6w, 5dThe Good HiE List
Aboard the New Dawn
Captain Morgan couldn't repress a smile as he walked down the corridor towards the Medical Centre, the old man snapped off quick salutes to crew members as he passed them, stepping smartly to let a group of white-uniformed medical staff run past in the same direction, followed by a small crowd of red security.
A shadow fell across Morgan and a deep and familiar voice rumbled "Heading to watch Little Dove at work?" CSO Henry caught up with a few long strides and walked level with the Captain, smiling without exposing his wolf-teeth.
Captain Morgan carefully suppressed a shiver at the sight of the heavily augmented marine, instead smiling back and nodding "I wouldn't miss it, I take it that CMO McConnell was excited to have this chance?"
Barry laughed, long fangs glinting in the light "It was like Year's end festival come early. Dove was giddy enough when the footage came in of the quadrupeds, what with them being extra-dimensional aliens, her smile near enough took off the top of her head when she found out she'd be able to study one up close."
As the grey of the corridor faded into the white tiling of the Medical centre, the Captain raised an eyebrow at his giant companion "I would have thought that the CMO would at least hesitate to perform a vivisection, especially on a restrained and unwilling prisoner. I actually came here with the intention of convincing her, she has always has such a moral outlook."
The CSO looked slightly troubled by that "Well.."
Barry was cut off before he could find an answer, by a soft tone from the air-lock of quarantine theatre one "Ordinarily sir, I wouldn't" The captain and CSO both looked towards the voice, where the CMO leaned against the frame of the open airlock hatch, dressed in a tight-fitting surgeon's coat and rubber apron, with silver stained medical gloves on her fingers, mirrored goggles on her eyes and -perhaps the strangest thing the Captain had seen her with- a lollipop stick jutting from her lips. she took a breath before continuing "and the day you force me to perform something so morally reprehensible, is the day I lose all respect for you as a captain."
Captain Morgan turned around fully now "but this time was different because...?" He left the question hang in the air, the old man's eyes glanced over the lollipop stick, a spark of confusion in his eyes, but he didn't bring it up.
Susan sounded a little sheepish "Well, it's because it's not human..." The CSO narrowed his eyes, a curl of anger flaring in his eyes, the CMO spotted the look and quickly continued, her hands waving with a placative motion "Not like that BD!" I don't mean 'not human' in the same way that gene-augmented or natural mutants aren't human, or surgical implants can render your shape non-human" the CSO snorted, but the anger left slowly and his face resumed its neutrality "I mean Completely non-human, at first I was about to refuse to perform the op, I just couldn't put her under the knife"
There was a glance of surprise between Morgan and Henry, before Susan continued " I was just about to call the intercom and apologise, when the gene-tester got back with the results, they were a bit strange..."
Morgan waited a minute after the CMO trailed off, after she just stood there trying to avoid his eye, the CSO barked with a sudden flare of temper "Out with it Dove! I don't think I'll find anything strange at this point"
Susan jumped a little and stammered bit as she continued "Well, the gene-tests came pack negative for human, or even primate DNA, whatever this is, it's never been close to human. Strange enough on its own the tests did find one genetic match though Sir, it came back with an 83% positive match for equine DNA."
The Captain nodded in understanding with eyes wide in shock, but Henry growled "Spare the science terms Dove. Speak plain standard please"
Susan nodded, mute for a moment before moving on "Equines are Horses, Our super-powerful psychic prisoner is a horse, a walking talking,ornament wearing and 100% sentient. Horse." She sighed "I performed the op after that, after I ran her through the MRI, just because I was so curious; the chance to study the result of a completely divergent evolutionary path, an intelligent species that is almost entirely removed from humanity.” the CMO gushed, an excited giggle exiting her lips.
Remembering herself, Susan slowed her breathing and calmed herself before continuing “She turned out to be a normal horse in most respects, ovaries and mammary glands in all the usual places, full digestive system and all the basics, they're vegetarian by the way sir, I found plant matter in the stomach and along her tract. The strange things that stood out though sir, apart from the horn and the wings, are very strange."
