California Express (Twilight Sparkle) by Mossbergison

Nov 12th, 2015
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  1. >Right as calculated, Twilight took a quick moment to enjoy the feeling of satisfaction.
  2. >No time dilation, no phantom limbs, nothing strange.
  3. >After all she was the one who had designed the portal, well not this one, but the original.
  4. >It had been a few years since the first was made.
  5. >Finally she got to see what was on the other side, as the first Equestrian royalty.
  6. >And to give an address of friendship to the United Nations too.
  7. >As much as she tried to hide it, the prospect did excite her.
  8. >Opening her eyes and looking about revealed the airport terminals.
  9. “Welcome to Portland”
  10. >Huh, Portland, she read about it… that was the city with the space needle?
  11. >No that was Seattle; she’d have to study up some more at some point to avoid insulting the humans.
  12. >Either way she looked about, families and individuals all moved from the portals towards the immigration stalls.
  13. >All pony, no humans going from Equestria.
  14. >She magiced her saddle bags up and onto her.
  15. >It was much more difficult that she was used to.
  16. >Out of curiosity she tried to lift them again, it got even harder.
  17. >She all of a sudden felt very naked.
  18. >On the outside she took a few calming breaths, on the inside, screaming.
  19. >”Will all ponies here on the indentured servitude program move to gate A-2, Thank you”
  20. >The crowd began moving, she could tell the crowd recognized her.
  21. >Most were respectful enough to keep walking to their gate, a few waved.
  22. >Within moments she was left standing alone in the terminal, all the others having been part of the indentured servitude program.
  23. >Of course emigration had increased as human exports made a lot of pony’s jobs redundant.
  24. >Left standing alone the man sitting at the immigration stall waved her over.
  25. >”You, of small and purple, yes come.”
  26. >She approached and put down her passport and government visa
  27. >The man’s eyes widened when he saw them
  28. >”You are of horse government no? Perhaps you can get my daughter visa for moving!”
  29. >Twilight looked behind her, regarding the area for emigration.
  30. “I thought most of the work was on earth?”
  31. >”Is true, but… horse land have healthcare… and less dragons.”
  32. “There’s dragons here?”
  33. >He stamped the passport very loudly speaking over the stamping in a thick eastern European accent.
  34. >”We have lots of things here! Now, go down hall, you have man waiting for you.”
  35. “Can you answer my question first please?”
  36. >”Is probably best if you ask man, English, not so good.”
  37. >He had a truly apologetic expression; Twilight rolled her eyes and continued down the hall.
  38. >off to a great start.
  39. >To her mild surprise the hallway had a moving floor.
  40. >It wasn’t anything mindboggling but it was still an interesting concept she hadn’t thought about.
  41. >She alternated between walking down it and running up it, having fun with the unnatural speeds.
  42. >That was until the hallway opened up allowing her to see out the panoramic window.
  43. >What once was the airport had now become a graveyard of planes, all in different states of repair.
  44. >She didn’t know anything about their mechanics or design, but it was apparent that a few had been detonated from the inside.
  45. >As the floor moved it revealed more, dragon carcasses, left to rot in the northern rain.
  46. >Many human vehicles littered the field, many tracked, more wheeled, all armed.
  47. >Twilight didn’t know what quite what to make of it, last she heard earth was supposed to be very pretty.
  48. >The floor stopped moving under her, and she tumbled forward with an ‘oof’ and laid splayed across the ground.
  49. >A hyena pitched laugh echoed around the near empty lobby.
  50. >Looking up Twilight met eyes with a tall male human, dressed in a very… practical manner.
  51. >Heavy boots, stacked with heavier pants, a durable earth toned coat, with buzzed hair.
  52. >The piece of cardboard he held had ‘Princess Twilight Sparkle’ written in sharpie across it.
  53. >He crossed the distance in a few steps before offering his hand.
  54. >It was smeared in black engine grease and covered in small cuts.
  55. >”Twilight Sparkle I presume?”
  56. “Was it that obvious?”
  57. >The man lifted her up with ease, being over twice her height.
  58. >”You’re a funny one, this’ll be a fun adventure.”
  59. “Are you sure you’re my contact? You don’t seem too professional.”
  60. >The tall man reached into his coat pocket and produced a booklet of papers.
  61. >Twilight took them with her wings not wanting to exhaust herself with more magic.
  62. >She was a little clumsy with it, not too well practiced.
  63. >”As you can see, I’m what you call a contractor, well, that would be the case were this not my first contract.”
  64. >She raised an eyebrow.
  65. >”Hey, I’m the most official person on this coast. Not like we’ve seen any actual government officials in years.”
  66. “And why’s that?”
  67. >The tall man started walking, motioning for her to follow.
  68. >It was only in the flutter of his coat that she spotted a revolver holstered to the man’s belt.
  69. >”Oh, don’t be so modest, the portals! They changed everything.”
  70. “You do realize that warrants a little more explanation?”
  71. >”Sure, after all I am being paid to help you.”
  72. >The two of them stepped out of the airport into the dead terminal drop off.
  73. >Two things were visible in the rain and gloom.
  74. >A old school ford ranger with large all terrain tires, roll cage, and beefy suspension,
  75. >and a chain of armored buses down the other side of the terminal.
  76. >”So lemme show you our route… oh, almost forgot… name’s Anon.”
  77. >Anon opened the door to reveal two bucket seats with five point harnesses.
  78. >He pulled out a document tube and took out a large series of maps, making sure to shield them from the rain.
  79. >”So our route is the one highlighted in red. Should take about 5 days.”
  80. “Why can’t we go straight across?”
  81. >Anon pointed to the large green crayon circle covering half the map.
  82. >”Wendigo territory, nothing makes it through…”
  83. >His hand moved to the large plains of middle America.
  84. >”Diamond dogs, they’ll kill and eat you.”
  85. >His hand moved to the mountain range along California, and again to what was labeled Mexico.
  86. >”Minotaurs, they’ll kill rape and eat you, luckily in that order.”
  87. >He pointed again to the south east.
  88. >”Griffons, they have a toll system, and bandits will likely kill us.”
  89. “What happened? I thought Earth was a nice place.”
  90. >Anon gave a shit eating grin and dead pan eyes to the princess.
  91. >”You tell me?”
  92. >The ranger wound up following the buses.
  93. >The buses wound up following a chain of Monsanto corporate police MRAPS
  94. “So are you going to tell me or not?”
  95. >”I didn’t think I had to, what happens when you ponies start fucking with other worlds?”
  96. “Usually harmony and friendship, I don’t know why you guys got it wrong.”
  97. >Anon chuckled for a moment before changing lanes and speeding ahead of the convoy of indentured servants.
  98. “And what’s in those buses?”
  99. >She had actually never seen a bus before, but a quick study session had done a lot for her.
  100. >”Immigrants.”
  101. “You mean ponies?”
  102. >”Yeah, slaves, headed to their dead end lives and taking human jobs.”
  103. “Isn’t slavery illegal? Or are you humans that socially backwards?”
  104. >”funny… Aw… dammit.”
  105. >Twilight turned her attention to the highway in front of them which was blocked off by a hastily assembled barricade.
  106. >Behind it stood a mass of humans, all looked hungry and angry.
  107. >A certain uniting primal anger, the kind of a whole species lashing out.
  108. >They had picket signs in all languages and flaming bottles.
  109. >Anon down shifted gears and brought the ranger to a slow stop.
  110. >”Hold on.”
  111. >Twilight followed Anon’s gaze out the back window as the Monsanto ‘slave’ train sped along right at the barrier.
  112. >The barricade exploded into action as a hail of bricks and improvised explosives erupted forth.
  113. >Most of them bounced or simply splattered against the MRAPs and buses.
  114. >Anon reached down and switched off the lights on the ranger and began to creep the vehicle.
  115. >He aimed for an ignored part of the barricade as the rioters over took one of the security vehicles and flipped it.
  116. >The rest of the convoy gunned it through, escaping with only minimal fire.
  117. >The ranger easily made its way over the barrier as anon continued to run it quietly.
