Bursting into the smoky clearing, Twilight and the others took a quick glance around. Immediately, their eyes rested on a smoking form in the center.
Applejack squinted, her eyes watering. “Ah, horseapples! I can’t see nuthin’ in this smoke!”
Rarity waved uselessly at the fumes, entering a coughing fit. “What’re you *cough* whining about? I can’t even *cough* breathe!” She sputtered.
Twilight’s horn lit up. “Hold on, everypony. I’ll sort this out!” The horn glowed brightly, illuminating the entire clearing in an instant. The smoke parted, disappearing in small puffs of blue clouds. Twilight’s horn glowed brighter, summoning a breeze to blow the remains away. Once the smoke had cleared, the light vanished, bathing the group in complete darkness, save for Luna’s moon, which shone dully overhead.
After their eyes adjusted to the lack of light, Twilight and her friends slowly approached the crater. Peeking over the rim, they could see a metal figure laid back against the earth.
Two appendages were crossed tightly over what appeared to be its chest, as if it was still anticipating an impact. The olive-green metal that covered its body was scarred with paint loss and even some cuts that delved into the metal itself. The skin of the creature was black, although it somehow held the armor in place. An opaque, polarized visor glinted dimly in the moonlight. It was criss-crossed with geometrical designs that matched the patterns on the armor. Some of the metal on its broad shoulders was still glowing a dull red, wisps of smoke trailing from the tips.
“Twilight? You know your way around astronomy. Is there anything in those books you’ve read that talks about these?” Rarity suggested distractedly, her eyes scanning the figure up and down.
Twilight shook her head, sitting back. “This isn’t any sort of organic object from space. It’s obviously an extra-Equestrian life form of sorts, although I can’t really put my hoof down on what it is.” Twilight explained. A thought suddenly dawned on her. “Actually, the library didn’t have any books on organisms from other planets, since no pony has ever been able to even make a journey into space.”
Rainbow drifted dangerously close to the body, a brow raised curiously. “An alien from outer space… This is exactly like Daring Do’s adventure!” She exclaimed.
“Rainbow, now is not the time t’be fangirlin’.” Applejack sighed.
“So now we’re dealing with aliens?!” Pinkie bounced in place. “Ooh! Ooh! That’s awesome! You think it’ll have some sort of cool alien gadgets? I love alien gadgets! Ever since that last time when…”
“When have you EVER met an alien before, Pinkie?” Rainbow asked, moving back from the smoking body.
“Oh, lots of times! Usually from a bunch of other crossover fanfictions with videogames!”
Twilight’s face contorted into confusion. “Pinkie, what are you talking about?!”
Rarity tentatively approached the body, her expression a mix of disgust and wonder. “I-is it dead?”
Twilight took a quick glance at the body, noting that the arms looked like anything but relaxed. “I’m not sure… I’ll check for a pulse right now.”
Rainbow Dash snorted. “Oh, come on! There’s an easier way!” She trotted up to the body and gave it a hard cuff on the side of its head.
Everypony gasped, leaping back several feet. They cowered in apprehension, watching the body carefully for any movement. The arms relaxed, falling to the sides. However, the rest of the body remained still.
After waiting several seconds, Rainbow Dash flashed a devious grin. “Dead. What’d I tell ya?”
Twilight stepped closer. “Hold on. I’m going to check for a pulse.” Her horn lit up, bathing the area in a mysterious purple glow. Everypony watched silently as Twilight scrunched up her face in concentration.
Twilight’s eyes suddenly snapped open. “It’s still alive!” She exclaimed.
At that moment, the body’s left arm moved, grabbing Twilight’s foreleg.
Muffled voices again. John could hear a couple of men chatting quietly.
“This ain’t good.”
“Damn… How far did he fall?”
“Two kilometers, easy.”
A more familiar voice barked an order.
John felt a presence kneel by his right side.
“His armor’s locked up. Gel layer could’ve taken most of the impact.” Came another voice.
The Spartan’s arms fell to his sides as the armor lock disengaged.
“I-I don’t know, Sergeant Major…” The voice said hesitantly.
John could feel a tug at the back of his helmet. Whoever it was had taken out Cortana’s empty chip.
