Chapter 1: Stable 22.
All ponies dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous individuals, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.
This was it. I was running down the sterile corridor of the stable, this time I'd make it, this time I would finally succeed. I'd done my math, finished my design, tested my work, and now my invention was ready. I was going to make it work this time, it was fly or die... well maybe.
Soon, just like I expected, I saw the few apple trees pop up from the end of the hall...''BINGO!'' I shouted just as a few ponies jumped out of my speeding way grumbling something about ‘’that crazy pony’’. I'm not sure if it was me they were referring to. But I wasn't going to stop now and ask, now that I was so damn close to succeeding this time. A quick jump allowed one of my forelegs time enough to slip down a pair of goggles properly over my eyes.
Passing the threshold into the apple orchard room, it was time; I jumped up into the air, my yellow-olive wings extending to reveal two aluminum cylinders with cones attached on the back of their threads. The entire mechanism was strapped securely, just beneath my wings with a series of webbing, and duct tape that I had managed to scavenge somewhere.
I caught the attention of all the apple farmers in the orchard, who stared at me in horror, one of them proclaiming ''Hot damn! he's going to do it this time!'' I felt pretty happy that I at least had somepony’s approval, but the show had just begun. With a yank of my head, I ripped a cord from the metal cylinders, one of them clearly marking 'Caution: compressed air'. With the cord removed, the valves that were jury rigged to turn together, swiftly opened, and with that; two blasts of air were ejecting from behind me.
The air I had gained in my jump multiplied tenfold as I was thrown across the large room that housed the apple orchard with magnificent speed. I was cringing at the launch, my stomach had clearly sunken, and I felt that I’d lost control of myself. With what willpower I had; I managed to turn my wings and gain some control . I was now a speeding projectile, I could feel myself turning sharply, and violently. This was it I had done it.... I was finally flying.The feeling of reprocessed air moving through my mane while whipping around was exhilarating. Just ahead, I saw a wall grow alarmingly quickly. No problem, I gained more control of my movement and tried to spin my body so I could perform a U-turn.
I was succeeding, I managed to pull a nice, smooth turn, even at that ridiculous speed, and my lack of experience. I felt like I was flying....well technically I was but still the feeling of success was amazing. I had finally flown and it might as well had been the greatest thing in the -
RRRIP... I heard the sound suddenly and loudly from my sides. I looked over and saw that the webbing I used to secure one of the compressed-air canisters with had nearly ripped off, and was threatening to come off completely.
With a jump of panic I realised that I hadn’t thought about how I was going to stop myself if an emergency occurred or even how to stop myself at all. I am not a clever pony. With a resounding rip that felt as if it was echoing through my body, the compressed-air canister ripped off my side and flew radically out in its own way. I had no chance to look and find out what would become of the ’flight giving’ canister. As soon as it was liberated, whatever balance I tricked myself into having was swiftly ripped away from me, and now I was out of control.
My heart stopped. I was at the mercy of a mechanism I designed. I had absolutely no way of predicting what would it do next now that an error had occured. I was sure my time in this stable was over and I wished I never had wings to begin with, nor the dreams of accomplishing flight.
I was rocketed into the branches of one of the apple orchard’s many strong, and well-cared-for trees, and out of instinct for survival I grabbed onto one of the stronger branches with my mouth, using my teeth to gather as much grip as I could muster. I have no clue how I managed that, but as soon as I did I was being whipped around in the tree like the damn piece of wood was alive and freaking out. It was like a little filly with a large spider on her back. Control had abandoned me long ago.
For the life of me, I was unable to keep my tight grip on the tree, and found my self off ‘flying’ again. I had never wanted to be an earth pony more, than at that very moment in time. Suddenly, with a fizzle I was lying in a batch of hay, having found that the remaining air canister on my flank had run out. Thank Celestia and Luna I was now earthbound, I don’t think I’d ever be happier either, and Celestia almighty this hay was comfortable.
I cried out in pain a moment later. When I looked down to see my hind leg, where the sharp pain had come from all of a sudden, I found the leg highly disfigured and bloody. The hay around it had already started to gain a reddish hue. ''That was awesome.'' I managed to say, despite the mind blowing pain I was feeling. My vision started to fade and I did not know exactly what was going to happen.
Considering the ridiculously stupid stunt I'd just performed, I wouldn’t surprised if I actually died here in this hay bale. By now my vision was almost completely gone, hidden behind a dark curtain, along with most of the feeling in my body besides the hind leg. Then the black curtains pulled themselves into place and I lost consciousness.
My name is Champagne, or Champ for short. Ironic because I wasn't really much of a champion, which the nickname implied I might be. I was just a silly pony who has dreams beyond the limits of his body and intellect, well... for now at least. I mean, look at what just happened there. What was I even thinking, strapping two tanks of compressed air to myself? And to make it worse I still think it’s a good Idea.
If it isn’t painfully obvious yet, I’m a pegasus pony who can’t seem to fly. Furthermore none of the other pegasus ponies of the stable have ever needed to (or wanted to) fly in the cramped space that was Stable 22. So, I’m stuck trying to figure it out by myself, while other ponies point and laugh at my failed attempts. I’m not insane although, even if I’m sure my methods, and apparel seem absolutely irresistible to laugh at however.
If its the last thing I do before either breaking my body permanently or killing myself, I’d like for my yellow-olive coat and uncontrollable black mane to fly valiantly over the heads of the ponies in the stable.That would show them that dreams are still obtainable, even in this dreary life down under.
’’Looks! like he’s still alive!’’
I must have popped back into consciousness for a moment. Words seemed so alien to me right now, I wanted to respond, or do anything at all for that matter. However my body screamed for me to just not do anything, emphasis on ANYTHING. ‘’Champagne, are you alright?’’ The voice or whatever, seemed concerned and maybe not so alien as I had thought. Could possibly be that it wasn't even from the same entity?
Slowly but surely my senses started to come back to me. It was like a numbness that was gradually floating away. I started to hear the sound of hooves coming in contact with the floor, along with the sound of ponies talking to one another in concerned or professional voices. The ‘clean’ air in the hospital section of the stable assaulted my nose, making me feel a slight bit nauseous.
My sight came back as well, no longer shrouded by a dark curtain. I found myself in the medical wing of the stable and by now the drugs had worn down a considerable bit. I was laying on one of their not-so-comfy hospital beds; I felt as if what I’d been laying on was a mattress full of broken concrete. My stable utility barding had been removed and well... replaced with the patient clothing that had been quite itchy. Needless to say I was quite uncomfortable. I know for somepony who likes to cause trouble, I tend to complain a tad much.
My new found consciousness caused me to stir, and I heard the sound of a pony moving very close by. ‘’He’s awake.’’ She said, my mind was still foggy. I couldn’t place the words to the face.
''Champ, you must be the most, and I mean the most, dumb-ass pony in this stable!’’That was the voice of Cherry Tart, my memory refreshed when her tone resembled that of the one and only ‘frustrated with Champagne’ sentiment that Cherry used quite often. I turned around on my back, seeing violet coated earth pony with an orange mane and the cutie mark of... well... a tart, or a pie, or something? I admit I forgot and it probably wouldn't be the last time. ‘’Nevermind, I mean in whatever is left in Equestria.’' Her green eyes gave away that she was mad, not that they never hid much of anything, and I’m sure the reason for her being upset was likely to do with me.
Cherry is my best friend in the stable, and here she was yelling at me again for one more of my failed experiments. I laughed a bit at the absurdity of the thought, this caused Cherry’s anger with me to double, I can see how, taken out of context, it would have sounded like I had thought my near death, was all a big joke, and nothing to take seriously.
''You think this is funny, do you!?'' She looked offended. I realized that I had pressed one of her buttons on her emotional ‘control panel’. These buttons were notorious for having been linked with a series of explosives, that would set her off. Eyyup, she had everything from little cherry bombs, up to destructive megaspells and balefire bombs. I have my suspicion that most of them were of balefire the variety.
''Relax Cherry, please.’’ I attempted to speak with a disarming laugh. ‘’I was flying...'' I wasn’t really sure what else to add, the whole idea of flight was so dreamlike that it was almost impossible to put words on the table to feed her with. I knew full well I might have been on ground zero of a falling balefire bomb with such a lack of response, and yet I still couldn’t think up anything else to say. Oh well...
''Did you really think I'd simply be okay with you trying to kill yourself, all in the name of flight and ‘experiments’ ?!’’ The words that left her mouth were harsh and rightfully stung. But somehow my brain had decided that I liked to tease Cherry. Even if it was only to see her cute face wind up like it had just now.
