Heather opened her eyes slowly, a drop of water falling on her cheek. Heather flinched slightly as the drop of water fell on her, the soldier squinting a little as she lifted her head to look at her surroundings. She was in some type of forest, the thick canopy above her blocking out any sunlight that radiated from the sky above. Heather shook her head slightly and she started to get up, but something didn’t feel right, as if something was missing. Heather stood up on all fours, that seeming to be the most comfortable way to stand as she tried to navigate her way through the darkness.
She could see something sitting in the distance, a small glow around what looked to be a horse’s leg, the metal glowing with a red aura. The body that was attached to the leg turned towards Heather, and she realized who it was.
The deformed eyes and the mechanical leg was enough to convince Heather that it was Maverick, but... he was a pony. Heather stood in shock, staring at the life form standing on the other side of the fallen tree between them, the glow coming from Maverick’s mechanical leg and his eyes enough to illuminate the area around him. Drops of water continued to fall from the canopy above them, the rainfall becoming heavier with each passing second.
“I’m not going back with you, no matter the circumstances. This is my home, there is nothing for me back on Umbra, rather... out of Equestria.” Maverick said quietly as he turned away from the pony standing on the other side of the fallen tree.
“Maverick, wait! Where are we? What is this place? And... why are you a... pony?” Heather asked, climbing over the tree and walking into the glow coming from Maverick. Heather stopped as she felt a twig snap under her leg, but something felt different, and she looked down, her eyes growing wide.
Her hands had been changed into hooves, Heather further examining her body to find she had been transformed into a pony as well, the soldier beginning to hyperventilate a little.
“Calm down, you’ll get used to it eventually. Now, please, just leave me to myself, there is nothing else I can do for you.” Maverick said, and he started walking away from Heather as she settled down.
“But, Maverick, I don’t know what is happening! Wait for me, let me come with you!” Heather yelled, a sense of pleading in her voice. She knew she was not on Umbra anymore, the plant life around her and the fact that she was a pony along with the events of earlier convincing her that she was in another world of some sort. Maverick started running and Heather chased after him, desperate to have someone by her side as she ran through the forest after the Alpha unit.
Maverick started to run out of sight, the glow around his mechanical arm and eyes fading as he slowly disappeared into the darkness of the forest. Heather came to a stop and stared in the direction Maverick ran off in, the Alpha unit no where to be seen. Heather looked around herself, the area she was in now completely foreign to her.
“Ramirez, Blake, Kessler! Are you there!?” Heather yelled, a feeling of isolation starting to settle its way into her. No answer. Heather started to look around the forest nervously, beginning to worry what had become of the other three soldiers she was with. The forest was quiet aside of Heather’s breathing and the rainfall on the leaves above, drops of water making small puddles on the forest ground. Though it was daylight, the thick canopy let almost no light through at all, the little amount of light that got through only providing enough for Heather to see the outlines of the trees and other plant life around her.
Heather looked back down at the ground in front of her, lifting on of her hooves up and examining it.
“How did this happen...? Where am I? Where are the other three?”
Questions raced through Heather’s head, but finding no answers as she examined the pony body that had replaced her human one. She looked up at the forest set out in front of her, seeming to go on as far as she could see in each direction.
“There has to be somewhere I can go. I better start searching...”
Heather started off further into the forest, the thought of her fellow soldiers slipping her mind as she wandered aimlessly into the darkness beyond.
Heather came to a stop behind a tree, standing on her back hooves and leaning against the tree next to her. She tilted her head around the tree, inspecting the structure beyond the dense forest she was in.
It appeared to be some sort of a hut carved into a tree, strange decorations strewn about in the front yard that seemed to resemble a few decorations that Heather had seen in a few books of earlier history, Heather only twenty at the time. Cautiously, the soldier walked out from behind the tree and started to walk slowly to the hut, the sound of strange incantations and bottles clinking against each other coming into earshot as she got closer. Heather snuck her way up to the hut and slowly peered inside, moving her long wet mane out of the way of her eyes.