  118. >”You know… my dad grew up in the Thatcher era of England.”
  119. >Twilight looked out the window, reading the signs through the rain.
  120. >”He used to talk about the riots and how he would join the kids at throwing rocks at the scabs.”
  121. >The signs denoted themselves as the humanity front, and that she should leave earth.
  122. >Or go fuck herself.
  123. “Aren’t we going to go help them?”
  124. >He eyes locked on the flaming over turned MRAP.
  125. >”Not unless you wanna die too.”
  126. >Anon sighed as he turned the lights back on and began accelerating.
  127. >”I know for a fact you can’t use your magic too good, and I’m just one dude.”
  128. “Well I’m sure we can do something. Just drive by really fast. Maybe we can scare them.”
  129. >As she said that the gunshots started to echo out across the highway.
  130. >The mob surrounding the MRAP dispersed, as a few of the security crew clawed their way out and continued firing.
  131. >”Well…”
  132. >Anon pointed at the circle of security personnel now standing abandoned in the Portland rain.
  133. >”Maybe that’s why we got harmony wrong.”
  134. >The vehicle groaned and whined as it shifted into reverse and approached the security personnel slowly.
  135. >Anon opened the door and stood up, with his arms out in front of him.
  136. >”You guys want a lift?”
  137. >They drove in silence for a while.
  138. >Anon seemed well at ease, this was just another day in his life.
  139. >Twilight was still trying to piece together what was happening.
  140. >The UN human representatives always made it seem like earth was a well put together place.
  141. >Yet, she had been on earth for about two hours now, and already she had seen a riot, a rotting dragon, and a human who didn’t speak English.
  142. >A world with many different competing languages was a scary thought.
  143. >Her reverie was broken by a tapping on the rear window.
  144. >Right, the survivors of the riot were riding in the bed, hanging against the roll cage.
  145. >The face of one of the security personnel was waving in the rear window of the ranger.
  146. >Anon reached up and slid the rear window open, the security women stuck her face next to the opening.
  147. >”Thanks for stopping bro, wanna ciggy?”
  148. >”Anytime friend, and that sounds great.”
  149. >She shoved the tattered remains of a pack of camels through the opening, Anon took the pack.
  150. >He bit the leading cigarette and pulled it out before handing the pack back.
  151. >She moved to close the window when Twilight put her hoof up stopping the window.
  152. “Wait… Where are those ponies going?”
  153. >The woman shrugged.
  154. >”I don’t ask, I’m just happy to have a job.”
  155. “Even after that?”
  156. >She smiled, a sour hollow one, the kind depressed people did when laughing at themselves.
  157. >“Hey, I got a place to rest my head and a warm meal waiting for me. More than those assholes back there.”
  158. “So… You’re okay with what’s happening?”
  159. >”Fuck no, ever since those damn things opened things are just getting worse.”
  160. “So what happens to the ponies on the buses.”
  161. >Anon had finally light his cigarette, he took a drag and said in the most somber voice she had heard yet.
  162. >”Twilight. You need to stop asking.”
  163. “No, I have a right to know.”
  164. >The Security woman sighed.
  165. >”Depends on the bus. It never looks nice though. Sometimes it’s a factory, sometimes it’s a slaughterhouse.”
  166. “…”
  167. >”…”
  168. >The woman stared the mare down.
  169. >”We’re not savages, we don’t eat them, the do the slaughtering. Of livestock.”
  170. >Anon took another drag, filling the small cab with carcinogens.
  171. >”I told you.”
  172. “I knew you were omnivores, but I thought you’d at least do it yourself.”
  173. >The woman shrugged, closed the window and turned to lean back against it.
  174. >she was done with this conversation.
  175. >The cab returned to silence, Twilight hooved her way through her bag and took a quill in her magic.
  176. >She ignored the strain as she began to re-write some portions of her UN address.
  177. >They finally stopped in Redding California.
  178. >The Monsanto personnel were picked up by some guy in a stanced and lowered accord.
  179. >It was impressive that all of them fit in the thing.
  180. >Both of them were very tired, but fortunately Anon managed to recall a motel that was still open.
  181. >Short staffed but open.
  182. >Stepping into the lobby Twilight could feel the layer of dust that had built up.
  183. >Everything was old and half broken, but repaired by love and glue.
  184. >The older woman with smile lines behind the counter smiled truly.
  185. >”Welome, welcome. It’s not often we get such the odd couple.”
  186. >Or anybody be the looks of it.
  187. >”Room for two?”
  188. >Twilight was about to speak up when Anon took over.
  189. >”Room for one.”
  190. >”And how will you be paying?”
  191. >Anon took out a large bag from his coat while Twilight stepped up on her hind legs to see the counter.
  192. >He opened the bag and started sliding stuff out of it.
  193. >”I got some rubles, lotta euros, more pesos. Whatcha taking?”
  194. >”Any dollars?”
  195. >”Only Canadian.”
  196. >”Anything historic?”
  197. >”You take guilders?”
  198. >”No, anything gold?”
  199. >Anon reached into the bag.
  200. >”Just a few bits of jewelry.”
  201. >”100 Rubles and that ring.”
  202. >”80 and the ring.”
  203. >”20 euros and the ring.”
  204. >”15 euros and 40 rubles… and the ring.”
  205. >The two humans looked each other down for a little.
  206. >”That seems fair.”
  207. >”Coolio, thanks for being open.”
  208. >The older smile lined woman turned around to get the key.
  209. >As she did so Anon reached down towards the register
  210. >Thinking quickly Twilight smacked him in the side with her hoof.
  211. >”Ow.”
  212. >He looked down at her, and she slowly shook her head in disappointment.
  213. >The woman turned around and Anon’s spine solidified immediately.
  214. >They regarded each other for a few seconds.
  215. >She decided to return to her cheery disposition.
  216. >”Alright deary, here’s the key to the room.”
  217. >She handed in to Anon who immediately hung the key ring on Twilights horn.
  218. >Much to her annoyance.
  219. >”And there should be a buzzer in the bathroom. Please ring that and wait five minutes before you take a shower.”
  220. “Why what’s wrong?”
  221. >Both humans in the room answered at the same time.
  222. >”Gas shortages.”
  223. “oh.”
  224. >Anon started walking down the hall, forcing Twilight to trot to keep up.
  225. >He quickly and wordlessly found the room, took the key from her horn and opened the door.
  226. >”Alright, I’ll be outside, press this button if you need help.”
  227. >Anon placed a buzzer on the counter.
  228. >”It’ll wake me up.”
  229. “So you can tell me a bed time story?”
  230. >”No, so no one kills you or tries to send you back to Equestria.”
  231. >He walked out and gripped he door knob.
  232. >”Also, you should know that the humanity front has a price on all the royalty.”
  233. >He hesitated for a second.
  234. >”So, try to stay quiet.”
  235. >Sleep came surprisingly easy.
  236. >However upon waking she could feel the lack of magic.
  237. >Groggily she stood in the shower, it came out artic cold.
  238. >Halfheartedly she tapped the buzzer and waited for it to heat up, slowly the water changed.
  239. >It never reached hot, just warm.
  240. >Finally ready to leave, she put the buzzer in her bag and opened the door.
  241. >She took a moment to regard the graffiti across the hall
  242. “Go home pony”
  243. >Welcoming.
  244. >Heading down the hall and out the door there was a new person at the lobby,
  245. >A darker skinned male, who didn’t stop her as she walked out.
  246. >”Thank you come again.”
  247. >Yeah, right.
  248. >Finding the ranger wasn’t hard; it was the only vehicle in the parking lot.
  249. >She climbed up the welded pipe bumper and into the bed, where Anon had rolled out a sleeping bag.
  250. >He was still asleep with morning frost coating his face.
  251. >She took the buzzer out of her bag, he said this would wake him.
  252. >Stepping on the button, she jumped back as the Ranger’s car alarm went off.
  253. >Anon shot upright, one hand going into his revolver, and his head going right into the roll cage.
  254. >”Son of a whore!”
  255. >He sat for a few minutes rubbing his head.
  256. >He opened his eyes and slowly holstered the weapon.
