• Published 3rd Jun 2012
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Lunar Rising - azore24



SG-1 explores a world filled with odd aliens on the eve of one of their largest holidays.

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Chapter 3

Cheerilee led SG-1 through the outskirts of Ponyville, saying that she didn’t want to bring the team into the town proper while the residents were on edge because of the preparations for the Princess’ arrival. Along the way, O'Neill decided to quickly debrief the team while Cheerilee was with them. That way, Cheerilee could correct anything the foals had told SG-1.

“So, Carter,” asked Jack, “magic?”

“I don’t know, sir,” she replied, clearly exasperated. “None of them could really explain how it worked; it seems that the unicorns don’t really develop their abilities until around this time. And none of the ones I was talking to knew much theory behind it.”

“Helpful,” Jack said flatly.

“If I had to guess-”

“Oh, you do,” said Jack, cutting Carter off.

Carter rolled her eyes at the colonel’s remark. “Then I’d say that it has to do with the particles we came here to study, because that’s the only abnormal thing I can think of about this world. Or maybe it has to do with beings like that one we met on Kheb,” guessed Carter, “she could control the weather, fire, and move objects around.”

“Yes,” said Jack, “I remember that well. Daniel thought he was the one with the power if I remember correctly.”

“And if I remember correctly, you believed I could light candles with my mind too,” responded Daniel.

“Indeed, it was only Major Carter who remained skeptical, O'Neill,” added Teal’c.

“Well,” said Carter, “I’d still like to think that there was a simple explanation for their abilities, but knowing that there are aliens that exhibit telekinesis and the like, I honestly have no idea. Can you tell us anything, Miss Cheerilee?”

“Oh, sorry but I really don’t know much about the subject,” said Cheerilee. “I mostly teach the foals history, math, those sorts of things. We do some natural studies, but we never go into a great deal of depth on magic. And I can’t say that I have first hoof experience,” she said as she lifted a hoof to point at her decidedly hornless head, “though I can tell you that it is certainly a natural part of being a unicorn, as much as flight is a natural part of being a Pegasus. And you can just call me Cheerilee, if you would like.”

Carter swallowed a sigh, “it’s alright. The library should have books on that, so I can read up on it then.”

“I hope they do,” said Cheerilee, “but we’re a town of mostly earth ponies and pegasi. While we do have some unicorns, they aren’t generally the type to request academic literature.”

O'Neill moved the conversation to a different topic, his curiosity over the workings of magic gone at the mention of academic literature. “Daniel, you learn anything interesting about this place? Maybe even something useful?”

Ignoring the latter remark, Daniel answered, “actually yes. It seems that the land is ruled by Princess Celestia, an alicorn who raises the sun and moon--”

“What?” Carter couldn’t stop herself from interrupting. “Daniel, the sun and the moon aren’t raised by anyone. That’s centuries old knowledge. Cheerilee, do people actually believe that Princess Celestia moves the heavens?”

Cheerilee was caught off guard by the vehemence and the audacity of the question. “O-of course they do! The Princess moves the sun across the sky and causes the moon to wax and wane. Before her, the unicorns did the job by combining their magic.”

“But it doesn’t even begin to make sense,” insisted Carter. “The sun is over three hundred thousand times more massive than the Earth. The Earth revolves around it; the illusion of the sun moving across the sky is created by the revolution of the Earth on its axis. The level of force required to swing the sun around like that would either crush the planet or tear it apart.”

“Sam,” said Daniel, “I think we might just want to leave it be for now.” O'Neill looked at Cheerilee, picking up on Daniel’s meaning. The mare looked to be equal parts shocked and offended. It wasn’t too surprising when he considered that Carter had all but called the Princess a liar and a fake.

Even as Carter began to argue with Daniel, O'Neill stopped her. “Carter,” he said, “I think it’d be best to drop the subject. No need to argue astrophysics with our new friend,” he gestured to Cheerilee. “Besides, you can always ask Hammond to send some telescopes with the science team, right?”

“Yes, sir,” responded Carter. “So, Daniel, you were saying about the Princess?”

“Wait,” said O'Neill, “I thought that there were two Princesses.”

“When did I say that,” asked Daniel.

“Back in the castle. You said it was dedicated to the Princesses Celestia and... Looney,” the last word carried the inflection of a question as O'Neill made up something that sounded right.

“Luna, and yes, I remember that now. It would explain why Celestia, who is only really associated with the sun, also controls the moon: she had a sister that once controlled the moon. Cheerilee, do you know anything about this ‘Princess Luna?’” Daniel asked.

“Let me think,” said Cheerilee, “I know she isn’t a Princess; we only have one of those.” She thought for a moment, leading the team in silence. “Oh, there is one folk tale about her.” Cheerilee began to tell an abridged version of the story every foal knew, being part of the backstory for Nightmare Night. “‘She used to rule side by side with Celestia, controlling the moon and stars. Over time, though, she grew envious of her sister, for all the ponies would play during the day and sleep during the night. Eventually, this envy blossomed into resentment, causing Luna to rebel against her sister. She became the evil Nightmare Moon, and sought to bring on eternal night.

