“Uh, so…” said Luke, finally breaking the awkward silence that had quickly come over the group ever since they had left Ponyville station forty-five minutes ago.
“How long did you say this ride would take?” Luke asked Twilight from opposite the train car.
“Oh, probably not more than two to three hours at the most.” replied Twilight, gazing back at Luke with a mixture of curiosity and still some slight wariness.
Luke seeing this asked “Yes?”
“Well, it’s just that before we were in such a hurry to catch the train that I wasn’t able to ask you all hardly any questions.” said Twilight.
“Ok,” said Luke warily, “as long as we have some answers to a few of our questions as well.”
Luke looked to his right to the rest of the Marines and the Chief who were sitting on the padded benches that lined the walls of the rumbling car, who each gave him one short nod to show their agreement.
“Fair enough.” said Twilight.
“Ok, what’s your first question?” asked Luke.
“Alright, let’s see,” said Twilight, looking up at the ceiling in concentration. “My first question is… if you came so far that you became lost, how did you get here in the first place?”
“Ah, well, like I mentioned before, we Humans are a space faring race. At first we only ventured out around our own planet and our moon. We sent robotic probes to other planets to study them. We soon were able to come up with technology advanced enough to allow us to visit the planets close to our home world and build small settlements on them. All this time we wanted to go beyond our own star system to find other habitable planets. To meet this goal, we humans finally made the scientific breakthrough of faster than light travel.
Luke paused for a moment and looked at Twilight who was staring at him with disbelief evident on her face.
“What?” asked Luke slightly confused.
“Did you say faster than light travel?”
“Well, it’s just that, I thought faster than light travel is supposed to be impossible.”
Luke nodded and said, “So did we for the longest time, then we accidently stumbled across a way of opening a hole in space-time and more or less taking a short cut through space. We call it a slip space jump. Being able to go into slip space allowed us to travel great distances in relatively short amounts of time compared to what it would normally take.”
Luke paused to see Twilight’s reaction so far. Twilight simply looked at Luke completely engrossed in all of what Luke was saying.
After a second Twilight said under her breath, "I wish I had a quill and paper to take notes with, oh well, I’ll just remember it,” then louder for Luke to hear, “please, continue.”
Luke was silent for a moment more, nodded, and continued on with the explanation.
“During our space exploration we came into contact with an alien alliance that called themselves the Covenant. This conglomerate of several alien species turned out to be hostile. This was mainly due to their religious leaders that declared the Human race an affront to their gods, and soon they declared an all-out war on Humanity. Jumping ahead a few years to where our story comes in, our ship was involved in a fight for our major military planet named Reach. We fought long and hard… but in the end, we lost her. The damn Covenant glassed almost the entire planet with their ship based plasma beams. So much destruction, so much pain and suffering, I will never be able to forget. I will never forget Reach.” Luke said as he gazed down at his booted feet, his eyes moistened at the memory of so many dead and injured. The other Marines had more or less the same air about them, of great loss and sadness. One of the younger Marines, that had held his best friend in his arms before his life slowly faded away, let a single, silent, tear roll down his cheek before he quickly wiped it away.
“But I digress,” Luke said with a small sigh and looked back up at Twilight whose face was full of concern and empathy. “Our Navy has a protocol that was made shortly after we knew the Covenant were hostile, when enacted, any ship that made a slip space jump was required to jump in a direction away from our home world in order to keep its location a secret.” Luke said straightening up and his former calm demeanor returned.
“When we made our escape from orbit around Reach, we were sent on a random vector. During our time in slip space there was an energy surge in our faster than light drive. This overloaded the system and sent us hurtling through many billions of miles before we even realized there was a problem. When we exited slip space the first thing we saw was your planet, which was odd, because there was not supposed to be a planet like this,” Luke said gesturing with his arms spread wide, “within the vicinity of our travel path. This is when we realized something had definitely gone wrong. A few alarms went off in the engine room and we had some people look at our engines and they found that a lot of the electrical circuitry was obliterated by the energy surge. We don’t have enough materials or equipment delicate enough to repair it without outside resources. That’s what lead us to send an exploration party down here to the surface to see if we could find raw materials and possibly some help.
