Explosions filled the night sky, the staccato of gunfire unrelentingly piercing the silence as the glow from the moon shone down on the battlefield. I panted, hoping and praying that the cavalry would arrive sometime soon before I bolted out from my cover.
"Haley!" I yelled as I slid and ducked behind another wall of mechanical rubble, sparing a glance at the chestnut haired woman, her back against a singed metal panel, holding her stomach and slowly sliding down. Biting down on my lip, I pondered on what to do, for I knew that if I yelled again, swarms of soldiers would be upon us in an instant.
"Thank god," I muttered as I heard the familiar screeching of incoming reinforcements, and of our possible escape from this hell hole. I peered out from behind the rubble before quickly ducking down as bullets riddled the remnants of a wall that I was using for cover. I hoisted my rifle, taking potshots at the goddamn bastards before a hand grasped my shoulder and- I gasped loudly, my eyes tightly clenched from the pain wracking through my body.
"He's conscious!" yelled a female voice, the words echoing loudly in my ears as I could only groan from the barrage of torment. Gasping with short, pained breaths, I tried to lift a hand. A sharp jolt of pain shot through my arm, causing me to grimace and cry out in agony, my hand dropping back on to the mattress I lay upon.
"He's not even close to recovering! These injuries are going to kill him if we can't operate. Get him back under before- Oh for Celestia's sake!" yelled a male voice. Very loud clops followed by the sound of the rummaging of instruments and metal filled the air, reverberating loudly in my ears. It was true, I had indeed started to panic: not because I was alive, but because I was being treated by doctors.
I cracked open an eye to catch a glimpse of my doctors/captors, and what I saw before I once more fell unconscious shocked- me to the core before I glared at the cheeky son of a bitch who decided to sneak up on me. "Don't do that! I could have blown your head off!" I whispered sharply as the bastard simply grinned before shuffling next to me.
"Well, that'd be kind of hard and all. Everyone knows that you love my face," he replied back before taking potshots over the rubble as I snorted, shaking my head.
"We're almost to the breaking point in overtaking this damned fortress," I said, ignoring his comment before grabbing a fragmentation grenade that was clipped on his belt. Without a second glance I pulled the pin before throwing it with all my might over the rubble.
"Is that so? Well, just so you know," the smug bastard started, "We've made sure to close all of the roads leading to the fortress, including all of the secret pathways they had the locals make for them," he said before pointing in Haley's direction, my gaze following his hand. I saw her being taken by our people to be treated, another distraction that would be taken off of the battlefield.
"Shit!" Devon cursed as a shrill beeping steadily grew louder and louder, a tell-tale sign of one of the enemy's most dangerous and intimidating ground weapons. With a shrieking- beep I was brought back, my eyes opening and closing rapidly, glimpses of the doctors and nurses that were treating me driving me to a higher level of panic.
It's perfectly understandable to start panicking, especially when one is aware of being surgically sliced open and having god knows what being done inside of one's body. Which is why it's also understandable that I started struggling with all of my strength, not noticing that I couldn't feel anything in my panicked state.
"Doctor, He's conscious again!" yelled a female nurse, the beeping growing louder and completely erratic, "Knock him out before- I threw myself down to the ground, blocking my ears as the area erupted in a flash of light. It didn't help. My ears rung loudly from the detonation as I lifted my head, lightly shaking it to drive away the daze that could get me killed on this battlefield.
I slowly shuffled back to my earlier position behind the surprisingly resilient rubble, the staccato of gunfire still ringing true in the night.
"Any bright ideas now, smart ass?" I inquired of my still dazed comrade before mentally dismissing him, training my gaze towards where Haley had been. She was in good hands now, and seeing the empty space where she had been writhing only a few moments before brought an indescribable sense of relief to my being.
"Well my good sir, it's a pleasure to confirm that I do have an enlightening idea," Devon said with a rather fake Terran English accent.
"Kindly explain your marvelous idea then, Sir Devo," I replied in kind as I pressed my back against the rubble, my rifle at the ready.
"Well, first we have to get rid of any unnecessary distractions, like Haley was for you," he started off, shuffling closer to me before he started to check his own rifle. "Since that's already done, the next thing we need to do is to get rid of any traitors," he said with a menacing grin, "And I'm sure you'd know all about that, wouldn't you, Great Betrayer?"
With that question, the world before me shifted in its entirety. Gone was the gunfire, gone were the explosions that lit up that cursed battlefield, and gone was the menacing visage on Devon's face. I now stood in a dimly lit room, my rifle leveled towards three men, two of who were glaring at me. "Why did you kill Devon?" asked the man in the middle, his voice calm and his eyes staring unblinkingly at me.
"He let her die, as did all of you," I replied sharply, eyes keen and flinty as I glared at them, loathing what they now stood for. "I will end this revolution, but I will not kill you now. Instead, I will slowly and methodically destroy everything that you've built to overthrow this corrupt government," I said, my voice surprisingly calm as a tempest of fury raged inside of me, as I slowly walked backwards.
"She was the sole reason as to why I've been fighting for so long; my only purpose left in life was to see her taste and bask in freedom," I whispered, my voice cracking a bit before I willed myself, steeling myself as I continued to approach the door behind me. "You took that away from me. Now, I will take everything from you," I announced as the door unsealed and slid open, revealing a darkened hallway.
Cries of 'traitor' and 'betrayer' come from the other two men, their rage-filled gazes piercing my form, "Betrayer? Maybe. Enjoy the consequences of your actions, gentlemen, and pray for mercy in the afterlife, for I will have none," I finished as I walked out of the room. I trained my rifle on the door's palmlock and shot it, the doors rapidly closing with an audible thump and sealing the men inside. A slightly useful measure for now, but one that would prove useless once their pawns got them out.
I turned and headed down the pitch black hallway, ignoring the pounding on the metal door and the cries of me being the Great- "Betrayer!" I yelled, thrashing helplessly in the bed. "Get him back under, we're still not done!" yelled the doctor as they ceased their operation, the bloodied instruments now hovering over my body, urging me into a deeper state of panic.
