What I Am

by Knight Breeze

Chapter 1: Chapter I

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Chapter I

Distilled Joy eyed the minotaur carefully. He had served their kind before, and they were usually quite amicable, not to mention that they were fantastic tippers.

Unless things weren’t going their way. And by the way this guy was acting, it was likely that nothing had ever gone his way.

“Macky, get me another,” the minotaur said with a small burp.

“Right away, sir,” he said, ignoring what the minotaur had called him. He didn’t know who this ‘Macky’ was, but it didn’t really matter, as long as his bar remained intact, the minotaur could call him anything he wanted to.

“Tell me, Macky, you’ve ever lost everything?” the minotaur asked, his hand waving about in erratic circles.

Joy gave him a look, then continued to clean his bar with his magic. “Can’t say that I have.”

“It’s *hic* freaking terrible…” the minotaur said, then took a deep chug. “One minute, you’re at the top of the world… the next? Some *urp* upstart comes and ruins… ruins everything.

Joy nodded, but never took his eyes off the unstable customer. “I can see how that can become a problem.”

“Then… then he goes and cheats. Uses shards. You aren’t supposed to be able to use shards! It’s against the rules!” The minotaur said, banging one of his mighty fists against the bar. The wood creaked, and Joy could hear the glasses he kept there click ominously, but luckily the bar held firm.

“Of course it is,” Joy said, attempting to mollify the customer.

“Darn right… *hic* You’re… you’re supposed to use your own knowledge… not cheat by… what were we talking about?” the minotaur asked. Before Joy could answer, the minotaur tilted back his tankard and downed the entire thing in one gulp. “Well, whatever it is, he’s going to get what’s coming… yes he is. Just you wait, he’ll know he picked the… the wrong family to mess…”

Before the minotaur could finish his threat, though, his eyes rolled into the back of his head, and he collapsed off the edge of his stool, causing the entire tavern to shake with his fall.

Distilled Joy let out a sigh of relief. At least this drunk hadn’t destroyed his bar like the last one did. Without much more thought on the matter, the bartender picked up his rag again and got back to cleaning the bar. He’d call the guard later to clear out the drunk. For now, he was going to enjoy the relative peace and quiet that the Minotaur’s collapse had left behind.

“Excuse me,” a female voice said, bringing the bartender back to the present. “I hope my friend here wasn’t a problem.”

Joy looked up, noticing for the first time the gray mare and her compatriots. “Nah, he wasn’t a problem. Pretty peaceful, all things considered.”

She nodded, her eyes drifting downward to the bull that was splayed out in front of the bar. “That’s good. He didn't run a huge tab, did he?”

Joy shook his head again. “For a minotaur? Nah, just sixty-five. Kind of surprised, really. When his kind get this way, they usually run a tab that's at least three digits.”

The mare grinned at this, and Joy couldn't help but feel… unsettled. He didn’t quite like the way she eyed him, almost as if he were prey. “Thank you for your patience,” she said. Her horn then started to glow, and a pretty large bag of coins levitated into view. “This should probably cover it. I was sort of expecting him to drink more, so think of the rest as a tip. Let’s get him home, guys.”

Joy hefted the bag in his magic as the stallions started dragging the comatose Minotaur out, his eyes going wide at the weight. “Holy… Uh, miss? You sure you don’t want your change? There’s got to be at least a hundred and fifty bits in here!”

The mare didn’t even look back. “I’m sure. Think of it as a thank you for helping us make our friend feel at home.”

And without another word, the odd group walked out, leaving behind an uncertain-looking Joy, a bag held in his magic, and a bad feeling resting in his gut.

* * *

Twilight Sparkle’s hooves made a hollow clip-clop sound as she made her way through the castle corridors. The purple unicorn had an appointment today, one that she had been looking forward to for a very long time, but always had to put it on hold for some reason or another.

