• Published 2nd May 2012
  • 5,083 Views, 250 Comments

Homebound - Retsamoreh



A space military captain, who believes that Equestria resides on the legendary, long-lost planet of Earth, attempts to save Twilight and her friends from an incoming invasion that threatens both Equestria and the galaxy while keeping them all sane.

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(7) Safe Fates

-Canterlot, Equestria

-Eleven hours after first contact

-Royal Hedge Maze

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Safe.

The galaxy was a dangerous place at times; the rest of the time it was outright deadly. Safety was an illusion, and what the word really meant was to be prepared to handle everything, and for all your preparations to go wrong.

Imagine this: Everyone wants you either fighting for them, or dead. That’s our galaxy in a nutshell. Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but I’m a soldier and I’ve been fighting all my life. I know things. When I wasn’t on the front lines, making tactical decisions and fighting alongside my soldiers, I was at home. When I was at home, I designed weapons for our soldiers, and when I wasn’t doing that I would be designing ships for those soldiers to fly in. On the off chance I wasn’t doing that, I was meeting with the other higher ranks to discuss how to recruit soldiers, how we’d go about killing someone else, or how we could keep ourselves from getting killed in every way possible. Now imagine that every single group in the galaxy was doing just that, all in an attempt to kill you.

In short, being safe depended on how lucky you were.

I didn't doubt my luck, or even my abilities to keep them safe, but I did doubt my ability to keep them in a little bubble of ignorance. It was an impossible battle and I knew that no matter how hard I would try, they would eventually find out. It was still worth a shot. Celestia had just said that she’d be waiting for Twilight’s reports. Reports on how I was treating them, and more likely than not, her opinion on the galaxy. I’d treat them just fine, but it was only a matter of time before they found out everything and the entire operation blew up in my face.

I continued standing there with a blank look in my face, my mind whizzing faster than your average teleport.

It would require special precision, and I'd normally talk to the rest of the high ranks about such a matter, but that was out of the list of options for the moment. I could contact one of my most trusted friends as soon as we left the anomaly and repaired our communications. Admiral Fenway or Castlor, that is. They’d be able to send a safer ship to escort us during the tour. Safer meaning a battleship, hopefully. If he did send a battleship, it would only be for an escort. I wasn't about to let the ponies near any series ship firepower anytime soon.

Or maybe that was a bad idea. A battleship escorting us would draw attention. That’d be bad.

Then there was all the political garbage I had to get done. Art had written up most of the forms I’d need to officialize the absorption of Terra. After that, we could start up legal trade with them, and we could brag to the rest of the galactic community that we’d found Terra.

Well, maybe not that last part. That would be even worse than bad.

"-ir! Yo! You okay?"

"Captain, is something the matter?"

"Oh my, is he alright?"

A cacophony of voices pulled me from my deep thinking, and I blinked hard. How long I had just been standing there, staring blankly at the wall, I didn't want to know. What I did know was that fading off in thought like that wasn't something I normally did, or at least I never did it when something important like this was happening. That might be bad. I looked down at Twilight, finding that I was standing next to her. "M'fine,” I muttered, shaking my head into my palm.

The seat next to her was empty. It was the only chair nearest to the wall, the control screen, and the door to the cockpit. The chair on her other side contained a disgruntled dragon squirming in front of it, sizing it up. The poor chair. Next to Spike's designated seat was Applejack, resting comfortably under her rustic Stetson. Very stylish. Directly opposite of me was Rainbow Dash, beside her was Pinkie Pie, then Rarity, and lastly Fluttershy was opposite of Applejack, doing her best to look small in her chair. I grinned stupidly. I spun on one heel with the grace of a dancer, and grinned a grin that I’d seen a flight attendant once use. Plastic.

"Twilight and company, welcome aboard the Fate Dropship! A few things before we take off." I fully spun around and plopped into my chair, my uniform folding up around my stomach. In a few quick movements, I had buckled myself in. I looked to my right, down to an all-too-eager-to-please Twilight, her ears perked up in interest. I could feel the other ponies staring at me.

"One," I barked, slipping into the brash, authoritative tone I used when I had the chance to talk to cadets at the Academies. "Help Spike buckle in, and I want you all to stay buckled in during this entire trip unless I say otherwise. I probably will, but only if you promise not to break a window or something. Zero-G can be fun, but it’s a lot less fun when you’re in a vacuum without a suit. And there's a reason we have the fancy smhancy gravity-simulators on our bigger ships. Lucky for you girls, this thing is considered big enough to have one of those devices. Maybe I'll turn it off for you, we'll see." I finished, and blinked to myself. That wasn’t really fair, considering most if not all ships had gravity simulators, with the only exception being fighters. The Fate was just larger than normal dropships or shuttles.

