• Published 2nd May 2013
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Stardust - Arad



Can Twilight earn the trust and friendship of people who are by nature suspicious and hostile to anything that isn't 'human'?

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Resolve

A SERIES OF BREAK-INS AT CITY MORGUES IN CENTRAL NORTH DAKOTA ARE NOW CONSIDERED PART OF A WIDER PATTERN AFTER ALL BODIES TAKEN WERE CONFIRMED RETRIEVED FROM AIRCRAFT DESTROYED DURING BATTLE WITH ALIEN FORCES.

SENATOR GOLEMAN ISSUED STATEMENT OF CONDEMNATION FOR NORTH DAKOTA GOVERNOR AFTER HIS RESIGNATION, “MY ONLY REGRET IS THAT CHARGES CAN'T BE LEVIED AGAINST HIM. TOO MANY BRAVE YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN LOST THEIR LIVES BECAUSE OF HIS POOR DECISIONS.”

------

08:30, 05/07/2015, STARDUST LABS

Twilight hummed to herself as she flipped another page in her book. It was the same one that Charles had given her all those weeks earlier, and with recent events she found little time to actually sit down and read it.

Wands for magic? She asked herself as the main character of the book found himself thrust into a world of magic he hadn't know existed. I suppose that might make sense. If humans don't have horns to control magic they'd need some sort of focus for spell casting. But... why unicorn hair? Twilight gave her tail a speculative look before shrugging and turning back to the book. My hair certainly isn't magical. Perhaps unicorns are different here.

Twilight continued to read through the book at a leisurely pace of five pages per minute, give or take a page, while only taking breaks to check the tablet for the definition of a term or phrase she didn't quite understand. When she tried to look up the names of cities and countries mentioned the tablet still refused to display any information, though when she searched for Hogwarts she found a plethora of information. She had to quickly avert her eyes and fumble for the back button to avoid any dreaded spoilers for the story.

The book itself was amazingly fun to read and she found herself literally on the edge of her seat as the human boy found himself inside a forest that sounded a bit too much like the Everfree forest in an attempt to locate and help, of all things, a wounded unicorn. Suspense turned to despair and despair turned into horror as the unicorn's fate was revealed.

Twilight had to restrain herself from recoiling from the book. It's okay, Twilight, it's a book. It's fiction, right? RIGHT? She asked herself repeatedly as she tried to control her breathing. But the book says that magic users keep themselves secret from the rest of the world, and the Field's condition when I first came here did imply that there are magic users somewhere. They can't really think that drinking unicorn blood keeps people alive, right?

The unicorn's mind reeled as another thought occurred to her. It doesn't matter if it's true or not, only if they think it is! They know nothing about magic so who's to say if they have irrational beliefs like that! Before Starswirl approached the mysteries of our world in a logical manner, we thought that just about everything was superstitious like that.

Twilight, focus! The book is fiction! The front cover says so! Twilight took a deep breath and let it out. The author's just using this as something for shock value. That's it. Something horrific to illustrate the monstrous nature of that... thing. Twilight's frayed nerves weren't helped when the door to her room shot open to reveal Doctor Vahlen.

“Good morning, Twilight. Is... something wrong?”

“No, nothing's wrong,” Twilight replied as she settled back into her chair. “I just wish there was a doorbell or a chime or something. It's always a little... abrupt when people show up. I enjoy visitors, but a little bit of warning would be nice, I think.”

Moira looked back at the door speculatively before giving a small shrug and turning back to Twilight. “I'll bring it up with Charles. I'm certain he could arrange something.”

“Thank you. Oh, have you talked to him lately? Has he gotten any work done with the teleporter mechanisms we ironed out yesterday?” Twilight asked eagerly. “I've been really curious about the kinds of things he can make ever since we first spoke! Have you seen anything he's made?”

“I have not had a chance to speak with Charles yet, but I did forward our work to him to work with. As for things he's made, we're actually in one example of his work right now,” Moira gestured around the room before continuing. “This laboratory's default layout was based on a modular design originally created by Charles, and the configuration you're in now was custom built to house you and the work relating to you. He's also assisted with weapons and armor designs, as well as helping produce practical applications for any alien technology we capture.”

