• Published 10th Jan 2018
  • 2,564 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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12. Coffee and Contingency Plans

Doctor Hamada, General Grumman, Valerie, and Aiden all went quiet as Rarity exited the bathroom. She felt much better after freshening up, even if she hadn’t put in the full time necessary for a proper beauty regimen. “Hello everyone.” She said with a smile.

“Miss Rarity, can you understand me?” Grumman asked.

It was easy to forget he was fluent in her language. His accent was a bit thick… stilted? Still, that it was comprehensible at all was impressive. “Yes, General Grumman, I understand you. Is something wrong?”

“And, can you understand me now?”

Rarity tilted her head. “I’m sorry, without the translators I don’t know what you just said.”

Aiden smiled at her. “Oh really?”

“Yes, really.”

He chuckled, shaking his head. “Welp, that’s something, isn’t it?”

“What is? What’s… wait…” Rarity’s eyes widened. “I can understand what you’re saying! But you’re speaking English. ...But I can’t understand Grumman’s English…”

“Yeah, nor I his Equish. Just yours. Whatever Joyeuse did to our magic left behind a gift beyond the shared dreams. If I really pay attention I know the words you’re saying aren’t familiar at all… but I still know what you’re saying.”

“Yes… now that I’m listening for it, it’s the same. I don’t understand the words, and yet I do. I think thinking about it is going to give me a headache. Twilight could explain it, but all I can guess at is a form of Harmony between us through the pure aetheryte in Joyeuse. The crystal has empathic properties, which is why it can be dangerous when corrupted.”

“That explanation suits me,” Aiden said as Grumman switched on the translators for the rest of the room. Though… now that Rarity thought about it, really just for Doctor Hamada right then. Valerie understood Equish, she just didn’t seem comfortable speaking it. She floated the translators over as Grumman held them towards her along with a light, padded holster for them. She put it on, noting the fit was nearly perfect. And yet… she still felt a desire to adjust it… maybe add a few sequins? She’d have to look into that.

“Now then, if you two are amenable, shall we move this to the dining room? Breakfast can be served shortly, and I’m guessing you’re both hungry. We can discuss what you’ve slept through as well as our next move.”

Two stomachs growled right on cue. Rarity blushed, Aiden chuckled and said, “I think it’s safe to say we’re both quite amenable.”

“Agreed,” Rarity said, grinning sheepishly. “...Could Talia, Vera, Donovan, and Aaron join us?”

Grumman nodded as Valerie began tapping her tablet. “I think that can be arranged.”

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

Resituated with pancakes, OJ, more coffee, and various side dishes, Rarity was already eager to start moving forward again. The question was one of direction. As such, she was quite content to listen as Grumman laid out current events. Everyone she’d requested had gathered, though Aaron Cooper seemed quite groggy. He returned her smile in welcome though, before attacking his plate of food as though expecting it to be taken away at any moment.

Addressing the table, Grumman began with what most of them surely already knew. “Obviously there was no covering up the explosion at Veritech. For now, official story is an industrial accident brought on by illegal experiments and poor safety measures. A warrant has been issued for Dr. Christina Stolhann, head researcher for Veritech, along with several others from her support staff who are still unaccounted for. Most of the so-called Third Generation Espers serving as guards there have been rounded up, with help from my own staff, over the last 24 hours. Thanks to Vera Elleway blowing the whistle on Veritech’s dangerous and illegal shortcuts, we were able to intervene and arrest Colonel Jeffrey Owens on several charges. Again, not all of those have been made public. His… tampering... with Oni-koru corpses is classified information.”

Aiden spoke up at that. “Yeah, speaking of Owens…”

“He is currently occupying Vera’s old room. Under the possibility that he has more information that I am uniquely equipped to deal with, he’ll enjoy my hospitality for the foreseeable future. Alas, I had to assign Knight Elleway a standard suite.”

