Off The Grid

by MajorPaleFace

Who Dares Wins

Equestria certainly was a place of serenity; the galaxy above could be seen clearly, its picturesque reflection from a nearby lake was so clear, that it could cause one to believe a universe existed beneath their hooves. The moon hung high in the heavens, a silent vigil over an otherwise still world.

Princess Luna, along with a flight of Lunar Guard, glided silently across the backdrop of stars; ahead of them, looming in the distance, the peak of Foal Mountain and its lesser two peaks lay partially illuminated by small fires from the impact site, its location was somewhere South-East of the furthest peak from Canterlot.

As they descended toward the impact site, Luna's eyes tracked the trail of carnage, it hadn’t impacted like any meteor she had ever witnessed in her long life and had left a trench with scattered pieces of metal and debris – its journey had uprooted dozens – perhaps hundreds of trees.

Her Guards were looking at her for leadership – she gestured at a small ridgeline a short distance from the final resting place of the unusual metal object. As they closed the distance to it, Luna could see markings and small details she hadn’t been able to through her telescope.

They touched down along the ridge, her ponies doing so with a practised subtlety she couldn’t quite imitate, her large wing flaps kicking up dust and dirt. She looked apologetically at the nearest guard as he rubbed an eye with the back of his foreleg.

Assuming a low position, they watched in silence as thick smoke poured out of the thing. She glanced at Lieutenant Midnight, she saw pure yellow eyes watching the crash site with a calculating professionalism.

“Lieutenant”, Luna started, “take three guards and set up an observation point on the other side of the object. Keep low and out of sight – take the long way around if the need arises.”

Lieutenant Midnight looked to her Princess for a moment before her head nodded almost imperceptibly. “Yes Princess”, she stood to leave and pointed with a foreleg at three Guards, “you three with me.” Her voice was quiet, and then the four of them took off with great speed and agility before diving out of sight.

Luna turned her attention back to the object; exhaling noisily she took note of its features. It was absolutely massive, boxy and industrial, it looked like it had lost large portions of itself, "perhaps in the atmosphere", she thought to herself.

It lay at the edge of a small wood; its journey had uprooted numerous trees and bushes – many of which now lay sticking out from under its front or had been deposited on its top. The side facing them was a jagged mess of sheared metal and wiring, electricity occasionally flashed and sparked along with the plumes of smoke it was emitting near its upper regions.

Trees from the wood became sparser toward the crash site; it had landed just on the outskirts of the treeline before smashing heavily into a sheer wall of granite. The impact had caused large chunks of rock and dust to rain down around the ship.

“What is that thing?” a female Guard by the name of Starry Skies asked with worry in her tone.

“We believe it may be a ‘spaceship’.” Princess Luna said, she gestured around her, “The world shall look to us as an example, if we are to happen across a new species."

After a short while of simply watching, Luna heard a sound, carried by the gentle breeze; it sounded like a tree branch being snapped. Possibly ponies coming to investigate, although the nearest settlement of Hollow Shades was half a day’s travel on hoof and lay on the other side of the mountain.

It wasn’t likely to be any wild animals as they should have been wary after such an impact. If indeed this really was aliens, then perhaps one of them had managed to survive. Luna's head was filled with images of little green ponies, or of large grotesque monsters that had come for conquest and to sow ruin.

Luna shook her head, knowing that any life forms probably didn’t look like that. In the distance, between the far edge of lone trees at the edge of the wood and the spaceship, Luna thought she saw a large figure move quickly to the edge of the craft, before disappearing from view.

“There!” exclaimed a guard in a stage whisper, “Did anypony see that?”

“See what?” Another answered.

“Right there, I saw something – it looked like a Minotaur.”They pointed with a hoof.

The second guard snorted, “Don’t be ridiculous; there aren’t any Minotaur’s near here.”

The first opened his mouth to offer a rebuttal, but Luna interrupted it before he could.

“We saw it as well. It appeared to be a large biped, and we concur in that it was likely not a Minotaur.”

“So what was it, Princess?” The second guard said, her voice rising in pitch.

