• Published 7th Oct 2017
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A Change of Dimensions - DarkArtificer


What happens when a routine mission becomes not so routine? How easy is it to adapt.

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Revelations and Contact

Chapter 1 - Revelation and Contact

In the darkness, a single being floated. It was a strange being, having an ever-changing vessel. Its flesh flowed and shifted like a fluid. Its face was adorned with a single eye, glowing bright white and eternally expanding and collapsing. Encasing it was a seemingly endless blackness, a void of nearly everything.

Far in the distance, a brightly lit ring circled the blackness. It was mostly yellow, with streaks of red, blue, orange, and white. Small streams flowed from the ring into the being's eye.

Suddenly, it turned and saw a speck against the sea of orange and red. Its white eye shifted, black particles emerging. Then, the sole speck was three. One version spiraled into the being, ceasing existence. The second was torn apart and became an addition to the sea of fire. The third left, flying away at immense speed to never be seen again by the entity.

That won't do. Hmm, that'll work. Interesting, least. The being smiled as much it could without a mouth. Reaching up, it gripped its face and pulled a black energy from it.

Fifth. Possibilities. Works nicely.

The energy streamed out into the speck. Instantaneously, the three separate versions merged together and began spiraling toward the being. Then it stopped and began moving away. Soon, it was gone.

Time to move. Heh, time.

The mass of black and ring of fire began to slowly drift through space, following the speck.

Space. The being perceived in amusement.
(A.R.V. Quasar- 25 minutes earlier)



A man lie sleeping in a pod. Encasing him was a viscous green gel that seemed to slightly restrict him. Over it was a clear sheet, protecting him and the gel.

The man was tall, over six feet in height and layered in muscle. His skin was light, yet tanned. His face was of early age and held a simple beard. That as well as his hair was stark white.

A bipedal machine, whose body slightly mimicked the man's, entered the room and tapped several buttons on the pod.

"Date Override Authorized."

The pod opened and the machine quickly pulled the sheet away. Moments after, the man sat up, the gel sliding off into the pod. After regaining his bearings, he spoke. "Vector, what's our position?"

"Sir, a gravity well is interfering with our systems and pulling us in."

The man, Kyle, blinked in confusion. "Gravity well..?"

Then he leaped up and sprinted from the room, nearly collapsing. "Black hole!"

Vector kept pace with the uncoordinated man easily as they entered the bridge. "Yes Sir, an emergency signal woke me from stasis moments ago."

When the man sat down, a small shudder moved the android. "Did you experience that, Sir?"

Kyle shook his head as he began diverting power to the engines. Vector hummed and began taking measurements of various energies. The data, however, did not make sense. The sheer amount and type of energy should have completely vaporized the ship, yet didn't.

Then, he watched as a black mist entered the wall and flowed into the human. He attempted to speak only for his audio circuits to refuse to activate. Then, Kyle asked him a question. "Relative location?"

"Well within the sphere of dilation, otherwise unknown." Vector answered, having forgotten the black energy.

"Shit!" Kyle cursed, then pushed a lever forward. The machine noticed the gravity lessen as they exited the gravitational field of the black hole.

"Vector, how long were we within the dilation sphere?"

Checking the ship's computers, Vector replied. "Roughly 34 E years."

"What! Why didn't the systems wake us up before now?"

"Inconclusive. The readings show that the well wasn't detected until fifteen E minutes ago, but that isn't possible. It would mean we were here for 34 years before the system noticed."

Kyle was silent for a moment before he spoke. "Dilation factor?"

Vector was silent- not a good sign, then he answered. "It seems we were within the Horizon yet had sufficient speed to escape."

Kyle paled. "By God, the dilation is bad enough nearby, but what about within? Vector, dilation factor."

"70,588,235.3 to 1."

Kyle took a shaky breath. "Meaning?"

"Kyle, I'm sorry. I know-"

Kyle punched the console. "Meaning!"

"Roughly 2.4 billion years have passed since the Anomaly Research Vessel Quasar entered the Event Horizon."

Kyle buried his face in his arms and didn't reply. Vector stood silently, patiently waiting for a question or command. Without a word, Kyle stood up and walked over to the comms system.

"Computer, how many messages received?"

"2,136 general messages, 173 beta emergency messages, and 3 alpha emergency messages."

"Play alpha emergency messages. Start from earliest time."

The computer lit up and a date was shown. April 17th, 2245. Then the message began.

A man appeared on screen. He was familiar in the way that no one knows him but he looks familiar. Brown hair, blue eyes, and light beard made him unremarkable.

"Kyle Williams, our sensors indicate your ship has been steadily heading toward Gravity Well 277-31 for the past two weeks. Have you detected an anomaly? Respond."

The message ended and the next began. August 4th, 2531.

