Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 42

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Chapter 42

I wake up and I realize that Fluttershy has left, but Pinkie is still here, and has fallen asleep in my arm. I run my hand through Pinkie’s curly, crazy mane. How does she get her hair to do that all the time, anyway? Aw, she’s snoring... Heh. Life is good. Wait, Ponyville is pretty much ground zero at this point... why can’t my good moods ever last?

Oh well. Still, it’s a calm, comforting thought that the hospital doesn’t seem damaged. And while I can hear some of the ponies in the other rooms, their occasional moans or yelps of pain sneaking through the door, it’s evident they’re being tended to. I can hear the steady clip-clops of the nurses and doctors passing each other in the halls outside the door, and it’s a steady white noise.

I snuggle in closer to Pinkie, wincing slightly at my arm. I was heading to the library earlier to hand off the book to Twilight, and I don’t feel hurt. Well, other than my arm, that is. That should heal on its own in a month or so, though... which means no trip in a month with Cadence. Darn, I was looking forward to that.

I look down at Pinkie, musing again about her mane. Cadence mentioned she had relatives in Wunderland, which is making more sense of her mane, now that I think about it. Cadence also teased me about being ‘very compatible’ with Pinkie. I look at the pink mare’s face as she lays on me, her face framed by cotton-candy hair and the sunlight streaming in from the window, and...

Ooooooh boy. Hello morning awkwardness. Damn, this is certainly awful timing. I just reassure myself repeatedly that, no, it’s not Pinkie, it’s just nature. God this is the worst possible time for this. At least she’s asleep and won’t notice... On the other hand, maybe I should wake her up and make a hasty retreat...

Then a nurse pony comes in, I sort of recognize her as she’s the pony I saw at my initiation party, with the First Aid Cutie Mark. She’s got a yellow coat and blueish hair kept in a hairnet on the back. She looks in at me, my ‘tent’, and Pinkie, resting right next to it. She grins widely. “that’s one way to feel better, but I don’t think it’ll help your hand any, Anthony.”

“This is just really bad timing, I swear. I have absolutely no urge to have any romantic relationship with any ponies whatsoever.” I look down. “As much as current evidence might suggest otherwise.”

She just grins even wider. “Who said anything about romance?”

“Er... Uh...” My face falls. “I’m not gonna win this one, am I?”

“Nope.” Her grin returns to a more normal size as she trots up. “Teasing aside, I’d first like to thank you for saving my little sister yesterday. She’s recovering from that head-bump and the smoke inhalation nicely. Second of all, I need to check on your arm, if that’s alright.”

“Sure, just don’t stick anything in my arm I don’t want.”

She laughed gently, “Don’t worry, any needles for you will be emergency-issue only.” She carefully grabbed my uninjured arm, turning my palm up. Her hoof went over my wrist and I felt the soft inside of her hoof press down to check my pulse. It felt kinda weird.

“Seems alright, compared to our first check of your vitals.” she gnetly laid my hand back on Pinkie, who just snuggled in closer to my side, eliciting a blush. Stupid Cadence. “Now, let me see your other hand.”

Shifting it over, she poked and prodded at the bits of my arm sticking out of the cast, doing something like massaging my upper arm with her eyes closed. After a few moments of doing this, she stopped, and placed a hoof over were my knuckles were buried in the cast. I watched as she simply stood there, rear hooves on the tile floor and one foreleg on the railing of the hospital bed, fourth hoof placed on my cast.

“So, is it hard to do this for a human? I mean, last I checked, I’m the first one around here.”

“Hmm? Oh, I’m just checking the flows of your life-force. If there are any eddies or backwash, it can indicate looming embolisms or worse. as it stands, though, only your brokens bones seem to be off with your arm. While you have much life-force, it’s just more to look at. It still forms the same patterns, just brighter.” She seemed to have acquired a sagely, almost doped look on her face.

“Uh... huh. So, would it be possible for me to leave with just my cast on?”

“Yes, I think that’ll be fine. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids, preferably fruit juices. If you can find some citrus fruits, those will help the most, but they’re hard to get. Other than oranges, of course. Let me go get you a pegasus wing-sling, I think it’ll fit you better than an earth pony one.” the nurse, whose name I still hadn’t gotten yet, sauntered calmly from the room.

