Farmer Bruener Has Some Ponies
"You don't know how to lie. If you can't lie, you'll never go anywhere."
— Richard Nixon
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Time: 7:00 A.M. Monday June 22, 2015
Location: Kansas University Medical Center, Fourth floor
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Agent Anacostia woke to the muffled chirp of her phone, and the painful realization that she had just spent another night in the hospital, although this evening had been spent on the floor with the stack of cushions that Goose had collected.
And, to her embarrassment, with Goose as a pillow.
“Did I do something wrong with your phone?” whispered the dark pegasus through the stylus in her teeth. “I was just looking up zoos when it started making noise, so I pushed stop. I didn’t look up any naked people pictures like you warned me about but there’s a lot of them.”
Karla was just starting to relax into her warm nest of cushions again when Goose added, “And some of them were with ponies.”
All thoughts of going back to sleep for a while with the furry pegasus as a pillow vanished. “Give me that!” she hissed, grabbing her government phone and unplugging it from the power cable. It took a few moments to find the browser cache and wipe it, although nothing was gone forever on a phone, and she seriously thought about just ‘accidentally’ wiping the memory. It would only take a few touches, and she could blame the pony having done it by accident instead of her own instincts to keep pony-porn off her government-issued iPhone. Then again…
“I’m sure it’s fine,” she added in as reassuring tone as Karla could manage. “There are some strange people on our planet, and— Wait. People with earth ponies or Equestrian ponies? No, no, no. I don’t want to know. Somebody with a computer probably put together pornography of you an hour or two after you arrived. I mean Equestrians, not you personally,” she added at Goose Down’s obviously flabbergasted expression. “Oh, God. This is too much to explain before breakfast.”
“I wish we could go to the cafeteria,” said Widget with a yawn from the nearby bed. Both of the beds had been cranked down to their lowest height out of deference to the pony patients, which had impressed Granny Smith with the practicality, and made it more difficult for Widget to tunnel underneath the mattress to figure out how the mechanism worked. And most probably to take it apart.
“It’s a fairly long walk,” said Karla now that she was feeling more human. “And you would probably get mobbed with reporters. The hospital staff is keeping them off this floor, but down in the lobby it looks like a congressional hearing.”
“Oh.” Widget’s ears drooped, but quickly perked back up again. “Oh! We’re going to the ballbase stadium today, aren’t we? And you were going to show me your car!”
“Baseball, yes, and can I get some coffee first?”
- - Ω - -
It turned out a shower was on her list also, by unanimous vote of the room. Since her own apartment was too far across town, Karla was thankful that the hospital room had one, along with shampoo and conditioner, although she was missing her clothes once she stepped out of the tub.
“Oh, pardon me, Miss.” The rear end of the pony surgeon was within touching distance when Karla cracked open the door of the bathroom, and her clothes were hovering in front of him. With one last glow of blue magic, the blouse and associated clothes floated over to the door while Doctor Stable pretended to be interested in something on the other side of the room. “Just a minor cleaning spell, and I left your weapon alone, since I understand that’s a sensitive spot with you humans. Have to keep them covered, like your delicate bits. Seems a little odd for us, but I suppose that’s because we really can’t cover our horns without affecting our spellcasting.”
“I understand. I think,” added Karla as she slipped into her underthings. “Where are the girls?”
“Next bathroom over, in the empty room.” The unicorn poked a hoof in the general direction of the doorway. “Widget has a half-dozen nurses watching after her, and Granny Smith is critiquing. Think she rather enjoys it, as a matter of fact.”
“She reminds me of my grandmother,” admitted Karla.
“Mine too,” said the doctor, who she had actually begun to think of as a doctor over the last day. The unicorn remained outside the bathroom door until she was dressed, but stopped her before she could leave. “Could we talk privately for a moment, Miss Anacostia? Widget took all of her little devices with her and your phone. If you’re worried about other eavesdroppers, I’ve always got—” Doctor Stable’s horn lit up and a faint shimmer lit up the area just outside of her arm’s reach, making a full sphere that muted the sounds of the hospital corridor outside to faint thunks and clicks.
“That’s… impressive,” admitted Karla. “Are you in the spy business too?”
“Medical privacy,” he responded, looking slightly embarrassed. “Although you can’t be a physician to Equestria’s greatest unsung heroes and their families without writing a few reports that start, ‘Dear Princess Celestia…’”
“True.” Karla nodded and adjusted her blouse in the bathroom mirror. “So what did you want to talk to me about?”
