• Published 20th May 2017
  • 5,218 Views, 816 Comments

Brightly Lit - Penalt

The village of Brightly, British Columbia is a small, isolated place where everyone knows everyone, with a strong sense of community. A community that starts to include colourful little ponies.

  • ...

PreviousChapters Next
Chapter 16: Sonic Boom

The time is now, you can't hide,
Find the power deep inside!
Make it happen.
Make it happen!

- Sonic Boom, Crush 40

BC Hydro Remote Dam Control Technician Shaushka had worked in her position ever since immigrating from the UK ten years ago. She had risen up through the ranks through a combination of skill and the classic British stiff upper lip, to where she was currently in charge of an entire district of the province’s far flung power generation sources. In six months she planned to take the exam to qualify as a watch supervisor for the entire facility on Burnaby Mountain and some of the other techs swore they had never once seen her sweat.

Which is why they would have been surprised that as the minutes passed and there was no response from the team of volunteer firefighters on the central coast, that she was the one to nervously pick up the satellite phone to call them back. She was in the middle of picking up the phone, when a heavy hand fell on her shoulder.

“And just who are you calling?” a deep male voice asked. Shaushka twisted away from her status board to see the tall heavyset form of the watch supervisor. Jim Hemphill was six foot five, with two hundred and eighty pounds of heavy muscle from his earlier career as a power lineman still on his frame. A shock of dirty blond hair topped a face that seemed to have a perpetual scowl and he intimidated everyone around him without even trying.

“Brightly VFD, sir,” Shaushka said, taking her hand off the hardwired handset. “They’re trying to realign a communications dish on the tower near the Carmanah Lake dam.”

“What?!” the supervisor yelled, drawing every eye in the room with his outburst. “None of them are authorized to do something like that, and I really don’t think any of them even have the technical expertise to even try to do it safely. Give me that phone.”

“But sir,” Shaushka protested, trying to gesture toward her screen. “If you would just have a look at my event log you’ll see that—”

“Just connect me,” Hemphill demanded, and with no other option Shaushka punched the saved number for her last call.

“Brightly VFD here,” Montcalm said over the line. Both he and the rest of his team were busy harnessing up Seeker and making sure she was safely attached to Ben before the two began their climb up the tower.

“What are you people playing at up there?” Hemphill exploded into the handset without preamble. “Not a single one of you is authorized BC Hydro personnel, and I’m ordering all of you to get off of BC Hydro property before I have the RCMP come there and arrest you for trespassing.”

“Who am I speaking with, please?” Montcalm asked in a deceptively calm voice. All the other members of the team stopped what they were doing when they heard the tone Montcalm was using. It was the tone he used when someone had just made a very, very bad mistake and he couldn’t rip a strip off the person at that moment.

“This is Watch Supervisor Hemphill,” Hemphill said, blustering into the phone. “Under the authority given to me by the BC Utilities Commission, I’m officially ordering you off the site, fireman.”

“Well, this is Fire Chief Montcalm. I also happen to be Mayor Montcalm,” Montcalm said into the satellite phone, “and my authority just happens to be a little higher on the totem pole. Now get off this line and put that tech back on who was actually being helpful.”

“You haven’t heard the last of this!” Hemphill all but screamed into the phone, furious.

“Oh yes, I have,” Montcalm said, a tight smile coming to his lips, “unless you intend to involve the mayor of every municipality in British Columbia.” The threat of involving the political might of the Union of BC Municipalities worked, and Hemphill handed the phone back to Shaushka with a wordless snarl and stalked off.

“Tech Shaushka here,” Shaushka said, trying to keep the laughter out of her voice. “Sorry about that, love. What more can I do for you?”

“We’re about to send someone up the tower to try to move the dish into place,” Montcalm said, feeling his blood pressure begin to climb back down. “Are you able to give us any feedback about whether we’re close or not.”

“Some,” Shaushka said, reorienting to her screen so she could see the readouts for the Carmanah Dam. “I can see what percentage of data packets are being received, but as I said before, I need at least fifty percent of the packets to make it before I can actually send any commands.”

“Understood,” Montcalm said, nodding even though he knew the tech couldn’t see him. “Do that for us then, and keep us updated as best you can. Also... do what you can to keep that supervisor of yours off the line.”

