aganon

An Anonymous Object In Equestria

Oct 29th, 2014
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  1. An Anonymous Object In Equestria
  2. by Aganon
  3.  
  4. You awaken slowly, with strange rows of text on a dark red background streaming past your still disoriented mind's eye. You attempt to open your eyes but don't feel any reaction from your eyelids. Suddenly you can see, albeit the view isn't very pleasing. Instead of your usual bedroom, you're laying on your side in a bunch of shrubbery. And for some reason, circles with cross-hairs appear and follow any movement in the damaged branches and leaves.
  5.  
  6. You try to sit up, and are startled by several mechanical whines and pneumatic hisses. You stare down at your arms. They're shiny gunmetal blued steel, ending in what you could only describe as ... Oh no. You bend your unusually flexible neck and look at your still reclined side. Yup. Hind legs. Worse, you have skin made of several overlapped metal plates. With bright orange warning symbols, such as ones for Hot, Sharp, Corrosive and Flammable in various locations. Some you didn't even recognize. There was also an annoying, ever-present crackle coming from between your ears and the back of your head.
  7.  
  8. Oh well, nothing to do for it but to try to stand up in your new form. You gather your hind hooves under yourself, throw the fronts further forward, and hoist yourself up. Your machine-body bounces up easily, if loudly, and you stand. You examine the odd array of readouts on the edges of your field of vision. One is an artificial horizon. You roll your ponderous head from side to side a few times, watching the lines stay steady to the pull of gravity. You also note some for what might be oil pressure, boiler pressure, several for temperature...
  9.  
  10. There is a pop noise behind beside you, and you leave off examining your inner vision to peer at the quite unbelievable sight which has materialized. You recognize him immediately. "Well. Aren't you just the strangest thing!" Discord says.
  11.  
  12.  
  13.  
  14. "Where... WHAT am I, and what are you doing here?" you ask, startled as you realize that your mouth had opened and stayed that way during the entire question, before re-closing with a slight clack sound. The draconequuis regards you thoughtfully, a claw curled under his snout, before saying "What am _I_ doing here? Well. Surely you've read some philosophy before?" before creating a small shower of books. He stretches right over you in an arc, getting a look at your other side. You swivel around to face him. "I'll tell you what. I'll take you where you can find someone who might try to answer your questions, on condition that I get to watch."
  15.  
  16. With that, your vision goes to black with a bit of video snow, your instruments go mad, then you can see again. You're standing in the middle of what appears to be an open-air market lined with wagons of goods. It's also populated by a fair number of ponies, most of whom are frozen in shock, staring at you. You feel extremely nervous, made more so by one of the more worrisome pressure dials in your view starting to flash.
  17.  
  18. What must be your tail suddenly rises up with a ratcheting sound and with a shrill, flatulent screaming "Braaappp" a tremendous volley of steam smoke-rings blast out of your ass.
  19.  
  20. There's an immediate panic, ponies running into one another and generally away from you in all directions. 'This isn't my day...', you think.
  21.  
  22.  
  23.  
  24.  
  25. 'This. This is Ponyville.' The last thing you remembered as a human, was trying to replace a fuse in a busted cattle fencer. Maybe that didn't go as planned.
  26.  
  27. You look around for Discord, but there's no sign of him, nor anyone who looks like they want to answer questions. Some of the sales-ponies are frantically trying to hitch up and haul their wagons out, keeping a nervous eye on you, while others simply abandoned their posts. So you set off to explore. After all, you more or less know the town, having seen most of the episodes. You head for the most noticeable feature, the town hall pavilion.
  28.  
  29. Things become abandoned as you progress, shutters slamming shut, welcome mats vanishing beneath doors.
  30.  
  31. "Hello? Anyone?" you call, the strange electronic garble present in your voice becoming more pronounced the more disturbed you feel. And you begin to feel pretty disturbed. In any other circumstances you'd have quite enjoyed an opportunity to visit ponyville, but this is sucking pretty hard.
  32.  
  33. 'I bet he wanted me to go see Twilight.' you think, arriving at the pavilion, which was likewise recently abandoned. 'If only I knew how to find her from here...' With a snap and a whir, your forehead rises up and shadows your eyes as something emerges. It unfolds and starts spinning. 'Oh, HELL no!' you think, catching glimpses of a smallish radar dish rotating above your head.
  34.  
  35.  
  36.  
  37. TARGET ACQUIRED appears just below a ring with a rotating line and a persistently flashing dot ... Well a radar readout, in what you've come to think of as your personal Heads Up Display. As you ponder that, a rising whine begins somewhere in your bowels. INTERCEPTING rolls up in the HUD. Your side-plates rise up like a lady's skirts, and some sort of scaffolding emerges, trailing heavy tarps. You twist your head back in horror as your tail also fans out flat to your ass like a disk, only composed of tilted segments. You momentarily lose your footing... As your unusually round hooves rotate out to the sides. You dance on them like roller-skates as the scaffolds stretch the cloth tight.
  38.  
  39. Your tail suddenly spins up like a huge fan shoving you along. Your wings brush buildings along either side as you try lifting them up and centering yourself in the roadway, trying to stop your forward motion, but it's no use.
  40.  
  41. You sail down the road like a huge black banshee, scrambling with your legs, gaining speed as you go. Probably the whole town hears you scream, as your wheel-feet leave the ground.
  42.  
  43.  
  44. Your body seems perfectly able to get you in the air, and you bank grandly toward the target. You stare down in horror at the shadow flashing over the town beneath you, that of a gigantic airborne hell-bat. Massive gusts of steam blow from your nostrils rhythmically as you fly, and you notice that you can flap your wings at will for more lift, though when you stop maneuvering you return to your preset course.
  45.  
  46. As you near your objective, a fast-moving black cloud comes zipping along above you, trailing a rainbow streak. "This keeps getting better and better!" you think, just as you get hit by a bolt of lightning, causing you to convulse and fold up like a broken kite. Twice in one day, maybe? Damn your luck! Seeing flashes of reality and jumbled blocks of text, you plummet toward a small group of ponies on the ground. As they get bigger in perspective you notice their colors... It's Twi and friends!
  47.  
  48. Somewhat less encouraging is the last clear image you see has them covered by a shield bubble. You hit it like a clockwork pegasus hitting a cement wall.
  49.  
  50.  
  51.  
  52. "-ell I didn't think it would land right ON you guys..." you hear Rainbow Dash's somewhat embarrassed voice. A few flickers and you can see from... Your right eye? There are parts all over, and a good size area of blackened dirt. "At least you put out the fire, Dash." Twilight says. They're standing in a group staring at your wreckage.
  53.  
  54. You can feel more and more of yourself as you revive, though some of the bits are obviously a ways away. You twitch a hoof and see it, some ways off, with most of a leg. "It's moving again, maybe you better fry it!" Dash cries, lifting off.
  55.  
  56. "No, this needs to be studied. I'm going to contain it then examine it." Twilight replies. You feel her aura surround your main body and the dismantled bits, as you're lifted then gathered into a single mass. You hope she doesn't notice the parts reassembling themselves right away. "I didn't mean to hurrr-hurrr-hurrr-hurrr" you say, shutting up when you discover something wrong with your voice-box.
  57.  
  58. "It's laughin' at us!" Applejack says.
  59.  
  60.  
  61. "That's probably the voice of it's creator, speaking through it." Twilight says. "You mean somepony built a toy pony? To what? To assassinate you, Dearie?" Rarity asks. "That's what I intend to find out. I bet the answer lies in it's main body or head. Applejack, do you still have that acetylene torch set in your barn?"
  62.  
  63. Uhoh. You take stock of your situation. The broken-off strut of one wing is responsive. Your legs, while attached now, are in a state only Picasso would have liked. But if you are a pegasus, you have weather powers. Hoping the "butterfly effect" will be enough, you set the one working wing into a buzzing flap. All the mane six look at you.
  64.  
  65. "Shit! Shit! SHIT!" you think as Twilight levels her horn.
  66.  
  67. A tornado forms upward from your madly buzzing wing, quickly reaching dizzying heights and throwing lightning bolts. Then brown, wet clods begin pelting down all around, the impacts painful.
  68.  
  69. "It's a SHIT-NADO!!" Applejack shouts, as Twilight's horn impales a big one. The glow is extinguished and you fall in a heap, as the mane six scamper around then run for their lives.
  70.  
  71.  
  72. For a while all you can do is hope that you don't get sucked into the fecal fury you have summoned, as it roars around you in a complete circle, then slowly begins to slither toward Ponyville. Fortunately it provides 'cover' long enough for you to get all four legs under you, though not all necessarily in the right places.
  73.  
  74. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts, you manage to stand upright and begin a hobble toward cover, both from the horrendous storm, and from Applejack's horrible blowtorch.
  75.  
  76. Above the howling winds, you can just make out screaming emanating from Ponyville. Yup, you just made everybody's day that much brighter. You'll be SO popular. You feel one of your backward legs whirl around front-wise, and increase your speed away from town.
  77.  
  78. You continue until you hit a tree-line, then shelter in the thick brush, hopefully invisible from the air.
  79.  
  80. There is a pop. "I see that went well! Almost better than I'd imagined, in fact!" Discord says. He sniffs loudly, then raises an eyebrow and bugs an eye. "This won't do, this won't do at all." Suddenly you're trapped in a column of water, with a vaned central agitator pillar knocking you around. This lasts for a couple of minutes, then the whole works is lifted up and you're decanted in a heap, covered in wet articles of gigantic clothing.
  81.  
  82. You fight yourself free, noting that you're also mechanically sound again, though from the look of it you're going to need warm-up time to be fully functional.
  83.  
  84. "Feeling better?" Discord says, picking his teeth with the tip of an umbrella.
  85.  
  86. You peer at him angrily, then sigh and hang your head.
  87.  
  88.  
  89.  
  90. In the uncomfortable silence, there is a sort of 'click-Pouf!" from your midsection. Wisps of steam rise from your nostrils, then the crackling sound from the back of your head begins anew.
  91.  
  92. "You know I think you really have no idea what you look like." says Discord. "Here." Standing before you, he stretches up and widens, his belly flattening and becoming a reflective surface- A mirror!
  93.  
  94. You stare at yourself in amazement. Overall you look like that piston-horse from the oil company commercial got it on with the Robot Unicorn. Except for the warning marks, and a piston-rod-driven wheel cutie mark in chrome on your ass. Your tail is a tight bundle of swinging blades.
  95.  
  96. The crackle, though... That was the shocking part. Along the back of your neck are metal rods tipped with balls of alternating heights. Crackling between them is an arc extending from just past your withers to past the tip of your poll. "My God. I'm a walking tazer!" you exclaim, then lean in close to stare into your own eyes.
  97.  
  98. Lensed, apertured, red LED back-lit. Yup, you're the terminator-pony alright.
  99.  
  100. "You see?" said Discord. You just stare.
  101.  
  102.  
  103. "What is it that you're trying to accomplish here, anyhow? It's not that I don't appreciate the chaos you cause just by existing, but in your case I find myself asking WHY?" Discord stated, narrowing his eyes down at you.
  104.  
  105. You waggle your rather expressive, metal bar eyebrows at yourself a couple of times in his belly-mirror, then return his gaze. "I know a lot about Ponyville. Where I come from, we- Well we can sort of see this place, and sometimes I watched. If I can't leave, and I have no idea how I'd even try, I need a place to live. I practically know these ponies, if only from a distance. I need to get them to... Well, at least to tolerate me, if I'm going to stay. I thought I could just talk it out-" You stop, as Discord had taken on a creepy smile that put you in mind of The Grinch.
  106.  
  107. "Here's your problem in a nutshell." he said, then returned to his usual shape. Then he grew very large, and grabbed you around the barrel. Snapping his claw, a wide clock key appeared. You eye it warily.
  108.  
  109. "Don't you dare!" you cry. He lifts you right up, sticks the key in your butt and twists it several times, then he sets you down. In a totally involuntary way your legs skitter, forcing you to run in circles for a few laps until you slow down and stop. You glare hatefully at him.
  110.  
  111.  
  112. "That's your problem, right there. You're not a pony at all! You're something entirely alien to this world." Then he shrunk back down to normal. You consider whirling around and giving him both barrels for a moment, and aren't totally surprised when your back unfolds and what looks like a chain-fed gatling gun tilts out and whirls to face him.
  113.  
  114. "Well, that's new! What does that do?" he asks, with an expression of childlike wonder. Fortunately you manage to tamp down your emotion, despite the trauma of having been wind-up-key raped, and soon the weapon folds back in and vanishes.
  115.  
  116. "It's, uh, nothing. A, er, sign of annoyance." you mutter. "Really? It looked quite intricate..." Discord continued.
  117.  
  118. Not knowing how Equestria would react to something like that, you try to change the subject. "So, if you were in my place, how would YOU handle this?" you challenge.
  119.  
  120.  
  121.  
  122. "Well first of all, I'd do this." Discord said. You felt the lurch of disorientation again, and found yourself standing in Twilight's treebrary. With a big red ribbon bow on your nose, Discord standing beside you. An apparently freshly hosed-down Twilight, Applejack, Spike, and Pinkie Pie stared in horror.
  123.  
  124. "It's really been far too long, Twilight! So I've brought you a present!" Discord said, grinning.
  125.  
  126. You tried to smile, unsure if your mouth could even move that way. "I'm. Um. Sorry about the- The tornado thing-" you lamely stuttered.
  127.  
  128. "Discord!" Twilight shouted in horror, "What are you doing bringing that thing into my home!"
  129.  
  130. "It's quite friendly, I assure you." he replied, obviously relishing their reactions. You glanced around, noting that the windows had splats all over and a few cracks.
  131.  
  132. "It's a golem! Celestia only knows what purpose it was built to serve!" she shot back.
  133.  
  134.  
  135.  
  136. "Am not!" was the best you could manage, your mind still suffering overload from all the recent events. "Are too!" she retorted. You stopped, knowing where that kind of argument would lead. At least they weren't actively trying to kill you, though Pinkie kept popping up around you going "Oooh!", inspecting your markings.
  137.  
  138. "He just appeared out by the Everfree earlier today." Discord explained, "So I sent him to town, so he could meet the locals."
  139.  
  140. Twilight goggled. "you. SENT it. To TOWN?!" "Why yes! Shouldn't I have? After all, you're always going on about friendship. All I was doing was sending you a new friend!" he replied.
  141.  
  142. "But... It's not a pony! It's not something to be friends WITH! It's a mechanical abomination, some kind of weapon! And now it's in my HOUSE!" she spluttered.
  143.  
  144. "Am not!" you hissed, your nostrils tooting steam.
  145.  
  146.  
  147.  
  148. "I think this one goes to Twilight, um. You ARE in her house. By the way, I never did get your name?" Discord said. "Anonymous. My name's Anonymous." "Well then. And of course you obviously know me." he turned to Twilight. "He says he's from another plane, where they can watch us. He claims to be familiar with everypony from this area. I find it delightfully creepy!"
  149.  
  150. "It's not... Creepy..." you say, the terrible creepiness of it all sinking into your thoughts. What if there had always been another audience, watching you in your old life... What if you were now part of the show!!
  151.  
  152. Lost in these thoughts, you breathe a deep sigh. Licks of flame waft from your nostrils, igniting the ribbon bow. "Fahr!" Applejack cries, leaping at you and clobbering the end of your nose repeatedly with her fore-hooves, until the ruined bow falls to the floor, upon which she gave it a good stomping. "Get that consarned fire-belchin' furnace out of here!" she cried, glancing around at all the stacks of paper.
  153.  
  154. You really weren't sure if you could argue with her
  155.  
  156.  
  157. Discord looks a bit put out, saying "Well ponies, if you're going outside, I'll just leave you to get acquainted. It stinks out there. Ta-ta!" and with that, he vanishes. Twilight advances on you, as you back toward the door. If you could have, you'd have been grinning nervously. Applejack pulls the door open just as a lavender glow surrounds you. You're carried outdoors.
  158.  
  159. Discord was right. It REEKED out here.
  160.  
  161. "Alright. I want answers. NOW!" Twilight says, getting in your face. "Where are you, really?" she demands. "What? I'm here!" "No, I mean the real you! Not this... This puppet!"
  162.  
  163. "Am not!" "Are so!"... You hung your head. "Look," you reply, "I... This is how I woke up today. This really is me." "You're not alive." Twilight responds, "You're either a clever machine built to trick us, or you're being controlled by someone who IS alive. And I want to know where they are!" she snaps.
  164.  
  165. "I'm neither! I'm... Uh. I don't know what I am!" you stammer
  166.  
  167.  
  168. Pinkie seems suddenly interested in your face. She leans in and eyes you really close. "Do that again!" she says. You blink. "Do what?" you ask. "Do you know what happens when you blink?" Pinkie says. "No?" "Your eyes dart in, and something rubber squeaks over them and they pop back out! It's really gross!" she says.
  169.  
  170. "Oh? Uh, OK!" you say, as Twilight nudges Pinky away. "I'm not sure if you're telling the truth or not, but it's just possible that you're self aware. I still need to study you though."
  171.  
  172. "Not the blowtorch! Please not the blowtorch!" you implore. "No, I can't take the chance, now that I know you at least seem to think you're really alive. Geez. It really DOES stink out here." she finished, wrinkling her nose. "Everybody be sure to wipe your feet if you're coming inside. Pinkie, if you could, see if you can tell Rainbow to call off the arial search. I'm taking it down to my lab."
  173.  
  174. Pinkie darted off, with a happy "Okie dokey lokey!"
  175.  
  176. You mentally grimace, as a force-field ball appears around you. "Just in case you decide to.. Emit anything." Twilight explains, then turns and walks back into the treebrary. You bob helplessly along behind like a purple balloon.
  177.  
  178.  
  179. Spike had been shooting nervous glances at you the whole time, finally speaking up as you passed the threshold back into the treebrary. "Twi, are you sure you know what you're doing? It breathes fire..." She glanced at him, "Spike, if someone wanted to destroy my house, I doubt they'd go to the trouble to build this thing to do it. Besides, I do know a few fire-retardant spells."
  180.  
  181. You file that wisdom away with some relief.
  182.  
  183. She opens a door and you're floated down a spiral staircase behind Twilight and Spike, with Applejack bringing up the rear. In your admittedly poor peripheral vision, you catch her glancing at your butt now and then. You say nothing, not wanting to make her hate you more than she already did.
  184.  
  185. Finally you arrive in a room cluttered with equipment. You float over by a platform, upon which was something vaguely resembling a half-assembled jet engine. Twilight magics that out of the way. "What IS that?" you ask. "It's part of a prototype weather machine I've been designing. But it appears as if it's already hopelessly obsolete." she replies, giving you a cold stare. She releases the force-bubble, then sets you down with an audible clank.
  186.  
  187. "Whatever you are, you're really heavy. Firstly I'm curious how you fly." she said, examining a wall of hanging tools. Nearly all of them terrify you.
  188.  
  189.  
  190. You note Spike, arms crossed, staring at you as if guarding the ponies from you. 'Little turd. As if I'm the only thing in this house that breathes fire.' you think.
  191.  
  192. Twilight levitates a- Yes, a small crowbar, and a long tongs from her wall of torture, then walks your way. You whisk your tail-blades in worry. She freezes for a moment, then continues her advance.
  193.  
  194. She stops directly before you. "I'll want to see your wings in a moment. But first I'd like to see how you talk." Her horn shines a beam of light at the tip of your muzzle. "Open please!" she says. You open your mouth with the usual clack.
  195.  
  196. She looked closely, angling her head around, shining the light in at various angles, occasionally reaching in with the tongs to prod at things. "You know what you're doing, don't you?" you say, unable to stop yourself. "Hm?" Twilight asks. "You're looking a gift-horse in the mouth!" you finish.
  197.  
  198. Her horn-light goes out. She straightens, a quizzical look morphing into one of extreme irritation. "I'd punch you but I'd probably bruise a hoof!" she said.
  199.  
  200. You immediately regret having annoyed her, as she walks around to your left side, brandishing the crowbar.
  201.  
  202.  
  203. You watch as the crowbar approaches your side, and tilt and twist a bit away from it. "I'm not going to stab you." Twilight crabbily informs. "I can't help it!" "Then don't look!" she replies. You mentally grit your teeth as the bar contacts your side between a couple of plates. She jimmies it lightly. The plate wobbles slightly but doesn't lift. "I think it's one lower than that." you say.
  204.  
  205. Twilight lowers the crowbar one segment lower, and jimmies again. There's still resistance. Rather than have her damage something, you rifle through your memory of having taken off, trying to figure out how to just deploy a wing rather than set off the whole routine, which would have been disastrous.
  206.  
  207. It's a little hard to think with a determined pony jostling you around trying to tug your side open.
  208.  
  209. You try something different. 'I really hope my left wing slowly opens.' you think. It works, with a small top-view of your body with one wing stuck out appearing in your HUD. You note that it resembles a car's 'door ajar' dash-graphic. "Got it!" Twilight happily exclaims, stepping back as your side ratchets up and your wing extends. You lift it so that it clears her shop machinery, as it unfolds and locks.
  210.  
  211. "I can't believe that wingspan." Twilight remarks.
  212.  
  213. "If what them pegasi stallions say about wing size is true, whoa momma!" Applejack says. You look at her, feeling slightly scandalized.
  214.  
  215.  
  216.  
  217. "How did you fix this after that crash?" Twilight asks, quickly changing the subject. "You were pretty much a wreck, and this... Material..." she said, holding and flexing one of the springy, fabric covered struts in your wing between her hooves, "Got burned."
  218.  
  219. "Discord patched me up." you say, though you remained unsure just how strong your regenerative powers really were, unassisted. You were still amazed that you'd managed to leg it to relative safety after that. But here you were, right back in the belly of the beast, so to speak.
  220.  
  221. "Hm. I see. There's no telling, with his magic. I should talk to him and see if he knows what makes you tick, inside."
  222.  
  223. "I'm just lucky I don't actually tick!" you say.
  224.  
  225. "Twilight! Where are you?" came Rainbow Dash's voice, just before a rainbow streaked around the room then landed angrily right in front of you, wings puffed aggressively.
  226.  
  227. "I'm fine, Dash." Twilight replied, stepping out from behind your wing.
  228.  
  229. "I can't believe you're just PLAYING with this thing! You saw what it did to Ponyville!" Dash said, glancing at you and Twilight in turn. "You should destroy it! It's going to take the weather team days to fix what this did!" she finished.
  230.  
  231.  
  232.  
  233. Despite not wishing to antagonize anypony any further than you already had, you felt slighted. "If I hadn't been struck by a lightning-bolt that SOMEONE threw, I doubt that any of that would have happened in the first place." you grit at the angry teal pegasus.
  234.  
  235. "Oh yeah? Well when I see some death-machine roaring toward my friends, I STOP it!" Dash retorted, with an annoyed flourish of her wings.
  236.  
  237. Twilight broke in. "I can't just destroy it, Rainbow. It claims it's self-aware. I think it might be telling the truth. I have more tests to run, before I'll know what I'm dealing with. But it's not exactly a death-machine."
  238.  
  239. "I know a death-machine when I see one." Dash grumped, taking a step back."I'm going to keep my eye on you." she told you, taking a position by Spike. You sigh, with a bellows-like wheeze, as Twilight walks back over to her wall of implements. This time she picked down a stethoscope, what was either a horseshoe magnet or a real horseshoe. Then she went for the cupboard below, floating out a stoppered flask with something gray in it, and a large glass jar with some sort of mechanism inside it and a rod on the top. Lastly she swept up a notebook off a workbench along with a pencil and came back to you, the collection of items drifting ahead of her.
  240.  
  241. "Lower your head." she said, and you complied. She touched the large jar to the sparking balls along the top of your neck in turn. A couple of gizmos in the jar jumped more and more as she moved up your neck, then you lost sight of it as she tested over the top of your head. "Hm." she murmured, "It looks as though you're charged with a small amount of lightning all the time. The electroscope says the highest potential is right in the center of your neck arch, with the rod on your withers and the one on your forehead at your body's ground."
  242.  
  243. "Ahl bet he's handy during horsefly season!" Applejack announced. If you could have, you'd have winced at the thought.
  244.  
  245.  
  246.  
  247.  
  248. Twilight went to horn-lighting around your wing-joint, peering into the gaps around it. Then she put on the stethoscope and floated the end in past your wing-joint. It felt a bit odd as she moved it around. Somehow you did have some sense of feeling on your... Surfaces?
  249.  
  250. She hmm'd and "That's interesting..."'d her way around, then brought the magnet over your chest. The moment it got near, CLANG... Sure enough. The worst part was, that probably meant you were subject to rust. You resolve to find a can of oil ASAP.
  251.  
  252. "OK, one last test. I need to know if you're really self-contained." Twilight turns away from you, scribbling in her notebook. Then she whirls around with it and the pencil. The pencil floats toward your mouth. "Take it." she says. You click your mouth open, and let it shut on the pencil. You bite down only lightly and hear it splinter a bit. Twilight glares at you, then drops the notebook between your forelegs.
  253.  
  254. "OK, pop quiz! Once I put up a bubble, I want you to open that book and do what it says. It's going to be dark in the bubble. Do you need a light, or will you be able to see in the dark?"
  255.  
  256. You really have no idea, but have your suspicions. "I think I'll be able to see. If not can we just try again?" "Sure." she replies. Un-stoppering the bottle of gray powder, she dumps it, and the powder floats around you forming a sphere. It continues to darken inside until you're only barely seeing by the light of your mane and eyes. But you got dis. "I want to see brighter." you think clearly.
  257.  
  258. The world turns night-vision green. Naturally. You hoof open the cover of the notebook. A sketch of a flower, with "Draw This." below it and a space. It's not easy but you manage a passable try at it, below hers.
  259.  
  260. You hoof the next page. "Add these numbers." Really, Twi? you think, scribbling down the answer. You flip the page. It's blank.
  261.  
  262.  
  263. You wait for a while, then the powder-bubble siphons away and the room flickers back to normal color. Twilight finishes forcing the powder back into the bottle, then stoppers it.
  264.  
  265. The notebook lifts off and she looks at your work. "OK. I guess you're not being controlled remotely. That bubble should have blocked any useful means of communicating remotely. Spike, take a memo."
  266.  
  267. The little dragon dutifully produced a pad and pencil of his own. "Dear Princess Celestia. I have discovered an anomalous object here in Ponyville. I would like you to examine it. Your faithful student, Twilight. Send."
  268.  
  269. Spike inhaled and blew the letter away.
  270.  
  271. "I don't think you should let this thing anywhere near the princess." Dash grumbled.
  272.  
  273.  
  274. You and Rainbow spent a long moment staring hatefully at one another, until Spike burped up a return letter. "My faithful student," Twilight read, "I would be delighted to see what you have found. Unfortunately, matters of state require my presence in Canterlot for several days. If you could, arrange to have it brought to the castle, or I will see it once I am free to travel. Inform me of your decision in this matter. Yours, Princess Celestia."
  275.  
  276. "I don't think this should wait." Twilight said, glancing at you. "Mm-hm, Ah'd bet the princess will want to see this thing fast." Applejack said.
  277.  
  278. You wish that they'd quit calling you 'it' and 'thing'.
  279.  
  280. "You're going to cause a panic, if you try to bring THAT on the train to Canterlot." Dash said.
  281.  
  282. "You're right. That's why we're going to fly it there." Twilight said. You glanced up, surprised. "You can fly again, right?" Twilight asked. "I think so!" you reply, "My wing looked OK, I imagine the other one is too?"
  283.  
  284. "Good. Dash, meet us outside. Spike, inform the princess that we will be arriving by air in the company of a giant metal bat, and that she can take any precautions she deems necessary. Applejack, well, I'll send word as to the outcome." "Mm-hm, you just be careful, Sugarcube. Don't want you gettin' hurt." the apple pony replied.
  285.  
  286. Everypony trooped back up the stairs, and outside. Several pegasi were on the rooftops, with snow-shovels and gas-masks, trying to clear the roofs. You could swear you heard one of them sobbing. You hang your head in embarrassment as Dash glares.
  287.  
  288.  
  289.  
  290.  
  291. Rainbow takes off and has a discussion with one of the pegasi on the roof of a neighboring building, who then zooms away.
  292.  
  293. "I'm bringing some friends with us on this trip." she calls down to Twilight.
  294.  
  295. Twilight turns to you. "I think it would be best if you refrained from any weather manipulation until further notice." she deadpans. "I'll do my best not to." you say, looking mournfully at the state of the road. You very much wish you were capable of vertical liftoff. You concentrate and wish very hard that you could lift off without dragging through the muck on the road. Nothing happens.
  296.  
  297. 'Literally too much to wish for', you think.
  298.  
  299. A small team of pegasi stallions fly in and alight on the roof alongside Rainbow, staring down at you. They mill unhappily, looking like they'd just rather lift off and leave again. "You guys are gonna be our guards in case this... Machine gets out of hand on the way to Canterlot." Rainbow informed them. "Aye aye." said the biggest. "You ready Twilight?" she calls down.
  300.  
  301. Twilight nods, then asks you to take off. Well, she asked for it. You concentrate on flying...
  302.  
  303.  
  304. This time you resolved not to panic. You just thought "take off". Out pop your wings, and that turbine noise begins. You brace your legs out, and your hooves tip. Your ass-fan spins up and you begin to roll along the disgusting road.
  305.  
  306. You try flapping for more speed. It works! In about half the distance of last time, you manage to get off the ground. You keep flapping, kicking the crap off your feet as you rise. Twilight seems if anything clumsier in the air than you are, as she passes you on the right and takes the lead. Rainbow Dash is already a ways up, just waiting for you. Her retinue of flyers bring up the rear.
  307.  
  308. Twilight sets off for the mountains, where you can just see what must be the amazing city of Canterlot clinging to the side of one. You zoom in on it. Holy shit, you can zoom in on it! 'Well, that's pretty cool at least' you think, as you examine the architecture. "Hm, I bet I could land on that." you think, seeing a flat area. "DESTINATION SET". OK, fine, you decide not to argue with your body. Time for the autopilot!
  309.  
  310. Your huffing steam breath occasionally blots your zoomed view, and you back it out to normal. The new pegasi are keeping their distance. Twilight is the closest flier, she's varying from your course slightly but seems to be on the same course. You decide to manually correct to stay behind her periodically.
  311.  
  312. 'Maybe I can set it to follow her ass.' you think, then decide the number of ways that could end in disaster outweighed any potential benefit.
  313.  
  314.  
  315. After a while, it occurs to you that you're going to have to have it out with your 'autopilot you' at some point because Twilight was surely thinking of somewhere other to land than the spot you'd picked. Your body wasn't the best at fast reactions to your will once it'd gotten itself underway. Best to figure it out before it becomes an issue. You zoom in on another Canterlot flat zone, and concentrate on landing on it. "CALCULATING. DESTINATION SET."... GOOD.
  316.  
  317. Then you started worrying about what might happen if she wants to alight on a small balcony. You spy one out. "...SET." Aha! You couldn't lift off straight up, but your body seemed to think it could at least land on a smallish spot. You hope it's right, should the situation arise.
  318.  
  319. Your main worries taken care of, you gaze down at the terrain passing below you. Fields, the occasional farm... Foothills... It began to get seriously mountainous down there. You realize that you're drawing close to the city. There seem to be a number of specks interspersed in the clouds ahead. Birds?
  320.  
  321. You zoom in. Royal guards. Flying while holding spears. And they are beginning to come in to intercept.
  322.  
  323.  
  324.  
  325. You watch them approach with trepidation. The rest of the group begins to slow as they notice they are being joined by a group of guards. You notice that they seem a little winded, as they slow. You back off on your fan-speed to stay in the pack but have to flap in order to maintain altitude.
  326.  
  327. The lead guard arrives. He is of the white with blue eyes variety. "Greetings, Princess Twilight! By order of Princess Celestia, we are to escort you to the castle." he sonorously announces, "Thank you." replies Twilight.
  328.  
  329. The guard flies out ahead, and a row of guards fall into place behind him. Another row forms in behind your party, and you fly the rest of the way having an internal argument with your autopilot.
  330.  
  331. As your group passes over the city walls, the lead guards descend. It becomes obvious that they are headed for the large lawn in front of the castle's main gate. It is made even more obvious by the row of earth pony and unicorn guards standing at attention, spears upraised, before the castle.
  332.  
  333. You pick a spot on the grass and let the autopilot take over. As the pegasi and Twilight touch down, you come down in the midst of them flapping your wings, alighting on your hind legs then fronts, your tail winding down then collapsing into it's usual bundle.
  334.  
  335. You fold your wings in, just as the large main castle doors swing open. A couple of guards blow a salute on long brass horns.
  336.  
  337. Princess Celestia makes her appearance.
  338.  
  339.  
  340. In a sudden burst of paranoia, you check your boiler pressure. It is, thankfully, quite low. Your 'blow-off valve' operating at this moment would have been poorly received, you feel certain. The guards open a path as Her Majesty paces down the steps. "Twilight! It's a pleasure to see you." she says.
  341.  
  342. "You as well, your highness!" Twilight replies. "And, I take it this is the anomalous object?" Celestia says, turning her gaze upon you. "My name's Anonymous, uh, your highness." you say. For added effect, you kick back a fore-hoof and bow.
  343.  
  344. Her Highness arches an eyebrow curiously. The guards have given you a fairly wide berth, but she seems untroubled by your presence. "Come in, won't you?" she asks, then turns and ascends the stairs. Rainbow waves off her troupe of pegasi, who scatter to the skies in relief, while the rest of you follow Celestia past the rows of guards and up into the castle's entrance.
  345.  
  346.  
  347. You'd always rather appreciated the grandeur of the palace, even in 2D. In real life however, the awesomely over-the-top design themes left you slack-jawed. You were led through a great hall, then up more stairs, finally into the throne room.
  348.  
  349. Celestia demurely paced up to her throne and perched. "Twilight, I would like you to explain how you found this... Anonymous object."
  350.  
  351. Twilight fumbled for a moment, then related the tale of how you first met, her suspicion that you were a puppet-golem, her plan to disassemble you, then the shit-nado incident.
  352.  
  353. "My weather-team is going to be cleaning that up for days!" Dash interrupted.
  354.  
  355. "It was self defense!" You interjected.
  356.  
  357. "SILENCE." Celestia demanded, gazing disapprovingly at the two of you. "Allow Twilight to finish." The purple alicorn cleared her throat, then continued on to how you were gifted to her by Discord, and the results of her testing. "So I've determined that while it displays no signs of life, it thinks it's alive. And that's what makes it such an anomaly." she concluded.
  358.  
  359. Celestia gazed down, mulling over the tale. "You say Discord gave it to you. But do you think it was his to give? Is it actually your property, do you think?" she asked. "Legally, if he found it in the Everfree, he has salvage rights over it. And since he gifted it to me, I'd say yes." Twilight replied.
  360.  
  361. "Sargent!" Celestia called, to one of the guards by the door. "Yes, your highness?" "Have a title drawn up for one... Anonymous pony golem, title of ownership to one Twilight Sparkle."
  362.  
  363. 'Oh great.' you think.
  364.  
  365.  
  366.  
  367. "Shall I use the boiler-plate title form for a wagon?" the sargent asks, looking at you appraisingly. "Or is it a rare antiquity?" "I think wagon will do." Celestia replies, and the guard opens the door and leaves.
  368.  
  369. You've had just about enough. "Now see here, your majesty. I'm neither a cart, a thing, nor a possession. I'm a person!" you clang a fore-hoof against the carpet in frustration.
  370.  
  371. "All I'm doing is arranging some sort of legal protection for you while we establish how to express that in law," Celestia replies, "As long as you are legally Twilight's, no-one from, say, the Royal College of Magical Alchemy can demand to have you disassembled for study. It also puts the consequences of your actions onto her responsibility, so if I were you, I would be extremely thankful to Princess Twilight for taking on such an onerous burden on your behalf."
  372.  
  373. You wither somewhat under Celestia's reproachful gaze. "I... Apologize, your highness." you manage, taken aback at the rather ingenious legal maneuver they were pulling. It still grated, however.
  374.  
  375.  
  376. Probably the MOST irritating thing about being titled property was, that it was the ONLY thing that made someone killing you illegal. Other than your owner. Still, it seemed Twilight wasn't feeling very murderous anymore.
  377.  
  378. Rainbow had worn an evil smile during the entire exchange. Twilight's 'wagon' or not, you felt sure that she had some vile plot in mind that you wouldn't enjoy.
  379.  
  380. "Now, as to my examination. Mr- It is Mr, right?" you nod, "Mr. Anonymous, I'll accept the results of Twilight's examination as given. However, I would also like to know a few specifics. For instance. Can you perform magic beyond weather spells? For instance, can you levitate objects?" at this, she gestures to one of the potted ferns lining the chamber.
  381.  
  382. You concentrate. You think, "Extend magic horn". You waggle a fore-hoof at it. Nothing happens but your HUD repeatedly targeting the fern impotently. "Apparently not, your majesty."
  383.  
  384. "Can you make it grow?" she asks next. You plod over to the plant, think "Grow Plant Big", furrow your brows at it, prod it listlessly with a hoof. Nothing.
  385.  
  386. "Very well. Let us retire to the courtyard. I would like to see how you perform as a pegasus."
  387.  
  388. She steps down from her throne and you all file out of the room, Rainbow looking somewhat apprehensive.
  389.  
  390.  
  391.  
  392. You're met in the hallway by the returning unicorn guard, bearing a scroll. "Your title, Princess Twilight." he says, graciously floating the scroll to her with a deferential horn-tilt.
  393.  
  394. You catch a whiff of fresh ink. It's hot off the quill.
  395.  
  396. "Thank you, Sir Guard." she replies, taking hold of it with her aura. Your party pauses as she unrolls it. She giggles.
  397.  
  398. "What? you ask, and she holds it before you.
  399.  
  400. "CERTIFICATE OF TITLE", "MAKE: ANONYMOUS PONY GOLEM", "PAINT: BLACK AND ORANGE TWO-TONE", "MODEL: SPARKING BAT", and "MODEL YEAR: 2014".
  401.  
  402. You really don't see the humor in it.
  403.  
  404. Twilight flashes it to Dash, who snickers also.
  405.  
  406. Celestia, above being amused at such, resumes her march and leads your group to the door leading to the inner courtyard. Your vision dims down a few levels until the dazzle of the sunlight becomes bearable, as you step outside.
  407.  
  408.  
  409. Celestia gracefully launches into the air in a rush of flowing colorful mane and tail. "Come." she requests, hovering before you. Rainbow and Twilight jump into the air after her.
  410.  
  411. Feeling a bit jealous, you go through your routine and take off in the shortest amount of runway yet. Spiraling up, you meet them near the cloud layer.
  412.  
  413. "Can you land on that?" Celestia asks, pointing out a puffy cloud some ways off. Rainbow makes a "pfft." sound with an eye-roll. "He'll go through it like a brick." she says.
  414.  
  415. You whirr over to the cloud, set to land, and touch down. The surface is springy, but takes your weight. It reminds you somewhat of a bouncy-house. You hop a couple of times, and the cloud turns dark and thunders. "Ack!" you think, diving off and flapping away before it zaps you.
  416.  
  417. You rejoin the group, waggling your eyebrows at Dash. She sticks her tongue out at you.
  418.  
  419. "Alright, now I'd like to see some weather." says Celestia, "I think today we could use a bit of rain. I'd like to see light sun-showers, with lightly gusting wind. And make sure it's WATER this time, Mr. Anonymous."
  420.  
  421. "Aye aye, Ma'am!" you say, and try a hoof-salute.
  422.  
  423. You hark back. You know you've seen how this is done. You fly off at max speed toward the closest cloud, loop behind it and fly it back near the group. You gather more and more of them, arranging them in what you hope is a halfway pleasing arrangement.
  424.  
  425. You continue until the clouds are close together but not touching. For some reason Rainbow Dash's smile keeps getting bigger as you work.
  426.  
  427.  
  428.  
  429. Finally, you decide you've got the town more or less covered. Thinking 'light gusty sun-showers", you leap atop a cloud, bounce, leap and wing-glide to the next, and bounce, on to another. You trampoline your way all around the group, hitting each gathered cloud in turn, joyously having fun for the first time since you've arrived. You spiral around once, it seems the clouds are all dumping rain now, then close back in with the group.
  430.  
  431. Celestia is looking vaguely ill. "What's wrong?" you ask.
  432.  
  433. "Come see." she says. Rainbow is still grinning like a Cheshire cat. The four of you descend, getting thoroughly wettened as you fly beneath the clouds. Once you fall low enough to gain perspective, you note that the sky is an icky puce color, and that the arrangement of clouds.... Oh lord. It looks like a giant pony skull puking up a snake.
  434.  
  435. "Oh shit, I made the Dark Mark!" you exclaim, mortified.
  436.  
  437. "Well it's no spring picnic weather, that's for sure." Twilight says.
  438.  
  439. You all land in the courtyard, staring up at the horror you've made. Small bitlets of icy hail strike you painfully, now and then.
  440.  
  441. Seeing your slack-jawed face, Celelestia feels compelled to comment. "We all watched. You weren't trying to do that on purpose. But I think perhaps your talents would best be utilized... In other areas than Canterlot." she peters out
  442.  
  443. "Yeah, like on the moon!" Rainbow suggests hopefully. You restrain an urge to kick her.
  444.  
  445.  
  446. A guard pony troops out and whispers in Celestia's perked ear. You note that he's very expressive, miming hanging himself with a rope, and the classic arm drawn across neck gesture. Celestia's face drops. "Oh dear. Tell them I shall meet with them shortly." she replies. The guard salutes and retreats.
  447.  
  448. "It appears that the diplomatic envoy and his guests that are visiting Canterlot from Saddle Arabia, got caught out in this. They ... Aren't pleased. I shall have to cut our visit short, Twilight." she announces
  449.  
  450. "Well, um, thank you for everything, Celestia. I hope everything's OK. We'll grab something to eat and wing it back to Ponyville then." Twilight says, looking embarrassed.
  451.  
  452. "Very well," Celestia says, "I need to go reassure the diplomats that nothing is wrong. Keep me abreast of things."
  453.  
  454. Rainbow gives you a toothy grin, repeating the neck-slit gesture at you then miming laughter. You hope one of the princesses notices, but neither does.
  455.  
  456. You glare back.
  457.  
  458. Celestia leads the way back into the castle. She gives a wave, while wearing a rather grieved expression, then heads off down a corridor.
  459.  
  460. "Lunch sounds good. I'm hungry." Rainbow says. Nodding, Twilight leads the way to the main castle entrance.
  461.  
  462. You file out into the grim weather. The bustle of the city appears to have dropped to a near standstill.
  463.  
  464. Twilight sets out in search of a restaurant. You and Dash follow.
  465.  
  466.  
  467. Despite another weather disaster at your hooves, you don't think that the princesses really hated you for it. Though you did feel rotten for causing Celestia to be put in such a situation. Dash and Twilight paused in front of each restaurant you passed, as you entered the bustle of the city proper. The ones near the castle tended to be highbrow affairs, which appealed to neither of your traveling companions.
  468.  
  469. Finally Twilight spots a Graze'n Go, which bears a remarkable similarity to an earthly fast-food joint. You all file in. A good number of ponies get an eyeful of you, bits of food falling from their mouths, then storm out of the side exits.
  470.  
  471. The food scent didn't entirely revolt you, but it certainly didn't smell good, either.
  472.  
  473. You sit at a table, the seat giving an alarming creak, as your companions walk up to the counter. It was a relief to have some time to yourself.
  474.  
  475. "Hello?" Twilight asks loudly, sounding peeved. "Can we get some service up here, please?"
  476.  
  477.  
  478.  
  479. There is the sound of a heavy door, perhaps the walk-in cooler, opening, way in back. "Wh-What?" calls a voice.
  480.  
  481. Twilight takes a breath, calling "I said, can we get some service up here!" she yells back.
  482.  
  483. The door shuts again. You can just make out some loud arguing, though it's heavily muffled.
  484.  
  485. The door opens again. A smartly dressed pony with eyeglasses and a pinstriped shirt peeks around the edge of the stainless steel burger-slides behind the registers. "Is... IT gone?" he asks hopefully, then spots you. He shudders.
  486.  
  487. "No, he's not gone." Twilight said coldly. You note the 'he'. Rainbow seems to twitch in annoyance, apparently having noted the same.
  488.  
  489. "W-Well ma'am..." he begins, gaze not leaving you, "I must ask that you park your... Device... Outside, if you would..."
  490.  
  491. "He's not going outside, and you will address me as Princess Twilight!" she said, trying to sound haughty.
  492.  
  493. You wince, knowing how much she hated having to play THAT card.
  494.  
  495. The manager looks over and sees her clearly for the first time. Then vanishes below the counter level, apparently bowing, then popping back up.
  496.  
  497. Turning, he shouts, "Back to work, People! And if I hear any backtalk I'll dock you a day's pay!"
  498.  
  499. The cooler door opens again and there is much cluttering of hooves, as the workers unhappily resume their stations.
  500.  
  501.  
  502. "I would like the double hayburger, heavy alfalfa sprouts, with lettuce, a large fry and a medium CelestialCola, and my friend will have..." Twilight says. The manager hurriedly shifts around the two large keys on the register.
  503.  
  504. Rainbow steps up, "Give me the fried corn pie, two wheat-poppers and a diet pasture dew."
  505.  
  506. More button-shuffling. "That'll be 15 bits." he nervously says, still glancing nervously your direction.
  507.  
  508. "I got it, Rainbow." Twilight says, pulling out a small purse from under her wing and counting out some gold coins. You wonder what those would be worth, back at your old home.
  509.  
  510. The staff, while spooked and showing an unusual amount of white around the eyes, managed to put together the orders and slide the trays across the counter. Twilight levitated hers, while Dash grabbed hers and flew over to your table, plonking the tray down on the table across from you.
  511.  
  512. "Hey Twilight, grab me some ketchup." she calls, and you see a few packets rise from the bin of them and zip over to Dash's tray. Twilight sets herself up to your left.
  513.  
  514. "I forgot to ask, what do you eat?" Twilight asks you.
  515.  
  516. "Honestly, I'm not sure I DO eat." you reply, taking a moment to look at your gauges. Most of them did seem pretty low.
  517.  
  518.  
  519.  
  520. Twilight slides the paper out from under her food, and dumps some fries on it and slides it your way.
  521.  
  522. "You do have something like teeth in there. On either side of your sounding board." she says, gesturing at your mouth.
  523.  
  524. '...My sounding board?' you think. You sniff the fries, hoping for some sign from your body whether you could eat them or not.
  525.  
  526. With an internal shrug, you open your mouth and go to eat them. Your HUD reacts, showing "EXCESSIVE MOISTURE IN FUEL". Well now.
  527.  
  528. You draw back. "I think I better not."
  529.  
  530. Twilight nods, saying "Well if you think of something you can stomach, I'll get you some." Then she unwrapped her burger and chowed down.
  531.  
  532. You sat there thinking. You obviously ate something drier than fries. Yet you belched steam.
  533.  
  534. "Can I have some water?" you ask.
  535.  
  536. Twilight levitates out a coin, sliding it over to you. "Go buy one." she says.
  537.  
  538. You look up at the counter, where the manager has just started wringing his hooves in apprehension, and grin inside.
  539.  
  540.  
  541.  
  542. Grabbing the coin in your teeth (who said getting a horse to accept a bit was hard), you slide off the seat and, tail-blades still jangling, walk slowly toward the counter. The manager-pony draws back further and further until you're sure he's going to fall backwards into the fry-bin. A small stampede happens in the rear of the store, accompanied by the cooler door slamming.
  543.  
  544. The manager stares in terror, as you calmly set the bit on the counter.
  545.  
  546. "I would like one large water, please." you state.
  547.  
  548. He nearly jumps out of his hooves, then edges along the back until he reaches the stack of cups. His eyes never leaving your glowing red ones, he shakily ices then fills it from the drinks fountain. You note that he's shaking so hard it's causing high seas inside the cup, little waves and splashes escaping as he snaps the cap on. It takes him a few tries.
  549.  
  550. "Here- Here you are..." he says, the cup rattling on the counter as he sets it down, slides it across, then once again backs away. You're at a bit of a loss as to how to carry it, thinking that Dash's method of flying it back to the table probably wouldn't work as well for you as it did for her. So you try something new.
  551.  
  552. You stick out your foreleg, and try to roll your hoof around the cup like he'd held it. The cup deforms a bit, but amazingly, it works. You nab a straw out of the dispenser in your teeth, an action that makes the manager-pony jump, then do a 3-legged hobble back to your table. Setting it down triumphantly, you swing your tail out of the way and sit down again.
  553.  
  554. Twilight almost looks proud of you, while Dash is oblivious to the whole affair, tearing into her corn pie.
  555.  
  556.  
  557. Feeling pleased with yourself, you manage to clumsily grab the straw in your hooves and plunge it through the cap. Leaning down, you close your mouth carefully on the straw. Click.
  558.  
  559. You spit out a piece of straw.
  560.  
  561. You try again. Now Dash has noticed you and is grinning again.
  562.  
  563. Click. P-tooie. Another chunk of straw. 'screw this', you think, edging your hooves up the cup and popping the lid off. "Maybe I can lap at it." you think, and try to stick your tongue out. There's a whirr and a metal pipe extends from your mouth. Rainbow actually drops her pie onto her tray.
  564.  
  565. "So that's what that does!" Twilight says.
  566.  
  567. Somewhat horrified yourself, you lower the tube into the icey water and try to drink.
  568.  
  569. A little "wha-pish-wha-pish" type rhythmic sound comes from somewhere near your jaw,and the cup drains right down until a hollow slurping announces it's dry.
  570.  
  571. There's a thud from behind the restaurant counter. It seems the manager passed out.
  572.  
  573. Pulling your 'tongue' back in, you look around.
  574.  
  575. "Ew." Dash says, then goes back to eating.
  576.  
  577.  
  578.  
  579. The funky little 'sight glass' looking gauge in your HUD is substantially higher, you notice, but temp and pressure were still way low.
  580.  
  581. You remember how oddly good Twilight's pencil smelled, when she gave you that pop quiz. But unless you ate the furniture, there wasn't any wood to be had inside a Graze'n Go, so you tabled the notion for later.
  582.  
  583. Twilight and Rainbow finish their meals, seeming to enjoy it alot more than the food itself should have been worth. 'Must be a horse thing. No way I could have eaten that.' you think.
  584.  
  585. Rainbow burps loudly. Twilight giggles and tries to out-burp her. More giggling.
  586.  
  587. The manager recovers, apparently none the worse for having taken a dive, stands and brushes himself down.
  588.  
  589. A couple customers walk in, turn around and walk right back out.
  590.  
  591. "I think we should get going." Twilight announces.
  592.  
  593. "Yeah, I wanna get home before dark." Dash replies.
  594.  
  595. "You good to fly?" Twilight asks. You really don't think so, the added ice-water seemed to be taxing your system.
  596.  
  597. "I think I'm going to need... Probably some wood, or sawdust or something..." you say.
  598.  
  599. "Wood? Really? OK, we'll head down to the industrial district and see what we can find for you." Twilight says.
  600.  
  601.  
  602.  
  603. The three of you set out, much to the relief of the restaurant staff. The weather's still pretty rotten, but the worst of it seemed to have passed, with only the occasional sheet of unpleasant blattering rain passing over you. You wend your way through the streets, having no problem making headway as your mere presence diverted all forms of traffic well away from your party.
  604.  
  605. The style of buildings changed as you went, becoming less showy and more utilitarian, until you reached what Twilight must have been talking about. There were metal-sided warehouses, and heavily loaded carts, and the rare pony you saw tended more toward the heavy earth-pony build.
  606.  
  607. Then you smelled it. Something that, whatever it was, you knew you were to become great friends with.
  608.  
  609. "Stop- Do you smell that?" you said. The delicious aroma was billowing from an open-faced building up the street. "It's coming from there!" you point...
  610.  
  611. "What, the blacksmith?" Twilight asks. "I guess so?" you reply, walking fast toward the place.
  612.  
  613. A blacksmith shop it sure was, with a big earth-pony standing, working a bellows and shifting some half-finished horse-shoes around in a bed of orange glowing... Coals... with some long-handled tongs.
  614.  
  615. You hurry up alongside him. "Hey, can I buy some of that?" you ask
  616.  
  617.  
  618.  
  619. The large pony turns to look at you, the reflection of the coal brazier flashing off of his cool steam-punky dark smoked goggles. He freezes for just a second, then leaps away, still holding the tongs. A red-hot horse-shoe and a few burning coals bounce off you, as he scrambles backwards.
  620.  
  621. "No! Wait!" you implore, and he stops, back against some barrels of water.
  622.  
  623. Twilight hurries up. "I'm sorry, Sir! I know he can be a bit- Surprising, but he's not evil! We just want to buy some of your coal, I think!"
  624.  
  625. The burly pony raises his goggles, watching you as you stamp out the coals, then clumsily get ahold of the glowing shoe in your hooves. You set it on his anvil.
  626.  
  627. "Who... Who made that..." he says, standing up, a glow in his eyes not entirely from the forge. "That's amazing!" he continues, walking up to you, appraising you.
  628.  
  629. Apparently, you interest him professionally more than you repel him.
  630.  
  631. You began to feel uncomfortable as he comes in close, tapping your side with a hoof. "Rolled steel..." then he stares at your hooves, "Milled..."
  632.  
  633. "How much do you want for it?" he finally asks, staring curiously between Twilight and Rainbow, unsure which of them to address.
  634.  
  635. "Wha'cha offerin'?" says Dash.
  636.  
  637. "He's not for sale!" exclaims Twilight, giving Dash a look. "We just want to buy some coal. He, uh, eats it."
  638.  
  639. "Well. I suppose I could, sure. How's 4 pounds a bit sound? he asks. "Fine. Give us.. Oh, 16 pounds?" she says, gazing at you questioningly. "And some of your water." you say. You hope you're not drooling or something.
  640.  
  641.  
  642.  
  643. Twilight hands over the bits, and the blacksmith goes and measures up the coal. He returns with it in a bucket.
  644.  
  645. He sets it down by you, staring curiously. They all are.
  646.  
  647. You sniff. Oh lawdy! Perfectly aged with just a hint of earthy overtones... Your HUD approves too, though with less enthusiasm than your nose. "HIGH GRADE FUEL" it says.
  648.  
  649. Though, you really didn't need to be told twice. You dig in, crunching up the bite-size nuggets. You even enjoy the TEXTURE of the stuff, as it breaks apart.
