• Published 25th Apr 2018
  • 320 Views, 18 Comments

Equestrian Space: Short Stories - Shirlendra

These are a collection of short stories chronicling a series of events in the Equestrian home system.

  • ...

The Convenience Store

Boring, that's what it was. Boring and slow, thought the pony known only as "Kir'gle"; at least that's what it said on his name tag. He flipped a page in a rather dull magazine, a magazine which was packed to overflowing with useful and not so useful information on the nature of space travel.

His eyes traveled up from a particularly boring article on the effects of baking confectionaries in a vacuum, to the clock that hung above the sliding doors, it read 3:01am. They hovered for a moment on the digital display as it slowly ticked upwards, towards the end of his shift.

Kir'gle wasn't necessarily a bad employee, it was just that it was boring in the little shop. The overhead florescence was much to bright and he'd already stocked the shelves, used the ancient floor buffer and cleaned the countertops, twice.

There simply wasn't much else to do, and realized that perhaps it was time to take a fifteen minute break he diligently hit the button under the counter to lock the doors and set a 15 minute timer.

With a small sigh Kir'gle stood, his knees groaning in small protest from his lack of movement. He walked to the employee break room, an even smaller variant of the store.

Upon entering he thought for the thousandth time, someone must of been having a day when they put a vending machine inside the break room. It seemed rather pointless after all, considering any snack you could ever want could be bought in the main store.

He took a worn coffee mug from its hanging hook and walked over to the coffee machine, sadly broken for... well, longer than he could remember and instead poured himself a stiff glass of water from a cooled container. Kir'gle then sat once again in his favorite, and one of only three chairs in the break room.

He let his head loll back, and stared straight up at the lights as if to burn the sleep from his brain. He wasn't quite sure how long he sat like that, while his coffee mug sat on the table, the water warming slowly.

His watch roused him from his slump and he looked at it. It read 3:14am, Kir'gle sighed and got up. Back to work he supposed and headed out to unlock the doors. He took a sip from his mug and reached his terminal as the doors made a faint "click" as the locks disengaged. He had just resat himself on his small uncomfortable stool when the doors chimed, and in walked an awfully pretty mare.

Kir'gle's heart nearly stopped in his chest, this mare... she had come around each night for the past week or so. Different times, always different clothes, this time in a stunning tight fitting jumpsuit, dyed deep green, station patches adorned the shoulders. She had her golden mane back in a low ponytail, its purpose he assumed, to keep hair from her eyes.

She walked about the store, perusing the various snacks and stopped for a moment at the flower display, she pulled a small grip of daisies and finally walked to the counter.

Kir'gle smiled and nodded slightly to show knowing.

The mare returned it.

"So," he began "will this be all for you tonight?"

"Yes, thank you." the mare responded with her own soft smile, as she set all the items on the counter.

Kir'gle quickly rang up the items: One bouquet, daisies. One bag, hay chips. One, oversized can of chilled coffee and then read the total off to her. The action of making the mental list was simply automatic, it appeared in his mind as the items rung out.

The mare nodded and swiped her forward left leg over the small display showing the total for her items.

It beeped in recognition and the display facing Kir'gle confirmed a completed payment. "And would you like a bag for this today, ma'am?" He offered helpfully.

"No, not today." she responded hastily, and shoved the chips and drink into her jumpsuits pockets.

Kir'gle, not intentionally per-say but having nothing better to look at, noticed her name patch, sewn into the jumpsuit it read "Traffic controller: Cherry Petal", and just to the left, nearly hidden under the collar a small pin, dull white and in the shape of a pony's skull. He cocked his head slightly at the strange item and watched her struggle to get the oversized can of coffee into her jumpsuit pocket.

Cherry finished pocketing the items, finally securing the coffee and picked up the daisy's with a teal wing, holding the flowers to her side. "Thanks." she said with a small smile and turned to leave.

"Of course, and have a wonderful night!" he responded cheerfully, and wondered for a moment... If maybe he should call after her and ask her what she was doing later. Dinner was, after all not that far off.

The door chimed as she walked out, the sliding doors coming back together with a soft hiss.

"Maybe tomorrow..." he said to no one in particular, as she strolled away.

The rest of the night passed without incident. A few scattered regulars came by, getting the usual items and making the same banal conversation that plagued his life day in and day out. Finally, the clock read 7:28am, and knowing that the morning shift gal would be in momentarily he began to pack up his meager items into a pair of beaten saddlebags.

One, magazine (sent to his address by mistake). One, snack bar (half eaten). One, pair headphones (taped). One, music player (Damaged) and one, glasses case w/microfiber cleaning cloth. He recited the list in his mind as he packed, it made sure he never lost anything.

He zipped the saddlebags closed and stashed them under the front counter, waiting for the next shift to come in. He thought for a moment, on his quirk of listing items in his head as he put things away, but dismissed it. He was a cashier after all, it was literally his job to make sure each item got put in its place.

