It is the year 2038, and the Earth is slowly being consumed by a space-borne monstrosity dubbed the Black Tide, which is using nanotechnology to remake the planet into something hideously alien.
Erin Olsen works for Project Harmonics, humanity's last-ditch effort to find a new world before the Tide can wipe them out. But when that world is found, and it turns out to be occupied, Erin will need to find the courage to face the unknown in order to save the inhabitants of both worlds.
has been started for authors to contribute stories set in the same universe, as it exists at the end of the story.
- Advancing Wall of Doom: The Black Tide serves as one, slowly consuming the surface of the Earth - and everything on it - meter by meter.
- Aliens Speaking English: Brought up early on as being an extraordinary coincidence, only rarely dwelt on afterwards.
- And I Must Scream: Experienced by Erin/Sunflower, who can't even talk when Malachite takes over her body.
- Another Dimension: The whole point behind Project Harmonics is to find alternate worlds for humanity to migrate to.
- Armor-Piercing Question:
Pinkie: That leaves one very important question, though. Probably the most important one, and nopony has even asked it yet.
Erin: (visibly braces herself) Okay. What is it?
Pinkie: Sunflower. Erin. Whatever you want to call yourself. I have to know just one thing. I need to know: are you sorry at all for lying to us?
(Erin's composure shatters and she breaks down in tears)
Erin: Yes! Every day! Every single day, I hated myself for it. I hated every minute of it! I wanted to tell the truth, but at first I was too scared to. And then they kept telling me I couldn't. And, I'd make up my mind every other day that I would tell you, I'd tell you everything, and then they'd just end up talking me out of it. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, you deserve so much better than me, I didn't deserve your friendship I'm sorry...
Pinkie: (touches her on the shoulder and draws her into a hug) In that case, I can forgive you.
- Aura Vision: Twilight's ability to see the magical field of Equestria immediately clues her in to Erin's lack of connection with it, though she draws the wrong conclusion for a while. Lyra evidently has the same ability, which gets her a job at Project Harmonics, scanning proepective new worlds for magical fields.
- Background Magic Field: Equestria has one of these, and the Earth doesn't. This is part of how Twilight figures out that Erin isn't Equestrian, as she lacks contact with Equestria's magical field
- Became Their Own Antithesis: Malachite used to live studying biology and saving lives, and later merged himself with a swarm of creatures who feed on life-forces
- Becoming the Mask: Celestia notices that this may be happening to Erin/Sunflower towards the end of the story, as she is beginning to act more pony-like.
- Benevolent Boss: Speedy Parcel, Erin's boss at Fetlock Express, which is best demonstrated when he is more upset about losing her as an employee than learning that she's an alien in disguise.
- Big Damn Heroes: Twilight and friends, when going up against the chimera.
- Bond Creatures: The Fae Sprites, in relation to Malachite.
- Cannot Keep a Secret: While it wasn't much of a secret by then (the princess and the Elements having already been told) Speedy Parcel casually talking about Erin being a human in disguise in front of a customer (who promptly tells the rest of the town) comes across as this.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Erin, to her Ponyville friends in regards to her true nature, due to pressure from Dr. Velchiek. Literally unable to spit it out, once the Override was engaged.
- Cuteness Overload: Erin's initial reaction to seeing the Equestrians for the first time. Also, every time she sees Marigold, her friend Meadowlark's little filly.
- Cyborg: Many of Erin's abilities come from her cybernetic implants, which include wireless communications, enhanced vision and hearing, and chemical sensors in her nose, lungs, mouth and digestive system. She also records everything she sees and hears to be relayed back to the humans overseeing the operation. There is also the Override function, which Malachite manages to hack into at one point
- Door Stopper: Just shy of 250,000 words.
- Dramatic Irony: When trying choosing a movie from Erin's collection, the ponies unwittingly dodge several bullets with regards to sad or violent content - Fluttershy rejects Grave of the Fireflies because she can't bear the thought of what happens to the fireflies, and when she tries to choose Watership Down, Pinkie assumes it's a Bugs Bunny style comedy, and Rainbow rejects it because she wants action more than comedy.