  650.  
  651. The assembled ponies stare in awe.
  652.  
  653. You don't worry about them, though, letting your jaw practically chatter, grinding the stuff up. You find you don't have to swallow, you must have some kind of conveyor or feed-screw or god knows what. The level in the bucket drops until you hit the bottom.
  654.  
  655. You lift the bucket by the edge, and dump the rest of the heavy dust down your gullet.
  656.  
  657. Then you belch a small fireball. The blacksmith starts clapping, Twilight's grinning, and Dash looks bored.
  658.  
  659. You head over to one of his water-barrels, stick out your tongue, and top up your tank.
  660.  
  661.  
  662.  
  663. You drink until your sight-glass thingy shows full, drawing your head back and pulling your 'tongue' in. You breathe heavily, it feels as if you'd just totally pigged out in your old human form. Other than the panics you cause in public, you could get used to this life.
  664.  
  665. Your breathing was accomplishing something, too. On the exhales, smoke began pluming from your nostrils. You walk outside, not wishing to smoke out the blacksmith's place.
  666.  
  667. "So? How do you feel?" Twilight asks. Even Dash seemed to be wearing a halfway interested expression, as you breathe out little clouds of sparks along with the smoke.
  668.  
  669. "I'm feeling alot better, actually!" you say. You examine your internal dashboard. Everything was going up, fast. "I think I'll be ready to fly, soon."
  670.  
  671. The blacksmith goggled. "It FLIES?" he asks incredulously. "It tries anyhow." Dash responds.
  672.  
  673. "Hey I do pretty good." you say, miffed at the all the "it"s. "And I'm a 'he', OK?"
  674.  
  675. "Yeah yeah whatever." the blue pegasus says, pretending to preen a wing.
  676.  
  677. Your pressure gauge was edging past it's center-point, heading toward Raucous Fart.
  678.  
  679. "OK I think we better take off." you tell Twilight.
  680.  
  681. "Hey, uh, mister, if you need any parts or repairs or anything, keep me in mind!" the blacksmith comments. "Will do, and thanks!" you reply.
  682.  
  683.  
  684.  
  685. You suspect the blacksmith was more curious about your construction than Twilight, even. You can't really blame him though, if you'd come across something like you, and weren't afraid it was going to attack- Yeah. You'd want to see how it worked, or at least see it again if it left.
  686.  
  687. Twilight and Rainbow are confabbing as to whether they need anything else from Canterlot before they leave. A decision is reached, that being that they're all set to go.
  688.  
  689. "I bet I can beat you and your new toy back to Ponyville!" Dash says, leaping into the air and streaking way up.
  690.  
  691. Twilight gives you a rather pained expression, and says "Just do your best." then she takes off too.
  692.  
  693. Dammit. You set yourself for takeoff. As your wings unfurl and lock, you glance back at the blacksmith, who's staring, mouth agape. "Stand back, I kick up some dust." you call back. Face not changing expression, he steps off to the side.
  694.  
  695. You kick your fan up to full speed, flap for all you're worth and soon lift off.
  696.  
  697.  
  698.  
  699. Twilight was hanging back, waiting for you. Dash was a distant spot in the sky. You power your way up to meet Twilight, and the two of you set off. "I don't mind trying to go flat-out." you mention. "Flat out? Really? Alright, let's see what you can do!" Twilight calls back, increasing her pace.
  700.  
  701. You put full power to your ass, which would have been a terrifying thought in your old life. You'd known you had a speedometer for a while, and you keep an eye on it as it rises. You have to shorten the stroke on your madly flapping wings as they flex backward from the drag, and eventually you max out at about a hundred. A hundred what, you don't know. You decide to call it "Percent". But Twilight's keeping up, though she's straining. And Dash is a speck so small you keep losing track of her.
  702.  
  703. You're a bit irritated, wondering if the smith could outfit you with JATO rockets or something, then decide to just accept it. Rainbow was probably the fastest thing in the sky, on this world, and you weren't exactly a jet-fighter.
  704.  
  705. Regardless, this feels really good. The streaks of smog you exhale leave an intermittent contrail behind you as you chug along, rapidly vanishing.
  706.  
  707. Finally Twilight shouts over the wind that she's getting tired. You weren't, though you do feel like a teapot on high boil. You dial back the speed, slowing down to a downright leisurely pace, until her wheezing begins to subside.
  708.  
  709. "Tha- That's enough of that for today..." she says. You continue on, eye-zooming around the landscape until you spot Ponyville. Soon, a rainbow streak comes sailing back toward you.
  710.  
  711. Rainbow streaks a circle around the two of you exclaiming "Hah! Got you slowpokes! I win!"
  712.  
  713.  
  714.  
  715. You're mildly irritated at how happy she is, then decide you're being petty. She's just good at what she does. and what she does is zoom around really fast. Still, you wish she'd quit it with the bobbing and zigzagging.
  716.  
  717. The three of you fly along the rest of the way, passing by the town to the left. "I'd like to visit Applejack and tell her I'm OK." Twilight says.
  718.  
  719. Looking around, you spot that distinctive red barn off in the distance. It was easy to find, all you had to do was look for a huge expanse of apple trees and find the nearest buildings.
  720.  
  721. Twilight and Dash, of course, were already heading for it.
  722.  
  723. The three of you touch down in the front yard of the farmhouse.
  724.  
  725.  
  726.  
  727. Twilight had apparently been putting some thought into how to introduce you to her friends, as she asks, "Anonymous, do you think you could perform that tornado effect on demand?"
  728.  
  729. You think about it for a moment, wondering if fear of death was necessary to accomplish it. Probably not, but even so you could probably fake it... "I think so?"
  730.  
  731. "Good. Then I know just how to introduce you to the Apple family."
  732.  
  733. With that, she walks up to the house and knocks. The wrinkled, green matriarch of the family opens the door.
  734.  
  735. "If she thinks getting you to rain shit on Granny is going to make points with the rest of them, she's probably wrong." Dash says
  736.  
  737. "It's a farm, Dash. I think what Twilight's saying is I could shit up the fields for them, for fertilizer." you explain. "Well, ANYBODY could do that!" "Sure but not all at once!" "You just don't know the right ponies, then!" she finishes. You hang your head and sigh, defeated.
  738.  
  739. At least she's more or less talking to you now. The visit to Canterlot, and particularly the trip back, seemed to have calmed down her hatred a little.
  740.  
  741.  
  742. You see Granny look around the side of Twilight, at Dash and, particularly, you. The door slams. Twilight waits patiently.
  743.  
  744. Presently, it opens again. It's Applejack. "Ah think yer friend gave Granny a bit of a surprahz when she saw 'em." she says, stepping out onto the porch.
  745.  
  746. Big Mac issues from the house also, standing on Twilight's left. The two of them step down the porch stairs, Twilight following, and walk halfway up to where you and Dash are standing.
  747.  
  748. "He's harmless, don't worry!" Twilight says.
  749.  
  750. "Ah reckon you ain't never seen a pony like that before, eh, Big Mac?" Applejack says.
  751.  
  752. "Eenope."
  753.  
  754. "He can spread man-err for half a mile wide and twice as long, just bah flappin' 'is wings, too. Ah seen it." she continued.
  755.  
  756. You watched Mac's expression closely. It was clear that he was very put off by your appearance. You decide to say something.
  757.  
  758. "You must be Big Mac," you say, "It's a pleasure to meet you!"
  759.  
  760. You extend a fore-hoof. Mac stands, stoically.
  761.  
  762. "Yer a man-err spreader?" he asks, peering closely at your hoof as if it'd be encrusted. To be truthful it sorta had been, until all the walking through the rain-swept streets of Canterlot.
  763.  
  764. "Um, well I do other things too." you say, and waggle your hoof a little.
  765.  
  766. Mac comes to a decision, then shakes hooves with you. Phew!
  767.  
  768.  
  769. You see Applebloom peer around a curtain in the house. Moments later she's galloping down the steps.
  770.  
  771. "What's thay-at?!" she says, coming up between her siblings.
  772.  
  773. "It's a manerr-spreader." Big Mac answers. It's becoming obvious that you're going to have to work at this. Once again, it seems, you're a piece of equipment.
  774.  
  775. "Don't look much like our old one." she says, trotting a circle around you.
  776.  
  777. "I'm not exactly a..." you start, "I'm just a pegasus with some rare talents." you finish.
  778.  
  779. Big Mac snorts, but his expression remains stoic.
  780.  
  781. "Ah bet you could pull a plow pretty good." she says. You begin to become offended again, before realizing that that's a pony-job here.
  782.  
  783. "Probably? I've never tried?" you say. "Well one'o these days we're just gonna have'ta find out!" Applejack says
  784.  
  785. "How's yer fire-breathin'?" she asks you, "Ah'd lahk to ask y'all inside, but ah don't wanna have'ta worry about tha place catchin' on fahr?" ... Oh she's a tactful one.
  786.  
  787. "Well I'm pretty full of fuel I guess, but I haven't 'flamed out' in a while now. I'd probably be OK." you answer.
  788.  
  789. She turns to the house. "Granny, we're comin' in! ALL of us, so be ready!" she glances back at you, "An fill up a buckit 'o water, just in case!"
  790.  
  791. With that, she leads the way to the porch, and in.
  792.  
  793.  
  794. You check your gauges before going in. All pretty much nominal. You were getting a handle on the fire-control, it seemed that your breathing really mainly served to rev up your burner. You could breathe shallowly and watch the gauges fall. You decide to keep yourself damped down to very low flame while indoors.
  795.  
  796. The bad thing about it was, you tended to forget about how fast you were breathing. Especially if you were nervous. You'd just have to work at it.
  797.  
  798. The porch creaks a little as you go up the stairs, likewise the floors. Fortunately, pony construction was pretty sturdy. They weren't exactly featherweights themselves after all. Inside, the house is cozy and, once again, alot more fun to look at than the cartoon version.
  799.  
  800. "C'mon into tha dinin' room," Applejack says, "An' everybody pull yerselves up a seat. We were just about to have dinner!"
  801.  
  802. "Oh boy, oh boy!" Rainbow says, "Thanks Applejack! We worked up a hunger flying back!"
  803.  
  804. Twilight seemed less famished, but politely thanked her as well.
  805.  
  806. "Thank-you for your hospitality!" You say, feeling you had to say something, even if you couldn't eat anything they were gonna dish up. The table was already set for seven, apparently Granny had been busy. You'd have smiled, she at least thought you were pony-ish enough to set a spot.
  807.  
  808. You take a seat next to Twilight, who was, aside from being your new owner, also going well out of her way to get you into her clique of friends.
  809.  
  810. Applebloom sits down to your right. She looks over curiously, then pokes your side with a hoof. "You're really hot, Mister!" she says, "It's lahk sittin' next to the water-heater!"
  811.  
  812. You decide to embrace her honesty. "That's sort of pretty much spot-on, Applebloom." you reply.
  813.  
  814. You try not to breathe at all, hoping you won't radiantly roast everyone at the table to death. After that thorough dunking Discord had treated you to, you knew you'd relight easily enough if you, er, went out.
  815.  
  816. It's sort of uncomfortable. The animal part of your brain, the old human you, tended to viscerally panic from the concept. But there was no real discomfort other than that. Besides it probably saved fuel.
  817.  
  818. A wrinkled green face peers around the kitchen door. You could swear you saw a hoof move in a circular-type "crossing myself" blessing. Then Granny emerged fully, bearing a tray of, of course, sliced apples.
  819.  
  820.  
  821. She set them down in the middle of the table, going back and shuttling more dishes out. 'Geez, if I didn't eat coal, I'd probably turn diabetic in a week here.' you think, watching as piles of fritters and pies were produced. Then she sat down also. You waved off a mug of cider, being pretty sure that sugar and engine-type things were a bad idea.
  822.  
  823. Grace was said, which didn't totally surprise you, then the ponies went at the food with gusto. You shuttled plates as they passed you, which was a real challenge with hooves, but other than a couple close calls you managed not to drop anything.
  824.  
  825. It wasn't exactly a feeding-frenzy, but boy the appple-ponies knew how to put it away. Rainbow and Twilight managed a pretty good accounting of themselves too. You sat and enjoyed the show.
  826.  
  827. "Show," said Applejack around a mouthful of fritter, "What'd Celestia say when she saw the... Uh..." "Anonymous." you fill in, "Yeah, when she saw the Anonymous?"
  828.  
  829. Twilight took a drink of cider. "Well, the princess had alot of the guards out when we got there. It was quite the spectacle."
  830.  
  831. Applejack nodded, "Yeah them guards tend to be mostly stallions." You note Twilight's lip quirking. Then she continues, "Then she took us inside, and had Mr. Anonymous drawn up with a cart title in my name, so it'd be illegal for ponies to mess with him."
  832.  
  833. "Yeah. It'd be vandalism." you say, somewhat sourly.
  834.  
  835.  
  836.  
  837. "I bet if he stands still by a hydrant he'll get a parking ticket." Rainbow says, giggling.
  838.  
  839. "NOT funny." you reply, noting one or two guilty smiles.
  840.  
  841. "An then?" Applejack asks.
  842.  
  843. "Then, the princess had him demonstrate his weather skills over Canterlot."
  844.  
  845. There was an aghast silence around the table. Twilight broke it, "She had him make it rain. WATER rain."
  846.  
  847. There was a collective sigh of relief.
  848.  
  849. "I did horrible. Made it storm, ugliest clouds you ever saw." you recount miserably.
  850.  
  851. "Aw, now sugar, don't you be bein' all hard on yerself. If'n she asked ya fer rain and ya made it rain, you done good." Granny says, consolingly.
  852.  
  853. "Thanks, Granny." you reply. She really did make you feel better. You couldn't help but like the old pony.
  854.  
  855.  
  856. "No, really," Rainbow broke in, "You should have seen it. It was SUPER bad. Got Princess Celestia in trouble with some foreign guys, she had to throw us outta the castle and try and stop a war..."
  857.  
  858. "Thank you, Rainbow." Twilight said coldly, trying to regain control of the conversation, "So then we went and got a bite to eat. That's when we discovered that Anonymous eats coal."
  859.  
  860. "Yeah, from a blacksmith! He ate a whole bucketful." Dash supplied helpfully.
  861.  
  862. "Hey, it's good! You guys have no idea." you say, wistfully remembering the moment.
  863.  
  864. "Ah got some charcoal for tha bar-ba-cue. Out in tha barn." Mac volunteered.
  865.  
  866. That actually sounded... Kinda good. 'Why not.' you think. "I'll try some? Once you guys are done?"
  867.  
  868. Mac nods
  869.  
  870. The conversation meandered after that, Rainbow recounting the 'great race', Applejack talking about tent-worms (Yecch!), Granny gossiping about some ponies you didn't know...
  871.  
  872. The sky outside the window had darkened considerably by the time dinner wrapped up.
  873.  
  874.  
  875. By the time Applebloom got done describing the intricate knot-tying her and her friends had been doing, in order to earn their cutiemarks (naturally), you felt like you could murder a bucket of briquettes.
  876.  
  877. "Hey Big Mac, do you think we could fade around to the barn and get into the charcoal?" you ask.
  878.  
  879. "Ah reckon ah don't see why not."
  880.  
  881. "You're excused." Granny said as a matter of course. Dinner at Applejacks, it seemed, conformed to some classic protocols.
  882.  
  883. The two of you stand. You have a nervous moment as your legs nearly buckle. Your pressure's all the way down. You take a few deep breaths, and watch your temp gauge rise. You already knew you could walk without your machinebody being... Well, functional, but it took alot more effort.
  884.  
  885. It takes a bit of willpower to follow him through the (very cozy) kitchen and out the back door, but you recover quickly.
  886.  
  887. The big red pony grabs a flashlight on the way out, clicking it on to reveal a neatly trimmed yard (you smile a little, imagining how it might stay that way) and leads you past some assorted farm implements and through a pony-size door in the side of the barn.
  888.  
  889.  
  890.  
  891.  
  892. He's very quiet, but that comes as no surprise. He rifles around in there, finally locating a bag that's marked alot like the ones back at home.
  893.  
  894. He hoists it and brings it over, sets it down then goes and gets a pail also.
  895.  
  896. You feel like you need to sneeze. The odd feeling had been coming on for some time, and the barn looked way to flammable for that. "BURNER PURGE CYCLE" scrolls past your inner vision.
  897.  
  898. "Hey Mac, I gotta sneeze I think. I'm gonna step out for a minute." you tell him, as he's dumping some of the charcoal into the pail.
  899.  
  900. You beat it outdoors, inhale sharply and sneeze. It looks like a galaxy of sparks.
  901.  
  902. The flashlight beam finds you from out of the doorway. "Y'all alright?" Mac says, walking up beside you.
  903.  
  904. You sneeze again, pluming out a cloud. One more sneeze and the fit seemed to be over.
  905.  
  906.  
  907.  
  908. "Ya sneezed ashes all over." Mac says. He's right, for about ten feet in front of you, the yard's white with dust.
  909.  
  910. "Sorry!" you say, mortified
  911.  
  912. "S'allright. Ashes're good fer grass." he continues.
  913.  
  914. At least you didn't hawk up a clinker, like an owl. Of course, the night was young...
  915.  
  916. "I think I'll go for that charcoal, now." you say. He trots into the barn and comes out with the bucket.
  917.  
  918. You sniff. Impudent, with a woodsy undertone and just a hint of apples. Your HUD says, once again, high grade.
  919.  
  920. You dig in. It's not coal, but its very good. You get full before reaching the bottom.
  921.  
  922.  
  923.  
  924. "Thanks, man. Can I get some of this in a sack, or something?" you ask
  925.  
  926. "Eeyup." Mac replies, then rummages around in the barn and produces a pretty dust-tight looking coated canvas bag. It must have been an old feed-sack of some kind, how appropriate.
  927.  
  928. He dumps in some of the charcoal from the bag, then the remainder of your bucket. He holds it out to you, and you carefully mouth it.
  929.  
  930. In a burst of Twilight-fuelled inspiration, you open a wing-cover. Mac stares curiously. You tuck the bag underneath your wing-joint, then fold it shut.
  931.  
  932. "That's handy." he says simply, then leads the way back to the house.
  933.  
  934. "I'll find some way to repay the hospitality." you say, appreciative of the gift. He nods. "Ah expect we'll be needin' yer expertise once we get the back 90 plowed." "I'll do my best!" you reply.
  935.  
  936.  
  937. As you follow the flashlight toting Mac back through the backyard, you hope fervently that you can fulfill what now seems like an obligation. But if you could do it once, you were pretty sure you could do it again.
  938.  
  939. It also occurs to you to wonder if you could make it rain money using the same technique. It'd sure solve your popularity issues in the short term! But then, even if burying a city in excrement seemed to be a legally forgivable offense, you seriously doubted that counterfeiting would be so easily overlooked.
  940.  
  941. Head buzzing with thought, you almost bump into Mac's big red ass as he stops to open the door. The two of you file in, to discover that the party had moved into the kitchen as plates were plunked into the sink and things put away.
  942.  
  943. "So, did he eat it?" Applejack asks Big Mac. "Eeyup." "Told ya he eats stuff like that!" Dash said, nodding.
  944.  
  945. "It's good, too!" you add. "Well that's great! I'm glad we got somethin' you lahk on hand for when ya visit." Applejack says.
  946.  
  947. Granny puttered around, putting a butter-dish in the fridge. "If'n there's such a thing as gourmet charcoal, that's what we'll start buyin', sure 'nuff." she added, nodding.
  948.  
  949. "I appreciate it!" you reply. You take a contented breath and a tiny spark zips from your nose, burning itself out almost immediately. Applejack's eyes widen.
  950.  
  951. "Hehe Well, I think we'd better get on the road to town." Twilight says, having noticed also.
  952.  
  953. You decide to hold your breath until you get outside.
  954.  
  955.  
  956.  
  957. You, Twilight and Dash congregate at the foot of the porch stairs, as the apples say goodnight and troop back inside.
  958.  
  959. "Goodnight Twilight! Night, Mecha-monster!" Dash quips, then zooms off for home in a rush of wind.
  960.  
  961. Luna's moon had risen, and shone down on the idyllic farm in a very picturesque, if somewhat creepy manner.
  962.  
  963. A light breeze flutters the leaves on the apple trees scattered around the yard. The air has a sense of cool dampness, and smells lightly of fresh grass and, of course, apples.
  964.  
  965. "Nice night for a walk, I think." Twilight says.
  966.  
  967. "Eeyup. I mean, yeah." you reply, brightening your eyes up to night-vision.
  968.  
  969. Twilight turns on her horn as a torch. Dazzled, you dial your vision down to normal.
  970.  
  971. "No sense running into things!" she says, then takes off at a slow trot back toward town.
  972.  
  973. You take off after her, glad that your body already knew how to do things like trot, though soon you get the hang of the leg-movements yourself.
  974.  
  975.  
  976. She has a certain rhythm to her step that you can't help but match, the synchronized "clop-clop-clop" being so hypnotic in itself that you find yourself humming different songs to it. Some fit, some don't. You unconsciously settle on "horse with no name", and more or less ride the song most of the way back.
  977.  
  978. Twilight is also in a world of her own, often looking upward at the constellations of stars or simply seeming lost in thought.
  979.  
  980. The road is smooth and the packed dirt feels good on your hooves.
  981.  
  982. Then the stench hits you. You almost stumble, it's like striking a wall.
  983.  
  984. Twilight is likewise shaken from her reverie.
  985.  
  986. "Uggh. Let's fly the rest of the way." she suggests, then takes to the air.
  987.  
  988. You stop, opening your wing-covers, and carefully grab the bag of charcoal out.
  989.  
  990. Extending your wings, you look ahead for any trees you might hit, then you take off, heading up to meet Twilight's shining star of horn-light.
  991.  
  992. She nods to you as you arrive, saying "We'll shoot for my balcony." then flaps away. You follow.
  993.  
  994.  
  995. It's a fairly short flight, soon you're passing over lit-windowed homes and buildings, the treebrary soon becoming visible.
  996.  
  997. Twilight alights on the smallish but serviceable balcony, and you come around wide and touch grandly down beside her, one of your wings draping over her back for a moment before you raise them, then fold them in.
  998.  
  999. The floor of the balcony seems tolerably clean, some poor pegasus must have shoveled it off.
  1000.  
  1001. Twilight knocks on the glass door. Spike comes running up to the other side, expression falling as he sees you're with her. Regardless, he unlatches and opens the door, and you troop inside.
  1002.  
  1003. "How did it go?" Spike asks uncertainly. "Oh everything's fine, Spike. Anonymous is going to be staying with us for a while." "Oh." the little dragon says, tail drooping.
  1004.  
  1005. "Now, Anonymous, I'm going to need you to wear a spark arrestor while you're inside. I can't have you setting us on fire." Twilight says, trooping down a staircase. You follow her.
  1006.  
  1007. "Where are you going to find a mechanical pony nostril-spark arrestor?" you ask.
  1008.  
  1009. "I'm gong to MAKE one!" she replies.
  1010.  
  1011. You should have known.
  1012.  
  1013.  
  1014. Twilight leads the way back down to the lab. She surveys the junk on her work benches. "Do you think just the nostrils, or your whole muzzle?" she asks.
  1015.  
  1016. You certainly don't want this turning into a gimp-suit, so you say "Just the nostrils, I think!"
  1017.  
  1018. She rustles around, looking for something in the cupboards, then calls up the stairs. "Spike! Bring me the tea-strainer ball from the kitchen!"
  1019.  
  1020. "Aye aye." comes tiredly from above.
  1021.  
  1022. Twilight produces a roll of 1/2" leather strap, a jar of Chicago screws and a leather punch. Setting those down, she goes for another rummage, nabbing a couple screwdrivers, a rivet gun, a tape measure... And a few other things, including pad and paper.
  1023.  
  1024. "OK, I'm going to take some measurements." she says, wrapping the tape measure around your muzzle, peering at it then marking down the measurement, then around the back of your head around your nose.
  1025.  
  1026. There is some furious sparking from the tape as she does so. She peers, and marks down the distance. "Sorry if I shorted you out a little." she says, inspecting the scorch-marks on her tape, then letting it roll back up.
  1027.  
  1028. You watch curiously as she sketches a pony-head, then a basic halter. She stops and gnaws her pencil a bit, peering at the nostrils.
  1029.  
  1030. "Found it!" Spike announces, hurrying down the stairs carrying a smallish metal ball. "Thanks,Spike. This might take a while, so if you'd like, feel free to go to bed." she says, levitating the tea-ball from him.
  1031.  
  1032.  
  1033.  
  1034. While you like watching her work, you can't help but look around at all the cool stuff she's got. Some of it's recognizable, alot of it isn't. You're tempted to poke around at things, especially the big assortment of glassware and beakers full of bubbling stuff.
  1035.  
  1036. You decide it might not end well,
  1037.  
  1038. There's a metal snapping sound, and you glance back to the miracle of creation taking place. She's just busted the fine-mesh tea-ball in two. She's got her tongue sticking out the side of her mouth, and a ... Tin-snip? Must be a sharp one... Cutting a half-circle around a folded scrap of leather. A round piece falls out, and she floats half of the tea-ball into the hole left behind.
  1039.  
  1040. The construction goes on for about a half hour, after which she holds up the funniest-looking halter you've seen to date.
  1041.  
  1042. "Well? What do you think?" she says. "Um, it looks like it'll work..." you trail off.
  1043.  
  1044. "Let me just adjust it to fit you." she says, floating the device around your head.
  1045.  
  1046. Hell, it's even got little buckles and rows of holes for sizing.
  1047.  
  1048. You stand, and she gets in really close, peering at where the little tea-strainer domes meet your nose.
  1049.  
  1050. "Hold still." she says, and with a needle-nose and a small hammer she bends and forms the mesh domes until they set down perfect to the shape of your face.
  1051.  
  1052. After a minute or two of this, she announces "Ta-daa! Spark-arrestor built!"
  1053.  
  1054. You don't even want to know what you look like wearing this thing.
  1055.  
  1056.  
  1057. "Now then, since we're no longer in danger of burning up in our sleep, where would you like to sleep?" Twilight asks.
  1058.  
  1059. Once again, you're not sure you actually DO sleep anymore, but you do need to be somewhere while everyone else did. Outside was probably out, and not just because of the stink. 'Vandalism' was a very real threat. To say nothing of rust from morning dew.
  1060.  
  1061. "Um. Maybe I could curl up on the floor. I don't really think I need much in the way of padding?" you venture.
  1062.  
  1063. Twilight looks a little put off, but you could tell she wasn't eager to put you and your sparking neck into a nice, fluffy bed, either.
  1064.  
  1065. "Hm, I'll see what I can do once we're upstairs." she says, leading the way back up.
  1066.  
  1067. She rummaged around, finally locating a wool blanket.
  1068.  
  1069. "This isn't terribly flammable, and standing or laying, it beats a hard floor." she says, folding it in two and spreading it out.
  1070.  
  1071. "Thanks, Twilight." "You're welcome, Anon. Now I've got to get some sleep." She yawns, then ascends the stairs to her room.
  1072.  
  1073. The lights go out. You walk over to the blanket, fold up your legs and sit.
  1074.  
  1075. "Um. I want to go into easily-awoken standby mode?" you think.
  1076.  
  1077. Then you're out, unsurprisingly, rather like a light.
  1078.  
  1079.  
  1080. "Thoom-thoom-thoom. Thoom-thoom-bong-clang. Thunk thud clang."
  1081.  
  1082. You can hear and feel something peppering your side with impacts, but for a moment all you can see is rolling text. Then your vision comes to life. Sunlight shines outside the windows.
  1083.  
  1084. Spike's standing there, broom-handle outstretched. "I'm up! I'm up!" you yell. You're still in the exact position you were when you ... Went to sleep.
  1085.  
  1086. "Twilight said to wake you up. She's in the kitchen." he says, watching you warily.
  1087.  
  1088. Your 'dashboard' gauges look totally dead. You breathe hard for a while, stoking your fire. You get a little temperature built up. You weren't warming up very fast, though.
  1089.  
  1090. "Hey Spike, could ya be a pal and bring me that bag I brought in last night?" you ask.
  1091.  
  1092. Spike almost looks relieved, you asking him to do something for you putting him in a more familiar social situation. He trots off up the stairs and grabs the bag from by the balcony door.
  1093.  
  1094. "Here." he says, dropping the bag by you. You hoof it over, nose it open and shove your head in, scarfing down a few briquettes.
  1095.  
  1096. "What's taking so long?" comes Twilight's annoyed voice, as she walks into the room.
  1097.  
  1098. You let your mouth clear, then say "Just having a bite of breakfast, is all.", your voice muffled a bit from the sack.
  1099.  
  1100. You scarf down one more, then open your side and drop the bag in. You're getting great heat going now, and you breathe deeply.
  1101.  
  1102. Sure enough, Twilight's spark arrestor performs as designed. Considering Twilight built it, you're not surprised. Even if it was just some junk thrown together.
  1103.  
  1104.  
  1105. "Well, once you're ready, I want us to fly out to Fluttershy's. I'd like to introduce you to her properly." Twilight says, producing a scroll. On it are a list of her friends' names, with check-boxes alongside. Fluttershy and Rarity remained unchecked.
  1106.  
  1107. You weren't sure you approved of her setting your day's activities, but she was, after all, a very organized pony. And you did want to try to mend bridges.
  1108.  
  1109. Rarity, however... You dread meeting her again. You wonder if she ever got the stains out of her pure white coat.
  1110.  
  1111. You're fairly certain that the big fancy frilled hat she had been wearing on that fateful day met with early retirement, too.
  1112.  
  1113. Fluttershy, though... Yeah, Twilight's idea was a good one.
  1114.  
  1115. "OK, I'm just, you know, stoking the fire a little before I get underway." you explain. You set your hooves and get up, the cylenders that work your legs responding slowly but smoothly at the still-low boiler pressure.
  1116.  
  1117. "Hey, Twilight... Something to add to your list." you add, "Does Ponyville have a blacksmith?"
  1118.  
  1119.  
  1120.  
  1121. She looks a little nonplussed. "I thought you knew everything about us."
  1122.  
  1123. "No, I just watched you, uh, sort of like through a window now and then. I saw main event type things, big happenings, especially with you and your friends. Not so much the everyday life aspect." you explain.
  1124.  
  1125. She hmms. "Yes. We have a blacksmith, did you want more coal?" "Yeah, that'd be great. Also I could use a drink?"
  1126.  
  1127. "I anticipated that, I filled the sink with warm water. Come into the kitchen." she turned around and went back through the door
  1128.  
  1129. You plod along after her. She's standing by the large kitchen sink, below a window. Visible through the somewhat smeared window is the town.
  1130.  
  1131. Earth ponies are walking the streets inside plow-machines like you'd seen at Applejack's in the winter episode.
  1132.  
  1133. "Looks like they've made some headway, cleaning up the crap." you mention.
  1134.  
  1135. "Let's hope so. You know, getting the townsfolk to accept you is going to take some work."
  1136.  
  1137. "I know, let's just do what we can and maybe I can figure out a way to make it up to them."
  1138.  
  1139. Twilight snickers a little. "Good luck!"
  1140.  
  1141.  
  1142.  
  1143. "Yeah I imagine it'll take a little convincing. They all ran from me even before the- Uh, incident."
  1144.  
  1145. Twilight maintains a neutral expression, nodding.
  1146.  
  1147. You drink about half the sink worth, filling up. The water tastes pretty good, you were halfway afraid it'd taste like dish-soap or something since it was in the sink. Maybe she washed it out good, first.
  1148.  
  1149. "That was great, thanks!" you say. You look thoughtful for a moment as you check your internals. "I think I'm about ready to fly. I've still got some charcoal from the Apples, so it's no problem if you want to see Fluttershy first."
  1150.  
  1151. "No, I think we should visit the town blacksmith and get you set up with supplies first." Twilight replies
  1152.  
  1153. "Or that. I'm easy."
  1154.  
  1155. Twilight opens the back door and looks around. "I think we should leave through the front." she says, re-closing the door and leading the way.
  1156.  
  1157. At the front door, you ask if she minds taking the spark-arrestor off. She magic's the thing off of your head.
  1158.  
  1159. While it wasn't uncomfortable, it certainly wasn't entirely pleasant to wear full-time.
  1160.  
  1161. "I'll just bring it with us in case you need it." she says, folding it up and packing it into a little saddlebag, which she slung over her back.
  1162.  
  1163. "Oh. Thanks." you manage.
  1164.  
  1165.  
  1166.  
  1167. She produces a much larger dual saddlebag for you. "You're going to need something to carry your coal in." she explains, draping a strap over your head and dropping the bags over your back. You wiggle and the saddlebags slide into a surprisingly comfortable fit, just behind your wing covers.
  1168.  
  1169. You'd have been tempted to ask to keep them... If they weren't purple with large yellow flowers all over them.
  1170.  
  1171. If twilight was having fun at your expense, it was impossible to tell. Most likely they'd been a gift from Rarity at some point.
  1172.  
  1173. She opens the door, lets you out, then turns back. "Spike, we're going to be gone most of the day. Feel free to make yourself whatever you like from the refrigerator, or order in."
  1174.  
  1175. "Gotcha!" echoes from inside, and she closes the door.
  1176.  
  1177. "The blacksmith's this way." she says, taking the lead down the road, which is now blissfully free of clumps. Though it still stinks a bit.
  1178.  
  1179. You notice something funny. The ponies you approach start to smile upon seeing Twilight, then gawk and flee at seeing what was following her.
  1180.  
  1181. If anything, the saddlebags only made it worse.
  1182.  
  1183.  
  1184.  
  1185. You arrive at another open-faced structure. The blacksmith there is something a little different. He's a big, tan unicorn. He seems to be presently engaged with a customer, who is apparently buying a length of heavy chain.
  1186.  
  1187. "You wait here, I'll go talk to him." Twilight says. You edge mostly out of sight along the side of the place, keeping an eye on the proceedings.
  1188.  
  1189. They conclude their business with a hoof-full of gold bits, and Twilight steps up.
  1190.  
  1191. "Hello, a friend of mine would like to buy a couple saddlebags full of coal."
  1192.  
  1193. The smith looks around, then spots you. You nod. He blinks, then rubs his eyes with a fore-fetlock-joint, and stares again.
  1194.  
  1195. "Yes, that's him. He's, uh, shy." Twilight continues.
  1196.  
  1197. "I... I need to see how big of saddlebags we're talking about here." he responds, reasonably enough.
  1198.  
  1199. "OK!" you say, trying to sound friendly, then walk around the corner of the buiding.
  1200.  
  1201. The smith's pupils shrink down, and he makes a sort of squeak, stepping back.
  1202.  
  1203.  
  1204.  
  1205. Then you see his gaze transfer from your face, to the saddlebags.
  1206.  
  1207. A weird grin wends it's way across his lips, and he laughs, then fakes a coughing fit.
  1208.  
  1209. "That's quite a friend! Did he come with those accessories?" he asks Twilight.
  1210.  
  1211. You can see that this blacksmith isn't as impressed with your body's workmanship as the other had been. Of course, Ponyville residents had seen alot of unusual sights over the years...
  1212.  
  1213. "Those are mine." Twilight responds, sounding a bit embarrassed. "So. How much?"
  1214.  
  1215. "Well, I'd say 40 pounds per side. So, hm..." he does a bit of mental figuring", "Hows's 23 bits sound?"
  1216.  
  1217. "Fifteen." Twilight offers. "20." the smith says. "17." "Sold!" the smith says, then magics forth a big bag of coal.
  1218.  
  1219. The flaps on the saddlebags sparkle orange with his magic, the buckles coming undone and opening. A stream of coal arcs from the big bag to one side of the saddlebag, then the other, until they're bulged with the stuff. You take a deep sniff of one. Bold, distinctive, yet with subtle almost fruity undertones.
  1220.  
  1221. Downright mouthwatering, you decide. Then he re-buckles the bags closed as Twilight counts out the coins.
  1222.  
  1223. "Thank you, Sir. I expect now that you've been introduced, Anonymous there will be stopping by periodically for more." Twilight says.
  1224.  
  1225. You hold out a hoof. The smith looks at it, cocking an eyebrow, then shakes. "Any time." he replies.
  1226.  
  1227.  
  1228. Twilight wishes the blacksmith a good day also. "Can we drop this off at your place before we go?" you ask her, gesturing with your muzzle toward the saddlebags. "Sure."
  1229.  
  1230. The two of you walk briskly (Twilight setting the pace) back to the treebrary. She opens the front door, then a closet.
  1231.  
  1232. The saddlebags take on her magic's aura, and lift up and off of you, sailing through the front door and into the closet. "It's just us dropping off some stuff, Spike!" she calls, and is answered by a distant "OK."
  1233.  
  1234. "Oh, almost forgot." you tell her, lifting a wing cover and pulling out the charcoal bag. You set it down and scarf a few more down, before raising your head and nodding. The charcoal follows the real coal inside.
  1235.  
  1236. She shuts the doors. "OK now at least you've got a decent supply of food. Ready to go meet Fluttershy? she asks.
  1237.  
  1238. "Absolutely! I like how you handled that blacksmith, so he wouldn't flip out, I think that's the tack you should take with Fluttershy, too."
  1239.  
  1240. "I was planning on it. That was almost a test run, in fact."
  1241.  
  1242. "Cool, OK. Well I'm ready if you are." you say.
  1243.  
  1244. This time, she trots down the road a little, flapping her wings and lifting off almost like you do.
  1245.  
  1246. You unfold your wings, glancing around. Some of the neighboring buildings have pony faces in the windows. 'Guess it's my turn to be watched by ponies!' you think, revving up your fan and taking off after her.
  1247.  
  1248.  
  1249.  
  1250. You note a few pegasi leaving the area as you power up into the air. Your "revulsion field" was apparently wide enough to clear the skies, as well as the streets.
  1251.  
  1252. Such was your new life. But still, here you were. Equestria was as bright and colorful as promised, and at least you weren't totally friendless.
  1253.  
  1254. Now to see if you could charm Fluttershy. You had your doubts, but she didn't seem the sort to hold a grudge forever.
  1255.  
  1256. "Fluttershy's cottage is this way." Twilight said, leading the way.
  1257.  
  1258. The two of you fly for a few minute before you spot her place. Some randomly layed out but nice-looking gardens, some critter pens, a stream with a little bridge... Yup, that's it.
  1259.  
  1260. Twilight came in for a landing on the road by the path leading over the bridge to the cottage. You could see little bird-houses and things all through the trees. Being a pegasus, Fluttershy had no problem installing things like that just about everywhere.
  1261.  
  1262. As you come in for a landing, there's an explosion of wildlife, as critters of all stripes flee in a flurry of flapping wings and scurrying legs.
  1263.  
  1264. Except the snakes and lizards, it appeared. A few were slithering around looking your way, almost... Adoringly.
  1265.  
  1266. 'Ew.' you think.
  1267.  
  1268.  
  1269.  
  1270.  
  1271. "OK, you wait here. I'll go see if I can coax her out." Twilight tells you. "Come over when I wave. Uh, best if you move slowly, I think."
  1272.  
  1273. With that, she heads for the cottage. It was a bit like how she introduced you to the Apples, really.
  1274.  
  1275. You wish you weren't so hideous that this approach was required, but it is what it is.
  1276.  
  1277. She reaches the door, and knocks. It opens a little, and they speak. Your presence is disturbing her critters, so whatever they're saying is drowned out in random chirps and whistles from the scolding birds and squirrels.
  1278.  
  1279. You know the damn things are pretty much sapient, from the show. That only made it more annoying. Worse, a big garter snake was investigating one of your front hooves. You try to nudge it away, but it simply spirals around then up your leg. Pretty soon it's on your back.
  1280.  
  1281. 'Double Ew!' you think, but since you're probably bite-proof you don't try to dislodge it.
  1282.  
  1283. A vulture flies down and lands on your tail. If this keeps up you're going to look like a one pony ark, only with all disgusting animals.
  1284.  
  1285. Twilight has had to block the door from closing with a hoof. Maybe things weren't going so well.
  1286.  
  1287. An enormous spider with a star on it's ass is on your nose, it's eight eyes gazing with love into your right eye-lens.
  1288.  
  1289. 'YECCCH!' you think.
  1290.  
  1291.  
  1292. A tree-frog plonks onto your nose on the other side, sticking there with it's sucker-pad feet. At least that's not so bad, you kinda like frogs.
  1293.  
  1294. You see a flash of yellow at the doorway. Fluttershy is peering around the door-frame in your direction.
  1295.  
  1296. You wave, just as a bat alights on the tip of one of your ears. You didn't realize bats were active during the day, but this one sure was.
  1297.  
  1298. Fluttershy storms out of the house, actually cantering up to you.
  1299.  
  1300. "You leave those poor animals alone!" she scolds, almost yelling.
  1301.  
  1302. This was going to require some diplomacy. Fortunately you were good at that. "They started it!" you say.
  1303.  
  1304. She looks vexed. You decide not to push your luck. "Seriously, they're just landing all over me. I didn't do anything to them!" you implore.
  1305.  
  1306. You're actually glad that you repel most birds (though the vulture is looking quite pleased with itself), as it wouldn't help your case if, say, Humming-wing flew through your mane or something.
  1307.  
  1308. She turns her attention away from you, staring at the snake on your back. "SssSSSssSSS?" she .... Asks? The snake replies in kind, "SsssSSsSSsss.". Who knew, she's a parseltongue!
  1309.  
  1310. "You're lucky, Mister Slithers says you're warm and nice, like a sun-baked rock. But if I catch you so much as-"
  1311.  
  1312. "Fluttershy, I'm sure he's not doing anything to your critters." Twilight interrupts. "Seriously, I'm not!" you toss in.
  1313.  
  1314.  
  1315.  
  1316. The pink and yellow pegasus slowly calms down, occasionally making little noises at the beasts populating your person. They reply to her, of course.
  1317.  
  1318. Her wings sag, then fold back. She had been totally puffed up with fury, and it was a good sign.
  1319.  
  1320. "Alright," she says finally, "I believe you. It's just that... The rest of the critters got so scared... I naturally assumed..."
  1321.  
  1322. "It's OK, Fluttershy. I know I'm not exactly a normal looking pony." you say.
  1323.  
  1324. She gives you a once-over. "You're not going to make it rain poo on us again, are you?" she asks.
  1325.  
  1326. "I'll do my best not to, I promise."
  1327.  
  1328. "That's good. Only the flies would like that. It would make the rest of the animals sad. Especially the goats." she says.
  1329.  
  1330. Funny how she was more concerned about the hypothetical poo landing on the animals than herself.
  1331.  
  1332. "Fluttershy, were you going to invite us in?" Twilight asks.
  1333.  
  1334. "Oh. Um. I guess you could come inside... If you want to..." she replies, eyes downcast.
  1335.  
  1336. Then she turns and leads the way to her cottage.
  1337.  
  1338. You walk carefully, trying not to step on any of the absolutely repulsive insects that by then had shown up just to gaze at you. Apparently, you were the lord of all things icky.
  1339.  
  1340.  
  1341.  
  1342. You stiff-leg your way along, watching as carefully as you can with a frog and a giant spider on your face.
  1343.  
  1344. Fluttershy holds the door for you and Twilight and you file in. It's cozy inside, if a bit whiffy. Critters occupy every surface, until you cross the threshold. Then there's a stampede, out of an open window and a cat-flap.
  1345.  
  1346. The mice stay, and a couple of rats come walking up to you.
  1347.  
  1348. "Hey Fluttershy," you ask, "Can you get this huge disgusting spider off my head? I can't see."
  1349.  
  1350. Twilight face-palms.
  1351.  
  1352. "He's not disgusting!" Fluttershy says, horrified. The spider itself looks traumatized.
  1353.  
  1354. 'Oh hell.' you think, the yellow pony coaxing the crying spider onto her wing.
  1355.  
  1356. "I'm sorry," you try, "It's just that it's got those big shiny green fangs and all those eyes, and all those hairy LEGS-"
  1357.  
  1358. "You be quiet! You're one to talk, mister poo-bomber! Mister Rockstar is quite handsome, aren't you Mister Rockstar?"
  1359.  
  1360. The spider bobs affirmatively on her wing. It was obvious you had to do something to save the situation... Even if it meant apologizing to the biggest hairiest spider you'd ever seen.
  1361.  
  1362.  
  1363.  
  1364. She holds the still sniffling spider out toward you. "Now tell him you're sorry for those awful things you said!" she demands.
  1365.  
  1366. You're one again presented with the closeup view of a seriously noxious-looking spider.
  1367.  
  1368. "I'm sorry, Mister Rockstar. You're actually the hugest most amazing spider I've ever seen, and you're not disgusting." you manage.
  1369.  
  1370. The little sniffling noises stop, and the spider reaches out and pokes you on the face with a leg. You manage not to twitch, glad of your face's general immobility. Your eyebrows might have twitched a bit.
  1371.  
  1372. Then it skittered right back onto your head.
  1373.  
  1374. "There." said Fluttershy. "Let me just find something here..." she rummages around
  1375.  
  1376. "Found it! She cries, pulling a little doll-size cowboy hat with chinstrap from a drawer in a cabinet. She trots over, leans in and puts it on the spider.
  1377.  
  1378. "Now Mr. Rockstar is the best dressed spider around!" she declares.
  1379.  
  1380. You have to admit, it did add a certain something.
  1381.  
  1382.  
  1383. Twilight tried to regain control of the situation, "So, Fluttershy, you remember when the breezies needed all those pegasi to create the right weather conditions to get them back home?"
  1384.  
  1385. Fluttershy nods.
  1386.  
  1387. "Well, I'm sure that Anonymous here could help out your animals also, if you need him to. Wouldn't you, Anonymous?"
  1388.  
  1389. You nod, "Of course! I'll do what I can!"
  1390.  
  1391. Fluttershy's dubious look softens somewhat as you feel something coiling around a hind leg. Almost afraid to look, you turn to the left (you can see around the frog more easily than the now western-themed huge spider)...
  1392.  
  1393. A tan and brown-spotted snake's head was just coming around your thigh. It must have been twelve feet long. The garter snake moves up atop your withers, as the tan snake coils repeatedly around your barrel. If you weren't already sure you could withstand anything a snake could dish out, you'd have been running and screaming.
  1394.  
  1395. "Oh, Misses Huggy! Hi Misses Huggy! You'll like her, Anonymous, she's just so soft and smooth and she really loves to hug you really tight!"
  1396.  
  1397. There were a few metallic squeaks from your skin-plates rubbing together, as Misses Huggy demonstrated.
  1398.  
  1399. "So... So I see!" you say. Then you spot a scorpion climbing your left foreleg.
  1400.  
  1401. "And Misses Poketail! Wow, you usually don't come out during the day either, you're out in the day like Mister Batty! What's gotten into you guys?"
  1402.  
  1403. There were some assorted squeaks and hisses, as Fluttershy's expression became perplexed, then softens.
  1404.  
  1405. "The just adore you, Anonymous." she says.
  1406.  
  1407.  
  1408. There was a knock at the door. "Fluttershy, darling! I've brought Opal for her grooming!" comes Rarity's voice.
  1409.  
  1410. 'Uhoh.' you think. You share a panicked gaze with Twilight, as Fluttershy happily trots over to the door and opens it.
  1411.  
  1412. Rarity, replete with a different but equally enormous hat, walks inside. There's an annoyed looking cat in a pet-carrier sticking out of her left saddlebag.
  1413.  
  1414. "Twilight dear! What ever are you doing here at this time of day?"
  1415.  
  1416. Twilight just starts to speak when Rarity takes a closer look at you. "Um, I was-"
  1417.  
  1418. "Fluttershy, wherever did you find this revolting statue! I detest modern art. Even without all those hideous stuffed animals stuck all over it, the proportions are..." then she froze, her pupils shrinking down.
  1419.  
  1420. "Um, hi, Rarity! It's a total pleasure to meet you!" you say, in a chipper-sounding voice.
  1421.  
  1422. "It's that THING!" she exclaims, aghast.
  1423.  
  1424. "Now now, Rarity, Twilight and Anonymous just came over to visit. He's been mostly nice." Fluttershy says. You're a little surprised at her going to bat for you, but seeing as you really had a real bat now dangling from your left ear maybe you appealed to her a bit more. It seemed like she liked you more and more as you'd become more encrusted with animals, afterall.
  1425.  
  1426. But the main issue right now was Rarity. She was backing toward the door. "Oh-Dear Just Look-At-The-Time. I must be off. I'll bring Opal back later." she says, reaching the door.
  1427.  
  1428. "We'll chat later." Rarity tells Twilight, then opens the door and zips through it, galloping away down the porch and over the bridge toward the road.
  1429.  
  1430.  
  1431.  
  1432. "That could have gone better." you say.
  1433.  
  1434. "Oh she'll be OK, Anonymous." Fluttershy says, "She just needs to see how much all the cute little animals like you."
  1435.  
  1436. You already knew what the cute animals thought of you. The unremittingly horrible animals, now...
  1437.  
  1438. "Um. I suppose." you say.
  1439.  
  1440. "Oh gee, just look at the time." Twilight says, hurrying over. "I think we better be going, Fluttershy. Can you help me... Unwrap Anonymous?"
  1441.  
  1442. "Of course!" Fluttershy says, then she starts talking to the creatures, asking them to disembark.
  1443.  
  1444. Reluctantly, they unwind or fly away, until you're once again blessedly free of wildlife.
  1445.  
  1446. "Thanks, Fluttershy." you say, "And just let me know if I can help out with the critters."
  1447.  
  1448. "I appreciate it, Anonymous. Feel free to visit, I'm sure my little animal friends would love to see you again."
  1449.  
  1450. You felt certain that at least some of them would.
  1451.  
  1452. Twilight opens the door, goodbyes are said, and the two of you set out toward the road.
  1453.  
  1454. You're rather elated that you're now only hated by one of Twilight's friends. That one, though, was going to require some convincing.
  1455.  
  1456.  
  1457.  
  1458. As you plod over the bridge, there's a "Plunk!" sound from your side. Twilight peers at you. "Wow, Misses Huggy must have really loved you!"
  1459.  
  1460. "Why?" you ask.
  1461.  
  1462. "Because you're, you seem to be, uh, bent inward in the shape of a coiled snake!" she replied.
  1463.  
  1464. Turning, you see what she's talking about. There is a spiral indentation in your sheetmetal.
  1465.  
  1466. "Plonk." You notice a section of dent pop back out, looking like nothing had happened there.
  1467.  
  1468. "Bwong!" there went another one. You chuckle. "Just call me Christine!" you tell Twilight, as you resume walking.
  1469.  
  1470. "Who? Why?" she asks. "It's a... Um, reference from my old world. Don't worry about it." you finish lamely.
  1471.  
  1472. "Sprong"
  1473.  
  1474. "So, where we going?" you ask. "Plunk"
  1475.  
  1476. "I was thinking that we could retire to my library for a while, I need to catch up on some assignments I've been missing out on. You're welcome to go visiting if you want, though I'd say stick to the ponies who actually know you. Like the apples perhaps."
  1477.  
  1478. "Or I could just sort of park on the floor of the library while you read, so I don't get killed by angry villiagers." you say.
  1479.  
  1480. "There's that, too. But you do seem rather imposing when you try. I think you'd be alright. I also need to give some thought on how to present you to Rarity. It's obvious that she's in no mood to have both of us just show up at her house."
  1481.  
  1482. You ponder what to do. Just going to sleep wasn't a bad option. Then again, the apple farm was now a friendly destination, and sure to be fun.
  1483.  
  1484. "You decide, I'm going to head back to the library. Spike will let you in, if I step out." With that, she lifts off.
  1485.  
  1486. You stop, totally at odds as to where to go next. "Thoomp." But at least, you'll be dent-free when you get there.
  1487.  
  1488.  
  1489. You check your gauges. You're warmed up enough to fly, and it's a beautiful day. "Why not." You trot down the road until there's a stretch sufficiently clear of trees to lift off from, spread your wings, taxi and take off.
  1490.  
  1491. It's another lovely day, only a few clouds around. Other than, of course, the distant majesty of Cloudsdale. You zoom in, admiring the architecture. You briefly consider going for a closer look, but the memory of those royal guards with spears discourages you. Even just one panic'y pegasus could bring you down, too.
  1492.  
  1493. 'What the heck kind of pegasus can't withstand a little lightning.' you think, sourly. Well, maybe it didn't do them much good either. But at least they weren't full of sensitive electric... Stuff.
  1494.  
  1495. You try to push such thoughts out of your mind, and just enjoy the flight. You turn slow, lazy circles, discovering the ways the different air-currents moved.
  1496.  
  1497. You hit a warm upwelling columb of air, and find that if you can keep yourself within it, you could throttle way down and still maintain altitude.
  1498.  
  1499. A rainbow streak shoots past your head. "Hey pega-monster! Out enjoying the weather? I made it myself!" Rainbow Dash calls, flying effortlessly backwards right in front of you.
  1500.  
  1501. While it'd be fun to tease her, you decide that cowardice was probably the better part of valor. "Yeah, it's awesome." you reply.
  1502.  
  1503. "Betcha can't do this!" She said, barrel-rolling so her face is upside down to you, still flying backwards.
  1504.  
  1505. "Uh, probably not." you say, beginning to get annoyed.
  1506.  
  1507. "So, what'cha doin'?" she asks, rolling upright again.
  1508.  
  1509. How could something so cute be so irritating.
  1510.  
  1511.  
  1512. You decide on the truth. "Twilight let me off my leash, so I was flying around trying to decide on a place to visit."
  1513.  
  1514. Dash gets a glint-eyed look. You trust it not one iota.
  1515.  
  1516. "Ever been to Cloudsdale yet?" she says.
  1517.  
  1518. "Hunh-uh. You shot me down on sight. Imagine what a whole city of crazy pegasi will do if they see me coming toward them!"
  1519.  
  1520. "Nah, I already told everybody what a lightweight you are. You'll be fine!"
  1521.  
  1522. "Gee... Thanks..." you grit.
  1523.  
  1524. "Seriously, though. C'mon. I'll even show you the Wonderbolts training facility!"
  1525.  
  1526. You waver. You certainly didn't want to experience the obstacle course, but damn it did sound interesting.
  1527.  
  1528. "Alright. But we can't stay out so long that Twilight gets worried." you say
  1529.  
  1530. "C'mon. You really think I couldn't go tell her where you are and be back before you miss me?" she asks.
  1531.  
  1532. You sigh. "OK then! Lead on!"
  1533.  
  1534. She's gone in a flash. You rev up and follow her contrail toward the huge floating city
  1535.  