“It’s okay though, I promised to behave and remain confined to quarters. ...Other than for pancakes. And maybe the occasional op.” Vera grinned, taking a rather large bite of the former.

“Well, I did request your presence. I keep forgetting you’re a ‘criminal’. ...Why haven’t we forgiven her yet?” Rarity asked, raising an eyebrow at Grumman.

“I’d say we have. Even Sergeant Vualez has spoken with and forgiven her. However, criminal proceedings are about more than the emotions involved. Even believable contrition isn’t necessarily enough.” Grumman replied.

“That seems… vindictive.”

“Unfortunately it can be. But the idea is to be punitive, to discourage such actions being repeated and in others. There are criminals who are superb actors. If we allowed them to simply be forgiven upon expressing believable contrition…” Grumman shrugged lightly.

Rarity grimaced. “I see your point. I still don’t think I like it. Or that that applies in this case.”

Grumman smiled at her. “I agree; in a perfect world we’d have a better system. Well, I suppose in a perfect world we wouldn’t need one. If it helps… there’s a reason I haven’t turned her in or even reported her actions yet.”

Aiden nodded. “By the time anyone outside of this group hears about Vera’s little boo boo, she’ll likely have exonerated herself.”

“Truthfully, I can’t rule out the possibility that reporting it will slip my mind altogether. I’m not a young man anymore.” Grumman said with a grin.

Valerie chuckled. “We call that spiting the letter of the law to uphold the spirit. Supposedly, law should be rational and not let emotions sway decisions. The upside is discouraging rulings based on vengeance. The downside is that compassion can also fall by the wayside. So… we fudge a little, when it seems called for.”

“Sounds rather complicated,” Rarity noted.

“Very. Though I prefer ‘intricate’,” Grumman chimed back in. “Again, not a perfect system, but perfection leaves nothing to improve on. It’s actually one aspect of Oni-koru philosophy I agree with. They believe in rebirth and don’t buy into any sort of Afterlife. A perfect plane of existence representing bliss or torment is anathema to them, and I agree. Heaven or Hell, I’d be bored with either. Give me the good but imperfect Earth every time.”

“I think boredom would be your Hell.” Valerie noted.

“Plus he’d be on fire, because Hell,” Aaron added. “I could see you, sir, being on fire and bored by it.”

“We’ll hope I can stave that off for awhile longer. And speaking of staving off… our involvement in bringing down Veritech couldn’t be kept secret. Fortunately, the details,” and Grumman nodded to Rarity, “have remained hidden. For the moment we want that to continue, and so I’ve arranged for Aiden and Rarity to be offsite for a couple days while the press are visiting.”

Donovan groaned. “You didn’t mention we’d be getting interviewed.”

“I didn’t want to give you time to plan an escape. Especially you, Knight Trellis. With Knight Lieutenant Windborne staying out of the public eye, you’re the hero of the encounter.”

“Oh come on! Valerie did more than I did. Hell, so did Henson, for that matter.”

Talia raised an eyebrow behind her tea cup, but didn’t reply. Valerie put a hand up in a ‘keep it coming’ sort of gesture, grinning. “Even if we agreed, that’s why you get credit with the press. Our reward is getting to mostly avoid them.”

“Besides, you know they’re going to want to talk to an Esper for something like this. They love twisting everything we say into something they can get more scare mileage out of,” Vera said with a grimace.

“Thanks, Vera, so no pressure then.”

Her grimace morphed into a weak smile of apology.

“I know that you’ll handle the situation well, Knight Trellis. I’ll be speaking to them first and will make it abundantly clear that you have my utmost confidence. The world needs to work its way past this fear of Espers nonsense that the media has built up. I don’t expect you to spearhead that completely, but I believe this can be a start. I can’t think of a better candidate.”

“Yeah,” Aaron added offhandedly, “plus, the press’ll love you. You’re so pretty!”