"Betrayer..." I trailed off in a whisper before my eyes rolled upwards, fainting from the sheer exhaustion my body was under.
A sigh pierced the silence that followed, "Let's get back to it, fillies and gentlecolts," said the voice of the head surgeon, the room slowly returning to order as they resumed their efforts to save the life of the strange being on their operating table.
After two more hours, the crack team of Ponyville's best surgeons had finally stabilized the strange bipedal creature. A few moments later, the faithful student of the ruler of Equestria appeared, along with her assistant/baby dragon.
"How is he?" Twilight Sparkle asked, a concerned tone in her voice.
The head surgeon known as Doctor Mort simply sighed and shut his eyes, wearily sitting down behind his desk. "He's... stable at the moment; Princess Celestia gave us some magical scans of his injuries, but somehow he kept regaining consciousness at numerous points during the operation. However, we did manage to get him back under before anything disastrous could happen."
"It was touch and go several times, and we almost lost him once he started yelling," Mort sighed once more and gave a small smile to the purple unicorn. "Thankfully, he made it through. He's now on the smooth path to recovery from his injuries, thanks to the Royal Unicorn Healers that Princess Celestia was kind enough to station here." Twilight gave a nod as he finished, the baby dragon on her back transcribing everything the good doctor had told them onto a piece of paper.
"May I see him?" she asked the doctor who gently nodded, pointing with a hoof to the door next to the unicorn.
"Yes, you may, but please be quiet," he said before turning to the papers on his desk. The gentle sound of the door closing told the good doctor that he was finally alone. Shutting his eyes, Doctor Mort brought his hooves up and gently rubbed them, exhausted from the almost twenty four hour surgery.
"Whatever you are, may you find peace from your nightmares."
Having gently closed the door, Twilight approached the bed, her gaze on the being that now rested calmly atop the mattress under the white sheet. "So strange looking," Spike commented, propping his head atop hers and slightly squishing her mane. The creature looked different: having been cleaned, she noted, his face had a very small snout and a strange looking mouth.
As the unicorn got closer, both she and Spike saw that he had only pink looking skin. "No coat, just a mane at the top of his head," Twilight started, her horn lightly glowing with power as she lifted a piece of the being's mane, revealing a rounded ear, "Rounded ears, small snout..." the unicorn trailed off.
Squinting for a second or two, she nodded to herself, "and what appear to be eyelashes," she continued as the sound of rapid scratching filled the air, Spike writing down what Twilight said on a different piece of paper. "This will do for now," she said. Turning around to leave the room, the duo stopped, rounding back to face the male creature who was now mumbling in his sleep.
"What do you think he's saying?" asked the baby dragon as they approached the bed again.
"I don't have any idea, Spike, but it mustn't be pleasant," she replied. Her horn pulsing with magic, the unicorn slowly lowered it until it touched the being's forehead. He abruptly ceased his mumbling, calmly resting once more.
"Let's hope that he gets some good rest," she whispered, Spike nodding in reply as the duo left the room, leaving the being to its rest undisturbed.
"Well, if it ain't Twilight!" exclaimed the orange colored mare known as Applejack. Twilight approached the country belle's apple stand with Spike still sitting on her back, "How y'all doing?" Applejack asked. The baby dragon lightly snapped his fingers next to Twilight's ear, bringing her back to reality.
"Oh, Applejack! I'm doing fine, just a bit lost in thought," she replied, blushing slightly in embarrassment. Spike smirked as Applejack lightly shook her head, a smile on her face.
"Yah gotta stop keeping your head in the clouds, Twi. Wouldn't want to embarrass yerself by crashing into somepony in the street, now would ya?" she asked as Twilight's blush deepened, clearly imagining the scene in her head.
The purple unicorn glared at Spike who was stifling giggles at Applejack's playful teasing, the baby dragon clearly enjoying himself. "I guess you have a point, Applejack. Anyway, how are you doing?" Twilight inquired.
"Ahm doing fine, just waiting a few minutes before closing mah apple stand trying to catch some late customers."
"Hey, where's your sister?" Spike asked, finally having noticed the little filly's absence.
"Ah had her stay at home after... yesterday. Ah thought it'd be safer for her to stay there today and help Big Mac," Applejack replied as the filly started to close shop, "Besides she works better at tha farm than at mah stand, really."
"Ah, that reminds me," the apple farmer continued, turning her head to look at the duo, "How is that critter doing?" she asked, causing Twilight to blink.
"He's...fine for now. Doctor Mort said that he's now recovering, which shouldn't take more than a day with Princess Celestia's healers helping," Twilight managed to blurt out, quite confused from the suddenness of the question.
Applejack flashed her a smile before continuing to close the stand. "That's good ta hear, Ah reckon," the mare said after finishing, her apple cart ready to be hauled back to the farm.
"Wouldn't want the fella to go hurt himself right after being treated," she added. Twilight simply nodded with a smile of her own, quite glad as well that the mysterious being was on the road to recovery.
"Ah well, it's time for this pony to head on back to the farm," Applejack announced, the mare preparing for the trip home. "Ah'll see ya two tomorrow if Ah can," she said as she waved a hoof, walking down the street.
"Bye, Applejack!" Twilight said, the unicorn and dragon waving a hoof and a claw respectively in goodbye at the orange mare.
"Well, time to head home as well. It's getting pretty late, Twilight," Spike said, having noticed the darkening of the sky overhead. Said indigo mare nodded and started to head towards her home, pondering what the following day would bring.
High above the Everfree forest rested a sky blue pegasus. "How can such a thing fly?" she asked herself, gazing past the clouds and into the crater where the castle ruins once stood, rose colored eyes roaming over the metal mass. "It just doesn't make any sense!" she cried out in frustration, having gone over again and again the logistics of such a thing flying through the heavens.
The sheer power the construct needed to even go past the the forest's treetops completely boggled her mind, "It's just impossible," Rainbow Dash muttered to herself. She turned around and stared at the open blue expanse, temporarily dismissing the problem from her mind in favor of gazing at her beloved sky.
