Cultural Artifacts

by Dan_s Comments

Chapter 1: 1) Arrival

Load Full Story Next Chapter

Dan's Comments

Cultural Artifacts - Arrival

DISCLAIMER: My Little Pony is the property of Hasbro, Inc.

Despite what people say, anywhere can have earthquakes, he thought as he picked himself out from under the bed after the shaking stopped. After two years in Los Angeles, he knew the proper routine after an earthquake. Shut off the gas, shut off the water, and check for collapsed buildings in the area. Got more than enough food to last a . . .

"While." He stopped in front of the French doors as he looked out onto his backyard. The tomato plants, the roses, the apple and cherry tree were still there, but the back fence wasn't. And what was there instead, convinced him he'd hit his head harder than he thought. Not only were the colors all wrong, the overall shapes were all wrong.

He shook his head and continued to the gas meter. It seemed intact, but he shut it off anyway. Circling outside the house, he was glad to see it hadn't suffered any real damage. The next problem was that the in-ground box that let him shut off the water was apparently left behind. Where it used to be, was part of the technicolor landscape. Then it occurred to him. The lights were still on inside, he thought as he returned back inside. The security system status lights were on, and no 'no power' alarm was lit. He flipped on the switch for the living room, and the concealed fixtures bounced light off the white ceiling and flooded the room with light.

Something's not right here, he thought.

The terrified scream made things even less right.

Little girl, he thought and moved towards the door. Then stopped. This isn't home, and there may be no cops here for hours. If there even are cops. He ran back into the house to get some boots, and something more than moral authority to deal with the problem.

He selected the SKS for two reasons, one, he could drive tacks with it at 50 yards, and two, it had a bayonet on the end, giving him more options. The .45 in a holster at the small of his back gave him a back up. An old binocular case around his waist held some 10 stripper clips for the SKS and five magazines for the .45. If I need more than that, I'm in trouble, he thought as he tied the steel-toed work boots. Them giving him another option if he needed it.

Locating the source of the scream took surprisingly little time. Understanding the source of the scream added some. The creatures involved look like they were out of Wizards crossed with Bakshi's Lord of the Rings: gray skin and fangs, ragged clothes and misshapen limbs. Their victims were even weirder, two little unicorns, both blonde manes and pale-violet bodies with yellow eyes. One had a horseshoe mark on its flank, the other was blank. The blank-flank's rear leg was twisted at a painful angle.

Probably broken, he thought as he approached. Stopping about twenty feet from the trio of 'orcs', he leveled the rifle at the one making gestures of command with its hands.

"HEY!" he announced, getting their attention.

The trio looked at him in astonishment. The two non-leaders argued with each other, their language a garbled mess. The leader stood and made a gesture. He then kicked the wounded one, making her squeal. From the brush, broke three more orcs. These in armor, and running on four legs.

Okay, I'll accept your ignorance of what a rifle is, but with the bayonet extended, you should at least recognize a spear, he thought as the running trio had come into sight.

"Call them off," he ordered and raised the rifle to point it at the leader's head, "NOW!"

The orc crossed his arms and grinned. The bullet hit him just above the eyes. The noise, and their leader's head exploding took the two off-guard.

"You!" he called as he shifted to the larger of those remaining, but watching the trio approach. "Call them off!"

The big guy proved he had the brains to make a conclusion. He shouted something, and the trio halted and looked around worriedly. Skulker has detached and was moving around to the flank.

No, I've got more shots, he thought, But I'll let you think I don't. He turned and charged, screaming at the Skulker. He'd aimed for the throat as he'd been taught, but Skulker's parry drove the bayonet down, and it landed in the orc's belly. A new high-pitched wail added to the whimpers of the two unicorns. He stepped smartly back, out of reach of the limbs of the mewling orc who clutched his belly.

"Take him and get out of here!" he ordered, gesturing with the rifle towards the new leader and Skulker.

The new leader grabbed Skulker by the collar and dragged him away quickly. The armored trio cast worried glances over their shoulders as they withdrew.

Okay, he thought as he glanced at the corpse, and the two shivering little unicorns, You may have given this guy a Darwin Award, but that still leaves the problem of where the heck are you, and what is going on. He slung the rifle and drew the pistol, scanning the area for an ambush. But with nearly a hundred yards clear terrain in all directions he doubted they could ambush him.

The two little unicorns were tethered to the ground with a choker chain around their necks attached to basically a large corkscrew screwed into the ground. I used these on my dogs, he thought as he unscrewed it, and unclipped the two unicorns. The one with all four legs working, bolted immediately. The other stared up at him fearfully, unable or unwilling to move.

"Easy, I'm not going to hurt you, unless you hurt me," he said in what he hoped was a soothing tone. It/she whimpered a bit as he lifted her up, and slung her across his shoulders. "You're a heavy, little thing," he said as he trotted back to his house.

Problem, there is no way in hell I can fortify that place. A pick axe could come through the walls and I can't cover enough area with just me to fend off a multi-pronged attack, he considered, Face it, if they want her, they can get her. He noted the other unicorn filly had come back, and was running alongside and talking, to the one he was carrying. Both the statements, and the replies sounded desperate. 'Run away, it's taking you home to eat you.' 'I can't run, my leg's broken. Save yourself.' 'I won't leave you', he thought, I may cry. At the top of the ridge he'd crested on his way to the fillies, he spotted signs of a town in the distance. Signs he'd been facing the wrong way to see before.

"Okay, if that is what I think it is," he considered the red-cross adorning a building nearer his place than the town, "Someone is definitely messing with me."
[hr /]

Spike opened the library's door at frantic knocking. "Hello Derpy, hello Carrot Top," he said, "Uh, Twilight's not feeling well."

The groan of agony from upstairs punctuated the message.

"Well, if you see Dinky Doo or Dinky Hooves, please tell us," Carrot Top said, "They went out to collect some rocks together, and they haven't come back."

"Well, they aren't the Cutie Mark Crusaders," Spike reassured the two distraught mares. "If I see them, I'll tell them you're looking for them."

The pair left. Spike finished filling the ice bag and headed back to Twilight. Don't need to replace the bucket, he thought as he proceeded to the stricken unicorn's bed.

"Feeling better Twilight?" he asked as he removed the previous ice pack and replaced it with the new one. He felt the heat coming off what had been solid ice a few minutes before.

"Ulugh," she replied and raised her head, the bloodshot eyes regarded him, "Yes, now I'm afraid I won't die."

"Any idea what that 'magic bursting' was about?" he asked carefully.

Twilight flopped back down, her head over the bucket in case she needed it, again. "No, Spike. No idea, and right now, I think I am going to let my headache go away first."

"That's okay." He retreated quickly, leaving her to her misery. He poured the hot water out of the ice bag and started refilling it with ice.

He came in through the back door, and carefully laid the filly on the coffee table. Since I know essentially zero about how to splint a horse's leg, and the old shotgun joke doesn't seem funny right now, he thought as he collected a heavy blanket, and a pan of warm water. Still have water pressure, this cannot be happening. He took the pan, and several kitchen towels with him. The other filly, with the horseshoe mark, had slunk in and was standing near her almost-twin. The twin pairs of fearful eyes regarded him as he knelt next to the stricken one. He folded one towel and showed her he wanted her to take it between her teeth. She shook her head, he nodded in return, getting both fillies to stare at him. He carefully washed some of the deep scratches. She whimpered, so he offered the folded towel, and pushed her near-twin closer. The unmarked one hugged the marked one and whimpered while he worked. He used some hydrogen peroxide on the cuts, then did the same on the marked one who had a deep cut near her spine. She bore up a little better, but hugged her friend with gusto while he cleaned and bandaged her wound.

"Okay. I'm going to take her to the hospital," he told them in his best 'fatherly' tone. Neither showed any comprehension. Although they whimpered to each other when he wrapped the blank-flank in a blanket and carried her through the house to the garage.

"Car? No, use those when I get a source of fuel. The bike it is," he told himself and carefully loaded the foal into the large basket on the front of the bike he sometimes used when grocery shopping. "That's assuming the garage door opens," he thought and hit the control.