She held up a hand, turning the gloved digits left and right "Her blood is silver, with only tiny flecks of red, it was luminescent in the dark, like fluorescent fluid under black-light. Then I cut down to the bone, and I couldn't believe it Sir" Susan lowered her hands "I think I know why she's so powerful. Her bones weren't just made of bone. You know the crystalline structures, from those medical journals? This thing's bones are nearly 60% crystal, her muscles are laced with strands of it, that horn on her head, it's closer to 90% crystal, with structures woven right through the skull and all around the brain."
She let that sink in, after a moment of silent contemplation, the captain ventured "So that.. 'horse' is a giant psychic battery...?"
Susan nodded "And capacitor Sir. I don't quite know she couldn't stop ten Marines from capturing her. with the sheer amount of potential psychic energy all that crystal could generate and store she should have been able to crush a hundred times that number. It may be something to do with those engraved iron bands that were wrapped around her horn, I think those were locking away her powers, along with the restraints on her wings"
The captain nodded "So this is definitely the one that attacked us? She's dangerous?"
The CMO nodded vigorously "Absolutely, same energy signature. If she exerted what I calculate to be her true strength, even with our shield in place, she'd probably be able to crush this entire ship like a tin can. Her regenerative capacity is absolutely insane to boot, I had to dose her with tranquilizer three times just to keep her unconscious, and I nearly wore out 5 scalpels keeping her open"
The CSO and Captain glanced at each other, then Morgan spoke "I think we'll have to revise the precautions for her cell in that case. we'll have to have scramblers in place constantly"
CSO Henry nodded " Psych-out grenades ready to go off just in case"
They looked about to get into a more serious discussion, when Susan blurted "NO!"
Under their curious stares the CMO wilted, but rallied quickly and explained "No Sir. She may not be human, but you can't. The scramblers and the grenades get more painful and damaging the more powerful the psychic. The prisoner already had hairline fractures on quite a few bones and a compound inside the horn, just from the grenades and scrambler exposure on the ground. I turned off the scrambler in the operation theatre just to stop it getting worse, in small doses her regeneration took care of the damage, but after a minute or so even that couldn't keep up. On something this powerful the sonic devices aren't suppressants, they're torture devices " she swirled the lollipop from one side to the other, her eyes sad "I couldn't live with putting her through that 24/7”
Barry and Morgan considered this carefully considered this, then the Captain spoke slowly "In that case, I guess we can't do that. I guess we'll have to jury-rig up some modified shield emitters, the energy field would stop the prisoner generating any energy. I'll have to talk to Li" The two men began walking back down the corridor, with Susan coming alongside after a moment
Barry nodded "Right." he tried a smile "what flavour?"
Susan looked confused for a moment, but then let the tension dispel with her own smile, she popped the lollipop out of her mouth and held it up "strawberry" she let him see the glistening red orb for a moment before putting it back in. The big CSO nodded, his smile returning.
The captain watched the exchange, puzzlement written all over his wrinkles. At the officer's befuddlement, both chiefs chuckled, and CSO Henry explained "Old tradition Dove keeps. A lollipop for every op"
CMO McConnell nodded "My teacher in med-school taught me the rhyme, usually I give one to the patient too. Since she isn't awake yet, I had mine first."
Captain Morgan pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed before asking "I'm almost afraid to ask, but is the flavour important?"
Henry caught the question "Yeah, it's a red one if the operation's going well, blue if she's unsure, Yellow if it's going badly"
Susan commented "Because I hate Lemons" she patted Barry on the back before peeling away, heading back towards the theatre with a tiny spring in her step.
Celestia sat in one of her private dining room, gently sipping on a steaming cup of tea. The calm look on her face betrayed nothing but serenity, her horn moving the china teapot smoothly over to refill her cup. One ear perked up and pointed towards the doorway behind her as the loud click and clop of armoured horseshoes hammered down the corridor, The snow white alicorn turned her head gently, only glancing at the door before turning back to the aromatic brew.
Taking a sip, she set the cup down and began counting under her breath “5. 4. 3. 2. 1”
A second passed after one, and the door was thrown open with a blast of magic to reveal a fuming Shining Armour in full uniform sans helmet, a short-sword sheathed at his side and horn aglow. He stamped his way inside with his hooves clacking like gunshots on the stone floor, the Unicorn barely remembered to salute before speaking “Princess! We've been looking everywhere for you.” His nostrils flared in annoyance.