A small smile crept up on her face as her mind jumped between different trains of thought, her focus fixating itself on the peculiar and strange creature that now rested in Ponyville's hospital. Dash shifted around a bit, the pegasus now resting on her sides as she propped her head up with a hoof.
"Whatever he is, I hope he recovers," she said to herself before blinking, a grin slowly growing on her face. "If that thing can still fly, then maybe," Dash trailed off, her imagination going into overdrive, "Maybe we can have a race," she finished, widely grinning to herself over the prospect of such a race ever happening.
"It'd be the stuff of legends!" she cried out before blasting off of the cloud, flying into the distance towards her house.
"All done," whispered a yellow mare, her wings gently resting as she stood in the middle of a spotless room, the air filled with the soft snores of her adorable bunny rabbit, Angel. Fluttershy smiled to herself gazing down at her beloved pet, quite content that her house was back in order.
Yesterday's event had driven the animals her pet had invited to the house into a panic, causing a veritable rampaging storm that had turned her house into a mess, one that the shy pegasus had just finished cleaning. She glanced over everything in the room, wanting to make sure everything was in its rightful place.
Fluttershy nodded in satisfaction before leaving the room, the yellow pegasus making her way out of her house and letting out a content sigh as she gently closed her door. The pink maned mare turned her gaze towards the heavens, gazing upon the sun's fading rays as night slowly rose from the sun's dying gasps.
As the moon rose, the pegasus' thoughts went towards the strange individual who had crash landed yesterday. 'I wonder how that strange creature is doing... he looked so terrible... I just hope he's getting better...,' thought Fluttershy, her kindness always at the forefront, even for completely unknown creatures.
"May you sleep peacefully tonight," she whispered into the night before heading back inside her abode to turn in for the night.
"My, what a day," muttered a white mare, her horn glowing with power as various instruments and tools floated back into their respective places. The fashion mistress known as Rarity nodded as she finished closing up her boutique, "Come on, Opal!" the unicorn cried out before giving her studio one last glance.
A smile grew on her face, content that her boutique was ready for tomorrow. Rarity turned around, her horn glowing as the door that led to her second floor swung open and the studio's lights were turned off. Her adorable white cat now stood besides her, "Time for a luxurious bath before turning in for the night," she exclaimed in joy as the fashionista made her way upwards.
"Mmmm, feels so delightful," Rarity softly moaned as she slipped into the tub, the warm water tingling her senses. The unicorn slid deeper into the heavenly aromatic waters, her muzzle bobbing atop the water as she sat still, relaxing under the water's massaging touch.
As Rarity relaxed, her thoughts drifted to the strange creature and the strange clothing it wore. She tilted her head, deep in thought. "No, no, no, no, no. That wouldn't do at all," she muttered to herself as she imagined various designs centered around the peculiar being.
"You will certainly be quite the trial," Rarity said aloud, smiling to herself at the fashion challenge the outlander brought to her.
Back at the hospital and unbeknownst to the medical staff, a certain pink pony sneaked her way past the main doors, the building's visiting hours having ended much earlier. "Sneaking suits have nothing on this," came the strangely raspy voice of Pinkie Pie, who was dressed in a rather strange attire.
The pink mare had a black colored coat-tight suit that covered her entire body with the exception of her forelegs, and a pair of black gloves covered her forehooves stopping up till halfway past her forelimbs. Pinkie's suit was securely fastened by the various straps and buckles that were strapped to a pair of rings placed atop her chest and just above the pink mare's pelvis. Covering the fun loving mare's head was a simple gas mask, strapped behind her head and decorated with orange lenses and two unused voicemitters, one located in the front and the other to her left.
"The things bronies imagine," she giggled to herself, the pony continuing on her way towards the interesting critter that had crash landed yesterday, while miraculously avoiding detection by the patrolling guards.
"I wonder what his name is and if he's read Gulliver's Travels. Whatever that might be," the pink mare rambled on, shedding the costume in mere seconds and standing in front of the bed, the lights turned on but dim nevertheless.
"Ooh, he's a big one," she marveled while avoiding his outstretched legs, taking a very long and hard look at the male. Pinkie Pie stiffened and the lights suddenly died out.
A guard pony slowly opened the door, glancing through the room until his gaze fell on a little card, propped up against one of the creature's strange looking hooves near the door.
"Lideo?" the colt asked himself before perking an ear, hearing a fading cackle in the distance.
"Ugh" a scratchy voice groaned from underneath the weight of a warm blanket; slowly blinking his eyes, the purple dragon known as Spike woke up. He shook his head groggily, before looking at the clock that sat on his night stand, continuing to stare at it until his eyes widened in disbelief. "Oh crud," he muttered to himself before scrambling out of his bed, hastily making it before dashing towards the still sleeping mare.
"Twilight, wake up," coaxed the dragon as he gently shook her to no effect. Shaking her a bit rougher, he began to raise raise his voice as he bid her to rise, "Come on, wake up!"
Twilight simply turned over, Spike glaring at her back in annoyance, "Mmm, just like that Big Mac," she moaned in her sleep. The smile on her face only added to Spike's horror.
He took a few steps back before shaking his head, "I'll...I'll just pretend I didn't hear that," he muttered to himself as he left the room, given no other choice.
"A liiiiiittle to the left, Mac...Thanks for moving that bookshelf for me," Twilight continued to mumble in her sleep, the smile slowly growing perverted. The dragon entered the room, an airhorn in his grasp as he approached the mare's bed.
"Just remember, you gave me no choice," he whispered as he aimed the can towards Twilight and pressed down on its valve, a loud blaring sound erupting throughout the room.
"Gah!" the unicorn cried in alarm as she stumbled from her bed and fell to the floor, her legs tangled in the bed sheets. Twilight groaned as she lifted her head, shaking away both her grogginess and momentary dizziness, "What is it, Spike?" the indigo mare asked still trying to get her bearings from the abrupt awakening.