Both fillies gasped as the door opened normally. He took the opener with him and started riding towards the red-cross-topped building he'd spotted earlier. The filly with the horseshoe mark had to run to keep up.

He saw the road would run through part of the town, but he decided to brazen it out. If you act like you belong, and nothing is going wrong, they'll usually ignore you, he thought, Okay, that architecture is just weird. It looks like Dr. Seuss or the Smurfs. At least the hospital looks reasonable. He parked the bike, and noted he'd left the other filly far behind. He picked up his precious cargo, and ducked to get in the front doors. Many of the ponies in the entryway stared at him in utter shock. He ignored them all. The trio of ponies, each wearing a nurse's hat, each with a modified red cross on their flanks caught his attention. He set the filly on what he took to be gurney near them.

"Her leg was broken by some orcs," he said authoritatively, as they stared at him, "I'm afraid that's beyond my capabilities. Please take care of her." He turned and felt the waiting room all staring at him as he held the door for the exhausted filly who'd not been able to keep up.

As he rode away, he heard the screams of terror coming out of the hospital.

Twilight was feeling marginally better, and was even able to walk without falling over, when a pink ball of energy stormed into the library.

"Twilight!" Pinkie hugged her ferociously. "I'm so glad the house didn't land on you. Not saying you're a witch or anything, but when I saw that new house with the monster living in it, I had to wonder. 'OH! Did that hit Twilight?' So I'm so glad you're safe! Do you suppose monsters like cupcakes? And what kind of party games should we have? I remember that dragon didn't like my party games."

" 'House', 'monster'?" Twilight asked as she struggled to pry the pink party-purveyor loose, "What are you talking about?"

"The big house that appeared outside of town!" Pinkie exclaimed. "Oh no, we haven't found out if it's eaten anypony! Bye!"

With that, Twilight was left with a worsening headache, and a new series of questions. Spike's burp and the flash of colored flame heralded what she desperately hoped were some answers, not more questions.

"It's from Princess Luna," Spike said, "They felt the magic bubble burst too, and she's bringing a detachment of soldiers and scholars. She wants you to coordinate with them anything you've found."

"About what?" Twilight demanded.

"Ah, whatever landed outside of town."

Derpy held 'her muffin' tightly as Dinky Doo and Dinky Hooves related their experience to Applejack and Rarity. "The Diamond Dogs said we were bait and that they were going to get revenge for you tricking them, and then this big monster showed up. The Diamond Dogs just laughed at it and it hurt two of them, and freed us, then it carried me back to its house, and bandaged up my cuts, and brought me here."

"His house is huge! Rooms ten-ponies high and doors a dozen ponies could walk through all at once," Dinky Hooves said from the protective embrace of Carrot Top, "He's like a cross between a bear and a dragon. He shoots fire, and walks on two legs, and has hands, and he had this thing with wheels that was faster than a pony!"

"Yeah! The wheel thing had a basket on the front. I rode in it upside-down, even though I was going fast, I wasn't scared."

"What about this - creature," Rarity said, "What did it do?"

"When the Diamond Dogs had us, he fought them. Hurt two and scared the rest away," Dinky Hooves said, with Dinky Doo nodding in agreement, "Then he carried Dinky Doo back to his house and cleaned up her cuts, and mine, then took her to the hospital."

"I can vouch for that," Nurse Redheart said, "It walked in."

"It's a him," Dinky Hooves insisted, "He's got a deep voice like a stallion, he's got to be a him."

"He, walked in, and had to crouch to get through the halls. It, he came straight to Nurse Coldheart and Nurse Tenderheart, said something in a language I've never heard, and laid poor Dinky here on a gurney. It then held the door for Dinky Hooves, and left. We all panicked a little at that point."

"I do not blame you one bit," Rarity said, "Imagine a monster traipsing in here. I'm surprised it left peacefully."

"He's not a monster!" Dinky Doo insisted, "He's nice! Those Diamond Dogs hurt me! He never did, well, maybe when he cleaned up my cuts, but that always hurts."

"Ah think we'd better get Twilight and Rainbow Dash," Applejack whispered to Rarity, "And go have ourselves a look at this monster."

"Agreed," Rarity whispered as they pair moved away, "Still, what kind of 'monster' rescues a pair of foals, and takes one them to the hospital?"

"The real scary kind Rarity, the smart kind," Applejack replied.

He watched the clothes' washer fill with hot water. He'd turned the gas back on, after he'd come back, and after digging at the line and found it severed too, like the water line. "Someone is definitely screwing with me," he said as he added a little detergent and left the machine to run. All the windows which had once lent the place an open feel were now serious vulnerabilities. He briefly considered relocating to the attic. "No, they could simply burn the place down around my ears," he reminded himself.

"So, afterlife, hallucination from earthquake injuries, psychotic breakdown, or all of the above?" he asked himself as he returned to the kitchen and started cooking dinner. "There is no way that all of this can be happening." He noted that the sun was setting. "They'll probably come at night. Five on one, not good odds." He looked around, feeling he was being watched.

He turned suddenly. "I could have sworn I saw a flash of pink."

Fluttershy leaned over and looked through the windows into the kitchen. She sat back up on the roof and stuffed her hooves in her mouth to prevent a squee from escaping. "It so, so, so cute!" she had to say.

Rainbow Dash plucking her off the roof at speed made her squeak a different way. The cyan pegasus dropped her at the makeshift observation post she and Applejack had set up.

"What the hay are you doing?" Rainbow Dash demanded, "That thing is dangerous."

"But it's cute," Fluttershy whimpered, and let out a little squee of joy. "It acts just like a pony."

"Tell that ta the dead Dahmond Dog," Applejack said, "That critter didn't shoot it, he exploded it. Never seen nothin' lahke that in mah life."

"Dead?" Fluttershy asked, "Did he eat some of it?"

"No, jist killed it," Applejack said, "Though, they had a couple of fillies they'd hurt."

"He rescued them?" Fluttershy gasped.

"Awfully gallant, for a monster," Rarity asked as she arrived, Twilight trailing behind, "Wouldn't you say."

"Maybe it was just trying to show it has a good heart. We all know how mean those Diamond Dogs are," Fluttershy said.

"They kidnaped Rarity," Rainbow Dash insisted, "They didn't kill her."

"They didn't break my leg so my cries would draw the rest of you in either," Rarity replied, "I agree. It overreacted, but I can admit, its heart was in the right place." She stepped aside and let Twilight walk up to the binoculars.

Applejack sighed. "That's kinda not th' point. What's it doin' haere? What's it want? Even if it is friendly, and ah ain't sayin' it is, what the hay do we know about it?" Applejack looked over, and frowned at Twilight's stunned expression. "Twi? Twilight? Twilight Sparkle?"

"Books," came the strangled sound, "Hundreds and hundreds of books!" the unicorn nearly shrieked.

"Get her Dash!" Applejack shouted, as their friend made a break for it.

"It has to be intelligent! We have to make friends with it! Look at all those books!" Twilight shouted as Rainbow wrestled her down to the floor of the observation post.

"Yeah," Fluttershy added, "The big wall at the center of the house. It has book shelves on both sides."

"Fluttershy," Rainbow Dash said as she struggled with the unicorn, "Not helping here."

"All those books, no one's ever read before!" Twilight announced.

"And you can't read either, darling," Rarity said, "It doesn't speak our language."

Twilight stopped wrestling with Rainbow Dash. "Can't read them?" the little unicorn whimpered, "All those books, and I can't read them."

"I'm sure if you asked nicely," Fluttershy suggested, "Or traded. It might want to learn about -"

"That's not important rahght naw," Applejack insisted, "This critter mahght be dangerous ta Ponyville. Ha'd we keep it penned up?"

"Why don't we have Rainbow go beat it up?" Rarity offered.

"Are you kidding? I'm the one who found that Diamond Dog!" Rainbow insisted, "If it's a creature, let Fluttershy talk to it."

"Could I?" she asked, only to have Applejack catch her tail and reel her back. "Have alla you gone loco? Naughty or nice, that thing is plumb dangerous."

