Diaries of a Madman

When Discord breaks free of his stone prison, he proves to be much older and wiser than he was on the show. A being of ancient and unimaginable power, he forces Celestia to make a deal to save her little ponies. What she doesn't realize is that one of the terms of the deal is that she forgets ever making it. Enter Navarone, a poor human just trying to get by—or at least, to the ponies that's what he looks like. Pulled from his home by an accidental summoning from one Twilight Sparkle, Navarone is thrust into a world of ponies and more violence than he expected from such a peaceful seeming world. These are his adventures—with a few asides from everybody's favorite Lord of Chaos, of course.

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113. Chapter Ninety-One—Soiree Part Two

As soon as a pit of nervousness settled into my stomach from her answer, she snatched me up in another hug, this one much more pleasant than when she was dragging me away from Chrysalis. “We can make it work,” she said happily, her tail worming around one of my legs. “Now... How about we go back to my place? I can think of quite an enjoyable way to consummate this new relationship...”

“As much as I would very much love to take you up on that, I have responsibilities on the ship that I have to take care of. If you give me a place to meet you, it shouldn’t take me long to deal with the stuff there and get back to you.”

“Or I could go with you. If we’re still leaving everything behind, it would be good for me to know what the ship looks like.”

“Fair enough, though I encourage you to spend your nights at your own place until it’s time to leave. I can’t imagine the ship will be too comfortable for you when sleeping.”

“If I’m cuddling with you, it can’t be that bad. Are the rooms there not built for someone of my... size?”

“Most of them aren’t, though the captain did have two much larger rooms installed in the cargo bay for you and the naga.” And any other passengers that might be their size, of course. “The rooms do have beds, but they aren’t that comfortable.”

“Hm. So there’s a naga going with us as well?”

“A lot more than that. Come on, let’s walk and talk. I really don’t like staying in one spot like this.” Especially since that spot is right next to the changeling’s main building.

“We could just fly right there, you know.”

“We could. Or I could tell you who all is on the boat before we get there, just in case. Besides, I really want to stretch my legs. I was stuck on that damn boat for two weeks coming here.”

“Alright...” She dropped the hug and matched my pace as I walked away from the changeling area, pulling my hood back up. Truth be told, the sooner I got away from that creepy place, the better. “So who all am I going to be meeting?”

“You already know about the naga. He’s my bodyguard and teacher. You met Spike earlier. He’s usually more reserved, but he’s never seen a female dragon your age before. He grew up with the ponies, so he’s pretty far out there for a dragon. Two changelings on board. One is Doppel, my maid and a professional spy. She’s kind of a slut. The other is... different. Eva, Poly, Mimeo, and Ganger all inhabit its mind, so there are four personalities in one body.”

“What?”

“Yeah, it’s really weird. They get along, though, so whatever. Then there’s Taya, my daughter. She—”

She grabbed my arm and pulled me around to face her. “You have a daughter?!”

“Adopted. I thought I told you about her already... Ah well. Yeah, she’s a unicorn. She... might not be so accepting, but she’ll come around.”

“I was certainly not expecting that,” she quietly said, letting me go. We continued walking.

“There’s a griffin named Gilda. She’s kind of a bitch, but she’s a useful one. She gives you trouble, just smack her around a bit. We have a zebra named Zecora, who is cursed to only talk in rhymes. She’s just with us to get to one of our destinations, but she’s good with medicine and the like, so I invited her to come along. I have a group of retired night guards from Equestria. They were specialists, well-trained and practiced in a number of things. Their leader is a unicorn named Watcher. The crew is made of unicorns, all rescued slaves that were used for fighting by pirates.” I’m going to regret this last part... “Oh, and Kat is also there.”

“Who?”

Thank God, she doesn’t remember. “An ex-assassin friend of mine. You’ll meet her. Might even like her, if you give her a chance.”

“Hm. So tell me, how did it happen that most of those you just told me about were girls?”

“So... do you remember how you said you’d be working on the jealousy issue?” Her eyes narrowed. “Hey, Watcher isn’t a chick! And I haven’t had sex with Zecora or Eva.”

“And the others?”

“I haven’t slept with any of the retired guards or any of the crew. And I definitely haven’t fucked Taya or Spike. The others... Well, I might have had sex with them.”

She quickly wrapped an arm around me, pulling me close. “Just think about how much simpler things are going to be now, Nav! All those girls after you... Well, now it’ll just be me! After I make sure they know, of course.”

“Hey, don’t threaten any of them. I’ll make it very clear that we’re together. If any of them continue advances after that, I’ll let you take care of them as you want, as long as you don’t actually hurt them.”

“That is not how things are usually handled by dragons...”

“How do you guys usually deal with it, then?”

“Both mates scare off their competitors by any means necessary. It can turn violent.”

“Huh. Do I have any competitors that I need to scare off?”

“Not really. There are a few that want me, but I wouldn’t give them the time of day even if you weren’t here. And none of them are going to know that we’re in a relationship. I really don’t want to deal with another of those Purifiers, after all.”

“So a secret relationship, then. Or at least, secret until we hit open air and leave this place behind. Then I suppose I won’t tell everyone we’re porking until we leave.”

“...Please never call sex that again.”

“You got it, babe. I don’t really like pigs that much either, honestly.”

“What does babe mean?”

“Human word for a girl we’re dating.”

“Hm. I don’t think you would appreciate being called a succulent little morsel...” she commented, her tail sneaking under my cloak to stroke my wings. “That term probably loses endearment when I could actually eat you.”

“As long as you mean it in jest, it wouldn’t bother me too much. Though I’d rather not have the size difference pointed out that much. Bad enough you’re bigger and stronger than I am. No need to throw it in my face.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” she replied. “Though I quite like it. But I know you don’t, so I’ll at least try not to play with you too much.” Despite saying that, her tail was seriously starting to molest my wings, making them start twitching.

“Thanks for your consideration. Can you stop it with your tail? I don’t want a full wing-boner in public.”

“...Is that seriously what you call it?” she asked as her tail retracted.

“It fits. I get aroused and my wings shoot out. That’s a boner with wings.”

“Hm. I’m quite glad that we dragons don’t have that problem. Well, not entirely glad. I think my wings being an erogenous zone would be quite interesting. It would certainly make flying a more enjoyable experience.”

“Yeah, there’s a reason pegasi like flying so much. It is definitely a pleasurable experience.”

“Well, if you’re finished telling me about the crew, we could do it now... It would certainly be faster than walking.”

“...Are you going to carry me?”

“Only if you ask, sweetie.” Gotta get used to silly nicknames, I guess.

“If you really want to, I’ll let you carry me into the air. But when we get above the city, let me go. I just really don’t want to flash my wings on the streets just yet. But since it’s night out, less people will see me if we’re already up.”

She smiled widely, showing off her dangerously sharp teeth, and tore me from the ground, jumping up before I had the chance to even consider changing my mind. I wouldn’t have, but I suppose she just really liked carrying me.

When we got well above the skyline, I said, “Alright, let me go!” She hovered in the air, flapping her large wings a few times before positioning me in such a way that catching myself in the air would be easy. When she got me set up, she let me go.

I dove several meters before attempting to catch myself. It took me absolutely no time at all to realize that I was still wearing the ring. Thanking God that we were high enough, I yanked the fucker off and pulled off a dive that made it look like the severe loss of altitude was to pick up a lot of speed.

