by Colombiaguy

Chapter 25: Chapter 25- Life Talks and Crew Meeting.

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Ya know, I like learning stuff. It helps expand your view on life, gives you alternative perspectives, and tends to make you more adaptable. Plus, if you learn something interesting you can use it to impress your friends!

This lesson, however, was entirely different. While I needed to know this information, the reason for me knowing about changeling abilities and biology was so I could combat them. While the idea of... being a warrior and fighting an invasion force was sobering and disconcerting, I knew it was essential. I’d need to know as much as I could.

I got lucky with the changelings before. Retrospectively, had I not landed those adrenaline-laden punches when I was fighting those changelings a while back...; well, I wouldn’t be discussing this right now. Anyway, I’ll just put it into Cliff's notes. Disclaimer: I’m gonna paraphrase because Twilight was in full on teacher mode.

Okay, changelings are apparently a sort of hybrid pony. Basically, bug/pony. Their biology is reminiscent of bugs, exoskeletal exterior with all the squishy bits in the middle. They have been recorded as using basic telekinesis; but their main weapon of attack is a special eldritch fire (I’m very familiar with this) and their ability to disguise themselves. While it’s not completely known how this magic works, it is believed that their biology somehow works with their magic to allow them to change their appearance. I think Twilight said it was hypothesized that their unique magic allows them to replicate various coat colors along with manes and flank marks despite them having chitinous exoskeletons. The closest thing I can compare it to would be like how octopi can change their skin pigment and texture.

If I had to wager a guess, changeling magic allows them that extra degree of authenticity; but it’s also magic so I could be way off base. Maybe I’ll probe Twilight for some additional, non-changeling related information. I could learn some more about magic and how it works, something useful in case I have to take control of my... God. I can’t believe I’m thinking like this. That I have to think about potential combat and... potential death. Damn it, not even an hour ago I was hyped to see about my new exoskin and the awesomeness associated with it. Now I’m worrying about the invasion again. Sigh... I suppose this was coming. “So, big question. When you were researching changelings did you find a way to counteract the whole... mind scramble thing?”

Twilight mentally shifted through the knowledge she’d collected that evening, until she came upon what little she found. “Well, there are spells that can stop mental manipulation, but they’re a bit complex, and performing them on a large contingent of guards would be strenuous and time consuming. You said Cadence’s bridesmaids get controlled, right?”

“Yeah, Lyra, Minuette, and... erh... crap. I can’t remember the third one. I remember she’s a unicorn... and... uh... she has... a... I can’t remember.”

Twilight’s face scrunched up as she attempted to help jog my memory. “Can you remember her cutie mark?” Twilight asked.

I worked to try and remember what the mark looked like but I was having issues remembering it.“Uuuh... God, it’s like... marbles? No, candy? No... eeeh, I’m not sure.”

Twilight was, thankfully, understanding and took the info in stride. “Well, if they are Cadence’s bridesmaids then we’ll figure it out eventually. Hopefully, we can get a list of those attending the wedding and make sure we get the right ponies affixed with the spell. With any luck, it might help us oust any changelings hidden within Canterlot or find Queen Chrysalis.”

I suppose that was a possibility. If all changelings have the same green aura it shouldn’t be too hard to spot any that are a little stronger than most. “We could do a sweep of the castle with aura sight and look for any auras that stand out,” I added.

Twilight cocked an eyebrow in curiosity. “What do you mean auras that stand out?” she asked curiously.

“Changelings tend have a sort of vibrant green aura compared to most ponies, and they seem to be the same color as other changelings. So if there are a bunch of green auras in Canterlot, we know who’s a changeling,” I explained, but the moment I did, I noticed I hadn’t explained how I knew that.

This prompted Twilight to ask the obvious question, “You know what changelings look like?”


Oh Lord, I am a dingus. How am I gonna explain this? Oh, Celestia sent me on this mission to oust a supposed group of rebels that tried to kill her, but, in reality, it ended up being two changelings who had a bunch of ponies under their control and were using them to kill Celestia. Yeah, sure that’ll go off swimmingly. I’ve added enough problems as it is. “It’s a long story. Princess Celestia had me go on a mission a while ago. There happened to be two changelings there.”

And this opened the floodgates as Twilight's mind took off. I could practically feel her brain racing. "How reliable is your aura sight? Why haven't you already used it for this? Oh, wait, we just discovered that we can overlay our vision a few days ago. What is the range of your sight? Have you compared different race's auras? I need to review my notes. Does Princess Celestia know you can identify changelings? When—"

"Whoa! Slow down, I can't think as fast as you can!" Literally. I can't. She asked all that in about three seconds. "Let me see, my vision is perfectly accurate, but I don't have any knowledge base to make characterizations with any confidence. I don't think Celestia knows yet, I didn't figure everything out until afterwards last time. And, again, I don't have the knowledge base to make any calls. What else was there?"

Twilight referred to her neatly written list of questions... wait. Where did that come from? Did she pull out a scroll and quill, write down all her questions, AND my responses in the time it took me to answer?!

Someday Sir Bastard Quill... Someday...

Twilight's 'hmm' of thought brought my attention back to where it should be. "I think we should set up some experiments later to get the rest of this data. For now I think we should contact the Princess to make arrangements to sweep the castle for infiltrators. We can capture a changeling and, if we are lucky, put an end to the invasion before it begins."

Well, damn. Less than a minute after hearing about a potential skill and she has the bare bones of a workable plan. I'm pretty impressed. "Okay, one other thing. On the whole 'capture changelings' thing. What about... combat? Anything I should know?” I was hesitant to ask this particular question because I honestly was hoping I wouldn’t have to get into the fray again. But who am I kidding, this thing is going to happen regardless of my feelings. Best I learn what I can and, at the least, have some course of action aside from charging head long into the fray and hoping for the best.

Twilight was, unfortunately, receptive to my hesitance and inquired. “Dante... do you not want to fight?”

“Eeeh... it’s not that,” I replied with trepidation. “Just... How do I explain this?... Okay, back on my world, we’ve had wars. I won’t sugar coat it. When I was eighteen, I had the choice to join my country’s military or go to law school. I spent a long time going over this decision. I weighed the pros and cons, and what might happen with each choice. Ultimately, I chose law school because I rationalized that if I joined the military I’d have to fight and I’d have to kill. The idea of having to take a life really... it really disturbed me. I wasn’t sure if I could handle that guilt. With this whole invasion thing... I feel like I might have to do that or help others do it. I’m not sure if I can handle that.”

A sense of realization sort of flowed through Twilight and I even felt some empathy. “I understand. I had a similar conversation with myself and I’m glad that I have yet to... end a life, but... well,” Twilight hesitated as she took a calming breath. She’d been thinking about this too. “As much as I don’t want to harm others... I will also do everything in my power to protect those I care about.My parents, brother, mentor, and, apparently, my future sister-in-law are all in Canterlot. I will not do nothing just to avoid taking a life. I’m sorry if that’s a bit blunt, but it’s how I feel.”




Damn it. I knew she was gonna say that. Why’d I think she’d say anything else?... Hmmm. I don’t like that I might have to kill... but Twilight’s right. I’d feel worse sitting around doing nothing while lives were lost anyway. Hmmm, I need to think on this more. After letting out a mental sigh, I responded, “I-I... get it, Twilight. I do. And I appreciate the honesty. I’m not comfortable with the idea, and I doubt I ever will be I don’t think I can sit by either. I’m committed to this... I just... I got to figure out how to contribute to the cause.”