"Oh," Spike said as he arrived, "We got another letter from Princess Luna. She and her team are arriving tonight, and they'll be taking over." He trotted up and handed the letter to Twilight, who rolled back onto her feet and pulled it before her. " 'Do not attempt to make contact, do nothing threatening, do not invade its territory. We will be there before midnight. Keep it under observation. Princess Luna.'"

"Okay, naw we got orders," Applejack said, "And ah feel a lot happier with a Princess haere ta give that thing what fer."

"Have any of you seen Pinkie Pie?" Spike asked, and looked at the sea of horrified faces around him.

He ate a surprisingly large dinner. For one reason, he was absolutely famished after the events of the day. For a second, he had no idea how long the magic fueling the refrigerator and freezer would last. Then he would be down to the stash of dehydrated food. He also ate in the dining room, which he rarely did. Not for a special occasion, since he usually ate in the small breakfast nook at the other end of the kitchen, but because he could close off this part from prying eyes. Curtains covered the windows and a pocket door separated the kitchen from the dining room.

Considering I'm having a large steak, I think the local herbivores would rather not know it, he thought, I'd rather them not know it. He looked at the pistol within easy reach. He had all the clips he owned loaded and on his person. The SKS and the pouch for its clips also stayed with him. He'd dispersed the loose rounds to various places around the house so he could resupply, if his enemy gave him the chance.

"Now I know how the men at the Alamo felt," he said quietly, "All that's left is the waiting. Although given a few days, I could probably fortify this place. Until they realized they could just cut through the ceiling. I don't think me buying enough concrete to put a coffer dam up there would go unnoticed, let alone the wood for the forms."

He idly ran his finger over the table and looked around. He'd bought the place, furnished it with his own earnings, and finally hauled all his crap out of storage so he could sort through it and put what he kept up on shelves, and throw the rest away.

"So much for that plan," he said quietly, "A good idea while it lasted."

Melancholy rose in him as he looked around. "My house, my home." Gave way to purpose. "Those bastards aren't getting out of this without a good fight. There are a few booby traps I can put together." He eagerly finished his dinner and set out to make any invasion uncomfortable.

Big Fido looked at the odd house. He'd had to go back to Rover Bill and explain the trap didn't work, and worse, that Rex wasn't coming back. Rover Bill had yelled at him, then had given him 20 more soldiers and told him to wait until dark, then teach this newcomer a lesson.

Now he crept through a darkness so thick he was having trouble seeing. He crept up beside one of the soldiers who was still wearing his helmet. "What do you see?" he asked the soldier.

"It's ready for us," the soldier replied, "And they're their pony soldiers out there."

"Ponies is stupid, we get past them easy," Big Fido said.

The blue glow of an alicorn horn illuminated the area as the soldier turned towards Big Fido. "Just how?" Luna asked.

"What do you think, sergeant?" Shining Armor looked through the binoculars at the structure. His coat, at night, was worse than a beacon. So he stayed back at the observation post, looking through the tripod-mounted binoculars.

"Two days, a few lads, some sandbags and a couple crew-served weapons, and I wouldn't hit that place with the whole of the 3rd Guards," Sergeant Mile Stone said.

"Sergeant, if I gave you that, I wouldn't want to attack an ant hill you were defending," he replied, "A hole a little over a bit wide, and the hoof-sized hole in the back of the head blown out. I don't think it needs crew-served weapons."

"I'm just thinking, how frightened it must be," the sergeant mused.

Shining Armor stared at him. "That telescope must let you see things hidden from these binoculars."

"Captain, if it had been your sister screaming in pain, I think you would have thrashed those Diamond Dogs until they couldn't crawl away. But he saw six-on-one, and panicked. Yet he risked it all to get that filly to the hospital, and came back here. He has to know somebody is going to come looking for him."

"Sergeant, are you feeling all right?" Armor asked.

"Captain, those Day Guards you brought, do they have dress uniforms, or just camouflage?" the sergeant asked.

"Both, why?"

"Let us let it/him see what he needs to see. Us setting up a perimeter, and holding it. No one in, no one out. I'll bet if we move it out say fifty paces, and your nice, shiny, easily seen guards walking around, he'll feel more secure."

"He'll be trapped."

"Not until and unless he wants to cross the boundary. That may take several hours, or even days. Until then -" The sergeant stopped and returned to his telescope as the lights of the house came up. The monster walked out into the light. It pulled a heavily laden cart along, then hoisted the load up so it hung from one of the heavy beams that supported the patio's roof.

"Damn," the sergeant cursed.

"No, I think your idea will still work," Armor said as he watched, "In fact, I think it may work better now than before. But take a couple Night Guards with you. Let him see more of our cards."

"Sir," the sergeant nodded and headed off to collect his vedettes.

Shining Armor focused on the patio and grinned. "Monster after my own heart," he said quietly.

Sergeant-Major Mile Stone walked towards the illuminated patio. The struggling figure, mouth tied shut with streamers and ribbons, hogtied and hanging feet up from the rafter, was solid pink, and had been a significant and alarming part of their briefing on Ponyville. "I see the creature has some common sense and taste after all," he commented on the struggling, pink mare.

Many of the soldiers chuckled.

"I'll take a section of Night Guards forward, the rest of you, stay in formation. You represent their Highnesses and Equestria."

"Sir," they said.

He checked his own uniform, making sure it was immaculate and that the lads looked like they were ready for a parade. If this thing isn't hostile, this should be easy, he thought, I hope that little filly was right about it understanding standard gestures. He noted the sign taped to the mare's back. A close-up of Pinkie Pie's face, surrounded by a red circle with a single, red stroke through the middle of it. That bodes well, it thinks we can understand symbols as well.

"Get her down, but don't untie her until she's with the Princess. Off you go," he said, and approached the large glass doors, alone.

You could fly a sky chariot through those things, he thought and noted some movement at the smaller window that looked out over the patio. The scale of the place was unnerving. In Canterlot, the much higher ceilings were to emphasize the grandeur of the place, and to give some of the flying populace more room to move, and the unicorns a way to carry things out of the foot traffic lanes. Everything here is functional. This thing is just that big. He kept any sign of fear from his expression or movement. He walked up to the door, and knocked. Then stood there as if ready to wait all night.

His night-enhanced vision caught the creature aiming what looked for all the world like a camera at him. But no flash. It waited, so did he, and the light off the back of the camera illuminated its face. The face seemed expressive, and as mobile as a pony's. If that expression is what it would be on a pony, I was right, it, he's scared. The sergeant gently knocked again, and waited.

The creature seemed to debate with itself. It also seemed to think it was concealed in the dark interior. Once it decided, it set down the odd spear it wore on a strap around its shoulder, and approached the door. The salute it gave would have earned a severe dressing down to any recruit who'd received even a day's training, but to the sergeant it was a blessing from Luna and Celestia themselves. Of course he returned a proper salute, held for the proper interval. He turned slightly, and pointed a hoof at the lads in formation.

"Set the perimeter!" he ordered, and the lads broke formation and began setting wire rods in the ground and stringing reflective tape from one wire to another. Several of the Day Guards, resplendent in their armor and coats glowing in the light, marched behind the tape.

He looked back. Please understand, please understand. The monster nodded, and gave a barely passable salute. The sergeant nodded back, then gestured at the lights, and slowly lowered a hoof.

The creature's mobile face screwed up in confusion, but it touched the wall inside and the lights went out. The sergeant nodded, and made a stately withdraw across the perimeter that would soon encompass the entire house, and a short cleared zone beyond.

Her Highness, oddly invisible against her night, seemed to loom up out of the darkness. "Report."

"Highness," he said and saluted, "We are establishing a no-go zone, and the creature seems to have no problem with that. Considering his earlier invader, he may welcome his isolation."

"We will speak to Miss Pinkie Pie, very harshly," her Highness assured him, "But she was not harmed. Admirable restraint." She grimaced at memories of her second meeting with the pink, party patron of Ponyville.

"Yes ma'am. It also knows a fair amount of ordinary gestures. It recognized I was military on sight, and even gave a salute, barely. I think we may have a basis for at least limited communications."