“We believe it to be Equestria's first visit from life outside of our world. Something truly deserving of the word 'alien', somehow it survived the crash. We wonder, if there are others; or if it came alone.” After she finished speaking the atmosphere between the guards became eerily quiet.

After several moments passed she said, “Let us venture and investigate this object. We will ask them ourselves.” She stood afterwards, a look of steely determination in her eyes.

“Guard”, she said looking at Starry Skies, “Return to Canterlot and inform my sister of what we have discovered, the others and ourselves will investigate further.”

The guard looked defiant for a second, her face screwing up as she said, “are you sure that is wise, Princess?”

“It is our decision; we must attempt first contact and pray they are not harbouring hostile intentions. Please fly with haste.” The guard offered a slightly demure expression before nodding and extending her over-sized bat-wings, and then with a single powerful flap, she disappeared into the star-filled sky. Luna watched as the Guards form made a trail in the cosmos, before turning back to the ship.

“Come”, she said, extending her wings, “let us meet this visitor from the heavens.”

John Maxson’s hulking power-armoured frame moved bodily through the trees, they were tall - stretching for tens of meters into the sky and greatly resembling pine trees. John had long wondered if life on other worlds could exist to the same degree as his homeworld, and if so, how different would it look like? The answer here before him was not very different, at least to John's eyes.

The low light vision of his helmet gave everything a pulsing grey, slightly oily look to it. Readouts on his Heads up Display were indicating a breathable atmosphere. John had an internal supply of several hours-worth with more in storage back on the Anlace. He vowed to use it until he could determine that the air wasn’t filled with some sort of flesh-eating fungi or bacteria that would ultimately kill him.

The servo motors of his power armour whirred and hissed quietly with each pounding step, he shouldered his way through a bush and a loud “snap” resounded around him as he pulverised a dead log.

Arriving at the edge of a clearing in the trees he could see the Anlace up ahead; it was barely recognisable – he realised that it had been flipped onto its side. “Great.” He thought.

He ceased all movement, barely able to conceal himself behind a massive tree trunk. Peering around the edge, he couldn’t see any immediate threats and decided to throw caution to the wind and make a charge for the nearest hole.

After several seconds, he quickly cleared the distance to the side of the Anlace, although it might have been the bottom, given its shape and lack of view screens.

He saw a large gash, spanning several meters across and two decks high, but was quite narrow. He managed to squeeze himself through, power armour squealing as its steel kissed with that of the ship. Finally, he popped through with a screech and thudded to the bulkhead below.

“What a mess.” He said aloud – panels from the walls, floors and ceiling had been warped and bent – in some instances they were missing altogether or hanging from a tangle of wires.

Bringing up his Pip-Boy, he wordlessly scrawled through statistical information about the status of the Anlace, the Virtual Intelligence was still online; albeit barely. It was listing all systems as down or non-functioning. The last few Hydrogen Fuel cells were only at ten percent capacity, "it would do for looking at terminals", John thought, "but not too much else". What he really needed to do was reactivate the second reactor.

A warning tone pinged from inside his helmet and a new data stream appeared inside his Heads up Display; it was information regarding the reactor room: it had suffered major damage to its failsafe mechanism.

The Anlace's duel-fusion reactors could boost their power efficiency by over four times in states of emergency or critical combat operations. A single S-10 could easily power the ship, with things like faster than light travel sometimes requiring the second for a boost. One of them was showing that it needed to be reset, but the other was giving off a massive energy surge.

A timer appeared on his HUD. 8.23.36, the seconds started to count down. The self destruct. Johns' eyes widened like almonds, the Brotherhoods ideologies had shifted and evolved over the centuries. But one of them remained constant - the frankly fanatical guardianship of its technology. Allowing advanced materials, like the Anlace to fall into the hands of others was simply out of the question.

So an automated self destruct had been authorised by the ships security software due to the catastrophic ship-wide damage and the dead crew. As John hadn't been on board, the ship planned to blow itself up.

A simple command entered into his pip-boy would sort it, he tapped in his high-level security code. Nothing, he tried again. Same result.

"For christ sake."