"Unidentified vessel, report. What is your name and identification? Where are you from?" No face accompanied this message, but it repeated several times.

Then the third began. January 1st, 3743.

"This is a general message to all receiving ships. A spatial shift is imminent. Repeat, spatial shift is imminent."

The computer fell silent and Kyle heard Vector speak. "A spatial shift is when the energies of the universe snaps like a fiber, completely wiping the universe clean. It is theorized, now proven, that black holes remain unaffected due to their gravity."

"I know, Vector."

Kyle's mind wandered, remembering everything he could about Earth, Luna, and Mars as well as the other planets and systems. Then, he focused. "Vector, would you be able to search for life signals? If this is technically a new universe, there may be life."

"Already ahead of you. I've linked up with various sensors and began scouring the galaxy for any signs of hydrocarbons or bio-emissions."

Kyle nodded. "While you do that, I'll check our supplies."

(A.R.V. Quasar - Third Person PoV)

Kyle entered the cold storage, where food and other perishables were stored to prevent decay. He may have told Vector he was checking supplies, but that was half an hour ago. He had spent that time wisely- moping in his room.

He knew he really did need to check the supplies, though. He forced himself to push thoughts of family and humanity to the back and focused on the task at hand.

Canned goods, various packaged meats, dehydrated foods, and literal hundreds of MREs. The station can afford sending people across the galaxy yet stock us with grocery store food. Tapping a console that was set inside the wall near the door, a large scrolling list appeared. It listed everything in the store room, the top being closest to expiring. Above the list, a message glowed.

Current supplies will last current crew roughly 22 years, 7 months, 8 days provided three meals a day.

Two decades worth of food was good; it gave him plenty of time to locate a suitable planet. Granted, if needed, I could deep-sleep and let Vector find a planet. The solar cells would keep him and the ship powered.

Walking down the hall, Kyle passed several doors, each leading to a different storage facility. The Quasar, being a research vessel, was separated into a few sections. Engineering held the engines and various other systems, Research and Medical held, as the name suggests, all medical and research equipment, even some samples, and finally, Residence held the spaces.

Storage was a series of rooms that contained practically everything he needed and plenty he didn't. Finally, Command was essentially the bridge, where everything was controlled and accessed.

The ship itself was structured like a ring. R M, Storage, Residence, and Engineering were linked in a circular ring by a series of covered bridges. Command sat slightly raised in the center as a large circular room.

Stopping outside the last door on the exterior side, he read the sign.

Armory.

When space travel became as easy as air travel, ships weren't equipped with armories. After all, when the ship is millions of miles away from a inhabited planet, weapons see no use. However, after a few decades, criminal organizations realized how easy it would be to raid an unarmed transport or research ship and escape into the stars. Within a couple months, interstellar pirates were a very real threat.

Now, not only do ships have an armory, they generally have weapon systems as well. The Quasar, however, was an older design even before the Gravity Well. While equipped with an armory and even a little reinforcing, it has no weapons.

Entering the room, Kyle smiled at the various guns, old and new. Not new anymore.

His eyes roamed the room, spotting both ballistic and energy weapons. He never did like energy guns- they were ineffective to him. They killed by mostly burning the target, unlike ballistic rounds, which penetrated.

He saw old classics such as the M24A3 and even an old, obsolete M1 Grand. That should be in a damn museum. Probably doesn't even work, still.

Kyle's eyes were drawn to a set of weapons and a suit of armor across the room and smiled. They were his old military gear. He used to be a member of special forces during World War III. Once it ended, Kyle signed up for SpaceX's Anomaly Research Program, hopped in a ship, and never returned to Earth.

His pistol was a small semiautomatic compact CZ-17. It fired 9mm rounds, with a 15 round clip. He also had a ballistic LMG, nicknamed Ripper, that fired an astonishing 60,000 rounds a minute, with a belt clip of 2,000.

Finally, his favorite weapon was his energy sniper. It was the only exception to his dislike of energy-based weaponry, simply due to the energy being so focused that a shot will disintegrate the surrounding tissue and bone. It's scope had sensors for infrared, ultraviolet, biometric, and visual spectrums. It was named God's Eye, and was the only one of its kind, being an experimental prototype.

Might not be a one-of-a-kind anymore. Or, at least, before the spatial shift.

The armor, however, was nothing too special. It was an airtight Exosuit that would completely encase the wearer and regulate internal conditions. Anything from a mile underwater to inside a volcano, but not in lava, is survivable, albeit uncomfortable. It was also equipped with countless sensors and indicators.

Giving one last look to God's Eye,he left the room and began heading to Command. Fifteen minutes later, he watched the door slide open and entered to see Vector tapping at a console. When he was close, the Synthetic looked up and spoke. "Three possible planets have been found with signs of active biology."

"Possible planets?" Kyle questioned.

