Farmer Bruener Has Some Ponies

by Georg

23. Things Left Unsaid

“Sometimes stupid is right," Megan said, then paused. "Hell. I hope nobody ever quotes me on that one.”
Brandon Sanderson, Calamity

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Time: 1:30 P.M. Monday June 22, 2015
Location: Hunting Hill Farm, Randolph KS
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Ethan Alexander was not a happy bureaucrat. His co-workers at the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service could have told anybody that particular fact about their stocky red-headed field inspector without even looking. Grabbing a flight on short notice on Friday and winding up in a small town in Kansas on the edge of an alien invasion had not improved his less than cheerful demeanor one bit. These creatures did not obey any kind of disease protocol at all! If they carried some sort of deadly disease, a parasite, or one of a dozen cross-species viruses, or a thousand other things, the entire planet could be wiped out, something that APHIS had been created to stop, not just check for fruit on international flights. Um… APHIS and the Center for Disease Control, which Ethan kept forgetting about, since they dealt with people and he for the most part did not⁽*⁾.
(*) The other people appreciated that.

Through strenuous effort and possibly some threats, he had managed to get one of the blood bags from the Manhattan hospital packed and shipped back to the CDC for proper international distribution and testing, but there were hundreds of the creatures less than a mile away, and in an hour or two, they’d be gone forever. All he wanted was to get his isolation garb on, go over to the alien landing site, and collect a blood, urine, and tissue sample from each of the aliens. Was that so bad? He had talked for hours… well, raved if he was going to be totally honest with himself, to the mayor of the displaced town, and the best concession he had managed was first dibs on pumping out the septic tanks of all the recreational vehicles once the evacuation was over. For samples, human and alien fecal matter mixed together was better than nothing, but not by much. Every gram of it was going to be distributed to various health agencies worldwide, although not under Biosafety Level 4 protocol as he would have wished. To be honest, if there was something contagious between alien and human, it probably was far too late to prevent, but he would be darned if he was the one—

A burst of happy laughter from the hay barn brought Ethan’s attention up from the report he was writing, but only momentarily. The rest of his team’s children had been treating this serious occasion as some sort of farm-based vacation, although the three other members of his team had buckled down to work with all the professionalism he expected. Just why they had brought their spouses and children along baffled Ethan, and how they managed to talk his wife into bringing their own two offspring also was… something he was not brave enough to take up with Eve. Still, they had all managed to follow Ethan’s strict rules about not walking most of a mile down the path to the Bruener farm so there would be at least some sort of biological separation between their children and the alien subjects.

Although some of the happy voices from the barn where the children had been set up for their extended Kansas sleepover did not sound quite right.

“What’s going on here?” Ethan stopped at the door to the hay barn, totally flabbergasted at the way a half-dozen children and about the same number of alien ponies had managed to make the tidy collection of camping sleeping bags, fans, coolers, and snacks into a chaotic playground.

“There aren’t supposed to be any ponies here!” he spluttered, waving one hand in the direction of the paddock. “This whole farm is under quarantine to prevent any contamination of Champion by—”

“Hi, I’m Apple Bloom,” said one of the smaller aliens, who looked larger due to the enormous bow she had tied in her mane. “This is Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo, and Sparkler over there, and Miss Thermal up there trying to get her colt unstuck out of the rafters, and…”

To be honest, the little pony chattering away at full speed named a number of other small ponies dashing around the barn, jumping off stacks of hay bales, and playing with unabashed energy, but Ethan’s mind temporarily locked up with the sight of a hovering pegasus directly overhead. It was not the presence of the unearthly mare, but the brain-shocking shade of pink coat that fairly lit up the area of ceiling she was in, with a short cascade of hunter’s orange tail waving underneath, and a sizable pair of pert equine teats indicating that the mare had not completely dried up yet after weaning her foal.

“Eve needs to see— No, wait.” Ethan shook his head and tried to get horse tits larger than his wife’s out of his mind. “I’m using Champion as a test subject,” he managed after a few quick breasts… breaths. “He’s Miss Hunter’s show horse, and the Hunters have been so kind as to permit us to monitor him for any changes due to… your presence.”

