A pair of pegasi shot past the finish line, the yellow and red coats blurring together to make it impossible to tell who was first. "You know I won that!" Pyro glared at Scout.
"No way, man! Ain't no way you're faster than me!" Scout and Pyro got up in each other's faces, trying to stare the other down.
"Fluttershy!" Both turned to the one who was supposed to watch for the final judging. "Who won?" Both yelled at the same time. The pegasus shrunk from them.
"Uhm... you both win?" She timidly said. They groaned.
"Ugh. One more time." Pyro lined back up at the starting line. "Remember, it's to the tree, up to that cloud, circle back to the tree and over the finish line. Although if that's too confusing for you, you could just follow me." She smirked
"You can keep tryin' all ya want, it ain't gonna do nothin. We both know I was the fastest thing in 2Fort"
"You may be a fast runner, but you fly like a duck. I, on the other hand," She spread her wings wide. "I fly like a phoenix."
The two lined up, noses poking just barely past the line. Fluttershy raised the flag, and their wings flared. She dropped it and they were off like a shot. They rounded the tree, neck and neck, and climbed to a cluster of clouds. They circled them, slingshotting back to the tree. Out of the corner of her eye, Pyro saw her opponent start to fall back, the sharp speed increase of the drop giving her the boost she needed.
'Ha! Take that ya loudmouth!' she thought, smiling inwardly. 'It's in the-' her eye caught an interesting sight: A certain grey mare smiling and the filly on her head cheering Pyro on from the sidelines. '-bag?' The momentary distraction slammed her into the tree at full force.
She awoke a few seconds later, staring up at the sky and the faces of a pair of concerned pegasi and a unicorn filly talking to her. "Oh my gosh, Miss Pyro, I'm so sorry! Are you okay?"
Her mouth refused to form proper words. "Uh... Buh?"
Scout started laughing uproariously. "Oh man, you weren't kidding! You DO fly like a phoenix! 'Cause you crash and burn HARD!" He wiped a tear from his eye, then looked quickly at Derpy. "Wait... if you're here, then that means... Crap!" He bolted over to his bag and tossed it over his shoulder. "I'm late for work!" He flew away toward the post office in the distance.
Pyro stood up, dusting herself off.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Fluttershy asked
"Yeah... Though I think I should take it easy."
"Oh, good. I'm sorry, but I need to get back to my cottage or the animals will get hungry. You're sure you're okay?" When Pyro nodded, she flew off.
Pyro turned to Derpy. "So what brings you out here?"
"Dinky." She nodded to her daughter.
"We were heading home from school and stopped when we saw you and Mister Scout flying. Sorry I distracted you, Miss Pyro." Dinky looked at the ground. Pyro put a hoof on her shoulder.
"It's fine, kiddo. My fault for taking my eyes off the course. You guys mind if I follow you? I kind of don't want to try flying right now in case I pass out or something."
Derpy smiled warmly. "Supper?"
"Sounds good." The two pegasi walked along the path while Dinky sat on her mother's back.
"Mommy's talked a lot about you, Miss Pyro."
"Heh. 'Miss'. You're a pretty formal little kid, you know that?"
"Mommy says that I should call people Mister and Miss out of respect."
"Well, your mommy's a pretty smart lady."
Pyro didn't speak much, letting Dinky chat about her day with her mother, chiming in to make a few comments here and there. They approached a humble little house. Pyro smirked when she caught sight of the green mailbox, 606 crossed out on the side and replaced with the proper number. The door opened to a cozy living room, a few seats pointed toward the fireplace at the front.
"Okay, Dinky, run upstairs and get your homework done. I don't want any more meetings with Miss Cheerilee." Derpy spoke cleanly, looking at her daughter.
"Aw, but I just got home!"
"How about a deal? You can rest for half an hour, then you MUST start your homework, no 'buts' about it. Deal?"
"Okay..." The filly sounded slightly saddened, but started to trot upstairs. She turned back about halfway up. "Oh, can Twist could come over to play tomorrow afternoon?" Her eyes changed into a pleading gaze, lowering her head and staring up at her mother.
Derpy laughed at the display. "We'll discuss it later; you only have a half hour you know." Realizing this, Dinky bolted up the stairs. Derpy turned to Pyro. "Children. They certainly are a hoof-full... Are you alright?"
Pyro's jaw hung agape at the conversation that had just transpired. 'Derpy... Talking? Normally?' She shook her head. 'Maybe I hit that tree harder than I thought.' "One more time? I don't think I caught that."
