Safe Landings

by Goldfur


Machspeed had faced two major hurdles when establishing the A.R.R.R.S. in the early days. Firstly, despite Flashpoint’s prodigious teleportation ability, she could only do pinpoint landings at places that she had already visited. While she could teleport between continents with ridiculous ease, she was as likely to arrive in a lake or a treetop without a firmly established anchor point. Desperation to meet potential clients on time had once seen she and he actually experience the embarrassment of arriving at the meeting dripping wet after materializing over a nearby river. Aside from similar emergencies, most of their first-time cross-country or international trips to new destinations were done the long way – by road if possible, or by boat or airplane.

The aviation industry was still very basic. The rise and fall of pony civilization had seen the loss of vital resources and knowledge, and ironically it was the Returnees who had provided the know-how to re-start flight as a means of transport (if you didn’t happen to be a pegasus or griffin!). Twin-engine propeller planes were the pinnacle of aeronautics in this era, and air travel was an adventure that took days rather than hours. He and Flashpoint endured the journeys in order to make contacts at various strategic locations where aircraft were most likely to pop out of the time-stream. Fortunately, once his wife had established an ‘anchor’ there, she could re-visit at her leisure. In fact that was the way that they were able to impress the local authorities. A quick trip to Australia and a jaunt over to New Zealand, and then back again proved both amazing and convincing.

However, that brought them to their second hurdle – language. It was bad enough that many of the countries that they visited did not speak English, but English itself had suffered greatly from centuries of linguistic drift. Australia had fared fairly well, but America had devolved into regional dialects that were barely recognizable in places. Once again, it was the influence of Returnees that had stabilized the languages somewhat; otherwise Machspeed would have had an even worse time getting the business under way. Fortunately English was also the common language of the commercial aviation industry, and still was used today.

That did not make some things easy though. Bureaucracy had its own language, and when it was Japanese, it was nearly insurmountable. Machspeed was prepared to thank whatever gods had sent Keiko his way at the critical time. The little Neighponese (yes, they actually used that pun name) mare was a Returnee who had been a translator pre-Event, and still put those skills to good use in this brave new world of magical, colorful ponies.

“Kon'nichiwa, Machspeed-san, Flashpoint-san. It is good to see you once more,” Keiko said with a bow of her head.

“Hello, Keiko-san. The feeling’s mutual,” Machspeed replied. “Let me introduce you to Amelia, our newest crew member. She’s a pilot like me.”

“Yōkoso – welcome, Amelia-san.”

“Thanks, Keiko,” Amelia replied, matching Keiko’s polite bow.

“Are you ready to go on a rescue again, Keiko?”

The golden-coated earth pony smiled and nodded enthusiastically. “It has been quite a while since we last had a large aircraft appear here. I am most eager to accompany you.”

“Let’s get down to business then.”

“Hai! Follow me, please.”

Keiko led Machspeed, Flashpoint, and Amelia from the designated rendezvous point into the control room of the Narita Airport. The Japanese ponies had had a more difficult time reclaiming a runway that could be sufficiently refurbished to land heavy pre-Event aircraft, but the lure of advanced technology and materials had spurred them onto making the Narita airport one of the few in that corner of the world that could cope with any airplane that came out of the time-stream. Today though, they did not have to deal with anything like a jumbo jet, hence why it was only a three-pony crew attending this job.

Keiko stopped before the person in charge and exchanged words with him in Japanese. Amelia just stared at him with a mixture of surprise and amusement. That he was not a pony was extremely obvious. He was a biped, for starters, very furry and raccoon-like in appearance. What kept drawing her eyes though was the way his pants were bulging very conspicuously in the crotch. She leaned over to Machspeed and whispered, “What is he?”

Machspeed grinned. “He’s a tanuki.”

“A what?”

“On Earth, tanukis are native to Japan, but they’re just animals, although there was a lot of folklore about their magical abilities. However, as I have told you, many of the legendary and mythological creatures have become reality post-Event. I can only imagine that magical tanukis were fairly common in that part of Equestria. Now they’re here.”

“And the big… you know?”

“All males have really big balls. In fact, the bigger they are, the more powerful their magic.”

Amelia stifled a laugh. “What’s their magic?”

“They’re shape-changers. Quite good too, although you might not want to know about all their legendary abilities.”

Amelia’s curiosity was aroused, and she was going to ask more, but attention was turned to them by the subject of their discussion. The tanuki said something and Keiko translated.

“The regional jet plane is on our approach radar. We are ready for you now, Flashpoint.”

The unicorn mare nodded and went over to the indicated radar screen. She fixed in her mind the location of the aircraft, and then closed her eyes and extended her talent to find it.

“Got it. Show-time, guys!” she announced.

Amelia, Machspeed, and Keiko reached out a hoof to make contact with Flashpoint, and a moment later she teleported them away.

