• Published 10th Jan 2018
  • 2,704 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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26. Icarus

“This is Captain Aiden Windborne, of The Starship High Horse-”

“We are not calling it that-”

“Alongside First Officer Rarity. Checking in, we have successfully achieved orbit at approximately 20,000 kilometers… approximate since the two systems currently operating don’t seem to quite agree… if my math is right.”

The comm system reply confirmed, “It is, High Horse-”

“Nooope.”

Aiden chuckled. “That you, Val?”

“It is. Paladin Williams is putting the finishing touches on the last two batteries, should be done by tonight. According to our estimates, you’ll use forty two percent of their charge getting to Equus. As such, you can make an emergency trip back without recharging, but you’re better off finding a way to recharge them there. Hamada and I are writing up details on how to build charging stations for them using materials you can find on Equus.”

“Wait, if you can just build them…”

“We can design them, based on new information… we’ll fill you in after the test flight. But either way, we can’t build them here. They’ll require trace amounts of pure aetheryte, which we’re hoping you’ll be able to find.”

“How ‘trace’?” Rarity asked.

“Point one five grams per charger, to be safe.”

“Ah. That should be fine. Larger gems, like Joyeuse, are all but unheard of, but flecks that size can be mined beneath Canterlot as well as in the mountains around Tall Tale. They’re expensive, but not exorbitant.”

“Hopefully that won’t be an issue.”

“Certainly not, darling. It’s not something I brag about, but I’m rather well off, and that’s if we don’t just go out and mine them ourselves. The aetheryte won’t be a problem.”

“Good to hear. Now then, if you’re both comfortable with the controls, we’re reading all green down here. Proceed with the next phase of the test flight.”

“Understood. Setting course for Jupiter. Nav shields at full, inertial dampers good. Course is plotted and laid in. Engaging...”

The blue planet below disappeared in an instant, replaced by a strangely alluring blur of lights. Rarity knew she wasn’t really seeing anything through the viewport in that instant. Instead, she was sensing the swirling of aether so strongly it was affecting her vision. She looked to the controls and things returned to normal, but it had been an odd feeling. That same swirling of aether would be a maelstrom tearing away at my essence, if I had no magic of my own…

“Weird…” Aiden muttered his own response.

Before she could respond, their ship came to a relative halt. Rarity took in a slow gasp at the sight before them. Aiden had a grin on his face like a foal on Hearth’s Warming morning. “Testing FTL comms. Are you receiving us, Friendship?”

“Five by five, Horse.

“Still not calling it that.” Rarity said absently, though like Aiden her attention was drawn to the magnificent sight of the planet Jupiter before them. “Amazing…”

“Yeah… never thought I’d see this directly. Friendship, you getting this?”

“That we are, and recording for posterity. The two of you are officially the first living crew to get that far from Earth without something going wrong.”

“Well just jynx it, why don’t you?”

“Nothing of the sort, it’s just very encouraging. Our readings indicate almost no battery charge lost for that trip. Confirm?”

“Confirmed. Point triple oh two percent lost from our single battery. Granted we went light minutes instead of… how far are we going to get to Equus?”

“A mere two point six million light years… give or take a few thousand. They’re just across the street in Andromeda. But don’t worry about the numbers working out. The energy needed to open the gate the ship uses to bypass physics isn’t proportional to the distance you are from your destination.”

“I mean… why would it be? That would make sense. What fun is there in that?”

Rarity snerked.

“What?”

“Nothing at all, darling,” she replied, smiling as she continued taking in the view. Equus, to her knowledge, had always had space travel as a fictional concept and little more. She’d never imagined visiting other worlds before Twilight’s trip through the mirror, and even then it was standing on those worlds that she envisioned. This… was something else entirely. And it was breathtaking. “Can… can we go to Saturn next?”

Aiden grinned, and put a hand on her withers. “Friendship, confirm that request, if you would.”

“You are go to have a look around the Solar System,” Valerie confirmed. “Just be home by five. We all have plans.”

“Copy that, Friendship. This is High Horse-”

“No, it isn’t. Recommend we change name to Falcon.”

Aiden blinked, then smiled and nodded once. “...Captain Windborne would like to confirm new ship name.”

“Friendship confirms.”

“Good to hear. Heading out for Saturn.”

After another brief blur of colors that weren’t really there, they were treated to another breathtaking view. After both looked on in appreciative silence for a moment, Rarity felt Aiden’s magic as a bottle floated out of a nearby compartment. “I’d say this is a celebration type moment, wouldn’t you?”

Rarity smiled, grabbing a pair of glasses with her own magic. They had, naturally, come prepared. Aiden popped the cork, and filled both glasses, taking one from her telekinesis. He clinked it against hers. “To successful test flights, and homeward journeys.”

Rarity smiled, returning the clink and responding, “To new friendships, and bright futures.”

They both sipped, enjoying the shared moment of triumph that they, and those back at Friendship, had earned together.

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

The sight of the Rings of Saturn would be with Rarity for the rest of her days, and she felt she’d be trying to find words to describe the experience of seeing them and the world they encircled for just as long. Fortunately, the words required of her currently were a bit easier; she’d had no trouble memorizing them.