“Will do, sir,” Shaushka said, not bothering to hide her chuckle. “I’ll keep the line open but mute my end until I have something to tell you.”

“Sounds good,” Montcalm said. “Brightly VFD, out. For the moment.”

“Good on ya, mate,” Shaushka whispered, before pulling out her phone and dialing a number. There were good people out in the storm trying to do the right thing and her boss still might manage to get in their way, unless someone managed to get in his way instead.

“Newsroom, CKNW News 980,” a chipper, English accented voice said. “Wilcox speaking.”

“Hey, Wilcox. Still watering down your Guinness?” Shaushka asked mockingly. “Or have they got you drinking it from a can now?”

“Hey Shaushka!” Wilcox said happily, ignoring the barb as the playful jesting it was. “What’s up?”

“I’ve got a hell of a story brewing up right under my nose,” Shaushka said, shooting a glance over to make sure Hemphill was still in his office. “You ever hear of a town called Brightly, on the central coast?”

“Well, so much for that,” Montcalm said, as his team finished getting pony and person ready for their perilous climb. “You two ready to go?”

“Just about, sir,” Ben said, checking his tool belt one last time and leaning back slightly to deal with the weight of his companion. “How you doing, Seeker?”

“I’m okay,” the young pony said, a slight tremble in her voice. The firefighters had decided to take no chances with Seeker, wrapping her in a second safety harness they had cobbled together from bits of their own gear. Each harness was also attached to Ben with it’s own safety line, making sure that the pony couldn’t fall away from the firefighter. “Is Shield Maiden gonna be okay?”

“Kevin would have said something, if she wasn’t,” Montcalm said. “Can you still see the beam coming in?” The purple maned pony nodded her head not trusting her words.

“Ben,” Montcalm said, clapping the young man on the shoulder. “Take your time, do everything by the book. Always keep one line attached to the tower.”

“You bet,” Ben said, nodding as he looked up at the tower, eyes blinking as rain from the storm struck them, and carrying his burden, he made his way over to the shortened tower and clipped on his first safety line.

“Good luck you two,” Montcalm said. “The hydro tech said she’d let us know as soon as any of her readings started to change. I’ll call them out to you through your radio so you know how to adjust things.”

One step at a time the pair began to climb the tower. Ben made deliberate, slow work of the climb. He made sure every footing was secure before moving to the next, unclipping and moving only one safety line at a time, giving it a tug to make sure it was secure before moving on. It was a terribly slow climb, but as the pair rose higher into the air, the wisdom of a careful course became clear as the wind and rain began to tear at the duo. Seeker gave a small whimper and tried to bury her muzzle in Ben’s chest after one particularly strong gust made the entire tower sway on its rewelded moorings.

“Hey, it’s okay,” Ben said, pausing the climb so he could comfort his equine passenger and partner. “We’re doing fine. You’re doing great.”

“Th-thorry,” Seeker whimpered out through her lisp. “I’m not brave like the others.”

“Are you kidding?” Ben asked, letting surprise colour his voice. “You’re being braver than all the others.”

“You’re just saying that!” Seeker accused loudly. “You just making it up to try to make me feel better but I’m tho useless I can’t even talk right.”

“Hey, hey, hey,” Ben said, cupping the pony’s chin to look her in the eye and letting the safety lines take up their weight for the moment. “I meant it when I said you are braver than the others. You know why?”

“No,” Seeker said, sniffling a bit, her mane already plastered flat by the rain. “Why?”

“The other four, Iron Hoof, Shield Maiden, Darter and Skylark, all did big things, and they did them well,” Ben said, smiling as the raindrops rolled down his cheek. “But they did all those things while in their element. Think about it. Darter and Skylark are both pegasi, natural flyers, and they did their thing in the air.”

“Yah... tho?” Seeker asked, not realizing where Ben was headed yet in his train of thought.

“And Iron Hoof and Shield Maiden,” Ben continued, smiling now that he had Seeker’s full attention. “They both did their thing on the ground doing things they knew how to do. But here you are, a Power Pony without wings or magic, high up in the air doing something you aren’t sure how to do outside of your natural area. That makes you the bravest pony of them all.”

“You think tho?” Seeker asked, eyes going wide as she realized the truth of what Ben was saying. “And what about the way I talk?”

