Mad Science (Old Version)

Dec 2nd, 2012
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  1. Mad Science
  2. By IceMan
  4. Author's note: I'm leaving this here for posterity's sake and for the purpose that some people like this story, despite its flaws. The line "I've done it! It's finished!" was the first thing I ever wrote for AiE, but that is unfortunately one of the few things I left unchanged about this version. I revised this story at least once to fix some parts of the story and generally clean up what had mostly been me trying to smack lots of ideas I had together. Originally Anon lived alone in the house left over by Cranky Doodle Donkey (for some reason). This version also ended with Anon manipulating Twilight into freeing Discord to have him create a portal back to Earth after the transporter exploded; Anon then felt remorse for condemning Equestria to eternal chaos and returned to kill Discord with a gun. The story now ends unfinished, as there were many other plot inconsistencies and confusing bits that really needed a full re-work for the story to be executed properly. The re-written edition can be found here at:
  6. http://pastebin.com/40mr44VH
  8. and continues to be unfinished.
  10. ----------------------------------------
  12. Chapter 1
  14. “Mom, do you think Dad’s going to be happy to see us when we pick him up?” you ask.
  15. >“I don’t know, Anonymous dear. I’m sure he’ll be ecstatic.”
  16. >You gaze outside at the looming grey clouds, drizzling a bit of rain onto the car windows.
  17. >Your father has been away for almost six months now doing research in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  18. >He’d sent you lots of pictures: pictures of giant red spiders and beetles, monkeys swinging from tree to tree like acrobats in a Russian circus, gigantic flowers the size of your head, and all sorts of other amazing things.
  19. >You hope he may have brought back something from the jungle for you.
  20. >You roll up to the airport and jump out of the car, smooshing your face against the glass of the arrival terminal.
  21. “Do you see him yet, Mom?”
  22. >“Not yet. Wait, there’s Dr. Lambert.”
  23. >Dr. Lambert was one of your Dad’s colleagues, another biologist.
  24. >Even at the age of seven you enjoyed hearing them discuss new species found all of the globe, genetic sequencing, and the myriad other topics of field biologists over the kitchen table.
  25. >He was wheeling a black suitcase out of the terminal.
  26. >There is something wrong, though.
  27. >He should be happy to be back home.
  28. >Instead, he wears the glum look: eyebrows down, mouth in a slight frown like a fish.
  29. >As soon as he spots your mother, he rushes out, his bag bumping behind him on the cracks in the concrete sidewalk.
  30. >“Oh God, Dolores,” he says. “I’m so sorry.”
  31. >“What?” Mom replies. “What’s going on?”
  32. “Our guide... he had to take us to the eastern border of the Congo, where the rebels are. He said it was a short stop, just a day, no more. But then they came. A massive rebel force swept over our camp. John didn’t make it. We couldn’t find him in the scramble. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”
  33. >Mom’s face turns completely white.
  34. >“Anonymous... go – go sit in the car.”
  35. “Does this mean Dad’s –” you start.
  36. “Yes, but, sweetie, just go sit in the car for now,” Mom consoles, beginning to sob.
  37. >Dr. Lambert puts his arm around her, and just repeats, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
  39. >Five years later.
  40. “Mom? I’m home.”
  41. >You gaze around the empty foyer.
  42. “Not that you ever are.”
  43. >As usual, your mother is at her second job.
  44. >By day, she works six hours as a secretary at a local printing firm.
  45. >By night, she works in a stem cell laboratory.
  46. >Since you were nine, you were always left home alone in the evenings.
  47. >You didn’t mind, though.
  48. >Bread was always on the table, and frozen dinners were always in the freezer.
  49. >You lug your backpack upstairs and begin to work on the calculus problems you received from your mathematics teacher.
  50. >Though you were still forced to sit with kids who could barely do basic algebra, you still got a bit of mental stimulation from those precious sets of equations.
  51. >As you scribble down the answers to a particularly difficult differential equation, a knock comes at the door.
  52. >You head downstairs and fling it open.
  53. >A police officer stands in the doorframe.
  54. “Is this the residence of Dolores Neizvestnyy?”
  55. >You nod.
  56. >The officer gets down on one knee.
  57. >“I have some bad news, son. Your mother was in a fatal car crash on the freeway. We wanted to see if there was anyone –”
  58. “My father’s dead too.”
  59. >“Oh.”
  60. >The officer shuffles his feet.
  61. >“You’d better come with us, kid. We’ve gotta sort out your situation.”
  62. >From the cloudy skies, the rain began to fall.
  64. >That same year.
  65. >“Look who’s here. Little Anon, walking home from school. Little freaky Anon with no friends.”
  66. “Stuff it, Terrance.”
  67. >Your path home to your grandmother’s house unfortunately took you along the same route that a Terrance Grissom took home as well.
  68. >Generally, you timed your journey so that you were always about ten minutes behind him, but your mathematics teacher didn’t have any more calculus exercises for you to do.
  69. >Terrance grabs your backpack by the strap along the top.
  70. >“I could kill you right now, and toss your body in the creek. No one would ever know,” he whispers into your ear.
  71. “They’d find you. You’re not good at hiding things. And you wouldn’t be able to hide the guilt.”
  72. >He shoves you to the ground and presses his foot onto your back.
  73. >“Ya know what I hate about you, Anonymous Neizvestnyy? You always have the right answers. Too bad you never share them with anyone.”
  74. >Terrance pushes down a little harder.
  75. >“Freaky little Anon. Probably would be in college right now if the school system wasn’t holding him back. Why couldn’t you be like the rest of us normal people and fail a few times? Then maybe you’d get some friends.”
  76. >You can barely breathe by this point.
  77. >Maybe he is going to kill you.
  78. >With what little oxygen is reaching your brain, you begin to formulate an escape.
  79. >You can’t lift him off you.
  80. >He’s too strong.
  81. >His leg is too far away for you to bite him.
  82. >Wait!
  83. >You have your pocket knife.
  84. >You always keep it on your person to open the cans of tuna Grandma puts in your lunch.
  85. >You squirm down to the pocket of your jeans and grab the little oval-shaped lump, then flick open the blade.
  86. >Terrance immediately releases the pressure.
  87. “I’m not afraid to use this. And then I’ll claim self-defense if I kill you.”
  88. >“Okay, okay! Easy, now. I didn’t mean it – ”
  89. “Doesn’t matter to me anyways. I am a freak. And I don’t need friends.”
  91. >Four years later.
  92. >It is a rainy day in February of your senior year, and you have been mandated to meet with the school psychologist.
  93. >As you crack open the door to his office, a glass box like a cuboid fish tank, he greets, “Hello, Anonymous. Please, sit.”
  94. >He motions to the plush black leather office chair in front of his steel desk.
  95. >“Let’s get the basics out of the way, yes? You live with your grandmother. Your parents both died tragically when you were much younger.”
  96. >You nod.
  97. >“I’m very sorry about that, Anonymous. I imagine that was quite traumatic for you.”
  98. >You gaze out the window.
  99. “It was. But I have gone through the five stages of grief by this point. Unless you are of the camp that feels that is false. Psychology is such a messy science.”
  100. >The psychologist smiles and waggles is finger.
  101. >“Too smart for me. Too smart for all of us! Your intellect constantly blows your teachers away, yet they accuse you of not trying in their classes. You rarely turn in work, you’re always questioning them. And yet, you get astounding scores on tests without studying. I’m just looking at your scores from Advanced Physics here: 100%, 99%, 99%, 100%, 97% – slipped up a bit there – 100%.”
  102. “There’s no need to talk about my record. I assume you want to talk to me about my behavioral issues. Why I don’t turn in work?”
  103. >“More than that. You seem to think that everyone is dumber than you.”
  104. “They are.”
  105. >“And you might be correct, but it’s not okay to outwardly display that.”
  106. >You consider this.
  107. >“There’s more. Anonymous, do you consider anyone on campus to be your friend?”
  108. >You pause and think for a moment.
  109. “No. No, I do not.”
  110. >“Do you, perhaps, wish to have any friends? You can be completely honest with me. Say what you like.”
  111. “No. Not with the morons that populate this school.”
  112. >“That’s what I was afraid of. Anonymous, it is not exactly mentally healthy for an adolescent to have no one whom he considers a friend.”
  113. “I don’t need friends,” you growl. “I don’t need other people to survive.”
  114. >The psychologist interlaces his fingers.
  115. >“What is life with your grandmother like?”
  116. “Quiet. Grandmother prefers to leave me alone. She doesn’t like speaking English, or cooking anything other than food from the ‘old country.’ She insists on doing everything traditionally. I have to handle a lot of things myself. If it weren’t for me, we probably wouldn’t be paying electric bills or have any internet or phone service.”
  117. >“Death often leads us to become quite mature in a short period of time,” the shrink muses. “You see the others as childish, irresponsible, unintelligent, and dependent on others. You made yourself. You constantly went out and did what most children could never do. And that is to be admired. But scoffing at those around you is not.”
  118. “So, what am I supposed to do? I’m not going to suddenly turn into a nicer person overnight.”
  119. >“No. You’re not; you’re right. But, at the very least, you need to put up a show that you don’t, for lack of a more eloquent way of putting it, hate everyone’s guts. That means doing your homework, even if you already know all the answers, and at least trying to be nice to your peers and teachers. And, maybe, who knows! Maybe you’ll find some that like you back.”
  120. >All that passes between the two of you is patter on droplets on the roof.
  121. “I don’t wish to re-learn what I already know. Is there any way I could possibly get moved into the early graduation track?”
  122. >The psychologist shakes his head.
  123. >“The school doesn’t have the resources at this point. We’ve never had a kid like you, Anonymous.”
  124. “And I don’t like the idea of putting up a façade for people. It’s lying.”
  125. >“It’s the only way to get by in this world. We all have to deal with people we don’t like.”
  126. >The rain falls down.
  127. “I guess that concludes this session.”
  128. >“If you ever need me, I’m always here.”
  129. >You turn to leave.
  130. >“Oh, and I’d be happy to discuss the latest developments in psych if you’re ever interested,” the doctor adds. “I haven’t had someone to talk to about the news in my field who really understands it for a few years.”
  132. >Eight years later.
  133. >The present day.
  134. >“I’m sorry, Anonymous. I can’t authorize the department give you any more of the money that was donated to the Department of Physics and Astronomy for your research. You’ve already consumed ten thousand dollars, much more than the department ever gives to most students.”
  135. “But that’s ridiculous. Most of the other graduates are working on worthless experiments, and here I am, slaving over something which could completely change our ideas of the multiverse theory, and I’m given the short end of the stick!”
  136. >“I’m still not going to authorize it. Whatever more money you need, you’ll have to get from your own funds.”
  137. >You storm out of your professor’s office.
  138. >He’s always so stubborn, never putting any faith in you.
  139. >It doesn’t help that the university you are working for pays its football coach at least five times that of its professors.
  140. “A research institution my ass...” you mutter as you head downstairs, though internally you rationalize that, overall, more money is appropriated to research than it is to sports.
  141. >It’s always been that way for you, the idiots of the world getting the easy hand up while you scrambled up the cliffs on your own feeble strength.
  142. >Unless you could build a ladder, you think, chuckling a bit to yourself.
  143. >No government agencies wanted to give a grant for your cutting-edge research, citing the ever present bias for projects with a greater success rate, and now even the school was denying you a single penny.
  144. >Next they’ll probably shut off the electricity to your office and laboratory in the basement.
  145. >You walk into your cramped office, decked with posters of particle physics equations and lists of bosons, quarks, and leptons, and sit down in your hard plastic swivel chair to begin sifting through the days e-mails.
  146. >“The Physics Dorm is hosting a party!” one proudly declares in its opening message.
  147. >Of course it is, you’ve seen the hundred flyers plastered just on your floor.
  148. >Something to not go to while you work on your project.
  149. >Someone raps on the door.
  150. >“Hello?”
  151. >You spin around in your office chair.
  152. “Ah. You must be the new undergrad intern,” you say.
  153. >“Yeah... uh, is there anything I could do?” the short, thin student replies. “My name’s Robert, by the way.”
  154. “Not today. No one comes in on Friday afternoons, for the most part. And I prefer not to be bothered. I have important calculations to run.”
  155. >“Oh... alright then.”
  156. >The intern softly shuts the door.
  157. >You’ve already placed his name in the short-term memory pile, to be forgotten in a few hours.
  158. >You run a few more checks on some equations and programs, testing the viability of your experiment for the umpteenth time, and then walk out of the office and to the elevator to the basement.
  159. >As you head down, you check your watch.
  160. >It’s only 11:00 AM.
  161. >It’ll be a long workday, then.
  163. “I’ve done it! It's finished!”
  164. >You are Anonymous, and you are a genius, a fact of which you remind yourself at least once a day.
  165. >For the last six months you have been constructing a dimensional transporter in the basement laboratory of your university’s physics department, a room which you accepted gratefully, for, as you also remind yourself often, no other student truly understood your intellect and classes bored you.
  166. >You like being in a quiet place, where you can just think and work undistracted.
  167. >The room is dark and grimy, with a grey scuffed concrete floor and fluorescent lights which only illuminate the room about halfway, as it is currently almost 1:00 AM.
  168. >Every whiteboard is covered in red, black, and blue scribbling of complex diagrams and mathematical formulae, mostly large rings with arrows pointing at them and large advanced calculus problems spreading over half the board with the answer circled in a big looping stroke.
  169. >In the center of the room was your creation: a great metal ring with two big tesla coils (or at least, to a layman, that’s what they appeared to be) pointing to the center from the left and right sides and a large glowing cylinder protruding from the top.
  170. >A little ramp leads up to a steel platform at the bottom of the ring, and a large red fuse box lever pokes out from the side, currently in the off position.
  171. >It is made of ramshackle parts you have scrounged from the school’s outdated cyclotron, pieces of the cheapest stainless steel you could find, and dozens of wires spreading everywhere like cobwebs on an old house.
  172. >This monstrous device is your baby.
  173. >This is your dimensional transporter, created to send its user across universes.
  174. >You raise your hand and wipe the beads of sweat off your brow.
  175. >The final screw was in on the plating surrounding the particle accelerator.
  176. >Giggling a bit, you climb down from your ladder and place the drill you were carrying back in the toolbox.
  177. “Now to see if it works,” you say to no one in particular.
  178. >You walk over, don a yellow rubber suit with a big black radiation symbol on it, and slip the plastic-screened hood over your head.
  179. >Then, you grab a small canister of compressed air and slip it into the suit's backpack, which causes the helmet to pressurize with a comforting hiss.
  180. >With the suit on, you are safe from most forms of radiation.
  181. >Opening a small wire cage, you coax a white rat from the vivarium out and grab its long pink tail.
  182. >Frightened, the animal squeals as you yank it around to break a cracker from your pocket on the bottom of the ring and tie a bit of red rope around its leg.
  183. >You release the rat, and, as it begins to munch on the cracker crumbs, you pull the switch.
  184. >Two blinding flashes, almost like those of an arc welder, race around the ring.
  185. >The transporter begins to hum and spark as about 300 million volts of electrical energy arcs around the ring in the form of electrons, smashing into each other at the two focusing coils.
  186. >A bright spark leaps between the two coils, followed quickly by dozens more, collecting in the center of the ring.
  187. >Eventually, a small glowing blue hole appears, then begins to grow, consuming a disc of space inside the ring.
  188. >The rodent screams in fright again as the disc scrapes his back before disappearing in a burst of blue-white sparks.
  189. >You then tug on the rope. The rat comes back out of the portal, still squealing its head off, but otherwise unharmed.
  190. “It works!” you shout happily as you shut the portal off. “Everything works exactly as I predicted!”
  191. >A mile-wide grin covers your face behind your protective screen.
  192. >Almost skipping, you walk over to your desk and grab a Geiger counter.
  193. >Outside, the radiation measures just over 200 roentgens.
  194. >Well, isn’t it nice that you have your radiation suit?
  195. “Now to check inside the transporter,” you once again say to yourself, humming a little bit of Mozart to yourself as you step inside the ring.
  196. >You really wished you had made that switch was secure.
  197. >For many days later in your life you would wonder how everything would have been if you had just checked the switch once more.
  198. >You were almost 99% sure you had secured it, but Fate is a gambling woman.
  199. >As you step onto the platform you barely hear the switch suddenly click down into the on position.
  200. >You remain oblivious to the crackling of the accelerator as trillions of electrons go speeding around you, causing the focusing coils to glow and spark, and your last words in this dimension are:
  201. “Hm. The radiation levels seem to spiking, what’s going on?”
  202. >Maybe it was your excitement, maybe it was your pride, but whatever the case, Anonymous the genius had just made the biggest foolish blunder he could ever make.
  203. >To say the travel was painful would be an understatement.
  204. >This is like the time you were welding two pieces of steel together and a bit of molten metal burned through your epidermis.
  205. >Except this time it's everywhere.
  206. >The inside of the wormhole, for that is what you have created by blasting a point in space with high energy particles, is an intense shimmering blue white, much like the portal you created.
  207. >Your Geiger counter clicks rapidly as it is assaulted with energetic subatomic particles.
  208. >All that comes out of your mouth is a soundless scream, while your eyes glaze over with fear.
  209. >There doesn't appear to be any air outside of your radiation suit, and the inside is quickly becoming stale with carbon dioxide.
  210. >A little LED in the right corner of your helmet is glowing red, indicating your compressed air canister is empty.
  211. >Great, not only are you going to suffocate, but you will be dead between universes.
  212. >No one stays in interuniversal space for long before the high energy particles slowly erode the structure of anything of any size that collides with them.
  213. >After what feels like a second, or maybe it was a billion years, you suddenly feel pulled towards an exit, and, in a similar timeframe, you are pulled through a second portal and land on your back on solid ground with a loud thump.
  214. >You swear as your spine slams into the dirt, and you begin to cough.
  215. >Your lungs feel like a thick claw has grasped around them, squeezing them like a blunt guillotine.
  216. >No air!
  217. >Brain shutting down!
  218. >Must get helmet off....
  219. >Blackness embraces you.
  220. >Above you, the portal closes in a flash of sparks, lighting some of the dryer brown blades of grass on fire, scorching the earth below it, and igniting a nearby dead tree.
  221. >Back on Earth, your precious transporter has overtaxed the physics building's electrical grid, and the fuse for the basement breaks.
  222. >The transporter emits one last gasping burst of sparks before the portal closes on that end as well.
  224. >The best way to get a rescuer's attention if you are lost in the middle of nowhere is to create a giant column of smoke, you would later recall.
  225. >The burning tree near you would have to suffice.
  226. >A billowing plume of soot soon rises from your position, attracting the attention of this universe's denizens.
  227. >They quickly drag you away from the burnt area and bring a raincloud over to extinguish the fire.
  228. >"Maybe we should take off his hat?" someone suggests, and they yank off your helmet.
  229. >"It's knocked out! Check its breathing and somepony get a bucket of water!"
  230. >"On it!"
  231. >"It's still breathing!"
  232. >"Come on, whatever you are, wake up!"
  233. >You feel a hard object hit your cheek, then ice cold liquid pour down onto your face.
  234. >"Wake up!"
  235. >Painfully, you manage to wrench your eyes open, though you wish you hadn't.
  236. >Standing in front of is a crowd of pastel colored, big-eyed horses is staring at you, and the world around you appears to have had the brightness turned up about two times.
  237. >The garish colors sear your retinas.
  238. >You had considered the possibilities of infinite alternate universes since you learned of the theory at the age of twelve, and it looks like one of the possibilities is staring you straight in the face.
  239. "How strange..." you mutter.
  240. "What is the mass and charge of an up quark?" you spit out.
  241. >It's a universal constant: the perfect way to test where you are.
  242. >Except, all these creatures are giving you look as if you were speaking gibberish.
  243. >"A what now?" an orange horse with a yellow mane and a Stetson hat asks.
  244. >"He doesn't seem quite right," a white one with a purple mane says. "Just look at that hideous yellow outfit."
  245. >"Quit talking crazy and get to the point: who and what are you, how did you get here, and what do you want with us?" a cyan one with a rainbow mane asks.
  246. "Denizens do not seem to have knowledge of quantum mechanics," you mutter to yourself quietly.
  247. >As you scan the scene in front you, you flip around and see the portal is gone.
  248. "My portal!" you roar.
  249. >You let out a stream of obscenities.
  250. >"Hello?" The rainbow one is speaking again. "You haven't answered my question."
  251. "And you haven't answered mine. Maybe that's too advanced. What is the current age of the universe?"
  252. >"We don't know." Now a purple one is talking.
  253. >Well that's just perfect.
  254. >You don't even know what universe you're in, and can't even say you proved or disproved the multiverse theory if you manage to get out of this madhouse.
  255. >Hoping for salvation, you look up at the sky, which is a brighter shade of blue than you remember.
  256. >The clouds are oddly perfect, like lambs slowly wandering the sky.
  257. "God," you pray. "I know I haven't been your most faithful servant, but, please, end me now."
  258. >Just like every other time you have prayed, you receive no answer.
  259. >Now the natives are looking at you funny again.
  260. >Standing up off the ground, you attempt to dust off your radiation suit.
  261. >Most of the dirt remains stuck to the rubber.
  262. >You take a deep breath and begin to expunge the deepest and most specific definition of your place in the universe and your species.
  263. "My name is Anonymous. I am a human, Eukaryota Animalia Chordata Synapsida Mammalia Primata Hominidae Homini Homo sapiens sapiens. I am from the planet Earth, Sol System, Local Interstellar Cloud, Local Bubble, Orion-Sygnus Arm, Milky Way, Local Group, Virgo Supercluster, the Universe."
  264. >The horses continue to look at you oddly as a wide range of strange multi-syllabic words spills from your maw.
  265. "Of course, none of those things mean anything to you. I imagine that, even if you had discovered them, you would call them by other names," you finish.
  266. "I am a university student studying theoretical physics, particularly the realms of teleportation. I had finished constructing a transporter when it somehow managed to turn itself on and bring me here, wherever this is."
  267. "As for what I want with you, the answer is nothing. I want to go home and report that my invention works, then drown myself in liquor so that I forget this entire experience."
  268. >"Well, I could try to teleport you home," the purple one says.
  269. >You notice this horse has a horn, the same color as the rest of its body.
  270. >Great, so unicorns are real now as well.
  271. >You aren't particularly in the mood to question how a society with little to no knowledge of quantum mechanics or astrophysics will be able to transport you through inter-universal space.
  272. "Very good then,” you state matter-of-factly. “Do so immediately."
  273. >The horse's horn begins to glow with a purple aura, and you feel a pins and needles sensation around your body before suddenly being transported into a similar burning hot, airless environment.
  274. >You appear again in a great flash... about ten feet from where you were.
  275. "Well, that appears to have been ineffective!" you shout back to the crowd.
  276. >You are stuck here.
  277. >Suddenly, that realization hits you in the gut harder than before.
  278. >The six horses at the front of the crowd walk up to you.
  279. "Please, leave," you croak. "Go away."
  280. >You think of a time when you were constructing a small robot at the age of 10.
  281. >You had all the wires in place, all the lines of computer code working perfectly, but, for some reason, the whole thing just wasn't running.
  282. >You must have checked everything a dozen times, and yet it still was not working.
  283. >You had no one to help you; your parents did not understand what to do.
  284. >"Why won't this just work!" you shouted to the heavens in anguish, kicking the robot over and stubbing your toe on shiny metal skeleton.
  285. >A plastic rectangle fell off, and suddenly you noticed you had forgotten to put the batteries in.
  286. >From that point on, you would always recall that feeling of helplessness and anger when things just weren't working for you.
  287. "I had everything for me. I was about to make the breakthrough of the century," you hiss.
  288. >In times of stress, fear, and anger, the frontal cortex of the human brain, which controls rational thought, tends to shut down, and processing functions are turned over to the amygdala, responsible for emotional responses and "fight or flight" reactions.
  289. "And you animals stole it from me!" you bark, your teeth bared.
  290. "Now I'm stuck in some alternate dimension, surrounding by colorful talking horses -"
  291. >"Ponies," the pink one pipes up.
  292. "Shut up!"
  293. >You whirl around, a murderous look in your eye.
  294. >She shrinks back a bit.
  295. >"Mister... Anonymous, was it?" the purple unicorn inquires.
  296. >You nod.
  297. >"My name is Twilight Sparkle. If you need anything, I live in the tree in the center of town."
  298. >She walks away, quickly followed by the six other ponies.
  299. >You wallow in your misery for a while longer.
  300. >Everything is gone: your accomplishments, all wiped away in an instant.
  301. >You need options, and you need them quickly.
  302. >1. Continue wallowing in anger and misery.
  303. >Not the best option, but that's all I can do right now.
  304. >2. Run away.
  305. >Where to?
  306. >Behind you is a large expanse of dark green forest.
  307. >Some crows flap up from the woods, cawing.
  308. >In front of you is a little town, made of half-timbered houses with technicolor roofs, like the tips of crayons poking out of the box.
  309. >Run there and you bring about option 3.
  310. >3. Take up Mrs. Sparkle's offer.
  311. "It's the only option I have."
  312. >If there is one thing you do like about this universe, it is the silence.
  313. >As you walk down the dirt path leading towards the town in the distance, your only audible company is the soft rustling of the wind and the distant chirping of songbirds.
  314. >You have always enjoyed silence.
  315. >It gives you time to think.
  316. >It gives you time to plan out your options.
  317. >What am I going to do after I reach Mrs. Sparkle?
  318. >Ask for a place to stay.
  319. >Find materials for a new transporter.
  320. >Go home.
  321. >Is that even possible?
  322. >It is only impossible if you do not try.
  323. >You eventually reach the outskirts of the town.
  324. >You know, I could have at least ended up in a more interesting universe than this one, you think to yourself.
  325. >I could be in the universe where the dinosaurs were never destroyed, or the universe where the atomic bomb was never dropped on Japan, or something at least somewhat relatable.
  326. >Not this Equine Paradise.
  327. >It also suddenly came to your attention that these ponies also speak English.
  328. >How that even works, you have no idea.
  329. >It's an alternate reality, and, as you mused earlier, anything that is feasible could occur.
  330. >As you shuffle through the streets, you see ponies doing their daily business: selling vegetables at a market stand, painting a picture of the market, running, laughing.
  331. >It's sickeningly quaint.
  332. >As much as it bothered you that there was so much suffering in society, that was the status quo.
  333. >You had come to accept that the world was dark, cold and generally ate people up and spit them out like a child biting into something that tastes foul.
  334. >Glancing around over the rooftops, you catch a glimpse of some leaves and branches and make off in that direction, remembering Twilight's advice.
  335. >As you walk away from the market, the din of the hustle and bustle is muffled and all you can here is the crunching of your hazmat boots on the dry dirt.
  336. >You march up to the front door of the treehouse and lightly rap on the door.
  337. >Faintly, you hear a young boy's voice shout cheerily from inside: "I'll get it!"
  338. >Now standing in the open doorway is a small purple and green talking lizard.
  339. >Fantastic.
  340. "Hello. Is Miss Sparkle home?" you inquire.
  341. >The little lizard simply stares at you, his mouth agape.
  342. >He manages to force his jaw shut with his claw and yells back into the house: "Twilight, there's a shaved talking monkey from the circus here to see you!"
  343. >"Be right down!" Twilight replies.
  344. >"Come inside," Spike stammers to you, and you step through the threshold into a large library.
  345. >Every corner of the inside of this tree is loaded with various vibrantly colored books of myriad shapes and sizes with titles ranging from "Elementary Cooking" to "Necromancy in a Nutshell" to "Rulers of the Griffon Kingdoms."
  346. >On a small table is a wooden bust of some equine creature, surrounded by a few stacks of books.
  347. >The walls are unpainted wood, showing off the growth rings of the inside of the tree.
  348. >A staircase leads down to a basement and up to a small bedroom.
  349. >Twilight steps down the flight of stairs leading up.
  350. >"Hello, Anonymous. Are you feeling better?" she asks.
  351. >That's not what you came here for.
  352. "Why do you care about my 'feelings?'" you snap, your anger suddenly returning. "I barely know you!"
  353. >"Well, excuse me, just trying to be nice!" Twilight retorts.
  354. >You sigh.
  355. "I apologize. I'm still not in a very good mood, if that isn't obvious."
  356. >"I understand, but, please. We just want to help you!"
  357. "Okay. And you can, at least somewhat. I need a place to stay, and I need some tools. Then I can get working on getting home," you explain.
  358. >"Well, I've just sent a letter to Princess Celestia about your arrival; we can visit her in a few days and get a few things sorted out," she reveals.
  359. >Who she sent the letter to is irrelevant.
  360. >How long are you going to be here?
  361. >How long until you can start working on getting home?
  362. "How long specifically?" you demand.
  363. >"Three days."
  364. "Okay," you reply once again.
  365. >There is a pause in the conversation between the two of you.
  366. >"So, Anonymous, what exactly are you?" Twilight suddenly asks, breaking the silence.
  367. "I am exactly what I said I was. I am a human. Eukaryota Animalia –”
  368. >"Okay, you don't need to list off all that again," she says, cutting you off and smiling a bit.
  369. >You smile back.
  370. >"So you truly aren't from this universe?"
  371. "No."
  372. >"Then, tell me all of it: everything about how you got here and the entire history of your people."
  373. “I think you’re getting a little ahead of yourself here. I have only just arrived, and you’re already asking for the entire tome of history that is contained within my head.”
  374. >"Sorry. I'm just curious. Do you have anything better to do?”
  375. >You run your hands through your hair and look at the floor.
  376. "The second part is a long story. That one will have to wait for a bit. But I can tell you my history - or at least, how I ended up here."
  377. >You take a deep breath.
  378. "I had known for a while that a theoretical way of creating a wormhole was to put enough energy into a single point of space. The question was how much, and I calculated it to be on the order of 152-times-ten-to-the-eighteenth electron volts. To produce that kind of power, you need a particle accelerator, so I scavenged one from my university's old medical labs, attached two focusing coils to the middle so the energy would be guided to a single point in space, and tested it just a few hours ago. It worked. Then I decided to just check for any radiation spikes - I did not want the user to have a higher cancer risk from using it - and, somehow, the transporter must have turned itself on. And what happens next you already know," you explain.
  379. >"Well, I know we don't have any ‘particle accelerators’ here," she replies, and you frown a bit.
  380. "That makes things more difficult," you lament.
  381. >Not just more difficult, practically impossible.
  382. >It took teams of scientists and thousands of dollars to produce a cyclotron, even a small one.
  383. >A challenge then.
  384. >You accept.
  385. "I need a place to stay," you state.
  386. >"You can stay downstairs in the laboratory," Twilight offers. "We've got some blankets and a sleeping bag we can lay out until you get some more permanent arrangements."
  387. >You think for a moment, pondering whether or not you should maybe get a hotel instead before realizing you have no money to rent a room.
  388. "Yes, that would be excellent. Thank you for your hospitality," you proclaim.
  389. >Another awkward pause passes between the unicorn and the human.
  390. >"So..." Twilight begins. "You said you would explain your world's history to me."
  391. "Yes, I can do that. I am not so sure how long it will take me, but I will do my best. How about this: if you want me to go more in depth into something, I will, but I will try to explain it all in as briefly as possible."
  392. >"Okay."
  393. >You admire this little unicorn's curiosity, as you have never had someone to share knowledge with or someone who is genuinely interested in your intellect.
  394. >Once again, you inhale deeply, and begin the story of humanity.
  395. >You speak of the rise of the human species from early hominids, to the rise of the first civilizations, and are beginning to break into the rise of Persia when night begins to fall and your stomach growls.
  396. "I think this may have to be our stopping point for now; I need something to eat," you announce.
  397. >"I know exactly where to take you; I think I should introduce you to your rescuers," Twilight responds.
  398. "That's right. I never properly thanked you for that. I was a little too focused on my predicament, I guess, to even notice you saved my life," you say.
  399. >"Are you still angry?" she asks.
  400. "Somewhat, but not at you. You are not to blame for my misfortunes. It would be illogical and pointless to be angry in this situation. It won’t solve anything. I more feel a sense of... cosmic irony. Like someone, somewhere is watching and laughing at me for where I am now."
  401. >"Anonymous, are you even sure that a second transporter will even take you home?" Twilight inquires softly.
  402. "No. But that does not mean I should not try."
  403. >"Let's go get some dinner then," she finishes, and the two of you walk out of the library.
  404. "Where are we going exactly?" you ask as you step out until the chilly evening.
  405. >"Sugarcube Corner," Twilight replies, looking back at you. "I've been planning to meet with the girls there tonight; they'll probably understand why I'm late when you show up."
  406. >You cringe a bit at the name.
  407. >Get used to it, Anonymous, you tell yourself.
  408. >This world has different patterns than home.
  409. >Twilight slowly comes to a stop.
  410. >"You may want to take off whatever it is you're wearing."
  411. >You notice that you are still wearing your radiation suit.
  412. >"Go put it downstairs," Twilight suggests. "I'll wait here."
  413. >You walk back inside and down the stairs to the basement.
  414. >The room is dark and a bit musty, with reddish purple wood walls.
  415. >It is filled with several instruments, an electrocardiogram machine, a blood pressure monitor, and an electroencephalograph monitor, and a few drawers which, upon opening, reveal some art supplies and basic tools.
  416. >While interesting that the World of Ponies has these technologies, they are of little use to you in your endeavors unless you decide to scavenge them for scrap metal.
  417. >You see your reflection distorted like in a funhouse mirror in the shiny stainless steel medical equipment.
  418. >Expressionless, you stare at your pale, gaunt, unshaven face and the mop of messy hair on your head for a second before stripping off the radiation suit, which sticks to your body and comes off with a wet slurp from the slimy layer of condensation on the inside.
  419. >Underneath it, you are wearing a simple black t-shirt and jeans, wrinkled and damp from being under the wet rubber for so long.
  420. >You also have no shoes, as they would not fit under the hazmat boots.
  421. >They are comfortable work clothes, comfortable studying clothes, and comfortable clothes in general.
  422. >Why bother being fashionable?
  423. >The little film badge on the front is completely white, though you are not surprised by this.
  424. >Interuniversal space is likely to have lots of nasty radiation pockets.
  425. >As you walk upstairs, you catch a passing glance of your reflection again.
  426. "Alright, ready to go," you tell Twilight, who is pacing around outside.
  427. >"Good! You look... rugged!" she exclaims.
  428. >Ignoring the comment, you maintain your expressionless face and begin to trudge into the night.
  429. >A few ponies are out as well, wandering the streets.
  430. >Sugarcube Corner is a large house made of what appears to be gingerbread, mortared with cake frosting, and dusted with sprinkles and powdered sugar.
  431. >The lights are on inside, illuminating the ground in front of the edifice, and you hear the faint pulse of an electronic beat coming from the upstairs.
  432. >You stop for bit and stare at the scene in front of you.
  433. >"Anonymous? Is something wrong?" Twilight asks.
  434. "No, no. Just processing everything for a bit."
  435. >She gives you an odd look before opening the door to the restaurant and stepping inside.
  436. >You follow through the entryway.
  437. >"Sugarcube" barely describes the amount of sweets in this place.
  438. >A bakery by day, you guess.
  439. >The interior is cheerful and brightly colored, and several displays for various baked goods.
  440. >At least a dozen multicolored fruit pies sit in a glass case and several frosted cakes lay on porcelain plates in another.
  441. >The music appears to be coming from a small staircase leading up to the upper floor.
  442. >"The party's upstairs, Anonymous," Twilight tells you before clopping up the stairs.
  443. >You sigh.
  444. >Anonymous, if you are going to be here for a few months, you need to be at least acquainted with a few people around you, no matter what their social life may be like, you remind yourself.
  445. >You steel yourself and plunge into the rumpus.
  446. >Stomping up the stairs, you abruptly bump your head on the doorway and enter the room rubbing a fading crimson mark your forehead.
  447. >"Hello girls," you hear Twilight say as you enter.
  448. >"Hello, my dear!"
  449. >"Hiya, Twilight!"
  450. >"Hi."
  451. >"Howdy!"
  452. >"Hey, you're late! What's up?"
  453. >Eventually, they notice you.
  454. >"This is Anonymous. He's calmed down a bit now, and just wants to meet you guys more appropriately," Twilight explains,
  455. "Yes," you reply. "I apologize for my actions earlier today; I wasn't myself. I had just been thrown out of the world of my family, my friends, my successes, and into a world that is completely different and illogical to me with no way to return. It was just an insult to injury. I am the only one to blame for why I am here. Furthermore, you ponies saved my life, and for that I am forever indebted. I still want to return home, but I know that I am not going to be able to do that unless I have the ability to get the materials I need."
  456. >Silence from the six ponies in front of you. The music seems to have stopped as well; someone must have turned it off when you began to speak.
  457. >"Welcome to Equestria, Anon!" the pink one says finally. "I think you're going to like it here more than you think."
  460. Chapter 2
  462. >Groggily, you manage to shake out of sleep and stretch out of your sleeping bag on the hard wood floor.
  463. >Opening your eyes, you see that the nightmares of yesterday are the present of today.
  464. >You are still in Equestria.
  465. >Still partially asleep, you clamber up the stairs into the library.
  466. "Anyone else up?"
  467. >There is a note on the table in the center.
  468. >"Dear Anonymous," it begins.
  469. >"Spike and I have gone out to get quills, ink, and a few other supplies. Feel free to do whatever you want today. -Twilight"
  470. >Frowning for a moment, you ponder what exactly you want to do.
  471. >You begin to search for the tools you need, first looking through the innumerable books around you.
  472. >Unfortunately, none contain the information you seek.
  473. >While Equestria has made some great strides in astronomy, chemistry, and medicine, little has been researched in the realm of particle physics.
  474. >They also do not appear to have discovered electricity, instead running their technology on "lightning magic."
  475. >Probably just the local term for electricity, but they still describe it as "the magic of the clouds."
  476. >Equestria may not have found a way to produce it artificially.
  477. >Looking up from the thick book, your stomach suddenly growls.
  478. >Breakfast.
  479. >You step outside into the foggy grey morning, wishing you had a sweatshirt and rubbing your shoulders.
  480. >Slowly, you walk down the streets and observe a few ponies on their morning business opening shops and carrying bags of groceries to and from the marketplace.
  481. >Quickening your pace, you set off in a more determined direction towards Sugarcube Corner.
  482. >It may not be your preferred eatery, but at least Pinkie Pie may be somewhat charitable towards your lack of funds.
  483. >At least you know her name, something that you can't say for 99% of the other citizens of the town of Ponyville.
  484. >The names around here still make you shudder in disgust on the inside; this entire universe feels like some little girl's fantasy wrapped up in a neat package of cuteness.
  485. >Reaching the bakery, you open the door, a little bell above the doorframe jingling as you enter.
  486. >"Hello, Mr. Anonymous!" Pinkie shouts gleefully at you, leaning to the right of two customers in front her.
  487. "Hello, Miss Pie. Are you having a nice day?" you inquire flatly.
  488. "Oh! I'm just having a great day, I mean it's still early and everything, but today just seems like it's going to be slightly better than any other day, do you ever have that feeling, Mr. Anonymous, I'm sure you have it's at least better than yesterday when you ended up here..."
  489. >Her words fire from her mouth like bullets from a machine gun, leaving you a bit stunned as you occasionally try to get a word in.
  490. >The two other customers shake their heads and smile at you meekly.
  491. >"And I'm sure you’re at least a bit less cranky now that you've had a good night's sleep."
  492. >She pauses for a moment, taking a deep inhale.
  493. "Could I get some breakfast?" you utter as she begins to speak again. "I won't be able to pay for it immediately, but I need something to eat."
  494. >"Oh, that's okay Anon, don't worry your little head. We have some bagels over there if you want one or we have some doughnuts in the display case," she replies.
  495. "Thank you. I'll try and pay you back as soon as I get some money."
  496. >She waits for a bit while the other two ponies walk out.
  497. >"Don't worry about paying us back. You're a friend, Anonymous, and you're not from around here," Pinkie conveys at slightly lower volume.
  498. "I insist," you respond. "I will get it to you by the end of the day."
  499. >"Anonymous. Don't worry about it," she replies with a smile and a wink. "Consider it a welcome to Equestria gift."
  500. "Alright."
  501. >You are not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.
  502. >You still plan on paying her back later.