  257. >”Morning.”
  258. “Morning.”
  259. >With all the grace of a 2x4 he rolled out of the truck bed and opened the passenger door.
  260. >He took out a propane stove and set it up on the tailgate.
  261. >”How do you take your coffee?”
  262. “One cube of sugar and a lot of milk.”
  263. >”I only got sugar.”
  264. “That’s alright.”
  265. >He took out the kettle and a started scooping the frost off the ground and putting it in the kettle.
  266. >”You want breakfast?”
  267. “Depends on what you have. It isn’t scooped off ground is it?”
  268. >With one hand still on his head Anon smiled, a crooked smile.
  269. >”Everything came from the ground at some point, seriously though. I was told ponies like apples, so I got a few last night.”
  270. >Anon walked back over the open passenger door and took out a small plastic bag and placed it in front of her.
  271. >”You cold?”
  272. “A little.”
  273. >Reaching over the stove Anon pulled up the sleeping bag and laid it over her head.
  274. >”Mi casa es su casa.”
  275. “What?”
  276. >”Sorry, means ‘my house is your house’.”
  277. >She looked at the ranger below her.
  278. “Such an overwhelming gift.”
  279. >”Up yours it took me years to build this thing.”
  280. >Anon reached into the plastic bag and took out a raw potato, and then simply started eating it.
  281. >Twilight was still struggling to hold the apple between her hooves without magic.
  282. >Anon was pouring the hot water into two cups of instant coffee, he was using a bandana to strain the water.
  283. >He had just finished the pouring the second cup when a loud blaring siren started up.
  284. “What’s that?”
  285. >”Dragon siren!”
  286. >Anon slid under the truck and came back out with a long piece of rebar with a can of soup on the end.
  287. >”Just… Stay clear of the fire.”
  288. >He pulled a pin on the end of the soup can and joined the slowly growing group of humans gathering at the end of the street.
  289. >A few seconds after a treaded human vehicle, almost as wide as the street pulled up behind the group.
  290. >Behind it flew a flag she didn’t recognize.
  291. >The group scattered.
  292. >She could see the dragon now.
  293. >It landed and started taking whatever it thought to be valuable off the tops of buildings or from the streets.
  294. >She let herself off the back of the truck and started galloping towards the treaded vehicle.
  295. >Surely she could help, magic or not.
  296. >Maybe she could help them reach an agreement of some sorts.
  297. >After all diplomacy is always the bes-
  298. >The cannon on the treaded vehicle fired, knocking her back on the ground.
  299. >Thousands of steel balls surged from the end of the muzzle.
  300. >Surprisingly the shot wasn’t aimed at the dragons body, but at its wings.
  301. >It shredded them like paper, that’s when the humans seemed to charge it.
  302. >From the rooftops and from the street dozens of those rebar poles came fourth.
  303. >Each one burst with a shaped charge.
  304. >The dragon thrashed and screamed as the humans go closer, the explosive spears dwindling down.
  305. >It was forced to the ground as the treaded vehicle surged forth speeding towards the downed dragon.
  306. >A cheer erupted from the humans as the treaded vehicle accelerated over the dragons head, crushing under it’s own weight.
  307. >Much to her surprise the humans started hooking up the dragons scales to the vehicle and pulling them off.
  308. >Slowly the crowd dispersed, most of the humans walked past her without a second glance.
  309. >A few though, a few had some deathly stares.
  310. >She sat down, wondering how she might have been able to broker an agreement between the two parties.
  311. >Anon came back out of the crowd dragging a large scale with him.
  312. >”We need to go.”
  313. “Have you ever tried talking to the dragons?”
  314. >Anon kept walking dragging the scale.
  315. >”We used too, but since dragons aren’t really organized you can only form agreements with individuals.”
  316. >He made it to the truck and started packing the stove and handed Twilight the coffee and a bag of sugar.
  317. >”So everything’s kinda fallen back on the live and let live principle.”
  318. >Twilight looked unamused.
  319. >”Not my fault that dragon decided to start ransacking the place. Now get in the danger ranger.”
  320. >Anon threw the scale into the bed and lifted the tailgate.
  321. >”These people are angry and looking for something to blame.”
  322. >They drove in silence for a while, Twilight at some point having taken out a book from her bag.
  323. >Many questions buzzed about her, but Anon didn’t seem too inclined to talk.
  324. >”We’re about a third of the way done with today’s journey.”
  325. >Twilight put her bookmark on the line she stopped at and closed it, she was starting to get used to the limited magic here.
  326. “How can you tell?”
  327. >Anon pointed out the window, it was a mass of brown and dead vines all aligned in rows.
  328. >”Vineyards, I used to have a friend who worked up here, brilliant welder, he made the tanks for all the wineries.”
  329. >Silence for a few seconds.
  330. >An old, but not illegible sign passed them, encouraging them to go wine tasting.
  331. >”You like Wine?”
  332. “I’m not a big drinker, but I’m always willing to appreciate an art.”
  333. >”Right on… Buckle up.”
  334. >With a substantial and reliable click Twilight did her harness.
  335. >It wasn’t sized too well for her but it would do the job of keeping her in the bucket seat.
  336. >Anon wrenched the steering wheel over and drove the Ranger into shallow valley before the barbed wire fence of vineyard.
  337. >The Ranger caught air for a good 5 or so seconds.
  338. >That was the happiest she’d seen him in the past two days.
  339. >It landed hard, but the heavy I beam suspension took it well.
  340. >He didn’t slow down as they sped along the dirt road.
  341. >Coming to the Tasting house in the middle of the dead vines he once again yanked hard on the steering.
  342. >The wheels broke traction and Twilight gripped hard on the seat with her inadequate forelimbs.
  343. >It came to rest parked almost perfectly between two benches.
  344. >Anon sat for a split second before saying to himself;
  345. >”Like a Glove”
  346. >His heavy boots made a regular ‘clump’ noise as he climbed out of the cellar with the only bottle he could find.
  347. >Walking up to the park bench, Twilight was sitting tense warily regarding him as he set the bottle down and pulled the coffee mugs up.
  348. >Twilight had set the bag of food and her saddle bags on the table.
  349. >”Relax, it wasn’t that fast. Besides, I see those wings; flight is probably a whole lot faster.”
  350. “I’m in control when I fly.”
  351. >Anon started pouring, he only poured himself a small amount, on account of imminent driving.
  352. “Besides, I don’t often fly.”
  353. >”Oh?”
  354. >He took a sip immediately, not at all letting it breath.
  355. “Well I didn’t always have wings.”
  356. >”Huh.”
  357. >She reached out her hooves and attempted to swirl the wine like she’d seen Rarity do.
  358. >Anon turned to the side, looking out over the dead hills, small patches of wild grass broke through the California drought.
  359. >”Man I remember when this place was all greens and purple. People used to come from all over to tour these places.”
  360. >He looked down at his drink, not noticing twilight quietly magicing a note book and a quill out.
  361. >”For a short while there it was the ponies doing the grunt work here… Guess it doesn’t matter anymore.”
  362. >He took another sip.
  363. >”Man, and I thought we treated the Mexicans bad, I swear, those last few harvests were made all the sweeter by the bloodied hooves feeding those delicate ass plants.”
  364. >She took a few more scribbles, he caught the movement out of the corner of his eye.
  365. >”You know, writing for the future is a damn good way to miss the present.”
  366. “It’s a good way to preserve the present.”
  367. >”Ah, that’s bull, things are always changing, even knowledge… But then again what do I know?”
  368. >He finished the last of his drink, just as Twilight was starting hers.
  369. “So… You mistreated ponies?”
  370. >”Easy there imperator, I never did any such, but a lot of the people who owned the vineyards were in desperate need of hands.”
  371. >He rolled his hands, a strange gesture to Twilight, but entirely natural to Anon.
  372. >”What with most humans either dead or dying.”
  373. >He took a breath, not uneasy with the topic, but not exactly happy about it.
  374. >”And well, ponies were cheap, hell almost free, and the laws hadn’t caught up to give them rights yet.”