She managed to calm down for a second. ''You know if you wanted to die, I could easily have you recycled with the help of my mother.'' She joked, but I knew it was well within her power. Her mother was the Overmare of this stable after all, and although we had known each other personally for a long time, the Overmare wasn't the fondest of me, or I the fondest of her.
''So how was it?'' Cherry had switched from a ‘very angry mare’ to a ‘very interested in what I'm about to tell her mare’. I could always tell with her, as those green eyes tended to widen a bit and her violet ears perked up, standing to attention. I wanted to play with her head some more, maybe have her beg me to tell her what it was like to fly, but I was too excited at the prospect of sharing my experience with her.
''I don't even know how to describe it.'' I started, pausing for a second to rethink the experience a little bit. To be perfectly honest, flying around the stable orchard felt more like a dream than anything else. ''But it was awesome, the feeling of speed, momentum, and the g-force was just so...new.'' I could tell she had been listening very closely to what I was saying. Almost as though she was a young little filly or colt listening to her mother telling her the story of ’The Lost Little Foal’s Way Home’.
I can’t blame her either. The story that I had just experienced, was one I’d like to tell over and over, as I might never be able to do it again. I cleared my throat. ‘’The thought of it makes me feel... free. Like I can go past the walls of the stable, and find myself among the clouds, and the great open sky.’’
She nodded.''Sounds... like you enjoyed yourself.'' I’m unsure now of how she actually thought about my story, since her face went from an enjoyable expression to something a bit more reserved. What she was thinking right now I’ll probably never know.
’’Champ, about yesterday. ’’ she switched topic and her expression slipped into something a tad more serious. I knew what was coming, she obviously had news about my punishment for this latest experiment. She was the Overmare’s daughter, and as such would probably take her mothers title one day; she had spent most of life being groomed for the position, and in that respect, these conversations about my punishments were part of her duties.
‘’The Overmare is setting you on heavy maintenance duty starting tomorrow. This will include your personal time.’’ Well, that’s fairly standard punishment, as it had always been my punishment for these kinds of things.
I groaned and possibly let loose a small whine in protest, letting her know my disapproval. I saw her smirk out of amusement to my pain. ''My my, I’m not the only one who takes demented pleasure from the harmless torture or misfortune of my friends.’’ Touche. ‘’But until you rest up you're not going anywhere.''
I saw Cherry pull something out of her saddle bags with her mouth. It was a book, and she had carefully put it in my hooves. ‘'The Big Book of Arcane Science.'' The title words, were worn down in a way that would require more than a hundred years of pony use, (I being responsible for most of it.) still looked in very a good condition. ''I knew you'd be here overnight with nothing to do and wish you weren't so I picked up a book from the library'' She looked quite happy with herself.
I smiled and nodded my thanks anyway, even though I’d read the book a hundred dozen times by now. The gesture was very much appreciated and hell, what would be wrong with another read? ''Now you can find a solution to your problem, maybe make it a lot less dangerous.'' Yeah... sure I will... ‘’See ya later Champ.’’ And with that, she turned around and left the hospital wing as I called out a goodbye. The door shut with a hiss that left me in silence.
‘’Champ, you done your diagnostic?’’ The voice of Wax, one of the maintenance ponies I worked with, it rang out in the sterile and mostly empty room that was the megaspell generator’s control chamber.
‘’Yeah, I’m almost done the third diagnostic of the day.’’ I lamented, megaspell maintenance was the least interesting chore out the list of responsibilities I had to carry out daily, and it was also something that I couldn’t multitask with which made it very monotonous.
But it was my job (and that many other hard working maintenance ponies) to be there when the generator decided it wanted to be difficult so we could preemptively fix it before anything got even remotely serious.
Right now we’d were investigating a painfully annoying click that the generator had been making every few seconds. Hopefully we’d get it to run smoothly later, and without any kinds of sounds like clicks, tings, or rumbling of any kind. The sound of rumbling would have been extremely bad; normally that meant that the generator might as start falling apart and cause a megaspell explosion directly in the middle of the stable. I wouldn't have been a big fan of that outcome. Oh yeah, being a maintenance pony is all kinds of fun.
Since the generator provided all the power to the stable, it would forever be a priority over anything else (even without the mentioning of a catastrophic failure if we sucked at our job). Without power the stable wouldn’t be able pump water into the pipes, recycle the oxygen that we used to breathe, and anything else you can think of that uses power; which in fact quite is a lot. Suffice to say without power there is no stable and with no stable there are no living ponies.
‘’So I heard that you’ll be off to see the Overmare in a little bit,’’Wax was a grey stallion with equally grey hair. ‘’That is once we’ve isolated and fixed this damned click.’’ He seemed annoyed, then again so was I at this persistent, head hurting click.
‘’Oh yeah Wax, she really wants to congratulate me for all the good work we’ve all been doing, and I’m sure she’ll want to have me pass along the message and a medal of course to all of us maintenance ponies.‘’ I joked, because everypony knew that me plus Overmare equaled double trouble.
‘’How nice of her say.’’ Wax chuckled. ‘’Did ya hear that Hay Breaker finally managed to come up with his DNA sample?’’
‘’Ehhh, good for him I guess’’ What Wax meant was that the little colt made his first donation to the sperm bank. Stable 22 was built for longevity, that meant that we’d be in here a long time before we’d ever leave its safety. A problem with that is that the genetics pool was limited, and well we don't want inbred ponies populating the new world, do we?
From the look on Wax’s face; I could tell my discomfort with the subject pleased him. What is it with all these ponies wanting to tease me? Then his gaze turned to my flank and back to my confused eyes. ‘’I’ve been meaning to ask you Champ; what exactly is your cutie mark anyway?’’
I looked down to my flank, where a blue circle with what looked like a spider’s web made the shape of what I had determined to be a flower, with three identical colored blue feathers hanging off the circle. ‘’I have no Idea what it is actually.’’ I laughed. It wasn’t a joke, but it kept me from sounding like an idiot who didn't know what his cutie mark was.
The grey stallion looked confused; I guess he’d figured as I had that everypony knew what their cutie mark was, seeing that it was a mark which told you what your destined special ability is. ‘’That’s odd, then how did you get it?’’
Truth be told, I had no clue. ‘’It just kinda showed up one day, I guess.’’ I said. I recalled that I spent a lot of time in the library trying to find a similar image in the few hundred books that were in the library, but eventually I gave up when something more interesting caught my attention.
Suddenly a beep came from the console I was working at. I checked it almost immediately. ‘’Bingo!... turns out our problem with the reactor is a small nest of radroaches somewhere in the containment area again... nothing too special, really.’’
‘’All this work for radroaches, again?’’ I’ll admit I felt as frustrated as he did. ‘’Nothing we can do.’’ He shrugged. ‘’ You’d better go tell Overmare when you go see her.’’ I cringed, this wasn’t going to be any more fun then the last five hours of diagnostics, but necessary, and unavoidable. Without putting it off, I waved Wax goodbye.
The journey up to the Overmare’s office was mostly uneventful, besides a few ponies from yesterday who laughed at me a bit and pointed out to their friends that I’d achieved ‘flight’.I didn't bother to correct them, because I knew someday I’d be laughing at them while flying around the atrium and eating lunch at the same time. Okay maybe not the atrium. I doubt I’d have enough space to fly, but hey a pony can dream right?
When I finally reached the Overmare’s quarters I was greeted by Cherry Tart at the secretary's desk in the lobby. She was acting as the Overmare’s secretary/assistant for the day. ‘’Go on in, the Overmare is waiting for you already.‘’ With a little hesitation, I moved towards the door and only stopped for it to open with a hiss and thud.
I trotted inside. This wasn’t the first time that I was here and definitely wouldn’t be the last either.
The office was nice. Boasting a pristine steel floor that looked like it hadn’t aged a day since it’s manufacture, and a nice red carpet that led up to the Overmare’s desk. The walls had a nice oak paneling that brought a sense of warmth to the room, making it almost inviting with the addition of a much brighter light that made all other lights in the stable seem obsolete in comparison.
The Overmare, as I had expected was sitting at her desk writing on her personal computer terminal. Probably condensing maintenance reports and filing them in their proper folder,I imagined. She was a light violet pony like Cherry, but with a nice and organized white mane that was put into a very professional looking bun behind her head. She had rounded glasses over her bright green eyes that could inspire a sense of dread and embarrassment in you, depending on what she wanted of course.
‘’Ah my dear Champagne, you’ve decided to show up.’’ She beamed, almost as if she were actually quite happy to see me. She dropped her work almost instantly,only taking the time to make a quick save on her work before addressing me further. ‘’You look quite good from your adventure yesterday. I visited you late last night but you were already asleep.’’ she said with a tad of remorse.