- Dreadful Musician: Erin cannot sing. Period. And she knows it too - the one time she does so, it's to spice up a party she's at, since the other attendees are mostly just standing around doing nothing. Her singing (described as "It was passionate. It was loud. It was only passingly familiar with the correct tune.") is so awful that others present agree to take their own turns at the karaoke machine afterward just to keep her from doing so again.
- Eureka Moment: Erin chooses the sunflower for her fake cutie mark after reading an article about how much of their natural world they may lose to the Black Tide, and realises that part her mission is to save as much of that life as she can.
Erin: It's going to be a sunflower. It just... feels right. This article, and this picture, it moved me. It hit me, when I looked at this picture. This field may be gone in a few years' time, but a new field can be planted. And it can be just as beautiful as the original, if not more so. To me, this picture means hope, and it means renewal. Everything that Harmonics represents to me. You said to trust my intuition? Well, my intuition says it's got to be this.
- When Erin tells this story to the Elements and Celestia, Rarity compares it to the epiphanies that each of them had when they received their Cutie Marks. As Celestia puts it, "You struggled, and then found a purpose and an identity for yourself. In the end, you reached an epiphany that helped you discover who you were, and what you wanted to do. And then, you received a cutie mark. It's not exactly in the traditional way. But as cutie mark stories go, it's not bad."
- Failed a Spot Check: While in Ponyville, Erin didn't see Canterlot until whe was told where it was.
- False Friend: Erin is afraid she is one of these to Twilight Sparkle and the other Ponyvillians. The longer she stays in town, the more guilt she feels regarding this.
- Fantastic Racism: Several members of Celestia's Royal Counsel are dead-set against humanity coming to Equestria. Some of them even resign from their positions and move away from Canterlot in protest.
- Fish out of Water: Erin, once she gets to Equestria.
- Grey Goo: Basically what the Black Tide is.
- Going Native: To a degree - at several points Erin starts saying "everypony" out of habit while talking to or about humans.
- Group Hug: Several, during the course of the story.
- Heroes Gone Fishing: Before the Mane 6 go up against the Black Tide, there's time for a quick shopping trip.
- Homeworld Evacuation: One is attempted after the Black Tide arrives and is proven to be nearly unstoppable. The humans use two methods: massive space arks (which are subsequently sabotaged by the "Earth-First" terrorist organization, which is bent on forcing the government to continue fighting rather than evacuate, which they call the coward's way out), and Project Harmonics, intended to find a suitable alternate dimension that humanity can move to. It instead leads them to Equestria and new allies, whose actions make humanity's evacuation of Earth no longer necessary.
- Horde of Alien Locusts: The Black Tide.
- And the fae sprites, almost more literally. Although they prefer eating animals and people before vegetation (then each other).
- Humans Are Good: From the start, the focus of humanity is to open diplomatic relations with Equestria, rather than invasion, even though they know they'll invade if they have to in order to survive.
- I Come in Peace: Erin's whole motivation for taking up her mission, though her superiors forbid her from opening diplomatic relations on her own.
- I Gave My Word: On a species-wide scale; a condition of the treaty between Earth and Equestria is that any other habitable worlds discovered by Project Harmonics would be open to ponies as well as humans for exploration and expansion. When the Black Tide is defeated, a reporter suggests breaking this treaty; Robert Thomson, chair of the Committee of Human Survival, invokes this trope in a scathing reply.
- Intrigued by Humanity: As in numerous other fan works, Lyra is portrayed as such, though only after First Contact has been made. After getting caught in the Harmonics lab a few times, she ends up being offered a job with them.
- It's for a Book: When Twilight tries to find out how Sunflower could have been separated from the magic field, she talks to her magical biology professor, claiming to be writing a book.
- It's Personal: When Celestia learns Malachite was found uncouscious by the center of the remains of a very weakened Black Tide she immediately sets herself to rescue him and finish the job.
Celestia: This thing may have cost me my student and friend, Erin. I will finish this myself.
- It Tastes Like Feet: While drinking "a restorative brew, of zebra origins", Celestia comments that it smells wonderful, but "tastes rather like a camel's backside".
Luna: "I'm surprised you'd know what that tastes like, Celestia."
Celestia: "I've experienced many strange things over the centuries."
Luna: (eyes widen)
Celestia: "I'm joking, of course!"