Twilight's appreciation for Charles went up as Moira explained just how much the elderly engineer had created. “That's impressive! Craftsponies back home tend to focus on a single trade or profession so being able to do so well with so many things is really amazing! Can I go see where he works at some point?”

“Perhaps,” Moira answered after a moment's hesitation, before she produced a bundle of what appeared to be scrolls from under one arm. “Would you be up for looking at some new pictures with me today? Its from something that our own scientists have had a hard time with.”

“Sure!” Twilight nodded as she pushed away from her work desk and headed to her guest table. Before she looked at the now unfurled pictures and diagram, she mustered her courage and spoke again, “Moira, I've been meaning to ask something for a little while... I'm really glad I was able to meet you and everyone else, and I've learned so much while I was here but if its not too much trouble do you think that I might be able to start looking for my home?”

Moira quirked an eyebrow and held Twilight's gaze for a moment before looking to the table. “We have started searching for your home system based on what information we have gathered thus far. I'm afraid we haven't found any matches yet.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Not at this time, though if something comes up we will ask you immediately.”

“Fair enough. So, what are the pictures from, do you know?”

Moira laid out the first scroll as she took her seat at the table. She took a moment to collect her thoughts before she finally spoke, “The pictures are part of a... device our soldiers encountered in the field. It moves on its own without an apparent pilot or controller nearby. Its movements were far too natural to be a completely automated device, at least as far as we understand them. There are several theories as to how it works, but given the degree of Elerium circuitry in its wreckage we were hoping you might be able to shed some light on things.”

Twilight nodded eagerly as she looked down at the myriad of almost indecipherable pictures before her. “Well... it looks like the circuits are used to animate something, though the degree of circuitry is very thorough. I might even go so far as to say once it's activated, whatever this is could move around and make decisions all on its own! I remember in some history books where unicorns created similar things with arcanite before the material was banned and destroyed. Do you have any pictures or... ah, 'videos' of it? I'd love to see what it looks like in motion.”

Moira's response was subtle, but Twilight noticed it; the fingers around her tablet tightened, and her neutral expression became just a little bit strained. “I believe I can arrange that,” she said as she tapped several places on her tablet before placing it on the table in front of Twilight.

A still image was displayed on the center of the tablet, and it appeared to be an almost picturesque scene of a nearly cloudless blue sky meeting green plains on the horizon. If not for the riot of strange symbols and seemingly random numbers and letters scattered all across the picture, it would have fit in as a landscape picture one might see in a doctor's office. Moira tapped the tablet's surface again and Twilight was enraptured as the picture turned out to be a video.

The picture tilted and turned like the view of a bird in flight, and the serene landscape was replaced by a large rectangular object that seemingly hung in mid-air while a pair of saucer shapes hovered nearby. Twilight was just about to ask about the lack of sound when a flash of green erupted from one of the saucer shapes and Twilight gasped as the projectile connected with something moving almost too fast to see, which exploded spectacularly.

And as quickly as the explosion appeared it was gone from the picture, and her eyes fell upon several humans running along the top of the rectangle towards the edge of the tablet screen. On the other side of the screen was a new object that had settled on the surface of the rectangle, and a small ramp could be seen at the tail end of the object as several other tiny figures ran out from it.

That looks like... Twilight wracked her memories as her eyes fell upon the shape that the humans were running from, and she eventually remembered just where she had seen it before

The majority of the room was dark, though the lights illuminated most of the floor and some of the massive alcoves in the walls and along the floor. Several ominous metal shapes that looked like birds of prey lurked in the shadows, and Twilight found herself drifting towards the center of her group without even thinking of it.

Twilight was so fixated on the little figures as they ran that she gasped again as a thin, golden line jumped out and cut across the front section of the object that the humans had just left. It spun out of control and disappeared from the screen, and Twilight's gaze fell upon what the screen was now centered on.

They look like fish... Twilight found herself thinking as the three silvery objects turned and raced towards the right side of the screen. She found herself leaning in to get a better view of the distant subjects, but any further observation was interrupted by a stuttering yellow line that spat from somewhere beneath the screen's view point. The line connected with the leading silver fish and it fell to the ground in pieces. The two that remained turned to face the screen before Moira tapped the screen to stop the video.