He looked at the clock again 7:32am, it was almost time for his morning ritual. Where even was that mare... He had never bothered to learn her name. She was new anyway, she'd be gone in a month, maybe less. Replaced by another fresh faced eager youngster ready to do just as best as they could to serve the corporation and the people on the station. Or maybe they'd a veteran of the till, eyes sunken in their head, a permanently haunted look about them. He knew he hadn't gotten there yet, but he could feel it pulling at the corners of his eyes in the hollowness of each recited greeting and smile.

But not yet, he was going to continue on. Finish the journey he had started all those years ago. And there was the door chime, he looked up hopefully and saw the day shift mare, her green and white polo and khaki colored pants that matched his own casually strolling in. It was 7:39am, and she was late. But it didn't matter, he gave up a standard greeting and received the same in response.

He retrieved his saddlebags from under the counter, nearly smacked the time card machine with his employee badge to clock out and quickly trotted out the doors as the day shift mare began her early morning procedures.

He had a ritual to attend to and he wouldn't miss it for the world. The hard white floor sped beneath him, colorful lines painted on the floor and walls indicated specific paths that could be taken to get to certain areas.

He followed the green line, despite having taken the journey every day after work since he discovered it.

The halls were mostly clear, a few people stood around chatting, looked at shop windows or were delivering food, usually on small wheeled electric bikes.

Kir'gle ignored all of them, the station was nearly deserted anyway. The few people that were still station side were either too young, too old or simply didn't want to travel.

Kir'gle though, he fell into a fourth category, he had wanted to travel. See the sights and the places beyond the Equestrian home system but... he supposed he was just nervous.

Years ago, he had been in university, he had even completed his courses and earned his degree. It was a shame it was in a useless skill. No one needed a... well, it didn't matter anyway.

He had applied for several corporations to try to get on one of the many exploration teams which traveled farther and farther from the home system with each passing year.

They had found wonders it was said, things that defied logic. He had tried, exhausted every avenue that he could think of to get on one of the teams, finally he simply gave up.

The last interview had been on Horizon station, nearly six months back and by that point he was so discouraged he simply took the first job available. For six months he had been stuck on the station, and with each passing day he had tried to work up the courage to leave.

He still hadn't mustered up the courage to do so, and now he could feel his dream slipping away. It would be so easy of course to simply stop trying, to continue to live on the backwater station, no one would bother him here.

He had daydreamed often, of maybe meeting a nice mare like Cherry. Settling down, having a couple of foals. Living out his life as a simple pony. It would be unfulfilling he knew but it would be easy, and maybe that would be enough.

He stopped and blinked, he had been lost in his head for so long he didn't even realize he had reached his destination. A small garden lay before him, one of several public relaxation areas on the station, at the far end a massed bank of windows facing out towards the interior of the system.

But he liked this one, it was here where he could practice his ritual in silence.

Kir'gle walked to the windows and sat on his haunches before leaning against a convenient railing. He fished out his watch from its place beneath his polo and took a look, 7:57am.

Right on time then. He removed the half of the snack bar he had left from his saddlebags and pulled the wrapper from the sweet smelling oat bar and munched on it slowly. Like so many other mornings, he savored the flavor of the oat bar as the seconds ticked by in silence.

He could see out, past the windows to the stars beyond. The planets were still below the horizon of the station and as he watched the stars spin slowly away across the night sky, the pinpoints of light danced against the dark tapestry.

Finally, the first rays of the sun crested the far edge of the station and crept across the grey rock of the station's skin. The sunlight splashed over the massed windows and as they dimmed slightly to compensate a small smile found it's way to the corners of his mouth.

Sunrise, his favorite time of the day.

It was a short walk back to his small apartment, a one bedroom one bath affair on the third domicile level. The corridors were narrower here, the lights set not in the ceiling but in the walls above the doors and along the floor, giving some the appearance of being lit from below if they weren't near to any doors.

He had no neighbors, no landlord, the station had given him one of the many empty rooms and simply said to keep it clean. Not that that was particularly difficult considering much of what he actually owned could fit in the one rolling suitcase he had originally brought with him.

The door chimed softly as he waved his security badge over the scanner, the gray and blue door hissed open nearly silently. The overhead lights flickered on silently, illuminating his little bed, the side table built into the wall and the little kitchen which consisted of little more than a pair of electric burners and a mini-fridge. Kir'gle dropped his saddlebags by the door and sauntered over to the fridge, he opened the door and took a peek inside finding that once again... he had no food.

With a silent sigh he walked over to the wall mounted communications terminal and scrolled through the list of takeout places that delivered at, he took a look at the clock mounted beside the door. 8:52am, still too early for noodles then, perhaps a nice pizza. But he had ordered pizza every day this week and the lady who delivered it always gave him a bit of an eye, she was pretty cute though... maybe he could get her to share a slice.