Celestia let a moment pass before her reply came, head turning to look at the storm-cloud expression on her guard's face “Good evening Captain Armour, five minutes enquiry to any of my maids would have directed you here” she spoke calmly, her benevolent expression never changing “If there is anything I can help you with, please don't hesitate to ask”
Shining Armour's glower never wavered, stepping round to the other side of the table he demanded “One thing. Why?” the question was sharpened by apparent frustration.
The alicorn raised an eyebrow, taking a sip of her tea before setting the cup down with a clink she answered “Because.” her tone of amusement did nothing to appease the furious unicorn facing Celestia, so she continued “Perhaps it would be best if you were just a bit more specific dear. There are many 'Why' questions.”
Shining Armour growled out “Why did you let them take Luna? Why didn't you let me do my job?”
Celestia sighed a little, her smile slipping for a moment before reasserting itself “Such simple questions, but such complex answers” she sipped her tea once more, leaving a little less than half the cup remaining “Perhaps it would be best to wait for the mo-”
She was interrupted as the heavily built guard reared up to slam his hooves into the table, cracking the wood around him and bouncing the teacup off onto the floor where it smashed into a thousand tinkling shards “No!” he barked, temper flaring “Enough stalling. The entire palace guard was humiliated tonight, the whole of Canterlot saw us fail. I need to know why.”
Celestia sat silent for a moment, her smile had faded into a neutral line with corners tilted ever so slightly towards irritation. Her horn flared into life, the scattered shards of teacup and saucer glowing with golden light as she floated them up, a twitch of the horn reforming the cup and setting it down in-front of the goddess.
Shining Armour snorted with impatience while the princess carefully refilled her cup, stirring it with a silver spoon and tipping a tiny amount of cream and honey into the amber liquid.
Apparently satisied with the mixture, Celestia tapped her teaspoon on the edge of the cup and finally looked back up to the Unicorn with her eyes once again radiating benevolence and serenity.
“As you wish Captain” her voice neither wavered nor shifted even the tiniest fraction of an octave from its usual kind tone “Do sit” the request was punctuated by a flick of her horn.
The Guard took his fore-hooves off the woodwork slowly, his face still stormy. “I'd prefer to stand.”
Celestia's tone gained a backing of steel “Yet I insist that you sit” her horn flared with the punctuating flick, the unicorn let out a grunt of surprise when his rump was gripped in a magical aura and firmly pushed to meet the ground, he shifted uncomfortably but found himself unable to stand.
Shining Armour glowered, his mouth open to protest, but was cut short and made silent when yet another aura gripped his muzzle, sealing the lips together and holding the head so that it faced Celestia.
The Diarch stood slowly, her horn glowing slightly as the guard finally gave up struggling “Captain, I would appreciate it if you would listen carefully. The hour grows late and I wish to sleep before the dawn.” the flare around the alicorn's horn increased ever so slightly and the table infront of her was suddenly gone, a flash of light and puff of smoke in its place.
Celestia took a step forward, her eyes watching her captive audience appraisingly, her face a mask “First, a question. What do you see me as?” she opened her wings and walked slowly towards the Unicorn.
“A god?” her voice dripped with power for a second, the benevolence in her eyes was replaced for the merest moment with the fury of the sun and her white wings briefly flamed with ethereal light.
“A ruler?” Her eyes went cold and hard, but now she stood imperiously over the -now nervous- Shining armour, the great expanse of her flared wings casting the smaller pony into shadow.
“a friend?” The wings dropped down and the hard eyes softened and warmed, tickling brushing across the white fur of Shining's Face as Celestia began a slow circle around him, her magic keeping the stallion's face pointed forwards.
“Something... more?” the whispered words were spoken softly, slowly, seductively as warm breath played over a twitching ear. Silken lips sank down to plant a gentle kiss just to the side of the electric blue mane, lingering for but a second before the alicorn stood back up to her full height and walked slowly out into the centre of the room, wings half-flared and an unreadable expression in her eyes.
