Why?”

“Court cases are no casual or humorous matter,” I replied, deepening my tone so everyone knew I was dead serious. “Attending them requires a certain dress code that must be upheld, guy or girl. As it stand now, y’all can’t just walk in stark naked like… animals. I hate to use the term but that’s the cold truth. But I know you’re not wild animals – you’re well-meaning, talking, cute, sentient beings, just like me, Zack, Joyce, and a million other humans.”

“So you have enough money for court attire for just yourself and them?” Applejack guessed.

I nodded. “That, and the Forester is gonna need some gas after the long trip we took to Ashbridges Bay Skatepark over the weekend. I won’t receive any wages until the end of the week.”

Pinkie’s face fell, and so did the others. I understood their sympathy and admired their firm unity as friends, but this was out of their bounds.

Borrowing Mom’s tape measure, I headed out the door, with Tempest and Skystar in tow. We began our trip at a small formal thrift store. After some careful looking, I bought a Brioni knock-off set – suit, blouse, tie, and trousers for a good $165.

“You look sharper than the Storm King’s warrior’s spearheads,” Tempest joked, as I opened the door to the changing room. “Just wait ‘till Rarity sees you.”

“Imagine her delight,” I quipped, and we briefly shared a laugh. It was quiet, so no one really noticed us until the last moment when I was checking out.

“What’s a unicorn doing in my store?!” the cashier snapped, still taken aback in shock.

“What’s the matter? Never seen a talking horse before?” I joked, pulling out my wallet. “That’s Tempest Shadow. I’d give her full respect if I were you.”

“Just helping Xavier here shop,” she muttered, briefly glancing at him sideways. “No need to worry about me. We’re alike you more than you think.”

I smiled, paid the due amount, and we left without a word. Next up was a place I knew well – Value Village. Before we entered, I paid a meeting with the manager, and discussed about letting Tempest and Skystar enter the store, and the upcoming court case.

“Alright,” he huffed. “But only this once.”

“We’ll be fine, I promise,” I replied.

I retrieved my friends from the car and in we went, together. In spite of her enthusiasm, Skystar kept it together quite well. She stayed by my side as we walked through the halls. I held up a few items and Tempest either nodded or shook her head.

We eventually decided on a grey-beige blazer, a white gingham shirt, tie, a box-pleated pencil skirt, and a sweat undergarment for Tempest.

“I look… rather…”

“Dashing?” I suggested.

“No. It’s what the Storm King would call, ‘saucily elegant’,” she responded dryly as she wriggled a little to get the blazer looking even across her shoulders.

Right… I thought, realizing she was also in commando mode. Right beside me, Skystar was practically on the verge of jumping up and down in anticipation.

“Chill, Sky!” I chuckled, stroking her head. “We’ll get to yours in a moment.”

After Tempest had submitted to the need for her attire, she undressed and we headed off to find some clothing. After a bit of debating, I headed to the dress section and looked through it carefully. After what felt like a whole hour, I found it: a formal medium-blue dress with shoulder straps. To compensate, I added a simple white long-sleeved top underneath.

“How do you feel?” I whispered through the changing room door.

“Absolutely brilliant!” Skystar squealed, prancing about a little. I could hear the swishy sounds of the fabric twirling as she spun joyfully. “I’ll take this!”

“Then it’s official: we are done,” I announced.

Skystar plopped the dress and shirt into the cart. I checked out, and we headed outside.

“Where to next?” Skystar inquired as she helped me pack the bags of clothes into the car.

“To one more place. A proper women’s clothing store,” I explained. “And then back home to finalize the plans for tomorrow.”

Having measured Tempest and Skystar, I knew what sizes I had to get. I slipped into a store, bought two packs of lace-trimmed panties and a pair of pantyhose, and slipped out with ease.

“That was fast,” Tempest noted as I hopped into the Forester and cranked up the engine.

“You bet,” I replied with a snicker. “Now let’s get home.”

I put the car in gear and off we went. Skystar was excited to see the lake as I drove the long way home, and kept begging me to let her dive in. I firmly said no and explained why.

“If I could take you to Hawaii, I would,” I confessed. “I love that country’s beaches, tight-knit community, interesting culture, and natural scenery. However, the economy and living situations would be super hard. Compared to here in Toronto, the cost of everything is exceptionally high – like five times as costly. Here’s a tease.”

I opened a photo album on my phone and handed it to Skystar.

“Wow, it does look… interesting and beautiful there!” she exclaimed. “Streets are a little like here, but once you’re out of town, it gets so peaceful-looking and unique. And those beaches are… hey, what’s with these people standing on boards inside the wave?”

I had to chuckle as I noticed her eyes getting all droopy in a dreamy manner. “That’s called surfing. You paddle towards a wave and let it take you at a decent speed, before standing up and letting its crashing force propel you through the ‘tube’ of the wave. It’s really fun once you know how to do it properly.”

“So that’s why skateboarding is so fun for you!” Tempest exclaimed with a smile of realization. “I’ve seen you and others bust moves similar to that at the skatepark.”

“Indeed,” I replied with a smile. “Skateboarding actually came from surfing, when surfers were too bummed about the lack of good waves. Roller skates were in at the time, so they took off the wheels and secured them to flat pieces of wood and voila! Skateboarding was born. Took some time to improve and refine, but after a couple decades, here we are.”

“Where did you get these photos from?” Skystar inquired, handing me back my phone.

“From an old middle school friend,” I replied, plugging it in to charge. “He went there with his family to visit relatives there for two whole months. His dad was a photographer, and so he sent me the photos. In fact, that’s how I took up skateboarding, because I didn’t have the means to surf. Eventually I forgot about surfing altogether, and my friend decided to move back to Hawaii permanently. I missed him a lot. I still think about him from time to time – in fact, thank you for mentioning about swimming. I probably would’ve forgotten about those photos and deleted the album. Don’t worry, I have a backup.”

Skystar tried to hide her sad pout, but I saw right through it. I gave her too much. So I tried to lighten up the mood.

“I know, Sky. I wish I could go too. Maybe I still have his email – I’ll check when we get home. On the plus side, given our case goes well, we can finally begin the quest to find a way for you and your friends to return home.”

The following morning I found my brain with more cranking gears than the tranny in Brian’s Viper. After a good wash-up and a little shave, I ironed a few shirts, then got Tempest dressed while Twilight, Spike, Rarity, and the others waited patiently in the living room.

“I… can’t do this,” Tempest muttered as she sat up on my bed and ungainly tried to stand bipedal.

“You certainly can,” I replied firmly. “Your life may actually depend on it. Let me help you get dressed.”

Beginning with the pantyhose, I unfolded the whole thing and smoothly slid it up her legs and over her waist, bunching it under her tail to help hold it up. Next, I pulled a pair of baby blue panties from the pack I’d bought and slid it up on top. Tempest’s tail was too thick, so I tucked the panty’s waistband below as well.

“Ooh, feels quite tight under there,” Tempest said with a slight shiver.

“That’s the idea, to keep those bits relaxed and protected,” I replied, albeit sheepishly as I understood the full implications of what I was uttering.

With the undergarments on, I proceeded with the blouse, draping it over her, sliding her front legs into the sleeves, and buttoning it up, before tucking the hem into the panty’s waistband. Then came the pencil skirt, which I slid up her legs and zipped up tight at the waist. Finally, I tied her tie and buttoned up her blazer. As no 1-inch heels on the market would fit thick pony hooves, I simply decided to do with her armor’s hoof guards.

Next it was my turn. Everything fit beautifully. Given I had no leather loafers, I decided to wear the closest thing I could get – a pair of Nike SB Nyjahs. A friend had given them to me as a gift since he’d bought the wrong size, but they fit me perfectly. Given their uniqueness and pristine condition (I never wore them, kept as a collector’s item), they seemed like the best choice.

“Skystar!” I called out, opening the bedroom door. “Your turn!”


Skystar ran inside, and in a matter of minutes I had her in a pair of panties and that elegant blue dress. With our outfits all on, we stepped out into the living room, our outfits revealed for all to see.

“Oh, my, I, I…” Rarity couldn’t even get the words out. I shot her a mocking wink as we headed to the door. Mom joined in her formal dress and we walked up and out the door. Given her long, flowing skirt, Skystar was already starting to trip.

“A little… woah! Rather different, but works,” she said with a shrug, pushing herself upright so she stood on her back legs only. “I’ll get used to it. If it’s what’s needed, I’ll do it. Because you know, one small thing…”

“…Can make a big difference,” I finished with a smile as we hopped in the car. “Alright, let’s settle this for good.”

After double-checking to make sure all necessary documents were on hand, I cranked up the Forester’s engine and we headed off.

It was rather an interesting moment as we stepped through the doors. Joyce, Skystar, and I went through the main entrance, while security ushered Tempest through the side door – the alleyway reserved for criminals.

Keeping my face straight but humble, I walked inside, ushered by guards. It was only the second time, so I still felt like a newbie. However, the sections and positions were still identifiable. Many attendees were already there – many from around Parkdale whom I recognized. The librarian. The manager of the local Nofrills store. A few families. And of course, my mom.

I stepped forward into the witness chair and sat down, keeping silent. Apparently someone had already filed a prosecution against the cop, most likely from word of mouth, as I had shared the evidence images with the police already.

After a good wait, the trigger-happy cop was brought into the criminal box, beside Tempest – though a wall separated them. With a ragged shirt, a slightly grosteque face, and khaki pants, he looked a million miles away from the cocky, aggressive cop he’d been just a few weeks prior. Not to mention the bandages across his chest from the vicious scars he’d received from Tempest’s horn. Before entering, I’d strictly warned Tempest to limit her fury, and wrapped a bandana around her horn to help reduce her stress – and possibly prevent her from firing it at anyone. The girl was a serious force to be reckoned with when enraged.

By the time the judge, Jacqueline, arrived my stomach was filled with more butterflies than on Fluttershy’s whole cottage grounds. It was time to begin the trial – the trial that would determine the outcome and future life of my best friends.

“Mr. Xavier William Brown. Been a while. What’s got you in the opposite box this time?” she whispered.

“An opportunity taken with a fat chance,” I replied in a low voice.

She simply nodded and took her position at the central stage, tapping the tapstone with her hammer. “Alright, sit down everybody,” she ordered. “Let the trial begin. Starting with you, Mr. White. Arthur’s lawyer.”

So that was the cop’s name, I thought. I held back my eye-roll as Mr. White drabbled on and on about rights to freedom, gun control laws, and all matter of police force blabber. It took a good third of an hour for him to get through all of it. But when he did finish, it was Arthur’s turn to speak.

“Mr. Arthur Wolfe, do you promise to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about what you did?” Jacqueline stated seriously, fixing her gaze on him.

“Yes, m’aam.”

“Then begin.”


Feeling confident, I sat back a bit in my chair, though not fully reclined, ready to listen to every word and how said words were expressed and constructed.

“I was returning from a troublesome and frustrating case, and came upon this group of colorful four-legged creatures. Name any color of the rainbow – it was there. And then this yellow horse-bird of sorts stood up and started threatening me, as if to attack. So I retaliated… by shooting. I-I-I didn’t mean to kill her, just put her in her place.”

“And what a fine job you did of it,” Jacqueline remarked. “I had the opportunity to examine the photos sent in by Mr. Xavier William Brown here to the prosecutor, and confirmed via a veterinary expert that this beautiful, precious hippogriff had been maimed to the point of being unable to walk, and had lost a significant amount of blood in the process, in addition to having a bruised bone, and scar tissue and muscle torn from the impact of the bullet. This indicated that the shot was fired at a very close range.”

“I also had the opportunity to examine the short video that the prosecutor had also obtained from Mr. Xavier William Brown, which showed clear evidence of a fragmented bullet on the road, as well as the exact ID of the gun that was used to shoot Skystar. From cross-examination it is impossible for Mr. Xavier or anyone else to be blamed for using that gun to shoot Skystar, let alone touch it. Further investigation proved that the only fingerprints on the gun were of Officer Arthur himself only.”

A moment of silence was held as the audience held back a couple gasps of shock, before Jacqueline continued.

“However, the act of defense from this hippogriff’s friend cannot and will not be ignored. The video also revealed third-degree burns on this officer’s uniform by his chest, which was confirmed by doctors and detectives to only have been caused by high-voltage electrical shocks from a concentrated, direct beam of high energy.” She then turned to Tempest. “Miss Fizzlepop Berrytwist, as is your full legal name, do you promise to truthfully testify to your actions?”

“Yes, m’aam,” Tempest said at once, taking a few smooth breaths to ease out her dislike of her original name being spoken so eloquently and out loud in front of others.


“Yes. To all those present, I testify, I did blast Officer Arthur in the chest. I solemnly swear that I did so purely out of self-defense and anger. Being from a different world with very different creatures, I was unaware of the high degrees of physical damage that I would cause. I do not deny my personal belief that Arthur is in the wrong, but I do render myself guilty of not handling the situation in a better manner.”

With her testimony speech over, Tempest simply sat down and remained silent. I had to hold back a wide smile – she’d obeyed my commands well. Judge Jacqueline then pointed to Skystar.

“Miss Skystar, please rise. Do you truthfully testify that this man, Officer Arthur, shot you with his gun? Do you, too, promise to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about what exactly happened that night?”

“Yes, m’aam. I promise. He did. He also yelled in a loud and threatening tone at me and my friends for us to get on the ground for no reason at all. All me and my friends were doing was simply walking down the street, trying to find help and answers as to where we were. I stood upright and asked Arthur why we thought he would think we’d be doing any harm. And… that’s when the blast rang out and I fell to the ground in pain. It felt like the life was drained out of me as the voice of my closest friend faded out and my vision blackened, and…”

“It’s okay, Skystar, that’s enough,” Jacqueline ordered, while revealing a slight tone of compassion as the poor hippogriff started choking up in tears.

I felt like calling out for someone to hand her a tissue, but held back. I did not want anything to mess this up. The crucial moment was near as Judge Jacqueline continued.

“These electrical injuries that Officer Arthur sustained were enough to blacken and melt away the flesh on his chest, leaving him with – rather unsurprisingly – a large amount of blood loss, about equal to that of the hippogriff who was shot. Taking blood loss into consideration, this can be used as a measuring tool of sorts. All evidence for this case is decent, though more solid and concrete for the victim’s side. Nonetheless, assault on a police officer is a serious criminal offense. Now it is your turn, Mr. Xavier. You may rise. Please describe what you saw.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Jacqueline,” I replied. “I was driving back from a long night out. I heard the gunshot and came upon the road. From the lights I was able to see what had happened, and heard the cries of sorrow at the worry and fear of Skystar’s friend who had apparently thought her friend had died. Mr. Arthur was on the ground, out cold and bleeding. I stopped, ran up the road, and surveyed the scene, photographing the key areas of importance. I took a short video, then picked up Skystar. I placed her in the trunk of my car, and wrapped a rag around her bleeding leg. All her other friends then piled into my car, and we fled the scene.”

Tempest gave a slight nod, and I caught it with my eye as I sat down. Jacqueline then began her long conclusion.

“Mr. Arthur Wolfe, please rise. The act of pointing a gun at a hippogriff – a beautiful, proud creature who was standing up for her friends, and the way it was conducted, is a seriously despicable act of abuse and harm. Thus you are guilty of animal abuse and abuse of your power as a police officer. The Toronto police force has already fired you, and now, I hereby sentence you to 25 years in prison, with absolutely no possibility of bail or parole.

A couple gasps and small talk was heard from the audience, before Jacqueline struck her hammer and continued.

“As much as your assault on Mr. Arthur Wolfe was an act of self-defense, it is still an act of wrongdoing to inflict that level of injury on a police officer, regardless of their individual behavior. However, because you are a foreigner from an entirely different world, I cannot and will not try you as a citizen, but rather as a free inhabitant. Miss Fizzlepop Berrytwist – or Tempest Shadow, you are hereby sentenced to serve 300 hours of community service, and a restraining order on anyone who has visible possession of weapons. I have been informed that you will be returning soon to your homeland, so I have dismissed the act of imposing probation. Consider it an act of compassion for your straight honesty and formal, relaxed composure. As for Skystar, I wish her the best in becoming a good figure in society. I would like to also mention that the charges laid against her by the Ripley’s Aquarium have been dropped. This case is now closed and this court is adjourned. Thank you all for attending.”

Chapter 31: Breezy Reveals the Plan

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“Thank you, Breezy,” Tempest said with a smile and a bipedal hug – and large ones at that.

“And thank you for keeping a good composure,” I replied, returning the favor, as we walked out of the legal services building. The people there were kind enough to give Tempest a chance at getting a form and other papers to confirm her start of community service.

“So… where do you plan to carry this out?” Joyce asked as we drove home.

“I honestly don’t know,” Tempest confessed. “But I do believe I need some fresh air, and so I’ll be heading out tomorrow out of the city.”

“Where to?”

“Whereever I feel high and dry, but also tranquil and unbothered.”

“Ah, all the same with muscular ol’ Fizzy. Still a loner, eh?”

“If there’s one whose company I wouldn’t mind for a while, it’d be a respectful mid-size beast of nature, or Grubber – when he behaves himself. Or… you.”

I had to blush at that: she actually enjoyed my company. It was better than sulking over the pain of her past alone, after all.

As we turned onto our home street, I noticed quite a few figures outside.

Pinkie was on her bike, trying to do a handstand over the handlebars, but kept flipping forward. Spike, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash were playing catch with a ball, and Rarity was… wait a minute.

Skystar’s eyes were as wide as mine as we took in the reality of the sight before us. Rarity, the fashionista who hated dirt and unrefined items of uncouth ugliness, was dancing around on one of my boards. A quick glance at the deck revealed it wasn’t my Element, nor Tempest’s 9-ply. It was a signature white ZERO deck with a skull and blood-streak graphic, purple Thunder trucks, and white-and-blue Spitfire wheels. She’d even painted her cutie mark on the grip tape.

“Did you approve of this?” Joyce asked flatly.

“Absolutely not,” I confided. “But it’s too badass for me to care. She just needs to be reminded not to use items without permission.”

I parked on the opposite side of the street and walked over, still in my handsome getup. Almost immediately Rarity stopped and walked over, flipping the board on its side to stop it rolling away.

“Oh, hi Xavier. You-you’re back. What’s the verdict?” she asked rather hurriedly. I had to smile as I could literally see the hearts in her eyes. I must’ve looked like some sort of heavenly being of sorts to her. But I had a point to make.

“Why did you take my skate parts?” I asked crossly. “This is the second time I’ve caught one of you using property without permission.”

Before Rarity could say or do anything in return, Twilight teleported in a flash right in front of me and hugged my legs tightly.

“Xavier! Xavier I’m so sorry! Please… I was looking through your collection and I remembered watching you setup your board… so…”

“So you decided to try it yourself, huh?” I huffed, glaring down at her. “Without asking.”

“Yes… I’m sorry, Xavier! Please don’t leave me… please don’t leave us.”

I simply lifted my head and shot an accusative look at Rarity. “And then you got carried away with the finished product. Didn’t you!”

Rarity simply nodded, and I sighed. “Twilight, get off me please and get inside.” I turned to Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Spike. “You three too. Where’s Fluttershy?”

“She’s inside watching some animal videos,” Spike answered.

“More the merrier,” I muttered, tightening the grip on my folder of files and documents as I walked up to the door.


Skystar, Tempest, and I changed into casual clothing, and we had a long talk. I explained what happened in court and the truth of the outcome, as well as a few of my plans for the coming month. But the burning question came back again.

“Will we be able to get home?”

“The answer to that is beyond anyone’s grasp. It can only be uncovered by investigating and observing. I plan to do that later today in the evening, during the gap between the rush hour and sundown. We’ll begin right where you all started. But you have to promise me that you won’t touch anything in my room – besides the blanket and bed, of course. Is that clear?”

“Yes, Mr. Xavier,” everyone replied (except my mom, of course).

“Good. Now, for today, let’s have some fun outside. You can head to the park and enjoy yourselves before sunset, or join me as I attempt to assemble, refine, mix, and master the song recordings we did earlier.”

“Thank you, dear,” Rarity said with a smile. I lifted her front hooves onto my knees and smoothly caressed her neck, taking care not to damage her well-kept mane.

“You’ll always be special to me,” I whispered. “And so are your friends. Cool design scheme you did on that board setup. I actually got that deck as a freebie from an old friend. The graphic was rather unique, so I kept it as a collector’s item. Honestly it’s rather too big given your size as a pony. But you can have it, if you want.”

“Thank you, thank you!” Rarity squealed, wrapping her arms around me and squeezing her cheek against my knobby ab packs. I wasn’t sure how to respond to it but it sure felt good.

While Joyce watched Twilight and the others outside, I moved my laptop, keyboard, and drum pad to the bedroom, slipped on my headphones, opened up a few tutorials, and got straight to work on my music.

I began with the recordings of the song Twilight and her friends had sung together. Chopping the vocals. Tweaking the vocals. Pitch correction. Applying EQ. Mixing them so everypony sounded correct with my piano sequence. Using VSTs wasn’t too hard, as I knew how to tweak drums and lead synths very well. After some searching, I found the final melody and started lining things up. It really was a lot of work. I had to take breaks and drink water, walk about a bit. But I wanted it done, even if it wouldn’t generate a single dime of income – because it was done by my new best friends. They were the ones who gave me hope and motivation to continue learning about music production, and helped me stop being a bum. And as a result, I was filled with new ambitions and ideas.

By sunset, I was close to finishing the nitty-gritty details. Given that some of the vocals were not precise, keeping some of them as background chorus helped provide a unique depth and feel to the song.

