“Of course, Princess. It all started at my library all those months ago.”
It was a quiet Tuesday evening when Twilight and her friends had gathered at the Ponyville library that fateful night. Winter had begun not even a week beforehoof, and the Element Bearers were already bored. Luckily, Twilight Sparkle had a solution to their dilemma. She had been given a task from Princess Celestia herself to test a new spell, and she wanted her friends present for the big event. Besides, the spell required numerous reagents that the others were glad to supply.
"Now, are you sure this is safe, Twilight?" Rarity asked for the third time.
"Of course it's safe!" Twilight assured her, again, as she drew a pentagram on the library floor with white chalk. "I have run all of the necessary calculations and re-checked them three times. No harm will come of this experiment. Now, please pass me the diamond dust."
Rarity levitated the pouch of precious powder over to the lavender mare, though her fears were far from abated.
"Five grams of diamond dust, check." Twilight marked off as she dropped the dust in the circle. "Next, the liquid rainbow." Rainbow dash hoofed over a large bottle, fresh from the Rainbow Factory, which Twilight poured over the dust.
"Two liters of Rainbow, check! Crocodile tears, please." Pinkie tossed an inkwell full of tears she had gotten from Gummy, though she would have to make it up to the poor thing for making him cry. Twilight deftly caught the small bottle in mid-air with her magic and set it in the circle.
"Two fluid ounces of crocodile tears, check! One phoenix feather, please." Spike ran over to his pet phoenix and plucked a single feather from its tail, much to the bird's chagrin. He placed it in the circle next to the other reagents.
"So, what does this spell do, Twilight?" Spike asked.
"I'm glad you asked, my Number One Assistant. Remember how Discord managed to grab the Elements before we could get to them?" She asked, receiving nods from her friends. "Well, this spell should render that happening ever again a non-issue. With this spell, I will be able to summon all of the Elements no matter where they are, even if Discord has his clutches on them again."
"That would've been useful at the wedding." Applejack commented.
"Tell me about it," added Rainbow Dash.
"But ain't it mighty inconvenient to be carrying all that stuff with ya everywhere ya go?" Asked Applejack.
"Yes it would be, Applejack, but this is just a proof of concept experiment," replied Twilight. "Princess Celestia's working on a more convenient method, but we need to know if the spell will even work first." She said, turning to her checklist to triple-check that everything was right.
"Ok, let's see. Draw a pentagram: check! Add reagents: check!" said Twilight. "Now, all I need to do is cast the spell. Everypony stand back."
Twilight's friends backed away from the lavender unicorn as she began channeling magic through her horn and into the circle. Arcane energy swirled around the room, causing a great wind to scatter any loose papers. Twilight fed more energy into the circle than she had ever used on a spell before. A ball of condensed energy formed in the circle, deep blue in color and arcing with lightning. The wind picked up and pushed Twilight's friends back until they were up against the wall.
Suddenly, Pinkie Pie gasped and her eyes widened. "Twilight! I messed up! You have to stop." She tried to yell over the din.
"A little late for that, Pinkie! I can't stop this." Twilight was visibly straining from the effort of controlling the spell.
"You have to stop it! I forgot that Gummy's an alligator!"
The Element Bearers and Spike all looked at Pinkie with wide eyes and slack jaws, and Twilight's right eye began to twitch.
Before anypony could react, the ball of energy grew in size until it washed over Twilight, and then kept growing, engulfing a few bookcases and part of the floor and ceiling. As suddenly as it grew, the spatial distortion collapsed. Wind rushed in to fill the gap the orb left as it disappeared.
And Twilight had vanished, along with several bookcases, part of the ceiling, and part of the floor as well.
Twilight Sparkle barely managed to avoid her ceiling as it came crashing down. She had what was left of her bookshelves to thank for that, since they slowed the ceiling's descent just enough for her to leap out of the way, otherwise, she would have been a pancake. Twilight picked herself up and dusted herself off, then turned to look at the wreckage. Upon seeing what was left of her library, one phrase came to mind.
"Damnit Pinkie!" She yelled, not caring who heard. "Alligator tears! I clearly said Crocodile! I knew I should've gotten Fluttershy to gather that reagent, but no, you had to insist on getting the tears! I should've known something like this would happen... wait, what exactly happened?"
