Farmer Bruener Has Some Ponies

by Georg


8. Mass Media

Farmer Bruener Has Some Ponies
Mass Media

“If we were to do the Second Coming of Christ in color for a full hour, there would be a considerable number of stations which would decline to carry it on the grounds that a Western or a quiz show would be more profitable.”
Edward R. Murrow

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Time: 9:03 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, June 19, 2015
Olympic Golf Club, California
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“Three weeks until my KMA time.” Senior USSS Agent Conner O’Malley kept driving the cart down the smooth pathways of the golf course to their position downwind of the tee, where he stopped with a practiced look around the course and the other Secret Service agents in their assigned spots. “Been doing this since the Clintons, and this is as far up the career ladder as I’ve gotten. Why do you think that is?”

The newly assigned agent in the other seat looked blank for a moment, but kept his voice down as he replied, “I really couldn’t say, sir.”

That is why you’re going up past me in record time. And don’t call me sir when it’s just the two of us. I’ll be retired from here and doing background checks for the government in D.C. in a few months. Look me up and I’ll buy you a beer, as long as you never call me sir in private again.”

The other agent sucked on his bottom lip for a moment before venturing, “I still don’t understand… Conner.”

“You have great scores, good empathy, by the book reflexes, and just enough flaws that the higher-ups will have no problem promoting you, if you make one change. Remember, tallest dandelion gets the lawnmower.” The two agents remained silent while one member of the presidential foursome took a brisk swing at the golf ball and hit it far down the fairway.

Conner flicked his eyes back and forth across the convivial group of golfing politicians, then spoke almost without moving his lips. “I figure we’ve got about ten minutes with the way they’re arguing, Anthony. Give me your phone. No, your personal phone,” added Agent O’Malley when the Secret Service officer reached for his waist.

“I keep it in my pocket while I’m on duty,” said Agent Washington, “and on vibrate for critical calls. We’ve got a newborn—”

“I know, Tony. Oh, two changes, now that I think of it. First, you need to set a lock for your personal iPhone,” said Conner as he opened the leatherette case. “And second—” He pointed to an application.

“Hey, don’t take away my Limbaugh, man,” said Anthony with a brief chuckle, low enough that there was no chance his voice would carry to the politicians at the distant teebox. “Sometimes he’s the only thing that keeps me sane in D.C.”

“I’m not criticizing your choice in political talk shows,” said Conner. “God only knows the service has agents from every corner of the political spectrum. Worked with one a few years ago who wouldn’t shut up about Bernie off-duty, and we got along just fine. My super when I started was a crusty old dinosaur Repub from the Reagan era who got hit by a lamp during the Clinton years, but never skimped on his job. We’re all professionals here.”

He closed the phone case and handed it back, then pulled out his own personal phone, unlocked it, and opened a sub-folder where an identical icon resided. “You don’t have to ditch 24/7. Just don’t put it on your front page, and always use earbuds when listening off-duty.” A single tap opened the application and the low beats of ‘My City Was Gone’ came out of the iPhone speakers, quickly lowered in volume in order not to disturb the distant golfers.

“You’re a dittohead too?” asked Anthony, giving his fellow USSS agent a gentle poke in the shoulder.

“That’s why my career came to a screeching halt seven years ago.” Conner shrugged. “I was listening off-duty, somebody threw a fit, a note got put in my record, and that was it. Most everyone at the agency is pretty flexible about what you believe and who you listen to, as long as you keep your mind on the job. Still, there are always assholes hiding in the bushes waiting for something, anything they can use against you.”

As both agents were scanning across the golf course for threats at the time, the irony was fairly low.

“I know, man,” said Anthony. “I can’t listen to Rush at the relatives or they go ballistic.”

“And the agency is just like family, only more… specific,” said Conner. “Outside, it’s more like a war zone. Cross the wrong political appointee, get caught expressing an opinion they don’t like, and they will move heaven and earth to get you gone, not just out of the service, but from any Federal job you might want after.”

“You’ve heard about my Catholic in-laws, I see,” said Anthony. “They’re— wait a second.” He looked down at the screen where a tiny image of the Kansas governor and a smaller horse looked back. “Turn that up a little.”

...as you know, it’s my policy on the EIB network not to do interviews or plug books except in extremely special circumstances. Well, since it’s open line Friday, and there seems to be a unique circumstance, I’m making an exception to my rule, but only for visitors from another planet. On the line with me and on the Dittocam by Facetime, I have Governor Brown from Kansas, and a very special visitor from Equestria, I believe you said?

Yes, I did, Rush. And I’d like to first thank you for letting us on your show. I know this sounds a little nuts, and I’ll admit I really didn’t believe our extraterrestrial pony visitors at first either, like Mayor Mare here.

Thank you, Governor. To be honest, I never thought I would meet a human either. They’re a great deal more friendly than I expected, Mister Rush. Governor Brown has provided a great deal of assistance, and so have all the other humans we’ve met since we arrived. For me, I’m just glad to be able to go on the radio again to explain our situation and help smooth any interactions before we go home in a few days.

I’m glad to hear that, Mayor Mare. Tell me, what brought you to Kansas instead of visiting somewhere a little closer to my home town of Cape Girardeau or even taking a tourist trip to Florida?

Well, we really didn’t have much of a choice. Princess Twilight Sparkle made a simple mistake with an evacuation portal spell for the town, which I’m assured will be reversed in a few days…

Both agents sat in silence while listening, their habitual scanning across the greens for invading ninjas or terrorists suppressed by the fantastic image of First Radio Contact. It lasted until the commercial break where Anthony let out a long, “Sheeeeit. If that’s a prank, it’s legendary. Little green men with hooves for realsies.”

“That explains the aide who came scurrying up at the last hole and got sent home with his tail between his legs,” murmured Conner once he had closed the 24/7 application. “Probably had a preliminary report and didn’t have the right paperwork to back it up.”

“So…” Anthony eyed the golf foursome, which was headed back to their carts for the trip down the fairway.

“So we head to our next station,” said Conner. “Where we sit while they golf until another aide shows up to talk with the president. Then we’ll probably head back to Home Plate.”

“Ah.” Anthony watched his partner put the golf cart into gear and begin to guide it down the path. “Wouldn’t do for the help to know what’s going on before the boss, I suppose.”

“Hush, newbie,” chided Conner before toggling his microphone. “Bowtie Five, heading to midpoint of Hole Seven. Status green.”

“Rodger, Bowtie Five. Out.”

“Wonder what Kansas is going to be like,” mused Anthony.