  503. >Grabbing a bagel and a smearing it with jam, you thank Pinkie Pie for her hospitality and go out on your way.
  504. >As you stroll the streets chomping on your jam bagel, consider what you want to do today.
  505. >Your walk brings you to the edge of town, where you cross over a small brook on a cobblestone bridge into a small park.
  506. >Scattered benches now dot your path as you make your way out into the fields.
  507. >Appetite satiated, you decide to continue your pleasant walk through the country.
  508. >You might as well establish the lay of the land.
  509. >The park seems to cover the bend in the brook, where another stone bridge crosses the other bank and leads east into the forest.
  510. >Crossing the brook again, you take the slightly less-worn forest path, passing a small cottage on the way.
  511. >Trees suddenly rise in front of you, and a murder of crows ominously flutters up from deep within the woods, cawing.
  512. >You step off the dirt path and head south, once again following parallel to the creek on your left, which you can hear bubbling softly in the distance, and the forest, looming to your right.
  513. >Enjoying the pleasant silence of being alone, you walk through the verdant meadows filled with kaleidoscopic wildflowers until you come to another bend in the brook.
  514. >There is no bridge here, so you would have no choice but to ford the frigid waters.
  515. >You decide to head back towards town.
  516. >You have an experiment you've cooked up that you'd like to perform, and should take a good portion of the day to do.
  517. >"Where have you been?" says Twilight as you step back into the library, a twinge of concern in her voice.
  518. >Probably because she still wants to learn more about you.
  519. >You appreciate her curiosity.
  520. "I got some breakfast. Then I went for a walk. Is there a problem with that?" you reply.
  521. >"No! Just... you could have left a note or something."
  522. "I apologize, but your note said I could do whatever I wanted today. Also, I had just gotten up, I was not exactly thinking clearly. But, that is neither here nor there. I have an experiment that I'd like to do. Do you know somewhere where I could get some copper metal, a Bunsen burner or other flame producing device, and some electrical equipment?" you inquire.
  523. >"There's the blacksmith and the jeweler, they may have some copper. You could probably rip those instruments in the basement apart for whatever electrical equipment you need. I don't know what a Bunsen burner is, but I can whip up some magical flames for you to use," Twilight explains.
  524. "I also need some money," you announce.
  525. >Twilight sighs and hands you a sack of 50 gold coins.
  526. "Thank you," you state, and walk outside once more.
  527. >"I want to come with you. I want to see what you want to do with all this stuff," Twilight says, running out behind you.
  528. "Very well. I assure you, it will be quite interesting."
  529. >Once again walking the dirt paths and passing the half-timbered houses, Twilight leads you to the brawny, soot-covered blacksmith pony, living in a stone house on the southwestern edge of town.
  530. "I need whatever pure copper pieces you are willing to sell me," you tell him as he gets over the shock of seeing a human for the first time.
  531. >"I'll give you my scrap pieces for free if you want," he grunts, lifting a piece of steel from the flames with tongs held in his teeth.
  532. >"There're a few pieces lying over there. Just made some bronze armor plates and had a bit of excess."
  533. "I can't use ingots," you state, looking at the rust-colored copper blocks.
  534. >"Why not? It's just the same stuff as sheets or cylinders or rings or whatever you need," the blacksmith complains.
  535. "No, it's not the same. Or, well, it's the same metal, but I need to have more surface area. Obviously, that is not something you fully understand or have to deal with daily. Could you just hammer it out flat into sheets?" you snap.
  536. >The blacksmith grunts and grabs the copper ingot with the tongs, then places it in the fire.
  537. >An iridescent coating begins to cover the exterior of the metal, and you begin to smile a bit.
  538. >At least one part of your experiment will work.
  539. >Grabbing a hammer from the shelf, the smith flattens out the copper ingot and dunks it in a bucket of water.
  540. >"There ya go. That'll be 2 bits."
  541. >Frowning a bit in annoyance, you hand him two of the gold coins and stomp out of his forge.
  542. >"You didn't have to be so sassy with him," Twilight berates as you walk out of the shop.
  543. "I needed to obtain what I needed," you retort. "The entire experiment is pointless if I do not start with the right materials."
  544. >Once you arrive back at the library, you immediately walk down to the basement, Twilight following.
  545. "I need to build a voltmeter," you explain. "Do you have a horseshoe magnet, a compass, and some wires with alligator clips?"
  546. >Twilight frowns and narrows her eyes at you.
  547. "Fine, I'll get it myself then," you respond, looking around the room.
  548. >Quickly, you spot a drawer labeled "Magnets and Compasses" and see some wires dangling from the electroencephalograph.
  549. "However, you said you had something to make a fire with."
  550. >The little purple unicorn maintains her expression.
  551. >Peeking up from a drawer, you ask:
  552. "What's going on? Am I doing something wrong?"
  553. >"Anonymous, why are you such a jerk?" she snaps.
  554. >You give her a quizzical look.
  555. "What do you mean?"
  556. >"You know exactly what I mean. You assume that everyone is dumber than you -"
  557. "Well, they are! I am a genius at virtually everything!" you cut her off.
  558. >"But that doesn't give you the right to just boss people around."
  559. "And? If this is about the smith, I need the right components for this all to work; I can't compromise! Now if you could please do whatever it is you need to do to get a fire started down here, please do so."
  560. >She sighs, and her horn begins to glow.
  561. >A plume of purple flame ignites on the ground, singeing the wood beneath it but spreading no farther than the point of ignition.
  562. "Thank you. Now explain how you did that."
  563. >"What, you've never seen something like that? You big dummy, how can't you do that?" Twilight mocks.
  564. >Your hypocrisy has been brought front and center.
  565. "Alright, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," you reply. "I'll try not to be as... bossy, but I make no promises. If I need something exactly right -"
  566. >"Then you ask nicely and explain why it needs to be that way," Twilight says.
  567. "Very well. But, what is this?" you state, pointing to the flickering fire.
  568. >"Magic," Twilight declares, and you can't help but laugh.
  569. >Magic.
  570. >What a ridiculous concept.
  571. >There have to be at least some rules that it follows.
  572. >Your curiosity has been peaked.
  573. >Something to investigate during your time here.
  574. "I assume this is also what you did when you teleported me when I first got here. How does magic work?" you inquire.
  575. >"I don't know, at least, not entirely. Magic is extremely poorly understood. We know what we can do with it, but not how. No one knows where it comes from, or why it even exists at all. It's just something that unicorns have, like a talent. I've always had it, and my teacher, Princess Celestia, has said that I am particularly talented in the magical arts. All I have to do is focus and..."
  576. >Twilight emits a burst of violet sparks from the tip of her horn.
  577. "Interesting."
  578. >You still need more information, but that will have to do for now.
  579. >Best not to pester Twilight for information when you have a much more important experiment to do.
  580. >You grab one of the pieces of copper and, using a pair of beaker tongs you found in another drawer, you carefully lower it over the roaring flame.
  581. >Gradually, the shiny metal becomes grey and iridescent, with looping spirals of color like oil scum in a gutter.
  582. >Assembling the compass, magnet, and wires together, you fashion a crude voltmeter.
  583. >The wires wrap around the needle of the compass, which you hold in between the prongs of the horseshoe magnet.
  584. >Noticing you have no way to measure the detected voltage, you also grab a ruler.
  585. >Placing the contraption on the ground in the beam of dusty sunlight, you connect the two clips to the piece of heated copper.
  586. >The needle flicks to the right about 3 centimeters.
  587. "This, my dear Twilight, is the magic of my universe," you sigh as a great grin envelops your face.
  588. "When you heat copper enough, it becomes capable of converting light into electrical energy, capable of powering the myriad devices of my universe. I can then measure this by seeing how it moves the needle when the electromagnetic energy runs through this wire, tilting it towards one pole of the magnet. Without electricity, my universe would collapse."
  589. >Twilight clops over, mouth agape.
  590. >"It's lightning magic?"
  591. >You look at her quizzically.
  592. "Yes. It's lightning magic."
  593. >"Your entire universe runs on lightning magic?" Twilight asks.
  594. "Well, not the entire universe, but my society. And it's not magic. It's science. Magic has no rules. It is nonexistent, or at least, in my universe it is. Science has rules, laws, order, logic. Magic does not."
  595. >You fiddle around with the your solar panel a little more, attempting to squeeze a few more drops of power from the inefficient device.
  596. "Well, it seems my experiment was, overall, a success."
  597. "There is one more thing I'd like to discuss before I continue the story of humanity," you say, looking up from the voltmeter.
  598. "I'd like to stay here in this laboratory. It appears to have all the equipment I need for any possible experiments I want to do."
  599. >"You don't mind sleeping on the floor?"
  600. "I've slept on much harder and colder floors before. And the access to tools outweighs that minor cost."
  601. >"Alright, if you're okay with it, I'm okay with it," Twilight agrees. "I mean, I have to use this lab for my magic experiments sometimes as well, so don't think you'll always have the place to yourself."
  602. "Not a problem."
  603. >You'd prefer to have someplace where you could be left alone more often, but your options at this point are fairly limited.
  604. >So, you make do with what you have.
  605. "So, will continue your history then?" Twilight implores.
  606. "Of course. Where were we? Ah, yes on the steppes of northern Iran there was a society called Persia..."
  607. >You continue on to the ascendance of the Greeks and the battles of Marathon and Thermopylae, and reach the end of the conquests of Alexander the Great.
  608. >Then, you delve into Chinese and Indian history before returning to the West with the rise of Rome just before dark, where you once again halt the story out of hunger.
  609. "I need something to eat. Again. We can resume tomorrow," you declare.
  610. >"Oh, but it sounded like you were getting to a good part!" Twilight complains.
  611. "Yes, the Romans left an indelible impact on human history, but that will have to wait. I cannot tell stories on an empty stomach. I am really in the mood for some good rotisserie chicken right now."
  612. >"You humans eat other animals?" Twilight asks.
  613. "Yes," you explain. "We are omnivorous creatures."
  614. >"Well, I can't get you chicken tonight. How about a nice green salad?"
  615. >You frown.
  616. "It'll have to do. Beggars can't be choosers," you relent.
  617. >On day three, you decide to see if you can obtain some new clothes and shoes.
  618. >Your t-shirt is beginning to a feel a bit stiff from wearing it for three days straight.
  619. >"Don't worry," Twilight tells you. "I'm certain that Rarity can help you out. She's an excellent seamstress."
  620. >Walking through town with Twilight trotting along by your side, you see two young ponies, one tall and yellow and one short and teal, playing with what appear to be fireworks.
  621. >Another idea slinks into your mind, this time one that could be quite profitable.
  622. >The Carousel Boutique is a tent-like, cylindrical structure with flowing gold, indigo, teal, and white walls like falling cloth.
  623. >When you open the door, a small bell jingles as you walk through.
  624. >"Hello! Who's there?" a voice calls from upstairs.
  625. >Faintly, you hear a sewing machine rattling.
  626. >"Rarity, it's Twilight! Could you come down?" Twilight calls back.
  627. >"Of course, darling! Give me just a second!"
  628. >The rattling stops, and you hear the tapping of hooves on the stairs.
  629. >"So, what can I do for you Twilight? Oh! Hello, Anonymous!" Rarity exclaims.
  630. "Hello. I need new clothes, and I was told you may be able to help me," you explain.
  631. >"Of course! You are going to be staying here quite a while, aren't you?"
  632. >You nod.
  633. >A terrible truth of your current situation.
  634. >"You clearly don't have much fashion sense, do you? I mean, that yellow outfit you were wearing earlier was dreadful. I guess what you're wearing now isn't so bad, but it's a little bland..."
  635. >Rarity walks over to a small desk and grabs a loose yellow measuring tape, lifting it with a blue aura projected from her horn.
  636. >"Let me take some measurements, and I can get you some very nice garments in a few days."
  637. >Standing still in front of a mirror, Rarity takes her measurements down.
  638. >"It might be a bit difficult to adjust for human styles, but I will do my best!"
  639. "I don't need anything fancy, by the way. Just the same as what I'm wearing. I don't need something expensive."
  640. >"Of course, darling. Do you need any other colors, or anything?"
  641. "Not really."
  642. >She continues to run her measuring tape up and down your form, jotting down numbers on a small white pad.
  643. >"So, tell me about yourself, Anonymous. What is it like on Earth?" Rarity inquires.
  644. "You can ask Twilight all about that. I've already told her everything there is to know about human history."
  645. >"But what about the people? Are they all as... drab... as you are? No special coat colors, no interestingly designed manes?"
  646. "Not in what most would consider good society, but I don't really care. No one has purple skin. For example. Or at least, no one I've met."
  647. >You smile slightly to Twilight, hoping she understands it was a poorly-conceived joke.
  648. >She smiles back.
  649. >Rarity finishes up her measurements, sliding the measuring tape back into its round holder with a snap.
  650. >"Okay. The total will come to 12 bits. As I said, it will probably take me a few days to finish it all."
  651. >You reach into your sack and hand her the money.
  652. "Thank you very much. I appreciate your kindness."
  653. >"You may want to take a shower, Mr. Anonymous, and maybe wash what you have. You smell rather ghastly."
  654. >You blink, but give no response.
  655. >You arrive home and get cleaned up.
  656. >You manage to get through the Middle Ages and into the Age of Enlightenment with Twilight, and begin to explain the majority of humanity's scientific knowledge alongside its history.
  657. >Then you tell her of the Industrial Revolution, and the great expansion of humanity's technology during the late 18th and early 19th Century.
  658. >You explain the Great Wars of the 20th Century, and reach the 1950s.
  659. >The dawn of day 4 is blinding and cloudless, and as you once again roll off the floor and stumble upstairs, rubbing your eyes as you walk, you see Twilight running around in a frenzy collecting papers and books into a large saddlebag.
  660. "Good morning, Twilight," you greet her with. "Is something wrong?"
  661. >She suddenly stops rushing between the bookshelves and darts towards you.
  662. >Her eyes are a bit puffy and bloodshot, but a unnerving smile covers her face.
  663. >"Oh, nothing. Going to meet my teacher can make me a little stressed out!" she states, emphasizing the last three words.
  664. >Grimacing a bit and remembering plenty of people you knew at school who acted this way, especially around tests, you calmly grab hold of Twilight's shoulder as she tries to run off.
  665. >You always hated people who acted like that; they never cared about what they were learning, just what grades they got.
  666. >Tests were never the end of the world.
  667. >You sought to eliminate those people in the best way possible: eliminating their irrational fear of tests.
  668. "Twilight. Calm down. You are overreacting. Do you consider your teacher a friend?"
  669. >"Yes, but she's also the ruler of the country and -"
  670. "That is irrelevant."
  671. >"No, it's not! What if I mess up in front of her or she pop quizzes me on something! I won't be prepared and -"
  672. >You cover her mouth with your palm and state:
  673. "You are a very smart... mare, Twilight. I am sure that - What's your teacher's name again?"
  674. >"Princess Celestia."
  675. "Thank you. I am sure that Princess Celestia holds you quite highly, and no matter what you do, she will still respect your intellect."
  676. >"But -"
  677. "No buts! Now, do you have everything we need?" you inquire.
  678. >"Yes. But I'd like you to bring that photoelectric cell you made."
  679. "Very well. I will go grab it."
  680. >After obtaining your contraption from the basement, you walk to the train station, where you meet Twilight's six other multicolored friends.
  681. "They're coming as well?" you ask.
  682. >"Yes. We're special envoys to the Princesses," Twilight remarks.
  683. "Okay."
  684. >The seven of you board the kitschy steam train, which looks like it jumped right out of a children's coloring book.
  685. "Twilight. Your civilization clearly has some knowledge of post-industrial technology," you state.
  686. >"Yes. And?"
  687. "Why do you still use steam trains? Why are there no cars or paved roads?"
  688. >"I don't really know Anonymous. We run most of our technology on stored magical energy, not the electricity of your human world," Twilight explains.
  689. >You frown in displeasure at this inconsistency and return to looking out on the bare foothills of a large snow-capped mountain range.
  690. >Turning back to look at the three other ponies sitting across from you, you notice a certain pink mare and remember a promise you made, clutching the small leather bag of coins knotted to your belt loop.
  691. >Standing up, you clumsily walk over to the other side of the train car as it bumps over the sleepers.
  692. "I forgot to pay you back, Pinkie," you state as she catches your gaze.
  693. >Reaching into your sack, you pull out five bits and place it on the seat next to her.
  694. >"I told you you didn't need to pay me back," she retorts, smiling at you and pushing the money away. "We're friends, Anonymous."
  695. >Friends.
  696. >No, not friends.
  697. "Then consider this a repayment for being so mean to you when I first arrived," you respond, a condescending smirk on your face.
  698. >"Anonymous, c'mon. You don't need to worry about it. It was just a bagel," Pinkie Pie rebukes.
  699. "No. I will not be in debt to another person for any reason. And, furthermore, I would be taking away a sale from you."
  700. >Everyone in the train car is staring at the two of you now.
  701. >"Alright, Anonymous," she relents, sensing the pressure.
  702. >You return to your seat and continue to stair out at the passing scenery, which suddenly becomes blocked as you enter an inky black tunnel.
  703. >The city of Canterlot is a citadel of white, gold, and purple spires protruding from the mountainside.
  704. >For now, you have no time to enjoy the beauty.
  705. >There is work to be done.
  706. >You quicken your pace towards the largest building in the city, which you assume is the palace.
  707. >As you reach the ornate onyx steel gates, a guard calls down, "Halt! Who goes there!"
  708. >Twilight manages to catch up and shouts back, "Twilight Sparkle on an appointment to Princess Celestia with six guests."
  709. >"Very well! Raise the gate!"
  710. >The leviathan gate clinks upward as two heavy metal chains are pulled down by a pinkish aura.
  711. >Inside is a large garden with several coral trees glistening in the sunlight.
  712. >Two guards walk over to your entourage and lead you through a large archway, up a grand staircase, and through a gargantuan set of doors with engraved sun and moon symbols on it.
  713. >You now stand in a long hallway with several stained glass windows shining vibrant light through onto a gold and purple carpet leading onto a shining golden throne.
  714. >Standing in front of you is the largest pony you have seen in this universe: pure white with a pastel pink, green, and blue mane with both pegasus wings and a unicorn horn.
  715. >She stands a few inches taller than you.
  716. >So, this is the ruler of this land, Princess Celestia.
  717. >The other ponies lower the heads in respect.
  718. >You remain standing.
  719. >"Please, my friends, this is unnecessary. Hello, Twilight Sparkle. I see you have brought your traveler friend that you have said so much about," the princess states.
  720. >"Anonymous, would you like to introduce yourself?" Twilight replies.
  721. "Yes. My name is Anonymous. I am a human from the planet Earth, which is not in this universe."
  722. >"And how did you come to be here?" the princess asks.
  723. >You tell her the same story that you have told twice before to the crowd and to Twilight.
  724. >"Very interesting. So, humanity is obviously much more technologically advanced the Equestria. Our scientists could not even begin to fathom such a device as your dimensional transporter."
  725. "Quite. For example, we can harness the power of the sun for our own use," you explain, carefully pulling the solar generator from your sack and setting it on the floor in the light.
  726. >The needle shifts to the right as electricity flows through the wire.
  727. >Celestia gives a look of interest.
  728. >"Do humans have any form of magical abilities?" she inquires.
  729. "No," you respond. "We use technology and innovation to advance our interests. For example, this is a rudimentary solar battery and a voltmeter. These wires allow electrical energy to flow to this needle, which then charges it, causing it to be pulled to the south pole of this magnet."
  730. >"Very impressive. And this is common technology on your world?"
  731. "Well, we have more efficient versions, and even those are not in widespread use yet."
  732. >"Interesting. For you see, Anonymous, I raise the sun every day. Anything that I could do to help my people more with my power is something that I greatly desire."
  733. "Trust me, this plate is merely a demonstrative tool. I was testing the physics of this universe in comparison to mine. Apparently, we share several of the same physical laws, of which I would be happy to teach you."
  734. >Celestia walks over to one of the windows and gazes outside.
  735. >"There is something else I wish to discuss, Anonymous. Twilight has told me as much as she could about the history of your people. It is very violent."
  736. >She turns back around.
  737. >"Your society is, as I have said, centuries more advanced than ours. It is my duty as sovereign of this nation to ensure its security. So, Anonymous, if you are any sort of vanguard for an incoming invasion, or are hiding anything that would threaten my people... tell me now."
  738. "You are wise to be distrustful of transdimensional beings," you respond. "But, I guarantee, you have nothing to fear. Even if someone in my own universe decided to use the transporter in my own universe, there is no guarantee that they would end up here. I promise, I mean no harm to this nation."
  739. >"Very well. What do you plan to do, Anonymous?"
  740. "I plan to return home. I must report my discoveries and that my transporter works as it should. That may take a few months, and I don't plan on simply freeloading off your favorite student."
  741. >"You need a job," Celestia extrapolates.
  742. "Yes. And I have a very good idea on how I can obtain some funds. How popular are fireworks in Equestria?"
  743. >"Very popular. We use them at our festivals and for celebrations. In fact, the Summer Sun Festival is coming up. Perhaps you would like to make some of the fireworks for that?"
  744. "I would be more than happy too. It will be an excellent use of my knowledge of chemistry and physics."
  745. >"Good. Then I would like to humbly welcome you to Equestria, Anonymous. If there is any way that I can aid you in your quest to return home, please have Twilight send me a message, and I will happily provide it."
  746. "Of course."
  747. >"Do you have anything else to report?" Celestia inquires to her student.
  748. >"Not today. I will have a friendship report for you next Tuesday probably. Like always," Twilight expresses, smiling a bit.
  749. >You raise an eyebrow at "friendship report."
  750. >A query to make later.
  751. >Arriving home in the late evening, you and Twilight clunk open the door to the library and walk inside.
  752. "So, what was that argument you were having with Pinkie Pie on the train earlier today?"
  753. "I pay back my debts; I am not a man who likes to owe money to others," you explain.
  754. >"That's good of you. But if someone doesn't need you to pay them back, why force it on them?"
  755. >You consider your response.
  756. >Your reason would probably disrupt your plans right now.
  757. "I'd rather not say right now. It's a bit personal. Allow me to put it this way: I don't like people having influence over me."
  758. >"Fair enough," Twilight relents. "I understand that you do not trust me fully yet. But, perhaps with time..."
  759. >You place your fingers to her lips.
  760. "I will decide when that time is right."
  761. "Also, Twilight. What are these 'friendship reports?'" you ask.
  762. >"As the princess's student, I send her reports on the magic of friendship."
  763. "And what exactly does that entail?" you say, stony-faced.
  764. >"Various things. Morals, for the most part. Maybe you'll be part of one someday."
  765. >All that passes between the two of you is the muffled echo of crickets outside.
  766. >"Would you mind finishing the story of humanity?" Twilight inquires.
  767. "Of course."
  768. "The Americans were quite frightened by the spread of communism during the 1950s, and so made a huge effort to stop it. When the northern half of a country called Korea decided to invade the capitalist southern half, the Americans and their allies felt the need to intervene..."
  769. >Going slightly more quickly than the last few times, you manage to finish the remainder of human history, and turn in for bed in your sleeping bag.
  772. Chapter 3
  774. >Once again, you awaken in the world of technicolor ponies on the floor of Twilight's basement.
  775. >Except now, you are doing more than waiting.
  776. >It is time to begin working once again.
  777. >The main ingredient in fireworks is gunpowder, a substance that you know how to make and have made on occasion.
  778. >However, the ratio of the ingredients, charcoal, sulfur, and potassium nitrate, must be perfect for the reaction to occur.
  779. >Charcoal you can either produce by burning wood in a low oxygen environment or purchase.
  780. >Sulfur can probably be purchased from a gardening shop, where it will probably be sold as fertilizer.
  781. >The potassium nitrate may be a little messy to acquire, but if collecting bat guano is what is necessary to be successful in Equestria, then that is a small price to pay.
  782. >Plus, you have your radiation suit.
  783. >You will also need wooden rods to guide the fireworks rockets and paper to make the rocket bodies.
  784. >You untie the small cloth sack of money from your belt loop.
  785. >About 30 of the gold coins remain.
  786. >It is enough to acquire what you need to start making fireworks.
  787. >You now have two goals for today.
  788. >You walk through town, catching a few odd looks.
  789. >Paying them no heed, and you pause outside a flower shop.
  790. >A burlap bag of yellow powder under a sign marked "Fertilizer" catches your eye.
  791. >You walk through the glass door into the shop.
  792. "Excuse me, miss. How much is the bag of sulfur outside?" you inquire.
  793. >The cream colored, red maned shopkeeper looks up from flipping through the pages of a book on a glass display table.
  794. >"I don't know. I was conned for it. Some minotaur salesmen pawned it off to me a couple days ago as special fertilizer for flowers that doesn't smell. Except it does, like rotten eggs! Do you know what it is?”
  795. "It's sulfur powder. It is fertilizer. It provides certain sulfur compounds for plants, which they use for growth."
  796. >"Well, at least he wasn't lying then. What do you need it for?"
  797. " A chemistry project."
  798. >"Hm... 14 bits, and it's yours."
  799. >You fish out the coins from your pouch and set them on the table.
  800. "Well, thank you. Do you mind if I come back and pick it up later?"
  801. >"Of course not. I'm just glad somepony even wants to buy it."
  802. >Beginning to walk out, you stop for a second and ask:
  803. "Would you happen to know of any caves or abandoned buildings, someplace where bats might live?"
  804. >"I think there's a cave in a hill by the forest. In the southeastern part of town, by the lake."
  805. "Thank you. That's all I need to know."
  806. >You step back out into the street and continue on your way, heading to the southwest and a small stone building belching sparks and soot into the sky.
  807. >You find the blacksmith dropping a long metal bar into a pool of water, letting off a violent hiss and a cloud of steam.
  808. "Hello," you greet, and the pony looks up.
  809. >"Oh. It's you," he replies. "What do you want now?"
  810. "I would like to apologize for my actions a few days ago. It was rude of me, especially when I was asking for help."
  811. >"Yeah, sure. No problem, kid."
  812. "And, the fact of the matter is, I need your aid again."
  813. >You pull out the diagram of the transporter and unfurl it on a nearby table.
  814. "Can you make parts like these?"
  815. >The blacksmith clops over and stares at the page for a moment.
  816. >"What is this thing?" he asks suddenly.
  817. "It's a dimensional transporter. I need to build one to get home."
  818. >"There's no way that I can make parts this precisely. You're looking at machine-made parts here. I mostly make ceremonial weapons and armor; I can't work metal parts to be so finely tuned."
  819. "Okay, then. Is there somewhere I can get parts made this way?" you inquire.
  820. >The blacksmith turns away for a moment and rubs his hoof through his mane.
  821. >"I've got a brother that lives in Fillydelphia. He runs an ironworks outside the city. If you'd be willing to give me this, I could send the schematic to him and see what he can do," the blacksmith explains
  822. "Excellent. How long and how much will it be?"
  823. >"I have no idea what you'd have to pay him, but expect about a week to get the letter there and a week for his response."
  824. "Very well, then. I will probably be able to pay him immediately then."
  825. >"Good! By the way, kid. What are you, and what's your name?"
  826. "My name is Anonymous. I am a human, a being from another universe."
  827. >"Hm. The name's Silver Hammer. Nice to meet you."
  828. >You trek home, picking up the bag of sulfur powder on your way.
  829. >A quick sniff reveals the pungent odor of sulfur oxides, proving that the pale yellow particles are indeed the element you seek.
  830. >Once you arrive outside Twilight's tree, you begin to prepare the second of the three ingredients by grabbing a bundle of fallen sticks and dry leaves and heaving them onto a clear patch of earth, away from any low hanging branches or anything else that might catch fire.
  831. >You search a few closets for a shovel, but find none.
  832. >You do find a bucket, which you fill with water from the stream behind Twilight's house.
  833. >You are forced to tediously cover the pile with dirt by hand.
  834. >Unable to find matches or a lighter, you are forced to start the fire with friction only, though it proceeds rather quickly.
  835. >Soon you have slow burning carbon pile, perfect for producing charcoal.
  836. >Twilight runs around from the front.
  837. >Anonymous! What the hay are you doing? Do you want to set the whole town on fire?" she yells.
  838. "Obviously not. I need charcoal for my fireworks. I need it to make gunpowder. I have a bucket of water in case something goes wrong, and the fire is away from any flammable objects."
  839. >"You could have just bought charcoal if you needed it so badly," Twilight berates.
  840. "Or, I save myself the cost of purchasing materials and make the charcoal myself. Simple economics, really. Vertical integration."
  841. >"Ugh... fine. Just tell me when you are going to do stuff like this, okay?"
  842. "Very well," you relent. "Though I will warn you that this fire has to burn for a few days."
  843. >Twilight's previous anger returns with a vengeance, her cheeks glowing bright crimson.
  844. "I'll watch it to make sure nothing happens."
  845. >After watching the slowly rising embers for a few moments, you hear hooves crunching through the dry ground.
  846. "Hello, Miss Rarity," you greet the white mare in front of you. "I assume you're here to drop off my clothes, correct?"
  847. >"Yes! They came out absolutely lovely, if I do say so myself," she exclaims, unfurling a black shirt from her bag with a flourish.
  848. "Do you mind if I go try these on?" you ask.
  849. >"Of course not! I’ll just be upstairs talking with Twilight if you need me."
  850. >The two of you head inside Twilight’s library, with you going downstairs while Rarity stays on the main floor.
  851. >The clothes fit nicely, even if the fabric is a bit starchy.
  852. >Clambering back upstairs, you hear Rarity saying, “He doesn’t even have a bed down there? Twilight, how thoughtless of you!”
  853. >“He didn’t want one. He said he didn’t need one and was fine just sleeping in a sleeping bag.”
  854. >“Twilight, you and I both know that that is no way to treat a guest.”
  855. >Rarity turns her head and notices you.
  856. >“Oh, there you are Anonymous. Twilight and I were just talking about you. I guess you heard that.”
  857. >You nod.
  858. >“Well, I think there is a simple solution to this problem. Anonymous, we’re getting you a nice bed and a desk down there. Twilight told me how you wanted a place to work and stay here, so we might as well turn it into a nicer place for you to –”
  859. “No. This is completely unnecessary,” you reply. “I am perfectly fine without those things. There are plenty of tables to work on in Twilight’s laboratory, and I am fine sleeping on the floor. There is no reason to even bother with such trifles.”
  860. >“No debating, Anonymous,” Rarity states. “I’m getting you a bed. Generosity is my Element.”
  861. “And self-sufficiency is mine,” you mutter.
  862. >Every day at school, at least a dozen people came up to you asking for your help.
  863. >You always gave them the same response: "No. Learn the material yourself. Be independent."
  864. >You occasionally broke this rule for colleagues who you trusted, students who truly wished to learn as you did.
  865. >But, for most, you gave the same response.
  866. >No pity was to be given to those who did not take the time to learn or pay attention.
  867. "When you are working," you told them. "I will not be there to solve your mathematical conundrums for you."
  868. >People called you a jerk, people gave you flak for refusing to aid them, but you steadfastly knew that they would be better for it.
  869. >You prided yourself on your autonomy.
  870. >A deep history of being lugged around to do errands from a young age has also caused you to resent going shopping for furniture, clothes, and groceries, unless it was of your own choice.
  871. >Being forced to confront both of these devils left a grimace on your face and dread in your gut.
  872. "Rarity, if I needed new furniture so badly, I would have gone out and gotten it myself. I have very important work to do at this moment!" you protest.
  873. >"And I am sure that you can return to it later," she retorts.
  874. >You sigh and accept your fate as she pulls you out of the house with her magic.
  875. “Have fun you two!” Twilight shouts out to you, giggling a bit.
  876. >You shoot her a deadpan glare.
  877. >Rarity schleps you to several different furniture stores, and you accept her stylistic choices without complaint.
  878. >As she cycles through two different shades of fabric for the bed spread, you simply mutter, “Can we leave soon, please? I really need to – ”
  879. >“Well, you could help by saying if you prefer blue with white stripes or plaid,” Rarity scolds.
  880. “It doesn’t matter! Pick one!” you shout, throwing your hands into the air.
  881. >Rarity turns from examining the swatches and looks at you like you had just told her she was an unsightly, overweight pig with no fashion sense.
  882. >“Design. Always. Matters. Never forget that, Anonymous. That being said, blue with white stripes definitely seems better, don’t you agree?”
  883. >You grunt an affirmative response.
  884. >As you step out into the street, three fillies run by.
  885. >Rarity shouts out, "Sweetie Belle! Can you help us with this furniture?"
  886. >The diminutive white unicorn, almost a miniature version of Rarity with a slightly more curly, lavender and pink mane suddenly skids to a halt, her red cape flapping.
  887. >"But we were about to go down to the lake to go look for frogs!" Sweetie Belle whines.
  888. >"And you can do that once you help us! It won't take that long, and maybe you'll earn your Cutie Marks doing it."
  889. >The three girls immediately perk up at the mention of Cutie Marks.
  890. >"What're you and what's your name, mister?" the yellow one with the red mane asks in a strangely familiar Southern drawl.
  891. "I am Anonymous. I am a human."
  892. >"Oh! So you're the critter that Applejack's been talkin' about for the last few days," she replies.
  893. >"My name is Applebloom. I'm AJ's sister."
  894. >"And I'm Scootaloo!" the orange pegasus with the straight purple mane adds.
  895. >"And I'm Sweetie Belle!" the white unicorn finishes.
  896. >"And together we are the Cutie Mark Crusaders!" they cheer.
  897. "And what exactly is a Cutie Mark?" you inquire, getting down on one knee.
  898. >"It's a sign of our special talent," Scootaloo explains. "What we're supposed to do with our lives!"
  899. >You raise an eyebrow at this, but accept this explanation.
  900. >It's not possible that one's life purpose can be expressed in a single moment.
  901. >Right?
  902. >Two heavy-set stallions lug the bed, desk, lamp, sheets, and bedspread Rarity had picked out for you onto a cart.
  903. >"CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS FURNITURE DELIVERY!" they shout in unison.
  904. >The three fillies are soon hauling the cart by themselves.
  905. >Rarity trots along by your side.
  906. >"Sweetie, could you maybe use some help moving the items inside?" Rarity inquires as you arrive back at Twilight’s tree.
  907. >"Yes," she sputters, slipping out from the cart’s yoke and then collapsing on the ground for a second.
  908. >The other Cutie Mark Crusaders follow suit, lying on the ground like dogs in the heat of a Phoenix summer.
  909. “Actually, never mind girls,” Rarity says, returning from inside the tree. “Twilight will – ”
  910. “NO!” Applebloom shouts, jumping up from the dirt like she had been electrocuted. “We’ll never get our furniture moving Cutie Marks unless we do it ourselves! Right, girls?”
  911. >The other girls nod, still panting a bit, and lift the bed off the cart and through the doorway.
  912. >“Girls, please!” Twilight consoles, coming out of the tree. “I can lift this very easil – ”
  913. >Applebloom shoots her a venomous look.
  914. “I wouldn’t interfere,” you warn.
  915. >After about an hour of lugging the furniture down to the basement, the Cutie Mark Crusaders return outside, finding you observing your charcoal pyre.
  916. >They stare up at you with their large white eyes.
  917. >"Will you help us find our Cutie Marks?" Sweetie Belle asks.
  918. >You chuckle a bit.
  919. "I'm a physicist, not a philosopher, but I can tell you that searching for your life purpose is a futile task. It will come to you. Do what you find naturally."
  920. >"That's what everyone tells us," she replies, walking back out the door with a dejected look on her face.
  921. >You walk into the kitchen and rip off a hunk of bread from a loaf sitting on the table and grab a wedge of cheese.
  922. >Your appetite satiated, you march downstairs and grab your radiation suit.
  923. >You only need the boots and the body suit, not the helmet.
  924. >Twilight catches you before you leave.
  925. >“My friends and I were planning to go for a late-afternoon picnic, and I was wondering, do you want to come?” she asks.
  926. “No. I need to acquire some bat guano for the gunpowder.”
  927. >Then a realization hits you.
  928. “Do you have a shovel?” you inquire.
  929. >“Yeah, I think it’s down in the basement.”
  930. >She points to a small closet that you hadn't noticed before... with a shovel inside it.
  931. >You were certain you checked that one this morning.
  932. >It's rare that you genuinely feel stupid from your actions.
  933. >You should've checked the house more thoroughly.
  934. >You grab another bucket from the same closet you found the first one in, and set off.
  935. “You could at least say goodbye,” Twilight scoffs before you leave.
  936. “I’ll be back soon,” you respond.
  938. >You are Twilight Sparkle, having a picnic with your friends.
  939. >You lay out a large red and white checkered cloth on the ground and place the wicker picnic basket, filled with apples, a few bottles of soda, and daisy sandwiches, on top.
  940. >“I hope everyone has been having an absolutely marvelous week,” Rarity says, lying out on the tarp. “I know I have. Just made a sale to some big wigs in Fillydelphia; they absolutely love my designs and are looking for someone to model them... How about you, Fluttershy? Are you willing to get back into the business? As partners this time.”
  941. >“It might be nice...” Fluttershy mumbles. “But, no. I remember what happened last time like it was yesterday. I don’t ever want to be in fashion again...”
  942. >“How about you then, Rainbow Dash? You’d look great in some of my outfits.”
  943. “Sorry, but I don’t do... fancy. You know that, Rarity,” Rainbow Dash states, opening a bottle of orange soda with her teeth and taking a big gulp.
  944. “What have you been up to lately, Rainbow? I haven’t seen you on weather patrol lately.”
  945. >“There hasn’t been much to do. It’s summer. All we need is sunshine, and we haven’t seen any rogue clouds coming in lately. I got the week off. It’s perfect. Plenty of time to work on my speed.”
  946. >Rainbow leaps into the air and performs an aerial loop de loop, leaving behind her signature multicolor streak before lightly touching down on the grass.
  947. >“C’mon, Rainbow. Don’t be such a show-off all the time,” Applejack berates with smirk. “You don’t have to remind us that you’re the fastest flyer in all of Equestria every single day.”
  948. >Rainbow chuckles.
  949. >“So, Twi. How has that Anonymous fellow been treatin’ ya?” Applejack inquires.
  950. “He’s not much of a burden. He mostly keeps to himself. He was gone for most of the morning with Rarity. She wanted to get him a bed.”
  951. >“Well that’s awful generous of ya, Rarity,” Applejack remarks.
  952. >“It was nothing. It was just the right thing to do. Poor thing sleeping on the floor every night. It would be un-ladylike not to offer it to him.”
  953. “Well, he didn’t mind sleeping on the floor. He seems to get really annoyed when people do him favors. He thinks it puts them in debt to them.”
  954. >“Yeah, you saw how he reacted to me just giving him a bagel!” Pinkie Pie adds. “I mean, if I were to offer somepony a bagel, they wouldn’t think twice about it. ‘In debt to me’ for a bagel? He’s crazy.”
  955. “He is a little strange, but he’s from a completely different universe. Maybe favors are treated – no, he told me our society operated eerily similar to human society. Hm."
  956. >You pause and telekinetically lift a sandwich out from the basket.
  957. “I wonder why he cares about being in debt so much? He’s very secretive. He won’t tell me anything about himself, just generalities about humanity.”
  958. >“Did you ask him if he wanted to come to our picnic?” Pinkie asks.
  959. “Yeah, I did,” you reply. “He said no. He wanted to go collect bat guano for gunpowder.”
  960. >“As I said. Crazy. And this is coming from me. I know crazy,” Pinkie says. “He needs to lighten up.”
  961. >Rainbow taps her hoof against her head.
  962. >“I think I have an idea,” she announces. “I’m taking Anon out drinking tonight.”
  963. “What?! But you don’t know how he’ll react to alcohol!”
  964. >“Can’t be worse than anypony else,” Rainbow debates. “Besides, it’ll get him to open up. We may learn a little more about him.”
  965. “You’re right,” you relent. “He did mention humans have been brewing alcoholic beverages for millennia, since the dawn of civilization. The ancient Egyptians were the first. And with his larger body mass, he might be more tolerant to our spirits... hm...”
  966. >“Don’t bring science into this, Twilight,” Rainbow Dash says. “Science ruins everything. Hey, AJ, you wanna help me out?”