Inside of the tree stood a zebra, her eyes closed as she spoke in her native language over a boiling cauldron in the middle of the room. Heather ducked down a little as the zebra walked over to a shelf by the window Heather was looking in, the zebra grabbing a small bottle and walking back over to the cauldron. Heather lifted her head up again, the zebra pouring the purple liquid substance into the cauldron along with some sort of plant afterwards.
“An herbalist? Does she live here by herself?” Heather thought to herself, shifting her eyes around the rest of the house carved into the tree. Heather stumbled forward a little, stepping on a stick laying on the ground and a small but audible crack coming from the stick as it broke in half. The zebra in the hut turned her head to the window and Heather ducked down as quickly as she could. Heather started to back away from the hut slowly, trying to stay out of the portion of the yard that was visible from inside.
“What is this I see? A new visitor, possibly?” A voice said behind Heather. Startled, the soldier darted forward and fell on her face as she tripped over a mask resting against the hut, Heather letting out a small grunt as she slid to a stop. She looked back at where she was standing, Zecora looking at Heather as if she were crazy.
“It can... talk?” Heather thought to herself as she got up to face Zecora, brushing her uniform off.
“I... uh... I’m sorry if I am intruding. I’m not sure where I am right now.” Heather said, starting to wonder if this was real.
“It is not a problem, my dear. But I have to ask, what are you doing out here?” Zecora asked, tilting her said to the side a little and squinting slightly.
“I’m... not exactly sure. I was hoping you could tell me where this place is.”
“This, my little pony, is the forest of Everfree”
Zecora extended her hoof out to the trees that surrounded her home, Heather giving the darkness a blank stare as the two mares stood and listened to the rainfall on the canopy.
“Uh... okay, um, are you the only one out here? Are there other... life forms such as you?” Heather asked, turning her head back to Zecora.
“Yes, there are ponies that lie in the town whose path with Everfree is criss-crossed. What is the matter, are you lost?”
“Yes. Would you mind leading me there? I’m afraid I’m not from around here.”
“That I can do, for there are a few ingredients in the town that I need for a brew. We will go to Ponyville, but be cautious, for the path through Everfree can be dangerous.”
Heather waited patiently as Zecora walked into the hut, coming out a second later with a strap wrapped around her body, a basket hanging by her side. Zecora motioned her head towards a path leading away from her home and Heather followed her, their hooves splashing in the puddles along the way to Ponyville.
The soldier glanced back at the hut that rested in the forest, the glow of the lights inside slowly disappearing from sight as Zecora and Heather walked further away.
“I hope the others can find their way to... Ponyville.” Heather thought to herself as she turned her head back to the path set in front of her, the sound of rain and thunder continuing to fill the two mare’s ears.
The canopy started to deteriorate as Heather and Zecora walked through the forest, the drops of rain landing directly on them instead of falling from the leaves above. The darkness of the Everfree forest subsided as the two mares came to the exit of Everfree that led to Ponyville, the lost soldier overjoyed to see the light of day after being in the forest for so long. Heather looked up towards the sky as they neared the exit of Everfree, the clouds that released the rainfall and lightning coming into view through the thick branches and leaves.
“Here it is, my pony friend. Our journey would appear to be at an end.” Zecora said, extending her hoof out in front of her as she pointed in the distance. Heather looked back down to the ground and stared where Zecora was pointing, her eyes growing wide at the sight. Ponyville was resting at the end of the path, a few pegasi in the clouds above the town starting to clear the sky. of the storm clouds. Heather was speechless, not only at the sight of the pegasi, but that mere ponies were able to construct such a community.
“...Ponies built this?” Heather muttered under her breath, letting out a weak laugh as her mouth curved into a smirk of disbelief. Growing up on earth, Heather had never seen such a remarkable sight until she was transferred to Umbra to become a soldier, and even then things were just as industrial in the areas that the military had taken over. The abilities of the ponies befuddled Heather, the soldier unable to grasp that the creatures that were used for transportation back on earth were able to perform such tasks of building an entire town. Heather followed as Zecora started walking towards Ponyville, the expression on the soldier’s face still as surprised as before.