Maybe it was because of the impending doom that had hung over the castle ever since the arrival; that could certainly put a dampener on any plan or machination at work. The discovery that the world wasn’t about to get invaded opened up so many possibilities, though; They not only had time to build the Omniscope correctly, but also to overcome that nasty language barrier that had stalled so much of their progress.

It was like a weight had been lifted. Twilight was so excited, in fact, that she didn’t even bother knocking when she reached the door, choosing to instead burst inside without even a second thought.

Inside the rather spacious room were all the comforts of a normal bedroom, along with a few other things thrown in for good measure: It had a minotaur-style writing desk, which was covered in paper and quills; a chair made for minotaurs; a bed that was clearly not sized for ponies; a bedside table; and a medical monitoring station set into the wall.

Sitting in the obviously too large chair was ~Alex~, not even noticing Twilight and her less than subtle entrance. Despite the origin of many of the things in this room, as well as a few very specific aspects of his physiology, ~Alex~ wasn’t a minotaur. In fact , he was about as far removed from the species as one could get.

~Alex~ was an odd sort, looking like something out of a horror movie or ghost story, though that description didn’t really do him justice. He was tall and gangling, standing probably around six feet, with arms and legs that appeared to be way too thin and emaciated for the rest of his body. On his head he had a thinning shock of red hair, and his eyes were as black as the deepest night.

This did not mean that the irises were black; rather, it appeared that he didn’t have any irises. Instead, his eyes were simply pools of black, no whites to speak of, though this didn’t seem to hamper his vision in the slightest.

The creature wore a white lab coat that was several sizes too big for him, which was opened in the front to reveal a white shirt and blue slacks. The combination looked rather odd, seeing as how the shirt and pants looked expertly made, while the lab coat decidedly less so. If he minded at all, though, he didn’t show it in the slightest. In fact, the only emotion he was showing right now was irritation.

Whatever he was irritated about, though, wasn’t something that Twilight understood. ~Alex~ was an alien; a strange visitor from another world, and as such, he couldn’t really speak the local language. Sure, the Equestrians had the ability to use translation magic, but that had its limitations, and more complex ideas tended to fail whenever he tried to explain them. At the moment, the spell was inactive, meaning that his conversation with the metal cat on the table was complete gibberish to the young schooler. It was interesting gibberish, but gibberish none the less.

“Um… I’m sorry to interrupt…” Twilight said after she had cast the translation spell on herself and ~Alex~.

The ~human~ looked up, a little surprised to see her, but shrugged it off. “It okay. Lose track time, forgot learn today.”

“What were you talking with ~Robert~ about?” Twilight asked curiously.

~Alex~ shook his head. “No Bright Fame, Bright Fame here,” he said, picking up a small arcanite rod from off his desk. There were a few more there as well, presumably the rest of his friends that he had managed to forge into Golem Cores. He then put down the rod and rested his hand on the metal cat, who batted the hand away in annoyance. “This Announcing Peace. He get impatient. Ask why not make other body yet, other calculation device. I trying to explain not exactly sure how in first place.”

Twilight gave the ~human~ a patient smile. “Well, we’ve pored over your notes, and we’re pretty sure you do know how you did it. You just weren’t in control of the actual construction part.”

The ~human~ looked a little confused. “I sure not am knowing.”

Twilight took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. “I know you think that, but hopefully after a few of these lessons we’ll be able to change that.”

The ~human~ perked up at that, his strange face alight with anticipation. “Learn some pony tongue today?”

Twilight nodded, pleased at his enthusiasm. “With any luck, we’ll be able to teach you Equestrian in no time. We’re really just waiting on Written Script, and we can get started!”

At the mention of the stallion’s name, though, the ~human~ grew nervous, almost as if he remembered something. “Uh… how is Pink One? She still mad?”

She had hoped that the ~human~ hadn’t heard about what happened, but secretly, she knew it was a dream. “Pinkie… takes her parties very seriously. She’s not mad at you, it’s just…” Twilight paused, not really sure how she should word this. “Well, let’s say that you really shouldn’t miss her next party, okay?”

