Arrow 18: Supplemental

by kovabomb

Endings and Beginnings

Endings and Beginnings

By Kovabomb

It seemed that another day was nearing its close. Yet another day on this wild, friendly, wonderful, crazy world. Captain Randolph Edwards gazed out his bedside window at the long shadows that the late afternoon sun cast across the building’s grounds. The light was still good, but contained a hint of the impending twilight. The green of the trees and shrubs mixed with the myriad of hues from the surrounding flowers, popping from the backdrop of the white stone wall they ran along. So much like home, he thought to himself.

So much alike, and yet so unlike. He had but to look beyond the wall and into the streets of the surrounding city to see that this was very much not his home world. Instead of human beings, like himself, the avenues were filled with equine forms. Ponies, Unicorns, and Pegasi trotted and flew from place to place with a few other “mythical creatures” thrown in for good measure.

Who could have imagined it? The idea that this strange world, with its inexplicable geocentric celestial set up, would also be inhabited by creatures leaping from humanity’s mythical bestiaries. And who would have thought that a good number of these creatures would also be sapient and possess the means by which the resident star and lunar body were slung around the planet? It was mind boggling! And yet, it was the truth. One such stellar steward occupied the bed next to him.

Princess Luna lay resting calmly on her side, her back turned toward Randy and her bandaged wing on full display. If Randy understood correctly, she wouldn’t need to remain here for too much longer. While she would be grounded for several months, her injuries were mostly superficial.

It truly was a miracle. Who else besides he and Luna could claim that they had survived the destruction of an ascending spacecraft that had broken up at hypersonic speeds? By all rights, both of them should have been clouds of ash on the wind. The burns that he and the lunar princess had sustained left little to the imagination. But it seemed that she was made of much sterner stuff than her appearance would suggest and she had used both her body and her magic to shield him from the brunt of the violence and heat.

Images and vague memories of his ill-fated assent flashed into his mind. Blaring alarms. Sickening lurches. A violent blast. Helpless tumbling. A brilliant flash of light. A powerful presence at his side. Then, nothing. The moments just prior to the Ravenstar’s destruction were hazy and unclear, and not just because he had blacked out from the g-forces. The trauma of the event must have had more of an effect on him than he cared to admit.

His memories picked up again with searing pain. The blue of the sky above. The blue of the ocean beneath. The midnight blue of Luna beside him. The two of them bobbing in a magical sphere in the water, biting back the burning pain but elated to be alive.

He owed her his life. And he could never thank her enough for her heroic act. Twilight had told him that Luna’s teleportation onto the Raven was incredible in and of its self. But he couldn’t help but feel sad and a little bitter for what he had lost. Luna’s shields had absorbed much of the heat, but not all of it. And while his head and upper body had been clutched to Luna’s form, his legs had not been. In fact, they had lain right against the magical surface.

The doctors had tried though. They had used every method they could to repair the damage, but the burns were just too deep and severe. Beyond healing, his lower legs had been the price for his survival. In the end, he really couldn’t fault anyone… or anypony. He was alive. That was all that mattered.

There was one that seemed to understand his feelings, however. Rainbow Dash had taken up a vigil at his bedside ever since he had been admitted to the hospital. She was there, night and day, determined to stay with him even when the nurses tried to shoo her out. With Twilight’s help, they had really started to talk. Between the jokes and brash attitude, Randy could see a genuine concern and sympathy for what he was going through. Like a comrade in arms.

She seemed to have equated his legs to her wings in her mind and was giving him as much care and respect as she would a pegasus soldier who would never fly again. Despite the gap between species, Randy really did appreciate the colorful pony’s support and devotion. She was currently curled up on a cushioned bench she had commandeered from the corridors and placed beside his bed, her light snoring a clear sign that she was asleep.

A knock came at the door and a lavender pony head peeked in. “Randy? Are you awake?” It was Twilight Sparkle, his first and most knowledgeable friend on this world.

Randy turned a little and beckoned her inside. “Yes. Come in, but keep it down. Luna and Dash are still resting.”

Twilight nodded and pushed through the door quietly. She was followed by another pony that Randy had come to know recently. Twilight was still unsure of the English translation, but at present Randy knew her as Princess Celestial, Luna’s older sister and keeper of the system’s star. The tall white ruler moved to Luna’s bed and murmured something to her in the flowing Equine language. The keeper of the moon stirred and slowly got herself into an upright kneeling position, turning her head to where Celestial and Twilight now stood beside Randy’s bed. Twilight made an effort to wake Rainbow Dash, the pegasus jerking awake at Twilight’s touch then settling back into her place. They exchanged some words and Dash shifted so she could clearly see everyone, though her eyes were still heavy.

Twilight’s horn lit up and the room was bathed in a soft purple light for a moment. After a beat Twilight spoke again, but this time her voice carried a slight incomprehensible underlay to it. “Can you still understand me, Randy?” she asked.