“Hot, dry, and full of wheat, I suppose.” Once they reached their next station, Senior Agent Connor O’Malley propped his trim black shoes up on the dash of the golf cart for a moment and stretched in the warm California sunshine. “Guess we’ll find out for sure. Wanted to see an alien on this job before I retired anyway. I just always thought they’d land on the White House lawn.”

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Time: 11:30 A.M. Central Standard Time, June 19, 2015
Bruener Farm, Randolph Kansas
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“Whew.” Mayor Mare sagged into the tall-backed dining room chair and cast a longing look at Jon Bruener, who was holding the pitcher of iced tea. Following the unspoken cue, it only took him a few minutes to pass over a tall glass of tea for the tired mayor, as well as one for the governor and one for himself.

He stopped himself before pouring a glass for Spike, who had gone outside with the radio intern from the WIBW radio station, a pleasant young fellow with a smile for everyone. Dragon and human had each given a quick wave over the shoulder before hustling to the vehicle to upload the interview with the Equestrian to his office. The kid seemed more than happy that colorful little alien horses from another dimension were not a delusion or some kind of hoax, and had accepted talking horses and a dragon, which spoke quite well of his prospects in radio over the next few days.

In a few minutes, the intern and Spike would return with a camera from his van for a video interview, which would be shown on the local Kansas channels later. That left a few moments of relative privacy for the the human farmer and governor, who had been very quiet while watching the pony giving the radio interview.

“So, Mister Bruener,” started Mayor Mare. “Three radio interviews in under an hour. That’s pretty good for Equestria. How many radio stations do you have here anyway?”

“Oh…” Jon looked up from his cell phone, which had not quit buzzing yet and was showing triple digits in the unreturned calls alerts, as well as a scrolling list of text messages. “A few thousand in the US, I guess.”

The governor spoke up. “Most of them will just use clips out of your first few interviews anyway. And I’ll bet CNN will want one of their own exclusively for the international market.”

“Thousand?” The mayor blinked several times very slowly. “How many humans was I talking to on the radio just now, Governor Brown?”

“KMAN was just Manhattan, so a couple hundred thousand at most. WIBW covers north-east Kansas, so maybe a million listeners there. Three million in the state, once the interview get re-run on all of the stations.”

“Oh.” The mayor swallowed a sip of tea with great effort. “Million?”

“Yeah,” said Jon, who was still trying to clear off his missed call list and was swiping while talking. “Rush has got about twenty million listeners live, so you’re probably over the worst of it.”

“Twenty…” The mayor put her nose down in her iced tea and took several large gulps before coming up for air. “How many humans are on your world, anyway?”

Jon shrugged. “Seven billion or so. CNN will reach most of them. They’ll edit your interview so it looks good, and probably play it world-wide for the next month. It should go fine now that you’ve got the basics of interviewing for the radio down cold. Where are you from, how long do you expect to be here, what have you found the most interesting thing about our world so far, that kind of stuff. You just need to smile on camera. Shouldn’t be an issue. The first responders must have posted about a million videos on YouTube and Facebook by now, and they’re all sorts of adorable. I’m just glad the RCPD is up at the Methodist church watching over the kids or you’d have people trying to smuggle them away. Particularly that cute little unicorn. Mayor?”

Jon turned around to see the mayor over at the glassed-in bar at the side of the dining room, trying the latch. “Tell me you have brandy in this world,” she said in a bare whisper. “Please.”

He rationed her to only two shots, and one for himself. After all, he wanted to save space for lunch.

- - Ω - -

Vera was used to loony nuts at the West Loop Pizza Hut in Manhattan, but mostly later in the evening when the bars were about to close. Thankfully, closing time in Aggieville was half a town and half a day away, and business was doing just fine without having to deal with drunk students today. She was a little short-handed because Claire had texted her about being in Kansas City with some sort of injured horse, which was at least better than most of the waitstaff and their numerous dead grandmothers for an excuse.

Then she spotted the nut.

A tall, lanky fellow came striding in the front door of the restaurant as if he owned the place, with some sort of livestock dressed in fake black armor trailing along behind him. She wiped her hands and came bolting out of the kitchen, her face set in the most discouraging expression she could manage as she barked out, “Hey! You there! Take that creature outside!”

Both human and armored horse-thing looked back at her, then the short green horse spoke.

“I assure you, he’s fully housebroken. Isn’t that right, Governor Brown?”

“Ruff.” The man grinned at the exact moment Vera recognized him from the political advertisements a few years ago. “Sorry to disrupt your operations, Ma’am, but Officer Grace here has been stranded here in Kansas with a few hundred of her fellow ponies, and we were wanting to order out for lunch. Officer?”

The horse’s horn glowed a pale green under her curly red hair and she looked as if she were concentrating, or perhaps counting under her breath. “Nothing seriously contrary to an Equestrian diet in the kitchen, sir, except a preponderance of meat products, and a little more grease than our digestive systems can handle. There is a bag of mushrooms in the cooler a week past its expiration date, and one of the soda canisters in the storage room has a slow leak that should be cleaned up, but other than that, this establishment appears to be suitable.”

“Good.” The governor passed over a sheet of paper that looked as if it had been scribbled on in the car, with a series of pizza orders on it. “If you can get those started, we were going to make a side-trip to Dillon’s for some vegetable shopping while you’re working. I’ve got a few volunteers to get everything shuttled up to Randolph as they’re done. We’ve got a number of first responders who need to be fed, and some hungry visitors I’d like to show real Kansas hospitality.” Still smiling, he took out his wallet and passed over a credit card. “On me.”

To be a manager at Pizza Hut, you had to be quick on your feet. No two days were exactly the same, and this was an exceptional circumstance that rose above all the rest. An alien, a real alien standing right there beside the governor of the state, which were two completely different creatures that she had never thought she would encounter, together. Her heart was beating almost as fast as it could, although her mind raced through chains of possibilities even faster.

“Oh, no,” said Vera in a move that would earn her a special commendation from the home office a week later. “This one is on the company, Governor Brown. Officer Grace. Um…” Her hand crept forward despite Vera’s best efforts and touched the unicorn on the top of her head, which after a quick rolling of the eyes, Grace reciprocated by rubbing her horn up against Vera’s hand.

“Ohgoodgosh,” she gushed. “You’re so fuzzy! And the horn is real!”

Grace gave a subdued grunt and allowed her ears to be scratched. “Just as long as you wash those hands before you make the pizzas,” she admitted grudgingly. “And scratch a little lower. Yes, right there.”