I feel the urge to continue petting Pinkie, but I’m not entirely sure if that would help my little problem. At least it’s starting to subside. Cadence is crazy. No way would Pinkie and I end up doing more than being friends. Besides, who’s to say Pinkie would go for it? She seems perfectly fine being just friends, and I like it that way. I relax and wait for the nurse to return with the sling.

After trying to leave the hospital four times as patients kept stopping me to congratulate me and thank me - it was kind of embarrassing - I went to collect my stuff. Thankfully, I had forgotten it at Fluttershy’s, and she had brought it to the hospital for me. I picked it from the head nurse’s office, meeting a white mare with a pink mane and red cutie mark, also a first-aid symbol. She also thanked me profusely.

After leaving the adoration of virtually everypony in the hospital, and finding myself feeling light on my feet, I started towards the library. I found myself hoping the huge tree was alright; it had probably withstood centuries of growing there, and to be taken out from some rampaging asshole...

Either way, though, I continued towards the library, looking sadly at the devastation ponyville suffered. Surprisingly, however, most of what had been damaged was the roofs and... facades? Most of the houses were actually brick and stone under a layer of mortar and decorative wood. I found myself feeling a little better. Some houses had collapsed or been broken by the rampaging demon, or whatever he was, and those were being tended to by teams of earth ponies and pegasi alike. I noted that many of them had apple-related cutie marks.

Looks like AJ called in her extended family to help. And boy, when she listed all those names, she was not blowing steam. Holy crap that’s a lot of Horse Apples... AJ would kill me if she heard me say that...

Many, in fact, were also humming tunes. Or, at least, I first thought it was multiple, but it turned out to be the same tune, and each of them were humming their own part of it. when I stopped for a moment, it also seemed they were stepping and moving in tune to the shared song, though how they were doing it, I have no idea.

I found my steps crunching along the dirt road in step to the catchy tune as well, ponies stopping to wave hello to me. I hadn’t ever gotten so many smiles and friendly faces pointed my way since arriving... or even before then.

Buoyed by good will and a sense of accomplishment filling me, I virtually sped to the Library in time to see the tree get lit by the early-autumn sun. The leaves, a uniform, shimmering gold caused the entire area cleared around it to appear gilded, from the ponies working to move debris and work supplies across the area to the grass underfoot.

The name ‘Golden Oaks’ makes a lot more sense, all of a sudden.

Shaking away the minor awe at the sight, I went in to see Twilight and Spike speaking to a bunch of foals, a blackboard covered in chalk scribbles detailing fire safety in case of another large fire.

Smart pony this one, as always. I decide to interrupt. “I suppose I count too, don’t I?”

I enter my heat form and snap my fingers repeatedly, each snap making my fingers catch on fire and then extinguish like a lighter.

“No, you don’t.” Spike said. “We were talking about natural disasters. Not walking disasters waiting to happen.”

“Nice to see you too, dude.” I extinguish my fingers completely and stop my display. “Hey Twilight, you’re gonna cover electrical fires and incendiary gasses too, right?”

“What? Electrical fires? What does electricity have to do with fire?”

“Are you kidding me? Lightning from thunderstorms... oh, right, you can control your weather manually.” I decide to explain anyway. “Well, electricity that is not controlled can cause a fire upon striking a flammable object. I could explain how, but that would take a bit of explanation of electrons and such.”

Twilight stops me. “Electrons? What are- most of our electrical devices are powered by magic. Unless the magic used was not cast properly, there’s no cause of an accident, and each unicorn is tested extensively to make sure they fully understand the spell before using it in the field.”

“Well, guess your idea of electricity and mine differ.” I enter my Dynamo Form and start generating sparks from my left hand. I don’t want to possibly wreck my cast. “You can detect magic, Twilight. How much magic am I generating at this moment?”

Twilight’s horn glows softly, and she concentrates briefly. “Twenty-two-point-three thaums of spark elemental energy.” She smiles, looking as if waiting for me to give her a gold star.

“Spike, do you have a blank piece of scrap paper?” Once he’s holding up the paper, I charge up until my hand is generating about ten thousand volts of raw electricity, then I place my forefinger on one corner of the paper, and complete the circuit with my thumb on another piece of the paper. For several seconds, nothing happens, until the short circuit finally builds enough hurt a little. At that point, half the paper spontaneously catches fire, the vivid gold-blue arc of electricity snapping into view between my fingers with a loud CRACK that echoes through the room. Every pony in attendance folded their ears down, and several of the little fillies and colts shrieked in fear.

