• Published 25th Aug 2013
  • 11,943 Views, 243 Comments

An Apple A Day - Esle Ynopemos



A collection of thirthy-minute short stories about the rootinest, tootinest farm-filly this side of the Everfree. There'll be a chapter a day for thirty days. I ain't no fancy arithmeticker, but that adds up to a whole month of good, health

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20: Oxygen [Adventure]

((Prompt: Applejack in space. (!!) ))

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Applejack liked to think she took very little in her life for granted. She made certain to be thankful for all the little things that made it possible for her to live the life she chose. Fresh water. Good friends and family. The sun at her back and the earth beneath her hooves. Well, usually she had that one.

But she rarely thought so much about the air she breathed as she did now that a little pane of glass and a reflective white suit were all that kept that air from scattering into the aether like a puff of mist on a cold day. That kind of knowledge made the air just a little bit sweeter she felt, even if it smelled a bit like dust and stale nylon. It made her savor every breath. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Applejack's radio crackled to life, interrupting the steady rhythm. “This is Canterlot. How are those repairs coming, Applejack?” There were really some marvels of magitech at work here, she reflected, as Twilight's voice came as clear as if she were speaking to her face to face.

Then again, there were some innovations that hadn't quite been debugged all the way yet. “Slow,” she grunted, gritting her teeth as she tried to get the manipulators at the ends of her suits legs to behave. The little metal digits wriggled and twisted, refusing to properly grip her tool like she wanted them to. “How come I gotta use these claw-thingies, anyway? Couldn't y'all have made the suit so I could use my mouth like a decent pony?”

“They're called 'fingers,' Applejack,” explained Twilight's disembodied voice. Applejack glanced below her, trying to reckon with the fact that her friend was a speck on that great big blue thing hundreds of miles below her. “And like I explained during training, you have to use them unless you like breathing through a tube in your nose.”

Applejack scowled as she braced the fingers against the side of Harmony Station to force them to close around the little welder. “I'm startin' to think I'd prefer that,” she grumbled.

“Well, hurry up and finish fixing that casing,” Twilight said. “If you're still out there when that meteor storm hits, getting fingers to work will be the least of your worries.”

Applejack nodded. Getting hit with a rock hurt, but getting hit with a rock that was moving fast enough to put a dent in the plating she was busy welding over Harmony's oxygen tanks was not a thing she wanted to think about.

“Actually, Applejack, just leave it and head inside now,” Twilight said. “I don't want to take the chance we miscalculated the arrival time.”

“Sugarcube, if I thought you had a chance of miscalculatin' anything, I wouldn't be up here,” Applejack said, fusing the steel piece in place. “An' I don't fancy one of them rocks hittin' my O2 supply any more than I do gettin' hit myself. I'll have this done in two shakes, then I can hunker down.” One more weld would do it, she was certain.

“Applejack, this is serious. There could be smaller pieces we weren't able to track that could arrive early. Drop it and get inside now.”

Applejack finished the last weld. “Done. Copy that, Twi, I'm gettin'—” She stopped, blinking. Something just whisked past her visor, impossibly fast.

“Applejack? Come in, Applejack.” An edge of panic crept into Twilight's voice.

“Uh, I'm here,” reassured Applejack. “Just how early did you figure those extra bits might come?”

“Get inside now, Applej—” Applejack's radio cut to static as something grazed the back of her suit, sending her spinning. Her world became a whirling blur as the blinding sun, the black of space, the broad face of Equestria and the space station whipped in and out of her view.

Fiery pain ripped through her rear hoof, followed quickly by numbness as her suit automatically sealed the breach off, also clamping off bloodflow to her lower leg.

Something tugged at her midsection, arresting her dizzying spin. Applejack breathed in relief, until she saw what had countered her cartwheeling. Half of her safety line drifted out to her, tattered and frayed where a chunk of space rock had severed it. She watched as the meteor storm fell like a silent rain on Harmony Space Station. Little bits of the solar panels crumpled and flew off, but fortunately the core of the station held off the impacts, the hard steel plating weathering the blows.

“Canterlot? Twi, can you hear me?” Applejack called.

“Appl—zzk! Applejack, come i—zz...” The radio sputtered in and out. If she had to guess, Applejack would say the crystal that allowed communication over distances had been cracked by the meteor.

She reached back to the spot on her shoulder where it was housed and tried to hold it together physically. “Canterlot, this is Applejack. I'm still alive, and Harmony looks like it survived the storm.”

Twilight's voice crackled and buzzed. “Oh, thank goodness! Wait... it looks like it survived? Aren't you aboard?”

Applejack sighed. “Negative, Twi. I got separated. Rope got cut.”

There was a minute of dead air. “...Hang on, Applejack. We'll figure something out.”

“Don't see what there is to figure,” Applejack said, glancing at her oxygen meter. She had about twenty minutes before her suit ran out of air. At their absolute fastest, they could maybe get somepony up to help her in a couple of days. She wasn't an astronaut for her math skills, but Applejack knew that didn't add up to a pretty picture.

She glanced at her injured leg. Flash-frozen crystals of blood leaked out of a hole in the suit. An idea slowly came to her. It was a terrible idea, but it was the only one she had. “Canterlot, I think I might have a way back to Harmony. I'm gonna release the seal on the damaged part of my suit, use the venting air to give me a push.”

She heard a rustling sound over the radio as somepony wrestled the microphone away from Twilight. “Are you crazy? Don't you dare do that, AJ!” Rainbow Dash shouted

The radio crackled again. Twilight regained control. “Rainbow is right. You won't have enough oxygen to stay conscious, assuming you get the right angle to reach the airlock. Just stand by, Applejack, let me think.”

“Beg your pardon, sugarcube, but there ain't much you can do.” Applejack reached down to pull the string on the leg of her suit. She paused, pressing her hoof to the radio crystal one last time. “If this don't work... aw, hay, y'all know what I got to say.”

Another few seconds of static. “...We all love you too, Applejack.”

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Pull the cord.

*

Twilight stood at the console, all her weight on the hoof holding down the channel for the radio crystal. “Applejack? Come in, Applejack. ...Applejack? ...Answer me, please, Applejack.”

Four mares gathered behind her, their eyes fixed on the little crystal in the center of the console. It remained dark, no matter how many times Twilight tried to get a response.

“...Respond, Applejack. Come in. This is Canterlot. Come in, Applejack.”

Rarity bit her lip. “Twilight... it's been an hour.”

“Applejack, please respond.”

Fluttershy broke into quiet sobs, burying her face into Pinkie's shoulder. Rainbow kicked at her chair in anger.

Twilight's hoof shook as she pressed the button. “Applejack... please...” Her hoof slipped off and fell to her side.

The control room grew silent. Twilight's wings sagged to the floor.

The console crystal sputtered to life. “Canterlot, come in. This is Applejack.”

Twilight leapt to the console. “Applejack!”

Applejack's voice chuckled. “Sorry 'bout the wait. The communication array gave out. Coulda fixed it a lot sooner if it weren't for these danged finger-things!”

Author's Note:

Astrojack!