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  • 76w, 5d
    A tale of two pegasi.

    (Wrote a few thousand words today.  Here's some of them.  CH16 inbound)

    * * *

    It was a slow day in Ponyville.

    It couldn't be fast enough for Scootaloo.

    The wind whipped through her fuchsia mane as the grass receded behind each sharp stamp of her hooves.  Her short wings buzzed as they bit into the air, pushing herself with every erg of energy she could muster.  

    Tap tap tap.

    The brass watch rode high on her foreleg, nearly up to her shoulder.  It had thrown off her balance when it was fastened near her hoof.

    Tap tap tap.

    Her sight blurred as she forced herself forward, speeding past her own persistence of vision.  A small hill was fast approaching, followed by a dip that curved down into a wide open meadow.

    Time it just right...

    TAP.

    She leapt forward into the afternoon sky.  Her wings spread further, slowing their rhythm but pushing harder with each swoop.  The ground fell away as she drove onward and upwards with exhilarated determination.

    Tap tap tap.

    Scootaloo’s wings were undeveloped for a pegasus of her age.  Not to say they were small, because that would be a very insensitive thing to say to a nervous young filly.  Even if it was true.  Undeveloped was a much better choice of words, as most doctors would agree.  It pointed out the obvious, while giving some modicum of hope that the wings might someday actually develop normally, and retaining plausible deniability in the case that they did not.  Which they very well may not.

    Tap tap tap.

    It was a difficult subject to broach.  Pegasi were born to fly, much like a giraffe was born to reach the leaves from the high branches of tall trees.  Not to say that a giraffe was born with a long neck to reach those leaves, as that’s not quite how nature works.  Rather, the giraffes that could not reach the tall branches simply ceased being giraffes after repeated and sustained bouts of malnourishment.  

    Nature is so fascinating.

    Fortunately for short giraffes, people with glasses, and pegasi with underdeveloped wings, there was little pressure for selection on these traits.  The same could certainly not be said for their ancestors, whereupon natural section honed many such traits to a needle-like point.  A sharpening of the species paid for by the whittled sacrifices of the many individuals that unfortunately ended up on the wrong side of the cut.  

    Tap tap tap.

    Pegasi of yore were a fierce and proud race.  Where nearly all animals are subject to the hardcoded programming of fight, flight, feeding, and.. well.. fucking, pegasi bore the notable distinction of interpreting ‘flight’ a bit too literally.  

    They asked for it, after all.   

    Warriors and poets, one and the same.  They wore their emotions on their shoulders, and their personalities were often as fiery as the brilliant color of their mane.  If one were to pick a specimen to personify the valiant spirit of pegasi, you would be hard pressed to find one more fitting than Athon.  A cyan pegasus with a coat the color of the sky, and the many streaks of a sunrise gracing her mane and tail.  She stood nearly shoulder to shoulder with Princess Luna, carried the brutish strength of Big Macintosh, yet still had the lithe muscle tone and streamlined profile as Rainbow Dash.  

    There was little doubt to her physical prowess.  Though it remains in question as to whether the word ‘athlete’ was named after Athon, or the other way around.

    Tap tap tap.

    Patron saint of awesomeness, if such a word existed in her day.  If not, she would be the one to invent it.  Scootaloo may be a far cry from Athon physically, but if she happened to be watching from beyond the veil, on that particular day, seeing that orange and fuschia pegasus putting forth every effort to defy the edifice of low expectations that had been built up over her entire life, brick by brick, every condescendingly hopeful prognosis, every sympathetic shake of the head, every eschewed pick for the hoofball team; she would have smiled.  

    There was more to being a pegasus than just having wings.  There was a spirit to it.  A spirit of moving forward.  Charging forth into the unknown.  Treating every challenge as a juicy morsel to appease an insatiable hunger.  To define predator and prey with the same distinction as ‘me’ and ‘everything not me’.

    This particular sense of spirit was not well remembered by the pegasi of today - some particularly more than others.  The very nature of peace and harmony that afflicted Equestria had left that sense to atrophy and wither over many centuries.  

    Tap tap tap.

    Athon was a rather notable pegasus, alas one lost to history.  Few remain to remember her exploits, though for those few, they are remembered vividly.  She was a champion to the royal court, long before the first stones of Canterlot Castle were set to mortar.  A confidante to the Princesses themselves, and ambassador to the kingdoms of dragons and gryphons.  While it is unknown whether she carried a foal to continue her bloodline, she was certainly responsible for birthing numerous stories and legends.  Yet, even the most outrageous embellishments of these stories often suffered from an imagination that was far too modest.  As they say, truth is often stranger than fiction.

    As to whether she succeeded in bearing a foal to inherit her genetic jackpot, this cannot be confirmed.  She did spend many years outside of Equestria’s borders, but never slowed down to consider the placid pace of family life.  But, if one were the sort to place a wager, it would be a very safe bet to say that one or more descendants of Athon lived on within modern day Equestria.

    Athon was a mare who took her “four F’s” very seriously.  

    Tap tap tap.

    Her renown was not limited to the Royal Court, nor even the surrounding nations.  Her importance extended far beyond any distant horizon, or any border drawn on a map.  She bore an Element of Equestria.  One of six.  

    The Element of Sacrifice.

    While there are few who remember Athon, and even fewer that remember her personal brand of vitriolic vibrancy for squeezing the most out of every moment of every day, there is just one that remembers her final minute.  Her last words.

    “A pillar of light strikes the East, and moves to consume us!”

    She was a mare of few words, but she made them count.  

    Tap tap tap.

    Despite Scootaloo’s best efforts, her flight was looking more like a parabolic trajectory.  She strained and struggled, but the apex was behind her, and the ground was coming to meet her.  It was a fight that she would not win, but one she would not concede.  

    If there was one pony that Athon would cheer and stamp her hooves for, it was a small orange pegasus that was losing her fight with gravity.  

    The nature of a pegasus was not simply to fight.  Anybody could play that game.  Any pony that was certain of victory, would play to win.  

    It took a special sort of derangement to fight against unwinnable odds.  An honor of an acquired taste.  One did not simply wrestle a full grown dragon, lash a sinking ship to an enemy vessel, or challenge a Type 3 galactic civilization, and scream in defiance as claws pinned your chest to a cavern wall, or as your ship sank from beneath your boots, or as planets burned under the onslaught of an interstellar armada:  “I have not yet begun to fight!”

    Tap tap tap.

    Scootaloo was playing to lose.  

    Yet it was not gravity that Scootaloo fought, despite all appearances to the contrary.  She had challenged a far more insidious beast.  One that drove the engines of the cosmos.  One that reached beyond the bounds of mortal existence.  One that ground away the traces of lives, empires, and civilizations with inexorable impassive aplomb.  A vulture that patiently awaited the demise of the stars themselves.  A beast that eternally laughed with shrill mindless prejudice as it delivered the one rule of its game; that one must run as fast as they can to simply stay in place.

    She was fighting time itself.  And she was determined to prevail.

    She could hear it.  

    Tap tap tap.

    The brass watch tapped against her foreleg.  A drumbeat that forced her mind into lockstep with the metronomic heartbeat of the invisible demon that spanned the universe.  

    Tears streamed from her eyes as her wings burned from exertion.  The ground was approaching quickly, and she raised her hooves to forestall the inevitable.  

    Her wings were noticeably undeveloped.  In fact, they would certainly stay that way if she never learned to flap them properly.  Buzzing along like a hummingbird did not properly stimulate the full range of muscles needed for flying, and she would certainly not be flying if she never flapped her wings properly.  And why would she, when the official prognosis was to wait for her wings to develop.  

    Waiting.  Indecision.  Inaction.  The demon laughed.

    Ha ha ha.

    Tap tap tap

    She landed fast, the tips of her hooves digging ruts through the sod as she skidded to a gallop.  

    Scootaloo slowed to a trot, and finally stopped, panting for breath.  Her heart pounded with a tempo that outpaced the methodical ticking of the brass watch by three to one.  