“I see.” said Twilight. “This is quite a predicament.”
“Yes, it is.” replied Luke.
“So, I guess it’s safe to assume that this Covenant you talked about is extremely violent and will stop at nothing to get what they want?” asked Twilight.
“You have no idea.” replied Luke. “But at the same time they are also extremely arrogant, and this can be one of their major weaknesses. I’ve even seen some of the infantry, when their weapons have run out of charge they will switch to hand to hand tactics rather than picking up a perfectly good human assault rifle that’s lying right next to their foot.” Luke said, hefting his own rifle up and down in his hand, the sunlight coming through the nearby window glinting off the small amount of exposed metal of the barrel.
“Weapons?” asked Twilight, “how do they work?”
Luke then launched into a brief explanation on bullets, casings, magazines, and gas operating systems.
“So, basically, all they are intended to do is to protect us by disabling any threat that presents itself before it can harm us.” Luke finished explaining.
Twilight, along with the others recoiled slightly at this information.
“Wait, you aren’t planning on … using those around here, are you?” Twilight asked as she gulped.
Seeing this reaction Luke quickly put the MA5B assault rifle away and tried to give, what he hoped, was a disarming smile.
“No, we should have no need to use them.” he said slowly, “Like I said before, we are all friendly. The only reason we have them with us is for self-protection. In fact we are under orders not to use them unless in a life threating situation.”
Twilight and the other ponies settled down a little bit but they never took their eyes off of any of the Marines.
Soon, a single sob broke the tense silence. Everyone and everypony looked towards the source of the small sound to see Fluttershy with tears in her eyes.
Twilight immediately got up and walked over to Fluttershy and gently nuzzled her and asked “Hey, Fluttershy, what’s wrong?”
Fluttershy looked up at Twilight and then at the humans and asked in a quavering voice,
“S-s-since those a-aren’t big n-noise makers, and are a-a-actually weapons, d-does that mean you k-killed that Manticore f-from earlier?”
Luke looked directly at her with a sincere look on his face and said, “No, more than likely it’s not dead. It was moving really quick and it caught us off guard. I doubt very seriously we even hit it, and it was scared off by the sudden loud noise.”
Fluttershy looked back at Luke with her huge teal eyes and said, “Are you s-sure?”
“Positive.” replied Luke with a soft smile while making a mental note to go back to the spot of the attack and check, just to
Fluttershy nodded and began to calm down.
“So, can I ask a question now?” asked Luke after a brief period of silence.
“Uh, sure, what do you want to know?”
“It’s about that invisibility spell you cast around us earlier. How did you do that?” asked Luke.
“It was magic.” said Twilight, “Since I’m a unicorn I am able to channel magical energy through my horn which lets me cast a variety of different spells. One of which was that invisibility spell I cast around you earlier.” said Twilight matter of factly.
Luke only starred at her after she had finished explaining.
“So, wait a minute, you’re saying that magic is real here?” asked Luke dumbfounded.
“Of course, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to build and make half the stuff you all have seen so far, and what you are going to see.” Said Twilight, and then realization hit her. “Wait, if you’re so surprised about magic, does that mean that where you are from that it’s not possible?” Twilight asked.
“No, its not. I mean we have magicians and illusionists, but all they are for is entertainment. They make you think they did something that is impossible, but in truth it was only them making sure you were watching his right hand,” Luke held up his right hand, “while they complete the trick with the other.”
“Oh, uh, I see.” said Twilight with a confused look. “Well, if you can’t use magic then how is it possible for you to even be here and have advanced weaponry and transport?”