  1536.  
  1537. You zoom in on Cloudsdale as it grows in perspective, watching for signs of panic. Dash gets there first of course, you can see her gather some pegasi and talk with them.
  1538.  
  1539. You hope she's not arranging an ass-kicking as a welcome. You kinda doubt it though, while Dash is a confrontational pony, you figure her revenge, if there is to be one, would be rather more subtle than a case of "Come to my town so the locals can kick the shit out of you."
  1540.  
  1541. She comes streaking back, looping around you a few times. "Hurry up, slowpoke!" she says.
  1542.  
  1543. "I'm going as fast as I can!" you reply, which is nearly true. Your speed's around 90%.
  1544.  
  1545. "Nnnng! It's like you're Fluttershy or something!"... That one stung. You knew it wasn't true though, seeing as you'd run Twilight ragged, and you were sure she was alot faster than Fluttershy.
  1546.  
  1547. The group of pegasi Rainbow had been talking to were holding their position, between you and town. Despite your earlier thoughts you began to seriously wonder if there actually was to be an ass-kicking.
  1548.  
  1549. Once you draw close enough, you yell out, "Hello, Cloudsdale ponies! I come in peace!"
  1550.  
  1551. One or two fly further out, and a couple draw back.
  1552.  
  1553. Finally the two of you meet up with them. You slow down your fan and flap. It's a bit like treading water.
  1554.  
  1555. "So you're the one that stunk up Ponyville." a dark blue stallion said.
  1556.  
  1557.  
  1558.  
  1559. "I didn't mean to, I'd just been attacked!" you say, glancing meaningfully at Rainbow Dash. "Yeah yeah, big deal." she says.
  1560.  
  1561. You decide to introduce yourself. "I'm Anonymous. I was just out for a flight, and ran into Dash here. I'd been admiring Cloudsdale, so she said she'd show me around. Is that OK with you guys?"
  1562.  
  1563. You could tell they weren't keen on the idea, but since your ass remained unkicked so far, you had high hopes.
  1564.  
  1565. "I'm Cloud Rotation," the blue one said, "We were actually wondering, just HOW you summoned up several tons of shit from thin air? Tornados are a specialty of mine, and that's something I'd never heard of before." he asked.
  1566.  
  1567. You suspected those around you regarded you as a source of arcane knowlege, as much as a potential threat.
  1568.  
  1569. You try to explain. "I'm not real clear on that myself really. I did try to summon a tornado, and I panic'd and was just yelling 'SHIIIT!', like, and the tornado... Changed, into that horrendous shitstorm."
  1570.  
  1571. There's some muttering. "So you made a tornado on purpose, but then it turned to shit just because you were swearing?" Rotation asked.
  1572.  
  1573. "Yup!" you reply. "OK, I've gotta try this."
  1574.  
  1575. The pegasus flew some ways out, over some scrubby brushland, then went into a spiral. It soon formed the familiar cone shape, streaks of him going around in the midsection.
  1576.  
  1577. "If this works, I know just what to do for my ex-husband's birthday party." one of the mares commented. There was a bit of chortling.
  1578.  
  1579. A humorously dopplar'd "Shiiiiiit!! Shit shit SHIIIIIT!" becomes audible from within the spiralling monstrosity.
  1580.  
  1581. While the tornado reached impressive proportions and began tearing up shrubs, it produced not one iota of excrement.
  1582.  
  1583. Eventually he flew out the side and back to the group. "No dice."
  1584.  
  1585. You note that the now-dying tornado (And probably the wind-swept profanity) in the distance had drawn a crowd of pegasi to the edge of the Cloudsdale clouds.
  1586.  
  1587.  
  1588. They were now peering at you with even more curiousity, as you had done something that they apparently couldn't. You were sure it wasn't a position you wanted to be in.
  1589.  
  1590. "Um, well, it certainly was a good try. I mean that really should have worked." you try, lamely. "I mean, I'm sure you don't want ME to demonstrate, because if it DID work I'd have litte control over it, and I mean just look at how nice and white Cloudsdale is and-"
  1591.  
  1592. "Shut it." Dash said. You did.
  1593.  
  1594. Cloud Rotation flew a slow circle around you. "Well," he said, "There's no doubt at all what you're capable of, so I'm sure at some point we'll want to get in touch with you about your technique. OK?" he asked.
  1595.  
  1596. "Sure, no problem!" you say, relieved that the interview seemed to be over, for the moment. "Dash and I'll just sort of tour around town, alright? I won't stay long."
  1597.  
  1598. "Yeah go ahead. Dash, keep an eye on things, some of the pegasi are a little, er, bent out of shape over the cleanup they had to do." Rotation says.
  1599.  
  1600. "Gotcha. We'll be fine." she says, with her usual aplomb. You hope she's right.
  1601.  
  1602. The little flock of pegasi head back to the city.
  1603.  
  1604. "First I'd like you to see the Wonderbolts training center!" Dash says, zipping away. You throttle up and follow. You note that there still seems to be a sizable audience, they're probably hoping you do something weird. You endeaver not to.
  1605.  
  1606.  
  1607.  
  1608. ..."And this is the Dizzitron. I'm sure I can get you a ride on it if you want! It's really fun!" Dash says, grinning evilly.
  1609.  
  1610. "Uh, I think I'll pass." you respond. The tour had been interesting so far, you'd gotten to see alot of the things the cartoon either left out or simply had never envisioned. Like the "flying through a swarm of bees" simulator. She hadn't properly warned you about that one either.
  1611.  
  1612. You sneeze out another bee. Dammit. She'd actually DODGED the bees. She probably did think these awful things were fun.
  1613.  
  1614. "If it's all the same to you, Dash, I'd like to see the city proper now, if I could?" "Ah you're no fun. Alright." she replies, flying up from the dizzitron. You take off, following her to the main cloud-land above.
  1615.  
  1616. There were still a few lookie-loos hovering about as the pair of you touched down. One of them gave you a dirty look and quite clearly flipped you off. The gesture was perfecty recognizable even without the trademark finger. That was the only hint of trouble you'd had so far, though.
  1617.  
  1618. Cloudsdale cloud seemed much firmer than ordinary cloud, though the density changed a bit depending on where you walked. At least if you somehow DID fall through some thin patch, you were sure it'd be no problem to get flying again before you hit. The ground was a long way off.
  1619.  
  1620. You got to see the rainbow mixing section (Thankfully it was mostly similar to the cartoon, and not the nasty story version), the cloud factory, the snowflake sculpting department (That was really the most interesting of all, the tiny little hammers, chisels and files they used to make each snowflake were astounding), and some places you hadn't been aware existed such as the sunset paintball artillary range, the meteor cannon (The meteors were hoof-made, too, like giant toilet-paper snowballs), the hail-ball injection-molding warehouse with it's racks of little round-ball ice-trays (Kept cold, like the snowflake department)...
  1621.  
  1622. Then you realized how late it was getting.
  1623.  
  1624. "Hey, Dash, I really appreciate the tour! But I need to be getting back, Twilight's probably worried by now."
  1625.  
  1626. "OK, we'll get going. I've got to get you back up here again though, there's alot more to see!" she says.
  1627.  
  1628. "One of these times, sure." you reply, as she zips up and over the nearest edge.
  1629.  
  1630. Trying something a little different, you walk over, peering down. It was clear air down to the ground, good.
  1631.  
  1632. You back up a ways, extend your wings, spin up your fan, gallop... And sail right out into the air.
  1633.  
  1634. It feels great. You get on track, following Rainbow back to Ponyville.
  1635.  
  1636.  
  1637.  
  1638. The two of you arrive back at the treebrary, touching down on the road and heading up to the porch. Rainbow raps on the door and Spike opens it.
  1639.  
  1640. You suspect you detect a quirk of his mouth, either disgust or something else. "Hello, Rainbow Dash! Fancy meeting you here today!"
  1641.  
  1642. "Uh, yeah..." Rainbow replies, "Is Twilight b- Uh, home?"
  1643.  
  1644. "Nah, she's still over at Rarity's. I'm not sure what's taking so long. You're welcome to come inside though." the little dragon says.
  1645.  
  1646. You check your gauges. Your heat's pretty far down. "I think I'm going to grab a bite to eat out here, if that's alright. Twilight's still got my spark-arrestor."
  1647.  
  1648. "Heh uh sure, let me just get your stuff!" spike says, grabbing the bag of charcoal out of the closet and handing it down to you.
  1649.  
  1650. You dig in. After a few briquettes, you hit a funny one. It didn't go "crunch"... It went "boing". Your HUD shows a cloud framed by exclamation points and "FUEL: SMOKE ALERT".
  1651.  
  1652. You bring it out of the bag and spit it out. It's a partly gnawed rubber briquette.
  1653.  
  1654. Dash and Spike drop to the ground, laughing.
  1655.  
  1656. "OK OK you got me.", you say, "Where in the hell do you even FIND rubber charcoal!"
  1657.  
  1658. "Trade secret!" Dash replies.
  1659.  
  1660. Oh yeah. She's gonna get hers, one day.
  1661.  
  1662.  
  1663.  
  1664. "How many more of 'em's in here?" you demand, nosing the sack open and peering around inside.
  1665.  
  1666. "Heh, that was it. Believe it or not, they're scarce." Dash replies.
  1667.  
  1668. Giving her a stare, you resume your lunch. Carefully. 'it's probably a good thing she didn't find prank exploding ones,' you think.
  1669.  
  1670. One great thing about what you eat... It didn't really go stale. Your 'doggie bag' was just as luscious as it'd been at the Apple farm.
  1671.  
  1672. Speaking of which, you wonder what the Apples are getting up to. Applejack's probably selling their famous product at the pony market, this time of day.
  1673.  
  1674. You already knew what'd happen if you went to the market.
  1675.  
  1676. Eating was good for thinking, you notice. Maybe moreso in your new steam-horse form, it just seemed to take less work. None of that business with the knives and forks and stuff.
  1677.  
  1678. "Well it's been a blast, but I gotta dash!" Rainbow said, rocketting off then landing a little way away.
  1679.  
  1680. "Looks like she's headed to Rarity's boutique." Spike said idly, looking a tad jealous.
  1681.  
  1682. "Probably gonna brag about poisoning me with a rubber charcoal." you mutter.
  1683.  
  1684. "C'mon, that was funny. We knew you wouldn't really swallow it!"... You'd have rolled your eyes, if you could have.
  1685.  
  1686.  
  1687.  
  1688. "Uh-huh. Hey, has Twilight got a garden-hose?" you ask. "Sure! It's over here." Spike leads the way a ways around the tree's massive trunk.
  1689.  
  1690. Hanging from a hook is the (naturally) neatly coiled hose. You grab the end of it, unlooping a loop.
  1691.  
  1692. "Turn it on for me, if you would." you ask, not wanting to fight with a spigot with hooves, though obviously it had to be possible.
  1693.  
  1694. He gives the knob a few twists. Water jets out of the hose, and you let it run a while, then stick out your tongue and poke the hose onto it.
  1695.  
  1696. You drink your fill, trying to ignore the revolted looks Spike keeps throwing your way. Amazing how he could wrinkle that snout, when he tried.
  1697.  
  1698. "OK, that's good." you say, looping the still pouring hose back over the hook. "Thanks." "No problem." he says, turning it back off.
  1699.  
  1700. Once again, you find yourself at a loss. Rarity's was probably out. The library was too flammable. Fluttershy's was... Awkward. Pinky was only God knows where.
  1701.  
  1702. You breathe heavily, trying to huff your boiler back up to pressure, as you consider.
  1703.  
  1704. Standing in the yard like a statue would be boring, and no way you were going to go to sleep out here. That pretty much made up your mind.
  1705.  
  1706. "I'm gonna head over to the Apple farm." you tell Spike. "OK, have fun!" he replies.
  1707.  
  1708. Your pressure was quickly building up, now. You trot out to the road, spread your wings and lift off.
  1709.  
  1710.  
  1711.  
  1712. As you soar along, the steady onrush of wind feels really good. You wonder if you couldn't improve the weather a little. Maybe a light breeze. It was a beautiful day, but it just lacked character.
  1713.  
  1714. You consider the last two disasters. But maybe you'd improve with practice. You decide to leave it up the Apples, whoever you happen to run into at their place.
  1715.  
  1716. You felt pretty sure they'd agree. Before long you spot the farm, pick a spot, throttle down and land. Applebloom, who'd seen your arrival, came galloping out.
  1717.  
  1718. "Hi mister manerr spreader!" she gleefully called.
  1719.  
  1720. "Just Anonymous, please." you say.
  1721.  
  1722. "Hey Granny! Big Mac! Mr. Anonymous Manerr Spreader is here!" she calls, galloping back to the house.
  1723.  
  1724. Before long, Big Mac issues from the farm house. Granny leans around the door, yells "Haloooo!" then vanishes again.
  1725.  
  1726. "Granny's bakin'." Big Mac says by way of explanation.
  1727.  
  1728.  
  1729.  
  1730. He stands there with a curious expression.
  1731.  
  1732. "I was free of obligations for a while, so I thought I'd stop by. Thanks again for that charcoal, by the way."
  1733.  
  1734. "Eeyup." he says, nodding.
  1735.  
  1736. "I was wondering if you needed any weather type things done. A nice breeze perhaps? It might help with the heat in the kitchen, if Granny's baking!" you say, hopefully.
  1737.  
  1738. Mac scratches his chin with a fore-hoof, looking thoghtful.
  1739.  
  1740. "That'd be awful nice, mister!" Applebloom says.
  1741.  
  1742. "Ah suppose some wind couldn't hurt." Mac finally says.
  1743.  
  1744. You grin, then whirl around and take off, happy that you get to use your powers again.
  1745.  
  1746.  
  1747. 'I can do this. I CAN do this!' you think, 'Just a nice little breeze, just enough to make the leaves flutter now and then. Nothing icky, nothing nasty, just a light, pleasant, breeze.'
  1748.  
  1749. You hover, facing the farmhouse, doing the "treading water" hover, and concentrate on your 'nice pleasant breeze' mantra.
  1750.  
  1751. At first, there's no sign anything's happening at all. Then you can feel your weather-power kick in. You're carried toward the house by an air-current.
  1752.  
  1753. You drop and drop, finally landing in front of the two ponies who'd been watching with interest.
  1754.  
  1755. The breeze really is pretty pleasant.
  1756.  
  1757. But odd sounds are coming from random objects. A hollow tree a ways off starts making a godawful moaning sound. Metal bits on the farm equipment start rattling together. Odd whistles emerge from anything with a hole in it.
  1758.  
  1759. Overall, it's as if you'd just haunted the farm with dozens of wailing ghosts.
  1760.  
  1761. You smile nervously, as Applebloom steps closer to her older brother, her eyes going huge.
  1762.  
  1763. "What in tarnation's goin' on out a'here!" Granny calls, once again looking out the open door.
  1764.  
  1765. "Anonymous made you a breeze ta keep tha kitchen cool." Mac calls back.
  1766.  
  1767. "Ah reckon that's the noisiest wind ah ever heard!" she says.
  1768.  
  1769. "Sorry!" you add. She vanishes again.
  1770.  
  1771. Really though, you feel alright about this. No shit was falling, and while it was a bit- Unusual, it really was a nice breeze.
  1772.  
  1773.  
  1774.  
  1775. "Ya know," Big Mac says, "If'n ya can do that on Nahtmare Naht, ponies'd love it." "You really think so? "Eeyup."
  1776.  
  1777. "Wow, OK, I hadn't thought about that. I could probably do better than that if I tried, too."
  1778.  
  1779. "Jus' don't with tha man-err." Mac says. "Noted. But you like this?"
  1780.  
  1781. You sure did, it felt darn good.
  1782.  
  1783. "Eeyup. It's good."
  1784.  
  1785. "Glad to hear it! You OK, Applebloom?"
  1786.  
  1787. She'd sort of hunkered down, looking nervously all around. "It's a little scary, Mr. Anonymous!"
  1788.  
  1789. "I know, I'm sorry. My powers get a little weird like that, alot."
  1790.  
  1791. Just then, a spiralling rainbow came sailing from the Ponyville direction.
  1792.  
  1793. Dash lands, looking sour. "Ah-hah! At it again, aren't you! This freak wind of yours stretches all the way to Ponyville. Everthing's making crazy sounds!" she says.
  1794.  
  1795. "I just made some breeze, it was a stuffy sort of day." you explain.
  1796.  
  1797. "It was SUPPOSED to be a stuffy day." she grumped, "We get together and work out what the weather should be like in the morning, then we do it. And you messed it up!"
  1798.  
  1799. "I didn't 'mess it up', I improved it." you say. "Improved it? It sounds like a whole graveyard full of zombies calling for brains, everywhere!"
  1800.  
  1801. "It feels good, it's a nice breeze! I thought you'd appreciate me using my talent in a positive way." you glare accusingly.
  1802.  
  1803. "Positive wouldn't be so creepy!" she said, as though she'd made a point.
  1804.  
  1805. "Ah like it." Mac offered.
  1806.  
  1807.  
  1808.  
  1809. "See?" you gesture at Mac. "Z-zombies?" Applebloom asks, shuddering.
  1810.  
  1811. "Do YOU see? Just look at Applebloom! You freaked out everypony for miles!" Dash accuses.
  1812.  
  1813. Applebloom suddenly stands upright and feigns bravery. "I'm not f-freaked out!" she claims. "You are too, I saw you." Dash responds.
  1814.  
  1815. "It's just a little wind, aside from some harmless sound effects. I doubt anyone's seriously bothered by this. Feel how much better it is out here, now." you try.
  1816.  
  1817. "I'm no stickler for rules, Anon, but this is NOT how the weather today was supposed to be!" she grumps.
  1818.  
  1819. "And I suppose you've always kept the weather exactly what it SHOULD be, eh?" you ask, knowing that'd get to her.
  1820.  
  1821. "Well... No... But at least I mean to! You just totally CHANGED everything!"
  1822.  
  1823. "For the better!" you insist.
  1824.  
  1825. "Uh-huh. Well just remember, I'm watching you." she finishes, sounding defeated but still mad. "I'm headed home. Don't destroy the place with your freaky magic while I'm gone!"
  1826.  
  1827. And with that, she flew.
  1828.  
  1829. "Ah was just fixin' to do some apple-buckin'. If'n yer bored, feel free ta come along." Mac says. You mentally shrug. "Sure."
  1830.  
  1831.  
  1832. "Now, tha first thing about apple farmin' is tha timin'," Mac began, "Thar's one big harvest, toward tha end of summer. But we got a few small fields uh special variaties that fruit earlier, givin' us some mini-harvests throughout tha year."
  1833.  
  1834. You listened with interest. Mac wasn't quite as close-mouthed in person as he was in the show, particularly, it seemed, on the subject of apple farming.
  1835.  
  1836. "That keeps tha apples comin' regular, ya see? When one field's played out, we move to tha next. Thar's one really special kind that needs all sortsa special attention, too. Zap-apples. If'n you stay around long enough Ah'll show ya how those work."
  1837.  
  1838. Mac shrugged himself into a pulling harness hooked to a medium size wagon with a few barrels and a nested stack of baskets, then pulled it onto a two-track leading into the orchard.
  1839.  
  1840. "I think I've heard of those. All kinds of stuff needed to get them to fruit, right?" "Yup, that's them alright. That field's a ways off from here but it's tha dead-lookin' stand'a trees, if'n ya see 'em. Only leaf up just ta fruit."
  1841.  
  1842. You nod, plodding alongside.
  1843.  
  1844. "Whar we're goin' today is a stand of early-fruitin' Johnagold's. Thar a sorta big blend of yellow delicious and tha mostly-red Johnathon apple, which're real sweet. That makes these a great eatin' apple but an even better bakin' apple."
  1845.  
  1846. Wow, he was getting downright loquatious!
  1847.  
  1848. "This partic'lar stand ah trees came from Manehatton, Granny got 'em from some relatives. They fruit ah month early. They're about tha fifth type ah apple ta ripen here durin' the year."
  1849.  
  1850. You loved the smell of the apples, though you were sure they'd nauseate your new form. Maybe you could find apple-wood charcoal! Or better yet, there was a dry twig ahead of you.
  1851.  
  1852. You nab it on the way by. Mac noted that, paused and pulled up a large blade of wheat-type grass, which he tongued around until it hung from the side of his mouth.
  1853.  
  1854. "Not tha most sociable ah habits but sometimes ya need somethin' ta chew on, right?" You nod, nibbling your twig. Your apparently MID QUALITY FUEL twig. It was delicious, and it really did give the flavor of eating an apple.
  1855.  
  1856. Mac finally turns off into a stand of trees. These had, as he'd said, large ripe fruit of a mostly yellow color and red blushes.
  1857.  
  1858. "Now ah don't mean ta put ya ta work if'n you don't wanna. But ah wouldn't mind if'n ya wanna, neither." he says.
  1859.  
  1860. "Sure, I wanna!" you reply, sizing up a nearby tree.
  1861.  
  1862.  
  1863. You watch Mac as he grabs a few buckets from the stack in the trailer in his teeth, arranging them around the tree in a sort of daisy-petal fashion.
  1864.  
  1865. Then he backs up to it, and gives it both barrels. The tree shakes violently, then drops the apples mysteriously only into the baskets.
  1866.  
  1867. Other than the mysterous grouping as they fell, it looked straightforward enough.
  1868.  
  1869. You lay out some baskets around the tree you'd been peering at, back up to it and, using your targetting, lay a good kick on it.
  1870.  
  1871. Apples fly all over, and your metal hooves dent the bark somewhat. You can see Mac wince.
  1872.  
  1873. "Ah think ya need ta work on yer technique. Ya need ta tell tha tree where to drop 'em, too."
  1874.  
  1875. "Um, I dunno how." "Ya just... Ya just do it." Mac says, looking a bit lost.
  1876.  
  1877. He dumps his baskets into a barrel, as you hurry around gathering apples.
  1878.  
  1879. You dump yours, then carry the baskets to the next tree over.
  1880.  
  1881. "Now, trah an feel it. Try an tell tha tree where them baskets are." he coaches.
  1882.  
  1883. You stand there facing away from the tree, trying to impress on it very much that you'd like to shake it and the apples fall only into the baskets.
  1884.  
  1885. Then you kick the tree, careful this time to hit your hooves against the trunk on their flat bottoms so you don't dent it.
  1886.  
  1887. Apples go everywhere again.
  1888.  
  1889. "I don't think the tree's listening." you tell Mac, then scramble around picking up apples again.
  1890.  
  1891. "Well, if you can stand doing it lahk that, an' pickin' 'em up, that'll work too." he said.
  1892.  
  1893. What the heck, it was a nice day and you had no other plans.
  1894.  
  1895. The breeze you'd summoned was still blowing pleasantly, though still with a myriad of spooky sounds. The leaves were fluttering a bit just as you'd hoped, too. Maybe you'd get good at this weather thing, at least.
  1896.  
  1897. Odds were you weren't going to get much better at apple-bucking, though. The basket trick was probably a talent only earth-ponies had. Unicorns could fake it too, as you recalled. But you were at a loss as regards yourself.
  1898.  
  1899. On the third tree, you simply set out nearly all the rest of the baskets, and manage to catch most simply by covering all the bases, so to speak. It beat picking them all up with your teeth, at least.
  1900.  
  1901.  
  1902. This went on for another half hour or so, by which time the cart was pretty full. Mac out-paced you at least 4 to 1, but that was alright. You'd never really had high aspirations, as far as apple-bucking went.
  1903.  
  1904. It was kinda exhiliarating though, and despite the fact that it was straight-up manual labor, you had the impression that asking you along wasn't merely for the help, but also a sign that Mac, at the very least, trusted you.
  1905.  
  1906. Not just anypony would have gone trooping off alone with what might have been a monster, and you appreciated it.
  1907.  
  1908. "Ya know, Mac, I think Twilight's and your farm are the only two places in all of Equestria where I really feel comfortable, so far.
  1909.  
  1910. The large red pony half-smiles, as he continues stacking baskets.
  1911.  
  1912. "Seriously, Fluttershy's animals get all over me-" Mac snorts, the grin becoming a bit more obvious, but continues stacking.
  1913.  
  1914. "Pinky's, well, Pinky... Rarity absolutely hates me for, er, what happened when I arrived..." Another snort, this one sounding a bit mirthful
  1915.  
  1916. "Just you folks and Twilight really put up with me, and I appreciate it."
  1917.  
  1918. Mac sticks the last basket into the stack, the wagon loaded ponderously, then shrugs his way into his harness.
  1919.  
  1920. "Ah'm glad y'all are feelin' welcome here. Ah reckon we all like you too." he says, beginning to plod back toward the main two-track.
  1921.  
  1922. You nab and scarf delectible apple-branches all the way back to the farm. They were actually filling, in sufficient quantity.
  1923.  
  1924.  
  1925. The trip back up to the farmhouse is pleasant, there's just something calming about an apple orchard. The apple-scented fresh air, the odd bunch of mushrooms, the lightly rolling hills... It all conspired to put you in a good mood.
  1926.  
  1927. The occasional apple-stick helped, too. You decide that they're like apple jerky, if there is such a thing.
  1928.  
  1929. "Y'all keep that up an' we won't hafta do any orchard cleanin'." Mac commented, as you gnawed down a pretty large one. Whatever your jaw was made of could certainly handle wood.
  1930.  
  1931. "Glad to do it, these sticks are great!" you reply, once you could without sounding muffled. Truth to tell though, you were getting pretty full. You feel full, and your temp gauge was going mad when you'd breathe. Oddly enough you hadn't spotted a fuel gauge for your wood-burning part yet, which seemed odd.
  1932.  
  1933. "I probably better lay off these things though, I'm stuffed." you say, then finish the last of the one you'd been working on.
  1934.  
  1935. The sound of trotting comes drifting on the wind, and soon, Applejack arrives.
  1936.  
  1937. "Ah, so that's what became of ya! Ah was startin' to wonder!" she says, joining the procession.
  1938.  
  1939. "We went apple-buckin'. He ain't bad but he ain't got the basket-fall part workin'." Mac says
  1940.  
  1941. "Ah'm glad everythin's OK. Truth ta tell ah got a bit nervous when that spooky wind started." Applejack replies.
  1942.  
  1943. "I didn't mess up the market again, did I?" you ask.
  1944.  
  1945. "Nah, everypony was lookin' around and a bit skittish, but nopony really panicked."
  1946.  
  1947. "Thats good. It was just such a sultry day I thought it could use a breeze."
  1948.  
  1949. "An Granny was bakin'." Mac interjected.
  1950.  
  1951. "Yeah, that too, I'm sure that kitchen was getting pretty hot with no airflow." you state.
  1952.  
  1953. "Well ya got me there, ah was fixin' ta melt out there at tha apple-stand 'till yer wind came up." Applejack says.
  1954.  
  1955. You reach the back of the farm proper, and Mac takes the wagon around to an outbuilding to unload.
  1956.  
  1957. "So what'd ya think of apple-buckin'?" Applejack asks, leading the way to the back porch of the house. The door was open, and baked-apple fumes were rampant.
  1958.  
  1959. "Ah it wasn't bad, I suck at it though."
  1960.  
  1961. "Well, maybe you'll figure it out. It was nice uh'ya ta help Big Mac, out there."
  1962.  
  1963. "Dunno how much help I was, but it was kinda fun." you reply.
  1964.  
  1965. "Well good, Ah don't mean ta say ah'd put ya ta work any time ya come over, but it's nice ta know more capable ponies in case we come up short hoofed."
  1966.  
  1967. "No problem." you say, unsure how to respond to that. Apparently she hadn't forgotten the last time they'd been short hoofed.
  1968.  
  1969.  
  1970.  
  1971. You stop at the doorway, as Applejack walks inside. You spot Granny setting up platters of food, obviously getting ready to serve dinner.
  1972.  
  1973. "Hi Granny!"
  1974.  
  1975. "Hiya, Anonymous! Are ya stayin' fer dinner?" she asks.
  1976.  
  1977. "Afraid not, it's late and I should be getting back to Twilight. Besides I just ate a whole bunch of dead apple-branches, so I'm all set for dinner already."
  1978.  
  1979. "Well consider yerself welcome anytime. Ah'll be seein' ya later I guess?" you nod.
  1980.  
  1981. "Tell Twilight hi, fer me!" Applejack says, "Will do!" you reply.
  1982.  
  1983. You turn around, and head out to where Mac had gone. He's just loading the last barrel onto his back and heading inside a shed.
  1984.  
  1985. "Hey Mac, Granny says dinner's about ready. I'm gonna take off back to Twilights. It's been fun!" you call toward the open door.
  1986.  
  1987. There's a thud as he sets the barrel down.
  1988.  
  1989. Mac emerges, gives you a wave and says "Eeyup!"
  1990.  
  1991. You smile, then trot down the yard to a sufficiently open stretch, spread your wings and lift off.
  1992.  
  1993. Yeah, you're pretty full of twigs, you feel a bit heavy and you're emitting lots of sparks.
  1994.  
  1995. You really hope Twilight's home by now.
  1996.  
  1997.  
  1998. You're almost getting used to the way the road clears out before you as you touch down by the treebrary. You detect a couple of dirty looks just before the last vanish from sight.
  1999.  
  2000. But you were alive- Well, at least you weren't dead, whatever you were- And in Equestria. And, lately, having fun! That certainly counted for something.
  2001.  
  2002. You walk up to the door and knock.
  2003.  
  2004. Spike opens it for you. "Is Twilight back yet?" you ask.
  2005.  
  2006. "Yeah, she got home a while ago. Want me to get her?" "Sure!"
  2007.  
  2008. He hurries off. Soon Twilight arrives. "Hiya Twiight! How was your visit with Rarity?" you ask
  2009.  
  2010. "Oh, well, she's doing alright. I don't think she's very eager to meet you, but at least I tried talking some sense into her. She can be a stubborn pony when she wants to be."
  2011.  
  2012. "Hm, yeah I thought she might still be a little pissed. Hey can I get that nose-guard from you and come in?"
  2013.  
  2014. "Oh silly me! Of course!", she replied, pulling forth her purse and fishing it out.
  2015.  
  2016. "Here you go." she says, strapping it on your head.
  2017.  
  2018.  
  2019.  
  2020.  
  2021. "You should add some snaps, or something, so I can do this myself." you say.
  2022.  
  2023. "Sure, we can do that later. Come on in!"
  2024.  
  2025. She stands aside, and you enter. Still a bit stuffy inside, but the evening coolness was starting to set in. Soon it'd be just right in here.
  2026.  
  2027. "I went out apple-bucking with Big Mac today. Spoke to Applejack too, when she got back from the market. She says hi!" you say, walking into the main room.
  2028.  
  2029. Twilight closes the door and follows.
  2030.  
  2031. "I bet that was interesting." she says.
  2032.  
  2033. "Yeah, it was pretty cool. Oh and I made a breeze! Did you notice?"
  2034.  
  2035. "Who wouldn't have noticed something like that!" She says, looking vexed. "It sounded like a haunted barn on Nightmare Night!"
  2036.  
  2037.  
  2038.  
  2039.  
  2040. "That's just what Mac said! He said folks'd love it if I did it then!"
  2041.  
  2042. She considers.
  2043.  
  2044. "Well he's sure got that right. I guess it wasn't too bad, no harm came of it. And it was a hot day, too."
  2045.  
  2046. You waggle your eyebrows at her.
  2047.  
  2048. "OK, so it wasn't all bad."
  2049.  
  2050. "Thanks, Twilight. I was kind of proud of myself, I managed a disaster-free weather spell!"
  2051.  
  2052. "Your talent sure has a funny way of working though."
  2053.  
  2054. "I know. Hey did Rainbow Dash tell you she took me to Cloudsdale?"
  2055.  
  2056. "Yeah, she was kind of excited about it. I think she enjoyed the chance to show you off, to be honest."
  2057.  
  2058. "Beautiful place they got up there. One of 'em flipped me off though."
  2059.  
  2060. "At least that's all that happened."
  2061.  
  2062. "Yeah I know! But hey, progress is progress!"
  2063.  
  2064. "I suppose that's true." she says, thoughtfully.
  2065.  
  2066.  
  2067. "Dinarr is served!" calls Spike, from the kitchen. He comes marching out with a platter, a bowl and a stack of sandwiches thereupon, which he sets on a table.
  2068.  
  2069. "Pinto bean soup, with spinach and broccoli sandwiches!" he announces proudly.
  2070.  
  2071. "Thanks, Spike! That sounds delicious!" Twilight says, hurrying over and helping herself to a sandwich.
  2072.  
  2073. "I wasn't sure what to do for you, should I dump some coal in a bowl?" he asks you.
  2074.  
  2075. "Nah, a coal-bowl won't be necessary. I filled up on fallen apple-branches over at the Apple farm."
  2076.  
  2077. You could see him trying to come to terms with eating fallen timber, for a moment.
  2078.  
  2079. "They were quite succulant, too." you add, watching his expression of distaste turn more toward bewilderment.
  2080.  
  2081. "Uh, do they taste like apples?" he asks.
  2082.  
  2083. "Just exactly! I was kinda surprised. I wonder if maple branches would taste of maple syrup. I'll have to find some."
  2084.  
  2085. The little dragon shrugs, in a sort of resigned way. "I'm sure there are some around town, if you look."
  2086.  
  2087. "Yup, I intend to." you say. He wanders back off to the kitchen.
  2088.  
  2089. You wonder what gemstones taste like to him, and make a mental note to ask sometime.
  2090.  
  2091.  
  2092. You stand there while Twilight eats. You feel a bit awkward, but she was so entranced with her meal you didn't want to disturb her by trying to make small-talk.
  2093.  
  2094. Finally she gets done, and magic's the dishes up and marches into the kitchen.
  2095.  
  2096. "Hey Anonymous, want a drink before I fill the sink with dishes?" she calls.
  2097.  
  2098. "Sure!" you call back, walking in there. She plugs a stopper in the drain and turns the water on.
  2099.  
  2100. "I'm glad you got around so much today," she comments, "I was afraid I was stifling you, keeping you with me all the time."
  2101.  
  2102. "Yeah it was fun to get out and explore. Now I've got a few places I can land without causing too much of a commotion."
  2103.  
  2104. "That's good! I'm sure we'll get you settled in somewhere sooner or later. Until then, feel free to stay here."
  2105.  
  2106. "Thanks, I appreciate it."
  2107.  
  2108.  
  2109.  
  2110. By this time, the sink was over half full. You walk over and drink it down a good ways.
  2111.  
  2112. "That's good." you say, backing away. She nods, turning on the hot water, adding some soap and dunking the dishes in.
  2113.  
  2114. You watch the process of magically assisted dishwashing with interest. The same basics applied as doing it manually, but it looked alot more convenient since you didn't have to get your hands wet.
  2115.  
  2116. She rinsed and set the dishes by the sink.
  2117.  
  2118. "I've got alot of studying to do. Feel free to read, or whatever you'd like to do."
  2119.  
  2120. "Thanks, Twilight." you say.
  2121.  
  2122. You knew exactly what you were going to do. You found your blanket, picked an out of the way spot, spread it out, layed down on it and went to 'sleep'.
  2123.  
  2124.  
  2125.  
  2126. Someone was poking your nose. "I'm awake, gimme a sec." you say, seeing the by-now familiar roll of text. Then your vision came on. Twilight was standing there, a fore-hoof still slightly upraised.
  2127.  
  2128. "Time to get up!" she says, cheerfully.
  2129.  
  2130. You'd always hated people who were cheerful in the morning.
  2131.  
  2132. You check your body's status. As usual, you were cooled down.
  2133.  
  2134. "This takes me a minute." you tell her, taking some deep breaths.
  2135.  
  2136. Your temperature rose very slowly. Apple branches might taste good, but apparently they didn't last quite as long as coal.
  2137.  
  2138. You also felt like you needed to sneeze.
  2139.  
  2140. "Hey, I need to go sneeze up some ashes. Is it OK to do that in the yard?" you ask.
  2141.  
  2142. "Sure, just come out the back here. I think the yard's, well, dried out enough to be safe to walk on."
  2143.  
  2144. You force yourself upright, feeling like you weigh a ton, and plod through the kitchen after her.
  2145.  
  2146. Twilight opens the rear door and you step out. 'Gross!' you think, noting that the grass around is pretty badly polluted. The tree had sheltered the yard around the trunk though, so there was a bit of a clean-zone.
  2147.  
  2148. "Can you get this halter off me too?"
  2149.  
  2150. "Of course!"... The spark-arresting halter unbuckles and comes off.
  2151.  
  2152. "Thanks!" you say, and try to encourage the sneezing sensation. Pretty soon your body reacts, and you sneeze up a few clouds of ash.
  2153.  
  2154. You hope that doesn't scare any onlookers, it wasn't exactly private out here.
  2155.  
  2156. "Thanks. OK I think I'm done now, go ahead and put the thing back on me."
  2157.  
  2158. Once safely re-haltered, you go back inside.
  2159.  
  2160. Twilight's planning another day of study, apparently on the nature of interdimensional travel and alien beings. Really, who could blame her. You were sure a mystery like your presence wasn't something she could just ignore.
  2161.  
  2162. You try out the ponyville blacksmith's coal for breakfast. It's every bit as luscious as it smelled, then drink your fill of water.
  2163.  
  2164. Finally, you're ready to face the day. You wonder what you should do first.
  2165.  
  2166.  
  2167. You wander back from the kitchen into the main room. Spike's reading "The Equine-erer". "Bat-horse Guanos Ponyville!", "Bighoof Lives In My Neighbor's Barn", "10 Celebrites Who Suffer From Thrush"...
  2168.  
  2169. Bat-horse, eh? You like the picture, it gives you gigantic glassy eyes (Well, more gigantic) and huge fangs.
  2170.  
  2171. "I want to look at that once you're done with it, if you don't mind." you say
  2172.  
  2173. "Mm-hmm, sure, I'm just finishing it." Spike says, "I'll leave it on the table when I'm done."
  2174.  
  2175. Twilight also seems to be catching up on some research, she's over at her desk poring over a largish tome. You wander over. "What'cha reading?" you ask.
  2176.  
  2177. "Oh this is "A laypony's guide to interdimensional ley-lines", by Luminato the Wise. It's one of the definitive works on trans-universal transport."
  2178.  
  2179. "Finding out anything good?"
  2180.  
  2181. "Well, plenty of interest so far, but nothing I could apply practically yet. I still have a long way to go."
  2182.  
  2183. "That's cool. I was thinking of going out for a flight."
  2184.  
  2185. "Sure, go ahead. It looks like a nice day out."
  2186.  
  2187. "Yeah. Hey can you take the spark arrestor off?"
  2188.  
  2189. "Sure." she undoes and removes the arrestor, setting it on a table. You hold your breath and walk to the door.
  2190.  
  2191. "Not sure when I'll be back, but it shouldn't be very late." you say, then open the door and go outside.
  2192.  
  2193.  
  2194. Hoof traffic outside the library takes on a more urgent aspect until the street clears.
  2195.  
  2196. When were they going to get used to you. Sheesh. Though you suppose it could be worse, at least they weren't marching around with signs and burning you in effigy or something.
  2197.  
  2198. It is indeed a nice day, with a decent breeze this time. Perhaps the weather pegasi had decided not to chance you helping them, today.
  2199.  
  2200. You're tempted to explore town, you've got some idea of the layout from seeing it from overhead, now.
  2201.  
  2202. But you just hate scaring everyone indoors. You wonder if maybe Rarity didn't hate you so much, maybe she could make you some sort of costume that'd make incognito travel possible. But until she stops hating you, that's off the table.
  2203.  
  2204. Going to play at the Apple farm has some merit, but as one of the few places you're actually liked, you don't want to wear out your welcome.
  2205.  
  2206. An orange pony gallops by. Followed by a bright blue one. 'Oh cool, they're ignoring me!' you think.
  2207.  
  2208. You turn to look in the direction they're running from. More are galloping up the street looking panicked.
  2209.  
  2210.  
  2211.  
  2212. Something big was going down. Deciding to use the galloping liftoff, you rev up your fan, and race the direction they're going, spreading your wings.
  2213.  
  2214. You flap your way up into the air, gaining altitude as quickly as possible. You bank back around for an overhead view of the source of the excitement.
  2215.  
  2216. A large humanoid, probably 15 feet or so tall, with a huge club is walking in from the edge of town. You spiral down for a closer look.
  2217.  
  2218. It's only got one eye! It's a cyclops! And it's noticed you, too, though it's not doing anything about you yet.
  2219.  
  2220. The cyclops swings the club into a nearby house, taking half the front right off, then kneels down and reaches inside.
  2221.  
  2222. Fortunately it seems to come up empty, but it straightens and heads for another house.
  2223.  
  2224. You try to decide if you're the heroic type or not. It might eat somepony by the time you can get Twilight out here to toast it with her magic...
  2225.  
  2226. Toast it. Hm. Or pepper it with bullets. You could take this thing.
  2227.  
  2228. You buzz it, yelling "Get out of this town!"...Boy, you have a good sound system! Your voice echos through the streets!
  2229.  
  2230. You circle back, "Go back where you came from or else!"
  2231.  
  2232. That time you just dodged a club-swing. OK. It asked for it.
  2233.  
  2234.  
  2235. The cyclops was dressed in the typical cartoon-monster fashion, a cave-man suit. A fur over the shoulder and fur loincloth. It also had long greasy hair.
  2236.  
  2237. It looked eminently flammable. You take a bead on it, the glowing red crosshairs centered on it's chest. Not planning on shooting it with the Gatling gun, you instead try to get your body ready to upchuck a load of burning coal on it.
  2238.  
  2239. You gain altitude, then divebomb it, thinking "I'm gonna breathe fire all over this thing!"
  2240.  
  2241. You're troubled in that the cyclops has quickly assumed the stance of a baseball player, club held back in both grubby fists. It even spits disgustingly to the side.
  2242.  
  2243. Before he can swing, you think "NOW!" and exhale as strongly as you can.
  2244.  
  2245. The result is amazing. You belch not only glowing coals, but flaming gas too, as you hit the bottom of your arc. The now-blazing club just misses you to the rear. You power back up from the dive, banking around to view the outcome.
  2246.  
  2247. Mr. Cyclops is staggering, then running. He caroms off of a couple of buildings, apparently a little blind, then finds the center of the road and runs for it, bellowing.
  2248.  
  2249. You circle overhead, watching as he dives into a little pond in a park, extinguishing himself. He looks a little broiled as he gets out, getting a look at you and taking off running again, past the last houses and out towards the woods.
  2250.  
  2251. "And stay out!" you blare, for good measure.
  2252.  
  2253.  
  2254. You notice your steam running a little low, bank and glide back toward Twilight's. As you come down, you hear an odd sound.
  2255.  
  2256. It sounded like people with cocoanuts, banging them together by the dozens. It put you in mind of Monty Python for a moment, as you realize, the ponies below are clapping!
  2257.  
  2258.  
  2259. What had been mostly empty streets were now well populated with excited ponies, many applauding. You barely dare hope it's for you, but what else could it be?
  2260.  
  2261. You have to circle the library a couple of times to find a clear zone to touch down in, there are so many. You land hind-feet first, back-beating your wings, and settle onto all fours, folding your wings while still in the upright position to clear everypony's head, before you could stow them.
  2262.  
  2263. "I'm not sure what you did, but they liked it!" Twilight calls, from her front step.
  2264.  
  2265. One of the crowd, a yellow mare with flowers on her butt, gives you a rose. You raise a wing-cover a little, "Just tuck it under there."
  2266.  
  2267. She sides the stem in, and you close the cover. Now you've got a flower sticking out of you. There were a couple of appreciative whistles from the group.
  2268.  
  2269. You find yourself getting more and more embarrassed. It wasn't like the awful "At School In Your Underwear dream" sort of embarrassed, but it wasn't too far off.
  2270.  
  2271. "Anypony would have done the same." you say.
  2272.  
  2273. You can see a few headshakes and a couple murmured "Huh-uh!"'s from the crowd.
  2274.  
  2275. "Well anypony who can breathe fire would have."
  2276.  
  2277. Spike, now standing nearby, shakes his head no.
  2278.  
  2279. Well hot damn.
  2280.  
  2281. Pinky's voice rings out, "This calls for a parr-tay!!"
  2282.  
  2283. The embarrassment intensifies.
  2284.  
  2285.  
  2286.  
  2287. For a while you just stand there, shaking hooves with ponies and trying to keep their names straight when they introduce themselves. It's a such a sudden turn of public opinion that you wonder just how fickle the crowd is.
  2288.  
  2289. It almost reminds you of home, really.
  2290.  
  2291. You're glad your face is so inflexible, in your human body you'd have had bright red cheeks and looked totally uncool.
  2292.  
  2293. But there was one undeniable fact about your horrid steel body. It was pretty cool. You were like some awesome, oversized toy, and it seems the crowd suddenly finds you fascinating.
  2294.  
  2295. You are asked several times to unfurl your wings, as new ponies keep arriving, or to spread your fanblades out like a peacock. You do so, not wanting to disappoint anypony.
  2296.  
  2297. You're poked and touched by wondering ponies, and more than once you have to rear away from the ones that reach for your mane.
  2298.  
  2299. Tazering somepony would turn the scene into a disaster, you feel sure.
  2300.  
  2301. At one point, Pinky wedges her way in and asks you what flavor of ice-cream you prefer, favorite sort of cake, etc. You're forced to tell her you'd probably get sick if you ate anything like that, and she deflates.
  2302.  
  2303. So you tell her about what you DO like to eat, and she gets more and more excited as you name off what you've tried so far.
  2304.  
  2305. Then she bounces around happily and zips off through the throng.
  2306.  
  2307. You were glad she'd asked, as if there just had to be a party in your honor, at least you knew there'd be some good food!
  2308.  
  2309.  
  2310.  
  2311. A few pegasi with cameras show up, and you're interviewed by a couple of reporter-ponies. You make a mental note to ask Twilight if this happens to her every time, too.
  2312.  
  2313. You do your best to satisfy their curiousity. By the time you're done telling your story for the second time, the crowd has dissipated quite a bit.
  2314.  
  2315. You finally say your goodbyes and edge off toward the treebrary. Twilight steps aside and you slip inside, waving to the remaining ponies.
  2316.  
  2317. You close the door with some relief, and sag against it.
  2318.  
  2319. "Does that happen to you too?" you ask.
  2320.  
  2321. "More often than I'd like." she says.
  2322.  
  2323. "Man I dunno if I can handle that. I'll have to try to be boring from now on."
  2324.  
  2325. "You? That's gonna be a tall order, for you!"
  2326.  
  2327. You hope she's wrong.
  2328.  
  2329. She continues, "So you really drove off a cyclops on your own? That's impressive. They're notoriously violent."
  2330.  
  2331. "They're somewhat less so when on fire." you deadpan.
  2332.  
  2333. She giggles, "I can imagine."
  2334.  
  2335.  
  2336.  
  2337. "One of the reporters asked me if I had cutie pox." you inform her.
  2338.  
  2339. Twilight giggles some more. "Well you do have alot of cutie-marks! Certainly the fire one is accurate!"
  2340.  
  2341. You'd have smiled. "I guess so. Though not at the moment, I think I barfed up the whole works on that cyclops."
  2342.  
  2343. "You should eat some more of your coal before you catch cold, or something. I'll get you a bucket."
  2344.  
  2345. She bustles off, returning after a while with a nice galvanized bucket.
  2346.  
  2347. "I washed it for you. It's Spike's mop bucket."
  2348.  
  2349. "He's gonna be pissed."
  2350.  
  2351. "No he won't, I'll get him a new one tomorrow. And I'm sure a little coal won't hurt it anyway."
  2352.  
  2353. You wish for a moment that there was something more suited to eating coal out of, than a bucket. But it really seemed like there wasn't. Maybe someday you could find a really cool, stylish bucket. Maybe one of those snobby ones like they chill wine in.
  2354.  
  2355.  
  2356.  
  2357. You decide it's stupid to worry about such things. You watch as Twlight opens the closet, then one of the saddlebags, and floats a wad of coal up.
  2358.  
  2359. "This good?"
  2360.  
  2361. "Sure, that looks about right."
  2362.  
  2363. She drops it in the bucket, then closes up the bag and closet again.
  2364.  
  2365. "OK, dig in. You ought to be OK here by the door, but when you come in, let me put your spark arrestor on."
  2366.  
  2367. "Will do! Thanks again."
  2368.  
  2369. "No problem, thanks for saving Ponyville from a ravening monster!" she smiles and wanders back in and over to her desk.
  2370.  
  2371. You suspect she's also happy that she got to stay in during one of Ponyville's semi-regular monster attacks, for a change.
  2372.  
  2373. You dig in, letting the rich flavor of the coal permeate your senses.
  2374.  
  2375. There's a rapping up at the balcony window.
  2376.  
  2377. Spike opens the door, and Rainbow Dash swoops down and lands in the center of the main room, peering at you.
  2378.  
  2379. You raise your head, and she laughs.
  2380.  
  2381. "You have NO idea how funny you look when you eat that stuff!" she says.
  2382.  
  2383. You decide you're not moving from this spot until she's gone, so that she doesn't see the dorky spark arrestor Twilight would no doubt deploy if you entered the library proper.
  2384.  
  2385.  
  2386.  
  2387. Twilight speaks up. "Please, Rainbow, let him eat. He's just had an adventure with a cyclops."
  2388.  
  2389. "I know! I watched the whole thing!"
  2390.  
  2391. You pause in your chewing, suddenly embarrassed again.
  2392.  
  2393. The lack of crunching sounds attracts her attention and she looks at you.
  2394.  
  2395. "You didn't do too bad." she says.
  2396.  
  2397. Unsure what to say, you waggle one eyebrow at her, and she snickers.
  2398.  
  2399. You resume chewing, as Twilight asks for an account of the event from Dash's birds-eye view.
  2400.  
  2401. It's a bit rankling when Dash says your divebomb runs looked like 'a constipated bat trying to lay an egg mid-flight', but you don't let it spoil your dinner.
  2402.  
  2403. She redeems herself a bit in your eyes when she talks about the near-misses with the club. The club part was the bit that was the most memorable. You doubt you'll forget that windy "whoosh" it made when swung, any time soon.
  2404.  
  2405. "So once it went out, I grabbed it and put it on your balcony." she finished.
  2406.  
  2407. You stop eating for a moment.
  2408.  
  2409. "The cyclops's club's on the balcony?" you ask.
  2410.  
  2411. "Yup! I figured you'd want a souvenier."
  2412.  
  2413. "Thanks!"
  2414.  
  2415. You decide that, when you get a house, the club's going over the fireplace.
  2416.  
  2417.  
  2418.  
  2419. The thought strikes you that if you had your own place, particularly a nonflammable one, the spark-arrestor could be relegated to nightmare-night costume prop status.
  2420.  
  2421. And since you were, at least functionally, a pegasus pony...
  2422.  
  2423. "How does one go about getting a, I dunno, cloud and or house on a cloud to live in and or on, around here?" you ask Dash.
  2424.  
  2425. "Well you need to talk to city hall in Cloudsdale, I think. For a permanant cloud-house, I mean. They won't want you slapping one up right over Ponyville for instance. Then there's plumbing and stuff, that means you gotta hire experts. But if you just want a cloud to lay on, grab one and lay on it!"
  2426.  
  2427. "OK, I'll need to have you show me city hall one of these times." you tell her.
  2428.  
  2429. "Easy peasy. Just say when!"
  2430.  
  2431. Twilight looks just a little bit relieved. You knew you disturbed her daily regimen, hell, you probably have already thrown her schedule off for at least a month by now.
  2432.  
  2433. Such a hyper-organized pony really didn't need the added problems a houseguest caused.
  2434.  
  2435. "What'cha think, Twilight?" you ask.
  2436.  
  2437. "I think it's a great idea! I think you'd like having your own place. But I don't mind you staying here for as long as you need, of course.
  2438.  
  2439.  
  2440.  
  2441.  
  2442. "Do you think city hall's still open?" you sak Rainbow.
  2443.  
  2444. "Of course! It's only around noon or so."
  2445.  
  2446. You wolf down the rest of your coal, sliding the dusty bucket out of the way. You breathe as heavily as you can without throwing any big sparks, for a minute.
  2447.  
  2448. You watch your pressure gauge. Gaining fast. "OK, let's go!"
  2449.  
  2450. You give Twiliht a wave, then open the door and step outside. There are a few ponies going about their business, and you get some friendly waves.
  2451.  
  2452. 'What a difference a wayward cyclops makes', you muse.
  2453.  
  2454. Dash steps out also, says "Race ya!" and vanishes upward in a colorful streak.
  2455.  
  2456. You sigh, then look around for enough clear space to lift off. Now that the town ponies didn't run from you, you had a new problem.
  2457.  
  2458. Waiting until a long enough runway opened up didn't take too long, however.
  2459.  
  2460. Unfurling your wings, you gallop and take off.
  2461.  
  2462. Dash is, naturally, a little spot a long way off toward Cloudsdale.
  2463.  
  2464.  
  2465.  
  2466. Unseen behind you, Twilight comes outside, retrieves the totally forgotten flower, takes it inside and puts it in a water-filled vase.
  2467.  
  2468. It's a difficult climb up to Dash's altitude, as you're not quite warmed up yet. You finally make it though, and level off.
  2469.  
  2470. She looks a bit like a rainbow meteorite off in the distance, zipping around playfully.
  2471.  
  2472. Finally you fly over the nearest edge of Cloudsdale. Dash is hovering over an unmistakably municipal-looking building.
  2473.  
  2474. You join up with her.
  2475.  
  2476. "You finally made it! OK just go right in there and ask for a building permit, I think."
  2477.  
  2478. "You know what's going to happen if I go in there alone? They'll freak!" you tell her.
  2479.  
  2480. "OK, you big baby. I'll come with."
  2481.  
  2482. She drops down, landing neatly at the building entrance. You follow.
  2483.  
  2484. "Cloudsdale City Hall" is printed neatly on the arch over the double doors.
  2485.  
  2486. Rainbow opens one and walks in, wings at half-puff. You follow.
  2487.  
  2488. No wonder she sorta puffed up. The place was just so oppresively bureaucratic. Even Canterlot Castle was whimsical compared to this.
  2489.  
  2490. Everything was pillars and angles, high ceilings, and white.
  2491.  
  2492. Marching up to the imposing front desk, Dash asks, "I have a pony here who needs a building permit for a free-floating house."
  2493.  
  2494.  
  2495.  
  2496. The weedy-looking pegasus behind the desk peers at you through his thick glasses, with an appraising look.
  2497.  