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Time: 12:30 P.M. Central Standard Time, June 19, 2015
KU Medical Center, Kansas City
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Vascular Microsurgery was not exactly a common occupation for a doctor. It took steady nerves, a delicate touch on the equipment, and the ability to tie a dry fly in under a minute. Well, the last was more of an option than a requirement, but Louis Schwartz believed it helped. There was supposed to be a football player undergoing arthroscopy in Surgery Two right now, but aliens from some other dimension ran right to the top of the priority list, and from the look of the little pony’s ankle, it might not matter. Thorough irrigation and antiseptic cleaning had removed the vast majority of foreign material, while forced clotting had stopped the pony from bleeding to death, and two precious pints of whole blood supposedly its type were in the operating room, but…

“Look at all those fine ligaments and capillaries,” mused Doctor Schwartz to his assisting physician. “It’s more like the palm of a human’s hand than a horse. I don’t know if we’ll be able to restore enough blood circulation to save the hoof. The sooner we start trying the better, I suppose. I don’t think we can afford to wait on that vet.”

“Coming, coming.” The thump and rattle of another person coming into the operating theatre clashed with the muffled clatter of hooves on the floor, and Louis felt a little shock go through his chest at the sight of another horse-like creature, dressed in trimmed booties and taped-down scrubs, stride confidently up to his side. “Doctor Schwartz, I presume?”

“Doctor Stable?” Louis would have shaken hands/hooves out of reflex, but that would have put him back into scrubbing up again. Instead, he looked between the mostly-underutilized machine and the undersized pony physician. “Uh, I don’t think we have a set of eyepieces your height.”

“Oh, don’t be silly. I brought my own table.” Lighting up his horn with a pale blue light, a draped surgical table on wheels obediently rolled over next to the pony patient, and the doctor jumped up on top of it with one swift hop. “There we go. Be a good boy and push that headset over here, please.”

Glancing down at the patient showed a similar cranial horn that the human doctor had missed the first time he had examined the unicorn patient, since he had been so focused on the gaping wound on the creature’s foreleg. It took a little bit of adjusting for Doctor Stable—

It’s a unicorn. I’m sharing the operating room with a unicorn. What’s next, a elf?

—to get his eyes up to the lenses and focus them for his differently shaped head. Giving out a low whistle, the equine doctor moved the eyepieces back and forth slightly with a faint glow from his horn.

“I didn’t have a tool like this back in Ponyville, or over in Manehattan,” said Doctor Stable. “You can get right next to the wound and see what needs fixing, can’t you?”

“Y-yes, it has been quite useful in my field.” Doctor Schwartz put his eyes up to the headpiece on his side and began manipulating the first set of remote forceps, giving a short summary of the upcoming operation, along with the difficulty of getting all of the damage repaired. “Arterial anastomosis should be our first priority in order to prevent post-surgical degradation of tissue, while—”

“Just a moment.” The unicorn doctor’s horn glowed again, and Doctor Schwartz felt a momentary tingling across his balding head, as if he had suddenly been run over by a swarm of feathery ants. “<There, that’s better,>” continued the pony in Hebrew. “Oh, wait,” added Doctor Stable, switching back into English. “Linguistic multiplex. I wasn’t getting a good translation of the medical terms. Continue.”

Rattled, but only for a moment, Doctor Schwartz returned to his professional description, and in a few minutes, had almost forgotten about the equine nature of his assisting surgeon. That is until he manipulated the remote forceps to bring the ends of a severed artery together, and a tiny dot of pale blue light joined them flawlessly before he could even get the microsuturing started.

“Marvelous machine,” murmured Doctor Stable. “Brings the operating field right up to my nose. At home, I never could have managed a bilateral anastomosisic fusion on a vessel that small. Just a moment while I run a thaumic charge to get blood circulation started in that connection, and we can go on to the next one.”

...and fifteen minutes later, in what would have normally taken two hours at absolute best on a good day, the last of the severed vessels were joined, allowing the surgeons to begin the delicate task of reconnecting nerves, tendons, and tracking down little splinters of bone while venturing into the odd conversations that doctors at work tended toward.

“So, how long are you going to be here, doctor? Clamp that.”

“Got it. Don’t know. Thought we’d be going back already, although one of the nurses said she heard a few days. Does that lateral nerve fragment tie up here?”

“No, it matches back in this knotted cluster. Let’s see if we can’t open them up a little. You know, we’re making so much progress, I may still be able to get Mister Berry in for his lateral rotator cuff surgery. He’s part of our local football team. I think he has a little tear in the anterior section of the tendon, but you never can be too careful with football players. You up for observing, Doctor Stable?”

“Depends on how Granny Smith is doing. Status on her, nurse?”

“They’re milling a new pin for her hip to match pony bone structure, and should be ready to have her in surgery in about three hours.”

“Good, good. I suppose I can at least assist with your human patient to get some practice with your human machines. Go ahead and release the clamp. That should hold pressure.”

“Got a little dribble here. No, it’s a capillary. Fix or seal?”

“Don’t see the other end— Wait, that’s it. Done.”

“Can’t believe the way you make them just twist together like that. Our Board of Directors would break a leg to have you at the hospital.”

“Just glad to help. Let’s do a final check so we can get Miss Widget closed, then we can take a look at your hoofball player.”

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Time: 1:13 P.M. Central Standard Time, June 19, 2015
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“Are you sure that was necessary?” Goose Down complained, but the glistening batpony had taken on a new lustre after going through a vigorous shower, complete with two shampooings and conditioner donated by one of the nurses. “I mean, I’m supposed to be guarding Granny Smith—”

“Who is in pre-op, with about a dozen doctors and nurses around her, all of which are dressed in bunny suits to prevent post-op infection. She must have dropped in a mud wallow from as much as they’re scrubbing, and you smelled like a sweaty horse,” said Claire forcefully. “They scrubbed down the recovery room for her and Widget to the point where I’d eat off the floor, and if you’re going to guard either of your wards, it’s going to be from a clean perspective.”

“Coming through,” announced a voice in the other room, accompanied by what sounded like a parade full of people. “Who’s in the bathroom?”

“The Equestrian security guard and one of the handlers,” said a voice before either of the subjects in the bathroom could speak. “They’ll monitor Widget’s recovery out of anesthesia, since Doctor Stable said she’d spook if she woke up in a room full of strangers.”

“Security guard,” muttered Goose under her breath.

Ignoring the damp, cranky pony for the moment, Claire stuck her head out of the bathroom and nodded at the swarm of nurses around the terribly drawn-looking pink pony. Large patches of her pink coat had been shaved to allow tape to hold down wires and sensors, there was a oxygen tube up her nose, and somebody had made a futile attempt at cutting a hospital gown to fit her, giving the injured pony a distinctly alien appearance, or more accurately, an alien who had gone through a wood chipper. Even her powder-blue mane had been taped and brutally trimmed back, and somebody had attached a pair of wires to her horn like it was some sort of radio antenna used to get a better signal. The whole mess was topped off by a human-style hospital sock on each of her legs except the injured one, which was topped by half of a sock just to cover the hard portion of her hoof, while leaving the bare shaved leg exposed and a thin red line with dark stitches where the gaping hole had been.