    A manic grin spread across her sweat drenched face.  Thirty seconds!  She stayed aloft for thirty seconds!  

    This was not a record that most pegasi her age would be particularly proud of.  But she was.  

    It was four seconds longer than the last time.

    She could not defeat time, but she could tame it.

    For one brief moment, time was given pause.  A respectful nod to a worthy opponent.  This one little orange pegasus had wielded the one weapon that could pierce its Achilles heel.

    Impatience.

    Scootaloo bit the lever on the side of the brass watch, and the gears whirled inside, resetting the countdown.  She twisted the bezel by five clicks.  Four to cool down, and one to fly like life depended upon it.  

    It really was like a compass.

    One that always pointed in the same direction.

    Forward!

    5 comments · 296 views
  • 82w, 2d
    The Sledge

    (I'm not dead)

    The Sledge.

    Not to be confused with the sledgehammer, though one could easily make the tongue-in-cheek comparison.

    The Sledge is like a sled.  A sled for starships.  Not that a modern starship needs such an anachronistic device from a time when interstellar travel was measured in decades and logistical resupply was measured in equally impractical numbers.

    But one day, the Sledge had one very important, and very special purpose.

    It so happened that by a series of fortuitous events, the Sledge was delivered to the Cellera system, and placed in orbit around the single alabaster moon of Seven Gates.  The sheer size of the craft was incredible to behold, and the brute force obsolescence of its design left the populace of Seven Gates awestruck.  For a brief time, it accounted for a fifteen percent rise in extra-system traffic, as tourists flocked to see with their own eyes (or equivalent) that such a relic could have, much less would have, been built in the pre-FTL era.  

    The bow of the Sledge is a dome of steel designed to plow through the dust filled interstellar distances, shrugging off the kiloton blasts of stray molecules impacting the forward glacis.  A small ocean of cryogenic hydrogen would have filled its cavernous hold.  Starships of a more practical size would have fit neatly within a honeycomb of chambered berths, or docked alongside - as remoras hitching upon the belly of a shark.

    On a clear night, you could see the shadow it cast across the moon.

    While novel, the Sledge was soon forgotten amid a galactic venue of other equally interesting things.  However, there was considerable activity taking place near the behemoth of a ship, presumably to establish an entire museum of spaceflight technologies, where the Sledge would surely be a historical exhibit with the same prominence to spaceflight as the Pyramids were to an archaeologist.

    After some time, the Sledge had been gutted.  Sections of her fusion drive were strewn across the moonscape as monuments of technology gone by.  In an age where the engines of a starship were little more than glorified thrusters, the sight of a fusion compressor coil that could straddle a city block was nearly unthinkable.  Superconducting coils the size of subway cars wound around the saddle shaped arches, disappearing into hair-thin bands near the apex of the yoke, some five hundred meters overhead.  Fuel tanks the size and shape of an O'Neil colony lay still and empty across the powdery lunar surface.  And towering in the distance, the monolithic bulk of the Sledge stood upright, forever awaiting her maiden voyage.

    A not very interesting thing happened one day.  Two visitors arrived to Seven Gates, one human that bore a strong resemblance to a somewhat important person (who insisted that he wasn't), and a smaller equine shaped alien with yellow fur, bright pink mane, and a pair of feathery wings.  Between the two of them, they owned a small atmospheric craft.  However, in the grand scheme of the Seven Gates customs office, this wasn't terribly unusual.

    A much more interesting thing happened the following day.  FTL transit was suspended.  The FTL disruption region was expanded to an unheard-of scale, extending nearly eight light-minutes in radius.  Nearly one astronomical unit, if you were inclined to use the "english" system.

    Just prior, a small fleet arrived within the system.  An announcement was made.  Due to recent contact with a heretofore unknown spacefaring society, a condition of heightened alert was declared for all homeworlds, colonies, outposts, and spacegoing vessels within the Concordiance.  

    Two hours later, a state of war was announced.  Seven Gates was declared under emergency martial law, and evacuations were to begin immediately.

    This was met with some ridicule and disbelief.

    If it were a rogue species, they could surely dispatch ships to riddle their scouting forces with high velocity rail shot, and force their home planet into an armistice.

    If it were a confederacy of star systems (which would be unlikely to go unnoticed in this day and age), surely they could decimate their task force with magnetic lances and communication lasers.

    If it were an empire of allied species, (increasingly improbable) then they could surely tear their ships in half by summoning the forces of gravity from just beyond the veil of space, crushing their matter like wooden boats within the scaly beak of the kraken.  

    Twenty minutes later, they learned that it was not.

    A Type Three galactic civilization stood against them, and from the very edge of the FTL suppression field, they could see their ships arrive.  An armada from all angles and all elevations, enough ships to blot out the stars themselves.  

    As the armada crossed the moat of sublight space, evacuations began from Seven Gates.  They had one month before the armada arrived.  Transports flew around the clock, tearing contrails into the sky with each passenger payload.  Volunteer units formed an auxiliary corps, ferrying people to orbit alongside the immense commercial Skylifters and Avaylia class dropships.  

    Tensions mounted.  The armada closed in at their inexorable pace.  New stars blazed brightly in the night sky, the reverse thrust of starships decelerating from fractional c.  The FTL suppression field kept them from coming in, but it also kept the evacuation fleet from getting out.  Even the Crossbar Five communications platform was cut off from it's realtime hyperspace ansible network.  

    It had been nearly two weeks since they heard anything from outside Cellera.  The silence was deafening.

    Every weapon was brought to bear against the armada.  The deep space communication lasers on Crossbar Five were turned towards the stars as an invisible burning lance.  Its city sized computer banks were reprogrammed to act as fire control and to run battle simulations.  Cruise missiles the size of 747's packed with tungsten golf balls were hurled from Seven Gates' gravitational slingshot.  Nuclear pumped gamma ray lasers twinkled like fireflies in the night sky, a silent choir that sang with the primordial light of the cosmic expansion.  Yet still, they approached.  Every meter to Seven Gates duly paid by measure of metallic plasma and organic ash.  

    Surely when they came, the FTL suppression field would be shut off, and the survivors of Seven Gates would flee to the far corners of the galaxy.

    However, keeping the enemy armada trapped within sublight space for another month was a vital component in a far more important operation.  Trapping the bulk of their fleet to buy time for retaliation.  

    Surely, this was the bulk of their fleet.

    The armada was upon them.  However, there was one trick they held up their sleeve.  One card held stubbornly within their hand.  The signal was given, and all remaining ships made haste to lunar orbit.  

    The Sledge was waiting.

    Ships of all sizes filed into the superstructure.  From the smallest singleship to the Prominence class dreadnoughts that safely stowed away millions of refugees each.  Farewells were sent to those left to fortify Seven Gates, those settled within bunkers carved from the very bedrock.  The surface may burn and the oceans may boil, but reinforcements would surely arrive before the stone fortresses were breached.

    Crossbar Five burned as it's crew raced towards the Sledge.  Its secrets would die with the station, a promise guaranteed by those who adamantly insisted upon staying until every cipher was null and every equipment rack eviscerated by plasma torch.  

    As the last ship docked, and hypervelocity slugs pinged against the outer hull, the Sledge engaged its engine.

    It was a new engine.  One of a kind.  One powerful enough to push the castle of steel.

    A fusion drive would have been efficient, but slow.  A gravity planar would have been quick, but useless upon a mass of that size.  The solution was just as much of a brute force design as the Sledge itself.

    If you're familiar with the concept of "Orion", whereby a ship tosses nuclear bombs out the back, and rides along the ensuing shockwave - then your sense of imagination is far too modest.

    At the base of the Sledge, a pair of mile-long buildings extended away in either direction.  Where they met, the two buildings were offset by nearly a centimeter from each other - what was thought to be a mild scandal of architectural incompetence.  The buildings had never been opened to the public.  Where one would expect to find exhibits and memorabilia, there was a wholly different set of equipment.  A small unassuming magnetic rail ran down the length of each building.  At the ends, mass centrifuges, two storeys tall and squat as sultans, lay buried within pits of reinforced lunar regolith.  

