• Published 10th Jan 2018
  • 2,709 Views, 228 Comments

Back and There Again - Sun Sage



A strange gem takes Rarity to a world she almost recognizes. She's going to make it back home no matter what, but she might need some help to do it. And why is it all so familiar?

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Interlude: Childhood's End

It was odd to walk constantly on two legs. Rarity could certainly appreciate Twilight’s description of her initial difficulties. ...Why was she walking on two legs? Further, she was surrounded by humans in some sort of hallway, in a school, based on the lockers, and no one gave her a second glance. She couldn’t feel any aether, which should have concerned her, but… ah. She was dreaming. She wanted to smile, but couldn’t. She understood. They were exactly her lips, after all.

“Windburn!”

She… no, they, turned, and rolled their eyes. What a silly nickname. “What’s up, Chad?”

Chad was a slighter taller boy with sandy hair and a smarmy grin. “Nothin’... you pitched pretty good yesterday. I’m still better, though. You gotta throw a no-hitter next game or I win the bet.”

A much younger Aiden grinned at the other young boy. “Heh, you wait. It’ll be a perfect game, and I’ll hit two home runs, too. You’re gonna be-”

“Aiden! Come on, mom and dad are outside, we gotta go!”

“Comin’ Moira! ...See ya,” Aiden said, sidestepping Chad.

“Later, Windburn! ...You're gonna lose!” he taunted, but was ignored.

Aiden was grinning as he ran over to his big sis, and Rarity grinned with him. She didn’t really have a choice in the matter, being along for the ride, but she didn’t mind. She did feel like she was forgetting something, but it could wait. She’d wanted to meet this girl, his whole family, really. ...Why hadn’t she, again? Everything seemed a bit cloudy in her mind, for whatever reason.

Aiden looked up at Moira Windborne, who stood waiting with her hands on her hips. Rarity was no expert on human age, but she guessed the girl was in her mid teens. She was a head taller than Aiden, and had light blue eyes… between them and her bright smile Rarity couldn’t help thinking of Pinkie a bit. Her mane… hair… was a reddish brown mass of curls that might not have been natural, but it looked nice. “Ready to go, brat? Spider-Man and then pizza… and then maybe you can try Morrowind.”

Aiden’s grin could have definitely matched one of Pinkie’s as he hopped slightly in excitement. “Best family day ever! Let’s go!”

“Hmph,” she replied as they both turned and headed for the door, though the lopsided grin on her face wasn’t fooling Rarity. Maybe not Pinkie… but this could be Rainbow and Scootaloo…

Outside the weather was lovely. The sun shone bright in the west and a few puffy clouds accentuated the deep blue of the sky. The air was warm, and the light breeze felt perfect. Rarity made a note to herself to get some fresh air at the next opportunity. The pair, or three of them, made their way to a midsized, dark blue car. Rarity didn’t know enough about cars to tell much about it, but it was sleek and spotlessly clean. And in the front two seats…

Aiden’s mother flashed a smile to her children as they got into the back of the vehicle. “Found him, eh?” She was a lovely looking woman, Rarity decided with absolutely no bias. Her children both seemed to favor her, at least in facial features, and Aiden had her eyes. Her hair was a more natural looking red, and freckles accentuated an almost autumnal, earthy look.

“Duh, I always know where the brat is,” Moira replied, ruffling Aiden’s hair. “Big sister sense.”

“Pfft,” was Aiden’s brilliant response to that, and then “Quit it!” as he went about shooing her away and fixing his hair.

“Kat, Spider-Man awaits,” said the man in the passenger seat. Aiden’s father. He looked tired, but content. Light blue eyes with a hint of circles beneath them were framed by short cropped, dark brown hair, accented by a few touches of barely there silvery strands.

Katherine Windborne snorted, almost exactly the way Rarity had heard Aiden do many times. “You mean your pre-dinner nap awaits.”

“...Maybe. Ey, it looks like a good movie, but it was a long day. And a longer night, but no complaints there…” he smirked at Katherine, who blushed as she looked straight ahead, maneuvering their car out of the school parking lot.

“Ew,” Moira noted dryly, looking at her phone. Rarity had seen more than a few in just her short time on Earth, and this one looked quite dated compared to her own experience.

“Why was it long, dad?” Aiden asked innocently. Rarity would have giggled, but she was just along for the ride. She was looking forward to ribbing him about this; his family was adorable…

Rarity went cold. His family was… Wait… oh no…. No no no…

The conversation faded into the background as she realized what she was seeing… what she was about to see.

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They hopped onto I-5 for just a couple miles on their way to the theater, and while it was technically faster, it surprised no one in that car to see traffic backed up. Complaining about traffic around Seattle made less sense than complaining about rain. Frankly, Aiden thought the rain was nice, and there was a lot less in summer. And see? Today it wasn’t raining. He looked up at the sky through the car window…

“What is that…?”