Twilight took a few calming breaths before taking in her surroundings. The first thing she noticed was that she was standing in the middle of a paved street, completely different from the dirt and cobblestone paths in Ponyville. There were what appeared to be carriages lining the road, though they were of a type that Twilight was unfamiliar with, having no place to hitch up a pulling team. Most were enclosed, but a few had their passenger compartments open to the elements. Some were overturned in the middle of the road, while others were completely burnt, as if a raging inferno had destroyed them.
Houses lined the road as far as the eye could see, and tall buildings could be seen in the distance. Their architecture was unlike anything Twilight had seen before, but similar enough that she could guess that she was in the residential district of a city. Very few of the buildings were intact, and some were even on fire. Twilight guessed that she had arrived in a ruined city, but that it was freshly ruined, as if a battle had just taken place.
Twilight shuddered at that thought. She was no stranger to combat, having fought during the Changeling Invasion not too long ago, but the thought of being caught in the middle of another battle terrified her. The fact that she could now hear explosions off in the distance and the oppressive scent of ozone washing over her put Twilight even further on edge.
"Ok, seems that, instead of a summoning spell, I created a long-range teleportation spell. Neat!"
Her next step was to figure out where she was. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Twilight still hoped that she was somewhere on Equis. As such, she concentrated on a simple locator spell, trying to feel the ley-lines and estimate her position on the planet. It was a spell that any unicorn worth their horn knew.
But she failed. The ley-lines were there, but they were not in the right position, nor the right orientation. In fact, there seemed to be more ley-lines than there were on Equis. Wherever her misfired spell had taken her, she was farther from home than ever before. Farther from home than anypony had ever been before. The lavender mare began to sweat and her legs began shaking.
"Ok Twilight, get a hold of yourself. Remember what that old sci-fi book said. Don't panic." She told herself, breathing hard, as if she had just run a thousand-yard sprint, her eyes wide and pupils shrunk down to the size of pinheads. "Panicking's the last thing you should do, Twilight. It'll just get you killed. Sure, you teleported somewhere random, and more-than likely no longer on Equis, and your chances of ever returning home are effectively zero. But look on the bright side. At least this planet's habitable. And there's at least some semblance of civilization! Also, you're the first pony to leave your home solar system. That's got to count for something. Oh, and you've proven Starswirl the Bearded's theory of Extra-Equestrial ley-lines. Neat!"
Then, her whole body slumped. "Too bad I won't be able to tell anypony." She said, voice heavy with regret. "Nor will I be able to see the Princess again.... or my big brother... or *sniff* my... my friends." Her eyes began to water and, shortly after, tears began streaming down her muzzle as the full weight of reality came crashing down on her. Wherever that spell had dumped her, her chances of returning home again were effectively zero. Even if whatever civilization that made this city had mastered interstellar travel, it was unlikely they knew where Equis was, and she doubted that she could even point them in the right direction.
Twilight shook her head, trying to regain her composure. "This is not helping. Crying about it won't get me home." She said, putting on a brave face. "First, let's see if the locals are at least friendly." She took another look at the buildings, and quickly realized that they were all likely abandoned. However, a small blue box, similar to a newspaper vendor one would find in any city on Equis, caught her attention. Curious, Twilight Sparkle galloped towards the box, and found that it was indeed a newspaper rack. The newspaper in question was called the Ariel Times and claimed to be the "last remaining colonial printed publication." It took Twilight a few minutes to notice the veritable elephant in the room.
"This... this is printed in perfectly legible Equish!" She exclaimed. Then she noticed the date, December 28, 2551, although she had a hunch that the machine hadn't been restocked for a few days. The date made absolutely no sense to Twilight. On Equis, December was a winter month, but the weather here was nice and balmy. But then again, what's to say that the calendars matched up? Maybe it was only a coincidence that the two worlds shared a month... and a language.
Before her musings could go on, Twilight heard footsteps approaching. The tread was heavy, almost plodding, and sounded like the creature was bipedal. Twilight turned to face the newcomer, and gasped at its monstrous appearance.