“I, Rarity, Knight of the Esper Corps, do swear to defend my people and my homeland from all threats, foreign and domestic. I swear to uphold the ethical uses of the gift of magic both in myself and my peers. I hold myself to this standard now until the end of my life, a beacon of hope and a bastion against the darkness that would encroach upon our light. We walk forward on our path, no matter how it may bend and try to lead us astray. Even unto the depths of Hell without fear, for I know that I am not alone. My brothers and sisters walk with me, forward, shining brightly even covered in the shadows of the darkest of days. We are the children of magic, the defenders of our worlds. We are Knights.”

She saluted smartly, and Paladin Williams returned it, as did Aiden, Donovan, and Vera from their sides. “Welcome to the Corps, Lady Rarity.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Here’s hoping it stays mostly ceremonial,” Will said with a wry grin.

“Agreed, darling,” she replied, breaking the serious mood as an impressive applause broke out from the gathered witnesses… those being the soldiers and technicians working at Fort Friendship (apparently now the official name) under General Grumman.

Among the loudest clapping was Private Aaron Cooper, wearing a grin that Pinkie would’ve been proud of. “And now, folks,” he yelled over the pleasant din. “...Time to party!”

A cheer went up as the assembled throng began quickly rearranging the room to clear a dance floor and arrange chairs around tables near where the kitchen staff was already wheeling out buffet carts. Another small kitchen group was clearly setting up a bar, and it occurred to Rarity that it seemed a positively lovely night to get tipsy. But first…

She turned to Aiden, grinning as the music began playing. He returned the look, stepping forward and giving her a half bow. He looked rather sharp in his dress uniform, Rarity decided. She really didn’t have a primer for human attractiveness beyond the Internet (marginally helpful if one could recognize the various misleads, she’d decided), but she’d determined that Aiden was… boyishly handsome, for whatever that meant. More importantly, she’d long since determined that she cared far less about how he looked than about how she felt around him.

“My Lady… may I have this dance?” and despite the slight upturn to his lips that indicated he knew the answer, there was an adorable little quaver of nerves in his voice. She had the sense that no one else would have even noticed it. Those grey eyes looked at her with warmth, respect, and trust. But even with everything, he didn’t take her acceptance for granted.

He could have, though. “It would be my pleasure… Sir Knight,” she replied.

Dancing on her hind hooves wasn’t nearly as difficult as she might have anticipated, though practicing a bit in advance had helped. Aiden led her through a waltz that slowly increased in tempo as the first song did the same. They were both cheating a little, using touches of magic to assist with balance. The high point for Rarity was when Aiden dipped her… since she really had almost no way to keep her hooves from sliding out from under her. It was a surprise and a thrill since they distinctly hadn’t practiced that. He didn’t let her fall though, and when they came back up she was laughing and he was grinning, before they embraced as the song ended.

Of course that was only the beginning. Her next partner was Grumman, who danced much more simply given his slight limp. “I can’t say how happy I am to see this day, and tomorrow as well. Miss Rarity, it may be presumptuous to say… but I’m very proud of you. Both of you,” he added, nodding towards Aiden, who was dancing with Vera while Lily had dragged a half heartedly protesting Donovan onto the dance floor.

Rarity smiled. “Not at all, General. Without your guidance and support, I can’t even imagine where I’d be, if I were even still alive to be anywhere. The same is true of Aiden, if to a lesser extent. Even when he left the military, you never stopped looking after him. I know he thinks of you as a father figure as much as a commanding officer.”

Grumman’s smile was the rare sort that could transform a face that had known true depths of loss. Rarity was quite happy to be able to put that smile on his face. Their dance ended with a kiss on his cheek. “To be clear, Albert Grumman, when I describe the best of humanity to my people, it will be the story of this house that you built, and the good people I met here.”

After that, Rarity managed to find herself dancing with Donovan, Valerie, Aaron (who was almost surprisingly bad, until she realized he was somehow already drunk) and Lily. She even danced a short dance with Valerie’s husband, to whom she had to give a good amount of credit. He took his first meeting with a friendly alien quite in stride. She couldn’t recall his name later, but he was the very picture of calm composure. He reminded her a bit of Big Macintosh. Finally, she danced with Vera.

Vera, who smiled sheepishly, continuously looking away as she awkwardly held Rarity during their dance. “I’ve uh… I’ve apologized for almost… uh… I…”

“Yes, Vera. You did. More than once, and it’s alright. You found your way back from a bad path, and believe me I’ve seen worse. You know you really should come to Equestria when you get the chance. I can think of several people you could speak to on the subject of redemption.” Seeing Vera’s lukewarm reaction, Rarity raised an eyebrow, grinning a bit mischievously. “You know though… acting bashful around me like this might give Lily the wrong idea.”

As expected, Vera stumbled. “What?!” she demanded, going a bit red in the face.

“Oh my, that blush won’t help in the slightest. It does suit you, and I’m not exactly exclusive in terms of gender… which doesn’t help the jealousy thing either, of course,” Rarity continued, tapping her chin with a hoof while looking lost in thought. “And your first date went so well she’s probably anxiously watching your every move. And now here you are, acting this way… I just don’t know…”

“Rarity!”

Rarity blinked innocently. “Yes, darling?”

“Why!?”

Rarity giggled. “Because, darling,” she said, tapping her hoof lightly to Vera’s nose. “You. Are. Forgiven. Everyone here knows it except you. I see you, we all do, acting guilty, feeling guilty, about mistakes you made. You’re confident for a bit and then something happens and they’re biting at you again. Stop letting them. They’re part of you, no cutting them out of the design. But they aren’t all of you. Learn from them… and walk forward. That’s the oath we’ve both taken now, isn’t it?”

