“The whole of Torchhoof and possible Equestria itself is now depending on you,” Chrono reminded, trotting up beside Copper. “We will now need your full cooperation on this case; the consequences for you could be just as dastardly as the consequences for everyone else would be dangerous.”
Atom swallowed hard, glancing around. This was a lot of pressure for a librarian from Hoofington! Star, on the other hoof, just stood her ground, albeit scowling slightly.
“You’re to help us on case 413,” Copper explained, her tone dripping in seriousness and the urgency of the situation. “Or, as many in the Theory Room like to call it, The Hush Sound.”
Looking quizzically from Star, to Chrono, and back to Copper, Atom quirked an eyebrow. “The Hush Sound?”
“This is going to take a lot of explaining,” groaned Chrono, and Copper trotted over to a pony of a dark blue color—navy, darker than Star’s coat by far—and a mane of a slight silver color.
“Neb, can you please explain to our two… assistants here—“ she practically spat out with word ‘assistants’ “—the situation with the Capella system?”
The stallion nodded, nodding to the two to join him at the large pin board that held a map of the stars for all to see. As he turned, his flank displayed his clearly visible Cutie Mark, one nearly identical to Star’s in all but color- his was, instead, a bright green.
“Your, um… Your Cutie Mark, sir,” Star lifted a hoof, gesturing towards to stallion’s flank. “It’s just like mine.”
“Ah, yes, well, I have a very generic Cutie Mark for my people,” Neb explained. “You see, I’m a Nymph. We come from the stars. All manner of species are welcome here in Torchhoof, from Earth or elsewhere. Your cutie mark, though, is white—that’s not possible in our species.” He laughed slightly. “So if my little speech had you worried that you may not be from exactly where you thought, rest assured, it’s surely a coincidence.”
Copper nodded, acknowledging the end of his words and urging him to continue his explanation.
“Ah, right! Well, here’s where I come in. You see, the Nymphs come from a planet called Gables in the binary Capella system.” He pointed to a star on the map, and then gestured to another not far away. “We don’t share the system with anyone else, but we do share the constellation, and with many other systems at that… and the only other notable empire would be the Dorian empire in the Menkalinan system. And here’s where our case starts.
“Not much is known about the Dorian empire, not really. But what we do know is a tad bit terrifying. They’re an advanced civilization with a lot of cybernetic technology, and most of their work has been done in science rather than magic. Then again, they didn’t need to advance much in the magic department. The good majority of Dorian citizens are alicorns. And Equestria and the whole of Earth is facing an invasion from a race we’ve come to know as the Hush Sound. We call them that because of how hushed their race seems to be about all other aspects,” Neb continued. “We don’t know their language, their culture, even the names of their moons!”
“So if we’re facing an invasion, how do we expect to communicate if we don’t even speak the same language?” Atom inquired.
“Now see, I’ve been a particularly huge help there,” Chrono started, cutting into the conversation. “I’ve helped them develop a nationwide language translation circuit. Radio signals that broadcast across Equestria- across the Earth, even. Gallopfreyan technology amplified with the help of Torchhoof’s very own Live Wire.”
The yellow pony turned his head away from his experiments, giving a big wave before receiving a small shock from the electricity he’d been toying with—a small reprimanding for his carelessness an negligence. Copper let out a stifled giggled, and Chrono a soft chuckle, as though his imprecision were an inside joke, a frequently occurring event.
Chrono turned back to the subjects of his lecture, clearing his throat and straightening his bowtie as he continued. “As you can see, this is clearly a situation in which we need plenty of help. The Hush Sound, as it were, was once staved off by a fellow Gallopfreyan pony—Clockwork, or the Doctor, or even Doctor Whooves to some members of Torchhoof and a select few civilians that have had the privilege of meeting him. However, he’s been unavailable for questioning on the subject matter—running in and out of Torchhoof, leaving us with responsibilities as he travels about. Honestly, the nerve of it—adding him to the board was a severe mistake, in my opinion.” Chrono voiced his mind with obvious distaste, and earned himself a hard punch to the shoulder from an aggravated Copper, the mare forcing the Time Pony to rub his shoulder a bit melodramatically.
Atom spoke up suddenly—“Um, what’s ‘Gallopfreyan’? Even in all my studies, I’ve yet to come across so much as a myth. It’s a bit new to me.”
“Gallopfrey,” Chrono began, “Is a planet of great civilization and science, of travelers and Time Ponies, far from here. Was, actually. The planet fell to ruins, only a select few getting out of it all alive. The Last Great Time War brought us to ruins. In fact, only four Time Ponies register as living in the Torchhoof database- the rest, rendered deceased.”
“Only four?” Star shuddered slightly, pushing the thoughts of bloodshed and calamity from her mind.