John set a marker on his Pip-Boy and thundered off as fast as the chaos of the Anlacewould allow. While navigating around collapsed supports and jumping clear of missing floor segments, he was able to display information on his HUD by simply thinking. He could see vast amounts of damage and he tried to discern if any of it would cause any future problems.

The Anlace was emitting radiation, lethal amounts in some areas; it was bleeding from the hull into the world outside. As well as the reactor preparing to detonate, a Liquid Hydrogen Storage tank on the port nacelle – that was now sticking up in the air – had caught fire, and was pumping large amounts of toxic smoke into the atmosphere – the fire itself was burning hot enough to melt steel, it required him to divert power from a terminal and command the fire suppressant system to engage.

Further down the corridor, he could see it divide up and down. He considered his options, as he needed to head up. Looking down into the depth of a broken corridor. He leapt into the air utilising small thrusters built into his suit, he managed to clear the ten-meter height and reach the top, before grasping onto the edge of a wall.

He hung for a few seconds, allowing his thrusters to draw a charge from his armour's fusion core – he then activated them and boosted up the rest of the way. Jumping forward into the waiting darkness of the reactor access corridor.

Princess Luna and her three remaining Guards crept up to the craft, keeping low and sticking to the edge of the treeline. From there they had all but crawled to the edge of the spaceship where they had seen the biped disappear into.

Luna turned to address her guards, “We will venture inside, Starfire and Frosted Whip will accompany us. You remain here guard…” she trailed off at the remaining Guard Stallion.

“Steel Mustang, your highness.” The only male guard said as he stood a little straighter.

“Very good, track down and inform the Lieutenant of our intentions. Have her squad spread out around the craft, but do not under any circumstance, venture inside. Is that clear?” As she said it, her tone allowed no room for argument.

“Yes Ma’am!” He said, and straightened further, before departing, leaving a trail in his wake.

“Come.” Princess Luna said as Frosted Whip and Starfire followed her through a hole, just big enough to accommodate her.

Complete darkness enveloped them, so Luna used an illumination spell to light the interior of the ship. It was so very strange, everything was made out of cold steel, and much of the ship had walls coated in bare wires that were twisted, burned and still sparking.

She could smell smoke and ash that burned her throat and made her eyes water, she raised a dark blue wing and tried breathing through it.

Starfire took a closer look at the wiring as she raised a leathery wing of her own, “what is this stuff, Princess?” Her voice was muffled slightly.

“Something more advanced than we have ever imagined. Do not touch anything!” She said more loudly, interrupting the young guard’s inquisitive hoof, which lowered at the Princess’s stern tone.

“We do not know what could be harmful to us.” She could sense those strange energies again, as she had when she had originally detected the vessel. “We need to move”, she began, “we detect a building energy signature deeper within the vessel. We should begin our investigation there if we are to locate the creature.”

The two guards glanced at each other before looking at the her. “We shall follow your lead, Princess.” Frosted Whip said assuredly.

“Indeed”, Luna replied, “tis this way.” she led the way down a hallway, the light from her horn brightening the way forward and darkening the area from which they had gained entry, the two guards following closely.

The reactor room had been a mess before, but that paled in comparison to what it was now. The floor of the chamber had almost entirely been eaten way – two decks between it and the outside world. Smoke and fire were being churned out from somewhere among one of them, John couldn’t determine where.

As the reactor spires now pointed to his right, the once floor now being to his left – he observed the two reactor cores. One had been sheared completely from its housing, the long, thick cables that had run up into the ceiling had, in the ships endeavour to turn over on its side, sent the reactor flailing out into the room. It now hung lifelessly, swaying ever-so-slightly.

The other reactor was at a slight downward angle; gravity had done its utmost to dislodge it like its twin but had been unsuccessful. Yellow lights inside its housing indicated something. John would have to get close to it and run a diagnostic routine by connecting his Pip-Boy, to know for sure.

He was getting high radiation readings from both reactors - the inevitable side-effect of critically damaged fission engines.

He looked around the expansive reactor room - it had broken and warped pieces of equipment scattered on every conceivable surface. On johns left, what would have been the left-most wall but was presently the ceiling, held a large hoist – used for extracting the reactor cores for maintenance. It would definitely be non-functional, but it could hold a lot of weight; namely, a few hundred kilograms of armoured human.