The sound of rainfall slowly faded as Heather and Zecora made their way across the field between Everfree and Ponyville, the storm clouds that had been above the town almost completely cleared by the pegasi above. The smell of freshly baked goods coursed through the air as Zecora and Heather made their way through the town, Sugar Cube Corner radiating with the smell of pastries.
“Zecora!” A voice called in the distance and Heather and Zecora turned around to find a purple unicorn running towards them, the unicorn accompanied by Princess Celestia and Luna.
“There are unicorns and alicorns too? What kind of place is this?” Heather thought to herself as she watched the two princesses catch up to Twilight.
“Twilight Sparkle, it is nice to see you again. I should come to Ponyville more often, every now and then.” Zecora said, keeping her eyes on the purple unicorn as Celestia and Luna walked up behind Twilight.
“It’s nice to see you as well, Zecora. Who is this?” Twilight asked, shifting her eyes to Heather, who backed away slightly.
“She was lost in the forest of Everfree. She asked if she could come to Ponyville with me.”
“Well, it’s always nice to see a fresh face in Ponyville. My name is Twilight Sparkle, what’s yours?” Twilight asked, reaching her hoof out for Heather to shake it.
“My name is... Heather Culpepper.” The soldier said meekly, lightly shaking the purple unicorn’s hoof.
“Heather Culpepper? That’s kind of an odd name for a pony. Where are you from? Trottingham? Manehattan?” Twilight asked as she let go of Heather’s hoof.
“I... uh... I’m not really, I mean-” Heather stuttered as she tried to find what to say to the unicorn standing in front of her, the two alicorns behind her not helping much. Twilight started to get a suspicious look on her face, staring at Heather as if something was wrong.
“Anyways, Zecora, Princess Celestia sensed something coming through the dimension thing that Maverick had, did you happen to see him in the forest anywhere? Was he safe? Did he bring back Hunter?” Twilight asked, her eyes glowing as her hope built up inside of her. Heather looked at Twilight surprisingly.
“They know Maverick and Hunter? How?” Heather thought to herself.
“Unfortunately, I need not see your friend Maverick. Is something wrong? Is he sick?” Zecora asked. Twilight tilted her head downwards and let out a sigh along with Celestia and Luna.
“No, nothing’s wrong. Sorry for wasting your time, Zecora.” Twilight said in a sad tone, lifting her head back up to look at the zebra. Zecora nodded and started off further into Ponyville towards the shopping area, Twilight and the princesses walking in the other direction.
“Twilight Sparkle, wait!” Heather said, running to catch up with the unicorn and the princesses. Twilight, Celestia, and Luna turned around to face Heather, the soldier sliding to a top in front of them.
“What is it, Heather?” Twilight asked.
“You... you said something about Maverick and Hunter. How do you know them?” Heather asked.
“They came to Equestria about a year ago, both of them weary and unsure where they were. Maverick was injured so we took him to the hospital in Ponyville. Everything was fine until someone from their world came and found out about us, so they went back to their home planet, Umbra, and Equestria broke out into war with them. I know this may seem a little confusing, the news of the events hasn’t really spread to far outside of Canterlot.”
“It’s not confusing aside from the... Equestrian part. You see, I’m one of Maverick’s kind. A human.”
The three mares in front of Heather gave each other a surprised look.
“You mean... you are the one that came through the dimension transport?” Twilight asked, turning her head back to face Heather.
“Yes, but I wasn’t the only one. Maverick along with three other soldiers were... transported here when Maverick activated something back on Umbra. I’ve lost contact with Maverick and the other three soldiers back in the large forest that Zecora lives in.” Heather explained.
“Are you sure that Maverick is here? What about Hunter, did you see or hear anything from Maverick about him?” Celesta asked.
“Maverick is in this world, but the one he called Hunter... he wasn’t able to make it. When I found Maverick, there was an underdeveloped Beta unit in his lap. I’m not sure what he was planning to do with it... but he seemed to care for it as if it were his own brother. He... shot it out of sympathy, I’m guessing.”
