One of a Kind

by Retired5262020


Chapter 4

In the dawn’s early morning, where the first thin beams of sunlight shoot from the pastel hued horizon, a wind as cool as the previous night’s chill blows around the spire-like mountain. The biting air billows across your makeshift camp on a grassy outcropping of the mountain, the cold sensation rousing you from your shallow sleep.

Blinking blearily, you slowly rise from the prone position you were sleeping in and the survey the area around you in slight confusion. Where...? Then the previous day’s activities come back to you. The gate failure, being left alone, beginning the trip to the castle, and scaling some of the mountain before needing rest.

This is day two, meaning you have five more days after this before the rescue beacon you have becomes active.

With an exasperated sigh, you rub your temples with fingers sore from mountain climbing. This mission couldn’t have been something typical, could it? No, of course not, Emma had to have you test her little deathtrap. Now you’re on some forsaken planet with castles and flying horses.

On the topic of those curious equines, they seem to have disappeared in the wake of the siren that sounded from the mountaintop the day prior. Was that the owner’s way of recalling all of his or her pets?

You finally stand to your full height and gingerly prod the wound on your back, hoping that it hasn’t gotten any worse. A wave of nausea and dizziness crashes into you with no warning as you do so, making you groan and sway in your spot.

“Ohhh...” you moan lowly, almost ready to drop.

Bringing a hand to the laceration again, you don’t even need to touch it to feel the heat that it’s radiating. The blood drains from your face at the implications. Of everything you know about biology, the only plausible answer to the worrying symptom and previous illness you felt is that the cut is becoming infected.

Infected...

Death by infection is one of the slowest, most painful ways to die. More than once you’ve watched other clones been purposely exposed to toxins and viruses in Frontier experiments. The results...

Month one.
Month is correct, yes? It is how the order-givers sort out periods of 24 hours into more manageable pieces. More information will be needed, but this unit has possessed ‘thought’ for one month,

Even behind the thick layer of supposedly soundproof frosted glass doors, the ear piercing cries of tormented animals ring from behind the closed off room where the unit and five others stand stoically outside in the sterile white hallway, waiting for the instruction of an average looking order-giver with a facemask who seems decidedly impatient.

“Alright,” begins the order-giver, “today you lucky bastards are going into ‘chemical agent’ testing.”

Chemical agent? The unit knows the meaning of both words, but has never heard them in conjunction with one another. Does mentioning them together create a new meaning?

He looks over the unit and its brothers, his expression inscrutable thanks to the mask. He’s obviously is looking at something he does not like. Looking at a clipboard held in his hand, the man in the face mask mumbles to himself. It sounds like, ‘ I only ordered five...’

Only ordered five? What does that bode for the one who is not needed?

While the man looks over the papers on the clipboard, the ghastly background noise reaches a horrid, hair-raising crescendo. It makes the unit want to shift about. Is the noise making the unit uncomfortable? It’s difficult to tell...

Then, within a minute, it all quiets. Ominous silence reigns, making the unit’s ears ring at the lack of noise.

If the order-giver or the others were shaken by the cries, they kept it well concealed behind faces comparable to stone.

The man looks back up at the unit from his clipboard to the unit, his eyes filled with what seems to be indecision before he says: “You there, number 0451, go back to cryosleep,” he orders, making the unit compulsively turn and begin to leave.

Out of curiosity, the unit turns and looks back as the man and the others enter into the room. As the man holds the door open for the brothers, the unit sees something that inexplicably makes a heavy lump settle in its stomach.

The noise wasn’t coming from animals...


You shake away the sickening memory and force the bile in your throat back down. This is no time to be spooking yourself, as nothing good can come from it. Right now, you have concerns that are far greater. Considering that this is an uncharted planet, the infection that you have is likely totally foreign and could very well be lethal if you don’t get treated immediately. They say that diseases and such are almost always fine tuned for a narrow selection of creatures. Of course, you had to fall within the range of “almost”. Sometimes it seems that the universe just likes to give you a kick in the ass for no reason.

You force that thought away as well. Being pessimistic has never helped you before and will likely never help you in the future.

“So the situation is looking bad,” you say to yourself as you take a deep breath of the clean, mountain air, waking yourself up. “I’ve dealt with worse.”

