by Nagmeister

A Morning Walk

Jebediah woke up by the side of the lander with a killer headache. He felt as if something had probed his mind while he was sleeping, and had jiggled his brain around for a few hours. That may have been what happened, but he felt he would probably have noticed. He went in the lander, took a few pain pills, then had an idea. He wrote a short note to Bill and Bob and took a walk into the forest.
The cold, brisk air of the early morning forest almost let him forget that he was on an alien planet. He followed the dirt road down towards the west, stopping every few minutes to take a look at some interesting animal or plant. Eventually, he heard some footsteps and someone – or something – talking. Instead of ducking into the bushes like last time he heard this, he just kept walking. “...but Ah'm sure she wouldn't do that. Twilight's a nice gal; she wouldn't keep something this important from –“
The orange “pony”, as Jebediah remembered Twilight calling them in last night's talk, stopped dead in its tracks. It appeared rather surprised, and instantly moved to protect whatever was behind it. “Don't. Move.” it said. “Ah'll make sure this creature of the Everfree don't cause you no harm!” she said before staring rather angrily at Jebediah.
“Well then … Hello, I'm Jebediah Kerman. Nice to meet you too...” said Jebediah, rather confused by her actions. The orange “pony” reacted quite differently from how Twilight did; instead of calmly accepting and continuing to converse, it just stared quite surprisedly. “You... you can talk?!” it said.
“Well, of course I can! What do I look like to you, some sort of animal?”
“Well... yeah!”
Jebediah suddenly remembered that none of the creatures on this planet besides Twilight had actually seen a Kerbal before, and judging from how the “pony” reacted, Jebediah made the reasonable assumption that bad things must happen in this forest from time to time. “Well, I'm sorry for not properly introducing myself. I'm Captain Jebediah Kerman of the starship Horizon. I'm here on an exploratory and scientific mission to discover the secrets of this planet. I am the leader of a crew of five Kerbals; myself, my long-time friends and co-workers Bill and Bob, a very nice Kerbal named Alsted, and an expert pilot name Hanald. What is your name, Miss?”
Jebediah was rather surprised that he could actually tell its gender, but looking back at its motherly instinct, he saw how he came to the conclusion.
“... Ah'm Applejack, Element of Harmony and owner of Sweet Apple Acres.”
“What's that?”
“It's just an orchard me and my family run on the edge of town,” Applejack said.
Jebediah pondered over the extremely strange names of the “ponies” that he had met so far, but shrugged it off as just a side effect of a completely different culture. Suddenly, he asked, “Do you happen to know Alicorn Princess Twilight Sparkle, Repeated Savior of Equestria?”
Applejack looked slightly annoyed and confused at all the unnecessary titles, but getting the basic message, she said, “Twilight? She's one of my best friends. Why? Have y’all met her?”
Jebediah said, “Somewhat. She came to our lander last night. I need to talk to her for a bit.”
Applejack sighed and said, “I'll get her to come here for ya, but you'd best not let anything happen to her.”
As she said this, Applejack walked off the way she came, while a much smaller-looking “pony” that was a paler yellow walked off with her. “Who's that?” Jebediah wondered; but, feeling a sudden urge to get back to the lander, he decided not to persue the question.
Bill and Bob woke up to the sound of the lander's alarm. “WARNING: LOW BATTERY.” read every single screen in the compartment. Half-asleep, Bill remembered that he had forgotten to extend the solar panels. He rolled over and pressed the button, and almost instantly the alarm stopped. As he was awake anyway, he decided to take a short walk around the clearing. He opened the door of the lander and stepped down the ladder, and saw a little paper stuck in one of the exhaust grills.
“If I'm not back by the time you're awake, I'm just out on a hike.” the note read, in Jebediah's handwriting.
“I guess something must have happened while he slept outside,” said Bill.
“Hey, I got an unauthorized entry alert overnight for the lander!” Bob suddenly shouted.
Bob went through the report, scrutinizing every detail. “It appears something about one meter tall, and a meter and a half long, entered the lander slightly after midnight. It appears to have moved to the sleeping compartment for a few minutes before leaving. Unfortunately, all the other sensors were disabled due to the depleting battery, so we don't have any information.”
“Well, how about we set up that perimeter system that we brought with us?” said Bill as he opened a compartment. “There's twelve poles for setting it up here, and it appears something else is also inside,” he said as he reached in. Pulling it out, he saw that it was a year and a half's supply of pancake mix. On it was a little tag that read, “This is coming out of your paycheck, Jeb.”