I sat back and listened in as I adjusted the mixer pad one last time. Just as Twilight, Rarity, and the others entered, I unplugged my headphones and hit PLAY.

Right away, the sound of galloping hooves were heard, and within minutes they were all by my side, crowed around the bed.

“Is that how it really sounds like?”

“Why does it sound like we were in a cave?”

“Such a good symphony…”

I let the song finish, then hit the STOP button to explain.

“I chopped the vocals, then refined each chop and synced it to all the instruments, which I individually picked and adjusted to fit the vocals properly. Finally, I equalized and mastered the whole composition. Took a couple hours but here we are. The vocals where all of you are singing together was too complicated, so I fixed the pitch and EQ, then simply added an echo effect to make it sound like a concert hall chorus of sorts, while still keeping in tune with the instruments.”

“Keep this up and yah could be workin’ with Coloratura,” Applejack remarked.


“Coloratura, or Rara. She’s a good friend from summer camp and a well-known singer in Equestria. But she’s humble, friendly and loves to help out others.”

It was a far-fetched thought, but I went for it. “What do you play your music on?”

“Well, DJ-PON3 typically uses wireless headphones powered by her magic, and she mixes using thin black discs.”

“LP records, I believe,” I corrected. “Cool. Mix of old and new school. Because I wanted to save some of my music to a format that you could enjoy when you return.”

“You serious? That’s… really nice of you,” Spike commented, plopping into my lap. I gave him a little head-rub, and he returned the favor with a hug.

“I enjoy sharing my love of creative music with others, even if I’m not the best at it,” I replied, rubbing my sore, scraped knuckles. God, Spike’s scales were tough. Not likely to stop a .40 SW round, but could definitely leave a school bully regretting a thrown punch.

With the song complete, I gave it one final listen before exporting it to several formats. While Rarity took a shower, I printed out a few concept maps, diagrams, and schedule charts (which somehow turned Twilight into a little filly on her birthday watching her presents being opened). I calculated how much money I had left, re-evaluated my wish list, checked my automotive expenses, and filled in what I had accomplished so far in music and what I had to learn next. Finally, I unrolled a sheet of large paper – about eighteen inches wide by two feet high, and began drawing.

“What is this?” Twilight asked inquisitively, although I could still hear the excitement in her voice.

“It’s a plan for how I plan to help you return you home. Bit of what would be considered ‘sci-fi’ or ‘absurd fantasy’ in our world, but given your abilities, I call no horseapples.”

Applejack giggled and nudged my shoulder. “Catchin’ the Apple Family lingo, eh pardner?”

“Aye,” I replied. “Somewhat. Now, here’s how this is gonna work. For inter-dimensional and inter-universe travel to work, there has to be a powerful enough beam of energy – or magic, in your case - to be able to break through the set balances of time, matter, energy, and space to be able to transport it through that rift. Now, realistically speaking, the fastest you can go in such a case would be 186,300 miles per second, which is as fast as light itself. I know, don’t try to comprehend that too much.”

“Now, I want to trace back to exactly the area where you crash-landed in Toronto, and thoroughly search a 2-mile radius. Given how far away Equestria possibly is, it’s likely to have dispersed the Elements of Harmony upon impact. Rationally but theoretically speaking, there’s no way that magic crystal mirror of yours can be that powerful upon malfunction except with a booster of sorts. And what better ones than the physical, living, representatives of the Elements of Harmony themselves?”

“I…I…” Twilight looked like her head was about to burst as her words died in her throat. So Applejack did the talking.

“Are ya sayin’ that the Elements of Harmony are responsible for bringing us to your world?”

“Indirectly, yeah. But there’s still a burning question: did the physical gems that hold the power of the Elements of Harmony also get transported here? Because if they can generate that much power to send you all to other world far, far away, then they can also do so the other way, and return them back to Equestria. Kind of a way of reverse magical engineering. There’s one catch, however.”

“Which is?” Twilight pressed, her eyelids twitching nervously and her eyes so wide I thought I’d been teleported into a scene from Psycho.

“Hang on, let me grasp this…” I turned away from her zombie glare for a moment, and slapped my face to regain my thinking conscience. “…there needs to be a receiving signal first. From Equestria. That signal must be equal in its design, strength, and capabilities to reach out into time, space, and matter to pick up on anything it finds similar, which should be the Elements of Harmony. Once that happens, a bond is formed, and the rift can open, allowing for super-fast travel between realms. However, the ‘pulling force’ from Equestria has to gain the same, if not more power, than what the crystal mirror had when it malfunctioned. There are a zillion parameters for glitches, but only a few hundred thousand for total error.”

“It’s a rather long shot, but it’s still plausible. Better to try than to not do anything at all, right?” I concluded.

Everyone nodded. Everypony that is, except Twilight.

“Oy, Miss Purple Psycho Freakout Brain, stop overthinking it!” I snapped, hitting the bedside table with my fist with a BANG!

That got everyone’s attention, and I immediately refined my serious face – the one I used at work when a customer was being a snowflake. “We can do this, and we will succeed. We just need to take it one at a time, and plan it out properly. This is a rough draft. If you can cooperate, I’ll be able to tweak it and narrow it down to a more plausible and low-risk structure. Okay?”

“Yes, Breezy!” everyone replied in sync like soliders – even Twilight.

“Good. Now let’s get some sleep. We’ve got more to discuss in the morning.”

Chapter 32: Tempest's Adventure - Part I

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My morning began with a good shower, as Tempest’s odor and loose fur ends were all over me. She wanted to sleep on the floor, but I insisted on being in bed next to me. What followed was a session of cuddling that nearly became sensual. I tried to just lay sideways, but she rolled onto her back and wrapped her arm around me, pulling me on top of her muscular belly. No lying – I got twitchy. Under that purple fur were some serious abs. She gently rested her hoof on my head, pushing my face into her fluffy chest. I had to draw the line when she tried to pin my leg down. Nonetheless, I made myself comfortable and passed out in mere minutes.

“What the hay were you doing?” Applejack snapped at breakfast.

“Sleeping in a comfortable manner,” Tempest replied flatly.

I had to laugh: Fizzy had done it well. I had to know someone (or somepony) really well before I could go all the way. Ironically, Tempest then put forth a request.

“I’d like to ask for something.”

“Which is?” Joyce asked.

“Permission,” Tempest simply stated.

“Name it!” I replied excitedly.

“I’d like to travel… alone. I want to see outside of the city, where it’s open, relaxed, and quiet.”

“That’s a long way by foot,” Twilight noted.

“I have public transportation to a certain extent, sure. After that, yes, I’m on foot. But I have my ways,” Tempest stated firmly. “I won’t be carrying much – just a saddlebag with some fruit, a cloth, a water bottle, and some cash.”

“Are you sure you’ll be fine?” Joyce asked, and I shot her a disappointed look. Major, major duh there, Mom. But to both Twilight’s surprise and mine, Tempest kept her composure.

“I certainly will be. I have travelled across many lands and endured harsh environments within.”

“Didn’t you mention once that a good leader is one who can be a good leader to himself?” I teased.

Joyce almost blushed. “Uh… yes, yes I did. Thanks… for reminding me.”

I didn’t want to exactly embarrass my mom, but I did want her to be in the hot seat for doubting Tempest’s abilities of being solo.

“Once a loner, always a loner, eh Tempest Shadow?” I joked, hopping onto my board and pushing down the road.

“You know it, Breezy,” she winked. I handed her a few coins, which she took in her mouth, and ran off to catch the streetcar.
Her plan was to go to the Bloor station, catch the train to Etobicoke, and then take a taxi all the way to a tiny rural town. It seemed like she wanted to keep her location a secret, and given her past, I couldn’t really blame her.

I, however, had no time for a grand adventure. The shop was full of unfinished projects and malfunctioning cars – customers’ cars – that needed my attention right away.

Meanwhile, Fizzlepop sat all alone on the streetcar, with everyone quickly shifting themselves as far away as they could, despite her best efforts to reassure them. As a result, she had all the front seats to herself, and thus took the opportunity to stretch out and relax her muscles that flexed and bulged beneath her soft, fluffy fur. Nonetheless, she still wore her black re-enforced spandex jumpsuit and armor.

“You’ve set your impressions on me, just as I have set my impressions of you,” she thought sorrowfully and bitterly within. “As curious and investigative as you present yourselves to be, truth be told, you are not trusting creatures.”

Hopping off at her stop, Tempest Shadow then proceeded to the station, keeping a low profile as she could. However, it became rather awkward when the time came to purchase a ticket.

“Hang on, hang on…” Tempest politely told the clerk as she lay down and shook off her saddlebag, letting it plop on the floor before pulling out a banknote. Change was instantly calculated and collected by Tempest… in her mouth. She spat it back into her saddlebag, and gently wedged the ticket between her hoof and her hoof guard.

“Thank you,” she simply stated to the clerk, before shimmying back under her saddlebag, standing up, and turning to leave. Just as she was about to head towards the westbound stop, a voice called out, “Miss! Miss Fizzlepop?”

Tempest gritted her teeth and whipped around as if she’d been followed by a thug, only to be surprised at the sight of a young teen girl – no older than fourteen. Recalling her promise to Breezy, she quickly relaxed her posture.


“Oh, sorry,” the teen girl began, now also feeling at ease. “I saw you having to deal with conducting a cash transaction, and… I thought you’d like some water.”

For the first time since she began her journey, Tempest managed a smile. “Yes, please.”

“Have it all,” the teen girl eagerly replied, taking off the bottle cap and holding it to Tempest’s mouth. She took a few sips before moving on to large swigs. In a matter of seconds, half the bottle was empty.

“You’re a big thirsty girl,” the teen girl complimented, screwing the cap back on as Tempest licked the remaining drops of water off her lips. “Where you headed, by the way?”

“Out west, to Etobicoke,” Tempest replied. “And then up north, where the land is more natural and… inviting.”

“You don’t like the city?”

“I do, but I just feel like I need some fresh air. And I have a plan of where I can get it.”

“Alright. Have yourself a good day.”

“And to you.”

With her body rehydrated, Tempest hopped onto the border fence, then up onto the top of the waiting shelter beside the platform, where she basked in the warmth of the still-rising sun. After a good half hour, the train finally arrived. By this time a whole mob of people had arrived, all of different colors, sizes, shapes, ages, and attitudes.

“Well, I’d be happy to be last,” Tempest self-confided, leaping off the shelter roof as the second-to-last person boarded the train. “Beats pushing through people who obviously won’t take a liking to my presence.”

As the signal rang off, Tempest stepped on and found a comfortable seat, well away from everyone else. It was busy on board, though not too crowded. Even so, it felt like all eyes were on her.

“The second stage,” Tempest whispered to herself, peering down to check that her ticket was still in between her hoof and armor. Happily, it was.

The journey was rather quick and smooth, with the next station being announced just fifteen minutes later. Just when she thought it’d be over, a middle-aged man shifted position… and sat right next to her, resulting in a snort of distaste.

“It’s alright if you don’t want to talk,” he whispered half-heartedly. “I’ve lived in this city for over thirty years and not ever have I seen anything like you guys. How’s the yellow-tailed one doing?”

That got her attention, and it was something she definitely knew about. For the second time, Tempest managed a smile. “Yes… yes. Pri—Skystar, yes. She’s doing alright. Legal issues have been settled. I presume you’ve watched the news that day?”

“Always do. Just for the record, don’t let anybody make you feel inferior. That’s their own problem. Focus on pursuing your goals. Do what makes you happy. However, you also have to make an effort. Don’t give anybody the cold shoulder – even through body language. Be warm and welcoming. Keep that warm smile on and don’t take it off.”

The train soon began to slow to a standstill. “Looks like my stop is here…”

“Harold,” the man replied, reaching out with his hand as Tempest got up. “It was nice meeting you.”

Right away, Tempest accepted the handshake offer. “And likewise for me. Thanks for the support.”

“Happy to help.”

Just as the train doors were about to slide shut, Tempest leaped through and onto the platform, balancing herself perfectly to avoid flipping over backwards.

A short trek through town revealed a pay phone – something Xavier had explained to her how to use. This was the third and final leg of her journey, though also one where she’d be in the direct company of someone else. But wasn’t that the point, as Harold pointed out? Trying to get others to see who you truly are by behaving in a kind and positive manner?

With a sigh, Tempest took off her saddlebag and pulled out a few coins. Then she gently flicked back a clasp, releasing one of her front hooves from its armory embrace, before sliding the coins into the slot, and pulling the phone off its hook. From memory, she punched in the numbers using the tip of her horn – or rather, what remained of it.

“Hi there, can I have a ride at Kipling and Rexdale please? Right in front of the RBC Bank. You can’t miss me, honestly. Alright, thanks.”

With the call complete, Tempest rushed across the street to the bank, sat down, and waited quietly by the bank’s roadside sign. In just over ten minutes, an orange car showed up. Immediately, Tempest sprung out of her hiding place and trotted over, much to the surprise of the driver.

“Y-you’re the one that called?”

Tempest nodded proudly. “I can assure you no harm. I am sentient and have feelings, just like you.”

“I can see that.”

“Good,” said Tempest, opening the back door and hopping in.”

“So…” the driver began.

“Tempest Shadow, though my friends call me Fizzlepop. Funny name for someone who looks like they hopped straight out of a tale of a brave female knight who turned into the horse she rode, I know.”

“And I’m David. You do look like an army commander, I’ll give you that. Now where can I take you today?”

“To Nobleton, please, in the King District.”

“That’s a half-hour drive.”

“Plenty of time to talk for me, and plenty of money for your pocket,” Tempest replied with a grin.

Out on the road, Tempest slowly opened up about her whole life story – the ball game with her friends, getting attacked by the bear, feeling expelled and developing hostility and anger to the world around her, joining the Storm King’s army, capturing Twilight Sparkle, and throwing herself at the Storm King to save Twilight and her friends, as well as how they all arrived on Earth.

“Wow, that’s pretty damn crazy,” David mused, relaxing in his seat as they began to exit the city and enter the countryside. “You’ve definitely been through a lot. I heard about the court case, and it makes complete sense why you behaved the way you did. My friend actually attended. I didn’t want to believe him when he said that it was a cute yellow hippogriff who was the victim and a warrior unicorn who was the accused, but I certainly believed it the moment you came up to my cab.”

“Happy to clear up doubts,” Tempest replied with a warm smile.

“What brings you out here to Nobleton, anyway?” David then asked.

“To relax, and get away from the buzz of the city. “Also to meet some new people as well.”

“I see. Have you thought about taking mediation classes?”

“That exists?”

“Quite a lot.”

“I’ll look into it when I get back. For now I want to relax and reconnect with the good side of myself and let go of all the negatives.”

“I can’t argue with that.”

As they reached Nobleton, Tempest soon began to notice animals in the large, fenced fields. Cows and sheep, like the ones at Sweet Apple Acres. But there was another animal she noticed – with a single, hard toe, long, slender legs, and a huge, bulky, muscular build, with a somewhat long and rather neat head. Its ears stood up from the sides of its head at the top.

“Kinda looks like a remodeled form of me and my friends,” Tempest thought, as they pulled into a side street with large, grand-looking houses.

“Is this it?” David asked, pulling up in front of a trail that led down to a park behind a row of houses.

“Perfect. Thank you so much, David,” said Tempest with a happy smile. She pulled a wad of bills out of her saddlebag totaling 10 dollars more than the fare, gesturing with persistence. “Keep the extra, you’ve earned it.”

David could only smile and wave as Tempest stepped out and shut the door, waving goodbye as he drove off.

Re-adjusting her saddlebag, Tempest headed off down the trail, her eyes wide and happy with anticipation, now that her journey had finally come to an end. It was now simply a matter of enjoying what the little town and its surroundings had to offer.

“I wonder what lies here?” she whispered in curiosity, taking in the somewhat overwhelming sights and sounds of the tall trees that grew alongside the trail and throughout the park. Her excitement was rather reduced when she came upon a big field with white metal frames standing about.

“Placed at opposite ends to each other, with a net. Ball game, maybe?” Tempest wondered, before noticing a playground set. “Probably too big for me. And any little fillies here would be less than eager to play if they saw me around.”

Briefly, she thought back to the sight of the ‘other animal’ she noticed upon approaching the town. Maybe the answer lay with them. But first, she decided to chill out by doing one simple thing: lying down in the grass.

Even with her armor on, just maintaining the posture of lying on her back in the soft grass was so satisfying. Sure, she’d slept in the same position just the night before, but doing so out in the open, in a park far away from the big city, was a different experience altogether. The sun beamed down, warming her belly. It was too tempting – Tempest found herself wiggling her body and rolling about, unknowingly easing out the soreness in her muscles from sitting in the back of that taxi for so long. It really was refreshing, and soon, she settled down and drifted off into a nap.

About an hour later, Tempest was awoken by the loud noise of chattering kids, and a few gasps. As she awoke, she could hear their lines of question, doubt, suspicion, and fear.

“Is that a knight’s horse?”

“What’s a horse doing out in the neighborhood park?”

“It’s a unicorn? But, what happened to her horn?”

“Hang on, that’s Tempest Shadow, ain’t it?”

“Indeed I am,” Tempest declared rather loudly, stretching awake and waving rather sheepishly at the children – who obviously had come to play a ball game. “You don’t need to worry about me, I’ll be on my way soon.”

“Alright. Where you headed? You could come play with us.”

“Hmmm. Okay. But it may not be as you want. I’m going to need some major self-adjusting.”

“What do you mean, self-adjusting?” a teenage chaperone inquired.

Tempest trotted over and took one of the soccer balls that were in a net bag he was holding. With a brief flick, she threw it about fifteen feet into the air. Then she made a tremendous leap, sending her body straight up. Pulling her legs out in a turning posture, she made a quick, hard bodyspin. Her back foot hit the ball, hard, sending it flying at breakneck speed towards a goalpost, bursting the ball like a party balloon and leaving a dent in the metal upon impact.

“Still need a dictionary?” she huffed, plummeting back down and rolling upon landing to break her fall. Everyone was left speechless, some unable to even move.

“I thought so. Now, I’ll have to tone that down a lot to play safely. Think I can do it?”

“Go for it,” the chaperone urged. “We have plenty of balls. Just be mindful of the kids.”


So Tempest got a crash course in the dynamics of soccer, and chose to be a goalkeeper, where she’d be less likely to cause any damage. Given the relatively low strength of the kids’ kicks, it wasn’t too hard for her keen eyes to spot the ball coming, and she blocked it with every move. Even aiming for the top of the net did the opposing team no good. After three rounds they were completely spent, having lost 3 to 9 against Tempest’s team.

“Haha! The win has been tripled!” she scoffed, rolling about in the grass and letting the losing team players’ pants of defeat soak into her ears. “Now, I must go. Time to find some food and water.”

As she turned to leave, the lead member of the opposing team held out a bottle of fruit juice. “Hey, here. You’ve earned it for that epic game. Yeah, we lost, but it was fun having such a challenge. More power to our practice, right?”

“Indeed. And thanks.”

Now feeling energized yet tired, Tempest slid her saddlebag back on, took the bottle, and dropped it in. Then she waved goodbye and headed out on the road.

Her quest now was to find those ‘other animals’ which looked much like her. Logically, you could only fit such large grassy areas in the open, so Tempest headed east, back to the main road, and headed further north. It didn’t take long before she found what she’d been looking for.

A farm, with barns, silos, a house, and fenced pastures. And in one of those pastures, that same animal. Feeling a little excited, she ran up to the roadside fence and sat quietly and watched.

A man entered the area, holding a rope with a clasp at its end. He made a couple cooing noises of attention and encouragement. Amazingly, the animal obediently turned around and stayed still, allowing the man to attach the rope’s clasp to a halter around the animal’s head. With a gentle pull, the animal obediently followed, and the two walked back to the barn together. However, due to the clear, quiet air, Tempest caught wind of a quiet chatter the man had, and one word struck her:


“So that’s what these are,” Tempest concluded. “Strong, obedient, and quite beautiful.” Then, out of the blue, Tempest found herself questioning reality.

Am I actually a horse? A different, unique horse who has feelings and a soul like the humans who enjoy keeping them? And what does that say for my friends?

Pushing the thought aside, Tempest turned her attention to the smooth, flowing plains of grass in front of her. Weirdly, she found it welcoming, inviting even, as if it was calling her to… try it…

Unable to mentally fight the compelling grasp, she leaped over the fence, not even caring to seek permission first. With a quick check to make sure no one was watching, she carefully lowered her head, pursed her lips a little, and took a bit of grass. Grimacing at its rather dry flavor on her tongue, she then chewed it up and swirled the mashed-up bits in her mouth.

“Hmmm, not bad. A little bitter first, but gets sweeter once I get into it.” Shrugging it off, Tempest took in another mouthful, then another. And another. And chewed it all up and swallowed it with pride… wait.

Why do I… what?! Why am I eating grass, and why do I actually…uh, er… like it?

Tempest’s conflicting internal thoughts were soon awakened by a shout of shock and a mumbled sentence of bewilderment. By the accent, she could tell it was the same man. Pretending not to notice, she paused for a moment, then moved around to another patch of grass and took in another mouthful, flicking her tail as if in annoyance. To break the silence, she simply made a little noise, followed by a whisper – a teeny tiny whisper.

“Mmm-mm. Good stuff.”

“I, what, did…”

A few mumbled words came out of the man’s mouth before he fell to the ground with a thump, startling Tempest.

“No! I…”

Now she felt bad. All she wanted was to try the grass, and now she’d given the poor guy a heart attack. For a moment she froze and thought through the situation quickly. If she did offer help, then it’d be likely other people nearby would notice and then she’d likely be accused of hurting him on the spot. She couldn’t just leave him in such a state.