“You’re going to kill yourself if you keep doing that, Nav,” Flo warned.

Then start fucking reminding me that I have the ring on! She probably rolled her eyes at that.

Anyway, I certainly didn’t want to waste any time in the cool early spring air of fucking Stalingrad. And hell, the promise of a fun night with Kumani also sped my wings.

It didn’t take us long to get to the docks. We were pretty far away, but cities are so much smaller when you can fly. The two of us landed side by side right in front of the Second Chance. Ames was slithering across the deck, presumably doing the snakey version of pacing. Taya was sitting forlornly on the deck, staring down. A few crewmembers were dicking around. No one else was on the deck.

As soon as we landed, Ames looked over and nodded at me. I met his nod and started walking onto the deck. When Taya heard a new set of footsteps walking onto the deck, she looked up and immediately smiled. Then her horn lit up and I flew over to her for a hug.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were leaving, daddy?” she quietly asked, her head next to mine.

“It was something I had to take care of quickly. I only had time to grab some stuff from my room before I had to leave.”

“Spike knew!”

“Because he was walking by my room at the time. Now can you put me down? I have someone to introduce to you.” Her magic pushed me away, but I could see in her eyes that she thought this wasn’t over. When I looked behind me, Kumani had already made her way onto the deck and the naga was watching her with suspicion. “Naga, Taya, this is Kumani. She’ll be joining us on our journey.”

“Greetings, dragon,” the naga said with another nod.

“Really, daddy? Another one? Do you really not have any male friends?”

“Taya, you can’t talk. Also, that’s rude.”

“If it makes you feel any better, I said the same thing,” Kumani offered with a shrug. “Nav here has just a few too many females in his life.”

“Well now, that’s certainly an opinion,” I said, crossing my arms. “But not important. Naga, is Spike here?”

“Yes. I tossed a bucket of river water in his face and then dragged him to bed.”

“Good enough. You didn’t leave him face up, did you?”

“I didn’t bother putting him on the bed. He was face down when I left.”

“Good. And Doppel?”

“She left as soon as I told her what you wanted her to do.”

“Excellent. Did you see a cat anywhere around here?”

“...A what?”

“Eh, I’ll introduce you when she shows up. Do you know if the captain is on the ship?”

“He is, though I believe he’s busy.”

“What about Watcher, then?”

“He followed Doppel.”

“Fuckin’... Whatever. If you see him before I do, tell him that we might be leaving early unless he can find a good blacksmith quickly. Kumani and I are heading back out, but I should return before morning.”

“Can I go?” Taya quickly asked.

“We’re flying. I don’t want to be on the streets after dark and I definitely don’t want you on them. But I should be back sometime tonight.”

“I can make wings!”

I sighed and said, “Look, Taya, we’re about to go have really kinky sex. I’ll be back when we’re done.” It would take a woman or a gay man to name the correct shade of red that her face turned when she heard that. “Naga, guard the ship. Kumani, let’s go.” Given that Taya was still surprised as fuck, she didn’t try to stop me from spreading my wings and taking off.

Kumani followed a few seconds later. “Nav, are you… sure you should have told your daughter that?”

“No. I’m just a terrible fucking father. She’d keep bothering me about it for a while if I hadn’t done that, though. It’s either tell the truth or tell her that she just can’t come when she’s perfectly able to. I’d rather be honest about why she can’t rather than just saying that she can’t. Now where are we going?”

“Honesty is not always the best policy…” I just rolled my eyes. “Fine. Follow me. I suppose I shouldn’t make you lie to your daughter…”

That was a really fun night. When she finally got to sleep, I snuck out her window and flew back to the ship. She knows about my condition, of course, so she hardly expected me to stay with her all night. It wasn’t like running away after a one night stand, I promise.

“It says something about you, that this is the first thing your mind came to,” Flo whispered. For the record, her opinion was not requested.

When I got back to the ship, the naga, a few night guards, and a single crewman were on deck. “Naga, go to bed.”

“After a word. You need to take your daughter into the city at least once before we leave. Show her that you trust her and spend time with her.”

“Alright. Now go to bed.” Without another word, he turned and slithered to the stairs leading into the ship. I took the position he had been guarding and pulled my rifle off my back to fiddle with it. Lacking much else to do, I lifted the rifle up to peer at the city through the scope. There wasn’t all that much to see given how dark it was, but everyone that I would have bothered spending much time with was asleep and I didn’t have anything else to do.

What I wasn’t expecting to see was a glowing eye looking at me from the other side. “What’s this thing?” Kat asked, poking at the rifle. Every single night guard on the deck immediately jerked their heads our way and jumped to surround her.

“Relax, guys,” I quickly said, slinging the rifle over my shoulder. “This is Kat, the newest addition of our crew. Kat, you should know better than to sneak onto a ship with guards like that.”

“Oh, I do. I just like surprises.”

“Whatever. Tell these guys how you did it so we can make sure no one else repeats that.”

“It was fairly simple. Most of you are watching the gangplank and the air. No one was watching the ship next to this one and that one didn’t have any guards. So I just climbed aboard that ship and got from it to here.”

The guards shared looks before shrugging. “Alright,” I said. “If you can think of any other possible security breaches, let me or Watcher know. I’ll introduce you to him later. For now, you should probably get to bed.”

She nodded and stretched, showing off her lithe and admittedly sexy body. “Yeah… You want to join me?”

“Nope.” I’m extremely disappointed to say that everyone on the deck actually flinched back in surprise at that. “Dammit, I’m not that much of a slut! Go find a room with nothing in it and get some sleep.”

“Simple enough. I will need to get some supplies in town tomorrow, though, and since you won’t let me break the law, I’m afraid that I have no way of getting money…”

“I’ll arrange something, but if you need anything actually made, expect it done cheaply for now. We are definitely not staying past the party and we might be leaving sooner.”

“I’ll make sure of it.” With that, she wandered away, heading belowdecks.

All the guards looked up at me. “Are you sure about her, sir?” one asked.

“I’m fairly sure that she needs us more than we need her right now. She’ll be loyal as long as it suits her purposes, but even then, I’m not certain she would go so far as to stab us in the back. So no, I’m not sure about her, but I’m sure that she’ll be useful.”

“If you say so,” the guard dubiously answered before they all returned to watching the area. I noted with a nod that more of them were paying attention to the sides of the ship, taking what Kat said to heart.

When everything slid back to normal, I started fiddling with the rifle again, knowing that I was in for a hellishly long night.

The next morning, Watcher came up on deck around dawn. “When did you get in?” I asked.

“I teleported in some time last night. I figured that I should let you know that Doppel infiltrated the minotaur group and that I no longer question her talents.”

“Excellent to both. Did you make any headway on finding a blacksmith?”

“We found a few potential candidates. We’re waiting on Doppel’s results and your word to begin interviewing.”

“If any of them aren’t minotaurs, talk to them today and see if any might be interested. I’d like to leave as soon as possible.”

“Understood. Both our quartermasters and Zecora would like another day or maybe two in the city, though. The party here brings much trade, but also shortages in some areas.”

“If they can’t find whatever they’re looking for before the party ends, they’ll have to figure out how to go without. They have six days. And we took on two passengers last night that you should probably know about.”