“He means if Champion gets sick,” said the small white unicorn who had been introduced as Sweetie Belle. “Only he shouldn’t since Starswirl’s spell uses a… it’s a filter of some sort like Rarity’s vacuum cleaner, so as long as nopony was really sick coming through the portal, they shouldn’t be carrying anything.” The eager expression of the little pony changed almost immediately to a mournful look that could have melted stone. “Can we go play with Champion today, mister? The other children said he was off-limit because you didn’t want him to get sick, but we promise to be careful, and none of us are even sniffly. It’s going to be our last chance because they said Twilight’s going to get the portal open real soon now, and we’ll have to leave.”

What Ethan wanted to do was dash back to his equipment, put on his biohazard suit, separate the aliens and the children, and proceed to have one giant decontamination shower for them all. The Kansas heat only made the idea more tempting. The problem with that was his role as a father, and the sight of his two boys actually engaging in interpersonal… that is interspecies interactions instead of being glued to their pocket video games gave him a little twinge in the chest. Paul was almost nose to nose with one of the unicorn aliens, watching her move a piece of hay with her magic horn, while Phillip was holding onto a very small winged foal and bottle feeding it with an expression of pure concentration and joy.

He had managed the bio-isolation of the nearby terrestrial chestnut gelding for nearly two days without exposing it to direct alien contact, but close exposure to those begging green eyes made the importance of that sample set seem less important. And—

“I really can’t let you have contact with Champion and our children,” started Ethan as the plan began to form in the back of his mind, “until after I check to make sure you are all healthy.”

“Yea!” cheered the little ponies, along with their human playmates.

* * *

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Time: 2:30 P.M. Monday June 22, 2015 (plus twenty seconds)
Location: FBI Field Office, Kansas City, Missouri
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For the night is dark and full of fuzzy terrors.

From the screaming in the darkness around her, the loud thud of bodies hitting the mat, and the occasional crackle of a taser going off, the FBI were getting a full Game of Thrones introduction to the adorable little lump of a dragon-pony that Claire had gotten to know over the last few days. One of the agents even had the presence of mind to turn on his phone to use as a light, which lasted just long enough for him to realize how much of a target that made him. As the darkness returned to the sound of a phone smashing against the wall, it was strange how Claire had never felt safer.

To one side, the armored unicorn was holding a leg across Claire at about thigh level, while on the other side, the photographer was holding one hand out across her chest, although not to cop a feel as she had thought when she first felt the pressure. It was actually a markedly short time before the room got quiet again and she could hear Goose call out, “Clear!”

The lights went on with a sweep of Specialist Rose Petal’s magic across the light switches, and Claire had to blink a few times to make sense of the resulting carnage. Thankfully, there was no blood, but there were a few low groans, and at least three of the agents were tossed together into a loose pile against one wall, while the rest were scattered around the mats, with Goose standing alert and with wings partially-spread in the center of the room.

Without saying a word, Agent Anacostia passed the camera back to the photographer, who resumed his job of documenting the event.

“Twenty-two seconds,” said the middle-aged unicorn with a certain flatness to her delivery. She stepped forward to the nearest prone agent and bent down to look at his face, which Claire noticed had a horseshoe-shaped red mark on the center of his forehead. The unicorn peeled back the agent’s eyelid to look into his eye, then nodded. “No permanent injury. Good.”

She repeated that action with the rest of the agents, some of whom had begun to stir but apparently made the decision to stay down rather than get knocked down again. The most uncomfortable of them was the poor agent who had apparently used his taser to shoot his fellow agent in the back, which left trails of silver wire across the floor when Rose tossed the expended plastic device to one side in her magic. “You would lose quite a few points for this, if it were up to me,” the unicorn said in an apparent aside to the groggy agent. She pulled out his gun and tossed it gently over next to the discharged taser, then checked his badge. “Agent Dane, your superior will receive a letter. And…” The unicorn looked around, apparently counting. “We’re missing one, Cadet Goose.”

Goose looked up.

Everybody else looked up too.

Agent Hallman looked down from his precarious perch, lodged between two of the open metal support beams that was holding up the roof and next to one of the dark skylights that seemed to be packed solid with clouds outside. From the reddish rash of a horseshoe imprint on his forehead, he also had been ‘Goosed’ during the fight, and looked in no condition to get down by himself, even if it were not a dangerous drop to the floor.

Specialist Rose nodded with a notable smile. “Extra credit for that one, Cadet. Miss Widget, if you would assist, please.”