    The signal was given.  Superfluid plasma colder than deep space and denser than a failed star were fired from their respective canons.  A magnetic pinch strong enough to induce paramagnetic attraction in organic flesh squeezed the pea-sized freight trains of plasma into infinitesimally small points.  Beneath the Sledge, the two invisible pellets flew by each other at a low fraction of the speed of light, just millimetres apart.  

    But, even at such speeds, they danced.  As black holes go, these were small enough that protons would have to queue in line to get sucked in.  Their mass was microscopic in comparison to their stellar cousins.  Even as they blinked into their whirlwind existence, they began spewing radiation from virtual particle pairs that happened to spring into existence upon the very cusp of their respective horizons.  

    From within the Sledge, a very long tube spun.  It was a drum of mercury, a quarter mile long, and surrounded by magnetic hammers, looking very much like the cylinders of a radial aircraft engine.  A slug of chilled plasma condensate entered the cavity at one end, and was quickly crushed until it shot out of the far side.

    It was another black hole, at least temporarily.  Singularities of that size are doomed to fizzle out in a violent fury as their matter returns back to normal space.  However, even the tiniest of black holes could take minutes to centuries to finally evaporate completely.   As these shot through the eye of the tidal storm, that stay of execution was shortened to nil.  

    There was an explosion that any cosmologist would have devoted their career to see.  Followed by another, and another, and another.  The gravitational waves from the spinning ring turned the face of the moon into magma, and the lemming-like suicides of the nano singularities not only vaporized a crater beneath the Sledge, but actually induced R-process neutron capture to forge heavier elements.  

    One might ask how the Sledge survived this.  The spinning singularity pair was held within a trap, as firmly as a penny within a block of concrete.  The gravitational planers pushed firmly against their mass, as a sprinter would lunge forth from the starting blocks.  As for the radiation and the jets of energetic X-rays that spewed from the singularity pair, one might ask what material could be employed to shield against the very fury of such as cosmic engine.

    There is none.

    At least, not any that would survive indefinitely.

    Steel plates, the size of city blocks and as thick as a man was tall, were stacked in an inverted pyramid beneath the Sledge.  Steel plates smelted by the sun, and forged in the tidal pull of Cellera's radioactive gas giants.  Steel plates that ablated into fiery tongues of metallic plasma, forming a corona of brilliant blinding light around the base of the Sledge.

    It was the largest structure ever built, and it was accelerating at four times the standard force of gravity.

    You would not want to be behind the Sledge when it started its run..  and if you were in front of it, then god help you.

    The Sledge escaped.

    Unfortunately, the man and the pegasus were not onboard.

    9 comments · 265 views
  • 93w, 3d
    Candlelight.

    "Fluttershy.  Hangar Six, please," the artificial Equestrian voice spoke softly in her ear.

    She recoiled further beneath the rumpled mound of blankets, whimpering softly through short sharp breaths.  

    "Fluttershy, please."  the electronically tinged voice repeated.  It spoke nearly perfect Equestrian, with a subtle mimicry of Trent's vocal inflection.

    Her head shook under the blanket, and her chest heaved deeply, letting out her breath in a stuttering staccato of wracking sobs.  The cold clinical light from the fluorescent fixture shone through the thin marigold bed sheet, stinging her watery eyes.  

    She swatted one hoof toward the far wall.  The light turned off.

    Legs and wings tangled in a snarl of bedding as she rolled onto her back, clutching the bulky pillow to her chest.

    "I'm not mad at you.  You know that."

    She clenched the transmit key, but released it without a word.  

    "I want to show you something."

    Two hind legs curled up to her belly, while one hoof beat angrily at the firm foam mattress, blindly thrashing pent up frustration as soft muffled thumps.  

    "Fluttershy.  Please."

    The voice did not come from the translator this time.  It was Equestrian, or at least the best that Trent could manage.

    She sighed through clenched teeth, staring at the dark ceiling lit only by the fading glow of dusk.  Tears rolled in tiny rivulets down the matted fur of her cheeks.  Eyes unfocused and uncaring.  

    The 240 millimetre camera spun in its armoured ball, regarding Trent with an emotionless stare.  He stood askew, canted to one side as an off-center picture would hang neglected from a wall.  

    "It's getting late.  Please come here."

    She shook her head, staring at the high speckled ceiling.

    "Fluttershy..."  Trent walked towards the ramp.

    She recoiled at his approach, squeezing her forelegs over her belly and feathering the lift fans.  One hundred and twenty blades folded back along the forward shafts, slicing the air with a slick sharp snap.  

    Trent sighed, looking up resignedly.

    "Please talk to me."

    The hangar was still and quiet, save for the gentle thrum of the ship.  

    "...The things you said," she choked out in breaking syllables, her voice booming through the external speakers.

    "You know why I said them."  

    The hangar was quiet again.

    "I'm not mad.  I'm not disappointed.  Please don't feel that way."  

    "Then why..."

    "Let me show you."

    She twisted to one side, squeezing her eyes shut and facing the wall.

    There was a tickling sensation that manifested outside her body, yet felt within her very bones.  A pinprick of heat.  A flicker of flame.  She bolted upright.

    Trent held a small squat cylinder in one hand.  Blue fire lapped at the air above it.  He bent down gingerly, and set the flaming canister on Green Hopper's deck.  The 240 millimetre camera swivelled swiftly within the armoured turret, bearing a baleful gaze at the man standing within the ship's steel gullet.

    "Wha... What are you doing!"

    Trent proffered a second canister from his pocket, setting it ablaze with a small tin lighter.  He turned to face the camera.

    "You will see," he paused on every word.  

    The canister dropped to the deck with a soft echoing clack.  

    Fluttershy flicked the switch with a wave of her hoof, and jumped from the bed.  The tall glass windows became mirrors beneath the sudden blinding light.  She stepped past the peeled pile of her suit, and pushed the handle on the door.  

    Her hoofsteps tapped quietly on the short red nylon carpet as she strode down the hallway.  She did not run, but trotted with a determined gait.  Doors by the dozen flew by as she reservedly raced toward the shiny stainless steel elevator.

    The lift was quick, descending with a hum of well oiled cable on a motor that spun with the stupid consistency of a planet.  She passed through the quarterdeck, bereft of bunting and bearing skeletal sticks where standards would have proudly hung.  The thick greenish glass doors parted at her unspoken command, and she trotted across the flat flowing concrete pavilion.  Her hooves trod upon the wet trimmed grass as she made her way to the empty black asphalt street.  

    The street lamps flickered to life, flooding the road with their sickly yellow glow.  She raced through the wet chilly air, hoofsteps echoing their sharp taps across the sprawling complex of the Schoolhouse.  

    She flew above the rooftops, pumping her wings with a steady metronomic rhythm.  Blood coursed through her veins as fuel sat primed within pressurized pumps.  Her muscles burned warmly from the persistent pace, just as the heaters gently glowed within the high spool turbines.  For a brief moment she relaxed, feeling at ease through the familiar sensations within the sleek steel predator.

    The spaceport loomed upon the distant plateau.  Blocky buildings that straddled land by the acre, behemoths that blotted out the last light trickling over the hazy orange horizon.  She flew onward, skimming over the thick foliage that clung to the sides of the winding mountain road.

    * * *

    Trent sat cross-legged at the top of the ramp.  Soft shadows and dim lights illuminated Green Hopper's bay, dancing to the nuances of the gentle breezes that found their way inside the warship's hull.  The flames flickered slightly with the creaking of a steel door.  Sharp hoofsteps approached at a measured pace, tapping along the polished polycrete and echoing against the suspended steel channel of the ramp.  

    The camera spun to meet her as she ascended the ramp, following her every step.  She watched herself approach Trent, staring at him through both sets of eyes, equally detached and disembodied.  

    Before her lay a grid of small canisters, each bearing blue flame.  Each spaced evenly within the dropship's bay.  She stared for a moment, before turning to Trent.