While I was talking, Twilight levitated the still annoyed Spike into place, ignoring his grunted protests. With him forced down, she pulled the buckles tight with her magic. That was that. "Good. Now, secondly..." I trailed off, tapping at the control screen next to me. A loading bar appeared, and my tiny headset connected with the ship's intercom and communications system; with the touch of the button I could contact our pilot or use the Fate’s communications. I could already technically do that by manually adjusting the channels my headset connected to, but this was a stronger wireless link. None of that, "yadda yadda, over," garbage we had to use. "I don't want any if you girls - ever - to mess with our shipboard AI. That’s Artificial Intelligence. He’s a robot, but a really smart one. You can ask him questions and, uh, stuff, but I don't want to risk you breaking him, or something. Got it, Pinkie Pie?"

"Okie dokie artichokie!" the pony greatly resembling cotton candy after being stuffed into a blender said, giving a comedic salute from her chair. A bit of hopeless sounding breath escaped my lips, and my head sunk. I stared at the ground again, my mind running laps.

"Third! If you have any questions about anything, feel free to ask me, and if I’m not around, the crew. I haven't been given the honor of explaining the inner workings of the galaxy in a long time, so I might be a bit rusty, and I know the rest of the crew is a tad green. I mean, there are some things, like why our ship goes so fast, I won't be able to explain... unless one of you has several degrees in engineering and theoretical physics, which I doubt you do. Otherwise, I'll be happy to explain anything, as long as you don't all ask different questions at the same time. I don't do well in crowded situations, so for both our sakes, try to keep it organized."

Twilight, Pinkie Pie, and Rainbow Dash all opened their mouths to speak, while the others just looked on intently. With a ruthlessness that would’ve made several of the Galaxy’s worst warlords jealous, I stomped on whatever words they were about to say. "And lastly, I don’t need you running amuck in my ship while we’re not planetside. I want you to buddy up with one of the crewmembers. There should be enough for everyone to have one. Then maybe you could think of this sort of like one big field trip. School for space, even. So, consider this your first lesson in space: Being in space. You girls excited?"

There was a brief moment where I swear I couldn't hear anything other than girlish screams and shouts of joy, which I mostly blame Pinkie Pie for, and I blinked hard. My eyes flitting about the cabin like precision missiles, and I lifted my hand to my headset. "Cadet- Ah, uh. Lilian?"

"Yessir? We're prepped and ready to take off. Art and the rest of the boys just hauled off the cargo and they're out of harm's way. And Art! I know you're listening, so you wanna confirmation on that?" Lilian said, followed by a brief assault of static as a new voice chimed in.

"Yup. Celestia was kind enough to lend us some of that levitation magic. Makes heavy lifting so much easier! You guys are free to take off whenever you want."

“Hel- er. Heck, Art, do you eavesdrop on everything we say?”

“As much as I can, sir.”

"Hey!" an indignant voice spurted out in my general vicinity, and I scoured the cabin for its origin, ignoring the laughter in my headset. It was the flamboyant pegasus, who was dramatically holding both hooves out in the air. Or at least as dramatically as she could, which considering she was a puffy horse thing, didn’t amount to much. "As much as I absolutely love being tied down like this, can we get moving? I came here to explore space!"

"Rainbow!" Rarity, Twilight, and Applejack hissed in unison. They briefly glanced awkwardly at each other, before Rarity gave a polite cough.

"Do forgive Rainbow Dash. She isn't accustomed to restraining her... assertiveness, in situations such as these. She's not used to having her wings restrai-"

"Hey! How would you feel if you weren't allowed to use magic, huh?" Rainbow said, leaning forward so she could turn her head to stare at Rarity, who sniffed, harrumphed, and looked in the opposite direction. I blinked stupidly, and looked over at Dash.

“Err, you fly a lot?”

“Uh, duh! I didn’t get to be Equestria’s fastest flier by not flying!”

"Rainbow, we talked about this earlier, and you said you'd be fine with it. Jackson," Twilight said, looking at me with eyes that should be illegal for stupid amounts of cute overdose. "Please tell me there's enough space in your ship for Rainbow to at least hover around, and that we won't be stuck in the ship for the entire trip."

I chuckled, and looked over at Rainbow Dash. "Don't worry. There's enough room for you to fly in the ship. The hangar’s pretty big. There'll be a whole lot more room once we get to Omega, and then I’ll be taking you straight to our capital planet. Fresh air, the lot. You girls will love it."

"Hey!"

"And guy. Whatever, Spike."