Claire was not sure if it was an improvement, but at least she still had the leg.

“How’s Widget doing?” she called out in a quiet whisper that lowered the noise level of the room considerably as the nurses became aware of their previous actions.

“Pulse, BP and other vitals are very strong,” said the taller of the nurses, who had a magenta ribbon tying her hair back. “We’ll be monitoring them from the station for any change, so we don’t startle her. Surgery went well, and the doctor thinks she’ll make a full recovery in a few weeks. She’s just going to need some therapy and some time for all the shaved hair to grow back. How’s your… um…”

The nurse’s gaze shifted as if she were trying to see through the bathroom door, making Claire roll her eyes, then chortle a little when the batpony’s deep voice sounded.

“I can’t get these stupid blue booties to stay on my hooves,” growled Goose. “You humans have huge feet.”

“I’ll go grab a box of slipper socks from Pediatrics,” said the nurse with a suppressed smile. “By the way, some of the kids saw… what’s her name?”

“Goose Down,” said Claire. “And she’s a royal guard back in her home, so I don’t think she’s going to want to go play with the children,” added Claire in order to cut off the anticipated question.

“Do you have anything I can use to polish my armor while waiting?” asked Goose from behind Claire. “I don’t want any rust spots, and your towels are too nice.”

The nurse hesitated with her mouth fractionally open to respond, then thought for a moment. “Go ahead and use as many towels as your want,” she said. “I’m really not sure what the scrub protocols are for extra-terrestrial patients. I mean, Doctor Stable seemed confident that whatever microorganisms you have wouldn’t affect us and vice-versa, but…”

“They’re going to smell like wet horse forever,” said Claire with a little giggle, ending in the sharp snap of a towel and— “Yike!”

She put both hands over her abused rump while Goose spun the towel, holding one end in her mouth and swaying the other end for a second shot at the wise-ass she was sharing the bathroom with.

“Actually,” said the nurse, “if what we heard on the radio is correct and you… ponies are going home in a few days, they’ll probably collect the towels for sale. We’re talking major league Elvis-like memorabilia trading in the foreseeable future.”

“Thank yew, thank yew very much,” sounded Goose. “Elkvis has left the building.”

“Wait a minute, hold on.” Claire eyed the suddenly cautious pony. “You had an Elvis too?”

Goose nodded slowly. “Elkvis Przewalski, the greatest entertainer on stage. You?”

“Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll music.” Claire shook her head. “Okay, alien horses from a different dimension I can fathom, but they have Elvis?”

“Why not?” The nurse winked and turned to walk away. “Elvis is everywhere. I’ll go get those socks.”

- - - - ⧖ - - - -
Time: 2:20 P.M. Central Standard Time, June 19, 2015
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Contrary to expectations, batponies did not hang upside-down in a closet to rest. Goose had instead made a ‘nest’ of sorts out of several blankets and cushions beside Widget’s bed and worked on polishing bits of her armor while chatting with Claire. To her surprise, the batpony was actually younger than Claire by a few years, although agoraphobic to an extent that was more than a little puzzling for a winged pony. Despite that impediment, Goose was dedicated to her military service, and just loved to talk about all of her relatives who guarded the Equestrian princesses, and the human military man she had briefly met at the Bruener farm.

There was an intensity burning in the young batpony that Claire had sought most of her life. She knew exactly what she wanted to do in life, where Claire had just wandered from place to place, looking for something she could not find. It was both irritating and refreshing to find a personality trait like that in someone… or somepony so different and so far from home.

“Thank you, Optio. Orders received and understood.” The batpony had to hold Claire’s iPhone flat with one hoof and turn her head awkwardly to keep the speakers near one fuzzy ear and still be heard, but she was adapting to the technology with no hesitation. “Tell her parents that Widget is recovering fine. The nurses are monitoring her condition and stop by every ten minutes, so there’s no reason for them to come up here. The doctors say Granny Smith is almost through with her surgery and should be here in an hour or so, depending on how she recovers, although the humans will be monitoring her much more closely, on account of her age. I would advise that the Apple family should not come up and visit either. Particularly Apple Bloom,” added the batpony with a glance at the complicated machinery around the bed. “Oh, and tell Claire Bruener’s mother that she sends her love.”

“Goose!” hissed Claire.

“Kissie, kissie,” added Goose with a giggle. “Over and out.” She pawed with one hoof at the phone, but was not able to get the red dot to go away before Clare snatched it away from her.

“Mom? Oh, Optio Pumpernickel. Um. Could you give mom her phone back. Without the kissie kissie?” Claire rolled her eyes while waiting. “Hey, mom! Yeah, I’m up at KU Med with the pony dad hit with the swather and somepony called Granny Smith, who will be coming out of surgery shortly. Yes, I am excited. Yes, mom. Yes, I know the house is full of ponies. We’ve got CNN on, and they’ve been promising exclusive footage for about an hour now. What’s going on with dad’s phone? Oh? Total meltdown, yeah. I’d guess there’s a lot of people calling him now. Okay, I’ll be fine here for a day or so. Yes, mother, they have clean clothes at the hospital, and I’ve got my debit card. Bye. Yes, kissie, kissie.”

Claire hung up her phone and promptly stuck her tongue out at the giggling batpony.

“At least Widget hasn’t made fun of me.” Claire got up on her feet and peeked at the snoozing unicorn, all wrapped up in sensors and tubes with one bare leg held in a suspension rig to keep it from shifting. Only a few small bandages around the injury and a bright red line marked where Earth’s first extraterrestrial visitor had her immediate experience with mechanized agriculture. It was only by taking a closer look that Claire could see the colorful bruises and bumps under her coat along one side where Widget had bounced off the swather cab, as well as the long raised lines under the skin on the other side where she must have gotten smacked by the swather reel during her collision.

Widget had moved a little in the past hour, and taken a few sips of water from the hospital glass. She was on a thick absorptive pad instead of a catheter because the hospital was worried about sticking anything more inside her than absolutely necessary, and pee at least would clean up easily. After a brief brushing back of Widget’s unruly mane and a soft touch along her smooth, unearthly horn, Claire whispered, “How are you doing in there, Widget? This is Claire. We met at the emergency room back in Manhattan.”