It wasn’t an airplane. Aiden could tell that much. It was too big, and it moved strangely, but that wasn’t all. It felt odd… he hadn’t seen it before and yet... recognition… like remembering something he didn’t want to.

Moira leaned over him, looking up at it. “No way…” she gasped. “Aiden, close your eyes!” She threw her arms around him, pulling him away from the window.

He didn’t listen. Something was…

There was a flash from the ship, and then a loud clang as a spherical, metal object smashed into the median. Aiden felt a pull from it, like he wanted to fall towards it, and then…

Another flash, this one lacked any color. That didn’t matter, because Aiden’s brain was attempting to wrap itself around a new sense. His young mind had no way to describe it. There was a feeling of depth, of ebb and flow, that he’d never really known. He remembered little moments. Sometimes when he really needed a die to roll a four, or if stretching just a little farther in a jump would make the catch. The perfect memory of jumping off the roof and landing too slowly to be physically possible came into his mind; he didn’t remember when he’d done that. But this was all those little feelings a thousand fold. He looked around, and in the distance he could see a wave of energy receding, the same wave that had passed through their car just a moment ago…

He heard a noise like someone choking, if only briefly. Moira was leaning against him really hard…

“Moira, move…” he trailed off as he looked up at her. Her face was burned, and her eyes looked… wrong. There was no life in them. Aiden felt his blood go cold. “...M...Moira?” He pushed her away, and she moved limply. “Moira?!” His vision blurred as even his young mind fully understood what it was seeing. “Mom!”

Looking to the front of the car offered him no comfort. His mother was leaning forward against her seatbelt, eyes wide and blank. “...Dad?” His father was leaning lifelessly against the window.

He shook his head, trying to expel the images that had just burned themselves into his mind. Dead. He grit his teeth as tears streamed down his face. They were…

Aiden screamed… and the world changed. The pulse of energy seemed to flinch, and the spherical object exploded. The strange beings that had appeared amongst the cars all looked to Aiden’s in surprise. Many of them were quickly surrounded by energy shields.

The ones who weren’t disappeared as Aiden drew them off of Earth and into a newly forming dimension.

When the light of the second surge had faded, the remaining alien beings stood in a shallow crater, alongside a single human boy. They were varied in appearance. Though consistently humanoid, their features ran the gamut in terms of skin color (including shades of red, purple, green, grey, and blue), and that was only the beginning. Some had visible fangs and claws, others assortments of horns. There were males and females, and plenty where gender wasn’t clear. Some had too many eyes, a few had none at all. Most were taller than an average human, but some were shorter than Aiden. As to him… the boy was sitting on the ground, sobbing inconsolably. He held his head in his hands, and wide, terrified eyes stared at the ground in front of him. Yet he could see them all. A noise he’d never knew roared in his mind, yet somehow that same noise showed him everything around him. They were faint lights, sickening and diseased like glowing mushrooms growing in rotting corpses. Aiden hated them.

One of the aliens, a tall, red, winged male, slowly approached him. “The archives were wrong about them. This one has aether in him. He reversed the gravity drive.” One of the aliens walked over to Aiden while speaking to the others. “Do you understand me, boy? We speak your language so you can deliver our message. You have already shown your strength…” he chuckled as several of the missing aliens began popping out of nowhere, escaping the pocket dimension. “Though it is young, and clearly flawed. We are the Oni-koru, former servants of the Great Conquerors. Your kind will be our next conquest. You will all die at our hands. Fight well, and be remembered. Cower, and die in obscurity. Fear not death… rebirth awaits you. Do you understand, boy?”

“...Why?”

“...Why? Why must you understand? You must deliver-”

“WHY DID YOU KILL MY FAMILY?!” A pulse of energy shot out from Aiden, shattering shields and pushing soldiers away. “I HATE YOU!!!!!”

The aether shuddered around him, filling the entirety of the territory he’d unknowingly claimed. Aiden wouldn’t have known what a magic surge was; he barely knew what he was controlling. He only knew he wanted to hurt the ones that had taken his family away.

In that moment, a thousand portals opened. Each was a response to the pain, and hate, of a child who’d lost everything. There was no mercy, no empathy, no thought of holding back. Only a desire to lash out in every direction.

There were three hundred Oni-koru foot soldiers, weakest of their kind but still three hundred strong.

They didn’t stand a chance. These portals weren’t opened with the idea of trapping, or transporting. Each opened with the idea of ripping apart where they opened. Each Oni received at least three that tore into them, inflicting fatal wounds. The speaker got twelve.