    "I couldn't find any candles," he spoke.

    "Um.  What?"

    "Candles.  They don't really make them any more.  I had to use these instead.  They're meant for chaffing dishes.  Keeps the food warm at banquets or buffets.  That sort of thing.  I found five packs of twenty in the kitchen storage area."

    "Why?"  she shook her head in confusion.

    "One hundred candles.  It's what I wanted to show you."

    She stared apprehensively, still stinging from the verbal beratement earlier.

    "Here, I brought this so you could sit down," he motioned to a folded field blanket at the lip of the ramp.

    Her hoof made a token tap against the thick grey synth-wool.  

    "You said I knew why.."

    "Ssshhh...  Shhh.  Now's not the time for that.  You make your mistakes, you move on.  I'm not mad at you, Fluttershy.  You should know that, after all this.  All we've done.  You've been learning so much, you know.  I'm really proud of you.  It's just that sometimes you have to learn from your mistakes.  Just like earlier today."

    Her head hung slightly.  The heat from the hundred candles warmed her face and filled her nose with their mild burning scent.  She stepped forward onto the blanket, and sat down.

    "I panicked," she said through a clenched throat.  "How did I learn anything from that?"

    "Well, you didn't of course."

    Her breath escaped in a frustrated hiss.

    "That's why we're here now."

    "What do you want from me?"  she sighed.

    "A homework assignment.  One little task before bed.  I want you to sit here with me, and relax.  Meditate.  Consider today's events in the grand scheme of the past months.  Think about today, and where you could be in the future.  This is but one brief fleeting moment in time, and it will be gone before too long.  Consider it, but please don’t dwell upon it."

    "And the candles?"

    "Ahh, the candles.  Do you see where they are?  Sitting neatly inside your ship?  I want you to think of something.  Imagine that each of those candles is a life.  A life held safe within your ship’s bay."

    She looked out across the field of flame, each steel cylinder burning brightly within the unlit expanse of the hold.  

    "I want you to look at each one.  Give it a name.  Think about it's life.  What it's leaving behind.  Where it will go from here.  Can you imagine them, Fluttershy?  Each tiny candle within your ship, a life carried by your hooves.  Life from the scattered reaches of the galaxy, each unique and precious in their own right.  Each one ripped from their homes, separated from their families and torn from loved ones.  Each blessed with the slim fortune of being here, on board you ship.  Within your care.  Your deliverance."

    Fluttershy sat down firmly.  Her body sagged with the weight of Trent's words, yet her head held itself high.  Wide tepid eyes flickering with the reflection of so many tiny lights.  

    "Each of them.  Give them a name.  A life.  They are the reason you fly.  The reason you fight.”

    She shivered.  

    The flames licked the air within the dropship’s bay, flickering cheerily against the dark grey bulkheads.  

    One hundred candles.  One hundred futures for one hundred lives.

    One brave little pegasus.

    She stared, nodding rhythmically as her eyelids grew heavy.  Her lips pursed and parted, silently bestowing names and faces to each twinkling glow.  Bodies and faces foreign and unnatural, manifest from her ephemeral id.   Voices ranging from the guttural and growling to the melodic and monotone.  Scared and pleading, one and all.  

    The murky turbulence of her imagination faded briefly.  She could see her friends sitting forlornly within the belly of the ship.  Expectantly.  Looking up to her from afar.  Her eyes squeezed shut and she shook her head.  

    She blinked once again.  They surrounded her.  Eyes wide and empty, staring past the distant void that divided them, across the sea of time that separated them.  Beacons that beckoned homeward through an interminable empty gulf, where she felt lost without bearing.  

    Her breath caught in her throat, squeezing her sudden surprise into shocked silence.  The canisters burned brightly in the unlit bay.  Her friends were nowhere to be seen.  She exhaled gently, settling back onto the warm wool blanket.  

    “Fluttershy,” Trent whispered.

    “Yes?”

    “Can you see them?”

    She blinked again.  The bay was empty.

    “..Yes.”

    “You can count them again, if you like.  There may be more.”

    A sigh escaped her lips, and she began nodding at each light in turn.  

    “They’re all depending on someone.  Someone who can deliver them from harm.  Someone who can give them a future.”

    He turned to Fluttershy.

    “Will it be you?”

    * * *

    The candles lay still within the bay, lazy wisps of smoke in thin wavy strands where flames once danced high.  The grey blanket wrapped around the yellow pegasus, her head nestled firmly against Trent’s thigh.  

    It was almost time.

    The blanket wrapped around several more times, and he hoisted the sleeping bundle over his shoulder, gently tiptoeing down the steel ramp, and across the sea of concrete within the vast hangar.  

    She lay still across the seat of the electric cart, sleeping soundly as the road rolled by.  Her fur fluttered gently in the chilled air, tufts of yellow and silky pink mane peeking out from the blanket.  It was a deep sleep, content and peaceful.  Free of anxious worry and gnawing fright.  

    The bundle shifted and stirred slightly, slung between two arms.  Green glass parted on slick silent bearings, a warm welcoming gust of air to greet the two tired travellers.  

    Her head snuggled back into the familiar firmness of the foam pillow.  Feathery wings stretched slightly of their own accord, before slipping beneath the marigold sheets.  

    The door clicked shut.  Heavy footfalls shuffled silently down the red carpeted hallway.  

    The elevator hummed quietly, opening to the rooftop lounge.  The lights were out all over the Schoolhouse, but the sky burned brightly.  A shimmering sea of stars that arced across the heavens.  Trent stared silently at the panoramic vista, singling out a spot of sky holding a star that was too far to see.  

    Eleven minutes.

    He placed one canister upon the dew soaked balcony, coaxing it alight with the tin lighter.  It burned brightly, a tiny gout of flame that outshone the terrible leviathans of the cosmos.  

    The differential chronometer ticked away the seconds.  It was a special kind of watch, the sort that navigators relied upon to trace their paths between the stars.  Where the universe blazed bright and thick, the very matter of creation slowed the passage of time like barnacles on an oceangoing ship.  Where the cosmos was empty and without form, time raced without impediment.  It was not a large difference, for what differences could be conceivably imagined by organic minds.  But it remained a difference, subtle as it may be to the fleeting attention of those who could comprehend the universe in their infinitesimally short snapshots.  

    Far away, a short hop across the galactic disc, it was mid-afternoon.  The siege of Seven Gates had been grinding away mercilessly for several months now.  The armada slogged slowly through the moat of sublight space.  A fleet that pressed together from all sides such that their numbers blotted out the stars and dimmed the sun.  

    Five minutes.  The flames licked and lapped at the chilly air.

    They had fought without relent, trading tactics for numbers.  Each meter to Seven Gates duly paid in vaporized mass.  An intermingling sea of ships that followed behind the lifeless drifting derelicts of their brethren.  

    Four minutes.  Trent looked toward the star that wasn’t there.

    The differential chronometer tracked time by offset and by rate.  The fat snaking clouds of the galactic arms were chopped into their own regions, where time passed more slowly in proximity to the titanic gravity well of the galactic core and the spinning crossbar of stars that dragged spacetime behind it’s terrifying mass.  Seven Gates lay near the head of the Crux arm, a crossroads between Sol, Cellara, Lepus, Khaava, Uo, Ranel, and Ptel.  

    Seven Gates.  Seven hundred million lives.  A fraction of their constituent homeworlds.  

    Four hundred thousand saved.

    Three minutes.

    Trent clutched the balcony, the tiny can of blue flame nestled between his hands.  The stars burned bright and constant, yet looked bleary through the welling lens of tears.  

    Two minutes.

    It had been a terrible surprise.  The siege was expected to last for weeks after they made planetfall.  It was over in minutes.

    One minute.

    Trent looked at the watch again, counting down the seconds.  He looked up again, staring expectantly at that indistinct patch of sky.

    “Will it be me?” he asked.

    The countdown finished, chiming dilligently until it was silenced under his fingertip.  

    The cannister was turned over, and it’s flame snuffed out.

    Trent drew one deep breath, and screamed at the sky.

