Heather opened her eyes slowly, the light coming through the hotel window making her squint as she awakened fully. She had stayed the night in the Ponyville hotel for the time being, Twilight heading back home and gathering some things for the search for Maverick and the other three soldiers Heather came to Equestria with. Heather sat up in her bed and stretched, rubbing her eyes as she got out of bed and walked over to the window.
It was another beautiful day in Ponyville, the skies clear of almost all of the clouds as the pegasi got rid of the remaining few that hung in the air above the town. The ponies of Ponyville were already outside, playing and talking with each other as the morning progressed onwards. A few puddles still remained in the streets from the rainfall yesterday, a few of the younger ponies stomping around in them and laughing as they playfully splashed each other. Heather let out a little laugh as she saw one of the fillies topple over in one of the puddles. Even though the thought of talking and having human like characteristic ponies still seemed a little strange, something inside of Heather began to feel like she was home again, away from all the violence and back on Earth. Even if it was polluted beyond belief, Earth was still home in Heather’s heart, and that would never change.
Heather turned away from the window and walked over to the nightstand beside the bed. Heather struggled a bit, but managed to put her Umbra military uniform back on. It was different from the uniforms that the base Maverick came from had, so the ponies didn’t seem to recognize her as someone coming from Umbra. Although it was fitted for humans, the uniform was strangely able to fit Heather with only a few things about it seeming to be uncomfortable, the end of the sleeves a little tight around her hooves. Heather grabbed the keys to the hotel room and walked out into the hallway, shutting the door behind her and locking it. It was still fairly early in the day, a few heavy and light snores coming from the hotel rooms as Heather walked past them and into the lobby. There was a pale red mare sitting behind the desk, watching as Heather walked up to the reception desk and set her keys on top of it.
“I hope you enjoyed your stay! Have a nice day!” The mare said cheerily as Heather walked out the door, Heather waving goodbye to the mare as she shut the door and walked away from the hotel. Heather looked around Ponyville, scanning the area for the library in which she was told to come to by Twilight Sparkle. She sighed and walked off further into Ponyville, searching for the library.
Heather wandered her way through the shopping areas of Ponyville, examining the various kiosks spread about through the town. The soldier got a few strange looks as she passed by some of the ponies sitting alongside the kiosks, mutters of her ‘sense of fashion’. Heather stopped and looked down at her hooves, inspecting the blue, white, and grey camouflage pattern of the Umbra military uniforms.
“Is it... is it really that bad? I actually kind of like these colors...” Heather said quietly to herself, shifting her eyes meekly from left to right.
“Oh miss... uh... you! With the... uniform on!” A voice called out from one of the kiosks. Heather looked up from her hooves toward the origin of the voice. An orange mare was waving at her happily, the brown hat on top of her yellow mane rocking back and forth as she moved. There was another pony beside her, wearing an apron with a small pocket in the front of the white cloth. Heather looked around for a second, scanning the area for any other ponies that had any type of uniform on. Seeing no other ponies with clothes on, which seemed a little weird to Heather, the soldier slowly walked over to the kiosk, hiding behind her long dark brown mane.
“Howdy! I never seen you ‘round Ponyville before. You, uh, you wouldn’t happen to be from... Umbra?” Applejack said unsurely, recognizing the pattern of Heather’s uniform.
Heather gave the orange pony a surprised look. “She knows about Umbra? Does she know about humans? Then again, Maverick was here before me. Maybe he got acquainted with the population here...” Heather thought to herself, examining the two ponies standing in front of her. Applejack and Applebloom sat quietly, patiently waiting for a response from Heather, but were only met with a blank stare.
“Uh... hello?” Applebloom said, stretching out her hoof and waving it in front of Heather’s face. The soldier’s eyes opened slightly wider, the sudden motion in front of her eyes breaking her train of thought.
“Oh! I’m sorry. I was just thinking...” Heather said, rubbing her left leg with her hoof.