At last, Tempest made up her mind. She rushed up to the gate, flicked the latch, and pushed it open. Sitting down next to the man, she pulled the half-full bottle of water out of her saddlebag and unscrewed the cap with her teeth. Gingerly holding the bottle with her front hooves, she then gently drizzled some of the water over his face, startling him awake. Before he could even get a word out, she immediately put her hoof out to restrain his panicked movement.

“Relax, it’s okay,” Tempest whispered. “I’m sorry. I never meant to cause you to faint and hit your head hard, or indeed trespass. That grass just seemed so inviting.”

Still shaken, the man struggled to get his words out.

“Y-y-you just t-t-”

“Yes, I talk,” Tempest replied annoyingly. How many times would she have to explain this? “I am sentient, like you. But I have a shape and form somewhat like that of your prized animals here.” She glanced at the gravelly ground, where a small red spot lay. “Looks like you cut yourself a bit too. Come, let me get you to the house, so we can get that wound washed. What’s your name, if I may ask?”

“Leo. H-how do you know about wounds? You’re so much like a horse…”

“A commanding warrior who led ruthless armies and served under a tyrant who tried to enslave every land he came across, yeah. I’m not even from Earth regardless. That’s why I still have my more well-known name – Tempest Shadow.”

“Alright. Now I see,” Leo replied with a slight smile as Tempest offered herself as a makeshift crutch. Together they walked down to the farmhouse, where a large Q and A session – and many more events – were about to unfold.

Chapter 33: Tempest's Adventure - Part II

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Having reached the front door, Leo opened it, and Tempest kicked it open – though gently. Even so, their appearance startled the inhabitants. It was rather roomy inside, even with a decent amount of antique furniture. In the small living room, two kids – a son and daughter – were playing with some toys. And in the kitchen, a fine, lovely lady – Leo’s wife.

“Delighted to meet you all,” Tempest said with a friendly yet formal tone, her gaze indirectly aimed at the kids. “Your dad here needs some help.”

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!” a scream came in return, followed by a bolt for the bedrooms. In a quick, swift motion, Leo’s wife reached under the counter and brandished a double-barrel shotgun, startling the two.

“Seriously?” Tempest muttered, looking annoyed but unfazed.

“Maddie, lower the gun, honey,” Leo ordered, regaining his strength. “She’s not a threat. You have my word.”

“Did you drink at lunch?” Madeline interrogated.

“Please,” Tempest sighed in frustration. “Park aside emotion and listen to words of reason and wisdom.”

Slowly and calmly, Madeline lowered the shotgun and returned it to its safe storage area. Tempest then exchanged her serious, disappointed face for one of happiness and contentment. “Thank you. Now let’s help poor Leo here.”

Madeline fetched the first aid kit, while Leo’s two children, Ashley and Nathan, cautiously approached. Tempest noticed Leo trying to sit upright, and got an idea.

“Here,” she whispered, gesturing to Leo’s children and then to the armor on her back. After some nervous steps, they finally were at her side.

“Undo it. Little clasps underneath.”

Now that they’d felt more at ease, Ashley and Nathan reached up to Tempest’s back and soon found the clasps. The ridged armor plates came off without a hitch. With her back area now soft and exposed, Tempest lay down on the cool hardwood floor, serving as a back support and pillow for Leo.

Maddie then began a first-aid routine, applying an ice pack wrapped in cloth, then carefully treating the wound before applying an antibacterial pad and a gauze wrap.

“How do you feel now, Leo?” Tempest asked gingerly, craning her neck around to look at him, like a babysitter would look at a toddler curled up in its lap. Ashley seized the moment for a spot of teasing.

“Awww, for a bold and fierce military commander you’re cute and sweet!”

Tempest growled low internally, but only ended up blushing – slightly, resulting in a squee from Ashley.

“I don’t really like being called that, but showing love, care, and kindness is the best I can do for my life,” she confided. Looking up, she felt a sense of pleading and youthful, childish affection in Ashley. “Come. You’re yearning to show me it, go ahead.”

Ashley scooted up beside Tempest, cradled her neck, and gave her a big kiss on the muzzle, causing Tempest to almost twitch from shock, but soon she relaxed. Maybe being submissive wasn’t so bad after all…

Hardly believing her own thoughts, Tempest let her lips slip. “Um, could you show me the barn? Where you keep the… horses.”

“Why not. You’re practically one yourself,” Ashley whispered evilly.

Tempest found herself outside on the porch, letting the bright sun warm her up. She had decided to shed her armor and black one-piece jumpsuit, as Leo insisted it would restrict her movement and cause unnecessary weight. Horses had to be loose and free-spirited, he said.

A little while later, Ashley appeared in the doorway, blonde hair and smooth bangs ablaze, wearing a burnt-orange and brown plaid flannel shirt, blue jeans with a thick belt, and a bandana around her neck and a Stetson atop her head. On her feet were a pair of slightly worn leather boots with a unique design stitched on them.

Tempest’s eyebrows shot up in awe. “Wow, you look… gorgeous. It’s as if my friend Applejack was transformed into a human, hehe.”

“You ready, Tempest?” Ashley asked with a smirk.

Tempest stood straight up and nodded seriously. “I sure sugar am.”

With one hand on Tempest’s neck, Ashley gently led her on down the dusty dirt path, past the fields and towards the stables.

“How old are you, exactly?” Tempest inquired as they walked into the stables, only to fall silent at the sight that lay before her.

“Thirteen,” Ashley replied proudly. “Been in here since I was a toddler. Knew all the sights, smells, sounds, and names.”

Keen to know more, Tempest continued. “How many horses do you have?”

“Seven. Three are ours, the other four are kept here by their owners and we take care of them. We as a family love what we do.”

“I wouldn’t doubt it,” Tempest replied with a smile. “Don’t these horses get tired of being in such small stalls?”

“Ah, they’re fine with it. Mostly they’re in here just to relax, eat breakfast, or sleep. It’s quite roomy inside. Come, I’ll show you.”

Ashley pulled back and up a metal latch and slid the door to a stall open. Tempest took a keen, long look at the whole stall – it was nearly as big as Xavier’s room. Then she peeked her head back out, and stared at the horses in their stalls, all quiet and solemn. Thoughts spun through her mind like numbers in a slot machine.

Am I actually a horse?

Why does this stall feel so inviting?

Why did I want to graze in that field?

What will the horses think of me?

Could this be my true calling?

Why is Ashley so cute?

Tuning it all out, Tempest panted in a long, loud sigh – and found herself pawing at the ground unconsciously. It took all of her self-preservation to turn and look straight into Ashley’s pretty eyes.

“I’d like to ask, Ashley… could I… I mean, would you mind me… sleeping here for the night?”

“Now, now, Tempest,” Ashley spoke up, gently caressing the nervous pony’s neck. “I can assure you what you’re going through is completely normal. You’re confused and conflicted in your likes and identity. You’re not fully convinced of your thoughts, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with being mistaken in what reason to believe in. You may feel a certain way, but suddenly something else may make much more sense. That is due to your environment and also your internal traits. Being that you have pretty much all the physical traits of a horse, it’s understandable that you feel a connection with the environment of a horse. So, don’t worry about it. Embrace your feelings of your new environment.”

“Ah-hm.” Leo’s rather gruff voice interrupted his daughter’s calm talk, and he approached the two. “Tempest, I want to formally thank you for coming to my aid. Your act of trespassing is forgiven, and you can stay here as long as you wish. I wouldn’t mind having another pair of hands – er, hooves to help me and my family.”

“Really? Thanks… so much,” Tempest replied with a smile so wide her cheeks hurt a little, and her eyes got watery. “I’ll be sure to help in any way I can.”

“Say Ash, why don’tcha give Tempest a nice bath and let her rest for a while,” Leo suggested with a playful smirk.

“As you wish, Dad,” Ashley replied. She shut the stall door and gestured for Tempest to follow her to the end of the stable. Right at the end was an empty stall with fresh hay.

“That’s yours,” she declared. “Now c’mon outside, let’s get you washed up.”

Out in a solid-ground area near the stable, Ashley took a brush and cleaned out the dust and dried sweat from Tempest’ body, then grabbed a hose and gently sprayed warm water all over her. Next came the shampoo on the legs and body, then the mane and tail, and finally, the ears and face – just as Xavier had done.

“It’s rather funny that my boyfriend did this for me in the bathtub of his basement apartment, and used his own shampoo,” Tempest remarked with a grin. “Because he didn’t have anything else and didn’t know better.”

“Haha!” Ashley laughed, wiping the pony dry with a sweat scraper and giving the tail an extra rinse. “Well, it looks like your coat has held up well to human shampoo quite well, given human shampoo is more acidic.”

“Well, I’m no expert on shampoo, but the one you’ve used works like a charm,” Tempest confided with a chuckle as she observed herself in the natural mirror of a large puddle on the floor. “Thanks for the bath. It’s just… my mane…”

“You don’t like close-scalp-fitting hairstyles?” Ashley quipped.

Tempest shook her head. “I love my mohawk, it’s been a trademark of mine since I was a filly.”

“Alright, I’ll see what I can do,” Ashley muttered in a spur of doubt, running back to the house, before returning shortly afterward with a hair dryer and some hair spray. She picked up a large comb and combed the hair well, then clipped some excess growing hairs, before pulling up a large section at the front and spraying it well. Finally, she dried it well with the hair dryer.

Repeating the process fastidiously, Ashley soon had Tempest’s mane back up in its glory of a smooth, thick triple-notched curve.

“It looks impressive!” Tempest exclaimed with a happy smile, glancing at her reflection in a large puddle. “Not exact, but beautiful nonetheless. Thanks, Ashley.”

Before the little cowgirl could react, Tempest had pulled her into a close furry hug, resulting in a coo and giggle from both sides.

“Mind if I rest for a while?” Tempest then asked, as they re-entered the stable barn.

“Sure. Daylight permitting, maybe we can even have some time together.”

“Sounds about right. Enjoy your nap.”

Tempest stepped into her stall, and Ashley shut the door behind her, sliding the latch. With the little cowgirl gone, Tempest felt enclosed and alone again. She gazed up at the roof’s wooden rafters, the white walls, the door’s narrow-gapped metal bars, and the thick layer of straw beneath her feet. It felt like a small room with an inviting floor.

Managing a smile, she knelt down and gently rolled onto her side, letting her furry purple coat absorb the comfort of the dried grass. Feeling a little playful, she rubbed her head against the straw and kicked about a little. Amidst the bliss, an awkward mix of a squeal and low-noted rumble came out. Moments later, a snort came from elsewhere in the barn.

She had just let out a whinny.

Forty minutes later, Tempest was awakened by the loud sound of the stall door latch clicking open. Ashley had returned – and she’d brought her younger brother.

“Well, looks like our newest addition to the stable has arisen,” Ashley teased. “Are you ready for a ride?”

Tempest gave a blushed smile and a little whinny in response, before switching back into “humanized” mode, shrugging her shoulders and speaking. “I… guess so.” She looked over at Nathan. “Good to have you here.”

As if on instinct, Tempest stood upright and stepped forward, performing a little headshake to dislodge a couple bits of loose straw. Ashley stroked her neck and patted her shoulder. “Let’s begin, shall we?”

Flipping her behavioral switch, Tempest simply nodded with a straight face. Nathan held up a black halter, and Tempest lowered her head in submission. With the speed and efficiency of a knitter he slipped the halter over her head and pulled the crownpiece back, positioning them carefully behind her ears – resulting in a large slit in her mohawk.

With the crownpiece in place, Nathan threaded the noseband through a buckle, adjusting it so it fit well, but not too snugly. Ashley clipped a lead rope to the halter ring and held it taught, causing Tempest to jerk her head in shock.

“Now, Tempest,” Ashley began in a firm voice, “You are now under our command and orders. You’ll obey them and behave as you should. You are a horse, who listens, thinks, and acts like a horse. Understand?”

“ASH!” Nathan snapped. He tried to snatch the rope out of her hand, but she waved her arm out of reach and tightened her grip. Realizing he wasn’t going to get it, Nathan resumed his voice of disagreement and anger.

“ASH! What the hay are you speaking? We’re here to give her an experience, not talk down on her like that! She’s not a slave!”

“Right. Sorry, Tempy.” Ashley blushed. “Just remember to act appropriately… work with it, you know?”

“Now look who’s talking,” Nathan smirked with a small huff. “C’mon, let’s get to the next stage, sis.”

Taking hold of the lead rope, Nathan took center stage in front of Tempest and instructed her in his kind, sweet nine-year-old voice.

“When I pull and you feel a strain on your face, it’s an indication to move and follow my lead,” he explained. “Don’t worry, I won’t pull hard.”

Nathan then turned and gently pulled the rope. Right away, Tempest put her foot forward and began to walk in sync behind him.

Outside, Tempest got a good look at the scenery. The afternoon had rolled in and the sun was on its way to the horizon again. The wind gently blew now and then, kicking a bit of the dust from the stone and earth pathways that connected the barn, house, fields, and other buildings on the property. With proper timing, a good session could be accomplished before sundown.

Nathan tied her to a post with a slipknot, as was the proper safety procedure. Moments later, Ashley arrived carrying a large accessory over her arm, which Tempest recognized as a saddle – only this one was a lot larger… and more designed for the seating position of another creature…

This is it, isn’t it? She thought. They’re going to mount me and urge me to run about to their pleasures. Ooh, this will be rough yet engaging…

Tempest wasn’t exactly sure whether Ashley intended to make such an implication with a joke, but went ahead with her thoughts. Maybe this would be a good time to explore a different side of her well-worn and hardly used sensual humor, which Xavier had already hinted at the day before.

Ashley draped a pink cloth pad across Tempest’s back so the leather saddle would not chafe her. Then she gently lowered the saddle onto her back, resulting in a slight quiver from the purple pony.

Aah, ooh, mmm... Tempest murmured in pleasant surprise as Ashley cinched the girth straps around her smooth, muscular chest.

“For such a strong powerful commander, you’ve got a somewhat slim build,” Nathan remarked, holding the bridle and a long elastic. Having secured the saddle, Ashley then took the elastic and single-handedly, gathered all the hair in Tempest’s tail in one handful at the dock and pulled hard.

“AAAAHHHH! I… WHAT WITH…” Tempest yelped with a gasp.

“Too hard,” Nathan added in a cross voice. “She’s different.”

Ashley nodded and relaxed her tug a little, but retained her firm grip. With her other hand, she placed the tail elastic on the tail base and wrapped it around snugly, until the elastic was all used up. Now Tempest’s tail angled upwards at a 60-degree angle, like that of an Arabian stallion.

“Pfffffhhhhheeeeewwww,” Tempest panted. “That was… excruciatingly tough. I’ve only had my tail pulled a couple of times in battle, and that was eons ago.”

“Getting closer,” Nathan noted, wrapping a breast collar across her chest, below her neck. Ashley buckled straps from the sides of the saddle to the collar’s D-rings, above her shoulders. Finally, she ran another thin girth strap under Tempest’s belly and fastened the buckle, then pulled the collar’s third strap between Tempest’s front legs and fastened it securely to the thin girth strap.

“Almost there, Tempest,” Nathan said with a smirk as he looked over at Tempest, whose face looked like she was in a trance – a trance that was a mix of awe, pleasure, and confusion. It was hard to read.

Ashley dashed off to the tack shed and returned with what Tempest thought looked like just a mess of chrome and black rope. She picked it up and carefully slipped it over the pony’s head, making sure the connected straps that made up the piece of tack were straight and perfectly positioned. The two upper strips of shiny leather went around the head – one behind her ears, and one in front. Another one looped under her cheekbones, and Tempest stood patiently as Ashley tightened the buckle on that one. Short straps, one for either side of her face, were connected with loops to the forehead strap. The other ends also consisted of loops, and they held large polished chrome rings that would press against the sides of the pony's face.

The rings served two purposes -- the first being to hold the bit in the mouth of the wearer, and Ashley inserted that next.

"Open wide," Ashley gently ordered her faithful steed, while stroking her back. "Good girl, Tempy," she continued when Tempest did as instructed and bit down to keep the jointed rubber cylinder in place.

Both ends of the bit ended in short leather straps, and Ashley passed these through the chrome rings and snapped them shut. They held the bit snugly in place so Ashley would be able to give commands by pulling on the reins, which she next clipped to the opposite sides of the rings.

With the bridle in place and the reins attached, Tempest was finally ready for riding. Except one small thing.

“My hoof armor,” Tempest attempted to say, but it only came out as a series of muffles. After realizing how to adjust her tongue, she got it out.

“Oh, your hooves are soft. That’s why you always wore those,” Nathan concluded, running back to the house. Meanwhile, Ashley wrapped black shin guards around Tempest’s legs and gently pressed the Velcro down. “Those will help guard your shins – lower legs – against anything hard that might hit it. Less pain, more gain!”

Tempest grunted and nodded in response, again like a horse.

Roughly five minutes later, Nathan then appeared, his arms full with Tempest’s four armor hoof guards.

“Sorry,” he said, gently lifting Tempest’s front left hoof so Ashley could fasten the guard piece on. “Needed the bathroom.”

“No worries,” Ashley replied with a warm smile. Within a matter of minutes all four hoof guards were securely on. At last, Tempest was ready to be ridden.

“Hrmmm. You,” Tempest muttered under the restraining bit in her mouth, gesturing with her head towards Nathan.

Nathan gave his somewhat trademark smirk and stepped close to Tempest’s near side. “Alright mah dear steed, let’s see what yah got.”

Without warning, he gave Tempest’s flank a resounding yet decently gentle pat. A little quiver was observable on her muscle, but overall she remained composed.

“Good,” Nathan said, raising his left foot and sliding it into the turned-around stirrup, before grabbing the saddle’s front edge and hoisting himself up. The surge of energy nearly set Tempest toppling over, mere self-preservation preventing her losing balance. Now up, Nathan re-adjusted his hand grip and lifted his right leg over, lowering himself down into the saddle. With both feet in the stirrups, he gripped the reins and squeezed his legs together, pressing them against her body.

“That’s an indication to move forward,” he noted, gently stroking her mohawk. “Your hair makes it somewhat hard to see ahead, but I can handle it. Am I too heavy, and are you having any difficulty seeing?”

Tempest shook her head in response.

“Great! Now let’s go.”

Tempest took a few steps forward down the path, towards the house. Nathan took the reins together in one hand, then gently pulled. Tempest squirmed a little as the bit pushed back on her mouth with pressure. Nathan explained.

“Felt that? That’s from the reins which I hold. That’s how I communicate with you and control you. In this case, it was to slow down and stop. Different levels of pressure for different situations. I won’t yank, I promise. Now, let’s turn.”

Cutting some slack in the left rein, Nathan used his free hand to gently pull on it. Realizing the point, Tempest turned left – first her head, then her whole body. Her eyes warmed up and relaxed with contentment as she watched Ashley clapping in excitement and joy from a nearby fence.

Having turned a full 180 degrees, Tempest then continued walking in a causal beat, until Ashley opened the gate to a large dirt pen, and Nathan squeezed his legs again and tightened the reins a little.

You wanna go faster? Okay… Tempest thought. It’d be an evilly awesome prank to just go full gallop, but her energetic burst could knock little Nathan off easily. She’d hurt one family member already.

Stuffing the thought, Tempest quickened her pace – just a bit. Nathan immediately picked up on it and adjusted his rein positions. Soon the two were going in ovals in the pen.

Quite neatly, Ashley thought with a beaming smile. Her brother had really come so far in riding.

“Kick it up a notch, will ya?”

“Got it.”

Nathan urged Tempest forward more and more with the reins. Almost instinctively, she got the message – a little too much. In a quickly rising surge, she shot from a simple casual trot to a full-on gallop, kicking up dust and pebbles as she leaned into the turns of the oval track-shaped course she ran on inside the pen.

“Whoa, Tempy! Easy! I didn’t know you could run this fast! But… argh! To hay with it! Yee-haw!”

Inside her head, Tempest was laughing. She’d grasped the basics and was utilizing her knowledge of running from her previous days with the Storm King to their full extent – and giving Nathan a blast of excitement in the process. What could be better?

After about three circles, Tempest skidded to a stop, even bending her back legs slightly to emphasize the frictional power. Nathan hurled forward and gripped the saddle horn to steady himself. Buried in a cloud of dust, the two stood still, panting and huffing from the flooding, thrilling burst of energetic fun they’d both just experienced.

“That… was… AWESOME!” Ashley yelled, jumping up and down and pumping her arms in joy. “I ain’t gonna say anymore, Tempest! You’ve got skill you probably didn’t even realize! We’ve got to get you on a cow-cutting course!”

What’s cow-cutting? Tempest wondered, shaking her head and snorting out some dust.

“I’ll explain later,” Nathan whispered through a cough. “Let’s get you back to the barn so we can all rest. The sun’s already getting close to setting. I’ll bring a phone and some books, along with some tea and biscuits. It’ll be lovely.”

Chapter 34: A Brief Morning Reunion

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“Thanks for the ride,” Nathan said with a joyful, energized smile as he gently loosened the bridle and removed it, while Ashley took off the saddle.

“Ooo-aaaaah, that feels a lot better,” Tempest breathed with a pleasure-filled smile. “You’re most welcome, Nathan.”

“Did you enjoy it?” Ashley asked, seemingly picking up on the humor, in spite of her age.

“Enjoy? Pffft, I loved it!” Tempest exclaimed. “Okay, it wasn’t horrible, and it wasn’t overbearing either. I got to feel like what I’d been so amazed and baffled by, and it’s brought on a new take on things. I’m starting to love the country already.”