It was tall, just a hair taller than even Princess Celestia, including her horn. The creature was not only bipedal, but digitigrade, lumbering along on three toes. What little skin that wasn't covered by pitch-black armor appeared to be reptilian in nature. It held a blade of what looked like pure energy in one four-clawed hand. The creature's most striking feature, however, was its mouth, which consisted of four hinged mandibles. Twilight got a good look as the monster's jaws spread wide and let off a loud roar. It was a sound that pierced the unicorn to her very core, igniting old instincts. But it was not the noise that terrified Twilight Sparkle the most, but rather, the many needle-sharp teeth the monster had. The teeth of a predator.
The Princesses and Shining Armor recoiled at the image of the monster Twilight had conjured up. It was life-sized, and had enough details to make anypony believe it was actually alive.
"How did you get this level of detail?" Celestia asked, not really sure if she wanted to know.
"Unfortunately, I got a very good look at it," replied Twilight.
Before Twilight could respond, the monster covered the distance between them with a great leap. It slashed at her with its sword, which she narrowly dodged by rolling between its legs. The blade missed her tail by a hair, but sliced cleanly through the news rack like it was made of paper, cleaving the blue box in twain.
Before the monster could turn around, Twilight bolted down the street. She was too panicked to think of teleporting, or even throwing something heavy at the beast. In her rush to escape, she didn't even notice the debris until she tripped over a piece and was sent tumbling, only coming to a stop after crashing into one of the strange carriages. The mare hadn't even gotten back on her hooves before the monster was once again upon her. The look on its face was one of untold glee. It spoke of a hunter who had cornered its prey. As the monster raised its blade high for a killing stroke, Twilight Sparkle; personal student to Princess Celestia, sister of the Captain of the Royal Guard, and Bearer of the Element of Magic, could only scream in terror.
"Somepony, anypony, HELP ME!" She shouted, even though she doubted there was anypony around that could possibly save her. To her surprise however, the alien hesitated. Its blade arm noticeably relaxed and its mandibles slackened slightly. The alien recovered quickly, however, and raised its blade again.
An ear-splitting *CRACK* broke through the air. The alien seemed to shimmer, and a golden aura surrounded the creature for a moment as it was knocked off-balance by an unseen projectile. Another *CRACK* sounded, and blue ichor exploded from the creature's neck as another projectile pierced it, leaving a gaping cavity in its wake, nearly tearing the monster's head off. The alien didn't even struggle as it fell. It had died instantly from the wound.
The sight of the bleeding alien nauseated Twilight. She had never seen so much blood before, not even during the Changeling Invasion. Nor had she seen blood that had an indigo hue. As Twilight breathed frantically, she turned to face where the loud noises came from. There, no more than ten yards away from her, she saw two more aliens, though they were very different compared to the one that tried to kill her.
They were shorter than the first alien, one coming up only to half a head taller than Princess Celestia, minus her horn, while the other was about the same height as the white alicorn. They were bipedal, but plantigrade rather than digitigrade, their legs being much straighter than the other alien. Like the first, these aliens wore armor, though theirs was dark-grey rather than pitch black. What wasn’t covered by armor revealed that the two wore bodysuits with a black and grey camouflage pattern. Helmets covered their heads, and where Twilight expected to see their face, she saw only a tinted visor.
They carried what Twilight assumed to be weapons in their hands. The shorter alien's weapon was almost as tall as its carrier, if you stood it straight up; its appearance reminded Twilight of a Minotaurian crossbow she had seen once in a museum, but instead of a bow at the front, a long tube stuck out of it with smoke rising from the end. The alien was gripping it by a handle obviously designed for the task, and two prongs stuck out where the body and tube met. The taller creature's weapon was much smaller, about the size of the stock and body of the other weapon, but appeared to be encased in an angular, metallic shroud of some sort.
The taller alien reached up with one hand and tapped his helmet. To Twilight's surprise, the visor became transparent, and she saw part of her rescuer's face. Its skin was pale, almost like snow. What stood out most, however, were its eyes. They were small, almost beady compared to a pony's, but belied an intelligent mind. Their most striking characteristic was their color, a deep, midnight blue like Princess Luna's.
Then, he, it sounded like a he, spoke. "I don't know who you are, what you are, or what top-secret ONI facility you escaped from, but come with us if you want to live."
The shorter alien turned to face the other. "Oh, you did not just use a clichéd line from a twentieth century movie!"
"Yes I did, Sergeant. Do you have a problem with that?" The taller one shot back.
