From Far Beyond

by Jade Dawn

First published

A human teen robbed of his home and species. A world of magic and friendship facing an unseen foe. And an experiment that could put the whole Universe in danger.

Once upon a time, 17-year old Eric Colby was just your average high school senior. His father worked for TechnoCorp Enterprises, the world's most prosperous science and technology corporation, and Eric himself was doing pretty well in school, for the most part.

But one night, everything changed.

After a series of unexpected events, Eric is suddenly transported into Equestria and mutated into a unicorn by a mysterious genetic sample. Discovered by Twilight Sparkle and her friends, Eric struggles to adapt to his new form, while also trying to uncover a plot that could destroy both humans and ponies alike, and put the whole Universe in danger...

Takes place a short time after the movie, and is canon up to that point. The events of Equestria Girls did not happen during this timeline.

Rated Teen and or some frightening scenes and/or concepts, especially for some moments during the later phases of the story. Feel free to interpret their severity for yourselves. Comments, opinions, and likes are very much appreciated!

(Cover art is a composite image made of a modified Mane Six vector by shadowhillhcr, art of Equestria from orbit by alterhouse, and a vector of my OC Jade Dawn that was modified from an adult Button Mash drawing, author unknown.)


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From Far Beyond

A “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” Fanfiction

Written by Jade Dawn

“My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” is owned by Hasbro. I own none of the characters except the ones I have created for this story.

Equestria, 1,008 A.N.M. (After Nightmare Moon)
2018 A.D., according to Earth's Gregorian Calendar.

The Storm King and his army have fallen.

All over the land of Equestria, the joyous news rings loud and clear. A hundred cities and towns, paralyzed with terror by the stories of the Princesses' capture and Canterlot's enslavement, now spring forth to offer aid and relief to the great capital city.

And for celebration as well. For Twilight Sparkle, the Princess of Friendship, along with her faithful companions, the Elements of Harmony, have once again saved their homeland–and to a greater extend, the entire world–from being overrun by the forces of darkness.

But even in this time of recovery and jubilation, there is still fear and doubt. Fizzlepop Berrytwist, once known as Tempest Shadow, the Storm King's most terrifying enforcer, has been given a chance for redemption. Twilight has seen her hurt and remorse, and, taking her in as a new apprentice, seeks to give Fizzlepop the chance to full return to pony society. Unfortunately, not every pony is quite so forgiving, and the once wayward mare has a long and difficult journey ahead of her.

Now, however, something new–and dangerous– is stirring. As Twilight and her new protégé are summoned to Manehattan on an urgent appeal, neither is aware of the implications of what they will find, nor that it is the beginning of something much more strange and incredible than anything any pony has ever encountered before...

Chapter 1: Vanishing Act

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From Far Beyond

A “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” Fanfiction

Written by Jade Dawn

“My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” is owned by Hasbro. I own none of the characters except the ones I have created for this story.

Chapter 1: Vanishing Act

Fizzlepop Berrytwist, also known to some as Tempest Shadow, formerly the right hand of the Storm King and the terror of the lands outside Equestria, couldn't for the life of her remember the last time she had been to Manehattan. For that matter, she couldn't remember the last time she had been on a train, either. And on top of all that, she was pretty certain she had never found herself sitting right next to an actual princess of Equestria before.

And yet, here she was, doing all three simultaneously.

She took another look out the window, watching as the towering skyscrapers of Equestria's largest metropolis continued to loom ever taller as the train grew closer. She was able to pick out some of the more iconic landmarks, like the Crystaller Building and the Mare Statue, almost instantly, having looked them up in a travel brochure that she had read earlier. Beside her, Princess Twilight Sparkle, the mare who was the sole reason for Equestria's continued existence, and the reason for Fizzlepop's redemption in the first place, continued to read and re-read the letter that had urgently summoned them to the city. Apart from the two mares, there were few other ponies in their car, which seemed a little unusual (although Fizzlepop had her suspicions).

"Did the mayor say why he wanted us to come here?" Fizzlepop asked, trying to break the uncomfortable silence that had persisted since they first got on.

"He didn't say a whole lot," Twilight replied, looking over the letter once more. "He just wrote that something big has come up, and they need some 'assistance' from somepony whose an expert in magical anomalies."

"I take it they meant you?" Fizzlepop asked, gesturing to her companion.

"I guess," Twilight shrugged. "Although I can't understand why they didn't call up somepony like Princess Celestia."

"Well, I suppose it's because you're the Element of Magic. It kind of signifies a bit of experience in that field. That, and I guess they can't call Celestia because of..." her voice trailed off. "Well...because of me."

She felt a pang in her chest as the events that had brought her to this point played in her mind: her assault on Equestria in the name of the Storm King, her subsequent betrayal by him, her rescue by Princess Twilight...even after the two months that had passed since her attack, redemption, and forgiveness by Twilight and her friends, it still felt like an open wound that would never fully heal.

Twilight put a hoof on Fizzlepop's shoulder. "Fizzlepop, that part of your life is over. You've made it very clear that you regret what happened, and that you want to change. You don't have to let it rule your thoughts."

Fizzlepop smiled a little bit, but only a little. That was another one of those things that kept whirling through her head: that the very mare that she had hunted and captured to have her magic forked over to an insane despot was also the very same pony who had repeatedly gone to bat for her in the recent months, whether it was against disgruntled critics, or even politicians and nobles.

More amazing still was how readily Princess Twilight had asked her to become her student. Her previous one–some mare named Starburst or Starlight or something like that (she honestly couldn't remember her name)–had graduated and moved to the Crystal Empire prior to the invasion. There was apparently a vacancy that Twilight felt Fizzlepop could fill, and her friends seemed to agree.

She remembered how shocked she had been when Twilight pitched the idea to her. Her jaw had almost dropped in disbelief when she heard it. "But you know full well I can't do magic," she had said. "How am I supposed to be the student of the Element of Magic when I can't do it in the first place?"

Twilight had smiled reassuringly and said, "There's more to this world than magic, Fizzlepop. It took me a little while to learn that, but eventually I did. And I know you can too."

Fizzlepop never forgot those words.

If only I could forget the other parts, she thought unhappily. The "other parts" were few in number, but very much impactful upon Fizzlepop's life; her past, her reputation, her shattered horn, her cutie mark...

Oh, yes. The cutie mark. Or rather, the lack thereof. She'd never really thought much of it when she was serving the Storm King. It was just another childish setback that ponies held so frustratingly dear. But those had been Tempest Shadow's thoughts. Now she was Fizzlepop Berrytwist, and her lack of a cutie mark had become rather problematic, to say the least. She'd almost been too embarrassed to take off the Storm Army armor that she had worn for so long, for fear of further ridicule. Much to her relief, though, the Elements hadn't harped too much upon it. It was just another thing that they'd work out in time.

Fizzlepop was abruptly pulled away from her self-reflection by the sound of Twilight's voice. "Are you doing all right? You've been very quiet for most of the trip."

Fizzlepop pulled herself away from the window. "Huh? Oh. I was just...admiring the scenery, I guess."

Twilight nodded. "It is pretty spectacular to look at."

"Do you come here often?"

Twilight shook her head. "Not much. Usually for official business. The last time I was here, me and the girls were helping Rarity set up a shop here. Kind of a long story."

Fizzlepop nodded. "But why me?" she suddenly asked.

Twilight looked a little surprised. "What do you mean?"

Fizzlepop paused before explaining. "It's just that...every time you've had to go out of Ponyville for something lately, you always bring me along. I mean, I get that I'm supposed to be your student now, it really necessary for me to come along for everything? Don't get me wrong, I'm not upset about it or anything. I'm just curious."

"Well," Twilight began. "For the one, most of my other friends have other obligations right now. Rainbow's off with the Wonderbolts practicing for a show, Applejack is helping with cider season back on the farm, Rarity and Pinkie have their businesses to worry about, Fluttershy's got her animal sanctuary, and of course Starlight moved out..."

"What about Spike?"

"He wanted to stay and help Rarity. You know how he jumps up to help her like he does," Twilight said with a slight giggle.

"Yeah..." Fizzlepop said, smiling a little at the thought of the young dragon's crush on Rarity. "But, uh, getting back to the other thing?..."

"Oh. Right. be honest, I'm really trying to get ponies used to seeing you around. I figure if they see you in my company, maybe they'll grow more accepting of you."

" figure they'll trust me more if they see that you trust me first?"

"Yeah. I suppose so."

Fizzlepop let this sink in. "I mean...I get that you're trying to help, still isn't the best feeling when we're going somewhere and I see them looking all of this," she said, gesturing to her horn. "Seeing them watch me, hearing their whispers...sometimes I wish I had just gone with Grubber and Capper and the pirates. You know, just sail away from it all, make a new name for myself in some other land...if there are lands we didn't touch yet..."

Twilight sighed. "I know it's been hard. But we've been making a lot of progress. Most of Ponyville's certainly warmed up to you, and I know that–"

Their conversation was cut abruptly short by the sound of the train's brakes, and the conductor announcing their arrival at Manehattan's Central Station.

Twilight stood up from her seat. "We'll talk some more later, I promise. Right now, let's see what the mayor is so upset about."

They met the Mayor by the front doors of the train station. He was a middle-aged, light brown stallion with a black mane that showed a hint of grayness, some kind of legal document for a cutie mark, and wearing a suit and tie. He was pacing back and forth near the exit, biting his lip in an apparent fit of anxiety.

Upon seeing the Princess emerge from the train, he perked up quite rapidly, and practically bounded across the distance between them to meet her. "Princess Twilight! Oh, thank goodness you and–" he stopped short as soon as he saw Fizzlepop. "Oh. Um...I-I didn't think you were bringing anyone else..."

Fizzlepop strained to keep a frown off her face. That's not it. That's not it at all...

"Well," Twilight explained. "I don't really travel alone all too often. You know, Princess of Friendship and everything. I think you've already met my new student, Fizzlepop Berrytwist," she added with a gesture to the aforementioned mare. "Well, not really met her, I mean read about–er, what I mean, forget it. She's my student, and I brought her along to see a little bit of how the Elements and I handle problems. So...yeah."

Beside her, Fizzlepop gave him a nervous little smile. "Um...hello?"

The Mayor nodded slowly. "Yes, I, hello to you too, ma'am." His unease was becoming a rather obvious at this point.

Not wanting to linger upon the identity of her companion any longer, Twilight spoke up. "So, you wrote that there was an emergency down here. Something requiring an expert in magic. Would you mind explaining what it is?"

"Oh! Yes, of–of course. You see, your Highness, there's been an..." He hesitated, as though what the occurrence he was about to reveal was too horrible to be spoken. " abduction."

Twilight and Fizzlepop both looked surprised. "An abduction?" they said simultaneously.

"I'm afraid so," the Mayor affirmed. "You know what? I've got a carriage waiting for us outside. Perhaps we can discuss it on the way?"

Twilight shrugged. "Fine by me. Come on, Fizzlepop," she said as she began to follow the Mayor, her student coming up not too far behind.

"Mr. Mayor?" Fizzlepop asked. "With all due respect, isn't this a job for the police to handle? I don't really see how we could be of any help."

"Yes, you'd think so. You see..." he paused as they went through the large, ornate doors of the station. "Well, perhaps you'll understand a little bit better once you see it."

"Incidentally, do you know the name of who was abducted?" Twilight asked.

"Yes. Somepony named Coco Pommel. A Bridleway dressmaker, if I recall correctly."

Twilight did a double take. "Coco Pommel?" she asked, a surprised tone prevalent in her voice.

"You know her?" Fizzlepop inquired.

Twilight nodded. "She's a friend of Rarity's. She runs one of her stores up here. I can't imagine why anyone would want to kidnap her, though."

"What makes you say that?"

"She's just a dressmaker, and not a very wealthy one at that. I mean, it's not like she's on welfare or anything. She's doing all right financially, from what little I know, but not enough to warrant a ransom or anything like that. I just can't see the point in abducting her. It's very strange."

"Oh, believe me," the Mayor said. "That's not the strangest part of this whole mess. Not in the slightest."

The first thing that Twilight and Fizzlepop noticed as they neared Coco Pommel's apartment building in the Bronclyn District was the group of police officers surrounding the building. There were about eight or nine of them all together, and all the entrances and exits to the building were sealed off with yellow police tape. A few pedestrians stopped to look, only to be shooed away by the cops.

"You put the building on quarantine?" Fizzlepop asked as the trio stepped out of the taxi carriage.

"Yes," the Mayor replied. "Given the, um, sensitive nature of this case, we thought it best if we isolate the crime scene until further notice."

"Does the press have any knowledge of what's going on?" Twilight questioned.

The Mayor shook his head. "We thought it best if we keep it under wraps for now. The last thing we need is for the entirety of Manehattan to erupt into a panic. Believe me, we're already spooked enough as it is." He said a few words to one of the officers near the front entrance of the apartment building, who nodded and took down the tape for them to enter.

As the made their way up to the upper floors where Coco's actual apartment was located, Twilight couldn't help but notice the unusually empty hallways. "Did you have everypony move out of the building?" she asked in concern.

"Only temporarily," said the Mayor. "We've put them in some vacant hotel rooms around the city. We plan on having them move back when we have a general idea of what happened."

A kind of unease was beginning to fall upon Twilight's conscience. The fact that the Mayor had summoned her, a known expert in magic, to a crime scene that would ordinarily call for conventional police work was becoming more and more disturbing as she kept thinking about it. The whole thing was unsettling, to say the least.

You're overreacting, Twilight tried to assure herself. You and the girls have been through much worse. Chaos lords, timeline changes, parasitic shadow demons...this'll be easy compared to all of that. And yet, no matter how often she told herself that as the trio climbed the stairs to the apartment, Twilight still couldn't shake that feeling of anxiety.

She was suddenly drawn back to reality by the sound of the Mayor opening the door to one of the rooms. "Um, Princess? We're here."

They entered the apartment. For the most part, it reminded Twilight a lot of Rarity's place back in Ponyville, with the same kind of stylish furniture, materials and the occasional mannequin here and there. The only signs of the alleged abduction were the fact that the bedsheets were piled up on the floor, as though the bed's occupant had been pulled out and had dragged the sheets a little ways, and the fact that the doors to the outside balcony were wide open. Closer examination that the lock had been crudely picked, the door handles bent slightly.

"Did anyone actually see her get taken?" Fizzlepop asked as she looked around the room.

"No," the Mayor answered. "A few of the neighbors said they heard a scream, but by the time someone came in to check, she was already gone. And that's when they called in."

"Any hoof prints or anything like that?" Twilight asked.

"None whatsoever. It's completely thrown off the detectives."

Twilight thought for a moment. "Did anyone think of trying a locator spell?" she asked.

Fizzlepop was confused. "A what?"

"Uh, yes, a few of the unicorn detectives tried it. And we also brought in a couple of specialists from Canterlot to give it a go. But, you see..." he bit his lip nervously. "That's actually the part where we got thrown off."

"Do you mind if I try it?" Twilight asked.

The Mayor shrugged. "Help yourself. I'm not sure that it'll do much good, though."