“‘Celestia used the Elements of Harmony, powerful ancient artifacts, to stop Nightmare Moon. With the power of the Elements, Celestia banished her sister to the moon, ending the threat of Nightmare Moon.’ It’s just an old mare’s tale, though,” added Cheerilee. “It’s probably just a story made up to explain the unicorn head-shaped shadow on the moon. It also teaches an important lesson about the dangers of envy, even between the closest of sisters.

“Are you saying you think this Luna was a real pony?” asked Cheerilee after a brief pause.

“Well, unless somebody snuck out to those ruins and faked those carvings, I’d say there’s a pretty good chance she was,” said Jack.

“But if she was real, then what happened to her?” wondered Carter out loud.

“The story suggests she was banished to the moon for treason,” said Teal’c.

“Well, that isn’t the only story about Princess Luna, and certainly not the only origin story for Nightmare Moon,” said Cheerilee. “Now that I think about it, there’s a book of foal’s tales with Luna as the main character in the library. I usually read some to my class before Nightmare Night.”

“So, Daniel, what about the Princess who actually exists?” prompted O'Neill.

“Well, Celestia has been on the throne for years, centuries at least, and seems to be genuinely beneficent. She actually seems to be akin to a god to the populace.”

“A god, you say?” O'Neill had never met a god he liked, except for Thor, but the little grey alien had a strong non-intervention policy, so this Celestia didn’t exactly strike the colonel as one of Thor’s buddies. “What else have you heard about her, seeing as, according to Cheerilee, she’ll be here in less than a day?”

“Not much, mostly legends and myths surrounding her. A bit of hero worship here and there. Nothing that seemed to suggest that she’s a goa’uld, though,” Daniel added, getting right to the point.

“A what?” asked Cheerilee.

“Oh,” said Daniel, Jack wishing he hadn’t brought it up, “a goa’uld. They’re aliens who take on the identity of gods to rule over and enslave others. They look like snakes and can take over anyone’s body by slithering inside of them. Then they can use their voice, their mind, knowledge, powers, everything. The host they take is forced to watch as their bodies commit horrible atrocities without being able to stop it.” Daniel’s voice became more envenomed as he went on. Jack knew well that Daniel’s wife had been taken as a host by a goa’uld. She had even born a child for another goa’uld.

“That sounds horrible!” exclaimed Cheerilee. “Why would anypony do that to somepony else?”

“Because they are evil,” said Teal’c flatly. “They use a device to heal themselves, gaining lifetimes of thousands of years or more. The device simultaneously destroys their souls. They only care for personal advancement and power and feel free to use others to achieve their ends.”

“Then, how can you stop them if they can hide in the bodies of others?” Cheerilee asked, worriedly.

“They are not very subtle in their actions,” responded Teal’c.

“They like to make their eyes glow,” added Carter, “as a sign of their power. Their voices also get affected by the goa’uld’s control, as if two people were speaking at the same time. Also, anyone who’s ever had one in them can sense them in others.”

“So, then they can be removed, right?”

“Well, no. At least, not easily. We haven’t figured out a way to do it safely yet. I once had one in me, but Jolinar was a member of the Tok’ra, a resistance group of good goa’uld. He sacrificed himself to save my life, actually.” There was a strong hint of sadness in Carter's voice at the remembrance. “One of our allies can do it, though it is quite a painful process.” She grimaced, not wanting to go further into the subject.

“Oh. So, how do you stop them?” Cheerilee clearly was not enjoying the conversation either.

“Well,” said Carter, “as long as they don’t know where your planet is, you can just bury your Stargate. Then they shouldn’t be able to get to you. Otherwise... well, as Colonel O’Neill said, we’re fighters.” She let the statement trail off, leaving it hanging in the air.

The oppressive mood hung in the air for minutes on end, the group making their way to Mayor Mare’s estate in silence. The silence remained unbroken until they stopped before a stately building of stone, wood, and thatching.

Cheerilee lightly rapped on the oak door, using her hoof rather than the carved brass handle provided. The entire facade screamed wealth and opulence, with columns surrounding the door and friezes set in the small overhang they supported. The building itself was a standard two story number, looking much like the others SG-1 had seen. Here and there, though, touches of wealth shone through like gold-plated sore thumbs. The mostly normal windows occasionally had their wrought iron inner frames embellished by artistic alterations in the pattern of flowers or spiraling designs.

O'Neill was caught glancing up at the slightly overcast sky as the door opened. “I thought I sent out a memo that I was not to be disturbed!” The mare who popped her head out from behind the door was tan with a grey mane, though O'Neill could swear he saw pink roots. “I must spend the day preparing my speech for the Princess’ appearance, so whatever it is, take it up with Deputy Mayor Buck Stopper...” The Mayor’s voice trailed off as she only just seemed to notice the four aliens standing on her stoop.