A long pause ensued, followed by the familiar voice again.
“Radio for V-TOL. Heavy lift gear. We’re not leaving him here.”
John instinctively reached out for Cortana’s chip, not entirely willing to part with that piece of his hardware. “Yeah. You’re not.” He croaked.
A high-pitched squeal filled his helmet’s speakers. Confused, he blinked, trying to clear his blurry vision. More muffled voices erupted from all sides.
“Twilight! Look out!”
“Oh, goodness! It moved!”
“I’ve gotcha, Twi! Hang in there!”
“Wh-whoa! It’s movin’!”
“I knew my Pinkie Sense was right!”
John fumbled his headlamp switch, quickly turning it on. His eyes widened at the sight.
Talking, miniature horses with colorful coats and manes were arrayed before him. They stood about five-feet high, making them hard to distinguish as ponies. They were just too large. Some sported wings and horns, while others had a severe lack thereof. They froze when he turned on the light, their eyes growing wide.
After a pregnant pause, the purple one ventured a greeting. “H-hello?” She asked hesitantly.
A sky-blue winged horse quickly shushed the unicorn. “Twilight! Shh! Maybe it can’t see us!” She hissed.
If I couldn’t see, I still would’ve heard you. John thought.
A second winged horse approached, this one colored a creamy yellow. “Wait! Let me try talking to it.” She said, although she faltered in mid-statement. “Uh, if that’s okay with you, Twilight.”
The unicorn nodded, brushing the sky-blue pony off of her. “Let Fluttershy work her magic, Rainbow. This thing might be friendly.” She said comfortingly.
The yellow horse, apparently named Fluttershy, approached John, giving him a warm smile. “Why, hello there, little guy.” She said comfortingly.
Little? John said nothing, remaining completely still.
Fluttershy glanced back nervously at the other horses that were struggling to see over her shoulders. “These are my friends, and we’re not here to hurt you.”
Again, John decided to remain quiet. He wanted to see what they would do.
The sky-blue Pegasus scoffed. “Hmph. He probably can’t understand a word you’re saying, Flutters. Quit wasting your breath.”
The yellow Pegasus shuddered. “I’m sorry, Rainbow Dash. I’m trying my best.” She squeaked, as if on the verge of tears.
A white unicorn trotted up to the blue Pegasus, giving her an unfriendly nudge. “Rainbow! Please! Just sit back and watch.”
The lavender equine spoke again. “Go ahead, Fluttershy. We’re right behind you.”
The yellow Pegasus took a deep breath, then turned back to him. “Can you understand me? Do you know what I’m saying?” She asked.
John nodded involuntarily.
A pink horse darted out from behind Fluttershy. “Whoa! You can speak Equestrian?! How cool is that?! I mean, you fell from the sky and everything, but, wow! You speak Equestrian! I mean, I thought you’d speak some kind of language from planet Zeebo, or wherever you come from! I guess it’s convenient for the plot of this story, and—”
“Hold it, sugarcube!” An orange horse wearing a wide-brimmed hat yanked Pinkie away. “All we know is that he understan’s what we’re sayin’. He ain’t spoken two syllables and you’re suddenly jumpier than a jumpin’ bean!” She gushed.
Pinkie shrunk back. “Well, so-ree!” She sighed, retreating to stand next to Rainbow.
Equestria… Doesn’t ring a bell. John thought back to where Cortana had mentioned them getting through the portal right as it had collapsed, sending them to unknown and unexplored quadrants of the galaxy, if not the universe.
The purple equine approached again. “Sorry for that; that’s Pinkie Pie. That’s just how she is.” She apologized.
A long pause followed before Twilight realized that this thing wasn’t going to talk back. “So…” She started, pawing at the ground.
“Oh, for crying out loud! Let me handle this!” The sky-blue Pegasus darted forward, butting her forehead on John’s visor. “Who sent you?! Are you an alien?! Is that why you’re here?! To conquer this planet?! Or do you just want to fight?! Well, then, put em up!” The Pegasus moved back, giving herself room to maneuver. Suddenly, she charged forward, taking off at the last second with the intent to ram him.
John moved quickly, scrambling out of the crater. He looked back, seeing the blue Pegasus struggling forward—head jammed into the dirt pile he was just sitting on. John stifled a chuckle.