“The cat and the dragon?”

“Yeah. Kat and Kumani.”

“Dragons and cats are greedy, Navarone. If you start bedding them both on this trip, expect consequences.”

“That won’t be a problem. And tell all your pegasi to be wary around Kat, because she has a thing for wings.”

“Very well. Do you expect any problems from Spike about your… choice?”

“No. Hopefully he’ll get over it quickly. I have a suggestion that you don’t have to take: Talk to Kat about her experience circumventing guards. Even if you don’t learn anything useful, it might be good to build a relationship with her.”

“I can spend some time doing that. Is she a thief?”

“Assassin. I don’t know how active she’s been, though. She did manage to sneak on board last night, so she might be useful in preventing others from doing the same.”

“Interesting… And you’re certain that she doesn’t have a contract on anyone on board?”

“…If she does, she’s playing it very risky. I’m not going to say that she doesn’t, but I doubt it. If anyone can trip her up, it’d be you or Doppel.”

“I will make it a point to talk to her often, then. And you’re sure that this Kumani is trustworthy?”

“Pretty sure. I trust her more than Kat, at least.”

“Then I’ll leave her to you. There are many here that I’m not so sure about, Navarone. Spike was carried here drunk last night.”

“Partially my fault. They weren’t supposed to give him that much. Besides, we’re at a party. It only makes sense to unwind at least a little. Hey, what about you? When was the last time you got laid?”

“Last night, not that it’s any of your business.” Oh wow. So much for loosening that rod up his ass. “Do you have any news about Smiles?”

“Nope. Haven’t really thought about him since I told the captain to tell him to go job hunting. And if I haven’t heard from him by the time we do end up leaving, he’ll be left behind.”

“Understood. I’m somewhat worried about how he’ll be treated given his appearance, but he knew the risks when he agreed to your deal.”

“Yeah. You got anything else to report?”

“You probably know this already, but Celestia is not only not at the party, but she didn’t even send a representative. An emergency must have come up, something beyond the controversy that was happening when we left.”

“Any idea what?”

He shook his head. “No, only that it would take up the use of all of her advisors and backups.”

“Sucks for her, then. I can’t imagine it’ll involve us, unless Discord finally decided to show his freaky hand.”

“True. I’d still like to know what’s going on, just in case. With your permission, I’d like to hijack Spike’s letter sending ability and check on a few things.”

“By all means, if you can wake him up. He’s probably at least slightly hung over.”

“Whatever’s going on can wait. If it could affect us here, we would know about it already. Checking before we leave is just a precaution.”

“Then do it whenever. Probably a waste of time, but just in case… You got anything else to report?”

“News of what happened with Luna has spread, but it hasn’t hit the general population. Newspapers take a while to circulate, though with the influx of new ponies from across the ocean for the party, I imagine the common ponies will learn of recent events quickly. I say that you have another two or three days before you need to begin traveling in disguise.”

“Finally some good news. I’m taking Taya out into the city for at least a few hours today, so if anything comes up, handle it. Unless it’s something big that I should know about. And if Doppel gets back, send a few groups out to try to find me. I really want to know what the minotaurs know about humans. Being half-man themselves, they might actually have some useful information.”

“Half… man?” Of anyone on the ship, I wasn’t expecting Watcher to be confused by that.

“Yes. There’s a legend about a minotaur from my world. He was born from a human fucking a cow or something. They have the hands and general body of a human, but the legs and head of a bull. That makes them half-man.”

“I hadn’t even thought of that, actually. The letter they sent now makes much more sense… The minotaurs are rather respectful of cows, since that is what they came from. I suppose it only makes sense that they’d be respectful of you as well. And since you are the only one of your kind in this realm, they would take utmost precautions with your safety. I’m somewhat surprised that they haven’t already sent a delegation to the ship to take you away.”

“They probably don’t know that I’m here, which is how I might keep it if you think they’ll insist on dragging me off for my ‘protection’. I’m fucking tired of being overprotected.”

“Then stop being so vulnerable.”

“Bah. Anything else?”

“Nothing that comes to mind. If Kat leaves today, do you want her followed?”

“Don’t bother. At night, your troops could probably do it. During the day, following her unseen and successfully would likely be impossible. And she probably expects it anyway.”

“Very well. Any other orders?”

“Not that I can—Wait, is there a museum here?”

“Yes, but I don’t know where it is.”

“I’ll find it myself, then. I doubt anything will come of it, but I’d like to check it out for any human relics. No other orders, Watcher.”

“Then I have a few things to take care of. Until later, Navarone.” What happened to sir?

“Have fun, I guess.” He went back below deck. After a few moments of consideration, I did as well. Sitting up top gets dull as hell when there’s not much to do. When I got to my room, I quickly got the laptop set up. It was mind-numbing, but at least it killed time.

 

By the time Taya decided to grace me with her presence, I had already decided to get a shower and eat breakfast. She seemed pretty upset…

“Why her?” was the opening question.

“Kumani is interesting and fun to be around. She’s something new and strong enough to look after herself while reasonable enough to not use that strength against me.” Often. “And what do you even mean, why her? We haven’t told anyone yet.”

“You just said it last night!”

“I said that we were going to go have sex. I didn’t say we were in a relationship. Sure, Watcher figured it out, but he’s Watcher.”

“What do you mean… in a relationship?”

“Boyfriend/girlfriend kinda thing. We decided to give it a try.”

“But… but what about Fluttershy?!”

“She’s in Equestria. And I told you that I would ask her on a few conditions. Namely, that the trip was over and that I didn’t find anyone else. I happened to find someone else. Maybe it’ll last, maybe it won’t.”

She was silent for a few moments before slowly saying, “I’m never going to call that dragon my mom.”

“You can’t imagine how surprised I would be if you did. I mean, damn that would be weird if you did. Just don’t be a bitch to her and I’ll be happy. Give friendship with her a chance. And remember that while I do want you to be happy, I’m dating her for me, not you. I’ll value your opinion, but ultimately go with what makes me happy.” I’m tired of being selfless and giving and giving in relationships. Sure, I’m supposed to be a father and all that, but I really wanted a relationship that would actually make me happy.

“…Okay.” That was very… neutral. Uncomfortably so.

“You want to go into the city? I was in a hurry yesterday and couldn’t bring you, but I don’t really have shit to do until Doppel gets back now. Other than finding the museum, we can do anything we feel like.”

“Is… Kumani coming?”

“I didn’t make any plans with her. If we bump into her, she might tag along. Otherwise, it’ll just be us. And maybe the naga, if he demands to come.”

“Then let’s go.” And so we went. I wore the disguise thing again, just in case we ran into any minotaurs. We managed to sneak out without the naga stopping us, so we didn’t have to worry about him.

It was just the two of us exploring the large city. As much as I don’t generally enjoy being a father, I managed to have some fun that day. Things got pretty interesting at the museum, too.

“Can I help you?” the receptionist asked when the two of us walked in.

“Maybe,” I answered as I pulled my hood back. His eyes went wide when he recognized me, either from my past exploits or the dreams Luna gave him. “Do you happen to have any strange artifacts? Things that confuse everyone?”

“I... I know you,” he muttered.

“Yes, yes. I’m Navarone the human. Everyone knows of me.”