Twilight closed her eyes and let out a sigh along with the two princesses.
“When I arrived here with Maverick and my squad members, he said something about this being his home. What did he mean by that?” Heather asked. Twilight looked back at Celestia and Luna, who gave the purple unicorn a slight nod. Twilight turned her head back to Heather, the soldier waiting for an answer.
“Given the circumstances, I think it’s safe to tell you what had happened.” Twilight Sparkle said.
After the feud with the Umbra soldiers and our world, Hunter was killed by the Stealth unit that had been sent here about three days earlier. Loving Hunter like a brother, Maverick was deeply upset and almost took his own life after he had recovered in the hospital. A little under a month or so after he recovered, he went back to Umbra for a little bit, saying that he was going to make another Beta unit of himself, a ‘new Hunter’ as he interpreted it. He had also made a mechanical arm to replace the one that had been taken from him, combining it with the magic that rested in the horn he used to make it. Frankly, I doubted it when he told me, but seeing it for myself had me more than convinced. I taught him how to use the magic efficiently, and he eventually got it, catching on fairly quick. Six months went by and Maverick was coming from Umbra and going back periodically, making little check ups on the Beta unit he was making.
But, one day he didn’t come back. We sat here in Ponyville for five months, waiting for Maverick to walk across that field between Everfree and Ponyville, but every single day we were let down. Given that he was wanted dead by the military back on Umbra, he made his home here in Ponyville, but he just... stopped showing up after that day. No pony knew what was going on and no pony could find out since Maverick had the only dimension transport device.
“And that brings us here. We were hoping to be able to see both Maverick and Hunter again, even if it wasn’t the original Hunter. Are you... sure that Maverick killed the Beta unit?” Twilight asked, a sense of pleading in her voice.
“I’m sorry... but I saw him do it right in front of me. There was nothing I could do.” Heather said in a sad tone. The four mares sat in silence for a second, the sound of the ponies of Ponyville talking and laughing occupying the silence for a second.
“Heather, you said that you came here with Maverick and three other soldiers. Do you happen to know where Maverick and the three soldiers are?” Luna asked.
“Unfortunately, I lost contact with the three other soldiers when I went after Maverick. I haven’t seen them since... and I’m not sure if they’re even alive.”
Celestia turned her head to Twilight, the purple unicorn still looking down at the ground.
“Twilight Sparkle, there is something that I need you to do.” Celestia said and Twilight’s head popped up, turning to look at the alicorn next to her.
“You are to go into the Everfree forest and find Maverick and the three soldiers with Heather.”
Twilight’s eyes opened with surprise, this being the first thing that Celestia had asked her to do ever since she was told to write lessons about friendship to her.
“You want me to go into the Everfree forest and find them?” Twilight asked, a glow forming in her eyes as excitement grew within her.
“Yes. If you happen to find any of them, take them with you and bring them back to Ponyville safely. Something tells me that Maverick isn’t himself, so be careful if you find him, he does have the power of an alicorn within that arm of his.” Celestia said.
“You can count on me, princess!” Twilight said, excited that she would be helping the princesses out.
“And Heather. You are one of Maverick’s kind, a human, so you more than likely know his nature as a human the most. After being what he has been through, there has to be something pressing against him, he could be dangerous.” Celestia said, turning her glance towards the soldier in front of her. Heather gave a slight nod and raised her hoof to her forehead out of habit. Celestia giggled to herself a little and turned back to Twilight.
“I advise you get going first thing tomorrow when the weather in Everfree starts to clear up. Hopefully they wouldn’t have traveled too far.”
Remind me to never have Zecora talk in my stories again, I spent half of the time in those paragraphs thinking of something to make it rhyme.
Anyways, I would just like to address something.
I know that Ferote can't be the only one that has something to say about the story lately, so please, leave a comment, tell me what I need to improve on, anything to help me with my writing. Or at least help me keep confidence in my writing.
But, I'll just leave that up to you. -Burning
(Also, I didn't take the time to go back and proofread this chapter either, so sorry about any mistakes)