  2498. It's obvious by his expression that you've alleviated his boredom. You hope not to the point of him calling for guards.
  2499.  
  2500. After a moment he speaks, "Through that door, down the hall to the city planning office."
  2501.  
  2502. He gestures to another large door.
  2503.  
  2504. "Thanks!" says Dash, leading the way.
  2505.  
  2506. Why do these places always stink. It's like... Stale paint, ink, and coffee.
  2507.  
  2508. Finally reaching the right door, Dash opens it and the two of you troop in.
  2509.  
  2510. The sounds of typing slowly subside, as pony-heads pop up one after another to stare over the tops of cubicle walls.
  2511.  
  2512. Dash once again walks up to a less imposing but still massive counter, repeating her request for a floating house permit.
  2513.  
  2514. A heavyset mare with a big beehive mane, dangly gold earrings and chained cats-eye glasses works her mouth at you a couple of times, then scurries over to a pidgeon-hole shelf, riffling through and pulling out a few different forms with her teeth. She stacks them together, slides them under a rather huge stapler then whomps it with a hoof.
  2515.  
  2516. Bringing it over and setting it on the counter, she says, "If- If you could just fill these out, and return them for processing, we'll get the process started."
  2517.  
  2518. "Thanks." Dash says, whisking it down the countertop toward you.
  2519.  
  2520. "Um. Can I get a pen?" you ask.
  2521.  
  2522.  
  2523. A couple of hours later, you and Dash emerge from the paper-powered dungeon, you gripping a manilla envelope containing a pink paper building permit.
  2524.  
  2525. You'd lucked out that the city planners were just about to convene a meeting, and were able to shoehorn processing your request in.
  2526.  
  2527. Equestria, it seemed, could be eerily similar to home sometimes.
  2528.  
  2529. You were glad the process didn't break down somewhere in processing, seeing as how you were legally a horse-wagon.
  2530.  
  2531. But fortunately, Cloudsdale bureaucracy saw no problems with a wagon building and living in a house.
  2532.  
  2533. You supposed, if it'd become an issue, you could have applied for a garage permit. You chuckle around the envelope.
  2534.  
  2535. "What's so funny?" Dash asks.
  2536.  
  2537. "Nothing. Just thinking."
  2538.  
  2539. "That's dangerous, especially for you!" she says, then ponks you on the withers with a forehoof.
  2540.  
  2541. "Let's go get something to eat!"
  2542.  
  2543. She launches into the air. You follow.
  2544.  
  2545.  
  2546. Or try to. You end up having to flap hard to get into the air. Panting to get your depleted pressure up as fast as possible, you try to catch Rainbow.
  2547.  
  2548. She touches down some ways off, at a Pastures Jr.
  2549.  
  2550. You land behind her, stow the building permit in the compartment in the top of your back, then follow her in. One couple grabs their burgers and marches out. A couple more give you dirty looks. A few whisper among themselves, and several seem to be staring at you like some kind of celebrity.
  2551.  
  2552. You nod at them and waggle your eyebrows, ignoring the haters.
  2553.  
  2554. Dash orders up a couple fried cornbreads and a hayburger, and a large water for you. She grabs the tray once ready and air-bounds over to a table with it.
  2555.  
  2556. You grab a mouthfull of napkins and join her.
  2557.  
  2558. "I actually found something edible in here." you say, then vacuum one up.
  2559.  
  2560. As you'd suspected, it was "LOW QUALITY" fuel. Which, really, seemed appropriate for this place.
  2561.  
  2562. You hear a few titters around the restraunt, not the least of which from Dash. You slurp up a couple more.
  2563.  
  2564. "That's awesome." Dash snickers, sliding you your water. Then she tears into her hayburger.
  2565.  
  2566.  
  2567.  
  2568. You chat with Rainbow over the meal. She's a fun pony, but so devoted to physical sports you find that you really have little in common. Competition wasn't something you actively sought out, generally, and she lived for the big win.
  2569.  
  2570. Even so, you found yourself enjoying this visit to Cloudsdale.
  2571.  
  2572. And, you were now in possession of the legal right to build yourself a place. The nice thing about being a pegasus was, you could create your own real estate as needed, apparently. And legally claim it beside. It was kinda cool.
  2573.  
  2574. Fortunately there was no such thing as property tax, either. You'd been concerned about that, remembering the whole business with the Apples and the cider. Their problems were fully bank-related though, apparently they had a loan to service.
  2575.  
  2576. Dash concludes her story about the latest outcomes in the pony olympics, the food long eaten.
  2577.  
  2578. "Um, cool, I'm glad Cloudsdale did well." you respond.
  2579.  
  2580. "Yup! Hey, wanna run the Wonderbolt training course? You still haven't tried the hurricane simulator!"
  2581.  
  2582.  
  2583.  
  2584.  
  2585. "Nah, I'd like my, er, probaby canvas, to stay firmly attached to my wing-struts."
  2586.  
  2587. She quirks a grin at that.
  2588.  
  2589. "Yeah I think I'll stick with my feathers. They can't rip." she says.
  2590.  
  2591. "Thanks for that, now I'll have more to think about whenever I fly."
  2592.  
  2593. She giggles, "Anytime, Anon."
  2594.  
  2595. "Speaking of which, I think I'm going to head back to Ponyville. I need to talk to Twilight."
  2596.  
  2597. "OK. I think I'll come with."
  2598.  
  2599. The two of you toss your trash and head out of the place. It was nice not causing a riot anymore. Unless of course you went back to Canterlot or anywhere beside your two new home towns.
  2600.  
  2601.  
  2602.  
  2603. Dash naturally takes off like a shot. You started breathing deep, slightly startled as you exhale little black burnt-napkin flakes. Par for the course, naturally.
  2604.  
  2605. You muse that if you keep eating with the ponies, you'll eventually have to start paying for stacks of napkins. You needed some source of money.
  2606.  
  2607. Especially for the later stages of the house project. You weren't just going to "grab a cloud and lay on it." Oh no, you were in a fantasy land and you were going to build a fantastic house to match.
  2608.  
  2609. At least napkins burn hot. You get up to pressure fast, then run down the slightly bouncy road surface and lift off.
  2610.  
  2611. Dash leads the way back to Ponyville, not that you'd have had any problem finding it anymore, and the two of you set down outside the treebrary.
  2612.  
  2613. Dash raps on the door. Spike opens it, and invites the two of you in.
  2614.  
  2615. Twilight's still immersed in a book, but you note that its a different one than she'd been working on. She must be a fast study.
  2616.  
  2617. She looks up from the tome. "Oh hi, Rainbow, Anonymous! How did everything go?"
  2618.  
  2619. You open your back compartment, causing Twilight's eyebrows to raise, and pull out the permit.
  2620.  
  2621. "I didn't know you had a top chamber!" she says.
  2622.  
  2623. "Oh, yeah, just discovered it." you lie, then change the subject. "We managed to get the whole thing done in one trip, the ponies in charge were having their meeting today." you say, slightly muffled by the envelope in your mouth. You offer it to her.
  2624.  
  2625. It's surrounded in her magic's violet sparkles as she takes it, opening it and examining the form inside, then sliding it back inside and passing it back.
  2626.  
  2627. You quickly stow it again.
  2628.  
  2629.  
  2630.  
  2631.  
  2632. "Congratuations! I'm glad that went OK. I know very little about Cloudsdale's construction policy."
  2633.  
  2634. "Actually, I was hoping you had a do-it-yourself cloud-house building book somewhere?" you ask.
  2635.  
  2636. "Spike? Get him A Guide To Precipitable Housing Construction, by Morning Woods, if you, hehe, would?" she asks.
  2637.  
  2638. You have to assume she's giggling about her pun more so than the unfortunate name of the author.
  2639.  
  2640. The little dragon runs off, rolling a ladder around the stacks, scrambles about halfway up, grabs out a book and scampers down with it.
  2641.  
  2642. He sets it on another small table. "There you go!" he says, looking proud of himself.
  2643.  
  2644. "Thankyou, Spike. I appreciate it!" you tell him, obviously he has to do this alot. he looks pleased with the praise.
  2645.  
  2646. "So Twilight, you doing anything tonight?" Rainbow asks.
  2647.  
  2648. "Well, I was hoping to finish studying up on how Anonymous there managed to get here. I wanted to see if we were going to start recieving interdimensional immigrants regularly. It appears, though, as if each occurrance tends to create a new branch in spacetime, creating another whole Equestria universe where-"
  2649.  
  2650. "Booooring!" Dash interrupts.
  2651.  
  2652.  
  2653.  
  2654. You're honestly a bit relieved to hear that, it would certainly suck for both you and Equestria if suddenly bronies began to rain from the skies. Aside from yourself, of course.
  2655.  
  2656. There is a knock at the door. Spike scampers over and answers it.
  2657.  
  2658. "Hi, y'all! Applejack announces from the open doorway. You can see her apple-cart outside, still fairly laden.
  2659.  
  2660. "Ah was just passin' through on tha way back to tha farm, an' I thought Ah'd stop by and see how y'all were gittin' along."
  2661.  
  2662. "Hunky dory here!" you say, to a chorus of other positive affirmations.
  2663.  
  2664. "Pinkeh's been plum everawhere, fixin' to throw some kinda bash fer Anon'mus there." she continues.
  2665.  
  2666. Pinky bursts in right past Applejack.
  2667.  
  2668. "Yes indeedy-leedy! And we're just about to kick it off!" she says, bouncing happily into the center of the room.
  2669.  
  2670. She got the party together already? You suppose you shoudn't be entirely surprised, though...
  2671.  
  2672. The sound of carnival music starts up somewhere in the distance.
  2673.  
  2674. "And we can't throw a party for Anon without Anon!" she insists, jumping up and pushing you toward the door with her forehooves.
  2675.  
  2676. She's pretty strong, too. You stare forelornly at your abandoned book, then give a helpless glance at the ponies still in the library as you're bustled outside.
  2677.  
  2678. "Ah recokon Ah'm glad I brought a heavy load'o apples this mornin'! Some of'em's them apples you helped buck tha other day too, Anon!" Applejack happily explains, shrugging herself into the harness.
  2679.  
  2680. Dash, Twilight and Spike emerge from the library, Dash using almost as much force to extract Twilight as Pinky'd used on you.
  2681.  
  2682. It seemed that your night was about to get alot more interesting.
  2683.  
  2684.  
  2685.  
  2686. "Ah was gonna run these home then come back ta tha party, but Ah'm a'thinkin' Ah might do rightly well keepin' tha cart handy an' sellin' 'em at tha party." Applejack says to you, though you suspect she's just thinking aloud.
  2687.  
  2688. "Hey Pinky, do you have any carmel for dipping apples at Sugarcube Corners?" you ask the energetic pink pony.
  2689.  
  2690. "Ooh! Ooh! Yes! I forgot all about your creepy knowlege of every aspect of our private lives!" she responds, "Let's go make these into carmel apples for the party!"
  2691.  
  2692. Applejack looks a little surprised, then contemplative. "If'n y'all think thar's tahm, Ah guess. It'd shore improve sales!"
  2693.  
  2694. Pinky takes the lead, as Twilight and Rainbow bicker on the doorstep for a minute, then follow.
  2695.  
  2696. It seemed that Dash had won the argument, and Twilight would be in atttendence.
  2697.  
  2698. You were somewhat relieved, she needed to get out more.
  2699.  
  2700. You noticed street traffic was generally flowing toward the music, and you got alot of positive responses from those who saw you.
  2701.  
  2702. Upon reaching Sugarcube Corners, Pinky lets you all in, then gets out a big pan and starts shuttling in chunks of caramel from a supply closet.
  2703.  
  2704. It went more or less like you'd imagined, only with Twilight's magical assistance and Pinky's industrious energy.
  2705.  
  2706. "Pinky, yer eatin' all'a mah profits." Applejack had to scold, once, as yet another caramel apple met with a pink fate.
  2707.  
  2708. Finally the wagon was lined up with row upon row of wooden-skewered caramel apples, some of which were rolled in crushed peanuts or had sprinkles.
  2709.  
  2710. You knew you'd have loved to eat one, back home. Right now they didn't appeal. Maybe if you somehow dehydrated one...
  2711.  
  2712. Still, the thought of molten sugar and machinery puts you off the idea.
  2713.  
  2714.  
  2715.  
  2716. Rainbow was by this point practically dancing in place. "Let's go, let's go already!" she says.
  2717.  
  2718. "Ah'm'a fixin' ta', jus' gimme a minute." Applejack says, closing the covers down carefully over the cargo, then getting into the harness.
  2719.  
  2720. You're vaguely proud of the apples yourself, having helped pick some of them, and hope she does well selling the things.
  2721.  
  2722. Pinky bounces happily out ahead, "C'mon ponies!" she calls back, as everyone moves out.
  2723.  
  2724. Dash says "Meet ya there!" and is gone in a rainbow flash.
  2725.  
  2726. Things get successively more festive as you reach town center, with big ribbon bows on the light-posts and baskets of flowers.
  2727.  
  2728. You wonder how Pinky affords all the party supplies, and things like the caramel supplies, but you suppose in a town of horses, a place called Sugarcube Corners probably wasn't hurting for profits.
  2729.  
  2730.  
  2731.  
  2732.  
  2733. Even so, this is impressive. Twinkling festive light-strings are draped around a huge "Thanks Anonymous!" banner strung across the entrance to the central park.
  2734.  
  2735. There is a genuine folding-punchcard steam caliope generating the merry tunes, complete with a twirling-balls speed governor. It's being tended by a stately looking elderly pony in a red vest.
  2736.  
  2737. You feel as though you just met your musically talented cousin, as you inspect the caliope.
  2738.  
  2739. "I found that especially for you, Anon. I knew you'd like it." Pinky whispers in your ear.
  2740.  
  2741. "You're right, it's amazing!" you whisper back, wondering why she was being so conspiratorial.
  2742.  
  2743. "Ooh! Your treats table! Follow me!" she says loudly, startling you.
  2744.  
  2745. Shocked half insensate by Pinky's nonstop behavioral curveballs, you follow her through the crowd, Twilight trailing awkwardly behind.
  2746.  
  2747. Dash and Applejack are hanging back together, as Applejack sets up her stand, chatting.
  2748.  
  2749.  
  2750.  
  2751. You're led to a tent-pavilion encircled inside with folding tables. It's a bit of a mob, as ponies are loading paper plates with all manner of pastries and bread-type foods. Toward the back is a loaded table with a white cloth thrown over it.
  2752.  
  2753. Pinky whisks the cloth cover off.
  2754.  
  2755. You have to use every bit of restraint you have, not to laugh. There were wooden replicas of all kinds of party foods, made of all different kinds of woods and... Coals? Each thing was a worthy piece of art on it's own, and you intend to stash at least one of the hors'de'vors and maybe a cupcake or two as mementos. In the center, though, was a wooden layer cake, frosted with what smelled like gelled sterno and sprikled with curls of sawdust. There was also a stand of assorted bottled waters from all over Equestria.
  2756.  
  2757. Once again, if you could have salivated, you'd have been drowning. "Whoa..." you say, "Thanks, Pinky! That looks delicious!"
  2758.  
  2759. "No problem Anonymous! Anything for you! Let me get you the cake knife!"
  2760.  
  2761. She produces a cute little chainsaw.
  2762.  
  2763. Seriously. It was pink, with large hearts, and a short, rounded bar, also with hearts.
  2764.  
  2765. "Do you want to cut the cake?" she asks.
  2766.  
  2767.  
  2768.  
  2769.  
  2770. "Uhm, maybe I'd better, sure!" you say. After all, of the two of you, at least you were made of steel.
  2771.  
  2772. She proffers the saw to you, and you try to imitate her grip. One hoof in the hole in the rear. One in the bent-tube bar-cage on the side. Flip switch on with nose, grip pullstart in teeth...
  2773.  
  2774. And in a burst of blue smoke, it's running. You saw the cake like slicing a pizza, making all the pieces so that the saw won't have to be, er, trotted out again.
  2775.  
  2776. You shut it down, handing it back to Pinky.
  2777.  
  2778. There's raucus cheering and a few clopping claps.
  2779.  
  2780. "Everyone, this is the guest of tonight's party, Anonymous!" Pinky announces to the gathered throng.
  2781.  
  2782. "Hi folks!" you say, not having been prepared for this to be The Big Moment where you'd be introduced.
  2783.  
  2784. You shake hooves with a few ponies, then things seem to return to normal.
  2785.  
  2786. "Need a plate?" Pinky says, proferring a fairly durable looking plastic one.
  2787.  
  2788. "Sure? Yeah!" you say, grabbing the plate and sliding a slice of the cake onto it, along with a pressed maple sawdust and coal cupcake topped with torn up playing card bits. There's just room for an hors'de'vore which, upon sniffing, seemed to be composed of square slices of oak, corrogated cardboard, mahogany, pine, and a few other types of wood you couldn't immediately identify.
  2789.  
  2790.  
  2791.  
  2792.  
  2793. The kicker was the wooden-block hors'de'vor was held on a bamboo skewer. The entire thing was edible.
  2794.  
  2795. Though, you supposed, a regular toothpick likewise would have been.
  2796.  
  2797. "Thanks, Pinky, this is awesome. I can't believe the effort you put into this!" You say, and she grins hugely, saying "Anything for a friend!"
  2798.  
  2799. "I'm going to go find a place and chow down." you say, then grab a bottle of "Canterlot Mountain Springwater" in your teeth and the plate off the table between your forehooves. Balancing on hind legs was, for you, quite natural, fortunately.
  2800.  
  2801. Pinky says "OK Anon, I'll come out when I get my plate." Then she re-covers your table with a sheet, grabs a plate from another and gets in line for the regular food.
  2802.  
  2803. You head for Applejack and Rainbow, once you're out of the tent.
  2804.  
  2805. Dodging through the happy crowd, you catch glimpses of them. Another wagon has pulled up, with a dark red pony.
  2806.  
  2807. It's Mac.
  2808.  
  2809.  
  2810.  
  2811. You reach them, setting your water and plate on a cleared off section of Applejack's wagon. Quite a few of the carmel apples were gone already, and there was a bit of a line.
  2812.  
  2813. "Well hiya Anon! Looks like Pinkeh fixed ya some grub! Tarnation, that's some powerful interestin' stuff." Applejack says, leaning in for a close look.
  2814.  
  2815. "Looks like she outdid herself, as usual!" Says Dash.
  2816.  
  2817. You lean down and bite off about a third of the hors'de'vor, chewing it thoughtfully.
  2818.  
  2819. Once you can speak, you say "It seems she's a good cook, too!"... Even your body's display agreed.
  2820.  
  2821. Applejack nods and goes back to serving up apples, while Dash resumes chattering to her about some arial stunt she's working on.
  2822.  
  2823. You chew thoughtfully, enjoying the caliope music, and watching Mac setting up his wagon.
  2824.  
  2825. You wonder how he got the news, figuring it was probably Pinky once you saw him lifting barrels out from the back and setting them in a row along the side. They're each marked with three large X's.
  2826.  
  2827. Then he erects a banner-sign, "Big Mac's Hard Cider".
  2828.  
  2829. A line suddenly forms at his wagon. It looks as though the Apples were going to have a big night.
  2830.  
  2831.  
  2832.  
  2833. As you work your way through your plateful, you're surprised at just how good everything tasted. It seemed she'd actually found seasonings for the different kinds of woods she'd used.
  2834.  
  2835. You decide to become a Sugarcube Corners regular, if she'd continue to make things like this.
  2836.  
  2837. And it wasn't just the taste, either, though each bit was deleriously good.
  2838.  
  2839. It was also the smokes you were breathing out. You smelled like the best campfire you ever smelt, just now.
  2840.  
  2841. Then you got to the cake. It was a masterpiece, with surprisingly thin layers of woods and such.
  2842.  
  2843. The flavor was truely indescribable, as you had nothing from your old life to compare it to. But you were in culinary heaven.
  2844.  
  2845. As the smoke from it made itself known, you were reminded of fine pipe tobacco, sandalwood, a hint of fall leaf-burn...
  2846.  
  2847. You decide everything on that table's coming home with you after the party.
  2848.  
  2849. You also feel alot happier, apparently she'd found some ingrediant that got you a little drunk.
  2850.  
  2851. The sterno frosting, possibly. Whatever it was, you'd caught a happy glow from it.
  2852.  
  2853.  
  2854.  
  2855. The bottle of Canterlot Mountain Springwater goes down real nice, too. You'd noted it had a hint of extra shine to it, it's possible that with all the high magic they use around Canterlot, it may have been slightly imbued.
  2856.  
  2857. Mac is, by this time, serving up from the third barrel of hard cider. Those ponies knew how to put it away, apparently.
  2858.  
  2859. You get up and nod to Applejack, taking your plate. "Just one more ... Bamboo wood-slice thingy." you think, ducking back into the tent. You find Twilight in there, behind your table... Crouched over a book.
  2860.  
  2861. "Hey, Twilight! You ought to get out and mingle, ya know?" you tell her.
  2862.  
  2863. She glances up.
  2864.  
  2865. "Yeah I guess. It's just that these social settings aren't conducive to research."
  2866.  
  2867. "There's more to life than research! C'mon, live a little!"
  2868.  
  2869. She puts a bookmark in and closes the book, stowing it her underwing bag. You set your plate on your table, nudge your head under the sheet and pluck out a thingy, which you proceed to scarf down.
  2870.  
  2871. Once you're done, you do your best to nudge Twilight out into the fading daylight.
  2872.  
  2873. It's obvious she's lost at sea, in this situation, and you decide bringing her back over to the Apples is the best course of action, and lead the way.
  2874.  
  2875. She follows you back over there.
  2876.  
  2877. You whisper to big mac, "Hey Mac, can Twilight have a freebie? She's too tense."
  2878.  
  2879. He hands you a mug.
  2880.  
  2881.  
  2882.  
  2883. "Here Twilight, got you something!" you say, returning to her.
  2884.  
  2885. She takes the mug and has a swig. Then she shivers a little, and drinks a long pull from the mug.
  2886.  
  2887. "Big Mac certainly knows how to brew, doesn't he!" she says.
  2888.  
  2889. "Durn tootin!" Appejack replies, along with an "Eeyup!" from Mac. Rainbow just grins over a mug of the stuff.
  2890.  
  2891. "Well. It certainly smells, er, effective!" you say, having gotten a whiff. If it wasn't for the impurities, you thought it might make for a decent fuel.
  2892.  
  2893. The party seemed to be really getting underway, the laughter and high spirits becoming louder.
  2894.  
  2895. Pinky appears periodically, working the crowd with a variety of entertainments, some of which appeared rather bawdy. Of course the real show couldn't have expressed such a side to her, and you appreciate that it exists.
  2896.  
  2897. The caliope falls silent, as the dapper pony running it changes in another stack of punchcard. The crowd-roar is really noticable now, everypony seems to be having a good time.
  2898.  
  2899. Then the music re-starts, with a much livelier tune. 'He must have loaded up the 'everybody's getting loaded' playlist.' you think.
  2900.  
  2901. Ponies start dancing.
  2902.  
  2903. "Hey Twiight," you say, "Care to cut a rug with me?"
  2904.  
  2905. She blinks at you, then sets the empty mug down. "Sure, why not."
  2906.  
  2907.  
  2908.  
  2909. The music called for a fast dance, which was fortunte, because Twilight's dancing was a bit dangerous to get too close to.
  2910.  
  2911. What she lacked in technique she made up for in exhuberance.
  2912.  
  2913. You had fun, trying to match her style, but also threw in bits of the Egyptian and even some Thriller.
  2914.  
  2915. What you were best at, though, turned out to be The Robot. Which was fine by you.
  2916.  
  2917. You rotated, whirred and chuffed your way around her, pleased that you could do it complete with the sound effects.
  2918.  
  2919. Every so often she'd suffer a giggling fit, like when you twisted your head upside down without breaking eye-contact.
  2920.  
  2921. Considering how your mane worked, you knew it had to be at least as impressive as it was funny.
  2922.  
  2923. Then another mare and stallion cut in between you. Twilight gave you a happy nod, and you were danced away from one another.
  2924.  
  2925. Your new partner was a challenge to establish eye contact with.
  2926.  
  2927.  
  2928.  
  2929.  
  2930.  
  2931. She was a grey pegasus, with bubbles on her ass.
  2932.  
  2933. While she wasn't as prone to flail as Twilight was, she certainly was the more dangerous of the two, prone to bump into other ponies and send them flying.
  2934.  
  2935. Fortuntely the crowd kept moving so nobody seemed to catch on as to who was causing the incidents.
  2936.  
  2937. You catch a glimpse of Rainbow dancing with... Is that Soarin? He didn't have the suit on, but there was no mistaking that mane.
  2938.  
  2939. 'Glad she's having some fun too.', you think. You hadn't been sure up to now.
  2940.  
  2941. You dodge another sabotaged dancer as he hops away on one hoof.
  2942.  
  2943. "I just don't know what went wrong!" the grey pony says.
  2944.  
  2945. "Don't sweat it, honey." you say, and try to dance her out to a less thickly populated zone.
  2946.  
  2947.  
  2948.  
  2949. You end up dancing with quite a few partners as evening settled firmly into night. In fact you wore them out, having the advantage of a full head of steam over their fallable muscle-powered bodies.
  2950.  
  2951. It was the most fun you've had since you got here.
  2952.  
  2953. You even danced with Pinky for a while, though it seemed if there was one pony there who could have worn you out, it'd have been her. She whirled off through the crowd after a while though, and you only saw flashes of her now and again, after that.
  2954.  
  2955. Finally you tire of dancing, your last partner having begged off to go have a cider, so you return to what you think of as home base, the Apples' vending zone.
  2956.  
  2957. There's now a pile of empty barrels stacked behind Mac's wagon, though he's still vending up a storm. Applejack's sold out, and sitting on her wagon chatting with Twilight.
  2958.  
  2959. "How'd your dance go?" you ask the purple pony.
  2960.  
  2961. "Oh you were wonderful, thankyou!" she says, sounding a bit far-off. Maybe she'd had another cider or two.
  2962.  
  2963. "Cool, so were you." you say, dutifully.
  2964.  
  2965.  
  2966.  
  2967.  
  2968. Pinky comes hopping out of the crowd.
  2969.  
  2970. "Hey Anon! I know what you should do to liven up the party!" she says, boinging up to you.
  2971.  
  2972. "What?"
  2973.  
  2974. "You should make some special weather!"
  2975.  
  2976. You wince. You'd probably gotten lucky with that breeze you'd made.
  2977.  
  2978. Unfortunately, a few other ponies overheard.
  2979.  
  2980. "Yeah, do us some weather!"
  2981.  
  2982. "Hey everypony! Anon's gonna make weather!"
  2983.  
  2984. Oh hell.
  2985.  
  2986.  
  2987.  
  2988. The idea spread like wildfire and an audience began gathering.
  2989.  
  2990. "I'm not so sure it's a good idea, I mean you all know what happens when my spells go bad-" you attempt, but excuses were obviously not going to cut it.
  2991.  
  2992. The cheering and encouragement kept increasing, and it became obvious that you would have to perform.
  2993.  
  2994. It was Soarin, Dash and Derpy, however, that finally convinced you.
  2995.  
  2996. Hell if even the pegasi wanted it, sure, you'd give it to 'em.
  2997.  
  2998. "OK, OK! I'll do it! Anything in particular?"
  2999.  
  3000. There's an inarticulate jabbering of dozens of ideas, you swear you even heard "typhoon!" in there somewhere.
  3001.  
  3002. But one voice caught your imagination. "Fog!" it had said.
  3003.  
  3004. Well, what could go wrong with fog?
  3005.  
  3006. "The people have spoken!" you crow, your soundsystem rivalling even the caliope for a moment.
  3007.  
  3008. "Fog it shall be!"
  3009.  
  3010.  
  3011.  
  3012. Extending your wings, you begin a slow flap, concentrating on a moderate, ground-hugging theatrical fog. Really AWESOME fog.
  3013.  
  3014. You keep it up until you feel that change in the wind that means you accomplished something.
  3015.  
  3016. "OK guys, any minute!" you call out.
  3017.  
  3018. There are a few cheers, as ponies wait expectantly.
  3019.  
  3020. Then the fog began to arrive. It must have begun from somewhere in the vicinity of the woods, as that's the direction it came in from.
  3021.  
  3022. There were gasps, and a couple of shocked yelps, as what look like ropey tentacles of fog flow around the buildings, slithering out and amidst you and the crowd.
  3023.  
  3024. Yecch. You coud swear there were even sucker-pad patterns on them.
  3025.  
  3026. The ponies fidgetted uncomfortaby as the fog insinutated itself throughout their forest of legs.
  3027.  
  3028. A coolness came along with the fog, a sort of clammy wetness, like dew setting.
  3029.  
  3030. Then the main body of the fog began pouring over the tops of buildings, like a huge, cresting wave.
  3031.  
  3032. "Oooooh" came a nervous communal response, from the throng of ponies.
  3033.  
  3034. The remaining few dancers stopped to watch, and the caliope music took on a strange echoing effect, as though heard from across a river.
  3035.  
  3036.  
  3037. The rays from Luna's moon give the fog a weird white glow, as it comes rolling in following the fog-snakes.
  3038.  
  3039. It washes over you and the crowd, for a while obscuring everything. The twinkling light-strings become indistinct flickering candle-glows, and the light-posts are merely lighter toned bits of fog.
  3040.  
  3041. Then the level of the fog sinks until everypony's heads emerge, and continues dropping to about knee height, forming a totally opaque layer.
  3042.  
  3043. The creepiest thing, though, is that there are random upward bursts here and there throughout the fog, as if hooves or even entire pony heads were trying to break through the surface, only to fall back into it.
  3044.  
  3045. What's worse, they appear skeletal.
  3046.  
  3047. There are other shapes that more slowly rise and remain for periods of time, resembling gravestones, and taller ghostly shapes moving around anywhere the lighting's low.
  3048.  
  3049. There are some startled ooh's and ahhs...
  3050.  
  3051. Then cheering?
  3052.  
  3053. You are treated to a huge outburst of cheering and hoofclapping, which goes on for some time.
  3054.  
  3055. The embarrassment is so bad you want to shrink into a pebble, but then you decide to just relax and enjoy it.
  3056.  
  3057.  
  3058.  
  3059.  
  3060. "Pwong-pwong-pwong. Clank clonk." "I'm up!!"
  3061.  
  3062. Your vision clicks on. There's Spike with his broom. He looks a little annoyed.
  3063.  
  3064. Sunshine's streaming in.
  3065.  
  3066. "Twilight won't get up. I thought maybe you could help." he says.
  3067.  
  3068. You're not exactly hung over, but you're not quite tip-top, either. The memories of the prior evening come back fitfully.
  3069.  
  3070. Did that actually happen? Wow.
  3071.  
  3072. "I'll... See what I can do." you say, working your legs under yourself and throwing yourself upright.
  3073.  
  3074. It's not easy. At least Twilight had been lively enough to put your spark arrestor on you when you got back.
  3075.  
  3076.  
  3077.  
  3078.  
  3079. You pant for a minute, and your heat builds up fairly fast. Pinky's cooking was apparently also pretty, er, nutritious.
  3080.  
  3081. Soon the stairs don't look quite so much like a death-trap, and you climb your way up to Twilight's room.
  3082.  
  3083. You pass the window to the balcony on the way. Sure enough, the cyclops' scortched club is laying across part of it, small end propped against the railing.
  3084.  
  3085. Dash came through for you, that time. You reach Twilight's bedroom door, vaguely wondering why there even is one. After all, her whole bedroom was open to the main room.
  3086.  
  3087. You rap on it. A muffled "Unnng" sound emerges.
  3088.  
  3089. "Hi Twilight! Time to get up!" you call, loudly, into the main room, knowing it'd reach her alot more clearly than yelling at the door.
  3090.  
  3091. "Nnng, not right now." comes back.
  3092.  
  3093. "Spike wants you to wake up." you call back.
  3094.  
  3095.  
  3096.  
  3097. "Just ten more... Wait is that the time?!" is the response.
  3098.  
  3099. There's a sound of complaining bedsprings then hooves clattering on the floor.
  3100.  
  3101. The door swings open and Twilight walks out, looking pretty awful.
  3102.  
  3103. Her huge eyes were somewhat bloodshot and indistinct.
  3104.  
  3105. "I need a glass of water." she says, trooping past you and down the stairs.
  3106.  
  3107. As you follow, you find the wobbly pony kind of amusing. You'd never seen her in this state.
  3108.  
  3109. "So, what'd you think of Pinky's fireworks display at the end, there?" you ask.
  3110.  
  3111. "Fireworks? Oh, uh... I guess they were pretty good." she responds.
  3112.  
  3113. They'd been downright excellent, by your recollection.
  3114.  
  3115.  
  3116.  
  3117.  
  3118. Twilight must have had a bit more cider than you'd thought. Though it was much more likely that she was a lightweight when it came to drinking.
  3119.  
  3120. She mopes her way into the kitchen. You hear the clink of a glass then water running.
  3121.  
  3122. Soon she comes back, and settles at her desk, water at the ready.
  3123.  
  3124. "I've got to try and catch up on my studying. You can do the same, if you like, or go out, whatever you want." she says.
  3125.  
  3126. You glance over. Morning Woods' Guide To Precipitable Housing Construction beckons.
  3127.  
  3128. "You know, I think I'll join you." you say, pulling up a stool and opening your book.
  3129.  
  3130. Under it, you notice, is the Batpony edition of The Equinerer. You plan to frame it.
  3131.  
  3132.  
  3133.  
  3134. The book isn't organized all that well, it seems, but as you page around you start to get a general idea of what's required.
  3135.  
  3136. Clouds, apparently, can be packed down like snowballs and achieve a firmness related to how tightly packed they'd been.
  3137.  
  3138. Tools also were going to be required if you wanted anything that didn't look like a giant snow-fort.
  3139.  
  3140. A cloud-brick press-mold seemed to be a big one on the list to obtain. One very promising looking variant could press lego-type interlocking bricks.
  3141.  
  3142. That was right up your alley.
  3143.  
  3144. Then there was roofing, you were going to need different presses for the various shapes you'd be using.
  3145.  
  3146. There was a section on how to make a surface which could support everyday objects. It looked tricky, involving an innate pegasus magic, but you seemed capable of doing everthing normal pegasi could, so... You hope for the best, there.
  3147.  
  3148. You flipped ahead into the utilities installation parts. Here you got utterly lost.
  3149.  
  3150. Despite the book's attempt to explain the water supply, you couldn't quite wrap your head around it.
  3151.  
  3152. The electricity was even worse.
  3153.  
  3154. Dash was right, this was going to require specialists.
  3155.  
  3156.  
  3157.  
  3158. One good thing though... Clouds could be deconstructed by kicking them, apparently.
  3159.  
  3160. So you can go ahead and make a huge messy snow-fort then just bust it back up into clouds again later.
  3161.  
  3162. Your permit was wonderfully permissive, giving you an acre cubed of airspace "well clear of any standing ground structures or farmed fields", so long as it was at least five miles from any city. From your flights you knew of plenty of zones that qualified.
  3163.  
  3164. Well, Dash had said free-range clouds were free. Time to go stake your claim!
  3165.  
  3166. Closing the book, you slide it off the Batpony paper. "Save this for me, could you?" you ask Twilight, walking The Equinerer over to her desk between your fore-hooves.
  3167.  
  3168. "Sure, Anon.", she says, sliding it into a desk drawer. "Are you going out?"
  3169.  
  3170. "Yeah. Hey can you-" you begin, then notice her glow already unstrapping the spark arrestor.
  3171.  
  3172. "Way ahead of you."
  3173.  
  3174. She looks somewhat improved from earlier, though still a little rough.
  3175.  
  3176. "Not sure when I'll be back. I'm going to go try to build a little cloud-hut. If it turns out nice I might stay the night in it, OK?"
  3177.  
  3178. "Sure, go have fun! But if you do, stop in tomorrow and say hi, OK?"
  3179.  
  3180. "Will do."
  3181.  
  3182. Opening the closet, you grab out Pinky's tablecloth full of goodies, which you'd wrapped into a bindle-bundle. You scarf down a cupcake (Boy, that maple flavor really does come through), then shrug it over your neck, being sure to get it over the last sparkball on your withers.
  3183.  
  3184. You leave the saddlebags of coal, as you're sure you've got enough Pinky-fuel to last for a day at least.
  3185.  
  3186.  
  3187.  
  3188. You head out the door, get a drink from the hose, and sneeze a few times, the usual morning regimen.
  3189.  
  3190. It's looking like the pegasi are planning on a rain shower.
  3191.  
  3192. That was good for you- More clouds around!
  3193.  
  3194. A couple of ponies down the road wave to you. You wave back, then set up your wings and take off.
  3195.  
  3196. As you power your way up, the pegasi you pass give you mixed reactions. You were certainly less popular among their crowd.
  3197.  
  3198. Setting off for the forest, you zoom into the distance, scanning around to find some unclaimed land. Fortunately there seems to be plenty of it.
  3199.  
  3200. You reach a cloud floating pretty much where you'd like to be, and land on it. The view is wonderful, and there's nothing on the ground for a long way.
  3201.  
  3202. 'Yeah, this'll do.' you think.
  3203.  
  3204. Leaping off, you fly over to another cloud and gather it to the first.
  3205.  
  3206. Keeping this up, you accumulate a cloud so large it's starting to rain a bit.
  3207.  
  3208. Now for the snowball part.
  3209.  
  3210. It's challenging, with hooves. You have to sort of hammer the cloudstuff together between them. It's not unlike smooshing cotton candy, and with a similar result.
  3211.  
  3212. Soon you snowball together enough "floor" to walk on. It reminds you of a cut-rate version of a Cloudsdale road, which is probably a good sign.
  3213.  
  3214. You continue until you've got a decent sized floor for a little cabin.
  3215.  
  3216. More clouds turn out to be necessary before you begin on the walls.
  3217.  
  3218.  
  3219.  
  3220.  
  3221. You gather a few clouds. Then you find an odd one. It's got a curled-up, hung-over teal blue with rainbow trim pegasus atop it.
  3222.  
  3223. Hovering there, you consider what to do. It'd be fun to scare her awake, but what if you scared her right off her cloud.
  3224.  
  3225. You were sure that murdering Dash wouldn't be the best start to your stay in Equestria.
  3226.  
  3227. This opportunity, still, shouldn't be entirely wasted.
  3228.  
  3229. You rip a chunk off of the cloud, smush it into a spitball sized projectile, then flip it like a pebble. It bounces off her nose.
  3230.  
  3231. A hoof rises and she scratches there as if she had an itch.
  3232.  
  3233. You make another, and fastball it at her ass. It bounces off and her leg twitches. She groans, stretches, then cracks an eye.
  3234.  
  3235. "You!" she exclaims, accusingly.
  3236.  
  3237. "Me!" you reply.
  3238.  
  3239. "What're YOU doing here?" she demands.
  3240.  
  3241. "I'm building a cloud-house! I'm surprised you're still asleep, considering the rest of the pegasi are making a raincloud over Ponyville."
  3242.  
  3243. "They are? Oh fudge. I overslept." She yawns, getting to her feet.
  3244.  
  3245. "I better go help. Show me your cloud-thing when you're done."
  3246.  
  3247. And with that, she's gone.
  3248.  
  3249. You watch the rainbow dissipate, then steal her cloud.
  3250.  
  3251.  
  3252.  
  3253. Having replenished your stock of clouds, you start cloudball-packing again, laying out a rectangular shape, the outline of the walls.
  3254.  
  3255. You're just going for one main room on your first attempt.
  3256.  
  3257. Time passes quickly, the work's monotonous but feels strangely empowering. It must be the thought of building your own house that made it so satisfying.
  3258.  
  3259. After a few more hours and another cloud-gathering run, the place is more or less complete.
  3260.  
  3261. Sure enough you were able to spell a "table" you'd built (more of an extended shelf supported along 2 edges by walls) to hold the bag of pinky-treats.
  3262.  
  3263. The bed you made is lumpy but servicable.
  3264.  
  3265. Apparently, however, you needed to re-read the part about cloud doors. Each time you tried to attach one, it'd stick fast and you'd have to break it apart again.
  3266.  
  3267. Walking outside, you regard your creation. Fantastic it wasn't. But it was certainly was a place you could stay whenever you needed.
  3268.  
  3269. That thought brings a 'smile' to your face.
  3270.  
  3271. You have your own house, on a cloud, in Equestria.
  3272.  
  3273.  
  3274.  
  3275. "Geez, what happened! Did ya eat too much cotton candy and puke?"
  3276.  
  3277. You mentally frown, spotting Rainbow Dash hovering a ways off.
  3278.  
  3279. "Cut me some slack, Dash! It's a first run!" you say, your jimmies most definitely rustled.
  3280.  
  3281. She lands, wings puffed. It's obvious that she doesn't approve of your design ethic.
  3282.  
  3283. Poking her head into the door-opening, she says "This is like a third world country or something! A bench and a bed? Geez, Anon!"
  3284.  
  3285. "You can do better, I suppose."
  3286.  
  3287. "Oh I could, I just don't feel like it. Maybe I'll give you some pointers though."
  3288.  
  3289. While still irritated, you can't bring yourself to turn that down.
  3290.  
  3291. "OK, help me get the door on then."
  3292.  
  3293. "The door's about the last of your problems. Let's start with the inside."
  3294.  
  3295.  
  3296.  
  3297. Dash flits around inside, smooshing the cloud-material around and occasionally bringing in another cloud for material.
  3298.  
  3299. By the time the two of you get done with her "pointers", the place is greatly improved.
  3300.  
  3301. You found yourself very glad she helped rebuild the bed, when you try it out. Lump free!
  3302.  
  3303. Naturally, Dash was an expert on making clouds comfy, it stood to reason.
  3304.  
  3305. The rest of the place was more or less as you'd planned, only smoother and with a working door.
  3306.  
  3307. She even fashioned a mailbox for you, something you'd overlooked.
  3308.  
  3309. Though you probably weren't going to be getting much mail, you did have an address now.
  3310.  
  3311.  
  3312.  
  3313. The two of you take a flight around the place in the fading light.
  3314.  
  3315. "You're going to add more turf-cloud, right?"
  3316.  
  3317. "Oh sure, eventually. I want to make the place big and awesome, when I can."
  3318.  
  3319. "That's cool. I got friends who do construction, when you're ready I'm sure they can help out."
  3320.  
  3321. "Awesome. It's going to be a while before I can afford to do it right though. For now this'll be fine."
  3322.  
  3323. "OK. I'm gonna go see some ponies, then turn in for the night."
  3324.  
  3325. "Thanks for the help!"
  3326.  
  3327. "Yeah yeah. It still looks like a clown barfed. At least you won't wreck your back laying on the bed now though."
  3328.  
  3329. You chuckle, doubting such a thing was even possible for you.
  3330.  
  3331. "Goodnight, Dash."
  3332.  
  3333. "Night, Bat-zilla!"
  3334.  
  3335. And off she went.
  3336.  
  3337.  
  3338.  
  3339. You land, go inside, and shut the door.
  3340.  
  3341. The fading daylight penetrates the walls somewhat. You check Pinky's treats, the refurbished table's holding them up just fine.
  3342.  
  3343. Then you plod over to the bed and roll onto it.
  3344.  
  3345. A number of mattress commercial quotes assail your mind as you try to get used to "sleeping on a cloud".
  3346.  
  3347. It was sort of like a waveless waterbed, cool, but fortunately not actually damp. For some reason, Equestrian clouds tended to be wet only on the bottom.
  3348.  
  3349. You wonder how the hell you're going to wake up tomorrow.
  3350.  
  3351. "I want to wake when the light begins to brighten or if any plummetting happens or if somebody tries to wake me, and sleep now." was the best you could come up with.
  3352.  
  3353.  
  3354.  
  3355. You're surprised awake by a text-roll and your vision going active.
  3356.  
  3357. Sitting up in bed, you look around. Not totally dark, but certainly close. You're alone in the cloud cabin.
  3358.  
  3359. Since nobody's there to poke you, and since you feel no plummetting sensations...
  3360.  
  3361. You roll sluggishly out of bed, plod over to the door and look outside.
  3362.  
  3363. There's the beginning of a sunrise going on.
  3364.  
  3365. It seems that you could sense light-levels even without being able to 'see'. Maybe you have a photocell somewhere or your eyes don't shut completely down when you sleep. Either way it's good to know you have some means of awakening 'normally'.
  3366.  
  3367. Hell, maybe you've even got an alarm clock function buried in you somewhere. It's something worth experimenting with, certainly.
  3368.  
  3369. Pulling the door shut you return to bed, and think 'Wake me in thirty minutes or if somebody pokes me or if plummetting. Sleep now.'
  3370.  
  3371. Text roll. View. The walls were much brighter. You did have a clock!
  3372.  
  3373. Idly you wonder why it's not displayed somewhere. Maybe it's more of a timer sort of thing.
  3374.  
  3375.  
  3376.  
  3377. One way to find out. 'Um, display my clock!' you think.
  3378.  
  3379. Wow. That's sorta cool. 5:54 AM shows across your field of view, in that gothic font your body was so fond of... 'Hide clock?' and it vanishes.
  3380.  
  3381. It's not that Ponyville really seemed to be obsessed with being on time, but it was good to know you'd never need to wear a watch, regardless.
  3382.  
  3383. It's still pretty early, but as sleep had become a rather amorphous concept, you decide to stay up.
  3384.  
  3385. Poking around in the treats, you consider going for a slice of the cake. Maybe getting rocked on pinky-cake first thing in the morning wasn't such a good idea though.
  3386.  
  3387. You settle for a few mahogony-sawdust brownies and a large, clever wooden representation of a sandwich. It appears to be a cedar lathe-curl patty, topped with thin, bacon-like strips of paraffin on oiled walnut for the 'bread'.
  3388.  
  3389. It actually tastes spicy and aromatic, and it causes you to exhale alot of sparks.
  3390.  
  3391. Good thing that your cloud-house is fireproof.
  3392.  
  3393. You top it off with a bottle of Manehatten Sparkling Springwater. It is, for some reason, carbonated, but fortunately unsweetened. You have a moment of fizz backup, and the bottle spouts a little, but it's no big deal.
  3394.  
  3395. You down it with gusto.
  3396.  
  3397. It seems that pinky-food often contains surprises, but that's actually pretty cool by you.
  3398.  
  3399.  
  3400.  
  3401. Faced with an empty bottle, you realize a new problem. No garbage can.
  3402.  
  3403. You stow it in your back cover. Fortunately your defensive weapon folds down pretty flat, there's a quite usable size space in there.
  3404.  
  3405. After sneezing out some ashes, you decide to head to town to get rid of the bottle and, of course, say hi to Twilight, if she's up.
  3406.  
  3407. Once your boiler's up to pressure you spread your wings, trot to the edge of the cloud and launch yourself into the air.
  3408.  
  3409. You drop a little, flapping and gaining airspeed, then level off. You're getting pretty good at flying, it seems.
  3410.  
  3411. You cruise along at about 50, enjoying the cool wind rushing past. It smells fresh and clean, no doubt due to yesterday's rain. Ponyville grows ever larger in your view.
  3412.  
  3413. Zooming in on the central park, you see that the decorations have been taken down.
  3414.  
  3415. Did Pinky do all that work? It's possible, she's the most energetic thing you'd ever met...
  3416.  
  3417. Then you spot a garbage can.
  3418.  
  3419.  
  3420.  
  3421. You momentarily consider trying to bomb the bottle into the can from the air, but the thought of maybe getting broken glass in the city park's grass changes your mind.
  3422.  
  3423. Landing by the can, you huck the bottle in, then trot toward Twilight's.
  3424.  
  3425. One thing about being a horse-type thing. Transportation was built in. And as a pegasus you were REALLY free to go wherever, whenever. It was a cool sort of existance.
  3426.  
  3427. The road traffic is light, just some slightly groggy ponies heading places to open shops, mostly.
  3428.  
  3429. You exchange a few nods and waves with them
  3430.  
  3431. Reaching Twilight's tree, it seems to you that they're still asleep.
  3432.  
  3433. You trot a ways past, spotting a little round pavilian, with bench seats. There's even a newspaper laying on the bench.
  3434.  
  3435. Trotting over, you sit and grab the paper. It's a bit of a challenge to open and hold, but you manage to pinch it between the inner edge of your hooves and forelegs.
  3436.  
  3437. You kick back and read for a while.
  3438.  
  3439.  
  3440.  
  3441. Hm. Rarity's having a fashion show next week. Maybe you could find a way to get her to stop hating you involving that somehow.
  3442.  
  3443. Sale on quills and sofas.
  3444.  
  3445. Wonderbolts putting on a show in a couple weeks. You suffer a post traumatic bee flashback.
  3446.  
  3447. Something about tentworms. Once again, yeccch!
  3448.  
  3449. Some kind of turbulance in the carrot-market due to bad weather. Fortunately it wasn't your doing.
  3450.  
  3451. Ponytones benefit concert for the blind in a few days. You're struck for a moment by how common that must be, in a society of creatures with saucer-sized eyes, in which about a third of the population has pointy horns. Though you hadn't noticed any eye-patches so far.
  3452.  
  3453. Maybe the concert was another Rarity befriending opportunity.
  3454.  
  3455. The thought of music brings to mind Horse With No Name. You begin humming it as you read something about the importance of proper hoof filing angles.
  3456.  
  3457. A passing pony peers at you oddly all the way past your bench, the odd look finally causing you to wonder what's wrong.
  3458.  
  3459. Then you hear the low volume but distinct song you're playing. You're actually playing it, like a pony-shaped record player, instruments and all.
  3460.  
  3461. Flipping to another song, you try to sing I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night.
  3462.  
  3463. It plays loud and clear, especially when you open your mouth.
  3464.  
  3465. You find yourself wishing you were in stereo. Even so, you were a one-pony walking jukebox, which was pretty neat.
  3466.  
  3467. Stopping the music so ponies would quit staring, you decide to check on Twilight again.
  3468.  
  3469. Folding and setting the paper aside, you get up and trot back to the treebrary.
  3470.  
  3471.  
  3472.  
  3473. This time there are muffled voices and footstep sounds, they must be up and around.
  3474.  
  3475. You knock. Twilight answers.
  3476.  
  3477. "Anonymous! Come in!" she steps aside.
  3478.  
  3479. You come into the entrance, stopping just after the door closes. No sense having to wear the spark arrestor.
  3480.  
  3481. "Hi Twilight! I got a little shack built, spent the night up there. It was nice."
  3482.  
  3483. "Glad to hear it, Anon, you'll have to show it to me soon! Not right now though, I'm still trying to catch up on my reading."
  3484.  
  3485. "Yeah any time, it's a ways out of town, roughly due south. Dash says it looks like a puked-up cotton candy."
  3486.  
  3487. Twilight titters a bit.
  3488.  
  3489. "Yes, Rainbow stopped by last night on the way home, she said you'd made some headway on it."
  3490.  
  3491. "Yup. I'm going over to the Apple farm to see if they need anything done. I need some revenue to keep working on the house."
  3492.  
  3493. "Well Applejack's probably just heading to market now to sell apples, but the rest of them should be up and doing, by now. They're early risers."
  3494.  
  3495. "Good to hear. Well I'll get out of your hair for now, I'm going to go see if they need some hired help."
  3496.  
  3497. "OK. And Anon... If you ever really need some money, don't forget, I'm a princess. I'm sure I could get Celestia-"
  3498.  
  3499. "No, no, at least not yet. I'm going to try and earn my way along. But if I run into trouble I'll keep it in mind!"
  3500.  
  3501. Twilight nods.
  3502.  
  3503. "Ok, I'm off. Have a good day!"
  3504.  
  3505. "You too!"
  3506.  
  3507. You open the door and head out.
  3508.  
  3509.  
  3510.  
  3511. Cruising along, you notice some ducks ahead. You gain some altitude and sail over them, hearing some disturbed quacking from behind you after you pass.
  3512.  
  3513. It's turning out to be a nice, cool-ish day.
  3514.  
  3515. Sighting the Apple farm ahead, you lose altitude and speed until you drop a perfect landing in the front yard.
  3516.  
  3517. You walk up the steps and rap on the door.
  3518.  
  3519. Granny answers.
  3520.  
  3521. You note only a slight wobble as she notices that it's you. One day maybe she'll even be able to stand the sight of you!
  3522.  
  3523. "Oh, hullo, Anon'mus! What c'n I do ya'fer?"
  3524.  
  3525. "Well, I was wondering if I could help out around the farm, maybe earn a few bits?"
  3526.  
  3527. "Mm-hmm. Well sure'nuff we ain't gonna turn down help if'n we can use it! 'Sides, your party tha'other night earned us a right heap'a bits, it did. Big Mac's around back, way out on tha' back ninety. Why'n'cha fly up an' look to tha south-west, ya should be able ta spot 'em from up there! Go'n have a talk with 'im, I'm sure he'd love some help."
  3528.  
  3529. "Thanks, Granny!"
  3530.  
  3531. "Any time, Anon'mus!"
  3532.  
  3533. And with that, she withdraws and the door shuts.
  3534.  
  3535. You pick out a likely looking takeoff zone, spread wings and lift off.
  3536.  
  3537.  
  3538.  
  3539. Clearing the treetops, you peer around. A ways off, to the south west, as Granny said (you love your compass) is a red dot moving around the inside of a brown ring around a slightly irregular plot of land framed by woods on one side and apple grove on the other. Zooming in, you see Mac pulling his plow.
  3540.  
  3541. The brown ring framing the field was the already turned soil. He still had a ways to go, maybe 3/4 or so.
  3542.  
  3543. You set course and let the autopilot take over.
  3544.  
  3545. All goes well until the landing. While you'd set yourself to land on the untilled soil,you didn't plan on there being a woodchuck hole. You tip over grandly, with a clatter of metal and tearing cloth.
  3546.  
  3547. "Shit!" you exclaim.
  3548.  
  3549. "Ahr ya OK?" Mac asks, having paused in his work.
  3550.  
  3551. You scramble around, finally getting your legs under yourself.
  3552.  
  3553. "I'm not sure."
  3554.  
  3555. You turn so Mac can see the bent wing. It looks pretty much destructo, the main strut bent upward at a nasty angle.
  3556.  
  3557. "Give it a minute." you tell Mac, not taking your eyes off the wing.
  3558.  
  3559. In a few moments, it begins to straighten out. You breathe a sigh of relief.
  3560.  
  3561. Pretty soon it's back to normal, even the torn cloth having knitted itself back together and tightened up again. You fold your wings in.