Turning around as she reached them middle of the space Celestia looked back to her thoroughly confused captain “Regardless of what you think of me my little pony, One fact remains. I am Immortal” Shining Armour's eyes flicked to the side when a drawer slid out of a cabinet, his pupils shrank slightly as a long, thin and definitely sharp knife floated from the confines of the drawer. The blade hissed through the air towards the white Diarch, swerving away at the last second before falling into an slow orbit.
Celestia watched her captive's eyes closely while her voice rose again, it's tone reset to the calm default “Whatever occurs my dear Shining Armour. I will live on.”
The knife sped up in it's orbit, coming closer and closer to the alicorn's snowy fur with every second “wounds will fade, pain will pass, indignity can be forgotten and transgressions forgiven. I will live on.”
There was a silver collar around her neck, the blade skimming by just millimetres above the skin “My sister is the same, my equal and counterpart. Whatever tortures she suffers, whatever these creatures do to her. We will live on.”
The restrained Unicorn could only let out a gurgled cry of shock as the knife left it's orbit, shooting out with a stream of silver light and looping back around. This time it did not swerve nor falter as it aimed for the heart, the long blade plunging deep into Celestia's chest. Golden blood flowed in a long, thin rivulet from the wound and the alicorn twitched in pain, her teeth gritting against it. After a few long moments Celestia's breathing grew regular once again, her eyes taking back their calm “Pain is always fresh, but old as I am, it always fades.
The knife made a wet, slick sound when it was drawn out, a fresh stream of golden blood following the blade. Celestia ignored the bleeding to speak “You wished to protect me, did you not?” her hold on the stallion's muzzle released just enough to allow him to nod, tears in the corners of his eyes “You think it wrong to see me in pain?” another nod “But what would you give to spare me pain or injury?” The knife floated across the room, hovering just above Shining armour's skin, the tip aimed for a gap in the metal plates.
The alicorn was not smiling as she let the blade dig ever so slightly into the Captain's skin “Would you give your blood?” A nod, the blade shifted to dig at a muscle.
“Your strength?” Hesitation was there but a nod came regardless, the knife drifted up, to hover over the heart.
“Your Life?” A long pause, a nod.
Celestia's eyes saddened, a tear rolled off her cheek and the knife clattered to the floor. “That is why. My captain, that is why I let them take my sister.” Her horn stopped flaring.
Shining armour found himself free once again, his own horn flared to pick up the fallen weapon, his eyes lost in bewilderment and anguish when they met the sight of his princess's golden blood crusted on the blade. “I... I don't understand.” he breathed, watching the Diarch of the Sun turn away from him, wings raised to block her face from view.
There was a shake to the Immortal Sun's voice “Answer me this, Captain. What worth is a god's pain, when compared to that of a mortal?”
The unicorn took a faltering step towards Celestia, his voice pausing only a moment before coming clear and confident “Incalculable, mortal pain is worth little, when put against a god's”
Celestia turned then, her eyes older than history, filled with sadness. She looked on the verge of weeping “Oh my little pony, you are wrong” she put a gentle hoof on his armoured shoulder “So very, very wrong.” Shining Armour was taken aback, but was allowed no room to object before the alicorn spoke again “Tell me who the guards guard my captain” she queried, her voice softening and eyes drying.
The unicorn saw the trap, but plunged on ahead “The princesses?”
Celestia shook her head and sighed “We need no protectors.”
So he tried again “Canterlot?”
The sun god shook her head “closer Captain, but no”
Shining Armour gulped down his irritation at the vagueness of the hint, answering after a minute of thought “...Ponies?”
Celestia's returning smile was a ray of sun peeking over the horizon “Yes dear Shining. I task my guards not with protecting a god, or a city, but with guarding pony-kind itself. I ask you to keep the people safe, to shield them from harm and pain when I cannot.”
The guard ventured shakily “but what of your own pain princess?”