“We call them 'Cyberdisks'," Moira explained as she pointed at the two silver fish in the frozen image. “They appear to be fully automated and mechanical, though some of their mechanisms mimic the systems of organic life forms so there is still some debate as to if it actually is a machine or some new form of life that we've never encountered before. We were hoping that the Elerium circuits in its body might yield some insights as to how such a creature could exist.”

“From what I've seen, the circuitry appears to give it the power to move about on its own, though I'd really like to see more of how it moves,” Twilight said, before she gave a sheepish smile. “I'm afraid this picture here is a little small so I couldn't make out much. I'd like to see one up close if I could.” Moira's response to the seemingly innocent request gave the unicorn pause.

The human looked at Twilight with a blank expression before she blinked and looked to the side. “There is one other video of the Cyberdisks at closer range, but the footage is not like this one. It is... disturbing, but it's the only other footage we have of the disks in action. I would not blame you if you did not wish to see it.”

Disturbing? What does she mean by that? Twilight thought to herself but the train of thought quickly aborted itself. They need my help and I can survive watching something uncomfortable to help out. She nodded and steeled herself before answering, “I want to see it.”

“Very well,” Moira said as she tapped the tablet several more times before placing it back on the table. One more tap and the video started.

This video was mostly devoid of the seemingly random numbers and symbols the other video had, and it took Twilight a moment to realize the view was over the shoulders of one of the humans; possibly one of the tiny shapes she had seen earlier. Before Twilight could study the image, the view swiveled over to a massive doorway that appeared to be blocked by a wall of blue light. Another human was beside the door and was attempting to step away when something emerged from the light.

It was a flat disk with seams running along its flat top, and a glowing light was centered along the outer edge. That light swept to the side to face the soldier barely a body-length away before the disk itself began to spin and unfold. A segmented tail detached itself from the outer edge of the disk before the view fell behind a pillar. The disk reappeared on the screen as the view emerged from behind its hiding place, and Twilight got her first good look at the Cyberdisk.

Her earlier impression on its fish-like movement came back to her as she saw it dart through the air. The fin-like protrusions on either side of it's thin body flared and folded as it jinked left and right, and its tail trailed behind it like a nightmarish party streamer. A line of golden light shot out from the disk to somewhere beyond the screen's view, and for the briefest moment the view turned to follow the beam.

Another human was at the end of the beam, and Twilight's breath caught in her throat as she saw the unmistakeable color of blood before the view jumped back to the disk. It's thin profile was now facing the screen and Twilight had to squint as a flash of gold shot almost directly at the screen itself.

Moira tapped the screen to pause the video before she finally spoke. “I'm afraid the video ends here, I hope it is enough to satisfy you. Any help you can provide to unlock its secrets or develop a countermeasure would be extremely appreciated.”

“I'll see what I can do,” Twilight replied as she continued to stare at the the screen and the golden light that dominated the frozen video.

------

10:45, 05/07/2015, STARDUST LABS

I promised that I would help, Twilight thought as she rubbed a hoof against the side of her head as she stared down at the diagrams that Moira had left her. Her gaze then drifted to the small piles of half-drawn spell ideas, then to the bank sheet in front of her. I just don't know what I can do.

As a purely theoretical exercise I would love to try and find something to counter golems, but my friends don't have the time to wait for me to think of something! Twilight berated herself and began to rub both sides of her head with her hooves for several minutes. When she opened her eyes she saw that her wandering thoughts had transferred to the pen and then onto her paper. The first doodle was a terrible caricature of a Cyberdisk. The second was a stick-figure Twilight zapping the Cyberdisk with a beam helpfully labelled 'MAGIC'. The third picture was of a Cyberdisk-shaped pancake, complete with syrup.

“That is so not helpful,” Twilight moaned, and her face met the desk with a dull thunk. She was saved from her unproductive moping by a visitor as the door whisked open.

“Hello!” The unicorn greeted energetically, though the word nearly caught in her throat when she saw that the person visiting her wasn't Shen, the scientists or any of the friends she wanted to see. Don't be like that, Twilight. Friends shouldn't have favorites. “How are you doing, Mr. Zhang?”