“Where are you planning on taking my patients this morning? Because you twitch just under one eye whenever you talk about it.”
“I…” Taking a breath and checking the shimmering magic around her, Karla decided to skip several minutes of denial and obfuscation in order to cut straight to the point. “I’m taking them to the FBI Field Office in Missouri, which is outside of the restraining order. Some of the higher-ups think they can convince our guests to fly to Washington and be… paraded around as VIPs I think. They don’t mean any harm by it; they’re just convinced they are right and nobody is going to talk sense into them.”
“I see.” The doctor had a very compassionate look, even with the wildly different features that Karla had been getting used to over the last few days. “And I thought we had difficult nobility in Equestria. Do you agree with them? Well, of course not. Otherwise you wouldn't be so tense, I suppose. And taking my patients straight back to Raindolph would probably get you fired, right?”
“It would be a pretty thick black mark on my record,” she admitted. “Almost as bad as…” It took a much deeper breath for Karla to continue. “Did you know I almost shot Widget when I first met her? I was hungover, short of sleep, and in a very bad mood when my boss dragged me out of bed on my day off and sent me up here.”
“Then you saw this alien creature all covered in bandages and beeping machines,” said the doctor in a very compassionate tone of voice. “I hate to admit it, but I was hiding from the humans for a time when we first arrived. The first human I saw was covered in pony blood, bent over Widget’s body and shouting into a little box. I… panicked. I reacted by diving into a bush and hiding instead of thinking. It was not the act of an intelligent creature, or a physician.”
“A human being is intelligent,” said Karla. “People are dumb, panicky animals. It’s from a movie, but that doesn’t make it any less true.”
The doctor nodded, but with a thoughtful frown. “If Widget and Goose are delivered to your police office, listen to your superiors, and still want to return to Raindolph, would they be prevented from doing so?”
“I… don’t believe anybody in our agency would be so foolish as to detain them against their will,” hedged Karla. “Hopefully.”
“I don’t think detaining them is a possibility.” Doctor Stable brushed Karla’s short hair back with a brief touch of magic while he straightened up and actually smiled. “As long as you are willing to transport them back to Raindolph, that is.”
“Oh, of course.” Karla winced. “I really don’t think I can go against my orders, though. And I’m certainly not going to fight my fellow FBI agents.”
“You won’t have to.” The doctor turned to open the bathroom door, then paused and looked back over his shoulder. “You do know what Goose is, correct?”
“A cute little fuzzball with huge wings?”
As Karla tried to puzzle out just what seemed to be so serious, the doctor continued, “She’s the little sister of a dozen or more older brothers, uncles, and cousins, all of whom are in the Royal Guard. She’s wanted to be a guard since she could walk, and she’s wheedled and begged her big brothers for training every day and night since. She’s a remarkable young talent, and if it wasn’t for her ouranophobia and a certain reluctance among the guards regarding mares in that position, she would have breezed through the Academy and taken a position at Luna’s side. For star’s sake, both Luna and Pumpernickel trained her.”
“So she can fight?” asked Karla.
Doctor Stable shook his head and dismissed the odd magical sound shield around them. “Take care of my patients, Miss Anacostia, and see that they get back to Raindolph. I’ll stay here with Granny Smith for the second portal when she has recovered sufficiently. And do try to be safe.”
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Time: 8:30 A.M. Monday June 22, 2015
Location: Bruener Farm, Randolph KS
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It was a little weird to feel like the party for the ponies going home was the end of a roller-coaster ride, but Dakota Henderson was feeling oddly let down by this morning. Sure, he could go out into the crowd and take photos of the various VIPs mingling with the ponies, but there were already a half-dozen professional photographers all operating under the authority of the KC Star with some sort of pony pool arrangement, much like the SF Chronicle had its pool of one lone indian for the last few days.
There was a sense of completion to his musing. All of his photos had been uploaded to the Chronicle’s server, the goodbye gift of paper 3x5 glossies from Walmart had arrived, and he had gotten them tucked away into Lucky’s bottomless saddlebags. That left Dakota casually walking around the crowd, getting both wide shots and close-ups of individual ponies next to their various stacks and bags of human souvenirs.