  375. >He feigned interest in looking that the worn label on the bottle, not daring to look her in the eyes.
  376. >”Most guys were pretty decent to their workers, some though… whoof… forget cheating pay checks, I heard about a few straight up ‘disciplinarians’.”
  377. >He air quoted the last word.
  378. >”Not that it mattered. Parasprites tore this whole area clean of anything that was edible.”
  379. >Twilight chuckled a little, knowing her own experience with the little hell spawns.
  380. “How long did it take you humans to figure them out?”
  381. >Anon snorted, an unappealing but brutally honest action.
  382. >”We didn’t, once they got to the Midwest corn fields, which were half frozen, the air force carpet bombed the shit out of them.”
  383. “Do you humans kill everything you don’t understand?”
  384. >She said it as a joke but it had a bitter edge.
  385. >”Eh… Get off your high horse.”
  386. >…
  387. >”heh.”
  388. “That’s not funny.”
  389. >”Pretty funny.”
  390. “Horse puns are played out. I better not have to deal with this the rest of the trip.”
  391. >Anon pulled out pocket knife and pulled over the last apple from the plastic bag.
  392. >”Naw that’s all I got.”
  393. >He cut the apple in half, realized that there was a bad spot, and cut that out as well.
  394. >After a few brief seconds of deliberation he placed the larger half in front of Twilight.
  395. >”Right, I’m gonna go try to find some fuel… or anything really”
  396. “Wait, hold on.”
  397. >She struggled with her saddle bags for a minute, drank the last of her glass, and took the apple half in her mouth.
  398. “I’mf comin’ wifth”
  399. >Anon stared her down for a second.
  400. >”What?”
  401. “I’mf comin’ wifht!”
  402. >With an exaggerated action that didn’t fit his serious face he put his hand to his ear.
  403. >”What!”
  404. >Twilight didn’t respond, gazing back with an unamused expression.
  405. >”Spoil sport.”
  406. >He started walking towards the back end of the facility,
  407. >It was a relatively fruitless adventure.
  408. >They walked back to the ranger, with just two little one gallon containers of water.
  409. >They would have been fine without them, but it was better to be safe than sorry.
  410. >”What I don’t understand is why the Ponies keep coming over. There’s nothing here.”
  411. “Well, all your imports have laid off a lot of ponies.”
  412. >”I thought the cutie mark thing guaranteed work?”
  413. “Not really, it just shows what your true calling is.”
  414. >Anon placed the gallon containers behind the passenger seat.
  415. >”Show what does your star mean?”
  416. “Oh, my special talent is magic.”
  417. >Anon started to climb into the bed, stopping half way through to look at her dumbly.
  418. >”… Isn’t that… a little vague?”
  419. “Not really, anything magic is my specialty.”
  420. >He stood behind the big exterior gas tank and checked its level with the gauge on the side.
  421. >”So… You’re good at everything.”
  422. “Not everything.”
  423. >”Ok, so what are you bad at?”
  424. >Turning in place Anon took a gas can from it’s retainer in the bed and uncapped it.
  425. “I’m not very good dealing with anxiety.”
  426. >”Is anyone?”
  427. >He started to pour the gas in, giving the air around them the familiar stench.
  428. “What’s your special talent anyways?”
  429. >”I don’t get one, I wasn’t so blessed.”
  430. “Eugh, I’m not good at everything.”
  431. >”Maybe I do have a special talent, maybe it’s annoying you.”
  432. “I’ll say.”
  433. >”You know what, I think I’ll get that tattooed on my ass next town we stop in.”
  434. “What a picture of my face.”
  435. >She smiled and magiced an illusion of a picture frame, before immediately feeling tired.
  436. >”Don’t tempt me.”
  437. >They were quickly back on the road, Only stopping to cut the barbed wire to let the ranger out.
  438. >Twilight got out and tried to help, but it was hard to use the wire cutters with just her hooves.
  439. “Is what we just did legal?”
  440. >”No, but no one cares. The owners are probably dead, if not, they haven’t been there in years.”
  441. “Hmm.”
  442. >”Fine, only doing things legally from here on out.”
  443. “Good”
  444. >The ranger climbed he hill back to the highway and they were off again.
  445. “Thanks for stopping anyways. Human wine is… strange.”
  446. >”Eh, that’s probably a bad example, improperly stored, mishandled… whatever.”
  447. “So… I’ve been meaning to ask you, what do you think of the portals?”
  448. >”You mean the ponies?”
  449. “No just the portals.”
  450. >”I think it was the worst thing that could happen.”
  451. “And the ponies?”
  452. >”Meh, there here, don’t be a dick to them.”
  453. “The other humans don’t seem to think so.”
  454. >”Ah, they can’t see past their own dick, everyone’s got a family, everyone’s scared of not having enough.”
  455. “hmm…”
  456. >She scribbled this down in her notes.
  457. >”So… She made a dress using you as an… inspiration?”
  458. “Not really, I think I was just there to sell it, something about Sassy’s marketing scheme.”
  459. >”Then when it became a success… she stopped?”
  460. “Yeah.”
  461. >”Twilight. I think your friends retarded.”
  462. >Twilight had her face against the glass, hooves up, admiring the coastal view of the 101.
  463. “You know… Sometimes I think the same thing.”
  464. >”I mean, artistic endeavors be dammed, you have a market success.”
  465. “You weren’t there, it was killing her on the inside.”
  466. >Anon grunted, having said his piece already.
  467. “How close are we?”
  468. >”About 30 minutes now.”
  469. “How are you always so sure?”
  470. >”I’m usually not, I just spit out an answer, this time however, this time I know for a fact.”
  471. “… Because…”
  472. >”Because this is where I grew up. Oh, forgot to mention, we’re staying at my friend’s house tonight.”
  473. “You have friends?”
  474. >”Believe it or not, I do have quite the budding social circle.”
  475. >The highway turned away from the ocean and into a series of fields.
  476. >Really, the highway came to a collapsed bridge and an impromptu road was made at some point.
  477. >The fields were green and well ordered, what was growing seemed to be strawberries.
  478. >In the distance a couple of figures holding rifles and standing at ease.
  479. >Around them was a sea of different ponies all with their heads diligently down in the crops.
  480. “Is this Monsanto?”
  481. >”Hell no, Monsanto would never let us drive through.”
  482. >One of the figures waved them down and Anon came to a stop besides them.
  483. >”Hey-o! I thought it was you when I saw this pile of junk heading our way.”
  484. >The two men seemed genuinely happy.
  485. >Anon simply relaxed, slowly easing into the home town vibe.
  486. >”Mr. Moores, this is Twilight.”
  487. >The Irish faced man leaned over to look at Twilight who hesitant waved at him.
  488. >”Well it’s about damn time you bought yourself one. Look at that, you got one with wings and a horn.”
  489. >A few of the closer ponies attending the crops looked up at the mention of an alicorn.
  490. >Hushed murmurs of a princess this or royalty that echoed across the fields.
  491. >Immediately the further of the two men turned and fired a shot into the air.
  492. >The fields were silent again.
  493. “Actually, I’m not on any contract. Anon here is.”
  494. >Mr. Morres, looked at Anon.
  495. >”Is this true.”
  496. >Anon white knuckled the steering wheel for a second before responding.
  497. >”Yep! Government contract and everything. Gotta take her to the east coast.”
  498. >Mr. Morres Gave Anon the bug eye for a few seconds before slowly responding.
  499. >”You always were a strange one.”
  500. >There was an awkward silence, from her view she could see Anon getting more and more tense.
  501. >Mr. Morres rolled his jaw about before responding, simply looking at the rangers door handle.
  502. >”Well… If you every need anything you know where to find me and mine.”
  503. >He patted the door with a certain sadness and hesitancy before turning back to his ‘workers’.
  504. >Anon immediate put the vehicle in gear and took off with a surprising lack of dust.
  505. “You’re friends with these people!”
  506. >”They’re practically family, and now, I’m not getting invited to thanksgiving!”
  507. “Well I hope you enjoy it, just remember someone’s shooting over their heads.”
  508. >”It was one shot! Besides your people made the portals, not mine.”