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Dr. Edwards may have come across as an ass in the early chapters, but he's still an ethical scientist who does not let Velchiek get away with his modification of Erin's programming (though he states that he didn't do it for her).
- Living Lie Detector: Twilight Sparkle turns herself into one of these briefly, via magic, in order to question Erin/Sunflower.
- Mana Potion: Twilight comes up with the idea of magic-storing jewelry, and the Arcanum (basically a collection of powerful unicorns) helps make it a reality.
- Mind-Control Device: Dr. Velchiek had some of Erin's implants reprogrammed so that he could administer mood-altering drugs, take control of her body (which Malachite uses to his advantage), and put her into a coma if she tries to talk about who she really is.
- Mind Rape: What the Black Tide does to Malachite, and is implied also does to several others. For Malachite, his mind is destroyed beyond repair.
- Moment of Weakness: Seeing the Black Tide knock Celestia down to uncounsciousness caused Twilight to destroy the gateway emitter they had used to get to India, stranding Erin on Earth a few miles away from the Blick Tide.
- Nanomachines: Used to turn Erin into a pony, the basis of the Black Tide... the story pretty much runs on nanomachines.
- Minnesota Nice: Erin and her parents John and Lynne are from Minnesota, and are all very nice people, especially Lynne.
- Multitasked Conversation: After Erin explains to the Mane Six about the implants in her head allowing her to talk to Maggie on Earth.
Pinkie: (grabbing Erin's head and looking into her eyes) Hellooooo Huuumaaaans! Myyy naaaame is Piiiinkie Piiiee!!!
Erin: Um, they can hear you just fine Pinkie.
Maggie: I'm going to get into so much trouble.
Erin: Why is that?
Pinkie: I dunno. Is it because they have really good ears?
Maggie: Are you sure this is a good idea Erin?
Erin: Yes, I think it is
Pinkie: It is because they have good ears?
Erin: Who has good ears?
Pinkie: The humans have good ears.
Erin: We do?
Maggie: That pony is confusing:
Pinkie: Well, you just said you did!
Erin: (to Maggie) That's true. (to Pinkie) Wait, I didn't say that.
Pinkie: You're flip-flopping!
Erin: I am not!
Maggie: We need to talk, Erin.
Pinkie: You need to be a little less confusing, Erin.
Erin: We sure do.
Pinkie: Hey, what's with this 'we' business? I'm making perfect sense!
Erin: I'm talking to Maggie, Pinkie!
Pinkie: So Maggie is confusing too?
Erin: She's unique, that's for sure.
Pinkie: Waaiiit a minute! Did you mean me or Maggie?
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: The Black Tide, in an attempt to speed up its data gathering, strips away Malachite's fae sprites and absorbs bits of his mind, thus making it both much more dangerous, and vulnerable to the Elements of Harmony.
- Noodle Incident: Exactly how Erin botched the house painting job.
- Nuclear Option: Nukes were used in an attempt to fight the Tide before the story took place. It didn't work.
- The Power of the Sun: Celestia unleashes this twice. The first time starts well, but ends with a devastating counter attack from the Black Tide, and the second is good, old-fashioned overkill against the Black Tide
- Raise Him Right This Time: This is what happen to Malachite, with his mind reduced to that of an infant, Celestia and Luna turn him into a baby alicorn so he can grow up and learn again.
- Rejected Apology: Meadowlark, after finding out Erin's secret, largely because of the realisation that she allowed an alien to watch her daughter Marigold. Rainbow Dash takes slightly longer than her friends, but forgives Erin after learning that Velchiek stopped her from coming clean earlier using drugs and the Override.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Both Celestia and Luna take a very active role in events.
- Seen It All: Meadowlark's reaction when Erin tells her she was possessed by an ancient evil from the Everfree Forest (It's Ponyville, after all). This does not stop her being horrified when Erin tells her she's an alien in disguise.
- Sequel Hook: The Project Harmonics team discovering another inhabitable world. Erin returning to Ponyville in a new pseudo-alicorn body.
- Stalker Without a Crush: Lyra to Erin, after finding out that she's an alien - she follows her back to Canterlot on the train, and apparently shows up several times afterward to ask her questions about Earth. Though she stops doing it after she gets access to the Harmonics lab.