With his mind made up he quickly punched in the code for "A Slice of Life". The line rang for a moment, a merry jingle that was unique to the pizza place where he got most of his caloric intake filled the line. After a moment the line finally connected, the face in the terminal was pretty but basic. A griffon, with a shock of red feathers adorning her crown, stuffed under a ball-cap adorned with a slice of pizza, filled the screen.

The griffon narrowed her eyes. "Yeah Kir'gle, what is it?" she pronounced the name perfectly, entirely unlike most ponies that tried to pronounce it, which ended up sounding more like "K-Gurgle".

"Hi, Redcap. Can I get the usual?" He tried to smile at the griffon in the screen but ended up grimacing.

"Yeah, but only if you stop trying to smile. We'll be over in thirty." She snapped and terminated the connection.

For a moment, the screen was blank and he stared at his own face. Not necessarily a pretty sight: he looked tired. dark bags had formed under his azure eyes, his mane a deep forest brown, looked greasy. Stubble had grown along his jawline and down along the length of his neck. "Aw..." he mumbled. "Time for a shower, then."

Fifteen minutes later, he was washed and sat on his small bed, drying his dull orange coat. The wall farthest from the door had a built in viewing screen, normally it was blank but he could change it to exterior cameras of the station, those deemed not vital to security at least, or a number of preset "wallpapers". But the best part of the screen was that he could link films to it, his favorite being old salt westerns.

The kind of movies where the hero's were charming and the love interests were always in need of rescue. Where anyone could walk into a saloon and start a hoof-fight with the first ruffian they saw. He rather enjoyed those films, he liked it when the good people won and the bad ones didn't. And the music, oh the music he loved that, the unique blend of orchestral, whistling, vocal and harmonica.

After selecting one of his favorite soundtracks and the image of a dusty plain with a tumbleweed rolling along in the middle distance, he turned the lights off with a vocal command and laid upon the soft if plain bed. Relaxation came slowly and just about the same moment that he finally got fully committed, there was a chime from his door.

Hefting himself off the bed with a groan, he had the good presence of mind to wrap a robe around his body before opening the door. "I was just..." he began, "you're not Redcap." he finished lamely.

The person who stood just outside the door was not in fact, Redcap whom he had expected. Instead it was a doe, a female deer, or at least he thought it was. She had a distinctly angular face like a doe, at least that was what he had seen from several pictures. But she had a pair of antlers, attached to her head by what looked like a hair band in such a fashion that they appeared to hold her short white mane away from her face. The overall appearance clashed together in his mind, and in his sleep deprived state all he could stutter out was "Nice rack".

The deer, whom he had decided was in fact a doe, bodily thrust him backwards into the room and he stumbled over his own rear hooves and fell to his haunches. She moved inside quickly and hit the doors controls, they slid closed with a soft hiss.

"What are you..." he started.

"Shut up." she retorted. "I need you to pretend everything is fine. If anyone comes to the door, send them away." she hustled over to the bed, past his prone form and ducked down behind it, Invisible from the doorway.

"But... I have a delivery coming." He sputtered out in protest. "They will get suspicious if I don't take it." his mind unable to comprehend the absurdity of it all. He had managed to get his hooves under him and had turned towards her hiding spot.

"Look, shi..." she began as the door once again chimed and quickly fell into silence. Gesturing at the door with a hoof before ducking back into her hiding spot.

He stared at the bed for the moment, then turned back towards the door. "Uh... Hello? Who is it?" He said at the closed door.

"Delivery!" came the call back, "Kir'gle, you better be decent this time!" came the voice of Redcap.

He blinked, and walked once again to the door and hit the controls, the door opened with a slight hiss. Redcap stood beyond, her electric scooter idling behind her. "You would not believe the morn..." he began, remembering at that moment his robe was only partially closed.

"Whatever man, just sign." Redcap cut him off with her usual gruff tone and held out a small tablet in a clawed paw.

He did, with a hoof. "Hey Redcap, would you be interested in sharing the pizza down at..." he began as she pushed the pizza into his hooves.

"If the question is anything other than, 'May I have more napkins'. I'll make you eat your own words, pony boy." She glared at him.

He looked furtively over his shoulder at his bed, "But... I thought maybe we could go..." he began as he looked back at her.

"No way, no how, Kir'gle. Look, you're a nice enough pony, you tip well but you ain't exactly my type." Redcap said, and slid the tablet back into her delivery bag, and moved back towards her idling scooter.

"That's, no hang on that's not what I meant!" he said as she spun the handle of the scooter and it pulled away down the corridor at a brisk trot. "Nevermind..." he stood there, slightly dejected, he had for a moment thought perhaps he could ride away with redcap. Away from the deer currently hiding behind his bed.

"Psst... Idiot, close the door." The deer said from her hiding spot.

"Hunh, what? Oh, right." he said, and turned to set the pizza on the bed, kicking the door control with a rear hoof, shutting the door.

"Are you always this dense or what?" The deer said, standing again and eyed the pizza laying on the bed.

"No... I just... uh..." he mumbled.