  509. >The dirt road turned back into paved street, with houses starting to appear on either side.
  510. “So, doesn’t mean that your people should be doing this.”
  511. >”How many times do I have to tell you that I don’t think any of this is right?”
  512. >Anon’s eyes stayed locked on the road, not a single facial feature moving.
  513. >Twilight, not so much.
  514. “Well, you don’t see me having hearthswarming eve dinner with the diamond dogs.”
  515. >They reached the town center, a few people waved at the familiar ranger, Anon waved back out the window.
  516. >He made a few few quick turns around some sandbags and defensive positions.
  517. >”What the fuck do you want me to do, if I did everything by your moral logic I’d be sitting with the humanity front.”
  518. “Eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
  519. >”But fair.”
  520. >The ranger came to a stop in front of a single story ranch house.
  521. >Without a word Anon got out of the Ranger grabbed the gas cans out of the back and started marching up to the door.
  522. >Twilight could tell that this conversation was over as far as he was concerned and that she was expected to let herself out.
  523. >Rather than knock he simply kicked the door, his polymer toe caps clanging against it.
  524. >The door opened a creak as a short mixed race man with a great big jewfro stepped out.
  525. >Both Anon’s and the jewfro smiled greatly and bumped fists.
  526. >”Melly! I didn’t think you would be here.”
  527. >Melly took one of Anon’s gas cans before responding.
  528. >”I wasn’t, but… I was about to take off again for Vegas but I’d thought I’d wait.”
  529. >”Vegas is open?”
  530. >Before he could respond, Melly tapped Anon on the shoulder turning him in place.
  531. >He looked at Twilight who had just finished gathering up her bags and was headed over.
  532. >”Who’s the pony? You didn’t buy her contract did you? You fucking mong.”
  533. >Melly tapped Anon in the kneecap with the edge of the empty gas can.
  534. >Anon yelped and hopped, his natural overreaction.
  535. >”Melly, this is Twilight, the job I was telling you about.”
  536. >Twilight put out her front hoof, Melly knelt down a little, took her hoof and shook firmly.
  537. >”You’r princess Twilight Sparkle right?”
  538. “Uh, yes. You’re the first human to know.”
  539. >Melly stood to his full height, which wasn’t much, before taking Twilights saddle bags without asking and heading inside.
  540. >He spoke over his shoulder as he set the stuff down in the middle of the living room.
  541. >”I work with a lot of non-humans, they talk about you a lot.”
  542. “Hopefully good things.”
  543. >Melly shrugged as a two new figures walked in, one male and one female.
  544. >Anon reacted first.
  545. >”Zed, Gwen, This is Twilight”
  546. >They both nodded and said their pleasantries; Zed took Anon by the shoulder
  547. >”Man, you’re gonna want to see what came for you the other day.”
  548. >Melly had laid down on the couch and had taken to reading an old copy of popular science.
  549. >The furniture all reeked of cheap and Swedish, but the reinforced brackets and hand staining made it clear that these were poor people with a purpose.
  550. >This left just Gwen and Twilight standing in the dusty, but well loved living room.
  551. >”So… Do you cook?”
  552. “Eh, sorry, I usually let spike do the cooking.”
  553. >”Oh, I guess I’ll just get started on dinner then.”
  554. “I can still help.”
  555. >Gwen moved over to the kitchen on her stilt like legs.
  556. >”It’s fine, just trying ta feel out your vibes.”
  557. >What was it with humans and walking while talking, it’s like they never rested.
  558. >Twilight stood there awkwardly for a few seconds until she heard music coming from the living room.
  559. >It had only been a few days, but she was already beginning to hate the lack of music.
  560. >Seriously, humans don’t sing daily, isn’t that weird?
  561. >She slowly crept her way to the living room and peaked in, covering half her face.
  562. >The suddenness of this land, and the speed at which moods changed here made her feel out of place.
  563. >Maybe everything was the same in Equestria and it was her that was changing.
  564. >Either way, Melly was sitting alone in the living room still, his sidearm on the table and a record on a player.
  565. >He caught Twilight’s curiosity, and waved her in. He returned to his magazine.
  566. >Twilight took up position on a ancient armchair that creaked with every movement, but showed no weakness.
  567. >She took up one of the large books on the coffee table…
  568. “‘shooters bible 2017.”
  569. >After a few minutes, Zed and Anon came into the living room, Anon had a new gun.
  570. >Both Anon and Zed began disassembling the rifle and Anon’s revolver, meticulously cleaning each part.
  571. >At some point Gwen came back in, waiting for something to heat or cool, Twilight wasn’t sure.
  572. >And every time a record finished Melly would put on a new one and everyone sat content until dinner.
  573. Even then dinner was a quiet affair.
  574. >Until the lights went out and the five of them took to the back yard and started a small fire.
  575. >Zed brought out a cooler of assorted lagers.
  576. >The four humans were content to drink in silence and enjoy a slow night in their strange lives.
  577. >Twilight wasn’t.
  578. “So how do all of you know eachother?”
  579. >Melly looked up pointed at Anon.
  580. >”Roomates back in 2013”
  581. >Then he pointed at Zed and Gwen.
  582. >”Through Anon”
  583. >Zed took a sip before picking up the subject.
  584. >”Me and Gwen married right out of highschool. I went to middle school with Anon.”
  585. “oh…”
  586. >Silent drinking, except for Anon whipping pebbles into the fire.
  587. “I thought there would be more of you.”
  588. >Gwen stretched out before sitting on the cooler and replying a air far too casual for the subject.
  589. >“There were, but you know, plagues, famine, poverty, and warfare.”
  590. “You aren’t angry about it?”
  591. >She shrugged. Melly used his words, his hands out by the fire.
  592. >”No point.”
  593. “No point?”
  594. >Anon spoke this time, a cold low monotone voice.
  595. >”Nope, just keep your head down and make the best life you can for yourself. The best we can hope to do is to stop things from getting worse.”
  596. >He took a long pull from his fosters.
  597. >”We’ll leave tomorrow around 9 or 10. Apparently the road to Vegas is open again; we’ll hitch onto a caravan from there.”
  598. >The house had enough couches and beds that no one was left on the floor.
  599. >However, that said there was only one bed, which was given to Twilight despite her protests.
  600. >She was woken up at around 8 by Zed, who came in carrying a tray of breakfast.
  601. >Not being much of a morning pony Twilight didn’t move when he came in, only looking over at the food once the door clicked closed.
  602. >She could hear a lot of movement.
  603. >Slowly she rolled out of bed, flopped on the floor, and groaned with morning apathy
  604. >The breakfast was simple, two pieces of toast with a glass of water.
  605. >She ate at a slow pace. Until she heard the distinctive ‘thump-thump’ of a single piston.
  606. >Piece of toast in mouth she struggled with the door knob, the lack of easy magic really starting to annoy her.
  607. >Stepping into the hall she nearly bumped into Zed who was standing looking out the open front door.
  608. >He had a mini-14 slung over his shoulder and a few homemade magazine pouches looped to a exposed belt.
  609. >A man dressed in a naval uniform breezed past him talking to a quickly trailing Anon.
  610. >”Right, I got some updated maps and some new info.”
  611. >Anon stopped in the doorway, quickly regarding Twilight with a brief ‘mornin’ before returning his attention to the uniformed man.
  612. >”You gave me a map three days ago in Portland, and yes I know Vegas is open.”
  613. >The uniformed man rubbed his head, he had deep bags under his eyes and his skin seemed to be thinner than a piece of paper.
  614. >He obviously didn’t sleep much. He only noticed Twilight when he took his hand off his head.
  615. >”Princess.”
  616. >He tried his best to salute, but in his state it looked insulting.
  617. >”Look, just update your map with mine, I wanna get back to Hueneme.”
  618. >All the humans present pulled out maps, almost perfectly in sync with one another.
  619. >It was too early for Twilight to endure this strangeness, simply choosing to sit on the floor and try to eat her toast.
  620. >Key word being try, how in the name Tartarus did earth ponies do it so easily.
  621. >The humans squatted on the floor and began marking their maps with whatever they had on hand.