John took a few steps back into the access corridor and took a running jump into the chasm that yawned between him and the reactor spires. His thrusters spat a jet of flame and he sailed toward the crane. John didn’t grab onto it so much as smash into it at a great velocity, he bounced off of it, sending the crane spinning with a screech and landed atop the side of the reactor spire.

He had landed on his back and stood up; the frame holding the core groaned in protest but didn’t break.

He spun in place, looking for an access point to connect to. He saw one at the base of the spire – he stretched for it and after a few gangling swings, managed to hit the release, a small square slot extended a few dozen centimetres and opened at its end.

John fished inside a small internal compartment – not easy with the clumsiness of using large armoured fingers. Finally, however, he pulled out a small length of wire and ran it from his Pip-Boy to the access port.

His HUD presented the ship's internal systems once again, only this time John was able to interface with them. The ship's Virtual Intelligence was stuck in a state of limbo, attempting to pilot the ship through space. It didn’t seem to realise that the ship had embedded itself into a mountain.

He looked through the ships logs; his primary concern was finding a way to disengage the self-destruct, as a secondary objective, he wanted to extinguish the Hydrogen fire that was busy burning its way through the port nacelle.

After double-checking the percentage of remaining power, he instructed the ship to divert a fraction of it to the nacelle, and activate its fire suppressant system, several hundred litres of Carbon Dioxide and a combination of a chemical foaming agent would be sprayed all over the affected parts of the ship.

He counted a few seconds. Before witnessing through the holes in the wall, the affected area exploding with white foam and Carbon Dioxide — extinguishing the flames — the walls hissed and spat as they rapidly cooled. Elsewhere on other decks of the Anlace, John could hear similar sounds of squirting foam and gas, before sounds of hissing and popping from the cooling steel.

His suit indicated that the room was being flooded with deadly radiation, enough that he would have to spend as little time as possible inside the chamber, and that meant preventing the ships detonation.

Essentially the self destruct was automatically diverting all power and fuel into the fusion reactor building up a critical mass under the containment system (needed to maintain fusion anyway) and then when it’s ready it just turns the containment off releasing all that energy at one causing one hell of a fission explosion.

The power surge from his earlier machinations had increased the danger from the reactor. He realised with dread, as his HUD was filled with equations and estimations of the time to critical failure and the distance to reach minimum safety.

Flicking through the information with his eyes, he determined a way to shut off the reaction. "Computer, how do I begin a manual shut-down of the self destruct?"

“In the event of unexpected cascade failure; the maintenance and reactor bays should be evacuated. Following that, all personnel are to reach a minimum safe distance of - eighteen thousand and fifty-one kilometres..” The timer and distance were being displayed on Johns HUD.

Once evacuated, I will begin an automated shut off of the wildcat destabilisation.

Alert! Automated systems nonfunctional. Manual shut-off required, the schematics and design plans assaulted his eyeballs, dozens of pages popped across his HUD and pip-boy screen.

Alert! Detonation in t-minus four minutes, thirty-six seconds.

John dismissed her as he had what he needed and proceeded to retract his uplink cable, before punching a series of commands into a control panel at his armoured feet.

The amber light surrounding the reactor housing turned violet and the casing flowered open to reveal a hexagonal prism-shaped core. It was about a meter across and completely symmetrical.

A steady thrum denoted the build-up of Hydrogen and power that in four minutes would detonate with a temperature of almost one hundred million degrees. John felt an animalistic urge to be anywhere else when it did.

A shutdown leaver was visible, he had to pull it, twist and push back in. He did so, each movement making a crunching hissing noise.

Nothing. The countdown continued, the hum was rising in volume.

He tried again. crunch. Nothing.

This time he opened it, his anger getting the better of him, he stood up.

He used his foot to stomp the tubular lever back into its housing underneath the core. The containment field smashed, as did the coils.

Despite the image that is produced as a result, loss of containment in a fusion reactor is surprisingly safe. Without the field to compress the plasma it expands, rapidly cooling and dissipating it into a harmless gas. A cloud of blue-grey energy and gas spiralled upward before disappearing.