"It recognized the hospital's markings, and that the nurses were medical personnel. It may not be able to speak, but it understands symbols. What of the bookshelves my sister's student cannot be silent about?"

"I couldn't read the titles, distance, and darkness, your Highness, but there was a similar set of shelves behind the exterior door perpendicular to the main one. I suspect it is nearly the bibliophile Miss Sparkle is."

"Speak of Discord," Luna said as the purple unicorn practically bounced out of the darkness.

"Princess Luna, I am ready and eager to help get all that vital knowledge for Equestria!"

"We will call you if you are needed," Luna said politely, "We believe our forces in the field are sufficient."

The mare's happy facade cracked a bit. "But books," she managed, while smiling in a way that gave Luna pause.

"Let it get some rest, lass," Mile Stone said. "It's had a hard day, and if we scare it, it may do something foolish."

"It wouldn't burn them, would it?" she asked in horror.

"I was thinking it might eat them, to keep them away from us."

The unicorn's eyes opened wide at the horror he'd painted. "You're right, can't endanger it, can't endanger all those books, all that knowledge, it'll still be there first thing in the morning, bright and early, that's the ticket, bright and early."

"Some hot cocoa for you I think," Mile Stone suggested quietly, and caught the princess' gaze. So many sedatives could be disguised by the taste of cocoa.

Lieutenant Peaceful Solitude stood in the squad tent and watched the purple mare pace the floor in and around the bunks. She'd already downed enough drugged cocoa to fell a hydra, but she kept pacing, practicing the speech she would give the creature to convince it to relinquish to her its library. I am not going to tell the Captain's sister that she has completely lapsed into incoherence, the young, Night Guards officer thought, Time for a flank attack.

"Ma'am, I think none of that may work," she said, attracting the on edge unicorn's full attention.

"Work, of course it will work!" the disheveled creature said as it advanced, "They're depending on me, her Majesty is depending on me, all of Equestria is depending on me, all the future relation between our species is depending on me, so how can it not work?!" The smile was bad enough, the twitching eye and ears made the sight infinitely worse.

The wild-eyed unicorn had managed to back the officer into a corner. Now is not the time to remind her that her Highness Luna effectively ordered her to butt out, Peaceful Solitude thought.

"Just that, well, it may want to trade for them," she said, and gave the mad librarian a saucy wink, "And we know what stallions really want, don't we? Big, fierce, lonely stallion. Saved a bunch of fillies, and pretty, young mare comes, to ease his loneliness. He won't mind a few books just happen to wind up in the Ponyville library. Besides, gives him an excuse to . . . check them out, and make the librarian pay her late fee," she said as lewdly as she could.

The mare's eyes had shrunk to pinpoints as whatever thoughts she'd had, had never included that particular option. "That's," she began, only to have the massed sedatives spring a surprise counterattack. The lieutenant barely caught the mare before she collapsed to the ground unconscious.

"Please let her have been thinking that was disgusting," the lieutenant said, "I'd hate to have her think that was brilliant."

"What was brilliant, lieutenant?" Shining Armor asked.

The lieutenant looked around nervously. "Oh, distracting her Majesty's student, so she could get some much needed sleep."

"Drugged her cocoa?" the Captain said tiredly, "I hope there's enough left for her Highness."

"What happened to her Highness?" the lieutenant asked, alarmed.

"She tried to contact the creature through its, no, definitely his, dreams. Her control was not what it should have been. Good news is, it has learned the Equestria national anthem and some of our more popular songs, and seemed to enjoy them, as much as circumstances permitted."

"Good news, sir," she said as she moved Twilight to a bunk, and tucked her in.

"Yes. As an important note, Lieutenant, anyone who mentions melting rocks, electrified lobsters, singing mice, or peach candy canes around her Highness, ever, is going to get a buck to the head, from the entire command cadre."

"Understood, clearly, sir. How did she learn it's definitely a male?" the lieutenant asked as she walked with him out of the tent.

"In the dream, Pinkie Pie bit him. In a place you wouldn't have to worry about, ma'am."

"Peach-colored candy canes. Dreams are out," she agreed.

"Dreams are out," Shining Armor agreed.

Fluttershy fluttered over the barrier. High overhead, Rainbow Dash and some of the weather patrol were keeping watch, and keeping other pegasi out of the area. But the Princess asked me to go see him. Fluttershy felt her heart pounding in her chest. Unlike what others thought of her, she knew enough about how predators and prey acted in the Everfree. It wasn't nice, but she knew about it. She knew, and the Princess understood, that a harmless approach was better than coming on strong. Like approaching a mother bear with cubs, she thought, Don't get between her cubs and her. Don't do anything that disturbs the cubs. She thought of her many critters, and the wilder things in the Everfree, And they leave me alone, mostly, she thought as she approached the big, glass doors. The spotters had seen it was up and around, so now was a good time to try to communicate.

"Fluttershy, wait!" Twilight shouted as she charged over the barrier, "I'm glad I caught you. I hope I'm not too late."

"Oh no, I was just going to knock on the door and introduce myself. I'm sure you'll be welcome too."

Their presence had attracted his attention and he walked towards the glass doors. Rather than open one of the wide doors that both ponies could have walked through abreast, it opened a smaller much narrower door that was fronted by a screen.

It can see and hear, but we can't come in, Fluttershy realized, I mustn't be nervous. But it's so big, and so cute. She felt a squee coming on as she gathered herself to actually talk to it.

"Hello, my name is Twilight Sparkle, I am Princess Celestia's student, she is our ruler and you have landed in her country."

"Um, Twilight," Fluttershy tried to interject.

"We all understand that you're a newcomer here, but as a show of good faith, we would encourage you to share."

"Twilight," Fluttershy said.

"And as you may or may not know, we all benefit from an open exchange of information."

"Twilight, I don't think it understands what you're saying," Fluttershy said, and smiled at the creature, who was beginning to lose patience. "Twilight, I don't think it likes what you're saying."

"Since you have information and we have information. I propose that you transfer all that information to the Ponyville library where it can be accessed by all."

It shrugged its shoulders at Fluttershy, closed the narrow door and turned away.

"Oh, I never got a chance to give you the tea I, was, supposed, to, give you . . . as a present," Fluttershy said. She hung her head as she flittered away.

"Where did it go?" Twilight asked as she'd dropped out of lecture mode. "Fluttershy?" Twilight raced back to her friend. "Was it something I said?" She looked at the tin of tea she carried. "Weren't you supposed to give it that?"

"It never opened the door, so it was kind of hard to," Fluttershy said despondently.

"I guess I should have waited until you'd done that, before I started talking to it." Twilight grinned nervously.

"It's all right," Fluttershy said quietly.

"I'm sorry, Fluttershy. I just can't stop thinking how important it is to make the right impression."

"Yeah, I know," Fluttershy said, "First impressions mean a lot."

"That could have gone worse," Luna said from the observation post, "It could have started shooting." She sighed, and watched the creature eat its breakfast. There were more trained people, with more powerful telescopes trained on the target, and every inch of the house that could be seen from the outside. They didn't yet have the spare ponies or telescopes to watch the areas the creature had kept closed off. That worried Luna.

If they could provide me one simple piece of data, she thought, But they just don't know. It can be unspeakably violent, yet tender as the gentlest of us. Luna smiled.

"I think we learned something else," Sergeant Mile Stone said, "It doesn't like motor mouths."

"That is our sister's prized student you refer to," Luna said, "And your captain's sibling."

"My analysis stands, your Highness," the sergeant replied, "And I presented no opinion of my own on the subject, just my analysis of the creature's behavior."


"Send the pegasus back in, and have her get his attention and just leave the tea."

Luna nodded. "And have Nurse Redheart report to us. I think we need to show our concerns for it, his health."

"Highness," Mile Stone said and bowed.

"But, it can't read," the nurse pony said helplessly.

"Then give it the brochures you give children about immunizations. They are mostly pictures and diagrams," her Highness said, trying hard not to make it an order, "It knows you, it trusted you with something it was willing to fight for. It will understand your natural concern for the health of others."