- Super Strength: Erin's pony body is "enhanced" by the human scientists, to be stronger and faster than a creature her size should be capable of. So, she's a little surprised when she barely manages to keep up in a three-way race with Applejack and Rainbow Dash.
- Tailor-Made Prison: Where we first find The Thing in the Cave/Malachite, though in this particular case, the prison is self-made, due to an oversight by Malachite
- Take That!: A huge one to The Conversion Bureau.
Reporter: Is it true that you intended that all humans migrating Equestria would be turned into ponies, perhaps against their will, in collusion with the Equestrian government?
Robert: What the hell are you talking about? Are you insane? Where in the world did you get that idea? Even if we wanted to, we don't have the resources to turn seven billion humans into ponies.
- Tempting Fate: Erin does this repeatedly while trying to find a job in Ponyville. She catches on to it after the third time, and walks off to apply for a package delivery job determinedly not thinking about how easy it should be.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Given to a reporter saying that humans should break their treaty with Equestria right after they saved them.
- Time Skip: The last chapter skips over a few months, ending after Erin's return to Ponyville in a pseudo-Alicorn form. Most of the side-stories, and the first two chapters of the sequel, are set during these gaps
- Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Erin is described as a tomboy by her parents, having loved her BMX bike while hating Barbie dolls. Yet at the same time she was playing games with toy unicorns (while casting her Barbie as a villainous sorceress), and then there's her initial reaction to the Equestrian ponies.
- Transhuman: Erin. Not only does she receive an intentionally-designed new body through technology, but her new body includes cybernetic implants to enhance her capabilities.
- The Thing in the Cave/Malachite is another example, since he pursued and acheived Immortality by applying his biological (and magical) knowledge to transcend his natural form.
- The story explores many of the ethical issues surrounding transhumanism from a refreshingly nuanced perspective, showing how bioenhancement technology can be used for good or evil. For example, it examines Immortality as a goal, the fear that integrated technology will be used to control people, and the question of unequal access to bioenhancement technology.
- 20 Minutes into the Future: The story begins in 2038.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Twilight gets this from her friends and Luna after she destroys a gateway emitter and strands Erin on Earth, blaming her for Celestia being hurt by the Black Tide.
- White and Grey Morality: Both Earth and Equestrian societies have fundamentally sympathetic moral codes, and even exceptions like Heart's Bloom or Dr. Velchiek act out because of stress and understandable fear. And even The Thing in the Cave, Malachite, doesn't like the idea of killing a sapient being, even by accident, although he's not very good at realizing what might be dangerous to other people. Word of God says that even the Black Tide isn't evil, just a repair module with some really bad programming.
- All Love Is Unrequited: Big Mac's crush on Erin, which leads him to act rather bitter after he finds out the truth. Erin finds out after she returns to Ponyville in human form and manages to let him down gently.
- Fake Ultimate Hero: After the Black Tide has been defeated, Paul Velchiek starts appearing on talk shows, claiming that his project led to the Earth being saved and that he had stepped down willingly in order to talk to the press. When Erin finds out during her own interview, she angrily sets the record straight.
- Full-Name Basis: Spectral Charm, who reacts with hostility to being addressed as Spectral from anyone he doesn't have a sufficiently casual relationship with.
- Inadvertent Entrance Cue: Done subtly in the narration - after Erin takes a sip of cocoa:
It was delicious, though it could have used a marshmallow or two.
Another knock on the door caught their attention. Twilight excused herself once again, opening the door to reveal Rarity standing patiently in the snow.
- Insult Friendly Fire: A variant when Becky brings up how Project Harmonics haven't lost an emitter since the first time they opened a gateway, "At least, none that werenít destroyed by crazy unicorn mares." (Namely, Twilight). Spectral Charm glances at Lyra, who irritably replies, "It wasn't me!" through clenched teeth.
- I've Heard of That ó What Is It?:
Erin: How would you like to be the first town in Equestria to have town-wide full and free Wi-Fi access?
: That would be wonderful! (beat
) Whatís a ĎWi-Fií?
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Fluttershy standing up to Rainbow Dash on the issue of teaching Erin to fly in pegasus form.
Fluttershy: Flying is... nice. As long as you stay near the ground, at least at first.