  622. >Anon finished marking his map with a texpen, took a moment to regard it, and was immediately displeased.
  623. >”You’re joking right?”
  624. >The uniformed man looked a little too smug for Twilights comfort.
  625. >”No, and in light of recent changes, the UN address has been moved back.”
  626. “Moved back to when.”
  627. >Twilight still had crumbs on her muzzle and a mouthful of toast.
  628. >The three humans regarded her surprise, assuming a member of royalty wouldn’t speak with a mouthful.
  629. >With a few seconds to compose himself the uniformed man responded in a measured voice.
  630. >”Too whenever you get there… Now, I’m leaving, I have a bunk calling my name.”
  631. >Anon stepped aside letting him out the door, the uniformed man walked uneasily to a large KTM endure bike.
  632. >After putting on his helmet He attempted to kick start it, after failing a few times he called both Zed and Anon over.
  633. >Twilight watched chewing on the crust, interested to see how these contraptions worked.
  634. >She decided on buying a book about human transportation while the two men pushed the bike down the street.
  635. >Having brushed her teeth and her mane with a fair amount of difficulty and some assistance from Gwen she came into the morning sun.
  636. >Melly was standing behind a open top baja bug, he had a flat head screw driver and was turning something on the engines carburetor.
  637. >Zed and Anon both sat on the tailgate of the ranger waiting.
  638. >Anon hopped off the tailgate, hailing Twilight with a raised arm.
  639. >”Sleep well?”
  640. “Better than last night.”
  641. >”Good, good, it’s gonna be a long, probably shitty day.”
  642. “What is it, dragons?”
  643. >”No, the minotaurs and the diamond dogs are starting to close off the road to Vegas, so Melly and Zed are coming along.”
  644. “Alright… Lets get this over with.”
  645. >Zed lifted up the tailgate, shouting out as he did so.
  646. >”That’s the spirit!”
  647. >Anon was unfazed, responding his usual monotone.
  648. >”That said, you have choice of luxury transportation. Melly’s junky ass bug, or the danger ranger.”
  649. >Melly looked up from over the bug.
  650. >”Did he just call my bug ‘junky’?”
  651. >Twilight didn’t respond, instead trotting over to look at the bug, unlike the ranger it didn’t have bucket seats.
  652. “I think I’ll save my spine and go with Melly.”
  653. >After some more idle adjustments by Melly the convoy was off, the bug was much more comfortable ride than the Ranger.
  654. >Not only that but Melly had an ipod hooked up to the sound system.
  655. >Looking about the vehicle Twilight noticed some oddities, namely the 8mm rifle hanging off the frame and the holster on the steering column.
  656. >After about 20 minutes or so of driving Twilight attempted to read the book she brought with her.
  657. >It was ultimately useless, Daring Do not having the same effect as normal.
  658. >It made a certain amount of sense to her as she was living more like Daring now than on any of her previous adventures.
  659. “So… Think we’ll make it to Vegas before tonight?”
  660. >”If not, I’ll be surprised if we make it at all.”
  661. “And why’s that.”
  662. >”It’s open desert, tatzlwurms like to come out at night, eat whatever’s on the road.”
  663. “Can’t we go offroad?”
  664. >Melly looked over at her, a humoured expression across his face, Twilight couldn’t help but smile at the expression.
  665. >It was all in the jewfro.
  666. “I’ll take that as a no then?”
  667. >”No, both of the cars can take it off the road, but doing so puts us at risk of getting trapped by the d-dogs.”
  668. “d-dogs?”
  669. >”diamond dogs. If you stop a vehicle over sand they’ll getcha.”
  670. >Thinking back to her own experiences this made more sense.
  671. >A few minutes of silence passed before the ranger in front of them moved over to the middle of the road.
  672. >With a gentle movement Melly followed along, leaning over to see past the ranger.
  673. >”Looks like Monsanto got some new indentureds.”
  674. “You mean slaves.”
  675. >”Same thing really.”
  676. >Much to Twilights surprise the convoy had moved to avoid hitting a small crowd of ponies walking down the street.
  677. >She pushed her hooves into Melly’s side.
  678. “Wait, stop. Stop!”
  679. >The bug came to a slow rolling stop. Melly looked about, confused.
  680. >”What? Did something fall off the back?”
  681. “No, what are those ponies doing?”
  682. >”I dunno, but they’re walking into the Mojave. They won’t make it.”
  683. “Well?”
  684. >”Well what?”
  685. >By this point the ranger had circled back and the ponies were getting close enough to make out individuals in the roads heat shimmer.
  686. >The ranger pulled up facing the other way, Anon leaned out of the open window as Zed held out the other window.
  687. >He had his ruger braced on his hip, giving the ranger as a whole a very militant look.
  688. >Anon looked at the back of the idling bug.
  689. >”Did something fall off?”
  690. “No, we’re turning back.”
  691. >She stood up in the seat, putting her hoofs against the frame giving her a better speaking platform.
  692. “You’re going to give those ponies a ride to where ever they’re heading.”
  693. >Without another word anon sat back into the ranger.
  694. “You did it for those humans.”
  695. >He didn’t respond, rather, he shifted the ranger into gear and headed for the Ponies.
  696. >Twilight slide back into the plush seat of the bug.
  697. >Melly stared at the road before angrily taking off his outer layer, revealing his telnyashka.
  698. >”Thank you.”
  699. “What?”
  700. >”Thank you, I used to do stuff like that.”
  701. “Why did you stop?”
  702. >”I got jaded, we all did.”
  703. >The ranger came back with a bed full of ponies, some clinging to the roll cage, all scared and emaciated.
  704. >It came to a stop next to the bug again; this time however Anon got out and walked to the bed and started pulling out boxes of supplies.
  705. >Without speaking he started piling them into the back seat of the bug.
  706. >Twilight hopped over the side of the bug and climbed up the ranger into the bed of ponies.
  707. >After they got over the initial shock of their princess being in front of them they bowed, or tried.
  708. >The ones on the roll cage couldn’t do much other than lower their heads.
  709. “It’s fine, it’s fine… just… what are you doing out here?”
  710. >The ponies all looked uncomfortably at each other as Zed got out and leaned against the bed having a cigarette.
  711. >Within moments Anon and Melly joined them, every once in a while taking a cautious glance around.
  712. >Eventually one of the ponies, a Pegasus mare with a dirty brown coat spoke up.
  713. >”Our contracts ran out…”
  714. “So you just left?”
  715. >Anon took a drag from Zeds cigarette before passing it to Melly and responding in a cloud of smoke.
  716. >”They kick them out, once the contracts done no company wants to re-hire a pony.”
  717. “Don’t you know that this place is dangerous?”
  718. >Her genuine concern was lost on the Mare as she looked down feeling a little stupid.
  719. >”Well… we just thought that if we could make it to Vegas we could sell ourselves on a new contract.”
  720. “No… That won’t do… Anon, they’re coming with us.”
  721. >Anon shrugged, it was on the way.
  722. >”Sure, we’ll make vegas before sundown anyways.”
  723. “No coming with us for the whole trip.”
  724. >He put his head down on the edge of the truck bed, sighed and brought his head back up.
  725. >”Yeah, ok.”
  726. >From behind Anon’s back Melly gave her a great big thumbs up.
  727. >Due to the recent increase in passengers the Bug was driving with just Melly.
  728. >The ranger had given up it’s load of supplies to accommodate the ponies with Twilight choosing to sit with her kind.
  729. >Even if they were ponies of a different world and life station it was still comforting to be around her own kind.
  730. “So, it was the lack of work that drove you to earth?”
  731. >The brown Pegasus, Bluegrass Wind with a cutie mark of a banjo, was by far the most talkative of all the ponies they had picked up.
  732. >”Well… With the recent struggles people just aren’t interested in singing anymore.”
  733. >Twilight scribbled this down in her note book, slowly getting used to using her wings to manipulate the pen.
  734. “And you thought that earth would be better?”
  735. >”We were promised food, and work, it seemed like a good deal.”
  736. “Do you regret it?”