Nathan looked to the setting sun, then to Tempest’s blissful eyes. “Alright, let’s get this evening session started.”

After putting away all the tack, Ashley and her brother ran back to the house and burst into their rooms.

“What’s got you two in a hurry?” Madeline inquired.

“Just gathering some stuff for an evening session with Tempest,” Nathan briefly explained, grabbing his old blanket, a book, and two large floor cushions. Ashley took her father’s guitar (with permission of course), and they headed back to the barn.

Tempest was still standing, patiently waiting. “I see you’ve brought some items. So… how is this gonna go down?”

Ashley opened the stall door, and Tempest lay down on her belly in the entranceway, front hooves crossed, almost like an adorable dog. Nathan lay down the cushions, Ashley laid the guitar across her lap, and the session began as Nathan then opened up the book. Peering slightly, Tempest noticed it had a faded greenish-brown tone to it, with worn-down corners – and a picture of a beautiful black horse on the front.

“Ah-hm-um. I’ve decided on a spot of storytime, and what I’m going to read today is a very well-known novel, called Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell, a fine lady from over a century ago. Chapter One: My Early Home. The first place I can well remember, was a large, pleasant meadow…”

Nathan read through the first chapter with unbelievable fluidity, barely skipping over any words and ensuring each part was spoken so that it could be understand properly. Given his history of slight slurring, it was an improvement in the eyes of his sister.

“…so we were well off.”

“Beautiful,” Tempest remarked with a brief clap. “I’m actually enjoying this story and I can’t wait to read more. There’s just one small thing though…”

“Xavier!” Ashley spoke up excitedly, as it quickly hit her. She pulled a new-model Google Pixel out of her flannel shirt pocket. “Here. Just tell me what I need to dial.”


“Got it.”

Within seconds, Xavier was on the line.

“Hello? Who’s this?”

“It’s… Fizzy,” Tempest said slowly, tapping the screen to switch the output to speakerphone.

“Fizzy!” Xavier’s voice came surprised, yet a little anxious.

Soon, Twilight and Rarity were there too.

“Darling, it’s been all day and you’re not home?”

“Tempest, where are you?”

“I’m…in a little horse stable, on a farm, just north of Nobleton. Met the fam here and they’ve gotten to know me too. It’s been an awesome day. You know, you should come up here and visit. It’s really beautiful.”

“Fizzy? We all miss you, and we just want to see you come home.”

“I know. See you in the morning. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight to you too, sweetie.”

Ashley ended the call and slipped the phone back into her pocket. “You’re… leaving?!”

Tempest smiled sadly and nodded. “Yes. But not right away. I had some legal issues and to clear them I agreed in the court of law to 300 hours of community service. Maybe I can do it here. When Xavier arrives, we’ll talk.”

“Oh, alright,” Ashley replied with a sigh of relief. She then sang a little song with the guitar, then draped the blanket over Tempest.

“Sleep tight, Tempy,” Nathan whispered, planting a little kiss right on the pony’s nose, before closing and locking the stall door.

As her eyes drooped and her body’s energy-driven tension eased out, Tempest smiled and sighed with joy. She’d found something she loved doing that involved her prior days in a good way, and was able to give back to others with joy and happiness in the process.

It was easy to tell when morning arrived, because the stable’s design allowed for a good amount of natural lighting to shine in through the wooden rafters. As for actual sleep… pretty much impossible. The one small thing Ashley had failed to inform her about horses – their sleeping habits. Nonetheless, Tempest, always a careful and observant one, quickly picked up on their sleeping patterns, and adjusted hers to fit, sleeping in twenty to thirty minute intervals over a nine-hour period. Still, it was her first time doing so, and she was still stirring with dizziness and blurred vision.

Before she knew it, a hum and buzz was already making itself heard outside the stable doors, which then opened. Fighting her internal slumber, Tempest pushed herself upright – just as the latch to her stall clicked.

“Rise and shine, Tempy!” Nathan exclaimed, pulling the door open. “We’ve all got a busy day ahead of us.”

“So it… begins,” Tempest moaned drowsily. “In that case, let’s get started. Got a checklist?”

“Sure sugar do.”

Nathan handed her a slip of paper, which she then held up and scanned intensely.

“Okay, let’s see… first we’ve got to attend to all the horses, clean out each stall, feed them, and general maintenance. Sounds about right… except I haven’t eaten breakfast myself.”

“Right. Sorry, Tempest.” Nathan blushed. “Ashley’s still in the house, probably doing dishes. I decided to get a head start, so I finished my breakfast early and came here to wake you. Ooo-kay. Let me get some apples, oats, and some alfalfa hay.”

“Good rhyme,” Tempest deadpanned, slowly sitting back down. As Nathan ran off, her mind drifted back to her days at Maverick and Rodney’s Mod Shop, welcoming in customers and observing the world glide by on the street.

I wonder how you’re doing, Breezy. And our other friends, too…

Ten minutes later, Nathan returned with a hay net and bowl in hands, and an apple in his pocket.

“Here ya go,” he said, hanging up the hay net on a hook on the inside of the stable, just beside the door.


From the corner of her eye, Tempest noticed Ashley tending to something outside, and her ears caught wind of a diesel truck down by the corral. Yep, the ranch was bustlin’ alright.

Not wanting to waste valuable time, Tempest chowed down on her food, first munching on some of the alfalfa and licking up the oats from the bowl, before biting good large chunks out of the apple. Feeling energized, she then noticed a metal pail of fresh water Ashley had provided, and drank it dry.

“How’s our fine ol’ Tempy doin’?” Madeline’s thick country accent rang through as she approached the stall door, this time with love, bravery, and compassion. It was a stark contrast to her reaction at the house entrance the day before, and Tempest sensed it immediately.

“Energized, happy, and confident,” she replied, turning and leaning forward, allowing Madeline to caress her face and mane. “Thanks for accepting me.”

“Happy to do so.”

With Tempest well-fed, it was time to get to work. As her obvious lack of hands or telekinetic powers rendered her unable to muck out the stalls, Tempest used her strong teeth to pull out the old, uneaten, and (forbid me!) moldy hay nets out, before tossing them into a small cart, which she then pulled outside. From there, Leo then cut the nets and added some of the old hay to the manure pile, which then was stored in an area which Nathan explained was called the “muck heap”.

“I’ve been through muddy forests and jumped from airships in the clouds, but damn, that stuff is putrid beyond belief,” Tempest grumbled, wrinkling her nose.

“Hey, we all produce it,” Ashley laughed. “Even you. By the way, only the moldy hay gets chunked. The rest we donate to cattle farmers, since the old hay is still consumable by cows.”

“I’ve definitely got a lot of adjusting to do,” Tempest muttered, pulling the cart back to the barn. “At least, thanks to my pony friend Applejack, I am familiar with quite a few stuff here.”

Rather courageously, Nathan climbed a stack of brick-shaped bales in the barn, checking for the best stock, with Ashley watching rather anxiously. After finding a few, he gently dropped them down to her, then she tied a couple lengths of rope around them, before tossing the completed hay nets into the cart.

With the cart full, Ashley buckled Tempest into the harness, and she strode out, back to the horse stable building.

“Workin’ well, ah see,” Leo mused with a grin.

“As best as I can,” Tempest replied, nodding. “I will be leaving, but much later from now. Depends what Xavier agrees to.”

Madeline nodded slowly in agreement. It was impressive how quickly she was warming up to Tempest. “True. He is your legal guardian, after all.”

A good three hours passed. Having taken care of all the horses in the stable, Tempest then settled down in her stall for a brief rest, preparing for an exuberant ride later on. Leo’s family was an amazing one, and one that really deserved respect. They worked hard taking care of and enjoying what they loved – horses. Every aspect of horse care was covered. She was especially proud of Nathan. He never let his young age and smaller size put him down – he always worked with a big heart to get the job done and made sure he was ready to help whenever needed, rather eagerly.

“So… what does Xavier do?” Ashley asked, sitting down next to the open stall.

“Ah, so you’re taking a break too. Well… he does a lot of things. But his primary goal is taking care of my friends. He works at an auto mod and restoration shop in Toronto, and in his spare time makes music and skateboards. For the most part his music’s been casual, somewhat on and off, but he’s getting his life back in order. Recently he’s taken more time to learn how to make better music. He did hip hop beats, but also did some traditional Caribbean folk music, given his heritage and his mom’s love for culture and the arts. I haven’t inquired, but he probably could play some real instruments if he tried. He’s got serious skills with drums already.”

“Tryin’ to make it in the underground scene didn’t go too well, did it?” Ashley said with a smirk.

“Most likely. He’s a hard worker and a long sleeper, and doesn’t do any drugs or drunk partying, so yeah. Heck, he even confessed that he never had that much luck with girls, and that I’m his first real girlfriend.”

Ashley’s eyes went wide, before she burst into laughter. “You’re a horse, and he’s a human… how does that…”

“I don’t know the depths of it from that perspective, but from his perspective, it does,” Tempest replied firmly. “And that’s all that matters.”

“Given his voice over the phone last night, I wouldn’t doubt it,” Ashley confided, killing her giggling fit. “You think he’d be down to spend some time here? My dad sometimes plays his guitar in the evening while we have a nice campfire.”

“Hmmm, I could see that. He’s got a good ear for tunes.”

A low rumble was heard in the distance, and Tempest picked it up immediately.

“Check by the main road for a grey station wagon with nice-looking wheels. Should be him.”

Ashley ran out of the stable and down the gravelly dirt path to the front gate. Already a car was speeding up from the horizon to the south. Not wanting to bother with the struggle of opening the gate, Ashley simply gripped the bars and threw herself over it, crash-landing on her side and rolling in a patch of dusty earth.

“Ow!” she yelped, rubbing her temple, shoulder, and lower back.

As the brief cloud of dust settled, the car came into view, stopping abruptly by the gate. Ashley got to her feet and hobbled over to the driver’s side. The window rolled down, and a dark face with wild hair stared right back at her, a jolly guitar tune playing in the background – so jolly her body started rocking along.

“Haha, looks like you enjoy my first alternative composition. Name’s Xavier, best friend of Tempest.”

“You fit how she’s described you perfectly,” Ashley replied, a little smile forming on her face. “Come on in.”

Ashley unlocked the gate and pushed it open, allowing Xavier to drive in. Leo and Madeline then came over from the field and the barn, ready for anything.

Xavier simply cut the engine and stepped out, lowering his head as a gesture of respect. “You must be the family Tempest talked about. Lovely ranch you got here.”

“Gee, thanks,” Leo replied with a bashful smile. “How’s the work going?”

“Pretty good. Just finished the touches on a 1967 Mustang’s suspension. A recent customer’s Honda Accord had a head gasket issue, but is now ready to roll. And that tune you heard from my car I whipped up in just half an hour. Cool, right?”

“I retract everything I’d thought about you,” Leo muttered, before raising his voice back to normal. “Why don’t you come see how Tempest’s doing? We were just about to…”

A little whinny sound came from the stable, followed by the clip-clop of hooves. Out strode Tempest, fully clad in tack. And on her back, Nathan, in cowboy attire.

How did you do that so fast? Ashley wondered, looking in surprise and wonder at her little brother.

“T-T-Tempest?” Xavier stuttered, frozen in shock at what had become of his girl.

Having noticed his reaction, Tempest smiled back, gagging a little at the restriction of the bit in her mouth. Instead, Nathan spoke, urging “his” horse forward.

“First off, I’m Nathan, son of Leo and Madeline here. Tempest has settled in well, and is getting well-accustomed to the country and ranch life. She’s had… a bit of an identity crisis, though, and has agreed to become a horse, essentially. She sleeps in one of the stable’s stalls like a horse, eats hay like a horse, and as you see, also doesn’t mind being ridden like one.”

As if to confirm, Tempest smiled up at Xavier – the same heartfelt smile she gave him in his bedroom the day before.

“So you want to stay here, instead of… with me?!” Xavier exclaimed.

Tempest immediately shook her head and used her jaw to nudge him into a hug. “No,” she whispered. “I won’t be leaving you. I want to stay here for the experience, and to complete my community service. Think it’ll be accepted?”

“I’ll check in later today after work and confirm it,” Xavier replied, gently stroking her broad, crested neck. “If it’s a position that’s legally accepted, then you can work away for that time duration as you wish.” He turned to Ashley. “Don’t forget to time it. Keep track.”

“Will do,” Ashley replied with a nod.

Xavier then gave Tempest a big forehead kiss. “I wish you’d come back, but I also know you need to find your own path with a suitable passion. I will admit, this is rather weird, but go ahead with what you enjoy. I wish you joy and happiness in all that you do, sweetie.”

“Thanks, Breezy,” she whispered, returning the kiss. “And remember, I will always, always love you.”

“Um, what are those inside the car?” Ashley asked. Xavier turned to see Applejack hopping up and pointing here and there, frustrating Rarity and Twilight Sparkle.

“Oh, hehehe. Those are some of my other pony friends. Seems like they want a taste of the fresh air.”

Xavier returned to the car and stuck his head through the open driver window. “This is private property, so show some dignity and respect, eh?” he warned, opening the rear doors and letting out the trio.

You certainly weren’t kidding, Tempest, Leo muttered in disbelief, taking in the sight of purple, white, and light brown ponies before him.

“This is Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, and Applejack,” Xavier introduced. “The book lover and brainiac, the creative fashion-lover, and the one who is best suited to working here. No offense, Tempest.”

“I wouldn’t doubt it,” Madeline said with a chuckle, turning to her daughter. “You and she literally look alike.”

“Hoo-eey, damn! You’re sure sugar right about that!” Xavier exclaimed. “Alright. Now that terms have been cleared, it’s time to go.”

“Aw, I wish I could…” Applejack pouted.

“C’mon AJ, you’re not the one who was commanded to perform community service. Besides, I sacrificed half of my work day for this journey up north here,” Xavier replied, adding a firm layer to his voice.

“Wait, take this,” Leo said, handing Xavier a slip of paper and a business card. “It’s the details of our home-based business of hosting barrel racing events and boarding horses.”

Xavier blushed. “Can’t believe I didn’t think of that. Thanks. Alright, Twilight and Rarity, let’s go! Bye Tempest! Love you!”

“You too, Breezy! See you soon,” Tempest replied, managing some speech through her bit, a tear moistening her purple cheek.

With Twilight, Rarity, and Applejack all buckled in, Xavier reversed out of the entranceway and drove off, the smooth rumble of the Forester’s boxer engine resonating across the land.

Chapter 35: Tempest Gallops and Breezy Flexes

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“Well, that was an experience, eh Tempy?” Nathan mused, gently patting her on the neck. A brief moment of silence stood, before Tempest finally spoke.

“I’m going to miss you guys a lot when this is over, so it’s important that I – I mean, we – make the most of it.”

Leo gulped and sighed. He knew that was the truth.

“Let’s do another run, but in grass,” Nathan suggested. “Gotta get used to this if we’re to partake in a roundup or race.”

Madeline gave a nod of approval, and Ashley eagerly ran up to the gate to the ranch’s largest pasture. “Oh yes, yes! This will be so good!”

With a gentle tug of the reins, Nathan urged Tempest around a full 180 and they walked down the path to the pasture, where Ashley was eagerly waiting.

“It’s a shame Xavier didn’t allow Applejack to be here,” Tempest mumbled through her bit, trying not to gag. “She’d be having a ball.”

“I guess Xavier’s had too many experiences of her and her friends getting carried away with fun, eh?” Ashley guessed.

Tempest reared her head and nodded, jiggling the bit a little to cease a tiny irritating feel, before stepping into the pasture. The green grass stretched out for acres, rolling up into a little hill further toward the horizon. It was the perfect place to stretch her legs and obtain a proper exercise, much like she’d done as part of her previous life as an enemy military commander.

Only this time she could do it without harm, genocide, or heartless fighting.

“Ease into it, bro!” Ashley called from the gate.

“Will do, sis!” Nathan replied. “C’mon Tempy, let’s get it!”

With an internal smile, Tempest quickened her walking pace until she was in a little trot, then did a perimeter prance all the way to the farthest end of the pasture, where the fence was rather old and down-trodden, with some sections completely missing.

Tempest shook her head in disappointment, and made a mental note to ask Leo to fix it right away. However, she had more important things to do. With a snort and a little kick, she quickened her pace a little more. Nathan lowered his riding stance a little and squeezed hard against her sides.

Realizing what he wanted, Tempest stretched her legs out and performed a little leap, before launching into a complete gallop, her chest pounding with every stride as her panting lips parted to assist her nose in taking in as much air as possible.

“Oh my God, TEMPY!” Nathan squealed in a mix of amazement and fright as the energized pony beneath him thundered along, aiming for the center of the pasture. Without even waiting for a rein gesture, Tempest re-aligned herself parallel to the fence and kept going, reaching a good thirty-five miles an hour, before dropping to twenty, ten, and finally five as Nathan pulled back on the reins to bring her to a near standstill and turn right, towards the gate. Tempest was tired, but not completely out of breath. Nathan, on the other hand, was dizzy and almost shaking.

“That was unlike anything I’ve ever felt, but it was good.” He leaned over and eyed Tempest. “Galloping is great, but not to that extreme, alright?”

Tempest just nodded slightly and panted… and then felt a sudden throbbing behind her and an instinctive tail pull from her back muscles. Immediately a loud trickling sound was heard.

Ashley bit her lip hard as Nathan scowled at her, and gently inquired.

“Um, Tempest, did you just… relieve yourself? Wow, you’re really shaping up to be a horsey. Don’t feel bad, it’s natural here. We still love and respect you, RIGHT ASH?”

“Ye…hehe – yes,” she replied in a stifling manner.

With the acknowledgement given from his older sister, Nathan resumed his reassuring voice. “So don’t be upset. Part of trying something new is expecting the unexpected. Now let’s clean that. Ash, get the hose, will ya?”

Nathan gently led Tempest to the cleaning platform, where Ashley gently hosed down Tempest’s dock and wiped her rump dry.

“Feeling a bit peckish, but still got some energy left,” Tempest confided. “Let’s do some more riding.”

So Nathan rode back to the pasture, and performed figure eights walking and trotting – all the while allowing Tempest to become acclimatized to the feeling of control through the reins and stirrups, thus turning and cornering at higher speeds in a more balanced manner.

“I’m starting to see how all this is aligning,” Tempest admitted, massaging her sore lips as she ate from her stable’s hay net that late afternoon. “I’m positive I can pass the next test. Which is it, by the way?”

“Dodging,” Ashley explained. “In cow-cutting, you have to separate an individual from a group – slip in and disperse the group, until you’ve got the target straying. Once the target is isolated, you must then outsmart the solo cow you’re faced with, head-on, so as to block it from returning. Once you’ve initiated a lock, you keep it for as long as possible. All within two-and-a-half minutes. Basically, everything about handling, mind games, agility, and the mutual communication between horse and rider.”

“Sounds good. How about jumping?”

“Yeah, we could do that. All in gradual steps.”


As she settled down and listened to Nathan read the next chapter of Black Beauty, Tempest reflected on her new life, and how she was becoming more and more accustomed to being ridden. The only thing that could make it better would be to make it worthy of community service. It was a home-based business, after all.

By the next morning, she was up and eating a hearty breakfast and walking about even before Leo was outside. He later found her walking about the ranch, looking here and there at seemingly random areas of interest.

“Good morning Tempy. What’s got you up at this hour and observing things so intently?”

“Just taking note of things that will likely need repair,” she replied. “Like the back part of the barn rafters, the stable door hinges, and the fence in the pasture.”

“I didn’t even think to check those,” Leo replied, clearly surprised by her attention to such details.

“Always good to keep your equipment in good condition,” Tempest reminded. “Just because it works, doesn’t mean it’s working fine.”

“I stand corrected, Tempy.”

Just then, a Johnny Cash song split the air a distance away. It was Ashley’s phone. Instinctively she picked it up.


“Hi Ashley. Good news – your business has been approved for community service! I’ve asked an agent to head up there so Tempest can sign a few documents, and also check up on her from time to time. Yah know, to ensure that the testified work is actually getting done in a timely manner. Alright?”

“No problem, Xavier. And thanks for keeping in touch.”

“You too. Tell Tempest I said good morning. Bye.”

“I certainly will. Bye.”



It had been a long and arduous two months of work. The classic Mustang restoration project was completed, and Rodney towed it down to an auction in Ohio. The car sold for a $75,800 winning bid – proving all our hard work had really paid off. As a reward, Maverick split the earnings off between us all, so I received a little over 15 grand. I really wanted to buy a ton of clothes for my friends, but my mom insisted that it was pointless given the short time they’d be staying on Earth, and that I should invest in something better.

And that’s how I ended up back in Long & McQuade one weekend. We (or, Pinkie, mostly) had come up with a big idea of throwing a party for Tempest’s return. My mom and Pinkie decided to bake, while Rarity and Skystar worked together on designing a few stickers and decorations. Since I couldn’t come up with any ideas, I simply headed out to purchase some upgrades.

“Why didn’t you get these before?” the cashier inquired, as she reached over to scan the boxes.

“Sometimes you end up learning the hard way,” I confessed. “Especially when you aren’t doing it professionally.”

I loaded the speakers, subwoofer, stands, cables, and larger audio interface (which I traded my old one in for) into the back of the Forester, and headed off to Best Buy, where I bought even more stuff – a DELL Infinity-edge monitor, a cheap LED light strip kit, and the cheapest 10-inch iPad available. After that, I got a free fridge cardboard box from an appliance store, then visited a craft store and bought a ton of ridged foam, and some glue. Finally, I bought a shelf for the desk, to elevate the monitor and tuck away the cables.