"And what was that shit with trying to ask the griffon out, she had some good sense to tell your stupid ass off. Besides... If you wanted to share a pizza with someone you could of just asked." she batted her eyes at him, in a mock suggestive gesture.

"Uh..." he said, his mind reeling from the sudden shifts in tone. "I don't quite understand, who are you, what's your name?" He finally was able to string the few words together.

"My name is unimportant" she said, and flipped open the pizza box. "Ew, Mushrooms and jalapeno's." and closed the box again. "Look, all you need to know is that I needed a place to hang out for a few minutes and now I'm moving on. Best to forget you ever saw me." She said as she moved to the door.

"Well, now hang on..." Kir'gle said as a loud boom came from the door, followed by another.

The doe to her credit, leapt with such speed that he didn't even see her move, her gray jumpsuit a momentary gray blur as she jumped back behind the bed.

Kir'gle, now apparently the most popular person on all horizon station, looked back at the doe's hiding spot before walking to the door. "Who is it?" he said to the door.

"Station Security, open the door." came the gruff reply, muffled by the door.

Kir'gle looked over his shoulder at where the doe sat, hidden behind the bed. Or at least where she should be hidden.

She was frantically waving her hooves in the air, making motions for him to shoo the people on the other side of the door away.

He turned his head back to the door and let out a low sigh and hit the door mechanism again. "How can I help... you... officers?" he said, taking in the what could only be described as a absolutely massive pair of ponies.

The pair stood directly outside his door and he suspected he came no higher than their rather impressive looking shoulder-pads.

"Looking for a deer, Sir." said the one on the left, "Have you seen anyone who looks like this?"

The pony on the right held up a tablet with a picture of someone who looked suspiciously like the deer currently hiding behind his bed, sans the antlers.

"Uh... no, couldn't say I have." he gave them a lopsided retail smile, the kind that says "Yes, I will help, but I really have to be going." and was becoming aware that the robe he was still wearing was uncomfortably hot, he really ought to check on the air conditioning, make sure it was working.

"Well Sir, if you do see this deer, please make sure to report it to station security. She is considered dangerous, and we want to make sure all citizens of horizon station are kept safe." the left part of the pair stated, stiffly.

"Right... well, if I see her I'll let you know! But uh..." his smile faltered slightly. "What exactly did she do anyway?"

"No need to worry about that, Sir. Just report any sightings you have and we will take care of the problem. Do not engage with her directly." The pair gave a slight bow, and turned to continue down the hall.

Kir'gle stood, mildly dumbfounded for a moment before smacking his forehead into the door controls. The door whooshed softly closed, "No more answering the door... I'm too tired for this..." he mumbled to himself.

"Good Job, now come have a slice of pizza before you pass out." The deer said from somewhere in the vicinity of the bed. Her tone just south of caring and leaning heavily on the suggestive.

He sighed, head still against the wall. "Look, I've had a long day. If you are looking to hide out here, I don't care." He smacked his forehead lightly against the wall and turned around. "I really don't care what your mixed up in. But I want no part of it, alright?"

The deer, propped up on her forward legs on the far side of the bed gave him a wide smile. "Good choice." she stood, a slice of pizza in a hoof and tossed it in the trash disposal in the kitchen.

He stared at her for a moment, deciding he probably didn't want to know why she threw it away. "I was hoping to eat that." he said finally.

"Na, that one was no good." She turned back to him and smiled. "You have extra blankets? I'm going to be making myself a bed."

"Uh... yeah, fine, I guess. They are in the closet, left of the bathroom." he gestured with a hoof and collapsed onto the bed, pushing the pizza box to the edge. He flipped open the lid on the pizza and grabbed a slice, it's soy cheese so enticing. He took a bite and another, demolishing the piece as the deer set up a makeshift bed to the right of the door.

"You don't have much stuff, hunh?" she said casually as she made the bedding into a semi serviceable arrangement. "You on the down low too?"

"Not quite." Kir'gle said between bites of pizza, "I uh... I'm stuck here... sorta."

"Stuck?" she said and laid upon the bedding. "No one is stuck, sometimes they just get stuck in their own heads." She smiled wide and tilted her head slightly to the side.

The whole effect was a little creepy and Kir'gle shivered slightly. "I uh... well wait, why am I even telling you any of this? I don't even know your name and now you are here, preparing to sleep in my room. Hiding, presumably from station security." He huffed.

The doe thought for a moment, the smiling slackening. "You know what, you're right. My name... well... call me 'Cream'."

"Cream? Sure, why not. It's no weirder than the rest of my day so far. Just... try not to get me arrested, please." He rolled over, his back to Cream and turned his eyes back to the expansive screen. Remembering that he had never turned it off, despite the music having finished the song, long before.

"Hehe... Alright, I'll do my best." she said, staring at his back.

Kir'gle set the screen to shut down in ten minutes and queued up his favorite song, a harmonica melody from one of his favorite movies.

After a few quiet minutes he said softly over his shoulder, "Night, Cream."