I knew her far too well to believe that. I might not be very quick at getting to know ponies, but when I did; I knew them well. ‘’Oh, I would have liked to see you,’’ I said,lying of course, and I was sure she knew from the small smirk she always unknowingly let slip without her knowledge. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the Overmare, but she and I had butted heads a few times before and it’s always affected our encounters.
She played along of course. ‘’Ah, tis a pity.’’ she said, making good use of an old literary expression from her personal collection of books. I remember seeing her enjoy them, recommending them to me when I was younger, before all our personal headbutting. ‘’Do you have any news regarding the megaspell generator?’’ she asked with concern.
‘’Yeah, I do,’’ I said, giving her the information in the best professional way I could. She nodded in understanding and added that she’d have the security ponies deal with it once we were done here.
‘’Champ, now you simply must stop these heinous experiments of yours,’’ she said bluntly. ‘’I’m afraid that if you keep committing to your absurdities, then you might in fact get somepony killed.’’ The words she spoke always made me feel as if they were the absolute truth.
‘’Mulberry, may I call you that?’’ She nodded and did her best to not look hurt. Every time I’d addressed her I asked the same question imposing the impersonal persona that we hardly knew each other. It was my classic style of passive aggressiveness for getting back at her. We had history together and damn If I felt she didn’t deserve it. ‘’I can’t stop these experiments, they’re the only thing that I care about here in this stable---well besides Cherry and a few other things.’’
‘’Champ, I find myself terrified every time you do these things, and so does Cherry.’’ I didn’t trust the Overmare but still, did Cherry really feel scared for me safety? She hadn’t mentioned anything about it, then again I realized that it had been the very reason she was upset with me yesterday to begin with. ‘’Although it does bring the other stable ponies here some entertainment, but I can’t let you continue to endanger yourself, and possibly the stable for for their entertainment and your selfish endeavors.’’ Her words were cold and precise I almost had the nerve to agree with her.
‘’Mulberry, ever since I got my cutie mark I’ve only dreamed about flying, I feel like I’m so close to actually achieving it this time.’’ I pleaded. She turned her gaze directly into my eyes as if to see past them and read the thoughts written directly on my brain.
In what was the most awkward minute of my life she kept her eyes locked on mine, or in mine. I didn’t know. I had been petrified by her stare almost as if she was a deadly Cockatrice and turned me into a stone statue. Forever being stuck in a pose that I’m sure did not make me look very good.
‘’Fine, I’ll allow you try once more,’’ she said finally ‘’but if you should have anymore major accidents; I'll use my bare hooves to open the stable door and shove you out myself.’’ She said very coldly. Although I wasn’t sure that last part had been a joke but I couldn’t care about that right now, I had another chance to fly, and this time I’ll get it right.
‘’Thank you Mulberry. I promise you won’t regret it.’’ I said leaving with very happy expression clear on my face, and I could swear for just a moment that she smiled herself. That smile although small and barely visible brought me back in time to when I had lived with the Overmare during my days as a little colt. Before we’d got into now meaningless fights, that were fought with words that plagued our relationship like I’m sure radiation-plagued, what was left of the world above, and beyond the stable door.
Outside the Overmare’s office, Cherry was there to greet me. She looked quite pleased and happy to see me looking happy as well. I guess happiness is easily shared, thinking about how I changed the Overmare’s frown upside down.
‘’I didn’t hear you two fighting like you usually do.’’ Cherry stated. ‘’And you look happy I guess mom didn’t take you up to her level and beat you with experience.’’ My smile grew wider.
‘’She’s allowed me to continue with my flying.’’ I said happily.
She looked surprised for a moment. ‘’That’s great Champ, now you can screw up again.’’ She teased and had a good laugh at my expense. I didn’t find it as funny as she did, but I chuckled a little. ‘’Now then when’s the next flight?’’ She asked with the remainder of a few laughs.
Her approval about my dream made me all too excited and maybe a little too ambitious. ‘’Tomorrow!’’ I proclaimed, it came to her as shock that it was planned to be so soon. In fact I didn’t blame her, I probably was running on adrenaline from my confrontation with the Overmare, and adrenaline has a powerful way to making you feel like you can take on the world with only your hooves.
‘’Alrighty, I’ll see you fly and land safely tomorrow for the first time yes?’’ Was her reply, her face solemn from what I was guessing was the fear that I’d actually kill myself tomorrow. I thought back to what the Overmare told me only minutes ago.
‘’I promise you I’ll be flying safely, and it’ll be awesome.’’ I hoped that my confidence would lighten her mood. But It failed.
‘’Look, just be careful. I want you to live ok?’’ Was all she said. I stood there stunned what the Overmare had told me to be true, and all I could do at that point was whisper okay and walk away.
The grey and blank walls of Stable22 seemed to go on forever, their cold outward appearance had always been a damper on my day. I imagine they did the same to everypony that lived in the stable. These walls each need a mural... like very badly....they need to liven up some... It’s depressing really.
Walking back to my room, I couldn't help thinking that this had been the longest day I’d ever had. Hours of boring work, a talk with the Overmare that had become more painful as her words had some actual truth that validated them, and to finish it, when Cherry spoke to me in such a worried tone, I felt like abandoning the whole thing. But that wasn't an option I’d allow myself, I was a stallion of my word. I just need to follow through, get it done, and enjoy myself.
Thinking positive always got me in the mood for getting things done, especially when trying to solve a persistent problem. I was tired as hell from all the work, making absolutely positively sure seven times over that everything worked, and I didn’t know if I had enough of my remaining faculties to figure out a solution to my flight problem. Even if I had, there’s no telling If I could get even make the modifications with the time I had. Sometimes I wish I didn’t say the things I did
Now that all my negative thoughts about very potentially not being able to accomplish such a task are out of the way, let's just say, there’s nothing more that I want to do after a long day of work then, start playing with my workbench in my very own home. Even if I didn’t accomplish a damn thing I’d have hopefully cleared my mind from the words of both violet mares I’d spoken to today.
Once inside my room I saw nothing but the darkness I left it with the yesterday morning, I felt the familiar dank muskiness that my room provided to me twenty four hours a day, seven days a week with no extra charge then labor for the rest of my life. I flicked on the light switch in the room with the use of my now extended my wings. The lights slowly came on with a tiny flicker and finally I could see all that resided in my quarters.
The dirty bed, the grimy living room, and to my favorite spot in the entire stable: my despicably filthy workbench. All of it covered in a whole bunch of metal scraps, inventions, experiments, old parts a bunch of old canisters like from my flying experiment yesterday. I always said I’d clean up my room eventually but that never came. All of it of no use to anyone but me because the stable couldn’t use these worn down parts even slightly.
The amount of free time I had during my youth was almost too much. I was always getting into trouble, and by trouble I mean that I kept wanted to explore the off limits area of the stable that a young colt simply wasn’t allowed. I also liked to mess around with tools, machines, and their subsequent parts; either trying to figure out how they worked or hoping that I’d make something cool. This got me reprimanded and punished often. Because of the trouble I’d gotten into, the mothers and fathers of my classmates told their children not to play with me. Thus I never had any real friends besides Cherry, and sadly, most of the time she was too busy with the Overmare to have an adventure with.
Back then I still lived with the Overmare and Cherry, I wound up asking the Overmare for ideas of what to do. She told me to simply ‘’Read a book.’’ I dismissed the idea from the get go. How could somepony with such energy as I, sit on my haunches and read a boring book? However, the Overmare is tricky.
She applied to my need to explore, my insatiable curiosity, and my... ‘creativity’ with vital stable equipment. One day she decided to read me a bedtime story. The name of that fateful book she chose to read out to me was ‘Ten Fun Science Projects for Colts and Fillies’. I was unsure about when the Overmare brought it up but, she was persistent. She decided along with the book, she’d also brought in the materials to actually start one of the projects in the book. She was right to tap into my curiosity.
The experiment she decided to read was how to make a parachute for a small pony soldier. We didn’t have a small soldier to use however, so she used a small piece of scrap metal with a hole in it. The whole experiment something simple enough it could be done within a half a hour.
By the end of the half an hour I had started to continuously take the small piece of scrap with its parachute and let it go in the air above my bed. By the end of the experiment I was clamoring to do more like that one. However all good things must come to an end, Mulberry said it was time for bed, and that I could read it tomorrow.
The next day I was excited to continue, I spent more time waiting for the morning then sleeping, and I eagerly awaited for the morning wake up call. The Overmare, being the most important figure in our society, wasn’t able to make time for the next experiment. I remember, instead of making time for me, she gave me a note to take to one of the maintenance ponies. The note requested that they would provide me with all the necessary resources to pull together whatever was in the book, but I would be required to do everything myself, and clean up after completing each experiment.