    9 comments · 238 views
  • 97w, 2d
    random

    "This one is real," she broke the long silence.

    Dornier snorted.  "Ah, I shall assure you that they are all real.  There is not a piece on this wall where I did not personally meet with the artist."

    "No.  Um, I'm sorry.  It's just that I meant," she gestured at the scene within the small hardwood frame.  "This was real."

    "Perhaps you can enlighten me.  Why do you say that one in particular, is real?"

    Fluttershy's eyes glanced across the wall, from triumphant unicorns brandishing swords, to victorious armies standing fast against routed masses.  Portraits and landscapes hearkening to times remembered favorably.

    Her gaze focused upon the small frame once again.  A thousand yard stare past the flat canvas into the world behind.  The edge of a forest, ablaze against the pitch backdrop.  Billowing clouds of smoke that blotted the sky for miles.  A river shimmering red with the roaring immolation of Whitetail Woods.  

    The blazing inferno served only as a backdrop to the rolling fallow plains.  The illusion of distance rendering each tiny twisting stroke of paint as the sum of an army in disarray, charging in urgent retreat.  They ran, frozen in a snapshot of time.  Perpetually chased by a horror that could never be drawn in its full terrible glory.  

    A pillar of light dominated the center of the picture.  It burned through the living landscape and torched the very firmament of the underlying rock.  Those nearest silently writhed in their last moments, as the light consumed them.

    Just beyond the coronal haze of the sky's pent fury, a figure reared beyond the hellish glare.  It stood at the edge of the tree line, atop one blasted bare patch between the curtains of flame.  Hooves, wings, and horn thrust high.  A patchwork garb of flags from felled nations.  It roared in everlasting silence, commanding the elemental force of light through arcane magic as an embodiment of its rage.

    Fluttershy pointed at the picture again.

    "There are no heroes," she said barely above a whisper.  "Everypony is scared.  This one is real."

    5 comments · 270 views
  • 97w, 4d
    The TexRAP 4300

    This is a little excerpt from the upcoming chapter.  Expect a few changes between here and there

    * * *

    "We're almost done!  Just one last thing.  Are you ready for this, Fluttershy?"

    "I...  Um, I think so."  she smiled.

    "That doesn't sound very enthusiastic.  Come on, let's hear some excitement!"  Trent clapped his hands together.

    "Oh, um.  Yaay?"

    "That's the spirit!  Now you’re going to love this.  I swear, this will knock your socks off!  If you have socks, that is."  

    Fluttershy's eyes grew wide in sudden shock.

    "But... What?  Why?  Why would it do that?  What would happen to my socks?"  

    "We can rebuild them.  Longer, warmer, fuzzier.  We have the technology."  Trent grinned.

    The canary yellow pegasus prepared to deliver an exasperated retort, but she paused suddenly.  Her head cocked to the side and her ears folded down in confusion.

    "Trent?  That wasn't a joke.. was it?"

    "No.  Not this time.  Allow me to present to you, the pinnacle of rapid sock prototyping technology.  Behold!  The TexRAP 4300!"  He gestured to a black circular platform in the corner of the room.  

    She rolled her eyes slightly, regarding the squat uninspiring obect.  The surface was inset with tiny spheres arranged like the cells of a honeycomb.  Curiously, she tapped at the surface, feeling her hoof slip effortlessly across the rolling beads.  

    "And, this is how you make socks?"

    Trent chuckled, shaking his head.  

    "No.  This is just where you get measured for them."

    "Ohh.  Um.  I guess...  I mean, it seems like a lot of trouble just to make socks."

    "No trouble at all," Trent said, tapping at the squat grey console next to the platform.  "And it's not just for socks.  Sometimes it makes gloves too."

    “What?”

    “They’re like socks for your hands!”

    She lifted her hoof, waving it rhetorically.

    "Is there anything else it makes?"

    "Just clothes.  But a certain type of clothes."

    “What kind?”

    “Well, you want to fly a space plane, right?”

    She nodded.

    “Then you need a space suit.  Those are the rules.  No exceptions.”

    “But..”

    “No exceptions.”

    “But what does it actually do?” she said through gritted teeth.

    “Well, hop up there and we’ll find out.”

    She hopped and hovered, flying over the center of the pad at a deliberately casual pace.  The beaded surface remained firm as her hooves made contact, and she stood tall.  

    “Like many semi-autonomous artificial intelligence systems, the TexRAP 4300 began life as an automated sewing machine.”

    “What?”

    Trent tapped a button at the console, and the surface of the pad sank into a shallow bowl shape.  The beads rolled freely, and the wide-eyed bright yellow pegasus squealed as she slid around like a slab of butter in a hot frying pan.

    “Trent!”  she screamed, as she tried to gallop away from the suddenly surprisingly slippery surface.  

    “You’re doing great!”

    “TRENT!”

    She spread her wings and lifted off from the pad, turning mid-air to glare at him.  

    “That’s very good too, but we still need to map out your locomotive biometrics.  Oh, and could I ask you to stick this in your mouth?”  he thrust a pair of clear plastic hoses that terminated into a single mouthpiece within inches of her lips.

    “What is that?” she demanded, with what modicum of patience she had left.

    “This tube gives you air, and this tube takes it away.  Together, they can tell how much air you need, how fast you need it, and what partial pressure of which atmospheric component contributes to your metabolic activity.”

    “...Why?”

    “Because if it’s going to make a space suit, it has to be as functional as it is unfashionable.  It acts as a life support system, which means that in order to support your life,” he tapped one finger against her scrunched nose, “it needs to know what keeps you alive.”

    “Well, okay.  Um.  What happens now?”

    "The TexRAP 4300 will perform a mostly non-invasive scan of your body and bone structure.  If all goes well, it may call back for a second date."

    Her hoof shot to her forehead, yet her cheeks reddened slightly.  

    “Don’t worry.  I was only half joking.  Now, put the tube back in your mouth, and look at the screen on the back wall.”

    “MmmmMph?”  

    “The screen,” he pointed.  “It’s like a giant picture frame that shows moving images.”

    “Mmmf.  Mpphaaay.”

    She turned.  Her jaw dropped.  

    Stretching across the wall was a modestly enormous display.  The sort of screen that was meant for displaying major league sports games, decorating corporate lobbies, or serving as an impressively expensive prop in a thrilling high tech procedural drama television show.  Of all the ways to describe it, ‘overcompensating’ would be somewhere in the top three.  

    The size of the screen did not startle Fluttershy.  It was the life sized image of her from multiple angles, as a bizarre and grotesque splatch of false colors.  Her hooves were a ghostly blue, fading into a light greenish yellow that ran up her legs into the nebulous reds and yellows of her body.  She stared into a reflection of her face, blazing white and red in an unnervingly demonic clown-like visage.

    “T.. Trent?” she stammered, as the mouthpiece fell from her hanging jaw.

    “Don’t be scared now.  It’s nothing to worry about.  Do you remember earlier when we talked about heat, light, and radio being the same thing, but occupying different frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum?”

    She nodded slowly, not taking her eyes off of the false color reflection.  

    “This is what you look like in visible light.”

    He tapped at the console, and the image turned to an exact replica of her, down to the ridges of her pinion feathers and the fluffy yellow fur of her chest.  

    “Oh...” she turned and looked around, failing to see the cameras that apparently surrounded her.  

    “And this is infrared, which shows the heat that your body gives off.  In other words, it’s how hot you look.”

    Her ears twitched at the casually implied double entendre, as the image reverted to the splotchy false color representation.  She felt a slight blush creep over her face, and watched in abrupt horror as her face blazed in white luminance.  

    “And this is what you look like in radio.”

    Trent tapped the console again, and the vibrantly colored visible embarrassment disappeared, replaced by a ghostly grey translucence.  The skin and fur and feathers were nowhere to be seen.  Only a pulsating mass of organs suspended between spindly white bone.  Two wide empty eye sockets staring back at her.

    She raised her wings, stretching them to their full range.  On the screen, a nightmarish rendition stood, experimentally flapping the stubby bones tipped with piercing claws.