He quickly jerked, shaking himself out of his shock. “Ahem... Yes, we do have a few things that are... more curious than others. What brings you to Stalliongrad?”

“The party, of course. Where are those interesting things?”

“Party? Oh yes, that little thing… Say, are you doing anything tonight?”

“Yes, I am. We’re just going to look around.”

“Oh… Okay.” He hungrily watched the two of us walk away and I’m honestly surprised that he didn’t offer to show us around.

“Daddy, why was that guy acting like that?”

“Stalliongrad has a much higher population of gay guys, or guys that are attracted to other guys. It’s like that because it has a much larger male population. There’s more than one reason that I’m in disguise.” It’s not so much that I expect my immaculate beauty to immediately result in getting ravished, but more that I’m worried some of the guys will recognize me from their dreams and hit on me.

“Huh. Daddy, I don’t think this is the section we want.”

I looked around for a moment and realized that we were in the ‘abstract modern art’ part of the museum. For those of you that don’t know, that’s where they put the pictures where people just randomly throw paint at a canvas. You know, stuff that isn’t actually art.

“Right you are. See any signs that say history on them?”

Thankfully, it didn’t take us too long to find the part of the museum that wasn’t a waste of everyone’s time. The first thing that I noticed was that of course, most of it was pony related shit. “God, why do they even put this in museums?” I asked, looking at a wagon.

A warm voice from across the room said, “Cultural significance, Mister Navarone.” I looked over to see an older stallion with a beard walking across the room, watching me with diseased eyes under his glasses. “Not much has changed, that is true. But events happen and when they do, items relevant to the events come to a museum that they might be remembered.”

“Fair enough. But I’m not here for history lessons. Do you have any artifacts that aren’t pony created? Things that might be a mystery to you?”

“A few, yes. Does our history not interest you?”

“It really doesn’t, no. No offense, but most of your history is fucking boring as hell.”

“I see. Well, our mystery room is beyond this one, through the door behind me. If you can but answer a single question of mine, I’ll answer any that I can from that room.”

“Well, it wouldn’t hurt to hear your question.”

“Have you heard the dark and dreadful history of Grogar the necromancer? For one that finds our history ‘boring’, this might be something slightly more interesting.”

“Nope, sure haven’t. Now let’s see that mystery room.”

Taya and I were already walking past him when he said, “Don’t you want to hear the tale?”

“Not really. It’s a good thing you didn’t make that part of the deal.”

“Hm. I figured you more than anyone would be interested in someone learning how to use magic without a horn.”

That actually stopped me for a second, but I quickly thought of a response. “Fucker’s a necromancer. That’s dark, dark stuff, nothing I’m interested in. And don’t pretend you know me, whoever you are.”

I turned back toward the room just in time to hear, “I know you better than you think, Anonymous.” When I heard that name, I whirled back around, half-drawing a large dagger before I realized the stallion was gone.

“Where’d he go?” Taya asked as I slammed the dagger back.

“Better question, what the hell was that? Not a pony, that’s for sure. No one should…”

“Was it a changeling?” she asked.

“No. I have one guess and I don’t like it. Flo?”

“I… think you might be right, Navarone. It fit his appearance, or at least what you could see in the statue. You might have just been visited by Discord.”

“Then it’s even better that I told him to go to hell. Fucker’s gone now, at least. Come on, Taya. Let’s see what’s in this mystery room.”

“What was it?” she asked as we stepped into the new room.

“Our enemy. Don’t worry about it. And holy shit, what the hell is that?”

The object in question appeared to be a massive mask made of some kind of metal. When I got closer, I realized that I didn’t recognize any of the facial features. Since the thing was about as tall as I was, it almost definitely wasn’t human in origin. Whatever it was, the thing was honestly kind of scary looking.

And it wasn’t the only strange object in the room. Tons of artifacts lined the walls and tables set up about the room. Neither Flo nor I could recognize most of them. However, there was one that we both instantly knew.

“Gene-locked box,” I said, smiling down at the exhibit. “I knew I brought this key for a reason!”

“Are you certain that you want to risk releasing another air elemental?” Flo asked. “We still haven’t been able to contact the other one.”

No, but what are the chances it would be an elemental? I saw the other box. It wasn’t like this one at all. I’m opening it.

Thankfully, there weren’t any cameras or security guards in the area. If there were, they might have been somewhat upset with how I pulled the box away from where it had been left and pressed my magic key against the gene-reader.

It took several long seconds for the ancient box to make a series of clicking noises before hissing open, revealing its prize for the first time in recorded history.

“You found something?” Taya asked, joining me in front of the box.

“Maybe. Let’s see.” Whatever was in the box was covered by some cloth. I gently pulled it back to reveal several interesting items. At the top of the pile was a letter written in a language that I couldn’t read. “Flo, what does it say?” I asked, lifting it up.

“Dearest Ivanna, I can’t go on. There’s no water and... Navarone, I... I’m not going to read this to you. It’s a confession and a suicide letter.”

I blinked a few times before looking down into the box. A few of the items inside were splattered with a dried red substance. “How did he close the box if he blew his brains out?” I asked, picking up what looked like a luger resting against the side of the box.

“He didn’t shoot himself,” Flo sighed as I fiddled with the gun until the magazine popped out, revealing that it was empty. A few spent brass shells were in the bottom of the box. “He... gave others a mercy before walking into the wastes.”

I popped the mag back into the pistol and set it down next to me, examining the rest of the contents. Obviously there was no food or water, but there were a few other interesting personal effects. A teddy bear. A book that when opened, revealed itself to be a photo album. A set of glasses. A children’s book in Russian. A gas mask that was missing a filter. A set of very expensive silverware.

“Daddy, what’s going on?” Taya asked, using magic to pull out an object that I hadn’t noticed: A vinyl record.

“Nothing,” I sighed, putting everything back into the box. I sat there staring at the contents for a moment before shrugging and pulling the box of silverware out. The dead don’t need spoons, after all. Nothing else in the box was anything I wanted to own. With a final sigh, I closed it and leaned back.

“What’s wrong?” It was then I realized that I didn’t put the record back in the box. I just shrugged and slid the thing back where it belonged.

“It’s depressing, Taya. These people are long, long dead. And they died in such a way that... It’s awful.”

“Why didn’t you take anything else?”

“The pistol is useless with no ammo. The photo album is depressing. I can’t read Russian, so the book is useless. The gas mask has no filter. I don’t need glasses and I don’t want a teddy bear, especially not one stained with the blood of its previous owner. I only took what I did because fuck pony silverware and I didn’t realize you still had the record. Now let’s go before a guard catches us with this stuff.”

So much for the good day I was having... Every time I manage to forget what happened to my people, something slaps it back in my face. And this time, the fucker that did it was right in front of me.

I was thinking up a special little hell for that discordant bastard. A hell that I was quite eager to deliver. All I needed to do was figure out how.

The next day is when shit got real. The day before, I hadn’t gotten any letters. Or if I had, Watcher took care of them. But the next day, a pegasus came by with a few letters for me. Since the party was already going and important messages that I actually cared about were possible, I made it a point to open the ones from people I actually cared about first.

Since Celestia didn’t have any representatives at the party, Bloodbeak was apparently charged with making appearances at all the big functions. I don’t know why he was chosen over Chrysalis, but I also didn’t fucking care. Either way, he was looking for ways to alleviate the boredom at the events, so he sent me invitations to all of them.