  967. >“I dunno, Dash. You sure this is a good idea?”
  968. >“What could possibly go wrong? And I know that the bar has some of your freshest cider on tap. We’ve gotta go. Tonight.”
  969. >“You guys are crazy,” Pinkie Pie remarks with a grin before chugging down a gulp of soda.
  971. >You are Anonymous, climbing a low grass-covered hill, with various animal burrows dug into the side.
  972. >As you round the other side, a small cave yawns open, a few droplets of water falling from the mouth.
  973. >A vile stench tickles your nostrils; this cave definitely contains what you seek.
  974. >Upon entrance into the blackness, your boots squelch against a mat of wet bat dung.
  975. >You begin shoveling the matter into the bucket, filling it completely in a few moments.
  976. >You step back out into the sunlight and walk home, all three parts of the gunpowder mixture now obtained.
  977. >Oddly, Twilight still isn’t back from her picnic.
  978. >You fill the bucket of guano with water and set it out to stew.
  979. >The potassium nitrate will dissolve into the water, which can then be evaporated away, leaving behind the saltpeter.
  980. >This could take a few days, leaving you with some time for thinking.
  981. >That is, unless you are distracted again.
  982. >There is a loud thumping on the door.
  983. >You stand up and walk over to the entryway to pry the door open.
  984. >A certain rainbow-maned blue pegasus and an orange-bodied blonde earth pony stand in front of you.
  985. "What do you want?" you ask. “And where’s Twilight? Shouldn’t she be home by now?”
  986. >“Wow, that's not exactly a nice response," Rainbow Dash replies. “Twilight’s still out. She said she wanted to stop by the bookstore and the parchment shop to get supplies, I think.”
  987. "I'm sorry, but I've already been distracted enough today. Two hours of furniture shopping really can wear out a man."
  988. >"Well, we're not takin' you shopping," Applejack responds.
  989. >"You've seemed a little on edge since you've got here. You need to relax, unwind a bit," Rainbow explains.
  990. "What are you talking about?"
  991. >"Anonymous, we want to take you to a nice bar back in town and have a few drinks."
  992. >They are just like the rest.
  993. >Sycophants.
  994. >Morons.
  995. >Fools.
  996. >You need to get out of this universe as soon as possible.
  997. "I'll have to apologize, but humans cannot ingest alcohol. It's terribly toxic," you state.
  998. >"Yeah, I don't buy that. Twilight told us you humans have been brewing ‘since the dawn of civilization.’ She said something about the ancient Egyptians being the first to do so."
  999. "You're not getting me drunk."
  1000. >"C'mon, Anonymous! It'll be fun!" she pleads.
  1001. "And fun is not something that I particularly enjoy! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have important things to work on," you retort and shut the door, only for it to be flung open again.
  1002. >Rainbow jumps through and grabs your legs, forcing you to the floor.
  1003. >You manage to reflexively stop yourself with your hands before your face slams into the wood.
  1004. "Get off me! What the hell are you doing?"
  1005. >"You're going to have fun and you will like it!"
  1006. >You try to wiggle away, but you are unable to free yourself.
  1007. >As you reach the door, you claw at the doorframe, but your grip is soon broken.
  1008. >You are bit surprised that a creature this small was able to pull you so easily.
  1009. >Not wanting to be dragged along the ground to wherever Rainbow is heading, you decide to yield.
  1010. "Alright! I will go barhopping, or whatever you want, with you. Just let me go!"
  1011. >"And you're not going to run back inside once I let go of you?"
  1012. "No. I do not want a repeat performance of what just occurred."
  1013. >"Good. Because I wasn't planning on dragging you all the way back to town anyways."
  1014. >She releases your legs, allowing you to stand up.
  1015. >You trudge towards town and a pub with a hanging wooden sign emblazoned with the name "The Laughing Unicorn."
  1016. >"Hello, girls. What'll it be tonight?" the bartender, a gruff male earth pony with a green coat and a black mane, asks.
  1017. >"Three ciders to start," Rainbow answers, taking a seat at the bar. "Drinks are on me tonight, Anonymous. It’s the Apple family recipe. Best in all of Equestria."
  1018. >You aren't in the mood to argue.
  1019. >The bartender pushes you a foaming stein of hard apple cider, and you take a quaff from it.
  1020. >You never liked drinking; it's an activity of the feeble-minded and desperate.
  1021. >It also tends to lead you to say things you probably shouldn’t.
  1022. >"So, what's your story, creature?" he asks you.
  1023. "I am a human. My name is Anonymous."
  1024. >"Don't bug him right now. He's not exactly happy to be here," Rainbow states.
  1025. >"Hmph."
  1026. >"Are ya havin' fun yet, Anonymous?" Applejack asks.
  1027. "Not particularly."
  1028. >"Another round, bartender!"
  1029. >An absolutely wonderful idea wormed its way into your head after the next round.
  1030. "I'd like a shot of your strongest stuff," you tell the bartender. "I'll pay for it."
  1031. >"Stalliongrad vodka, coming right up. That'll be two bits."
  1032. >You place the money on the table and grab a handful of napkins.
  1033. >Applejack and Rainbow Dash watch you curiously.
  1034. "Could I also get a glass of water?" you ask as the shot glass is set in front of you.
  1035. >"Sure thing. That won't cost you."
  1036. >The napkins catch quickly as you dip them into the flame of a nearby candle.
  1037. >You hold your smoking igniter over the shot glass, which erupts into a small blue flame.
  1038. >"Whoa," Rainbow exclaims.
  1039. "Now get me the salt."
  1040. >The bartender hands you a salt shaker, and, as you sprinkle the white crystals onto the flame, it turns orange and grows a bit.
  1041. >You extinguish the flame by covering the tiny glass with your palm for a few seconds, then gulp down the remaining liquid with a grimace from the saltiness.
  1042. "And that is why I'm a scientist," you say, standing up and taking a bow.
  1043. >"That's a cool trick," the bartender states, sliding you another shot. "Have another on the house."
  1044. >You quickly drain the glass.
  1045. "Alright, that's enough for me. I'm going home."
  1046. >"Aw, c'mon Anonymous! Stay a bit," Rainbow begs.
  1047. "No. I have more work to do tomorrow; I can't be hungover."
  1048. >You don't have work to do tomorrow.
  1049. >It takes a few days for the charcoal to be prepared, and at least a day for the potassium nitrate to be extracted.
  1050. >As you lumber towards the door, Rainbow sprints in front of you and blocks your path.
  1051. >"You aren't leaving until we say you can," she threatens. "Another round!"
  1052. "Get out of my way. This isn't what I find fun anyways."
  1053. >"Then what do you find fun?"
  1054. "I don't know! But intoxication is definitely not something I enjoy!"
  1055. >“You ain’t leavin’ until you tell us why you care so much about debts,” Applejack threatens.
  1056. “Is that what this about? Me wanting to pay Pinkie Pie back for that bagel?”
  1057. >“No!” Rainbow shouts. “Celestia, no! We just wanted you to relax and have some fun, Anon.”
  1058. “Don’t call me Anon. I’m not your pal, your buddy, or something like that. You want me to have another drink? Fine. I’ll have another drink. Maybe I’ll choke on it and get out of this insane universe.”
  1059. >You barely notice that you are grinding your teeth and your fists are clenched as if you wanted to punch Rainbow Dash right in her stupid fat mouth.
  1060. “Bartender. Two shots of your best scotch,” you order, walking back to the bar.
  1061. >He grabs a crystal bottle from the top shelf and pours out two glasses.
  1062. >You raise your glass to the orange and cyan mares now by your side.
  1063. “Cheers, cunts. Bottoms up.”
  1064. >You down one, and then the other.
  1065. “Ya know, I thought this universe would be different. I thought I would get away from all the goddamn morons that populate Earth. Vermin. Blech. But, no. I can’t be left in peace. I tried to be polite. I tried to be nice. And, where did that get me? Right fucking here. Right where it got me last time. People trying to be friends with me, and not realizing I don’t want friends.”
  1066. >Rainbow Dash and Applejack recoil back like you just shot a man in front of you.
  1067. >You leave the bartender a few coins on the counter, and stumble out into the night.
  1068. >As you wander aimlessly, you realize you, once again, have nothing to do.
  1069. >A high school memory suddenly stirs as you walk to the basement.
  1070. >“Anon, why aren’t you going to the dance?” Brittany asks you over your particle physics book.
  1071. >Brittany was a brighter-than-average girl and an acquaintance of yours.
  1072. >She had long blonde hair, wore fashionable clothes, and worried that she was overweight despite her slim figure.
  1073. >She had been hounding you over not going to your school’s Winter Formal for the last week.
  1074. >You slam the book shut.
  1075. “I have told you this over a thousand times. I abhor modern music, don’t know and don’t care to learn how to dance, and don’t enjoy cheap food. So, if you need a further explanation as to why I am not going to the dance –”
  1076. >“But it’s fun!”
  1077. “Maybe for you. Leave me alone.”
  1078. >You begin to storm out of the library.
  1079. >“What if I asked you?” Brittany suddenly asks.
  1080. >A few people look up.
  1081. >One of the most popular girls in school going to the Winter Formal with a nerd like you?
  1082. >It would be the scandal of the school year
  1083. “The answer is still no.”
  1084. >You shove open the door and walk out into a windy snow day.
  1085. >“But, Anon –”
  1086. “Do not call me Anon, or Anonykins, or whatever the hell else you decide to nickname me! My name is Anonymous, and I am not going to the dance with you or anyone.”
  1087. >You leave the girl in the cold and walk to your next class.
  1088. >For most of your life, you have been separate.
  1089. >You were always above the rest, placed into higher classes, skipping grades, acing every test without even trying while girls cried and boys raged over their B’s and C’s.
  1090. >Some scorned you.
  1091. >Others saw you as an esoteric oddity, a mysterious omniscient lurker, like a panther.
  1092. >They were all beneath you, and you were always separate and alone.
  1093. >Not that you cared.
  1094. >Not that anyone else cared about who you were.
  1095. >The world of alcohol, drugs, sex, fast cars, and law breaking was all beneath you.
  1096. >You avoided them like a festering pit, only interacting with them in the falsest, basest way possible.
  1097. >And, because of this, you were always alone.
  1098. >You may have been liked, but not befriended.
  1099. >It is better that way.
  1100. >Science needs no friends.
  1101. >A book.
  1102. >You want a book, or something to read.
  1103. >You head back to Twilight’s tree, but collapse on the library floor before you can even reach one of the shelves with that last though ringing in your ears.
  1104. >Science needs no friends.
  1107. Chapter 4
  1109. >Light.
  1110. >Natural light.
  1111. >It burns.
  1112. >You manage to sit up in your bed to find Twilight’s little purple dragon thing sitting in front of you.
  1113. >What was his name again?
  1114. >Lance?
  1115. >Spike, that was it.
  1116. >“Oh good, you’re awake. Celestia, what did those two do to you last night?” Spike asks. “Twilight found you passed out on the floor! That must have been some night on the town.”
  1117. “It wasn’t,” you grunt.
  1118. >You manage to lug yourself out of bed and walk over to your dissolving potassium nitrate.
  1119. >“Do you want any breakfast or anything?” the dragon asks.
  1120. >You give no response.
  1121. >“Twilight’s going to be gone, by the way. She’s off doing errands for most of the day, and I’m probably going to head off with her.”
  1122. >You only grunt recognition of the statement.
  1123. >“Alright, so, yeah, just do whatever you do....”
  1124. >Your head hurts slightly, but not enough to make you lose focus on the task at hand.
  1125. >A mild hangover will not stop you from doing what needs to be done, and will hopefully fade later today.
  1126. >The pot of water and bat droppings has turned milky white overnight with dissolved chemicals.
  1127. >You strain the liquid into a cauldron and set it over the flames of the basement fireplace.
  1128. >The cauldron soon begins to boil, sending droplets hissing into the fire.
  1129. >On the couch across from the fireplace, you sit with your fingertips pressed against each other, entranced by the flickering blaze and taking occasional peeks at the white residue collecting around the edges of the cauldron.
  1130. >Once the water evaporates completely, the fire extinguished, and the cauldron cooled, you scrape the sides with the dull edge of a knife for the precious potassium nitrate, collecting it at the bottom.
  1131. >You then go outside and check on the charcoal pyre.
  1132. >Digging away the dirt with a shovel, you notice that most of the wood has turned to charcoal.
  1133. >Excellent.
  1134. >You scoop as much of the blackened wood as you can into a pail and take it inside, then crush the chunks with a mallet.
  1135. >Rocket-grade gunpowder, if you remember correctly, is 60% saltpeter, 25% charcoal, and 15% sulfur.
  1136. >You grab a small beaker from Twilight’s laboratory cupboards.
  1137. >You are limited by the amount of saltpeter you have, but there is enough for a test batch.
  1138. >You add about a quarter of the amount of saltpeter in sulfur and a little less than half of the amount of saltpeter in charcoal.
  1139. >You stir the powder together with a glass stick, then take it outside, grabbing some matches from the cupboard and placing them in your pocket.
  1140. >Finding a clear patch of ground, you pour out a small pile of gunpowder, then lay a trail about a foot away so that you can jump back to safety once the powder is lit.
  1141. >You strike a match and drop it on the trail, which ignites in a plume of sparks and smoke, travelling towards the larger pile at the end.
  1142. >The spark ominously runs closer to the mound, which erupts in a small cloud of acrid, like the smell of rusting steel, opaque fumes as it is kindled.
  1143. >You smile a bit.
  1144. >Even better, your headache seems to have subsided.
  1145. >“Hi Anon!”
  1146. >You jump and whirl around to see who is speaking to you.
  1147. >The Cutie Mark Crusaders stand behind you, wearing three enormous grins.
  1148. “Oh, hello girls. Don’t sneak up on me like that!”
  1149. >“Sorry. Will ya help us –” Applebloom begins.
  1150. “Find your Cutie Marks? No, I’ve told you for the last three days that I don’t have any idea how to obtain a Cutie Mark in the first place, nor do I think that it’s a good idea to look for the meaning of your existence.”
  1151. >”But Twilight told us you’re some kind of scientist! Maybe our special talent is in science!” Sweetie Belle exclaims.
  1152. “Yes, I am a scientist. But, I have no instruments, no chemicals, nothing to do science with!”
  1153. >“Then what was that whoosh we just heard?” Scootaloo asks.
  1154. “Gunpowder. I need it to make fireworks, and I don’t have enough of it for any experimentation.”
  1155. >Sweetie Belle’s eyes suddenly flash.
  1156. >“If we get the ingredients for gunpowder, will you help us get our science Cutie Marks?”
  1157. >Gears begin turning in your head.
  1158. “Okay.”
  1159. >“Yay!” all three girls shout and begin running in circles around you.
  1160. “Alright, here’s what I need. First, I need more saltpeter. You can get it from dissolving bat guano in water, then boiling the water away. Just get me as much guano as you can. You’ll probably want to wear boots. “
  1161. >"Uh, what's guano?" Scootaloo asks.
  1162. "Bat poop."
  1163. >They look at you in disgust for a moment, but then return to grinning.
  1164. >“CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS SCIENTISTS!” they cheer, and run off laughing.
  1165. >That gets that out of the way.
  1166. >You refill the charcoal pit with wood, cover it with dirt, and set it ablaze.
  1167. >As you look upon your handiwork, you hear a pony trotting up the pathway.
  1168. “Hello, Rarity.”
  1169. >“Hello, Anonymous. There is something I’d like you to help me with,” she states.
  1170. “If it’s shopping, I’m afraid that I won’t be able to help you,” you say with a smirk on your face.
  1171. >”It’s not.”
  1172. “Then what is it?”
  1173. >“I often go out into the wilds to look for gems. I have a special little spell that allows me to seek them out quite easily. However, it is not very lady-like of me to pursue such crude tasks as digging. Normally, I have Spike help me out, but he is off doing something with Twilight today. Plus, I don’t like that he always tries to eat what we collect.”
  1174. “Hold on. How common are gemstones in Equestria?”
  1175. >“Fairly common, I guess. You can find them just below the surface in some places. Is this not the same back on Earth?”
  1176. >You furrow your brow.
  1177. “No. Gems on Earth are a precious commodity.”
  1178. >You pause and think for a moment.
  1179. “What exactly do you need gems for anyways? I thought you were a clothing designer.”
  1180. >“They add an extra bit of ‘pop’ to my designs,” she explains. “A lot of my wealthier patrons like a bit of extra style in their garments.”
  1181. “Well, I guess I don’t really have a choice either way. I owe you.”
  1182. >“I’d also like you to be my bodyguard. There are some nasty ruffians that frequent the gem fields.”
  1183. >You frown.
  1184. “I’m not quite sure if I would be able to do that job well. I am not the most . . . athletic human.”
  1185. “Oh, don’t worry Anonymous! You’re at least a foot taller than anything that might come after us out there. Just the sight of you will scare something off!”
  1186. >You’re not quite sure if you should be insulted by that last comment.
  1187. “Alright. Let’s go.”
  1188. >Heading west through town, the landscape changes from rolling grassy plains to rocky crags, pockmarked with caves at the foot of towering mountains like the stony legs of giants scraping the sky.
  1189. >You carry a shovel over your shoulder, while Rarity wheels a little red wagon behind her.
  1190. >Rarity breaks a stick off of a dead tree with her telekinetic magic, and, with another flash from her horn, begins scanning the ground with a ray of energy, illuminating the subterranean gems as she goes.
  1191. >She marks an X on the ground where the precious crystals are found, allowing you to dig into the dry earth with your shovel.
  1192. >A few scoops later, a hoard of various colored fist-sized gemstones sparkles before your eyes.
  1193. >So, these really just grow beneath the ground here.
  1194. >However, abundance decreases value.
  1195. >You tip them into the wagon and find another X to dig.
  1196. >Your muscles ache from the exertion of digging.
  1197. >Physical labor was never your skill.
  1198. >After twelve holes, Rarity calls, “I think that’s enough gems, Anonymous! This area looks cleared out.”
  1199. >You rub your sore arms and lean on your shovel, plunging the tip into the ground and breathing laboriously.
  1200. >A furry paw wraps around your body and begins to yank you backwards.
  1201. >You spin around to see who is attacking you.
  1202. >Three brutish, bipedal canines glare at you and bare their teeth.
  1203. >They reek of fetid meat and dirt.
  1204. >The first is thin and has a dark grey coat, the second has a pug-like face and a brown coat, and the third is tall and muscular with a light grey coat.
  1205. >A rusty wooden cart filled with gems sits behind them.
  1206. “Rarity, we’ve got trou – oof!”
  1207. >Your shout is cut off by a sharp punch to the jaw.
  1208. >The first dog pins you to the ground under his foot and knocks your shovel out of your hands.
  1209. >“Get the gems,” the first dog snarls. “Leave the creature and the mule, unless they get in our way.”
  1210. >The two other dogs lumber over to the wagon of sparkling stones.
  1211. “Rarity, use your magic!” you bellow.
  1212. >You are rewarded with a smack to the back of the head.
  1213. >She looks up from scanning a patch of ground and sees the two ruffians approaching her wagon.
  1214. >“Oh, hello Diamond Dogs. Are you going to take me back to your cave and make me work again?”
  1215. >“Not this time, mule,” the second dog growls.
  1216. >“This time, we just take your gems,” the third hisses.
  1217. >They shove her to the ground and take the wagon, then run back to their cart and pour the gems in and set your red wagon on top.
  1218. >The first dog releases you and jumps on top of the pile of gemstones.
  1219. >“Mush!” he orders to his men, and the wagon begins to roll off towards a nearby cave.
  1220. >“After them, Anonymous!” Rarity shouts to you, running to your side.
  1221. “Why? Can’t we just go dig somewhere else?”
  1222. >“No! Well, I mean we could but... those are my gems! And my wagon!”
  1223. >You don’t really want to dig more holes anyways.
  1224. >You pick your shovel up off the ground.
  1225. >It may make a suitable weapon.
  1226. >“I thought you’d be a better bodyguard then this!” she berates.
  1227. “As I told you, I am not very strong. My strength lies in my head, not my body, and I prefer it that way. And I could say the same for you!”
  1228. >“Magical attacks are not really my specialty,” she retorts.
  1229. “What were those things anyways?”
  1230. >“Diamond Dogs. They are thieves who steal gemstones.”
  1231. >You reach the dark cave mouth and notice the ruts of the wagon wheels tracked through the soft dirt.
  1232. “Can you illuminate the cave with your magic?” you ask.
  1233. >“I can try,” Rarity replies and ignites her horn.
  1234. >The a small sphere of light surrounds you as you follow the ruts.
  1235. >The tunnel widens up, and you enter a large round quarry, with narrow trails descending to the bottom, where more openings dig into the rock.
  1236. >You hear the echo of voices coming from the bottom of the pit.
  1237. >A few boxes of dynamite sit by the entrance.
  1238. >“So, what are we going to do with all these gems, boss?” the third Diamond Dog asks the first.
  1239. >“The same thing we always do, you imbecile! Take them to Los Pegasus and sell them to the black market!” the first barks.
  1240. >“Oh, right. Sorry,” the third apologizes.
  1241. >“Don’t be sorry! Just push the cart!” the second grunts.
  1242. >The cart’s wheels screech against the stone as the two lackeys shove the cart a few feet forward.
  1243. >“Do you have a plan, Anonymous?” Rarity asks you. “You said your strength lies in your head, correct?”
  1244. “Give me a moment.”
  1245. >The Diamond Dogs called you “creature.”
  1246. >They don’t know what you are.
  1247. >Perfect.
  1248. “Rarity, how strong are you with magic?”
  1249. >“I can perform some basic spells, nothing special.”
  1250. “Can you lower me and teleport some small objects to the bottom of the pit?”
  1251. >She frowns, thinking for a few seconds.
  1252. >“I could try. I don’t know if I can lift somepony as heavy you, and my power decreases with distance.”
  1253. “Alright, well, here’s the plan...”
  1254. >Rarity lifts you over the edge of the pit, her face contorted and strained from the effort.
  1255. >“Push harder! We’ll never get there if we don’t speed up!” the first dog orders.
  1256. >You slowly drop, held in place by the static-like tingling of Rarity’s magic.
  1257. >Until the magic fails, and you begin to fall.
  1258. >Rarity catches you about halfway down the pit, and slowly reach the ground with a thump in full view of the three Diamond Dogs, who notice the shimmering blue aura around you.
  1259. >“It’s the creature!” the second shouts.
  1260. “Silence! I am Anonymous the Human! I am no mere creature! I am a god! Now bow before my might!”
  1261. >Up at the top of the pit, Rarity strikes a match and lights one of the sticks of dynamite.
  1262. >You point your hand at a nearby rock.
  1263. >The dynamite teleports down and explodes, showering the Diamond Dogs and you with pebbles and filling the air with dust.
  1264. >“Attack him! God or not, he is weak!” the first dog orders.
  1265. >The two other dogs rush forward.
  1266. >Rarity ignites another stick of dynamite.
  1267. >You point at another spot on the ground in front of you, where the dynamite detonates, sending the two dogs flying into the hard rock walls.
  1268. >They stand up, rubbing their bruised bodies.
  1269. “Do not test me,” you boom. “You caught me by surprise earlier, but now my magic is charged! And, I’d like my gems back.”
  1270. >“Okay! Okay! Don’t hurt us! We’ll give you the gems back,” the first dog pleads.
  1271. “And the wagon!”
  1272. >“And the wagon!” he repeats, lifting the red vehicle off the cart and filling it with gems.
  1273. “And the rest of the gems for striking me!” you command.
  1274. >“But, we need those!” the third dog petitions.
  1275. “Then you should consider who you are punching the next time you decide to steal from someone. They may just be a god! And, for disputing my authority, you will push all the gems to Ponyville for me!”
  1276. >The three dogs hang their heads in dejection, and begin pushing the cart of gems back up to the top of the quarry.
  1277. >As you saunter up to Rarity, you give her a smirk.
  1278. >Panting a bit, she returns with a similar, if pained, expression.
  1279. >The five of you walk back to town.
  1280. “Well, that went better than I expected,” you tell Rarity once the dogs have scampered off.
  1281. >“The Diamond Dogs are not very bright,” she informs. “I was able to convince them to leave me alone last time just by complaining about how they were treating me.”
  1282. >You chuckle.
  1283. >“Well, thank you, Anonymous. You were an excellent helper and bodyguard, darling.”
  1284. “You’re welcome,” you state, and depart for Twilight’s tree.
  1285. >Six foul-smelling buckets of water sit on the doorstep.
  1286. >The Cutie Mark Crusaders have been busy while you were gone.
  1287. >While you wait for their return, you leaf through a few pages of A Complete History of Equestria, which you find on one of the shelves.
  1288. >You open up to a page with a large sketch of a strange scene.
  1289. >A landscape of what appears to be a battlefield is covered with giant cards and chess pieces, cracked with fissures spewing fire and cinders, and littered with rubber chickens and bouncing multi-colored rubber disco balls.
  1290. >A snake-like, horned chimera fights two winged unicorns with blasts of purple, black, and gold magic.
  1291. >“In the year 301, the foul being Discord, Lord of Chaos, reigned over Equestria,” the caption reads.
  1292. >The page follows with a long-winded description of the events leading up to the battle.
  1293. >The jabbering of fillies as they trudge up the path interrupts your concentration.
  1294. >“How many more buckets of this do you think we need?” Scootaloo asks.
  1295. >“Anon said to get as many as we can get,” Applebloom replies.
  1296. >You open the door rather suddenly, causing the three girls to jump and spill a bit of water onto the ground.
  1297. >“Hi, Anon!” they greet in unison.
  1298. > The nickname annoys you slightly, but pay it no heed for now.
  1299. “Hello. I have returned.”
  1300. >“Are ya ready to help us get our science cutie marks?” Applebloom inquires.
  1301. “Yes. Come inside,” you reply.
  1302. >You lead the three fillies into the basement.
  1303. “Give me a moment,” you tell them. “I need to get some paper and some supplies.”
  1304. >You run upstairs and grab a few sheets of paper and a pencil, then come back down and pick up the bag of sulfur and a few matches.
  1305. >You also pull out a beaker and a scale from the cupboard.
  1306. >The markings are rather odd
  1307. >They are in metric.
  1308. >More universal similarities.
  1309. >Useful.
  1310. >But still odd.
  1311. >You pour out three grams of sulfur onto the scale while the girls watch, then place the grains in a glass beaker.
  1312. “Sulfur, when it burns, produces quite a lovely blue flame,” you explain, striking a match and dropping it in the beaker.
  1313. >The sulfur ignites, producing its azure blaze and a puff of pungent, wispy smoke.
  1314. “It reacts with the oxygen in the air to produce sulfur dioxide and sulfur trioxide, like so.”
  1315. >You write out the two reactions.
  1316. >S8 + 8O2 ---> 8SO2
  1317. >2S + 3O2 ---> SO3
  1318. “For the sake of this experiment, and because I don’t have gas capturing and separation equipment, we’re going to assume that most of the sulfur converted to sulfur trioxide. Now, we used 3 grams of sulfur which is...”
  1319. >You perform a quick calculation in your head.
  1320. “... 0.09375 moles so –”
  1321. >“Anon, when are we going to get to the science?” Scootaloo asks you.
  1322. “My name is Anonymous. Please address me as such. And we are doing science, right now!”
  1323. >“This seems like boring schoolwork!” Sweetie Belle complains. “When are we going to make something explode, like this morning?”
  1324. “Well, I’m out of gunpowder, so that will have to wait for a few days.”
  1325. >The three girls stare up at you with their big round eyes.
  1326. >You sigh.
  1327. “Science... is more than explosions and chemicals.”
  1328. >The girls frown at you.
  1329. “Science is a both a set of methods and a mindset. The scientific method is a way to discover the truth, and science is ultimately the process of seeking the truth. And because of this, science is intertwined with mathematics. Numbers never lie. Numbers do not have feelings. Numbers are boring. But, sometimes, the numbers reveal something new. A new element, a new force of nature, a new underlying principle guiding the very formation of everything in the universe! However, until you appreciate math and numbers, you can never do science.”
  1330. >“I don’t think science is our special talent, Anonymous,” Applebloom laments.
  1331. “No, I don’t think it is,” you finish.
  1332. >“We’ll see you around,” Scootaloo states glumly, leading her friends out the door.
  1333. >You shut the door, pick up A Complete History of Equestria, and continue from where you left off.
  1334. >“Discord was a powerful magical entity of unknown origin. He calls himself a Draconequus, however, no other Draconequi have ever appeared in Equestria. It is possible they disappeared alongside other powerful magical creatures, such as the Alicorns. Discord was a master of black magic, specifically Chaos, to the point of near omnipotence. He could bend nature to his very whim, turn the best of friends to bitter enemies, and cause utter destruction with the flick of the wrist.”
  1335. “From the frozen South came the armies of the Sun and Moon Princesses. Princess Celestia and Princess Luna summoned the Elements of Harmony and pushed back the stain of Chaos to the former Forgotten Woods, and fought Discord to his defeat. The might of the chaotic magic permanently scarred the Forgotten Woods, and turned it into the ruinous, chessboard plains we see today. Discord was imprisoned in stone and placed on the Palace grounds to remain under the watchful eye of their Majesties.”
  1336. >Twilight stomps downstairs.
  1337. >“Anonymous. We need to talk,” she states.
  1338. >You close the book.
  1339. “About what?”
  1340. >“About what happened last night between you, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack. Specifically what you said to them before you left.”
  1341. “My memory of last night isn’t exactly lucid, but as far as I remember I told them to buzz off, or something to that effect. Maybe a bit stronger than that.”
  1342. >“They told me you thought Earth was filled with sycophants and morons... and that this world was too. And that you were just pretending to be nice. And that you consider friendship pointless.”
  1343. “I’m quite surprised you haven’t picked up on it. You were the first one to call me a jerk, just for pushing around a blacksmith to fit my specifications. The fact of the matter is, Twilight, I’m not what you might call a ‘nice guy.’ I tend to see what others might call friends as... allies. Tools. Means to an end. Thus my focus on debt. If you need something from me, then I cannot ask a favor from you. Simple as that. Perfectly logical. My modus operandi with people has always been very simple. I can be quite charming and polite, but it is façade. A way of lowering people’s guards so I can get what I want. I put very little into people I cannot use to my own ends. I don’t need friends, Twilight. They are distracting.”
  1344. >“So what am I then? What part do I play in your plan? Am I just a pawn to be –”
  1345. “Hardly,” you interrupt. “You have given me resources while asking nothing in return, and I am taking advantage of that. You have been very kind so far, and I appreciate that. Genuinely. I may not be similar to anyone you have met in this universe, Twilight. Your people are kind, thoughtful, and friendly, and that is something I respect. But I am not like that. My question is the following: what do you plan to do about my actions? Throw me out of your house?”
  1346. >“No! You’d have nowhere to go!”
  1347. >You get very close to her.
  1348. “Exactly. Your morals and selflessness prevent you from doing the logical thing and throwing me out into the cold after such a betrayal of trust. Plus you wouldn’t be able to study me. The first pony in all of Equestria to document a being from another dimension... a scientist such as yourself could hardly resist it.”
  1349. >“No, that’s not it all,” Twilight rebukes. “Anonymous, what you need to understand is... this world is filled with monsters. Terrible creatures that destroy everything in their path. Manticores, hydras, masters of destructive magic. People are afraid. And suddenly, a being that they don’t understand is living in my basement. You may not have magical powers, but everypony will see you as a threat. You need to show that you aren’t.
  1350. “And that is the beauty of the façade, Twilight. To everyone except you and your circle of friends, assuming none are raging gossips, I am perfectly normal. They will never know I secretly despise them.”
  1351. >“All I’d like you to do is apologize to Rainbow Dash and Applejack and we can forget this whole thing.”
  1352. “Apologize? What I said I can’t say I regret, because it is how I truly feel about those two. They are not my allies; they are outsiders and distractions. Furthermore, they were the ones who dragged me out drinking. So, had they not, we would be continuing the little fantasy I created. You never would have seen the real man behind the curtain. So, if anything, Rainbow Dash and Applejack should be apologizing to me.”
  1353. >The purple unicorn sighs.
  1354. >“No. It’s my fault. I should have been there. I warned them that I didn’t know how you’d react to being intoxicated. Mentally. I was too concerned with you being poisoned. My fault...”
  1355. >You blink.
  1356. >Concerned.
  1357. >It’s generally not said with relation to you, except by those you are related genetically with.
  1358. “It’s not your fault,” you mutter. “Do not blame yourself for this. As I said, you are the one ally I have in this universe at this point. Well, perhaps that white unicorn as well –”
  1359. >“Rarity!” Twilight snaps.
  1360. “Yes - Rarity.”
  1361. >You turn around and begin to head downstairs.
  1362. “Know this Twilight. Whatever I say to you after this point I mean with full sincerity. The curtain has turned to glass.”
  1365. Chapter 5
  1367. “I just don’t know what to do about Anonymous.”
  1368. >You are Twilight Sparkle, having a meeting with your friends at Sugarcube Corner.
  1369. >“Well, at least we know he’s not loco in the coco now. He doesn’t have some insane obsession with debt,” Pinkie Pie states, taking a sip of her milkshake. “He’s just a bit of a grump, Twilight. Let it go. He’ll come around if you give him some space.”
  1370. “This is different than Cranky Doodle Donkey, Pinkie. This is... more serious! He’s blatantly lying to people about how he feels about them,” you snap.
  1371. >“He hasn’t done anything of the sort!” Rarity argues. “He was quite helpful with my gem hunting a few days ago.”
  1372. “Yeah, but that was because he knew he was indebted to you. He knew that you could be an ‘ally’ to him, and didn’t want to –”
  1373. >“Twi, I think you need to calm down a mite,” Applejack interrupts. “You’re speakin’ faster than a two-ton wagon rollin’ down a steep mountain road.”
  1374. “You two should be angriest of all about this!” you shout, waving your hoof at Applejack and Rainbow Dash and almost toppling one of the milkshakes on the table. “He was the one who revealed all this to you!”
  1375. >“Nah, Twilight, I think I have it figured out,” Rainbow starts. “Anonymous has only been here a couple days, right? Well, imagine he hadn’t said what he said a few days ago, about his relationships being a façade, but he still went to the bar. I think then he would have started making false friendships. Up until then, he was being –”
  1376. “Genuine,” you finish.
  1377. >You sigh.
  1378. “I think I’ve found what I like least about this. Anonymous reminds me of myself. Before I came to Ponyville. But for me, it was easy to just realize, ‘Hey! I don’t have to shut myself in and study all the time! I can have friends!’ I just don’t get why Anonymous hasn’t come to the same conclusion.”
  1379. >“Ponies and humans are different, Twilight,” Applejack consoles.
  1381. >You are Anonymous.
  1382. >It has been nine days since you arrived in Equestria.
  1383. >You are currently in the fields outside of town, so that you do not accidentally set a building or a tree on fire with your experimentation.
  1384. >A bright fireball launches two feet into the air with a column of smoke and sparks, falls on the ground, and explodes a second later, singeing the dirt around it like a piece of burnt bread.
  1385. “Dammit,” you mutter to yourself.
  1386. >That’s the fifteenth today.
  1387. >The first didn’t make it out of the tube, but, fortunately, didn’t explode either.
  1388. >The second launched a few inches out, then burst into flames on the earth.
  1389. >The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth ones launched barely a foot into the air, then didn’t explode.
  1390. >And finally, the seventh through fourteenth ones functioned much like the last: a few feet higher into the air than the previous, then a fall to earth and detonation.
  1391. >After each attempt followed the tedious process of assembling another firework.
  1392. >You have enough supplies for about thirty more.
  1393. >They currently sit on a wooden table you arduously dragged out to the clearing.
  1394. >The best conclusion that you have come to is that you need more lifting powder.
  1395. >It differs from the explosive powder, like the type you made a week ago when you first began obtaining supplies, in that it contains more charcoal for fuel and less saltpeter.
  1396. >However, you will eventually run into the problem that all rocketeers must face: the rocket must be able to lift its own fuel.
  1397. >So you have been increasing it in small increments of five grams.
  1398. >Things you learned from the internet at age six have not completely failed you yet, so it is simply a matter of trying a few different designs.
  1399. >You grab two paper capsules off the table, fashioned of a few dozen layers of brown butcher paper stacked together and curved into a hardened hemisphere.
  1400. >Then, you carefully weigh out twenty-five grams of explosive gunpowder on the scale and load it into the shell along with a short fuse that sticks through a hole in the bottom, made of a thin paper tube filled with wax and black powder.
  1401. >You have timed them for exactly five seconds of flight time.
  1402. >Like any good scientist, you have a constant in each of your tests.
  1403. >In this case, the explosive powder.
  1404. >You fill two wide cylindrical paper tubes with sixty grams of lifting powder (up ten grams from the last shell, rather than the usual five) and a string dipped in vegetable oil (to function as the igniter), then adhere the two parts together, forming a firework shell.
  1405. >You write these specifications down in a small notebook, along with the fifteen other experiments you have done.
  1406. >An old metal pipe, scrounged from the junkyard, repainted in scarlet, and dug vertically into the ground, acts as the mortar.
  1407. >You strike a match and light the igniter, then drop the shell down the mortar and run for cover.
  1408. >With a bang and a whoosh, the shell launches fifteen feet into the air, a trail of inky smoke following it, before it explodes in mid-air.
  1409. >You can’t help but grin.
  1410. >Now for the color.
  1411. >You have decided to go with potassium nitrate for the sparks, because you have a surplus of it.
  1412. >It produces a violet color when burnt.
  1413. >A bowl of pre-made potassium “stars”—small spheres of potassium and salt that provides chloride ions—sits on the table, awaiting a successful launch.
  1414. >You fill the top capsule of the firework shell with five grams of potassium stars, compensating with twelve extra grams of launching powder.
  1415. >Once again, you ignite the fuse, drop the shell into the mortar, plug your ears, and duck.
  1416. >The rocket fires about two feet into the air, lands on the ground with a thump, and explodes, showering the clearing with glowing purple sparks.
  1417. >You frown.
  1418. >More lifting powder is necessary to compensate further for the added weight.
  1419. >For the next rocket, you add an additional eight grams of black powder to the cylinder at the base of the shell.
  1420. >You repeat the process you have done sixteen times over the past morning, and watch as the shell rockets into the air and detonates in a puff of smoke and a burst of brilliant purple sparks.
  1421. >With a successful launch, you scribble down the exact specifications of your design, and prepare to purchase more supplies.
  1422. >You expect to make 3000 at a total cost of 230 bits.
  1423. >Materials are cheap because most of the chemicals you make yourself.
  1424. >Already, most of the gunpowder is prepared, and you have enough sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate left over in case you run out.
  1425. >The assembly process is somewhat tedious, but you have another week of nothing to do before the Sun Festival.
  1426. >You could probably sell them for two bits each and -
  1427. >Something darts into the bushes as you walk back towards your house.
  1428. “Show yourself! I don’t take kindly to spies and thieves,” you call.
  1429. >“Okay...” you barely hear over the rustle of the breeze, and a yellow head with pink hair pops out of the shrub.
  1430. “Oh, hello. Fluffybutter was it?” you ask.
  1431. >She has never come around here.
  1432. >Then again, no one comes by your house very often.
  1433. >Not that you care.
  1434. >“Fluttershy,” the pony mumbles.
  1435. “Fluttershy,” you repeat. “Thank you. Now, what is it? I’m very busy right now.”
  1436. >“Just, could you maybe perhaps possibly... keep it down, a bit?” she asks.
  1437. “What do you mean?”
  1438. >“I’ve heard at least a dozen explosions coming from here. It’s scaring all my animals and –”
  1439. “Well, unfortunately, I can’t make fireworks silent. That’s beyond the realm of scientific possibility,” you explain.
  1440. >“Okay, well, I’ll just go then. Sorry for bothering you...”
  1441. “That being said, I am taking a break to obtain more supplies, and I don’t think I’ll be launching any more rockets.”
  1442. >“Oh, thank you,” Fluttershy responds, her voice increasing in volume slightly.
  1443. >She walks down the path towards town and out of sight.
  1444. >All you have to do now is find someone to sell the fireworks to, and you think you have an idea as to whom that may be.
  1445. >You tread down the path towards town as well.