“Well, at least we know what's for breakfast!” said Bob.
The two Kerbals got to work digging the poles into the ground as Jebediah walked back towards the lander. He stopped by the side of the path for a few minutes to investigate a strange sound; it was almost like some sort of creature was hiding in the bushes to the side. He peeked inside, and seeing nothing, continued on his way. However, he kept having the sensation that he was being followed, so he suddenly turned around and saw the same yellow “pony” he had seen on his first day. It appeared to be watching him, tracking his movements, as if he were some sort of strange animal specimen. Not wanting to break the illusion for the second time in as many hours, he decided to continue walking as if nothing happened. He still heard the footsteps of the “pony” behind him, and suddenly ducked into the forest to the side of the path to try lose her. Instead, this probably intrigued her even more. He ran back out to the path, and decided to run down the path fast enough so that she couldn't catch up. He broke into a full-on sprint, running through the trees. He looked behind him and saw the yellow “pony” gradually start slowing, before coming to a halt with a surprised look on her face. Realizing he had been looking backwards for the past twenty minutes or so, he looked forwards and saw the lander. “Well... crap.” he said to himself as he slowly walked towards it.
“Hey Jeb, where have you been lately?” Bob asked as he looked up from drilling the metal pole into the dirt.
Jebediah made an effort to block the view of the “pony” before replying, “I was just taking a hike down the path when I was chased by a something. I think I lost it, though.”
Bob peeked around him and saw the yellow “pony” hiding meekly in the brush. “Well, looks like the 'something' that chased you followed you here.”
The yellow “pony” blushed at having been called out before slowly backing away. “Hey, you! Over here!” shouted Bill as he saw her for the first time.
She slowly and timidly walked out into the clearing, obviously fearful of the strange talking creatures that she had discovered. “What's your name?” asked Bob.
The yellow “pony” replied with something that was too quiet for anyone to hear. “What? I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you.” She tried saying it again, slightly louder but still too quiet for anyone to hear. “What's that?” he said again.
“I... I said my name... is Fluttershy.” she said in a soft, scared voice.
“Well, what're you doing here?” asked Jeb as he took a seat next to the lander.
“I... saw you walking down the Everfree path... and thought you might be lost...” she said.
Bill said, “Well, now that you know we're where we belong, are you a bit less afraid?”
She once again said something quiet before backing away into the forest.
“Well, she seemed nice enough,” said Jeb as he walked towards one of the metal poles he had planted.
For a few days, nothing much happened. A few small animals and such occasionally found their way into the clearing, but a short wave of a stick or the smell of the campfire was usually enough to scare them away. The one time when there may have been some serious danger came when a strange lion-like creature decided that he wanted Kerbal for lunch. One round from the rifle later, the Kerbals had another buff to their food storage. For weeks after that, they would be eating some lion-flavored steak and jerky with their freeze-dried meals.
About five days after the encounter with the yellow pony, a message appeared outside the lander, Curious, Jeb picked it up and started to read it.
“Dear Jebediah Kerman and company,” it began, “as you probably know, you are no longer a secret in Equestria. Many ponies have been trying to get at the Everfree in order to meet with you. With conditions like these and in the interest of national security and the safety of the people, we would like to cordially invite you to take up residence in the castle of Canterlot. All meals will be provided of the highest quality of anything you order, almost any information will be available upon request, and you may take as much as we like with you. However, in order to avoid causing a stir, we would like you to provide your own transport. Whatever methond you use is fine as long as you don't turn too many heads. Your Generous Co-Leader, Princess Celestia.”
“Well guys,” said Jeb, “looks like we just got a free royal suite.”
“What do you mean?” asked Bob.
“What I mean is that the princess 'asked' – although it was pretty clear that if we refused we would be forced into it – for us to take up residence in the 'castle of Canterlot.' She also included a bunch of neat stuff in the deal. So, boys, pack up your stuff; we're leaving tomorrow.”
“Wait, what about the lander?” asked Bill.
“Well, it only needs three people to do the deorbit burn and the landing procedure. To fly it across the surface a few kilometers will only take one person; I can handle it myself.” said Jeb.
“Well, where are you going to land it?” asked Bob.
“On the roof, naturally!” replied Jeb. “Now get packing, because we don't got much time.”