Blazing a Trail to the Past.

by Daylight_Dreamer

First published

After a freak accident, I wound up in equestria with a Jeep. Offroading where nobodys driven before. Or am I?

How did Equestrian technology end up the way it is. DJ Pon 3 has an epic bass system but the princess reads by candlelight, what's up with that?

Jerry never put much thought into it, its a cartoon after all. Those ponies aren't real. Are they?

When a pony casts a powerful ancient spell, he's forced to confront both realities.

With his father's trusty jeep and the help of some extremely-long laid out plans. He just may set things on track. Or make things worse...

If you're over 18 and want to see the scenes I left out to keep it a teen rating, check out,

1- Arrival

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It had been a week since my wife left me. Time seemed to be standing still.

I had lost my parents a few weeks back, and the end of my marriage just seemed like the end of my life as I knew it, but I didn't let myself mope. I just tried my best to find a new calling.

I found it in my Dad’s old jeep. It had been his vehicle when he was in the service, and he managed to find it when it was retired and buy it up.

He had it painted and 'Lt. Blade' put on the door. He had loved that jeep, and I never blamed him. Now it was mine to love.

I had just had it waxed and was on my way to work when what was left of my world was torn away.

Pulling onto the interstate I was passed by the usual group of speeding commuters. That jeep could go anywhere, just not in a big hurry.

A truck pulled in front of me so close I thought he hit me. I knew no other way to explain the way my jeep was sliding to the edge of the road, but then again he was sliding right with me.

We stopped on the side of the road with his tailgate blocking my door. I climbed out the passenger side not wanting to restart the engine until I inspected the vehicle. As far as I knew, I just killed it by slamming on the brakes without the clutch, but I wasn't going to take the chance.

Looking around after getting out I noticed the scenery was way different than I thought it should look. I seemed to remember that there was a patch of trees right where we went off.

Shaking this off as never having seen this area from the ditch I turned to walk around the truck and check on the driver. That's when I noticed the interstate was missing. It only got stranger when I got around the truck.

The truck's cab was totally missing like it had been cut off by a laser. The cuts were straight and clean but at a bit of an angle. I was starting to freak out, something crazy was going on and I didn't like it.

I looked over the jeep and found it to be totally undamaged, so I was fine to get going as soon as I found the interstate.

I figured it must just be a little ways past the truck - or rather truck bed - so I started walking to where it should be. I got about one hundred yards before realizing I couldn't possibly have slid that far.

Pulling out my phone I opened the GPS to find that I had no signal of any kind. That's when I knew I was nowhere near where I should be, I always got service near the interstate. That was the selling point for my phone plan.

Now I had no idea what to do. Nor did I know where I was, how I got there, or more importantly how to get back.

I was just about to climb back in my jeep and just drive in a random direction when I heard a voice from behind a bush about 10 feet in front of me.

"Hello," came a weak southern accent, "is somepony there? Is that Daylight?"

I had no idea what she was talking about, it was sundown, the daylight was going away.

Wait! Did she say somePONY?

"I'm here," I said, "but the daylight is going away. Is something wrong?" I was slowly approaching the bush to see who was talking.

I could tell by her voice that she was just a little girl, and likely scared or hurt. That didn't do anything to help the fear brewing at the pit of my stomach. I just knew that as soon as I reached the other side of this bush, my life as I knew it would end.

Little did I know, I had already passed that point.

"If you ain't Daylight then everything's wrong," cried the scared little girl with the southern accent, "the spell failed and I'm done for if ah can't get ta Twilight soon." I could hear the tears in her voice. I didn't know what I could do for her but, god help me, I was going to do it.

That's about the time I made it to the bush, looking around it I cringed. What I found was a twisted pile of yellow fur covered flesh with red hair sticking out in a couple places and a mutated looking face, was the only thing resembling a living thing.

"So this Twilight can help you?" I asked after getting over my revulsion.

"Yea," she was starting to sob, "but she’s over fourteen miles away, in Ponyville."

"Which way is Ponyville?" I asked internally confirming that I had heard 'anypony' before. Yet not really knowing what that meant.

"Straight past that group of trees," She replied, "but I don't have much time."

"We better get going then," I said scooping her up and turning to my Jeep.

I didn't know where I was, how I got there, or how to get back, but now I knew where I was going. It was a start.

2- I have a job to do.

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The group of trees was a good few miles away, and the town several miles further, I found it ok though. Even with the distraction of an odd twisted creature in my passenger seat bombarding me with questions about my jeep and my hands. She also kept asking if I knew anything about this Daylight. I was going on the assumption that it was a name.

I noticed nobody else had a motorized vehicle. Everyone on the road was in a horse-drawn wagon. I could swear I had seen one without a driver being pulled by a pony with a spiked silver mane, but I blamed it on stress.

Not seeing any way to not make a scene I just started driving into town. That's when I started noticing the details of this land.

The houses were an old style, giving the look of an old European town, but too bright, and pastel, like the Easter bunny decorated. It all seemed familiar but I couldn't put my finger on it. As though the memory was just behind a veil.

"Twilight is in that castle just ahead," The creature pulled me from my thoughts.

I parked just off the side of the road in front of the castle.

Grabbing the yellow mess of what felt like muscle and bones in a bag, I ran for the castle door.

At this point her face was starting to melt into the rest of the mess, I began to fear I had driven this far to see this sweet little creature die.

I pounded on the door as soon as reaching it, hoping I wasn't greeted by a hostile guard. I certainly wouldn't let me in my castle. I'm a strange guy with a vehicle that's apparently unheard of here pounding on the door of the castle like I need the princess for questioning. The king may just have me beheaded without thinking twice.

Within seconds my thoughts were interrupted by a slot opening around my waist level on the door.

"Who goes there?" asked a young boys voice. I was starting to question this Twilight, but deep inside something told me that I expected a young boy to answer the door.

"This creature needs Twilight," was all I could think to say.

"Spike help," came the week voice in my hands.

"Apple Bloom!" Spike said in a panicked voice, "get her in here!"

The door swung open and I wasted no time entering.

As I closed the door behind me I caught a glimpse of a giant purple and green lizard bolting to the next room.

I blinked wondering if my eyes were playing tricks on me. That didn't help.

In the time it took to blink twice a four foot tall, purple, one horned, winged, vaguely pony looking creature had appeared before me and started barking orders before I could even register its existence.

"Set her down and back away!" the new creature barked in a female voice, "We don't have much time if it isn't already too late."

My body went into autopilot as I did as I was told without question. Placing the yellow mass on the floor and briskly walking behind the pony joining 'Spike' who really did appear to be a giant lizard. The spikes on his head explaining his name.

Before I was even able to properly get a grasp on the new arrival a beam shot from its horn and hit the mass of yellow which slowly took the shape of a smaller pony, accompanied by sickening snapping and popping noises.

'Apple Bloom' who seemed to be a smaller yellow pony with no horn or wings, lay motionless on the floor.

"Is she going to be OK?" I asked the room.

"If anyone can save her," Spike was trying to sound confident, "Its Twilight." He motioned to the purple pony.

A tear streaked down Twilight's cheek. Then another. She looked down and closed her eyes as dark spots appeared on the carpet below her face.

"I don't know," Was all she could muster before collapsing from grief and exhaustion, sobbing on the floor.

I couldn't help crying myself. I had nothing, knew nothing of where I was and had no friends to turn to. All I had was one job; Get Apple Bloom to Twilight in time.

Based on the entryway full of sobbing creatures, and Apple Bloom laying motionless...

I failed.

3- She need what now?

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I have no way of knowing how long I was laying on that cold stone floor with my head in my hands. I had finally stopped sobbing but the tears themselves didn't stop.

I was all alone. I had no idea where I was except that it wasn't on Earth. I did have my jeep, but I had no idea what the rulers of this land were going to say about it, if I knew governments, I wouldn't have it long. Especially if they didn't have such technology.

I had put my last ray of hope into saving the life of a filly that now lay motionless on the other side of the entry as Twilight and Spike-who I hadn't even properly met-cried over her.

I was lost and alone and now a failure.

I just laid there, crying into my hands. Could have been hours, could have been days.

Just when I was ready to look up and try talking to these creatures, I heard another set of sobs.

It started out weak but quickly turned into a scream. Apple Bloom was alive!

I looked up and had mixed feelings about what I saw. She was alive but she was flailing around, writhing in pain.

"We have to help her," I said without thinking. I was already moving to hold her down before she hurt herself further when a beam of purple light did that job for me.

I looked over at Twilight to see her horn glowing.

"I really wish we could," Twilight was speaking through tears, "She just had her skeleton twisted out of, then back into shape. She’s in a lot of pain, but only one herb will help with this pain, and Spike used it all last guys night."

"I said I was sorry," Spike sobbed.

"And I said it was ok," Twilight pointed out, "I was just stating the fact."

"What herb do we need?" I asked, "There must be someplace we can get it."

"The shops are closed," Twilight said, "Maybe if I can get a hold of Pipe..."

Just then she was cut off by another purple unicorn entering the room.

"What's the commotion?" asked the new arrival before she saw Applebloom, "Is that? Did she!"

"I'm afraid so, Starlight," Twilight answered.

"And when we're fresh out of weed," Starlight was starting to shed a tear herself.

It took a moment for that to click. They needed an herb because Spike used it on guys night, I should have had it then, but no. I didn't get it until I heard them say it outright. I kept the cure in my center console.

"Wait," I said, "She needs marijuana? Why didn't you say so? I have a bag in my jeep."

"You do!?!!!" said the whole room.

"Wait, what’s a jeep?" Starlight asked.

"I'm guessing its the vehicle he took here," Chimed in spike, "Its like the cars our friends at Canterlot High drive."

"Wait, wait, wait," Starlight's eyes went wide. "You have a car? Here?"

"As much as I can’t wait to learn more about our new visitor, I think the herbs he brought are a little more important than how he got here at the moment," Twilight was still talking through tears, "This much pain can kill a pony,"

"We better hurry then," Starlight's eyes went even wider.

"Indeed," agreed Twilight, "in fact, why don't you take her out to the jeep. If its as enclosed as the cars at Canterlot High, Then filling it with smoke will be the best bet. Spike and I need to send a few letters out. We better get in touch with the Apples, and I want to have Zecora look over the spell site. Do you think you could find the spot where you found her again?"

"Well," I said, "There's half a truck sitting nearby, shouldn't be hard."

Twilight deadpanned. "Know what, I'm just going to call on Sawdust as well." She said, I tried to chime in but she cut me off, "You better get her out there before the pain is too much. I’ll have a few questions when you're done, but I think its pretty clear what to do from here."

Next thing I knew I was being pushed out the door by Starlight as she carried Applebloom in her magic.

4- I think I over did it.

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Cheech and Chong would have been proud. I rolled two fat joints, lit them both, and handed one to Starlight. Until then I thought it was impossible to actually fill a car with pot smoke to the point that vision was totally obscured, but we really couldn't see a thing.

The good news was Applebloom wasn't struggling anymore. She tried to talk, but I shushed her and shoved the rest of my joint in her mouth.

Bad news, I now had to answer questions from a Pegasus/Unicorn princess blazed out of my mind. I'm a stoner, sure, but not a big one. This kind of excess is only fit for parties. Or apparently saving ponies lives.

I mostly used the pot to clear my mind so I can focus on what’s important. I have ADD and can't be trusted with Ritalin. So, my mind tends to run wild. Like a TV, set to channel scan, and I can’t always find the remote. Getting high at least slows it to a point I can complete each thought before the next comes around.

Now, however, I had overdone it and the paranoia inherent in any hallucinogen, however mild, was taking control.

Why did I smoke that much weed? I'm supposed to be at work, I'm not even fit to drive. Am I even on the road yet? Now I know I'm baked. A purple one-horned monster in my back seat just asked about the music.

When did I turn the radio on, why didn't I start the engine? I didn't even recognize the song. Something about getting 20% cooler.

Just then there was a knock on the window. 'Great, the cops saw the smoke,' was all I could think.

I slid the window open and was horrified to find another one horned purple monster. I was clearly freaking out.

"C-C-Can I h-help you?" I stuttered out.

"I figured its time you three come in," The monster said, "I bet you’re hungry."

"Alright," I said going on the assumption that the monsters were really my roommates, Mike and Danielle. I must be so stoned I forgot the whole work day. I shut the radio off and took the keys out clipping them to my belt before getting out.
"Bring that weed too," The creature added before walking away, "I'll make sure you’re taken care of when I get mine."

Now I knew it was Mike. We go back and forth on that all the time.

I gathered my things, lit a cigarette, and clambered out of the jeep towards the house. In this state, it apparently looked like a giant tree-shaped castle. 'Whatever,' I thought, 'as long as my X-Box is still in my room.'

I followed the creature into the house and immediately knew I was not home. No matter how stoned I was, I could never imagine my house to be such a vast expanse of corridors.

I started remembering the events of the evening as I watched a purple tail sway side to side. I looked it up and down. Sure seemed real. I looked up it again and noticed certain things humans generally keep covered. Now I knew I wasn't imagining the unicorn things either, on a good trip you only see things you want to, and this was all too friendly to be a bad trip.

'That's right,' I thought, 'This one I'm following is the princess of this land, and she wanted to question me. So, why did I just get stoned? Oh, yea. To save the bag of bones... What the hell is that supposed to mean?'

I decided to try ignoring my thoughts for a bit. I'm sure I knew what was going on. I just needed time to remember everything before sorting out the details.

I was led to a large, open, lavishly decorated dining room. A purple and green lizard was setting out nachos.

After diving into my plate and being disappointed to find them to be vegetarian I began to remember everything. What led me here, what the bag of bones was, why it made sense that getting high would save it, and more importantly, the names of the ponies and dragon around me all became clear once again. I felt a little silly. Yet at the same time, more questions were raised than answered. I hoped Twilight had a few answers for me.

"OK," Twilight started tentatively, "Its about time we figure out what's going on."

5- Let me get this straight.

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"So let me get this straight," Twilight had been questioning me for some time, "You were pulled out of your world, this Earth place, presumably through a portal of some kind, and this 'half a truck' was pulled with you. And when you looked around, all you found was Apple Bloom. Who was nothing but a twisted mess that could be contagious for all you knew, but she said she needed help? So you just grabbed her and sped here as fast as you could?"

"That pretty much sums it up," I replied.

"I wouldn't have blamed you for just leaving her there, I'm sure you were scared," Twilight sounded like she wasn't sure how to place her words, "Some may even call you foolish, but you did it anyway. Don't get me wrong, I'm very glad you did, but still, I have to ask. Why?"

I pondered that a moment. Fortunately, my buzz had subsided to a nice calm. Just enough to help think.

Why did I just grab her and go? I couldn't have been that suckered in by a sweet little southern accent, I was terrified the entire time.

Sure, I really had nothing better to do and no idea where to go otherwise, but, it was more than that.

"Guess I did it on the blind hope that if I ever fuck up that bad, somebody saves my ass." Was my final answer.

"Well," Twilight clearly wasn't prepared for that answer, "You earned a favor from the princess of friendship for what that's worth."

"Just don't take my jeep away," I said remembering my thoughts earlier.

"Why would I do that?" she laughed.

"Because you don't know how it works," I replied.

"That's no reason to take it away from the one who does understand it," she laughed again, "That just means it's useless to me, while you've been here a few hours and already saved a pony's life. I'd be a fool to take it from you now."

"Glad to see that you work on logic," I said, "but what about your parents?"

Twilight's face read somewhere between offended and confused. "What do they have to do with anything?" she asked.

"Aren't they the king and queen?" I asked.

Her eyes narrowed out for just a moment before she burst out laughing. "I forget how differently Equestria’s leadership is compared to other lands." She said as her laughter subsided and she wiped a tear away with a hoof. "Here a princess is not the child of the rulers, we are the rulers. Celestia and Luna are princesses of the day and night and the main rulers of Equestria, Cadence is the princess of love and rules over the Crystal Empire, and I'm the Princess of friendship. I help keep harmony between ponies."

"So what are the others going to say about me?" I asked.

"Well, besides that we should find a way to send you back..." she thought a moment, "not much. I've already gotten letters from them, and they all seem to think I can handle this myself. They just want to be sure I can accommodate you in the meantime. I have a few plans in the works for both and Celestia will be over in a few days to check on things."

"That's reassuring," I said, "So what's the plan? If you don't mind me asking."

"For now I may as well put you to work while I study the spell Apple Bloom used, if you don't mind doing a few things for me that is." she said, "I hate to have to tell you but it's going to take a while to find a way to reopen the portal. IF we can find one."

"I may as well keep busy." I said, "What's the job?"

"For now I just want you to go gather anything else that came from your world." Twilight explained, "We can't have things like that just laying around. A friend of mine should be here any moment to go along with you and help out."

"Sounds reasonable," I replied, "So who is this friend?"

Twilight looked toward the door as hooves could be heard trotting down the hall. "That's probably Sawdust now."

6- So he's a carpenter of sorts. Shocking.

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Sawdust was a brown earth pony with a spiked silver mane that resembled a section of a circular-saw blade when in silhouette. I noticed he had a tattoo of a handheld wood planer on his flank. I figured he must really like woodworking. With a name like Sawdust, I wasn't surprised.

I noticed then that Twilight had a sort of mystic star design on her flank. Knowing her to be a very magical pony, I figured getting a tattoo of your interest must be a culture thing here. It didn't seem important at the time, so I didn't ask.

Sawdust barely tried to cover a yawn as he walked in rubbing his eye, "Sawdust Woodsmith at your service. What can I do for you at this hour your highness?"

Twilight put a hoof to her face. "Sawdust, you know I don't like being called that."

"I also know you’re a princess," He retorted, "it's customary, and you know I'm old fashioned, and for that matter, I don't like being pulled out of bed by a frantic dragon."

"Sorry about that," Twilight snickered, "Spike can go overboard, but I didn't think you would want to miss this chance, you may even want to get Slag, too. I wasn't going to send Spike to bother him after last time."

"Yea," Sawdust chuckled, "He may still be up. Doesn't mean he wants to be bothered. So what’s the big idea then?"

"My new friend here needs help retrieving some items." She motioned to me.

Sawdust finally stopped rubbing his eye and looked my way. Focusing in on me, he jumped back a little.

"I'm sure you noticed his vehicle outside," Twilight giggled.

"Th-th-th-that wasn't a mirage?" Sawdust was trying to contain himself, I couldn't tell for the life of me if he was scared or excited.

"I told you if one showed up in Equestria you would be the first to know," Twilight teased, "you'll have to talk to... I can't believe this but I never got your name," She looked at me ashamed, "Some princess of friendship I am."

"I don't blame you for putting that on a back burner, all things considered," I assured her, "the name’s Jerry Blade."

She seemed a little surprised at that, I chalked it up to it not being a name like Sandwichsmith or Meat Crafter, being that I worked at a restaurant. "Anyway, you'll have to talk to him if you want a closer look."

He looked at me and I could already feel it coming. I really didn't want to see a stallion beg on my first night here.

"We can talk about that when we have the rest of the stuff from my world collected," I took my stance right off, "and I'll tell you now if that thing gets a scratch that I didn't put there, ponies will pay dearly." I didn't realize how stern my voice had gotten. He was almost cowering. "Sorry," I relented, "it was my dad's jeep, I'm protective."

He sighed in apparent relief, "That's actually good to know. Trust me, if you want to keep it in good shape, you want Slag and myself helping out."

"Anyway," I decided to get to the task at hand, "How familiar are you with trailers?"

"Not at all," Sawdust admitted, "enlighten me."

"When we humans want to carry more than our vehicle can hold, we attach something to it like attaching a cart to a pony, only it takes a different kind of hitch." I tried to explain. "Basically, what we're getting is a trailer that needs a hitch. It will be a lot easier if we can attach one and just hook it to my jeep."

"Sounds like a simple concept, I have built wagons that hook together for the Apple family" Sawdust rubbed his chin. "we should get my brother Slag tho, he's the Metalcrafter, Not just by name either."

I was a little taken aback that his name was Woodsmith but his metalworking brother wasn't Blacksmith. The bigger wonder was why the last names weren't the same, but I had a friend with a brother like that. I knew one reason it could be and that it was rude to ask about right off. I wondered tho, what parents-especially if there were three parents involved-would name their kids after what falls to the floor when they work?

"Sounds like a good idea," I said, "Shall we get going?"

"We should," He agreed, "We still may get to Slag's place by midnight, he's more open to company before that."

"Once the job is done you can get back to bed," Twilight told Sawdust before looking at me, "you should come back here, by then I'll have a bed figured out for you."

"Sounds good," I said, "Thanks for everything Princess."

"Please," She smiled, "Call me Twilight. I know I'm a princess, I don't need to be reminded. My name is Twilight Sparkle, that's what my friends call me."

"Farewell Twilight, and thank you for thinking of Sawdust and Slag for your unique crafting needs." Sawdust teased his friend, "We better get going, Slag would be pissed if he's left out, and you do NOT want to bother him after midnight. If he's asleep we'll never wake him. If he's awake..." Sawdust cringed at his own thought, "Let's just go."

7- A Woodsmith and a Metalcrafter.

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The first thing Sawdust did when we got outside was run to the front of the Jeep and look it over.

"So there are places to attach harnesses," he was looking at my tow hooks, "they lied to me,"

I laughed my ass off at his presumption. "They saw cars," I corrected him, "this is a jeep, its a different class of vehicle and this one was made to go in any terrain. Those are only for if it happens to get stuck or have to pull another vehicle out of a sticky spot. Cars aren't made to go off-road, so they tend to just have a small hidden hook. If they have one at all. There's your first lesson. If you want to know about human vehicles, I better put things in perspective or you're going to get it all wrong."

His eyes were wide, I could tell I had his full attention. An awkward moment passed before he shook his head, seeming to come out of deep thought, "R-really?" He asked, "You would do that? I knew it, I'm dreaming, this is too good to be true."

"I have the feeling I'm the one dreaming," I sighed, then got an idea, a feeling of sorts, "let me see your hoof." I reached a hand out as if to shake.

"Ok," he nervously raised a hoof to my hand, I took the chance to look it over.

Just as I expected, a brown pony hoof. Nothing too crazy, aside from the way it blended into his fur. Even this close I could hardly tell where the hoof started and the thick, short, soft hair ended.

"I don't know about ponies," I began to explain my behavior, "but from what I know about humans, our sense of feel is the weakest in a dream. Some people check if they're dreaming by pinching themselves. Trying to process pain wakes us up. I already tried that a few times. I gotta say, your hoof feels pretty real too." That's when I noticed he had a shoe like earth horses, but it wasn't nailed on. "How doe's that shoe stay on?" I had to ask.

He seemed to be paying attention to my hand on his hoof. He took a moment to process the question. "I just hold it." He said as if the answer were obvious.

"But you don't have fingers," I said wiggling my own as I let his hoof go.

"Never stopped a pony before." Sawdust made a show of throwing the shoe into the air and catching it in the other hoof. I noticed he didn't have to shift the other shoe to accomplish it. After seeing Twilight's magic, I decided this was little more than a notable curiosity.

"We've wasted enough time," I said, "let's go." I opened the passenger door and shoved the seat back for him. I didn't know how well he was going to fit. He only came up to my chest, but that's on all fours. If he were to stand up, he would be at least 6 inches taller. Starlight had kind of laid down in the back and Apple Bloom was much smaller.

Much to my relief, he fit in the seat just fine, albeit with little headroom. He looked a little awkward sitting up without a table in front of him.

Once he had settled in the seat I took off and he directed me to an alleyway behind a large outbuilding.

"Stand outside your door so we can see you from that window." Sawdust instructed. "I'll only be a moment."

"Ok." It went without saying that seeing me would be more convincing than anything else.

It really did only take a moment before a gray unicorn with a mane that shifted from red to yellow to white going from the scalp out and flowing down the side of his face came running from the building followed by a hysterically laughing Sawdust. The new arrival ran around the jeep a couple laps looking the whole thing over before coming to a stop in front of me.

"You're really real. My brother isn't blowing smoke up my ass, you're really a real human, and you're really here." He clearly couldn't contain himself, "Ever since Twilight told us about the vehicles they use at Canterlot high, we have dreamed of the day we could either see one or find a way to build one. A vehicle that moves under its own power, with no magic involved. It's amazing."

"That's the wonders of an internal combustion engine." I laughed.

"A what now?" he looked confused.

"You must be Mr. Metalcrafter." I deflected the topic. "We can go over it another time. I already promised to tell your brother all about it once the job was done and we all get some sleep."

"Sleep? Sleep!?!" Slag was aghast, "I can't sleep now. There's too much to do."

"Well, you ain't doin' jack shit on MY jeep till I get some sleep." I said, "If that doesn't work I remind you I have no obligation to help." I lowered my clenched fist upon realizing I had been shaking it at him.

"Ok, ok," he backed off.

"Yeah, I tried to warn you inside," Sawdust chuckled, "He's more than willing to help, but its a touchy issue with him. We need to give him time and do it his way."

"Noted," Slag nodded, "not too many ponies scare me, but I can already tell I don't want this guy mad at me. Let's head in. I'll set out a few hitch designs and we can get this show on the road."

8- It's not exactly mine, but I cant just leave it there.

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The inside of Slag's shed easily contained over half of the metal I had seen since arriving, counting my jeep and the truck bed we were planning to retrieve. Ponies seemed to prefer wood and stone wherever possible. Only using iron fittings and framework when other materials wouldn't work.

In contrast, the shed was filled with everything and anything that could be made out of metal. I even saw some stainless steel cookware, sitting on a matching table. Not surprisingly, most items had work tickets attached in some way.

What stood out most were the three carts lined up by the large sliding door. The largest looked like an average flatbed horse-drawn wagon, but the smaller one had a pedal assembly and the middle one had an unusual gearbox that had no discernible crank of any kind.

I wanted desperately to ask Slag about his work, and particularly the middle cart, but being that I was refusing to talk about my jeep yet, I decided it would be rude.

Turned out Slag had already been working on a few trailer designs. He was reluctant to tell me why but assured me it would come up when we talked later.

We decided on a simple design. It was just a sheet of steel, bent in two places, with holes drilled to allow a pin to be placed through. He immediately set to work cutting pieces and welding on a neck. Both tasks he could apparently perform with just his magic. I was fascinated to learn what else these unicorns could do. He seemed disappointed when I pointed out that the ball hitch on my jeep came out so he didn't have to mount anything onto it.

Not knowing the exact measurements of the truck frame he grabbed an assortment of parts and we set out for the spell site.

It took a good hour to get back to the group of trees. Mostly because I didn't want to get lost but even flat terrain isn't a road, so I wasn't about to speed at any rate.

I woke Sawdust who had dozed off in the passenger seat and he turned around to wake Slag up. A task that apparently required vigorous shaking.

Just as I saw the reflectors of the truck bed I noticed another shine to the left of it. It looked like a pair of eyes. The headlights barely started to shine on the area as they disappeared behind a flurry of what appeared to be dark colored fabric.

"Did you see that?" I asked, but Sawdust had just turned back around.

"Yea, that is so cool," He commented thinking I meant the truck bed, "Are those lights on it?"

I decided to just go with this, not wanting to alarm him. "It has lights, but the power source and a lot of the wiring for them were severed with the rest of the truck. Those are just reflectors."

"So..." He scratched his chin, "Where is the rest of it then?"

"Back on earth, where I came from," I said, "I actually feel kinda bad for the guy it belongs too. Even if I take it back to him. Which I plan on. Putting it back together could be problematic. That's assuming he kept the cab and doesn't just have a new bed built."

"That's really what you're worried about?" Slag chimed in.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"You and your entire vehicle were pulled here, to a totally different world where your new best friend is a metalcrafting unicorn that you just met and you're worried about the guy that lost the back of his wagon? I'll make that into a nice wagon for you and whoever it belongs to will be glad it came in handy." Slag was clearly trying to lighten the mood, still, he had a point.

"I didn't know Starlight was a metalcrafter too," I teased, "I'll feel better using it if I at least tell myself I'm going to return it."

"Whatever helps you sleep at night." Slag laughed.

9- Great! More questions, less answers.

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Slag had already finished his work and connected the truck bed, now trailer to the back of the jeep. I was just searching the area for any debris when I heard a twig snap behind the bush where I found Apple Bloom.

"What was that?" I asked.

"I don't know," Sawdust said, "Could be timber wolves."

I heard 'wolf' and was already reaching for the .357 magnum revolver I kept under the driver seat.

Just to make one thing clear. I am not a military man. I don't even know that much about the jeep I drive. Just that it should have been retired long before my old man enlisted, the thing was built in the 40s, and the steel roof was custom for the job it did, transporting troops around a dense snowy woodland.

That being said I was raised by a military man. You pick up a few things. Like the definition of gun control. Using both hands, and aiming carefully at what you want to kill. Once you're sure you want to kill it that is, which means it better be about to kill you or taste delicious with gravy.

Just as I spun around from loading the weapon and looked down the eight-inch barrel I heard a voice and lowered it.

"There is no reason to fight or flee," came a deep exotic female voice, "It is only me. Sorry to give you a scare, I did not know how to say I was there. I was sent to look over this site, by our friend Twilight."

"You must be Zecora," I wasn't exactly sure how I knew that Twilight had mentioned something but for the life of me I couldn't remember what. Somehow I just knew that this was a zebra named Zecora. I had no doubt.

"Yes, this is true," Zecora confirmed. She was wearing her cloak and lowered the hood as she approached, "but, it seems Twilight neglected to give a name for you."

"Jerry," I said, "Jerry Blade."

"An unusual name to my ear," She laughed, "but you are not exactly from here. If a way back is to be found, please tell me. Where did you find Apple Bloom on the ground?"

"Just around that bush," I pointed, "where you just came from."

She looked at the bush and back at me, "Are you sure?" she seemed troubled by this. Enough that I don't think she even tried to think of a rhyme.

"Yea, why?" I asked.

She just stared at the bush wide-eyed before shaking herself out of it, "I must be sure to have the right spot, to see what door was unlocked. If a way to your home is to be found, the answer is there on the ground. Worry not, you've been through a lot. Go get some rest, it's my turn and I shall do my best."

"Just one more thing," I said, "Were you here before us? I swear I saw a pair of eyes when I pulled up."

"While I'll admit I hid for a bit," Zecora seemed to be thinking, "I found this place as you had it lit."

"Do you want us to stay out here in case they come back?" I offered.

"I appreciate the concern, but worry not," She assured me, "you're not the only crack shot." She lifted her leg to show the barrel of a gun.

"Wait..." I was shocked to see a pony with such a thing, but she cut me off.

"All will be clear when the time is right," she put a hoof up, "for now we must say goodnight. Twilight knows how to find me, now get back to her library. If I know Twilight, which I do, she's all worked up waiting for you."

"You have a point," I admitted. Twilight seemed pretty calm and collected to me, but I just met her. I took Zecora at her word. "take care."

Without another word, we climbed back into the Jeep and took off. I stowed the gun but left it loaded, I was a little on edge.

10- Can I sleep yet?

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I made it back to Ponyville just before sunrise. I was glad the jeep had been equipped with search and fog lights considering there was little to no other light until I reached the town. This is no big deal in normal driving, but nothing about driving in Equestria is normal. The few roads available were intended for horse-drawn wagons, and they only went about halfway to the site.

After dropping Slag off Sawdust directed me to a house with a similar outbuilding next to it.

"This is my home," he said, "You're welcome any time, but try to make it daytime."

"I'll keep that in mind," I laughed.

He tried to pull the door handle but couldn't get a grip with his hooves. "um, do you mind?" he asked defeated.

"No problem." I reached across the cab and pulled the handle for him, "I hope we meet again soon."

"Me too," He yawned as he climbed out and headed for his house.

I made it to Twilight's castle to find her pacing outside the front door. I guess Zecora knew her after all. She ran to my door as soon as I showed up, forcing me to slide the window open to talk to her.

"You're finally back!" She seemed to be trying to wake the neighbors. "I have a surprise for you!"

"What would that be?" I asked.

"It wouldn't be a surprise if I told you," she teased, "How do you open the door? I want in."

"Just turn the handle," I said, but she had already run around the jeep and figured it out.

"Now we need to go to the Apple farm," She stated.

"And where would that be?" I asked.

"Oh, yeah," she chuckled, "You don't know that yet. Go straight and take the second left, we'll want to follow that road out of town and it's just past the edge."

"Alright," I said and did as instructed.

Just a little way into the trip Twilight spoke up about the music. "Who is this song about? Is there a famous human cellist named Octavia?"

"I guess so," I said, "truth be told, I don't really remember buying this CD. I feel like I have a few memories just out of reach."

"Minor amnesia is no surprise with what you went through," Twilight said, "I'm sure you'll remember after getting some sleep."

"Speaking of that," I said, "Weren't you going to find me a bed?"

"That's where..." she suddenly covered her mouth and let out the most adorable squee sound, "I did, we just have to do this first. Turn right up here."

"But the farm is straight ahead," I argued.

"We're meeting the Apple sisters at the guest cabin," She explained, "So we don't wake Granny Smith." She seemed to have rehearsed that.

"OK," I turned down the requested road holding in my laugh about the 'Apple' family having a 'Granny Smith'. Was that her name as a foal? I thought Slag and Sawdust's parent's had odd choices. 'What do we name our newborn dear?' I thought, 'Why not Granny? I bet she'll have grandkids. You should always name your kids after what you think is gonna happen to them. Ain't that right, Stabbedinjail?'

We reached a log cabin about a half mile down the road. Apple Bloom was waiting outside a large wooden shed.

"Did you tell him?" She asked Twilight as soon as we got out.

"No, I was waiting for AJ," Twilight answered.

"Good idea," Apple Bloom admitted, "Can I have a moment alone with Jerry?"

"If you really feel you must," Twilight rolled her eyes, "I'm OK with it, but its also up to him." Twilight looked at me.

"As long as its quick," I said, "I'm tired."

"Alright then," Twilight said, "I assume AJ is inside, I'll go wait with her."

"She sure is, she said she was gonna start the fireplace since it's a little cold tonight." Apple Bloom confirmed as Twilight walked to the door.

As soon as she closed the door behind her I was knocked over as a set of hooves wrapped around my neck and I felt a furry cheek rub against mine.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Apple Bloom was losing her composure and beginning to cry, "You saved my life."

"Calm down," I said trying to sit up but failing under her weight, "I wouldn't have it in me not to try, I couldn't just leave you there."

"But, if you knew..." She cried.

"If I knew what?" I asked.

"That...." She let out a wail and couldn't finish.

I pushed her back so I could sit up and cradled her in my lap. She was a little big to do this with but not by much, and at that moment I didn't care.

"That you cast the spell that brought me here and there may be no way to send me back?" I asked.

"Who told you?" She asked drying her tears a little.

"Well it is kind of obvious that you brought me here," I said, "You were the only one there. You were under the effects of a rather powerful magical backfire of some sort. I knew you brought me here before you knew I wasn't a pony."

"Ah suppose you're right there," She sighed, "and ah was all worried about how you would react. Are... Are you mad?"

I thought about that a moment. I remembered enough about my life to know I didn't leave a whole lot behind. Just a lousy job and a house I couldn't afford. That seemed irrelevant while looking in those giant tear-filled eyes.

"I can't say I'm happy," I decided to be honest, "but I can't be mad about something you didn't mean to do, only disappointed that you didn't know better. I can't say I know you well enough to actually be disappointed either. So I really have no opinion."

"Well ah plan on making it up to you," she seemed to cheer up, "as long as you're stuck here, the Cutie Mark Crusaders are at your service. We can be here around noon if you want a tour of the town."

"Sounds good to me," I said, "But why would we meet here?"

"Oh, um," she looked around frantically, "I meant Twilight's castle. We can meet there at noon."

"Ok," I knew something was up now, that's why I don't like surprises, they raise undue suspicion. "Can we go in now. It's cold out here."

"Sure thing," She said, "Applejack is eager to meet you."

11- Surprise!

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The first thing I noticed about the cabin was the wood panel ceiling. Don't get me wrong, the furniture was very nice, but I was knocked on my back by an orange blur the moment I tried to look around.

"Thank you," Sobbed the blur, "Ah don't know what ah'd do without muh sister."

"You must be Applejack," I said.

"Sure am," She got up and backed away, blushing a little, "Ahm sorry about that, I've just been waiting to meet you for hours. Ever since Twilight told me what happened."

"Don't worry about it," I said, "I understand. I just wish I could have gotten some sleep first. I'm not too talkative when I'm tired."

"About that," She stepped back and waved her hoof across the room as though presenting the couch she stood next to.

"SURPRISE!!!" all three ponies shouted.

"This is your home for as long as you need it," Applejack announced, "it's the least we can do, we don't need it, and this way you got a place to call your own."

I looked around the cabin. It was actually really nice, the main room had a couch and two chairs set around a coffee table with a fireplace just past the end of it. Four more rooms were positioned two on each side, on the right one was clearly the kitchen as it was more of an opening than a door, and I could see a stove within, the other door to the right was open and I was relieved to see a normal looking toilet and shower. The doors to the left were closed but I felt safe assuming they were bedrooms.

"Really?" I had to ask, but I had all but figured it out outside. "This is a nice setup."

"Ah was hoping you liked it," She said, "It was the only thing ah could think to offer that even came close to starting to repay your kindness."

"Well, I wouldn't want to impose." I said, "You sure about this? Twilight says I may be here a while."

She looked to Twilight then back to me, "Ah know, and this is your place as long as you need it. Meal times are six a.m., noon, and eight p.m., at the main house. If you're late, you have to make do with leftovers, but Granny always makes plenty if you don't mind re-heating it. We're happy to have you."

"Thank you," I said, "I will be very comfortable here, as much as I would have appreciated a room at the castle, I couldn't say the same."

"I had a feeling," Twilight giggled, "That's why I looked into this first. The castle is great but I still miss the feeling of home I had at my old library."

"It's really too much," I said, "Thank you."

"If you think this is too much," Applejack laughed, "you're gonna be downright annoyed by the time WE feel like we're even. You haven't even met Big Macintosh or Granny Smith. They have their own plans."

"Just please say it can wait till afternoon," I yawned, "I need sleep and the sun is already coming out."

"Of course," Twilight said, "it took some convincing, but I knew you would be tired so I talked them into waiting. They will want to know if you need anything for the house though. It's furnished, but for use as a cabin, not a dwelling, you will find a few amenities missing."

"Eeyup," came a deep voice at the door.

"Big Mac!" Applejack scolded, "you should be in bed."

"Actually," He said, "It's breakfast time, Granny thought Jerry would be hungry. Ah told her we should let him sleep but she wouldn't let it go until I agreed to deliver some eggs and toast."

My stomach growled at the sound of food. "I could eat, thank you," was all I could think to say as he set a plate on the table in front of my chair.

"Eeyup," He nodded at me, then looked to his sister, "I'll take care of the chickens to buy you a couple hours sleep. I better get to work," he looked at me, "I left a little something in the dresser drawer, in case you can't get to sleep. See you later."

"Later," I said, "Thanks again."

"Ah, suppose ah better get that sleep while ah can," Applejack yawned, "It's not too often Big Mac offers to cover my chores. When he says a couple hours, that's the most I can hope for." She headed out right behind her brother.

Twilight was the only one left, sitting across the table from me on the couch.

"I suppose I can let you sleep too," she was clearly reluctant to go, I didn't blame her. For the first pony I really met I felt like we hardly talked.

"Do you smoke weed?" I asked. She took a moment to register the question.

"On occasion," she answered.

I pulled my pipe and stash out of my coat. "I think me showing up counts as an occasion, and I'd rather not smoke alone. You game?"

"Sounds logical to me," she giggled as I finished my eggs and toast and loaded the bowl. I wasn't ready for the princess to go yet either.

I had to get at least one answer.

12- A friendly interrogation.

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I waited until the second bowl pack to say anything. I wanted her to be open with me. I trusted her not to outright lie, but, I was sensing lies of omission.

"So that Zecora sure is something, huh," I said, "Do all Zebras speak in rhymes?"

"I'm not sure, she's the only one around," Twilight said, "Did she have anything to say?"

"Not much. Just asked me where I found Apple Bloom," I decided not to mention how uneasy Zecora seemed when I told her. I didn't know how much Twilight knew and I didn't want to give anything away.

"She did say that was important to find out what portal was opened," Twilight confirmed, "So we can open it again." Her tone betrayed one of the lies of omission.

"Don't you know what portal she was trying to open?" I asked. Her face immediately sank. I had her.

"That's the thing..." She clearly didn't want to say it, "It wasn't exactly..." she kept pausing, clearly trying to choose the right words.

"Just say it," I said, "I may not want to hear it, but I have to know what's going on."

She took a deep breath, "It wasn't exactly a portal opening spell she used."

"So what other kinds of spells can open portals?" I asked.

She grabbed the pipe off the table and cleared the half pack we left in it in one hit, coughing as she tried to hold it in. "A summoning spell." she finally answered.

I didn't know what to make of that. Why would ponies have a spell that could summon me? "Wouldn't that only bring a certain entity targeted by the spell?" I asked.

"Yes," she answered, "For a being from a land with no magic, you sure know a lot about it."

"I just enjoy fiction," I said, "Pure luck the rules are the same."

"Anyway," She went on, "She was trying to summon Daylight Dreamer. A pony that lived during an ancient Equestrian war, and the last documented element of loyalty. Or 'kinship' as he was known among the 'Protectors' as they called themselves. He's also the only one that lived long enough to see the war end and hide the elements back at the castle until me and my friends could find them."

I decided not to worry about these 'elements' yet since it sounded like I'd hear all about them later, I was focused on who the spell was intended for.

"So she was trying to raise his spirit?" I asked, "or is he some kind of immortal?"

"Not exactly," She said, "legend has it that Daylight never died, he found a way to be reborn so he could come back, He apparently found some prophesy that told of a time that he was needed again, but that was over six-hundred years ago. Even if he was reborn, how could he live that long?"

"Think that may have something to do with the spell backfiring?" I asked, "Couldn't find the target?"

"That's hard to say," she replied, "The summoning spell he left behind was all smudged up, Starswirl swears he managed to fix it but claims he never tested it because he had no reason to. I think he either knew it was a bad idea or didn't manage as well as he thought. Either way, Daylight alive or not, I think it was an ingredient or two off from what the potion should have been. Not to mention Apple Bloom is only a novice potion maker, and she didn't bring a unicorn to cast the recommended protection spell."

"So is there any way to track the portal trail or anything?" I asked.

"That depends," she lowered her head, "A portal opened to open a portal can be traced, but if it truly was a summoning spell, those are often one-way trips. That can vary spell to spell, but usually, it would be you that can reopen it, and being that you have no magic, you wouldn't be able to do that."

"So I have like a 20% chance of getting back?" I asked.

"I'll be honest," She sighed, "That's better odds than I give it."

13- My lucky day. I suppose.

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I woke up feeling very rested. I didn't remember getting a new bed, but it was super comfortable.

I grabbed my phone off the nightstand and checked the time, silently greeting my opening screen. It was my OC, a black furred pegasus with a dark blue mane and a long beard. I never came up with a name for him or a cutie mark, but he was me as a pony so I guess his name was Jerry and I had a few ideas on the mark.

It was noon. No time to watch any MLP. Gotta be in by one today. I put on my glasses and looked to my dresser, only it wasn't there.

'I'm not home,' I thought, 'that explains the bed, I gotta get the brand on that.'

I didn't remember staying anywhere, and it's not like me to go on a bender. So I was confused. I decided to smoke a bowl about it.

Once I was in the right mind frame to grasp the aftereffects of a blackout I checked myself out.

I was in my boxers like I always sleep, and my clothes were scattered on the floor in my usual fashion so I got into bed on my own. My wallet was in my pants with cash and cards in place. I must have just gotten too drunk to drive, but my cash was still there. I don't use cards at the bar because it's too easy to lose track.

I decided I better just figure out where I am so I could get to work.

I stepped out of the bedroom to find I was in a rather swanky cabin, judging by the look out the windows it was at least on the edge of the woods. I saw my Jeep out front and felt a little comfort.

I kept trying the GPS on my phone but it had absolutely no signal. Just gotta find the interstate, I always get signal there. 'Guess MLP was always out of the question, no internet.' I laughed to myself, 'Darn, I really wanted to watch a Crusaders episode.'

The only question left was 'Whose cabin?' I tried the other bedroom but it was empty.

I just shrugged and opened the front door when I was greeted by a familiar southern accent.

"How are you enjoying your cabin?" I looked down to see none other than the Cutie Mark Crusaders in the flesh.

Everything went black.

"I think we broke him," I swear that was Scootaloo. I couldn't bring myself to check.

"He's been through a lot," yep, that was Apple Bloom, "Give him time to adjust."

"That is why we're here, we just gotta take this slow," that was Sweetie Belle alright. I gotta see this.

I slowly opened my eyes to see that I was laying on the couch in the cabin. The Crusaders were lined up next to me, they had pushed the table out of the way.

I slowly sat up and looked them over. They were about what I expected of a pony made real. Except for the actually being real part, that was right out of left field.

The colors matched the cartoon but were a little less pastel. I think muted is the word. At any rate, their face structure was a little different, hard to explain, more squared off I guess. Made me wonder if the stallions heads were rectangular. Being how angled they are on the show.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"Do you remember last night?" Apple Bloom asked.

"No," I said, "Just taking off for work."

She took a deep breath. "Twilight warned me about this, it's normal to forget with all you went through."

"So I'm really in Equestria then?" I asked.

"Yes, you are," Sweetie Belle said as she and Scootaloo sat on opposite sides of me. Applebloom was still on the floor seeming to hold back tears for some reason.

Sweetie and Scootaloo looked to Apple Bloom and back at me. "Do you want us to tell him?" Scootaloo finally asked.

Apple Bloom just nodded, yes.

"Apple Bloom was trying to help Twilight." Sweetie started.

"Twilight found something, she's not even sure what it is. Twilight wasn't even sure if we should tell you, but all things considered..." Scootaloo trailed off.

"Apple Bloom thought it was in a prophecy that said we needed a pony of old by the name of Daylight Dreamer, only he understands what's inside," Sweetie took over, "but the spell backfired and you were brought here, and Apple Bloom was being twisted into ball of what used to be a pony by the wild magical energy!" Sweetie was getting a little frantic. She was standing over me on her back legs. Scootaloo put up a hoof to stop her. "Sorry." She sat back down.

"Long story short," Scootaloo said, "You were able to save her with that jeep thing outside by getting her to Twilight in time."

"That's when Twilight sent you to get that wagon that's hooked up to the jeep," Sweetie had calmed down, "and when you got back the Apples gave you this cabin for as long as you're here, which looks like..." She was cut off by Apple Bloom.

"YOU'RE STUCK!!!" She wailed, "and its all my fault."

"Now Apple Bloom," Sweetie said, "We don't know that yet."

"It's OK," I said, sliding off the couch to hug Apple Bloom, "I remember last night now, and I remember my life before. Do you remember what I told you outside the cabin?"

"Yea," Apple Bloom wiped a tear away, "That you weren't mad, cause you knew I didn't mean to, and you didn't know me well enough to be disappointed I didn't know any better."

"That still applies," I said, "only now I remember how much my life sucked and how much I used to daydream about living in Equestria. So I guess I should thank you."

"Really," Apple Bloom was clearly skeptical but relieved I still wasn't upset.

"But," Scootaloo chimed in. "How did you know about Equestria before? If you had never been here, how did you dream about it?"

Great! Now I had to explain to 3 fillies that their life is a cartoon where I come from.

14- Windows and doors, to other worlds.

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The Crusaders took the whole cartoon thing surprisingly well. Even seeming excited about being famous in a different world.

"We should probably tell Twilight," Sweetie said.

"Yea," Scootaloo agreed, "But we already plan to meet up with her later. We may as well just show Jerry around town first. Like we planned."

She seemed to be eager to spend time with me, or at least didn't want the plans to change. She was hugging me as she said it, which seemed strange, but I couldn't help running my fingers through her mane. I expected soft, I got greasy. Something was wrong here that the show wasn't gonna show. I took a mental note to keep an eye on Scootaloo. I wasn't going to tell them, but she was my favorite Crusader.

"You have a point," Sweetie agreed, "let's start with the boutique. Rarity is gonna want his measurements right away."
Aside from Rarity talking my ear off about how 'dashing' I would be in the new outfit she insisted on making me there wasn't much of note about the trip. I just finally got to see how Ponyville was really laid out, its nothing like it looks in the show. We ended at Sugarcube Corner where Pinkie insisted on treating us to cupcakes.

Scootaloo started to look at me and fiddle with her hooves until Pinkie dropped the treats off and went to the next table. "So," Scootaloo finally started, "Does it ever show my parents on the show?... You know... The one about us."

I looked the filly over. She was looking up at me as if I held the power to make her wildest dream come true. I didn't know what to say. That's one question I was hoping to answer after settling in here. All the show has said is that if she had parents, they weren't very supportive. I mean, she tells Rainbow flat out that she's never been told she's good at anything.

I really didn't want to crush Scootaloo's dreams. She looked so hopeful, but I have an honest streak to give Applejack a run for her apples.

Ok, maybe I'll tell a little fib to get to the truth sometimes, but Apple Jewel, I mean Applejack has done the same.

"No," I said, looking her in the eye, "I'm afraid not. Why do you ask?"

"I was just hoping they were looking for me," She failed to hide the tear she shed, "They left so long ago."

"So who takes care of you?" I asked, but Spike interrupted before she could answer.

"Hey, Jerry!" Spike shouted from the counter before walking to our table, "How is your day with the Crusaders going?"

"Just fine," I said, "How are things at the castle? Twilight looming over a pile of books about portals?"

"As a matter of fact I already put the ones about portals away, now she's looking into Daylight Dreamer," He said, "But for a pony that played such a big part of one of the few wars Equestria has faced, that's not much. So she's probably done reading them already."

"Anything good?" I asked.

"As a matter of fact," he said, "That's why I wanted to talk to you. She found something straight up mind-blowing in the remnants of his journal. She won't tell me though, just says to wait until you get there."

"I see," I looked around the table, Sweetie and Apple Bloom were chomping at their bits to go find out, Scootaloo, on the other hand, was clearly bothered by the turn of events. "It's just going to have to wait a little longer," I finally said, "I'm afraid I'm in the middle of a very important cupcake. We'll be there in a half hour or so." Three faces sank but the fourth was holding back a huge smile, she knew my real motive, I think so anyway.

"Alright," Spike sighed, "I'll see you at the castle then."

"See ya there," I assured.

The rest of the time was spent talking about the show. Seems it was only off on a few key details, and like Scootaloo's parents, most just weren't said outright.

As curious as I was, I decided to wait for Scootaloo to bring her parents up again. She didn't.

We got to the castle around sundown. I was a little later than I quoted Spike, but not by much.

Twilight however clearly thought it had been an eternity. She bolted out the door as soon as we could be seen from it.

"You are not going to believe this!!" She said grabbing all four of us and shoving us into the library. It happened so fast. One moment I was about to cross the street, the next my feet are leaving the ground and being placed in front of Twilight's library table.

"What is it?" I asked taking a seat at the table.

"I was looking over this journal," she held up a charred, water damaged book, "I couldn't get much, most of the pages are either burnt or smudged, but three pages in the middle survived." She opened the book to the first intact page, "I don't have much context but as best as I can tell, they describe a vision Daylight had about the end of the war. It starts by describing a vehicle that sounds remarkably like yours, then the driver, a tall two-legged creature, that always wore clothes. The vehicle drives across a field and meets up with Daylight, but it's smudged after that, except for this." she turned to a burned page and what was left of it had a drawn picture of a Jeep just like mine, well, Daylight was no artist, but all the elements were there. "I'd say there's a really good chance that he was looking through a magic window into your world. It's not the only explanation, but it makes sense, and something made a portal to your world open when his summoning spell was cast."

"Wow," was all I could think to say.

"I know," Twilight said, "have you ever imagined a place like Equestria? Or do you know of anyone in your world that has? It could mean a window was opened between our worlds. Before the door that brought you here that is." She clearly didn't expect me to have an answer.

"Have I got a story for you..." I grinned, "It starts with a pony princess sending her star pupil to coordinate the summer sun celebration, but the real motive is so she can meet an awesome group of friends and save Equestria from her sister's alter ego."

"But we never told you..." Twilight was shocked, to say the least.

15- Conflicting timelines.

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Twilight just stared at me, eyes as wide as dinner plates, as if they weren't already huge, listening to every word I had to say.

"So," she said, "for the last seven years or so, somepony, excuse me, somebody in your world has been watching... us!?"

"Try thousands of people," I said, "Whoever can see it is helping turn it into a kids show."

"Like a play?" She asked.

"Sort of... Let's go with that," I said, "if I have to explain the details of human entertainment technology we'll be here all night."

"I agree," she said, "in fact, I'd rather you explain that to my consultant Vinyl Scratch. She knows more about entertainment technology than anyone else in Ponyville. Possibly Equestria."

I rolled that around in my head for a while. She wanted me to tell her consultant, Vinyl. Vinyl is the expert. That much was easy to swallow. The part I didn't get is that Twilight Sparkle didn't want me to explain it to her, she's so hungry for knowledge of any kind on the show. I was freaked out but had no reason not to go with it. I didn't want to explain everything at once after all.

"Anyway," I said, "I think it actually started as a toy line back in '81. That's like 37 years ago. Of course, it wasn't anything like this until the show I told you about."

"So the rift could have started back then," She leaned on the table, hovering over me, clearly excited, "and peaked with your arrival. That means whatever it was could have started thirty-seven earth years ago. We still don't know how that relates to Equestria time. Chances are they aren't getting it in real time. I mean, that stuff took about seven years, but raising the Pillars happened a while ago."

"Not to mention if Daylight saw a Jeep he would have been looking into the future," I pointed out, "Humans didn't have jeeps six hundred years ago."

"Really?" Twilight was astonished, "Of course, we can't be sure you weren't taken through time. Six hundred years would be a stretch though. I better look into this. I have a lot of reading to do, but before I get back to that, I have a job to offer you. You're going to have to make your own bits sooner or later."

"Sounds good," I said, "depending on what it is."

"Did the Crusaders tell you why Apple Bloom wanted to summon Daylight?" She asked.

"So he could help you look into a discovery you didn't know about," I answered.

"You may not be Daylight, but I still need that done," she said, "and after talking to Slag, Sawdust, and Zecora, I think you're the best applicant I have. Are you interested?"

"Got nothing better to do," I laughed, "When do I start?"

"I need a few weeks to prepare things for you," she said, "Mostly to find you an assistant, so when I'm ready for interviews I'll let you know. I'm hiring you both but they're going to work for you, so you should get a say in who you work with."

"Sounds awesome," I said, "I better go, I'm sure the Crusaders," I looked to see that Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom had already left, and Scootaloo was asleep. "Scootaloo is clearly bored."

"I'm sure she just doesn't want to go home yet," Twilight giggled.

"What is up with her parents anyway?" I asked.

Twilight just looked at the floor. "They're ah, they're gone."

"By 'gone' you mean...?" I asked.

"They were in an accident," She whispered, "When she was a baby, she barely made it out herself."

"So why does she think they're looking for her?" I asked.

"Let's just say Applejack wasn't in charge of what to tell her when she was old enough," Twilight sighed, "Now we just don't know how to break it to her."

"So who takes care of her?" I asked, "Does she live with a relative?"

"Based on those questions," Twilight looked down, "you wouldn't take the answer from me, so I'll either wait until you understand ponies better or more likely, Scootaloo will tell you. It's not my place."

"Someone has to tell her about her parents," I said.

"I agree," Twilight looked up at me, "She already seems to like you, maybe you'll be the one that can find a way to break it to her." She mumbled something after that but all I caught was 'accept help'.

"I better go," I said, "would be nice to start tomorrow before noon."

"That reminds me," Twilight said, "Celestia will be here for lunch tomorrow, we would like you there."

"Sounds delightful," I smiled, "Noon then?"

She just nodded and smiled as I nudged Scootaloo awake and headed out.

16- Beating Celestia to the punch.

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My mind was boggling over everything I had just learned. Daylight's dream about humans was at the top of the list, but my mind kept going back to Scootaloo. I may not have ever had children of my own, but I have a very protective personality.

Twilight didn't use the words but I knew what she was getting at. Scootaloo took care of herself. Why else would I be unwilling to take the answer from the princess? Why else would I need to understand ponies first? Why else would she be in such bad need of a shower?

Ponies have showers. I know, my cabin had a rather nice shower, with lots of room to move around, and a fucking shower chair. That didn't even make sense for a pony to want! But there it was, waiting for me to sit down and wash my feet. Ponies clearly value hygiene.

I was finally pulled out of my thoughts when I realized I was still walking with Scootaloo, and we had arrived at that cabin. We just stood in front of it looking at each other.

"I... I'll see you around," She said as she started turning away.

I was going to say 'yea, catch you later' but it came out, "Do you need to use my shower?"

She gave me a deer in the headlights look. She clearly didn't know what to say. I could see the calm and cool mask she had been wearing start to crack. "I'll be ok. Bye!" She turned and bolted. I took note of the direction. She wasn't heading to town, or even the farmhouse, she bolted directly to the fields. There wasn't anything past that but woodland leading to the Everfree Forest. I couldn't help wondering where in Celestia's name she was going.

Being that it was still only about nine o'clock I decided to take a look in the trailer before bed. I had noticed a few tool boxes and I wanted to know what kind of tools I had.

The first two boxes were pretty basic. Wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, etc. The last one, however, seemed to be custom made. I hadn't noticed before, but it was actually bolted to the front of the truck bed, and doors on the sides of the topper allowed easy access to it. Inside were compartments containing a chainsaw, an ax, a logging hook, and a heavy duty chain.

'Great,' I told myself, 'poor dude not only lost half his truck but his work equipment with it.'

I decided not to worry about it, nothing I could do.

I opened the large sliding door on my new shed and sized it up. It was about as wide as a standard two car garage, but over twice as deep. I pulled the jeep in with the trailer and found that I had plenty of room without unhooking the trailer.

It dawned on me that Equestria had no gas stations. Being a military vehicle, I could run it on alcohol. Coolant should be good for a year or so, and water is fine in the summer. I'd have to find oil before too long though. Still, that was a few thousand miles before being a concern. I had the fortune of having just changed all that.

I looked up at the moon. Wondering if things were busy at work. Then I realized it didn't matter anymore and went to bed.
I woke up feeling great.

Before I could get out of bed, someone knocked on my bedroom door.

"Who is it?" I asked, covering myself up in case they burst in. Sure enough...

"Sorry to intrude," Applejack walked right in, "ah just had to bring you breakfast and ah didn't think a hero like you should have to get out of bed just to eat it."

It seemed a little over the top but she had a plate of pancakes covered in fruit and whipped cream with a side of eggs. I wasn't gonna argue.

She set the plate on the bed and turned for the door. Before she was out Apple Bloom walked in with a bushel basket of assorted apples, "Ah thought ya may want some apples for later," Then she turned and left only to be replaced by Big Mac with a pile of firewood.

"Eeyup," was all he said before being replaced by Pinkie with a box of cupcakes.

One by one every pony I could imagine walked in, placed a gift, commented on how great I was or what they brought, and left. Eventually, I couldn't even get out of bed for lack of floor to walk on. The gifts were starting to fill the bed too. They filled the room until I was being crushed under the weight of them.

I struggled to breathe as pegasi just kept flying to the top of the pile and adding random things. When it finally stopped, I clawed my way to the top.

I was no longer in my room. Everything around me was dark. It was just me and the enormous pile of presents I now sat atop.

I felt sick to my stomach. I had no idea what to do with all this stuff. Why had they given it to me anyway? What had I done to earn it? Nothing if you ask me. I asked nothing and expected the same for what I had done, only a real asshole would have just let a little girl die...

I was drawn away by the sound of crying. I looked down the pile to see Scootaloo, holding out her scooter.

"It's all I have," She sobbed, "I hope you don't mind it's too small for you to ride."

I looked the filly over. She was sobbing. Not because she had nothing for herself, because she had nothing to give me.

I had no words, only tears.

When I finally stopped bawling I realized I was being embraced by a dark-furred pony.

"It is alright," Luna comforted me, "it is only a nightmare."

"Thank god," I said as a few more tears escaped and I held on to her for dear life.

I realized then, that I was now sobbing into the mane of a princess, and that was her first impression of me.

"Sorry," I said before clearing my throat and stepping back. I was glad to see she had taken us to the castle garden. However, I was still in my boxers.

"Do not be sorry," she giggled, "that is why I am here."

"Right," I said, "Princess of the night and all," I remembered that it was my dream and just imagined myself dressed.