“It’s okay. I think we all are going to have to come to grips with that conflict eventually,” Twilight replied. She was empathetic, I could feel it, and she was also correct. Rainbow will probably be gung ho about it, no question. Applejack will probably follow Rainbow’s lead. Pinkie... erh...I’m not entirely sure. Maybe passive-aggressive party tactics? I feel sorry for Fluttershy in all this. Poor thing. Rarity... let’s mark that as another unknown. I doubt she’d be the first into the fray, but I’m also certain she knows how to handle herself. At least, I would hope. Do most unicorns know how to do pew-pew laser spells?

“Hey, Twilight question.”

“What is it?”

“Do unicorns learn defense spells? Like anti-personnel spells or the like?”

Twilight found the question a bit odd, but I think she caught on to why I was asking. “Well, most spell control and basic magic training is done by parents. Foals usually learn how to rein in their magic around the same time they learn to speak. That’s usually where they learn basic levitation. If the parents see fit, they might teach their foals other spells or if the foal is old enough to read they might learn some on their own. But to answer your question, it is dependent on the unicorn. Some might, others might not.”

Hmmm, interesting. “What about Rarity? She know any defense spells?”

Twilight had to focus on this a bit. She was going through a bunch of memories to see if Rarity ever mentioned or openly used any kind of protective or offensive magic. “I’m positive she can use a neutralization spell. It’s fairly basic, but a solid hit can knock a pony out for a good while. If anything I know she can put some force behind her telekinesis. Why are you asking?”

Saw that question coming, “I... I want to help when this all goes down. However, I know next to nothing about how to fight like this. If I were still human, I might be able to hold my own in a one to one fight. But being like this and with an invasion force on the way, I got nothing aside from wild swipes and maybe some armor. If I’m gonna be of any use to you, the girls, or even the guards I’m going to need some training.”

I felt some gratitude from Twilight for this statement and she was pretty happy that I was willing to offer assistance. “I understand, Dante. I’m probably going to request a few defensive spells from Canterlot along with some other spells that might help. If you want I can-...” Twilight suddenly went silent as a new thought invaded her mind. I caught part of what she was thinking about. Something about her brother and me, but it quickly shifted to another thought that seemed more important... or viable, I’m not entirely sure. Either way, she quickly came back with a question. “Dante, you planned to send another letter to the princesses about this new ability, correct?”

“Yeeeeeah. That was the deal. Why?” I countered trying to figure out where she was going with this and how it connected with the snippet I caught before.

“Well, I was thinking. You could ask them to find you a teacher. In regards to combat, that is.”

Oh, that could work. I mean, there has to be someone who trains new recruits and the like, but could they develop a way for me to fight? I’m still having a hard time determining how I’d assist in combat. I sort of just ad-libbed my fight with the changelings before and even then I only used my tendrils to chuck that one douche nozzle. Still feel a little guilty but not enough to remember what his name was. Sorry (not sorry), he was a dick.

“Yeah, I had considered it before. Might be better to do that sooner rather than later. Just... I guess I was just holding it off. Damn, mind if we cut the lecture short so I can get that letter out before I forget?... Or find a way to talk myself out of it.” I was being pretty sincere about that last bit. I had been dreading this moment, having to accept that this would be coming... but... I was going to have to accept this eventually. Best I accept it now rather than later.

Twilight agreed and took us to her research table so I could write my letter. Once again I did battle with Quillian, the Bastard of all Quills, and his cohort, Parch Ment, the basic. They both saw their end a little faster than before, but their resistance still caused me no amount of frustration. I made sure to include the newest ability and my current dilemma. Eventually the letter was finished, but we had to wait a bit for Spike to send the letter off. He had gone into the shower while the lecture was going on. When he finished with his liquid cleansing ritual, he was more than happy to send off the letter to Luna. After that, we sort of realized that it was getting late and decided it’d be good to prepare for bed, but not before Twilight made some notes on my newest abilities.

“Would you mind too much? I just want to get the visual stuff down first so I won’t have to worry about the physical effects tomorrow,” Twilight asked as she grabbed quill and parchment from her bedside with her magic. I wasn’t feeling that tired myself and I was kinda curious to see Twilight’s reaction to having the exo-skin on her as well. So I accepted. Twilight nestled herself into bed and held out her forelegs. I let my tendrils (sans talons) produce and enveloped them. She let out a slight shudder as they wrapped around her legs, but once they were there she quickly adjusted to their presence. Twilight was intrigued by the feeling and made some details notes about them.

Symbio ability: exo (until further notice)

Ability causes tendrils to adhere to host’s appendage. Tendril seems to follow the major muscle groups of designated appendage. (May possibly affect stamina of host- to be determined)

Twilight took a break to look at the addition to her legs again. She was apparently curious of the lack of sharp things at the end of her hoof. “Dante, how do you activate the claws... or talons?”

“Uh, it’s like flexing. So... erh... crap, this was easier with Celestia... eeerh. Try... like...” I hit a wall. I wasn’t entirely sure how to equate this to someone without digits. “Okay, I’m at a loss for how to explain this. With ponies with wings, it’s easier to explain. I’m not sure how to explain this to anyone else. For me, it’s like making a claw with my hand.”

Twilight wasn’t quite getting my explanation, so I tried a different approach. “Okay, relax your left leg and I’ll show you.”

Twilight nodded and did as I asked, allowing me a free tendril to create. With my tendril produced, I held it out in front of Twilight. “Okay, so this is normal. Now, I curl my fingers like this.” I let my digits curl in without letting them go rigid. “Nothing happens, but if I flex them so they go rigid.” Apply pressure and... “The talons come out. Does that help?”

Twilight watched and listened as I did my demonstration and did her best to apply it to her right leg. She tried various flexes to attempt to get the talons to produce but was getting no results. After her final attempt she let the appendage flop onto the bed in annoyance.“It’s still not working. Can they not be activated unless you do it?”

That might be a possibility. I should have had Rainbow try this earlier, but hindsight and all that right? Hmmmm... okay, let’s try this idea. “Okay, what about... like a cat?”

“A... cat?” Twilight inquired.

I don’t think she understood what I was getting at. I did my best to elaborate, “Like you know how a cat has claws, but they only come out when they flex or paw at something? Try like that.”

Twilight envisioned what I was suggesting and I think it clicked in some way. She looked to her right leg once again and held it up. I felt Twilight envisioning her hoof as a cat paw. She knew the mechanics of how a cat’s paw operates and I felt her working out how to replicate such an action herself. She rolled her wrist a bit until she felt something click. No, not the talons. They don’t click, it’s more like a... crackle. Anyway, it was more like she got the idea of how this would work. She extended her hoof until it was pointing. Then... she made a grabbing motion and with an all too familiar crackle, the black gave way to silvery-grey claws. Their appearance made Twilight a little giddy and she had to actively muffle her growing squeal of excitement. Hehe, Twilight is so proud of herself, it’s adorable. She jotted down some more notes on her parchment while taking occasional glances at her newly acquired claws.

