• Published 1st Nov 2018
  • 2,576 Views, 669 Comments

Equestria : 1940 - Georg

While Europe sinks into bloody war and the powers of Nazi Germany dominate the continent, a new dark power begins to rise that could destroy them all. The Nightmare is returning. And all will bow before her glorious night.

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1. Rumors of War

Equestria : 1940
12 June - Crossing the Atlantic

“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”
— Matthew 24:6

Seeing the unicorn passenger in the airplane confused Jon Walthers at first.

The last thing that Jon had really expected when climbing on board the US Army OA-10 flying boat was to see one of the passenger seats occupied by a unicorn wearing sunglasses, a set of thick headphones, and nothing else. He had seen plenty of Equestrians over the last few years. After all, he had a job with the State Department using the degree he had earned in Equestrian anthropology (which purists insisted should actually be ‘hippopology’) which had came with a few four-legged teachers, but they were rare as hen’s teeth outside of academia and the occasional radio program. This one was odder than most of the elderly professors or Washington tourists that Jon had seen before, with a vibrant blue striped mane and a slow, rhythmic nodding to her head that indicated she was keeping time to some unheard music on her headphones.

While the polite Army private was stashing his limited luggage into the cargo hatch behind him, Jon was briefly tempted to go over to the unicorn and introduce himself, but the young mare was settled into the Position of Privacy. Her head was angled down and the book up in such a way that anypony… or any person entering the aircraft would be able to read the cover, thus eliminating the social first step of introduction by way of asking “So, what are you reading?”

Unicorn Gesture was a complicated language in which Jon was only roughly fluent, and was handicapped in attempting to speak it by the lack of movable ears and a tail. Still, he met the young mare’s subtle tilting of her head, a Motion of Acknowledgement, with a return Gesture of Respect for Privacy on his part, before moving the rest of the way into the cabin and checking for an available seat.

Since there were only six seats on the seaplane and four of them were in the back at a table, Jon took the opposite side single away from the Equestrian mare and removed a book of his own from his personal baggage. His two hefty suitcases were being stuffed into the belly of the seaplane by the Army attendant, but they mostly contained clothes and a few notebooks. Jon had always preferred to travel with what his colleagues preferred to mock as a ‘purse’ of sorts, a thick canvas over-the-shoulder satchel. Several years of overseas travel had thinned out and organized the contents, shifting slightly depending on whether he was going to the frozen tundra or the broiling desert sands, but at the barest minimum he had enough supplies to survive the upcoming twelve-hour flight. Once he got to his destination, however, he would be about as alone as a human being could get.

Equestrians were very inviting, but the Equestrian government was not. Tourism was discouraged outside of several coastal cities, and even the few official business delegations and several embassies in Manehattan were kept to a bare minimum. It was supposedly for the good of the skittish native ponies, but curious human tourists and nosy human reporters disagreed. There were even rumors of several humans with Equestrian citizenship, but other than a few newspapers writing unsubstantiated stories, nothing had ever been proven.

In comparison, the griffons who inhabited the eastern island kingdoms were very standoff-ish and their minotaur neighbors almost a myth, since they stayed in their underground warrens. Access to most of the United Principality of Greater Equestria — a rather pretentious title for an island country slightly larger than Ohio — was strictly limited to select diplomatic personnel, except for the one sudden exception of himself.

Which left Jon with nagging questions: Why me? And why now?

Not that he wanted to question his good fortune too severely, because most of his collegiate peers would be willing to break a leg (not their own, of course) to be in his seat right now, but there were more questions in his head than answers and not enough evidence to make a good try at assembling a theory. He did not even get the thin folder out of his bag to review it again, as he had several times over the last day and a half. The baffling papers inside were quite simple and short, consisting of one formal letter from the Equestrian embassy in New York granting Jon unconditional access to the UE, one passport page, pre-stamped for insertion into his official US passport, and the stub of the used train ticket he had expended getting to the seaplane base.