Rainbow: Pfft. What's the point of that? If you're that close to the ground, you may as well be walking.
Fluttershy: I don't want her to get hurt while she's still learning. You have to be careful teaching her, Rainbow. She's the first human to learn to fly. She may not have the instincts for it. She could be hurt very badly.
Rainbow: Yeah, yeah.
Fluttershy: Don't 'yeah, yeah' me Rainbow Dash. You promise me you'll take it easy teaching her, or I won't let you teach her at all.
Rainbow: Oh yeah? Who's gonna teach her then, huh?
Fluttershy: Me. (flaps wings)
Rainbow: You teach somepony how to fly? Seriously?
Fluttershy: I know the basics as well as you do, Dash. And if I teach her I know she'll be safe. So you promise to take it easy, or I'll forbid you from doing anything with her until I'm sure she can handle it.
Rainbow (after a long stare from Fluttershy) You know, I'm not sure if I should be proud of you for standing up to me, or annoyed that you did. I think I'll go with proud.
- Oh, Crap!: Played for laughs when Twilight hears Pinkie coming down the stairs singing "Unicorns I love them!".
Twilight: (to Erin) What have you done?!
: Uni-Unicorns, I would hug one. If they were really real. And they are! Because there's one! (glomps Twilight
- P.O.V. Sequel: "Red Apples" contains numerous scenes from Project Sunflower from Big Mac's point of view, followed by scenes foreshadowing "Erin in Ponyville" (from the same collection) and Harmony.
- Sleep Cute: After Erin and Pinkie share a bed at Twilight's slumber party, the two somehow end up tangled up in the bedsheets with Pinkie hugging Erin's leg and Erin hugging Pinkie's tail. The two end up falling out of bed before getting untangled.
- Troll: Erin has her moments - right after arriving in Ponyville in human form, she addresses Carrot Top by name just to hear her Delayed Reaction to realising she hadn't told her her name yet, and she shows the Mane Six Despicable Me just so she can see Twilight and Rarity's reactions to Agnes's Unicorn obsession.
- UST: Becky interprets the bickering between Lyra and Spectral Charm as such, making reference to TV Tropes, until Spectral blurts out that he's gay.
- Baleful Polymorph: When Discord first meets Erin, he turns back to her human form briefly. He then turns her back, though he hints that he's fixed some flaws from the Ascent process.
- Chew Bubblegum: Pinkie references this before releasing Discord:
Pinkie: I've come here to kick flank and eat cupcakes. And I'm all out of cupca- Oh wait, here's one! (Pulls cupcake out of her mane and eats it) Okay, now I'm out of cupcakes!
- Conspiracy Theorist: An unnamed woman who appears on a panel show with Raka Nayar, who claims to have evidence that Equestria is a CGI con, at one point calling it a "dog and pony show".
- Do I Really Sound Like That?: Applejack, after hearing her voice recorded on her tablet. To the point that she blames the tablet for getting it wrong.
- First-Name Basis: Spectral Charm immediately gives Raka permission for this, much to Lyra's shock.
- Foil: Pinkie Pie programs her tablet's assistant to be one, selecting the "Male: doleful" voice option over "Female: happy".
- Four Lines, All Waiting: Erin making a home for herself in Ponyville, the Harmonics team preparing to explore a new world, two residents of said new world attempting to sabotage joint human-pony colonization under different conditions, Chrysalis being duped into aiding one of said residents believing she's helping the other, Twilight and Trixie's rivalry over the Dreamguard, etc. As of Chapter 16, the author is attempting to dial this trend back a bit.
- Gambit Pileup: Harmony's Caretaker is preserving some sort of forced peace on the planet, keeping its Goddess leashed. In his efforts to keep said peace, it created an Infiltrator to seek out the origin of the gates. Said Infiltrator recorded data on both Earth and Equestria, and made contact with Chrysalis, who hoped to weaken the bond between races to make them easier to defeat. However, before the Infiltrator successfully returned to the Caretaker, the Goddess seized it, stripped it bare of information, and filled it with junk and lies.Fooled, the Caretaker sent it back between worlds, where the Goddess retook it and had it seek out Chrysalis to initiate some plan that begins with capturing Celestia and Luna on the belief she will achieve great power in doing so. The princesses themselves have received visions of the fallout of whatever their unknown enemies are planning, but so far all they know they can do involves redeeming Discord for some unknown goal.