With practice, he could pick out the individual ponies in various spots around the yard and vicinity getting ready for their departure. Sparkler and some of the other teenage ponies were trying to figure out how to pack one of the smaller large-screen televisions for shipment, along with a stack of freshly purchased/donated/begged DVDs to their side that was almost as tall as they were, although he could not see a DVD player anywhere in the collection. Lyra was sorting through her own loot pile of plastic dolls, trying to bring it down to a size she could carry on her back, while Trixie was arguing with Lucky, most likely having something to do with the Winnebago next to them, and how difficult it would be to fit through any return portal. And quite possibly, if she owned the vehicle in question.
He was just getting focused in on the Cutie Mark Crusaders, who in turn were being photographed by the cute redhead from the Kansas City Star, which would have made a good ironic picture of a picture bit, when his phone rang. He let it go long enough to finish the shot, then hooked the phone under his chin.
“Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, Fowler here.”
There was a pause, a faint giggle, then an older woman’s musical voice said, “Oh, I’m sorry, sir. I was calling Mister Henderson, the photographer who has been—”
“That’s me, ma’am. Sorry about that.” The voice was obviously a pony, since people were incapable of sounding constantly like they were about to break into song at the slightest whim. “What can I do for you, young lady?”
“Could you direct me to a photographer able to videotape an event for us? They would need a camera that did… why do you call it videotape when there’s no tape?”
Caught off-guard, Kota said, “It used to involve magnetic tape, but we’re all digital now. My camera can even shoot video. I can probably explain better in person. What did you want me to film? I mean video.”
“It might be a little dangerous,” continued the voice. “I mean I hope it isn’t, and I don’t think you will be hurt, but I’d feel a lot better if I had an unimpeachable witness on this trip. And Grace gets so sick when we travel.” There was a short huff of air over the phone. “She said you used to be a soldier.”
“There is no such thing as an ex-Marine, ma’am. But if you’re doing something dangerous, don’t you want one of the regular soldiers to guard you?”
“I really don’t want this to be official.” There was another short huff of breath. “We’re going to Kansas City to pick up Widget and Cadet Goose from some people who may not want to let them go. If they do, no problem. If they don’t—”
“You want proof that you didn’t start it,” said Dakota while he was putting his camera back into the bag. “No harm, no foul. Yeah, I can do that, as long as there’s no gunfire. Do you need me to jog up to the highway to meet you?”
“No, just get ready. We’ll pick you up.”
It took just a few minutes to get all of his gear stowed, his knapsack on, and the camera bag slung while he was walking down the gravel driveway to the road. Despite RCPD’s best efforts, Highway 77 was a sluggish mess of cars again. People were idiots. They were willing to drive and sit in their cars for hours just to catch a glimpse of the ponies going home when they could have turned on the television to see as many as they could imagine, in HD. A trip to Kansas City was going to take forever, unless the Army was going to let them use a helicopter. He turned at Nick’s tank to look up the gravel stretch to where the roadblock was, then back at his squat black friend, who was leaning out of the turret hatch and waving with a gleeful grin.
“Ho! Tonto go into town to find bad guys?”
“No, Tonto no go into town,” quipped Kota back. “Bad guys always beat up Tonto. You want to find out what bad guys are up to, Kemo Sabe, you go into town and get beat up.”
Nick gave a loose salute through his chuckling. “Yeah, I’m one hell of a Lone Ranger. You out here looking for Blondie?”
“She’s back watching the speeches by the barn,” said Kota, jerking his thumb in that direction. “I’m waiting for a pony to pick me up for a trip to KC.” His phone promptly rang, and Kota scooped it up in one hand. “And that’s her. Good morning, ma’am. Where did you want me to go to be picked up?”
“Right there is good. Do you have everything you need to make videotapes of our visit?”
“Yep.” He patted the knapsack on his back. “Along with a few tricks that have come in handy in the pas—”
There were feathers involved, although he did not really comprehend them until later. All he could see for a split second was white, the impact of an aluminum rail right around his thighs, then he hit the lawn chair. The whole chain of events took only a fraction of a second before leaves and twigs from the passing trees went scattering in all directions, and the pony chariot rocketed into the open sky.
“Grace calculated that it will take a little over an hour to reach the hospital,” said the otherwise ordinary pony sitting in the lawn chair to his side, seemingly completely unfazed by the lack of solid ground below the perforated aluminum mesh of their conveyance. “Of course, that’s assuming we can find it from the air. That will be cutting things a little fine, but we didn’t want to take off early and raise too many questions. Breath mint?”