“Yes, four. Clockwork, Chronology Clock—myself, that is—Time Table, and Misallarous. As a whole, we weren’t too familiar with each other in the Academy. All of us entered different majors, left on different paths. It is perhaps a blessing, I suppose, that Torchhoof could bring us all together. Though, I can’t say I’m entirely fond of Clockwork’s infamy. It is true that we’ve made enemies—Gallopfreyans should be made to keep a low profile.”
“Chrono’s never been too entirely fond of Clockwork. But, considering Clockwork is his higher,” Copper explained, words coming out through gritted teeth, “He still respects him whether he’s around or not.”
Chrono shrunk back slightly, surrendering to the underlying tone of castigation in Copper’s voice.
“What about you?” Atom inquired further. “Where do you fall into place in all this, Copper?”
“Me? I’m just a normal Pegasus,” the mare explained. “I ran into Chrono when he made his decent into Equestria—Fob Watched in the beginning, of course. Made a normal earth pony through the Chameleon Circuit in his TARDIS to avoid the war. He ran away the day it started, and came to the Nerd Herd looking for a job in computer programming. He was damn brilliant at it, too.”
Chrono shrugged slightly, looking off to the side—the situation was obviously not one he enjoyed talking about, certainly not when his cowardice could not be masked.
“Right, well, that’s enough chit-chat for now. Onto mission specifics.” Chrono was quick to cut in, obviously displeased with the conversation already. “You two are going to hunt for an Artifact.”
“Like the kind in a museum?”
“No. Like the supernatural kind. An Artifact—do note the emphasis there—is an object with powers beyond its supposedly initial parameters. For instance, an ordinary book with the power to tell the future would be an Artifact. We’ve even had a cat be an artifact, one that granted wishes for a usually deadly price. Generally, we tend to keep a close hold on them, storing them in a Government warehouse and keeping them out of public reach or knowledge. For the safety of our nation’s civilians, of course.”
“Right, okay, so what do you expect us to do, go to the warehouse and say, ‘Oh, hey, a pony from outer space asked us to come and get a horridly dangerous Artifact from you guys to prevent an alien invasion, would you mind just handing it over?’ Yes, that’ll work, no chance we’ll be thrown into an asylum!” Star sassed the Time Pony, her disregard for his general authority showing, as usual.
“No, heavens no, of course not. If we had it on hoof, we’d send you over there with proper warrants and paperwork. Actually, if we had it, we wouldn’t need you at all. This one, however, has managed to escape our grasp for once. We’d like you to hunt it down.”
“Trained government professionals couldn’t even find it,” Atom rebutted, “And you expect us to? A librarian and an alien who’ve only just met. We’re not the best of teams to be sending on an expedition like this.”
“This Artifact is not in fact dangerous,” explained Chrono. “We’ve had no need till now to recover it. No one has ever made an effort—in fact, it’s only been legend to us till now.”
“We’d like you to find the Earthly Body. We’ve asked Princess Celestia about it before, but she generally tends to shy away from the question. So we recommend you two read up on your mythology instead.” Copper gave a small, but genuine smile. “If anyone can do it, we expect it’s you two. You’ve got an excellent dynamic, and you’re both quite clever. Believe me, I trust you two fully.”
Star was slightly taken aback; clever? Her, clever? That was certainly a new one. Ecstatic, creative, sassy, sure—she’d heard those a million times, and had no trouble believing them. But when clever?
“We’ve only just met, but Atom seems to have taken a liking to you,” the lavender mare continued, directing her attention to Star now. She reached up to straighten her ponytail and misaligned her fez in the process. “You are clever, I can tell, even if a lot of that goes to waste with common sense dulled by such an energetic personality.” She laughed only slightly, clearly teasing.
“Right, well, do you suppose you’d recommend the Canterlot Library then? For research, I mean.” Atom cut into the conversation quite suddenly, clearly trying to avoid a pissing contest between the two.
“It is the best location for any research in Canterlot, if not in the whole of Equestria. Go for it,” Copper replied.
Chrono slipped off for a moment, only to return in no time at all with two slips of paper, handing them to the two accordingly. “Library passes,” he explained. “You’ll need these certified ones to get into some of the upper sections of the library. Canterlot Library is not a fully public resource, after all. Only the basic levels are available to civilians.”
“Got it.” Atom stared down at the pass; this was literally all he could ask for—books and information were his passion, after all. With something like this, he was happier than a kid on Christmas. “How long do these last? One visit? Till we find the Artifact?”
“Uh- well.” Chrono exchanged a nervous glance with Copper; he’d not been expecting a question like that. “As long as you want it to, I suppose. There’s no expiration date and no reason why we should take it away from you.”
Atom grinned widely, exchanging a quick, excited glance with Star. Copper shook her head before speaking up.
“Alright. Go. Have fun, kids, and remember your mission.”