  3562.  
  3563. "Sorry about that." you say.
  3564.  
  3565.  
  3566.  
  3567.  
  3568. "Ah'm sorry ya got injerd, you ain't gotta be sorry for nothin'." Mac responds, "What'cha'll doin' out here, anahow?"
  3569.  
  3570. "Well I'm building myself a new house, and I was hoping I could earn some bits helping you with the fieldwork." you say.
  3571.  
  3572. Mac brightens up considerably, ears perking and a broad grin forming.
  3573.  
  3574. "Ya see that disker over tharr?" he asks, tilting his head toward something at the edge of the field.
  3575.  
  3576. You peer in on it. It looks like a couple rows of sharp-edged steel saucers standing upright, mounted on center axles, on a sort of "X" frame.
  3577.  
  3578. "If'n we can get ya hitched ta that an ya follow me 'round like ah'ma doin', we'll have this field licked in no tahm." he explains.
  3579.  
  3580. You walk over the rough, plowed soil, trying to land your hooves on the high-spots of the furrows until you reach the piece of equipment.
  3581.  
  3582. It certinly did look agricultural. And heavy. You were more used to these things being pulled by a tractor. And you lack one of those wood pulling yokes like Mac has.
  3583.  
  3584. Mac, though, was a real horse. You were pretty sure if you could pull it somehow you'd be fine.
  3585.  
  3586. With a clank and a whirr, something stuck out of the lower part of your ass, just behind your fanblades.
  3587.  
  3588. "Oh HELL no." you say, trying to catch sight of whatever freakish thing was sticking out of you.
  3589.  
  3590.  
  3591.  
  3592.  
  3593. Mac has managed to unhitch himself from the plow, and is plodding his way over.
  3594.  
  3595. "Either yer gotta steel turd wedged tight, er ya got a tow hitch." he said.
  3596.  
  3597. "Let's hope it's a hitch, then." you reply, somewhat irritably.
  3598.  
  3599. Mac goes around back of you, sweeping the fanblades to one side with a forehoof.
  3600.  
  3601. "Eeyup. All's ya need's a clevis an' yer all set."
  3602.  
  3603. Mac farts around back there for a while.
  3604.  
  3605. "Back up a little. To tha right. Yer other right. Forward uh smidge."
  3606.  
  3607. There's a metallic clank.
  3608.  
  3609. "Got it!"
  3610.  
  3611. Mac comes alongside of you, trailing a long piece of twine in his teeth.
  3612.  
  3613. "This's yer depth control. Pull tha twine and back up then release it to set 'er deeper. Stop, back a little, pull it and go forward to go shallow. Tha deeper ya can run it, tha less passes ya gotta do." he explains, dropping the twine by your hooves.
  3614.  
  3615. "Um, thanks." you say, beginning to wonder if you were up to this.
  3616.  
  3617.  
  3618.  
  3619.  
  3620. "Now jus' folla mah spirals 'round tha field. Yer gonna catch me pretty quick, but jus go out to tha side and start in again. It's gonna take ya prob'ly 3 passes a'fore tha dirt's smoothed out anahow."
  3621.  
  3622. "OK."
  3623.  
  3624. "Ah'm'a gonna get back ta work then. Good luck!" And with that, Mac heads back toward his plow.
  3625.  
  3626. A tow hitch on your ass. You were repulsed... But also kind of intrigued. It'd certainly make pulling a real wagon easier.
  3627.  
  3628. You pick up the twine, yank it so the X-frame unlatches, then back the tow-bar into it. The frame widens the stance of the "X", increasing the attack angle of the disks.
  3629.  
  3630. You let the twine slip loose, and the frame latch snaps shut again.
  3631.  
  3632. You try to walk forward. It's slow going, but you start moving. It seems you can do this after all.
  3633.  
  3634. It isn't too long before you have to turn. You walk rather unsteadily on the highest possible, center furrow.
  3635.  
  3636. The disker's making a churned mess of the furrows, flattening it down and breaking apart the soil.
  3637.  
  3638. Maybe you'd live though this afterall.
  3639.  
  3640.  
  3641.  
  3642. As you finish the first lap, you notice that you're really pluming alot of steam. It's alot worse than when you're flying.
  3643.  
  3644. Field work is serious business. It's impressive how nicely tilled the formerly rutty plowed section you went over looks already, though.
  3645.  
  3646. You press on. Around the middle of the second lap you realize what your worst enemy really is... Boredom.
  3647.  
  3648. Queing up a playlist of some of the songs you know (The half-remembered ones say 'incomplete', but you're able to fix one by thinking it through until you've got all the semi-forgotten parts down), you open your mouth and start 'singing'.
  3649.  
  3650. As you pass Mac, you notice him nodding his head to the song. He's so stoic, he never even said anything when the music started playing, but he seems to be enjoying it.
  3651.  
  3652. On the fourth lap, you notice your temperature and pressure falling. Still half a tank of water... Must be your fire burning down.
  3653.  
  3654. You drag the disker over to the tree-lined side of the field, having spotted some deadfall.
  3655.  
  3656. Grazing for a while, you pretty much decimate a good section of the fallen limb until you feel full.
  3657.  
  3658. Continuing on, you arrive at Mac's wagon. It's not easy manuvering your way around with a field impliment stuck to your ass, but you manage to turn the tap on the water-keg and siphon from a mug held underneath until you're topped off.
  3659.  
  3660. You replace the mug, turn off the water and back the disk away from the wagon until you can make the turn back onto the field.
  3661.  
  3662. It takes a few minutes of panting before you're ready, then you cross over until you resume the lap you'd been working.
  3663.  
  3664. Resuming the music, you cruise along faster than before, pluming apple-smoke scented steam.
  3665.  
  3666. The stuff burns hot, which is a good thing.
  3667.  
  3668.  
  3669.  
  3670.  
  3671. Mac was right, you're beginning to catch up. About ten laps in and you're halfway to where he's plodding powerfully along, the soil rolling over in a row behind his plow.
  3672.  
  3673. As bad as the disker is to pull, you're fairly certain the plow is worse.
  3674.  
  3675. You keep working, trying to remember fresh songs keeping your mind occupied, until you catch up with Mac. You match his speed, walking alongside.
  3676.  
  3677. "Hey Mac! How ya doing?" you ask.
  3678.  
  3679. "Ahm doin' jus' fine." he replies. You can detect a hint of fatigue in his voice, and his coat's deep red with sweat.
  3680.  
  3681. He stinks, too. Not a bad stink but a very definite equine odor. With a strange hint of apples.
  3682.  
  3683. "OK, I'm gonna head back to the outer rows and work in again."
  3684.  
  3685. Mac nods. You turn the music back on, and haul the disker back out to the edge of the field again.
  3686.  
  3687. You repeat your fuelling routine, this time finishing the fallen branch. It's lucky Mac brought so much water. After refilling, you decide to bring him a mugfull.
  3688.  
  3689. You hope he's not mad you've been using his mug.
  3690.  
  3691. Swishing it out with a bit of water (You were sure you probably got some sawdust in it) you refill the mug, disengage the disk so it's easy to drag, and do a 3-legged limp back out to where he's just drawing close.
  3692.  
  3693. "Thirsty?" you ask, holding the mug up.
  3694.  
  3695. "Eeeyup!"
  3696.  
  3697. He draws up to you, stops, grabs the mug and chugs it.
  3698.  
  3699. "'Preciate it!" he says, continuing on.
  3700.  
  3701. You grip the empty mug's handle in your teeth and run it back to the wagon.
  3702.  
  3703.  
  3704.  
  3705.  
  3706. Mac's plowing pattern, you notice, is a perfect spiral. Yours, on the other hand, is irregular, wavy and generally all over the place.
  3707.  
  3708. But that's OK. You're going over it again anyhow. You re-engage the disk and get back to work.
  3709.  
  3710. By the time you catch Mac for the second time, the field's almost half done, the sun's getting low in the sky, and there's considerably less dry deadfall around the field.
  3711.  
  3712. You run him out another mug of water, then cruise back out to the edge again. The soil's pretty well worked up, though there's still some wavyness. You suspect you'll have to start dragging the disker across the plowed rows sideways next, to get it flat for real.
  3713.  
  3714. Mac's voice calls across the field in a panic.
  3715.  
  3716. You turn and see him having some kind of fit in his harness, unhitching himself then rolling around in the field.
  3717.  
  3718. Disengaging the disk, you run as fast as you can dragging the thing up to where he's rolling.
  3719.  
  3720. There's a huge cloud of bees!
  3721.  
  3722. Mac's half covered in them, too!
  3723.  
  3724. The rolling is helping, though it keeps you mostly at bay. He's smooshing most of the ones stuck to him.
  3725.  
  3726. They turn on you next, inffectually dive-bombing you, stingers outstretched. The sound reminds you of a car in a hailstorm.
  3727.  
  3728. All you can think to do is flame-thrower the things.
  3729.  
  3730.  
  3731.  
  3732.  
  3733. You inhale, then breathe flaming gas over the area, above the ground-bound horse, the rising fireball engulfing the swarm.
  3734.  
  3735. It's super effective!
  3736.  
  3737. Burnt bees rain down. You keep blowing fire until the remains of the swarm retreat.
  3738.  
  3739. You shut off the fire.
  3740.  
  3741. "Ah hit ah groun'bee nest." Mac says simply.
  3742.  
  3743. "You OK? You were covered in those things!"
  3744.  
  3745. "Ah've had worse. Out here close'ta tha everfree we get some bad pests." he explains, standing up.
  3746.  
  3747. "But Ah think Ah need a soak in tha pond. Let's go back."
  3748.  
  3749. "OK."
  3750.  
  3751. He goes around and unhitches you. Apparently you're leaving the equipment where it is, for now.
  3752.  
  3753. You're relieved at the clank and the release of the weight of the disker.
  3754.  
  3755. "Ya can, uh, pull yer thing in now." Mac says.
  3756.  
  3757. You retract your drawbar, the act feeling somehow dirtier because of his choice of phrase.
  3758.  
  3759. You turn to look at the red pony. He looks like an extra from a horse zombie movie, covered in dirt, wet hair stuck out all different directions. And sort of lumpy from the beestings.
  3760.  
  3761. "Mac, you look like shit."
  3762.  
  3763. "Ah feel lahk shit, too."
  3764.  
  3765. "OK let's get outta here."
  3766.  
  3767. Walking back to his wagon, Mac hitches up, and the two of you head off down the two-track leading to the farmhouse.
  3768.  
  3769.  
  3770.  
  3771.  
  3772. A ways down the trail, Mac speaks up.
  3773.  
  3774. "Ya know what Ah think?"
  3775.  
  3776. "What?"
  3777.  
  3778. "Ah think tha' both of us should keep our mouth shut about them groun'bees, so Fluttershy don't throw a fit."
  3779.  
  3780. You ponder the notion for a minute. Mac's advice seems sage.
  3781.  
  3782. "Agreed. Good thinking."
  3783.  
  3784. "Tha stings itch."
  3785.  
  3786. "I bet! If anything, you're looking even lumpier now. They got you good."
  3787.  
  3788. "Tha pond-water's a proven cure fer beestings. Ah jus' needa good soak."
  3789.  
  3790. "Good thing it works, that looks really uncomfortable."
  3791.  
  3792. "Eeyup."
  3793.  
  3794.  
  3795.  
  3796. At one point you pause and rip a branch off some deadfall to chew as you walk.
  3797.  
  3798. "Yer mor'n welcome ta tha charcoal back at tha barn, ya know. Ya don't hafta keep eatin' that stuff."
  3799.  
  3800. "Oh yeah I'll be after some, don't worry. But most of these taste really good, even if they don't burn real long." you say, somewhat muffled by the mouthful.
  3801.  
  3802. "If'n ya say so, Ah got no room ta argue."
  3803.  
  3804. You just nod, chewing.
  3805.  
  3806. "Ah was thinkin'a finishin' that field up tomorra, you up fer it?"
  3807.  
  3808. "Tomorrow? Sure."
  3809.  
  3810. "OK ah'll jus' toss a bag'a charcoal on tha wagon too when I head out, then. Ah'll be gettin' an early start."
  3811.  
  3812. You catch the not-so-subtle hint about being there earlier. "That'd be perfect, thanks."
  3813.  
  3814. "Eeyup."
  3815.  
  3816.  
  3817.  
  3818. The barn and farmhouse begin to become visible through the trees. Evening is seriously threatening to fall, now.
  3819.  
  3820. Mac takes an indirect path, leading to a smallish but nice pond amidst the apple grove.
  3821.  
  3822. Shrugging out of the wagon, then the wooden yoke, he walks into the water until just his head's sticking out.
  3823.  
  3824. You suspect that Mac's going to be late for dinner.
  3825.  
  3826. "Ah don't s'pose ya swim much?"
  3827.  
  3828. "Nah. I can survive it but I sink like a rock."
  3829.  
  3830. "Ya might wanna at least walk around tha edge. Yer legs are fulla dirt."
  3831.  
  3832. You look down. Your legs are once again a nice blued color. They'd gotten pretty silvery while you were walking around in the over-fetlock-deep tilled dirt.
  3833.  
  3834. Mac was right though, all the fiddly little openings where you could see piston-rams and things were half full of soil.
  3835.  
  3836. "Yeah. But don't you think I'll get stuck in the mud?"
  3837.  
  3838. "Ya got a point. How about Ah get ya tha garden hose once we're at tha house?"
  3839.  
  3840. "Sure, that'd be fine."
  3841.  
  3842. With that, he flashes you a grin and submerges entirely.
  3843.  
  3844.  
  3845.  
  3846.  
  3847. You work on remembering all of Dream Weaver as he surfaces, paddles around, and dives.
  3848.  
  3849. At least he was having fun, though you weren't entirely convinced about the curative qualities of pond-water to insect bites.
  3850.  
  3851. After a while, he marches back out of the water.
  3852.  
  3853. He's still a little lumpy, but looks much improved.
  3854.  
  3855. "Ah'll jus' leave out that part 'bout you, if'n anypony asks 'bout tha lumps."
  3856.  
  3857. "I appreciate it."
  3858.  
  3859. "Me too. Them bees was fixen to murder mah big red ass. Ya saved me some pain ah'm sure."
  3860.  
  3861. He hitches back up to the wagon, and heads toward the barn.
  3862.  
  3863. And the delicious charcoal.
  3864.  
  3865. Soon you're putting away a bucket of the stuff, with gusto.
  3866.  
  3867. Apple branches were good, but not quite as "filling".
  3868.  
  3869. After that, he brings you the garden hose.
  3870.  
  3871. You drink your fill, then wash out your leg-mechanisms, with some help from Mac.
  3872.  
  3873. Finally the two of you are halfway restored to normalcy, though only one's fed.
  3874.  
  3875. "OK Mac, I think I'm gonna just head home now. You go get some dinner."
  3876.  
  3877. "Ah 'preciate it. See ya tomorrah!"
  3878.  
  3879. And with that and a wave, he heads into the back door of the house.
  3880.  
  3881. You circle around to the front, where there's a good take-off lane, and get airborne.
  3882.  
  3883. The breeze air-dries you pretty effectively.
  3884.  
  3885. Before long, you touch down on your cloud.
  3886.  
  3887. It really could use a proper runway, you think. Though that's a project for another day.
  3888.  
  3889. You march inside, flop on the bed, set your 'alarm' and go to sleep.
  3890.  
  3891.  
  3892.  
  3893.  
  3894. "Thump-thump-thump" You wait for your sight to kick on. Green nightvision does instead.
  3895.  
  3896. It's still night, and somepony's rapping on your door.
  3897.  
  3898. "Coming!" you call, rolling out of bed onto your hooves.
  3899.  
  3900. Trying to stoke your fire, you walk over and open the door.
  3901.  
  3902. The moonlight from overhead dazzles your vision and it switches to normal.
  3903.  
  3904. Luna's standing on your doorstep. Just behind her are a team of four real bat-stallions, and her ornate chariot, barely fitting on your piece of cloud-land.
  3905.  
  3906. "I am Luna. We had heard of thy arrival, and wished to meet you."
  3907.  
  3908. Apparently she still uses the royal 'we'.
  3909.  
  3910. "Um, hi, Luna! And hi, Luna's guards!" you say, utterly at a loss.
  3911.  
  3912. Realizing you had royalty on your step, you perform a quick bow.
  3913.  
  3914. "May we come in?" she asks.
  3915.  
  3916. "I'm afraid I don't have any lighting installed yet, it might be best if we talk out here?"
  3917.  
  3918. "Very well, then. Come over to the moonlit side so that we may gaze upon thee."
  3919.  
  3920. Boy she has a strange way with words.
  3921.  
  3922.  
  3923.  
  3924.  
  3925. You exit the cabin, following her around to the brighter side of your cloud-yard.
  3926.  
  3927. "Thou'rt certainly an unique specimen. From what my sister tells me, thou'rt already familiar with mineself to some extent?"
  3928.  
  3929. "I've seen maybe an hour or so of your life though a window, yes?"
  3930.  
  3931. "How very interesting. We had hoped that we would meet you in thy dreams, but it seems that thou dreameth not."
  3932.  
  3933. "Yeah, I'm not sure if I can do anything about that or not. My new body doesn't work like the one I had originally. I did dream, in my old life."
  3934.  
  3935. "Should'st thou start, we shall be most interested in seeing scenes from your former life as well."
  3936.  
  3937. "Oh yes, if I can, I'll give you the royal tour of my memories of home. I'm just not sure if I can."
  3938.  
  3939. She nods. "We understand, and hope someday it shall be possible. I came in person due to the inability to meet you otherwise."
  3940.  
  3941. "And honored I am by your presence, your Highness."
  3942.  
  3943. You note that she speaks with a smattering of both ancient and modern language, which is only to be expected considering her circumstances.
  3944.  
  3945. You gaze around. "Beautiful night out, tonight." you say, intending to make small-talk.
  3946.  
  3947. "Thou appreciateth mine evening? Oh how we thrill to hear those words! They're far too rarely spoken!"
  3948.  
  3949.  
  3950.  
  3951.  
  3952.  
  3953. You suspect the guards are trying to repress some smiles, either they're relieved, or they think you're hitting on her.
  3954.  
  3955. Meeting Luna so unexpectedly has you a little off-center, but you're glad that you finally have.
  3956.  
  3957. "I'd offer you some refreshments, but I'm afraid my little house isn't fully set up yet. I do have some bottled water, though!"
  3958.  
  3959. "We thanketh thee, but we are in fine fettle as we are. We merely wished to meet thee and see for ourselves our newest subject."
  3960.  
  3961. "Hopefully I meet with your expectations."
  3962.  
  3963. "Oh aye, thou'rt most interesting. We hope to meet with you again soon. For now I must attend to other matters however, and must alight."
  3964.  
  3965. "OK, Princess Luna! It was great to meet you!"
  3966.  
  3967. "And likewise thou, enjoy the remainder of the evening!"
  3968.  
  3969. And with that, she walks primly back to her chariot and steps aboard.
  3970.  
  3971. her guards raise their wings, then launch off the edge of the cloud, rapidly gaining altitude, the chains forming their traces clinking as they travel away.
  3972.  
  3973. "Whoa." you think, then plod back inside and go back to bed.
  3974.  
  3975.  
  3976.  
  3977. The early dawn light trips you awake.
  3978.  
  3979. Rolling out of bed, you check the pinkie-treats on the table. Starting to run low.
  3980.  
  3981. Remembering what farm work is like, you decide that a slightly improved frame of mind won't hurt, and eat a piece of the cake. You chew slowly, savoring the taste.
  3982.  
  3983. You finish off the bamboo-stick treats, and a mini loaf of what was probably supposed to be bread. It seemed made of pulped paper, actual ground vanilla bean, and raised somehow as it was quite spongy with a slightly oilly texture.
  3984.  
  3985. The taste was very familiar. Pinkie had created flammable angel-food cake! Apparently sugar free, too, though the flavor was somehow unmarred.
  3986.  
  3987. The pink pony was an unrecognized genius.
  3988.  
  3989. Topping off with a bottle of Cloudsdale Select Rainwater, you feel ready to tackle the day's work.
  3990.  
  3991. You drop the bottle into your back compartment, then leave the cabin.
  3992.  
  3993. The sky's still pretty dark, but you can see a hint of color coming up on the horizon.
  3994.  
  3995. Deciding to head straight for the field, you rev up, spread your wings and leap off your cloud.
  3996.  
  3997. 'Take me to the Apple's plowed field' you think. 'Destination Set'. Good.
  3998.  
  3999.  
  4000.  
  4001. The cool, damp morning air feels unusually amazingly good. Flying always does, but you were totally grooving on it now.
  4002.  
  4003. Oh yeah. The cake. You had to discover what made that cake, well, that cake!
  4004.  
  4005. You relax and enjoy the ride.
  4006.  
  4007. All too soon, your fan slows and you come in for a landing.
  4008.  
  4009. There's enough light to see by, now. Mac's not here yet.
  4010.  
  4011. You set your playlist going, and rock out.
  4012.  
  4013. Eventually there's some motion, and you spot Mac coming up the two-track pulling his wagon.
  4014.  
  4015. Muting the music, you call "Morning, Mac!"
  4016.  
  4017. He nods back.
  4018.  
  4019. You walk over, the cool, still-soft soil feeling good around your hooves.
  4020.  
  4021. Mac unhitches himself.
  4022.  
  4023. "Y'all wanna have some breakfast?" he asks.
  4024.  
  4025. "Nah, just ate. Leftovers from Pinkie's party. Feeling.. Pretty good."
  4026.  
  4027. You note a raised eyebrow as he regards you. Maybe you sound a bit off.
  4028.  
  4029. "Pinkeh's a good cook." he finally says.
  4030.  
  4031.  
  4032.  
  4033. "So, hey, can you throw out this bottle for me?" you ask, pulling the thing out of your back with your teeth and holding it out to him.
  4034.  
  4035. "Sure'nuff. Lemme jus' drop 'er in the wagon here an' Ah'l toss it when we get back."
  4036.  
  4037. "Thanks."
  4038.  
  4039. He takes the bottle in a forehoof, and puts it away in the wagon.
  4040.  
  4041. "Ready ta finish tha' diskin'?"
  4042.  
  4043. "Absolutely! Hitch me up!"
  4044.  
  4045. The two of you walk back to the scene of the bee attack.
  4046.  
  4047. Other than the sad little roasted bees all over, there are no signs of any live ones. They'd probaby decided to cut their losses and moved on.
  4048.  
  4049. You peer at Mac's hide. His fur was still a little ruffled but he could no longer be described as "lumpy".
  4050.  
  4051. Must be pond water works afterall.
  4052.  
  4053. You deploy your hitch, and Mac lines you up and pins the clevis, and throws the twine over your withers.
  4054.  
  4055. "Yer good ta' go!" he says.
  4056.  
  4057.  
  4058.  
  4059.  
  4060. You haul the disker back out to where you'd been when he got attacked by the bees, engage it, and resume the spiral as he hooks up and resumes plowing.
  4061.  
  4062. Turning the music back on, you march along.
  4063.  
  4064. Celestia's sun is fairly high in the sky when you need to take your first break.
  4065.  
  4066. Disengaging the disker, you sneeze a few times to clear the ash, then beeline to the wagon.
  4067.  
  4068. True to his word, there's the remainder of the bag of charcoal. It'd been a large bag, but you'd been hitting it pretty hard and there was only about a third left.
  4069.  
  4070. You stand, grab the bucket he'd also supplied, and tilt the charcoal over so you can scoop charcoal over the side of the wagon.
  4071.  
  4072. Holding the bucket in one hoof you scoop it mostly full, then set it down.
  4073.  
  4074. Mac joins you, having seen you taking a break.
  4075.  
  4076. "Durned if'n it didn' turn out a nice one, today." he says, filling his mug with water.
  4077.  
  4078. "Yeah, it's a good day for this kinda thing." you agree.
  4079.  
  4080. It was cool with a decent breeze, and mostly sunny.
  4081.  
  4082.  
  4083.  
  4084.  
  4085. "You know who visited me last night?" you ask.
  4086.  
  4087. "No, who?"
  4088.  
  4089. "Princess Luna! She knocked on my door and woke me up!"
  4090.  
  4091. "Well Ah'll be. She must'a flown all tha' way from Canterlot."
  4092.  
  4093. "Her guards did anyhow! She landed her chariot on my cloud!"
  4094.  
  4095. "Must'a been somethin' ta see, that."
  4096.  
  4097. "Yeah. They hardly fit. She said she wanted to meet me, and stuff, then took off."
  4098.  
  4099. "Yer a lucky pony, Anon. That Luna, she's surrre a fine sight, ain't she?"
  4100.  
  4101. You detect a certain glint in his eye.
  4102.  
  4103. "Oh, uh yeah, she's put together real well..." you trail off.
  4104.  
  4105. He nods.
  4106.  
  4107. You find yourself wondering what Mac dreams about, then shake it off. None of your business.
  4108.  
  4109. "I gotta get some lunch in me or I'll never get back to this." you say, then dig into the charcoal.
  4110.  
  4111. Mac stands there looking wistful for a moment, then drains his mug and refills it.
  4112.  
  4113. "Ah reckon she could jus' about wear a stallion raht out." he says.
  4114.  
  4115. You nearly choke on a briquette.
  4116.  
  4117. "Um. Yeah maybe so!" you manage.
  4118.  
  4119. Mac's earthy approach to life is refreshing but just a little shocking, sometimes.
  4120.  
  4121.  
  4122.  
  4123.  
  4124. A change of topic is in order. "Looks like we're close to the finish line." you say.
  4125.  
  4126. "Eeyup."
  4127.  
  4128. "Probably, oh, three quarters done, eh?"
  4129.  
  4130. "Eeyup."
  4131.  
  4132. He finishes the mug, then pulls out another and fills it for you, setting it on the edge of the wagon.
  4133.  
  4134. Vacuuming up the rest of the charcoal-dust, you set the bucket back in the wagon and drain the mug.
  4135.  
  4136. He refills it for you a few times.
  4137.  
  4138. "Once we get tha las' part done, ya can set about fertilizin'. Ya gonna do 'nother one'a them tornados?"
  4139.  
  4140. "Uh I was thinking more of a... Storm type thing."
  4141.  
  4142. "Ah."
  4143.  
  4144. With that, he heads back out into the field.
  4145.  
  4146. You jockey around, then walk back out also. The charcoal's cooler burning, but very steady in terms of heat compared to wood.
  4147.  
  4148. You catch up with Mac, then jump out a few rows to where the dirt had only had one pass with the disker and spiral in again.
  4149.  
  4150. Pretty soon, Mac hits the center of the field, rolls the plow on it's side and drags it off.
  4151.  
  4152. You continue until you hit the center, then disengage the disk and drag it over to where he's standing by the wagon.
  4153.  
  4154. "I think you might want to take the wagon at least, a ways further off." you say.
  4155.  
  4156. "Eeyup."
  4157.  
  4158.  
  4159.  
  4160.  
  4161. He drags the plow down the two-track then takes it off the trail. You follow with the disk, and park it alongside the plow.
  4162.  
  4163. Mac unhitches you, then goes back for the wagon.
  4164.  
  4165. You pass him coming back to the field, and he takes the wagon a good ways off.
  4166.  
  4167. "You ready?" you call, staring over the nicely worked field.
  4168.  
  4169. "Eeyup!" comes from a ways off.
  4170.  
  4171. Taking off from a plowed field proves a challenge, but you manage.
  4172.  
  4173. You get up to cloud height, and begin gathering them over the field. Ninety acres meant quite a bit of gathering.
  4174.  
  4175. Finally you get the field covered. You sight it by the cloud-shadow, and the angle of the sun.
  4176.  
  4177. It's magic time.
  4178.  
  4179. "Shiit!" you yell, bouncing on the cloud. "Super-fertilizing plant-growing shiit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!"
  4180.  
  4181. You treat the cloudcover like a trampoline, bouncing around until all the clouds are dumping. From the stench and the brownish color they turn, there isn't much doubt that things below are going about as you'd hoped. There are even loud flatulant blasts of farty thunder.
  4182.  
  4183. You take off and gain altitude, to get away from the stink. The clouds slowly thin down and dissipate, your weather spell having used them up. The field below is... Revolting looking. It appears that you've been a hundred percent successful.
  4184.  
  4185. Looking around, you spot some red through the treetops a ways off. Spying a nearby clear spot, you glide down and land.
  4186.  
  4187. "Hi Mac! Looks like it worked!"
  4188.  
  4189. "Eeyup. Smells lahk it worked, too."
  4190.  
  4191. "Cool! Guess we're done, eh?"
  4192.  
  4193. "Eeyup. It'll need one more pass with tha disker in a week or so, then Ah'll let 'er sit for a week. Then Ah'm a'plantin' winter oats."
  4194.  
  4195. "Cool. Hope it works!"
  4196.  
  4197. "Ah'd say it ain't got much choice but ta work. Ya done fertilized that field half ta death. Ah'm gonna hafta get ya ta do some other fields we got too, 'cassionally."
  4198.  
  4199. "Sure, any time."
  4200.  
  4201. "Folla me up ta tha' house an' we'll see 'bout gettin' ya paid."
  4202.  
  4203. "Music to my ears!"
  4204.  
  4205.  
  4206.  
  4207. He hitches up and sets off with his wagon, toward the house, with you walking alongside.
  4208.  
  4209. As the house comes into view, you notice the whole family's out, Granny, Applejack, and Applebloom.
  4210.  
  4211. "Tarnation, that was tha worst soundin' thunder Ah ever did hear!" Granny excaims, as the two of you draw near.
  4212.  
  4213. "Did tha field get good'n manerr'd?" Applejack asks her brother.
  4214.  
  4215. "Eeyup."
  4216.  
  4217. "Good."
  4218.  
  4219. "Ah was fixin' ta pay Anon'mus. We're goin' in fer a few." Mac says.
  4220.  
  4221. The entire family follows the two of you into the back door of the house, through the kitchen and dining room, into the family room.
  4222.  
  4223. "Go 'head an' get comfy, Ah'll be raht back." Mac tells you.
  4224.  
  4225. You hold your breath, not wanting to panic anypony, and take a seat on an old but nice couch. Granny takes a seat in a rocking chair, Applejack and Applebloom settle into recliners.
  4226.  
  4227. Presently, Big Mac returns with a bag which he sets on the coffee table.
  4228.  
  4229. Out comes a pencil and pad of paper.
  4230.  
  4231. "Now, way ah figger it, ya disked ninety acres twace, an' layed down a few inches'a fertilizer.
  4232.  
  4233. He works out the numbers, and adds the columbs, writing with the pencil clenched in his fetlock.
  4234.  
  4235. "All told Ah figure we owe ya about seven hundred seventy-seven bits. How's that sound?"
  4236.  
  4237. "Um, it sounds fine to me?" you reply, having no idea of Equestrian economics other than the relative value of a tomato.
  4238.  
  4239.  
  4240.  
  4241.  
  4242. "Done. Ah'll count it up." he says, dumping a good quantity of gold bits on the table. You were somewhat interested to note they had different denominatons, the higher being, of course, larger.
  4243.  
  4244. Mac counts out thirty of the twenty size coins, then the rest in smaller denominations.
  4245.  
  4246. "Ah expect you'll be needin' somethin' to carry 'em in." he states.
  4247.  
  4248. "Yeah, this is the first money I've made in Equestria." you reply.
  4249.  
  4250. "Applebloom, go an fetch mah old wallet." Mac asks.
  4251.  
  4252. She scampers out, soon returning with another change-bag with a lanyard.
  4253.  
  4254. It's seen alot of use, but is still servicable.
  4255.  
  4256. Mac fills it with your coins, then pushes it over to you.
  4257.  
  4258. "Pleasure doin' business with ya, Anon."
  4259.  
  4260. "Any time, Mac!"
  4261.  
  4262. After that, they invite you to stay, but you really want to go out on the town. After all, you've got a bag of gold coins burning a hole in your... Well, back compartment.
  4263.  
  4264. You say your goodbyes, thank them again, and lift off, heading for Ponyville.
  4265.  
  4266.  
  4267.  
  4268. Checking in with Twilight seems like a good idea.
  4269.  
  4270. You land outside the treebrary and knock, and soon Spike answers.
  4271.  
  4272. "Is Twilight around? you ask.
  4273.  
  4274. "Sure, come in."
  4275.  
  4276. The little dragon steps aside and you walk in.
  4277.  
  4278. Twilight's at her desk. She waves at you, "Hello Anonymous! It's good to see you."
  4279.  
  4280. "You too, Twilight!"
  4281.  
  4282. "So, how was your day?" she asks.
  4283.  
  4284. "Great! I did some field work for the Apples, and made some money. Speaking of which, do you want some for putting me up before?"
  4285.  
  4286. "Oh no, I'm in good shape financially. I'm glad you've got some cash now!"
  4287.  
  4288. "Me too. I was just setting out to go shopping. Feel like getting out for a while?"
  4289.  
  4290. "Oh, no, you go ahead and have fun. I have too much to do here."
  4291.  
  4292. "Alright. Good luck with your do-ings!"
  4293.  
  4294. "You too, Anonymous."
  4295.  
  4296. With that, you head back outside, waving to Spike before he closes the door.
  4297.  
  4298. You're not entirely sure what he thinks of you these days, but the outright hatred seems to have abated.
  4299.  
  4300.  
  4301. Since the main vendor square is closed, you browse the shops.
  4302.  
  4303. Passing one, you consider the fact that you own neither any quills nor a sofa.
  4304.  
  4305. Since you can cloud-sculpt a sofa, you go in and buy a quill and a bottle of ink, just for the heck of it.
  4306.  
  4307. The next store is more fun, having several knicknacks to admire.
  4308.  
  4309. You end up buying some sunglasses, of the Mac Tonight style.
  4310.  
  4311. they didn't make you look normal, but at least they concealed the red of your eyes.
  4312.  
  4313. You get a sport-strap put on them too, so they wouldn't fall off in flight.
  4314.  
  4315. Checking a mirror, your resemblance to an equine terminator is only worsened by them. But they just looked too cool anyhow, to pass over.
  4316.  
  4317. You pay the slightly neurotic-seeming shopkeeper, then head back outside to find more shops.
  4318.  
  4319.  
  4320.  
  4321. Just before you let the door close behind you, you turn your head back to the nervously fidgetting shopkeeper.
  4322.  
  4323. In your best Arnie voice, you say, "Ahl be bock."
  4324.  
  4325. Enjoying how he stiffens up, you walk out of the place.
  4326.  
  4327. You spot another place that catches your interest.
  4328.  
  4329. The Saddlery. In the windows were all sorts of leather works.
  4330.  
  4331. It was all a bit too frippy and pink to really look out of place, but it was definitely a leather-works.
  4332.  
  4333. A bell above the door jangles as you enter.
  4334.  
  4335. A couple of ponies gasp, but you get more smiles.
  4336.  
  4337. You were in the fortunate position of being semi-famous, but a little too imposing to throng. At least usually.
  4338.  
  4339. Why did they wear saddles, anyhow, you wonder. You pass rows of the things.
  4340.  
  4341. The scent of leather is everywhere. And that's another thing. Where did they even GET leather?
  4342.  
  4343. You found the thought somewhat disturbing.
  4344.  
  4345.  
  4346.  
  4347.  
  4348. Finally you find what you were looking for. Saddlebags. Rows of them, all sizes.
  4349.  
  4350. You really liked the enormous-ness of Twilight's saddlebag monstrosities, but you couldn't live with the giant flowers on them.
  4351.  
  4352. Unfortunately, it seemed to be a popular theme. Blacks and tans were less common than bright colors and loud designs.
  4353.  
  4354. You reach the back of the aisle, where there's a rack marked Clearance.
  4355.  
  4356. You paw around in the things. Finally you find the perfect set.
  4357.  
  4358. Shiny black, with red-gemstone inset pony-skulls.
  4359.  
  4360. If you could have, you'd have been grinning a mile wide.
  4361.  
  4362. Not only that, but they were seventy-five-percent off!
  4363.  
  4364. Making them 40 bits. Not too awfully bad.
  4365.  
  4366. You take them off the rack, pull the chest-strap over your head and toss them over your back to check the fit.
  4367.  
  4368. They seem close enough for the buckles to adjust far enough.
  4369.  
  4370. Walking up to the counter, you ask the butch-looking brown earth-pony sales-mare if she can adjust them for you.
  4371.  
  4372. Coming around the corner, you can see her checking you out.
  4373.  
  4374. "You know, those have been in this shop forever." she says, "And I've seen more than a couple ponies try them on. You're the first that they look right at home on."
  4375.  
  4376. "I figured. I tried some with big flowers and they just didn't work." you reply.
  4377.  
  4378. She sniggers a bit.
  4379.  
  4380. "I would imagine not."
  4381.  
  4382.  
  4383.  
  4384. She loosens the top straps a little where they cross over your ass, then tightens the ones going from the lower middles of the bags to the bottom of the chest-strap.
  4385.  
  4386. You look around both sides, the straps are out of the way of your wing covers.
  4387.  
  4388. Walking over to the big mirror on the wall by the counter, you examine the effect. They looked pretty good, especially with the sunglasses.
  4389.  
  4390. "I'll just wear these out, if that's alright."
  4391.  
  4392. "No problem, hun." she says, crossing back around to the register.
  4393.  
  4394. She shuffles the keys on the old mechanical register, then presses the right one inward, and the drawer pops.
  4395.  
  4396. Little popup flags show 40 bits. No sales tax? Come to think of it, you hadn't encountered taxes of any sort, yet.
  4397.  
  4398. Maybe you truely had found nirvana.
  4399.  
  4400. You pop your back cover, and haul forth the bag of bits.
  4401.  
  4402. She doesn't look too shocked at the amount of cash you're carrying, as you clumsily coax a couple of 20s out.
  4403.  
  4404. You pay the pony, put your wallet away, and head outside.
  4405.  
  4406.  
  4407.  
  4408. Hoofing it down to the blacksmith's, you find him just closing up for the day.
  4409.  
  4410. "Hey, there you are! I've had more than a few customers tell me about your run-in with a cyclops!" he says, cheerfully.
  4411.  
  4412. "Yeah, I roasted his ass until he ran for it."
  4413.  
  4414. "Not bad! You in the market for some more coal?"
  4415.  
  4416. "Yup! Fill the left saddlebag here, if you could."
  4417.  
  4418. He magics over a stream of coal until the bag is full.
  4419.  
  4420. "That'll be, hm, since you're a hero now, how about 7 bits for all that?"
  4421.  
  4422. Sounds reasonable enough. "Sure."
  4423.  
  4424. You pay the pony, noting his raised eyebrow when you pulled out your wallet.
  4425.  
  4426. Whether it was the amount of cash or how it was stored wasn't clear, but you had managed to surprise him.
  4427.  
  4428. "That's a pretty good trick! I can see why you don't store coal in there though. It's gotta make enough of a mess of the saddlebag already.
  4429.  
  4430. "Yeah, I don't want to dump my back fulla the stuff. I might strip a cog or something on it."
  4431.  
  4432.  
  4433.  
  4434. The blacksmith chuckles.
  4435.  
  4436. "Really I've never seen a mechanical thing quite as animate as you are, before."
  4437.  
  4438. "That's probably because I didn't start out mechanical. I was turned this way, by, er, magic."
  4439.  
  4440. "Aha, I see. Pissed off a wizard did you?"
  4441.  
  4442. "Something like that."
  4443.  
  4444. "You're lucky, really. The other day I watched an orange, with frog's legs, hop across the road."
  4445.  
  4446. "Well, at least it was an 'appealing' sight, eh? Orange you glad you saw it?"
  4447.  
  4448. The blacksmith wrinkles his nose.
  4449.  
  4450. "I won't dignify that with a reply."
  4451.  
  4452. "Heh, well thanks for the coal. Hey, do you have a bucket you can spare?"
  4453.  
  4454. "Nah, I'd rather hold onto the ones I've got, they're all in use. They've got 'em down at Hay's Hardware though. Think they close at nine, if you run you can make it."
  4455.  
  4456. "OK which way are they now?"
  4457.  
  4458. "One block that way, then a right at the intersection, on the right." the tan pony says, pointing further down the road.
  4459.  
  4460. "Thanks!"
  4461.  
  4462.  
  4463.  
  4464. You beat hooves down the road, dodging the light traffic, and turn right. It's a rather imposing building, showing signs of recent remodelling.
  4465.  
  4466. The door, fortunately, is still unlocked.
  4467.  
  4468. "Just closing up." the proprieter says, then does a double-take. "Oh, it's you! Good to meet ya! What'cha need?"
  4469.  
  4470. "A bucket. Something my head fits in."
  4471.  
  4472. You note the strange look.
  4473.  
  4474. "Er, alright. Buckets are down this aisle."
  4475.  
  4476. He points.
  4477.  
  4478. You walk down past an interesting assortment of gardening tools, then carpentry supplies, finally arriving at cleaning supplies.
  4479.  
  4480. There are a few stacks of buckets in assorted sizes, along with mops and other sundries.
  4481.  
  4482. You pick out one that's nearly a clone of Spike's, feeling vaguely guilty. After all, you made Twilight buy all this gear too. But it was probably a good idea to have a re-fuelling spot in town, so it was good to have a set of dinnerwear at the treebrary also.
  4483.  
  4484. You carry the bucket up to the counter.
  4485.  
  4486. "That'll be ten bits."
  4487.  
  4488. "Will you take eight?"
  4489.  
  4490. "Nine."
  4491.  
  4492. "Sold."
  4493.  
  4494.  
  4495.  
  4496. You sort out the cash, giving him a ten. He gives you the change.
  4497.  
  4498. "So what'cha gonna do with it? If it's for Nightmare Night, I'd say you already got that covered."
  4499.  
  4500. You give him the "spock eyebrow" for a second, trying to express 'slight offense'.
  4501.  
  4502. "For me, a bucket's tablewear. I eat out of them."
  4503.  
  4504. "That's galvanized zinc. The zinc's not so bad but the solder might be lead! I wouldn't eat anything out of that." he says.
  4505.  
  4506. "I don't think it's going to be a problem."
  4507.  
  4508. "Why not?"
  4509.  
  4510. "'Cuz I eat coal."
  4511.  
  4512. He treats you to a blank stare for a moment.
  4513.  
  4514. "I... See. Well in that case, I won't worry about it."
  4515.  
  4516. "Thanks. Hey I'm going to be installing plumbing in my house soon, so I might be back for supplies now and then."
  4517.  
  4518. "I look forward to your business. Enjoy your tablewear!"
  4519.  
  4520. "I will, thanks!"
  4521.  
  4522. You twist around, and stuff the bucket in the other saddlebag. It barely fits, and you can't close the flap, but it's slid in just past the top of the pail. It should ride OK.
  4523.  
  4524. You head out the door. The other shops are mostly sporting "Closed" signs now.
  4525.  
  4526. May as well head home. It's starting to get dark out anyhow.
  4527.  
  4528. The road's mostly clear.
  4529.  
  4530. Revving up your fan, you spread your wings, run and take off.
  4531.  
  4532. You're a little unsteady, with such an unbalanced load, but you power up into the sky alright, heading for home.
  4533.  
  4534.  
  4535.  
  4536. The sunset looks even more colorful though your new sunglasses. You decide that an ice-mirror is going to become a part of your home decor at some point.
  4537.  
  4538. You saw how to make one in Twilight's home construction book.
  4539.  
  4540. The sound of flapping tickles your ears, and you look up.
  4541.  
  4542. Rainbow dash is above you, flying upside down.
  4543.  
  4544. "I was starting to wonder when you'd notice!" she says.
  4545.  
  4546. "Oh, hi, Rainbow!"
  4547.  
  4548. "Hiya, stea-monster. What'cha doin'?"
  4549.  
  4550. "Just went shopping, got a few things. Heading home for the night. You're welcome to come with me!"
  4551.  
  4552. "Nah, it's gettin' late. I just wanted to see what you're up to. Got some new saddlebags, I see."
  4553.  
  4554. "Yeah, they're... More befitting."
  4555.  
  4556. "They make you look like a big black gas-can full of poison."
  4557.  
  4558. "It's a look I intend to cultivate, seeing as it's nearly true."
  4559.  
  4560.  
  4561.  
  4562. She chuckles, then sumersaults right in front of you, upright but flying backward.
  4563.  
  4564. "Well they don't look bad then. And the sunglasses help with those weirdo eyes of yours."
  4565.  
  4566. "Thanks, I think. Oh hey, I'm going to need to get water and light installed soon. Can you ask some of your construction friends how much it'd be?"
  4567.  
  4568. "Sure, I'll check with 'em. You must'a got ahold of some money. Rob a bank or something?"
  4569.  
  4570. "Nah, I shitted up that field for the Apples. Got a few hundred."
  4571.  
  4572. "Well that's probably not gonna buy everything but I'll see what they say."
  4573.  
  4574. "Cool, let me know."
  4575.  
  4576. "Will do. Goodnight!"
  4577.  
  4578. And with a receeding trail dimly visible in the failing light, she was gone.
  4579.  
  4580. After a while, your house draws near. You touch down by your door, then go inside.
  4581.  
  4582. Your vision flips over to bright green as you shut the door.
  4583.  
  4584. Shrugging out of the straps, you set the saddlebags and sunglasses on the table, watching them closely.
  4585.  
  4586. No signs of penetration, good.
  4587.  
  4588. You coax a chunk of coal out of the saddlebag, and scarf it down.
  4589.  
  4590. It's as delicious as it smells.
  4591.  
  4592. No sense filling up just to go to bed, though.
  4593.  
  4594. You plod over, flop into bed, set your alarm and think, "I want to be able to have good dreams and go to sleep now."
  4595.  
  4596.  
  4597. Your room seems to fill with light filtering through the walls.
  4598.  
  4599. 'WTF', you think, getting up and walking over to the front door.
  4600.  
  4601. There's a sort of fizzling sound, then muffled laughter audible through it.
  4602.  
  4603. Opening it, you peer outside.
  4604.  
  4605. Dozens of lawn gnomes adorn your cloud-lawn, which seems to stretch on to the horizons.
  4606.  
  4607. Amazed, you step outside.
  4608.  
  4609. "Braaap."
  4610.  
  4611. One of the gnomes just farted. The rest giggle. Another lifts a leg. "Flurrp".
  4612.  
  4613. More giggling.
  4614.  
  4615. "Farts aren't funny!" you yell, knowing the untruth of your words even as they're spoken.
  4616.  
  4617. The little bastards undertake a cannonade of gaseous emissions. You're forced to run and lift off to avoid it.
  4618.  
  4619. The farting builds into a crecendo, and they begin lifting off like little red pointy-hatted missiles. You loop and dive, avoiding them as they sail noisily past.
  4620.  
  4621. "THOU CERTAINLY HAVETH PECULIAR DREAMS WHEN THOU DOST DREAMETH!" booms out.
  4622.  
  4623. Luna dodges a farting gnome, then unzips part of the sky with her teeth.
  4624.  
  4625. "Accompaniest mineself to a land of greater safety!"
  4626.  
  4627. She dives through the rent in the air.
  4628.  
  4629. You dodge a madly giggling gnome as it jets past, momentarily fold your wings and drop though the gap.
  4630.  
  4631.  
  4632.  
  4633. You pop out of a hole. Everywhere is white with rows of black holes, and you just came out of one.
  4634.  
  4635. "Thou art in a juxtaposition of possibilities right now." Luna's head says, protruding upside down from a hole above you.
  4636.  
  4637. "Oh? This reminds me of a movie I saw..."
  4638.  
  4639. "Yes! We have joined with you in thine own mind-space and we art using thine own setting! We chose hastily due to the hazardous airborne flatulating elves."
  4640.  
  4641. "Er, gnomes. Sorry about those, I have no idea-"
  4642.  
  4643. "Tut tut. Thine subconscious mind undertaketh to fill the scene. Only with a huge amount of practice can one control the dreamworld."
  4644.  
  4645. With that, her head withdrew, leaving only yet another flat black hole.
  4646.  
  4647. You consider folding one up and taking it with you, but even if it worked, the metaphysics of it all seemed unusually dangerous.
  4648.  
  4649. You dive down the hole she vanished into before you lose track of it.
  4650.  
  4651. You sail forth from yet another hole, though it was impossible to say how far you'd travelled, and land on the white plane between them.
  4652.  
  4653. A horse-leg wearing a Luna sock-puppet (the horn was a pencil, the eyes pingpong balls) emerges from a nearby hole.
  4654.  
  4655. "We see that thou art willing to follow us. Shall we play tag?" it says... Then vanishes back into the hole.
  4656.  
  4657. You dive after it.
  4658.  
  4659.  
  4660. Flying out of another hole headfirst, you just see her tail vanish into another. You run to it and dive in.
  4661.  
  4662. Another bare sea of holes, this time with no clue. Then a deep blue horn protrudes from one for a moment. Running over to it, you dive in.
  4663.  
  4664. Another sea of holes, these of alternating sizes. A flash of tail dissappearing into one a ways off. You run, trying to keep it distinct from the rest, but lose track.
  4665.  
  4666. "Damn!" you think, then jump into the most likely.
  4667.  
  4668. You're chugging down a traintrack, rolling on steel wheels.
  4669.  
  4670. Your face is even less mobile than usual, but you can move your eyes.
  4671.  
  4672. Luna comes galloping alongside you, bearing a rider shooting pistols into the air and wearing a kercheif over his lower face.
  4673.  
  4674. She bucks him onto your back.
  4675.  
  4676. "Thou'rt it, 'Thomas'!" she cries, then runs right up the trunk of a tree and vanishes. You try madly to change course, and jump your rails just as a train-bridge approaches.
  4677.  
  4678. You sail off the rails into a canyon...
  4679.  
  4680.  
  4681. And pop out of a hole in the sea of holes.
  4682.  
  4683. "Oh what fun!" Luna says, her upper torso visible, sitting in a hole as if treading water.
  4684.  
  4685. "Weird, more like!" you say.
  4686.  
  4687. "Catch me if thou can!" she replies, leaping forth from the hole she'd been in... Right up into one above.
  4688.  
  4689. This particular space seems weightless and you scramble, losing track of the hole.
  4690.  
  4691. Kicking your ass-fan on, you power toward it's approximate location and enter one.
  4692.  
  4693. You're a horse mounted on a pole, hanging from the works of a carnival carousel.
  4694.  
  4695. A Whurlitzer Band Organ plays Roll Out The Barrel, the music dopplaring as you orbit the center columb.
  4696.  
  4697. Luna bobs ahead of you, also a part of the machine.
  4698.  
  4699. "What a strange land you must issue forth from!" she exclaims, then manages to unhitch her pole from the works and goes springing away like a pogo-stick through the rest of the carousel animals.
  4700.  
  4701. Struggling, you manage to free yourself also, bounding around the carousel after her. She leaps off the side of the machine, you leaping after.
  4702.  
  4703. You slam into her in the sea of holes. She's trying to free herself from one that proved too small.
  4704.  
  4705. You grab her tail in your mouth and pull, and out she pops.
  4706.  
  4707. "Tag!' you say, poking her with a hoof.
  4708.  
  4709. "Ahh, and 'tis about time. Verily thou did'st make a fine accounting of thyself however. I do look forward to the next time we can engage, thus." she says.
  4710.  
  4711. "Hm?" you say.
  4712.  
  4713. "I have many more ponies to visit, this eve, so I must away with me. It hath been a pleasure!"
  4714.  
  4715. "Oh! OK, goodnight, Luna! It's been fun!"
  4716.  
  4717. And with that, she unzips another section of air and dives through.
  4718.  
  4719. Bemused, you sit for a moment thinking about what just happened, then choose a hole and dive in.
  4720.  
  4721.  
  4722.  
  4723. The light of dawn filtering through your walls awakens you. You were getting pretty good at controlling how you slept.
  4724.  
  4725. Particularly awesome was the fact that you'd discovered how to dream, and thereby also frolic with Luna.
  4726.  
  4727. You wonder for a moment if Big Mac also had a frolic. Quite possibly, you decide.
  4728.  
  4729. Rolling out of bed, you wander over to the table. Dumping a quantity of coal into your new bucket, you proceed to have breakfast.
  4730.  
  4731. The ponyville coal has a heady aroma to it, and a sharper flavor than what you'd had in Canterlot.
  4732.  
  4733. After Pinkie's 'cooking', however, you decided that coal would be a sort of meat-and-potatos type of meal for you.
  4734.  
  4735. And what was called for was more treat-type food.
  4736.  
  4737. Noting that you still had plenty of water left, you let it stoke up to pressure as you don your sunglasses and consider your next steps.
  4738.  
  4739. Pretty soon you're ready to fly. Exiting the cabin, you deploy wings, rev up fan and leap off your cloud, toward Ponyville.
  4740.  
  4741. Once again the air is bracing, cool and moist.
  4742.  
  4743. As much as you disliked mornings, you did love flying in the morning air.
  4744.  
  4745. The sunrise was gorgeous, and you could see some signs that it was intended to be.
  4746.  
  4747. Between the pegasi and Princess Celestia herself, things like the sunrise and sunset had alot of artistic talent behind them.
  4748.  
  4749. You felt a bit sorry for Luna in that moment, you doubted anyone did much for her moonrises and moonsets.
  4750.  
  4751. No wonder she'd gone emo, so long ago.
  4752.  
  4753. Fortunately she seemed to have recovered well, if last night was any indication. You were looking forward to your next chance to play in dreamland with luna.
  4754.  
  4755.  
  4756.  
  4757. Ponyville begins to pass by beneath you.
  4758.  
  4759. Aiming for the roadway in front of Sugar Cube Corners, you execute a neat landing and walk inside.
  4760.  
  4761. Luckily, Pinkie was at the counter. It'd have been a little awkward trying to order a sawdust-muffin from Mrs. Cake, after all.
  4762.  
  4763. "Anon! Anon Anon Anon Anon!" she cries, bounding up and down.
  4764.  
  4765. "You're here! What can I get for you?"
  4766.  
  4767. "Well I was hoping you had- It's hard to choose really, everything was so good... But I'd like some of the muffins, a couple of those sandwiches and I want you to remember how you made that cake you made, for later."
  4768.  
  4769. "Oh that's no problem at all! See?" she says, holding up a pink diary-type book with a frilly heart on top.
  4770.  
  4771. "Pinkie's Secret Recipes", it says.
  4772.  
  4773. "It's all in here, you've got your own little chapter now!"
  4774.  
  4775. "Thank goodness, I was hoping you'd remember what you'd done. It was all amazing, especially the cake!"