"Today's the 'big' day at the hospital, remember?" he asked as Twilight blankly stared at the baby dragon. Suddenly, her eyes widened.
"You're right, and we're going to be late!" she cried out, her horn glowing as the bed sheets disentangled themselves allowing the unicorn to stand upright. "Spike, I want you to write a letter to inform Princess Celestia that we're on our way to the hospital, with regards to the strange creature. Also, do add that we'll report back after our visit," the mare said as her horn continued to glow, the bed making itself in record time.
"Got'cha," confirmed Spike, and rapid scribbling filled the air as he followed Twilight's orders. With a flourish of green flame, the scroll was gone.
"On its way," the dragon reported with a mock salute.
Twilight nodded, "Let's freshen up a bit, eat something light first and then quickly make our way to the hospital," she said as she ambled out of the room, Spike following in her wake.
Twilight trotted down the street with Spike in his usual spot atop her back, the duo both heading towards Ponyville's main hospital. "I just hope we're not that late," she muttered to herself.
"Oh relax, will ya? We're almost there anyway," he said, waving off Twilight's concern with a dismissive claw. "Besides, I'm sure they won't mind that you're late a minute or two," he finished before waving a claw in greeting towards Applejack who happened to be approaching from the opposite direction. "Heya, Applejack!"
"Mornin' ya two," the orange mare greeted before grabbing two apples from her satchel and throwing them to the duo. "Ya two look like ya need it," she said with a lopsided smile that Twilight returned with gratitude.
"Thanks, Applejack!" exclaimed Spike before taking a bite out of the apple, slowly savoring the apple. "So delishious," he softly moaned through bits of mangled fruit.
"Spike! Manners," Twilight scolded after gulping down her own bite, shaking her head in exasperation as the dragon continued to messily savor Applejack's scrumptious apples. "Thank you, Applejack. That apple certainly hit the spot," she said as Spike finished his own apple, nodding and flashing her a smile in gratitude, bits of apple skin stuck in between his teeth.
"Headin' down to tha hospital?" Applejack asked, having noticed Twilight's sidelong glances towards the institution.
The indigo unicorn nodded in reply, "Yes, I hav-"
"Look out below!" yelled the tomboyish voice of Rainbow Dash causing Spike to dive off from his perch, narrowly missing being included in Dash's signature 'crash-landing' with Twilight.
The trio shook their heads. Spike was slightly dazed from his haphazard flight to safety, stumbling up from the spot on the road where he had landed, as the pegasus and unicorn took a moment to untangle themselves from each other. "I wonder if you 'land' like that on purpose, Dash," muttered Twilight as the both of them stood up, Dash chuckling nervously and blushing in embarrassment. Applejack just stood there, shaking her head with a wide grin on her face due to her friends' antics.
"Hehe, right," Dash chuckled before turning her gaze to Twilight. "So, I heard you're going to the hospital. Is this about that thing?" she asked as the purple mare nodded in response.
"Yes, as I was about to say before a certain pegasus crashed into me," she answered while mockingly glaring at the sky blue pegasus, who simply rubbed the back of her head with a hoof, "I have to be present before they wake him up after his healing treatment."
"Can I come?" she asked, suddenly floating next to Twilight, pressing her face against the unicorn's. "I promise I'll be good!" she exclaimed.
The mare slowly pushed Dash's face away from her own with a hoof. "Fine-" she managed to say before being pounced on by a very pink pony.
"Heya, Twilight!" exclaimed Pinkie Pie before managing to loop an arm around Dash's neck, squeezing her as well. "So good to see you all! How are you doing?" asked the pink ball of energy before letting the purple and blue duo go.
Applejack simply smiled at Pinkie, "Just dandy, Pinkie Pie," she said with a nod, followed by similar replies from Dash, Twilight and Spike who was still trying to stifle his giggles. "Twi here is headed to tha hospital, and ah reckon ah should too. Never know if the fella might be mighty hungry," she said while gesturing to her apple-filled satchel.
"AJ's right, but we shouldn't dilly dally anymore than we already are," stated Twilight as the group of ponies plus one dragon trotted off towards the hospital.
"Is that where we're headed?" the pink mare asked, "Is it to see that man?" she continued asking as the group as a whole turned to stared at her.
"What's a...'man'?" asked Dash, voicing the group's confusion in a simple question as Pinkie Pie shook her head.
"Silly Dashie. That's what he is, a man," she answered with a bright smile.
Twilight opened her mouth to say something but decided against it, shaking her own head, "Leave it to Pinkie Pie to know stuff we don't."
"Ah reckon we'll know more about this here... Man, once the poor fella's awake," added Applejack.
With that said, the group continued it's trek towards the hospital, making smalltalk between themselves before Dash's eyes spotted a familiar pair of ponies.
"Hey Rarity, Fluttershy!"
The white and yellow pair slowed their pace, allowing the larger group to catch up and exchange simple pleasantries. "Where ya two headed?" asked Applejack; in response, Rarity pointed towards the nearing hospital with a hoof.
"We're both headed towards the hospital, of course. Fluttershy, such a kind dear, wants to check in on the pitiable thing that crashed the other day. I, on the other hand, need to take some measurements for when the poor creature wakes up and will certainly need fashionable and well-fitting clothes," the fashionista answered, causing the group to smile - the elements of Kindness and Generosity indeed.
"I want to know if he's okay, is all," Fluttershy replied softly before the group stopped in front of the hospital. With a simple nod between all of them, they proceeded inside.
"Ah! Twilight Sparkle, just the pony I was looking for!" exclaimed a familiar grey colored pony dressed in a white doctor's coat, a stethoscope hanging around his neck.
"Good morning, Doctor Mort! Please excuse the slight delay," the indigo unicorn said before the doctor simply waved a dismissive hoof at her.
"That is of no concern, Ms. Sparkle, but we need you to come and see this, immediately," the doctor replied, quickly leading the group through a veritable maze of hallways and doors before coming to rest in front of a rather imposing looking door. One that a certain pink pony recognized.