"I asked if you were okay. You seem a bit shocked."
"You could say that again! You're speaking! Like, full sentences!" Pyro tossed her arms around the mare. "How is that possible?"
Derpy sighed. "Dinky's... special. It's something I don't even think about, but it's certainly welcome. I trust her as a mother does, and she knows who I really am. I'm not some bumbling mail mare in her eyes. I don't feel that constriction on my words when I talk to her."
"But what about now? You seem to be speaking okay to me."
She smiled. "I get a similar feeling with you. You know me much better than most ponies. I just..." She looked down. "They all think I'm unintelligent. No matter what I do, they don't remember the times I'm good, only the times I screw up." She looked back up. "But I feel like I can trust you."
"I'm honored, but I'm also confused. You get tongue tied around the ponies you don't trust?"
"But I'm one of the ponies you trust?"
Derpy pulled a familiar looking journal out of a drawer on the end table nearby. "You read all of this. You know everything about me. Moreover, we have quite a bit in common. Only having a few that know who we truly are while everyone else thinks we're something different."
Pyro soaked this all in. Derpy's eyes focused ever so slightly, their usual positions trying their hardest to meet in the middle. They began chatting, the first opportunity to do so since they met. Any subject at all that would come up, they discussed, though the yellow pegasus tactfully avoided any of her personal life. Pyro knew very little of Derpy, only the items that had come up in her journal, and kept steering it back to the mare whenever her personal life came up. Despite her efforts, the mail mare took notice.
"Did something happen that you don't want to talk about? What are you afraid of?" The concerned yellow eyes made Pyro drop her head.
She stayed quiet for a bit. "...This world is a lot like what I normally see, y'know?" Derpy cocked her head at the usually energetic girl, who now sounded unbelievably fragile. "The colors, the happiness, everything. Back home, it's what I saw with my eyes closed. I had to drop into my imagination to escape all the stuff in the real world I didn't want to deal with. I'd like to leave it all behind, if I can."
There was a quiet silence between the two. Derpy stood up, wrapping her foreleg around Pyro in a quiet hug. They stayed that way for a minute or so. Pyro broke the silence.
"What?" Derpy let go and looked at the firebrand pegasus questioningly.
"You asked what I was afraid of. It's clowns. They freak me out." Pyro smirked.
Derpy chuckled. "I need to start dinner, I'll be right back." The grey mare trotted to the kitchen.
"Yes?" She stopped in the doorway, turning back.
"You knew I was a girl, right?"
Derpy smiled. "From the minute I met you."
Pyro tossed and turned that night, stewing over Derpy's words. 'I want to help her, but I don't know... Maybe someone smarter can help.' She popped her head into Engi's room, gingerly stepping over some scattered nuts and bolts.
"Engi?" She quietly asked, but nothing happened.
"Engi?" She said slightly louder, eliciting a small snore.
"ENGI!" She shouted. The stallion scrambled, falling out of bed in his panic. He popped his head back over the bed.
"Pyro? What's wrong?" He rubbed his head.
"I have a problem, and you're smart, I thought you could help."
He stared at her with contempt. "It can't wait until morning?"
"I've been up all night thinking about it, and I wanted advice."
"Ugh..." He paused, then stood up. "Fine. What is it?"
She explained Derpy's problem to him, though once or twice she had to nudge him awake. After she finished, she looked at him quizzically. "So what should I do?"
"Well," He yawned. "Ah'm not gonna lie, ah don't know how much to help at this hour. Maybe you should talk to Twilight in the mornin'. Maybe her books have some kind of answer."
"That's a pretty good idea. Thanks Engi... Engi?" A light snore escaped his throat. She waved her hoof in front of his face, but he didn't respond, falling into a deep sleep standing up. "I'll thank him later," she mumbled as she went back to bed.
The next morning Pyro headed out toward the library for answers. 'If anyone can help, it's Twilight! Knowing her, she'll know how to fix it and Derpy can lead a good life! Perfect!'
"I'm sorry, Pyro, but I have no idea." Twilight was deep in a book, writing complex notes that Pyro couldn't comprehend.
"But you're the smartest pony I know! What do you mean you don't know?"
"I've been trying to find something to help the poor girl when I get a chance, but I haven't found anything in my studies. I don't even know what's wrong with her, and even if I did, finding a cure for something neurological like that is incredibly improbable."
Pyro looked down, disheartened. "Well, can I at least look?"