“I am well, thank you for asking,” He replied politely, and Twilight had to force herself not to stare at the scar running along the side of his face. “Mister Harris sends his apologies. He is currently unable to visit due to his duties, but he asked that I visit in his place.”

Twilight tried to smile but the placid look on Zhang's face was making the hair on her back stand on end. “That was thoughtful of him. I know he's been very busy so I don't blame him for not having the time to come and visit. I have Lana's cards if you'd like to play a game. I was needing a break anyway.”

“I wasn't aware you still had her cards, so I brought something new,” Zhang answered as he raised a box before moving to Twilight's guest table. “It's a game called 'Dominoes'. Have you heard of it?”

“No, I haven't. How do you play?” Twilight asked as she pushed away from her desk to join Zhang. Why does he make me feel uneasy? I shouldn't feel this way, he's Matt and Lana's friend. Mine too... right? “Is it a card game or something else like Jenga?”

Zhang shook his head as he opened the box to reveal several small white tiles marked with several dots. “Something else, in fact. A game of Dominoes involves the players taking turns placing the pieces so that similar number of dots are touching. A piece with six dots must be touching another domino with six dots. We play until one of us has no more pieces, or cannot place another piece.”

“Sounds fun!” Twilight said enthusiastically, and she smiled at Zhang.

Zhang's response was a complete lack of response. He didn't smile back at her and his eyes were unreadable. Without another word he emptied the box on the table and shuffled the pieces, then took several for himself. “I'll place the first piece,” he said, and placed a domino face up on the board.

The pair went back and forth and the single piece blossomed into a growing pattern of pieces as the game went on.

Come on, Twilight, think of something to say or ask! This is just getting awkward. “So... do you play Dominoes very often?” Twilight asked hopefully.

“Not so much any more. My parents and I would play when I was younger,” Zhang replied. He had started with a warm tone, but chilled quickly and his expression darkened slightly as he finished.

Twilight phrased her next question carefully, “Do you not play with them anymore?”

“No,” came the clipped response.

“Can I ask why?” Twilight asked timidly, before backpedaling, “I don't mean to pry or anything. It's just that it seems sad that you found something you like to do with your parents and you don't get the chance to anymore.”

“Distance and occupational hazards,” Zhang replied after a long moment.

“Occupational hazards?”

“When one is in the business of acquiring things that are not for sale, it is natural to attract enemies. Those enemies are not above applying pressure to family members to get what they want or as an act of revenge.”

Acquiring things that aren't for sale? He's a thief? Twilight had to struggle not to gape at the man. “That's... nice, I guess. Um, do you know when Matt or Lana might be coming?” Smooth subject change, Twilight.

“Miss Jenkins' injuries were quite severe, so I do not know when or if she would be able to visit. Mister Harris's schedule is significantly tighter for the moment due to his new duties,” Zhang said. His tone still remained neutral but Twilight couldn't help but detect a small amount of annoyance in his voice.

“Ah, I see,” Twilight tried not to sound disappointed, or desperate for other visitors. “When Matt and I spoke yesterday he did mention he had a lot to do because some people got hurt. I hope they get better.” Wait... I tell Matt that I'm not ready for a relationship right now and he suddenly starts sending someone else to visit? What if he really wasn't okay with it? What if he doesn't want to be friends anymore and and he just couldn't say it to--

“And did he mention the people that died?”

Twilight's panicked train of thought halted. “Died?” She whispered as she turned her wide-eyed stare on Zhang. “People died?”

The soldier didn't look up from his dominoes but he began to speak. “Jack Anderson, Donald Henderson, Kevin Halverson, Holly Beecham, Aaron Enderton, Mitch Johnson, Mary Payne, Josh Halverson, Kenley Buettner, Brad Green, Richard Thacker, Kaguya Amada, Rosa Rodriguez, Simon Alvarez, Johannes Brunnik, Anna Gulobeva, Anton Bakker, Laura Harper, Ibrahim Ghaffar, Yaron Daham, Ernesto Soto, Hao Cheng, Jessica Wright.”