The unicorn moved her lips, and Goose was there in a moment with the water glass and straw. The two of them watched Widget take a drink, lick her lips with a strangely orange tongue, and then she rasped out one word.

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” Claire let her have another sip. “I’m sorry dad hit you with the swather, but from what Goose was saying, it was raining ponies for a while. You must have been the closest to Princess Midnight when she whomped you out of there.”

“Twi-light,” said Widget. “So cool.”

“Twilight Sparkle,” clarified Goose with a yawn.

“So.” Widget licked her lips several times and cracked one eye open just a bare slit. “Who is Nick?”

“Nopony!” Goose, who seemed wide-awake now, held the glass up to Widget’s lips again with such vigor that she slopped some water out. “Besides, you were sleeping when we were talking about him.”

After taking another sip, Widget gave out a raspy giggle. “Just had my eyes closed. Listening.”

“It didn’t sound like you were just listening to the guy, Goose,” prodded Claire. “Poor army guy, out at the frog pond and comes face to face with a pretty young mare from outer space.” She giggled. “It didn’t sound like you were that interested in his face, though.”

By now, Goose Down was blushing so much that the tips of her ears were nearly crimson. “It’s not my fault! He was soaking wet from rescuing Twist! And he—” Goose closed her mouth with a snap and abruptly sat down on the collection of pillows she had accumulated. “He was wearing shorts,” she protested.

“Whoa!” declared Claire. “Are we talking pup tent here or a full—”

Goose tunneled under her pillows and brought her enormous wings up over her head so that she looked more like a giant black pillow than a pony, leaving both Claire and Widget to giggle helplessly at the sight.

“I could text mom,” suggested Claire once she had gotten her breath back. “I’ll bet she could take a picture of Nick and send it to us.”

Goose tunneled a little deeper.

“All right,” said Claire a little grudgingly, although she added at Widget’s subtle wink, “Seriously, though. Was he cute? I mean from a horsey perspective.”

The Goose-lump seemed to nod briefly.

“Is everything okay in here?” The tall nurse from before looked into the room, taking in the bleary pony, the giggling young lady, and the odd lump in the middle of the pillows. “Oh, you’re awake. Do you think it would be okay if I check on you?”

Widget nodded and shifted uncomfortably. “Just for a minute. I’m tired.”

It took far longer than a minute for the nurse to check the bedding, the support brace, and the bandages, fidgeting over every piece of tape and electrical connection, as well as folding a blanket over a portion of Widget’s bare pink tummy. “There we go,” she said when done. “Feeling better?”

Widget gave a little snore.

“Well, how about you, young Goose. Did you like the hair conditioner we found?”

A similar snore emerged out of the pillow pile.

“She’s nocturnal,” whispered Claire. “Not to mention afraid of heights, dropped out of an interdimensional portal over my home, saved three ponies on the way down, and rode on a helicopter all the way to Kansas City.”

“Oh. Long day, I suppose.” The nurse turned to Claire. “How about you? Need anything like another pillow?”

Claire raised the plastic bottle of Diet Pepsi the previous nurse had gotten for her. “I’m good. I’m just so hyped over talking to actual aliens that I may not sleep for days. I keep expecting somebody from Men In Black to drag me away.”

The nurse gave a small smile. “Well, you should be safe there. The office got a call from the FBI and they’re sending an agent over, but no black helicopters or secret government agencies. Probably just pages of paperwork. There’s probably a government form for this, after all.”

“Yeah.” Claire pursed her lips and considered all the gadgets in the room. “So… who’s footing the bill for this?”

“For treating the first aliens ever on the planet?” The nurse shrugged. “The hospital will eat the cost ten times over for publicity. If we had to, I think we could break even just by charging reporters a thousand dollars a minute to peek into the room. Security has stopped several of them in the hallways, and it’s getting to be a pain separating out the regular ward visitors from the paparazzi.”

Claire nodded, but inside she worried about her actual status as a unicorn petter and reassure-er. Oh, and batpony teaser. And whatever Granny Smith was in an hour or so when she was out of recovery and put into the room too. Her thoughts must have been fairly obvious on her face, because the nurse patted her on the arm in a reassuring fashion, thus making her a reassure-er reassure-er.

“Don’t worry, hun. Having you here is a godsend. You really seem to have bonded with them. If there’s anything you need at all, just buzz the station and it’s yours. Except for the pediatrics doctor with the curly hair.” The nurse winked. “He’s mine, but just doesn’t know it yet.”

- - - - ⧖ - - - -
Time: 3:48 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, June 19, 2015
Washington, D.C.
- - - - ⧖ - - - -

Politics in the nation’s capital only seemed to be focused on the elected branches. In actuality, it flowed in an endless morass of competing agencies and departments, all of which were staffed with political appointees who considered their own private fiefdom to be the top of the mountain, and all other governmental entities to be vastly inferior. To make matters worse, the Equestrians just happened to drop into the country in both the worst time and worst place for rapid, organized response.

In movies, aliens were supposed to land their spacecraft on the White House lawn at around noon in the middle of the week, and emerge after an hour or two in order to give the government a chance to line up tanks and politicians, each eager to fire barrages at the newfound intelligences.

However…

Friday afternoon, during the run-up to the 4th of July weekend, was a light day in Washington, with only about half of the federal employees actually at work, and most of the rest only physically present. Since word of the alien invasion only really reached the federal bureaucracy during the lunch hour, Eastern time, even that half of the federal employee base was rapidly dispersing through flights out of Reagan International and the clogged arteries of the antique transportation system. During the Cold War, it had been joked that a nuclear weapon could be dropped on DC on a Friday afternoon and not affect the bureaucracy, although that was a slight overstatement. Every political position had a mandated alternate at work, from the Presidency all the way down to the Third Undersecretary for the Foreign Agriculture Service, so if Secretary Whatnot was out of the office, Deputy Secretary Somebody would be in charge.

Then 12:06 P.M. Eastern Standard Time rolled around. Just because the vast majority of bureaucrats do not listen to Limbaugh on the radio, does not mean they all don’t, and add in the ‘Cats away and the Mice can play’ attitude over lunch hour for many closet conservatives with earbuds…

Those who heard, grabbed onto nearby workers to listen, regardless of political affiliation or party. The complete political spectrum then proceeded to text as fast as they could. From there, unofficial emails were sent with YouTube links. Rumors flew. Some of them even had an element of truth in them. A great number of government lunches remained uneaten, traded for the opportunity to devour even more delicious gossip. The Verizon and Sprint internet nodes in the central Washington region went dark as ten thousands of government and civilian cell phones were produced and videos reviewed. Then the local agency internets failed under the increased load.