Vera smiled softly. “Yeah… been awhile since I took it. I should probably remember it, and not just my latest screw up. That what you’re saying?”

Returning the smile, Rarity nodded. “You’ll do fine. Now then, jokes aside, Lily is waiting for another dance with you I think, and… oh…”

Vera turned, following Rarity’s wide-eyed stare. “Oh holy shit…”

“Sweet Celestia…”

Aiden and Donovan were dancing. It wasn’t two men dancing together that threw Rarity off… what drew her shocked silence was the same thing drawing the attention of the room.

She’d noted, while she and Aiden had practiced a bit so she could get accustomed to dancing upright, that he was a good teacher for it. He knew several pieces of advice and techniques for balance and confidence while going through the steps. But this…

The two of them spun, leapt, and improvised as they switched lead and follow roles frequently. Rarity had scarcely realized the song had changed while she was teasing Vera, going to something much more upbeat that the two were keeping pace to. It was astounding to watch.

“How can Donovan move like that?” Vera asked, rhetorically. “I’m still sore from the fighting… Hamada didn’t even want us dancing.”

“I don’t know,” Rarity said absently, mesmerized by the two of them. Most of her experience with dance was Canterlotian… regrettably Gala related and thus, rather tame. Oh there were some of Pinkie’s crazier parties where things got a bit faster paced, especially when Vinyl was involved, but this… “What is this called?”

“Uh… swing? West Coast, I think? I’m not really a dancer, but Aiden and Donovan clearly are…”

“I should say so, darling. This is…” she smiled warmly. “This is simply lovely.”

“That’s a good word for it.”

The song concluded, as did their dance, to an applause that matched Rarity’s official swearing in. Perhaps exceeded, given the addition of a pair of hooves stomping loudly in approval.

The two took grinning bows to the crowd before fist bumping. Donovan headed for the bar while Aiden walked back over to Rarity, who was still grinning enticingly. “My my… you certainly didn’t teach me any of that.”

He chuckled sheepishly. “Don’t think we had that kind of time.”

“Yet, darling. I do believe I’m interested though.”

“I think we could work something out.”

“So when did you learn that?”

“Ah, well… it actually came from group… err, group therapy, maybe ten or twelve years back when we started. Our therapist wanted to get us involved in physical activities that didn’t include violence. Dance was something a lot of us got into. It was a good bonding exercise for smaller platoons, but also a way to utilize our physical talents to create something positive, you know?”

Rarity reared up to hug him, and nuzzled his cheek. “I certainly do. It was wonderful to witness. Though now I have to insist on another dance, and perhaps a bit faster this time. I’m sure you won’t let me fall.”

“Not in a million years, my friend.”

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

It was some time later. Dinner had been had, desserts had followed, and now an assortment of coffees, wines, and cocktails were slowly disappearing. Most of what Rarity had come to think of as their core group had gathered at the table to share this, her last night on Earth. For now, at least.

“But seriously… don’t let him try n shoot nothin’. Or sing. Can’t carry a tune in all o’ that pocket dimension he’s got. Just horrible. Karaoke in Mexico City, 2011… I’d thought the Mayans were right.”

“Cooper… how the Hell do you even know about that? And how drunk are you?!” Aiden asked as Rarity and a few others laughed at Aiden’s expense.

“Not very! Also, cause I was there. Still with the Marines at the time, but attached to Grumman’s group that worked with the Espers there.”

Aiden blinked. “Huh, I didn’t realize you’d been in the service that long. Okay, so how the Hell are you still a Private?”

“Reasons!”

Aiden snerked. “Yeah, I bet. ...You’re probably an expert on potatoes, aren’t you?”

“...I could grow em on Mars, if you want.”

“I can’t see needing that for the moment.”

Lily chuckled, adding, “He’s lying. He turned down promotions to stay on here. Not how it’d usually work, but-”

“Hey, I like doin’ the little odd jobs, okay? I get to goof around more, don’t have to put up with idiot Privates like me.”

“Heh… an ‘idiot’ Private who saved my life. Don’t think any of us are actually falling for your act, Aaron,” Rarity said, smiling winsomely over her glass of wine.

“I dunno,” Aiden argued, sipping an Irish coffee. “I think he’s just multi-talented. Capable of mind boggling feats of heroism and facehoofing moments of-”

“You did it again, darling.”

“I did what?”

“Good pronunciation, though,” Valerie added with a grin. “I didn’t know you could conjugate facehoof that way.”

“I… what?”

Rarity giggled. “He really doesn’t notice himself doing that. And yes, you can, though it’s rather informal. I can’t imagine where he learned to speak thus. It certainly wasn’t from me.”

“Riiight,” Aiden said, rolling his eyes. “It was this other pony… Rainbow Dash? Yeah, probably her.”

“I’ll be sure to let her know, when I see her.” Rarity said dryly.

“You do that… tomorrow’s going to be a big day, so try not to forget.”

She smiled. “Yes, sir.”