  1446. >“Yes, there is a Royal Pyrotechnics Committee,” Twilight responds to your question once you arrive back home, not looking up from the book she is poring over.
  1447. “And? Will they buy fireworks from me?”
  1448. >“I have no idea. I could mail Princess Celestia about it. They generally have a good supply for events like the Summer Sun Festival, but I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t appreciate a few extra.”
  1449. >You pick up a quill, a scroll of parchment, and a pot of ink from Twilight’s desk and begin scribbling a letter addressed to the Royal Pyrotechnics and containing the specifications of your fireworks.
  1450. >You tie the letter with a string and head downstairs to put it in the mailbox.
  1451. >You begin to search through the bookshelves for another piece of reading material.
  1452. >You finished “A Complete History of Equestria” a few days ago.
  1453. >You pick a book called Mysteries of Magic off a shelf and head down to the basement.
  1454. >The black tome is marked with a pyramid symbol surrounded by sparks.
  1455. >You poke your head through the doorframe again.
  1456. “Maybe tell your pegasi friends to turn down the heat a little bit,” you vent with a smirk.
  1457. >The sun shone through the windows of Twilight’s tree like the light from a magnifying glass striking a helpless ant.
  1458. “No can do, Anonymous. Crops need the summer heat,” Twilight explains.
  1459. >You frown acerbically and trudge downstairs, wiping the sweat from your brow.
  1460. >A few days later, a grey, yellow-maned mare with eyes like a chameleon rams into the door.
  1461. >“Message for Mr. Ay-non-nee-mouse!” she shouts, muffled through the wood.
  1462. “Anonymous,” you correct as you open the door. “And thank you.”
  1463. >You tear open the letter with your thumb and yank out the thick parchment.
  1464. >“Dear Mr. Anonymous,” it reads.
  1465. >“Thank you very much for your generous offer. We never expected someone to sell violet fireworks so inexpensively, and your specifications allow for mortars to be easily made. Expect a representative of the Royal Pyrotechnics to visit you shortly to pick up the shipment. We hope to see you at the Summer Sun Festival in a few days.”
  1466. >“Sincerely, Sergeant Roman Candle.”
  1467. >Four hundred fireworks sit on your kitchen table, already prepared.
  1468. >2600 are yet to be made.
  1469. >You have six days.
  1470. >It’s time to get to work.
  1471. >“Hey, Anonymous?” Twilight says, trotting into the basement.
  1472. >“The girls and I were going to go out to the lake to enjoy the sun. Do you want to –”
  1473. >“No. I have work to do,” you state.
  1474. “But you could apologize to Rainbow and Apple –”
  1475. “No.”
  1476. >Twilight walks away, and you lock the door to the basement.
  1477. >You don’t want any distractions.
  1478. >In fourty-four hours, it is done.
  1479. >You haven’t slept.
  1480. >You never took a break longer than five minutes to grab a piece of bread, an apple, or something to satiate yourself or to go to the bathroom.
  1481. >Three thousand brown shells sit on the table.
  1482. >You think the shells are staring at you, mocking you, before you pass out in your chair and awaken in a black room with swirling gaseous walls.
  1483. >Your vision is fuzzy and framed by a black ellipse, and your stomach suddenly drops as if you fell from the top of a rollercoaster.
  1484. >“I sense a new presence in the darkness of the Nightmare,” a female voice calls out.
  1485. >“Tell me, what is your name?” it inquires.
  1486. “My name is Anonymous the Human.”
  1487. >“Ah... so you are the one my sister spoke about those weeks ago. A strange being from an alternate dimension, brought here by his folly.”
  1488. “What are you? Where am I?” you shout into the void.
  1489. >“You are in the realm of dreams and nightmares. And I am Princess Luna, Lady of the Night and guardian of this realm,” the voice explains.
  1490. >A tall, indigo equine figure steps out of the smoky shadows.
  1491. >You have learned of her in A Complete History of Equestria.
  1492. >Much like her sister, Celestia, Luna stands with her head up to the bottom of your chin and her horn barely reaching above your forehead.
  1493. >Her star-filled mane rustles with an unfelt wind.
  1494. >She also carries a pair of pegasus wings.
  1495. “This is a physical manifestation of my subconscious?” you ask.
  1496. >“I assume so, though that word is unfamiliar to me. Along with many others. Tell me, what exactly is a ‘boson?’”
  1497. “Stay out of my thoughts. They are my most sacred possession,” you command.
  1498. >“I shall tread no further,” Luna promises. “Walk with me.”
  1499. >She steps back through the smoke.
  1500. >You follow into an immensely tall, wide, metal corridor, like the bottom level of a prison, walled with hundreds of steel doors separated by a few feet of concrete and luminescent green circuit lines.
  1501. >The corridor seems to have no ceiling, just a bright, glowing white ceiling, like the inside of a giant fluorescent light.
  1502. “What drew you to my subconscious?” you ask your dark blue guide.
  1503. >“I’ve been drawn to it for some time. I simply decided now would be appropriate. It is different from the minds of frightened fillies I normally visit. So cold, so orderly. Like an abandoned library.”
  1504. “Anything else?”
  1505. >“You are an oddity in this world. I could not help but be curious.”
  1506. “Well, if that’s it, then get out of my head. I prefer a peaceful sleep.”
  1507. >“Wouldn’t you like some companionship? I can see it all here. Every desire that you’ve had, every grievance. I can show you the aspirations you repressed, the truths you know but refuse to accept.”
  1508. “Get out of my head,” you repeat.
  1509. >“Very well. Good night, Anonymous. May a flight of angels bid thee to thy rest,” Luna states as she departs.
  1510. “Stay away from my Shakespeare memories!”
  1511. >Luna chuckles as she flies off and fades in the blinding ceiling of your subconscious.
  1512. >The ellipse around your vision suddenly closes until only blackness remains.
  1513. >The blackness is then replaced by the red glow of light streaming through your eyelids.
  1514. >Another day dawns.
  1515. >Or, rather, has dawned several hours ago, as a quick peek outside reveals the sun just beginning to disappear behind the trees in the west.
  1516. >Your body aches from awkwardly dozing off in the chair you were working in.
  1517. >You catch your ghastly face in the reflection from the metal sink, your eyes encircled with light purple marks and your long hair and beard an absolute mess.
  1518. >Aimlessly, you pick up Mysteries of Magic and begin to read.
  1519. >“Chapter 1: The Origin of Magic”
  1520. >“The energy that we call magic permeates our world. It is a powerful, binding force, capable of great good and great evil. Magic can teleport objects across vast distances, transform the fates of others, and even manipulate the heavens themselves, so long as the magician can control it.”
  1521. >“The origin of magic is not exactly certain. It is known that all unicorns possess the ability to produce the bursts of energy we call ‘magic,’ but where these bursts come from is completely unknown. They seem to defy physical laws, most importantly the Energy Conservation Principle. Magic seems to have no source. All that is known is that the unicorn horn is an amplifier for magical energy. Beyond this, the origin of magic remains a mystery.”
  1522. >Well, that’s unhelpful.
  1523. >Magic comes from nowhere and has near-infinite potential by those who can learn to control it, you summarize.
  1524. >This universe continues to defy your logic.
  1525. >You came from a world where nature made sense and was orderly and beautiful.
  1526. >Now, you are trapped in a world without logic, what appears to be a hybrid of your universe and a new one.
  1527. >The result is illogical and disorderly.
  1528. >Your blood runs hot.
  1529. >Somewhere, you suspect, the cosmos are laughing at you and have been laughing this entire time, watching you scuttle about like a trout flung onto a pebbly beach.
  1530. >A knock at the door interrupts your train of thought.
  1531. >Three brass-armored unicorns, two hauling a wooden cart, one carrying a large sack, stand at the entrance to your abode.
  1532. >“My name is Sergeant Roman Candle. I believe we have corresponded before?” the first asks.
  1533. >He has a light scarlet coat and an iridescent orange mane sticking out a bit under his helmet.
  1534. “Right. My name is Anonymous. I think you will be quite pleased with my work,” you state.
  1535. >“May I see the rockets?”
  1536. “Yes, of course. Come inside.”
  1537. >“Follow me, I’ll need some help moving these out,” Roman Candle orders to his men.
  1538. >Roman Candle marches and you stumble into the basement.
  1539. >You display your wares.
  1540. >He picks up one with his magic and examines it.
  1541. >“These are the fireworks?” he asks.
  1542. “Yes.”
  1543. >“They are a bit oddly shaped,” one of the other soldiers remarks. “They aren’t like anything we have back in storage, boss.”
  1544. >“I know. Do they work?” Roman Candle responds.
  1545. “Quite well. Let me demonstrate.”
  1546. >You pick up one of the fireworks, a match, and the mortar.
  1547. >The three soldiers follow you.
  1548. >You march them out to the fields, where you set the pipe in the ground.
  1549. >You strike the match, light the shell, and drop it in the tube, then run for cover.
  1550. >The firework rushes out of the tube and explodes into a shower of pinkish-purple stars.
  1551. >“Ha!” Roman Candle exclaims, applauding. “That was amazing. Great work.”
  1552. “Thank you,” you reply.
  1553. >“Here’s your money,” he states. “Six thousand bits. Should be enough to keep you in business for some time.”
  1554. >The sack is lighter than you thought it would be.
  1555. >It’s likely that the Equestrian Mint enchants their coins to be lighter for practical purposes.
  1556. “Yes. If you ever need any more, just send me a letter.”
  1557. >“I probably will at some point. This is high-quality craftsmanship here,” Roman Candle replies.
  1558. >You head back to Twilight’s tree.
  1559. >“Alright, ponies. Start loading that cart!” he orders.
  1560. >The three unicorns quickly fill their cart with brown spherical firework shells, carried up by the dozens from the basement.
  1561. “They are very simple to use. Just light the string, drop it in the mortar, and get some cover. Store in a dry place away from fires.”
  1562. >“Yeah, yeah, we know,” Roman huffs.
  1563. >“We’ll be seeing you,” Roman Candle states as they trot off.
  1564. >You step back inside the tree-house and shut the door.
  1565. >You now have the funds you need to build your transporter.
  1566. >You could almost do a little jig.
  1567. >It will be at least another week before you even know if you can get the parts, but, for now, you are quite pleased.
  1568. >You trudge upstairs, stash the sack of money in a closet, and fall asleep in your bed.
  1569. >Rising out of bed the next morning, you aren’t quite sure what to do with yourself.
  1570. >It will be another week at least before you know if the parts for the transporter will be made.
  1571. >You decide to go for a walk, and find a purple unicorn at the door to the basement.
  1572. “Hello, Twilight. Is there something you need?”
  1573. >“Why did you lock the door?” she asks, getting straight to the point.
  1574. “So that you wouldn’t bother me while I was constructing fireworks. I needed to focus.”
  1575. >“Anonymous, you are infuriating.”
  1576. “I don’t care. I didn’t want you bothering me about apologizing to people I don’t need to apologize to. It’s not in my nature, nor is it my priority. I am not here to make friends and be nice to people, Twilight. I am here because of my own hubris. And in a few months, all of this will be a distant memory.”
  1577. >“But there’s more... Anonymous, why did you take advantage of the Cutie Mark Crusaders?”
  1578. >You chuckle.
  1579. “They wanted to earn their science cutie marks. I told them finding their life purpose wouldn’t come easily. But, I didn’t want to be rooting around for bat fecal matter all day, so, why not get three naïve girls to do it?”
  1580. >Twilight groans.
  1581. >“Anonymous! What did I tell you a few days ago? This isn’t about just making friends! It’s about making sure that you aren’t run out of town with pitchforks and torches! You can't go around making unfair bargains with innocent children that don't know better. You knew you couldn't get the Cutie Mark Crusaders their Cutie Marks!"
  1582. >You give her a deadpan glare, and return to shutting the door.
  1583. >“Wait!” Twilight cries.
  1584. >“I do think people deserve second chances. Anonymous, would you like to go to the Summer Sun Celebration in Canterlot with the six of us?”
  1585. “Why should I?” you inquire through the crack between the door and the frame. “I don’t particularly like parties or celebrations or anything of that sort.”
  1586. >“Your fireworks will be on display. And you’ll be able to mend your reputation with my friends.”
  1587. >The second part doesn’t exactly win you over, but you have nothing better to do anyways.
  1588. >Might as well mend what you can for now.
  1589. “Alright, I’ll go.”
  1590. >“Great. The train leaves tomorrow at 8:00 sharp.”
  1591. >You finally close the door.
  1592. >The next morning, you walk over to the train station with Twilight and are received with three frowns and three neutral expressions.
  1593. “Hello,” you greet the six ponies in front of you.
  1594. >“Hello, Anonymous,” Twilight says, brightening up a bit. “Glad you could make it.”
  1595. >“Don’t you have something to say?” she prompts.
  1596. >You grunt.
  1597. >On one hand, you don’t really see any reason to apologize to any of these ponies.
  1598. >You have a justification for every action.
  1599. >But Twilight will probably turn what little reputation you have in this universe to shambles, revealing you as an opportunistic, friendless prick.
  1600. >You need people to trust you and not think they are being taken advantage of, or no one is going to give you what you need.
  1601. >You make your decision.
  1602. >You turn to Rainbow Dash and Applejack.
  1603. >These two.
  1604. >They have been the source of your vexation over the past few days.
  1605. >You have no reason to apologize.
  1606. “I owe you a more formal apology as well. I shouldn’t have been so rude when you were just trying to help me have a good time,” you lie through your teeth.
  1607. >Applejack’s eyes narrow.
  1608. >“Ya really think we’d be that gullible, Anon?” she probes. “We know all about you. You’d never apologize for what you did.”
  1609. “Do not call me Anon,” you state. “And I am being honest.”
  1610. >“Calm down you two!” Twilight interrupts. “Anonymous, are you lying?”
  1611. “No,” you answer, your voice unwavering.
  1612. >“See,” Twilight gloats.
  1613. >“Fine, Twi. I accept your apology, Anon... ymous,” Applejack responds. “And, we need to apologize to. We should have known that you don’t find drinking fun.”
  1614. >“Yeah, we’re sorry,” Dash adds.
  1615. “I accept your apology. Now let’s go.”
  1616. >The train arrives a few minutes later and, after an uneventful few hours on the ride to Canterlot, you stand on a balcony overlooking the palace courtyard.
  1617. >A gold sun statue stands in the middle, where Princess Celestia, flanked by guards and her sister, prepares to perform the traditional salute for the summer solstice.
  1618. >Or, at least, that’s what Twilight has told you.
  1619. >The sun reaches its apex and Celestia leaps into the air and showers the courtyard in light.
  1620. >The crowd cheers.
  1621. >While the spectacle is impressive, you make no show of your interest.
  1622. >A few hours later, you are in a fancy palace ballroom.
  1623. >Crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling, the walls are coated in the finest white paint, and the upper crust dance and chat around you like fancy flies.
  1624. >A large window looks out onto the courtyard, where you can faintly distinguish a few ponies setting up mortars for fireworks under the lamplight.
  1625. >You sit in a corner by one of the glass panes, reading Mysteries of Magic quietly and sipping a glass of fine wine.
  1626. >“So, I can finally meet you in person,” someone says.
  1627. >In response, you look up from your book.
  1628. “Hm? Ah, Princess Luna and Princess Celestia, your highnesses.”
  1629. >You look at the darker mare.
  1630. “Pleased to finally be acquainted in a more formal manner. One that does not involve barging into my dreams. That did occur, didn’t it?”
  1631. >She only chuckles and wanders off, leaving you with Celestia.
  1632. >“My pyrotechnics told me you created some magnificent fireworks for them. They are going to be displayed tonight,” she states.
  1633. “Excellent. I’m sure you will be quite impressed.”
  1634. >She nods and also trots off to some other noble guests.
  1635. >Good.
  1636. >You read a few chapters on various magical skills (teleportation, telekinesis, energy attacks, transfiguration) when Applejack and Rainbow Dash saunter over to your corner.
  1637. “And what can I do for you?” you inquire.
  1638. >“We know you lied to us, Anonymous,” Rainbow asserts. “You think after a rant like the one a few days ago that we’d ever trust you?”
  1639. >She deepens her voice to make a decent facsimile of your own.
  1640. >“You guys are vermin, you disgust me, bleh bleh bleh.”
  1641. “So?”
  1642. >Four glasses of Canterlot vintage wine in, and the alcohol is getting to your head.
  1643. >You can afford to be hungover tomorrow.
  1644. >Applejack hands you another glass of wine from a waiter.
  1645. >“Twilight trusts me a hecka lot more than you. We won’t tell Twilight nothin’ if you do somethin’ for us,” she whispers, a devious look in her eye.
  1646. “Blackmail isn’t exactly the best way to make friends.”
  1647. >“Neither is lyin’.”
  1648. “Point taken. What do you want?”
  1649. “A song,” Rainbow says, barely containing her snickering. “And we don’t want you to just sing it to us, no no no. We want you to sing it to the whole crowd.”
  1650. >You scratch your beard.
  1651. >You do have a song to sing.
  1652. >It’s the best damn song you know.
  1653. >What do you have to lose?
  1654. “Very well, then.”
  1655. >You stand up from your chair, wobbling a bit, take the glass of wine, and down it in a gulp.
  1656. >Then, you walk over to the stage, where a chamber orchestra quintet is playing a slow waltz.
  1657. >The band suddenly stops when you climb up onstage and grab one of the microphones in front of the players.
  1658. >You hear a few gasps from the audience.
  1659. “I didn’t write this song,” you shout into the mic. “But it’s the best one I know.”
  1660. >You give the orchestra a ¾ motion.
  1661. >They don’t respond.
  1662. >Regardless, you begin to sing:
  1663. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3IfWQhgfIQ
  1664. "Ain’t it a laugh, ain’t it a treat
  1665. Hobnobbing here, among the elite!
  1666. They’re goes a prince, there goes a duke
  1667. >You point to a few ponies in the crowd.
  1668. “That one’s a queer, but what can you do?
  1669. >You point to a particularly flamboyantly dressed earl.
  1670. Paris at my feet, Paris in the dust!
  1671. And here’s me breakin’ bread with the upper crust!
  1672. Beggar at the feast, master of the dance
  1673. Life is easy pickings if you grab your chance
  1674. Everywhere you go, law abiding folk
  1675. Doin’ what is easy but they’re mostly broke
  1676. Singin’ to the Lord on Sundays
  1677. Prayin’ for the gifts he’ll send
  1678. But we’re the ones who take it
  1679. We’re the ones who make it in the end!
  1680. Watch the buggers dance, watch ‘em till they drop
  1681. Keep your wits about you and you’ll stand on top.”
  1682. Masters of the land, always get our share,
  1683. Clear away the barricades and we’re still there!
  1684. We know where the wind is blowing,
  1685. Money is the stuff we smell
  1686. And when we’re rich as Croesus, JESUS, won’t we see you all in hell!”
  1687. >You chuckle a bit as the crowd stares at you in shock.
  1688. >Your giggling soon turns to a maniacal cackle.
  1689. >Then you trip and fall off the stage, stumbling back to your corner, where Applejack and Rainbow are rolling with laughter.
  1690. “Happy now?”
  1691. >“Very!” Rainbow guffaws, wiping a tear from her eye with her hoof.
  1692. >The conductor restarts the waltz, and a loud bang followed by an “Ooo!” alerts you that the fireworks have started.
  1693. >As the ballroom is showered in pinkish-purple flashes of light, you begin to laugh again.
  1694. >Who is to say that Logic can’t enjoy Chaos sometimes?
  1697. Chapter 6
  1699. >Logic and chaos should never mix.
  1700. >You awaken with what feels like a rail spike driven into your skull and a loud booming in your ears.
  1701. >Eventually, you determine that the banging is someone knocking at the door.
  1702. “Come in,” you groan, flipping the covers off your bed.
  1703. >The Sun and Moon Princesses were happy to give you a room in the castle with your six acquaintances, and you appreciated the soft four-poster bed to sleep in after at least ten shots of hard apple cider.
  1704. >The door clicks open.
  1705. >“Anonymous, we need to talk,” Twilight Sparkle states as she enters.
  1706. “What about?” you grunt.
  1707. >”Why did you lie at the train station?”
  1708. “What? Did Applejack and Rainbow Dash break their promise to me?” you mutter.
  1709. >“What promise? I already knew they knew. And I could see your lie on your face. You didn’t believe a word of that apology and all of us knew it. I just didn’t want to make a scene.”
  1710. >You don’t want to deal with this right now; the rail spike is being hammered in farther.
  1711. “And? So I lied to your friends. They knew I was lying and didn’t care. They then blackmailed me to get me to make a fool of myself.”
  1712. >“Anonymous, that’s beside the point. You need to learn to be nicer to ponies. I just don’t understand why you can’t just stop all the lying and . . . everything. You’re smart! Smarter than me even!”
  1713. >You sigh and look at the closed shades covering the windows of your suite.
  1714. >She just doesn’t get it, does she?
  1715. “Miss Twilight, you don’t seem to understand what I am like. As I told you: people, or sentient ponies, are merely tools to me. I can interact with them, yes. I hide behind a polite façade for the purpose of manipulation. This I have told you.”
  1716. >You pause for a moment.
  1717. “I trust no one. It was not just that instance; I have always been an outcast. From the day I was promoted from the first grade to the fifth, I was always the strange little kid in the corner who could recite the periodic table from memory, do multiplication tables and, later, complex derivatives in five seconds. I never shared my intellect with anyone and was surrounded by morons, fools, and sycophants. I was made fun of for being the know-it-all nerd. Applejack and Rainbow Dash were just two in a long line of people who took advantage of me. I learned to rely only on myself, and chastised others to do the same. I would never be in debt to anyone for anything, lest they gain leverage over me. And friends? Friends are a waste of time. They sap your time, your money, and your knowledge like leeches and then they turn around and kick you to the curb.”
  1718. >Through your monologue, Twilight’s expression changed from one of anger, eyebrows angled and brow crumpled, to shock and abject horror, her mouth open like a gaping fish.
  1719. >At the end, she turns towards the door and begins to exit.
  1720. >“Oh, there’s one other thing,” she mentions. “Roman Candle wanted me to tell you that though your fireworks were excellent, a few of them were faulty. 302, to be precise. He wants repayment.”
  1721. >“That’s right,” you hear the sergeant say as he walks down the hallway and into view. “We need 604 bits to cover our losses, Anonymous, plus 50 more to pay for medical treatment for one of my corporals that your rockets hurt.”
  1722. “I can’t do that. I have no idea how much my transporter will cost. I need all the money I can get!”
  1723. >“If you are so concerned with your reputation around here, why aren’t you doing this? You’ll be known as a conman!” Twilight scolds.
  1724. “My reputation with people means nothing now,” you explain. “Why would anyone refuse to accept my money?”
  1725. >You stop and think about what you just said.
  1726. “I will pay you back as soon as I know how much my transporter will cost,” you tell the sergeant. “I apologize for any damages I might have caused, but I do have other priorities right now.”
  1727. >“Alright, so long as you do eventually pay us back,” Roman Candle grunts.
  1728. “I will. I would not like to be in debt to anyone.”
  1729. >He marches off.
  1730. >Twilight stares at you glumly.
  1731. >“I used to think you had a chance, Anonymous. I hoped you might learn to like it here. I thought – ”
  1732. “Be quiet. After all this time, after everything I have told you, you thought that I would want to stay in this world? Everything I have ever known is back on Earth, and I need to report that my teleporter works. I told you that on the first day I arrived here.”
  1733. >Twilight stomps away.
  1734. >You shut the door and find the shower to remove the stench of last night’s party from your body.
  1735. >You then walk to the train station to buy a ticket back to Ponyville.
  1736. >The schedule shows that the next train isn’t for at least another hour, so you decide to walk around the city.
  1737. >You eventually end up in the Royal Statue Garden.
  1738. >On your left is a giant green hedge dotted with a few openings into angular corridors of verdant plant life.
  1739. >A hedge maze, you assume.
  1740. >Much like the images of Versailles you have seen in textbooks, the opulence both impresses and sickens you.
  1741. >Money that could have been put into infrastructure and other useful parts of society has instead been expended on luxuries for the upper class.
  1742. >Pearlescent statues of various noble attributes are of little value when your kingdom is starving.
  1743. >Then again, you have not seen a single impoverished pony in Equestria.
  1744. >Perhaps they are all locked away in a dungeon?
  1745. >Passing the statues of Love and Victory, you find a large, twisting marble statue of a chimera in front of you, apparently screaming in pain or fear.
  1746. >You quickly recognize the figure from the books you have read.
  1747. >“Discord, Lord of Chaos,” the sign reads, followed by “Do not touch.”
  1748. >“There it is, dear,” a male states in a high-class tone. “The human.”
  1749. >“Ugh, just look at it. It’s a grubby tramp. Not fit for our society. How did it even get invited to the party last night?” a female replies snootily.
  1750. >For now, you ignore the insults and continuing staring at the statue of Discord.
  1751. >“It’s friends with that Twilight Sparkle and her crowd,” the first replies. “Why they would associate with such an uncouth scoundrel is beyond me.”
  1752. “It is not wise to slight someone who is twice your size,” you threaten coolly, simply glancing over your shoulder at your offenders from the statue.
  1753. >In your peek, you catch your insulters’ appearances.
  1754. >One is a male unicorn in a shortened sweater-vest and scarf, and the other is a female of the same subtype in a light dress.
  1755. >Behind them stands a crowd of about six other unicorns in similar garb.
  1756. >“One punch and you’ll face the best legal team in all of Equestria,” the male unicorn retorts with a smirk.
  1757. >“Now, now Jet Set, don’t be so rude,” a third unicorn remarks, this one white and wearing a black suit with a purple bowtie. “Goodness, you are even more of ruffian than this fellow is.”
  1758. >He turns to you.
  1759. >“My apologies for my friend’s rudeness. We both saw what you did at the Summer Sun Celebration last night. Good show, by the way. You had me in stitches by the end. Oh, where are my manners. I am Fancypants. And you would be?”
  1760. >His entourage’s disposition towards you changes in the blink of an eye as soon as Fancypants shows approval for your performance.
  1761. >While before they were frowning and scrutinizing you, now the crowd seems quite welcoming and friendly.
  1762. >Your two assailants seem to be studying you with interest rather than derision.
  1763. “Anonymous. Thanks. To be honest, I did it on a dare to get two mares off my back,” you explain.
  1764. “Ah, I know how that can be... . Tell me, what exactly are you?” Fancypants inquires.
  1765. >Your left eyebrow twitches a bit.
  1766. >You are becoming a little tired of repeating the same spiel to every new equine creature you meet, but you reluctantly tell your story once again.
  1767. >“Well, if it’s money you need, I’m sure a few of us would be willing to chip in to help you get home. In fact, I know a gentlecolt who is working with long-distance teleportation spells that I could get you in contact with,” Fancypants says rather casually.
  1768. “Thanks, but I have plenty of money right now, and I don’t really need any help. This is far beyond the realm of any magical power,” you respond.
  1769. >Glancing up at a nearby clock tower, you see that it is 10 minutes to the next train.
  1770. “I have to go.”
  1771. >“Well, if you need anything, just send me a letter!” Fancypants declares.
  1772. >You march off, and, as you do, you barely hear a mare comment, “I like him. He’s different than the rest of this crowd. More like those six Ponyville girls we met a while ago. Remember that, Fancy?”
  1773. >“Yes, I do, Fleur. He seems like an honest chap. Don’t know what made him think to sing such an outlandish tune.”
  1775. >You are Twilight Sparkle, staring out the window on the train back to Ponyville.
  1776. >“C’mon, Twi, cheer up,” Applejack says, patting on the shoulder.
  1777. “No. Ugh, it’s just... he’s such... urgh...”
  1778. >“Let it go, girl,” Applejack consoles.
  1779. “I just don’t get it! He clearly knows how to be friendly to people, but secretly hates them and just wants to use them. He’s... he’s... unemotional! That’s it. He just doesn’t care! And I can’t do anything, and he’s always just going to be down in my basement, gloating.”
  1780. >“You always could throw him out,” Rainbow Dash suggests.
  1781. “That’s what he wants me to do, though. It would satisfy him, knowing that I had done the logical course of action, and I wouldn’t ever be able to make any more progress with him.”
  1782. >But this isn’t someone who needs to make friends.
  1783. >It’s someone who doesn’t even want them in the first place and doesn’t see a point in having them.
  1784. “I could try, and try, and try to get him to see the value of having people who care about him, but he’d never get it.”
  1785. >“You seem to care about him, Twi,” Applejack states with a sly smile. “You seem to care about him a lot.”
  1786. “Applejack...” you warn.
  1787. >“I’m just sayin’, maybe you should tell Anonymous where you comin’ from in all this. Maybe he hasn’t had people who cared about him before.”
  1789. >You arrive back at Twilight’s tree in the pouring rain at around 8:00 PM.
  1790. >The candles lit in the windows indicate Twilight has arrived some time before you.
  1791. >You raise your fist to rap on the door, but it already opens to reveal the purple unicorn.
  1792. >“You should step inside. You’re going to catch a cold,” Twilight says.
  1793. “That’s not what I expected to hear,” you reply.
  1794. >You still comply with the suggestion.
  1795. >Twilight levitates a pot of tea onto the table in the center of the library, along with two stools.
  1796. >“Sit,” she orders as you begin to head down to the basement.
  1797. >She fills one of the small cups with steaming liquid.
  1798. “There isn’t any more to talk about,” you state. “I’m going downstairs. Decide what you want to do with me. I could hardly care less if you kick me out.”
  1799. >“That’s not what I’m going to do,” Twilight responds.
  1800. “Then let me go. I want to read.”
  1801. >“No. Sit,” Twilight reiterates, slightly more forcefully this time.
  1802. >You submit, plopping down on the stool with a thump.
  1803. >“Anonymous, I’d just like to say... I care about you.”
  1804. >You blink a few times and begin to laugh.
  1805. >Your few mirthful chuckles turn into a waterfall of guffaws.
  1806. >You wipe a few tears from your eyes.
  1807. “Miss Twilight, are you trying to seduce me?”
  1808. >“No! Anonymous, I get the feeling that the reason that you are just so... cold is that no one has ever –”
  1809. “Twilight. I am the way I am not for lack of being cared for,” you say, getting up from the table.
  1810. >Your grin slowly disappears, and you turn around to face the window
  1811. After a few moments thought, you state, “Very well, Twilight. I will tell you.”
  1812. >You have isolated four events that you feel shaped you the most.
  1813. >Four events that molded you into the Anonymous today, like clay in the hands of a skilled potter.
  1814. >Your father’s death.
  1815. >Your mother’s death.
  1816. >Being beaten up in sixth grade.
  1817. >And, finally, your counseling session during your sophomore year.
  1818. “Those are the moments in my life that have led to this point,” you finish. “That is why who I am, Twilight. I am alone because I do not need anyone. I have never needed anyone.”
  1819. >Twilight stares at the floor.
  1820. “Now I am going to read for a while, and go to sleep. Good night.”
  1821. >“I’m so sorry, Anonymous.”
  1822. >She begins to go upstairs.
  1823. “There’s nothing to be sorry for.”
  1824. >You walk towards the stairs down to the basement.
  1825. >“You could at least drink the cup of tea.”
  1826. >You pick up the ceramic cup and examine it.
  1827. >It’s painted with delicate blue flowers.
  1828. >You take a short sip and set it down.
  1829. “It’s too hot. I’ll come back up when it’s cool.”
  1830. >The liquid nearly burnt your tongue.
  1831. >However, you head down to your domicile, you consider what Twilight said.
  1832. >You didn’t feel people didn’t care about you.
  1833. >At least, you didn’t think so.
  1834. >You just never needed them.
  1835. >And, perhaps because you never relied on other people, you never cared about them and –
  1836. >No, enough of such thoughts.
  1837. >It will be a few more days before you finally know the cost to build the transporter.
  1838. >In the meantime, you read Mysteries of Magic and become proficient in your knowledge of the Equestrian arcane arts.
  1839. >The farthest anyone has ever been teleported on this planet is about 300 miles, and it was by accident.
  1840. >No dimensional travel has been attempted, and any magical portals created to other planes of reality have definitely not been connected to Earth.
  1841. >There was one that led to an entire world covered in water, another that led to a dark cave with a river flowing through it, and one that led to a fiery pit with hundreds of screaming lizards crawling out the lava.
  1842. >The letter about your device arrives from the ditzy mailmare three days after your return, who once again bangs into the door before delivering the message.
  1843. >You rip it open like a child opening his presents on Christmas morning.
  1844. >It reads: “Dear Mr. Anonymous,”
  1845. >“The specifications and designs you have given me are quite interesting. They are like nothing I have ever seen before, and none of the ponies I have talked with can make heads or tailsl of them. That being said, I can produce the parts you need, but it will be costly. I will need to hire several skilled magicians to measure the parts as precisely as you need them. My steel plants are used to making mostly railroad rails and construction beams. I will be arriving in Ponyville the day this letter arrives so that we can discuss payment and such. As soon as you receive this message, come to Silver Hammer’s shop.”
  1846. >“Sincerely yours,”
  1847. >“Ingot”
  1848. >You race towards town, hoping you are not too late.
  1849. >Straightening your clothes, you knock on the door to Silver Hammer’s forge.
  1850. >No smoke rises from the chimney.
  1851. >A grey stallion in a fine suit answers the door.
  1852. >“So, you must be Anonymous the Human,” he declares in a North London accent. “I am Ingot. I am so glad to finally be acquainted. Tell me, what exactly was that design you sent me?”
  1853. “It is a dimensional transporter. I built one several weeks ago, and, on a trial run, I accidentally sent myself here. I need to build another to return home,” you explicate.
  1854. >“Hm. Well, I assume you received my letter, yes?” Ingot asks.
  1855. “Yes. I ran over here as soon as I got it. How much will it cost and how long will it take for you to make all the parts?”
  1856. >“The cost, I’m not so sure about; I’d need to review the plans and see which things need precision crafting and how precisely they need to be made,” Ingot explains. “However, as an estimate, I’d say about 9000 bits at least.”
  1857. >You grimace.
  1858. “I have only 5400 as of now. Would you pay at least to keep the design?”
  1859. >“I have no use for a dimensional transporter, and certainly one which I have never seen function. However, Silver here says that you are known as quite the trustworthy fellow around here. You always pay your debts. So, I’m willing to take up the order in hopes that you will have the money in time.”
  1860. “Okay. You will get your money. Thank you very much.”
  1861. >“Excellent!” Ingot exclaims, turning to his brother. “I should probably be able to drum up the parts in about... oh... a month, most likely. Now, Silver, you said there was an excellent pastry shop around here. Shall we go there?”
  1862. >You quietly exit to the street and begin to walk home.
  1863. >You need at least 3600 more bits just to even get your project off the ground.
  1864. >You don’t want to contact those rich Canterlot ponies, knowing that it will only come back to bite you.
  1865. >You’d rather not be involved in high society.
  1866. >Artificial pleasantries and always trying to please those of higher social standing is not something you ever plan to be a part of.
  1867. >Beyond the money, you need to find some way power your transporter.
  1868. >You have seen electrical devices plugged in all over Equestria, though electricity seems to be related both to magnetism and magic in this universe.
  1869. >There has to be a generator somewhere.
  1870. >However, there remains the matter at hand: you have been delayed from construction yet again, and this time it is not going to be as easy to produce the necessary funds.
  1871. >You decide to make a mental note to find some local entrepreneur who might be interested in futuristic inventions.
  1872. >They are practically the only thing of value you could make.
  1873. >Who knows how far something as simple as the radio could get you, considering how low on the technological ladder Equestria is?
  1874. >You head home, placing “Mysteries of Magic” back on the shelf where you found it.
  1875. >As you pick out another book, Twilight intercepts you.
  1876. >“The other girls and I are going out for a picnic again, and we’d love it if you –”
  1877. >You give Twilight a vitriolic glare.
  1878. “No. I need to examine your equipment downstairs. See what parts it has. See what I could make from them. I might break a few things. Do you mind?”
  1879. >“You’re not getting to examine anything unless you come out to Everfree Forest with us.”
  1880. >You frown.
  1881. “Fine. Let’s go.”
  1882. >You bring the book you picked out, “The Codex of Magical Arts,” under your arm.
  1883. >And so, you trudge out to Fluttershy’s cottage, where Rarity is already setting out a blanket with her telekinesis near the tree line, next to a small brook.
  1884. >“Hello, Twilight! Oh, and you managed to convince Anonymous to come too. Excellent!” Rarity says as you approach.
  1885. >Twilight places the daffodil and spinach salad she brought on the checkered picnic blanket.
  1886. >“The others should be arriving shortly,” Rarity explains. “Fluttershy was here for a bit, but then said she just wanted to grab something from her house. She’ll be right back. And Pinkie Pie said she might be a little late. Something about a big order.”
  1887. >Twilight nods knowingly.
  1888. >You sit down on a rock by the bubbling creek and begin reading.
  1889. >Soon enough, the whole gang arrives, minus Pinkie Pie.
  1891. >You are Twilight Sparkle.
  1892. >After exchanging greetings with your friends, Applejack raises the obvious question.
  1893. >“How did ya get Anonymous out here? Musta been harder than wranglin’ a herd of timber wolves!” she asks.
  1894. “I told him he couldn’t examine my machines downstairs unless he came,” you reply.
  1895. >The human shoots you a stare from above the pages of his book.
  1896. “Anonymous, c’mon,” you plead. “Put the book down and come join us.”
  1897. >“That wasn’t part of the deal,” he states. “All you said is that I had to come to this picnic with you. And here I am.”
  1898. >He then turns around.
  1899. >You groan.
  1900. “Unbearable.”
  1901. >“I heard that,” the human says.
  1902. >Rainbow Dash spreads her wings and bumps your shoulder.
  1903. >“This’ll get his attention,” she gloats, launching into the sky.
  1904. >Rainbow streaks overhead like a World War I biplane, then performs a downward Immelmann turn to get about 5 feet above the ground.
  1905. >Anonymous barely has time to blink before she strafes over his head, sending him plummeting off his rocky perch.
  1906. >His book – wait, your book, lands in the creek.
  1907. >After furiously dusting himself off, he shouts back to the cyan pegasus, who has landed on the blanket with a smug grin on her face, “That’s not funny!”
  1908. >He splashes into the water to pick up the soggy book, then stomps over to the blanket.
  1909. >“Well, you got me over here,” he states, dropping the sopping tome with a splat.
  1910. >You are not sure whether to frown or to smile at either Rainbow Dash or Anonymous for what has just transpired.
  1911. >“So, Anonymous,” Rarity finally says, breaking the icy silence. “How have you been?”
  1912. >“Fine,” he grunts, picking a peanut butter and jelly sandwich out from the picnic basket.
  1913. >“Of course, no meat in here,” he mutters.
  1914. >“Humans eat meat!” Fluttershy gasps. “B-but, but why? Only animals and monsters eat meat!”
  1915. “The Griffins eat meat,” you remind your fearful friend.
  1916. >“Yes, and everyone knows how war-like and barbaric they are,” Rarity replies.
  1917. >“What an interesting hypothesis,” Anonymous muses, chomping away on the PB&J. “Consumption of meat leads to violence. It could certainly be possible. Back to the topic at hand, however. Yes, humans eat meat. Pigs. Cows. Chickens. Some even eat... horses.”
  1918. >Anonymous bares his sharp incisors, licking them with his tongue.
  1919. >Fluttershy jumps back, whimpering like a dog during the Fourth of July.
  1920. “Stop it, Anonymous,” you order.
  1921. >“It’s true,” he states. “I won’t deny the truth.”
  1922. >He takes another large bite of his sandwich.
  1923. >“Also, as for you Miss Rainbow Dash, I’d like to remind you that it is not the speed that kills, but the sudden deceleration. So, when you crash into a mountain or otherwise get injured, remember that I will probably be there, laughing. I’d also imagine the g-forces you are putting yourself through a causing severe internal damage, though of course that comes from my knowledge of human anatomy, and not pegasus.”
  1924. >Rainbow Dash just stares at Anonymous, indignant.
  1925. >“Well, uh.... Don’t you tell me how to fly!” she responds.
  1926. >The picnic blanket is once again silent, minus the sound of the brook and seven organisms chewing on sandwiches and salads or ruffling through the picnic baskets for other comestibles.