"Night." She said back, a touch of something... tinging her voice.

Sleep claimed Kir'gle quickly as the slow sad notes of the harmonica filled his head with dreams of the wide dusty plains.

Bzz Bzzz Bzzzz, went the alarm.

"Bwuh!" went Kir'gle, who promptly smacked the alarm. shook his head and rubbed the sleep from his eyes with a hoof, Kir'gle looked over to where the deer had slept the night past.

The bed that she had made, that he had watched her make was gone. As was the deer who had made it, in fact as he looked around his little apartment he couldn't see anything out of place. His saddlebags were still in the middle of the floor, the robe he had been wearing when he finished his shower was still around his body. He didn't even see his beloved dinner of, although he would never admit it, shitty pizza.

With a wide yawn he took a look at the clock, hanging on his wall, It read 6:12pm. Well that tore it then, he thought to himself as he extracted his body from an entangling of sheets. He must of dreamed the whole thing, deer were exceedingly rare after all and a doe with antlers? It would be like finding ponies who had never heard of The Princesses, He touched his hoof to his chest softly as he thought of them.

After a moment, he stood, shed his robe and threw it on the bed. "Time for breakfast then." he mumbled, and ambled over to the small kitchenette. After preparing a small breakfast of strawberry flavored oatmeal, he flipped on the news on the wall screen and sat on his small bed.

A pair of anchors, a pink male Galotian and a female spotted griffon dominated the screen. "In other news..." the Galotian said, "Further incidents have been reported along the-"

Kir'gle switched the channel with a wave of a hoof. A male pony in a tweed suit appeared, "And it's important to remember that these are isolated even-"

He switched the channel again, and here was one of his favorite shows.

The Adventures of Big Iron, a rough and tumble cowpony and his sidekick, the ever pretty "Miss Rouge" his on again off again griffon companion and lastly their crew of brigands, sailing the stars looking for corporate fat-cats to rip off.

Was it trashy? Absolutely, but it had already had thirteen seasons and they were in filming for the fourteenth.

He wasn't particularly fond of the recast they did for one of his favorite background villains, but the Abyssinian who replaced the captain of "The Daunting Galleon" was, he had to admit, a heck of an actor.

For a time, he watched the show. In this episode, Big Iron faced off against a Galotian lawyer. Being a lawyer was after all one of the things they were known for. But Kir'gle could never get over the slight wiggling their jelly like bodies always made, it him feel a bit queasy to watch, and since they were slightly translucent you could kinda see if and what they recently ate.

Honestly, their whole thing kinda creeped him out. Why did they have to look like ponies anyway? Considering their normal forms were just colored gelatinous blobs.

But that was the kind of comment someone kept to themselves, it was considered immensely rude to ask a Galotian about the form they chose. Besides, sometimes they took the forms of the other races, griffons and deer...

Speaking of deer, who was that doe in his dream? Perhaps a bit of bad food digesting strangely, he did have that haydog that was slightly expired off the roller just yesterday... It mattered not and as Kir'gle rolled out of bed he checked the time again, It read 7:10pm.

"Once again, unto the breach... I suppose." he said absentmindedly to himself as he collected his work clothing.

One, work polo (Worn, mildly smelly, needs washing). One pair, khaki pants (stained w/brown belt). One set, Saddlebags (beaten, graduation gift from mother). One, Station issued security badge. One, watch (Birthday present from father, with a reminder that he must never be late.)

He dressed aimlessly and checked the clock every few seconds, finally he got the damned belt in place and tightened down. He swung the saddlebags over his back, and slid his forward legs through the straps.

On the way out the door he checked his pockets and confirmed his security badge was securely clipped to his belt. Lastly, he checked his watch which he slid over his neck and tucked under the polo.

The door chimed softly as he walked out, and on his way to yet another exciting day at the job.

The day went smoothly, Kir'gle clocked in on time, said hello to the mare and promptly took over the register. After doing the count, despite few people using actual physical currency, he took his seat and spent the next few hours talking and dealing with the same people he had dealt with night after night for months on end.

Kir'gle looked at the clock for the fifth time in the last three minutes and sighed, it was still only 1:01am. The dream, or what he believed was a very vivid dream, probably brought on by stress and lack of sleep had kept him occupied for the last hour or so. Now however, he was hungry and it was time for breakfast. Remembering that he had not packed food in his bag, he locked the doors, set the timer on 15 minutes and went to the break-room.

"Veggie Crisps or Oatmeal..." he said absently to no one as he stared at the vending machine, it's green and white exterior lit just a little too brightly for comfort.

He sighed, and went over to his saddlebags to retrieve his charge card, courtesy of Equi-bank. Kir'gle flipped open the flap and unzipped the bags, and began rooting inside it with a hoof and brushed against something odd. Something... not in his mental list, and so stuck his head inside and grabbed the offending item with his teeth.

As he pulled it out he could see it was a letter, or at least a yellow papered envelope, a bit heavy to be a few pieces of paper he supposed. He spit it onto the table where it made a soft thud and flipped it over with a hoof, the front however simply said "Thank you".