"I would ask if Twilight explained that," her eyes narrowed, "but I don't think that's how you know who I am."

"You're not wrong," I laughed. Looking down, the shirt I dreamed up for myself had Rainbow's cutie mark and read 'Loyalty' across the top.

"I would love to meet you in person, and talk all about it," She said, "However, I am here because you need to talk. How could one be so generous as to save the life of a pony who has pulled them from there own, yet, have nightmares about being justly rewarded?"

"I don't like having more than I need," I said, "especially if somebody else needs it. I just don't want anyone to think I need a reward. I believe in helping. If we don't help each other, who IS gonna help us?"

"I got that impression from your dream, it is a unique way to look at the world. I must say I'm impressed by your attitude," She said, I was relieved when I realized crying was not her first impression. She was seeing directly into my psyche. That's disturbing on a whole new level. She gave me a soft look, "Worry not. You may indeed be overwhelmed by gifts, and some ponies may apologize for not having more, but that is just the way they feel. How you handle it is up to you alone. If you feel that you have too much, all you have to do is share."

"You have a point," I said, "I guess I was being silly."

"Having strong feelings about something is not silly. Now, I have other ponies..." She giggled, " well, I have ponies to see yet tonight, I trust you are ok now."

"Yea," I said, "thanks."
I woke up feeling exhausted.

17- Breakfast with Big Mac and tea with Granny Smith.

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I woke up around eight o'clock in the morning. The scenes from my dream still playing in my head.

There was a knock, but this time it was the front door, and I was fully dressed. I set my wake and bake down to answer it.

I was happy to see Big Mac at the door. With a perfectly normal plate of flapjacks.

"Howdy," I said as I motioned to invite him in.

"You missed breakfast so I brought it this time," he said, "don't get used to it."

"Wouldn't dream of it," I laughed at my inside joke, "is that all, or do you have time to hang out?"

He seemed to consider the options before asking, "Is that smell?..."

"Yeah," I said, "I was smoking a bowl, you want in?"

"I have a minute," He chuckled.

I let him finish the pack I started as I ate breakfast.

"There were a couple other reasons I stopped by," Big Mac said. I wasn't used to hearing Big Mac talk so much, but I knew the show had to be exaggerating the whole strong silent thing.

"What would those be?" I asked.

"For starters," He said, "Granny is gonna be awful sore if you don't pay her a visit today. She was hoping to meet you yesterday."

"Yeah," I said, "I got a little busy, but I have time before lunch with the princesses. I'll head over to the house in a bit."

"She'll like that," he said, "The other thing..." He took a deep breath, "Thank you for saving Apple Bloom. I don't know what I have to offer, but there is a load of firewood waiting outside your door, and you can just tell me if you need more. I can always chop a little extra firewood," his face was sinking like he felt what he had wasn't good enough, I was brought back to the dream once again.

"Look!" I pretended to be annoyed, "there is no way on Earth or Equestria that I could have left her there. Don't go feeling like I need all kinds of rewards for it. You guys already gave me a house."

"Just wait," he laughed, "The house is from all of us. I'm not the only one that feels like he needs to add a personal gift."

"Oh, great," I said, "I was hoping the house counted as the sisters' things since they presented the place. So I gotta do this three more times? Not just for Granny Smith?"

"Afraid so," he said bluntly, "I better get back to work, and you better get over to Granny."

"I suppose so," I said, "Catch you later."

"Eeyup," He headed out the door.

I didn't want to wait too long so I just rinsed the plate and fork Big Mac brought and headed for the farmhouse.

I needed to ask the Apples for some dish soap. Not to mention shampoo and body wash if fur-covered creatures even have the last one. Twilight had it backward when she told me about the cabin. The amenities were there. The basic daily essentials weren't.

Granny was outside watering the flowers when I got there.

"As I live and breathe, oh wait," she made a show of blowing on her hoof, "Yep, still breathin', and so is my granddaughter thanks to you."

"OK," I laughed at the cantankerous old mare, "let's just get the thank yous over with so we can return your dishes to the kitchen."

"Oh," Granny Smith groaned, "don't be a rotten apple. Ya done saved my kin! Ya don't think yer gonna get by with just a thank you. We better start with putting the dishes back."
Granny and I sat and talked for a good hour before I realized how close to noon it was, and Twilight's castle was a few miles away. Any longer and I would have to take the jeep. I wanted to save my gas until I had a for sure source of fuel.

"I better get going," I said, "I'm due for lunch with the princesses."

"Better not keep them waiting," She said, "just one more thing, gimme a minute."

I stayed at the table as she went to the other room and I heard her dig through box after box. When she finally returned she had two items. A skeleton key, and a small rectangular box.

"First," She said, "Here's the key to your house, in case you wanna lock up when you're away. We never had reason to, but we never lived in it. This is the only key, don't lose it. That Slag feller at the cart repair place can make a copy if you want, but it's your place now, we don't need one."

"Thanks," I said as I accepted the key.

"Don't mention it," She said, "The other thing is a little something I wanted to give you, a family heirloom," she presented the box. "This has been in the family for so long, even Golden Delicious has no record on who it was originally given to, or who it came from, but legend has it, it was given to the Apple family over 500 years ago, by a two-legged creature known only as Blade."

The hairs stood on the back of my neck at this. "Really?" I asked, "Odd coincidence, Blade is my last name."

"Well. Why did ya change it? Blade sounds better than Jerry." she seemed confused.

"No," I laughed, "I mean my family name. Like Apple is for you except rather than being the theme, it just goes after my first name, making my full name, Jerry Blade."

"That's a funny name," said Granny Smith, "and an odd coinkie... whatever. But it is just a legend, and all the creatures of these legends have names like that. Blade, Sharp, Keen... It's just a story. At any rate, it seemed fitting that I give this to you. I hope you like it."

I opened the box to find an old combat knife. The back of the blade was serrated, but the teeth were irregular. Like it had been done by a guy with a file and too much time on his hands. Otherwise, it was just like the one my dad kept in the glove box of the Jeep. I had taken that out. A decision I now regretted.

"It's nice," I said, "thank you."

"Don't mention it," She said, "My great, great, grandpa carried it in service to Celestia, maybe it will come in handy while your helpin' Twilight. Now ya better not keep the princesses waiting. I gotta start lunch fer Big Mac and Applejack. Take care now, and don't be a stranger. Oh, and grab that box by the door. It's a care package the girls put together fer ya. Applejack made a fuss about making sure ya had it A-S-A-P, but Big Mac was more worried that ya ate. I gotta say I was with Big Mac. Ya didn't even stop by for supper last night." I felt like that last comment was meant to scold me.

"Alright. See you later, Granny Smith," I said, "Thanks again and tell the girls I appreciate it."

I grabbed the box and ran home. I still had just enough time to walk to town.

Getting to the cabin I looked in the box. It was pretty much what I needed. Dish soap, dish rags, washcloths, towels, shampoo, and yes, body wash. I didn't even have to put up with bar soap.

They must have even talked to Rarity because a brand new set of clothes were folded at the bottom. I took the items out one by one and was amazed to find that Rarity had somehow found the time to make me a full suit. Complete with a black pinstriped jacket with silk lining. If she were on earth, she would put sweatshops out of business.

I hadn't showered in days, but I had no time, I had to walk to town.

I decided to drive. I'd just have to ask Twilight about setting up a still.

18- Lunch with royalty

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Just as I pulled up to Twilight's castle a pegasus driven chariot landed on my driver's side.

Looking over I was not surprised to see the flowing mane of Celestia herself. She smiled as I got out and bowed. I wanted at least one princess to know I knew how to greet royalty.

"Rise my new subject," She stood as tall as me, and spoke in a regal tone, "You have more than earned the right to stand tall before me. My sister has told me of you. I must say, I am not disappointed."

Our eyes met as we stood between our vehicles.

"What exactly did she tell you?" I was embarrassed about being talked about.

She just laughed and covered her mouth. "Just that you are a very noble and loyal creature, who is wise beyond his realm. We are honored to have you in Equestria."

"It's nice to be here," I said.

"You do not have to lie for my sake," Her face went soft, her tone more maternal, "surely you miss your home."

"To be honest," I said, "I didn't leave much behind. Just a house I didn't want to live in anymore and a job I wanted to quit."

"Is that so?" she smiled, "in that case, I hope this is a fresh start for you. Do let me know if there is anything I can do for you, and if you do start missing your home, be sure to let us know. We are all happy to lend an ear."

"I will," I assured her, "I bet Twilight is waiting. Shall we?"
Lunch was... interesting.

Spike had made an amazing banquet of fruits and veggies with desserts galore. I came to the realization that other than milk and eggs, ponies don't really eat animal products. I was gonna have to get used to beans and peanuts, or suffer protein deficiency. There had to be a better way...

The interesting part was the way Twilight was micromanaging the whole thing. She was clearly nervous about what the princess had to say.

When the time finally came Twilight explained her plan to have me look into the 'odd door' she had found. I realized this was the first time she mentioned it was a door.

Celestia just sat with her eyes closed seeming to contemplate this plan. Twilight was about to bust a blood vessel waiting for her mentor's reaction.

"Well..." Celestia finally said, causing Twilight to nearly jump out of her skin, "I am glad I left you in charge."

Twilight's eyes went wide, "Really?" She asked.

"Yes," Celestia confirmed, "Not only is that a brilliant solution to both situations. I now get to see my own student go on to handle things in her own little part of the land. I am very proud of you."

I thought I was gonna puke. I guess the show didn't exaggerate that relationship too much.

"There is one more thing before I must return to my own duties," Celestia said, "I know you are tired of thank yous, so call it a welcoming gift." She cast a beam of magic from her horn onto the table in front of me. A book appeared with a fire and ice yin-yang on the cover. I seemed to remember drawing a similar picture in high school. Only this one had rays beaming out of it that resembled Celestia's cutie mark.

"Fascinating," Celestia almost gasped.

"What is it?" I asked.

"That is a journal that will allow you to communicate with me whenever you wish simply by writing in the pages," She said.

"That is pretty cool," I said, "May I ask what you find fascinating though?"

"Well," She paused to find the right words, "The picture on the cover is supposed to be a combination of our cutie marks. You not having a cutie mark I expected it to be just my own. So you see. If you had a cutie mark, it would be that picture. Minus the rays which are clearly the influence of my own."

"A fire and ice yin-yang, what does that mean?" I asked.

"I do not know," She said, "I understand that symbol represents balance, and fire and ice are extremes. Beyond that only you can say how it relates to our life."

"Thank you, Celestia," I stood and bowed, "I am honored that you would want to hear from me."

"The honor is all mine," She smiled warmly, "Just be sure to let me know if you need anything. I may be busy but I can send help. Or give advice if that is all that is needed."

"Again," I said, "thank you. I'm sure I'll use it soon."

"I must be on my way now. Important meeting in Canterlot," Celestia nodded in farewell, "Take care of yourselves."

As Celestia walked out I realized Twilight was wide-eyed and slack-jawed. Just staring at the book from across the table.

"You alright, Twilight?" I asked concerned.

"Do you know what this means?" She asked.

"That I can talk to Celestia whenever I want," I said, "Not like you don't have Spike for that."

"Not that," She said, "In fact..." She shot her own magic next to the book and a second appeared, this one had the same yin-yang but was surrounded by 5 stars rather than the solar rays. "I had the same idea, but just like Celestia, I expected the cover to simply show my own mark. This could be the very first case of a non-pony that actually has a designated cutie mark. Even if it's not on your flank. It's not, is it?" She looked down at the table as if to look through it.

"No," I said, "and I'm not showing."

"Geez, humans are so modest," she said, "anyway, magic like this doesn't lie, so if it says that's your mark, that's it. You have a cutie mark! The Crusaders need to know about this! And Pinkie! What theme do you want at your cutecenyera?"

"Whoa, easy there," I said, "Who said I want a cutecenyera?"

She giggled, "If you really saw Pinkie in that show you told me about. You should know better than to think you have a choice."

19- Look who showed up for supper.

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As eager as Twilight was to start planning my cutecenyera, I convinced her to let me think about it a while. I know I'm the kind of guy that can't stand gratitude, but a party in my name is just too much. I hadn't even celebrated a birthday in half a decade.

That being said, Twilight had a point. It was inevitable. So I was really just bracing for it.

I absentmindedly threw the journals on the back seat and put the key in the ignition. I didn't start it.

I was trying to decide what to do next. Twilight had given me a small bag of bits so I had money. I could see what I could find for supper. Then I remembered that I better stop at the farm for that.

I wasn't ready to head back yet, but I had no idea what I wanted to do. I mean, it's Equestria. I had limitless options, but as much as I wanted to check in on Rainbow or Fluttershy. They didn't know me yet. It would be weird just walking up on them.

"Hey buddy," came the sing-song tone of an otherwise familiar voice. I looked out the driver's door to see Sawdust. He seemed anxious.

"What's up?" I asked.

"The wheel of my cart broke, and I have to deliver this table set to a customer," he pointed to a broken wagon with a brand new dining set loaded on it just a short way behind me, "any chance I could get a ride to my shop and back so I can grab a new wheel?"

I only saw one reason not to, but maybe he could help. "That depends," I said, "can you get a hold of high proof alcohol?"

"You talking something that burns going down, or with a match?" he laughed, "Cause I can get it to about 90% pure."

"Hop on in," I said, "I need as strong as you can make it. It's not to drink. This thing runs on flammable liquid. I just need to know I'm not gonna run out."

"I'll start a batch tonight," he said, "we can work out the details later, for now, I assume you need a lot."

"Yea," I said, "as much as I can get."

"I'm on it," he assured me, "I'm sure I'll find a need for your help again, so we won't talk bits between friends, for now anyway."

"I appreciate that," I said, "I gotta say, I didn't expect you to distill alcohol."

"I'm not just a one trick pony you know," he seemed a little offended, "Slag and I also know how to use the things we make, and it so happens that we made a still a few years ago."

"Good to know," I said, "Well, we're here. Get what you need so we can get back."

"Wow," he said, "that was fast, I'll only be a moment."

He trotted into his shed and emerged moments later with a wagon wheel and a hammer. I had taken the trailer off so I helped him put them in the back of the jeep before heading back.

"One more thing I could use help with," Sawdust said taking the wheel out of the back, "could you slide this wheel on while I hold the cart up?"

"I think I could do that," I said.

He pulled the cart up a little with his hooves until he could climb under it.

What was left of the old wheel was being held on by a wooden peg. I just grabbed the hammer he brought and knocked it out, switched the wheels, and replaced it.

"That should do," I said, "Race ready now."

"I don't run races," Sawdust looked confused, "and I don't think any pony would with a cart strapped to them."

"It's just an expression," I laughed.

"Well I better get going," he said, "I'll have some alcohol ready as soon as I can. I need a little time to tinker with my rig to make sure I can do that much, but it won't be any trouble."

I looked at the gas gauge, I still had just under half a tank.

"That sounds great," I said, "catch you later."

"Yeah," Sawdust said, "later."

I figured I may as well head home and clean up before supper. I at least wanted out of the suit jacket, it was getting stuffy.

Arriving home I was shocked to see a griffin outside my door. I knew those bangs.

"Need something?" I asked. I had decided not to freak Gilda out by using her name.

"I have a delivery for..." she looked at a slip of paper she pulled off a box she was holding, "Jerry Blade, Celestia herself placed the order."

"Why would Celestia be having something delivered to me?" I thought out loud, I didn't expect the delivery griffin to know, but her being a griffin only added to the mystery. Especially since it wasn't Gabby.

"I guess she figured you were hungry," Gilda held the box open to reveal a chicken dinner, "don't worry. She already had me tell Granny you weren't coming."

"I didn't know griffins ate chicken," I said eyeing the food. It was still piping hot. I could tell by the steam. My mouth was watering.

"Well we do," she said, "In fact, I brought my own supper. Mind if I eat here? It's a long flight back and I'm starving."

"Sure, why not?" I opened the door and invited her in.
Gilda was a lot less shallow in person. Of course, I hadn't seen her after the events with Pinkie and Rainbow in Griffinstone. Turns out Gabby opened a business just helping griffins so Gilda took the open delivery position hoping to save enough bits because she still wanted to move closer to Ponyville. Now you could have Griffin Scones delivered to your door, anywhere in Equestria. Not to mention she teamed up with the local chef.

"So you deliver food all around Equestria?" I asked.

"Yeah," She said, "For now, until I have a down payment on a new place. Not many griffins live outside Griffinstone though, and ponies only ever order the scones. Vegetarians. Guess that's why Celestia ordered from me, she knew you weren't." It crossed my mind that I hadn't brought that up at lunch. How did she already know about me?

"I guess so," was all I could think to say. I decided to change the subject, "So you talk to Rainbow Dash lately?"

"Ok," Gilda narrowed her eyes and peered at me, "I was ready to accept that you heard about the old delivery griffin, but how did you know I'm friends with Dash?"

I was worried about what she was going to say, but I told her about the show anyway. Celestia never said not to tell ponies about it, so I figured it was safe.

"That's pretty cool," she said, "Except for the part that makes me look like a jerk. I'll admit it's not wrong, but not cool."

"For what it's worth," I said still picking at my chicken, "I kinda felt like Dash had set a lot of pranks, then directed you into them. So I never held the freak out against you, and after you helped Rainbow out of that pit. I kinda wanted to hang out, get to know the real you. Of course, I assumed at that time it could never happen."

She looked down, I think she was blushing under the fine white feathers on her face. Her beak twisted into a smile. I was amazed at how much like the show it was. I expected griffin beaks to be rigid like eagles on earth, but she had the full range of expressions. Some of this place was magic after all.

"Well. Am I as cool as you expected?" she finally asked in a sarcastic tone.

"Even cooler," I laughed.

"Good," she said, "cause if you want meat, your gonna have to go through me, and it's a long flight so I'm gonna want to hang out a bit."

"Won't hear me complaining," I laughed. I wasn't just saying that so she would bring more meat either. It turns out Gilda is one hell of a smart ass. I like that in a friend.

20- Just the start of another long day.

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I woke up around five in the morning. I was shocked at how fast my sleep schedule had shifted. I had been in Equestria for a week and I was already waking up at my old bedtime.

It had been a while since Gilda stopped by and I was getting tired of carrots and cupcakes. So I had sent a letter with Derpy the day before to order supper from Gilda. So I figured I better stop by the farm for breakfast. If I missed both meals that Apple Bloom was home for I was sure to hear about it.

I once again greeted my OC on my phones opening screen, as I do every morning. I now had a cutie mark for him. I thought a fire and ice yin-yang would look awesome on his black fur.

Too bad I'm no artist. I had to hire an artist at a convention to draw him the first time, and I just took a picture to get it on my phone.

I just used my imagination.

I pictured him flying with the Wonderbolts. Dark blue mane flowing behind him, beard billowing around his chin. I imagined him in an outfit similar to the one Commander Easy Glider would have worn according to the episode Testing Testing One, Two, Three, His cutie mark coming in view as he makes an extreme left turn.

I pulled myself out of my daydream remembering how important it was that I make it to breakfast.

Reaching the main house I knocked on the door.

"Why the hay you knockin'?" Granny Smith yelled, "Get yer rump in here and sit down. Breakfast is almost ready."

I laughed at my own stupidity as I walked in and greeted the Apples around the table. Apple Bloom was fidgeting so much I almost didn't notice Scootaloo next to her.

"You made it to breakfast!" Apple Bloom exclaimed.

"Yea," I said, "looks like I did." I took a seat between Big Mac and Applejack. Applejack immediately got up and got me a cup of coffee.

"Ah'm glad ya came too, Sugar Cube," Applejack said.

I was used to her calling me that by now, but I still didn't like it. I never let anyone call me by anything but my name back home. This exception was only for Applejack and Rarity. I respected them, that didn't mean I liked it.

"Why is that?" She was always glad to see me, but I had to ask.

"Twilight wanted me to let you know that she managed to get you an appointment with that DJ feller. It's at ten o'clock this mornin' though." She replied.

"Oh, sweet," I said, "I finally get to meet Vinyl."

My thoughts of the DJ were cut short as Granny Smith brought in a platter of pancakes, hash browns, and eggs.

"Dig in," she said.

"Oh, just a heads up since I know this time," I told Granny, "I'm having supper with a friend tonight."

"That's good to know," She said, "you know I worry when you don't show up."

One week in Equestria and I had an adopted pony grandmother. I decided not to complain.

"Are you gonna have any time before supper?" Apple Bloom asked anxiously, "The Crusaders and I were hoping to talk about your cutie mark."

"As long as we're done by six," I said, "I asked Gilda to bring supper around seven and I want to be there if she's early."

"No problem," Apple Bloom said excited, "We can meet at your place after school. We'll talk at the clubhouse, but we still gotta show you where that is."

"Sounds like a plan," I said, "I'll make sure I'm home."

I noticed Scootaloo was the only one not eating.

"Ya know, Scootaloo," I said, "If you don't eat, your wings will never get any stronger."

"Oh," Granny waved a hoof, "that filly's stubborn as a..."

Just as Granny was dismissing my effort. Scootaloo was grabbing a few pancakes and sticking a fork into them.

Granny just looked at me. Then she looked at the filly already halfway through her plate. Then back at me. Her eyes were about to pop out of her skull.

I just shrugged.

"So," Applejack chimed in, "any other plans for the day? Other than the Crusaders and dinner with your 'griffin' friend?" I detected a hint of jealousy.

"Well," I said, "I am getting tired of wearing the same two outfits, and Rarity said she would have some new clothes ready for me."

"Ah still don't get why you're so worried about it," Applejack said, "It's not like any of us normally wear clothes."

"You'd like it if I went around here naked wouldn't you?" I teased.

"Yea," she leaned in toward me, "ah would."

That was not the reaction I was going for, but I don't know why I expected any different. I could tell Applejack wanted a piece of me. I had come to learn that inter-species relationships were not unheard of in Equestria. They were, however, few and far between. Things have to line up. Not just figuratively either.

Even if I was ready to date again with my divorce still so fresh. It was gonna be a while before I could even entertain that idea, and if I'm being honest. I got over my country girl crush in high school.

"Anyway," I said, "I better go get those clothes. I'm hoping for a new outfit to wear when I meet Vinyl."

"You and Rarity aught to git along," Applejack grumbled.

I wasn't sure if she knew I was aware of her advances. So far I had managed to deflect them all. She was clearly getting frustrated. I cringed at the thought that I was actually going to have to address this eventually.

"Thanks for breakfast, Granny Smith," I said, "I'll see you at lunchtime."

"You know you can just call me Granny," She said, "Take care now."

I decided to stop at my place before going to town. I'm not really into fashion or fashionistas. So I wanted to adjust my attitude. Rarity was doing me a huge favor, the least I could do is keep calm and appreciative, and choke down my revulsion at the overuse of gemstones.
Arriving at the boutique I was greeted with a yawn.

"So sorry," Rarity covered her mouth and turned bright red, she was the only pony so far that I could clearly see blushing, "Thank you so much for coming. I was up all night putting the finishing touches on your new wardrobe, and I just can't wait to show it to you. I see the suit I sent for your lunch with Celestia fits just fine. I do hope they got it to you in time."

"It was just in time," I said, "Thank you for going through the trouble."

"Oh," she giggled into her hoof, "it was no trouble at all. I only wish I had more time for the trim work. Some rubies would really set it off."

"I'm not really into flashy outfits," I said.

"Yes," She said, "I did get that message, but, well... Just look at your new outfits and tell me its too flashy."

She rolled out a rack full of clothing. She was right, it wasn't too bad. For her anyway.

Two coats hung at one end of the rack, the first a darker blue with small black gems embroidered in the lapel, the other was black with red gems and embroidery, five pairs of pants hung in the middle each with embroidery down the legs, two pairs had fire streaked down the sides and two more had an ice-like pattern with snowflakes, the last had fire on the right and ice on the left, every pair had a pair of fire and ice yin-yangs on the back pockets. The five black button-up shirts were rather plain in comparison, but all had either flame or snowflake patterns on them, aside from the last one, it had a large fire and ice yin-yang on the back and the sides were colored with red on the right and blue on the left. It was flashy, but I could live with it. Maybe...

"I call it 'Jerry's Cutie Mark Couture'. Do you like it?" She clearly wanted approval but wasn't waiting for it, "I figured you could wear the blue coat with the fire design pants to meet Vinyl, She'll like that the coat matches her mane, and the black coat with the frost pants would look stunning at your cutecenyera."

"You really think of everything don't you?" I asked.

"Yes, yes I do," She said, "Which is why I know that you need to be at Vinyls place in twenty minutes."

"Shit!" I exclaimed, "I shouldn't have stopped at the house... Sorry. Can I change here?"

"Of course, right this way," She led me right past the perfectly good dressing rooms to a room in the back where she did the sewing, "go ahead, darling."

"Um," I said, "a little privacy, please."

She seemed to pout but didn't argue. If Applejack's chances were an ice cube in hell, Rarity's were a snowflake.

21- Cross dimensional freak out.

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Arriving at Vinyl's house right on time I knocked on the door and waited... and waited.

I tried a few more times, but still nothing. I was about to give up when none other than Octavia came walking up to the house.

"Oh, my," She said, "I think I would remember seeing you around. I'm Octavia, I'm guessing you're this 'Jerry' I've heard about." She spoke in an odd tone. It was like she wasn't sure what to think. I didn't really read into it. Warned or not, I wouldn't know what to think in the reverse situation.

"Nice to meet you," I said, "I am Jerry. I'm looking for Vinyl. I was told she was expecting me at ten."

"She's probably working on a song," Octavia said, "Come on in, I'll see if I can get her."

"Thank you," I said.

Octavia lead me into the living room and invited me to have a seat on either couch as she went into another room. I thought it fitting to sit on Vinyls side of the room.

A few moments later Octavia returned.

"She wants me to bring you down there," Octavia seemed apprehensive, "Keep in mind, I don't even go in her music room very often, so it's not the tidiest."

"I'm sure I can handle it," I laughed, "lead the way."

She took me down a flight of stairs to a room with padded walls. It was apparently soundproofing but it was made of fabric rather than the foam I had seen on earth. The room was filled with sound equipment and a glass wall sectioned off an area just large enough for a small band to play.

Something seemed off about it. For one thing, everything seemed to be built stronger than it had to be. I knew where I was going if Ponyville was bombed. It was all reinforced concrete and steel from what I could see between the padding. Also, I don't know a whole lot about recording, but everything looked outdated to me. It could just be that all the recording was done on vinyl, but it reminded me of scenes in old band movies.

A few empty plates and glasses were set around the room. It looked as though she hadn't left the room in a week. The smell of body odor lingering in the air seemed to back this up.

I finally caught sight of the dark blue mane. It was sticking out over the back of a chair.

"What is the name of the song you played?" a raspy female voice asked.

"What song?" I asked.

"The one you played the night you arrived," Vinyl spun around in her chair. She looked angry. "Twilight said it was about Octavia playing you a lullaby. What is that supposed to mean? Is that code for sleeping with my girl?"

I couldn't hold back a hysterical laugh. She was going psycho girlfriend on me because I keep a CD of fan music in my jeep, and it happened to play 'Octavia's Overture' while I was driving to the cabin with Twilight.

I knew now why Octavia was so apprehensive. I could tell by the way she left right away that she did not approve. That realization only made me laugh harder.

"What's so funny?" Vinyl was starting to get pissed, but also confused. She was clearly expecting a different kind of riot.

"Sorry, sorry," I caught my breath, "Didn't Twilight mention that you guys were a show on earth? Let me see if I can find something you'll like." I was going for Tropical Octav3. I figured I should start by lightening the mood. Then I could move on to Musicians Of Ponyville and ease her into the idea before showing her any of the ones about Octavia running off to Canterlot or her blowing Octavia off.

That was the plan, but the touchscreen intervened. As I was scrolling my thumb landed on a video in just the wrong way. Before I could react the phone started playing I Am Octavia.

Loud and clear my phone said, "Yea, this is Pon3."

Vinyl, who was barely calming down, dropped her jaw at this. "What was that? Play it!"

"You wouldn't like that one," I warned.

"I don't care," she growled through her teeth, "Play, it!"

"OK," I said, "but I didn't write this, and you may as well see the whole show." I set the phone on her switchboard so we could both see the screen and was just daring enough to sit in the empty chair next to her. I could tell she was intrigued by the screen but clearly wanted to see what I had to show.

By the end of the video, she was crying in her hooves.

"I tried to warn you," I said, "I would have rather started with a different video."

"Why would anyone make that," she turned and looked up at me.

"I like to think its because they like the dynamic of your relationship," I replied.

"But I would never blow Octi' off like that," She said, "never..."

"I don't know the words that will help," I said, "but I did bring a joint."

"I don't normally...." she looked down, "but I doubt even Octi' would blame me. We can't do it in here though."

"I think the living room should do just fine," Octavia revealed herself to be standing just inside the door, "mind if I join?"

"How long have you been standing there?" I asked.

"Long enough," she replied.
For once the discussion about the show focused on the fan artists. After all, the show was just an example of a TV program. I was here to discuss all the entertainment technology humans had.

She was just fascinated with my phone. So that's where we started. I showed her the videos and music I had, a lot of them anyway. I made sure to show her some non-pony earth music too. Vinyl seemed to like Kid Rock, Octavia was just fascinated with Lindsey Sterling. They both picked the same favorite tho, Metallica Sn'M. Vinyl did have to express disappointment that I don't listen to dubstep.

"I think I have enough to make a report for the princess," Vinyl said, "But I definitely want to talk more about this another time. I'm going to be playing at the club in Ponyville tonight. You should come."

"I'll think about it," I said, "what time?"

"Show starts at 9 and goes till midnight," she said, "Show up any time but be ready to party all night. Just tell the guard you came to be blasted away by the bass, he'll let you in."

"I won't have any trouble remembering that," I laughed.

She smiled and looked at me all pie-eyed. She could not handle her weed. "Make sure to bring a date, or one 'will' be provided for you." She winked. I started wondering if Gilda would join me, I certainly didn't care to have a date provided. At least Gilda would just be a friend.

"I'll think about it," I said, "I better get going, I'm already late for lunch."

"If it sweetens the pot I can make it two dates," Vinyl gave me a playful look, "I know some wild mares."

"NO! No dates," I said, "I'm still getting over a divorce and dating a pony is not OK where I come from. I'll come if I have time but don't try setting me up."

She seemed disappointed, "You may have to explain that to the mares at the club, but I respect that."

"Thank you," I said, relieved I didn't have to impose on Gilda.

"Before you go," she said, "mind if I scan that for my friend. He may be able to make them for ponies."

"I think we better clear that with the princesses first," I said, not sure how much of my world I cared to expose Equestria to.

"You're no fun," Vinyl pouted.

"He does have a point though," Octavia backed me up, "the princesses will at least want to know."

"I guess I can live with that," Vinyl kept pouting, "as long as you show up tonight." She looked at me with big pleading bloodshot eyes.

I just fake pouted before sighing, "Fine."

22- Crusaders and cutie marks.

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As expected I didn't get to the farm for lunch until around 2. Everypony was already back out in the field. Except for Granny. She was sitting in her rocker in front of the house.

"Bout time you showed up," she said, "Yer gonna have to deal with cold soup. Unless you wanna fire up your own stove. I'm headed out. There's my ride now."

A taxi wagon pulled up to the house.

"Where are you going so suddenly?" I asked.

"Golden Delicious needs help reorganizing the family records," she replied, "ah'll be gone a good week."

"Well I hope you have fun," I said.

"Oh, Ah'm sure ah'll have as much fun as a pig in fresh mud." She laughed, "I left a box of food on the table for you. So you don't get hungry while ah'm gone. Ah, better git. The cab driver looks like he's gettin' impatient. Hold yer horses, ah'm acomin'." She got up and climbed in the wagon and the driver galloped off. I just shook my head and went in.

The size of the box she packed for me made me consider going home for the Jeep. It was easily enough food for 2 weeks. I didn't know my grandmother at home, so I wondered if they were all so worried about food. I also wondered if she was packing enough that I could share with Scootaloo.

As I got a grip around the box and turned around I was startled by a figure in the door causing me to drop it.

"Sorry, Sugarcube," Applejack apologized, "Let me help you with that." Before I could react she scooped the box up and threw it on her back. "Ah tried to tell Granny this box was too awkward, but she said it was the only one big enough. Ah'll carry it ta yer place for ya."

I didn't know how to object, so I went with it.

The walk to my place was filled with awkward silence. I was relieved when she set the box in my kitchen and turned to leave. But then she looked me over.

"You sure do clean up nice," she commented.

"Thank you," I said, "It's a little, way too flashy for my taste, but It works."

"Yea," She said, "You look good in it." She slowly walked out. I considered finding a knife to cut the tension.

I drew a deep breath, wondering what I should say to her. A growl from my stomach put me back on track.

I sorted the contents of the box into my cupboards and fridge. It was mostly vegetables, but she had also included several containers of soup, a couple blocks of cheese, some crackers, and a loaf of bread.

I found a skillet and a small kettle and started the stove to warm the tomato soup I found and make a grilled cheese. I found it interesting that I had a refrigerator right next to a wood burning stove. The technology around here is truly something else.

It didn't even work on normal electricity. It was 'magic voltage'. Totally wireless. I could drag my fridge into the field and it would never shut off, but the stove takes a half hour to get the heat just right, and good luck keeping it that way. It was like grilling with pots and pans.

While I was waiting for the stove, there was a knock at the door.

I opened it to find Scootaloo by herself.

"What's up Scootaloo?" I asked.

"The other crusaders went home to shower before the meeting," She was looking at her front hooves and kinda kicking them around.

"And you..." I was cut off.

"CanIuseyourshower!?!" She blurted out and clenched her eyes shut.

She said that so fast I almost had to ask for clarification, but I figured it out.

"Of course," I said, "come on in."

She started walking in. She was moving slowly as if part of her was ashamed of what she was doing.

"I said you could use my shower, not all my time," I laughed so she knew I was joking, "Get in here."

She just looked up at me and smiled before speeding up to a trot and hugging my leg on the way by. I thought I was gonna die of cuteness.

"Towels are in the cupboard by the shower," I said, "I'll have some food ready by the time you get out."

"I didn't say I was hungry," she said, but I had already heard her stomach growl.

"I didn't think you would," I said, "so I offered."
The other Crusaders showed up around the time we finished eating. As expected, Scootaloo needed no further encouragement. I guess a pony might say it must have something to do with my special talent, but I can be persuasive, and I know when less is more. Once she saw that a bowl of soup and a sandwich were already waiting, she wasn't going to turn them down.

Apple Bloom led the way to the clubhouse, I was just a little shocked to find out it was the opposite direction from where Scootaloo had run the first day I met her. I wondered where she had gone. She had to be staying somewhere.

Once inside I noticed a banner on the back wall that read 'Welcome Jerry' and cookies and punch were set up below it.

"Surprise!" the Crusaders all shouted.

"We still wanna talk about your mark," Apple Bloom said, "But Ah thought it was about time the Crusaders officially welcomed you."

"And because you have proven your willingness to selflessly help others," Sweetie Belle said, "We decided to make you..."

They looked at each other. I could tell they were counting down, and I knew what they were going to say.

"AN HONORARY CUTIE MARK CRUSADER!!!! Yay!" they all shouted at once.

I didn't know what to say. I didn't expect this but I don't know why not. I did save one of the founding members.

"I'm honored," I went generic, "thank you."

"That's not all," Scootaloo said, "We had Slag make this for you, so you can put them on your jeep."

Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom presented a pair of metal emblems about a foot tall. They resembled the Crusader's marks but the center was my fire and ice yin-yang.

"Wow," now I was really impressed. I thought they were perfect, like the jeep now had a mark to match my own. "I love it."

"Ah'm glad," Apple Bloom said, "Ah couldn't think of how to thank you, but Sweetie suggested we make you a Crusader. The cutie mark going on your Jeep was Scootaloo's idea. We figured Rarity would have you covered."

"You can say that again," I was literally covered in my cutie mark, "Great idea Scootaloo." She just blushed. It was hardly noticeable, but she seemed to blush around me a lot. So I could tell.

"So," Apple Bloom said, "how does it feel to be the only non-pony with a real cutie mark?"

"I don't know," I said, "I'm not totally sure I call it real, It's not exactly on my flank."

"Do you know what it means?" Sweetie asked.

"Not really," I said, "I do think you're on the right track with helping people. I did work customer service on earth."

"It could mean you'll help in any weather," Sweetie Belle suggested.

"Or that you'll make sure ponies aren't too warm or cold," Apple Bloom chimed in.

"I think it means you stick by your friends no matter how extreme things get," Scootaloo offered.

"All good ideas," I said, "I'll have to think about it, but when I figure it out, you'll be the first to know."

"I'm sure it won't take too long," Sweetie Belle said, "and if you have any questions, you know where to turn."

"I sure do," I laughed.

23- A 20% cooler way to pass the time.

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I got home right at six, and Gilda was already waiting.

"I hope you don't mind I came early," She was clearly upset, "I had to get out of there, I brought the food."

"It's fine," I said opening the door for her, "you could have let yourself in for all I care."

"Really?" she sighed, "I waited out here for an hour."

"What happened that you wanted to see me so badly?" I asked.

"Grandpa Gruff just won't leave me alone about how he liked it better before we had friendship," She scoffed setting the food on the table and taking a seat on the couch. "He's the only one grumpy about it and he just has to have the hut next to me. I really can't wait to move, just a few hundred bits more and I can start placing bids."

"Well if you ever need to get away for a night I do have an extra room," I offered.

"How soon can I take advantage of that?" She asked pretty quick.

"Whenever," I said, "I am going to the club tonight, though. So I won't be here."

"Can I join you?" she asked eagerly, "I haven't been out for a drink in a long time."

"I would like that." I said, "Just one thing, Vinyl seems to think I'll be a mare magnet..."

"Don't worry," she sighed, "I won't intrude if you need privacy."

"I was actually hoping you would help let them know I'm not available," I sighed back, and gave her a half smile, "I'm recently divorced and wouldn't even be interested in a human. The whole not human thing is another problem."

"Don't worry," She said, "I have your back. Everypony will already assume it, so let's just tell them we're together. It's shorter to explain and leaves no wiggle room. They don't need to know we plan to sleep in different rooms."

"But wouldn't you want to find a date?" I asked.

Her eyes went wide, "You realize we aren't really talking about dating, we're talking about hooking up at a club. Have you seen a stallions package? It's like 2 feet long, and even if I find a male griffin, his member is covered in spines, forget using a condom. Do I look like I'm ready to be a mom? To top it off mare's aren't usually into griffins. So, whatever. I just want a drink." I could see where a date sounded unappealing to a female griffin.

"I guess you have a point then," I said, I didn't like the idea of lying, but it did seem easier than explaining why I wasn't interested in any mare in the club.

"It's good to have a friend that isn't looking," she smiled at me.

"So what do we do until then?" I looked at my watch, 7:15, "show doesn't even start until 9 and Vinyl said to be ready to party all night, so I'm not too keen on starting early."

"We could go hang out with Dash," Gilda suggested, "She told me she would be practicing her moves at the park all day."

"So why didn't you check on her while you waited for me?" I had to ask.

She covered her face, now I knew she was blushing. "I guess I didn't think of it."
As expected Rainbow Dash was at the park showing off to a group of colts and fillies. She saw Gilda flying up to her and flew directly into her friends embrace. Landing Gilda lead Dash over to me.

"So I finally get to meet the other local celebrity," Dash teased, "I didn't expect Gilda to introduce us. Honestly, when Twilight told me you saw us in a show, I thought you would just come to find me one of these days." I facepalmed remembering my thoughts outside Twilight's castle.

"I actually thought about it one day," I said, "but a friend needed help."

"I can respect that," she said, "gotta stand by your friends. I gotta say, that outfit is at least twenty percent cooler than the one Rarity had me help with." She winked at me. I was hoping I didn't have another admirer.

"Thank you," I said, "Ironically neither fire nor ice is my favorite element."

"So what is?" Dash gave me a sideways look, "if you don't mind me asking."

I totally set myself up, but that honest streak took over again. "Lightning," I said after a pause.

"Really?" now I knew I fucked up, she was looking me over, "So, what your saying is," she stuck her flank out revealing her cutie mark, "you see something you like."

"Back off, Dash," Gilda growled, "he's off limits."

"OH!" Dash's eyes went wide, "you mean... Sorry, Gilda. He's all your's. I see you're finally taking an interest in guys. How about we show him what we can do?"

"You're on!" Gilda said and Dash shot off. Gilda hung back and looked at me, "See what I mean, Isn't it nice having a friend who isn't looking?" She didn't wait for my answer before taking off.

I didn't like lying to a friend, but she never actually asked why I was off limits. So it was an allowed assumption. I could rationalize that. I would tell her the truth as soon as it mattered.

I got to see the Blue Angels once while on earth. I loved it. That's part of the reason my OC is a pegasus. That was the only show I had ever seen that compared to the display they put on. I could tell that they had been flying together their whole lives. Each knew exactly what the other was going to do.

I felt immensely jealous. I had dreamed of flying longer than 'Friendship Is Magic' has aired. Yet, I've never even been on an airplane. Too late now.

They stopped and were talking in mid-air. Dash seemed to be suggesting something that Gilda didn't like the sound of. Gilda seemed to give a shrug then pointed in Dash's face before flying down to me as Dash flew down in another direction toward a group of ponies.

"Do you trust me?" Gilda asked.

"I guess so..." I was skeptical.

"Are you afraid of heights?" She asked.

"No," I wasn't sure I liked where this was going but she didn't give me time to think before grabbing me from behind, wrapping her legs around mine for extra grip.

We lifted off the ground and met Rainbow about 30 feet in the air.

"OK," Dash said, "At least six pegasi and two unicorns will be watching in case things go wrong. Which they won't. Now. Are you ready to have a front row seat for a sonic rainboom?"

Now I was scared shitless, but I still wasn't given any time to think about it.

We flew straight up into the clouds and stopped before plummeting headfirst back to the ground.

As we were falling Gilda loosened her grip allowing me to look forward and see Rainbow gaining speed. I was still terrified, but I knew Gilda had me so I just enjoyed the rush of the wind.

Without warning, Gilda wrapped herself around me again and pulled back a little giving me a bird's eye view as Rainbow Dash pulled up performing her signature move. Streaking through the sky she spelled out 'Welcome to Ponyville' before landing.

Gilda did a few loops on her way down but kept it calm carrying me.

I didn't think my smile was ever going to fade. I got to fly with my two favorite flyers in all Equestria.

I don't think I would want to do it again though.

24- A night I'm sure I wont forget. If I ever remember it.

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We didn't get to the club until eleven. Partially due to neither of us being sure where it was. It wasn't exactly on the Cutie Mark Crusaders tour. They may be older than they look on the show, but they were still only about 14.

Two guards stood at the door. When given the chance to talk to one I told him I came to be blasted away by the bass as Vinyl instructed.

"You've been expected for a while," said the guard to the left of the door.

"Follow me," Said the guard to the right, "She's going to want to see you right away."

He led me directly through the crowd of ponies at the club. Sure enough, the mares swarmed, but Gilda jumped in front of me and growled at them. They immediately backed off. Guess ponies aren't about to challenge a griffin.

Reaching the back we approached a door with a star on it. The guard knocked out a beat and a slot opened momentarily before the door itself swung open.

"You made it," Vinyl pushed past the guard that opened the door and hugged me. I heard Gilda start growling.

"It's OK, Gilda," I said, "this one knows, and she's taken anyway." I hugged Vinyl back noticing she reeked of vodka. Not like I didn't expect that though.

"So who's your friend?" Vinyl slurred a bit, "I thought you didn't want a date."

"It's complicated," I said deciding not to reveal the ruse right in front of the gathering audience, "but I brought one after all."

"The more the merrier," Vinyl said, "Just stick with me. Let's start by getting you a drink. This is the V.I.P. lounge so the bar is open. Order whatever you want."

I don't really drink, but when in Rome, do as the Romans do. I followed Vinyl to the bar.

"I'd like a whiskey sour," Gilda and I said in unison once we had the bartenders attention.

We just looked at each other and both blushed. It got worse when we realized Vinyl had heard and was now hysterically laughing.

"It's too precious," Vinyl slurred, she'd clearly had more than a few, "This morning your not ready to date and now you found somepony you click with. It's beautiful."

"Will you just shut your mouth?" I asked.

"OK," She said, "If it's a touchy subject. I have a couple ponies for you to meet anyway."

Once our drinks were up Vinyl led us to a booth in the back right corner with a large round table. Octavia and two unicorns were already seated. I Recognized one as Neon Lights from a couple fan videos. The other was an older unicorn mare with a white coat, a black 'fro, and a disco ball cutie mark.

"You already know Octavia," Vinyl began the introductions, "and I know you've seen Neon before, at least a human artists version. This is the guest of honor, my mother, Disco Groove. We're celebrating her birthday. That's why Pinkie took over the music. So I could have a few drinks with her."

"Happy birthday," I said, "I didn't know or I would have brought a card."

"That's no biggie, Sugar," the pet name rubbed me the wrong way, but it was her birthday so I let it slide, "You showed up. Long as you're ready to boogie down on the dance floor, that's good enough."

I hadn't even considered the idea that I may be expected to dance. That idea terrified me even more than going flying with Rainbow and Gilda again. It must have shown on my face.

"Is something wrong?" Octavia asked.

"I don't dance," once again Gilda and I found ourselves speaking in unison. We just looked at each other and facepalm/talon-ed.

"Aren't they a cute couple?" Vinyl slurred.

"OK," I said, "Now that we aren't in a crowd. We are not really together. We're both single and aim to keep it that way."

"You sure about that?" Vinyl asked, "I know how to read vibes and your digging on each other."

"Yea," Gilda piped in, "Because we're friends."

"That may be," Disco laughed, "but you both got the same jive looks on your faces."

I realized we were both leaning in on the table so I leaned back in my chair. The whole table laughed.

I looked over to see that Gilda and I had both leaned back and crossed both our arms and legs, and now we were looking at each other with the same defeated expression.

I just drained my glass, "Oh, look. I need another drink."

As I got up to get it I heard Gilda say, "Fuck it, me too."

Gilda caught up to me before I reached the bar.

"Hold up," she sighed, "do you think we should talk about this?"

"Not right now," I replied, "I know that much."

"Fair enough," Gilda chuckled, "Let's just get those drinks. I don't normally drink much, but as long as its free, let's get wasted."

"For once we agree," I joked.
I woke up with a splitting headache. I didn't remember anything after going back to the table. Except Disco's voice saying 'Don't be a jive turkey'. I wish I remembered the context.

I was in bed, so I made it home. One thing bothered me. I was naked.

I always sleep in my boxers, I don't like being totally naked. I was further troubled when I noticed my clothes folded nicely by the bed. I'm not that neat when I'm sober. Somepony saw me naked. I had a feeling it was some griffin, but Gilda was drinking too. At any rate, I was embarrassed.

I figured I better just get dressed and find breakfast.

Just as I was moving my belt and keys to the clean pants I caught a smell filling the cabin. An amazing smell. Like God himself was blessing my nostrils with the most divine aroma in existence. It was a smell I never thought I would experience again.

Opening my bedroom door I saw Gilda in the kitchen. She was in front of the stove. Getting closer I discovered the source of the heavenly scent. She was frying bacon!

"Oh, you're awake," she said, "I thought I'd have to bring this to you in bed."

She had already made me a plate with eggs and toast.

"Wow," I said, "I didn't expect this."

"Well," she sighed, "I was going to find somewhere to camp out. So I had extra food along. I thought I would share it to say thank you for letting me stay here."

"Did you put me in bed?" I asked blushing.

She started blushing herself, I was quickly figuring out how to tell. Her feathers may cover the color, but she always covered her face anyway. I never thought I'd consider Gilda cute until I noticed that. It was adorable.

"Well, I had to do something after carrying you home," She said, "and you were going to mess up your clothes if you slept in them. Don't worry, you have nothing to be embarrassed about."

"How drunk did we get?" I asked, deciding to steer the subject away from what I was indeed embarrassed about. My ex may have claimed I was hung like a horse, but that's just an expression.

"You got totally wasted," she snickered, "I only made you think I was drinking. I actually stopped after that second one."

"Why would you make me think you were drinking?" I asked rubbing my temples.

"Because you needed to let loose," Gilda said, "and if you're really that much like me, you wouldn't drink unless a friend was doing it with you."

"By that logic," I groaned as I released my head to eat, "you're like me, and needed to let loose too."

"Yea," she said, "you may have a point, but if we're comparing troubles. I'm not divorced, I'm not the only one of my kind, and I could start flying and be where I grew up, and unfortunately still live, in a couple of hours. I just don't want to be there at the moment, which you helped with. So I helped back."

I just grumbled, "That sounds like something I would say."

"Yea," she said, "you gonna grumble about it or are you gonna eat so I can give you a headache diminishing potion Apple Bloom made for you."

"So now the filly knows I got drunk," I said, "how embarrassing."

"You don't think ponies line up for Apple family cider just because it tastes good? Do you?" she laughed, "She's no stranger to ponies getting drunk."

"Yea, yea, yea," I finished my food and downed the drink Gilda had set in front of me. Within moments I felt like new.

"By the way," She said, "I hope you don't mind I answered the door for you. Twilight needs you at her castle whenever you have time today, and that little orange filly Dash hangs out with stopped by, but she ran off when I told her you were asleep."

"Anything else I should know?" I asked.

"Yea," She said, "Disco insisted I give this to you when you wake up." She handed me a metal briefcase.

I opened it and on top was a note.
Hey Sugar,

You sure got your groove on last night. Best birthday since disco was in style.

Our family has been holding on to this for you for a long time.

You take care now.

Love, Disco Grove

P.S. That Griffin seems to really dig on you. Don't let her boogie away.
As if the note wasn't weird enough, the only thing in the case was a pile of blueprints. Most seemed to be wiring diagrams for sound systems. All were on ancient-looking paper. They all would have been top of the line in the 70s.

One blueprint stood out due to a total lack of writing on it. All of the other blueprints were explained in detail within the margins. To me, this one looked like a bomb shelter of some kind, but a lot was left open to interpretation.

I could hardly begin to imagine where Vinyl's family got such a collection. Or why they would be holding it for me. I couldn't help but notice one detail though.

One way to interpret the last blueprint was an underground recording studio. When you put them all together, you got Vinyl's music room.

25- Being called to the teachers office.

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I checked the time. I only had one thing I wanted to do before seeing Twilight. It was 11. I had time.

I went to the kitchen and found a small paper bag. I made a cheese, lettuce and tomato sandwich and wrapped it up to put in the bag with an orange. Gilda just kinda looked at me funny.

"I want to be at the school house by noon," I said, "I gotta get going."

"Oh," Gilda said, "I was hoping we could hang out a bit longer."

"My Jeep has a passenger seat," I pointed out, "You're welcome to tag along. I don't think Twilight would even mind."

"Alright," she said, "but if it goes on too long I bail. I paid Gabby to cover my deliveries today and I want to make the most of it."

"Whatever you wanna do," I said, "I'm heading out, but before I forget. You may want this if you ever show up early when I locked the door." I reached in my junk drawer and grabbed a spare key I'd had Slag make. I held it up for her to see.

"Really?" she asked.

"No," I joked, "I just wanted to show you how shiny it is." I threw her the key and she caught it, "Why not? Now I gotta go."

"Nobody has ever trusted me this much before," she eyed the key, "thank you." I don't think I ever heard her so sincere.
I wasn't surprised when Gilda followed me to the jeep. I didn't even have to explain the door handle. She just reached out and opened the door without taking her eyes off the key.

I got to the school just as the colts and fillies were going outside for lunch. I immediately spotted the Crusaders in a corner of the yard. They saw my Jeep and came running. They seemed to slow down when they noticed I wasn't alone, but they didn't stop.

"Jerry!" they all said at once.

"What are you doing here?" Sweetie asked, "You've never visited us at school before."

"I just thought I'd drop by on my way to see Twilight," I answered. "How is school going?"

"Alright," Apple Bloom said, "We had a surprise test, but I'm pretty sure I aced it."

"Me too," Sweetie chimed in. Scootaloo just looked depressed.

"I'm sure you all did fine," I said.

"By the way," Scootaloo said, "You should really stop and see Pinkie. The last time we were at Sugarcube Corner, she was hiding in the back ranting something about the biggest party of her life and she isn't allowed to plan it yet."

"Is that what you stopped by to tell me this morning?" I asked.

"Actually," Scootaloo looked at her front hooves, "I was hoping you would walk with me to school. Apple Bloom is staying with Sweetie while Granny is gone and I didn't want to walk alone."

"Have you eaten yet today?" I asked.

She looked at the ground again. "I had an apple," she said.

"I thought that would be the case," I said, "Better take this before recess is over." I handed her the bag I packed at the house. She slowly leaned in and grabbed it with her teeth, then ran behind a tree.

All four of us still by the jeep just looked at each other.

"Hello," a voice that I still only knew from the show came from the direction of the schoolhouse, "You must be Jerry, I'm Cheerilee. Is there any chance I could talk to you in private."

I was confused but felt obliged to go along. She was the town teacher, she must have a reason.

"You mind?" I asked Gilda.

"You'll know by the time you come back out," she said, flapping her wings, "not like I'm stuck with you."

"You have a point," I said, "see ya when I see ya then."

I followed Cheerilee into the schoolhouse. Rather than sitting behind her desk she pushed a stack of papers to the end and moved her chair to sit next to it.

"Would you mind grabbing the chair from next to the door?" she asked, "I have a feeling you would have an easier time moving it."

"You're not wrong," I said hooking my fingers in the backrest of a wooden chair on my way in, "So what do you want to talk to me about?"

"It's Scootaloo," Cheerilee said, "she got a C+ on the pop-quiz today."

"So you're saying her grades are slipping since she met me?" I asked confused.

"No, I'm not saying that at all," her eyes were wide, "She failed the last few tests, I was starting to fear I'd have to flunk her altogether, but in just this last week she has been paying more attention in class, and she actually did the last assignment. It was a solo project, I can only ever count on her when her friends are helping."

"I see," I didn't know what to say.

Cheerilee took a deep breath, "I don't know how you're doing it, but you've been pulling that filly out of a year-long depression."

"So what happened a year ago?" I asked, "If you don't mind me asking."

Cheerilee looked down, I think she was blushing, "She had her first heat."

"And?" I asked.

"Well, when a filly or colt hit puberty, they are considered old enough to live on their own." She said, "Most stay with their parents until they graduate and find a job, but..."

"Scootaloo doesn't have any parents," I finished for her, "So who took care of her until then?"

"I'd rather not say," She said, "Just know she was welcome to stay with them, it was Scootaloo's choice to move out. She wasn't treated badly. She just said she wanted to be independent, but it hasn't done her any good. Now she's on her own and either too depressed or stubborn to accept any more help than she needs to survive. The only ponies that can reason with her are her friends, but now you..."

"How can you be so sure I'm what's doing it?" I asked.

"She doodles," Cheerilee pointed to the papers on her desk, "take a look. These are just the ones she threw away before leaving."

I picked the stack up, they were all creased and a couple had clearly been crumpled. They all had three doodles on them. One of a wing, one of a checkered flag, and the third...

"Shes been doodling my cutie mark?" I asked.

"Right next to those of her parents," Cheerilee pointed out, "She hasn't even done that with Rainbow Dash's cutie mark."

"So," I was a little confused, not only by Scootaloo being 10 times the artist I could even dream to be, "These are her parent's cutie marks?"

"Yea," Cheerilee confirmed, "They were both flyers. They even tried out for the Wonderbolts. That's where they met."

"But Scootaloo can't even fly," I said.

Cheerilee let out a sigh, "Her wings were crippled in the accident."

"The one that took her parents?" I asked, but just then the children started filing in.

Cheerilee just nodded before saying, "Thank you so much for your time Jerry, let me walk you out. Class, I will be back to start math in just a moment. Please go over lesson forty-two while you wait." I set the papers on the desk, but she rolled them up and grabbed them herself."

Once outside she gestured for me to take the papers from her.

"You should take those," she said, "I'm not going to lie to Scootaloo about talking to you, I just didn't want to announce it to the class. I don't know what you're doing, I just wanted to say keep it up. I better get the class started. Have a nice day."

"Yea," I said, "later."

I looked to the Jeep and I have to admit my heart sank a little when I noticed Gilda was no longer next to it. She must have gotten bored and flown off. I wondered when I would see her again. For a gruff grumbling griffin, she was really growing on me.

I shook myself out of my thoughts. Maybe I would just go see Sawdust after Twilight. I liked how down to earth he was. Could be an earth pony thing, but that would make Pinkie Pie hard to explain. She was out on Pluto.

At any rate, I needed to talk to a friend. Cheerilee just dropped a bombshell and my ADD rattled brain was going crazy.

I can't say I wasn't hoping to be a mentor to the filly, but I never expected her to become attached so fast. Nor did I expect to be put on the same page as her parents. Literally.

The thoughts filled my head. Everywhere from greeting her after school, to what Rainbow would have to say about it. Both good and bad, every angle played in my head at once.

I really wanted to get high, but I knew this thought had to run its course.

26- Making plans.

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I made my way to Twilight's castle. I was wondering what she wanted to see me about, but she was my boss now. So I was sure it had to do with the expedition she was sending me on.

Just as I raised my hand to knock on the castle door I heard a thud behind me. I turned around to investigate and found Gilda standing up from a landing.

"What's up dweeb?" she asked.

"Not much jerk," I wasn't surprised by the greeting, tho it was the first time she used it on me. I was however surprised by the smell I caught on the breeze. "Have you been drinking?"

"It's my first day off in a while," she got defensive, "Sue me."
"I asked you to come here because it's time to start looking for your assistant," Twilight started, Gilda had just sat next to me and not a word was said about it, "I wanted your input through the entire process."

"Sounds good to me," I said, "where do we start?"

"First we decide on the qualifications," Twilight said, "We don't want everypony applying. We want to be as specific as possible, so we don't have too many applicants to sort through."

"OK," I said, "Where do we start with that?"

"Well first off," she said, "You are going to be the lead researcher, so I'd actually rather go with a pony that's more of a rookie, so they don't try stepping on your hooves, er you know what I mean."

"So either a basic education or fresh out of college?" I asked.

She seemed to think about this, "I don't think there is a school that teaches this kind of thing. Maybe an archaeologist, but this door is something never seen before, and most ponies with advanced degrees are highly specialized. We want a pony more like Slag or Sawdust, somepony adaptable. I was thinking a pegasus, but they have to be fast."

"Why a fast pegasus?" I asked.

"The point of the assistant is really just so you aren't alone. You are going to be looking out for each other, and it's in timberwolf territory," She explained, "We know you can get them to town if they get hurt, but they won't be able to drive your Jeep if you get hurt. At least they could fly for help."

"OK," I said, "makes sense."

"So the flyer should say," Twilight motioned with her hoof as if reading the wall, "Pegasus needed for a research assistant on a one-week assignment in timberwolf territory. Must have a diverse skill set and a willingness to follow directions. Basic education preferred. Pay is five-hundred bits plus provisions while on the job. With a one hundred bit bonus for every day after a week should the trip run long."

"Wait," Gilda seemed to be pulled from a stupor, "What about a griffin?"

Twilight looked over to Gilda. "I didn't think a griffin would be interested. Do you have a friend that you think would like to apply?"

"Yea," she said, "me."

"What are your qualifications?" Twilight asked.

"Well, I can keep up with Rainbow Dash, I already know I can carry him," I was a little embarrassed that she had to mention that, "and I'm not ready to go around telling anyone, but flying isn't my real calling, it just helps."

"So what is your calling?" Twilight asked clearly skeptical.

"First aid," She said, "I know the basics, I've been studying to be a trackside paramedic."

"So what do you say, Jerry?" Twilight asked, "It's up to you."

"I don't know," I gave Gilda my best skeptical look, it was hard not to crack a grin, "a week with her would be an ordeal."

"Yea," she crossed her arms, "and being with you is a real walk in the park."

"See," I said, "that's what I'm talking about."

"Jerry," she actually sounded a little upset, "if you don't do this for me so help me I will tell everypony that you’re looking for a ride. If you know what I mean."

She knew just how to get me. "She's perfect," I let the smile show. She was actually kinda cute when she got upset.
I decided to go ahead and visit Sawdust. I needed to see a guy friend. That being said, Gilda was still inclined to tag along, and I didn't argue.

Being business hours I knew he would be at the shop with Slag. The shop was a giant building at the edge of Ponyville that was sided half in wood and half in aluminum. An office was set up in the back for Sawdust to meet with the customers.