Between two unicorns providing magical support, Hallman’s trip down to the floor was sedate and without incident, allowing him to slump in place and pant for breath while Rose relieved him of his badge. “Agent Hallman, I see. Thank you for providing a credible training session for my cadet. It’s so hard to find a good threat in Equestria that the Elements of Harmony have not dealt with already. Now, I presume you have no objection to Widget and Goose leaving.”

“No,” he managed, still sitting down on the cool plastic mat.

“Very well. Come, children.” Rose turned for the door. “Let us be off.”

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Time: 4:00 P.M. Central Standard Time, Monday June 22, 2015
Location: Outside the Bruener Farm, Randolph Kansas
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Secretary Doug Franz was in heaven. He had been to many places in the world, talked to an enormous variety of people in high places, avoided being killed by some of them, managed offices full of hundreds of Washington personalities (which was a challenge all by itself), and put out four books during his life so far.

Talking history with an alien pony was the high point of his life. The only difficulties they had was taking turns. He would talk about Istanbul and nuclear weapons, Lucky would talk about Tirek and Nightmare Moon, and they each scribbled notes while the other lectured. The perspective of an alien herbivorous pony on magical villains from a thousand years ago contrasted so much with his own stories of jihadist fanatics killing each other in the hopes of getting a few pounds of fissile material. They both had world-ending potential, but somehow Doug had problems picturing a crack squad of pony SEALS dropping in by helicopter to raid an ancient monument designed to bring back banished radioactive evils.

Maybe as a movie.

The other diplomats at the event drifted in their direction after each of their turns making speeches in front of the podium were over, and contributed to their historical discussion, but more in a passing fashion as other important ponies caught their attention and they moved away. Maybe it was because Doug was starting to feel more than a little possessive about his new friend, and had considered just how he could smuggle the pony back to Washington in his luggage. The conversation had become so engrossing that Doug was momentarily at a loss for words when a mulberry-colored pony strode right up to them and passed over a scroll to Lucky.

“Hello, Secretary Franz. Mister Grass. I mean Lucky. Twilight just sent this for you.” Doug had gotten a fair handle on the names and occupations of a lot of the ponies by now. Cheerilee was easily the most recognizable to him, due to her cheerful demeanor and some burning desire to turn every occasion into a lesson for any small pony child who wandered into her vicinity.

“Pardon me, Doug.” Lucky unrolled the scroll, read for a minute, then let it roll back up. “So, two hours?” he asked the schoolmare.

Cheerilee shrugged. “Plus or minus some. Epsilon says the time difference between dimensions hasn’t been completely stable. I just hope we don’t wind up returning after school has started. I wanted my class to write a report about their experiences here.” She craned her head and looked around. “Speaking of which, have you seen any of the children?”

There was a small portion of his own heart that remembered the days of carefree galloping… err… running around out of the reach of older and more responsible humans. If the kids were enjoying themselves and staying out of traffic, Doug really did not want to corral them up for some sort of summertime school for their last fleeting hours in a new world.

“Sparkler and one of the guards are watching them,” said Lucky. “They’ve got my daughter too. I just hope Miss Thermal’s little scamp doesn’t give her any bad ideas. Just a few months old and I’m already trying to keep the colts away from her,” he added under his breath.

“But where?” said Cheerilee, still looking around. “I’ve been searching the farmgrounds and the town for a few hours now.

“Is there any place where you told them not to go?” asked Doug.

“Well, just the horse farm over there next to where the Army has been landing their helicopters,” said Lucky with a wave of one hoof, “but one of your government agencies is trying to keep that area under quarantine, so I strictly instructed them to stay away from it this morning.”

Experienced parent as he was, Doug checked his watch. “It’s afternoon.”

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Time: 2:35 P.M. Monday June 22, 2015
Location: FBI Field Office, Kansas City, Missouri
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The brilliant Kansas sun hit Claire’s face like a warm slap when they emerged from the FBI office. Several years of farm labor had toughened her to the experience, so she hefted the bags of Widget’s hospital souvenirs a little higher and headed in the direction of the aluminum mesh chariot out in the parking lot without complaining.

“Whoops,” said Specialist Rose, slipping ahead of her and carefully moving a hefty bald black man in a suit out of the way. He obviously must have been one of the FBI agents, although the handcuffs holding his arm to his ankle told of a story that Claire was itching to hear.

“Sorry again, Darius.” The armored unicorn’s voice was very low, and only chance allowed Claire to hear it, but the resulting glance down at the two of them caught the sight of a handcuff key being passed over to the agent’s hand by a low pink glow.