"On the contrary," Twilight responded as she searched the room for something to cast the spell on. "It could prove to be very helpful." She finally spotted the sailor collar and tie, and the flower-shaped hairpin that she knew Coco Pommel often wore lying on a table beside the bed. She focused all of her concentration onto the hairpin, and her horn began to shimmer, with the pin wrapped in the same aura.

"I don't mean to be a bother," Fizzlepop asked. "But what exactly is a locator spell?"

Remembering that Fizzlepop had little to no actual experience with advanced magic, Twilight began to explain the spell. "It basically tracks the magical essence of a pony, using an object that they commonly use as the starting point. You see, ponies naturally leave a kind of magical imprint on the things that they interact with, kind of like a hoof print. But it usually takes a very advanced magic user to be able to detect that." She paused for a moment, letting her aura continue to wash over the pin, occasionally turning her head a little bit to one side or the other.

"I'm sorry, am I breaking your concentration?"

"No, no, it's fine. Just modulating the spell a little. Anyway, long story short, this spell will allow us to see where Coco Pommel has been. But I'm also modifying it a little to show us where she went."

Fizzlepop's face lit up with sudden understanding. "So it's basically a tracking beacon?"

"Yes, that's exactly right," Twilight said.

"Huh." Guess it was kind of obvious from the name, Fizzlepop thought.

"Aaaaaand...I think that does it."

Rather suddenly (so much so that Fizzlepop actually jumped back a little), a bright, pulsating blue light trailed off from the pin and spread across the floor in a wild, erratic web, tracing everywhere that Coco Pommel had traversed the room over the course of the past few days.

Twilight and her companions followed the trail as best they could around the room. It led right up to the bed, made a few tiny loops, and then suddenly went careening off across the floor...

...and toward the balcony doors, where the light line suddenly shot straight up into the air.

"They took her out the balcony," Fizzlepop deduced. "And then they must have climbed up to the roof, and..."

"...made their getaway," Twilight finished. She spread her wings, ready to fly out the window and follow the spell that way, but then stopped and folded them again. "Sorry. Shall we try the stairs?"

"Fine with me," the Mayor said.

The two mares bolted out of the apartment and made their way toward the stairwell, the Mayor puffing behind to keep up. "So once we get a good idea of where the trail leads," Twilight said as they ascended. "We'll be able to figure out what happened from there."

"Maybe," The Mayor replied. "But I don't think it'll be much different from before. You'll see why in a moment."

"Don't worry, Mr. Mayor," Twilight said as she threw open the door to the roof and caught sight of the locating spell's trail. "Between the two of us, Coco Pommel is going to be in good...hooves?"

Twilight skidded to a halt, and the other two stopped next to her. She was staring at the still pulsating spell trail, her eyes wide with confusion and concern.

The trail just stopped in midair. No fade-out, no nothing. It just quite simply stopped.

The Mayor shook his head. "Just like before," he muttered.

"Does this mean that she's..." Fizzlepop paused, as though not wanting to consider the possibility. "...dead?"

Twilight shook her head numbly as she stepped around the trail's cutoff point. "No. The light would go gray if that was the case. We could still detect the imprint, even if the subject is dead, but this..." She continued to shake her head in dismay as she stared at the failed results of her spell.

"One of the cops said it was like she just didn't exist anymore," The Mayor said. "Like she was ripped away from the world."

Fizzlepop gave Twilight a nervous look. "What does it mean, Princess?" she asked. "What's going on?"

For a moment, Twilight was silent. Then, finally, she said, "I...I don't know. I have no idea."

Fizzlepop's face fell. This wasn't good. This wasn't good at all.

Because when Twilight Sparkle, Equestria's savior too many times to count, Celestia's star pupil, and one of, if not the top magic expert in the country, had no clue what was happening... knew you were in trouble.

Chapter 2: Homecoming

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From Far Beyond

A “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” Fanfiction

Written by Jade Dawn

“My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” is owned by Hasbro. I own none of the characters except the ones I have created for this story.

Chapter 2: Homecoming

Home sweet home, Fizzlepop thought as she and Twilight made their way up to the entrance of the Castle of Friendship.

After the incident at Coco Pommel's apartment, the two had booked a room in one of Manehattan's many hotels, and spent the night there. Or at least Fizzlepop had. Twilight had gone to the city library from the time they had gotten the room to around 3:00 in the morning. Fizzlepop could only assume that she was trying to to research into whatever had happened to Coco. They'd had breakfast a little later, then managed to catch the train back to Ponyville.

Twilight had been uncharacteristically silent through the whole ride back. Fizzlepop could almost see the wheels in her head turning in vain to rationalize what had happened. And it kept going like that even after they had left the train and made their way back to the castle.

As they crossed through the entrance, Spike came running up to them.

"Welcome back, Twi! How was the–WHOA!" He was practically knocked off his feet as Twilight bolted past him.

"Yikes," Spike said as Fizzlepop helped him up. "What's with her?"

"She's been like this ever since last night," Fizzlepop said.

"Really? What happened to get her so riled up?"

Fizzlepop explained what had happened the night before. The urgent summons, Coco Pommel's disappearance, the locator spell failure, all of it.

"Well, that would explain it," Spike said when she had finished. "Sounds like she's heading to the library to do some more research." He shook his head as the two began to follow Twilight's path. "Coco Pommel, huh? Gee. I wonder what the motive was?"

"We don't know," Fizzlepop replied. "The whole thing is like a dead-end. No leads, no clues, not even any hoof-prints. And as for that locator spell...well, I'm not too knowledgeable in magic, but just from looking at Twilight's reaction, I can tell this is much worse than we thought."

"So, other than that, how was the rest of the trip?"

Fizzlepop shrugged. "Eh, it went about as well as one could expect from this sort of thing."

Spike's voice took on a tone of seriousness. "Nopony gave you any trouble, did they?" he asked.

"No," Fizzlepop answered. "I got a few odd glances, but that was it. Although the fact that Princess Twilight was there probably had something to do with why I actually lived to get back on the train." She gave him a glance. "I still can't get over how I could do so much to you and everyone else, and yet here you are, asking me how I'm doing."

"It's because you're a friend," Spike said, as casually as though he were talking about the weather. "Friends look out for each other. Yeah, you've made a couple of mistakes, but at least you've turned over a new leaf. Besides, it's not the first time it's happened. I mean, look at Starlight Glimmer; she almost wrecked the timeline, and yet here she is today: formerly Twilight's first student, and now she's working in the Crystal Empire with Sunburst."

"The only reason no one wants her arrested or banished or anything like that is because only the Elements and the Princesses know about that," Fizzlepop noted. "They never made an official statement to the public about it."

Spike's smile dropped a little. "Fair enough. But the point is, if Starlight could come from those depths and get a life as good as the one she's got now, then I don't think you've got anything to worry about. Ah, here we are," he said, as they had finally reached the entrance to the castle library.

As they went through the doors, the stared at it's sole occupant prior to their arrival. Twilight was sitting in the middle of the room, surrounded by a large pile of books, all on magic or magical anomalies. She was holding up several with her telekinesis, flipping through the pages at a rate to boggle the mind, and muttering to herself all the while, clearly in a kind of frenzy.

Fizzlepop and Spike looked on in amazement.

"Wow," Spike said. "I think she's beaten her record for most pages turned in a second."

Fizzlepop gave him a quizzical look. "Is that even a thing?"

"Oh, trust me, there were a lot that we discovered were a thing once we moved here."

"Oh, come on," Twilight murmured to herself as she read. "Gotta be something, gotta be something, gotta be something, NO!" She dropped all the books and sank her head. "There's nothing in there at all! Literally nopony has seen this kind of phenomenon before! Oh, how can I help find Coco Pommel if I don't even know–" Her head popped up as she suddenly became aware of the other two occupants in the room. "Oh. I, long have you two been standing there?"

"Only a few seconds," Spike replied.

Twilight stood up and straightened her mane a little. "I'm sorry about all that. I just...well..."

"You're nervous," Fizzlepop finished. "You've found something completely out of anypony's experience, and you're disturbed by it."

"Yeah. Me in a nutshell." She took a deep breath. "Spike. I'm going to need to send a letter to Princess Celestia. Maybe she and Luna can help us out." She picked up a quill and parchment from a nearby table, and began to write.

Dear Princess Celestia,

I am writing this to inform you of a very disturbing circumstance that has come to my attention.

Last night, a mare in Manehattan named Coco Pommel was abducted from her apartment by as-of-now unknown assailants. Little-to-no evidence was left at the crime scene, and the police are totally baffled.

More disturbingly, I cast a locator spell on one of Ms. Pommel's personal effects, only for the trail to somehow abruptly end on the rooftop of the building. I do not believe this means that she is dead, but I can't offer any further theories other than that.

Do you know of anything that might cause this particular effect in a locator spell? If not, is there any books in the Canterlot Archives that might lead to some clues?

Thank you in advance,
Princess Twilight Sparkle

Twilight finished the letter, wrapped it up, and gave it to Spike, who sent it off with a small puff of green fire.

Fizzlepop watched the parchment vanish in the emerald flame. "I still can't understand how that works," she said.

"So now what do we do?" Spike asked.

"Well, we can't do much right now," Twilight replied. "We'll just have to wait until she sends a response." She looked over at the chaotic assortment of books on the library floor. "And maybe clean up this mess of mine," she added with a sheepish look.

Eric Colby was usually pretty good at paying attention in class, even if the topic wasn't at all interesting to him. Like right now. He was sitting with about fifteen other students in twelfth grade statistics, and he could barely understand it to save his life. He still tried his best to pay attention, though. At least, he usually did.

But today, he had other things on his mind.

It must've shown, because he was suddenly yanked from his inner thoughts when Mr. Mauchik suddenly called out, "Mr. Colby! Are you paying attention to what I'm saying right now?"

Eric jumped in his seat a little, before collecting himself and answering, "Uh, yes, sir."

Mr. Mauchik nodded slowly, as if unconvinced. "We'll see about that on the next test." He turned back to the smart board to continue the lesson. As he rambled on about some complex statistics equation, Eric kept his eyes and ears focused, trying as best he could to let the information soak into his mind, with a varying degree of success.

At an initial glance, Eric Colby seemed to be fairly ordinary for a boy of 17. His hair was dark brown in color, and his eyes were a lighter shade, almost hazel, masked by a pair of glasses due to an unfortunate case of near-sightedness.

But beneath all of that, Eric had quite an inquisitive mind. Especially when it came to the science. Eric had an almost irresistible love of how the Universe around him operated, and he could probably spit out facts on everything from orbital rotations to dinosaur fauna if you just asked him. He also dabbled in fanfiction writing, and he planned to take a course in authoring and screenwriting in college.

Of course, like most people, he had his quirks. He occasionally struggled with topics that seemed foreign to him. Like statistics. Sometimes he got stressed with things that were new or hard to understand. But he was pretty bright overall.

To sum him up, he was a bit of a nerd. And proud of it, he would occasionally joke.

His thoughts were once again interrupted when Mr. Mauchik suddenly turned away from the smartboard to make an announcement. Klaus Mauchik was an older man with a pointed white beard and a strict, no-nonsense attitude. When the students had first heard his name, it became the private joke of the class. Some of the kids had even taken to calling him "Mr. Moochick", or sometimes just "the Moochick". At least, they used to. Some idiot had made the mistake of calling him that directly to his face. The death glare he had given the students had frightened them all into vowing never to call him that again. At least around him. They still did it when they felt confident he wasn't watching.

"All right, class," he said. "Now as you all now, we were supposed to have this assembly yesterday during Career Day, but since our guest speaker couldn't make it due to business reasons, so they have moved it to next period."

The class collectively nodded.

"Now," Mr. Mauchick went on. "I want you all to be on your best behavior. Our speaker gone to a lot of trouble to take time out of his schedule to talk to us here, and I don't want to see any of you goofing off. Do you understand?"

A multitude of "uh-huhs" arose from the students.

"Good. Now, they'll probably be calling us up in about, oh..." he raised up his arm so he could check his watch, only to discover that it was not present upon his wrist. "Um, hang on." He checked his pockets, coming up fruitless. He then turned to his desk and started lifting up papers and documents. "I say, you haven't seen my watch, haven't you?" he muttered to no one in particular. Behind him, a few of the rowdier students were beginning to giggle, and Eric himself couldn't help but crack a smile.

At that moment, the intercom clicked on, saving Mr. Mauchik from any further humiliation. "Attention all teachers in grades nine through twelve; please bring your students to the auditorium for Mr. Brant's Career Day speech in five minutes." The intercom went silent with a brief burst of static.

"Well, there you go. Alright class," Mauchik said as the students made their way to the door. "Let's make our way to the auditorium in an orderly, non-pushing or shoving fashion."

As the class walked out into the halls and merged with the other high school groups, Eric caught snatches of some of the conversations between the kids.

"The Moochick lost his watch again."

"Again? That's like the fifth time this week!"

"Why doesn't he just check his phone?"

"Does he even have one?" Eric interjected. "I'm pretty sure he's one of those guys who still thinks that TV comes from the Devil."

There was a chorus of laughter from the other students, and Eric laughed along with them.

He felt a sudden tap on his shoulder, and he turned to see a red-haired girl in a black leather jacket coming up alongside him.

"Hey, Eric," she said. "How'd Stats go?"

"Oh hi, Megan," Eric replied. "About same as usual."

"Didn't understand it?"

Eric shook his head. "Not at all."

"Well, if it's any consolation, I have a tough time with it too. Does that make you feel any better?" Megan replied, smiling a little.

Eric smiled back, and shrugged. "A little."

If someone asked who Eric's closest friend was, Megan Williams would almost invariably be the answer. The two had first met during their latter days in middle school, and had been close friends ever since. Megan had shared Eric's interest in science, although not quite to the same degree. Either way, the two were very close, and in school they were rarely seen apart except when classes demanded it. Of course, there were always those rumors from the rowdier kids that they were more than just friends, but Eric and Megan didn't let that bother them.

Besides, they might have been true.

As the line of students entered the auditorium, Eric and Megan continued their conversation while they found seats. Already, the hall was filled with students, all chatting excitedly. On a large screen on the stage in front of the hall were the words "Today's Guest Speaker: Charles Brant, President of TechnoCorp Enterprises". Underneath this was the all-too familiar TechnoCorp logo, written in bright blue and green block lettering, and below that was the company slogan: "Moving Humanity Forward".

"I feel a little bad for not understanding it, though," Eric continued after they had found a place to land. "If what the kindergarten teachers said about 'math will be a part of everything in life' or whatever is true, then I'm gonna be in trouble."

"I don't think they meant it like that." Megan assured him. "And besides, how many people do you see doing statistics equations on the average day?"

"Good point." He sighed. "Of course, I did kinda have other things on my mind during class," he admitted.

"Oh, like what?" Megan asked. "Is it that Lion King fanfic you've been working on?" Her voice took on a note of concern. "Did it get a lot of downvotes or something?"

"No, no," Eric replied. "It's getting good reviews so far. I just finished writing part where the space shuttle crashes in the Pride Lands. I'm still trying to figure out a way to foreshadow the alien parasite that they accidentally brought with them."