I asked him once why his office wasn't in the front. He just said, 'I like the customer to see what they can expect before hiring us. How better than to make them walk right down the middle of the shop?'

Slag heard me pull up front and opened the large shop door.

"Jerry! Just the guy I wanted to see," Slag said. He always said that.

He had been trying to get me to call him my best friend since I teased him that first night, and I must admit I was having fun with it. He was taking it so well I was starting to think of the brothers as both my best friends.

"What's up?" I asked.

"I have my engine all but put together, but I can't figure out how to make the lubricant. Do you have any extra?" he asked.

"You mean the oil? I have a spare quart, but you need more than that," I said.

"Oil?" he asked, "that's what that stuff is called? What do you want for that? I could work on formulating more if I had a sample."

"Well," I said, "it does need to be changed periodically, so if you manage to make more just share with me."

"Well, duh, like I'm not gonna share," Slag was clearly excited to hear that I had what he needed, "Gimme gimme gimme."

"What do you say?" I asked.

"Please," he pleaded.

I reached in the back of the jeep and grabbed the quart. "See, my 'best' friend would know better than that," I held it out for him to take in his magic, "But that's good enough."

He just huffed as he took it and trotted back in the shop.

I walked in after him and could hear Sawdust talking in the office. I walked up but stopped at the door when I heard the other pony. It was Pinkie Pie.

"Yea," She said, "I know its the fifth time this week, I don't know why I keep breaking things. I just need one more thing fixed on credit. You know I'm good for it, and I have a huge party coming up."

"Fine," Sawdust said, "but this isn't a charity. I expect to start seeing bits soon."

"Oh, thank you," Pinkie said, "You won't regret it. Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye."

I went ahead and knocked knowing Pinkie hadn't left. It was time I talk to her.

"Come on in," Sawdust hollered.

I was surprised when Pinkie saw me and walked out.

"What was that about?" I asked.

"She's been breaking things since news spread about your cutie mark," Sawdust sighed and rubbed his temples.

"Probably because I asked her to hold off on my cutecenyera," I said, "I hear she literally can't wait."

"Really?" he said, "This is your doing! You better go talk to her."

"I really don't want to," I said.

"Just do it!" Sawdust was looking at me like I offended his mother.

"OK," I sighed, "but, what do you say?"

"Now!" now that's my best friend.
Sugarcube Corner was buzzing when we arrived. Mr. and Mrs. cake were running like crazy to keep up. I couldn't see Pinkie anywhere.

Gilda immediately approached the Cakes. "Need help?" she asked, "I can take orders and clear tables if I can keep the tips."

"You have a deal," Mr. Cake said and he got her an apron and notepad.

I just slipped in the back where I had a feeling I would find Pinkie. Reaching what I knew to be her room, I called out her name. I was beginning to think she wasn't home when I was grabbed from behind and pulled down the slide into the party planning cave.

I found myself thrown into a chair before the party pony sat in front of me. I was scared. Her hair was straight. All I could think was 'cupcakes'.

"Are you ready to plan this party or what?" she demanded.

"Let's just get this over with," I surrendered.

"OOOOKay," she jumped in her chair and her hair bounced to its natural curl, "I was thinking a tropical island theme with ice sculptures. To highlight the extremes of your cutie mark. We could have palm trees... wait for it... MADE OUT OF ICE!!!"

"I don't know," I said, "Doesn't sound like me."

"Well you have been avoiding me," she pointed out, "So you tell me what you like."

"Not parties," I answered honestly. Big mistake.

-GASP-"You don't like parties? How can anypony not like parties?" she was freaking out.

"I'm not a pony," I said, "and I don't like when people make a big deal out of me."

"But... We're not people, we're ponies," I thought I broke her, her words seemed to struggle their way out until she burst and spewed the rest out, "and you ARE kinda a big deal. You can't just be a crazy non-magic, two-legged, cutie mark having, hero in Equestria and not have a party thrown for you. That's just not fair. Don't you think WE have an opinion about that? Have you ever considered that we may WANT to throw a party for you? It's what ponies do! You talk like having a party is a problem, but the problem is that it hasn't happened yet. Are you really that SELFISH?!" She was furious.

"I'm sorry, I hadn't thought of it that way," I said feeling a little humbled, "I guess whatever you want to do is fine."

She took a deep breath, "It's OK," she said, "you aren't from here, but I can't just throw a party without knowing about you. Have you made a pony friend that may know you well enough?"

I really didn't want to throw him under the bus, but I had no idea what else to say, "Sawdust Woodsmith seems to get me."

"OK," Pinkie Pie said, "I'll go talk to him, not like he isn't used to seeing me. Do you know if he's single? Never mind. I'll get back to you when we're ready to talk invitations. Do you have any questions for me?"

"Just one," I said.

"What's that?" she leaned in awaiting my question.

"How do I get out of here?" I asked.

She giggled, "Like this." I blinked and I was in her room again.

"What the fuck just happened?" I asked.

"We cut to the next scene, Silly," she laughed, "See you later, I have a woodsmith to talk to."

There is no way being 'down to earth' is an earth pony thing.
It was late at night when Gilda and I finally got back to the cabin. Gilda followed me halfway to the door but stopped me there.

"Well," Gilda said, "I have to go back now. if that job is in two weeks, I have just enough time to put my notice in. I'll see you the next time you order food since I'm sure that will only be a couple days."

"You sure I can't talk you into smoking a bowl?" I asked not wanting her to leave so abruptly.

"Tempting," she said, "but flying kinda kills the buzz. I'll see you later."

"Yea," I said, "later."

That was when Gilda really shocked me. I was about to turn to go into the house expecting her to just take off as usual.

Instead, she walked up to me, stood on her back legs, and gave me a hug. I hugged her back and she seemed to nuzzle my cheek before putting her beak by my ear and whispering, "Thank you for everything. I've never had such a loyal friend. Considering who my best friend is, that's saying something. I can't wait to see you again, but I better beat this storm home." In what felt like an instant she pulled away and flew out of sight above the dark clouds as the rain began to fall.

One nice thing about rain. Nobody notices when you're crying. You can even convince yourself rain just fell in your eye. After all. Grown men don't cry over being alone. Right?

At that moment, I felt more alone than I ever had before. I really didn't feel like doing anything. So I went to bed and the rain, both outside and on my pillow, lulled me to sleep.

27- Stormy weather.

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I woke up to a frantic pound at the door. It was about 7 in the morning, I wondered what could be so urgent. I got dressed in a hurry and hollered "come in."

Big Macintosh came flying through my living room, he took just a moment to catch his breath before saying, "Ah need your help, Scootaloo was sleeping in a cave and the storm knocked a huge tree in front of it. She's stuck."

"Let's go," I said not wanting to waste time.

I didn't want to bring the whole trailer so I just folded the back seat down, grabbed the chainsaw, logging hook, and chain and threw them in the back of the Jeep.

"Hop in," I said then remembered earth ponies had trouble with the handle so I opened the door for him.

He looked skeptical but squeezed in. He fit well enough, but he was hitting his head on the metal roof.

He pointed me in the direction of a trail going into the woods just past a field. It was intended for a cart, but the Jeep fit well enough.

We got to a small clearing and Big Mac pointed out a fallen tree. The trunk was easily four feet wide. Twisted and mangled roots stuck out the base, and withered broken branches were scattered about. "I heard her yelling from behind there," he said, "we were gonna cut that tree down anyway, but to avoid this."

I backed up to the tree at a point in the trunk I knew I could cut through with the chainsaw-it clearly wasn't the loggers main saw being it only had a 2' bar. I could hear Scootaloo yelling, but I couldn't understand her.

"We're going to get you out!" I yelled, "but first its gonna get loud. You may wanna cover your ears!" I turned to Big Mac as I got the chainsaw out, "you too." He just looked at me funny until I fired the saw up.

Don't know how lucky I would call it, but it did have a gallon of pre-mixed gas with it. I didn't have a sample of 2 cycle oil and wasn't sure if alcohol would fuel it, so that was it, once it was gone, it was gone. That didn't matter now. I had more than enough in the tank for this and could clear a decent patch of trees before running out in the can.

I cut as much of the branches away as I could with Big Mac trying to keep up with an ax, but the cave was small and the thick part of the trunk was in front of it. I couldn't cut through it without reaching the other side. Or spending hours trying to carve a hole in it with a saw that only had a couple hours worth of gas available to run it. So I just wrapped the chain around the end of the tree and hooked it to the Jeep. Big Mac just stood there, uncertain what to do.

"Just watch," I said, "and tell me if the chain starts slipping off. Stay back tho. Things could let loose suddenly."

He stepped back as I pulled the chain taught. I had to shift into the lowest gears and it was still more than the jeep was meant to handle. I felt the wheels dig in. I wasn't moving.

"Hold on!" Big Mac shouted.

I let off the gas as he walked to the front of the jeep and hooked a rope to the tow hooks. The other end was already on his yoke. He pulled his own rope tight and I started trying again with Big Macintosh adding his own horsepower.

It was just enough. The jeep inched forward little by little. We went a good ten feet when we heard Scootaloo shouting.

I got out and turned to the cave entrance. Only to be attacked by an orange and purple blur. I fell right on my ass, with her landing on my lap. She didn't fit, I didn't care.

"You alright kid?" I asked.

"I am now," Scootaloo buried her face in my shoulder, "thank you."

"No problem," I said, "Let's get you a shower."

"Can I grab my stuff?" She asked, "I'm gonna wanna move to a new spot."

"Of course," I laughed, "Gotta get off me first."

"OK," She laughed and stood up.

I got up and looked in the cave, she had clearly been living there a couple weeks at least. Next to her scooter was a tattered blanket on a pile of leaves, a saddle bag, and a pile of apple cores. A Rainbow Dash poster was taped to the rock wall.

The rain had washed a layer of mud in that was almost up to the rock she was keeping her bag on. She must have been terrified.

I couldn't let her live like that, but I didn't know how to bring it up. I decided to try a roundabout approach. I just had to hope she played along.

"You should bring that stuff to your bedroom," I said.

"I don't have a bedroom," She looked at the ground. I had a hook.

"Then you should probably use my spare one," I said, as if it were obvious, "I hate that all that space is being wasted. I mean, It's been used once since I moved in." I was doing my best to sound annoyed. Like her moving in would be fixing a problem that was really bothering me.

"I... I... I..." she didn't know what to say.

"You... You... You, don't actually want to argue with me do you?" I asked, "you just want to take care of yourself. I respect that. I'm just offering a place to stay and some food. I'd think somepony trying to actually 'take care' of themselves would take the best food and shelter they can find."

"But..." she just looked at me.

"You don't have to decide now," I said, "but I am gonna insist you shower before moving on. You're filthy."

"OK," She seemed to choke back a tear, "I guess I can’t argue with that much."

"If it's all the same to you," Big Mac said, "Ah know muh own way back."
When we got to the cabin Scootaloo started walking to the spare room, but turned and set her bag behind the chair as if that's where she was going all along. She went directly to the bathroom from there.

I dug out my lighter. First lighting the stove to make breakfast, then lighting a bowl. I was pretty sure on my thoughts at this point so I wanted to clear my mind for any conversation to come.

Scootaloo seemed to be thinking as well. I had already made a full breakfast including hash browns, eggs, pancakes, and toast and she was still in there. Considering the warm-up time on a wood stove, that's one long shower.

I was just diving into my own breakfast when there was a knock at the door. I was starving so I just hollered, "Come on in!" and kept eating. I expected Applejack checking on me after the storm. She never missed an excuse.

In a streak of blue Rainbow Dash came flying into the cabin.

"Is Scootaloo OK?" she asked as she nearly knocked my chair over, "Big Mac told me what happened."

"She's fine," I said, "she has been in the shower for over an hour though. I don't think the hot water lasts that long."

"You haven't checked on her?" Rainbow asked.

"She's a teen girl in the shower," I said expecting this to be acceptable reasoning.

"Sooooo?" Rainbow asked. She gave me a narrow-eyed look. Like I wasn't making any sense.

"So I'm not gonna bother her while she's naked," I automatically responded.

"You realize she's always naked don't you?" Rainbow asked, "Ponies don't normally wear clothes. I'm naked right now. Does that bother you?"

"Now that you mention it," I thought about it, "it kinda does. I mean, you are ponies, but your not animals. That's a contradiction where I come from. On earth, it's animals and humans, and humans don't go around with their genitals hanging out."

"But this isn't earth," Rainbow reminded me, "and we aren't humans. So get over it, and don't think for a moment I didn't see you looking when I landed the other day. Or that you can't seem to keep your eyes off Gilda," She had a point, and not just that I didn't mind as much as I told myself I did.

"I guess I'm also at a loss for words," I said, "What do I say to her?"

"I don't know," She said, "I'm her big sister, not her dad."

"'And I'm neither," I pointed out.

"Could have fooled me with the way she talks about you," Rainbow scoffed, "but I guess I can handle this one. You owe me."

"Agreed," I assured her, "talk to her for me and your next Daring Doo book is on my dime, er, bits. Whatever."

"You got yourself a deal," Rainbow knocked on the door to the bathroom and shouted, "You OK in there?"

Scootaloo said something back I couldn't make out and Rainbow opened the door and walked in.

I took the chance while the two were occupied to make them both plates. I had made plenty of food and if I knew Rainbow, she wasn't going to turn down breakfast.

I really didn't know what else to do. When people are in need, I automatically go 'feed them'. That's my mother's influence. Being around Granny Smith probably helped too.

28- Get your motor running.

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I'm not too into waiting around anxiously. So I busied myself changing out of my own muddy clothes and cleaning up the kitchen as Rainbow Dash talked to Scootaloo. Shower still running, covering every word they said.

There wasn't enough weed in Equestria to calm my nerves at this point. When they came out, I was either going to have a pony daughter or I was going to have to help Scootaloo find a new cave to live in.

I was hoping for the first. The idea of being a role model terrified me but not nearly as much as the idea of Scootaloo living in a cave. That filly was afraid of camp stories. I was shocked she had ever considered it in the first place.

Just as I was back from dumping the ashes from the stove, the bathroom door opened.

"So let's just see if you can show me any new tricks on that scooter," Rainbow said, "You've been through a lot today, but your big sis is here now. We should probably start with breakfast though. I'm starving."

"Betcha ten bits Jerry made us plates already," Scootaloo laughed.

"Do you even have ten bits," Rainbow teased.

"I will if you take the bet," Scootaloo teased back.

"You two hungry," I couldn't help but laugh as I chimed in pointing out the plates I indeed had ready.

"Told ya," Scootaloo chuckled.

"I'm just gonna step out for a minute," I said, "You two enjoy." I went out to the shed and lit a cigarette. I wasn't sure I was ready to hear Scootaloo's decision and my relief came at hearing her laugh. She was OK. That's all I needed to know.

I got lost in my thoughts and was still sitting with the big door open long after the cigarette was gone. I hardly noticed the two pegasi walk up.

"That was awesome," Rainbow said, "You're one heck of a cook, Scoot and I are gonna hang out for the day. I'll see you later."

"Yea," I said, "you're welcome here any time."

"I'll see you later," Scootaloo said and they started walking.

I was about to hop in the jeep to see if Slag or Sawdust wanted to hang out since it was Saturday, but Scootaloo ran back.

"If my stuff gets in the way," she paused, "just put it in my room." She didn't wait for my response before running to catch up with Rainbow Dash.
I figured Scootaloo was old enough to have a key, but I had already given my spare to Gilda. So I decided to visit Slag. I could visit Sawdust later if the two weren't hanging out together anyway.

Slag didn't answer the front door, but that's not new. I started to walk around to the shed when I heard the sound of an engine fire up. I instinctively looked back at my jeep but I knew that wasn't it, this engine had no muffler.

I waited for the engine to be shut off before walking in the open door. I found Slag looking over a recreation of the engine in my Jeep. His red, yellow, and white mane was tied back and he was wearing safety glasses. His grey fur had oil spots all over.

"Jerry! Just the guy I wanted to see," Slag offered his customary greeting.

"I see you have the engine built," I laughed, "needs muffler bearings though."

"I didn't see bearings in the muffler when I scanned your jeep," he was confused, "Where do they go? I haven't even built my muffler yet."

"It's a joke," I said, "I forget you don't know these things. I mean, you are my only mechanic friend these days. I used to have a few."

"Technically. I'm the only mechanic in Equestria. Unless you count the train engineers," he pointed out, "I still prefer metalcrafter, It's not like this is the only thing I work on."

"You have a point," I admitted.

"Anyway," Slag trailed off, "The engine is built and now I get to start on the framework for the body. I get to be creative at this point, I already have a ton of ideas. First tho, I think it's time to celebrate." He moved his safety glasses to his forehead and floated a joint over from his workbench.

"Guess I had good timing," I said.

"It's always good timing when you visit your best friend," He coughed, "to what do I owe this visit anyway."

"Can't I just stop and see a friend?" I asked mock offended.

"You can, you do," he kinda nodded his head with those words before giving me a 'come on, I know my friends' look, "but usually my brother."

"I guess as long as I'm here I should have you make me another key," I laughed.

"I knew it," he joked, "you just like me because I can work with metal."

"Well, I had to find some reason to like you," I teased, "you are my best friends brother."

"Yea, yea, yea," He seemed genuinely distraught now, "what makes him so much better? He's just me with no horn and a wooden personality."

"I've been meaning to ask," I said, deciding not to try and answer that, "How does that work? You and your brother being different races?"

"Doesn't that happen on earth?" he asked.

"If they only share one parent," I answered.

"Bingo!" Slag laughed, "Let's just say his father went out for a pack of cigarettes and never came back. It can also happen in mixed couples where the foals take after different parents, but mom's a unicorn. Just like my dad, who she's still with. Got a place in Canterlot."

"That explains you two," I said, "What about the cake twins?"

"Rumor has it," he pretended to look around, "they swing. Twins can have different dads if two eggs ovulate at once and the 'events' happen close to each other. Possibly the same time." he raised an eyebrow, "Don't go repeating this tho, the truth is between the Cakes and it's better to keep it that way. It's not like I'm interested in either of the Cakes, and my brother is clearly more into their tenant. Besides, it may be super rare, but a pony can take after an ancestor as they claim. Just not one that's 'removed'. That literally means 'not blood-related', and a 'second cousin' wouldn't pass anything to your line anyway. So it would only explain the unicorn, maybe. That's a lot of greats."

"Wait!" I had already thought of most of this the first time I saw the episode, 'Baby Cakes' but I had to clear one thing up, "Sawdust likes Pinkie?!"

"Well yea," Slag said, "He doesn't do repairs without bits unless Pinkie is the one asking. Hell, he made the slide into her planning cave for her birthday. He paid me for the metal parts he needed. Didn't even tell me what they were for."

"That's not much to go on," I said, "She is one of the most dependable and best liked mares in town."

Slag just gave me a half smile before saying, "He makes me deal with Rarity, and she has to pay half up front just like every pony else. Rarity gave him a three-piece suit for his birthday and she barely talked him into a discount for hers. Twilight gave him a complete autographed set of Daring Doo books. She got a voucher for shelf repair. He does build Fluttershy a new item for the critters every year, but she supplies a lot of his lumber from the woods around her cottage. Applejack sends trees too, she just gets her carts built and fixed for trade. When Pinkie Pie walks in. She gets whatever she wants, and pays when it's convenient."

"You may have a point then," I laughed, "you can tell a lot about someone by how they handle their finances."

"Exactly," Slag agreed, "he just doesn't care if Pinkie pays, he likes helping her."

"So who do you like?" I asked, "since we're on the subject of mares."

"Can't say I don't have a crush," He seemed a little leery to say who, but I caught a look in his eye that troubled me, "I like being a free agent." He continued, "You know how much tail you can get when you can build anything a pony could ask for? I don't see why Sawdust chooses to keep his V-card, not like he doesn't have his pick of mares, and a few stallions. So what about you and that Griffin you were at the club with? How was she?"

"News travels fast, huh?" I rolled my eyes.

"You could say that," his mouth twisted into a smile.

"She's just a friend," I said, "I actually brought her as a ruse. I'm not into griffins or ponies."

The smile dropped right off his face, "Why not?" He almost sounded offended for some reason.

"Because I'm a human," I thought it was obvious.

"But," he seemed confused, "you're the only one. So your going monk?"

"I guess so," I said.

"Why?" He asked, clearly having trouble wrapping his head around what I was saying, "You're a celebrity. You could have a different mare every night. They would just line up for you."

"I've never seen you making out with a dragon," I teased.

"That's because you were in the V.I.P. room," Slag smirked, "we were on the dance floor."

"You're shitting me," I said. How could I have overlooked Slag being a nightclub guy? This wasn't the first I heard of him getting around, but a dragon! I was stunned.

"Not at all," Slag said, "He was actually kinda nice. Until he snubbed me for a pony with cocaine. Fucking hate that shit. No big deal, once you walked in, I mentioned our friendship, and took three ponies home."

"Always happy to help a friend get laid," I laughed.

"Look at the time," Slag said, it was about noon, "Sawdust said he would be home by now. I'll whip up that key and we should pay him a visit. I'll drive."

"Fine by me," I said, happy to change the subject.

29- Seeing a ghost

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We arrived at Sawdust's house to find a note still on the door that read 'At an appointment, be back soon.'

"Oh, ho, ho," Slag laughed, "He may just be ready to turn in that V-card after all. He's always home when he says he will be."

"So what now?" I asked.

"Let's hit Sugarcube Corner," Slag suggested, "I'll buy."

"It is about lunchtime," I said, "and you're driving."

I decided to give the jeep a break and had let Slag drive us in his custom cart.

He and his brother had been trying to make a car for a couple years and this cart was the best they came up with. It had a magic gearbox that drove the rear wheels and a teller-bar connected directly to the front steering rack for steering. It was a fully self-propelled cart but required a unicorn to drive it. Slag had made a pedal-powered cart for his brother but it turned out to be impractical.
Arriving at the sweet shop we chose a booth and sat down. It wasn't long before an apron-clad pony approached with a notepad. She looked familiar but I never saw her work here before.

"I'm Bon Bon," She started, "I'll be your waitress. Please be patient, I'm new. My mare friend is going to flip when she hears you were my first solo customer. What can I do for you?"

"Well, you already mentioned a mare friend," Slag smirked, "So I'll just have a chocolate cupcake."

"Banana nut muffin for me, please," I said.

"Coming right up," She smiled and walked away. Slag was watching until she got to the kitchen.

"Damn," he said, "all the best ones are either taken or just not interested."

"If you say so," I said. I was really hoping I was wrong about him having a crush on me, but considering if he did, he already knew I wasn't interested. I didn't really think there was anything to talk about.

Before he responded Bon Bon was back with the requested treats and a couple chocolate milkshakes.

"Here you are," She set them down, "These are on me. Let me know if I can get you anything else?"

"Will do," I assured her and she moved on to a couple that just walked in.

Without another word, we dug into our treats. Sugarcube Corner really has the best baked goods, and the shakes are amazing.

I went to wipe some ice cream from my beard with my napkin and that's when I noticed a note folded up under it.

"The fuck?" I asked aloud as I opened it.

"I bet it's about how hot your friend is," Slag teased.

"No," I said, "no it's not."

The note read...
Just so you know. Lyra wouldn't mind you coming between us. If you ever want to.

XOXO Bon Bon
"Great," I said, "more admirers." I was getting annoyed, but I saw this one coming. It was Lyra's mare friend. The show and been right about everything, so her having a hand/human fetish didn't seem too outlandish with all the fan animations about it.

Slag took the note from me and bit his lip as he read it. "Damn," He said, "you ignorant lucky bastard."

"If you call it that," I said.

Just then Sawdust and Pinkie came walking out of the back. Sawdust froze when he saw us.

"Hey bro," Slag yelled, "hows the date going?"

Sawdust looked like he was a kid caught with his hand in the candy jar.

"We were just planning Jerry's party," he insisted.

"That's disappointing," Slag said, "anyway, we were trying to catch you at home. Being that we all have free time."

"I agree," Sawdust said a little cryptically, "We do have free time." He turned to Pinkie, "I think you have what you need now, I'll see you when its time to get things ready."

"I don't know," Pinkie said, "I was hoping to go over the final plans over dinner tomorrow." She seemed to be attempting to sound sultry. I didn't think it worked in her voice, but Sawdust seemed to like it.

Sawdust visibly sighed, but then smiled, "I suppose I can fit that in. See you tomorrow then."

"See ya then," Pinkie said, "and I'll see you the next day for lunch and to pick out the invitations. I was thinking since you are going away for a week, we could do it right before that so it can also be your going away party. I would normally insist on throwing two, but I know you wouldn't like that. Your welcome."

"Thank you," I said, "see you the day after tomorrow."

"Shall we head out?" Sawdust asked.

"Lets," Slag agreed.
Once we got to Sawdust's house he lead us to the living room. I found this odd being how much these ponies liked their sheds. They only really had houses to sleep in, and that was hit and miss with Slag. Who often dozed off mid-project or at somepony else's house...

I noticed Slag had been keeping a box with him. I had thought it was something of Sawdust's but he carried it now and made no mention to his brother.

"Alright," Sawdust said, "Everypony in this room is trusted and involved."

Needless to say, I was confused.

"What are you talking about?" I asked, "Involved in what?"

"You'll know soon enough," Slag said.

"Our mothers family was entrusted as the keepers of certain knowledge," Sawdust started explaining, "We weren't the only ones, but we don't even know who the others are, or if they kept the memories alive as well as our family."

"Yea," Slag said, "Not all of the artifacts tell the story, but they are all important, so I hope you can find them."

"What are you talking about?" I asked again, but the knife and blueprints were starting to make sense.

"We aren't really the ones to tell you," Sawdust said, "We were entrusted with these."

Sawdust opened a false brick on his fireplace as Slag opened the box he had been dragging along. Both produced antique looking journals.

I opened the first one and the first entry was a note to the reader.

You have a job to do. Everything you need to know is in journals like this.

There are 4 in total. As well as a knife, a set of blueprints and the final piece is with the zebras. You'll know it. They don't.

I know you'll succeed.

Sincerely, J. Blade
I just stared at the note wide-eyed. I don't know how long.

"You look like you need a joint," Slag said.

"I got you," Sawdust pulled a pipe from a drawer on his coffee table and passed it around the room.

"Can you tell me any more about these," I asked.

"Only that they were given to our family roughly 600 years ago," Sawdust said, "The rest we only know from reading them. You should do that for yourself."

"I see," I said, "I need time to think about this."

"Naturally," Slag said, "Want me to send a letter to your griffin 'friend'. I bet a distraction would do you well."

"No," I said, "I'm good on that. I just need to head home."

"I advise you not to read those until you are ready," Sawdust said, "It's a lot to take in."

"Yea," Slag agreed, "There's a reason we didn't say anything until now. We wanted to know you weren't just gonna bail when you read them, can't say it isn't still a concern. Are you sure I can't write that griffin for ya? You may need some support."

"NO!" I said, "I just need some time to myself. I'm going home. See you later."

"Can I give you a ride to your jeep at least?" Slag offered.

"No thank you," I said, "I need a walk."
Once home I moved Scootaloo's bag to her room. It wasn't in the way, but it seemed like the thing to do.

I sat in my chair and considered smoking another bowl, but couldn't sit still long enough to pack it. So I went for a walk.

I thought a walk in the woods would be nice so I left Scootaloo a note and started walking down the path that led to her old cave.

I noticed Big Macintosh had started cutting the tree up for firewood as I walked past the cave. I didn't know how far I wanted to go but I didn't want to stop yet, and the trail went much deeper into the woods. So I kept going.

I didn't notice when the trees changed, but after a while, I looked up and noticed everything had an altogether spookier feel. I figured I must have wandered all the way to the Everfree Forest. I turned around not wanting to test my metal with a manticore. Too late.

I heard a snarl behind me and didn't have to look to know I needed to run, but it sure helped me run faster when I did and got a close look at the eight-foot-tall snarling beast.

I went as fast as my legs would take me, but it was keeping up. I turned off the trail hoping his larger body would have a harder time navigating through the trees. It seemed to be working.

Just as I turned and saw it giving up, I tripped.

Returning to my feet, I noticed the manticore was still walking away, so I stayed halfway crouched until it was gone.

Looking down I saw what I tripped on. It was a rectangular stone with a slanted top. It seemed like a headstone in a creepy graveyard. I wasn't wrong.

The moss covering the stone was scuffed by my foot revealing a couple of letters. I cleaned it off to read what it said.
Here lies Apple Seed
Loving father,
Devoted husband,
Protector of Truth
I saw another headstone beside it, clearing the moss I saw a chip out of the last name, but the rest read just fine.
Here lies Jerry -----e
He gave his life for a country that wasn't even his own.
I just ran back home at a sprint, sat in my chair, and loaded my bowl. I didn't even notice Scootaloo was back.

"Are you OK, Jerry?" She asked, "Your note said you were out for a walk, not a run."

"I've had a long day," I replied, "but I'm getting used to that. I'll be fine." I did my best to smile.

30- Lunch with Luna.

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I stayed up until midnight playing cards with Scootaloo. She didn't talk much but made a point to thank me for everything. She went to bed first but I just put the cards away and headed for my own bed.
I woke up in the middle of the night to a knock on the bedroom door. I put pants on to answer it and found Scootaloo with tears welling in her eyes.

"I had a bad dream," She said, "I didn't want to wake you up, but Luna seemed to think I should."

"What was it about?" I asked.

"My parents," She said, "I dreamed I found them, but they didn't want anything to do with me. They said they left me in Ponyville to get rid of me because I would never fly, and that's why they haven't found me themselves. I asked Luna why they did leave me in Ponyville. She said I should ask you."

I sighed and lead her in to sit next to me on the bed, "the first thing I want to say is that the ponies that know the truth, want to tell you, but they don't know how."

"Why would it be so hard to tell me about my parents?" She asked.

I gave her my best sympathetic look. I respected her too much to beat around the bush, "Because they passed away."

"What?" She asked as tears were beginning to streak down her cheeks, "They can't be..."

"I'm afraid so," I said, "The three of you were in an accident when you were little. Your wings were injured but you survived. They weren't so lucky."

"How do you know?" she asked.

"Twilight told me," I said, "in hopes, I would be able to break it to you gently."

"So..," she started full out crying, "So I'll never get to meet them."

"I'm afraid not," I said, "but I bet they would be very proud."

I may be a Christian, but I was already questioning that. I remember being told I'd see my friend in heaven when I was young. I can't say it was the best thing to hear. It really amounts to, 'you'll see them when you die too'.

"I I j-just," her crying turned to a bawl. I didn't know what to say. I just wrapped my arms around her and put her head to my chest.

"There there," I said, "I know, it's not fair. I wish I could make it right, but nobody can. Just know that I'm here for you now."

My mind was pulled back to the headstone and wondered 'for how long'. Was I really destined to leave these ponies? What could it really mean? Nothing on the show ever said traveling back in time was a good idea.

It didn't matter. I live in the now, and now I was tired.

"Are you OK?" I asked.

"I think so," she wiped the tears from her eyes, "do you think I could sleep in here?"

"OK," I said, "but don't get used to it."
The next morning went pretty well. I made breakfast and helped Scootaloo with her homework until about eleven.

Just as we were putting her books away someone knocked on the door. I was shocked to find a bat-pony outside.

"Greetings, I am Night Echo. It is an honor to meet you," He bowed, "The royal princess Luna of Equestria would like to invite the human Jerry Blade and the filly Scootaloo to lunch at the castle."

"Sounds great," I replied, "What day shall I write her in?"

"You see," he seemed afraid of my reaction, "the invitation is for today."

"I don't have time to get to Canterlot," I said confused.

"That's why she sent her carriage," he pointed behind him to Luna's chariot waiting out front, "my friends will be happy to give you a lift."

"Alright, I'll go along," I said, "Scootaloo? You in?" I was curious why Luna suddenly wanted to talk to both of us.

"I wouldn't want to disappoint the princess," she said, "sure."
Night Echo rode in the carriage as two more bat-ponies pulled us. We were at the castle in a half hour where a large group of bat-ponies was watching us from the yard. They gave us just enough room to land.

"Aren't you guys nocturnal?" I asked as we landed.

"We weren't about to sleep through this!" Night Echo said.

"What's the big deal anyway?" I asked.

"You are," was all he said.

"I don't get it," I said, but Night Echo remained silent.

Every bat-pony bowed as I walked by to meet Luna at the door. I felt deeply disturbed. I thought the pony admirers were annoying. These guys were about to kiss my feet.

Once I made it to the door Luna greeted me, "Thank you for coming on short notice. I hope my subjects didn't give you any trouble."

"No trouble at all," I said, "I'm just a little confused by all the bowing."

"I understand," she said, "but we can't blame them, they have been waiting for this a long time. They wouldn't even hear the idea of waiting until tonight. I must admit I am normally asleep at this hour."

"What are they waiting for?" I asked.

"Your arrival," she said, "I know not the reason, but my General Black Echo has prepared an explanation."

"Sounds good to me," I said, "when does it start?"

"Let us retire to the dining hall first," she said, "the chef has gone out of her way for this feast, let's not let it get cold."

"Good idea," I said, "I'm starving."
Luna sat at the head of the table and Scootaloo and I sat across from each other in front of her. The first course was a salad. I noticed an extra ingredient in mine, bacon bits. She really did go out of her way.

"There is one other reason you were brought here," Luna said, "Night Echo, my royal chauffeur is in possession of an heirloom of Scootaloo's family."

"Really?" Scootaloo asked, "My parent's left me something?"

"It is more of a legacy," she answered, "but yes. I am to understand Night Echo knew your father."

Scootaloo seemed to mull this over. Nobody said a word until the servers came out again.

The next course included mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. The ponies had some kind of dish containing daisies and daffodils, but my main course was a chicken tenderloin wrapped in bacon.

"So how did the chef know I'm not a vegetarian?" I asked.

"My sister spoke with her," Luna answered, "She says she learned it from Sunset Shimmer, but I do not remember her speaking of such things."

"Must have been before you came back," I said, "or in the journal."

"I could swear taking Twilight's crown was the first time she returned," Luna seemed to be trying to work it out herself more than explain it to me. I had a feeling I knew the answer but didn't dare speak it out loud.

"I guess it's not a big deal," I lied, this actually bothered me a lot. Had Celestia met me before? "This food is amazing though."

We finished the main course and the chocolate ice cream that was desert. The chef had even caramelized some brown sugar onto a couple of bacon strips and garnished mine with them. I was impressed.

As the dessert dishes were cleared a white earth pony mare came trotting in the room.

"I hope I am not intruding," she said in a French accent, "I am Pastry Cream. I made today's meal. I just had to make sure the food was to your liking. It is so rare that I get to work with a new ingredient. Even more so when I don't dare try it myself. Did I do well? That bacon has so many uses. I must admit, I was having fun."

"It was amazing!" I assured her, "I was going to ask if I could give my compliments. So thank you for coming out."

"Oh Monsieur," she covered her face with her hoof before waving it at me, "you are too kind. I am glad you enjoyed your meal. I hope to cook for you again." She gave a little curtsy before turning back to the kitchen.

"Now," Luna said, "I think it is time we call Black Echo in. I am as curious as you about what he has to say."

31- The Protectors of Peace.

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Black Echo was a little bulkier than the other bat-ponies. I assumed he worked out. He also wasn't wearing a helmet like every bat-pony I had seen so far. I was a little surprised that the wing-like mane was on the helmet. His actual mane was black hair, a few inches long, and messy.

He walked in with his head high followed by two other bat-ponies carrying a slide projector and a portable screen. Upon reaching Luna, the followers set the items down and all three bowed. They then walked to the other side of the table and bowed to me. They seemed to stay down.

"Um," Luna whispered, "they started with me. So they are waiting for you to tell them to rise. It seems they consider themselves to be your subjects as much as my own."

"Oh, ah," I stumbled, I did not like that idea, "You may rise now."

They stood up and the two in the back started setting the projector up on the table so we could all see.

"It is an honor to meet you," Black Echo said, "when my parents told me the stories of Jerry, Blade, and the Protectors, I was certain my role was to pass them to my offspring, but it seems I'm meant for a higher honor. I have awaited this day ever since I saw what was clearly an earth item in an Equestrian valley. I am sorry I fled when you arrived. I was not yet ready to meet you."

"It's nice to meet you," I said, "Even if I am totally confused by this whole thing."

"I guess you do deserve an explanation," He said, "I trust your crafty friends have let you in on their bit."

"They have," I said, I assumed he saw Sawdust and Slag the night I got the trailer. He must have been the eyes I saw pulling up. I thought I had seen a black cape, now I knew it was a wing. "but they just gave me a couple journals and told me to read them, I have not done so."

"That is for the best," he said, "I hope they cautioned you to wait until you’re ready. Like them, my family was entrusted with a key part of the story. I was to wait until I felt the time was right. It only seemed right to wait until Scootaloo moved in with you."

"So how did you know that was going to happen?" I asked a little confused by his statement.

"My brother told me," Black Echo said, "If there are no further questions, I have a presentation prepared that covers the bulk of what I know about yourself and the filly. Shall I begin?"

"Please do!" I said.

The bat-ponies that set the projector up flew around the room shutting the curtains so the screen could be made out. The first image was just a picture of a few bat-ponies and Luna.

"Being nocturnal," he started, "bat-ponies are sworn to serve Luna. We do our part for her sister, but Celestia isn't usually around when we're awake. The best way to describe this is the reverse of ponies. It's not that they don't serve Luna. They're just asleep. They only call on her when their dreams become too much for them to handle. We only call on Celestia when dealing with pony relations. Ponies know this now. However, in the old days, we were misunderstood. Not hated or feared, but ponies more or less didn't know what to think about us."

He changed slides, it now showed Celestia and Luna with a line between them, "as I'm sure you already know, Luna was banished to the moon by her sister for refusing to lower the moon. Everypony knows this legend, but what they don't often think about, is what happened to us."

He switched slides again and the picture changed to a bat-pony being chased by a mob, "we were blamed. Everypony thought we wanted her to make the night eternal. So we could be in control. Like we don't like sleeping. Would you want an eternal day?" The question was clearly rhetorical.

He switched to a silhouette of six ponies, "We had no hope. We were all stuck in hiding until a group known as The Protectors of Peace came along and stood up for us. They were lead by the Protector of Kinship, Daylight Dreamer. In elements terms, that's loyalty, but times were different back then. I may be biased, but I think it beats Pillar of Bravery."

He went to the next slide to show a photo of a black coated stallion with a blue mane. I opened my phone, it matched my OC perfectly. Wings could just be seen behind him but it was cut short of his cutie mark, he had a surprised look on his face, and wore a jacket similar to Commander Easy Glider, just like I imagined my OC, "This is the only known photograph of Daylight Dreamer or any of the Protectors. It's not known how it was taken, because it seems to predate ponies having cameras, but it has been authenticated and we do know it to be Daylight Dreamer himself from this."

The slide changed to what looked like a painting of six ponies. Left to right it was, Daylight; a stallion that looked a lot like Big Mac, but with a black mane; a dark blue unicorn mare, with a white mane; a grey unicorn stallion, with a spiked silver mane; an orange pegasus mare, with a purple mane; and a zebra that looked almost too much like Zecora. "This image is the only known painting of the Protectors. Left to right we have Daylight Dreamer, Protector of kinship; Apple Seed, Protector of Truth; Drum Beat, Protector of Charity; Sculptured Stone, Protector of Chivalry; Feather Touch, Protector of Humor; and Kizzy, Protector of the Arcane. These ponies saved Equestria, but they didn't act on their own."

The slide switched to a big question mark, "unfortunately, we are not sure on that, except that it was either one or two humans, as you call yourself, and the names Jerry and Blade seem to reoccur. Whoever it was is responsible for planning the entire strategy that the protectors used to end the war, as well as saving countless villages of ponies and bat-ponies from total destruction."

I thought about this with what I already knew. I had my own idea on who it was and it was time to say it out loud. "So It could very well be one guy named Jerry Blade," I remarked.

"I guess so," He said, "it seems fantastic that one human could be responsible for all the legends. Every village in northern Equestria has a legend of how one of them saved it. Do you have a theory?"

"Is it possible that I'm supposed to go back in time?" I asked.

"No," he said bluntly.

"Why not?" I asked.

"You were sent to finish what they started," he said, "you can't start something after finishing it."

"Are you sure about that?" I asked.

"I must admit I am no scientist," he said, "but my brother assures me I am correct in this assumption. He has been studying the subject for some time."

"So if it wasn't me, that leaves the question," I stroked my beard, "Why am I the one to finish it? I don't know anything about this Daylight character or anything. Am I even going to be any help?"

"If Daylight thought you would be," Black Echo said, "I'm inclined to side with him. However, I already mentioned I'm a little bias. He was the best. When my ancestors were driven out of the woods we once called home, he found a place we could hide. Then he ended a four hundred year war so we could live free again."

"He sure was something," I said, "So the ponies were at war for four hundred years? I can't imagine that."

"Ponies are not creatures of war," he said, "My kind has had to have their back a few times the public doesn't even know about. The war literally took a hundred years to go from name calling to hoof fights. By the end though, let's just say there's a reason nopony is meant to remember."

"Who were they even fighting," I asked, "didn't the enemy escalate things."

"Like I said," Black Echo affirmed, "There is a reason nopony is meant to remember, we do not even know that part."

"I'm sure you will be able to figure the rest out," Luna said, "One thing we do know about Daylight is that he wasn't going to leave anypony high and dry. He must have left clues all over Equestria."

"I guess I already did find a few," I said.

"I would like to call my brother in," Black Echo said, "If it pleases the room." He looked to Luna.

"You may," Luna gave her approval. Then he looked to me.

"It's cool," I never liked formality.

The assistants opened the door and the bat-pony that I met at the house walked in carrying a book that resembled the journals I already had, I saw a 4 on the cover. He did the round bowing to Luna then me and lingering there.

"Just fucking get up," I said, "I don't care for the whole royal treatment."

"You are just as I imagined," Night Echo smiled, it made me uneasy, "I was given the honor of safekeeping this heirloom for the Dreamer family. I alone have read the contents, and now present it to the pegasus Scootaloo. It is your birthright to possess this book and the knowledge within until the rightful owner is ready to claim it. That time is for you alone to determine." He set the book in front of Scootaloo.

"Dreamer?" Scootaloo said, "My parent's names were Checkered Flag and Light Wing."

"You mean Checkered Flag Dreams," Night Echo said, "He was a friend of ours."

"But wouldn't that make me a descendant of Daylight?" She asked, "I thought for sure it was going to be that Feather Touch. She looked just like me."

"You know it takes two ponies to make a foal right?" Night Echo asked. He winked at me, I got really embarrassed for some reason.

Scootaloo just looked the book over, she clearly needed time to soak it all in.

"I advise you to read that for yourself," Night Echo said, "It is a lot to take in but it is also an important chapter in your family history. Your father would want you to know about it. I would also like to give you this, it was a gift from your father, I think you should have it." He set a framed picture of two pegasi in flying outfits next to an out of place looking Night Echo, "It was the day they met. They were trying out for the Wonderbolts. I met him when your grandparents presented him with the book. The Echo and Dreamer families have always been close. They didn't make it into the Wonderbolts, but that never bothered them. They were always so happy. Your father once told me he had found his wing-pony for life, and that's better than any medal. Anyway, I must take my leave," he looked at Scootaloo, "Spike can reach me if you ever care to hear more." he then turned and walked out.

32- A talk with Zecora... and Daylight?

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Scootaloo and I got back to the cabin around four.

"Do you mind if I go see my friends?" Scootaloo asked.

"Why would I mind?" I asked, "You're your own pony."

"I guess it just seemed right to ask," she said, "I'll be home by ten, so don't lock me out."

"That reminds me," I said, taking the key Slag made from my pocket, "If you're staying here, you should have a key."

"Thank you," she looked the key over as if I had just given her a small fortune, "I didn't expect this."

"Well if you get home late I don't want you to have to wake me up to get in," I said.

"My foster mom said that," Scootaloo said, "That's why I had to be back by ten. Or the door would be locked. She would let me in, but not without a lecture."

"Sounds like she cared about you," I said.

"She did," Scootaloo sighed, "I just couldn't stand how much she treated me like a kid. I know I'm not a full adult, but I'm not seven anymore."

"I guess I could see that," I said, "may I ask who she was."

"I suppose," she said, "It was Derpy. She may like doing deliveries but her talent is taking care of foals. She takes care of Dinky too. She decided to stay."

"So Dinky isn't hers?" I asked, "Guess they got that wrong."

"She may as well be her own," Scootaloo said, "I'm still not totally convinced she isn't."

"Doesn't really matter," I said, "You go have fun. I have something I want to do as well."
I drove directly to Twilight's castle and knocked on the door. Spike answered as usual.

"What can we do for you?" he asked.

"I need to speak with Zecora," I said, "I was hoping Twilight could direct me to her place."

"I can do better than that," Twilight said, "I was just going there myself."

"Cool," I said, "I'll drive."
We got to Zecora's hut pretty quick. For once, I was totally focused. I had to know about the spell that brought me here, and who the hell this J. Blade was?

The bat-ponies didn't seem to think it was me, yet they seemed to be expecting someone like me. Why?

I had the journals from the ponies, and I spoke with the bat-ponies. That left one group. I was hoping I was right in my assumption they were represented by the one zebra around. At any rate, Zecora knew more than anyone else about the spell that brought me.

Upon reaching the hut, Zecora came out to greet us.

"What a nice surprise to see," Zecora said, "is there something you needed of me."

"I just needed a few ingredients," Twilight said.

"Feel free to take whatever you need of mine," Zecora said, " I have a feeling Jerry needs my time."

"Thank you," Twilight said and headed into Zecora's hut.

"Now," She said, "I know you aren't here to give Twilight a ride. Ask what you will, I have nothing to hide."

"I need to know everything I can about Daylight Dreamer," I said, "and that little spell he left behind."

"I see," She said, "I trust you have spoken to the bat-ponies."

"I have." I said, "and they seemed to be expecting me. So was the spell targeting me, or Daylight? Judging by who showed up, I want to know why Daylight would create a spell to summon ME."

"That is a tricky subject indeed," she sighed, "before we delve into it, can I interest you in smoking a little weed."

"Fuck yea," I said.

She led me into her house and we took a seat at her table. Once we had a good buzz going she knocked on a spot on the wall and retrieved a book from a hidden cupboard. This wasn't like the journals other than looking old. It was an actual bound and covered book 'Advanced Spell-craft for the Elite Potion Maker' was in peeling gold leaf across the front.

"This is the book of spells that was passed down from my ancestor Kizzy," She said, "Reading it lately has kept me quite busy. It contains the base for the spell that brought you. So I thought it fitting to read through. There is a catch if you want to make a batch. The creature to be summoned must willingly contribute a hair, or they cannot be pulled from thin air."

"How would Daylight get my hair?" I asked, "I think I'd remember if it had to be willing."

"That is where it gets difficult," she said, "it is known that from his own head he pulled it out."

"That doesn't make any sense," I said, "If he used his own hair, how did it pull me from thin air?"

"Think about it and the answer is clear," Zecora said, "Daylight Dreamer is very near."

I thought about it. He pulled the hair from his own head. I couldn't be summoned unless it was my hair. I also considered the fact that he matched the description of my OC perfectly. The OC that was supposed to be me as a pony. Twilight did say he had found a way to be reborn, she never said as a pony. I just pondered on this for a while, not wanting to accept the answer.

"Perhaps this will help you see," she said, "it's a drawing of Daylight that was passed down to me."

She pulled a piece of paper from between the pages of the book. It looked just like my opening screen, aside from one detail on the flank.

"His cutie mark was a fire and ice yin-yang?" I asked.

"'Was' is not the word," She said, "for Daylight Dreamer, is once again in this world."

"But," I was still too sober for this, "What? How? I can’t possibly be him. He was a pony!"

"Was and is, are different words," She said, "especially to a creature who has traveled between worlds."

"But how?" I repeated.

"That is something I do not know," she said, "I'm guessing this page is the one that would show." She turned to a page that was ripped out. Only a small shred indicated that anything was ever there. It looked as tho they wanted the page gone without a trace, but had to stop before damaging the binding.

"So was it Kizzy who taught Daylight," I thought about that, "Er, 'me' potions?"

"On this subject you are confused," She turned to the inside of the front cover, "For she was taught by you." The book was apparently a gift.
To my most talented student, Kizzy,

You came a long way seeking my guidance. I hope I did not disappoint, for you have exceeded my very high expectations at every turn.

Now that you have graduated you are free to explore the world using your knowledge to better zebra and pony kind.

If you haven't any plans. I'm organizing a group you would fit right in. You know where to find me.

Your humbled mentor,
Daylight Dreamer
I was shocked. "I really did it all didn't I?" I asked.

"A young human is what I see," Zecora said, "but you lived a long life as a pony. By the time you passed, your blue hair had turned grey, Kizzy's daughter made a note on the day."

She turned to the inside of the back cover, this note had much better hoof writing.
Daylight dreamed his last dream today, at the age of 85. I don't really want to remember it so I will not put the date. But if you are reading this, you are likely my kin, and you should know about him.

He was a famous professor of potions when my mother met him. She was only 18. So young and naive. She set out full of hope that she would be welcomed with open hooves in the ponies land.

This was not the case. She almost gave up on her trip after the way ponies treated her. She was afraid he would just turn her away, but he had heard of the zebra that was looking for him and sought her out. Knowing this would be the case.

He found her just as she was packing up to leave. He not only accepted her but boasted that she would be the student that surpassed him.

His last words to me were, "I wasn't wrong. Potions ran in her very veins, and now yours. Keep the kettle going."

He left every potion book in his library to our family, but this one will always be special.

Right up to the end, he just wanted everyone to get what they needed to keep doing what he taught them. To keep advancing.

Always remember that our family was blessed by this pegasus. If his plan works. We must be sure to return the favor.

-Zecora, daughter of Kizzy
"Guess where my mother got my name," Zecora laughed, "To get it wrong, would be a shame."

"So who all knows about this?" I asked.

Zecora's face went blank. "To all the Protectors family's, the story was told," she said, "but it is very old. Hard copies were kept, but broken in bits. I know only of you and your potions from the place where I sit. Not of the humans who walked long ago. That part was for only a few ponies to know. The protectors of peace and what's known of their deeds, that you got from the bat ponies."

"Why is that?" I asked, "and why is it that nopony actually knows the details of anything?"

"The stories were to become a legend," She said, "until you should show. No one pony should know."

"I still don't get why I had to come back," I said, "it's not like there's another war."

"Now there is not, but soon there could be," she looked a little worried, "for the truth shall soon be on display for ponies to see."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"There is a door the truth lies behind," she said, "and ponies will not like what they will find."

"You mean the door Twilight found?" I asked, "What's behind it?"

"You should know," she said, "you have the blueprints. Or did the distractions throw you amiss."

I now realized that while I was looking at the blueprints of Vinyl's sound system I was completely missing the point. The last one WAS a bomb shelter. Left blank because a pony would never guess that. They would just think it went with the rest.

"Anyway," I said, "a note in one of the journals said I would find something with the Zebras that would be important. You have any idea what this J. Blade guy is talking about?"

"I assure you I do not," she said, "but feel free to look around my hut. Many things I have are very old, their stories sadly are not always told."

I looked around the hut. Nothing really looked out of place. She had shelves of potion ingredients next to hooks holding pots and pans with small cauldrons scattered about next to an olive green canteen with 'US' stamped boldly on the side.

"Where did you get that canteen?" I asked.

"It has been in my family as long as I know," She said, "It contains a potion whose effects do not show."

"You haven't tested it?" I asked.

"I have tried it indeed," she said, "it did nothing to me. At least no more than a headache remedy. Still, I dare not try it on a human or pony."

A part of me knew what it was, and that taking a drink was a really bad idea for me. A sip on the other hand... not bad enough an idea to stop me. I twisted the lid off and barely touched my tongue to it before quickly replacing the cap.

"What are you thinking?" Zecora asked, "That could be poison you are drinking."

As Zecora asked I could feel the creeks and pops of my skeleton twisting out of shape. It didn't hurt. When you know it's going to happen, you can add painkillers. I should know. I made this brew for myself.

When I finally opened my eyes I looked up at Zecora. She was wide-eyed. I stood up on all four legs and looked Zecora in the eye.

"Am I as handsome as you imagined?" I asked catching a look at myself in the mirror, "that potion shows your true self. I sure made a handsome pegasus. Too bad it will wear off in a couple moments. I'd love to stretch these wings."

33- A little stress relief

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I got back home from Zecoras just as the sun was going down. I went to open the door but remembered I had locked it on the way out to test Scootaloo's key. I reached into my pocket to grab my own key only to realize I left it on the table inside. I cursed myself for not checking before giving Scootaloo hers or at least putting mine on the jeep key ring. I never forget that.

I tried knocking on the door but Scootaloo had left a note explaining that she was staying with Sweetie for a sleepover. I couldn't think of anything better to do so I got in my jeep and drove to the edge of the woods near the grave markers I had found.

I pointed every light on that Jeep-search, fog, and headlights-towards where I knew they were, but it was still a little dark with all the trees in the way. I wasn't too worried about manticores with my trusty .357 under the seat, but I had to see it coming.

Then I remembered that the chain-saw was still in the back of the jeep. I only had enough gas to clear a relatively small patch of trees, but the gravestones were right next to each other, and not set in very far. I could scarcely think of a better use for it.

I cleared everything around the graves so they were properly visible. Then I figured I should finish clearing the moss from Jerry's. That's when I noticed that on the back was a carving of the American flag above the words, 'United States Army'.

I vaguely remembered my father talking about an army buddy named Jerry that he named me after, but his last name was Sharp. So I didn't think it was him.

I knew the answer was in the journals I already possessed half of-and Scootaloo had another-but I wasn't ready to read them. I still had over a week to figure it out and my head hurt already. I just sat cross-legged behind the headstones and said a little prayer. Not sure if god pays attention to Equestria, but it made me feel better.

I heard somepony trotting up so I looked to see Applejack with a curious look on her face.

"What the hay are ya doing?" She asked as she passed the Jeep, "You got these woods lit up brighter than... Sugarcube? Are you OK?"

I hadn't even realized I was crying. I wasn't sure what to say. I just sat still, letting her get closer and see the graves.

"What are these?" She read the first one, "but Apple Seed and the Protectors were just a legend. What's this one say?" She read Jerry's and her eyes went wide, "Is that... you?"

"No," I said, "my grave is somewhere else, I'm just paying respects to a couple old friends."

"Have you lost your marbles," she asked, "just what is that supposed ta mean?"

"It turns out," I sighed, considering every word as I said it, "Apple Bloom was more successful than it initially appeared in her attempt to summon Daylight Dreamer..." I wasn't sure how I was speaking so clearly, but I've always liked using big words when I'm unsure how to put something, they sound smart but they really just give you more time to think of the next one.

"What're you sayin'?" she asked giving me a sideways look.

I took a deep breath, "I'm saying... she did it," I really didn't know what to say. How do you explain something so fucked up that you don't believe it even after seeing it? Then it hit me, the answer to a totally different question that had plagued me since the first night, "But she used too much heart's desire."

"What?" She was confused.

"When your sister mixed the potion for the spell to summon me," I explained, "she used too much heart's desire. It's the same flower that gave her the cutie pox, remember. The spell took on a life of its own, and the only thing spells desire is energy. The only energy it could latch on to... was hers. That's why I recommended having a unicorn perform a protection spell. Besides that, she summoned me flawlessly. You should be proud of her."

"So yer trying ta say that you're Daylight Dreamer?" she asked. The look on her face was a mixture of concern and shock, tinged with confusion.

"I was, in a past life," I said, "I go by Jerry now. But I was born almost seven centuries ago and given that name by my pony parents."

"But, how are you a human then?" she asked, "and how did you live that long?"

"I'm still trying to figure that out," I said, "I have a feeling you and the other elements will be among the first to know."

"But..." Applejack was still looking over the grave markers, "We only owned this farm since Granny was a youngin. She may be old, but she ain't hundreds of years old."

"Didn't Celestia lead them here though?" I asked.

"That's true," she said, "why?"

"If there's a pony alive that knew these graves were in these woods," I said, "it's her." Guess at least I knew how Celestia knew I wasn't a vegetarian. She knew that about humans before Sunset was even born.

"Ah bet you could use a drink," she said, "Ah know ah could."

"Fair enough," I said. I did want to try Apple family cider.
Apparently, Big Mac was staying at Sugar Belle's. So with Granny still at Golden Delicious' and the Crusaders having a sleepover. We had the farmhouse to ourselves. Just me, Applejack and an endless supply of cider. If I was trying not to think. This situation was proof that I succeeded.

"Sho yer saying," Applejack slurred, "Zecora knew all along, and she didn't tell nopony?"

"I guess so," I said, "I think the bat-ponies may have talked to her before me. She seemed to have pieced a lot of it together. Enough about that, I need a break from thinking about it." I downed my last drink.

"Let me go get some more," Applejack said, "Ah'll be right back."

"Alright," I said.

She slipped into another room and was gone a little longer than I expected. When she got back she only stuck her head in at first, I was too drunk to think anything of it.

"Hey Sugarcube," she said, "ah know a way to take yer mind off things."

"What's that?" I asked, barely getting suspicious.

"Ah still have yet to thank you properly," she stepped into the room and my jaw dropped.

If Applejack was ever going to be attractive to me, it was now. She was wearing a red plaid miniskirt that was just ruffled enough to ride on her flank and a matching button-up shirt, tied at the bottom rather than buttoned. She stood up on her hind legs and leaned on the door frame highlighting just how human her form actually was. She held out a harness and riding crop with her free hoof.

"Care to take this pony for a ride?" she asked giving her best bedroom eyes.

It was tempting. Extremely tempting, but I didn't feel that way about her and I didn't want to mess up a good friendship.

"I appreciate the offer," I said, "but your too good a friend to just fuck, and I don't see it going any further."

"Ah already know that," she assured me as she set the harness and crop down and resumed her natural stance to walk over to me. She then stood back up and gently placed her hoof on my cheek, "but you are a male. If your anything like a stallion, you have needs. Ah, happen to know they haven't been met the whole time you've been here."

"You're not wrong," I said, I hadn't exactly been in Equestria all that long, but it's not like my ex-wife had been putting out. It had been months. Still, I just sighed, "but it's just that... I can't. I'm sorry."

I wasn't really sure why at this point. She was a consenting adult, I was an adult. I just couldn't get the other part right. Why not? Hell, I just found out I'm even the reincarnation of a pony myself, and I was just drunk enough to ride on the thought that technically, I was still a pony. The potion may be temporary, but it didn't lie. Something else was in the way. It took a woman to figure it out.

"Your in love with another pony aren't you?" she asked.

I thought about that. She was right. Except for one thing... Gilda isn't a pony. "Close," I said, "But I'm not into vegetarians," I knew it was a bad time for a joke, but I wasn't exactly trying to talk my way into her bed and I had to break the tension somehow, "If its all the same to you, I think I'll sleep in my jeep."

"Ah won't stop you," she said, "but there are three open beds here and none of the owners would mind."

"I just need to be alone," I said, "thank you for everything. You're a good friend."

"Alright," she said, "ah suppose ah should get to bed. Ah'll see ya later."

"Yea later," I said looking her in the eye before turning away.

"Just one more thing," Applejack stopped me before I got to the door.

"What's that?" I asked.

She took a deep breath, clearly building up her nerve to say what was on her mind, "Ah saw this comin' since the first time she stopped by to bring you food. Ah just wanna say. Gilda has had a hard run, all griffins do. Yet she has a work ethic that makes me feel lazy and refuses to take any handouts. If she returns your feelings..." She was holding back a tear at the thought that I did not return her own, "Ah don't really have ta say it," she hung her head, "If ah did, you wouldn't be walking out yet. Ah hope she feels the same. If ah can't have you... Well, ah'm just glad it's not Rainbow Dash. Ah'd never hear the end of it."

"And that's exactly why I'm not into her," I laughed nervously. Applejack joined.

"Just take care of her," Applejack sighed, "and yourself."
It was well past midnight when I got back to the cabin. Without thinking I tried the front door and it swung open. I was momentarily surprised but figured Scootaloo was home early.

Walking in I started the fireplace to warm it up and get a little light. I sat in my chair and grabbed my pipe. I was about to pack it when I heard a cough and realized Gilda was lying on the couch. She looked up at me and blushed.

"I hope you don't mind I let myself in. I saw your key on the table so I left it open for you." she sat up, "I just had to see you."

"It's cool," I said, "I'm actually glad I don't have to wait until Scootaloo gets back."