Exo ability seems to grant an additional ability, named claws due to their appearance. The claws do not seem to be at the disposal of the Symbio but rather to the host. There are five per appendage, four at the front and one on the side of the host’s hoof. It is similar to the claws of feline; however, the dew claw seems to be more articulate and can bend inward to allow for grasping.

Note to be amended later: claws look to be about twenty-five centimeters long. Will measure later for exact length and width.

Currently, the durability of the claws has yet to be determined. First hoof experience gives the impression that they are quite tough and durable, but until an adequate test can be devised for the claws to determine their strength and/or durability.

Twilight put the quill down again and found herself examining the claws a bit more. “This is... a very odd sensation,” Twilight thought as she flexed her new appendages a bit. Boy, this is a good starting point for later. Maybe she won’t freak out as much when she goes to the human world. Anyway, Twilight decided to test the dexterity of her claw-fingers. She floated her quill into the clawed hoof and just sort worked it with the claws. She did fumble it a bit but eventually she figured out how to handle it... and she was really quick learner. She even figured out how to twiddle the quill in her claws... okay, that’s just not fair. I do battle with a quill and parchment, but little miss fancy britches twirls them around with ease. Bah... At least I’ll win when it comes time to stand on two legs.

I found myself in a rather... precarious situation. Hanging off the side of a rather large skyscraper looking down at the bustling city before me. I didn’t readily recognize the city and I don’t really think I’ve ever been here before. Regardless, the only thing keeping me from falling were the claws and talons I had lodged into the skyscraper. How I got myself into this stupid of a situation, I don’t know, but I’m glad my talons were working. I could probably scale my way to a safer spot... or... I could do some superhero style shit.

I’m not sure what tempted me to do so, but I decided to release all but one of my talons to let myself swing freely from my one active clawed hand. Using the momentum of the swing, I released the remaining talon so, now, I was moving sideways while also falling. Before I gained too much downward momentum, I activated my talons and claws again to lock into the building again. I took some glass with me as my momentum kept me moving downward, but I did eventually come to a stop.

Ehehe, oh my God, that was stupid... let’s go again. Again, I let myself swing a bit before throwing myself across the building, but this time I got a little more adventurous. I used the talons on my feet to kick off the glass and move me sideways a bit better. I found it pretty effective in moving across the side of this building and I was digging this mode of transportation. Better stop before I take this too far... or ramp it up. Hmm, I feel like I’m not making some good decisions right now... but honestly, I’m feeling like a beast. I’mma climb this thing and-

*Knock Knock*


*Knock Knock*

Who the hell is knocking way up here? I looked into the window pane I was currently using as a perch to see a familiar looking alicorn waving at me... Luna? The hell she doing in... wait. I’ve done this before... well, not the skyscraper thing, but this particular conversation with myself. Oh... I’m dreaming. That’s why this is familiar.

“Hey, Luna,” I greeted the alicorn, along with a taloned wave.

“Good night too you, Dante,” Luna replied with a wave. “How do you fare tonight?”

“Not too bad,” I responded with a growing trepidation. “Did you get a chance to read that letter I sent you?”

Luna nodded, “Indeed, mayhaps you’d prefer to discuss this in a less hazardous location?”

I couldn’t agree more, now how to get inside? Hmm. Oh right, dreams. Fuck logic. Some applied imagination turned my talons into burning razors that easily melted the glass of the building. After cutting a nice circle out of the glass and slipping inside, I decided to get to the point. “So... what do you think? Know anyone who’d be willing to teach me to fight?”

“We discussed this with Tia. She believes it may be a good idea; however, the task would difficult due to having to find a way to train you and whoever you learn to fight with. Considering the nature of your species, we believe you should learn to fight with a partner since this will make you both a formidable team. Would you find this acceptable?”

A partner? I can see where they’re coming from and honestly it made sense. Although... a partner sounded kinda... intimate. I mean, it could be like a buddy cop kinda thing... but considering I haven’t met many stallions it could lead to some... ahem... hint hint, wink wink, nudge nudge, moments. Hey, I’m trying not to be graphic, y’all got imaginations. You go to your corners and I’ll stay here. “Well, yeah, but... if I did take a partner, who would it be? Someone in Canterlot? One of the girls?”

“That would depend on you and who you choose. Would you prefer to be paired with the Elements? Or with a soldier?” Luna responded.

Well... uuuh ... huh... Who would I want to be paired with? I mean, I mostly hang with Twilight and Rainbow most of the time. I could understand Rainbow since we’ve been teaming up for the Nightmare Night scheme, but I’m pretty chill with Twilight and she’s pretty quick at learning stuff. Eeerh. Hmm. Better get an outside opinion. “Well, who do you think, Luna? I mean Rainbow and Twilight are both okay in my book. I know Twilight is on board for sure and I’m positive Rainbow would be willing to help. I’m just not sure which would be better.”

Luna tapped a hoof on her chin as she considered the question. I conjured a nice sofa and replaced the partially melted window with a solid wall. Of course, I made sure the couch was comfy, and it had the right amount of cushion so I sank just enough.

“Mayhaps both,” Luna responded after some contemplation.

“Both?” I responded with a bit of surprise.

“Well, in truth, a third wouldn’t be bad either,” she added.

“Okay, hold up. Hold up. What are you suggesting?” I asked in desperate need of an explanation.

Luna made herself a sofa and took a seat as she explained her reasoning. “Your abilities have an incredible versatility. Limiting them to a singular pony or even a singular tribe would be a waste,” Luna explained in an even tone. “So, I suggest training with both the Element of Magic and the Element of Loyalty along with another, preferably a earth pony. This would allow you the opportunity to train with all three and learn how best to work with them.”

I was kinda dumbfounded by how simple but brilliant the idea was. Plus, it’d give me the opportunity to interact with other ponies. Woo hoo! “That’s a good point, Luna.”

“We thank you,” Luna replied with a small bow of her head.

Thinking on it more, training with the girls would save me the hassle of traveling back and forth to Canterlot. Actually, that’s assuming. Better get clarification. “So... if I train with the Elements, would we still need to go to Canterlot to train?”

Luna gave me a dismissive shake of her head. “Nay, my sister and I agree that this would garner too much attention. We are still unsure if changelings still wander Canterlot. Our sister and I shall find a teacher and send them to Ponyville. Until then, we would suggest finding somepony you trust to be a combative partner.”

Good point. However, whoever I pick, I’m going to have to tell them about the invasion. Twilight already knows so that will make things a bit easier. Telling Rainbow will definitely take some tact. Uuugh. Nothing is ever simple. “Hmmm, I’ll have to discuss this with Twilight,” I responded. “I’m also going to have to explain to Rainbow and whoever else I involved in this why they are preparing for combat.”

Luna nodded in understanding.“Understood. There is still time. Either Tia or we shall inform you when we have located a suitable teacher. Until then, we would suggest not worrying about the matter.”

I nodded, “Yeah. I guess so.” Actually, I should get some additional input. “Say, Luna. Can I ask you something?”

“Of course. What plagues your mind?” Luna replied with a pleasant enough smile.

“You’ve... engaged in combat before, right?” I was partially hesitant to ask this question because I feared I might step on some toes... so to speak.

Luna seemed momentarily put off, but offered her response with a bit of sullenness. “Yes... I have been in a few combative engagements. Why do you ask?”