"One is, without a doubt, a planet. Another may be a moon orbiting a larger body, and the third is a proto-planet orbiting a star which orbits a Gravity Well."

Kyle nodded, the options promising, but didn't want to be near another Gravity Well. "Of the three, which is most promising?"

"The proto-planet. It has the highest signs."

"Anything else, Vector?" Kyle said.

"Sir, the planet, its much more interesting. I believe it would benefit you to visit it."

"Why is that?"

"Because I am receiving an utterly massive amount of anomalous data." Vector answered.

"Vector, humanity is dead. There is no point to continue resear-"

"Sir, the planet's host star is orbiting the planet, completely reversed of accepted orbits. It also seems to be sustained, somehow."

Kyle paused and thought. "Very well, Vector, set course for the planet. I'll be in a deep-sleep."

"Yes sir, we'll arrive in 3 E years."

(A.R.V. Quasar - System Anomaly - Three Years Later)

Kyle approached the front of the Command room. "Computer, depolarize front shielding."

"Depolarizing."

The front of the room cleared and became transparent. In the distance was a planet, star, and moon. Very little of the surface could be made out. Vector approached him and stood by his side. "Sir, my data has confirmed the star orbits the planet."

Kyle stared at the star and frowned thoughtfully. "Something isn't right, then. Maybe a new force, or energy, but the shift created something that wasn't here before. Anything else?"

'Yes sir. There are 12 distinct energy signatures, with dozens others." Vector answered.

"What kind of energy?' Kyle asked.

"The same energy that is causing the star to orbit Anomaly." Vector said, referring to the planet.

"What's the largest concentration of energy?" Kyle asked.

"There are three rather equal ones. Two are localized energies, while the third seems to be focused. The two are in the center continent, one under a mountain and another in a forest, and the third is far up north, in the Arctic Circle."

"Touch us down in the Circle." Kyle ordered.

"Underway. Sir, you do realize there may be a first contact situation, correct?" Vector asked.

"I'm very much aware. Keep in mind, 'first contact' implies two species, not one species and one person and a Synthetic. Polarize front shielding."

"Polarizing."

The wall became opaque again and strange system disappeared out of sight, but not out of mind.

(A.R.V Quasar - Planet Anomaly [Northern Arctic Circle] - Three Hours Later)

Kyle stood on the bridge as the ship touched down. It had taken Vector some work, but the Synthetic had found a flat plane large enough to hold the Quasar.

"Depolarize front shielding."

"Depolarizing." The front became transparent again, yet Kyle still saw nothing except snow, not even the outer ring of the ship. "Seems an intense blizzard is underway."

Vector nodded. "Yes sir, the external sensors indicate it is currently 7 degrees Celsius, or 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Wind speed is roughly 43 kilometers, or 26 miles, per hour."

Kyle grunted. "I'll suit up, then. While I do that, I want you to read the atmosphere for any trace gasses. I have no desire to be poisoned."

"Sir, I recommend you equip your old armor and weapons. We have no indication of the life, if any, that exists on this planet." Vector said.

Kyle thought about it for a moment, them conceded the Synthetic's point. "Very well. I'll be back in a few."

Kyle made his way to Storage and quickly entered the armory. He walked over to the Exosuit and grabbed the right arm, tapping the console and disengaging the magnetic clamps. The front of the suit opened up and he stepped into it, then smiled at the long-familiar feeling of the suit closing.

Inside the suit was pitch black as it was off. Then, the helmet lit up and several messages appeared, then faded before one more appeared, staying longer, then faded.

All systems operational.

Then, he felt the suit's weight disappear as it used a microscopic needle to attach to his nervous system at the base of his skull.

Next, a map, compass, clock, biograph, and ammo counter appeared in the corners. The map and clock were empty as both were unknown, and the biograph showed him uninjured and healthy. The ammo counters read empty as well, due to no guns being linked.

He reached down to the small of his back, smiling at the familiar light whirring of the hydraulics, and detached the charging cord, seeing a battery icon reading 100% appear. He stepped forward, admiring the extra five inches of height he gained, making him 6'7".

Walking over to the table holding his guns, he picked up the CZ-17. Activating and interface on the side, before entering 45 into the ammo counter. Slipping a clip in and grabbing two more, he magnetically attached the pistol to his hip, then placed the extra clips in a slot.

LMG or sniper? Looking at the remaining weapons, he smiled. Fuck it, both.

Grabbing God's Eye, he folded the barrel and stock, then slipped an energy cell in. Grabbing another one, he repeated the process, placing this one on his lower back, and entered 30 into his counter. Finallly, grabbing Ripper, he loaded it and placed it at an angle on his upper back, above God's Eye. Grabbing another box, he contemplated it. Shrugging, he placed it on his hip, across from the pistol, and felt it attach. He entered 4,000 into the counter.