"But I work on ponies," the nurse said, "Maybe you need to talk to a veterinarian."

"We are not asking you to provide medical treatment, ma'am," Captain Armor said, "Just show it how we do business. How we treat one another. You would do the same if a new resident appeared in Ponyville."

"Of course, if they are a pony. But when young Spike arrived, I don't think anyone checked up on him."

"We are aware how well that omission went," Luna muttered.

"Ma'am!" the sergeant called, "She's delivered the tea."

They rushed to the telescopes and binoculars to watch the reaction.

"I just hope whatever it brewed for its dinner really was tea," Mile Stone said as he relinquished the powerful tripod-mounted binoculars to his sovereign.

"It has retrieved the box. YES! It's trying to read the characters. It recognizes language," Luna said with tremendous enthusiasm. "What's it doing? Can't it open a box?"

A technical officer at a telescope replied. "Highness, it's opening it, as if it were booby-trapped."

"Why would we go to the trouble of booby-trapping a gift?" her Highness demanded.

"It doesn't know it isn't a trap, Highness," Mile Stone said, "A quite understandable caution. It might rightly assume we mean it no harm, while wrongly assuming we mean to render it unconscious, so we can separate it from it's base and weapons. We want it to be cautious."

"It opened it," Armor reported, "And it seems to recognize what's inside."

"What is that, it looks like a ball of the same screen that cover the house's windows?" Luna said as she watched.

"It's a tea ball," Armor said, "They must be able to make stuff out of that screen."

They watched in silence as it put a glass jar of water in a strange cabinet, stroked the face of the cabinet and waited.

"It can't have heated water to boiling that fast," Armor commented, "That box must have the heat of a forge in it."

"It's certainly hot enough to make tea," the technical officer said, "And in goes the tea ball."

"We are all watching," Luna said, "We have no need for Hoofball-style commentaries."

"Apologies, Highness," the stallion said, "I'm just a little excited."

"Feel the same way about my morning cuppa," Mile Stone said.

"Did he take the tea, is he making some?" came the soft but breathless question.

Mile Stone hooved over the binoculars to Fluttershy, and let her watch.

They all watched in rapt fascination as it steeped the tea, and then took its first sip. Then a larger drink.

"Oh no!" Fluttershy exclaimed as the creature crashed to the floor of its kitchen. A hand or foot would spring into view as it seemed to be having the granddaddy of all grand mal seizures.

"Nurse, get your supplies," Luna ordered, and watched the nurse race away.

"It's back up!" Fluttershy, who'd been near tears, announced.

They raced back to their telescopes and binoculars. It had pulled itself back up to the counter and stared owlishly at the cup of tea. Before drinking the rest in one gulp and going through the same exercise.

"It likes doing that?" Fluttershy asked.

"I think we've learned two things," Armor said quietly. "First, it knows it's being watched, big surprise. And second, it thinks it's a comedian."

"Captain. You have my permission to go down and kill it," Luna said.

"Highness," Mile Stone interjected, forestalling Fluttershy's protest, "Think about the first meeting between him, and your beloved sister. After you'd properly briefed it of course."

Luna stood in thought. "The order is rescinded, Captain. But have tickets to that meeting printed up. We'll have a charity auction."

"Yes, ma'am," Armor said, "I rather think her Majesty would enjoy that meeting."

"It's some members of court that deserve the apoplexy," Luna said as she headed back to report to her sister.

Derpy had just heard the news that school was canceled. As long as Princess Luna was in town, the school was closed. "Miss Cheerilee says we'll have school somewhere else in a few days," her little muffin said excitedly.

"Well, I was told not to deliver the mail," she told her foal, "So we can spend the whole day together."

"Yay!" she said and Derpy hugged Dinky. The sound of frantic knocking on the door distracted her. On her doorstep was Twilight Sparkle, pacing and muttering to herself as if the end of the world was approaching. While Derpy deeply respected the mare, like most in Ponyville, they wished she'd either switch to decaf, or start hitting the harder stuff. "Yes?"

"Oh, good Derpy you're home. I was afraid you'd gone to work, but I guess you heard that the military will handle the mail for a while. But her Highness needs messengers and your name came up and I'm sure you understand how important it is to make sure their Highnesses have what they need to do their jobs."

"I was going to stay home with my little muffin," Derpy said shyly, "I'm sure there are others."

"Oh, I'm collecting them too!" Twilight said, "After all can't have too much help for the Princesses on a mission that may make the difference in the history of Equestria."

Before she could respond, Derpy felt her foal nuzzle her. "It's okay momma, we can play after you get off work."

"See, then it's all settled!" Twilight said, "Just remember, it's for Equestria."

Derpy didn't frown, but the most important part of Equestria was right beside her. She'd almost lost her, and now Twilight's crusade was dragging her away again. She normally felt a little pity for the mare who assumed books were as important as ponies. She'd never have a special somepony, or a foal of her own. But Derpy couldn't manage any sympathy for her just now.

"It's okay, momma," Dinky said, feeling her mother's mood.

"It's not 'okay'," Derpy said as she nuzzled her back, "But it is what the princess needs."

Derpy wondered where she could get a reliable foal-sitter on short notice, especially with the town in a turmoil. The answer was instantly obvious.

"Pack a lunch, and your school books and help momma whip up some muffins," she said happily. The princess could wait until Derpy had seen to her daughter's well-being.

"So, you are prepared?" Shining Armor asked Nurse Redheart.

"I guess," she admitted, "I'm really not used to being an ambassador. What if I fail? What if I offend him?"

"I think it's rather tolerant of failure," Armor replied.

"Captain, the Wonderbolts have been briefed and are taking station," a lieutenant reported.

"Good," Armor said, then concentrated on the nervous mare, "It's just to get him used to us. I don't think he'd be overly concerned about someone taking an interest in his health and well-being. Just deliver the fliers, show him the x-rays of Dinky's leg, and leave. Simple."

"If you say so," the nurse said.

"Spitfire." Fleetfoot swung in close. "Mare coming in fast." She pointed to the target.

"It's okay, she's on the list, messenger pony," Spitfire said.

"Isn't she gonna miss the camp?" Fleetfoot commented on the mare's dive angle.

"There's the mailbox," Derpy told Dinky, "So that's gotta be the front door, I don't know why nobody is watching this side." She landed easily, and saw the scale of the covered walkway. "It really is big."

"There momma, there, a doorbell," Dinky said excitedly from her perch on her mother's back. "It's about as big as one of their claws."

"Well?" Derpy said, and let Dinky use her horn magic to press the button. They heard the ringing inside.

"See, see, it rang a bell."

The door opened, and the monster was every bit as intimidating as people had said, until it smiled seeing Dinky.

"Uh, I know you might have something else planned, but I need a foal-sitter and you took care of her so well yesterday." Derpy held the foal up towards the creature.

He smiled and nodded. He pointed as the cast on her leg.

"It's okay," Dinky said and wiggled it.

He carefully picked her up and set her on the rug he was standing on.

"I have her school work, and her lunch," she said as she handed over the pack, and the small bag. Then she handed over a large bag of muffins. "I really am sorry about imposing."

It said something, which sounded sympathetic, and patted Dinky.

"Be good, momma will pick you up at five!" Derpy said and walked back down the walkway as the door closed behind her. The two pegasi who landed were nearly bowled over as Twilight came tearing around the corner.

"Derpy, what did you do? Did you talk to it?"

"I needed a foal-sitter, thanks to you, I couldn't get one in town," the pegasus said crossly, "So I came out here." She recognized the two confused pegasi. "Oh wow! You're Fleetfoot and Spitfire! I should introduce you to my foal, have you met Rainbow Dash, she's your biggest fan!"

"You mean the weather captain who squeaks half the time, before spitting it out?"


"How did you know to come to this entrance?" Twilight interrupted, "How did you even know it was here?"

"The mailbox is right there," Derpy said as she pointed to the column of bricks. "Everyone knows the mailbox is always near the front door." She took off and headed towards the main camp.

He looked at the eager filly and carefully collected her lunch and her school books. He set the books on the coffee table before the French doors, so everyone could see what they did.