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

Several hours later they made it to bed, and after a goodnight kiss that was perhaps a touch more than friendly and probably to be blamed on alcohol, they both slept surprisingly well. At least Rarity believed such, since they’d become rather attuned to one another and she certainly slept like a foal. She dreamed at one point that she was helping fix the Millenium Falcon alongside Han Solo, Chewbacca, Aiden, and Johnathan. The surprising thing was, seeing Johnathan hadn’t hurt. He’d been all smiles and enthusiasm about the journey they’d soon take when they got the hyperdrive fixed (finally!). And, as it had been in their short time together in the waking world, his was an infectious personality. Shortly before waking, she’d given him an extra big hug (Pinkie would’ve been proud, a fine number three ‘I really love you and thank you for everything ever!’ hug), knowing full well that this was a dream and that he was gone but not forgotten.

She’d awoken to Aiden already getting up, giving her an excited grin before hitting the shower. Rarity lingered in bed, waiting her turn. She didn’t begrudge him going first; they both knew he’d be in and out faster than she, further once done he’d start coffee and a light breakfast for the two of them. All in all, a fine arrangement… and one she idly wondered if they’d be able to continue in Equestria. The thought brought a happy grin. Not so much at whatever their future might hold. That was certainly interesting, of course, but… SHE WAS GOING HOME! She’d see Sweetie again, and all of her friends, and her parents, and the princesses, and….

Her lips trembled as her eyes welled up with happy tears. “...Home…”

“Damn right…”

“Gah! Aiden! When did you…?”

He chuckled, pinching her ear lightly and drawing a pleased gasp from her. “About thirty seconds ago… you were really lost in thought there. I felt like I was watching a monologue with no dialogue. Shower’s free, obviously. Coffee?”

“Definitely… and the next time you do that to my ear… buy me dinner first.”

He snerked. “Sorry, I was given a short list of ‘no touch’ zones and that wasn’t on it. Bad touch?”

“Oh not even vaguely, darling. Quite familiar… so don’t do that to a random pony. It was delightfully similar to being nibbled on…”

“Geh…” he flushed, taking a step back.

She giggled. “It’s fine, really. I enjoyed it. Now then, unless you’d like to continue such affectionate gestures in the shower-”

His flush went from pink to a rather lovely red.

Her grin went from understated to devilish, “-I’ll see you again in a bit. ...And yes, I’d love a cup of coffee waiting. Also toast sounds nice.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said in a slightly strangled sounding voice, backing away. She couldn’t quite tell, and was happy for it, how much of his act was just an act versus how embarrassed he truly was. Nothing wrong with a little mystery. She gave him another, admittedly flirty, little laugh while stretching and swishing her tail a bit. She then hopped down from the bed and trotted jauntily towards the bathroom to prep for the trip home.

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

The sentiment was clear: ‘this isn’t goodbye, it’s just see you later.’ And Rarity was quite grateful for that. After staring down a round robin of well wishes and farewells she’d worried about tearing up, and hadn’t disappointed herself. Still, it wasn’t nearly so bad as she might have expected. No one there believed this would be their last time seeing each other. They had the ship, and more being built. The shielding problem, she knew, wouldn’t hold back these people for long. A future for both their worlds as friends was something Rarity felt entirely confident about. And it all started right here.

Shortly before boarding the Falcon, Valerie was the last to address them both. “Aiden, Rarity. I wanted you both to know something. The designs I’ve left with you for the new batteries… they were a gift from Cade.”

Rarity’s eyes widened slightly. “‘Cade’ didn’t exist, he was-”

“I know, and with respect, I disagree. I’ve taken on a number of false personas over the years, and those roles would never have been convincing if they had no life of their own. In a lot of ways, you become the character you’re playing. And I never played a single role for as long as Garken played Cade. We’ve checked his work from top to bottom, and it’s flawless for as far as it goes. Flawless, and brilliant. Moriko was able to make a few improvements to reduce the aetheryte requirements to what I told you during the test flight… but the actual designs we owe to him. We already have Tom and Crow working on computing substitutes we can use from Earth native materials. We’ve derived concepts that should help with the shielding problem, assuming tests go well.”

“I… I could leave Joyeuse here,” she offered, though it was surprisingly difficult to say. “The aetheryte within it could-”

“No,” Valerie cut her off with a smile. “No, Joyeuse is definitely yours. I absolutely refuse to carve it up for batteries, even if I could. It has a life of its own, or at least an animus of sorts. It belongs with you… and it should get to go home as well.”

Rarity smiled, nodding her agreement. “I wanted to make the offer… but I’m honestly glad you turned me down. I’ve grown a bit attached to it.” She blinked. “I may have to have Twilight make sure that isn’t a bad thing. Corrupted aetheryte has to come from somewhere…”

“Heh… not from you, though,” Aiden said. “I’m pretty damn sure the nobility and selflessness you’ve poured into that crystal are the opposite of any sort of corruption.”

“Hear hear,” General Grumman interjected, stepping forward with a familiar book in hand. “One last thing to take along. Your tablets and other supplies are already loaded, of course, but thank you for loaning this back to me one last time.”

“Of course, General, though your wording confuses me. It’s your book.”

“Not anymore. Please, as we discussed when we met…” he smiled. “Seems so long ago, has it really only been weeks…?”

“I can’t even tell,” Aiden chuckled.

“In any case… please give this to Princess Celestia, with my compliments. A similar volume, containing human history, has been included with your tablets, alongside a paper copy… though that version is, by necessity, less extensive.”

“I’m sure she’ll be deeply surprised and delighted to have them both… as will Twilight Sparkle,” Rarity said with a knowing, and anticipatory, grin.

“Your Princess of Friendship, if I recall correctly?”

“You do.”