  4776.  
  4777. She bounces some more, once again hiding the book somewhere.
  4778.  
  4779.  
  4780.  
  4781. "I wasn't sure you were going to want any more but I did make you a couple more spongecakes, just in case!"
  4782.  
  4783. "OK, I'll take those!"
  4784.  
  4785. She vanishes through the door into the back, quickly returning with a tray with a couple more of the risen yellow paper-pulp cakes.
  4786.  
  4787. "Is two bits alright?" she asks.
  4788.  
  4789. "Sure! Bag 'em up for me."
  4790.  
  4791. After a trade of money and cakes, she promises to keep an assortment of foods for you around.
  4792.  
  4793. "Just don't let them get mixed in with the regular stuff, I don't want to be responsible for somepony busting a tooth off." you say.
  4794.  
  4795. "No, silly! I've got a cabinet I store my special things in. I'll put the foods I make for you in there."
  4796.  
  4797. "Nice, thanks! Hey and can I get some water?"
  4798.  
  4799. She vanishes, and returns with a big paper cup of water, which you drain.
  4800.  
  4801. "You're kind of like a big metal butterfly!" she comments, after seeing how you drink.
  4802.  
  4803. "Thanks." you say. After all, at least she didn't say mosquito.
  4804.  
  4805. "I'm going to see if I can find Dash. I want to work on my house more, today."
  4806.  
  4807. "OK, Anon! Good luck on the house-working!"
  4808.  
  4809. You give her an eyebrow-waggle, which she returns, then head out of the shop.
  4810.  
  4811.  
  4812.  
  4813. You wander around until you spot an unoccupied picnic table.
  4814.  
  4815. Quickly you trot over and commandeer it, and start scarfing down a spongecake. You're not sure if a raised paper-pulp spongecake should taste like angelfood cake or not, but you're glad it does.
  4816.  
  4817. Spying Rainbow Dash walking down the street, you decide to call her over.
  4818.  
  4819. Your mouth's fulla cake, so you try to whistle.
  4820.  
  4821. A few crumbs blow out.
  4822.  
  4823. You try whistling harder.
  4824.  
  4825. With a metallic "sproing" a trapdoor opens and up juts a tubular cone-topped train-whistle from the peak of your withers.
  4826.  
  4827. "WHOOO-ooo-OOO-ooo!!"
  4828.  
  4829. All pony locomotion in the area stops, and you find yourself the center of attention.
  4830.  
  4831. With a cloud of steam dissipating above you.
  4832.  
  4833. You give it two more quick toots, and mug around at the surprised onlookers.
  4834.  
  4835. Motion resumes.
  4836.  
  4837. You were successful though, Rainbow comes sailing in and lands right in the seat-bench across from you.
  4838.  
  4839. "Man, that's awesome! I didn't know you could do that!"
  4840.  
  4841. You nod enthusiastically, chewing quickly until your mouth clears. "Me either! I'm glad I can, though!"
  4842.  
  4843. You retract the whistle.
  4844.  
  4845.  
  4846.  
  4847. "I was just heading to Pinkies for some breakfast. What're you up to?"
  4848.  
  4849. "Same, just got these, uh, cakes."
  4850.  
  4851. She sniffs the remaining one.
  4852.  
  4853. "It smells like a vanilla paperwad."
  4854.  
  4855. "It sort of is one, too. But if you were able to eat it, you'd like it, trust me!"
  4856.  
  4857. "I'll take your word for it."
  4858.  
  4859. "Hey, did you ever get the chance to ask your friends about wiring up my house?"
  4860.  
  4861. "Not yet, I'll fly up and ask after breakfast. Speaking of which... Back soon."
  4862.  
  4863. Dash rockets out of the table and over to Pinkys shop.
  4864.  
  4865. It's a good thing she'd done so in time, as a line begins to form soon after she enters.
  4866.  
  4867.  
  4868.  
  4869. Espying Spike walking along engrossed in a scroll, you wait until he's passing at his closest.
  4870.  
  4871. Sproing-"WHOO-ooo!!"
  4872.  
  4873. He jumps straight up, dropping the scroll, quill, and a shopping bag.
  4874.  
  4875. "Hiya Spike!" you say.
  4876.  
  4877. Gathering his stuff, spike glares at you and says peevishly, "Oh, it's you."
  4878.  
  4879. "Yup! Just thought I'd say good morning!"
  4880.  
  4881. "Heck of a way to say it. You nearly blew my eardrums out!"
  4882.  
  4883. "Sorry. Hey what'cha doing with that paper?"
  4884.  
  4885. "Oh it's a list of supplies Twiight wanted. I'm just going around gathering them for her."
  4886.  
  4887. "Good man. Er, dragon."
  4888.  
  4889. Spike spies the line at Pinkies.
  4890.  
  4891. "I knew I should have come for the hay-cakes sooner. I had to get ink and quills first though."
  4892.  
  4893. He throws a disgruntled sigh.
  4894.  
  4895. "Guess I'll go get in line."
  4896.  
  4897. "Alright. Hope it's not too long a wait."
  4898.  
  4899. "Me too."
  4900.  
  4901. With that, he goes waddling resolutely toward the back of the line.
  4902.  
  4903.  
  4904. Tearing into your second cake, you watch the motion of the city. Sugarcube Corners certainly was popular, the line growing impressively.
  4905.  
  4906. Just as you finish the cake, Rainbow emerges, and comes flying back over.
  4907.  
  4908. She unpacks a bag of disgustingly sweet confections, many with frosting hearts on top.
  4909.  
  4910. "What is it with you ponies and hearts." you say.
  4911.  
  4912. "I know they're no skulls and crossbones, but they're pretty." she replies.
  4913.  
  4914. Fair enough.
  4915.  
  4916. "Did you enjoy that paperwad?" she asks.
  4917.  
  4918. "Oh yeah, Pinkie makes the best paperwad anywhere, I think."
  4919.  
  4920. "Best cupcake, too." she says around a mouthfull of the stuff.
  4921.  
  4922. "When it comes to sweets, Pinkie's the master." she continues.
  4923.  
  4924. You nod.
  4925.  
  4926. "Hey," you say, "I've been meaning to try to patch things up with Rarity. Any ideas how I could, ya know, make it up to her?"
  4927.  
  4928. Rainbow pauses in her chewing, giving you an appraising look.
  4929.  
  4930. "No. She hates you."
  4931.  
  4932. "That's what I thought."
  4933.  
  4934. "She really super hates you. I think if it was a choice between you and a chimera, she'd take the chimera."
  4935.  
  4936. You nod miserably.
  4937.  
  4938. Dash looks thoughtful, starting in on a revoltingly over-decorated filled longjohn.
  4939.  
  4940. "Maybe if you could give her something she wants. Some, I dunno, dress making stuff." she says, between chews.
  4941.  
  4942. "I doubt she needs more gemstones."
  4943.  
  4944. "Yeah, not gemstones."
  4945.  
  4946. "If I tried for silk I'd probably bury her in caterpillers."
  4947.  
  4948. Rainbow snorts a few crumbs of longjohn, giggling.
  4949.  
  4950. "Well thanks for the advice. I'll think on it." you say.
  4951.  
  4952. "Good luck!"
  4953.  
  4954.  
  4955. A look of concern comes over Rainbow's face.
  4956.  
  4957. "Uhoh."
  4958.  
  4959. "Uhoh what?"
  4960.  
  4961. "Here she comes."
  4962.  
  4963. "Uhoh."
  4964.  
  4965. Following Dash's gaze, you spot the snow-white and blue pony coming up the street.
  4966.  
  4967. As she draws nearer, she spots you and Dash at the table and startles slightly.
  4968.  
  4969. Then she neatly crosses the road and continues on past
  4970.  
  4971. "You're on the shitlist for sure." Dash says.
  4972.  
  4973. "Hi Rarity!" you call, "Beautiful day, isn't it!"
  4974.  
  4975. She glares a baleful look back, walking on and joining the back of the line.
  4976.  
  4977. "Think I can go schmooze her?" you ask Dash.
  4978.  
  4979. "Depends on how kick-proof you are."
  4980.  
  4981. "Probably better not then, eh? She'll chip a hoof and hate me even worse."
  4982.  
  4983. "If she chips a hoof on you, she'll end up plotting your death, if she isn't already."
  4984.  
  4985. "Hm."
  4986.  
  4987. Spike emerges from the shop with another grocery bag, once again engrossed in his checklist.
  4988.  
  4989. "Hi, Rainbow, Hi, Anon. I need to get some more things, or I'd stop and be sociable." he says, waddling past.
  4990.  
  4991. Both of you return the greeting.
  4992.  
  4993. "Hey well if I'm going to go talk to the contractors, I better fly." Dash says.
  4994.  
  4995. "OK, thanks! I'm going to head back to my place and work on it some more."
  4996.  
  4997. "Cool. I might bring some guys over so they can check it out."
  4998.  
  4999. "Perfect. I'll hang around the cottage, then."
  5000.  
  5001. Dash tosses the empty bag into the garbage, and zooms off.
  5002.  
  5003. You toss yours too, then set out for home.
  5004.  
  5005.  
  5006.  
  5007. As you approach your cloud-cottage, you decide to attempt an expansion of the place before the utility installers arrive.
  5008.  
  5009. Spying some clouds nearby, you begin gathering them in a clump nearby, until you've got enough for the layout you're thinking of.
  5010.  
  5011. Hurrying, you use a few clouds to widen the yard, then begin on the house, adding a largish room onto the side of the place.
  5012.  
  5013. You work until it's totally enclosed, then pat down where the walls join to the main cottage, and extend the peaked roof of the cottage over it.
  5014.  
  5015. It still doesn't look quite straight or smooth, but it does add to the general coolness of the place.
  5016.  
  5017. Entering the cottage, you kick out a squarish opening to the new room and add a door as you'd been shown by Rainbow Dash.
  5018.  
  5019. Going inside, you do a bit of wall-smoothing, then go outside and drag a cloud through the place and inside.
  5020.  
  5021. You form it into a rather mushroom-esque table, and make four quadrants of a circular bench around it.
  5022.  
  5023. It looked to be up to playing a game of cards, which was more or less what you were hoping for.
  5024.  
  5025. Dragging in another cloud, you make some shelves and another table in the front-wall outside corner.
  5026.  
  5027. You smooth the tops of the tables and mutter the earthly-load-supporting spell on them.
  5028.  
  5029. You're just finishing the shelving when you hear voices outside.
  5030.  
  5031.  
  5032.  
  5033.  
  5034. Going outside, you see Dash and a couple burly pegasi.
  5035.  
  5036. Both of them are staring at you and the cottage in a combination of disgust and awe.
  5037.  
  5038. "Here he is, guys!" says Rainbow.
  5039.  
  5040. Introductions are made all 'round.
  5041.  
  5042. The bigger, brown one with a pipewrench on his ass is Spring Rains, a plumber.
  5043.  
  5044. The other one, a blue pegasus with a lightning bolt on his ass and a frizzy mane, is Static Shock, the electrician.
  5045.  
  5046. There being enough sunlight glowing through the walls to see, you invite them inside.
  5047.  
  5048. You give them a quick tour, asking and answering questions about where things should go.
  5049.  
  5050. "So all I'm after is the basics. A light in each room, a few outlets, and a working sink." you conclude.
  5051.  
  5052. "'Basics' usually also involves a toilet and a shower." says the plumber.
  5053.  
  5054. "And exterior lighting, fridge, laundry and stove outlets." says the electrician, not to be outdone.
  5055.  
  5056. "I've only got like four hundred bits to spend on all this." you say.
  5057.  
  5058. The two smirk for a moment, then their expessions fall as they realize that neither you nor presumaby Dash had been kidding.
  5059.  
  5060. A sort of huddle happens between the two of them.
  5061.  
  5062. You and Dash exchange worried glances.
  5063.  
  5064.  
  5065.  
  5066.  
  5067. The huddle breaks up.
  5068.  
  5069. "I'm gonna need at least two hundred for a sink with water supply and basic rain-field." the plumber says.
  5070.  
  5071. "And I need at least two fifty for a small power accumulator, three outlets and two switched fixtures." says the electrician.
  5072.  
  5073. You perk up.
  5074.  
  5075. "Fifty over? I can do that!"
  5076.  
  5077. "Then we've got ourselves a deal!" says the electrician, the plumber nodding.
  5078.  
  5079. "Where is the utility closet?" asks the electrician. Uhoh.
  5080.  
  5081. "Um, there isn't one right now, but I can set about making one? Where's good?"
  5082.  
  5083. "Make two. Electricity and water don't mix well." says the electrician.
  5084.  
  5085. The plumber glances at him, and makes a sound that might have been a suppressed chuckle.
  5086.  
  5087. "Yeah. Put the water one right outside where you want the sink. A few feet across and deep." says the plumber.
  5088.  
  5089. "And the electric one on the middle rear of the house, about the same size."
  5090.  
  5091. "OK, I'll get on it!" you say.
  5092.  
  5093. The two nod at one another.
  5094.  
  5095.  
  5096.  
  5097. "We're going to go gather supplies. This won't be an artistic installation, for this price we're using whatever we can find." says the electrician.
  5098.  
  5099. "That's fine by me, so long as it works!"
  5100.  
  5101. "It'll work fine, or we'll keep working until it works fine." says the plumber.
  5102.  
  5103. "Cool, thanks." you say.
  5104.  
  5105. The two step outside, then take off toward Cloudsdale.
  5106.  
  5107. Dash walks up alongside of you.
  5108.  
  5109. "Thanks, Rainbow, it was nice of you to help me get set up."
  5110.  
  5111. "No prob. 'Sides, how often do I get to help a monster build a house?"
  5112.  
  5113. You chuckle.
  5114.  
  5115. "I gotta jet too. See ya later!" she says, then does just that.
  5116.  
  5117. You gather a few more clouds, then get to building the utility closets.
  5118.  
  5119.  
  5120.  
  5121. You're just finishing a very satisfying bucket of coal, when the whole house rocks a bit.
  5122.  
  5123. Startled, you poke your head out the door.
  5124.  
  5125. The plumber has just landed a big wagon on your side-yard.
  5126.  
  5127. "Make it rain, with Spring Rains!" says the logo, with a hoof holding a sprinkling garden hose over a potted flower.
  5128.  
  5129. Hell, even the plumbers' wagons had flowers on them.
  5130.  
  5131. Unhitching himself, he says "Come back here, I got somethin' to show ya."
  5132.  
  5133. You follow him around the wagon, and he opens the rear door.
  5134.  
  5135. Inside is a roll of some kind of hose, a weird flat tank thing on it's side, an old looking but nicely sized sink, and an enormous, corroded-green brass monstrosity with a toilet bowl on it.
  5136.  
  5137. "You see that?" he says, pointing.
  5138.  
  5139. "'Fraid so!"
  5140.  
  5141. He chuckles. "That, sir, is a genuine Detno-Macerator Model A. Oh, they made alot of them, back in the day. First production toilet that could take down a whole fresh watermelon in one go, too! Got this little gem out of an old house they were tearin' down. It's been kickin' around in my shed for a while."
  5142.  
  5143. "And, I need a toilet because..."
  5144.  
  5145. "You need a toilet because EVERYPONY needs a toilet. You gotta have company over sometimes, right? I'll throw this little beauty in for twenty bits, 'cuz I just can't stand the thought of somepony having to hang their ass over the side of a cloud!"
  5146.  
  5147. You snicker, envisioning it.
  5148.  
  5149. "Ponies walk around down there, ya know? It's disgustin'! Ya think they always carry a heavy-duty umbrella with 'em?"
  5150.  
  5151. You start laughing in earnest.
  5152.  
  5153. "Anyhow she's yours for an extra twenty. How's that sound?"
  5154.  
  5155.  
  5156.  
  5157. Trying to compose yourself, you ask "OK, well why's it got a crank on the side?"
  5158.  
  5159. "That's the starter!"
  5160.  
  5161. You try to keep your composure but fail.
  5162.  
  5163. "You don't hafta grab it in yer mouth or nothin', you put a hoof on the side of it and give 'er a spin. I just gave 'er a tuneup, too!"
  5164.  
  5165. "No, no, I'll be OK... Just give me a minute..." you wheeze, "How old did you say it was?"
  5166.  
  5167. "About three hundert years, give 'er take. It's not like they wear out!"
  5168.  
  5169. "Heh! OK OK I'll take it, Celestia help me."
  5170.  
  5171. "Good, I'm glad you're a pony who can see reason. Yer gonna need a place to put it, though."
  5172.  
  5173. "OK I'll work on expanding the plumbing closet into a bathroom kinda thing and then put another behind that, alright?"
  5174.  
  5175. "Sounds good. You work on that and I'll start installation on the poo-verter and rain-field."
  5176.  
  5177. "OK cool, let me just get some more clouds."
  5178.  
  5179. The plumber gives a positive-sounding grunt and begins hauling tools out of his wagon.
  5180.  
  5181. Spreading your wings, you launch yourself off the side of your yard. Probably you should expand the yard more on the bathroom side.
  5182.  
  5183. Peering back at your cottage, it wasn't quite the majestic spired castle you'd been envisioning, but it was comfy and could always be reworked later.
  5184.  
  5185. And that monsterous toilet was almost worth owning just for the conversation value, aside from it's presumed utility.
  5186.  
  5187.  
  5188.  
  5189. You shove clouds together by the house until you've got a nice wad of the stuff, then land and start building again.
  5190.  
  5191. Another sink would have been nice, but you only had so much money, and the toilet was more for guest-use anyhow. You decide that the sink will be in your bedroom and the toilet will have it's own cubicle.
  5192.  
  5193. You land, go inside, and kick a hole in the wall opposite the table, and walk out, kicking the back and rear side off of the former plumbing equipment closet.
  5194.  
  5195. Building the cloud-floor out, you expand that side of the yard about ten feet, then make another wall at the back of the cottage.
  5196.  
  5197. No sense having a tiny bathroom when building material is so reasonably priced.
  5198.  
  5199. It takes some time though, walling your way back up to enclose the bathroom.
  5200.  
  5201. Another wall out to form the equipment closet, with a side door, behind where the sink will go inside...
  5202.  
  5203. Extend the roof over the whole works... And done.
  5204.  
  5205. Regarding the home improvements skeptically, you decide it looks alright.
  5206.  
  5207. Going inside, you install a door on the new bathroom, making sure it's wide enough to accomodate the monstrosity that'll soon reside within. The front door already looked wide enough.
  5208.  
  5209. A strange buzzing sensation tickles your legs, along with a rattling sound. Going outside you see the plumber using a jackhammer on your yard. The big tank, obviously the "poo-verter", was already resting in a dug-out hole.
  5210.  
  5211. The brown pony works a big H pattern into the lawn, then stows the jackhammer in the trailer and emerges with the roll of tubing.
  5212.  
  5213. Noticing you watching, he starts a monologue about the revolting way the system worked.
  5214.  
  5215. Fortunately, once the water made it to the tubing, it was pure. The pooverter seemed to be a miracle device, you were only sorry you'd had it's inner workings explained.
  5216.  
  5217.  
  5218.  
  5219. You describe to him how you want the sink and toilet laid out, and he agrees readily enough.
  5220.  
  5221. Then the two of you unroll the tubing and stuff it down into the trenches he'd made in the lawn.
  5222.  
  5223. You were going to have some work ahead of you, burying all this stuff, but part of the deal was that you help during installation and also did the finish-work.
  5224.  
  5225. For the price it was well worth it.
  5226.  
  5227. Hours go by, with only minor hiccups, mostly related to adapting the older equipment to modern pipe. Nothing too difficult though.
  5228.  
  5229. It isn't long before you're washing your hooves in your new sink, which now has a nice ice-mirror above it.
  5230.  
  5231. The plumber smiles, and you waggle your eyebrows at him.
  5232.  
  5233. "Nice to have running water, hm?" he says.
  5234.  
  5235. "Hell yes!"
  5236.  
  5237. "Be right back."
  5238.  
  5239. He walks out, soon returning with a mammoth watermelon under his wing.
  5240.  
  5241. "Now for the moment of truth!" he says.
  5242.  
  5243.  
  5244.  
  5245. The two of you walk into the bathroom.
  5246.  
  5247. He sets the watermelon end-on in the toilet bowl. It's so large he has to raise the seat first.
  5248.  
  5249. "You do the honors. And if I were you... I'd step back right after." he says, backing toward the door.
  5250.  
  5251. Peering nervously at the huge melon, you apply a hoof to the crank, and give it a shove.
  5252.  
  5253. It's a bit hard to turn, but after you get it halfway around the beast roars to life.
  5254.  
  5255. You quickly pace backward from it, as with a roaring gurgle, the melon begins to quake, then twirl.
  5256.  
  5257. It rotates it's way down into the bowl, with an occasional seed shooting out, until there's nothing left but swirling water, then the rumbling dies down and cuts out.
  5258.  
  5259. "That thing's scary." you say.
  5260.  
  5261. "Hah! It's up to the task, though!" he replies.
  5262.  
  5263. "Well thanks, Spring. Let me get you paid."
  5264.  
  5265. "Sure, that's two hundred twenty, right?"
  5266.  
  5267. "Absolutely."
  5268.  
  5269. Walking out to the table, you fish out your wallet and nose out bits until he's satisfied.
  5270.  
  5271. "Sparky said he'd be over sometime tomorrow." the plumber says, scooping bits into his wallet.
  5272.  
  5273. "Cool, I'll be waiting for him." you reply.
  5274.  
  5275. "Pleasure duin' business with ya!" he says, then walks out the door.
  5276.  
  5277. You follow him outside, as he hitches up and takes off into the fading twilight.
  5278.  
  5279. Then you go inside, flush the hilarious toilet again just for fun, wash your hooves in the sink and go to bed.
  5280.  
  5281. It'd been a long day.
  5282.  
  5283.  
  5284.  
  5285. You find yourself at a carnival, in the bumper car track.
  5286.  
  5287. As a bumper-car.
  5288.  
  5289. The rest of them are the mane six, Celestia, and Luna.
  5290.  
  5291. Your drivers are all faceless anons, crusing you around randomly.
  5292.  
  5293. You bump and grind around with all of them except one white car with blue trim, which is sitting lonely, driverless, in the corner of the ride.
  5294.  
  5295. The rest are smiling, seeminly enjoying it, even Celestia.
  5296.  
  5297. You're not sure how this came to be, but it's sort of fun seeing who you'll rebound off or get wedged against next.
  5298.  
  5299. The smells hit you too, rubber, ozone, food smells from the midway...
  5300.  
  5301. Suddenly, the Luna car loudly announces, "We are having fun!"
  5302.  
  5303. "Luna?" you call, as she gets caught in a crunch in the corner. She squealingly eeks free of the morass, and comes right at you.
  5304.  
  5305. You bounce nose to nose, then your driver takes you away to the right. She pursues.
  5306.  
  5307. "Thy world is so strangely interesting!" she calls after you, "But let us retire to quieter surroundings!"
  5308.  
  5309. A pit opens in the floor right in front of you, and you fall in nose first, throwing your driver.
  5310.  
  5311. You fly out a hole in the sea of holes again, and stand on the white plane between them.
  5312.  
  5313. Luna issues from another hole, and takes a stance similar to yours, a ways in front of you.
  5314.  
  5315. Even in this totally still environment, her starry, deep blue mane and tail continue to wave.
  5316.  
  5317.  
  5318.  
  5319. "We considered bringing all thy represented personages into thine vision, but wished not to disturb their own fantasies." Luna says.
  5320.  
  5321. "Oh that's quite alright, it probably would have scared them badly."
  5322.  
  5323. Luna gives you an evil grin.
  5324.  
  5325. "Thou hast divined our reason WHY we didst consider it. We do love our subjects but they do need a bit of... Harmless excitement in their lives from time to time. We enjoyest providing it."
  5326.  
  5327. "Ah, yeah. Well I wouldn't have minded, if you decide to do so. It would be like a conference call!"
  5328.  
  5329. She looks blankly at you, and you can feel her sorting around in your head.
  5330.  
  5331. "Very much so!" she finally says, "Verily it doth annoy our dear sister in a most uncommon way when we dost so, however. We may omit her in such an event."
  5332.  
  5333. "That's fine, I certainly don't want Princess Celestia blaming me for giving her nightm- Uh, bad dreams!"
  5334.  
  5335. "Thou utterest the truth. And be not afraid to use the common vernacular, I have become most accustomed to it over time."
  5336.  
  5337. "Thankyou. It's nice to see you again, Luna!"
  5338.  
  5339. "And you. Truely we had been looking forward to when we met next. Thy- Your dreams convey such a sense of otherworldlyness that thou'rt like unto opening a window on an entirely new vista. Most refreshing after such a long period of ponies dreaming about their carrot patch or their newest clothing."
  5340.  
  5341. "I can't say that your land lacks excitement though, Luna. The monsters you get around here are downright terrifying."
  5342.  
  5343. Again, that evil grin.
  5344.  
  5345. "While 'tis true that Equestria suffereth some withering attacks, I assure you, said misbehaving creatures fear falling asleep more than my subjects fear the creatures themselves."
  5346.  
  5347. "Oh?"
  5348.  
  5349.  
  5350.  
  5351. "That cyclops that thou dispatched with such firey enthusiasm hath been suffering variations on a theme of a giant you, swooping him up, roasting and eating him for several nights now, should I provide an example. His cave in the everfree be not out of my zone of influence."
  5352.  
  5353. "Oh? Uh, heh heh that's pretty good-"
  5354.  
  5355. "And thou swallowing him though he retaineth his consciousness-"
  5356.  
  5357. "Whoa. OK, that might be crossing-"
  5358.  
  5359. "Then-"
  5360.  
  5361. "Luna!" you cry, beginning to become scared as her eyes started whitening out.
  5362.  
  5363. She snaps back to normalcy.
  5364.  
  5365. "I doth apologize. I do so become entangled in my enterprises from time to time."
  5366.  
  5367. "So I see!"
  5368.  
  5369. "Just so."
  5370.  
  5371. "Well I guess it'll help stop him going after Ponyville for a while."
  5372.  
  5373. "Quite! I cannot be in all creatures' heads at all times, thus I cannot anticipate most attacks. But once aware of a problem I do try to solve it."
  5374.  
  5375. "So I see! I'm sure your subjects appreciate you looking out for them."
  5376.  
  5377. "Most. I have certain whom perhaps I enjoy toying with to excess, I must admit. Those who are unpleasant, them who would rob, these I take extra care to make aware of the possible consequences of their actions."
  5378.  
  5379. "A fun job indeed, I bet."
  5380.  
  5381. "Aye, we do enjoy getting creative with our endeavors. I'm afraid that I must attend to some now, in fact."
  5382.  
  5383. "Well it's been fun, Luna! Drop in any time!"
  5384.  
  5385. She smiles, then flies up into a hole.
  5386.  
  5387. You stand there bemused for a moment, before picking one and diving into it yourself.
  5388.  
  5389.  
  5390.  
  5391. Awakening to the morning light seeping through the walls, you roll out of bed.
  5392.  
  5393. You're almost surprised to see your new sink, standing against the wall, it seems so odd to have plumbing now.
  5394.  
  5395. Walking slowly over, you rinse out the sink, stopper it and fill it.
  5396.  
  5397. Your tapwater is good tasting, but bland. It's essentially distlled water, from the explanation the plumber'd given.
  5398.  
  5399. Totally good for your works, but a hair lacking in flavor.
  5400.  
  5401. Once you've had your fill, you head over to the table and wolf down some coal for breakfast.
  5402.  
  5403. It's not long before you're breathing out some sparks and flavorful smoke.
  5404.  
  5405. A new spring in your step, you go outdoors.
  5406.  
  5407. The lawn's a disaster zone.
  5408.  
  5409. Sighing, you decide to get to work patching it up.
  5410.  
  5411. The morning's spent gathering clouds and burying over the plumbing installed in the yard.
  5412.  
  5413. Finally it's done. You decide the place looks passable.
  5414.  
  5415. You head back inside, into the new living room, and sit down at the table. Turning on some tunes from your internal library, you cross your forelegs on the table, rest your head on them, and zone out.
  5416.  
  5417.  
  5418.  
  5419. Presently, you feel the house rock a bit and some rattling outside. You stop your playlist.
  5420.  
  5421. Getting up, you head outside to find Static Shock unhitching himself from a wagon.
  5422.  
  5423. "Don't get zapped! Hire Static Shock!" the side says.
  5424.  
  5425. Adorning the side of his wagon, instead of an electrified flower, which you'd halfway expected, was a simple lightbulb emblem.
  5426.  
  5427. "Morning, Anon!" says the electrician.
  5428.  
  5429. "Hiya!"
  5430.  
  5431. "Ready to get this done?"
  5432.  
  5433. "Sure!"
  5434.  
  5435. "OK, help me carry some of this stuff to the utility closet."
  5436.  
  5437. With that, he opens up the wagon to reveal, essentially, a mess.
  5438.  
  5439. It was organized, sure, but there's no way to make stored rolls of wire and conduit look good.
  5440.  
  5441. "Here, you take the accumulator." he says, grabbing a box covered in antennas like a grass thatch out of the wagon and passing it to you.
  5442.  
  5443. It's surprisingly heavy.
  5444.  
  5445. Then the blue pony straps on a sort of utility belt, and hauls out a big toolbox.
  5446.  
  5447. "Lead on." he says.
  5448.  
  5449. You take him around the back of the cottage, to where you'd built the wiring closet.
  5450.  
  5451. Static opens the door, then prods the floor and walls with a screwdriver, which passes through.
  5452.  
  5453. "Yeah it needs to be spelled still." you say.
  5454.  
  5455. He nods, then works at spelling the interior surfaces.
  5456.  
  5457. "Set it right in there." he says, and you put the box inside.
  5458.  
  5459.  
  5460.  
  5461. "Can you get me a cloud? A small one'll do." he asks.
  5462.  
  5463. "Sure."
  5464.  
  5465. You take off, spy out a smallish cloud some ways off and retrieve it.
  5466.  
  5467. He makes a couple of interior shelves in the closet with some of it.
  5468.  
  5469. Work goes on for some time, with him installing a six-pack rack of what looked like silver-coated glass jars, some other very frankenstein's laboratory looking bits, and lots and lots of wiring into the closet.
  5470.  
  5471. Finally after another trip to the wagon he attaches a tall insulated pole with a slightly bent rod on top to the side of the wiring closet, then runs the cable from it to the accumulator.
  5472.  
  5473. Then the interior work began.
  5474.  
  5475. The fixtures were, as in the case of the plumbing, recovered items in working condition.
  5476.  
  5477. You talk him into throwing a light into the bathroom, too.
  5478.  
  5479. "Ah, so ol' Flushy set you up with one of his antiques, I see. He must like you!"
  5480.  
  5481. "Yeah. It seems to work pretty good!"
  5482.  
  5483. "Did he do the watermelon trick?"
  5484.  
  5485. "Yup."
  5486.  
  5487. "You know, the standard is for a toilet to be able to flush three honey-dew melons, not a big-ass watermelon. He just likes showing off those old high-power toilets he collects."
  5488.  
  5489. "I didn't know that. Still, it's cool that it can do it!"
  5490.  
  5491. "Fer sher, fer sher. At least you'll never had to worry about clogs."
  5492.  
  5493. "Right. Especially since I don't shit!"
  5494.  
  5495. "Lucky you!"
  5496.  
  5497. "I know, right?"
  5498.  
  5499. 'Sparky' goes back to carving out bits of wall, installing lightswitches, fixtures, and sockets here and there where you want.
  5500.  
  5501. As he'd said, it wasn't pretty workmanship, but it seemed like it'd be easy to live with.
  5502.  
  5503.  
  5504.  
  5505. "OK, now, I'm going to prime the accumulator bank. You're going to want to take off, and hold some distance away for this."
  5506.  
  5507. "Gotcha."
  5508.  
  5509. You trot to the edge of the yard, unfurling your wings, and dive off.
  5510.  
  5511. You bank and do a slow, wide circle as the electrician-pony flies off and fetches a pretty big cloud.
  5512.  
  5513. He positions the cloud over the tall lightning rod on the wiring closet, then lands atop it and starts jumping.
  5514.  
  5515. It isn't long before the cloud opens up and lets fly with a huge bolt of lightning.
  5516.  
  5517. He keeps hopping, and another bolt strikes. You notice the interior lights come on, in the cottage.
  5518.  
  5519. "I think that did it!" you shout.
  5520.  
  5521. "Good!" he shouts back, then takes off and shoves the cloud a ways away.
  5522.  
  5523. The two of you land, and go inside. It's pretty nice with the lights on.
  5524.  
  5525. He goes around testing outlets and of course the lights, finally declaring it all good to go.
  5526.  
  5527. "That'll be two fifty, please."
  5528.  
  5529. You pay the pony, then follow him out.
  5530.  
  5531. "If it ever craps out on you, just re-prime it. It's like your water, it'll accumuate constantly, but unlike the water, if it runs dry it needs a re-prime."
  5532.  
  5533. "Alright, good to know. Thanks!"
  5534.  
  5535. Static hitches himself up.
  5536.  
  5537. "And if you need anything else done, just get in touch!"
  5538.  
  5539. "Will do!"
  5540.  
  5541. He takes off and flies away, towing his wagon.
  5542.  
  5543. You wonder how they manage to keep the wagon flying straight behind them like that, and if you can do it.
  5544.  
  5545. Odds are you could. A wagon looked like a handy thing to own.
  5546.  
  5547. You wonder if legally a wagon can own another wagon, and suffer a fit of the mental giggles.
  5548.  
  5549. It'd probably cause some headaches down at whatever passes for a DMV around here.
  5550.  
  5551. You regard the lightning rod jutting over your roof.
  5552.  
  5553. Well, at least you did have one spire on your castle, now.
  5554.  
  5555. Going inside, you play with the lights a bit, pleased with the outcome of all that work.
  5556.  
  5557. You will, of course, have to show the place off to your friends at some point.
  5558.  
  5559.  
  5560.  
  5561. Considering that Spike was about the closest thing to a telephone you knew of, you decide to let Twilight and the gang know personally that you'd officially gotten your place, at least for now, totally finished.
  5562.  
  5563. Most likely, the best way to do that was by visiting them.
  5564.  
  5565. Starting with Pinkie.
  5566.  
  5567. You weren't sure anypony would really care all that much that you built a house, but hey, you were proud of the thing.
  5568.  
  5569. Your gauges look pretty good, still plenty of power left.
  5570.  
  5571. Stepping outside, you shut the door, then take off.
  5572.  
  5573. Still on the list: A decent runway, just for the looks if nothing else.
  5574.  
  5575. Doing about seventy, you head to Ponyville.
  5576.  
  5577. There are still several good hours of daylight left.
  5578.  
  5579. Landing at Sugarcube corners, you step inside and head up to the counter.
  5580.  
  5581. Fortunately there isn't much of a line, and you get to the counter quickly.
  5582.  
  5583. "Hiya Anon!" Pinkie says, "You just caught me! I'm just coming off my shift!"
  5584.  
  5585. "Hey Pinkie. Yeah I was hoping to catch you! I wanted to tell everyone I got my house finished!"
  5586.  
  5587. "Ooh! Ooh! Is it on a cloud?"
  5588.  
  5589. "You bet!"
  5590.  
  5591. "Way up in the sky?"
  5592.  
  5593. Yup!"
  5594.  
  5595. "OK I'll see who I can gather and we'll throw a housewarming party!"
  5596.  
  5597. "Well, I dunno if that's gonna work, 'cuz non-pegasi fall through clouds-"
  5598.  
  5599.  
  5600.  
  5601. "We'll get Twilight to cast her walk-on-clouds spell!"
  5602.  
  5603. "Ah sure, that'd be OK I guess-"
  5604.  
  5605. "And I'll get Applejack to bring a keg!"
  5606.  
  5607. Say, this was sounding good already!
  5608.  
  5609. "OK! It's a tiny 2-room cottage though, keep it small-"
  5610.  
  5611. "And we'll have some hard cider and run all around in your new house!"
  5612.  
  5613. You laugh, "Sure, OK! I'm just heading to Twilight's now-"
  5614.  
  5615. "OK, stay there, I'll be in touch soon!" she says, throwing off her apron and sprinting out back.
  5616.  
  5617. A pony steps up behind you, waiting patiently.
  5618.  
  5619. You step aside, just as Mrs. Cake emerges from the swinging doors, "May I help you?"
  5620.  
  5621. Leaving her to take the new arrival's order, you head outside, then trot for Twilight's treebrary.
  5622.  
  5623. You head up to the door, and blow a couple short toots on your whistle.
  5624.  
  5625. Both Twilight and Spike answer.
  5626.  
  5627. "Told you it was him!" Spike says.
  5628.  
  5629. "Hello Anonymous! That whistle of yours could wake the dead!" Twilight says.
  5630.  
  5631. "Yeah I'm glad I discovered it, it's turning out to be handy!"
  5632.  
  5633. "Come in, we were just discussing dinner plans." Twilight says, her and Spike backing away to make room.
  5634.  
  5635. You step inside, nudging the door closed with a hind hoof.
  5636.  
  5637. "So, what's the good news?" Twilight asks.
  5638.  
  5639. "I got my house finished!"
  5640.  
  5641. "Congratulations! Glad to hear it!"
  5642.  
  5643. "Yup! It's small but comfy."
  5644.  
  5645.  
  5646.  
  5647. "Excellent. I trust the book helped?"
  5648.  
  5649. "Oh absolutely, I used quite alot of the tricks from that book."
  5650.  
  5651. "Good, I was hoping you'd find that useful."
  5652.  
  5653. "Absolutely. In fact I was sort of hoping that you would stop by and see it. Pinkie's putting together a small celebration."
  5654.  
  5655. "Pinkie is? How's she going to- Oh."
  5656.  
  5657. "Yeah, we were hoping you could do your cloud-walking spell on anypony that needs it, that's coming."
  5658.  
  5659. "Spike!" "Yes'm?" "Find me the book with the cloudwalking spell in it."
  5660.  
  5661. "Right away!"
  5662.  
  5663. He zips off, checking through the shelves.
  5664.  
  5665. "I'd be happy to oblige." Twilight says.
  5666.  
  5667. "Awesome, thanks!"
  5668.  
  5669.  
  5670.  
  5671. "Got it!" comes Spike's voice, sounding triumphant, from far up the library ladder.
  5672.  
  5673. Soon he comes waddling up and hands Twilight a book, which she levitates from him and takes to her desk.
  5674.  
  5675. "This is going to take me a few minutes." she says, "I could probably do it from memory, except that in the case of a spell of this nature, safety is of paramount importance."
  5676.  
  5677. You stand there in the entryway, watching Spike buzz industriously around dusting things, as Twilight becomes absorbed in her tome.
  5678.  
  5679. Pretty soon there's a knock at the door.
  5680.  
  5681. Spike runs at it so fast he leaves the feather-duster whirling in midair by a horse-head bust.
  5682.  
  5683. He opens the door, peering around it.
  5684.  
  5685. "Oh hi, Pinkie!" he says, just before she bounds right over him and alongide you.
  5686.  
  5687. You're treated to a cheek-tickle with an unrolling party-honker, as well as a shower of confetti as Pinkie bounces happily around you.
  5688.  
  5689. "I got everyone except Rarity!" she says.
  5690.  
  5691. "Hi Pinkie." Twilight says, eyes never leaving the book.
  5692.  
  5693. Pinkie bounds over, peering obnoxiously over Twiight's shoulder.
  5694.  
  5695. "Oooh! So you're gonna do it! I was hoping you'd say yes!"
  5696.  
  5697. "Yes, this spell isn't much trouble. I'm just making sure I've got it absolutely down."
  5698.  
  5699.  
  5700.  
  5701. Another knock at the door.
  5702.  
  5703. This time, Spike lets in Fluttershy.
  5704.  
  5705. "Um, hello? Pinkie said we were having a party..." comes her breathy voice.
  5706.  
  5707. "YEAAH!" comes a shout behind her, as the bright white mass of Roid Rage comes hulking inside.
  5708.  
  5709. "Hi Fluttershy! Hi, uh-" you pause, wondering what he was known as here.
  5710.  
  5711. "Snowflake!" he says, offering you a bulging-veined foreleg to shake.
  5712.  
  5713. Good lord, his eyes were redder than yours.
  5714.  
  5715. "-Mr. Snowflake. I'm Anonymous." you say, shaking hooves.
  5716.  
  5717. You were glad your metal hooves were smoosh-resistant, that pony has a hell of a grip.
  5718.  
  5719. "Good to meet ya!" he almost shouts, then sits with a thump beside Fluttershy, suddenly looking lost in an internal fugue.
  5720.  
  5721. Pinkie bounds over, "Oooh, Fluttershy's bringing a date! Hi Snowflake!"
  5722.  
  5723. He revives for a moment. "Hi Pinkie!"
  5724.  
  5725. He buzzes his tiny wings a bit, then returns to what's apparently his default state of fugue.
  5726.  
  5727. There's a squeak from the upstairs balcony window, and a rainbow streak zips around the room and lands.
  5728.  
  5729. It is, of course, Rainbow Dash.
  5730.  
  5731. "Hiya folks!"
  5732.  
  5733. "Hi Rainbow!" and variants are said back.
  5734.  
  5735. "Hi Dash." Twilight says, glancing momentarily up from her book.
  5736.  
  5737.  
  5738.  
  5739. "Twilight's getting ready to spell all the earth-ponies to come to Anon's party!" Pinkie tells Dash.
  5740.  
  5741. "'All' the earth ponies? Where're-" Rainbow says, peering at Pinkie for a moment.
  5742.  
  5743. "Don't worry, I'm sure that-" Pinkie begins, just as another knock sounds at the door.
  5744.  
  5745. This time, Spike admits Applejack.
  5746.  
  5747. "Heard y'all was havin' a git-together up at Anon's!" she says.
  5748.  
  5749. "Yes! Yes! Yes! Party at Anon's pad!" Pinkie says, bouncing around the room.
  5750.  
  5751. "Mah brother's standin' outsahd with a big-ass keg'a hard cider!" Applejack announces.
  5752.  
  5753. You see grins spread around those gathered.
  5754.  
  5755. "Yay!" says Pinkie.
  5756.  
  5757. "OK, is that all of us that will be going?" Twilight asks, finally closing the book and joining the crowd in the center of the room.
  5758.  
  5759. Pinkie looks sad for a moment. "Well, I tried inviting Rarity to Anon's party too, but she told me to shove a big fat cucumber right up my-"
  5760.  
  5761. "OK, I guess this is it, then!" Twilight announces, cutting her off.
  5762.  
  5763. "Everyone outside!" she orders, making shoo-ing motions with her wings.
  5764.  
  5765. Everyone does so, filing out the door. Sure enough, Mac's standing outside with an enormous barrel balanced across his back, resting against his collar.
  5766.  
  5767. You almost feel sorry for him, as he never seems to be seen without his yoke unless he's swimming. Maybe it was special to him or something.
  5768.  
  5769. You resolve to try to get him to take the thing off sometime.
  5770.  
  5771. Nearby is one of those horrid pink hot-air balloons, tethered to the treebrary. Pinkie must have brought it.
  5772.  
  5773.  
  5774.  
  5775. Twilight magics a stick off the ground and begins drawing sigils in the dirt of the roadway.
  5776.  
  5777. "Applejack, stand with your hooves on these x's. Don't scuff the markings." she orders, starting to draw another set as Applejack takes her position.
  5778.  
  5779. "Mac, here."
  5780.  
  5781. The big red pony moves into place.
  5782.  
  5783. Drawing another, Twilight asks Pinkie to stand on her set of marks.
  5784.  
  5785. "OK. Now don't move." Twilight says, then she bows her head for a moment.
  5786.  
  5787. Twilight's horn glows, increasing in brightness until her mane and tail seem to lift up weightlessly.
  5788.  
  5789. The sounds of twinkling thaumatic energy being expended gets fairly loud, and all the earth-ponies' hooves take on a bright purple glow also.
  5790.  
  5791. There's a loudish musical tone and a flash, then Twilight's horn goes out.
  5792.  
  5793. "OK, you can move now. The spell should be good for three days." she announces.
  5794.  
  5795.  
  5796.  
  5797. "We ready to go?" Pinkie asks.
  5798.  
  5799. "Yes, you're all set. Spike!" Twilight calls.
  5800.  
  5801. "Yes'm?" he asks, from his position on the front step.
  5802.  
  5803. "Watch the house, I may be out late."
  5804.  
  5805. "Got it!" he calls, retreating and closing the door.
  5806.  
  5807. You decide you're up.
  5808.  
  5809. "OK, just follow me!" you say, then turn away down the empty roadway and spread your wings.
  5810.  
  5811. "Everybody into the balloon who's taking the balloon!" you hear Pinkie's voice call.
  5812.  
  5813. You crank up your ass-fan, gallop a ways then flap your way into the sky.
  5814.  
  5815. Slowly gaining altitude, you circle as everyone gets aloft.
  5816.  
  5817. You note with some amusement the odd way Roid Rage dangles from his wings' centerpoint like a bag of flour.
  5818.  
  5819. The balloon flashes a few times, as Pinkie apparently operates the burner.
  5820.  
  5821. Soon it lifts off also, rising grandly to meet you.
  5822.  
  5823. Aboard are the Apples, the keg, and of course, Pinkie.
  5824.  
  5825. She's got one hoof on a burner control, and the other on a tiller controlling the direction of a powerful fan much like your own.
  5826.  
  5827. "Lead on Mac Duff!" she cries.
  5828.  
  5829. "Follow me!" you call, then strike out for your house at a slow pace.
  5830.  
  5831. The odd assortment of airborne ponies follows in your wake.
  5832.  
  5833.  
  5834. You're feeling a little giddy at the thought of throwing a party. Sure, you hadn't had time to prepare, and your bedroom/front room were a bit of a mess with all your stuff out on the table, but the place was now big enough and had utilities.
  5835.  
  5836. You wondered suddenly if ponies required toilet paper. Hopefully not. If it came up, well, you were pretty sure Twilight had a spare scroll or two secreted on her person somewhere. Anyhow maybe none of 'em would cause you to have to find out.
  5837.  
  5838. You realize you didn't have the chance to get any playing cards, either.
  5839.  
  5840. But sitting around bullshitting was always fun anyhow.
  5841.  
  5842. You suffer occasional fits of chuckling due to the sound of Roid's wingbeats, which you fight to suppress.
  5843.  
  5844. He sounds just like a big bug.
  5845.  
  5846. Pinkie keeps up a running monologue about the sights your group passes along the way. Some of it's interesting, some not.
  5847.  
  5848. Finally you pass over the edge of your cloud, and land, followed by the rest of the winged ponies.
  5849.  
  5850. "Where should I tie the balloon, Anon?" Pinkie calls out.
  5851.  
  5852. "I got this." Rainbow says, zooming off and quickly returning with a cloud.
  5853.  
  5854. You walk around so you can see the back of the cottage, where she's working.
  5855.  
  5856. She attaches the cloud to the main floor then forms an arch out of it, spelling it and a landing zone around it with the deep-frost earthly item supporting spell.
  5857.  
  5858. It wasn't strong enough to safely hold up a whole pony, but was plenty good for mooring a fairly neutrally balanced balloon.
  5859.  
  5860. Pinkie opens a vent and the balloon rapidly falls to the surface of your back yard, and she and Dash secure it to the hoop Dash had made.
  5861.  
  5862. Applejack cautiously extends a leg over the side, pressing on the cloud surface, then gets out.
  5863.  
  5864. Mac follows, then hoists the keg atop his back.
  5865.  
  5866. "Whar's gonna be tha official Keg Central?" he asks.
  5867.  
  5868. "Right by the front door, I think." you say, leading the way.
  5869.  
  5870.  
  5871.  
  5872. The Apples walk cautiously, as Pinkie bounces happily around the cloud-yard.
  5873.  
  5874. She manages even more height on the resiliant cloud surface then she does on a solid floor, you note.
  5875.  
  5876. Arriving at the front door, you spend some time really casting the hell out of the frost spell, hardening the cloud as well as you can.
  5877.  
  5878. Mac sets the barrel down gently, and it seems to rest there just fine.
  5879.  
  5880. "Oh hell." you say, "I forgot cups!"
  5881.  
  5882. "Ah got it." Mac says, heading back around the house.
  5883.  
  5884. Presently he returns with a smallish crate of cups, which he sets on the frosted area by the keg to the right.
  5885.  
  5886. In the crate is also a shiny nickel-looking tap, and a small wooden mallet.
  5887.  
  5888. "Gimme a hoof, Sis." Mac says, and the two of them wrestle the keg around.
  5889.  
  5890. There's a short spouting of foam as a stragically placed cork is pulled, then the tap gets hammered in with the mallet.
  5891.  
  5892. Pinkie materializes by you.
  5893.  
  5894. "Ooh can I have some?" she asks.
  5895.  
  5896. Applejack smileingly fills a mug and passes it to her, and she takes a long drink.
  5897.  
  5898. A line quickly forms, and everypony soon is holding a big mug of the stuff but you.
  5899.  
  5900. "Aw, poor Anon!" Pinkie says, "Don't worry. I brought you something!"
  5901.  
  5902. She hunts around in a saddlebag she seemed to summon from out of nowhere, and hands you a sort of roll.
  5903.  
  5904. It appears to be rolled cardboard, with a layer of leafy herbs and a flammo-gel filling.
  5905.  
  5906. You smell it, savoring the odor. It was definitely a relative of the cake she'd made you.
  5907.  
  5908. You wolf it down with gusto.
  5909.  
  5910.  
  5911.  
  5912. It tastes great, and soon you're exhaling some rich smoggy fog rather like a fine cigar.
  5913.  
  5914. You feel the effects hit you like a stiff double of tequila.
  5915.  
  5916. "Whoa. This is great, Pinkie!"
  5917.  
  5918. "I thought you'd like it! Hey let's see your new house!"
  5919.  
  5920. Opening the front door, you switch on the lights and lead the way into the bedroom, point out the bathroom, warn about the total lack of toilet paper, then continue into the living room and have a seat at the table.
  5921.  
  5922. Though it's rather cozy, especially when Snowflake joins the group, there's enough room.
  5923.  
  5924. You can tell they're a little underwhelmed by the house, but that was only to be expected, for now. You weren't fishing for compliments, though you did recieve a few, mostly on the scenic area you'd picked to put the place.
  5925.  
  5926. Then Pinkie did a clever trick with a coin, a couple of matches, and her cider-mug, which was pretty cool and drew a few claps and alot of laughter.
  5927.  
  5928. She also told a few absoutely filthy jokes, which you thoroughly enjoyed.
  5929.  
  5930. Discussion after that ranged the gamut through the ponies taking turns telling about their projects and odd things that'd happened, local events (Quite alot of it related to your poo-storm, though that only evoked more laughter) and politics, which while simpler than what you were used to, was just as energetically argued.
  5931.  
  5932. Then things rolled around to you.
  5933.  
  5934. Feeling chatty after Pinkie's snack-cake, you begin telling stories from your world. They found the whole concept of cars humorous, even after you tried explaining about your species' relative handicap in regard to long-distance travel on foot.
  5935.  
  5936. One fun thing you discovered while storytelling was that you could play background music to fit the theme you were describing simultaneous with telling the story.
  5937.  
  5938. You used that to great effect, and told them about your life until their curiousity was satisfied.
  5939.  
  5940.  
  5941.  
  5942. Pretty soon, too many mugs were running dry, and ponies began moving around getting refills and breaking up into cliques.
  5943.  
  5944. You, Twilight and Big Mac hung out in the living room, while Dash and Applejack were doing something outdoors. Pinkie, Fluttershy and Snowflake were half in the living room, half in the bedroom.
  5945.  
  5946. The conversations were getting louder as they had more to drink.
  5947.  
  5948. You turned up the tunes a bit, so everypony could hear it alright.
  5949.  
  5950. Catching Pinkie's eye, you wink. "Ew!" she exclaims, giggling for a moment then hucking another cardboard rollup to you.
  5951.  
  5952. Fortunately you manage to catch it, after a quick fumble.
  5953.  
  5954. Mac and Twilight chuckle a bit at this interaction, as you scarf it down.
  5955.  
  5956. "Geez I wish you could try these things." you mention.
  5957.  
  5958. "Jus' blow tha smoke at us." Mac says, grinning.
  5959.  
  5960. You oblige.
  5961.  
  5962.  
  5963.  
  5964. Using care not to bathe them in sparks, you exhale the fragrant fog at the two ponies.
  5965.  
  5966. Big Mac leans forward, nostrils flaring, while Twilight just sits there looking hopeful but slightly shy.
  5967.  
  5968. They both become indistinct shapes barely visble through the fog, which streams steadily forth until you run out of wind.
  5969.  
  5970. You lean back and take a long inhale.
  5971.  
  5972. The fog slowly clears. Twilight's trying not to sneeze, while Big Mac's sitting there with his cheeks puffed out.
  5973.  
  5974. Then he exhales monsterously, blowing a plume back at you.
  5975.  
  5976. That pony's got a set of lungs on him, that's for sure.
  5977.  
  5978. "Ayup. Ah can imagine how that maht taste. 'S pretty good!" he says.
  5979.  
  5980. Recovering, Twilight giggles a bit, then addresses Pinkie across the room. "I dunno what you're feeding him, Pinkie, but it's really nice smelling!"
  5981.  
  5982. "Oh yeah!" she calls back, "Even with just cardboard, it's all in the spices!"
  5983.  
  5984. Whatever it was, you were getting rocked.
  5985.  
  5986.  
  5987.  
  5988. "Hey Anonymous." Twiight says, "I made some modifications to your spark arrestor. I got rid of the straps and rebuilt it with some magnets! Now it'll just stick right on your muzzle, next time you want to come over."
  5989.  
  5990. "Oh, er, thanks, Twilight."
  5991.  
  5992. "In fact I could make you another one easily enough, if you'd like."
  5993.  
  5994. "Um, well, don't go to any trouble over it." you say, secretly horrified at the thought.
  5995.  
  5996. Honestly, since you discovered how effective holding your breath was, you didn't really need one anyway. But she might feel slighted if you turned down the offer. The thing was an invention of hers, after all.
  5997.  
  5998. Your player flips to the next song in the list. You love how you don't even have to think about it.
  5999.  
  6000. "Y'all could keep it at our place, fer when yer visitin'." Mac offers.
  6001.  
  6002. "Ah sure, that'd be fine!" you say, feeling somewhat lost in the conversation.
  6003.  