“I can see that. About Umbra, you didn’ jus’ get that uniform from Rarity, did ya? She doesn’ typically do this sorta... color design and fashion style.” Applejack said, shyly pointing at Heather’s uniform.
“Oh, no, this is my own. I just thought I’d ask you, though... how do you know about Umbra? This world isn’t exactly like the one I came from.” Heather said, moving her mane out of her eyes and scratching her head.
“Twahlight told me about yer... mission to find Maverick. I can tell ya, that might be a bit of a hard one. We haven’t seen him in six months.” Applejack said.
“You know Maverick?”
“Why sure! Well, we used to...”
“What happened? Do you know where he is? What about his Beta unit, Hunter?”
“Whoa now, one question at a time. Here, Applebloom, do ya’ think you can attend the kiosk while ah’m gone?” Applejack asked, turning to her little sister.
“No problem, Applejack!” Applebloom replied, closing her eyes in delight as she raised a hoof to salute Applejack.
“I can take care of it, Applejack! Ah’m not a baby!”
“Good. Now... uh...” Applejack said as she took off her apron, turning to face the soldier standing beside her.
“Heather. Heather Culpepper.”
“Heather. If you could follow me, I can fill ya’ in on Maverick and Hunter. Come on now.”
Applejack and Heather walked away from the apple kiosk, Applebloom waiting patiently for any customers as she stood next to a barrel of apples.
“What can you tell me about Maverick?” Heather asked as she and Applejack slowly trotted through the Ponyville shopping section.
“He was a... an interesting stallion. Wouldn’t exactly call ‘em the most well mannered pony, but he did what he needed tuh do. ‘Course, that all changed when the Umbra military was through with our world and they stopped comin’.”
“The Umbra military? What were they doing here? How did they even get here?”
“That... I’m not exactly sure of. Maverick tried explainin’ something called a ‘inter dimension transport system’, but the whole thing just sounded like a bunch a hooey. But, whatever it was, it let through the military of the world Maverick and Hunter called Umbra.”
“That must have been the device that Maverick used to bring himself and the other members of my squad into this world. So this is another dimension, huh? That would probably explain why these ponies can talk.” Heather thought to herself. Applejack and Heather came to a stop in the Ponyville town square, walking over to the fountain and putting their front hooves onto the side.
“What else happened with Maverick and Hunter? Anything that could explain what he was doing back on Umbra with a mechanical arm?” Heather asked, looking at Applejack in the rippling reflection of the fountain water.
“Well, after the Umbra military was defeated as well as ‘The General’, as Maverick called the alicorn that had showed up in Equestria, Maverick had lost his arm. Unfortunately... Hunter died saving Maverick’s life. This... this had quite an affect on Maverick. After Hunter passed away in the Ponyville hospital, Maverick traveled back to Umbra an’ he told us that he was going to bring Hunter back. We started to get a little worried about him, he seemed a little too happy, if that makes any sense.”
Heather stared at the ripples in the fountain, concentrating on the colors of the Umbra uniform she was dressed in.
“Was that... thing in Maverick’s lap Hunter?” Heather thought to herself.
“That is until six months ago. Maverick went to check something back on Umbra an’ he never came back. We haven’t heard anythin’ from Maverick since then. But Twahlight told me that Maverick is back! Is he alright? Where is he?” Applejack asked with a sense of happiness in her voice, backing away from the fountain and looking at Heather. The soldier sighed and she turned to Applejack with a slightly depressed expression, the smile on Applejack’s face disappearing.
“Maverick... he’s not the same person that you think he is. Something happened to him... he’s not himself anymore according to what you have told me.” Heather said sadly. Applejack bit her lip and shifted her eyes to the ground.
“Well... just make sure that he is alright when ya’ find him. I’ll be waiting to see ‘em around again.” Applejack said, shifting her eyes back to Heather. The soldier nodded and Applejack said her goodbyes, heading back to the apple kiosk she was working at. Heather sighed and she turned around, continuing to search Ponyville for the library.