“Hi everyone!” I said enthusiastically, trudging down the steps with one box in my hands.

“There you are,” Joyce looked at me intently. “Where’ve you been all day?”

“Splashin’ out da racks on the lit stuff, brah,” I mused in a slurred, somewhat drunk voice.

Joyce frowned, and Pinkie giggled.

“Nah, I’m just messin’ with ya, Mom. I bought some upgrades for the studio. I know I’ve been slacking on my composing knowledge, so I’m getting back on track. Every day after work I’ll practice. Twi, you gonna help?”

“Absolutely! I got plenty of books.”

I turned to see a stack of five more books on music theory, mixing, mastering, and Logic Pro X tips. I shook my head – she’d brought three books the previous month, and it took me four weeks to thoroughly read them all. Twilight was a force to be reckoned with when it came to passionately obtaining knowledge.

“Ooh, looks sweet!” Rarity exclaimed, gently cutting the tape and lifting the components out. “Are these speakers?”

“They sure sugar are, Rarity,” I replied proudly. “I’ve always composed on headphones, but it’s not always ideal, and today’s a day for change. I also bought stands for them, and a better interface to hook everything up together. Still more!”

Rather excitedly, I rushed back to the car and returned with the monitor and iPad, before retrieving the LED lights, shelf, roll of foam, glue bottle, and the fridge box.

“You’re dead serious about this,” Joyce whispered. “It’s a little late now, dinner’s already prepared.”

We all ate together, and I explained my big plan to convert my whole bedroom into a recording studio, sell all my old stuff, and move my bed into the living room.

“Ah can’t believe you’re this dedicated,” Applejack said, shaking her head, but with a smile. “I’m seriously wishing you could come to Equestria. Coloratura would love to work with you.”

I blushed. “But I already got a crush. You do make a good point though. I should look into exporting to LP records, since Equestria still uses them.”

“I’ll admit, I’ve got big plans too,” Joyce said solemnly. “But we’ll discuss that in the morning. For now, let’s work out this basement and our stuff.”

I emptied my whole storage rack, clothes dresser, and closet. Rarity folded up beddings and stored them neatly away, while Applejack helped Joyce disassemble my bed. Pinkie and Rainbow Dash relocated other items in the living room out of the way. Slowly but surely, we got things were we wanted them to be – by working together.

Joyce put my bed in the far corner, and I added my dresser next to it. Right at the footboard, the couch was positioned, making space at the far end for her own desk and shelving unit. With no other space, I moved my shelving unit into the storage room. Twilight found an old small tote box, and stuffed all the library books into it.

The “main” desk we’d shared would now become my studio desk. I set it up perpendicular to the door, on the interior wall. Using tape and some of the foam, I covered up the window, and also applied some squares of foam to the side walls with double-sided tape.

“These will keep the sound from being distorted through reflections,” I explained, adding more to the wall behind the desk.

Finally, I vacuumed the whole room. It was time to bring in the equipment and set it up.

“We’ve got this, together,” Twilight said, with her friends chorusing the final word.

“We do,” I affirmed, unboxing the speaker stands. “Let’s get this started.”

I attached the speakers to their stands and plugged them into the audio interface along with the subwoofer, while Applejack and Rarity applied the LED strip to the back of the desk and added the shelf on top. Twilight checked the speakers to ensure they were at a 60-degree angle for level sound distribution, and Rainbow Dash brought the rest of the cables.

“What shall we record?” Skystar asked eagerly, handing me my prized Komplete Kontrol MK2.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” I confided, plugging it into the MacBook. “We’ll need to test out some samples first.”

With the keyboard attached, I then hooked up my drum pad and audio interface and wired up all the cables behind the shelf, out of sight. Finally, Joyce entered with the last piece.

“This looks lovely, son,” she said with a smile, holding up the monitor screen. “Can’t wait to see it.”

“How about now?” I mused, placing it on the shelf, in the center of the desk. I plugged it into the surge-protected power bar and plugged in the display cable. Last but not least, I pushed the ON button on the laptop and held together the cables using colored zip ties to distinguish which cables were which.

“Oh, wow, it’s running! And it looks so beautiful and real!” Skystar exclaimed, watching the large 4K desktop monitor come to life after I logged in. I opened up Logic and the hardware setup pane, and carefully went through every step.

“Here goes,” I whispered, opening up a couple of tracks – piano, synth flute, some sparkle sound effects, bass, and strings. Splitting the piano roll and the main track windows between the laptop screen and the monitor, I hit the tempo and record buttons, and began tapping away on the piano. Right away, clear, smooth sound flowed from the HS8 speakers and the subwoofer.

“IT WORKS!” Rainbow Dash all but shouted, receiving a flood of stares. “Sorry.”

“Thank God,” I whispered with a smile. “I know it’s late, but let me quickly sketch out an idea I have here. Just roll off the top end and middle-waves, and add a little jingle and reverb to this piano.”

“Hey, that’s rather jolly!” Pinkie exclaimed, dancing a little jig.

I snickered and continued until I had four melodies, then stopped.

“Okay, this should be about enough for now. It’s getting really late, and we still have a lot to clean up.”

“I second that,” Joyce added. “Cities weren’t built in a day. Let’s get some sleep and come back tomorrow. By the way, what’s that big box and the remaining foam for?”

“Budget booth build,” I replied, saving the project and shutting down the laptop. “I’m gonna make a vocal booth, which I’ll set up in the corner by the kitchen. Isolating it will make for better sounding vocals overall. Not perfect by any means, but definitely better than that live performance we did with Tempest. It’ll be spectacular.”

Chapter 36: Tempest Comes Home

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“I still can’t believe it’s been this long,” Leo said sadly, lowering the ramps on the trailer. “You’ve known us for two whole months, and now you’re leaving…”

“Ee-yep,” Tempest nodded flatly. “It’s been a wonderful experience that’s uncovered a new side of me. I am embarrassed to admit it, but… I liked you guys treating me like a horse. Wearing tack and being urged to run across grassy land was a great thrill!”

Holding the lead rope attached to the halter she was wearing, Leo smiled warmly at her and stroked her neck. “In that case, you deserve to have what you’ve enjoyed.”

Tempest tilted her head like a dog. “What do you mean?”

Leo grinned and leaned in to her ear. “The tack is yours to keep. My kids have observed you enjoying wearing it. If you really love it, then you should have it. I can always buy some more in the future, you know – ”

Before Leo could even trail off, Tempest pulled him into a hoof hug, nearly on the verge of tears.

“Th-thank you so much, Leo.” She turned to notice two little figures by her side. “And you two too, Ashley and Nathan.”

Madeline, on the other hand, was unable to cope, and retreated to the house. Tempest sighed sadly. As much as she loved working on the farm and being treated like a horse, her true calling was with her friends, and her home in Equestria. Her hours of community service were all complete, and had been fully approved. Now she had to return to sign a few completion documents and reunite with her friends. With Xavier busy at work, Leo offered to drive Tempest down to Toronto himself, with his kids in tow.

“Know that I’ll always love you guys, and I won’t ever forget all that you’ve done for me,” Tempest stated solemnly as Leo closed the trailer’s doors after safely tethering her inside.

With Tempest secured in the trailer, Leo and his kids piled into the truck and hit the road.



Work felt rather dull today. I simply told my co-workers that it was “just some odd reason”, but inside I knew the true reason – I needed to get started on an important mission that I should’ve carried out months ago: finding any clues from the crash site when my friends originally landed on Earth. They represented the Elements of Harmony, which held a large amount of magical energy, so it should make sense to wear the necklaces when they started up the portal.

It got so bad, I almost stumbled and hit my head on a Corvette’s tranny while attempting to undo a bolt with a breaker bar. Garrett caught me in time.

“You okay bro?”

“Yeah, just heavily preoccupied mentally. I’ll grab a spot of early lunch.”

In the office, I made a cup of coffee and heated up some pizza. As I sat back and reflected, it seemed like there was more than just the guilt of delaying the most important goal. Yep, I was yearning inside for my girlfriend, Fizzy. I missed her a lot.

“Having some breakup issues?” Brian asked, sitting down beside me on the couch with a large burger and a can of pop.

I sighed and shook my head. “Far from it. Just been separate for a long time. I haven’t had the best luck with girls all my life, until Fizzy came along. Mostly because I usually was the one with problems and ended up projecting them onto my girl. But this time, it’s my girl who was inflicted with previous pain, problems, and mental issues, and I was the one to help her recover from her past. So it…” I held back a tear. “It makes me feel better that I’ve done something good for a girl I love, rather than just ‘love’ per say, ya know?”

“I could see that,” Brian admitted. “I’ve been in relationships before, and not all have been the best. Even when knowing someone you love is leaving only temporary, it can still feel permanent after a while. It’s only after you spend some time seriously and deeply thinking about the reasons why, does it come back into proper perspective. Basically, it gets better with proper thought.”

Hearing this, I sat back and pondered. It’d been a short time since Tempest and I had gotten together, but so much had been accomplished within that time that it felt longer than it actually was. Maybe Tempest did have a point about needing to get away from the hustle and bustle of crowded city life. I had no idea how serious my mom would be about almost the same thing.

With lunch over, I continued work on the transmission, pulling it out and removing the worn-down clutch, bearings, and seals, and replacing them with upgraded, new ones. I’d done these many times before, and before the next hour passed, I had the tranny back onto the engine and back in its housing, firmly mounted to the chassis and driveshaft.

I wasn’t the only one though – I could see a solemn and longing look on Garrett’s face, albeit a brief one.

“You’re missing them all, aren’t you?”

“Yeah. Mostly Spike. He’s such a cool, obedient, and helpful kid. Watching him eagerly operate the lift just seems to make this otherwise dirty and arduous job so much more enjoyable. Fluttershy, too. Out-of-this-world kind and polite. Sucks that they’re all going to be leaving soon, for good.”

I simply nodded and said nothing more, cleaning the wheel arches and replacing a rusted control arm, before lowering the Corvette back down to ground level, slowly and quietly.

“I’m gonna have to put three diamonds on the customer service chart or someth…” Maverick trailed off as a truck hauling a large trailer came into view by the front bay door. From my angle, I couldn’t tell who was driving, exactly, but I could hear a voice – a kid’s voice.

“So this is it, the place where Xavier works,” Ashley nodded in confirmation, stepping out of the truck, followed by her younger brother. “Lookin’ pretty sweet.”

“Come help me,” Leo called, already pulling down the trailer’s ramp. Ashley and Nathan simultaneously pulled the door latches and yanked the doors open, while Leo stepped inside. Tempest was napping, but soon awoke at the gentle caresses of Leo’s hand.

“C’mon, Tempy, we’re here. Someone special is waiting to see you…” he whispered, unlatching the rope and leading her out of the trailer, into the light.

“Uuunnnnfffff,” Tempest murmured, blinking rapidly in an attempt to adjust to the intense light of the afternoon sun. “Even in the city it’s bright.”

With Tempest out of the trailer and her eyes re-acclimatized, Leo unclipped the rope from her halter.

I could barely believe my own vision. She was here, and here to stay. Well, not technically, but still.

“FIZZY!” I gasped in excitement, rushing forward, nearly tripping. I pulled off my dirty gloves and threw my arms around her neck in a warm hug, tears already spilling.

“Well, this marks a reunion and separation at the same time,” Tempest stated humorously. “But it’s all good. It feels great to be back here in the city with you, Breezy.”

“I…I’m happy that, you’re back with me, sweetie.”

Ashley held up the Western saddle, with the saddle pad, reins, breast collar, straps, a lasso rope, tail wrap bandage, shin guards, and bridle delicately balanced atop it. “Mr. Xavier, this is yours. Tempest loved wearing it, so it’s only fitting that I leave it with you, your sole lover and guardian.”

“A whole tack, set, huh?” I replied, beaming. “I don’t know how to ride, and I wouldn’t ride my lover, at least not that way! But, thank you very much. Looks rather expensive, so I’ll be sure to keep it safe. And thanks for taking great care of Tempest for me.”

“All in a good equestrian’s life,” Ashley replied proudly.

I then got a good crash course in equestrian work. Leo, Ashley, and Nathan showed me how to lay down the saddle pad and properly place the saddle on Tempest, how to put on the bridle and run the reins, and hooking up the breast collar. I was astounded. I could not believe that Tempest actually loved the feeling of being in this state.

Spike would have a blast on her back, provided he could stay on, I briefly thought, before being interrupted by Leo. “Oo-kay, time for us to go.”

“Wait a minute,” Nathan said, rushing back to the truck and returning moments later with a small duffel bag.

“Almost forgot, here’s Tempest’s armor and black jumpsuit.”

Xavier gently took it and draped it across Tempest’s back. “Thanks for not forgetting this. It’s been a pleasure knowing you three,” I said, giving Leo, Ashley, and Nathan a firm good-bye handshake.

“You too, Xavier. Take care.”

“Well, that’s one thing I can cross off my list of ‘weird stuff I’ve seen in my life’,” Maverick chuckled, assisting Garrett and I as we pushed the fixed Corvette onto a flatbed trailer, ready for transportation to its owner in the eastern part of the city.

“Tempest’s a… unique and interesting character, to say the least,” I whispered over to him as I tightened the holding straps.

I continued work on other cars until the evening, when Maverick and Rodney closed up. I wiped my forehead and examined a bruise and a small cut on my arm. I entered the office area and washed up in the bathroom. Tempest was lying on the couch, looking cross and bored – and still in her tack.

“Why didn’t you head home?” I inquired.

“Like I’d ever leave you,” she huffed, in her sarcastic gruff voice, though I saw a tiny little pout at the tip of her lips.

I had to grin as a part of my heart melted away. Was she playing the loyal doggie card?

“C’mon, the day’s ended. We gotta head home and regroup. I need to execute the first part of my plan.”

I leaned down and stuck out my hand, and she placed her hoof in my palm. Then she stretched and pushed herself upright.

“For somepony so strong, you sure seem delicate inside at times,” I mused. I flicked off the light switches as we walked out, pulled out the special key for the front entrance, and locked the door behind us.

With the duffel containing her armor flung over my shoulder, and Tempest fully clad in tack, we walked down the streetlight-lit streets of Parkdale together, as the couple we were.

Reaching home, I undid the bridle buckles so Tempest could give her mouth a rest – and speak properly.

“Uh, guys?” I called down the steps as we entered. “We’ve arrived.”

“Hmmm,” Tempest muttered, taking note of the absence of lights. I too realized it was pitch black beyond the foot of the stairs. Nonetheless, Tempest and I descended. We just reached the last step when…

“SURPRISE!” came Pinkie’s indignant shout. All the lights went on, and I could see my LED strip lights flickering.

Joyce, Twilight, Applejack, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity were arranged in a circle around the living room coffee table, on which lay a plate with the most beautiful cake I’d ever seen, with two candles stuck atop it.

Rainbow Dash and Spike blew horns simultaneously while firing a small confetti cannon.

Tempest had to hold back an eye-roll. She loathed excessive parties. But on the inside, her heart was beaming with joy – and that soon manifested itself on the outside in the form of happy tears.

“I…I don’t know what to say. To all of you. F-for doing something like this. I’ve only been away for two months.”

“And that’s why I threw you a happy two-month party!” Pinkie exclaimed, literally wrapping herself around Tempest’s neck in a hug.

“Well, I can truthfully say I love it,” Tempest confided. It was then that Applejack took note of how her friend was dressed.

“What’s with the saddle and straps across your face?”

“What?” Tempest mused, stealing a glance at Rarity. “Don’t you like it?”

It was now my turn to give joyful greetings. I gave my mom a warm hug and lifted Spike right into my arms as if he was my little brother, giving a little forehead kiss. Twilight, Fluttershy, Applejack, and Skystar all received hugs and kisses too, while I gave Rarity a nice ear scratch and a firm brofist to Rainbow Dash.I changed into more casual clothing, gave Tempest a quick sponge bath, and quickly dried her with a hair dryer.

“Ready for the party?” Pinkie said in an anticipating, slurred voice.

“Yes I am!” I snapped confidently.

“Then let’s get started, darling,” Rarity replied.

We began with a game of chess - which Twilight won twice, but I won the third match. Afterwards, Tempest blew out her candles and we ate the cake together, along with other deserts. Then we had a little dance-off to some of Joyce’s favorite traditional music. I ate so much I had to walk about and skate a little outside to burn off the excess calories.

“So, what’s the special plan?” Twilight and Pinkie inquired, as we settled down to relax by my bed. Joyce was reading a story to Spike, Skystar, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash, while Tempest was curled up on the bed, her tack all neatly placed by the footboard.

“It’s simple,” I explained, pulling off my socks and crossing my legs. “We return to where I first discovered you guys, and leave no stone unturned, no person unquestioned until we find definite clues to your arrival on Earth. If we’re lucky, we might be able to find the Elements of Harmony necklaces.”

Twilight nodded. “That sounds like a good step. Shame we didn’t get around to doing this the day after it all happened.”

I nodded in agreement. “Absolutely true, Twily.”

All at once, Tempest slid across the mattress behind me and kissed my ear, uttering a sly whisper that only I could hear.

“Take my spandex off.”

I twitched and pulled my head away as if a wasp had flown into it, before pulling my composure back into position. “Later, ok?”

“I heard that, Tempest!” Twilight sneered, resulting in some serious blushing. I smiled and sipped some water from a bottle atop my bedside table, then – in full view of everyone in the room – held it up, deliberately spilling the remainder in a thin dribble all over Tempest’s face and onto her lips. She promptly lapped it up and gasped tensely, as if slightly short of breath.

Yes, I am a savage, I thought evilly.

“Xavier!” Joyce snapped, slamming the book down on the couch.

Rarity blushed, while Rainbow grimaced and staggered backwards.

“Ya ah real dirty fella,” Applejack remarked crossly.

I just sat on the bed, my face pale from fright and embarrassment at what I’d actually done. Meanwhile, Tempest was taking it all in, lapping up every drop of the water. In a sudden jerk, I righted the bottle and screwed the cap back on. The moment the bottle hit the tabletop, Tempest groped me and pulled me around to face her, her eyes pleading with pleasure. I myself had to hold back and fight my own urges.

“I can’t go all the way,” I confessed. “We’ll have to formally work this out. But we can sleep together. Just a minute.”

I craned my neck around to face the others. “Uh, girls? Spike? Let’s get to sleep. I’m tired and Tempest’s a little… preoccupied at the moment.”

Twilight nodded and brought the old mattresses into the studio, and everypony settled down, dozing off in the next half hour or so. Joyce's lights were soon out. Now it was just me and Tempest in the living room.

I shut the lights off – except for the faint light of my phone.

“Listen…” I whispered, softening my voice. “Just because we’re close, doesn’t mean we can get that close. There’s a time and place for everything. I’d prefer for us… to be married. Back in Equestria. I seriously am considering moving there with you.”

“R-r-really?!” Tempest gasped excitedly, wrapping her hind hoof around my ankles.

“Really. There are certain things that I've come to understand. High expectations can kill a simple man. I've been trying to master the art of distant, foreign love. But only so much can keep a girl like you warm.”

“We've been living in a cold, difficult world. But at least I have you to rely, even if for a short time. We both have been relying on each other for so much. As long as you know when I arrive in Equestria, you're mine, and I’m yours. Now, where’s that zipper?”

We sat up. It took me literally a second to find it and pinch it hard. Tempest literally shivered with glee as I pulled it back and peeled her jumpsuit off her body. Her cute purple fluff came out, and I instinctively rubbed and ruffled. Having got it off, I found a shocking yet obvious secret – it was so hot below it was literally glowing.

I tossed the jumpsuit on the floor and massaged her midriff as she licked my nose like a dog, before shuffling her hind legs closer.

Oh, you really tryin’ girl, I thought, squeezing my legs together to block access to what lay within. I rolled over and she wrapped her hind legs around mine, letting her chest fluff tickle and comfort my back, as well as wrapping her front hoof over my midriff, caressing my abs a little. Easing the tensions, we soon dozed off to sleep. Tempest knew of her playful, naughty, and dirty sides, and had become bolder in displaying it. I’d slept with girls before and taken off their bras – I knew of the behavior. But this wasn’t what I wanted at this point in time. It’d been a test, merely, to get to understand her purely as a person – er, pony.

Now that many of her bottled-up favorites and guilty pleasures were coming out, I had to handle them more carefully.

Chapter 37: Finding and Recovering the Elements

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I pushed up the garage doors to reveal myself, Tempest, and the others, ready to work. Since it’d probably be their last week on Earth, I wanted to make it count.

“Hi, Maverick.”

“Good to see you again. I see you’ve brought the squad along.”

“Yep,” I replied with a slightly sad sigh. “One last day of them helping. This afternoon, we’re going to try and find a way to return them home.”

“Find a few clues from where he first found us, to be precise,” Tempest added.

“Sounds good. Couple of new customers came in today, and the shop needs some rearranging and cleaning. Also picked up some chassis which hold potential.”

“Well, we know our roles, let’s get to it,” I announced, stepping inside.

I’d pre-arranged with Maverick to get off work early for a “family emergency” (which was the element hunt). Thus, we’d be able to have a good number of daylight hours to scour and search before the sky became dark and would-be criminals started roaming the streets. They had landed in a rather ghetto area after all.

“It’s good to have you here, one last time...” Garrett confessed, excitedly picking up Spike and cuddling him like a toddler.

“Um, it’s nice to be here again, one last time,” the little dragon replied, returning the loving favor with a hug.