All you need to do is make it to the top of the mountain before the infection gets worse. The lack of food or water in the last day may have put a stopper on your plans if you were a normal human. As a clone, however, the occasional fast was nothing for you. It would be another two or three days before you absolutely had to stop for food.

Water is a bit trickier. Another twelve or so hours would be all right, but anything after that is going to turn into a struggle. An additional issue with that is knowing if any water you come across is going to be clean or not.

In a worst-case scenario, you would have to play with your comlink some and see if you can’t make your body prioritize destroying harmful microbes in water that you find over fighting infection. Your wound would fester and become more painful, but the sort of disease that lurks in dirty water would be more swift than an infected cut.

None of this seems destined to turn out well…

Pushing the pessimistic thoughts away, you cross your arms and look up at the remaining two thirds of mountain you still have to climb. Just the sight makes your still raw fingertips ache. There has to be a way to make this a bit easier on yourself, right?

Looking down at your microfiber suit, all the pockets and pouches with miscellaneous equipment are still filled. Ditching this stuff should lighten your load a fair amount.

Spending the next ten minutes standing in the warming sunlight, you dig through all of your things and give the useless ones a one-way trip down the mountain. Noxious gas detector? Down the mountain. Some fiberglass cable? Gone. Bottle of machine solvent? Shattered spectacularly on a rock halfway down. Considering that most of what you have is lab equipment or instruments that are too specialized to be of use, almost all of it gets tossed in favor of making your trip a little easier.

The few things that didn’t meet an unfortunate fate are carefully set out and organized in the grass at your feet. No need in letting anything potentially useful go, now is there?

The first, and arguably the most useful is a meter of unterminated, white twisted-pair cable. It’s the closest thing to rope that you have.

Second, is a blue plastic ‘sensitive fluid transport’ bottle with volume measuring markings along the side. Nothing special about it, but it can function just fine as a canteen.

Last is a simple, long-necked lighter often used for lighting Bunsen burners in the event of the electric sparker present on most of them failing. Thankfully, the lighter has plenty of fluid.

Of course, you have the nanobots as well, but they are still useless at the moment thanks to their security measures.

Taking the three tools and stuffing them into your most accessible pouches, you go over your game plan for tackling the rest of the mountain once more.

Start password cycling the nanomachines again. Their potential for usefulness is far too great to leave them idle.

Climb the rest of the mountain and hope that whoever resides at the top is willing to lend assistance.

Make a detour along the way in the event of finding water. And that’s all she wrote.

“Here we go...”

The back of your head stings as the comlink chip embedded in it warms up and begins to assault the canisters strapped to your leg with a barrage of failed passwords. The noise within your head almost immediately begins to give you a headache.

Turning to face the least steep part of the outcropping you’re standing on, you walk purposefully to it and grab a rock sticking out, before grunting and giving it a tug, pulling yourself upward onto a few more jutting stones you use for footholds. Just as you go to wrap your hand around another stone you stop and blink as everything in your vision slowly shifts colors. Is something wrong here?

You watch as your still outstretched hand slowly shifts between a great number of colors, making you blink in confusion. What the hell is going on?

The cut on your back flares up again, reminding you that you need to keep moving and that you still have the infection. Could that be it? Are you getting a fever and becoming delirious? It seems so unlikely after only a single day, but you can’t rule the notion out.

The visions of the distortions you saw in the air yesterday come to mind. Those strange, almost invisible shapes were there long before you could have had any sort of disease as far along as the one you currently have.

Something is wrong here. That much you do know for certain.

Thinking back to the distortions, they immediately ceased when under fire from your comlink. Maybe this will work as well?

You take a deep breath and halt the chip in your brain from pounding on the defenses of the nanobots. It would be best to have it functioning at 100% for this, just in case something unforeseen complicates things. With a bit of focus, a weak wave filled with standard jamming signals is sent out like an expanding, intangible bubble around you, making goosebumps form on your skin from the static feeling.

Almost immediately, the wild colors you’re seeing change back to normal. It happens so fast that the nausea you were feeling earlier comes back with a horrid vengeance.

With a groan, you ignore your churning stomach and continue up the mountain after starting work on the nanobots once more.