~Alex~ smiled apologetically. “Will do. Sorry about not show…” he let out a sigh, his face clouded with worry. “It that… when met bug, remind home some reason. Make wonder how left behind do. If they happy, if they well…”

Twilight smiled, at that. “I’m sure they’re fine. They probably miss you, too.”

He didn’t respond immediately, choosing to instead lean back, letting his arms fall to the armrests at his sides. “I know. It… I been gone so long, wonder if hurt, if succeed. Wonder if safe right now…”

* * *

Dr. Valerie Jordan stared listlessly at the rain outside. She knew that she should be getting back to work, but her heart wasn’t in it.

“Val, moping isn’t going to get these samples processed any faster,” Jill said next to her.

Valerie took a second to regard her friend, her grey eyes boring into Jill’s thin face. She had red hair, which was tied back into a tight bun. Her deep, sea green eyes peered out of a set of thin, silver-rimmed glasses, giving her a somewhat wide-eyed expression, and her face was currently turned down into a worried frown.

She was a tall woman, probably about a foot taller than Valerie herself, though that wasn’t much of an accomplishment, since Valerie’s own height only reached four foot seven. Valerie pushed a lock of her black hair out of her face, her expression downcast. “I’m sorry, Jill, I don’t know what’s with me today.”

“I’ll tell you what’s wrong: The same thing that’s been wrong for a year now,” Jill said as she placed a comforting hand on her friend’s shoulder. “You gotta face facts, he’s never coming back. He’s probably ran off with some floozy, or something. You gotta move on with your life!”

Valerie let her head fall flat onto the table. “I know that, but I can’t help but feel like there’s something else going on. I mean, why would he up and leave like that? He didn’t even take his car with him!”

Jill shrugged a bit. “You heard what the police said. No forced entry, no sign of a struggle. He just disappeared. Sounds to me like he got fed up with ‘normal’ life and decided to live like a hippy.”

Valerie gave a small snort of laughter. “Jill, if you knew anything about him, you’d know he hates that kind of stuff. He only knows as much as he does because that crazy uncle of his keeps forcing him on camping trips.”

“I know, but I got you to smile,” Jill said with a grin. “Come on, girl’s night out this saturday. Let’s see if we can get you to forget about him.”

Valerie looked at her friend again, then shrugged a bit. “I guess I could use a little break…”

“That’s the spirit!”

“Just... nothing too crazy,” Valerie said, curbing her friend’s enthusiasm. “I’ve got work that next morning, and I really…”

Before Valerie could finish her sentence, though, she trailed off as she saw a flicker of movement in the window.

“Hey, Val, you okay?”

“Y-yeah, I’m fine,” she said, shaking off the eerie feeling she had. “Anyway, let’s get back to work. We’ve still got a lot to do before the end of the day, and you know how picky Detective Callister can be about deadlines.”

However, despite the calm that had settled, Valerie couldn’t help but feel that she had seen something that she shouldn’t have, prowling around outside the police station.

With a bit of a shake, she got back to what she was doing, unaware of the many malicious eyes that were watching the building...

Author's Notes:

So, full disclosure, when I made the last blogpost, it had been on my phone, and I had been feeling pretty confident about what I had written.

Except, when I went back to this chapter, large chunks of what I had spent the past hour writing had disappeared.

I frantically tried to rewrite everything I had lost before you guys saw it, but I'm afraid some of you may have seen the crappy, unfinished version. For that, I'm sorry, and I hope you'll forgive me.

With all of that off my chest, I hope you'll enjoy my newest addition to what I'm now calling The Humanity Within trilogy. I may even make a fimfic group for this story. See you guys later!

Tip Jar!

Next Chapter: Chapter II Estimated time remaining: 14 Hours, 41 Minutes
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