I let out a sigh as I spoke, “This whole invasion has got me worrying about what I might have to do. I’m... I might... gah. I’m not certain if I can handle taking a life or helping someone do so.” I paused for a moment before I continued, “I talked about this with Twilight and she made a really compelling argument, but... I figured I’d get some additional input, ya know?”

I saw the realization in Luna’s eyes as she mouthed a silent ‘Oh’. “I see what you are worried about. Sister and I have... contended with this many times in the past,” Luna spoke in a softer tone than usual and there was a serious undertone to her words. “We long since agreed to do what must be done to protect our subjects... Even if that meant ending lives to do so,” Luna began, her works heavy in both tone and severity. “However, we do not take that decision lightly. Tia and... I often deliberated on the best course of action for long periods of time and sometimes... in the midst of battle.” There was a look on Luna’s face as she mentioned this, it was grim. I wasn’t sure what she was thinking about, but it was clear that is wasn’t a good one. As much as I wanted to ask what she was thinking about, I also felt like that might be pushing into some more uncomfortable territory than was necessary. I let her continue. “I... would suggest thinking on what it is you are fighting for and considering what might happen if you choose not to.”


More valid points. God... hmmmm. I really need to do some soul searching on this. Long and thorough soul searching. “Thanks, Luna. I appreciate your input and candor. I’m just having a hard time accepting that death is a very real... probably inevitable thing, during the invasion,” I finished with a long sigh and let myself sink into the sofa.

“I can sense the fear in your mind. This truly weighs heavily on you, doesn’t it?” Luna asked in a soft and concerned tone.

I nodded deftly. She was in my head again, but I wasn’t bothered by it. I’m sure my tone was just as good an indicator that I wasn’t “pleased” with this particular thought. At this point, I was tired of thinking about it, time for subject change. “Let’s forget about that for now. I got an update on the Nightmare Night plan.”

Luna gave me an assuring smile, and allowed for the topic change to happen. “Very well, were you successful in recruiting the fillies?”

I nodded, but made sure to add an important detail. “Yeah, they’re on board. Rainbow convinced them to help out, but there is a slight problem.”

Luna cocked an eyebrow.

“Sweetie Belle is kinda... scared of me,” I explained. “She’s still willing to help, but I want to give her some space until she’s more comfortable with me around.”

Luna nodded, “I see. I shall be certain to keep this in mind.”

“Yeah, we talked things out to where she’ll participate, I just want her to get accustomed to me.”

She nodded once more with an uneasy smile, “I am certain she will come to understand you are... not something to be feared.”

Now, I’m a fairly observant person. And I might be a little off base on this, but that sounded really insecure. It’s kinda hard to tell when I’m not attached. I suppose it’s something that we... actually, never mind. One pony being scared of me is not the same as Luna’s situation. “I’m sure she’ll come around,” I offered lightheartedly. “It’ll just take some time.”

Luna’s expression changed and she seemed a little more upbeat. With a bit of a chuckled huff, she got up from her couch. “Well, no more of these... unpleasant feelings. This is wonderful news. Shall we discuss how we shall proceed?”

I popped off my couch and gave a peppy thumbs up. “Sure. Where do we start?”

Luna smirked knowingly and produced a dream door. “We begin with our other cohort.”

Second coho-? ... OOOOOOH! “You want to talk to Rainbow?” I asked with a twinge of excitement. Rainbow had seen my dreams before, but I had yet to see hers. As a bonus, we’d get to talk a face-to-face... kinda. Close as I’ll ever get anyway.

“Indeed, I do. Come along, Dante,” Luna beckoned before creating a doorway that led the way into the Matrix hallway of dreams. This was gonna be fun. I have to devise some way to mess with her. But how? Hmmm, meh, I’ll work it out on the fly.

We moved into the hallway and proceeded until we arrived an ornate... oak door? I’m not good at identifying wood outside pine, so I’m guessing. Anyway, we arrived at the door of unknown lumber type, and she opened it. Upon it opening, we both got hit with a serious blast of wind. Luna took it pretty well... I got knocked on my ass. “What the hell?” I groaned as I got back on my feet. I looked at the door to see nothing but pure sky. I took a cautious look through the door to see nothing but clouds. The ground was far below our position was the green ground. A little more searching I spotted a few brightly colored specks streaking across the sky. I’ll give you a guess which one stood out among the rest. That one rainbow streak burning past all the others had to be the owner of this particular dream. Then I heard something that shed some light on what was going on in this dream.

“And Rainbow Dash passes yet another racer! The plucky racer from Ponyville is showing her skills today and doesn’t look to be slowing down!” a very energetic announcer... announced.

“Well, that explains the situation,” I quipped. Luna gave me an amused look.

“Would you like to go meet up with her?” Luna asked.

I thought about this. I was in magical dream world. While I could easily drop in as I was. Human with bladed feet and hands, I wanted this to be way more interesting. Hmm... oh... oooooooh. That could work. Hehe. I’m gonna need a little help on this. “Hey, Luna. I need you to help me make a disguise.”

Luna must have been listening to me think because she was wearing the same cheeky grin I was. “I’d be happy to oblige.”

After a little bit of mental finagling (yes, it’s a word) my disguise was in place. Rather than human, I was now the visage of a muscular light blue pegasus with a jet black mane and tail. I didn’t have a destiny symbol, but I was perfectly fine with that. With my ponysona in place Luna and I split up. Luna went ahead of me in stealth mode, apparently she can sort of “blend” into dreams. Don’t ask me how it works, magical alicorn dream magic. I took off into the air, making sure to close the door behind me. I’m considerate like that. So with that done, I used my imagination to push myself through the air at speeds that easily allowed me to catch up with the group of specks. As I approached, I noted the group was comprised of a bunch of pegasi wearing different... flight suits? They looked like the suits the Wonderbolts wear but with differentiating color schemes. Within the crowd, I could see Rainbow juking through the other pegasi and quickly working her way to the front. I was going to be right behind her. I poured on the speed as I entered the cluster, most of the other ponies were jostling for a better position. This opened up some opportunities for me to blaze through. Thankfully, skill can be easily replaced with imagination. If I tried this in real life I’d more than likely crash and burn... or crash and experience the ill effects of gravity. Either way, yay, dream logic!

I ducked, dodged, and twisted my way through the crowd until there were only a few front run-... flyers, the Wonderbolts and Rainbow Dash. Hmmm, might have to change the plans up a little. Still, gotta have my fun. I pumped the wings a bit harder and began to catch on the front runners. I kept my speed just behind Rainbow and made my presence known, “Yo, Dash! Right behind ya!” I altered my voice just a bit so she wouldn’t recognize me immediately. Just a little extra baritone seemed to do the trick.

Rainbow turned to see me burning around a Wonderbolt racer. She flashed a cocky smirk as she turned back to the path ahead of her. “Good luck catching up! I’m not losing this race without a fight!” she called back defiantly. Oooh... She’s right about one thing. She’s gonna fight. But I’m gonna cheat. Again, if this weren’t a dream I’d probably have zero chance of even being close to first place... but dreams make us all amazing.

I cranked up the speed once again so I was slowly inching up on Rainbow. I didn’t want to pass her but I wanted her to sweat a little. “On your right!” I called out once more. This time Rainbow didn’t look as cocky, now she looked a little concerned. I shot her my own cocky grin and stayed creeping up on her right side. Rainbow didn’t like that one bit and cut me off. I was forced to back off lest I crash into her. Not a problem, I’m looking to mess with her a little. I let myself slow down a bit and waited.