As much as I liked the old man, I didn’t like him that much. I set that letter aside with no intention of looking at it again. There was no mail from Chrysalis. There was, however, a letter from Asterion. For some reason, seeing it gave me a feeling of trepidation.

Opening it and reading it explained that feeling. “We have found a changeling that claims to be sent by you. If you want it back, come and get it. But you will talk to me. We are not a violent people, Navarone. We won’t hurt the changeling or you without good cause. - Asterion.”

Fuck.

It was still early in the day, meaning they probably had her for at least a night already. I wasn’t going to leave her there for longer than necessary, so I immediately went down to Watcher’s room. When I got there, I saw Zecora exiting it. “Watcher in there?” I asked.

She was blushing faintly, so I assumed they had some kind of argument. As long as they could contain themselves well enough, I didn’t care. Either way, she nodded before brushing past me.

I knocked and barely waited for an answer to let myself in. “Minotaurs caught Doppel,” I said, tossing him the letter.

He took a second to scan over it before looking up, nodding. “How many do you want?”

“Two teams. That should give me six. I’ll also take the naga, Kat, and maybe Gilda. The goal is to get her out without violence. If that doesn’t work out, the goal is to kill every motherfucker that gets in our way.”

“Understood, but Gilda isn’t here. Do you want me going?”

“No. On the off chance that this is a distraction, I’d like you here.”

“Good answer. You’re learning. When are you leaving?”

“As soon as I can get everyone ready.”

“I’ll go tell everyone what’s going on. It’ll take you some time to get into that tin can you call armor. Come up to the deck when you’re set.”

“Got it. Try not to let Spike or Taya know, if you can avoid it.”

“They’ll see action eventually, Navarone.”

“Yeah, I know. I just want to avoid it being a hostage situation, if possible. I don’t want two unseasoned people in the middle of that. No telling what they might do.”

“Understandable. I’ll try to avoid it.” I nodded and left his room to go to my own.

The bad part about having such large and protective armor is that it takes a lot of room to store. Up until then, it was secured across the ceiling, tied up in individual pieces. Trust me, that’s as inconvenient and annoying as it sounds.

And it made a lot of noise to take down. “What are you doing?” Taya asked from behind me.

“Taking my armor down,” I quickly replied, not looking back. Don’t give her a reason to stay.

“Do you need some help?”

“Nah, it’s not that hard. Just pull the rope and a piece falls.” I proceeded to do just that, barely catching the boot before it hit the ground.

“It would be a lot easier if I—”

“I’m fine, Taya.”

“So why are you taking it down?” she asked as another piece fell. She yanked it out of the air with magic before I could halt its descent.

“To put it on,” I said, pulling the floating gauntlet out of the air.

“Are you going to an event?”

“Nope.”

“So something’s going on.”

“Taya, go eat breakfast.”

“I already did. What’s happening?”

“Then go take a shower and let me deal with my armor in peace.”

“Already did that, too. I even brushed my teeth.” Fuck.

“Look, don’t worry about it. It’s just something quick that I have to take care of.”

“Good. If it’s quick, you won’t mind me going.”

I finally turned to face her. “A few conditions. Stay out of the way, don’t talk, and don’t get involved. The only reason you should even use magic is if you need to teleport to get away. Consider this a learning experience for you. Understand?”

She beamed and nodded, not saying anything.

“Good. Go wait on the deck. And for fuck’s sake, don’t tell anyone that something’s happening.” She happily trotted away and I went back to pulling armor down. Thankfully, it didn’t take me long. Soon enough, I had the set on and ready to be used. With it ready, I buckled my weapons on and then slung my rifle over my shoulder. “Ready to kick some ass,” I said to myself.

Everyone was already on the deck waiting for me, though a few of the night guards were helping each other with their armor. Kat didn’t look overly amused, though I don’t know what exactly she was expecting when I asked if she wanted to come with us on the boat.

“Alright, Doppel got captured by the minotaurs,” I said aloud, so everyone could hear me. “We’re going to go get her back. The main goal is to avoid violence. If that’s impossible, we’ll kill everyone that gets in the way.”

“What’s the plan?” the naga asked.

“Kat, you’re overwatch. Find a way to get in on the roof or a back door and wait for any sounds of violence. If you happen to find Doppel, release her. Don’t kill anyone unless you already see us fighting. Everyone else is going in the front door. We’ll take the fucking place by storm if we have to.”

“We could just leave her, you know,” Ames idly commented.

“I will never leave anyone that’s loyal to me to an uncertain fate unless I have no other choice. Humans are honorable like that.” He didn’t reply, which let me pull out my map to determine the best route to getting to the main minotaur building. After a short time to study the map, I nodded and handed it to Kat. “Learn the route, just in case,” I told her. I let her take a few seconds to study it before calling out, “Let’s move, people.”

Since I was the one that knew the way, I took the lead. Once we got past the docks, the naga fell in to my right while Taya took up position on my left. Kat sprinted ahead and went down a side road, disappearing before we got up to where she went. The guards formed two lines behind me, walking in formation. We got looks and stares from pretty much every single person on the streets. Thankfully, as soon as they heard and then saw me coming, they got the fuck out of my way.

With the expression that was likely on my face, that was certainly understandable. Having armed guards behind me helped.

Well, they got out of my way until a certain one didn’t. Kumani swooped down and landed right in front of me. “What’s going on?” she asked.

“Business,” I answered. “Minotaurs took a friend of mine. I’m getting her back.”

She smiled, showing off her sexy fangs. “Lead the way.”

I pushed past her, very happy to have a dragon with us. “Naga, fill her in on the way. We’re almost there.” He very quickly explained the situation to Kumani while we covered the last leg of the journey.

There were two guards outside of their building when we finally got there. If they were nervous about such a strange and dangerous looking group stopping outside of their building, they didn’t show it. Each was about as tall as Celestia and had a chest as wide as the naga’s. The plate armor they were wearing might have helped them look bigger, though. Their entire body was covered in it, leaving only holes for their horns and their eyes. There were slits for their ears and mouth. Each one had a giant hammer at their side, resting their butts on the ground.

“I’m here for my changeling,” I calmly announced, unslinging my rifle and pumping it. I’m not certain it would go through their armor, but I’d rather test it than risk getting close enough to get hit by one of those hammers.

“Enter, forerunner,” one of them said as they both pushed one of the double-doors of the large building open. “You will not need your entourage.”

“They’re coming anyway.” Neither guard commented as I led my group into the rather large building. If I had to guess, I would say that this building was a church of some kind, but I know ponies don’t have religion. Whatever use the building served, it had rows of pews in a large room, all facing a large table on the far side. At the table sat three minotaurs, each smaller than the guards and all facing me, and Doppel with an iron collar connected to a chain leading to the floor. When she saw me, she immediately smiled in relief.

The other minotaurs had similar reactions upon seeing me. Though their smiles were less relieved and more victorious. “Ah, forerunner!” the one in the middle shouted, jumping to his feet. “We knew you would come!”

“Let Doppel go and we’ll talk,” I replied, stopping well short of the table.

“The changeling? Release her.” The minotaur closest to her produced a key and inserted it into the collar around her neck. As soon as it clicked loose, she spread her wings and buzzed toward me.