    “Ohh...  My.”

    “Now before you ask, the radio-magnetic field is generated elsewhere on the ship, and is simply allowed to manifest in the exact location of your body.  That’s why every metallic object in the room isn’t hurtling towards you at terminal velocity.  It’s also why objects like this tablet can be suspended  mid-air,” he waved the matchbook sized computer at her before dropping it at arms length, letting it float upon unseen forces.  

    The screen went blank, save for a green dot.  

    “Okay now.  Do you see the light on the screen?  I want you to walk towards it.  Put the tube back in your mouth first, though.”

    She nodded, huffing through the plastic tube as she began to trot in the shallow depression.  Her hooves slid effortlessly across the surface, with just enough resistance to mimic pushing off against the ground.  

    “Now do you see that red dot on the screen?  Walk towards the green dot, but point your head at the red one.”

    She stepped forth at a measured pace, as the red dot raced around all four corners of the screen.

    "Very good.  Now trot.  Gallup.  Back to trotting.  Attempt to walk to the left slightly.  Follow the light.  Good.  Now more to the left.  Now back to the right.  More...  Good.  Now dance.  Dance for the TexRAP 4300!”

    Fluttershy twisted her neck around and glared.

    “Right.  Moving on.  Let’s see your range of motion for inclined planes.”

    The surface of the platform fluidly transformed into flat tilted disc.  The rollers gently began to spin again, and she had to walk to avoid sliding off.  The walk became a trot, and eventually an uphill gallup.  Slowly, the surface tilted forward, until she was forced to backpedal to remain in place.  

    “Very good.  Almost done with this portion.”

    The surface separated into a raised bands, rolling forward like an escalator in an alternate non-symmetrical dimension.  She clopped up the temporary staircase, watching the smaller version of herself march upward in the corner of the screen.

    “Now for the fun part.”

    The surface returned to a flat configuration, and the rolling beads became firm and fixed.  

    “What now?” she asked, letting the hose slip from her mouth and retract back into the box mounted overhead.  

    “Well now it knows what you look like.  But if it’s going to make you a suit, it needs to know what you feel like, as well.”

    “Feel like..?  How does it.. EEEEK!”  she jumped backwards, recoiling at the sudden sight of a robotic armature inching towards her foreleg.

    “It’s perfectly fine!  Jeez, I’ve known cats that make better friends with vacuum cleaners.  Now, all you have to do, is put your hoof down, and let the TexRAP 4300 do it’s magic.”

    “It has magic?” she asked incredulously.

    “Sufficiently advanced technology.”

    “Trent!”

    “It’s fine.  Just stand in the middle of the platform.  Trust me.”

    “...Okay.”

    The robotic prong gently clamped around one canary yellow hoof.  Slowly and deliberately, the prong raised itself by several inches, gently squeezing her ankle between the green plastic rollers.  It rose until it met her shoulder, pressed firmly against the underside of her ribcage.

    “Oh.  Um.. Eeep!   Sorry.  That kind of tickles.”

    “You’re doing good.”

    The armature split apart, pressing the rollers against her back and sides.  It made several passes, fluidly tilting to remain in contact as it traced the contours from her neck down to her rear hooves.

    “Phase two is finished.”

    The armature returned back to the base of her front hoof.

    “Phase two?..”

    The two skinny rollers exploded into fat inflated cylinders, squeezing the volume of space once occupied by Fluttershy’s ankle.  There was a flash of pink and a blur of yellow.

    Trent looked up to see her clinging to the conduit raceway overhead.  

    “Um, yes.  And that would be phase three.  Sorry.  I forgot that it might be surprising like that.  It’s been a little while since I’ve used one of these.”

    She sighed, gently bashing her forehead against the steel pipe from which she hung.

    “I’m sorry if that frightened you.”  

    “No.  It’s perfectly all right,” she asserted, dropping from the overhead and flipping upright as she fell.  “Let’s just get this over with.”

    “Are you sure?”

    “Well, I’ve come this far, haven’t I?”  She stated hotly, staring at the far wall, avoiding eye contact.

    Her hoof stomped on the platform in front of the robotic arm, daring it to approach.  

    Trent tapped at the console, freezing the armature in place.  

    “What’s wrong?”

    “Nothing.”

    “You seem a little upset.”  

    She sucked in a deep breath through gritted teeth, before sighing loudly.

    “I can’t do this,” she whispered.

    “Are you so sure about that?”

    She turned back to look at Trent, nodding weakly.

    “You said I would need to be brave.  I can’t be brave.  You saw me.  Why do you think I can do this, if I’m frightened by something that you barely noticed?”

    “Are you still frightened by that, now that you’ve seen it?”

    “Well...  No.”

    “But you’re afraid that you’ll never stop being frightened?  Of the unknown?”

    One foreleg pressed across her face as she stifled a sob.  

    “Yes.”

    Trent walked around the console and sat down next to the weeping pegasus.

    “And right now, you’re expecting me to say that you can do it, right?  Give you enough of a morale boost to overcome this little obstacle, until you run into something else that gives you another scare, and then we’re back to where we started.  An endless circle that you can’t break.  Is that why you’re frustrated?  Why you’re angry at yourself?  Not because you were frightened, but because you think you’ll always be frightened?”

    Her voice cracked and the answer died in her throat, but it was understood clearly enough.

    “It’s okay.”

    “No.  I’m not like you, Trent.  I’m not even like other ponies.  I...”

    “Shhh.  It’s okay to be scared sometimes.  Do you think it never happens to me either?”

    “I..  No.  I don’t think you would be scared of things like me.”

    “There are things that scare me, Fluttershy.  Things you haven’t seen before, but they terrify me just the same.  Just the same as you.  And I can’t always run away from those things, because they can run faster.  It’s okay to be scared sometimes.  But..  sometimes, there’s more at stake than just me.”

    Her head nestled gently in his lap, her mane stroked by idle fingertips.

    “Trent?” she asked softly.  “What kind of things?”

    “Eggs, eggs.  Kinetic kill inbound.  Relevant naught five.  Singularity containment failure.  Mass decoupled from trap.  Drive failure in interstellar space.  Major fuel oil leak amidships.  Fire, fire, fire.  Fire in bay two charlie.  Explosive decompression on main deck starboard passage.  Away the flying squad.  All hands to assigned stations.  Message received as follows; Ambush Ambush...”

    Fluttershy shivered.  Trent’s hands shook.

    “Trent?”

    “Yes?”

    “There’s more, isn’t there?”

    “...Yes.”

    “I’m sorry for being frightened.  About this,” she waved her hoof at the whole ship.

    “No...  No.  It’s okay.  It will keep you alive when it counts.  Just like me.”

    She sat up, turning to look Trent straight in the eyes.

    “That’s not what you meant.”

    “Hmm?”

    “When you said just like me.. you meant more than just yourself.  A lot more.”

    “Other people, you mean?”

    She nodded.

    “Then, now you know.  Even when you’re scared, and even when you don’t understand what you’re facing.  You know why to press forward, even when you’re terrified.  Because others may depend on your actions.”

    Her head hung low, bobbing as she nodded.

    “That is what you really fear.  The reason you’re angry with yourself.  You don’t think that you will make a difference when given the opportunity, and others will suffer for it.”

    “Yes,” she whimpered.

    Trent’s hand cupped under her chin, lifting it upright.

    “A million pictures may tell of your past, and a mirror will only show the present.  That cannot be changed.  But, the future is unknown, and yet unmade.  I can show you what you may become, but you will have to choose if that is what you want to be.”

    A pair of yellow legs encircled his neck, squeezing tightly.  Her head laid heavily across one shoulder.

    “Okay,” she said firmly.

    “That’s the spirit.  Are you ready to continue?”

    “Yes.”

    “You can do it, Fluttershy.  Remember that.”

    Trent returned to the console, and Fluttershy stood at the center of the pad, offering her hoof to the robotic arm.

    “Fluttershy?”

    “Yes?”