“Unless you intend to talk that dish into place, how you speak won’t make a difference,” Ben said, ruffling Seeker’s soggy mane a bit. “And yes, I really do think you are the bravest of the ponies. Take a look up for me. How much further do we have to go?”

“Um,” Seeker said, lifting her head to look straight up the tower and surprised at how much progress they had made while she had been climbing with Ben. “I think about another four or five meters.”

“Okay,” Ben said, mentally marking off about fifteen feet of tower. “Your harness still okay? Nothing slipping anywhere?” Seeker shook her head in the negative and the pair resumed their slow but steady climb up the triangular steel needle. At times they had to stop when the wind gusted or the rain was particularly fierce, but another five minutes found them at the microwave dish.

“Okay,” Ben said loudly over the wind that was an almost constant roar now. “You just hang on, while I undo the dish and bring it around.” Seeker just nodded and tried to hold in as much heat as she could from the wind and rain.

Ben had been well trained for working in the conditions they were in. He knew that undo haste could doom their effort through a simple mistake. So, even before he started working on the fasteners he put a line on the dish so it couldn’t blow away in the wind. As he worked, each nut and bolt was put away, every item that could fall was caught, protected and stowed away.

“Okay Seeker,” Ben said, as he began to pull the dish around to the correct face of the tower, “whereabouts is the beam. I need to know so I can stick the dish in it’s path.” Seeker looked up again and Ben saw the light in her heterochromatic eyes shift as her vision changed to see things no human could.

“I can see it,” Seeker said, and the marvel was in her voice again. “It’s tho sparkly. Oh, and it’s about a meter up from us.”

“Right,” Ben said, mustering everything together. He took a step, and then another, but when he went to take a third he was jerked short and only his sure and steady precautions kept Seeker and himself from falling.

“What happened?” Seeker asked, fear in her voice.

“Something stopped us, give me a second to see what’s going on,” Ben said, looking around and it didn’t take long for him to find the problem, causing him to growl in frustration. “Crap. The cable’s too short, it won’t go any further.”

“What are we gonna do?” Seeker asked, making a worried glance back up at their target. “We’re still about half a meter short.”

“All I can do is secure the dish as high as I can and hope it’s enough,” Ben said, and he began to bolt the dish into its new place. Seeker just lay in her harness against his chest, her eyes still shifted in that strange way.

“Tho pretty,” she murmured, looking at the sparkling lights streaming by and she could almost feel an answering tingle in her hooves.

“I’ll bet it is,” Ben said, pulling out his radio. “Hey boss, Ben here. The cable would only stretch so far, so I’ve put the dish up as high as I could. Is it enough?”

“Gotcha Ben,” Montcalm said back over the radio. “Give me a minute and I’ll find out.” Montcalm dropped his radio mike and pulled the satellite phone back out of its holder on his hip, wondering why the Hydro tech hadn't spoken up to him yet.

The past ten minutes or so for Shaushka had been very interesting. She’d passed the details about the situation in Brightly to her friend at the radio station. CKNW wasn’t just any radio station, it was one of the biggest names in the provincial news business, with a reputation for getting into the faces of those in power, and refusing to back off until tough questions got answered. Which was a good thing, because five minutes after she hung up with her old friend in the newsroom Hemphill was out of his office and at her station.

“I’m giving you a direct order,” Hemphill said, looming over her. “Shut down that transmission stream right now. Those people might mean well, but they aren’t authorized personnel and they are likely doing millions of dollars of damage to our facility.”

“But sir…” Shaushka tried to protest, and just as Hemphill opened his mouth to interrupt her another voice interrupted them both.

“HEMPHILL!” roared a voice from the entrance to the facility. Everyone turned to see the short, rain drenched figure of the facilities manager. Tara Singh Sahota was an Indo-Canadian who packed a million volts of energy into her diminutive frame, and at that moment everyone in the room could see that power crackling around her as barely restrained fury.

“Manager Sahota,” Hemphill said, deferentailly trying to deflect the anger his boss was directing towards him. “I was just having to—”

“Shut it,” Sahota said, the wet soles of her sensible flats making squeaking sounds as she crossed the tiled floor. “We’re going to my office right now and you’re going to explain to me why for the past several minutes I’ve had reporters on my case about interference in an emergency situation.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Hemphill said, deflating.