He stared at it for a moment before opening the envelope and deposited the contents on the table. It was a single electronic vocal recorder, the kind that you could buy in any electronics shop. In marker along the edge it simply said "Play me".

So he did.

The voice that came from the recorder was the voice of the doe, the one whom he thought was probably just a figment of his imagination. He realized he was spacing out instead of listening, and restarted the recorder.

"Kir'gle, although I suspect, that's not your real name. Thank you for helping me. Station security has been trying to apprehend me for the last few weeks because my friends have been disappearing, and they think I'm trying to start a panic. They want to silence the disappearance of my friends, but all I want is to find them and I think security might have them. I can't tell you everything here, in case someone finds it. Meet me at landing bay C-16 at 3:00am and I'll explain everything."

Kir'gle sat in silence for a moment before replaying the message. After the second playing he looked at the clock, it read 1:13am. He would have to think her offer over, and he had only a few hours in which to do so.

He gathered the items and shoved them into his bag before heading back out to the counter. Kir'gle fished his watch out from beneath his polo and checked the time again just to be sure, before shoving the bag under the counter and hit the control to unlock the doors.

For the next hour and a half all he could think of was the message.

The few customers that did come in received only curt greetings and goodbyes. The regulars that stopped by seemed a little put out at his coldness, but he didn't care.

He was more interested in the doe and what she might want with him. Finally, after thinking through the timing he determined that if he took his lunch at 2:50 and hoofed it, he could be there by 3:00.

Assuming all she wanted to do was talk, he estimated he could be back just before his lunch was over at 3:20.

If she didn't want to talk, well... he might not care much what time he was back in that case.

It took Kir'gle less than two minutes to gather his things and punch out for lunch. He checked the door locks only once on his way out and made a quick mental note to clean the front doors again, they were looking a little scuffed.

He did everything but run down the corridor to the nearest lift station that would take him to the landing bays. Kir'gle wasn't exactly a tall pony, but he was able to hit his stride and with all the turmoil going on through his head he didn't even feel his hooves beneath him.

He reached the lifts, a wide hallway tucked between a pair of laundromats which contained simple elevators that could push a pony though the station quickly.

He mashed the closest call button and was rewarded with ready light and a soft musical jingle as the lift behind him opened with a soft hiss. He shrugged the saddlebags back into place, boarded the lift and selected "Lower Hangers" from the available list.

The doors hissed closed, and for a moment as soft guitar music played over the speakers in the lift, Kir'gle was lost in his own head. As various scenarios played through his head he couldn't quite decide what he should be feeling, although the butterflies in his stomach had their own ideas.

In what felt like no time at all, the elevator slowed and stopped, the doors once again hissed open softly and he boldly strode out into the hallway.

The hallway was wider than the usual types in the station, as it was intended as a cargo receiving area and at it's peak the station had thousands of people in and out every day in a timely manner.

By this point in time though, it was lucky if it saw any traffic and being so early in the morning it was simply deserted. He looked up, a simple sign showed that Area C was down the right side with a mark that indicated the distance, it was at that his face fell.

With a soft sigh he turned to the mobility kiosk. It was a small glass and metal setup that contained, for a modest cost, what consisted of a motorized board with four wheels. After fishing out and swiping his charge card courtesy of Equi-bank he was able to grab one of the boards off the charging rack and set it on the hard floor. He stepped deftly into the four indents and pressed down with his right hoof.

The little board jolted forward and off he went down the long corridor towards area C. As much of an embarrassment it was to use one of the "Motorboards" at least he would get there with time to spare and luckily, there was no one around.

It took a little under three minutes to reach Area C, and another two to reach bay 16. The little cart whined to a stop as he brought it to a slow and final stop.

Gingerly he disembarked from the motorboard and walked to the wide door, the identifier C-16 was painted in bright yellow as not to be missed. It took but a moment for him to locate the door panel, the interior pressure sensor showed a solid green light, indicating the bay beyond was safe. He pushed the entry button and was surprised when the door began sliding slowly into the ceiling.

"Hunh... no security check. I suppose she was expecting me." He said as he stepped into the bay and took a quick inventory. There was no ship, as one would expect in a hanger, instead there were simply crates scattered about, although it was difficult to see too far as the lights were set so low he could barely make out more than the closest few.

As he made his way deeper into the hanger he called out. "Are you here?" After a moment with no answer he looked back towards the door which was just completing it's cycle and gently settling back into it's closed position. "Well... that's o-"

"Hey!" A voice said in the darkness, cutting him off. "Back of the hanger, follow my voice."

"Uh... Alright." he said as he walked towards the back of the hanger just before catching his knee on a outstuck crate. With a groan and a dull pain in his knee he continued towards the back of the hanger albeit a little slower.

"You alright? Sounds like you caught yourself good." The voice said, she sounded closer.