  1927. >“Applejack!” Rarity says with an oversized smile. “How has work on the farm been?”
  1928. >“Pretty good,” the farmer replies. “Golden Delicious harvest has nearly started. It’s been back-breaking labor, but I think we’re almost done.”
  1929. >Anonymous chuckles as he picks out a cider bottle.
  1930. >“How quaint. Advanced knowledge of magical arts which could theoretically lead to great advances in technology, and still you are left wallowing in the mud, doing everything by hand.”
  1931. >Oh dear.
  1932. >“I could show you dozens of things that could make you wealthy beyond your wildest dreams while decreasing the amount of work you do, Miss Applejack.”
  1933. >“Thanks, but no thanks, Anonymous. Doin’ things as we’ve always done ‘em is always –”
  1934. >Anonymous laughs again.
  1935. >“That is exactly the type of thinking that prevents the advancement of society,” he says with a smile, taking a sip of his cider.
  1936. “Anonymous, enough. Ugh, I should have known this would be a terrible idea,” you fume.
  1937. >“Ah, on the contrary, Twilight, I’m actually having an excellent time. I think I’ll stay a little longer,” Anonymous replies.
  1938. >“Anonymous,” Rainbow Dash warns. “Don’t move!”
  1939. >He raises an eyebrow.
  1940. >“I really don’t intend to trust –”
  1941. >A large pink-frosted chocolate cake is promptly smashed on top of his head.
  1942. >“Surprise!” Pinkie Pie shouts, then falls on her back to join Rainbow Dash in a massive bout of guffawing.
  1943. >Whatever joy had previously been on Anonymous’s face has completely disappeared.
  1944. >Even you can’t help but giggle.
  1945. >Grabbing a pile of napkins, he wipes the mess of his face.
  1946. >“I guess I’ve overstayed my welcome,” he says, and storms off.
  1947. >You quickly lope after him.
  1948. “Wait, no, Anonymous, they didn’t mean to – I mean, it was just a prank –”
  1949. >“No! You want to show me your friends are going to... are going to... respect me? And actually try to be friendly? Well, that activity –”
  1950. >He points to Rainbow and Pinkie who are still laughing, happy tears now streaming down their faces.
  1951. >“He’s got frosting in his hair, and, oh Celestia, you should have seen his face, Pinkie,” Dash rasps, out of breath from laughing.
  1952. >“That activity is not the type of people who I wish to associate with. I’m heading home.”
  1953. >Anonymous returns to walking back towards town, while you head back to the blanket.
  1954. >You give a glare to Pinkie and Rainbow.
  1955. “That wasn’t funny guys.”
  1956. >“Oh, c’mon Twi, we saw you giggling too,” Rainbow says, flicking a tear from her eye with her hoof.
  1957. “Yeah, but, but – ”
  1958. >“And you saw how he was treating all of us,” Rainbow continues. “It was time we finally got back at him.”
  1959. >Pinkie Pie cannot stop laughing to get a word in.
  1960. >“Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself, Twi,” Applejack says, finishing a gulp of cider. “Anonymous’s just an unfriendly jerk. That’s what we’ve told ya for a while now. Why do ya keep puttin’ faith in him?”
  1961. >As you return to your daisy and daffodil sandwich, pondering the recent events, the sky begins to darken with fat grey clouds.
  1962. >Drips of water fall from the sky.
  1963. >You throw your sandwich on the blanket.
  1964. “No. You guys don’t understand. You didn’t even give Anonymous a chance.”
  1965. >“Uh, yeah we did, Twilight,” Rainbow Dash says. “We gave him plenty of chances.”
  1966. >You sigh.
  1967. “No, you really don’t understand.... Last night, Anonymous told me everything and...”
  1968. >You tell your five friends Anonymous’s four tales.
  1969. >As you do, the drizzle begins to turn into a light storm.
  1970. >You create a small shield of magical energy to protect your picnic from getting too wet.
  1971. >“Well, that explains a lot,” Applejack says.
  1972. >“So, Anonymous had a sad life,” Rainbow Dash says. “Big whoop. We tried to be his friends, Twilight, and he turned us down. He doesn’t get that when you have friends, you gotta give a little back too.”
  1973. >The four others nod.
  1974. “It’s not about that.”
  1975. >“Uh, yeah it is.”
  1976. “No. You forced Anonymous to go out with you.”
  1977. >“Because we were trying to be nice! And the right thing to do would have been to be nice back!”
  1978. “But, sometimes you need to give people a second chance. And dropping a cake on their head and laughing at them is not giving them a second chance.”
  1979. >You look Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie in the eye.
  1980. “Anonymous is going to give us his friendship only if we give him one last chance.”
  1981. >“One last chance,” Rainbow Dash states, stepping off the blanket and turning her back to you. “One more.”
  1983. >You are Anonymous, currently in Twilight’s basement working at one of the screws on one of her pieces of machinery with a flathead screwdriver.
  1984. >The rain has gone from soft dribbles of water on the roof to a torrent of droplets clattering against the branches of the tree and echoing through the basement.
  1985. >You faintly hear the main door to the library swing open with a creak, and then slam shut.
  1986. >“Anonymous?” Twilight calls out.
  1987. “Downstairs,” you reply.
  1988. >“Anonymous, what happened today?” Twilight asks, trotting down into the basement.
  1989. >You do not look up from removing the metal plate off of the electroencephalograph.
  1990. “I dropped the façade. I showed your little friends what I was truly like.”
  1991. >Twilight sighs.
  1992. >“I know you’re not happy, and you’re probably not going to like what I am going to say next.”
  1993. “Let’s hear it then.”
  1994. >“Anonymous, I know you see friends as pointless. But, the fact of the matter is... my friends want to be your friends. And, to do that, you’re going to have to give a bit to them.”
  1995. >You shoot Twilight a quizzical look, as if you were examining her for the first time in a long while.
  1996. >“Nothing physical. Not money, or something. But, when we want to do something nice for you, maybe... do something nice back?”
  1997. >You turn back to the machine.
  1998. “No.”
  1999. >Twilight sighs again.
  2000. >“I know what it’s like to be the smartest person in the room. For once, I guess I’m not in that position. But, I want you to know, Anonymous... I was once like you. I was obsessed with knowing, well, just about everything. I didn’t have any room for friends. I guess that’s where we differ. And people hated me for it too. Yeah, I wasn’t beaten to the ground, but I was shunned, like you.”
  2001. >Your ears perk up.
  2002. >“There was a time. Thoroughbred was his name. He was the talk of the whole school, and I had a crush on him. So, on the eve of the Hearts and Hooves Day Dance, I asked if he would like to go with me. And he just laughed. ‘Why would I go with an egghead like you?’ he sneered. He was a jerk anyways, but the words still hurt.”
  2003. >“Did that ever happen to you, Anonymous?”
  2004. >The rain patters against the library.
  2005. “No. I never bothered to ask anyone to a dance. I knew they’d reject me from the outset. The one time someone did, they ended up humiliating me in front of the whole school. It was a cruel joke.”
  2006. >Slowly, the rain begins to die down.
  2007. >You set your screwdriver on the ground
  2008. >“Would you like a cup of tea?” Twilight asks. “I won’t make it as hot this time.”
  2009. “Yeah. That would be nice.”
  2012. Chapter 7
  2014. >For once in a long time, you sleep late into the morning, until Twilight finally wakes you up.
  2015. >“I made tea,” she says. “Would you like to have some?”
  2016. “Yeah, sure,” you reply blearily, yawning and scratching the yellow crust of sleep from your eyes.
  2017. >Twilight trots ahead, and you hear the clinking of saucers and mugs as you trudge upstairs.
  2018. >She presents you with the standard small white mug of transparent brown liquid, steaming ever so slightly.
  2019. “Thanks,” you murmur as you take a sip.
  2020. >It’s just the right temperature.
  2021. >“So, since I was so easily able to convince to come to that fiasco of a picnic – ”
  2022. “It was only a fiasco because of me,” you reply, setting your mug down on the saucer.
  2023. >“Hush. I shouldn’t have made you go after everything we’ve discussed.”
  2024. “Fine,” you sigh.
  2025. >“Anyway, I was wondering, what do even want with all that equipment anyways?”
  2026. >You take another sip of tea before speaking.
  2027. “I’m looking for a human technology to re-create in Equestria. I could sell the design or patent it, whichever is easiest, and pay what I need to for the transporter. Here, I’ll show you.”
  2028. >You take Twilight back downstairs.
  2029. “Twilight, how does that electroencephalograph work?” you ask after examining it for a moment.
  2030. >“Huh?”
  2031. “What I’m planning to build is a device called a radio. It transmits signals via electromagnetic waves and can be used for communication, entertainment, and all sorts of other things. However, that device -” you point to the electroencephalograph, “- was invented after the radio on Earth. Long after. So, how does it work in your universe?”
  2032. >“I’m not really quite sure myself. It’s an old machine that the hospital gave to me for research. As far as I can tell, it functions mostly by magical means, probably a few enchantments bound to the poles of the helmet.”
  2033. “Can you use magic to detect elec - er, lightning energy?” you ask after a bit of thinking.
  2034. >“It’s a complex spell, but yes.”
  2035. “Then that’s how it probably works.”
  2036. >Twilight nods in agreement.
  2037. >Your theory that magic and electricity are related is only further corroborated.
  2038. “I think I’m going to take all these machines apart,” you declare.
  2039. >“Why do you need to that?” Twilight responds.
  2040. “I need to see if they have any of the components I need. There are some fairly complex items that I need and would prefer not to have to build from scratch, considering that most of them are made of metal. Machining here does not seem to have reached the level of precision that it has on Earth. If you want, I could repay you.”
  2041. >“No, no. You don’t need to repay me for anything. C’mon, Anonymous, we’ve been over this before. Just tell me when you’re done and if you need any help,” she says as she climbs back upstairs.
  2042. >You’ve decided to build a simpler design for a radio then the previous, more powerful version you had previously thought of.
  2043. >Considering the difficulty you have with obtaining metal parts, it is for the best.
  2044. >The design is based off the ones American soldiers used in foxholes during World War II, and can be built from a few rudimentary supplies.
  2045. >You will also need to design a radio emitter to prove the radio works.
  2046. >You pull out a screwdriver from one of the drawers and begin to undo the screws holding the electroencephalograph together.
  2047. >Prying off one of the stainless steel panels, you begin to carefully detach the red, rubber-coated wires.
  2048. >You strip the wires of their insulation with a pair of scissors and carefully wrap the thin copper threads around a cardboard cylinder you found in one of the drawers, leaving a bit to be used as a ground.
  2049. >Sifting through the drawers of supplies, you come across a few paper clips, safety pins, and thumbtacks.
  2050. >How ponies use these, you have no idea, but you are not exactly in the mood to question the insanity of this universe when there is work to do.
  2051. >Using more wires looped around a cut pencil and one of the scissor blades you create a small cat-whisker receiver to pick up the radio signal and attach it to the main copper loop with a paper clip.
  2052. >To further secure the circuit, you use thumbtacks to affix the wire loop and receiver to a wooden board.
  2053. >A final wire leading off of the receiver connects to a speaker from the EKG machine, allowing the radio signals to be converted into sound.
  2054. >With that, the radio is complete.
  2055. >The problem is no sound is coming out.
  2056. >Residual radio signals from Equestria’s sun should at least produce some static.
  2057. >You then realize you forgot to oxidize the scissor blade to help it transmit the signal.
  2058. “Twilight!” you call. “I need your assistance.”
  2059. >“What is it?” she asks, walking down the stairs.
  2060. “I need you to light a magical flame so I can oxidize these scissors.”
  2061. >She stares, jaw agape, at the disarray you’ve made of her laboratory.
  2062. >Tangled, multi-color heaps of wires, detached metal parts, half a broken pencil, and a now-useless pair of scissors are strewn throughout the room.
  2063. >Stepping over a mound of thumbtacks, she slowly begins telekinetically placing materials back in their drawers.
  2064. “Sorry for the mess,” you finally apologize.
  2065. >Twilight’s eyebrow twitches a bit.
  2066. >“It’s fine.”
  2067. “I’ll clean it up once I’m finished,” you suggest.
  2068. >“I don’t think that’d be a good idea.”
  2069. “Why not?”
  2070. >“You might put something back where it doesn’t belong. Then I wouldn’t be able to find it again when I need it, and then I’d think it was lost, and then I’d spend an hour searching for it and –”
  2071. “Twilight, calm down. We’re both logical people. I’m certain I will put it back better than it was before. You had the scissors next to the screwdrivers, just for example.”
  2072. >“Because they both start with S!”
  2073. >You frown.
  2074. >“Why do you even need to build this darn radio thing in the first place?” Twilight shouts.
  2075. “I told you. I plan to sell or patent it,” you state with an even tone.
  2076. >“You still need more money for your transporter?”
  2077. “Unfortunately, yes.... Now, could you light that flame for me?”
  2078. >“Alright, fine. Here,” Twilight says, her horn shimmering.
  2079. >With a small pop like a bubble bursting, a purple flame ignites on a clear spot on the floor.
  2080. >You carefully lower the steel blade, which begins to glow red, into the sparks.
  2081. >The shiny metal soon clouds over with dull, purplish oxidation.
  2082. >With the blade replaced, the chattering of charged particles and errant photons is emitted from the speaker.
  2083. >“Is that what it’s supposed to do?” Twilight asks, peeking over your shoulder.
  2084. “Yes and no. I haven’t finished it yet,” you explain. “It’s only picking up subatomic particles bouncing off this planet’s atmosphere and random radio signals from outer space. I need to create a more precise transmitter.”
  2085. >You amble over to the medical devices and pull out a few resistors, capacitors, and transistors from the electroencephalograph.
  2086. >As has become disturbingly common, they are eerily similar to the same components you were used to using back on Earth.
  2087. >Using paperclips, you attach them to a loose rectangle of copper you brought with you.
  2088. >It is the same piece that you used for your solar cell a while ago.
  2089. >The oxidation flaked off with a good rubbing with some cloth.
  2090. >Using more paper clips, you carefully arrange the various electrical parts on the makeshift circuit board and connect them with several strands and loops of copper wire.
  2091. >Twilight watches you, barely blinking and staring at your deft hand motions.
  2092. >You connect the transmitter to a battery.
  2093. “Twilight, who makes all these parts?” you ask, showing her a couple of the extra electronics you pulled out.
  2094. >“Engineer unicorns. They imbue them with spells to monitor and control magical current, I think. How do things like these work on Earth?”
  2095. “Conductivity differentials. Wiring. Various principles of electrostatics and dynamics. It’s complicated. I just find it odd that Equestria can be so advanced electronically and yet be so backwards in other areas. It’s illogical.”
  2096. >Twilight grimaces.
  2097. “Also, how do you use these paper clips?” you inquire, picking one of the small aluminum fragments up off the floor.
  2098. >She gives you a deadpan glare and bends it with her telekinesis.
  2099. “And how would an Earth pony do that?”
  2100. >She stamps it on the floor.
  2101. “I have another request of you, Twilight,” you state.
  2102. >“More stuff to be taken apart?” she replies. “More messes to be made of my perfectly organized laboratory?”
  2103. >You merely nod.
  2104. “That telephone upstairs. I need it.”
  2105. >Twilight sighs.
  2106. >“Alright. I haven’t ever used it either, I guess. Some eccentric inventor donated it to the library. I haven’t used any of these machines down here in about a year either.”
  2107. >You frown for a second, and then clamber back upstairs, taking the radio receiver with you.
  2108. “Keep this up here,” you tell Twilight. “If you hear my voice coming from that speaker, give me a signal of some kind.”
  2109. >You head back down stairs.
  2110. >After attaching the phone transceiver receiver output to the radio transmitter, you declare into the mouthpiece, “Test.”
  2111. >“I can hear you up here!” Twilight shouts.
  2112. “Through the radio?”
  2113. >“No...”
  2114. >You grunt and fiddle with the transmitter a bit.
  2115. “Test. One, two, three. Test.”
  2116. >No response.
  2117. >Maybe if you shift that transistor to the left a bit?
  2118. “Test. One, two, three. Test.”
  2119. >Once again, no response.
  2120. >The capacitor on the left is a little crooked; you bend it back into place.
  2121. >This process repeats itself for another half an hour.
  2122. >You tweak and re-tweak each and every part of the transmitter until finally.
  2123. “Test. One, two, three. Test.”
  2124. >“I heard that, Anonymous! It came right through the speaker!” Twilight shouts down.
  2125. >You smirk.
  2126. >With a little patience, everything works in the end.
  2127. >You cautiously set the transmitter down, making sure that none of the electronics are disturbed, and begin to pick up the piles of wires and other parts you used and place them back in the drawers.
  2128. >Twilight gallops downstairs.
  2129. >“Anonymous, that was amazing!”
  2130. “Well... thanks. It is a rather interesting piece of technology,” you state, picking up the transmitter and carefully examining it as if you were seeing it for the first time.
  2131. “Now to find someone to buy it.”
  2132. >Twilight runs her hoof against the floor.
  2133. >“I know someone who might want it...”
  2134. “Who?”
  2135. >“A stallion named Filthy Rich. He’s the wealthiest pony in town,” Twilight rushes out.
  2136. “You couldn’t have told me this beforehand? I would have gone and talked to him first before doing all this work.”
  2137. >“Well, Anonymous, you see, Filthy Rich is... he’s kind of a jerk. He owns this huge company called Barnyard Bargains, and he has a corner on the market of dozens of products.”
  2138. “He’s an astute businessman then. He’ll know a good idea when he sees it.”
  2139. >“He and his whole family are bullies and snobs to practically everyone.”
  2140. “That really doesn’t matter to me. Business is business.”
  2141. >“Anonymous, please don’t give him this device. For me.”
  2142. >For her?
  2143. >Why should you do it for her?
  2144. “I –”
  2145. >Wait!
  2146. >There was that rich guy.
  2147. >At the park in Canterlot.
  2148. >Fancy Pants.
  2149. “There is someone else I could talk to. He met me in Canterlot, after the party. A stallion named Fancy Pants. I think he might want this little machine as well. But, I’m still writing to Filthy Rich as well.”
  2150. >Twilight smiles.
  2151. >“Alright, that’s a fair deal.”
  2152. “I’ll see who can give me a better offer,” you justify to yourself.
  2153. >Twilight calls down Spike with two pieces of parchment, an ink pot, and a quill.
  2154. >You write the two letters, explaining succinctly and effectively the function and purpose of the device.
  2155. >Spike runs out and puts them in the mailbox.
  2156. >Now to play the waiting game.
  2157. >You pick out another book, entitled “Mastering the Natural Elements.”
  2158. >A few hours later, you finish it.
  2159. >It was a thin tome, but even so, you noticed how short it took to finish it.
  2160. >You generally finished books extremely quickly; that came with mental acumen.
  2161. >But knowledge bound in leather tomes or written on scrolls of parchment was not infinite.
  2162. >You were beginning to realize the only thing that might be keeping you sane in this world was constantly having some progression towards your ultimate goal: constructing your transporter and then... leaving.
  2163. >The book had also added very little to your queries about magic and its origin.
  2164. >It was mostly a guide for students interesting in learning elemental spells so that they could create fires and send bolts of lightning streaming from their horns.
  2165. >It might be necessary to have a direct discussion with someone who knows magic inside and out.
  2166. >And, fortunately, that type of pony lives upstairs.
  2167. >As you jog up there, you notice Twilight strapping a small satchel to her side.
  2168. >“Oh. Hi, Anonymous. I thought you were just going to stay in the basement all day.”
  2169. “I have a question that I think you might be able to answer,” you state.
  2170. >“What is it?” Twilight inquires. “Or, well, how about this. Come walk with me, and we can talk about whatever you want. I have some errands to run.”
  2171. “I want to learn a little more about magic. Just out of my curiosity,” you answer as you walk out the door.
  2172. >“You’ve torn apart, once literally, several books on the subject. I’d hardly counting asking me as learning ‘a little more.’ What could you possibly still want to learn?”
  2173. >You shake your head and give a short chuckle.
  2174. “They answered most of my questions on what magic can do, but not where it comes from or why it has such extensive power.”
  2175. >“You’re asking questions that not even the most talented magicians can answer. We just don’t know where magic comes from, Anonymous.”
  2176. >Twilight stops at a small stall selling carrots.
  2177. >She telekinetically lifts one up and examines it, then hands about five gold coins to the shopkeeper.
  2178. “It’s just that there should at least be some rules governing it. Instead, magic seems to function purely by the skill of the caster. It’s entirely illogical.”
  2179. >“Well, some of the things humans do are illogical,” Twilight rebuts. “Why do you play a game called football mostly with your hands?”
  2180. “To be fair, the game called ‘football’ in most of the world is played with your feet,” you reply with a small grin.
  2181. >“Fine. Then why are humans at war with each other? Why can’t you guys just talk out your differences and compromise?”
  2182. “Because, unfortunately, that’s just not how humans interact. Everyone has enemies. Sometimes petty things add up, and suddenly what started as someone sneezing in your soup turns into a global conflict,” you state.
  2183. >Twilight frowns, defeated for now.
  2184. “If I had some better instrumentation, I’d probably run a few more precise tests on your magical abilities,” you surmise as the two of you approach a small stand selling elaborately carved wooden figurines.
  2185. >Twilight takes a moment to look at a statue of a dragon while you continue talking.
  2186. “Unfortunately, I’m simply going to have to go on some qualitative tests,” you continue.
  2187. “I currently theorize that magic is simply a focused form of electricity. What I need to figure out is how the unicorn horn focuses electrical energy to such a potent state. Do you have any unicorn horns that I may be able to study?”
  2188. >Twilight suddenly perks up, whipping her head around and her ears shooting back.
  2189. >The shopkeeper stares at you, shocked.
  2190. >“Anonymous! You cannot have a unicorn horn for testing!” Twilight yells.
  2191. “Why not?”
  2192. >“Cutting off a unicorn’s horn is the most barbaric thing you can ever do!”
  2193. “Noted. I’ll have to find a skeleton then.”
  2194. >“Anonymous!”
  2195. “I need some way to examine the structure of the unicorn horn. I don’t have an x-ray machine or some other way to see inside it. I need a unicorn skeleton,” you explain.
  2196. >Perturbed, Twilight walks away from the figurine stand.
  2197. >“Come on. We’re heading back to the library,” she orders.
  2198. >Once back inside the tree, Twilight pulls out a large, black, ancient tome from one of the top shelves.
  2199. >It is only marked with an indecipherable gold rune.
  2200. >Blowing off a small plume of dust, she cracks the book open to reveal a pearl white horn inset into a triangular slot in the back cover.
  2201. “I thought you said cutting unicorn horns off was barbaric.”
  2202. >“I didn’t do this. It was inside the book when I got it,” Twilight rebukes. “It’s better than you having to - I can’t even think about it. It’s better than you doing whatever you’d need to do to get another horn.”
  2203. >You gingerly pick it up and begin to examine it.
  2204. >Cautiously, you head downstairs into the basement to get a magnifying glass to examine the structure; Twilight follows you.
  2205. >You quickly find a small lens, though a cursory examination of the horn yields few structural details.
  2206. “Do you have a stronger magnifying glass, or a microscope or something?” you request.
  2207. “Yes,” Twilight replies.
  2208. >She heads over to one of the larger cabinets and pulls out a heavy microscope.
  2209. >You place the horn on the slide and begin to study it again.
  2210. >At the highest magnification on the microscope, you begin to see an array of thin planes of crystal-like structures that make up the horn.
  2211. >Like a miniature, organic Tesla coil, these planes must focus and guide electrical energy towards the tip, where its power can be unleashed.
  2212. >Now to test your hypothesis.
  2213. >You walk over to the currently-off electrocardiogram machine and strip one of the wires with a pair of scissors.
  2214. >“Anonymous, what are you doing?” Twilight asks.
  2215. “Science.”
  2216. >You twist the stripped wire around the base of the horn and push the little button on the side of the electrocardiogram to turn it on.
  2217. >The machine hums to life, and white sparks travel up the un-insulated wire towards the horn, which begins to glow brightly.
  2218. >Your hand begins to quiver with the buzz of electricity as it builds up inside the spike of bone.
  2219. >A few dribbles of power burst from the tip, followed by a rush of free electrons, like the bursting of a tiny dam.
  2220. >A buzzing tree of blue lightning bursts from the tip, singeing the wall.
  2221. >In hindsight, you probably should not have been gripping the charged horn, as you are knocked back a good two feet by the force of the discharge.
  2222. >The horn, now fallen on the floor continues to release a copious amount of lightning.
  2223. >Twilight’s mouth hangs agape, and her eyes are firmly fixed on the eruptions of energy coming from the tiny pearl cone.
  2224. >You manage to stand and shut off the electrocardiogram.
  2225. >The horn dispels one last burst of plasma.
  2226. “I think my hypothesis has been confirmed,” you exhale smugly.
  2227. >You look to the singed spot on the wall.
  2228. >Twilight’s amazement has turned to a bit of anger again.
  2229. “I’ll clean that up.”
  2230. >“What in Celestia’s name are you, Anonymous?” Twilight remarks, a smile coming to her face.
  2231. “Sometimes, I don’t even know myself.”
  2234. Chapter 8
  2236. >Thump.
  2237. >“Mail’s here,” Twilight says, not looking up from her book.
  2238. >You rush to the door as the slot flips open with a soft metallic clang, leaving three flat envelopes on the doormat.
  2239. >Like a miner sifting through a plate of gold dust, you pick up the letters and sort through them.
  2240. >You’ve done this for the past few days, waiting eagerly for a response to your messages.
  2241. >Two are addressed to Twilight Sparkle; they’re probably book renewals, as they usually are.
  2242. >The third is addressed to... you.
  2243. >You throw the other two letters on the ground and tear open yours, not even looking at who it’s from.
  2244. >“Dear Anonymous,” it reads.
  2245. >“This new invention of yours sends most interesting and could bring great profit to my business. If it is at all possible, I would like to meet with you at my estate at 14 Cliff Avenue and discuss the possibility of a sale of the schematic as soon as possible.”
  2246. >“Truly yours,”
  2247. >Signed in a flamboyant scrawl was the name “Filthy Rich.”
  2248. >“You look pleased,” Twilight says, trotting up to you and scooping the dropped letters into her mouth.
  2249. “I am. I’m quite pleased. Someone wants to buy my radio.”
  2250. >Twilight quickly looks over the two letters before setting them on the table in the center of the library.
  2251. >“Who?”
  2252. “Filthy Rich. He wants to meet with me immediately.”
  2253. >She frowns.
  2254. >“Anonymous, I’d really prefer if – ”
  2255. “I don’t have a choice. I need money. He can give it to me. This... pony is currently my only option.”
  2256. >Twilight tilts her head to one side.
  2257. “Look, I... I’ll tell him that I have another potential buyer that could give me a better offer. But if your other contact does not reach me soon, I’m going to have to accept Filthy Rich’s offer.”
  2258. >You really hate saying that name.
  2259. >It does belie a rather unscrupulous nature.
  2260. >Twilight’s expression brightens.
  2261. >“Alright, that’s a fair agreement. I guess you’ll need directions to the Rich residence then.”
  2262. >You nod.
  2263. >Twilight gets out a bit of parchment, scribbles down the directions, and hands it to you.
  2264. >You head downstairs and grab your crude radio, placing it inside a small wooden box, then head out into the open streets.
  2265. >As you travel along your route, the houses along the street suddenly become a bit grander, made of brick and stone rather than painted wood.
  2266. >Separated from the rest at the end of the road is a brick mansion with an open wrought iron gate.
  2267. >You lope right through and bang your fist on the front door.
  2268. >A grey, aging butler pony (at least, that’s what you assume he is from the tuxedo) opens it.
  2269. “My name is Anonymous. I have a business arrangement with Mr. Rich.”
  2270. >The butler merely blinks and maintains his haughty glower.
  2271. >He turns his head to the right and calmly declares, “Sir, the human is here to discuss some sort of business arrangement.”
  2272. >“Let him in,” Filthy Rich responds.
  2273. >The tapping of hooves on the marble floor announces your contractors approach as you step through the entryway.
  2274. >The foyer contains a mammoth staircase with carved oak banisters and a glittering crystal chandelier dangling from the ceiling.
  2275. >You scowl for a second before regaining your composure.
  2276. >You never liked people who swam in their opulence.
  2277. >“So, you must be the wondrous human, Anonymous?” Filthy Rich says, walking down the staircase. “Charmed to finally meet you in person. Filthy Rich, at your service.”
  2278. >He shoves his hoof into your hand and shakes it.
  2279. >“So, tell me about this device of yours.”
  2280. “It’s called a radio. It allows communication across long distances. They are very commonplace on Earth, my homeworld. I believe that they would be quite useful in Equestria, and whoever first owns the technology would certainly be able to make a good bit of coin off of it.”
  2281. >You pull out the ugly little contraption, rapidly checking to make sure that none of the parts have moved.
  2282. “Now of course, this is more a demonstration model than anything. I’m sure with a bit of magical and technological finesse, this could be refined into a suitable product. But this should give you a good example of how to build a similar device. I’ll also draw up some schematics for you once I’ve finished my demonstration. Now, if you could take the receiving end upstairs, I will show you how this works.”
  2283. >“Alright,” Filthy Rich agrees.
  2284. >You hand him the device, which he levitates with his magic before trotting upstairs.
  2285. >Once he is out of sight, you plug the transmitter in and state into the telephone receiver, “Mary had a little lamb, whose fleece was white as snow. And everywhere that Mary went, that lamb was sure to go.”
  2286. >Filthy Rich races back down stairs.
  2287. >“That was amazing! How does this thing work?”
  2288. “Be careful with that. It’s not totally secure,” you demand.
  2289. >“Sorry, sorry,” Rich apologizes.
  2290. “This device produces a certain frequency of radio signal, think like... a sound wave, though it’s actually part of the electromagnetic spectrum - from an electric current and converts sound waves into radio waves. The other picks up those radio signals and turns them back into sound,” you explain.
  2291. >“Wow,” Filthy Rich says.
  2292. >The explanation clearly went over his head.
  2293. >“Well, let me get a few sacks of bits ready. How quick can you make those schematics?”
  2294. “Fairly.”
  2295. >“Good. Butler, get me 4500 bits out from the vault, and a few sheets of paper and pencil for Mr. Anonymous,” Rich orders his servant.
  2296. >The tuxedoed pony races off with a surprising amount of agility for his age.
  2297. “Not so fast. We haven’t negotiated a price, nor am I certain that I want to give this design to you.”
  2298. >“Ah, you’re cunning, Anonymous,” Rich says. “Sharp. I need more minds like you in my businesses. What’s your price?”
  2299. “I need a minimum of 6000 bits. I won’t take any less. Plus, I just want credit for the patent. That’s symbolic more than anything; I don’t want or need any royalties. But, I have plenty of other buyers. Plenty of people who are willing to snap up this little gadget.”
  2300. >“Darn...” Rich mutters. “6000, eh? How about this, I’ll give you 7000. Right here. Right now. Plus your credit, and 10% on all profits. And you don’t give me anything until the paperwork is all done.”
  2301. >Tempting.
  2302. >Very tempting.
  2303. >Unfortunately for your reputation with your friend back at the library, logic is going to have to dictate your response to this.
  2304. >As it always should.
  2305. >You don’t know when if ever you will receive a response from Fancy Pants.
  2306. >And you can definitely earn 7000 now, 1600 bits more than you even need.
  2307. “It’s a deal.”
  2308. >The butler returns with the paper and pencil first.
  2309. >“Sorry, Butler, but we won’t be needing those it turns out,” Rich says.
  2310. >He looks at the sack of gold.
  2311. “And we’re gonna need about 2500 more of those.”
  2312. >The butler again scampers off.
  2313. >“Excellent. Now, one last thing, is there some way that I can get other signals to come out of this? Different frequencies?” Filthy Rich inquires.
  2314. “Yes. Each transmitter can only produce one frequency, but a receiver can theoretically accept an infinite number. It’s just a matter of changing some of its resistors.”
  2315. >“Huh. I’ll have to have my engineers work on that.”
  2316. >The butler returns.
  2317. “Here’s your money, like I promised,” Filthy remarks, handing you the weightless sack of jingling coins.
  2318. >You spill them out and begin counting them.
  2319. >“There’s 7000 in there. If there aren’t come back and tell me. I’m not a pony to rob others of their work.”
  2320. >You scoop the pile of gold back into the sack.
  2321. “I’ll get some legal documents whipped up and send them to your residence. If you have anything else you need to discuss, feel free to send me a message.”
  2322. “Pleasure doing business,” you acknowledge as you walk out the door.
  2323. >“Same here. If you have any other ideas, you know who to contact.”
  2324. >The butler slams the door shut.
  2325. >Now all you have to do is wait.
  2326. >It will be one more month before you can begin construction, and that’s if you’re lucky.
  2327. >You need something to keep you occupied, and you think you have just the thing.
  2328. >It’s time you really delved into how magic works.
  2329. >You walk back to Twilight’s library in a cheery mood.
  2330. >“You’re back,” Twilight greets as you knock on the door.
  2331. >You only nod.
  2332. >“Well, I was just about to leave. Do you mind coming with me?”
  2333. “Not at all. Let us walk. There’s something I’d like to discuss with you specifically.”
  2334. >The two of you stroll towards the marketplace.
  2335. >“Well, what happened?”
  2336. “I sold the design.”
  2337. >Twilight frowns.
  2338. “I know it wasn’t what you wanted me to do, but I didn’t have any other option. The diplomatic route was... not ideal.”
  2339. >“Alright. Just... we’ll keep it to ourselves. I know Applejack particularly doesn’t like that Filthy Rich... I guess we can just – ”
  2340. “It’ll be our secret. And not even that terrible of one.”
  2341. >Or, then again, maybe not.
  2342. >A strange thought slips into your mind.
  2343. >Or, rather, a thought that is rather alien to your normal disposition.
  2344. >It is a thought that you know will please your... acquaintance.
  2345. “No. I’m not going to keep that from her.”
  2346. >“What?”
  2347. “I’m going to go talk to Applejack. See if I can dispel some of the bad blood between us. This is the start of it.”
  2348. >“Anonymous, I don’t know if that’s such a good idea.”
  2349. “You said it yourself. I need to make myself liked in this world, or the whole town is going to come after me with pitchforks and torches. This is the start.”
  2350. >“Alright, I guess I really can’t stop you. But if anything goes wrong...”
  2351. “Nothing will go wrong. I assure you of it.”
  2352. >And so, you head south towards the fields.
  2353. >As you approach, a loud thumping echoes from the apple orchard to your left.
  2354. >Walking under the shady branches, you find Applejack hard at work bucking the red fruit from the tree limbs above.
  2355. “Good afternoon,” you state.
  2356. >“Huh? Who’s that?” Applejack asks, pausing her work briefly to turn around. “Oh. Hello, Anonymous. Whatcha need?”
  2357. “I require nothing. I am here to offer whatever assistance I can.”
  2358. >“Well, ahm sorry, Anonymous, but we don’t really need any help around the farm. It’s not prime harvest season or anythin’. Just gotta get a few gala apples down. And the rest of the farm is pretty much under control.”
  2359. “Are you sure? I mean, I could probably use some of my knowledge for better fertilizer, or show you some growing methods used to increase production back on earth – ”
  2360. >“That won’t be necessary.”
  2361. “I’m just trying to help. Please, if there’s anything you can think of, just tell me.”
  2362. >Applejack gives an especially hard kick to the tree she’s working on, then turns around to face you.
  2363. >“What do you really want, Anonymous?”
  2364. “What?”
  2365. >“What’s your game? What do you want in return for whatever you can give me?”
  2366. “I don’t want anything. I’m just trying to be helpful.”
  2367. >Applejack snorts.
  2368. >“Helpful? Helpful? I can read you like a book, Mr. Anonymous. You don’t help people unless you think you can gain from it.”
  2369. “And maybe I’m trying to change that reputation.”
  2370. >“And even then you gain things. Trust. Friends. People who you can count on for whatever you need. And all you have to do is pull on the little strings of your web, and all the little flies come tumbling towards your mouth.”
  2371. >Your brow furrows, and you frown slightly.
  2372. “I’m sorry,” is all you can say. “I just wanted to help.”
  2373. >You turn back to path towards town.
  2374. >“Back so soon?” Twilight says when you walk through the door.
  2375. “Yes. It... it didn’t go well.”
  2376. >“I can tell that by your expression.”
  2377. “I don’t believe that there is a way for me to create a more positive relationship with your friend. She thoroughly distrusts me.”
  2378. >“Applejack is stubborn, and she doesn’t like it when anyone tries to help her, let alone you. Maybe, I should go talk to her first.”
  2379. “That might be wise.”
  2380. >You consider your options for a bit, and make a decision.
  2381. “I’m going for another walk. I’ll be back before dark.”
  2382. >“Well, aren’t you just on the move today? Alright, see you soon.”
  2383. >Outside, you grab a few buckets and a shovel.
  2384. >You have a cave to visit.
  2386. >You are Twilight Sparkle, and you too have decided to go for a walk to settle this situation.
  2387. >You find Applejack hauling a large cart filled with apples towards her barn.
  2388. “Applejack, we need to talk.”
  2389. >“If it’s about the little human you keep in your basement, then I don’t want to hear about it.”
  2390. “Unfortunately, it is.”
  2391. >Applejack unhitches herself from the cart.
  2392. >“Fine. What do you need to say?”
  2393. “I know that Anonymous came down here earlier and tried to give you some help.”
  2394. >“And I don’t need any, ‘specially from scoundrels like him. You don’t seem to understand, Twi. He’s just a little rat. Or maybe he’s got magic powers and is putting a spell on you.”
  2395. >Applejack wiggles her hooves menacingly.
  2396. >“He’s a villain thick and through. And he just wanted to help me so he could get somethin’ in return.”
  2397. “He didn’t, though. He wants to change.”
  2398. >“Why should I believe you? That’s probably just what he told you. He could say he’s a fish and you’d believe him.”
  2399. “Applejack, you need to trust me as a friend and believe that I believe him.”
  2400. >The farmer just chuckles.
  2401. >“Twi, as your friend, you’ve gotta believe me and believe that Anonymous is a liar.”
  2402. >Just then, you hear buckets clanking together and the tromping of feet.
  2403. >“Speak of demons....” Applejack mutters.
  2404. >Anonymous pauses, stares at Applejack for a second, then sets his buckets down on the doorstep to their barn.
  2405. >Applejack trots over to it as Anonymous begins to walk off, and you follow
  2406. “Anonymous! What is this stuff?” you ask, taking a whiff of the rancid-smelling substance.
  2407. >He stops and turns around.
  2408. >“Bat guano. It can be used as a very effective fertilizer. I’ll explain the science when we get home, Twilight.”
  2409. >He locks gaze with Applejack.
  2410. >“Take it if you need it,” he says with a shrug.
  2413. Chapter 9
  2415. >It has been a fortunately uneventful three days.
  2416. >You have sent the money off to Ingot with a brief letter explaining how you obtained it and asking for any details on the progress of the production of your parts.
  2417. >However, you have not received a response yet.
  2418. >You have spent the time reading another book, “A Brief Discourse on Lightning,” from Twilight’s library, picked up when you left after your experiment with electricity.
  2419. >You remain without further progress on that front.
  2420. >The book, true to its name, was only sixty pages long and contained little more than a discussion of weather patterns.
  2421. >Overall, it was unhelpful.
  2422. >Your current hypothesis is that the unicorn horn acts as an amplifier for neurochemical electrical energy.
  2423. >Neurons connecting to the horn send electrical charges into it.
  2424. >These charges can then be amplified and directed to magnetize objects, create energy blasts, light fires, and any other necessary tasks.
  2425. >While certainly an odd evolutionary path, you can certainly see some benefits to pre-civilized Equestria, mainly as a defense against predators.
  2426. >“Magic” seems to be a potent force, capable of near-limitless potential; you are interested in finding those limits.
  2427. >You have another month before you need to focus on a much more important project.
  2428. >Alas, further experimentation is limited by the lack of specimens.
  2429. >There does not seem to be a high death rate in Equestria, or the deceased are quickly swept away before any inquisitive minds can dissect them.
  2430. >If there have been any studies into pony anatomy, the research is not commonly available.