“Fitting then, that she get a copy. I look forward to meeting them both, and Luna and… Cadenza?”

Rarity nodded.

“All of them.”

“A day to look forward to.” She reared up, hugging him tightly. “I said it yesterday, but it bears repeating. Thank you, for everything.”

He returned the hug, smiling softly. “Take care of yourself, Rarity, until we meet again. I expect it sooner rather than later.”

“I as well, so you do the same… Albert.”

They released one another, and Rarity turned and hugged Valerie, who staggered a bit as though somehow not expecting it. Rarity laughed. “The first friendly face I met here, and I’ll never forget that. You were the first ray of hope I felt. Keep shining that hope for everyone here as well. We all need you, Valerie. Don’t think I don’t notice you trying to slip out of the spotlight every chance you get.”

“It’s a spy habit...” she fake whined, but returned Rarity’s hug fiercely. “But I’ll remember. Be safe… and look after Aiden for us.”

“Hey…”

“I will, darling,” she replied, lightly ignoring Aiden’s half-hearted protest as she released the embrace. She glanced cheekily at Aiden, as if to say ‘...well?’

“Hmph,” he grumped theatrically, before offering a hand to Grumman. “A salute somehow doesn’t seem right just now.”

“It certainly doesn’t, young man,” Grumman replied, grasping his hand firmly and pulling him into a hug that clearly caught him off guard. “Take care out there. I’d tell you to mind yourself, since you’re representing humanity-”

“Yeah, no pressure.”

“But I’ve every confidence in you… And in their forgiving nature.”

“Gee, thanks.”

Grumman chuckled, and patted him on the back. “It’s presumptuous, but you’re the son I wish I’d had. I do have every confidence in you, both of you. You’re a credit to humanity, and to your fellow Espers, just as I fully believe Rarity to be a credit to Equus’ people. I know the two of you will forge a path for us all.”

“Agreed, and I’ll say the same to you: take care of Rarity,” Valerie added, catching Aiden in a hug after Grumman let go. “You two look after each other, and I know the rest will fall into place.”

“Yeah,” Aiden said, smiling brightly. “Count on it.”

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

“Nine… eight… seven…”

“Why do we even need a countdown? This thing launches more smoothly than a car.”

“Three… two… one… ignition!”

Aiden rolled his eyes, clear even from the internal camera’s position, but couldn’t fight a grin as he kicked in the thrusters that took them effortlessly into the upper atmosphere. Valerie watched the reading from her station; everything was in the green. Continuing the climb, he keyed in the final calculations for the Creation Engines’ main drive to open a gate to Equus. “This is Falcon, requesting final permission to head out. Co-Captains Aiden and Rarity, checking in one final time before jump.”

Falcon, this is General Grumman of Fort Friendship, speaking for all of humanity in wishing you godspeed, and the best of luck. You are clear to depart, and we hope to hear from you soon.”

“Feel free to come visit when you can.”

“We fully intend to.”

“Damn right. Captain, if you’d be so kind?”

Rarity grinned, and her magic tapped in the final confirmation sequence. “Jumping to theoretical space…”

They were the last words the Falcon transmitted before disappearing from Earth’s orbit. The cabin camera feed went to static, as expected. Valerie smiled, and Hamada nodded in affirmation at the readings. “Looks flawless from here, but they’re too far for any form of communication… now we wait and see.”

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

Rarity had no idea how long she’d been out of it. Had she napped? Was this real? Was the ship moving sideways in time, or had she moved forward while everything else moved backward more slowly. As her mind swirled around these concepts without really considering them, it occurred to her that there was nothing. In the distance, there were somethings. Stars? Galaxies? Quasars… wait, what were those again? Where was her tablet…? Distractions... please, Celestia... anything... But there, where they were, what they were moving through? NOTHING. She was vaguely aware of sitting in Aiden’s lap, clinging to him. There was nothing romantic about the gesture. She was shivering in vague, existential terror… and so was he. Both of them, their magic clinging desperately to one another, felt the infinite seeming void of absolute nothingness all around them. Impossible to comprehend numbers of impossible to cross distances separated them from absolutely everything. Rarity whimpered. Aiden’s arms tightened around her. Make it stop… she had no idea which of them had thought that. She knew it was his teeth she could hear grinding…

And then it ended… with a bang.

Alarms went off, the ship bucked violently and everything was light… and smoke. The light came from without, as the ship spun out of control and both of them came to their senses, gripping their chair in a telekinetic death hold.

“SHIT!!” Aiden shouted, getting ahold of himself (relatively) slightly faster than Rarity. She hopped over to her own chair, holding it with her magic to get there safely, and strapped in.

“What the buck was that?!”

“WE HIT A GODDAMN STAR! WHY IS YOUR SUN RIGHT THE BUCK THERE?!”

“WHAT?!”

“WE. HIT. YOUR. SUN!”

“WHY?!”

BUCK IF I KNOW! WHY’S IT SO SMALL?! AND RIGHT CLOSE TO THE PLANET?!”

“I DON’T KNOW! ...Is yelling helping?!” she asked as she tapped several controls to cut the alarm klaxons.

“It’s helping me! Seriously, we bounced off of a sun! It’s a small star, sure, but… it’s orbiting your world! These readings… this is…”

“But you knew that! Celestia controls the sun; it’s in Grumman’s book!”

“I thought it was metaphorical!”

“Well, it’s not!”