This was the inception for my interest of books. My reading skill was limited, and the book itself was fairly unexplanatory to the basics of why each experiment did as it did. I confronted the Overmare with these problems, hoping she’d explain to me why water would expand while frozen, why a hoofball would bounce, or why vinegar and baking soda reacted in a way that caused a huge mess( I should know, I had to clean it). What I wanted, at its core was a complete understanding of the workings of our world. Instead of giving me what she wanted, the Overmare told me to go to the stable library and pick out a book on the related subject. Specifically books about science, mechanics, theory, chemistry, biology, geology(which isn’t a real science) , and physics.
At this point I was playing directly into her hoof. I’d ceased going to places that were off limits or unnecessarily damaging stable equipment in the name of doing something ‘cool’. All so that she would reveal to me where I had to go to find out what I wanted to know, I was knowledge hungry, with no intention to stop. I had a book about anything to do with the workings of the world wherever I went.
But theory only went so far. Eventually I ran out of book experiments to try out, either that the stuff to do them were unavailable or I’d done them already. Chemistry especially mostly unavailable to me. I wanted to apply my knowledge to something, and create things that were my own experiments and do whatever it was that I could think of. Trying to solve something ludicrous with the use of all my acquired knowledge thus far.
But what I had in knowledge, I lacked in materials, and hardware. For me to do anything, I couldn't just be limited to what the Overmare allowed me to take from the stores of the maintenance ponies. I had to assemble my own stockpile gear and materials to draw upon. A problem in which I had no solution for until, I heard some ponies talking about all the useless junk that was taking up space.
I guess I couldn’t blame myself for the lack of a quick solution, especially when it stared me in the eyes every single day. The stable had been full of scrap metals just lying down where ever it did. Being raised in a stable meant that you automatically thought that everything had its place. the place of the junk had been of course to annoy anypony by just simply being there to begin with.
So I decided (with the permission of the Overmare of course) to salvage all the useless junk I’d found around the stable. Nopony was using it, and I wanted to turn all this waste into something much more usable and cool, hell maybe even productive. For my efforts; I was gifted a set of spare tools the maintenance ponies didn't need by the Overmare for my efforts of cleaning up the stable. I may not have been trying to clean it the stable up, but the end result is something which I’ve achieved more or less, and I’ve benefited by having my own personal supply and equipment.
The only thing I needed now, was an actual place to work. I could have used maintenance stalls, but I knew from experience most of the ponies there often felt like I got in their way. They often complaining to the Overmare about me. In fact at one point I nearly got myself banned from the facilities due to my constant pestering of the chief maintenance pony. It’s not my fault I didn't know how to weld first hoof.
Once again, I voiced my concerns to the Overmare, and as always, she found a solution. One of the stable’s residential rooms hadn’t been used in some time, and as a result was I getting the room. With the note from the Overmare, and the general want to get rid of me from the chief maintenance pony, they had a particularly ‘important’ pipbuck technician transport up a workbench to my new room.
The rest is history. But essentially, with my new room, materials, and tools; I was able to start doing my own stuff, whenever I wanted to, and not get in the way of the other maintenance ponies. Thus creating all manner of either useless and unimportant things, all in the off chance of making something that might have merit.
For example; I’d been able to make a few pneumatic ball launchers for the hoofball teams to use during their practice sessions. I wasn't much of a hoofball fan however; I just wanted somepony to find a use for something I’d done.
Another of my inventions involved managing to fashion up a sort of rake that would help the apple farmers to spend less time picking up apples with their mouths and hooves, and more time for...well... whatever else they did. That one in particular, made them quite happy with me, right after a few of them got injured while cutting down a tree’s branches that had grown to much and need to be pruned. As well as other such nonsense, as long if it seemed interesting to build at first, I did it.
The next thing on my mind was to try rectify the problem I had faced with my flying adventure. Last night at the hospital, I actually stumbled on a breakthrough or at least a lead. The book mentioned ways to control the gases, either by use of heat, pressure, and volume of the gas. So throughout a long time of meddling with ideas; I had come up with nothing and just decided I’d try one last thing before bed.
“Alrighty then,” I said out loud talking to myself, normally that helped me calm down and think straight in frustrating situations having to do with mechanics. ‘’Lets fix this thing.’’ _________________________________________________________________________
The morning after, I was excited, ready for action, and feeling like I was going to throw up everything right here in front of everypony in the orchard. Yep great, I was now regretting my boastful claim to Cherry yesterday, because there was a crowd already gathering here. I expect they aren’t here to necessarily see me fly either.
I was standing there at the entrance of the orchard from the stable corridor, the crowd’s attention was solely on me. That is until the Overmare came into view, a microphone in her hoof. ‘’Greetings everypony of Stable 22, today some anonymous pony passed around that Champagne would be making his last attempt at flight this morning, as dictated by the guidelines laid down by our forefathers and foremothers , I shall be present to observe the activity-.’’
At this moment I hated that...bitch with every fiber of my being, she purposely set me up to fail with the distraction of all these ponies, causing me to be so nervous, and they’d all be around to see my failure.Ohhhh It’s on now.
I was upset, so upset that I just wanted to tell everypony I’d be doing the flight later(if at all), but I was ready, and I wanted it to be the end of all this...crap these ponies gave me.
I saw Cherry all of a sudden, she came out from the large group of ponies whom were still paying attention to the Overmare’s speech. Her violet coat and orange mane seemed to cool me down a bit. I may have been upset, but with her here (cheering me on, I hope) maybe I could pull off this feat.
I looked towards my equipment, just inside the long halls of the stable. I had put it down there on my arrival, to take a leisurely tour around the the orchard without being bogged down by unnecessary weight. I wanted to make sure that there were no obstacles I needed to worry about and if there were alter my launch plan accordingly. No, the obstacle I would need to worry about now, was the entire stable population just waiting to see me fail.
What I had to work with today, was a variation from the two compressed air canisters equipped with thrust vectoring cones connected to the release valve, and the duct tape webbing to keep it all together that I had used other day. The new equipment, was a little bit more complicated, the webbing had been reinforced with metal scraps forming a framework in which to add all the heavier gear. This made the rig easily removable in either case of emergency, or to put on and off like a new pair of clothes, instead of using duct tape on my stable utility barding to get it all together. The jury rigging done to the valves and ripcord were still a part of the show, with no changes to their function.
To top it off, the piece that allowed me to realistically win this, was in itself a whole invention. I had adapted small cylinders cut in half onto the threads of the compressed-air canisters. There would be a wire that would linked to my hoof to the small cylinders. That wire would be soaked in lubricant, then run through a series surgical tubing ( that I ‘borrowed’ from the medical wing) so I wouldn’t cut myself.
The wire would allow me, with an specific movement of my hoof , to pull the wire in such a way that would cause the half cylinders on the back of the threads, to cut off the escape of the compressed propellant, and halting all of its force. It could also gradually shut manually, causing the airflow to be managed, and giving me the ability to control my speed.
So now, it wasn’t as much as of a death trap as before as Cherry had suggested I’d do. Which made me feel more confident in today’s trials.
With a little struggling, due to the constricted design and the lack of sleep that caused the oversight in the first place I fitted myself with the device. I took my time, taking special care that I didn't accidentally damage any part of the it, regardless of its sturdy construction that made it almost like an elaborate set of armor, I still treated it like it was a fragile piece of glass read to shatter at any moment. I felt the cold frame pressing against my body, and the surgical tubing feeling odd, and slightly annoying. But strangely, it felt good and almost rewarding.
I gathered my bearings, moving around to my invention to find a way to sit naturally on my body. I looked at the Overmare whom I felt my eyes sear up in heat with. Watching her mouth closely, her words escaped me and I substituted the loss with my own. ‘’ Champ will forever be unable to fly and today will seal the deal.’’ I imagined the voice to go along with the words. Of course, I’m sure she didn’t say it like that. No, it would have been more of a hidden message, wrapped in clever expressions, and redundant rhetoric.
Allright Champ, calm down, this is exactly what she wants to do, unhinge you so that you can't perform at your best. She’s scared of you succeeding. I lied to myself, sometimes it works and motivates me and sometimes it backfires and makes the situation worse. Without much more delay, I started trotting down the long hallway once more, my motive much different now than any other day.
The artificial light much more dim compared to the orchard’s much more bright and natural counterpart. When I met the wall on the opposite end of the hall way, I looked back towards the orchard, I struggled to see the apple trees due to the bright light, only the silhouettes of the trees, and group of ponies were visible from my location.