  2431. >Considering Twilight’s reaction to experimenting with unicorn horns, it is probably strongly discouraged by Equestrian culture.
  2432. >Unless a unicorn happens to break its skull open in a horrendous accident, you are not going to get a chance to explore further into your theories surrounding magic.
  2433. >Disappointing, but discovering the physical laws of a universe which you will soon be leaving are not exactly a priority.
  2434. >The nagging doubt that you may not succeed floats through your mind, but you quickly push it aside.
  2435. >No time for those thoughts.
  2436. >You decide to leave Twilight’s tree and go for a walk through the forest to clear your head.
  2437. >As you crunch through the damp leaves, a rainbow streaks across the sky.
  2438. >The pegasi have caused a downpour over the last two days, ending a few weeks of parching warmth.
  2439. >You pause, hands in the pockets of your jeans, and watch it slice through the cobalt heavens.
  2440. >Abruptly, a strong gust kicks up, scattering the drier leaves like plastic bags on a dirty elementary school playground.
  2441. >The streak fades and twists slightly, the small azure dot of the pegasus loses velocity and control over her direction.
  2442. >Rainbow then begins to lose altitude.
  2443. >The rustle of leaves and the flight of a flock of jabbering black birds in the distance signal Rainbow’s crash, and you race off in the direction of the crash site.
  2444. >She’s probably injured.
  2445. >She needs help.
  2446. >Judging by the trajectory of her fall she won’t fall near anyone other than you.
  2447. >You’re going to have to be the one to provide it.
  2448. >It’s like an angel and a devil are sitting on your shoulders.
  2449. >Help her, the angel says.
  2450. >It’s the right thing to do.
  2451. >It will make Twilight happy.
  2452. >You realize if you help Rainbow Dash, she will be forever in your debt, the devil remarks.
  2453. >She will not question your actions or feel that you lied to Twilight, and she will no longer bother you.
  2454. >You will be in complete control.
  2455. >Both your ego and your superego are, of course, speaking the truth.
  2456. >Furthermore, they are truths you’d like to hear.
  2457. >There is no reason not to help Rainbow Dash.
  2458. >It’s simple logic with a potent outcome.
  2459. >Twilight will have no reason not to trust you ever again.
  2460. >All you have to do is get Rainbow Dash to a hospital, an incredibly simple task.
  2461. >You know some basic first aid from a course you took a few years ago.
  2462. >Let us hope that you remember it.
  2463. >Out of breath, you reach Rainbow’s injured form.
  2464. >Large bumps on her right wing and leg indicate a severe bone fracture.
  2465. >A thick broken branch underneath her indicates at least one cause of the injuries.
  2466. “Stay calm,” you reassure her. “I’m here to help. I know a little first aid.”
  2467. >Rainbow looks at you skeptically.
  2468. >“Go get Twilight, or anyone else. I don’t want your help.”
  2469. “If you think this is some kind of trick, know that providing first aid is one of the few standards I always honor,” you add. “And it’s not like you have a much better option. Unless you want to lay there in agonizing pain for the next twenty minutes.”
  2470. >“No. Really, I’m fine; I’ll just get up and walk out of here.”
  2471. >You raise an eyebrow.
  2472. >Rainbow Dash attempts to get up, but abruptly halts and drops back to the ground with a soft crunch on the dried leaves.
  2473. >“Okay, maybe I could – urgh – use a little help.”
  2474. >You don’t have a proper first aid kit, so you need to improvise.
  2475. >You search for two sticks to use as splints and rip off a bit of cloth from your t-shirt to use as rope.
  2476. >You have two other shirts back at home; it’s of little concern to you if one is ruined.
  2477. >If it really becomes a problem, you can always pay to get it sewed.
  2478. “I’m going to have to splint your leg and wing,” you explain. “I apologize in advance if this hurts. Though, for some odd reason, I imagine this happens fairly often.”
  2479. >Rainbow barely smirks.
  2480. >You carefully remove the branch out from under her.
  2481. >It is wet, warm, and crimson with blood.
  2482. >Despite your caution, she still groans in pain.
  2483. >There is probably serious bruising as well, but there is nothing you can do about that.
  2484. >You lay one of the sticks up against the damaged humerus of Rainbow’s wing, and gently, yet tightly, wrap the t-shirt shreds around it.
  2485. >You repeat this process with the fragmented part of her leg.
  2486. >Now the problem is moving her to the hospital.
  2487. >No, hold on, you should not move a person with a bone fracture.
  2488. >It could cause more damage.
  2489. >On the other hand, for this to be successful, you need to be the rescuer.
  2490. “I’m going to try and lift you,” you state. “This will probably hurt, but it’s the best way to get you out of here. My other option would be to drag you there, which is obviously... less than ideal.”
  2491. >You are also not quite certain if you can lift a pony in the first place, but that is beside the point.
  2492. >Once you get to town or if someone sees you on the road, they will lend you a hand.
  2493. >Stooping down, you wrap your arms around Rainbow Dash’s frame and strenuously lift her up.
  2494. >While lighter than you expected, it is reaching the limits of your minimal strength.
  2495. >Rainbow grunts, her face contorting.
  2496. >You trudge west towards the edge of the forest.
  2497. >Near the boundary between the open plains and the foliage, you stop.
  2498. “I need to set you down for a bit,” you inform her. “Hold on.”
  2499. >You gingerly set the cyan pegasus on the ground and stretch your arms.
  2500. “Okay, up again,” you order after the pain in your triceps has subsided.
  2501. >As a mantra to keep pushing forward, you count squares of two.
  2502. >Two, four, eight, sixteen...
  2503. >You spot the park at the edge of Ponyville.
  2504. >1024, 2048, 4096, 8192...
  2505. >You reach the dirt path leading west towards town.
  2506. >Your arms feel like they might pop off, white hot flames ripping through your muscles.
  2507. >65536
  2508. >Two ponies, one orange, one pink, both known, rush up to you.
  2509. >Their squawking is garbled; shooting stars pop out in your blurred, watering eyes.
  2510. >All that you can concentrate on is removing the agony that you are suffering in your arms.
  2511. >What little conscious remains in control inside your mind manages to force your arms to smoothly set the burden you are carrying on the brown gravel, rather than drop it like a sack of bricks.
  2512. >Applejack shouts something at you.
  2513. >You sit down on a nearby bench, and the world snaps back into focus.
  2514. >“Anon!” Applejack yells.
  2515. “What?” you respond, gulping air like a marathon runner.
  2516. >“Lift her up so we can get her to the hospital!”
  2517. >You shove yourself off the bench and hoist the now-unconscious Rainbow Dash over Applejack’s back.
  2518. “Hold her steady, Anonymous,” AJ orders. “I don’t want her falling off.”
  2519. >You secure the injured blue mare to Applejack’s back with your right hand as she begins to trot towards the hospital.
  2520. >Pinkie Pie bounces along beside the two of you.
  2521. “You seem oddly cheery even though your friend is injured,” you remark once you notice this.
  2522. >“Gotta keep everypony’s spirits up somehow. They say laughter’s the best medicine anyways!” Pinkie replies.
  2523. >“This happens at least once every few months. Dash tries some new-fangled stunt and ends up breakin’ a wing,” Applejack declares.
  2524. >You frown.
  2525. “I’m no medical expert, but that can’t be good in the long term,” you warn.
  2526. >“Well, we’ve got some amazing magical healers up at the Ponyville Hospital. They can fix almost anythin’. Rainbow might be out for a few weeks, but they’ll get her back up in a jiff,” Applejack rebukes.
  2527. “That didn’t really assuage my concerns,” you mutter, opening the door to the hospital.
  2528. >“We’ve got an urgent patient,” Applejack tells the desk receptionist.
  2529. >She blearily looks up from her magazine.
  2530. >“Ugh, not again. I’ll get Doctor Stable,” she says.
  2531. >After a few minutes, a tan-colored stallion with the image of an electrocardiogram display monitor on his flank walks in along with two aides.
  2532. >He takes one brief look at Rainbow Dash and rubs his forehead with his hoof.
  2533. >“This is the third time this year,” he mutters, barely audibly to his two companions. “Get her to the OR, and prep for anesthesia and bone setting.”
  2534. >The two aides take Rainbow Dash off Applejack’s back and down the corridor out of the foyer.
  2535. >“What happened to her this time?” Doctor Stable asks, pulling out a clipboard from his labcoat.
  2536. >Applejack and Pinkie Pie both look at you.
  2537. “She lost control when she was buffeted by a strong gust of wind and crashed in the forest. Broke a wing and a leg, probably from either impact with the ground or a branch,” you answer.
  2538. >“Would that explain the twigs on her broken leg and wing?”
  2539. “No. I splinted them to prevent further damage.”
  2540. >“That is by far the worst splint job I’ve ever seen in fifteen years of working,” he chuckles.
  2541. >“You didn’t even splint along the joint. You might as well have just done nothing,” he berates. “And why in Celestia’s name did you bring her here? You easily could have just run over here and got help. Do you know how dangerous it is to move a pony with a bone fracture?”
  2542. “Yes. I do. I made my judgment to move her here lest she bleed out,” you rebuke, your cheeks pale pink.
  2543. “Perhaps I was wrong to do that, but perhaps I saved her life from blood less or any of the horrors of that forest.”
  2544. >Or, you needed to make it look like you did.
  2545. >“Well, let’s hope you didn’t do too much damage. That mare’s already been here three times in the past six months. She cannot keep doing this if she expects to ever fly again.”
  2546. >You nod.
  2547. >“Well, it’ll be a few hours before she’s up and about again,” the doctor explains. “Come back then.”
  2548. “Very well,” you state as a goodbye, beginning to walk towards the door.
  2549. >Pinkie Pie and Applejack follow close behind you.
  2550. >Once out the door, Applejack states, “Anonymous. We need to ask you something.”
  2551. “Hm?”
  2552. >“Did you not treat Rainbow right on purpose?”
  2553. >You blink twice and frown.
  2554. “Applejack, I might not seem to be the nicest fellow, or, well, I certainly haven’t shown myself to be, but I am not malicious, nor insane. While I was hurt by your actions, I am not vengeful. I would have no benefit from seeing Rainbow Dash permanently disabled, nor would I take pleasure in it.”
  2555. >“Pinkie Promise?” the eponymous mare inquires. “Cross your heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in your eye?”
  2556. “Pinkie Promise. Cross my heart and hope to... fly,” you respond firmly, and turn to head home.
  2557. >Pinkie Pie bounces off towards... wherever she goes, but Applejack follows behind you.
  2558. >“Anonymous, uh... could you wait up, there’s somethin’ else I’d like to talk to you about....”
  2559. >You stop.
  2560. >“I’d... uh... just like to apologize for not acceptin’ your help yesterday and... well, now I guess for not trustin’ you. And thank you for the fertilizer, now that I think about it.”
  2561. “Oh. Well, apology accepted.”
  2562. >“I mean, whatcha said was right. You’re not mean, you’re just different. And, I mean, Twilight’s come around to likin’ you so.... Are things changing for the better?”
  2563. >A cold breeze whips the drying leaves into the air.
  2564. “I guess so.”
  2565. >“See ya around, Anonymous,” Applejack says, tipping her Stetson hat.
  2566. “Yeah.”
  2567. >Now you play the waiting game, and watch as events unfold.
  2568. >All that matters is the words you say, and words can be manipulated, the little devil says.
  2569. >Fortunately for your conscience, your second promise in the past few days was not false.
  2570. >After a few hours on your own, reviewing your designs for any mistakes for the fortieth time and pondering, Pinkie Pie knocks on the door.
  2571. >“Rainbow is awake now,” she tells you cheerily. “She wants to see you. Probably for saving her life and all that you know. I mean, if I had someone save my-”
  2572. >You put a finger to her lips.
  2573. "Come on. Let's just go."
  2574. >You walk back to the hospital, Pinkie gabbing in your ear the entire way, and are directed to the second floor, fourth door on the right.
  2575. >The hallways are stark, chilling, and sanitized all the way through, the light flowing through the windows becoming almost lifeless.
  2576. >The room on the second floor, fourth door to the right is similarly bleak, with hideous teal curtains separating stainless steel beds with lumpy pale yellow mattresses sitting on top like clouds of noxious sulfur.
  2577. “Hello everyone. Good afternoon, Rainbow Dash,” you greet as you enter.
  2578. “I see they set and cast your injuries very quickly. That’s good. ”
  2579. >Rainbow Dash’s circle of technicolor friends is gathered around her.
  2580. >“Yeah, I guess...” Rainbow responds.
  2581. >She looks around.
  2582. >“Uh, I just wanted to, ya know, thank you for getting me out of the forest.”
  2583. >Twilight and the others smile at you.
  2584. “I do what is necessary.”
  2585. >“Also, I wanted to ask you something,” Rainbow states.
  2586. “Go ahead.”
  2587. >“You see, I really don’t like not being able to fly when I’m injured. I want some way to fly without having to use my wings. So I thought, could you build me a flying machine? Twilight tells me you can practically build anything.”
  2588. >You rub your unshaven chin.
  2589. “I’m not certain.”
  2590. >“Why’s that?” Rainbow asks.
  2591. “I have no idea where I’d get the materials for it, or the money. I’ve already sent what I earned from Filthy Rich off to the ironworks producing my parts.”
  2592. >“We’ll all chip in,” Applejack suggests suddenly. “If it makes sure Rainbow isn’t so down when she’s hurt, then we’ll do anythin’ to help.”
  2593. “No, that’s completely unnecessary. I don’t even know if this even possible, even with an unlimited amount of money. Humans on Earth have been trying to create self-powered flight for centuries, and, to do it successfully, you need a gasoline-powered motor at minimum. That’s not something I have the money, tools, materials, and time to build and test. Nor do I have any idea where to get the oil to power it. I am not certain anything smaller is adaptable to pony morphology, and, furthermore, those designs have never been proven to work.”
  2594. >“Could you at least try something?” Rainbow pleads.
  2595. >You pause and think for a bit.
  2596. >Time consumption is not a problem; you have plenty of time.
  2597. >What matters is cost to acquire materials, and if the device would even function.
  2598. >While you have improved the relationship between yourself and Dash slightly, you’re not sure how she would react to a device you built failing on her, sending her plummeting to her doom.
  2599. >Pinkie Pie’s high pitched shrill suddenly cuts off your thought process.
  2600. >“Anonymous!” she cries. “Nothing is impossible with a bit of determination. Why, I built a flying machine for myself a few months back. It broke. But I could show you how to build it again!”
  2601. “I have 1400 bits,” you state. “Would that cover the cost of construction?”
  2602. “If we’re lucky, we won’t need to pay for anything,” Pinkie replies. “The town dump has a bunch of neat parts lying about that we can use.”
  2603. “Very well. Show me your design, and I’ll see if I can build it.”
  2604. >Pinkie Pie walks out of the hospital, gabbing your ear off about the parties she’s thrown over the past week, the people she’s talked to today, and virtually anything else that comes into her hyperactive mind.
  2605. >You simply nod occasionally as the flood of words barrages you.
  2606. >“So, what have you been up to lately? I haven’t seen you since the Summer Sun Festival.” Pinkie asks, stemming the tide of her personal stories.
  2607. “Things. Testing theories. Acquiring parts.”
  2608. >“And has that been going well?”
  2609. “Fairly. I’m still physically no closer to building my transporter than I was when I first got here, but all the pieces are in place. I have none of the pieces in my possession, but, as soon as they come, I can start construction.”
  2610. >“Well, you have to start somewhere,” Pinkie replies as you walk towards Sugarcube Corner.
  2611. “You live here?” you inquire.
  2612. >“Yeah,” she replies as you walk up the stairs and enter her bedroom. “The Cakes give me room and board as part of me working for them.”
  2613. >She opens and rifles through a large blue wooden chest containing various party gags and prank devices, such as a rubber chicken, several dozen balloons, and a whoopee cushion, until she pulls out a crumpled piece of paper.
  2614. >“Here!” she exclaims, muffled through her teeth, which are currently grasped around the schematic.
  2615. >You tug the paper out from her mouth and examine it.
  2616. “This couldn’t possibly work,” you state after inspecting the design for a few moments. “There’s no way this could produce enough thrust to lift... well, anything, let alone a full-grown pony.”
  2617. >“Sure it can!” Pinkie debates. “It lifted me a few months ago, until that mean old griffin Gilda decided to throw me out of the sky.”
  2618. “There’s more problems than that. Rainbow Dash’s leg is broken. She wouldn’t be able to power the bicycle chain that turns the propeller.”
  2619. >Pinkie frowns.
  2620. >“The doctors probably won’t want her to use any device we build for her until she’s fully recovered, so that doesn’t matter.”
  2621. “You may be right, but I don’t want to take any risks. If she is too weak to lift the machine, then we have not done our job. I need a self-powered device.”
  2622. >Pinkie scratches her cotton candy like mane.
  2623. >“Well... I did design a flying harness for Rainbow’s turtle. It’s powered by magic. Could you work with that?”
  2624. “I could. Wait, you said it was powered by magic?”
  2625. >“Yeah! We power a lot of stuff on magical batteries and generators. The wizards up in Canterlot fill them with magical energy.”
  2626. “Right, I know. How many things in Equestria are powered by magic?”
  2627. >“Lots! Practically everything is.”
  2628. “Interesting.”
  2629. >Pinkie keeps running her hoof through her fluff, suddenly more vigorously.
  2630. >“The thing is, I know this design will work. I’ve built it before!”
  2631. “Then you build your design. I build mine. I don’t really need help anyways. We then have two flying machines, so if one fails, we still have a backup.”
  2632. >“I like the way you think, Anonymous. Alright, you build your design, I build mine.”
  2633. “Good.”
  2634. >Of course, Pinkie’s will be the one to fail.
  2635. >Unless her machine works on pure willpower, there is no way it could possibly function.
  2636. >Not having a means of entry into Rainbow Dash’s house, you head back to the hospital and visit the second floor, fourth room on the right.
  2637. >Her reaction to your request to experiment is less than favorable.
  2638. >“You want to do what to my tortoise?” Rainbow Dash shouts, prompting a shushing from the nurse.
  2639. “I am not going to do anything to Tank. I need to take apart his flying device to see how it works. Then I can build you a device that will help you fly, even with an injured wing.”
  2640. >“Well... hm. How could I forget about Tank’s helicopter pack?”
  2641. “I assure you, it will be worth it. If I can get this to work, then you will never have to worry about not being able to fly again.”
  2642. >“Alright. You’ll also need a pegasus to get into my house. I don’t think humans can walk on clouds.”
  2643. “No, they can’t,” you say. “I also need directions.”
  2644. >Rainbow Dash gives you them, and you head off on your way.
  2645. >There is only one pegasus that you know that you feel would even consider helping you: Fluttershy.
  2646. >You head to her cottage on the edge of the forest.
  2647. >A few animals come out and greet you as you walk up the gravel path to her doorway, but you shoo them away.
  2648. >You lightly rap on the round plank door.
  2649. >As you stand there waiting, what sounds like two sentient creatures arguing rumbles through the door, followed by some muffled bangs and the clanging of a pot.
  2650. >After a brief moment of scuttling, the door opens a hair.
  2651. “Fluttershy. We need to discuss something,” you state.
  2652. >“This really isn’t a good time come back later sorry!” Fluttershy rushes out
  2653. >The door slams shut, and the din resumes.
  2654. >You knock on it again.
  2655. “I apologize for disturbing your animals a few weeks ago. But now I require your assistance in a vital matter. Know that by helping me, you are really helping Rainbow Dash.”
  2656. >The door opens fully, revealing the diminutive yellow pegasus.
  2657. >“Um.... Hold on a minute.”
  2658. “What’s going on in –”
  2659. >The door slams shut again.
  2660. >A another minute of arguing inside passes before it re-opens.
  2661. >“Alright, let’s go,” Fluttershy agrees, her voice barely louder than the breeze. “What do you need?”
  2662. “I need you to go into Rainbow Dash’s house and the flying device for me,” you explain. “She has already permitted me to get it. I just need a pegasus to retrieve the device for me.”
  2663. >“Okay. I guess can do that....”
  2664. >She turns inside and suddenly shouts, “Behave while I’m gone! This isn’t over.”
  2665. “Good. Follow me then, although I guess you know the way.”
  2666. >You crunch about half a kilometer along the gravel path, Fluttershy pattering along beside you.
  2667. >You can always do two good deeds in one day, you realize, and you could have even greater stability by at least partially repairing the wrongs you have committed against the pink-maned equine walking beside you.
  2668. “I would like to apologize again for disturbing your animals a few weeks back. I really should have remembered to tell you I had other ponies coming over to observe my fireworks. I wasn’t thinking entirely clearly.”
  2669. >Fluttershy mumbles something in response.
  2670. “Hm?”
  2671. >“It’s okay,” she clarifies.
  2672. >Note to self: try again later.
  2673. >You look ahead and continue walking, taking a slight left turn.
  2674. >A floating palace of lazily curved clouds with rainbow waterfalls looms ahead.
  2675. >Fluttershy floats up to the door.
  2676. >You do not see her enter from the angle you are standing at.
  2677. >A few minutes of silence pass, until Fluttershy walks out, carrying the miniscule flight device.
  2678. >It is a helmet-like metal machine with four curved steel armatures with a small opening near what appear to be helicopter blades.
  2679. >A strap across two of the armatures allows the pack to be put on.
  2680. >You snatch the device away from the Fluttershy and begin to examine it.
  2681. >Fluttershy squeaks in fear.
  2682. “Sorry, sorry.”
  2683. >The blades are connected to a gearshaft that descends into the opening.
  2684. >A small grey button on the side activates the helicopter pack, the blades almost whacking your head as they spin up.
  2685. >You reactively shut the machine off, but not before quickly noticing the yellow aura emanating from the gearshaft.
  2686. >It’s powered by magic.
  2687. >You begin to aimlessly walk away, completely entranced in inspecting the piece of technology.
  2688. >Fluttershy quietly follows you.
  2689. “Well, thanks for your help. See you around,” you state.
  2690. >“Okay,” she whispers, and ambles back towards her house.
  2691. >Continuing to study the helicopter pack, you discover that its frame is made of the inside of an old mining helmet.
  2692. >The magical generator probably powered the headlamp, but its gearshaft has been repurposed for flight.
  2693. >The helicopter blades are made from an old fan armature.
  2694. >The device has no maneuvering fins, so you assume it is controlled by shifting the user’s weight.
  2695. >Though you would expect a device made of such ramshackle scavenged parts to be crude aesthetically, a thin coating of black paint and some clever craftsmanship hides the seams in the parts.
  2696. >The design is simple, but effective, like any good design should be.
  2697. >Re-designing the pack in a larger form should not be difficult, nor will acquiring the parts.
  2698. >Your plan in mind is to enlarge the helicopter back so that it works as a saddle.
  2699. >Pinkie Pie told you that you could find most of the parts at the junkyard, so that is where you shall go.
  2700. >You would like to find a saddle, a magical generator, and an oversized fan.
  2701. >With those three items, a few screws and other fasteners, and some good old ingenuity and problem solving, you should be able to make an effective flying machine.
  2702. >Aeronautical physics have apparently been thrown out the window in this universe, but you probably should have realized that long ago when pegasi with undersized wings can fly at the speed of sound.
  2703. >If there is one thing this universe lacks, it is consistency.
  2704. >You trudge off towards the scrapheap, asking directions from a passing earth pony.
  2705. >Pinkie Pie is already searching through the piles of rubbish once you arrive.
  2706. >“Hey Anonymous!” she shouts to you from a pile of crushed cardboard boxes and paper plates.
  2707. >The odor of the dump suddenly assaults your nostrils with a foul mixture of rust, ammonia, and moist wood.
  2708. “Smells awful around here...” you mutter.
  2709. >“It’s the scent of discovery, Anonymous!” Pinkie replies, having apparently heard you.
  2710. >You cover your nose and mouth with your hand.
  2711. >“There’s all sorts of cool stuff around here! I found a cereal box from two years ago just today,” Pinkie yells down to you, sliding down the wet pile of paper goods carrying a bright red box with the picture of a dog stating “They’re deeeeelicious!” on it.
  2712. >Her ever-present smile grows a few inches.
  2713. “That’s great,” you reply.
  2714. >You begin searching the piles of refuse for the items you need to obtain.
  2715. “Have you seen a giant fan blade, a saddle, or a magical generator anywhere around here?” you ask.
  2716. >Pinkie only shakes her head.
  2717. >You walk around one of the piles, lifting up larger pieces of trash in case the things you seek are under them.
  2718. >“Anonymous!” Pinkie hollers from afar. “I think I found a few generators!”
  2719. >You jog over to Pinkie’s location.
  2720. >She is standing by a box of magical generators, labeled “To Be Disposed of Safely.”
  2721. >A few of them are spinning out of control, the gearshafts sparking like tinder in a campfire.
  2722. >You grab a medium-sized generator from the box and turn it off.
  2723. >One item down, two to go.
  2724. >You actually find something better than a saddle oxidizing: an old brass backplate for a pegasus guard.
  2725. >It will strap perfectly around any pegasus, and even has two slits for wings.
  2726. >And, surprisingly, you find not one, but two oversized fans.
  2727. >Upon your questioning where they might have come from, Pinkie merely shrugs.
  2728. >You’re beyond the stage of questioning the logic of this universe.
  2729. >You swap out the older magical generator for the one inside one of the fans, as that one is A, compatible with the fan blade and B, will provide enough torque to spin the blade.
  2730. >A quick test proves that the fan is still somewhat functional.
  2731. >Now you just need to fuse the armor plate to the generator, and the flying machine will be finished.
  2732. >You march out of the scrap heap towards Twilight’s tree, pulling the parts on a discarded dolly you find in the heaps.
  2733. >“Well, bye, Anonymous! See you when the device is done!” Pinkie calls from her perch on a mound of rusting iron tools.
  2734. “Goodbye,” you reply over your shoulder.
  2735. >It is a brief walk back to town.
  2736. >Walking into the marketplace, you catch Twilight ambling with her dragon comrade through the marketplace on one of her usual supply runs.
  2737. >Spike is carrying several bags filled with herbs and other strange alchemical ingredients.
  2738. “Twilight!” you cry out to her, catching her attention.
  2739. >“Hello, Anonymous. What do you need?” she asks.
  2740. “I need you to weld something for me with your magic,” you reply. “It’s for Rainbow’s flying machine.
  2741. >She raises an eyebrow.
  2742. >“Weld?”
  2743. “Fuse together by melting the metal around something.”
  2744. “Oh. I think I can do that,” Twilight says. “C’mon, Spike, we’re heading back to the lab.”
  2745. >“But what about my crystal cupcake?” Spike protests.
  2746. >“We’ll get it later. Anonymous needs my help with something, and I need those herbs stored as soon as possible.”
  2747. >“Fine,” Spike relents.
  2748. >You hand him thirty bits from your pocket.
  2749. “Here. Go get yourself something,” you state. “I’ll take the bags.”
  2750. >You need the money, but you need respect more.
  2751. >You place the sacks on your dolly.
  2752. >Twilight smiles at you.
  2753. >“Well. Thanks, Anonymous,” Spike responds. "Crystal deliciousness, here I come!"
  2754. >He runs off towards Sugarcube Corner giggling.
  2755. “Alright, let’s go,” you tell Twilight.
  2756. >On the way, you explain your design process and how you acquired parts for the flying machine, Twilight asking clarification and refining occasionally.
  2757. >“Well, Rainbow will sure be happy if it works,” Twilight says as you walk through the door to her tree-library. “I personally worry for her. She’s been really reckless as of late.”
  2758. “Hm,” is all you can say.
  2759. >“You’ve really been taking my advice lately, Anonymous, haven’t you?” Twilight asks as you walk down into the basement. “Helping Dash get out of the forest, then offering to build her a flying machine. And then you gave Spike a bit of your own money out of the goodness of your heart. You’re really learning the Magic of Friendship.”
  2760. >“Magic of Friendship?”
  2761. >You stop on the staircase for a second and stare at the purple unicorn in front of you.
  2762. >It’s one thing that you’re trying to be nice to people but....
  2763. >That concept seems a bit saccharine to you.
  2764. >“What?” she asks, hearing your footsteps cease.
  2765. “Nothing,” you reply after that second of thought. “Just pondering something.”
  2766. >“Okay. Well, if there's something you need to tell me, just say it, alright?”
  2767. "No, there's nothing I need to tell you. Nothing at all."
  2768. >Once in the basement, you grab a cloth and rub the coating of grime off of your parts as best you can and flake off as much of the tin oxide from the armor plate as you can.
  2769. >You then set the plate on the floor and place the fan assembly on top, roughly in the center.
  2770. “Alright, Twilight, here’s what I need you to do. I need you to aim a stream of energy at the exact point of contact between the armor plate and that magical generator. Understood?”
  2771. >“Understood,” Twilight answers, charging her horn.
  2772. >A blast of purple-white magic strikes the seam between the armor plate and generator.
  2773. >The metal glows red and up through the heat spectrum until it reaches white.
  2774. >The parts begin to fuse together, an amalgam of tin, iron, and copper forming at the junction.
  2775. >Twilight draws a circle of molten metal around the generator, sealing the plate and the motor together.
  2776. >As soon as the circle is complete, she makes another pass, then shuts her magic off.
  2777. “Perfect,” you state. “Now we wait a bit to let the metal fully cool. Then I’ll need your assistance again.”
  2778. >Twilight nods.
  2779. >You wait five minutes.
  2780. >Twilight goes off and begins placing her ingredients in various drawers and cabinets.
  2781. “What are those plants for?” you ask.
  2782. >“Alchemical ingredients. I need them for magical potions and poultices that I make.”
  2783. “Curious. What exactly can those do?”
  2784. >“They’re mostly remedies and a few enhancement potions.”
  2785. "Interesting."
  2786. >You may need to find out more about those.
  2787. >Having something to enhance your strength would be a boon to future projects.
  2788. >You gingerly touch the warped metal weld.
  2789. >It is completely cool.
  2790. “Alright, here’s what I need done. Hold the device down with telekinesis just enough to make sure it doesn’t fly through the roof.” you tell Twilight.
  2791. “Okay. Just say when,” she replies, charging her horn.
  2792. >You walk over to the magical generator/motor.
  2793. >There are three power settings on the generator; you set it to the highest one.
  2794. >The fan blades spin up.
  2795. >The machine begins to hover.
  2796. >Twilight catches it with her telekinesis and holds it just enough that it is rising under its own power, but not so much that it is held down.
  2797. “Excellent,” you approve.
  2798. >The device reaches about half a meter away from the ceiling, but Twilight holds it in place.
  2799. “Alright, lower it down,” you command.
  2800. >Twilight forces the machine to the floor.
  2801. >You cautiously duck under the wings and flick the generator off.
  2802. >You dust your hands off.
  2803. >You repeat this a few more times just to be sure that the device works.
  2804. “Functions exactly as it should. If that motor can lift that armor plate, I think it should be able to lift Dash. Then she’ll control it by shifting her body weight.” you state confidently at the end of the last test. “Now all we have to do is wait for Rainbow to be released from the hospital. In the meantime, I need a lot more books. I go through every one you give me far too fast.”
  2805. >You smirk, and Twilight returns the expression.
  2806. >“Alright, c’mon, I’ll give you whatever you’re interested in and some of my favorites.”
  2807. >Another four days pass until Rainbow Dash is released.
  2808. >You find the box of old magical generators again and study them.
  2809. >They apparently work on stored magical potential energy, provided by a long-lasting enchantment.
  2810. >Having picked up a few books on alchemy, you begin to study the effects of various Equestrian herbs.
  2811. >Though definitely more numerous in size and biological features, with some approaching sentience, Equestrian flora has a large number of biochemical properties that are clearly being used to great effect in medicine.
  2812. >As they day of the final test arrives, you add a few extra safety features to the flying machine, such as a grabbable string that controls the rotors.
  2813. >Because the device is designed like a helicopter, it will slowly fall because of autorotation if the rotor shuts off.
  2814. >During powered flight, height can be set to three settings based on the power given to the generator.
  2815. >Finally, the day arrives.
  2816. >Pinkie Pie, Twilight, and you meet her in the Ponyville Park along with both flying machines.
  2817. >Though no longer bed-bound, Rainbow is now in a wheelchair.
  2818. >Pinkie is hovering on her Air Bike, while yours is set on the dolly you found at the junkyard.
  2819. >You can only stare at Pinkie’s contraption.
  2820. “That... that's not possible!” you shout, suddenly losing your temper. “I looked over those designs. They were completely against every law of physics, never mind the rules of engineering. It couldn’t have possibly worked!”
  2821. >“Like I told you, anything’s possible with a little magic, Anonymous. And a bit of positivity and ingenuity, of course.”
  2822. >“Anonymous, calm down,” Twilight says.
  2823. “No! Positivity and ingenuity doesn’t make things possible. Well, ingenuity maybe, but you don’t get what you want in this world just by being positive! You’ve got to put the sweat of your brow into it. Hard work, solves problems, not magic!”
  2824. >“Wow, Anonymous, you’re getting so mad about this, you must really be positive that your invention’s gonna work!” Pinkie says, oblivious to your anger.
  2825. “No! Yours was supposed to fail. It was supposed to explode into a million tiny pieces!”
  2826. >“Anonymous, come on. Enough. Calm down,” Twilight says, rubbing your arm with her hoof. “I hear Rainbow Dash coming.”
  2827. >You take a deep breath; the color washes from your face.
  2828. >“Hey, guys,” Rainbow greets as she rolls up to you.
  2829. >She spots the flying machines and grins.
  2830. >“I’m ready to fly again.”
  2831. >“Good!” Pinkie cheers.
  2832. “Unfortunately, it looks like you won’t be using Pinkie’s right now, Rainbow,” you state. “Not with that broken leg.
  2833. >“No. The doctors recommended that I don’t even try yours, Anonymous, in case something goes wrong.”
  2834. >You frown.
  2835. “I’m fairly certain the device is perfectly safe,” you reassure. “I’ve tested it ten times over the last few days and five times just before you got here. That being said, I would watch out for the fan blades, though they should be positioned far enough so that they shouldn’t hit you. We’ve also brought you a helmet, just in case.”
  2836. >“Alright,” Rainbow agrees. “Let’s give it a shot.”
  2837. >You pick the Helipack Mark I (as you have named it) off of the dolly.
  2838. “The pack is self-powered,” you explain as you strap Rainbow in. “You control direction by shifting your bodyweight, up for forward, down for backward, et cetera. You control power with this string. There are three settings for three different heights. You should reach a height of about ten meters at full power. Pull it all the way forward to turn it off. You’ll fall slowly because the rotor autorotates. We want you to start you at the lowest setting and progressively get higher for safety.”
  2839. >“I’m just gonna go to full power, Anonymous,” Rainbow orders. “We know it works.”
  2840. “Are you sure? I just want things to be safe.”
  2841. >“Full power. I wanna fly.”
  2842. “Very well,” you concede.
  2843. >You hand Rainbow the helmet, which she quickly puts on, and she pulls the switch on the side to the highest power setting.
  2844. >The blades spin up to their full speed, and Rainbow begins to hover and slowly ascend.
  2845. “If anything goes wrong, teleport her out of there,” you tell Twilight.
  2846. >Rainbow reaches a height of about a half meter, but ascends no further.
  2847. >“Hey, Anonymous? Didn’t you say this thing was supposed to get me ‘ten meters’ off the ground?” Rainbow inquires.
  2848. “Yes.”
  2849. >“And it’s on the highest power setting?”
  2850. “Yes.”
  2851. >“So why am I hovering, not flying?”
  2852. “Because there is not enough lift to lift you, unfortunately,” you explain, your cheeks turning bright crimson with embarrassment. “As I thought.”
  2853. >However, Pinkie is not taking this moment to make a dig at you.
  2854. >“Then why didn’t you build something stronger?” Rainbow asks.
  2855. “Because there isn’t a way for me to produce something more powerful, unless I wanted it built from scratch, which I didn’t have time to do. I wouldn’t want to be working on it by the time the parts arrived.”
  2856. >Rainbow frowns.
  2857. “Pull her down, Twilight. Let’s get the pack off of her.”
  2858. >Twilight pulls Rainbow down from what little altitude she gained.
  2859. >“Pinkie!” Rainbow shouts at the pink mare. “Let’s see how high your bike can get.”
  2860. >Pinkie increases the vigor of her pedalling, and lifts a solid twelve meters up, circling around.
  2861. >“Look, Anonymous,” Twilight begins. “You didn’t perform enough tests. Pinkie Pie or I would have been willing to stand in for Rainbow in the tests in my lab. Plus, you could have gone with a lighter connector to Rainbow’s back, like a saddle, and got the parts custom-made instead of just taking them from the junkyard. I know you don’t make stuff from junk often. Pinkie does. You get things made exactly as you need them. Why didn’t you do that here?”
  2862. >You have nothing to say.
  2863. >Rage.
  2864. >Failure.
  2865. >Irony.
  2866. >Confusion.
  2867. >These words describe all the things that you are feeling right now, and yet you show nothing on your face.
  2868. >You watch the ludicrous device circle through the sky, wanting to shoot it down with a surface-to-air missile.
  2869. >You turn to Pinkie Pie as she lands.
  2870. “It just doesn’t make sense. I looked over your design, Pinkie. There’s no way it could have worked. It defied every law of physics. Even I was only about 30% sure my design would even be able to lift its own weight. I assumed if it could do that, it could lift a little more.”
  2871. >“Sometimes the first step to getting something to work is believing it can, Anonymous.”
  2872. “No, it’s not. If that were true, then the...”
  2873. >You wrack your brain for an example Pinkie Pie would understand.
  2874. “Then a soufflé would always come out right just because you want it to.”
  2875. >Pinkie giggles and snorts.
  2876. >“Anonymous, quit being so negative. Look on the bright side for once,” she states, riding off on her flying contraption.
  2877. >Twilight nods to you.
  2878. >“You’ll do better next time,” she reassures, walking towards town.
  2879. >Rainbow glares at you and begins to roll off.
  2880. >No, you’re not going to take that today.
  2881. “Listen, I told you that this was a very improbable project. I did it because I had the time and because I had just enough interest to see if I could make it work. It didn’t. Life goes on.”
  2882. >“Anonymous, flying is life to me,” Rainbow argues. “I need to fly, it’s like breathing for me. And now I’m stuck on the ground again for another six weeks.”
  2883. “Then you need to learn to stop being so reckless. I saw what you were doing up there. You were flying at near supersonic speeds. How much time did you think you would have if you lost control? You’re lucky you’re not dead! The same thing with my helipack. If we had lost control on the first try and couldn’t get you back down, you would be hurt again. And I’d never hear the end of it from you and your friends because it would be my invention that caused you to never fly again.”
  2884. >Rainbow snorts.
  2885. >“Why the hay do you have to be so smart, Anonymous?” she asks, angrily wheeling towards town in her wheelchair.
  2886. >You kick the dirt and walk home.
  2887. >Failure is not something that you accept lightly.
  2888. >However, the whole exercise was somewhat pointless.
  2889. >You should have just trusted your gut and told Rainbow no.
  2890. >With a bit more time, perhaps the device could have worked, but that is irrelevant now.
  2891. >Doubt in the success of your quantum transporter creeps in, a silent terror.
  2892. >Except, this time, it is even stronger.
  2893. >If you fail at that, everything is lost.
  2894. >You are doing more than the improbable, as with the flying machine, but the impossible.
  2895. >While normally breaking the impossible sounds like an amazing idea to you, the risk of absolute failure in this case chills you to your core.
  2896. >You cannot stay in this chaotic, nonsensical universe until you die.
  2897. >And you’re going to get out of it by any means necessary.
  2900. Chapter 10
  2902. >The dim light of your watch illuminates your face.
  2903. >It is just past midnight.
  2904. >You cannot rest.
  2905. >Vile thoughts have been swirling in your mind like foul rainbow oil on the surface of the water in a harbor.
  2906. >While on the surface, your expression is completely blank, inside your thoughts churn like the relentless crash of waves.
  2907. >You have failed at something which you normally would never fail at: engineering the impossible.
  2908. >If you cannot build a flying machine in this universe, how is it even possible to build a dimensional transporter?
  2909. >This one question rolls from side to side across your frontal cortex.
  2910. >There is no silencing it.