Spike then donned some rubber gloves, Fluttershy plugged in a large vacuum, and with Garrett and Maverick’s help they began cleaning up the shop, starting with the fabricator area, sweeping and vacuuming up all the shards from the floor and scraping away all the burnt paint from work surfaces. Tempest, Applejack, and I helped too, pushing and moving engine stands, stationary cars, tires, and other large items out of the way.

Meanwhile, Rarity had tied on an apron and was mopping and scrubbing the main area where the lifts and toolboxes were, removing all the grime and oil off the floor.

Brian and the others cleaned up the other areas of the shop, while Rodney behaved as the supervisor and manager – which he was.

By noon, almost three-fourth of the shop was fully cleaned, and ready for the next wave of projects. Unsurprisingly, Rarity was the last to finish, having used every scrap of energy into getting the floor looking like it came from a ballroom.

“Why, my dear, you’ve wasted yourself!” I exclaimed, catching her before she fell to the ground in exhaustion. “Why don’t we have something to eat?”

“Indeed,” Rodney chimed in. “Deary me, you’ve spared no energy in getting this floor spick and span!”

Lunch was a solemn affair. Maverick had brought muffins, hot coffee, and some homemade pasta, but the table was quiet. Despite loving the food, we all kept silent – using a brief smile and nod to compliment the amazing taste.

“It’s amazing how those whom you least expect can be of exponential benefit,” Maverick said, sipping the last of his coffee.

“And in more ways than one,” Rodney added.

After lunch, we all returned to work repositioning cars, containers, and equipment to where they should be. Garrett, Rarity, and Spike all moved spare parts and tools, while Rainbow Dash stacked spare tires in the right order and categories. Tempest, Applejack, and I tackled the non-running cars, putting them in neutral and pushing them across the floor to their respective positions.

Pinkie Pie, always one for bright colors, tackled the paint area, organizing all the paint cans and canisters. Skystar helped too, hanging hoses and arranging drying racks in a corner.

“What are you doing?” Maverick inquired, noticing Rarity atop a large workbench with a bowl of soapy water, some cleaning solutions, oil, wax, and rags.

“Polishing these worn-down and dreadful-looking tool parts, darling. Just look at them, they’re scratched and even a little rusted!”

Maverick sighed and smiled. “You really are a character who prides herself in appearance and beauty.”

“Absolutely, Mr. Maverick.”

“Well, I’d suggest you keep at it.” He pointed to a set of older tools atop one tool chest, and a few drawers. “These are all the oldies from many years back. Some worn-down and broken parts have been replaced, but many are still usable. I’d be happy if you could detail them.”

“I certainly will, darling.”

For the rest of the afternoon, Brian showed me the important details of the EJ257 engine (the same one in my Forester STI), and how to properly install basic upgrades without damaging it or weakening its internals. I figured I’d change the exhaust system, put a new turbo on it, add a custom air intake, and get it retuned.

But all of that would have to wait, because it was time for the final task of the day: the element hunt.

With teary-eyed hugs and longsome waves, Twilight, Spike, Tempest Shadow, and the others gave their final goodbye to Maverick and Rodney.

“It’s been a great fun ride with you all and remember: you’ll always be known as the best volunteers we’ve ever had at this shop,” the brothers stated with a smile.

“See you soon,” I replied. “Let’s go, pony squad!”

I grabbed my skateboard from the office, and we took off down the road, back home.

“I just wanna keep calling your name ‘till you come back home…” I hummed quietly.

“What’s that?” Fluttershy inquired.

“Just a line from a song I knew from the radio,” I hurriedly confessed. “We need to have a quick meeting before we head out, and another one tomorrow with Joyce.”

A good half an hour later, we arrived on my home street. The Forester was still in the driveway, indicating Mom had decided to walk to work instead.

I unlocked the door and ushered everyone inside, before pulling my work boots off and rushing for the bathroom, where I washed my hands and splashed some water on my face to relax my muscles.

In the kitchen, I poured everyone a glass of various fluids – water, orange juice, and apple juice – and sat down to relax.

“So, how we’re doin’ this, Breezy?” Applejack asked, savouring every sip of her glass of apple juice.

“It’s pretty simple,” I explained. “We locate where I first found you, and scour the area for the elements of Harmony, or anything that might lead us to them.”

“Let me see if I remember though…” I added, frantically scrolling through my phone for anything I could find related to that location. Thankfully, I had saved the whole route I took that night on Waze, and so it was easy to track the location of the road.

“Should be here,” I declared, holding out my phone and pointing to an intersection on Symington Ave and Bloor St.

“Then let’s go!” Twilight declared eagerly.

I looked straight back at her with an authorizing stare. “I gotta change first.”

I sent a quick text to my mom and rifled through my bureau. I settled on some khaki pants, a running jersey, a long socks, and my skate shoes. I took my skateboard as well, just in case. Rarity snatched the keys and we headed out the door.

“Always nice to hear,” I thought, letting the low rumble of the Forester’s engine fill my ears as I cranked the ignition.

Out on the road, Twilight made a confession of her own.

“I will admit, Toronto is a beautiful city, but it has a lot of issues that need fixing – crime, littering, and housing. Feels like a weird mix of Klugetown and Canterlot.”

“Maybe I should go back to the Caribbean,” I proposed. “Much humbler standard of living there, and a lot of more natural landscapes. But I’ll miss a lot of things here, especially Zack.”

“You should, it’s really beautiful there,” Fluttershy added with a smile. “You’ve got dolphins, parrots, lizards, colorful insects, sharks, and fresh fruit, and more.”

I smiled back. Apparently, she’d been watching nature documentaries on my laptop over the past few days and had gotten hooked.

Traffic on the main roads wasn’t too bad, and we arrived at the park some fifteen minutes later. Happily, it was empty, and so was the street.

“Alright, let’s pull on our detective suits and start scouring for clues and pointers,” I announced, pulling up to the curb and shutting off the engine.

All at once, Twilight, Spike, and Rarity took off into the grass. Unsurprisingly, Pinkie Pie and Skystar went straight for the playground, climbing aboard the structure and swinging on the swings. Meanwhile, I opened the trunk to let out Tempest Shadow, and together with Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack, we joined the others in the search.

It didn’t take long to notice there was something… off about the park. The way things were arranged, or something specific about the structures within it…

After walking around for a while, I noticed a few of the trees had missing branches. Some looked like they’d been cut clean with a chainsaw – by the city, obviously – but others appeared to have been burned and ripped off on impact, leaving a sort of “hole” in the plant’s canopy of leaves.

Taking a few photos, I then started looking around closely at any other trees that might have the same broken branches.

“Hey, look!” Pinkie exclaimed, pointing up at another tree by the playground. “Quite a weird look on this trunk here.”

Twilight and I rushed over and examined the bark closely. Sure enough, on the surface, there existed a thin line, barely visible, cutting through the trunk. Rarity joined in too, and with a keen eye, peered over intensively at the line, until it stopped about six feet from the foot of the tree.

I stood back for a second and gave a quick thought about how trees form and function. Suddenly, it clicked.

“This might be illegal, but if it’s going to produce the results I want, then so be,” I declared. “Wait here. I’ll be right back.”

I walked back to the car and rushed back home as fast as I could. Mom wasn’t home yet, so I still had the house to myself. Flying down the steps, I charged straight into the storage room and frantically scoured the shelves for camping supplies.

“It’s gotta be here somewhere… ah, yes!”

I reached far behind a row of folded chairs and pulled out my father’s KA-BAR 12-13, still in its original sheath. In the kitchen, I wiped it smoothly with olive oil and gently stroked the blade against a stone specifically designed for it.

With the knife clean and super-sharp, I slid it back into its sheath, coupled it to the belt of my khaki pants, and hit the road once more.

In another eight minutes, I was back at the park… but my little pony friends were nowhere to be seen. Was Pinkie Pie playing a trick on me again?

Sure enough, I spotted Rarity’s bright white ears from behind a row of bushes beside the playground area.

“Hey, it’s me,” I whispered.

“Where did you go?” Rainbow Dash demanded.

“Had to get this.”

I pointed to the KA-BAR on my waist.

“Is… that a war knife?!” Fluttershy exclaimed.

I nodded. “Shhh! Yes, Flutters. Now let’s get on with this before someone sees us. We have a narrow gap before the evening rush when everyone’s returning home from work.”

“I gotta say, that’s one of the coolest weapons I’ve ever seen,” Tempest remarked, as I unlatched the safety clasp and pulled the knife out of its sheath.

“Not bad for an essential tool used by the military forces of several countries for over a hundred years, eh?” I snickered, fiddling with it a little.

Getting a firm grip, I whispered a brief apology to the tree, and poked the bark. It was rather thin, so I increased pressure and pierced it hard. Tracing along the line with the tip, I came to the very end of it, and gently pried at the bark, breaking off a few flakes. Cutting a little deeper, I pried more and more until a whole coin-sized chunk of bark came off. Beneath, a dark line could be seen.

“Interesting,” Applejack said, leaning in for a slightly closer look.

Interesting, indeed it was. However, I noticed the dark line curved upwards towards the left. Without bark, tree trunks typically are smooth and bare. Which means…

Eager to prove my sudden theory correct, I pierced the bark again and chipped away more. As this was a young tree, still growing, it wasn’t too hard. Slowly but surely, the rest of the line was revealed, and then more. A slight spiral. A small rounded edge. And then…

“MY CUTIE MARK!” Pinkie exclaimed in shock.

I kept chipping away at the bark, revealing more and more until the whole façade was visible.

Twilight just stood there, speechless, jaws slightly agape. She – and none of them – could deny the sight laid plainly before them: Pinkie Pie’s necklace bearing the Element of Laughter was embedded into the tree trunk.

“It all makes sense!” Rarity announced, raising a hoof in declaration. “The elements were tied to us when we fell through the portal, because we displayed a fundamental aspect of friendship as it happened – we stuck together. Now when we landed here, they dispersed from the impact during that storm, and hit all these trees, damaging them due to still being charged up with magical energy. Through their own individual magic, they sealed themselves into the trees to avoid being lost or confiscated.”

My eyes bulged in shock, and so did Twilight’s. We both asked the same question:

“How did you figure that out?”

Rarity shrugged. “Just from some reading I did a while back on the Elements of Harmony and how they’ve behaved under certain situations back in Equestria.”

I scratched my chin. “Together is always stronger. So, I suggest we try to get all of this done now. We still have about half an hour at best. The larger trees will be harder to break, though.

“Well, I don’t care if we get spotted or interrogated,” Rainbow Dash huffed. “They can’t take our spirit and will! Besides, what are they gonna do about it? Call the cops again?”

I chuckled heartily. “You bet, Dashie. And they’ll lie all they want. I’ve seen it a million times.”

“Well, that’s the risk we gotta take,” Tempest Shadow added. “If we do get confronted, we’ll just have to explain.”

I nodded and looked at all my friends with a serious look. “Alrighty. Let’s go do this.”

After a quick discussion, we assigned roles. Tempest, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack would stand guard on one side of the park, while Twilight, Spike, Pinkie, and Fluttershy would observe from another angle. Rarity and Skystar would stay with me and assist.

On the larger tree which I’d observed earlier, the line’s endpoint was a lot higher up at eight feet, thus rendering it impossible to reach. At least not for myself.

“Here,” I said, handing the knife to Skystar. “Cut the bark.”

“You really want me to do this?” she asked, her eyes wide with doubt and concern.

“Yes, I do! Just do it! Time is encroaching!” I pleaded, staring straight back at her with the most trustworthy look I could muster.

Rarity levitated a twig to mark the endpoint, and Skystar nodded seriously at me, before gripping the knife and firmly piercing the bark, before prying at it and cutting at an angle – just like I’d done. Soon, bits of bark came off – bits half as thick as my phone. Wow, she had some strength!

Observing the lines and shape, Skystar kept working at it, admittedly much faster than I did with the previous tree. After ten minutes of hard work, the lines revealed themselves to be Twilight’s Princess crown of Friendship.

“Okay, let’s keep looking,” Rarity urged.

We soon found the next tree with the same burnt and broken branch and worked like a well-oiled machine with our bark coordination. Skystar tried using her claws to pull off some bark, but instantly quit after discovering how painful it was. Fluttershy’s necklace of Kindness was soon revealed. Then Rainbow Dash’s, and soon after, Applejack’s.

I advanced to the final tree with a burnt branch, which was actually growing from over a fence. I didn’t know who or what was on the other side, so this would be the riskiest of all.

“Work quietly,” I whispered to Rarity, as Skystar held her up to properly scan the trunk for the line. She took a twig and held it up to the line’s endpoint, as before. I was about to climb the fence when all at once, there was an indignant shout.


I turned and looked. By the sidewalk there stood a man. He was well-built, with wild hair and a furious face. The kind that spelt ‘entitled-busybody’.

Ah, well, I thought. If he wants to call the cops, he can. By the time they arrive, we’ll be out of here.

Ignoring his shout, I subtly motioned for Skystar to fly up in front of me. Hidden from the man’s view, I carefully pulled out my knife and hacked away at the tree. This one was harder, and I almost fell from trying to exert so much force. Internally, I remembered my vow to love and protect my family at all costs. Driven on, I cut harder into the bark and chipped off more pieces.

Rarity’s cutie mark was coming into view.


Another shout. This time, the man stopped being by the sidewalk, and was now storming across the grass towards Rarity, Skystar, and I.

Struggling to keep my cool, I focused on the tree trunk in front of me and carefully pried more bark off. Bit by bit, the outline of the necklace came into view. First its spiral design near the center, then its rounded lower edges, then the tips.



I almost flopped from tiredness, but that squeal jolted me awake like nothing else. The man was now at the base of the fence and had Rarity in a chokehold. Skystar already had descended and was looking at him furiously.

I dropped to the ground and raised my hand in a threatening pose, as if to hurl the knife towards his face. “Let her go and leave us alone. We did nothing to you.”

For a guy so tough-looking, he suddenly became silent. After a brief stare-down, he simply grumbled, released his grip on Rarity, and wandered off, cursing as he did.

Sensing that it was now safe to venture from their watch areas, Twilight and the others emerged and gathered around Rarity, hugging and comforting her.

“Now that we’ve unearthed all the necklaces, what next?” Spike asked worriedly.

“I’m worried I can’t fully remember it, but I know a spell that can get those necklaces out and restored in their original form,” Twilight declared.

“Don’t overthink it! Just do what you know you’re capable of!” I exclaimed.

“Typically, we defeat our enemies in a circle and connect to Twilight,” Applejack explained.

Thinking fast, I looked around in a circle at all of the trees whose bark we’d just removed some of and formed a quick plan.

“Applejack, Fluttershy, Pinkie, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, get in front of your respective trees, now! Twilight Sparkle, get in front of yours! Everypony arrange in a hexagonal shape.”

I then moved into the center of the ‘ring’. “Skystar! Tempest! Get beside me!”

“Now, all of you think deeply about each of these necklaces, about yourself and what they represent to you and your homeland of Equestria,” I ordered with my best commander voice. “Let the magic of friendship flow through your veins, your mind, and your spirit, together!”

Hearing this, the six friends sat down and focused all their energy on what mattered the most to them in this very moment. Soon, a glow could be seen emerging from their chests where the necklaces would attach. It grew until I could see their whole bodies being dedicated towards producing the magical energy. Now we had to assemble it through unity and channel it towards its intended subjects – the trees.

“Cast the spell, now!” I exclaimed.

Twilight raised her head and closed her eyes, her horn sparking and glowing with energy as she refined and polished it within herself, before throwing her head back and hurling it forward with a war-like cry, blasting all of it at the crown on the bark in front of her. The tree shook, but held, as the crown began to glow and shake. Soon, all the other five trees began to shake as well. Tempest, Skystar, and I all stood, frozen in awe as we observed the outlines of the necklaces take shape in the color and texture of gold and the color and sparkle of the gems come to light.

After a two-minute struggle, Twilight’s crown came free, shiny and glorious as it was. Immediately, a powerful beam of rainbow-colored magic burst out, hitting Applejack’s tree, then Fluttershy’s, then Pinkie Pie’s, then Rarity’s and finally Rainbow Dash’s, before returning to itself, connecting them all together. The ground literally felt like it shook as the trees barely held, the five other necklaces emerging from their wooden prisons and latching onto their respective bearers.

With all six elemental necklaces returned to their respective bearers, the dust cleared to reveal the trees still intact, just without their elemental carvings in the bark. All my friends were still alive – and better yet, they were all reunited with the special artifacts that they, as the brave and strong ponies they were, represented.

“YES! YES! IT WORKED, TWILIGHT! IT WORKED! WE GOT THEM BACK!” I exclaimed, jumping like a five-year old kid at a winning sports game, before hugging her tightly.

“Yeah, we did!” Rainbow Dash whooped. “Awesome!”

“And best of all, we did it together, darling,” Rarity added.

“Thank you, Xavier,” Twilight said softly, almost on the verge of tears, hugging me back.

“Anything for my friends,” I replied, stroking her mane and affectionately scratching behind her ear. “Now, let’s get out of here before we attract too much attention. And Fluttershy, don’t worry about the bark. It’ll all come off and regenerate as the trees continue to grow over the next few years.”

With our mission complete, we piled into the Forester and drove off back home, pumped to begin re-examining the next stage of our plan.

Chapter 38: The Final Preparations

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The first thing I did when we arrived home was check the local news. Nothing about paranormal activity at a park, so I relaxed and settled down to prepare a proper dinner.

“Wow, those look beautiful!” Joyce exclaimed, her eyes wide in awe at the glistening gold of the elemental necklaces Twilight and her friends were wearing. “And I see those gems are the same shape as your cutie marks!”

“Absolutely,” I said proudly. “We successfully recovered them. Turned out they were hidden, encased inside tree trunks. But Twilight can still use her powers in this world, apparently, and so together we were able to successfully get them out. Now that they’re reunited with their respective elements, I can proceed with the next part of my plan. Just need to go over it to ensure everything’s in the right place.”

“But, beforehand, we need some energy,” Applejack noted, pointing to the fridge.

I nodded and took out some leftover lasagna, which I then divided into several sections and heated up on some plates. Everyone sat down around the table and by the couch, and we all ate happily, savouring every mouthful. For once, the gears inside my mind stopped turning so fast for once. But eventually, they had to get spinning again.

“What’s the plan again?” Twilight asked, putting her hooves up on the counter and looking up at me eagerly as I washed the dishes. She literally looked like a puppy.

“Seems like you’ve forgotten,” I smirked, realizing that spell must’ve taken a load on her memory cells. “I’ll discuss when these dishes are done, alright?”

Quickly drying one of my hands, I reached out and stroked her head, with a little ear-scratch, causing her to giggle affectionately. She then departed to join her friends by the sofa, where Joyce was resuming work on an elaborate necklace.

Skystar helped me dry the dishes, and soon we were all gathered around me. I placed a large thin book on my bed and rolled out a large sheet of paper, along with the other sheets that I’d written about my plans on earlier.

Rather quickly and roughly, I sketched out a large hexagon, ad on each vertex, I draw a circle, and put initials inside each one of them:

“Okey dokey loki, take a look at this,” I began. “All of you guys will be standing around in a hexagonal format, ready to receive the signal from Equestria that will come to Earth. Tempest and Skystar will be here with me, in the center.”

I drew three smaller circles in the center of the hexagon and connected them together with a triangle.

Together the three of us will hold a staff with a large splitter gem. That gem will split the beam into six parts. You all will them simultaneously rotate until everything lines up. The rest of the task is on you, Twilight, to ensure that the signal from Equestria pulls you and your friends up and back through the rift. All the way home. Once you all are beyond the Earth, I’ll then break the staff to avoid potentially harmful side effects and consequences.”

“How will you build that staff?” Twilight asked, still in awe at my plan.

“From forged steel, sand, silicone rubber, and perhaps ceramic,” I replied. “I can do some research and ask Rodney for help. He has a fabricator background and knows the industry well.”

“What about the gem?” Rarity added.

“Quartz crystal,” I replied. “Pretty easy to find online for a couple hundred bucks. I can get a lapidary to cut it into a smooth hexagonal prism for me, with pointed ends to direct the flow. It’ll make me go broke, no doubt, but it’s the only chance I have at this.”

“Are you sure there isn’t an easier way?” Joyce asked, a concerned look on her face.

“I’m afraid not, dear,” Rarity said sadly, and Twilight shook her head in agreement. “When magic directs itself in a large, unified quantity from a source, it needs to be split for its powers to work. We as the Elements of Harmony cannot separate them solely.”

“And that’s why your son is here,” Spike declared proudly, patting my shoulder. “To use his intelligent mind, loving, caring heart, and unbreakable spirit for the benefit of his family and friends.”

“Then let’s start working on this. Together,” Joyce replied, her eyes full of determination and support.

I began by researching popular fantasy staffs – from Gandalf’s walking stick in Lord of The Rings to the Zombie Staff from Elder Scrolls V. Then, I sketched out multiple designs, all to scale.

After many hours of re-evaluation and troubleshooting with Twilight, who kindly guided me with her knowledge of Equestrian magic, the final render was complete.

The staff would be four feet long, with six thinner rods coming out the top, which would then bend and curve around in an oval shape to encompass the crystal, while still exposing its six sides. At the very top, the tips of the rods would bend outwards like the petals of a flower, allowing the magic beam from Equestria to strike it at full force without breaking the crystal. Additionally, the other end would have a pommel for balance, and a flat circular guard just below the gem, for strength and added stability.