"Yea," she said, "I saw she had her stuff in the spare room, that's why I laid on the couch."

"So is it Grandpa Gruff again?" I asked.

"Not exactly," she said, "he's grumpy as ever." She looked down and blushed, covering her face, "but that's not what brought me here." She looked at me through her claws. She could not have been more adorable. I knew what brought her, and I couldn't have been happier about it.

"Well after this bowl I need some sleep," I said, "Scootaloo won't be back until tomorrow, so you can sleep in her bed if you want," I thought about what I was saying, and what I really wanted to say... "but I have another idea..."

I knew what I was thinking now. I wasn't ready to cross that line, but I didn't want to be alone for the rest of my life. I saw no further reason to delay the inevitable. I needed to hold someone and I had a feeling she felt the same.

34- A taste of home.

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I woke up with a slight headache, I was glad I hadn't gone too far overboard with the cider. Just a little overboard. I remembered why Gilda was on my arm, and that we didn't do anything but sleep.

My head wasn't hurting too bad but I was still thinking I should ask Apple Bloom for a potion to fix it. Then I remembered that she was staying in town so it would be a bit before I could ask her.

'No big deal,' I thought, 'I just need some lavender or ginger, and amethyst for potency. That should do for a headache.'

I had no idea where that thought had come from but I was visualizing where I could find the items I needed. The first thoughts were of a garden I don't actually remember seeing, on the edge of a woods I felt no longer existed. I was losing hope in the thought when I remembered Apple Bloom had an herb garden behind the barn.

I slowly slid my arm from under Gilda and managed to climb out of bed without waking her up. However, I barely had my pants on when she rolled over and looked at me.

"Where are you going?" she asked, "Don't tell me you have to leave already."

Just to be sure I checked my phone. It was only 8. "I just have to run outside for now. I'll be right back in to start breakfast. I do have lunch planned with Pinkie to talk about my cutecenyera, but I have a few hours before that."

"Don't worry about breakfast," Gilda smiled, "I brought a little something."

"You didn't have to do that," I said.

She sat up and looked at me, "Well I did," she said, "I wasn't going to show up uninvited and empty-clawed. In the middle of the night no less."

"Not like I would have complained," I said, "my friends are always welcome."

"And that's why I lo..." Gilda stopped herself and paused before saying, "like you."

"I like you too," I laughed causing my head to throb, "I gotta step out. I can help with breakfast when I get back in."

"Take your time," she said, "I got it. It's not like it's hard to make, just time-consuming. I actually started it last night."

"Started what?" I asked. I wanted to know what she was up to.

"You'll see," she said, "just take your time. I should have things ready in about an hour."

"Whatever you say," I decided not to fight it. Whatever she was making. It had to be better than eggs and pancakes again.
Once I had the herbs I needed I figured I may as well put the potion together at Apple Bloom's cauldron. I would have rather used a kettle, but I didn't know why, so I figured it must not make a big difference.

Turns out making potions is a lot like making tea, but the ingredients must be added to the water at just the right moment, and be prepared in just the right way. Do it right, and they dissolve turning the mixture a designated color. In this case red, I was put in mind of healing potions on video games.

I poured the mixture into a waiting jar.

'It's so much easier to pour from a kettle,' I thought 'cauldrons are so awkward. I never liked using one. The only advantage is even heating over an open fire. A stove and kettle do the same thing.'

I took a moment to meditate. Learning of my past life seemed to have somehow unlocked some of Daylight's memories. I was sure that sip I took from the potion in the canteen had no small part either. I was terrified yet fascinated by what else I may remember. Daylight, or rather I, lived to be 85 years old in the midst of a war. I was wondering how much my past self was hoping would be forgotten for good.

I was about to head back when I remembered Applejack had been drinking with me and she didn't know potions. Gilda did say to take my time so I figured it would be fine. I poured half the potion into another jar. I had made plenty.

I found her in the east orchard slumped over a basket of apples.

"You alright, Sugarcube," I teased.

"Ah'll be fine," she said, "its muh own fault, anyway. Ah'm sorry about last night. Ah don't know what ah was thinking."

"I think we were both trying not to," I said, "you have nothing to apologize for. Have you heard from Apple Bloom?"

"No," she spat, "and ah could really use a headache potion."

"I just happen to have brought one," I said, "Fresh out of the cauldron. I hope your sister doesn't mind I used a few of her ingredients."

"Like she would mind," she scoffed, "but how did you manage that?"

"I was a rather famous potion maker back in the day," I laughed causing my head to throb again, I needed to eat before drinking my own potion, magic is hard on an empty stomach, "I better get back to the cabin, I forgot to eat before making these. Take care."

"You too, thank you," said Applejack before downing her potion. Her face went funny, "You'll have to tell Apple Bloom your secret. It worked just as well as hers but it also tastes good."

"Mint goes with everything and adds an antacid effect. It's great for hangovers," I laughed as I walked away causing my head to throb yet again. If Gilda wasn't done with breakfast I was gonna have to smoke one to take the edge off.
I got back to the cabin to find it filled with the smell of sausage.

"Just sit down and load a bowl," Gilda called when she heard the front door, "we just gotta let the gravy set up and the biscuits cool."

"You made biscuits and gravy?" My mouth was watering. It smelled just like my mothers cooking.

"Sure did," she said, "it just needs to cool. Let's smoke up an appetite."

I was beginning to wonder what took me so long to see it. The woman of my dreams was waiting on my doorstep with a chicken dinner and my vision stopped at the chicken. I guess being raised in a world where dating her would be frowned upon will do that.

I let her spark the pipe as I rubbed my temples trying to collect my thoughts. I reached out to take it from her and nearly jumped out of my chair. For a moment, I swore Feather Touch was holding the bowl out to me.

"You alright, dweeb?" Gilda sounded concerned.

"I'm fine. Don't you have deliveries to make?" I asked, hoping for the subject to be dropped.

"I paid Gabby to cover my last two weeks," she said blushing.

"That must have cost a fortune," I said.

"Luckily she likes helping," Gilda said, "So she's doing it for the pay I was gonna get. I just have to tap into my savings until I get paid for working with you."

"But wasn't that supposed to cover your new place?" I asked.

"Oh," she was blushing, "I was going to see if I could rent your spare room, but I'm sure I can find something."

"I bet I could still find room for you," I laughed, "You just may have to share mine instead. The rent is cheaper. I'm just surprised you let two weeks of pay go so easily."

At that, she stood up and walked to my chair. Pulling me into an embrace, she put her beak to my lips.

"Who said I let it go easily?" she said, "I couldn't talk myself out of it."
Gilda opted to hang out at the cabin while I talked to Pinkie, but she insisted on making a batch of griffin-scones before I left so I could bring them to her.

I found Pinkie waiting in a booth at Sugarcube Corner, she already had a dozen doughnuts waiting.

"Help yourself," she said as I sat down. I couldn't help but suspect this was a test to determine my favorite flavors. No two doughnuts were the same.

I grabbed the all chocolate one as soon as I saw it.

"So here are the designs I have for invitations, well, cutecenyera anyway." with a strain she lifted a book to the table that was far too thick for its own good, flipping through it revealed thousands of layouts for cutecenyera invitations.

I suddenly felt my mind drift. I am used to this with my ADD but I couldn't reel it in this time. The daydream was too powerful.
I was sitting at a more private table, next to a human I didn't recognize.

He had just set a huge pile of technical manuals in front of me. I recognized the blueprints of a shelter laying on the table beside them, only this set had all the details in the margins just like the wiring diagrams for the sound equipment.

I reached out a hoof to get a closer look when I was pulled back to reality.
"Jerry? You in there?" Pinkie was knocking on the table in front of me.

"Sorry," I said, "I was thinking something simple. I don't need a bunch of frills or anything."

"I like that you're thinking," she said, "I like this for simple cutecenyera invitations." She flipped to a page that just had a few random cutie Mark designs around the border with plenty space for the information to be filled in around a blank spot that read 'your cutie mark here'.

"Works for me," I said, "I assume they are all a little childish."

"Cutecenyeras are usually for foals," she said, "the only exception I know of is a griffin named Gabby, and the Crusaders made her mark. Speaking of which, did you want to make the party for Jeep too?"

"What do you mean," I asked.

"Well the Crusaders made a cutie mark for Jeep," she explained, "Did you want to combine the parties? Seems silly to throw a separate party for Jeep if you don't like parties."

"Pinkie," I said rubbing my temples, "You do realize the jeep isn't alive right?"

"So?" she asked, "it still deserves a party."

"If you insist," I sighed.

"OOOOOK," she said, "so if its all good with you I thought next weekend would be a good time to throw this Jerry and Jeep cutcenyera and going away for a while party. That way you have a good few days to check out your presents and pack for the trip before you have to go."

"Sounds good," I said, "anything else you needed from me?"

"Just one thing," she said, "Will you be bringing a date? I need to know for the seating arrangement."

"I believe I will," I laughed. If she had asked the other day...

"Oooh," Pinkie squeed, "is it, Gilda? A fly on the wall told me you were at the club together."

"By fly on the wall, you mean a Pinkie in the DJ booth don't you?" I asked.

"Maybe..." She tried to look sly, "just tell me! Is it Gilda? Is it? Is it? Is it?"

"She sent you some scones," I laughed.

"I knew it," she said, "I know all my friends, so I knew you two would get along."

"Pinkie, Pinkie, Pinkie," I sighed, "you put the psychic in psychotic. What are you writing?"

"Just a few wedding plans for later," she said, "for, um, another pony, nothing to worry about. You can head back home now. These are for you." She pulled a box out of nowhere and scooted it across the table. "Open it right when you get home."

"OK," I said, "catch you later."

On the way out I could only think, 'that damn pink pony, why does everything seem so obvious yet un-explainable around her?'

My mind wandered again as soon as I got in the jeep.
I was sitting in a park on a sunny day, I was staring at a book of flight maneuvers, not really interested in what it said. I just had to come up with one flight pattern for my entrance exam.

I was resenting my father for making me try out for these 'Wonderbolts'. I wanted to study potions.

He seemed to think the only good one could do at times of war was line up and fight. 'Battle scars make a colt into a stallion' he said. It's like he didn't even realize how many of those scars would have been mortal injuries if not for the healers.

Just then a ball hit me in the face. I looked up with a scowl to see a mare I had never met before. Her purple mane bounced as she skipped her way over. Her enormous smile looked out of place on her bright orange face. I was just too annoyed to care that I found her beautiful.

"Sorry about that," Feather Touch laughed, "The ball got away from me. Say, you look grumpy. Do you know what always cheers me up? Ice cream! Wanna go get some? My treat."

"I don't have time for that," I scoffed.

"Well at least take this," She put a daisy in my mane, "I hope we meet again." She trotted back to her friends.

I took the flower and held it in the air, suddenly coming up with a flight routine didn't seem so hard, and here I thought I would have to ask my buddy Easy Glider for help.

"Something tells me, we will meet again," I said aloud to the flower, "I hope I'm right."
I got home to find the place empty, Gilda left a note saying she was chillaxing with Rainbow Dash.

I opened the box from Pinkie and found cookies. Some were fire and ice yin yang's to match my cutie mark, some looked like Scootaloo's cutie mark, and some were feathers. I would have thought this was just because Gilda has no cutie mark, except for one thing. On the top was one cookie of a unique shape... a daisy.

I heard Pinkies message loud and clear. She is not random. She's just the only one that knows the whole pattern and it isn't her job to tell anyone. I was indeed starting to worry about the wedding plans she was scribbling as we spoke.

I got the impression that she planned it all so I would open the box after that vision, but before Gilda got back. It's not like I wanted Gilda there the moment I realized the cookies Pinkie made her were in the shape of Daylight's wife's cutie mark. She wouldn't understand.

35- J. Blade

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You have a job to do. Everything you need to know is in journals like this.

There are 4 in total. As well as a knife, a set of blueprints and the final piece is with the zebras. You'll know it. They don't.

I know you'll succeed.

Sincerely, J. Blade
Gilda was off chillaxing with Rainbow Dash when I got home so I figured it was about time I actually read the first journal. I was hoping to learn more about this J. Blade of the past.

I had read that note over and over afraid to turn the page, but I knew putting it off wouldn't do me any good at this point. I had to know the rest of the story.

I took a toke off my pipe, closed my eyes, and turned the page. I was right to brace myself.
The first thing I want to say is, I'm sorry, son. I wish I could tell you, but I have to let you figure it out on your own.

I hope I did a good enough job raising you to make up for it, but it is your plan after all. All I can do is the same as any father. Teach you how to live in my world and prepare you for anything that may come up.
I nearly fell out of my chair. This whole time that I was racking my brain about who J. Blade was, I never once considered the fact that my father's name was Jeremy...
I hope you figured it out by now that you were once a pony, your name as I write this is, Daylight Dreamer, if your mother isn't opposed, I plan to name you after private Sharpe. He is my best friend.

You asked us to write these journals explaining our own part of the project. For the most part, I really don't know what my part is aside from agreeing to take that crystal with me and letting you be my firstborn son. At least that's how I understand what's going on. You said you would explain that in your journal so the pony that summoned you knew what to expect.

I want it on record that if you are really reading this, and the whole plan worked. You are also sitting next to me as I write it. You have a bad habit of reading over people's shoulder.

I also want it on record that I totally caught you right there. I hope you don't have that problem as my son. It's rude.

The others seem to look to me as a leader. Private Keen seems to think I'll make lieutenant if we aren't listed as deserters, but he's the one that came up with most of the plan, so I think he's just being nice.
It was actually starting to come together. It was my namesake in the grave. I just never saw his name written out. How was I to know there was a silent 'E'? What did he mean by 'the others' though? Who is this Private Keen?

Only one way to find out.
I guess the most useful thing I could do is explain how you dragged us into this mess.

We were stationed on a base in the Mid-West, waiting to hear if we were going to be deployed overseas. It's probably the most underfunded base in history. They still maintain a fleet of jeeps from WWII because they can't find the funding to widen up the trails through the woods to fit a Humvee.

I didn't mind, I actually really liked driving them and they had custom roofs and doors made so the weather stays out.

Private Sharpe and I were helping Private Keen get his jeep unstuck when I saw something fly overhead. I swore it looked like a black horse.

I couldn't help myself, I ran off into the woods to see what it was. I finally saw it land by a stream.

Sneaking in closer I saw that it really was a winged horse. I knew the others wouldn't believe me so I dug my old 35 mm out and tried to get a picture, but I couldn't get the shot.

I crept in closer being as quiet as I could, and was about to get a perfect shot of him sitting by the stream with his wings sticking straight up, but I stepped on a twig. He shot up and looked right at me as I pushed the button. That's when I noticed he was wearing a flight jacket and had a blue mane with a matching beard.

I was about to run when he tackled me and started talking. It was you, well Daylight you.

You told me you came from another dimension. That you had to get back the same day, but you came looking for help.

Pony kind had taken to war and had no idea how to end it. You apparently found a way to bring yourself to earth to seek out someone who knew more about the subject.

Time doesn't work the same here though. You told me you were sacrificing the better part of a month just to spend a day on earth. You told me it was about a 1 to 20 ratio. One day on earth is 20 in Equestria.
I nearly dropped the book. That explains how a guy that's just a little past 25 could have lived 600 years. Granted I was a little bit off, it doesn't take a genius to know that 30x20=600.

I was beginning to wish I had read the book sooner, so many of my questions had been answered. However, part of me knew, I would have never kept reading if I didn't already know who I really was. Finding out this way never would have worked.

The only thing left was how I became my father's son, and I wasn't talking about 'when a man loves a woman, or they both get drunk.' I had to know more about that crystal.

Apparently, I had left that detail in the journal that said to bring me. I figured it was safe to guess that was the one Twilight had. The one that was half burned and half soaked. Would have been a fitting end if I didn't still need it.

I looked back to the journal I did have.
I agreed to help you out. I figured it was either a dream, or I could do a greater good than I could ever imagine on earth. So I gave you a sample of my hair. You said I would be pulled into Equestria in the middle of the night. So I figured all I had to do was not go back, and I would be reported as missing rather than a runaway. When I got back I could just rip my uniform a little and make up a story about getting lost in the woods. I would only be gone a week or so in earth time.

I tried to explain this to the others, they were obviously skeptical.

We weren't having any luck getting the jeep unstuck so I told them to just leave me with it. I said to tell the guys back at base I didn't want to give up.

They were worried about me, so they decided to stay with me. We got bored so we sat in the stuck jeep and tried to get some sleep.

We woke up to the whole jeep being pulled through some kind of portal. The force behind it must have been incredible. We could not get that jeep out with two other jeeps and a winch. Yet it flew through this portal like it were a paper airplane.

You were on the other side waiting. You were shocked to see Private Sharpe and Private Keen, but delighted when they agreed to help as well.

Jerry and Jordan will undoubtedly explain things from there better than I. They may call me the leader, but I'm more of an organizer. I'd be lost without them.

The only thing I'll add is that you had better be careful with the contents of that bunker. There's a reason we sealed it away. I still think ponies need to see their own dark side, a look in the mirror can be good. You know more about that kind of thing than me though.

The rest of this journal is encrypted, feel free to read the others until you find the code. It's in the bunker, and if you are back in Equestria, that's where you're headed.

Take care of yourself this time around. You deserve a retirement after two lifetimes. Especially if one is in my family.

Your old man,
Jeremy Blade
I felt like I should tell Twilight, but at the same time. I had to be careful about this whole thing. I still wasn't sure I wanted her to know the door she found led to a bunker filled with things I and my father hid from ponies. That was between me and the Crafting family. Possibly Night Echo and Scootaloo, but I had no idea what was in that journal.

Then it dawned on me that I could only account for journals one, two, and four. Who had journal three?

I was so tied into this web I thought it should have turned up.

I mean, I lived on the property of Apple Seeds descendants, was best friends with those of Sculptured Stone, I partied with Drum Beats family, had a talk with Kizzy's kin, and had now adopted my own great times-I don't even know how many times-granddaughter from the family I started with Feather Touch.

Who could possibly have that journal? It's been six hundred years. Could it be lost?

36- A chance to live the dream.

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I was still sitting in my chair looking over my father's journal. I could only imagine what he had put in the encrypted pages. Whatever it was, I was the only one supposed to know about it.

I decided not to tell Twilight about the journals. Not until I read them entirely at least.

I considered starting the second journal but was thinking I should let what I learned so far sink in a little. The fact that my father was here in Equestria just before I was born was insane enough without throwing on the fact that I was somehow the mastermind behind it all.

Just then Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle came flying into the cabin frantically talking over each other.

"Calm down girls," I said, "One at a time."

"Scootaloo found out about a potion that can fix her wings," Apple Bloom said.

"But it needs an ingredient only found high on the cliffs at Ghastly Gorge," Sweetie added.

"And?" I was confused, this was great news. Why were they so upset?

"She ran off on her own to get it," they screamed in unison.

"We better go find her," I jumped up and grabbed my keys.
We found Scootaloo standing at the end of the gorge. Where Rainbow adopted Tank after the race to be her pet.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

She looked at me as though she were in trouble, but relaxed when she realized I wasn't mad. "Waiting," she finally said.

"For what?" I asked.

"That," She pointed with a hoof.

Just then Rainbow Dash and Gilda came flying around the bend carrying burlap sacks. They were clearly racing each other with Gilda in the lead.

I stood back as they came around the last turn. Rainbow overtook Gilda just before landing.

"HA!" Rainbow gloated, "I won."

"Yea," Gilda reluctantly admitted, "but the moss was the point, and I got more." She presented her burlap sack showing that it was clearly at least twice as full as the one Rainbow Dash carried.

"That's not fair," Rainbow said, "You have claws."

"OK," Gilda said, "If it will shut you up." She rolled her eyes as she took a deep breath, "Rainbow Dash is the fastest, smartest, coolest, awesomest, radicalest, awesomest and coolest one around, and we are all 20% cooler just for being her friend."

"Thank you, thank you," Rainbow teased, "Good race, you almost had me, and I never could have gathered so much moss so fast. Tell you what, since you were a good sport, I will be too. Come by Wednesday and I'll see about giving you a tour of Wonderbolt's HQ."

"You really are the Awesomest. Is this enough?" Gilda held her bag to Scootaloo. She realized just then that I was standing there, "Oh, Jerry, you saw that?"

"You would have had her if you weren't weighed down by all that Ghastly Crevice moss," I caught my mistake, "Excuse me, it is more of a gorge these days isn't it?"

"What do you mean?" Gilda gave me a weird look, "It's always been Ghastly Gorge."

"Actually," Rainbow chimed in, "It was The Ghastly Caverns 1000 years ago. I learned that when we had to track down The Pony of Shadows."

"And it was Ghastly Crevice 600 years ago," Scootaloo said a little too excitedly. She knew something.

I was willing to bet she had been reading her own journal. I could only jump to one logical conclusion about who wrote it... There were 4 journals and 3 humans. Somepony wrote one of them before it was passed down my family line.

"So how would Jerry know that?" Gilda asked, "and why are you talking like you were there?"

"Because I was there," I answered kicking myself for not explaining the details to her when I had the chance, "It turns out I'm actually the reincarnation of a potion maker that lived 600 years ago. I used to be a pegasus named Daylight Dreamer."

Gilda and Rainbow both laughed.

"Now I know you're blowing smoke," Gilda laughed.

"Yea," Rainbow agreed, "You're trying to say. Not only are you the reincarnation of Commander Easy Gliders Wing Pony. You also say Daylight made potions. He was a Wonderbolt, not an egghead."

"Wait," I said, "I was Easy Gliders wing pony. I didn't even know I made it into the Wonderbolt's, just knew I tried."

"You didn't know you have a medal on display at Wonderbolt's H.Q.?" Scootaloo asked incredulously, "And you two should know it's for saving pony lives. It may not say it but he used potions for that."

"And how do you know about that?" Gilda asked.

"Rainbow Dash has been my hero forever," Scootaloo seemed like she was avoiding the real answer, "So obviously I've been studying the Wonderbolts for that long. I may never be able to join, but I still want to know all about them."

"If Zecora can really make this potion," Rainbow said, "I can start your training and you'll have a real shot."

"I wasn't actually going to ask Zecora," Scootaloo said.

"Then who's gonna make it?" Apple Bloom asked, "and don't look at me, you know what happened last time ah stepped out of my league."

"You really gotta be careful with that heart's desire girl," I laughed, "the spell wouldn't have backfired if you had used just a few pedals less."

"And just how do you know that?" Apple Bloom asked, "when ah haven't been able to figure out what ah did wrong?!?"

I looked her in the eye and said each word clearly so everyone could hear, "I wrote the recipe you followed. That was my hair you put in, and the whole point was to summon me. Who would know better than the one who taught your teacher's family how to brew potions?"

"I guess you got me there," Apple Bloom admitted, "if you really are him."

"You of all ponies should believe it," I pointed out, "It does mean you succeeded at mixing a potion and casting a spell meant only for Elite level potion makers that have been studying as long as you have been alive and all you did wrong was add a few too many flower pedals. Now that's amazing. Bravo."

"I know how he can prove it. He also wrote this. I bet he can make it," Scootaloo held out a potion book. I had seen it before. On Twilight's table when she was showing me the remnants of the journal she found. The title was Care and Treatment for Returned Prisoners of War, By Daylight Dreamer.

"Let me see that," I took the book, keeping it on the page Scootaloo had it opened to.

The top of the page read, Fixing hobbled wings after they have healed.

"Twilight had this?" I asked. I was glad, but she wasn't supposed to.

"Yea," Scootaloo said, "She said she got it from Celestia, and she was only gonna let me use it for this potion. She cast a spell so I can't even open the others."

'That's a good thing,' I thought, 'Hobbled wings were the least of a lot of ponies worries when they were returned from the prisoner of war camps. All the copies of this book were supposed to be destroyed but one, and it's in the bunker... Celestia must have kept her own. I hope she at least has some security around books like this. I wrote this for a much different time.'

"So do you think you can make it?" Scootaloo pulled me out of my thoughts.

I looked into her big round pleading eyes. She was giving me that look. The one that said I had the key to her dreams. I couldn't help her with her parents. I wasn't gonna let her down again.

"Give me a few hours, once we get home," I said, "It's a complex potion, but aside from the moss I should just need a few things from Apple Bloom's garden. That cool?" I looked at Apple Bloom. Scootaloo did too.

"If it means Scootaloo gets to fly," Apple Bloom looked her friend in the eye, "take the whole darn garden."

Scootaloo tackled her friend, "Thank you, I just know he can do it," she then wrapped around my legs, "can we go home, dad?"

I thought I was gonna cry. Not only from Scootaloo's question.

I had just promised to make one of the most advanced potions I had ever devised in the 60+ years I studied potions as a pony. Yet in this life, I had only made a headache remedy.
I looked nervously into the mixture. Everything was going as planned. It was almost ready to go into the jars and cool. That was the moment of truth.

I was nervous about how well things were going, I felt like I should have had a harder time. Aside from having to grind moss the consistency of steel wool into a fine powder. It was actually pretty easy.

My hands weren't practiced but they were skilled, and my mind was buzzing with the knowledge of my old experience.

"Now," I said pouring the contents of my kettle into 6 jars, "If this works, the jars will match your mane," I nodded to Rainbow Dash.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Rainbow asked.

"You'll see," I said.

As the jars cooled the first turned red. The second Orange. The third Yellow.

"So far so good," I said, "The rest always take longer. I hope I ground the moss fine enough." I was biting my lip nervously.

"You're kinda cute when you're nervous," Gilda teased.

"And you are positively adorable when you get embarrassed," I said without looking away from the potion jars.

"Shut up," Gilda tried to sound annoyed. I looked over to see her covering her face again.

"See what I mean," I teased but before she could retort I looked back at the potions, "Look, it's still working."

The fifth jar turned blue, and the sixth purple.

"Come on," I blew on the fourth jar, "Come on."

Slowly but surely the pale white mixture turned green.

"Success!" I shouted, "Now, you can drink the red one today the orange tomorrow, then the Yellow, and so on. Just ONE potion a day. You can try flying once you drink the green one, but your wings won't reach their full strength until you drink the purple one. Try to rush it, and your wings will be injured beyond my help." That speech felt rehearsed. This must have been a popular treatment in my old medical practice.

"So one potion a day, the order of the rainbow," Scootaloo said, "green means go, but take it slow and finish them."

"That's a smart filly," I said, "Go ahead and drink this, That's why I made you eat while you waited." I looked at Rainbow Dash, but continued addressing Scootaloo, "I trust you're big sister knows what take it slow means. I'm trusting her to teach you. Flying isn't all fun and games."

Rainbow kind of bit her lip and looked to the side. I had to laugh. I knew she could handle the responsibility. Even if she didn't.

37- A date in the clouds.

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Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash went off to spend the night at Rainbow's cloudaminium. Gilda helped them figure out a few exercises that would help Scootaloo's wings get stronger without overworking them so she could start preparing to fly right away. She was already talking about flying over the party if she can learn fast enough.

Rainbow went on and on about how Scootaloo would be able to visit her place more often. I had to laugh to myself about just how much her new bedroom was actually getting used.

At least now Gilda and I had more time to talk. I had kinda dropped the ball on telling her about my old life over breakfast. I felt like I should make up for it.

I looked out the window, the sun was starting to set, "It's been a long couple days," I said, "Would you mind watching the sunset with me?"

"Sure," She gave me a funny look as I took my shirt and shoes off and poured myself a drink into a measuring cup.

We went out the front door and she looked at me, "So where do you wanna sit?"

"Up there," I pointed to a cloud.

"I can get you up there," She said, "but I can't make a cloud hold you."

"Good thing you don't have to," I downed the contents of the measuring cup which I had poured out of the canteen.

"Holy shit!" Gilda said as I was once again transformed into a black coated pegasus with a dark blue mane.

"I have one hour," I said, "and I'm gonna need that pipe when I change back because the pain killer in the potion doesn't last that long. Mind carrying it? I'm used to having pockets... and thumbs." I was struggling out of my pants as I said it. The pre-loaded pipe was falling out of my pocket, guess I didn't think it through as far as I thought.

"Let me help you," Gilda grabbed my pants and let me step out of them.

"I feel a little exposed," I laughed as I swayed by midnight blue tail back and forth. I waited as Gilda folded my pants and set them on my jeep's hood, "shall we? I'd race you but I haven't used these things in six hundred years."

Gilda insisted I go first, so she was under me if I fell. I was a little shaky at first, but by the time I was to the cloud, I did a couple of laps and a flip before landing on it.

"Wow," Gilda said, "That's actually really good. I know it's not really your first time, but still."

"Yea," I laughed, "I was never the best flyer in the 'bolts, but Easy Glider didn't like flying with anypony else. Especially after I saved his life." That came out of nowhere.

"Yea," she said, "That is how I heard you got that medal. Easy Glider put it in his will that any tributes to him should include it. That's why it's on his shelf. He had come down with Swamp Fever from what they say, but there is no record of it."

A memory flashed before my eyes. Not like the daydreams. More like I was just remembering.

I remembered seeing Easy Glider on the floor of a hut. He was burned over much of his body, his wings were broken, and his left foreleg had a large gash in it. I wasn't in much better shape myself. That's all I remembered though.

"Let's go with that," I said, "He isn't the only one I saved, either. As far as the Wonderbolts knew, I just got them to the healers. A Wonderbolt brewing potions was unheard of, much less the full-blown field hospital I set up in the woods. They weren't as accepting back then. I was almost thrown out and stripped of that medal when they caught me. If it weren't for Easy Glider... I would have been."

"I guess there wasn't a 'Princess of friendship' back then, huh?" Gilda teased.

"There wasn't even a Princess of the Night," I reminded her, "And Celestia was kinda busy figuring out how to do both. She would never have let it get as bad as it was, but by the time she knew anything was going on. She didn't know how to stop it. Nopony did."

I was kinda hoping she asked more. In this form, the memories came as I needed them. It was much better than being sucked into a daydream and one huge question had not even been touched on. Who the fuck were we fighting?

I tried to remember on my own but saw only ponies.

"I'm just glad I didn't know about this before," Gilda said.

"Why is that," I asked.

"Because," she took a deep breath and let it out with a loud sigh, "I got to know you as who you are now... Well, you know what I mean. I didn't meet you knowing you were once Daylight Dreamer. So when I say I love you..." she paused but only briefly, "I know it's for who you are now, not who you used to be."

"I love you too, Gilda," I smiled, "but let's not get all sappy, I only have like forty-five minutes before we gotta land and smoke that pipe, and I bet I can beat you to that cloud over there."

"You're on, Dweeb," I guess Applejack and Rarity aren't the only ones allowed to call me by a pet name. I kinda liked this one.

Gilda and I raced from cloud to cloud around the cabin. She beat me every time but gave me a few pointers before each go.

Just as I was about to beat her to a cloud I felt a pain in my ribs and I knew I was in trouble. I forgot to watch the time. I started slowing down and losing altitude. I just barely managed to land on a cloud before my wings gave out. I doubled over as the pain shot around my back. I was grateful that the cloud was still holding me, but I was still a pony, so far...

Gilda landed behind me and kinda pulled me into her lap, "You OK?"

"I need to get to the ground and smoke that pipe, I don't have much time," I cringed as another pain shot through my entire rib cage, it started working its way down all four legs.

"Then let's skip a step," Gilda suggested, "Smoke! I'll hold you so you don't fall."

She didn't wait for my response. She just shoved the pipe in my mouth and held a lighter to it. I didn't resist. I knew she would catch me. I felt myself drift off to sleep as the pain slowly faded away.

I woke up just a few moments later to Gilda hovering over me with an awestruck look on her face. I sat up and noticed the ground was spongy.

"What's going on?" I asked before looking around, "Why are we still on a cloud?"

"I didn't want to move you until you were done changing. So I was just holding you by your arms so you didn't fall," Gilda said, "but you're legs never fell through the cloud. So I just... let you nap. Take it from me and Dash, there's no better place to nap than on a cloud."

"I guess I must still count as a pegasus," I said, "Humans sure can't do this." I stood up and looked around, the night sky was amazing without all the clouds in the way. I sat back down after feeling the breeze, "I'm still naked?"

"I wasn't about to leave you up here just to get those ridiculous pants you always wear," She teased, "Especially when I always wanted my first time to be on a cloud." She gave me a bedroom look.

"I ah," I didn't know what to say to that, "I..." She shushed me and put a claw on my bare shoulder. Her talons were sharp but not as sharp as I expected. I got the impression she would have to mean it for them to cut in.

"I think it's a little late to pull the different species card," she teased, "Look. I won't speak for you but I've wanted you since the day we met. At first, I thought it was just because I don't like most ponies or griffins, and you're neither, but you got stuck in my head. So when you ordered food I couldn't wait to see you so I had both days worth of deliveries covered so I could come two hours early. I got so embarrassed I made up that story about Grandpa Gruff. I was going to camp out so I could surprise you with that bacon the next day but then you invited me to stay and going to the club...I really just wanted a drink to clear my head. I thought we would get drunk and I'd find a reason to stop falling for you. The whole telling ponies we were together was just a way to keep ponies off our backs, but after a bit, it started sounding good. I started wanting it to be true. That's why I came back, I couldn't stop thinking about it. Now that I know you feel the same...." She trailed off.

I put an arm around her and leaned in just to hug her, but she had another idea. An idea that I was done arguing with. One could reason that it was our third date.
We woke up the next morning to a knock at the front door.

"I'll get it, Dweeb," Gilda said, "You can take your sweet time getting dressed."

I just laid in the bed a moment longer as she went to answer it. This super comfy mattress suddenly seemed hard after a nap in the clouds. I wondered if I could have a cloud bed made for my cabin, or if that was strictly a cloud home thing.

I was just starting to sit up when I heard Rarity's voice. Listening close I could just make out what she was saying. Gilda, on the other hand, could be heard clear as a bell.

"I told you I don't want one," Gilda was the first voice I heard.

"But, Darling," Rarity retorted, "you are going to be Jerry's date, you must have a stunning new gown to wear. Don't worry about bits. It's my gift, to you."

"I still don't want a stupid dress," Gilda raised her voice.

"Come now," Rarity was keeping her composure like a true lady, "let me work my magic before you call it stupid. I already have a few sketches ready if you would like to see them. Trust me. Jerry will not be able to look away."

"Really," Gilda said, before a pause, "I guess I could rock this. If you have to, just make this quick."

"Just hold still," Rarity sounded pleased, "This will only take a moment."

I took my time getting dressed. I had a feeling Gilda would get embarrassed if I walked in on her doing something as uncool as having her measurements taken. I waited until I heard Rarity speak again.

"There we are," Rarity said, "That wasn't so bad, was it? Now, we are all going to the spa on Saturday to have our manes and hooves done. We would like it very much if you would at least join us in the steam room. I would be happy to cover any treatments you care to have done, they do offer deep tissue massage. I know Rainbow Dash always gets one before every show to loosen up."

"I'll think about it," Gilda said.

I decided to make my appearance. Rarity and Gilda both looked to the bedroom door as I walked out of it.

"Of course we would love to have the guest of honor join us at the spa," Rarity said, "If you aren't busy Saturday night."

"I never have had a real message," I said, "I'm in."

"I guess if he's going," Gilda said, "I should probably get my claws done too, I can pay for myself though."

"Not a word of that," Rarity emphasized with a small hoof stomp, "It's my treat, I insist. After all, this is also you're 'welcome to Ponyville' party."

"I do not want a party," Gilda protested.

"You think I did?" I asked.

"I was wondering about that," Gilda said.

"I'm afraid with Pinkie Pie around," Rarity sighed, "parties are not optional. However, she has made a fair compromise and simply added it to the festivities of Jerry's party."

"I guess that's not so bad," Gilda said, "It's not like I don't enjoy parties."

"Well," Rarity said, "now that that's all settled. I must be off. Take care, and I'll see you at the spa."

"Well that was interesting," Gilda said, "I'm gonna have to get used to these ponies."

"They mean well," I laughed.

"Too well if you ask me," Gilda scoffed, "It's all too much when you grew up in a place where everyone is out for your bits."

"I can relate," I laughed, "That show from earth I told you about. The reason a lot of people like it is that it portrays a world where everyone gets along for the most part. Humans don't always get along. Not even for the most part, but when they do, great things happen."

38- Daylights last night.

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Hey Daylight,

I trust by the time you're reading this, you know who you are. So I'm not going to confuse myself by using your new name.

My name is Private Jerry Sharpe. I just want to say, I thought your father was crazy, but I would have stayed with him either way. We have known each other since grade school, and if he's running off on an adventure I wanted to be there to have his back.

I have been studying war tactics since I was a child. I believe the best thing I can do is give you a little insight on why you felt the need to bring us here.

I know you want to know who you were fighting, but that secret is to be locked up. I can say this, it is alarmingly similar to America's history. Around the time wearing a stove pipe was fashionable.

The short answer as to why you needed us is that ponies don't have any tactics. I don't think they really even know what started it all. It was over the bat-ponies. We managed to figure that much out, but no one is offering them refuge.

The root of the problem is that without strategy neither side really knows their objective. The only thing they know is that they have to win. They only know that winning means defeating the enemy and that the enemy refuses to surrender.

How does one defeat an enemy that will not surrender?

You destroy them... Burn them to the ground. No matter how peace-loving a people are, they will eventually figure this out.
I couldn't believe what I was reading. This could easily be the only message I get from the man I was named after. Who gave his life for this cause, and he was skirting around the idea that ponies were killing each other in large numbers.

Ponies weren't allowed to know who the enemy was but this was one American to another, I learned about our civil war in grade school. North versus South. Brother against brother. 'Stovepipe' was a pretty obvious reference to President Lincoln's hat. To an American that is. An Equestrian wouldn't have a clue what he was talking about. I can't say I'd expect most of the earth to get that reference.

I put a pin in that thought.
You knew you had to put an end to it, but you didn't know what to do. Your attempted negotiations resulted in four villages being destroyed.

That's when you decided to come up with a strategy of you're own, but you had no idea where to start. What does one do when you have no time to learn something for yourself?

You call in an expert, but nopony knew anything about it. That's why Equestria was in such a mess.

You said you had seen visions of a people to witch war is almost second nature. While I resent the assumption, you're not wrong.

You had found a set of stone tablets containing ancient potion recipes. You were able to translate them and were foolish enough to publish them in a book. I hope against hope Kizzy's is the only one left. Anyway, that's how you got to Earth, and that's how you brought us.

The last resort was basically to make ponies forget they were ever involved in a war, but certain things couldn't be destroyed and others shouldn't. Ponies will remember. That's why you're back.

Any questions? I hope not. There may be a good chance I'm still alive on earth as you read this, but you're out of radio range.

-J. Sharpe

P.S. As with the others, the rest of this journal is encrypted. Just move on to book 3 when ready.
I was really hoping journal 3 turned up, but I was clueless where to look.

Well, I had one clue, and two ponies to ask about it.

Gilda was laid back on the couch reading a book about rehabilitating broken wings so I thought I may as well continue my own research.

That was my last journal though. Until Scootaloo gave me hers that is. Then I had to decide whether or not to read it before I found the last one.

I had only one lead so I figured I should look into it. I grabbed another book from my shelf. This one had my cutie mark on it, and pretty stars.
Dear Twilight Sparkle,

It has come to my attention that you are in possession of a spellbook authored by one Daylight Dreamer. I wish to request access to it. As well as anything else you may have on the subject.

Your subject, Jerry Blade
I waited a moment as the ink melted into the page, but she responded quickly.
Dear Jerry,

You know you don't have to be all formal.

I did have that book. I let Scootaloo borrow it to see if Zecora could fix her wings. She had the potion made but Zecora says she never stopped by. I hope Apple Bloom didn't try.

Anyway, I sent it back to Celestia, I had borrowed them from the restricted section. I'm actually surprised Celestia said we could make one of the potions. You'll have to ask her. All I have is his journal, and aside from the page Apple Bloom got a hold of, I showed you everything legible in that.

That page was literally just the summoning spell with a few strands of blueish grey hair stuck to the other side in wax next to the words 'I give this willingly to whoever has the talent to use it.' A few ingredients were smudged off the list too. Starswirl had to fix it.

Sorry, I can't help but I'm sure Celestia would be willing to let you see the books I had.

Your friend,
Twilight Sparkle

P.S. Don't be a stranger, stop by the castle some time.
I was going to ask Twilight where she found the journal but I was drawn into a daydream.
I was flying over a wooded area, I looked to my right to see an empty valley. Apple Seed had wanted to start an orchard there, Jerry had mentioned wishing he could stick around to see it. Sadly, neither dream was meant to come true.

I looked ahead to see the familiar red roof of my old hut. I motioned to my wing pony and came in for a landing. I was trying my best to look stronger than I felt. I didn't want them worrying about me.

I was worn thin. I couldn't take much more, I coughed into my hoof and saw blood. My insides were all torn up. I had escaped death one too many times. Potions heal you, sometimes when you would otherwise have died, but scars still build up. Every pony's days are numbered, and mine should have run out so many times I lost count.

I only had to set one last thing in place. The war was over, or at least paused. I had sent my human friends back a long time ago, but my work was not done. I had spent the last several decades cleaning up the mess with what remained of the Protectors and the help of our foals. We were just trying to make Equestria into the place everypony knew was worth fighting for again.

Apple Seed and Drum Beat didn't even see the end of the war or their foals grow up. The others made it to reasonably old ages, aside from Kizzy, who died after Zecora's birth. If only I had been there for her, some Protector of Kinship I turned out to be.

I was the last one. More like I was the only one too stubborn to die. Not until ALL the pieces were in place anyway.

I had just put the element's back in the castle where they belonged. We never managed to use them to their full potential, but that we could use them at all was a tribute to our friendship. I shed a tear at my loss but hoped for Equestria's sake that an even greater group of friends would find them.

"You OK grandpa?" asked the young stallion that up until this point had been acting like my wing pony. He was black, with a purple mane and a lightning bolt cutie mark.

"I just have to finish this, Fast Lane," I said, "I don't want your grandchildren to see what you almost did."

"Is this about that journal?" He asked, "and those humans you told me about?"

"Yes. We must keep their memory alive in our family until the world is ready to know," I said before coughing again.

"Grandpa," He pleaded, "You're unwell, we have to get you to Zecora's."

"Just give me a few moments with my old hut," I assured him, "I fear this is my last chance to see it."

"Very well," he said, "but everypony is waiting to hear what you have to say."

"I won't be long," I assured him again, "You should see if the garden isn't too overgrown to salvage a few ingredients. Zecora could use them." He was already going for the garden as I turned and opened the weathered wooden door.

I hadn't been there in years. Thick cobwebs and dust covered everything within. Most of the bookshelves were already emptied the last time I packed up and left. The secluded location had lost its thrill somewhere along the way.

I reached into the cupboard and grabbed a green vial from a shelf. I poured it on the floor and slowly the fluid ran along an otherwise invisible seem that extended around a square section of the floor. The potion then vanished revealing a cellar door. Opening the cellar door I saw a metal door just beneath it with an odd keyhole at the bottom.

I set a journal in the center of the metal door and closed the cellar door again. I pulled a red vial off the shelf and poured it in the same fashion concealing the door once again.

That was it, my work was done. I could retire at the age of 85.

I pulled a granola bar from my pack and drank my last vitality potion with it. They were the only thing keeping the lump of scar tissue that was once my heart beating, but they were tearing my insides apart at the same time. Drinking one more would cause enough internal bleeding for me to bleed to death in an hour. Not drinking one meant my heart would stop. I was already a dead pony walking.

That didn't matter. I had accomplished more in this life than many ponies could dream of and now all the pieces were in place. Even now as my soul yearned to leave the bruised and shattered vessel that currently contained it, I could feel it being drawn to the crystal in the other world.

It's only been a couple years there, but I was willing to bet Jeremy married that girl he told me about. They should be looking to have a child in a couple more.

I hoped I would be a good son. There was just no pleasing my pony father, but what do you expect from a pony named Flying Nightmare? I was always glad mom named me.

I took one last chance to ponder life in this old kitchen. In my youth, I had always thought this hut would be my final resting place. It had been my home for so long. It was the place I would sneak to after Wonderbolt drills to read whatever potion books I could get my hooves on. Where I dragged my fallen platoon members to when I knew the healers were overstretched already. Where I raised my daughter, Sweet Dreams, and where she held me as her mother died in my hooves. But this was not where I planned to rest these tired bones.

I owed it to Zecora to let her make me comfortable, and to my family to let them be by my side as I went. I had to leave this place one last time. I would see it again. Not like this, but I would see it. I could not say the same about my family.

Fast Lane wasn't being dramatic when he was worried about carrying me, Zecora's hut was a long flight away. I had two options. One was to take it easy, fly nice, and collapse on Zecora's doorstep as the vitality potion wore off. The other was to fly like a bat-pony out of Tartarus and collapse from exhaustion with a good hour to catch my breath before the potion stopped working.

I made my way out of the cabin.

"Bet I can beat you to Zecora's," I said walking past my grandson.

"Grandpa," He scoffed, "You'll kill yourself."

"Come on," I pleaded, "Give an old Wonderbolt one last good chase." I kicked off full speed into the setting sun, leaving my bewildered grandson in my dust, but I knew he would catch up. He was already a Wonderbolt himself. Fast Lane Dreamer always liked making me proud. He didn't know it, but this was his last chance.

I knew this choice meant my family would be pissed at me for exerting myself, but for once in my life, I was being selfish. I wanted one last look at the faces I was leaving behind. I had told them I needed to say something to everypony, they had no idea it would be my last words.
"Dweeb, Dweeb," Gilda was shaking me, "I'm here, everything is OK. Tell me what's wrong."

"I don't care if they yell! Just let me see them," I screamed out of nowhere while sobbing into my hand's with Gilda shaking me. I threw my arms around her and took a deep breath. She smelled sweet, I wasn't ready for that. I coughed into her feathers.

"I'm sorry," I said, but I couldn't hold in another wave.

"Shhhhh," was all Gilda said. She just pulled me in and let me get it out.

"You OK now, Dweeb?" Gilda asked once it was over. Her voice was soft and caring. It sounded strange coming out of her beak.

"I will be," I assured her, "sorry to be such a crybaby."

"What happened?" She asked, "You looked like you were taking a nap so I figured I would make some scones for when Scootaloo gets back from school. When I got back in here you were crying and you wouldn't respond until you screamed just then. Who's gonna yell at you?"

"Ever since I learned of my past," I sighed, "I've been getting visions that are memories of my old life. I just relived my last day as a pony. I knew exactly when it was going to happen. I wanted to see my family first. I was old and falling apart but I pushed myself to the limit for one last hour with all of them knowing it would start with a pointless lecture."

"What are you..." she started to ask, "Oh, you mean the last day before you..." She just pulled me back in, "Come over to the couch. You should lay down."

"I would like a nap," I said, "but I have to finish what I was doing first."

"OK," Gilda said, "just don't stress yourself too much."

"I'll be fine," I said reaching for another book.
Dear Princess Celestia,

39- Restricted knowledge.

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Dear Princess Celestia,

It has come to my attention that you are in possession of a spellbook authored by one Daylight Dreamer. I wish to request access to it. As well as any materials and knowledge you may convey to help in my research.

I am anxiously awaiting your response.

You're humble subject, Jerry Blade
I hate writing messages, I never know what to say. So I do my big word thing even tho I could just stop and think. Does sound smart though, and official. I was talking to the ruler of the land.

The journal flashed as soon as the ink melted. The message only read. 'I'm sorry.' It was not in neat hoofwriting either.

I didn't know what to think. Then there was a knock at the door.

I walked over to answer it and found none other than Celestia bowing her head, with tears in her eyes.

"What's this all about?" I asked.

"I'm sorry, I know you wanted me to, but I couldn't destroy your books," she said, "I had to keep them for myself, and I can‘t keep pretending I don't know who you are. You and you're friends were the only ponies that had Equestria's best interests in mind while everypony else fought over who didn't," she threw her hooves around me. "Thank you, you saved my kingdom from the midst of turmoil. I owe you so much more than access to the restricted section. Of course, you can read all your old books."

"You knew all along?" I asked.

"Unlike everypony else alive," Celestia let me go and bowed her head again, "I was there. I am the pony that enchanted the crystal that held your soul until Jeremy and his wife conceived a child."

"So that's how that worked," I said. I had pretty much figured that out, aside from who would have that kind of magic. It didn't sound like a potion thing. I also had a feeling I knew what was really on the torn out page of Kizzy's book.

"It was a rather complicated spell," she said, "I am glad it worked properly. I would be happy to bring you to the Canterlot library right away, but all I have are books you wanted to be destroyed, I have a feeling you are looking for something else."

"I am, but I'd still like to look at that," I looked at Gilda who was standing in the entryway to the kitchen, "Would you mind making sure Scootaloo eats before drinking that orange potion? I need to check something."

"Funny you should ask," Gilda laughed, "That's exactly why I made scones. You should take a couple for the road."

She held out a tray of freshly cooled griffin scones. I took a couple and she held it over to Celestia.

"Are these the famous griffin scones I've heard about?" Celestia asked, "Thank you, they look lovely."

Gilda blushed hardcore, covering her face with the now empty tray, "Thank you, Now go ahead and check what you gotta check, Dweeb, but I'm gonna make you lie down when you get back. I don't want you stressing yourself into a panic attack."

"Thanks, babe," I said. She gave me a big smile just as Celestia reached out a hoof and we poofed away.
I felt a little motion sick when I appeared in the library.

Celestia lead me to a bookshelf with two books on it that looked like her and Luna's cutie marks.

"This is the only way into the restricted section," Celestia explained, I would not be bringing you here if I did not already have Luna's blessing. Normally she would have to be here to help open the lock, but the spell is not totally specific to us. In fact, any two 'key-holders' can open it. Normally, there are only two, but she had been on the moon for a few hundred years when this castle was built. She was not the first and I never bothered revoking his key."

"What are you saying?" I asked.

"Could you touch that book for me," She asked.

I reached out and touched the book with Luna's cutie mark, it began to glow. Celestia touched her own book and the bookshelf swung open revealing a secret cavern filled with books, scrolls, leaflets, propaganda, and sedition of all kinds.

"With the exception of the few books moved from our old castle. Many of the first books placed in here were done so as part of your group's plan. So it only seemed right to have you stand in as the other key holder while I could," Celestia explained, "The shelves containing your books are over here."

"Shelves?" I asked amazed, "Twilight only had a couple! I assumed there were only a couple more."

"You were actually a rather prolific author of potion and healing books. It was your passion. Twilight was hoping for insight on you personally, recipe and first aid books do not tell that story. She wasn't even going to take any home until I made a recommendation and pointed out the value of learning what kind of potions you were making."

"So you knew I could get Scootaloo flying?" I asked.

"I did," Celestia giggled, "I also knew you needed a chance to prove who you still are, to yourself, and everypony, and griffin, that needed to know. They cannot support you properly if they have doubts, and it's hard not to doubt something so extreme."

"I guess that makes sense," I said, "It all worked out anyway, but I would have liked to see Zecora pull it off."

"That is how you have always been," she smiled, "you get your glory from seeing the seeds you planted flourish, and that seed has been long untended. I assure you she would have done beautifully."

"Yea," I said, "I'm starting to wonder how I'm supposed to feel about some of those seeds."

"Whatever do you mean?" Celestia asked, "We are alone if you feel the need to talk. I am the only pony who fully comprehends your situation, and even I cannot imagine what is going through your head."

I took a deep breath, "It's just...."

"This is about Feather, isn't it?" she asked.

"How did you know?" I asked.

"You lived thirty years longer than her," Celestia looked at me with knowing eyes, "but never moved on past that day," she put a hoof around me, "all she ever wanted was to make you happy. So do her a favor and don't let her stop you now."

"Thank you," I said, then I figured I better get to it. Gilda was waiting. "Do you have a copy of Advanced Spellcraft for the Elite Potion Maker?"

"I do," She said, "Top shelf, far left." She pointed to a shelf that was easily twenty feet high and five feet wide.

"Did I write all these?" I asked.

"You wrote the top three shelves," Celestia answered, "The rest of them were authored by your students."

"Do you have a ladder," I asked.

"Oh," she laughed, "excuse me, up until now everypony allowed in here had wings or magic." she used her magic to retrieve the requested book.

It was an exact duplicate of the one Zecora had, except that it was in pristine condition. I immediately turned to the middle, I knew what page I wanted.

"No fucking shit?" I mumbled as I read.

"Did you find the answer you needed?" Celestia asked.

"Not the one I needed," I said, "not even one I wanted," I turned the book so she could read it, "but I had to know."

The top of the page read, 'Opening a Portal to Another Dimension'.

"Are you saying you wish to go back?" She asked.

"No," I said, "I had planned for that spell to be destroyed. So I couldn't back out now, and wouldn't have to choose later. Not to mention how dangerous a spell like this can be. I just had to know. I have more of a family now than I left there."

"I am happy to hear that you are back to stay," Celestia smiled, "do not hesitate to ask my help. I know better than anypony how much you deserve to retire this time around."

"Speaking of taking it easy," I laughed, "Gilda is going to kill me if I don't, I better get back."

"It sounds as though she is a good match for you, but before you go," Celestia floated a book from one of the lower shelves, "I honestly don't think this book belongs in here. As long as you agree, it would be an amazing tool for her career in sports medicine."

The title of the book was 'Healing Injured Pegasai, Everything you need to know to keep a flyer in fighting form. By Sculptured Stone.'

"Wasn't Sculptured Stone a unicorn?" I asked.

"He was," Celestia confirmed, "It was never like him to care about such things. If you were injured, he was there to help. Be it friend or foe, his chivalry was legendary."

I was drawn into a daydream before I could respond.
I was sitting at a desk feeling super nervous. I learned potions from a bunch of old books and trial and error. Now I had to teach it. At least I didn't have to fly on the front lines anymore, and I could do what I loved.

However, I felt as though I abandoned my friends. My only real consolation was that Easy Glider had been promoted to commander. He wasn't on attack runs anymore either. Still, I wanted to be there.

This was the deal if I wanted to keep my position in the Wonderbolts, and I could do a lot more good with it, than without it. I had to join the new program to keep our soldiers alive. Teaching my own healing skills to whoever will join the new medical unit. They wouldn't be Wonderbolts themselves, so I was free to teach every student that was interested, not just pegasi. Celestia's orders were to spread as much healing knowledge as possible, so I was hoping for students that could teach.

I looked across my new classroom and was pleased to see I at least only had four students, I wasn't ready for a big turnout just yet.

A grey unicorn stallion with a spiked silver mane approached my desk.

"Mr. Dreamer," He said, "I am honored to meet the Wonderbolt brave enough to study potions, I am Sculptured Stone, I myself was nearly disowned by my father for trying to learn potions. He believes a unicorn aught to stick to magic, but it has its limits, I know potions do as well..."

"You are correct about that," I said, "I have yet to find a potion that can locate internal bleeding, or see broken bones, but I bet a unicorn healer like you can do both easily."

"This is true," He confirmed, "That leads to my question. If I can master potions as well as I can use my healing magic, hypothetically... What would my limitations be?"

I pondered that for only a moment before saying, "Your ability to dream."
"Are you OK," Celestia asked when I came to.

"Yea," I said, "I've been having some crazy daydreams and they're getting more vivid,"

"What do you see in them?" Celestia asked.

"As best as I can tell its memories of my old life," I said, "This time it was meeting Sculptured Stone."

"I am only a little surprised," Celestia said, "You were known to have prophetic visions in your old life, so it makes sense that this is how your old memories are presenting themselves."

"I guess that makes sense," I said, "At any rate, I do agree with you. Sculptured Stone was the best healer and teacher around in a time when healers were desperately needed. His work is transcendent. Gilda will only do good with this. I'll tell her you wanted her to have it."

"I do not need credit," she said, "These are your old books after all. You gave them to me after sorting out the ones for the Zebra family. You left out the ones that you didn't feel belonged in a peaceful Equestria. That is what you see before you."
"You're finally back, it's about time," I got the impression that was Gilda's way of saying she was worried about me.

"I got you something," I said.

"Why would you do that?" she asked, "I thought you already got the idea. I don't like being given things."

"I was actually hoping you would give me the honor," I held out the book I had gotten from Celestia, "of learning from one of my best students. Trust me. If you're on duty during a race, and there's an accident, you won't want to be far from this book."

She looked the book over, reading the title out loud, "Healing Injured Pegasai, Everything you need to know to keep a flyer in fighting form." She seemed to roll this around, "Sounds useful. Thanks."

"Don't mention it," I said, "Now I better lay down or my griffin-friend is gonna kill me."

Gilda laughed, "I may as well join you, it is late. We all have a big day tomorrow, I hope you don't mind I told Scootaloo she could take the day off from school. It's not like she really needs permission."

"Wait," I didn't know what she was talking about, "What's tomorrow?"

"Rainbow said she would get me a tour of Wonderbolt's HQ." Gilda answered, "I already planned to take Scootaloo, but now that we know that you can walk on clouds. I figured you would want to see it for yourself."

"Awesome," I said, "I can't wait."

"Good," she said, "because Rainbow Dash will be here to pick Scootaloo up at dawn. I figured we could wait til about 8 to give them time together."

"Yea," I teased, "give them time together."

Gilda blushed, "Shut up, Dweeb!"

"I better try and get some sleep," I said, "Sounds like a big day."

"Oh, and you're gonna like this. Follow me," Gilda lead me to the bedroom.

I couldn't believe my eyes, Gilda just went and did it before I could say a thing about what I wanted.

Standing in my bedroom, right before my very eyes. Gilda presented me, with my very own cloud bed! I was speechless.

"Well?" Gilda asked, "Do you like it? I always wanted one, but my hut wasn't worth putting one in."

I dropped to my knees and hugged her, "I love it. I can't wait to cuddle in it."

Gilda whispered in my ear, "Me neither, Dweeb. So, why are we waiting?" She sprung to the bed dragging me with her.

40- Reliving old memories.

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I was glad I had talked Gilda into letting me hire a hot air balloon. Being carried all the way to Wonderbolts HQ would have been awkward, and I had to agree with her that using the potion to fly myself was a bad idea. Tempting, but stupid.

The balloon landed on the far side of the field from the complex. A familiar yellow and orange mare walked up. she was by herself. She stopped 5 feet in front of me and saluted.

"I didn't think you saluted civilians?" I was confused.

"Easy Glider wanted the ceilings painted black," Spitfire responded.

I was confused but out of nowhere, I said, "Because the night sky was the only peaceful one. Most ponies were afraid of it."

"I wasn't saluting a civilian was I?" She gave me a coy look, "once a 'bolt always a 'bolt. Commander Dreamer."

"How did you know?" I asked, "I never made commander."

"The medical unit didn't have ranks until after you were gone. So you were posthumously awarded the title you should have had," she said, "Easy Glider left a few records the entry-level 'bolts don't know about. He wanted you to get the hero's welcome you deserve, but I talked to Rainbow Dash and she didn't seem to think you wanted it. Still. I had to do something. It was Easy Glider's last order." She blew her whistle.

Soarin came flying down with a Wonderbolts jacket.

"So this is what we decided on," Spitfire said as Soarin held the jacket out to me, "A new jacket. It also goes without saying that you are still a commander of the medical unit, in an honorary sense at least."

I looked the Jacket over, the name tag said 'Crunch' on it.

"We actually still had your nickname on record," Spitfire chuckled.

"Now I remember why I don't like nicknames," I laughed, "Do you know how embarrassing it is to break your leg in three places on your first day?" I put it on and it fit perfectly.

"Wow," Soarin said, "I thought 'Clipper' was bad."

"That's not all," Spitfire said, "one of our medics is retiring. So we'll have an opening for somepony who knows first aid in a couple weeks. I hear you're griffin-friend was interested. The list of applicants is long, but with a recommendation from the first commander of the medical unit... I can skip a few."

"Really?" Gilda chimed in, "You mean it?"

"You would be the newbie," Spitfire said, "and we will expect you to prove yourself, but I can't disregard an order from Commander Daylight about how he wants his unit run."

Gilda looked up at me with the same look Scootaloo had become fond of. She found the door to her dreams and I held the key. I didn't wait for her to ask. I looked Spitfire right in the eye.

"I would very much like Gilda to be considered," I said, "I have a feeling, given a few years, she'll be running the unit."

"And just like that she has better credentials than anypony else," Spitfire laughed, "Would you mind joining me in the mess hall before the tour. I have to admit, I never thought I would be the 'bolt lucky enough to welcome you back. I've been so excited I forgot breakfast."

"We better get you to the mess hall then," I scolded, "a flyer has to keep their strength up."
The mess hall seemed to only serve pasta and sandwiches. We all lined up and made our decisions before choosing a table. We saw Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo already eating so we sat with them.