  2911. >All that is left is hope and drive, and these are not satisfying.
  2912. >Things never work simply because they should.
  2913. >You roll over in your bed, rustling the covers.
  2914. >With a sigh, you finally drift off to sleep.
  2915. >Your dreams are tortured.
  2916. >Color, light, and indistinguishable forms flash.
  2917. >You hear a howling red wind roaring from nowhere.
  2918. >A dark figure stabs you with knife and you fall into a pipe of rushing water onto a grassy hill.
  2919. >The crimson moonlight streams through a pine tree, and you begin to run from an unseen magnetic force.
  2920. >It catches up to you and swallows you whole, two yellow sparks zapping you into oblivion.
  2921. >Then, you are standing in the cab of a steam train, twisting knobs and pulling levers as spurts of hot steam shoot from loose pipes.
  2922. >You peer out the side and see the bridge in front of you is twisting towards the iridescent pink sky.
  2923. >The engineer shouts incoherent words to you, and yet you understand that you need to stop the train.
  2924. “But I don’t know how!”
  2925. >Yes, you do, just pull the red lever.
  2926. >But you don’t know how.
  2927. >You don’t know.
  2928. >With a gust of strong air, the illusion is brushed away and you stand in a familiar steel corridor, with thousands of floating doors.
  2929. >The circuit lines running along the walls and floor are now red, and a faint sound of shifting machinery can be heard, a continuous grinding pulse.
  2930. >An indigo unicorn-pegasus hybrid stands in front of you.
  2931. “I told you not to visit my mind ever again,” you state firmly. “My knowledge and secrets are the things I value most, and I do not appreciate anyone snooping around in my subconscious.”
  2932. >“I apologize,” Luna responds calmly. “But we have not spoken in weeks, and this was simply the easiest manner of reaching you.”
  2933. “Understandable. But not the most ideal. I know the mail system here is slow, but at least it allows me to keep what I want hidden, hidden.”
  2934. >Luna nods.
  2935. >You feel a sudden pressure and a bit of heat in the front of your skull.
  2936. “I sense another presence,” you mutter. “Who is with you?”
  2937. >“It is only my sister. I promise, we will try not to go sifting through your thoughts as I did last time,” Luna reassures.
  2938. “Fine,” you sigh stiffly. “I guess I do not really have a choice in this matter anyways.”
  2939. >In a flash of yellow-white light, the white Princess of the Sun enters a physical form.
  2940. >“Hello, Anonymous,” Celestia greets you.
  2941. >You merely nod in return.
  2942. >“We have much to discuss. It was unfortunate that we did not get a chance to speak at the Summer Sun Festival, but, obviously my duties as sovereign come before my personal desires.”
  2943. >Once again, you nod.
  2944. >Luna walks off towards a door labeled “Astronomy” and begins staring at it intently.
  2945. >“So, tell me. What is this I have been hearing about a song disparaging the nobility of Equestria?”
  2946. >You cannot help but chuckle.
  2947. “That was a dare by your student’s friends Applejack and Rainbow Dash. They told me they would leave me in peace and not, for example, drag me out to get drunk, if I sang a song for the posh crowd of the Canterlot Palace. I obliged and sang a little number from Earth that I thought was relevant to the situation.”
  2948. >Celestia giggles.
  2949. >“Well, I must say, you caused quite a disturbance,” she replies. “The Blueblood Family was berating me for weeks after that little incident. You made that boring old ceremony a little more interesting this year.”
  2950. “Well, thank you. I guess.”
  2951. “There is one other thing I would like to discuss as well,” Celestia states after a brief pause. “I have been receiving regular letters from Twilight Sparkle about your... exploits, shall we say?”
  2952. >You cock your head to one side.
  2953. >Luna’s ears perk up, but she continues staring at the Astronomy door.
  2954. “And?”
  2955. >“Tell me about what is going on between the two of you. She seems quite concerned about your well-being, and especially your relationship with her friends and the rest of Ponyville.”
  2956. >You prepare your statement for a moment.
  2957. “Twilight is concerned that the ponies of this town might come to fear or despise me. She wants me to be successful and realizes that I need good relations to do that. However, on some occasions I have proven to be rather... cold.”
  2958. >You consider something for a moment.
  2959. >These two are inside your mind, and, assuming what Luna is doing staring at that door, can easily see whatever memories, knowledge, and lies you have told.
  2960. “I may have also been rather manipulative with her,” you reveal. “I do not like pulling strings through lies and quid pro quo, but I seem to be rather good at that, unfortunately. I need her trust to leave this world.”
  2961. >“What did you do?” Celestia asks.
  2962. >Luna turns away from the door.
  2963. “I dug myself a deep hole. After Rainbow Dash and Applejack dragged me to a bar, despite my protests, I gave a false apology. They didn’t care, but Twilight did. She berated me for it, and I, hungover from the festivities at the Summer Sun Festival and frankly tired of her constant lecturing on the ‘Magic of Friendship,’ lost my temper. I told her my feelings about friendship: that it is a waste of my time. I then realize that I needed her still. But, it became... something more. I realized that Twilight was right. I am not of this world, and I have not made a good impression upon it, as little as that means to me. Meant to me. So, I decided to try to change my behavior.
  2964. >You sigh.
  2965. “But, at the same time, I still know that the actions that I am taking are leading in a favorable direction. I know that the kindness I am showing to Twilight and her friends could easily be my subconscious manipulating things still. And I don’t like that.”
  2966. >Celestia frowns.
  2967. “Do with me as you will.”
  2968. >“I’m not angry,” Celestia responds. “I understand.”
  2969. >You raise an eyebrow.
  2970. >“I can see everything in here, Anonymous. It is impossible not to empathize with someone when you can see their every thought and memory,” Celestia explains. “And, as a member of the royal court, I know how it feels when everyone around you is manipulating you by feigning being pleasant.”
  2971. “I thought Luna said you would stay out of my thoughts.”
  2972. >“We can’t,” Luna states. “Your mind is an open book in here, Anonymous. It is impossible for us not to see into your mind. Do not worry. We cannot remember everything we learn in here.”
  2973. >“You also remind me of an old friend of mine,” Celestia continues. “Starswirl the Bearded. Twilight is intelligent, but not innovative. She can master a skill easily, but needs to be taught it, and most likely will not see all the possibilities and connections between different aspects of magic or science unless taught. She has a great amount of ability, make no mistake, but it is focused in other areas. She is one of the most powerful users of magic to ever exist in Equestria. Starswirl was intelligent and innovative. He created incredible new ways of manipulating magic and dozens of new spells. He was also heartless, cold, and friendless, but didn’t seem to mind living alone. He became rather annoyed when people tried to interfere with his work.”
  2974. “What happened to him?” you ask.
  2975. >“He died, alone, of natural causes long ago,” Luna replies. “His last spell remains unsolved.”
  2976. “Perhaps that is the cost of being inventive. To live a life of solitude,” you muse.
  2977. >Celestia nods.
  2978. “Why is Twilight so obsessed with making me a friendlier person?” you inquire.
  2979. >“I guess that is my fault,” Celestia replies. “I forced Twilight to move to Ponyville to study the Magic of Friendship so as to revert my sister from her enraged form of Nightmare Moon. The Elements of Harmony can only be used by those united by the power of friendship. However, her running into a creature such as you was not something I could predict.”
  2980. >The circuit lines running along the floor glow blue.
  2981. “Perhaps we should discuss things more often,” you state with a smirk. “It is rather nice having someone who can see from my point of view in an instant, even if that does involve invading my most sacred privacy.”
  2982. >“I tried to stay out of the areas that seemed most personal,” Celestia consoles you. “But there was enough to see what drives you. Tell me, who is Terrance, and why does he appear so many times and with so much anger?”
  2983. “That is a story for another time,” you state firmly.
  2984. >Celestia’s eyes sparkle, and, with a rush of cold air and white and black smoke, the two alicorns disappear, followed by the inner machinations of your subconscious.
  2985. >She already knows your story; the question is if she will commit it to memory.
  2986. >You awaken the next morning with a lack of purpose that continues over the next few weeks of waiting.
  2987. >You are visited by no one, other than Twilight and occasionally Spike, as usual, leaving you free to pour over books on magic, your curiosity on the subject still not satiated.
  2988. >Unfortunately, you are beginning to exhaust what few books you can find on the origin of magic and its abilities.
  2989. >You do not wish know what magic can do, but why and how, and books on this subject are quite scarce, at least in Twilight’s library.
  2990. >By playing around with magical batteries and generators, you are beginning to discover some more practical uses of this mysterious force.
  2991. >What is most confusing is the myriad number of forms magic can take.
  2992. >For example, you managed to produce a laser-like device by attaching a focusing lens to the energy-producing end of a magical generator.
  2993. >Unfortunately, the powering on of this device left a black scorch mark on the wall of the basement laboratory.
  2994. >Electrical energy had been converted to light energy without, per se, a filament of any sort.
  2995. >It was as if the magical energy simply knew what it needed to do, which is absolutely ridiculous.
  2996. >If magic is energy and energy alone, then it cannot have a conscious.
  2997. >Yet, this is what you have observed.
  2998. >Whatever the case, you now have a decent magic-powered arc welder to put the pieces of your dimensional transporter.
  2999. >The magical “laser” proved quite effective at fusing two pieces of steel together with its azure beam.
  3000. >In addition, you have also constructed a small power drill for screwing in fasteners and purchased a few other tools for your use, such as a pump to remove air from the accelerator.
  3001. >Your limited supply of bits has been strained by these purchases, but you no longer need the money, except for the occasional meal outside of those provided in Twilight’s kitchen.
  3002. >You have learned to avoid Twilight’s cooking as it tended to end up singed or came to life.
  3003. >Magic was generally involved.
  3004. >Everything is ready for construction to begin; all you need is the parts.
  3005. >Right on schedule, they arrive.
  3006. >Two days beforehand, Ingot sends you a letter.
  3007. >It reads:
  3008. >“Dear Anonymous,”
  3009. >“We have finished most of the parts and are shipping them to you now. I will be there to personally oversee the unloading process and to make sure everything is to your specifications. This has proved to be quite an interesting project, I must say. Simply some of the ways that we have had to produce these materials will advance Equestrian science by at least a decade. I am quite impressed. I will see you in two days.”
  3010. >“Sincerely,”
  3011. >“Ingot”
  3012. >On that cloudy, damp morning, a coal-dusted locomotive followed by several green passenger wagons and a few red boxcars pulls into Ponyville Station.
  3013. >Ingot steps out of the first car, wearing a black fancy raincoat over his suit and carrying a mahogany cane.
  3014. >“Well, Anonymous,” he greets. “We managed to do it. Some things, I’m not even sure how. These are technologies and uses of lightning magic that my scientists never even considered.”
  3015. >A few burly tan colored worker ponies begin unloading four large wooden crates.
  3016. “I can imagine. This device was cutting edge technology even on Earth,” you explain. “I am very impressed you managed to complete even just the parts. Equestria seems to be about 100 years behind Earth’s technology.”
  3017. >“Hm,” Ingot muses. “Well, my company is now going to be on the forefront of Equestrian inventing. If you have anything else locked up in that mind of yours that you are willing to share, please, feel free to mail it to me!”
  3018. >Ingot chuckles with this last statement, and then bangs his cane on the ground.
  3019. >“Move it, colts! We cannot keep Mr. Anonymous waiting much longer.”
  3020. >The workers quicken their pace, lifting the crates onto a large trolley.
  3021. >“In what direction is your house?” Ingot asks.
  3022. “To the west of here. Tell your men to follow me, and be quick with the parts, but not to the point that they are damaged. I have waited a long time for these parts, and I can wait a few minutes more if it means none are broken.”
  3023. >Once back at Twilight’s tree and in the laboratory, one of the workers uses a crow bar he brought with him to pry the boxes open.
  3024. >Stainless steel, packaged in soft cloth, flashes as the lid is lifted off.
  3025. “Place the parts over there,” you state, pointing to a large metal table. “Try and keep them off the floor and covered with the cloths. I can’t have any dust getting on the internal components.”
  3026. >Ingot stands aside, useless in this situation.
  3027. >“Everything looks to your design?” he asks.
  3028. “So far, yes. I’ll need to measure everything, but, so far, everything appears to be in order.”
  3029. >You pick up a pair of calipers off of another table and jot down the thickness of a few pieces of piping used for the inner accelerator.
  3030. >You quickly compare it to the width specified on your plans.
  3031. >It’s off by not even a millimeter from your specifications.
  3032. “Your smiths did very well with this. This is very precise,” you comment.
  3033. >“Well, thank you,” Ingot replies.
  3034. >After about ten minutes of unpacking and measuring, you determine that everything is to your design.
  3035. “Thank you very much for your assistance,” you tell Ingot. “I doubt we’ll meet again, but I’m glad to have helped Equestria in some way through this exercise.”
  3036. >“Of course, dear boy. This was quite a healthy transaction for both of our interests,” Ingot responds.
  3037. >The two of you exchange goodbyes, and Ingot heads back towards the train station with his stallions.
  3038. >Finally, construction can begin.
  3039. >You begin by assembling the base on which the transporter ring sits: a trapezoidal corrugated steel prism with two rings to hold the ring.
  3040. >It requires little fine tuning or finesse with tools, but allows you to test the capabilities of your hand-constructed, magic-powered drill and spot welder.
  3041. >Unfortunately, you are interrupted by a certain purple unicorn comes bounding downstairs.
  3042. “Hello, Twilight,” you state a bit morosely.
  3043. >You really don’t want to be distracted right now.
  3044. >“I saw Ingot walking through the market. Did he bring your parts?” Twilight asks.
  3045. “Yes. He did.”
  3046. >“So you’re going to begin constructing your teleporter?”
  3047. >This time you only nod.
  3048. >“And how long will that take you?”
  3049. “A few days, give or take. The last time I built it, my time was split between my outside job as a research assistant, classes, and also figuring out problems as they came up. Two of those delays are nonexistent. I can work on this all day, and my breaks will be short. I also had to completely design the transporter from scratch. The building itself only took a week, followed by another week of testing. Why do you ask?”
  3050. >“I’m just curious.”
  3051. >Twilight sighs.
  3052. “Is there something wrong?”
  3053. >“No, nothing.”
  3054. >You look up from wrenching a bolt into place and look at her.
  3055. “No, something’s wrong, and you don’t want to tell me. What is it?”
  3056. >“It’s just... just as you were starting to become friends with my friends... it’s time for you to leave.”
  3057. >You consider what to tell her.
  3058. “I will tell you when it is finished so you can say goodbye. But, please. Do not interrupt me again. I need to be entirely concentrated on this. If something goes wrong, I am most likely stuck in this universe forever. And, in case you haven’t noticed how focused I have been on constructing this device, that fate does not appeal to me in the slightest. Now is not the time to bother me about friendship.”
  3059. >Twilight only sighs again.
  3060. >“Alright, Anonymous. I won’t come down here when you’re working until you’re done,” she utters.
  3061. “Good. Thank you,” you state, then shut the door and return to work.
  3062. >By nightfall, the base is finished, and, after a brief dinner, you rest.
  3063. >The next morning, you begin assembling the central electron magnetic tube, a short process involving screwing together the heavy steel pipes.
  3064. >Each electron tube is a solid quarter-circle of stainless steel with a half-cylinder on each end.
  3065. >Two of the half-cylinders are parts of the collision chambers, with a small positively charged plate attracting the high-energy electrons to the focusing charged lenses.
  3066. >One of the others is an electron insertion chamber.
  3067. >The final one is a powerful electromagnet, which alternates from positive to negative charge based on the location of the electrons.
  3068. >You bolt the tubes together into a single ring.
  3069. >Then, you attach the final two parts of the main accelerator mechanism: the two focusing coils, pointing to the center of the ring, and the electron source, a thick tungsten filament in a glass domed cylinder.
  3070. >A heavy steel shell covers the particle accelerator, made of a sandwich of a bottom layer of plate aluminum, an inner layer of lead, and an outer layer of stainless steel.
  3071. >This prevents radiation, both ionizing and non-ionizing, from escaping from the accelerator.
  3072. >The shell is made of two parts, an inner and outer ring, with rings connecting the accelerator to the shell and holding it in place.
  3073. >Holes in the rings allow the electron source and coils to poke through.
  3074. >This structure allows for the accelerator to be easily repaired if something goes wrong.
  3075. >The outer ring also has a few access ports at the collision points so that the whole shell does not need to be disassembled if the problem is merely at one of those.
  3076. >You leave the outer ring off for now so as to wire the accelerator more easily tomorrow.
  3077. >Then the wiring process begins, by far the most difficult task.
  3078. >Every strand of insulated copper must be placed in exactly the right location, or the entire transporter would fail to work.
  3079. >The rest of the day is taken up simply by placing bundles of wire into their proper place inside the inner shell.
  3080. >A power supply wire is run to one of the magical energy outputs nearby, connecting to the electron source.
  3081. >More wiring connects to various dials and indicators, showing voltage, amperage, and measured temperature, via an analog, rather than LCD, displays this time, of various parts.
  3082. >You have tested each indicator twice before screwing it onto the transporter.
  3083. >Several dozen circuit breakers are also placed inside, which break should the power exceed functional limits.
  3084. >Once again, you rest.
  3085. >There is still more wiring to do tomorrow.
  3086. >At least dozen more sensors need to be placed both inside and outside the accelerator, and each needs three wires, none of which can touch the inner accelerator lest the rubber insulation burn off from the extreme heat of the electrons whizzing by.
  3087. >It is tedious, mind-numbing work, and, yet, if one step goes wrong, you will not ever see Earth again.
  3088. >Each wire has at least two redundant wires, and each sensor has a redundant sensor.
  3089. >A web of rubber and copper begins growing out of the accelerator.
  3090. >Once it comes time to install the activation lever, you triple-check it separate from the accelerator and again once it is attached, making sure the power is off as well.
  3091. >This time, there will be no accidental transporting because of loose levers.
  3092. >Finally, after over 20 hours of wiring, that step is finished.
  3093. >All that remains is to put the outer ring shell on, plus a few other sensors on the outside.
  3094. >As you dust off your hands, the basement door creaks open, and you are a cacophony of hooves on the staircase.
  3095. >“I’m sorry, Anonymous, but I couldn’t stop them!” Twilight shouts.
  3096. >You look up and see Rainbow Dash barreling towards your unfinished transporter at top speed, her wings fully healed.
  3097. >Twilight and Fluttershy race down the stairs after her.
  3098. >You stretch out your arms across your creation and brace for impact.
  3099. >Dash barely stops before colliding.
  3100. >Had she, you probably would have strangled her.
  3101. >You then notice that Twilight is carrying a pot of tea and four tea cups as a diplomatic offering.
  3102. “Well, I’ll let it slide, Twilight. What’s going on?”
  3103. >“I just wanted to thank you, Anonymous,” Rainbow Dash begins, scratching the back of her head. “I know your invention didn’t work, but it was still nice of you to try. Plus, you saved me in the forest. The doctor told me had you not come and rescue me, I would... well I wouldn’t be standing here. And even though the splint wasn’t great, it did help prevent my wings from getting injured too much.”
  3104. “Well, you’re welcome, Rainbow Dash. Now if I could just –”
  3105. >“And I’d just like to say that I accept your apology for scaring my animals, if that’s okay,” Fluttershy says. “I’ll let you get back to work now. No need to stay to long.”
  3106. “Thank you. Now I really need to get back to –”
  3107. >“Don’t you want some fresh mint tea, Anonymous?” Twilight asks. “I know it’s your favorite. I made it just the right temperature.”
  3108. >You blink.
  3109. “Alright, I guess I can take a break,” you say, wiping of your hands with a cloth.
  3110. >It was the best cup of mint tea you ever had.
  3111. >The next day, you carefully screw a few more voltage sensors into place on the outer ring.
  3112. >The dimensional transporter is almost finished.
  3113. >You have already run a preliminary test just to check the indicators and meters.
  3114. >Everything seems ready.
  3115. >After checking the outer voltmeters one last time, you lift off the outer ring shell and check the inner indicators again.
  3116. >All are fully functional.
  3117. >You then do a test on the outer sensors and receive the same result.
  3118. >Despite all the odds, it’s finished.
  3119. >Your second dimensional transporter, built in a universe that defies logic and order, is finished.
  3120. >You have tested and quadruple-checked every last part.
  3121. >There is only one thing to do: a full run.
  3122. >Then, like a gust of frozen air from an open window, the doubt comes in.
  3123. >You have no idea where the portal will take you.
  3124. >You have no idea if the portal will even form.
  3125. >You are shooting into the dark, and, if you fail –
  3126. >Briefly, you consider telling Twilight and getting her to gather her friends; she’s out right now getting some more quills and ink.
  3127. >Then, logic, cold, hard, unyielding, kicks in.
  3128. >There will be no final goodbye.
  3129. >There doesn’t need to be.
  3130. >Twilight Sparkle will soon be a distant memory to be driven away with alcohol and a bit of psychiatric therapy.
  3131. >This stupid, enormous waste of time will finally end, and you can get back to work on Earth.
  3132. >After flicking on your lightning magic source, you pull the red lever on the side of the transporter.
  3133. >The electron generator shines blue-white, and flashes of whirling particles spin through the rings faster and faster.
  3134. >The focusing coils begin to glow and spark.
  3135. >Quite possibly the largest smile you’ve ever smiled grows across your face.
  3136. >You are going home.
  3137. >Then, the glass surrounding the electron generator begins to burn red hot.
  3138. >You are too distracted by thoughts of home to notice.
  3139. >The glass begins to melt from the heat.
  3140. >The electrons are whirling faster and faster, but no more sparks are leaping from the focusing coils.
  3141. >What you would later realize is that your system was made to handle electrons, which, up until that point, you had assumed were the same as whatever particle carries the force of magic.
  3142. >Too many electrons were being produced per each quanta of magic too quickly.
  3143. >Because the buildup was occurring inside the accelerator, rather than in the electronics, the circuit breakers weren’t breaking.
  3144. >So a cascade was building up.
  3145. >And finally, the device cascaded.
  3146. >The electron generator fragmented into a dozen pieces, flying in all directions.
  3147. >One nearly struck your head, and another smashed through a window.
  3148. >The focusing coils discharged, melting their structures with the sheer heat.
  3149. >In an instant, the whole transporter was irreparable.
  3150. “No,” you mutter, your face contorting.
  3151. “No. No! NO!” you snarl.
  3152. >There is no thought, only fury.
  3153. >You punch the shell of transporter, bloodying your knuckles.
  3154. “No...” is all you can sob.
  3155. >What more is there to say?
  3156. >It has all come undone.
  3157. >And that’s when you heard a slow clap.
  3160. Chapter 11
  3162. >“Well done, young Anonymous, well done,” someone says from behind you. “That was a most excellent little show.”
  3163. >You whirl around to see... well, you can’t exactly tell what in heaven or Hell the creature is.
  3164. >He (you assume it is a he based on the male tone of voice) is a long, serpent-like creature with a goat or a horse’s head, one horn replaced with a deer antler, one bat wing, one bird wing, a bird claw for one hand, a lion’s paw for the other, a lizard leg, a horse’s hoof, and a dragon’s tail.
  3165. >He’s holding a small golden-rimmed teacup, filled with a bit of dark, steaming liquid.
  3166. >Finally, your brain catches up with what you are observing.
  3167. “Discord,” you snarl.
  3168. >“That’s right.”
  3169. “This is your fault. You –”
  3170. >You have an almost overwhelming urge to tackle this deity and wring his hairy, fat neck out like a wet towel, watching as his eyeballs slowly bulge out, but you just barely manage to suppress it.
  3171. >It’s well that you did, otherwise you might have turned into a talking pumpkin or banished to another dimension, you would later realize.
  3172. >“Up-bup-bup! Temper, temper, Mr. Anonymous,” he says, downing his drink and throwing his cup away, which explodes into confetti when it hits the wall, rather than simply shattering.
  3173. >“I assure you that this lovely little bit of chaos was not my doing.”
  3174. >He draws a cross over his heart, but you have no idea whether or not he’s lying.
  3175. >“If anything, I’ve come to help you, Anonymous.”
  3176. “I doubt that.”
  3177. >You stare once again at your smoldering, sparking transporter, ruined beyond repair.
  3178. >It would take months to re-build what has been broken.
  3179. “I thought you were imprisoned, anyways. I saw your statue!”
  3180. >“Well, I guess the history books haven’t exactly caught up with my exploits yet,” Discord explains. “You see, a few months back your dear friend Twilight and her gaggle of sycophants decided to release me from the stony lonesome to see if there might be a chance at redeeming me.”
  3181. >At this point he starts guffawing as if he just told the world’s funniest joke.
  3182. >“As if I could possibly be fixed like a broken toy or something. Ha! I’ve been living my life out at the house of the pegasus Fluttershy. I almost considered revealing myself to you when you came over a few days back, but that just wasn’t the right moment.”
  3183. >You recall what sounded like a war happening at Fluttershy’s when you went over there.
  3184. >“But enough chit-chat. Let’s cut to the chase. I want to –”
  3185. >The basement door slams open, and Twilight rushes down.
  3186. >“Anonymous, what’s going on? I thought I heard – Discord,” Twilight says.
  3187. >“Hello, Miss Sparkle! Care for a spot of tea?”
  3188. >The Lord of Chaos summons three tea cups, identical to the ones he had before, filled to the brim with piping liquid.
  3189. >One floats over to you and bumps against your ear; the other heads over to Twilight and dumps its contents out onto her head.
  3190. >She just barely gets out of the way before the scorching liquid spills all over her.
  3191. >“What do want?” Twilight asks with a snort.
  3192. >She then notices the smoking transporter.
  3193. >“And did you do that? Do you know how much time Anon –”
  3194. >“For the last time, no! I did not wreck Anonymous’s little machine. He did that himself. Tried to send himself home and ended up nearly burning down your house.”
  3195. >“Is that true, Anonymous?”
  3196. >You stare for a moment at Twilight, considering what to say.
  3197. “Yes. It is true. I... I realized I would never see you or anyone else here again, so I just decided to head home. And, unfortunately, it was not about it being too painful to say goodbye, or anything like that. I just wanted to leave and be rid of this world.”
  3198. >“So, even after all this time, you still didn’t care about any of us, did you?” Twilight asks, frowning.
  3199. “Twilight, I will always have been honored to have met you, and forever in your debt for your hospitality while I have lived in this universe.”
  3200. >You hear a sniffle; Discord is... crying?
  3201. >“How touching,” he whimpers, blowing his nose into a pink tissue like a trumpet. “But enough of this.”
  3202. >He reverts back into a more serious facial expression, and teleports the tissue away with a snap of his clawed eagle talon hand.
  3203. >“You two can deal with your relationship problems later, what I need to do now is coerce Anonymous into a deal that’ll he’ll end up regretting.”
  3204. >You raise an eyebrow.
  3205. >“Alright, you may or may not end up regretting this deal. But first...”
  3206. >Discord reaches out his claw again, and, with another snap, creates a shimmering fluorescent pink portal out of thin air and rifles around through it, as if he were searching for something lost under the couch.
  3207. >With a cry of “Ah-ha!” he pulls down on something in the ether.
  3208. “What was that?”
  3209. >“Just a bit of guaranteed causation. I’m just making sure we end up at this point.”
  3210. “What do you –”
  3211. >All the pieces click into place.
  3212. “That lever wasn’t loose. You pulled it.”
  3213. >“Right again! Wow, you’re on a roll today,” Discord says.
  3214. >“What lever?” Twilight asks.
  3215. “I’ll explain later.”
  3216. >The urge to strangle him returns.
  3217. >He pulled the lever on your transporter, the one back on Earth, while you were checking the radiation.
  3218. >He sent you here.
  3219. >He’s responsible for this.
  3220. >But then another thought occurs.
  3221. “You can travel through space and time. And across dimensions.”
  3222. >“You’re doing quite well, Anonymous. Quite outdoing Miss Twilight over there. She never seems to figure out my puzzles in time.”
  3223. >“If this is some kind of trick, Discord, we’ll put you right back in –”
  3224. >He seals Twilight inside a giant red bubble, silencing her.
  3225. “That wasn’t necessary.”
  3226. >“Trust me, it was. Now, listen up. Here’s what I can do. I will make you a little portal back to Earth, right to the time after you left. But you’ll need to do something for me.”
  3227. “Fair enough. What do you want?”
  3228. >“Well, I don’t actually want anything. I’m a near-omnipotent being with the power to do whatever I want, kapeesh? What I need to know is what you can give me.”
  3229. “I can create virtually any technology that existed on Earth. Equestria is certainly more primitive than my homeworld. I can build some of the finest technology for you.”
  3230. >“That could work.... Yes, that could work. Here’s what I want, Anonymous. I want you to build something new.”
  3231. “New to Equestria? Very well.”
  3232. >“No, not new to Equestria. That’d be too easy. You won’t learn anything from that. No, I need you to build something that’d be new to Earth.”
  3233. “What? That’s impossible!”
  3234. >“No. No, it’s not. And you know it. You’re very smart. You know that. Don’t be like the Purple Pony Eater in the bubble over there.”
  3235. >Discord waves cheekily at Twilight, who is still fuming inside her prison, now flipped upside down and floating near the ceiling.
  3236. >“There is definitely something in that brain of yours that you can make for me. Because, let’s face it, anything that you could make from Earth, I could already make myself. Watch.”
  3237. >With a few snaps of his fingers, he summons a VW Beetle, a laptop, an elephant, and two bananas from the void, then banishes them back to where they came.
  3238. >“You make something neither of us have ever seen, and I’ll give you a one-way ticked back to Earth. Sound fair?”
  3239. “Fair,” you relent.
  3240. >“Good, now shake on it.”
  3241. >Discord spits into his lion paw and puts it out for you.
  3242. >You reluctantly grab it, and shake his hand.
  3243. >“Good. You have as long as you want, Anonymous. And, now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a train to catch.”
  3244. >A set of railroad tracks suddenly appear in the laboratory, followed by the blare of a steam train whistle.
  3245. >A black locomotive rumbles down the line, sending the papers scattered all over the laboratory flying, and Discord grabs hold onto one of the box cars.
  3246. >“We’ll be in touch!” he shouts as the train and the tracks disappear into confetti with a flash of light.
  3247. >Twilight, as well, is freed from her prison, and teleports herself down from the ceiling before she crashes to the ground.
  3248. >“Alright, Anonymous, start talking,” she says.
  3249. “I don’t have anything else to tell you other than what you already know.”
  3250. >“You’ve got to know something. Why was Discord here? What was the lever? Why did he want to cut that deal with you? And... and... why didn’t you want to say goodbye?”
  3251. “For the last time, I don’t know why Discord was here.”
  3252. >“And the lever?”
  3253. “The lever on my original transporter. I thought I had left it loose, but, well, it turns out my fate was manipulated by an omnipotent being of chaos.”
  3254. >You sigh.
  3255. “I don’t know what he wants by having me invent something, nor do I have any idea what or how I could create new technology. Even this –”
  3256. >You kick your blasted creation, causing it to release a brief shower of orange sparks.
  3257. “– Took months of time and thousands of bits to build. And it didn’t work. So why he expects me to be able to even possibly be able to build new technology, let alone new Earth technology, seems strange.”
  3258. >“He does that. He’s just a trickster. He gave you a deal he knows you have no way to complete, just to watch you squirm. But, you haven’t answered my last question.”
  3259. >You lean against your wrecked transporter.
  3260. “I’m sorry Twilight. As I said, there wasn’t some... idea that I didn’t want to say goodbye, or anything like that. No, I was ready to leave. I know that hurts to hear, probably much more than even a farewell, but.... Logic, rather than emotion, dictated my actions. And that I can’t apologize for.”
  3261. >“I thought we were friends.”
  3262. “Friends?”
  3263. >“Yes, friends.”
  3264. “I don’t know. It is true that I appreciate how kind you have been to me in this rough time but –”
  3265. >“Friends, Anonymous.”
  3266. >You blink.
  3267. “Very well.”
  3268. >The clock on the wall chimes eleven.
  3269. >“You should get some sleep. It’s late,” Twilight advises.
  3270. “Alright. Good night.”
  3271. >“Pleasant dreams.”
  3272. >Twilight blows out the candles as she heads upstairs, leaving you in the dark.
  3273. >As you tuck yourself into bed, your eyes water up, and you begin to weep into the pillow.
  3274. >It’s all gone.
  3275. >There’s no hope left for you to ever get home.
  3276. >It was all for naught.
  3278. >No.
  3279. >Red lines run far and wide and fast and deep
  3280. >Logic and chaos should never mix.
  3281. >Something snapped within you that night, like an icicle falling from a rooftop, spearing a small child.
  3282. >Desperation takes control.
  3283. >A plan you once considered beyond possibility has reached the realm of possibility.
  3284. >You are a god among men.
  3285. >And yet gods must fall.
  3286. >Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.
  3287. >Not even death will stop you.
  3288. >You will conquer chaos, and bring logic.
  3289. >Or you will be consumed.
  3290. >No.
  3291. >The cold hand of fate slithers by.
  3292. >Progress must be made.
  3294. >Awakening the next morning, your eyes rapidly shift around the room, looking for any possible sign that yesterday’s events were merely a particularly traumatic dream.
  3295. >Unfortunately, that is not the case.
  3296. >Your transporter remains in a blackened wreck of steel parts.
  3297. >Furthermore, last night’s dreams gave you no ideas for a new device.
  3298. >One was particularly frightening.
  3299. >Two Anonymouses stood in front of you as you hang off the edge of a cliff.
  3300. >One, dressed in the yellow hazmat suit with the helmet under his shoulder.
  3301. >The other, crawling on the ground, clothes tattered, skin pale as aspen bark, hair covering his face like a shiny, stringy mask.
  3302. >You reached for the hand of the hazmat Anonymous, but the tattered Anonymous kicked you off the ledge and into a steel room.
  3303. >Sparks fly everywhere and the floor was hot, like a gust of scorching air from an oven.
  3304. >Many of the doors had fallen off their hinges and a black, oil-like substance was spilling from some of them onto the floor.
  3305. >A door exploded in a burst of orange cinders, and the pale Anonymous burst through clutching a bloody dagger.
  3306. >Red circuit lines shine like lines of burning gasoline.
  3307. >As he plunged the knife in between your ribs, you woke up, covered in sweat, shivering, and whimpering like a dog on the Fourth of July.
  3308. >After both your body and your thoughts tossed and turned for almost an hour, you were just barely able to return to sleep.
  3309. >But a good night’s rest still did not solve the predicaments you were in.
  3310. >You had, even if you were to be optimistic, a chance so slim that it might as well be disregarded.
  3311. >It wasn’t that you didn’t have ideas; no there were technologies that did not exist on Earth that you had ideas of how to make: warp drives, cold fusion generators, and many other powerful devices that would revolutionize technology.
  3312. >But you had no way to build them here in Equestria, and not enough time or resources to go through the process of designing, testing, and redesigning complex pieces of technology in a society that had barely reached the equivalent of the Industrial Revolution.
  3313. >Heading upstairs, you hope that you might find solace in Twilight’s books, as you usually do.
  3314. >But, unfortunately, not even they can provide any comfort at this time.
  3315. >As you peruse the section of books on magic-related topics, you realize you’ve read every book concerning the origins of magic and its capabilities.
  3316. >Though you assume that there are other libraries in Equestria, you do not have the means to visit them, nor do you have a feeling they will provide the answers you seek.
  3317. >It was more of a curiosity than anything, and probably not worth the effort of bothering Twilight to take you on a trip across Equestria.
  3318. >You are without purpose, with nothing to even simply wait for, and only the prospect of fifty-odd years of life in this cursed land of talking horses.
  3319. >Flipping through “Telekinesis and Other Spells for Mules: A Guide to Basic Spellcraft,” hoping that there may be a few more answers inside, a loud, firecracker-like bang causes you to jump and sends the book tumbling to the floor, where it lands with a thump.
  3320. >You whirl around to see Discord, looking as if he was caught sticking his hand in the cookie jar, and... Fluttershy, giving a glare that could fell a small pine tree.
  3321. >“Now, tell him what he needs to know, Discord!” she orders.
  3322. “What’s going on?” you ask.
  3323. >“I knew something was up when dear Discord here came home last night laughing,” Fluttershy explains. “He said he’d played a mean trick on you, and, fortunately, I was able to coax it out of him. So I decided to bring him over here this morning to have him make up for being such a meany.”
  3324. >She turns her gaze onto Discord.
  3325. >“So, listen up, mister! You’re going to tell Anonymous what he needs to know to give you want you want.”
  3326. >“Alright, fine,” Discord relents.
  3327. >He snaps his fingers, summoning a large black book and a small pair of librarian’s glasses, which he sets upon his snout.
  3328. >The being of chaos licks a talon, and begins to thumb through the pages, shouting “Aha!” when he finds what he sought.
  3329. >He gives the book to you, revealing a circular diagram.
  3330. >It is a schematic of a spherical object with two concentric rings floating around it and what appears to be a glowing core of some substance or energy.
  3331. “What is this? I can’t read the writing; it’s in some language I can’t understand.”
  3332. >“Fine, I guess you’re not familiar with Lower Ancient Equestrian, for such a little smarty pants,” Discord says. “This is a magical reactor.”
  3333. “What does it do?”
  3334. >“I don’t know, and that’s the problem! This book is five thousand years old, and the author left it as his last great work. But he never built it. All he did was come up with the design.”
  3335. “So, why do you want this? Why did you expect me to find the design for this device and build it?”
  3336. >“I didn’t!”
  3337. >Discord chuckles.
  3338. >“That was the point. Ha! So you’d be stuck here forever.”
  3339. >He wipes a happy tear from his eye.
  3340. >“I mean, there might’ve been a chance if you looked in the right places, like, oh, I don’t know, the secret libraries of Canterlot University, but that seemed a bit unlikely to me. Hahaha!”
  3341. >Fluttershy glares at him again, and he immediately silences his laughter.
  3342. >“Anyways, if you can build that, then I’ll let you go back home. No tricks. No strings. Just build me a magical reactor and get it to work.”
  3343. >You study the designs for a moment.
  3344. “I need you translate this to English.”
  3345. >“No. That’s for –”
  3346. >Fluttershy stares him down.
  3347. >Discord does his magic, and all the runes change from illegible characters to Roman letters.
  3348. “Thank you.”
  3349. >“That’s the last bit of help you’re getting from me, not that I can give you any,” Discord says, then turns to Fluttershy.
  3350. >“And don’t you give me that look, missy. If I give him any more little tidbits of information, then this whole deal loses the challenge.”
  3351. >“If you don’t help Anonymous if he needs it, then I won’t let you come to tea with the animals for a week!” Fluttershy says.
  3352. >Discord shrinks back.
  3353. >“I’ll be good.”
  3354. >“Good. Now let’s go home. I’m sure Angel’s missing me.”
  3355. >Fluttershy and Discord disappear with a pop, leaving behind only a few strands of confetti.
  3356. >You are left studying the schematic, now laid bare for you to examine further.
  3357. >The first problem arises with the materials, some of which you are not sure even exist, like “emerald ebony” (used as the metal casing of the reactor) and “pearl tears” (used as focusing lenses).
  3358. >After about an hour of trying to decipher the machine, you finally do get an idea of how it is supposed to function.
  3359. >The reactor produces three focused beams of magical energy from three batteries, then strikes a small crystal at the center, producing some effect.
  3360. >That “effect” was left untold by the author, who, as Discord said, had not actually built the device.
  3361. >At that point, Twilight returned home from whatever morning errands she was running with Spike.
  3362. >“Hi, Anonymous. Whatcha reading?” she says in greeting.
  3363. >Spike heads off to the kitchen, presumably to get a snack of some kind.
  3364. “I’ve found something – or, well, I was given a schematic for a machine that Discord wants me to build.”
  3365. >You explain what happened between Discord and Fluttershy, and then between the three of you to Twilight.
  3366. >“So Discord wants you to build this magic reactor? And you have no idea what it’s made of or what it does?”
  3367. >You nod.
  3368. >“Well, I can at least start looking up the materials. I think I’ve heard of pearl tears somewhere. Here, let me check the History section.”
  3369. >Twilight ambles over to that section of the library, and levitates a thick red book down from the top shelf.