At first Twilight didn't understand what he was saying but after a few seconds realization finally dawned on her. They're names. How many people died? Oh Celestia, so many names. For a brief moment Twilight recalled her reaction to the book before mentally reprimanding herself. You stupid foal! How can you compare what happened in a book to this? This is real!

“Those are the deaths that resulted from the last mission. There are dozens if not hundreds more from prior operations, and likely thousands from other military organizations around the world,” Zhang explained, and Twilight could hardly wrap her head around the horrible truth. The door to her habitat opened and someone spoke, but she was too lost in her own thoughts to even look up and acknowledge the newcomer, or say goodbye to Zhang as he left.

They're dying. The humans are out there dying while I'm sitting here reading books and playing games. How could you be so stupid, Twilight? All you care about is getting home to be with your friends when these people are dying. I shouldn't be wasting time like this. I am Celestia's personal student and an expert on magic. I will not waste any more time until I can give them something that can help.

Twilight pushed away from the table and marched back to her desk. “I won't let it happen again. I won't.”

“Won't let what happen, Twily?”

------

11:00, 05/07/2015, STARDUST LABS

“Zhang, what the hell do you think you are doing?” Joel asked as his expression waffled between anger and worry as soon as the door to Twilight's habitat slid shut. “We have been very careful to control what Twilight knows about the external world, and having her naivete shattered so casually might render her uncooperative or worse!”

Zhang waited patiently for the doctor to finish his rant. Before he could reply the door to Observation opened and Vahlen appeared.

“He is doing what I asked, Doctor Mills,” Vahlen answered for Zhang, and the male scientist turned to glare silently at her. “Twilight has been very sheltered thus far but she has always been extremely motivated when it comes to protecting her friends. I felt that if we allow her to come to the conclusion that her friends are in danger without her best efforts, she will be more willing and able to provide them. I tried to approach the subject this morning but was not successful, so I asked Mister Zhang to step in. What his method lacked in finesse it more than made up for with directness.”

“You put her through that because you wanted results more quickly?” Joel asked incredulously.

“To put it simply, yes,” Vahlen explained slowly, though it was quickly becoming apparent that she was losing her patience. “We need to develop countermeasures to the aliens and their technology, and while we might be able to rely on the practical applications of laser technology in a few weeks, or even the invader's plasma technology in a few months, we have the potential to create something much more quickly that could save lives. We all know what's at stake, and now Twilight does, too.”

When Joel continued to glare, Vahlen's expression softened, “It's not a perfect solution, Joel. I'll be the first to admit that. All Twilight now knows is that the stakes for our fight are life and death. I suspect no further prompting will be necessary. With any luck, this will motivate her sufficiently so as to spare her any further trauma.”

Joel's glare softened somewhat before he let out a sigh, “I understand your reasoning, Moira, even if I don't like it.”

“Very good,” Vahlen replied before turning back to the observation room. The door was just about to close when the senior scientist shouted, “Scheiße!” Both Joel and Zhang stepped into the room to see just what had caused the outburst.

Twilight sat in the center of the room with a horrified expression on her face, and immediately across from her was Lana leaning unsteadily on a crutch under her one remaining arm.

------

10:51, 05/07/2015, MEDICAL

You can't see me, I'm invisible.

Lana had to stop herself from whispering the words to herself as she took several wobbly steps out from her bed to grab a crutch from beside Holiday's bed. The other soldier was asleep despite the daytime hour from either fatigue or medication and didn't notice Lana as she brought the crutch under her arm and began to stagger to the exit.

You can't see me, I'm invisible.

Lana repeated her mantra as she approached the doctor that was seated by the exit. He was hunched forward over his desk and was in the process of losing a game of Solitaire as the wounded soldier passed him and walked out the doors. He didn't even look up to acknowledge or stop her exit from the medical wing.

I've got to find Twilight. Knowing Matt, he probably chickened out so I'll have to set things straight. Lana thought as she wobbled her way towards the main elevator going down. She was just able to stagger into it as the doors closed, and no one questioned her as she got out on the third floor. I just hope the guards let me pass. I don't have my ID badge on me, but they should recognize my face, right?