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Twilight sits on her favorite cushion in her library, the morning coffee on her desk long forgotten in favor holding in expression of bewilderment as she looks over the yellow parchment that her mentor had sent. Under normal circumstances, letters exchanged between the two mares are always rife with little in-jokes and distinct writing tone. Celestia in particular possessed the curious ability to convey her seemingly infinite wisdom and kindness in just how she worded her letters. Never before had this rule been broken.

Until now...

The normally two to three paragraph long letter has been reduced to a single paragraph, utilitarian message.

Twilight,

I am writing you to inform that a historical event is slowly unfolding. At the moment, I am not at liberty to inform you of precise details. What I can tell you, however, is that you and the other elements are going to need to be nearby in the event of catastrophe. We do not expect violence, but it is better to have preparations, and not need them rather than need preparations and not have them. Please gather up your friends and await a mass teleportation spell at approximately 9 a.m. It is unknown when you will return, so bring Spike in the event you cannot arrange proper lodgings for him.

Regards,
Celestia.  

The unicorn scans her violet eyes over the paper once more, as if hoping to catch some mistake. But alas, the letter remains as uninformative and vague as it did the last time she read it.

“What in the world could this possibly be?” Twilight mulls to herself.

She puts her powerful brain to work. Surely this is nothing a little logic can’t solve.

The fact that her mentor sent this and told Twilight together her friends and be ready for a group teleportation probably means that everything is taking place in Canterlot. Celestia described the mysterious event as ‘historic’, meaning that this is most likely something that they have never faced before, or will likely face again. She also said that it’s unfolding slowly, which implies that everypony in Canterlot who is privy to the apparently sensitive information has known for an indeterminable amount of time before the letter was sent.

Twilight frowns, slightly upset that she wasn’t immediately informed by her mentor when trouble began to brew.

Turning her eyes into a pair of songbirds perched outside a nearby window, the unicorn continues to unravel the letter.

The most worrying part was the implication that the Elements of Harmony may be forced to play a part in subduing a potential threat. After all, it’s not everyday that something warranting the Elements use just comes strolling by...

Had Discord escaped again? Forcefully freed himself to inflict some cruel and unusual vengeance upon Equestria?

Even with the warm light of Celestia’s sun streaming in through the window, the scholar shivers at such a thought. She and her friends only prevailed against him because of his own arrogance, his own confidence that the elements were useless against him until the final blow.

The chimera-like spirit must be positively murderous after being beaten by the same tools twice in a row...

Twilight breaks out into a cold sweat. It has to be him. Nothing else could warrant such action from the princess. What if he was already on his way to Ponyville?

Although she doesn’t notice it, a few hairs spring out of place on her well-groomed mane.

No no no... if that was the case he would’ve been here already. Why would he fly when he could just teleport with a snap of his fingers?

Another handful of hairs follow the first few.

He obviously must have bigger plans. Maybe he’s taken over a foreign country and is currently busy amassing an army? Is he in the Griffin Dominion? Minos Isles? Twilight’s breathing gets heavier as her eyes widen at the possibilities. This could simply be disastrous and there’s nothing they can do!

She stands and begins to pace nervously, unable to keep still with the unsettling direction her thoughts are taking.

“Hey, Twi.”

She needs to get the others immediately and they need to gather up provisions.

“Twi?”

After that, they can see about that teleportation spell. The princess might provide for them, but it’s always a good idea to bring their own supplies.

“Twilight.”

Then, they can don the Elements and see about routing Discord before he can truly sink his claws into his new seat of power.

“TWILIGHT!!”

With a girlish yelp, Twilight practically jumps out of her purple coat from the sudden exclamation. She turns to face the offender as she tries to calm the rapid beat of her heart, and comes face-to-face with the frowning visage of a young dragon.

“Spike!” Twilight says as she puts a shaky hoof on her chest. “What have I said about sneaking up on me?” she asks accusingly.

Spike simply crosses his scaled arms over his small chest, unimpressed with his surrogate sister. “I’ve been standing here for a few minutes now trying to get your attention...” he says.

Twilight has the decency to smile embarrassedly at the revelation. “Er, sorry. What exactly do you need?”

“What I need is for you to stop freaking out,” he says before pointing to the parchment on Twilight’s desk. “Ever since that arrived, all you’ve done was stare at it and spaz out. You were starting to worry me.”