Rarity snorted her coffee rather noticeably and went into a cycle of coughing and laughing, ducking under the side of the table. Aaron grinned. “Got ‘er!”

“Goddammit, Private…” Aiden muttered, patting Rarity’s back while fistbumping Aaron out of her line of sight. Or so he thought.

Rarity looked up at him with a mock glare, still clearing her throat. “...Traitor.”

He grinned nervously.

Donovan was chuckling. “So other than running from the now angry girl with the built in spear, what will you be doing while I represent Esper kind?”

“I don’t actually know. ...Sir?”

Grumman smiled. “You and Rarity will be spending a couple days out of sight. Keep an eye on the news broadcasts to see how we’re doing if you’d like, but either way I’ll contact you when they’ve cleared out. As to where out of sight… your aunt will be here to get you both around noon.”

“Oh how lovely; I look forward to meeting her!” Rarity said.

“Huh…” Aiden muttered. “So… did you tell her the… nature of one of her guests?”

“I used a series of nondescript euphemisms. She has a First Generation Esper in her family, and very few people can say that these days. I’m sure she’ll handle the surprise with no problems. And I’m sure you’ll explain things flawlessly, being family and all.”

“You magnificent bastard.”

“Why thank you, young man. Obviously she can also take you around to your work to pick up your car and update your coworkers of the situation.”

Aiden nodded. “I was already thinking about that. They deserve an update. I’m honestly surprised Craig hasn’t gone to the police or whatnot. I’m pretty sure he has pictures.”

“Actually, the security detail I sent to guard them from any Veritech incursions bought the pictures at my authorization. Under the circumstances, it was the best option for all concerned. The world isn’t ready for more aliens, even amicable ones. And given Miss Rarity’s appearance, he would just as likely be accused of fakery.”

“I choose to take that as a compliment, darling.”

“As it was intended, Miss Rarity. You are too fabulous to be believed," he replied with a completely straight face.

Rarity beamed at him, giggling as if to say 'I know you're half-joking but I like it anyway'.

“Alright then,” Aiden nodded thoughtfully. “So that covers the next couple days. Longer term though, what’s next?”

“We’re looking for another ship. Or even spaceship parts. Or maybe a giant robot buried in a junkyard for some reason that can fly in space… for some reason.” Valerie replied with a smirk. The bandage around her head was so unobtrusive Rarity had scarcely noticed it. It was reassuring; she seemed to be recovering and none the worse for wear.

“Hey, I remember that cartoon!” Aaron added. “A couple kids from Jersey used a robot from the future to beat up Oni-koru invaders. It was awesome!”

Aiden chuckled. “Yeah… ‘laughing at the scary’ was a pretty popular theme back then. I think folks were really starting to feel some hope. Stuff like that helped, even silly… especially silly.”

Smiling, Rarity leaned over and nuzzled him.

He blinked, coloring slightly. “...What?”

She shook her head, still smiling. “I’ll tell you later.”

Returning the smile, he nodded. “Kay.” Turning back to the table, he saw several knowing grins, and his flush intensified. He cleared his throat, and his eyes narrowed a little as he heard what sounded suspiciously like a fist contacting a hoof behind his back. He glanced sidelong at Rarity, who looked so innocent she could only be guilty. Looking the other way revealed an Aaron with no attempt at a poker face.

“Got ‘im,” he said, looking Aiden in the eyes with a shit-eating grin.

“...Goddammit, Private. ...ANYway… do we have any leads that don’t rely on a cartoon full of unlikely, albeit hilarious, plot contrivances?”

“Other than NASA, and I do plan to talk with the director in person next week,” Grumman replied. “There are several possibilities. The top three on the list involve a fair bit of travel, so we’ll need to deal with the press situation first. Suffice to say things don’t look much worse than before we lost Owens’ ship, even if it may take a bit longer. Hopefully we can procure something with the blessing of its current owner.”

“Why go in person though?” Aiden asked.