Lana shuffled her way down the hallways until the door to Stardust came in sight. Neither guard reacted as she rounded the corner, which she took as a good sign. They know me by name, I spent every available second down here. That's one hurdle I won't have to knock down. She had just about reached the door when Joel passed her and spoke with the guards. They obligingly opened the door and Lana followed him in.

Well that's a bit rude, she thought as she saw Joel head towards the observation room without so much as a hello to her. Doesn't matter, the goal is almost in sight. Lana headed towards the habitat door, only to flatten herself against the wall to avoid Joel as he rushed out of observation and into the habitat. He turned around after a quiet word to whomever was inside, and to her surprise Zhang followed him out. Sensing her opportunity, Lana mustered as much speed as she could and slipped into the habitat before the door closed.

Lana found Twilight sitting at her table with an in-progress game of dominoes before her, and the expression on her face made Lana die just a little bit inside. What happened? Oh, if Zhang said something to make Twily sad I'm going to kick his ass, she thought. What I've got to say won't be much better for her. Pot, meet kettle.

Before Lana could speak up though, something akin to steel entered Twilight's gaze as she pushed away from the table. “I won't let it happen again. I won't.” She declared as she walked over to her desk.

“Won't let what happen, Twily?” Lana asked tentatively, and was rewarded with a bright-eyed smile as Twilight turned to face her.

The expression lasted only for a second as her eyes inevitably drifted to where her left arm used to be. The bandages and what was left of her arm were hidden in the baggy sweater they had given Lana to wear, but the sleeve itself was folded up which made her lack of limb rather obvious. Twilight's happy expression dissolved into wide-eyed horror.

“Lana... what happened? Are you alright?” Twilight started to ask, but Lana interrupted her.

“I'm fine, Twily. Well, as fine as I can be,” Lana said as she sank into one of the chairs at the table. “I got just a bit banged up, is all. I'll survive. I get tired a bit more easily though, so you'll have to forgive me if I'm not the life of the party.”

“That's not important! How did this happen?” Twilight asked desperately, and Lana could see the unspoken question: Is this my fault?

“I did something dumb,” Lana answered gently, “Your spell worked as well as we've come to expect, Twilight. It worked so well that some of my friends said they want it, too. I hear that you're going to make some gear that will help with that, right?”

“Did your friends die?” Twilight asked quietly, and Lana flinched at the unexpected question.

“A lot were hurt...”

“Don't lie!” Twilight commanded, and her lavender eyes were filled with anger and tears as she stared at Lana. “I'm not a little foal. I-I can handle the truth. Just tell me!”

Lana held Twilight's gaze for a long moment before looking away without saying a word, which elicited a quiet sob from the unicorn. “Its not your fault, Twilight. We all volunteered for this, and I'm quite certain that the ones who didn't make it back would think that it was a worthy sacrifice. We put ourselves in harm's way to protect people. Occasionally we get hurt. Occasionally we... die.” Lana's speech died out as she looked back to Twilight. Her gaze still had equal parts horror and anger, and that small degree of steel as well.

“No.”

The denial gave Lana a moment of pause. “No?”

“I won't let this happen again. I will not. I'll think of something to help. I can't fix this but I can make it better,” Twilight ground out the words and she closed her eyes.

When she opened them again, Lana nearly recoiled but found that she could not. Both Twilight's eyes and horn glowed and Lana felt a gentle but firm force grip her right shoulder and wrist. “Twilight, what--” Lana started to ask before the force around her wrist lifted her arm out to her side. The glowing eyes crawled along the length of her arm, and Lana again tried to recoil. What the hell is she doing? And those eyes!

Twilight's glowing gaze briefly traversed to what remained of her left arm, and then just as quickly as the sensation began it was gone and Lana was released from the hold. Twilight turned away and marched toward her desk without another word. Her telekinesis grabbed dozens of blank sheets of paper as well as several pens. Everything previously on her desk was swept off and the unicorn began to draw at a frantic pace.

“Twilight, what are you doing?” Lana finally asked.

“I'm sorry but I can't talk any more today. I can't fix this but I can make it better. Just please trust me, okay?” Twilight answered quickly, and she didn't spare so much as a glance over her shoulder.