CZ-17 - 45.

Ripper - 4,000.

God's Eye - 30.

Exiting the armory, he returned to Command. When he entered, he saw Vector staring out the front panel. "What are you looking at?"

"First, the equipment analyzed the atmosphere; its near identical to Earth. Nothing in the air is poisonous."

"That's good. Next?" Kylr questioned.

"The systems have picked up five life signatures approaching us from the front. I analyzed them, and they are quadruped and seemed to have metal on them."

"Metal?"

"Steel coated in a thin layer of gold and also some form of hard, dense crystal." Vector answered.

"So there is almost guaranteed to be an intelligent species here since steel doesn't form naturally, and gold doesn't usually coat it."

"Exactly. I haven't gotten sight of them yet, though. The blizzard is too thick."

"Mayhaps I should go meet them." Kyle said with a hidden smile.

"Perhaps. Instead, you should check on Leg RM-S. I felt it slip when we landed, although no warnings appeared." Vector replied.

"Got it. Radio me any additional information, as well as when they get near. I don't want to be caught with my pants down if they turn out to be hostile."

"Understood, sir." Vector said.

Walking to one of the three doors out of the circular room, he headed to Bridge RM-S. The letters simply designated it was the bridge connecting Research and Medical to Storage. Leg RM-S was underneath the bridge.

In the center of the bridge, he opened a door plainly labeled Exterior Lift. He stepped in and tapped the down button and the lift began to lower. Within minutes, it stopped and the door opened, letting in the blizzard. Stepping into the snow, Kyle approached the leg as the doors closed behind him.

Instantly, he saw what caused it to slip. The leg had touched down on the edge of a chunk of ice. It broke off, causing the leg to slide and land on the actual ground, resulting in a near-unnoticable jolt.

"Vector, this is Kyle, the leg is fine. It landed on a chunk of ice that broke off. No damaged was sustained." Kyle said over the radio.

"Understood. Get ready, the signatures are less than a kilometer from your position and closing slowly." Vector advised.

"Thanks for the heads-up. Keep on the comm so you can pick up what happens."

Within a half hour, Kyle noticed five shapes appear in the blizzard. Vector was right, as each was quadruped. Switching his HUD to biometric, he got a good look at them.

They each resembled a small horse, or pony, with hooves, manes, tails, and general body shape. That's where similarities ended. Three had a pair of wings, while two had horns. Each had a pair of large eyes, larger than normal. He couldn't see colors or metals with biometric, so he switched to visible.

They did have a set of armor, three wore the gold-plate steel while two wore crystal. Each had a sword and shield, marking them as sentient. They seemed to be staring in awe at both him, and what little of the ship they could see.

"It appears they are intelligent. Their weapons and armor should pose no threat to you, but beware. The horns bring to mind ancient myths of Unicorns, who could wield magic." Vector said.

"I recognise them alright. Maybe magic is the anomalous energy." Kyle said with a slight tone of amusement.

"It's possible."

Kyle's tone faded when one Unicorn stepped forward and shouted over the blizzard. "Who and what are you? Why are you hear?"

Tapping his index finger and thumb together, his audio system switched to external speakers. Due to the need of stealth, Exosuits were equipped with a system that allowed the wearer to switch from the external speakers to radio communication. The switch was quickly made by tapping the index finger and thumb together twice.

"My name is Kyle Williams, and I am an explorer. I came here because I haven't been here before." Not a lie, but not entirely truthful, either.

The Unicorn, now identified as probably male, replied. "I recommend leaving, Kyle. With the Tyrant King Sombra and his army out and about, its not safe."

"Tyrant King, eh? How about you tell me about him, and I may help." Kyle called out.

"Are you sure you want to take that irrevocable step?" Vector asked.

Not bothering to switch modes, he just whispered. "Might as well. If I stay here, I don't plan to keep secrets."

"Very well."

"I'd be happy to, any help is better than none. Do you have a place out of the storm?" He asked.

"Yes, follow me." Kyle said. He led the way to the lift and entered, followed by the five, for lack of a true term, ponies. Out of the snow, he got a good look at them. Three of them had white coats, while two had seemingly purple crystal coats and sparkling manes.

"My name is Shining Armor, and I have to ask; is this small room it?"

Smirking under his helmet at the Unicorn, he tapped the up button. The doors slip closed and the lift began rising, startling the ponies.

"What is this?" Shining demanded.

"Its an elevator. Think of it like a moving door."

They nodded, obviously still confused, and the doors opened again. Exiting, he led the way to Residence, followed by the ponies. Soon, he entered the main room and sat down. He saw the ponies take seats as well and smiled at their looks. They had only seen a hallway and a living room, yet were already amazed. It made him realize that their technological knowledge was probably low.

"So, this King Sombra?"