  3370. >The title is “Ancient Alchemy: Classical Alchemical Materials and Their Effects.”
  3371. >“Here we go. Well, it looks like pearl tears are... just beads of glass that have been cooled in enchanted water.”
  3372. “Any particular enchantments?”
  3373. >“It doesn’t say. What about in your book?”
  3374. “I’ll check.”
  3375. >“Also, “emerald ebony” is just copper that has turned green.”
  3376. “Interesting.”
  3377. >The entire device is just made of common materials, the only problem being the crystal at the center.
  3378. “Any idea what the Eye of Knowledge is?”
  3379. >Twilight flips through the book.
  3380. >“Nothing. It’s not even mentioned.”
  3381. “Then there’s still one piece missing to this puzzle.”
  3382. >But, even so, you now know how you could build, and even improve upon, this device.
  3383. >You can replace copper with steel.
  3384. >You can replace enchanted glass beads with glass lenses.
  3385. >The entire device will be more efficient, cheaper, and easier to build.
  3386. >Once again, you have purpose.
  3387. >You will get yourself back to Earth, back to where you belong, out of this world of chaos and disorder, and back home.
  3390. Chapter 12
  3392. >The blinding white sunlight floods down through the windows as you lay staring at the ceiling, idle.
  3393. >You have a goal once again.
  3394. >A tangible goal.
  3395. >One that will get you out the predicament that has plagued you for almost four months now.
  3396. >And, yet, you don’t have much drive to achieve that anymore.
  3397. >Obviously, the immortal lord of chaos is not likely to be trustworthy, and there’s no way to make certain whether he is or not.
  3398. >You roll over onto your stomach and sigh.
  3399. “What to do. What to do,” you mutter to yourself.
  3400. >The clack of a hoof on wood breaks you out of your thoughts.
  3401. >Instinctively, you turn your head over to find the source of the noise.
  3402. >Discord is pacing the floor, driving a shallow rut into the wood.
  3403. >You sit up on your bed.
  3404. “What do you want now?” you ask. “You’ve made your bargain. Now it is up to me whether I decide to finish it or not.”
  3405. >Discord stops pacing and flips around.
  3406. >“And good morning to you too! Yeesh, the nerve of some people...”
  3407. “I’m sorry. But in case you haven’t noticed yet, we’re not exactly pals.”
  3408. >“Hmph,” is all you get as a response.
  3409. “You still haven’t answered why you’re here.”
  3410. >“I’m here, Mr. Anonymous, because I’m afraid you still have some doubts concerning our bargain. Which is wise. Very wise indeed. Most of the little ponies around here are so quick to put their trust in others....”
  3411. “How’d you guess?”
  3412. >Discord flashes a toothy grin, but gives no response.
  3413. >He hops out of his rut and wipes it away with his lizard foot, as if he were trying to get a crushed spider off of it.
  3414. >“Here’s what you need to understand, little Annie – can I call you that?”
  3415. >You growl at him.
  3416. >“I guess not. I’m supposed to be reformed,” Discord says, making air quotes around the word “reformed.” “Really, all I’ve got to do is not cause too much trouble. Betraying you after making a fair deal would be...”
  3417. “Too much trouble.”
  3418. >“Good boy! Want a biscuit?”
  3419. >He summons a tin of treats labelled “Human Bites.”
  3420. >You give him a deadpan glare, and they disappear.
  3421. >“I don’t particularly want to end up back in the stony lonesome at the hands of six giant rainbow beams, so I have no reason to break our little deal. Kapeesh?”
  3422. “Understood.”
  3423. >“Now, go build me a magic reactor! And then you can get home!”
  3424. >Discord turns to head up the stairs to the library’s main floor, but pauses.
  3425. >“Also, I never answered how I knew you didn’t trust me yet.... Well, spoiler alert, this is a dream.”
  3426. >And then the bottom dropped out, and you were falling into the void, surrounded by Discord’s maniacal cackle.
  3427. >“That wimpy Princess Luna may be the guardian of ponies’ dreams, but I am their creator, their shaper. Every monster and every pleasure is the product of my whimsy. Ha ha!”
  3428. >Discord circles around, rolling with laughter, before wiping a tear from his eye and regaining composure.
  3429. >“See ya around, Anonymous!” he shouts, before opening a door in the void and stepping out through it.
  3430. >“Quick, catch him!” someone calls out of the darkness.
  3431. >Suddenly, your fall is stopped, and you notice a light blue aura around your body.
  3432. >The blackness melts away to reveal the blue-grey metal walls and faint booming emptiness of the inside of your mind.
  3433. >You are placed firmly on your feet.
  3434. “Thank you, princesses,” you say, nodding to the indigo and white mares in front of you. “I’m not certain what would have happened had I hit the bottom, but I have a feeling it would not have been good.”
  3435. >“You probably would have just woken up,” Luna says. “Discord does not seem to want you dead.... At least, not yet.”
  3436. “You knew he was here?”
  3437. >“We came as soon as we could,” Celestia answers. “My sister is very attuned to the dream realm, as you know. Well enough to sense when dreams are being distorted.”
  3438. “You need to lock him back in stone. His kindness to Twilight and her friends is merely an act.”
  3439. >Celestia and Luna look at each other.
  3440. >“That may be so for now,” Celestia begins. “But I believe that he can still be changed. Plus, don’t you need him?”
  3441. “That’s right,” you reply, frowning. “So, not yet.”
  3442. >“However, there is more we need to discuss than the actions of a particularly vexing
  3443. Draconequus,” Celestia says.
  3444. >“We... we have not given you the whole truth,” Luna says.
  3445. >You blink.
  3446. “What do you mean? Is there something important I should know?”
  3447. >“To be perfectly honest, we are a little surprised you did not find it out yourself, with all your research,” Luna says. “But, then again, there aren’t many books on the subject of inter-universal travel that have been written in the last few centuries.”
  3448. “I know. I read the only one. It was not very useful.”
  3449. >“The truth is, Anonymous, that we know of ways to create portals between dimensions. And direct where they go,” Celestia says.
  3450. >Silence.
  3451. “That’s impossible. You don’t have the technical capabilities, let alone the – ”
  3452. >“I know it’s possible because I participated in the research around it with Starswirl the Bearded himself. I travelled to many different, strange worlds and – ”
  3453. “But never Earth.”
  3454. >“No, I never visited the human world. But your friend Twilight has visited somewhere similar.”
  3455. “Then I need to go there.”
  3456. >“You can’t,” Luna says, rejoining the conversation. “That portal is not controlled, and only opens rarely.”
  3457. “And, even if that world is similar to mine, I would still have to re-do all my work from scratch to build a portal back to my universe from there,” you realize. “There’s no point in pursuing that path.”
  3458. >Luna nods.
  3459. “And what about the other portal? The one you control?”
  3460. >“Its destination is dictated by using different incantations,” Celestia explains. “We could attempt to find one back to your homeworld.”
  3461. “How did you come up with the incantations for the worlds you visited?”
  3462. >“We made them up. Just at random. We never figured out a pattern to them.”
  3463. “I see.”
  3464. >Anger suddenly boils up like magma rising out of a volcano during an eruption.
  3465. “Why didn’t you tell me this before? Months of work on my last transporter are now down the drain, I’ve entered a deal with a complete madman, and now you come and tell me I could have avoided all of this strife by coming up with the right magic words? If I said please, would the portal send me home?”
  3466. >“Anonymous, we are both very sorry about what has happened to you and your work,” Luna
  3467. says. “But Twilight believed that you were so focused on getting home through your own means
  3468. that you might just outright ignore our suggestion. And, as my sister said, we still don’t know
  3469. what incantation would cause the portal to send you home.”
  3470. >You regain your composure.
  3471. “You’re right. But I will need to speak to... my supposed friend, when I wake up.”
  3472. >“There’s more, though,” Celestia says. “When one travels between dimensions and spends time in the new one, they can become linked to their counterpart in that dimension.”
  3473. “What do you mean by ‘linked?’”
  3474. >“If one of you were to become injured, the other might suffer the same fate. If one of you were to be destroyed....”
  3475. “Then the other might follow suit.”
  3476. >“Exactly.”
  3477. >A pause.
  3478. >“What exactly did Discord want you to construct for him, in return for sending you home?”
  3479. Luna asks.
  3480. “A magical reactor. I have no idea what it does but –”
  3481. >“Don’t build it,” Celestia orders. “He cannot be allowed to control that amount of magical power.”
  3482. “We don’t know –”
  3483. >“He is not to be trusted,” Celestia says. “At least, not yet. He may be planning on using it for something. He might send you home, then use the reactor to power a compass to find your counterpart and kill you.”
  3484. “Why would he do that?”
  3485. >“I don’t know!” Celestia fumes. “He’s completely unpredictable.”
  3486. “Well, of course. He’s the Lord of Chaos. Do you expect him to behave logically? And you said that he had been reformed.”
  3487. >“Well, yes, but....”
  3488. >“We still don’t know what Discord is planning to do with you. Your interaction with him has already thrown a wrench into several plans we have for my sister’s protégé,” Luna explains.
  3489. >“If you had some sort of bargain with him, Anonymous, consider it ended,” Celestia says.
  3490. “We will set our best magicians and spellcasters at work to find an incantation to send you home. I promise.”
  3491. “Very well,” you relent. “I will do as you say. But I think I need to speak with your precious student when I wake up. We’re going to have some things to discuss.”
  3492. >“I imagine so,” Luna says. “I hope you have pleasanter dreams than these, Anonymous the Human. Goodbye.”
  3493. >The sisters fade into the void, along with the steel interior and endless doors.
  3494. >Searching for your housemate the next morning, you find a note stating that she has gone out shopping.
  3495. >You had forgotten that it was Tuesday.
  3496. >She always went grocery shopping on Tuesday.
  3497. >Dashing out to the market, you find Twilight and Spike purchasing a bag of carrots, dropping three golden bits out of her money bag with the jingle of metal on metal.
  3498. >“Hi, Anonymous!” she greets you. “What brings you out? You never want to go shopping with me.”
  3499. “We have something to discuss,” you state. “Of some importance.”
  3500. >“Well, can it wait until we get home at least? Then I can get these groceries put away.”
  3501. “We can start on the way there.”
  3502. >“Alright. C’mon Spike, we’re going home.”
  3503. >Spike waddles over from a stand with a variety of large gems, licking a drop of saliva off his chin.
  3504. >“So, what’s on your mind?” Twilight asks.
  3505. “You’ve been keeping information from me.”
  3506. >“Whoa! That’s a harsh accusation, Anonymous. What are you talking about?”
  3507. “You never told me there were transporters to other dimensions in Equestria. Portals to worlds like my own. Portals to places that weren’t just floating eyeballs and rivers of blue-green fluid.”
  3508. >Twilight sighs.
  3509. >“Yes, I kept that from you – ”
  3510. “Why?”
  3511. >“Because I didn’t think it would matter to you! You were so caught up in trying to build your transporter back home, and you were so certain that it would work that I never thought you would even care about some portal to a world of freaks like you but with skin colors like ponies, or an alternate Equestria. Why would that even matter?”
  3512. “You could have at least told me there were people doing research on these topics.”
  3513. >“But you found out about that through your own volition, eventually. How did you even find out about those portals anyways?”
  3514. >You reach the door to Twilight’s tree and walk inside to the kitchen.
  3515. >Twilight sets down her bags on the counter.
  3516. “Celestia and Luna have been visiting me in my dreams. They told me. I guess they felt I deserved that information now.”
  3517. >You pause.
  3518. “It doesn’t really matter anyways. They also told me that one was practically useless and the other never led to a world like mine, and it was never figured out exactly how it directed its traveler to the dimension on the other side of the portal. Celestia and Luna said they’d start looking into that, though.”
  3519. >“Then why even bother telling me all this?”
  3520. “Because I don’t like it when people keep useful information from me.”
  3521. >“You’re mad that I kept this from you?”
  3522. “Yes.”
  3523. >“Well, look, Anonymous, I’m sorry. I didn’t think at the time that it would ever matter.”
  3524. “I don’t think a simple apology will cover this. What other things have you been keeping from me?”
  3525. >“Jeeze, Anonymous! I swear on Celestia’s name, I’m not keeping anything else from you.
  3526. Don’t be so distrustful. That’s not what friends do to each other.”
  3527. “Fine. But if I find out about anything else...”
  3528. >“You won’t. There isn’t anything else.”
  3529. >You sigh.
  3530. >“Something else?” Twilight asks.
  3531. “Yeah. I’m not in a good position right now. Your teacher has told me not to build that magical
  3532. reactor for Discord. Not that I was really sure of building it in the first place. I don’t trust him.”
  3533. >“Like you don’t trust me?”
  3534. “Far worse than that. I can tell that I’m just a cog in whatever he’s scheming. A means to an end.”
  3535. >“Well, whatever you do, Anonymous, I’m with you. That’s what friends are for, right?”
  3536. “Yes. That is what friends are for.”
  3537. >Twilight pulls an apple out from the bag and takes a bite out of it
  3538. >“Well, if you’re not going to be building another machine, what will you do?” she asks,
  3539. swallowing.
  3540. “Celestia and Luna mentioned something about counterparts between universes, and how, over
  3541. time, those counterparts can become linked. I think I’d like to try to find my counterpart. Who
  3542. knows? Maybe he can help me get home.”
  3543. >“Sounds good to me. I’m pretty sure the Princesses would be happy to help you with that, too.
  3544. I bet he’s some student at Canterlot University or something. Maybe you could start by looking
  3545. through their roster?”
  3546. “Yeah. Do you have it in the library?”
  3547. >“Well, er, no. You’d probably have to go to the University to get it.”
  3548. “Well, I’ve got plenty of time for that. I’ll get a train ticket to Canterlot for tomorrow. The
  3549. University would be closed to visitors if I left now.”
  3550. >“I’ve got some business to do in Canterlot anyways, so I might as well go with you.”
  3551. “Fine by me. It’ll be nice to get out of this town for a few days.”
  3552. >You head back out and head to the train station, a few coins in your pocket for your ticket.
  3553. >After buying your ticket, you notice three fillies, which you soon recognize as the Cutie Mark Crusaders, in the semaphore tower fighting over the controls, the station master having gone on lunch break.
  3554. >The bright red, yellow, and white signaling flags jump up and down wildly as the different levers are pulled in quick succession.
  3555. >Quickly checking to see if a train is coming down the track, you cross the rails and head into the control tower.
  3556. “What in God’s name are you three doing?” you demand. “You could cause an accident. Stop that.”
  3557. >“They started it!” Sweetie Belle whines, releasing one of the levers.
  3558. >“Hi, Mr. Anonymous,” Apple Bloom says, shoving Sweetie Belle out of the way to get to the lever she’s in front of. “We’re trying to earn our train conducting Cutie Marks.”
  3559. “Well, you’re not going to earn it like that. I told you to stop it, so stop! You could seriously cause an accident. You’re lucky there’s no train... coming.”
  3560. >As you say that, you hear the faint blast of a whistle.
  3561. “Quick! Reset the signals!”
  3562. >“Uh, how were they when we started again?” Scootaloo asks.
  3563. >“I don’t remember!” Sweetie Belle replies. “Just, uh, uh, maybe this one goes this way, and that one goes that way and –”
  3564. >“What’s going on in here? Oh. Oh!”
  3565. >The station master had come back from his break.
  3566. >“Get out of the way, you four shouldn’t be here!” he shouts.
  3567. >He knocks Sweetie Belle aside and starts pulling all the levers one by one rapidly.
  3568. >Another whistle sounds.
  3569. >The station master wipes the sweat off his forehead from rushing about and rests in his chair in front of the window.
  3570. “C’mon, girls, I think we should leave,” you tell the three fillies, gently guiding them towards the door.
  3571. >You close the door behind you with a clang of metal on metal, and walk down to the ground, hand pressed to your face.
  3572. “I can’t believe this. Do you realize how incredibly foolish that was?”
  3573. >“Who do you think you are, our brother?” Applebloom says.
  3574. “No, but I am friends with two of your sisters and one of your role models. What would they think of this?”
  3575. >“Rarity would say... that we were being really stupid,” Sweetie Belle says.
  3576. “Correct. What would have happened if two trains were coming in on the same track, but didn’t know that because the signals were messed up? People – or, uh, ponies – could have died.”
  3577. >“We’re sorry, Mr. Anonymous, truly,” Applebloom says.
  3578. >The others follow suit.
  3579. “Good. I think it’s time you maybe reconsider your search for your special talents, and maybe focus more on things you’re actually good at.”
  3580. >“But we don’t know what we’re good at,” Scootaloo says. “That’s why we’re searching.”
  3581. “Oh, come on. There has to be something you’re good at. What about riding around on your little scooter? I always see you on that, and you’re pretty good. And, Sweetie Belle, you’re a lovely singer. And Applebloom is great with farmwork.”
  3582. >“Yeah, but those things are boring,” Applebloom says. “We already know that we’re good at those, but they might not be our special talents.”
  3583. “Well, you might at least start there before you go off looking at random, and possibly dangerous, other jobs.”
  3584. >The fillies look at the ground, disappointed.
  3585. “Look, I know that’s not really what you want to hear. You’ve heard that a thousand times from other people, including me already a few months ago. But, look. I don’t even get a little image on my butt for the thing I’m good at. I just have to know in my mind that I’m a good scientist, and that’s my purpose in life. I don’t ever get any confirmation of that. I still don’t know if I’ve made the right decision, sometimes. Maybe I would’ve made a better cyclist, or a cook, or an artist. Humans have to decide our fate all on our own. And plenty of people end up in places they don’t want to. You girls should feel lucky that you get sign of what your path in life should be at such an early age.”
  3586. >They remain staring down.
  3587. “Well, I know it might not be the advice you wanted, but it’s all I’ve got for now. Just, stay out of places where people – er, ponies, could get hurt.”
  3588. >With that, you cross the tracks and head back to Twilight’s tree, spending the rest of the day reading a few books of interest until Twilight blows out the candles and forces you into your room in the basement.
  3589. >Gears.
  3590. >Cogs.
  3591. >Steel.
  3592. >Doors.
  3593. >Once again, you awaken in your inner mind.
  3594. >But something seems off.
  3595. >The air feels electrified and thick, as if a thunderstorm were about to erupt.
  3596. >And there’s now a small pot of violet petunias sitting in front of you, along with a clawed foot.
  3597. “Discord,” you mutter. “I thought I told you to stay out of my mind. Or, at least, those two sisters would have kept you out of here.”
  3598. >“Do you really think that those two can tame me, boy?” he asks. “Really? I thought you were smarter than that.”
  3599. >You fold your arms across your chest.
  3600. “What do you want now?”
  3601. >“I’m just making a little check up on you. Making sure everything’s moving along with our
  3602. little project, yes? You didn’t work too much today on it. I might renege on our deal if you don’t
  3603. pick up the pace.”
  3604. “You can forget about your ‘project.’ I won’t build it. I may be able to find the materials, but I don’t have the tools. There’s nothing you can say or do that will make me trust you.”
  3605. >Discord recoils back.
  3606. “Now, now, Anonymous, let’s not be hasty here. I can build you a whole laboratory to build this,
  3607. and whatever you want afterwards! And, after all, don’t you want to return home and – ”
  3608. “That doesn’t matter to me. If the cost of my happiness is the destruction of thousands of lives, then I’d rather be unhappy. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
  3609. >“Anonymous, no. No no no no no no! You completely misunderstand my intentions. I’m not trying to destroy lives. I’m trying to save them!”
  3610. >You frown.
  3611. “I’m listening.”
  3612. >“There is... a great force of evil awakening. Another demigod that the Princesses locked away long ago. They’re not very good at keeping us imprisoned, as you can probably tell. But, anyways, once he returns, they won’t be able to stop him. Not without a little more firepower. Now, to make sure that they can do that, I’m going to deliver a little device to them that can very easily put this evil back in chains where he belongs. And then I’ll have their trust, and I won’t have to worry about being put back in stone ever again!”
  3613. “I don’t believe you.”
  3614. >Discord steps back.
  3615. >“What? But, it’s true! I swear on... on my own life!”
  3616. “First of all, aren’t you immortal? And, second, why do you want to earn the sisters’ trust? So
  3617. you can go back to fucking with everyone again, ruining people’s lives? But, of course, when the
  3618. hammer drops on you, you’ll just call back that one time you saved everyone. That’s not what a
  3619. good person does. Or a trustworthy one.”
  3620. >“Please, Anonymous, you have to trust me,” Discord begs, getting down on his hands and
  3621. knees. “I guess I told you earlier that I was just pretending to be reformed, but I really am trying to be a better person for, well, for someone who I really want to like me, but it just never works out! Maybe, this time it will.”
  3622. “Then build the damn device yourself. I’m done with you.”
  3623. >Discord sniffles and wipes a tear from his eye.
  3624. >“If you won’t help me willingly,” he says. “Then maybe you’ll do it by coercion!”
  3625. >Like the Seattle Space Needle being driven into your forehead, a white-hot throbbing pain
  3626. pierces your skull.
  3627. >The steel is covered in neon pink and green checkerboards, or fluffy pillows with kittens on
  3628. them, or simply rusts away into nothingness.
  3629. >You scream but no sound comes out.
  3630. >“Stop this at once, Discord!”
  3631. >Abruptly, the pain ceases.
  3632. >You fall on the floor panting.
  3633. >“Sisters! I was just talking about you with little Anonymous here.”
  3634. >“This man has made his choice,” Luna says. “Leave him be or suffer our wrath. Surely you do not wish to be put back in a marble statue, hm?”
  3635. >You crawl to your knees to watch the scene in front of you.
  3636. >“You two don’t understand! I want to help! There’s a great force coming, greater than even I can defeat or control, and I fear for the safety of everyone.”
  3637. >Celestia and Luna look at each other, concerned.
  3638. >“We will deal with this threat when it becomes apparent, Discord. For now, you will go, or you will face imprisonment for failing to reform yourself for the better,” Celestia states.
  3639. >“Fine. I’ll leave,” Discord relents.
  3640. >He stomps out, throwing open a door into empty blackness.
  3641. >“But know this, Anonymous. If you think I’m the only one who schemes in this world, then you’re wrong. I’m not the only puppet master in these parts. There are others who have plans, some sinister, some not. Those two sisters have one for your friend Twilight, and it’s gonna cause just an awful mess between her and her friends, including you. I’m offering an escape for
  3642. her. Build my reactor, and you can help your friend!”
  3643. “Be quiet. I’ve already made my choice.”
  3644. >“Very well. Auf Wiedersehen, Anonymous.”
  3645. >Discord slams the door shut, and the room goes dark.
  3648. Chapter 13
  3650. >“This one looks promising. Lives alone. Studies metatemporal mechanics and –”
  3651. “Yes, but he said his favorite color was dark purple and not navy blue. Try another one.”
  3652. >“Okay... here! He studies metaspatial hypercubes. Favorite color... navy blue –”
  3653. “But he admits to having an active and lively social life. I’m afraid this is going nowhere.”
  3654. >And that’s where it had seemed to be going all day.
  3655. >Your efforts to find your universal counterpart had been wright with difficulties from the start.
  3656. >You had discussed the plan with Twilight previously on the train.
  3657. “My counterpart will have exactly all of the same characteristics as me, and we need some way of finding that out,” you told her. “But there could be hundreds of ponies in the metaphysical magic department. This could take some time. And, even then, my counterpart might not even be one of them.”
  3658. >Twilight scratches her head.
  3659. “We could give a quiz. We gather all the members, and have them list out your most important characteristics.”
  3660. “Perfect. Hm.... So, then I need a mix of important details and minor ones. Maybe, 100 questions or so. I need to start writing them down.”
  3661. >Twilight pulls a quill and a scroll of parchment from her bag.
  3662. >As the scenery rolled on by, you paid no mind, endlessly scribbling down seemingly banal questions, including “What is your favorite color?”
  3663. >But after that, there was the problem of getting the entire Department of Metaphysical Magical Studies out for testing in a reasonable period of time.
  3664. >Fortunately, you had the twin founders and primary funders of the school, not to mention the absolute rulers of Equestria, backing your request, and so gathering the 70-odd constituents of the department for a meeting in a locked room to take a test given by a transdimensional being was not as difficult as it might sound.
  3665. >Except, none of the members of the Royal University of Canterlot’s Department of Metaphysical Magical Studies (which sounded like some kind of oxymoron to you) had scored above a 60% match, and you were requiring at least 95%.
  3666. >And that was just to call the subject back for further review.
  3667. “Well, I’m ready to call this experiment a complete failure. How about you?”
  3668. >“I wouldn’t give up hope so soon, Anonymous. We’ve still got 23 tests to review!”
  3669. “Then, you can review them. This was completely pointless. As I guessed it would.”
  3670. >“What do you mean?”
  3671. “I was thinking about it on the train while I was writing this idiotic exam. You see, transdimensional travel isn’t exactly ...linear. There could be all sorts of loops and twists and turns in space and time. It would be ridiculous to assume that the path I took through the Bulk was perfectly linear, and, for all I know, I was travelling through a higher dimensional region where moving through space is equivalent to moving through time. And that last part is the key. My counterpart in this universe could have died years ago, long before I travelled here.”
  3672. >“And maybe we’re going about this wrong. I mean, Princess Celestia’s counterpart in another universe had the complete opposite personality to her, pretty much the opposite everything.”
  3673. >You’re taken aback for a moment, and stare at Twilight in disbelief.
  3674. >She knew.
  3675. “You knew?! You knew about this and you didn’t tell me before we began this whole idiotic scheme?”
  3676. >“Well, I’m sorry, but you didn’t ask, and, as always, you were so determined about your idea about what a universal counterpart would be that you didn’t even bother to consider my opinion.”
  3677. “That doesn’t matter! How am I supposed to trust you as a friend if you won’t give me good advice just because I don’t ask?”
  3678. >“Well, if I thought you’d listen to my advice, maybe I’d be willing to give it!”
  3679. “If you gave me good advice more often, maybe I’d be more willing to listen to it!”
  3680. >“You are just… Argh, you are just unbearable, Anonymous!”
  3681. >Twilight storms out of the lecture hall.
  3682. >You rub two fingers down your eyes.
  3683. “Ugh… I can’t believe I wasted all this time.”
  3684. >You flip the quizzes off the table.
  3685. >Well, to be fair, if your hypothesis that your counterpart would be an exactly replica of you, except a horse, then this experiment would have tested that.
  3686. >But, in light of new data, the entire hypothesis was proven incorrect.
  3687. >You give a small smile as you think back fondly to ending papers with that exact statement.
  3688. >Fun times.
  3689. >You collect the piles of quizzes off the floor and neatly stack them.
  3690. >You’ll give them a review later, if you have the time, but you don’t think that there’s anything of value in them.
  3691. >But, if there is, better off not making this all for naught.
  3692. >As you exit the lecture hall, you hear – sobbing?
  3693. >You find Twilight lying on the floor, sniffling, her eyes quite moist.
  3694. “Get up. Come on, we have a train to catch in half an hour.”
  3695. >She looks at you with a visage that could cut granite.
  3696. >You sigh.
  3697. “Twilight, if your solution to every disagreement we have is to break down sobbing, then our relationship is going to go nowhere. I apologize for not heeding your advice in the past, but unfortunately, I am not a seer, so I could not see how my foolish behavior would ultimately come to be my downfall down the line. However, you must also recognize that it was foolish not to give me information that was vital to my experiment. I don’t expect an apology, but I do expect you to understand -”
  3698. >“There you go, just going to lecture me again, so superior Mr. Anonymous, so superior! Always smarter than me, always with a plan, so confident in himself that he’ll never listen to little old Twilight, who only wants the best for him, only wants to be his friend – ”
  3699. >This went on for quite a while.
  3700. >It was rather pathetic, most of your being thought, seeing one of your few tools – no, not tools, friends, stop thinking of her like that – groveling at your feet like a slave begging for forgiveness from his master, but you let her go on.
  3701. “Twilight, stop. Stop it.”
  3702. “– And you just never think of anyone but yourself, just always with your plans and your ideas and –”
  3703. “Stop. Please, stop. Look, Twilight, I’m –
  3704. “– Just always about you, never about anyone else, always Anon –”
  3705. “Jesus Christ, Twilight stop! Enough!”
  3706. >Finally, you got her attention.
  3707. “I said I was sorry. Clearly that was not enough. Just please, stop. We… We have a train to catch. And we can talk to me all about this on the train. Wipe your eyes and get off the floor. It doesn’t befit a… mare like yourself.”
  3708. >You reach your hand out.
  3709. >Twilight wipes her eyes with one hoof and grabs hold of it.
  3710. >You heave her up, and the two of you begin walking towards the train station.
  3711. “This situation clearly cannot continue,” you begin. “There are too many disagreements between the two of us over proper conduct. I suggest we figure out these problems now before they spiral out of control. Although I guess they already have. So I propose the question is this, Twilight: What do you expect of me?”
  3712. >“I expect you to listen to my advice.”
  3713. “I can’t guarantee that. Sometimes I need to follow my own reasoning.”
  3714. >“Not all the time, of course not. But… You need to listen to it, but you don’t have to follow it, how about that?”
  3715. >You mull it over for a moment.
  3716. “Okay. I can agree to that.”
  3717. >You reach the train station.
  3718. >“And what do you expect of me, Anonymous?”
  3719. “I expect you to give me any and all information that is relevant to my current inquiries.”
  3720. >“I agree.”
  3721. “Good. Conflict resolved.”
  3722. >Twilight stares at you quizzically.
  3723. >“That’s it?”
  3724. “What’s it?”
  3725. >“You think it’s just that simple to solve our problems?”
  3726. “Why wouldn’t it be? We have both addressed our grievances and come to an agreement on how to solve them.”
  3727. >“But, don’t we need some sort of epiphany or moment or something where we both realize that we need each other and how to resolve our differences?”
  3728. >You return her quizzical look.
  3729. “No. Why would we need that?”
  3730. >“Because solving friendship problems isn’t that simple Anonymous!”
  3731. “Sure it is. People just delay having a constructive communication for too long and eventually their disagreements boil over. So they think they need to solve their problem through some idiotic method, like putting themselves in danger so that their friend will come rescue them, or some other extreme measure.”
  3732. >“Well, yeah…”
  3733. “Is that seriously – urgh. Let me get this straight. In your relationships, problems are often left unsolved until an extreme circumstance forces the two parties to communicate.”
  3734. >“Well, when you put it that way it doesn’t sound so good, but –”
  3735. >You resist the urge to bang your hand against the concrete wall of the train station.
  3736. >If and when you get back to Earth, and assuming you somehow arrange for a return trip back to this completely insane world, you will be bringing a copy of How to Make Friends and Influence People with you, to add to the increasing number of texts that you have begun compiling to bring this society into the 21st century.
  3737. >The list also includes Newton’s Principia, the Feynman Lectures, Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, Sir Francis Bacon’s scientific works, Locke, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Hume, Kant, Plato, Aristotle….
  3738. >Might as well throw in some of the foundations of computer science, so Turing….
  3739. >Can’t leave out economics, so we’ve got to have Smith, Marx, Keynes, Hayek….
  3740. >It was a long, and obviously growing, list, but now as not the time to let your mind wander to hypothetical scenarios.
  3741. “Twilight, the key to any relationship is communication. Just… just remember that for now, okay? You will solve many more problems with your friends much more easily if you just talk to one another.”
  3742. >“Since when did you become the arbiter of friendship? You never had any friends before me.”
  3743. “Yes, but I also had numerous counselors and psychologists who tried to analyze my unique situation and tried to mold me into a more normal teenager. While it didn’t work, I did at least learn some things about human relationships.”
  3744. “And you didn’t use this knowledge to make friends, why?”
  3745. >“Before now, I didn’t want any.”
  3747. >“Yes, we can confirm that what Twilight told you is true. I traveled to a parallel universe in which my counterpart was my polar opposite.”
  3748. >You had summoned the Princesses of the Sun and Moon into your mind to discuss the recent developments.
  3749. >They also had some explanations to give.
  3750. “So you admit that you led me down a false path.”
  3751. >“Well…” Celestia begins.
  3752. >“When you look for a solution to a problem, often the simplest solution is the one that solves it, correct? The one where you need to make the least number of assumptions,” Luna states.
  3753. “Occam’s razor. You’re stealing ideas from my mind again.”
  3754. >“I’m sorry. It’s very hard not to.”
  3755. “But you’re right. It was best to at least seek out the simplest case first. Unfortunately, the answer to that case was already a longshot. I already explained the relativistic side to it, and this information only further complicates that. With no understanding of how exactly universal pairs are produced, if at all, then I have no means of determining which one is mine in this universe. For all we know, the universal pair produce in that universe that you visited was a property of that rendition alone.”
  3756. >“You’re right,” Celestia admits.
  3757. “I will tell you two the same thing I told Twilight. I need any information that you can give me that can help me in my quest. If she hadn’t let that detail slip, I could have spent ages going down a dead end to a goal that still did not ascertain that I could return home.”
  3758. >The twins nod.
  3759. >“Is that all?” Celestia asks.
  3760. “I believe so.”
  3761. >They turn to leave.
  3762. “Oh, one other thing. I suggest that you write Twilight a letter about the importance of not allowing relationship conflicts to escalate such that the problem cannot be easily resolved. I believe she thinks that the only way to solve these problems is through drastic measures, and I’m not sure why.”
  3763. >Celestia turns around and walks back.
  3764. >“You have a lot of… theoretical knowledge about friendship, Anonymous. But your practical knowledge is zero. I suggest you not interfere with my student’s studies.”
  3765. >Her tone is completely even, but you can sense a lingering threat.
  3766. >A sense of “I have my own plans, and if you interfere with them you will be in a world of pain.”
  3767. >You get that feeling a lot when dealing with these two.
  3768. “Just something I observed,” you say with a shrug.
  3769. >That appears to appease the princess, and the duo melts into the shadows.
  3770. >Your mind is empty.
  3771. >You feel the princesses’ presence fading.
  3772. >When it is gone from your subconscious entirely, you speak the words you need to say.
  3773. “Discord. I summon -”
  3774. >“You rang?”
  3775. >He puts down an old-fashioned telephone.
  3776. “Your humor gets weaker with each encounter. You would have been better off with a large spectacle of demonic fire and smoke followed by you sitting in an easy chair or stepping out of the shower or something.”
  3777. >“And who made you the Lord of the Jokes now?”
  3778. “No one. It’s just going to take a lot more to impress me than low-hanging gags.”
  3779. >“Very well. Now, what do you require of the Immortal Lord of Chaos?”
  3780. >You pause for a moment, considering how to address this.
  3781. “In light of certain revelations, it has come to my attention that those who I have considered competent are actually ignorant of many alternate realities and possibilities. Their plans for how I might succeed in my goal, returning to Earth, were based on completely faulty information. And, as such, I must return to my… rejected ideas.”
  3782. >“You want our deal to be back on.”
  3783. >You nod.
  3784. >Discord rushes forward and embraces you, crushing your ribs and leaving you unable to breathe with his iron grip.
  3785. “Please. Let me go!” you wheeze out.
  3786. >“Oh thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, Anonymous, you have no idea –”
  3787. “Yes, but I can’t breathe, please, let me go –”
  3788. >He finally lets you go, only to repeat the gesture a second time.
  3789. >After this, he lets you catch your breath.
  3790. >Regaining his faux-gentlemanly manner, Discord straightens up and states, “You won’t regret this decision.”
  3791. “No, I have a feeling I won’t.”
  3792. >But one doubt remains in your mind.
  3793. >This betrayal smells too thickly of this chimera’s handiwork.
  3794. >You quickly ask the question.
  3795. “You didn’t have anything to do with this? Did you?”
  3796. >Discord chuckles.
  3797. >“You put far too much faith in me, Anonymous. If I had been manipulating the princesses and your little friend into lying to you and leading you down false paths like a deer given a map by a tiger, then why would I need to seem desperate when you called off our deal? Why not just play it off, make it look like I really have nothing to gain from this arrangement? And, if I could manipulate them so easily into this, why not simply make sure they never told you about the universal pairs in the first place, so that my solution would look like the only option?”
  3798. “You said you were trying to be reformed, at least in appearance, so manipulating them when it wasn’t necessary would have broken that image. You were desperate, and as such, you need to manipulate my allies to get what you wanted.”
  3799. >“Except I didn’t.”
  3800. “It matters not whether you did or didn’t. The timing is irrelevant. Had this information come to me sooner, my hand would have similarly been forced. And I assume you are a patient man – er, I forgot what your species was called.”
  3801. >“Draconequus, my dear human. And, when you spend millennia trapped in stone, you tend to acquire patience at some point.”
  3802. >You nod, almost knowingly.
  3803. >“So now what are you going to do?”
  3804. “Get back to work. Get back to doing what I do best. Building things. Experimenting.”
  3805. >“Good…. We’ve got a tight schedule to keep. Can’t keep the unstoppable forces of darkness and chaos at bay forever.”
  3806. “I thought you were the unstoppable force of darkness and chaos.”
  3807. >“Chaos maybe, but darkness… eh, I could never do red and black.”
  3808. >You chuckle.
  3809. “It feels like I’ll be waking up soon. And I’ve got a job to do.”
  3810. >“I’ll be off then. If you need me, well, you know where to call.”
  3811. >Discord disappears with a pop.
  3812. >And the light of a new day opens your eyes.
  3814. >You are Princess Luna.
  3815. “Entering the dream-state always takes it out of me,” you tell your elder sister.
  3816. >“For me as well. Could it be we are losing our magical prowess as we age?” she replies.
  3817. “That does not seem likely. But something to look into. When you’ve lived for millennia, I can only imagine that must have some effect on your health.”
  3818. >Celestia rubs her forehead with a hoof.
  3819. “Something wrong? Or just still tired from the spell?”
  3820. >“No. Just… thinking.”
  3821. “About what?”
  3822. >“That Anonymous is becoming… meddlesome in our plans.”
  3823. “Meddlesome is a harsh word.”
  3824. >“Well, I can’t think of any other way to describe his actions.”
  3825. “So? We both thought that our experiences with the alternate Equestria were a special case.”
  3826. >“Well, we thought wrong.”
  3827. >Distantly, a crystal grandfather clock, one of many in the palace, ticks.
  3828. “Perhaps it is for the best. Perhaps we were not made to be the sole guardians of this realm.”
  3829. >“No. As intelligent and capable as Anonymous may be, he is still an outsider. He does not understand anything about the nuances of magic.”
  3830. “And do you think he’s not capable of learning those nuances?”
  3831. >“He will never come to the full understanding that we have. His methods may grant him some insight, but he will not understand magic as we do. He will never understand this world as we do, or the decisions that need to be made to protect it.”
  3832. >The clock keeps ticking.
  3833. “You do realize that we have left Anonymous no other option than to seek out Discord now.”
  3834. >“Of course I do. What do you think we’re really discussing here?”
  3835. “So, what do you propose we do about it?”
  3836. >“Do you have any ideas?”
  3837. “No. Other than outright stopping him, which will just lead to him distrusting us further.”
  3838. >“Do you think he knows what we’re planning?”
  3839. “I think he only knows we have plans for her. Especially because of what you let on at the end of our little conversation.”
  3840. >“Perhaps I could have put that more eloquently.”
  3841. “Perhaps. He still doesn’t know what the plot is, of course, but he knows we’re up to something.”
  3842. >Celestia sighs.
  3843. >“Twilight is the key to all of this. She is my best student, the perfect protégé. We need her.”
  3844. “So what Discord is planning –”
  3845. >“There’s no guarantee what will happen if he builds that device. Even I have no idea what it will do.”
  3846. “But that doesn’t really matter to Anonymous, now does it?”
  3847. >“No. He wants to go home.”
  3848. “Discord seems certain that it will work.”
  3849. >“If so, then what does he know that we don’t?”
  3850. >Another sigh.
  3851. >“I just realized that we have a hand in creating this whole mess. Had we not sought to reform Discord as part of our own plans, then we wouldn’t have to deal with this problem.”
  3852. >You simply nod.
  3853. “But I don’t think interference from a being from an alternate universe was something we could have predicted either.”
  3856. This concludes the first draft (I guess that's the right word) of Mad Science. No more chapters will be written following the events of this draft. The story begins anew with Mad Science: Chapter 1, posted 2 August 2015 at:
  3858. http://pastebin.com/40mr44VH
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