  737. >”Well, I guess it’s better than starving on the streets, the influx of human music has put me and mine out of work for a while now.”
  738. “But live performances have always been popular.”
  739. >Bluegrass put her head down as if the weight of the two worlds was crushing her.
  740. >”yeah.”
  741. >The bed of the truck was silent once again, aside from the two humans in the cab singing ‘land down under’.
  742. >Their voices were wrecked by smoke and hydrocarbons, but it was a true and soulful singing.
  743. >Bluegrass’s head turned to look at the cab, listening to their incompetent attempt at music.
  744. >”Sometimes… sometimes I really envy them.”
  745. “huh?”
  746. >”They never learn their calling; I wonder if they know how much freedom that grants them.”
  747. >As the convoy rolled on distant gunshots could be heard.
  748. >First they only heard the deep booms of heavy rifles and shotguns.
  749. >Then the pops of pistols and small bore rifles.
  750. >With a pitched whine of a flat four engine the baja bug came up alongside the ranger, occupying the oncoming lane.
  751. >She couldn’t hear them over the wind noise but judging by the hand motions they were discussing the gun shots.
  752. >After a few seconds a deep thump was heard and a red flare flew up into the sky before a long absence of gunfire.
  753. >Zed climbed his way out of the passenger window until he sat on the door itself.
  754. >He turned and shouted over the wind, Twilight could see that he had himself clipped to the frame of the truck to keep him from rolling out.
  755. >”We’re going to help, you and the ponies wait her, Melly will stay with you.”
  756. “Maybe we can help.”
  757. >Zed smiled, a crooked smile of someone who just watched another shoot themselves in the foot.
  758. >”Sure thing princess… No way to talk you out of this?”
  759. >Twilight shook her head; Bluegrass simply looked up a tired stare.
  760. >She didn’t say anything, rather her stare conveyed the ‘what the fuck princess’ message.
  761. >Anon yanked on the steering taking the Ranger off the road as the bug followed.
  762. >Looking behind the ranger Twilight could see Melly raise a very large handgun and fire.
  763. >The cloud of black powder trailed behind the bug mixing with the exhaust fumes as the red response flare flew forth.
  764. >She kept watching as Melly laid his 8mm rifle across his lap, and racked the charging handle.
  765. >Looking forward, her regret for her decision doubled.
  766. >Anon handed Zed his revolver, Zed tucked it into his belt as he leveled the mini.
  767. >Her eyes caught Anons for a minute, there was no time to talk but she knew she’d hear about this later.
  768. >A second flare sprung up in front of them, immediately followed by more gunfire.
  769. >If the ride was bumpy before it was almost unmanageable now, the ponies clinging on any surface.
  770. > The Ranger crested a hill and nearly ran over a middle aged human women with a .30-30
  771. >All the ponies flew forward and groaned or yelp in pain and shock as the vehicle came to a sudden stop.
  772. >Her ears turned to ringing as Zed immediately fired, and again. Quick imprecise shots.
  773. >Melly leapt over the bugs windshield and ran to join the trio of humans.
  774. >The woman pointed to the middle of a small valley where a kia Sorento had sunk into the ground.
  775. >Taking a quick peak over the rangers cab Twilight could see the large bulky silhouettes of minotaurs ducking back and forth trying to close the distance
  776. >Very few bullets were flying back at the humans as they hid behind their slight rise of dirt.
  777. >The vast majority of the projectiles coming back were arrows or crossbow bolts.
  778. >The woman ran back to one of her own and started speaking hurriedly as Anon lurched out of the ranger dragging his rifle with him.
  779. >Turning around he grabbed the winch hook off the front of the ranger and motioned for Twilight to stay down.
  780. >With that he turned and ran at the Kia as the humans laid forth a new barrage of fire.
  781. >She tensed for a moment, Bluegrass making eye contact with her and shaking her head.
  782. >Vaulting out of the bed she ran fourth, after all, she was the princess of friendship.
  783. >Plans formed in her head about how to bring an agreement between the two parties.
  784. >As she ran past Melly made a lunge for her, but only managed to grab the end of her tail.
  785. >She stumbled forward a little but quickly started running again, flapping her wings for a slight boost.
  786. >The shooting suddenly stopped as she entered open space, Anon took a glance back from under the half sunken Kia.
  787. >He had a look of pure fury, but quickly went back to hooking on the winch.
  788. >Twilight slowed to a trot as everyone had stopped fighting.
  789. “What caused all of this?”
  790. >She could only hear the ‘s’ sounds of the minotaur’s words as they spoke amongst each other.
  791. “If it’s an easy target you want I’m sure we can reach an agreement!”
  792. >The humans on the other hand took this chance to top off their guns.
  793. >Anon gave a thumb up to Zed who ran back to the winch, and waited for another command.
  794. >Without warning a Bolas came flying out from the minotaur lines, catching three of her legs.
  795. >Both sides resumed firing.
  796. “By authority of the Caterlot crown, stop fighting!”
  797. >With a wave of his hand the Kia started moving, being dragged out by the power of smittybilt.
  798. >The kia moved quickly, the series wound winch hauling the vehicle across the soft sand.
  799. >Anon jogged alongside the Kia firing over his head.
  800. >Coming up to Twilight he grabbed her by the bolas and kept running.
  801. >”And I thought you were smart.”
  802. >With a flurry of motion the humans piled into their vehicles, but this time Zed stood in the already crowded bed of the ranger.
  803. >he clipped himself to the roll cage and began firing again, the ponies below shielding themselves from the hot casings.
  804. >Anon threw Twilight into the passenger foot well of the ranger, before jumping into the drivers seat and shifting into reverse.
  805. >As the truck sped up the disconnected winch almost took out the leg of the middle aged woman as she ran to the drivers seat.
  806. >Twilight couldn’t see what was happening but soon the rocking and bumping smoothed out and the sound of gun shots disappeared.
  807. >After a few more minutes of silent driving, save for the ringing in her ears, they slowed to a stop.
  808. >she attempted to move her head to look up, but couldn’t get the right angle to see anything other than the bottom of the ranger’s glove box.
  809. >Suddenly her bonds were cut and she was lifted out of the uncomfortable position and set down on the hot tarmac by Melly.
  810. >He had a grim look as Zed unclipped himself from the roll cage, and started looking down at the ponies.
  811. >”Anypony hurt?”
  812. >The bed of ponies gave various replies, most no, a few sarcastic, one or two complaints about getting bruised on the ride.
  813. “I’m fine.”
  814. >Zed looked back down at her with an unreadable expression.
  815. >As Melly gave her a ruffle on her head Zed put his rifle down on top of the cab and let out a sigh, Anon put his rifle against the truck and ran a hand through his short hair.
  816. >Melly smiled at Twilight.
  817. >”It was a nice try, glad to see someone still cares.”
  818. >Anon walked over to the Kia which had a mean sounding idle problem
  819. >He smiled put his hands on his hips, and spoke out in a loud, but not yelling voice.
  820. >”How bout you kia people?”
  821. >The door swung open and the middle aged women brought her .30-30 to a low position.
  822. >”You’re not a slaver are you?”
  823. >The rest of the doors on the Kia opened as a few more humans piled out, young children, they had their weapons close.
  824. >She could see Zed grip his rifle.
  825. “No! No, they’re not slavers.”
  826. >The lady turned to the ponies in the bed.
  827. >”Well?”
  828. >They shook their heads, she relaxed.
  829. >”Sorry, just, looking out for my kids is all.”
  830. >With that out of the way they stopped in the road for a quick group lunch.
  831. >Twilight was still very on edge, the sudden change seeming unnerving to her, but natural to everyone else.
  832. >As a thankyou the family in the Kia brought out a big 5 pound bag of honey sweetened granola.
  833. >The sugar was just the sweet thing Twilight didn’t know was missing.
  834. >The Melly, Zed, and Anon had taken to the side of the road with the young kids and a few of the ponies.
  835. >Anon had said that when they reached Vegas he needed to talk to her privately, she already knew about what.
  836. >Bluegrass and the few remaining ponies took a place in the shade of the vehicles and napped their quick break away.