"What exactly is it that I have to see, Doctor?" the young scholar asked the Doctor as the physician flipped a catch next to the door with his hoof.
"I bet it's about that man!" yelled Pinkie Pie as she pressed her face against the purple mare's, "Or maybe some sort of monster," she said as she stomped about, miming an imaginary beast of some sorts.
Twilight chuckled nervously, the Doctor raising an eyebrow at the mare, before shaking his head dismissively, "Young ponies these days," he muttered under his breath before turning his gaze towards the group, as if sizing them up. Mort nodded slightly to himself before grabbing the doorknob with a hoof and opening the door.
As the door swung open, the group gasped as they caught sight of half a dozen unicorn healers passed out on the floor. Only a single one remained standing, her glowing horn pointed at the still sleeping 'man'.
"What happened here?" asked Rarity as the Doctor nodded to the unicorn healer. The Healer's eyes flickered to the doctor as if in acknowledgement, and she appeared to struggle against something invisible before completely turning to face the group.
"I'll have some guards place your team in beds. Now go and rest Healing Touch, you've earned it," Doctor Mort ordered as the healer smiled in sheer gratitude. The group let the exhausted unicorn pass by.
"As you can see, the patient has some sort of immunity against magic. The effects of spells cast on him are roughly halved, and any channeling spell used can't be broken until the caster is to the point of exhaustion or willful enough to break away," the good doctor explained to the group.
"However, despite having exhausted almost the entire healer team, he's completely healed. That is why we had to rush over here, so you could see it for yourself," he finished before the entire group stiffened as they heard a low groan and turned their gazes towards the awakening 'man'.
One of the creature's strange five fingered hands rose up, gently rubbing at his forehead as the man groaned once more. Slowly his upper body rose, revealing a dramatically scarred chest before he hunched forward and lightly shook his head. No noise came from the group of assembled ponies as they stared in awe at the awakening man. The only noises came from the man himself as he started stretching his upper body, loud cracks filling the air followed by low moans of relief.
"Ah, that feels much better now," he muttered softly. The ponies were absolutely shocked. This 'man' was speaking their language. The man tilted his head sideways, more loud cracks filling the air as the ponies cringed, continuing to stare at him as he worked out all the kinks leftover from his long sleep.
He pulled his mane backwards with both his hands, revealing his smooth, clean face before yawning loudly with his arms outstretched.
"Eep," Fluttershy whispered in surprise, causing the man to stiffen in mid-yawn.
Slowly, his head turned towards her and his gaze landed on the string of ponies, his grey eyes growing wide at the sight. Blinking not once, not twice, but thrice, the man shook his head while rubbing at his eyes. "I must be hallucinating if I'm seeing ponies, especially pastel colored ones."
"Hey! We're right here, ya know!" Dash yelled as the man turned his gaze on her.
"Great, not just ponies but pegasi and unicorns. Hallucinating about mythological and extinct equine creatures," he muttered to himself as his eyes roamed over everypony.
"And we're not hallucinations either!" the sky blue pegasus yelled once more, glaring daggers at the man who simply laughed boisterously in return.
"Oh. They have attitude, I like that," he said with a friendly grin on his face, "Okay, let's say you're all real. Where am I, then?" he asked.
"You're in the land of Equestria, ruled by the Princesses Celestia and Luna, and currently resting in a hospital in Ponyville," answered Doctor Mort before anypony else could.
"Equestria, huh? Fitting name for an Equine land," he replied as he gently rubbed his chin with a hand, "Okay, I'm in Equestria. What are your names then?"
The string of ponies and baby dragon hesitated before answering his question, naming themselves one by one. The 'man' nodded in response, settling on Spike as he caught sight of him. "Damn, a baby dragon, too? Not really that strange, considering that I'm talking to mythological and extinct equine races," the 'man' said before he shook his head, "Well, it'd be impolite to ask your names without giving mine in return, though you all must know since you're in my head. My name is Rudolph, and I'm a human."
"What's extinct and mythological mean?" whispered Applejack to Twilight, who closed her eyes trying to remember.
"Extinct means that an entire species of animals died off, while mythological means imaginary and or fictitious," she whispered back, a bit relieved that their impromptu whispering wasn't noticed.
"With the introductions out of the way," Rudolph said, completely gaining the attention of everypony, "I think it's time for me to test whether I'm hallucinating or not. And for that, I will need a volunteer." Suddenly and with an exuberant glee, Pinkie Pie was in front of his bed, bouncing on her two hindlegs.
"Well, I guess that decides it then. Now then, Pinkie Pie was it?" he asked as the pink mare nodded rapidly, a bright smile on her face. "It's real simple, all you have to do is hug me," he concluded rather lamely.
"Easy peasy!" exclaimed Pinkie as she tackled him, slamming the human into his bed and pillow as she wrapped her forelegs firmly around his waist.
"Wha-" Rudolph managed to say as he stared with wide eyes at the mare hugging him tightly, his mind trying to comprehend the reality of his situation as it finally hit home.
The human opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out, prompting him to slowly close it as he continued to struggle with the here and definitely real now.
Instead, he simply continued to stare at the physical impossibility that was now nuzzling his scarred upper chest, her bright pink and curly mane brushing over his naked skin as his mind worked in overdrive.
"Ah reckon Pinkie broke the poor fella," quipped Applejack, an amused smile on her face as Dash started to snicker a bit.
"Broke? I'd say he's experiencing the dreaded Blue Screen of Death that's been plaguing Twi's computer recently," the famous flyer replied, a cheeky grin on her face.
"Hey! It's not like I do it on purpose," Twilight countered. "I blame Manesoft for that," she mumbled, blushing in embarrassment.
"I wonder... What happened to him. To get those scars, I mean," Fluttershy softly replied, her concerned gaze on the still stunned man.
"The poor dear must have gone through something horrific," continued Rarity, her eyes softening as they gazed upon his scarred body.