“Shit! Okay so we’re pretty bucked… shields are down, all batteries overloaded when the shields bounced us away from getting cooked… we also took a major power drain coming through… whatever that cloud was.”

“Sidera’s Veil, I assume?”

“I think you’re right. Anyway we’re… tumbling toward the planet on a ballistic course.”

“I just can’t fly in Equestria without crashing, it would seem.”

“You mighta mentioned that.”

Rarity grinned sheepishly at him.

“No, being cute doesn’t absolve you…”

“It can’t hurt.”

“...Fair. Okay so we don’t have much choice in the matter, but we’re coming in pretty deep into what I’m guessing is the Crystal Empire? Certainly a ways north of Canterlot.”

She nodded, examining the readings as though they weren’t plummeting to their deaths. ...After all, they weren’t. “Agreed. According to this, we’ll be perhaps two hundred miles west of the Crystal Capital, and about one hundred south of Yakyakistan.”

“If I recall, you don’t much care for the Yaks.”

“They’re… a difficult people to get along with. Not to say bad… per se… but challenging. We should definitely make for the Crystal Capital.”

“Right. Hull armor is holding against the atmospheric friction, should be no problems there. No lifeforms in our impact radius…” Several items, including their supply crate, disappeared into portals. “Ready to go?” He smiled, holding out his hand.

“Let’s,” she replied, taking the hand in a hoof.

The two vanished, soon to have excellent seats for the Falcon’s unfortunate arrival. The road ahead was just opening up, beckoning them onward. Together, they would take the first step.

The End

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Comments ( 37 )

What? The end? Oh, you did NOT...
.
.
.
.
.
You will write a sequel.

PLEASE tell me you plan on writing a sequel??? :fluttercry:
This was an amazing read, I'm glad I found it! :pinkiehappy:
Keep up the astounding work!! :twilightsmile:

9020738
9020691
Yes, there will be a sequel. This is Volume 1 of 2, as I mentioned in the Author's note in the previous chapter. I meant to write a note for this chapter... and then forgot to add it before publishing. In any case, I will be posting chapter 1 of part 2 within a week or so, following my roughly weekly posting schedule. I'll blog it, linking to this story, to let any non following readers know it's up and running. Thanks for reading and commenting, glad you've enjoyed the story thus far :twilightsmile:

9020786
Well as long as there's a sequel. It's alarming how many authors seem to think this is a good place to end a story... In other news, now that we're past that bit of angst, I quite enjoyed the send off party. Always nice to see people enjoying themselves, and good swing dancing is a treat to see.
img00.deviantart.net/cef9/i/2018/072/a/1/swing_time_by_baron_engel-dc5ta7i.jpg

I can't wait.




What Will Tomorrow Bring.

"The end"

....

*checks status*

Completed.

....

There better be a bucking sequel planned. Because if you leave us here on this wonderful yet agonizing cliffhanger, I will find out how Aiden's portals work and come to convince you to start one personally. Because this story has been an absolute joy to read. It's ever so rare to see Rarity in a lead role in Pony on Earth stories, and you did so magnificently. I thoroughly enjoyed Rarity's adventures with the Esper corps and am looking forward to see her and Aiden reunited with her friends.

9020989
Yeah I agreed with you for that.

a totally awesome story absolutely grate.
but the ending

after reading he amount of story i have i can say i have learned one thing always trust in the author.:duck:

Hey and here I thought the chapter title would be more metaphorical and less literal :pinkiegasp::rainbowlaugh:

Can’t wait for part II!

Spoiler alert for this comment, though it's not exactly a stunning one if you read it early.

9021543
I am occasionally subtle. ...Not often, though. That sequence was actually planned before most of the rest of the fic, title and all.

9021419
9020989
Thank you, to both of these comments also. While I could have continued this as a single fic... given the obvious shift in setting and most of the cast (since we're saying goodbye to most of the human characters, for now at least), I knew I needed to do this as two separate stories. For that matter, our primary conflict here was always helping Rarity get home. Since we've now done that...

That said, there won't be any change in my writing schedule, so at this point we're roughly a week from the next chapter, ie chapter 1 of volume 2. I don't need any extra time to plan since obviously my thought process didn't stop with 'and then they got there'. As some (keroko included :twilightsmile:) have already pointed out, we have at least a couple story hooks already set. So yeah, new story coming soon. Probably Friday... but every time I say that it ends up being a couple days later. Still... a week... ish... heh....

So that was fun. Rarity got a crash course on Humanity, now the reverse will hopefully happen, with Aiden getting a crash course in Equestria.

200 miles is a bit of a walk. I hope they have like a week's worth of supplies, bare minimum. Unless Aiden can cheat and portal hop there in a day or so.

The sight of the Rings of Saturn would be with Rarity for the rest of her days, and she felt she’d be trying to find words to describe the experience of seeing them and the world they encircled for just as long. Fortunately, the words required of her currently were a bit easier; she’d had no trouble memorizing them.

I don't know why this part in particular stood out to me, but it made me sad. :fluttershysad:

Rarity blinked innocently. “Yes, darling?”

Fear the Silver Tongue of Rarity the Sly.

Aiden snerked. “Yeah, I bet. ...You’re probably an expert on potatoes, aren’t you?”

