• Published 24th Jun 2013
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Return of the Dawn - pchn00

A substitute teacher with what she's always been told is a mental condition begins to suspect that's not the entire truth when a familiar sun shaped cutie mark appears on her hips.

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Chapter 5: Breakout

Chapter 5: Breakout

Between Meg, Jules, Ellie and myself we make quick work of stripping down Jake and my apartments for supplies. The latter two just about cleaned out Jake’s micro-disc and Blu-ray collection while Meg and I focused on the more essential matters of food and bedding. After being untouched for about a decade the cabin is likely to have some funkiness in the linens and I’m more comfortable with my own blankets anyway. Almost as an afterthought I grab Jake’s ‘Wonderbolts’ mug and tuck it into my bag. Locking both his and my door I head to the elevator with the last load and join a waiting Meg.

She’s shifting from foot to foot uncomfortably. According to the three afflicted women, stuffing their tails down their pants isn’t the most comfortable of positions. I give her what I hope is a reassuring smile. “It won’t be for too long. Once we’re on the freeway you guys can y’know, let yourselves hang out.”

Meg chuckles at the description. “It’s cool. It sucks but I’ll live. I’ve sure as hell been through worse than a little discomfort. And Lucas is smiling. REALLY smiling. He hasn’t seemed so happy in a long time. I know you’re just helping us out cause I’m in the same boat as your boyfriend but it really means the world to both of us.”

I shrug. “I don’t mind. I wasn’t joking about the size of this place either. There’s more than enough room for twice as many people as are going to be staying there. It’ll be like a big sleepover. Only with six adults and one kid.”

“We’re crossing dangerously close to creepy territory.” The elevator stops and we both step off. She rests a hand on my arm stopping me. “What do you know about these other two?”

“Jules and Ellie? About as much as I know about you.” She suddenly seems to recall she and I only met a couple hours ago and lets her hand fall. “I know they’re friends of a… Friend. And they need my help just as much as you and Jake. So they’re coming.”

She frowns. “Ugh, sorry. I must sound like a terrible person. I’m just worried about Lucas y’know?”

I smile and rest my hand on her shoulder, giving it a firm squeeze. “We’re all in the same boat. And I believe they’re good people. I believe you and Lucas are good people. We’ll get through this and maybe we’ll even have a little fun, alright?”

She stares at my quietly. “Alright Erin. Thanks. I don’t know what it is about you, but I feel really… Safe. Comfortable with you. I trust you Erin. And they seem… Weird, but alright.” We start for the truck together. “Of course we’re not in the exact same boat.”

“How d’you mean?”

“I don’t see a tail or big pony ears on you.”

My laugh is a bit on the high pitched side. “Oh! W-well yeah! I guess not. Ehe he…heh.”

She stares at me oddly as I load the last of the bags in. She, Lucas, and Ellie get comfortable in the bed while Jules rides up in the cab with me. “If you guys need something just I dunno, tap the window?”

I get affirmatives from the three of them before climbing into the driver’s seat. Jules is fidgeting with the radio as I start the truck. “So what’s with the heap? I thought you were rich?”

I grimace as I pull out of the lot. “I’m not RICH… My uncle was. He left it all to me when he died but I dunno, I wanted to make my own way. It’s all just been sitting around. The land, the cabin, the money. I only touched it to get my smart car. The truck is Jake’s. My tiny car wouldn’t be big enough for me, him, and Becky together. I didn’t plan on uh… Four more guests.”

“Oh. That’s pretty cool of you. The whole goin it on your own thing. Also the whole letting four complete strangers crash at your rich uncle’s digs.”

I laugh a little. “I guess it is. Five strangers by the way. I only met Becky this morning at the hospital. She’s like the desk girl at Jake’s regular Doctor’s or something.”

Apparently not finding anything on the radio she likes she just turns it off and leans back in the seat. Jules holds her hands out spreading her fingers wide. “Wonder how much longer I’ll have these. Not too excited for hooves y’know?”

I shift in the seat uncomfortably. “Yeah I uh… I wish I could do something for you guys. My meds might help but I dunno if they’re safe.”

Her eyes widen and she shakes her head. “No thanks. You can keep putting that shit in your body if you want. I’d rather not explode from magic back up or whatever the hell it is. I’m not exactly crazy about turning into a little horse, but I’d rather not die y’know? Besides Luna seems legit, this might not be all bad.”

“So how long have you known Markus. And uh… Luna I guess?”