Aiden was shaking at he stood up. He’d bitten through his lip, and blood ran from his eyes and nose. “I understand your message. We’ll fight.” He sniffed, and then spat onto the corpse of the Oni that had spoken to him. “I’ll kill all of you.”

--------------------

Aiden was walking back towards his school. Now and again he’d jump forward through a portal. It felt natural to do so, easy as jumping over cracks while running down the sidewalk. Moira used to… Aiden grit his teeth. He didn’t want to look around inside the portals’ other side. What was in there was everything he’d lost… everything everyone there had lost. It wasn’t just his family. They’d killed everyone. He’d stop them. The ship had been flying in this direction… He could feel that it was gone now, but it had gone this way.

Another portal hop, and he found another sphere. With a snarl, he absorbed it in pieces, shattering it through several portals. He felt his nose running again. He wiped away blood. It didn’t matter.

A blast of energy knocked him off his feet and sent him tumbling. He cried out in pain as his shoulder gave way under the impact with the concrete.

“So… here’s the little child that wiped out an entire battalion. You saved a great number of your kind, little hero! Take pride!” It was a female Oni-koru, carrying a massive sword in one hand. Smoke rose lazily from the tip of the blade. Her face was oddly beautiful, in a cruel sort of way. Red and yellow eyes looked down at Aiden while full, dark lips curled into a grin. Her form was tall and lithe, and she moved with a sinuous grace while closing the distance between them. Her ears, long and elfin, flicked forward towards him, as though listening for the slightest peep of a response. “It’s a pleasure to see such strength; I was worried this wouldn’t be any fun at all!”

Aiden got slowly to his feet. He reached out to open portals around her, to tear her apart. The air seemed to thicken, and he couldn’t move it properly. In an instant she’d blurred and was directly in front of him. The flat of her blade struck him across the face, sending him once again sprawling. She was too fast. He stared up balefully at her, trying to gather energy to kill her again.

She blurred once more, ending crouched down next to him, a foot from his face. She was smiling. “Enough, little hero. You won’t win today. The Grand Marshal wanted us to preserve any targets of interest. I’ve decided you qualify. So you’ll be coming along with-”

Her head jerked violently to the side, before the sharp report of a high powered rifle could properly be registered. Her eyes were wide, and dark blood streamed down the side of her head, but the wound looked superficial. “Well now,” she muttered shakily as the dozen or so Oni with her began firing various weapons at the source of the shot. Aiden couldn’t tell if they were accomplishing anything. “That was something. Your kind… yes, I think we will definitely remember your people, boy.” She shook her head as though to clear it. “I am Elite Warbrave Keia Luxuria. I am your enemy; and I bear you no grudge. But I will see your world burn. Would you do me the honor of your name?”

“...Aiden Windborne. I hate you. We’ll kill you all.”

“You will try,” she smiled, and patted his head. “Sleep now, little hero. You lose today, but I’d be a coward not to allow you another chance. Mercy… is for the strong.”

With that, she grabbed his forehead, and he felt a surge like a splash of water falling over him. It was… surprisingly refreshing. And he really was so very tired…

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He didn’t know where he was, or how long he'd been asleep. The ceiling was white, as were the walls, and the bed covers. A hospital? He grabbed a cup of water by the bed and drank deeply, coughing a bit at first. He called out, “Hello? I’m not staying here, I have to go.”

“A moment first, Aiden Alexander Windborne.” The voice was deep, and calm. There was a confidence in it that Aiden could feel. Literally. The feeling in the air seemed to slow, telling him to listen. Looking in the voice’s direction, Aiden saw a man with dark, thinning hair, a well-tanned face, and a grim expression standing unobtrusively in the corner of the room. He was wearing a military uniform and holding an old book in one hand. Passing the time by reading? Aiden couldn’t see the cover. “There’s nowhere for you to go just now, I’m afraid. But we intend to change that.”

Aiden swallowed, not sure what to make of that. "...Who are you?”

“Brigadier General Albert Grumman, United States Marine Corps. I’m one of many fighting back the alien invasion that began two days ago.”

Images flashed in Aiden's head... things he didn't want to remember. He focused on the words. “Two days?”

“You’ve been recovering. The doctor here is one of mine, and expected you to wake up soon, so I came to wait. I know what you’re capable of. There are others like you as well. I believe, with the help of all of you, we can stop these monsters for good.”

“Others like me? ...What am I?” Aiden knew something had changed; it was more than just using the alien’s device against them. He could still feel it, all around him. It was like the air was speaking to him, but it wasn’t the air. He couldn’t tell what he was feeling.

“We haven’t settled on a name yet… but you can use what is being called magic.”

“I thought magic wasn’t real.”