“I’m so glad that’s over,” said Claire. She walked across the hot asphalt parking lot with Widget clattering irregularly right behind, and only jumped a little when two identical white pegasi dropped out of the sky and began shrugging into the harness on the front of the chariot. There was space in the back of the mesh box of the chariot to hold all of Widget’s junk, which Claire secured by tying the tops of the bags together so nothing would blow out during the trip. Then she turned to help Widget up into her seat, only to realize that it was not over at all.

Goose was frozen in the office doorway, her eyes focused down on the sunlit pavement and her wings still tented out behind her like a dragging parachute.

“Oh, crap.” Claire’s thoughts were echoed by Karla just a few seconds later when the FBI agent looked back also.

“We’ll take my car back to Randolph,” said Karla while digging out her keys. “Claire, go start it up and get the AC running or we’ll melt.”

Claire was going to ask what she had planned when Karla brought out her cell phone and jabbed a speed dial. “Hey, Clyde. I’ve got a friend who isn’t feeling well, and I was wanting to take leave for the rest of the day to drive her home.” There was a pause. “No, Agent Hallman doesn’t need me anymore. Thanks, Clyde. I’ll get my 302s done this evening and have them in your mailbox by morning.”

“I’m going with her,” said Widget in a small voice once Karla hung up the phone. Several of the bags in the back of the chariot lit up with her pink magic before the photographer moved to intercept, getting about half of them on one arm while Claire collected the other half.

“Don’t hurt yourself, fuzzball,” chided Claire as she moved toward the parking lot and the collection of vehicles arranged in neat rows. “Let’s get you home, then you can do dangerous things without driving me nuts.” She lifted the key fob and pushed the unlock button, watching for the flash of taillights, then gave out a low whistle while walking.

“That’s a love boat,” said the photographer walking on the other side of Widget. “You need a couple feet of water and a gay captain to put that thing out to sea.”

“It’s beautiful,” breathed Widget.

“It’s pink!” Claire gave the unlocking fob another push just in case a better car were to flash its taillights. “It’s this huge pink… Expedition,” she added with a look at the tail. “How do you drive this thing through traffic and still hold your head up?” She popped the tailgate, tossed in the bags, then scooted over to the side door before Widget could try the leap to get into the back.

“I could have made it,” pouted the unicorn, although she was favoring her injured leg.

“You could have wound up going back to the hospital,” chided Claire. “Come on, Mister…”

The photographer turned off his camera and tucked it back into his bag. “Dakota Henderson. San Francisco Chronicle. You’ve probably seen some of my photos of the ponies from out at your farm, Miss Bruener.”

“Actually, I haven’t had a chance to get online,” admitted Claire. “Were you watching our livestream from the hospital?”

“Actually, me neither,” admitted the photographer with a shrug. He bent and lifted, showing more muscle than Claire had expected. Once the injured unicorn was situated in the back seat, he turned to look in the direction of Karla and Goose, who were both shuffling across the parking lot. “Do you girls mind if I tag along to Randolph? I think I’ve had quite enough of flying for one day.”

“Fine with me.” Claire climbed into the driver’s seat and started the engine. “You’ll have to check with Karla, and sit in the back.”

“I’ve got the back,” hissed Karla. She barely managed to climb in through the open rear hatch, followed by Goose who gave her a boost and managed to pull the door closed behind them, although it took two tries before she could keep the tip of her tail out of the gap.

“What’s wrong?” Claire turned the air conditioning on full while trying to peer over the seat backs.

“She won’t tell me,” said Goose, sounding just a little irate, even though her eyes were still wide and white from her un-hatted passage through the Kansas sunshine and the wide-open sky.

“I threw my back out throwing your fat ass onto the mat back there!” Shoving the tote bags of hospital stuff to either side, the FBI agent flopped face-down against the short carpet and groaned. “Motrin! Motrin! My kingdom for a Motrin!”

Widget floated a pill bottle out of her collection of bags and checked the label just before the armored unicorn guard tapped at the SUV’s back door. “Don’t want you children getting dehydrated on your way home,” said Rose once the door was open. She floated several bottles of water up to the photographer who redistributed them, then took the wad of bills she passed up with a curious look.