Megan smiled. Only a kid like Eric could take The Lion King, add in astronauts and alien monsters, and somehow make it work. "But seriously," she continued. "What's on your mind?"

"Well..." Eric paused, as if the truth would be somehow embarrassing to admit. "Today's the day Dad is coming home."

"Oh, yeah." Megan replied. "I forgot he went away for work." She nodded at the TechnoCorp logo at the front of the auditorium. "He works for TechnoCorp, right?"

"Yeah. He's one of their computer programmers. He usually works from home, but every once in a while they'll have him come down to their research facility at Midnight Island for some 'top-secret company business' or whatever." He made little quotation signs with his fingers for extra effect. "This time around, he's been working there for almost a year."

"Yeah, I remember you telling me about that," Megan said. "Midnight Island, huh? A lot of people would kill to get a glimpse at what they're cooking up in there."

Eric was about to respond, but his attention was drawn away when they noticed Principal Quinn, a tall, gray haired woman in her mid-sixties, beginning to take the stage. She tapped the microphone mounted on the podium a few times, and began to address the now crowded auditorium.

"Students, may I have your attention at this time? Thank you. Now, as you're teachers have probably already mentioned, we had hoped to have our guest speaker come in yesterday for Career Day. Unfortunately, he had some unexpected business to attend to which delayed him. Fortunately, he has managed to find time today to come and speak to you all, with a message that I hope will spawn inspiration in the hearts of all of our students. And so, without further to do..." She gestured to the right of the stage. "Mr. Brant, will you please come up at this time?"

Off to the side of the stage, a tall man with light brown hair and a slight bit of stubble stood up and began walking up to the podium. As he came under the glare of the stage lights, the audience went wild, clapping and cheering as if they had just seen a home run for their favorite baseball team.

Brant shook Ms. Quinn's hand as he made his way to the podium, and straightened his tie a little before addressing the assembly.

"Good morning, kids," he said. "First of all, I'd like to apologize for not being able to make it here sooner, but, as Ms. Quinn said, there was some business I had to check on. Secondly, I'd like to thank Greenwood High for allowing me to come and talk to you for a little while."

He cleared his throat a little and smiled. "Now, by this point, quite a few of you will be making preparations for college and all of that. And even if it's not exactly an impending thing for you, I'm sure you're parents have already begun discussing it. Believe me, I know what it feels like. The stress of finishing up high school, finding the right college, signing this form and that form and all of me, I've been there. Needless to say, it's pretty nerve-wracking. Isn't it?"

There were a lot of answers in the affirmative, and Eric even heard someone say something along the lines of "you don't know the half of it".

Brant smiled back at the kids. He leaned forward a little, and with the utmost sincerity in his voice, he continued. "I also know what it feels like when you think it'll be too much. That you're not going to make it. All those thoughts that you'll end up as a hobo if you flunk out or fail or something. As unbelievable as it may sound to you, I've been there myself."

As he spoke, he continually looked around at all the students. And when he spoke next, Eric felt as though the statement was directed right at him.

"But I wanted to tell you this. Maybe you've heard it before, but I'm gonna tell you it anyway: You. Can. Make it."

Eric thought he felt something akin to encouragement beginning to well up in his chest.

To say that Charles Brant was a man of great wealth would be the biggest understatement of the 21st Century. As of 2018, Brant was officially the richest man in the world, with only Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates coming in close second and third, respectively. And the majority of that wealth had been gained through Brant's company, TechnoCorp Enterprises.

No one knew much about Brant's past life. The world barely even knew that he existed until the mid-90's, when he and a group of former college friends got together to build a fledgling programming company, attempting to capitalize on the growing computer craze. At the time, they had used the name TechnoCorp as just a fun little moniker. None of them could have predicted how much it would come to mean.

From these little seeds, TechnoCorp began to grow. They went from about a dozen people to five dozen, then hundreds, then thousands. They started expanding their interests, beginning to produce home appliances and other electronics. By 1999, TechnoCorp was one of America's leading technology developers.

And it just kept growing from there. They began dabbling in more ambitious interests. Everything from oil to prototype space planes was in TechnoCorp's roster of projects, and they were all done with excellence. And rumor had it that they were producing devices far beyond even the wildest dreams of military and industrial science. They quickly rose to become one of the world's most wealthy companies. In short, they were doing incredibly well. By the early 2000s, they were officially more financially successful than even Microsoft.

But the biggest boon to the company occurred in late 2007, with the purchase of SynthX Industries. SynthX was a bio-engineering firm that had been pushed to Chapter 11 bankruptcy after a near-disaster involving a genetically engineered malaria cure went terribly awry. The company might have gone out of business if TechnoCorp hadn't bought it out. And suddenly, TechnoCorp was dabbling in genetic engineering on top of everything else, and it was still one of their most-discussed fields of research. Already, they were putting their new products into stores; new breeds of dogs, cats, and fish were being created, as well as new species of household plants. The most famous of these was something they had called the Eternal Autumn, a hybrid tree whose leaves retained their fall colors all year round, and could survive extreme temperatures both hot and cold.

Now, almost 20 years after its inception, TechnoCorp had firmly cemented itself as the most wealthy and prosperous company in all of the world. They had trade deals all across the planet, and several military and research contracts to boot. Of course, their competitors, such as Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft were still around; they still did what they did best. But TechnoCorp had long since left them in the dust with their accomplishments. Their company headquarters was actually located in New York City, about 15 miles up from Eric's hometown of Greenwood.

But it wasn't just their wealth or size that made TechnoCorp so famous. Brant was a man of integrity, and he saw to it that his company took good care of its employees. The pay was excellent. Wage gaps were non-existent. To have a job in any of TechnoCorp's many departments was to be pretty much set for life.

It was in this industrial supergiant that Eric's father worked. Dr. Jonathan Colby was a somewhat minor computer programmer, but he had been involved in some of TechnoCorp's most famous and ambitious projects. His most recent project (at least as far as his non-disclosure agreements would allow him to tell to his family) had been designing a training simulator for the company's V-147 Prowess V-TOL fighter, which was becoming rapidly popular with the United States and Royal Air Forces. Better yet, his job occasionally brought him to Midnight Island, a small island in the middle of the Atlantic that served as TechnoCorp's main research and development facility. It was where they tested their most secret, experimental, and sometimes dangerous projects, away from public scrutiny and potential harm.

The Colbys were, of course, very proud of their father's accomplishments. But they were even happier that he would be coming back home for a month to spend time with them. Eric was no exception in the slightest.

Brant took a deep breath as he began to wrap up his speech. "I hope you all take what I've said to heart," he said. "Trust me, I know what it's like to worry about the future, probably more than you ever will. But if you truly want to make your dreams come true, then you don't quit. You push on. You move forward. And as long as you keep making that effort...then nothing can stop you if you don't want it to." He gave a bit of a smile. "End of lecture. Class dismissed," he added with a small chuckle.

There was a loud and enthusiastic round of applause.

As everyone began filing out to go back to their scheduled classes, Brant stood by the exit, occasionally shaking hands with one or two of the students. As he reached out to shake Eric's as he walked by, he suddenly did a double take.

"Hey, wait a minute," he said. "I think I've seen you somewhere before."

Eric froze. " do?" he asked.

At least, that was what he said out loud. In his mind, he was going absolutely bonkers with the fact that Charles Brant was talking to him.

Brant suddenly snapped his fingers. "Oh, yeah! I remember you now. You're Dr. Colby's boy, right?"

"You mean Jonathan Colby?" Eric asked.

"Yeah, that's him. Works in the programming department?"

"Yeah. He's my dad. I'm his oldest. Name's Eric."

"Yes, I remember him telling me about you. Wonderful guy. Good at what he does, too. Nice to meet you, Eric," Brant said as he shook Eric's hand.

By this point, Eric was thoroughly awestruck. Not only was Brant talking to him, but he actually knew who he was.

Best day ever.

"Do you mind if we talk a little while you head back to class?" Brant asked.

It suddenly occurred to Eric that the others had probably long since went back to the room. "Uh, yeah. Sure."

Brant nodded, and the two stepped out into the hall.

"So...when did Dad tell you about me?" Eric asked as they walked.

"A while back, actually. He's told me all about your family. He's coming home for a vacation this week, if I remember correctly."

Eric nodded. "Uh-huh. He's actually arriving today."

"Really? Well, tell him I said hello when you get the chance." He cleared his throat. "So, Eric. What do you want to be when you grow up."

"Well..." Eric paused. "I was thinking of going into the writing business. You know, screenwriting, novels, that kind of thing."

"Good to hear. Heaven knows we need some good writers these days."

Eric smiled a little. "Thing is...I'm a little nervous about it all. I mean, going into college and getting a job and all that."

Brant looked at him, his face betraying a hint of concern. "Oh? Why is that?" he asked.

"There's just a lot. One of my classes this year is financial math, and there's like a million different expenses and taxes and mortgages and..." He trailed off, and shook his head. "I'm just not sure that I'm gonna be able to keep on top of everything."

Brant nodded. "I know how that feels. Believe me, I do."

Eric nodded. "Yeah, you told us about that."

Brant smiled. "I think you're gonna be alright, Eric. Your Dad is always talking about how smart you are. And you know what? From what I've heard, I think he's right. You're gonna do alright, Eric. I can feel it."

They stopped in front of one of the many doors that lined the hallway. "Is this your class?"

"Yeah. Participation in Government," Eric replied.

"Well, you'd better go on in," Brant replied. He took a look at his Apple Watch. "I've actually got to get back to New York." He suddenly noticed Eric's confused look. "Something wrong?"

Eric pointed at his wrist. "You use an Apple Watch?"

"Yeah. What about it?"

"An Apple Watch?"

Brant finally got what he was getting at, and he chuckled. "Well, it's not like TechnoCorp is gonna steal their idea and make our own, right? Wouldn't want to be accused of making a knock-off."

Eric laughed. "Yeah, I guess not." He started to head into the classroom, but then paused. "Thanks for the chat, Mr. Brant."

Brant smiled. "It was a pleasure talking with you, Eric."

Eric smiled back, and he went in.

As he took his seat, he felt a light tap on his shoulder, and turned to see Megan looking at him, her blue eyes wide with awe.

"You were talking to Mr. Brant," she whispered.

Eric couldn't keep the grin off his face. "Yeah."

"Charles Brant was talking to you."

"Something wrong with that?" He knew there wasn't. He was just kind of relishing the moment.

"No. It's're a really lucky guy, you know that?"

"Oh, please..."

"No, really. You're Dad works at TechnoCorp, and now you got to meet his boss! Wait'll you tell your Dad about that!"

Three hours and a couple of homework assignments later, Eric found himself sitting in the waiting area of Greenwood Airport with his family.

"When is he coming?" Asked his little brother, Benjamin. He was four years younger than Eric, with light brown hair that bordered on blonde, and had a rather enthusiastic, if a little impatient, personality.

"Just wait a little longer, Benjamin," Sarah Colby replied. "He'll be here soon enough." Their mother was a woman in her late-forties, with long hair that had once been black but was now taking on an ever-so-slight hint of gray.

"You gonna tell Dad that you met his boss?" Benjamin asked Eric.

"Yeah, why wouldn't I?"

"By the way, I was planning on taking us all out to dinner tonight," Mrs. Colby said. "You two don't have a lot of homework, do you?"

Benjamin shook his head. "Nope. We kept asking questions right up 'til the bell rang, and she didn't have time to give us any."

Eric grinned a little. Pretty slick, he thought.

"What about you, Eric?"

"Hm? Oh. I got a short project for financial math, but that's not due until next week. It won't ruin any plans for tonight."

Benjamin suddenly stood. "Is that him?" he asked, pointing to a group of passengers just getting off one of the terminals.

Sure enough, one of the passengers suddenly stopped as he noticed them. He looked to be around Mrs. Colby's age, perhaps slightly older, with piercing blue eyes and gray hair that once had been brown. He dragged a roller backpack behind him as he walked. As his eyes came to rest on the Colbys, he started to walk toward them with a joyous smile on his face.

"DAD!" Benjamin shouted, leaping off the couch and charging headlong at his father.

"Benjy! Long time no–OOF!" He was almost knocked off his feet as Benjamin smacked into him and gave him a massive hug. "Well," he began again "Somebody's not too happy to see me. Holy cow...have you grown a little since I last saw you?" He glanced up to see Eric and Sarah catching up with them. He got up to his feet and accepted his wife's embrace. "Sarah...oh my goodness, it's been way too long."

"You've got that right, Jonathan," Sarah replied with a smirk. Mr. Colby smiled, and she gave him a light peck on the cheek.

"Oh, come on, honey...not in front of the whole airport," he said.

"Aw, let 'em look."

"What about me?" Eric asked. "Don't I get anything from the Dad I haven't seen in almost a year?"

"Well, that all depends," Jonathan asked. "Do you want a hug or a handshake?"

Eric chuckled a little.

"So," Mrs. Colby asked as they neared their minivan in the airport parking lot. "Do you want to drive, or do you want me to drive?"

"Do you think you could drive?" Jonathan answered. "I'm a little tired from the flight."

It wasn't until everyone had gotten themselves seated in the van that something clicked in Eric's mind.

He actually wanted Mom to drive this time, he thought.

Almost any other time their Dad had come home from a shift on Midnight Island, he had insisted on driving them all home himself, usually with a remark along the lines of, "I haven't seen a non-company car in months; let me enjoy myself a little", or something like that.

But this time, he hadn't.

Maybe it was nothing. Maybe he really was a little tired, and Eric was making too big of a deal over it.

But still...

Eric shook his head. Probably nothing. He's just tired, and there's nothing else to it.

"So," Jonathan began. "What's been happening since I was away?"

"Eric and Megan are dating," Benjamin said, in a voice that annoying voice that only little brothers use.

"Benjy!" Eric hissed.

"Oh, really?" Mr. Colby asked. "You and Megan? Since when?"

Eric knew there was no backing out now. "Well, we're not dating. I mean, not exactly, but..."

Mr. Colby was nodding. "I see. Well...I'm glad to hear that you two hit it off so well."

Eric breathed a mental sigh of relief. At least he didn't joke around about it this time...

Except now that feeling from earlier was back in Eric's mind.

Almost any other time that the subject of Megan Williams came up, his Dad would kind of tease him about it. Not in a mean or cruel way; his father would never make a remark that would seriously offend his family, at least not intentionally. He would just joke around. It still got Eric blushing a little, but everyone knew he wasn't trying to put him on the spot.

Only this time, he had just kind of went with it.

Now Eric was starting to get concerned. This was now two instances of things Dad usually did, and he wasn't doing any of them.

In fact, now that he noticed it, his father seemed to be acting a little...different. More jittery than usual. More than once on the ride to the restaurant, Eric saw him looking out the window or through one of the rear-view mirrors in a way that did not evoke sight-seeing at all. Almost like he was nervous. Like someone was following him.

Eric hoped his Mom would notice. If she did, she was probably not making a big deal out of it to keep everyone calm and not ruin the otherwise happy moment. And Eric certainly didn't want to ask.