He had expected the usual difficulties when entering the US Army base, but all he had to do was pronounce his name correctly and he was treated like President Roosevelt arriving on a surprise inspection. The sentry actually saluted him, and within moments, a car and silent driver had appeared out of thin air and whisked him right out to the tarmac where the parked seaplane squatted awkwardly on its wheels. Jon suspected if the pilot had been present, the Catalina would have been airborne by the time he’d reached his seat..

Regardless of the reason for his presence, Jon meant to make the best of his trip. There were enough new film rolls in his luggage to make National Geographic jealous, including some color film for his brand new Kodak camera just in case this was all a mistake and he had to happily wander around Equestria while waiting to go back to Washington and his current job.

Of course, that was the best case scenario. The travel itinerary which had been couriered to Jon yesterday did not include a return ticket.

A thumping and clunking noise from the front of the aircraft preceded four Army soldiers of various ranks climbing through the hatch on their way to the back of the seaplane. Their passage made Jon pull his short legs back to allow them space and let him exchange a few pleasantries before the deck of cards came out and the soldiers dove into the resumption of a perpetual game of poker between them. Then the pilots arrived somewhere in front of the executive compartment behind the cockpit, and shortly thereafter, the engines started up with a sputtering roar.

Twelve hours of this noise without some sort of hearing protection would have left Jon deaf, and he envied the passive unicorn on the other side of the plane with the large headphones. The wax earplugs he had been given upon boarding were a good substitute, but they always left his ears feeling greasy for a few hours afterwards. Still, he stuck them in and returned his book to the shoulder bag just in case the seaplane would crash into the ocean at the end of the runway during takeoff and he had to swim for his life.

Think positive. With this much high-octane gasoline on board, I’ll burn to death before I have a chance to drown.

After attaching his restraining harness and keeping his fingernails dug into the armrests in order to help the fuel-laden aircraft in the air, Jon suffered through the bumpy ride down the runway until takeoff and the slow, wallowing climb to altitude. It took a lot of yawning to pop his ears during the ascent, but once the big seaplane leveled out, he relaxed enough to actually look out of the small circular window. It was noisy, but the drone of the engines that would be his companion for the rest of the day was a damned sight better than riding for a week on a ship and waiting for a German torpedo to come crashing into the side. Secrecy, misinformation, and downright lies hid the actual numbers of ships that had already been sunk around Europe, but Jon had no desire to discover first hand knowledge about any of them, or learn if Germany had decided to send its undersea fleet a little further afield.

At least Equestria was staying neutral during this conflict, much the same as it had during the Great War, so this was as close to Europe as he wanted to go until the fighting died down. It made a cold chill go up his neck at the thought of his relatives across scattered countries which had not yet been subjected to German or Italian armies and their following occupation. His father had a corkboard at home with little colored pins detailing the missing and the dead, or worse, the few relatives who wrote back suddenly happy letters extolling the joys of their new governments and going into great detail about how much better their lives were under the benevolent guidance of the German Reich or the expanding Soviet Union.

Still, there were rumors whispered around his home about Equestria’s neutrality, unsubstantiated tales of ponies working hoof in glove with the Nazi party technocrats on secret weapons or weird projects. He did his best not to stare at the yellowish-white unicorn with the vibrant blue mane on the other side of the aircraft. The logical section of his mind tamped down any fantasies of Nazi sympathizers or secret spy conspiracies with one simple fact: if the unicorn had gotten on board a US Army aircraft, she most certainly had gone through enough security screenings to prove her loyalty.

He checked his watch. Twenty minutes of flight down, and twelve hours to go.