If the unicorn was embarrassed before, she’s positively mortified now as her glowing cheeks would indicate. Was she really having such a fit that Spike felt the need to pull her out of it? Way to go, Twilight, way to go...

Clearing her throat and forcing the red away from her cheeks, she says, “Weeeelllll... let’s just forget that that ever happened, okay?” Twilight’s eyes glance back over at the letter. “Say Spike? What would you say about having a few days off?”

“I would say what’s the catch,” he responds with some cheek.

Now comes the tricky part, giving Spike a satisfying answer without tipping him off that there could be a national emergency afoot. He may be mature, but there’s still no need to run the risk of frightening him...Come on, think of something! ”There’s some business up in Canterlot that the princess wants me and the others to take care of...so...” Twilight trails off rather lamely.

And ponies say Applejack is bad at lying...

Luckily, Spike’s not the most curious little dragon around. “Eh, I’m not going to say no,” he says with an offhand shrug.

Well that solves one dilemma, but one is sure to take its place soon.

Twilight smiles brightly at Spike. “Great! Pack up and be sure to be ready in,” the unicorn glances at a clock on the wall, which reads 7:01, “two hours, because we’re going by teleportation and need to be on time for that.”

“Teleporting?” the young drake asks, a green pallor somehow showing through the scales of his face. “Do we have to teleport? I really don’t like it...”

His surrogate sister playfully rolls her eyes at the statement. “I know it’s not the most fun thing in the world, but that’s how the princess wants us to travel to her. I don’t really have much say in the matter.”

Spike slumps his shoulders and leaves to pack, muttering about “stupid teleporting” and “makes me sick” as he does so.

With that out of the way, Twilight closes her eyes, powering up her horn with a purple flash of light and a gentle hum. A bubble of light overtakes her form and implodes with a “Crack!”, leaving nothing behind.

Time to gather up her friends.

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Luna stands soundlessly away from the south gate of Canterlot, watching as scholars and rune-master ponies busy themselves with the first contact contingency plan all around it. Everypony working is holding a brush of some sort, either with magic or in teeth and scrambling about with purpose. Large, multi-gallon buckets of ink are spread about seemingly everywhere as the brush-wielding ponies quickly drain them of their pitch black contents.

Slowly, an enormous, and immensely sophisticated rune is taking shape within and around the gate. Not a single detail has been spared with this soon-to-be masterpiece. One misstroke, one smudged line, one brush bristle out of place, could turn the goliath magic construct into a time bomb set to destroy the entire south side of the city. Just the thought is harrowing, so Luna can’t even begin to fathom the amount of stress that the masterful workers are under.

They work slowly and methodically, checking everything multiple times for even the slightest hint of mistake. So far, it’s been utter perfection. A mystifying show of precision so pinpoint and total that one would think all of the good ponies slaving away at the rune are more machine than flesh.

Although she is no expert on the subject, there are a number of components to the enormous rune that Luna can identify. The most prominent being ‘paralysis’. Is that what her sister is scheming if the initial meeting doesn’t go smoothly? Paralyze it? Good. The south side that the visitor is approaching from is also home to the largest gate in Canterlot. All the extra room would allow more power to be tacked onto the rune.

There would be citizens watching the impressive display, if it weren’t for the evacuation order set on the south side of the city.

“Princess?”

Luna looks to her side, where a pink-coated unicorn mare garbed in mage robes stands straight and professionally. “Yes, my subject?” the moon deity asks. Have they concluded anything on the visitor’s supposed magic canceling abilities?

“Your Majesty, my name is Ley Line and I’m here to report upon the subject’s magic nullification,” the mare says competently. “A colleague of mine is currently alerting Princess Celestia and the council at the moment as well.”

Luna nods and remains apathetic on the outside, but is inwardly thrilled. Finally she gets some definitive information on the mysterious being.

“Of course, Ms. Line. Please continue when ready.”

Ley Line takes no time to answer. “Yes, your Majesty. The subject defied expectations last night and managed to scale approximately one fourth to one third of the mountain within several hours time.”

Luna raises an eyebrow. The mountain Canterlot is built on gets progressively steeper the further up it goes. The visitor is probably going to take a full day to scale the rest should it be determined.

The pink unicorn continues on, oblivious to her ruler’s thoughts. “As such, he was brought within range of our spells early, letting us begin the testing of its abilities this morning.”