# # #

Key to Flashpoint’s extraordinary teleportation ability was its precision. Once she had a lock on the target, she could place all of them with millimeter accuracy which, on a crowded aircraft with panicky passengers, was of vital importance. Each member of the team materialized in a different part of the corridor that went down the middle of the airplane, filling a gap that was at least big enough for their entire body. Machspeed did not know what would happen if he was to merge with another pony or inanimate object, and he had no desire whatsoever to find out. He found himself near the forward section, with only Amelia closer to the cockpit. A quick glance around confirmed that they were aboard what looked like an Embraer E170 which could hold eighty or so passengers. Then he took a longer look at said passengers.

Dozens of eyes were fixed upon him, and the cabin noise faded to almost total silence. As far as he could see, almost every one of the passengers was a filly, perhaps mid-teens, and for some reason only known to the Japanese, all dressed in schoolgirl sailor fuku.

The corner of Machspeed’s lip twitched as he thought, ‘Have I dropped into an anime show?’ He attempted a reassuring smile and said, “Hello, girls. We’re here to help.”

He anticipated Keiko translating his words, but before she could, the entire group of fillies squealed in glee and started crowding up to him, babbling excitedly. The only word that he could make out among them was ‘kawaii!’, which did not make him any more reassured.

Machspeed was a larger than average stallion even back home, but he stood a lot taller than the Neighponese ponies. Next to these fillies though, he must have seemed incredibly imposing, and it did not help that he was a fit and well-muscled pony. Their fawning over him was making him more nervous by the second. He held up his forehooves and made calming motions, while calling out, “Keiko! A little help, please!”

Unfortunately the translator was stuck near the rear of the airplane and not only could not get any closer to Machspeed, but she also having difficulty making herself heard over the super-excited babble of the fillies. The mare could barely get the attention of the schoolgirl right next to her.

Machspeed could not believe this surreal situation. Time after time, he and his team had needed to deal with terrified, confused, and near-helpless Returnees. Nothing in his experience had prepared him for near outright adulation by a group of teenage girls. He looked towards Amelia, hoping to get some help from her, but she was cracking up with laughter at the sight. Apparently the girls were not interested in mares, and she was free to watch the show.

“Help me get past these fillies!” Machspeed pleaded.

“I’ve got a better idea,” Amelia replied. “I’ll race you to the cockpit. Whoever gets there first gets to fly the airplane.”

“It’s my turn to fly!” he protested.

Amelia shrugged. “I’ll give you a five second head start.” She gave him an innocent grin.

“You’re throwing me to the wolves here, Amelia! Cute, adorable, she-wolves!”

“Seems to me that’s your problem, and perhaps your wife’s.” Her eyes shifted toward the rear of the airplane.

Machspeed froze. “Oh, bugger.” He looked frantically for Flashpoint before spotting a magic glow moving inexorably towards him as one schoolfilly after another was telekinetically lifted out of the way. “Uh-oh, jealous wife incoming.”

“I’ll take care of the flying, shall I?” Amelia asked ingenuously.

Machspeed groaned and gave up. He concentrated instead on trying to fend off the over-eager fillies and waited for his wife to save him.

# # #

Amelia unlocked the cockpit door with the magic spell that Machspeed had taught her long ago, and she peered cautiously inside. Unsurprisingly the captain was a pony – a pegasus judging by the way his shirt was strained from within. He looked around as he heard Amelia open the door, an expression of confusion on his face.

“N-nani?” he asked.

“I’m here to help, sir. Do you understand English?”

“English? Yes, some. Who are you?”

“I am part of a rescue team. Please remain calm. We are here to help you land safely.”

“How? What happen?” The stallion waved his hooves helplessly.

“Long story for later, sir. Now what about your co-pilot… oh my…” Amelia stared at the occupant of the co-pilot’s chair, and he calmly looked back at her.

A dragon! A genuine honest-to-god Eastern-style dragon – long and lean with shimmering golden scales and no wings.

Without thinking, Amelia gave the dragon a respectful bow of the head, and he responded in kind.

“Go aisatsu, yunikōn-san,” he said.

“Pleased to meet you,” Amelia replied, hoping that was the correct response. She then shook herself and considered the situation. The dragon was far better suited to the co-pilot’s chair than most species, and could be of great help with the landing, even with the disadvantage of coordinating a new body. The captain, however, was just as helpless as she had been when she had first Returned. Fortunately, unlike her captain, this one could easily be removed from his seat. “Pardon me, sir, but I have to get in your place.”