    “Do you remember how I said this was going to be massively exciting and epicly adventuresome?”

    “Um, well.  Kind of.”

    “I lied.  This part is boring as hell.”

    The rollers inflated with a sharp pop around Fluttershy’s ankle, and slowly began to work their way upwards.  This time there was the sensation of dozens of fingertips pressing and prodding her skin from just beneath the inflated cylinder, and an electric tingle that shot all the way down to her bone.  A second set of rollers began working their sufficiently advanced technology on her right hoof, while a third arm descended to press a mat of tiny plastic beads on long silvery needles against the crown of her head and the base of her neck.

    "The TexRAP 4300 is not a licensed massage therapist, nor chiropractic practitioner.  However, we hope that someday, these arbitrary and unfair prejudices may be set aside."

    Her eyes rolled, but the corners of her mouth tugged upward.

    The armature split as it met her shoulder, pressing her body from both sides.  The pressure was firm, but the invasive incessant prodding tickled every single sensation of every single spot on her skin.  Her eyes gently drifted back in her head as waves of pleasure steamrolled across her torso at a geological pace.  Her thoughts drifted, as if floating upon the gently lapping waves of a tropical beach.  

    “In case you’re wondering, the beads on your neck and forehead are actually recording every single simulation applied to your skin.  That way, it can use sensors in the exterior of the suit to translate signals directly into your central nervous system.  You will be able to feel a wide swath of the EM spectrum exactly as if you were able to feel it with your own body, and you’ll know where it’s coming from too.  Also, the heat mapping of your body lets the TexRAP 4300 design the cooling system within the inner suit to match up exactly to where it’s needed.”

    She nodded, not having listened to a single word.

    The rollers clamped around both of her outstretched wings simultaneously, pressing firmly as they traced all the way from the base of her wing to the tips of her stiff feathers.

    A soft husky groan escaped her lips.  Her wings flapped involuntarily.  

    “Oh, careful about that.  It needs to restart that segment.  Please try not to move, otherwise it has to start over.”

    “Ohh.  Okay,” she squeaked, as the rollers returned to the base of her wings.  

    "Now this next sequence might feel a bit uncomfortable, but it is necessary.  But don't worry!  The TexRAP 4300 is a professional, and has seen.. um.. orifices from one rim of the galaxy to..  er,  I’ll stop right there.”

    Her eyes widened as both sets of rollers clamped around the middle of her torso, slowly squeezing and prodding their way along her flanks.

    "While a disturbingly high percentage of space pilots end up contracting..  ah..  intimately communicable diseases within their first deployment, none of them have even been traced to the TexRAP 4300," Trent deadpanned.

    “That was a joke, right?”

    “God I hope so.”

    The rollers clamped around both of Fluttershy’s rear hooves, and began to slowly inch upwards.

    “Now I have to run and get something, but I should be back in about ten minutes.  Please just wait here after you’re finished, okay?”

    “O... Okay.”

    “You’re doing great!  Keep it up.”

    She was already past paying attention.

    * * *

    He returned shortly, cradling the dense composite helmet under his arm.  It was a triumph of technology, borne from the skills and craftsmanship of dozens of alien races.  Embedded spiderwebs of algorithmically designed structural supports surrounded by nanoscale pathways for regenerative microscaffolding repairs.  A simple and unassuming faceplate that melded seamlessly within a frame of vanadium steel alloy, bearing invisible lines of circuitry and variably refractive multi-spectrum cavities.  A rim of quartzite glass concealing a crown of eyes that maintained a constant vigil in all directions.  A one of a kind piece, crafted and shaped to fit snugly upon a one of a kind face.  Still slightly warm from the AutoFab’s cavernous cavities.

    The door flicked open at the twitch of his fingers.

    “Fluttershy?”

    “Yes, Captain?” she moaned softly.

    “...What?”

    She stood frozen upon the platform, two wide eyes locked nervously on Trent.  A set of green inflatable cylinders clamped around her thighs.

    “Jeez, is that thing still running?”  He set the helmet down and approached the console.  “Ah, I see what happened.  Looks like it had to restart a certain segment about fifteen times...  Oh...”

    Their eyes locked, but their faces remained stoically chiseled.  

    “I think it’s seen enough,” he said, stabbing a finger at the console.  

    The robotic arms retracted.  

    “Um...” she squeaked.

    “And now we wait!  It’s designing a suit for you as we speak.  Perfect timing too, because I need to step out again for a moment.  There’s a set of kitchen implements in the galley that should be perfect for gouging my eyes out.”

    “Does it make the suit too?” she asked quietly, trying to change the subject.

    “Yes.  Or it will, shortly.”

    “I have a friend in Ponyville that designs and crafts dresses.  I think she would love to see this.”

    Trent cocked his head at Fluttershy.

    “To see how it makes suits, I mean.”

    His hand slapped over his face.

    “I don’t suppose she’s made you a dress before?”

    “Well, yes.  Several times in fact!”

    “That’s nice of her.”

    “She is the Element of Generosity, after all.”

    “The what now?”

    “Umm.   Magic?”

    “Right...”

    He tapped at the console, his finger hovering over the display.

    “Would you trust her to make you a suit?”  

    Fluttershy looked from side to side, before nodding.  

    “Yes.  But...  Um, I thought this was going to make the suit?”

    “It will make all the pieces.  Then you can see how it gets put together.  Won’t that be fun?”

    “...I guess so.”

    Trent tapped the console several times, and stepped aside.  There was a low but distinct hum within the recesses of the ship.  Several minutes later, a shiny aluminum suitcase rolled out from a recessed chute and settled in the middle of the workbench.

    “What is her name, by the way?”

    “Rarity.”

    “Splendid.  Let’s go meet her!”  

    Trent pointed a finger at the suitcase and it lofted itself into the air, trailing behind him as he pranced towards the door.  




    16 comments · 258 views
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A visitor arrives in Equestria, bearing a wealth of knowledge and a troubled past.  The Mane 6 are quick to befriend the stranger, who helps them to discover what they truly value in life, and how to achieve it.

But learning to overcome their fears and achieve their desires comes at a steep price, paid by their innocence.

First Published
12th Oct 2011
Last Modified
23rd Sep 2012
#1 · 160w, 2d ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

First chapter so far - the next few will focus on individual relations between the interloper and the mane 6.  Let me know if it sounds good so far.  

#2 · 160w, 2d ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

>>9733

I like it.

#3 · 160w, 2d ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

...Whoa. This is one intense story. Your descriptions are quite vivid - the animals you describe are just downright scary.  And the cliffhanger with Applejack...I'm definitely curious to see where this goes.

#4 · 160w, 1d ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

I freaking love it man, looking forward to more. Eagerly.

#5 · 160w, 1d ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

More stuff en route.

#6 · 160w, 1d ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

I might be wrong but I'm going to take a guess a the mysterious Metal thing and say it's from the Warhammer universe.

And it's a Tech Priest.....Or dreadnought Mech

Looking foward to more Chaps

#7 · 160w, 1d ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

Seemed to advanced to be of human design from the 40k universe. Not counting pre Age of Strife of course.

#8 · 160w, 1d ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

>>9860

It's loosely connected to something I wrote earlier - so there's reams of material to draw from there.  Although in this case, the presence of this individual implies that a crucial event in the original story went wildly different.  

A decision that he's not necessarily happy to live with.  

#9 · 160w, 1d ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

>>9874

I'm wrong...damn..

Still waiting for the update.

(stares a the computer screen willing it to happen)

Please save my eyesight the strain.

#11 · 160w, 1d ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

Great start. This has to be one of the better alien/human in Equestria that I've read. I like how you're focusing on the well... alieness I guess would be the best word of the human(?) in comparison to the ponies and how they actually find the figure somewhat disturbing.

It'll be interesting to see how the ponies react to the idea of what seems to be a non-magic technogloical based society, and how the figure reacts to the magic (or possibly psionic from his/her viewpoint) civilization.

#12 · 160w, 1d ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

I hope this doesn't spoil anything.