  6004. Probably eating a cardboard-roll then blowing enough smoke to rafter the air in the room invoked thoughts of the accursed spark-arrestor.
  6005.  
  6006. You knew you freaked the Apples out sometimes though, so why not.
  6007.  
  6008. "Say Anon'mus, what's that music ya was playin' out in tha field? Tha one with all that repeatin' organ riffs?" Mac asks.
  6009.  
  6010. "Oh! That's called Techno. Want me to play some?"
  6011.  
  6012. "After this one's done maybe. All yer music's jus' so differnt from what reg'lur ponies play, Ah hate to stop any of 'em."
  6013.  
  6014. "Yeah it's all got to be new to you guys. I'll play any of 'em you can remember, I seem to be a walking jukebox now."
  6015.  
  6016. "You must have a really unique kind of memory." Twilight states.
  6017.  
  6018. "Yeah, it's a little scary, to be honest."
  6019.  
  6020. "But iss cool as all get-out!" Mac says, leaning forward and poking you in the withers with a hoof.
  6021.  
  6022. Rocked by what was probably for him a light tap, you nod.
  6023.  
  6024.  
  6025.  
  6026. You queue up one on your list simply called SanFrancisco to play next. That one was a jam.
  6027.  
  6028. The three of you basically bullshit for a while, enjoying one another's company until the song ended and SanFrancisco came up.
  6029.  
  6030. In a burst of inspiration, you try to buzz your hind legs to the bass track.
  6031.  
  6032. It's super effective! The table vibrates, the whole living room floor becoming a subwoofer.
  6033.  
  6034. You up the volume from your voicebox too, and basically thunder the song out.
  6035.  
  6036. Pinkie head-bangs through the whole song, and the rest of 'em were to one extent or another caught up in it too.
  6037.  
  6038. It ends all too soon, and you get some whistles and claps.
  6039.  
  6040. You turn the volume back down to where you could speak again for the next song, also a techno track.
  6041.  
  6042. "Y'all feel free ta keep up what 'cha was doin' if'n ya feel like." Mac says, a big grin on his face.
  6043.  
  6044. Twilight's nodding. "Your music's fascinating!"
  6045.  
  6046. What the heck. You crank it back up and let your legs be subwoofers again.
  6047.  
  6048. Whatever you have for leg-actuators must be pretty responsive.
  6049.  
  6050. Pretty soon, your house is bouncing a bit from something other than the bass notes. Fluttershy and Snowflake are dancing in the kitchen/bedroom, and while she was gracefully fluttering, Snowflake was bobbing and hopping like a galvanized frog.
  6051.  
  6052. The effect was oddly soothing though, as the cloud softened the impacts down to a sort of rocking motion.
  6053.  
  6054. Pinkie skillfully threads her way outside for a few minutes, presently returning with an armload of full mugs which she passes around.
  6055.  
  6056. You get another cardboard yummy, though you can't rightly eat the thing whilst blasting tunes.
  6057.  
  6058. It sits there on the table, beckoning.
  6059.  
  6060. It seems you've discovered a drawback to being the sole source of music at a party. It's a small price to pay though, you're having a good time.
  6061.  
  6062.  
  6063.  
  6064. You reach the end of the song, and before the next one starts, Mac gestures at you.
  6065.  
  6066. "Ah got this next one." he says, then takes a long drink from his mug.
  6067.  
  6068. Clearing his throat, he begins to sing.
  6069.  
  6070. The song is somewhat different, but recognizable.
  6071.  
  6072. You'd never heard The Horsetamer's Daughter performed in basso profundo, before. And especially not genderbent ("The Horseteacher's Son") with an all-horse cast to the story, particularly the wild Mustangs of Mustangia.
  6073.  
  6074. You take a moment to snatch the treat off the table and scarf it down.
  6075.  
  6076. But it was awesome, and you found yourself totally swept up in the story of the song, which was about evil unicorns enslaveing innocent villiagers into their organized warfare, then being beaten back by an inexperienced but naturally talented small-town unicorn and the help of a team of much wilder earth-ponies.
  6077.  
  6078. Finally, the song reaches it's end and he sits down.
  6079.  
  6080. There's some hoof-clapping, and you feel obligated to clang yours together a bit also.
  6081.  
  6082. You'd nearly forgotten that you had a member of the Ponytones present.
  6083.  
  6084. "You totally killed it, Mac!" you exclaim.
  6085.  
  6086. "Ah hope that means y'all liked it!" he says.
  6087.  
  6088. "Oh yeah, bigtime. Thanks!"
  6089.  
  6090. "You rock, Mac!" comes Rainbow's shout from the outer doorway.
  6091.  
  6092. he looks embarrassed but pleased.
  6093.  
  6094.  
  6095.  
  6096. "Thank'ya!" he calls back.
  6097.  
  6098. You bathe the two ponies in cardboard-roll fog again, then play a remix of One Night In Bankok.
  6099.  
  6100. Pinkie resumes headbanging, something that Mac's song, while tremendously entertaining, wasn't suited to.
  6101.  
  6102. "Ah'd be real happy if'n you'd care ta dance with me." Mac says, to Twilight.
  6103.  
  6104. "OK!" she responds.
  6105.  
  6106. The two of them get up from the table, and start a skipping style of dance, a slightly more refined version of the frog-jump that Snowflake had been doing with Fluttershy.
  6107.  
  6108. You glance past Pinkie, resting against the door-frame, into the other room.
  6109.  
  6110. You almost glitch the music when you notice those two sitting on your bed, nuzzling one another.
  6111.  
  6112. 'Wow.' You think, though on reflection maybe it wasn't such a surprise.
  6113.  
  6114. You have to lean away once or twice when Twilight dances dangerously close.
  6115.  
  6116. She might be getting just a hair crocked, as she's travelling around the room a little randomly as she dances.
  6117.  
  6118. Mac's trying to stay with her, not entirely successfully. Fast and manuverable he isn't.
  6119.  
  6120. Finally the song ends, and you let the party conversations dominate for a minute.
  6121.  
  6122. "Aw, you tired, Anon?" Pinkie asks, then says "Let me sing for a while!"
  6123.  
  6124. "Go ahead, Pinkie!" you tell her, as Twilight and Mac step through the house, soon returning with full mugs.
  6125.  
  6126. The pink pony looks thoughtful for a moment, as Mac and Twi take their seats.
  6127.  
  6128.  
  6129.  
  6130. "Ooh! I know just the one!" she says, "The Naughty Sorceress Of Kol!"
  6131.  
  6132. She inhales, visibly inflating, then launches into an energetic story-tune, similar to Mac's.
  6133.  
  6134. Unlike Mac's, though, this one involves debauchery, intimate uses for unlikely objects, a whole host of suiters and an outbreak of, apparently, inquisitive magical tentacles.
  6135.  
  6136. While you knew Mac's song had an earthly counterpart, you strongly suspected that similar works to this one must also have existed on earth, but you'd never run across any.
  6137.  
  6138. You probably just didn't hang out in the right places.
  6139.  
  6140. The song ends with the Naughty Sorceress being ultimately 'defeated' (several times in various ways) by an insatiable stallion whom, by the description, shouldn't have been able to walk without dragging things.
  6141.  
  6142. 'Happy ending' achieved, Pinkie plonks herself down at the table to your right.
  6143.  
  6144. "Wow. That was... Pretty amazing, Pinkie!" you say.
  6145.  
  6146. "Thanks, Anon!"
  6147.  
  6148. "The amazing part is, you never hear the same one twice!" Twilight pipes up.
  6149.  
  6150. "Unless you ask me! I know dozens!" Pinkie replies.
  6151.  
  6152. "Um, Excuse me..." comes a breathy near-whisper from near the door.
  6153.  
  6154. "Hiya Fluttershy! Having fun?" you ask.
  6155.  
  6156. "Oh, yes, Mister Anonymous." she says, leaning around the doorframe in an unsteady manner, "I was just wondering... If it would be OK if I sang next?"
  6157.  
  6158.  
  6159.  
  6160. "Go for it, Fluttershy!" Pinkie says, "What's the worst that could happen? I mean you could start singing and-"
  6161.  
  6162. You gently but firmly close Pinkie's muzzle between your forehooves.
  6163.  
  6164. She continues talking but fortunately not clearly enough to understand.
  6165.  
  6166. The moment she's done, you release her.
  6167.  
  6168. She sticks her tongue out at you and crosses her eyes.
  6169.  
  6170. Fluttershy begins to sing, haltingly at first, then losing herself to it.
  6171.  
  6172. She begins flapping, hovering into the room and slowly circling the table.
  6173.  
  6174. Snowflake stands up from the bed and stands upright in the doorway, watching.
  6175.  
  6176. Pretty soon, Applejack and Dash's heads pop in under his armpits, with amazed expressions.
  6177.  
  6178. It's a folk-ish song you're not familiar with, but Fluttershy's belting it out so strongly it puts you in mind of Abba more than a county fair.
  6179.  
  6180. It has to do with an ugly caterpiller, who is so ugly everything he looks at screams and passes out.
  6181.  
  6182. It did, of course, transform into a giant flashy butterfly. The surprising part is that everything that sees it still screams and passes out.
  6183.  
  6184. Fluttershy slowly lands, head bowed, as she nearly whispers the last couple of words.
  6185.  
  6186. Twilight starts clapping, and you are so startled you start clapping also. The song was terrible, but just seeing Fluttershy sing was worth it.
  6187.  
  6188. As the rest of the ponies join in, Fluttershy scoots through Snowflake's legs and out the door like a frightened mouse.
  6189.  
  6190. He grins and pursues, followed by Applejack and Dash.
  6191.  
  6192.  
  6193.  
  6194. "Let's go after her." Twilight says.
  6195.  
  6196. "Ah could do with some air mahself." Mac says.
  6197.  
  6198. "Sure, let's see what we're missing out there. I haven't seen much of RD or Applejack all night." you say, following them outside.
  6199.  
  6200. It's a beautiful night outside, the sky deep purple, the bright stars out and shining, the land, so far below, almost lost in darkness.
  6201.  
  6202. You can make out the lights of Ponyville in the distance.
  6203.  
  6204. Luna's moon is rising in the east.
  6205.  
  6206. A light breeze is blowing.
  6207.  
  6208. Looking around, you spot Snowflake holding a shivering Fluttershy, petting her mane and whispering into her ear.
  6209.  
  6210. Fluttershy must still be a little PTSD from the applause.
  6211.  
  6212. Dash and Applejack are arguing quietly about something.
  6213.  
  6214. Mac and Twilight are at your sides, also looking around in wonder.
  6215.  
  6216. This view, for Mac especially, had to be pretty rare.
  6217.  
  6218.  
  6219.  
  6220. Pinkie walks over and joins your group. "Hey Anon, feel up to doing a weather show?"
  6221.  
  6222. You consider. Several flightless ponies were presently on a cloud here. Your cloud. Weather would require caution.
  6223.  
  6224. "Ah once saw some weird glowin' spots floatin' around the woods after a lightnin' storm. Ah asked around, it's called ball lightnin'. Think ya could manage some?" Mac asks.
  6225.  
  6226. "Oh I've read all about that!" Twilight says, "It's formed by a dialectric stress due to an excess of ions in the aether near a grounded plane!"
  6227.  
  6228. You don't need to think long about this one.
  6229.  
  6230. "Folks, if I tried to do something called Ball Lightning, I can't even begin to think of the ways it could go wrong."
  6231.  
  6232. There were a few 'aw's, but on this one you decided not to budge.
  6233.  
  6234. "I know! I bet you could make it rain bats!" Pinkie says.
  6235.  
  6236. "If I know me, they'd be vampire bats."
  6237.  
  6238. "Aw!"
  6239.  
  6240. "I know." Twilight says, "Noctiluminescent clouds!"
  6241.  
  6242. You cock your head slightly. "What now?"
  6243.  
  6244. "High altitude, thin wispy glowing clouds. Caused by charges in the high atmosphere or sunrays from below the horizon."
  6245.  
  6246. "Is that like the Aurora?" you ask.
  6247.  
  6248. "Oh yeah! You might be able to do the whole deal! Try for an aurora!" Twilight says.
  6249.  
  6250. You sigh, trying to work out how to do it.
  6251.  
  6252. Your gauges look OK, the pinkie-rollups were keeping you stoked.
  6253.  
  6254. "I'll see what I can do?" you tell them, and there's some whooping and cheering.
  6255.  
  6256.  
  6257.  
  6258. You make your way to a clear portion of the lawn, unfold your wings and take off.
  6259.  
  6260. You head away from Ponyville, out over the hilly rocky zone that blocks off the Everfree forest in this direction.
  6261.  
  6262. You gain altitude until you can feel your breath frosting against your face.
  6263.  
  6264. "Electric charges. No lightning. Light up the atmostphere harmlessly. Volts. Tons of volts. Glowing plasma. Neon lights." you repeat as a mantra, turning a wide arc.
  6265.  
  6266. The crackling at your neck-trodes attains a much higher intensity. Pretty soon your wings are glowing with electric St. Elmo's Fire and your internal display is glitching slightly.
  6267.  
  6268. It's an uneasy feeling, but you don't seem to be in danger of a breakdown, so you keep it up, turning the arc into a full circle, almost reaching back over your cottage. You spiral slowly inward, trailing sparks.
  6269.  
  6270. As you complete your second turn, you notice that the outermost arm of the spiral is illuminating.
  6271.  
  6272. It's not a particularly pleasing color, more of a deep green, but it's still pretty cool.
  6273.  
  6274. You turn another spiral, then decide you're close enough to the center to call it a job well done.
  6275.  
  6276. Ending your weather-chant, the sparking dies down from your surfaces.
  6277.  
  6278. You're pretty frosted up in the face anyway, and your steam's running down.
  6279.  
  6280. You glide down, making wide zigzagging turns, back toward the cottage.
  6281.  
  6282. With the lights on inside, you note, it rather looks like a lit jackolantern. Only boxier.
  6283.  
  6284. It could use some windows, you decide.
  6285.  
  6286. Gliding in, you land running, then pull up to a stop by the group.
  6287.  
  6288. They're oo'ing and ah'ing, so you turn your head back and look.
  6289.  
  6290. Well, it looked fake as hell, like a giant electric stove burner.
  6291.  
  6292. But it was definietly cool, colors travelling around the spirals, blues, greens, pinks, orange...
  6293.  
  6294. It wasn't quite as horrifying as your usual, probably because it was so intentionally made.
  6295.  
  6296. Not much could really go wrong with a simple spiral, after all.
  6297.  
  6298.  
  6299.  
  6300. "Oh, Anonymous, your face is all white!" Twilight exclaims, trotting forward and touching your muzzle.
  6301.  
  6302. "You're frozen!"
  6303.  
  6304. "Yeah, the air up there's really cold. Think I lost my fire, too."
  6305.  
  6306. Your gauges aren't recovering very quickly.
  6307.  
  6308. Trying to re-fold your wings, your right one sticks halfway. You unfold and refold it a couple of times, and chunks of frost break off.
  6309.  
  6310. Finally it folds up and stows.
  6311.  
  6312. "I've got just the thing!" Pinkie announces, holding out another rollup.
  6313.  
  6314. You thank her and take it, eating it with gusto.
  6315.  
  6316. The relief is near immediate, those things burn hot.
  6317.  
  6318. Pretty soon you're tooting warm foggy steam again, and dripping water all over.
  6319.  
  6320. Everypony watches your phony aurora until it fades away.
  6321.  
  6322. "Thanks, Anon!" Pinkie says, "I knew you could do it!"
  6323.  
  6324. "Any weather spell that doesn't end in disaster's a blessing!" you say, halfway seriously
  6325.  
  6326. "That'n was a good'n then." Mac says.
  6327.  
  6328. "YEAAHHH!" Snowflake adds, standing on his hinds. You note he's holding Fluttershy curled up in his folded-together forelegs. She waves at you sheepishly.
  6329.  
  6330. "Let's go back inside. It is kind of chilly out here, now." Twilight says, leading the way.
  6331.  
  6332. There's a momentary pileup at the keg, with everpony refilling mugs as they file in.
  6333.  
  6334. You nab a big mouthful of coal out of the bucket on the table on the way past, chewing as you walk the rest of the way in.
  6335.  
  6336. A bit of furnace-heat would be good in here.
  6337.  
  6338.  
  6339.  
  6340. Snowflake is one of the last, sitting down on your bed with Fluttershy as the rest pile into your livingroom.
  6341.  
  6342. You didn't know they had such a thing going on, but evidently they were an item.
  6343.  
  6344. "So, Rainbow. About that bet." Applejack says.
  6345.  
  6346. "Here, now? Bring it on!" Dash replies.
  6347.  
  6348. Slightly worried, you back away a little as the two of them square off across the table, then lock hooves.
  6349.  
  6350. An intense hoof-wrestleing match begins, the two of them straining and groaning.
  6351.  
  6352. Hopefully your table could withstand it.
  6353.  
  6354. Everypony standing around watches in awe, as the coupled hooves rock from side to side.
  6355.  
  6356. At first, Dash nearly takes it, but Applejack rallies and slowly gains ground.
  6357.  
  6358. Finally Appleajack knocks Dash's hoof against the table, victorious!
  6359.  
  6360. "Aha! Told'ja!"
  6361.  
  6362. Dash looks very sour. "You must have been practicing. I had you dead to rights, last week."
  6363.  
  6364. "Uh-huh. An Ah let you wear mah hat all day for it, too, din't Ah."
  6365.  
  6366. "Yes."
  6367.  
  6368. "So that means yer gonna hafta scoop the crud out'n the downspouts on mah barn this tahm, right?"
  6369.  
  6370. "Yeah, yeah. I need another cider."
  6371.  
  6372. Dash gets up sourly and goes outside, followed by a furtive-looking Pinkie.
  6373.  
  6374. Things quickly return to normal, Mac commenting that the gutters had been clogged for months now.
  6375.  
  6376.  
  6377.  
  6378. Several ongoing conversations peter out, as ponies begin to show signs of extreme drunken-ness.
  6379.  
  6380. First, Twilight staggers into your side, then the table.
  6381.  
  6382. Mac suddenly sits down. "Ah feel a little woozy." he says, holding his head in his hooves.
  6383.  
  6384. Applejack is the worst affected, staggering around, gripping one of your shelves, then collapsing and vomitting noisily through the floor.
  6385.  
  6386. Fortunately, the barf passes harmlessly through the cloud.
  6387.  
  6388. "Oh man!" you comment, as Twilight staggers over to help her back up.
  6389.  
  6390. Fluttershy takes to the air, sailing into the room and rebounding off a wall, sliding down to the floor.
  6391.  
  6392. Then she barfs also.
  6393.  
  6394. "What's going on here!" you say, as Snowflake stands, then collapses on your bedroom floor.
  6395.  
  6396. The worst part is, a terrible vertigo has ahold of you, too.
  6397.  
  6398. You spot the spinning gauge. Your compass. Aha!
  6399.  
  6400. You step around the collapsed ponies, gingerly around Snowflake, and out the front door.
  6401.  
  6402. Dash is orbitting your home in a rainbow streak, causing the entire place to whirl.
  6403.  
  6404. Seeing you emerge, she stops, and lands.
  6405.  
  6406. Pinkie's standing there looking dizzy but snickering.
  6407.  
  6408. "We were wondering when you'd notice!" Dash says.
  6409.  
  6410. "Notice? Just about everypony puked!" you accuse
  6411.  
  6412. "Aw, I'm sorry, Anon! It was just a little joke!" Pinkie adds.
  6413.  
  6414. "Yeah we didn't know it'd make anypony throw up, we were just having a little fun!" Dash says.
  6415.  
  6416.  
  6417.  
  6418. "Well I'm fine, but if you're gonna apologize, do it to the ones inside." you say, unsure how to deal with this.
  6419.  
  6420. The two of them troop guiltily inside.
  6421.  
  6422. You follow, as Pinkie and Dash help Snowflake to his feet, then go into the living room and start pulling ponies upright.
  6423.  
  6424. Apologies are made, and slowly, a party atmostphere returns. Mugs are refilled, a few faces are washed in your sink.
  6425.  
  6426. The first usage of your toilet appears to be a success, Snowflake emerging and washing up.
  6427.  
  6428. If it survived that, you think, it'd survive about anything.
  6429.  
  6430. You put on Horse With No Name and recline, enjoying the company.
  6431.  
  6432.  
  6433.  
  6434. Pinkie, in her oddly ready-for-anything way, begins handing out bags of asssorted junkfoods from her saddlebag.
  6435.  
  6436. There's a bit of a scramble and lots of thank-yous. You make a mental note that next time you invite friends, you should stock snacks.
  6437.  
  6438. The mood of the party immediately improves as everyone gets a bag.
  6439.  
  6440. She even holds out a cornchip to you, which you eat.
  6441.  
  6442. Your body isn't impressed but doesn't regard it as poison, either.
  6443.  
  6444. "Thanks, Pinkie, you're amazing." You say. It was true in so many ways.
  6445.  
  6446. "No problem, Anon. Hey what're your plans for everypony? Are we all going to bunk up in here? It's a little late and everypony's kinda partied out, to fly."
  6447.  
  6448. You sweep the room with your gaze. There were alot of half-lidded eyes to go with all the chewing going on.
  6449.  
  6450. "Oh, here's fine. Maybe I can go fetch some more clouds to sleep on and bring them in."
  6451.  
  6452. Dash overhears you. "I'm on it!" she says, zipping around the doorway and outside.
  6453.  
  6454. Pinkie announces, "Sleepover at Anon's!", and surprisingly, there are happy sounds and a couple of yay's from the crowd.
  6455.  
  6456. Dash soon returns, shoving a cloud inside. Then another. You and the guests arrange them around the floor. This goes on until nearly every floor surface is soft, uncompressed cloud.
  6457.  
  6458.  
  6459.  
  6460. Dash comes inside, setting the last cloud on your bedroom floor and plumping it up into a bed. Fluttershy goes to work on the others. You watch with interest, it was a skill you should probably learn, as a pegasus.
  6461.  
  6462. Mostly it involved stretching the vaguely pointed top of the cloud down and outward, turning it from a cowpat shape into a more bowl-like, oblong mattress shape.
  6463.  
  6464. Ponies begin relaxing in them, though you, Mac and Twilight remain at the table.
  6465.  
  6466. "Hey Anon, can you turn up the heat a little? The door was open too long." Twiliight asks.
  6467.  
  6468. "Sure, no problem."
  6469.  
  6470. The path to the bedroom door isn't too badly obscured, and you make your way out and around the cloud-bed out there. Bed-cloud nearby on the floor or not, Snowflake has commandeered your bed and is laying there on his stomach, staring into the living room with his chin on his crossed forelegs.
  6471.  
  6472. You wolf down a nearly full load of coal, then pant for a couple of minutes until you're blowing out plenty of sparks.
  6473.  
  6474. You rinse out the sink and take a long drink, too. No sense running dry.
  6475.  
  6476. Returning to the living room, you continue to stoke your fire. At first Twilight rests against you, smiling.
  6477.  
  6478. Mac looks vaguely jealous, watching from across the table, but you can tell it's something he probably isnt aware he's doing. Besides, wasn't he going out with Cheerilee?
  6479.  
  6480.  
  6481.  
  6482. "Anon, you're heating up like a boiler." Twilight says, leaning away.
  6483.  
  6484. "That's the point!" you reply, wiggling your eyebrows. She smiles.
  6485.  
  6486. Steam begins to rise from your wing-covers, your damp wings heating up and the water evaporating.
  6487.  
  6488. The cottage warms fairly quickly, and amidst the sleepy conversations you hear alot of contented sighing.
  6489.  
  6490. Soon, Twilight and Mac find a couple of beds to sleep on. You head out to the one on your bedroom floor, and flop into it. It's about as good as your normal one, which was unsurprising, considering it'd been Dash who made that one, too.
  6491.  
  6492. "Can somepony get tha lights?" comes Applejack's voice.
  6493.  
  6494. You stand, flip the switches off, then lay back down.
  6495.  
  6496. Soon, there are snores throughout the cabin.
  6497.  
  6498. You set yourself to wake earlyish, with slow but regular breaths to keep the fire going low but steady, and go to sleep.
  6499.  
  6500.  
  6501.  
  6502. You're awakened by the thunderous sound of your Detno-Macerator Model A. Checking your clock, you notice it's just after 4 in the morning.
  6503.  
  6504. Nightvision reveals Pinkie emerging from the bathroom, washing her hooves then retreating back to the living room. You can also hear what sounds like Mac, moaning something in his sleep as she navigates to her bed.
  6505.  
  6506. You order your wake-up routine to ignore toilet flushes, and go back to sleep.
  6507.  
  6508. Your reflection is everywhere, as you peer around yourself. Nothing but your own glowing red eyes, sparking neck-rods and orange warning emblems stare back through thousands of reflections.
  6509.  
  6510. Reaching out, you poke around, trying to find a way to walk through this crazy hall of mirrors.
  6511.  
  6512. Stumbling along, you hear the sound of evil laughter.
  6513.  
  6514. Suddenly in the reflection, a horrible red-wigged clown appears behind you. You spin, but it's not there and has vanished from the mirrors also.
  6515.  
  6516. The menacing sound of a rubber nose being squeaked sounds next to your ear. Dodging, you slam into another mirror, surprisingly not shattering it.
  6517.  
  6518. Dancing around you begin in earnest to find a path through this place. Each time you find a way forward, there's another panicked moment trying to find the next unblocked move you can make.
  6519.  
  6520. The squeaking of a rubber balloon animal being made sounds, back from where you'd come from.
  6521.  
  6522. Finally finding an open section, you dodge another step of the way along.
  6523.  
  6524. A horrible balloon-dog on a stick becomes visible in the reflections, coming at your ass.
  6525.  
  6526. By itself it wouldn't have been scary, more likely pathetic, but having seen what was no doubt wielding it you feel around and dodge into the next mirror-zone.
  6527.  
  6528. "Anonnn..." said an awful voice, followed by more laughing, "I'm coming for you, Anonnn!"
  6529.  
  6530.  
  6531.  
  6532. You feel something beneath your hooves. A dozen little clowns are writhing up from the floor like maggots, a few under your hooves lifting you up as they rise.
  6533.  
  6534. That does it. You begin clown-stamping as hard as you can, each making little squeaky-toy sounds as they're flattened. Another dozen come writhing out of the surface of the mirror behind you. In total panic, you charge straight into the mirror you're facing.
  6535.  
  6536. Everything shatters into thousands of rotating reflections against flat black, and you drop into freefall.
  6537.  
  6538. Peering down, you see the awful clown, the size of Godzilla, with it's terrible fanged mouth wide open just below you.
  6539.  
  6540. You freeze in terror as you drop into the maw.
  6541.  
  6542. And pop out a hole in the Sea of Holes.
  6543.  
  6544. Luna is standing there, tittering, with a hoof held demurely to her mouth.
  6545.  
  6546. "Luna!!" you shout, "Jumpin' Jezzus on a pogo-stick!! What'd I do to deserve THAT?" you demand.
  6547.  
  6548. "Why nothing of course! We thought thou deservent of a little impromptu adventure!"
  6549.  
  6550. "Being eaten by carnivorous clowns is adventure??"
  6551.  
  6552. "Of course! Oh such adventures we shall have, this is just the first of many!"
  6553.  
  6554. You could tell she was teasing you, now. Worse, you were equally certain that she meant it.
  6555.  
  6556. "Eh. Em. Don't put yourself out on my account."
  6557.  
  6558. "Anonymous, surely thou realizeth that as a princess of Equestria, I do need some outlets for my... Creativity."
  6559.  
  6560. "I thought you just terrified bad-guys!"
  6561.  
  6562. "Oh well what is life without a bit of spice? Won't you enjoy my visits more if you never know what you shall experience? For I could craft the most idyllic scenario possible, and recreate it night after night after night... It wouldn't be a month before both you and I were crying for carnivorous clowns!"
  6563.  
  6564. You suppose she's right, which only annoyed you more.
  6565.  
  6566.  
  6567.  
  6568. "Mm, maybe. But hold off the clowns for a while, OK?"
  6569.  
  6570. "Oh absolutely! We wishest thou only the most fun of adventures, and we hatest to duplicate ourselves. Speaking of which, what are thine views on giant leeches?"
  6571.  
  6572. "I hate 'em!"
  6573.  
  6574. "So noted. For now, though, let us frolic!" and she dives into a hole.
  6575.  
  6576. You groan, then dive in after.
  6577.  
  6578. Your wings are extended, and your ass-fan seems to have relocated itself to your nose.
  6579.  
  6580. LUna's flying to your left. You can just see her. She's appearing as a purple and black warplane.
  6581.  
  6582. You suppose you must be one too.
  6583.  
  6584. "We approacheth the target!" she announces right into your ears. Apparently you've got dream-radio in this one.
  6585.  
  6586. You can see a large complex with a sign, "Clown Training School". Oh Luna, you do know how to make up for a bad dream...
  6587.  
  6588. "Openeth thy bomb-bay doors, prepareth to annoint thy target in explody-ness on our mark!"
  6589.  
  6590. Now, gigantic, ground-launched cream pies begin flying up at the two of you.
  6591.  
  6592. Dodging through the oncoming foamy death, the two of you make it over the target.
  6593.  
  6594.  
  6595.  
  6596. "Releaseth!!"
  6597.  
  6598. "Bombs away!" you yell, dropping everything in your bay toward that hive of villany.
  6599.  
  6600. Satisfying flashes and booms follow the two of you as you turn for home.
  6601.  
  6602. "Thanks, Luna!" you radio back.
  6603.  
  6604. "Thank you also, thou'rt a good sport." she replies, "And as thou'rt about to awaken, I must away with me. Until next time!"
  6605.  
  6606. "OK, goodnight!" you reply, and she simply fades out against the cloudy horizon.
  6607.  
  6608. You awaken to the sounds of ponies shuffling around.
  6609.  
  6610. The lights are on, and your clock says it's around seven in the morning.
  6611.  
  6612. Time flies when you're playing with Luna! Too bad she's so unpredictable.
  6613.  
  6614. "Hiya Anon!" Pinkie says, as you get to your feet. Pinkie and Twilight are standing by the bathroom and sink.
  6615.  
  6616. "Morning Pinkie, Twilight, Everypony!" You direct that last to the living room door opening.
  6617.  
  6618. Snowflake's still on your bed, apparently asleep. Then you notice Fluttershy tucked in alongside him on the far side. Go figure.
  6619.  
  6620.  
  6621.  
  6622. Amid much yawning and milling about, you do your best to help the ponies recover from their revelries.
  6623.  
  6624. Your little cabin never felt more like home, you muse, now that it had been properly christened.
  6625.  
  6626. "Thanks for the sleepover, Anonymous. I had a good time!" Twilight says, as you putter around gathering bed-clouds and pushing them outside.
  6627.  
  6628. "Hey thanks for coming, I'm sorry I didn't really plan anything out first. If Pinkie hadn't had those snacks, it'd have been a dinner disaster!"
  6629.  
  6630. "Pinkie is perpetually properly prepared for any party purpose!" Pinky announces, bouncing up to the two of you.
  6631.  
  6632. "Heh heh. I appreciate the help with the party, Pinkie." you tell her.
  6633.  
  6634. "Any time, Anon. Hey I'm gonna go warm up the ballon, can you give me a hoof with it? I got it set up to launch."
  6635.  
  6636. "Sure!"
  6637.  
  6638. You nod at Twilight with an apologetic eyebrow raise, then head out after Pinkie.
  6639.  
  6640. The morning sun was shining, and a moist warm breeze was blowing back toward Ponyville, which was a good thing for the balloon.
  6641.  
  6642. It was tipped over sideways and deflated, part of the balloon bag hanging through the cloud.
  6643.  
  6644. "OK Anon, just hold this part of the balloon up while I hit the burners." she said, indicating the stretch immediately in front of the basket.
  6645.  
  6646. You fight with it for a while. It was like wrestling an amorphous monster made of silk.
  6647.  
  6648. Finally you get it more or less how she wants.
  6649.  
  6650. Tipping the fan up, she starts blowing air into the balloon, partially inflating it, then fires the burner and switches to that.
  6651.  
  6652. You're suddenly glad you're flame resistant, though all you're feeling is radiant heat as you hold the cloth.
  6653.  
  6654. The balloon continues to grow, more and more material emerging from the cloud as the hot wind from the burner jetted into it.
  6655.  
  6656. Finally, grandly, the balloon began to lift off the cloud entirely.
  6657.  
  6658.  
  6659.  
  6660. "OK, let go and help me put the basket right-side up!" Pinkie calls, and you let the balloon-cloth go.
  6661.  
  6662. Quickly righting the basket, Pinkie fires the burner for a good long burn.
  6663.  
  6664. The balloon firms up and soon the basket's starting to lift off.
  6665.  
  6666. "Thanks Anon! We're good to go now!"
  6667.  
  6668. "OK, Pinkie!" you say, as she turns down the burner and hops out of the basket.
  6669.  
  6670. The mooring rope seems to be holding the balloon alright. Of course if it DID get loose it should be easy enough to recover, with all the winged ponies around.
  6671.  
  6672. You follow her back around the cabin.
  6673.  
  6674. A crowd of sorts is standing on your front yard, enjoying the morning weather and the awesome view.
  6675.  
  6676. "Ah never thought Ah'd be walkin' on a cloud today." Mac says.
  6677.  
  6678. "Me neither, Big Mac!" Applejack replies.
  6679.  
  6680. "Hi folks!" you greet, as you walk up to the group.
  6681.  
  6682. There's a bit of friendly conversation, then your guests begin to take flight.
  6683.  
  6684. Dash, then Twilight. Then Snowflake and Fluttershy.
  6685.  
  6686. Finally the earth-ponies board the balloon, Pinkie lays on the burner, and you see them off also.
  6687.  
  6688. You wave at them for a while, watching them shrink into the distance.
  6689.  
  6690. You stand there bemused for a while. Taking stock of your situation, you decide to give the cottage a once-over.
  6691.  
  6692. No damages, everything looks fine.
  6693.  
  6694.  
  6695.  
  6696. Noticing your steam is really low, you have breakfast.
  6697.  
  6698. After that, you count your cash.
  6699.  
  6700. Around two hundred bits.
  6701.  
  6702. Pretty low but enough to get some basics as needed.
  6703.  
  6704. You were definitely going to invest in some flesh-pony supplies before your next get-together.
  6705.  
  6706. Noticing a shadow, you look outside. The gray mare with the funky eyes is stuffing a letter unceremoniously in your mailbox, and dropping others in the process.
  6707.  
  6708. Then she dives after the dropped ones.
  6709.  
  6710. Interested, you trot outside and look over the edge.
  6711.  
  6712. It was kind of cool how the letters rotated and fluttered as they fall, repeatedly evading the mail-mare's attempts to catch them.
  6713.  
  6714. She finally catches the last one, then zooms in a rather uneven pattern onward to her next delivery.
  6715.  
  6716.  
  6717.  
  6718. You check your mailbox, pulling out the crumpled letter.
  6719.  
  6720. It bears Celestia's cutie-mark and name on the return address, and a little blue ribbon stuck on the back with an ornate miniature hoofprint wax seal.
  6721.  
  6722. It is, without doubt, the coolest letter you've ever recieved.
  6723.  
  6724. Opening it up, you read.
  6725.  
  6726. "Dearest Anonymous, please report to to me at Canterlot Castle with Twilight Sparkle at your earliest convenience regarding a change in your legal status. Regards, Princess Celestia."
  6727.  
  6728. It's on pink paper, and smells vaguely floral.
  6729.  
  6730. "Road trip!" you think, pleased that you've got something fun to do today.
  6731.  
  6732. No doubt Twiight had also been informed.
  6733.  
  6734. You head inside, putting the letter and the last two bottled waters into the non-coal side of your saddlebags, and shrugging them on.
  6735.  
  6736. It should be enough for a round trip, easy.
  6737.  
  6738. Closing up your cottage, you spread your wings, canter off the edge of the cloud and soar for Ponyville.
  6739.  
  6740.  
  6741.  
  6742. You have a moment of doubt about Celestia's letter, what if it really isn't good news?
  6743.  
  6744. What if you'd been re-titled as Hazardous Waste or something?
  6745.  
  6746. Celestia is a bro, though, and Luna too. They won't do anything rotten to you, you feel sure.
  6747.  
  6748. Deciding that worrying about it was just being stupid, you calm yourself and spot out Twilight's Treebrary some ways ahead.
  6749.  
  6750. Besides the letter is pink and smells of flowers. It seems like something bad should be, like, a badly printed form letter, maybe on black paper. With tombstones in the corners perhaps, and certainly not smelling floral.
  6751.  
  6752. Your mood brightening as you envision what an Equetrian "Doom Letter" might look like, you touch down outside Twilight's.
  6753.  
  6754. Taking a moment to re-check your supplies, the bottled water seemed to be fine and you had a half a saddlebag full of coal with you.
  6755.  
  6756. Plenty for a long flight, especially if Twilight lets you get a drink before you set out.
  6757.  
  6758. Before you can knock, you see a small, purple, reptilian face appear in a window for a moment.
  6759.  
  6760. The front door opens.
  6761.  
  6762. "Hi, Anon! Come on in!" says Spike.
  6763.  
  6764. Trooping inside, you see Twilight wave from her desk, then get up.
  6765.  
  6766. "Hello Anonymous!"
  6767.  
  6768. "Hey, Twilight!"
  6769.  
  6770. "Here, try this on!"
  6771.  
  6772. She magic's something off the table that looks like a crazy pair of steampunk glasses, and it sticks onto your nose with a 'Thunk!"
  6773.  
  6774. Ah. The magnetic version spark-arrestor.
  6775.  
  6776.  
  6777.  
  6778. "It fits!" she crows, sounding excited.
  6779.  
  6780. "Uh, yeah, it seems to be on there pretty good." you manage.
  6781.  
  6782. "Let me try the other one!"
  6783.  
  6784. There's a tug, and the spark arrestor floats away in a purple haze, and another smacks onto your nose.
  6785.  
  6786. She must have bought another tea-ball, you muse.
  6787.  
  6788. This one's a newer, shinier silver.
  6789.  
  6790. "Does that feel OK?" Twilight asks.
  6791.  
  6792. "They're both fine, yeah." you respond.
  6793.  
  6794. "OK, good! I'll bring the new one with us just in case you need it."
  6795.  
  6796. "Cool, thanks. Hey did you get a letter from Princess Celestia?" you ask.
  6797.  
  6798. "Yes! I'm not sure what she means about re-titling you, but I'm dying to find out!"
  6799.  
  6800. "Cool, me too! I figured we'd fly in together."
  6801.  
  6802. "Yes, that's my plan. I just need to get some things squared away, I was going to fly out and get you soon. I'm glad you're already here!"
  6803.  
  6804. "Well, I probably wouldn't have been if I hadn't seen the letter being delivered."
  6805.  
  6806. Twilight looks a bit irritated.
  6807.  
  6808. "Mine was delivered to my flower-box instead of the mailbox. I swear half the mail-ponies are vision impaired."
  6809.  
  6810. "Seems to be a prerequisite for the job, yeah." you reply.
  6811.  
  6812. "Anyhow. Let me just get things arranged for Spike for the day, then we'll go, OK?"
  6813.  
  6814. "Fine by me!"
  6815.  
  6816.  
  6817.  
  6818. You stand quietly, keeping your burner hot, as Twilight bustles around and confers with the little dragon.
  6819.  
  6820. Pretty soon she approaches.
  6821.  
  6822. "OK, we're set! Have you had breakfast? It's kind of a long flight."
  6823.  
  6824. "I've got a belly full of coal, and I packed a lunch. But I could use a drink?"
  6825.  
  6826. "Sure, let's go into the kitchen and I'll fill the sink for you."
  6827.  
  6828. You do, and she does. You take a long drink, topping back up.
  6829.  
  6830. The two of you chat about titles, letters and canterlot for a bit as you regain your head of steam, then go outside.
  6831.  
  6832. Twilight magic's the new spark arrestor off your nose and into her under-wing bag, then takes off.
  6833.  
  6834. You wait a moment until there's enough roadway clear of ponies, then spread your wings and take off also.
  6835.  
  6836. Playfully you pull ahead, set your course and lead.
  6837.  
  6838. Twilight seems happy to let you.
  6839.  
  6840. It's a nicer flight this time, without the platoon of nervous pegasi watching your every move.
  6841.  
  6842. A fine day for flying, too. A bit warm and humid perhaps, but at altitude, the temperature was perfect.
  6843.  
  6844. In fact it was pretty often excellent flying weather.
  6845.  
  6846. It made sense, considering who was in charge of the weather. You smile internally, it seems that being a pegasus in equestria has it's perks.
  6847.  
  6848.  
  6849.  
  6850. You watch the terrain passing below like a scrolling magic carpet.
  6851.  
  6852. This was something you'd probably never get tired of.
  6853.  
  6854. The farms and homesteads steadily peter out, being replaced with the more rugged, more imposing foothills, then rocky formations.
  6855.  
  6856. Zooming your vision in, you admire the wild complexity of the formations.
  6857.  
  6858. There was some bizarre wildlife down there too.
  6859.  
  6860. You spot a Quar-ray eel looking out from it's burrow at one point.
  6861.  
  6862. At least if you ever get eaten by one, you're pretty sure it'd barf you right back up.
  6863.  
  6864. Being made of metal, and hot as hell to boot, you are pretty eat-proof, which is a handy thing in this world.
  6865.  
  6866. "Um, Anonymous..." comes Twilight's voice, as she draws up alongside of you.
  6867.  
  6868. A pair of white Canterlot guard-pegasi are flying to intercept you.
  6869.  
  6870. Slowing down, you backbeat your wings and hover with Twiight as they pull up ahead of you.
  6871.  
  6872. You watch them check you out.
  6873.  
  6874. "State your business in Canterlot." one finally says.
  6875.  
  6876. Twilight answers, "I'm Princess Twilight, and this is Anonymous. We're answering a royal summons from Princess Celestia."
  6877.  
  6878. "Very well. Carry on, then."
  6879.  
  6880. The two guards fly off.
  6881.  
  6882. Hopefully they'll get used to seeing you soon, as you're intending to visit Canterlot alone from time to time yourself, in the future.
  6883.  
  6884. You were fairly sure they would, after all, you were fairly unique looking.
  6885.  
  6886.  
  6887.  
  6888. Continuing on, the two of you land outside the castle and present yourselves to the guard at the gate.
  6889.  
  6890. You're let inside, and led to the Princess's chamber.
  6891.  
  6892. The doors open, and Celestia's sitting on her throne.
  6893.  
  6894. "Twiight! Anonymous! I am so glad you arrived." the princess says.
  6895.  
  6896. "Yes, we just got your letters!" Twilight says, practically scampering up to her.
  6897.  
  6898. You hurry also, not wishing to appear less enthusiastic.
  6899.  
  6900. In truth you are still a little overwhelmed by your surroundings, this place is amazing.
  6901.  
  6902. "The reason I have summoned you here, is that Luna and I have conferred with the Canterlot elders regarding your status, Anonymous."
  6903.  
  6904. "Yes your Highness?" you respond, curious.
  6905.  
  6906. "It has been decided that you, as a golem haunted by an interdimensional spirit, are indeed an autonomous legal entity. As such I wish to title yourself to your own ownership, as a full citizen of Equestria!"
  6907.  
  6908. It was exactly what you'd been hoping it was!
  6909.  
  6910. "Thank you your Highness! I'd be honored if you would." you say, not quite sure of the protocol for such an audience as this.
  6911.  
  6912. Turning to Twiight, Celestia asks "Twilight, if you wouldn't mind signing his title over to me, so that I may conduct the transfer?"
  6913.  
  6914. "It would be an honor, your Majesty." Twilight says, producing your title from her wing-pack.
  6915.  
  6916. Celestia magically produces a scroll and a quill. The scroll, it turns out, is a sort of Equestrian 'birth certificate', though recently dated and bearing some unusual language about interdimensionaly haunted golems.
  6917.  
  6918. Much signing of dotted lines is done by all three of you, then you're presented with your brand new proof of citizenship, which you tuck into your saddlebag.
  6919.  
  6920.  
  6921.  
  6922. "Now that you're free to operate under your own recognizance, Anonymous, I look forward to seeing you in Canterlot from time to time." Celestia says.
  6923.  
  6924. "Of course, your Majesty! I only hope that your sky-guards get used to me soon!"
  6925.  
  6926. "I'm sure they will, more than likely if you're being stopped, it's because they just want a closer look." Celestia says, a smile quirking at the side of her mouth.
  6927.  
  6928. "I understand, your Highness. I'll try to entertain their curiousity." you reply.
  6929.  
  6930. "Also, Anonymous..." Celestia begins
  6931.  
  6932. You perk your ears
  6933.  
  6934. "I was wondering if I could interest you in a part-time position?"
  6935.  
  6936. "Absolutely, your Highness?"
  6937.  
  6938. "I have gotten reports of your handling of a cyclops attack in Ponyville, and was impressed by your courage. Considering that you are uniquely fire-resistant, I would like to have you available on call as Canterlot's official Ombudsman To The Dragon Empire?"
  6939.  
  6940. You're a little taken aback by the proposal, but respond gamely enough, "Sure!"
  6941.  
  6942. "We haven't had to deal with the dragons in over a year, but it does happen periodically that someone needs to speak with them."
  6943.  
  6944. "I'd he honored, your Majesty."
  6945.  
  6946. "Good! I shall have the papers drawn up and mailed. You shall respond when summoned on an as-needed basis, for negotiating with dragons. This is a salaried, though relatively meager position, so expect payments to begin arriving as well."
  6947.  
  6948. You blink. This was turning out better than expected.
  6949.  
  6950. "Uh, Thank you, your majesty!"
  6951.  
  6952.  
  6953.  
  6954. She turns to Twiight.
  6955.  
  6956. "I expect all is going well with Ponyville for the moment?"
  6957.  
  6958. "Yes, your majesty!" she replies.
  6959.  
  6960. "Excellent! Keep me posted. I must attend to other matters now. It has been good to see you, my star pupil."
  6961.  
  6962. "And you as well, Princess!"
  6963.  
  6964. "Don't be a stranger, Anonymous." she says to you, smiling.
  6965.  
  6966. "Thank you again for all your efforts on my behalf, Princess, and I shall try not to be!" you reply, bowing.
  6967.  
  6968. Twilight leads the way out.
  6969.  
  6970. You feel a spring in your step. Some kind of income, gauranteed encounters with dragons... Today has been a good day.
  6971.  
  6972. "Hey Twiight." you say, "Do you have any idea where that enchanted comic store is, where Spike got that superhero comic?"
  6973.  
  6974. She looks at you like you'd sprouted asperagus.
  6975.  
  6976. "You're not serious."
  6977.  
  6978. "Hey, I'm an official dragon-pony now. I was hoping to get in some harmless practice."
  6979.  
  6980. "Well alright, but I don't want to have to save you from inside a comic book later!"
  6981.  
  6982. "They wouldn't sell them if they were actually dangerous... Right?"
  6983.  
  6984. She just rolls her eyes, then leads the way.
  6985.  
  6986.  
  6987.  
  6988. You arrive at the comic book store, a fairly understated affair between a bistro and a beauty salon.
  6989.  
  6990. Refusing Twilight's offer of the spark arrestor, you hold your breath and the two of you enter.
  6991.  
  6992. The comic store is much like those at home, with little to hint at the possibilities within.
  6993.  
  6994. But you know exactly what you're in for.
  6995.  
  6996. Knowing this, you get some adventurey style ones, a few particularly featuring dragons, some that'll be just plain fun, some of a more worldly nature...
  6997.  
  6998. And of course a few that seemed to have naughty potential.
  6999.  
  7000. The things are a bit expensive, but you pay up happily. The comic store pony, a heavyset teal creature, had eyed you when you first came in, but seemed otherwise perfectly content to sell you his wares.
  7001.  
  7002. Hell, he probably samples his own products, and assuming that, you were probably one of the less weird things he'd encountered this week.
  7003.  
  7004. You work the comics into your saddlebag around your bottles of water until they're all stowed. The wrinkling of the comics seemed to irk the salespony more than your appearance, if his expression was any clue.
  7005.  
  7006. Twilight seems torn, as she explores the shop. Comics are book-like, certainly. And she knows what these are capable of.
  7007.  
  7008. But they remain, at their core, comics.
  7009.  
  7010. You're happily surprised when she selects a couple and checks out after you, wearing a halfway guilty expression.
  7011.  
  7012. Noting that one of the ones she bought features a very familiar looking pirate pony, and Nightmare Moon on another, the metaphysics of what was happening begins to close in around you for a moment.
  7013.  
  7014. "You OK, Anonymous?" Twilight asks, looking concerned.
  7015.  
  7016. "Oh! Uh, yeah, I'm fine."
  7017.  
  7018. "You looked a little weird for a moment there."
  7019.  
  7020. "I know, it was nothing though."
  7021.  
  7022. She rolls her eyes. "Oh-kay, then."
  7023.  
  7024.  
  7025.  
  7026. A nerdy-looking earth-pony walks in, heading straight into the rows of stacks. He freezes just before reaching them, turning and giving the two of you a stare.
  7027.  
  7028. Then he smiles, nods and commences browsing. It's probably due to the same effect as the shopkeeper.
  7029.  
  7030. Twilight leads the way back outside. Traffic immediately snarls as ponies dodge across the street away from you.
  7031.  
  7032. The weather is much improved from your last visit, you realize with a guilty twinge.
  7033.  
  7034. This actually exaggerates the reaction you caused on the other ponies, as they are able to see you from further off.
  7035.  
  7036. At one point you decide to have some fun with it.
  7037.  
  7038. Unfurling your wings vertically, you give them a couple of shallow flaps, which practically clears the block.
  7039.  
  7040. "Stop that, Anon." says Twilight.
  7041.  
  7042. "They were, uh, getting cramped." you say, stowing them again.
  7043.  
  7044. "Uh-huh, sure they were." Twilight replies. You can tell she's half grinning though.
  7045.  
  7046. It was a strange sensation. Now that Cloudsdale and Ponyville had more or less accepted you, the cosmopolitan ponies of Canterlot seemed like the ignorant rubes.
  7047.  
  7048. Though it was admittedly fun causing a havoc wherever you went.
  7049.  
  7050. Twilight leads you through a few more stores, a labware supply company, an office supply place, and, of course, Canterlot library.
  7051.  
  7052. Finally she asks if you'd like to eat with her before returning.
  7053.  
  7054. "Sure!" you reply, though you're not entirely sure what she's got in mind.
  7055.  
  7056. She leads the way back to the same fast-food place you'd been to last time, Graze'N'Go.
  7057.  
  7058. This time the two of you use the trot-through.
  7059.  
  7060.  
  7061.  
  7062. There's a bit of confusion as the line of waiting ponies break into a panic and flee, but there's certainly no waiting. You hope the ones pulling wagons didn't flatten anypony during the melee.
  7063.  
  7064. You place your orders at the speaker (There is some arguing over your request for a whole bag of napkins until you tell them you'll pay a bit for it) then pace on up to the window, Twilight first. You hang halfway back, knowing there'll probably be another freakout if you're too close.
  7065.  
  7066. She chats with the pony at the window, explaining that "my friend behind me" had startled the ponies in line away.
  7067.  
  7068. You see a pony head poke out of the trot-through window, then vanish back inside.
  7069.  
  7070. Twilight yells into the window for a while, then another head pokes out and looks at you.
  7071.  
  7072. You recognize him. It's the manager.
  7073.  
  7074. After more yelling, this time entirely within the restraunt, Twilight pays and he passes her out her stuff.
  7075.  
  7076. You trot up next.
  7077.  
  7078. The manager pony's visibly nervous. He drops the first large water he drew for you, swears, then draws another.
  7079.  
  7080. Then he stuffs a stack of napkins in a bag, and asks for a couple bits, with an expression that implied he rather expected death instead of money.
  7081.  
  7082. You mouth over a couple of bits. He nearly passes out when you open your back cover to retrieve them, you can see him wavering on his hooves.
  7083.  
  7084. Then he hands out your cup and bag.
  7085.  
  7086. You thank him and trot up to where Twiight's sitting down at a nasty-looking fiberglass picnic table, unpacking her lunch.
  7087.  
  7088.  
  7089.  
  7090. "Thought the guy was gonna die of fright." you mention.
  7091.  
  7092. "Me too! Gee you'd think they'd at least get over the idea that you were gonna eat anypony, after the first time."
  7093.  
  7094. "Yeah. Well maybe the third time'll be the charm, eh?"
  7095.  
  7096. She giggles. "Maybe! We'll go inside again next time, how's that sound?"
  7097.  
  7098. "Yeah. Oh yeah. That sounds fun." you say, then suck up a napkin.
  7099.  
  7100. Twilight nibbles her hayburger, and the two of you sit and watch the ponies bustle about their business.
  7101.  
  7102. The lousy fast-food picnic table, with it's built-on umbrella, gave you some camoflage and only a few of those passing on the street noticed you.
  7103.  
  7104. It was fun whenever one did, though, and you even got Twilight giggling after one of the more spectacular panic attacks played out before the two of you.
  7105.  
  7106. Presently you finish your meal. You even eat the napkin-bag.
  7107.  
  7108. As before, it was hot-burning, cardboard tasting, low quality stuff, but it'd certainly get you off the ground.
  7109.  
  7110. Gross as the meal had been, you can save your packed lunch for later.
  7111.  
  7112. "Feel like heading home?" Twilight asks.
  7113.  
  7114. "Yeah, this has been fun, but I think I'm ready to call it a a day."
  7115.  
  7116. "OK, let's fly." she says, gathering the remaining junk off the table and stuffing it into a nearby garbage can.
  7117.  
  7118. She takes off, hovering a ways above the restaraunt.
  7119.  
  7120. You walk out into the road. There's a more pronounced ruckus as ponies see you and freeze in their tracks, then change course.
  7121.  
  7122. After spreading your wings, the effect is magnified to the extent that you have more than enough runway to lift off.
  7123.  
  7124. You take off joining Twilight, and the two of you fly for Ponyville.
  7125.  
  7126.  
  7127.  
  7128. It's a fairly quiet flight, as you're turning over in your mind the implications of being this world's first Haunted Golem.
  7129.  
  7130. At least Twilight was no longer legally liable for your fuck-ups.
  7131.  
  7132. The downside was, now you were.
  7133.  
  7134. You endeaver not to fuck up, if at all possible.
  7135.  
  7136. It probably wasn't going to be, considering your talents.
  7137.  