And in the wake of the great DC Network Meltdown, as fading echoes of Rush Limbaugh’s voice were heard for the first time ever inside several Washington D.C. office buildings, it was the second bananas who found themselves with the unexpected task of actual decision-making.

One thing about deputy directors and undersecretaries is they are only expected to make easy decisions. When the director comes back, the last thing he or she wants to do is to unwind a series of incorrect (in their opinion) decisions taken in their absence. This meant appearance of an actual race of intelligent alien beings triggered immediate denial in many government entities, of course. Doubly so for it having been broadcast on the Limbaugh show. The absence of a decision is never treated as a bad decision in the brief absence of a directing force, so for the large part, several thousand government entities promptly put their metaphorical fingers in their ears and began to whistle.

The rest of the Washington D.C. bureaucracies prepared plans to put these new creatures under the benevolent protection of their respective agencies.

The Center for Disease Control immediately put out an order to quarantine the aliens and every human who had contact with them, as well as any humans who had contact with them, and so on.

USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service ordered much the same, only demanding that the creatures to be quarantined at their facility at Plum Island in New York and overseen by the Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services took another approach, considering that the entire population of displaced alien ponies would have fit into a 747-400 twice over. They made the determination that the alien visitors were guilty of only ‘inadvertent entry’ into the US, much as if the same aircraft had made an emergency landing, and that a brisk evening of emergency B-1 visa printing should cover the extraterrestrial guests for whatever commerce they might conduct before returning to their homes.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation… had a different reaction which will be covered later.

The end result of the most dramatic responses varied greatly.

Due to a series of awkward miscommunications, the CDC’s ‘rapid’ reaction force did not arrive until early next week, without most of their gear, and in the middle of preparations for the Country Stampede music festival at Tuttle Creek, so they were unable to find any hotel space in Manhattan. Thankfully, some nearby farmers felt pity on them and allowed the scientists to rent rooms at their homes, as well as provided transportation to the music festival so they would not feel too left out of current events. By happy coincidence, Doctor Stable’s schedule had gotten freed up by then, and being a country fan himself, organized the first Interdimensional Symposium on Cross-Species Virology and Immunology in a volunteer’s Winnebago between the major music sets of Stampede. And they all got cowboy hats signed by Blake Shelton.

Various intelligent people in APHIS considered the order they received, compared it to the fuzzy colorful aliens they could watch on YouTube, multiplied by the number of people who had indirect contact, and came up with an immense number of individuals who would be covered by the order, able to cover the surface of Plum Island a thousand miles away to several layers and growing every minute. The quarantine order was promptly sidetracked into an endless loop of approvals, mostly by people who happened to be out of the office, while a dozen trained veterinary virologists, pathologists, and internal medicine specialists slipped out the back door that afternoon with airline tickets for some direct observation. By coincidence, some of their families traveled with them, mostly those with young girls below their teenage years. They also wound up attending the Stampede Symposium. And got hats.

An innovative employee in US Customs and Immigration Services made almost immediate landline phone contact with the Kansas Governor’s office, which also had dipped into overtime funds and sent out both of the available ‘Kansas Non-Driver’s Identification Stations, Portable.’ The stations had been acquired to deal with Kansas voter id issuance, and now found a new use, as each of the devices were whisked to Randolph to turn out the two hundred plus identity cards needed by the new Kansas guests. ‘Needed’ was admittedly a bit of a push, but the ponies were thrilled by the ‘souvenir’ and it did help with local identification.

Photographs taken by the Kansas stations were uploaded by way of the Bruener’s overloaded fibre optic network connection to the USCIS Washington office, turned into B1 visas, and by late that evening, were packaged up and sent in a bundle by overnight courier to Kansas City International Airport and then to Randolph. It broke several policies internal to the agency, but all of the employees involved remained remarkably vague about just who approved the overtime, and who was actually in charge during the sudden burst of productivity. And who printed all the colorful posters that decorated their office for the next few weeks.

Which brings us to the FBI, and the actions of one Deputy Attorney General, Quillian Gates.

At first glance, one might wonder what authority ‘Quills’ had over dimensional travelers from Equestria. Technically, each of the ponies had illegally entered the United States without going through border security, although that was nominally the bailiwick of Customs or USCIS. Still, the FBI was a Federal agency under the Justice Department, and the illegal aliens (literally) in question had not so much crossed a national border as appeared inside of one.

The details that eventually came out were a little fuzzy. Gates had been on a flight with a connection in Kansas City, and received word of the alien invasion there while walking to her second flight. Phone calls happened, or at least were attempted, and since the Attorney General and the FBI Director were likewise airborne and out of reach, ‘Quills’ determined the best decision was to take immediate action, bringing the bulk of the aliens to Quantico and housing them at the Marine base while taking the injured to Walter Reed Medical.

How exactly the three FBI agents in the Manhattan vicinity were going to transport roughly one hundred ponies each to Maryland was a question which would come up later, but the Kansas City office was substantially larger, and the two injured ponies (that they knew of) there far easier to deal with. Several of Miss Gates’ phone calls involved chartering a special medical flight, arrangements for ambulances to transfer the aliens to the airport, and of course, a direct call to the Special Agent in Charge of the Kansas City FBI Field Office.

In short order, Agent Karla Anacostia was roused from an unsound sleep where she had been attempting to recover from a previous day’s date, which had involved terrible food, a horror movie, and most of a bottle of wine. Thankfully, she awoke alone in her own bed when the phone started giving out the chirping sound of a cricket, because her snarled response to the interruption could have peeled paint.

The wine was mostly to blame, because it had been finished off around midnight when dreams of poltergeists drove her to a socially acceptable sleep aid, and only left her with the unwelcome side-effects now. Unthankfully, her protestations of being on her extended weekend off had no effect on the boss’s boss when he called her and in no uncertain terms ordered her to report to KU Medical now or before.

She complained vehemently, of course, but only in the car on the way to the hospital, because she liked her job. Likewise, she only complained inside her head when meeting her boss in the parking garage of the hospital, and stayed quiet when she was abruptly assigned to be the agent in charge of establishing the location of the aliens the whole hustle and flurry of action seemed to be responsible for.

It was most probably because she looked like hell warmed over.

Thankfully, all she had to do was remain physically present in their room while the details were being worked out by other, more kempt and habile agents.