Shining snapped back to the present and began speaking. "Right, the story starts 1,000 years ago. King Sombra was a dark Unicorn who began learning dark magic."

"Called it." Vector said over radio.

"However, the magic corrupted him and he murdered the royal family of the Crystal Empire and enslaved everypony."

Pony. So I was right.

"After a couple decades, our Princesses, Celestia and Luna, fought and banished Sombra, turning him into a literal shadow of his former self. In spite, he cursed the Empire, making it disappear. It returned recently, but so did Sombra and his army."

Kyle nodded, absorbing the information. "Who's your Princess now? Or Queen?"

"Equestria has never had a King or Queen. As for our Princesses, its still Celestia and Luna, along with my wife, Cadence." Kyle became immediately alert when he spoke all three names with near unnoticeable spite.

"They're over a millennia old?" He asked.

"Yeah, they're immortal. Some say they'll never die, but I'm sure there's a way." Shining said.

When his fellow ponies stared at him, he spoke up defensively. "Because why else would they want personal guards protecting them?"

They nodded, and Kyle spoke. "Alright. I'll help."

Kyle noticed a slight frown appear for a second, then vanish. "Great! We need all the help we can get! Know how to use a sword?"

"Nah, I've got guns." Kyle said.

"Guns?"

"Really advanced crossbows." Shining nodded, but Kyle noticed another frown. Tapping his fingers together twice, he spoke.

"Vector, think he's a traitor or am I crazy?" Kyle asked.

"I see it, too. Speaking his leaders', and wife's, name in spite, mentioning killing them, and even seeming disappointed you want to help. Its suspicious, at least."

"Right, if I'm gonna help this Empire, I'll have to keep an eye on him." Kyle said, then clicked his fingers together.

"Ready?" He asked Shining.

"Yeah, let's go. I'll introduce you to the Princesses, and they'll decide the best place for you to be." He said.

They exited the room, then the ship. Once they were off the lift, it retracted and Vector sealed all entrances, at Kyle's orders. Once they were far enough away, the ship lifted off and entered a low orbit.

The group of five ponies and human walked through the intense blizzard, the ponies shivering sporadically. Kyle, though, didn't notice the cold due to his Exosuit's thermal regulators. He increased external volume and spoke. "So what can you tell me about the Princesses?"

Shining was silent for a moment, then answered. "Princess Celestia is a Diarch of Equestria, and is known as the Solar Alicorn. She raises the sun every morning and lowers it every night."

"I guess that is what causes the sun to orbit the planet, if its true." Vector said.

"And an Alicorn is?" Kyle asked.

"Alicorns are a mixture of Unicorns, who use magic, Pegasi, who fly and control the weather, and Earth ponies, who farm the land. They are the most powerful of all species, having flight, magic, and strength."

"Anyway, Princess Luna is the other half of the Equestrian Diarchy, being sister of Celestia. She is the Lunar Alicorn, raises and lowering the moon and controlling the stars."

"Likely an illusion, or not the true stars. This system is the only one with the anomalous energy within range." Vector commented.

"Finally, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, or Cadence, is the youngest Alicorn. She is niece to Celestia, although adopted, and is known as the Love Alicorn, being able to inspire and reinforce existing love, but not creating it."

"And she's your wife." Kyle stated.

"Yep." Shining said, before whispering. "But not for much longer."

Kyle only heard due to his suit, and judging by the others' reactions, or lack thereof, the others didn't hear. His attention immediately went on red alert and he made note to keep him away from the Princesses. He would prefer warning them, but knew they wouldn't believe him.

Still, he's pretty fucking stupid for being so obvious about it.

They spent the next hour traveling through the snow. Soon, Vector contact him over the radio. "Sir, you are approaching the focused anomalous energy our sensor picked up. Now that we're closer, it seems to be some kind of shield."

"Understood." He said, before switching back to external audio.

"So how have you been keeping King Sombra out? A wall?" Kyle asked, feigning obliviousness.

"No, a shield, actually. The Princesses are keeping up a large magical shield around the entire empire."

Kyle nodded and began searching the blizzard with various spectrums, spotting nothing out of the ordinary. No enemies, no shadow Unicorns, and no godly Alicorns. Suddenly, a large wall of black energy appeared before him, heading up out of sight. Switching from ultraviolet to visible spectrums, it changed to a mixture of teal, gold, and blue. It was opaque, so he couldn't see through.

The other ponies walked straight through the shield without a single problem, but when Kyle attempted to press his hand through it, it acted as a wall. Shining saw and spoke up. "I'll let the Princesses know you're here."

Shining walked through and Vector spoke up. "He purposely left you alone."

Tapping his fingers together, he spoke. "I know. My guess is I'm either going to be attacked, or they'll try to convince me to join them. I swear, if I'm right, they are textbook villains." Kyle said, pulling Ripper off his back and resting it in his arms. He began an audio recording.

