• Published 28th Apr 2016
  • 1,387 Views, 43 Comments

Rocky Mountain Dragon - Iron_Cauldron

Changing species and genders was the easy part. Surviving in a world without people and infrastructure, that's going to be a challenge. Luckily, I've had some help to prepare for the long haul. A VERY, long haul.

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Chapter 3 - Testing the Equipment

Author's Note:

Sorry it took so long to get this out. I had it written a few days after the last chapter, but I had started a new and very different job, so I was trying to get accoustomed to it. Having ADD doesn't help either. All the above excuses aside, I have a note for this chapter. I approached the use of an iPhone from my perspective: I've never used one, so their exploration was something I had to wing. I had an idea what the apps did, as well as doing some research to see what happened when they opened, but I had not touched one when writing this chapter. I hope you enjoy it.

Meals in the Canterlot commissary, while not the best, were still filling. Bright Star enjoyed most of her food, but in this situation she was very eager to return to the laboratory they had been allocated for their studies. The group however, was not allowed to leave the commisary individually, so Star had to remain with them, waiting while they finished their meals.

Some were as fast as she in finishing their meals, and chatted amongst themselves, while Star listened.

"We should split into groups in order to analyze the devices. That way, we're not all trying to crowd the things, and see all at once. I suggest groups of about four. This'll give us a chance to optimize our time, and allow for more studying." A roan unicorn said.

"I actually think that's a terrific idea." Star interjected. "I would suggest as well that we study only a few items a day, and compare notes. We should also switch the items we're studying to another group, in order to compare what we've learned about them at the end of the day."

By now the others had mostly finished, and were listening in on the conversation. In the end, all agreed to the sound plan, as it would give them a few days per set of items. Once their dishes were set on trollies to be taken to the kitchens, they gathered near the exit, and told their guards they were ready to head to their laboratory.


Bright Star and the others were taken directly to the laboratory, which was on a different path than they had gone to the mess hall. Two guards led from the front, and another two trailed in the rear, causing some castle staff, some tourists, and other ponies in the castle to turn in curiosity to the group. None in the group gave them any return looks however, as they were intently focused on their mission.

Once in their lab, the guards closed the doors behind the last pony in, and took up station outside. Already in the lab, and surrounded by two more guards, was the rolling table with the human artifacts. The ponies set about dividing themselves into groups of four, made easier by the mare leaving earlier in the morning. They could divide evenly, without having to have an extra member in any of the groups, not that any of them would have objected.

Once they had settled the desks in optimal positions, they introduced themselves.

"Bright Star"

"Quick Turn" The other mare, a pegasus stated.

"Steel Spark." An Earth pony stallion said.

"Solar Comet." A Unicorn stallion.

One pony from each group took a small trey to the trolly, and requested one device from it. One of the guards, a Unicorn, levitated their chosen devices to their trays, which they then took back to the table. The other guard, an Earth pony, noted the devices and time they had been handed over to the scientists. Star's group had selected the device called a 'cellphone.'

"It's small." One of their group members stated, to which the others nodded in agreement, looking at the item in the middle of the group. "Makes you wonder how they read anything on here, if Princess Luna's comments about them sending written messages on it were true."

"Their hands were quite small too, especially what they called their 'fingers.'" Quick giggled. She sobered up, "I can see why they would need them this small though. To manipulate anything over a distance does get tiring."

Star levitated the device into the air between them, and studied it intently. "I don't recognize much of anything on the thing, except for what appears to be an apple on the back, with a bite mark in it."

She held it in her telekinetic grasp, showing the back to all her associates. They could also see several protrusions on the sides, and what appeared to be a lighter rectangle on one side that had a small depression below it, with a white/gray box set in it. Two of the side buttons appeared to have indentations that resembled a 'plus' and 'minus' sign. On the back, were two, what they could only describe as windows, that had small circles in them, when one looked very closely.

"Okay, how in the heck do humans use these things?" Snarked Quick. "Nothing on this thing makes any sense. There's almost no markings, and it's entirely black. Not to mention, it's shiny, and looks very slick. How're they supposed to hold onto them?"

"You saw how their fingers could curl around a lot of things. I assume they wrapped their 'hands' around them, and applied force to keep hold of them" Steel supplied. "It appears to be quite robust, as I assume they need a lot of pressure to keep from dropping them, though this one appears to have seen a lot of use." Indicating some worn edging.