Despite the fog of fatigue poisons and toxic wine residue, the assignment irked Anacostia more than a little. After all, Deputy Attorney General Quillian Gates was coming to the hospital in a few hours to oversee the arrest and detainment of a couple of high-profile illegal aliens, which would have given Agent Anacostia enough time to clean up, be seen, maybe shake hands and be in the background (with sunglasses) for the inevitable press conference. With the current administration, agents were expected to be posted to the Headquarters office at least once before promotion, and this would have been the perfect opportunity to ‘press the flesh’ with the new DAG. Such small social interactions could grease her move to Washington D.C. and further promotions. Although the dating scene was crazier in the Asylum, as agents tended to call the main branch, there had to be at least one sane person in Washington to occupy her weekends. She suppressed a shudder as she got into the elevator and poked the floor button.

Make that one sane person who doesn’t like horror movies either.

It didn’t help that Karla disliked hospitals. Taking statements from shooting victims, trying to convince a cancer patient to testify, they were all roles that the older agents disliked too, and thus they fell on the young female rookie who spoke three languages and looked less intimidating than some of the big, white, former football player types who populated so many FBI slots. Flashing her badge to get past the hospital security guards was as routine as breathing by now, although there were a lot of security guards around, and more than a few reporters lurking in the background.

The sterile air of the place made Karla’s head throb even worse, but aspirin here were probably fifty bucks a tablet. She gave the nurses at the station a quick flash of her badge and strolled down the hall to the correct room, giving a perfunctory tap to the doorframe before striding inside.

And freezing in terror.

All of the images from the movie yesterday fairly slammed through her system with the thing on the hospital bed, tied down by wires and bandages like a human would be, but a shocking shade of bubblegum pink fur and stripes of shaved skin that no human being could possibly match. One hand darted into her blouse while she backhanded a Hispanic girl to one side, out of the line of fire. As terrified as she was, Agent Anacostia barely got a firm grip on the Glock, bringing her second hand up to support the pistol as the monster filled the sights, shifting in sleep and flickering a drowsy blink with those huge unearthly eyelids.

“Freeze!” hissed a voice in Karla’s ear as something cold and gun-shaped jammed into her back. “Drop the— Wait, that’s a Glock. Put the gun down on the table and step back.”

There was no safety on a Glock 22, only the little tab on the trigger and a few internal widgets to stop it from firing if dropped, but Karla could feel the plastic piece on the trigger move back into position as she lifted her finger. The slightest bit more pressure and a hollow-point .40 caliber round would have gone into her target, which looked much less dangerous but still weird as hell after a few slower breaths. She lifted the muzzle of her weapon up, took her finger out of the trigger guard, and held the service pistol loosely while trying to control her panicked breathing.

“Let’s not get—”

“Put the gun down,” hissed the voice again, far quieter than she expected.

“I’m an FBI agent,” said Karla. She was thinking of what else to say when the voice from behind her gave a little gasp and the pressure on her ribs abruptly eased.

“Oh, gosh. I’m sorry! Just— Can I see your badge?”

Moving slowly, Karla edged the folded leather badge holder out of her pocket and flipped it open.

“Ohgosh! Sorry, Agent Anacostia!” The Hispanic girl put away whatever she had been holding, although she was still speaking in a whisper, most probably to avoid waking up… whatever the thing in the hospital bed was. “I’m Claire Bruener, and that’s Widget. She’s an extraterrestrial pony, but I suppose you know that already.”

Once Karla could breathe again, she said, “Actually, no.”

Although she wanted to pin Miss Bruener against the wall and cuff her for pulling a gun, Karla put away her own pistol and just tried to breathe for a bit while splitting her attention between the fuzzy alien creature in the hospital bed and the girl. As much as her instincts screamed ‘office prank’ in one ear, her eyes took in the wounded pony in the hospital bed, the way its legs did not bend the same as real horses, and the sheer amount of medical equipment hooked up to the creature by way of tape and improvised wrapping.

This was nothing out of Star Trek, with a human wearing a funny nose, but an alien from outer space, an actual alien, something she had been afraid of ever since she was a little girl. Once the concept soaked in, there was a small section in the back of her brain that went off and gibbered somewhere, repeating ‘alien, alien, alien…’ over and over.

And yet when Karla had been small, several of her relatives in Louisiana had owned horses of various sizes, and the largest regret she had upon becoming an FBI agent was giving up her favorite equestrian hobby. This conflict in her brain was going to take some serious thought, which she really was not prepared for at this time, and some control over her mouth, which was only emphasised by her next words.

“My boss said there was an alien up here. I had no idea he was being goddam fucking literal!”

“It’s probably better than my dad’s reaction.” Claire Bruener giggled with the release of nervous tension. “He ran her over with his hay swather. That’s why she’s here.”

“An alien. A real, live alien.” Karla swallowed hard and took a glance over her shoulder at the thankfully closed door to the hospital room. “Sweet Jesus, and I almost fucking well shot her. This is going to kill my career.”

“I didn’t see anything, if you don’t say anything about what I did,” said Claire quickly. “How about you, Goose?”

A creature in the pile of pillows moved, and if Karla had not put away her service weapon, her instinctive reaction might have emptied the magazine into the thing that emerged with narrowed, golden eyes and tent-like bat wings. The nightmarish pony was no terrestrial goose, although it was smaller than the unicorn on the hospital bed, but considerably more dangerous due to exposed sharp teeth and the sense of a coiled, lethal spring, waiting for a trigger.

And the little section in the back of Karla’s head began gibbering ‘alien, alien, alien…’ all over again.

“Is she going to hurt Widget or you?” asked the creature in a disturbingly beautiful feminine voice that would have sent the choir director from Karla’s Baptist church into a frenzy of joyful recruitment. Liquid chocolate voice aside, the armored dragon/pony/thing held herself in cautious readiness, making Karla suddenly aware of how her own dark face was reflected in those golden unearthly eyes. If their positions were reversed, Karla could not imagine keeping this calm in the face of a world full of strange monsters. Particularly with how young Goose seemed to be.

“No, she’s an FBI agent. That’s a lot like our world’s royal guards. She’s here—” Claire stopped and turned to Karla. “Why are you here, anyway?”

Thankfully, the pause had given her enough time to collect her wits. In a few succinct sentences, Karla explained how the bureau was planning on relocating the alien visitors to Maryland, and how the Deputy Attorney General was organizing their forced transportation. The bat-pony did not take her eyes off the FBI agent and vice versa during the entire explanation, but both of them relaxed a little by the time Karla was done.

“Bad idea,” rumbled the dark bat-pony thing. “The return portal should be up in a few days time, and I really doubt they’ll be able to move the endpoint. How far away is Merry Land?”

“About a three hour flight.”

That last word triggered something in the dark creature, which made Karla resist a distinct urge for the comfort of a loaded automatic in her palm.