“As for you, Technician,” Sahota said, spearing Shaushka with a gaze that made her sit up straighter in her chair. “You are to render every possible assistance to the Brightly Fire Department, understood?”

“Yes Ma’am,” Shaushka said, making the only possible response.

“Let’s go, Hemphill,” Sahota said, walking off with the big man trailing in her wake. “Tech Shaushka,” she called back, “you might want to check your status board.” Shaushka spun in her chair in time to see the number under “Packets Received” climb from zero to ten percent.

“Hello, Chief Montcalm?” Shaushka asked through her headset. “Are you there?”

“Just about to call you,” Montcalm’s voice came through over the wind and rain on his end. “Any change in the readings?”

“Yes sir,” Shaushka said, studying the numbers. “Up to ten, make that twelve percent reception. Tell your man he’s on the right track.”

“Bit of a problem with that,” Montcalm responded. “The cable won’t reach any further, anything you can do on your end?”

“Let me see,” Shaushka said, her fingers flying over her keyboard, searching through command trees and checking sub menus for the option she was seeking. “Okay, I can up the transmission power a bit. That should make the beam wider. Damn.”

“No joy?” Montcalm asked, knowing the answer.

“Topped out at twenty-one percent,” the tech said, her sigh of frustration audible through the phone. “Anything you can do to move the dish even a few inches further into the beam path could make the difference.”

“Right, stand by,” Montcalm said, leaving the phone on but putting it back in its carrier, before picking his radio mike back up. “Ben, any chance you can move the dish even a little bit?” Up on the tower, Ben and Seeker looked at each other and then at the dish.

“Do what we can, sir,” Ben replied, before releasing his mike key.

“What are you gonna do?” Seeker asked him, shivering a bit from the rain as it took its toll on her body’s warmth.

“The only thing I can, “ Ben said, unfastening the bolts he had secured only a minute ago. “I’ll hold the dish up as high as I can instead of bolting it in place. That should give us a few more inches. I guess.”

“How are you gonna hang on to the tower?” Seeker asked, her eyes still locked on the beam, the tingling feeling in her hooves had grown stronger in the past minute.

“I’m not,” Ben admitted. “I’ll have to let my safety lines hold me. If’ it’s okay, I’d like to hook up your safety lines to the tower, just in case I slip.”

“Okay,” Seeker said, still a little dazzled by the light show. Having been given permission, Ben unhooked the small pony from himself and connected her to the tower. Then once he made sure Seeker’s hooves had purchase on the structure of the tower itself, he finished unfastening the receiving dish and lifted it as high as the cable would allow with both his hands .

“24... 26... 27 percent,” Shaushka’s voice chanted out through the radios of all the firefighters.

“Tho pretty,” Seeker said under her breath, and without looking, the young pony began to climb the tower in an apparent daze.

“Seeker!” Ben called out, alarmed but unable to do anything with both of his hands occupied holding the dish.

Seeker? Shaushka thought, hearing the shout through the open mikes everyone had at that moment. Wonder what that radio call means.

Slowly the young pony climbed the tower, oblivious now to the great height she was at. Seeker now only had eyes for the glowing beam of light into whose path she slowly moved. Several hundred miles away, a reading began to change.

“28 percent... 29,” Shaushka called into the mike, every tech in the room had abandoned their stations to watch the unfolding drama. “30 percent, whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.”

“Seeker!” Ben called again, hearing the distant tech. “You’re doing it!”

“Tho beautiful,” Seeker said, and now she could feel the pressure of the beam directly on her fur, as if it was a real physical thing. The tingling in her hooves grew to an itch, and as Ben watched in amazement they began to come to light, as sparkling lights of every colour began to dance over them.

Seeker only knew that she was wrapped in light and beauty, and it filled her with its warmth. Then, she remembered that her town, and her new friend just below, needed those sparkling warm lights to go to a certain spot. Moving her hooves with gentle motions, the red and purple pony made a few firm motions and pushed the beam she was being bathed in downwards.

“33 percent... 35... 38... 41,” Shaushka chanted out, excitement building in her and the room around her.

“C’mon kid,” Montcalm whispered. “One more miracle, that’s all I ask.”