Sensing the dismissal, Lana got the crutch under her arm again and hobbled over to the exit. The door hissed open to reveal Matt with his arms crossed before him while performing a decent impressing of Bradford's baleful glare.

“How the hell did you get out of Medical?” He asked as the door closed behind Lana.

That is a really good question. “Uh...a cardboard box and good timing?”

------

19:20, 05/07/2015, STARDUST LABS

“It seems you have the results you wanted, Moira. The risks that you took though, they have me concerned,” Frank said as he scratched his beard idly while watching Twilight through Observation's one-way mirror. “I believe I made myself quite clear when I said that Twilight would likely not react positively to what she learned today.”

“I had intended to introduce the topic gradually to emphasize-” Moira started to explain, but Frank cut her off

“Without consulting me? I'll sing your praises day and night for your work with physics and Elerium, but you really should have come to me before laying all this on Twilight in one day.”

“Not all of this was planned, Frank,” Moira said tersely. “I had initially introduced some of the combat footage to Twilight when she began asking questions about what the soldiers encountered. Don't give me that look, the sound files were muted and I ensured they weren't graphic. Due to Matt's rapport with Twilight I had intended him to approach the subject, but he was not available. Shaojie was available and he performed admirably, though he was rather blunt about it.”

“And Jenkins?” Frank again turned his all-knowing gaze to the scientist.

“I resent the implication! I had no idea she was approved to even leave Medical yet, let alone pay us a visit. And I did read your evaluation on Twilight and I agreed that seeing Lana in her current condition would have been traumatic, perhaps irreparably so,” Moira huffed indignantly.

“That's interesting... very interesting indeed. Do you know why that's interesting, Moira?” Frank asked leadingly, and the scientist's flat look told him to simply get on with it. “Miss Jenkins was not cleared to leave Medical. She walked past the doctor on duty without so much as a glance her way. She then rode a crowded elevator and entered the lab by walking through the door after Joel was cleared by the guards. I've spoken with the doctor on duty, some of the people from the elevator car, and Joel. None of them recalled seeing her at any point during her trip here, but the security cameras caught it plain as day.”

Moira's eyes widened as Frank continued his explanation. That can't be right. He's describing the effects of Wallflower, but Twilight ceased casting it the moment the operation was completed. She needs line of sight to cast it, so how could she do that? She seemed legitimately surprised when Lana showed up. This doesn't make sense at all.

“I don't have any rational explanation as to how that could happen,” Moira finally said truthfully.

“Mhm, I'm afraid I don't either,” Frank said as he turned back to Twilight.

The unicorn was furiously scribbling away on a sheet of paper, drawing what appeared to be complex patterns and lines that thus far had defied explanation. The overhead cameras had caught little bits of whatever it was she was creating but had been unable to capture the finished product before the paper was rolled up and snapped shut with a rubber band. Several scrolls already littered the floor of her habitat and Twilight showed no sign of slowing down.

“Well, she certainly is driven, isn't she? Do you have any idea what she's doing?”

“No, I am afraid not,” Moira chewed nervously on her lip before continuing, “I've tried approaching her to inquire about her activities, and so has Matt. I'm afraid neither of us got much more in the way of answers beyond what Lana reported. Paraphrased, she says 'she won't let this happen again,' and 'she'll make things better.' It's always variations of those two phrases. We may need to bring Charles up here if she's going to have another episode like the one she had last month.”

“Episode last month?”

“Joel asked her to provide pictures for some of the species of her home world. Twilight took it upon herself to catalog a significant portion of the species on her world. Kim and Joel tell me she worked for nineteen hours before Shen convinced her to rest.”

“Is that so?”

Moira nodded wordlessly and the two turned back to observe Twilight. She finished the page she was on and snapped it shut, then pushed off from the desk and closed her eyes. Both Frank and Moira gasped as her eyes snapped open to reveal glowing orbs in place of her normal lavender eyes. She slowly began to scan her surroundings before locking onto something below her.

“Aha, there you are,” She said with a smile, and her horn flashed. When the light dissipated, all the scrolls were gone.