The pink mare stopped nuzzling the human's chest, tilting her head forward, "How are you doing, Rudolph?" Pinkie Pie asked with a bubbly smile.
The question jolted him out of his increasingly desperate mind, bringing him back to face the harshness of reality as he gazed down at the pink pony, completely at a loss at how to answer.
"I don't know," he finally managed to say. "I don't know," he whispered as his eyes roamed over the group of ponies before returning to Pinkie Pie still clinging to him with a firm grip.
"I should have died... And yet, here I am," Rudolph stated, gently gesturing with one hand about his location, gently stroking Pinkie's head with the other, and trying to reassure himself of the unshakable absoluteness of his new reality.
"Saved from the jaws of death by honest-to-god ponies, unicorns and pegasi," he stated before the human chuckled cynically, driving shivers down the spines of everypony.
"To think that I, of all people, would have a second chance at life," the man said as he shook his head lightly. "No matter. What's done is done," he said before running a hand through his locks of brown hair, "Pinkie Pie, think you can move a bit so I can sit up straight?"
The mare simply nodded and complied.
"Feeling a bit better now?" she asked him.
Rudolph slowly nodded as he moved both his legs to the bed's left side and sat up into a hunched position, before finally noticing that he had a pair of haphazardly made and ripped white shorts on. "Sort of," he said softly as he placed his elbows on his knees, gently rubbing at his forehead with his hands.
Feeling a bit daring, the pink mare took a chance and wrapped her forelegs around his neck, gently hugging him. The human male did not stiffen but only sighed.
"Thank you," he whispered at the mare who simply nodded and held him gently. Rudolph breathed in deeply and exhaled slowly, repeating the motion a few times before he nodded to himself, "Okay. I'm fine now," he said before turning his head, flashing the pink mare a smile.
The resulting whoop of joy from Pinkie made him chuckle. 'Such innocent joy and happiness from the simplest of things,' he thought to himself as he hooked his arms behind the mare's hocks.
"Ooh, human back ride?" asked the pink party mare extraordinaire as Rudolph stood up, slowly regaining and centering his balance before turning around to face the string of ponies.
"I'm... sorry about earlier. Didn't really expect to survive, much less be saved by ponies, as it were," the man said, doing his best to apologize to the group of ponies plus dragon in front of him. He noticed that their heads reached his abdomen in terms of height.
"It's okay, Rudy! I forgive you," tittered the pink mare on his back, pressing her face against his, an innocent grin spreading across Pinkie's face.
"Pinkie Pie's right, you weren't all that right in yer noggin considerin' the situation," pointed out the orange mare in the light brown Stetson.
"That is indeed correct, though it is a bit strange that you seem to be taking all of this... in stride, if you will," said the doctor, quirking an eyebrow in suspicion and slight intrigue.
Rudolph shrugged, causing Pinkie to let out a cry of joy from the motion of being bounced into the air. "Where I come from, it's not that rare to encounter new species via... uh, crash landings," he said before momentarily glancing towards the four paned window. "That being said, is my ship far from here?"
Twilight shook her head, "It's not that far from the town, but it's a trek that I highly suggest you refrain from doing by your-"
A low rumbling interrupted her, echoing through the room.
The human chuckled nervously, blushing slightly in embarrassment. "Um, I wouldn't suppose you've got any food around here?" he asked with a cheeky smile.
"In the cafeteria. And seeing as you appear to be in good health, I wouldn't be opposed to allowing you to leave the hospital. I'll fill out the papers authorizing your release, but before I finalize them, I want you to return here every afternoon for the next two weeks," Doctor Mort informed Rudolph, "Nothing major. Just think of them as post-surgical check-ups," the doctor said with a dismissive hoof.
"Wait a minute. I didn't even think of that. We're completely different species, so how exactly were you able to operate on me?" asked the human who was now quite curious.
"You can thank Princess Celestia for that," the doctor answered cryptically. "Now, Ms. Sparkle and her friends can lead you to the cafeteria," Mort continued as he gestured for the group to leave the room, "Afterwards, I'm sure that Ms. Rarity can design some spectacular fashion of clothing for you," he said with a pointed glance at the human, the fashionista preening at the doctor's compliment.
The doctor led the group out of the room, Rudolph having to duck his head as he passed under the door's lintel. "I bid you all a good day. To you, Mr. Rudolph, I welcome you to Equestria," Doctor Mort said before trotting down the hallway, turning a corner and disappearing from view.
"Well, let's get this fella some grub before Rarity gets ahold of 'im for the rest of the day," the orange mare said as Rarity scoffed, drawing amused smiles from everypony except the human.
The group slowly made their way down the confusing hallways, asking the nurses for directions to the cafeteria as the human being ridden by Pinkie Pie continued to ignore the curious glances in his direction.
"What's it like?" asked Dash as she walked alongside Rudolph, who quirked an eyebrow in response, "Beyond the sky, I mean," she elaborated further.
"Ah, space," he realized, "It's... hard to really describe once you're actually in it, but I can definitely say that it's a wonder to see and experience space for the first time," Rudolph said, fondly remembering his first foray into the starry expanse. "I'll tell you more after we're done eating... uh, Dash, right?"
"That's right, and I'll hold you to that!" she replied with a nod.
"Hey, Rudy. What do humans eat?" asked the mare on his back, quickly gaining the human's attention.
"Oh, that's easy, we're omnivores. Basically, that means we can pretty much eat anything," he answered as the group entered the cafeteria.
The man ducked his head down to pass under the cafeteria door's lintel, Pinkie's curly hair bouncing harmlessly into it before snapping back into place.
"Hey! Kind of like Spike! He'll eat anything that he can get his grubby little claws on..." Rainbow Dash said with a grin. The baby dragon perked up a bit at this and looked up to the human curiously.
"Does that mean you can eat gems?" asked Spike, tilting his head to the side.
"Well, okay, not anything. There are things that humans can't eat, rocks and gems being two of them," he replied, kneeling next to the table the group had chosen to sit at as he let the pink mare hop off and land harmlessly on the tiled hospital floor.