Okay, is the society this trusting, or is this some kind of test, he wondered, and heard a squawk of outrage come from the front of the house.

The foal said something that sounded a little like what the purple unicorn had started her lecture with.

Must be the purple one's name, he thought, and tried to duplicate the sounds. Several attempts later had reduced the filly to giggles, and he gave up. It could be their vocal range is different than a humans', and I'm leaving some parts out. It all sounds like whinnies and other horse noises to me.

He set her lunch on the kitchen counter, and returned to the table. And immediately spotted one of the school books was missing. He looked at her, and innocence beamed from her very soul. He snapped his fingers and extended his hand. She shook her head and made an ashamed admission. He tapped the top of the table, and her horn glowed and the book floated down from the top of the book shelf. She made another ashamed mumble as he collected it.

He smiled and carefully opened the book. And for an instant, he felt God himself had smiled upon him.

"These are equations," he mumbled as he looked at the unfamiliar symbols, but they had dimly recognizable patterns, "This is math." He smiled, and tapped the book, before standing and indicating several dozen books on math he had kept from his university days.

She asked a question, then remembered he didn't understand her language. He took a piece of paper and made a column of tally marks, one to fourteen, and wrote the arabic numerals for each beside them, then slid the paper over. She looked at him as if he were playing an elaborate joke, then shrugged and wrote the local numbers beside the column.

They use base-ten, he thought, I'm not even going to consider how that happened. Okay, that's their symbol for multiplication, and that's division. I wonder if they even have the concept for different number bases. Too bad they don't use a Romanesque system, introducing them to decimal systems would have gotten me fame and fortune, or burned at the stake. Okay. Homework time.

He watched the filly work through a few problems, and realized why she was having such a hard time. Who developed the algorithm they use for solutions? Someone who hates kids. Yes it'll work, but if these critters follow Piaget's development cycle, they won't get why that works until they're adults.

He set up some problems using the standard algorithm of multiply two digits and carry. The filly tried it and in a few minutes was delightedly speeding through the work. She laughed and hugged him happily as she felt the troubles slip away. But then her expression fell. She pointed to the division problems. And he grinned at her. Then grinned at the book, this time showing all his teeth. The filly laughed and cheered him on.

"If I had any doubt of whose side the creator is on," Luna said as she sat back on her haunches.

"I am also pleased with this development," the chief scholar for the team said. "This shows not only it is eager to learn and adapt to our systems, but that it is willing to adapt our systems, and teach us. I must emphasize this in the strongest terms, there are also those who will see this as a threat."

"That it's willing to learn our ways?" Armor asked, "How can that be a threat?"

"That it is willing to learn ours, and teach us its ways, which may seem better. If we didn't discover its better ways, they may see us as inferior, and seek to emulate its ways. There will be others who see its way as contamination and resent them. Its learning and advanced methods have undoubtedly come at a price. The violence to the Diamond Dogs may be endemic to the species. While this one may be well-behaved, the history of this species may be very violent. As you've pointed out, it seems distinctly unmilitary, yet it had the wherewithal and the weapons to confront and defeat six Diamond Dogs. How much training would a recruit have to achieve the same?"

"About a year," Armor said, "Basic and advanced infantry, plus a little seasoning. I don't see that as a problem."

"Ponies, some of my colleagues included, who view any form of violence as inherently 'evil' will not see it so, and anything with an 'evil' source, should be avoided," the scholar warned.

"That's ridiculous," Armor countered.

"If Discord gave us the cure to some suite of maladies?" Luna asked, "I think even Celestia would be hard pressed to trust it completely. This is only a lesser version." She noted Armor's frown. "It is terrible that we must have caution about something, because of the opinions of our fellow ponies, is it not?"

To his credit, Armor got the reference. "With respect your Highness. This isn't the same."

"The sentiment is. You have been trained, and forced by circumstances to see clearly what serves and what doesn't, and to embrace what serves. For your sacrifice, others are permitted stupidities which have been weeded out of your ranks. You must let ponies be ponies, even when it is stupid, even when it hurts you personally. Or you will find yourself on the same road I foolishly walked, ages ago. And it will be your beloved sister on the opposite side, opposing you. That is a pain beyond bearing."

The captain sighed. "So we do what?"

"We 'filter it'," the scholar said, "We keep the raw data, and let some of it slip out as ponies are ready, and we can freely release anything we derive from it."

"I understand," Armor said. He came to attention and saluted. "Permission to hate it? Highness."

"Granted," Luna said, "Just remember, for your fellow ponies to reach your state, they would first have to endure all your hardships. Would you wish that fate upon them?"

"I almost would," Armor said, "I almost would."

"They you are wiser than I was," Luna said, "Congratulations."

"He's making the tea!" a technical officer still observing called out.

"Please no repetition of earlier events," Armor said.

"I think that was meant for us," Luna soothed as she watched events unfold.

The break was called for. We'd breezed through long division, and onto fractions. Adding and subtracting them required an understanding of factoring. Which had taken some time. With the break was an explanation of how a human toilet worked, and much laughter about it. Then some time out on the lawn to run around.

What the heck does she need scissors for? he wanted to ask as the filly trotted outside, carrying the implements in the glow of her horn.

She carefully cut some grass from the lawn, and held it up to him, she made some motions he couldn't decipher.

Let's get a container and then see what she wants, he thought and signaled her to stay put. When he returned, she'd located the end of the hose and was pointing at it. Ah ha! Another short pause as he'd grabbed the pasta strainer from the kitchen, and they washed off some of the grass and let her taste it. Fortunately, she didn't like it one bit.

"We have tested that for safety?" Luna asked with alarm.

"Yes, perfectly safe, but quite bitter," the scholar said, "Although some more sophisticated palates might find it a pleasure in a larger salad."

"That's something more we need to worry about, invasive plants," Armor warned.

"Oh, we have a native species very similar," the scholar said, "It's a desert variety. No one ever thought to plant an entire field of it."

With the leg in a cast, she can't really go running around, and the addition of a sock over the cast to keep it clean had her giggling at the crazy monster foal-sitting. She yawned widely, and he carried her inside, tucked her into the day bed in the guestroom, in clear view of the observers, and left to get lunch ready.

Applejack listened to Fluttershy's wistful sigh. "Fer a monster, he ain't half-bad."

"For a pony, he isn't half bad," Fluttershy said, a trifle sharply.

"I didn't mean nothin' by it."

"Are my animal friends 'monsters' because they aren't ponies?" Fluttershy asked.

Applejack could hear how loaded that question was. "Yer animal friends don't live in houses that suddenly appeared. Yer animal friends ain't as smart as that critter is. Jist sayin' don't getcher hopes up on bein' more than a pet or a toy. It don't understand us, and we cain't understand it."

"Yet," Fluttershy said carefully. Then looked at Applejack. "But even you think it's cute."

Applejack sighed. "Yes, it's a sweetie."

"Fer a monster," she said only to herself.

Her call pulled him from his lunch preparations. The filly was staring down from the height of the day bed. Not anything for a human, but a daunting jump for a small filly with a broken leg. He picked her up and carried her through the house, to set her on the kitchen counter. There she stared in bewilderment at what he was doing.

"I wouldn't have thought a grilled cheese sandwich would be alien technology," he said as he assembled the last sandwich, from the buttered bread and put it in the pan. He'd already made a few others, as well as a sampling of apple slices, oranges, and a rather brown banana. For some reason, the apple excited a stream of happy chatter.

"I hope you realize that I haven't the ability to understand a word you're saying," he told her, then grinned, "And I may have a surprise for you as well."

The sandwich finished and the stove turned off, he set her on the ground, collected her lunch and what he'd made in a picnic basket, and stepped outside. There were a few benches in his yard, and he set the basket on one of them. She followed him around the side where the tomato plants grew. He found a few fruit that were ripe and picked them, then washed them with the garden hose. He held them out and she encircled them in her horn-field to carry them back. As they passed under the apple tree, he picked a few of those as well.

"Let's hope these don't have worms in them," he muttered as he brought them to the bench and their lunch.