  7138. But you have marketable skills, can earn money, and you're getting a grip on your creepy weather-skills.
  7139.  
  7140. Not to mention the regular income, however small, of being the official Royal Ombudsman to the Dragon Empire.
  7141.  
  7142. This can work.
  7143.  
  7144. But... Rarity. How can you fix the situation there.
  7145.  
  7146. You're tempted to sneeze, and give in to the temptation.
  7147.  
  7148. Sneezing, you emit a firework blast of sparks.
  7149.  
  7150. Burning flakes of napkin trail out behind you, sparkling for a moment before burning out.
  7151.  
  7152. "You OK, Anonymous?" Twilight asks.
  7153.  
  7154. "Just clearing out my burner, my pipes were getting a little clogged."
  7155.  
  7156. "Alright. We should be arriving soon. Would you like to stop off at my house?"
  7157.  
  7158. "Sure!" you reply.
  7159.  
  7160.  
  7161.  
  7162. The rest of the flight is uneventful, and soon you touch down outside the treebrary's door.
  7163.  
  7164. This time you accept the proferred spark arrestor. It's the shiny new one.
  7165.  
  7166. "You might as well keep that, for the next time you visit the Apples, Anonymous."
  7167.  
  7168. "Sure, will do." you reply, peering cross-eyed at the contraption.
  7169.  
  7170. It wasn't that it was uncomfortable, or that it restricted your breathing noticably.
  7171.  
  7172. It's just that it was weird looking.
  7173.  
  7174. Twilight opens the door, and the two of you file inside, where you're greeted by Spike.
  7175.  
  7176. "Everything go OK while I was gone?" Twilight asks.
  7177.  
  7178. "Yup! No problems. Oh, Rarity stopped by though, looking for you."
  7179.  
  7180. "What did she say?" Twilight inquires.
  7181.  
  7182. "Well, she sort of left in a huff when I told her you were out with Anon, there."
  7183.  
  7184. You gaze at Twilight and waggle your eyebrows.
  7185.  
  7186. She smiles a bit sadly.
  7187.  
  7188. "We need to get her straightened out on the situation with Anonymous." Twilight mutters.
  7189.  
  7190. "I know! She won't even hang out with me because of guilt by association!" Spike exclaims, looking a little panicked.
  7191.  
  7192. "I'm sorry, man." You say to him, knowing how he must feel.
  7193.  
  7194.  
  7195.  
  7196. "Oh, it's not really your fault. Rarity's just... A pony who knows her mind. And I think her mind hates you." he replies.
  7197.  
  7198. "I can't blame her, but I'm hoping to patch things up if I can." you reassure him.
  7199.  
  7200. "Yeah. Well, try to hurry." he says, with a rather annoyed expression on his snout.
  7201.  
  7202. "As soon as I figure out how, you bet I will." you state firmly.
  7203.  
  7204. The little dragon gives a half smile, then wanders off.
  7205.  
  7206. Rarity was having a fashion show, and a performance with the Ponytones.
  7207.  
  7208. That was two chances to meet up with her in sociably forgivable circumstances.
  7209.  
  7210. At least, the music concert was. You doubt if you'd fit in well at a fashion show.
  7211.  
  7212. Snickering a bit, you're glad you're wearing the arrestor as a little flash from the right nostril momentarily illuminates the mesh from within.
  7213.  
  7214. "Something funny Anonymous?" Twilight asks, appearing lost in a book she'd grabbed.
  7215.  
  7216. "Just had a funny thought, was all. I was reading in the paper that Rarity's having a fashion show, and I imagined what the reaction would be if I showed up."
  7217.  
  7218. She frowned, eyes still not leaving the text before her eyes.
  7219.  
  7220. "Yes... That would probably be counterproductive." she says.
  7221.  
  7222. But, the music concert... That had possibilities. You weren't sure just how, but maybe you could work with that.
  7223.  
  7224.  
  7225.  
  7226. Eventually you, Twilight and Spike run out of things to talk about, and you say your goodbyes. You head outside, scraping the new spark arrestor off your face onto a hoof, then into your saddlebag with the comics and water bottles.
  7227.  
  7228. Bucking a few coal-chunks out of the other bag, you scarf them down, rapidly building up enough steam for the short flight to your house.
  7229.  
  7230. The road is clear enough of obstacles that you power into the air with no delay. The late afternoon is quite pleasant, the temperature nice for flying, the sky beginning to become tinged with orange.
  7231.  
  7232. You envision the pegasi starting to pepper the far clouds with pink and orange paintballs, and smile. Sometimes the odd nature of this place seems too good to be true.
  7233.  
  7234. Having mentioned to Twilight that you were planning to, you remember to fly down to her balcony and grab the scortched cyclops' club off the railing on her deck. It's heavy but you manage to carry it alright. Looking like a dog with a big bone, you circle the treebrary, spiralling upwards, and head for home.
  7235.  
  7236. Halfway there you see something which fills you with dread. Rainbow with a paintball gun, grinning evilly.
  7237.  
  7238. "Don't you dare!" you call to her, somewhat muffled by the club in your mouth.
  7239.  
  7240. She zips over to you, coming alongside. "Don't I dare what?" "Don't shoot me with that thing, those hurt!"
  7241.  
  7242. Dash looks scandalized. "You're getting paranoid, Bat-statue! This is for CLOUDS!"
  7243.  
  7244. "Uh-huh. Just keep it that way!"
  7245.  
  7246. You can tell she's turning things over in her head, apparently the thought honestly hadnt occurred to her to blast something other than a cloud with it. Time to change the subject.
  7247.  
  7248. "I'm gonna make a big fireplace and put this club over top, feel like helping?"
  7249.  
  7250. "Nah! I gotta do sunset duty tonight, that's why I've got a cloudpainter."
  7251.  
  7252. "That's cool. Hey, did you hear I'm legally a... A legal entity now?"
  7253.  
  7254. "Not Twilight's wagon anymore, eh?"
  7255.  
  7256. "Nope! Just got back from Canterlot with Twilight an hour or two ago, Celestia had me re-titled as an Interdimensionally Haunted Golem!"
  7257.  
  7258. "Wow, that's, uh, great!"
  7259.  
  7260. "Yup! I'm a full fledged citizen now!"
  7261.  
  7262. She wrinkles her nose a bit. "Fledged, yeah. Not sure how fully though! I gotta dash, see ya later!"
  7263.  
  7264. And with that, she was gone in a receeding rainbow streak.
  7265.  
  7266. You wonder if she thought you might have been poking fun at pegasi by referencing being fledged, but the offence, if any, seemed to be minor. Aside from the fact that, however loosly the term applied, you were more or less a pegasus also.
  7267.  
  7268. Noting that your steam is running dangerously low, you're relieved to see your house coming up fast. With the last of your steam you flap up to the cloud, landing neatly by your door. Putting the club down on the patch where the Apples' cider-keg had sat, you go inside.
  7269.  
  7270. Seeing as you are about to embark on a project, a refuelling is in order. Munching about a half a load of coal and a top-off of water, you soon feel ready to take on the world.
  7271.  
  7272. Hm. A fireplace. You'd read about them in the Guide To Precipitable Housing. You decide to start work on it, kicking a hole in the rear wall of the living room, firming the floor for earthly objects, building an enclosure. A quick trip outside, a nearby cloudlet, and some hoofwork builds you a chimney. The damper was going to have to be a removable plug of cloud to start with, as that part seemed a bit mucky to build.
  7273.  
  7274. You take a break to eat and drink. You're feeling upbeat, and start 'singing' from your playlist, as you resume work.
  7275.  
  7276. You labor for a couple hours, finally building out and spelling a few "hooks" onto the walls to hold the club. At last it's ready.
  7277.  
  7278. Carrying the massive club inside, you stand on your hinds, and set the club into the hooks above the mantle, then step back to take in the whole effect.
  7279.  
  7280. It looks awe inspiring. Definitely worth the time.
  7281.  
  7282. Now all you need is some sand for the firebox floor, to prevent the fire from burning through the cloud. Grabbing your empty bucket off the table on the way past, you head out the door.
  7283.  
  7284. Stepping outside, you note it's gotten quite dark. Time to use your freaky locator gizmo.
  7285.  
  7286. "I need to find a bucket-load of good heat insulating sand!" you think 'loudly' to yourself.
  7287.  
  7288. It being only the second time you'd used this particular attachment, you brace for anything.
  7289.  
  7290. Your forehead pops open, and the little dish comes whirling up. This time there's red scattered all around the screen trailing the moving red line.
  7291.  
  7292. Letting the autopilot do it's thing, you taxi right off the edge of the cloud, noting with interest the aplomb with which your body took it, simply gaining airspeed in a plummet then drawing out into a long glide to a nearby patch.
  7293.  
  7294. Your nightvision shows the jagged terrain clearly, as you glide in and make a perfet set-down on the inner lee of an oxbow in a meandering mountain stream. Your hooves sink somewhat into the fine, moist white sand.
  7295.  
  7296. Spying some dry sand further over, you scoop the bucket full. Mission accomplished!
  7297.  
  7298. Of course... It would be nice to test your newest addition. Casting about, you spot a largeish dead branch a ways off. Leaving the bucket, you scamper/slide your way over to it, grabbing it in a hoof and hobbling back.
  7299.  
  7300. Your autopilot had chosen a pretty good spot, as shortly beneath your position was a dropoff, the little stream making a cute waterfall over it.
  7301.  
  7302. Bucket of sand and branch gripped in mouth, you spread your wings, get your fan up to full speed, gallop a few steps and leap.
  7303.  
  7304. At first you worry as the rocky terrain below you rises alarmingly, then you catch lift. Banking to the left you nose out of the dive, powering your way up despite your heavy load.
  7305.  
  7306. Banking a few lazy spirals on the way up, you finally land on your cloud. Setting the branch outside where the club had rested, you go inside, dumping the new sand into the firebox. It fills in nicely as you spread it around, four or five inches deep and covering fully.
  7307.  
  7308. Taking the bucket back outside, you break up the branch and drop the pieces into the bucket. It's a rather foul tasting, weathered wood but should smell OK as firewood, you muse, the thought bringing you to the point of the giggles. Such a thing would never have occurred to you, before.
  7309.  
  7310. Finally you bring the works inside, yanking out the damper cloud (which you'd made large enough to be obvious out of safety, not that you could die of monoxide, but this was for company as much as yourself), dumping the heap of sticks into the firebox and arranging them.
  7311.  
  7312. You decide to raise the front of the firebox more, so that nothing would roll out. This takes a minute. Finally it seems ready.
  7313.  
  7314. Stepping forward, you breathe some fire, spreading it until the blaze catches.
  7315.  
  7316. The smoke, while hot, didn't need insulation since it wasn't solid. Normal packed cloud could contain it. The smoke was exiting through the flue as you'd hoped.
  7317.  
  7318. You sit back and watch as the fire catches for real, heat beginning to radiate back at you. Standing and walking a ways back, the whole effect is superb.
  7319.  
  7320. Turning off the light, it's even better.
  7321.  
  7322. The big fluffy mantle, the huge club over it casting it's flickering, gnarled shadow against the ceiling... Your little cabin now has a stylish addition.
  7323.  
  7324. Crossing back around, you curl up in front of the fire, watching until you're sure it's going to behave, then go to sleep.
  7325.  
  7326.  
  7327. You open your eyes to the sounds of screaming from below. There's nothing in the fireplace but a big hole! Racing outside and looking down you see a huge building in the distance below your cloud, aflame.
  7328.  
  7329. Spreading your wings, you leap, plummetting for a ways then pulling out of the dive, spiralling down until you land on the brightly fire-lit ground outside the place.
  7330.  
  7331. "Ponyville Orhanage And Foal Care" is just legible above the flaming doorway. Burning ponies are leaping from the broken windows, one landing alongside you.
  7332.  
  7333. "Please help me!" the pathetic thing cries, burning like a candle.
  7334.  
  7335. Casting about you spot a handy bucket of water. Grabbing the edge in your teeth you run back to the pony and cast it over them.
  7336.  
  7337. WHOOF!!
  7338.  
  7339. The flames become huge, with much screaming. You drop the bucket in shock. "Distilled Spirits of Petroleum" the bucket is labelled. Aha.
  7340.  
  7341. "Luna!" you cry. Immediately the building vanishes, and the flaming orphan extinguishes. "Thou'rt no fun at all sometimes." the cute little Luna says, looking quite unharmed.
  7342.  
  7343. "That was mean!" you admonish her.
  7344.  
  7345. "Well thou werest asking for it most direly, giving in to thine base desire to display that huge phallic emblem of conquest, so."
  7346.  
  7347. You nervously glance at yourself, fortunately there was no sign of your lesser-discussed accessories being deployed at the moment.
  7348.  
  7349. "We meant the big fancy fireplace and ogre club." Luna continues, growing up into her more usual size.
  7350.  
  7351. "Cyclops club. I won it fair and square. And it's cool." You defend, confident in it's inherent coolness.
  7352.  
  7353. "We suppose. Thou must admit that it made for an excellent dream topic this eve, however."
  7354.  
  7355. "It certainly got my attention." you grit.
  7356.  
  7357. While still trying to recover from the mindscramble she'd pulled, you have an idea.
  7358.  
  7359. "Hey Luna."
  7360.  
  7361. "Yes?"
  7362.  
  7363. "Let's go whitewater rafting!"
  7364.  
  7365. "Ah, uh..." she looks thoughtful, riffling through your mind. "Yes!"
  7366.  
  7367. The blank dark landscape vanishes, and you and her are bounding down a torrential spume of water, trying to remain inside and paddle an inflatable boat that's entirely unsuited to holding two ponies.
  7368.  
  7369. It is a good night.
  7370.  
  7371.  
  7372. Text roll. Vision comes on. You sigh, lifting your ponderous head, and glance around. The cloud walls are glowing slightly, the dawn light illuminating them from without.
  7373.  
  7374. Deciding to just grab the bull by the horns and visit Rarity, you go through your morning routine slowly, considering your plans. You munch on some coal, tank up on water, and sit and build up steam as you consider how to present yourself.
  7375.  
  7376. Grabbing out your quill, notepad and ink which you'd procured during your shopping trips, you start a letter.
  7377.  
  7378. "Dear Rarity,
  7379.  
  7380. I just wanted to express how sorry I am for the unfortunate events surrounding our first encounter. It was indeed a shitty day for us all, and I'd like to make it up to you. Perhaps you could see fit to talk it out with me sometime?
  7381.  
  7382. Yours,
  7383. =The Badly Proportioned Lawn Statue="
  7384.  
  7385. Writing was fairly easy, even with a feather quill gripped lightly in your mouth. Your writing came out with the same oddly perfect gothic flourish that your internal systems displayed, when you weren't trying to draw something original.
  7386.  
  7387. You read it over a couple of times, nod in satisfaction, then fold it up, dropping it in your back compartment with your other important documents.
  7388.  
  7389. Someday you were going to need a safe. If you ever needed to defend yourself seriously you'd probably shred everything in there.
  7390.  
  7391. You putter around a bit putting things away, peering at your decor, then realize that you're only stalling. The walls were glowing brightly now, the sun well risen.
  7392.  
  7393. Walking outside, you trot over to the edge of your 'land', taking aim at the distant town. You unfold your wings, giving them a couple exerimental flaps, rev up your fan and leap.
  7394.  
  7395. The plummetting takeoff is a thrill, as always, and you pull out of the dive and level out.
  7396.  
  7397.  
  7398. Your first stop is the ponyville open-air market. It's not very crowded yet but it still takes you a couple of passes to pick out a good landing spot.
  7399.  
  7400. Gliding in, you stall your wings and land on your hinds with a slight pneumatic hiss, falling forward onto your fronts. For a moment you're lost in the coolness of it all, the flying, the weather magic... Certainly there were worse fates which could have awaited you than this existance, odd as it was.
  7401.  
  7402. Trotting over to Rose Luck's flower cart, you realize that you're in a really good mood. Maybe finally confronting Rarity had something to do with it.
  7403.  
  7404. "Hi Rose!"
  7405.  
  7406. "Hello, Anonymous! What can I do for you?"
  7407.  
  7408. "I need, hm, a very tasteful "I'm Sorry" type bouquet. Elegant, if possible."
  7409.  
  7410. She raises an eyebrow for a moment, then says "Sure, I think I can do something like that."
  7411.  
  7412. Starting out with a lavender vase, she adds some baby's breath, pink and white longstem roses and, peering at you for a moment, a black rose.
  7413.  
  7414. Arranging them until they're pleasing, she fixes the bundle with a length of ribbon and pours some water into the vase.
  7415.  
  7416. "OK, that'll be, how about five bits, for you?" she asks sweetly.
  7417.  
  7418. "Thanks!" you say, that sounding like a good deal for all that. It's a lovely bouquet. You pop your back open, grab out your wallet and pay her.
  7419.  
  7420. It's then that you realize a flaw in your plan. You didn't bring your saddle bags. Fortunately Rarity is only a block or so away.
  7421.  
  7422. Waggling your eyebrows at her, you rear and grab the vase in your bent right hoof, then do a three-legged hobble toward Carousel Boutique.
  7423.  
  7424. You get more than a few funny looks as you make your way unsteadily along, but tough it out until you're at her doorstep. Setting the vase on her porch, you grab the note you'd written, prop it against the vase, then knock.
  7425.  
  7426. Scuttling across the street, you watch as the door opens. Unfortunately, she sees you before seeing the flowers.
  7427.  
  7428. Rarity gasps in horror, then frowns in a grimace. You're lifted high in her purple aura.
  7429.  
  7430. "YOU! YOU-RUINED-MY-HAT!" she shouts, giving you a shake with each word, then dropping you, hard. You land in a jumbled heap, trying to get your legs back under you and stand. Finally you're upright, and look her way.
  7431.  
  7432. She's staring at the flowers. Your note floats up before her, held in her aura, and unfolds.
  7433.  
  7434. She reads it, then peers over it at you, then reads it again.
  7435.  
  7436. Then she does something unexpected. She starts crying.
  7437.  
  7438. You stand frozen, unsure what to do. You want to approach her, and take a step toward her, but she lifts a leg as if to ward you off.
  7439.  
  7440. Confused, you panic, and run.
  7441.  
  7442. You end up wandering to Twilight's treebrary, which is good since you could do with some friendly company. Stepping up the porch, you rap on the door with a forehoof.
  7443.  
  7444. Spike opens it.
  7445.  
  7446. "Oh! Hi, Anonymous. Twilight!" he says, angling his head over a shoulder, "Anonymous is here!"
  7447.  
  7448. "Let him in, Spike!" comes back, the dragon stepping back and opening the door wide.
  7449.  
  7450. You clomp inside, staring crosseyed at the old spark-arrestor as Twilight lets it stick onto your nose with a clang.
  7451.  
  7452. "So good to see you again, Anonymous! Come over here!" She says, beckoning to you from behind her desk.
  7453.  
  7454. You walk over, and gaze at the open book she's gesturing toward.
  7455.  
  7456. The 2-page spread is covered in strange measurements and curvy lines forming what looked like wildly distorted graph paper. The odd thing is that the image has depth and you can see many many more distorted graphs beneath connecting to the intersections of the top. The whole works moves if you sway your head to one side or the other, like a weird black and white hologram.
  7457.  
  7458. "Now, you and I are roughly HERE." she explains, pointing to one of the dips in the graph labelled Equestria Prime. "I think you came from somewhere that's connected to here via one of the channels passing through the nexus of the intellectual commons between our universii, such as this one here."
  7459.  
  7460. She guestures again, and something like starburst patterns highlight in the diagram, the radiating spikes connecting to the depressions in the graphs. The endless realities, places, connections... You feel as if you're going to fall in and just keep flying through it...
  7461.  
  7462. Your head starts to throb painfully as you stare into the infinity of the diagram, and you wrench your gaze away. If they could, your eyes would be watering. You gain a new appreciation for Twilight's mental facilities since she can stare into that at length without losing her lunch. Maybe it's a slightly-mad unicorn talent.
  7463.  
  7464. "I'm sorry, Twilight, that thing hurts my head." you explain.
  7465.  
  7466. She giggles.
  7467.  
  7468. "That's OK, Anonymous, I'm sure with practice you could handle it. It's one of Starswirl The Bearded's brief diagrams of spacetime. You must come from one connected via a consciousness link, since you saw us the way you describe."
  7469.  
  7470. "I suppose that makes sense. How come you're putting so much research into this?"
  7471.  
  7472. "Well, I assumed you'd want to know if you could return home or not."
  7473.  
  7474. Honestly, the thought hadn't actually entered your head, odd as that was.
  7475.  
  7476. "Oh. Well. I didn't have a whole lot going on that really required me being there, you know? I'm from a big family, lots of siblings. Didn't get along with 'em real well to be honest."
  7477.  
  7478. She bites her lower lip, in thought, then says "OK, well I'll still finish this up, just so we know what's possible and what we don't need to worry about."
  7479.  
  7480. "That sounds good, thanks."
  7481.  
  7482. "My pleasure. Research is it's own reward."
  7483.  
  7484. She would think that.
  7485.  
  7486. "I tried apologizing to Rarity today." you mention.
  7487.  
  7488. That earns you an upturned muzzle and a raised eyebrow.
  7489.  
  7490. "I dont see any hoof marks..." she says, gazing at you appraisingly.
  7491.  
  7492. "Oh I got my bell rung, just nothing serious."
  7493.  
  7494. "She attacked you?" Twilight asks, somewhat horrified. Spike wanders into view holding a feather-duster, maw agape.
  7495.  
  7496. "No, she threw me around with magic a little. I'm fine." you explain.
  7497.  
  7498. "I hope you didn't make it worse..." Spike says, half to himself.
  7499.  
  7500. "No, I brought some flowers and a note. After she... After the ruckus, she read the note, then made it clear I should leave. I think she was crying."
  7501.  
  7502. The two of them stare at you in horror for a minute.
  7503.  
  7504. "Yup, it's worse." Spike says.
  7505.  
  7506. "Now Spike, I think what Anonymous did was sweet! It's not like Rarity to be unreasonable. We have to assume that since Anonymous here made a peace offering, that she'll come around."
  7507.  
  7508. "Mm-hmm, and tell me when the hearths-warming fairy gets here." he says, then wanders off with his duster.
  7509.  
  7510. You generate a throat-clearing noise to break the stillness.
  7511.  
  7512. She gazes at you for a moment, then says "I think he's just being silly. You did the right thing by apologizing."
  7513.  
  7514. "Well I tried, anyhow. Though I was a bit surprised a little thing like her could toss me around like a toy!"
  7515.  
  7516. "I'm a little impressed myself, you're no lightweight. Rarity's got alot of talent though, consider yourself lucky you only got tossed!"
  7517.  
  7518. "Heheh. I suppose." you say, imagining yourself squished into a cube like a crushed car for a moment.
  7519.  
  7520. "Anyhow," you continue, "At least she knows I'm serious about patching things up, now."
  7521.  
  7522. "Yes, but I wouldn't hold my breath for a speedy forgiveness, either." Twilight adds.
  7523.  
  7524. "I know. Well, I should probably get going. I've got... Uh, stuff to do."
  7525.  
  7526. "Alright. Me too, for that matter. Do you need to eat before you go?"
  7527.  
  7528. "Nah, I fuelled up before I set out. I should be good for hours."
  7529.  
  7530. "OK. Well good luck with your endeavors today!"
  7531.  
  7532. "You too, Twilight! Seeya, Spike!" you call in the direction he'd vanished in.
  7533.  
  7534. "Later, Anonymous!" comes his voice back. You cross the main room, then turn back and gesture at your muzzle.
  7535.  
  7536. Twilight giggles and the spark-arrestor pops off and flies back to her desk, dropping into a slid-open drawer behind it.
  7537.  
  7538. You manage to hoof the door open and head out, pulling it shut behind yourself.
  7539.  
  7540. Well, you're in town, the shops are open, and you need a few things.
  7541.  
  7542. Heading into a general store, you get a couple bags of alfalfa crisps (which sound oddly edible, perhaps you'd sample some yourself), some paper plates and cups (Also appetizing), and a variety of other things you figure would come in handy the next time you have company over. As it turns out they don't have toilet paper per se, but you get a roll of something like paper towels and a roll-can of Wet Wipes, much like you'd seen in your home dimension, to put in the bathroom just in case.
  7543.  
  7544. You exit the store on your hind legs, the handles of a big paper bag hanging from either forehoof.
  7545.  
  7546. You've never attempted a 2-hooved liftoff before, this is going to be interesting. Maybe you can ask somepony where that road that busses full of ponies always plummet off of, is. You could probably do a plummet-liftoff. Then again, maybe you can do this...
  7547.  
  7548. Waiting for a good clear stretch of road, you turn your hind hooves over to their wheel sides, and balance like that for a moment. It's surprisingly easy, your body must be made to do it. Spreading your wings, you try to spin up your fan, only to painfully batter your hind legs. You try lifting your tail and hit the fan again. This time it clears! Hoisting your wings to match the odd angle of your travel, you wheel along down the road, thinking uncomfortably that you must look like a really ugly Segway. It can't be denied that you get alot of odd looks as you cruise along, gaining speed as quickly as possible. You're reminded uncomfortably of Wile E Coyote and the rocket-skates, and hope that this doesn't have a similar outcome.
  7549.  
  7550. But you start to catch good lift before hitting the end of the clear patch of road, and your hind legs leave the surface. You flap your wings, taking off quite sucessfully.
  7551.  
  7552. The two paper sacks start whirling around and battering you, and you fear they'll rip, so you hug them to your chest fairly tightly and level out a bit.
  7553.  
  7554.  
  7555. Returning home, you stow all the supplies in the proper locations.
  7556.  
  7557. Dammit, you forgot a trashcan. The grocery bags would do for now, though. Considering that there wasn't much else going on today, you end up at the table with one of the dragon comics you'd purchased.
  7558.  
  7559. Nervously, you open it up and begin reading. Just after you finish the first introductory exposition page, you're sucked into the weird world of the comic, your living room whirling and growing huge before you pop out on a well-trod lane in a mideval town.
  7560.  
  7561. Well. MORE mideval.
  7562.  
  7563. "Oh help us, Sir Mecha-Knight!" came the voice of a pretty mauve mare, "For a terrible beast doth stalk our town!"
  7564.  
  7565. Unbelievably enough you're wearing armor. You open the faceplate of your helmet.
  7566.  
  7567. You put on your sunglasses.
  7568.  
  7569. Several scenes of violence and one very annoying riddle later, you arrive at the dragon's nest, a tall-ceiling'd cave a good ways walk into a mountain. It's a giant green western style one. Probably something like Spike would eventually become, maybe, only all irridescent green.
  7570.  
  7571. You're tempted to nab some of the treasure it's laying on, but that's a sure way to ruin any possible negotiation right from the start.
  7572.  
  7573. This is it. Your chance to practice diplomacy!
  7574.  
  7575. "Hiya Dragon!"
  7576.  
  7577. The beast cracks open an eye, peering at you.
  7578.  
  7579. Well, if it's not going to speak, it was up to you to open the conversation.
  7580.  
  7581. "Pee-yoo, it stinks in here! How do you stand it?" you observe.
  7582.  
  7583. The large, opened red eye dialates and the beast lumbers to it's feet, an expression of shock becoming one of fury.
  7584.  
  7585. "Oh I didn't mean YOU stink! It's just this place here that you're in right now, it reeks!" you try, realizing that you may have started off on the wrong hoof.
  7586.  
  7587. The dragon roars, causing the ground to shake and several small landslides in the mound of gold and gems.
  7588.  
  7589. "I'm not trying to be mean, seriously! About the stink, I mean! I'm just here to ask you to stop pissing off the townsfolks, because they hate you, OK?"
  7590.  
  7591. That provokes another roar. You begin to worry that this dragon simply won't see reason.
  7592.  
  7593. The beast stares down at you with an expression of unadulterated loathing, then finally speaks.
  7594.  
  7595. "Stink, you say, little knight? You knowth not of which you speak! For your insolence, you have earned... The Special Treatment!"
  7596.  
  7597. With that, the beast whips it's ass around to face you, hoisting it's tail and holding up a lighter in one claw behind itself. It flicks it's bic.
  7598.  
  7599. "No, wait, I'm trying to be diplomatic here, don't be such an asshole-" you urgently reply, petering out in horror of the sight before you.
  7600.  
  7601. There is a loud, awful noise, and the world turns into orange flame. Your sunglasses slag down your face, behind the brightly glowing face-grate of your helm.
  7602.  
  7603. The dragon hadn't been kidding, you really hadn't experienced stink on this magnitude. Even combusting, it's pure gaseous hell. You hold your breath, hoping that the beast will eventually run out of fart-gas.
  7604.  
  7605. Apparently though, dragons contain a spectacular amount of it, and you get worried when you see warnings begin to blink under a number of things in your HUD and your vision reddens as the lenses in your eyes begin to glow.
  7606.  
  7607. In desperation, you set your hooves and rev up your fan in reverse, which mainly makes you the center of a cyclone of flame. As a last ditch effort, you blow powerfully forward with the maximum force of your bellows, hoping to clear enough of the burning atmosphere so that you can see where to run.
  7608.  
  7609. The fire-plume is forced back and washes right up against the dragon's bottom.
  7610.  
  7611. There's an odd whistling 'thoop', like a cork from a bottle.
  7612.  
  7613. Then the dragon explodes!
  7614.  
  7615. You're blown off your hooves and peppered with dragon guts and gold coin shrapnel.
  7616.  
  7617. You sit up, ripping the slagged remains of the armor helm from your head, then shed the rest. You try to wipe the worst chunks of guck off your eyes, as it seems your eye-wipers are kaput. It's not terribly effective, but you gain some measure of vision from the effort, and stagger off in search of something cloth-like. Finding what was probably a priceless tapestry, you towel your head dry and take a look around.
  7618.  
  7619. The scene reminds you of that old net video of the road crew blowing up a dead whale with dynamite, only with alot more smoke.
  7620.  
  7621. "Eeew." you intone, then go searching for the royal sceptor and crown you'd been charged by the king with retrieving. It takes some picking around, but you find the items, and somewhat revoltedly stow them in your back. You exit the cave to the ledge on the side of the mountain, and peer down the cliff face to the forest canopy far below. Somewhere there had to be a waterfall.
  7622.  
  7623. 'I really hope I can find a nice place to take a shower!' you think.
  7624.  
  7625. For a moment there are a couple tortured gear-strip sounds, then your forehead squeaks up, the little dish deploys and your wings try to unfurl.
  7626.  
  7627. Ragged bits of wing-cloth char hang from the exposed framing struts!
  7628.  
  7629. Involuntarily your feet rotate over. Thinking fast, you practically shout, "I really hope I can, uh, find a pile of gold!" The multiple red targets in your internal vision become just one, behind you this time.
  7630.  
  7631. The remains of your wings retract, and your fan pulls you to the rear. You reverse, turn, and taxi down into the disgusting cave again.
  7632.  
  7633. Cursing the idiocy of the locator gizmo being unstoppable, it was, at least, re-targettable.
  7634.  
  7635. As you roll down the uneven cave floor, you wonder idly if just asking it to find yourself would cause it to shut down. At the very least, finding yourself had philosophical implications. 'I really want to find myself!' you try. Your fan powers down, ERROR comes up, and you roll to a stop just short of the large chamber. At least you could kill it with a forced error! The little dish retracts and the cover shuts on your forehead, but you have to straighten your feet back out yourself.
  7636.  
  7637. A few of the coins blown this far had largely escaped being hit with dragon-guck, and you peer closely at one. It's an equestrian bit. So far this comic world mostly conformed to the standards of Equestria Prime, as you'd come to call it after seeing Twilight's multiverse book. So, hopefully, the dragon also had been fully realistic.
  7638.  
  7639. You wonder if that method of self defense would work on one blowing fire from it's mouth. It was dearly to be hoped.
  7640.  
  7641. Also, you learned a valuable lesson about dragons. They were unreasonable, haughty and didn't respond well to diplomacy.
  7642.  
  7643. You'd have to up your game, next time.
  7644.  
  7645. Turning around, you exit the cave, blinking at the sunlight. This time there's a proper whirr and squeak, and suddenly your vision's much improved.
  7646.  
  7647. That proved something you'd been hoping. Extending your wings, you take a look. Each had the frames covered in unburnt black cloth now, and it was slowly filling in between the shorter rearward-facing struts. Apparently your powers of regeneration were sufficient even without Discord's help, although much slower, provided the world of the comic was rendering your inherent properties correctly. So far it had, so it seemed safe to assume this was as well.
  7648.  
  7649. There was one thought that comforted you about all this. If the dragon gig didn't work out, you could always apply to be the Royal Equestrian Finder of Things. That had to be a valuable talent.
  7650.  
  7651. Finally after what seemed like an hour, but was more likely less than half of one, your wings seemed whole.
  7652.  
  7653. This time you're happy to let the finder take over, and you relax and enjoy the scenery as it takes you to what turns out to be an excellently scenic waterfall, the sunlight sparkling through the droplets of a minor river as it cascades over a prominance in the mountain far above, onto a flattish, walkable rock basin, flowing in a rippling sheet into a shallow pond before continuing on as a river.
  7654.  
  7655. You land on the wet stone surface, quickly digging the revolting royal finery out of your back and hucking them into the shallow water, then re-closing your back and walking into the falling spume. The water's cool but refreshing, the wet air smelling of pine, clean river and mysterious woodsy smells.
  7656.  
  7657. It was the best shower you could remember, and it happened in a comic book.
  7658.  
  7659. After returning the crown and sceptor to the king and being paraded through cheering ponies, which you were hoping you'd eventually become used to, you note a huge "THE END" roll up the sky, and you're sent home.
  7660.  
  7661. Your living room spirals out of the sky at you, and you land into your chair where you'd started reading.
  7662.  
  7663. Overall, it wasn't a bad trip, but you do wonder just what happens if you croak or something during the story. Best not to find out.
  7664.  
  7665. You close the comic and set it with the rest of them on a shelf. It's quite dark out, and your clock indicates it's now past ten.
  7666.  
  7667. Heading to bed, you sprawl, and go to sleep.
  7668.  
  7669. Fishtanks. You're inside of one, peering out at an opposing wall of other tanks. You can just see your sides and fins, and it appears that you're a goldfish. This seems all perfectly natural, and you swim around examining the decor. There's a big pirate ship embedded in the gravel at the bottom of the tank, with a skeleton pirate and a treasure chest that opens and closes with bubbles coming out. There are other fish, too, some pretty weird looking.
  7670.  
  7671. Pretty soon, you get bored, and decide to jump out. You surge toward the top of the water, just clear the rim, and sail out onto the floor. You hit... Then stand up.
  7672.  
  7673. It seems you're human again. You ponder at the low, indirect lighting in the fish store, and follow the aisle between tanks to the end. Light is shining through the front windows of the shop, and you head to the door and step out.
  7674.  
  7675. You're on a badly dilapidated walkway on the third story mezzanine of an abandoned shopping mall. You walk along the balcony, lost in the wonder of the building's decomposition. Seeing no clear way down, you note an elevator built into the wall. You press Down.
  7676.  
  7677. Immediately, the doors open, exposing an empty elevator shaft. Swiftly decending down it, a square wooden platform lowers, knocking against the sides, and stops at the level of your floor. It turns out to be suspended centrally from a very thick but ratty-looking old rope.
  7678.  
  7679. stepping back a few paces, you run and leap, catching the center-rope and landing on the platform. You experience some vertigo as it sways and bangs against the back of the elevator shaft. The doors close. Noting a control board to the side of the doors, you lean out and sway until you can hit the ground floor button.
  7680.  
  7681. You feel a bit of dread as the crazy elevator's brakes release and you plummet perhaps a floor, before it catches and begins lowering at a fast but survivable speed. Soon you feel the heavy thunk of the platform hitting a floor below it, and the doors open. Stepping out into the once grand mall space, you marvel at the planters of dead plants, the splintered, uplifted floor tiles, and the overall size of the place. The light was coming in from a glass ceiling, far far above.
  7682.  
  7683. Also up there, after layers of mezzanines, is the topmost floor, arranged around the skylights, around the edge where the vaulted ceiling closes in.
  7684.  
  7685. You spot a square hole letting light through, and a rope coming down some ways off. Hurrying over you grab the rope, setting your feet just to either side of it on the two foot wide square wood platform.
  7686.  
  7687. The rope goes tight, and you're lifted at a high rate of speed, watching the floors sail past as you pass the balconies on the way up, all dark or mostly so, dusty windows, merchandise strewn about the abandoned storefronts showing.
  7688.  
  7689. Looking up, you note the square hole is drawing close, and that your creaking rope platform isn't perfectly square with it.
  7690.  
  7691. The thought of what might happen if your platform hits the hole anything but square causes you some panic, so you try waving an arm and twirling the platform around, which does tend to turn the thing but also makes you swing, which could be equally disasterous.
  7692.  
  7693. You get it right just as you pass through the square hole, though, and the platform levels with the floor and stops.
  7694.  
  7695. Precariously disembarking the rather unsafe platform, you take in what must have been a huge food-court. Overturned and dusty tables everywhere, dark and derelict restaurants, cool looking, if unlit, light fixtures.
  7696.  
  7697. You go to exploring the amazing place, top to bottom and back, riding the crazy elevators, all night.
  7698.  
  7699. Text roll. Vision.
  7700.  
  7701. You blearily shove yourself out of bed, and take a stretch, provoking a few squeaks from your skin-plates.
  7702.  
  7703. No Luna last night. You quirk a mental grin, imagining that maybe Mac kept her busy all night. It just seemed odd that out of all the stallions of the land, that he'd have something going on with the princess of the night. But maybe being the brother of one of the Elements had it's perks.
  7704.  
  7705. Or maybe you were imagining the entire scenario.
  7706.  
  7707. Chewing down half a bucket of breakfast, along with one of the more benign types of pinkie-treat and a sinkful of water, you're soon running strong and feel ready to wrestle bears.
  7708.  
  7709. Which provokes thoughts of Fluttershy, naturally. Hopefully you'll find a way to spend time with her that doesn't involve large snakes and other icky critters. She was a decent enough pony, after all.
  7710.  
  7711. Stepping outside, you see a nearby cloud had stuck onto your lawn. While it'd be easy to just add it to your property, you decide to have a bit of fun with the weather pegasii.
  7712.  
  7713. Pulling the cloud free of your lawn, sculpting carefully, you form it into a giant butt and set it aflight.
  7714.  
  7715. Just after releasing the cloud, you note a blue streak in the distance which closes in like a bullet, whirls around your artistic cloud, then drops to the surface in front of you.
  7716.  
  7717. "Aw, you made a heart-cloud!" Rainbow Dash says.
  7718.  
  7719. "Uh. I guess." you say, a bit put out.
  7720.  
  7721. "Hey well I just came over to get you, Applejack's got something in her barn she wants to show you."
  7722.  
  7723. Raising an eyebrow, you decide it's probably not what you think. Though she DID have a tendancy to eye you up, for some reason.
  7724.  
  7725. "Right now?" you ask.
  7726.  
  7727. "Yeah, right now! Race ya!" ... And with that, she was gone in a colorful streak.
  7728.  
  7729. Remembering how the Apples were about stray sparks in their wooden buildings, you trot inside, fish the new spark arrestor out of your saddlebag, and slap it on.
  7730.  
  7731. Then you close the door to your cabin and take off after her.
  7732.  
  7733. Landing by the big red barn with the weather-cock on top, you see Applejack standing by an open door.
  7734.  
  7735. "Well, c'mon in, Anon'mus!"
  7736.  
  7737. You step into the dark interior, and Applejack follows you in, closing the door.
  7738.  
  7739. "SURPRISE!" comes a multitude of voices, and the lights come up.
  7740.  
  7741. All the mane six plus Mac are arranged around you, with Rarity standing foremost.
  7742.  
  7743. This would all be great, except for the workbench, a forge, an anvil, a sheet-metal bender, and worst of all, AJ's accursed oxy-torch rig, all set up and ready for business.
  7744.  
  7745. Your mouth falls open as your brain tries to catch up to the dichotomy of your friends standing around you in what was obviously a hall of horrors.
  7746.  
  7747. "I, I, I think I'll just be going, now..." you begin, backing right into something solid. And red.
  7748.  
  7749. "Hang him on the hay-lift, if you'd be so kind, Big Mac?" Rarity asks sweetly.
  7750.  
  7751. Frozen in horror, you're carried over to a block and tackle hanging from the ceiling, and Mac wordlessly wraps a strap around behind your shoulders, then hoists you up.
  7752.  
  7753. "Mac! I thought we were bros! Uh, seriously ladies, whatever this is, it isn't necessary-" you sputter, wiggling your limbs, trying to work yourself free as you dangle there. If you spun your fan, you'd just whirl around like one of those toy planes.
  7754.  
  7755. "Don't be such a baby, Anonymous! Rarity's trying to be nice!" Twilight says.
  7756.  
  7757. "Indeed I am, Anonymous! Now just hold still please!"
  7758.  
  7759. Watching her approach with no small amount of dread, you're a little surprised when she begins measuring the sections of your limbs with a tailor's measuring tape and jotting down numbers.
  7760.  
  7761. If this was going to be a scientific dissection, it was going to be a very well annotated one, you muse.
  7762.  
  7763. "Didn't you like the flowers?" you ask nervously as she continues moving around you, measuring things.
  7764.  
  7765. "Oh, yes! They were quite delightful, thank you."
  7766.  
  7767. God. They even have a bandsaw. You can see it lurking in the shadows behind the main layout of deviltry.
  7768.  
  7769. "So, er, no hard feelings about-"
  7770.  
  7771. "Anonymous, please! Let me concentrate on these measurements, or it'll all turn out a big mess! It was hard enough getting the Crusaders to spend the night in their clubhouse." Rarity admonishes you.
  7772.  
  7773. You hang there and stew, watching Pinky pick up and play with various awful impliments arranged on the workbench.
  7774.  
  7775. "OoOOooh! What does THIS one do?" she asks, holding up a nasty long-handled thing.
  7776.  
  7777. "That thar's a edge crimper, it makes it so ya ken join metal without a bump in the seam." Applejack replies.
  7778.  
  7779. As perplexed as you are terrified, at least that sounded constructive rather than destructive.
  7780.  
  7781. Finally finishing her inspection, Rarity trots over to an easel with a big sketch-pad on it.
  7782.  
  7783. Peering around it, she works for a while, then grimaces, flips a new sheet over, and works some more.
  7784.  
  7785. "Um, what are you, er, working on?" you ask, your voice garbling a tad.
  7786.  
  7787. "I am going to make you... Fabulous!" she replies.
  7788.  
  7789. The ponies group around behind her, watching her sketch.
  7790.  
  7791. "No... No... This just isn't going to work." she says, flipping another page over.
  7792.  
  7793. "With looks like his, we must go unconventional. There is only one way to go. ALL the way!" Rarity exclaims.
  7794.  
  7795. She begins a new bout of sketching, accompanied by various oohs and ahhs of the ponies watching.
  7796.  
  7797. You wonder what the hell is in store for you. You try staring hatefully at Mac, but he looks like he's gone to sleep standing up. Hmm.
  7798.  
  7799. Rarity peeks around the easel again, chewing her lip, then vanishes. More sketching and mumbling sounds ensue.
  7800.  
  7801. "And we'll just put one ball here, and another right here! Tadaa!" you hear.
  7802.  
  7803. "Now, wait just one minute!" you shout, startling Mac awake and making the rest jump. Rarity peers over the easel.
  7804.  
  7805. "Oh you can let him down now, Big Mac!" she says.
  7806.  
  7807. Bemused, you're lowered back down onto your hooves.
  7808.  
  7809. As you advance on the easel, Rarity steps around it, halting your progress.
  7810.  
  7811. "Anonymous, this is my way of apologizing for having acted so crass. We all thought it would be best if we made it a surprise."
  7812.  
  7813. "Oh?"
  7814.  
  7815. "What I intend to do, is make you a proper suit, for formal occasions."
  7816.  
  7817. "Really!" "Yes. If you'd be so kind, tell me what you think of..."
  7818.  
  7819. With a practiced flourish, she magics the easel around, "THIS!"
  7820.  
  7821. You gaze at it, astonished. Steel armor, each piece adorned with three large back-swept thorn-shaped horns, held together with wide leather straps and rings. A triple pointed crownlike helmet that accentuated your already tubeular eyes with side-guards. Jaw side-plates with three icicle-like spikes pointing down. And a grotesque metal breast-plate sweeping around your shoulders, with ball-tipped rods behind the withers, taller than your mane, somewhat reminiscent of Mac's work yoke.
  7822.  
  7823. It was horrendous. It put you in mind of Rocket Ranger, 30-30, Flash Gordon and a hedgehog.
  7824.  
  7825. You manage not to laugh, as she stands there nervously awaiting your verdict.
  7826.  
  7827. "I'm... Speechless." you finally manage.
  7828.  
  7829. Cheers erupt, along with much conversation. Applejack, Rarity and Mac team up with the easel and notepads, Twilight joining in and suggesting clever places to hide magnets to make the whole outfit easier to wear.
  7830.  
  7831. You're blown away by the sudden change of circumstances.
  7832.  
  7833. "Hey anon! Catch!" Pinky says, throwing you a tubular object. You catch it. It smells like maple syrup and wax. "It's a new recipe!" she says, walking up to you as you begin to chew. "Do you like it?"
  7834.  
  7835. "Yes!" you reply, sounding muffled. It reminded you somewhat of some sort of pancake roll.
  7836.  
  7837. "It's maple sawdust, paraffin, and old lottery tickets. For luck!"
  7838.  
  7839. "Thanks, Pinky!" you reply, swallowing. The maple flavor really came through as you exhaled.
  7840.  
  7841. The earth-ponies began hauling out squares of sheet-metal and tracing marks on them with rulers, Twilight and Rarity supervising.
  7842.  
  7843. It wasn't long before hilariously large, dark-lensed goggles were donned, the dreaded torch was lit, and showers of sparks erupted.
  7844.  
  7845. For the first time, you notice that the floor in here is bare, solid dirt. Oh well, the spark arrestor wasn't hurting anything anyhow.
  7846.  
  7847. Things become more and more industrial as time progresses, and you're asked to stand as a manniquen as leg sections and such are tested for fit and range of motion.
  7848.  
  7849. Holes are drilled, seams soldered, rivets and studs hammered home as the suit slowly forms piece by piece. Really it was an amazing process to watch, as things went from conceptual drawing to reality.
  7850.  
  7851. It became obvious that there would have been no other way to fabricate this suit without your having been there. You just wish they'd been a bit clearer in their intentions from the get-go. But the ponies were the ponies, and they did things their own way.
  7852.  
  7853. Finally, the entire suit was test-fitted and adjustments made. You could more or less shrug on the main suit and buckle it on.The leggings and helmet were magnetic. It fit perfectly, and you could move well and unfurl your wings with it.
  7854.  
  7855. "Mind if I take a test-flight?" you ask.
  7856.  
  7857. "Go right ahead, Anonymous! That's probably a good idea, anyhow." Rarity says.
  7858.  
  7859. You run down the drive leading to the barn, and lift off. You're a bit heavy, but it was just noticable. The larger problem was the whistling of the helmet. It deafened you.
  7860.  
  7861. You turn a few loops, making sure everything stayed on well if you shook your legs and things, then touched down, galloping up to the barn.
  7862.  
  7863. "It's perfect, except that the helmet whistles too much." you tell the group.
  7864.  
  7865. Twilight and Rarity take the helmet, and retreat into the barn with it.
  7866.  
  7867. You and the rest follow them in. Twilight's working some airflow diagrams on the easel, then adding bits and adjusting bits of the helmet and re-drawing, Rarity advising.
  7868.  
  7869. It isn't long before the helmet gets some holes drilled, and a pair of new flanges fabricated and riveted on, and you go for another flight.
  7870.  
  7871. This time, not only is the whistling gone, but the wind-roar you normally heard with no helmet was cut to nearly nothing. Perfect!
  7872.  
  7873. Touching down, you declare the suit a success.
  7874.  
  7875. Cheers ensue, then another stage of work begins. Painting.
  7876.  
  7877. Pinky, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Twilight and Mac led the way to a scenic gazebo in the side yard, where a keg of cider and a party atmosphere prevailed, while Rarity and Applejack prepped and hung the pieces up and sprayed the suit down with black and red gloss enamel. It was going to be a terror once it was dry.
  7878.  
  7879. You couldn't wait to wear it.
  7880.  
  7881.  
  7882.  
  7883. Soon the painting is done. Rarity and Applejack join the group.
  7884.  
  7885. "Hey Rarity," Pinkie says, "Anon thought you were gonna carve him up for wrecking your hat!" You shake your head, you'd rather hoped that aspect would have stayed with your sub-group.
  7886.  
  7887. "I'm sorry Anonymous, I don't know what I was thinking. That hat would have been rediculously out of style by now, what with it's blue and green feather arrangement. It's all leaves now, feathers are out."
  7888.  
  7889. "I'm still sorry anyway. That was a crazy day." You tell her, some 'mmm-hmm's' and other sounds of agreement answering back.
  7890.  
  7891. "Well let it bother you no longer, for I am officially over it." Rarity replies, primly. You're not sure if she's totally convinced herself of this but it was good to hear, regardless.
  7892.  
  7893. "Ana-won wanna cup'a cider?" Applejack asks, coming around with an armload of them. They're quickly distributed, you, of course, abstaining.
  7894.  
  7895. "So, Rarity, I didn't know you could make metal clothes..." you begin, trying to find a topic you had in common. Metal work wasn't alien to you.
  7896.  
  7897. "Normally, I can't. I defer to the Apples' expertise in these matters. I can design in metal on paper however, and you needed a proper suit."
  7898.  
  7899. The conversation continues for hours, as Celestia's sun steadily lowers in the sky.
  7900. Mac, with a half smile, brings you out buckets of water and charcoal which you down with gusto, as he likewise rebuilds the campfire. Stories are told, quite good ones, these ponies being who they are, and songs are sung.
  7901.  
  7902. ***
  7903. Celestia:
  7904. Four struggling pegasi lower what appears to be a stone meteor suspended by chains onto the courtyard. Peering intently at it, you focus your alicorn-level magic, the guards moving back warily as you summon down lightning to cleave it in twain, top to bottom. You then expend a large amount of magical force to separate the hemispheric halves from what was inside. Finally freeing the large rectangular iron chest, you allow the stone halves to roll onto their sides. "Open it." you command the guards, and they set to work. Of course you could have done it yourself, but they needed to feel useful. Quite frankly you enjoyed watching them work, and had had a millenium to perfect your aloof, totally-not-interested look. You watch them strain and flex, furred muscles rippling beneath gleaming armor plates, working crowbars and other tools. They are choice specimens, literally, and you were relieved they returned safe apart from some moderate heat singe-ing. Finally the top is wrenched open, exposing a confusing block of metal. "Dump it out." you further command, and the chest is rolled, the cube sliding free. You peer at it expectantly. After a minute, it begins looking less like a cube and more like a 3 dimensional puzzle, becoming irregular and jagged. Finally, a barely recognizable hoof at the end of a leg springs free of the side. "Send him in to see me once he's put himself back together." you command the guards, turning and heading for the throne room.
  7905. Anon:
  7906. You float through an endless, weightless universe of dull red. It was soothing, reminding you of the time you'd attended the town college's dome-shaped star projector thing. Astrodome? Star chamber? Vomitorium? Whatever it was, was alot like this. You'd spent quite some time doing something akin to sleeping. If this was any sort of hell, it was quite enjoyable. Even after loads of practice, your mission to the Dragon Lands had been... Well, less than successful, and you were rather disappointed that it hadn't worked out. A speck of light at the edge of your vision calls you to full wakefulness. A few more flickers occur, your field of view slowly filling in with irregular colors and shapes- Then there is a bit of flickering- Then the text-roll you were accustomed to. "Holy shit, I'm not dead?" crosses your mind, and after a moment, sensation, sound, then vision present themselves. You're laying in Celestia's courtyard, surrounded by angry-looking, buff guards of assorted catagory. "Her Majesty awaits you in the throne room." a particularly glowering specimen states. You note his pegasus wings are singed, the feathers warped and all poofy looking from heat and no longer the snow white they should be. His mane and tail were bobbed short and wild with heat also. In fact most of the pegasi present showed one degree or another of semi-cooked-ness, and all were glaring. You scramble to your feet as quickly as you can with no mechanical assistance, your body was apparently fully out of fuel, not to mention warped and bent in places but improving steadily. Plodding as quickly as possible into the castle, you proceed to the throne room, finding Celestia herself perched upon her throne once the door-guards ushered you inside.
  7907. "Anonymous, I'm glad to see that you've recovered." "Apparently so, Your Majesty?" you state, unsure of just what had happened precicely. "We need to discuss your position as ambassador to the dragon lands, Anonymous. You had to be fished out of an active volcano by your company of guards, and they returned with you and this letter." Uhoh. Celestia unrolled an impressed copper sheet, and read, "To Pony Princess Celestia: We dragons have long known of you ponies' sense of humor, and make allowances for your occasional attempts at playing a joke at our expense. However in this case you have stepped over the line. If you ever darken my doorstep with another of these mechanical insult-machines, be aware that we will take it as an act of war, and I shall see to it peronally that Canterlot and surrounding lands are smelted into lava to a depth of ten feet into the ground. Signed, The Dragon Lord." Do you have any explanation for this, Anonymous?" Wanting to curl up in embarrassment, you try explaining. "The dragon lord's a dick!" Celestia colors a bit, and you wince. Further explanation seemed called for. "Seriously, he's a total cock-goblin. I explained that you were eying that disputed range of foothills, as you'd said, and wanted to set up some mining operations there, and he got all shouty at me. So naturally I asked him what the hell do they want with 'em anyhow, since it's not like they have any sort of industry, they don't mine, they just lay around in lava and gobble gems-" "Anonymous." "Hm?" "I was hoping that you were, how shall I say this, somewhat more advanced in the craft of negotiating than this?" "I'm great at negotiating! He's just an asshole!" Celestia deflates a bit, rubbing her temple with a hoof. "Well at least there's no lasting damage done. It's obvious, however, that we find another line of work for you, if you choose to continue in my service." You consider momentrily. While a life of leisure had it's pleasures, a touch of excitement was far preferable. Despite the outcome, the whole diplomat thing had been a fun excursion, if less so for your retinue of guards. Plus it was always good to stay in good standing with the princesses. "Um, I can find anything? I think?" you suggest, as had been your 'plan B' for some time. "Anything?" "Think so, yeah."
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