All he could do was lean back in his seat and wonder what was going on to make his Dad so nervous...

Chapter 3: Interim

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From Far Beyond

A “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” Fanfiction

Written by Jade Dawn

“My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” is owned by Hasbro. I own none of the characters except the ones I have created for this story.

Chapter 3: Interim

Eric leaned over a table in the middle of the family living room, staring down at the textbook and loose-leaf paper before him. He had long ago began wondering if statistics was designed specifically to torture people like him. Now he was pretty much sure of it.

Mr. Mauchik had given the class fifteen problems out of the textbook that were due the next week, much to everyone's chagrin. But Eric especially. It wasn't the due date that bothered him. It was the actual assignments themselves that troubled him so. No matter what he tried, the understanding he sought continuously eluded him.

He just wasn't a mathematical genius, and that was that.

He pulled his notebook in front of him and looked over the frantically scribbled words and numerals written on it, desperately hoping to have some sort of epiphany on the subject. Much to his frustration, he found none.

A thousand and one self-deprecating remarks flooded into his brain. You've gotta study harder, Eric, or You're not taking this seriously enough, or You're in high school, you should be able to handle this, the whole shebang.

He tried to shoo those ugly thoughts away by thinking about Charles Brant's speech to the school last week, but to no avail. The words of the famous man had sounded so profound, so uplifting that day he had spoken. But now the words had seemed to lose their potency in the face of an actual problem. In the end, they did Eric no good.

And it was such a minor problem in the grand scheme of things, Eric thought. It was just one stupid statistics homework assignment that probably any other kid in the class could crack! If he couldn't solve this without hitting a mental wall, then what would happen when he was met with a real challenge?

Eric groaned and put his head in his hands. It was only then that he realized that his palms had actually began sweating.

You're panicking again, Eric. Keep it together.

Maybe he could just ask Dad to help him...

Except Dad wasn't able to help him right now. He was sitting down in that old storage room in the basement, working on whatever it was he was working on, when he should have been enjoying his month off with his family.

Eric sighed as he remembered how it had blown over at the restaurant the other night...

"What do you mean, 'special project'?" Sarah asked incredulously, dropping the fork with a bit of steak back onto the plate.

Jonathan raised a hand in defense. "It's nothing big, honey. It's just something that the Research Department wants me working on as a...a kind of side project. Honestly, it's not–"

"But why now?" She persisted. "I thought this was a vacation. You know, where you spend time with your family? That kind of thing?"

"Sarah, please keep it down," Jonathan whispered, nervously glancing around the restaurant.

"I'm not yelling, Jonathan, I'm just–" she cut off abruptly.

From opposite ends of the table, Eric and Benjamin gave each other nervous glances. For a moment, it had seemed like things would spiral into a full-on argument.

What a way for Dad to come home, Eric thought. First night back, and he and Mom are at each other's throats.

This wasn't the way it was supposed to happen at all. There wasn't supposed to be any projects from TechnoCorp. Dad was supposed to have a full month to spend at home with his family. This whole thing had come completely out of nowhere.

Finally–mercifully–Sarah relaxed, and leaned back in her seat. "I just thought we'd been spending more time together. All of us, Jonathan..."

Jonathan looked down guiltily. "I know..."

"And now just wasn't what I expected."

Jonathan nodded weakly. " neither."

Eric cleared his throat. "Um...not to pry or anything, but can you at least tell us what this is all about, Dad?"

Jonathan hesitated, as if trying to decide what to say. "It's...kind of top-secret right now, son. I can't really say much about it..." He sighed. "Not even to any of you."

"But it won't take up the whole month, will it?" Eric inquired. "You'll be able to finish it up and still have some vacation time left, right?"

"Will I still get to show you what I've been building in Minecraft?" Benjamin asked nervously.

Jonathan smiled–a small, sad kind of smile–and said, "Don't you worry. I'll get this thing all wrapped up, and then we'll all be able to enjoy ourselves." He looked Sarah right in the eyes. "I promise."

Somehow, though, Eric didn't find himself convinced all that convinced...

Eric's thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a doorbell, followed soon after by hurried footsteps coming up the stairs from the basement.

"I've got it, I've got it!" His father called out. "It's probably for me!" The next thing Eric heard was the door opening, and a new voice that he assumed was the mailman.

"Um, hi. You're Dr. Jonathan Colby?"

"Yes. Is that for me?"

There was a moment of silence (Eric assumed the man had just nodded). "I'm gonna need you to sign here. And here. Uh, just initial that. It's all yours, sir."

"Thank you very much." The door shut, and the unseen delivery man was gone.

Curious, Eric stood and went over to the front hallway. His Dad was coming from the front door with a medium sized box in his hands. On the side was the TechnoCorp logo, and a label that read: CAUTION!: Liquid contents. Handle with care. Dad was looking down at it, muttering something about "finally got here".

"What's that?" Eric asked.

Jonathan actually jumped a little, and briefly fumbled with the box as he tried to regain his composure. "Oh, uh, sorry. You, um, startled me there."

"Sorry about that, Dad." Still jumpy, Eric thought. What on Earth is he so nervous about right now? "Is that another thing for your project?"

"What, you mean this?"

"Um, yeah? I mean, not to sound snarky or anything, but what else?"

Jonathan nodded. "Yeah. It's for the...the project, yes. Excuse me." He eased himself past Eric and made his way towards the door to the basement in the hallway.

Eric hesitated before asking, "Hey, Dad? I don't know if you're gonna be busy later on, but if you're free later, could you help me with my stats homework? I'm kind of stuck aga–"

"Yeah, I'll see about it later, okay?" Jonathan interrupted. "I'm in the middle of something right now." He didn't even glance at Eric as he opened the door to the basement and disappeared from view.

Eric sighed and shook his head. On the one hand, he was annoyed that he wasn't going to be getting that homework done anytime soon.

But Dad...

The sound of a phone ringing from the living room pulled him out of his thoughts. He went over and picked it up from where it lay on the couch. It was Dad's phone, but the ringtone and phone number were unfamiliar to him.

Probably somebody from work, he thought. It was the only explanation he could come up with.

Cautiously, he pressed the "answer" button and put the phone to his ear.


The voice that replied was a deep voice with a British accent to it. "My name is Eckhardt. David Eckhardt, from TechnoCorp Enterprise's Research Department. Perhaps you've heard of me? Never mind, you probably have. I'm trying to reach a Dr. Jonathan Colby. Is he around?"

Eric found himself momentarily taken aback. "Um...I'll see if he's available. Hang on a sec." He put the phone down, and went to the basement door, still open ajar from when his father had passed through, and began to descend the stairs.

He'd heard of Dr. Eckhardt, alright. He'd been the chief scientist at SynthX Industries when the malaria incident had happened. Although he had been reportedly in charge of the project, he pinned the blame on his superiors, claiming that they had rushed him before he and the other scientists had completed the test simulations. After the company went bankrupt and TechnoCorp bought it out, Eckhardt had joined the Research Department, quickly becoming chief of all of the company's research and development operations in recent years.

From what Eric had heard, the man had quite the ego. Rumor had it that even Charles Brant didn't get along with him.

Eric finally entered the basement. On the far side of the room was a door that marked the entrance to the old storage room where Dad often worked.

The door to the room was shut. Eric went up to it and rapped on it with his knuckles.

"Hey, Dad?"

"Eric," his father said from somewhere behind the door. "I'm sorry, I really am, but I don't have time for–"

"No, no, it's not that. There's a phone call from work. Somebody named Eckhardt."

For a moment, there was silence. Then the door opened, and Jonathan stepped out.

"Eckhardt?" he asked. There was a faint sense of worry in his voice. "David Eckhardt? From TechnoCorp?"

"Um, yeah, he said he wanted to talk to–"

"Eric, listen to me," his father said. Now his voice was stern, insistent. "I want you to go back up there and tell him I'm not home. I don't care what excuse you have to make up, but I am not here, do you understand?"

Eric was taken aback. This was the first time in his life he'd ever heard Dad telling somebody to lie, least of all his own son, and especially to his boss. "But..."

"Eric, please!" Jonathan shouted. Eric leapt back, startled.

Jonathan sighed, then put his hands on his son's shoulders. "Eric, listen. I promise I'll explain this whole thing to you and your mother and Benjamin. But please...tell Eckhardt I'm not home."

Eric was silent for a while, trying to process it all, before giving a small nod and going back up the stairs.

Once there, he picked up the phone and told Eckhardt the best excuse he could think of.

"Uh, sorry, sir," Eric said. "He's not home yet. The train from the airport was delayed. He won't be back until tomorrow."

"Oh, really?" Eckhardt replied. He didn't sound convinced. "How...unfortunate. Well, listen, do me a favor; when he does get home, you just let him know I called, alright?"

Eric hesitated for a moment before cautiously replying. "Alright, I'll–"

There was a low beep as Eckhardt ended the call. No "goodbye" or anything like that. It just ended right there.

Confused, and now more uneasy than ever before, Eric put the phone down.

What was that all about?, he wondered.

Fizzlepop narrowed her eyes and glared at her adversary.

Most ponies would think it looked so innocent, so ordinary, so harmless. And it certainly looked the part, sitting there silently like that.

Fizzlepop knew better. She could almost hear it mocking her, daring her to take it on and fail in doing so.

But she was not a mare to be deterred once she had her mind made up. She was going to utterly defeat her hated enemy. She would win the day, and revel in her victory.

With Celestia as her witness, she was gonna finally pick up that newspaper with her magic!

Fizzlepop took a deep breath, and began.

Slowly, painfully slow for the average unicorn, she began to let her magic seep out of the shattered remains of her horn, focusing it on the newspaper.

Not all at once, she reminded herself. Do it slow. Bit by bit. Give the field time to build up, and then start to lift.

Even pouring out her magic as slow as she was, she could still feel the instability that came with her broken horn. For a moment, she thought she saw a few sparks beginning to form, and reduced the output accordingly.


Finally, after what seemed like an eternity and a half, a blue aura began to swirl around the newspaper. Fizzlepop felt her pulse quicken in excitement. She might actually do it this time!

Then, carefully willing it with her mind, she lifted the newspaper up into the air.

Even after recent events, it was still quite rare for Fizzlepop to do anything more than a modest smile. But now she couldn't help herself. She was grinning from ear to ear in triumph, and actually caught herself laughing with joy, of all things.

"Twilight!" she called. "Or Spike, or somepony, come quick! I'm doing it, I'm doing it!"

She was pretty happy up until the edges of the paper began to catch fire.

Fizzlepop leapt back with a rather uncharacteristic yelp, and the newspaper fell to the floor. She leapt at it and stomped out the small flames with her hooves, and blew on it for good measure.

It was at that moment that the doors to the library swung open, and Twilight galloped in.

"What happened?! Are you hurt?! Is something attacking?! Is there–"

"No, Twilight, it's..." Fizzlepop slumped down to the floor, and hung her head dejectedly. "It's nothing. Nothing at all."

Twilight looked over at the now medium rare paper, and quickly put two and two together. "Were you trying to use magic again?"

Fizzlepop nodded. "Mmhm."

Twilight sat down beside her. "How far did you get?"

Fizzlepop shrugged. "Well, I was at least able to hold it up for a second or two."

"Really?" Twilight said. "Well, at least you're improving. That's a good sign."

Fizzlepop smiled a little. "Yeah..." Her frown returned. "I, uh, must've pumped in a little too much when I got excited..."

Twilight gave her a reassuring pat on the back. "Don't worry. We'll find a way to make it work," she said with a comforting smile.

Fizzlepop nodded. "Yeah...I guess." She wanted to move on from the incident now, and looked at the still-intact headline of the paper:


"I see they finally decided to let the public in on it."

"Mhmm," Twilight said. "They figured that given how well known she's become, it'd be pointless to cover it up."

"Is the populace as panicked as they thought?"

"No. There's concern, yes, but nopony's screaming about the end of the world or an alien abduction or whatever."

Fizzlepop suddenly got an image of little green space-ponies with death rays and flying saucers, and she smiled a little at the absurdity of the idea. "Any luck on finding out why the locator spell failed."

Twilight shook her head. "Nothing yet. I still haven't gotten a response from Celestia yet. I sent a letter to Starlight Glimmer, though. She's about as good as magic as I am, so I figured she might have some idea about–"

She was interrupted when Spike came running through the library doors. He was holding a scroll in his hand. "Hey, Twi," he said. "Just got this. It's from the Crystal Empire."

Twilight rose to her hooves. "It must be from Starlight." She levitated the scroll from Spike and opened it up. "Let's hope she actually has something..."

Dear Twilight,

I'm very sorry, but Starlight is unavailable right now. I asked her and Sunburst to investigate claims of windigos outside the Empire's borders. I don't know when they'll be back.

When she returns, I'll be sure to let her know about your problem. Good luck in the meantime.

With regards,
Princess Cadence

"Well," Twilight said disappointedly. "So much for that idea. Can't be helped, I guess."

"I hope she and Sunburst are gonna be okay," Spike said. "I heard that they've been getting some pretty bad snowstorms up there right now."

"I'm sure they'll be fine, Spike. Trust me, I know Starlight. There's a lot that pony can handle."

"Of all the times for a blizzard to sweep in, it had to be now, when we're smack in the middle of a frozen wasteland!" Starlight shouted over the swirling winds.

"Hey, it's not my fault I wasn't able to read the weather forecast this morning!" Sunburst snapped back. "You were in such a rush to get going that I barely had time to get a bagel!"

"Oh yeah, sure, blame it on me!"

The two of them were standing in some Celestia-forsaken part of the Frozen North, caught in one of the worst snowstorms either of them had ever seen. Even with all their snow gear, they were still freezing cold and miserable.

Naturally, this didn't exactly work wonders for their tempers.

"You know what?" Starlight said. "We should head back. We're not gonna get anything done in this weather. Besides, nothing could possibly stay out here for very long...not even a windigo."

"Well, technically speaking," Sunburst said. "Windigos are adapted for living in and creating sub-zero environments, so I'm pretty sure that..."

He couldn't see it clearly through the blowing snow, but he was pretty sure Starlight was giving him a face that resembled a death glare.

"On second thought, you're right. Let's head back."

The two of them turned and started walking back in the direction of the Crystal Empire. They had to raise their hooves over their eyes to shield them from the winds.

"Hey, Sunburst?" Starlight said. "Sorry about that back there. I shouldn't have snapped like that. I'm just..."

"Cold and tired?" Sunburst said. "Yeah, me too. Sorry."

Starlight gave a light chuckle. "If there were any windigos out here, I'm pretty sure we'd look like an all-you-can-eat buffet back there."

"Yeah, I'll bet," Sunburst replied. "'Step right up folks! Last chance to get some on-the-house negative emotions!'" He said with a laugh. "But in all seriousness–" He was cut off when Starlight put a hoof on his chest to stop him.

"Sunburst..." she said, pointing ahead of them. "What are those?"