"So do you remember anything from your old life?" Spitfire was actually starting to lose her cool. Soarin was trying to contain his grin. I had a feeling she had been talking his ear off while they waited.

Something bothered me though. Her tone was one of excitement, but I could tell there was a hesitation involved. Like she wanted to hear my stories but was worried about what they were about.

"Not much," I said, "The memories seem to come as visions, and they need a trigger. Except when I'm in pony form."

"Pony form?" She dropped her fork, "You can change back?"

"Only with the help of a potion I left at home," I said.

"So you actually have a potion that turns you into a pegasus again," Spitfire hadn't even touched her plate of mac and cheese, "and you didn't bring it?"

"The transformation requires a painkiller for me to survive it," I said, "the painkiller in it only lasts a few moments, so it's a bad idea to use it when I may lose track of time. I learned that the hard way."

"If you use it again," she said, "I wanna be there. It would be an honor to fly with my filly-hood hero's wing-pony."

"Eat and I'll consider it," I said with a mouthful of spaghetti, "I bet you have to yell at somepony soon. Do you really want your stomach to growl right then." She gave me a funny look but finally started digging in. I enjoyed the silence as we finished eating.

"I probably should check in on the new recruits," Spitfire said after cleaning her plate, "They're just doing drills so I figured Thunder Lane could handle it. If you don't mind, I'd like to see how he's doing."

"I don't mind," I said.
"Come on! You call that flying!" I heard Thunder Lane's deep voice from the other end of the runway, "My baby brother can fly twice that fast and he's still a colt!! Watch those hoops!! The idea is to go through them!"

"You're doing great," Spitfire laughed as we approached Thunder Lane.

"I'm just glad I could help out," He said, "IT'S CLOUDBUSTING, NOT CLOUD HUGGING!!!"

"I was thinking," Spitfire said, "it's not often we have new recruits, and guests. Let's show them how it's done."

"Let's do it," he said, "ALRIGHT NEWBIES!! LISTEN UP!!" The new recruits all lined up, "You're in for a treat, Spitfire, Soarin, Rainbow Dash, and I are gonna show you how it's really done!"

"Mind if we join?" Gilda asked putting a claw on my back.

"Ummm, Gilda," I was about to point out that I couldn't fly when she held a flask out to me.

"It's the same dose you took before," she said, "only this time I'm setting a timer. You WILL land and smoke when this goes off in fifty minutes."

"Is that what I think it is?" Spitfire asked.

I just took the flask and said, "I fucking love you," before stripping and draining it before I could care that I was naked.

I looked across the group of astonished flyers as they stared at me and one of the newbies caught my eye. She was Orange, with a midnight blue mane. As a human, I just thought it was an interesting combination that I liked. As a pony, I couldn't look away. She looked just like my daughter.

"This is so, AWESOME!!" Spitfire officially lost her cool.

"Commander!" Rainbow scolded before getting gushy herself, "that's my line."

"Like I was gonna let you spend a day here without flying," Gilda smiled, "Now let's get to it. He has fifty minutes starting now. Any remaining time has to be spent medicating for the change back."

"Alright," Thunder Lane said, "It's a classic obstacle course. Zigzag around the cloud pillars, bust three clouds, go through the hoops, and it's a mad dash to the finish. We line up here."

We all lined up and Thunder Lane gave Scootaloo the whistle and stopwatch.

"We'll be busy so you can do the count down and referee," he said, "Now, ARE WE READY!?"

I took a deep breath and tried to remember how I did this as Daylight. I may have been in his body with his memories but I was still Jerry. That had become painfully obvious when I flew with Gilda. I really didn't want to embarrass myself in front of the newbies.

I seemed to remember my first commander telling us to imagine we were on an attack. We had to fly through the woods, take out the enemy, then run a diversion course before bolting home before they catch up. That was never my style.

The whistle blew and I did imagine myself going through the woods, but I imagined gathering ingredients, making my way to the kettle, and sprinting to my injured friends.

I looked up to see how many of the others beat me. I only saw Scootaloo.

"Where are the others?" I asked. She pointed behind me.

I turned around to see Rainbow just reaching the finish followed by Spitfire, Soarin, Thunder Lane, and Gilda within a second of each other.

"Way to go, Dad," Scootaloo beamed, "You're even faster than Rainbow Dash!"

"Now that's," Rainbow panted, "impossible."

"You OK?" I asked, "you should catch your breath."

"Geeze, Dweeb," Gilda said, "What happened? Last time you couldn't keep up with me. Now you're flying so fast Rainbow got winded trying to catch up to you."

"I, am, not..." Rainbow gave up and took the time to catch her breath.

"I remembered why I liked being able to fly fast," I answered, "I've always been better at things when I have a good reason to do them."

"You're not so bad yourself," Spitfire told Gilda, "I'll feel a lot better knowing we have a medic that can out-fly some 'bolts. Thunder Lane isn't exactly slow, and you were right behind him."

"That's why I like flying fast," she blushed, "in an emergency, time is everything. So what's your reason?" she was asking me.

"The same as you," I smiled at her, "I really did form the original medical unit."

"Whatever," Rainbow scoffed, "that was just beginners luck. Let's just go straight to best out of ten while we have the time."

"You are so on," I laughed as we lined up again. I didn't plan on taking it easy on her. Now that I knew I could win, I wanted to know 'by how much?'. Taking it easy was never my style.

We managed to get nine more runs in before the timer went off. The only difference in order was who came after me. Gilda and Thunder Lane went back and forth in last place. Rainbow came in second the first couple but winded herself again allowing Spitfire and Soarin to get their own chances.

Spitfire came in second on the last race. She was beaming so wide I was snow-blinded by her teeth.

"Wow," She said, "You guys must have been pretty fast back in the day."

"You should know, if anypony today does," I said, "the Wonderbolt's didn't really start as a super awesome flying group. We were part of the E.U.P. guard. We were the air force. I learned to fly running for my life through the woods. I only know of two ponies that managed to beat me on this course back in the day. That being said, I have very little style, and I bet Rainbow would beat me in a straight sprint. I would be useless in one of your shows."

"You would still be welcome in them," Spitfire said.

"I'll keep that in mind," I said as Gilda handed me a lit joint. I reached out a hoof forgetting I had no fingers. It didn't seem to matter though, I just imagined holding it in my thumb and index finger and it just kinda stuck to the edge of my hoof.

"You should still have five minutes to finish that," Gilda said.

"Think I could talk somepony into fetching my clothes?" I asked, "I'm gonna get cold when this fur is gone."

All of the new recruits scrambled to be the one to help. The winner was one hiding in the back, closest to the start line where I left them. It was the orange one, with the dark blue mane.

"H-here you go," she held them out in her hooves.

"Thank you," I said, "I like your mane color. What's your name?"

She seemed to blush, "Thank you, I'm Sweet Harvest. I get my mane from my father, he's a berry farmer. He actually looks just like you, but without wings. He wasn't exactly OK with me being here at first. I feel like I'm letting him down." She flashed a worried look.

"He'll come around the rest of the way," I assured her, "All a father really wants is his children to be happy. Some just don't know any path to that besides their own."

She smiled at me, "Thank you, Commander Daylight."

"I prefer 'Jerry' now," I said, "Now, you better get back to practice if you're gonna make him proud. I have no doubt you will."

"Alright, Newbies!" Spitfire yelled, "I hope you took notes, I expect every one of you to cut your time by the end of the day! Shows over, back to flying!"

I was glad I had a minute yet, just enough time for a memory.

I remembered my daughter making her first potion and asking me if she did well. Then I remembered seeing that same worried look I just got from Sweet Harvest. She asked me if she could try out for the Wonderbolts herself.

I didn't want her to. The things I had seen in that unit could not be unseen. The war wasn't quite over yet either. We were still rooting out a few pockets of resistance from both sides.

But the Wonderbolts had already started to reform. They were more about gaining support and finding those still trying to fight so we could get them to stop. Rather than wiping out the enemy before they could hurt the princess.

When that was over Easy Glider had some ideas to make the Wonderbolts truly awesome. His flight choreography was sure to be used for centuries to come.

In the end, I was convinced that Equestria needed her in the unit. Sweet Dreams took after her mother, and the new era of the 'bolts needed more humor. It doesn't pay to get too serious, that's why I fell for Feather. That and because opposites really do attract sometimes.

I was still smiling as I changed back. It was nice to finally have a good memory.

I wasn't done at the old HQ yet though. I was afraid of what may trigger the next memory. Being human again meant I would have to live through it. That didn't matter, I wasn't going to leave without a tour, and that was next.

41- Daylight's story. Part 1

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I looked at all the ponies around me. All in training uniforms aside from Commander Firestorm. She had a strange uniform with bell bottoms. I kinda hoped they revised the outfit before I had to wear one.

It was Wonderbolt tryout day and I was nervous.

I wasn't nervous that I wouldn't get in. Being a Wonderbolt was never my dream, it was my fathers. I was nervous I would let him down. I may have hated Flying Nightmare, but he was my dad. I respected him for being there, even if I never got any good advice. He had raised me and my little sister, Aura Dreamer, on his own since I was five and she was two. My mother was a Wonderbolt, too. Until she lost a battle.

"What's buggin' ya buddy?" came the voice of my colt-hood friend.

"It's nothing, Easy Glider," I said, "I'm just worried about letting ponies down."

"Come on," He said, "This is gonna be a walk in the park."

"Have you forgotten how many land mines are in the parks?" I gave him a sideways look.

"If I know you," he said, "this is about your old man. Don't let him bother you. You gotta make your own way."

"That's easy for you to say," I said, "you always wanted this, and your father wouldn't have stopped you from taking another path."

"I guess you have a point. Just do your best," He said, "I happen to know that's pretty damn good."

"I can always count on you," I smiled.

"Next up," announced the Commander, "Daylight Dreamer."

"Great," Easy Glider said, "I have to go after you. Try not to set the bar too high."
We were down to the handful of ponies that had made it in. It was official. I was a Wonderbolt. I wasn't unhappy, but excited wasn't the word.

We were flying an obstacle course for our first drill. The commander was saying something about an attack run, but I was just stressing over how I was going to make good time.

Easy Glider apparently read my mind, he leaned in and whispered, "Just pretend I'm at the finish line with a broken leg. That will get you flying."

"Thanks," I replied as my name was called.

I got to the start line and readied myself. The whistle blew and I kicked off. I did just as Easy Glider said only imagining I had a ways to go and medical supplies to pick up before getting to him.

It seemed to be going well, until the sprint to the finish. I was coming in way too fast. I tried to slow down but it wasn't working.

I landed at full speed on my back right leg. An audible crunch could be heard across the compound as I rolled end over end to a stop.

"Way to stick the landing, Crunch," the commander laughed, "GET A STRETCHER! WE GOT A BUSTED LEG!"

Two senior Wonderbolts came up and lifted me onto a stretcher.

Just before they carried me off the commander walked up, "That would have been record time, by the way, Crunch. Learn how to stick that landing and you'll be our fastest flyer easy."

I was carried off to the infirmary. It wasn't like the medical unit. It was just a few Wonderbolts that knew basic first aid with one non-Wonderbolt, but still pegasus, doctor on staff for times like this.

The doctor entered the room and I could swear I had heard her voice before as she asked the first aid ponies what she was dealing with.

She walked around the bed and I was a little embarrassed to see the orange face and purple mane of a mare I indeed had met before.

"I bet you'll have time for ice cream now," Feather touch teased, "you're gonna be laid up for a while."

"Can I at least get a cast first," I smiled. As embarrassed as I was, something about that overblown smile told me everything was going to be OK.
I was in my flight unit, Easy Glider was our captain and I was his wing pony. It felt good having his back after all the times he had my own growing up.

We were on our way to defend a town in Northern Equestria. Celestia had gotten word of an attack and she wanted us to check it out.

We made it to the checkpoints just fine but as we approached the town we were ambushed. A group of earth ponies came jumping out of the very trees that were supposed to be our cover. They were carrying machetes and each landed on one of our backs.

I barely managed to dodge them causing my attacker to fall to the ground. As I looked back up I saw Easy Glider falling with an earth pony on his back.

I followed but before I could do anything he hit the ground and the pony on his back stomped on his wings and tried to cut his leg off with his machete.

Furious I charged down after them and managed to shoot him in the leg with my sidearm. It was about .45 caliber, semi-automatic with an eight round clip, but made to strap to a pony's leg, and I had to flick my hoof to fire. Aside from the barrel, it was hardly recognizable as a gun.

They barely managed to escape as their friends started throwing firebombs at us and running. The entire area around us was engulfed in flames. Before I knew it, so were we.

Easy Glider and I were the only survivors of the attack. I aimed to keep it that way. I dragged him out of the flames and put us out.

He was out cold and my feathers were charred, so flying for help was not an option. I looked around and saw the red roof of a hut in the distance just barely lit up by the fire. Huts like that in the woods are usually owned by healers.

I got my friend onto my back and carried him to the hut. I knocked on the door but got no answer. I swung it open and found a decrepit old earth stallion looking over a kettle.

"Please," I said, "we need help."

Slowly he turned his head and looked at me. He wrote something on a piece of paper and held it to me in his mouth.

It said, "I'm Forrest. I'm deaf and mute, please lay your friend down and I will see what I can do"

I set Easy Glider on the floor and the old stallion looked him over, that's when I noticed Forrest only had two legs, his hind legs were replaced with a pair of wheels.

He pulled out a jar of salve and spread it over the burned area on Easy Glider. He then poured the contents of a vial on the gash in his leg.

The old man wrote something else down, "I won't be able to fix his wings until he can swallow, let me tend to you."

I just nodded and stood still as he treated my own burns.

I wrote on the page myself, "My name is Daylight. Thank you, for saving my friend Easy Glider."

He wrote one more time, "You did the saving, you got here. I did the easy part. Get some rest, you need it."
I woke up on the floor next to Easy Glider. We were both pretty much healed aside from Easy Gliders wings. My feathers had even grown back. There was a note on the stove next to a potion bottle.

It read, "Your friend should drink this. If you want to pay me back I only ask one thing. Keep the kettle going."

The old man was gone, and the hut was covered in a thick layer of dust.

I looked at the dust-covered shelves filled with potion and books and thought of what I had seen him pull off. I had to learn for myself. If only to keep my friends alive. The Wonderbolts only had one doctor, and the unicorn and earth pony healers were overbooked and constantly under attack.

It was about time a Wonderbolt said 'to Tartarus with protocol'.

I stepped out and found an overgrown garden. In the midst of the weeds, I saw a disturbing site.

It was the skeleton of an old stallion, his hind legs were missing and a pair of rotting wooden wheels lay behind him. The wheels and his neck had clearly been broken for years.

I just buried what was left of him and said a little thank you, promising that he would be repaid.
It was a year later and I was in my dress uniform, at a party with the whole team.

I had lost count of how many I had healed before dropping them off with the normal healers to avoid my cover being blown. I had a deal worked out with the earth pony and unicorn healers that they would back my stories. It was only the Wonderbolt's that cared and I was beginning to narrow it down to the leadership.

I heard my name being called by Commander Firestorm yet again. This time it wasn't to fly, it was my turn to see what medal I was being awarded.

I walked to the stage with my head held high. I don't normally like being honored, but I knew I deserved it, and I had actually gotten my father to say he was proud when I told him about the ceremony. It was my very own dream come true.

The crowd was enormous. Even Celestia found the time to attend and give a small speech.

I approached the stage to see Commander Firestorm smiling at me. I had never seen her smile before.

"I award this medal of bravery to Daylight Dreamer," the commander announced, "for selflessly carrying countless troops to the healers while injured himself." She pinned the medal to my jacket, "I can honestly say half of us wouldn't be here if it weren't for you and you're amazing wing power. The entire core is in your debt." She gave a salute, "I am proud to be your first commander."

I saluted back, "Thank you, commander."

I left the stage and was greeted by Feather Touch.

"I'm so proud of you," She said, "What do you say we celebrate at my place. You have the night off after all," she winked at me.

"Can we get ice cream first?" I teased.
The war was still raging on a couple years later. I knew something had to be done. I couldn't keep sneaking my friends to that old hut every time we entered battle.

I had learned that the hut once belonged to a healer known as Forrest Meadowbrook. A reclusive member of Mage Meadowbrook's family. He had managed to escape a prisoner of war camp but couldn't make it far, so he found a place to hide and healed anyone who made it to his hut.

Nopony knew what happened to him until I came along. I knew what happened, somepony killed the old man for healing the enemy. I wanted to think it was one of the earth ponies from the attack, but, I wouldn't put it past Commander Firestorm. She hated any kind of magic, be it potions or unicorns. Something in my gut told me it was her.

I had no idea where to start planning an end to the war so I was pondering the thought while I had snuck away to the hut for some reading.

Just then I got a strange sensation, something I had never felt before. Like a dream of things, I had never seen before.
I saw a green vial fall to the floor and a light flash.

I then saw a cellar with the answers I needed, but not the one I wanted.
I shook my head certain I was just drowsy, but on a whim, I looked at a shelf that was full of vials. I saw a green one with a tag that said 'open'. I looked it over, it didn't seem special.

The vial slipped from my hoof and shattered on the floor revealing a trap door. Inside was a cellar. The only thing in the cellar was a stack of stone tablets. They were in old ponish but I knew just enough to make out that they were all recipes. I got right to translating them.

Luckily for me, Forrest kept a book on translating old ponish around.

Once I had them translated I realized just how useful these could be, but I didn't know much about potions yet.

I had been studying but all I had were Forrest's old books. The only help I had was a small feeling that he was still there guiding me to the right page.

I wrote them out in a book and had it published anonymously. I knew the dangers, but Equestria couldn't get any worse and if the right pony found them...
It had been five years and I was still struggling to understand the recipes I had found.

I had gone out to the garden to pick herbs for my research when I heard a pony land behind me. I figured they probably needed help so I turned to look at them.

My heart stopped when I saw the furious look on Commander Firestorm's face.


Now I knew she killed Forrest, it was written all over her face. I walked right up to my commander and looked her in the eye, "NO! If you're gonna burn this place down, your just gonna have to burn me with it."


"I'd rather die than be unable to help my friends," I was still staring straight at her only now I was matching her scowl, "you won't find me as easy to kill as a crippled old stallion."

She may have been my commander but she made the mistake of coming alone. I had about fifty pounds and four wing power on her. Not to mention being on home turf meant I knew every weapon I could pull on her. Like the knife, I had just been cutting herbs with. She didn't stand a chance if she was looking for a fight, but I refuse to draw first blood.

"I'll be back," She said, "if you don't come then. I'll just have to take you up on that." She flew off.

I went straight for my sidearm. I was ready to make my last stand, this hut and my friends were all I had. Even my father had succumbed to his injuries shortly after the award ceremony.

My whole life was wrapped around that hut. She wasn't taking me away from it alive, and I wasn't going down without a fight.

42- Daylight's story. Part 2

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I saw Commander Firestorm in the distance flying back with a platoon of ponies. I knew I was dead, but I was taking the bitch with me.

I started leveling my sidearm just as she was getting into range but was stopped by a familiar voice behind me.

"Daylight! You don't have to do this alone," I looked to see Easy Glider being followed by a group of ponies I had saved, "WE GOT THIS!"

They formed a fence around the hut and all leveled their own side arms.

Firestorm knew better than to be the first to open fire. We were stationary targets, true, but we had the cover, and it's not easy to shoot while flying. Not to mention just how many of her own troops she would be killing.

She landed in front of us, "I see you got a little help," she scoffed, "it's no use, I have the entire Wonderbolts behind me. Just give up."

"Never," I said. I was about to draw on her again when another familiar voice came from above.

"What in my name is going on here?" Celestia asked.

"Now you're in for it," Fire Storm said before turning to the princess, "This insubordinate refuses to leave this hut for his hearing. He's been sneaking off and brewing potions in direct defiance of Wonderbolt protocol."

"I can't believe what I'm hearing," Celestia said, Fire Storm just smirked, for a second that is, "This pony has been single hooved-ly keeping your troops alive and you want to stop him! I know exactly what he's been up to. A few of my personal guards are among his patients. I would think you would want to encourage this. In fact, I hereby strip you of your own title, Firestorm. There is no room in any of my units for such backward thinking. Go straight to the compound and grab your things. You are no longer welcome there. Count yourself lucky I'm not having you banished from Equestria." Celestia was actually starting to yell, "and if any of you following her disagree with me feel free to collect your own items and never come back!"

I was stunned. I never thought I warranted such a rescue. Celestia landed in front of me.

"I have never known such loyalty, we have much to discuss," she said, "I am glad your friend Easy Glider sent a messenger to alert me."

"You wanna talk about loyalty?" I looked at Easy Glider, "I'd have a hard time not mentioning my best friend."
I had just dismissed my first class, I was feeling optimistic about them. Especially Sculptured Stone I knew I could count on him to take the values of my practice to places I couldn't reach.

He was so helpful and kind. I had an idea for him.

Celestia had told me of artifacts that could be used to harness powerful magic. She felt they would be needed to end the conflict but it took a special group to activate them.

She thought I would be a good 'element of loyalty'. I just had to find five others, each with their own attribute. I already knew who would be my 'element of laughter'.

I had to come up with a different name though, 'elements of harmony' sounded so juvenile. I wanted something that sounded like we kept ponies safe. So neither side feared us or laughed at us.

There was a quick tap on the classroom door before it swung open. It was Feather Touch, she had her usual wide smile but this time I could tell it was different. She was positively glowing.

"Hey, honey," She said, "how did your first class go?"

"Great," I said, "I'm a better teacher than I thought. Kinda worried about Easy Glider though."

"He'll be fine," she assured me, "and I have news that will make you glad your not on the front line anymore." Her smile seemed to grow. I had a feeling I knew.

"Are you..." I started to ask but she couldn't wait.

"I'm pregnant!" she said, "If it's a boy I want to name it after you. I thought I'd let you pick if it's a girl. I'd rather not go with my own. I want to change mine to Feather Dreamer when we get married, but I don't think it's fitting for a foal."

"What about Sweet Dreams," I said, "in honor of my dreams of making Equestria peaceful again."

"I love it!" she said, "For a guy that's always so serious, you have a great imagination. I love you so much." She leaned over the desk and kissed me. Next thing I knew she was jumping over it. I didn't mind if you know what I mean.
Sweet Dreams was now four years old, we decided to raise her in the hut I now officially owned. It was a little close to the action, but it was in a secluded area and Celestia had cast a protection spell that automatically banished anyone who came around looking for trouble, so it was pretty much the safest place in Equestria.

I had just put her to bed in the bedroom we had added and was looking over my books. I had to find some way to come up with a strategy. So far the only strategy books I could find were just on how to take as much of the enemy out as possible. There was nothing about negotiating peace.

I had already tried talking to them. It didn't end well.

I needed help from somepony who had seen the end of a war, or at least learned about it somewhere.

But who? I just ruled out every pony in Equestria.

I opened my copy of the first book I published and felt the compulsion to turn to a page in the middle. That's when I was hit by another daydream.
I saw strange creatures with odd-looking weaponry that didn't even strap to their leg. Instead, their forelegs were tipped with odd appendages that seemed to be able to grasp much more effectively than a hoof. I was fascinated.

They were shooting at each other. Cannons fired in the distance, and bombs were falling all over, but they barely flinched. They worked as a team, not just in pairs. They all seemed to have each other's backs.

My attention was brought to a creature planting a flag as the other side ran away. I knew better than to think this was the end of a war, but in all my years I had never seen a battle won while the other side could still fight.

The losing side likely had some plan to regroup before the next battle. They had a plan to end the war. So did the winning side. The question was who's plan was better.

I knew this was the people I was looking for.
The scene switched to a tall one of these creatures wearing a tall black hat. He was introduced as President Abraham Lincoln. He was giving a speech about a country founded on values of all men being created equal, saying that they themselves were in the midst of a civil war. He was honoring the fallen and dreaming of a future in which the battle was won.

His speech ended saying, "This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this Earth."
"Earth," I said aloud as I woke up.

"What's that Honey?" asked Feather Dreamer.

"I have to find a way to get to Earth," I answered, "That's where the help I need is."

"How are you going to get there?" she asked, "I've never heard of that place."

"I don't know yet," I answered looking at the page I had turned to in 'Advanced Spellcraft for the Elite Potion Maker' and read the title 'opening a portal to another dimension', "I have an idea though."
I was flying through an unfamiliar woods, silently celebrating the fact that my potion worked. All I had to do to get back was drink a return potion. It only worked for the one sent through, so I had to devise another method to bring the help once I found it.

The portal itself was no big deal, but setting the destination took years of study and simply reversing it would be like putting your friends address in a GPS backward expecting directions home.

I didn't have much time. In my research, I learned that time moves a lot faster in Equestria than in this dimension, and I left Feather with Sweet.

I flew over a few of the creatures who were messing with three odd machines that were chained together. I didn't know how to approach them so I just kept going until I saw a stream to sit by and think up a plan. I already knew I sucked at planning, but I couldn't just fly up to them and say hello.

Just as I was having that thought I heard a twig snap. I looked up ready to spring into action but I was blinded by a strange flash that seemed to come out of nowhere. I thought I was under attack until I saw one of the creatures starting to run.

I couldn't let him get away, this was my chance. I tackled him to the ground.

"Please," I said, "you have to hear me out. My land is under attack and I need somepony who knows about war."

He stopped fighting and looked me in the eye, "Did you just talk?" he asked.

"Look who's talking now," I said, "This is weird for me too, but I really need your help, I need one of you to come back to my world with me and help put an end to the bloodshed."

"I can't exactly be gone for months," he said, "even if I could help."

"I know you can help," I said, "any creature like you is going to know a lot more about war than anypony back home. The nice thing is you won't have to be gone more than a few days. Time in Equestria runs twenty times faster, you can be there for months, and still come back here a few days later."

"Really?" he asked, "I guess I may as well, I'm probably dreaming anyway. I'll do it. My names Jeremy Blade by the way."

"That's a weird name," I said, "mine is Daylight Dreamer. All I need is a sample of your hair and I can pull you into Equestria. I thought I'd go for midnight here. Since I assume humans sleep. So that would be a good time for you to sneak away."

"Good idea," he said, "I better get back or their gonna worry about me. See you tonight." He pulled out a couple of his really short hairs and I held out an envelope for him to put them in.

I was overjoyed that I had found help so fast. I only had to leave Feather and Sweet alone for a couple days. I was also glad it had been close to nightfall when I arrived on earth, I could summon him in just a few days.
Things were finally falling into place. Jeremy and his friends had come up with a sort of unorthodox plan that took a good three months, but it succeeded.

It was time to send them back. What was left of my team could take care of things from there?

I waited at the edge of the field where Apple Seed once dreamed of planting an orchard. I saw Jordan on his way to pick me up. I could have flown to the meeting spot, but I wanted one last ride in that crazy contraption of his before there were no humans around to drive it and it only seemed fitting to wait with Apple Seed and Jerry.

I pulled on a chain around my neck until my hoof found a music note pendant. I held it out to look at it as I heard Jordan get closer. The gang was getting together one last time. If not in body, at least in spirit.

He pulled up and opened the door for me, "you ready?" he asked.

"As I'll ever be," I said, "I'm sorry about Jerry."

He sighed loudly, "It couldn't be helped, I know you tried. It's not like you didn't lose friends of your own."

"Let's just do this," I said, "before I think too hard about the fact that I'm about to lose two more friends."

"Hey," he said, "you came up with this part of the plan, you know your gonna see us. You won't remember us, but we will know who you are. I may be the odd one out, I may not live near Jeremy on earth, but I WILL be in touch, and he IS going to tell me when you're born. I'll be around."

"That's reassuring," I said.

We made our way to an oak tree that was to be our meeting point. It was already the biggest tree around, if it lived another 500 years somepony could hollow it out and turn it into a library complete with a loft bedroom.

Celestia, Jeremy, Feather, Sculptured Stone, and Kizzy were all waiting. Along with the spouses and foals.

Sculptured Stone was next to his wife Soft Magic. They met when they made up half of my first potions class. Neither expected to find another unicorn. Now a third, only three years old, and by the name of Rubble Stonesmith sat between them.

Kizzy had yet to bear a child but her parents had sent a suitor named Xavier that she was falling for.

Drum Beat and Apple Seed had been survived by their families. Golden Meadows was there with a ten-year-old Apple Tart, and Treble Clef had brought Sweet Symphony who was only four.

Sweet Dreams looked at me from her mother's side and gave me her mother's enormous smile. She was only seven years old and was already making her old man proud.

I looked to Celestia as I approached the group.

"I have already given Jeremy all the necessary instruction to use the crystal," Celestia said, "You will not feel time pass until you are born again, but you know better than anypony that you have plenty of time before you must enter it. I am hoping you make it to old age if only so I can make sure you get a chance to rest. Everything should be ready. You simply have to open the portal."

"Before I do, I'd like to say a few words," I said, everypony stood at attention. Just then, another pony landed in the group.

"Easy Glider!" I greeted my friend, "I thought you couldn't make it."

"With everything these guys did," he said, "with everything you've done. I was not going to miss this, you may have made a lot of new friends, but our friendship has endured the test of time. I had to be with you as you sent your new friends away." He stood straight up and saluted, "It is an honor to be your friend, Lead Medic Dreamer."

"Thank you," I said saluting back, "It is an honor to be your friend, Commander Glider." I turned back to the crowd and cleared my throat. "I just want to thank each and every one of you. I never thought we would be here today. If it weren't for the friendship of all of you, and of those who couldn't make it, Equestria would not have a shred of hope left. I know you all see me as the pony that made it all happen, but I really didn't. I just got the right group of friends together. You made it happen. We may have to say goodbye to a couple of you, but I know that Equestria will live on to brighter days. This nation shall not perish from this world."

"I could not have said it better myself," Celestia said, "Now, it is time."

"Alright," I said. I drew a circle in the dirt and poured a potion into it. a light blue aura began to swirl into the air until it was about six feet high, "The portal is ready."

Jeremy and Jordan looked at each other.

"You remember the story?" Jeremy asked itching his face.

"We managed to get the Jeep out and all decided to take it for a test run," Jordan answered, "We got out to get a view of the terrain on the edge of the cliff near the civilian campgrounds, the parking brake failed causing the Jeep to fall off a cliff with Jerry inside. The cliff we're talking about has a fast moving stream at the bottom. They were swept away and we were stuck miles from the base. We started walking back to our own jeeps but tried to take a short cut and got lost in the woods without a compass."

"Perfect," Jeremy said, "We better git. We have a lot of explaining to do. It's not gonna be easy to explain how a couple soldiers got lost, but its a big woods. We'll manage."

"Yea," Jordan said itching his own face, "I know we had to look scruffy to be convincing, but I can't wait to shave."

They walked up to the portal and Jordan went first.

Before leaving Jeremy turned to me, "I can't wait to meet you all over again." He stepped into the portal before I could say a word.

43- Where credit is due.

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I woke up in the medical unit, Gilda was watching over me.

"How long was I out?" I asked.

"A good hour and a half," she replied, "What did you see anyway?"

"My old life," I said, "Well, everything really important in it anyway."

"Like a near-death experience?" She asked.

"More like a near-my-old-life-experience," I replied.

"Makes sense," she said, "it happened right after we saw Commander Easy Glider's display. It was the first time you saw your old friends face in like six hundred years."

"I guess that would do it," I said.

"Come on," she said, "There's still plenty to do before going home. Unless you just wanna bail. I wouldn't blame you after that."

"I think I need one more look at Easy Glider's display," I said, "it's the least I can do."

"OK," she said, "There is one pony that wanted to meet you before you left though."

"Really?" I asked, "who?"

"Come on in!" Gilda yelled.

I nearly shit myself. I could swear Easy Glider himself just walked in the room wearing a scrub version of the modern Wonderbolts uniform.

"Hello," he said, "my name is Commander Calm Glider, of the Wonderbolts medical unit. My family has been telling the story of how you helped my ancestor make commander since he had his own son. I knew growing up that his hoofsteps were not the ones I wanted to follow. I liked the look of your's better. I am honored to meet you Commander Dreamer. I hope I'm keeping things how you liked them. We may not get too many applicants that can't fly anymore, but I am excited to work with Gilda. I don't want Griffins to forget they are welcome in my unit."

I couldn't stop myself from getting down on my knees and hugging him, "You're doing great. Easy Glider would be very proud. Just so you know, the feeling was mutual. This unit wouldn't exist if not for him."

He put a hoof around me before we let go and I stood back up, "Thank you," he was shedding a tear, "that means a lot coming from you."

"Now let's do this properly. I have not been able to say this in a long time," I stood at attention and saluted him, "It's an honor to be your friend, Commander Glider."

He straightened up and saluted back, "It's an honor to be your friend, Commander Dreamer."
I had made my way back to the shelf containing the tribute to my old best friend. I had asked the others for some time alone to think.

I took a good moment to look his picture in the eye and give a salute.

"We really did something, didn't we?" I asked it, "Rest in peace, my old friend. If it weren't for you. Nopony could. You deserve it."

"Do you always sell yourself short like that?" came a shy voice behind me, "he retired a long time ago. From what I hear, you started at the same time, and here you are still at it."

"Where did you come from?" I asked Sweet Harvest who was hiding her orange face behind her midnight blue mane. Her resemblance to Sweet Dreams was only made more profound after seeing my daughter in that vision.

"I'm sorry," she shied away, "I'll go."

"NO!" I didn't mean. to shout, "Please, stay. I'd like to talk."

"Really?" she asked, "I was just hoping to thank you again for what you said. I just got a letter from my father saying he was happy for me. I wasn't going to bother you when I heard you wanted to be alone, but Commander Glider seemed to think I should."

"I'm glad he did," I said. I couldn't believe it, six centuries later and that family still gets me, "Have you ever heard of a Wonderbolt known as Sweet Dreams?"

"You mean the pony that set the original speed record on the obstacle course," She asked, "she was my inspiration. I'm told I look kinda like her."

"She was my daughter," I said, "you look just like her. Would you mind going for a walk with me?"

"I'd like that," she smiled.

I let her lead the way as we wandered the grounds. We ended up by the obstacle course.

"I hear that you were even faster than Sweet Dreams," Sweet Harvest said, "but we didn't keep records back then."

"That's actually not true," I said, "I actually was still around when the first record was taken. I came in third. I can fly pretty fast, but my real strengths are agility and stamina. Not for doing tricks, for dodging things and weaving around the woods. If you were paying attention, I bet the others started catching up when we hit the sprint. I'm also willing to bet Spitfire and Soarin were either distracted or intentionally holding back to make it more interesting. Hell, they all were likely distracted. Only Gilda knew exactly what was gonna happen when I drank that potion."

"I guess I did notice them catching up," she said, "but you were so far ahead by the end of the first couple obstacles, it didn't matter."

"That's because I learned how to accelerate into the turns while everypony else slows down," I said, "It's not easy, but it can be done."

"Do you think you could teach me?" she asked.

"I'll try," I said. It's not like me to say 'no' to that question.

She actually caught on really fast. I had been concerned since I had no way to show her what I was talking about. I didn't have wings at that time.

Once she had the idea I timed her on the obstacle course.

"Two minutes, fifty seconds," I said as she landed. It was one minute and forty seconds over my time but I wasn't about to say that, "how does that compare to your last run?"

"That's better than anyone in the group did," she looked down, "I was over five minutes before."

I stared at her wide-eyed, "That's almost twice as fast. I'm impressed."

"I guess I had a good teacher," she smiled at me.

"Dweeb!" Gilda called across the field as she flew up to us, "I think it's about time we head out. It's getting late, the hot air balloons are gonna stop for the day soon."

"Alright, Babe," I turned to Sweet Harvest, "Just keep doing what you love and you're gonna go far. Give my regards to your father."

"Alright," she said, "thank you so much Commander Dreamer."

"What did I say about that?" I said.

"Thank you, Commander Jerry," she smiled so wide I couldn't help but think of Feather and Sweet Dreams.

"I guess that works," I laughed, "I hope to meet you again, Sweet Harvest. Until then, I hope you achieve your sweetest dreams."

We were almost to the balloon when we were stopped by Spitfire, "Could I talk to you alone?" she asked.

A wave of anger flashed over me as I remembered the last time I spoke alone with a pony matching her description.

"You alright? Dweeb?" Gilda pulled me back into the moment. I realized six centuries separated Commander Spitfire from Commander Firestorm.

"I'm fine, just heartburn," I tried to cover, "Mind giving us a moment?"

"Sure," Gilda said, "but if you wait too long I'll have to carry you."

"We can talk in my office," Spitfire led me to her office and shut the door behind us. She was nowhere near as chipper as she had been at lunch.

"What did you want to talk about?" I asked.

"I was going to ask how much you remembered about Easy Gliders promotion while you were out," she hung her head, "but I got your answer when I asked to talk. I know heartburn, and I know rage. They don't look the same."

"So this is about Commander Firestorm?" I asked.

She took a deep breath before saying, "I didn't even learn about my ancestor until my own promotion. I had wondered why they were hesitant to give me access to the files on Commander Easy Glider. I grew up wanting to be a Wonderbolt after hearing about his choreography. I wanted to learn all about him... I didn't know how many ponies were erased from most of history. Or how much of his own past went with it."

"It was a troubled time," I said.

"And ponies like Firestorm only made it worse," she was hanging her head, I could see tears fall, "Easy Glider was my filly-hood hero. Now that I know the whole story, I have to admit I admire his wing pony a little more. So I have to know." She clenched her eyes shut as if bracing herself, "Do you hate me?" She asked through her teeth.

"Raise your head and look me in the eye," I said calmly crossing my arms.

Slowly Spitfire lifted her head revealing two giant bloodshot, tear stained eyes. She was frantically trying to wipe her nose. I handed her a napkin I had grabbed in the mess hall.

"I don't know what to say," she said, "I was hoping you just didn't remember, but then you passed out and Gilda said you were probably having a flashback..." she started crying again.

"Did you burn down my hut?" I had to ask. I may not have seen it yet but the shape of the journal that should have been safely under the floor made the huts fate clear.

"That would have been Firestorms son, Blazing Trail," she was still crying, "he burned down a whole section of the woods so it would burn down without him having to get close. He was caught up in the blaze. His son was actually the one who decided to just erase the whole embarrassing thing from the family records."

"So what you're saying is you feel guilty for what your family did?" I asked.

She just nodded and hung her head again.

"Cut it the fuck out," I said, "It was hundreds of years ago, and you're supposed to be the commander of the most awesome flying team around. You shouldn't be moping about what your ancestors did. You should be making a new name for your family. One you can be proud of. One that Easy Glider would be proud of. I already am." I gave her a reassuring smile and wink, "Now dry those tears, blow that snotty nose, and lift that head high!" I was doing my best to sound like I was shouting at a new recruit, "YOU'RE A WONDERBOLT!!! NOT A CRYBABY!!"

She cleaned herself up and smiled at me, "Thank you. I needed to hear that."

"No problem," I said, "I better go or Gilda is gonna have to carry me home."

"About that," Spitfire said, "I made arrangements..."

She led me to the runway where Soarin was waiting next to a pegasus chariot.

"We thought you may prefer this over a balloon," Soarin said, "If you ever want to visit again, we can arrange for you to be picked up as well."
We got back home just a little before sundown. At Scootaloo's request, Spitfire and Soarin did a fly-over of Ponyville making sure a few other school fillies saw on their way home to bed.

"That was so awesome," Scootaloo went on, "and in just a couple days I may be able to fly too. It's gonna be great."

"Speaking of that," I said, "We better eat, It's time for the third potion."

"Yea," Scootaloo said excited, "how early can I drink the green one tomorrow?"

"After school," I said, "you shouldn't miss too much of that."

"Fair enough," Scootaloo sighed.

"So what was so special about that filly?" Gilda asked, "and what did Spitfire want to talk about."

"The filly looked just like Sweet Dreams," I answered, "Spitfire was just starstruck. I was getting annoyed." I didn't want to tarnish Spitfires family name in front of the filly. I made a note to talk to Gilda about it in private.

"Who was Sweet Dreams?" Gilda asked.

"You don't know about the first Wonderbolt to set the speed record on the obstacle course?" Scootaloo asked, "It lasted thirty years."

"I guess I did hear that before," Gilda said, "but that doesn't explain why Calm Glider wanted her to talk to you. Or why you were giving her flying lessons."

"Sweet Dreams was Daylight's daughter," I made a point to use the third person. I didn't want Gilda to think she had to compete with Feather Dreamer. She was Daylight's wife, I was Jerry.

"You had a daughter?" Gilda asked.

"Well, I am his great great great, whatever, granddaughter," Scootaloo said.

"You're shitting me," Gilda didn't know what to think.

"No," I said, "it's true, I guess you deserve to know I was married as a pony."

She seemed to roll this around, "That's interesting. Not like I didn't already know you had a human wife before meeting me, so I guess it doesn't really matter. Unless you're still in love with her..."

"I have to admit that I cannot ignore that piece of my old heart Feather stole," I sighed, "but I am not the pony she fell for anymore, and she's not the griffin I did."

Gilda smiled at me, "That's all I needed to hear, Dweeb. Let's eat and get some sleep."

I got the impression Gilda didn't really want to sleep. If you know what I mean.

44- Chivalry and kindness.

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I got up in time to make breakfast for Scootaloo. Gilda was gone when I woke up. I didn't know where she went but I'm not her dad so I wasn't about to scold her for not leaving a note.

I had just set the plates down and gotten a drink of coffee when Scootaloo nearly made me spit it out.

"So is Gilda, my mom, now?" she asked while digging into her pancakes.

I thought about that a moment. The only thing I could think of was her reason not to hook up at the club, she ended it with, 'Do I look like I'm ready to be a mom?'

On the other hand, just the other day she knew Scootaloo had to eat. So she made scones. Sounds like a mother to me.

"I think you better give her a little time before you call her that," I said, "but, it looks that way to me. I mean she is my partner, and you call me dad, but I don't really know what she would say about it."

"I hope she's OK with it," Scootaloo said, "She's the coolest mom I could hope for since Rainbow Dash is already my sister. Wait, doesn't that make you her dad too?"

"Again," I laughed, "That's up to her. I met her as an adult, and she does have her own father."

"I guess you have a point," she said, "I'm just really happy to have a family that gets me. I love you, Dad."

My heart skipped a beat. It wasn't the first time she called me Dad, but she never put it after those three words.

"I love you, too," I said, "Now that you're done eating you should get ready. I'll give you a ride to school."

"Really?" she said, "I get to show up in your jeep! After flying around town with the Wonderbolts! I'll get my books and scooter."
The entire class-including Cheerilee-were outside when I pulled up. Everypony just stared as I opened the door to let Scootaloo out. Just for Scootaloo's sake, I made a bigger deal about it by getting out and opening the door from the outside. Not surprisingly, Scootaloo leaped out and gave me a big hug.

"Thanks for the ride, dad," she said.

"No problem, kiddo," I smiled, "Come straight home after school. I'll have some dinner and the green potion ready. We can see if Rainbow has time to give you your first lesson."

"Can't you teach me?" she asked, "you're faster."

"I think your flying instructor should have wings," I pointed out, "I can't go drinking that potion up without thinking. I don't know why I left it for myself. So I better save the rest until I do know."

"I guess you're right," she sighed.

"Once you have the basics down, I will show you how I beat her," I said, "I do know I can teach that much in this body."

"Really?" She asked, "I can't wait!"

"Don't try to push yourself," I said, "remember, I said you could try today. I never said it was a sure thing."

"I know," she assured me, "I've waited this long, I won't mind if I have to wait a couple more days."

"I better go," I said, "Have a good day at school."

"I love you, dad," she said as she turned away.

"I love you, too." I got back in the jeep.

I took one more look at the school before taking off. Cheerilee had an enormous smile on her face. She waved at me and I waved back as I started the engine and took off.

I wasn't going home. I had been through a lot just with the memories of my old pony friends, It felt like it had been ages since I saw my new ones.

I pulled up to the shop and was shocked when Sawdust came running out to meet me. Slag was running out too, but that's normal.

"What's up, guys?" I asked.

"We haven't seen you in like a week," Slag said, "We were worried you read the journals and freaked out."

"Naw," I said, "I actually found them very enlightening. I've just been through a lot the last few days."

"That's a relief," Sawdust said, "So you know who you used to be then?"

"I do," I said, "and thank you for using past tense. I've been struggling with if I'm still Daylight or not, and I came to the conclusion that a reincarnation is not exactly the same person. My true self is a pony, but I'm not my true self anymore. Am I?"

"I agree," Slag said, "a more confusing way to put it is that you are Daylight, but Daylight, wasn't you."

"That actually makes sense when you think about it," I laughed.

"Have you learned anything else?" Sawdust asked, "We do know you were friends with our ancestor, but we don't even know witch."

"Sculptured Stone," I said, "I met him when he was a student in my very first potion class. He was also a member of a group I put together. The Protectors of Peace. He was the 'Protector of Chivalry'."

"I heard that legend," Sawdust said, "I didn't even know that was our ancestor. Weren't they the ones that tried to use the elements of harmony back then?"

"We actually did use them," I said, "just not as well as the new group."

"So what element was he," Sawdust asked.

"Chivalry was the word he chose to mean kindness," I said.

"So he was kinda like Fluttershy?" Slag asked.

"Yea," I said, "Come to think about it, I still have yet to meet her."

"Just stick around," Sawdust said, "She'll be here to pick up some birdhouses."

"Cool," I said, "I always seem to have good timing when I visit you guys."

"Like I always say," Slag said, "it's always good timing when you visit a friend."

"So what have you guys been up to anyway?" I asked.

"You gotta see this," Sawdust said, "my little bro has been hard at work."

They led me into the shop to the metalworking side where a large object was covered with a sheet.

"I present to you," Slag said, "the Rolling Wood Shop."

He pulled the sheet off revealing a truck with a flatbed. I took a look in the cab and saw that the steering wheel had circles on each side to place hooves through. The pedals were also set a little higher than I would be able to control, but a ponies back hooves would just line up. The shift lever was pretty standard but that didn't seem too unreasonable for him to control.

"Woodshop?" I asked.

"Yep," Slag confirmed, "I already have my cart so I thought I would make the first one for my bro. I still have to mount the tools and equipment though. It's not going to be easy to fit it all and stay in the limits of the engine. He's going to need a trailer full of lumber to go with it. I may have to tinker with the engine design before I even start my own vehicle."

I said, "That's amazing."

Slag climbed on the bed, "I figured a workbench could go here at the front, and a toolbox could go under it."

I was standing right next to the truck and without warning, he turned a little, putting his big grey flank uncomfortably close to my face. That's when I realized I had never looked at Slags cutie mark before. It didn't seem to quite fit his talent.

"Slag," I got his attention, "why is your cutie mark a hammer and chisel? That's the same as Sculptured Stone."

He shook his butt which was still in my face. His red, yellow, and white tail nearly brushed my cheek, "If you notice, the chisel is red hot, as in it's being forged. My first metal work was actually a wood-chisel for Sawdust. I have no idea why the one in my mark is clearly a stone chisel. Must be that most of our family works with stone."

"I guess so," I agreed as I stepped back and joined Sawdust sitting at a nearby worktable, "it just amazes me how much ponies can look like ancestors from way back. I mean, Sculptured Stone lived six centuries ago and he looked just like you but with your brother's mane. Like I said, his cutie mark was almost identical. His chisel just wasn't red hot."

"Really?" Sawdust asked running a brown hoof through his spiked silver mane, "Just my mane?"

"His personality was more like yours, too," I said, "He had a kind heart but his clinic didn't fund itself with all the patients that couldn't pay. He was a master sculptor and a shrewd business pony. He didn't mind catering to the few rich if it meant he could heal the poor, but his sculptures weren't cheap and nothing was done until bits were in his hooves. His thing was kindness, not generosity. There's a difference."

"You done with your list for the day, bro?" Slag asked, "I think its time to light up."

"I do still have to talk to Fluttershy," Sawdust said, "but I'm not too concerned. I don't think she'll mind if I'm a little high."

"Sweet," Slag floated a joint from a bench near the office, "I already dropped off the mayors new filing cabinet. That was all I had to do today." He joined us at the bench we were sitting at.

Sawdust had decided to sit at a bench on his own side directly across the walking path from the truck. I noticed a stack of birdhouses were set up on one closer to the door. A stack of rough boards was on a bench near the office.

"I see you have your shop set up in stages," I said trying to get Sawdust to open up a little bit.

"Sure do," he said, "it actually starts out back, where I have a small lumber mill and a storage area for the trees and lumber waiting to be selected for a project. That's where the door by the office goes."

"What door?" I asked looking at the bare wall by the office.

"Oh yea," he said walking to the wall in question, "I got bored one day." He gave a push and a click was heard before a section of the wall opened up. "So I hid it. No real reason to hide it. Just wanted to know if I could."

"You succeeded," I was amazed. He hid the seem so well I was reminded of the magic trap door in Daylights hut.

"See, I'm not the only one with mad skills," Slag teased, "now get back here, bro, it's your hit."

"Would you mind if I took a hit," Fluttershy's soft voice could be heard from the door, "it's OK if you don't have enough to share. I've just had a really long day."

Slag seemed to size up the tiny roach that was left before floating a fresh joint over, "Of course, the more the merrier." I could swear Slag was starting to blush. He seemed to shake himself out before lighting the joint and floating it to the new arrival.

"Thank you," She said, "I see the birdhouses are as beautiful as always. I have the rest of the bits in my bag. The new aviary at the sanctuary is going to be amazing."

Slag cleared his throat.

Sawdust gave a funny look as he finally made it back into the rotation and took the joint from his brother. I think he noticed Slag was acting funny as well. I got the impression that he knew why.

"Slag and I have talked it over," Sawdust started.

"Wait, what did we talk about?" Slag asked but Sawdust only raised a hoof to silence him.

"Take the rest of the bits and consider it a donation to the sanctuary," Sawdust smiled seeing his brother's wide eyes.

"Oh, thank you," Fluttershy squeed, "it will go a long way to cover the rest of what we need."

"It was all Slag's idea," Sawdust lied, "I bet if you asked he would help you carry those birdhouses."

"That would be great," she smiled, "the beavers chewed up another one of my wagon wheels. I just don't know what to do about it."

Slag, whose head seemed to be spinning finally seemed to get a grip on what was going on. "Have you considered using metal wheels?" he asked.

"I could never afford that," she said.

"I could always write part of it off as a donation," Slag said, "I have a few spare wheels in the back of my cart, let's load your birdhouses and I can see what I can do. If they fit I'll just donate them directly."

"Oh, that would be wonderful," Fluttershy smiled. That's when I noticed a snake was slithering around her hooves, it was kinda brown and light green, only four feet long, and just over an inch thick at the widest. It reminded me of a king snake I once owned.

"Who's that little guy?" I asked kneeling to the floor.

He slithered up my extended arm and seemed to smile at me. I wanted to take him home. He was awesome.

"He likes to be called Asmodeus," Fluttershy said, "I don't know why. It sounds so evil, and he's so friendly, and he doesn't even have ears, but if you say it within fifty feet of him he'll come as fast as he can. He doesn't like the sanctuary much though, because it's so crowded."

"If Scootaloo and Gilda are OK with it," I said, "I'd like to invite him to stay with me."

"I hope they don't mind," Fluttershy said, "He would love it on the farm. The Apples already said they would like him to keep the mice from their grain, but they don't have time for another pet."

"I hope so too," I said, "He's pretty cool."

"I better get moving," she said, "I have a lot to do yet. It was great meeting you. Come by the sanctuary and let me know what Scootaloo and Gilda say."

I reluctantly put Asmodeus back down. He stopped halfway back to Fluttershy and looked back at me.

"See you around," I said.

Slag had already loaded his wagon with birdhouses and wheels. He offered Fluttershy help up and they were off.

"So is that the crush he refused to tell me about?" I asked.

Sawdust seemed to think about this, "No," he said, "this one started just a few days ago. Before that the only one I know of him having was on you."

45- Time to fly, Kiddo

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"You in any hurry to get home?" Sawdust asked.

I was still at the shop with Sawdust. It was about noon. I had to get home in time to make an early supper, but that was my only commitment.

"Not really," I said, "Why do you ask?"

"I could use some help with a special delivery," he said, "I'd rather not ask my brother."

"Alright," I said, "how can I help?"

"I need that box loaded on the truck," he said, "and I'd rather not explain what's in it." He pointed a hoof at a large wooden box. It was a good four feet long, and two feet wide.

"Don't worry," I said, "I won't drill you... It's a gift for Pinkie isn't it?"

"Just shut up and take that end," he said.

I braced myself and lifted one end of the box. It was heavy, but not as heavy as expected. We easily loaded it onto the back of his new vehicle.

The lid was open just a crack allowing a few shreds of colorful paper to slip out.

"Shit," Sawdust said, "I thought I had it shut tight."

"Confetti?" I laughed, "I should have known."

He looked ashamed. "I make a lot of sawdust in my work," he defended, "it only made sense to recycle it into paper."

"You, my friend," I laughed examining the high-quality confetti that had fallen out, "are a genius. A frugal one at that. You go deliver this. I won't get in the way if Pinkie wants to thank you. I should grab lunch and go start supper."

"I was hoping you would come along," he said, "she's been hinting at things I'm not ready for." He was clearly embarrassed. The look on his face said that I was the only one he trusted with this information.

"Dude?" I asked, "really?"

He looked down, "I'd rather wait longer OK. If you wanna push me I'll go alone, but, I was hoping you would understand."

I thought about this, I didn't have all day, but this was my best friend asking a favor. I decided to get lunch at Sugarcube Corner.

"I'll go," I said, "but I have to head home from Sugarcube Corner. So I'll follow you."
We entered the sweet shop and were greeted by Mrs. Cake.

"What can I do for you, dearies?" She asked.

"I was hoping to talk to Pinkie," Sawdust said.

Mrs. Cake seemed to give a knowing smile, "Just one moment," she said before shouting, "Pinkie! You have guests!"

Out of nowhere a pink blur knocked Sawdust on his back. I could see why he was concerned, she looked like she was about ready to go at it in the entryway of Sugarcube Corner.

"I'm so happy to see you," she said, "I was afraid you weren't coming back after I blew it last time."

"You didn't do anything wrong," he assured her, "I'm just not a normal stallion."

"I'm sorry," she said climbing off of him, "I don't always know how to show how I feel outside of a party, and I wanted to know you felt the same." Her smile actually seemed to fade, "I really thought I blew it when you hurried out."

"I'll be honest," he said, "you almost scared me off. I thought about it though and realized you weren't the type of mare to just make an offer like that. You really do like me. I decided it was time to show that I like you. Follow me."

I felt a little like a third wheel at this point, but he was about to give Pinkie Pie a giant box filled to the brim with ammo for her party cannon. I had to see this before leaving.

We walked out to Sawdust's truck. I helped him unload the box and he had Pinkie lead us the back way into her apartment. Once inside we set it down.

"What is it?" Pinkie asked excitedly placing an ear on the giant box.

Sawdust just produced a claw hammer out of nowhere and pried the lid open.

Pinkies eyes were about to pop out of her head, the unnaturally bright reflection of the colored paper made them look like giant kaleidoscopes. "Where did you get all this?" She asked.

He looked at his hooves embarrassed. "I always have sawdust to clean up," he said, "and I know you always need more confetti, so I made it for you."

"You can make confetti!" Pinkie asked, "No way! This isn't the cheap stuff either." Pinkie dove head first into the box, her head emerging as if the box were much deeper and she was swimming, "it's light and fluffy, but tough enough to handle gunpowder. I love you..." she covered her mouth, "IT! I love IT! Thank you. I just wish I had something for you. The bakery doesn't exactly make nails."

"I do love custard pie," Sawdust teased.

"Look at the time," I finally decided to blow the scene, "I gotta get supper started early. I don't even have time for lunch. You lovebirds have fun." I had to tease but I was kinda hoping my own love bird was home when I got there.
I was just getting out of the jeep in front of my cabin when a taxi pulled up beside me.

"Ah see you're just gettin' home too," Granny Smith said from her seat in the back, "Ah won't keep ya. Ah think this is yours though. Been at the bottom of Golden Delicious's pile for who knows how many moons."

Granny reached into her bag and held out a book with her mouth. It was journal number three. I was stunned.

"Thank you Granny," I said taking the book, "did you have fun?"

"Oh, it was a real shindig," she laughed, "Ah better git home. Ah need a nap after all that travelin'."

"Catch you later," I said.

"Bye," she said as the cab sped off.

I looked at my watch and realized it was almost 3. I figured I better just throw some sandwiches together before Scootaloo got home.

Entering the cabin, however, I was greeted by the smell of garlic and herbs. Gilda was apparently back from wherever she had gone.

"There you are, Dweeb," she said, "I thought I'd have to hurry back before you started something for supper."

"Yea," I said, "I lost track of time hanging out with Sawdust. Whatcha making?"

"Penne with garlic tomato sauce," she said, "I got some sausage for us, but I'm obviously not putting it in the sauce. You'll have to add your own."

"Makes sense," I said, "What brought this about?"

"Well we gotta eat," she said, "Just because Scootaloo is a pony, doesn't mean we have to go vegetarian. So I ran to the Griffinstone Grocery. I remembered you scarfing that spaghetti at the Wonderbolts and thought I'd try my grandma's recipe."

She did look ready to be a mother. I valued my life too much to say that to her face though.

"It smells amazing," I said.

"It'll only be a few moments," she said, "should be right after Scootaloo gets here."

"School just got out five minutes ago," I said, "she took her scooter, but how fast do you think she can go? The town is a couple miles away."

"In about 3, 2, 1..." Gilda chuckled as the door burst open.

"Hi dad, hi mm... Gilda," she said parking her scooter just inside the door. I had put a mat down so she didn't have to leave it outside, "what's for supper?"

"Pasta," Gilda answered, "you're gonna wanna carbo-load now that you're starting training."

"Did somepony say training?" Rainbow Dash asked walking in the door Scootaloo had left open, "because I can't wait either."

"Rainbow Dash!" Scootaloo gave her sister a big hug.

"Hey there, Scootaloo," she hugged back, "Hey, Gilda. Hey, dad."

"Don't tell me your gonna start calling him dad?" Gilda scoffed.

"Why not?" Rainbow asked, "he is my sister's dad."

"That's what I said," Scootaloo chimed in.

"Because that would make me 'mom'," Gilda pointed out.

Scootaloo was smiling. Rainbow seemed to think about it before saying, "Mooooom, is supper ready? I'm hungry."

"Shut up," Gilda sounded like she was failing to be annoyed, "or you don't get any."

"Sending me to bed hungry?" Rainbow teased, "harsh. Why not just ground me?"

We all laughed at that, even Gilda.

"Well the food is done," Gilda said, "can somepony grab the plates and forks? I'll just set it out on the table."

Ironically-due to her phrasing-I got up and helped her bring the food and utensils into the living room as Scootaloo sat in the chair next to mine-her favorite seat-and Rainbow sat across the table from her on the couch next to Gilda's spot.

Once everyone dished up I got a fork and dug in. I thought I was going to cry on my first taste. It was so amazingly good. The noodles were perfectly done, the sauce was seasoned just right and she even made garlic bread that was toasted to perfection.

"Where the hell did you learn to cook?" I asked, "this is great."

"I learned a thing or two from the chef I used to deliver for," she said, "Dude is a genius with a kettle."

I felt like a daydream was about to set in, but the feeling seemed to fade.

Once we were done I presented Scootaloo with the green potion and she drank it down.

"Let's go see if you can fly yet," Rainbow said excitedly before catching herself, "we just gotta remember not to try too hard."

On the way to the door, Scootaloo had an odd look on her face until she started saying, "Later dad, Later Gilda."

"Later kiddo," I said, "good luck."

"Later, Scoot. By the way," Gilda seemed to rethink what she was about to say, but didn't stop, "I don't mind if you call me mom. I'm actually interested to see the looks this family gets from ponies. You'll call me Mom and They're gonna be all like, 'but they're not even the same species' then he walks up and you call him Dad. It'll be priceless."

Right then and there Scootaloo flapped her wings and flew across the cabin to hug Gilda, "Thank you, Mom," She let go but was still hovering a few inches off the ground as she spoke, "I can't wait to start flying, but even if I never do, that's ok. I still have an amazing family."

We were all just watching her gesture with her whole body as she spoke. It was as if she didn't realize her feet were off the ground as she swung them about emphasizing every word she said.

I stood up and approached her. She instinctively met my eye level. Her smile was enormous.

"Since when were you as tall as me?" I asked.