This was it, I felt even more need to throw up my apple enriched breakfast all over this wall and make a mural of my own out of stomach bile. Sounds great right about now to be perfectly honest, any reasonable excuse will do. ‘’Fly or Die.’’ I silently whispered to myself recalling my words from the other day.
I started with a slow trot, then slowly progressed into a fair run, and finally the strongest gallop I could muster. Several ponies could see me by now as I could see them. They looked back towards the group and shouted. ‘’He’s starting!’’ I could hear clearly now the sound of ponies running out of my immediate path, making good distance away from what I’m sure of what their idea of an insanely dangerous pony might be. Oh well.
With hop, skip, and a jump, I lowered my flight goggles into place. I was now fully prepared for my final jump, and subsequent flight. There was no turning back now, even if I wanted to. My momentum had been built up so much that I was either going to fly or run head first into the trunk of an apple tree, then again maybe both.
With my eyes adjusting to the bright light; I could now see all the trees in the orchard and I made my final jump. I expanding my wings, while also pulling the ripcord that turned the valves, releasing the compressed air, and finally sending me soaring at an acceleration that made my stomach want so desperately for me to stop, threatening to release its load on all the observing ponies below. Maybe that wasn’t such a bad Idea.
The sound of escaping gases, buzzed in my flapping ears. The air current was thrown around with me. The feeling of it running through my mane was intoxicating. I almost allowed myself to relax and forget about what I was doing.
Moving far too quickly; I found the wall at the end of the orchard swiftly grow, I panicked, forcing my wings into pulling a U-turn maneuver like last time, except for this time I was moving too quickly. The wall seemed like It wanted to run me over, as if it was jumping from its motionless state just to smack me down like a ball the unicorn ponies used to play tennis with.
‘’Oh shit-’’ was the last sound I made before bracing for impact. However it didn't come as I expected, in fact it didn’t come at all. At this point I opened my sealed eyes. I had made the U-turn. The sound of the gushing air had been silenced, and a calmer sound of moving recycled air took its place.
In confusion, I looked back at the canisters, expecting them to have been missing from the frame of the invention, but instead I found them there intact without much of a hiss of air from them. It then dawned on me. Oh Champ, you idiot. In my excitement I forgot all about the ‘brakes’ I’d installed to avoid such a situation. If I hadn’t of braced for impact like I did, flailing limbs and such, I would have been quite the nice addition to the wall. That is to say if I didn't just break through it instead.
I relaxed, but only long enough to be propelled forward very fast once again, I’d forgotten about the breaks already within the span of five seconds. Champ, you're a real smart one, ya know that? Again, I panicked, but this time pulling my hoof in such a direction as to not cut off the full pressure of the canisters.
I slowed to what was for me was a very slow speed; I wasn't closing in on the ground, nor was I going dangerously fast, I must of struck a lucky balance in the pressure of the escaping air streams. Everything started to slow down, and despite the twitching in my nerves all over my body, I felt the most comfortable I’ve ever been in the air.
My mane, along with my tail, fluttered in the wind, each strand of hair flurrying in a sort of dance that mesmerized me. ‘’I finally did it’’ I said almost unbelieving and laughing out of either the sheer success or because I needed to cope with almost dying again by my own methods. Just like that all the stress that had built up this morning, flew away without a trace.
What I was left with began to shape up to be become the best day ever.
Loud cheering came across my ears all of a sudden, I could hear the cheering of the stable ponies below me, all of them yelling and hollering, for...me. The one pony in the entire stable that was a joke through and through and more of an annoyance. Now I had become...I guess, in their eyes a hero. It was like the rise of the underdog in one of the single non-educational books I read. Coincidentally that book gave me these ideas of not accepting defeat in the first place, and to continue to try and try till either I could try no longer or I finally succeeded.
I looked down at the stable ponies, from this unique perspective, I was their new hoofball champion. The one who scored the final goal in the final second and gave his team, and their fans, enough happiness that you could hear them cheer from all the way in my lonely quarters. So now it was fitting that I would do my own victory pass.
I flew to the other side of the orchard and spun around. I began testing the limits of my new capabilities, getting drunk on my success of each new stunt I pulled off. It started small with seeing how low I could go, my belly almost scratching the grass between the trees, then proceed up to a full speed speed bank/turn (I wasn't sure of all the terms of flight, I planned on figuring that out after succeeding). At one point I felt the need to gallop along the walls at that lightning pace. The feeling of high speed concrete never felt this good before and the crowd had roared at each stunt, especially the last one, motivating me further to push my former boundaries.That became my new personal definition of awesome.
Needless to say, the combination of ponies screaming for me, and the rush I was getting from the flying and the stunts, made me bolder, and more willing to try something to top it all.
Now it was time for my finally, this particular stunt I’d read over many times in a book called the ‘Equestrian Airshow Guide to Aerial Tricks and Stunts’, it was called the loop. I imagined it clearly, a pegasi pony flying straight, then curving up vertically and pulling down in what seemed to be a very large and long back flip. It was both relatively simple, and awesome as hell, especially to all these ponies whom up until just now had never seen anypony fly correctly.
So, with confidence, I moved back to the furthest part of the orchard from my audience, giving myself ample amount of space to pull this off, and do so in such away that gave the best possible cinematic show.
I began my stunt, going full speed, hugging close to the leaves, and weaving between the ‘all too high tree branches’ some of them were frightening but...oh well. ‘’Here we go!!!’’ I shouted.
I passed nearby the leaves, made them rustle violently, making sounds that made me feel so good right now. The dangerous branches of those trees were no cause to alarm, I hit one tiny branch on accident, and had hardly felt a thing. I felt like I was unstoppable...no... I was unstoppable.
I finally decided it was time to do this ‘flip’, with a swing of my wings, I curved violently upward towards the ceiling. The g-forces pressing hard against my wings, causing them to beg me to even out and give up. I refused to listen and pressed on. I saw the orchard, the trees which resided in it, and the ponies cheering me, from upside down. Looking at them from far above floor which from my point of view was covered in green leaves of varying brightness. This also redefined my new personal definition of awesome, and making everything else at this point seem actually kinda boring to the loop.
I felt like waving at those ponies with my free foreleg, but I was already coming around on the curving drop of the stunt, and my speed would pick up and I’d end up going even faster then the start of my flight. However, this time, I’d have much more control over my movements and it would end up being a walk in the park.
My velocity went from ‘boring’ slow, to excitingly fast in less then ten seconds flat, I was doing it all upside down, making it even more exciting. I could feel my stomach stretch along with most of my body over the period, my wings screeching and demanding I stop immediately. But once again I ignored the thought of pulling out, especially now. I was starting to even out, I only had one forth of the loop left to make.
All of a sudden, I started to feel sleepy. I felt as if even in all my excitement I was slipping away into a nap. My vision of the world started to look like a dark tunnel, and it only seemed that that I was going deeper into this tunnel, looking out. In my stupor I realized I was about to do. It was too late to do anything to prevent it. The name reflected quite well what I was feeling...A ‘’blackout’’. The last thing I heard was a sharp snap, then a hiss, and finally...nothing.
I was brought back consciousness. I freaked due to confusion, the memories of what happened were dumped on me like a boiling bucket of water. I had blacked out from pulling more G’s then my body could handle. I may have only been out a few moments but I was severely disoriented.
Suddenly, leaves and hard rubbery branches slapped against my body (FEROCIOUSLY might I add) blinding me from my current path. From what I could figure out I was being dragged by one of the canisters that happened to be still attached to the wire around my hoof. Oh dear Celestia...
It didn't matter what kind of thrashing I did, or angling of my wings. I had no control over any movement. It’s ironic how a pony can have so much freedom, then black out for a moment, and have none there afterwards.
Moments after all the painful tree hitting, I found myself cleared from the leaf canopy. Good, at least the canisters had the common decency of letting me see how I was going to die. Oh shit.
Turns out, my canisters were heading directly for the large crowd of ponies, whom, I had looking up at from being upside down way above them moments earlier, and now I might be very likely the last thing going through their mind, literally. The uneasiness I felt from flying so lopsided, only grew now that other ponies were in danger. I was helpless, the only thing I could do was watch and hope that everything would be alright.
I ‘flew’ over crowd of panicked ponies all screaming in fear. Some were too stunned to move and others fled as time started to slow down for me. I was still being flipped around by the canisters and I might as well been a flying bowling ball on a tether to a rocket. To me it seemed like canister had decided to pan up and head towards the concrete wall, high above them and would have collided relatively safely, although I could see myself actually turning into the wall painting this time.
‘’SNAP!’’ This sound was the most important sound to me. It drew my attention forward towards the dangerous cylinder projectiles I had now incorrectly used. The wire that was strapped to my forehoof, had broken, and now I was a projectile myself. ‘’Oh no...’’ I said in desperation as my body plowed into several ponies.