Ley’s horn glows pink and several papers filled with charts and miscellaneous info are pulled out of her cloak for Luna to see. The auras around the papers shift from pink to blue as the alicorn takes them in her telekinetic grasp and looks them over with interest.

“As you can see from here,” Ley says, indicating a line graph with a hoof that has virtually no movement on it, “the range of the magic nullification when vectored in a singular direction is considerable with almost no potency drop off. It can nullify lone instances of magic so long as they are within eyesight or within a certain distance.”

Luna looks from the papers to the unicorn, the night princess’s question plain within her eyes.

Ley seems to realize that she had forgotten something and face-hoofs. “Sorry your Majesty, I suppose I should’ve explained this first,” she points the floating paper depicting a dot and a bubble. “Apparently the subject has a sort of ‘field of awareness’ where it can detect active magic even if it’s undetectable with the subject’s other senses. The field seems to be in constant effect for approximately ten meters originating around the head. On that note, we have confirmed that it uses sight, hearing, and tactile stimulation like us.”

How curious... Everything answered only raises more questions.

“Continuing on, the magic nullification seems to grow weaker when the subject is faced with multiple instances of cast spells. It took twice as long for it to dispel two long-range levitation spells than it did a single spell. This means that it only has a finite amount of resources to dedicate to the nullification ability. In the event that a spellcaster keeps shunting energy into a spell that the subject is trying to nullify, it turns into a power struggle where the most powerful of the two will prevail,” Ley says in seemingly one breath. “There are a number of aspects about it that remain anomalous, so further testing will be needed.”

Luna glances to the ink patterns near the gate, her eyes narrowing in thought as they trace the numerous black lines along the ground.

“Ms. Line,” begins Luna that she turns her attention back to the unicorn, “just how powerful would this rune need to be in order for the visitor to be restrained should it become unreasonable?” Really, the night princess doesn’t want the meeting to come to that, but Celestia’s cautiousness rubbed off on her sister, making her ask.

Ley Line looks at the ground in thought, idly scuffing a hoof against it as she mutters a few calculations under her breath. “If I’m correct,” she says, raising her head, “then with approximately ten to twenty sufficiently powerful unicorns bolstering the rune if the subject turns violent, it should still be unable to move even if it uses every iota of its power in an attempt to free itself.”

Luna lets out a breath at the reassuring news. So even if all doesn’t go well, this can be solved peacefully? It almost seems too good to be true...

“I think that’s just about everything, princess,” Ley says, breaking Luna from her thoughts. “Permission to leave?”

Luna waves her off with a hoof. “Of course, my subject. Do not let me keep you from other important work you may have.”

Ley Line bows deeply, before vanishing with a resounding crack.

Well, looks like Luna got the some answers to sate her bubbling curiosity the slightest bit. Looking up at her sister’s sun, the alicorn estimates the time to be just before 9:00, meaning the elements are going to be here soon. Since her sister is busy with the dithering council at the moment, Luna decides that she should be the one to greet the girls. Looking at the ponies still working diligently on the rune, she comes to the conclusion that they don’t require her supervision before she powers up her horn.

There’s no flash, no pop, not even a stirring of dust around her hooves. To others, is as if she just vanished. To Luna, however...

It’s like the whole world blurring into a mess of motion and color with her remaining perfectly still. Then as suddenly as it started, it stops, leaving her standing in front of a circular rune carved into the stone floor. The indigo pony smiles. With great power, comes great and fun magic. Instant teleporting will always be a favorite.

Looking around, the alicorn finds that she’s in the seldom used Teleport Hub. A huge, plain, stone room with numerous teleport focus runes carved into the ground in rows. Back during the ages where conflict was common, this room saw a fair amount of action in terms of troop deployment.

Now?

Luna sniffs and wiggles her nose, before sneezing and sending up a huge cloud of dust off the musty floor.

It’s mostly been forgotten...

The princess coughs and hacks before lighting up her horn and willing all the dust away.

Like someone had turned on a colossally powerful vacuum cleaner, all the dust and grime rushes to a point in the center of the room before vanishing. Just in the nick of time as well, as the the pattern traced into the floor begins to glow and hum lightly.