“Through technology.” replied Luke. “We are a very scientific people. We have come a long way from just simple bows and arrows and spears to airplanes, spacecraft, guns, and bombs. What we lack in the magic department we make up for it in our ability to quickly adapt to new situations and create something that will help us to solve the current problem at hand. Take this for example; if we want to get somewhere undetected we have to use visual camouflage that is designed to break up our overall appearance in whatever environment we find ourselves in.” Luke gestured to his armored chest and torso that had a pattern of subdued greens, tans, and black.
“Ohhh, So that’s why you all are wearing those hideous things.” said Rarity from behind Twilight.
“I don’t know if I could even do anything with those things, maybe some emeralds here or there or some black onyx or…
Rarity trailed off in thought.
Luke looked over at Twilight from Rarity and said, “I take it she is into fashion?”
“You have no idea.” said Twilight with a small chuckle as she looked at her friend who was deep in thought and quietly muttering to herself about a jewel here and a piece of fabric there.
“But anyway,” continued Luke, “now, we have actually come as far as to have active camouflage. This form of camo copies whatever the environment we are in and projects it in all directions, giving the illusion that no one is there.”
“Ok, I see,” said Twilight, “we to have some technology as well, although it’s mostly domestic technology like, sewing machines, ovens, plows, carriages, flashlights, and hot air balloons. Your technological progress as a species, though, seems to have vastly out striped our own.”
“Possibly, but I just don’t know, it seems that every civilization has some form of advanced technology at their disposal. I would doubt that you all would be any different.”
“Who knows,” said Twilight, “I guess anything could be possible.”
After about twenty minutes of nothing but the clacking of the wheels on the tracks below and the gentle sway back and forth of the train car, Luke looked out the window and saw that the giant blue-grey mountain with the city of Canterlot sitting on its side was much closer now.
“How far do you think we have come?” asked Luke to Twilight.
“Uh, I’d say, judging by the shadows of the trees outside,” Twilight motioned with a jerk of her head out the window, “that we have been on her for about an hour and a half, so we have about another hour to go.”
“Ugh!” came a rather annoyed groan from a certain cyan pegasus. “Why does this trip always take so long?!” Rainbow Dash said ruffling her feathered wings in agitation.
“Don’t worry Dashie!” piped up the energetic pink pony. “I’m sure there is something we can do! Ooo, look there is arm wrestling contest going on back there!”
Luke looked back to see what Pinkie had said was true. Two Marines were engaged in a rather competitive looking arm wrestling contest.
“Wait, you know about arm wrestling?” asked Luke as he turned back around to face Pinkie.
“Of course, we do them all the time here! They are so much fun!” said Pinkie only inches away from Luke’s face when he had turned back around.
“Whoa!!” Luke yelled, and nearly fell off of the bench he was sitting on.
Pinkie giggled and snorted. She then leaned over to Rainbow and gave her a nudge and jerked her head towards the small group of Marines.
“Sure, I’ll give it a try.” Rainbow said a competitive edge coming into her voice.
Just as Rainbow Dash made it to the small group the Marine on the right gave out a quick savage yell and slammed the one on the left’s hand down on the table.
“Dang, Mac, when did you get stronger than me? I’ve always beat you.” Said the defeated Marine rubbing his shoulder.
Upon hearing the name Mac, Applejack’s ears pricked up. She looked over at the small group where she had heard the familiar name from and decided to investigate.
“Might as well see what the commotion is all about,” She thought, “ain’t got nothing better ta do at tha moment.”
“What y’all doin’ back here?” the orange farm pony asked.
“Just winning an arm wrestling contest.” said the victorious Marine
“Cool, mind if I give it a try?” asked Dash from next to Applejack, a competitive smile on her face.
“Uh, sure.” said the slightly startled Marine on the right.
The losing Marine got up and allowed Rainbow Dash to take his place. Dash sat down on the bench and propped her elbow on the table just as the other Marine had earlier. Mac gave her an apprehensive look but still grasped her hoof in his hand.
“You know what to do?” asked Mac.
“Sure, all I got to do is slam your hand down on the left side of the table, we do this all the time here.” replied Rainbow.