Randy was impressed. “Yes! I’m guessing that was the translation spell you just cast.”

Twilight smiled proudly. “That’s right! I’ve made a few improvements since the last time we used it. It’s not completely gone, but the chamber echo isn’t nearly as noticeable now.” She looked at him expectantly with her large, expressive eyes. “What do you think?”

Randy nodded approvingly. “It still sounds a little like someone dubbing English over another language, but it’s definitely better. Not nearly as much distortion this time.”

Twilight smiled at his praise. “Thank you, Randy. And I agree. There’s still a lot to work out, but I’m sure that we can get it perfected in time.” Twilight’s eyes began to wander a little. “In fact, there are some ideas that I’ve been picking up from that computer terminal you gave me. The methods that the programs use to complete their computations can be quite fascinating. Like the storing and addressing in memory? The scale is absolutely staggering! The simplicity and complexity of it all is just…”

Princess Celestial extended a wing and rested it over Twilight’s back, causing the unicorn to pause. “I am sure that there will be plenty of time for that later, my faithful student.” The white ruler’s voice was motherly but carried a hint of mirth. It seemed she was just as, if not more familiar with this side of Twilight’s character as Randy was. A snigger from Rainbow Dash and a muttered word that sounded like “Egghead” told him that it was a common point in the bookish pony’s friendships.

The Princess turned her attention to Randy as Twilight gave an apologetic smile. “We have come to inform you, Captain, that we succeeded in our attempt. We managed to board your orbiting ship and have left a message there for your superiors back on your home world.”

Randy gave a sigh of relief and relaxed into his pillow. “That’s good to hear,” he murmured. He listened as Twilight continued the report on what they had done. Having been aboard the Arrow once before, it had simply been a matter of raw power for Twilight to teleport back up to the ship. And while such a feat was beyond her own capacity, such was not the case for the Princesses. With Luna out of commission, it had fallen to Celestial to provide the extra oomph.

After taking down some notes and putting together a checklist at Randy’s request, Twilight and Celestial had both teleported aboard. Twilight’s review of the recording she had made as the final log entre of the mission had Randy both smiling and misty eyed. After making the log, stowing a little photographic proof of Randy’s condition (and showing Celestial around some of the ship), Twilight had run through the checklist to ensure the Arrow was secure. After that, the two of them had taken their leave, teleporting directly back to Canterlot.

“And before you ask, Randy, no: we did not tamper with anything,” Twilight assured the pilot. “The only things we touched on the ship were the things you asked us to.”

“I made doubly sure of that, Captain,” Celestial interjected. “With the exception of the short tour, we did not deviate from the itinerary we had created.” The white ruler gave Randy an apologetic look. “I’m sure you will forgive that little indulgence, given the circumstances.”

Randy could only look at that face for so long before he had to look away. “Yes, yes,” he said dismissively. “At least now I know where Twilight got some of her tricks from. Trust a princess to perfect the ‘get what I want’ face.” He shot the white pony a facetious look.

The princess didn’t miss a beat. “Naturally,” she replied.

A short bout of laughter filled the room, a much needed bit of levity in light of the situation. As the pilot and ponies regained their composure, Luna spoke up. “Are you certain you do not want to return to the ship yourself, Captain?” the nocturnal princess asked. “With my sister and her student’s success, we do believe it possible.”

Randy turned to his roommate with a dubious expression. “Are you kidding, Luna?” he said. He propped himself up and flipped the sheets off of his lower body, revealing his distinct lack of lower appendages. “I am in no condition to go into space, let alone manage a ship like the Arrow all by myself for six months.” He plopped back down onto his pillow. “I can’t even get out of this bed right now! And even if I could and was all healed up, I still couldn’t go.”

Twilight looked on with deep concern. “But you wouldn’t need to walk. You could just float through the ship. Shouldn’t you be fine? You’ve only lost your legs, so you should be able to navigate the ship without much trouble.”

Randy shook his head sadly. “No, Twilight. An astronaut has to be completely healthy in order to fly a mission. No physical handicaps whatsoever.” He turned his gaze down to the purple unicorn. “You may be right about micro gravity, but without my legs I would be at a serious disadvantage. And there wouldn’t be anyone else up there with me in case something went wrong.”

“I get what ya mean, Randy,” Rainbow Dash said from her bench. “A sprained ankle or pulled ligament is enough to ground a Wonderbolt until they recover, even if their wings are just fine. Those ponies need to be in top shape to perform.” Dash’s remarks drew nods of understanding from the other ponies in the room.

Celestial considered for a moment. “Well, perhaps if we could delay the departure of the vessel and give you time to heal, we could send both you and a companion from Equestria on the return journey,” she proposed.