Sunburst squinted into the white abyss. At first he saw nothing, but then, gradually, he began to make to shapes moving about in the storm. They were tall, perhaps a few feet taller than the average pony, and seemed to walk on two legs, but he couldn't be sure at this distance.

"I...I don't know, I..."

One of the things appeared to notice them, and raised what looked like an arm to point them out. It's companion raised a stick-like object and pointed it straight at the two ponies.

"Starlight, do you think we should run?"

Before she could answer, there was a loud sound, almost like a bang, that echoed through the storm. A small patch of snow seemed to explode in front of the two, and they stepped back in alarm. In a hole in the snow before them, there was a small, silvery object.

It looked like a dart.

Starlight made up her mind. "Run. Now."

With that, the two turned tail and bolted. Neither of them cared what direction they were going. All the knew was that whatever was out there was not friendly.

As they ran, Sunburst heard several more bangs. Once or twice, he could hear another dart whizzing by very close to him, and he yelped whenever it happened.

Sunburst was thoroughly terrified. He actually would've felt better if they had run into windigos after all. At least he would've known what they were up against.

But then, after a while, the bangs from the weapon stopped, and Sunburst only heard the wind howling and his own hooves in the snow. He slowed to a stop and tried to catch his breath, sucking in great quantities of freezing air.

"Okay..." he panted. "I think...I think we got away from them...we gotta find another way to get..." He suddenly realized that he hadn't heard from Starlight since they started running, and whipped his head up in alarm.

She was nowhere to be found.

"Starlight?" Sunburst called. "Starlight!" Using his own hoof prints as a guide, he ran back they way he had come, calling out her name all the while.

"Starlight! Where are you?! Starlight?!"

He stopped when he noticed a large print in the snow. It was about the size of a pony. Around it were several other prints that he couldn't identify, leading back in the direction they had run from.

They took her. Oh, sweet Celestia, they've got her!

He took off running, following the new set of prints. His run took him far past where they had originally seen the things.

Gradually, he began to see lights through the windswept snow, and he slowed to a halt to take in the strange scene before him.

A large, boxy looking object lay silent and unmoving about a hundred feet ahead of him. Bright, dazzling lights shown from the top and the front of the object.

Off to the side, about fifty feet away, was an even stranger sight. A large, iridescent shimmer was hovering in mid-air, pulsating with a faint hum. It looked like somepony had taken a ripple from a stone thrown into a pond, turned it on its side and set it on repeat.

But it was what was going on at the back of the first object that grabbed his attention. He saw the two creatures lifting something between them into the back of the thing.

Through the whiteness, he could just make out a lavender coat...

"NO!" He shouted, charging forth. "Let her go!

But the creatures either didn't hear him or didn't heed his calls. Either way, they disappeared with their captive into the bowels of the object. There was a sudden revving noise, rather like those internal-combustion engines that Sunburst had read about once, and the object rolled forward towards the ripple.

Sunburst frantically tried to keep up with the thing. "Wait! Bring her back, please! Stop!"

Even as he ran, he realized he would never make it in time. He could only watch helplessly as the thing moved straight into the shimmer...

...and vanished completely.

Even as he did, he saw it shrinking, collapsing on itself. He just reached it when it finally shrunk into a tiny dot of light, and then winked out entirely.

Sunburst skidded to a halt as he stared at where the creatures, the shimmer, and his friend had been just a moment before. Apart from some strange tracks left behind by that one object, there was no sign of them at all.

It was like they had never existed.

"STARLIGHT!" Sunburst cried.

But she couldn't hear him. Nopony could hear him, and nopony could help him, either.

He was all alone in the cold, wailing blizzard.

Chapter 4: Displacement

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From Far Beyond

A “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” Fanfiction

Written by Jade Dawn

“My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” is owned by Hasbro. I own none of the characters except the ones I have created for this story.

Chapter 4: Displacement

Rainbow Dash was a very happy mare right now.

Thanks to some scheduling mishap or something, training sessions for the next Wonderbolts airshow had been pushed back almost a full week from now. On top of that, the weather teams weren't scheduled to create any serious changes in the weather for quite some time now. And all of that meant that she was free to do the one thing she loved more than flying high, performing in air shows, or breaking whatever speed record she felt like breaking.


She flew just a little bit under the cloud-line, searching for a cloud that she could make into a makeshift bed, occasionally casting a glance at the streets of Ponyville far below her out of force of habit.

Finally, she spotted one that looked like it could suit her needs. She alighted on top of it, and carved out a small, shallow pit in the center of the cloud, before sitting down in it, feeling around to make sure it was comfortable enough for her liking.


She took one last glance at her surroundings, and was just about to send herself into the wonderful world of sleep when she saw something that caught her attention. She peeked over the side of the cloud to get a better look.

Far below, the streets of Ponyville were full of their usually crowds of ponies, either shopping or just chatting with neighbors and friends. But what caught Rainbow's attention was a certain maroon-colored, broken-horned unicorn ducking behind corners and slinking through whatever shadows she could find like some kind of ninja. A really, really bad ninja.

It was actually kind of sad.

Rainbow sighed internally. Just because Fizzlepop Berrytwist had decided to take a different direction in life didn't mean that Rainbow exactly liked her. She was still a little edgy around her, even after Twilight had insisted up and down–to both her friends, the princesses, and the ever-annoying nobility–that Fizzlepop's heart was in the right place, and that she was fully trustworthy.

But she couldn't help but feel a little bad for her down there. She could only imagine how it must feel to try to readjust to a friendship-based society after all those years of wandering alone. Especially with a mare of her personality.

And so, swallowing her own reservations, Rainbow Dash hopped off of her cloud (Farewell, mid-morning nap, she thought sadly. We hardly knew ye.), and swooped down behind Fizzlepop, who was just about to bolt from behind the corner of a restaurant to a nearby trashcan.


Fizzlepop spun around and dropped into a fighting stance, her horn sparking.

Rainbow leapt back and raised her hooves defensively. "Whoa whoa whoa! It's just me! Ease up on the fireworks there!"

Slowly, Fizzlepop relaxed, her horn dying down as she returned to a normal stance. "Sorry. Force of habit."

Rainbow shrugged. "It's okay."

They were suddenly aware of the rather large amount of ponies who had stopped what they were doing to stare at the duo. After a moment or so of nervous glances, the crowd awkwardly went back about their business.

Fizzlepop coughed. "You're, um, Rainbow...Dart, right?"

"It's Dash. Rainbow Dash."

"Oh. Yeah, that. Sorry."

There was a moment of silence.

"So..." Rainbow said, trying to get the ball rolling again. "What's up?"

Fizzlepop shuffled her hooves, displaying none of the openness she showed around Twilight. "Not much," she said. "Just, uh, getting a little fresh're not buying it, are you?"

"Not really. Did she kick you outta the castle so you can make friends or something?"

Fizzlepop blinked. "How'd you guess?"

"She used to do the same thing with her first apprentice."

Fizzlepop nodded. "I see..."

"Hey," Rainbow said. "Were you planning on going anyplace in particular?"

Fizzlepop shook her head. "Not really, no."

"Well, you wanna maybe get a bite to eat or something?"

"I just had breakfast a little while ago."

"Well, maybe we could get a little snack or something. They've got some good stuff down at Sugarcube Corner."

The name alone made Fizzlepop want to gag. But she had told Twilight that she would at least try to socialize with other ponies besides her and Spike, so...

"Alright. Why not?"

"Great! It's not too far. Just down the road. It's on me." Rainbow took to the air and led the way, Fizzlepop following close behind.

"So, what's Twilight been up to these days?" Rainbow asked, trying to make conversation.

"Quite a lot, actually," Fizzlepop replied. "She's been looking into some sort of weird disappearance that happened in Manehattan."

"Oh, yeah. Coco Pommel. I read about that. It's, like, all over the news right now." She started to veer off to grab a newspaper from a nearby stand to make her point, but stopped when she got an eyeful of the new headline. The picture on the front page showed an angry white unicorn with a black goatee, and the text above it read: Neighsay's 2nd Bid for Tempest Shadow Conviction Denied by Royal Sisters; Nobility Furious.

"But..." Rainbow said, nonchalantly steering Fizzlepop away from the stand. "You've probably already read it, so no point in...oh, here we are!"

The building before them looked, for all intents and purposes, like someone had taken a Hearth's Warming gingerbread house, scaled it up massively, and made an entire functional building out of it. Even amongst a bright and friendly looking place like Ponyville, it still struck Fizzlepop as rather over-the-top.

In fact, now that she thought of it, it kind of reminded her of a story she'd once read in her youth about a colt and his sister who had gotten lost in the woods. She couldn't remember all the details, but she did remember that part of it involved a witch who lived in a massive gingerbread house, and used it to lure young ponies in so she could trap, slaughter, and eat them.

Really cheery stuff.

Fortunately for Fizzlepop's senses, the interior of the shop looked a lot more like a conventional bakery, except a little heavy with pink tones. Even the pony behind the counter was pink.

Wait a sec, Fizzlepop thought. Is that...

"HI, FIZZY!!!" The next thing she knew, she found herself staring at a massive void of pink, the center of which held a pair of bright blue eyes.

Fizzlepop did a mental facehoof. Ever since their brief meeting at the Friendship Festival, Fizzlepop had made it a point to avoid any and all contact with Pinkie Pie. It wasn't that she necessarily had anything against her. She was just far too overwhelming for her.

Fizzlepop took a couple of steps back and plastered on the best smile she could muster. " you too?"

"Hey, Pinks," Rainbow said. "The Cakes aren't around?"

Pinkie shook her head. "Nah. They went out to run some errand. They left me in charge." She shifted her focus back to Fizzlepop. "So! Have you enjoyed living in Ponyville so far?"

"Well, I, uh..."

And then Pinkie was somehow right next to her. "Nah! Who am I kidding? Of course you love it here!"

"Wait a sec, how did you–"

Pinkie suddenly dropped down from directly overhead. "Are you making friends yet? Do you have a best friend? I know who my best friend is! Or are. I actually have more than one! I–"

"Alright, alright, Pinkie," Rainbow said, as Pinkie somehow climbed down from her invisible perch. "We just came in to get a little snack..."

Fizzlepop didn't hear Rainbow give her order. Any time she ran into Pinkie Pie, she always needed a minimum of ten seconds for her mind to try and fail to wrap itself around what she would see from the enigmatic pink mare.

She'd just recovered when said mare was back in front of her. "And you'd like a..."

Fizzlepop blinked. "Oh. Um, I'll, uh...I'll just have what she's having."

"Another blueberry muffin? On it! Be right back!" And with that, Pinkie leapt over the counter and disappeared from Fizzlepop's line of sight.

Good. She needed another moment to recover.

Okay, let's see, Fizzlepop thought as she looked around the place. Over-the-top friendly personality, can move in ways no mortal pony ought to, lives in a giant gingerbread house-like structure...yeah, that actually makes way too much sense.

"What're you doing?" Rainbow asked, taking note of her glancing around.

"Looking for a cauldron." Fizzlepop muttered.


"Never mind."

At that moment, Pinkie popped up from somewhere with two paper bags in her mouth.

"Here you go," she said as she gave them to the two. "Have a nice–"

All of a sudden, Pinkie began to shake in a way that Fizzlepop had never seen any pony shake before. She went so fast that all of her features became a massive, pink blur.

And then, as quickly as it had come on, it stopped altogether.

Rainbow flew up beside Pinkie, who was panting like a dog. "Pinkie, are you okay?!"

"Yeah," she replied. "I guess."

Fizzlepop, who had watched the whole scene with a wide eyed expression, not sure if this was just normal for her or if she needed medical attention, finally found her voice. "What in Equestria was that?"

"Pinkie Sense," Rainbow answered.

"Pinkie what?"

"It's this thing she has. She can sometimes sense when bad or otherwise big things are gonna happen."

Fizzlepop let this sink in. "So, it's like a clairvoyance thing?"

"I guess," Rainbow replied.

"And that wasn't just normal Pinkie Sense, either," Pinkie Pie said, having apparently recovered. "That was a Doozy! That means something really, really big is going to happen soon!"

"How soon?" Rainbow asked.

"I don't know. I don't usually know until it happens." And then, just like that, she seemed to move on. "Now, where were we? Oh, yeah! The muffins!"

But Fizzlepop wasn't listening. She was just trying to let this all soak in to her already overloaded brain. One of Twilight's friends–who was already quite odd, in her book–allegedly had a some kind of early-warning system, and predicted that something big was about to happen.

A sense of dread began to build up inside her. The last major event Equestria had faced was the Storm King's invasion. So what could possibly be bigger than that?

She couldn't help but wonder if it had something to do with Coco Pommel's disappearance.

Eric wasn't exactly sure what it was that had woken him up. All he knew was that one minute he was enjoying a nice, peaceful sleep, and the next, he had been snapped out of it by the sound of...something.

He sat up in his bed, listening for anything out of the ordinary, and looking all around the room. The clock read 11:45.

At first, he heard nothing. But then, gradually, he began to make it out; a soft, dull humming sound, barely audible, but still easily heard if you listened hard enough.

Eric carefully got out of his bed, straightening his t-shirt a little as he did, and began to tiptoe out into the hallway. He wondered if anybody else had heard it. A quick observation sank this notion. To his left, Benjamin's door was partially ajar, and the sounds of his snoring came in loud and (annoyingly) clear. As Eric passed the door to his parents' room on the right, he took a quick peek in, and froze.

Where his father usually slept, the blankets had been carefully removed, leaving an empty space in the bed. His mother continued to sleep soundly, totally oblivious as of yet.

With a quick mental leap, Eric connected the empty half of the bed with whatever was making that humming.

As Eric moved on down the hall, he glanced toward the door of the basement, which was slightly open. From the darkness of the stairwell, the humming came in loud and clear.

Eric was just about to go downstairs, when he stopped.

Dad had said this was a secret side-project for TechnoCorp. Something that nobody except certain people should know about. Eric shouldn't be going down there. It just wasn't right to spy on people, especially when there was a corporate mega-business involved.

But then again, the way Dad had talked when Dr. Eckhardt had called–and the way he'd been acting recently–made it look like this wasn't something authorized.


No, Eric thought. Dad wouldn't do something illegal or anything. He's too good for that. He was almost disgusted that he would even dream of his Dad doing something like that.

But then again...

Oh, just go downstairs and see what it is already! Eric told himself.

And so, ignoring that still, small voice in his head, Eric went through the door and traversed the steps to the basement.

Across the room, the door to the walled-off area where Jonathan Colby often worked while on the mainland was slightly opened. A strange, swirling glow, came through the cracks, and the humming that had woken Eric in the first place was coming through it.

Eric tiptoed to the door, and, very carefully so as to avoid notice, peeked in.

A very peculiar scene lay before Eric's eyes. He'd never really imagined what his father's "lab" looked like, but the initial layout actually struck him as a little sparse. It was little more than a couple of tables with computers, printers, and a few books, mostly on computer programming.

A kind of tower, about four feet tall, stood near the center of the room. It was black and industrial-looking, with a transparent container mounted on top, within which was a thick, metallic-purple liquid, faintly glowing.