“Check this out!” Joyce exclaimed, calling from my studio. Twilight, Rarity, and I rushed over to take a look. On the screen was an Ebay listing for a 3-pound pink clear quartz crystal in near-perfect condition, complete with wand cuts at both ends.

“That’s huge!” Rarity exclaimed. “And $300 bits – er, I mean, dollars. Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am,” Joyce snapped, tapping the “Buy it Now” button without pause. In less than a minute, she’d placed the order – on her own card. “I am also sure about one other decision. Come, let’s talk.”

We returned to the living room and settled down, hoping to be given some joyful news about going somewhere special, or perhaps moving to a larger home. Instead, Joyce refused to drop a ball – she dropped an asteroid instead.

“We’re returning to my home.”

“Y-y-you’re serious?” I stuttered, dropping my phone in total shock. “You miss Trinidad?”

Joyce nodded – the dead-serious type of nod. “We came here on the premise of good career opportunities for your dad. Now that he’s gone, we’ve just been swept away in the struggle to get by in a neighborhood that isn’t the safest. We’ve lost focus of what matters the most to us in life. I know I haven’t had the most peaceful experiences back on that island either, but it beats being in the hood with all of…this stuff, right?”

I slowly nodded back in agreement, before a wave of memories hit me hard, and my face fell. “I understand your rationale, Mom, but… I’m gonna miss a lot from here. Especially Zack.”

Applejack climbed up on the bed beside me and caressed my shoulder. “Sometimes in life, you have to be selfish, and get others to adapt to your choices. If not, then you’re in a state of weakness, because then they’re essentially limiting you from expanding to what’s possible for you.”

“I… feel like I’m losing everything I loved,” I confessed, my thighs feeling damp already from my wet eyes.

“Are you… No! Please don’t cry, we’ll always love you!” Twilight cried, leaping into my arms. Tempest stroked my dreadlocks and gently gripped me from behind. Joyce smiled with tears of her own and kissed my forehead. Soon I was completely wrapped in a ball of fur, affection, and love.

“Know it and believe it, we’ll always be in your heart, always,” Twilight whispered. “Never forgotten, for all you did for us. And you too, Joyce, for giving us a safe, warm home.”

“And if you’re still concerned, Zack can always come visit in the summer,” Joyce added. “I know you two have been good friends for more than a decade, and I can’t break that.”

“Thanks, Mom,” I said under my sobs, looking up with a smile.

“Always caring as I can be,” she replied. Twilight and her friends released to allow us to have a solo hug. “Now let’s go make this staff! We have a week and a half until that gem arrives, so it’s best we use that time in the best way possible.”

“Can’t argue with that.”

The following morning, after a good breakfast, Joyce and I hopped into the Forester, with Joyce driving, and me up front with her, with Spike on my lap. We were off to visit Maverick and Rodney, to inquire about making the staff – and also for me to start work that day.

“Howdy, Rodney!” I called out, entering the shop through the main garage door.

“Xavier! Good to see you again,” he replied, giving me a tight hug. “What brings you here today – besides work, of course.”

“I’ve come with my mom for two things,” I replied. “First is to enquire on metal. I have a side project I’m working on, and I need your help. Do you know any good fabricators that can make a forged staff for me at a decent cost?”

“Sure! Good friend of mine, Etiree, down in the U.S. though. It’s alright, won’t take more than a week. And the second thing?”

“I wish to quit my job soon. I cannot give you the specifics of when, just yet, but it will be within the next month or so.”

“Really? Okay… I’ll miss you though…” Rodney replied solemnly.

“I know. But it’s for the better in the long run. Here’s my design.”

I handed him the paper I’d drawn the night before, to which I’d added length, width, and diameter specs, and some brief explanatory details.

“Bottom part Etiree can do, and you can do the top part next week, which is when I can bring a gem I’ve ordered, and place in the center. It’ll be locked inside, permanently.”

“Looks like a staff for a video game cosplay, eh?”

“Yeah,” I replied sheepishly. “But it’s got far greater uses, I imagine.”

“Alright, I’ll let know when you get the staff,” Rodney concluded. “In the meantime, get to work with Brian on that Buick GNX in the corner there, will ya?”

“Yes sir.”

Mom headed off to work, and I laboured the day away, still feeling a little sad, but satisfied that I’d taken all the necessary steps to help my friends – as well as me and my mom – return to all our true homes. It’d only be another two weeks for them – and a little longer for my mom and I.

Chapter 39: The Final Preparations - Part II

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The rest of the week was rather rushed. Joyce had already sent out a departure notice to the landlord a few weeks prior, calculated her savings, and booked a flight for two, along with purchasing some used luggage bags for us both. I went through some of my old stuff and made a few quick online listings. The vocal booth project was cancelled. We planned to sell all our furniture and depart with little more than our clothes and a few accessories. I, of course, would bring some of my music gear, and ship the larger items over later.

At the end of the first week, on a Friday evening, I called Zack.


“Hey Breezy, how’s it going?”

“It’s… going alright.”

“You sound rather tired and solemn. What’s wrong.”

I gulped. This was it. I had to tell him the whole truth, and I had no idea how he’d react to it. “My mom…she’s decided to move.”

“To where?”

“To Trinidad.”


“She’s… tired of being in the hood. We’ve gotten pretty lucky given the crime rate in this area, but we’ve finally awakened. We’ve been so caught up these past few years trying to survive while staying true to my father’s promise that we forgot about focusing on what’s best for ourselves.”


I could almost hear Zack’s heart falling and his eyes getting watery. “I know you’ll miss me, and vice versa. Say, you got any road blocks today? If not, come on down! Let’s have some fun together, for good times’ sake.”

“How are Pinkie and Skystar?”

“Doing great! They’re loving their bikes and have ridden every day. No component damages yet.”

“Will you bring your music gear with you?”

“Of course!” I exclaimed. “I’ll bring my mic, audio interface, headphones, keyboard, drum machine, iPad, and laptop. The others will have to stay behind until I can ship them over.”

“It actually sounds amazing, to be honest. Both of you, in tropical paradise, with a quiet, simple home, and all the sights and sounds of nature around you… you’ll literally be living like Nim.”

For the first time in the past few days, I actually found myself smiling. “It seems like you’re more optimistic and excited about this big move than me. Joyce says you can come over any time during the summer vacation season.”


“Really. Now are you comin’ or not?”

“I sure am! With some prior confirmation, of course. See you tomorrow, Zackie.”

“You too, Breezy. Bye.”

As I sped off down the narrow city streets on my skateboard, I thought about the relationship I had with my friends. Sharing information and experiences about each of our hometowns and cultural elements gave me an idea: I’d buy each of my friends a cheap but good and useful present from the human world that they could still use.

So, I hopped on the transit and headed off to the Dufferin Mall, where I picked out some nice items under $120. I then rushed to Chapters before closing time to buy a few books. In total I spent less than $400, so I was good to go.

“Welcome home, Breezy!” Pinkie exclaimed, as I made my way down the steps that evening with my skateboard and armfuls of shopping bags. “Ooh, what’ve you got there?”

“Some presents for you guys. Tempest, Pinkie, Skystar, you all have presents already. And Rarity, I gave you one of my skateboards.”

“That’s true,” Skystar pouted, nodding. “So, who are these for?”

“Well, let me show you.”

I took off my shoes, quickly washed my hands, and settled down in the living room. I lifted a large box out of one bag, causing Rarity to coo in awe.

“This is for Fluttershy,” I announced. “It’s a NutriBullet – a special type of blender to extract the most nutrients from fruits, herbs, and vegetables. However, I doubt you ponies have electricity with proper specs, because it relies on that to work. And that’s why I got these.”

I then pulled out a few books from another bag. Their clean, smooth texture and crisp pages gave off a unique and interesting scent that seemed to attract Twilight like a magnet.

“Yes, these are for Twilight Sparkle,” I declared, handing them to her. “They contain all you need to know about electricity and how it’s produced. I also have two outlet receptacles here, along with two mounting boxes, a fuse, a roll of tape, and some wire to get you started. Wiring up a whole house takes a lot of effort, and as such the other items explained in the book you can try to make with materials you have back in Equestria.”

“You’re a genius!” Fluttershy exclaimed, looking at me with awe. “You’ve given both of us presents, with one being how to provide the means for the other to work!”

I nodded with a sly smile, before turning to Rainbow Dash, “Indeed I have. Dashie, you deserve a present that’s equally as awesome as you, so with some assistance from Brian, I got you this.”

I held up a wristwatch.

“Whoa, that does look cool,” Rainbow Dash whispered.

“Not as fancy or stylish as I’d hoped, but it’s fine,” Rarity added bluntly.

“Well,” I shot back at her, “It does have many features which I know Dashie can use. It’s solar-powered, so no worries about finding a new battery in a land which doesn’t have them. Also, it includes a built-in calendar, altimeter, alarm, thermometer, and can go underwater down to 80 feet. Plus, it’s shock-resistant, so don’t worry too much about dropping it.”

“Awesome!” she whooped. “Wait, what’s an altimeter?”

“Measures altitude. How high you are off the ground. It’s measured in feet,” I explained. “And now for the Apple Family.”

I took out another box. Right away, Applejack’s eyes lit up in awe.

“Whoa, that looks like mah apple corer back at the barn!”

“Oh, so you recognize this one,” I teased. “This is a vegetable slicer and grinder. All you have to do is crank it. Grind up cinnamon for those apple pies, or grate some thin strands of apple, pear, cucumber, carrot, and more!”

“Cool,” Spike added, peering over at the box. “Did you get something for me?”

“I sure did.”

I opened up the last bag and pulled out packs of ballpoint pens, one after the other.

“How many did you get?!” Tempest exclaimed.

“100 of them. Thirty-three black, thirty-three blue, and thirty-three green. And one red. One of the black ones is a fountain pen, for those formal signatures. Should work nicely with Equestria’s inkwells. And of course, a large saddlebag for Tempest to put the larger ones in.”

“Well done,” Joyce said with admiration. “You kept your budget low and still managed to get well-suited gifts for your friends.”

“I hope you like them, and that they serve you well in your daily lives,” I concluded. “Now, let’s have dinner and get some sleep. I have one final surprise coming up.”

The next morning, I checked up on the status of Joyce’s Ebay order. Still in pending. So, to pass the time, I pulled up an instrumental of a dancehall hit and quickly hooked up the microphone. I played the beat loud, so it could be heard clearly. Almost immediately, Rarity was at the mic, trying to get a feel for the beat in her singing. I replayed the beat, to give her more time. After several tries, she got it:

Earth’s not good enough for Celestia, since I been with you
It's not gonna work for you, nobody can equal Equestria (I know)
I'm gonna sip on this drink, when I'm messed up
I should know how to pick up
I'm gonna catch the rhythm while the world’s up against me
Ooh, it so tipsy
Rollin’ through Toronto, in 24
I peeped you from across the street
Pretty little body, fighting like a warrior, aye

And you are unforgettable
I need to get you alone
Why not?
A flyin’ good time, never hurt nobody
Tempy’s got a good body but it's not all booty
If you loved the girl then I'm so, so sorry
We all got to give it all like we all cheery

Oh, like we in a hurry
No, no, I won't tell nobody
You're on your level too
Tryin’ to do what heroes do…

“Beautiful,” I said with a smile and supportive clap. “Like the beat?”

“Oh yeah.”

All at once, I slapped my forehead in shock. I’d forgotten to record some of this music to vinyl records! Rarity noticed my disappointment and rushed inside the studio.

“You okay?”

“Yeah. Just realized I hadn’t saved any of the work we did to vinyl records so you could play them in Equestria.”

“It’s alright,” she said softly, consoling me. “Think of them as practice pieces that will help you improve in your musical skills. Besides, you’ve already given us more than enough gifts to remember you by.”

“Aww, thanks, Rarity,” I cooed, lifting her up onto my lap and giving her a big warm hug. “You’ve been a real beauty, a rare gem of compassion and generosity.”

“You’re welcome, Breezy,” she replied softly, giving me a little kiss.

With breakfast out of the way, I settled down to begin reading through my notes on the music library books, and did a few test runs of mixing and mastering with the compositions I’d worked on with my pony friends, as well as some of my older works. It really was a lot of work, but once I got the hang of it, it wasn’t so hard.

By noon, there was still no sign of Zack. So, Joyce took the time to request of me to make some lists about what still needed to be done around the house.

With Spike’s help, I quickly wrote it all down in software and printed it out with our old, shabby printer. My mom usually didn’t print stuff, so it was rarely used. Aside from selling furniture, cleaning, and disconnection from services, there was still a lot to do.

Finally Zack arrived, and I added in the remaining information about “moving”. We were all smiling, laughing, and crying at the same time, given how Pinkie and Skystar had taken a strong liking to Zack for his goofiness and energetic nature.

“I wish you guys could stay longer,” Zack muttered, as we all played together in the empty street.

“I know,” Twilight replied. “But our true home is in Equestria, with our family and our responsibilities. You’ll still be able to make new friends, given your positive, joyful personality and your incredible BMX talent.”

For a good four hours, we played together. I taught Rarity how to flip the board and balance on its edge. Despite a few frustrated moments, she soon got the hang of it, and came to really appreciate it.

As the late afternoon rolled in and the sun approached the horizon, Joyce and Patricia returned. Apparently, they’d been shopping for boxes and shipping supplies.

“I see you’ve also changed your clothing style,” I smirked at Zack, as we sat down to chill with some fruit juice.

“Yep!” he declared proudly. “Femboy ballerina Zack is no more! Got rid of that outfit and focused more on my future career of being in engineering and business like my mom. My true manly self has been realized in a logical form. I still wear those bike shorts though.”

I chuckled heartily. “Still the Zackie I know. Hope to see you in Trinidad next summer.”

“You should take advantage of what’s there,” he suggested. “Get a camera and gimbal and go hiking in the forest. Learn how to surf and drive a boat.”

“Haha. I’ll be considering those options. Will you be able to come to see off your friends?”

Zack sadly shook his head. “’Fraid not, bro. I don’t know exactly when you’re leaving, and I may have schoolwork that day.”

I nodded sadly. “That’s true. I still have to wait for the signal from Equestria to arrive. Gotta keep an eye out for the news on ‘mysterious alien beams coming from space’.”

We shared a laugh, and Pinkie and Skystar gave their final goodbyes to their beloved friend, before Patricia and Zack left and Joyce urged us to help her with the boxes and supplies.

For the rest of the afternoon into the evening, we sorted out everything we had and test-fitted my larger studio items (like the monitor and speakers). Then we cleaned the kitchen, and helped a buyer remove the couch and dining table (which we’d listed online just a few days ago).


Things were starting to really clear up now. The basement was mostly empty, with nothing but the kitchen appliances, my mattress, desk, a few wrapped boxes, the luggage bags and trolleys, and my studio setup. We were just a week away from departure. I kept my bank account in place and had cancelled my library card and skate sponsorship. Furthermore, Patricia had agreed to keep our larger items until we got a permanent address, and then ship them to us. We also exchanged emails.

To help with funds when we arrived, I had sold the Forester. It really sucked – I adored the car – but it wouldn’t serve us any use on a small island with a ton of traffic. I figured I’d just get a motorcycle for my mom instead and use my skateboard for short-distance travel.

On Friday morning, I got a call from Rodney.


“Hi Xavier. Just want to inform you that the staff is almost done, and should arrive by the end of today. We’ll work on completing the whole thing once that crystal arrives.”

“Great news! Thanks again for keeping me posted.”

“Always happy to help. See you soon at the shop.”

I’d arranged with Maverick and Rodney to quit my job. Rodney would still allow me to visit on Monday to oversee the work on the staff, and I’d officially leave on Monday evening. The landlord, Mr. Xing, was kind enough to permit us to leave the premises by the end of the following week, even though our deadline was set for Tuesday.

Arriving at the shop for what would be the second to last time, I gave everyone a good hug and worked hard on all the tasks I was ordered to do. Towards the late hours of the afternoon, Rodney arrived, carrying a long, thin package.

“Here it is,” he announced, cutting the box open and ripping back the flaps to reveal a steel shaft. It was exactly as I’d hope it to be, with a slightly wavy pattern yet smooth surface, with the flat circular guard and three of the six metal spikes perfectly curved around to house the gem.

I then reached in and lifted it up. Boy, it was heavy! However, I could still swing it and direct it without too much force. Rodney just stood there, smiling at me like a dad who’d just bought his Star Wars-obsessed son a realistic lightsaber.

“Alright,” I sighed, placing it back in the packaging. “The day’s already passing. We’ll come back on Monday and finish this up.”

“Amen to that, Xavier.”

The weekend was a rather silent and reserved affair. I spent the time mostly just skating around to clear my mind and prepare for what lay ahead. The moment they did a 10 second Google search on the island and its wildlife, beaches, and culture, Fluttershy and Rarity actually wanted to come to Trinidad with me. But obviously that was a no.

In the afternoon, I spent some time planning out a few musical projects that I’d work on when I got there, as well as which festivals were popular. I’d never created, mixed, let alone played music live, but it sounded like a great opportunity to expand my influence and have a dedicated audience.

On Sunday, it rained. Lots of it. We all stayed tight inside and passed the time playing board games and revising our departure checklist. Weirdly, Tempest offered to switcheroo with affection. Rarity let me cuddle and kiss her, while Tempest let Spike crawl over her and massage her belly. And then, Tempest asked to have her tack put on.

“Ooh, yes!” Tempest let out a drawn-out-whisper as I gently lowered the saddle onto her and tightened one of the girth straps.

“You really get a kick out of this, don’t you?” Joyce glared at her.

Tempest’s lips quivered, and she nodded slightly, her ears drooping, before Joyce put a hand under her chin.

“Don’t feel bad for what you enjoy. There’s always something that one partner likes but doesn’t admit to. But when they do, the bond between partners grows and solidifies. Just don’t make an obsessive habit of it, alright?”

Tempest smiled back at her, before letting out a slight squee as I approached with the bridle. Her eyes half-closed as I gently slid the bit into her mouth, and she bit down, keeping it in place against her lips, which were surprisingly tender.

Princess Skystar joined in too, attaching the breast collar and clipping on the reins. I added on the saddlebag and wrapped her tail tightly, holding it up at a forty-five angle. Finally, Skystar strapped on the blue horse boots.

Fully clad in her tack, Tempest looked amazing… and concerning. She was shaking a little, and appeared to speak a little, but was actually gagging on her bit as she gasped.

Joyce looked like she had ten tons of regret dropped on her. Fluttershy and the others didn’t get it, but I knew why. So did Twilight and Rarity.

By trying to have fun with Tempest and make her happy, we’d only exposed her deepest pleasure. How could I have not figured this would happen? Now internally she was crying for sex. I wanted to just quickly strip her of her getup and undo everything as fast as possible, but at the same time I felt there was a better method to resolve the situation.

“Let’s walk outside,” I suggested, breaking the silence.

“I… I need…” Tempest’s muffled stutters came out as we walked up the steps, with Twilight, Spike, and Rarity in tow.

“Just relax,” I whispered, as we walked around. “You’re desperate for comfort, so let’s get comfortable. By walking.”

Spike eagerly hopped up onto the saddle and held the reins. I warned him not to pull on them, and together we all walked up and down the street, easing the tension in Tempest’s body and smoothening out the locked-up ridges in her hormones. After a while, her eyelids started to droop, but in a tired manner. Then came a yawn.

I nodded to Twilight, and slowly, we started removing her tack as we began the final lap of our walk. And it worked! By the time we re-enter the house, she was back to normal, and her mind and body were consecutively tired. I gently eased her bulky body onto my mattress, and carefully wiped her sweat off with a small towel.

“What can we do about this?” Joyce asked in a concerned voice, as we shared a plate of biscuits and some warm tea before hitting the pillow.

“Not much,” I confided. “She’s got a serious kink, and I got so wrapped up in the joy of dressing her up I forgot about it. The best we can do is keep her mind off it.”

“It’s okay, sweetie,” Joyce replied, stroking my cheek with a smile. “If anything, it’s confirmation of how you’ve truly found love through your kind-heartedness.”

Just before getting some shut-eye, I opened my phone and checked the news. “This has to have been noticed,” I thought. Sure enough, it was. An article in the science and tech category. I tapped on the video within the article and put on my Bluetooth earbuds.

“A large unknown beam of energy has been spotted streaking through space over the past week. The beam appears to be of many bright colors, and little can be done to stop it. Whether it will actually touch Earth is anyone’s guess, but predictions show that it has disappeared and re-appeared multiple times. If it appeared again tomorrow, it’d likely to touch down in Toronto, causing massive damage to the downtown area and costing the city millions of dollars. Evacuation orders have yet to be called out.”

I gasped with realization and hope. It really was all coming to plan. All I could do was hope that it would all align exactly right. Time was everything.

Chapter 40: Endgame

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Many hours later, I awoke to the sound of breakfast being prepared in the microwave. Today was the final day for both parties. Twilight and her friends would be returning to Equestria, and Joyce and I would leave for Trinidad tomorrow.

“Today’s the big day,” I announced to my friends. “Are you ready to go home?”

“Yeah!” Rainbow Dash whooped, performing a backflip.

“Alright. Let’s get ready. The crystal should be arriving any time soon.”

Sure enough, shortly before noon, a door knock could be heard. I rushed to answer it.

“Package for Mr. Xavier William Brown, please.”

“Thanks,” I replied, hiding my excitement behind a confident smile. I quickly signed the package and its respective document, then brought it down to be placed in a bag.

“Can I see it?” Rarity asked excitedly.

I shook my head. “Not yet.”

My phone then buzzed, and I answered it.


“You coming, Xavier?”

“Yes, just another ten to fifteen minutes. See you there. Bye.”