Although he couldn't be sure It didn't sound all that much like Cream. "Ah... yeah I'm alright. Hard to see in here though, why are the lights so low?". Ahead he could of sworn that he saw movement. "Where are you?"

"Over here, hurry up." The voice sounded extremely close, as if he could reach out and touch her with a hoof.

Ahead he spotted a couple of crates and moved quickly towards them. Finally his eyesight was beginning to improve and so he peered between the crates, seeing nothing but more crates he pulled his head back. After a moment he sighed and turned to his right and is instantly blinded as a light flared directly in front of his face.

He whinnied in a very undignified manner, "Th-" he began as he reared back away from the offending light source. In his haste to get away he bodyslammed into a stack of crates, Knocking the wind from him and sending him tumbling to the floor.

"Kir'gle?!" A voice said from behind the light.

"Ow..." he responded, face pressed into the cold metal flooring, the harsh light filtering through his eyelids. "Can you please... move that away from my face? It's too bright." The light disappeared from behind his eyelids as a hoof was thrust under his forward shoulder that helped to propel him to his hooves.

"Kir'gle, what are you doing here?" The voice sounded... familiar.

He cracked open an eye, the light from a small flashlight filled the space. A picture of beauty stood before him, "Cherry?... I uh... should ask you the same question."

She stared at him for a moment, apparently mulling over the question. "Alright, let me ask you this. Are you here to meet someone?"

Kir'gle shuffled his hooves for a moment before standing straight and took a deep breath to calm his nerves. "Yes, Yes I am."

Cherry blinked, "Well, I guess we are both here for the same reason then." she smiled and put out a hoof in a questioning manner. "Are you alright? You smacked those crates pretty hard."

"Yeah, I'm alright..." He winced slightly as he moved, the dull pain from his side only now becoming more apparent. "So... where is your person? I was looking for mine when you blinded me."

"I was looking for her when I bumped into you. Where's yours?"

"I... have no idea." He said as he massaged his side, looking at the spot. "Wait." he stopped and looked up. "Her? I think we might be looking for the same person."

"Female? Pair of Antlers?" She grinned slightly as she said so.

"Yeah, exactly. How do you know her?" he finally stopped massaging his side and looked at her properly. Her mane was up in a tight bun and she was garbed in her flight controllers uniform, same as he saw her the other night.

"I..." Her grin faded and she flicked the flashlight hooked to the front of her jumpsuit, off.


"Hide, we aren't alone." She responded in a hushed tone.

Kir'gle wasn't quite sure where he should be "Hiding", but complied none the less. Feeling blindly with his hooves until he found a pair of crates he could squeeze between and hunker down.

No sooner had he done so than a voice spoke from somewhere just above his right ear.

"Hello Kir'gle."

The sound that escaped his throat was a mixture of a strangled yell and a guttural sort of choking noise.

"Geez Kir'gle, didn't mean to scare you there," said the voice.

Which Kir'gle was now able to identify as Cream, despite his mind vainly attempting to re-right itself from the backflip it had just performed. "I... hello Cream," he was finally able to mumble out.

Cream heaved an audible sigh and there was some scuffling just before he heard the distinctive sound of hooves hitting the hanger floor.

"Kir'gle, is Cherry with you?" Cream said, still hidden in the complete darkness of the hanger.

"I'm here," The voice of Cherry responded curtly.

"Good, now both of you shield your eyes. It's going to get... bright."

Kir'gle, once again did as he was told and put a hoof over his eyes. Behind his hoof the world suddenly got a whole lot brighter. "Cream? Can I open my eyes now?"

"Yes, go ahead," she responded somewhere off to his right.

As he removed his hoof from his eyes the overhead lights stung his eyes. It took a moment and much blinking for them to readjust to the light. Cream stood just to his right, inspecting a crate with a pony shaped dent in it.

Cherry walked over from his left and with a soft smile said "He's clumsy. Took a bit of a tumble."

"Well I can see that, obviously." Cream sighed and sat with her back against the crate before looking over to the pair. "I'm tired, been dodging patrols for the last three days."

As Kir'gle looked, that is to say, really looked at her he able to begin to pick out things he had missed previously. The dark rings under her eyes, the disarray of her mane and tail. "So... that story about station security picking up your friends?" he asked tentatively.

Cream opened her mouth to respond but Cherry interrupted, "Yes, it's true. Her friends have been picked up by station security. Well, at least someone claiming to be station security. To be honest, it might actually just be station security. But nothing has been listed in the database or sent out as a notice." she narrowed her eyes at Cream. "Although who would impersonate station security just to get your friends, I couldn't say."

Cream gave a tired smile. "Well, at least now I know that someone knows where my friends are. We can go pay them a visit."

Cherry sighed and put her face in her hooves. "You have to be kidding me. No." She looked at Cream, "You cannot go asking around about this, they are already looking for you. And I was only able to look because I happen to have system access. Wherever your friends are, it's not in the official records."

Creams grin slipped.