  837. >A soccer ball flew back and forth as they played their improvised game.
  838. >This left Twilight with the Mother of the children.
  839. “So… You don’t agree with the use of indentured servants?”
  840. >The mother scoffed, leaning back against the Kia and watching the soccer match.
  841. >”Please honey, they’re slaves plain an simple.”
  842. >Twilight struggled trying to eat the grainy granola with her hoofs.
  843. >Even the most basic of tasks had become near impossible in this world.
  844. >”So why you heading to Vegas?”
  845. “Oh, actually were heading to…”
  846. >It might have been the recent events, but suddenly she didn’t feel so comfortable telling random humans where she was heading.
  847. “Boston.”
  848. >”Good luck.”
  849. “I think we’ll be fine, After all, these three seem to know how to… not die.”
  850. >C’mon Twilight, you can think of something better.
  851. >”Well, jus know that the Griffons are takin’ over d-dog land. Better armor up that truck there.”
  852. >After about half an hour or so they began to pack up again.
  853. >It was a short affair, made longer by the kia’s inability to start, that had the four adult humans looking under the hood and under the car.
  854. >The eldest son stood on top of the Kia with his mother’s rifle keeping watch.
  855. >Twilight decided to take this oppertuinity to interview the most honest of opinions.
  856. >That of the youngest child, a small girl, who despite her single digit age carried herself like someone in the triple digits.
  857. >She sat in the shade of the Kia with a small note book and a pencil sketching the horizon, and of course there was a small .410 propped next to her.
  858. “Hiya, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
  859. >The girl looked up incredulously; Twilight had her head bent down with the fixed smile she used with toddlers.
  860. >”I’m 9, you can drop the baby act.”
  861. “oh…uh… sorry?”
  862. >She went back to her sketchbook.
  863. >The silence started to drag on; Twilight slowly realized she had kept the same frozen expression
  864. >She shook her head as the expression came off her face.
  865. >”Well, you gonna ask or not?”
  866. “Right.”
  867. >She took off her bags and pulled out her notebook with her muzzle and dropped it in front of her.
  868. “So, how do you feel about the ponies that come to earth?”
  869. >The girl never looked at Twilight, only looking away from the page to measure the scene in-front of her.
  870. >”There okay I guess.”
  871. “Are you friends with any?”
  872. >”Not anymore, I mean, dad used to own one… He was pretty cool I guess.”
  873. “Oh, so how did your dad treat him?”
  874. >She shrugged.
  875. >”He ate at the table and cleaned the house, that’s when mom started working.”
  876. >”He was really good at making jokes, and cooking.”
  877. “Where is he now?”
  878. >”I dunno, dad said something about his contract running out, then after a few weeks he left.”
  879. “And what about all the ponies now?”
  880. >”Meh. Everyone’s just trying to live. That’s what dad used to say.”
  881. >She stopped sketching for a few moments.
  882. >”He also said to never hurt anything… He wasn’t very smart.”
  883. >She went back to sketching, ever so slightly turning away from Twilight.
  884. >The Kia started up, as Twilight packed up her stuff, Anon came around from the far side of the kia.
  885. >He snapped and pointed at the bug and ranger in such a way that he seemed a lot more socially retarded than he was.
  886. >”Ready?”
  887. >The three vehicles continued to move as a convoy, Twilight taking her place in the passenger seat of the ranger.
  888. >A request of Anon’s, this of course left Zed to be crammed into the bed with the dozen or so ponies.
  889. >The two of them drove in silence for a while, the only noise being Zed and Bluegrass’s singing.
  890. >It was a fun tune, one of the ‘while we’re alive’ spirit.
  891. >The only lead up to the conversation was the tense atmosphere.
  892. >”You know you fucked up right?”
  893. “I think I could have helped.”
  894. >”You’re gonna get shot, and I’ll be out of a job.”
  895. “Is that worth killing over?”
  896. >”One, It shouldn’t be. Two, I don’t think anyone landed any shots… But that’s not what I wanted to say.”
  897. “Elaborate.”
  898. >Anon leaned back as much as the bucket seats would let him, wiped his face.
  899. >An action which only put more dust into the cracks of his skin.
  900. >”You have to realize you can’t change anything.”
  901. “And here I was, thinking you had a better attitude.”
  902. >”Hey, attitude is everything.”
  903. “Then why is yours so bad?”
  904. >He tapped the wheel in mild irritation.
  905. >”I try to keep in highish spirits, but I’m not gonna lie, those minotaur’s don’t care about any of your morals.”
  906. >There were more cars on the now wider road, looking about as Anon spoke Twilight could see that they must be getting close.
  907. >”After all, like most things they follow the easiest path. And it’s pretty damn easy to kill for survival. You know? Cooperation takes effort that most people don’t want to invest.”
  908. “I think you’re wrong, and I’ll prove it.”
  909. >The convoy merged into a stopped line of cars and trucks of all kinds and makes.
  910. >”You do realize I mean on a large scale right?”
  911. “Well, I never said I’d prove it soon.”
  912. >Twilight rolled down the window and leaned out taking a peak ahead.
  913. >At the head of the line was a large traded vehicle with a large Canon sitting in the middle of the road.
  914. >Uniformed men walked up and down the stretch of cars, letting some in, detaining others.
  915. >Despite the overwhelming presence of firearms and impatient people control was still the norm.
  916. >Looking at some of the other humans in the traffic they actually seemed very impatient.
  917. >In juxtaposition to their brows and mouths, their eyes held certain softness, relived by the mundane and happy to see a government official.
  918. >Even if they were being searched.
  919. >She slinked back into the Ranger after looking over the bed.
  920. >Zed had fallen asleep, his jacket over his face, most of the ponies were chatting amongst themselves, also relived to be surrounded by the slow traffic.
  921. >When she returned to her seat Anon leaned over to her.
  922. >”So how many in front of us?”
  923. >Twilight flinched, she was unsure why, it’s not like he was very close.
  924. >But the smell of gas, dirt, and gunpowder already unwelcome.
  925. “12, why are they doing this?”
  926. >”Fucked if I know. It’s not like Vegas is particularly dangerous.”
  927. “Wasn’t the road closed for a while?”
  928. >”Well yeah, but Vegas itself is kinda a no man’s land”
  929. “Then why is your military here?”
  930. >”Oh, they aren’t military, they’re police… or sheriffs… ah they all look alike.”
  931. >She leaned out the window again for a quick moment.
  932. >The uniformed man carried an automatic carbine, handgun, taser, and enough equipment to supply two people over.
  933. “Have your police always been this well armed.”
  934. >”For as long as I’ve been alive.”
  935. >She took a few minutes to mull this over, the humans must have had a good reason.
  936. “Why?”
  937. >She couldn’t think of one.
  938. “I mean, I studied up, and prior to… prior to the portals humanity had been at it’s most peaceful in almost 100 years.”
  939. >Anon tapped on the glass of the rear window waking Zed.
  940. “The US in particular had it’s crime rate dropping… so… why?”
  941. >Zed shuffled himself upright and looked about.
  942. >”The only why you have to answer is why you know all of this.”
  943. “Well I’m supposed to be giving the address, I though it was something I should study for.”
  944. >”… What else did you read about us?”
  945. >He regretted asking, the next hour or so in traffic was filled with Twilight rattling off facts about human society and biology.
  946. >All from before the portals of course.
  947. >She smiled so wide Anon thought her teeth might break out of her muzzle.
  948. >It looked like Twilight was right at home.
  949. >She only finished when they were the next in line, Anon finally coming up with a response as he rolled down his window.
  950. >”… That all sounds pretty damn useless.”
  951. >Her face scrunched up in anger, not upset with her preparations, but upset with Anon.
  952. “Knowledge is never useless.”
  953. >”…No… It can.”
  954. >The officer came to the window and placed his hand out expectantly.
  955. >Anon placed the papers he showed Twilight back in Portland and a little card with a picture of himself in the officers hand.
  956. >The officer looked at them and pointed over to another officer standing by a motorcycle.
  957. >”All the cars in your convoy should go see officer Bowers.”
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