Eric had seen one of these before. It was a cygnium generator. Cygnium was one of TechnoCorp's latest innovations, an artificial substance that, when exposed to even a tiny charge of electricity, could generate a huge amount of power. It had been heralded as a great stride forward in humanity's search for an alternative fuel source, although it still had some problems that needed to be worked out. Namely, the fact that it was notoriously corrosive to anything not designed to contain or handle it properly. As such, it hadn't been officially put on the market yet, and Eric found himself wondering exactly how his father had gotten one into a suburban area.

But it was the device in the center of the room that captivated Eric's attention the most. It was a circular kind of dais about five feet in diameter and half a foot in height, hooked up by a tangle of wires to the cygnium generator. Two jointed rods rose six feet up from either side, each ending in a radar-like dish. And projected from these two rods was a strange, pulsating vortex that vaguely resembled the ripple a stone makes when it falls into water. It had an iridescence to it, like the faint rainbows you see in bubbles. In the center was a small but incredibly bright pinpoint of light, so bright that it hurt Eric's eyes when he looked directly at it. A dull, pulsating hum came from it, and now that he was closer, Eric could hear it loud and clear.

And standing nearby all of this was Jonathan Colby.

He was packing things into a backpack on the floor; a flashlight, granola bars, trail mix, and a few other items. He was wearing hiking boots and a jacket. On a table before him was a map with a set of complicated numerals scrawled over it, a laptop with a wire trailing to the device making the distortion, and a transparent vial containing a strange, orange colored liquid.

Having apparently finished his packing, Jonathan picked up the vial, straightened himself up and cleared his throat. He began talking softly, as though rehearsing a speech. Eric cracked open the door a little more and leaned in to hear.

"...your Highnesses, my name is Dr. Jonathan Colby. I come from a planet called Earth, and I am here inform you of..." He frowned as though a thought had crossed his mind. He put the vial back on the table and checked something on the computer, then the map.

Apparently, he didn't like what he saw, and he shook his head. "No no no," he muttered to himself. "That's gonna put me right in the Everfree..." He leaned over the table and started peering closely at the map. "Gotta find the coordinates for–"


Jonathan yelped in alarm, gripping the table for support and looking around in brief terror before his eyes settled on Eric.

Okay, dumb move, Eric. Really dumb move.

"Eric?" His father croaked. "What..." His manner shifted from shocked to stern. "What are you doing here? And on a school night–"

"Dad..." Eric said, stepping into the room and pointing at the strange device. "What on Earth is that?"

But Jonathan was already beginning to herd him back through the door. "Eric, listen, now is not the time for–"

"Now, wait a minute!" Eric snapped, taking a step back. "Ever since you got back from Midnight Island, you've been acting really weird. You keep looking over your shoulder like somebody's following you. You keep getting weird packages in the mail, and you lock yourself down here all by yourself. Dad, we're worried about you! Mom's worried! Benjamin's worried! I'm worried! Now I come down here and you're making this..." he gestured at the distortion. "...this thing down here in our basement!"

He paused to catch his breath. Jonathan had gone silent and was looking down forlornly. Eric winced. He hadn't intended to yell like that.

"Dad...please," he continued. "Just tell us. What is going on here?"

Jonathan sighed. "I was going to tell you all...eventually. I...I just didn't want–"

A loud, repeated banging noise from outside interrupted him. It took a moment for Eric to realize that it was the sound of somebody knocking on the front door.

Jonathan pushed his way past him and went into the main basement. At the far end was a window that faced out into the front lawn. Jonathan pushed open the curtains slightly, and peered out towards the front of the house.

Suddenly, he leapt back and closed the blinds. His face was a visage of terror. "Oh, good Lord," he whispered. "They found me."

"What?" said Eric. "Whose found–"

"There's no time now," Jonathan said. He took Eric by the hand and led him back upstairs at a frantic pace, and Eric struggled to keep his footing as he followed.

As they stepped out of the stairway and into the living room, Sarah and Benjamin came down the hall, still clad in their pajamas and yawning. The knocking continued in the background.

"Jonathan?" Sarah asked. "What's going on? Who'd be at our house in the middle of the–"

She was cut off as Jonathan grouped her, Eric, and Benjamin together and nudged them toward the back door.

"Sarah, listen closely. I want you to take the kids to the shed in the backyard and stay there, you got that? Stay there. No matter what happens, don't come back in unless I tell you."

"Dad, are we having a break-in?" Benjamin asked nervously.

"Yes. No! I mean...just please go with your mother!" He opened the back door and pushed them outside onto the back porch.

"Jonathan, what's–" But he'd already shut the door.

Sarah took Benjamin's hand. "Come on," she said. "Let's get to the shed."

"Mom?" Benjamin asked. "What's going on? Why's Dad so scared?"

"I don't know, Benjamin, I really don't know." And with that, they stepped out into the backyard, and headed for the shed, Eric following close behind.

They were about twenty feet from the house when Eric stopped in his tracks. A thought had just crossed his mind.

A really, really stupid thought.

Whatever was going down inside was bad enough that he was sending the whole family to a place where they would–at least in theory–be safe. Somebody was coming after Jonathan Colby. Or maybe even the entire Colby family.

And Eric couldn't help but wonder: why? What was that thing that his father had built? Was it a company project? Did he steal it? What was making him so terrified?

And no matter how hard he tried, Eric couldn't shake off his desire to know.

Before he knew it, and much to the dismay of his better judgement, he had turned around and was creeping his way back to the house.

Eric Paul Colby, he told himself. You are an idiot.

Jonathan Colby's heart felt like it was going a million beats per minute. He wiped some sweat of his forehead as he kicked off the hiking boots and shoved them behind a couch in the living room, and hung his coat up on a nearby stand.

Hopefully they won't figure out too much, he thought to himself as he went down the small hallway that led to the front door.

He took a deep breath, braced himself, and opened the front door.

Three men stood just outside. The foremost of them was slightly shorter than the others with dark, close-cropped hair. Behind him was another man who looked like he was in his mid-twenties, and next to him was a man who might have been of Asian descent.

Jonathan knew them all in one way or another. They were all from TechnoCorp. The man at the front was Matthew Larson, from R&D. The other two he only knew vaguely, but he recalled their names were Weyland and Yutani, respectively.

"Hello, Matt," Jonathan said. "What's–"

"Where is it?" Larson responded.

Jonathan blinked. "Where's what?"

Larson glared at him, and took a slight step forward. "Come on, Jonathan, don't play dumb. You know. I know. And most importantly, Eckhardt knows."

Jonathan scanned Larson's companions briefly. Weyland was kind of looking down and shifting uncomfortably. Yutani kept looking over his shoulder at the roadway behind them.

"Look," Jonathan said. "I don't know why you're here, but it's the middle of the night, and I've kind of had a rough day." He began to shut the door. "If it's something we can talk about tomorrow..."

But Larson put his hand on the door and kept it propped open.

"Colby, you know full well what I'm talking about." He said irritably. "The sample. The one you stole from Project Amalthea. Where is it?"

"I would never steal–"

"Colby, listen. Just fork over the stupid thing, and we can all go home. No harm done. But if you keep up the denial act, then one of us is going to do something we'll all regret."

Jonathan bit his lip. "Is that a threat?"

"It might be. It all depends on what happens now, doesn't it?"

Jonathan paused. Then he sighed. "Alright. Come on in." He stepped back and let them into the house.

"Smart move," Larson said as he passed him. Jonathan just narrowed his eyes at him as he closed the door.

"It's in my room. Follow me."

The walk to the bedroom only took a few seconds, but to Jonathan's panicked mind, it felt like hours. When they finally got there, he crossed past his and Sarah's bed, and went to a set of drawers in the far left corner of the room.

He took one last, spiteful look at Larson, then opened the drawer, reached inside...

...and thanked God he'd had his license renewed as he pulled out a pistol from underneath a pile of socks, and aimed it at the trio.

Their eyes went wide, and they leapt back. Larson raised his hands in a defensive gesture.

"You didn't tell us he was going to have a gun!" Yutani said.

"I didn't think he'd–" Larson started to say.

"Shut up." Jonathan said firmly. He waited a moment before continuing, trying his best to stop his hands from shaking.

"Now, look. I don't know what Eckhardt told you, or what he's paying you to come over here, but I will not stand for this." He glared at Larson. "You and your lackeys are going to get out of my house, and leave me and my family alone." He raised the gun up slightly. "Do I make myself clear?"

Larson slowly nodded. "Alright, alright. You win." He relaxed his hands and went to straighten his jacket.

Except he didn't. Instead he reached underneath and grabbed at something. But Jonathan had already jumped over the bed and dove behind it before the first gunshot went off.

Doggone it, he should've figured they'd be armed!

He bolted out of the room and slammed the door shut behind him. Not that he expected it to do any good, but at least it would buy him a few precious seconds.

He ran down the hallway into the living room, and then ducked behind a couch–

–only to find himself staring face to face with an equally surprised and panicked looking Eric.

"Eric?!" He hissed. "What are you doing here?!"

"I'm sorry, Dad, I–" They were both interrupted as a volley of gunshots rang out, and pieces of wood exploded from the walls behind them. Some picture mounted overhead was hit, and glass shards rained down from the broken frame.

Jonathan peeked up slightly, and he saw that the three were standing right underneath the fold-out door to the attic.

He aimed his gun at the latch on the door and fired. The latch burst off, and the door swung down into the hallway, knocking the assailants backwards onto the floor.

As he paused to catch his breath, Jonathan realized that there was no way his original plan could possibly work now. He'd have to do something different.

He looked over to Eric. He hated to go this way with all his heart, but there was no choice now if he ever wanted to stop all this...

Jonathan grabbed Eric's shoulder. Eric stared back with fearful eyes. "Eric, I want you to listen to me. I'm going to stay up here and cover you. I want you to go downstairs and take that vial. The one with the orange fluid. Go through the portal, and don't stop until you get to the nearest town. Don't be afraid of what you see. Just ask for–"

Suddenly, Larson's voice, angry and terrifying, rang out. "Don't just lie there! Get up and help me!"

"Go, Eric! Now!"

To his credit, Eric ran forward with no hesitation. Jonathan watched him bolt across the living room and disappear down the stairs to the basement.

At that moment, the three had finally gotten themselves back up. "Stop him!" Larson cried. But before he could cross to the door, Jonathan fired a couple of shots at him, and he leapt backward.

Jonathan ducked as the other two returned fire. Hopefully, he could buy Eric enough time to get through.

It was all up to him now.

Eric, what have I gotten you into?

The sound of guns rang in Eric's ears as he descended down the steps and ran across the basement. At this point, he was seriously regretting coming back into the house. He should've just done the smart thing and stayed outside.

But he couldn't just abandon his father at this point. If he wasn't so panicked, and the situation less extreme, he might have questioned him, tried to reason why, but there was no time for that anymore.

Eric burst into the lab. The portal was still there, casting its strange light and pulsating hum.

Eric went to the table and picked up the vial. Inside, the orange liquid sloshed around and seemed to glow faintly now that he looked at it closer. Pasted on the side of the vial was a label: PROJECT AMALTHEA – Iteration 045. 08/03/2017. Status: FAILURE. Reserved for Archival Purposes Only. And above that was the black and white logo for TechnoCorp's Research and Development division.

A shout from Larson upstairs pulled Eric out of his observations. He could hear the three intruders rushing their way down the stairs. They would be on him in a moment.

Eric took one last glance at the swirling portal. He took a deep breath, wondered for the umpteenth time what he'd gotten himself into, and stepped through.

He was already gone by the time Larson and his cronies entered the lab.

Larson stared slack-jawed at the portal. "Colby, you son of a..."

"He built his own!" Yutani said. "How'd he get the stuff to build his own?!"

"We can worry about that later," Larson snapped. "Let's just get the kid, get the sample, and beat it before someone calls the cops." He stepped towards the portal.

"Leave him alone!" came Jonathan's voice from upstairs.

"Don't just stand there, go after him!" Larson barked. Weyland and Yutani each took a breath, and rushed through the swirling vortex.

An instant later, Jonathan came barreling through the door of the basement, and looked on in horror as he saw the intruders entering the portal.

"NO!" He fired a wild volley of shots at Larson, who managed to duck behind the cygnium generator. The tank on the top of the generator suddenly burst wide open, and Larson leapt back as the sludge-like material spilled out onto the floor, hissing and beginning to steam as it made contact and began to corrode through it. He heard Colby yell something indistinguishable, and turned and saw the portal beginning to flicker and shrink. Without its power supply, the whole thing would shut down in a few moments

He leapt through it and was gone.

Jonathan rushed forward, praying he could get to it in time before it closed.

But even as he reached the projection platform, the portal shrank, grew dim, and then finally winked out altogether.

Jonathan sank to the floor and put his head in his hands. This was all wrong. It wasn't supposed to go like this. Nobody was supposed to know, let alone get hurt. Especially not his own son. How had things gone so horribly, horribly wrong?

He didn't know how much time had passed before Sarah came back in. He didn't even hear her. He barely registered her presence. He just kind of knew she was there.

"Jonathan...where is our son?"

He looked up at her, staring blankly with tear-filled eyes.

"I'm sorry...I'm sorry..."

Eric had expected to simply step through the portal and emerge at wherever it lead to. It had always looked so easy in the movies he'd seen.

This was nothing like that. The instant he stepped in, he was yanked through, practically off his feet, as though an invisible hand had grabbed him and pulled him inside. The trip lasted a little less than a second, but it was an incredibly chaotic second. All of Eric's senses seemed to go wild at once, and it felt like everything was being pushed far beyond its capacity. There was too much light, too much color, too much noise, too much of some feeling that Eric had no idea how to describe...

And then it was over, and Eric found himself thrust forward, struggling to keep his balance and skidding to a halt. He panted and fought to catch his breath as he took a look at his surroundings.

He was in some kind of forest, he was certain of that much. It was night, and he could see a moon, hauntingly similar to the one every human knows well, shining its white light through the canopy. The tree trunks around him were twisted and gnarled, like something out of a fantasy novel. In the darkness, Eric couldn't tell if they were a species familiar to him, or something alien.

The sounds of shouting from the portal cut his observations short. Eric adjusted his grip on the vial, and took off running again, trying to pick his way carefully over the twisted roots that occasionally jutted up from the forest floor. He looked over his shoulder to see if he was being followed...

...and tripped over a root. He stumbled and landed hard on his side. There was a crunch, and Eric felt a sharp, ripping pain in his arm, and a stinging sensation that didn't help much. He gritted his teeth and strained to not let out a scream. Which, given the sheer amount of pure agony in his arm, was not an easy thing.

Eric turned his arm around to get a good look at the wound. And when he saw it, he almost did let out a scream.

The vial had been crushed under his weight when he fell, and the shattered glass had slashed the entire underside of his arm. There were still a few shards embedded in the wound, which was bleeding the most amount of blood Eric had ever seen at any one time. And to make things worse, whatever was in that vial had been smeared into the wound, the orange liquid mixing with his blood.