“Oops, didn’t know that would happen.”

However, the paper was more or less obliterated, the last bits of burnt ashes fluttering to ground, Spike’s eyes wide as he looked as the only bit on unburnt paper. It ended less than a millimeter from his claw-tip, and I realize I almost zapped him with that.

Spike, however, doesn’t seem afraid at all, his little mouth going wide. “That was so cool! Dude, that was amazing!”

“There it is, Twilight. Electrical fire.” I turn to address the children. “Now, that was a lot of electrical power, but practically nothing compared to that of a lightning strike. A raw bolt of lightning, if it’s anything like in my world, could kill you instantly if you are hit. This is why thunderstorms are considered very dangerous. Also, electricity is naturally conducted by metal, so avoid touching any tall metallic objects if there’s a storm going on.”

Twilight shook her head. “Okay, stop. A lightning strike will hurt, but it won’t kill! It’d take a really irresponsible weather team or a superstorm to build up that much lightning in a single place. Secondly, what do thunderstorms have to do with lightning strikes? Thunder is the sound of the rain being concussively ‘broken’ from the clouds. And finally, lightning hits whatever is nearby, it doesn’t care if something is tall or not. It’s not a living creature, Anthony. Well, unless it’s an elemental, but I don’t think that’s what you’re talking about.” Twilight had, at some point during the lecture, donned a tweed jacket, a simple bow-tie, a pair of tiny little glasses, and put her hair into a teacher’s bun. I hadn’t even seen it happen, I just sort of noticed it had happened afterwards, and can’t remember exactly when or how it was accomplished.

Her lecture complete, she smiled in a satisfied way, hmmphed triumphantly, and puffed her chest out slightly, a tiny poof of fur breaching top of her jacket. She took a moment to adjust her tie by hoof, straightening it.

“Yeah, according to your weather which is all controlled manually. In my world we have no control over the weather and just have to deal with whatever tornadoes, monsoons, or whatever else happens.”

Twilight scoffed, soundly strangely haughty from her spot. When did she get an actual lectern here? “No weather control? Next you’ll tell me you have no way to prevent earthquakes, or that you only get one crop of growth a year. There’s no way an actual civilization can get by without those. Even the gryphons had to keep earth ponies in their lands to have enough food for each year, and-”

“And you use magic for all of those, don’t you? Maybe not all unicorn magic, but magic in some way or another. Well, I have absolutely no magical abilities at all. None of us humans do. Right here, what you see...” I gesture to my perfectly normal, clothed form. “Is all we are. No magic at all. As for lightning not killing... 10,000 people are killed by lightning strikes around my world each year and about 100,000 are injured.” This statement draws surprised gasps from everyone else in the room.

Twilight looked at me, baffled. “Well, what about the other races of your world? Or are human empires naturally isolationist?”

“You could say that, considering we’re the only sentient species on the entire planet. We are the only species capable of speech, non-instinct reliant thought, and the gift of tool making for pleasure. Why do you think I said I thought I was dreaming when I met a bunch of talking horses?”

“Well, I guess I just thought there weren’t any pony species in your world...” Twilight looked sad. “After all, if you were the first of your kind here, and you were so confused at first, it makes sense you’re from a world with different races in it. But I just figured it would be other primate-based races.”

“Nope. Anyway, I’d continue this, but perhaps later. You finish your slightly inaccurate educating of these precious young minds.” I boop her on the nose. She scrunches up her face, going cross-eyed behind her tiny glasses.

She sneezed lightly, in what was the most adorable version of that particular action I’d ever seen, and spoke up, her eyes returning to normal. “Well, actually, I’d just finished when you walked in. Children, if you want to go check out books, feel free to. We just got eight new copies of the new Daring Do book; Daring Do and the Temple of the Endless Meme!” the group of younglings scattered joyously to ransack the children’s section.

Twilight turned back to me, Spike having already settled into a  wall nook with a book labeled, “Living with the Autistic”, and a small pile of books nearby, with titles such as, “Lesson Zero: When to tell Your Friends to Stop”, “Parallel Perpendicular: Living with ponies living with OCD”, and “The Classic Marevengers, volume 1, Comics 1-120”.