The white alicorn shook her head with an old smile “My pain is worthless Captain. Worthless.” her hoof cut short the unicorn's incensed outcry “I would spill an ocean of my own blood my pony, to spare my subjects but an hour of pain. I would bear any indignity or burden, no matter how vile, to keep a single pony alive.” She hooked her hoof under his chin to bring him a bit closer and nuzzle his suddenly reddened cheek “I would do so with a smile on my lips, so long as my people are safe”
She leaned back but kept her hoof in place while her horn charged a spell “My sister brought her fate upon herself Shining Armour. I will not allow her hubris, her damnable pride or her foolish actions to bring harm to my ponies while I can prevent it. If these creatures must exact justice upon Luna for her crimes against them, let them. We will live on.”
Seeing the coming teleport spell, Shining pushed away and asked “B-but what if they are so advanced, that they find a way to hurt Luna permanently?”
Celestia's smile never faltered, but her wings flapped out to cast them both into shadow, all the better to see the glow in her eyes “Do not think me so heartless Captain” her voice held echoes of might, her eyes aglow with the light of a nuclear inferno “If my sister were truly in danger, I would tear apart the sun itself to save her” there was nothing but fire and steel to that voice, sending a shiver down the unicorn's spine.
The god's voice faded to a friend's tone, the fire faded away “Give Cadence my love dear” she leaned in to give the burning cheek another nuzzle.
Shining armour was left alone then, in a flash of golden light Celestia disappeared, leaving behind nothing but a golden puddle and the bloody knife.
“Well I think that went well.” Kirk commented, sitting relaxed upon a fallen log. A bare hand stroking gently through the fur of a snoozing Scootaloo, occasionally stopping to toy with the tiny wings that stuck out from her spine.
“How exactly did you come to that conclusion?” Hansen growled from his seat on the forest floor, his own hand holding a pad of gauze to his bloody nose while the other rested on the slumbering beast behind him for support. The black-white barrel of the larger quadruped rose and fell gently, a single dart stuck into the flank.
Kirk tilted her little captives head to the side, watching the mouth fall open to show those blunt teeth, a tiny strand of green plant was stuck in a gap between the white pillars “We met some new friends, found out a little bit about the locals.” behind the mask her smile turned to a grin “I got to watch you get your face bashed in by some stripy thing with a stick”
The Corporal glanced over to the private and took the gauze from his scabbed up nose, letting a tiny trickle of blood work its way out of the wound, “I've been meaning to ask you about that Private Kirk. Why didn't you intervene sooner? As I recall, you are supposed to deal with threats before they become a danger like that.”
Kirk shrugged, kicking at a clump of dirt by her foot “I don't really think that classes as a 'threat' Corp. It's an angry local with a stick, you're wearing full armour and packing heat.” You could hear the smirk “Not my fault you took off your mouthpiece.” Hansen was silent for a while, Kirk could find little to say, beyond “These things are even cuter when they're asleep. When do you reckon they'll wake up?”
Hansen leaned back on the larger creature's rhythmically moving chest, resting his head on the warm fur to think for a while before responding “Well you only gave them half a dose each. Shouldn't be more than a few hours."
Kirk wilted, her hand pulling away and pushing the filly off her lap and onto the log, where she joined her sleeping friends in a fuzzy pile "I was hoping to talk to them a little. The next lander of marines is due any minute now, I don't think I'll have time after that.
As if on cue, the rumble of jet engines began to grow in the dark distance, both marines turned their heads to look.
The corporal went to push himself up "Come on, lets get them out of the LZ." he grumbled with a sigh, apparently.
reluctant to leave the warm 'pillow' the quadruped provided.
Standing, stretching and ever so slightly sulking, the two sentinels put back on their gear, the Corporal hissing in pain as the vacuum seals inside the breather mask clamped down on the newly scabbed cut on his nose. The floppy bodies of the sleeping quadrupeds were picked up and deposited in a neat pile just outside the clearing, hidden by the shrubbery.
The roar of the lander's jets rumbled louder and louder until the craft itself swung into view, the four engines swiveled down into VTOL position for the final approach.
As the large scout craft sunk towards the ground, Kirk and Hansen picked up their rifles and set off at a jog to meet it.