She looks up at the ceiling of the truck thinking about it. “Musta been liiiiike… Seven years ago? Me and him were in the same high school. He was the kinda creepy kid who avoided everyone else and talked to himself all the time. I was grabbing a smoke out back and heard them talking. Him and Luna I mean. At first I just thought he was doing a really good chick voice right? But then he looked at me and I watched his eyes change color. I got curious and started following him around. Eventually they cornered me and told me all the crazy wackiness about the world Luna was from and stuff. She even told me I had an Equestrian soul. I didn’t believe her until my ass tattoo came in. a couple days ago.”

Jules glances into the back of the truck where Ellie is grinning and talking rapidly and gesturing emphatically to a laughing Meg and Lucas. “Ellie though, she was sold. I guess she was a big fan of the old show all this is coming from. Said she couldn’t WAIT to get her…” She looks like she’s visibly wrestling with herself to force out the next words. “…to get her cutie mark. Anyway we were pretty much the only people Markus would talk to. When we graduated we lost touch for a little bit. Then a couple years ago he calls me up, offers me a job DJ’ing in the club he ran. I had no idea what I was doing at first but it just kinda came naturally once I worked at it a bit.”

“So she could tell you guys were going to uh, go pony even before it started?”

She shrugs. “Hey the chick's been alive like forever. I’m sure she’s picked up all kinds of tricks. I mean she and Celestia are at LEAST a couple thousand years old right? Just take a second and think about that. Minimum is two thousand. So they’ve been alive probably before we started adding A.D. to our dates. That’s pretty insane right?”

That was a little… Humbling. My little, unimportant life must seem like such a… A nothing to them. I’ll live and die in the blink of an eye compared to the lives the Princesses lead. That begs the question, what happens to Celestia when I die?

Clearing my throat I decide to steer the conversation away from pony Princesses. “So what about you and Ellie? Are you friends through Markus or…?”

“Oh! Nope we started going out in high school. Been together for what? Like… seven? Eight years? She’d be able to tell you.”

I blink. “So you two are uh…?”

“Gay? Girlfriends? Together? Yeah. I guess the way we act toward each other is hard to tell, but I love her. She can be kinda goofy a lot of the time but you’ll never meet anyone with a bigger heart.”

I smile now. “That’s really nice. You’re kind of a sweet heart under the black make up huh?”

She huffs looking away, but her pale cheeks are a little red. “Yeah well enough about me. How do you plan on breaking your boyfriend out of the hospital?”

I shrug. “Becky says when they do shift changes it shouldn’t be too hard to sneak by.”

Jules fixes me with a deadpan stare. “So your big plan to sneak two people with big horse ears and likely matching tails sticking out of their butts is to ‘sneak passed’ the guards when they change their shift?”

“…well hearing it said from someone else it sounds kinda dumb now.”

She blows out a heavy sigh. “Well unless toothpaste hair back there is some kinda hardened criminal I guess it’s the best you have to work with. Too bad the kid has that busted leg. You’re probly gonna want all the help you can get.”

I frown. “Well I think if we can get to the elevator it’ll be fine. The exit’s pretty close by. Just have to hope anyone seeing Jake will assume he’s got some punk hairdo or something.”

She nods. “You got hats for em?”

“I do! I thought that far ahead at least. Jake has a cap he had on when he went and I grabbed this wool knit one from Becky’s place.”

Jules nods again. “Well I’ll take the driver’s seat in case we need to make a quick getaway.”

I groan softly at that. “Ugh I really hope we don’t get into a high speed chase or something crazy like that.”

She smirks. “This truck’s a piece of crap. It’d be a mid-speed chase at best.”

I can’t help but laugh at that. But now I’m feeling worried. What if something DOES go wrong? It’s not just me, Jake, and Becky that could get in trouble now. I must be pretty easy to read because Jules shrugs. “Relax. We’ll be fine. I’ll have Ellie hang around the door. If things look like they’re going to shit we can get gone.”

I’m not crazy about being left behind but short of dropping these four at the cabin first it sounds like the best alternative. “That’s a good idea. I’ll set the GPS for the address just in case.”

The rest of the drive is relatively quiet… That is until we near the hospital. Dozens of news vans are parked out front and there’s a sizeable police presence. Quickly I veer off the street into an alley. Jules looks at me worriedly. “Well what the hell do we do now?”

I chew my lips while I think. “Ok. Ok. Here’s what we’re going to do. You’re gonna switch with Lucas in the back. He’s got the cast on his leg. I can say we’re here to I dunno, get it looked at? That’ll work right?”

She looks mildly impressed. “Actually that’s not half bad.” We both hop out and move around to the back where the other three wait curiously. I explain the new plan but Meg immediately shakes her head.

“No way. You’re not getting my brother involved in any crazy schemes.”