“I knew you’d come, master,” she whispered as she landed next to me.

“You have your changeling!” the middle guy said. “Now let us talk. We are all rather curious, forerunner.”

“You can’t be more curious than I am. But why take Doppel? Why not just come to me instead?”

“We didn’t know you were here. Or where you were. You seemed to do your best to not advertise your presence. As to why we took her, she came here asking of things she should not have known. When we realized she was not as she seemed, we questioned her and took her. And now here you are.”

“Here I am indeed. What do you mean by forerunner?”

“Are you truly going to make us yell across the hall, forerunner? Come, join us at the table. May we serve you anything?”

“No.” However, I walked up to the table anyway. As he said, there was no reason to force ourselves to yell. As an afterthought, I looked behind me. “Get comfortable.” Each one of the teams of ponies chose a side of the room and Doppel went with one of them. I took a chair at the center of the table. Kumani sat to my left and Taya to my right. The naga stood behind me, presumably with his arms crossed. “Let’s talk. What is a forerunner?”

“Those who came before,” the fellow in the middle asked. “Truly, we know little about them. Minos is carved into a mountain and in that mountain resides a series of purpose-built caverns. Whatever built them is long dead, but they left many creations behind. Most of them are little more than trash at this point, but we’ve managed to scavenge some rituals and magic from them. One of the things we were able to find enabled us to translate the runes on some of the artifacts. After many years of research, we were able to determine that whoever built the caves knew of an even more ancient race with a kind of magic that rivaled anything ever seen. The kind of magic it would take to create life itself.”

“Humans,” I sighed, nodding.

“Is that what you are called?” he asked

“Yeah. And it’s not magic. It’s technology. But continue your tale.”

“Hm. They had the magic it would take to create life... Which was good, because the need arose to do so. A demon of some kind wracked the world with fire, turning the great race against itself as each sought to blame the demon’s release upon the other. This was the downfall of the forerunners. But even after the fire went away, some survived, hidden away, to tinker with the magic left behind. And so it was that they created many new races. Perhaps seeing that the power they had come to wield was too great, they made sure that there were no duplicates of itself created in the new beings of the world. But they made us partially in their image for reasons we have yet to understand.”

“And so you searched for any hints of this old race to tell you why?” I asked.

“Search we did, forerunner. There are many artifacts in this world of civilizations long dead. Many objects of power hidden away in lost caves and hidden tombs. But there are so very, very few relics of the most ancient and powerful of races. Never once did we expect to find one face-to-face. Let alone one so famous! It is a shame that we minotaurs are so reclusive. We would have found you and given you the life you deserve much sooner.”

“Yeah, that part of your letter was really ominous. What exactly does that mean?”

“You are the living proof that our search is justified. As far as we know, you’re the only surviving member of the most powerful race to have ever lived. You will have whatever you want that we can provide. The finest quarters, the most succulent foods, any manner of entertainment.”

“Uh... Sorry, but not interested.”

Everyone but me sitting at that table flinched back. “Are you crazy?” Kumani whispered fiercely, using my arm to jerk me closer. “We could be set for life!”

“Why would you not want this?” the head minotaur asked, honestly sounding distraught. “It’s what you deserve!”

What I deserve is a bullet to the back of the head and a shallow grave. “I’m afraid I can’t take you up on it. I have an extremely important task that only I can do. And the demon that killed my people is still up and kicking. I want to put that motherfucker down. Once all that’s said and done, we’ll talk. But until then, I’m afraid that I simply can’t accept the honor.” Kumani let my arm go with a disbelieving grunt. “However, if you have any questions, I will be happy to attempt to answer them. Just know that I was not someone who dabbled in technology. Or as you call it, magic.”

None of the minotaurs really looked like they could believe it. They finally found a human, something they’ve apparently been trying to find for a long time. When they did... Well, they got a shitty one like me. “Give us... give us a moment,” the head guy stuttered before slowly pushing back from the table and standing up. He led the other two away to a wall, where they started talking in whispers.

“Daddy, what is wrong with you?” Taya whispered.

“I just gave my reasons. Yes, it’s an extremely good offer. And yes, I might take them up on it later. But I can’t do it right now.”

“You shouldn’t do it at all,” Ames rumbled. “That life of luxury would kill you, Navarone.”

“He’s right,” Flo whispered.

“Maybe. But I really wouldn’t mind a break.”

There was silence on our end for a few seconds before Kumani said, “So what’s this task you have to do? And what kinda demon are they talking about? Actually, can you just explain everything they said?”

I briefly explained the history behind humans and their fall. When she understood that, I told her about Discord and the elementals. That led into telling her about saving them. Very conveniently, the minotaurs finished their discussion around the same time we did. Though honestly, it was more likely that they saw we were talking and decided to wait out of respect.

“Before we begin with our questions, I believe an introduction is in order,” the fellow said. “I am Asterion, leader of the minotaurs. These are Steel Wool and Taurus, my advisors.” He waved a hand to indicate who was who.

“I’m Navarone. This is Taya, my daughter and Kumani, my girlfriend. The naga is my guard and teacher. You already met Doppel. The rest are soldiers I have working for me.”

“A dragon for a mate and a pony for a daughter. How... interesting,” Steel Wool idly said.

“You had questions?” I asked, trying to prod them along so I could leave sooner.

“Yes, of course. What manner of relations did humans have with cows?”

“Humans are predators and cows are prey. In our time, they weren’t intelligent at all. Just mindless beasts we tamed for food.”

“Then where did we come from? If humans considered cows so far beneath them, why would they mix themselves so?”

“If I explain what I remember of the history, you’re probably going to be offended.”

“We want the truth, Navarone. If it offends us, that is a shame.”

“Almost every living or sentient species on the planet today was a myth in my world. Made up by other humans. Unicorns, for example, were believed to be the essence of purity and would only appear for virgins. There are tales of unicorns falling in love with humans or huntsmen using virgins as bait to ensnare the precious animals. Dragons were seen as ferocious and incredibly greedy, but intelligent. They would often destroy villages and steal gold. Many legends revolve around dragons kidnapping princesses and getting slain by knights who then marry the princess. Even naga and changelings have some legends, but I can’t recall them off the top of my head.”

“But what of us? What of minotaurs?”

“The legend basically says that a human fucks a cow and a minotaur is born. This was seen as an abomination of nature. The resulting child was a minotaur that was a mindless beast with the cunning of man but the lack of morality and intelligence of an animal. Somewhere along the line, it picked up a taste for human flesh and would kill and eat anyone that got near it. It was exiled into a purpose-built labyrinth where it was fed sacrifices so it wouldn’t try to escape. Eventually, a legendary warrior came and killed it. That is the dark and bloody legend of minotaurs in a very condensed nutshell.”

Once again, they all seemed shocked. “So... so we’re the villains...” one of them whispered.

“In the original legend, yeah,” I replied. “But as with all legends and stories, things evolve over time. Most of the legends about mythological creatures originally have them as villains. But those legends were created hundreds or even thousands of years before humanity had enough technology to create life. By the time we did, there were new versions of the story with the old creatures of legend as good guys. Sometimes.”

“But why would you create something that you believed was evil? A villain?” Asterion asked.

“Because nothing is inherently evil. Morality can be taught. And given the state of the world, I’d say none of the races out there are naturally bad. This place was looking pretty damn good before I got here.”