Randy looked at the diurnal princess for a moment before shaking his head. “Again, no. Time is of the essence for a mission like this and the data I’ve collected is too important to delay. It would take far too long for me to be fully healed and even longer to properly train a pony to be able to manage the Arrow and take care of me at the same time.” He gazed up at the ceiling. There was also the little detail that there would be an alien creature on the Arrow when it entered Earth’s orbit. There was no telling what exactly would happen to the poor pony when the GSA and the rest of the world got their hands on it.

Randy gave a sigh. “No. It’s just not worth it to try and get me into space again. My career as an aerospace pilot is over.” His expression lightened a little and he looked around the room at the four ponies. “At least this way I won’t be presumed dead and the GSA will know the whole story. They’ll send a return mission to continue what I started. I’ll get home again. Just… not right away.”

Randy settled back into his bed, a forlorn look on his face. How long would it be? It was a year-long round trip between Earth and Equestria at minimum. Then there was the amount of time it would take the scientists back on Earth to process the mission data, the planning and organizing of a return mission, the selection and training of a crew, not to mention the political pushback that would undoubtedly come from the government. Randy grimaced and gave out an explosive sigh. He was going to be stranded here for a long time.

Silence lingered as the four ponies looked on. There wasn’t much else they could say. However, none of them could bear to see their human friend looking so downtrodden.

It was Randy himself who broke the silence. “What am I going to do?” he said to the ceiling.

Luna raised an eyebrow in confusion. “What do you mean, Captain?”

Randy took a breath. “I’m a pilot,” he said at last, “or at least I was. And I’m a scientist. I can’t just lay here and do nothing. It’s only been a few days and I’m bored! I need something to do!”

Rainbow Dash gave a sympathetic chuckle. “I feel ya, Randy. One time I was laid up with a busted wing and couldn’t get out of bed. Just about drove myself crazy.”

Celestial stepped forward. “Captain Edwards, I can sympathize with your plight, but you really must regain your strength. The best way to do that is to rest.” A warm smile came to the sun princess’s face. “However, that does not mean that your mind need be idle.” She looked to Twilight encouragingly. “I’m certain that Twilight Sparkle would be more than happy to spend time with you, working through ideas and deepening the understanding that our two societies have of each other.”

Twilight’s eyes lit up at her mentor’s words. “That’s right Randy! There’s still so much to learn! So much more you can teach me! Teach all of us really. And there’s more that you can learn from us too.”

“Indeed,” Luna added. “There is a great many things that we desire to know about your kind and you as an individual. And the information you can glean about our society would prove very useful for your colleagues when they arrive. Think not on this time as one of boredom and waiting, but of opportunity.” She smiled encouragingly. “There is work yet to be done.”

“Yeah!” Dash put in. “And you won’t be in that bed forever, either. I’ve talked to the doctors, and they’re going to fix you up with something soon. We’ve got wheelchairs and other things that help injured ponies get around, they just need to make one that fits you.” Dash’s eyes brightened a bit. “Maybe even Twilight here could whip you up some fancy new prosthetic legs or something.”

“And once you are up and mobile again, there are many other things that you can spend your time doing,” Celestial said. “There are places you can go and many ponies and creatures you can meet. There will be many eager to learn from you and of you. There will be preparations and plans to be made for when your human friends come to Equestria. And, of course, many questions remain about the nature of our celestial system, questions that we can only solve with your help.” The white pony leaned in towards Randy with reassurance in her eyes. “Your time with us here will be well spent.”

Randy listened and the weight he had been feeling in his chest lifted. His expression grew warm and he smiled. “Thank you,” he said. “You’re right, of course. There’s still a lot that I can do here.”

The older princess smiled, a small twinkle in her eye as she stood up straight again. “And the new friends you have made will be there to support you along the way. I am sure you will be able to accomplish great things, Captain Edwards.” She looked out the window at the fading light. “Now, it is growing late and I need to return to throne room. The day court will be ending soon and the sun will need to be set.” Celestial turned and made towards the door, giving her sister a nuzzle as she passed the bed. “Do you think you that you can handle the moon tonight Luna?” She asked.

Luna gave a pained grin. “As much as would like to, I think one more day of rest will do my magic good. Thank you, Celestia.”

The eyes of all in the room widened a little at Luna’s last word. “Ooooo!” Twilight chirped. “The translation spell is improving! I think it just figured out what your proper English name translation is, Princess!” A pad and quill appeared in the unicorn’s magic, much to Randy’s surprise. “Celestia… Celestia… I’ll need to double check it, but it does sound good.”

Celestia grinned. “Perhaps a good first task for you and Randy, my faithful student.” She nodded her head at each of the room’s occupants. “I bid you all a good evening. Rest well.” Princess Celestia trotted out the door and quietly closed it behind her. As she made her way down the hall, the receding sound of Twilight's, Rainbow’s, and Randy’s voices broadened her smile. What they had already accomplished together in the short time they had known each other was incredible. She could hardly wait to see what they would do next.