He was surprised to see the mother pegasus there, carrying her own lunch. Although she seemed very nervous about something, and her response to her daughter's query sounded evasive even to him. He excused himself briefly, and went back into the house. Now the reunion was more what he'd expected. He returned with a telescope and a camera, both on tripods. He set the telescope up and aimed it at the main observation post, then invited the two to look through it. The daughter's awed tones told him that he had some serious VIPs as part of the observation group.

When he pointed the camera, he discovered one of the unicorns he'd spotted earlier was missing, the dark blue one. He ignored it, and set the camera to display what he was focusing on through the backplane, not the eye piece. The two were very interested in the power of the camera, and that it's 'film' was a tiny cartridge. Not an actual roll.

Okay, they have cameras, but not digital ones, he thought. At the querulous sound, he turned to see mother and daughter staring at the plate of grilled cheese sandwiches. I was able to survive their food, he thought and cut a small piece off the sandwiches he hadn't taken a bite of yet and cut it in half.

"If you like it you can have more," he said after they both looked at him askance at his parsimony.

They both sampled and enjoyed what they had. The mother said something he interpreted as 'more?'. He began cutting a larger piece, when the pegasus wobbled and collapsed. The little unicorn screamed, and suddenly began chasing her own tail shouting the same something over and over. The pegasus flopped around uncoordinated as she tried the stand, her wing flapping uselessly. He set the unicorn on the ground, and ran for the perimeter.

"GUARDS! GUARDS!" he shouted as he ran, then stopped at the sound of pony laughter. The guards had dashed to his call and approach, and now struggled to hide their mirth at his sudden chagrin. "Okay, turnabout is fair play," he said as he walked back to the giggling mother and daughter.

He endured what was probably a lecture on teasing with good grace. He had a perfect comeback. He pointed to them. "You thought it was funny." Then at himself. "When you did it to me." The guilty smiles and slight snickers told him he'd made his point.

Lunch completed with only a few giggles from the mother and daughter, and a sampling of the other sandwiches, the tomatoes and apples. For some reason, the mother kept the apple cores and asked to take another one, both she wrapped up carefully to take with her.

Are they that good she wants to eat the cores later, or is she taking samples back to her bosses? he wondered, but had another piece of intelligence he wanted. He headed in, and brought out a few different types of clothes to show the mother. I'll need these repaired or replaced eventually, he thought.

From the observation post, there's a scream of outrage, and when he looked there through the camera, the large white unicorn was half-in half-out and clearly unconscious, the smaller, white unicorn was standing in a pose out of a Kung-Fu movie. An orange pony tried to jump her, only to be levitated away, while a rainbow maned pegasus received a punch in the snout that crumpled it in a heap beside the unconscious unicorn. Only a cobalt blue beam striking the unicorn caused it to crumble. It fell as if its joints had suddenly become unstuck.

Somebody's got phasers, he thought and looked away from the scene at the mother and daughter who were sitting behind the telescope with identical, painful grins, and in an anime show would have had identical sweat drops. Please don't ask us about crazy Aunt Mildred who needs to have her medication checked.

"Why do I think having complete fluency in your language would do me no good in getting answers?" he asked as he pointed at the distant observation post.

Mother and daughter, still painfully smiling, glanced at each other and shrugged. He held up his hands. They relaxed as the matter dropped. The little unicorn became excited and tapped his watch, speaking quickly to her mother. She'd earlier thought the idea of 24 hour days with 60 minutes and second as division was hilarious. The two of them, based on his watch, the mothers and some calculations, came back with her mother picking her up at 1617.

With her mother's return about four and a half hours away, and the filly full of energy, he decided to show her some things about his own world. Inside, on the wall was a floor-to-ceiling poster map of the whole world. He showed her the nation that he lived in, and the city, then got down an atlas and a map booklet that showed the details of the city and street he had lived in. The little girl seemed excited about a whole other world with such huge numbers of people in them.

"Well, let's show you something really amazing." He said and took her into his study.

"Applejack!" Derpy called as she landed at the observation post. "You might want to try this." The mail-mare hooved over an apple and the apple cores. "It's different from yours, and he has a tree growing in his yard."

The commotion attracted Princess Luna's attention. Both mares bowed.

"Please continue," Luna said quietly.

"He had tomatoes, apples and some other food growing in his yard," Derpy said, "Dinky didn't think much of the grass, but the tomatoes and the apples are really good."

"This is different," Applejack said after tasting the apple. Luna moved a knife over and cut a small section, and tasted it herself.

"Have you considered hiring it, him?" Luna asked. "It obviously uses tools, and it may have some solutions to problems. There is also the question of what are its food requirements."

Applejack stared at her Highness. "Yer not seriously suggestin' I hire that thing, and then take it shoppin'!"

"I hadn't considered you escorting it on a shopping trip. Excellent suggestion," Luna said happily. "After all, with you there, no one would dare cheat it, and you could see what it buys for food."

Applejack stared at her Highness.

"Come now, aren't there any tasks on your farm that you haven't had the resources to perform?" Luna asked.

"Yeah, and mosta them would take a dozen ponies," Applejack countered.

"Then show him the problem, and let him see if he can solve it for you," Luna said. "Applejack, we need to know how clever, how strong and how helpful it is. If Derpy Hooves hired it as a foal-sitter, it will understand about currency, and may realize it will need a source of bits. And despite young Twilight's assumptions that it will gleefully hand over the only thing of value it has, it's knowledge, if it has no other way to earn a living, it will hoard that knowledge as the only way to survive."

"Highness, I, don't trust that thing," she admitted.

"Then take Fluttershy with you," Luna commanded, "She has naught but praise for him."

"She jist thinks he's cute. A rattlesnake is pretty, but I wouldn't want one in mah bathtub."

"Do not think we are unaware of the danger. Yet I think the danger is mirrored. If you need help, he will extend it. If you attack, he will warn, then stop the attack," Luna said, "Your friend Pinkie Pie did not suffer the fate of the Diamond Dogs, despite invading his home and confronting him directly."

"Yes, ma'am," Applejack said begrudgingly.

"We are not asking you to do anything we will not perform ourselves," Luna said and assumed the form she'd had when the Elements had first wiped away Nightmare Moon. "Someone must get close enough to scan him, without his notice. And a poor scared filly lost in a storm, that is the risk I shall take."

"No," Applejack whispered as Luna resumed her normal state.

"Yes, as we have said, we ask of you no risk we will not take ourselves," Luna said, "We will need your help in securing Ponyville and the surrounding areas, and will need a storm of great severity. Where is Rainbow Dash?"

"Highness, I must protest!" Armor said, "You cannot risk yourself."

"Ah agree, at least take some guards with ya!" Applejack said.

"Very well, two, of the softest, smallest you have. We are poor, paper-pushing fillies caught in the frightful storm."

"Ya'll might want to take some lessons from Fluttershy on the meek and helpless part," Applejack said.

"The one who frightens dragons?" Armor asked.

"She's got you fooled," Applejack replied.

From her expression, this was the cave of wonders, he thought as he fired up the computers and hooked up the USB microscope. With it booting, he carefully snipped a few hairs from his head and put them on a slide on the microscope stage. The bright colors of the computer screens attracted her attention as she sat in the chair and watched the fingers fly over the keyboard. Then the stage light of the scope came on, and the image of the hairs appeared. He showed her the controls, and how to properly focus the microscope. "Always move the tube away from the stage," he said and she stared in amazement at the huge image on the screen, and that a movement on the microscope stage was translated onto the screen.

This is magic, he thought to himself, This is the real power of science, the power to inflame curiosity.

She asked for him to cut a bit of her hair and he did so, putting them beside his on the slide and then zooming in. Then he increased from the x10, to x60, and she gulped at the similarities and the few differences. Then came the slides of various microscopic creatures, and the results on a slide when I didn't move the tube away from the stage. At some point during the afternoon, the purple unicorn had stationed itself outside the study, and stared in forlornly, like a puppy who'd been kicked and wanted to know why.