Both showed nothing of their shock however when the bay door swung open, to reveal not the black gleam of scout marines, but the yellow and orange suits of engineers, before the two marines could utter protest however, a red-pipped engineer stepped forward and opened his comm
"Change of plan Marines. We've found the perfect site, a mountain-side twenty clicks south-by-south-west . Captain ordered the engineering team down early, he wants a landing strip mapped out by dawn, ready by midday. All scout teams are being recalled to help secure the area. That includes you two, hop in" he sounded slightly impatient, this was clearly little more than an annoying diversion.
Hansen made to enter, but Kirk held the Corporal's arm "No, wait. if we're leaving, we have something to take with us" she motioned with her head back towards the edge of the LZ.
Corporal Hansen followed her nod, he quickly opened a private cahnnel and barked "Are you insane! Touching them without your armour on is a serious breach of regulations, why do you want to break any more by bringing them onto the lander!?"
The pipped engineer watched with both curiosity and annoyance, trying to hear the muted exchange through the baffling on the stealth armour. Kirk ignored the engineer and growled back "They're a pile of drugged herbivores, in the middle of a forest at night. We can't just leave them to get eaten by whatever predators are hanging about."
Hansen was silent, thinking carefully before answering curtly "Fine. But If I get demoted, this is your fault."
Kirk didn't say anything, instead jogging off towards the hiding place, motioning for the Corporal to follow her.
Kirk took the juveniles under her arms, juggling them around to keep the sniper rifle from bumping into them. Hansen simply slung the striped adult over his shoulders, walking back towards the craft and trying to hide a happy spring in his step, something that Kirk didn't bother to do, bouncing along like a child on winter festival day.
As they approached the ship however, the pipped engineer stepped down the ramp and intercepted them "Stop right there. What are those?"
Hansen answered first, hefting the limp quadruped higher on his shoulder "Some locals we had to tranquilize. We can't leave them out in the forest at night, they'll die"
The engineer shook his head "Tough. They can't come inside the lander, it'd break quarantine procedures."
Kirk felt compelled to speak up, moving a step forward "But they're sentient, it'd be murder"
The engineer moved to block her access, his voice cold "Like I said. Tough luck. I don't care if they're genii with degrees in advanced quantum field theory, they aren't coming aboard."
Hansen sighed and turned away "Fine, we'll go dump them-"
There came an interrupting voice and booming footsteps as the pilot came through the hatch door into the lander's compartment "What the flying f**kery is the hold up! We were supposed to be on route 5 minutes ago!" the red-suited marine woman snapped, her half-tone face tight with irritation.
The engineer snapped off a nervous salute "Lieutenant Madox... The marines here were trying to bring contraband cargo aboard.
The marines in question nearly dropped their sleeping cargo right there as they pulled off their own salutes. Kirk stammered an explanation as the lieutenant's burning eyes bore twin holes in her skull "S-s-sorry Ma'am, but I can't leave them behind to die in the forest. They're sentient."
The diamond-hard glare turned to the Corporal "They're sentient? Are they going to die?"
Hansen held up well under the glare, but still had a tremble to his voice "Yes Ma'am. Walking, talking, the whole nine yards. If we leave them in the middle of the forest while they're drugged like this, they will die"
If Madox was angry then, she was an incandescent font of rage now as she turned on the engineer "If they can walk and talk, what in Titan's name is the problem here. Get them aboard and get ready to go!"
The pipped engineer spoke quickly "But Lieutenant. Regulations state that-"
The Engineer suddenly found himself unable to speak, caught under the fiery stare of the senior officer, the livid Lieutenant leaning in close and growling " oh don't you dare start quoting regulations at me you weaselly pile of crap. I will deal with the bureaucratic bull once we are back on schedule. We are already late enough, if you don't like the way I;m speeding the situation along, you can have fun hiking twenty miles"
The engineer sputtered idignantly, but was promptly ignored by Madox, who moved quickly to near enough drag Hansesn and Kirk inside, barking orders "Private Kirk, sit there. Corporal Hansen, there" While the marines hurried to their seats, their living cargo dropped softly into the cargo netting and quickly buckled in, Madox headed towards the pilot's pit and the Lander began to rise off the ground, engines beginning their warming rumble.
The engineer sat down, grumbling angrily to himself as his protests were trampled over.
With a hiss of pistons, the door of the lander sld closed, the aircraft beginning its journey south