Heather made her way to a small clearing from the rest of Ponyville, a bench resting in the middle of the field. The soldier looked around the clearing, searching for anything that could look as if it were a library.
“Ugh... I’m never going to find this thing.” Heather thought to herself as she walked over to the bench and sat down. The soldier sighed and she put her front hooves out on the table, making a ‘clop’ sound as she lightly brought them together repeatedly.
“I wonder if Ramirez, Kessler, and Blake are okay. It has already been a night... hopefully they made their way to a town or city. That forest didn’t seem like the safest place to be during the night...” Heather thought to herself, continuing to clop her hooves together to keep her kind occupied. Her train of thought was interrupted, however, as a yell came from across the field behind her.
“Heather! Over here!” A voice called out. Heather turned around to find Twilight Sparkle waving to her in front of a fairly large tree, the purple unicorn smiling at her. Heather waved back and she got off of the bench, walking across the field and making her way to Twilight.
“There you are! I was waiting for a while. Get lost?” Twilight asked jokingly as Heather stopped in front of her.
“I guess you could say that. Should we get going?” Heather asked.
“Let me get some things before we leave. We’ll need some sort of protection if we’re going into Everfree.” Twilight said, motioning her hoof for Heather to follow as she walked into the library. Heather closed the door behind her as she entered the tree that made the library, the soldier looking around the inside of the tree curiously.
“You... live in trees?” Heather asked, examining the bookshelves that lined the inside walls of the library.
“Ponies are a little... different than humans is all. Besides, this is just one building in Ponyville, there are plenty of cottages and houses throughout the town. I’ll be back down in a second.” Twilight said as she walked up the stairs to her room. As Twilight walked out of her line of sight, Heather began taking some of the books down from the bookshelves and looking at their covers. Heather began to open one of the books, but was interrupted as a scrambling coming from her uniform pocket. Heather confusedly took out her radio and opened it, the sound coming from her radio. Hesitantly, the soldier put the device up to her, a little scared of what was happening.
“H... Hello?” Heather asked, putting the book she had taken down back on the shelf. There was a faint voice coming through the radio, but only segments could be heard through the static.
“... you Heather? Kessler and... of wood! They’re chasing... get away! We can’t run for... couldn’t find Ramirez, but we... exited the portal and he... anywhere! If you can hear this... near a clearing in the forest. If this is goodbye... said ‘Hey’. Blake out...” The voice through the radio said.
“Blake? Blake!? Are you there?” Heather said hurriedly, worry filling her heart. The radio only gave off static, Blake’s voice gone from the white noise. Heather sighed and she shut her radio, putting it back in her uniform pocket.
“Please let them be okay...” Heather said quietly. Heather turned her head to her left as she heard Twilight’s hoof steps coming down the stairs, the purple unicorn carrying a saddle pack on her back.
“Ready to go?” Twilight asked as she arrived at the bottom of the stairs.
“Yeah... let’s get going.” Heather said. Twilight and Heather walked out of the library and started for Everfree, casually talking along the way to the dense and dangerous forest in the search of Maverick.
[The night before]
“Ramirez, Heather! Where are you!?” Kessler yelled out loud, lifting his hoof up to his mouth and turning in every direction.
“Kessler, what did I tell you!? We don’t know what is in this place, keep your damn voice down.” Blake said angrily, lightly hitting Kessler on the back of his head.
“Well excuse me for worrying about my allies. They have to be out here somewhere.” Kessler said, rubbing his head.
The night sky was barely visible through the thick canopy of the Everfree forest, Kessler and Blake walking along the natural paths through Everfree. The two soldiers continued on their way through the forest, walking in no particular direction as they searched for Heather and Ramirez.
“Where the hell are Ramirez and Heather? And why the hell are we horses?” Blake asked out loud, stopping for a second to look at his hoof.