Lucas on the other hand has his jaw firmly set. “I want to help. Meg she’s giving us a place to sleep. INDOORS. With real food and beds, not old reheated stuff and a cot. If she needs our help for anything, we should do it.”

His sister looks about to protest again before she sighs. “Ugh. UGH. When did you get so… Responsible? Fine he can help. But if anything happens to him I’m holding YOU responsible Erin.”

I nod. “I understand. And if things look like they’re going bad I’ll turn around. I’d have you guys wait out here but there’re so many reporters and stuff around you’d probly be seen. Just cover up with all the blankets and pillows and stuff. If they get curious I’ll say we’re uh… Moving.”

I help Lucas down and onto his crutches, then back up into the passenger seat. Peeking in the back I can see the girls have done a pretty good job hiding themselves away. If I didn’t know they were there I’d think the back people-free. “Alright! Partners in crime. Ready to pull off a jailbreak with me?”

The young man grins widely, clearly getting excited. “Yup!”

“Alright. So the story is your legs been hurting real bad. I, being the responsible older sister that I am decided to bring you back to the hospital to get it looked at. Easy right?”

He nods. “Right!”

“Only if they ask why we’re here though. They might just let us right through if they see your cast.” He nods firmly as I back out of the alley and onto the main street again. It’s slow going with the crowd of news hounds, but the police have a barricaded path set up to allow traffic in and out. My heart is hammering wildly as I’m flagged down when I try to drive in.

It’s a young police officer. A uniform cop who squints at me from under the brim of his hat. “Purpose of your visit?”

I nod to Lucas. “My brother’s leg is hurting him. Doctor told us to come back in if it was bugging him.”

He gives the boy a brief glance before nodding. “Alright g’on in.”

We both breathe huge sighs of relief as I roll forward. “Hang on a sec!” Lucas and I both have matching wide eyes as the officer stops us. I do my best to regain my composure as he walks up to my window again. “This is Jake Matsen’s truck.”

I blink and my mouth falls open a little. “Uhhhh…. Yes?”

“What’re you doing driving his truck? I thought he was in the hospital for a heart thing?”

My mind is racing as I try to think of a proper excuse. “Well…” I lick my lips nervously, and the officer is getting more suspicious by the second. “It IS Jake’s truck. I had to drive him in when his heart started y’know… Fluttering.”

His eyes widen in recognition. “Oh shit! Are you sunrise Erin?”

I blush heavily at the description. “Er… Yep. That’s me.”

“Man Jake does NOT shut up about you. Like ever.” He leans against the door companionably. “It gets a little old really.”

I’m in a bit of a rush but I don’t want to seem like I’m acting weird. “So you guys work together?”

He nods. “Yup. Same precinct. Is he ok? They didn’t tell us much; just that he had a heart thing.”

I smile as encouragingly as I can. “He’s fine. In fact I was going to see if he could come home today.”

He grins. “Well that’s great news.” His eyes drift toward the truck bed. There are small plastic windows on the cover that someone can see into. “What’s with all the uh… Stuff?”

“Oh! Well I’m in the middle of a move. Thought since I was borrowing Jake’s truck I’d use it a little y’know? Cut down on a few trips.”

“No kidding? He’s gotta be bummed about that.”

“W-well uh… He’s sort of moving in with me.”

Now his grin widens. “Oh ho? Well don’t let me hold you up. And good luck to you buddy. Hope the leg’s alright.”

Lucas smiles. “Thanks sir!”

He returns to his post and we pull into the hospital breaking into terrified bouts of nervous laughter. “Well! That wasn’t so bad right?”

If anything Lucas just looks more excited. “This is so cool! What do we do next?”

I can’t help but smile at his enthusiasm. “WE don’t do anything next. I go inside while you wait in the truck.”

He immediately frowns. “What happens if someone comes by? Won’t it look weird that I’m out here by myself? Besides what if you need help in there?”

I frown now as I consider my options. It WOULD look a little strange for him to be out here all alone for any length of time longer than a couple minutes. On the other hand he’s in a cast hobbling around on crutches. If we have to get out in a hurry it might be a major hindrance. Looking at him though, he’s rail thin. Can’t weigh more than a hundred pounds if that. Likely a lot less. If we really need to go in a hurry Jake could carry him no problem I’m sure.

I finally sigh. “Alright. We’ll go in together. But you stay close and do everything I say got it? Your sister is going to be so angry I just know it.”

He nods eagerly as I look around for a door that looks a bit out of the way. There doesn’t seem to be anyone hanging around the big west entrance so I find a spot to park and once again help Lucas down onto his crutches. We make our way inside the building. I keep the pace easy so Lucas can keep up without much difficulty. Checking my watch it’s twenty to three, which gives us about twenty minutes to get where we need to go.