"Uh, Captain?" Twilight asked, tapping me on the shoulder. She gave me those stupidly adorable eyes again. If I had cancer or something, it had probably been cured. "What's Omega?"

"Ahh..." I tapped my knee, staring up at the ceiling for a moment. "Omega is... well, I suppose you don't know what a space station is, though your concept of 'space ship' seems to be obvious...." I bit my lower lip for a few seconds. I blinked, and looked down at Twilight. "It's like a giant ship that never moves, and acts sort of like an artificial island would, I guess. Does that make sense to you?"

"But why do we need 'ta go to this Omega place anyhow? I mean, I know this is ah tour an everything, just curious," the stetson-wearing earth pony at the end of my row piped up. I nodded slightly. On a completely unrelated note, the term “Earth” pony was highly suspicious. I mentally noted that I needed to ask about it later.

"We'll need to refuel, and then we also need to, ah, recharge our power systems. They got fried went we- ah, nevermind. After that, I’ll have to send out an official message using Omega’s long range com-unit if we aren't able to repair our communication systems. That done, it'll be your first real taste of life in space."

"Taste! Space! It rhymes! Do you think space tastes like cake?" A new voice battered at my senses, and I visibly winced. I looked at Pinkie Pie, narrowing my eyes as I tried to bring up a mental wall. I’d dealth with this before; I’d dealt with it many times. A large minority of people in the galaxy were sort of like Pinkie. We’d had a lot in the Wing, once. They all died.

"You can't taste space, and trying would prove dangerous. I don't recommend it," I said, doing my best not to make eye contact with that monstrosity. I sighed, and focused back on Twilight. "Any more questions before we take off?"

"Oooh, there are so many," Twilight whispered, tapping a hoof on her armrest. She looked up at me, eyes filled with that doomed sense of longing I’d seen a lot of scientists get. "But I think it's best that I ask you them on your ship, right? I don't want to waste your time-"

"Very well!" I interrupted, comically bending my neck to tap at the headset, grinning stupidly at the other half of the girls. Pinkie Pie giggled. "Cadet Lilian! All systems accounted for and ready for liftoff, right?"

"Bingo, Cappy. On your mark," Lilian replied, and I could faintly hear the rumbling of the engines begin to resonate through the ship. I winked at Rainbow Dash, who provided and awkward, anxious grin in return. Chuckling, I rested my head against the back of the hair, looking at the dim lights on the cabin ceiling.

"Alright, girls. Give it a moment, the engines can be pretty loud during our ascents and descents. We'll have to get you some custom gear when we hit the Aedinia system, or maybe the engineers on Omega will be able to modify some headsets free of charge. Heck, at that rate, by the time we get to the capital, you’ll all have your own suits or-”

The engines roared, and I politely shut my mouth. The cabin shuddered like an angry massage chair, and I was forced down into my seat by the pressure. The window panels were still closed, so we couldn't see outside. My mind didn’t wander too far off, and it was drawn to a shuddering mass curling into herself a few seats away. I glanced around for a moment, checking to see if anyone had noticed. They were all too engrossed in themselves. It took a second for my mind to find her name. "Fluttershy!" I called over the din. "What's wrong?"

"I-It's nothing!" she squeaked. I rolled my eyes, and gave her a hard stare. "I mean... Um. It's safe, right?"

I strained my ears, trying to comprehend her question over the noise. It snapped into place, and I laughed. Seeing her flinch back at the show of mirth, I forced myself into a dry chuckle before stopping, grinning at her. "We’re about as safe as possible. These cadets aren’t exactly green, and I know the one flying was trained to fly this thing - weren't you, Cadet?" I grinned for a moment, waiting for a reply. There was none, and my smile fell of my face like a climber without a rope. "Whatever. Anyway, you'll be fine. Oi, Cadet Lilian! I want to know when we'll be leaving the atmosphere."

"Got it," came the half-hearted reply. I nodded to myself, and settled into my seat.

"WhhoOaAaAaOoOoAoO! MmMyY vOicE soUndS fUNnY!" Pinkie yelled, her voice warped by the engines shaking the dropship like a toy. The mare elicited a couple warbled laughs from her companions. I looked to the side. Roland and Dylan were still in their armor, and Roland had taken the rare opportunity to, as the more lazy Wing members have said, put his visor down. I don't know how he could sleep through this, but very well. He’d had a long night. Dylan seemed as still as ever. I could only imagine what he was doing behind that helmet.

Probably watching me. Creepy.

For a few minutes, my mind faded as I listened to the hum of the ship. A few times, one of the girls would say something to the other, but I wasn't paying attention. It didn’t matter.