“Which is another of our questions. From where did you come, Navarone?”

“The past, of course. I was ripped through time and space away from my old life and even my old body. Basically, I was a school report for a fucking unicorn in Equestria. I have since learned that it’s possible to go back in time for short periods of time and before I left, I tasked the unicorns that sent me back to find a way to tear a portal through time to save some humans from their doom.”

“Can we assist them in any way? We owe humanity our very existence. It is only fair that we help save theirs.”

“I don’t know a thing about magic. I doubt you can help, though.” It does give me a new option for a location to send the humans when I get them, though. “The offer is, of course, appreciated.”

“Then is there anything we can do to assist you in your quest? Equipment? Soldiers? Gold?”

“...Do you have a blacksmith that wouldn’t mind traveling and working in strange conditions?”

“We do! Most of us are artisans of various kinds. We happen to have brought two blacksmiths with us on this trip. One of them came to stay in pony lands, hoping to learn new techniques. However, he is a master at what he knows and would likely be happy to travel with you, as long as you have room for both him and his assistant.”

“I’m sure we will, but his room might be a little cramped. And he’ll be on a wooden boat, so he might need to make accommodations with his equipment.”

“We will take care of everything, forerunner. What is the name of the boat?”

Second Chance. It’s at the docks.”

“He will meet you there before the party is over. He will have some arrangements to make, I believe.”

“Awesome. Do you have any other questions?”

“Right now... no. We weren’t expecting to ever get to ask a forerunner anything! If you can ever visit Minos in the future, we’ll be sure to have so many more for you. And we can give you a tour of the dig sites!”

“If I ever get time, I’ll be sure to visit, then. Is there anything else you need?”

“Just... to shake your hand, if you don’t mind. It’s still so hard to believe you’re real!”

I stood and leaned over the table, offering my hand. He rose as well and met it, his large fingers curling around mine with an honestly somewhat scary delicateness. After taking a few moments to prove to himself that I was real, he gave my hand a shake.

“It has been a... pleasure, Navarone.”

“Same, Asterion. Until we meet again.”

“It won’t be soon enough...”

With that last farewell, I led my group away, decocking my rifle. “That went better than expected,” I idly commented as we walked back.

As I said that, I felt four points of pressure gently slip down onto my head, where I was perhaps foolishly not wearing my helmet. “Thank you for coming to save me, master,” Doppel said in a squeaky voice as she hugged the top of my head.

“I’d do the same for anyone in my crew, Doppel. Besides, I need someone to clean my socks.”

“Mmm. I might just have to think of a way to reward you, master...”

“I’m afraid not. My new girlfriend might not care for that.”

“Your new what.” Hearing such a flat response in that high-pitched voice brought a smile to my face.

“Kumani. The big dragon behind us? I don’t think she likes sharing.”

Doppel removed herself from my head. Or rather, I looked back to find that Kumani removed her from my head, lifting the little changeling up to her face. “He is mine,” Kumani growled.

“Hey now!” I quickly interjected. “Kumani, what did you say about working on that?”

“I didn’t threaten her,” she was quick to answer, her eyes flicking to me for a moment before settling back on the somewhat afraid changeling. “I am just letting her know how things are. Are we clear?”

Doppel gulped and nodded hastily. Kumani contemptuously tossed her aside, thankfully lightly enough that she could catch herself within a few feet. “Kumani, I would really appreciate it if you didn’t throw my employees around.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, dear,” she sweetly answered. What have I gotten myself into?

When we got back to the docks, I had to ask myself that again. I also had to ask, “Where the fuck is the ship!?” All of the crew except for the captain were on the docks and the ship was nowhere to be seen.

“Getting an improvement,” Watcher answered. “The captain said it was paid for by a third party and that you would approve. How did things go with the minotaurs?”

“Well. Got Doppel back, had a nice discussion, got a free blacksmith. Did they at least say where they were taking the fucking thing? I want to get out of this armor.”

“I haven’t the slightest. Probably a drydock. I don’t know boats. So what’s a forerunner?”

“Humans. They found relics from a civilization that came after ours but before theirs and were apparently able to jury-rig some of the tech they found to work for them. With that, they translated some runes and discovered humans.”

“Interesting. Oh, and good news: Smiles found a job.”

“Excellent. When does he start?”

“He’s talking to his employer now since he can’t get his stuff from the boat. He’ll be back to pick it up later.”

“Cool. Well, I’m not going to stand here and wait. This is a party, Watcher. Tell your troops and the crew to go have fun. We don’t have any more business here that I know of and we don’t need to protect the ship, so let them do whatever they want.”

“Understood. Say, where’s Kat?”

“Fuck. Well, she’s smart. If she got in trouble, she’ll let me know. If not, she’ll realize eventually that we left. I mean, I don’t exactly have any ways to signal her anyway.”

“True. You should think about that in the future, though. She might be upset that you just left her behind.”

“Eh, I’ll figure out some way to make it up to her. Get her a jingly ball or something. Cats like those, right?”

“She wouldn’t be amused by that, I don’t believe.” Watcher just doesn’t like jokes, I swear.

“Whatever. Have fun at the party. I’m either going out with Kumani or Taya again, probably.”

“Fun. Right. See you, sir.”

I walked back over to the small group of important people. “Ship’s getting more improvements,” I said. “We don’t have any more business in the city, or at least nothing right now. Kumani, want to go out?”

“You sure you want to risk it?” she asked.

“We don’t have to do anything big. Just spend some time together. If you don’t want to, we don’t have to.”

“Well... I guess we can,” she said with a shrug. “I don’t think the purifiers are out in force at this party.”

“Can I go?” Taya and Spike both asked at the same time.

“I’m not going to bring my daughter on a date. Nor a friend.”

“D-date?” Spike whispered, his eyes going wide.

“Taya, we saw plenty of the city yesterday. You can show the naga and Spike some cool stuff today. And yes, Spike. A date.”

“Okay, daddy...” she sighed, looking away.

“But I thought you—” Spike started before stopping. He looked over at Kumani and asked, “Do you have any female friends?”

“A few, but not many at this party. I’m only here because of my dad and Nav. You ready to go?” she asked me.

“Yep. Can’t get out of this armor, sadly. Shall we?”

And so I went on my first date with a dragoness. For better or worse, it didn’t end in sex.

When I got back to the docks, the ship was right where it should be and a grinning Vinyl Scratch was waiting for me. “You’re gonna love what we did!” she happily said.

“So you’re the reason I was forced to wear this armor all day,” I said, crossing my metal-clad arms over my chest.

“Yep. But dude, it was totally buckin’ worth it. We got some insane speakers set up on this baby! They’re installed all over this thing now. If you want, you could blast stuff loud enough to hear for miles!”

“...Why would I ever want to do that?”

“I dunno. I just thought it would be cool. And dude? It’s bucking AWESOME!”

“Well, can’t complain about that. So how do they work?”

“I made some notes while I was listening to music on your laptop thingy. I saw a few ports on there and played around while you weren’t watching. Long story short, I figured out how to connect the laptop to the speakers! I just wasn’t able to test it yet.”

“So you put an untested experimental connection that might not even work in my ship.”

“Hey, if it doesn’t work, I added a backup system. Let’s just test it, shall we?”