The sounds of the reactor going critical were reduced to silence almost instantly. The warning klaxons were silenced, John took a breath, "motherfucker," he said.

Countdown aborted. Recalling Hydrogen to anterior storage C. The feminine robot voice of the A.I broke the quiet.
John huffed as he lowered himself to the gravitational gound. He swung from the spire like an orangutang and dropped to his armoured feet.

Starfire was using a small illumination crystal, that she had procured to view her surroundings better, after searching for the elusive creature. Princess Luna had determined that the ship may not have been the right-way-up – although it was difficult to be certain as the ship had clearly been designed for something even larger than Princess Celestia.

As she used her mouth to hold the crystal, she directed its light over a piece of technology. At least that’s what she thought it was, the alien device had buttons similar to a typewriter and was connected to a square piece of glass.

Curiosity got the better of her and she touched it with a hoof, nothing.

Starfire’s shoulders sagged a little. She had been hoping it would do something, after all, how were the aliens supposed to control the ship? She didn’t see any wheels or pulleys. She was no expert on nautical equipment, but surely the controls for this thing would be somewhat obvious, at least she had assumed they would be.

Turning away from the uncooperative piece of technology. Princess Luna and Frosted Whip were looking around the room with their own sources of light and their backs to her.

Connected to the wall in a darker part of the room, she could just make out what looked to be a more intact version of the alien typewriter. This one was mounted on a wall but at a weird angle. She supposed it made sense if the ship were indeed not the right way up.

She slowly and quietly trotted over to it, having to navigate around and over several fallen pieces of debris. Once near it, she looked up at it. It was a full body’s height above her. She carefully raised herself up on her hind legs and put each foreleg on the wall to either side of the device.

She stared into the glass square, this one had a crack running across it through which she could see diodes and wiring. She turned around to speak to the others and spat out her illumination crystal.

“Princess Luna, look at—” she was cut off as one of her hooves touched the typewriters buttons – many of them depressed at once with a slight click and the glass square burst into a bright white light.

It was so sudden and harsh that it nearly blinded Starfire’s sensitive Thestral eyes, she tipped over backwards and loudly crashed into a pile of debris. She could see flashing after-images in her vision.

A screeching, repeating sound emitted from all around them. She’d woken a monster, she feared, as it wailed for their very souls.

“Guard Starfire!” Luna Shouted to be heard over the deafening noise, now emanating from the walls, “We were implicit that thou not touch anything!”

Starfire rolled onto her belly, “I didn’t mean to Princess, it was an accident!” Her cat-like eyes glistened.

They all held their breath, but nothing happened. After some tense moments, the sound stopped.

“Are you hurt?” She asked the mare genuinely, her voice cutting through the silence.

Starfire shakily stood, “No, I’m okay.”

“Very well, and yourself Guard Frosted Whip?”

Whip was steadily looking around her, her ears were swivelling. “I am unhurt, Princess. Did anyone else hear that?”

“Of course we did. Art thou deaf?” Luna deadpanned.

“No not that.” Elsewhere in the ship, a muffled hissing could be heard.

“Is it a creature?” Starfire said, drawing her sabre with her mouth.

“I don’t think so. I heard fluid rushing through the walls. It was heading somewhere above us.”

Luna began to exit the room, “Then let us head there now. “

After leaving the room, the trio slowly made their way to the destination of the water in the walls that Frosted Whip had heard. They crossed into multiple passages and compartments that had been blackened by a fire until they found themselves in a large corridor with big metal caskets running up two of the sides.

They were once again reminded of the ships tilted axis, as they had to walk along a row of capsules with another row above them. The front of each one had a big piece of curved glass; it was ice cold to the touch and frosty looking.

Luna studied them closely. Inside the one she was standing on she could make out a dark and strange looking shape. She realised with a sudden feeling of wonderment, that it was likely an alien. Starfire appeared to reach the same conclusion.

“I think those are aliens, you guys!” She said excitedly.

