Farmer Bruener Has Some Ponies
"No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. ... Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us."
— H. G. Wells, The War of the Worlds
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Time: 7:32 A.M. Central Standard Time, Friday June 19, 2015
Location: Earth. 39.417162, -96.754254 to be specific.
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Jon Bruener was having a perfectly ordinary morning on his Kansas farm, at least until the first pony fell out of the sky onto the cab of his hay swather. That’s not to say that a normal day on the farm was totally without excitement, but a certain routine was a good thing in farming. A break from routine meant broken parts, accidents, insurance claims, or dealing with a bunch of bureaucrats who thought they could do a better job administering his acreage from a desk in the county seat than he could on the seat of a tractor.
Did we mention a pony had just fallen on top of his swather? We will get back to that in a moment.
From the time the first morning ray of sun had touched the dense green pasture, Jon had been at work, leaving behind a long trail of damp hay in a thick windrow to dry in the blazing Kansas sun by afternoon and be in a big round bale by evening. This was the longest day of the year, and that meant more daylight to get things done over the weekend before the whole spiral of paperwork at his ‘real’ job started again on Monday morning. Some years he made less per hour as a small farmer than he would have working in a burger joint, but farming still produced the small amount of extra money it had taken to get Nathaniel through school and into the Judge Advocate General Corps, and the rather sizable lump it had taken for his rather skinny lump of a daughter Claire to get a useless degree in, of all things, Marketing.
Don’t forget the pony falling out of the sky.
Still, it was freedom of a sorts to be out on the bellowing hay swather, turning waves of green grass into a neat windrow while singing along to the music piped into an expensive set of sound-damping headphones from his iPhone. Nobody could stand his singing at home, not even in the shower with the water turned up high and the door locked. Admittedly his octaves only had six notes, and he always had a certain disdain for the difference between sharps and flats, but enthusiasm trumped skill, and volume ruled them all, at least out in the fields where nobody but him could hear.
Yes, we’re almost to the pony. Well, ponies.
Jon had just finished the last of the edging around the field, leaving a twisty path of mown grass outlining the entire huge meadow like surrealist art as it dipped into draws, curved around gullies, and bumped over small hills, when something in the sky… flickered. He frowned at the sound of a loud popping noise while peering up into the few fluffy cumulus clouds drifting along in the sky, but the disturbance did not seem to be an unexpected rainstorm. He had just begun throttling the swather back to a halt so he could double-check the weather on his phone again when something slammed into the top of the swather with a horrible scream. A calf of some sort tumbled over the front of the cab and dropped into the swinging windmill of the moving reel before Jon could slam his foot down on the clutch, and the resulting screech of pain when the chattering cutter bar came to an abrupt stop on the baby calf’s leg drew an icy jolt up his back.
Slamming the throttle closed to the stops and switching the key off, he managed to keep enough presence of mind to stomp down on the locking brake before tumbling out of the swather cab, his phone in hand and cable dangling behind. A smear of red blood dripped from the cutter bar, much like the time in his youth when Jon had accidently cut the leg off of the family dog with a sidebar mower when the stupid mutt had darted into the way. This time, the creature he had hit was much larger, and was screaming in pain with a shuddering quiver that traveled down its sides with every bellow. The creature looked like a young calf at first glance, but now that he was closer, he could not believe his eyes or his ears. It appeared like some sort of miniature horse that somebody had dunked in pink and blue dye, but the huge tearful eyes nailed Jon’s attention to the ground, combined with the short pink horn protruding out of its forehead and the blubbering cries for its mother that it was screaming in short and quite distinct words.
He stumbled to a halt before ripping off his shirt and dialing the phone with one hand. Whatever the creature was, it was losing blood far too quickly, and he tried to be as soothing as possible while wrapping the shirt around the spurting wound and applying pressure.
"Riley County Emergency, what is the nature of your—"
"Operator!" he shouted over the sounds of the sobbing unicorn. "This is Jon Bruener, and I need an ambulance out at Randolph around 400 Seacrest Road, just to the south of the intersection. I’m out in the hayfield and I hit a—"
He really didn’t want to say the U-word, but he was spared by a bright flicker and another sharp pop up in the sky that drew his attention, despite his frantic efforts to keep the blood-soaked crude bandage wrapped around the squirming creature’s injured leg. Another pony, this one a light grey with a blonde mane appeared nearly a hundred feet up in the air, only instead of plummeting to the ground, it spread wings and hovered while looking around in obvious panic.
Then there was another flicker and pop, and another pony without wings, who thankfully was caught by the first pegasus before hitting the ground.
"Operator," he said in just as clear and distinctive voice as he could to be heard over the whimpering unicorn, who was now holding onto his shoulder and sobbing in pain. "Send ambulances. And the sheriff. Send everybody on the emergency response team." He watched as the flickering in the sky grew and more ponies began to fall, not all of whom could possibly be caught by the winged ones.
(inline for E-readers)
Welcome to Manhattan, Kansas. In the center of the United States (plus or minus a few hundred miles), it will be the future home of several hundred ponies for an undetermined amount of time. Distinguished tourism locations nearby include Kansas State University and their famous School of Veterinary Medicine, as well as the home of the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility (NBAF) currently under construction for most of the last decade and planned for opening in 2021. (Yeah, at times it seems like they’re building it one brick at a time) Just down the road, we have Fort Riley, Home of the Big Red One. In the event that the earthlings are a little overwhelmed by a force of a few hundred little pony aliens, a full armored brigade of tanks and artillery supported by helicopters will be available at short notice. Since this is summer, K-State will not have the Wildcats football team to show off, or their basketball team (Yes, we have one. Shut up.) but the baseball team will be available, as well as intramural soccer.
That is, provided the small group of ponies is not immediately dragged off to some government laboratory somewhere. Keep watching. Author notes will be at the end of each chapter for the convenience of people who read their ponyfic using e-readers.