"What are you..." Scootaloo looked down and finally figured it out. She did a few laps around me before throwing herself around my neck, "I love you," she let go and flew out the door shouting behind her, "you coming? Rainbow Dash?"

"Be right out!" Rainbow Dash shouted before turning to me, "From one element of loyalty to another... Thank you. I would say you have no idea how big flying is to a pegasus, but you do know. So just, thank you." She threw a hoof around me for a second before speeding out.

46- Truth, charity, and the arcane.

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"You really are a miracle worker," Gilda said still amazed at Scootaloo's fast learning.

"I guess so," I said piling my plate with seconds of the pasta she made, "you're not too bad with a kettle yourself."

"I can make good food," she said, "are you really comparing that to brewing a potion that fixed wings that have been broken for years?"

"A good potion can save a pony," I said, "a good cook can save an army."

"Just shut up and take the compliment, Dweeb," she laughed, "or you don't get dessert."

"There's dessert?" I asked cleaning my plate for the second time.

"I got a carrot cake from the sweet shop," Gilda said, "but it has to wait until Scootaloo is back." She pulled a cake box out and opened it revealing a cake with orange frosting and 'Congratulations on your first flight, Scootaloo' written in purple.

"You really went all out," I said, "I see you had confidence she would pull it off."

She gave me a look that said she knew it was a gamble, "Dash and I were in kindergarten when we met and started flying together... I can't imagine having to wait until I the end of middle school. I knew she would do everything right. I just had to do something for her. I can't afford much but I could do this."

"That line sounds familiar," I said.

"Are you about to have a memory?" Gilda asked, "your eyes went funny earlier when I mentioned my cooking teacher being a genius with a kettle. They're doing it again."

Apparently, I had to hear it twice. I had just enough time to nod and sit back as my mind was swept away.
I was flying over a rather run down city. The war had clearly done a lot of damage. I was looking for the healer. Not for my friends this time, I was already a potions instructor myself. That is why I had to find her before she bailed. Ponies in this area were full of superstition. She wouldn't last long.

I found a large house with two injured ponies standing outside. It seemed like a good place to look.

They were both stallions. One was light blue with a dark blue mane, he seemed to have a broken leg. The other was a large red stallion with a black mane. A small pool of blood betrayed a gash in his side.

"Is everything ok?" I asked as I landed. At this point, everypony knew about the black and blue Wonderbolt that was only interested in healing. So I wasn't worried about being considered hostile.

"They may need your help in there," said the first stallion with his back leg wrapped up, he cringed in pain as he stepped closer before continuing, "they haven't even seen us yet. He may not make it." I realized the other stallion was propped up against the wall. He was barely conscious and losing a lot of blood.

Quickly I pulled a vial from my jacket, "do you know his name?"

"Apple Seed," replied the blue stallion, "he saved my life. Carried me all the way out of the woods in that shape after we were attacked at our campground."

I put a hoof under Apple Seed's chin lifting his head. "Apple Seed, I'm a friend. Can you swallow?" He swallowed and nodded. I slowly poured the vial into his mouth. The color in his eyes came back quickly.

I pulled out two granola bars, "each of you should eat one of these while I talk to the healer. I won't be long."

"They won't even open the door," Apple Seed said.

"We shall see," I knocked on the door and shouted, "This is Daylight Dreamer of the Wonderbolts medical unit. May I offer assistance?"

The door swung open after a moment. I was greeted by a dark blue mare with a stark white mane, "How do I know you really are who you say you are?" She asked peering at me through her choppy bangs.

"You don't," was all I said brushing my mane to the side to reveal my own eyes. I kept it long and brushed to one side, so it was always covering my right eye.

"Come on in," she said, looking from my eyes to my jacket, "I do need help. Not only with my patients either. By the way, my name is Drum Beat."

She led me through a large room full of ponies laying on cots. A second look revealed that ponies were also laying under the cots to double the space. I didn't count but it could have easily been fifty injured ponies.

I was not surprised. This area had just been attacked. My heart broke when I realized Drum Beat was the only healer to be found.

We didn't stop at any of the beds. She took me to a closed door in a small hallway in the back and knocked on it.

Before she could say anything a deep female voice shouted from within, "You can knock and you can shout, but I am not coming out! Ponies are healed and potions brewed, it's time to be leaving you!"

"Aren't you still looking for that potions teacher?" Drum Beat asked.

"You are the only pony that has treated me right," the voice grew weaker, "how can I hope to find Daylight?"

"What if I said I was looking for you?" I asked through the door.

"I'd say it's too good to be true!" She shouted.

"Well this is fun," I said, "but those two ponies outside are waiting for potions. I said I wouldn't be gone long. If you want in my class, I have a cart at the edge of town I can give you a ride in. If you just want to go back to the zebra lands. I'll be disappointed, but I'll go home too. I just hope I can manage a bone-mending potion without oak bark. I'm fresh out."

"I have..." Drum Beat started but I stopped her.

I whispered, "just wait. Three, two..." the door flung open.

"What kind of potions teacher runs out of such a common and necessary ingredient?" asked the zebra that emerged, "A lie somewhere is evident."

"I never claimed to be honest," I said shaking my jar of oak bark, "I claim to be persuasive. Got you out here didn't I."

"With all the talented ponies around," she asked looking at me, "Why go out looking for where I can be found?"

"Because from what I hear zebras take pride in their potions," I said, "yet you wanted to learn from me rather than your own kind. I have to know why."

She looked me in the eye for a moment before looking at the floor. "We are supposed to seek out the potions teacher we most respect," she said, "and in the teachers of my land, I see only neglect. With so much good they could do, they instead choose to say 'I'm me and you're you'. Yet in the face of hardship and fear, you stand strong and say 'I'm here'."

"I guess that makes sense," I said, "you coming or what? I have a class to run, a daughter to raise, and two ponies outside all waiting on me. I can't wait on you all day."

"I will go with you," she said, "do you need help with the bone mending brew?"

I pulled a vial from my jacket, "I actually have it pre-made. Go ahead and get ready, I'll take care of the last two patients."

"I won't be long. I know you're busy," she said, "by the way, my name is Kizzy."

She closed the door and continued packing. I turned my attention to Drum Beat.

"Are you going to be able to find room for the last two?" I asked on our way back out.

She took a deep breath. "I don't know," she was about to cry, "I'm doing all that I can but I'm just one unicorn healer that knows a few potions. I can only say the last part since Kizzy came around and taught me. I suppose they could stay in Kizzy's room. The bigger problem is that I'm all alone in this. Everypony else is injured or just ran when they got the chance. I can't say I blame them, but I can't leave all these ponies behind without treatment."

"I have a couple students about to graduate," I said, "would you be able to find nearby housing for them? Field experience would make a great final exam."

"I can't afford much but I can do that," she said, "My house is full, but my friend's old house is a block away, she won't be needing it." She was unable to hold back as we stopped just inside the door, she was looking at the floor. Tears landed around her hooves.

"This war is hard on us all," I said, "I've lost my share of friends, but we healers have to stick together to make sure as many ponies see the end of it as possible." I gave her a hug, "now let's get to Apple Seed and Treble Clef."

We got outside and Apple Seed was lying down, "Ah'm ok," he said, "Just finally got the strength to move and muh legs hurt."

"The vitality potion did its thing on him," I said, "we have time to get him in and clean him up. Let's start by enlisting help from Treble."

"I never told you my name," Treble said stunned.

"Drum Beat told me," I tried to cover. I had seen him and Drum Beat in a vision... They had a foal. I didn't want to give anything away.

"We never met," he protested.

"Do you want the potion?" I asked, "or shall we argue until that gets gangrenous so we have to turn you into a tripod?"

"You have a point," Treble said, "I'm sure you have some kind of Intel. Being a Wonderbolt."

"Drink this. It will get you walking but no gymnastics for a week." I said, handing him the vial I had shown Kizzy. He did as instructed and was back on four hooves in moments.

"Where do you want him?" Treble asked carefully wrapping Apple Seed in his magic.

"I'm a unicorn too you know," Drum Beat pointed out, "I could have done that."

"And miss the chance to train your new assistant?" I said, "Why do that?"

"How did you know I was going to ask if she needed an assistant? That's a thought I had just a moment ago," Treble gave me an odd look.

"I didn't," I said, "I just knew you wanted to be near her. Call me psychotic?"

"Don't you mean psychic?" asked Drum Beat.

"Psychics usually have a little control over what they see," I said, "I just randomly see things that aren't there yet. Point is I knew to help you would make Treble happy. You won't mind having him around either." I was glad the subject was dropped. I really put my hoof in my mouth there.

We got Apple Seed onto the table in the makeshift operating room. This whole clinic was set up in a small mansion. The O.R. was clearly intended as a dining room.

I cleaned the gash on Apple Seed's side and covered it in medicated gauze.

"That wound is deep," I said, "it will take a few days to heal even with the treatment. I'll leave some of this ointment behind, it's tricky to make. I brought other medical supplies for you as well, I left them in my cart because this coat only holds so much. I'll have to drop them off."

"What can I ever do to repay you?" Drum Beat asked.

"Just keep fighting the good fight," I said.

"If you ever need anything," she said, "you know where to find me."

"What do ah owe ya?" Apple Seed asked, "she's gonna fight the fight or whatever and he's gonna be her assistant, but ah'm no good at this healing stuff."

"You saved my life," Trebble said, "I'll work your treatment off too," he looked Drum Beat over, "I don't mind."

"If you're looking for work," Drum Beat suggested, "I could use help tending the gardens. It's not easy keeping this many ponies fed."

"He can cook too," Treble added, "he's a genius with a kettle."

47- Breaking in. Sneaky as a snake.

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"Wow, G," Rainbow laughed as she teased her friend, "you really took this 'mom' thing to heart."

"Just don't forget to do your chores, Dash," Gilda teased back, "or you don't get an allowance."

We were all celebrating Scootaloo's first flight. Scootaloo had already worn herself out and before I knew it Gilda had carried her to her room and tucked her in.

"How did she do?" I asked, "I thought about watching but I didn't want to distract her from your teaching."

Rainbow Dash went quiet. She didn't seem to know what to say. All at once her mile-wide smile cracked, she started shedding a tear before flying into my lap and burying her face. She was gently crying into my shoulder.

"Nopony thought she would ever fly, but she did amazing," Rainbow said as she contained herself, "it's as if she's been flying all along. Today was a dream come true for both of us. I don't care what you say, I'm going to find a way to repay you."

"Don't think for a second that I didn't want to see her fly as badly as you," I said, "but you had longer to wait. So if you feel the need to thank me, I won't argue. Just know that it isn't necessary, nor is it expected."

"Well, start expecting it," Rainbow scoffed, "you, my friend, are all kinds of awesome. You deserve it."

"I suppose so," I said.

"Don't go pulling that generic comment shit on me," Rainbow teased, "I invented the smile and nod approach. You aren't really agreeing with me. You're just acting like it so I'll shut up, but your not the only stubbornly loyal one. I'm not going to leave you alone until you admit you deserve the party this weekend. In fact, I won't even move. It's for your own good."

She was still on my lap from her little episode. Scootaloo was already too big to comfortably fit, and Rainbow was a full grown pony. My legs were starting to hurt.

"Babe, can I get some help?" I asked Gilda.

"Sorry, Dweeb," Gilda laughed, "once Rainbow sets her mind to something, there's no stopping her. Besides, you really should loosen up. You did something awesome. You deserve an awesome reward."

"You too now?" I asked.

"Humble isn't really a common griffin attribute," Gilda laughed, "you earned it. Now hold your head up and take it like it was yours all along."

"I just don't know what to say," I said, "I don't take compliments well. I never really feel like I deserve it."

"Thank you and your welcome usually do great," Rainbow said, "now are you going admit you deserve it, or not? Cause your lap is kinda comfortable, I may just take a nap."

"Ok, fine," I said, "I deserve the party. Happy now?"

"Nope!" Rainbow laughed, "now you have to say something nice about yourself. Shouldn't be hard."

"I let my friends keep me up late," I said standing up and lifting Rainbow with me, it wasn't easy, but she was only about 120 pounds, I assumed a non-flyer the same size would outweigh her, she WAS part bird, despite not having a beak. I continued, "and I put up with my friends bull-shit when I don't really have to." I turned around and set her in the chair, "I need to lie down, you two have fun."
I woke up to an empty cabin. For once I was glad to be alone.

I love Gilda and Scootaloo but from time to time it's good to be alone with my thoughts.

I knew Scootaloo was at school but could only guess where Gilda went this time. I did have a good guess though.

I just had some cereal and sat down with journal number three. It was time to see what Jordan had to say.
Hey Scooter, Jerry, You made me change that.

I hope you are reading these in order. I don't have time to recap.

You know how and why you brought us to Ponyland. Equestria. Now you need to know what we were doing here.

The idea was if they ALL stopped fighting they would get along again. We couldn't get ponies to remember why they should get along with the enemy, so we decided to make them forget all about the Nightmare. One could say we banished it to the Moon.

It wasn't easy. We had to rely on your friends and those crazy magic gems they carried. Where can I get a set anyway? Why am I asking you? You won't remember.

I can't say a whole lot. Certain triggers will cause a relapse.

For instance, if ponies even read the name -OMITTED- then they would remember her and things would pretty much go back to the way they were. You needed to come back to make sure that didn't happen.

Just remember, once you collect all the -EXPUNGED-. You can use the -REDACTED- to open the ______. The -CENSORED- will make more sense once inside where the rest of it is hidden. The journals are pretty straight forward. As for the ******. You left that for fun, it's the one relatively safe ****** in Kizzy's ---- if you need more.

Check out the encryption I came up with for the important details. It's some of my best work. I left the code in the ______.

Your buddy, Uncle Jordan
I was surprised at how much he managed to say in such a short message. I now knew that uncle Jordan wasn't my real uncle. I couldn't believe it took that long to dawn on me. He wasn't around much but he gave the coolest birthday presents.

Now I knew exactly what we did. We made everypony forget about the conflict between Celestia and Luna. Specifically, we made them forget about Nightmare Moon. Those words were capitalized for a reason.

I also knew that the fear was that remembering her would start the whole thing up again. It was clear why I never claimed to be psychic. A psychic could have foreseen that Luna would return and bring harmony once again. That being said, I wasn't necessarily useless. This bunker was filled with all the evils pony kind could imagine from the sounds of it. I filled it, I should dispose of it.

The last two paragraphs made much more sense when considering the first journal. I knew I had to collect items and I had to open a bunker.

I was delighted when I realized the potion was just for fun. I figured the rest of the blueprints were inside the bunker, but what opens the door? The only thing left was the knife. Assuming he was only talking about the items I was to gather.

I was deep in this thought when I heard the front door open. I turned to see Gilda, Rainbow, and Fluttershy. Asmodeus was crawling at their feet.

"What's up, guys?" I asked.

"We were chillaxing at the pond when Fluttershy came along and was asking if you talked to Gilda yet," Rainbow said, "We figured it got put on a back burner with Scootaloo and that vision G' told me about."

"This guy is moving in," Gilda butted in, "Scootaloo will get used to it."

"She really won't mind," Rainbow assured us, "not saying she'll like it right off, but I'll talk to her. It helps that he has a lot in common with Tank."

"That's awesome," I said. I was happy to take my mind off how to open an armored door with a knife. I had to figure it out, but I had only seen this door for a second in a vision. Thinking too hard wasn't going to help.

48- The first time he ever relaxed.

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"Remember," Rarity said as we walked into the spa, "I already prepaid for everyone to get what they asked for, but that doesn't mean you have to stick to that. Get whatever you like done."

"Cutie Mark Crusaders spa day! Yay!" The girls expressed their delight in being allowed to come along. Scootaloo was so excited that morning we had to remind her about the last potion. She chugged it so fast she still had purple drops on her chin.

"Hold still," Gilda ordered her as we stopped inside the spa door. She licked her claw and used it to wipe Scootaloo's face clean.

"Geese, Mom!" Scootaloo protested, "not in front of my friends. That's embarrassing."

A pony in the waiting room gave them an odd look. Gilda must have noticed because she was smiling.

"Oh, Rarity," said Aloe as she walked in, "I see your party has arrived. We have the steam room ready for you."

"Please set Jerry up with a towel and lead him in first so he can change into it in private," Rarity said aloud before whispering, "Humans are serious about modesty."

I started walking but was stopped as Scootaloo hugged my leg and said, "See you in there, Dad."

I heard a clatter and looked to see the same pony that gave Gilda a look scrambling to pick up a clipboard. Gilda and I both snickered.

"Right this way, sir," Aloe got my attention back. I followed her and she pointed out a towel rack outside the steam room, "I will be back with a basket to take your clothes. Please set them outside the door when you are ready."

I did not like this idea but it would only matter for a moment anyway.

"Thank you," was all I said before taking a towel and stepping into the steam room.

They waited until collecting my clothes before bringing the rest of the group in. It was all of the mane 6, the CMC, Spike, Gilda, and myself. The others just wrapped themselves in towels as they came in and sat down. I thought to myself, 'Who knew a steam room would be the thing to get ponies to cover up?'

"Didn't you say you were going to invite Mr. Woodsmith to come along?" Rarity asked as Pinkie sat beside her.

"He said he had to do a few things," Pinkie sighed, "He was going to try and make it to lunch."

"He doesn't seem like a spa guy anyway?" I said.

"I was surprised when you wanted to come," Gilda said, "I was worried about what you would think about me wanting to go, and with you, there's the added downfall that you don't like being naked."

"I could have left my boxers on, you wouldn't notice." I checked the wrap on my towel, "Besides, I didn't want to miss this chance. I get to spend the day with my best girl, my daughter, her friends, and all six of the best group of friends Equestria has ever seen. Spike is ok too."

"Hey!" Spike protested.

"I make the most fun of my best friends," I laughed. I wanted to say, 'hay is for horses,' but thought better of it considering the present company.

"There you go being modest again," Twilight spoke up, "Sure, we saved Equestria a few times, but the time you saved it was a lot more work. It took your entire life after all."

"I'm pretty sure at least one of the times you saved Equestria it was in worse shape than my friends pulled it out of," I said, "besides when you think about it, the Pillars planted the seed. They may have the real edge there. Between our groups though. I hoof selected the ponies to represent the elements and we became friends in the process. We were really just a bunch of scared kids huddled together for safety."

"That's kinda my point," Twilight said, "How much closer can friends get than literally trusting each other with their lives. We have had to trust each other that much. Not on a daily basis though."

"She does have a point, darling," Rarity interjected, "I'm not saying you have to go showboating about like a certain rainbow-maned friend of ours, but sometimes modesty can be impolite as well. Taking compliments and not selling one's self short are both important parts of etiquette if you ask me."

"Why do you do that anyway?" Fluttershy asked, "even I know to be proud of my accomplishments, and you have so much to be proud of yourself for. Were you mistreated on earth?"

"Not really. Jeremy Blade was the best dad a boy could ask for, I had a good life until shortly before coming here," I said, Then a thought came to my head that I had never had before, ever, "I was mistreated by my pony father."

The whole room gasped.

"What's the big deal?" I asked a little offended, "you were ready to believe humans mistreated me. Why not Flying Nightmare? Or did you even care to learn his name before deciding he was a nice guy?"

They all looked a little ashamed, "We're sorry," Fluttershy said, "I just can't imagine a pony..."

"It's fine," I said, "But as a pony. I just thought it was normal for some parents to lock their kids outside for not raking the leaves fast enough." I sighed, "He took all our toys away one day because he said we were bad. I found out later a mare snubbed him because Aura left her stuffed animals out and he told her he didn't have foals. That's the only reason I knew better than to raise Sweet Dreams like that. Ponies wonder why I don't think highly of myself, now you know. It has nothing to do with my time on Earth. Dad tried to raise it out of me, but the constant rewards just made me feel guilty."

I was realizing every word as I said it out loud. I had never thought this before. As a pony, I died still thinking what he did was ok. That I just couldn't do anything right so I didn't deserve nice things.

I felt a wave of anger toward Flying Nightmare, but at the same time, I knew it was well past time to let it go.

"Oh, my," Fluttershy said, "that's awful." She shed a tear and came over to give me a hug. Before I knew it the whole room aside from Gilda was hugging me. Gilda was being squished against the wall.

"Air..." I squeezed out, "I need air!"

The group let up and returned to their seats. Half of them were crying.

"I'm sorry," I said, "I didn't mean to be a buzz kill."

"You have nothing to apologize for," Twilight assured me, "It's just amazing to think you were cut so deep that the scar is still there two lifetimes later."

"Not to mention a parent acting in such a manner is unheard of," Rarity said, "If I heard of a stallion treating his foals in such a manner I'd cut-" Rarity's eyes went wide, "I'd rather not finish that thought. I've never pictured anything so violent before. How strange."

"Well, whatever it was, he deserved it," Pinkie said, "Then I'd blow his junk off with my party cannon."

"Shut up!" I said, "he was still my father. Even if he was never a dad."

"Where did that even come from?" Twilight asked Pinkie, "You know violence doesn't solve anything."

"I dunno," Pinkie shrugged, "From time to time lately I just think it would be fun. Only if a pony deserves it, though."

"No stallion deserves that," Spike said holding his crotch.

"Pinkie," Rainbow said, "you feeling ok? That doesn't sound like you."

There was a knock on the steam room door. Lotus stuck her head in, "We are ready for your massages. However, we are still not sure how well Jerry will fit on a table."

"Better than you think," I said, looking at Gilda. She nodded. I reached between my feet and retrieved a bottle I had saved from my pocket, "I got loads of time to get these muscles rubbed." I drank the potion and was transformed into my pony persona, "These ones have waited over a lifetime."

I'd had Celestia send me the copy of Advanced Spellcraft for the Elite Potion Maker she had been holding on to. It was the first potion. The description listed only one side effect. If I stayed a pony for 24 consecutive hours, I would never change back. I didn't want that, so I decided to go with an eight-hour limit. This time around it was just till after lunch.

I must have known I wouldn't want to get stuck. If I had for some reason drank the entire canteen I left myself, I would have been transformed for 23 hours.

"Oh, my," Rarity said, "how dashing you are as a stallion."

"Back off," Gilda said, "He's still my Dweeb." She put a wing around me and pulled me in. I took the chance to put a wing around her. It felt strange to be hugging her without my arms.

Lotus led the group to a room full of massage tables. There was already one pony laying on a table.

"Slag, you made it!" Fluttershy said delightedly.

"I was a little held up helping Sawdust put sides on his truck before he could make his delivery," Slag said still facing down, "I was going to skip the steam anyway. It always frizzes my mane up."

"And I thought Rarity worried too much about her hair," I teased.

"Yea, yea, yea, Jerry," He started sitting up, "Like I don't notice how much care you put into that beard." He looked around the room, "Where are you?"

"You don't recognize me," I held a wing to my mouth in mock surprise, "and I was about ready to call you my best friend."

He wasn't even looking my way. He just got really confused, "Seriously, stop messing with me. Gilda, is it? You gotta be in on this. Where is Jerry hiding?"

Gilda looked at me with a grin. I knew what she was silently asking, I subtly nodded.

"I don't know," she said, "I lost sight of him after the steam room." She pretended to be confused, "Where in Equestria could a five-foot-tall two-legged guy hide around here?" She pretended to look around conveniently blocking his view of my mouth.

"Dude!" I said, "I'm by the door, and that's five foot six!"

I could see everypony holding back their laughter as Slag looked by the door.

"Sorry," I said, "I meant the other door."

He looked around the room. There was only one door in or out, and no closets to be seen. Just a room full of ponies setting out massage tables, and one door. Slag pushed Gilda and me aside to get to the door and look out it.

"Where did he go?" Slag asked.

Everypony stepped to the side leaving me standing in the middle of the room smiling. I don't know why, but I felt the need to hold my wings up.

"And who the hay is this guy?" Slag asked, "He's kinda cute."

"I thought you knew Spike," I said looking Slag in the eye, "Were the only three guys in here." His jaw hit the floor, "Gotcha," I teased, "Oblivious much?"

"But you're... and he's... if that's how you looked when you knew my ancestor I'm surprised my family exists," He gave me a look that made me want to ask for an adult.

"Species changed, not orientation," I said flatly, "Sculptured Stone wasn't into stallions either."

"Fair point," He said, "Still I gotta say, I like what you've done with your mane." He brushed the hair out of his eye highlighting the fact that he brushed his to the right side in the exact same fashion I did. I couldn't help but notice he had started growing a goatee. It looked like a torch flame.

"Yea," I said, "I was pretty fashion forward six hundred years ago. Now if you'll excuse me, I've been alive for one hundred ten years I can remember and I've never had a massage the whole time."

I picked a table and laid face down placing my face in the padded cutout. A masseuse immediately approached and got to work. For once I let myself actually believe I had earned it. I was more relaxed than I had ever been in either life.

49- Kindness knows forgiveness.

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"Sawdust is going to be waiting at the restaurant," Slag said as I collected my clothes and we all left the spa. I was still a pony for an hour or so. We were going to the nicest restaurant in town, I didn't want to stand out for not fitting at the table properly.

I placed my clothes in a saddle bag I borrowed from Sawdust and threw it on.

"How are you liking the breeze?" Gilda laughed.

"Red doesn't show through black fur and blue beard does it?" I asked.

"Not really," She laughed. "blushing are we?"

"It's amazing how embarrassed you get walking around naked after years of being legally required to wear clothes," I said.

"I don't mind," Gilda winked, "but I like your other body better. Who says you have to get dressed right after changing back?"

"I do," I reminded her, "modesty aside. I don't have fur as a human. It gets cold." I looked at a tree and noticed a few colored leaves. I was going to want a warmer jacket before the trip.

"Hey," Slag got my attention stopping by Sawdust's truck outside the sweet shop, "lets mess with Sawdust like you did to me."

"Good idea," I agreed, "he'll really get a kick out of it."

Sawdust was in the seating area waiting for us when we arrived. Slag and I walked up right away. The plan was for him to introduce me as his new friend 'Thermal Balance'. The name was supposed to match the Fire and Ice Yin Yang on my flank.

As soon as we walked up Sawdust greeted us, "Hey, Slag. What's up, Jerry? Your beard looks better in blue."

Slag dropped his jaw, "How did you know?"

"His eyes never changed," Sawdust said, "They're just a little bigger in this form. Still the same violent blue. Like a storm after a drought. Terrifying yet reassuring. I may be into mares but I pay attention to my best friend. It doesn't hurt my case that his Jeep has that same mark on it, and he told me about the potion. I was taking a small gamble because he never said his coloring, only that he was a pegasus. Kinda rounds out our trio, huh? One of each pony, just like the famous Cutie Mark Crusaders. We just gotta come up with our own hook. Are you good at building anything, Jerry?"

"I get it," Slag huffed, I got the impression he didn't listen to the end of his brother's speech, "you know him so well. It's not like I want to look away when he looks me in the eye." He was clenching his eyes shut, pointing his nose down, "I don't like that I think about what could be done in the back of that Jeep every time he talks."

"You ok, Bro?" Sawdust asked.

Slag just looked up. His own grey eyes were bloodshot, "I have to go." he bolted out the door.

"Uuum," Fluttershy said, just walking in at the back of the group, "What's going on? I thought he wanted to hang out." She was clearly upset.

I was ready to kick Slag so hard he could check in for me at my old job. He could fuck with me all he wanted, but nopony upsets Fluttershy.

"I better go talk to him," Sawdust said.

"No," I stopped him, "I think I should handle this."

"He always runs along the railroad tracks going toward Canterlot when he needs to think," Sawdust said, "Good luck catching up to him."

"Just hold this so it doesn't slow me down," I said, "Rainbow doesn't hold the monopoly on speed." I handed the saddle bag to Sawdust and flew right over everypony's head out the door.

If there is one thing I learned catching up with Slag, it's not to underestimate the galloping speed of a heartbroken unicorn.

I was only holding back enough to be sure I would see him, and he was a good three miles down the tracks by the time I did. I wasn't sure how to handle this best but I knew I was pissed he would accept Fluttershy's invitation and then dote over me like this. She deserved better.

I flew next to him and yelled, "You have two options? Stop and talk to me! Or I tackle you and force you to talk!"

"You wouldn't," he yelled, "you wouldn't even touch me. I'm a stallion!"

I rolled my eyes as I shifted my weight over ramming his side and knocking him off his hooves. I flew over him and landed in a position I could hold him down. "I'm a soldier, try me. Now! I know you are in love with me. I respect that me being straight and not liking you the same way is hard on you, but you have to go back to that restaurant and tell Fluttershy your sorry. She was looking forward to spending time with you and you've hardly spoken to her."

Slag curled into a ball and started bawling. I waited until he calmed down.

"You ready," I asked. I was doing my best to stay cold. The last thing I wanted to do was give him a straw to grasp. He needed to move on.

"I'm sorry," He said sitting up, "my emotions got the better of me."

"I'm not the one to apologize to," I said backing away, "as much as we all know you wanted to be, you weren't on a date with me when you ran out."

Slag's eyes went wide as he realized his mistake. He screamed, "SHIT!! I'm such an idiot! I really blew it! I really like her too. I thought I had finally found somepony that made me forget how I felt about you. I guess the way Sawdust described your eyes brought it all back. Then realizing he knew things about you that I had ignored because I couldn't put my feelings aside... I looked into your eyes once... I got lost. I couldn't find myself in the middle of my own shop. Fluttershy is never gonna want to hear all of this. I better just let her know I'm sorry and she never has to see me again. She deserves better than..." He started bawling again.

I shrugged and held out a hoof to try consoling him when I felt a claw between my wings, "It's ok, Dweeb," Gilda said, "this lame wad is gonna need to get over you. You put him in his place. Now what he really needs, is kindness."

I was a little confused about her infliction on that last word until Fluttershy landed next to us. She gave a snort before approaching the sobbing unicorn.

"Slag Metalcrafter!" she said in her assertive voice, "I didn't invite you along so you could run out on me. What do you have to say for yourself?"

He sat up but continued to look at the ground. He was covering his face, "I'm sorry, you never have to see me again. In fact, I'd rather you not look now. I'm a mess."

"Here," Gilda pulled a black piece of fabric out of a saddle bag and held it out. Fluttershy took it in her mouth and dropped it in front of Slag. He immediately wiped his face off and blew his nose.

"Now will you look at me?" Fluttershy asked.

He glanced up at her and looked down at her hooves.

"My eyes are up here," she said flatly, pointing with one hoof, he followed with his eyes, "What makes you think I wouldn't want to see you again? I like you. I enjoy being around you. I'm just upset that you let your feelings for Jerry get in the way of the fun we were having. It's not like I didn't know you would take him if he felt the same. Ponies around town talk you know. You don't hide your googly eyes well." She giggled with that last sentence.

"So you're not dumping me?" he asked.

Fluttershy took a deep breath, "No, I'm not, but I do want you to ask yourself if you'll really be happy with me. I mean, I'm no Jerry Blade." She looked down herself.

I wanted to say something but Gilda stopped me, "This is between them," she said, "we won't be doing them any favors butting in. You're gonna change back in ten minutes. Lets race up to that cloud over there so we can get baked and you can put your pants on."

"I love you," was all I said before taking off.

She took off and actually managed to pass me right before the cloud. "I love you, too," she said as I landed. She reached into the saddlebag and pulled out a small wooden box with a couple of pre-rolled joints in it. She lit one and held it out. I made sure I had it before pulling away. I was still getting the hang of hooves that could grip.

She lit the other joint for herself. After a moment she turned to me with an odd smile, "So when were you going to tell me about your sister? You never mentioned Aura before."

"I never talked about my pony childhood," I said, "She ran away as soon as she was old enough. I think she saw our father for what he was better than I did."

"Did you ever see her again?" Gilda asked.

"A few times," I said, "She would drop in. Then run off. She thought I was going to make her join the fight or something. The last time I saw her was the first Summer Sun Celebration after the fighting had officially ended. I almost didn't recognize her. She had actually grown a rainbow-colored mustache."

"Your sister grew a mustache?" Gilda asked.

"Yep," I said, "I thought for sure it was fake. She had black fur, and a red mane, Yet this mustache was every color of the rainbow. I only saw her for a moment, but she walked up and hugged me. I could tell it was real. She didn't even say a word though. To this day I have no idea what she was doing or why she would never stay and talk. I felt kinda abandoned after practically raising her."

"Sounds like she had a lot going on and didn't want to trouble you with it," Gilda said, "She clearly cared if you were alive. Why else would she take the time to track you down just to see you and leave? The last time you saw her, was after you ended the danger."

"I guess you have a point," I said, "It's getting kinda fuzzy again. I must be about to change."

I felt a small pinch in my limbs as they stretched to their usual length and my hooves once again became hands and feet, "Feels good to stretch," I joked.

"Ya know," Gilda said, "I never thought I'd be so lucky."

"What do you mean?" I asked,

"You're smart and sarcastic, and really seem to get me," she said, "I fell in love with you on that alone. It helps that I find you attractive too. Then I found out you can turn into a pegasus. I always wanted to date a pegasus. They're so hot, but a certain part of their anatomy made an important part of a relationship sound terrifying." she pushed me on my back and swung a leg over me, "that's not a problem with you, is it? I told you-you wouldn't need to get dressed right away."

50- Candy is dandy, but it's the thought that's so sweet.

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"We're going to have to go home for a clean shirt," I huffed, "I can’t believe you gave it to Slag to blow his nose."

"The poor guy looked pathetic," She laughed, "What else was I supposed to do?"

"Give him this," I pulled a black handkerchief from my pocket, "like I thought you did." I crossed my arms trying to keep warm, "If it wasn't so cold I wouldn't mind, but like I said. I don't have fur in this form."

"I guess you have a point," she admitted, "I didn't know about the hankie. I'm sorry."

"Wow," I said, "are you getting soft on me? I feel like you should have had a couple more comebacks." I laughed.

"I was just thinking about what just happened," She said, "I'm never going to run off like that, but I don't ever want to let you down. Yet, I just did,"

"No, you didn't," I said, "I'm sure you would have gone for the hankie if you knew I carried one. You don't need to apologize."

"We're still a long way from town," she said, "we'll make it a lot faster if I carry you."

"Fine," I held my arms out, "but only because I want to get a shirt and catch up with the others in time for dessert."

She wrapped her arms around my chest and we took off. The air was cold on my stomach but my back felt amazing against her soft, warm feathers."

We got to the cabin within minutes. I threw a clean shirt on and grabbed a coat while I was at it.

"We may as well take the Jeep from here," Gilda said.

"I don't know," I said, "They are probably at the sweet shop already. We better stick to the fast way. Unless your wings are tired."

"I'm good," She said, "I just didn't want you to be embarrassed about it."

"I may feel a little ridiculous being carried like a child," I said, "but it's nice that flying is still an option."

She just smiled and we went on our way.

Everypony was well into their own dessert when we walked into Sugarcube Corner. Scootaloo saw us and flew up. She had ice cream and sprinkles all over her face. I instinctively grabbed my handkerchief as she approached.

"Mom! Dad!" She said as she flew in for a hug. I managed to wipe her face off before she nuzzled either of us.

"Hey, Kid," I said, "sorry to run off."

"It's ok," she said, "I would have done the same if one of the other crusaders ran off like that. Is your friend ok?"

"He's fine," I said, "I better order something. I kinda missed out on eating lunch."

"I grabbed you both sandwiches," Scootaloo held out two take out boxes, "I know you two don't eat many sweets. They're egg and cheese because everything else had daisies on it. Who knew a fancy place like that did all day breakfast? The one with the mark is dads. I got him extra peppers and onions. I got Mom extra cheese."

Gilda and I looked at each other. I could tell we were having the same thought. Scootaloo is awesome!

"Thank you!" Gilda and I said in unison each taking our box.

"Rarity paid for it," Scootaloo pointed out, "With everything you have done for me the least I could do is make sure she got something you would like. Come sit down. Everypony is waiting."

Several tables had been pushed together to fit the crowd. We were invited to sit in two empty seats at the end. Two more empty seats confirmed that we had beat Slag and Fluttershy. I really didn't think Fluttershy was about to carry Slag. So I expected that. Even with the pit stop.

"So is everything alright?" Rarity asked, "I guess I should just assume so. You wouldn't have left them if it wasn't."

"Yea," I said, "It's all good. Not sure if they'll make it back in time. He made it a long way before I found him. He would have to sprint, and I think he wore himself out.

"I should probably go give him a lift," Sawdust said, "he always wears himself out. I wouldn't be surprised if you had to tackle him either."

"Well..." I said rolling my eyes.

"Don't worry about it I'd a done the same. Only we would both be walking back," Sawdust laughed, "This way I have my truck outside. This tantrum will be resolved in record time. Thanks to you."

"You really love your brother, huh? You know him so well," Pinkie squeed, "Can I ride along?"

"Somepony would have to ride in the back," Sawdust pointed out, "There is at least a bit of a side on it now."

"Oooh," Pinkie said, "that sounds like fun!" She jumped up and flew out the door.

"I better go," Sawdust laughed, "Shes probably already in the bed making engine noises."

Pinkies voice could be heard from outside, "Grrrrrrrrrrrrr. Uh oh. Bumpy road." Hooves could be heard against wood.

"Later guys," Sawdust galloped out the door. He could be heard saying, "Now lay still while I drive! I don't want you falling out!"

"Well," Twilight said, "That was interesting. So... Does that potion work on ponies?"

"Only if your not your true self at the moment," I said, "I'm a pony soul reincarnated as a human. The pony you saw is my true self."

"I know a spell that would make it permanent," Twilight offered.

"No, thank you," I said, "I like being a human. My human life is a part of me too. This just isn't my original body."

"Yea," Rainbow said, "This guy used to be friends with Commander Easy Glider. Too bad he wasn't around when I had to take that history test."

"Oh, my," Rarity said, "such prestigious friends. You really were somepony everypony should know."

"I was," I said, "but only because those who found me tended to live longer. Many even went on to save others. Easy Glider and I never wanted fame. Back then fame was more like a target on your head. Not good when your dodging bullets."

"What's a bullet?" Twilight asked.

"The projectile from a gun," I answered. I had expected her to know that considering I had seen Zecora with a gun.

"Soooo..." Twilight got more confused, "what's a gun?"

"A weapon we used back then," I said, "humans also have them. I guess they must have been fazed out as useless here."

I knew where I wanted to go after this.

"Mom, Dad," Scootaloo spoke up, "As long as you don't mind the Crusaders and I are going to spend the night at Rarity's so we can help set up and practice our routine for the party."

"Routine?" I asked, "I didn't need your help with anything. Go ahead."

"You'll see tomorrow," She said, "We're gonna get going. I love you, Mom and Dad."

"I love you, too," I was the only one to say it but Gilda gladly returned the hug. I wasn't going to fault her for it. Saying 'I love you' twice in one day would be a lot to ask from a griffin who had already come so far.

As soon as the Crusaders were gone we realized the remaining four ponies and spike were all staring at us.

"What?" we asked in unison.

"It's just so amazing," Rarity said, "She's totally bonded with you in such a short time. We have been trying to help her for so long, Rainbow Dash was even looking at apartments on the ground! Now, look at her fly away."

"It's true," Rainbow said, "I was pretty sure she would move in with me if I could convince her I was gonna move down there anyway, but she knows how much I love my place, so it was probably a lost cause."

"Ah barely even managed ta convince her we wouldn't mind her lookin' around the farm for shelter," Apple Jack said, "girls got a stubborn streak a mile wide."

"That kinda sounds like a couple of other creatures I know," Twilight giggled looking at Gilda and me.

"Aww, come on," Spike joked, "Owlysius and I aren't that stubborn." The whole table laughed.

"This has been lovely," Rarity said, "But I must be off. I still have loads to do to prepare for the party. Ta ta."

"I better get going too," Twilight said, "I'd like to check the restricted section for any mentioning of these guns. I'll be in the library later tonight if anypony needs me."

"I should get my wing stretches in for the day, then rest up," Rainbow said, "I'm in the Wonderbolts show tomorrow. Later guys."

"Ah'm gonna get an early start on tomorrows chores," Applejack said, "so Ah don't fall behind. See Y'all tomorrow."

"Later guys," Spike said as he followed Twilight leaving Gilda and myself alone at the party table.

"So what do you wanna do?" Gilda asked, "It's only one o'clock."

"I would like to have another talk with Zecora," I said, "I missed a pretty big detail last time. Let's go home for the Jeep first, I like having it close when I enter the woods."

51- Bullet holes in memories.

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"So this is where Zecora lives?" Gilda asked as I parked the Jeep by the hollow tree.

"It's a pretty traditional healer hut," I said, "Being built into a tree was preferred so they would blend in."

"So how did you find them when you were hurt?" Gilda asked.

"In times of peace they can be decorated," I said, "during the war. You didn't find the healer, the healer found you. Most of the time anyway... Those bold enough not to hide built a standard hut and painted their roof red. It rarely turned out to be a good idea." 'It certainly didn't work out for Forrest’ I thought to myself, 'but he wasn't really capable of looking for the battles with his hind legs and hearing gone. So it was that or just give up. Total respect!'

"What a delight you are to see," Zecora said opening her door as we approached, "did you have more questions for me?"

"Does she always talk like that?" Gilda asked under her breath.

"just roll with it," I muttered back before turning to Zecora, "I was just curious about that gun you showed me when we first met. I didn't get around to asking before."

"I only use it if I am under attack," Zecora replied, "I suppose I should ask if you'd like it back." She led us into her hut, reached into a drawer and pulled out what I recognized as a standard issue Wonderbolt sidearm. Only Wonderbolts haven't been issued sidearms in centuries, "It once belonged to you. Kizzy's daughter claimed it when your time as a pony was through."

"I take it you have never shown that to a pony," I said.

"It's only been seen by that which I've shot," She said, "All are dead, and that's not a lot. It only attacks, it can't do much good, but it comes in handy out in the woods."

"I really don't think I'm going to get into that much trouble as a pony," I said, "and that isn't designed for hands. You keep it. I just wanted the details."

"You sure?" Gilda asked, "it won't be long before we're going on that expedition into timberwolf territory. We might want a weapon."

"Do you have hooves to pull that trigger?" I asked.

"No," She said, "I have talons, you know that."

"We'll get back to that when we get home," I said, "That gun won't do either of us much good, and I keep a gun under my seat that should."

"I guess I won't argue," she said.

I turned my attention to Zecora, "I hate to leave so quickly, but I need to get home before too late."

"It is fine, it is not rude of you," she said, "I too have things to do. You will not regret leaving me this gift. If ever you need me, just call. I shall be there swift."

We got back to the cabin with a good few hours of daylight to work with. I only slowed down a little.

"So why did you want to get home before late?" Gilda asked.

"I want to take you somewhere," I drove right past the cabin to the edge of the woods where the graves of Jerry and Apple Seed could now be seen.

"What is this place?" Gilda asked.

"It's where we buried a couple friends," I said as we got out.

Gilda flew over and looked at the markers. "This must be the Apple that planted the orchard," Gilda said.

"No," I said as I picked a few apples from a nearby tree, "but he dreamed of it."

"There was another Jerry?" She asked.

"I was named after him," I said setting the apples in a line on a stump behind the graves, It was kinda off to the left so the graves were out of the line of fire.

"What are you doing?" Gilda asked.

"Setting up targets," I said.

"For what?" she asked, "are you going to show me that gun?"

I silently walked to the Jeep and pulled the .357 from below the seat. Gilda walked up to see what I was doing.

"This gun should fit in your claw a little better," I said, "I figured you should know how to use it. It's very dangerous if you aren't careful."

"What exactly does it do?" Gilda asked eyeing the gun, "Griffins don't exactly have them either."

"Well I'd usually start by showing you how to clean, load, and handle it but since its already loaded," I eyed the six apples I had lined up, "It throws lead at frightening speeds. Observe." I took aim and knocked all six apples down one by one.

"Holy shit!" She said, "Can I try?" She asked with excitement in her voice.

"That's the idea," I said, "First I have to tell you the golden rule. Do not. I repeat do NOT point it at anything that you don't want dead. There are only two valid reasons to want something dead. One, it will kill you otherwise. Two, you plan to eat it."

"Sounds reasonable," She said, eyes still wide.

I showed her how to handle the weapon and spent at least an hour teaching her how to aim. I kept a good three boxes of ammo under the seat with it and reloading supplies in the back. So I wasn't worried about running out.

Things went amazingly well until the last reload for the night. I had set up five apples because she was only averaging three out of six anyway. She managed to hit all five on the first try. She was so excited she turned to me fast and the last round went off as she started to turn.

The round hit Apple Seed's grave marker and chipped some of the stone away. It didn't do any real damage but I was pulled from reality so fast I felt myself start to fall to the ground.
I was at the graves paying my respects. The dirt was still fresh.

Out of nowhere, a bullet hit Jerry's stone chipping away most of his last name. I quickly turned around to see Firestorm hovering twenty feet in the air ten yards behind me.

"Why can't you just leave me alone?" I asked.

"Do you know what a commander does?" She asked.

"A good one keeps their soldiers alive," I said.

"Wrong!" she shouted, "a commander leads an army. What kind of army will there be if the war is ended?"

"What does it matter to you?" I said, "you were already disgraced."

"I'm trying to look out for the next generation," She said, "I'm not going to let you destroy my son's future. The only thing that will stop me is death."

"Thanks for the advice," I said unfurling my wings and going for the charge.

I knew she expected a full-on charge, so I stayed low until I was right below her and flew upward. It was enough to miss her shot but she dodged before I got a hold on her. She wasn't quite fast enough as I took my shot and got her in the stomach. She lost a few feet of altitude and clenched her free hoof to the wound in pain.

She tried to take another shot at me but I was already next to her. I swung a hoof down landing on her left wing. A loud crack could be heard just before she fell from the sky. Her sidearm fell off and landed a good five feet from her.

I landed next to her. She was trying to get up. She saw me and started reaching for her gun. It was well out of her reach.

"You could have joined me," I said, "you could have been the commander that ended the war. Gone down in history."

"You really think ponies will remember your friend Easy Glider a hundred years from now?" she asked, "I wanted to make sure there was a place for my son when he was old enough to lead."

"And I wanted my daughter to sleep well at night!" I was getting sick and tired of her backward thinking, "Just drop it, you lost."

"That's what you think," She thought I hadn't noticed she was inching her way to the gun but I was already turning around to buck her before she could spring. She landed a good ten feet away.

"I think I felt ribs crack on that," I cringed, shattered ribs and a gut wound. Her chances of surviving this far from care were slim, "Fuck an A. I really didn't want to kill you. I didn't want to kill anypony. All I wanted was to keep my friends alive. You didn't like that. You were ready to kill me and didn't mind wasting Wonderbolt resources to do it. Now you wonder why your son doesn't have a guaranteed future as the next commander? It sure ain't my fault!"

"If you're going to kill me just do it," she said.

"If I hadn't gotten help would you have just shot me?" I asked striking a match with my hoof to light a cigarette, "or would you have tortured me? Tied me to a tree? Let me watch the hut burn before going with it?"

The terrified look on her face said it all. She would never have granted me a quick death. She tried one more time to get away but with her broken wing and shattered rib cage, she wasn't going anywhere. I walked up and placed the barrel of my gun to her forehead. She just closed her eyes.

"You're lucky I'm not you," I clocked her on the side of her head hard enough to knock her out. I left two bone mending potions in front of her and poured a vitality potion down her throat to fix her vital organs and keep them going. Can't say I was worried about her choking or getting an ulcer. So I kept my granola bars.

Before I left I wrote a note saying this was the last time I let her live. I really did hope she lived. I was a healer. A military healer, yes, but just because I wasn't afraid to kill doesn't mean I ever wanted to do it.

I also took her sidearm... A picture flashed of me placing it in the glove box of a jeep. I felt like I'd done something awful.
I woke up on the couch.

"That Jeep never left Equestria," I muttered.

"What was that," Gilda asked.

"Don't worry about it for now," I said, "I plan to catch you up on everything I've learned in those visions. I'd just rather wait till after the party."

"Fair enough," Gilda said.

"How long was I out?" I asked.

"A good forty-five minutes," Gilda answered, "I put the gun away. Sorry about your friends grave. I got so excited I forgot about the sixth round, and after you had made such a point to act like it's loaded either way." She looked down as she spoke.

"It happens," I said, "now that you know the reason for the rule you'll follow it better, right?"

"If you still trust me with that thing," she said cheering up, "you bet I will! That was cool! The way it made those apples explode."

"If it went off in the wrong direction that could just as easily be a ponies head," I said, "Apple Seed won't mind a chip in his stone if it's all it took to teach you not to treat it like a toy. If we run into timberwolves us both knowing how to shoot will be invaluable."

"I think I got the hang of it," she said, "but if we only have one gun. Why worry if I can shoot it?"

"Did I say I only had one gun?" I asked, "I don't remember ever saying that."

"I guess I just assumed," she said, "That wasn't the first time I saw that one. I figured if you had more I would have seen them too."

"My father was an engineer," I said, "With a military background. If you wanted a gun hidden he could hide it so well apparently a unicorn won't even find it in a scan. I expected him to, but he showed me the sketches and it's not in there."

"You mean there's a stash in that Jeep that even Slag couldn't find with his magic?" Gilda asked, "I'm not even from here and I've heard how thorough he is when he has something he wants to know about."

"Well its designed to fool the metal detectors at customs into thinking it's part of the gas tank," I said, "apparently it fools unicorn magic as well. We just need to go get the Jeep and I'll show you."

"Oh," she said, "I ah, didn't think you wanted to leave it out there. So I kinda put you in the passenger seat and drove here."

I didn't know what to think. I was doing my best not to look angry, that's my go-to any time anyone wants to touch my father's Jeep. She didn't know that. Furthermore, I was impressed she managed to pull it off. I knew it wouldn't run forever, it wouldn't kill me to trust one person to drive it. Considering no people were available there was only one creature I would even consider trusting that much.

I decided right then that if she wanted to drive my Jeep, I would let her. Now I just had to find a way to show it in my tone so she didn't feel like she did anything wrong. She should have asked, but it's not like she saw it coming, and it wasn't an option at the time.

"You managed to drive my Jeep?" it came out astounded. I was relieved.

"I had to move the seat up and sit on the edge," she said, "but I like watching you drive, so it wasn't hard to know what to do."

"The secret compartment can wait," I said, "Let's just get stoned and chillax. We can finish preparing after the party." I realized Asmodeus was coiled up in my lap and I started absentmindedly petting him. He moved his head under my hand like a dog going for a scratch behind the ears. I was only a little surprised, earth snakes don't do that, but he had yet to act like an earth snake.

"Sounds good to me," Gilda pulled the pipe out, "He actually showed up right when you fainted. He just coiled up on you and kept looking around for whatever knocked you out."

I smiled to myself wondering what kind of treats you get for a guard-snake.

52- Chaos needs no introduction.

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"I hope you don't mind," Rarity said, "I want you two to be just as surprised as everypony else about how stunning you both look. So I've set you up with separate dressing rooms and you will be introduced into the party one at a time."

We both rolled our eyes. Gilda and I had just arrived at the boutique to be dressed for the party. Neither one of us were really looking forward to this part and were now further annoyed that we couldn't complain to each other.

I was lead to a wagon that gave me a ride to the spa. Aloe and Lotus met me at the door and lead me to the room we had all gotten massages in the day before. A new table was set out that seemed to be a couple feet longer than the rest.

"We didn't want you to wait so long to be pampered in this body," Aloe smiled.

"So we insisted on including it in getting you ready," Lotus said, "Just relax now. We are professionals."

"We will give you time to get ready," Aloe said and they headed out of the room.

'Maybe this won't be so bad,' I thought to myself as I undressed and wrapped in a towel.
They had me waiting in the mayor's office until the official start of the party. They wanted to give everypony a chance to show up and see the guests of honor presented. I was getting restless.

'They're making too big a deal out of this,' I thought to myself, 'sure, I expect at least half of Ponyville to be out there, but they're acting like it's gonna be half of Equestria.'

I stood up and checked my suit when I knew it was getting close to time. Rarity had outdone herself on this outfit. It was a black tuxedo with gold embroidery that even I had to admit gave it just the right accents in just the right places. Centered between the shoulder blades was the fire and ice yin yang to represent my cutie mark that wasn't on my flank in this body. It was surrounded by a border of the embroidery that resembled gold flames that ended in snowflakes. She also insisted I wear a black bowler hat and bow-tie. I don't do hats, and I felt like I was being choked, but as soon as I saw myself in the mirror I refused to take it off, I looked sharp.

I heard my cue and walked out on the stage. The mayor was standing behind the microphone and introduced me as I walked up.

"And now," she said, "the 'man' you've all been waiting for. I'd like to introduce the guest of honor. He has only been in Equestria for a couple weeks and he has already been making life better for everypony around him. We are proud to welcome Jerry Blade to Ponyville, and I think I speak for everypony when I wish him the best on the trip he shall soon be taking to help ponykind get back in touch with our history. Jerry, would you like to say a few words?"

"I suppose I should," I said, I hadn't exactly prepared a speech, but I had at least thought about it.

I approached the podium and took a look at the still gathering crowd. It was enormous. Nothing but pastel colored fur as far as the eye could see. 'I guess they were right to make a big deal,' I thought.

"I'd just like to thank you all for taking time out of your lives to come here," I said, "it actually took some convincing for me to realize this party was worth throwing. I didn't really think ponies would want to make a big deal out of me. Well... It's not the first time I was wrong. I doubt it will be my last. Everypony just have a good time and remember the three rules to a good party. Leave your fists in your pockets, your drugs in your friend's car, and designate a driver. THANK YOU!"

I stepped back and joined the mane 6 at the back of the stage. Even they seemed to be scratching their heads at that last part. Considering that's what I was going for I counted it as a success.

"Now," Mayor Mare returned to the mic, "I was going to save him for last but our other guest insisted he had to go first. Many of you have met her before during her visits to her best friend Rainbow Dash. Let's give a warm Ponyville welcome to our other new resident, Gilda!"

I knew why Gilda didn't mind going after the main event. She wanted me to see her grand entrance. She was in a little dark blue gown that looked absolutely stunning. I was surprised by the color choice, I was expecting a little black dress but it was very flattering. She swayed her hips as she walked by me. I couldn't look away.

She actually took her chance to talk to the crowd.

"Thank you everypony," she said, "I'm happy to be here. I really can’t say this party was my idea, but as long as I'm here, Lets put on some tunes and dance like nopony is watching!" She threw up a rock fist and with that DJ Pon3 started a record and everypony started dancing.

Everypony on the stage began to make their way into the crowd. I could see Slag and Sawdust waiting for Fluttershy and Pinkie. I thought about talking to them but was stopped by the mayor.

"It really is good to finally meet you." she said, "how are you enjoying Ponyville?"

"It's great," I said, "I feel like I fit in. Even though I'm so different."

"That's great to hear," she said, "if I can ever do anything for you. My office is always open to you."

She walked away and I was about to enter the crowd, but this time Asmodeus came out of nowhere and wrapped around my leg.

"What's wrong?" I asked, but a popping sound behind me said everything I needed to know.

I turned around to see Discord with an intimidating look on his face.

"Can I help you?" I asked giving him an odd look. I wasn't about to be intimidated that easily.

"I need to talk to you in private," he said. Before I could protest he grabbed my arm and the three of us were transported to Discord's living room.

Asmodeus hissed and snipped but Discord just shined his talon on his chest and said, "I'm not here to hurt anyone, you can back down." The snake listened-somehow-but kept an eye on him.

"What is this all about?" I asked.

"I need to know about this stallion Fluttershy has been swooning over," He said, "I'm well past the point of jealousy but I still want to know he has her best interests in mind," he gave a defeated look, "Fluttershy made me promise not to question him, but she never said anything about his friends."

"Fair enough," I admitted, "What do you want to know?"

"You're actually going along with this?" He seemed surprised.

"You could have picked a better time," I said, "and this is called sneaking around, but you got her on a solid technicality. Just ask away and bring me back to my party."

"I like you," He said before sighing, "I guess the best way to put this is... Is he a 'typical' stallion, or is he actually interested in her? I don't want her getting her heart involved with a stallion that doesn't feel the same."

"Slag Metalcrafter is anything but a typical stallion," I said, "If he was after what you think. He wouldn't be after it from Fluttershy. He really likes her. Truth be told, he has gotten around... but I think he's tired of all that. He wouldn't get involved with a nice mare like Fluttershy otherwise. I'm certain of it."

"Ok," he said, "that's good enough, but if he hurts one hair in her mane...'

"You'll have to beat me to him," I said with resolve, "and you had better teleport because you'll never catch up to me just flying."

"Wait a second, I've heard that determined tone before," He said, "That's right! You're the Wonderbolt that saved Equestria from chaos, aren't you? You look different, have you done something with your hair? Oh, that's right, You lost your wings."

"Nah," I said, "just upgraded. How did you know about it anyway? You were made of stone."

"Imprisoned in stone," he corrected, "That doesn't mean I didn't know what was going on. Daylight Dreamer. If it means anything to you, I actually wanted to help. Sure, I wanted to take over after, but what's the good of taking over a country that's destroying itself? That kind of chaos cannot be sustained."

"Wow," I said, "that is a surprise, but I should probably get back to the party before ponies go looking for me."

"True," he said, "I'm supposed to be there too. It sounds so dull though. It’s not even a party about me! Do you mind if I catch a buzz before going back." A bong materialized in his paw.

"Count me in," I laughed, "I don't really want to go back either. I don't like parties about me."

53- Small gift. Big smile.

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"Dude," I said to Discord, "This isn't the party. We gotta get back or they'll notice we're gone. Besides, I may be cool with you calling out her technicality, but Fluttershy may be upset about it."

"You have a point," Discord admitted, "Still. I don't plan to lie. If she didn't want me talking to you about her special somepony she should have said so. Relax, I just wanted to make a pit stop."

"What is this place?" I asked.

"Some kind of abysmal abyss near where your griffin friend grew up," he answered, "I use this part as a storage locker. Where did this come from?" He picked the Idol of Boreas up off the ledge we were standing on, "Whatever, my stuff is over here." He threw it to the side causing it to fall deeper into the abyss and walked over to a random overhead door set into the rock wall. "You and I are the only ones to ever see this. You're not the only one hiding things that could rip Equestria apart. I'm trusting you not to go talking about this. Even Celestia shouldn't know what's in here. She may be immortal. That doesn't mean she's been around as long as I have. I'm the embodiment of chaos after all."

"Then why are you showing me?" I asked, "I can only even claim one full century. I kinda skipped a few in there."

"Because I like you, I was hoping we could be friends," Discord chuckled as he threw the door open.

The first thing I saw was what looked like a white, blue, and gold wall with a splotchy pattern, But shapes began to emerge as the wall bulged in the middle. All at once thousands of stuffed Celestia figurines came erupting into the abyss.

"I swear these things multiply," Discord complained as he snapped his fingers causing them to stack neatly in a pile to the side of the platform, "That's why I had to place that shield that's blocking the wind. I only buy one of these every decade or so-granted I did track down the ones from while I was imprisoned. This one's my favorite. It's the very first ever made." He held out a plush baby white unicorn, complete with a tiny diaper, "She hadn't even earned her wings yet. She got them at a young age."

"That is adorable," I said, "but remember the clock is ticking."

"I'm starting to think you're no fun," Discord said, "But I get it. Just let me find what I came for."

Discord turned his attention to the pile still in the locker. He started digging around and throwing Celestia plushies everywhere. Then other pony plushies started to emerge. One by one Discord pulled out all of the mane six, Spike, Starlight, Thorax, himself, Trixie, the Cutie Mark Crusaders-with and without cutie marks-, Lyra, Bon Bon, Derpy, Mayor Mare, Screw Ball, Cheerilee... The list went on into ponies I couldn't even name.

"AHA!" Discord finally stopped and pulled out a box. He walked up to me and held it to his chest. His face looked strange. Like he was trying to look serious, "I had to pull some strings to get this. I was a little too petrified to get them when they came out, but I got my claws on two sets."

He held the box out and opened it revealing six plush figures. It was the Protectors of Peace. I was a little disturbed Discord had a toy Daylight Dreamer. That was a toy me after all. Not to mention he had my late wife and our friends.

"I ah," Discord cleared his throat, "I was watching everything from the garden you made your plans in. I suppose you figured that out by now. You really threw those ponies through a loop. Using chaos to end the chaos. I wanted to show my respect. So... Here! Just take them! Call it my Cutecenyera present. I wasn't going to get you anything when I thought you were just some random human. Daylight Dreamer, you were the first pony that made me want a friend. I just didn't know what the feeling meant at the time. I'm just glad I met Fluttershy before this reunion. Now I know that this is how you make friends."