This one can't take a hint either, he thought as he retrieved his camera and took a photo of it. The odd colorfulness of the creature against the normal coloration of the brick patio made the photo look like a particularly bad example of photo shopping. I'm almost glad that the screens face away from the window, so it can't see what has the little one so excited, he thought, as he fired up the second computer, and the CAD program. The reason for the two computers was that the CAD/CAM program was such a resource hog that effectively nothing else would run on the machine when that ran.

While the girl was using the 'little filly's room', reinstruction and adaptation on that eliciting some serious hilarity on both sides. He downloaded the picture from the camera, used the CAD program to add a red circle and slash, denoting 'no', then he printed the picture. The unicorn could see the printer, and that in moments he could produce an entire page of text. He carefully didn't let her see what was on the page.

She's more determined than ever to get in here. With that horn, she could punch through any lock on the house, I wonder why she hadn't. Before the filly returned, he also created a special message for the unicorn. When the little one returned, he pointed at the purple unicorn. The filly dutifully gave the creature's name, which perked up the creature considerably. His absolutely butchering any attempt to pronounce the name sent the filly into hysterics. He managed to get the filly to write the name on an envelope and he placed the message he had for the purple unicorn inside.

He checked his watch and realized he had enough time. So they moved back into the living room. The unicorn had its nose pressed against the glass, as he opened the doors that had concealed the big screen TV. Now the mightiest magic of all, the sorcery of Yen Sid and Fantasia, he thought as he put the classic on, and the speakers arrayed around the room played the music along with the images.

The filly stared in rapt amazement, or hysterical giggles at the scenes displayed on the screen. The purple one's frustration grew as it could only see faceted reflections of the event reflected from the bookcase doors.

I never realized, the narration portions are as alien and wonderful as the animated segments. An alien presenting an alien world, he thought as she stared open-mouthed at the images accompanying Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.

Occasional giggles interrupted her fascination during Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. But Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice reduced her to hysterics as she pointed at the purple unicorn and laughed even harder. The target turned its puppy dog eyes up to maximum, to no avail.

Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring got him a lap full of shivering pony. But when he shut it off, she complained. "It's gonna get worse before it gets better," he explained. She indicated she wanted to see more. She was back to giggles and amazement for the Intermission/Meet the Soundtrack. Beethoven's The Pastoral Symphony had her excitedly giving names to the pegasi and unicorns, and laughter at the other characters' antics.

She doesn't approve of Zeus spoiling the party, he thought as the filly shouted something at the screen, Probably somebody powerful to deal with the party wrecker.

Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours had her laughing again. The knock on the door before the narrator could finish the introduction to Night on Bald Mountain was welcome. He shut the machine off and went to answer the door, the filly at his heels.

Her mother was there, all smiles, and apparently apologies. She looked around as he invited her in. He noted she wiped her hoofs off on the rug that was there for that purpose. As the filly excitedly circled and regaled her mother with stories about completed school work and wonders, he turned the big screen around, so the purple unicorn could watch, he opened the jalousie windows so she could hear better, and hit play on the disc.

You want information, enjoy, he thought as he collected the books, papers and cloth lunch bag. That's rotten trick to play, but maybe you'll quit trifling with what you don't understand. He programmed the multidisc unit to play Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 and Stravinsky'sFirebird Suite from Fantasia 2000 next. Enjoy, he thought and tried to keep from laughing malevolently.

"And then we watched funny moving pictures," Dinky told her Derpy, and tried not to bounce with enthusiasm. "I guess he's letting Twilight watch them now."

The monster arrived with a large envelope that he put some papers in.

"Oh! He showed me a new way to do the math!" Dinky said happily, "Maybe Miss Cheerilee should see those. Can I come back tomorrow?"

"Miss Cheerilee has the school set up at Sweet Apple Acres, but if you ask, maybe she can get a field trip here." Derpy thought for a moment. "Maybe we should tell Princess Luna about all this."

Then the monster handed over a letter clearly labeled for 'Twilight Sparkle'.

"I wrote than, he made something especially for Twilight," Dinky said.

I plan to have a few words with Miss Sparkle myself, Derpy thought, then caught the monster's expression,I think it's not a surprise that Twilight will like, so I'll make sure she gets it.

She collected the bits she would normally pay a foal-sitter, plus a little extra for his inconvenience. He frowned and shook his head.

"Please, I know she's a delight, but you deserve something," she told him. He nodded and accepted. Then he leaned down so Dinky could hug him. She hugged both of them. He waved to them as they headed out.

He returned to the big screen, and briefly considered adding the Sorcerer's Apprentice, but decided against it. The unicorn sat there, slack jawed, ears flat against her head, her eyes wide and teary. He shut the machine off, and seemingly released her from its spell. She looked at him, and trudged away slowly. The headed towards the kitchen to make up his dinner.

"Your Highness," Derpy said as she stood before Luna. "I think you might want these. He helped Dinky with her math homework, and you all seemed pretty excited about that."

"Indeed, we are," Luna said as she took the papers. "Such a small thing, to have such meaning." She looked at the papers. Tick marks, alien numbers and the familiar Equestrian forms. On another, a completely new way to solve multiplication problems. On another, new long division methods. She shook her head. "It is a wonder we do not all fall to Twilight's mania. What this offers . . . "

"There's also the box that shows moving pictures," Dinky said happily. "And the tube that makes everything bigger." She pulled the print out of her bag, and horned it to her Highness. "That's my hair, and his."

Luna stared at the image. She knew of microscopy, and taking pictures through microscopes, but it was a very technical field. One this 'monster' can teach a foal in an afternoon, with his equipment.

"Twilie!" Shining Armor cried.

"Hi, Shining," the mare replied flatly.

"You okay, sugarcube?" Applejack asked.

"No, not really," Twilight said quietly, her usual spark seemed completely extinguished. "Your Highness, I'd like your permission to return home."

"Ponyville, or Canterlot?" Luna asked worriedly.

"Ponyville," Twilight said quietly.

"Sugarcube," Applejack said more forcefully, "Are you okay?"

"No," Twilight said, "I've got, a lot to think about." She looked up at Luna. "I think you're right. We shouldn't push. I was wrong, and I hope you'll all forgive me."

"What happened?" Derpy asked, putting the letter to Twilight back in her pouch.

"I saw, it was beautiful, it was terrible," Twilight said, and smiled, "And it was - him, whatever his people are. I, need to think, alone."

"Applejack, go with her. But your mission tomorrow is now paramount. You too need rest."

"Yes'm," Applejack said. She bowed and led Twilight way.

"What did he do?" Shining Armor demanded, "My own sister barely recognized me."

"What our scholar warned. Some of their ideas bring delight." She indicated Dinky. "Others bring an epiphany that borders on madness. Your sister will recover. He did to her, what he did to the Diamond Dog, yet he left her alive to grow from the blow he struck."

"I don't understand."

"Neither did your sister, now she does, and must think deep and hard on what she must do next," Luna said.

Author's Notes:

An idea sparked by a forum posts about the human in Equestria load-out, and lack of language problems. Here the characters physically cannot speak the others language intelligibly, and the human brings an entire house with it.

Fixed the formatting. I apologize, it double spaced the paragraphs when I looked at it in the browser.

>>1832919 - But what exactly did he play for Twilight?

A Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria


Fantasia 2000 - Beethoven's symphony (N. 5)


Fantasia 2000 - Firebird


Now imagine you've never heard of cartoons, and these cartoons look more like Twilight's actual world that the monster's home. In all three, there would be a huge horror factor, and although the forces of light and rebirth prevail, there's nothing comical or hammy about any of the villians. And in the Firebird, the destructive force appears to have won, utterly destroying the nymph's forest and the nymph herself.

There's also the message to Twilight that while she assumed she could just collect all the books and everything would be fine. The above are her first encounter with the monster's 'library'. :twilightoops: She has no idea if these are historical records, abstract images, some of each, or what. But these beautiful, terrifying messages take her to different a plane of thought for a few brief moments.

And this is what the monster just happens to have lying around. :facehoof:

'Nemo me impune lacessit' indeed. (No one provokes me with impunity).

Next Chapter: 2) Settling in Adjustments Estimated time remaining: 42 Hours, 33 Minutes
Return to Story Description


Login with