The horse with a southern accent quickly pounced on the flailing Pegasus. “That’s enough outta you! You’re interruptin’ negotiations!” She drawled.
The yellow Pegasus approached him again. “S-sorry about that; Rainbow Dash can get a little edgy.” She explained quickly.
John glanced back at this “Rainbow Dash”, who, upon removing her head from the dirt, glared daggers at him. It was almost enough to pierce his polarized visor.
“But she’s only afraid for us. She’s afraid that you’re going to hurt us. I hope you understand.” The yellow Pegasus continued.
John nodded again. He could sympathize with that.
He continued his silent stare, still not really wanting to speak aloud. Although these ponies seemed friendly, his instincts told him to keep his mouth shut. Then again… where do I even have to go? John wondered. His thoughts drifted back to the horrible separation, Cortana still reaching out for him, her mouth moving, but no audible words were coming out.
A gentle nudge on his hand brought him back to reality. He glanced at the ponies, who were all standing wide-eyed in front of him. Huh. I thought the initial shock had already… John’s gaze roved downwards, suddenly noticing that the yellow Pegasus had moved uncomfortably close to him. She nudged his hand again with her nose, looking up at him expectantly.
John gazed back into the pony’s azure irises, his stare just as expectant. “You must be a little sore after taking a fall like that. Come on, you can stay at my cottage for now.” The Pegasus cooed comfortingly.
John nodded slowly, simultaneously doubting that this was a good idea. His legs moved on their own, however, as he dutifully followed Fluttershy back towards the pathway. As he passed, he heard a whisper from one of the ponies. “She’s a walking contradiction! She’s a wimp one moment, and a total stallion about everything the next!”
As they walked, the ponies continuously chatted amongst themselves, although John didn’t really care much for what they talked about. His mind was still replaying that single critical moment of his separation from the ship. Each time, he thought about the ways he could have avoided the possibility. The ideas were endless. I shouldn’t have risked a glance at the planet before impact. I should have moved more quickly when I grabbed a hold of the steel jutting out of the hull. I could have made it if I shaved off a few seconds off of my reaction. I…
“Well, here it is.” Fluttershy said. John looked up, taking in the humble building. He was surprised how these ponies would be capable of building anything so close to human architecture, although it had a more “naturalistic” touch to it. The roof was made out of thatch and green leaves, while the khaki walls were built with a European style, bars of wood dividing out sections of the walls.
It reminded him of pictures of houses from William Shakespeare’s day, back when Déja taught his history class. Memories of the obstacle course and his two friends, Kelly and Sam, bounded unbidden into focus. He shook his head quickly, hoping that the ponies would miss him doing so.
“We were going to watch the annual meteor shower, but then you fell straight into the Everfree forest over there.” Fluttershy explained, nodding towards a small blanket set up on a small hill. Several plates of food were already set out, along with a bowl of punch and two picnic baskets.
A noise from the house drew their attention towards the door. It swung open, and a miniature purple creature trundled out to the front porch. “Hey, Twilight! Where were you guys?! I was worried…” It trailed off when it set its eyes on John. “W-who’s that?” It asked hesitantly, hiding partially behind the door.
The purple unicorn stepped forward. “It’s okay, Spike! This thing is friendly.” She cooed.
The creature, aptly named Spike, shook its head curtly, hugging the door as if it was some sort of lifeline. “B-but… it looks kind of… dangerous.” It managed to mumble.
The unicorn rolled her eyes. “If Fluttershy can talk to it without running away, you can do it too!” She said irately.
Spike raised his brow. “What?! Fluttershy talked to him? That’s… breaking the laws of physics.” He said doubtfully.
Fluttershy frowned. “But I did talk to him! He just… didn’t talk back.” She mumbled.
The orange pony with the Stetson hat chuckled. “He’d make Big Macintosh look like quite the yapper!” She exclaimed.
The purple unicorn suddenly became worried. “Wait, where is he, anyways? I thought you said he was bringing the ‘Mountain High Apple Pie’?” She asked.
The Stetson pony opened her mouth to answer. John wasn’t able to hear it over the commotion of a red-and-yellow freight train slamming into his side.