I cried out loudly, the feeling of pain engulfed me like fire to a flammable material or liquid. The pain was most significant to my stomach. I looked down to see a pink unicorn’s horn piercing my soft belly, my blood ejected, and sputtered out almost compulsory. I don't think I’d ever be this ‘horny’ again.
I heard a loud fizzle above me, and it pulled my weakening body’s gaze towards it, almost directly above me. It was the canister flying in a very short circle. I let out a laugh for no reason I could find.
Things turned to the worse when the canister finally broke it circle, and flew directly at the ground. It exploded, the remaining air inside the tank have erupted into a huge white air wave with deadly shrapnel being propelled everywhere, then just before I thought it couldn't be any worse, I saw a familiar violet pony fly away from being hit from the explosion. Her body landing shortly away from me.
I sat alone on my bed. I hadn’t even bothered to turn on the lights of my room and only the red lights that helped navigate the room were on. So I was left in my own self imposed darkness. I didn’t feel like I deserved the comfort of light after this massive fuck up.
My last memories were of the medics heading over to Cherry, and then waking up back here in my room. I hoped that everything that had happened was just a nightmare in a dream scape, but when I decided to get a glass of water, I felt a pain from stomach.
The wounds that had been inflicted on me were now only scars thanks to a healing potion or two that had been administered over an IV line during my time being knocked out cold. I guess I could tell from the cotton ball still taped to my hoof. It still left residual pain and served as a constant reminder of my failure and overconfidence. I was wrong, this wasn’t just a nightmare; it had been a real life manifestation of a night terror.
I dropped all thought of laying there doing nothing, and rushed towards the door. I just had to know what happened to everypony, to see that Cherry was okay or something. The door was locked and no matter what kind of struggling or poor attempts at picking the lock, changed that.
I tried my pipbuck, trying to see if there was any kind of informative broadcast from the Overmare, but to my surprise, there were in fact no channels to listen in on with my device.
They put me under house arrest.
I may have left myself in the dark in this room, but I never knew how badly left in the dark I actually was. Under a house arrest protocol, the room in which the offender was kept in would run as normal, besides being locked, guarded, and cut off from radio broadcasts.
Being under house arrest also meant, that I was in deep shit. I craved for more information about my situation but this wasn’t what I wanted to know at all. Oh well.
I slowly trotted my way back to bed. The lights still off, but even so I could navigate the room with no eyes at all without trying. As soon as my head hit the covers, my memories from....whenever I screwed up replayed through my mind without stop.
I remembered clearly; the security ponies came to their senses after the explosion, they went rounding up all the unhurt ponies, as well as those whom weren’t injured too bad that they could move with the help of other ponies, removing them from the immediate area. My hoof I’d attached the wire to was sprained hurting quite a bit, and my stomach pierced with the horn of a unicorn. I was definitely in bad shape.
With the loss of blood I eventually started to pass in and out. Although only seconds passed during the passing out and the regaining of my consciousness, it felt like I was watching an old photo reel, part of an old documentary but a really unclear and disorienting one.
One moment, I was staring at the scene of chaos I’d created, the next I was out. Then next thing I knew I was being laid on a stretcher by a couple of medical ponies. I’d have whispered a ‘thank you’ if I wasn’t the one who caused the mess in the first place.
The last things I saw before completely blacking out, had been the sight of other medical ponies rushing in with saddle bags bursting with medical supplies, and the painfully still image of Cherry lying there with shrapnel sticking out of all over her body, a large fragment had been impaled in her flank, just above her cutie mark. This memory haunted me the most.
It seemed like a day had passed before finally something happened to shake me up. During all that time I achieved nothing, but worrying, crying, regretting, throwing my inventions around the room, cursing them heavily for them being stepping stones to this latest event, and of course beating myself as much as I’d been willing to (which equated to actually very little of any self abuse). I’m hell of a mess. I also happened to be pacing most of the time, trotting so much in a circle that I’m sure I wore groves into the concrete floor. I couldn’t take being isolated like this anymore.
All of a sudden, a hiss came from the door. It opened, and let light from the hall enter my room. Since I spent the entire time in the dark (both figuratively and literally) it was a blinding sight to see. My eyes were strained from all the tears and anger I let out, they did not need the help of the light to make them feel worse. A silhouette appeared in the doorway, blocking some of the light and allowing to me to look at the doorway from behind my hoof.
‘’Champ, may I come in?’’ It was the Overmare’s voice. My mind flashed back to the rage I felt with her. I nodded politely and tried to let out a decent response but instead my voice cracked. ‘’I’ll go in alone, and call for any assistance If needed.’’ She spoke softly and yet authoritatively to what I assume was the guard who’d been guarding the ‘cell’ of a prisoner. The voice a stallion protested, but the Overmare shrugged him off and walked in, closing the door behind her, and leaving the room dark again.
I felt I should have been extremely mad at her but...but...nothing.
‘’Oh, isn’t it ever dark in here.’’ Ya don’t say... I could see her raise her hoof to the light switch and without failure she hit the switch perfectly, blinding me once again. I rolled over on my belly, covering my head with a pillow with a slight whine. She gasped; I guess she had seen the mess I’d made, both before and after that disaster.
She trotted softly towards me. I expected at any time she was going to yell at me, then lecture me, and finally lay down punishment for endangering the stable population. But instead of all that; she sat down next to me, and put her foreleg around me. She was comforting me. I hadn’t allowed myself that particular privilege, and here she was the pony I least expected to see do that.
‘’I cannot truthfully say it’ll be all fine and dandy, Champagne.’’ She began, I turned to look at her despite that light pounding in my eyes, She was crying. The Overmare was... crying. I’d never see her bat an eye for the most part, and this was almost outside my acceptable range of things that were extremely unlikely to happen. ‘’But, I do not know what else to say... I’m so very sorry.’’
I cleared my throat. ‘’What happened to Cherry?’’ I asked the light violet pony, my voice still cracking from the intense session of ‘regret’.
The Overmare looked me in the eyes with a solemn look plastered across her face ‘’Cherry is not doing well, she’s still alive, yes...’’My heart jumped, happily might I add, I’d expected Cherry to be dead from the horror I witnessed yesterday, I mean It didn’t look like a pony could survive from the amount of shrapnel sticking out of them.‘’...but her condition is intensely unstable and the likelihood that she survives is as similar as her chance to perish. I wish I could say otherwise but I mustn't dilute the bare truth, as it shall help nopony.’’
My happiness, although very slight, started slipping away quickly, it was one thing to be so sure of myself in my consequences, but to give me hope, and tell me it might all be for nothing, is cruel. But then again, who am I to blame? The Overmare told me the truth because that’s what I wanted to hear and the cruelty wasn’t even added by her, but only by fate itself.
‘’I’m so sorry Champagne.’’ I guess my expression shinned through to Mulberry since she’d started apologizing again while holding me tighter. I wish I could say she was hugging me to help me, but it seemed to be much more therapeutic to her.
Time passed for a while maybe a few hours, both grieving without another thought to come in and distract us. Eventually she pulled away and got up to leave. Wrinkles in her barding, and her hair that was always organized was now much less so.
‘’Champagne,’’ It was the first words to break out silence beyond the crying we’d done. ‘’Tomorrow, as you know, you're due in for the final genetics donation in the medical wing before your exile during the afternoon.’’
‘’Exile?’’ My mouth had hung down in surprise.
‘’I’m afraid so, many other ponies were hurt yesterday. The stable is upset and demanding justice for your actions.’’ I was baffled once again, I hadn’t thought about how the stable would feel about my failure, and the potential death of other innocent ponies had been in. But exile seemed like such a hard ball especially since I didn’t mean for it to happen; then again, I don't mean for a lot of things to happen but that doesn't stop them from doing so.
To be truthfully honest, I should have been expecting this, the stable has had these extreme laws installed since before its construction. If I recall correctly, the law was meant to be a deterrent to anyone who denied doing their assigned work for long enough to become a threat to the stable. This consequence could also be applied to any member of the stable who committed serious crimes, such as murder, which robbed from the stable’s genepool which it would need for the rest of its operational period.
‘’I shall have the security ponies escort you tomorrow.’’ I nodded in understanding, there wasn’t much I could do anyway but accept my fate and move on.
With that the Overmare left my residence, a hiss from the door was the last thing to suggest her presence, and strangely my mind flashed back to our passive aggressive conversation the other day. I realized now that she’d been right all along and I was just too stubborn to see it from her perspective.