“While I could contact leads on this matter through official or unofficial channels, there’s always a risk of information leaking, and higher odds of being misled. I prefer a show of force and commitment, so we’re likely to do some traveling. Besides, with you there we can claim any ship we obtain immediately and easily get it where we need to go with it, for whatever repairs or modifications it may require.”

“Fair point. Though you’d think anyone with an Oni ship lying around would be happy to have it be part of an historic diplomatic effort to the stars.”

“That will be my hope, yes. If not, we have other options.”

“Blow them up and take it?” Aaron asked, sounding hopeful.

“...Goddammit, Private.” Grumman muttered. “We aren’t pirates. Purchase will be our first route, likely in trade rather than liquid assets, but we’ll see.”

“I understand, General, really I do, but… isn’t just having one of these things and not being government sanctioned already illegal?” Aaron asked, looking thoughtful. Rarity thought the look suited him. He was clearly comfortable playing the clown, but at least some of that was an act.

Grumman hummed thoughtfully. “The truth is a bit more murky than that. Frankly, it isn’t worth going into. The short answer is ‘yes’, but there are a lot of loopholes. Those help us though; we can use various avenues to procure a vessel without having to outright hand it over to the joint chiefs… or NATO, for that matter.”

Breakfast had more or less wrapped up. As they began excusing themselves to get the day started, Rarity trotted in front of Aaron. Aiden stepped back, clearly not sure what she was doing but content to wait unless dismissed. And quite the contrary, Rarity wanted him, and everyone, there.

“Uhh, hi?” Aaron said a bit nervously, looking over to Aiden as if to say ‘what’s she want?’.

She reared up easily and put her forelegs around his neck, hugging him tightly.

“Guu…?”

She nuzzled him, and then kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you. Thank you so much. I’m sorry you had to kill to protect me, but you saved my life. Thank you!” She kissed his cheek again.

Aaron, by this point, was imitating a radish, and doing a fine job. Not only was he the proper color (both even, having gone from a pale white of ‘nervous’ to a bright red of ‘embarrassed’), but he was also absolutely still. For a moment. He then smiled, laughed quietly, and returned the hug. “You’re welcome, Miss Rarity. ...This is kinda embarrassing though, in front of everybody.”

“Oh?” She said archly, not letting him go. “You’re saying you’d prefer a private hug, and perhaps a kiss or two? I mean, I do owe you, but you should probably buy a lady dinner first, don't you think?”

Aaron coughed, pushing her away gently as his flush returned in full force. Around the room several chuckles made themselves known.

Rarity regained her four hooves, looking up at Aaron with a smug grin. “...Got ‘im.”

He blinked, and then laughed. “Goddamn right.” They fist/hoofbumped.

Everyone filed out, grinning and laughing. Clearly, despite the close calls at Veritech, morale hadn’t suffered.

“Oh, Talia?” Rarity called out, almost singing the name.

The taciturn woman turned, grinning and holding her hands in front of her in a warding gesture. Honey blonde hair framed a cutely chubby face, though it didn’t match her slim figure, seeming more the result of prominent cheekbones. The grin was genuine, and really suited her, but also apologetic. “Sorry, Rarity, I don’t do pdas.”

“Hmm… oh fine, I suppose I can’t embarrass everyone in one day, though I must say you look lovely when you smile, if you decide to do it more often I think it would suit you well.” Rarity replied, smiling up at her. “And thank you. For saving me.”

Talia nodded. “It was a team effort; we all worked to keep each other safe, and that’s how it should be. We’ll see you in a couple days, and do it all again. ...Hopefully, with a lot less violence and a lot more ‘talking folks into helping us make history’.”

“Agreed, darling.”

Author's Note:

This was going to be longer... and done sooner, but I ran into outside issues to take care of. Nothing major (most notably a much longer work day yesterday than anticipated, I am le tired). Next chapter in a couple days!

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