The unicorn in the golden armor to his side seemed to be Specialist Rose, if Kota remembered correctly, and if the staccato pounding of his heart was not affecting his memory. That would make the two pegasi flapping away in front of him Left and Right, the empty lawn chairs to their sides for Widget and Goose’s return to Randolph, and the slightly damp spot he was sitting in a natural response of being scared out of his wits.
“So I take it we’re not driving?” he managed weakly.
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Time: 9:00 A.M. Monday June 22, 2015
Location: Kansas University Medical Center, Fourth floor
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“The reporters are monitoring FBI frequencies,” said Agent Karla Anacostia in the hospital room where she was huddling with the two young mares and trying to fight back a bad case of the butterflies from their actions so far this morning. “They just about have to be. Or…” She held out the GoDark bag to Widget again and gave it a shake. “Any other souvenirs you’re holding out on us?”
Widget closed her eyes and concentrated, making the pale blue light of her horn highlight her face. “Nothing in the immediate vicinity. And the bag is suppressing the devices inside to the point where I can’t hear them either. Can I… um… have that bag when I go home?”
“Let’s not try making another run at it again right away. I almost got trampled by photographers the last time we tried to make it to the car,” said Claire. “There must be a hundred pictures of me with my hands up, trying to stop the stampede from flattening Widget when the elevator doors opened.”
“The higher-ups don’t want us to clear the press out of the hospital,” huffed Karla. “Bad publicity. The other agents can’t make a path to the driveway because the reporters are swarming everything with sunglasses and an earpiece.” She tapped the microphone clipped to her blazer in thought. “Agent Hallman is going to give the order to try again shortly. We can’t even have a car idling outside to pick us up because it gets just as swarmed. Maybe if we had a sheepdog to herd them somewhere.”
Granny Smith chuckled from the next bed over, and shook her head. She had become a lot more active over the last day, and Karla was going to miss the old mare. There was no way the FBI would assign a local agent to this task again when there were so many worthwhile agents in the national office who deserved to have ‘On the alien’s protective detail’ somewhere in their personnel folder. Even if Widget and Goose were overjoyed about being hustled off to D.C. and Karla could return to her routine, her life would never be the same again.
“You girls sound just like Twilight and her bunch when they’re planning something,” said Granny Smith once she was finished chuckling to herself. “What you need is my youngest granddaughter. She’s a sneaky one. Them other fillies she runs around with get into more trouble than a pack of timberwolves. If’n I saw them three all hunched over talking among themselves, I’d know there’d be something blowin’ up or catchin’ on fire pretty soon.”
“I don’t think the Agency would like it if we set a fire as a distraction,” said Karla.
“We don’t want anypony to get hurt,” said Widget.
“Or any flying,” said Goose.
“Wait a minute.” Karla bit her bottom lip and concentrated. “Maybe we’re going about this the wrong way. The reporters know the FBI is taking Widget out of the hospital, so they’re watching us, and they know Goose is her guard, so they’re watching her. Have you ever heard of the Kansas City Shuffle?”
- - Ω - -
“This is insane,” murmured Goose, who was huddled next to Karla’s leg in a mass of dark trembling as the elevator doors began to close. “I can’t fly around the lobby. I’ll get frightened and freeze up.”
“It’s a huge open area, but not as bad as you think,” said Kara in as much of a reassuring tone as she was able. “The skylights are thick enough to bounce hailstones, and the roof has three inches of concrete and steel to separate you from your phobia. There’s no way you could get blown away by an errant gust like you did when you got your cutie mark. There is literally no way for you to wind up in the sky. You might as well have an anvil tied around your legs.”
The trembling slowed, but the solid pressure of a heavy batpony pressed against her thighs did not abate while Karla continued. “I saw you flying for those little kids. All you have to do is make a few long, slow circles around the lobby while all the reporters and photographers snap away. Then when Claire texts me, I’ll make a break for the front door. That will be your cue to follow, land at the doors, and we’ll run outside and jump in the car where she’ll be waiting with Widget in the back seat. No flying outdoors needed, and you’ll have all kinds of pictures for your Princess Loony—”
“Luna,” grumbled Goose. “They’ll photograph my… naughty bits,” she added with a bit of a slump. “The other guards will stick my pictures on the bulletin board!”
“Just keep your tail down,” said Karla while the lights moved down the elevator indicators. “Besides, you’ll be home before any of the papers with the pictures come out.”
“What if I can’t land?” asked Goose with almost a plaintive whine. “My talent is gliding. I could be making circles up there for hours.”