"Yes sir, I do, Captain," replied the other one, jabbing a finger into the first one's side. "That's my shtick! No stealing!"
"Wh... what's going on? Wh...who are you?" Twilight asked, her voice wavering.
"Oh, we were just passing through the neighborhood and saw an Elite trying to shish kebab you and heard you screaming bloody murder, so we decided to save your sorry tail." The tall one said as he took a few steps towards Twilight. "I'm Captain George McCoy, UNSC Marine Corps, ODSTs. The idiot behind me's Sergeant Anthony DiNardo."
"Yo," said the Sergeant, waving a hand at Twilight.
"We just call him Tony," continued George as he stopped next to the lavender mare. "You got a name, or do you just go by 'Purple'?"
"My coat's lavender," retorted Twilight with an annoyed snort. "And my name is Twilight Sparkle. Personal student to Princess Celestia."
"Princess Celes-" began George before shaking his head. "Never mind. We'll get your life story later. Right now, we need to book it. There's a pack of Brutes right on our ass. Sergeant, can you hot wire one of these cars?"
"Is the Space Pope reptilian?" Tony asked as he ran over to one of the carriages, a red, open-topped one.
"There is no Space Pope," replied George.
Tony turned his head to look at George as he set his weapon down and leaned it against the carriage. Twilight couldn't tell because of his tinted visor, but she could almost feel the annoyance radiating off of him. "Man, you have no appreciation for the classics."
"Can it, chowder head," shot back George. "Now get to work. I wanna arrive at the LZ in style."
"Yeah, yeah. I'm on it Moe Howard," said Tony as he opened a door on the vehicle and climbed half-way in head first and lay down on the floorboard. "So, miss Sparkle, is there an ONI facility nearby that we haven't heard about?" Tony asked as he fiddled with something in the vehicle.
Twilight quirked an eyebrow as she looked at him. "What's Ohnee? And how would I know?"
"It's an acronym," replied George. "Stands for Office of Naval Intelligence, ma'am. What my friend here meant to ask is, where did you come from?"
"Uhh..." she began, not really sure how best to answer. It didn't help that she had seen what they did to the other alien, what they called an "Elite." Sure, they had stopped it from killing her, but that didn't mean they would be nice to her once they found out that she was an alien as well. But why wouldn't they think that already? She asked herself. What else could they think I am?
She couldn't come up with any other possible answer for them but the truth. Even if she could, she was a terrible liar. "I'm from Ponyville, a small city of the nation of Equestria on the planet Equis," she said, hoping for the best
Tony stopped working on the carriage and looked up at Twilight. He had de-tinted his visor and Twilight could see his olive complexion and hazel eyes. "Sir, if she's telling the truth, then I think we just screwed up a First Contact situation."
"No shit, Sherlock." George shot back before looking at Twilight again. "Sorry, ma'am, we thought you were one of ONI's experiments." The way he spat that last word spoke of untold hatred. Tony didn't seem to notice as he went back to work. "Anyways, if you're from another world, how did you get here Miss Sparkle?"
"Please, just Twilight," she said, beginning to relax now that she wasn’t in immediate danger. "I was testing a new spell for the Princess. I gathered all the necessary reagents and began casting the spell. Turns out, one of the reagents was wrong, and so instead of a summoning spell, I got a long-range teleportation spell. Extremely long range as it turns out."
The tall alien looked at her with a very confused expression on his face. "Spell? As in magic?" He asked incredulously.
"Yes, magic," replied Twilight, taking on the tone she would use for lectures. "As in, one of the five fundamental forces of the universe, along with gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces," she said. Eventually, she noticed the uncomprehending look she was getting, and she assumed that Tony had the same look. "Wait, does your species not use magic?"
George just shook his head in disbelief. "Not magic like you described. We only know of the other four forces. Now, you're telling me that you can harness this so-called fifth force?"
In response, Twilight's horn began to glow. George was about to scoff at the light display, waving it off as a cheap trick, when a similar aura engulfed a piece of debris, part of the destroyed news rack in fact, and it began to hover, slowly levitating towards Twilight. If not for the helmet, Twilight would have seen George's jaw drop faster than the speed of sound.
Twilight tried, and failed, to not look smug at George's disbelieving expression. "So, what does your species call itself?" she asked.