Kir'gle, having listened quietly to the conversation finally perked up. "Wait, if they aren't in the official records. Then where are they?"

"That's the question, isn't it." Cherry said, turning her head to Kir'gle. "If they aren't in official records, the question becomes why. And when the question is why..." she looked back at Cream. "A better question might be, who would want them to disappear."

Cream sighed and leaned her head back against the crate, careful not to disturb the horns. "I don't know, that's what I've been trying to figure out. They haven't done anything wrong. I was supposed to meet with Z... uh no one you would know." she quickly added upon seeing their blank expressions. "Here tonight, a few hours ago. But they never showed up." She put her hooves to her temples and rubbed them in little circles. "Look, I know this isn't your problem. But I'm out of options."

Kir'gle looked over to Cherry for a moment and then back to Cream. "What are we supposed to do? Cherry said there's not even any official records, how are we supposed to track them down? And even if we did, how would we know they wouldn't just be recaptured... and while were on the subject, why they were even picked up in the first place."

"I don't know!" groaned Cream. "I don't understand any of it. Why would anyone want to lock up my friends? The most they have ever done is maybe borrow some parts here and there. But who doesn't, right?" She smiled at the pair.

"Uh..." Kir'gle had decided at that moment in time that anywhere other than Creams pleading eyes was the absolute best place to be looking.

Cherry sighed softly, "Look, Cream. I'm going to level with you, whatever _this_ is? It's too much for me. I have a job, and a life, maybe even a career to think about. I want to help, I really do. But I can't get mixed up in this."

"But..." Cream's face had taken on a whole other look of defeat.

"No. I'm sorry. I wish you the best of luck, I hope you do find your friends and that you all make it off this station... But I can't be a part of this." She turned slightly to Kir'gle, "If you had any sense, you'd go back to work now. Forget all of this, let Cream work this out on her own."

"Cherry..." Cream pleaded softly.

"I wish you luck Cream, if you do manage to find your friends and get a ship... I can clear you for launch. It's the best I can do." and with that, she turned and disappeared into the stacks of crates. A few moments later the door at the end of the hanger began to open.

Cream turned her large eyes to Kir'gle.

Who was at that very moment utterly engrossed in his watch, which he had fished out of his polo with shaking hoof. It read 3:07am.

"Kir'gle..." She began softly. "You'll help me right?"

"I... I have to get back to work..." he said to himself, even in his own ears his tone sounded unconvincing.

"Kir..." she began.

But he had already bolted for the door, weaving between crates like a Stallion possessed.

His legs felt weak, and not just from slamming into multiple hard objects.

Somewhere, in the back of his mind as he mashed the controls for the door, he knew... he was running away.

Twelve minutes later he was back behind the counter.

The clock read 3:19am.

Author's Note:

In the original cut of this story, the following came before the actual story section. As I felt it didn't make a whole lot of sense in it's current form, I've decided to add it here as a fun trivia bit.

Flour and Flower, a convenience store opened after two rival family's, the first selling flour and the second selling flowers, decided to merge in the year 1013. The store became an instant success, spreading across Equestria with such astonishing speed that nearly all other competitors were swept away in the tide of green and white.

After years of domination of the markets in Equestria, the chain decided to diversify. First into food manufacturing and then later into agriculture and even into some bio-pharmaceutical areas. The corporate juggernaut to the surprise of many, invested heavily in the early years to secure exclusive contracts with a number of key station builders. And so as the denizens of Equestria rocketed into space, so too did the mighty Flour and Flower.

The year now is 1119, and Flour and Flower still holds many contracts with many stations, independent and otherwise. The company is now focused on the re-expansion, having conquered the Equestrian system almost by default. The company was powerful enough and wide spread enough to maintain their holdings during the resource wars, and the subsequent break up of many corporations with their end.

Despite the rise of the Unified Space Exploration Coalition (USEC) in 1113, Flour and Flower has remained whole. Now, the great ships of Flour and Flower rocket through unexplored space, looking and testing for new biological processes with which they may increase their holdings. But back in the Equestrian system, their shops still remain open to the dwindling population that remained behind.

It is there, on a small sparsely populated asteroid of a measly few hundred, lovingly named "Horizon Station" in a small shop we meet "Kir'gle". Not the pony's real name, but it was the only name tag available after the previous griffon vacated the position of cashier. Kir'gle works the "Night" shift, despite it all being more or less subjective.

And with that, will we ever see more of Kir'gle? Perhaps. I spent somewhere in the range of three years writing this story. Is it perfect? No. Could it have been improved? Of course. Will it be? No. Because as I continue to write and grow as a writer I like to look back at past mistakes so that I can understand them for future endeavors. Will I ever spend three years writing another story? Probably not.

There are of course reasons why this story took three years to write, but suffice to say. This is a bit of a personal achievement, a... way to move on as it were. Don't worry though, there will be more Equestrian space, and probably more Kir'gle.

And to any and all of you who have helped with it over the years, Thank you.

Till next time,

May you always dream.

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