An expert on Solanum tuberosum couchus, to be precise.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said in a slightly strangled sounding voice, backing away. She couldn’t quite tell, and was happy for it, how much of his act was just an act versus how embarrassed he truly was. Nothing wrong with a little mystery. She gave him another, admittedly flirty, little laugh while stretching and swishing her tail a bit. She then hopped down from the bed and trotted jauntily towards the bathroom to prep for the trip home.

I wonder how soon this will change from teasing flirting to flirting flirting.

Shortly before boarding the Falcon , Valerie was the last to address them both. “Aiden, Rarity. I wanted you both to know something. The designs I’ve left with you for the new batteries… they were a gift from Cade.”

Enemy though he might have been, he still had a pretty decent code of honor. They could have faced a lot worse.

Rarity had no idea how long she’d been out of it. Had she napped? Was this real? Was the ship moving sideways in time, or had she moved forward while everything else moved backward more slowly. As her mind swirled around these concepts without really considering them, it occurred to her that there was nothing. In the distance, there were somethings. Stars? Galaxies? Quasars… wait, what were those again? Where was her tablet…? Distractions... please, Celestia... anything... But there, where they were, what they were moving through? NOTHING. She was vaguely aware of sitting in Aiden’s lap, clinging to him. There was nothing romantic about the gesture. She was shivering in vague, existential terror… and so was he. Both of them, their magic clinging desperately to one another, felt the infinite seeming void of absolute nothingness all around them. Impossible to comprehend numbers of impossible to cross distances separated them from absolutely everything. Rarity whimpered. Aiden’s arms tightened around her. Make it stop… she had no idea which of them had thought that. She knew it was his teeth she could hear grinding…

Sidera's Veil. It is a non-existence beyond mortal comprehension. Abandon all hope ye who enter here. :pinkiecrazy:

“But you knew that! Celestia controls the sun; it’s in Grumman’s book!”

Should have checked. Just saying. :scootangel:

The End

A cliffhanger?! You better make a sequel soon, or else I'll... I'll... I'll show you every heart-wrenching picture of Fluttershy I can find on the Internet! :pinkiecrazy:

9021842

So that was fun. Rarity got a crash course on Humanity, now the reverse will hopefully happen, with Aiden getting a crash course in Equestria.

Well, Aiden already had a crash course on Equestria, if you know what I mean. :trollestia:

Credits: This crash course was brought to you by Murphy Inc. Having a bad day? Remember, it can always get worse.

200 miles is a bit of a walk. I hope they have like a week's worth of supplies, bare minimum. Unless Aiden can cheat and portal hop there in a day or so.

Well, Aiden can definitely cheat. In fact, if anything, being in Equestria might make this a breeze, what with it's aether field.

...But then again, I wouldn't really count on that – if they get to the Crystal Empire without any draaama, then it'll be a missed chance for some story-filling crisis.

9022698
Aiden was actually making a joke about peeling potatoes in the military, a cliche punishment for minor behavior foul ups. That said? I like yours better. :rainbowlaugh:

Given the wonderful responses I've gotten here from everyone, I'll definitely have the sequel up and running on Friday, if not sooner. Stay tuned; my update timing won't be changing any, so really the pace of the story as a whole won't be affected as we switch gears to the plotline in Equestria.

Ah, lastly... It'll be clarified a bit later, but it's not much of a spoiler at this point. Sidera's Veil is the cloud they passed through just before hitting Equus' sun. Sort of a dark, nebulous cloak of... we'll get into that later. However, the giant nothing they were passing through that freaked them out before getting that far was literally that: nothing. The huge (relatively), empty space between the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies, all 2.5-ish million light years of it. As magic users, sensitive to aether fields which are stronger in the presence of life... that emptiness hit them quite hard. Trillions upon trillions of miles from any other living thing... it's a level of isolation that's difficult to fathom. The odd effects of the Oni ship's engine only amplified the affect.

Achievement Unlocked: Bring It On Home
>Complete your first long form story.

Achievement Unlocked: Ten to the Fifth
>Complete a story with at least 100,000 words.

Achievement Unlocked: Dun Dun Dunnn!
>End a story on a cliffhanger.

9022940

Aiden was actually making a joke about peeling potatoes in the military, a cliche punishment for minor behavior foul ups. That said? I like yours better. :rainbowlaugh:

Thanks! While I know some things here and there about the military, I lack knowledge on its unofficial traditions, the kind which only a serviceman would really know.

Given the wonderful responses I've gotten here from everyone, I'll definitely have the sequel up and running on Friday, if not sooner. Stay tuned; my update timing won't be changing any, so really the pace of the story as a whole won't be affected as we switch gears to the plotline in Equestria.

But of course. If you didn't make a sequel, you'd have the cliché mob with pitchforks and torches out for your head. :pinkiehappy:

Ah, lastly... It'll be clarified a bit later, but it's not much of a spoiler at this point. Sidera's Veil is the cloud they passed through just before hitting Equus' sun. Sort of a dark, nebulous cloak of... we'll get into that later. However, the giant nothing they were passing through that freaked them out before getting that far was literally that: nothing. The huge (relatively), empty space between the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies, all 2.5-ish million light years of it. As magic users, sensitive to aether fields which are stronger in the presence of life... that emptiness hit them quite hard. Trillions upon trillions of miles from any other living thing... it's a level of isolation that's difficult to fathom. The odd effects of the Oni ship's engine only amplified the affect.