The last word she told me that day also struck me as quite Ironic.‘’’Fine, I’ll allow you try once more, but if you should have any major accidents; I'll use my bare hooves to open that door and shove you out the Stable myself’’’ I doubt she realized she might actually have to hold up to her promise.
The next day came without fault. I didn’t manage to get a single bit of sleep, from either the knowledge of my impending exile or the that Cherry could be a moment swept away by death. My last images of her would be those of a battlefield with her limp body full of shrapnel.
When the guards came to get me, armed with batons, they vocally gave the offer of resisting or coming quietly. I came quietly of course, but from their expressions, I guessed they hoped they could bait me into resisting, so that they could take their frustration out on me. Just peachy.
The trot towards the medical wing wasn’t without incident either. Some ponies gave me a cold hoof, and shunned me outright. Others took it upon themselves to yell at me, some cursing, others threatening, even some brave pony proclaiming that I’d suffer horribly, my eyes would burning out of my skull from the radiation.
I was never hated as badly badly and yet it was both rightly deserved and greatly disheartening. Looks may not be able to kill, but they sure can make one feel terrible.
Once we arrived in the hospital wing of the stable; I frantically started looking for any sign of Cherry, but she was nowhere to be found. Instead what I saw was several injured ponies; maybe about ten, all wrapped in bandages on the few medical beds that had been present. Some of the ponies had to be put on mattresses that were probably taken from their rooms.
I was immediately led into the special private room, where ponies did their business and, given a erm... special kind of magazine to get the blood flowing and a special container for collection. Luckily, I was a stallion, my DNA could be easily acquired at my own discretion. Had I been a mare, I’d have to be put out, and surgically operated on to remove an egg.
For the stable to pull off its mission, genetic engineering was put into the equation, nothing too severe but generally it would combine the egg of a mare and DNA of stallion, into another third party mare (if needed) then she’d give birth to a brand new foal in nine months.
I got my business done quickly. No need to go into details. But I will admit I did have a harder time with all the weight hanging over me. So without delay, I left the room, leaving both items there. Outside I found the Overmare again along with the two guard ponies whom had escorted me here. She didn’t make any expression really, but I suspected that she hid all her expressions for the sake of the stable. Yesterday’s events had given me reason to think that.
‘’You have been allowed five minutes with her, then you’ll be escorted to my office.’’ She stated flatly. I needed no further explanation or speech. I simply nodded and started trotting towards the closest medical pony. I asked her for directions.
‘’Just go to the operating room.’’ She said snidely, directing me to the large metal doors at the end of the bed rows. I made a fast trot towards them. I was desperate to seize this last opportunity to see the violet mare.
With hesitation, I pushed the doors open with my hooves, easily opening them. The lights in the room were bright, and I was treated to a sight of another sterile room in the stable. With the exception of a pony under a bed sheet on top of the operating table. The pony had been facing away, so I had to move around the operating table to get a good look.
My poor Cherry.
She’d clearly been out conscience or sleeping; which was good because I don't think I could look her in the eyes anymore. I could only see her face and that alone had been enough to force a gag. Her face been torn up so much it was difficult to recognize her and a large bit of shrapnel stuck out of her forehead like it owned the place.
I was now at loss of what to do. It’s not everyday you see a pony that you know is your friend but you can’t recognize them due to such intense disfigurement.
‘’Don’t die...I want you to live.’’ I whispered, a tear ran down my eyes immediately as I returned the last words she’d spoken with me.
I stayed with her as long as I could, hugging and holding her like the Overmare held me yesterday. But eventually I had to go once my allotted time had run out.
I was being escorted once again, this time to the Overmare’s office and it was long before we actually arrived. The fairly familiar steel grey door had already retracted itself, leaving the doorway already open in preparation for me I assumed.
The security ponies whom had escorted me all day directed me inside, making it clear that if there was any fuss they would be right outside with their batons. I cringed at the thought as one of the two ponies gently tapped me on the back with his, just as the door hissed shut behind me.
‘’Welcome Champagne, please have a seat.’’ I did as she asked, and propped myself down on a chair just in front of her desk.
‘’Now then, you should know, that I absolutely must take action against you as soon as possible. The ponies of the Stable have been demanding this of me so often that I fear there may be a riot.’’
‘’A riot?’’ These things just keep getting worse and worse don't they. I was obviously confused and it showed.
‘’Champ, the ponies of Stable22 have very little to look forward to in life besides their friends and family, since you accidently threatened that only form longevity for their happiness, it’s fairly natural.’’ Natural?
‘’Also you mustn’t forget that we have very little methods in which to relieve stress, you recall the hoofball games, correct?’’ I nodded, remembering an incident where a loss for one of the hoofball games managed to cause a very scary riot, many ponies were injured, and lots of stable equipment had been damaged as well. It was a horrible event and also a particularly busy week in maintenance.
‘’Are they really are that mad?’’ I asked, while not knowing what to expect next. I mean, my life was in the progress of falling apart. If it had much of it left that is.
‘’Infuriated, to be precise’’ I chuckled taking that more of a joke then I should.
I sighed ‘’So I guess I’m really going out there, right?’’ As scared of the outside world as I was, even I know that at this point I had no more place here. With all the stable ponies wanting to glue me for a disaster I insisted on creating because of the off chance that I might fly.
‘’Unfortunately yes, as much as it pains me to do so Champagne, it's a matter of security for the stable as well.’’ she said in a remorseful tone, I expected the answer, but I was just now beginning to really believe it. My eyes fell to the floor, as if I couldn't manage to look at her anymore, and just need to reflect on what she said.
‘’Champ, it’s not a death sentence you know-’’ My ears perked up and I cut her off.
‘’Wait what?’’ Was all I could say. She paused to look at me with with a flare of annoyance making my mistake quite evident ‘’Sorry.’’
‘’As I was saying, from what we can tell, the surface is, in fact, quite livable, just very distant from ideal. There is a lot of residual radiation, but there is still oxygen. However,that is all we know’’ She said but it didn’t help me much. She’d given me hope, but I might have been better off not knowing at all, as just going out there blind with the only knowledge that the surface was ‘livable’. It was a bit frustrating to be be honest.
‘’Is there anything you can do to help me?’’ I asked
‘’Actually there is,’’ Mulberry pushed her chair back to get access to one of the drawers around the long circular desk. Once the drawer was opened; she rummaged around for for something. Finally she pulled something out and gave it a little inspection, it was a small metal key, this was the first time I’d actually seen one apart from books. It had the number ‘6’ inscribed on it with a yellow hue matching that of the yellow stripes on the stable bardings that each pony in the stable wore.
The Overmare, wasn’t finished however, she went back into another drawer that was at the end of her desk, one that I could actually read. ‘’Personal Belongings’’ was marked on it. She went into that storage container and pulled out a orange necklace, and then with great mastery of her hooves; put the key and necklace together.
She turned back to me with a smile, and gave it to me. It was very light and on closer inspection looked like the necklace was made out of multiple links of a chain. The key was just as I had imagined it as well with its smooth edges. I took a moment to press it against my hoof just to satisfy my curiosity.
‘’What does this open?’’ I asked her.
‘’It opens up a special lockers for exiled members of the vault, giving them basic needs for survival.‘’ She said.
‘’Any clue what’s in them?’’ I asked once again.
‘’I don't have the faintest Idea, your guess would be as acceptable as mine in any case.’’ I sighed in lament, I didn't expect it my situation could get any worse. Being exiled into post-war Equestria; full of radiation and...well...oxygen. Not that that was a bad thing, but I wanted more then that to go on. I didn't have the slightest clue on how to survive out there. For all I knew, I could go out into the wasteland and fall down a hole that was the aftermath of a megaspell explosion. Oh, and die horribly by means of magical radiation poisoning. I really do hate my imagination.
‘’So...when am I being violently thrown out on my haunches? ‘’ I made sure to sound very unenthused about the whole thing.
‘’Regrettably, tomorrow morning.’’ was all she wrote. You gotta be kidding me.
‘’Uhh’’ I struggled to find the words. ‘’Well, that’s a bit soon.’’
‘’It’s a stable policy I’m afraid, there's nothing I can do about it otherwise all the ponies here will claim I’m treating you unfairly, considering your crimes.’’ She simply said. Crimes, really?
I sighed once again, this time surrendering that I’d probably not get another break until my heart stopped beating and I’d be in whatever after-world was deemed suitable for me. ‘’Well... can I at least, spend the night reading books?’’ I haphazardly asked hoping I might at least have something to sooth my mind.
‘’Nope...’’ Damn it all...I can’t get a break
I was escorted back to my room by the guard ponies after my meeting with the Overmare had concluded. I spent most of my time on the journey trying to avoid the eyes and looks of other ponies, which I’m sure they were all beaming daggers at me. On arrival, I just quietly entered my room, the guard ponies shut the door immediately behind me.