"Thank you," I said. I opened the box for a closer look. The detail on our cutie marks was astounding, and they were in perfect condition.

"When I say I found two sets what I mean is that you only missed two when you erased everypony's memory," He said, "They were lost in an attic of a house that was being torn down. You could tell my set had been played with. I had to re-stuff my Kizzy. I gave you the good one. Now... Do you want to play with your new dolls? Or do you want to party?" He snapped his fingers and we were at the refreshment table at the party. I was no longer holding the box. Discord whispered into my ear, "There under your bed, I'll leave it up to you who you show them to, pal."

"Thank you," I said, I still wasn't sure he wasn't up to something, but Discord is never, not up to something. I could have figured that out in just this meeting. Let alone seven seasons of MLP.

At that thought, I actually relaxed a little. Here I was, on edge because he had been watching me and collecting my action figures. I had forgotten I used to watch him on TV... and had a Discord lamp in my living room on Earth. Its like we were old friends that never got to meet so we stalked each other instead.

"Now if there is one thing I remember about you," Discord said, "you need to let loose and have some fun. You were always the serious one. I'll let you mingle for now, but if you aren't enjoying yourself..." his eyes went red, "...I'll see to it that you start." He disappeared.

"There you are!" Gilda landed next to me, "Where did you go?"

"Sorry, Babe," I said, "I ran into an old friend."

She gave me a funny look, "You've only been here a couple weeks. I thought all your old friends were either dead or on earth... Sorry to be so blunt."

"It's fine, I thought so too," I said, "Other than Celestia of course. Things can get chaotic sometimes, I'll explain at home. He gave me something I want to show you. It's at home."

"Alright," Gilda said still looking at me strangely, "I won't drill you. Ponies are waiting to meet you though."

"Well, I guess I better mingle then," I said.

"Jerry!" Spike shouted over the crowd, "I have a couple friends I want you to meet. Would you mind hanging out?"

"Sounds good to me," I said, "It's probably best if I stick with someone who knows all the important ponies anyway."

"Awesome," Spike celebrated, "If you wanna meet all the big shots. There's nopony better to hang with than 'Spike the Brave and Glorious'. Come on, my buddy Thorax is right over there."

I followed Spike to the edge of the stage where Ember was talking to Thorax.

"Ember!" Spike greeted his friend with a hug, "You make it!"

"You kidding," She reluctantly returned Spike's embrace, "I wouldn't want to miss out on a party with my oldest friend, Spike."

"Ember, Thorax," Spike got both friends attention, "I'd like to introduce you to the guests of honor, and my personal friends, Jerry and Gilda."

"Nice to meet you," Ember held out a claw to shake. Gilda and I each accepted in turn. I was surprised she didn't clamp down as hard as I expected.

Then a human hand reached out to shake. I automatically shook it but jumped back about five feet when I looked up and saw my own face looking back at me.

"I'm sorry!" Thorax's voice came from my doubles mouth just before turning back to his normal form, "I wanted to shake but I don't have hands in my normal form. I guess I should have gone with something else."

"It's fine," I assured him, "I just didn't expect it."

Before we could strike a conversation Vinyl came over the speakers, "Alright everypony! Are we having fun?" The crowd cheered, "Well turn your attention skyward. The Wonderbolts are about to start the show."

Rock music started playing in the background as the Wonderbolts began the show. It was a pretty basic routine that ended in an areal flower formation. It ended with Scootaloo coming out of nowhere to take the place of honor flying through the center of the pedals. Two of the Wonderbolts flew to the ground before climbing to a higher altitude than the rest. They dropped something before shooting back down and landing on the stage.

I was confused about what they had dropped until two parachutes unfurled that read 'Welcome Jerry' and 'Welcome Gilda'. As the parachutes descended the figures of Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom took shape.

Apple Bloom was much lower and managed to steer her parachute to the top of a pyramid the Wonderbolts had started on the stage and release her parachute, Sweetie Belle had a little hiccup but managed to land next to her friend. Scootaloo landed at the very top and they posed like that just long enough for a picture before Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom grabbed on to a pony below them and they all took off in different directions like a firework going off. The parachutes were left laying on the stage.

They did a few laps around the crowd before landing in a row on the stage and taking a bow.

The show was amazing but only one part of it really stood out to me. I had never seen Scootaloo or Rainbow Dash look so happy. They were doing a little dance together at the edge of the stage.

54- What's my motivation?

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"That was amazing," Thorax cheered, "I didn't know Scootaloo could fly like that!"

"That's because she's only been able to fly for a few days," Spike said, "Jerry here had to whip up a potion to fix her wings."

"WOW!" Thorax dropped his jaw, "on top of everything else you told me over the mail, he also brews potions!"

"What have you been saying about me?" I asked in an irritated tone.

"Oh, you know," Spike seemed nervous, "Just that you saved Apple Bloom's life, have a vehicle that drives itself without magic, are over five feet tall, can turn into a pony-that was just last night when Thorax got here-, and now I told him about the potion you made for Scootaloo." Spike gave a big smile trying to look innocent.

"What's the big deal?" Ember asked, "He sent me the same letters."

"Nothing," I said, "I can't blame him for being honest. I just don't like to brag."

"You wouldn't last five minutes in the dragon kingdom with an attitude like that," Ember laughed, "That's ok though. He wouldn't last one." She pointed to Thorax.

"Well she would scare my whole hive," Thorax laughed.

"At least you can meet here and hang out with your old pal Spike," Spike referred to himself in the third person. I was surprised he left 'the brave and glorious' out.

"It's cool that two creatures that have so little in common can be such good friends," I said.

"That's the beauty of it," Thorax said, "She teaches me to be assertive..."

"...and he teaches me to be good at friendship," Ember cut him off, "So where is the snack table? I'm hungry."

"Right this way," Spike lead the group back to where he found me making sure to point out the bowl of gems set out at the end of the table.

They both started pigging out. I felt the need to cover my ears from the crunch of gemstones. It sounded like a pile of glass being smashed by a group of kids with hammers.

"So, how are you two liking Ponyville?" Thorax asked.

"It's cool," Gilda answered first since I was still covering my ears, I let go when I noticed they were talking, "I like being closer to Rainbow Dash, but I miss a couple of my griffin friends."

"You can always go visit them," Thorax said, "I bet Jerry misses somepony from earth."

"Nobody alive," I muttered.

"What was that, Dweeb?" Gilda asked.

"Oh, nothing," I said, "I really didn't leave much on Earth, I miss a few of my coworkers a bit but I'd hardly call them friends."

"Well if you ever feel the need to talk to somepony," Thorax said, "my hive holds a feelings forum, and you're always welcome."

"That's good to know," I said, "I would like to see your hive sometime."

"Just drop on in," He said excited, "we won't even care if you're human or pony. If anypony understands the need to change it up once in a while, it's the changelings."

"That's good," Gilda chimed in, "There is no way I'm carrying him that far." We all laughed, but I was pretty sure she wasn't joking.

"Speaking of that," Ember chimed in, "If you can turn into a Pegasus. Why didn't you join in the show?"

"I wasn't ready to show off in front of Equestria," I said.

"So when will you be?" Gilda asked, "You've had a lifetime."

"I guess it's something I should consider," I admitted, "but being the best never interested me. So what am I really showing off?"

"I think you're missing the point," Spike gave me a questioning look, "but nopony is saying you have to show off. Just that the entire crowd would love it if you did."

"Mom! Dad!" Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash came flying up. Scootaloo hugged Gilda for a good moment before hanging herself from my shoulders and hugging so tight I almost choked.

"She's just like her big sis!" Rainbow beamed, "She just found her wings, and she's ready to fly laps around the competition."

"Great job, kid," I decided to just keep hugging Scootaloo back. She showed no sign of letting go.

Scootaloo whispered in my ear, "Are you gonna fly today? Because I really wanna fly with you."

"You know I'm not big on this trick flying," I said. I was far from saying no, but I needed a little encouragement, She would have to convince me.

"I do," She giggled, "That's why I asked the Wonderbolts a favor."

"What did you do?" I was suspicious now.

"Just wait..." she just smiled and nodded to the DJ booth.

"Alright everypony!" Vinyl came over the speakers, "Could I please have your attention?" She paused as the crowd settled down, "The Wonderbolts have a special event planned for you. We're all familiar with how the Wonderbolts perform, but today they plan to show you how they train! If you look directly above you, you will see an exact replica of the obstacle course at the Wonderbolts HQ. For once we get to see which of these ponies is fastest, who can handle the turns, and in the end, a few lucky pegasi from the crowd will get to try for themselves. The show will start in a half hour. For now, could we have the guests of honor come to the DJ booth to discuss the starting line up? Interested pegasi can line up by the stage for a special drawing."

I held Scootaloo out so I could look her in the eye. She had a smile on her face but she couldn't seem to look back at me.

"You actually convinced them to do this?" I asked. My own smile was evident in my tone.

"I really wanted to fly with you," she finally looked me in the eye, her smile grew massive, "I know it's not your style, but I kinda wanted to do it while everypony was watching. They should get to see it."

"I better get to the DJ booth," I said.

"Yea," Scootaloo said, "I need to get to the stage. Rainbow Dash and I are in charge of the drawing to see who else gets to try." She flapped her wings and lifted out of my arms.

Gilda and I started walking to the DJ booth.

"Do you even have any potion with?" Gilda asked.

I pulled a small metal flask with an oversized lid from my coat. "I started carrying five hours worth around once I learned I could do more than that and still be fine. I got the flask from Zecora. The lid doubles as a shot glass. Each shot is a half hour. It's not like I haven't been keeping the pain killer handy for years,"

"Fair enough," she sighed, "I don't like the idea, but I trust you won't make the same mistake you did the first time."

"No," I said, "I enjoy living. Death by painful transformation would be a shitty way to go."

Spitfire and Soarin were waiting by the DJ booth.

"So are you really up for this?" Soarin asked, "nopony would blame you for backing out."

"Don't worry, Clipper," I said, "I'm ready to show you up again."

"I'm sure you are, Crunch," Spitfire laughed, "We have the Wonderbolts grouped up based on rank. Some of the new recruits wanted in so we gave them their own class. The only other thing is that the crowd needs to know who you are. It isn't exactly common knowledge that you used to be a Wonderbolt yourself."

"So what are you suggesting?" I asked.

"Hear me out now," I felt a wave of dread as Spitfire cleared her throat, "We go up on stage, I announce the starting lineup, We decided on descending order by class. The crowd members go last so we put them after the newbies. That means we go first. So I say 'First is the best of the best Wonderbolts. Soarin, Rainbow Dash, Surprise, myself, and,' you drink the potion during a drum roll, and I say, 'Jerry, also known as Commander Daylight Dreamer of the very first Wonderbolts medical unit.'"

"You think they'll buy that?" I asked.

"Why wouldn't they?" She asked. "it was on the posters advertising our show at your party. Pinkie even made us some hologram ones that have both of your faces."

She pulled a poster out and moved it side to side to reveal the picture of me switching from pony to human. She held it still so I could read the text, 'Don't miss the exciting high flying action of the Wonderbolts as they put on a show for the reincarnated founder of the Wonderbolts Medical unit and welcome him back in their ranks as an honorary commander.' The rest was just the when and where.

"You sure you didn't want to give them my address and cigarette brand?" I asked.

"That's on another poster," She said reaching like she had another with her.

"WHAT?!?" I was shocked.

"Relax, Crunch," She laughed, "I'm kidding."

"You're lucky I'm too nice to use your nickname," I said, "It's so much worse than mine."

"We better stay on subject," Spitfire tried to pretend her face wasn't totally red, "The drawing is almost done and we have a show to put on."

"Just one thing about this presentation," I said,

"What's that?" She asked.

"Can I be behind a curtain when I transform?" I said, "My clothes don't exactly change with me."

"You didn't seem to mind the last time," she said.

"Less than half of Equestria was watching," I pointed out.

"Pardon me," Rarity butted in.

"Where did you come from?" I asked.

"I was actually looking for you when I heard the announcement," She panted, "I'm glad I caught you because I forgot to tell you an important detail about your new wardrobe. I had Twilight help me with it. It's actually two in one. When you drink that potion of yours, as soon as it stops fitting it will be replaced with an identical outfit made to fit you as a pony. It's very complicated but we did find a way to test it, darling. It works flawlessly. You may want to take the pants and coat off to fly properly, but the shirt and vest were specifically made so that you could wear them and keep a joint in the shirt pocket. Wouldn't want to find yourself changing back too far from your medicine."

"And you're just telling me now?" I asked.

"I wanted it to be a surprise," she blushed, "Then I got so excited about making a dress for a Griffin... It totally slipped my mind."

"Well you told me in time," I said, "Thank you, I'm sure it wasn't easy and this is perfect. I owe you one."

"Oh, pish posh," She waved a hoof, "just go put on a show. I'll get what I want out of it when half of Equestria sees you transform in one of my fabulous creations."
The announcement on stage went without a hitch, I was surprised when the suit changed. It didn't transform but rather just as Rarity said, it was replaced. It wasn't exactly instant. I could feel the pony suit on me as soon as I was the right dimensions, but the human suit took a moment to disappear. Being that I'm bigger as a human, it just looked awkward for a moment and didn't cause any problems.

I checked my pockets after leaving the stage, everything I had was moved to the new pockets but I noticed something in the shirt pocket that wasn't there before. I pulled it out to reveal what looked like a pocket watch and a rolled up piece of paper. The watch looked like it read seven-o'-five, but the numbers were backward, so it would be four fifty-five, but it was only two so it was off however you looked at it and I couldn't find any way to set it. I was confused until I unrolled the paper and found a note.

We hope to have you as a friend for a good long time. So we managed to make you a timer for your transformations. It will vibrate every five minutes starting thirty minutes before you change back.

Happy Flying and we hope the joint rolled into this note is to your liking.

With love,
It was hoof signed by pretty much everypony I knew. It must have been one hell of a collaboration.

I really felt special. To think they managed to make a timer that knew exactly when I needed to land and chained it to a shirt made to be aerodynamic and stylish.

I had found my motivations, and then some. I was ready to put on a show the likes of which had never been seen before.

Just as soon as I was done showing the others how the obstacle course is supposed to be run.

55- It seemed like a good idea at the time...

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Surprise, was one fast pony,

Each class got three runs. I won the first, but she beat me by a nose on the second.

She took last on round three. She said she winded herself, I didn't buy it. I wanted to ask for a rematch when it wasn't my party. I felt like she let me win and it made me feel sick.

I have to admit I actively wanted to lose. Being faster than any of the modern Wonderbolts made me feel like they had gotten soft. It was a little irritating.

I had to watch the next round because Gilda was flying in it. Thunder Lane won the first two, but she was right behind him and managed to pull ahead on round three.

Once the match was over I made my way to the stage where Rainbow Dash and Spitfire were discussing the prize for the winning crowd member. Wonderbolts just got bragging rights.

"Jerry!" Spitfire said, "I thought you would run off until you were called up to take a bow."

"I was actually thinking," I cleared my throat. I wasn't sure how good my idea really was but my pitch picked up quickly once I started spitting it out, "Maybe, after the bow, the two of you could join me to put on a show." I was so excited I hadn't noticed myself lift off the stage until I was doing a flip as I said 'put on a show'. I landed and cleared my throat again, "if you think it's a good idea."

Rainbow Dash trotted up and laid a hoof on my forehead.

"You don't have a fever," She seemed genuinely worried about me, "what's come over you?"

With perfect timing, Scootaloo flew up and hugged me. I just looked at Rainbow and winked. She got the idea.

"That was awesome!" Scootaloo said, "I can't wait until the Wonderbolts in training class comes up! I don't know if I'll win the race, but it's my first race so I don't care. Did you see mom fly?"

"I sure did," I said, "She's not so slow herself."

"About your idea for a show," Spitfire said, "I like it, but I have a suggestion."

"What show?" Scootaloo asked.

"The show you three are going to put on with Gilda," Spitfire answered.

"What?" all three of us asked but all with a different tone. I was shocked Spitfire had taken herself out, Rainbow Dash was confused, and Scootaloo was excited.

"Yea," Spitfire said, "a routine with you and your family is a great idea! We just gotta find Gilda and a routine that isn't too hard to learn without a practice run. I actually have one in mind. It's simple, and perfect for the situation."

"You mean I get to fly in a routine with my whole family!!!" Scootaloo was doing flips herself.

"Calm down or you'll fatigue your wings," Spitfire warned, "you have a lot of flying to do."

Scootaloo landed, "Good point. Can I go tell my friends? They said they were gonna wait by the snack table."

"Just come to the stage when the winners are announced," Spitfire said, "I won't be surprised if I'm calling your name anyway."

Scootaloo hugged Rainbow Dash before galloping off the stage.

"Just to make one thing clear," Rainbow said, "I accept being Scootaloo's sister makes me part of the family, but you are not my dad. I think I'm a couple years older than you."

"Well if you only count my human age," I had to laugh, "I'm not even human right now."

"You have a point," Rainbow laughed as well, "So how old are you now?"

"Depends on how you look at it," I said trying to scratch my beard with a hoof, "I lived to eighty-five as Daylight Dreamer. I think the twenty-five I've lived so far as Jerry count so that puts me at one hundred-ten... and a half. If you really want to make me sound old, I was born six hundred years ago."

Rainbow seemed to shake off a little surprise, "I guess I didn't consider how old you got as a pony. Wouldn't that make you grandpa?"

"Well if Scootaloo never told you," I laughed, "I actually am her grandfather, with a dozen or so 'greats' in front of it."

Rainbow just stared at me. Spitfire seemed to silently laugh. I assumed she already knew about this. If my family had any records aside from those of the bat-ponies, the Wonderbolts would have them.

"Let's go over the routine I have in mind," Spitfire suggested, "It's super easy because it's really just a stylized defensive formation. Right up your alley."
I was tasked with finding Gilda so I could go over the routine idea with her.

I also wanted to find her to watch the rest of the races together. Scootaloo hadn't gone yet.

I didn't want to cheat and have Vinyl call her up, So I started thinking of who she could be hanging out with. I could already rule out her best friend. I figured I may as well find my own best friends and ask if they had seen her.

Looking around from the stage I could see a silver saw blade shaped mane sticking out in the middle of the crowd. I started planning a route through the mob when I got an itch in my wing and felt like an idiot.

I flew over the crowd and hovered over Sawdust and Pinkie. The crowd was watching from the time I took off so they gave me plenty of room once they realized I wanted to land.

I was swarmed with quills and parchment as soon as I was on the ground. I couldn't even get the three feet to my friends with all the random ponies asking for autographs.

"Everypony back off!!!" a deep thunderous voice shot through the crowd, "I said MAKE WAY!!!" the crowd parted to reveal Big Macintosh in a black shirt with a badge and sunglasses. He trotted up with a serious look on his face. He was staring the other ponies down as he walked, "Are these ponies bothering you?" He asked.

"Kinda," I had to shout myself to be heard over everything going on, "what's with the getup?"

"Pinkie asked me to help with security," he said, "it's not my style, but ah think we're both stepping outside our comfort zone."

"You could say that," I agreed.

"Ah should stay with you," he said, "the crowd ain't gonna let up cause ah yelled at them once."

"I would like that," I was overjoyed to be with a familiar pony, and him being in uniform definitely helped keep the fans from swarming. Even if I wanted to sign autographs, I have bad handwriting when I have thumbs.

Before we moved along I figured I may as well ask Big Mac, "You haven't seen Gilda have you?"

"Nope," he replied.

"That was exciting," Sawdust said as Pinkie bounced around behind him.

"Sure was," I said, "say, have you seen Gilda around?"

"She was hanging out with Thunder Lane," he said, "Over that way." He pointed a hoof to the edge of the crowd, "We should go together, These fan ponies are relentless."

We made our way as a group to the spot Sawdust had seen Gilda. Just as we were about to arrive a magic field extended slowly pushing the crowd away from a spot a little way in front of us.

"Outta the way!" Big Mac shouted, "Security!"

The crowd cleared a path to the shield revealing Slag and Fluttershy standing in defense around a cowering young pony in a Wonderbolt uniform. Slag saw us and opened a hole in his shield for us to enter.

"It's ok, Sweetie," Fluttershy turned to comfort the young pony, "these are all friends."

"What's going on?" Sawdust asked as Slag closed the shield again.

"I'm not really sure," Slag replied, "we just heard her scream for help and found her with a swarm of ponies practically attacking her for an autograph. All I could think to do was push them back so she could breathe."

"I'm sorry," a familiar voice came from the balled up Wonderbolt, "I shouldn't have wandered off without a security guard."

"It's ok," Fluttershy laid a hoof on the filly's back, "I'm sure you had a good reason."

"I was looking for my dad," She was starting to cry as she looked up, "I thought I saw him so I just flew into the crowd, but I was mobbed. He told you the rest." She wiped a tear from her eye and looked in my direction. Her dark blue mane was a mess and she had dirt on her orange face. Once she saw me her eyes went wide and she couldn't look away.

"What does he look like?" Fluttershy asked, "Jerry and I could fly up and look for him."

She seemed to be trying to regain her composure but in the end, she started bawling, "He looks just like him, but an earth pony." She managed to squeak out pointing a hoof at me.

I knew she was embarrassed to be seen in this state by somepony she respected, but I really didn't know what to say to put her at ease. So I just nodded to Fluttershy and took off straight up when Slag opened the shield for us.

Once in the air, I looked to Fluttershy. I used hoof motions to point her to one side of the crowd and took the other side myself. It was pretty easy to look for beards considering most of the ponies looked directly at me as they saw me fly overhead. I was halfway through scanning my half of the party when Gilda flew up to me.

"There you are. Dweeb," She said, "I've been looking for you since you left the stage right as I was about to get to it, Dash told me about the show, I think it's a great idea."

I had to laugh, "I was actually taking off to find you, but now I need to find an earth pony that looks like me."

"Is this a game?" she asked.

"No," I said, "although it does remind me of Where's Waldo on hard mode. I see a lot of black coats, I see plenty of dark blue manes, even a few with beards. but not all three things at once on an earth pony."

"What about that guy?" She pointed to a rather distressed looking stallion in a straw hat, not twenty feet from where the others were still hiding in Slag's magic shield. I had previously looked over him because I didn't see his mane-he had been one of the few not to look up-but on second look he indeed had my features.

"I really am an idiot," I face hoofed.

"I just have good eyesight," she said, "eagle eyes."

"So how do we get close to him?" I asked. The entire area was filled with ponies. Everypony was being friendly, but our landing meant the potential for another mob, "We gotta get him to that magic shield over there. Assuming we have the right guy."

"I'll keep the crowd back while you talk to him," She said, "if he's cool with it, I'll carry him there."

"It's as good a plan as any," I said, "ready?"

"On three," she said, "one... three!!!" she bolted down and landed in front of the pony we were looking at.

She said something to him then started shouting for the crowd to stay back.

I landed and looked at the nervous stallion.

"Are you Sweet Harvest's father?" I asked.

"Yea," He said, "I'm Harvest Moon, is something wrong?"

"Nothing a little dad talk won't fix," I said, "If you don't mind. Gilda here can give you a lift to her." I motioned to Gilda who at this point was just sitting there smiling as the ponies kept their distance.

He seemed to weigh his options before asking, "Why you guys doin' this for us? It's your party."

"Because she needs her dad right now and I just look like him," I said.

"Well it'd take ages to walk even that far," he said, "ah better take yer offer."

"Don't worry," I assured him, "I trust her with my life."

I let Gilda know the plan was on and she gently got a hold on him and lifted off.

Once we were above ponies heads again Gilda looked back to make sure I was there.

"I better let Fluttershy know we found him," I said, "just fly over to that shield and Slag will let you in."

She nodded and flew off.

I spotted Fluttershy frantically darting about. I flew up and shouted her name. She spotted me and I just waved for her to follow me back.

We got back to the group to find them in the middle of the tearful reunion. They both looked at us. Sweet Harvest stepped back from her father and saluted me.

"Please forgive me for my lack of composure, and acting on impulse, Commander Dreamer. It won't happen again." She just stood there saluting... and trembling.

I wasn't sure what to say or why she was just standing there nervously saluting until I remembered that I was her superior, and I had just caught her bolting into a crowd without backup, something that would get her a night in the hole if I saw it fit.

I obviously had no room to talk as I had done the same thing.

I saluted back, "At ease, soldier," We both lowered our hooves, "I think you know better than to do that again. Let's just get you cleaned up and I'll make sure Spitfire isn't too harsh when she hears about it."

"I better go get ready," She said, "assuming I still get to fly."

"We better go as a group," I suggested.

"I was kinda hoping to slip out of here unnoticed," She said.

"It's too late for that," Big Mac said, "it's between races. We're the center of attention."

"So how do we get her to the track without causing a big stir?" I asked, "We can't wait for the next race when it could be the one she's in."

56- Somepony is behind this...

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"We're just gonna have to go for it," Sawdust suggested, "we have plenty of ponies to form a wall around her."

Sweet harvest had just regained her composure, but we had to get her to the track in time. Just on the other side of the V.I.P. section.

"I don't think so," something that happened earlier bothered me, "something is really wrong with this crowd. Scootaloo had no problem running through them earlier. It wasn't until around the time I jumped into the crowd."

"You're right," Pinkie confirmed, "I noticed that too. When Thunder Lane and Gilda walked by, everything was fine. Not five minutes later everypony starts asking for autographs from everypony. That's so weird."

"I have an idea," I cleared my throat and made sure to enunciate my next sentence, "I am not having fun!"

Just as expected Discord appeared at my side.

"What's wrong, Pal?" he asked, "is the crowd not lively enough?"

"Too lively," I said, "I'm not in the mood to give autographs and it seems unnatural for the ponies to be so adamant about getting them. All we want to do is get this pony back to the V.I.P. area."

"Well, why didn't you just say so?" Discord snapped his fingers and the entire group was transported to the V.I.P. section of the party, "I figured we may as well all come along. I'll be over by the bar. If you need anything else, just ask. I'll be listening."

"Doe's anyone see Scootaloo?" I asked, "She was in the crowd too. She's in the same race as Sweet Harvest..."

Everypony looked around but we couldn't see her from there.

"I should probably get to the lineup," Sweet Harvest said, "she's probably there waiting."

We all followed her past a small gate to an area filled with ponies in Wonderbolt uniforms. Most were genuine but several were ponies who paid extra to hang out with the Wonderbolts-they all seemed to think wearing a uniform was an original idea. The next race was about to start but it was the last full Wonderbolt class. The trainees went after that.

"Well she's not here," Gilda said, "but I'm sure she's on her way up. She can handle herself."

"She can," I said, "but I can't shake the feeling something is wrong with the crowd. I'm just going to do a fly-over."

I took off without another word. I didn't want her to get a good look at the terrified expression on my face. I was sure it was misplaced.

That's what I told myself anyway. 'I used to be a pony that got premonitions,' I thought, 'I'm just Jerry now. Jerry gets bad feelings all the time. They don't always mean anything... except they usually do turn out to be right. Not this time... it can't be right this time.'

I had just started looking around the crowd when I was swarmed by pegasi. Again, they all wanted my autograph.

I tried to double back to the V.I.P. section but I was cut off. I tried flying over them but I was totally surrounded. I am not a social person. My anxiety was reaching critical levels. I was moments away from flipping my lid and crippling enough ponies to make an escape route.

I managed to get a grip and just swear, "What the fuck! This is bullshit!"

"I dare say I agree," Discord appeared once more snapping his fingers and bringing me back to safety, "now I see why you felt the need to mention the crowd before. Everypony outside the V.I.P. area seems to be under some kind of enchantment. I must say I'm impressed. It's as if somepony cast a 'want it, need it' spell on the autographs of everypony famous."

"So you had nothing to do with this?" I had to ask.

"I wanted you to have a good time," He seemed upset, but not offended, "even I could tell you that you would hate this. I would do something like this for Spike... Rarity, maybe, but not you."

"So who would?" I asked, "and more importantly, how do we stop it?"

"I honestly don't know who would do such a thing," he said, "but I do have some pretty nifty tricks." He snapped his fingers, "let's see if that worked."

We were only a few feet across the gate so I just walked out and as soon as I crossed the line I was once again attacked. I backed out quickly and they stopped.

"Interesting," Discord was scratching his chin, "I don't know why I didn't notice that before, it's an area spell. Otherwise, they would be trying to jump the fence. 'Want it, need it' would affect the V.I.P.s as well. I can make you immune to it but we have to find the object at the center to stop it. Whoever is behind it went through a lot of trouble to make sure this area wasn't affected. That actually gives me a few ideas where to look. You go ahead and find that filly for her big racing debut, I'll see if I can fix this party for you. Area spells aren't generally too powerful, so yelling at them may make them stop, but we better hurry before ponies get violent." He snapped his fingers once and I could feel something wash over me, he snapped them again and disappeared.

I took off into the crowd again, this time without the trouble. I was still being watched, but not so obsessively. Scanning the crowd I saw a small pocket of ponies that seemed to be swarming around a central point. As I got closer a small green magic shield stammered into existence at the center.

As I got closer I saw crowd members turning around. I thought they were giving up until they started kicking the shield.

I was now close enough to confirm my fears that it was the Crusaders trapped in the crowd. I could see the painful expression on Sweetie Belle's face as she struggled to keep her shield up. Apple Bloom seemed to be trying to talk Scootaloo into flying away but she wouldn't budge.

I was almost there, ready to scoop them out and book it when Sweetie Belle lost her grip. In an instant, I saw Apple Bloom leaping toward Scootaloo just as the shield disappeared and a mare, who was trying to kick the shield, instead landed her hooves on the side of Apple Bloom's head. Apple Bloom landed on the ground unconscious, and I lost my shit.

"BACK THE FUCK OFF!!!" I screamed as I landed, "Unless you want a hoof against your own heads!!!"

I didn't even look to see if the crowd had listened, I stood directly over Apple Bloom and got a good look at the injury. Her neck didn't seem injured, but she clearly had a concussion. She needed a unicorn healer. They were the best at these delicate head injuries. I carefully lifted her off the ground making sure to cradle her head.

"Sweetie, get on my back," I ordered.

"Is she gonna..." I stopped her.

"I said, on my back," I repeated through tears, "we gotta get out of here now!"

She jumped on my back and I had Scootaloo lead the way so I could yell at anyone that bothered us. Once back in the safe area I took Apple bloom to the first aid station that had been set up in case of accidents where I was greeted by a familiar voice.

"Commander Daylight," Commander Calm Glider saluted me, "What can I do for you?"

I just laid Apple Bloom on the exam table and looked at him. He immediately dropped the salute and rushed to the injured filly.

"What happened to her?" He asked.

"She was kicked directly behind the left eye socket," the words came to me as if I were reading a script, "it was a grown mare, full force. Her left rear hoof landed just behind the left eye causing a small laceration as well as what appears to be a severe concussion. Her neck appears stable with no swelling or signs of fracture, but she's been unconscious for over ten minutes." I clearly didn't have the stomach I had in my old life. I was disgusted by the detail I was describing it in, yet I knew this was important for him to know what he was dealing with.

He donned rubber hoof covers and took a look for himself, "I see, I agree with your findings. I think we should call a unicorn in on this one. Doe's she have family we should notify?"

"I'll go find Applejack!" Scootaloo jumped in.

"No," I said, "you have a race to fly."

"I can't race now!" She argued.

I took a deep breath. "I didn't want to say this but you should know..." I bit my lip. I was really hoping she would just go fly, but she wasn't going to unless I told her the truth.

"What is it, Dad?" Scootaloo asked.

"She wouldn't have been the one hit," I cleared my throat, "but she jumped in the way when she saw the hooves going for your wing. She took the hit so you could fly. So do her a favor and fly. Don't feel like you have to win, but she's going to be totally pissed if she finds out you didn't at least try when she wakes up."

"She really took that hit for me?" Scootaloo asked amazed.

"I'm not surprised," Said Sweetie Belle, "She's always talked about wishing she could make a potion that would make it so you could fly. Now somepony has. She didn't want it taken away from you again."

Scootaloo was in disbelief. She clenched her tear-filled eyes shut, "I never asked her to do that!"

"Yer muh friend," came a week voice, "ah had to."

"APPLE BLOOM???" Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle rushed to their friend's side. Apple Bloom was keeping her head down but had opened her eyes. I had to bite my lip to steel myself when I noticed her left retina was detached, it was an easy fix, but betrayed the likelihood of severe damage.

"Ah'll be fine," Apple Bloom tried to assure her friends, "You two go have fun. Ah expect a crazy story... Well, one that don't include me gettin' kicked in the head." She gave a weak laugh.

"It's all my fault," Scootaloo cried, "I should have flown away when you told me to."

"No it's not," Apple Bloom argued, "and if ya really feel that way you can make up for it by not missing that race so it ain't for nothin'."

"That's right," Calm Glider said, "the Wonderbolt's in training are going to be up soon. You better get going, and she should really rest. Don't worry, she's in good hooves."

"I guess I better go then," Scootaloo wiped a tear away, "I'm gonna find a way to make this up to you."

"Just keep flying," Apple Bloom said, "Ah want a show when ah can see straight again."

"You got it!" Scootaloo said, "This race will be a good warm up. I'll see you later." Scootaloo hurried in the direction of the lineup.

"Don't run off alone!" Sweetie Belle followed.

"You should go watch the race," Calm Glider turned to me, "I can take it from here, I already sent my nurse to the Ponyville General Hospital to see if they can send a unicorn doctor for an emergency call."

"Alright," I reluctantly agreed, "but not before I send her sister this way."

"She does have a right to know..." He said, "just don't let her come flying in here causing a stir."

"I know," I said, "that's the last thing she needs."

57- Double vision.

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I decided to start my search for Applejack by meeting back up with Gilda and the others so they could help me look. It turned out to be an even better idea than I had thought as the entire mane six had met up below the start line to watch Scootaloo's first race together.

"I told you Scootaloo would make it in time," Gilda said, "She just ran past followed by her unicorn friend."

"Speakin' O' that," Applejack spoke up, "did anypony see Apple Bloom run by? She's not gonna want to miss this. She's wanted to see Scootaloo fly since they met."

"There's actually something I should tell you all about," I said, "Somethings come over the crowd."

As if on cue Discoed appeared next to me holding a stuffed pony figurine. It was a stark white earth pony with no cutie mark.

"Good news," He said, "I neutralized the spell, and even better. I finally added 'the unnamed idol' to my collection."

"The unnamed idol?" I asked.

"It was a gimmick about sixty years ago, while I was still trapped in stone," He answered, "They were sold as stark white ponies, with the option to have them come un-stuffed. The idea was that they could sell them cheaper and you could do the coloring yourself. They didn't sell for very long as the cost savings were minimal and they only came in earth pony. Only a few ponies had them sent pre-stuffed, and never died them. These are the hard ones to find, known as 'the unnamed idol'." He held it in front of my nose, "and it's in mint condition."

"That's the lucky charm that nice traveling sales-pony gave me," Harvest moon revealed himself to still be with the group, "he said it would help Sweet Harvest win if I put it in just the right spot."

"Well, it didn't do her any favors did it?" Discord asked, "but that's not necessarily your fault. What did this sales-pony look like?"

"Well there were two of them," He said, "Ah'm pretty sure they were brothers or at least cousins. They were kinda yellow, with red manes, one had a mustache. Real fast talkers. Ah didn't want what they were sellin', but ah told them where ah was goin' and they offered me that thing sayin' it was a lucky charm that could make anypony famous."

"Guys!" Gilda shouted, "The race is starting."

I had mixed feelings about dropping the subject when I hadn't even gotten to where Apple Bloom was, but I decided it was best to let the rest just enjoy the moment. Considering the reason Apple Bloom took the kick I assumed she would be ok with the extra fifteen minutes without her sister if it meant Scootaloo got the full audience.

I can't say I was disappointed when neither Scootaloo nor Sweet Harvest took first place. Scootaloo won on the first round, then seemed to hold back so she didn't wear herself out on the other two, she still never took last. Sweet Harvest was in second place on all three. A pony named Thistle Whistle took the blue ribbon.

As soon as the cheering died down Applejack turned to me, "So where is Apple Bloom?" I could tell she had been waiting for that answer. As any concerned sister should.

"That figure was making it dangerous in the crowd for anypony with any amount of fame," I worked around the topic in an attempt to lighten the blow, "The Crusaders got stuck in the middle of it. I had to take her to the Wonderbolt's first aid station."

"Is she hurt bad?" Applejack asked.

"Why don't I take you to her," Sweetie Belle said as she walked up, "It's about time Jerry enjoyed his party."

"Alright," I said, "Just let the doctors do their thing."

"Whoever's comin', "Applejack said, "let's go!" She took off at a gentle trot.

"Don't worry," Sweetie Belle said, "I bet you five bit's I can hold her back a good five seconds!" Her horn sparked as she started galloping to catch up.

"So who would trick Harvest Moon into sabotaging his daughter's Wonderbolt debut?" I asked.

"You mean other than my ex-wife?" Harvest Moon asked.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well I recently found out Sweet Sunset married me because she didn't want her children to be flyers," He said, "she figured they would be farmers. She didn't even expect a pegasus, but she seemed to miss the part where my grandpa was a Wonderbolt dropout."

"So you think she may want to ruin this whole event?" I asked.

"Ah wouldn't doubt it," he said, "she said it was just gonna lead to her being attacked by fan-ponies. Ah can't say ah disagree but ah figure it's up to her. Ah filed for divorce when I found out she had been telling Sweet Harvest that ah was the one that wanted her to be content on the farm, and that ah was gonna be disappointed in her if she went off and tried out for the Wonderbolts. All so she could pretend to be supportive when Sweet Harvest went her own way. That was just two weeks ago ah found out, ah came here to tell Sweet Harvest about it in person, and let her know I'm ok with her livin' this life."

"Sound's like a pretty elaborate 'I told you so!'" I said, "Can you tell us anything else about these sale's ponies?"

"Not really?" He said, "It was late at night and ah had been drinking after a long day on the road."

"Could it be them?" Twilight asked pointing a hoof at Flim and Flam hanging out by the open bar.

"It could," was all he said.

"I better handle this," Discord said walking directly through a group of high-class ponies to get at the infamous brothers. We all followed wanting to know what was going on.

"Well if it isn't the guests of honor complete with an entourage?" said Flim.

"To what do we owe the pleasure?" asked Flam.

"Do you know anything about this?" Discord held out the figurine.

"It looks like the little known but very sought after 'unnamed idol' put out by Hy as an early attempt at a 'build a pony' concept," said Flim, "It was a failed experiment leading to hundreds if not thousands of hideously colored personal keepsakes that weren't really worth anything in a collectors market, and just a few completely untouched examples that are now worth thousands of bits."

"At least that's what it looks like," Flam jumped in, "This is clearly a reproduction. We'll take it off your hooves for say... ten bits."

"You're not going to fool me that easily," Discord said snapping his fingers causing the figurine to disappear, "I've been collecting these things longer than you'll have a chance to. My question is, have you seen that one before?"

"It's hard to say if we've ever seen that one," said Flim.

"They may be rare," Flam added, "but they are all the same."

"The last time we saw one was only a week ago," Flim suggested.

"But they weren't selling for our price so we passed," Flam quickly added.

"Who was it?" Discord asked.

"It was a mare with an orange coat and red mane," said Flim, "that's about all I could tell." He seemed nervous,

"She declined to give us her name," Flam said, I could tell he found this fact annoying, at least I knew this much was true.

"Did she have wings?" Harvest Moon butted in.

"If you're asking if she was a pegasus," Flim said, "we couldn't tell."

"She was wearing a sort of cape," Flam added, "with the hood up. It could have been a unicorn for all we know."

"I guess that will do," Discord said, "ta ta." He led the group away to a relatively empty area. "They're lying about something. I don't know what, but it was all over their faces. I'm going to spend the rest of the party on patrol, but I think the rest of you should get back to the fun. We don't want to stand out any more than we already have."

"Just for the record," Harvest moon said, "Ah still don't know if those were the ponies ah met, but ah put muh bits on Sweet Sunset havin' somethin' to do with this."

"I'll keep that in mind," Discord replied, "it's the best lead we have after all."

"Why are you doing all this?" I asked, "you could leave it to me."

"Because I take this as an act of sabotage on my friend's party," Discord answered, "A party my friend desperately needs to enjoy the rest of. I suggest you find that blue maned filly and keep an eye on her. Since I know you won't be able to have fun if you're not helping."

"Ok," I huffed, "but I expect a full report when the party is over."

"Yes, sir!" Discord saluted and an olive green helmet appeared on his head before he vanished in a cloud of smoke.

"Sweet Harvest, one o'clock!" Pinkie shouted. We all looked at Pinkie's one o'clock and sure enough Sweet Harvest was flying our direction. A closer look revealed Scootaloo trotting to keep up with her.

Harvest Moon and I both ran out to meet our daughters with Rainbow Dash and Gilda right behind me.

"Did you see me?" asked Scootaloo as they came in for hugs.

"Sure did!" I replied, "you did great!"

"Can we go check on Apple Bloom?" Scootaloo asked, "I wanna tell her how well I did,"

I thought about that a moment, "I guess a quick visit shouldn't hurt, but we have to let her rest, don't get her too riled up."

"Would you two mind staying with us for safety?" I asked Harvest Moon and Sweet Harvest.

"Ah think that's for the best," Harvest Moon agreed.

"Are you kidding?" Sweet Harvest gushed, "hanging out at a Wonderbolts party with my dad, my new flying buddy, and a Commander of the Wonderbolts! Somepony pinch me."

The rest of the group decided to go out and do their own thing so we didn't crowd Apple Bloom. Gilda had even decided to go with Rainbow Dash.

Once the four of us reached the first aid station I was shocked to see Applejack sitting outside with Sweetie Belle.

"What's up?" I asked.

"That unicorn is checkin' things out," Applejack explained, "she said we could stay, but ah don't care to see muh sister's skull." She shuddered at the thought.

"Did you take the bet?" Sweetie asked me.

"Sure," I humored her, five bits weren't that much after all.

"What bet?" Applejack asked.

"I bet him I could hold you back when you tried to barrel into the tent," Sweetie answered honestly.

"Well ya sure pulled that off," Applejack blushed.

"I held her long enough for the doctor to calm her down," Sweetie boasted, "it took a full minute and I could have gone longer."

"I left my bits in my pants," it felt weird saying that without the word 'other', "I'll pay you with interest after the party."

Sweetie just squeed.

A white unicorn mare with a greying light blue mane came walking out of the tent and got our attention, "I'm finished if you would like to come back in."

We all entered the spacious tent to find Apple Bloom sitting up in the bed eating cotton candy. She saw us right away but seemed more nervous than excited.

"Doctor?" she said, "are you sure I'm fine? Ah, think I'm seein' double. Except that Daylight has a hat and that Scootaloo has blue hair."

I just now realized Harvest Moon was even wearing a dress shirt similar to mine. He just needed the vest and some wings and nopony could tell us apart. His cutie mark was even an orange full moon with blue clouds cast over it. It could be easily mistaken for my fire and ice yin-yang at a glance.

Naturally being an orange pegasus only a couple years older Sweet Harvest did resemble Scootaloo, her cutie mark even had a similar wing in the middle, but one would be hard-pressed to mistake the berry bush in the background for the shield on Scootaloo's flank.

Scootaloo laughed at her friend's mistake, "No, your eyes are working fine. This is my new flying buddy Sweet Harvest and her dad Harvest Moon. They really could pass for us, huh?"

"Ah'd say," Apple Bloom laughed, "Y'all had me thinkin' muh eyes were still messed up."

The white unicorn cleared her throat, "It seems your sister is one tough filly. She sustained a skull fracture yet somehow escaped any serious injury to her brain or spine. She needs to take it easy for a week or two, and we have a few potions to prescribe, but she'll make a full recovery."

"Can ah watch the last race?" Apple Bloom asked hopefully.

"I don't think that would be a good idea," Said Commander Calm Glider, "It's starting now and we need to give that swelling a few more minutes to go down before we can mend things up."

"Ah, horse apples," Apple Bloom said, "ah really wanted to see more flying before it was done."

"It's ok Apple Bloom," Scootaloo said, "There's still our show at the end, not to mention we can do it for you again if we have to. Right, Dad?"

58- Corkscrew rainboom with a full one eighty degree arch.

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I felt the need to check my watch. I knew from the position of the sun before entering the tent that it was between five and six p.m., but the watch I had with me didn't exactly tell time. I had an hour and forty-five minutes left before turning back into a human. I was going to be putting on a show in a half hour. Everything was fine with that situation.

"Dad!" Scootaloo snapped me out of my own head, "You in there?"

"Sorry," I apologized, "What's up?"

"If Apple Bloom misses our show," Scootaloo repeated herself, "we can do it again at the farm, right?"

"Of course," I said, "it's the least we could do."

"That's awesome," Apple Bloom smiled, "You guys should go enjoy the party, this place is boring. I'll be out of here as soon as they let me go."

Scootaloo bit her lip.

"It's fine," Apple Bloom said, "I'm actually kinda embarrassed by the crowd. Ah, know Applejack's not going anywhere. So it's not like I'll be alone. Just remember ah expect to start seein' you fly regularly. How else are you gonna be a Wonderbolt someday?"

"Thank you," Scootaloo whimpered, "I really owe you."

"Ah was just doin' what seemed right," Apple Bloom said, "how 'bout this. Jerry fixed your wings, so ah was just payin' him back for savin' muh life."

"I guess that's fair enough," Scootaloo perked up a little, "I hope they let you out soon. I'll see you later."

We all wished Apple Bloom well and made our way out while we still had time to socialize. Harvest moon and Sweet Harvest went first with me and Scootaloo following a moment later.

I opened the tent door to find Harvest Moon trying to back away from a crazed Lyra.

"Don't try to fool me!" she said, "I saw you change on stage, I know you're Jerry. Did you really think a straw hat would fool me?"

"As handsome as he is," I announced my presence, "A close look at his back will prove you wrong."

She looked at me then back at Harvest Moon, then back at me. I flapped my wings to prove my point.

"Jerry!" She screamed and jumped at me, "I've waited so long to meet you."

I accepted a hug but let go after only a moment. She didn't.

"When do you get your hands back?" She asked still hanging from my neck.

"In an hour and a half," I decided to be honest, "could you let go? I don't want Gilda to get the wrong idea." I wasn't really concerned, but I had to bring it up sometime. I didn't want to lead Lyra on when I already knew what she wanted.

"Oh," she seemed instantly depressed as she sank to the ground, "that's why you didn't respond to Bon Bon's note. I was hoping you just didn't get it."

"I'm sorry to disappoint you," I said.

"It's fine," she said, but I could tell it wasn't. I didn't blame her. It's not my business to care how she got it, but I knew she had a hand fetish. I kinda had a monopoly on hands in Ponyville, and I wasn't interested. For some reason, I didn't think she was interested in Iron Will either.

I'm too loyal to even consider sleeping with anyone other than my partner. Unless of course, Gilda was involved... I wasn't going to tease myself by thinking that would happen. That daydream belonged on a tropical island when I'm supposed to be paying attention in class.

"It's not like we can't still hang out," I said, "unless that would bother you. I won't be offended if it does."

She took a deep breath, "I guess that will have to do."

We wandered the crowd looking for Gilda, and talking to ponies that stopped me. They all just wanted to say, "Hi," and ask for an autograph. Nopony seemed offended when I joked about, "bad mouth writing." Most of them were happy with hoof prints. Before we could decide what to do next, Scootaloo and I were called to the stage. I let the whole group follow since they could wait backstage with a good view of the show if they just stepped to the side.

Once all the blue ribbons were handed out Spitfire gathered us backstage and went over the routine. It was as simple as simple gets but that's good considering we had no practice flying as a team and we were about to do it in front of half of Equestria.

Everypony went silent as the show was announced as the closing ceremony.

Scootaloo walked out onto the stage, I followed stopping on her right side, Rainbow Dash came next stopping on her left, and Gilda came out last and hovered over Scootaloo.

I had asked Vinyl to play the song 'I'll follow you down' by Shinedown. She started it and as the tune began we slowly rose into the air as a group ending up well above the stage.

Once the lyrics started Scootaloo went into a nose dive and we followed with Rainbow Dash and I only falling a couple feet behind in the formation as Gilda positioned herself just behind that so we were in a diamond formation with Me and Rainbow moving in so our wings were almost touching just behind Scootaloo.

Scootaloo leveled out leading us into a path just a few feet over the crowd. We tilted up into a wide back-flip that tightened up so we ended up a couple yards higher. We stayed in formation at this altitude doing a few zig-zags and rolls until the song started to reach its climax and we flew way up above the clouds.

Now Rainbow Dash took the lead going into a nose dive followed by me, then Gilda, and Scootaloo in the back. Just as the song said, "I'll follow you down," for the last time before the very end we emerged out of the clouds with Rainbow doing a sonic rainboom just over the crowd.

The plan was for us to keep up as long as we could and then just follow the rainbow to the stage, but something interesting happened. I kept up, and just as I passed the spot Rainbow broke the sound barrier a second boom could be heard.

Rainbow looked back to see me still right behind her and did a spinning motion with her hoof followed by an ark. I nodded knowing exactly what she had in mind.

I caught up and locked hooves with her. We started spinning in unison and flew in an ark creating a twisted double rainbow over the crowd.

We slowed down and landed on the stage looking back to see Scootaloo and Gilda flying through the rainbows just as the song came to an end. They flew in and landed with us and we all took a bow as the audience screamed and stomped in applause.

As soon as the curtain closed I found myself buried under two ponies and a griffin.

"I take it you three enjoyed that," I laughed as I fought to get my head out and hug them all back.

They all tried to talk over each other. All I got was everyone saying 'awesome' somewhere in their answer.

"Good," I said, "Equestria waited too long for this Wonderbolt to put on a show. I think that was perfect."

"It sure was," Apple Bloom walked up from behind the stage.

"Apple Bloom!" We all shouted and ran up.

"Eeyup," she mimicked her brother, "ah think it's best if ah head home and rest, but they said it was fine for me to watch the show and let you guys know I'm just fine. Gotta take it easy so ah don't hit muh head again for a while, but that just means I get out of my chores." She giggled.

Scootaloo walked up slowly and nervously put a hoof over her friends back. Apple Bloom just smiled and pulled her in for a proper hug.

Scootaloo started crying, "I never want to see my friend's hurt again."

"Pardon muh language," Apple Bloom said, "but shit happens. If it didn't go this way ah would have been cryin' by your bed that you didn't get to fly on your big day. Ah'd take that hit for you all over again."

An awkward moment passed as Scootaloo clearly wanted to say something, but had nothing left to say.

"Ah better go," Apple Bloom said, "Ah'll see you tomorrow."

"Yea," Scootaloo said, "see you tomorrow."

We started making our own way off the stage, but Scootaloo stopped and looked at me, "I think I'm gonna go find Sweetie Belle and see if I can sleep over."

"I understand," I said, "Just remember to come home after school tomorrow. I did promise you a personal lesson."

She flew up and hugged me, "I love you, Dad."

"I love you, too," I said.

Then she hugged Gilda, "I love you, Mom."

"I love you, too," Said Gilda. Scootaloo squeed and flew off.

"So what are we doing now?" I asked, "I'm still a pony for an hour."

"Well considering we just have to make sure you're high when that happens," Gilda said, "I think the best thing to do is hit the after party."

A scream could be heard from just off stage as Lyra bolted up to meet us.

"You are coming to the after party!" she had clearly gotten over her depression, "I was just coming up to ask! Let's go together, Bon Bon is gonna be waiting."

I made sure to put my suit back on before we left the grounds, I hadn't been worried because I was getting used to not wearing pants as a pony. That being said, I didn't want to get caught turning human with my pants down.

The after party was at the club where Vinyl worked. Bon Bon greeted us right inside the door.

"Alright!" she said, "Now we can start the party! Let's get some drinks."

"Before I do anything," I said, "Where is the bathroom?" In all the excitement I hadn't realized I was holding my bladder.

Once in the stallion's room, I began to wonder why in Equestria ponies had "normal" toilets. Let's just say a squat toilet would do much better, and leave it at that.

Lyra and Bon Bon seemed to be trying to get Gilda to open up and have a drink when I came out.

"Just because we don't drink," I butted in, "doesn't mean we don't have fun."

"I guess we won't push you then," Lyra said defeated.

"A lot of ponies are hoping to see you," Bon Bon said, "Your friends set up an area in the V.I.P. room if you want to do a proper meet and greet. Ponies want autographs."

"I don't write without thumbs," I said.

"We probably should go there," Gilda chimed in, "I know you don't like the special treatment, but that is the smaller crowd, and we should get to smoking."

"Good point," I said remembering that one of the luxuries in the V.I.P. room was that it's the only smoking section other than a dingy room in the back. I don't think smoking was all ponies did back there.

I was expecting Twilight to lead the effort to bring the ponies to order, Bon Bon hadn't specified what friends had set this "area" up. So you can imagine my surprise when I got to the V.I.P. room and heard Slag amplifying his voice with his magic and doing a sort of radio DJ routine.

"Alright, Ponies!" He said, "we are still waiting to see if the guests of honor are coming. I for one wouldn't blame them for wanting to hit the hay after that amazing performance, but if you want to meet some of their best friends we are over here. Just remember there are a lot of other ponies so no shoving. My brother Sawdust and I have been Jerry's best friends since the night he arrived and we also have Rainbow Dash, a Wonderbolt and Gilda's bestie since Junior Speedsters flight camp. Did I mention she's also an Element of Harmony along with these lovely mares, Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie, who happen to be our special someponies. Thank you all for coming, and have a good time."

I could tell where the sound was coming from so I started walking to it, but then seemed to remember that unicorns often throw their voice to the center of the group they want to hear them. A quick look around revealed them to be in the back left corner.

We walked across the somewhat crowded room to find that they had set a couple of tables together to section the area off and were lined up at it signing whatever ponies threw in front of them. Sawdust was clearly uncomfortable, but he was going along with it as ponies were indeed lining up to meet them all.

We had gotten across the room relatively unnoticed until one pony in line screamed, "There they are!"

I was about to run for it until Slag spoke up again, "Mares and gentlecolts the guests have arrived, if you would be so kind as to give them a path to these tables, and a few moments rest, I'm sure they will be willing to sign a few things before the night is out."

A wide path was made from us to the corner, I would have appreciated this if everypony wasn't beaming at me like they had the honor of making way for royalty. A couple gave a small bow. Then I had to face hoof as I passed a couple bat-ponies that bowed all the way to the floor.

"Come on back," Pinkie greeted us waving a hoof toward a couple chairs that were behind the ponies lined up at the table, "we mostly did this so you didn't have to deal with your fans until you're ready. We can keep them occupied, but you really should meet with a few."

I felt a vibration in my shirt pocket.

"I will," I said, "but not until I have thumbs again."

59- Trying to acknowledge my fans.

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I settled into the chair in the back corner of the V.I.P. section. Lyra and Bon Bon were still along so they pulled chairs to the edge of the section to block the part left open by the tables.

I was about to pull the joint out of my pocket when a cigar-sized blunt hovered in front of my face. I looked over to Slag to see his horn glowing, but he didn't turn away from the ponies asking when they got to talk to me.

I took the blunt and was going ask for a light when the end magically fired up.

"I forget how convenient it is smoking with Slag," I joked as I passed to Gilda.

"Yea, we unicorns can do a lot with our magic," Lyra said, "I'd love to show you some time." She bit her lip so hard I thought she was going to bleed.

I felt the second vibration in my shirt pocket. "Twenty-five minutes," I said to myself.

Then I felt a vibration in my pants pocket. "What the fuck!?" I said out loud fumbling to take my phone out with my hooves. I was getting a call, the caller ID just read 'unknown number'. I fumbled around trying to answer it, but my hooves were useless on the touchscreen.

"What is it, Dweeb?" Gilda asked,

"It looks like I just missed a phone call," I said, "but I'm a dimension away from the nearest cell tower."

"Missed a what now?" Gilda asked, "Do you want to go to the clock-tower?"

"No," I said, "for now let's just say what just happened should be impossible."

"I see," Gilda said, "I want to know all about it later. For now, let's try to enjoy the evening."

"Agreed," I said trying to forget what had just happened.

I had a voicemail, but I had a feeling trying to check it would only result in a 'roaming' message and I was ill-equipped to find out for the next twenty minutes as of the vibration in my shirt pocket. It wasn't going to do me any good to fret, but I couldn't stop thinking about it.

"Hey, snap out of it," Bon Bon said, "it's you're hit,"

I stuffed my phone back in my pocket and took a good rip off the blunt.

"Take it easy there, wild stallion," Gilda said, "That stuff is potent."

"I know what I'm doing," I took another hit before passing to Gilda.

"Well I hope you're right, Dweeb," She warned, "I'm not carrying you home from here again."

"I'll carry him to my place!" Lyra blurted, "you can take Bon Bon!"

Gilda and Bon Bon both glared at her.

"Sorry!" Lyra said, "that was too far. I've had too much smoke with my drink. I should go!"

Without further warning, Lyra bolted into the crowd.

"Lyra!" Bon Bon shouted and chased after her mare friend.

"That was weird," Gilda said, "what's gotten into her?"

It crossed my mind that Gilda likely had no clue why Lyra was so interested in me. To be honest, I was only assuming the extent of it, but I was right.

"She kinda wants me, for my hands," I said, "in a biblical way."

"Will you please use words I know?" Gilda asked.

"Sorry," I apologized, "I forget Equestria doesn't have a bible. It's a religious book on Earth that contains a lot of references to sex."

"So she wants you to cheat on me?" Gilda showed her understanding and irritation at the thought.

"I don't think so," I said, "that's why she ran off. She stopped trying as soon as she knew you were in the picture. Now she wants what she knows she can't have. I have a feeling offering to trade for Bon-Bon wasn't entirely a joke, but she realized how terrible it sounded even as one."

"You wouldn't go for that would you?" Gilda asked.

"No," I said flatly, "I'm genuinely not interested in sex unless the one I love is involved. That's you. I can't say I like the idea of you going off and sleeping with Bon Bon either."

"Good," Gilda said, "but just to be clear. Is it the 'me with Bon Bon' part, or the 'doing it without you' part that would bother you."

I didn't want to answer that. I don't see a problem if we're doing it together. I had no idea what she would say if I said it out loud.

"It's fine, Dweeb," I forgot she could read me, "it's not cheating if we're both involved." she laughed, "I was hoping you agreed. Just one thing. No stallions. That includes you."

"So I finally have a giant schlong," I laughed, "and I don't get to use it."

I had been joking, but it seemed to make her think, "I guess if you don't mind that I won't touch it. We can try it with a mare, but still no outside stallions."

"I couldn't agree with that one more," I said, "I'm not into guys."

"I guess Lyra missed out," Gilda said, "We could have made it an all-night party."

"I fucking love you," I laughed.

"I fucking love you too, Dweeb," Gilda laughed as well.

"There any of that blunt left?" Slag asked turning around to join us, "or do I need to light up another?"

I held up what was left but it was barely a nub. He retrieved a saddle bag from under his seat and pulled out a tin with at least five more cigar sized blunts in it.

"You really came to party," I said.

"I never come to the club unprepared," he said, "I also have condoms if you need one." He winked.

"I don't think so," my watch vibrated and I pulled it out to look because I had lost track, "Shit, I only have five minutes left. Do I want to change here?"

"With how nice these fans have been waiting in line to see your friends while you get high," Slag said, "I think you owe them a show."

"You're not wrong," I said, "let's do it."

"Alright!" Slag said, "I didn't think you would agree. Let's plan it out while we can."

I don't know what he meant by 'plan it out'. When the time came he just announced it and asked ponies to make room next to the table so more ponies could see. It was anticlimactic if you ask me. I just kinda stretched out and stood up. The ponies loved it though.

The human suit appeared immediately followed by the pony suit returning to its pocket dimension, right when I started changing. There was just one problem and it was small.

The pony suit did have shoes, so that was part of the package. but my pony shoes only covered the bottom of my back hooves and didn't require socks. So that's where my human shoes showed up. Below my feet, with the socks just sticking out the top. It's a good thing I had been sitting down or they would have knocked me over. Or worse, appeared inside my feet.

Who knows? They also could have appeared on my feet correctly. I wasn't sure if I wanted to test that.

"If I can get just one more moment," I said, "I'll be ready to take some time to talk to a few ponies." I felt bad with how long I had made them wait, and how little I socialized at the party, but I wasn't about to go barefoot so ponies could get their autographs five minutes faster.

I sat back down and started lacing up. I had just tied both shoes back on when my phone started going off again.

I was ready now. With lightning speed, I pulled my phone out and swiped to answer. Once again it only read, 'unknown number'.