Star spoke up, "The buttons are too small for us to use our hooves on, so, I have a pen for us to use." She levitated the divice up a bit to get a good look at the front of it, so she could see what she was doing. "Here goes nothing." She pushed on the small square in the depression first, but got no reaction. Trying the 'plus' and 'minus' also elicited no reaction from the divice. She finally tried the long, rectangular button near the top, but that did nothing but slide and click.

Turning it to see if she damaged it, she noticed the small space was now orange. She quickly clicked the button back into place. "Nothing there worked. Let's try the button on the top." One of the others was quickly writing down notes while she fiddled with the device, and the other two watched for any reactions. She pressed for a moment, but nothing appeared to happen. When she turned the divice over, however, she and the others noticed another, slightly glowing apple had appeared.

The front of the device lit up with the strange human text, that seemed to be some sort of warning, what with the exclamation next to the text. It the disappeared, and a brief moment later, and the whole screen lit up. "Whoa!" She and the other exclaimed. "Are you getting this down, Quick?"

"Oh yeah. C'mon, let's see what happens next" They all waited to see if anything would happen, but for several moments, nothing did. On the screen were several brightly colored squares with text below them. The text was familiar from being prominant on several Earth signs and their automobiles, but still very alien. A couple of the squares had familiar symbols in them, but suddenly the screen dimmed, then went black a moment later. "What happened? Why's it black again?"

"I don't know!" Star exclaimed. "I'm going to push the same button again. Let's see what happens now." She pushed very delicately on the button, and from that brief depression, the screen lit back up. "Okay, it's back on. Let's see, I can tell there's a clock in one of the squares, what appears to be a voice bubble like in comics, a music note thing, and a compass. No, make that two compasses, and two notes. There's two more on the bottom, as well as another compass."

"Hey, there's a cloud and sun on another one!" Quick exclaimed. "Maybe that's their weather management notification, thing..." She trailed off, scratching her head with a very puzzled look.

Up on the top of the screen, Star noticed a few odd looking symbols. One was a series of 'waves' going up in a larger pattern, with nothing next to them, what appeared to be some numbers indicating time, since they looked similar to the analogue numbers that appeared on some clocks. Finally there was a strange rectangular symbol that was partially filled, with what appeared to be a seven percent number next to it.

Again, after a short time of them all staring at the screen it dimmed again, but before it could go black, Star pushed the top button.That action caused the screen to turn black. Pressing it again brought screen back to life. "Well, the button at the top appears to turn the screen on. While it's on, I'm going to see what the other buttons we tried earlier do."

Pressing the 'plus' and 'minus' buttons elicited tones, the plus causing a louder ding that the minus. The center button with the square did nothing that they could see.

Steel piped in, "Touch the pen to the music note square on the bottom. The red one."

Star levitated the pen over the square, and pressed it, and the screen shifted to, what appeared to be more squares, this time much more varied. On several of them, were images of humans in various poses, off coloured humans, and charicatures of people an animals. On the top were what appeared to be icons. One was a visage of a human, followed by yet another note in a box, smaller squares with rectangles ont he right, what looked like a microphone, yet another musical note with lines on its left, and what appeared to be a magnifying glass.

Star tapped on the image of a group a human flanked on both sides by redish, ghost-like apparitions of himself, all holding what looked like a guitar. Picking one of the lines in the selection, elicited sounds like a guitar they had never heard before, and the familiar drums. All activity in the room stopped, as a deep voice began singing, repeating a deep lyric. The whole room stopped as the phone played through the whole song, most of which was intelligable, but some, not so much.

"Well," one of the other ponies said, "that was, interesting. But could you please keep it down, we're trying to work on our own projects. Thank you."

To her own group, Star said, "I kinda liked it. It was gritty, and had a good beat!" she enthusiatically gushed.

The others shook their heads a little, and urged her to do something else. Trying the other buttons again, only elicited the tones of increasing and decreasing volume, along with the screen coming back on again. Pressing the top button yet again turned the device back on, but with the same screen as before. Finally pressing the square in a circle button, she and the others were brought back to the main menu.

"Well, we learned that the musical notes take you to what appears to be a selection of Earth music, so we can add that to what we've discovered." Solar commented. "Try the square with the black thing with the white circle and yellow dot. See what it does."

Pressing it caused the screen to show what appeared to be their desk, through the device. Star turned the device around to see if the could see the other way, which was when Quick looked up, and noticed something, causing her jaw to drop. "Star, I can see you on the device!"

Star turned the device around to see if she really was there, but only saw Quick instead, saying, "Wait, I can see you now. It's a little distorted though, like looking through a badly made piece of glass." Eyeing another camera on the bottom of the screen, Star pushed on it, causing the screen to move a little, settle on Quick, then emit a camera shutter-like noise, startling the others with what sounded like a picture being taken.