Pyro began looking through shelf after shelf of books, not finding anything even remotely helpful. "Twilight, you seem to have quite a few books on magic."
"I know what you're thinking, but there aren't any spells I know of that can help. I might have to check the Canterlot Archives. Maybe the Star Swirl the Bearded wing."
"In all of your magic, there's not one spell you can repurpose for this?"
"Magic isn't just something you can make up on the fly, Pyro. It takes study and concentration to create spells." Twilight didn't look up, copying a formula into her notes
"What are you talking about? Magic is controlling your energy properly. Even I can do some."
Twilight's pen stopped dead, and she slowly looked up in confusion. "What do you mean, you can do some?"
"Watch." Pyro stood on her hind legs, her wings slowly flapping to keep her upright. "You just have to channel your energy the right way. Like this." She put her hooves together, bringing both to one hip. "All I have to do is aim it to my wrists, and..." With a sudden thrust forward, she extended her legs forward, and a small fireball burned the air in front of her. "See?"
Twilight stood in awe, ears pointed back out of sheer confusion. "But... Bu-but that's impossible! Only unicorns can do magic!"
Pyro shrugged. "Obviously not."
"No, no no no." Twilight tore herself away from her desk, suddenly poring over the multiple books of magic on her shelf. "That's unheard of! No non-unicorn can use magic!" She started tossing books over her shoulder, trying desperately to find something to contradict what she just saw. Pyro ducked a few oversized tomes hurdled haphazardly at her. A smaller one beaned her in the head, landing at her feet.
"Watch it!" Pyro looked down at the book. She tenuously picked it up. Twilight swung around.
"Don't you understand!? This isn't how it works" She went back to scanning book after book for proof. Spike walked down the stairs.
"Geez, what's got her worked up?" He pointed over his shoulder at his panicking friend.
"I broke her reality, I think." Pyro held up the book. "I think I better leave. Can I check this out?"
"Sure, I'll let Twi know once she's calmed down."
Pyro slipped the book into her saddlebag and left towards home.
Engi lowered his hammer to the nail, making sure it aligned properly. A bead of sweat appeared across his brow. The silence of the empty room was the only accompaniment to the sounds coming from his tools as he worked. One small mistake and he could ruin the device beyond repair. He breathed in deeply, raising the tool high. He swung with all his might, hitting the nail perfectly. He sighed in relief.
The piercing yell not two feet from his ear startled him into tossing the hammer into the wall, jamming the claw-head a few inches deep into the wall. He groaned, yanking it out with his teeth. "Damn it Pyro, stop doin' that!"
"Sorry, I was excited. Remember that thing I told you about last night?"
"Yes." He said with contempt, clearly unhappy with the sleep he lost due to Pyro's predicament.
"Well I talked to Twilight, and she said she didn't have a spell that could help. But she threw this book at my head, and I think it might help." She laid a book on his desk. Its cover featured a plethora of devices with shining auras around them. Above the pictures was the title: A Beginner's Guide to Magitech: Bringing Magic and Technology Together to do the Impossible by Voltaic Quartz. "I hoped maybe you could understand it, 'cause I couldn't make heads or tails of it on my way over."
Engi picked it up, flipping through the pages. He would stop every few pages, reading a paragraph or two, then continue. "This here's some pretty complex stuff. You'll have to give me a bit of time to see what ah can get from it."
Pyro nodded, leaving Engi to his work. A few hours later, he emerged with a grin. "Go gather up Miss Derpy and Miss Twilight. I've got an idea."
Pyro led Twilight back to the building, then set off to find the mail mare. She looked up to see Scout napping on the clouds beside the building. 'Scout's not working, so I guess that mean's Derpy is on her shift.' She took flight, looking for the grey mare. She couldn't find her in the heart of the town, so she began circling the skyline until she caught sight of her in front of a house on the outskirts of town. As she flew close, she heard the sound of somepony shouting.
"You stupid piece of garbage! I'm sick of this!" A shouting stallion's voice caught her ear, and she noticed Derpy wasn't standing; she was cowering.
"I can't believe they let a brainless, walleyed freak like you work in the mail office! Every week you screw something else up!" Derpy shrunk from the confrontational stallion, trying not to make eye contact. He was absolutely livid, flushing red in his shouting. "You and that brat of yours. Can't believe they'd still let you keep her. If it were up to me, you wouldn't be having any kids! Look at me when I'm talking to you!" He growled. He reached forward, attempting to shove her into making eye contact.