"Hello!" I said, "Who is this?"

The silence was only broken by static for a moment before a fuzzy female voice could be heard, "Daylight,-static-Harvest Moon-static-Sweet Harvest. She's in danger if her-static-find her."

"What?" I asked, "Who is this?"

"Please," The voice pleaded, "I don't know how long I can-static-going. I can't trust my own family. You have to help my daughter or her..." The call dropped.

Everypony was staring at me. I was confused until I remembered ponies don't have phones.

After all. If they did, I wouldn't have been totally freaked out at that moment.

"Were you just talking to your phone?" Gilda asked.

"That's the main point of a phone," I said, "but it takes two to work. As well as a special tower."

"So it's like a magic communicator?" Gilda asked.

"You're pretty smart," I said, "did I ever say that? I don't think there's much I can do now. I'm going to have to talk to Spitfire tomorrow." I dug in my pocket until I found the Sharpie marker I normally kept in my jeep, "Right now, It's about time I stop ignoring my fans. Who wants an autograph?"

I tried to stay in the moment taking time to share a few words with every pony that approached, and sign whatever they put in front of me, right up until Berry Punch asked me to sign... herself... just a few inches behind her cutie mark.

Nervously, I looked over to Gilda.

"I'm watching," Gilda smiled handing out the parchment she had just signed, "go for it."

Berry Punch squeed and turned around. She lifted her tail and gave Gilda and I both the full XXX show. I made a bit of a show myself resting my left hand on her haunches to 'steady myself' and leaning in as I signed. Everypony seemed to cheer at this. Gilda clearly approved.

The meet and greet went past midnight. The line didn't stop but my marker had long dried up and the inkwells had run out. We decided it was about time to find some food since we hadn't had a proper meal since breakfast.

"So what are we going to eat?" I asked Gilda once we were out of the club, "The shops are all closed. Do we have anything I can cook for us?"

"I don't know," she said, "We'll just have to look when we get home."

"Gilda! Jerry!" Bon Bon shouted at us from a block away. We stopped and waited for her to run up to us. She seemed really apprehensive as she stopped and cleared her throat, "Would you be willing to come back to our place and talk to Lyra? She has it in her head that you're mad at her," she pointed a hoof at me, "and she thinks you down right want to kill her." She pointed to Gilda, "she won't even come out of the bedroom."

We just looked at each other not sure what to think.

"I know you've had a long day already. I doubt you've even had a chance to eat since the snacks at the party," Bon Bon said, "What if I made you some grilled cheese sandwiches? I have some leftover tomato soup to go with them."

"Deal!" we said in unison.

60- Back to business.

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I woke up groggy and sore. I felt like I had run a triathlon before going to bed.

I rolled on my side and snuggled with Gilda to try and catch a few more minutes sleep. Next thing I knew somepony put a mint green hoof around me.

Suddenly I remembered why I was so sore, and that it wasn't all the flying I did.

I decided it was time to get up after all and started easing my way out from between the two. Somehow I managed not to wake them up.

I noticed Bon Bon wasn't in the bed as I got dressed. I was hoping she wasn't in the bathroom, I had to piss like a racehorse. I tried to check the time on my phone but the battery was dead. I facepalmed, that's what happens when I forget to plug it in while driving. That was my only chance.

Come to think of it I was going to have to go back to the stage area to get my jeep. Pinkie had insisted it be parked at the party. I hadn't argued since Rarity's boutique was nearby and that's where I had to go that morning. The rest of the day saw the streets so full of ponies I didn't dare drive anyway.

I tiptoed out of the room and closed the door behind me. I found myself in a short but spacious hallway that opened into a living room. Two doors were across from me and one more was at the end. All were closed.

I didn't feel like trying doors when Bon Bon could be using the restroom, and knocking could wake the other two. So I wasn't sure what to do until I heard a crash coming from the direction of the living room.

I made my way toward the sound and noticed another opening on the opposite corner of the living room. I walked over and looked in to find a kitchen with Bon Bon in it. She was sweeping up a broken plate.

"I didn't wake you up did I?" She asked.

"No," I said, "I was already up. Do you have the time?"

"Oh, it's only eight," she pointed at a clock on the wall that confirmed this, "You can lay back down if you want, I was just making everyone breakfast."

"Thanks, but there's actually something really important I have to get to," my mind had drifted back to the phone call I got the night before. I had to check in on Sweet Harvest. I had a bad feeling about the whole thing and it was going to bother me until I at least talked to her.

I also didn't intend on skipping out on that lesson I promised Scootaloo. So I thought I better take off right away in case I get caught up talking to the 'bolts.

"At least stay long enough for some eggs," Bon Bon suggested, "I already heated the stove."

"Fair enough," I said, "I still need to use your restroom and wake Gilda up anyway."

"She doesn't have to leave. Does she?" Bon Bon asked, "We'll be good until you're back." She was pouting, I was getting the impression Bon Bon was into griffins.

Remembering the night before confirmed this.

"I'll leave that up to her," I laughed, "but I can't just take off on her. So, where can I find your restroom?"

"It's the first door on the left," Bon Bon giggled, "If you find the guest bedroom you went too far."

"Thanks," I said and made my way to the restroom.

Once I had relieved myself I took a deep breath and tiptoed back into the bedroom hoping I could wake just Gilda up. Much to my dismay, Lyra had cuddled up to her in my absence.

I crept around the bed and tapped Gilda on the shoulder. That didn't work so I shook her a little. Still nothing, so I tried harder. This time I succeeded but as feared, Lyra woke up too.

"What's up Dweeb?" Gilda asked.

"Yea," Lyra said, "Come back to bed. It's my turn to be the little spoon. I want your hands on me!" she pouted and crossed her front hooves like she was upset.

"I actually woke you up to let you know I have to get going," I said.

"Why?" Gilda asked, "what's up?"

"Whoever managed to connect with my phone said that Sweet Harvest was in trouble," I said, "I have to go check it out, but I also have to make sure I'm home when Scootaloo gets there. So I want to head out early."

"Do you need me to come along?" Gilda asked, "I'm still tired."

"You can sleep," I said, "I can do it on my own."

"Good," Gilda said, "If you two don't mind I'd like to hang out."

"That's fine," Lyra smiled, "We were just gonna go check out this traveling shop before it leaves town."

"Sounds like fun," Gilda said, "after more sleep. I'll see you at home. I love you." She leaned in toward me.

I leaned over and kissed her beak, "love you too, babe."

I stopped back at the kitchen where I was presented with a burrito.

"It's just scrambled eggs and cheese," Bon Bon said, "but we had some tortillas so I thought I'd wrap it up to go."

"Thanks, I owe you one," I said, "especially since you're gonna have to put up with Gilda for a while."

Bon Bon's eyes lit up, "It's no trouble at all. You go do what you gotta do. We'll make sure she gets home safe, but I do hope last night wasn't a one-time thing."

My sore muscles throbbed at the thought, "We'll see. I guess I'll see you around," I said, "Thanks again."

I got to the jeep to find Pinkie Pie stuffing the back end with presents.

"Jerry!" She squeed and bolted up wrapping me in a hug. I groaned with pain as every aching muscle tensed up at once, "I'm sorry, you must be sore from all that 'flying' you did last night." She winked at me.

Pinkie always knows.

"Yea, the flying," I rubbed my neck nervously, "really takes a lot out of me. So, whatcha' doin'?"

"I was trying to fit all the gifts ponies gave you into the back of Jeep," Pinkie said, "but he's not big enough. So I'll have to deliver the rest later."

"How many gifts did I get?" I asked, admiring the way she had filled the back end of the jeep so perfectly that the only room left was the front two seats.

"Well..." She pointed to a pile next to the stage the size of a small one car garage, "ponies really like giving gifts."

"I can see that," I said, "I actually need 'Jeep's' help to get home in a hurry."

"Ok," Pinkie said, "I'll just close him up and I'll see you when I deliver the rest. I want to see you fly again so expect me when you're giving Scootaloo her lesson."

"Sound's good," I said, "later."

I plugged my phone in right away, but it was going to take a moment to even turn on. That didn't really matter, I wasn't exactly expecting another call. I just don't like leaving it in the jeep to charge, I decided to make an exception since it was the only way to get a full battery.

Once home I grabbed the canteen only to remember that I only had a couple hours worth of potion left. That wasn't a big deal, it just meant I would have to make more. I decided to leave it home, it didn't really take that long to ride in a balloon to HQ so I didn't really need to fly until Scootaloo's lesson.

The more I thought about the call I had gotten the worse I felt about the whole thing. You can't even fake the level of terror and uncertainty I heard in her voice. I just knew something bad was going to happen. I was tempted to bring my .357 but decided it was too much. Then I remembered the combat knife Granny Smith had given me. It had a case that fits nicely on my belt, I figured it would do.

I considered taking the gifts out of the jeep but decided not to take the time, nopony would mess with them while I was parked at the balloon station.
Once at the Wonderbolts HQ, I headed directly for the training grounds where Spitfire was drilling the recruits. I happened to notice the absence of any dark blue manes in the lineup.

I stopped a reasonable distance away and waited for Spitfire to notice me.

"You may all take the rest of the day to yourselves in observance of fallen 'bolts day!" Spitfire shouted, "Dismissed!"

She walked up to me and took her sunglasses off. "Commander Daylight, to what do I owe the pleasure?"

I wanted to correct her but I decided I didn't want to make a big deal about it. Jerry and Daylight are technically both my birth given name.

"Fallen 'bolts day?" I had to ask.

"Would you rather we went with the first choice?" She asked, "Commander Dreamer appreciation day? I assumed you would rather dedicate it to the ponies you didn't make it to in time. I know they weren't all 'bolts, but it has a nice ring to it."

"You're not wrong," I laughed, "I actually came here to ask how Sweet Harvest was doing. Some of the ponies at the party gave her a pretty hard time."

"I heard," Spitfire said, "that's why I told her she could spend the whole day with her dad rather than take part in the morning exercises. She won't be back until later tonight."

"Do you know where they are?" I asked.

"She didn't say," Spitfire said, "Why? Is something wrong?"

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

I got an all too familiar feeling, but something told me I wasn't about to remember anything.
I saw my jeep. No, another jeep. It's rusty and covered in years worth of dust.

I'm laying next to it, as a pony, in a pool of blood.

NO! That's not me... He has no wings and there's a straw hat lying next to him.

A sign on a wall in the background read 'Harvest Moon Ranch'.

The image zoomed out until I could see the countryside as a map. It was just twenty miles from Ponyville on the opposite side from Sweet Apple Acres.
"Oh good," Spitfire sighed, "for a moment I thought I would have to take you to the infirmary again."

"Is there anypony that can give me a lift?" I asked, "I don't have any potion with and I need to hurry."

"Well duh. This is an academy of amazing flyers that admire you so much they almost named today after you," Spitfire reminded, "I'm already one of the fastest here, but we need two to pull the cart. Who else do you want? Take your pick of the fastest flyers around."

61- Dirty deeds.

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Imagine Sweet Apple Acres. Now turn each section into a different color of berry bush, and throw in just a little more livestock. That was Harvest Moon Ranch.

As we landed two cloaked figures bolted out of one of the many sheds and made a run for it. One was carrying a large bag.

"Commander," Surprise said, "permission to pursue?"

"Denied!" Spitfire said, "We may have to get Commander Dreamer out in a hurry."

"As much as I want them caught I agree," I said, "Stay with the cart, I'm gonna check it out."

I unsheathed my knife as I slowly made my way into the run down shed.

To my horror, I found exactly what I had seen in my vision. Harvest Moon was struggling to move in a pool of his own blood next to a jeep that looked like mine before my father restored it. I hurried to his side.

"Just lay still," I said, "You look like you really took a beating."

"Ah'm sorry grampa," He was starting to cry, "ah tried to stop them. They were too fast."

"Grampa?" I figured he was hit in the head one too many times. Then again, where the hell did he get Jordan's jeep? I actually recognized a dent in the driver's door.

"They got Sweet Harvest," He cried, "They said they were gonna beat me until she agreed to help them, but they just ran off when they heard you."

"We will find her," I said, "right now, we gotta get you to a hospital."
"I knew I should have gone after them!" Surprise complained, "Now we have no idea where they went with Sweet Harvest."

"But they need her for something," I said, "I don't think hurting her that bad is in their best interests, and without you, we couldn't have gotten her father to help in time. He's alive because you stayed."

She seemed to think a moment. "Damnit! You're right," she admitted, "I'm still worried about the recruit."

"I'm worried too," Spitfire agreed, "but going off half-cocked isn't going to help anypony."

"It's funny you would use an expression that originates in flintlock rifles," I had to comment. I seemed to remember learning the history of Equestrian firearm's as Daylight, and besides guns not being in use the last few hundred years, ponies never actually used a flintlock system due to too much spilled powder killing the pony that invented it. Nopony dared make a joke of it. He was considered a patriot.

I really hated guns when I was Daylight, and now I would say my feeling toward them was respect. They do little more than cause damage. I was more into mending it.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Spitfire said, "'going off half-cocked' is when a stallion isn't fully unsheathed and he..."

"I get the idea," I interrupted her, glad we were equal rank so she couldn't call it insubordination, "I think we need to send a pony to track their hoofprints while we can."

"I volunteer," Surprise jumped in, "Commander Dreamer, I request permission to go on the tracking mission."

"You're not a healer," I said, "You're asking the wrong commander."

"You are our best tracker when ponies go missing," Spitfire contemplated, "just don't get a hot head. Figure out what's going on, and call for backup."

"Yes, Sir," Surprise flew out the front door of Ponyville General Hospital.

"I don't think there's much else we can do right now," Spitfire said.

I looked at a clock on the wall, it was only eleven. I could be back to Harvest Moon Ranch in an hour, I had four.

"I think I should go look at the ranch myself," I said, "I want a closer look at that shed."

"If you must," Spitfire said, "I'll stay here and guard the hospital. They could try to finish the job."

"Thank you," I saluted, "Commander Spitfire."

"Any time," She saluted back, "Commander Daylight."

I started walking to my jeep trying to think of where Gilda was since I didn't think going alone was a good idea. I knew she was going to a traveling shop with Lyra and Bon Bon but I didn't know where it was. I hadn't seen it advertised and nopony had told me about it, it seemed odd, but I don't claim to know about everything in town, I just know a pony that does...

I drove back to the town hall on a whim. Sure enough, Pinkie was still there cleaning up.

"Back so soon?" Pinkie asked, "you didn't even unload so I could refill Jeep."

"Yea," I said, "I'm kinda busy. I was wondering if you knew about this traveling shop in town? Gilda was going to it with a friend and I could use her help."

"You mean that mysterious sales tent that showed up a couple days ago and disappeared last night after the party?" she asked, "They went to the spa when they found out it was gone. What do you need? I can help!"

I wasn't sure if this would really be Pinkie's thing, so I just decided to lay my cards on the table and let her decide. I didn't have much time and didn't really want to interrupt Gilda if she was making new friends.

"I need a bodyguard to go with me back to the scene of a brutal assault," I had to clear my throat as the image popped into my head, "so I can take a look at a relic from my old life that I expect to bring on bad memories."

"Well if you really want Gilda with I understand," Pinkie said, "but she won't mind if you have to cry on my shoulder, and there's nothing like laughter to cheer you up after a bad experience."

"I guess you have a point," I said, "but what if the attackers come back? They beat Harvest Moon to within an inch of his life and ran off with Sweet Harvest."

She looked at me with furiously knowing eyes.

"We may want some backup," she bolted in the direction of Twilight's castle and was back a second later with the princess in tow, her nose still buried in a Daring Doo book, "I think the Princess should know about this anyway."

"Wait!" Twilight looked over her book realizing her change in surroundings, "what's going on?"

"Jerry only has a few hours to get this done," Pinkie said somehow managing to not only open the door of my jeep but also lean the seat forward, "I'll explain on the way. Just trust me, you want to know about this." She pulled a few gifts out and threw them. They landed perfectly in the pile as she climbed in the empty space.

Without another objection, Twilight placed a bookmark in Daring Doo, and the Quest for the Thunder-rod, and took a seat next to me in the jeep.
We were only halfway to the ranch when Pinkie had finished explaining things to Twilight. Once she had a moment to let it sink in I took my chance to ask about her book. The title, combined with the picture on the front had me jumping to conclusions.

"So what is Daring Doo after this time?" I asked.

"Apparently Ahuizotl caught wind of a lost treasure capable of killing a pony from hundreds of yards away, as long as you can point it at them. The only warning is a thunder like sound that you don't even hear until a chunk of metal is tearing right through you. I haven't gotten to the good part yet, but it's really fascinating. I have the bill for Rainbow's copy by the way. She said you were going to cover it."

"I will," I said. Daring Doo and the Quest for the M21 sniper rifle is more like it, "Isn't that a little violent?"

"Considering this one only involves one pony being hurt at a time and you have to be really accurate," She said, "rather than causing drought and killing everypony, it's actually kinda tame."

"I guess you have a point," I couldn't help but snicker.

I was reminded that I still had to retrieve my own weapons. I wasn't about to go digging around for them with Twilight around to protect us with her magic, but I didn't think I should delay too long.

I figured Gilda should have her own gun if we're dealing with this kind of thing and she was actually pretty good with the magnum I kept out. So I kinda wanted it to be more available to her.

"Here we are," I said parking the jeep in front of the shed in question, "The perpetrators are likely cowards so seeing my jeep should be enough to keep them away, but I'm glad I'm not alone, don't be surprised if I go into a vision. I'm counting on it."

"Don't worry about anything," Pinkie assured me before pulling out her party cannon, "I'll be out here watching. Just let them come back. I'll give them a face full of confetti that takes a surgeon to remove. I had Sawdust make me a batch with extra starch for just such an occasion."

"I'm coming in with you," Twilight said, "I won't let you go in alone."

"Just brace yourself," I said, "Harvest Moon left a lot of blood in there. It's a lot for even my stomach."

Both ponies seemed to cringe as the thought sank in. Pinkie pulled the fuse on her cannon and it made a sound akin to a shotgun being cycled.

"I don't care," Twilight said, "I'm a princess. If this is happening in my territory, I need to do something."

"You have my respect," I said, "no matter what happens in there."

"Let's do this," she said still frozen in her spot, "but, ah. Do you mind going first?"

I reached into my jeep and grabbed one of the extra plastic shopping bags I keep around for garbage.

"Take this," I said holding it out to Twilight.

"What's this for?" she asked as she took it.

"Just in case," I said, "It's already messy enough in there."

I walked right past her questioning expression and opened the door of the shed. She walked up and looked around me immediately vomiting into the bag.

"Yea," I said, "I have an iron-clad stomach by even human standards and I almost did that."

"What pony could do this?" She asked as she started crying.

"One that feels that their mission is more important than another pony's life," I answered shedding a tear myself, "and one that has to be stopped."

"Do you think you can find any clues?" she asked.

"I could," I said, "but I'm leaving that to Surprise. I was never good at that, I was the one that stayed behind and tended to the wounded. I'm here to see if something I left in this jeep is still there."

"What the Tartarus?" Twilight asked just now looking up from the floor, "You just said it was something from the past. How could I not have known about a jeep sitting on a farm this close to me."

"I'm guessing the Harvest family was tasked with hiding it for me," I said, "If I remember correctly, this was one thing I didn't want ponies to have, based on how little actual use we got out of other human things. Even now you have to admit it's little more than a toy when you can hire a pegasus chariot or a hot air balloon for just a couple bits, back then it would have been an excuse for ponies not to help each other out."

"That makes sense," Twilight admitted, "you should do what you came to do. Remember, Scootaloo gets out of school in a couple of hours."

"Alright," I said and made my way to the passenger side.

I looked at the door. It was just like mine aside from a little missing paint and a small rust spot, but this one seemed more intimidating. The last time I saw it, I couldn't open it on my own.

As I mentioned before these jeeps were custom fit for a winter climate. Besides alterations to the cooling system, they were also fitted with metal roofs and doors that actually seal shut, whereas most models of this jeep were lucky to still have a canvas roof with half doors that didn't even try to meet up to it. I think the glove box was even custom because it seemed oversized and didn't match the dash in this one. I could assume this one was as it was issued due to the lack of customization options in Equestria. I noticed it also didn't have a center console like mine. I often forgot how much my father had done to it. It was a totally different vehicle on the inside.

To hold the door shut they used a latch with a spring loaded handle. You just had to push it downward, and pull. It was possible to push it down with a hoof, but once you try to pull you lose your grip and it snaps up violently. On the inside, the handle was shorter making it near impossible to even get a hoof on.

I turned the handle, and ironically the spring broke causing the latch to stay open. I was still shocked at how little rust was on this six-hundred-year-old chunk of iron. I would have believed it was even the same age as my own. Like it just never left a shed on earth for thirty or so years.

I wouldn't have been surprised if I could drive it.

Climbing in felt like I was getting ready to go somewhere. The key was even still in the ignition. I wanted to try it, I wanted to look around and relive all the good memories of riding in this very passenger seat with Jordan, Jerry, and even my father before I was born.

I wanted to remember the good times, and I would. That just isn't what I came to do this time.

With a trembling hand, I reached out and opened the latch on the glove box, another task that I never managed in my old life.

A wave of emotions swept over me as I looked at what was still inside. It was a forty-four caliber magnum revolver but it looked nothing like the three-fifty-seven I owned. This one was a Wonderbolt special issue. You had to be a commander to get one of these. It held a couple fewer rounds and took longer to reload than the standard issue, but it was unsurpassed in power and reliability.

I could already feel my mind slipping into the old memories, but I wanted to make sure I remembered everything. So I picked it up in my right hand and looked down the sights, taking note of its weight.

The weight of the weapon with which I took a ponies life.

62- Sticks and stone break my bones, but bullets break my heart.

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As I looked down the sights of the Wonderbolt special issue sidearm I could feel the familiar embrace of Daylight's memories being played in my mind's eye. One thing didn't feel familiar though. I was totally terrified of what I was about to see. So much so that rather than falling limp, my body tensed up and held its position as if I was frozen in the middle of aiming to take a shot.
The memories started back by the graves, right after being confronted by Firestorm.

I had just left the note saying it was the last time I let her live.

I decided it was about time her sidearm was repossessed. It was supposed to be a status symbol but she was no longer a commander.

I moved my old sidearm to the left side and put the new one on the right.

I spread my wings to fly away, but folded them back up and started walking.

I got several miles before a familiar rumble pulled up behind me. I stopped but didn't turn to face it as I heard the parking brake engage and the door open.

"Daylight," It was Jeremy, his voice was softer than I expected, "what's going on? I just stopped to pay respects to Jerry, and the whole place looks like a crime scene. Are you ok?"

I tried to talk but instead fell to the ground sobbing. I knew I couldn't live with myself if I had killed Firestorm, but I didn't know what to say to this soldier who had just lost his best friend at her hooves after I pulled them both into the mess.

"I... I... I..." I didn't even know what I was trying to say, I just knew I had to say something or I was going to scream.

He walked up and kneeled down to place a hand on my shoulder, all he said was, "just let it out."

I felt like a fool. Here I was a middle-aged stallion sobbing like a baby as a young human pet me like a dog. Still, I couldn't help but feel reassured by his words as I took a deep breath and just let myself scream out all the frustration that had been building up inside.

"Isn't that better?" he asked once I stopped screaming and caught my breath.

"A little," I had to admit as I sat up. He let go of my shoulder and sat cross-legged in front of me.

"Was it Firestorm again?" he asked.

"How could you tell?" I asked.

"You only get this upset when she's involved," he said, "and it would explain the fight that obviously just happened."

"It's just that... she refuses to give up," I said, "and all because I wouldn't let her kill me. It's like she won't rest until one of us is dead at the other's hooves."

"And you still won't let her kill you," he pointed out, "That better not change."

"Aren't you upset that I didn't get revenge for Jerry and the others?" I asked. It was weighing on my mind, "I had my sidearm on her forehead, and I couldn't pull the trigger."

"Do you know a potion to bring Jerry and your friends back to life that requires her blood?" he asked. I could tell he knew the question was silly. Blood isn't a potion ingredient. Hair, skin, saliva maybe, but not blood.

"No," I said, "death is untreatable."

"Then what good would it really do?" he asked rhetorically, "You wouldn't be such a loyal guy if you didn't give everybody every chance. As long as you can stop her without killing her, I know that's what you're going to do."

"But what if she never stops?" I asked, "what if killing her is the only way?"

He looked me in the eye. I could tell he didn't know what to say to that, but in his eyes, I saw something I knew very little about.

We were different species, from different worlds, and he was over a decade younger than me, but at that moment he was looking at me with the loving eyes of a father counseling his child.

"It all comes down," he finally spoke, "to what you think is right. If you can live with yourself after pulling that trigger, then you did the right thing."

We sat in that open field silently for what seemed like an eternity before I found my voice again.

"Thank you," was all I said.

"Any time," he said, "Let me give you a ride home."

As we were getting into the jeep Jeremy took a good look around.

"This is a nice place," he said, "they should put a ponyville here or something."

"A ponyville?" I asked.

"Yea, you know," he said, "a village for ponies."

"Around here," if he was trying to make me laugh he had succeeded, "we just call that a village."
I jumped forward a few years to myself being shaken out of bed.

"Daylight!" Feather Dreamer shouted, "wake up! Sweet Dreams is missing!"

I shot out of bed and automatically placed hooves into both sidearms waiting on my nightstand.

"I found this on an arrow stuck to the front of the house," Feather held out a note.
You should really keep your door locked so your daughter doesn't wander into the woods late at night.

If you want to see her again then meet me where you should have killed me.
"Is this from who I think it is?" Feather asked.

"I'm afraid so," I said.

"Come on," she said, "she fucked with my daughter this time," Feather placed a hoof into her own sidearm. She hadn't been issued one as a doctor, but her father had served and left his to her, "She's not getting off easy."

We got to the graves to find Firestorm sitting on a large metal box that was padlocked shut. She seemed to have found herself a new weapon, but it was clearly something cobbled together from spare parts.

"I finally have you," Firestorm said, "it took me forever to come up with the idea, and even longer to have the box made, then all the waiting around to catch your precious Sweetie out of that little shield of yours. I never thought it would be so easy. This is three inches of solid iron. The only way to open it is with this key." She held a key out before swallowing it, "Oops!"

"I know plenty of potions that will make you throw that up," I pointed out, "If you won't give up, at least tell me why you want me dead so badly."

"WHY!?!" she shouted, "you dare ask why after everything you've done to my family!"

She tried to shoot at me but I was already in the air trying to get close. She had figured out my tactics and was not having it. She never got a shot in herself but she managed to dodge every move I made.

"You don't even know how to use a weapon of that caliber," she mocked me, "Do you even know how many ponies it's killed? I lost count!"

"It's not the weapon," I said, "it's the wielder. It's not killing anymore."

"Yea," she said, "That's what you think." She took a shot and grazed my cheek.

I fired back with my left hoof and managed to hit her gun. I lunged at her expecting it to be knocked off her hoof. I was wrong.

She swung her hoof back around and fired hitting me in the chest, the bullet piercing my heart. She was just a moment too late though as my limp body crashed into her causing us both to fall out of the sky.

I felt myself slipping away until a vial was shoved into my mouth and I could taste the bitter ingredients of a vitality potion. I could feel my heart mend as a wave of energy rushed over me.

I opened my eyes to see Feather holding the vial to my mouth. She pulled it away once the contents were drained, "You're not getting away from me that easy," she joked.

Our touching moment was short-lived as Firestorm jumped at us with a knife aimed at Feather's throat.

With no time to even think I leveled Firestorms own Wonderbolt issued sidearm directly between her eyes and pulled the trigger. Her legs went off to the sides as her body fell to the ground in front of us.

I tried to remember everything she put me through, but nothing prepares you for something like that.

There wasn't much left of her above the neck. Just a lower jaw and a section of the spine. Everything else was more or less a paste covering the ground around her.

I screamed at the top of my lungs. I wanted Jeremy to hear. I wanted him to come to tell me it was ok. I needed him to tell me that I had done what I had to do.

I could never scream that loud. He was back home.

"Come on," Feather said once I had calmed down, "we need to get you home for proper treatment. You know as well as I do that those vitality potions are just to keep you alive until then."

"What about Sweet Dreams?" I said, "we have to get her out." I wretched at the thought of what I would have to do to get the key from a headless body.

"You're silly," she giggled.

"What!?" I was shocked she would treat our daughter being trapped in a box so lightly.

"I can pick locks," she pointed at the open box, "remember? Oh, yea. I just learned last night! Silly me. Well, you know now. She should already be home."

"Well let's get going," I laughed. I was wondering if there could ever be a pony more random than her. She truly was a Protector of Humor.

I stood up and tried to walk but Feather stood in front of me.

"You know the drill, Mister," she squatted to the ground.

"Do I have to?" I asked.

"Your heart is still healing," she said, "we have to keep your pulse down."

"Fine," I said climbing on the back of my wife, "you do realize I'm a lot heavier than you right?"

She stood up and started trotting along like it was nothing, "What was that, Honey?" she asked.

"Just, I love you," I smiled and rested my head on hers. She didn't seem to mind as I dozed off along the way.

Once I was all bandaged up and allowed to walk around on my own again I went out to the shed behind my hut. This was the one place I really only allowed my family. This was a special place.

I opened the door and was greeted by the human's jeep. They always said it was Jordans, but they all drove it so I never saw it that way.

I walked around to the passenger side where I had propped the door open so I could climb inside to think. I sat down and stared at the empty glove box. Jordan always kept his sidearm in there, so I never understood why it was called a 'glove box'.

It was still wide open from when he grabbed the gun before heading home. I never closed it for the simple fact I would never be able to open it, but would I ever need to? Was I ever going to put anything in there that I needed back when an accident could seal it shut on me requiring me to bring a unicorn over?

I looked at the sidearm I had taken with me. What had I become? Was I as bad as my father? Was I a cold-blooded soldier?

No, I'm still a healer. I'm never going to kill another pony. Then why did I need so much firepower?

The more I looked at her old weapon the more the image of Firestorm laying on the ground was engraved in my head.

I threw it in the open glovebox and slammed it shut. Then got out of the jeep and slammed the door shut.

I knew that trying to bury the memory wasn't going to make me feel better, but at that moment I had no idea what would.

As I closed the shed door I heard the sweetest little voice behind me.

"Daddy," Sweet Dreams said, "can I have some ice cream?"

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry as she reminded me of her mother. She was ten years old and had just been through Tartarus, and all she wanted was ice cream.

"Of course you can," I said, "let's go inside. I bet your mother is already dishing it up for all of us."

63- How many branches are on your family tree?

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"Jerry," Twilight got my attention as I woke up still aiming a pony sidearm through the dirty windshield of an all too familiar jeep, "I think somepony just landed outside."

I met Twilight by the door still holding the sidearm. I decided to take this one back. Harvest Moon likely never knew he had it. I took the cylinder out for safety. I shuddered as I noticed it was still the same load. Five rounds were ready, I knew why the sixth was spent.

We stepped outside to find Pinkie talking to what looked like a white pegasus version of herself. It took me a while to realize it was Surprise out of uniform.

"Commander," She saluted as I walked up, "I hope you don't mind I changed into civilian attire so I wouldn't stand out."

"That's probably smart," I said, "did you find anything?"

"I found footprints that stop right before a muddy patch in the woods," she reported, "my guess is that they were pegasi, and thought they could trick us by running off on hoof. Too bad for them I'm on the case. We're looking for somepony smart, they knew we weren't likely to chase or they would have run further into the woods to make sure they lost us."

"Keep up the good work," I said, "I want these ponies banished, then thrown into a dungeon in the place they were banished to."

"That would be a silly punishment," Twilight laughed.

"Oh no," Pinkie suddenly exclaimed, "look at the time, Jerry is gonna be late."

"I better get going," I said.

"Allow me," Twilight's horn flashed and everypony but Surprise was in my front yard standing around my jeep.

"Mass teleportation," Twilight said, "I just mastered it."

"Thank you," I said reaching into the jeep to unplug my phone and seeing that I would have only had five minutes to drive, "talk about cutting it close. I owe you." The voicemail notification caught my eye, but I didn't want to stop and check it.

"I'll take it out of your pay," she joked, "You two take care. I have a report to write to Celestia."

"I better go start loading my cart," Pinkie said, "I have a lot of presents to bring."

"What's going on?" Gilda seemed puzzled as she walked out the front door, "I didn't hear you pull up. Where did all those presents come from?"

"They're from all the ponies that came to your party," Pinkie answered, "this is just the tip of the iceberg. I'm heading back to get the rest."

"I can help," Gilda offered.

"That would be great!" Pinkes said, "We can both pull carts!"

"Um..." Gilda gave me an awkward smile, "Jerry, do you think... maybe..."

"Just spit it out," I said, "I won't get mad."

"Can I use the jeep and trailer?" she asked, "it would be so much faster."

I bit my lip and counted to ten. I said I wouldn't get mad, and I wasn't. I was concerned.

"If I was sitting in the passenger seat awake," I said, "would you be comfortable?" I knew she was embarrassed about every little mistake she made around me.

Her eyes said no, but her beak said, "I think so."

That's what I was looking for. It told me she had a firm grasp on what she was dealing with, and she wanted her chance to prove she could.

I still took a moment to think. I trusted her with my life and so far she had proven herself at every turn. However, driving was kind of a big deal. A lot could go wrong.

"I'll put the trailer on," I said, "just go around the block to turn around, you don't want to learn how to back up with a trailer on the spot. If you scratch it, you pay Slag to fix it." I knew better than to think she would break it. It was a military machine and if she was asking then I had to assume the night she drove it while I was unconcious went well.

I helped unload and sent them off turning my attention to Scootaloo who had already made it home and retrieved my canteen. She now presented it to me with a wide smile.

"Alright," I said taking it from her hooves, "let's do this."

I drank the last of it and readied myself for flight.

I explained the concepts and for the first hour, we more or less played follow the leader so she could see how I maneuvered my wings. Then we went to the orchard and practiced flying around the trees until my watch started going off.

We got back to the cabin and I was shocked to see that Gilda wasn't back, but I didn't really think she could get in too much trouble with my jeep and the third vibration in my pocket reminded me it was time to smoke. So I went into the house and sat down. Scootaloo wanted to practice so she stayed out for a while. I was glad for the privacy when it came time to change.

Before long Scootaloo wore herself out and came in. She got herself a glass of water and downed it in one drink. Then she just trotted right past me and slammed the door of her room shut behind her. I was confused until I heard her screaming into her pillow. It sounded like a happy scream at least.

A few moments later her door swung open again and she stood in the opening.

"Dad," she said, "I ah, I..." she started crying.

I rushed over and hugged her, "let it out," I said trying to keep my voice soft.

She took a few deep breaths and pulled away from me. She pulled a journal from behind her door. It was the one she got from the bat-ponies.

"I want you to have this," she said, "and I just wanted to say that I really don't know how to thank you for everything. Some ponies dream about flying with the Wonderbolts. I've always just dreamed of flying with my parents. You made my dream come true."

"Well," I didn't really know what to say to that. So I pulled her in and messed up her mane as I thought, It was so much softer than when we met, "Well that sure won't be the last time. We gotta have your mom join next time."

"Definitely," she said, "where is she anyway. When you take the jeep just to grab something, you're always back in an hour or so."

I was getting worried about her too with everything going on. I was expecting her at least while we were still flying.

"I think I should go check," I said, "she could have gotten a flat tire." In my heart, I knew she would fly back to tell me about something like that.

"I'm coming too," Scootaloo said.

"I won't stop you," I wanted her to stay home safe, but she was old enough to decide for herself. I wasn't expecting a shootout or anything.

I walked to town with Scootaloo riding next to me on her scooter.

We got to town hall to find the jeep fully loaded. Pinkie and Gilda were nowhere in sight.

"Where do you think they went?" Scootaloo asked.

"I don't know," I was getting a bad feeling, but it wasn't like normal. I started wondering if this is what normal worry feels like as if I had spent my whole life actually knowing something bad had happened thanks to Daylights dreams.

I instinctively checked under the seat to find the gun exactly where I left it. I felt better knowing that it likely would have shifted if Gilda had even hit the brakes too hard.

"I bet they went for cupcakes," I said, "Do you want to check Sugarcube Corner? I'll give you a few bits."

"Of course," she smiled, "but don't you want to come?"

"I have to check in with Spitfire," I said, "I'll meet you at home."

"Alright," she said, "but I'm not going home until I find Mom."

"I would expect nothing less," I smiled, "just be careful, and remember. If you ever run into a bad pony, fly as fast as you can into the nearest trees and practice your cornering."

"Don't worry," she said, "I'll get away. I love you, Dad."

"I love you too," I said and we went our separate ways.
"I want this asshole to pay," I heard Spitfire scream as I entered the hospital, "By the time I'm done with him, he'll be in a full body, wing, and hoof cast. Drinking from a straw!"

"What's going on?" I asked walking up and seeing that she was holding an ice pack to her head.

"Commander Dreamer!" Spitfire turned away from Soarin, "Just as I was afraid of, the perp came back. I managed to keep him out of Harvests room, but he kicked me in the head pretty hard. The doctor says I'll be fine. What bothers me is that he got away and we still don't know his motive, or where he took Sweet Harvest."

"You're a good soldier," I said, "did you see what he looked like?"

"Yea," she said, "he had yellow fur, and a greying red made. He was wearing a cloak, but I know a pegasus when I see one."

"Jinkies," I muttered under my breath.

"What?" Spitfire asked.

"Nothing," I said, "that just might be a clue. Is Harvest awake?"

"He just woke back up a few minutes ago," she answered.

"I better talk to him," I said, "then get home."

"Alright," she said, "I'm going to post guards on the hospital, and I already have scouts looking for the ponies. I'll send a report if anything turns up."

"Sounds good," I said saluting, "I'm glad to have you on my side, Commander Spitfire."

"Likewise," she saluted back, "Commander Dreamer."
"You hanging in there?" I asked Harvest Moon as I entered his room.

"It wasn't supposed to go like this," he shifted in the bed to see me. He was laying on his side with a cast on his left hind leg and bandages covering much of his body, "We were gonna find you and bring you to the farm. It was gonna be a surprise. Like we just invited you for supper and then, poof, ah open the shed door... We were just going to wash it up so it looked shiny. That's when they showed up. It was those sales ponies ah told you about."

"I had gathered that," I said, "I came to make sure you're ok and let you know we have our best ponies out looking for Sweet Dream... Harvest! Sweet Harvest," I took a deep breath.

"She sure does look like her grandma," He said, "but I didn't think mom came to the party. When did you meet her?"

"Who?" I asked.

"Sweet Dream," he said, "my mom."

"I never did," I said, "That slip was because she looks just like my daughter, Sweet Dreams."

He looked at me sideways, "Ah thought your daughter's name was Scootaloo?"

"It is," I said, "Sweet Dreams was Daylight Dreamer's daughter."

"Who is Daylight Dreamer?" he asked.

"Me, when I was a pony," I said.

"Ah'm confused," he said.

"It happens to me all the time," I said, "So what can you tell me about that hunk of iron in your shed?"

"That wagon thing. Mom had it moved to the farm," he said, "she always told me it belonged to a really powerful magic creature that was gonna come back one day and be really grateful we kept it safe. Did we do good?"

"You did," I said, "but what kind of magic did you expect me to have?"

"A guess ah don't know," he said, "but you were a pony when we met, so ah guess shape-shifting comes to mind."

"That was just a potion," I said.

"It don't matter where the magic comes from," he scoffed, "what matters is you have it, and Equestria is gonna need it."

"I get it," I said, "I just don't see how."

"You'll figure it out," he said, "just do me a favor and kick the bastards a few times for me."

"Not a problem," I said, "I assume you won't mind if I bring that jeep to my place."

"It's your's," he said, "Ah've just been keepin' it safe."

"Alright," I said, "you take care. I'll make sure you're in the loop if we find anything out."

"Do you mind if ah call you Grandpa?" he asked, "you looked just like him when you were a pony. Ahm, told ah look like him too."

"There's a good reason for that," I said, "I don't mind if you do, I'll catch you later."

I had to laugh as I walked out the door and a middle-aged stallion hollered, "later, Grandpa!" and he had no idea how accurate he was.
I got back to where the jeep had been and it was gone. I smiled knowing that likely meant she drove home and all was well.

As I was walking home Discord appeared as a floating head in front of me.

"It's about time I heard from you," I said, "what did you find out?"

"Have I actually made it to the 'you know I won't take offense' level of friendship already?" He sounded pleased.

"No," I laughed, I could tell he knew it was actually yes, "I just don't care if I offend you. Now spill it."

"Well I'm still following a few leads," his paw appeared so he could scratch his chin, "but I figured I should at least let you know I'm still on it. What I've found so far can be summed up pretty fast. Your feud never ended."

"What?" I asked.

"It's a regular Dreamfields and McFlames," he said, "Your family seems mostly ignorant, but somepony from Firestorm's family is up to something. Oh, and I also found out that you're related to that Wonderbolt filly we helped out."

"You don't say," I said with a grin.

"Well that's all I have for now," he held his fingers out to snap, "care for a lift home while I'm at it?"

"Sure," I said. I had just gotten to the edge of town and had a lot of things to do.
I appeared sitting in my chair with a joint in my mouth. I pulled it out and looked at it. The paper had a little picture of Discord on it. I went ahead and lit it, but took it outside.

Gilda and Scootaloo were in the shed opening presents.

"I hope you don't mind we started without you," Gilda said, "We have a lot to open, and she couldn't wait."

Scootaloo was digging in the pile and opening anything that looked like Wonderbolt memorabilia. She had amassed a small pile of scrolls that she was likely hoping were posters. I opened one to find a letter from someone claiming to be a relative. Opening a few more revealed more of the same.

If they were all true, I had a big family. Most didn't ask for anything but a chance to meet in person outside the party.

All but a few included bits, and an offer of more upon the meeting. I didn't know what to make of that, but I figured since they have no idea what I'm actually like. Who doesn't like money, right?

"You gonna actually help?" Gilda pulled me from the notes, "We have a lot to open."

I looked at her pile and saw a large stack of books and was reminded of what Harvest had said. It didn't matter where my magic came from. I had it, I should be ready to use it.

Only I didn't have it, Celestia did.

"Alright," I said, "I'll just go back to these when the dust settles. Tonight let's see what we have, and tomorrow we do some preparations. I need to do some brewing, and I want to make sure you know how to handle your gun."

"My gun?" she asked.

"Well I'm going to get the rest of my stuff out," I said, "I don't need four."

64- Prior preparation prevents piss poor performance.

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"So are we ready?" Gilda asked. We were in a secluded section of the orchard where we could shoot safely. She was already looking her gun over.

"Just hold on a moment," I said, "I need a gun."

I pushed the driver's seat forward on its custom track until it was actually touching the steering wheel and pedals. I used the extra space to climb in behind it facing the back seat. Using a wrench I removed the bolts holding the seat down and lifted it on its hinge, shoving a board in place to prop it up, This wasn't designed for convenience.

With access to the floorboards, I was able to find the bolts holding the middle section in. I was pretty sure dad had to cut the section out.

Once that was out of the way I could see the top of the gas tank. Or rather, I could see a thick sheet of steel covering all but the very bottom, designed to reflect x-rays in a way that appears like a full gas tank. Looking at all the modified structure I wondered if my father had left anything original. I was pretty sure the gas tank wasn't even in this spot on the other one. This obviously wasn't the original tank at the very least, and everything around it was cut up and reinforced to make room.

I lifted the sheet of steel off and set it outside the jeep. I had to unbolt the steel box from the undersized gas tank. I slid it into the cabin and opened it with the jeeps own key. My father loved making locks.

I removed the two handguns and was instantly worried about flashbacks. In my right hand, I held a Colt forty-four magnum revolver, in my left was a Colt forty-five with an eight round clip. They weren't Wonderbolt issue, but they were the closest thing I could actually shoot without drinking any potions.

That being said, using a forty-four magnum one handed is like asking to injure your wrist. Pony hooves are a little less delicate than a human hand. Not to mention hoofguns strap to the leg so that takes the brunt of the recoil.

I set them aside and considered if I wanted to take the time to put the last gun together. It was a forty-five caliber, Winchester rifle. Even disassembled it didn't fit in the box as the barrel had to be attached to the floorboard I had removed and made to look like a structural piece. It was more of a jigsaw puzzle.

I was kind of wishing my dad had hidden a shotgun. Gunpowder and other reloading supplies were taking up the rest of the available space meaning I could have made some rocksalt rounds for less deadly encounters.

"You really like these things, huh?" Gilda asked examining the forty-five.

"My father did," I said, "I don't mind them. As long as they are treated with respect."

I decided not to waste time and grabbed a box of forty-five ammo. I was going to wait to unload everything later anyway. The rifle could wait too, even if I did want Gilda to try it out.

Something about a chick with a Winchester just gets my motor running.

Being the reality of her possibly having to use it, I made sure this lesson centered around safety and when not to go for a gun. She seemed to understand and assured me she would rather use her claws if they will do.

Gilda had clearly gotten the hang of looking down the sights, I let her try the forty-five and she took out six out of eight targets in rapid succession.

"This thing is pretty fast," she said setting the safety and handing it back, "but I think I like mine better."

"Yea," I said, "That Smith and Wesson is a pretty well-balanced gun. I'm glad you like it. You should keep it somewhere safe, but where you can get to it. If those creeps I told you about show up at the house, send them packing."

"Sure will," she said, "and I think you're right that we shouldn't kill them... but Is it ok if I make them wish they were dead?"
It was about noon. Gilda had gone off to hang out with Rainbow Dash since I didn't really have anything else to cover with her.

I had just set up my reloading station in the back of the shed and put the jeep back together properly. I swung the assembled Winchester over my shoulder on a strap, put the forty-five in a side holster that had been folded up under it, and set the forty-four under my seat to replace the one I gave Gilda.

I only had one box of forty-four magnum rounds so that was the emergency hand cannon. I had enough forty-five rounds and slugs to supply a small army. So that was the go-to. I could also keep Gilda comfortably set for a while.

Before leaving the shed I looked over at a bench where I had left the special issue sidearm sitting in two pieces. I took the bullets out, leaving them on the reloading bench and put it back together.

I put it under the seat with the other forty-four, then I put the empty shell in my pocket. I don't know why.

I went into the house first to stash the rifle in my closet. I had to laugh when I realized almost everything hanging in the closet was mine.

I had a suit for every occasion. While Gilda had one dress, and only because Rarity made her wear one. Come to think of it, just about everything in here was Rarity's design.

I pushed the clothing aside to place the rifle in the back corner for now and was confronted by the Wonderbolts flight jacket. The one thing Rarity didn't design.

I had liked it but hadn't actually worn it since the day it was given to me. I had so many jackets, and I'm used to cold weather, so I don't even always wear one.

I looked at the inside of the jacket and saw the familiar plethora of pockets, ready to hold whatever a Wonderbolt might need for whatever situation they find themselves in. I decided it was time to wear it. Suits never really were my thing.

I was about to head out to gather ingredients when there was a knock at the door. I opened it hoping for word about Sweet Harvest but was instead greeted by Slag.

"Jerry," he said, "just the guy I wanted to see."

"I'd hope," I said, "you knocked on my door."

"Yea," he said, "I just passed the school and Scootaloo flagged me down from the playground saying you wanted to talk to me."

I actually had to think for a moment before remembering what I wanted of him, "Do you know anything about Harvest Moon Ranch?" I finally asked.

"I know where it is," he said, "and that it's where those ponies from the party live."

"That was family of mine," I said, "if you couldn't tell by the resemblance."

"You're shitting me," he said, "are they, you know, secret holders?"

"What if I told you there was a jeep in Equestria all along?" I asked, "It's just been sitting at that farm waiting for me to claim it."

"I would literally shit an iron ingot," he said.

"Well I hope you had your Geritol," I said, "because I thought it would be a good idea to have you take a look at it before you bring it to me."

I heard something heavy hit the ground behind Slag as he stared at me wide-eyed and slack-jawed, "What the fuck is Geritol?" he finally asked.
After giving Slag detailed instructions I decided it was time to set about my potion making. I had a few of Gilda's books, and some of the books we got from the party covered the subject, but I knew there was only one place with the recipes I really wanted.

I tried to think of what books I wanted but I wasn't sure, so I made an executive decision looking at the empty shelves on the bookshelf Sawdust made for my cutecenyera. I grabbed one of the books I did have to put on it and scribbled a note.
Dear Princess Celestia,

I was wondering if you would mind sending me a few books?

Let's start with every book I wrote and I'll let you know if I need more.

Your loyal subject,
Daylight Drea--Jerry
I facepalmed realizing it would have been less embarrassing to just finish my pony name. At least Celestia would have a good laugh.

I waited a moment but nothing happened. I figured she was likely in a meeting.

I at least had a good idea what ingredients I needed, so I figured I could start with that. I had a lot of potions to make so I didn't want to waste time.

I was starting to wish Gilda or Scootaloo were home to ask for help, but what I really needed was a pony that understood complex potions. Not necessarily a master, but an apprentice to a master would be a godsend.

I grabbed a basket and headed out to Apple Blooms Garden. I was surprised when I found Apple Bloom outside reading a book.

"Shouldn't you be in school?" I asked.

"The doctors said ah should take a few days off to avoid roughhousing on the playground," she said, "ah wanted to go see if ah could get a lesson from Zecora, but then ah remembered how easy it is to chip a tooth heading out that way. So ah'm just readin' up for the next time."

"Well I don't have Zecora's rhyming schemes," I said, "but I could use your help it seems."

"It don't really work when you do it," she giggled.

"Sorry, I'm not too good with the whole sagely talk thing. Let me try another one," I cleared my throat and did my best Yoda impression, "Helt me, will you? Many potions, I must brew."

She burst out laughing, "You're silly. Let's just get to it! Ah'll get the cauldron going."

"I think I'd rather use my kettle," I said, "We can do it in my kitchen."

"Alright," she seemed to like the idea, "let's get what you need, if it needs to be dried, you'll find it hanging in the shed."
"Did ah do it?" Apple Bloom asked as the potion in the kettle started to change colors.

I set the book down and looked at the kettle, it settled on a candy apple red.

"I think so," I said, "but I'll test it." I took a ladle and a glass and got a sample. Once in my hand, the contents of the glass turned midnight blue.

"Is that supposed to happen?" she asked.

"Eeyup," I did my best Big Mac voice before taking a sip and quickly setting the glass down. Sure enough, the transformation was flawless as I briefly became my pony self.

"Alright!" Apple Bloom cheered as I changed back, "What next?"

"I'm still waiting to hear back from the princess about my books," I said, "I don't dare make anything else in this one. Is there anything you wanted to make?"

"Not really," she said, "but there is one thing ah wanted to ask you."

"What's that?" I asked.

"Scootaloo told me about the Protectors, how you guys were like the Elements," she paused.

"Sort of," I said, "we mostly used the elements as a form of identification. We got them to spark a little, but that was pretty much it."

"That's still pretty cool," she said, "but muh question is. How did you get them all together? Ah mean. How did you know you had the right ponies?"

"I don't remember," I said, "let's see if this helps." I drank the rest of my potion sample.

65- Flashy things.

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"So do you remember?" Apple Bloom asked anxiously, "How did you know who to pick for each element?"

"I have an hour like this," I said brushing my beard with a hoof, "don't rush me." I hadn't even realized I was still in my Wonderbolt's jacket. Aside from being a little warm inside it turned out to actually be a comfortable fit in pony form, even if it was a little too big. I was surprised the arms weren't too long.

"Sorry," she said, "this is just soooo cool! You're a pony, because you drank a potion that I made, and you did it just to answer a question for me."

"It's the least I could do after all the help," I said, "and everything you've been thorough since I got here. I guess I should just start from the start."

"That's usually a good place," Apple Bloom laughed.

"Well, I met Feather when she was the only Wonderbolt's doctor," I said, "she wasn't a Wonderbolt herself though."

"Really?" Apple Bloom asked, "why not?"

"The commander at the time hated potions," I said, "so she forbid us from making them, but they needed at least one doctor. That's where Feather came in."

"So when did you meet her?" she asked, "did you have to bring a friend to see her?"

"Not exactly," I said, "On my first day I broke my leg. I had run into her before and she recognized me. That's when we hit it off."

"Oh yea," she gave me an 'I'm old enough to know exactly what you did' look, "that's Scootaloo's Grandma."

"Yea," I said, "but that's just a footnote in this story."

"Aw, come on," she said, "ah wanted the romantic details. We're talking about a love story featuring an element of loyalty for crying out loud."

"Yea," I laughed, "and she was the element of laughter. or Protector of Humor."

"Really?" she said, "You fell for a Pinkie Pie?"

"I did," I laughed, "Is it really any crazier than her with Sawdust?"

"Ah guess not," she laughed.

"Well, anyway," I said, "since the Wonderbolt's only had one doctor, I was stepping in and helping my fallen friends. Commander Firestorm did not approve when she found out. She tried to have me dishonorably discharged." I decided not to mention that she wanted to kill me.

"So what happened?" she asked.

"My friend Easy Glider got ahold of Celestia and she came to the rescue," I said, "She kicked Firestorm out, put Easy Glider in her place, and put me in charge of teaching a class of potion students. That's where I met the Protector of Chivalry, Sculptured Stone. I first noticed when he was tutoring the other students. He was so respectful about it. He didn't want anypony to feel dumb just because they didn't understand something."

"So where did you meet Apple Seed?" she was obviously waiting for her own ancestor.

"He was outside a clinic in the center of what's now Manehatten," I said, "I had to patch him up along with a friend of his. I didn't know he was the one I wanted for Truth until a couple of years later though. It all became clear when Kizzy graduated my class."

"Kizzy?" she asked, "That's a weird name."

"You're not wrong," I said, "she came all the way to Equestria and traveled with me and my friends, and her name was a Zebra word meaning, to stay put. She was Protector of the Arcane. The Twilight of our group. It had more to do with the way she brought out the best in ponies than her potions, but she could conjure up magic I could only dream about."

"So that just leaves generosity," Apple Bloom said.

"Oh, yea," I said, "We can't forget Drum Beat. She had taken Kizzy in when nopony else would give her the time of day, and the two of them were running the clinic where I found Apple Seed from what was once Drum Beat's house. Like I said, it wasn't until a couple years later that we all got together as one group."

"So what brought it all about?" she asked.

"Well," I said, "I sent Sculptured Stone to help at the clinic as a final exam. He decided to stick around when he graduated and that's what lead to him still being there for Kizzy's final exam. The four of them became close friends despite their different backgrounds. I, of course, was making regular stops to check on them with Feather coming along to help keep spirits up. We never wanted to leave when it was time to get home. We even started bringing Sweet Dreams along so we didn't have to find a babysitter that didn't mind staying late. That's when I knew I had gotten the right group together."

"So you just stopped by the clinic and handed out the elements?" she asked.

"Not exactly," I said, "It was shortly after Kizzy Graduated. She was the first one I asked other than Feather because for all I knew she planned to go home right away. It turns out she was going to ask if I thought there was a place for her in Equestria. So it was a win-win."

"So is that why Zecora lives in Equestria?" Apple Bloom asked.

"No, but maybe yes," I said, "The Zecora I knew back then, Kizzy's daughter, actually moved far away to be closer to the zebra homeland so she could find a special somebody. I can't say I know why this Zecora moved back."

"That's kinda cool," she said, "so what about the good part? what happened when you used the elements?"

"Ponies forgot," I said as I remembered this detail myself.

"Yea," she said, "ponies forgot the whole thing. That's why I'm asking you."

"No," I said, "when we used the elements, ponies around us forgot everything but their core identity, and even that was tainted as they forgot what they stood for. It was a necessary evil. So many ponies stood for killing each other we didn't know what else to do."

"Wow," she said, "how did it happen the first time?"

"Well we went to the Castle of the Two Sisters and got the Elements," I said, "at first we thought Celestia was off her rocker because all we found were five rocks. We were just going to collect them and leave but a mob of ponies blocked our way out. They shouted something about being in league with the Pony of Shadows and his nocturnal henchmen."

"What did you do?" she asked.

"I stood my ground," I said, "Feather held in a laugh, Drum Beat offered them food and medicine, Sculptured Stone and Apple Seed were trying very different reasoning tactics, but Kizzy saved the day."

"What did she do?" Apple Bloom asked looking at me with an awestricken expression.

"She stomped and shouted, 'Silence!'" I said, "and everypony stopped to listen. She stomped her hoof again and said, 'the enemy you fear is not here. It seems as to me though you are afraid of your dreams.' The leader of the mob just stared at her before asking, 'What do you know about dreams?'"

"What did she say to that?" Apple Bloom was starting to lean in on the table.

"Don't lose your balance," I reminded her, "She said, 'In the native land where I am from, dreams are read by everyone. They tell of the hopes and fears we hold deep inside. They often send children to run away and hide. To believe they are true is quite a shame, you have only yourself to blame,' Well the mob wasn't having it, 'Why should we listen to you?' they asked, 'when every last one of us is seeing the same thing every night?'"

"That is a good point," Apple Bloom said.

"No, it's not," I said, "Kizzy came back with, 'You live in a small group, on the edge of a dark woods, and wonder why you all fear those in black hoods. In this place creatures abound, it's not alway's clear what is around. To call you all wrong may appear obscene, but tell me you don't talk about what you think you've seen.'"

"Now that is a good point," Apple Bloom admitted.

"They didn't like it," I said, "They started calling her a liar and we thought we were going to have to defend ourselves against a group of civilians, but that's when it happened."

"What happened," Apple Bloom asked anxiously.

"The element's started glowing," I said, "if your sister told you about them getting the elements, it went pretty much the same. Only when the dust settled rather than Luna and necklaces, we were each holding a gem inlaid piece of medical equipment, and faced with a group of ponies that didn't know anything but their names and relationship to each other."

"What the buck did you do then?" she asked.

"Watch the language young lady," I said, "I can't stand when people go replacing swear words and shit. Saying buck to mean fuck kinda makes your siblings sound bad. Bucking in the field all day. Your whole family is full of apple buckers."

She burst out laughing, "ah guess you have a point. So what the fuck did you do?"

"I addressed the crowd," I said, "I think it helped that I was holding a fancy clipboard because everypony seemed to think I was in charge."

"A fancy clipboard?" She asked.

"That's what the elements picked for me," I said, "a silver clipboard with a blue gemstone embedded in the back of it."

"So what did you say?" she asked.

"I lied," I said, "I pretended we had found them out there. I said, 'That was a close one. Do you guys remember anything? You were almost crushed when that roof caved in. I think it gave you amnesia.' I tapped a hoof on the empty clipboard, 'This is clearly a dangerous place, you shouldn't be living so close to it. Let's get your things and find a safer place for you.'"

"So you just talked all those ponies into moving?" she asked, "Why?"

"Kizzy had a point," I said, "we didn't have Luna then, so we had to make sense of our own dreams. For a group of ponies to live so close to a woods that they didn't understand... It was dangerous. For them and any pony that wandered into the woods."

"That is true," she said, "So where did you move them to?"

"The injured ponies Drum Beat saved had already started rebuilding the village they decided to call Manehatten," I said, "they had a lot of empty houses that only needed a little work done."

"Sounds like it all worked out," she said, "Thank's for telling me the story."

"Any time," I said, "so what now."

"Ah think you should check that book," she said, "It's shakin' the whole table."

I opened Celestia's journal to read;
Dear Jerry,

Are you sure you want all of them? You did see the shelves, right?

Princess Celestia
I picked up a quill with my hoof and tried to write, but I couldn't line it up with the paper.

"That's why we use our mouth," Apple Bloom pointed out.

I took the quill in my mouth and dragged it along the page managing to make a few likes that resembled the word 'yes' if you squinted. The Princess replied immediately.
Are you ok? Should I send help?
"Apple Bloom, would you mind?" I held the quill out to her and she took it in her teeth, but not before taking the chance to laugh at me, "I just want to say 'yes' but go ahead and add to stack them on my table in the living room."

She put the quill to the book and in the neatest penmanship, she wrote this note.
Dear Princess Celestia,

Everything is fine. Jerry is just that bad at writing with his mouth. It's a long story but he's a pony at the moment.

He was just trying to say 'yes'. He would like them on his living room table.

Your subject,
Apple Bloom.
"Now I'm going to need you to write in this one," I set Twilight's book on the kitchen table, "We're going to want help."

"Ok," she said, "this must be a lot of books."

"You can say that again," I said as a perfectly arranged stack of books appeared in the living room.

It was about three feet high and covered the entire surface of the coffee table. I immediately regretted not saying floor when I heard the table leg creek. It seemed to be holding though...