Mac nodded with a look of mild surprise and looked at the other Marine and said, “Set ‘em up, Jake.”
Jake nodded and put his hands on both Rainbow’s hoof and Mac’s hand, and a couple seconds later yelled, “GO!”
Immediately both Mac and Dash started straining with all their might to defeat the other. A few beads of sweet started to glisten on both of their brows, slowly, ever so slowly Mac started to push Rainbow Dash’s hoof down towards the table.
“Oh, no you don’t!” growled Rainbow through gritted teeth and halted her hoof’s progression to the table top. Just as slowly as it was being pushed down a moment ago Rainbow managed to push their hoof and hand back to the neutral starting point.
They stayed at this point for a few minutes before Mac grunted “You’re strong for a pony.” as he watched his hand started to quiver and ever so slightly start moving to his side of the table.
“Dang, what do they feed these ponies, this is unbelievable. She’s actually beating me!” Mac thought to himself as he struggled to keep Rainbow from gaining anymore ground on him.
Mac’s hand was soon only a mere three inches away from the smooth table top when he said, “I’m not going to let you win, you know that, right?”
“Heh, who said… anything about… you letting me win?” Dash replied in between deep breaths. And with those final words Rainbow Dash gave out one last, loud, grunt and with all her remaining strength, forced Mac’s hand down to the table.
Mac looked down at his hand, still grasping Rainbow Dash’s hoof with mild disbelief. He relaxed his grip but didn’t move otherwise. Rainbow pulled away with a grin.
After a few seconds Mac still hadn’t moved and everyone and everypony noticed. It suddenly went dead quiet in the car except for the wheels on the tracks below them and they all looked at Mac to see what his reaction was going to be, ready to spring into action if things went south.
“Hey, man, you alright?” asked Rainbow.
Mac said nothing, but just continued to stare at his hand on the table. A few seconds later Mac started to shake and then threw his head back and burst out laughing. Everyone breathed out a collective breath they had not realized they were holding.
Mac looked at Rainbow and asked with a chuckle, “How in the world did you beat me?”
“Well, you don’t become the fastest flier in all of Equestria by just lounging around all day.” Rainbow Dash said with a small
At this the other ponies in the car gave a snort or a chuckle.
“What? It’s true! I’m not always lazy!” said Rainbow Dash.
“We know, we know,” said Twilight, “but it sure does seem that way. You go between two extremes. Either working your tail off, or sleeping all day.”
“Yeah, almost any time we need you, you are either workin with tha weather team, or you’re sleepin on a cloud or in a tree, but we usually get ya up and movin with us.” said Applejack, who gave Rainbow a quick, soft, punch on the shoulder.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” said Rainbow Dash with a dismissive wave of her hoof.
She turned back to Mac who still had a small smile on his face and said, “I have to keep my legs as strong as my wings,” she flared out her wings to their fullest extent as she spoke to emphasize her point, “for extremely fast take offs and hard landings.”
“Ah, makes sense.” said Mac with a slight chuckle.
“Well,” said Luke, “who knew that arm wrestling could be such a great spectator sport. That entire thing ate up ten minutes.” Luke said with a grin.
“Anyway, I just thought of another question Miss Sparkle.” Said Luke.
“Please, just call me Twilight. What is it?” asked Twilight.
“She,” he said motioning to Applejack, “said that Rainbow Dash over there works on a weather team. What’s that?”
“Oh, that’s an easy one. You see, the weather here in Equestria is controlled by teams of pegasi that are dispatched from the Weather Factory in the floating, pegasi home city of Cloudsdale. All weather is planned there.”
“Especially for Ponyville cause of all the farmin that goes on there.” Said Applejack
“Oh, well that’s interesting. It’s the opposite on our inhabited planets. We are more or less at the mercy of the weather on each; we can’t really control it all that well.
“Wow, really?” asked Rainbow Dash. “That must really suck.”
“Yeah, it can. Sometimes the weather can get pretty violent.” said Luke.