“Look,” Whip added, “one of them is open.” She pointed with a foreleg at an indeed open pod, the glass had lifted up to reveal a grey interior, it had lots of small markings, the details of which were completely foreign to Luna's eyes.

“This must have been where the biped we saw came from. But why was it already off the ship when we arrived?” Whip thought for a moment, trying to come up with a reason.

“It matters not”, Luna said, interrupting her train of thought, “you can ask the creature yourself once we find it.”

“Do you think it will be friendly?” Starfire asked hopefully.

“By the sun of our sister, we hope so,” Luna replied, as she led them higher up toward the top of the ship.

The moonlight above the Anlace was a diffuse ocean, lessening the inky-blackness of the sky, but not so much as to completely dim the stars that speckled and glittered in the heavens above.

With all the grace and decorum that he could muster, Commander John Maxon hefted himself from a peeling hole at the top of the port nacelle, his suits servo-motors whined with the strain but he eventually broke free, and his large armoured form became silhouetted against the twinkling sky.

John thudded toward the edge of the wreck, the mountains to Johns left were laid in a great line like the spine of the land. It was as if long ago they were a great beast, only to lie down and one day never rise.

The ship caused a shadow to fall on the ground like a great curtain, his suit's sensors were indicating his lifeboat should be hiding past the dark side. As he evaluated his situation, he was unaware of the three sets of eyes locked firmly onto him.

His HUD displayed the distance to the ground, he checked to make sure his weapons were securely attached. Firmly he grasped his laser rifle and then took a running leap off of the Anlace.

Princess Luna, Starfire and Frosted Whip slowly and carefully made their way upwards, had they not had wings, the task of ascending up the crisscrossing maze of heavily fire-damaged corridors would have been extremely difficult.

After flying up a length of corridor, they reached the fringe of the ship. The moon was visible through holes in the steel, giving off the only light as she had deactivated her light spell. Frosted Whip was about to exit when she suddenly stopped and became very still.

“What is it?” Starfire whispered, looking suddenly afraid.

“It’s right there!” Whip said hurriedly.

Princess Luna moved closer to look for herself and true to Whips word, there it was. Standing with its back to her, it was huge! Taller than Celestia and far broader. It appeared to be made out of, or encased in metal, Luna wasn’t sure which.

“What should we do Princess?” Starfire hissed through clenched teeth.

“Be silent. We shall simply observe for now.” Luna whispered back.

For a time it did nothing and stood there on the ship, unmoving. Luna wondered if it had simply stopped working. She’d just finished that thought when it suddenly exploded away from them, its movements causing loud clanging sounds and sending vibrations through the ship. Before they could react, the creature jumped from the edge of the ship.

All three ponies were agape, that fall would certainly kill it – and it didn’t appear to have wings. After a few seconds, a faint thud could be heard from across the metal of the ship.

She felt disheartened. It had come all this way only to end its own life, they could have helped it.

They said nothing, but she was the first among them to leave the safety of the corridor and clip-clop across the hull toward the edge. After a moment Starfire and Whip joined her.

Luna looked into the trees. Except for a few shreds of moonlight, it was as dark as the inside of a shut cupboard.

They shambled to duck down low once they realised the creature could still spot them. Luna peeked over the top of the rim to see that its back was facing them.

They all waited with bated breath to see what it would do next, but for a time it simply stood there, unmoving. Its odd behaviour was starting to unnerve the princess. Just what was this thing?

More moments spent in silence. Eventually, a strange mechanical whirring emitted from the creature, Luna looked on in apprehension, as the thing's back opened like a grotesque metal insect shedding its skin.

It dawned on her that it was likely getting out of its armour. A much smaller biped emerged from within the steel behemoth, it was slight in comparison – only half the size of the suit that towered next to it, but still large looking even at this distance.

The suit of armour closed on its own accord with a sound like an old lock being turned. The three of them watched in silence, so focused were they on the metal creature, that they didn’t notice the form of another pony, attempting to hide amongst a large piece of debris in the trench that the craft had left.

For the first time Luna realised, she was actually seeing the creature in its true form. Its features were obscure from the distance she was at and muted by the darkness, but it looked tall and muscular – clad in all black and wearing a mask on its head – her keen eyesight could make out short hair and a bald face.