Since the aircraft had reached altitude without exploding or crashing, Jon released his grip on the arms of the chair and considered what to do next while attempting to rub the cramps out of his fingers and make his ears finally pop. He certainly was not sleepy enough to doze off, nor was he calm enough to get out one of his quickly grabbed books on Equestrian etiquette and touch up his manners before the end of the flight. That left either the paperback copy of Doc Savage he had bought in a last-minute purchasing spree through town, Perry Mason’s The Case of the Baited Hook, or the newspaper. Well, those or the rather strange package of colorful periodicals he had picked up at the bookstore, which he still felt a little awkward and juvenile carrying in his shoulder bag.

He decided on the newspaper. After all, it might have been able to provide a clue as to why he had been picked for this singularly unique opportunity.

* * * *

“Excuse me, sir?” The middle-aged Army major did not look young enough to wear a uniform and be sent off into a senseless war, and just old enough to have missed the Great War, but his gravelly voice made it plain that he was just as tough as the non-regulation leather jacket he was wearing to protect himself from the chill of altitude. “Colonel Bradley would like to talk with you in the front.”

Jon Walthers looked forward to the small ‘executive’ compartment just behind the cockpit. It was far from a room at the Ritz-Carlton, but it had a table and padded chairs, as well as a coffee pot. It was possible that Colonel Bradley was the mysterious benefactor who had arranged for his trip to Equestria too, so it would only be polite to accept his invitation and get a quick cup of coffee while finding out just what in the world he was doing here.

“Thank you, Major Truscott,” said Jon after a quick glance at the soldier’s rank tabs, then his name embroidered into the leather jacket. Jon folded up the newspaper, considered it for a moment, then cocked an eyebrow in the Gesture of First Consideration at the unicorn on the other side of the aircraft. He couldn’t see any Third Order context in her response due to her sunglasses, but the ear-flick and subtle shaking of her head in response made it plain that she had no interest in the newspaper. He turned to the soldier instead with a polite nod.

“Would you and the rest of your men like the paper while I’m gone? The Brits may have gotten beaten in Dunkirk, but they went and bombed a couple of German cruisers outside of Trondheim just to show they’re still in the war.”

A grim smile appeared on the soldier’s face, making Jon very glad he was not a German citizen. “Thank you, Mister Walthers. Right this way.”

The huge flying boat might have been noisy, but while straight and level at elevation it was as stable as a house, and compared to some of the cramped deathtraps Jon had ridden in, about as spacious. Major Truscott knocked at the cabin door and opened it, allowing Jon to slide in and sit on one of the two small bench seats around the folding table while the colonel remained looking down into his briefcase and thumbing through several folders. Unsure whether to salute or try to shake hands, Jon settled for a brief hesitation before leaning back in the bench seat and casting a longing look at the coffee pot on the colonel’s side of the small cabin.

After several years of Equestrian study, Jon had come to the conclusion that human nonverbal communication was a distinctly inferior variety. The colonel’s stiff body language displayed none of his thoughts, nor did it radiate the kind of warmth one would expect from somebody who had greased the skids to share an aircraft with Jon on a long overseas trip. The colonel simply remained looking into his open briefcase until the door to the rest of the aircraft compartment had been closed and a certain amount of time had passed, presumably for the soldier who had escorted Jon into the cabin to go back to his seat.

“Mister Jon Walthers.” The colonel spared Jon a brief glance over the top of his open briefcase before looking back down. “Degrees in Equestrian Anthropology, Egyptian History, and Literature. Professional consultant to the State Department.” He turned a page. “Contacts in the greater German Reich, regular correspondence with known Nazi sympathizers, and now suddenly the golden boy of the Equestrian principality, which has been claiming neutrality while getting all comfortable in bed with the Nazis, too.”

The colonel lowered the lid of the briefcase, and Jon got a sudden appreciation for at least one version of body language practiced by the military. The muzzle of the .45 automatic looked as large as a train tunnel and did not waver even the slightest from his chest while Colonel Bradley continued.

“Convince me you’re not a German spy, or I’ll put a slug in you and drop you in the ocean. Nobody will ever know, particularly your Nazi superiors.”

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