Kyle waited in silence for a time before he heard a raspy, commanding voice. "Why do you choose to fight for the weak slaves?"

He tapped his fingers. "Fucking called it. Look, Sombrero, I don't like slavery, and I don't really agree with the whole 'mastering the power of darkness' thing you have going."

"Neither did Shining Armor. But a demonstration of my power quickly changed his mind. He had grown tired by being out-shined by the Princesses and Elements of Harmony, and chose to join me, to slay them once for all. Join me, and you'll have infinite power."

"You'll have to tell them, Kyle." Vector said.

Instead of replying, he sent a copy of the audio file he just recorded. "Smart." Vector replied.

"Look, I know how this shit works. I'll join you, we'll win and rule the world together, then you kill me. Besides, I already have technology far beyond what you ponies have. That's power enough for me. Now, fuck off."

The voice hissed darkly and he saw a shadowy shape fade into the blizzard. Soon after, he heard hooves against snow and turned. Standing in front of the barrier were three, Kyle presumed, Alicorns. Stepping forward to meet them, he placed a hand over his chest and performed a small head bow.

"I am Kyle Williams, an explorer. I've heard of your plight and come here to offer my help."

They looked to each other before the tallest one spoke. "Come, we'll discuss more inside."

The four walked through the barrier and the snow instantly changed to grass, the sun shining. He turned to the ponies and got a good look at them. One, the same that spoke, had a multicolor mane and tail that flowed. Her coat was white, and she wore golden regalia. She had a mark on her flank of a sun.

The two next to her were completely different. The first was slightly shorter and had a mane and tail that seemed ethereal, sparkling like the night sky. Her coat was dark blue with blue regalia. Her mark was a crescent moon set against a representation of the night sky. The final was even shorter, with another multicolor mane, this one not flowing. Her coat was pink and her mark was a heart made of a blue crystal.

"I am Princess Celestia, Diarch of Equestria." The tall white one said.

"And I, Luna, Diarch of Equestria." Said the blue one.

"And I'm Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, but I'd much rather be called Cadence."

Kyle looked around quickly and asked, "Is Shining Armor here?"

"My husband? No, he's still at the castle. Why?" Cadence asked.

"This will be hard to hear, and you'll be inclined to disbelieve me, but you need to know. He's a traitor." Kyle said.

"What! How could you ever accuse my hus-" Cadence began to yell, before being silenced by Celestia's wing.

"Let him speak, at least." She said.

Kyle nodded in thanks and began explaining. Once he was done, they were silent, and he added something. "Plus, I have an audio recording of King Sombra confirming it."

"Why were you speaking with the tyrant in the first place?" Princess Luna asked suspiciously.

"When Shining Armor left me outside the shield, he tried to get me to join him. I recorded the conversation." Kyle explained.

"Then let us here it." Cadence said, beginning to lose her earlier vigor.

Tapping his forearm interface, he began playing the file, starting with Sombra asking him why Kyle sided with the ponies, up to him admitting Shining was a traitor.

Cadence began to cry, making him feel slightly guilty, and Luna began to comfort her. Celestia spoke up, after a few moments. "This is horrible news, but I'm glad you chose to tell us. When we return to the castle, I will have a guard show you to your room. In the morning, they'll bring you to breakfast and we'll discuss your role here."

"Sounds good to me, your majesty."

The four began walking back to the castle in silence, with the exception of Cadence's quiet sobs, making him feel more horrible. He tapped his fingers together and spoke. "I'll be happy once this Sombra shit is over. Been here an hour and already made a Princess cry."

"Must be a new record, sir." Vector replied.

"Your sarcasm is not appreciated." Kyle said.

Within half an hour, they reached the castle. It was made entirely of crystal and was adorned with several spires. The color was primarily pink, with several highlights and small deviations. Balconies jutted from windows over the upper floors, obviously guest rooms.

When they neared the front door, two guards opened the door and they entered into the castle foyer. There, the Princesses hailed a guard, then separated, heading upstairs. The guard approached him and spoke. "I've been asked to escort you to one of the guest rooms. If you'll follow me?"

"Lead the way." Kyle said simply.

They began walking toward the stairs and Kyle took the opportunity to ask a couple questions. "So what's the situation with King Sombra and the shield?"

"Well, we have all three Princesses here as well as Princess Celestia's student powering the shield, and all six bearers of the Elements of Harmony. We have a couple hundred Crystal Guards and two dozen Royal Guards, but the enemy's army numbers around a thousand, all beings made of dark magic. Of course, there's Sombra himself."

Kyle nodded. "Who and what are the elements?"

"Well, the elements themselves are six magical artifacts that protect Equestria from threats such as Discord. The elements are Honesty, Kindness, Laughter, Loyalty, Generosity, and Magic. The bearers are the six ponies who represent the elements, and wield them. They are, respectively, Applejack, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Twilight Sparkle, who is Princess Celestia's protégé."