Well, I was going to call it The Void (read in dramatic voice), but then I thought that it might have been Sidera's Veil, so I decided to call it that instead. I'll call it The Void from here on out, then. At least I got the "non-existence beyond mortal comprehension" part right. :moustache:

So, I assume that the Veil was put there by the Angels for Equus' protection? I can't remember if this was mentioned in the story. If it wasn't, it's a little theory of mine. Something to make it harder to detect, even harder than Earth.

That being said, if Equus is in the Andromeda Galaxy... then in 4 billion years people and ponies won't have to worry about traveling outside their own galaxy to go between Earth and Equus! The two galaxies will collide and merge then! Oh, wait. I don't know if anypony or anyone will be alive by then...

P.S. I added a bit more to my "crash course" joke.

9024475
Yeah, the potato thing is more military history than modern day truth. So far as I know, no one does it anymore since it's too impractical to have it as punishment... them taters need peeled now, dammit!

And yeah, with the exception of the name, and The Void is pretty damn fitting, you were right on. Space between stars is pretty empty. Space between galaxies? Scary levels of empty for unfathomable distances. At one point in the trip they were, literally, a million light years from anything. A single light year being something like 5.9 trillion miles... so... yeah... The Void.

Sidera's Veil has been hinted around, but I don't think I've fully disclosed what it is and where it came from. But that will happen in the sequel, which I'm starting on this morning, actually. Might not be up today, but Friday is now 'at the latest.'

And yeah... good ole Murphy... dear friend of ponies and humans alike.

9023760
:rainbowlaugh: Those are simply spectacular.

9024487
Ooh, fast reply. Sp fast in fact, I don't think you've read my edit to the comment about the Milky Way's and Andromeda's impending collision and merge. Yes, you read that right: impending collision and merge.

9024492
Heh, sorry, I had just gotten home from work (well, home, showered, woke up the computer, checked email, then this), so it was a coincidence. As to the collision and merge, yeah that's so cool to think about, right? I mean, odds are no stars will collide or anything.. but the resulting forces may kick the Sun and Earth and company out of the galaxy altogether! Not that humanity will care since the sun will be a Red Giant by then and Earth uninhabitable. That's over 3 billion years down the road, too, but hey, clock is ticking...

Confession time? The reason this last chapter wasn't done until Monday when I started it Friday was because I kept getting distracted by looking up space info. Jupiter and Saturn, and then yeah, the information on Andromeda, including the impending merger... which may suck in or totally expel a third nearby, much smaller galaxy. I'd look up from a dozen different tabs like 'welp... not finishing the chapter today :rainbowlaugh:'

9024523
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

...I'm an account holder over there, you know.

Good show for sure but the word "snerked" is used too often.

9036344
Glad you enjoyed it, thank you!

“...I could grow em on Mars, if you want.”

...
...
Mar(e)tian reference?

9037622
I do enjoy my shout outs... :rainbowlaugh:

Aiden snerked. “Yeah, I bet. ...You’re probably an expert on potatoes, aren’t you?”

“...I could grow em on Mars, if you want.”

It’s still ongoing, but I can’t believe it got a shoutout.

It rather felt to me that this story started two thirds of the way through. We skip Rarity's arrival, her first impression of her environment and the human's impressions of her... And we skip her escape.

This was a really delightful story. Thank you for writing it!

A truly masterful work if I do say so myself. It had me on the edge of my seat for most of the plot and I am thrilled to be able to read the sequel once I finish up here. You have created a wonderful story and the world you have designed is well thought out. I am thrilled to place this book in my Silver Standard Library where it belongs, alongside the other books I have read that are a cut above the rest. Take pride in your hard work and continue doing what you've been doing. I look forward to seeing how the sequel holds up to the original.

See you next chapter,
Shadow Quill, Messenger of the Moon.

9265503
And thank you for reading and commenting; I'm glad you enjoyed it!

9335922
Thank you very much for the kind words! May the sequel do well by you also, but either way I'm very glad you enjoyed this story, and thanks for reading!

Well that was a run.... interesting twist on the ol' HiE type story

9600688
Thanks very much for taking the time! Glad you enjoyed the story. And the critique points... yep, prettt spot on. I did have an outline, but quite a bit (read: too much) was me ad libbing for fun along the way. That could have been more streamlined, definitely.... *he said as the sequel did the same thing*.

Sorry about the Luna cameo. It was partially geared toward the sequel, but mostly to address Equestria's efforts to find Rarity. I didn't spend much time with her because... well as you pointed out, density.

I loved Hamada... I wanted to give her more screentime but couldn't really justify it.

Thanks again for the review, have a great day!

Right, so this was an interesting little Hidden Gem. I'm a sucker for First Contact stories and I'm glad I stumbled on this and am eager to read the sequel.

I found this gem through PaulAsaran, and I just finished binge-reading the whole thing after like seven hours. Needless to say, I liked the story immensely, and you should be very proud. I'd elaborate with more detailed praises, but I'm tired at the moment.

I read this story when it first came out and it's superb. Aiden is a great character and his scenes with Rarity are so sweet. I imagine Aiden being played by Charlie Cox fron Netflix's Daredevil. Grumman played by Patrick Stewart. Valerie played by Evangeline Lilly. Knight Trellis played by Paul Rudd. Colonel Owens even though he's described as a bit old is played by Michael Shannon. William played by Joseph Gorden Levitt. Johnathan is played by David Tennant. Garden is played by Mel Gibson. Kirin is played by Andy Serkis.

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