But before Eric could begin to worry about what that might mean, he felt something grab him by the back of his shirt, force him onto his feet, and slam him against a nearby tree trunk. The next thing he knew, his line of sight was flooded by flashlights, gun barrels, and Larson's face.

"Where is it?" Larson snarled.

But Eric was in too much fear and pain to form a straight answer. "Wha–what do you–?"

"Is it a family tradition to play dumb or something?" He pushed Eric up against the tree, jamming his gun right under his chin. "That sample! The one your Benedict Arnold of a father forked over to you! Where is it?"

"Uh, Matt?" Yutani said. He was aiming his flashlight at the shattered vial on the ground.

Larson backed away from Eric and bent down over it. "Keep him there," he said to Weyland, who angled his gun at Eric's chest.

Larson scrutinized the remains, then swore under his breath "...must've broken it when he fell." He looked back up at Eric, then narrowed his eyes as he noticed the slash on his arm. He roughly grabbed it and lifted it up to see, ignoring Eric's pained wincing.

"Oh, great..." He said as he released Eric's arm and stepped back. "It got smeared right into the wound. It must've gotten right into the bloodstream."

"What version was it?" Weyland asked.

"I don't know! One of last year's, I think."

"So..." Yutani started. "Does that mean the kid's know?"

Larson shook his head. "I don't know. And frankly, I could care less. At least nobody's going to find it."

"Wait," Eric said nervously. "What was that? What's it gonna–"

"Will you shut up, kid?!" Larson snapped.

"Matt?" Weyland asked. "Do you want me to, uh..." he pointed at his gun, and then to Eric. "I mean, it'd be a lot less painful than–"

Larson waved his hand. "Do what you want to, I really don't care."

Eric was about to protest, when, from somewhere off in the distance, came a loud, mournful-sounding howl. The kind of howl a wolf would make.

The others heard it too, and their mannerisms changed in a heart-beat. They all froze in fear and aimed their guns at the surrounding foliage.

"Are those..." Yutani started.

Larson nodded grimly. "Timberwolves."

"Aw, snap..." Weyland said, his voice quivering.

Larson glared at him. "Keep it together."

"No, seriously, they told me about these things. I do not want to meet–"

Suddenly, Yutani began to scream, wildly pointing ahead. In the darkness, Eric couldn't see it quite clearly, but he saw that what had appeared to be a nearby bush was now rising up on four legs. As it rose up, Eric saw a large, wolf-like head come forward, silhouetted in the moonlight. Two green eyes glowed in their sockets, and it opened its maw to reveal a terrifying display of sharp teeth.

Yutani aimed his gun at the wolf-thing's chest and fired rapidly. Splinters burst off in all directions, but it only seemed to annoy the thing. With a deafening roar, it lunged forward, clamped its jaws over Yutani's arms, gun and all, and in one smooth motion, dragged him back into the underbrush.

Weyland lost it completely, turning tail and charging off into the forest with a terrified yell. Larson turned and called after him.

"Weyland! Weyland, get back here, you idiot!"

Eric saw his chance. Clutching his wounded arm, he turned away from the scene and ran off, praying that he would be overlooked in the confusion.

He got about forty feet or so away before the first barrage of bullets sailed over his head. Eric ducked behind a tangle of roots, and peeked over. Larson was aiming his gun at his direction, and Eric lowered himself when he fired another volley.

"Get back here!" He shouted. "I don't care if you're gonna die in a few minutes, I want–"

From somewhere behind him, two gunshots rang out. Then they heard Weyland's scream echoing through the forest. And then nothing more.

Larson turned back, and was about to fire again when a large, dark shape dropped out of the canopy and pinned him to the ground. Eric suddenly realized that one of the wolf-things had been waiting in the tree the whole time.

But Larson wasn't quite finished yet. He struggled under the wolf-thing's weight, punching at its head and shouting and cursing at it.

Then the wolf-thing bit down on his right arm as he tried to let loose with another punch. There was a crunching noise so loud that Eric could hear it from where he was, and then Larson was screaming, the most agony-filled scream Eric had ever heard in his life, while the man's arm dropped limply to the ground.

The wolf-thing bent its head down and grabbed what Eric assumed was Larson's head. It bit down again–

–there was another crunch–

–and Larson's screams cut off abruptly, his remaining intact limbs joining the first in limpness.

Then the wolf-thing stepped away from its kill and looked right at Eric. It was only then that he realized it's eyes lacked pupils or any features of any sort. They were just twin abysses of glowing green light, staring right through him.

Eric turned and ran, faster than even when Larson and the others were chasing him, faster than he ever had in his whole seventeen years of existence. He didn't even know where he was running anymore. He didn't even know where to run in this God-forsaken nightmare of a place. He just ran, ducking under branches and leaping over roots, trying his best to put as much distance between himself and the wolf-things.

In his mind, he could still hear the terrified screams of Larson's companions, and of Larson himself, and the howling of the wolf-things, and the sickening crunch of flesh and bone. He couldn't shake it out of his head, no matter how hard he tried. He felt sick to his stomach, like he was going to throw up.

Except it wasn't just that, he realized, and he began to slow down as the thought hit him. This was more than just mere nausea. It was a churning, heaving feeling in his stomach. And he was hot, too. Not just sweaty from running, but hot, like a fever.

And his arm wasn't just stinging anymore. Now it was burning, like someone had lit it on fire. The pain was spreading now, down his arm and into his shoulder, his torso, his chest...

Eric fell to his knees, the pain ever increasing until every single cell in his body was flooded with agony. Now he began to feel himself...changing. Warping. Like every part of him was shifting in ways that human beings were never intended to go. His muscles seemed to cramp and go taut, like a rope being stretched to the snapping point. His bones felt like they were all being shattered all at once. His eyes felt like they were being grabbed by white hot tongs and stretched in all directions. He began to see stars, practically going blind. Through whatever vision he still had left, he saw the fingers of his hands begin to crumple like cardboard and shrink back into his palms...

And now he really did scream, a scream so loud that it must've been heard through the whole of this alien forest. He didn't even think that the wolf-things might hear him, and come down to devour him. Or maybe they were, and he just couldn't tell it apart from everything else because the pain was everywhere, flooding his body, his mind, everything he was...

When Eric Colby went senseless and blacked out–or maybe he'd died, he honestly didn't know–he couldn't have been more grateful.

In her little apartment above the bakery, Pinkie Pie suddenly bolted upright in her bed. She rattled and vibrated like an alarm clock on steroids. The floor shook like a tectonic plate at world's end. Personal wares fell off tables, and pictures slid off the walls and crashed to the floor. Gummy stared at her in an expressionless, concerned manner.

Mr. and Mrs. Cake, their manes disheveled and bags under their eyes, burst through the apartment door and did a froze at what they saw.

"Pinkie!" Mrs. Cake cried. "Are you alright?! What is it?!"


And then she just stopped, as though someone had flicked a switch in the back of her brain. The vibrating ceased entirely. The room stopped shaking. There was a calm, awkward silence.

"Well, that's that, I guess," Pinkie said with a shrug. And with that, she dove back under her covers and got comfortable. "Good night!" She called out before instantaneously falling asleep.

Mr. and Mrs. Cake just stared at each other, thoroughly and utterly confused.

Chapter 5: Strange New World

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From Far Beyond

A “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” Fanfiction

Written by Jade Dawn

“My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” is owned by Hasbro. I own none of the characters except the ones I have created for this story.

Chapter 5: Strange New World

The first thing Eric Colby heard when he came to was his ragged, hoarse breath, and the sound of his heart beating inside his chest, muffled and sounding like a far-away drum. The first thing he felt was a light breeze against his face, and the feel of dirt and leaves and hard roots beneath his cheek.

The first thing he thought was, I'm still alive.

Alive. Still alive. He was aching all over the place, and in ways that he didn't think it was possible to ache in before, but at least the horrible, fiery agony he had felt previously was gone. And he was still alive.

And now he remembered the ordeal that he had just experienced; His father's experiment in the basement, the sounds of gunfire, the overwhelming sensation of going through the portal, the wolf-things...

Eric snapped his eyes open, looking frantically around for any sign of those creatures. To his great relief, there were none in sight. Just the same, creepy, dark forest that he had found himself in.

He mentally sighed in relief, and lifted his head up for a better look. But he soon realized something was wrong. He could only lift his neck so far before it was stopped by the back of his shirt collar. And the front of his shirt felt...torn, as though it had somehow shrunk on him. In fact, both his shirt and pajamas now felt far too small for him.

As the panic of constriction began to set in, Eric touched his chest with a hand. It took only a second for him to confirm that his shirt had been torn somehow.

It took only slightly longer for him to realize that he wasn't feeling with his hands anymore.

He glanced down, and stared in horror at what he saw. What used to be his right arm was now a limb covered with short, pale green fur, terminating in a flat, circular end that was lined with a sort of semi-circle of some kind of hard, bone-like substance.

Oh, good that a...?

It was a hoof. On what used to be his right arm. He lifted up his left arm, and found it to be a perfect duplicate. He rubbed a hand–or hoof, rather–across his chest, feeling the same kind of soft, almost cat-like, fur all along it and up his neck.

Eric went into a full-on panic, kicking and squirming in an attempt to free himself of his now ill-fitting pants and shirt. The shirt ripped down the front quite easily, and after a moment's more of kicking, he managed to free his legs (which felt oddly bent forward at where his knees ought to have been) from his flannel pajama pants, the latter tearing as he did so.

Now free, Eric dragged himself forward from the shredded fabric on his new front legs, and made an effort to push himself into a standing position. But his legs only seemed to get about an arm's length off the ground before it felt like they couldn't go any farther, and he ended up slipping and falling back onto the ground with a hard thud.

Confused, Eric looked over his shoulder, and to his growing horror saw that his legs were almost identical in shape and length to what his arms and hands had become, save for a forward bend where his knees would have been. Behind that, he saw a drooping, dark mass that looked like some kind of tail.

Four legs...I'm on four legs... Eric thought.

He was now beyond mere panic, or even ordinary horror. Eric Colby was now entering a realm of terror only experienced by an unfortunate few.

What's happened to me?! What am I?!

He gradually became aware of the sound of trickling water nearby. Turning to face the sound, he saw a small brook a few yards away from where he was, leading into a small pond surrounded by trees and other vegetation.

Eric did his best to stand up, and part-walked, part-dragged, part-stumbled his way over to the water. He was almost afraid to look at his reflection and see what his face had morphed into.

Finally he reached the water's edge, and, steeling himself for what he would find, leaned forward over the water.

It was partially distorted by a gentle rippling on the surface, and the night's darkness didn't help much either, but Eric could still see it clearly enough. A rounded, green-furred face with almost ridiculously large, brown-colored eyes stared back at him. The mouth and nostrils rested on a short muzzle that extended a little ways in front of the face. Dark, messy brown hair rested atop the head, and two triangular ears stuck out from behind and above the eyes.

Eric's jaw slowly dropped. The reflection's did the same.

Oh sh–

Eric's thoughts came to a screeching halt when a second pair of eyes, small, yellow, and reptilian, snapped open beneath those of the reflection and glared up at him. Eric leapt back in fear with a yelp.

It turned out to be his saving grace. Almost as soon as he did so, the water before him seemed to explode upward, showering him with generously large splashes. A huge, crocodilian head sprang up, and snapped it's massive, tusked jaws on a patch of air where his neck might have been a few seconds before. With nothing in it's clutches, the animal quickly descended back into the waters from whence it came.

But Eric only stuck around for it's initial lunge before he–quite literally–turned tail and bolted off further into the depths of the forest, dodging around tree trunks and over protruding roots and stones, screaming his lungs out all the while.

It was about a minute before he finally skidded to a halt and sat down on his haunches, panting for breath and shaking like a leaf, his throat hoarse.

Please don't follow me, he prayed. Please, please don't, I'm not worth your time, I'm already having a bad enough night...

He finally worked up the courage to look behind him. To his great relief, the crocodile hadn't left the comfort of its pond to pursue him.

Eric breathed a sigh of relief and slumped forwards onto the ground, and for a time just lay there, silently listening to his heartbeat slowing back to its normal pace.

When he had calmed down, he looked down at his newfound hooves and turned his mind back to the cruel new reality before him. He lifted one leg up and examined his hoof, still in disbelief that it belonged to him

But then he realized that at least he had managed to outrun that crocodile, or whatever it was. It seemed ironic, considering how he had staggered and stumbled around before getting that sudden motivation to really move. His legs seemed to be a decent length; apart from the obvious, they didn't feel malformed, or of mismatched sizes. Eric felt reasonably sure that he could get the hang of moving around.

As he looked over his hoof, he noticed something else; his vision had grown suddenly clearer. He'd needed glasses since he was twelve, and his vision was uncomfortably blurry without them. He must have forgotten to put them on when he went down to the basement, but now he appeared to have twenty-twenty vision again.

Eric looked around the labyrinthine, almost jungle-like forest around him, taking a moment to appreciate his restored vision. He couldn't remember the last time he had been able to see normally.

So at least there were some plus-sides to his situation. He could see. He could hear. And perhaps most importantly, he could run if he so needed.

But it's not me, he thought dejectedly. This isn't my body. This isn't what I'm supposed to be. I'm... he found he couldn't get the sentence out even in the privacy of his own thoughts. ...I'm not human anymore.

As soon as he thought that, Eric felt his chest tighten and his eyes beginning to water up. He blinked and shook his head, trying to shake it away.

No. You can't break down now. This isn't the time for that. If you start now, you're never going to be able to stop, and then something will hear you...

But no matter how hard he scolded himself, he couldn't shake the feeling away, and that thought kept echoing through the walls of his mind.

He wasn't human. Not anymore. The Eric Colby who had existed for up to seventeen years earlier was gone.

Not human anymore.

And that begged the question...what was he now?

Eric looked down at the forest floor below, poking and shifting through leaf litter before finding a small, relatively smooth stick on the ground. He bent down and clenched it in his teeth (he made a note to get used to doing that), and, after clearing out some leaves, began to draw a sketch in the dirt of his newfound form. He would stop occasionally, looking himself over to see if he got things right.

When he had finished, he stepped back and looked at his crude drawing. The proportions were far from normal, but only the greatest of fools would have not recognized the basic silhouette instantly; the hooves, the mane, the tail...

He was a horse. A green-furred, wide-eyed, four-and-a-half-foot tall horse.

It seemed incredibly out of place in a time like then, but now a feeling of embarrassment was beginning to creep over Eric. Why did it have to be that, of all things?

Eric lifted a foreleg to do a facepalm (or facehoof, rather), but he stopped when his hoof hit something on his forehead with a dull thud.

Eric froze. Oh, please, no...

Slowly, he began to move his hoof upward along the lower side of the thing. There was no fur at all up there, just something hard that reminded him a little of smoothed wood in texture, with spiraling grooves in it's surface. It felt cylindrical in shape as he felt at it more.

And by the time his hoof reached the small, curved front end, Eric had deduced what it was. And what that made him, by extension.

You have got to be kidding me.

Eric huffed air through his nostrils as he begrudgingly picked the stick back up in his mouth, bent back down to his sketch, and added in the new part.

Eric spat out the stick and took a second look at the drawing.