“The FBI’s contribution to your safe trip back to Randolph, since it looks like you don’t want to ride herd over the twins,” she not-explained. “I’m going to have them drop me off at the hospital, then they’re headed back to Randolph too. Cadet Goose,” she added, turning slightly to look at the fidgeting batpony in the back of the SUV. “Your score is adequate, considering your lack of experience with humans. Do not neglect your training.” Then she closed the door with a wink and trotted off to the pony air chariot, whisking her tail behind her.

“I swear, she’s just like my grandmother,” mused Claire. “And this truck is like my grandmother’s grain wagon,” she added once the big SUV was urged out of its parking space and in the direction of the FBI parking lot’s exit gate, which obediently opened when they approached. “Thankfully, I worked harvest a few summers. How about you, Mister Henderson?”

“The Marines wouldn’t let me. I joined straight out of high school.” He leaned back and fastened his seat belt, then looked into the back of the SUV at where Goose was gently prodding on Karla’s back with the sway of the moving vehicle. “Couple of the guys I served with blew their backs out in Afghanistan. Young kids who don’t know better with a heavy pack go jumping onto a truck, and a couple of discs blow up sideways. It’s no picnic.”

“Doctor Stable showed me the spell he used on my leg,” Widget put forward hesitatingly. “I could—”

“Do it,” moaned Agent Anacostia.

Claire withheld any further comments about Widget’s licence to commit Equestrian veterinary medicine until they were actually on I-70, because Kansas City traffic — even in the afternoon — required a certain intensity to her maneuvers with an unfamiliar vehicle. The sight of Goose in the back of the vehicle, apparently walking on Karla’s back with her wings spread out to the sides of the Explorer for stability, did not help her concentration.

“So, Mister Henderson,” she asked in order to keep her mind off of the interdimensional massage parlor behind her, “you’re a newspaper photographer?”

“A little of everything, to be honest. I write articles when I can, bouncer for clubs in the evening, go overseas when the Chronicle needs somebody.” The photographer plugged his laptop into the power port in the back seat and messed with some cables. “So your neck of the woods is pretty tame. This is the first time I’ve really been on my toes since I had a knife pulled on me in the club back in San Francisco about two weeks ago.”

“Ooo, I have a knife, Mister Henderson!” Goose lunged over the seat back, locking eyes with Mister Henderson at a range close enough that he probably was getting the tip of his nose wet. “Corporal Rose said I was supposed to practice with some humans.”

Claire was not quite sure just how the batpony was able to retrieve the gravity knife from where it was clipped under her neck armor with just her wingtips, particularly in the tight quarters of the SUV’s luggage space, but Mister Henderson fairly jumped out of his own seat when the closed knife was presented to him, hilt first.

“Err… ahh… later?” he said, gently pushing it away. “And please call me Dakota, or Kota if you’re feeling like it. Ahh…. Where did you get that?”

“owowowoo,” moaned Karla.

“Oh! Sorry,” said Goose before she began hoof-kneeding the FBI agent’s back again. “It’s just that we buy weapons at stores in Equestria. I really wasn’t ready to have somebody sell it to me while I was waiting in the car over at the ballbase stadium.”

“Baseball,” murmured Karla from somewhere behind the back seat.

Claire suppressed a grin and tried to keep her concentration on the road. “You know, we’ve got time,” she called back over her shoulder. “If you want to see a store where they sell knives, we could stop at Cabelas on the way home.”

“No!” protested Karla weakly.

“Yes!” declared Goose.

Widget retrieved Goose’s hat from one of the bags and stuck it on the batpony’s head, then took a drink from her bottle of water. “I’ll stay in the car this time, Goose.”

“This is a bad idea,” managed Karla in a muffled tone, mixed with short grunting noises as her masseuse found sore spots on her back. “Help, help. I’m being kidnapped.”

“I should stretch my legs anyway, and find a bathroom,” said Dakota. “I’ll vote for a short stop. I need to let the laptop finish uploading the last video I shot anyway.”

Claire hit the turn signal and took the exit. “Don’t sweat it, Karla. I think they’ve got a cafe in there too, so I’ll bring you a sandwich. And if they’re closed, we’ll swing by Hooters.”

“I am so fired,” moaned Karla. “Leading our extraterrestrial visitors on a tour of violence and sexual immorality. Ow! Yeah, right there, Goose.”

She did not say anything while maneuvering the heavy SUV, but Claire was fairly sure a short stop at the Russel Stover chocolate shop on their way out of the shopping center would go far to reduce any complaints by their kidnapping victim. Besides, turnabout was fair play.

And Cabelas had an awesome aquarium.