There’s a palpable air of tension in the hospital. The staff seems to be trying to ignore it and go about their business as usual but it’s not easy to do with the large police presence. The occasional doctor wandering by in a hazmat suit seems to be upsetting the normal patients too. We’re not stopped as we move to the elevators. Nine times out of ten if you put on the air of belonging and knowing where you’re going, people assume you do and leave you be. I hit the button for Jake’s floor and the elevator hums to life.

We have to stop several times as more people come and go, but finally it dings and we reach our floor. It’s a lot busier today than it was yesterday. People rushing about all over. Concerned family members are arguing with the police stationed up here to be allowed to see afflicted family members. I nod my head off to the side and Lucas follows as we duck around the hall corner to a relatively quiet spot.

“There’re a lot more people here now. There must be a bunch of new cases of the uh… Ponyitis.”

He snickers at the word and I can’t help but smile back. I peer around the corner as casually as I can. I see the entrance to the quarantined wing of the floor. I also see the very alert, not at all disinterested guards standing in front of it. Biting my lip nervously I Duck back around. “They don’t look like they’re going anywhere anytime soon.”

Lucas frowns and peeks around the corner himself. So preoccupied with my own thoughts, I barely register that he’s approaching them. Eyes wide I try to grab the back of his shirt but he’s out of reach. I shrink back against the wall breathing heavily. What the hell is he thinking?! What’s he even doing?!

I edge around the corner watching him approach. The guards regard him curiously, up until his crutch ‘slips’ out from under his arm and he tumbles to the floor, suddenly wailing his lungs out as loud as he can. Both men snap into action rushing to his side. I can’t help but smirk at it all. He’s a pretty smart kid after all it seems.

While the guards fuss over Lucas I quickly dart around the hall easing my way toward the quarantine doors. Sparing a quick glance back I see a Doctor’s arrived to help with the screaming boy. My blood turns to ice in my veins as she lifts her gaze and suddenly locks eyes with me. It’s Doctor Adams. She stares hard for several seconds before she says something to the men. They nod and both hoist Lucas off the ground carrying him after the departing Doctor.

Is she helping me? Does she know why I’m here? How the hell am I going to find Lucas now?! Ugh this is all getting a lot more complicated than it was supposed to be. Still no time to dwell, I have to hurry. I swing through the doors and sprint down the hall passed quite a few rooms that are more heavily occupied than they were before. Jake and Becky are already up and getting dressed to my relief.

“You’re late.” Jake’s smiling when he says it though. His smile fades when he sees the panic on my face.

“We have to hurry. There’re tons more people here now and the guards’ll be back any second.” I toss Becky the hat I brought for her and she hastily tugs it on. I can clearly see the impression of Jake’s wings standing out against his t-shirt before he pulls on his jacket. The old Tigers cap conceals his ears and both of their tails are hidden under their jeans.

Now that they’re dressed and disguises as best as able the three of us quickly rush back down the hall and out the doors. Still no sign of the guards but I’m sure Doctor Adams and Lucas won’t be able to distract them forever. I lead the pair back the way I came and nod toward the elevator. “Take the west exit on the ground floor. Go straight out the doors and into the parking lot. The truck is pretty easy to spot. Both of you should hide in the truck bed with the others. There’s tons of stuff to hide under.”

Jake blinks shaking his head. “Wait, wait. You sound like you’re not coming with us. And what do you mean ‘others’?”

I sigh. “There’re a couple more people coming with us. And one of them distracted the guards so I could get in there. I can’t leave without him. Just get down to the truck. If we’re not there in ten minutes leave without us.”

Jake seems about to protest but Becky lays a hand on his arm. “Is your friend changing?”

I shake my head. “He’s not. So at worst we have to walk back to my apartment. The GPS is programmed with the cabin’s address. We’re perfectly fine. Worry about getting yourselves and those girls in the truck to safety alright?”

I can tell Jake doesn’t like this idea but he knows I’m right. Finally he nods. “Alright. Ten minutes. I have my phone. Just text me when you’re on your way alright?”

I nod. “Alright. Good luck guys!”

Becky turns toward the elevator but Jake is slower to go. Then he surprises me by stepping in close and kissing me briefly on the lips. Too briefly in my opinion. Then he’s backing away smiling awkwardly, before turning and jogging to catch up with Becky. I watch him go feeling equal parts joy and worry mingling in my heart.