"Thank you." Kyle said.

The guard glanced at him, then spoke again. "Since you asked a couple questions, would you mind if I asked some?"

Kyle shook his head, smiling. "Not at all. Ask away."

"Well, no offence, but what are you?"

"I'm a human. Pretty sure I'm the last of my kind, so I decided to explore the world and see where life takes me." Not a lie, per se, but he left out the fact of being an alien.

"I hope things end up well, and we're here now." The guard said as they stopped outside a door.

He opened it and they went inside, revealing a large room that matched the rest of the castle. A large canopy bed dominated the center of the room with a door leading to a bathroom of to the side. A filled bookshelf was situated against the wall near the window, and had a reading area nearby.

"I'll stop by at six to bring you to breakfast. You'll dine with the Princesses, Element Bearers, and the Captain. However, the Princesses want to speak to you before the others show up. Have a good night."

Kyle nodded and the guard departed. He walked over to the wall near his bed and quickly opened his suit, hearing the familiar metallic ringing as the metal segments slid open, exposing the front of his body. Stepping out, he went through the door into the room's bathroom. It was, once again, primarily crystal, with a few exceptions like the mirror. The shower was large, easily big enough for three or four people.

Undressing, he placed his clothes on the counter and climbed in. He saw a myriad of soaps and other bottles against the wall. Grabbing one, he saw it was for manes.

Shrugging, he spoke to himself, a habit he's had for hears. "Manes are close enough to hair."

Setting the bottle back down, he looked toward the front of the shower, seeing a small crystal sticking out of the wall by an inch or so. It was rectangular and had a black dot in the center. The left side was red while the right side was blue. The two colors blended together in the middle.

Looking around, he saw no other protrusions or knobs, so he assumed that was the shower control. Placing a finger on it, the crystal began glowing. He moved his finger up and the dot moved. When it touched the rectangular bar, the water cut on.

Smiling, he spoke again. "Maybe magic really does exist."

He placed the black dot into the red and felt the water warm up significantly, to the point of almost painfully hot, just the way he liked it. He couldn't stand the idea of cold showers. Quickly washing himself, he exited and dried himself off, then redressed.
Exiting the bathroom, he walked toward the bed. Then he stopped. He looked at his Exosuit and frowned. He walked to it, stepped into it, and activated it, the suit sealing shut. He then walked to the bed and lied down in it, soon falling to sleep.

(Crystal Empire Castle - Guest Room - 6:00AM.)

Kyle woke to the sound of light knocking on his door. He sat up immediately and got out of bed. As he was walking to the door, the pony outside knocked again.

"Coming!" Kyle called through his external speakers.

He reached the door and grabbed the knob, then opened it. Standing outside was the same guard that had escorted him here yesterday.

"I'm here to bring you to the dining hall for breakfast." The guard said.

"Lead the wall." Kyle replied simply.

They began walking through the castle, heading to the dining hall where, no doubt, the Princesses were waiting. As they walked, the human and pony passed several guards that flanked doors, as well as some doors that were unguarded. Within a few minutes, they arrived at a larger than average door that was guarded by two Crystal Ponies. The guard escorting him knocked twice, then pushed the door open and spoke. "Go on in. The Elements and Captain will be here in about twenty minutes."

Kyle nodded and thanked the guard, then walked in. Inside, he saw a large, rectangular crystal table in the center. It had a chair on each end with fourteen on each side. Sitting at the far head was Princess Cadence. To her right was Princess Celestia and to her left was Princess Luna.

When he entered, he received a nod from Cadence and Princess Celestia gestured to the seat next to her. Walking over, he sat down beside her.

Within a few moments, four servants adorned in liveries walked in from a side door and placed a covered plate in front of each of them. They removed the domes to reveal breakfast. On front of each of them was a plate of pancakes, each topped with butter and syrup. The servants quickly left, taking the domes with them.

Before he could remove his helmet, he heard Princess Cadence clear her throat. He looked over at her and see began speaking. "I hope I didn't offend you with the pancakes; I don't know if you can even eat."

Kyle chuckles lightly. "What makes you think I can't eat, your highness?"

She glanced away nervously, her wings shuffling. "Well, you don't have a mouth, or eyes, or ears, or a nose."

Princess Cadence was worried she had managed to offend her guest, only to look on in surprise as he began laughing. Once he calmed slightly, he spoke. "I have a face, your highness, I'm just wearing a helmet."

"Oh!" She exclaimed, happy she hadn't offended him. "Why don't you take it off? Oh, and you can just call me Cadence, I'm not used to being called by my title."

Kyle nodded. "I'll keep that in mind."