"What about cupcakes?" asked the pink mare, suddenly presenting him with a frosted cupcake, complete with chocolate sprinkles.
"Cupcakes? Oh, you mean pastries? Yeah, we can eat those."
He grinned and took it from her hoof, giving it a look over before removing the paper wrapping and taking a bite.
"You know, I think this is the best pastry I've ever had the pleasure of eating!" Rudolph exclaimed as he proceeded to finish the cupcake.
"Delicious!" he declared before he licked his fingers clean of any crumbs.
"Silly man! Cupcakes aren't pastries! They're cakes! That's why it's called a cupcake~!" the pink mare giggled, bouncing up and down in place.
"Never heard of them called that way," he said before shrugging, starting to eye the chair next to him. It looked like an honest-to-god hard plastic chair to the human. 'It's starting to look like this civilization is somewhere around 21st century technology,' he thought to himself as he tentatively sat in the chair; he was quite relieved that it didn't make any creaks under his weight.
An apple rolled into his vision. "Eat up, fella," offered Applejack. An opened satchel filled with apples rested on the table, its fruits being shared all around.
Rudolph nodded towards the orange mare, grabbing the bright red apple and taking a small bite. "What is it with this place and delicious food," he muttered after swallowing his first bite, taking another one out of the juicy apple.
"Excuse me if I'm a bit blunt, but I can't stop wondering: what exactly is a... human?" asked Twilight after she finished her apple, the human nodding in response as he too finished his piece of fruit.
"That's a very difficult question but I'll give you the basics of what a human is," Rudolph said as he rested his arms on the table, "Humans are... just like me, in terms of having two legs and ten toes," he said as he wiggled a leg and its small toes. "Two arms and ten fingers," the man said, patting part of his arm and wiggling his fingers, "and being capable of reasoning, language, and intricate problem solving," he paused as he took a small breath.
"That isn't to say that every human is born with the same stuff, we all age and mature in different ways, unique from each other," he finished as he scratched his cheek.
"I see, and there many more 'humans' where you come from, I take it?" the purple mare asked as the brown-haired man nodded.
"You'd be correct. Where I come from, humanity that's the word for humans as a whole is spread across the stars, living on a vast number of colonized planets," Rudolph answered before Applejack tilted her Stetson.
"What do ya mean when ya say 'across the stars'?" she asked. The man pondered the question for the moment, when Twilight spoke up to answer.
"He means across galaxies," replied the scholar. "Galaxies are astral formations with lots of stars and planets both similar to and vastly different from our own," she added after noticing the ponies' confusion.
"She's correct, that's exactly what I meant," the human agreed before grabbing another apple, quickly taking another bite. "Any other questions?" he asked after swallowing.
"Yeah! That 'ship' of yours, can it fly?" asked Dash, a glimmer of glee barely contained in her eye, which quickly died as Rudolph shook his head.
"It'd be a miracle to get her fixed and working properly enough to fly once again. I highly doubt this place has the technology to fix it, anyway," he paused before continuing, "I'm not 100% sure, but I can check if there's a Mag Jet that's not totalled," he finished answering, having noticed the familiar gleam of many a pilot's eye in the pegasus.
"What's a 'Mag Jet'?" she asked as the human grinned.
"That's something you'll have to see for yourself," he told the pegasus before taking another bite of his apple.
"I got a question for ya. How are you able to speak Equestrian?" asked the baby dragon sitting to his left.
"Equestrian? Isn't this English?" the human asked as the ponies shook their heads. "How can that be?" he asked himself, furrowing his eyebrows in thought. "The odds of two different species having the same language is absolutely bordering the impossible," he muttered under his breath before shaking his head, "Ah, screw it. Never was much of a thinker anyway," he finished, taking the last bite of his apple.
"Mr. Rudolph-" Rarity managed to say before she was cut off by the man.
"Please, call me Rudolph," he said as he waved a dismissive hand, "Mister makes me sound old."
"Certainly, Rudolph. My question is, do you have any spare clothing?" the fashionista asked with a delighted smile.
"Well... No, not really," he said before Rarity grabbed his hand with a hoof.
"That won't do, at all!" she exclaimed. "We simply must get you some fashionable wear, immediately!" she said, dragging the human out of his seat.
"...Since you put it that way," he muttered to himself as he yanked his hand back, standing tall and following the white mare, much to the amusement of the group who followed in their wake.
"It was always my dream to be a mannequin," Rudolph remarked, deadpan, as he stood as perfectly still as he could manage, not daring enough to move as pins, needles and a pair of very large scissors floated around him.
"Oh hush," the fashion mistress chastised as she walked around him, "It'll be easier if you just accept it," she added.
"What do you want me to say?" he asked rhetorically, "'Magic exists? Awesome!' Be thankful that I didn't faint from that particular shock to my 'world' view, thank you very much," he snarked before yelping in pain from a prick on his hide, "That was uncalled for!"
"Are you accusing poor little old me of hurting you on purpose? Ghastly," Rarity said as the group of ponies plus dragon just stood there, watching the amusing verbal play-by-play between the fashionista and the unfortunate human.
"Well, I certainly wouldn't call you innocent- Ow!" Rudolph yelped in pain, "I'm just going to shut up, it's not worth it," he muttered as Rarity smiled brightly at him.
"That's the spirit! Now, stand still," she ordered, proceeding with her work.
An hour later, after much prodding and needling on the poor man, the domineering dressmaker was finished and, with a flourish, presented Rudolph to the group.
The brown haired human was now dressed in a form fitting grey shirt, a simple green scarf wrapped around his neck with its tail hanging mid-way behind his back, and a knee-length skirt in a checkered pattern of light and dark brown tones.
"Hmm, not bad looking. Shirt, scarf and a skirt," Dash noted before the human hung his head, mumbling something under his breath.
"What's that dear?" perked up Rarity.
"I said that it's not a skirt... it's a kilt," he said as he raised his head, a straight look on his face, "It's a kilt," he repeated.
