We know now.
Okay, maybe I should rephrase that. We know whether the “people” we saw were hostile. Or… we have a better idea? All of this is so freakin’ confusing. I want to go back to being a mechanic. Life was easy and safe then. I knew what I was doing, I knew I wasn’t going to hurt anybody by accident.
We’re playing with fire here, and we’re not the only ones who pay if we lose. The future generations of tiny, helpless, horsebeasts will pay too. Though it’s probably for the best I don’t help with that anyway. Maybe it would be better if all the next generation had those magic horn things. I guess wings might be cool too.
FOCUS! Wasting paper and time. Should sleep, but this first. If I can keep this damn journal for a month and a half, through being transformed and having everything I cared about being taken away, I can keep a journal through this. Okay, I’m going to tell the story. For real this time.
So I got sick of sitting around and doing nothing in Bakersfield and waiting for the “HPI” to either destroy the city so we couldn’t live there anymore or track down and hurt my friends. It’s probably a reflection of some serious personal flaw that I thought the only way they stood a chance was with me there to help, but whatever. That’s me and that’s exactly the way I felt. Huan came with me to the local Home Depot, and a couple of auto shops in town. Went on hoof, so the others wouldn’t suspect what I was doing. They thought I was just going for a walk.
Despite being newer, I think Oliver suspected. He wanted to come with me (he likes walks as much as I do), but I told him no. Why? Because Joseph will be just as screwed without someone practical around as Cloudy Skies and the recovering unicorn are. I’m not sure if he realized the magnitude of what I was doing, or if he even cared. He didn’t fight me or say anything that might’ve alerted Joseph, and for that he has my respect.
Took my satellite receiver and my phone. Broke into a house with a reliable-looking SUV out front. It’s amazing how easy doors are to kick down when you’re determined. Just plant my hooves and “buck” with the back legs like I’m trying to kick over a tree. Doors don’t usually do well, and this one was no exception. Found the car keys inside, then mounted those hoof-controls for the pedals like I was in some kind of speed challenge (for Sky’s life).
Stopped at the gas station for a quick syphon from the underground tank, as well as stuffing the back with dried nuts and water bottles from inside (the easier containers had all already been looted by clever animals).
Drive down to Los Angeles was uneventful, though I felt like I might explode from the guilt of abandoning some of my friends or the worry for the ones I was going to save. How would I “save” them? I didn’t know.
In retrospect, going alone wasn’t the smartest plan of my pony career. Joseph’s probably the closest thing we have to a weapon, leaving him behind if I really intended to investigate the city was one of the stupidest things I could do.
On the other hoof, leaving him out of this meant that the rest of our extremely small community was likely to have the advantage of his help even if the worst happened to me and I was killed in the city. Sky said I was brave, Joseph said I was stupid. Oliver was just disappointed.
I could’ve stopped at the farm, but of course I knew that if it came to a fight, we’d be shot to pieces without being able to dent those stupid planes. Armored tanks and stuff couldn’t just be bucked over the way doors could. No, the only help in a fight such a tiny, useless pony as me could ever be is for information. I’m a good runner, and I know the city better than any pony. None of the others could’ve possibly done what I did.
Of course, there’s still the chance I didn’t actually do anything I think I did. I didn’t really sneak into and out of Los Angeles without being detected, they just wanted me to think I did. Maybe I’m carrying a virus that I’ve spread to the other ponies by coming into contact with them.
Instead of saving what passes for humanity in our little corner of the country, I’ll get them all poisoned.
Okay shut up okay focus okay there’s nothing I can do and that probably didn’t happen and there would be way easier ways to kill us and I don’t even feel sick
[continues like this for several lines]
So the way in from Bakersfield didn’t give me any hilly overlooks for me to see the whole city. Maybe I could’ve driven to one, but I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly with this plan. Okay, I wasn’t doing anything even close to thinking clearly. Why the hell was I driving straight towards the ones who had felt so unnatural to me?
I didn’t get out of the car right away, but of course I didn’t really need an overlook to know where they would be. There are plenty of tiny airports nearby, it’s true. But if I was the one running the airships like that, I’d want the best place to land in the city: LAX.
Give me a little credit, I didn’t drive right into the airport and bang on the airplane doors with my hooves. I drove all the way to a hotel across the street, parked right in front, and scrambled to the top floor. I wasn’t in a terrible rush, not since they’d been here for days.
I’m getting stronger, or maybe just better at using my strength. Kicked the locked door to the roof clean off, like I do. Dodged past the new birds nests and air conditioners to the edge, where I could see over the roofs of neighboring buildings to the runways.