Soon a hard turn came up and I saw my opportunity. As we came into the turn, I disappeared. Not really, I just blended into the background, but for all intents and purposes let’s just say I did. So with that done, I gave myself the needed speed boost to get in front of Rainbow. Not a whole lot, just enough so she’d wonder when and how I got there. I’m gonna Looney Toon the shit out of Rainbow.

So sure enough, when I did reappear in front of her, Rainbow was clearly confused. I just held my pace and let her pass me. Once she passed me, I repeated the process. Each time she passed me she looked more and more confused, and progressively more pissed. After the fourth time she actually stopped. “Okay! How are you getting ahead of me?! You can’t be that fast!” she yelled in apparent annoyance.

I prepared to retaliate. Snark cannons to max! “Oh, you must have met my brothers. They doing okay?” I responded innocently.

“Four brothers who all look alike?” Rainbow said with a less than amused tone. “Cut the crap! How are you getting ahead of me?”

“Okay, fine. I used a really big slingshot to shoot me ahead of all the racers.”
Rainbow got angrier. “Grrrr! Stop it! I want a straight answer!”

Hmmm... Should I poke the angry bear? Or should I not poke the angry bear? “Okay, okay! Jeez. Can’t take a freakin’ joke,” I yelled. “If you really want to know so damn badly, I’ll tell you.”

Rainbow crossed her forelegs as she listened for my response. She was still seething, clearly, but at least she was giving me the time to respond.

“I just tapped my hooves together, yelled ‘meep meep’, and got ahead of you.” I poked the bear.

Rainbow yelled in frustration and grabbed me. “Who are you?!”

I started laughing. “Oh come on, Rainbow. You saying you don’t recognize me?” I said through my chuckles.

“Can’t you give me a freaking straight answer, feather brain?!”

“I am. Kinda. It’s your old pal, Dante!” I finally responded with my best “ta-da” pose.

Rainbow hesitated for a moment as she looked me over. “What?”

“Yeup! I got a little help to get here,” I said with a grin. “Hey Luna! You watching?”

The sound of laughter suddenly erupting from behind Rainbow got her to turn around. Luna was slowly materializing behind her and was clearly having herself a good hard laugh. “With rapted attention. Well done,” she replied with a giggle.

“Princess Luna?! Wait, how?” Rainbow sputtered before whipping around. “But you don’t sound like-”

“Like me?” I finished in my own voice, this time. “Welcome to dream logic, my chromatic friend.”

“I-... Dream logic?” Rainbow was clearly trying to process what was happening. “This... is a dream?”

“Indeed, Element of Loyalty. I was discussing the progress of our Nightmare Night plans and I wished to thank you personally for your help,” Luna stated with a small bow.

Rainbow released me as she tried to figure out what to do. “N-no problem. Anything for a good scare,” Rainbow finally responded.

“That’s what I figured,” I interjected as I floated my way to Rainbow’s side.

“So... wait. You brought Dante here just to thank me?” Rainbow inquired.

Luna shot her the knowing smile that I’d gotten accustom to seeing. “Not entirely. I brought Dante along so we might discuss the next part of the Slendermare plan. This will make it a easier to discuss things and get input.” Luna then used her magic to alter the surroundings to resemble the track of the Everfree Forest. “I reviewed the locations you marked and I think I have discovered how to proceed.” Luna highlighted a few of the locations I showed her the night before. “These points offer excellent potential. Each point has foliage to provide cover; however, I believe each point should be tested to ensure you and Dante can perform your duties without being spotted or heard. This shall be thy next course of action.”

I nodded. It wasn’t a particularly hard task, but I could see why it was important. No point in going at this if we get spotted every time we move. “Sounds like a good starting point. We may have to have one of the crusaders play lookout to see if they can spot us,” I offered.

“Yeah, but won’t this be at night?” Rainbow countered. “It’ll be pretty hard to see us anyway.”

Right. Forgot about that. “Maybe we can test that ourselves then. Maybe Twilight could-” I got cut off by Luna before I could even finish.

“There will be no need for that. I’d be happy to offer my assistance in this matter. I would like to work with the both of you on positioning.”

Both Rainbow and I snapped to Luna. “Really?” we responded simultaneously.

Luna giggled. “Yes. Both of you have been very helpful in making this plan come to fruition. 'Tis time I got... my hooves dirty? Is that correct?”

I poofed a big neon thumbs up sign while Rainbow just said, “Yep.”

“Very well. Then I shall come at the crest of night to assist in this regard.”

“So what about the crusaders? They’re expecting an update tomorrow,” Rainbow chimed in.

Luna nodded and turned toward the forest around us. “I would recommend walking them through the path and getting them accustomed to ducking into various bushes and ‘strike points’.” Luna made sure to highlight the points she was talking about. “It may be necessary to switch up our actions based on the group going through. Be sure they are capable of going in and out of locations and getting back to the trail if necessary.”

Rainbow and I nodded. A simple enough task and it’ll ensure the kids are on their toes... hooves... ya know what I mean. So, that took care of the basics. “Sounds good,” I replied. “If anything we could do some exercises with the girls to make sure they can duck and dodge out of sight.”

“Oh yeah. I bet I could figure out some maneuvers for them to practice. Maybe some signals to let them know when to get out?” Rainbow offered.

Luna seemed partially unsure about this. She ended up putting it to the side, “Let us wait on that. There is no need to overly complicate things so soon. If needed we shall implement such things.”

“Okay, fine,” Rainbow surrendered.

Luna giggled. “Very well then. My little... associates, you have your assignments. I shall return upon nightfall to assist in the evening test. Until then, I shall leave you both to converse, if you so desire.”

I shot a glance at Rainbow, who was already eyeing me in a curious fashion. I wasn’t opposed to the idea. The dream world was the only place I could talk face to face to anyone anyway. If Rainbow was down to clown in dreamland for a bit so was I. “What do you say, Rainbow? Wanna chat for a bit, one-on-one?”

Rainbow barely hesitated. “Uh, yeah! I got a bunch of questions for you,” she replied enthusiastically.

I smiled. Should have figured. “You heard her, Luna. We’re gonna chat for a bit. Thanks for the opportunity.”

Luna smiled as well and conjured a dream door for herself. “Always a pleasure, Dante. See you upon the morrow. You as well, Rainbow Dash.” She gave a friendly wave. Rainbow and I returned the waved and Luna took her leave. Now it was just Rainbow and I. “Sooo,” I offered while floating on my back. “Questions?”

“Yeah, I was gonna ask, If this how you’ve been talking to Princess Luna the whole time?’”

I nodded. “Yep, pretty much. I send her a letter before bed and we go over everything in the dream world. So far it’s been pretty useful. I can show Luna everything we’ve done and give her direct reports of any of my abilities.”

“Huh, really? You two been doing this often?”

I gave a so-so motion with my hoof. “We’ve been doing our meet ups for a few days now. It’s been pretty fun. Definitely nice to have a more face to face conversation.”

Rainbow smirked. “Yeah, it’s sort of weird but at least I can see you rather than just hearin’ ya in my head.”

I gave my own smirk. “Yeah, it is nice. Better than being the omnipresent voice. Feels a little more natural too.”