Amelia lit up her horn and a matching glow surrounded the pegasus. He froze in shock as his seat-belt unbuckled itself and she lifted him out of the chair and backed out of the cockpit, carrying him back into the cabin. She placed him down on the floor and looked over to Machspeed to see how he was faring. Flashpoint had reached his side, and was keeping the fillies at bay with stern glares. They had started making their way forward, but Amelia was not about to surrender the pilot seat now. She hastened back into the cockpit, climbed into the captain’s chair and levitated the headset so it sat as comfortably as possible over her ears. She glanced at the dragon and asked, “Do you speak English?”

The dragon had been watching with curiosity, but merely tilted his head with a faint look of incomprehension.

“Okay, let’s hope that Keiko can make her way up here soon,” she muttered. She looked over the instruments and found them to be normal, with the automatic pilot maintaining a steady course, albeit one that had already overshot the airport. That was pretty common and reassuring. Then she switched on the radio. “Narita Tower – this is Captain Amelia of the Aeronautical Returnee Rescue Response Squad on the inbound regional jet. Are you receiving? Over.”

This is Narita Tower receiving you, Captain Amelia. Over.

“Narita – we have the aircraft under full control and the passenger situation is weird but stable. Requesting standard approach and clearance for landing. Over.”

Standard approach approved. You have priority landing clearance. Over.

“Thank you, Narita Tower. Coming about to make approach now. Out.”

Machspeed poked his head into the cockpit just as Amelia started bringing the airplane around to head back towards the airport. “How are things going here?”

“All under control, Mach, but get a load of the co-pilot,” Amelia replied.

Machspeed had already noticed the dragon gazing placidly at him. He blinked in surprise and said, “Okay, that’s new.”

“We’re really getting the mythicals today, aren’t we? Anyway, if you can get me Keiko, I think this guy might be able to help bring the airplane in. I know what it was like to help you when you were rescuing me.”

“Fair enough. Flashpoint has just about managed to get my fangirls back into their seats, so Keiko should be here momentarily.”

Amelia was almost ready to start the descent when Keiko finally managed to reach the cockpit. She was even more impressed by the dragon, but managed a polite conversation with him anyway. He introduced himself as Miyazaki Hiro, and explained that while he was a little confused by the situation, his interests in fantasy, folklore, and anime had left him intrigued rather than frightened. He was actually looking forward to whatever happened next!

Although Hiro was still learning to coordinate his new body, nevertheless he was able to perform a lot of his co-pilot duties still with the aid of Keiko’s translations, and Amelia was able to bring the small jet airplane in for a textbook landing, albeit in imperfect conditions.

Machspeed was feeling a bit sulky due to missing out on his turn at piloting, and still a little creeped-out by the way the schoolfillies continued to eye him hungrily. How could so many former human girls be so oblivious to the radical changes in their lives that they would obsess over a handsome male pony? He sure hadn’t thought of mares that way for some time after his Return!

After they had debarked the passengers and shut down the aircraft, Flashpoint teleported all the pilots and Keiko off it. Hiro bowed to Amelia and the rest of the team before joining with the rest of the Returnees. It was amusing to watch the Neighponese ponies gaping in awe at the dragon as he walked past.

# # #

Machspeed was finishing up the paperwork with the authorities in order to secure their share of the profits from salvaging the regional jet when he noticed Amelia quietly talking to Flashpoint. She seemed to be giggling about something as she said things that he could not overhear. Then she asked just loudly enough for him to hear, “Will you do it?”

His wife looked a little bemused but smiled and nodded. “Okay.”

Amelia grinned with glee. “Just don’t tell Beamer, okay?” Amelia said a bit more loudly.

“Afraid he’ll be jealous?” Flashpoint asked.

“More likely he’ll want me to keep it up!” Amelia replied with a hint of a blush.

Machspeed’s warning alarm went off in his head. Two of the most important mares in his life were conspiring – this could not be good.

The three of them left the office with Keiko, but when they reached their departure area, Amelia pulled out a microphone from her saddle-pack that she had apparently borrowed from somewhere. She reared up on her hind legs, held up the microphone like a wand, and cried out, “Cutie mark flash!” She started spinning around on one hoof while her horn glowed, throwing off streaks of light. Then Flashpoint’s horn also glowed, and Amelia disappeared, but reappeared a fraction of a second later, only to repeat the sequence again and again. It was a dazzling display of special effects, all the more remarkable for having been devised on short notice.

Machspeed’s ears lay flat and he felt a sense of dread at what was coming.

Amelia suddenly reappeared directly in front of him, now somehow divested of her jacket but with something wrapped artfully around her – a borrowed curtain perhaps? She bopped him on the nose with the ‘wand’, a burst of magical static making his coat and mane fluff out wildly. “Princess Amelia chooses you!” she proclaimed.

“Nope!” Machspeed blurted out, backing up hurriedly. Then he turned and galloped away, still saying “Nope! Nope! Nope!” as the howls of laughter from Amelia and Flashpoint followed him down the corridor. Those anime fans were crazy!

# # # # # # # # #