They were exactly where I thought they would be. I was far too far away to make out things like motors, though I did feel a distant emptiness I probably could’ve followed if I really wanted to. The more I feel it, the more I compare it not to terror, but just to something unfamiliar. It was the terror of the unknown.
I’d felt it before though, so I knew what to recognize. It was also much further away than the motorcade had been in Sacramento, so that might have been contributing to a decrease in my level of fear.
Whatever the reason, I was able to think clearly, scanning the city all around for signs of their activity. Both of the strange craft were parked, though only one tank had remained behind. The other two were at large, though I could not see where at the time.
I didn’t have to wait long. Granted, I’d been climbing stairs for long enough (dammit if I don’t miss elevators). Still, I hadn’t actually been looking long when I saw the convoy moving in.
They weren’t traveling very fast, perhaps thirty miles an hour. Three automated vehicles moved through the center, led by the armored personnel carrier I had seen back in Sacramento. The strange feeling I had sensed earlier seemed substantially reduced, though that was probably just a function of distance.
I was not too far away to recognize the yellow-and-black patterns along every surface of the crates the automated carriers were hauling. I don’t think I’ve ever been this close to that many nuclear warnings, particularly as the vehicles drew near and passed me on their way to the airport.
Again I was filled with unnatural discomfort as they got close, but this time it was fleeting and mild. Perhaps I’m adapting to it?
The massive ship opened, and automated cargo trucks vanished inside one by one. The APC went last up the ramp, sliding inside before its twin that had waited on the tarmac for hostile invaders that never came. Engines roared to life, huge blades began to spin, and the airship took off, clearing the entire runway of dust but creating comparatively little sound for its size. Again I was struck by how silent the huge ship was as it vanished into the sky, turning eastward into the twilight.
I waited until I was sure it wouldn’t return before climbing back down to street level and driving back to our home. No way I was letting my friends come back before checking myself if it was safe. If any pony was going to be blown to a fine red paste, it was going to be me.
There were no claymores waiting for me though, at least none that I found. What I did find was the shelter in disarray. The fence around the block had been flattened by tank treads, and the door had been left swinging awkwardly open on the breeze. I shortly found the entire house had been ransacked, with drawers and cabinets dumped on the floor.
Every room had received more-or-less that treatment, though at my cursory inspection nothing seemed missing. The servers were all still in the basement, the automatic lights all still came on, and even the radio transmitter had been left alone.
There was one change; a slim box waiting on the kitchen table for me to find it. There were two things inside. The first was a note, clearly handwritten. It read:
“Survivors: We won’t leave you food, since it’s obvious you don’t need it. We need your help. We did not think any other groups had survived.
We’re sorry if our arrival frightened you. We won’t pursue you again, but we hope you’ll come to us. Enclosed is a simple communications device. When you feel comfortable, please contact us. Humanity needs you.
-Cpt. Adam Wright”
That was it. That, and what was clearly an older-style satellite phone, like the ones the military still uses (probably on their network, though I don’t know for sure). I searched the house for a good hour, but when I finally didn’t find anything, I decided it was probably as safe as it was going to get.
If they had hidden anything dangerous, they’d done a damn good job because I couldn’t find it.
Maybe we were stupid to come back. Maybe we should have turned our backs on the old base and never looked back.
Or maybe not. These guys could have searched for us. Could’ve torn up the streets, or blown up our base. They didn’t. Just left a note and flew off. You know what that says? I don’t think they want to kill us. Wish to god I knew what they did want, though. The note seems quick to say how much they need us, but less speedy to tell us why.
I didn’t turn on the phone, of course. A decision like this should be made by everybody. Tomorrow we’ll talk about it, see what everyone thinks. Personally, I think we should. Once Joseph goes over the thing to make sure it isn’t really a bomb, I’m not sure what we have to lose. It isn’t as though they don’t already know where we live, so revealing that information is hardly a danger. I guess maybe showing we’re inside, but… no. Getting paranoid again.
Tomorrow we’ll see whatever everyone thinks. So far all they’ve told me is how stupid I was for going in after this mysterious adversary with its mostly-automated vehicles. Still haven’t seen a pilot. Nor do we know what they were doing here, besides looking for us. We know those caravans didn’t come for us; there wasn’t anything missing (certainly nothing that needs to be nuclearly shielded).
Whatever. Tomorrow. Live in the moment or whatever. Not looking forward to driving back up there tomorrow and getting the medicine truck here. Got to get those fools some learning about how to drive trucks post-haste.