It seemed to study one of its forelegs intently. Then it took a small strange-looking stick that was still clasped in the suit's armoured hand, before walking quickly away from the ship and from them.

Motion in her periphery made her look more to her right, after squinting and trying to assuage what she was seeing, Luna could make out the form of a Thestral guard. She lit her horn briefly in a series of dim notes – it was a common Guard signal, meaning to remain where one was.

She then checked that the creature had not noticed - it had faded almost entirely from view as it made it's way back into the treeline.

His power armour had suffered a servo motor lock-up due to the height he had jumped, it would require a manual reset. Nothing too difficult, but John had neither the time nor the equipment to carry out such a task. With laser rifle in hand, he ran silently through the tall trees that grew thicker like giant blades of grass.

The moonlight spilt onto his back and shoulders, casting a long eerie shadow in front of him. His Geiger counter clicked away, decreasing as he approached the escape pod.

The problem with radiation was that it wasn’t in the air, it was carried on small dust particles. Ninety-five per cent of decontamination was simply removing the contaminated clothes and having a shower.

In the simplest of terms, the amount of radiation emitted from the Anlace would be carried several kilometres on the wind in the form of dust and pollen. Several weeks of rain would mostly mitigate the damage, the soil would absorb some of it, but it would be greatly diluted by the water runoff – eventually being washed away entirely.

The fusion core of the escape pod had been damaged and was also bleeding off radiation, but John would bury it after encasing it in welded segments from the hull of the Anlace.

He endeavoured to return to his power armour and repair it immediately. He wore a breathing mask for now but its oxygen supply was much lower than that of the armoured exoskeleton. Several minutes of wandering back to the crash site and he paused at the edge. Something was amiss, but he couldn’t put a finger on it.

He lifted his laser rifle and scanned the moonlit landscape for any signs of movement. At first, all he could see was his power armour, a stark figure in the otherwise dim shadow of the Anlace. He did a double-take as there was clearly something next to his suit. It looked like a small group of four-legged animals. A mother and three cubs perhaps - the largest looked to be slightly shorter than himself.

He took aim and prepared to cut them down.

Only hesitating after thinking about the possible ramifications, what if they were intelligent, or if after he killed them, hordes of quadrupeds descended on him like the plague. He would tread carefully until he learned more about this new world. John now knew, however, that he was not alone.

After some time his sensitive hearing could hear hushed whispers, emanating from the group of creatures. His aim still on them, he was also continuously checking his surroundings and Pip-Boy readouts.

He considered his options and decided he would start moving closer, hoping his presence would cause them to scatter. Slowly and silently he crept toward them, keeping his form as diminished as possible.

As John neared the group and his towering power armour, one of them noticed him – it gestured with a limb at the others and they all froze to look at him. John made himself as statuesque as possible and tried to halt his breathing.

Nothing happened for a time, John and the four creatures simply looking at each other. A task made difficult in the shadow of the Anlace.

In the resounding silence, the cool night wind tousled John's short hair and pricked at his forehead. His lower face was covered in a breather mask. They stared at each other, neither party willing to make the first move.

Eventually, John slowly raised himself into a less tense position. he moved toward them slowly – watching for any hostile reaction. He pointed his laser rifle low at the center of the tallest creature once he had reached a dozen body lengths from them.

He activated a torch at the end of his weapon, its piercing white beam breaking through the darkness and illuminating the four creatures. Their reaction was immediate; the smaller three drawing silver blades with their mouths and in one instance a wing.

The tallest of the group simply straightened, but they all took a few steps back at the presence of the light, using a front leg or a wing to shield their large eyes. John lowered his beam so as not to completely blind them. Keeping it at the ready, should the situation degenerate.

With sudden clarity, he realised they possibly weren’t just animals, but intelligent creatures, capable of making weapons and armour. As evidenced by the smaller of them – their yellow cat eyes seemed to look through him.

The taller one, clearly their leader, with its more ornate looking garb and lack of weapons, was a dark blue colour and had a long horn protruding from its forehead. He noticed its dark blue wings – the feathers of one being used to partially shield its mesmerising blue eyes, deep pools of starlight that twinkled at him.