“No more flying,” spat Goose, with her lips drawn back over sharp teeth and her long, furry ears laid back against her skull. “This floor is as high off the ground as I’m getting until I go home.”

“All right, I think I can talk the deputy AG into driving you cross-country,” said Karla with a calming hands-out gesture like she was trying to calm down a rottweiler. “It’ll take a little longer… actually by car, you’ll probably get to Quantico about in time to turn around and come back if… Portal?”

This time, the information flow went the other way, with the fierce dark pony explaining how a small portion of her town had been evacuated by teleportation through individual portals to Claire Bruener’s farm… or more correctly above the farm, with ‘Granny Smith’ being the worst injured. The elderly pony was currently in surgery for a broken hip, and if she had been Karla’s own Jamaican grandmother, she certainly would not have wanted to transport her old bones all the way across the country to be poked and prodded by some Washington hospital team of bureaucrats. Worse, there were over two hundred ponies who were stranded in central Kansas, and having the FBI forcibly round up the peaceful alien visitors and drag them to the Washington D.C. metro area would be the biggest cluster f—

Agent Karla Anacostia took a quick peek outside the hospital room and turned back to Claire. “This may sound odd, but I’ve got an idea how to keep your furry friends in Kansas. After all, I’m going to get canned for pulling a gun on her anyway, so might as well make it good.”

“Actually, I’ve got an idea on that too,” said Claire, who was messing with her Android tablet. “Let me call the nurse and get the video app set up.”

- - - - ⧖ - - - -
Time: 1:32 A.M. Moscow Standard Time, June 20, 2015
Central Council Chambers, Moscow
- - - - ⧖ - - - -

Facebook is a wonderful thing in the modern world.

So is YouTube.

In minutes, a video can be uploaded and watched by anybody in the entire world.

Literally.

Admittedly, there are certain restrictions in some countries. Some content may be blocked. Some users filtered.

Of course, those restrictions do not restrict the restrictors, which is why the Federal Security Service for the Russian Federation had a flawless internet connection to Facebook which allowed the Central Council to watch a video in stunned silence, narrated by the voice of an interpreter with the highest of security clearances.

“Good afternoon.” A dusky young woman of indeterminate ancestry strode into the hospital room and nodded, first to the person doing the filming, then to the nurse at the side of a bed. The contents of the bed were blurred by motion, but several still images of the horse-creature had been captured beforehand and held in freeze-frames on secondary screens around the room. Under the bandages and sensors, it looked to be an odd pink horse with a horn on its head like some sort of American practical joke, but the humor of the situation was rapidly turning serious, which is the only reason the Central Council was still awake at this odd hour of the morning. Well, that and enough black coffee to dissolve a GAZ limousine.

“I’m afraid you’ll have to quit filming,” said the young woman, after which the cameraperson shook her head and the camera, making the scene wobble all over.

“No, ma’am. I’m fully within my rights to film here. It’s a public place.”

The watchers expected the young woman in the professional blazer to arrest the disobedient camera holder at that point, but all she did was look pensive for a moment, as if she were listening to an earpiece. Then she turned away from the camera and addressed the nurse who was checking the bandages on the alien horse-creature, in particular, the large bundle of elastic bandage around one foreleg. “Nurse, I’m Agent Anacostia of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. How soon can this alien patient be prepared for travel?”

“She’s too injured to be moved,” said the nurse. “Miss Widget nearly lost a leg before surgery. She’s in a very delicate state since her surgery, and it could endanger her life. Now, you’re going to have to leave the room, Agent Anacostia. We’ve got a second pony even worse off who is being moved in, and she’s not going to be in any shape to be transported anywhere either.”

“I have my orders,” said the FBI agent. “The alien patients are to be transferred to Walter Reed Medical center where they’ll get the finest care on the planet.”

The nurse looked as if she were going to give a sharp retort, but several nurses and doctors came into the room with a blanket-covered pony on another hospital bed, spending some time arranging it on the other side of the room before one of the doctors came over at the nurse’s signal.

“Doctor Jimenez, this is Agent Anacostia,” said the nurse. “She wants to move our patients to Walter Reed.”

“Not a chance in hell,” scoffed the curly-haired doctor. “They’ve just started treatment here, under the care of one of their own physicians. Granny Smith just underwent a two-hour operation to restore functionality to her broken hip, and Miss Widget here nearly had her leg amputated. Their recovery is going to be delicate enough without your interference, and we’re very busy here, so I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

The FBI agent appeared ready to argue the point, then took a look at where the nurses were arranging the elderly green pony and making sure her oxygen was set up just right. The second pony was in a maze of sensors and tubes, an incredible expenditure for a patient as old as the pony appeared, making it probable that the alien was some sort of high government official. Broad sections of her flank had been shaved down, and a thin red line marked with stitches was still exposed to show the effects of the surgery. That frame had been blown up by specialists and posted on one of the wall monitors with little notations in Cyrillic showing the estimations of the depth and complexity of the hip replacement, another incredibly expensive surgical option, particularly since it had been done immediately without any waiting in a queue, thus only confirming the identity of the alien as some sort of high government official.

After a moment’s consideration, the FBI agent obviously came to the same conclusion and walked out of the hospital room while the camera panned back over to the nurses caring for their alien patent. Then the camera operator turned off the video, obviously to upload it.

There was absolute dead silence around the room with the last frame of the video still frozen on screen, then one of the council asked, “Has President Putin seen this yet?”

“Da,” said the council chairman. “Combined with the other videos and recordings out of the Kansas providence, we believe the aliens are real, although their claims of having reached our planet by some sort of dimensional portal are dubious, at best. Our best intelligence analysts all say there must be a starfaring ship of some sort involved in their appearance. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has tasked several satellites for greater coverage of the area so that we may be able to spot their landing craft, and radar surveillance records are being reviewed. The Americans cannot be permitted to gain access to alien spaceflight technology of this level.”

“I for one am not that certain of your theory.” One councilmember brought up a video in which several of the younger pony aliens were playing with the flashing lights of a fire truck, along with an adult white alien of the ‘unicorn’ type, who expressed a childish glee in pushing the button and watching the bright flashing and hooting that resulted. “Does this look like the actions of a superior spacefaring civilization?”

His point was only boosted by the way a fluttering grey ‘pegasus’ seemed to be entranced by the flashing lights and flew directly into the fire truck windshield with a solid thud and a spray of letters from her postal bag.

“Perhaps… they are just faking it,” said the first councilmember. He watched along with his Russian peers as the pegasus was straightened up and sent on her way, only to loop around and wind up head first into the windshield again, only this time leaving a noticeable crack across the glass.

“They are exceedingly good actors, then,” said the second councilmember.