"Keep your grubby hooves off her!" Pyro bolted between the stallion and Derpy, flaring her wings wide to shield the grey mare. He stumbled back slightly in surprise, while Derpy took her chance and put a few feet of distance between her accuser and herself.
"Oh good. Another Celestia-damned supporter for this freak. 'Oh, she doesn't know what she's doing, you can't get mad!'" He said in a mocking tone. "Well I CAN get mad about someone who doesn't do their job, when I have to work all day every day, but if I mess up I get canned while SHE can screw up once a week and keep on going for more than a year!"
"Look!" Pyro shouted, her voice taking on a demonic tone. The stallion recoiled slightly. "I don't care if she messes up every day, she is still a pony! You will treat her like one, instead of some mail-delivering slave! I don't ever want to hear that you spoke to her that way ever again, or the consequences won't be pretty!" She turned away from him.
He stood up. "O-oh yeah! Like what!?" He shouted, though the tremble in his voice gave away his nervousness.
Pyro swung around. "I'LL LIGHT YOU ON FIRE!" With the word fire, a ring of flames erupted from the ground around her. He screamed at the top of his lungs, bolting into his house and slamming the door behind him. Pyro heard locks being fearfully pulled even from a few feet away. She trotted slowly to the grey mare. "Derpy? Are you -?"
She was interrupted by Derpy hugging her tightly, sobbing into her shoulder. Pyro didn't speak, letting her friend calm down enough to start heading for the building. 'Don't worry.' She thought, walking slowly with the very visibly shaken girl. 'Engi can fix this. And then it won't happen again.'
Pyro sat waiting outside the door, hours after gathering everyone needed. Engi said he might have a solution to Derpy's speaking problem, but Pyro wasn't allowed in the room to be sure that she's speaking to people she normally couldn't. 'Ugh, this is taking so looong.' She was starting to lose her mind. Any time she tried to preoccupy herself, she immediately went back to worrying and couldn't get her mind off of it. Everything she had seen in the past few days had changed her perceptions. 'Derpy's love for her child, being able to speak to certain ponies, a possible solution to jerks like that guy.' Her brow furrowed even thinking about him. She resolved that she really meant what she said, and if it came down to it, she wasn't afraid to keep her threat.
When the door opened, Pyro nearly fell out of her seat, scrambling to greet them. "So...?" She asked hopefully. Derpy stepped forward, wearing a silver necklace and a pair of what looked like hair clips right behind her ears. "I don't think jewelry is going to help much, guys."
"I don't know, I think I look pretty good." Derpy said. Pyro squealed in delight.
"You can talk! It works!" She laughed. "Wait... how did you do that?"
"Well-" Twilight started, but Derpy put a hoof up.
"Please, let me explain." Twilight graciously stepped aside. Derpy held the necklace up, letting the light glint off the circular pendant. "This is a speaker." Her voice came from the pendant, and Pyro noticed Derpy wasn't actually moving her lips. Then the grey mare pulled her hair back to show the 'clips'. "These work to read my brainwaves, interpreting them into words, and then transmit to the speaker. With these on, I can talk to whomever I wish."
"And all she has to do is get a tune up every once in a while to make sure it's workin' properly. Ah'm amazed at that book, but with my machines and Miss Twilight's magic, we got it done."
The yellow pegasus broke into a big grin. "We should celebrate! Dinner's on me!" She turned to Engi. "Can I borrow some money?"
The two pegasi lined back up on the starting line. "Maybe dodge the tree this time Pyro?" Scout smirked. Pyro sarcastically laughed.
"On your marks." Fluttershy raised the flag. "Get set." They stiffened, lowering to the ground. "G-" they blasted away the second the flag moved down. Much like last time, they stuck neck and neck. They circled the tree, climbing quickly to the halfway point in the clouds. Pyro snapped around quickly and started descending quickly. Scout, despite his efforts, started falling behind. They rounded the tree, and Pyro crossed the finish line, a foot or two ahead of Scout.
"Take that, ya loudmouth!" Pyro hooped and hollered, and a light "Yay" came from the sidelines. She turned to see Dinky and her mother cheering from the sidelines, along with another cream-colored filly standing beside the unicorn. Scout grumbled, picking up his bag and heading for work. Pyro joined her makeshift cheer squad.
"Having fun?" she tousled Dinky's hair as she giggled.
"We were heading out to dinner, and we wanted to know if you wanted to join us." Derpy smiled.