Rainbow chuckled, “Yeah, I bet.”

“So, excited for tomorrow... or today? Not sure which it is at this point.”

Rainbow beamed at this. “Totally! I mean, if this works like Twilight thinks it will, I might be faster than any other flier out there. Or maybe something more awesome could happen!” Aww, she’s getting all excited.

“Yeah, yeah. Gonna be Ms. Darkflyer all over Equestria,” I quipped sarcastically.

Rainbow chuckled, “Yeah, but we’re gonna look so cool!”

Or scary as hell. I know ponies like Rainbow and Scoots don’t particularly care what I make others look like, but others aren’t so accepting. Probably good that some of them are pretty tolerant of what I can do. “For sure,” I replied. “So... uh. Anything else you wanted to ask?”

Rainbow looked at me weirdly. “Wh-... say? Did- cat- hat.”

What? I barely... oh wait. This happened before. We must be waking up. “We’re waking up!” I attempted to relay, but I think I only made it to “We” before the dream was over.

I awoke to the sound of... crunching? No, munching. That is definitely munching. Gaining a little more sense of my surroundings, I discovered I was in the kitchen with Twilight. She was eating some cereal... tasted kinda like... sugar wheats? It wasn’t my usual prefered cereal but it tasted pretty good. Probably better than the pop tarts I was accustomed to eating when heading out the door for work. Well, since I’m up anyway, might as well announce myself. “Morning, Twilight. How’d ya sleep?” I greeted in the most cordial, if somewhat still groggy, tone. My mental processes weren’t exactly at their fullest just yet.

“I slept well enough, a few of the things you told me yesterday were still on my mind, but otherwise it was pleasant.” There wasn’t anything harsh in her tone, if anything she was just being honest. In truth, I couldn’t blame her. If anyone dropped that kind of info on me, I’m sure it’d plague me for a few nights.

“Yeah, again sorry about that, but it had to be said,” I replied. “At least, we can capitalize on the info right?”

Twilight nodded. “Oh yes, I’m not complaining... just it’s a bit to take in.”

“I feel you. So... what time is it anyway?”

Twilight looked to a nearby wall that had a hanging clock. It looked to be around nine. Still a bit early in the morning. I know Rainbow said she’d be coming by early, but I think we still have time to get that equipment Twilight wanted bring to Applejack’s. Best see what Twilight wants to do. “So, do you want to start moving the gear over to Applejack’s or was there something else you needed to do?” I asked curiously.

Twilight looked away from the clock and then back to the foyer. After a few seconds of thought and a quick spoonful of cereal, she told me the game plan. “Let’s wait for Spike to get up and we can make sure we have everything we need. I want to have the right equipment with us, so I can get accurate data. If anything, there is something I’d like to try while we wait, if you’re willing to try it.”

Try something? Color me interested. “What did you have in mind?” I asked curiously.

Twilight put another spoonful of cereal into her mouth as she explained, “Well, it’s a bit of a test before we head head out. I was curious about this new ‘exo’ ability and how universal it is.”

“Universal? As in, if I can affect other limbs?”

Twilight nodded as she swallowed the cereal in her mouth. “Exactly. I suspect that symbios might adapt to hosts on a more physical level than I initially suspected. I wanted to test it before we head out to get some more hooves on experience.”

Hmmm, sound interesting, but a fair warning is necessary. “Okay, I don’t mind... but you do know that... there is some... erh... ‘unintentional grabbing’,” I did my best to be straightforward... without sounding pervy. Although, in hindsight, there aren’t many ways to say that without it having some perverse context.

Twilight blushed before giving a forced cough. “Well, a little discomfort for the advancement of knowledge is well worth the few seconds of awkwardness.”

I guess that’s true, not saying I’m okay with it. I am a gentleman after all... right? ...Yeah, just being a courteous gentleman. That’s what I’m doing. “If you say so, just let me know if it goes too far okay? I don’t choose to make that happen. It just does. Plus... I really don’t need things to be awkward between us, ya know.”

Twilight chuckled nervously, “Yes... I suppose you are right, but again, as long as we are learning something, it’s nothing serious.” She took, what looked like, her last spoonful of cereal before taking a quick swig of the leftover milk. It was a little sweet, but not by much. Not too bad, in my opinion. “Just give me a second to clean up and we’ll get started okay?”

I said it was fine and waited while Twilight finished the rest of her breakfast. After that, we made our way out of the toward the library foyer. We went just underneath the nook where Twilight’s bed was to find a small hidden door that led to a lower section of the library. This was pretty well hidden. I hadn’t even noticed this here until Twilight showed me. It’s placed at this weird angle where it just sort of blends in unless you look at it from the right direction.

We made our way down the staircase behind the door until we reached the basement. It was... oddly bigger than I suspected. It was similar to the main lobby with books lining the walls, but the room was surrounded with gadgets, tech, and beakers. It looked like a mad scientist’s lab, but it was way more... messy. The three desks I could see were lined with books, notes, and what I assumed were old chemical spills.

Twilight noticed me observing the surroundings and gave a sheepish chuckle. “Sorry about the mess. Spike has been saying I should really tidy up down here.”

I wasn’t too bothered by the mess really. I was more trying to figure out what half these gadgets were. I spotted the bizarro metal helmet Twilight used to try and measure Pinkie’s Pinkie Sense, and what I assumed was an electrocardiogram. I’d watched enough House, M.D to recognize one. The other devices were too complicated or too foreign for me to discern their purpose. “It’s no biggie. I’m just trying to figure out what half this stuff is. Some of it is familiar,” I responded honestly. “I mean, it’s cool to see something familiar. Just some of this stuff... wow.”

Twilight brightened a little at the mention of some familiarity. “You see some familiar technology? Which ones?” she asked in curiousity.

I produced a tendril to point to the metal helmet. “You used that to test Pinkie once, right?”

Twilight nodded with an involuntary eye twitch. “Yes... I did.”

I then pointed to a familiar graphing device with a half dozen cables attached, “That sort of looks like an EKG.”

Twilight brightened, “You have those on Earth?”

“Yeah, it tracks your heart rate, right?”

Twilight smiled, “Pretty much. It measures the electrical signals running through your heart to determine its rate and rhythm.”

Huh. Didn’t know that. “Cool. I actually didn’t know that’s how it worked.”

Twilight smiled and a noted a little bit of pride cross her mind. “Anything else look familiar?”

I took another peek around, and noticed something else that looked familiar. “Isn’t that device used to measure wing power?” I asked pointing to a device on a shelf with a four fan blades attached to it.

Twilight nodded again. “Indeed it is. How’d you know?”

I hesitated momentarily. Could I let that slip? It’s kinda inconsequential. I don’t think it’ll hurt. “Cloudsdale has to refresh its water, right?”

“Yes, but that’s not for a while.” She paused as she thought about when the next time Cloudsdale was supposed to come around again. “I don’t think it’s scheduled to come around until next year.”

“Well, it’s coming past Ponyville at some point and the town will be responsible to help refuel it. You’ll use that tool to gauge the pegasi who volunteer to help.”

I felt a moment of conflict pass through through Twilight’s mind. What it pertained to, I couldn’t say for sure. “Well, good to know the tool will be put to additional use,” Twilight said with a wry chuckle. “Haven’t really used it since I tested Rainbow’s Sonic Rainboom.” She smiled before putting us on track with the original plan. “So let’s see about running some quick tests.”