I slid my phone back into my pocket and turned back to Rarity. “I need to get this staff completed as soon as possible. Then you’ll get to see the crystal.”

With that, I took firm hold of the bag, grabbed my skateboard, and ran out the door. It didn’t take long before I reached the shop, and rushed inside as quickly as I could.

“Ah, Xavier, you’re here!” Rodney exclaimed. “Follow me.”

Rodney led me to the back of the shop, where a large fire was raging. The air suddenly went from 20 degrees to like 100. I felt like my clothes would catch on fire as we approached a large stone workbench, where the staff lay.

“Got that crystal?”

“Yes sir!” I replied, opening the package and holding it up.

Rodney wrapped it in a special cloth, then proceeded to work on the staff. He held the remaining three spikes in the fire at few thousand degrees, before gently placing the wrapped crystal in the center. Finally, he bent the red-hot metal around the crystal, encasing it. To top it off, he curled the spikes’ tips outward like flower petals, rubbed some sand on the edges of the spikes, and submerged the whole thing in water, before rubbing it dry.

I stood there, gazing in awe. At last, the staff was complete – and it looked exactly how I wanted it to. There were six curved edges, which lined up exactly with the vertices of the crystal within, and a smooth, circular opening at the top. And a circular guard at the bottom, with a large handle, complete with the stabilizing pommel.

“Yes!” I squealed, ignoring the fact that my face was torched, and my clothes were wet with sweat. A dream had just been realized before my eyes.

Rodney looked up and smiled at me. “You now have all you need. Let’s get you nice and dry, so you can get out there and use this staff for what it was crafted for!”

We stepped out of the forge room and wiped off our sweat, before taking a half-hour rest session to cool our bodies back down to room temperature. Gripping the staff, I lifted it up. It felt heavy – about as heavy as two milk bags – but I could manage it.

I signed my resignation papers and waved a tearful goodbye to all the employees I’d known for many years, before taking off down the road. It was a rather odd sight, a black teen on a skateboard, carrying a staff that looked like it came out of a video game – but I could care less. I was on the most important mission of my life, and nothing would stand in my way except the ordained fate from God Himself.

Arriving home, I checked the news.

“Well, the city of Toronto is now evacuating, as the beam of energy from space shows no sign of stopping as it nears Earth. It reappeared just last night and has been travelling at full force straight towards Earth, targeting North America, though we can’t be sure where. Radio wave-mapping has detected it might touch down in Toronto later today, hence the evacuation…”

“Twilight!” I called out, bursting through the door. “We need to get moving immediately.” The look in my eyes meant I was serious, and she complied right away, ordering her friends to put on their elemental necklaces.

I came down the steps, and helped put Tempest’s tack on her, including the large saddlebag. We loaded up the large gifts into it, while Spike held his ballpoint pens in a cloth bag. Rarity took her skateboard, I took mine, and we all headed out the door.

Halfway down the road, I could already hear the honks of cars on the highway below as everyone struggled to get away from an impending doom, an impact of disaster. But not us. We knew what it was, and why it had come. Yet amidst the noisy cars and trucks, I heard the sound of someone running behind all of us.

Glancing over my shoulder, I noticed it was Joyce, all dressed up in her running gear.

“Think I’d turn a blind eye?” she mused, and I smirked.

“That’s the Mom I know,” I thought with a smile.

“What’s the plan?” Twilight asked me as we powered through the crowded streets.

“We have to walk,” I replied. “Even with the streetcar it’s not feasible with all these people moving in large masses. It may seem to take longer, but in reality we are the fastest-moving out of all of them.”

“I doubt that,” Joyce countered. “Everyone’s moving away from the center of the city, so it would make sense that the routes going towards the city center would be clear of jams.”

“That makes sense,” I thought, starting to form a plan. “Twilight, Rainbow Dash!” I instructed loudly.

“Get up to the CN Tower. Twilight, see if you can detect the magic from that energy beam. If you can, try guide it to the Toronto City Hall. We will deploy in the square in front of it. Rainbow Dash, guard her and keep an eye out for any police.”

“On it!” Rainbow Dash replied confidently, and the two took off into the sky like missiles.

Meanwhile, Joyce and I boarded the first streetcar we came across, and zoomed off towards the city center, with the others in tow. Pinkie and Skystar had brought their bikes, but I insisted on riding with us. We had to stick together.

It didn’t take long for Twilight and Rainbow Dash to reach the CN Tower. Towering over 1,000 feet high, it wasn’t exactly hard to notice. Securing herself to the very top, she reared her neck and fired a blast of magic into the sky. It sputtered and faded out like smoke.

Again and again, she fired, hoping it would be recognized and a connection of sorts would be made. Her determined sky-firing act had come at a cost, though – attention.

“Uh, Twilight?” Rainbow Dash called out to her friend. “We’ve got company.”

Twilight whipped her head around to see several helicopters circling the tower a few meters below. The helicopters’ doors were open, and inside sat several beefy guys in military getup, armed and ready with some of the biggest guns she’d ever seen.

“Keep trying!” Rainbow Dash urged her friend.

“I have! And I’m tired!” Twilight replied.

“You have to keep trying! Otherwise, these guys will – ”


“Got your answer?” Rainbow Dash mused.

Twilight nodded and her head heated up to the point where it was practically glowing. With a yell of fury, she blasted another beam into the sky, this time lighting it up like a thunderstorm strike, blinding everyone, including Rainbow Dash.

A thunderous crackle and a slight boom were heard, and just beyond the rim of visible view of the sky, a multi-colored beam of energy, many meters wide, could be seen. A thin beam ricocheted back towards Twilight, and she shook as the magic re-connected to her.

“Yes!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed. “You are now one with the magical force! Let’s get it to where it should be! I’ll distract them.”

“They’ll kill you!”

“Then I’ll go down with honor for Equestria!” Rainbow Dash declared, zooming off without waiting for any answer.

“There she goes!” the soldiers cried out. “Get her, get her!”

They let out a ring of shots, but Rainbow Dash could turn very sharply and was a lot faster than any helicopter. Time and time again she frustrated them, giving Twilight the valuable time she needed.

Reunited with the magic from Equestria, Twilight let go of her foothold on the CN Tower, and used all the energy she had left to fly down to the Toronto City Hall. High up in the sky, the magical beam soon followed.

Down on the ground, the others had stuck with Joyce and I. It was a challenge getting the transit drivers to negotiate, but they soon relented. After a good ten minutes, we arrived at the Four Seasons Centre – close enough to our destination.

“Let’s get off here,” I announced, getting up and running off the streetcar, gesturing to Spike, Fluttershy, and the others to follow. Joyce did too.

“Good luck!” the driver called out.

“Thank you!” Joyce replied.

Together as one, we raced down the street. Spike rode on Tempest’s back, firmly seated in the saddle, while Pinkie and Skystar mounted their bikes and kept up with me on my skateboard. Joyce trailed behind but kept a good pace in her runner’s outfit.

Everyone soon started to notice, and I picked up camera flashes here and there. This would probably blow up all over social media in a matter of hours, but I didn’t care. I had one mission to complete.

We soon arrived at Nathan Phillips Square, but sirens could be heard.

“Aw, great,” Applejack moaned. “Cops again.”

“We can outsmart them,” I replied with a confident smile. “We just have to time this accurately for when Twilight comes… if she ever does.”

“Oh, she’s coming alright,” Pinkie Pie said, pointing.

Up in the sky, a purple streak could be seen, slowly making its way towards the city hall. Its movement wasn’t super-smooth though; it was a little shaky and constantly re-adjusting.

“She’s running out of energy, but slowly regaining it,” Fluttershy explained, though I could still hear the worry in her voice.

As we all hid from view of the cops in the square, I observed how Twilight was moving – her angle, her speed, and how close she was to the ground. Finally, she was in the right place – a good twenty meters above the fountain pond.

“Split, now!” I ordered. “Fluttershy, Applejack, Spike, and Rarity, you’re all with me. Tempest, Pinkie Pie, Skystar! You three go around the back and come out in front of the TORONTO sign. Stay out of sight mas much as possible until the last moment. Don’t damage anything and don’t hurt anyone. Are we ready?”

“Ready, Breezy!” they all replied in confirmation.

“Let’s go!” I cried out, running across the street and charging across the pavement, dodging cops and leaping over a bench. Applejack kept Fluttershy close, while Rarity and Spike kept together by my side.

“Not this time!” I crowed, holding out my staff as several cops started to surround us, preventing us from accessing the main square grounds.

“Well, since you aren’t being nice…” Rarity hissed, firing a spell that I’d never seen before. It was a shield spell, deflecting bullets as we advanced forward, slowly pushing the cops back.

While the cops got frustrated with their guns, Applejack snuck around and delivered several sharp blows to their legs, tripping them, before knocking them out cold.

“Sorry,” Rarity said sternly, stepping around them. “You left us no choice!”

With open access to the square grounds now, I headed straight for the center of the area in front of the fountain pond, perpendicular to the TORONTO sign, and held the staff up.

“Twilight! Over here!” I called out.

“Xavier! You made it!”

“I sure did. Now let’s do this!”

The beam was now hovering overhead, no more than a few thousand feet above. Now we needed all the elements together. But where were they?

Just when I was about to panic, Pinkie and Skystar emerged from behind the snack bar building. And Tempest ran out, right behind them, fully clad in her tack – and not feeling pleasured or queasy.

“Where’s Rainbow Dash?” I asked, spinning around and glancing side to side in fright.

“She’s coming,” Twilight replied. “Had to bide me some time.”

Uh-oh. My skin tingled. I didn’t like the sound of that. She was a brave and fast pony, no denying, but could she beat the tach marvels of this world that were designed and crafted to kill with no mercy?

Apparently so.

A jet trail of mist came up from the pond as a cyan object rushed through it and landed in front of me.

“You made it!” I exclaimed, giving her a little kiss.

“Barely,” she replied, holding up a hurt wing. “But it’s fine.”

“Let’s get you all home,” I replied, ignoring the approaching helicopters in the distance. Ignoring the advancing cops coming from both sides of the square. Ignoring the fact that this was it.

The beam of magic from Equestria got closer and closer, to the point where it blanketed the surrounding buildings in a wash of white light. I crouched down and pointed the staff to the sky, bracing for impact.

“Get into position!” I ordered, tears already starting to spill from my eyes. I turned to look at them all. “Think of it like a clock on the ground. Twilight, you’re at 12 o’clock. Pinkie, at 10! Applejack, at 2!”

It took a few minutes, but Twilight soon figured out my visual trick, and assisted my commands.

“Rarity, at 8! Fluttershy, at 4! And Rainbow Dash, at 9, behind me! Spike, get on Twilight’s back and don’t let go! Everyone, hold onto your possessions!”

I pulled out my phone and sent a quick text to Zack:

They’re leaving, goodbye

“Are we ready, again?” I called out.

“Ready, Breezy!”

“GO, TWILIGHT! CAST THE SPELL!” I shouted, as the magical beam struck the top of the staff. It was a lot stronger than I expected, and the staff was forced to the ground, piercing the concrete as the pressure intensified.

Twilight released her spell, and one by one, each of the Elements of Harmony began to glow, releasing a pulse of energy towards each side of the gem. The crystal glowed with power and internal structural stress, but held fast. I gritted my teeth as I gripped the staff as tightly as I could. The magic was so strong!

Tempest then joined the circle, holding hooves with Twilight. Skystar did the same, gripping her BMX bike frame with one talon and holding Pinkie’s hoof with the other.

The magical beam from Equestria soon took hold, lifting all seven ponies, the dragon, and the hippogriff up into the air. The pressure on the staff became less now, as the Elements of Harmony were now fully connected to the ‘connection beam’. All it needed was a surge, a push – and it would whisk its occupants back to its original source.

“We love you both, Xavier and Joyce!” they all called out, hovering above me some fifteen feet in the air.

“I love you all too! Ponies, dragon, and hippogriff, together, strong!” I replied, sobbing with sadness, knowing I’d likely never see them again. But I had to stay strong within, too. So I called out again.

“All together, with me! FRIENDSHIP!”




“And it’s worth fighting and risking everything for!” another shout came. I knew who it was – Joyce, my mom.

I crouched lower and gave the staff one final heave, pushing the magic beam up. It bowed a little, before surging back upward, sending out a rippling shock wave, taking Twilight and her friends with it. Up, up, and up they went, slowly, then faster, until nothing could be seen of them anymore. The magic beam stayed connected with the staff, so I held onto it, maintaining my iron grip amidst the turbulence. For a moment, it threatened to lift me into the air, before finally releasing and dropping me. I fell a good three feet towards the concrete ground, slamming down, the staff still in my grasp.

The last thing I saw was an envelope slip out of my pocket and get sucked up with the magical beam as it disappeared back up through the sky.

As I blacked out, I smiled internally, knowing that my mission was complete. My friends were on their way back to their home, where they truly belonged. And my mom and I would be, too.

Epilogue: A New Life in Trinidad and A Letter Read By Equestrian Royalty

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It took a while before my mom and I could get going with our lives again. After successfully returning my friends home, I had to endure long hours of detainment and investigation. However, I came out of it as clean as a shirt out of the washing machine. The police finally understood who my friends were and why I’d done such an act.

Later that evening, Zack and his mom came over to pick up the remaining items from the basement, and I explained what happened back at Nathan Phillips Square. Mr. Xing came over and we handed him the keys. We cleaned the basement one final time, packed our bags, and headed for the airport. Due to its sharp points, I could not bring the staff – it had to be shipped separately at a later date.

“Thanks for the ride, and thanks for all those years of fun and thrill,” I said, giving him one final hug.

“You’re welcome, and I thank you too, for introducing me to some of the best new friends I’ve ever made,” he replied. “Now go and have some fun in a tropical land! Make the locals proud with their favorite music!”

“I’ll try to learn boating and surfing, too!” I added, waving to him from the terminal’s doorway. “Goodbye, Zack.”

The flight to Trinidad took many hours, but I was patient. The food wasn’t too bad, and I enjoyed a nice meal of eggs, tea, and some muffins. A little girl got excited when I played a tune from one of her favorite cartoons, and I had fun playing and creating music on my keyboard, despite its large size. I set up my laptop on Joyce’s lap and spread the keyboard across my lap. I found a few steel drum samples in my tropical sound pack, and we practiced together, creating a few jolly tunes on the fly.

Some seven hours later, the plane touched down on the runway of Piarco International Airport. We checked out, got the rest of our baggage, converted our cash, and took a taxi to a 3-star hotel close by, where we’d stay until we could re-establish housing, bank accounts, phone and internet service, insurance, and jobs.

I still missed my friend back home, but I was already falling in love with my surroundings. The air was thick, humid, and salty, a stern reminder of where we now lived. We were hardly ahead in time zones, and thus were able to adjust quickly.

While Joyce took a shower, I arranged all my music gear out on the desk. Using the available hotel internet, I hooked up with Spotify and chilled with my favorite tunes as I read a book, before soon drifting off to sleep.

The next morning, after a quick breakfast, I looked out from the window, my eyes in total awe at the scenery before me, just like I’d seen in photography. Small houses densely packed together, with smooth streets with motor scooters buzzing up and down them, with cars alongside. Further down lay a major interconnecting highway, a mall, and a golf course. I couldn’t wait to visit the small villages and try some of the local food, or take a splash in the waves of the sandy beaches. But all that would have to wait.

“We need to visit the governmental services to confirm a few important details and link up our bank accounts,” Joyce noted.

“Absolutely,” I replied, licking fruit juice off my lips. “One step at a time.”

And one step indeed. We established our money was still intact, then began contacting a real estate agent, and an insurance company. I, unfortunately, got the short end of the wishbone, finding myself frustrated with over a dozen calls to people who were unnegotiable and didn’t speak good English.

On the other hand, Joyce established a link with a reputable real estate agent in just two calls. Our max renting budget was $2000, and we found a nice house in Cascade for just within – $1970. Hitching a ride from the kind agent (who was nice enough to pick us up from the hotel), we drove down the highway, all the way through several communities – Augustine, Valsayn, and Barataria to name a few – to get to Cascades. My mom chose it for its exclusivity, its good included add-ons, and a nice view of the valley. Plus, lots of amenities nearby and a natural feel with the trees and hilly area.

“Whoa,” I gasped as we entered. “This feels inviting and peaceful.”

Joyce had chosen a townhouse, with three decent-sized bedrooms, two bathrooms, almost 1,700 square feet, and a pool. An alarm system came installed, as well as barred windows and a fenced property. Utilities were separate, but it wouldn’t be too bad given it’d just be the two of us.

The A/C blew cool and refreshing, and the kitchen had both a breakfast bar and strip lighting. The bathrooms were nice too, fully furnished with a shiny tap and shower room. A small but scenic deck overlooked the valley below. Overall the townhouse came furnished, but Joyce agreed to keep only half of the furniture, arguing that it’d be better for us to start from scratch and find our “humble zone”.

“So, is it official?” Joyce asked me with a coy smile.

“Yes, it is!” I crowed. “I love everything about this place.”

We signed the contract and agreed to split the rent costs. Using the money from selling the STI-swapped Forester, we paid the first and last month of our yearly contract and moved in the very next week and bought new mattresses, food, a vacuum cleaner, a broom, and cleaning supplies.

We’d agreed to use our bedrooms for specific purposes: I’d sleep in the living room, Joyce would sleep in one bedroom, with the other bedroom being a guest bedroom. The third bedroom I’d convert into a full-fledged recording studio.

“You don’t mind sleeping in the living room, on a couch?” Joyce asked me, as we set the new mattresses in place in the bedrooms.

“Nah,” I replied. “I’ll mostly be at work for the majority of the day, and then be spending late nights working on the next tune. Weekends I’ll definitely be hitting up the beach and local markets.”

“Where do you plan to work?” she asked, a tone of concern in her voice.

I smiled and stretched a bedsheet over the mattress. “Where I know best – auto repair. I’ll be selling my music too.”

“Okay, sounds good. I’ll try working in the local supermarkets, also where I know best.”

We shared a happy laugh and spent the rest of the day cleaning and disinfecting the whole place. I vacuumed, scrubbed, and dusted while Joyce wiped the kitchen counters and got the fridge, dishwasher, stove, and washer and dryer squeaky clean. It really was a lot of work, but given my previous experiences with labor jobs, it wasn’t overbearingly hard.

Amongst the furniture we’d chosen to keep was a TV, so I hooked up my laptop and we watched a movie that evening. I got so tired I flopped on the couch. Joyce covered me with my favorite blanket and gave me a good-night kiss, just as she used to do when I was a kid.

The following morning, we clinked glasses of iced sorrel over plates of pancakes with berries and syrup as a “crowning” of our achievement of settling in Trinidad. All we had to do now was find ideal jobs and get some low-cost internet service. It felt odd being in a new land, but with it would come exciting new opportunities in many different forms.



After a crazy ride through space and time, Twilight and her friends finally landed back on Equestrian soil, right in front of the Ponyville Castle – where Celestia, Luna, and Cadence were waiting, along with Queen Novo.



Excitedly, Twilight embraced her mentor and teacher in a warm hug, with Luna and Cadence soon joining in. Twilight and her friends then thanked the Pillars of Equestria for bringing them home.

“Mom!” Princess Skystar cried, leaping into Queen Novo’s arms, as the two reunited in a teary-eyed hug.

“Where did you end up?” Celestia asked coyly.

“In a huge city with so many different humans!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed.

“And we met a really nice family,” Spike added, holding up an envelope. “Here. I found this when we landed here.”

Celestia took it and carefully tore it open. Inside was a collection of three photos and a letter.

Dear Princess Celestia,

Thank you for your patience. It took some serious guts and a waterfall of tears from both sides, but if you have found this letter, then my attempt at bringing your prized pupil and her friends safely home has been successful. I wish I could be in your presence so you can thank me, and allow me to look into your beautiful eyes, but alas I cannot.

Twilight and her friends had a great time here in Toronto, a city sprawling with three million inhabitants. We had a setback when Skystar got injured and Tempest got into legal trouble, but it’s all been successfully resolved.

I hope you and the rest of Equestria enjoy the gifts from the human world of Earth that I’ve given to my friends, and benefit from their uses.

I love seeing Pinkie and Skystar happy together, and my best human friend, Zack, has given them BMX bikes to enjoy riding and performing creative tricks together. I also gave Rarity a skateboard, and a nice family gave Tempest a tack set, as she’s wearing. I hope the rest of Equestria can love and appreciate bikes and skateboards too.

I’m in a much better place now, on a little tropical island called Trinidad with a diverse array of cultures, living together with my mom.

If you wish to visit me, I’ll be happy to meet you. Assuming Equestria uses a coordinate system, the island’s coordinates are on the back of this paper.

With best wishes for you, your sister, and your kingdom,

Xavier William Brown

P.S.: Keep the photos somewhere safe and secure, as they’re very special to Twilight and… well, everybody.

Celestia peered over at the photos. They showed Rarity joyfully pushing down the street on her skateboard, with Tempest prancing alongside and Xavier performing a 360 flip, Pinkie performing a pedal hang-five with Skystar doing a spinning steamroller, and a group photo with Zack, Pinkie, Skystar, Joyce, Xavier, Tempest, Twilight, Spike, Rarity, and the others in front of the house, where in a tiny little basement, Xavier had lived for several years with his mom.

Luna, Cadence, and Queen Novo also took turns viewing the photos. They all smiled with joy and contentment, almost feeling a little teary-eyed by how moving Xavier’s letter was in conjunction to the photos, and how he’d worked so hard to keep everyone he loved and cared for safe and happy with whatever he was capable of.