“Cheerilee...” said Mayor Mare with wide eyes and a mouth that somehow hung open while simultaneously allowing for speech.

“Mayor Mare, may we come in?” asked Cheerilee helpfully.

“Oh. Of course, dear. Come on in,” said the mayor, her voice filled with confusion and surprise.

SG-1 entered the home and was forced to either hunch over or crouch down lest their heads and the ceiling painfully become acquainted. O'Neill was surprised to see the home was decorated in much the same way as human residences. From where he crouched in the foyer, he could see into a kitchen filled with pots, pans, dishes, even a wood burning oven/stove combo. He couldn’t help but silently wonder how the handless ponies would possibly use tools so obviously designed for hands. He couldn’t even understand how they came up with the idea of using a fork if they didn’t have anywhere to hold it.

The mayor led the group into her sitting room, still not entirely comfortable with the presence of the four aliens in her home. “Please sit anywhere,” she said with some trepidation. “Can I offer anyone something to eat or drink?”

“”Some water would be great, if you don’t mind,” responded O'Neill. The rest of the team echoed his request, it had been a longish trek through the forest, and there was no reason to dip into their canteens or refuse the mare’s hospitality.

“Of course,” said Mayor Mare, adding, “would you mind helping me, Cheerilee?” The question came out not so much as wanting help fetching water as an attempt at subtly finding a way to talk to Cheerilee away from the aliens. Cheerilee, apparently picking up on the hint, or just being helpful, agreed and went with their host to the kitchen.

As soon as they rounded the corner, the mayor’s strained voice could be heard asking Cheerilee about her strange house guests. SG-1 took the opportunity to have its own hushed conversation while glancing around the sitting room.

“So, thoughts?” asked O’Neil, making it half a command simply by the tone he used.

“They seem nice enough,” answered Daniel. “And trusting, sort of like children, in a way.”

Teal’c nodded in assent before giving a comment of his own. “I do, however, find their technology most confusing. It seems designed for hands and yet they have none.”

“You know,” said O'Neill, “I was thinking the exact same thing! I mean, they have forks for cryin’ out loud.”

“I’m sure it makes sense to them, though,” said Carter. “If they --” Carter stopped talking when she heard the two ponies returning from the kitchen. In her mouth, Mayor Mare carried a tray on which sat six glasses filled with ice and water. Cheerilee carried a similar tray on which sat a large pitcher. The two deftly placed the trays on the coffee table in the center of the sitting room and took seats next to one another on a plush couch.

They each took a cup between their hooves and drank. Cheerilee especially seemed to have built up a thirst watching the foals all morning. O'Neill thanked Mayor Mare for her hospitality as the members of SG-1 each took a cup for themselves.

“So,” said Mayor Mare, “Cheerilee tells me that you are space aliens. She also tells me that you have Pinkie promised to hurt nopony while you are here. Is this the case?”

“Indeed,” said Teal’c.

“Well, then, the next thing I want to know is what is it that brings you to our fair town?” Pride oozed from the mayor’s voice, “I can’t say that I’ve heard of aliens visiting any other of Equestria’s cities.”

“Well,” answered O'Neill, “we arrived on your planet in the Everfree Forest, and saw your very nice town on the horizon and thought we’d come to say hello.”

“Oh,” the mayor seemed a bit deflated that Ponyville wasn’t chosen for anything other than convenience’s sake, though the compliment did not go unappreciated. “In that case, I would like to welcome you to Equestria. May I ask why, exactly, you chose to come to our world, then?”

“Well,” said Carter, “we visit other planets for a living. We have this device, a Stargate, which lets us go to any world which also has one. We came to this planet to do some scientific research on the heavy concentration of strange particles we detected. Doctor Jackson also wanted to study the ruins where your Stargate is located.”

“We’d also like to set up trade with you, and become friends and allies in time,” added Daniel.

“Well,” said the mayor, “I don’t know that I have the authority to grant you any of those things. While we can certainly be friends, any official arrangements or allowances for scientific or archaeological study must be made with Princess Celestia herself. If you come with me to City Hall, though, I can grant you an official visa to Ponyville for the length of the festival. I can also set up a meeting with the Princess for you after the Celebration if you are good until the sun is raised.

“In the meantime, Princess Celestia is sending somepony to oversee the festival preparations in her name. I would suggest you go and meet them before the festivities begin.”

“Thank you,” said Carter, “but are you sure we aren’t imposing on your speech preparation time?”

“Nonsense, dearie,” said the mayor, “I think welcoming our first ever visitors from space takes priority over a speech I’ll have to rework in your honor, anyway.” The mare smiled as she got up to usher the group out. All assembled replaced their cups on the serving trays and filed out onto the abandoned street.

“You know,” said O’Neill, “I coulda’ sworn it was cloudy when we got here.”