"What's a kilt?" Fluttershy gently asked.
"Something to hide my dignity with," he muttered under his breath before shaking his head, "It's a skirt but made for men and more durable," he said.
"...So, it's still a skirt," pointed out Dash with a cheeky grin.
Rudolph took a deep breath before nodding, "Essentially," he said, giving up any semblance of male dignity. "Anyway, I think I'm presentable now," he stated with a lopsided grin.
"That ya are, Rudolph," said Applejack, eyeing the human with a grin, "Maybe Ponyville can handle ya now," she added as he groaned.
"How was I supposed to know that my scars would make an old pony-"
"The correct term would be 'nag'," interrupted Twilight without wasting a beat.
"Fine," he said as he glared at the unicorn scholar, "How was I supposed to know that my scars would make a nag faint from just seeing them?" he asked, "And no, don't answer that. It was a rhetorical question," he added as he saw Dash opening her mouth.
"Aww, you're no fun," she huffed as the human grinned.
"Anyway, let's see. Ate food, have at least got some very snazzy looking clothes on me now. Though, I guess shoes can wait until later," the man said as he gazed at his bare feet, wiggling his toes.
"And from the looks of it, you're going to be needing a place to stay," Spike commented as he looked outside, the sun slowly falling ever closer to the horizon.
"My, how tha day goes by if ya don't pay attention to it," said Applejack.
"Or if you're having fun~" giggled Pinkie Pie as she happily bounced around the man.
"Mmhmm, that is very true," Fluttershy agreed as the group walked to the boutique's entrance, Rudolph pushing it open with his it with a hand.
"Ladies first," he said with an exaggerated bow, the mares giggling as they went through the door.
The group stood by the boutique's front steps, the ponies making idle chatter for a while before Spike prodded Rudolph.
"Hey, you okay there big guy?" the baby dragon asked, having noticed his silence.
"Y-yeah," Rudolph stuttered out as he looked into the distance, his gaze softening as the sun crept ever closer to the horizon. He turned around to face the ponies, their chatter ceasing as they caught Rudolph's gaze.
"It's just that, I honestly expected to be treated with wariness and suspicion due to being different, yet..." he trailed off as he gazed back at the far head horizon.
"Yet, instead, I've been warmly welcomed and treated as a friend," he said without breaking his gaze, "Why?" he asked them.
Silence reigned between them before Fluttershy stepped forward, her eyes downcast as she stood next to the human before turning her gaze towards the horizon. "When everypony saw you... It was horrible. You were covered in so much blood, and your wounds... the sight was enough to make even Princess Celestia's personal guards cringe and turn away, and they are some of the strongest and most experienced fighters in all of Equestria," she said softly, closing her eyes in remembrance.
"Seeing you there, lying helplessly in that pool of bloodied water... I can't speak for the rest, but I wanted to do everything I could to make sure you got better. Still, if it wasn't for Princess Celestia, you wouldn't have survived in the first place," she said before turning her gaze to the human.
"No one should suffer like that," she said as Rudolph closed his eyes, slowly nodding.
"I see...," he managed to say, opening his eyes once more and gazing into the distance before returning his gaze to the ponies. "I'm forever in debt to the people of this land for having saved my life. Thank you," he whispered as he bowed towards them.
Dash rose into the air, floating next to Rudolph as she patted his shoulder with a hoof, "Don't sweat it, big guy," she said with a lopsided smile, "What matters is that you're fine now!"
"Dash is right, that's the important thing," Spike stated as he hopped into Twilight's back, "Now, we just need to figure out where you'll stay for tonight," he added.
"The little guy's right," said Applejack,
"Ah can't bring him back to tha farm, it's darkenin' and neither Mac, Apple Bloom nor Granny know him," Applejack said with a shake of her head, "And he can't stay with Dash since he ain't able to fly and all," she added, the group not noticing the human's split-second glance at his right wrist.
"I'd love to but I don't want to give Mr. and Mrs. Cake a BIG shock in the morning," apologized Pinkie Pie before she immediately brightened up, "But you can visit me tomorrow~"
"I'd invite you to stay, but I just don't have a spare room for you to sleep in, dear," Rarity stated before throwing her mane back into place.
"Well, then he can stay with me at the library, I should have a spare room he can sleep in," Twilight offered as the baby dragon on her back nodded.
"That's good. I'd offer you a place to stay, myself, but I have my hooves filled with the animals I'm taking care for," Fluttershy gently said, "I'm sorry."
Rudolph waved a dismissive hand, "Don't worry about it, Fluttershy, I understand. I'll stay with Twilight for the night," he said as he accepted the purple mare's offer, nodding as the group started to depart.
"Have a good evening!" yelled Rarity while waving a hoof in goodbye, before entering her boutique and closing the door.
One by one, the group diminished in number as each pony left for their respective households, until just Twilight, Spike and Rudolph stood in front of the library's open door.
The brown haired man raised a finger at the sight of the furnished tree but, deciding better, lowered it. "I'm not even going to ask," he muttered to himself as he followed behind the pony and dragon duo, wondering just what life had in store for him in the coming months.
Omake # 1
What is a Man?
"What's a...'man'?" asked Dash voicing the group's confusion in a simple question, and with that question the entire scenery changed and the group found themselves in a dimly lit room.
In the back of the room, on a raised platform sat a well dressed and handsome creature similar to the one who was now in the hospital, swishing a wine glass in his hand. Down the platform's steps, stood another creature dressed in blues and whites.
"Your words are as empty as your soul!" yelled the one in blue, pointing a coiled whip at him. "Mankind ill needs a saviour such as you!"
"What is a man?!" yelled the well dressed one, throwing his wine glass to the floor as he stood in anger, "A miserable little pile of secrets!"
With that yell, the scenery returned to that of Ponyville's main street. "And that's what a man is," Pinkie said with a bright smile.
Twilight opened her mouth to say something but decided against it, shaking her own head, "I don't want to know," she muttered to herself, feeling the onset of a headache coming.