"I think it took a picture..." Star said, bewilderingly. She spied a very small image on the device where a copy of the image was taken and shrunk. She tapped on it, and saw that she had taken an image, and could even see it, without having to take it to be developed. She then pushed the square again, taking her back to the screen she saw on turning on the device. "Well, we're back to where we began, does anyone else want to see what else this thing can do?"

Most appeared to be in thought, while she levitated the device around, showing them the squares. Steel suddenly Asked, "What about the one with the black and white stripes on the top? It's got a blue bottom. What does that one do?"

Tapping on it, took Star to a series of tall, rectangular images that looked like the posters placed on the outside of opera houses, only much more colorful, and detailed. Some of the writing she could barely make out, "It looks like these are posters for some kind of entertainment. They look like film, or stage play posters, only much more detailed." Turning the phone to the others, Star continued, "Look at the one on the top left, it's a human in something like red armor with a glowing light in his hand."

Steel pointed to the poster, "Look at the one in the back ground. He's way oversized and green. Is he some kind of minotaur, or ogre? All I can recognize with the poster is what looks like the lower case letter 'e,' and the letter 'A.' Otherwise their writing is just scribbles."

"Who knows. Humans have very strange tastes to begin with." Quick quipped, still taking notes.

Looking over Star's shoulder, Solar noticed the odd rectangle at the top, she had noticed herself earlier. "What's that at the top there, Star?"

"I don't know, but it had the number 'seven percent' earlier, now it's down to five percent." She tried tapping it with the pen, but nothing happened. Touching the square-in-a-circle button again, took them back to the starting screen.

Steel looked, and asked, "What's that square with the four bright corners do?"

"Don't know, but we'll find out." Star replied. She pressed at it with the pen, and it brought up a series of what looked like folders with detailed colored images of other humans. Choosing one of them, Star and the others saw some images with a single human, but others where there was another that looked vastly different.

"Why does that other human have long hair, and look slimmer than the other?" Steel asked.

"Perhaps that's a female human. Given how she's drapped her arm over the other, we can probably guess that the are a mated couple, or good friends. It looks like there are a lot of pictures of these two humans in particular." On impulse, seeing that there were some images that had been cut off, or looked smaller, she tried dragging the pen along the top of one of the images, seemingly pulling the other images up. She continued pulling, making sure that Quick was keeping up with note taking. Eventually she got to some images showing the same two humans from before, with other smaller humans, she and the others assumed were human children.

"I think these are also family photos. I can see a younger looking human, who vaguely resembles the male from the photos from earlier, but there are also images of much younger humans." She turned the device around to show the others, and continued scrolling. "Look, in this one, the human from the first images is holding what looks like a very young human, wrapped in blankets."

"Younger humans are very ugly. It looks all wrinkled, and red, and very tiny. Especially being held by the larger human." Steel said.

"I definatly think they are related. The human holding the infant here is smiling quite widely, while looking at the, well, I guess baby would apply here." Star said.

Going back to the menu, then pushing the button to bring the images up again, Star dragged the other folders up, until she could barely make out something that made her pause. Pushing on the folder brought up images that looked like a portal of some kind. "Guys, I think I found the images of when we made contact with the humans."

Indeed, there were images of the portal, even some that looked like the owner of the device had managed to get an image of Princess Luna, and partial images of the guard surrounding her. Scrolling further, Star came across more humans in suits that looked like those worn by explorers, going to a distant land. Durable, and long lasting. In some of the last images, there were pictures of a group of humans, all smiling, waving, and making an unverted triangle, with two of their fingers.

The last image was of the portal, from very close up, with some ponies, looking expectantly at the human standing so close. The images stopped there, however, and Star could guess what happened next. "Everyone, I think the last image was the last one the human who owned this ever took, before he died." All were quiet for a moment, knowing what had happened to them, thanks to what Princess Luna had told them earlier.

Their exploration of the device continued for another hour, as having learned they could move the squares to see other things, they tried to see what they device contained, and see what more they could learn from it.

All too soon however, the device suddenly displayed an image that looked a little like the rectangle from the top right, blinking with some red on one side. A short time later, the screen turned black again, and no matter what Star did, she could not bring it back on. The group was left holding something that was essentially a thin brick, made of materials they lacked the skill to identify and take apart. There was also the fact that they were told not to take it apart, so Star took the device back to the table, looking sadly at it, before selecting another item for her group to investigate.