The outlines of six very distinct ponies and one dragon form within the boundaries of the circle. The light slowly gets brighter before it begins to fill the seven outlines like water rising into a container until all of them are full. Finally, the light begins to die down, leaving six disoriented mares and one almost sick baby dragon.

“Oh my that was dreadful...”

“Again, again!”

“That’ll put ya through tha ringer...”

“Whatever, I’m fine...”

“That wasn’t very nice...”

Luna chuckles quietly to herself. These six each have more personality than any other pony she knows.  

“Oh... Twi? Did we have to do that?” Spike’s nauseous voice echoes throughout the room as he puts a clawed hand on his stomach.

“Yes Spike, we sort of had to,” Twilight says apologetically before noticing Luna. “Oh! Princess! How rude of us!” she says before bowing her head. At the word ‘Princess’ the other elements sans Pinkie, who just waves cheerfully, follow suit and show their respect.

Luna blushes and urges them to raise their heads. “No no! Please! There is no need for that! We are all friends here, are we not?” she asks as they all comply and look back up. “I would not have an equal do what I myself wouldn’t.”

The elements all look to one another in wonderment. Does the princess really think that?

Applejack recovers first and clears her throat, bringing attention to her. “Yur Majesty? Ah don’t mean to sound rude or nuttin, but why did ya bring us here so suddenly?” the farmer asks in her usual straightforward manner.

“I think that all of us are wondering that,” Rainbow chimes in as she spreads her wings and takes flight to hover over the group.

The ruler inwardly winces. She just called them her friends and yet here she is about to keep things from them. Scratch what she said earlier. With great power, comes great headache.

“Girls, I’m afraid for your sake as well as for the sake of others, I can’t disclose any details on the reason for your visit,” she says, feeling her heart sink at the incredulous expressions she receives. “Everything is moving too apace and we have no previous reference on a situation like this for us to properly anticipate everything. All I can tell you is that a creature of unknown origin is approaching the city. Your roles are to be supplementary at most. Should the creature come into Canterlot, you are expressly forbidden to come into contact with it. I’m sorry, but I can say no more.”

The incredulous expressions Luna receives all deepen, making the ruler turn away.

Twilight goes deep in thought as they follow Luna out of the hub room. What in the world could be so dangerous that the six of them of all ponies are forbidden from interacting with it? They were the first ones called when Discord made his escape. Whatever this is couldn’t possibly be worse... Could it?

As Twilight’s mind races away, the others and Spike talk quietly to themselves as they walked.

“Any idea what could have tha princess so spooked?” Applejack asks, sending glances at said ruler.

Rainbow jumps in first. “Whatever it is, I bet it’s not even that big of a deal. I mean, everything else we’ve fought have been nothing but pushovers, so I bet that this is just all overblown,” the athlete says confidently.

“I wouldn’t be so quick to jump to conclusions, darling,” Rarity says, trying to walk her tallest and straightest as they passed a small team of handsome guards in the halls.

She gives one a wink, only to get nothing in return.

With a huff, she returns to the conversation. “If her Majesty doesn’t wish for us to meet whatever is making such a panic, then it must be something simply ghastly. I can’t imagine that centuries of experience would lead them astray.”

“Hmmm... I’m with Dashie on this one!” Pinkie cuts in just after Rarity finishes. “I dunno why Princess Luna says we can’t hang out with who ever is coming to town, but I bet everypony is just being silly about all this. After all, we’ve beat bigger meanies that have scared the princesses worse, so this can’t be thhhhaaaattt bad,” the pink mare says with a bright smile.

If Fluttershy had any input to add to the conversation, then she kept it to herself as she silently puzzled out just what was going on. A new creature is making its way to Canterlot? The idea of meeting a new species of animal interested the butter pegasus greatly, but she’s not about to go against the princess’s orders to do so. There’s no bunny stampedes or eternal night so this creature can’t be as malicious as it’s made out to be, right?

All of them were so caught up in their thoughts and conversations that none of them noticed they had made it to the Element vault.

The crash of a large tumbler pulls all of their attention to Luna just as she pulls her horn out of the keyhole of the vault.

The huge door slowly swings open on silent hinges. A familiar jeweled box levitates out the the now open security door in a blue aura.

Even if they didn’t take this seriously, it looks like everypony else is...