- Genki Girl: Erin has shades of this, which becomes apparent once she can express excitement without risking blowing her cover. An example is when she takes a trip to Cloudsdale with Ditzy and can barely sit still in the airship on the way.
- Hot Men At Work: At one point Pinkie catches Erin watching the contractors who are installing solar tiles on her roof, several of them shirtless. It's doubtful that Pinkie understands why.
- How Do I Shot Web?: After becoming a pseudo-Alicorn, Erin struggles to do anything with her unicorn magic, and continually struggles to get her wings to open and close when she wants them to.
- I Call It "Vera": Pinkie Pie and Rarity both name the tablets Erin gave them. Rarity names hers "François". Pinkie's is called "Mr. Hugglebunny".
- Knight Templar Parent: While Meadowlark has a legitimate grievance with Erin, after she lied about her humanity and then subsequently violated a request to stay away from Marigold (Erin had been invited to dinner by her neighbour Ditzy, not anticipating that Dinky would invite Marigold as well), she crosses into this when she orders Erin to move house or she'll ban Marigold from being friends with Dinky.
Erin: Donít you dare lay that on me!
Meadowlark: Now, you look hereó
Erin: No! You donít get to put this all on me!
Meadowlark: If you had listened to meó
Erin: I did listen to you! I stayed away from you, just like you asked, for months. Months! You said you needed time, and I gave it to you, but Iím not going to wait forever! If you want our friendship to be over, that's fine! Just tell me so I stop hanging on and hoping you'll forgive me one day. But I won't let you blame me for your decisions!
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Pinkie tricks an undercover journalist at Erin's welcome party into revealing himself in this fashion, putting on a smile that the narration describes as "#74: vapid and clueless".
- Shipper on Deck: Apple Bloom for Big Mac and Erin. Erin, who knows about Big Mac's crush on her, considers setting him up with Ditzy after learning that she finds him attractive.
- Tar and Feathers: Referenced just before Celestia officially hands over most of her duties to Luna, when Luna fears that they'll "decide to defeather, tar and re-feather" her.
- Tempting Fate: When Erin wakes up as a pony for the second time and starts practicing walking around the room.
Lynne: How is it?
Erin: Easier than the first time.
(Her wing snaps open involuntarily. She glares at it.)
Erin: (I didn't tell you to open, damn it!) That is going to take some getting used to though.
- Too Many Halves: This exchange when Luna describes a stack of correspondence:
Luna: Half of them are calling upon me to step down from my position, half are complaints about my competency, half are blatant attempts to curry favor through base flattery, and the rest are none-too-subtle hints of how our lines should be joined in matrimony at the first opportunity.
Celestia: By my count, that is at least three Ďhalfsí, sister.
Luna: Yes. There may be some overlap.
- Unfortunate Names:
- A pegasus on the Harmony expedition called Windbreaker, who asks Raka not to make jokes. It takes Spectral about half an hour to realise why.
- Discussed when Erin meets Ditzy:
Ditzy: I know what youíre thinking. Ditzy is kind of a mean name, right? I mean, if you call someone a ditz, it must mean theyíre a little goofy, right?
Erin: Uh, no, IÖ Well, maybe a little?
Ditzy: Donít worry about it. Iím actually named after a flower, the ditzenium. Lovely silver center with golden petals.
Erin: Oh, really?
Ditzy: (Nods, then burst out laughing) No, not really. But thatís my favorite joke! (Erin joins in giggling) No, no, sorry. Iím actually named after an aunt on Dadís side of the family. ĎDitzyí was her nickname which, trust me, she earned. My mom thought it was a cute name but didnít know what it meant.
Erin: So, your mom is a bit of a ditz?
Ditzy: (starts laughing again) You bet she was!
- Villain Decay: Celestia notes that Discord was much less dangerous during the events of "The Return of Harmony" than he had been a thousand years ago, which leads her to wonder if he had been softened by exposure to the Elements of Harmony. She backs this theory up by comparing Nightmare Moon's actions upon her return with what she could have done to eliminate threats to her. This, along with a prophecy she has a vision of, leads to her decision to attempt to have Fluttershy reform Discord.