“Why are you asking me? I’m just as clueless as you are, man. As confused as we are, we still have a mission to carry out. But before we search for Maverick, we’re going to need to find Heather and Ramirez first. They’re just as lost as we are.” Kessler said, turning his head left to right as he scanned the forest.
“Do you think that the sergeant has noticed we’re gone yet?”
“Hell if I know. I highly doubt that our radios would transmit from this... place to the sergeant and the rest of the squad.”
“What about Heather and Ramirez? Would it transmit to them?”
“We could try. No harm in not.”
Blake and Kessler stopped by a small pond by the path, Kessler sitting down and dipping his front hooves into the pond.
“How the hell to horses do this? It feels so weird not being able to move any fingers.” Kessler said, swishing around his hooves in the water.
“Shh, I’m trying to get the radio to work.”
Blake put the radio up to his ear, but was only met with static.
“Damn it! Nothing. Looks like we’re just going to have to look for them on foot... or hoof, as it is. Get it? Because we’re horses?” Blake said as he walked over to Kessler, nudging him on the side.
“I suggest you shut your mouth before I shove that radio down your throat. Besides, this place doesn’t exactly look like the best place to stay the night. We should probably find a way out of here and search for Ramirez, Heather, and Maverick in the morning. Hopefully they can get out of this place and find somewhere safe.” Kessler said as he took his hooves out of the pond, wiping them off on his uniform.
“Yeah, but where? This forest stretches on forever. If we had more light, maybe we could see where we’re going. The damn canopy is too dense.” Blake said.
“Heh, just like your girlfriends-”
“You make one more joke about her and I will shove your head into the pond and never let it back up.”
“Well, someone’s got to give you a hard time, with you cracking lame ass jokes all the time. You’ve got to learn to shut your mouth and keep it that way at some point.”
“Just leave my girlfriend out of this. We’re lost as much as it is, I don’t want to be lost in this damned place alone. Let’s just keep searching for an exit.”
Kessler and Blake continued through Everfree, wandering aimlessly in hopes of either finding Heather, Ramirez, and Maverick or an exit out of the forest.
“Did you hear what Maverick said before that little doohickey that was at his feet activated?” Blake asked.
“Yeah, what about it?” Kessler asked.
“Well... what did it do? I mean, I’m pretty sure that it activated the device on the floor... but what did the device do to us? Some thing about a dimension transport and all that... are we in a different dimension?”
“Highly unlikely, but possible. With the technology that the military has come up with in the past century, hell, they could probably even start bringing headless people back to life with ease. Then again, on the dimension note, this isn’t necessarily any landscape that would be on Earth anymore. Umbra’s plant life doesn’t look like this and Lambda is practically a metal planet right now. We’re not home anymore.”
“Then where are we?”
“Why are you asking me all of this!? Do you think I know!? I’m just as clueless as you are! Can you please just shut up for a minute!?”
“Alright, alright, damn. Just trying to figure out what is going on. No need to go off on me.”
“Sorry... I’m just trying to process this all.”
Blake’s ears pricked up and he stopped walking, Kessler turning his head to look at Blake and stopping as well.
“What is it?” Kessler asked.
“Do you hear that?”
“Movement, nine o’ clock. Sounds like a pack of... modukai.”
Blake and Kessler stared at the area to their left, the sound of plants being shoved out of the way growing closer and closer to them. Through the darkness of the forest, the outlines of wolf-like creatures began to become visible against the dim moonlight coming through the canopy.
“What... what are they?” Blake said quietly.
“They look like modukai... but made of... wood?” Kessler said unsurely, watching as numerous pairs of yellow eyes glowed on the edge of the path, staring directly at the two soldiers frozen in fear.
Hey guys! Finally got my mind set back on Maverick and Hunter after about a month and a half. I'll be working on Maverick and Hunter from now on, so (hopefully) no more long pauses between chapters.
See you next chapter! -Burning