Flo whispered, “If she can’t make it work, I probably can. I know everything there is to know about the laptop you have and I might be able to modify it or the ship’s connection.”

“Sure, I guess. But I can’t imagine hooking electricity to magic could ever end well.”

“Ah, what’s the worst that could happen?”

The whole fucking ship explodes. “Let me just go get the laptop. And change. Fuck is this armor cold.”

“Hey, I can help you change if you want!”

“I’m afraid not. I got a rather clingy dragon girlfriend that doesn’t like it when girls flirt with me, let alone sleep with me.”

“Oh wow. Dude, you’re in for one wild ride if you stick with a dragon. Good luck with that. I’ll just... wait up here.”

So down into the bowels of the ship I went. Getting out of the armor was a lot easier than getting into it, since I didn’t have to put it back on the ceiling just yet. Soon enough, I was dressed and carrying the precious laptop back up topside, hoping that Vinyl didn’t break it. As an afterthought, I went ahead and grabbed the record that Taya stole from the museum, since I didn’t have any use for it.

“So you have a wire for it?” I asked her.

“Sure do!” She was already standing at a port built into one of the two masts that I hadn’t seen.

“How does that even work?” I asked as she pulled the laptop from me.

“Magic, baby. I ain’t gotta explain shit.”

“...Whatever. Just be careful.” She connected the wire from the mast into the laptop with a quiet click and then nothing happened. “It would probably help if the laptop was on and trying to play music.”

“Ya think?” she quipped as I turned it on.

“Yeah, yeah... Hey, do you have something to play this?” I asked, passing her the record.

“An old vinyl? Yeah, I could play it right here. My special talent actually lets me use a fine enough needle of air to play the sound recorded in these. It’s just so much easier to use turntables. Why? What’s on it?”

“No clue. All I know is that it’s a human thing.”

“I’ll test it after we see if this works. Is it ready to play?”

“Yep. You sure about this?”

“Nope! Press play.” I shrugged and did so. We were instantly assailed by what sounded like a whale having sex with a jet engine. After I got over the shock and the pain, I stopped it. Everyone from all the boats around us were glaring our way. “Well, I don’t think that worked,” she commented.

“Nah, it worked just fine,” I replied. “That was just Celine Dion and it was up way too loud. Let me find something that isn’t shit.” As she facehooved, I selected something that isn’t used for psychological warfare—Beyond the Bridge, if anyone cares—and got it running instead. It sounded perfect, surprisingly. “Man, what the fuck? That doesn’t even make sense.”

“You wanna know the best part?” she asked. And without waiting for an answer, though I would have said yes anyway, she said, “It’s automatically translated! Though uh... I can’t promise that the translations will always make sense. The spell you use on ponies is different from the ones you use on objects.”

“Well, that’s really, really cool. Now how do I control the ship’s volume and which speakers are playing?”

“Eh, the main control panel is around here somewhere. The captain knows where. I just know how to make it work. So, do you like it?”

“Yeah. It’s... really weird and unexpected, but it’s cool.”

“Least I can do, Nav. Well, unless you want to go to some of the uh... parties I have planned.”

“I’d love to, but I don’t think Kumani would approve. To be fair, I’d be pretty pissed if she went to an orgy too. Or at least, without inviting me.” Shit, sex is just sex, to me. But I recognize that some people put an emotional importance on it, so I would never cheat on her.

“Eh. That’s a real shame, Nav. You’d really love some of them, at least if you were using your stones. But oh well.”

“Yeah... If you have any actual parties that aren’t just orgies, I could probably drag her to one. Be nice to go on another date or two before we leave.”

“Be good to get in her good graces, too. Traveling ain’t that fun when you have a bunch of ponies going with you.”

“Yeah. And it’s going to be a long trip. I’m actually really glad you did this, since it’ll give us something to do on the way.”

“No problem, Nav. Hey, you want to find out what’s on this record now?”

“Sure. The sleeve doesn’t have any words on it, so there aren’t any hints there.” I turned the music on the laptop off and closed it as she used magic to expose the record to the open air in the first time in a long, long time.

“So how old is this thing?” she asked as it began to slowly spin, points of light focusing on the outer edge.

“Christ, hundreds of thousands of years. I don’t know how old, but it’s ancient.”

“Wow. Surprised something so fragile is still alive.”

“Those lock boxes were made to fucking last. Airtight, radiation proof, almost indestructible. The thing almost didn’t want to even open.”

“Well, let’s see what it was hiding...” The record began spinning slightly faster as one of the motes of light solidified, using the nuances of the record to play the oldest music in existence.

“...Soiuz nerushimyj respublik svobodnykh...”

“That’s the national anthem of the Soviet Union,” I said in awe. “I can’t believe they would have actually stored something like that. Pretty fucking awesome.”

“Sounds like something the princess played once. But that language sounds pretty weird compared to the one you showed us.”

“It is. Called Russian. Very different. Well, you can keep that record. I don’t have any way of playing it here. Maybe you can do something with it. Give it to Octavia or something, I don’t care.”

“She likes history. I might just do that. Thanks, I guess.” She let the music stop as she gently pushed the relic back into its sleeve. “Hey, I gotta go, Nav. I’ll send a schedule of the stuff I got going on. Maybe you and your dragon can get to one of the parties. And if not, well, that’s a shame. I’ll see you when I see you, either way.”

“Same, Vinyl. It’s been fun.”

“Sure has...” As she walked off the ship, I got one final look at that wonderful ass before I was interrupted by the sight of a batpony walking onto the ship.

Sunshine Smiles was not at all living up to his name at that point. Poor guy looked rather remorseful, actually. “I got a job, sir,” he very unhappily said.

“Glad to hear that, Smiles.” I did my best to make that sound sincere and not dickish. “I think Stalliongrad will be a good city for you. Plenty of guys here for you to prey on.”

“Yeah... but I don’t really want to go, sir.”

“You know the deal, Smiles. You found a job and that means you stay with it. You agreed to that and I’m holding you to it. It’ll work out for the best for you, I promise.”

“I... I don’t want to leave you guys...”

“That sure is a shame. I’m sorry, Smiles, but I’m not going to go back on the deal. You’ll be happy with a nice job to keep you occupied. Something away from the guard. When do you start?”

“Within the week... I need to get my stuff and go see him.”

“Then don’t let me keep you. And Smiles, don’t get fired on purpose. I’d be really, really disappointed if you did that.”

“I know, sir... B-before I go, can I... can I have a hug?”

“As long as you don’t make it creepy.” As soon as the words left my mouth, he reared up and snatched me into a tight hug.

“I’m gonna miss you, sir,” he whispered.

I awkwardly patted his back and said, “I’ll miss working with you, too. It’s been... interesting.” The hug continued several seconds longer. Then several more seconds. Then... “Smiles, stop rubbing my ass.”

“Do I have to?”

“You’re making it creepy.”

“Yes sir...” he glumly replied, dropping the hug and sighing.

“There. Now go get your stuff and get to work. Well, after saying whatever other goodbyes you have.”

He slowly nodded before slinking away.

For better or worse, Smiles had a new job. Finally.

That event marked the middle of the party. I couldn’t help but wonder what else would happen before our blacksmith came to the boat. All I knew is that I was really, really looking forward to leaving soon.

 
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