"But, if you are not in control of the weather, then how does it rain and stuff like that?" asked Rainbow.
"The weather on our planets is caused by the unequal heating of the planets surface by the star that it is orbiting, this causes warm air at the surface to rise and cooler air from up high to sink down and take the warm airs place at ground level. How it rains starts of when water evaporates in a gaseous form from rivers, lakes, ponds, and oceans and then condenses back into liquid water at much higher and cooler elevations, this in turn forms clouds and when enough clouds build up in an area, the combined amount of water in them becomes to heavy to stay up on the warm air rising from the ground and so it rains, and depending on how cold it is at the time, the rain may form into ice crystals and cause it to snow." explained Luke.
"Wow," said Rainbow, "I does sound like you all have it pretty rough."
"Yeah, but we can adapt, and we are always finding new ways of surviving the really big storms." said Luke.
The train car lapsed into silence once more. Twilight looked out the train car window in thought and saw that they were now only a few miles away from the enormous city of Canterlot.
“Wow. We are almost there.”
“Really?” asked Luke and he too looked out the window and was greeted with the same amazing sight.
The last fifteen minutes of the ride were spent getting ready to depart the train.
Twilight looked at the others in the car and said, “Ok, we will be in Grand Canterlot Station in just a couple of minutes. The same procedure applies when we get off as when we got on, I’ll put up the invisibility spell and we will make our way to the
Royal Castle as quickly as possible.”
Everyone nodded that they understood.
Soon the train started to slow down.
“Ok, get in close like before.” said Twilight.
The Marines quickly got up and stood closely together and waited for Twilight to cast the spell. The train car was filled with a soft purple light for a split second and the familiar barely audible pop as the Marines disappeared from sight.
“Y’all still with us?” asked Applejack looking at the spot the Marines had just vanished from.
“Yeah, we’re still here.” came the disembodied voice of Luke.
Twilight gave a nod of satisfaction as the train came to a halt with a slight jolt.
“Right, we had better be on our way then, the Princess is expecting us.” said Twilight.
The streets of Canterlot were full with the hustle and bustle of the early evening shoppers and ponies eating at open air cafes. The mane six quickly formed a circle around the group of invisible Marines in order to keep somepony from bumping into one of them.
“Oh my!” said Rarity, “We really should come here more often, just look at all these fashionable ponies!”
“What are you talking about?” huffed Rainbow, “We were all here just a few weeks ago for the Royal Wedding.” As usual
Rainbow Dash wasn’t exactly thrilled to be in such an uptight and fancy place such as Canterlot.
“I know, but already the fashions have changed, and if you don’t remember we were fighting a horde of Changelings for the last half of the time we were here. That didn’t exactly give me time to see what was in style or to get any materials for my work.” Rarity snapped back.
“Both of you, Shhhh!” scolded Twilight from the lead position in front. “We are nearly to the castle, once we are inside you can argue all you want but for right now stop making a scene!”
Soon the giant wood and gold doors of the Royal Castle’s main entrance loomed above them with a stony faced Royal Guard on each side.
Both guards looked at the group and then to Twilight specifically and the one on the right said, “Proceed inside, the Princess is expecting you.”
Twilight nodded and started forward with the others following in the same circle formation as the guardsponies swung the massive doors open. As soon as all of them had crossed the threshold of the doors they glided shut with a resounding boom that echoed down the long hallway. Just inside the doors there was a group of four more Royal Guard to escort them to the Princess.
“Right this way.” said one of them. And so they started to walk down the large gold and white main hallway. A minute later
the group arrived at a set of solid gold doors that were open to the throne room and in the middle stood a tall, pure white alicorn. The escort broke off and two stood outside the doors and the other two took up positions on the inside and proceeded to close the doors once they were all inside. There was a series of soft clicks and a hollow thud and Twilight new that the doors and just been locked and barred.
The small group bowed in respect to their Princess.
“Rise, my little ponies.” said the alicorn with a gentle smile.