She looked around the room until she spotted what she was looking for. It was this odd little box with three wires hanging off the side and some metal bar jutting out the side. With a small amount of magic, she pulled the box to her and carried it to a nearby table.

Naturally, I had to inquire what this device was and what it did. Twilight explained, “This is a Thaumaturgy Gauge. It’s used to measure magical power and it is what will be taking measurements for this experiment.”

“Okay.” I had a sneaking suspicion about what she wanted to test. How this was going to work, I don’t know, but I was interested in testing it. “I’m guessing you want to see if my exoability can extend to a unicorn horn?”

Twilight nodded as she unfurled some of the wiring to reveal two small pads and a wire with a ring at the end. “Precisely!” she stated exuberantly while applying the two round nodes to her temples and the ring to her horn. “So, here’s how this works. It measures a unicorn’s magic on a three point scale.” She paused as she pulled a small ball from a nearby shelf with her magic. It looked about the size of a softball. “The first point is power. This ball is mostly hard, dense rubber with a small device in the center. I’m going to squeeze it with my magic and the device will record the power output.” Twilight unfurled the wires and began to head to a small cabinet that contained some rolls of paper along with some quills, inkwells, and some pieces of parchment. She grabbed one of each and brought them to the table along with the device.

“Okay. That’s pretty straightforward. What are the other two points?” I asked with a certainty I knew where she was going with this.

“So, the device within the ball is going to be taking various measurements while we’re performing the test. When I apply pressure, the device will record the pressure applied in PSI.”

“Uh... okay.” I wasn’t sure if I liked where this was going. I was following so far... but I sensed math ahead. God, don’t let there be math. I suck at math.

“Meanwhile, the gauge will take the information down. We’ll need those to calculate power and a few other points.” Oh God, that sounds like math. “But we’ll get to that later.” Oh, thank God. “Anyway, the gauge will start a timer when I start applying my magic to the ball. That will give us the second point of the test, duration. The moment my magic falters, the timer will stop.” Well, at least that sounds simple. At least time is an easy thing to measure.

“Okay, so power and duration. What’s the last point?”

Twilight smiled as she tapped the ring around her horn. “This ring will help us get the last point, efficiency!”

Huh? “Efficiency? I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”

Twilight tapped her chin as she tried to figure out the best way to explain this. “Well, when magic is used there is sometimes a certain amount that is lost through ‘burn off’. Essentially, some magical energy can be lost if not enough focus is put into the spell. This usually comes off as excess heat and-”

“Wait, heat? Like, the horn can actually get hot?” I interjected with a bit of concern.

Twilight hesitated, again looking for a better way to explain magic to a non-magical person.“The excess mana conversion causes small amounts of heat. Essentially, reckless spell casting or not focusing on a spell causes some magic to burn off the user’s horn. Doing this too much or applying more magic than a user is capable of safely channeling, can cause damage to the horn and they can lose their ability to use magic for a while... or in extreme cases, lose it forever.”

“Magical burn out,” I said it almost without thinking. I’d read about this a few times in some fanfics, but I figured that was more of something to keep characters from being too powerful. I guess it was more spot on than people realized.

Twilight nodded, “That’s a pretty good way to sum it up. Essentially, the ring will tell us how much magic is wasted. The more magic wasted, the larger the number shown on the readout.”

Okay. I think I understand. So the ball will tell us power, and the gauge will tell us duration. Then the ring will tell us efficency. Seems pretty straight forward.“Okay... but this all seems like you’re doing the work. Where do I fit in?” I asked curiously.

Twilight smirked as she moved the rubber ball in front of her. “I want you to activate the...” She rolled her eyes. “‘Exo’ ability after I perform the tests by myself. We can gauge the difference in what your ability has added.” Twilight’s excitement rose as she ran the roll of paper through the magical readout device. I saw what she was getting at.

I gave my affirmation and Twilight flipped the device on. The paper began to flow through the machine as the little bar began tracing a line along the bottom. Then Twilight started using her magic on the ball. The moment the aura wrapped around the ball and it began to flatten, the little bar began to began to move the line upward. Likewise, a small ticking noise started as well. I’d guess that was the timer. Twilight held the ball for a decent amount of time, but eventually there was a flicker in Twilight’s magic and she faltered. Once the aura disappeared, the timer stopped and the little arm bar dropped back down to the bottom.

Twilight was a little tired from the experiment, so she flicked the switch on the gauge with her hoof. That stopped the paper from feeding through. Looking at the paper that had already gone through, I noticed a few numbers near the top away from the line. They were in a vertical row and they were consistent up until the rip in the paper. I couldn't determine what the numbers meant, but I suspected Twilight already knew.

“Okay, I see numbers and a line. What's it all mean?” I asked with a mounting curiosity.

Twilight was more than happy to explain. She started by pointing to the numbers. “So these numbers, starting from the top, represent PSI, heat, and excess magic lost. So 13,000 psi, 50 C, and 15% loss from magical overflow.”

Twilight switched to the line. “This line is a visual representation of the force applied over time.” She then pointed to a spot just under the line, where there were more numbers separated by a repeating gap. I had an idea what these were. “These numbers tell the times as which certain events happened,” Twilight explained. “So I lasted about... ten minutes.”

Looking over the entire chart it started out with a pretty steady climb before it plateaued out for a decent stretch. At the end, it was clear where Twilight was beginning to lose her energy and the line started to twitch and eventually descend. In truth, it was damn impressive. I already knew Twilight was a prodigy, but holy crap! 13,000 pounds per square inch?! What’s going to happen if I do affect magical ability?... Oh God, what would this do to Celestia or Luna? Ugh... scary thought... but best make sure I can actually do something. No point stressing if this turns out to be a dud.

“Okay, so we have numbers. Now, we wait and try to best them?” I asked in uncertainty. This was some science I haven’t done or bothered with in a long time. I needed a hard refresher.

Twilight was still panting when she went back to the readout and started.... Ugh, math. Worse, I could hear the mental calculations running through her head. Pressure multiplied by volume to acquire temperature, then using temperature to divide by the volume of the item to acquire overall power. That’s just me repeating what I think Twilight was working on. God help me if I ever had to remember or recite it clearly.

Regardless of my lack of scientific prowess, Twilight ended up with two numbers that were our overall benchmarks to beat. 885 atm and 85% efficiency. Not that I knew what that meant. Math and science, man.

Anyway,before we could begin the second test, Twilight had to regain her stamina. She said a half hour cool down period would be enough for her to get back up to full power. Until then, we went back upstairs to get some water.

Once we got up the stairs, Twilight and I noticed the distinct sound of utensils scraping and tapping against ceramic. We both quickly guessed the source to be Spike having a bowl of cereal. When we got into the kitchen, we did indeed find Spike munching on some of the same wheat cereal Twilight had been eating. “Oh, hey, Twilight!” Spike said after swallowing. He hesitated for a moment before adding, “Or... is it Dante?”

“It’s me Spike,” Twilight responded with a smile. “Dante is awake too, but I got up before him.” I gave a tendriled wave to show I was present.

Spike nodded. “Oh, okay. Figured I’d check.” He halted for a second to eat a quick spoonful of cereal before asking, “So what were you two up to? I heard you giggling in the lab. Very weird, by the way.”