He had a horn. A cone-shaped, spiral-grooved horn on his forehead, sticking out through his brown mane.

"Great," he muttered. "That–that's just perfect. A million and one creatures in the universe I could have been mutated into, and I get turned into a FRIGGIN' UNICORN!!!"

The sound of his outburst resounded through the forest, echoing until it faded. A small animal, unseen in the darkness, darted through the nearby brush with a frightened squeak. Somewhere off in the distance, a flock of birds took flight from the canopy.

Eric threw his hooves over his mouth, his eyes going wide as he realized that he'd probably let every single predator in this God-forsaken place know where he was. He looked around in frantic terror.

Oh snap oh snap oh snap I didn't mean to yell please don't eat me please don't eat me...

After almost two minutes went by with no signs of ravenous killer wolf-monsters, Eric finally began to calm down a little. But he was still very much on edge.

He had to get out of this place. He had to get out of this nightmarish forest and find somewhere safe...if safe was even a thing here.

As he thought about what to do next, he suddenly remembered his father's words back in the living room, before everything had gone haywire.

Get to the nearest town, he had said. Don't be afraid of what you see. Just ask for...

He hadn't gotten to elaborate on "who". A contact? Was there somebody here who could help him? And where was this town? Was it far? Was Eric even in the right spot?

He was sure of one thing, though; he wasn't going to get any answers if he just sat here feeling sorry for himself.

Eric pushed himself off the ground and stood up. He decided the first thing he would have to manage was walking; his little sprint from the crocodile had been on pure, terrified instinct, but he wanted to be absolutely sure he could maneuver without stumbling over his own legs.

Once he was on his hooves, Eric took a few experimental steps forward, and then took a few steps backward, trying his best to remember every animal documentary he could think of for reference. He did this for about a minute or so before he found a gait that he was both comfortable with and that he felt was proper for a four-legged creature. After that, he practiced turning, sitting, and other various leg-related movements until he felt like he had gotten the hang of it.

When he was finished, he sat down on the ground. Beams of moonlight filtered through gaps in the canopy, illuminating his green-furred body.

He began to think that maybe the coloration wasn't so bad after all. Given that the vegetation here seemed to be similar to what he was used too, he figured that at the very least his fur could provide some half-way decent camouflage. He wasn't too sure about the brown mane and tail, though, and he decided to check to see if the darker colors might give him away.

And it was when he turned to look over his shoulder at his tail that he saw it.

On the upper part of his right hind leg, just a little ways away from the base of his tail, was an orange-colored circle, with four yellow, curved lines, like the blade of a scythe, rising away from the circle, growing smaller as they went out, with four yellow spots in the spaces between. It kind of reminded him of a star or a sun.

Eric stared at it uncomprehendingly.

What the...?

He reached back with a front hoof and tried to wipe it away.

But it didn't come off. All Eric succeeded in doing was ruffling up the fur on that part of his leg.

It was with a kind of horrified embarrassment that he realized that that peculiar spot was a part of his body.

He checked his other side. It was there too, in the exact same spot.

Oh, perfect, he thought. Just great! So on top of everything else, I've got a big yellow spot on

For a moment, he struggled to find the right word. He didn't think that the seemingly obvious biological location was exactly the right name. He took a second to think over every nature documentary he'd seen, hoping to remember the term.

Flank, he suddenly realized. It's the flank. Not the...the rear-end, it's the flank. It's a part of the leg.

But that didn't help matters much. He still had that thing on him. Already he'd thought of a bunch of reasons why it was a bad thing.

First of all, it completely threw natural camouflage out the window as a survival option. Any creature with good eyesight would see it and go for it like it were a bullseye. And that was all Eric needed; for one of those wolf-things to eat him from the rear up while he waited for them to bite into something vital or to just bleed to death.

And just looked dumb. His entire physical form was simply too ludicrous to be a plausible lifeform; he was a little green unicorn with a yellow sun mark on his flank. Any scientist worth their salt would have laughed at the notion of such a creature existing.

And yet, here he was.

This was just too much. Eric slumped to the ground and buried his face in the dirt, letting out a low, long, exasperated groan.

The sound of a wolf's howl suddenly echoed through the trees, and Eric leapt upright, startled. He frantically scanned the woods for a moment, then let out a small sigh of relief when he realized that the wolf was far away behind him.

Or is it in front of me? he wondered. Didn't, that's behind me, that's where I came from. Good grief, it's like a maze here... He shook his head. No. Just focus on finding your way to this...this town that Dad mentioned.

Eric stood up and took a few deep breaths. You've got this, Eric. You may have been turned into probably the stupidest organism imaginable, but you've got this.

He took a step forward.

Then another.

Then another.

And soon enough, he was beginning his long trek through this strange, terrifying new world.

You can do this, Eric. No worries...

Approximately 3 Hours Later...

I'm completely lost, Eric thought miserably.

And it was true. He'd been walking straight ahead for three hours now, and there was no sign of the forest's end, let alone any indications of civilization. In fact, the place seemed to be getting worse the further he went; a light mist had begun to seep it's way through the trees ahead of him; not enough to critically hamper visibility, but it still made Eric uneasy.

And then his stomach had decided to pipe up and remind him of another problem with being stranded in this place: food. He hadn't eaten anything since he and his family had had dinner back home, and he hadn't even realized that he was starting to get hungry until his stomach began growling. So that was yet another problem on his already massive list of problems.

Eric winced as another rumble went off deep within his body. He stopped and sat down.

I've gotta find something...but what am I even supposed to eat now?

He took a look around. At the very least, this part of the forest didn't seem quite as menacing as it had before. There were no other creatures around save for a few fireflies (or something very like that; Eric wasn't sure) flitting about here and there. Eric couldn't help but feel a little comfort in the fact that not every lifeform here was out for blood, and even more in the soft, yellow light that the tiny insects gave off.

He eyed one as it flew close by his head and hovered their for a moment.


He leaned forward, opening his mouth just a fraction...

...and then thought better of it and stopped, dejectedly watching the firefly buzz off into the depths of the forest.

Eric shook his head and grimaced. His stomach may have been growling like crazy, but he wasn't that desperate.

Well, not yet, anyway.

Something went close over Eric's head with a loud whoosh, briefly blowing his newfound mane and fur. A red glow flashed across the ground where he stood, and then vanished. Startled, Eric whipped his head around, and his eyes widened at what he saw.

A large bird unlike any he had ever seen before alighted on the branch of a nearby tree, and stopped to take a look at the human-turned-horse. It was a fiery scarlet in color, with orange feathers interspersed throughout it's wings and trailing tail. It's eyes were twin voids of pure yellow, with no pupils or crisis to be seen. The whole animal gave off a soft, red glow that reminded Eric a little bit of firelight.

Eric stood there gazing at it, almost completely hypnotized by the sight. The bird stared back at him for a time, cocking its head this way and that. Then, having apparently grown bored, it unfurled its wings and took off into the air once more, leaving little dots of orange wake that might have been embers.

Eric continued to stare at it even as he began to walk again, turning his head back as far as he could to watch it while it flew away in the direction he had come from. Eventually, the strange bird faded into an orange glow as it disappeared into the mist, and then vanished entirely.

Still in awe, Eric returned his gaze forward...

...just in time to see the beginning of a cliff about two feet away from him.

Startled, he leapt backward, stumbling over his hooves and landing in a kind of awkward sitting position on the ground. As he caught his breath, he took in the scene before him.

The grassy floor of the forest turned into a rocky cliff that dropped down at a ridiculously steep angle, and disappeared into the mist far below. Eric cautiously peeked over the edge and found he couldn't see the bottom.

Oh, man...I almost went over that, he thought. A shiver went down his spine as he began to imagine what might have happened if he hadn't looked ahead when he did.

But then something caught his eye. Through the mist that masked the other side of the chasm, and behind a few trees that lined the edge of the other side, he could just make out several tall shapes poking out through the fog, looking as if they were made of stone. For just the briefest of instants, the mist swirled away enough for Eric to get a much better view of what it was.

It was a building.

For the first time all night, Eric felt something akin to hope. It was obviously a man-made structure of some sort. Well, perhaps not man-made, seeing how this world was populated by plant-wolf monsters and firebirds, but some sentient life anyway. Maybe he could find help of some sort.

Maybe he'd even find some food.

Eric looked up and down his end of the chasm, searching for any way across. He spotted the beginnings of what looked like a wooden bridge of some sort a little ways off to his right. He got up off the ground and headed towards it.

Eric took a moment to examine the bridge. It was one of those old, rope-and-plank looking things, covered in moss and lichen, but it seemed stable enough. Eric still felt a little uneasy all the same. He took a tentative step onto the first plank. To his relief, it held under his weight, with only a minor creaking as he stepped on it. Now a tad more confident, he began to walk across it to the other side.

But as he drew nearer to the building, his hopes began to fade. Vines and even whole trees grew out of holes in the walls and roof. Windows were nonexistent, leaving gaping, empty frames. Cracks lined the masonry. By the time Eric got to the other side of the bridge and stepped onto grass again, he'd realized that this whole place must have been abandoned for quite some time.

It was also a lot bigger than he expected, and he took a moment to try and take it all in.

The majority of the ceiling of at least the front seemed to have been destroyed, but what was left absolutely loomed over him. Two towers, one on each side of the structure, still stood tall against the night sky, casting ominous shadows on the ground in the moonlight. At the front, proceeded by a wide but short staircase, were two gigantic, wooden doors, adorned with what might have been brass, but now rusted to a dull brown.

It was a castle of some sort. Or the ruins of it anyway, like the ones you'd see in England or Scotland. Eric had never seen any of those in person, but he couldn't help but feel a sense of awe at this one.

Awe, and of course, the ever prevalent fear that had been in him since he'd first gotten here.

As Eric cautiously began to approach the huge structure, he wondered if this was how old Maurice had felt in Beauty and the Beast. He hoped to God that there weren't any sentient appliances and furniture, or a stuck-up-prince-turned-freak-of-biology.

He honestly didn't know which one would scare him more at this point.

Finally reaching those huge doors, he gave them a push with a hoof. They creaked open, and a little bit of dust and leaf litter fell on his head and into his hair, which he promptly shook out.

The room beyond started out as a kind of semi-circle, and then stretched out into a massive space which he assumed had once been the main hall. Tall columns of stone, some broken but all cracked in some way, stretched up to the ceiling. There were passageways lining the sides of the hall, and some had stairs going up to new heights or down to new depths. At the very far end, a double staircase led to a huge balcony, and behind that a tall space that had once held a window. Beside it were two faded and torn banners; one dark blue and bearing a moon symbol, and the other golden with a sun symbol.

But directly in front of Eric was something even stranger. A kind of dais sat in the center of the entrance-way, topped by a sort of pyramid that was in turn capped by a circular platform. And on the platform was a large, globe-like structure, covered in moss and roots. From beneath this globe stretched out long arms which ended in smaller platforms of their own.

Eric circled the odd structure, trying to make sense of it.

Some kind of elaborate candle holder? he wondered. Or maybe a model of their idea of the solar system? He noticed that it seemed like there was a kind of doorway below the structure, as though it could be retracted into the floor if needed.

His thoughts were interrupted when his stomach decided to politely remind him of the hunger that had gone overlooked in his observations.

Eric frowned. Food, or rather the lack thereof, was turning into his number one problem at the moment. He figured that if worst came to worst he could always eat the vines or the moss–he was a horse, or something like one, after all–but he still wanted to wait and see if he couldn't find something like fruits or vegetables. Somewhere.

He looked at the various passageways branching off from the hall, picked one close to him at random, and went through it. There was a short flight of stairs that led into a hallway that seemed to curve around the building the farther he travelled through it. Moonlight filtered in through a row of cracked and dirty windows to his left, the vines hanging across them casting weird shapes on his form as he passed them. Sometimes, he'd see little insects scattering across the floor and walls; centipedes and beetles mostly, but once he saw a spider that had a glowing blue star-like pattern on its abdomen. From outside came strange bird calls, owl-like hoots–and then the unmistakable howl of a wolf.

Eric froze in the middle of the hallway at that. He knew it was probably too far away to notice him, but he still got a shiver down his spine all the same, and struggled to not think to hard about Larson's head getting–

Eric shook his head frantically, trying to get rid of that gory image. He took a few deep breaths to calm himself down, and then continued.

A few minutes later, he noticed that one of the doors off to his right was knocked down. Curious, he peeked inside...

...and he and his growling stomach could almost not believe his eyes.

The room before him was vast, and the majority of the ceiling composed of what had once been a massive skylight. Little canals ran through the room, carrying water. Between these canals were rows and rows of rectangles dug into the ground and filled with dirt.

And growing out of that dirt were vegetables and fruit trees of every kind Eric could imagine. Well, at least they resembled vegetables and fruits that Eric could imagine.

But at that point, he was so hungry that caution was completely forgotten, and he bolted into the room and went for the nearest row of what looked like carrots.

He was actually salivating as he dug one out–and yes, it did look very much like a carrot, orange with a leafy top–and threw it onto the stone floor, blowing on it to get rid of as much dirt as he could.

And then came the moment of truth; he bent down, clasped the thing between his teeth, and chomped down.

The refreshingly familiar taste of carrot flooded his mouth.

That was all he needed. He rammed the thing further into his mouth with his forehooves and wolfed it down before he even realized it. Eric had never been much of a vegetable lover, but now as he spat out the leafy top and finished swallowing the stuff in his mouth, he was honestly just happy that he found anything at all.

He spent the next ten minutes or so going all through the garden room, digging up or picking whatever he felt like–carrots, strawberries, an apple or two–and devouring each with great vigor. He even took a few drinks from the canals, enjoying the cool taste of water going down his throat.

His hunger at last satisfied, Eric collapsed onto the ground and rolled onto his back, staring upwards at the ceiling. He felt himself actually giggling with joy a little, and a big, dopey grin was plastered on that equine face of his. Finding this garden was the only good thing that had happened all night.

The brief happy high faded as he looked up through the skylight. The moon was going down now, but it was still high enough to be visible through the broken skylight.

The arrangement of the craters were different, Eric noticed. The darker spots of the moon he knew–vast plains of lava that had cooled in ancient times–were absent in the celestial body that Eric saw. Even the night sky seemed different; the more he looked at it, the more he noticed that it held an odd, purplish-blue tint to it as opposed to the near black of the night sky he knew.

The possibility of Eric being on a completely different planet was becoming stronger and stronger the more he thought about it. He didn't feel a rush of panic as the thought seeped in; just a kind of resigned melancholy.

A yawn escaped his jaws, and Eric was suddenly aware of how thoroughly exhausted he was. He needed sleep...a lot of it.

Eric found a nice patch of plants that had some kind of berry he didn't recognize, and patted down several leaves into a sort of nest. Then he sat down and curled himself up as best he could.

Having settled himself down, Eric focused his remaining energy on forgetting his woes for the moment and getting some well needed rest.

It's going to be okay, Eric, he told himself. You're going to figure this all out. You're gonna make it, Eric.

It took him less than a moment to realize that he was just lying to himself.