"Sir," Lilian buzzed in, and I jerked to attention, “we're nearing the end of the atmosphere. Any directions?"

I looked at the girls chattering mindlessly around me. They seemed to be happy, so a surprise was in order. "Yea, Lilian. Open the windows when I give the go-ahead. Are the grav-sims online yet?"

"Nope. You need them off?"

"Yea. I figure they could use a bit of a treat. Zero-G seems like a fun way to introduce space, doesn't it?"

"Yessir. I'll keep them off. You boys and girls have fun back there."

I nodded to myself, and let go of the headset. None of the girls had heard me, and the engine noise had died down enough to where we could all talk normally. I cleared my throat and raised one hand, waiting patiently as the voices quieted down and all eyes turned towards me. I coughed again, and brushed the hair out of my eyes, sliding it under the headset so my forehead was visible. "Now, girls! Who's ready for a surprise? Two surprises, really."

"Oh! There's only one thing better than a surprise, and that's multiple surprises! Is it a present? A cake? Do we get secret space-code-names?" Pinkie rattled off. I rolled my eyes so hard it hurt, and in the back of my consciousness, I could feel a few of them staring at the scars crossing over my forehead like small, many legged bugs.

"No, but you'll like it. You see, in space, there isn't any gravity. We normally have some pretty advanced gravity-simulators to keep us from floating around in our ships like this one, but I've decided to turn it off for you. In a few moments, you should start to feel pretty lightweight, your hair will probably be floating around, the lot. Uh, sort of like swimming, I guess. The other-"

"I love swimming!"

I coughed politely, and one hand reached up to secretly activate the headset. "The other thing is a sight we spacefarers see fairly often, and something you'll be seeing quite a lot of on this tour. Girls, I'd like to welcome you to..." I gestured to the window behind me in a wide, sweeping motion, and all eyes turned towards it. Twilight, Spike, and the others in my row had to twist their bodies in their seat, but everyone managed to get a good view as the window panels slowly slid back.

The slid back to reveal the luminescent edge, literally, of their world. It was something I had seen countless times. Whether I was merely going to another planet to oversee the building of an outpost or to check up on one of the many Acadamies, or making a brutal flash fire drop through the atmosphere to provide ship support to ground troops. It was sort of like opening a door, except not. I didn't see anything special. It was the soft glow of the atmosphere outlining the gradual curve of a spherical planet. It didn’t matter.

The sun was directly above the Fate and slowly moving behind us as we moved towards the other side of the planet, where the moon and the Homebound would be waiting. There was a collective gasp as the ponies (and dragon) took in the sight, and I instantly shut my ears off to the various questions that instantly began peppering me. Now was not the time to suffer any sort of overload.

Chattering, high pitched voices assaulted my ear drums, and before I knew what was happening I had shrunk into the seat. I wasn’t good with sound, which was why I kept a pair of sound-canceling earbuds with me during wartime. The noise just got higher and worse, turning from chatter into a garble and then into a squealing static. My vision started swimming, and I brought one hand to my head. I had to control my breathing before I passed out. In. Out. Slowly. In. Out. “STOP!” someone yelled, using my voice and my mouth. I wrapped my face in my palms, scrunching my face up in them to hide the red of my cheeks. Most Wing members knew I was susceptible to sound like that. There were some scars that even the greatest surgeries and therapists in the galaxy couldn’t fix.

In. Out. Slowly.

"And in a few moments..." I began, trailing off as long strands of mane on each of the ponies slowly began to lift upwards, no longer controlled by gravity. I lifted my hand away, and felt my own short hair floating as well. The horrible familiar feeling of weightlessness filled me, and I was vastly thankful for my seatbelt. There were a few more gasps of delight, and I forced myself to smile a smile that would’ve made Pinkie proud. Nothing like first-contact missions. "You're no longer kept down by gravity, and for now, feel free to relieve yourself of your buckles and enjoy it while it lasts. We have a ways to go before we get to the Homebound, and we don't turn off the gravity simulators in there. It’s, uh, impractical. I'll be running some calculations and filling some forms out in the meanwhile. Speaking of which," I looked down at the small screen attached to my arm, and tapped at it a few times. "Art just sent me an update. Roland!" I shouted the last word, not looking up from the screen. There was a startled gasp to my left, and I smirked grimly before settling back into my neutral smile once again.

"Uh-Yessir! What do you, um, need,” he said, leaning forward so I could see the very tip of his helmet as he slid his visor up, revealing his tired eyes.

"Make sure the ponies are safe during the trip. Keep watch is all I'm saying. I'm busy."

"Uh. Right. Yessir. Will do... hey, why's the grav-sim offline?"