“We were starting an experiment to test if Dante’s...” she hesitated again. “We need to come up with a better name for that ability. ‘Exo’ sounds ridiculous,” Twilight added mentally, before returning to her previous thought. “‘Exo’ ability to see if it has any effects on magical ability.”

Spike gave an inquisitive hum before he offered, “So Thaumaturgy Gauge using the pressure ball to determine pressure and using the resulting data to get total power output?”

... Wow. Spike is on his science game. Twilight, while not impressed, was incredibly proud of the little guy. “Exactly, Spike!” she said with a nod and a smirk. “We just got the baseline and we’re waiting for a good enough cool down period to pass to test Dante’s abilities.”

Spike perked up almost instantly. “Really? Awesome! Can I help?” he inquired excitedly.

Twilight nodded happily. “Of course, Spike. Finish up your breakfast and let me recuperate. After that we can finish the experiment. I imagine by then we’ll need to head over to Applejack’s farm, so this works out perfectly.” Twilight was giddy at the thought of how much research she was getting done today. I imagine she’d have a field day figuring out Earth technology. Bet if I had a smart phone I could keep her occupied for a month. Hmm, another thing to test when I get to Human Equestria. Either way, that’s for another time.

Twilight got herself a glass of water while Spike worked on his cereal. She also took the moment to rattle off some things we might need when we went to Applejack’s. A stopwatch, spare parchment, quills, and the wing power device. Didn’t seem like much, but I figured Twilight knew what she was talking about. After that, we went back down to the lab to collect the items, while Twilight returned to full strength. For the sake of letting Twilight recover, I grabbed what was needed with my tendrils. Thankfully everything was within arm's reach. By the time we had what we needed and made the obligatory list of things that needed to be tested, Twilight said it was probably a good time to finish the test.

We reloaded the Thaumaturgy Gauge with another roll of paper, and Spike got a small chair to observe and take notes. Twilight reapplied the two nodes to her forehead and the ring to her horn. Additionally, Twilight asked that I apply the outer armor (she refused to call it “exo” anymore). I was hesitant to apply the ability since it would cause the... *ahem* gluteal grabbing, but after mental reasoning along with some assurance that I wasn’t doing anything perverted, I applied the ... skin? Eh... There’s got to be another word for this... hmm. Screw it, work on a better name later. I applied my tendrils to Twilight’s fore and back legs. As with Rainbow, the tendrils immediately adhered to Twilight’s frame and almost immediately tightened.

Although she was forewarned,Twilight was a bit ill prepared for the effect and let out a mild “Eep”. This was accompanied by a fairly warm blush as well. She quickly shook off whatever fluster that had creeped into her face and focused on the task at hand. We were essentially doing the exact same test but this was with me acting as the “booster”... maybe. We’d see here in a bit. If this did work, it’d be a big advantage during the invasion.

Twilight got everything together and made sure both Spike and I were ready. Spike gave a thu-... yeah, thumbs up and I gave a mental affirmation. It was time to see what else I could do.

Twilight flipped the gauge on and grabbed the ball. The timer flicked on and the tiny bar began to move. I heard Spike already beginning to take notes and I couldn’t tell if anything was happening, but the one thing I did notice was the ball was looking... flatter. At least, I think so. It definitely seemed like it was really taking some serious pressure. Actually, I might be crazy, but I’d swear Twilight wasn’t trying as hard as before. Again, I couldn’t tell for sure, but it felt like it. We continued the test and I could tell that this was taking was longer than last time. How long I wasn’t sure, but I figure it’d show in the results.

When Twilight eventually petered out again and stopped the gauge, I immediately noticed that the readout was way longer than the control. So that must mean something. Twilight ripped the new readout off the gauge and placed it next to the previous one. Looking at the time we’d managed to add a whole fifteen minutes to the previous time. Not bad. Even the line looked to have gotten higher this time around. What did the number say?.... 13,000 PSI.

I was a little disappointed. I had expected something a little more impressive. Twilight was giddy for an entirely different reason. “Oh my gosh! You actually boosted my overall magical endurance by 150%!” She exclaimed. She switched her attention to Spike to confirm what he saw. She seemed to think that, aside from the black cosmetics, something else should have been noticeable. “Spike did you see anything of note?”

Spike finished scribbling something down and quickly nodded. “You bet. Two things, actually,” Spike responded with a grin. “There was no glow on your horn, at all. It was kinda weird.”

Twilight cocked an eyebrow at this bit of information. She immediately began hypothesizing the meaning. The first thing that came to Twilight’s mind was that I might somehow be siphoning the excess magic, but she wasn’t entirely sure. Spike continued. “Then I noticed something... a little creepy.”

Twilight broke her train of thought. Similarly, I was curious what “creepy” entailed.

“It was like Dante’s slime was... spreading. Like it grew towards your head a bit,” Spike stated with a light shudder.

Twilight found the news just as shocking as I did. Twilight immediately looked over her shoulder to try and see if this was still; however, she couldn’t actually see near there. “Is it still in that spot?” Twilight asked curiously.

Spike nodded. “Yeah, it’s near your ears and on the side of your head.”

Twilight’s right hoof came up to confirm this, but my bio coverings kept her from actually feeling anything. Her mind when into a tailspin of determining what the growing tendril attachments were doing. A bunch of ideas and hypotheses crossed her mind until Spike chimed in with a very important notice. “Hey, Twilight. Didn’t Rainbow say she’d be here around noon?”

Twilight’s thought process immediately halted as a tiny but incredibly loud mental alarm began to blare in the back of her mind and a warning not to be late began to repeat. She made a quick mental note to keep an eye on the test with Rainbow to see if she could spot something she may have missed. Until then she told Spike to get a bag to put the supplies we collected before in. We got the stuff together and prepared to leave when Spike pointed out that Twilight still had the tendril armor still active. Twilight looked down to see her legs still looking pitch black.

“Man, that was a good catch by Spike. You’d have gotten some looks,” I teased.

Twilight chuckled lightly. “Yeah. I’d imagine.” She looked at her legs and attempted to get the black coverings to retract; however, nothing happened. A second attempt yielded more nothing and after a third attempt she asked how to get rid of them.

“You just have to relax your legs and they’ll retract,” I explained.

Twilight’s brow furrowed at my explanation. Part of her understood what I was saying, but that little nagging feeling in the back of her mind was keeping her from really relaxing. In truth, she was starting to get into a vicious circle of frustration followed by worry. It really wasn’t helping the situation at all, so I did the one thing I thought would work. I used Cadence’s teachings to bring Twilight down. Worked in the show, hopefully it’d work now.

“Twilight, take a nice long breath and relax,” I encouraged my spastic host.

My host was struggling at first, but after a few deep breaths she started to calm down. We were all set to go by the time Rainbow made her typically boisterous entrance. Choosing to burst through the door rather than giving a formal knock. I could tell she was already excited to get things underway and she practically shoved us out of the library and toward Sweet Apple Acres.

Author's Notes:

Hey hey, everyone. Again sorry for the delays in the chapter. A lot happened during the making of this chapter that set it back way longer than should have been acceptable. I am so very sorry.

I'd like to give a big thanks to my editor, Aburi, for helping me with writing a portion of the story.

Next Chapter: Chapter 26 - Speed is key!... but so are results. Estimated time remaining: 36 Minutes
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