Grumman smiled, seeming sad. “So did I, young man, for a long time. Someone important to me spent a lot of that time trying to convince me otherwise. I can’t help wondering if it might have mattered if I’d listened. The invaders, called the Oni-koru, use machines that use magic for their power sources. It’s dangerous for most of us. Magic through their devices is unstable and hazardous to people.” He sighed deeply. “You already know that; I’m sorry to say. But with your help, and the help of those like you… we can beat them.”

“...Do you know who shot Keia Luxuria?”

Grumman frowned slightly. “I don’t know who that is…”

“The Oni woman who put me to sleep.”

“Ah. Yes, we’re rather lucky they seem overconfident. Once word of Baltimore spreads… But you had a severely separated shoulder and a broken cheekbone from your encounter with her. Over the course of thirty six hours, you have healed completely. But we haven’t seen her since a local SWAT team chased her and her soldiers away from you. ...Or so I’d like to say, but standard firearms don’t seem very effective. The important thing is they left you after being engaged there. I’ll introduce you to the sniper who first got her attention. And then there are more introductions to make. As I said, I intend to bring together as many like you as I can. Because we’re going to save the world from them. I promise you that. Can I count on your help?”

Aiden took a breath, and sighed slowly. It was magic he was feeling, then. It was calming, and not just because of Grumman’s confidence.

In his mind, within the gentle roll of power, he imagined he heard waves hitting the shore. And he could hear Moira laughing, cheering him on just like at his baseball games. He could see his mother’s kind smile as she waited for him at the door, every day after school. And his father: stoic, dependable, and honest, who never held back encouragement and always steered his young son in the right direction. Tears ran down his cheek as he shut his eyes, focusing on the magic around him. They weren’t gone… and he would make sure they were proud of him. He nodded, sniffling. “I want to help....”

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Doctor Moriko Hamada was a slight woman in her mid thirties, and everything from her simple ponytail and glasses to her oversized lab coat would have screamed ‘doctor’, if Moriko didn’t strongly disapprove of screaming. She was probably the quietest, most unassuming person in Grumman’s compound. To his knowledge, she had never directly contacted him before. But a cursory glance at the examination room and its two occupants made it clear why she had.

“Dr. Hamada,” Grumman greeted her with a brief nod, which she returned. “What am I seeing?”

The aether in the room was thick enough to be visible to the naked eye, and resembled a dark blue cloud of glowing fog. It was centralized around Rarity and Aiden, each of whom slept peacefully in a hospital style bed. Vital signs were stable on both of them, but more to the point…

“Setting aside the magic… is it me or do they have pretty much all the same readings?” Donovan asked.

“It isn’t you, Knight Trellis, though there are a few differences,” Hamada replied. “I believe they are sharing a dream, or each other’s dreams. The visible aether in the room belongs to both of them, strengthening this connection and speeding both their recoveries. I believe they're both be awake soon." She held up a tablet for Donovan and Grumman to see. "Most notable is this wave pattern. As you see, the two of them are almost exactly in sync. I’ve noticed hints of a third pattern as well, but it’s intermittent. ”

“Thoughts on a cause, doctor? And what this means going forward?” Grumman asked.

“Based on the preliminary report from the field, their aetherpools merged briefly when Rarity used Joyeuse to cleanse the wound Aiden received from the Oni spear. It won’t last, but for now they’re resonating with each other, connecting them both, particularly so while sleeping. As to why they collapsed… simple aether exhaustion combined with physical overexertion. Both of them pushed themselves too hard. A repeat of something like this is very ill-advised, and could cause permanent impairment. Even if their energies are compatible, they aren't perfectly so. It's not as bad as mixing blood types, but that's the simplest analogy.”

“Be sure to pass that along; I’m positive they’ll listen to you.” Donovan said with a grin.

“As do all my patients, of course. How’s your back lately?”

“Aches a bit towards the end of the long days.”

“Have you been doing the exercises I recommended?”

“...”

Hamada sniffed dismissively. “Espers are not invincible, you know. Take care of your-” her tablet beeped, interrupting her. “Ah. This is what I called you about; the third signal is back. General, do you recognize this pattern? It’s an aetheric fluctuation within their minds, too subtle to be dangerous to them, or us, but I’ve never seen the like.”

Grumman shook his head, looking at the readings with a confused frown. “I have no idea. Neither of them could make that pattern without altering their own, if I remember correctly.”

“You do… so far as we know, at least.”

“I’m afraid I’m stumped.”

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It was a unique experience, to be pulled so far to a nightmare. In fact, it seemed clear she hadn’t arrived in time. Still, perhaps she could provide some scant comfort before this piece of her consciousness returned to the whole. It was a duty she took most seriously, after all...

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