There really didn’t seem to be a counter for that particular point, or at least one that did not seem totally off the wall and insane. Still, it had to be asked. “How much weight can you carry while gliding?”
- - Ω - -
A reporter’s instincts had to be listened to in order for them to be any good, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had tuned Liam’s instincts to acute precision. There were only so many ways for a patient to get out of the hospital, and he had volunteered to cover the walkway going out to the parking garage, so there was no need to complain.
He still snuck a look at the group texting window on his phone every minute, just to ensure he was not missing another attempt by the FBI to smuggle out their pet alien without some serious questions being asked. And pictures taken. An alien, an actual real, live alien, and they were just going to let it get away!
The elevator bell dinged at the same time his phone chimed, making Liam try to look at both. There was almost nothing to see of the nurse pushing the wheelchair out of the elevator, since she had a gauze mask and blue mob cap over her short hair, but the kid in the Pediatrics chair was even more difficult to make out with all the bags of medical equipment in her lap. A baby blue blanket surrounded the poor thing, tucked in on all sides and with only a few balloons tied onto a plush pink unicorn tucked against her head as a pillow to cheer the most probably cancer treated child on her way home. The nurse murmured a few words of encouragement as she pushed the wheelchair along, giving Liam a brief nod as she moved toward the second-floor walkway headed to the parking garage.
“Big announcement in the lobby,” read Liam as he finally managed to get his phone out. “Can see a pony and FBI. Lucky schmucks,” he muttered, resuming his position. Once the FBI decided to move the wounded alien again, he needed to be ready to notify the rest of the reporters.
He never even noticed the departing ‘child’ peer over the back of the wheelchair at him with the stuffed pink plushie tied to her horn.
- - Ω - -
“He didn’t notice,” whispered Widget once they got on the other side of the steel breezeway door. “How could he not notice? I’m a unicorn with a unicorn on my head!”
“People see what they expect to see,” whispered Claire back. “He saw the unicorn plush, and whatever shapes he saw under the blanket that didn’t fit into his head as some kid from pediatrics he classified as the plushie. My mom taught me about it once, had some video with a bunch of kids throwing a ball around in a room. You don’t even notice the guy in the bear costume walking through the room in the middle of it all, because the human brain can only see what it expects, and filters out the rest. Now hush while I find her car.”
Several pokes of the unlocking key fob later while darting around the parking garage later, Claire hustled the wheelchair over to a perfectly ordinary Ford Taurus and yanked open the back door.
“It’s a car!” said Widget entirely too loudly for their present sneaking. “Can I see the engine?”
“You can see the back seat!” hissed Claire. “Get in, and stash your crap!”
There were six bags of hospital medicine, self-adhesive binding wrap, an extra ankle brace, several plushies signed by every nurse and doctor on the pediatrics floor, various circuit boards from unsuspecting equipment, and the GoDark bag with all of Widget’s bugs to get stuffed in after the clumsy unicorn. It only took an extra second to yank the blue blanket out of the chair and toss it over her, although she popped right out from under it before Claire could push the empty wheelchair to one side for eventual pickup by the nurses.
“Can we bring the wheelchair?” she whispered while tucking the pink unicorn plushie (with balloons) into the trunk. Widget had at least paid attention to that part of the plan, and had the one side of the back seat folded down for access to her loot storage chamber before she had even gotten settled. Each bag of loot followed the plushie in rapid array, surrounded by Widget’s pale blue magical aura.
“It won’t fit, you crazy fuzzball!” Claire flung herself into the driver’s seat and jammed the key into the ignition. “I don’t even know if there’s space in the trunk for Goose now. We have to get down to the driveway before Karla gets eaten by reporters. Seat belts!”
“Got it!” called out Widget to the clicking sound. “Are we going to have a car chase?”
Claire did not respond at first, since she was tearing off the gauze mask and scrubs. Thankfully, one of the nurses had laundered her clothes during her visit, but there was no pocket in her shirt, so she was reduced to holding her debit card in her teeth as she eased the bulk of the heavy Taurus out into the concrete maze of the parking garage.
“I hope not,” she called back. “I gotta pay to get us through the exit first, and… We’ll wing it from there.”
And contrary to Claire’s worst expectations, getting through the pay booth at the exit went as smooth as silk. She stopped the borrowed government vehicle just outside of the booth’s wooden arm, got out her phone, and pressed send on her text message.
The reporters were about to go nuts.