He pointed at himself and then at the armour, “I need that.” He couldn’t say that he was expecting a reply, but on the slim possibility that they encountered another species, they were to limit contact and simply observe. Something that was impossible now.

The blue one tilted its head, “You speaketh our language?” her voice held a subtle, feminine smokiness to it.

John really had no idea what was happening – he considered that he might have been hallucinating, or under the effects of radiation exposure. A quick glance at his Pip-Boy dissuaded that line of thinking, however.

He kept his voice level, “It is you who speak mine”, he added, his tone becoming lighter, “You can understand me?”

The three smaller creatures lowered their swords a fraction, allowing their leader to speak further, “How is such a thing possible? We thought thou art from the stars.” Her eyes turned skywards.

John kept his rifle low, just in case it was a ruse, before saying, “Whatever this is, I need access to my power armour.” He gestured at it with his rifle, the motion causing wild shadows to appear as the only light source was manipulated.

The blue one looked to his armour, before narrowing her eyes at John, “For what purpose? If you have come here to wage war, know that such an act will not be tolerated.”

John snorted derisively, his blue eyes meeting with hers coldly, “That isn’t my mission; I require the armour to breathe your atmosphere safely. I have a limited supply in this mask”, he gestured at his breather mask, “and there are tools I need to fetch from the Anlace.” He then pointed at ship.

She looked behind her, before returning her gaze to him. “Very well”, she said at length, “We will not interfere. What is your name? We have never encountered a species such as yours before.”

John decided to chance it and lowered his laser rifle – this was mimicked by the three smaller creatures, they held their weapons at the ready.

He moved toward his armour and crouched to inspect its bulky leg portions, “I am Commander John Maxon of the Brotherhood of Steel, I'm a human, I was in command of the VSS Anlace.”

The horn on the blue one’s head ignited, John feared she was preparing an attack, but after nothing happened, he realised it was a means of generating light. He didn’t let his momentary bout of concern show, as he began expertly dismantling parts of one of the armoured legs.

She approached him and folded her wings behind her, before saying, “Our name is Princess Luna, and these are my compatriots, Guards Frosted Whip, Starfire and Steel Mustang.” She looked at each of the smaller creatures as she said it. “We are called ponies, human.” She pronounced the word ‘human’ a little weirdly; stretching out the vowels with slight difficulty. “It is our pleasure to welcome you to the land of Equestria; we would very much like to share our culture with you and your people.”

She paused before adding, “Will more of your kind come?”

He tried to hide the slightly dejected feeling by rubbing his forehead with a grease-smeared hand, “I very much doubt it. My people died on that ship.” He added harshly.

Luna looked a little remorseful, “Surely that wasn’t all of them? There must be others elsewhere.”

He sighed as he struggled to loosen something within his armours leg, “But they are many millions of kilometres away – more; as I believe I must have crossed into another realm or universe, instead of simply travelling the distance to our destined star system.” The part inside came off with a jerking crunch. “Damn.” He said, inspecting the broken piece.

He stood up – a head taller than Princess Luna – the helms of her guards only reaching his waist.

Clutching the damaged gizmo tightly, he continued, “So they might as well all be dead.” Grimly, he wondered over to the Anlace, “Wait here; I will return shortly.”

Princess Luna couldn’t believe it; an actual alien – this would reshape the history of the world and it was happening right in the heart of Equestria. She looked to Steel Mustang, “Where is Lieutenant Midnight?” Her illumination spell providing them with light.

His eyes had been tracking the creatures – no – the human's fading form and turned to meet hers, “She and the others are searching around the ship, your highness, I was clear that they shouldn’t enter the ship.”

“Very good, locate her and update her on the situation; that we have made contact and are awaiting the human's return.” She said, drawing out the Commanders’ species name.

Steel extended his wings and catapulted himself into the cold night air.

“What do you think, Princess?” Starfire asked, re-sheathing her sabre.

Luna looked up at her moon, “We are excited to learn more about this species. We hope he does nothing to endanger that.”