------

19:23, 05/07/2015, THE FOUNDRY

FOUNDRY REPORT
PROJECTID: Fragarach
TYPE: Interceptor Weapon System
DESCRIPTION: Long-Range Instantaneous Ordinance Delivery
ROLE: Air to Air Anti-Ship
Attached Files: Research materials provided by Project Stardust, prototype blueprints of system, initial testing results of prototype, personal notes by Chief Engineer Charles Shen

Personal Notes follow:

NEW RECORD: 19:25, 05/07/2015

The Fragarach weapon system (or 'Frag Launcher' as it's now called by the engineering staff) is the first major weapon development that was born from the study and deconstruction of alien technology, specifically from the wreckage of scout craft that were shot down in a previous mission. These scout craft used short-range teleportation devices to quickly transport troops from the ship to the planet's surface quickly and without needing to land. After consulting with several experts in the Stardust Labs, we have used the principles of this teleportation system to create an ordinance delivery system that will hopefully give our interceptors the punch they need to deal with ships of the class encountered during Gangplank.

Previously encountered alien craft have often had the advantage of maneuverability. They are often able to simply evade conventional missiles when encountered individually, which has led to the somewhat wasteful 'mass firing' tactic currently employed by our interceptor squadrons. A scout or observer class craft may evade one or two missiles but they seem incapable of of dodging more than that in a very short time period. The strategy is effective, but still wasteful and requires a significant number of interceptors to achieve. The larger-class ships, like the one encountered in Gangplank, are unable to dodge these missiles but are extremely heavily armored, and often deploy groups of Cyberdisks to act as a close-in weapon system that is more than capable of picking off incoming missiles or attacking craft.

The Fragarach weapon system, when fully refined, should be able to counter both problems. The weapon system can lock on to an enemy craft and then teleport a warhead inside its hull instantly, which bypasses both the armor and agility defenses. As the system makes solid fuel, maneuvering surfaces or guidance irrelevant for the warhead, this also opens up new options as to the nature of the warheads being teleported.

The current problems encountered with the system are tied to the initial stages of weapon activation. Our targeting and computer systems are able to easily lock on and calculate the destination for the warhead, but due to the time required to charge the teleporter a significant amount of time is required while the lock is maintained. Attempts to 'pre-heat' the teleporter were only partially successful, as the inner workings of the prototype run the risk of overheating and malfunctioning if not fired when full charge is reached. As the lock needs to be maintained until the Frag launcher is completely charged, a significant amount of skill and luck is needed for pilots attempting to use this for smaller craft.

Several misfires were also reported during testing where both the target and the launcher were moving dramatically, whereas if the target location is moving in a more sedated fashion then the likelihood of successful launch is dramatically increased.

The second issue encountered has been the power source. Initial testing was completed using a salvaged Elerium power source from a destroyed alien craft, and its output was difficult to manage because of that. It is the hope of the engineering team that Stardust will produce a power generation system small enough to be carried in the Interceptors or some method of storing the energy is developed instead.

Currently there's no foreseeable fix for the first problem with the weapon system but we expect a solution to the second problem within the week

END LOG

Charles Shen rubbed his face before he saved his work and pushed away from his desk. An idle glance towards the clock in his office confirmed it was long past his normal quitting time. The time sure does fly these days, he mused to himself as he rose from his chair and headed for the door.

He closed and locked his office door behind him, but as he turned to leave one of the other engineers appeared from one of the other offices. “Ah, mister Shen. Working late too?”

“Afraid so, Bobby,” Charles said affably as he turned to regard the younger engineer. “So much to do, and there aren't enough hours in the day to do them, yes?”

Bobby chuckled and nodded his head. “Oh, I'll agree with you there. Still, we're making history so it'll all be worth it in the end, right?”

“Indeed it will be, son. It's getting a bit late though, how about we head up to the mess and grab a bite?”

“That sounds good...” Bobby started to agree, but his face scrunched up in consternation then surprise when a flash of light erupted between the pair. As the light dissipated, a scroll appeared and dropped to the ground. In the span of a second, dozens of flashes followed with dozens of scrolls.

“Bobby, I'm afraid our night has just begun,” Charles said as he opened a scroll at random and began to survey the writing on it. “Wake the others, bribe them with coffee if you have to. And don't breathe a word of what you've just seen to anyone. “

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