Then they’re gone around the corner and I’m reminded of just why I’m staying behind. I see the two men who helped the Doctor with Lucas coming back and do my best to give what I hope is a calm, confident smile. They barely spare me a second look and I breathe a sigh of relief, setting out the way they came. My good luck is holding strong as I pick out Lucas’ voice from a room ahead.

Slowly I step inside. “Ah, Miss Rockwell. I was just talking to Lucas here. He’s fine after that very nasty fall, but I suggest you keep a closer eye on your little brother in the future.”

Lucas offers a sheepish smile. “Sorry Erin… But did it work?”

I chuckle weakly. “It worked.” Doctor Adams helps him back onto his crutches and he hobbles up next to me. I look at her with a curious frown. “Why are you helping us?”

She shrugs. “Because I know whatever’s wrong with them isn’t contagious. There are absolutely no foreign bodies in their system. Nothing to rationally explain what’s happening. Based on the symptoms I’m going out on a limb and assuming it’s a very irrational explanation.”

I shake my head. “You have no idea.”

Doctor Adams smiles playfully. She shrugs off her lab coat and rolls up the sleeve of her blouse. My eyes widen as she shows me a tattoo up on her shoulder. One of three balloons, two blue and one yellow arranged together. “I might have some idea. I was a pretty huge fan back when the show was still running on TV you know? Could never quite bring myself to remove the tattoo. It just made me smile I suppose, looking at it. I’m a Doctor; science is pretty much my whole world. But everyone wants to believe in magic deep down. People turning into ponies is a pretty solid way to reawaken that belief.”

She rolls her sleeve back down and her look turns serious. “You really need to go though. They’ve called in the National Guard to help keep order and they’re due here any minute.”

Lucas and I both gasp a little at that. He’s already heading for the elevators. I offer her a grateful nod. “Thank you for this. It means a lot.”

“Just keep them safe Erin. They’re condition is going to progress judging by the samples we’ve seen. They’re going to need all the help they can get very soon.”

“I will Doctor Adams. Don’t worry. And thank you again.” Then I’m hurrying to catch up to Lucas. I fish out my phone in the elevator sending Jake a text to let him know we’re on the way. He sends one back letting me know they made it to the truck, much to my relief.

“They’re at the truck waiting for us. We just have to get OUT of here and we’re home free.”

Lucas is looking a little on the nervous side. “You uh… You’re not gonna tell Meg about what I did are you? She’s been crazy protective of me since I broke my leg and she might freak out.”

I laugh. “She’d probably be angrier at me for putting you in potential danger. So we’ll make this our little secret alright?”

He nods firmly. “Alright!”

Despite how smoothly things seem to be going we both can’t help but be a bit jittery on our way out. I’m sure we look more than a little suspicious but fortunately no one stops us as we exit the hospital and cross the parking lot to the truck. Jake and Becky are nowhere to be seen, but peering into the back I spot two more sizeable lumps in the bedding. Nodding to Lucas we both get back in the truck starting it up and pulling out.

We’re stopped again at the gate by the nice cop from before. “No Jake huh?”

I shrug helplessly. “They want to keep him another night. What can ya do right?”

He chuckles and tips his hat back. “I hear that. You guys were in and our pretty quick.”

“Oh! Well y’know, the Doctor is a family friend. We got bumped up. Says Lucas is fine, just being a bit of a baby.”

Lucas gives an indignant ‘hey!’ next to me and shoves my shoulder. I just wear an easy grin and shrug to the officer. He grins back. “Alright well you guys have a good one. Tell Jake I said hi. And good luck with the big move!”

“Sure will Officer… Haggerty!” I read off his badge. “Take care.”

Lucas and I keep our smiles on as we pull away from the point. Smiles that fade at the large convoy of military vehicles getting off the freeway as we’re getting on. “That was way too close.”

He only nods in agreement. A faint tapping comes from the window behind us and I reach back sliding it open. “Can we get out from under these blankets?! It’s like a thousand degrees back here!”

I’m about to tell Jake to sit tight when I hear Jules pipe up. “We’ve been stuck under here for a half hour dude, deal for a little.”

I shake my head smiling. “Sit tight until we get a bit further from the hospital. There’s a bunch of army jeeps or something heading in and I don’t want anyone spotted.”

This does a good job of quieting all the complaints down. “Is Lucas alright?”

He twists around in the seat facing the window, even though he can’t see his sister. “I’m fine Meg! It was kinda scary but fun. Erin was like a secret agent sneaking around!”

I roll my eyes and I’m sure Meg is doing the same. “Alright then.”

We settle into a comfortable quiet as the truck rolls down the highway. I’m about to give everyone in the back the all clear, when I hear Becky’s voice next. “Is this my TV?”

Author's Note:

Little shorter than the last few I'm afraid!