"Well hello Princess!  I'm so glad we can finally meet under more relaxed conditions.  No, don't get up, I'm just here to have a little chat.  Tea perhaps?  I must insist that you accept my brief outpouring of hospitality in exchange for a moment of your time.  I will be quite frank in saying that I need your help, and you desperately need my advice.  This concerns your new acquaintance who showed up sometime while I was enjoying my latest full body stone encasement therapy - thank you oh so very much.  

Now before you give me that look, I want to be perfectly honest.  I like to play games with you.  Especially when I'm shuffling the game pieces around while you're not looking.  But we play that game.  Not box it up and toss it into the fireplace simply to deny one of us from winning.  If I'm going to fast for you, please say so, but just to make things explicitly clear, I am using this game metaphorically to refer to the very basis of the laws of reality.  Whether the rules of the game are fair or unjust, orderly or chaotic; does not matter here.  What matters, is that game, and it's rules, exist in the first place!  

We share this world.  The harmony  you desire would not exist without the disorder and chaos from which it could grow.  Do you know what perfect order looks like?  Nothing!  No chaos, no harmony, no me, no you, no NOTHING!  So do us both a favor and don't ask your friend to help make a more perfect world, because that is exactly what he's set out to accomplish!"

#13 · 160w, 1d ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

This is interesting, cant wait to read more!:pinkiehappy:

#14 · 160w, 1d ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

Second chapter about halfway finished.  

---

The Lieutenant sighed.  

“That’s wonderful.  Suppose you could tell me who in Celestia’s green pastures managed to round up the entire population of Ponyville and sent them into the middle of the forest here?”

“That would be me, silly!  I know every pony in Ponyville, and I brought them all with me!”  The cotton candy colored pony smiled like a shark in a swimming pool.  

“Oh what.. you can’t be serious.  You are serious.  Gah..  Why on Equestria did you..”

“It’s a Search PARTY!”

The day of the Lieutenant’s inevitable debilitating brain aneurysm seemed that much closer.

#15 · 160w, 1d ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

Okay, I have something to confess.

Usually, I read/browse FIMfiction as a guest; I've done this for a while. I didn't have an account on here before.

But when I read your story, I quickly went and made an account so I can track it. That's how good this story is. :heart:

#16 · 160w, 23h ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

>>10091

Thanks :)

Should have CH2 posted tonight.  In the meantime, here's another story I wrote earlier.  

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NCkaywWiXlE053vdUbKir1H43UitgNm4Pgyljpomqts/edit?hl=en_US

#17 · 160w, 9h ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

>>9884

Wow you gave me a little present.

From what I see so far the second Chap has really good humor. Pike pie and the that one place guard (Golden).

But so far I really haven't seen anything that could make this story Grimdark or sad....Not that it's a bad thing but your tags say it's a Grimdark story.

Now I realize how stupid the review sounds now.

Also did you proofread this your self or do you have a beta?

#18 · 160w, 9h ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

>>10211

I'm just getting warmed up.  :pinkiecrazy:

I haven't done a lot of proofreading - although I've spotted a few things here and there that can be cleaned up.  Most of this just gets dumped to the page as-is.  

If I'm setting out to make the most horrible soul-crushing story ever, I'd like to think that a slow build up rather than a quick "jump out and scare you" type surprise would work better.  Such as the analogy of a frog that would leap from a pot of hot water, but contentedly boil to death in a kettle that slowly heated.  

#19 · 160w, 6h ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

>>10217

Really !!! Damn... I need to have someone read over my shit just to make sure that my Grammar and spelling right.

Also that frog analogy.....Freaky as hell......0-0.....

Have a nice day.

Will still be watching :pinkiecrazy:

#20 · 160w, 4h ago · · · Chapter 2 ·

Liking it so far, wish it was a bit longer though.

#21 · 160w, 4h ago · · · Chapter 2 ·

Captain "HEY! YOU! ____ FOR BRAINS!" Laurie has grown on me quite suddenly.

I wonder what his cutie mark would look like.  

#22 · 160w, 3h ago · · · Chapter 2 ·

Please hurry with the next chapter. Can't hardly wait.

#23 · 160w, 1h ago · · · Chapter 2 ·

sounds good so far can't wait for more!

#24 · 160w, 2m ago · · · Chapter 2 ·

Run!!! Run for your sanity!!!!:pinkiecrazy::pinkiecrazy::pinkiecrazy::pinkiecrazy:

#25 · 159w, 6d ago · · · Chapter 2 ·

lol love it

#26 · 159w, 6d ago · · · Chapter 2 ·

More hot Laurie action, before I get into the meat n potatoes of the story.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/17NNv5rfdAh4JQmcXrC7i0zbuRoPBsJ3o8f3chDV6GCY/edit?hl=en_US

#27 · 159w, 5d ago · · · Chapter 2 ·

Halfway done with Chapter 3 - now with 20% more moral dilemma foreshadowing!  

#28 · 159w, 4d ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

Lol - I am liking this a lot so far... :)

#29 · 159w, 4d ago · · · Chapter 3 ·

So that's chapter 3.  Four is coming along nicely already.  

Which characters or particular events do you guys enjoy the most?

#30 · 159w, 4d ago · · · Chapter 3 ·

Laurie and the whole Applejack/Fluttershy thing :rainbowlaugh:

Love all of it, still confused about that knife:rainbowhuh:

#31 · 159w, 4d ago · · · Chapter 3 ·

This is the most fabulous mixture of randomness I've read in a while. Also thanks to you I get hiccups every time I see Pinkie.

#32 · 159w, 4d ago · · · Chapter 3 ·

>>11291

Laurie certainly isn't the silent type.  

Oh god.. forget everything I said.  The double entendre will never leave my brain now!

#33 · 159w, 3d ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

ho shit i was reading so far and all the action and descriptions gave me a rush wow great story, fuckin triple A

#34 · 159w, 3d ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

far = fast* damn auto correct

#35 · 159w, 3d ago · · · Chapter 3 ·

Still enjoying the story.

Laurie for the win so far,

#36 · 159w, 3d ago · · · Chapter 3 ·

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1RNVEmhNRzDiyrH4tErRPbse4IAyAxujJJbYAvUFlrCI/edit?hl=en_US  I hope this isn't getting too saucy.

Btw, the entire Luna/Twilight dialogue started as filler, before it turned completely and accidentally hilarious.  

#37 · 159w, 2d ago · · · Chapter 3 ·

CH 4 is coming along now - had a bit of an impasse, but that's been solved nicely.  

Who's excited?

#38 · 159w, 2d ago · · · Chapter 3 ·

-.-.... I'm totally excited....-.-

#39 · 159w, 1d ago · · · Chapter 3 ·

Ch4 is 2/3 done.  Ch5 will be act 2

Approved for EQD btw.  :rainbowkiss:

#40 · 158w, 5d ago · · · Chapter 4 ·

Wow, that took long enough.  Got a bit hung up near the end of the chapter, but I managed to get through without any awkward filler.  

Actually this whole chapter is awkward filler.  

ENJOY!

#41 · 158w, 5d ago · · · Chapter 4 ·

Looking forward to the next one.

#42 · 158w, 5d ago · · · Chapter 4 ·

I want some tea now..:trixieshiftleft:

#43 · 158w, 5d ago · · · Chapter 4 ·

Was...that i what I thought it was?......:derpyderp2: ....

#44 · 158w, 5d ago · · · Chapter 4 ·

:rainbowkiss:

#45 · 158w, 5d ago · · · Chapter 1 ·

This is really good, i commend the vivid pictures you paint and the very nicely use of cliffhangers...

#46 · 158w, 5d ago · · · Chapter 4 ·

moar please

#47 · 158w, 5d ago · · · Chapter 4 ·

Bueno.

#48 · 158w, 5d ago · · · Chapter 3 ·

Ha! sword wielding magic aquatic appiration! lol'd at that one!

#50 · 158w, 5d ago · · · Chapter 4 ·

The interloper sounds like the coolest looking badass of all time

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