With nothing else to do, I stripped my stable barding and threw it in the corner of the room and prepared to jump into bed. If I was going to go into.... whatever it was I’d be exiled to; I needed to capitalize on being well rested, and not falling asleep as soon as the steel door closed behind me.
While I lay there in my bed, uncomfortable for whatever reason and unable to keep my mind from wandering; I came to the stark realization that this would perhaps be the very last night in which I would reside in this room, well... the stable for that matter. It's a particularly hard pill to swallow, knowing that in fact all the knowledge I spent my life trying to learn, was ironically the thing that was going to end my life.
It’s hard to sleep when you wonder what exactly will happen to you. It was just so beyond the knowledge of anypony here in this stable. For all I knew, outside this underground bunker there was nothing but a dark void, consuming anything foolish enough to get close enough. Okay, well maybe not; but I couldn’t shake the feeling that whatever world I encounter, might still, in fact, be brightly lit with fire still burning, since the end of the war.
Although I desperately pleaded with myself, I couldn’t manage to get a wink of sleep, my imagination decided it would run at full speed and never slow down; filling my head with the visuals of a plain barren landscape with nothing in it.
‘’Good morning Stable twenty-two, the time is seven-thirty in the morning, please be ready to switch shifts with the night crew by eight o'clock sharp’’ The unusually happy prerecorded voice of a probably long dead pre-war pony announced.
Great... It was the next day, and needless to say, I couldn't manage to doze off no matter how much I waited or attempted to clear my mind and relax throughout the constant barrage of unneeded thoughts and stress.
Strangely enough however, I didn’t feel tired, and all I felt was a cold sweat as I rose from my bed. I reeked from sweating the entire night and I’d best use this time to at least get a shower before I lost my last chance to use it.
I finished up my shower and not a moment too soon, I was moving back into the living room and all of a sudden; there came a sharp hiss from the door leading into the stable’s hallway and in the two security ponies I’d been expecting to escort me to the stable entry chamber. Their protective padding had been polished for the day's ceremony. It was customary that the stable ponies involved in the proceedings looked nice and organized, as the scene would be recorded, and would make me an example to the next crop of young foals to grow up here.
‘’It’s time to go.’’ One of the ponies simply said. I protested that I hadn’t been able to wear my stable jumpsuit and they allowed me a minute to do just that. At least I would manage to be presentable for this exile.
The walk up to the stable door chamber, had been for a lack of better words; also as uneventful as the last few days that I’d been escorted around in these hallways. For whatever reason my brain decided now would be a good time to worry, as my stomach felt like it was filled with ice cubes with razor sharp edges.
I realized now that, if I had eaten (that is to say, if I could manage to force myself in the first place) I might have spilled my guts from being so dreadfully nervous. I could tell that the guards had noticed me shaking uncontrollably and whatever dignity I wanted to preserve of myself while still being in the stable might have left me then and there. I figured I looked like a scared little colt who had just gotten in a whole heap of trouble he was immediately sorry for and had nearly pissed himself out fear. Yeah, isn’t that a great image.
As we got closer and closer to our destination; I could hear the voices of ponies up in the upper level of the atrium looked down on me in hatred. ‘’There that bastard is!’’ one pony cried out. This was their last chance to see me, and I’m sure they wanted to get a good last look. I shied away from meeting their eyes with my own. I knew I’d done wrong but I didn’t want them to rub it in anymore then I already had done so to myself, and although it sounds ridiculous, I didn’t want to risk the off chance that death stares I was definitely getting could kill. Strange is I already accepted I was going to die, why did the method matter?
I was only spared the looks by those ponies when, we proceeded into the stable elevator. One of the security ponies hit the ‘’level 1’’ button and the doors of the elevator finally closed off the sounds from the atrium. Only the sound and feeling of moving upwards indicated we’d moved at all.
With a sudden stop and reopening of the doors in front of me I found myself in a more unfamiliar hallway. The guards nudged me out with a slow movement of the baton, and we started another walk down this corridor. It was far more damp and moist, the temperature wasn’t comfortable, and I felt the hair on my hind legs stand up looking for any warmth they could manage to gather due to the unusual coolness of this part of the stable.
At the end of this long hall was the iconic stable door of Stable 22, I hadn’t ever seen it before (except in Stable 22 videos) but even at this distance I knew it was the gear like door that defended the stable over all these years. As we got closer I started to appreciate how magnificent it actually was, almost three ponies high in circumference, the numbers ‘’22’’ had faded over the hundred or so years it stood here.
You wouldn’t think that a gear shaped hunk of metal would be very interesting, but somehow I was mesmerized. Maybe it was the mechanic in me trying to figure out how it all worked, the huge piece of metal seemed immovable, and I felt myself wandering towards it without much help to move along from the guards following me.
I was eventually inside the very stable door chamber itself. It looked to be less like the stable and more like a cave, this had been my first encounter with natural rock that made up the walls next to the door mechanism and the cold wet floor I was standing on. In fact, that wasn’t the only thing that was cold; the air itself felt like it was frozen. I wasn’t sure now if I was shaking from being nervous or from the fact that my body was freezing, evident by my teeth chattering.
Was this part of the whole stable plan? Make the guilty deal with the cold like they never had before in the comfortable stable life? Have them look like they were nervous if they weren't already by method of freezing them? Then record them looking like they knew it was the greatest mistake of their entire life so that the young colts and fillies would be fearful of anything they would do to incur such wrath?
Even if I were to ask, I probably wouldn’t even get an answer.
‘’Ahem’’ the sound of the Overmare rang throughout the room over an intercom. I looked back at the hallway I’d just traversed, expecting to see the Overmare. But nothing. I looked around someone and the guard ponies just pointed upwards with one of their forelegs. Looking up I saw the Overmare behind a glass wall just on another level. Behind the Overmare I saw several other ponies in the background. Some of them I noticed, were some of the victims that managed to walk away with minor injuries, or ones that didn't require them to still be in the hospital wing. The other ponies, I guessed we’re family of the ones who weren’t as lucky as the former.
‘’Champagne’’ the Overmare started with a very stern voice. ‘’From the misfortunate events that have transpired just a few days ago, including the death of someponies and the severe injury of others’’ Death? That confirms it I’d killed somepony. I felt my ear droop down in shame.‘’I have come to the conclusion that you are no longer of value to the stable, by endangering its citizens, and causing pain, anguish, and fear to fester in our home. For these reasons, I am forced to expel you into the Equestrian wasteland. ’’She paused a second, I could see her eyes close, and she took a long deep breath.‘’ May you suffer among your own kind there.’’ Ouch... I was frozen still at that last statement... I never imagined she’d say something so cruel.
With that said. the Overmare gave a nod to some pony in the room with her. The slight whine of metal drew my attention to just above me, as well as a siren and flashing red light thrown across the room. Just above me a long metal prong descended and pushed itself into a large hole in the stable door, with a loud click, the sound of singing and screeching thick metal made me feel like my ears would fall off from this kind of abuse. The gear was promptly pulled out and rolled aside, assisted by a rail. The whole process was quite impressive. I would have liked to study its mechanic further but I don't think I have that right .
‘’Have you any final words?’’
I couldn’t think of anything, so I thought back to the videos of the few members of the stable who were expelled. Usually, when asked this question the stable recordings showed the accused pony have nothing to say, and just turn to leave. Nothing to helpful, to be honest. I wonder if the only reason the Overmare still asks that question is due to ceremonial tradition alone. But to be fair I was stumped myself and unsure of what to say. I figured already that I wanted to say something, perhaps my last words. Even so, I want to say something.
Just as I was about to give up and leave, I had a stroke of inspiration.‘’I’m sorry I wanted to live a dream.’’ With that said, I looked up to the Mulberry and the ponies in the glass room. Mulberry was shocked and in disbelief. It was with that one sentence, that I cracked her unreadable shell for a singular moment. She looked so shocked that she I don't think she tried to regain her composure. The other ponies looked intensely confused. I guess they’d always thought that exile had been a true death sentence.
Maybe it was the fact that I shocked them, maybe it was that I didn’t really care anymore, maybe I’m crazy just as anypony expected I was, but the fact remained it felt good saying that and somehow I felt I deserved it. Stumping these ponies would be the last thing I’d remember of them.
So, with a satisfying look on my face, I left Stable 22...
Footnote: Level Up.
Skill notes: Swift Learner:10% to xp whenever xp is earned.
Energy weapons 28
Thank you to Sargecadet and Calbeck357 for your amazing work on helping me edit both chapters thus far, I love ya guys :D