They did so and Twilight was the first to speak, “Princess Celestia, it’s good to see you again.” she said with a small smile,
“Uh, I have brought the humans.”
Celestia nodded and said, “Very well, remove the invisibility spell, we are safe in here.”
Twilight nodded and turned to face the inside of the circle. Her horn glowed the same dull purple as before and the air in the center of the circle of ponies shimmered for a second before the invisibility spell was lifted. There standing in the center was the group of Marines. The guards shifted nervously, ready to defend their Princess with their very life.
Celestia stepped forward as Twilight moved to the side and allowed her to pass. She walked straight up to Luke and John who were standing at the head of the group and looked at both of them straight in the eye and she asked, “I have been told that you are friendly by Twilight here, is this true?” Celestia asked with a voice that contained nothing but absolute seriousness.
“Yes ma’am,” replied both Luke and John, “we are friendly, and we have no intention of trying to hurt anyone, well, anypony I guess I should say.” said Luke.
Celestia looked at them for a moment more and then her demeanor changed instantly to a more relaxed one but she still kept a wary eye on them.
“Very well,” said Celestia, “But I would like to request that I be able to scan you to just be sure you are not Changelings.”
This familiar name caused everyone and everypony to look at her.
“Uh, forgive me for asking, but, what are Changeling? We have heard of them only by name once and that was only in passing.”
“Changelings are a race of creatures that resemble a cross between ponies and insects and they feed off love. We fought a major battle with them here in Canterlot only a few weeks ago at a royal wedding. I just need to make sure that none of you are Changelings in disguise.”
“Oh, uh, alright, I guess that clears that up some. Anyway, uh, sure, go ahead and scan us.” replied Luke suspiciously.
Luke and the others prepared for the worst and John turned his shields up to maximum charge. All were tensed and ready to defend themselves at a moment’s notice, especially John; with his enhanced reaction times all the Marines knew that everything in the room would be dead within ten seconds if he even got the impression that Celestia was planning on doing them harm. All were prepared to kill or be killed trying to get out of the situation.
Celestia closed her eyes in concentration and soon the tip of her horn began to glow brighter and brighter as the magical energy built up. All of a sudden a bubble of energy that John thought resembled a bubble shield being deployed erupted from the tip of Celestia’s horn and expanded to fill every part of the room. For a split second everything seemed fine and the Marines checked each other out to be sure nothing had happened but then there was a loud “PING!” that sounded from behind Celestia. She whipped around and saw one of the many guards in the room was glowing with the same bright light the bubble had been just a moment before. All those that were in the room stared at the shocked guard, the humans went down to a knee, their training and instincts kicking in, and brought their weapons to bear on the marked Changeling in disguise as the mane six backed away from them. John would have leapt immediacy at the impostor, but being in a situation such as this he thought it best to let the guards handle it and provide back up if need be. A death this soon after meeting the ruler of the country would more than likely not reflect well on their statement of being friendly.
All the guards in the room moved at once and tackled the fake pony to the floor before it even had a chance to recover from the stunning effect of the scanning spell.
Celestia walked over to the now restrained pony and hit him with a beam of magic that started at his head and went to his tail, revealing the Changeling’s true form. A totally black body with holes all in its legs, bulging blue insect eyes, a wickedly sharp looking horn, insect like wings, razor sharp fangs, and wearing dark blue armor.
Celestia then picked the dazed Changeling up and went to a window, unbolted it and flung the creature far out towards the Everfree Forrest. She then slammed the window shut and rebolted it. Celestia turned to the group of humans, who had lowered their weapons when the creature was gone, and said with a tone of absolute seriousness and disgust,
“That, was a Changeling.”
I'm going to go ahead and give out some thanks here, Thank you to all of y'all that have given me advice on the writing of this story so far, y'all have really helped me out. Also a big Thank you to "Luna_eclipse" for proof reading and pointing things out. You really did save my butt there a few times, and Thank you to "Akkura" for answering a few questions about the Halo Universe. I shall now commence writing on chapter 4. :)