Reaching to the interface on his left arm, he tapped an icon resembling a gray gear, and tapped the word 'disengage helmet.'

The three Alicorns looked on in surprised awe as his helmet's front broke into several segments, then slid back, joining the rear of his helmet. Then, the rear slid down into his collar, completely hiding his helmet and exposing his face.

He smiled at the looks on the faces of the royalty. They stared at him, taking note of his pure white hair and piercing blue eyes. His face was covered in a light beard, also white. Cadence coughed lightly. "I apologize. I assumed by your voice that you were much younger."

Kyle chuckled again. "Oh, I am. I'm only thirty-four. My hair's been pure white since I was about twelve."

Cadence blushed lightly, embarrassed. "I've spoken to you for five minutes, and already insulted you twice."

Kyle, still smiling, shook his head. "Its of no concern. I understand, especially since I doubt you've seen any one of my kind."

Princess Celestia spoke up this time. "You are quite right about that. What are you?"

"A human, scientific name is homo sapien." Kyle answered.

"How many more of you are there, and where did you come from?" Princess Luna asked.

"Well, as far as I know, I'm the last of my kind. A catastrophic event wiped out my race a while ago. As for where I'm from, everywhere. I'm a traveler." He said, not lying.

Princess Celestia nodded, understanding he didn't want to say any more than that. "And you intend to help us?"

"Yep. I'm not too happy with the whole 'slavery and tyranny' shtick Shadow has going." Kyle said, purposely getting his name wrong.

"Sombra, his name is Sombra." Cadence corrected.

Kyle shrugged. "Yeah, but in a language I know a little of, Sombra literally means 'shadow.'"

"Fitting, I suppose." Princess Luna said.

Kyle exhaled. "You have no idea."

"Oh?" Cadence inquired.

"Princess Luna, your name is derived from lunar, meaning 'of the moon.' Luna is also what humans named the moon. Princess Celestia, your name is derived from celestial, meaning 'of the heavens,' but mostly referring to the sun."

"And Cadence, your formal name, Mi Amore Cadenza, translates directly to 'My Love, Cadence." Kyle explained.

He looked around, a small smile, to see them shocked. "Pretty big coincidence, huh? Especially since we humans didn't know of your existence."

They nodded, then Princess Celestia spoke. "Returning to the topic of you helping us against Sombra, what kind of combat are you trained in."

Gaining a contemplative look, Kyle answered. "Well, humanity has evolved technologically past the need of swords and bows. We have guns now. You have crossbows, yes?"

When all three nodded, he continued. "Well, think of a crossbow that instead of firing a bolt, it fires a small metal cone at just below the speed of sound. Now, imagine some can kill from a mile away, and others fire several thousand cones a minute. That is what a gun is, and I have three, plus a retractable nano-blade."

The three Alicorns were staring at him in a little awe, and more than a little fear. Quickly enough, the Lunar Diarch spoke
"Would you be willing to demonstrate later?"

When Kyle nodded, she replied "We'll head to the training grounds after breakfast."

"Now that you know my weapons, what will you have me do?"

The three royals were quiet for a moment before Princess Celestia spoke. "Well, King Sombra is specifically targeting Cadence as she is the rightful ruler of the Empire. Unless any of you have complaints, I believe you would best serve as a personal guard for her."

Kyle nodded again. "Are you sure? I arrived bearing bad news, I figured I'd be on the front lines."

Luna replied this time. "While you did bring unfortunate news, it was news we needed to hear. That does not change how we perceive you."

When the other two royals relayed their consent, he continued. "What exactly will this entail?"

Cadence began explaining. "Well, you'll escort me around the castle while keeping a watch for threats. You'll also stand outside of the door to my chambers while I'm inside. The only time otherwise is when I'm sleeping, which you'll return to your chamber and sleep as well."

Kyle nodded. "Sounds easy enough, if time-consuming. Its an all-day thing?"

Cadence nodded. "It is, but you'll be compensated for it."

As much as Kyle wanted to turn down payment, he knew he needed local currency. His currency, credits, would be entirely useless here. "That sounds reasonable."

They were silent for a moment before Kyle spoke hesitantly. "What will happen with Shining?"

The mood in the room took an immediate downturn. Six ears drooped and three muzzles turned downward. A dim sheen coated Cadence's eyes and she spoke softly, missing the earlier softness in her voice. "After breakfast, we'll confront him in the throne room. Then, we'll see what happens."

"After breakfast? Isn't he coming, as well?" Kyle asked.
A single glance from Cadence told him everything he needed to know. She just learned her husband was a traitor and planned to kill her. She was about to confront him and possibly be forced to kill him. She just wanted one more breakfast with him, with no violence. Seeing this, Kyle nodded apologetically and she smiled sadly.

Author's Note:

The title of the book is that for two reasons. The first is obvious. The second is less so. Can you guess.