“So...” Twilight began. “You don’t have any other sentient races in your world? Or magic-users? How do you maintain basic entropic resistance across the world?”

“We don’t. We just have to live with the disasters, rebuild from the result, and bury our dead. People die Twilight. There’s no way to prevent that. Death in my world is a constant. Every single day, about ten thousand people die from some reason or another no matter where they are on the planet.”

Twilight looks horrified, and I wonder for a moment if maybe I threw her in the deep end a little fast. “Ten thousand? That’s more than the population of Manehattan a few times over! And Manehattan is our biggest city... how can your species survive that? How quickly do you breed?”

“Well, the typical gestation period for humans from conception to birth is nine months. And of course it’s more than a city! We cover our entire planet! There’s not just one continent for humans, the entire world is ours. When I say ‘our’ world, I mean that literally.”

“Wait, did you think Terra has only one continent? And how could you cover the entire planet? You’d need at least five million po- people to do that!”

“Convenient that, last I checked, our population was above six billion by quite a lot, then, isn’t it? If there’s an environment we can survive in, we’ll populate it. If we can’t inhabit it, we adapt to it by using tools and resourcefulness.

Twilight had gone from standing to sitting on her haunches, jaw wide in shock. “B-billion?”

Spike, sitting in his nook, sighed ponderously. “I know that tone. Give her an hour or two and she’ll be coherent again. Unless it’s an emergency?” Spike hadn’t looked up from his book. It looked like he’d already gotten almost halfway through the thick textbook during our conversation.

I think for a moment then I grin. “Hah! I broke Twilight! Whoo, point one for me!”

Spike replied laconically, “Not that hard, actually. I’m guessing it’s not an emergency, then? What did you drop by here for, anyways, looking to hang out?”

“Actually, I came by to show off my electrical powers to Twi. Oh, and give her this.” I place “Lookinglass Gates” on her head, balancing it behind her horn. It slides off her dome. several attempts later, I just hand it to Spike who looks it over. “Wow! A new copy. It’s hard to get a hold of these, they aren’t reprinted often, and none of the universities want to share theirs with, and I quote from a denial letter, a ‘mere backwater library’, regardless of the fact that this is the town that Celestia has visited more often in the last five centuries than any other.” Spike shrugged.

He turned it over a couple of times, tracing the blue-and-silver bands on the cover. “Wow, this is one of the Harper House’s prints; they use actual silver and platinum in these. How’d you afford this?”

“Got some money from Cadence while I was in Canterlot. She’s nice.”

Spike’s eyebrow-ridges raised. “Wow! I knew she was awesome, she used to baby-sit me, but I didn’t know she’d shell out sixteen-hundred bits on a present for Twilight!”

“Uh, she didn’t. She gave me fifty bits. Most of that was spent on toys at the mall. The book was... let’s see, if I have six bits now, and the toys were... I got the book for four bits.”

Spike’s jaw drops. “What, was the cashier desperate or something?”

“Maybe, he looked really happy someone was buying anything. Well, anything but another Daring Do. How do you ponies stand that tripe, anyway?”

Spike looked indignant. “Daring Do isn’t tripe! She’s an excellent adventurer! And she saves the world a bunch of times, and even fought off the Notsees.”

“Notsees?” Notsees? Natzis? God. I enjoy fiction but... wow, that’s lame.

“Yeah, they were this big nation of the Monkey tribes that tried taking over the world. Their leader, Azure Hitter, was really obsessed with technological progress, but it’s mostly just sci-fi stuff, like steam boilers running on some secret metal. There was even something about someplace called the ‘Crystal Empire’, but Twilight hasn’t read that far. It’s some mythical place I think the author made up for the series. Supposedly, this metal let of a secret fire, one of evil. Only crystal ponies were immune, which were ponies from the Crystal empire. It gets a little weird, but it’s a good series, I swear!”

“You shouldn’t swear, it’s not polite.” I smirk. “Anyway, I still don’t like it. So give the bookworm her gift when she wakes up. I’m gonna check on Ponyville, see if there’s anything I can help with.” As I leave, Spike waves me goodbye, and I see him pull out an origami crane, and prepare to carefully position it on Twilight’s horn. He’s probably had lots of practice at that.

Next Chapter: Chapter 43 Estimated time remaining: 29 Hours, 43 Minutes

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