“43... 45... rate slowing now,” Shaushka said, hand hovering over her mouse to send the commands to the dam. Every tech in the office was now holding their collective breath, Hemphill and Sahota also watching from the entrance to the facility manager's office.

“You can do it, Seeker!” Darter yelled out, trying to scramble out of the rescue vehicle to come to the aid of his friend.

“Oh no, you don’t,” Banta said, grabbing Darter by his harness and pulling the squirming pegasus back from the doorway of the vehicle. “Calm... down. Don’t make me... oof... restrain you.”

“Keep going,” Seeker said, her eyes showing her that the beam was listening to her, and bending to where her friends needed it as her hooves continued to work their magic.

“47... 49... 52 percent!” Shaushka yelled out, not caring that she was deafening everyone who could hear her. “Data link established! Sending commands!” She hammered down the mouse button with a force that threatened the life of the small instrument.

Fractions of a second later the Carmanah Dam sprung to life. Floodlights came on, highlighting the floodgate area, while warning sirens whooped and an automated voice warned everyone to stand clear of dam operations. Three times the warning sounded, before a series of loud clanks and clunks sounded from deep within the bones of the dam itself, and at long last the floodgate rose.

“Brightly VFD,” Shaushka called, over the sound of thunderous cheers from the gathered techs around her. “I am reading a fully closed floodgate here. Can you confirm?”

“Confirmed!” Montcalm yelled joyfully back. “Confirm full spillway closure.”

“Well done, sir,” Shaushka said. “You folks can just leave everything there. We’ll have a team up your way to deal with the dam as soon as the weather clears.”

“Roger that, BC Hydro Control,” Montcalm said. “You ever come up this way, there’s a lot of people who would like to shake your hand.”

“You and your people did all the work, love,” Shaushka said, with a wide smile. “BC Hydro Control, clear.”

“Brightly VFD, clear,” Montcalm said, a smile plastered to his face as he grabbed his radio mike. “Ben. You and Seeker did it. Come on down.”

“You bet, Boss,” Ben said, clipping the line he had put on the dish to the tower so it wouldn’t fall and hurt someone. “We’ll be down as soon as... Holy Crap!”

Yet again that night another pony was covered in radiant light as Seeker was enveloped in a brilliant ball of energy. Totally blinded by his ring-side seat, Ben Thompson could only hang on and hide his eyes from the light. Energy swirled and gathered around the young pony, warming her, comforting her as the Equestrian magic the Tantabus had gifted to her burst forth in herald of a pony finding something she was born to do, even as it marked her as its own.

After some unknowable time the light faded and the pony hung limply from the safety lines that kept her attached to the tower. Blinking to clear his vision Ben moved quickly to secure Seeker back to his harness, and pull the semi-conscious pony back against his chest. As he did he took note of the pattern that had appeared on Seeker’s hip. That of a beam of light, entering a prism, bending, and coming out as a rainbow of colours.

“Hey Seeker, you okay?” Ben asked, starting to make his way down the tower.

“Five more minutes, Mom,” Seeker mumbled, clearly not tracking fully. Ben chuckled a little as Seeker snuggled up against his chest a little closer. A few minutes later they were back on the ground being surrounded by the cheering members of the rest of their team.

“Well done, everyone,” Montcalm said, smiling but still focused. “Get yourselves home, keep your radios on just in case there is some localized flooding we have to deal with, but get home, get dry, get some food in you and get some sleep if you can. Barring any problems, and Shield Maiden being okay, I want everyone and... everypony to meet me tomorrow at the firehall at 5pm for a debrief.”

Author's Note:

And so, we come to the end of the first section of Brightly Lit. Our young ponies have endured their first trial and have come out as heroes with two of them earning their cutie marks. What is next in store for the Furred Five? What of the two mothers, back home, dealing with their own transformation? What exactly has happened to the Anglican priest and his wife, and how will their own change affect the small community they are a part of?

So many questions to answer. I'll keep typing as fast as I can.

Support me if you can on Patreon for as little as a dollar a month. Patreon is probably one of the best things ever for keeping word Sherpas like me in coffee and working keyboards.

A big shout out to the ongoing support through Patreon by:

Canary in the Coal Mine,

PreviousChapters Next