"We call ourselves humans," he replied. Now it was Twilight's turn to be shocked, and she dropped the news rack as her concentration shattered.
"But humans are a myth!" She exclaimed.
"Says the purple unicorn," stated Tony from the carriage.
"It's lavender!" Twilight yelled back.
Before this conversation could continue any further, another ear-splitting roar sounded. This one was much lower pitched, but still close by. Twilight and McCoy turned to face the source, and what Twilight saw nearly sent her into another panic. It was another alien, a massive ape-like creature. It stood nine-feet tall and wore ornate red and black armor. Its helmet was an elaborate headdress with a red crest and two horns on either side of the crest. The face of the helmet was open revealing a grinning mouth full of sharp, powerful teeth. In its hands, the beast carried a large hammer.
"Brute! Chieftain!" George yelled, raising his weapon and bracing it against his shoulder as he ran towards the beast. He pulled the trigger and three loud, rapid blasts sounded out and fire spat from the end of the weapon as the large ape charged. Twilight saw three impacts on the charging alien's armor and instantly made the connection. It's a miniature, rapid-firing cannon! If she weren't so terrified, she'd be fascinated by the strange weapon.
The Brute didn't even register the impacts of the projectiles, but George kept firing in three-round bursts as the two combatants closed the distance. The Brute raised his weapon above his head and swung downwards at its foe, but George leapt aside and the weapon connected with nothing but the ground. It made little difference, as a blast of energy erupted from the hammerhead and threw the Captain another five feet. He landed hard on his stomach, nothing was broken, but he had the wind knocked out of him and lost his grip on his weapon.
He rolled over onto his back and, while trying to catch his breath, fumbled with something attached to his belt. The Chieftain stalked towards the Captain, hammer raised high for a killing stroke. It was interrupted, however, when half of a news rack slammed into his side and knocked it off-balance. The Brute recovered soon enough, and looked towards where the offending piece had come from, only to see a lavender equine with its horn alight, pawing at the ground and sneering at the monster.
The Brute growled at Twilight and stepped towards her, momentarily forgetting about its downed foe. Its distraction would cost it dearly, as that was the opening George needed. He quickly stood up and leapt onto the Brute's back, grabbing on to the collar of its armor. The Chieftain roared as it dropped its hammer and tried to reach around to dislodge the human. George climbed up and wrapped his left arm around the Brute's broad neck as he raised his right arm, where Twilight could see that he was holding another firearm, this one small, able to be held in one hand.
As the Brute roared and struggled to dislodge the Captain, George reached around with his right arm and shoved the firearm into its mouth. He pulled the trigger twice and the Chieftain instantly collapsed as two bullets pierced its soft palate, ricocheted off the interior of its thick skull, and shredded its brain. Luckily for George, the Brute landed on its front and he managed to extricate his arm before it could get crushed. He stood up shakily and staggered over to his dropped weapon, nodding towards the lavender unicorn as he picked it up.
"Nice going, kid," he said.
"Th-thanks," she replied, her limbs shaking like maracas. Just then, more loud, primal roars were heard, though these were distant.
"Shit, Tony!" George shouted as he sprinted for the car.
"Done!" DiNardo replied as the vehicle's engine roared to life and the human climbed into the driver’s seat and tossed his weapon onto the back floorboard.
With an "eep" of surprise, Twilight Sparkle was scooped up by George and deposited in the back seat as the Captain climbed into the front passenger seat. "Gun it!" He commanded, and Tony pressed the accelerator pedal as far as it would go and the car shot off, nearly clipping another vehicle.
George slumped down in his seat, relaxed for the first time since Twilight met him. He turned his head and glanced at the unicorn riding in the back seat, who was shaking like a Chihuahua. "You alright back there, kid?" He asked.
"I-I-I d-d-don't know," she struggled to reply. "W-w-w-what's happening to m-m-me?"
"The shaking? That's just your body burning through excess adrenaline. You'll be fine by the time we reach the LZ."
"W-when will that be? W-w-what's an el zee"
"Landing zone. ETA: Twenty minutes, give or take." Tony interjected. "Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride my new purple friend."
"Lavender," she retorted as she collapsed into the padded seat and reflected on the day’s events. There was a lot she didn't know about her rescuers, but that didn't matter right now. She'd ask her questions later. Undoubtedly, they had similar questions for her.